There wasn’t a single person following CN•HOOK2’s climb tonight who knew why he popped up all of a sudden, or why CN•HOOK2 was grinding so hard. There were theories, all of which were wrong. Even the professional players following had no idea that the events on this night all started because of a challenge issued by a master to his disciple. They also had no idea that CN•HOOK2’s extraordinary determination was anchored by a promise between that same master and disciple.
And almost none of them had an idea of who this Master and Disciple were, or what their backgrounds were. If all the people following the climb on the forums and Lightless Heart’s stream knew the lore of this Master and Disciple and the history between them, they’d have fallen out of their chairs out of sheer shock.
The Disciple was the former number one Midlaner in all of China back in Season 1. A legend at the time who was considered equal to Rake, and who had gone toe-to-toe with Rake all the way to the very end. The Master was one of the most decorated players in Chinese Esports and someone who had laid the foundation of the entire scene. Lin Feng and One.
There was only one person who could get Lin Feng to push himself this far in an attempt to climb the Korean Challenger Ladder, and that person was One.
And right now, One had flown all the way from Thailand to Los Angeles with Five to continue their honeymoon. It was Five who had checked the League forums on her phone and noticed all the ruckus about CN•HOOK2’s climb. She knew that Lin Feng was constantly on One’s mind, regardless of how aloof he pretended to be about the whole thing. Five also knew that One was definitely thinking about the challenge he’d given Lin Feng and wondering how it was going. That was her primary reason for checking the League forums for any news about Lin Feng, and then bringing it up to One.
The second that Five brought up Lin Feng, One perked up immediately and moved a little closer to her so he could see her phone. Then he looked at Five and said, “Oh? He’s still trying to complete that little task? I thought he’d given up already. But it’s pretty late in China, ain’t it? He’s playing his last game?”
Five looked up at One with a knowing smile. It’s so cute how he pretends not to care. He thinks I don’t notice him trying to read my phone… She nodded and replied, “It’s very late in China right now. But your little student hasn’t stopped playing all night. He’s been on a roll too. Started out with a three game win streak, but that got broken. He rallied and went on a four game win streak after, and then got knocked out of it again. Lots of people on the forums lost hope around then, but then Lin Feng came back even stronger than before! But this is the last game of the night and the climb. If he wins this one, he’ll be in the Top Five.”
One’s lips curved into a smile. “Oh? So this is really the last game that he can play and the one game that he absolutely needs to win to beat my challenge? Hahahahaha! Kid is cutting it real close! Or maybe I’m just such a fantastic mentor who gave his student a perfect task.”
Five glared at One for a few seconds before shaking her head in exasperation. “Well, the great and all-knowing One didn’t account for what’s happening right now.” Five held her phone up to One’s face before continuing, “Read that! It’s all they’re talking about on the Chinese League forums right now. He’s playing Orion in this last game!”
One glanced through the posts on Five’s phone quickly. But he remained perfectly calm and shrugged his shoulders. Then he looked back at Five and casually replied, “Orion? That little dork from Korea? What’s the problem here? Why is everyone so surprised that Lin Feng is up against a King? This is a completely normal and expected turn of events. He’s supposed to be facing stronger and stronger opponents as he climbs higher on the Korean server. I would’ve found it strange if he didn’t run into a King on this climb. Now that’d be something to get all riled up about on the forums! I’d have been on the forums myself talking about how my idiot apprentice got unusually lucky.”
Five blinked slowly as she processed what One had said. Then she nodded once and stared right into One’s eyes. “You seem very confident that Lin Feng is going to win? You’re not worried about him at all? What if this goes wrong and it’s too much for him to handle? You remember what happened last time…”
As Five trailed off, One awkwardly coughed and answered before she could continue, “I remember, I remember. If he were up against Moon, I’d be a little worried. If it was Rake, I’d have been very worried. But right now? I’m chillin’ like a villain. He’s only up against Orion. I don’t think this is going to be a problem at all. ”
Five’s eyebrows flew up as her face fixed itself into an expression of shock and surprise. “What? Are you being serious right now? No bullshit? You really think that Lin Feng can win against Orion? This isn’t just you being an arrogant little turd? Be realistic about this! I know how amazing Lin Feng was in his prime and how much of a prodigy he is… but he’s only just started to come back. There’s no way he’s recovered enough of his old skill to be equal to a King yet! That’s just not pos—”
One put a hand on Five’s shoulder and shook his head. “Lin Feng is doing alright. He’s shaking a lot of the rust off and regaining the skill he had four years ago fast. He’s doing it faster than I thought he would, too. But he’s not at the point of being equal to a King. Yet.”
Five opened her mouth to ask a question, and then closed it before any words could come out. She cleared her throat and then asked, “What? He’s not? What? Then why’d you just say…?”
One laughed. “Oh, that. Don’t stress the details. Just trust me. He’s definitely going to win this game.”
One gave Five a cocky smile. Then he looked out the window at the Los Angeles skyline, his eyes slowly becoming unfocused as he lost himself in his thoughts.
Five’s right. This was a hard road that I had Lin Feng walk down. Breaking into the Top Five on the Korean Challenger rankings… that’s difficult enough to do normally. There’s millions of players who spend years trying to pull that off. But I made it even harder for Lin Feng by adding a deadline. But he can handle this. I know he can!
The regular trash player can’t handle grinding out game after game of League. I doubt any of the current professional players could even handle playing this many games at the Challenger level in a row. But Lin Feng can do it. That’s what makes him special. He can play a tournament and then play game after game in a desperate climb while racing against time! Just like Five said, he’s always been a prodigy. The kid instinctively understands the mechanics and flow of the game in ways that most other people can’t. He’s never needed any help with that stuff.
But something broke inside the kid’s head back then… That’s the first thing that we need to fix. He can get everything back on his own just by playing. But until he learns to become resilient against pressure, it’s not going to make a difference. We’ll just be playing out the past again. That’s what all of this is meant to do for Lin Feng!
All of this pressure that Lin Feng is feeling right now, it’s an artificial recreation of what he felt back then. He’s racing against time while fighting against an opponent who matches him in skill. An opponent that he’s not quite sure that he can beat. All while trying not to let me down. It all comes down to this one game. Exactly like it did back then. This is the pressure that he needs to bring out his potential. This is the pressure he needs to feel and deal with to break that block in his head.
And he’s tired right now too. There’s no way not to be after playing so many games in a row. But all of those games had a point. He’s gotten stronger after each one. This challenge was meant to forge Lin Feng into what he was always supposed to be. He’s been hammered and tempered with every single game, becoming stronger and stronger. By winning and losing, he’s learned that he can bounce back better. Right now, he’s exactly where he needs to be to realize his potential.
If I know anything about my blockhead of an apprentice, he’s at his peak state mentally right now. I’ve only seen him get this serious one time, and that was when he played against Rake all those years ago. Now that he’s there again, nothing is going to stop him! Definitely not that dork Orion.
One’s eyes refocused and he grinned ear-to-ear as he continued to look out the window. The light of the morning sun warmed his face. Then he yelled out to the world, “That kid is my disciple. My apprentice! He’s going to shoulder the next era of Chinese Esports as my chosen successor! There’s no way he’s going to lose here!”
Five watched as One’s shoulders squared up and the old intensity blazed in his eyes. She felt her heart beat faster as One’s spirit roared to it’s former heights and felt the pressure of his aura pushing down on her. The room itself started to feel smaller as One’s larger-than-life charisma eclipsed it. That’s when Five understood that she wasn’t looking at One, her husband, anymore. She was looking at 001. The Legend who carved an era of Chinese Esports with his hands. She understood why he was so confident in Lin Feng. Because he was 001, and the disciple he had hand-picked and trained would not be defeated!
While One and Five talked, Lin Feng continued to play his final game of the night. His forehead had beads of sweat rolling down it, and the tension coiled and rolled through his body. It was clear that Lin Feng was finally starting to feel the weight of all the pressure bearing down on him, more so than he had in any of his previous game. The Lin Feng playing this game was not the normal happy-go-lucky Lin Feng that all his friends and teammates had come to know. This was a drastically different person, a Lin Feng who had not been seen in four long years.
This Lin Feng was awakened and brought out because of the opponent he was playing against. Orion was an opponent that Lin Feng couldn’t laugh away or recklessly believe he could beat easily. And Lin Feng absolutely needed to beat Orion and win this game! His eyes burned with the fierce intensity of his spirit and he could feel his blood pounding harder and harder against every artery and vein in his body. Lin Feng could feel the pressure of the game pushing down on him and he could feel his spirit rising to push back against that pressure, pushing back more and more until everything equalized into a single moment of perfect clarity.
Lin Feng knew this feeling. He’d felt like this before, a very long time ago. His fingers tapped the keys with perfect timing and precision, without conscious thought. His hand moved the mouse in concert, directing his Yasuo right where the Champion needed to be. He acted and reacted without thought or hesitation.
The pressure of the climb, of all the games that he played that night, the difficulty of facing Orion in this game, and his need to win, all of it hammered down on Lin Feng until it forced him to grow to a new level. He was on top of the world right now, and there was nothing that could bar his path!
Lin Feng’s evolution happened just as the game hit the six minute mark. Both Midlaners had hit level 6. But neither was willing to force a reckless engagement. They cautiously danced around each other until the minion wave had been cleared, and then slowly retreated back to their Outer Towers to recall back to their respective bases.
After healing up at the fountain and buying items, Lin Feng immediately rushed out of the base toward the Bot lane!