While Orion contemplated a future where he would face CN•HOOK2 as an LPL player and steeled himself to redeem the loss, all of the League enthusiasts and fans across China were more concerned with the short term. For them, all that mattered was that CN•HOOK2 had won! Everything else faded for them as they lost themselves in the joy of the moment. This entire night had been tense. So tense that all of them were afraid to hope. But CN•HOOK2 had persevered despite their doubts, and he’d made their wildest dream come true. That was all that they were thinking about.
As soon as the Red Team’s Nexus was destroyed, all of the viewers on Lightless Heart’s stream rushed over to the Korean Challenger ladder page and started refreshing. They wanted to see the rankings the second it updated. And then it happened. They all saw it in the last minute before the ranked ladder reset. CN•HOOK2 was firmly and definitively in the Top 5.
In an interesting twist of fate, it was Orion who was originally at Rank 4. His loss in the last game made his rank drop. So not only was CN•HOOK2 in the Top 5, he managed to leapfrog over Orion into Rank 4! It was, quite literally, better than what all of the over a million viewers on Lightless’ hoped would happen. And they were ecstatic about it.
「He’s number 4! Number 4!」
「The manman, HOOK2 ACTUALLY DID IT!」
「what a goooooooood! Hahaha!」
「internet brethren, pinch me! Tell me i’m not dreaming!」
Even Lightless Heart got caught up in the moment and excitement. He threw his fist up into the air and exclaimed, “HE DID IT GUYS!” As far as Lightless Heart went, this was more than about a number on a list. When this night started, he already held a deep respect for CN•HOOK2. But that respect was based on what he’d heard about the player behind CN•HOOK2 during a time when he wasn’t part of the professional scene. Watching CN•HOOK2 play and persevere through the night solidified Lightless Heart’s respect. Not only that, the admiration that Lightless Heart felt for CN•HOOK2 grew by several layers!
“Fuck! He actually did it! That motherfucker actually pulled it off!” Read XIII cried out, unable to control the shock in his heart. He continued, “How many games has he even played tonight? WAIT-A-MINUTE! Didn’t he just get done playing in the Collegiate Cup Finals today? How? How, Fatty, HOW?! On top of all of that… he even managed to spank that son of a bitch Orion around! How can he be this much of a god already?!”
Tian Tian smiled at Read XIII’s reaction. “I told you! I knew that Lin Feng was going to win the whole time! But this isn’t even close to his peak. Lin Feng’s got a long road to travel before he’s really back.”
Read XIII crushed. “God damn! That wasn’t even his best? When he actually gets back to 100%, we’re all gonna be fucked. He’s gonna make us all look like soyboy cucks!”
Tian Tian’s eyes sparkled. He declared the truth he’d nurtured in his heart for a long time now to both Read XIII and the world, “Lin Feng is the strongest Midlaner in the world!”
Aurous was on the same wavelength as Read XIII over in the Team Rapids’ Gaming House. He looked at Shi Hang and frowned. “Maple’s already on Orion’s. When he comes back to the LPL… is there anyone who can stand in his way? No wonder Qiu Yijie lost to him. That kid isn’t human! If he gets any better than this, he’s going to be on the same plane as Moon, Phoenix, and Autumn!”
Shi Hang’s lips curved into a smile. “I’m not so sure about that. We’ll only really know once he steps up onto that stage and plays against them in a tournament setting. That said…” He turned his attention to the chat going crazy on the stream and his smiled widened, “He’s definitely become the main character and the hero of China’s whole League scene tonight.
Shi Hang called it perfectly. The name CN•HOOK2 was pretty much everywhere for the rest of the night and a few days afterwards. The epic climb up the Korean Challenger ladder and the final push in a single night turned into a legend that people continued talking about for a very long time.
It was inevitable. CN•HOOK2 climbed up what was possibly the world’s most competitive ladder with a phenomenal, almost unbelievable, win rate. And on top of that, he’d gone up against and defeated a King in his final game! There was nothing else people wanted to talk about. CN•HOOK2 had actually achieved the dreamiest of fantasy runs that every League player nurtured deep in their hearts.
Setting aside the nigh impossible achievement, the mystery surrounding CN•HOOK2 was another thing that propelled the discussion forward. No one knew who he was, or what he was planning to do. People across the forums speculated about how CN•HOOK2 was a brand new professional player making an entrance into the scene. Others believed that he was trying to prove his qualifications to enter the LPL with this climb on the Korean server. And there was another camp that accepted CN•HOOK2’s entry into the LPL as a foregone conclusion, and speculated about how there was now another potential King besides Daybreak Hermes.
But it was all speculation. None of them had any answers.
Fan Yuan, one of the three vice-presidents of the Beijing Esports Association, was sitting in a bar somewhere in the Chaoyang District of Beijing. He nursed the drink in his hand with a gloomy expression on his face. It was odd that someone connected to the Esports scene was sad on this particular night, when the rest of China was celebrating. But Fan Yuan was not caught up in the excitement, or even a little bit cheerful. Instead, he was ruminating on the loss that the team he put together, Team Beijing, suffered earlier in the afternoon. Not only had his team lost in the Finals of the Collegiate Cup, they were defeated 3-0 in a clean sweep by Team Shanghai.
It was a complete and utter humiliation. Both for the team and for Fan Yuan personally. As he sat at the bar and thought about the smug look on Chu Fang’s face in the afternoon, the anger in his heart burned. Or it was actual heart burn. Fan Yuan suffered from acidity, and he hadn’t eaten much today. He hadn’t had much of an appetite. First because his team was playing in the Finals. And then because his team had lost in the Finals.
Fan Yuan grimaced at the person sitting across from him. Zhou Weihe, another one of the vice-presidents of the Beijing Esports Association. Zhou Weihe couldn’t offer his colleague much besides sympathy and company. But he understood exactly how Fan Yuan was feeling right now. Zhou Weihe knew about the tension between Fan Yuan and Chu Fang. He was even one of the few people who knew the initial source of the conflict between the two. It was trivial, not even worth mentioning. But that tiny spark grew larger and larger over time, until it turned into the full-blown battle of today.
This little competition between the three branches of the Chinese Esports Association during the Collegiate Cup… this was supposed to be Fan Yuan’s chance at getting back and Chu Fang. With a healthy slap on top of that. But Fan Yuan was the one that got taught a lesson instead. Poor guy must be writhing in humiliation, Zhou Weihe thought and sighed.
What made it worse was that Fan Yuan had bragged to Chu Fang about how much better Team Beijing was before the Finals. And then Team Beijing suffered an embarrassing and utter defeat.
Fan Yuan took another swig of his drink and slammed his glass down on the table. He looked up at Zhou Weihe with flushed cheeks and said, “Hey, we’ve been friends for a long time, right? Can you tell me why I’ve got such shitty luck!? I finally got a chance to show off in front of Chu Fang, to prove that I was better than him… I definitely had a team that was Collegiate Cup Champion material! But we still ended up losing so badly! Where did Chu Fang get those players! Why the hell was Team Shanghai so strong!?”
Zhou Weihe remained silent. He recalled his conversation with Lin Songshi and the shocking truth that he had learned.
After a while, Zhou Weihe‘s eyes flickered. He opened his mouth, “Fan Yuan, the loss today… Well. You losing… there was nothing surprising about that. ”
Fan Yuan eyes popped open wide. Then they turned red. “What!? Now you’re going to make fun of me too!?”
Zhou Weihe shook his head. “Listen to me. Team Beijing was good enough to win the championship. You’re not wrong about that. But Team Shanghai was definitely much better than Team Beijing. If there weren’t any confounding variables, Team Beijing would’ve won for sure. But Team Shanghai was absolutely the stronger team!”
Fan Yuan coldly chuckled. “Stronger? What? Are you talking about their Midlaner? Yeah, I won’t deny that. I never thought some nobody would actually be able to beat Yu Ping.” His voice contained a hint of self-mockery. Even though he said this, he still couldn’t believe that Lin Feng had carried his team to victory purely. He couldn’t believe that Lin Feng was that skilled. After all, if that were true, it meant Team Beijing never stood a chance in the first place.
Zhou Weihe shook his head. “You’re wrong. That Lin Feng isn’t a nobody. He’s much better than you could’ve ever imagined, and you probably already know of him and about him. You just don’t know that you know it yet.”
Then Zhou Weihe leaned over and told Fan Yuan everything that he’d learned about Lin Feng. He told Fan Yuan exactly who Lin Feng was. Once he finished, a stunned silence fell over the table.
Fan Yuan was in a daze, his eyes flickering with disbelief as if he’d seen a ghost. “He, he’s… t-that kid… Oh my god…”
Zhou Weihe looked around the table, then quickly put his finger over his lips. He said with a serious expression, “This stays between us. The President doesn’t want any of this getting out.”
Fan Yuan immediately shut his mouth. At the same time, he felt a cold sweat run down his spine. He understood completely now. There was nothing odd about the fact that Team Beijing lost. Fan Yuan knew that against Lin Feng, Team Beijing never had a shot at winning.