A few stars still twinkled bright in the night sky above Beijing, cutting through all of the lights and smog that cast a haze over the city. And on this night, they flickered over the skyscraper that housed the Chinese Esports Association. It was a monumental edifice, one that towered over the rest of the buildings in the area. A testament to the growth and newfound importance of Esports. But most of the building was dark. All of the staff that worked there had gone home for the night, so there was no light shining through any of the windows. Except for the very top floor. Light could still be seen through the windows of the office of the President.
Inside the office was Lin Songshi. The President of the Chinese Esports Association. He was still at his desk, looking through planning documents and proposals. He typed out a few final notes before saving the document. Then he picked up his pen to jot down a few quick notes. Once he was done, Lin Songshi put the pen down and slowly massaged his temples with his fingertips. The stress and weight of his responsibilities was evident on his shoulders. And the exhaustion was clearly visible on his face.
Lin Songshi was no stranger to the necessity of the long late nights in the office. In the last few years, it had turned into the norm rather than a rare occurrence. The authority and glory that came with the mantle of President of the Chinese Esports Associate also came with a heavy burden. Over the last two years, Chinese Esports burst to prominence and mainstream awareness and it continued to expand rapidly. Lin Songshi had no complaints about the momentum esports was building up, nor did he think the growth was something to be sad about. But it meant that he absolutely could not become complacent or start relaxing. His current mission and purpose was to make sure that any issues that popped up while the brand new esports industry continued to expand and mature were dealt with in a swift and thorough fashion. Lin Songshi dedicated his entire being to making sure that the foundation of Chinese Esports was solid, rather than being chained down and anchored by poor management and the resultant chronic issues. Even a single mistake could have repercussions down the line and send the whole thing tumbling down like a house of cards, and that was an outcome that Lin Songshi would not tolerate.
With that thought in his head, Lin Songshi got up from his seat and slowly walked over to the window. He clasped his hands behind his back and looked out at the twinkling city beyond, fighting back against the inky blackness of the night, with a stone face. One line of thought circling around in his mind over and over again. Not enough!
Lin Songshi was one of the first people in China who saw the potential involved in esports, and a pioneer in setting up the industry. He’d spent most of his life until now building the Chinese esports scene to where it was today, and built up an entire generation of players and organisations. But it still was not enough. In actuality, it was very far from being enough.
There was a single dream, a hope, that captivated Lin Songshi and many others in the Chinese esports industry. This dream was the light that everyone involved in Chinese esports collectively ran towards. That hope was that the LPL would some day surpass North America, Europe, and even Korea to become the most respected and flourishing region in all of esports in the world! But this was a distant dream, and one that was not easily accomplished. Even after nurturing an entire generation and years of hard work, the LPL was still a minor player in the international scene.
As he stood at that window, Lin Songshi tried to figure out what needed to be done to keep the LPL moving toward the grand dream. What do we need right now? Another generation of players? A group who can stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before them and reach for even greater heights? Or another player who can represent two generations at the same time? Someone who can rally the old guard and then push past them to show the new generation everything that could be possible?
Lin Songshi considered the potential paths forward and his options, and searched for an answer in the dark horizon beyond the city. And then in the middle of this, he stopped himself and the look in his eyes changed. All of this aside, it isn’t like I’m not satisfied with the LPL’s current growth. It is beyond questioning that the LPL is on the right track. What we need right now, more than anything else, is for both the old generation of established players and the new emerging generation of players to work together to cement their place in esports! But that task… it goes without saying that the heavy lifting is going to fall on the next generation.
As he thought about the next generation, Lin Songshi closed his eyes and lowered his head. Then, he slowly raised his head again and opened his eyes again to stare out the window. At the bustling city out in front of him. Then he raised his head up to look at the few stars twinkling in the sky, while his eyes flickered with a complicated expression. Thinking about the next generation pushed his thoughts back from the future to the present, to the development that rocked and exhilarated the entire Chinese esports industry.
A player by the name of CN•HOOK2 had appeared to challenge the Korean server, and triumphed over them in what could only be described as a meteoric rise. CN•HOOK2 played through the night to make esports history. Right now, thousands of people online were trying to discover the identity of the player behind the handle of CN•HOOK2. From casual players to professional organisations to streamers and internet news outlets. Everyone wanted to figure out who CN•HOOK2 was, and several parties were absurdly motivated to be the first to find out. But up until now, no one had been able to come up with anything conclusive. It was all conjecture and theorycrafting.
But Lin Songshi was not one of them. He happened to be one of the select few in all of China who knew the truth behind CN•HOOK2.
After standing in front of the window for a long time, Lin Songshi finally decided what he wanted to do. He pulled out his phone and made a call. To a number he had not dialled in years. After a few rings, the call connected.
The voice of a young man boomed from the phone, “Old Man Lin? What’s the call out of the blue? It’s 3AM for you, ain’t it? Why are you still awake? Is everything alright?”
Lin Songshi remained composed as he heard the voice on the other end of the line. He also completely ignored all of the questions and calmly asked, “That Hook2 account. It belongs to you. Am I wrong about that, One?”
There was silence on the other side as One froze up for a second. Then an awkward cough to break the tension. One finally replied shortly after, “Oh, yeah. Right on the money. Can’t pull one over on you, Old Man Lin.”
Lin Songshi nodded to himself and continued, “So the person playing on that account tonight was Lin Feng?”
One coughed again, “Yeah.”
Lin Songshi considered what to say next for a few seconds before asking, “Did you put him up to this?”
There was no hesitation from One as he replied, “Correct.”
After that, the call faded into a tense silence for a long minute. Finally, Lin Songshi took a deep breath and asked, “Lin Feng deciding to come back, was that also your doing?”
Once again, there was no hesitation in One’s reply, “Nope. I had nothing to do with that. I didn’t even know about it until he told me. Coming back was his choice. It was entirely his own.”
There was silence on the call again as Lin Songshi considered what he wanted to say. A moment later, he opened his mouth again and said, “I don’t want him to return.”
One paused for the first time since he picked up the call from Lin Songshi. Then he smiled. “Oh? You don’t want him back? Are you telling me this as the President of the Chinese Esports Association? Or are you saying you don’t want Lin Feng back in the game as his Uncle?”
Lin Songshi had no reply. This was the question currently raging in his mind. As the President of the Chinese Esports Association, he knew the accomplishments and potential of the legendary player Maple. He knew, better than almost anyone, how deep the well of Lin Feng’s potential was. As someone tasked with nurturing and paving the future of Chinese Esports, he had no reason to get in the way of Lin Feng’s return. In fact, it would solve the problem he’d been grappling with all night. If Lin Feng were to come back, despite being retired for years, it would give the scene the new blood it so desperately needed. More importantly, Lin Feng could be a bridge between the old generation and the new one.
Lin Songshi was rock solid in his judgement that Lin Feng would become one of the key pillars of the next generation. Lin Feng’s achievements as CN•HOOK2 tonight, which had shocked players across Asia, was proof enough that he had it in him.
One remained respectfully quiet as Lin Songshi pieced his thoughts together. But after a while, One rubbed his chin and spoke up, “It’s a real conundrum, ain’t it? As the President of the Chinese Esports Association, you know that an outstanding player like Lin Feng is exactly what the LPL needs to face this coming era. But as his Uncle, you probably want to see him focus on school. You want him to study hard for the college entrance exams, get into a good university so he can get a job, and then live a quiet and stable life. You don’t want him caught up in this dream that trapped so many other people. A dream that all of them have failed to grasp. But the real question is how you’re going to reconcile those two hats you wear, and which path you’re going to nudge Lin Feng down.”
When Lin Songshi remained quiet, One chuckled and continued, “From society’s point of view, a career in esports is hardly respectable. But when has that ever stopped any pro player from chasing their dream? The stage, the glory… to them, it’s all worth it. Ain’t that right?”
Lin Songshi’s fingers squeezed his phone. Eventually, he broke his silence with a bitter chuckle and said, “Yes. You’re right. This dilemma, it’s a tough nut to crack. You don’t know how much trouble it was four years ago, when I convinced Lin Feng’s parents to let him play. Or all the pain after that… It’s going to be a lot worse this time, One. Everyone still remembers what happened four years ago, and they’re going to be worried it’ll happen again. Now you’re telling me I have to convince Lin Feng’s parents again?”
One laughed. “Well, that’s family. What can you do? But Lin Feng is very different now. He’s not the same person that he was four years ago. Right now, he just needs time. Trust me, he’ll get even stronger. Didn’t you hear all the buzz about his climb up the Korean ladder tonight?”
Lin Songshi nodded. “I did. He even managed to beat Orion in his last game.”
“Exactly! That kid… he managed to surprise me with that. He’s progressing and growing faster than I predicted,” One replied. “As long as he keeps this up, it won’t be long before he can really succeed me.”
Lin Songshi had a thought expression on his face. “He still has one huge obstacle in front of him, doesn’t he?”
One calmly laughed. “He does, but that works out for us. As long as Lin Feng has a powerful rival as a goal, it’ll motivate him to get better even faster. Push him further and further and draw out all of his potential. Besides, that kid over in Korea has probably already caught onto the fact that there’s thunder on the horizon.”