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Identity - Part 2

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When Lin Feng had first shown up at her door and claimed to be a Challenger on the Ionia Server, Su Xue did not believe him. She could still recall that evening when Lin Feng joined her on her stream for the very first time. Of course I didn’t believe him back then! Why would I? Who would’ve believed a claim like that from some strange kid who appeared out of nowhere with the Landlady? I thought he was just trying to look cool in front of me! ‘I’m a Challenger on the Ionia Server, Su Xue!’ ‘I’m really good at League of Legends, Su Xue!’ It was too much of a stretch to be true! But since then… well, he was way better at League than I was at the time. I figured he was just good at the game, but I still didn’t believe everything he claimed about his past! But in the weeks and months that followed… Hm. I guess I always knew that there was something mysterious about Lin Feng.

As Su Xue spent more and more time with Lin Feng, she started to pick up on little details that just didn’t make sense, and she started to think there was more to Lin Feng than she knew. But Lin Feng never appeared to be more than the average high school kid most of the time, and Su Xue wasn’t the kind of person who stuck her nose into other people’s business when they didn’t want it. Besides, she was content with her relationship with Lin Feng and didn’t want to jeopardise that. He’d gone from an unwanted roommate to an unwanted nuisance to her little brother, and she cherished her time with him. Even if he did drive her crazy in one way or another every single day. 

On top of all of that, her streaming career was taking off and that took most of her time and energy. So even when she had noticed the small hints that there was something mysterious and strange about Lin Feng, she never bothered asking about it. 

And now, she was kicking herself mentally for being so passive. I can’t pretend there isn’t something strange going on with Lin Feng anymore, and I need to know the truth! It’s odd that he’s this good at League of Legends, there’s no getting around that. His skills are at an absurdly high level, way beyond any normal high school kid. Even his whole ‘I’m a Challenger on the Ionia Server’ thing doesn’t make sense. Now that I think about it, that’s not even that rare. There’s plenty of high schoolers across China who are at Diamond 1, Master, and Challenger rank. There’s thousands of them! But Lin Feng… he’s not just a regular Challenger player.

There’s no way that a normal high schooler who is normally good at League of Legends can play and win through the Finals of Collegiate Cup, and then go on to climb into the Top 5 on the Korean Challenger Ladder in the same day! And let’s not forget that Lin Feng did that by beating Orion, a top Korean professional player, in his last game of the night! That’s not something that a high school kid can do! Even in the LPL, there’s only a few professional players that can pull something like that off. So who exactly is Lin Feng?

Su Xue’s head started spinning as she tried to put together all the facts that she’d learned about Lin Feng during their time together into a picture that made complete sense. She’d completely forgotten about the game she was playing, and didn’t even notice that she was being zoned out of the lane completely. Pings from her teammates went completely ignored, and she was completely unaware of the discussion about forfeiting the game that was taking place in her team’s chat. 

Su Xue’s mind was focused on other parts of Lin Feng’s life right now. There’s also the fact that he knows so many people in the Chinese Esports scene. Even Chu Fang, the Vice President of the Shanghai Esports Association, knew who he was and they have a tight relationship. Oh! OH! He also knows the new Midlaner for Team Rapids! The one that just came back from retirement. AyDeeCee! How does an ordinary high school player get to know people like that? And Lin Feng doesn’t just know them, they’re close to him. All of them know Lin Feng, but not the Lin Feng I know. They have a history with him. 

This wasn’t the first time that Su Xue thought about Lin Feng’s past and wondered about his identity. There were days when she started to feel herself believing his loud claims that he was a former professional player. But then Lin Feng would act like Lin Feng, and she’d laugh at herself for being silly and dismiss the whole thing from her mind. No matter how many times Su Xue thought about it, there was just no way that it was possible. But she thought about it again right now. Maybe he really was a professional player…? Wait! NO! Lin Feng is in his third and final year of high school. If he really was a pro, when did he start playing? When he was in his first year? Or his second year? There’s no way that he’d be this unknown if he was a pro a couple of years ago. Forget me hearing about him, someone in my stream chat would’ve known who he was and the rest of the chat would’ve picked up on that and put it on blast! The only way he could’ve been a pro and be unknown today is if he started playing in middle school, and that’s just not possible. There’s no way. But… what else explains everything about Lin Feng? Was he really a professional player? Was this kid telling me the truth the whole time, and I refused to believe him…? 

As her team’s Nexus exploded, Su Xue was starting to doubt everything that she considered true about Lin Feng. She was so absorbed in her own thoughts that she didn’t even notice the Defeat that splashed across her screen.

Su Xue decided the game she had just lost was going to be her last game of the night. It was starting to get late, and she wasn’t in the right headspace to continue playing anyway. Su Xue shared a few parting words with her viewers, bid them a good night and then ended her stream. It turned out to be perfect timing too, because the delivery guy arrived at her door right as she stopped streaming for the night. 

Su Xue got up from her computer and went to the door to grab the food. She took it over to the dining table, where Lin Feng was already waiting, and unpacked it. Then the two of them sat down for their late night snack. Lin Feng started wolfing down his chicken cutlet the instant it was within range of his mouth. 

Su Xue watched him tear apart the cutlet and smiled, but her thoughts remained in chaos. She slowly walked to her seat at the dining table, across from Lin Feng, and sat down. She started nibbling at her food, very slowly. She honestly had no interest in eating. But every few bits of food, she looked up from her plate to quickly glance at Lin Feng, and then looked back down. Lin Feng was too absorbed in his food to notice any of these glances or looks. He didn’t even notice that Su Xue wasn’t eating. Which is something that Su Xue did notice. She gave Lin Feng around 5 minutes to realise something was up and ask her about it, and gave up when it became clear that he wasn’t going to look up from his chicken cutlet long enough to see that she had something she wanted to say to him. Su Xue cleared her throat and asked, “Lin Feng?”

Lin Feng’s attention was still completely on his chicken cutlet, and he didn’t even look up as he replied, “Yeah?”

Su Xue took a few seconds to gather her thoughts and decided to plunge into what was bothering her, “The account you were playing with on the Korean Server, CN•HOOK2. You said someone gave that account to you, right?”

“Yeah,” Lin Feng answered, food in his mouth.

“So I’ve been wondering… well, what I mean is do you mind if I ask… who gave you the account?” Su Xue carefully asked.

“Oh!” Lin Feng finally looked up from his food and replied, “He’s someone I really respect and admire!”

Su Xue took a deep breath and fought the urge to facepalm. Of course he’s someone you really respect and admire! EVERYONE in China respects and admires him! You’re being stupid, Su Xue! What did you expect out of Lin Feng when you asked him such a vague question? You need to get to the point. This is Lin Feng, he’s not going to mind. You just need to ask him a straight question and he’ll answer like a normal person. She composed herself and gathered her courage before asking, “… and that someone. Well… is his name One?”

“Yeah!” Lin Feng replied right away, not hiding anything.

But that answer made Su Xue’s heart stop for a few beats, and she felt a weight settle on her chest. She literally did not know how to react after having all her suspicions confirmed. I knew it! I was right, it really is him! It really is THE One! Oh my god! Everything I read online was completely true. I don’t know what to say. Lin Feng knows One! He was playing on One’s account! Wait… Lin Feng was playing on One’s account… Why would One give Lin Feng his account? Why would he ask Lin Feng to do something so obviously impossible?

“Lin Feng… so, you and One… you two know each other…?” Su Xue asked.

“Of course!” Lin Feng looked at Su Xue, puzzled as to why she needed to ask such a dumb question.

Su Xue’s cheeks flushed red, but she gnashed her teeth and suppressed her nervousness and embarrassment. She finally asked the important question, “So, when you told me you used to be a pro, you weren’t lying?”

Lin Feng opened his mouth and took another big bite of his chicken cutlet, but the piece was still hot. So, he breathed out and replied, “No, I’m not lying. Didn’t I say that before? Just search up the name Maple. I was really popular back then!”

Lin Feng, as always, was completely oblivious to how shocking the information he’d casually thrown at Su Xue was considered. What he’d just said would have made the heads of every old League of Legends fan and player across China explode. It had been a long time since Maple and One held the limelight, and esports were not as popular back then as they were today. But the real gamers all knew the lore, and all of them would’ve killed to be sitting where Su Xue was sitting right now. But none of that factored into Lin Feng’s mind. To him, this was boring and obvious. Something of little consequence or value, like he was telling Su Xue how he’d gotten a C on a test. 

It was so nonchalant that Su Xue had no choice but to nod along and mutter, “Oh! Okay, alright. I’ll just go… and read up about Maple. Got it…”

Su Xue was still too stunned to think clearly. But a few seconds later, the gears in her mind started spinning again. Su Xue’s eyes popped wide open as she finally remembered. Maple… I’ve heard that name before. WAIT! MAPLE!? Su Xue rocked back and forth in her chair and covered her ears with her hands, like a bomb had just gone off in her mind. Her eyes started to roll and the room was spinning. She screamed out, “YOU’RE THE MAPLE!?”

Su Xue had only started playing League of Legends last season; right before Lin Feng showed up at her doorstep. At the time, she didn’t know much about the lore of League Esports. When Lin Feng had first mentioned that he used to be Maple, she didn’t know that name or what it meant. But when she started looking into the name CN•HOOK2, she found an article that also mentioned Maple.

The article was about the greatest players of all time in Chinese esports history. Obviously, One was extensively mentioned in the article, and that was where Su Xue found out that he also used to play on the alternate account CN•HOOK2 while abroad. The writer of the article concluded One’s section by stating that One was a player who defined an entire era in esports history.

Su Xue continued reading the article to learn about the other players who built the foundation of esports in China. That was where she found a section on Maple. The writer spoke about how Maple was the most likely player to lead the future generation of Chinese esports, and how he was One’s successor. Then he went on to list all of Maple’s achievements, none of which were insignificant. The article spoke about how Maple was the number one Midlaner in all of China and the team captain for the only Chinese team that qualified for the Season 1 World Championships. Then it went into detail about how Maple triumphed over many strong European and North American teams at Worlds. There was a paragraph about how Maple managed to utterly defeat Phoenix, who was undefeated until that match. And then the article went on and on about how Maple went toe-to-toe with Rake and took him all the way to Game 5 in the Grand Finals of the Season 1 World Championships. 

According to the writer, Maple was a rising prodigy in League of Legends and one of the best players in the world. It also said that Maple was clearly the only player who could present a clear challenge to Rake, and possibly topple him from his throne.

Su Xue’s mouth popped open and she let out a soundless scream as all of the information about Maple flooded back into her mind. The dining room really did start spinning and she struggled to catch her breath. MAPLE! HE’S THE MAPLE! I thought he was just a pro player… but Maple!? This is Lin Feng… but he’s also Maple! I’m sitting across a table eating chicken cutlet with the best player in China and one of the best players in the entire world! How can this be real? How is he so calm about this? How was I so stupid that I never realized who he was all these months? 

While Su Xue sat there completely stunned speechless by everything she’d just learned, Lin Feng finished the rest of his chicken cutlet. He didn’t even notice that there was something wrong with Su Xue’s mental state. He calmly wiped his mouth and stood up and stretched. Then he yawned and rubbed his face. He was busy rubbing his eyes when he said, “Su Xue, I’m still a little tired from yesterday. I’m gonna go back to bed now. Good night! Thanks for the chicken cutlet! I really needed that. You’re the best!”

Lin Feng turned around and headed upstairs back to his own room, still completely unaware of the effect that his revelation had on Su Xue. 

“H-huh? Bed, oh, uh… Alright.. Sleep tight,” Su Xue muttered. She was still dazed as Lin Feng walked out of the dining room. Su Xue stared at his back with a blank expression on her face. Her mind struggled to process everything she’d just learned about Lin Feng. She simply couldn’t believe that Lin Feng, the boy that she’d come to adore as a little brother, was Maple. Her heart was tearing itself with all the emotions pounding through her. 

After several very long minutes, Su Xue finally got up from the dining table and walked into her bedroom. She fell into her bed and tried to sleep, but she had too much on her mind. She tossed and turned the entire night, sleep completely eluding her.

7
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I swear someone is going to die....

Shanks Thought:  You guys ever hear horror stories about the shoddy buildings in China? You know, the ones about people getting hit by collapsing rooftops or falling to their deaths in malfunctioning elevators. That’s how I feel about this new student accommodation I’ve moved into for the year. It’s been plagued with issues from day one. To name a few, we’ve had the basement and first floor completed flooded with overflow from the nearby river, a power outage that lasted several days, and the water main breaking and leaving us without water or plumbing for three days. Oh oh oh! And we also have somebody setting off the fire alarm at least a couple of times a week.

The worst part is, it’d all be a given if I was paying like £400-£500 a month to live in this place. Instead, I’m actually paying double that. You’d think that’d net you some form of pseudo-luxury, or at least a living space that doesn’t crop up with issues every other day. But nope… That’s the life of a student. You pay exorbitant prices, and they still treat you like shit.

Anyway, what happened today really took the cake. While I was cooking dinner earlier this evening, we had someone set off the fire alarm again. According to procedure, we have to evacuate the building and wait for the fire brigade to arrive. It sucks because the fire alarms usually get sett off in the night, and we’re still in the middle of winter. So, it’s freezing cold outside. But what doubly sucked about tonight is that we’re also in the middle of Storm Dudley with 90 mph winds.

You can imagine what the scene was like when I got outside. Heavy rain everywhere. The wind was howling. Students getting blown across the road left and right. Not a pleasant experience, to say the least. After trying to endure the wind and rain in my t-shirt, shorts, and hoodie for a good ten minutes, a couple of friends and I decided to head to the back of the building to take shelter. And I kid you not, when we got there, a piece of sheet metal came crashing down into the grass right in front of us. I can only guess that it came off from the roof because of the wind. I swear if we’d arrived a little earlier, I’m sure it would’ve taken someone’s head off.  I’ll take a picture of the sheet metal in the morning and show you guys, but the danger of the experience still hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m fully aware that I had an incredibly close call with death, but it all just feels so surreal. Man, this building sucks…

 

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