Something inside Su Xue’s heart told her that there was more to the story of Maple and Rake. Which is why her heart was pounding in her chest when she asked Lin Feng the question. To her and countless other ordinary players across China, SSK Rake was a god-like existence. Whenever they watched an OGN game or the livestream of Worlds, they would always pay careful attention to Rake’s play, admiring and commenting on every little aspect. Rake was the number one Midlaner in the World. And someone who existed in a plane that would always be unreachable to them. There was nothing that an ordinary gamer could learn or practice to bring them anywhere close to Rake. Because he existed in an entirely different dimension of skill.
It was a fact about gaming that was beyond reproach or argument. There were some players who possessed otherworldly talent who could never be reached. Until right now, for Su Xue. She was sitting in front of someone who used to be on the same plane as Rake. She’d been living with someone who had crossed swords with Rake as an equal! The entire situation felt completely surreal to Su Xue, and shattered what she understood of the gaming world. Now that Lin Feng was sitting across the table from her, there was a fundamental shift in Su Xue’s worldview. For the first time in her life, she started to think that the Gods who dominated the world of esports, the ones she always watched in videos and on streams, might be within arm’s reach.
“Did I go even with him?” Lin Feng finally stopped shoveling food into his mouth as he considered the question. He rubbed his chin, lost in thought for a few moments. Then he nodded. “If we’re talking about the Finals of Season 1 Worlds, I guess you could describe it like that. Yeah.”
Su Xue’s eyelids jumped at the confirmation, and her heart rate sped up. Oh my god. It’s true. Holy crap! Holy crap! He actually played against Rake! He even went even with him! Then she started getting more and more excited. She asked, “Then, then, what was it like? How was it playing against him? Is he really as good as everyone says he is? You even won two games! How did you win!?” Su Xue bombarded Lin Feng with questions. She’d completely let the fangirl inside go wild, and she wanted to know every detail of what happened during the Season 1 World Championships.
Lin Feng scratched his head. Then he returned to shoveling food into his mouth, answering as he chewed and swallowed. “Oh, Rake? He was really good. I don’t know. I didn’t feel anything special going against him. That’s about it.”
This kind of answer was far from satisfactory to Su Xue. “Hey, hey, hey! Stop pretending to be too cool to care about this! You were playing against Rake. There’s gotta be more you can tell me. Come on! Give me the deets!”
As Su Xue screamed at Lin Feng for more details, a warning went off in the back of her mind. All of a sudden and too late, Su Xue remembered who she was talking to and what happened in the Season 1 World Championships. She froze. Oh no no no no no… I forgot completely. The Season 1 Worlds Finals was one of the most exciting things to happen recently in Chinese esports. It was a while ago, but there hasn’t been much that managed to top that these days. I lost myself in all the excitement and forgot to think about what it must have been like for Lin Feng… It probably wasn’t as exciting or memorable for him at all. I… well, I don’t even know how he’d have felt about what happened back then. After all, it was Rake who won the Championship Trophy in the end and established himself as the Sovereign… not Maple. Poor Lin Feng… he must’ve been crushed. Maple lost against Rake 2-3 in that Finals matchup! And here I am, yelling at him for details and trying to drag all those emotions back up! What is wrong with you, Su Xue?
Su Xue felt a bead of cold sweat drip down her neck. All the excitement she’d been feeling vanished. She knew that the higher one climbed, the more painful it was when you finally fell. Back then, Maple was only a single step away from achieving glory by winning the Season 1 World Championships and standing at the very peak. But he faltered at that final step, and was forced to watch his dream slip through his fingers. Su Xue knew that it was one of his most bitter memories and his greatest regret.
Su Xue’s expression dropped, and she apologized to Lin Feng. “S-sorry, I probably shouldn’t have brought that up, huh?”
After swallowing his food, Lin Feng waved his hand and said, “Oh, it’s fine. Winning and losing is normal in competitive play. Last time, I lost to him. Next time, I’ll definitely win.” His eyes shone brightly with confidence.
Su Xue breathed a sigh of relief. Then she exclaimed, “That’s the spirit! I believe in you! Plus, you defeated Orion yesterday. If you can already beat a King, then that means it won’t be long before you can face Rake again!”
Lin Feng scratched his hair and shook his head. “Nah, I wouldn’t say that. I got lucky with my win against Orion.”
Su Xue’s eyes rounded open. “Then… I guess… What would happen if you faced Rake right now?”
“Oh, I’d get crushed for sure!” Lin Feng answered without any hesitation. He paused for a moment and looked Su Xue straight in the eyes. Then the seriousness in those eyes passed, and Lin Feng’s normal twinkle returned. He pumped his fist into the air and yelled, “That’s why I need to keep working hard!”
Lin Feng had grown and learned hard lessons since the Season 1 World Championships. One of the most important ones was that it was fine to work hard for a dream. But after working hard, it was important to cut loose and take a break. One had to find and maintain a perfect balance between progress and rest. Which is why Lin Feng decided to spend the next two days at home. He did nothing except browsing the internet, watching movies and anime, and reading manga. Every now and then, he’d join Su Xue while she was streaming and duo queue with her for a game or two. For these two days, Lin Feng hit a point of perfect relaxation and recovery.
But on the third day, Lin Feng was invited out by his classmates. Ouyang, Yang Fan, Ren Rou, Wei Dong, Chen Ze, Liu Yue, and other others spent the first few days of their winter vacation doing exactly what Lin Feng did. They relaxed at home. But after a few days, they started to get bored. Playing League all day was fun, but there was something lacking in the game when one played it alone. That was because League of Legends was a team game, and it was best played with a group of friends at an internet cafe. And that’s exactly what Lin Feng’s friends decided to do. They made plans to meet up at the NetCow Cafe, their regular spot.
When everyone arrived at the NetCow Cafe, they went to the private room that they always used. First they talked about what had been going on in their lives during break and shared some of the latest gossip. Then they talked about interesting things that were happening in the League scene, like CN•HOOK2’s climb up the Korean Challenger ladder. Eventually, the conversation hit a lull and they split off into smaller groups to play games of League of Legends. And they spent the next three days of their winter vacation at the NetCow Cafe, together.
Apart from the members of High School 13’s esports club, Shanghai High School’s members would also drop by to visit, which included Zeng Rui and Zhang Hao. After the Collegiate Cup ended, everyone had still kept in touch.
“Oh? You’re so free these days, ZengZeng! I thought a bookworm like you would still be studying hard on break!”
Zeng Rui massaged his temples and replied, “I’m almost finished with my assignments. Taking a breather every now and then is important too.”
“Damn straight it is. But… Oh! Wait! I get it!” Lin Feng exclaimed. Then he patted Zeng Rui on the shoulder and laughed. “You could’ve just said you missed us! You don’t need to make up excuses to see your good buddies, you know.”
The corner of Zeng Rui’s lips twitched. “Who’d miss a thundering dumbass like you?”
“Huh… so you didn’t miss us at all?” Lin Feng asked.
“Hmph! I was just a little bored, that’s all.” Zeng Rui replied, expressionless.
Lin Feng eyed Zeng Rui’s expression closely. Then he turned to An Xin and Tang Bingyao and asked, “So, ZengZeng is what you call a tsundere, right!?”
Tang Bingyao nodded. “Mhm! A tsundere.”
An Xin’s lips curved into a smile. “Alright, that’s enough. It’s a good thing that we’re all still meeting up and hanging out.”
Right now, life was great for Lin Feng and his crew. And several days later, they heard something that was going to make it even better.