Once they heard the exchange between Qian Lu and the young men who had walked into their private room, Lin Feng and his friends had a rough understanding of the situation. These young men were part of a local team, and Qian Lu approached them first to represent his branch of the NetCow Cafe. But the lads wanted significantly more than what Qian Lu was willing to offer, which led to negotiations stalling. That’s where things went south for the lads who were regulars of the NetCow Cafe. They thought they had Qian Lu’s back against the wall, and were waiting for him to concede. But Qian Lu found out about Lin Feng and his friends, along with their exploits in the Collegiate Cup. So he gave up on the team of young men and approached Lin Feng’s gang instead, and made a deal with them.
The lads eventually learned that Qian Lu had made a deal with another local team, and they came over today to check out the interlopers who had stolen their business. To put it another way, trouble had once again somehow found its way to Lin Feng and his gang. But this whole thing wasn’t exactly a simple dispute between two local teams at this branch of the NetCow Cafe. No, no. There was a complicating factor, and that was Qian Lu. His involvement in the whole affair made it very clear to Lin Feng’s friends that he was not completely clean in the matter.
An Xin simply watched what was happening with a smile. She was more than content to remain on the sidelines for this whole thing, and she didn’t say anything out loud. Oh, Qian Lu… You orchestrated all of this didn’t you? You wanted to push those guys into a confrontation with us, and I’m guessing that you’re very pleased with yourself that everything worked out this way. I’m willing to bet that you think you’re some grand puppet master with this mediocre manipulation. Poor Qian Lu… But let’s see what everyone else has to say about this and what they’re planning on doing it.
Zeng Rui figured it out quickly too. He looked over at Qian Lu with a meaningful glance. Qian Lu… what an asshole. He didn’t tell them that we’re the team that won the Collegiate Cup! Hmm… let’s think about this for a second. It’s obvious that the first part of why he’s doing this is because he doesn’t want to turn them down directly, so he’s letting us take out his trash. He doesn’t want to create an issue with people who are his regulars and be the bad guy. But he doesn’t want them constantly in his hair either. The other part of this is, if I’m reading this situation right, that he’s testing us. If we can’t beat these guys, then he’ll have more than enough reason to back out of the deal with us and go with them. It’s a win-win situation for Qian Lu.
After coming to this conclusion, Zeng Rui raised an eyebrow. He’s not the owner of this place for anything. After spending some money to recruit us, he already wants to inspect us.
The young man with the toothpick, the leader of the lads, turned to look at Lin Feng and the others after finishing his conversation with Qian Lu. “So, you kids decided to get together and make your team? That’s mighty impressive, that’s for sure. You’ve all been playing together for a while now, right? I’m guessing that you guys aren’t bad at the game. How about a… friendly game with your seniors? Show us how good you guys are! Maybe you can learn a thing or two from playing against my team. You guys probably haven’t had a lot of chances to play against real teams. This sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun, right guys?”
Qian Lu jumped in “Nothing too serious, obviously. This will just be a friendly exchange between friendly local teams, you know? We’re all friends here at this NetCow Cafe!” He said this with a fake smile plastered on his face. Qian Lu’s words were light, but his eyes twinkled with the joy that came from a well-executed scheme. He continued, “I see you were all about to queue up for a 5-man ranked match, right? Well, Gang Zi and his friends have a full 5-man team too! Why don’t you guys play against them instead of that ranked match? It’ll be a good time, and that’s what we’re all about here at the NetCow Cafe! Gang Zi’s team is famous, very famous. They’re well known in all the other internet cafes in the area. Every single person on Gang Zi’s team is Diamond 3 on the Ionia Server or higher. Now that I think of it, Gang Zi is a Diamond 1 Ad-carry!”
Gang Zi’s face lit up from the praise and the smirk on his face transformed into a smug smile. But perhaps the arrogance was something that he’d earned. There were great League players in every internet cafe across Shanghai, but even among that group there were very few who’d managed to climb as high as Diamond 1 on the Ionia Server.
The lads standing behind Gang Zi, his friends, also jumped in to praise their leader.
“Boss Qian speaks nothing but straight facts. Gang Zi ended last season at Diamond 1!”
“If it wasn’t so hard for Ad-Carries to climb in solo queue, he could’ve gotten to Master!”
“You guys are so lucky that someone like Gang Zi wants to play against you.”
“That’s right! I know you guys are just kids, but do you have enough guts to play us?”
“Tsk tsk, there’s no need to be mean. If they’re scared, they’re scared. It’s okay.”
“Yeah, we’ll understand if you’re scared. Just say so.”
Gang Zi’s friends stared at Lin Feng and the others with mocking smiles, not bothering to disguise their hostility.
Gang Zi didn’t try to hold his friends back. He folded his arms across his chest as his gaze fell on Lin Feng’s group. “So, what’s the answer?” He chuckled to himself. These brats are so easy to read. Provoke them a little, and they’ll take the bait for sure. Besides, how good could these kids possibly be? Platinum, low Diamond at best? Gang Zi’s eyes wandered to An Xin and Tang Bingyao. Tsk, they even have two girls on their team… Actually, these girls are pretty cute. Maybe I can use this as an excuse to get to know them better.
Gang Zi licked his lips. From his perspective and understanding of how the world worked, his skills created an irresistible magnetism for female League of Legends players. There was no chance that these high school girls wouldn’t swoon over a Diamond 1 player. In his mind, he was completely sure that they would be begging to add him. Then he’d see how things went from there. Gang Zi’s lips curved into a faint smile as thoughts of romancing An Xin and Tang Bingyao on the Rift danced through his mind. He fixed his shirt collar and then popped it up to make himself appear more rakish and badass. Then he looked over at Lin Feng and the others. “What’s the hold up, small fry? You chicken?”
When Gang Zi and his lads started boasting about their ranks, the expressions on the faces of everyone in Lin Feng’s gang changed to a look of disbelief and confusion.
Tang Bingyao tilted her head in the cute way she always did. Average rank of Diamond 3? Their best player is Diamond 1? Why are they so happy about that? She looked at Gang Zi and his friends, confused. Mhm… I literally do not understand what they think is so impressive here. A few months ago, I was boosting accounts between Diamond 5 and Diamond 1. Why do they think Diamond 1 is so special? Mhm…mhm… confusing!
Zhang Hao almost burst out laughing. He had to turn his chair around and bite his fist. These guys… they have no idea how embarrassing their bragging is! I must not laugh! I must not say anything! We need to play this game. I must not laugh! Don’t give away the joke, Zhang Hao! You can do this! Use all the willpower you gained during the Collegiate Cup. Keep a straight face, no matter how much these guys beg to be humiliated.
Zeng Rui couldn’t even be bothered to pay attention to the conversation anymore. Insects. Annoying, chirping insects. Forget about the five of us as we are now, even my old team from Shanghai High School would be more than enough to crush them.
In the end, it was Lin Feng who finally spoke up. “Fine, sure! Let’s play a match. It sounds like fun.”
This sort of thing hardly bothered Lin Feng. As far as he was concerned, it didn’t matter if they were playing against randoms in ranked queue or against these guys. The end result would always be the same. He would crush anyone in his path!
After agreeing to a match, the two teams quickly started to get set up for a game. The private room that Lin Feng’s gang used had 10 computers. There was no need for them to move to a larger room. Gang Zi and his friends sat down in the row of computers across from the ones that Lin Feng and the others had already claimed and started logging into League of Legends.
Team Shanghai’s members didn’t sit down immediately. They huddled into a corner of the room and started talking about their strategy for this match. But the atmosphere in the room was strange. Everyone on Team Shanghai understood that they could crush Gang Zi and his lads with little to no effort. But Zeng Rui projected the same seriousness that he had before every match in the Collegiate Cup.
An Xin and Zeng Rui glanced at each other. Then, Zeng Rui massaged his temples and said, “We’ll stick with the original plan for today. Nothing’s changed. Also. I cannot believe I’m saying this. But let’s all try to take this seriously and not underestimate our opponents too much.”
Only Tang Bingyao nodded earnestly. Zhang Hao’s eyes flickered with excitement and laughter. “Heheehehehheheeheh! This is going to be so funny! It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten a chance to stomp on someone this stupid.”
As for Lin Feng, he was already fired up. He made a fist pump and exclaimed, “I’ll crush Mid by 10 minutes. Wait! No! I only need 8 minutes!”
That’s when An Xin decided it was finally time to step in and say something. She interjected with a smile and said, “Nope. We’re not going to get anything out of playing against this opponent using our normal strategies and playstyles. It won’t be practice. It wouldn’t even be a warmup. But since we can’t change the opponent, what we can do is give ourselves a handicap. That’ll allow us to develop skills and practice even against someone who wouldn’t normally pose any challenge to us.”
“Huh?” Lin Feng looked bewildered. “What do you mean by that?” As he saw An Xin looking at him with a mysterious smile, he immediately sensed something off. “H-hey, BunBun! What are you planning?”
An Xin smiled. “Nothing really. Just a role swap. That’s all.”