Dawn of the First Challenge

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The clock ticked closer and close to 12PM, the official start time for the Battle Bonanza. But Zeng Rui was fairly confident that no challengers would approach the NetCow cafe right when things started, so Team Shanghai decided to jump into a practice game rather than sit around waiting. The idea of practice wasn’t inherently repugnant to the team, and even Lin Feng was on board. He smiled at all of them and exclaimed, “Yeah! Let’s practice, guys! Think of it as practice for when we all go pro!”  

Zeng Rui stared at Lin Feng, his face completely expressionless. Lin Feng’s been talking about going pro a lot lately… Hm. Hm. Hm. He’s been hinting and pushing for all of us to go in every other conversation. But the thundering dumbass never bothered to ask if everyone here wanted to go pro… 

The decision to transition into the professional scene was simple for some of the players on Team Shanghai, but more complicated for others. When it came to Zhang Hao, he was perfectly content playing in low level amateur tournaments and enjoying his high school days. He had no aspirations of becoming a professional player or making League of Legends his life. He was more than aware that he was simply not good enough to jump into the next level of play. It was simple enough for him, which is why he either ignored Lin Feng or cheered Lin Feng on. 

When it came to Zeng Rui, that’s where things took a turn for the complicated. Zeng Rui was a talented player, one who definitely had the potential to go professional. Even the Shanghai Esports Association had their eye on him. Many of his friends, classmates, and fellow club members in Shanghai High School believed that he would eventually jump on over to the professional scene. But he always remained quiet and pensive whenever Lin Feng brought up the idea of all of them going pro together. Zeng Rui never said anything or tried to shut Lin Feng down. He just remained quiet and lost in his own thoughts. From his demeanor, it was clear that Zeng Rui had some reservations about going professional in his heart. But he wasn’t ready to start talking about them with the others. Zeng Rui was frozen in the limbo of hesitation. 

Tang Bingyao was a combination of simple and complicated. She hadn’t given much thought to going pro, nor had she paid attention to what Lin Feng was saying about going pro. Her mind was entirely preoccupied with the potential profits from the Battle Bonanza. That was why she didn’t even mind practicing. All that mattered was the numbers. Every match is a best of three series, and each win is ¥500. So that means two wins are ¥1000, three wins are ¥1500, ten wins are ¥5000! AND ONE HUNDRED WINS ARE ¥50,000!  In her delight to watch the numbers grow in her mind, Tang Bingyao forgot that there were only so many matches to be played. She didn’t even care, she was too caught up in the windfall of finance that could be. 

As Team Shanghai prepared to jump into a practice game, Qian Lu stood next to the stage with a satisfied smile plastered across his face. After watching them demolish the Lads, Qian Lu was more than confident in the skills that Team Shanghai possessed. And he knew that once all of the customers in the NetCow Cafe saw the team play, they would feel exactly as he did. There was nothing but profit to be gained from this practice game, and Qian Lu’s heart quivered in anticipation as Lin Feng and the others queued up for a ranked game. He even turned on all of the LCD screens above the stage, so that everyone spectating could get a better view of Team Shanghai in action. 

But Qian Lu’s stance that action speaks louder than words was not enough for some of the customers of the NetCow Cafe. When Lin Feng and the others entered into Champion Select, they inched over to Qian Lu and started bombarding him with whispered questions. 

“Ol’ Qian, where did you find these guys?”
“Are they good enough? This is our pride on the line too!”
“Why are all of them high schoolers? And they’ve even got two girls!”
“Those two girls are pretty cute though. Hey, I’m like your best customer, right? How about helping me out a little and introducing me to them later on?”

Qian Lu ignored the customer who asked the last question completely. And the serene smile on his face never wavered. Instead of reassuring the customers, all it did was increase the tension. But he still refused to answer any of their specific concerns. All he said to them was, “Don’t worry, you’ll find out on your own. Just watch them practice, and every question you have will be answered! Just trust me, you’ll know exactly how good they are after you watch!” 

The customers only grew more curious. But since Qian Lu was remaining tight lipped, they could only turn their attention back to the LCD Screen.

“Hey, does anybody know what rank they’re playing in?”
“Not. A. Clue.”

Over on the stage, Lin Feng and the rest of the gang had jumped into their first game. They were completely relaxed and unphased by anything going on around them. The whispers and doubts of the crowd didn’t even reach their ears. Nothing about this caused them any stress or anxiety, because this practice game was no different than what they usually did. Or what they’d been doing for months now. Over the last few days, the members of Team Shanghai had more or less returned to the state they were in during the Collegiate Cup. This ranked game was a cakewalk for them.

3 minutes from the start of the game: Lin Feng picked up first blood.
4 minutes from the start of the game: An Xin roamed over to the Top lane and helped Zhang Hao pick up a kill on the opposing champion.
5 minutes from the start of the game: Zeng Rui and Tang Bingyao initiated a fight in the Bot lane that ended with them killing the opposing Support. Team Shanghai was winning in all three lanes and starting to snowball hard.
10 minutes from the start of the game: the score was 11-3 in Team Shanghai’s favor.
15 minutes from the start of the game: Team Shanghai was more than 6,000 gold ahead.
18 minutes from the start of the game: All of the opposing team’s Towers in the Mid lane were destroyed, and Team Shanghai also took out the Inhibitor. Super Minions started flooding down the Mid lane into the opposing team’s base.
21 minutes from the start of the game: The opposing team surrendered. 

 The customers in the cafe were all dumbstruck as the victory crest floated up over the opposing team’s ruined nexus.

“T-they won already?”
“How was that a practice game!?”
“That was way too fast!”
“Damn, they actually seem really decent!”
“They were like 20 kills ahead of the enemy team, right?”
“Their teamwork was pretty good too!”
“Yeah, mid had some great mechanics!”
“Why did it feel like a complete pubstomp?”
“Yeah! What rank was that game anyway? Bronze? Silver?”
“Bronze? Silver? No way right…”

Despite all the speculation, no one in the NetCow Cafe knew what rank the game that Team Shanghai played was in. On the one hand, it really made no sense for the internet cafe to be represented by players in Gold who could only stomp on Bronzies. But on the other hand, Team Shanghai had won that game far too easily. To the viewers, it looked like they were smurfing on noobs to make themselves look good. But there was no way for either side to be sure. And deep in their hearts, they all wanted to believe in Team Shanghai. They wanted to believe that these high schoolers were really that good, so they could watch the slaughter that ensued when the teams from other internet cafes walked in to challenge them. 

After that last practice game ended, Lin Feng and the others were more than ready to go again. The game didn’t push them at all, it barely even counted as a warmup. The average rank of the players in the previous game was Diamond 3. Decent enough, but nowhere near good enough to pose a real threat to Lin Feng and the gang.  

Lin Feng stretched in his chair and glanced at the clock. 20 minutes past noon! It’s been 20 minutes since the Battle Bonanza started and there are no challengers here yet! This is so boring. I don’t want to sit here and do nothing, what’s the point in that? Did Ol’ Qian put us up on this stage just to watch the door? Nah, it’s time to do something! With that thought, Lin Feng got up from his chair and looked at all his teammates. Then he said, “How about another one?” 

Tang Bingyao tilted her head and asked, “Mhm… What if we get a challenger soon?”

Lin Feng laughed. “Good point. Okay! That just means we’ll have to win our game even faster!”

No one else cared enough to argue with Lin Feng, and they really did have nothing to do. So Team Shanghai started up another ranked game. One that went even more smoothly than the last one did. 10 minutes after the game started, the opposing team had completely lost in two lanes. But then, events took a surprising turn. 

13 minutes into the game, a group of people walked into the NetCow Cafe. Their entrance roused up all of the customers watching Team Shanghai practice, and sent electricity through the air. This group of strangers was known to a few of the customers. 

“I know them!”
“I think the guy at the front is their owner?”
“They’re here! They’re here!”
“It’s our first challenger!”

Qian Lu’s eyes flickered with a sharp light. He walked over and greeted these new guests with a smile.

“Boss Liu, welcome welcome!”

Boss Liu and his team walked over. He greeted Qian Lu back with a polite smile. The two exchanged some more small talk, but their words were laced with all sorts of biting remarks. 

“Boss Qian, our two internet cafes have always been neighbors. Regardless of the result of the match, I hope we can still remain good friends.”

“Hahaha! Liu, my ol’ pal, what are you talking about?? Of course that’s a given! Friendship comes first, competition second! Are you guys doing your first challenge?”

“Oh, nonono. We came over from another net cafe. Haha! Our luck’s been pretty good today. We’ve already gotten our first win.”

“Oh-hoh-ho? A win already! Congratulations!”

“Hahah! Thank you, thank you! I hope we can keep up this streak.”

“Hahahahahaha, you sure are optimistic. But this is still a competition. It’s hard to say who’ll win or lose in the end.”

“Hah, I couldn’t have said it better myself. We’ll only know once we play.”

“That’s right. That’s right. Nothing has been decided yet.”

As the two owners conversed, the air around them crackled with sparks. The fake smiles on their faces also turned increasingly menacing. 

One team was after The Conqueror prize, and the other was after the Immovable Mt. Tai prize. One was a challenger, and the other was the defender. Anyone that wanted to get far in this tournament would have to step over the corpses of their opponents.

At this moment, Boss Liu looked over at the stage and noticed Lin Feng and the others. He raised an eyebrow. “Hey, Boss Liu. That’s the team you recruited? They look a little wet behind the ears.”

Qian Lu narrowed his eyes, his lips curving into a faint smile. “Wet behind the ears? Oh, I don’t know about that. How about you face them and then tell me how wet behind the ears they are, yes?”

Devshard the Dyslexic Editor

Dev Thought: So as some of you already know, I screwed up more than a little bit. What you currently see as Chapter 454, that’s actually chapter 455. I skipped over Chapter 453 for some unknowable reason. I literally have no explanation. I saw it on the bottom of the Google Drive and then decided to start working on the chapter right above it. Then I released that chapter as 454. Not exactly a great state of affairs, that is for sure. What made it worse is that there’s a time-skip in the unreleased Chapter 454. Not a long one, but a few days where Team Shanghai practiced for the tournament. It also brought up some future character development plot points. But I unskipped over a time skip, and then decided there needed to be a different time skip which I added to chapter 455. All in all, I made a big poopy pants mess everywhere.

So then I started trying to figure out how to fix this mess that I made with a series of flashbacks interspersed through this chapter. It was god awful. I made a truly unreadable mess. Not that most of you care, since most of you can barely read. But it hurt my soul to look at it, so I had to try and fix it into something better. This is what it ended up as. All the important details from the unreleased Chapter 454 is now smudged into this chapter, and all the garbage filler content is thrown out.

I promise that I will go to a Sylvan Learning Center to deal with my numerical dyslexia, and hopefully will not skip over chapters again. If necessary, I will go to rehabilitation for 4 weeks and come back with a newfound faith in the doctrine of the prophet Joseph Smith, and pass on all of the knowledge from the Mormon Church to you guys.

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