Lin Feng and the Gang had managed to deal with the Moonlight Cafe, successfully defending the NetCow Cafe. Then they decided to continue on with more practice games while waiting for the next challenger to come in. But all the patrons at the NetCow Cafe were now fired up, and the excitement was palpable in the air. Even though Lin Feng and the gang were only crushing random players in what they considered to be practice games, the entire crowd pushed closer to the stage to watch and continued to cheer just as loudly as they had during the match with the Moonlight Cafe.
All of the regulars at the NetCow Cafe now understood that Lin Feng and the gang were god-tier players! There was no longer any doubt in their skills, especially not after how cleanly they stomped on the challenging team from Moonlight Cafe. That was the moment that public sentiment at the NetCow Cafe completely turned. Before, the NetCow regulars had some lingering doubts about their team. It was entirely plausible that the practice game was staged to build up hype, and that their team was playing against low ELO players on the other team. But when Lin Feng and the Gang destroyed the Moonlight Cafe’s team, those doubts were washed away.
But the victory wasn’t even the sweetest part of the whole thing for the NetCow regulars. Nor was it the best part. The thing that allowed Lin Feng and the Gang to win the hearts of everyone who visited the NetCow cafe, the real best part, was what happened after the match ended. The look of embarrassment and baby-rage on the faces of both the players from the Moonlight Cafe and the Owner was the cherry on the sundae that had been that match. The NetCow regulars savored that look, and its taste was made even sweeter by how cocky they’d been before the match kicked off. All in all, the day started out great for the NetCow regulars. Their cafe had won, and that victory was a truly sweet one!
This was a big moment for the patrons of the NetCow Cafe. They were not playing up on the stage themselves, but they were being represented by Lin Feng and the Gang. Their honor was on the line with every challenge, and the Gang was fighting for their honor! And with that line of reasoning came a slow rumbling, a thought that gained momentum through the minds and hearts of the NetCow regulars. That thought was that it was a pity that the NetCow Cafe decided to go for the Immovable Mt. Tai prize. Now that they’d recognized how powerful Lin Feng and the Gang were, they decided that it was quite possible for them to win the Conqueror prize. Easily. Just the thought of that got their blood pumping even more! But they knew, unfortunately, that such a thing was not meant to be. They were more than fine with winning the Immovable Mt. Tai prize, which they considered theirs already.
In some ways, this was better. At least, that’s what the NetCow Cafe regulars told themselves. There was real weight behind that argument too, because of one simple fact. If the NetCow Cafe’s team decided to go for the Conqueror Prize, they’d be running around challenging other internet cafes. The NetCow regulars wouldn’t all be able to follow their team and watch the matches. Some internet cafes were far away, and other customers had transportation issues. Besides, it was much more comfortable and enjoyable to stay at their regular spot and watch other teams getting wrecked.
“Hey, how come the next Challenger still isn’t here?”
“Yeah, it’s been like 20 minutes already. You’d think they’d be here by now.”
“Come on! I’m tired of waiting!”
The waiting was getting to the NetCow regulars, and they were starting to get a little stir crazy. The first best-of-three against a challenger was exciting and entertaining, but it ended a bit too quickly. Now that their bloodlust was up, they needed to see more challengers getting stomped on to satisfy their cravings!
While the NetCow regulars hyped each other up and whipped themselves into a frenzy for the next challenger, Lin Feng and the Gang calmly finished the practice game they were playing. It was yet another easy victory, a game that ended in 22 minutes as the opposing team forfeited after realizing how outclassed and outgunned they were. But there was no sign of another challenger walking through the doors of the NetCow Cafe.
Lin Feng scratched his head as he watched the door. “Well… I guess we just continue practicing?”
Zeng Rui nodded. “Yup, let’s keep going.”
And so, Lin Feng and the Gang continued onto another practice game. Which, predictably, led to another victory. But the doors of the internet cafe remained shut, and there was no sign of any challenger coming in. It had already been an hour since the end of the best-of-three series against the Moonlight Cafe, and the NetCow regulars were starting to get antsy. But not more than Lin Feng, who was getting tired of all the random practice games.
“What’s going on? Why isn’t anyone coming to challenge us? Didn’t Ol’Qian say there were a lot of internet cafes participating in this tournament?” Lin Feng asked, confused.
“Maybe Moonlight Cafe said something about how strong we were after we beat them? The other internet cafes heard about it, and now they’re too scared to challenge us?” Zhang Hao guessed.
Zeng Rui shook his head. “Not possible. Anyone aiming for the Conqueror prize has to challenge every internet cafe that is defending. They cannot skip us, that just isn’t an option.”
“Then… let’s just chalk it up to the randomness of fate, or the luck of the draw,” An Xin concluded. “I’m guessing the other net cafes are challenging the places closest to them first. Once they finish up those games, they should be heading over to our side.”
An Xin’s assumption was, for all intents and purposes, a reasonable one. There was no other viable explanation for what they were currently experiencing, and it meant that there was nothing that Lin Feng and the Gang could do other than continuing on with more practice games. Playing practice game after practice game against random enemy teams was dull, but it was something that Team Shanghai did for months on end. They were more than used to it, and it didn’t make much of a difference to them. But the same could not be said for the NetCow regulars. They came into the NetCow Cafe expecting exciting games against challengers, and all they’d seen was one curbstomp against the Moonlight Cafe. Now, they were starting to complain.
“It’s been an hour already… how much longer are we gonna wait for?”
“How the hell is this tournament even organized? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Don’t tell me we’re gonna be waiting the whole day without another match?”
Qian Lu grimaced as the complaints from the customers of his internet cafe reached his ears. It was evident from his expression that he was not happy with the state of things at all. The way the Battle Bonanza was organized started to annoy him too, simply because the entire format was too open and easily allowed for situations like the one happening in the NetCow Cafe. And the annoyances didn’t stop with the current problem. The other side of the coin was one that could prove to be equally irritating, when multiple challengers appeared at the same time. But despite all these reservations and irritations, there was nothing that Qian Lu could do about it for now. The only way out of the Battle Bonanza was through it, and he’d have to deal with every situation as it popped up.
That said, Qian Lu had a responsibility to his customers as the owner of the NetCow Cafe. He needed to make sure that his paying customers were not dissatisfied, or they wouldn’t come back. He looked around the room as the wheels in his head spun into action, trying to come up with a solution for the problems created by the Battle Bonanza. Then, a few seconds later, his eyes lit up. Qian Lu had an epiphany, a brain blast, and figured out a way to make his customers happy again. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Lin Feng and the Gang had just finished the practice game they were playing.
Qian Lu approached them up on the stage. “You’ve won another game! Good! Good! It warms my heart to see how hard all of you are working!”
Lin Feng looked at Qian Lu and asked, “Hey, Boss Qian! When are we gonna get another challenger? Waiting around like this is pretty boring.”
Zhang Hao decided to chime in also, “Yeah. It’s no biggie if we’re bored, but the customers… they’re starting to get really bored and impatient. You can’t just leave them waiting around forever like this.”
Qian Lu nodded. “Right! Right! Right! You’re 100% right! But… sadly, there’s nothing I can do about it. I have no control over when the other internet cafes will come to challenge us. But…” He looked over the team and smiled. “I’ve come up with the perfect solution. It’s just like you guys said, we can’t keep the customers waiting around all day, right? Well here’s the plan…” Then, he explained his idea to Lin Feng and the Gang.
“1v1s?” Zhang Hao said, surprised.
Lin Feng rubbed his chin. Then, his eyes lit up. “That doesn’t sound like a bad idea! I’m in!”
Qian Lu’s plan was simple. Since there was nothing he could do about the other internet cafes, he’d get the customers involved in all the fun. The best way to do that was having them test their skills against the members of Team NetCow in a series of 1v1 duels. Lin Feng and the others had already proven themselves in the last match, so there was no doubt about their skills. And this was something that provided real value and excitement to the customers. For them, it was the chance to compete against a famous athlete or superstar, and show what they were made of on the Rift. Qian Lu was quite proud of himself for coming up with an idea this good. But he also had another ace up his sleeve.
“An Xin! Tang Bingyao! The two of you definitely picked up a lot of fans with your amazing skills and gameplay in the last match,” Qian Lu said as he looked at the two girls. “If you give the customers a chance to go up against you in a 1v1, I’m sure it’ll make their day! They’ll love it!”
An Xin’s lips curved into a faint smile. “Oh? You’ve put some thought into this, haven’t you Qian Lu?”
Qian Lu smiled. “Of course! This is all for the sake of our business! We have to keep the customers happy, after all.”
Then, An Xin turned to Tang Bingyao and asked, “Tang Tang, what are your thoughts?”
Tang Bingyao tilted her head, then asked, “Are we getting paid? If we’re 1v1ing people, we should at least collect a fee.”
“Huh?” Qian Lu was stumped. “C-collect… a… fee…?”