The players from Sacred Scar Cafe’s team shuffled out of the NetCow Cafe, disappointed and dejected from their defeat. Before all of them even stepped out though, Lin Feng started tearing into the take out and setting up the plates. Everyone else, still on the stage, watched as he feverishly unpacked everything from the takeout packages. They’d gotten so used to this that it no longer affected them. The rest of the NetCow Cafe team got down from the stage and joined Lin Feng. They sat down and started eating their dinner. Once they finished, they went right back up on stage and resumed the 1v1 matches against the customers.
T’was now evening, the period during which the NetCow Cafe grew the most packed and busy. And this evening, it was bustling on another level thanks to the Battle Bonanza and the 1v1s. Qian Lu fluttered about and basked in how busy his internet cafe had become. The sheer influx of customers brought some small comfort to his heart, and reassured him that the money he’d spent today had not gone to waste. People were happy, money was flowing, and the vice around Qian Lu’s heart relaxed. Just a little.
Time passed, and the Battle Bonanza hit another slow phase. No teams showed up to challenge the NetCow Cafe after the last three teams that had come together. The team continued to play 1v1s against the customers to pass the time. Then, at 8PM, two internet cafe teams showed up. The challenge was issued, and the matches were played. There was nothing surprising or interesting about them. Lin Feng and the others loaded in, and proceeded to methodically and ruthlessly eliminate both teams. There was no fanfare or fuss from the team as they swept away both challenges 2-0. But the NetCow Regulars were another story entirely. With every victory, they found new wellsprings of energy to cheer even louder for their team!
Every single team that had come to challenge the NetCow Cafe thus far had left with their heads hung low and the taste of bitter defeat. None of the teams that had come in so far had recognized Lin Feng and the others. They had no idea who they were up against. Every single team that had challenged Lin Feng and the others left wondering how and why a group of high schoolers were so insanely good at League. And deeper than that, they wondered why a group that was so close to the level of a professional team was participating in a local internet cafe tournament.
The minutes ticked away, all the way to 9:30 PM. That was the official end-time for the first day of the Battle Bonanza. No more challengers would be arriving at the NetCow Cafe. Lin Feng and the others had ended the first day with a record that would go on to shock every other internet cafe competing in this tournament. The NetCow Cafe was currently sitting on 7 successful defenses and not a single loss. But there was another layer on top of this. NetCow Cafe’s team achieved a clean sweep in every best of three series they played. In other words, the NetCow Cafe’s win rate in the tournament so far was a perfect 100%.
It didn’t take long for the NetCow Regulars and the other customers who had stayed at the internet cafe until the end of the tournament day to figure this out, and they erupted into cheering! It was such a glorious record. So much so that everyone inside the cafe was convinced they had the number 1 spot in the tournament without even bothering to look at how the other teams did. As far as they reckoned, there was no need to check. A more perfect win streak was simply not possible! And so, they continued to cheer and applaud even harder.
Even old Qian Lu was grinning from ear to ear, and he joined in on some of the celebrating. Even his miserly heart was not immune to something this joyful. What really excited Qian Lu was the momentum. Just from this one day, he could see them charging ahead. Attaining the Immovable Mt. Tai prize was no longer a dream, it was now their destination! The whirlwind nature of it all was enough to let Qian Lu forget himself for a little bit. But then he composed himself. He was, of course, the owner of the internet cafe and the one sponsoring the team. He couldn’t simply believe that his team was the best in the tournament like the customers. Qian Lu knew he had to do his due diligence, and carry out his responsibilities as team owner! He walked up onto the stage and pulled up the webpage for the Battle Bonanza tournament.
All of the statistics for the tournament were aggregated in real time as teams called in to register wins or losses. Since the record for each best of three series was reported by two parties, it was easy to validate. All of this information was published on a leaderboard webpage, allowing for anyone interested to see how teams were doing. Now, at the end of the first day of the tournament, it was easy to see which teams fared poorly and which teams had potential. The real time aggregation and leaderboard page was created in an effort to motivate teams that had fallen behind and push teams who were ahead to greater heights. It also added another layer of strategy and depth to the tournament as a whole.
Qian Lu brought the leaderboard page up on the large LCD screen above the stage, and a lull fell over the entire internet cafe as every single person scanned the page. Then, all at once, an audible gasp rolled through the building. The NetCow Cafe stood at the very top of the leaderboard for the Immovable Mt. Tai prize with their 7-0 record!
“Hahaha! Fucking nice!”
“We’re number one! We’re number one! We’re number one!”
“Freaking awesome! We’re freaking unstoppable!”
That was it. That was all the customers at the NetCow Cafe needed to put them over the moon, and completely in love with the team that was representing them. They’d already started developing an attachment to Lin Feng and the others, completely getting over their initial shock that everyone on stage was a high schooler.
Many of the male customers were already starting to revere Tang Bingyao and An Xin as their goddesses. Not only were they beautiful, but they were also unbelievably good at the game. They were unicorns! The gamer girl goddesses that only appeared in the dreams of the most deluded Huya viewers!
But in a surprise twist, it wasn’t only the girls who had a fanbase building in the customers. Some of the people who’d come to the NetCow Cafe today were female. They stepped in to play some League, but they were completely entranced by the tournament and the 1v1s. Then something else distracted them. Lin Feng. Quite a few of the women in the audience started gazing at Lin Feng with starry doe eyes.
“If you look closely, he’s kind of hot… I bet he’s a Challenger too!”
“That hair… I kind of want to ruffle it.”
“His smile is so cute too!”
Some of the girls that Lin Feng managed to draw into his orbit were quite attractive themselves. And a few of them summoned the courage to walk up to Lin Feng and talk to him. They asked him to add them as friends on League. And a few others who had blushing red cheeks handed him little pieces of paper with their phone numbers and League IDs.
Lin Feng, with his usual cluelessness, accepted every slip of paper from every girl. He didn’t even think it was that big of a deal. In his head, he was wondering if he had enough room on his Friend’s List for all of these new friends. Then, An Xin popped up behind him with a frightening smile on her face. “Oh, wow. Look at that. You even got some numbers… eh?” She glared at the papers, and then at Lin Feng for the briefest of seconds. Then she reached out and said, “How about letting me take a look at those?” It sounded like a request, and it was phrased as a question. But it was neither.
Lin Feng looked over at her and laughed, “Haha! It seems like I’m pretty popular!” Then he noticed the look in An Xin’s eyes and the laughter stopped. He handed over all the slips of paper to An Xin saying, “Here, take a look for yourself.”
An Xin snatched the numbers and summoner tags out of Lin Feng’s hand. She rifled through a few and then passed them onto Tang Bingyao. “Tang Tang, you should take a look at these too.”
Tang Bingyao wasn’t paying attention to what was going on until An Xin called her over and held some of the scraps of paper out. Tang Bingyao took two and looked them over. She saw the phone numbers, the Summoner Tags and the cute little hearts and smiley faces. She furrowed her brow and frowned.
“Are you guys done yet? You’ve been staring at those for a while. You guys know any of these people? Anyways, if you’re done then give them back to me,” Lin Feng said.
An Xin hid the scraps of paper behind her back. She smiled and said, “What’s with the rush? How about this…? Lin Feng, you’re scatterbrained. An idiot. If you had these, you’d probably lose them in the next 15 minutes. So how about Tang Tang and I help you out this time? We’ll keep them safe for you.”
“Mhm!” Tang Bingyao exclaimed with a vigorous nod. Then she stuffed the two scraps in her hand deep into her back pocket.
Lin Feng scratched his head. “Oh… Well… Yeah… I guess you’re right. Okay, yeah, this is fine too. I’ll get them from you guys later on. I hope there’s enough room on my Friend’s list for all of these guys!”
Zhang Hao and Zeng Rui simultaneously facepalmed.
“I can’t tell if he’s serious….”
“Does he really think he’s getting those back?”
Off on the side and in his own world, Qian Lu could do nothing to wipe the wide smile plastered on his face. Never in his wildest dreams did he think that his NetCow Cafe would do this well! Whatever expectations he had when he first signed up for the Battle Bonanza had all been smashed and exceeded. He looked up at the words ‘NetCow Cafe’ sitting in first place again, just to convince himself it was true. Then he glanced at the team in second place. They had lost two games already, and their record was 6-2. The difference in win ratio was huge here. NetCow Cafe had a 100% win rate, and the second place team had a 75%.
But Qian Lu wasn’t the only one staring at the statistics and the leaderboards. Zeng Rui was studying them too. But he wasn’t concerned with the Immovable Mt. Tai leaderboard, the one that the NetCow Cafe was on. Zeng Rui’s attention was on the Conquerer leaderboard, and specifically on the first place team there. That team currently had a record of 9-0. That meant that their win rate was also 100%. But they had played and won two more matches than the NetCow Cafe.
Zhang Hao noticed Zeng Rui glaring intensely, and followed the gaze. The second Zhang Hao realized what Zeng Rui was looking at, his eyes went wide. “Holy shit! They’re even better than us!? They seriously won 9 games in a row today!?”
Zeng Rui nodded gravely. “Yes. Yes indeed. It looks like there are some strong teams in this tournament after all. Let’s not get careless.” He then looked at the name beside the record and committed it to memory—Room Temp Netclub.
Dev's Demented Thought of the Day
Ima be real with you guys, this one got dark and weird and demented in ways that I did not expect. I wanted to talk about dumb ideas and life coaching and all the ebooks and courses and masterclasses and videos and personal discord servers for it there are. But I started with a metaphor about teaching small children to flirt wildly and brazenly at suspected pedophiles to chase them away by being too forward. I’m not sure how this was all supposed to connect. I knew where to start and where to end, and I figured I’d get there in the middle. I did not. I started from a deeply disturbed place and then proceeded to find myself at the very fringe of human decency and morality. Sometimes, a bit can take on a life of its own and you just never know where it will end up. But this one is not going to ever be seen by another human being.