Right after Ren Rou had called out to them, 50 pairs of eyes turned around to scrutinize Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao. A pregnant silence blanketed the room for a brief moment, and then all of the first years erupted into hushed whispers.
“Who are those two?”
“Do they know that scary girl at the front?”
“That one with the ponytail is really pretty!”
The crowd was completely focused on the dazzling Tang Bingyao. They noticed Lin Feng was there for a second, and then they forgot he was even standing beside Tang Bingyao. He faded into the background as most of their attention gravitated towards Tang Bingyao. Lin Feng, completely oblivious to the fact that he was essentially invisible, grabbed Tang Bingyao’s hand and squeezed through the crowd to meet up with Ren Rou. “Excuse me! Sorry! Coming through!”
The first years hurriedly stepped aside, letting Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao through and letting Ouyang see the two new arrivals. His eyes immediately lit up. “Lin Feng, you’re finally here! Damn, you actually convinced Tang Tang to come! You’re something else!”
“I’m really good at convincing people!” Lin Feng patted his chest.
Ren Rou looked impressed, but there was a smirk on her face that grew as she said, “Ain’t that the truth? I tried getting her to join before, asked her a couple of times. But she always said she wasn’t interested. So… How’d you do it, Lin Feng? Come on! Spill!” Then she circled around the pair, considering them from all angles high and low. “Hehehe! I allllreeadddyyyyy knooowww! I know what’s happening here! I smelled the smoke and now I’m feeelin’ the heat from the fire!”
“You do?” Lin Feng asked, surprised. He was, true to form, completely oblivious to what Ren Rou was implying.
Tang Bingyao sighed and started to reply. Then she closed her mouth, sighed again, and explained what was going on to Lin Feng, “She thinks we’re dating.”
“We are?” Lin Feng asked.
“Of course not.” Tang Bingyao patiently explained. Then she shook her head.
Lin Feng nodded. Everything was clear to him now. He turned to Ren Rou and told her, “You’re wrong. We are not dating.” The confidence in his reply was one that could only come from a state of profound and absolutely cluelessness.
“Correct.” Tang Bingyao nodded.
Ouyang watched the entire exchange without blinking, his mouth open the whole time. “Damn! You two play off each other so goddamn well! What! How? You guys a comedy duo or something?”
Ren Rou put her hand up to her face and giggled, “Right! I totally believe you guys! As if. You guys even talk the same now. Been spending that much time together, huh?” Then she giggled one more time before composing herself a bit. There’s a lot of people here that need to get signed up. Gotta get things moving. I’ll investigate this FengYao thing after. FengYao? TangLin? BingFen? STOP, STOP, LATER! Ren Rou shook herself out of that and assumed a more business-like demeanor and continued, “Alright, alright. I won’t say anything more about that. For now. Let’s get you two signed up.” She grabbed the sign-up sheet from Ouyang’s hands and showed it to them, “Put down your name and rank on here.”
Lin Feng glanced at the list, which already had many names on it. There were a lot of Silvers, a bunch of Golds, and more Bronzies than he’d expected. Very few people ranked Platinum or higher. He grabbed a pen and without batting an eye he wrote down his name, class, and rank.
Ouyang grabbed the sheet from Lin Feng and started reading. Once he got to the last line, he frowned and his expression darkened.
Name: Lin Feng
Class: Senior Class 7
Rank: Challenger, can play any role!
“Hey, Lin Feng! Stop messing around! This is an official record!”
Ren Rou interjected before Lin Feng could reply, “Hurry up! Let’s get everyone signed up. We’ll change his rank later.” She obviously didn’t believe that Lin Feng’s rank was Challenger either.
Tang Bingyao received the sign-up sheet from Ouyang. She grabbed a pen from the table and quickly scribbled her information down before handing it back to Ouyang.
“Hot damn, Diamond 5! Weren’t you at Platinum 1 before? Did you just get promoted?” Ouyang gasped.
“Mhm.” Tang Bingyao nodded.
“It was all thanks to my training!” Lin Feng bragged. But his words fell on deaf ears. Ouyang had already turned to the people next in line. Ren Rou shooed him and Tang Bingyao away to make room at the table. They found a corner of the room to sit down and wait until the next phase of the esports club signup. Once everyone finished signing up, the club leadership would organize them into 5-man teams and let them play against each other. This was the tryouts phase, where everyone would have a chance to show off their skills and demonstrate that they deserved to be a part of the esports club.
Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao leaned back against the wall in the corner of the classroom. They watched the crowd of students sign up for the esports club. The line gradually shortened, and most people formed their own little cliques to talk in hushed whispers. Most. Not all. A young man walked up to them, forcing himself through the crowd, and announced his arrival, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear. You’re a third year?”
Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao looked over and up to the source of the voice and saw a first year. He approached Tang Bingyao, sporting what could only be described as a teenager attempting to pull off an easy, nonchalant, confident smile and extended his hand. “Hello. I’m Luo Tianming from first year Class 3. What’s your name?”
It appeared this young man had come to pitch woo at Tang Bingyao. This wasn’t a particularly strange or uncommon occurrence. He was the latest in a long line of suitors who had summoned the courage to talk to her, and he certainly would not be the last. Even as Luo Tianming attempted to shoot his shot, there were multiple pairs of eyes watching, some concerned that they had waited too long and others more calculating. Tang Bingyao, who didn’t care for any of this and instead mostly kept to herself, drew all this male attention for one simple reason. She was the prettiest girl in class. By a long shot. Even Ren Rou, despite being beautiful in her own fiery way, couldn’t compare. For these first years, seeing an angel who attended their school, who played the same game as them, and had also come to sign up for the same esports, it was too much for them to handle. For those in the crowd with a little bit more courage, this was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
Luo Tianming had walked over at the first opportunity he saw, well before anyone else could. He wanted to be the first to eat crab at the buffet.1The whole “first to eat crab at the buffet” is a bit of a joke at a stereotype about how Chinese people go insane for crab at buffets/seafood spreads. We did some research, and this seems to be a Chinese stereotype about Chinese people that just isn’t well known out of China. The first to talk to this beautiful girl. Maybe even get her to go out on a date with him. And he was confident she would. In his opinion, no one could resist his charm. He wasn’t just good-looking or handsome. He had a magnetic quality about him and a smile that could make any girl in the first year swoon. Some people even believed that he was good looking enough to become a Kpop idol.2 Another very China specific stereotype about how the best looking Chinese people go to Korea to become Kpop idols. Doesn’t appear to be well known outside China, but we didn’t really do a significant amount of research on that so we could be wrong.
Unfortunately for him, Tang Bingyao wasn’t smitten by his looks, nor impressed with his pick-up game. She didn’t even notice his smile. She gave him a simple nod in acknowledgement and then looked away, letting his hand hang in the air awkwardly.
Luo Tianming wasn’t discouraged though. He smoothly withdrew his hand and flashed an even more dazzling smile. “I happened to see your name on the sign-up sheet. It’s Tang Bingyao, right? That’s a really pretty name. And you’re Diamond 5? That’s amazing! I almost never see girls climb that high on the ranked ladder! You must be one of those special kinda women.” He paused for a moment to let his compliments sink in, and then asked, “So, you’re an ad-carry main?”
Tang Bingyao glanced at Luo Tianming for the second time and nodded.
This small gesture gave Luo Tianming the impression he had an in. He latched onto it with a bright smile. “What a coincidence! I’m an ad-carry main too! I’m Diamond 3 on the Ionia server, but I’m pretty close to promoting to Diamond 2! We should play together sometime, yeah? Maybe I can even teach you a thing or two?”
“Oh wow! Diamond 3!” Lin Feng gasped. This was a genuinely high rank for ordinary players. Less than one per cent of all League of Legends players would ever reach it. Not to mention Luo Tianming achieved this feat on the Ionia server, which was the most competitive of all the servers in China. There probably weren’t many here today who were better than this guy. Lin Feng didn’t remember seeing any other Diamond-ranked players on the sign up sheet.
“You’re Lin Feng?” Luo Tianming finally took notice of Lin Feng. He raised an eyebrow. “I saw your name on the list too…” Disdain slipped from his tongue as he added the last three words, “A Challenger, huh?”
Lin Feng completely missed the tone shift in Luo Tianming’s words. He nodded and replied with a bright smile, “Yep! I’m a Challenger!”
Luo Tianming’s lips twitched upwards, fighting back a bellyful of laughter. But he managed to hold himself back. The disdain in his words spread to his face. He pressed a little further. “I didn’t expect to meet an actual Challenger in a small high school esports club. It’s truly an honour to meet you.”
“Don’t put yourself down. You’re also pretty good. So young and already a Diamond 3,” Lin Feng said.
Luo Tianming smirked, “Oh, then can you tell me what your summoner name is? I might have heard of it. After all, the Challengers on the Ionia server are all pretty famous, right?”
“Oh, my summoner name, huh… I guess it’s gone.” Lin Feng scratched his head. “But my old account was equal to a Challenger now!”
Luo Tianming’s smirk grew wider. He really was on the verge of bursting out into laughter. Haha! He’s such a terrible liar! I can’t believe it was this easy! He didn’t believe one word coming from Lin Feng’s mouth, he never even believed Lin Feng was a Challenger when he saw it on the sign-up sheet. The only reason he was even talking to Lin Feng was to embarrass him in front of Tang Bingyao. But he’d had enough fun. He was here for Tang Bingyao. So he turned back to her, conveniently ignoring Lin Feng, and asked, “So, what do you say? Let’s add each other as friends and duo together. I can support you, maybe give you a few pointers. It’ll be fun!”
“No, thank you. I already have a duo partner,” Tang Bingyao flatly refused, shaking her head.
“Right! We duo together!” Lin Feng butted in.
Tang Bingyao nodded.
The smallest change of Luo Tianming’s expression gave his feelings away. Annoyed. Unhappy. But before he could say anything more, Ren Rou called all attention to her and started calling out names for the first match of the try-outs. As luck would have it, Tang Bingyao and Luo Tianming were both called up for the ad-carry position. They’d be facing each other in a deadly dance for victory. He’d have the chance to impress her with his skill, win her over!
“What a coincidence. Almost like fate, huh?” Luo Tianming said smiling. The universe was on his side! He gave Tang Bingyao a wink and roguishly stated, “Don’t worry. I’ll hold back.”
Tang Bingyao stared at Luo Tianmin. “Alright, but I won’t.” And she wouldn’t. The moment they entered champion select, she instantly locked in her champion—Draven, the Glorious Executioner.
“Oh wow! Seems like that guy really rubbed Tang Tang the wrong way!” Lin Feng quipped.