Su Xue’s eyes were glued to the screen. She’d tuned Lin Feng out. Whatever he said was unimportant compared to what was going on on her screen. The promotional video was showing one of the Chinese teams! That was all that mattered to her right now. Lin Feng’s job was to listen to her, not give his own opinion. So she completely missed him calling God Roundy “Fatty”, or saying that pinching his cheeks was great. God Roundy was on the screen and he had her complete attention!
Tian Tian was on the screen and being interviewed. He looked like a nervous wreck in the promotional video. His eyes were on his shoes and his face was red. The interviewer fired off questions at him, but he had trouble answering them. It started with the first, which was supposed to be a simple self-introduction. “H-hi, I’m Tian Tian, uh… KG’s Toplaner. Uhh, p-peop– F-fans c-c-call me Rou– Ah, i-it doesn’t m-matter. Fatty, yes… Fatty is m-my name.”
“Hahaha! What was that?” Su Xue spit out her food laughing. She covered her mouth with her hands and swallowed. Then she continued, “Awww! He’s soooo cute! I expected something else from China’s number one top laner. Not such a cutey! Aww, he’s so shy! Look at him! Look at him! I could just eat him up!”
Lin Feng rubbed his nose and smiled. “Yeah, Fatty’s a bit of a coward. Always has been.”
The interviewer was unfazed by Tian Tian’s clear discomfort and pressed him with more difficult questions. “Tian Tian, what are your thoughts on the groups draw? Do you think KG has a shot at making it through the group stage?”
Tian Tian fidgeted with his fingers and bit his lips. “Mhm, y-yea… I t-think our g-g-group is… is d-doable.”
Su Xue shook her head, shocked. “Think our group is doable? He doesn’t sound convinced at all! Does he know something we don’t? Why does it sound like he’s already given up?”
The interviewer was looking for a different kind of answer. Something a little bit more spicy. More provocative. But it was really difficult to get anything out of Tian Tian. She decided to change her tactic. “You’re up against North America’s Flash in Group A. They qualified third in their region, but they do have a King on their roster. Their Toplaner Chris! You’re considered the best Toplaner in China. Your fans even call you the Uncrowned Eighth! How do you think you’ll do against him? Will you show everyone that you’re better than King Chris?”
The camera zoomed in closer on Tian Tian’s face. They could see the beads of sweat starting to form on his forehead. The camera zoomed in even closer. Now his head took up to the entire screen. They could see his upper lip starting to quiver. Tian Tian started blinking. A lot. He swayed back and forth as he stammered out an answer, “U-uhhh… I d-don’t know. B-b-b-but I’ll try my best to win.” He looked like he was about to pass out.
“Oh come on! What was that? Try your best? Can’t you be a little more confident!” Su Xue exclaimed, exasperated. She stared at the screen and started complaining to Tian Tian as though she believed he could hear her, “What is wrong with you? Worlds hasn’t even started yet Roundy! Get your shit together! Everyone calls you the Uncrowned Eighth! Even the interviewer did! You’re basically one of the Seven Kings anyway! Show some confidence! You’re just as good as them! Don’t be scared! Come on! You can do it!” She pumped her fist in the air. She had copied Lin Feng’s signature move subconsciously.
The promotional video moved on to the next team in Group A. It was Flash from North America. This was clearly done by the editors to insert some drama. After a short intro illustrating Flash’s recent achievements, the interview segment began. A young man stepped into frame. He crossed his arms over his chest, confident and comfortable. The camera zoomed in on his face. He had a pale skin, freckles on his nose and curly, red hair. A caption appeared on the bottom of the screen.
Chris, Toplaner of Flash
The camera zoomed out to also include the interviewer in the shot. The interview started with several boring questions about how he and his team were preparing for Worlds. Then the topic shifted to Chris’ rivals. “I spoke to Roundy Round from KG before you. He said that he’ll try his best to beat you! As the number one Toplaner in North America and one of the Seven Kings, what do you think of this challenge?”
Chris chuckled. “He said that? Alright, I welcome the challenge. I’ve known him since all the way back in Season 1. We’re both veterans of the game. We even played against each other in Worlds. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. But. I’ve been watching some of his games lately in the LPL and I have to say that he really looks out of it. He didn’t impress me at all. If he wants to go toe-to-toe with me in top lane, he’ll have to find his old groove back. Right now he’s just not good enough. I really hope I’m wrong. But if I’m not, this is going to be a very boring game. Easy win.”
“What a prick!” Su Xue cursed, slamming her hand down on the table. “This asshole is way too full of himself! How dare he say Roundy has fallen off? Roundy is amazing! Fuck me! What’s so amazing about being in the Seven Kings anyway? Roundy is way better than him! And who even talks trash like that in an interview? He’s pathetic!”
“I know right!” Lin Feng exclaimed. “I can’t stand him either!” He went quiet while Su Xue droned on in the background. His eyes narrowed and focused on the screen. I remember you. They’d played against each other during the Season 1 World Championships. He hated the guy. A real asshole. One of the most toxic, two-faced players he’d ever met. But Chris was also a really good player. One of the best in the world back in the day. Ninth to be precise. For comparison, Fatty only came in thirteenth. There’d been a clear difference in skill between the two.
Lin Feng couldn’t help but smile. Individual skill alone wasn’t enough to make it on the highest stage. Their match during the Season 1 Worlds was the perfect example. Fatty had trouble against Chris in lane, but that was only for the first few minutes. Their jungler arrived and helped Fatty pick up a kill on Chris. That was all the help Fatty needed to lock down his lane while the rest of his team pulled ahead. Then when the team fights broke out in the midgame, it quickly devolved into a one-sided beating. Chris and his team never stood a chance. Lin Feng scratched the back of his head. I wonder if he’s still mad about that game… Maybe that’s why he’s being such an ass towards Fatty.
While Lin Feng was lost in his thoughts, the promotional video moved on. Team after team was interviewed until the video approached the end. The hype music amped up, and the SSK logo appeared on the screen. The last team to be featured was the best team in the world and the current World Champions—SSK! Their roster consisted of three world-class professional players, a King and the Emperor! They were the team to beat!
Lin Feng focused back on the promotional video. The highlights of SSK’s season flashed by, after which the interviews started. He watched that familiar figure walking into the spotlight. So calm. So confident. His eyes trembled. He balled his fists and ground his teeth. You.
The interviewer walked forward to welcome Rake with a big smile. She didn’t fire off questions right away like she’d done with the others. No. She waited for Rake to get comfortable and give her the OK. He was the best player in the world, and for that reason alone deserved her respect. She triple-checked that he was ready and only then started the interview. Her first question was different from the questions she’d asked the other players. “Rake, you’ve already won Worlds twice. No one has ever won it three times. What do you think your chances are?”
The camera switched to Rake. He looked calm and comfortable, like he always did. His expression didn’t change. He didn’t have to think about the question and replied in Korean. Subtitles appeared at the bottom of the screen so that the people watching could understand what he was saying. “I won Worlds in Season 1. I won Worlds in Season 4. I will win Worlds again this year.” This was Rake through and through. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that he would win the Season 5 World Championships.
For the first time during the promotional video, Su Xue failed to come up with a witty remark. She was in complete awe of Rake’s confidence. She sighed. “Ahhh, the God of Midlane. I don’t care how cocky he sounds, it just fits him so well.” She looked over at Lin Feng and tapped on his hand. “Hey, didn’t you say you want to become the best player in the world? That’s the guy you’re gonna have to beat!”
Lin Feng’s eyes were locked on the screen. He stared at Rake while giving a slight nod. “I know.”
The next two days flew by. It was Friday afternoon. The students in High School 13 sat restless in their classrooms. They weren’t paying any attention to the teachers. Their eyes were on the clock, waiting for the final bell to ring. Tomorrow was National Day! The start of a week long break and the start of Worlds! They could stay up late to watch the games and wouldn’t have to worry about getting up early the next day for school!
The dismissal bell rang. Students from every year rushed for the door, shoving each other aside to get out first. The floors shook and the excited shouts drummed through the hallways. Club activities were canceled today, so Ouyang and Yang Fan joined the mayhem and were gone before Lin Feng even noticed it. He looked around, confused, and found that only Tang Bingyao was still at her desk. They were the only two left in class.
“Hey, wanna walk home together?” Lin Feng asked.
Tang Bingyao was still reading a textbook. She looked up at Lin Feng, thought for a moment and then nodded.
The halls were already empty when Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao walked out of the classroom. They walked down the stairway and off school property. The two walked in silence on the sidewalk until Tang Bingyao turned to Lin Feng and asked in a rare show of curiosity, “What team are you rooting for at Worlds?”
“KG!” Lin Feng replied without hesitation.
“Why them?” Tang Bingyao asked, tilting her head slightly.
Lin Feng scratched his hair and smiled. “Would you believe me if I told you an old friend of mine is in KG?”