“An old friend in KG?” Tang Bingyao tilted her head, bewildered. Her ponytail swung back and forth as she stopped walking and stared at Lin Feng. “Who?”
“Roundy Round! Fatty and I were teammates!” Lin Feng replied.
Tang Bingyao’s eyes went wide. Shock and disbelief were battling it out on her face. Roundy Round? The God Roundy was his teammate? The Uncrowned Eighth? The best Toplaner in China? Is he showing off again, or is he telling the truth here…
Lin Feng chuckled. “What? Don’t believe me?”
Tang Bingyao shook her head, but then hesitated. Maybe… She nodded. Slowly. He’s told the truth about everything until now. If he says he knows Roundy, he must know God Roundy. Right? She wanted to believe Lin Feng, but it was hard. This wasn’t just some random professional player, this was Roundy Round!
“Uhh, is that a yes or a no? You’re making kind of a funny face there,” Lin Feng asked.
Tang Bingyao looked up at Lin Feng. “Tell me the truth! Were you really a professional player?”
“Yes!” Lin Feng pounded his chest. “I was a pro back in Season 1! Really! I was really good at League of Legends! Like Emperor good!”
If it were anyone else saying this, Tang Bingyao would’ve thought they were bullshitting. She’d either make a sarcastic reply or ignore it. What Lin Feng claimed was damn near impossible to believe. But she’d been playing with him for a while now. She’d seen what he could do. On the rare occasion when he went all out, he was unstoppable. His plays were flawless. Then again, they never played at the highest ELO. Mostly in Diamond. But to hard-carry so easily in Diamond. He really could’ve been a pro… Wait. No, that can’t be right. She started walking again and said, “You’re lying. You were only in middle school back in Season 1. How could you play professionally if you weren’t even 16 yet?”
Tang Bingyao remembered a rule that had existed since the dawn of the competitive scene in League of Legends. Anyone who wanted to compete, either domestically or internationally, had to be at least 16. Lin Feng laughed at her question but didn’t reply. Tang Bingyao looked at him and continued to press, “Really? I almost believed you!”
Lin Feng stopped laughing. He looked straight at Tang Bingyao and said, “The rules weren’t enforced all that hard back then. I was too young. But I was also really good! They made an exception for me!”
Lin Feng didn’t tell her the whole story. He was too young back in Season 1 and they had made an exception that let him play. That was only part of the truth. His age had become a huge issue. His team had almost given up hope. Lin Feng started to think he wasn’t going to be allowed to play with his team. The problem wasn’t Riot Games. The competitive scene for League of Legends during Season 1 was tiny and there really weren’t many rules. But the World Championships were regulated by the World Esports Association. Their rules were written in stone. Those guys really wouldn’t listen. He sighed. If it weren’t for the Chinese Esports Association having his back, if it weren’t for the Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Esports Association personally getting involved, if it weren’t for several other important figures speaking out on his behalf.
Especially if those final words hadn’t been spoken. The words that decided everything. If it had gone any other way. He would have had to go home without playing a single game. He would’ve had to bend under their rules and accept that he was too young. He would’ve needed to wait another year and hope that the opportunity to play at the World Championships would come again.
Tang Bingyao looked over her shoulder at Lin Feng, who was standing there lost in thought. She waited for a moment, hesitating, then she asked, “You keep talking about your pro team. Why not invite Roundy Round to join you?”
“Uhh… That is bec– Uhm…” Lin Feng didn’t know what to say.
“Let me ask you something else,” Tang Bingyao said after a brief moment. “Why did you quit back then?”
This was a question that Lin Feng was more than prepared to answer. It was an answer he’d given many times. He replied, “Oh, that’s because of school. I had to study for the entrance exam for high school.” His reply was calm, measured, with no hesitation or stammering.
Tang Bingyao looked at him. She said nothing for a few long seconds. Lin Feng looked right back at her. Then she broke the stand off by asking, “Ok. So why not invite Roundy Round to join your team then?”
“You really are full of questions today, huh? Unfortunately…” Lin Feng ran ahead, up to the next intersection. He waited for Tang Bingyao to catch back up and continued, “Unfortunately, you have to turn here to go home, right? I really want to answer your question, but I have to walk straight here. And look! The light is turning green. No more time! See ya tomorrow!” Lin Feng bolted down the street without waiting for her to say anything or looking back.
“Uh, bye?” Tang Bingyao waved weakly at Lin Feng’s back. That was strange… She stared down the street, watching Lin Feng run home, for a long minute. Then she turned and started walking home. He’s never acted like this before. The Lin Feng she knew never backed down. He wasn’t scared of anything. How many times had he told her that striving for the impossible was the only thing worth doing? Hiding things and running away, that was completely out of character for him. But she understood.
He didn’t want to answer the question. Actually, he didn’t want to answer both questions. Tang Bingyao wasn’t stupid. She knew his answer about studying for the high school entrance exam was just a cover. She stopped walking and stood there, thinking. Then she adjusted her book bag and continued walking home.
If Lin Feng didn’t want to tell her why he stopped playing after Season 1 or what happened between him and God Roundy right now, that was fine. She wouldn’t push. He’d tell her when he was ready.
Lin Feng kept running down the street until he felt like he’d gotten far enough away. He turned around and looked to see if Tang Bingyao was still there. She wasn’t. She’d already turned around the corner and was on her way home. Lin Feng decided he could stop running. He stood there, in the stillness of that empty street. He stood there, breathing heavily. His head slowly dropped down until he was staring at the pavement. He stood there staring at the pavement for a long time.
Dusk fell. The red glow of the setting sun washed over Lin Feng’s body. He stood alone on that empty street, watching his shadow grow long. He stared at his shadow in silence.
He’d run away from Tang Bingyao, run away from her questions, because he didn’t know how to answer them. Trying to answer meant thinking back to what happened back then. He’d need to bring up memories he buried deep in his mind under a tight heavy lid. He didn’t want to think about what happened back then. Didn’t want to think about why he’d ran away from everyone back then. So the only thing he could do was run away from Tang Bingyao today.
The reason he’d cut contact with his former teammates was because he didn’t know how to face them. How he could face them after what he did. He still remembered the disappointment on their faces. The sadness in their eyes. And it was all because of him. He was the reason. He was the reason their team came second in Season 1 Worlds. It was his mistake that led to their loss in the 5th and final game of the tournament. The champion trophy was up for the taking, but he screwed up. It was his fault, and his alone.
When Lin Feng got home, Su Xue had already cooked dinner. He sat down and quietly filled his bowl. His usual smile was nowhere to be found. He picked up his chopsticks and started eating in silence. His shoulders hunched over the table as he buried his face into the bowl.
Su Xue sat across from Lin Feng. She looked at him, worried. “Hey, is everything ok? You don’t look so good. Is there something wrong with the food? I can make you something else if you want.”
Lin Feng shook his head and had another bite.
“Then why are you so quiet?” Su Xue asked. “Did the teacher yell at you? Or did you get in a fight with your friends? Oh! I know.” She grinned, “Trouble in paradise?”
Lin Feng didn’t reply to any of it. He kept shaking his head while eating his food.
Su Xue was starting to get really worried. This wasn’t the Lin Feng she knew! Something was wrong! She got up from her seat and rushed over to his side. Then she placed her hand over his forehead and checked his temperature. “Hey now. You’re not getting a fever, are you? I told you to put some warmer clothes on! It’s not summer anymore. You should listen to me.”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry.” Lin Feng pushed Su Xue away, then focused back on his bowl.
“Are you sure? Okay. Alright then, that’s good.” Su Xue looked visibly relieved. Then she got annoyed. You’re fine but acting like this? Yeah right! You’re not right! Something’s up! She ruffled his hair and said, “Then why are you so quiet? Tell me! Your aunt made me promise to take care of you, you know! You’re scaring me here!”
Su Xue sat back down. It didn’t look like Lin Feng was going to give her an answer. She didn’t know what to do. There wasn’t really anything she could do. She looked him in the eyes, anxiously, and said, “Then what’s the matter? Please tell me. I’ve never seen you like this before.”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head. “It’s fine, really. Please don’t worry about it.”
“Okay. Fine. Suit yourself. Forget it. Whatever.” Su Xue shook her head. “You kids these days are so melodramatic. I’m done worrying about you.” She frowned. But annoyance was quickly replaced with excitement. “Oh! Worlds starts tomorrow! I was thinking that maybe I could open my stream and watch the game with the viewers. Maybe give some commentary, you know? Do you wanna join? I’m sure those degenerates would love that!”
Lin Feng looked up from his bowl. Really looked up. He blurted out. “You are going to give commentary on the games?”
“What is it? Say it!” Su Xue glared at Lin Feng. “You think I can’t do it? Is that it? How hard can it be? Just say a few words. Anyone can do it!”
“No, no! Not at all. Not at all! I think you’d be great!” Lin Feng replied. He was about to say something more, but stopped himself at the last moment. Then he said, “Oh, but I can’t join tomorrow. I promised my friends I’d watch the games with them at the internet cafe.”
“Oh, I see.” Su Xue nodded and smiled, “But it’s not me you should explain this to. The viewers are expecting you! If you’re going to let them down, you’ll have to tell them yourself. Oh, I know! Come, I’ll open the stream right now and you can tell them!”
“Eh?” Lin Feng didn’t know what to say. But he wasn’t given the opportunity either. Su Xue dragged him into her bedroom and pushed him down on her gaming chair. Then she booted up her computer and opened HuyaTV.
Su Xue stood next to Lin Feng, making sure he didn’t try to escape, while she waited for more people to join her stream. Only after more than a thousand had joined did she explain to them that Lin Feng could unfortunately not join them to watch the first day of Worlds together.
「lilll broooo do you not want us anymooore 」
「How can you just abandon us like this?!?!?!??!??!?!?」
「You heartless traitor! why would i even come to this stream if your not here?????????」
「are you really leaving us with the maid?? what have we ever done wrong to you to deserve this!?!?!?!」
「I WOULD RATHER DIE THAN WATCH WORLDS WITH HER」
「don’t hold me back! I’ll go kill myself right now」
Su Xue was speechless. She needed a moment to process what the chat had just said. She was hurt by their words for a split second. Then she figured out that they were just screwing with her, trying to rile her up. It was part of the streaming experience, so she decided to indulge them by yelling, “WHO WAS THAT? Who said they’d rather kill themselves than watch Worlds with me? You’re all a bunch of drama llamas! You should feel lucky that I’m even willing to watch it with you degens! Pfft!”
“I’m really sorry guys. I’d like to watch Worlds with you guys, but I already promised my friends I’d watch it with them,” Lin Feng apologized. He scratched his head while wearing a troubled expression on his face.
Su Xue found the perfect opportunity to get the viewers back on her side. She flashed a bright smile at the camera and said, “See? See? You can only trust me! I’m the best! He dumps you guys to go hang out with his friends. Right, what friends! He’s ditching you all for a girl! Go on, flame him! Give him your worst!”
The chat didn’t start flaming Lin Feng, save for a white knight or two. Everyone else stopped typing. The chat went silent for a couple of seconds. Then, the messages started flooding in.
「lil bro’s going to hang out with a girl?」
「you wanna go spend some time with your girl?」
「he just wants to hang with his girl???」
「Yoo mate! Dont worry, HOS BEFORE BROS!!!!」
「lil bro dont worry about us」
「GO GET LAID MY MAN.!!」
「we can survive one night with the maid. Just for you! tell her i said hi!!!!」
「GO GET HER TIGERRRRRRR RAAWWRRRRRRRR」
Su Xue couldn’t believe what she was seeing in the chat! Her jaw literally dropped for a few seconds. Then she snapped her mouth closed and pursed her lips. She looked straight into the webcam and said, “Huh? How? What? No. NO! What the hell guys? What the fuck is this? When did you guys decide to grow hearts? Fucking ingrates! You should be flaming him! Go flame him!”