The Finals of the Season 1 World Championships was the day that Lin Feng’s short life came crumbling down around him. He still remembered the hype he felt that morning, the excitement as he won the first game. But that all changed in the final game of the series. The score was 2-2. There was one last game to decide who would become the World Champion. The game started off well for Lin Feng. It was an intense back and forth from the first minute, with neither team giving an inch. His heart was racing and his hands were sweaty. The laning phase ended and the team fights started. What little advantage he’d built up in lane wasn’t enough to win over the opposing Midlaner. The fights became trickier and trickier as the minutes went by. All the champions reached Level 18 and most had completed their item builds. One misplay and it would all be over. One lapse in judgement would end the game. His nerves got to him and he made a rash play. A huge blunder. The opponent capitalized on it. They aced his team, stormed his base, and destroyed the Nexus.
Lin Feng remembered the defeated looks in the eyes of his teammates. The way they looked at him still haunted him to this day. They didn’t say it, but he could feel their disappointment. It was his fault that they lost, and his alone. He had let them down. Everything they’d worked so hard for, he’d made it all worthless. It was all too much for him. He couldn’t take it. So he ran away, far away from all those judging eyes! He didn’t even stop to tell Fatty, who was the teammate he got along with best. The only person he told about his decision was his mentor, a man he deeply admired and respected.
His mentor had always been there for him. In fact, it was this mentor who’d helped him with the problem of competing at Worlds. When the Global Esports Association told him he couldn’t participate because of his age, and when even the Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Esports Association wasn’t enough to change this decision, it was his mentor who had helped him. A few words from him were enough for the Global Esports Association to change their minds and let Lin Feng participate at Worlds despite his age.
When Lin Feng told this mentor his decision to retire from the esports scene, he wasn’t given a lengthy speech about how young he was and how much more potential he had left in him. Instead, his mentor calmly listened to his little speech and then nodded. “Oh, if that’s what you really want, alright. Take some time off and get your thoughts sorted out. When you’re ready, give me a call.” He left Lin Feng with a pat on the shoulder and a note with a phone number on it.
It wasn’t until today, almost four years later, that Lin Feng finally called that number. He weakly said, “H-hey… it’s me.”
There was no response, just silence. Then, the man on the other end of the line started chuckling, a bit amused. “Oh? Wow, It’s you! Here I thought you’d walked away for good. I never thought you’d call this number again.”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head. He couldn’t help but feel he’d let this man down four years ago. His mentor had done so much for him, and what had he given back in return? A failed tournament and early retirement. He tried to think of something to say, anything! But he couldn’t. His mind was empty.
“Hey! If you need something, hurry up already! You’re costing me a ton of money.”
Lin Feng was caught off-guard. He felt a sharp pain in his heart. He’d prepared himself to be lectured, chided, or even yelled at, but certainly not this. He asked, choking up, “I’m sorry for calling you. Do you not want to talk to me? I can hang up…”
“Huh? What?” Lin Feng’s mentor asked. Then something almost audibly clicked in his head. “Oh! No, it’s good to hear from you! But you’re really costing me a fortune here! I’m on holiday in Hawaii. Long distance charges are a killer. It’s like several bucks a minute.”
“Oh!” Lin Feng breathed out, relieved. The calm and casual tone of his mentor calmed him down too. His worries about himself disappeared and Tian Tian moved back to the front of his mind. He remembered the reason he’d called his mentor. “Hey, I’ve been watching Worlds. You know, KG and Fatty.” Lin Feng paused for a moment. It wasn’t fun for him to say the next part. “It looks like he’s had another nervous breakdown. His first game was a disaster and from there it just got worse. I’m worried about him.”
“Oh, huh? That brings back memories. You remember what I told you back then? You gotta be able to take the criticism. All the compliments are nice, but you won’t amount to anything if you can’t take the criticism. Anyway, I guess you want me to go do something about it? Should I go to Fatty for you and pass on a message?”
“Yes!” Lin Feng blurted out. “That would be great! Thank you so–”
“No. Can’t do. I told you, I’m in Hawaii. If you forgot your geography classes, that’s like half a world away from London. And I don’t have Fatty’s phone number either. I don’t know how I’d get in touch with him.”
“That’s not true! I know you can do it! If there’s anyone who can, it’s you!” Lin Feng insisted.
“Ha! You’ve been practicing asskissing, huh?” There was a pause on the line, but then the man continued, “Eh, you’re not wrong. I can do it. Hmm. You know what? Don’t worry about it. Leave it to me. I’ll take care of it.”
Lin Feng’s eyes started shining. He clenched his fist and wanted to scream in joy. Yes! Yes! Yes! It worked! Fatty’s gonna be alright! Wait. Calm down. Thank him first. He’s doing this for you. You have to thank him. Thank h– The voice of his mentor interrupted Lin Feng’s thoughts. “So you call me after four years just to ask me a favour for someone else? What about you? Have you thought about what I said to you the last time we spoke?”
When Lin Feng heard this question, there was no hesitation. He’d thought about it a lot, and he’d made his decision. No dream was too big, and he would chase after his no matter how small his chances of success were! “I have. I’m not giving up. Just wait and see, I’ll become the best professional player in the world!”
On a beach in Hawaii, under the clear blue sky, stood a small wooden hut. In front of the hut was a large umbrella spiked in the white sand. A man in his mid twenties reclined on a beach chair underneath. He held a phone to his ear and sighed when he heard the last words from Lin Feng. After hanging up, he mumbled to himself, “You’ll become the best professional player, huh?” He rubbed his nose. He’d heard this line many times before and usually dismissed it with an amused chuckle. But not this time. He started smiling, “If anyone can do it, it’s you. I’m really looking forward to seeing how far you’ll get.”
“Ok! Enough daydreaming!” He leaned to the side and blindly felt around the little table next to him. When he grabbed hold of what he was looking for, he lifted it up and sighed. The piece of chocolate he’d saved for later had melted. His hand was wet and sticky. He tried to lick his fingers clean as his thoughts went back to Lin Feng and how he could help him. Finally, he grabbed his phone from his lap and dialed a number.
The phone rang twice before it connected. A voice sounded from the other side of the line, “Hey? What’s up?”
“Yo! Where are you right now?”
“I’m in Spain. I told you, I’m on holiday here. Did you forget? Oh, and why did you call me?”
“Guess it slipped my mind. Sorry. I need a favour.”
“A favour? What kind of favour…”
“Haha! Don’t worry man. It’s nothing big! Just a small little thing for me! Hahaha! Come on, just hear me out.”
“No! Nope! No way in hell! I’m not doing it! Find someone else.”
“Oh, quit your whining. Just go and get on the next flight to London. Do you remember Fatty? He’s playing for KG at Worlds right now. He’s had a nervous breakdown. I need you to go to him and pass on a message for me.”
“Worlds? You still follow League of Legends?”
“Of course I don’t follow that game. I’m on holiday, I don’t have the time to worry about something like that.”
“Uhh… Then why are you asking me to go there and talk to Tian Tian?”
“Oh, I’m not doing this for myself. You remember Feng Feng? He just called me and asked if I could help him pass on a message. If I remember correctly, you cared a lot about that kid too, right?”
“Me? Why the fuck would I care? If he can’t handle the pressure, that’s his fault. I told him this back in Season 3. Grow a spine and grouw the fuck up. But did he listen? No. It went in one ear and came out the other. That’s on him. If he doesn’t want to change, nothing will happen. I’m not wasting anymore time on that kid.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re a little upset with him. That’s why I’m not asking you to go help him. I’m only asking you to pass on a message for me.”
It was quiet on the other side of the line, almost as if they’d hung up. But the call was still connected. So after another second, he added, “I’ll take your silence as a yes. Great! Thanks for helping me. You’re the best!”
“Fine. Just this once. But you owe me for this.”
“Sure, sure, whatever you say. How about this? Next time you come visit me, I’ll have my babe fix you up something really good.”
“Ha. What kind of guy makes his girlfriend repay his favours? You really are something else, you know? Aren’t you embarrassed?”
“What’s there to be embarrassed about? Oh! And I have to correct you there. She’s not my girlfriend anymore. She’s my fiancée now.”
After hanging up the call a few minutes later, he sat up straight in his beach chair and looked towards the crystal clear waters. She stood on the shoreline, waves washing over her feet. Her long, raven black hair fell over her shoulders. She wore a beautiful sundress and a straw hat that protected her face from the sun. You’re as beautiful as the day we met. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have met her. She’d grown only more beautiful over the years, her hot temperament mellowing out with time. Then she turned around and smiled at him. I love you.
Lin Feng felt a weight lifted off his shoulders. He’d been worrying about Fatty ever since that first game of Worlds. But now he’d finally done something about it. His mentor would help him get in touch with Fatty. He would have to wait to see how that would turn out. Until then, he turned his attention back to something a little more pressing. High School 13’s esports team! They still had a lot of work left in front of them while the first day of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament was next Monday!
Two days of practice came and went for the trainees in Lin Feng’s Legends Bootcamp. Then they turned their attention back to Worlds. It was time for Group C and Group D to play their first three games in the double round robin. The two days and 12 games that followed were another deception for China. Dust performed a little better than KG, but that was all. They ended with 1 win and 2 losses. Both losses were to the Korean teams in their group. The Chinese fans started to worry. It began to look like not a single Chinese team would make it out of the group stage this year!
There were three more days until the second half of the group stage. The Chinese fans used this time to type out their hatred on the community boards and forums. Maybe that would motivate their teams and light a figure under their asses!