The National Holiday came to an end. There was no more playing League all day and watching Worlds all night. Lin Feng had to get up early on Monday morning. He grabbed some breakfast and then went to school. Ouyang and Yang Fan were already sitting in class, worried like they’d been all week. In fact, there was a buzz going through the entire classroom. Angry hushed whispers with the random shout. Today was do or die for KG and Hand of God. And after last week’s performance, everyone in the class was worrying both teams would get kicked out of Worlds! They’d completely forgotten that HoG was currently sitting in second place with two wins and one loss and on schedule to make it to the next round. The teacher tried to get their attention, but no one really paid attention to her. She was the least of their worries.
There was a second reason why Ouyang and Yang Fan were worried today. The Shanghai 16 School Tournament! The qualification round would start later in the day. They would play three games that decided whether High School 13’s esports team would move on to the next round! All their hard work over the last few weeks would be put to the test. They would finally get to show Lin Feng just how much they’d learned from him!
All throughout the morning, Ouyang shuffled on his chair. He couldn’t sit still. His nerves were getting the better of him. Two of the biggest moments of the year had come together on the same day! He opened a forum on his phone and started browsing posts, yelping as he read some comments. The teachers warned him, hour after hour. It was so bad that he got sent out to the hallway in the last hour before lunch. But he didn’t care. He was even a little happy. Now he wouldn’t have to hide his phone. He could sit on the floor and browse as much as he wanted!
Yang Fan was faring better than Ouyang. He didn’t get sent out of class, and only got reprimanded a few times. But that didn’t mean he paid attention to the teacher. He hadn’t the faintest idea what class he was even in. His mind traveled between Worlds and the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. Come on KG! You can win! I’ll win too! I have to! I won’t let it be like last year again! He spun the pen in his hand as the hours ticked by.
Something really unusual happened in last period. Tang Bingyao got called out. This was a first for her. She sat in the front row and always paid attention. But today, for the first time in high school, she was lost in her thoughts and missed the question the English teacher had asked. She was forced to ask the teacher to please repeat the question, and had to think twice before answering.
Just like the others, Lin Feng also had a hard time paying attention in class. But unlike the rest, he wasn’t worrying about Worlds or the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. He didn’t particularly care for either at the moment. There was only one thing, one person he cared about right now, and that was Fatty. It’d been three days since he’d called his mentor and asked for help in passing a message along. He hadn’t heard anything since then. The next game for KG was only a couple of hours away. He worried his message wouldn’t reach Fatty in time. That Fatty would completely collapse under the pressure and feed and tilt even worse than last week. Come on! Please be in time! Please! He then breathed in deeply and let the full breath out. I need to calm down. I can trust him. He said he would take care of it, so he will. I just have to be patient.
While Lin Feng was listening to his English teacher droning on and on about grammar rules, an airplane landed at Heathrow Airport in London. Inside the cabin of the plane, a man in his late twenties looked out the small window. “Ah, why did I have to come here? From the sunny skies of Barcelona to this muggy mess… Such a shame.”
He grabbed his belongings and walked out of the plane. After getting through security, he turned his phone back on and made a call. “Hey Ol’ Yang. I just arrived in London. Get me a backstage pass for Worlds, will you?”
At exactly 4:40 pm, the final bell of the day rang. The students from High School 13 grabbed their backpacks and bolted for the door. They ran home, where they shoveled some food down their throats before rushing through their homework. There were only two hours left before Worlds would start! Though they were busy flaming KG and HoG online, they also really wanted to see both teams show up and make it to the next round. They were planning to follow every second of the action!
The members of High School 13’s esports team didn’t have this luxury. Homework would have to wait and they didn’t have the time to watch Worlds either. There was something more important waiting for them. The Shanghai 16 School Tournament! The seven team members gathered in the club room. They weren’t looking all that excited. If anything, they looked worried and afraid. Ren Rou tried to amp the others up by announcing they were going to take the bus! It was a bad attempt at trying to do something about the sad faces around her.
Lin Feng looked at the team members. Even Ren Rou didn’t sound one bit convinced. It felt like a few days ago all over again. They looked like they’d given up! He tapped Ouyang on the shoulder, drawing everyone’s attention, and said, “Uhh? What are you guys so nervous about? I thought we talked about this…”
Ouyang brushed Lin Feng’s hand away. “Bro… Why do you think? Just because we aren’t giving up doesn’t mean we aren’t nervous as fuck. Like fuck! Calm down dude. We’re just really nervous! It’s right here! We’ve been working so hard, and one bad game and it’ll all have been for nothing! We’d be like those idiots from KG. Oh god, please don’t let us pull a Roundy!”
“Yeah! What Ouyang says!” Liu Yue nodded. His head went up and down so fast it looked like he would hurt himself. “Didn’t you hear who we’re up against? Tonji Aff. High! High School 7! High School 3! They’re all really, really good! How can we not be nervous? Are you a robot or something?”
Lin Feng grinned. “Not a robot, no. But I am very excited to see you guys show off! You’ve all worked really hard. This is the moment to show everyone how far you’ve come!”
Lin Feng told them the words they needed to hear. He was right! They had been working their asses off for the last two weeks. Even with the distraction of Worlds last week, they still hadn’t slacked off! The goals Lin Feng had set for them when his Legends Bootcamp officially started were all met. And then some! They had overachieved! No one was left behind. They had come together as a cohesive unit and helped each other out! When they thought back to where they were only a few weeks ago, and how much they’d improved since then, they felt butterflies in their stomachs. It was an unbelievable feeling! They never thought this was possible. The group of low ranked individuals, with the exception of Tang Bingyao of course, had become a strong team! As this realization clicked in their heads, their mood turned for the better. Some nerves were fine, but they wouldn’t let those nerves get the better of them! They were a real contender for the Shanghai 16 School Tournament title! This qualification round was nothing and they would prove that! Their faces started beaming with anticipation and excitement.
Ren Rou smiled at Lin Feng. He’d managed to do what she’d tried to do but failed at. She nodded towards him, thanking him, and then turned to the others. “Lin Feng is right, guys! You can do it! I believe in you!”
“YES! We can do it! Let’s go!”
“WOOT WOOT! That trophy is ours!”
“No one can stop us!”
“We’re going to kick some asses!”
“Coach Lin Feng is the best!”
In the Wembley Arena in London, the second week of Worlds kicked off. The first match of the day was between Korea’s Fate and Europe’s Gold! There were 12,500 Europeans in the crowd cheering their team on. An early first blood had them jumping up and down on the stands. They chugged their beers and screamed at the top of their lungs, “GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!”
The sounds of the fans reached all the way backstage in a private room. KG had gathered there. The coaches, analysts and players were sitting together, attempting to prepare for the next game. Though it could barely be called that. They weren’t talking with each other, only sitting together in the same room. Everyone was caught up in their own minds and they didn’t even notice that one of their teammates was missing.
One of the coaches looked around. He wanted to say something, but didn’t know what. It couldn’t go on like this. He knew that. But he didn’t know how to make the others see it. He had no clue how to help them out of this slump. As he was searching for an answer, he looked for the supposed star player of the team. “Huh?” he mumbled. Then he searched around the room again before asking, “Guys, has anyone seen Roundy Round?”
The players looked at each other for a bit, until one of them mumbled, “Probably shitting again.” Then another one grumbled, “Seriously, what’s his problem? How much can a guy shit in one day? And every single time it’s right before a game. How are we to prepare like this…”
In one of the restrooms backstage, Tian Tian had locked himself up in a toilet stall again. He sat on the floor with his back against the door and his knees up to his chest. He wrapped his hands around his knees and rocked back and forth, mumbling to himself.
“I-i c-c-can’t d-do this… P-please, s-stop! I-it’s n-not m-my f-f-fault!”
“I’m useless! Y-you all say it! W-we can’t w-w-win with me… L-let m-me go home! I w-want to g-go home!”
The stress from the last few days had only made him feel worse. He barely managed to force himself out of bed in the morning. There were large bags under his bloodshot eyes, and his face was a sickly pale. If it was only the abuse he received from the fans online, he’d at least still function. But it hadn’t stopped there. His coach and teammates all blamed him for what happened in week 1 of Worlds. It was his fault they’d lost those two games. And it was his fault that they almost lost to the wildcard team. Their expressions haunted him, their faces floating in his mind laughing and jeering at him.
Tian Tian was completely lost in his own little world. He didn’t even hear someone walking into the washroom, and he didn’t hear the footsteps stopping right outside of his stall. Then, a loud knock rang just above his head. The stall door bumped into him. He reached out to grab the toilet bowl and forced himself up faster than his frame would suggest he could. Wiping the snot and tears from his face, he asked, “W-who i-is it?” He forced himself to breathe to steady his voice. He didn’t want to show his teammates that he’d been crying. “D-did the c-coach send y-you? J-just wait. I-i’ll be out in a m-mi-minute.”
There was a moment of silence, after which a familiar voice rang out from the other side of the stall door. A voice he hadn’t expected in a hundred years. “I knew I’d find you here. Tsk. What a waste of talent. Tell me, Fatty, how many times have we been in this exact situation? You know what’s coming next, right? The part where I tell you to grow up. That if you want to make something of your life and become one of the Seven Kings, you need to do something about that shitty attitude. And then you tell me how you don’t care to become one of the Seven Kings…”
“I-i don’t! I-i don’t want t-to be a-a King…” Tian Tian muttered. It was a line he’d said many times over. It was his go-to response when his mentor scolded him. His mentor who’d given up on him. His mentor– “W-wait! I-is t-that r-r-really you?”