Hermes sat behind the computer he shared with Nightsong in Hand of God’s gaming house. They were both inching towards the screen, eager to see if CN•HOOK2 had enough time left to play and win two games at the top of the Korean Challenger Ladder. But they also both realized how steep of a challenge it was. They’d played at the highest level for quite some time and often spent most of their days working on something League of Legends related. That was why they, better than anyone else, understood the physical and mental toll that came with playing consecutive games at this level, and the pressure that CN•HOOK2 was under.
Nightsong shook his head and frowned. He said, “It’s gonna be tougher than getting your Mum into bed, that’s for sure. Only someone like…”
Hermes chuckled and replied, “Losing some of that energy, huh? Stunned to silence?” He then pursed his lips and shook his head before continuing, “But you’re right. You’re right. I don’t get it. He just played 11 games in a row and needs another 2. And he’s gotta win both of them. How can anyone stand straight knowing that?”
“That’s just it…” Nightsong mumbled. He hit his fingers as he said, “Normal training, scrims, tournaments, streams, fan meetups… I can keep going! We do them all every day all day! We can because we trained for it! And because there is the mixup. We don’t train all day. We don’t scrim all day. We don’t play dicking tournaments all day! FUCK!”
Hermes sighed. He turned his head to look at Nightsong and said, “He’s played 11 games and won 8 of them. He’s grinding so hard and worst… or best. I don’t know anymore. Best of all, yeah. Best of all, he’s looking better than he did five games ago. He’s just getting better and better and better!” He briefly paused before adding softly, “I couldn’t do that.”
“NO ONE CAN!” Nightsong exclaimed. He grabbed Hermes by his shoulders and looked his friend deep in the eyes. “DON’T YOU SEE? THAT’S IT!” he shouted, spittle spewing from his lips. “HE’S A BOT! WE’VE GOT OUR VERY OWN ALPHA ZERO! THAT’S WHY HE’S BETTER THAN YOU AND ME! HE’S NO MAN! HE’S A MACHINE!” He turned back to look at the screen and grinned. He clenched his fists and laughed. “That’s it. That’s gotta be it. No one’s better at banging out straight wins than me, except if that someone is using some illegal support. Yep. that’s it. I’m telling you. That’s it.”
Aurous was still keeping Shi Hang company in Team Rapids gaming house. But while Shi Hang was sitting at the edge of his seat with a big grin on his face, he slumped back in his chair a bit. He glanced at his friend and said, “I don’t get it. How are you so excited? He’s played 11 games! 11! In a fucking row! AFTER PLAYING THE FUCKING FINALS OF THE COLLEGIATE CUP! BEFORE WHICH HE EVEN PLAYED MORE! HE’S BEEN PLAYING FOR SO LONG… FUCK!”
Shi Hang turned his head to look at his friend and shook his head a bit. He explained, “You weren’t there in Season 1. I guess it makes sense you don’t understand. Actually…” He briefly paused to look back at his screen and make sure Lin Feng hadn’t found a game yet. He then continued, “Let me give you an idea of what it was like for him back in Season 1. Maybe then you’ll understand that if anyone can do it, it’s gonna be him.”
“Okay, okay, talk!” Aurous replied, nodding.
“Here goes,” Shi Hang started, keeping one eye on his screen. “Back in Season 1, Lin Feng… Or Maple… You get it. Anyway, he qualified for Worlds with his team, right? Here in China, we were fucking proud of him. They were basically the wildcard team, the team no one outside of China had ever heard of. But they qualified for Worlds, so they flew to London and were excited to start playing against the other top teams in the world.
“When they got in London, they weren’t really welcomed. They were the wildcard team. You know how it’s at Worlds these years. Everyone makes fun of the wildcard teams. It wasn’t any different back then. You had the Europeans and Americans who thought they were the shit. And then you had those douches from Korea. Assholes those guys. They all thought they were better than some wildcard team. None of them respected Maple, much less his team.
“Lin Feng and his teammates. Oh! And An Xin, you’ve seen her play. But they started looking for scrim partners to prepare for Worlds against the best. Everyone ignored them. They didn’t even get a single message back. No ‘sorry, but we’re busy’ or anything like that. Just complete radio silence. But they still had to practice. They had to be in the best form of their lives for Worlds! So they contacted me and some of the other top players and asked us if we could be their scrim partners.
“Most of us had jobs or school. League of Legends wasn’t what it is now. There wasn’t big money in it yet. We couldn’t tell our teacher or boss that we had to take a sick day to help a friend get better at playing a game. They’d have laughed at us! Right in the face! So we had to do our normal stuff during the day and play with them at night, which wasn’t great for them. They had to adjust their entire sleeping schedule just so they could get more time to practice against us. They were pulling the most insane days, just to get those few extra hours of training in…
“And they never complained. They never asked us if we could take that sick day, or skip that class. They thanked us again and again. They persevered. They pressed on. Fuck! I remember the day of the semis. I played basically all night against Maple! We did full team scrims but also 1v1s. That was fucking awesome. And then, when most people would be too tired to think straight, he went up on stage to play against fucking Phoenix! You know what happened then.”
Aurous stared at Shi Hang with his eyes wide open. He nodded unconsciously and muttered, “He smashed him. Maple smashed him.”
Shi Hang grinned and said, “Exactly! So when you ask me why I’m confident that Maple… Lin Feng will win the next two games and make it into the Top 5, that’s why. I’ve seen him pull this off before. I know him. And I know that if there’s anyone who can do this, it’s him. Because fuck me he’s good.”
Aurous grinned and was about to agree to that when Shi Hang frowned and continued, “There’s one thing that’s got me a bit worried though. He hasn’t played Rake yet and I don’t see him online. But he also hasn’t played Moon yet and hedidjust log on. They’re both in queue. I believe Lin Feng can beat him. I really believe he’s that good. But that won’t be an easy game. That won’t be the 20 minute game he needs. It’ll be a 50 minute game and he won’t have time to hit that Top 5. And that would fucking suck.”
Lightless had several big names on his friends list. One he was particularly proud of was Moon. The one million+ viewers on his stream saw it when Moon logged on, and they watched Moon enter the solo queue. Before Lightless could say anything—not that he had too—his viewers lost it. They smashed away at their keyboards as a massive wave of messages flooded the chat.
「NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO IT”S MOOOONN FUUUCKKMEEEEEE」
「NOT NOW!!! WHY NOW!?!??!?!??!?!?」
「FUCK! Whats next? Rake gonna come too??!?!??!?!?!」
「maybe he can beat moon?」
「QQQQQQQQ WHY THIS BAD LUCK!?!?!?!?!?!??!?」
「PLS NO MOON! PLS NO MOON! PLS NO MOON!」
「HOOK THE RIGHT FISH! MOONFISH ARE BAD FISH!」
「Press F to Pay Respect.」
An Xin sat next to Lin Feng in the hotel room, scrolling through different online forums on her phone. When she read the news about Moon logging on and getting into the solo queue, she raised her eyebrows and said, “Hey, Lin Feng?” She briefly waited for his attention and then continued, “Looks like Moon’s trying to snipe you.”
Lin Feng paused for a moment. It felt like even his heart slowed to a stop. His mind went blank as the darkness of despair was tugging at his consciousness. But then he grinned. He relaxed his shoulders and sighed loudly. “Got it,” he replied. “Thanks.”
The queue popped a few seconds later. Every player had to click the ready button; it was a mechanism Riot Games had put in place to make sure everyone was still behind their computer. Lin Feng moved his mouse over the button and without pause clicked it. He glanced at An Xin and asked with a bit of excitement in his voice, “So? Is he in it?”
An Xin looked at her phone. It was playing Lightless’ stream which was currently zoomed in on Lightless’ friends list. CN•HOOK2 was in Champion Select and Moon was still in queue. “No,” she replied. “Looks like he’s still in queue.”
Lin Feng shrugged and said, “Okay, guess not then.” He then narrowed his eyes and stared at his screen.I need to win this one fast. I can’t beat Moon in 20 minutes. Maybe 30…He took a deep, long breath.If they’re sniping me now, they’ll snipe me next game as well. I need to buy myself as much time as possible. Fizz.The Champion wasn’t banned, though LeBlanc, Yasuo and Ahri were.Good. I’ll go with her. I’ll stomp them like I did earlier…
The game started a few minutes later. Lin Feng bought Doran’s Ring, which was the normal starter item for an ability power Champion. He then went to lane and played at a level of aggressiveness he hadn’t shown before that game yet. He pushed his opponent into making mistakes and by Level 2 he claimed first blood. He pushed the wave out and recalled back to base, where he bought a second Doran’s Ring to give himself that all important power boost. When he returned to lane, his opponent was there waiting for him. And he continued right where he left off. He pushed and put pressure and killed his opponent a minute later. He then roamed top where he caught the opponent’s Toplaner and Jungler. He killed them both. He had 4 kills before reaching Level 6. It was disastrous for his opponent. It was a deficit they couldn’t come back from.
Lin Feng’s Botlaners weren’t particularly great, nor was his Toplaner or Jungler. It didn’t feel to Lin Feng like they were particularly try-harding either. But he never stopped to care about that. He just kept doing what he did best. Getting kills and securing objectives. The mid lane was the first to fall, followed by the top lane. The opponent tried to force him into teamfights, but he simply ignored that, allowing his teammates to die just so he could split push to victory.
At 26 minutes, Lin Feng’s Fizz destroyed the second inhibitor of the game. His opponent was still trying to draw him into a teamfight, but he never took the bait. When his opponent finally realized they had to do something to stop, it was too late. He was in their base. He was taking down their Nexus towers. And he finally took down their Nexus. All the while, his teammates in their inability to do much of anything useful were doing a perfect job at distracting the opponent which gave Lin Feng all the time he needed to win the game.
The fifteenth game of the night was a victory for Lin Feng. He had a bit more than 30 minutes left before the ranks would rest and he was one victory shy from breaching the Top 5. He turned his head to look at An Xin and grinned. He said, “Five down. One to go. LET’S FUCKING GO!”
“My ears!” An Xin yelped, reaching for her ears. She then smiled and added, “Yeah. Let’s go!”