Chapter 178 - A heartbreaker, dream maker, and a proper Coach

Lin Feng sat behind his desk in his bedroom. There was a big, thick studybook in front of him, and he was scribbling in a notebook to the side. He was writing down the most important bits of each page and disregarded the rest, not even checking what it was he wrote. That was a worry for when the next test was announced. This was his patented study method; Fast and Furious. Chinese literature, done. Mathematics, done. English, done. In only a short few hours, he finished his homework. He then let go of his pen and leaned back in his chair. “Phew! Done!”

It was only 9 PM, still too early to go to bed. So Lin Feng, almost out of habit, opened the League of Legends client and logged into his Korean account. I’ll just play a couple of games before bed, he thought while queuing up for a game. They were his practiced motions, as was the message he flung into the Champion Select team chat. “Mid plz.” Because that was the role he wanted to play tonight. Slowly, Lin Feng got into the zone.

Game 1: Lin Feng picked Fizz in the mid lane. He bullied his lane opponent and got an early kill at Level 3. From there on out, it was an easy game for him. He brute-forced his way to a 20-minute win.

Game 2: Lin Feng picked Syndra in the mid lane. He bullied his lane opponent and forced them to recall back to base after the first minion wave. The advantage he built up from that was large enough for the opponent to never get back into the game. He carried his team to a 26-minute win.

Game 3: Lin Feng picked Yasuo in the mid lane. He crushed his lane opponent into submission at Level 1. His opponent’s teammates came to help, but he killed them all. That happened only 12 minutes into the game. They gave up and didn’t leave the fountain again. So Lin Feng and his team destroyed the towers in mid lane, then the inhibitor, and finally the nexus. It took them all of 16 minutes.

That’s enough for tonight. Lin Feng looked at his screen, waiting, hesitating. Then he opened his browser and clicked on Favourites. At the top was a link to the Semifinals match between KG and SSK. He opened it and watched it. More specifically, he watched the mid lane, and how Rake and KG’s Midlaner were playing. He watched every small move and studied its effects on the game.

I’ve seen this. I know it. Lin Feng shook his head. The results were no different from last time. Rake gameplay was, as always, perfect. Even KG’s Midlaner was better than he was right now. But it didn’t hit him as hard as it had over the last week. Something had changed. He managed to take that step back and look at the big picture. It painted a different perspective. Sure, he wasn’t anywhere near good enough to step onto the world stage right now. But he shouldn’t want to either. This process he had set into motion took time. It couldn’t be rushed. He had to take on the challenges in front of him, of which there were plenty, and focus only on them. Lin Feng smiled, balling his hand into a fist. Watch me come back to the top, Rake. I’ll get back up there. We’ll have our rematch. And I’ll beat you. This time, I will win! “YES!”

Something had changed in the training sessions of the High School 13 esports team. They still went to the NetCow Cafe everyday and from an outside perspective everything looked the same, but something intrinsic had changed. It was the addition of a real coach. Lin Feng was a phenomenally talented player and far better than the rest of the esports team combined. But at the end of it all, he was a player and not a coach. An Xin was different. She was more of a coach than a player.

Lin Feng didn’t like to overcomplicate things. When it came to playing the game, his first strategy was to bruteforce his way to victory. Only if that really didn’t work, after repeated attempts, would he pivot to something different. That held true for his coaching as well. He tried to bruteforce information into the minds of his trainees. When they made a mistake, he badgered them with it. He told them when they screwed up. How they screwed up. And what they had to change. But a vital point was missing here. He didn’t help them understand how to not repeat the same mistakes. He could point them out, but he had trouble thinking on their level and explaining solutions in a way that they could understand.

An Xin had a different training method. She didn’t walk behind the team like a drill sergeant, barking at them. Instead, she sat behind her own computer, spectating and recording the game. She didn’t say a word while the team was playing. They had free reign to play in whatever way they felt was best. But every mistake they made, no matter how small or big, was written down by her. Then after the game finished, she had everyone gather around her computer. She opened the replay and grabbed her notebook. Next up, she started going over the game, pointing out everything that required attention; from laning phase to teamfighting and from broader map-wide plays to individual details, nothing was left untouched.

“Tang Tang and Wei Dong, I really liked what I saw there. You two were really playing the game together. It’s just that you two seem to only have one mode. Attack. Attack. Attack. It’s okay to play a bit more defensively. Vayne is a late game Champion. Play to her strength..”

“Liu Yue, I love the prediction game. Where is the other Jungler? How should I path through the Jungle? When can I gank? But when you play like that, it has to be perfect. Because if you fail, you fall behind. You need to know what to look for and what to do and you need the right Champion. You played Sejuani. She doesn’t get strong until Level 6. Don’t try and gank with her until then.”

“Alright, the mid lane. Yang Fan, your laning was good. Props for that. But you need to do so much more as a Midlaner. Help your team. Play together with your Jungle to make ganks. Roam. Do anything but sit in mid and farm minions. Because more often than not, that’s not going to help the team.”

“Chen Ze, solid work on your island in the top lane. Just that you brought a teleport so you could get off of your island. You really need to learn how to use it. Your first goal will be to get better at using your teleport. That first teleport, you want to use it for the first teamfight. One good play there can win you the game. Use that knowledge.”

“I’m really happy with what I saw. There are just a couple more things I want you all to pay attention to. Most importantly right now, that is vision. Just placing wards for placing wards isn’t good enough. There needs to be a reason why you’re placing that ward. A ward is an investment. Use it wisely… Like here, look at the video. Let me pause it… Here. See where the opponents are? They’re all in their lanes and the Jungler is near the top lane. That means you have an opening at bot lane to go into their Jungle and place a ward as close to their Jungle entrances as possible… So here, here, here… Those wards will give you the intel you need to make more aggressive plays. Those are the wards that really matter.”

Beyond the more general information that could be of value for the entire team, An Xin also took the time to talk with each team member individually. She’d prepared a video clip of their plays, so she could point out their shortcomings and give them tips on how to improve on them. This especially won everyone over. They nodded and listened and sometimes asked questions for clarification. They believed in what she said and applied the knowledge she shared with them in their games. It almost directly started showing results. The reason for this was simple. They understood what An Xin explained to them. And with that, they had something concrete they could apply to their games beyond Lin Feng’s usual, “You suck. Get good.”

There was, however, one team member who wasn’t improving as quickly as the others were. That was Lin Feng. An Xin tried to coach him the same as she did with the others. But it didn’t matter how she tried to explain the most simple concepts to him, nothing seemed to get through his thick skull. All she could do was stare at him, exasperated. He was sitting across from her right now. She shook her head. One more time. Then she let out a long sigh and repeated herself again, “Lin Feng, you have to stop being so wasteful. Stop wasting your Flash!”

“Huh? What do you mean? I never…” Lin Feng replied, confused.

“What do you mean you never?” An Xin countered. “Last game at 13 minutes. You didn’t need to blow your Flash. You forced the Orianna to use her Summoner Spells already. There was nothing more to be gained there. But you still wasted your Flash. Then the teamfight began and your Flash was on cooldown. That was terrible. You could’ve dove into their backline so much easier with Flash. If you still had it.”

Lin Feng wouldn’t hear it, though. He argued, “But I got their ad-carry in that teamfight, so what does it matter? It doesn’t! I killed their carry!”

“You killed their ad-carry because he mispositioned. He made a mistake that made up for your mistake. If he didn’t screw up, you wouldn’t have killed him,” An Xin stated, coldly.

“You’re wrong!” Lin Feng laughed, patting his chest. “I would’ve gotten the kill anyway!”

“How?” An Xin asked. “Explain to me! How would you have gotten the kill?”

Lin Feng paused for a moment. He didn’t expect to get called out like this. But then he grinned and said, “It doesn’t matter how! I know I would’ve gotten the kill! I’m just really good at Fizz!”

An Xin rubbed her temples, annoyed and frustrated. “Forget it. Just remember from now on that if you know that a teamfight is coming up, you shouldn’t blow your Flash. Keep it! Alright?”

Lin Feng shook his head and said, “I mean, I guess. It’s just… I don’t see what the point is. It won’t make a difference anyway!”

An Xin finally had had enough. That smile that looked anything but a smile crept on her face and she said, “Hmm? What did you say? I thought I heard you disagree. But I’m not sure. Say it again. Say it.”

Standing a few steps away, pretending to mind their own business, the other members of the esports team were listening to everything Lin Feng and An Xin were saying. They cringed when Lin Feng disregarded An Xin’s advice. They wanted to walk out of the internet cafe when they saw the expression on An Xin’s face. And then, when Lin Feng had really gone and done it, they stood nailed to the ground.

Ouyang shook his head and said, “Man. That Lin Feng. What in the world? Is this his kink or something? Does he get off on making BunBun upset? Oh boy. Maybe that’s the way to her heart? I could also…”

Yang Fan adjusted his glasses and smiled. “I don’t know. I think Lin Feng has always been like this. It’s just that no one has called him out on it before. It’s kind of nice to see BunBun do that.”

The other guys nodded. They agreed wholeheartedly with Yang Fan, but felt it was better to keep their mouths shut. The further away they stayed from Lin Feng and An Xin, the safer they would be. That was how they saw it, anyways.

As for the girls, Ren Rou was talking to Tang Bingyao. Well, it was more accurate to call it gossiping. “Did you hear about those two from Senior Class 8? They’re saying that they came out of the toilet together. Those stalls are so small! What do you think they were doing there? If you ask me…” She went on and on, stringing one tidbit of gossip to the next. “Oh, oh! And did you hear what happened on the toilet on the second floor? This girl started attacking her friend with a curling iron! She was mad that her friend wouldn’t break up with her boyfriend. It was crazy! I think someone even taped it. Let me see if I can find it for you…”

Tang Bingyao wasn’t really listening to Ren Rou. She was looking at Lin Feng and An Xin. Watching the easy rapport between the two as they talked. It was effortless, like they belong together. She just stared at it, thinking... Long enough for Ren Rou to notice. Which she obviously did, and gently patted Tang Bingyao on the shoulder before asking, “Hey, girl? You okay? You look really distracted and distant right now. Something on your mind? Something bothering you? Or… someone…?”

Tang Bingyao snapped out of her daze, blinking her eyes and turning her head to look at Ren Rou. The words Ren Rou had said registered in her mind half a second later and she replied, “H-huh? Am I? Really?”

Ren Rou didn’t respond at first. She looked over towards Ouyang and the other guys, just to make sure they weren’t trying to listen in on them. Only when she was sure that no one was trying to eavesdrop on them, did she whisper, “Hey, can I ask you something? Do you like Lin Feng?”

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littleshanks's Thoughts

Hey folks. A few housekeeping things to get out of the way first. Apologies for the erratic schedule. We’re aware that we’re a couple chapters behind and we’ll be making it up over the weekend. Besides this, we’re hosting a Secret Santa event for the Rise Discord server: https://discord.com/invite/risethewebnovel. The enrollment window is until Dec 9th  11:59 PM EST and anyone is free to participate. Anyone who commits to the Secret Santa and renegs later will be banned until Jan 1st, and there will also be a spending cap of $25, so don’t go nuts. This means the highest anybody is allowed to spend on one present is $25, nor should anybody feel pressured to spend more because of it. Don’t pull a Michael Scott iPod situation. No one likes that guy.

Now, onto to today’s thoughts. Christmas is coming up. I’m still on campus and I don’t plan on going back home to celebrate. It’s not that I can’t. The university has rolled out no-symptom testing centers on campus precisely so that students can travel home. I just don’t want to and the pandemic is a good excuse. It’s a lot less stressful being by myself on Christmas than with family. Though, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel a little lonely. Maybe I’ll try and get Devshard and Sietse to drink with me and keep me company on that night, if the two aren’t off with some girls. What about you guys? How’s your Christmas breaks looking?