“You told him you were a Challenger in the Ionia server?” Tang Bingyao frowned as she created a ranked game lobby. “Of course he didn’t believe you. No one would.”
“But I’m really telling the truth,” Lin Feng muttered in vexation.
“Really?” Tang Bingyao looked back at him earnestly.
“My rank in season 1 would be Challenger in the current system!” Lin Feng patted his chest.
“So, what you’re saying is that you aren’t a Challenger,” Tang Bingyao pointed out ruthlessly. Then, she became a bit curious. “You started playing back in season 1? Weren’t you like 14 back then?”
Lin Feng nodded. “Yep. I started playing back in middle school, but I was already 15, not 14. I’m a year older than you guys, I turn 19 this year.”
“How’s that something to be happy about?” Tang Bingyao asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh. I guess it isn’t.” Lin Feng scratched his head. However, be it 14 or 15, it made no real difference back then. Even four years later, the memories were still fresh in his mind. The events and back-and-forths of those days played back in his mind.
“He’s too young to participate. 16 is the minimum age. We can’t just bend the rules for one person,” an inflexible voice delivered unsympathetically, as if it’d repeated this line countless times over in a mechanical fashion.
“But he’s the heart of our team! We qualified for worlds together! You can’t just tell us to kick him out and find a new player! We won’t stand for that!” another voice protested.
Several other voices both male and female chimed in.
“I’m the vice-chairman of the Chinese Esports Association! Maple’s age is public knowledge, and we’ve made a special exception so he could play in the LPL. But for Worlds, even if I wanted to do something, I can’t. The Global Esports Association made and enforce the rules, and they are well aware of Maple’s age.”
“We demand an explanation! We’ve gone through all the proper channels. He should be allowed to play!”
“Maple is our best player! He’s the best player in the LPL! Sure, he’s not 16 yet, but can’t the Global Esports Association take a look at his performances in big tournaments?”
“I can attest that he has the skills to compete with the very top on the global stage. You can’t just wipe away all the blood, sweat, and tears he’s put into reaching this point just because of his age!”
“We won’t leave this room until you give us a proper answer!”
Lin Feng snapped back to reality. He looked up to see a concerned Tang Bingyao staring at him. “Haha. Sorry 'bout that. My thoughts, they followed the wind for a bit there and I forgot to watch my back,” he said as he tried to explain his moment away.
Tang Bingyao was mildly puzzled by the cryptic reply, especially considering the fact that Lin Feng said all that while rubbing the back of his head with a stupid grin.
“I see.” Tang Bingyao said with a slow nod. He decided that it wasn’t the best time to dig into… whatever that was. “Can we play now?”
“Of course! Let’s go, let’s go!” Lin Feng exclaimed rather excitably.
Tang Bingyao gave Lin Feng a Diamond account to play on as the two resumed their duo-queue adventures on the Ionia server. While she stuck to Kalista, Lin Feng switched to Thresh support. The Kalista-Thresh combo was fairly powerful in both laning phase and teamfights.
But even before the game began, Lin Feng sunk back in his muddled mind. As he controlled his Thresh to move to bottom lane, scenes from the past flashed through his mind like flickering lanterns, along with the sounds of incomparably familiar voices. They gave a group of people from the Global Esports Association a piece of their mind.
“What does it matter? 15 years old, 16 years old, it’s only a one year difference!”
“Why do you guys have to be so unreasonable!?”
“Look at him! He isn’t some random 15-year-old! He’s Maple! The best player in the LPL! If even he isn’t qualified to compete at Worlds, no one is!”
“Maple wants to become the best in the world! He will become the best! Can’t you see how good it would be for the game if he plays?”
As the scene played through Lin Feng’s mind, a flicker of grief flashed across his eyes. He ended up misclicking with his mouse, which led to a misplay. Several seconds later, he and Tang Bingyao were both forced to flash away at low health back under the safety of their tower. Only then did the enemy jungle Elise, ad-carry Tristana, and support Leona reluctantly give up on the chase and turn away.
“Whew! That was close!” Lin Feng wiped the cold sweat off his brow. “We almost got doubled killed. Hahaha!”
“You seem off today,” Tang Bingyao remarked, staring at Lin Feng.
“Huh?” Lin Feng remarked in surprise.
“What’s on your mind?” Tang Bingyao asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Lin Feng scratched his head as he brushed off Tang Bingyao’s questions.
Tang Bingyao stared at Lin Feng even more closely. “You’re lying.” However, before Lin Feng had a chance to explain himself, she turned back to face the screen and focus on controlling her Kalista. “It’s fine if you don’t want to tell me. Just stop getting distracted, or it’ll be hard to win this game.”
“I got it. I got it. Don’t worry,” Lin Feng promised. ”Watch me carry this game with my Thresh!”
Lin Feng focused back on the game. What passed had already passed. More importantly, if he didn’t put on a good performance in this game, he’d be embarrassing himself in front of Tang Bingyao! Then, the odds of convincing her to join his team would be even lower! Thinking about his recruitment strategy, he was instantly fired up. “It’s time to get serious!”
How good at the game was a serious Lin Feng? According to him anyway, he was really really really good! Of course, a person that couldn’t back up their words was a useless blowhard. However, Lin Feng wasn’t that sort. The enemy Tristana and Leona were about to experience a bloodbath.
At around eight minutes into the game, Jarvan IV made his way around the jungle back to bot lane. Lin Feng moved his Thresh forward to engage. However, the enemy Tristana reacted with a beautiful ultimate, knocking both Thresh and Kalista back.
“Tang Tang, use your ult!” Lin Feng exclaimed.
Tang Bingyao immediately activated her ultimate. Thresh turned into soul form as he was pulled to Kalista’s side, then launched forward like a cannonball toward the enemy bot lane!
BANG! Tristana and Leona were knocked up.
At the same time, Lin Feng threw a lantern out  behind him using it to pull Jarvan IV into the fray.
The Tristana realized that they had lost the advantage, especially with the Jarvan IV in the mix. She tried to escape using her Rocket Jump.
“Want to run? Not so easy!” Lin Feng exclaimed as he hammered down on the E key with the flair of a concert pianist.
Thresh whipped out his chain and scythe backwards in a sweeping vertical arc, interrupting Tristana mid-jump and grounding her. Her attempt to escape death prematurely cut down before it had even begun.
Tang Bingyao’s mouth gaped open in shock. What impressive mechanics!
A pumped-up Lin Feng combined with Tang Bingyao who had become fairly proficient with Kallista became an unstoppable force at bot lane, easily sweeping through their ranked games in Diamond.
First game, ‘ggez’ as they say in chat! Second game, didn’t even break a sweat! Third game, absolute domination!
After winning three games in a row, Lin Feng declared, “I’m going to jungle next game!”
“You’re not supporting me anymore?’ Tang Bingyao remarked, slightly surprised. When a pretty girl as an ad-carry spoke these words, it would usually be delivered with sad, puppy dog eyes. After which the guy wouldn’t have the heart to refuse. However, she wasn’t like most other girls. She was simply making a casual remark.
In the same fashion, Lin Feng gave a straightforward answer. “Nope! You should practice improving without relying on me as your support!”
I kind of find it funny that Lin Feng is just venting all his complaints to Tang Bingyao. It’s cute.