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The Craic

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Su Muqiu knew Ye Xiu wouldn’t be able to reveal himself through advertisement the normal way, but it wasn’t like the only way to advertise was to broadcast your face. Su Muqiu could handle that just fine on his own! He was prettier than Ye Xiu anyway, with his bright coloring and delicate features. No, with “Ye Qiu,” their team would have something no other team had: mystery. Nothing kept people interested like mystery. What other team would have a top player that never showed himself? None. No other ace would be willing to do that the way Ye Xiu not only was willing, but desperately needed to.

 

“Oh, our captain?” Su Muqiu laughed, that first year. “He can’t be here. But there’s me!”

Su Muqiu got all kinds of questions about Dancing Rain, to which he cheerfully regaled the media with stories of his darling little sister, Su Mucheng. “You can’t escape Glory now!” he laughed to the camera. “Your face is already famous!”

 

The second year, with Excellent Era the defending champions, everyone was even more determined to see Ye Xiu.

(Tao Xuan wondered, sometimes, about Su Muqiu’s ability to say with complete confidence “Ye Qiu isn’t here,” even when Ye Qiu was standing right behind him. He didn’t know that Su Muqiu was thinking of the younger twin, still at home at the Ye estate. It wasn’t hard to sell the truth).

“He doesn’t like being seen. He focuses on Glory more than anything else. You know how devoted our captain is!”

 

Year three, on their way to creating a dynasty, when Ye Qiu again failed to show anything more than a profile for the All Star event: “That guy, really. Always shamelessly running away. You should see if you can catch him! He has to show up sometime, right?”

“Seriously, Muqiu,” Ye Xiu said later, having narrowly escaped at least three sudden traps the venue itself had set up for him. “What are you doing?”

“Throwing you to the wolves, obviously.”

“Yes, but why?”

“Gotta keep the excitement alive! Your reputation needs to keep pulling its weight somehow. What, you think you can’t outsmart a few reporters?”

Ye Xiu was speechless. “A few” was not at all an accurate descriptor for the mob of cameras he found around every door to the building after that interview aired.

“See?” said Su Muqiu, upon arriving at the next away match to find increasingly elaborate schemes set up around various entrances. “They look like they’re having fun!”

Ye Xiu sighed and looked around for a suitably average, but harried group of backstage workers to use as camouflage.

 

Year four, having completed the rise of a dynasty: “Well, he really couldn’t be here this time, someone needs to pick up our kid from school. Honestly, I wanted to be there too, but they should be home by now—oh, wait. I need to check this.”

Su Muqiu shamelessly pulled out his phone right there in the live interview. He’d been reading for less than a second before he started laughing.

“The captain has ordered me to clarify our situation, because there’s already posts about our apparent illicit affair. Good handspeed, Glory fans! Maybe we should recruit you!”

Su Muqiu’s phone chimed again.

“Captain says we are not recruiting any of you because you have poor decision-making skills and jump to irrational conclusions easily, sorry. Especially you, ‘GloryLoveChild.’ I don’t know what you said but he’s pretty mad about it. He didn’t say he was mad, but I can tell. Also he says I should shut up. So rude!”

 

The public, predictably, went wild for this indirect interaction with the mysterious top god of glory.

 

Once they knew it was possible, reporters did their best to draw out responses from the elusive captain in their interviews with Su Muqiu. Attempts ranged from flattering to absurd to downright insulting: “Su Muqiu, do you ever feel resentment, standing in the shadow of a god like Ye Qiu? Your coordination is impressive, but Ye Qiu is undoubtedly the better attacker, and in terms of your individual competition records—”

The chiming noises from Su Muqiu’s phone got to the point where the reporter really couldn’t continue talking through them.

“Wow, Captain is saying a lot of…really scathing things about your intelligence and qualifications to report on Glory as a whole. No, Little Ye, I can’t repeat that verbatim, do you even know what appropriate behavior in front of the media looks like? No, you don’t. Shush. How can I find a way to turn your, fine, completely legitimate criticisms into something media-friendly when you keep typing so much I can’t even scroll up and work on rewording what you said? Yeah, I thought so. Now let me see already!”

The reporters looked on helplessly. On the one hand, getting information from Ye Qiu, even indirectly, was always a plus. On the other, was this even a press conference anymore, or was it just eavesdropping on a phone conversation?

“Uh, so basically, Captain thinks you should know that the offensive he puts on is only possible through my…uh, my support? I don’t think I can get away with saying I have ‘unparalleled aiming and timing for interrupts,’ if you wanted to talk me up that much you should have come here yourself…anyway, he also said coordination and the dual-core team format doesn’t really work if one side is eclipsed by the other, so our results alone should make it clear how well matched we are,” Su Muqiu paraphrased, occasionally pausing and quickly scrolling past words as he tried to edit Ye Xiu’s rant on the fly.

“Also he wants an explanation as to how, of the two players on this team labelled as ‘gods,’ the one you decided was standing in shadow was me. And then there’s this really sweet light and shadow metaphor regarding his own inability to show his face that’s too hard to separate from this massive block of disparagement of both your poetic ability and general intelligence. You’re so cute, Little Ye!”

Su Muqiu’s phone started chiming violently again.

 

“Captain says he appreciates your interest in him, but he really can’t give you any personal information.”

Su Muqiu’s phone chimed again. “What? No, Little Ye, I know you didn’t actually say you appreciate their invasive questions, it’s just manners—no, I will not stop calling you Little Ye on live television. Okay, that is a great pun, but I’m not calling you ‘shadow captain’ for the rest of this interview just to pull it off.”

The reporters despaired.

 

“What do I think about how our captain looks? I think he looks like a cute little muffin that really needs to sleep more, no I won’t pick up the phone right now, yes I hear it chiming, stop watching live broadcasts and go to bed already!”

The edits of muffins with sleepy eyes holding battle lances started popping up within the hour.

 

The tail end of a good minute of obnoxious assertions, through which the chiming of Su Muqiu’s phone had increased steadily to a truly impressive speed, which the reporter had even more impressively continued to steadfastly speak over: “Some people are saying that you seem like the one in charge, so you really should take over the captaincy already. Others say that your airheaded demeanor and Pollyanna attitude have no place at the head of a serious team. What are your thoughts on this, Su Muqiu?”

The phone fell ominously silent, and one glance at it had Su Muqiu coughing into his hand in a weak attempt to disguise his laughter. “Since the captain and I are in agreement this time, I think I’ll just show you all his most recent message.”

Su Muqiu turned his phone around to face the cameras, showing a text screen entirely filled with a single, enormous sentence: “KICK THAT REPORTER OUT ALREADY.”

In the stunned silence that followed, Su Muqiu turned to the press officer with a casual “oh, and he says you’re a disappointment to your profession for letting clear harassment continue for so long in a venue under your jurisdiction.”

Someone coughed awkwardly.

 

With all the focus on Su Muqiu, for his own merits and as the gateway to Ye Qiu, it wasn’t hard to nail down advertising contracts. Advertisements with Su Muqiu tended to hint at Ye Qiu’s presence, whether or not Ye Xiu actually showed up in them. Countless images of Su Muqiu passing things to an unseen shadow or laughing with a figure just off screen showed up over the years, and fans went crazy trying to figure out if there were hints to Ye Qiu’s appearance that could be gleaned through the magic of image editing.

The only thing Excellent Era ever confirmed as belonging to Ye Qiu in any advertisement were his hands, which were about as unfairly pretty as Su Muqiu himself.

 

Su Muqiu, with a face you could trust and the combined weight of two of the top gods of Glory behind everything he said, was an absolute menace that could not be stopped.

“If you’re going to pretend you’re my official mouthpiece,” Ye Xiu commented dryly, “the least you could do is stop making things up.”

“So you don’t think Dancing Rain is the prettiest character in the alliance?” Su Muqiu said innocently. “What would poor Mucheng think?”

“‘Poor Mucheng,’ hasn’t stopped laughing for the past three days. She’s fine.”

 

“One Autumn Leaf and Dancing Rain? Sure, I ship it.”

His phone buzzed harshly from where it was left on the table, silenced.

“I’d tell you what Captain thinks, but everyone knows he’s a dirty liar.”

 

“Isn’t that a live conference?” Wang Jiexi asked, gesturing to where Su Muqiu was interacting heavily with his phone in front of the reporters.

“Mm? Yeah,” Ye Xiu replied, putting down his bowl of noodles. “Why?”

“There’s no computer here, and you don’t own a phone.”

“Yep.”

On-screen, Su Muqiu’s phone chimed again. Wang Jiexi gestured to it pointedly.

“Oh, that? He’s just messing with them. There’s an app that makes that noise every time you hit a button.”

“Ah.” Wang Jiexi gave the press conference a long look. “So, he’s telling them that you’re offended by that reporter’s tie because…?”

“Probably he wants to see how long it’ll take them to realize I couldn’t possibly know what that guy’s tie looks like, considering he doesn’t appear in the live feed. That, or he’s working up to getting people to believe I’m literally invisible and omnipresent.”

“…Right.”

Silence reigned.

“It’s not always made up,” Ye Xiu said, taking pity on him. “Sometimes I really did text him, and sometimes he really is talking to me when he speaks to the cameras. I don’t care about the media part of the pro alliance, though, so I’m usually not even watching live conferences these days. If he needs my opinion, he’ll send me a message so I know to respond.”

“You’re not near a computer right now.”

“…Have I mentioned yet that I don’t care about the media part of the pro alliance?”

 

Polls done for eSports issues during the off-season showed that 90% of players, regardless of team preference, were at least somewhat interested in Ye Qiu and Su Muqiu’s relationship. Over 50% would count themselves as “invested.”

“You’re a genius, Muqiu,” Ye Xiu said, patting his head.

Su Muqiu batted his hand away without looking up. “Thanks, I know. Log on already, there’s something I want to test.”

 

Considering the massive amount of media attention on and speculation about Ye Qiu and, by extension, Su Muqiu at all times, Tao Xuan found the extra work needed to uphold Ye Qiu’s “mysterious” image inconsequential. Sure, it could be a bit irritating, but in terms of advertising and drawing in interest?

He had no regrets.