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thus we defy the devouring sun

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“What are you doing up?”

Unlike Li Xuan, Wu Yuce was very much not a morning person. He still had to get up with all the rest of them for practice in the mornings, of course, but it generally took about an hour to reach fully functioning status. And now that the team was on a group vacation to the shore, there was even less reason for him to be up and about at such an hour.

Wu Yuce only shrugged. “I don’t know either,” he said as he walked to stand beside his friend. “You’re not usually up this early. Wanted to watch the sunrise or something cheesy like that?”

“It’s not cheesy,” Li Xuan huffed. “It’s a wondrous sight, the sky streaking into colors, the light rays bursting from the water-”

“Cheesy.”

“Ugh! I came out here to have a good time…”

Wu Yuce smirked. No matter how much the outside world might try and paint their relationship a certain way, this was, well, the mundane reality of their interactions.

 


 

“Who do you think you are, huh? You come right in here with that stupid little girl account of yours, trying to take the captain’s position?” Hot breath in Wu Yuce’s face. He’s still struggling to twist away, to break free, but he never was very physically strong, and there are too many of them…

His direct assailant isn’t done yet. “Well, let me tell you something, you little f-” the slur goes right through Wu Yuce’s ears, he’s not here right now, he’s not here, not here “-you are never going to be anything in this team, understand? So why don’t you just run on home and play your dress-up games-”

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

In an instant, Wu Yuce is freed and he slumps back against the wall, dizzy, his entire head throbbing. He doesn’t see or hear much of anything that comes after, just has vague impressions of many people and many heated words, until there’s a hand on his shoulder gently shaking him. “Hey, hey, are you okay?”

Wu Yuce snaps back into reality all at once. “Yeah! Yeah, I’m fine,” he says, pushing himself off the wall. His rescuer – or one of them? – stands back to give him space. The hallway is thankfully empty now, save for the two of them.

“Disgusting,” the other person spits. “Those worthless bastards won’t be here disgracing Void any longer. Has this been ongoing?”

Wu Yuce only shrugs in a very noncommittal way, earning a frown from the other person. He tries another question. “What… did they say to you?”

“Nothing I haven’t heard before,” says Wu Yuce, and the other’s frown only deepens.

“…You’re Wu Yuce, right?” he says, after a pause. “I’ve heard about you. Say… if you’re feeling up for it, want to play a round? It – I’ve found it can be a nice distraction. If you want.”

“…Sure,” says Wu Yuce. It would help, at least.

He’s never met this player in person before, and he’s still somewhat out of it right now, so he can be forgiven for the little outburst when he sees this player’s character and finally connects the dots. The newly-appointed captain of Team Void, barely older than himself, Li Xuan.

…Cool.

 


 

“I’m not cheesy!” Li Xuan was still pouting.

“You literally coined one of the fan catchphrases yourself. ‘A feast for ghosts, Void at the summit.’ Do you see the other team captains doing that for their fans?”

Li Xuan humphed. “Yet I seem to remember another popular phrase among our fans. What was it? ‘Void never regrets Dual Ghostblades’?”

“…I make one casual comment at a press conference…”

“But you do believe it, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, you dummy.”

 


 

“Wu Yuce, Ghostblade.”

The club managers glance at each other, and then at the team captain. The captain is looking at him. Well, let him look, Wu Yuce thinks, staring right back.

“You’ve shown good skill,” one of the managers finally says. “But we already have a Ghostblade, the captain and core player of the team. Won’t you consider-”

“No.” It might be rude, but Wu Yuce doesn’t care. He cuts off the manager firmly. “I only play Ghostblade.”

The other manager sighs, as though expecting this response. “Then I can’t say you’ll have much of a future in this team.”

“I understand,” says Wu Yuce. Then, “Are you dismissing me from the team?”

“…No. You can stay with Void, for now. But even so, my words hold, and I urge you to reconsider.”

Wu Yuce nods, and does not reconsider. He is Ghostblade, it’s as simple as that. He won’t compromise himself for the sake of moving ahead.

 


 

“I’m gonna walk down a bit,” said Li Xuan, and Wu Yuce fell into step beside him easily. Matching a walking rhythm was of course far easier than matching a battle rhythm, but for the two of them, either was as easy as breathing.

The sky above was still a tentatively paling shade, the faintest pinks just beginning to tint the undersides of the scattered clouds. The sand was soft as it slid along their skin – both had taken off their sandals and were holding them as they walked along – but Li Xuan led them closer to the edge of the ocean, where the sand was hard and cool, and the seawater foamed up along the soles of their feet.

“My feet are going numb,” Wu Yuce muttered. “Why are we doing this again? It’s not like dry feet are going to offend the sun.”

Li Xuan shot his friend an amused look. “You don’t have to be here, you know. I’m not going to get lost by myself and wander into the ocean or something.”

“Knowing you, who knows?” Wu Yuce scoffed. “Remember when you-”

“Also you know we can switch sides, right? You’re walking more in the water than I am right now.”

“Shut up. It’s so I can do this when you get stupid.” And Wu Yuce kicked his right leg just as the next wave came in, sending a spray of cold droplets onto his captain.

“Hey!” Li Xuan instantly tried to retaliate, but the water had already receded and his foot only hit damp sand. “Ow fuck! You’re so mean!”

Wu Yuce grinned, evidently now fully awake as he preemptively backed away. Li Xuan pressed forward, though, and the next few moments were filled with splashes and shouts of mock outrage.

 


 

“Why is Carved Ghost female?”

“Why not?”

The captain, evidently, has no response for that, and switches tracks. “Why did you come to Void of all teams if I was already here? Why didn’t you leave?”

Wu Yuce gives him a flat look. “Because I like Void,” he says, extremely matter-of-fact. “What, is there some rule that says a team can’t have multiple players of the same class?”

Li Xuan pauses, trying to organize his words. “But… with me here, it’ll be that much harder for you to find a place. The manager was harsh, but not wrong. I…” He pauses, looks at him more fully. “Even if you’re not trying to replace me, even if we’re on the same team, there’s always going to be competition between us. We’ll be compared against each other nonstop. It’ll be exhausting.”

“Things like that only matter if you let them,” says Wu Yuce. “Like I said, I don’t care about team position or things like that. I play as myself, for myself.” He studies the other player. “…What, are you worried?”

“No,” answers Li Xuan, just a fraction too quickly. But he shakes his head firmly, and repeats himself, his voice only growing louder and firmer. “No. I’m glad to have you fighting beside me. We’ll set new precedents in the Alliance, and bring Void to the summit of Glory!”

Wu Yuce’s laughing at him. Not out loud, but Li Xuan can see it in the curve of his lips and the light in his eyes. “What?” Li Xuan says, defensively.

“You’re so dramatic…”

 


 

“Truce?” Li Xuan finally said, when they were both considerably colder and more soaked than before.

“Sounds like a surrender to me,” Wu Yuce laughed. “Look, go watch your pretty little sunrise.”

“Oh shit-” Li Xuan turned toward the horizon just in time to see the first rays spilling forth, igniting a path along the waves toward them. The sky was now brilliantly painted, a full symphony of colors bent and textured by the clouds…

They stood there together, staring off into the distance, the sea lapping at their ankles.

“Not bad,” Wu Yuce finally said, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.

“Right?” said Li Xuan. “Not bad at all. Definitely worth it. Every evening the sun is devoured by the night, but it will always burst forth stronger than ever the next day-”

“Unless it’s cloudy.”

“Then the next next day then! It will always return.”

“Until it burns out one day.”

Li Xuan sighed, loudly. “Oh come on… I’m trying to be nice and symbolic here, give me some appreciation!”

Wu Yuce looked at him, his stupid face, his messy hair, his clothes still streaked with water. “Okay,” said Wu Yuce, and kissed him.

When they broke apart, Li Xuan’s grin was even more stupid than normal. Wu Yuce rolled his eyes. “There’s your appreciation. Happy?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Li Xuan said breathlessly. “Hey, maybe I should wake you up early more often, I think you’re nicer like this…”

“Don’t you dare,” Wu Yuce said flatly, turning away. “I’m heading back.”

“Noooo, Ah Ce, wait for me…”