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The other Battle God

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Two children were running through a formation of trees, their laughter ringing behind them. A spotted dog was chasing them with its tongue lolling, the children’s laughter becoming merrier. The first child nearly tripped upon on a root of a tree. The second child touched the first one and then ran in the opposite direction. The first child was shouting at the unfairness, stumbled back to get up and gave chase.

The second child laughed while he ran, and looked back. The first child had disappeared into thin air. The second child stopped to scanned the bushes and trees, and still no sign of the first one. He called for the first child, telling him it wasn’t funny. He called out for the first child again and blinked, the dog was missing. There was barking further in the distance, then a whine, lastly a shrill scream.

The scene changed to pitch black, the surrounding was cold. He fell into water with a mighty splash. He was drowning, air leaving his mouth and nostrils as he descended into the darkness, his hand reaching for anything that can stop him from falling further into the dark abyss. But what can you grab in water? He fought and gasped until the last of his breath left him.

Suddenly he landed on a reflective surface with a thud. He took in big gulps of air, steadying himself. There were small pitter patter of droplets from his wet self. No, it was his tears. He was dry.

He looked down and saw his reflection staring at him with a frown.

It’s all your fault.

“I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry! Please, come back to me!!!” He cried, reaching out to the reflection.

The image in the mirror didn’t do the same, instead it looked away, disgust marring its face, moving away from him. He felt his heart shatter once more upon seeing the reflection backing away from him.

“NO!!! Come back, please!!! Don’t leave me!!!”

You’re the one who left me… remember?

"NO! I didn’t!! We’re playing tag!!! I never wanted to leave you behind! Please!!!”

You still left me. It’s all your fault.

The reflection steadily floated away from him into the black recess below, and he wasn’t able to do anything but to slam his fists on the glass surface he was on. He screamed out a name in desperation to no avail.

 

“AH XIU!!!”

Ye Xiu woke up with a start, his breathing laboured as he felt a hand on his shoulder, squeezing tightly. Su Muqiu was looming over him, concern in his eyes. The orange-haired male backed off to give him some space, which he was glad for.

“You’re having a nightmare again, Ah Xiu. Are you okay?”

He nodded, then rolled to his side and curled into himself, taking in deep breaths while Muqiu rubbed his back. He felt tears dripping off his face onto the pillow, and wasn’t able to hold back a small whine.

“It’s happening more often lately, do you want to talk about it? I’ll understand if you don’t want to”

There was no reply from the silently sobbing male. Muqiu continue to rub his friend’s back until the breathing even out, and he fell asleep. Muqiu followed suit next to him, positioning his own back to Ye Xiu’s, assuring him that he literally had his back. He slept uneasily, but still managed to rest enough to function for that day.

 

After sending Mucheng to school, Muqiu went back to their shared accommodation quickly to check on Ye Xiu. He was glad Ye Xiu was up eating breakfast and greeting Mucheng normally earlier, putting on a front of normalcy for the sake of the younger girl. But now, the smile has left the dark-haired male, a slight frown and his unfinished breakfast still sitting at the table. Not knowing if the other male wanted to talk, Muqiu greeted him normally.

“Hey, you’re ready for some GLORY? Or you’d rather go out buy groceries today?”

The raven-haired male looked at him, his lips in a thin line. Muqiu smiled back, and slowly took a seat opposite of Ye Xiu, careful not to make any sudden movements and sounds.

“… Muqiu I… I’ve decided to tell you … about the nightmares”

He didn’t expect Ye Xiu to open up to him immediately after an episode like last night. He thought he would sulk, mope or distance himself for a few days at best, before dismissing it, just like before. But Ye Xiu was willing to tell him why, who was he to refuse? He wanted his best friend to be okay, and a best friend must share the emotional burdens to help him to feel better!

“I’m all ears, Ah Xiu. You know I’ve got your back.. uhm.. literally” He awkwardly smiled.

Ye Xiu gave him a soft smile in return, and placed an ID card on the table. Su Muqiu was baffled, until he saw Ye Xiu placed down another piece, this time with much more care. He gently slide them over to Muqiu.

“… this is…?”

“Ye Qiu’s ID”

“You have a legit ID for Ye Qiu? But what about Ye Xiu?!” He compared the two cards that has almost the same imprinted details, except for the one character on the name and the ID number. The two boys in the picture were identical aside from the flipped parting of their hair. Wait a second…

“Ye Qiu and I are twins. When we were 10, we were playing tag, and he disappeared behind me. I thought he was pranking me because I tagged him when he stumbled, but later we found out he was kidnapped. My family was ready to give them the ransom, but the kidnappers fled with both the money and Ah Qiu. They crashed their car at some rural area, but Ah Qiu and the money disappeared without a trace. My family was determined to keep him alive, and created his ID with me masquerading as him. Ever since he was gone…”

He painfully gulped, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment.

“My family has been trying to keep him alive, they made me pose for Ah Qiu’s ID. But since I was the only son left, they were very, very hard and strict with me. I couldn’t bear their over-bearing dictatorship on everything I do, everything they say is law regardless of my feelings. They wouldn’t let me play any games, they wouldn’t let me out, they wouldn’t let me have friends over. This isn’t a life of a normal person, I gathered up whatever clothes and money I have and ran

“The nightmares…. was from the kidnapping incident?” He received a nod from Ye Xiu.

“If we hadn’t played tag, he wouldn’t have been missing. I believed because I was faster, the kidnappers had no choice but to take Ah Qiu instead of me. A relative found me first before they could had taken me as well.” He wiped his face and exhaled heavily. He can’t let Muqiu get involved in his family matters, hence he lied about the family butler securing him.

“I made sure to take Ah Qiu’s ID with me. I can’t leave him behind. Never again. Irony isn’t it, I’m using his ID now instead of my own”

Muqiu casted his head downwards. He didn’t know his friend had such a traumatic past! A twin… He couldn’t bear the thought of losing his baby sister Mucheng, losing a twin who’s half of oneself must be devastating.

“You… haven’t recovered from then?”

“I’ve been given therapy for that, believe me. I was doing well because I was so busy, I didn’t have time to think about that incident, until my family keep pushing and pushing until I can’t take it anymore. Now that I left home, and I never felt so liberated before… in the end I can’t escape. Those memories returned. It came back pretty strongly too. I escaped from one nightmare just to jump into the hands of another”

“Is that why you’ve been looking for people with names like Ye Qiu? It’s more apparent when Brother Wan appeared. You don’t think…?”

“There’s too many Ye Qius out there, Brother Wan is just a coincidence. Like the ones before. I should give up searching for Ah Qiu. I don’t want to be disappointed yet again from another false lead”

“Brother Wan did mention about a mother and brother he has to take care of, so he’s not your missing Ye Qiu since he has a family”

“It’s been nearly 7 years, the chances of him surviving is very slim…  Sometimes I wished it was me who was taken instead of Ah Qiu, he’s very innocent compared to me…”

“Don’t say that! If it was him who’s safe, he would think the same way too! Blaming yourself for something not your fault, it’s no good Ah Xiu!”

“… I know that Muqiu. I missed him, I missed him a lot. Time and time again I had been dreaming and wishing to hold him in my arms again…”

There was silence, and Muqiu let him have it. A loss is not easy to handle, and it differs for everyone.

“Though, Muqiu, thank you for listening. I feel a lot better to share this with someone” Ye Xiu smiled at him, sincerely this time. His eyes were hot from the unshed tears, but he promised himself he wouldn’t cry until he found his beloved twin. But deep down he knew that wish was getting impossible to be full-filled, with every minute passing by…

“Pleasure’s mine, Ah Xiu” He smiled back just as radiant, and he coaxed Ye Xiu to finish his leftover breakfast. It’s a start.

 

Somewhere in Q city, a sneeze in a lonely living room was heard.