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The other Battle God

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He was in an off-white room, slightly beige. The room was pristine, with white curtains blown softly by the wind from outside the open, wall-height window. There were dressers and toys littered around the room, and there were always a spare of everything, placed opposite of each other. He was moving forwards towards a large 4-poster bed, when he saw a figure getting up from it and was also coming towards himself.

He reached out his right hand, while the figure in front of him raised his left. Tentatively, his fingers splayed and touched the other’s. He saw a smile, so bright, reminding him of his own. It probably was. He himself was smiling too. He peered into his own eyes in front of him, his hair parted to one side. When he tilted his head, the other tilted too. The face he saw, he recognised it was his own.

Oh, a reflection. He was looking into a mirror!

He knew he was dreaming, as the other reached out and cupped his cheeks, while he did the same. You can’t touch your reflection unless you were dreaming, his subconscious screamed. He continued fooling around with his doppelgänger for a bit, pinching each others cheeks.

“Ah Qiu!” “ ———“ They both called out the same time. Then they smiled once more, giggling.

 

He always woke up crying from that same dream of his child self with his own reflection every time. He didn’t understand why. He was happy in the dream, so why…? Was it because of a sibling he had lost before? He was probably quite young or traumatised, that he has forgotten this sibling, he supposed. Or very likely due to another recent death. He thought to look up the meaning of dreams from google or something. Bah, whatever.

After calming down and rubbing his face, he got up and did his morning routine before coming out of his room. He greeted his mother and brother on the altar, and began preparing his breakfast. He was glad his mother made him learn to cook during his younger years, as well as all the other domestic chores so he could save quite a sum from eating take-outs or outside, plus keeping the place clean.

His mother.. his sweet loving mother. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for him, he always remembered her gentle smile, even when she was angry. She had never hit him for whatever wrong-doings he had done. She gently explained and coaxed him to understand what was good and bad, and she wanted him to do better next time. He obliged, and it was amazing to see his mother proud of him for doing the right things.

He didn’t have an Oedipus complex, no sir. His mother pampered and spoilt him a lot. It’s obvious it’s due to the reason she had lost the other son (his brother) and was somehow unable to punish him, fearing he might run away and leave her. His mother wasn’t over-bearing although she was strict about his whereabouts. He knew he was her anchor to reality and couldn’t bear to make her sad, because he can see that his mother is a bit loose in the head. Just a little. His mother wasn’t crazy.

His mother didn’t focus entirely on his grades, but urged him to try and do better, since to be better in life, he has to do well in the academics rat-race first. He tried, and he excelled in them. Subjects came to him easily but he was bored as quickly too, so his mother actually bought him a computer and a game console for his good grades. He was ecstatic. But good days didn’t last forever. His mother’s health was deteriorating throughout the years. His mother kept assuring him he will be okay after she was gone, prepared him for the days to come when he will be alone, but he knew he wasn’t going to be alright. At least not for a while.

After his mother had passed on, she left him with this small unit of a house, but he was glad for it. It was fully paid off by his mother, and he didn’t have to worry about rent and the utilities for the next 6 months. He was alone, all the more space for himself, but he still kept his mother’s room intact for the sentimental value. His mother loved him after all, and he loved her a lot too. Her passing had broken him, making him skipped school so long; it was too terrible to bear that he stopped entirely.

When the funeral was in process, he was saddened that his mother’s relatives didn’t show up somehow, but he can’t blame them. He had never seen any of them for the lunar new years, or attend any familial festivities with his mother at all. He had never picked up a call from them either, or his mother had never called anyone for that matter, now that he realised. Since he didn’t have a father and only had a mother, he could only guess that either his mother was an orphan, she really had no family, or disowned by one that she couldn’t bear (or couldn’t bother) to show her face again. His mother never told him about her past and he wasn’t privy about it. He didn’t even remember his own childhood much since that accident, his mother told him he was a quiet child before and after.

In the end, all this didn’t matter to him presently.

Now that he has to face reality, he decided he should do something about his life. Being a school-less teen was not going to help matters, the money from his mother’s life insurance can’t sustain him forever. He decided he was not going to waste his mother’s efforts like that. Other than study, which he was not doing currently, the only other thing he knew was games. While eating, he was thinking of how he could earn money for himself, being a school drop-out now, good grades be damned. He couldn’t help but think of the new popular MMO game. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that there was money to be made. Decisively, he finished his breakfast, cleaned up, went back to his room, and booted his computer.

He needed to QQ that infamous pair of shameless money-making duo in GLORY after all.

Chapter Text

RedNightAutumn: Hi, are you still looking for people for boss hunts? I would also like to ask you something personal, Mister AutumnTree? :)

Autumn Tree: Hi? Yes, we still need people for boss hunts, but please call me Autumn Tree, tacking the Mister in front is so old D:

RedNightAutumn: I heard you and your partner are earning money through Glory, would you mind to include one more? I can earn boss materials easily by myself if you don’t need hidden bosses :) With a party as awesome as you two, hidden bosses will be easy to kill ;D

AutumnTree: Woah brother, that statement’s kinda boasting, let’s see what you’ve got! Meet us at Congee Forest. We’ll test you out ;D

RedNightAutumn: Awesome. See you there :D

  

“You see this RedNight, Ye Xiu?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“His avatar also has ‘autumn’ in it, wonder if we could form our Autumn Forest group now”

“… You serious?”

“Hehehe! Gege still wants an Autumn Forest group! You’re not a boy band!”

“Hey now Mucheng, your brother and Ye Xiu are quite handsome okay! Let’s see if this bro is also just as good-looking as we are!”

 “Now you’re just praising yourself, Muqiu, have some shame. Wait, we don’t have those, what a pity”

 “Hey!”

 “Hehehe!”

 “Ah, he’s here!”

 “Hello hello? Wait, that battle mage looks familiar! Also… what?”

They both thought they were looking at an inverted version of One Autumn Leaf, but this avatar was dressed in deep red, carrying a magical battle spear that they didn’t recognise on sight. A silver weapon! His back skirt was more elaborate than One Autumn Leaf’s, it had a few side pieces resembling a peacock’s tail. His mantle also had the similar three tassels on his back. Muqiu was able to tell if they were equipment drops, since he didn’t recognise them, he was sure they were silver equipment!

What was even more shocking, the design of the face was almost exact to the dark-blue clad avatar’s, complete with golden eyes but the parting of the hair was flipped. Su Muqiu can’t help but to comment excitedly.

“Woah, brother, did you model your avatar to look like our infamous brother here?!”

“What? No! I didn’t know how One Autumn Leaf’s face looked like when I created my avatar, I get a lot of grief from other players about this! Luckily I can handle them, you don’t need to worry. Besides, there IS a lot of copies out there, it’s amazing to look at”

They were both surprised upon hearing the other’s voice sounding very familiar to One Autumn Leaf’s owner. If they weren’t next to each other right now, they will think it was Ye Xiu talking through another computer. Although they were shocked, there were also so many people in the world, they were bound to bump into someone with a similar sounding voice. While Su Muqiu easily dismissed it, he missed how the colour drained from Ye Xiu’s face, like he remembered something horrible.

“Hey, if… if you don’t mind, let’s introduce ourselves” Ye Xiu immediately offered.

“Ye Xiu, what?! We don’t know this guy’s genuine or not, we can’t be giving away our identities!” Muqiu harshly whispered to his partner next to him, muting his mic for a moment.

“He’s fine, trust my instincts Muqiu. Please” Ye Xiu looked at him, his eyes pleading desperately.

Su Muqiu was unsettled at the sudden change of attitude from Ye Xiu. He thought they should test out this expert’s skills and knowledge to add to their materials raid, not being dictate by whims and emotions. He had never seen Ye Xiu looked like this. He quickly nodded to placate his friend.

“Bro, I’m Autumn Tree, the name’s Su Muqiu. Coincidently our avatars’ names all have ‘autumn’ in it, what say we form a group for ourselves if we work out? Hahahaha”

“Oh? A group is good but if you come up with a lame name I’ll PK you myself”

“What, how rude! What’s your name, brother?!”

“Sorry sorry, but in front of Mister AutumnTree, his ideas are top notch hahaha. My name’s Hong Yeqiu, exactly the same like my avatar”

“What! You can’t even give a proper name for your own avatar?!”

“I don’t want to hear it from you, Mister *AutumnTree. Besides, my name is awesome okay, and my battle mage is as awesome as I am”

While Su Muqiu scrunched up his nose at the naming jab and the blatant self-praising (like a certain someone next to him, ddin’t help Yeqiu talked like him too), he was worried when he realised Ye Xiu has yet to speak even though he was the one that wanted to know the guy more. But his worries were unfounded when Ye Xiu took a deep breath and started speaking as well.

“What a coincidence, my name’s also Ye Qiu, though just two characters. Nice to meet you too! Not only our avatars have ‘autumn’ in their names, our real life names have them too”

“Wow, that is interesting. What kinda group name that Mister Su wanted to have?” 

“You guys know you two sound alike right? It’s so creepy, like Ye Qiu already had this convo recorded before hand and playing it by someone he hired offsite”

“Don’t spew nonsense, Muqiu. I can’t possibly predict what you’re going to say. I’m not that omnipotent. Besides why would I waste money hiring people for a prank?!”

“Your avatars look like twins, Ye Qiu! Inverted hair styles and different colours. I bet if you two swap armours you’re gonna look like each other in a mirror!”

With that comment, Ye Xiu’s pupils shrunk and he took a few deep breaths. Su Muqiu quietly apologised for it with furrowed brows and a sheepish smile, his hand reached out and patted his friend’s back soothingly. He didn’t know what triggered Ye Xiu’s mild panic this time, but he hoped he could hold it out. At the same time, Yeqiu frowned upon the mirror comment, but he wasn’t as affected. It was a off-hand comment after all. Coincidence.

“Don’t be silly, we’re not trading our silver gears no matter what or how you craft your gear. It took me a lot of time to create this Red Mage’s armour, I’m really fond of it”

With that familiar nickname, both of them were suddenly attentive. Little Su Mucheng didn’t know what was going on, so she went away to get some tea and snacks for them.

“No wonder your avatar is so familiar, YOU’RE THE BLOODY RED MAGE?! The one that single handedly killed the wild bosses by himself?! Even with other players gnawing at his heels?!”

“Well, if you believe me as that person, that is. I don’t like that to happen too often, so I will try to finish off the boss as fast as possible. Kill steals and PKs are troublesome”

“Show me the equipment drops from this morning’s Buddhist Zhen Mo!!”

Yeqiu was shocked that they believed him straight away. He did say he has received a lot of grief from the other players thinking he was an imitation. Heck, the Bloody Red Mage was a title the masses gave him, not that he labelled himself. He has proof anyways, and luckily he has yet to sell the equipment drops from the battle mage boss he killed earlier today. He switched into the equipments from that boss onto his avatar briefly. He trusted that these two experts will be able to recognise said equipments after all. After a few moments he switched them back.

“Is that adequate, Mister Su?”

“Holy crap, you’re the real deal!!! You’re an expert among experts already, you could carry yourself!!! Why would you want to join us?! Don’t call me Mister Su, Mister Hong!”

“Why wouldn’t I? You two are the best around, and are earning right? I need to support myself somehow, but I would love to do it via Glory. If i go earning by myself, we would be competitors, and it’s tiring to kill and be killed. I apologise if it break your status quo. I’ll understand if it’s not within your plans. I thought I could give it a try. Also don’t call me Mister Hong!”

“With you around we will definitely increase our rare boss materials!!! This is amazing!!! Ye Qiu!!! What do you say?! Call me Muqiu!”

“I wouldn’t mind, that means I get to do less work for the same amount of stuff”

“Shameless as always!”

“Hahaha, are you two always like this? Well, call me *Wanqiu then, since there’s already a Ye Qiu! I don’t want to be called Brother Hong either”

“Still think the two of you having the same looking avatars and same sounding voices is creepy! Awww, okay. But I think you can call Ye Qiu Old Ye instead, you can keep Yeqiu!”

“Who’re you calling old, MISTER SU?! By… by the way, can you video call?”

“Sorry Brother Ye, my desktop doesn’t come with a camera. You’ll have to live with my similar eerie voice then, Muqiu! Oh,haha no, I don’t dare to replace the actual Ye Qiu who’s here first in your partnership” Yeqiu typed a ;D so it appears above his avatar’s head in a speech bubble.

Su Muqiu was taken aback by how the other guy called his name with a slight affection, like Ye Xiu always did. He knew it was done in jest, but it still sent a shiver down his spine and he glanced at his partner. He saw that Ye Xiu was frowning and he was breathing heavily, but controlled. He blinked, then let out yet another deep breath.

“Right, let’s go test you out in the open wild, Bloody Red Mage or not!”

“Okay! You have intel about bosses? According to my information and calculations, Setting Sun Hunter should be spawning soon in Almarshan”

“You even have calculations?”

“Sorry, I’m a sortakinda nerdy? I gather info and do some calculations on my spare time”

“Well, let’s go and see if your information is as good as you say you are”

“Right. We’ll be doing a pincher or you want me to solo?”

“Wow, soloing a boss is something only Ye Qiu would say. So far, no offence”

“Well, if you want me to solo, I can!”

“Let’s go!”

  

Their luck was so good today. With their own intel and Yeqiu’s calculations, they had managed to snag at least 6 wild bosses and 4 hidden ones throughout the whole day. Their dungeon raids no need to be said. Their harvest was bountiful today, and the amount of materials they had was enough for half of Muqiu’s crazy experimentations creations. He loved the new guy already! No offence Ye Xiu! He loved Yeqiu a tiny bit more, in the materials gathering department that is.

The other guy’s skills were almost on par with Ye Xiu’s own! With a bit more intense training, these pseudo twins will be the most terrifying dual battle mages this server has ever seen! Muqiu’s mind was racing with all the possibilities that these two can do, both of them had good synergy with one another, and with him as well! This brother’s understanding of other classes was also not bad at all! Was he on par with Ye Xiu too? Did Ye Xiu finally meet his match?

Muqiu also noticed Ye Xiu was performing quite good albeit the mild panic he had earlier. He was relieved to see Ye Xiu had calm down. Luckily he managed to get Ye Xiu hooked to GLORY, and had become his soothing outlet. Anyways, back to the evaluation of the new guy. Screw probation, he wanted him in their little circle! Yeqiu passed with flying colors and no further testing needed!

“Brother Wan, you’re amazing! We never had this much wild bosses before in a single day! You’re god send!!! You passed! Welcome to our Autumn Forest group!!!”

“Oh, thank you for your praise, Brother Su! We’re lucky the remaining bosses choose to spawn closer to the end of the cycle week. But, Autumn Forest, seriously…?”

“Why do you two have the same opinion about it?! I like to see you two come up with a better one!”

“Haha So sorry, you can keep it if you want, not like everyone will know our group name. Please don’t brag with it, it’s really…. unique

“Hahahaha!!” Ye Xiu laughed heartedly, much to Muqiu’s joy, but he soon remembered what he was laughing at.

“Aiya, just tell me straight it’s lame, don’t have to sugar-coat it”

“I’m pretty sure others will start cursing us as those Autumn bastards instead of graciously naming us as those Autumn Foresters hahahaha”

“Wow you’re very direct, Ye Qiu” Muqiu typed a face-palm emoji to show up above Autumn Tree’s head.

“Isn’t that what he always does to you? You seem to enjoy it. A lot” A :) appeared in a speech bubble above RedNightAutumn’s head.

“HAHAHAHA” Ye Xiu typed and hold the LOL emoji so it appeared bigger than average above One Autumn Leaf’s head.

“Wow, you pick up trash-talking easily, Brother Wan!”

“Well, Brother Ye is the best around here right? I learnt from the best”

“We’re going to be the most infuriating trio this server has to see, I hope you’re ready for it!”

“You say it like I don’t get angry players chasing me all the time…”

 “Awww, is Brother Wan a run-away bride too?”

“If they kill this bride wearing red, I’m going to come back and haunt them, make their lives so miserable that they wished they had never messed with me in the first place, since I’m a very menacing ghost!!!”

“Don’t worry, you have the protection of our furious blue dragon lord, you’ll be fine!”

“This red phoenix doesn’t need protection from a dragon, this red bird will rise from the ashes and burn their enemies!”

“That’s the spirit!”

  

With that, the Autumn Forest group was formed, not like they registered it or anything. Su Muqiu continued to develop silver weapons and equipments for sale, depending heavily on the twin battle mages to harvest for him (of course he helped too, he’s definitely not a freeloader and a cheerleader). He was especially grateful to Yeqiu’s calculating ability to further perfect the things he was making. Luckily for them too, Yeqiu didn’t require their earnings too much, as he stated he was set for 6 months on utilities, so he’s working to save for future ones.

They did offered him to move in with them, but when they discovered he was in another city 3 flight hours away, they just gave up. Yeqiu also said he had to take care of his mother and brother, so it’s unlikely he would move. Such a pity they can’t live together and work as one big happy family.

 

Chapter Text

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.

 

Chapter Text

It has become routine for him. After his morning cleaning up, he will prepare his breakfast, finish it, then spent some time cleaning his mother and brother’s altar, dusting them to keep them clean and light incense for them.

“Mother, brother, good morning. I have friends that wanted me to move in with them, but I can’t leave you two behind” He cheerfully said, putting his hand together.

“It’s quite far, I don’t really want to move. Besides, we’re practically strangers, so I’ll keep myself safe here for the time being” He gently caress the urn his mother’s ashes were kept in.

“I feel much safer here, you always kept me safe. Please protect me from above, mother. You better keep mother company, brother” He patted the smaller urn next to his mother’s.

He didn’t know how long he stared at the urn, reminiscing all his mother’s gentle words and care. He missed her hugs, and her soft hands petting his head when he was sad. Her words of encouragement for things he wanted to try, and she never put him down for it. Now he would only have those in his head, to push himself.

After a successful farming in GLORY, he looked at the calendar on his desktop and gasped. He had been locking himself at home for that long already?! He really wanted to smack himself, but it was more justified if someone else drilled some senses into him earlier. He sighed. Who was he kidding? He had no friends. None of them actually came to visit him after his mother died.

He was a private and reclusive kinda guy. He rather read a book than join in a game of sports, not like he was bad at it. He was quite athletic actually. Plus his awesomely good grades in school, a lot of people don’t really look up to popular people like him. It didn’t help matters when lots of girls (and strangely, guys too) flocked to him, wanting to be his best friend. Because of his nature, he stayed away from having a BFF no matter how desperate he yearned for one. There was so much drama of I-thought-you-were-my-best-friend with him in the middle. What is this.

He had been burnt a few times from others trying to use him as a study buddy, stepping stone to good grades, getting this and that person’s number (like a matchmaker, what in the world). He was not their errand boy damn it, and he discovered they were really using him. He was fed up and decided to snub them for good. He had to put on a very thick skinned mask to pull it off, and then they were gone just as fast.  He was glad, he didn’t think he can manage that smug persona for long.

He was glad these leeches were out of his hair. While he remained a popular guy, he wasn’t one of the favourites. The others were probably glad he wasn’t attending school anymore. Out of the competition to be the best. Out of sight, out of mind.Then again he didn’t answer the phone when his school called. His school didn’t send anyone to check on him either, so…

How sad when he thought of it. He was lonely after his mother was gone. Luckily he had access to GLORY. Then again GLORY players weren’t friends. They were acquaintances at best. He played GLORY because he saw his Senior, another boy older than him by a year, a senior he looked up to, was playing it at a cyber cafe. One look from Senior and everyone just shut it. He was amazed how Senior put all these busy-bodies and faker-than-fakes in their place with just a glance. When he used his voice… hahahaha.

It was too awesome to describe. Probably that’s why nobody dared to mess with Senior.

Senior probably didn’t remember him, so he mustered up whatever courage he had and asked for Senior’s in-game handle at that time. He was intimidated when Senior looked back, fearing that he was bothering Senior’s game, but he was thankful his knees didn’t buckle under that immense glare-of-doom™. Senior did give him his handle though, and he quickly scurried away.

He hoped to play GLORY in a silly wish to get closer to him…

Only to discover Senior was already a god-damn popular player in game, constantly circled by a lot of other damn good players in the game. Of course Senior was going to be popular in an online game as well. Yeqiu quietly made his killing elsewhere, far far away, unaware that he was building his own fearsome reputation. He hoped to be one of the better than average players, then to go meet him as an equal in game, not knowing how close he actually was.

Apparently he had forgotten about his goal when he played GLORY. He was smitten with GLORY, and played the game day in and out (like some well-known people ;D), whenever he can of course. He wouldn’t sacrifice his studies for that. Occasionally he would come across Senior’s avatar, but with so many people following after him, Yeqiu didn’t bother. He had his own masses to take care of. What do they want?! Leave him alone!

He PK-ed the living daylights out of his stalkers. Isn’t that what they wanted? It repeated anyways, so he tried to stealth his way through a few maps, getting rid of his tails (he liked his avatar’s peacock phoenix looking ones, not the humanoid trailing him, thank you very much) and levelled as much as he wanted.

He tried a lot of other classes and was mesmerised by the amazing mechanics and immersive game play. He settled down with a battle mage class, completely unaware of the infamous blue one already in the server. He wasn’t a guy for mindless chit-chats, and no way in GLORY was he going to waddle through the insane amount of threads in the forums. He picked what he wanted to read and ignored the social circle aspect of it.

A small topic about silver items by Autumn Tree piqued his interest in bosses and materials. The equipment editor got his creative juices running, and he was awed at how economically realistic this game was, and thus he planned his materials and crafting so he doesn’t waste them. Cheap is not good and good is not cheap! He firmly believed in that, and slowly refined his red armour to be what it was today.

When he stumbled upon the sales section of the forum, and saw real money exchanging hands for silver items, he realised he just found a money making path, and by playing GLORY too. 2 birds with 1 stone! He quickly found out (by digging through the forums, unfortunately) that there was a silver item maker that really did deliver. He had quite a stash of his own self-made silvers, he could try it too! Of course, he wouldn’t want to be a competitor, why not be a partner?

Player Killing others for the materials and being Kill Steal-ed by other players were such a chore, it’s better to combine their prowess and get the materials themselves first-hand. He hunted his robbers down and murdered them shortly afterwards, but his materials were gone, so he has to be very careful not to get KSed again. With a partnership like this, he guaranteed the materials will fall into their hands while there were two others that will fend off all these jerks. Just the kind of satisfactory work he need.

Now that he had another financial life-line (kind of) sorted out, he was glad the duo were accepting of him. He was scared to be rejected, logic told him it’s not as easy for strangers to accept another into their circle. He was really lucky, he guessed. Su Muqiu seemed to be a very funny and interesting guy, while Ye Qiu was more distant and kinda cool. That guy had almost same name as he was, but hey, what can he do? Such coincidence! He liked them both already. Maybe they would be his true friends! At least online wise. So far.

These two were oblivious of the blatant flirting they were displaying to each other. Either they were trash-talking like a married couple to annoy the living hell out of the other players, or they were so dense that if you launched them through the 9 planets the entire solar system will be annihilated. Get a clue!! (Or a room!!! Wait, they lived together anyways, and still won’t know!)

Yeqiu sighed heavily. I will not be envious!

Oh wow, he hadn’t been thinking of his own crush on his beloved senior for quite sometime. Maybe he would be ‘normal’ now, and let that infatuation in another guy die altogether. He was still a teen, after all. He should have out-grown the hormone-dictated crush by now. Now that he think of it, Senior’s Striker avatar is really somethingStop it Yeqiu…. those proportions are massive!!!

The doorbell startled him out of his thoughts. He shivered, then turned around on his chair and got to the door quickly. Who was it? He didn’t owe utilities, he wasn’t aware if his mother was in any debt (Mother said she won’t have any before she moved on). He also did the accounts and book-keeping for the nearby restaurants in the neighbourhood, he knew he did good. So who was it? He peeked through the eyehole and was shocked to say the least.

Speaking of Senior! He actually came and visit him?

Yeqiu quickly unlatched the door-chain and opened the door for his revered senior. He has forgotten how to greet people when he saw his senior glaring at him with the force of a thousand deaths. Did he saw those eyebrows relaxed or he was just loosing it. Anyways…

“Eh… er… hi, Senior…?” He sheepishly offered, one hand still holding onto the door knob, the other rubbing the back of his own neck. Good job Yeqiu! He sarcastically congratulated himself.

“Yeqiu, how have you been? If I’m not intruding, may I come in?” He gave a little nod, and a (teeny tiny) smile. Or he imagined it. Yeah, probably imagined. Senior did not smile at people on a regular basis. Or so far to his unsociable knowledge…

“Yeah, sure. Please come in…”

After settling his senior at the living room and served him some tea and biscuits, he placed himself on the sofa adjacent to where the other male sat. His senior placed a whole bunch of papers onto the table next to his tea. Yeqiu recognised those as his school notes. He couldn’t help but frown.

“You actually did your college entrance exams earlier and passed, why did you not proceed with your education? It’s unhealthy to be cooped up for so long with no interaction. The school said you didn’t pickup their calls, and you didn’t call in. I had to pester the admin for your address, privacy clause and this and that.”

“Senior, you don’t have to go such lengths for me! Erm… I wasn’t in the mood to study anymore, now that my mother is gone, I have to work to sustain myself. Studies are the least of my priorities…”

“You can get a scholarship with your grades, and also with your athletic records”

“But I’m not in any clubs, my social grades are… bad…? Scholarship doesn’t cover your living expenses right?”

“Nonsense, you’re one of the most polite juniors I know. Some scholarships do, I’ve brought quite a few brochures for you”

Outwards, Yeqiu didn’t say anything. Internally, he was having a mental war with himself.

What the heck Senior, are you my counsellor?! You’ve graduated already, did you take up an student advisor job with the alumni?! Wait…

Yeqiu gulped when he noticed his senior saw what was on his computer screen. He forgot to turn off his monitor! It was out in the open facing the living room after all. He was playing GLORY when the doorbell shocked him out of his thoughts earlier, but luckily he was in a dungeon alone, so his most powerful avatar with a wanted bounty was safe for the time being.

“…”

“…………”

“You play GLORY too?”

Too…?” He feigned his innocence. What are you doing, Yeqiu?!

“I recognise that interface anywhere”

“Wow! Erm, I didn’t know Senior like GLORY that much!” What a lie, Ye Qiu, good job.

“You like to play GLORY?”

Yeqiu was taken aback by the sudden seriousness of the tone. Was he in trouble? Was Senior judging him about his choice of video games instead of education?! Then again Senior always had this face whether he was serious or not. Just that his happy and smiling face was very rare to be seen. By anyone for that matter. He thought that earlier, didn’t he? He quickly replied before he kept his senior waiting for too long.

“No, it’s not that I liked GLORY….”

The urge to fling his wallet (which was in his bedroom, it was too far!) at Senior was intensely strong when the older teen frowned at that answer. Yeqiu hastily finished his sentence before he could die.

“… I LOVE everything about GLORY”

There was a pause, and that rare happy smile appeared on Senior’s face, just like that.

Yeqiu knew his crush wasn’t over at all, and he was done for.

 

Somewhere in a messy little apartment, Ye Xiu felt a blush blooming on his cheeks without explanation, a cosy warmth filing his chest. He didn’t think the congee he was eating now was really that good. It was cold even. Meanwhile opposite of him Muqiu choked on his lunch for no apparent reason either. 

Chapter Text

He was aware of the pretty boy from the year below him stealing glances at him not very-subtly from afar. His classmates had been trying to tease him and had found the perfect ammunition. They even helped him identify his little admirer! He had to applaud the lengths they had to go just to rile him up. To their dismay, he didn’t even blink when being told he had an admirer. He wasn’t embarrassed about it. Anyways.

Hong Yeqiu. He ranked first in his academic grade, his annual athletic scores were good (he wasn’t even in the default average scale, he was good) but he wasn’t into sports, since his name didn’t appear in the various sports teams’ players list. The junior liked to read, he supposed, as he was always seen in the library with his nose buried in a book, and also messing around in the computer labs. He was nice and kind, and was a number of teachers’ pet because he was so ever helpful, like carrying books, running errands and able to command the damn printer that wouldn’t print in the teachers’ office.

Recently he was snobbish towards his classmates, so he heard. His teasing classmates had given him all the details they can on this boy (what did he ever do to them?!). Apparently, he was a popular boy, too popular because he was a coveted individual, for his good looks and smarts. Not to mention he was physically fit as well. The best part was, he was kind and gentle. The downside was that he wasn’t rich, if he was, everyone will be all over him in an instant. A recent development seem to have shattered everyone’s hopes of him as a almost-perfect boyfriend.

He trash-talked his peers and snub friendships like no tomorrow, like he didn’t need them, so he had been told again. A loner huh. He didn’t pay attention to these information after that, and his classmates’ attempt at teasing stopped as well. Too bad they didn’t stick around longer, their efforts actually bore fruition! He actually stopped and watched the junior topping up the water of the aquarium in their administration’s office and feed the fishes on some occasions. One day after school, he was also seen petting the rabbits and feeding them in their school’s little green house/zoo thing.

He had never seen such a beautiful smile, now that he can see him clearer (he was close enough compared to the distance they always maintained before).

The blush appearing on the junior’s face was unexpected when the rabbit in his hands leapt at him, startling him, the little awkward movements he had to do to avoid stepping on the little critters, and lastly, he still fell down onto his backside. All the other rabbits in the enclosure decided to jumped at him after he was down, causing the junior to laugh.

He had a nice laugh too.

A person liked by animals can’t be bad. He probably put on a mask to fend off people. They can be really tiring, and animals make better friends sometimes. Satisfied of his own evaluation of his said admirer, he went on his merry way.

-

The next time he physically met this junior was at the cyber cafe nearby that he frequented to play GLORY after school. After winning his Arena match, he let his character idle for a while to stretch, not immediately accepting nor requesting another match. That was when the junior actually greeted him and asked for his handle name in-game. He wasn’t going to be impolite to deny him, so he gave his avatar’s name: Desert Dust.

Others who were watching him play surrounding his chair berated the junior for not knowing his god-like avatar and him as the player, and even mock him to go home and start playing with noobs. He turned and glared at these people. His junior was just asking, no need to be so rude!

He sighed. The junior looked terrified (of him, or the crowd?), after thanking him profusely for giving his handle name, he left just as fast as he appeared. He didn’t mean to glare at him! No thanks to the surrounding idiots jeering him before… He hoped he didn’t scare him off with his infamous resting bitch face he had been told he had. He looked forward to receiving a friend request and DMs from this junior.

Days turned to weeks with no sign of his junior’s presence in-game. Alas, his wish didn’t come true. Of all the DMs he received, there wasn’t one from the younger teen. He was a bit disappointed.

Just a little. Maybe.

-

After he graduated, he could no longer see this bashful junior’s smile. The junior didn’t come up to wish him congratulations or anything. He didn’t even ask for a way to keep in contact, except that one time he asked for his GLORY handle. He had given up huh? Well, that was the end of his high school then. He had to focus on his college entrance exams after all.

-

When he stopped by his school to pick up his graduation cert, looking up at the block where the final years’ classrooms will be, he saw the junior sitting by the window in his class, boredom written on his face as he leaned his chin on his hand, and was looking out of the window. Banking that the younger teen would be able to see him, he waved at him. The junior perked up and did the little fingers wave instead of a big one like he did.

He saw that smile once again, and was very satisfied.

He made a point to pass by the school to wave at him every morning, luckily he still can be seen from the gates surrounding the school. The junior didn’t disappoint as he did the little finger wave every time as a greeting.

-

He was alarmed when he realised after a few months or so he could no longer see Yeqiu sitting by the window. It was barely middle of the school year, he wouldn’t change seats or classes suddenly even if (unbelievably) his grades dropped… Unless he changed schools? During a free day he went and inquire about him, and the school admin was reluctant to share the junior’s information to him. He convinced her he was an alumni, he was concern for his junior’s well being, thus was here to collect school notes on his behalf and wanted to pay him a visit to check on his person.

Wow, he actually spun quite a lie to get to know more about this junior. How desperate was he?

Heck, he even knew Yeqiu attempted and finished his college entrance exams a year earlier, the same time he did, like the marvellous number 1 student he was. He was just chilling in school to get his school attendance and finishing cert (also no thanks to his information suppliers from before). Apparently the rumours he had been fed were mostly true, with so much of the information he had that matched Yeqiu’s academic performance and records, it moved the admin lady. Seeing that he was truly sincere, the admin finally relinquish the information he needed: Yeqiu’s address.

So that the good senior can check upon his talented junior and coerce him back to the path of pursuing his tertiary education to be a contributing member of society. He really couldn’t think that the admin actually believed him. Or maybe she just wanted him out of her hair.

After being shoved a whole folder of his junior’s (useless) school notes and homework lists, he thanked the lady with a great degree of gratitude, and researched for colleges with attractive scholarships for Yeqiu. Actually, he didn’t even know why the junior stopped schooling. He was very bold to assume it was a monetary problem. He should really pay his junior a visit.

-

In front of the Hong’s residence door, he suddenly realised very, very belatedly… that he was too invested in this junior just to be a mild concern. He knew next to nothing about him personally, other than what had been trickled down the vines. Had he actually fallen for his admirer based on second-hand opinions? He didn’t know if the junior’s admiration towards him was even of the romantic kind!

Han Wenqing, how can you be so simple?!

The sound of the door latch opening pulled him out from his thoughts.

Aih, I’ll just wing it…

-

After the awkward conversation about how Yeqiu should pursue his studies, he saw, on the younger teen’s monitor, the interface for GLORY. So he did play GLORY! Perhaps he had forgotten his handle’s name? Sometimes people just can’t retain the information long enough. But he wondered if Yeqiu could have really forgotten it, being a number 1 student after all. The younger boy looked restless when he saw him staring at it, so he quickly said something to avoid the smaller male from going into a full-blown panic.

“You play GLORY too?”

Too…?”

He thought how adorable it was when the younger teen tilted his head.

"I recognise that interface anywhere”

“Wow! Erm, I didn’t know Senior like GLORY that much!”

He was hunching his shoulders in, was he really that shy… He even put his knees together…

“You like to play GLORY?”

It seemed like a lot was going in the junior’s head. Did he ask too seriously? He should reign in his enthusiasm about GLORY. Not many people were crazy about it like he was, and he shouldn’t assume. Yet again.

“No, it’s not that I liked GLORY….”

Ah, what a shame. Yeqiu don’t share the same enthusiasm after all. He felt a bit sad and noticed he had furrowed his brows. He tried to relax quickly before he scare his junior again when…

“… I LOVE everything about GLORY”

Han Wenqing was stunned. So Yeqiu was into GLORY too! He unconsciously smiled, and it became wider when he saw a blush blooming on his admirer’s face, and his constant fidgeting isn’t normal for a platonic respect for seniors. The poor boy was wringing the hem of his shirt like a lifeline.

It was definitely the romantic kind. Hopefully.

“Let’s PK, Yeqiu”

He felt so weird saying this to his junior, when he had been saying that to his rival so many more times. Why must they have the same name?!

Chapter Text

Yeqiu found himself following his Senior, who had told him to bring along his account card, since they obviously can’t PK with only one computer. He logged out his Battle Mage and stored him in the card case, along with the many other classes he had experimented with. He didn’t know what to do but to agree! He obviously didn’t want to play with his Senior looking over his shoulders at his own computer. His nerves can’t take it!

He noticed they weren’t going to a cyber cafe nearby his home, but somewhere more central in the city. Senior had been talking about how he was going to join a team to be a professional GLORY player when they were travelling to said cafe by bus. What a dream! To be able to play GLORY at the highest peak, as a professional! He wondered if he could be one too.

He let Senior talked about the Alliance, himself getting really interested by the second. His bonus was being so close to and finally talking to his Senior (alone to boot!). He swelled with joy but he cannot show it outwardly. He need to appear prim and proper like a normal person after all!

“What class do you play, Yeqiu?”

He blushed again when Senior referred him by his first name. He was the junior after all, it was awkward to have his Senior keep calling him *Schoolmate Hong (by GLORY he hated being called like that because of all his other peers but he doesn’t think about them anymore, nope, but Senior was the only exception!). He told his Senior to call him by his first name. He himself however, refused to call his Senior by his first name. It’s different! when his logic highlighted this double standards.

“Huh? I experiment with a lot of classes, so anything will do... Senior”

Han Wenqing raised an eyebrow at that comment, but didn’t say anything. He got them cleared at the front counter, and upon getting a computer Han Wenqing gestured for Yeqiu to sit on the one next to him.

“Log in and meet me at the Arena. I want to see how good you are”

“Senior Han! You’re Desert Dust!!! There’s no way I can win you in a PK match…” He whispered harshly, not wanting to bring his Senior unwanted attention since he was now aware how famous Desert Dust was.

Han Wenqing stared at him and shook his head lightly. Yeqiu leaned back into his own chair, having tilted forward to whisper earlier.

“You’ll never know if you don’t try. Come”

Yeqiu made the mistake of randomly choosing his card. It was a Striker, and quite an average levelled one to boot. Needless to say, in front of a Striker God, and sitting next to his crush on their first date (it was definitely a date in his one-sided book, no one can say otherwise!), although he had put up quite a good fight, he was soon demolished, as expected. He played pretty badly, his fingers spasms unreliably on the keyboard, gripping the mouse too tightly, thus he wasn’t able to execute some moves properly.

He didn’t know if he should cry with joy or despair when Senior said he wanted to bring him to train in wild PK since he “played quite good, definitely can do better”. He knew he usually played quite well in all the other classes, but it was exceptionally bad today. Senior might had thought he really was a noob. Aih, he could learn more about the Striker class from the true expert then.

Not too long into the game (after mindlessly demolishing a bunch of monster NPCs), Yeqiu saw two familiar avatars’ silhouettes from afar. It seemed Senior recognised them too, and off Senior  went chasing after the duo, he followed closely behind.

“These two are really strong, let’s PK them” Senior let his avatar regained his health to max with a potion, and was startled when the older male turned and saw him grin.

“Let’s say hello” he gleefully said.

Autumn Tree was the first to turn and meet them while One Autumn Leaf was standing, waiting for them to approach. Before he could even say anything, the duo Strikers had launched attacks at them, Yeqiu going for Autumn Tree while Han Wenqing went for One Autumn Leaf.

“Ye Qiu, let’s PK!” Han Wenqing called out excitedly, he felt so right saying it to his rival that he was more acquainted to (So sorry Yeqiu…).

“PK again?! Bring it on, Old Han!” One Autumn Leaf answered the Collapsing Fist with a Sky Strike.

“Old Han?! The nerve to call Senior old!” Yeqiu commented out loud. Han Wenqing just smiled. He didn’t register that these two had almost the same voice, probably because he hasn’t heard them both through the headset at the same time.

“He brought a friend this time, he’s good!” Su Muqiu called out, Aerial Firing away.

After an intense round of beating each other bloody, both sides didn’t finish their opponents off as they had agreed previously. The penalty from dying in the wild was insanely painful, since their avatars were almost max levelled, they want to avoid re-levelling if they can. Han Wenqing was impressed that Yeqiu got the hint on not finishing off their opponents, not knowing Yeqiu had already known about this, when he had seen Desert Dust challenge One Autumn Leaf countless times when they were farming together as the Autumn Trio Forest.

Han Wenqing also noticed Yeqiu played much better during this wild PK compared to the Arena earlier. To be toe to toe with Ye Qiu’s formidable partner Autumn Tree, it was really something remarkable. Strange… was Yeqiu nervous, and gradually calmed down when given time? He supposed he could cut Yeqiu some slack for having wrecked nerves from sitting besides him. After all, the younger male liked him, this he was much aware of.

All of them need to top up their avatars’ health with potions, but Yeqiu’s Striker didn’t need as much. Su Muqiu gained Ye Qiu’s aggro instantly.

“It’s a win for me again ok? One Autumn Leaf had more health than Desert Dust at the end!”

“Tch, you truly are a Battle God. I’d admit my defeat yet again”

“Hahaha, just keep admitting it, I don’t mind! Also, what the heck Muqiu, you had a striker beaten you so badly? You scored better with Old Han!”

“What! I don’t PK with him so often like you do with your rival!”

“Excuses, you’re supposed to be good! Buck up Muqiu or I’m going to leave you behind. Hey brother, you’re good if you can beat Muqiu to a near pulp, what’s your name?”

Yeqiu typed a ^__^ to appear on his avatar’s head. His Striker account, Bash Your Head In (gods, he regretted naming them so childishly) did a fist pump pose at Autumn Tree and One Autumn Leaf. It was one of the accounts that the two had never seen him use, coincidently. The headphones he was assigned with, the mic wasn’t working. Aih. He was also reluctant to ask the front counter to change it since they were playing already. He can listen in just fine.

“His mic isn’t working, he’s a friend from my previous school. I’m just bringing him around. I’m glad you deem him good”

Ah, Senior called him a friend!

“School huh… You’ve got a good player here, Is he joining your team too?”

“We should probably ask Wanqiu to join us too!” Su Muqiu quipped in.

“Shut it you idiot, Old Han doesn’t need to know!”

“… your Autumn Trio will truly be a formidable team… But that is not going to stop me just because you have a more offensive team!”

“It’s Autumn Forest!”

“As expected of you, Old Han! Also, nobody cares about that name, Muqiu!”

“Hey, I care!”

Yeqiu wanted to reply because the conversation was obviously involving him yet not at the same time. Join what? Did the two want to form a professional team?! He had been working with them for quite some time, if there was going to be a change in the status quo, he needed to know! Aih, why had he forgotten he was dealing with the shameless duo… He would grill them tonight… if Senior ever let him go home!

Throughout the day, Yeqiu had shown his Senior that he was actually quite an amazing player now that he had ‘calmed down’. Senior gathered his future team players to play with them, and they were amazed Yeqiu was able to accommodate their would-be leader’s play-style from following him in one afternoon. After a few successful dungeon runs and some bosses farming, they were excited that their leader was able to find another expert that could assimilate with them so quickly, they were asking if he would be joining their pro team.

Yeqiu saw Han Wenqing practically beamed with pride. That smile on his Senior’s face, he wasn’t imagining it! Senior really liked him playing GLORY so well, his plan to get closer to Senior via GLORY kinda did it! Sadly, he had to refuse his Senior’s team invitation politely. He had looked up the pro-player requirements online a little while back when dungeoning, and was taken aback by the amount of travelling they need to do. Why can’t they just play online ugh… Hype and ticket sales, that’s what.

He didn’t want to travel so often, that was the excuse he was sticking with. He can’t afford them so many times!. Besides, this Alliance thing was new, most competitors have to fork out money to travel themselves right? He can’t just leave his home untaken care of! He had to take care of his mother and brother too, he need to keep their altar clean, and he can’t do so if he wasn’t around. So there. It was a legit reason right?! They can take it or leave it.

Besides, he had to clear things up with that pair of ignorant lovebirds first.

Han Wenqing insisted to buy him dinner, since he had dragged him out into the city and they had completely skipped lunch when they were so immersed in playing GLORY. He savoured every moment he spent eating his dinner treated by his crush! They talked so much about GLORY until the moon was high in the sky. Senior even travelled with him and walked him back home, right to his building entrance downstairs. His first not-date went pretty good!

His Senior bade him goodnight, citing he will come again tomorrow. He watch the older male disappear into the night, thinking about ‘tomorrow’. Senior said tomorrow! He looked forwards to it. The best thing was Senior was no longer pestering him about his further studies. Score!

Yeqiu felt terribly good that day, until he nearly forgotten to roast the two that night.

-

“You bastards, you two are forming a professional team?!”

Su Muqiu nearly choked on the late dinner he was eating, surprised by Yeqiu’s offended tone suddenly appearing in his headphones. He had to remind himself this wasn’t Ye Xiu, who was away from his computer at the moment. How the hell did Yeqiu know?! And where did he come from?! It was also scary that the conversation came after slipping to Ye Xiu’s fated rival *cough hack wheeze* Han Wenqing earlier that they were planning to, as if Yeqiu had telepathic powers.

“Erm, yeah, yes we are!! You joining us bro? By the way, how the hell you know?!”

No point hiding that fact. He felt a bit of fear seeing the bloody red One Autumn Leaf look-alike standing behind him, holding his spear in his hand. The avatar’s expressionless face gave off a very intimidating aura, now that he was on the receiving end of Yeqiu’s wrath. He didn’t notice him approaching, what a failure of a sharpshooter he was. Then again he kept getting distracted by writing notes when he had an eureka! moment. He really need to focus better so he doesn’t get assassinated randomly again. He had been nagged so much by Ye Xiu on this matter already, he didn’t want more (although a more affectionate kind of attention will be much appreciated!)

“You don’t need to know how I know, more importantly, why do you guys want to form a professional team, wouldn’t that take away a lot of in-game time? Who’s going to farm materials with me, what about our materials and silver equipment sales?”

“Bro, if we join the Alliance as pros we get better pay! If we win the championships, we’ll get endorsements and more commissions that way! You only do it by defeating other players in PK, group or team competitions. It’s an easier way to earn more money, what do you say? Are you interested to join?”

“Sadly, I can’t. I’ve looked up the requirements, I don’t think I can full-fill the travelling part for the offline matches. It’s quite a lot”

“Bro, why not?! We always find money together, and we have a place for you here! We can earn easier this way!”

“I can’t just leave my family Muqiu. I guess I’ll just take over your business completely… if you’re okay with it. You won’t have time for it right?”

“… I suppose. It’s a pity you can’t join. We’re hoping you could. We really want you to join us! Aih, so I’ll organise the stuff for you okay? You can be our rare material supplier tho…. Oh! We’re totally not dumping you! It’s just I need more money to… you know…”

“Marry Ye Qiu?”

“YOU STUPID!!! NO!!! I need to send MuCheng to college when she’s 18, it’s not going to be cheap!”

“Train her to pay GLORY like you two. It’s inevitable”

“No! I want her to decide her path on her own, to do her own thing, not following our footsteps. I want her to find her own future”

“… True, she can’t be sad hermits like us sitting at our computers and playing games all day… She’s a pretty girl with a bright future ahead of her after all, unlike we useless gays”

“Wanqiu…”

“Yes Muqiu dearest?

“Stop that. I hate it when you sound exactly like Ye Qiu!”

When Yeqiu giggled girlishly at that comment (he purposely did that, he knew it!), Su Muqiu nearly died. His heart couldn’t take the adorable noise that sounded like his crush (who will never make it)! It was too damn cute!!!

He nearly died again when Ye Xiu appeared behind him in real life, clapping him on his shoulder and asked him what was up after seeing Mucheng to bed. Yeqiu’s laughter raise a pitch when he heard Su Muqiu sputtered through the mic in response, and nothing Ye Xiu asked will give him an answer of their little inside-joke.

“Yeqiu you ass!!!” 

Chapter Text

Han Wenqing couldn’t help but to compare his rival, Ye Qiu with his junior, Yeqiu. They both had the same tenacity when PK-ing (albeit Yeqiu was slightly more hot-headed in this regard) and had almost the same level of understanding of the other classes for them to exploit weaknesses from. He wondered if their names and voices were the only things that were the same. He finally had heard them both online at the same time, it was truly a stereo-sound experience.

It will be quite a scene if they looked alike somehow. Maybe they could be dressed the same and did the same hair style (side-parted hair was kinda generic after all). Hahaha, what was he thinking, they weren’t twin dolls, no 2 guys will intentionally dressed the same if they can help it, unless they happen to have the same taste in wardrobe. What were the chances of that happening?

Fortunately for him, Yeqiu seemed to have gotten his crush (for him, that is) under control, he performed spectacularly in the Arena PK and wild PK with him. He even gave pointers to his future team members on where to improve when they played together. Yeqiu was truly a blessing in disguise, and he get to have him all for himself.

He realised they had spent a lot of time in playing GLORY together. He didn’t want to be so selfish to take up all of it, the younger male did say he need to work to sustain himself. Strangely, as long he gets to farm materials from bosses, Yeqiu didn’t complain of not going to work. He had a hunch Yeqiu was working to sell rare materials and self-made equipment, but better confirm then second-guessing. He decided to prod, starting with a normal convo, of course.

“You play quite a lot of classes, which one are you most comfortable with?”

“Battle Mage, but as Senior already know, I could do quite well with the other classes. I’ve invested quite some time on him” Yeqiu said fondly, caressing his account card. Han Wenqing could appreciate the love Yeqiu had for an avatar. His junior’s love for GLORY must be on par with his.

“Why do you want to farm so much materials for? Are you building a new character with special equipment?” He decided to be sure instead of assuming again.

“… Currently I’m working in gathering rare materials and make silver equipment for sale, like my other partners. We also level accounts for people who don’t have the time. Of course we have other side jobs too, not only GLORY. I’ll be working solo soon though, since they’re going to be pros, unfortunately. It’s okay. More money for myself then”

He nodded in silence, digesting the information presented to him. Yeqiu was playing GLORY to support himself. What a deal, to work for what you love, but alas he couldn’t join him in the professional scene. He silently vowed to help him whenever he can, since he was better off than the younger male. It had totally slipped his mind to ask about Yeqiu’s partners going pro. They were going to be competitors after all, but they were currently insignificant compared to his junior now.

“Have you ever use this Battle Mage against me? Meet me in the Arena, Yeqiu”

-

He seemed to have gotten better control on his blush. Good. He can’t be blushing like a love-sick school girl whenever he was with his crush all the time! What will Senior think! It was really obvious, so Senior must have really turned a blind eye on his apparent crush and accepted him as a gameplay buddy. They played together so frequently until Senior actually brought over a new PC and built it here, in his home. His computer table had to be arranged to accommodate Senior’s new one next to his.

Better than sitting opposite of him, at least he won’t be tempted to OR accidentally played footsie with his Senior. The unbearable shame will kill him if he actually did it. Sitting beside one another made pointing and directing each other easier, and they could discuss about gameplay without looking over two screens if they were arranged opposing each other. On the days Senior wasn’t around, he had reluctantly used Senior’s computer to hunt for hidden bosses since he usually can’t form a party to farm alone. Two computers gave him that opportunity.

He supposed using his internet and electricity to play was cheaper than going to a cyber cafe? (it wasn’t really). But Senior was considerate as always, he said he will pay his share of his electricity and internet fees used here (and he did, he didn’t dare to refuse Senior’s insistence on paying him. The only thing he could do was lie about the amount on his internet fees, so Senior would pay less). Doesn’t he had them in his own home?! Apparently Senior had, but he said having a real-life friend to play with him was more comforting. It was the same for Muqiu and Ye Qiu maybe, he thought.

Senior also had been taking him out for lunches and dinners when they need to eat, until he got teased by the restaurants owners and shopkeepers in his neighbourhood about his dates when he went to shop on the days Senior wasn’t around. Some of the restaurant owners were concerned, seeing him with a delinquent looking guy. He had to convinced them Han Wenqing was no street thug! He was a studios senior from his high school and a good friend, and he had no qualms in singing his praises.

It wasn’t cheap to eat out so often, plus Senior had insisted on paying for his meal every damn time, so Yeqiu declined going out for food, stating he will cook for them as repayment. He didn’t know if he had imagined his Senior’s disappointment on not able to bring him out to dates?. He can’t be mooching off of his Senior like that (he was very conscious about owing people), Senior wasn’t earning as much yet, right? Not that he wanted Senior to feed him, of course.

Shocking, really, since tactics wasn’t Senior’s best subject (as Brother Ye always emphasised that ‘Old Han wasn’t really a mastermind, but that didn’t mean he was stupid). An incident proved the contrary.

Apparently, Senior was a step ahead of him in being courteous. Good knows how many times they tried to out-kowtow one another. Do friends do that? He didn’t have enough to judge, and he certainly wasn’t humble with the Autumn Forest duo, so he figured it was because Senior was a real person, so the feelings of not trying to offend the person physically in front of you was significantly higher than your online ones, whose face you couldn’t even see! He considered getting a webcam to see how those two even look like, now he thought about it. Anyways…

Senior bought groceries, fresh meat from the morning market even, and he brought them here. How did he want to explain to the neighbourhood he didn’t just get a house-husband out of nowhere?! (He refused to call Senior his wi- nope, he won’t even think about it!) The least he could do was cook for both of them. Senior had refused his payment for the food and Yeqiu threatened he won’t be welcomed in his home anymore if he didn’t compromise.

He didn’t know if it had anything to do with the pink apron he wore, Senior actually huffed at it the first time. Maybe Senior didn’t like pink? He couldn’t imagine Senior being intimidated by him waving a flimsy spatula, of all things. He still needed to wear it even though he won’t stain it, the habit to don it was ingrained from his mother’s teachings. From then onwards he noticed Senior always watched him cook. Maybe he should get another apron for Senior, so he can learn? Too bad Senior didn’t want to cook (he said he didn’t want to mess his kitchen or something) so there wasn’t any point in getting one for him.

Luckily, Senior relented on receiving pay for the shared groceries. He was relieved (maybe him holding the rolling pin had worked? Nah). He didn’t know if he could withstand a staring and willpower battle with him, despite knowing Senior was quite an accommodating guy. No matter how scary Senior’s expression might be, Yeqiu find his face quite handsome.

He must be crazy. Crazy in love maybe? Get a grip Yeqiu!!!

In a relationship, both sides should put in effort to make the relationship work, not be calculative and demand an equal amount from the other in return (although there were going to be expectations of so). If both sides loved one another, they will naturally give their best to make them work, right? Not that he was in a romantic one, but a platonic one also warrants trying. He was satisfied with the status quo now. No doubt Senior also pulled a fast one on the groceries share so he had to pay less, like he did with Senior on the internet fees. He bought so often for himself, he knew prices of groceries around here. He let his Senior believed he wasn’t aware about the extra-discounted groceries, if it makes him happier.

Last but not least, whenever Senior stayed overnight, there was no way they were sharing a room, let alone a bed. He stuck Senior in the guest bedroom (not like it was ever used, his house happened to have one) and was done with it. He made sure they bathe at different times, like an hour difference in timing. Temptations be damned. He will die if he ever saw Senior half naked with a towel around the waist, droplets of water on his body… He mentally slapped himself.

Anyways, back to present time. Senior wished to PK him with his best. Who was he to say no?

-

In the Arena, after finishing a PK round with one of his future team-mates, a very red One Autumn Leaf look-alike stepped into their password protected room. They were alarmed at the name appearing above this red Battle Mage.

RedNightAutumn?! How did one of the Autumn Trio get in here? Randomly inputting passwords was too much of a coincidence, and he couldn’t have crack it so easily, when passwords were also so random! This was the Bloody Red Mage, said to be on par with One Autumn Leaf. In the past this avatar appeared very rarely, but after joining One Autumn Leaf (and Autumn Tree), these 3 were the bane of the many guilds and terror to the many players in game.

“Red Night Autumn?” His other members read the avatar’s name aloud.

Han Wenqing didn’t stop the urge to smack himself and slapped his forehead with a loud crack. Yeqiu jumped at that loud sound, looking at him with concern. Of course, why hadn’t he noticed this at all?! He glanced towards Yeqiu’s screen and saw the team in the Arena they were in. He muted his mic while he turned to his junior friend.

“Why did I not notice this is literally your name, Yeqiu? I’m apologise for not realising, and I’m sorry for myself for not being observant enough!”

“Sorry…? But I thought it was kinda obvious” the younger male squeaked a reply.

The man next to him (yes, man now, they were both no longer in school for a really long time now) adjusted in his seat and smiled sheepishly at him before turning back to his screen. Yeqiu was one of the damned Autumn Trio?! The formidable three in-game, taking and kill-stealing bosses left, right, centre, waltzing around like they own the place and do as they damn well please, that Autumn Trio?!

If he was, then Yeqiu was not only good, he was darn incredible! He should have realised this way sooner! To think he had thought Yeqiu was a newbie before, he really had misjudged. He felt exhilarated to know Yeqiu was actually an amazing player, pro-level even, and was in his and that shameless duo’s services!

He asked himself why had he challenged Ye Qiu so many times but had ignored Yeqiu too many instances. He’d think they would have a few PK rounds already by now, given how similar in combat these two almost-twins were. He really thought RedNightAutumn was Ye Qiu’s alternate account until he challenged Ye Qiu long ago, and saw the three of them together farming a boss. Ye Qiu can’t control both while fighting him, he has seen RedAutumnNight moved to fend off other monsters NPC and pesky KS players when they were PK-ing.

“Let’s PK, Yeqiu” He found that he no longer felt weird saying this to his friend now, since he knew he was actually as capable as Ye Qiu! While Ye Qiu was his rival, he’d like to think Yeqiu as his partner.

He really needed to get Yeqiu into his team somehow. He had confidence he had his heart as well.

-

“Senior, can we stop? This is tiring” he whined, after winning yet another PK round with one of Senior’s team members.

Let me go already! He had been PK-ing for so long, he missed some wild bosses that had spawn and been killed, lamenting the materials and silver equipment he could had made and sell. Argh, the tragedy! His senior took pity on him and nodded his head. Why Senior, I’m not even a team member, don’t be so overzealous! At least he took out his frustration by PK-ing the living daylights out of Senior’s other team members for that loss. He took off his headphones and slammed it on the desk. He wasn’t happy about the lost materials! Hmph!!!

He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt both of his Senior’s hands on his shoulders, massaging him with quite a strong pressure. He fought very, very hard not to moan out loud due to the satisfying relief from the soreness. Did Senior know what this was doing to him?!

“Senior…. ugh…” He failed to stop the little whiny sounds from coming out, and squirmed in his seat, still trying his best not to moan! The strong fingers never left his person no matter how hard he tried to evade it. Senior always pulled him back upright when he leaned forwards.

“Sorry for taking your time. Let me know when you want us to farm your materials, we’ll get it for you. I know you work by faming bosses, let us help you out”

“You mean the whole team? Are they okay with it?” Yeqiu couldn’t help but getting excited at the possibility of a pro-team helping him for bosses that required a team to do the job. Those materials cost more since those needed more manpower!. He tilted his head to look at his Senior upside down since his Senior was standing behind him. He winced, biting onto his bottom lip when Senior pressed on a sore spot.

“Yes, they are okay with it. It’s the least we can do for you, for training with us”

“Oh, I have become a training partner huh…” Senior turned him around in his chair, he instinctively caught at both the older male’s wrists, which were still on his shoulders.

“I apologise for making you one, however… Yeqiu, thank you. Your help means a lot to me and my team. I really appreciate you for your time”

Damn it why can’t he control his blush this time. He stupidly nodded and casted his gaze downwards, he couldn’t bear to look into his Senior’s eyes so directly. He missed the wide grin the older male was sporting for seeing the red on his face when he was hunching his shoulders.

-

Ye Xiu was preparing to serve their take-away dinner when he felt two hands on his shoulders. He glanced knowing it was Muqiu, who tried to steal a bite before it was out, so he pinched the thieving hand as punishment. He felt a blush crept to his face when Muqiu whined next to his ear but gave a warning glare anyway. With that, the older male quickly got off of him and obediently went and take their dinner to the dinning table.

Who knew Muqiu was embarrassed about him blushing? Oh, he definitely knew. But the older male didn’t say anything, so Ye Xiu didn’t say anything either. Mucheng only sighed at these two for testing her patience and sanity.

Chapter Text

After a run in the park the two of them rested at a nearby gazebo. The sun was warm and shining brightly, he had just quenched his thirst, it felt like a very good day. Senior was standing a little bit away, doing some stretching and breathing exercise next to him. Senior held out a hand, gesturing for the water so he threw his bottle at him. Senior thanked him, drunk his share and settled the plastic container next to his.

Aaaa… Today was definitely going to be another good day, hanging out with his Senior (as usual). He really should start addressing his Senior as a friend properly, since they had been playing together for quite some time. Heck, they even knew what each other like to eat already at the frequency that they were together. He even knew what kind of flavour sweets and snacks Senior preferred!

He bet nobody else knew most (if not all) of Senior’s favourite food, maybe except his mother. Speaking of mother…. His mother was the same too. No one knew best like mother! He fondly remembered his mother presenting him his favourite popsicle when he did good in his exams, the chocolate cakes he received for his birthdays and his brother’s commemorative ones, and his favourite dishes she cooked to cheer him up when he was feeling down.

He had been staying at home most the time, he didn’t like to go out for movies or hanging out at cyber cafes or the arcades like his peers. His mother seemed happy to have him at home after all, even if he was playing computer or video games. His mother was a busy working woman, she was thankful with him helping around the house, and he didn’t mind doing them. He learnt to take care of himself, and by doing chores his mother was happier, and he was happy with that. Now that his mother was gone, he felt lonely, but Senior seemed to have filled this gap for him (by bringing him out and playing with the others online, that was a start), which he was thankful for.

Senior came into his life a little bit later after the Autumn Duo. He liked them both, really, but they were still faceless internet friends that might drop off from the face of the planet anytime, so he couldn’t really rely on them for true friendship. He didn’t know how long will he be a hermit in his own home if it wasn’t for Senior.

“Yeqiu…”

“Hmm…?” He answered while basking in the sun the gazebo didn’t quite provided the shade for, temporarily halted in his thoughts.

“From today onwards, don’t call me Senior. I don’t want to be your Senior anymore”

He take his words that it was going to be a fine day back immediately. A lot of bad scenarios ran through his mind left him stupefied at Senior’s statement. The older male took his silence as shock. Yes, he was in shock. He stared at his Senior with wide opened eyes.

Senior didn’t want to be his Senior anymore?! Why?! To him, Han Wenqing will always be his revered Senior, that was how he viewed him before he became a friend, so why…

“Yeqiu, you can’t keep calling me Senior. We’re no longer in school, for almost a year in fact. I want you to call me by my name”

Oh. Even with a morning run his brain wasn’t awake, hahaha. Of course. Why did he had to overthink things. Luckily he didn’t say it out loud, if he did, how stupid he would look in front of Senior.

“Senior I…” He stopped when the older male glared at him. He didn’t have his wallet with him, so there weren’t any to throw at him. Oops, Senior just told him to stop calling him that. Of course he looked away in response, he couldn’t really bear those angry eyes.

“Yeqiu… Actually I don’t want to be your friend either, if possible. I… ”

He tuned out his senior as soon as he processed those words. He felt as if his whole world shattered once more. He could live without getting his crush reciprocated, but outright being denied even as a friend?! Was he really that bad of a friend? Was that why he never really had friends? He thought he was doing really well with the online two, and with Senior. What did he do wrong?

He never felt so much hurt ever since his mother’s passing. It was too sudden, he didn’t know what to do and how to react, his breathing got laboured as he was panicking, so he got up and tried to run, but it was a mistake. it felt like all his blood from his head had rushed down to his legs. He suddenly felt dizzy, and it reflected on his movements. A pair of strong hands clenched his upper arms fiercely, preventing him from falling and escaping.

“YEQIU!!!”

“Huh? Wha…”

“Calm down. We can talk about this later, but I need you to be in a good condition to do so”

One of Senior’s hands moved to his back, rubbing soothing circles on it. Oh, his mind’s muddy thoughts were clearing now. He tried to remember what he was feeling and reconfirmed himself, he didn’t remember wrongly. Senior did say he didn’t want to be his Senior and his friend anymore right? Well, then again, Senior was a nice and straight-forward guy, he probably didn’t want him to do stupid things when he reject him, which he had nearly did.

“Let go of me…” he weakly protested. He placed both his hands on Senior’s arms and tried to push. He should had known better than to physically fight off Han Wenqing.

“I don’t want to, you’ll run away from me. I wouldn’t want that” Senior’s grip just got tighter.

“Then what do you want?!” He was a bit sorry to raise his voice a little, but he won’t say it out loud. He kept his head bowed down, and he stubbornly refused to look at Senior’s face.

“I don’t think you heard me when you panicked, Yeqiu, look at me. I’m going to say it again. Hear me out and let me finish this time” Senior pulled at his upper arms so he was forced to be almost chest to chest with the older male. He had to look up least he knock his head against the other’s chin, unwillingly peered into Senior’s eyes.

“Yeqiu. I don’t want to be your Senior anymore because I want us to be equals, I am not superior to you and neither are you inferior to me. I don’t want to be just your friend, because I hope that we can be more than that. The time we spent together had made me discovered that I really like you, a lot. Yeqiu, are you willing to go out with me?”

He felt really, really stupid for over-reacting earlier, but now he was numb from sudden joy. His fingers clenched at the other’s jacket until his knuckles were white. Tears gathered in his eyes but they did not fall. He could only smile sheepishly at his Se-, no… at Han Wenqing. He was dumb for a while, staring at the other.

“Thank you for hearing me out. If you are not into a romantic relationship it’s also fine. I hope we can still be friends. I don’t and won’t resent you for rejecting me” Senior’s grip loosened on his arms, giving him a way out should he need to escape this time.

“I didn’t say no!” He hastily yelled out. He quickly blurted what was in his mind before Han Wenqing could retract his confession. He didn’t want him to do that! Why didn’t he give him a chance to reply?!

I liked you a lot since high school Senior! I know you know about it, but you didn’t say anything on it so I thought you didn’t want a romantic relationship either so I just kept silent, I don’t want to spoil whatever we had! Please don’t take back that you like me too! I’m so happy actually, I’m sorry I’m jumpy about it, I really thought you didn’t want to be my senior and my friend at one go, I couldn’t take it! I’m so sorry!!!”

He bowed his head down again, forgetting they were in close proximity, he accidentally laid his head on the older male’s collarbone. He breathed in and out hard, it was embarrassing to say what he said, and the unintentional head-laying made him feel even more awkward. He felt larger arms wound around him, effectively making it into a hug (and also trapping him, preventing him from escaping again).

“I may have phrased my words badly to cause a misunderstanding, Yeqiu. I’m sorry to cause you distress. Ever since the morning wavings we did after I graduated, I was more than concern about you. When you were missing from school I was very worried, that had made me move to find you. My former classmates had been telling me about a pretty admirer for a year, and I had been observing you since then”

He flushed at that. He knew he wasn’t subtle at all, but he couldn’t help it. Getting a glimpse of Senior wasn’t easy, and he didn’t want to waste his chances, hence he can’t be secretive at all. But Senior had noticed him for so long? Why didn’t he say anything? Then again, he himself didn’t say anything either, to be fair...

“Senior…” The other’s hands left his back and cupped him by the sides of his head, gentle pulling him away and tilted to look at one another. He gulped, his own hands still clutching onto Senior’s sleeves for dear life.

“It’s Han Wenqing. You’re my junior no longer, and I’m not your senior anymore. Say my name, Yeqiu”

“Han Wenqing” He flatly said, reaching up his hands to grab the other’s wrists. He was still cautious that his Senior might squish his face, even though it was unlikely to happen.

“Without my family name this time” The older male ran one thumb over his cheek as encouragement.

HanYe2_02_LR

 “…. Wen… qing…” He lamely tried. Wow, he had never said his Senior’s name all this while? How were they friends again? No wonder Senior was annoyed by it. He had no trouble calling the older Muqiu by his first name after all, and they were online friends!

“Good. Keep trying okay, Yeqiu?”

He nodded dumbly, he can definitely feel the heat on his own face, plus the warmth from Han Wenqing’s palms and fingers.

“Thank you for accepting me, Yeqiu. I hope we could work out”

Han Wenqing smiled at him, and he knew he was dead again. How many times had he died to Senio-argh, Wenqing’s smile?! He need to develop some sort of immunity if he were to be in the presence of that smile so much more often. That deadly thing came again when he knew he was smiling like an idiot for being too happy, happy that his crush has become his boyfriend now!

He didn’t know Han Wenqing actually saw his bashful smile as beautiful, together with his blushed face, made him even cuter. What did he know?

Lunch was very awkward for him that day, and he really envied Senio- no, it’s Wenqing, damn it! for being so straight-faced throughout their lunch date (Is this their first official date?!), even after confessing earlier. He was delighted that his crush had now become somewhat of a more solid fondness (he didn’t dare to declare he love Han Wenqing yet, not right now anyway).

Also, how did one even eat with so many butterflies fluttering in his stomach?!

Han Wenqing pitied his nerves and took him home with a takeaway. His boyfriend (boyfriend!) stayed the night, reassuring him to get over his nervousness, and he was mortified about it. Their dinner was delivery, and he had yet to calm his nerves, so they played on console that night. He didn’t allow his boyfriend (boyfriend!) into his own room that night either, cos he wanted to hide under his blankets and scream into his pillow. Obviously he won’t do that if the older male was present, but it was good for his own health if he did.

So he screamed (with joy!) into his pillow, making sure it was muffled least his boyfriend barge into the room with concern. He didn’t want his boyfriend to kick down the door after all, that will be an utter embarrassment.

-

Ye Xiu didn’t know what to say when he felt something warmth in his chest, the amount of uncontrollable blushing he was doing were excessive these days. It was certainly not normal to him. However, the other male next to him was oblivious about them since he was so engrossed in GLORY, so he let it slide, hoping he would calm down and let it pass.

He noted this incident together with the nightmare sharing one he had with Muqiu (and the whole lot more of these instances, none were as strong as these two), but they were quickly left in the recess of his mind. The tight knot in his stomach might just be from over-starving, he thought. He should eat something least he developed stress ulcers in them. Aih.

He hadn’t experienced anything like this ever since his twin had wet the bed when they were very, very young. He felt like he had forgotten something, but if he didn’t remember, it probably wasn’t important.

 

Chapter Text

“To B City? What for, I’m not involved…”

“Take this as an opportunity to travel. You haven’t been to B City before, right?”

“Well, I don’t think so, but sight-seeing and touristing is not my thing….”

“Take it as going with me then? It will be our first vacation together. I can schedule it longer so we can go do our dating stuff”

“You-! Can you not say it so casually?!”

“Say what? Dating? We are dating, are we not? Besides, I don’t think you’ve been out of this district ever, let alone this city”

Those words hit home quite hard. He truly never travelled before. Thinking back, his mother had never brought him anywhere outside of this city, if he were to generously maximise his travelling range. He had been to playground parks, but his mother could only bring him out to play early in the morning before going to work, so there weren’t many children around for him to interact with. Only his mother. His brother died to an illness, while he had to recuperate from the accident where he suffered a head injury, as he had been told, because he couldn’t remember.

He vaguely recalled playing with a sibling, they shared their toys, but now most of them were gone. His mother probably wasn’t able to handle his brother’s loss, so she threw them all away? He didn’t mind, by the time he could remember properly on his own, he was used to reading due to being bed-ridden for so long, he’d rather read than playing with toys. He had attended his school’s carnival/open-day fairs before, but had never been to travelling funfairs or theme parks. One, his mother never been able to catch the timing so they could go together, two, the other was outright expensive to go to.

His mother wouldn’t allow him to go on his school’s field trips or any activities his peers would organise. He understood their finances, they weren’t exactly poor, he really thought they were of average, lower-middle class? He wasn’t sure. His mother’s willingness to accommodate his gaming habits was already a miracle. He didn’t fault his mother for it. He somewhat knew she needed him at home. He believed she didn’t want him to run into another automobile accident ever again. He could understand that kind of persistent and paralysing fear. He pitied his mother living with such fright. His mother didn’t want to chance having him injured again after all. She really loved him.

Until the lawyers came with his mother’s will.

He had never questioned why. His mother saved so much so she could leave a massive fortune with him, and he sincerely could not blame his mother for preventing him to socialise. He wasn’t frustrated about it, he was glad when he read that a lot of other teens might not think the same like he did.

Guess he was the weird one out huh?

His peers weren’t exactly beneficial to him after all, recalling his situation in school before. Him being left out suited his recluse and anti-social tendencies. His mother was easier to talk to compare to them after all. Then again she was his mother. She didn’t judge nor berate him for his view on matters. His mother made sure he was heard first before she presented her view on his discussions calmly, without throwing insults and calling names like his immature classmates.

He liked this kind of discussions. He should really practice it more often. He remembered his disastrous misunderstanding with Han Wenqing’s confession from before. A shudder went through his body on recalling that horrible over-reaction.

“Are you okay? I’m sorry if it offended you. I just don’t see any hint of souvenirs that aren’t from this city in your home”

“Ah? No, not offended. What you say is true. I was just thinking about why I haven’t been out of this city before, I guess not everyone can be lucky to be able to travel”

“Now we make our own luck. Try going with me to B City, you might find something you like. After this trip and if you find you don’t like it, I won’t ask you to go on another one again. How about it?”

Yeah, that something I like is you!  He smiled at his senior boyfriend’s words of encouragement. He should give it a try, he supposed. He noticed how Senior Wenqing didn’t say ‘I won’t force you to accompany me again’ in that statement. Will he try to persuade him to go on future ones with him instead?! This sly boyfriend…

-

He felt a sense of deja vu when sitting in a plane. Like he had been on one before. The seats were much bigger, he remembered he could lie down on it with a blanket over his entire self, maybe because he was younger when he sat in a plane before? Then again, he probably imagined it, as he had seen quite a lot of shows that presented the interior of a plane. Maybe that was it. The city was familiar to him as well, so was the airport. Once again, B City was the capital of the country, it would have definitely been filmed a lot before. He brushed that feeling off as over-excitement. He was travelling, after all. With his boyfriend. He hasn’t gotten use to calling Wenqing as such in public, so he was satisfied with calling him such in his head. He smiled to himself.

Speaking of the devil, Han Wenqing decisively poked him on one cheek. He huffed.

“What’re you thinking about? You seem happy about it?” Han Wenqing smiled, and he actually resisted from dying since he had gotten used to it. Ha, take that shy past-self! To be fair, he did have an amazing smile (regardless of what people say about his wallet-face!).

“What else could I be thinking about when you’re with me?! It’s you. So where are we going?”

“I’m flattered that you keep thinking about me even when I am by your side” His raised hand (that poked him earlier) turned around and caressed his cheek with the back of his palm.

Damn why is Senior Wenqing so smooth…

“We’re going to check-in our luggages at the hotel, then go out for lunch. The others will be there to meet us. You’re okay with it?

Han Wenqing smirked. Dude, if he thought staying in a hotel together was going to make him blush for the blatant hint of what hotels were secondarily used for, the older male had it coming. Han Wenqing had been staying over at his place so often, what had he not seen? (Besides his birthday suit of course. He would never be able to live that moment if that were to happen! He was not that used to his boyfriend!)

He didn’t blush, just nodded in agreement. The other’s smirk disappeared only for his own to rise.

-

The Alliance HQ itself looked so bland, but he wouldn’t mistaken the GLORY logo emblazoned on the front doors, the top of the entrance and on the top of the building. Greeting them in the lounge were GLORY’s advertising posters, and also LED-screens showing off all their game trailers. The current promotion now was the Cyberathlete Professional League, also known as the GLORY Alliance, open for registrations! Fame and fortune awaits those who dared to vie for GLORY!

He supposed this was Wenqing’s interests though, he sought stronger opponents to fight with (non-physically, that is, GLORY forbade him from real-life PK!), and the professional scene was the only way left to go. Too bad he couldn’t join. While it was exhilarating to fight with others, he wasn’t able to just leave his family uncared for and join the Alliance, travelling here and there just to PK! The competing teams even had their own accommodations for the team to stay together!

He wasn’t willing to let go of his childhood home even if he was of age to sell it. No way. He couldn’t bear it. So he had to let the pro scene go. At least he was promised that he could still play (and train) with the Autumn Duo and Tyranny (what a name, boyfriend!), so he would still have interesting fights, just not as often! Actually, why bother training him though? He had to remember to ask both his partners and his boyfriend later.

Speaking of which, he had forgotten that the Autumn Duo were also signing up for the Alliance. Aih. He hadn’t managed to tell them he was coming here in the excitement of getting ready to travel for the first time! He supposed he could message them later. They might be busy shuffling their new team around like his boyfriend too.

There was an attached cyber cafe to this building (next to the merchandise shop he caught a glimpse of), and all the computers had GLORY installed. Han Wenqing booked him a computer so he could spend his waiting time playing while he sign up with the Alliance. He was thankful for that. After logging in he went to DMs immediately. There were online, so lucky! Their group chatroom was brought up instantly.


 

[System Announcement: Your friend RedNightAutumn is online!]

 

RedNightAutumn: Yo, guess who is in B City

OneAutumnLeaf: !?!?!?!

AutumnTree: ?!!!

AutumnTree: Wth bro, u said u weren’t joining?!

RedNightAutumn: Yeah, still not joining. Here on vacay ^__^ Since the GLORY Alliance is here, I decided to drop by! The building is kinda bland hahaha but dem, all the GLORY merchs…

OneAutumnLeaf: R u there already?!

OneAutumnLeaf: Oso y u no tell us u r coming?! D:<

RedNightAutumn: My bad, 1st time travelling, I got 2 excited I 4got

AutumnTree: Awwww, y not 2molo, v r signing 2molo! TTATT

RedNightAutumn: Too bad .____. I happen to be here 2day, I got things to do 2molo. U guys not free today right? V can’t meet up for dinner?

AutumnTree: Our team is here tonight to finalise stuff 4 2molo, so sad v can’t meet TT^TT

OneAutumnLeaf: Sorry v can’t make it bro

RedNightAutumn: Nah it’s okay. I din tell u I’m coming anyways.

RedNightAutumn: Next time then ^___^/

AutumnTree: Wait, come have a run with our team. I must show them the Autumn Forest in full >:D

OneAutumnLeaf: -___-;;;

RedNightAutumn: XD *pats Brother Ye

RedNightAutumn: Oh, you guys are together somewhere? What’s your team’s name?

OneAutumnLeaf: Yeah, together with the team, but we’re nowhere near the Alliance today :(

AutumnTree: Excellent Era!

RedNightAutumn: … isn’t that the name of the CC you two work at? -___-;;;;

RedNightAutumn: Really a CC by the roadside kinda name…. :B

AutumnTree: Shut it! It’s an excellent name ok! D<

RedNightAutumn: U can’t pun that! That’s terrible! D:<

AutumnTree: I pun whatever I want! >:D

OneAutumnLeaf: EE have a red autumn leaf for our logo, in memory of u bro :)

AutumnTree: V put in 3 stars to remember us, the original 3 lol

RedNightAutumn: Damn, u can’t guilt trip me like that! You know I can’t join!!! >.< I so touched, TQ!

OneAutumnLeaf: <3 u bro :3 The red autumn leaf will always stay with us <3 <3 <3

AutumnTree: V totally <3 u :D

RedNightAutumn: <3 <3 <3 TT^TT


Wu Xuefeng was god-sent, Yeqiu affirmed. He was a pretty good player for a Qi Master (he felt it suited this man a lot), and his awareness for little mishaps was amazing. He was glad he was able to bail One Autumn Leaf (and his baby Red Night Autumn) out of tight spots when they weren’t aware of it. Pay attention Brother Ye, you were supposed to be the best! Brother Ye had found some pretty good players. Muqiu was truly a Gunner God, he was able to counter the other gunner classes (and play amazingly on them too during their farming). His launcher, Dancing Rain (modelled after his sister, what a sis-con. He wondered if he made one of Brother Ye) performed splendidly to support and assault in their dungeon run.

Excellent Era’s other team members, the Elementalist, and the Cleric wasn’t too bad as well. They need to work on their teamwork a bit more, but they were good to go! When he voice-chatted with them in a dungeon run, he was amused at how they thought it was their captain talking at first, before their 6th player, Xia Ming, their Sharpshooter, pointed out there were two of them, because she caught on how differently their captain and his talking were (you go girl!). Captain Ye talked more straight-forwardly blunt while Yeqiu was a bit reserved in his barbs. He still didn’t like to offend people after all, he was still a bit shy. It’s either that, or his social skills were lacking improving.

The amount of ‘EHHHHH?!!!’ he heard were tremendous. Even Brother? Wu was surprised with a slightly shorter “Eh?!” Sorry fellow brothers. The other two Autumn Forest peeps were laughing their heads off when their team were clarifying if their captain was playing a prank on them. They answered ‘NO’ at the same time, further doing the stereo-sound effect on them; there were more laughters afterwards. Vice-Captain Su (Oh, Muqiu’s the vice huh…) confirmed with them Yeqiu just happen to sound like their captain. Muqiu once again proudly declared that he was the last member of the Autumn Forest, pity he wasn’t able to join them in the pro scene. Yeqiu apologised profusely for that, stating he wanted to join too, but circumstances didn’t allow him to.

He couldn’t get over how Brother Ye’s teammates keep praising them both together. Both of their Battle Mages danced and attacked beautifully and dangerously, finishing off the bothersome horde of NPCs monsters and spearheaded (pun intended) the attacks on the bosses. The team covered flawlessly (pro-level players were really something), but it didn’t make them shut up about their co-operation, like a dragon phoenix pair wiping out whoever dared stood in their way. They covered each other’s flaws no matter how small, and amplify their prowess, one attack after another in a seamless volley, without verbally communicating.

Like a perfect couple, their girl member had said.

Or perfect partners, or duo, came the replies from the male members. They had never seen such splendid performance before and were mesmerised. Muqiu stated in the pro scene there will be displays like this in the future, as they won’t be the only two who had perfect co-ordination with one another.

Yeqiu noticed that Muqiu was a bit off, like a little jealous after hearing praises of him and Brother Ye together, seeing him targeting NPCs that were out of their way. He had the attack range being a Launcher but why bother with NPCs that didn’t trouble them? Did Muqiu not realise he too, had good co-operation with either one or both of them (like the Autumn Trio Forest they were), so what was his problem? Muqiu seriously need to open his eyes.

Wait… what was he even jealous of?! Yeqiu tested that idiot older male by being intentionally needy with Brother Ye, with some innocence (he wasn’t, of course), asking about the Battle Spirit requirements. He heard how Muqiu had been silent, and observed what his female avatar was doing when Brother Ye was explaining Battle Spirit to him (he knew it already of course). He took the berating from him stating how could he not know at this point?! Was he pulling his leg? (Yes, he was).

He didn’t expect Brother Ye to command One Autumn Leaf to knock at his Red Night Autumn on the head with a gesture, and actually used a visually more intimate one by bowing slightly in front of him and gently head-butt him, making it look like their avatars were rubbing their foreheads together. GLORY was played in the first-person point of view, and watching the reflection of his avatar doing it to him reminded him of his dreams’ mirrored twin.

He felt something warm blossoming in his chest, and was comforted by it even though he didn’t know why.

He didn’t call out Brother Ye for it either.

Avatars01_LR1

Muqiu’s Dancing Rain responded with a very big “!!!!!” in a speech bubble above Dancing Rain’s head, she made the crossed-arms gesture and turned her head like she was sulking (oh Muqiu was so sulking). Brother Ye turned a blind eye at the blatant envy (or was he fully aware of it?), so they both did nothing else after One Autumn Leaf stood back into the idle position. The others were just finishing off the monster horde the trio accumulated for them while Qi Breaker waited for their lead. Brother Wu coughed and commented how adorable both their avatars looked together (Brother Wu will never say ‘cute’ to another guy, no normal guy would unless they’re like a couple like him and Wenqing), which gathered the attention of the others.

They joked about how they resembled, acted and sounded like twins but Brother Ye seemed to take offence to that. Red Night Autumn’s design was also an unfortunate coincidence, like the many One Autumn Leaf wannabes sporting the same physical features, just to look like the infamous dark avatar. He defended that he already made his Red Night Autumn to have this look before even knowing about One Autumn Leaf, and they humoured him (he bet they didn’t believe him either like all the other people on the GLORY forums). He ignored all of those comments, he didn’t want to waste time explaining what he himself knew was the truth, but unfortunately became a part of the many fake copies, so he accepted that nobody will ever believe so. Aih.

He rather put his confidence that Brother Ye, Muqiu and Wenqing believed him, firmly telling himself that they did, even if it was to console himself.

Muqiu quickly backed it up saying they had been playing way longer together, way before the formation of the team, hence they can assimilate with each other so easily. Yeqiu himself quipped in in agreement. Yeah, he did play very often with these two (for work too, okay!) for so long until recently, when they wanted to join the pro scene. The team regretted he wasn’t able to join and lamented the misfortune of unable to see such a display in the Alliance. Yeqiu apologised again.

After they finished their dungeon runs, Yeqiu bade them farewell stating he has to go, as he has gotten a message on his phone that Wenqing was almost done, they could leave soon. He has his eyes on some merchandises after all, he didn’t want to miss out on buying some official GLORY items, being the game’s exclusive fanatics as they were. All of them gave his avatar a hug and a wave (Red Night Autumn got one from Dancing Rain too, Muqiu mood really swung a lot), he responded with a bow and a wave too. While he controlled his avatar to a safe zone (smacking the HPs out of his stalkers, especially one that couldn’t stop talking his ear off), he couldn’t help but thought about the Autumn Duo’s team…

Damn it, Excellent Era had 2 outlier experts and good support players, how was Wenqing going to fair against them? He slightly regret he wasn’t able to join him and fight against them. It would really be glorious to do so. Well, he had to support his boyfriend by training more with him, he suppose. (oh, was that why both teams were trying to keep training him?) He could make the time. Hopefully.

-

While Ye Xiu was annoyed at the twin comment earlier, he was currently over-the-top happy. Muqiu couldn’t fathom why, and he didn’t get his answer when he asked why was he so gleeful today. Ah Xiu shrugged and said maybe it was due to Wanqiu being so near (yet so far), and knowing that Wanqiu was in B City made him smiled. Was it that, or was it being a pro such a good thing to happen? He recalled Ah Xiu’s hesitation when he said he wanted them to go pro. They were signing tomorrow after all. Since he was in such a good mood, he actually declared he wanted to cook for them! Mucheng was confused why she suddenly didn’t have to do it, while Muqiu was terrified.

The smile adorning his face wasn’t the normal smug one (that he usually used when they went farming, exploiting the loopholes and weaknesses of others during their chaotic wild PKs). In fact, it was full of love, one that wasn’t directed to him, and he was freaking jealous! His slightly flushed cheeks (it was from the heat from cooking but he bull-headedly believed it was a blush) and that soft, gentle smile, plus the humming he was doing in the kitchen nearly brought him to his knees, if not for his stubbornness to remain upright (and he was holding onto the table, thank gods for their furnitures).

What was going on?! Did Ah Xiu have a crush on Wanqiu?! Ah Xiu was so happy spending time with him today, but the other times didn’t count? What is this?!

This can’t be happening!!!

Su Muqiu persevered. He won’t lose to Wanqiu!!!

Chapter Text

He had an uneasy feeling ever since morning and now he knew why. He had left his ID back at the vacation residence they rented, what an idiot he was! Today was the signing of their new team and he had forgotten such an important requirement! It was raining steadily, luckily he had brought an umbrella with him (why he remembered the umbrella and not his ID, aih). Since they were loitering around early enough, he decided to go back and take it. It wasn’t too far. He calculated that he could make it back on time!

He told Ye Xiu of his last-minute plan and the other was quite reluctant to let him leave. Yes! Ah Xiu was unwilling that he wasn’t going to be here, does that mean Ah Xiu misses him? He’d take it as a personal, positive score, hopefully it will raise high enough for him to confess to the younger guy. He can’t let him smile so lovingly because of someone else (that wasn’t him or Mucheng, no he wasn’t that possessive). Who was it that made him smile like that yesterday! Was it really Wanqiu?! Some other person? Han Wenqing?! He need to get to the bottom of this or maybe not. Just win him back!

Easy for him to say. Aih.

Standing at the cross junction, he pressed the button for the pedestrian crossings and waited. He looked around because it was a boring thing to do after all. There weren’t many people out at this rainy hour, but still wasn’t devoid of humans walking around. People travel when they need to, like he did. His light had turned green, he heard the beeps to indicate to the blind it was their turn to cross now.

Oh good! He walked casually slow half-way across the street, trying not to wet his shoes too much on the accumulated water puddles, when something caught his eye, causing him to run for it. He also had failed to notice a speeding vehicle from far down the road due to the sound of the rain hitting onto his umbrella, and his own hurried steps splashing on the water puddles he had so carefully tried to avoid earlier. As the automobile wasn’t braking, there was no screech to alert him of its presence, or any sign that the driver was stopping soon.

-

They had stopped at the entrance of a convenience store not too far from the corner of the street, deciding if they should get a hot drink in such a cold weather. He was playing with the umbrella tie, pulling it in front of him, the GLORY logo being rotated to point forwards. His companion just smiled at his antics, ruffling his hair, which he elbowed lightly in retaliation.

“Have you decided if you want to try the coffee from this chain?”

“But I don’t drink coffee? It makes my hand shake due to the caffeine…”

“You can try a latte, but not on an empty stomach. Maybe we should go for steamboat later”

“Hmmm, sounds warm! You know of a good place?”

He was moved slightly forwards by his boyfriend’s arm around his shoulders when he felt someone running by behind them. Some people were always in a hurry, they should really look where they were going, least they knock into people. Especially in a rain, nobody want to fall down and get wet in the process from the collision.

Both of them were startled when they heard a very loud bang right at their backs. It sounded too close for comfort and they quickly spun around to determine the source of that loud noise. Dear gods, it was an accident! A light pole that wasn’t too far from them has been knocked down onto the road, and the malformed vehicle wedged to the tree next to it wasn’t a good sight to see, nor was it a good sign for the driver! They quickly moved closer towards the accident site and called for the fire brigade and ambulance.

He held onto the umbrella for them while covering his mouth, feeling nauseated at the scene. It reminded him strongly of his own car accident, flashes of the head injury and the pain from it, his mother petting him gently on his head, her reluctance to own a car, and the agony from being bed-ridden for so long appearing inside his head, while his boyfriend did the calling and the talking. He really envied his iron stomach, and the ability to function normally in stressful situations like this.

He prayed so hard for the driver to survive, but the situation looked bleak since he was closed enough to see it for himself. He was unsure if he was lucky that he didn’t remember most of his own mishap, seeing how upsetting an automobile accident this close had made him feel. The thought of nearly dying echoed in his head, but his mother’s whispers of ‘It’s okay’ helped anchored him to reality.

He tightened the grip on his umbrella handle, and stood behind the taller male.

-

Ye Xiu was trying to call Muqiu from the public payphone within the building, but he wasn’t picking up. He probably can’t hear or feel his phone from the rain, he thought. He hung up and went back up to his team, the feeling of unease plague him that day. He also felt a bit sick, so he got himself an isotonic drink to calm his stomach. Looking out the window didn’t yield much, the outside was dark. He hoped Muqiu had reached home safely.

 

-

What in the world was that?! Ye Xiu was out in the streets as well?! Whatever for?! He actually had to run to chase after Ye Xiu, who was walking under a Glory printed black umbrella. There was someone else next to him, under the same umbrella! Was that Wanqiu, the other person?! The sight of Ye Xiu smiling so fondly (and was that giggling?!) at the other person got onto his nerves again.

They were not escaping him, that’s for sure! Wait for me!!!

He tried to argue with his logic, but to no avail. Ye Xiu should be in the Alliance building with the rest of the team! How could he be out here with another person no less?! He wouldn’t mistaken that face, the face he hold so dear to him and Mucheng. Even from a distance he could recognise Ye Xiu in a heartbeat!

There were still a lot of people hustling around the street he was on, and that pair vanished not long after. He concentrated so hard to look for that umbrella with a GLORY logo stamped on it. Was he going to lose Ye Xiu to someone he didn’t even know existed in their life before?!

Ye Xiu!!!

Suddenly there was a loud bang and he nearly jumped out of his skin. He watched stupidly as a light pole fell and then a crashed truck was wedged to a tree on the walkway not too far behind where he was. Gods, he was on that crossing not too long ago, now he realised. He was so glad he ran after the two, but the realisation that he could had been knocked over struck something deep within him, and his adrenaline spiked.

I could have been ran over! 

He kept repeating this over and over, and he saw flashes of his life flickering into his mind. If he hadn’t chase after someone he thought was Ye Xiu, he would had continued to walk slowly without noticing that speeding car!!!

He would have been hit. Judging from the crash, if he was sent flying, he might not make it.

He swallowed harshly, and automatically moved towards his temporary home, the doppelgänger forgotten. He calmed down a bit with the amount of time he took to reach it, and let himself in. Mucheng, whom they brought along because they didn’t want to leave her alone in H City, came up to him and greet him happily, and the thought he might not be able to see his sister’s smile again, or his sister growing up, hit him hard.

He reached out to her and hug her tightly, much to the younger girl’s confusion.

“Gege? Are you okay? Why are you crying?” She patted his head, the other arm reached around his neck to support herself.

“Your *gege is an idiot, he forgotten his ID so he came back. I’m sorry we’re both are not around for you today, and all the other days. I’m sorry Mucheng”

“It’s okay, you two work hard to keep our family together, I understand it, so it’s okay”

“Mucheng, I had luckily avoided a fatal road accident just now. It wasn’t okay. I’m glad I’m alive to come back and see you again. I love you Mucheng. I’m so, so glad I am able to say this to you, and I don’t want to regret not being able to”

He choked when telling his sister, and sobbed quietly into his sister’s embrace, the girl was shocked at the revelation as well. Tears poured from her eyes as well and she tightened her grip on her brother.

“Waaaaaa, gege!!!”

 

-

“Where had you been, it can’t take so long to go back and take your ID, you said it yourself!”

Ye Xiu shut his mouth when he saw a very pale Muqiu coming back into the building. The orange-haired smiled weakly and gripped his arm quite strongly, shaking it a bit. He wondered if it would leave a bruise.

“There was an accident where I was, so I got caught up. I’m okay”

The swollen eyes didn’t go unnoticed. He watched him taking out that forgotten ID and registered himself for the Alliance. Once done, they all had a small celebration for the formation of the team, Old Tao promised it would be his treat. He also noticed Muqiu would rather go home to his sister, so he excused Muqiu and himself stating about taking care of Mucheng, and that Muqiu wasn’t feeling too well. The others were reluctant they weren’t able to join them, but they were understanding, gave their approval and let them both go.

He let Muqiu guided him to a park near the place they rented for the week, both standing under the gazebo to avoid the still falling rain. Muqiu closed his umbrella and leaned it against one of the pillars there. He knew something serious was coming up, and braced himself for it.

He didn’t expect Muqiu to pull him into a hug.

“Ye Xiu, I like you a lot since you came into our life. Like is not even what I wanted to say, I love you! Through thick and thin you stayed with us, and never once complain about our living condition, there is no one else like you! I would be a fool to let you go when I have you always by my side! We’re family, but I hope we could be family for real! Ah Xiu, will you give this fool a chance and fall in love with me?”

He also didn’t expect a confession out of all the possibilities. To put it mildly, he was surprised, but he  knew Muqiu had harboured feelings for him. He just wasn’t quite sure to readily express his own, thinking the other might just like him like a brother. That cleared things up.

“Muqiu… I… I like you too. I’m glad that you had confessed to me, but what brought this up? I thought you were never going to say it out aloud” He gently patted the other on the back. He decided not to tease the guy, judging from how desperately pleading Muqiu had looked. Muqiu pulled him off of him just as fast, looking straight into his eyes. He flushed slightly at the intensity of the older male’s gaze. Never had either of them used this kind of eyes on each other.

“I love you Ah Xiu, and I am so sorry to know that the two of you loved me as dearly too. I can never forgive myself if anything happened to me! The thought of me leaving you two behind is too painful, I have to say everything that I had kept to myself, so I will never regret not ever saying them to you ever again!”

Saying he was not alarmed was fake. Why was Muqiu talking like he was going to…? He didn’t want to finish that sentence and quickly asked him before he jumped to conclusions.

“Muqiu, what happened out there?” He watched him breathing in and out heavily, the fingers clutching his upper arms were starting to get painful, but he knew Muqiu needed this so he endured it.

“Remember I told you I was caught up in a road accident? If it weren’t for you, I might had lingered and actually be the victim of that accident. I don’t think the driver survived. Judging by the speed, if I was hit, I might not make it. I’m glad I love you Ah Xiu, you saved my life, thank you…” came the choked reply.

He was confused, how did he save him? He gently asked him so and the reply shocked him to the core.

“I thought I saw you on the streets with someone else when I was carelessly walking along, so I actually ran from the road I was crossing to chase after that someone who I thought was you. The accident happened right then behind me. Like just a few feet away. It was so damn close, I cannot imagine what would had happened if I didn’t run after that other you…”

“I’m glad you avoided that, you’re one lucky guy… but the other …me? You don’t mean..?”

He didn’t meant to redirect the importance that Muqiu had luckily avoided a fatal crash, but mentioning his twin was not something either of them would joke about, and that has taken precedent over Muqiu’s survival since his thoughts were getting convoluted as well.

“I think your twin is still alive. There’s no way I could mistaken someone else with your face. You two always say how I could recognise either of you from afar”

All the colour on drained from Ye Xiu’s face, as he started to breathe erratically. Muqiu grabbed onto him before he could faint from the lack of air, telling him to breathe.

 

He breathed.

 

-

Han Wenqing believed the accident had affected Yeqiu more than he thought, there were still some spasms coming from him. He also noticed his boyfriend’s reluctance to do anything for the remainder of the day, thus he took them back to their hotel, since the younger male was also refusing all their dining options. It really was a traumatising scene for anyone to experience so up close, so he will tolerate their nerves being frayed by it. Unfortunately…

He noticed Yeqiu was still shaking after the authorities had taken the matter out of their hands, and it has been a good few hours already. He believed Yeqiu might had a story to tell when he was ready to let him in on it, judging by how often he was touching his left forehead. He wasn’t going to pry.

Being the good boyfriend he was, he soothed Yeqiu to sleep with warm milk and gentle rubs to the back. His boyfriend was the cuddling type, so he spooned him in bed to make him sleep faster, curling his little darling into his own body, an arm around the waist while the other kept rubbing his back. He can get dinner by himself later once Yeqiu was asleep. he would probably buy something light for Yeqiu to snack on if he wakes.

Luckily they would be going back to Q City tomorrow, maybe his home will comfort him better.

Chapter Text

He came back to his floor’s corridor to see a stranger loitering outside the door of his house. The man was murmuring and banging his door, his instincts were telling him something was wrong. He slowed down his steps, the man noticed him doing so. He stopped dead in his tracks and so did the other man.

“Who are you?”

He didn’t want to ask if he could help him. His guard was up and he had a feeling he might need to fight back. The other man was giving him all the bad vibes. He clenched his fists in anticipation, preparing to flee if need be.

“YOU! You’re the brat that lived here?! Who the fuck are you to inherit this house?! This property should had been mine!!!”

“What is it got to do with you?! If you miss the chance to buy it, it’s your problem!!!”

He stood his ground. He wouldn’t back down from an insult like that.

“What the hell kid, you’re a nobody! How could Yuenan will this house to you?! All of Yuenan’s assets should have been given to me, the husband, once she’s dead, and it was all given to you?!”

He was stunned at those words. This man was his mother’s husband?! From the way he talked, they were most likely separated. Mother never mention him ever, he must had been a total disappointment. This dead-beat father wasn’t present during his brother’s funeral, nor for his own recuperation, so his mother told him. He was glad he and his younger brother looked nothing like him!

“What, you can’t just come here and demand Mother’s assets! You didn’t even contribute a single cent to any of this!”

MOTHER?! HAHAHAHAHA!!! What the fuck Yuenan, what the fuck… You’re definitely not her son, Yuenan and I only had one boy, and he died 8 years ago there’s no way she would have an older son out of no where. I would know!”

Yeqiu didn’t know what to say. This stranger claiming to be their father said he wasn’t his mother’s son?! What blasphemy was this? This dead-beat father really would do anything to get his hands on things that weren’t rightfully his! He must be desperate for money, what a loser! He suddenly had a throbbing pain on the left side of his forehead and immediately put up a hand to press on it. The other man took it as a sign he should be dealt with and lunged at him.

Startled, Yeqiu threw out both his hands and caught the man’s upper sleeves, he turned his body while sticking out a foot to throw the larger man over his shoulder and slammed him hard onto the ground. Adrenaline had spiked in him as he breathed heavily, his whole body shaking. His body had remembered this move in reaction to the other man’s actions! His mother had ingrained into him self-defence, stating he must practice hard to fend for himself if he were ever to be alone, and when she won’t be around anymore to protect him.

RUN!

He listened to his instincts and bolted. He sprinted for the stairs and skipped most of the steps to reach the bottom of the building, not chancing the wait for the lift in case that man recovered and decided to chase after him. He quickly ran back to the place he came from earlier, his mind in a mess and only processed the way back to the restaurant where he had returned from. He need to get help from there, he didn’t want anything to happen to his house. Will that man break down his house door?! What will happen to mother and brother?!

He pushed onto the front doors and caught himself onto the front counter table, taking in big gulps of air now that he had stopped, the door slowly closing back automatically. The occupants in the restaurant weren’t looking too happy that he barged in suddenly, and he realised too late that it was the restaurant’s closed hours. He was lucky the doors weren’t locked. Upon closer look, these people didn’t look like gentlemen either. Damn, did he jumped out of the pan and straight into the fire?! He frantically searched for the restaurant owner.

“Uncle Yu? I’m sorry, I…need to find the owner Mr Yu?”

“Hey kid, you don’t look too good! Weren’t you going home?! Something must had happened” One of the not-gentleman harshly said loudly. Yeqiu felt all his adrenaline gone and now was too weak to even stand, clinging onto the counter for leverage. This other man made a gesture with his head for two of the other men around him to move.

Yeqiu froze. Were they going to get him for interrupting?!

“You two, go check out Yuenan’s house. Something must had happened to Little Qiu. Let’s take him upstairs”

Yeqiu wanted to protest being taken anywhere but him alone versus 7 of them wasn’t an option. He had a better chance fighting that dead-beat father than this bunch of people! While the earlier two just passed by him to go out, another two men came and caught him by his upper arms and he was hauled towards the stairs like a prisoner. He knew that was where Mr Yu’s office was, he came from there earlier!

What happened to Mr Yu?!

He was thrown to the sofa roughly and dragged again to sit on it properly, since he missed it and ended up seated on the floor next to it. The same two guys sat to his right and left, their shoulders touching and he tried to hunch himself so he wouldn’t touch them, but to no avail.

“Calm down kid, we’re not gonna do anything to you. You’re a precious member after all. We’ll check out your home and see if he’s still there”

How in GLORY did they know there was somebody there?! Was he being watched?! Member of what?! He observed a bit more and belatedly realised, they must be the thugs in the this area, hence the weird earlier closing hours than other restaurants. They were having a meeting here! Mr Yu might had been coerced to host their meetings! Speaking of which…

Mr Yu was seated at his office table, but now that the blinds are drawn, he felt he was in a mafia show where the boss was seated in a darkened room and plotting their illegal doings. This can’t be happening right? Mr Yu was such a nice guy! He looked up and saw the kind middle-aged man leaning back onto his chair and sighed out loudly. He guessed Mr Yu didn’t want to get him involved, but it was all for naught. He should had ran for the police now that he thought of it.

“Little Qiu, are you alright?” Mr Yu asked from the safety of the back of his desk. Or so he thought.

He nodded dumbly and shivered. The one to his left suddenly slap him lightly on his back, making him jump.

“Hey, relax kid, you’re safe here. We’re gonna get that guy”

“Please don’t hurt him, he’s still my mother’s husband, and my father!”

He didn’t know why he said that, when that man clearly wanted to hurt him. He felt very strange to admit that man as a father of all things. The throbbing pain on his head came back now that the situation had slightly changed.

“Kid, don’t tell us what to do. We adults will handle this. So it’s that guy huh…”

Yeqiu gulped and shut his eyes. He nodded and leaned forwards, curled into himself, bringing his knees together to make himself smaller, and pressed a hand to the same spot on his head earlier. He tried to regulate his breathing when a cup of water was placed in front of him, startling him again.

“Drink up kid. You seriously don’t know what’s going on huh? Yuenan really spoil you too much”

He didn’t say anything but slowly moved to take the offered glass and sip it slowly. He didn’t know if they put anything into it, but if he didn’t take it they might be offended, so he didn’t really have a choice. He just hoped for the best now that the situation was out of his hands.

“Little Qiu”

He looked up as someone familiar called him. It was Mr Yu, he had moved from the office table to the seat across from him. The other thugs had moved to give him space, and one of them held a cup of tea for the middle-age man on a tray. He believed Mr Yu was the ring-leader of these thugs, if not why were they so respectful of him? He couldn’t fathom he was being held by the local mafia like in a TV show. He gently placed back down his own cup of water; he didn’t want to drop it out of fear.

“You have been our bookkeeper ever since your mother’s passing. I appreciate that. It’s rare for a young boy like you to be able to do a task as complicated like this. I commend you mother for training you well. You had good grades after all, practically a star student. Don’t think bad about your mother though. She was our bookkeeper before, and she trained you to take over her job”

With that revelation, it’s no wonder why his mother had introduced accounting to him since he was 14. Though he was good with numbers, keeping track of inventory was a hassle. He kept whining at his mother why the numbers don’t add up, why was it like this and who wrote the damn thing, it was so messy and overwhelmingly tedious! His mother will gently coax him to clam down and analyse the records, write out the discrepancy out on another sheet, then check back with the owner(s).

He learnt and used that to keep inventory of his GLORY materials, it really came in handy but that wasn’t the point. His mother had set him up so he got a job and protection from the local gang? His mother really thought a lot about his well-being, he swallowed his tears and looked at Mr Yu again.

“You didn’t cause trouble and didn’t report to the police when you found out the discrepancies. That’s something we appreciate a lot here. I know you should have realised all these numbers don’t add up to what a regular restaurant will earn, Little Qiu”

Of course he knew, but he was too darn timid to do anything about it. It wasn’t his problem and he didn’t have first hand knowledge of the numbers after all. There’s no way a small restaurant on an unknown street can earn more than what a 5-star establishment could without any sort of coverage and exposure about it. He knew Mr Yu wrote them off as ‘stock’ and ‘raw ingredients - list of vegetables, meats, spices and so on’, when in actuality they were cover names for something else, maybe like under-table money, illegal stock and so forth. The payment to audit them has been substantially good, so he wasn’t going to bite the hand that fed him (and his mother before).

He wasn’t stupid either not to guess what he was dealing with, but he had put on his ‘IGNORE’ filter and refused to acknowledge it. His family had been surviving so far, so all was good. He had wondered how long was it going to last though. Would it be today? He was a fool to assume Mr Yu was a nice guy just because he had always been the nice uncle running his restaurant in a normal street. He realised he just automatically went to someone familiar for help, dangerous or not.

The throbbing on the left side of his head continued.

“Little Qiu, I would like to ask you to continue to do what I’ve been always giving you to do, and turn a blind eye on reporting this matters to the authorities, just like usual. Will you do that? I assure you, no harm will come to you and your home as long as you do your job. Your reporting of the misappropriated items has done wonders to our operations, and those thieving bastards has been dealt with”

He felt very bad for those who dared to steal from the not-so-nice Mr Yu. Mr Yu was a generous guy wasn’t he? He had been given a few packs of take-aways for free before, but then again, maybe he was looking out for him. He was their latest bookkeeper after all. Most people don’t like to do accounts, but someone in the end had to do it no matter what kind of organisation it was, and that had been his mother, and now him. He figured he’d probably feel better not to think of the other unfortunate ones.

Out of sight out of mind.

“Rest assured your identity for discovering all these irregularity in the bookkeeping will be a secret, so no one can threaten you to report falsely to me. If it happens, let me know, I’ll deal with it”

The implied warning to him not to do it as well was very real, and he nodded dumbly again.

“Hey kid, the boss is talking to you, give some vocal response will ya?!”

The one to his left gave him a hard nudge, but he was so stiff and he had braced his elbows on his knees earlier, he barely moved.

“Hey, non of us got the brains to do his job, take care of the goods ya know?!”

He was glad they didn’t hit him on the head, just a nudge to his shoulder. He could do without any outside physical stimulation for now, the headache was persisting very hard, and he was fighting to remain conscious since he didn’t know what will happen to him next should he faint.

“Heh, he does have a pretty face, he’s got a good body too, wonder how much he will sell for a night? I bet he’s a virgin too, he’ll definitely sell for lots!”

He paled at that comment and squirmed in his seat, bending himself forwards even further into a ball. He didn’t want to end up as someone’s bed warmer for money no matter how desperate he was. He thanked his mother for leaving him financially stable enough to survive for a long time.

“Cut it out, can’t you see he’s sacred shitless already, pity the boy yo”

Nothing out of the lackeys mouth can reassure him of his safety since they can say absolutely anything. He stared at the floor and concentrate to stay awake, the urge to throw up was strong, the headache wasn’t helping. He actually shouted an Ah! when Mr Yu placed both his hands onto his shoulders.

“Quiet all of you. Little Qiu, ignore what these idiots said about you. You’re Yuenan’s son, and she was a fellow sister. That makes you our nephew, and we take care one of our own. Officially, though we like to welcome you into the family, we promised Yuenan not to, as long as you do the books for us. Unofficially, you’re our pseudo-accountant. There is nothing to be afraid of, as long as you do your job intelligently. Understand?”

“Yes… Uncle Yu”

The middle-age man smiled at that reply. The older man pat his left shoulder for a few times, ruffling his hair before standing back up, straightening him to sit up properly at the same time.

“Now, my boy. Since you’re the youngest member in this area, we as your uncles have to take care of you, right? Now, all of you, this is our baby nephew, take good care of him, understand?!”

“Yes boss!”

Yeqiu was horrified when they replied so in unison. He definitely didn’t want to interact with them on a daily basis, but it seems they will do so from now on. Especially the creep that mentioned about selling him, he would want that guy to be far away from him. What will happen to him now?!

Chapter Text

The door opened suddenly and startled him out of his thoughts again. The earlier two men came back with his mother’s estranged! The man look unharmed, but he was slouching. Yeqiu winced at his pain. They must had beaten him where the bruises were not visible, covered by his clothes. He was tossed to the floor, right by Mr Yu’s feet, and next to him as well. Yeqiu opened his mouth but nothing came out. He didn’t want to call this man his father after all.

“Explain yourself” Mr Yu harshly told that man, looking down at him.

Yeqiu patiently anticipated for his so-called father’s reply.

 

-

 

When he told that man to leave him alone, his gang members (wow, he was part of a gang, there’s no way he can back out now) reassured him that his father was never going to come back. They made sure of that. He didn’t want to know what it meant, he just hope they let that poor sod off somewhere after a beating, instead of the worse case scenario he can think of. Always assume for the worst, then all the other better results will feel not too bad.

He was escorted home, along with a packet of take-away for the evening (what in GLORY’s name, they really do have chefs hidden at the back to cook for them for their restaurant front, it was a functioning one!). He was thankful they were men of their words regardless how careless they talk about people’s situations (like selling him. He still shivered at the implications). That was how they were. He closed the door behind him and secured it good, bolting the locks and chains on the sturdy door. No wonder mother made sure the front door was fortified. It was to deter break-ins, and also the crazy ex, he supposed.

The first night, he was so numb about the whole thing, he robotically ate the take-away and left it on the table. He dragged himself to his bed, and cried himself to sleep, cleanliness forgotten when he was such a stickler for it. He woke up very late the next day, luckily he didn’t need to physically go to work, game bosses be damned. He washed his face briefly and pulled himself into the living room, sitting on the sofa and stared at the altar.

The numerous messages from the Autumn Duo and Wenqing went ignored.

Yesterday, his entire world crumbled beneath his feet. Well, maybe half of it, since he was in the state of disbelief. It wasn’t a life or death situation, just that his whole life might be a lie.

Who was he?

He firmly believed he was his mother’s son, he had proof! His mother loved him, was always there for him, made sure he has gotten education, a roof over his head, food to eat, and a home to come back to!

How was he not his mother’s son?!

How dare this man, who was supposed to be his and his brother’s father said he wasn’t their son?! Even if he wasn’t, how dare he tell him that he wasn’t his mother’s son?! That was absurd!

He had argued that man wasn’t his father because maybe he was a son with another man (of course that man was livid that Yeqiu dared to imply such things, but Mr Yu made sure he cannot respond physically). He wouldn’t put it pass his mother to seek solace in another, better choice than this poor excuse of a man. Since both his mother and brother died, they can’t do a DNA test to determine his legitimate claim as Yuenan’s son. The man said his mother didn’t have other relatives either, so it was down to a verbal fight. He had his birth cert, his ID and the family registry! They were all legal documents! How was he not his mother’s son again?!

The not-father poured cold water on that argument stating those documents can be forged. He stated his younger brother was their only son. He theorised (he actually can think?) that his mother had snatched him from somewhere and raised him as her own, right about the time after his younger brother died. He wanted to counter that man, and tried so hard but he couldn’t remember interacting with his younger brother.

Not at all.

But he had glimpses of playing and sharing toys with someone around his size when he was little, wasn’t that his brother? Wasn’t that enough?

That man said his mother couldn’t had him after the younger brother (well duh), he would know since he was with her all the time until their son died. His family registry didn’t had Yeqiu recorded (of course Yeqiu argued because he was under his mother’s family registry, not his. He was carrying his mother’s surname Hong!)

That man told him his mother changed drastically, refusing to leave their son’s side during his last moments, was beyond hysterical at his imminent death, that she actually attacked him, the husband, as she refused to accept the impending reality. He wasn’t able to calm her down nor reason with her, so they parted ways after their son’s funeral, the light in his mother’s eyes was gone, and so was her mind. He admitted his mother was a very devoted mother, loving another boy unconditionally was plausible, his mother probably had substituted him for his younger brother.

The man also said his son (his younger brother) was 10 when he died, not 8 as he was previously made to believe. They can’t be twins, they look nothing alike. Fraternal maybe, if he was conceived with another man at the same time? What were the chances? Had his mother really lied to him?

Had he really been a replacement son? The more he thought about it, the more likely it seemed.

His mother didn’t allow him to join any out of school activities, stating they can’t afford it. His mother didn’t encourage him to join inter-school not inter-state sports tournaments that would require him to travel around, also claiming they don’t have enough. He also believed his mother didn’t want him to get injured in another possible automobile accident, hence the discouragement. His mother didn’t chastise him for staying at home, and didn’t inspire him to go out and play more, like how little boys would. When she bought him consoles and a PC to play games indoors, she didn’t say they can’t pay for it. He really thought his mother awarded him for achieving good grades.

It was like she wanted to keep him indoors. So nobody would know of his existence? But he was allowed to roam the neighbourhood freely though? What gives?

He knew they weren’t really poor, the more he recalled. His mother worked hard and smart, and earn quite a lot, as a manager in a big corporate office somewhere. That was what his mother told him. His mother also worked for the local gang, so he no longer knew what was she actually doing for a living. How did she earn her money? Now that she was gone, he will never know (and he didn’t want to keep guessing).

Not too long after he was working with the Autumn Forest, he was supplied with his inheritance letters by the lawyers his mother contracted, he was shocked beyond belief of what he gotten.

He was given the fully financed house he was living in, so he has a permanent place to stay, this was rational for his mother to do, he thought. He was also given a bank account credited with 15 million yuan. Fifteen million!?! That’s 15 with 6 zeroes behind! He hadn’t even held 5 thousand yuan his hands at a time before, let alone a million! He was allowed to withdraw a limited sum of 500,000 throughout 1 year after he was 18, up until he was 21. Only then he will be given full access to do whatever he wanted with all that money.

That loser of a father wanted a share of the house, which wasn’t escapable from his prying eyes since it was under his mother’s name, before being willed entirely to him when he turned 18. He can’t own property for being a minor after all. Upon her death the not-father was surely informed of her will. Maybe that was the way his mother told him to piss off, he can’t have any.

The bank account, however, was entirely in his name.

He really didn’t want to imagine what kind of work did his mother do to get so much. Why was he working again? Of course, that money won’t last forever, so he still had to work for it. But with that amount, with careful planning and spending, he might be able to last for a really, really long time.

There were no photos of the family from before, and of recent. His mother didn’t really like social media, and rarely took a photo together with him. She forbade him from having one either, so he didn’t have one, but he knew how to use one. Sorta. Give him some time to mess around and he will get it. They had a few pictures just for the house’ picture frames, but not really an album of them together. Albums of just him, in the other hand, were a lot. She even included the digital copies in a cd in it, and an online storage for him.

Did his mother not want him to have mementos of her? Was she leaving it for his real mother?

All these small instances were okay on their own, but once they add up it become suspicious.

He couldn’t believe he was doubting his mother.

She didn’t hide a letter in the house to explain, not even getting one from the lawyers that might reveal how she got so much money and what she wished for his future, that kind of letter parents usually leave their children with, explaining their hopes, love and wishes for their beloved offsprings before they move on. Did she really want to take this secret with her to the grave? Was there even a secret at all to begin with? He was her son right? That man’s words really screwed his mind. How was he certain that the man was telling the truth? There weren’t any proof after all. Why had he doubted his mother? It was silly! He calmed himself down once he bolstered himself it was all just a farce by that… stranger.

He got up and reached for the altar, his hand caressing his mother’s urn.

“Mother… I won’t doubt that you’re my mother ever again. You might have done questionable things to keep me away from travelling, but with my car accident, I can understand you don’t wish for me to get injured ever again in another one. I understand that fear. You already have plans for me, you worked so hard and prepared everything for me, so meticulously so that I can live by myself. You left me the house and a fortune, something I could never earn by my young self. You did everything just for my sake. How am I not your son?! What that man say wasn’t true! You’re my mother and will always be. You’ll keep watching over me like how you’ve arranged Uncle Yu to do it in your stead right? Mother… I love you. I’m sorry I had ever doubted you.”

He looked at the smaller urn next to his mother’s. He really can’t recall his brother at all, but it was the truth that he was in coma and woke up in this house, recovering from a head injury from a car accident. He also noticed his mother never had a car. She probably feared driving one after his mishap. He had his own room, his own bed and his own clothes, and some small children items scattered all over his room when he come to his senses.

He must be part of this family.

“Brother, I’m sorry I can’t remember you at all. I blame my faulty head from the injury. I remember we had the same toys before, we played with our own ones, so we won’t fight for it. We’re definitely brothers. Please look after mother, and me too when you remember me. I won’t fault you. I’d forgotten you after all”

He took a cloth from the altar cupboard and wiped their urns, and cleaned away the dust around them.

“It was stupid of me to get worked out by that horrible man we might have called father. Luckily we looked nothing like him. Kinda glad we look like mother huh? I’m also glad mother loved us both so dearly too”

After he bathed for the evening, he immersed himself into GLORY, methodically farming for the bosses and materials he needed in his list, not caring if he pulled all-nighters for it. He ignored all the message notifications on his QQ and his GLORY DMs.

They won’t die if he didn’t respond right?

 

-

 

He was so focused he didn’t realised someone came into the house with the spare key a few days later. He had forgotten to re-bolt the doors when the food delivery came for that night. He was stunned when he felt a nudge on the side of his shoulder.

“Yeqiu, are you okay? Playing GLORY so intensely is one thing, but don’t forget to pay attention to your surroundings. You didn’t reply any of my messages, so I came here straight from the airport. I’ve been calling you for a while after I came in too”

The taller male walked away and started to collect the numerous discarded take-out boxes into the plastic bag they came with.

“Wenqing! When did you come back?!”

He jumped out of his seat and went over to give his boyfriend a great, big hug. He planted his face into his chest and breathed in deeply. He didn’t realised he was shaking.

 

-

 

Han Wenqing was a little shocked to see Yeqiu’s house in such disarray. There were lots of finished food cartons, wrappers from chocolates, plastic bottles from drinks and smaller plastics from biscuits, but they weren’t thrown into the trash bin or gathered in a bag. A quilt was draped on the sofa and a few pillows peeked from under it. Did Yeqiu sleep out here these few days?

As far as he knew, there weren’t any GLORY events that require a few days attention to farm the materials going on during the week of his first away-game. Yeqiu was quite a stickler for cleanliness, it really was a literal eye opener to see him in such a *dog-den of a home. Did something happen? All the while when he came over, Yeqiu had never left the house like this.

Speaking of which, the house wasn’t the only thing uncleaned.

Yeqiu looked like a mess, his clothes were crumpled like he never changed them for some time, and his hair was a bit oily. When the smaller male reached him for a hug, he didn’t push him away in disgust (he would never), he knew something had happened. He felt Yeqiu trembling through his arms. Then came a small whine and a sob. He wrapped his arms around his boyfriend and pressed inwards tightly, earning another sob. The front of his shirt was getting wet.

No doubt, something did happen, and it was a really bad one to boot. But he wasn’t going to ask now, knowing Yeqiu had been so focused on GLORY, his return and talking to him had broken that state of mind he was in, and jolted him back to reality to deal with whatever he was avoiding. He rubbed his back soothingly and cradled the back of his head, swaying slightly side to side.

“It’s okay Yeqiu, it’s okay”

He felt the thinner arms around him tightened before loosening, the body shivering has lessened. He continued soothing him, it was working to calm him down. Seems like Yeqiu was really quite an emotional one, and that wasn’t going to deter Han Wenqing from courting him.

 

-

 

That night, Su Muqiu tried so hard to placate Ye Xiu who was crying in his sleep yet again, murmuring his twin’s name and apologising over and over. He wasn’t able to wake him up, so he could only rubbed his boyfriend’s back while holding onto his waist, and whisper to his back that everything was going to be okay. Muqiu thought Ye Xiu had gotten slightly better over his nightmares because he shared it with him, but apparently, it still haunted him in his dreams.

He felt so useless at his boyfriend’s misery, and kept thinking how he could lighten that burden, if it was even possible. He didn’t really help, just added to his agony. He shouldn’t had told him he saw the person who he thought was the lost twin.

He wasn’t able to confirm it in person after all.

Aih.