"Excuse me, Sir!!"
Ye Xiu turned around at the call. His eyebrows furrowed at the sight of a hipster-looking woman holding out some sort of card towards him. "Is there something I can help you with…?"
Su Mucheng darted her gaze down on to the business card, taking note of the familiar name. It was a small-scale fashion label that Yunxiu introduced to her a couple of months back. If her hunch was right…
"Are you asking him to be a model?" She piped up. A gentle smile graced her lips, hiding the mischieviousness brewing inside of her.
She sensed Ye Xiu's apprehension and wariness from beside her. He knew exactly what the smile meant. And it often wasn't a good sign.
"Yes, I am." The woman nodded vigorously. "Your brother here is perfect."
A warmth spread across Mucheng's chest at having this woman not-so mistakenly refer to Ye Xiu as her brother. She turned to look up at him. "What do you say, gege?"
Ye Xiu felt sweat dripping down his neck at the positively unrelenting look Mucheng gives him. "I-I don't really think—"
Su Mucheng's eyes glinted. /Think carefully before responding./
He ended up accepting the business card.
Su Mucheng tapped her foot repeatedly on the ground in impatience and growing anticipation. Trurh be told, she hadn't actually thought that Ye Xiu would listen to her and let her drag him into this small non-descript studio.
She was pleasantly surprised.
(If one were to ask Ye Xiu, he would say that it's much less difficult to let a determined Su Mucheng stronghold you into doing something rather than trying to escape her clutches.)
So here they were at a home-y fashion studio, getting ready for Ye Xiu's photoshoot. She sat at one of their benches, scrolling through Weibo as she waited for Ye Xiu to finish getting his make-up done and outfit on.
She looks up at the sound of footsteps coming from outside the room. It's followed by Ye Xiu's muffled voice, tinged with uncharacteristic embarassment. "Mucheng?"
"I'm going to come in. Don't laugh."
The door opened.
It took a while to convince Tao Xuan to let them have the day off, but it was definitely worth it.
Su Mucheng was entirely sure that were she anybody different, she might have not recognize Ye Xiu for who he was.
"You've outdone yourself." She praised the owner, who was apparently doubling as the photographer and the make-up artist. "I almost didn't recognize him."
"Why, thank you." The owner laughed. "It wasn't that difficult. Smooth pale skin, a nice jawline, golden eyes—any make-up artist would salivate at the sight of him."
The two women shared amused laughs.
Ye Xiu, on the other hand, was far from amused. Admittedly, from an objective point of view, he could say that he did actually end up looking better than he expected. Once he saw his reflection, he had to blink twice at the unfamiliar face that stared back at him.
Nonetheless, it didn't change the fact that the high heels he was forced to wear made his legs quiver.
"Can we just get this over it?" He asks, feeling the heavy weight of the false eyelashes threatening to close his eyes. "I'm already tired."
Su Mucheng smiles at him teasingly. "Aw, but we haven't even started yet." She appraises him up and down. She nods her head in confirmation. "Yup, I knew you'd look really pretty dressed up as a girl."
He was dressed in a simple, army green shirtdress that reached half of his thighs. Plain golden bangles encircled his wrist while a small chained necklace adorned his neck.
Ye Xiu tugged at his long, black wig. "C'mon, let's just start." He adjusted the positioning of the wig's sidebangs and the strands that framed his face. "What am I supposed to do?"
The owner began alternately directing him and praising him for being an absolute natural at this. She would keep asking him, "Are you sure you've never modelled before?", to which Ye Xiu would reply a resolute "No."
After a rather cutesy pose that left him a bit unbalanced (why do women subject themselves to the pain of wearing heels?), Ye Xiu felt a shiver run up his spine at the absolutely gleeful look that danced acrossed Su Mucheng's face.
Why did he agree to this again?
("Mucheng, I still don't think this is a good idea."
"No one will recognize you! It's not a big deal."
"They're even paying you very well by the hour!! Please, gege..."
Let it be known that Ye Xiu was prone to relenting under the puppy-eyed stare of Su Mucheng.)
The photoshoot finished without a hitch. The photographer spouted a thousand thank you's and promised to send them each of them a copy of the magazine spread. Ye Xiu got paid and the two of them went off on their way.
After a a few days of teasing and with the increasing tension between Ye Xiu and the members of Excellent Era, the photoshoot is forgotten.
Until it suddenly gains traction due to the wife of the head of the Ye Corporation.
"It's quite possibly my favorite set of photos." The Ye matriarch said fondly in an interview. "The model simply exemplifies the best in the clothing."
Ye Xiu feels the prickle of dread and regret swirl in his stomach. He stared at his QQ, thankful that no one in the pro-player circle has magically connected him to the mysterious model with surging fame.
He refused to open Ye Qiu's chat. The ominous "Brother…" that the chat began with was enough to make him swipe the mouse across his desk to close the chat box and never open it again.
Ye Xiu promised to never let Su Mucheng accept any modelling gigs for him. Ever.
He prayed that everything died down soon.
It did not. If anything, the media frenzy grew even greater. Posts cycled speculating about when the mysterious model will have her (he choked) next photoshoot, why no one has found out her actual identity yet, and the like.
Fans even began tagging Zhou Zekai, much to the amusement of Su Mucheng. They would make the perfect pair, many exclaimed. Absently, he wondered what Little Zhou thought of that since he was more prone to taking up solo ads.
The photoshoot began making rounds around the pro-players. Ye Xiu is filled with a sense of trepidation every time he opened his QQ messages. Although, no one had yet confronted him about the pictures.
Thankfully, the only times the pro-players talked about anything in regards to the model was to tease Zhou Zekai about the sudden "love team" his fans had come up with. Little mercies, Ye Xiu supposed.
He wonders if perhaps there was too big a disparity between his normal self and cross-dressing self that no one could tell the difference. It left him feeling relieved.
He didn't want this one-time modelling gig to come between his opponents and playing Glory. Ye Xiu was very much adverse to giving the other pro-players ammunition for trash talk.
In between the surging popularity of the so-called mysterious model, Ye Xiu got confronted by Tao Xuan.
It ended with Ye Xiu letting go of One Autumn Leaf to the rookie Sun Xiang, leaving Excellent Era for good…and jobless.
Fortunately, he happened to stumble upon Happy Internet Cafe and, after defeating Chen Guo, got a job as a network manager.
Everything afterwards should have been pretty simple…
Until he got contacted again by the owner of the fashion firm begging him for another photoshoot. And this time, he ended up accepting due to the bull-headed insistence (and threats) of his lady boss, who was apparently a big fan of said fashion firm.
Ye Xiu silently wondered what he did to deserve being around such strong-willed women.
It was all Yu Wenzhou's fault, Huang Shoatian thought, glaring at the newly set-up billboard poster of China's mysterious model.
Shaotian was simply minding his own business and chatting off his captain's ear about the upcoming All Stars. If Yu Wenzhou hadn't stopped abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk, they would've been continuing their way back to Blue Rain's headquarters.
No, instead, the abrupt stop caused Shaotian to stumble and stare at the billboard with increasing familiarity.
That smirk…Those elegant hands…
"Ye Qiu…?" Yu Wenzhou whispers, stunned.
Shaotian absently licked his lips.