Xu Boyuan sighed and dragged a hand down his face, feeling exhausted by life. He knew he should return to the Blue Brook Guild and help them steal bosses and promote the benefits of being the guild of a pro team to any potential recruits hiding within their ranks, but his heart wasn’t in it any more. And it was all Ye Qiu’s fault. Convincing him to manage Guild Happy while spying for Blue Brook, praising him for his efforts, making him work twice as hard to keep up with both his spy account and his main account while Guild Happy flourished and Blue Brook struggled...yes, it was all that bastard God Ye’s fault.
And now he sat staring at Glory’s log in page, trying to figure out what to do next. As if summoned by his thoughts, Boyuan’s phone chimed, displaying a QQ message from Ye Qiu.
Ye Qiu: Are you sick? You haven’t been online much
Blue River: I’ve been busy. Managing two guilds is hard, you bastard
Ye Qiu: Then why not quit Blue Brook and join Happy?
Ye Qiu: You’re doing great, and we need people with your skills
Boyuan huffed. This offer again. At this point, he didn’t even bother rejecting it.
Blue River: How many times have I turned you down?
Ye Qiu: Six!
A row of grinning emoticons followed, and he groaned. Staring at the chat log, he sighed, debating going to bed and coming back to this mess in the morning.
Ye Qiu: You sure you’re not sick?
Blue River: Sick of you, maybe
Blue River: I’m…
Boyuan frowned, half-wondering if he should delete the message. He was technically an enemy spy, and he knew Ye Qiu would jump at any weakness. But he was so frustrated, and he couldn’t just dump everything on Changing Spring. He would just tell Boyuan to quit Happy and come back to Blue Brook.
Ye Qiu: You’re…?
Surprised that Ye Qiu wasn’t taunting him but suspicious of being trolled anyway, he sighed and typed out,
Blue River: I’m just tired. Of everything. Maybe it’s an early spring cold or something
Ye Qiu: If you’re tired, you should rest. Burning yourself out wouldn’t do anyone any good, least of all you
Stunned by how much God Ye seemed to care, Boyuan almost missed the ‘Good night, Blue River’ that popped up a few seconds later.
- - -
He took Ye Qiu’s advice and took a few days off, feeling vaguely guilty yet content at the same time. It was freeing, being able to sleep in and not follow a schedule. He took the opportunity to get some fresh air, taking long walks by the Pearl River or sitting and just watching the water flow. Boyuan loved Blue Rain and Blue Brook Guild, he truly did. He had been with them since he started playing Glory, and he had worked hard to gain the position he held. But managing the guild had become stale, filled with politics and false words between himself and the other top guilds. Like a pool of water, he had become still and stagnant. Boyuan now realized that he needed to move, to flow like the Pearl River before him.
He would always love Blue Rain, but it was time for a change. He pulled out his phone and sent a message to Ye Qiu.
- - -
Two weeks later, Boyuan stood outside of an internet cafe named Happy. Well, he thought, that explains the guild's name. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and stepped inside. It was early afternoon, so the cafe was quiet, with only a few people huddled in the smoking section. He stepped up to the desk nervously, unsure of what he would find. Ye Qiu said he was going to meet him…
The soft clatter of keys stopped, and the man behind the desk tugged off his headphones and stood. Hardcore gamer, Boyuan identified, looking at the man’s pale skin and tired expression. “Blue River?” the man asked, and Boyuan blinked, abruptly realizing he was standing in front of Ye Qiu himself.
“That’s me,” he said as casually as he could. “Xu Boyuan,” he added, deciding now was a good time as any to give his real name.
Ye Qiu waved a staff member over to man the desk, then ushered Boyuan out the door. “How was your flight?” he asked as they stepped outside.
“Fine. Most of the other passengers were businessmen.”
Ye Qiu nodded. “The current team members live together in a house nearby. I know you’ll be part of the guild, but you’re welcome to stay with us if you want. There’s plenty of room right now.”
Team members?” Boyuan echoed, stomach clenching at the words.
“Yeah, team members. I’m going to lead a team into the pro scene,” Ye Qiu said simply, as if they were discussing the weather and not a ridiculous statement.
Boyuan stopped and stared at Ye Qiu. “You’re…” he started, then stopped unable to properly put how absolutely, utterly, logic-defying, insane of a concept that was. Then he remembered all the times Lord Grim had triumphed over the various guilds of Glory and slumped. “Of course you are,” he muttered to the sidewalk.
Ye Qiu just took out a cigarette and lit it, puffing it a few times before motioning Boyuan onwards. “Which guild members are on the team?” Boyuan asked, falling into step beside him.
“Soft Mist and Steamed Bun Invasion,” Ye Qiu replied. “Everyone else is from the Heavenly Domain.”
Boyuan nodded, knowing that Team Happy was going to be a powerhouse once Soft Mist and Steamed Bun refined their skills. “Who else?” he asked, curious to hear more.
“The owner of the internet cafe, who plays a Launcher. Although she has skill, she’s a temporary member until we get a better Launcher. You probably shouldn’t tell her that to her face, though,” Ye Qiu said with a smile. “A Cleric and a Summoner, and a Ghostblade will be joining us after the season ends. Oh, and Wei Chen, of course.”
“Wei Chen?!” Boyuan sputtered, coming to a halt. “What do you mean, you have Old Wei?”
“Ah, stuff happened in the Heavenly Domain, and he agreed to join the team on the basis that I’ll take him to the Championships.”
Boyuan just groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose. This was why he occasionally loathed God Ye - he was so damn unpredictable. Yet, a shiver of excitement went through him. However small his role, he could be a part of something great, something that would make history.
“I hate you,” he grumbled.
Ye Qiu laughed. “Do you really?”
- - -
Boyuan sprawled on his bed, feeling drained. He had barely been in the house a day, and he already found Steamed Bun a thousand times more annoying in person. Thank God he didn’t have to share a room with him. He heard a chuckle from the doorway, and turned he head to see Ye Qiu leaning against it. “Settling in alright?” he asked innocently, and Boyuan resisted the urge to throw a pillow at him.
“You could have warned me,” he grumbled, glaring at Ye Qiu as the man moved to sit on the end of his bed, completely at home. Instead of kicking him, Boyuan asked, “What exactly do you want me to do for Happy’s guild?”
“You could either rejoin the 10th server’s guild, join the Heavenly Domain guild, or set up a new guild in one of the other servers,” Ye Qiu replied, clearly having given it some thought beforehand.
“No Heavenly Domain,” Boyuan declared. Too many people knew the sound of his voice, and it was too competitive. While he enjoyed some competition, he had left Blue Brook for a reason.
“Oh? Scared of running into your former guildmates?” Ye Qiu teased, and he glared at him.
“It’s too much work, especially since you cause trouble wherever you go. I refuse to clean up your messes.”
Ye Qiu smiled, but merely nodded and didn’t press any further. “10th server then?”
Boyuan folded his hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling. “No. I want to start fresh. Besides, people might connect me with Peerless Looks if I return.” He considered the state of the other servers, then added, “I’ll start a Guild Happy in the 7th server.”
“Sounds good,” Ye Qiu said. “Want me to get you a fully-levelled account?”
Boyuan blinked, surprised at the offer. That kind of thing cost money, and he doubted the team had that much to spare, especially for a guild account. Sitting up, he shook his head. “No, I can level one up. I can settle in while I level.”
“Alright.” Getting up, Ye Qiu gave him a lazy wave. “Relax for the night, we can get started in the morning. Let me or Boss know if you need anything.”
Boyuan stared at Ye Qiu’s back as he left the room, wondering why his heart was beating so fast. He had leveled new accounts before, more recently Blue River. Why was this any different?
- - -
“Morning, Little Blue,” Wei Chen said as Boyuan walked into the training room the next morning, a 7th server account card in hand.
“Hey, Little Blue!” Steamed Bun called from across the room, giving him a wave without looking away from his screen. Boyuan sighed, resigned to the nickname - he didn’t mind Old Wei calling him that, since he had been new to Blue Brook when the captain had left, but it was irritating to be called that by someone younger than him.
“Morning, everyone.” He sat down at the computer beside Chen Guo, returning her smile as he booted it up and inserted the card into the reader. Lowering his voice, he asked, “What is our glorious captain up to today?”
Chen Guo smirked and replied, “He’s chasing a prospective member around the Heavenly Domain, killing him repeatedly. Apparently, if he does it enough, the guy will join.”
Boyuan was suddenly glad Ye Qiu had only pestered him over voice chat and QQ. “What’s the account name?” he asked, curious. He had been in the Heavenly Domain long enough to recognize a lot of the players, unless it was another unknown like Steamed Bun who had caught Ye Qiu’s attention.
“DE-” Boyuan clamped his lips together and took a deep breath through his nose, trying not to yell. “Deception?” he hissed. “The scrap picker?”
“The one and only,” Chen Guo confirmed, and he groaned and buried his face in his hands.
“He’s insane,” he moaned. “Absolutely insane!” If Deception joined, Team Happy was either going to terrorize the pro league or be the laughingstock of it.
Chen Guo patted his arm. “He is, but you get used to it. Eventually.”
“Eventually,” Boyuan agreed with a sigh, dropping his hands and staring at the computer screen. He didn’t think that Ye Qiu was ever going to stop surprising him. Straightening, he focused on the screen. He had a new account to name.
Boyuan had had ‘Blue’ in his main account name for so long it felt strange to make one without it, but he was determined to leave Blue Bridge Spring Snow behind him. He wanted something that would represent his new role as a member of Happy.
Happy Clouds? No, that was a bit too cheesy for him. Happy River? No, too close to Blue River. He liked the idea of having a water-themed username, but that was a holdover from his time with Blue Rain. So Blue Clouds and Blue Skies were both out. Happy Skies was too on the nose, but… “Oh!” he said softly. Cheerful Skies might work.
He typed it in the ‘Username’ spot and stared at it for a bit. He liked it. It felt right, like Blue River had when he had joined the 10th server.
“That’s a nice name!” Chen Guo said, leaning over to look at his screen. She glanced at him, curious. “You seem like a pretty serious guy, though?” Realizing what she had said, her eyes widened in horror.
Boyuan just laughed and waved off any apology. “It’s fine, it’s fine! I’m plenty cheerful when I’m not knee-deep in guild politics and stuff.” Or tearing his hair out over Ye Qiu. “Besides,” he added, nodding towards his screen. “This is a new start for me. I want something different.”
Nodding once more to himself, he confirmed the name Cheerful Skies and logged in. He had a character to level.
- - -
He kept up with the progress of Team Happy in-between levelling his account and organizing what he needed to set up a new guild. Ye Qiu kept chasing Deception around, apparently confident that he would succeed in getting the infamous scrap picker to join. Steamed Bun and Tang Rou kept improving, and Old Wei was keeping busy as well.
Boyuan was eating dinner one night when Ye Qiu dropped into the chair next to him. “How are things coming along?” he asked, snagging a dumpling from Boyuan’s plate with his fingers.
“You’re picking up Steamed Bun’s bad habits,” he shot back, curving his free arm around his plate to fend off any further attacks. “And very well. Lots of players seem interested in joining, and the guild should be up and running within a few days.”
Ye Qiu made another move towards his food, but Boyuan batted his hand away, fingers tingling at the contact. “What are you, five? Get your own dinner,” he grumbled in between bites.
“I ate earlier,” his captain replied blandly, giving him an innocent smile.
“Then go get dessert!”
“Boss said not to eat too many sweet things.”
Boyuan growled, picked up the last dumpling, and tore it in half as best he could. “Catch Deception yet?” he asked, handing a piece to Ye Qiu.
“Yep!” he replied, popping the food in his mouth. “Keep up the good work, Little Blue,” he added, rising from his chair.
“Not you too!” Boyuan complained to Ye Qiu’s back, glaring at him as he left the room. Sighing, he pushed his plate aside and dug into his rice, doing his best to get his mind off of Ye Qiu and back onto guild things.
Guild Happy formed on the 7th server on a sunny morning, which Boyuan found fitting. Not that he had much time to enjoy it, having to deal with the flood of requests for membership and assigning more experienced players to help guide the newbies through the early stages of being in a guild. The smile Ye Qiu gave him when told the news was worth the headache, though.
- - -
His captain wandered into his room a few weeks later, Boyuan barely glancing up from the papers spread on his bed when he entered. “Tiny Herb stole a Wild Boss from us this week, but we’ve gotten some good drops from dungeon bosses,” Boyuan said as Ye Qiu sat beside him and leaned over to study the paperwork.
Boyuan felt his cheeks heat up as their shoulders pressed together, but shoved the feeling aside. It was just nice to get physical contact from someone other than Steamed Bun, that was all. He had gotten used to the random one-armed hugs, back pats and hair ruffling (hair ruffling! It wasn’t his fault his hair was naturally spiky!) within the first week of sharing a house with the brawler.
“Think many of them will go on to the Heavenly Domain?” Ye Qiu asked, grabbing a list of what classes where in the guild.
“Some will, eventually. Most seem pretty content to stay in the 7th server, though.” Struck with an idea, he asked, “We have another dungeon raid tomorrow - do you want to borrow my account and lead it?”
“Sure,” Ye Qiu agreed after a moment of thought. “I should buy a 7th server account and join the guild myself, though.”
“Will you let them know who you are?” Boyuan watched his captain out of the corner of his eye, catching the smile his question caused.
“No. It’s more fun that way, don’t you think?”
“Just don’t mislead them into thinking another great expert has appeared,” Boyuan warned.
This time, Ye Qiu turned towards him and smiled fully. “I’ll do my best not to.”
- - -
The raid went smoothly, and a week later Ye Qiu joined the guild under the account Sleepy Kitty. “You really don’t care about usernames do you?” Boyuan complained during dinner, ignoring Wei Chen’s laughter from across the table.
“At least it’s not as bad as Unrivaled Super Hottie!” Chen Guo said, and Boyuan stared in horror before demanding to hear the full story.
- - -
Spring turned to summer, and Boyuan watched Samsara defeat Tyranny to claim the championship, all the while dealing with the ups and downs of guild leadership. Ye Qiu chipped in every now and then to help them snag a Wild Boss or get through a tricky dungeon.
He was pulling a late night waiting for the last of the week’s Wild Bosses to spawn when he came across Ye Qiu in the kitchen on his way to refill his water bottle. “Can’t sleep?” Boyuan asked, knowing that his captain followed a strict schedule like the rest of the team.
“Nope,” Ye Qiu replied, playing with his lighter as Boyuan stuck his bottle under the tap. “My mind won’t settle.”
“Worried about the Challenger’s League? Or the summer transfers?” Both were reasonable things to worry about, since Excellent Era was lurking within the former and the latter could prove problematic if they made it into the pro league for season 10.
“No,” Ye Qiu murmured, flanking Boyuan as he moved towards the door. “It’s a more personal problem.”
Boyuan had barely any warning that something was going to happen before Ye Qiu’s hand closed over his wrist and pulled him near, head dipping to press their lips together. Oh. Oh. Everything clicked into place, and Boyuan could have kicked himself for being an idiot if he wasn’t so focused on returning the kiss and not dropping his water bottle.
A message notification on his phone broke the moment, and Ye Qiu pulled away with a chuckle. “Go get that boss,” he murmured. “I’ll see you later?”
“I…” Boyuan swallowed, trying to get his brain to reboot. “Won’t Old Wei notice?”
“He sleeps like the dead.” Ye Qiu stepped back, tipping his head towards the door. “Go, Little Blue.”
His nickname jerked him out of his daze, and he straightened with a nod. “Don’t go through my stuff!” he said as he hurried towards the computer room.