When Ye Xiu left home, the only distinct marks he had were from his family. It was only fitting, then, that the next unmistakably vivid marks on his skin would be from the family he’d found.
When he met the Su siblings, he’d battled Su Muqiu until the sun set. As they’d both stood up and stretched, Su Muqiu had idled over to his side, lamenting his lack of earnings for the day. Ye Xiu had said something— he wished he could remember what he’d said, but he couldn’t— and Su Muqiu had elbowed him, laughing.
The warmth of Su Muqiu’s skin had been almost as memorable as the cantaloupe orange across Ye Xiu’s inner arm. The color was unusually clear; even more pigmented than the mark Ye Xiu had left.
“So, I guess you’ll be letting me stick around, huh?” Ye Xiu joked.
Su Muqiu’s smile was as bright as the gold across his elbow. “I guess I am.”
It took a bit of adjustment for their family of two to become three, but Ye Xiu fit in well. One day, the three of them were hanging out in their apartment, when Su Muqiu came up from behind to interrupt his reading.
“Look, Su Mucheng did these,” Su Muqiu said, waving his hands in front of the book. His nails were painted in a geometric grey and white pattern.
“Be careful, they’re still wet,” Su Mucheng protested.
“Looks great, Mucheng,” Ye Xiu said.
“Your turn next,” she insisted, and Su Muqiu pushed him forward as if to insist he take a turn being Su Mucheng’s art model.
Obligingly, he put the book down, and sat down in front of her.
Su Mucheng held his hand steady, inspecting it. When she withdrew her hand, she left a vibrant, cotton-candy pink mark all along the outside of his hand, along with a thumbprint on the back.
She thought for a moment, then selected gold polish for Ye Xiu.
“So you’re wearing all of our colors.”
For all that Chen Guo was hot-headed and impulsive, she was also surprisingly careful.
Ye Xiu hadn’t noticed it at first. She was always leaning into his space, or whacking him for one perceived mistake or another (and okay, it was usually more than just ‘perceived’), so Ye Xiu had assumed the mark she had left was as imperceptible as any stranger’s might be.
It was only when Ye Xiu moved into the Forest Park gaming house that he began to question that assumption.
A whack on the head with the file folder in her hand. A tap on the arm through his jacket. Never skin-to-skin.
Ye Xiu didn’t press.
He didn’t get her soulmark until much later on. On rare occasion, Ye Xiu could be helpful outside of Glory, so he helped her clean up after their team’s Christmas party.
After she finished gathering the paper scraps from the ground, Ye Xiu held out a hand to help her up.
She took it. Then, she stood, and she looked at the gold mark on her palm for a moment. A complicated expression passed over her face. Then, she pulled him into a brief hug, and whispered, “Thank you”.
Fuschia decorated Ye Xiu’s palm afterwards.
Tang Rou’s soulmark was an accident. When Ye Xiu reached to take her hundred yen, she reached to put another bill on the pile. The contrast between the skin-to-skin contact and the bill in-between them left an oddly-shaped mark with a crisp edge.
The mark was a vibrant, fiery red. Even a casual friend wouldn’t leave a mark this pigmented.
If anything, the gold on Tang Rou’s upper palm was even darker.
“Huh. I really wasn’t serious about needing a hundred years to beat me.”
“Fight me again,” she insisted, and that was that.
Anyone who had spent time around Steamed Bun knew about his eclectic thought process. It was unexpected, but perfectly within character, that he would want a fortuitous meeting to include a soulmark.
His arms were covered in barely-there marks, the touches of tens of people he’d met, moved on from, and remembered. “Right here, Boss,” he said, touching his upper arm where a shoulder emblem would sit.
Ye Xiu’s lips twitched up in a half-smile. He’d rarely been asked before; marks either happened or they didn’t.
Careful not to overlap with any of Steamed Bun’s brighter marks, Ye Xiu lined his fingers up, then pressed the side of his pointer in a line against Steamed Bun’s arm. After the contact was made and the mark was left, he patted Steamed Bun’s arm before withdrawing.
Steamed Bun craned his neck to get a good look at the new gold line across his arm. “Hey Boss, we match!” he exclaimed, while Ye Xiu looked fondly at the dandelion yellow running up his finger.
Qiao Yifan and Ye Xiu hadn’t touched after Ye Xiu had sought him out in the hallway after All-Stars. That was intentional on Ye Xiu’s part. Better to wait, to let things take their course.
After Qiao Yifan arrived at Happy— after he’d chosen his path and committed to it— Ye Xiu had no such hesitancy. Qiao Yifan was a teammate, and he would be welcomed as such.
“4860!” Qiao Yifan called out after earning a ten point skill book. Exuberance, with a tinge of hesitancy. Vaccaria only had 4855.
“Great work!” Ye Xiu encouraged, reaching over for a fist bump.
When he pulled his hand back, his knuckles were green— not Tiny Herb’s muted green, though, something brighter.
Luo Ji was passionate about mathematics. He was also passionate about Glory- not just as an applied math problem, but as an activity worth putting his math career on pause for.
Just looking at him, his ardor was obvious. The first time Ye Xiu asked him to explain the reasoning behind his latest theory on how to play a Summoner, he lit up, his gestures becoming bigger and more enthusiastic as he continued.
And Ye Xiu did like to discuss Glory, liked to find new ways to surprise everybody, liked to optimize to the peak of his potential.
Luo Ji’s latest theories seemed viable, and the conversation was exhilarating. With the way Ye Xiu’s focus narrowed to just the abilities of a Summoner, it was no shock to find a cream-colored mark splashed across his fingers that evening; it was a simple conclusion that they must have bumped at some point.
Gold across Luo Ji’s upper wrist the next morning confirmed it.
Ye Xiu already had Wei Chen’s soulmark before he joined Team Happy.
It was after a match in Season 2, Blue Rain’s home game. After Excellent Era won, Ye Xiu went to shamelessly borrow a smoke from Wei Chen. Ye Xiu might have pulled at the wrong angle or Wei Chen might have held the box too loosely, but it slipped from his fingers. As both of them reached to catch it, their hands bumped.
The cigarette box fell to the floor, and Ye Xiu inspected the shockingly vibrant midnight blue against the backs of his hand.
“Huh, that’s dark,” he remarked.
“Planning to transfer to Blue Rain?” Wei Chen asked, looking at his own hand.
“Whatever,” Wei Chen said, and the subject was dropped.
(Six years later, when Ye Xiu saw a too-familiar Warlock in the Heavenly Domain, he glanced down at the incongruently clear soulmark on his fingers, and his lips twitched up.)
An Wenyi wore elbow-length gloves to introduce himself to Team Happy. He greeted everybody on the team with a firm handshake.
The next morning, the gloves were gone. Maybe they were just for travelling; Ye Xiu didn’t ask. An Wenyi quickly picked up Qiao Yifan’s green on his forearm, Steamed Bun’s yellow on his shoulder, Tang Rou’s red on his palm. He didn’t seem bothered by proximity to the more tactile members of the team.
Unlike the more boisterous rookies, An Wenyi didn’t need as much supervision. Still, Ye Xiu was careful to pay attention to his progress.
In August, he watched An Wenyi successfully complete the jumping part of the training routine without falling a single time.
“Great work!” he praised, patting An Wenyi on the back.
Around the younger man’s tanktop, Ye Xiu left a handprint like wings.
Ye Xiu’s hand came away with a new slate grey overlapping his existing marks.
All things considered, Ye Xiu thought he was lucky not to have Mo Fan’s fist on his face.
Mo Fan kept a distance from everybody. Happy was an affectionate team, so Ye Xiu had long since gotten the others’ soulmarks, but not Mo Fan’s.
He wasn’t alone. Aside from Su Mucheng’s bubble-tea pink that had appeared across his fingers, nobody on the team had touched him.
It was a few months into Season 10 when Mo Fan approached.
Ye Xiu was organizing Happy’s materials, which was possibly the least exciting task he’d done all day.
Mo Fan was still leaning in as if to view the screen better. The hoodie Ye Xiu had never previously seen him without was missing, replaced with a loose t-shirt that exposed a lot of his skin, most of it unmarked.
He was inches away from Ye Xiu.
Ye Xiu moved away, slowly, and then rolled up his sleeves. He held his arms out to Mo Fan.
Mo Fan just stared. Just when Ye Xiu was starting to think he had misread Mo Fan’s intentions, he slowly reached out and hovered his wrist above Ye Xiu’s.
After a moment during which Ye Xiu made no move to pull away, Mo Fan brought his wrist down to make contact.
Mo Fan’s mark left a beautiful sky-blue.
Fang Rui fit right in with Happy, easy familiarity with touch included.
On his first day with the team— two days after his initial visit to Happy— Ye Xiu held out Boundless Sea’s account card, playfully offering it with two hands.
Fang Rui put his hands around Ye Xiu’s in enthusiasm, only realizing a moment too late that he had left eight orange fingerprints behind.
“Whoops,” he said, out of surprise rather than apology. Unless it were in a particularly odd place, there was rarely a need to apologize for or regret a soulmark.
Ye Xiu waved it off. “Hope you didn’t want it somewhere else.”
“All good, all good,” he said.
Ye Xiu’s hands were his livelihood, his tool to play the game he loved— the game that had changed his life. It was only fitting that he had all his teammates’ marks right there, clear for anybody to see.
Glory was never meant to be played alone, after all.
On his left hand, Qiao Yifan’s green against his knuckles, partially overlapping Tang Rou’s red with the unusually crisp line. An Wenyi’s grey across the entire inside of his hand. Steamed Bun’s yellow down the side of his pointer, stretching nearly to his thumb. Mo Fan’s sky blue on his wrist underneath the thumb.
On the right, Su Mucheng’s pink on the side of his hand, spilling over onto the back. Wei Chen’s midnight like a bridge between the pink and Luo Ji’s cream across the backs of his fingers. Chen Guo’s fuschia across his palm.
Fang Rui’s tangerine orange across both hands, the fingerprints like decoration.
And one more.
Ye Xiu’s right palm and fingertips are covered in bronze, overlapping all of the other marks on his inner hand. That in itself is nothing unusual, even if the area covered is a bit odd, not the type that another hand would leave.
What most people don’t realize, though, is that Ye Xiu’s left fingertips are coated in the same bronze. And, when he sits down to log into Glory, the source is clear.