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Under a Bright Moon

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Today, after spending some time on Peerless Looks in the tenth server babysitting Happy Guild, Xu Boyuan has an almost-physical surge of dread thinking about logging back in as Blue River. After returning from lunch he paces until Zhao Lixin asks him what’s the matter, he has to either sit down and log on or answer, and he wants to avoid answering more than he wants to avoid logging on. Zhao Lixin is looking at him, which he ignores. It’s amazing the amount you can ignore if you put your mind to it. He’s distracted momentarily, wondering if he can compartmentalise his life better and go back to thinking of Zhao Lixin as Bound Boat only… but, no, that boat has (ironically) sailed. He checks his messages, makes sure he hasn’t missed anything important while he was skipping work as Peerless Looks, he scans his lists of things that he has to do, and then he feels so tired it’s a physical sensation, his arms tingling, his vision skewing. Caffeine, that’s what he needs. 

 

It used to be that you’d have to trek down to the canteen for a drink, unless you wanted that awful mud-coffee from the vending machine in the hallway, but at some point a fridge got installed in here and Huang Shaotian came through like a whirlwind, after which most everyone’s favourites got added to the stock in the fridge, including the captain’s favourite, even though Captain Yu Wenzhou never comes through here. It means he only has a few feet to walk to the fridge for ice coffee and it’s barely a distraction from the work, anxiety, exhaustion, dread, that’s waiting at his desk. 

 

Xu Boyuan has a go at looking into the problem of their elite teams losing three wild bosses in a row (not Lord Grim, for once. A miracle). Then he gives up. The thing he likes best about working in Happy Guild is that he has nothing to do with the politics, it’s just people who love Glory, and he can chat to people about the things he loves about the game. He finds himself wandering around the beginner village on the tenth-server as Blue River. It’s quite empty, but there are still a few characters around. It’s nice. He talks to some fans of Blue Rain, people who aren’t great at playing but joined the guild to support the team. He finds a few people who need a bit of help teaming up and finding guides and things. He finds one character, Bright Moon, who’s having trouble even with very simple mechanics - it takes three tries for her to turn around to face him. He has to help her work out the chat function, and then he helps her work out how to use the headset she has so they can talk directly, which is much easier. 

 

“My grandson plays, he’s very good. I just wanted to look around,” She tells him, while they’re wandering around so he can help her learn how to get Bright Moon to walk, and eventually to run and jump. 

 

Xu Boyuan talks to her for quite a while. He directs her to guides and forums and places to learn without him, and finds her a team to carry her through a few dungeons later so she can see what it’s like and get some experience, but he enjoys talking to her, so he does a lot more himself than he otherwise might. She’s sharp and enthusiastic, and she hasn’t got great mechanics but she catches on really quickly to what he’s teaching her, shooting ahead and theorising all sorts of things about the game, and she’s got surprisingly quick hands; he can tell she has nimble hands even while she still can’t quite get Bright Moon to move smoothly. She also somehow gets it out of him how tired he is, and when he leaves it’s with a promise that he will get plenty of rest and not let them work him too hard, and also a promise that he will make sure to get dessert with dinner today, as a treat, because, she says, he deserves it for helping an old grandmother through Glory. 

 

“I have the updated data for the week’s wild bosses,” Zhao Lixin says, interrupting Xu Boyuan staring vacantly again. “Are you alright?”

 

“Hm? Yes?” Xu Boyuan takes the tablet from Zhao Lixin and scans the information. 

 

“You look- never mind. Do you want to come for dinner later?” Zhao Lixin asks. 

 

Xu Boyuan doesn’t look up. Zhao Lixin is nice and very kind and usually amused by Xu Boyuan’s anxiety spirals and very lovely and clever and really hot as well, and… Xu Boyuan blinks and shakes his head, trying to get the tablet to come into focus again. Work. He’s got work. He looks at his computer screen, and his heart does a crazy ka-thump; he’s had the game up full-screen, and usually any notification would pop up anyway but today the settings must have been changed or just glitched because there in a nice bright red is the notification that he had a meeting that started ten minutes ago. He swears and thunks the keyboard to lock the computer, and takes the hallways of Blue Rain at a run. He hears a confused ‘it’s just noodles’ from Zhao Lixin behind him.

 

<break> 

 

“My friend asked me to dinner, last night,” Xu Boyuan tells Bright Moon the following day. They’re walking toward some monsters, so he can teach her how to use some spells - she wants to be a warlock, when she can pick a class, like her grandson. 

 

“How lovely,” she says. “Did you go?”

 

“No. I did get dessert, though,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

Bright Moon doesn’t ask why he didn’t go, which is great, because ‘I really really really like him’ is not a good answer, and ‘I really really really like him and I’m his boss’ is a bit too much honesty, even for a Friday. He glances up at where Zhao Lixin is talking to someone, both of them laughing. He really must not have had enough sleep recently, because everything blurs, a memory of Zhao Lixin laughing like that at something Xu Boyuan said overlaying this scene. It had been early, early, a few years ago when Zhao Lixin had just come here to work, and his laughter had surprised Xu Boyuan to a standstill. Not because it’s an unusual laugh, but because he had found Xu Boyuan funny, and the laughter had been really warm. 

 

“Blue River, would you mind showing me some more of this world my grandson loves so much? He spends so much time here. I would like to learn how to play as well, but I also just want to see,” Bright Moon says, gently breaking into Xu Boyuan’s thoughts. 

 

It’s a kindness, and he recognises it as such; they were in the middle of a conversation, and he’s sure she’s tried to get his attention already. He thanks her by doing as asked; he knows Glory like the back of his hand. He can reel off stats about the different dungeons, levelling areas, bosses and monsters, and he can tell a lot from glancing at characters they pass. He can also show Bright Moon what she wants to see, more than anything - just why is it, she wants to know, that people love this game? This place? So he shows her the graphics, the places to go where it’s peaceful to just walk around, where to try out equipment and practice mechanics. He shows her the town, how to spot an NPC from a player. He points out people making friends, building teams, sharing achievements, celebrating the wins that go up on the TV.

 

“...and this is just one very small corner of it,” he tells her, as they settle after a while back in the beginners village, to look through some quests. “You’re part of Blue Brooke Guild, and our team is Blue Rain. The pro players are amazing to watch, if you want I can give you some links, and you’ll know when the games are because everyone will be talking about it but I can show you how to stream them.”

 

“Yes please,” Bright Moon says. “I would very much like to be able to watch the games, and the videos. You can send me some of those. Hu- my grandson and his friend has shown me a little bit, but I’d like to see more.”

 

“Alright then, I’ll show you as much as I can. Oh! And as you are part of our Blue Brooke, and as our team is Blue Rain, I will need to teach you about PK! Our team has a dual core, the sword and curse,” Xu Boyuan hasn’t felt this much excitement in a while, he’s been too tired and discouraged by all the machiavellian muddling, but now he’s grinning at his computer screen and he doesn’t feel quite so much like things are too hard. This is easy. “That’s Swoksaar and Troubling Rain, and Troubling Rain is played by Huang Shaotian, who will ask anyone and everyone to PK. Lots of Blue Brooke Guild swordsmen will try and be like Troubling Rain, so we better teach you about PK-ing.”

 

“What about Swoksaar? Do people copy him?” Bright Moon asks. 

 

“That’s Yu Wenzhou, now, the captain,” Xu Boyuan, happy with this topic. “Huang Shaotian is known for wanting to PK a lot, and for his trash talk. Actually just for talking in general. The captain sometimes doesn’t get noticed next to someone as loud as that. I like to think that we all try and be like the captain, though. He’s polite, but also warm and friendly, and everyone likes him.”

 

“How wonderful,” Bright Moon says. 

 

Xu Boyuan thinks that Yu Wenzhou is someone who anyone would be happy to have as their grandson’s role model. He is refined and smart and kind. Xu Boyuan assures Bright Moon of this, and also tells her about playing tactically. He realises as he does that he should have started with Glory tactics - she’s so quick, she’s definitely looked up some of the guides he told her about already and found out a lot about the different classes, about their strengths and weaknesses, about playing against environments, about the different strategies the bosses use. She must have read a lot. 

 

Xu Boyuan tells her about his predicament always losing the wild bosses, and it’s not so much that Bright Moon understands better than he does, it’s just that she asks very useful questions, and while she might not know enough specifics to come up with tactics, she is very good at putting together information so once he tells her specifics and runs through a few strategies she’s already leaping ahead of him. He writes as they chat, scribbling notes and coming up with a plan to run some simulations, do some training, check a few weaknesses in the teams as Bright Moon finds similarities with the bosses which expose specific weaknesses. 

 

“Are you sure you haven’t played Glory before?” Xu Boyuan asks, marvelling at it all. 

 

“You should remember that old women aren’t born old, we get this way through living,” Bright Moon says. 

 

Xu Boyuan hopes that he gets to hear some more about that, but he has to go action some of this strategy they’ve come up with, and Bright Moon says she’s tired of looking at a screen, so they part again for today. Xu Boyuan looks up for the first time in a while, and is surprised to catch Zhao Lixin’s eyes. He’s even more surprised at how uncertain Zhao Lixin looks when he realises he’s been caught staring. He comes over and brings Xu Boyuan a coffee drink, perching on the desk, leaving space between them that might not used to have been there. Xu Boyuan feels a little cold, but it’s space that he’s responsible for; this is Zhao Lixin respecting Xu Boyuan’s wishes. 

 

“You look happier,” Zhao Lixin blurts, then makes the funniest face, scruched up in a comical grimace.

 

“Thank you,” Xu Boyuan says. “For the coffee. For noticing. I have some ideas about the wild boss issue.”

 

Zhao Lixin looks happier, too, and hurries up to get a tablet and a notepad, and they spend the afternoon with their heads together designing simulations and challenges and debating the pros and cons of shuffling the teams up a little bit. 

 

<break>

 

The first time Blue Rain plays since Xu Boyuan met Bright Moon, it’s an early season game against Thuderclap, and Xu Boyuan finds that while Bright Moon is sharp and clever and actually beginning to get the hang of playing Glory, she can’t get the stream to work and after a bit refuses to even try. In order that she doesn’t go off to play card games with her neighbours instead, Xu Boyuan sets up a video call, cameras off, and shares his screen. They have the game up on a pull-down screen in the guild and he’s sat in a mess of guild members, an empty seat at his side saved for Zhao Lixin who’s running late for some reason. Xu Boyuan leaves his computer running so Bright Moon can watch, and keeps his headset half on. This way he can hear her and the guild. 

 

“Don’t listen to the commentator,” Xu Boyuan says. “She’s wrong. Blue Rain hasn’t been playing badly, this is only their third game it’s too early to say such things, and the first game Huang Shaotian was sick and couldn’t play and Blue Rain still won. So the commentator is just making things up to try and make the game seem more exciting. She’s right about Xiao Shiqin, though - he’s the only reason Thunderclap are even here.”

 

“Thunderclap. They have a female player, don’t they? Dai Yanqi,” Bright Moon says. “I like her.”

 

“She’s pretty good, she improved a lot recently,” Xu Boyuan agrees. The teams are coming out to take their places in the stands, now, the camera focussing on Xiao Shiqing, Yu Wenzhou, Huang Shaotian. “Not too much longer. Hey, has anyone seen Bound Boat? It’ll start soon.”

 

There are some head shakes and a general negative muttering. Xu Boyuan gets up and goes to have a look around the offices, thinking maybe he’ll find Zhao Lixin on a phonecall or something. He doesn’t, and he’s turning back to the room they’re set up in when Zhao Lixin comes belting around a corner, spots Xu Boyuan a second too late, and flails with a shout. They collide, Xu Boyuan trying to step back but not moving fast enough. He’s thrown backwards into a wall and Zhao Lixin falls after him, and they hit with a thud, the air knocked out of Xu Boyuan. 

 

“Shit shit shit sorry sorry, I was late!” Zhao Lixin says, scrambling away. 

 

Xu Boyuan can’t breathe, because of hitting the wall but also because he can still feel Zhao Lixin, warm and familiar and solid and breathing and hot and- oh right he can breathe again, great, much too fast, this isn’t breathing this is hyperventilating. Good, good, this is excellent, this is fine. The simmering, low-level anxiety that hasn’t had anywhere to go this week is coming out right now, all of a sudden, here in the hallway. Excellent. Perfect. This is fine.

 

“Sorry,” Zhao Lixin says, taking Xu Boyuan’s elbows. “Floor, or shall I get you a chair? Oh, right, yes and no questions. Floor?”

 

Xu Boyuan nods, and is guided a few steps down the corridor, and then down, sliding to sit on a step, back pressed to the wall. Zhao Lixin vanishes, leaving Xu Boyuan to it. Which is fine, this is all very, very much fine. Xu Boyuan doesn’t like being fussed over. He hates having panic attacks in public, but he has resigned himself to it, and even has a little message on his phone asking people to please not worry and fuss at him. But… before Xu Boyuan started with the space and distance and all of that, Zhao Lixin used to sit beside him and futz around with his phone or some work or just doing his own thing until Xu Boyuan wasn’t swallowing down screams anymore and could function like he was a real human being again. For now, he presses his mouth against his knee to keep himself from yelling too much, the empty space around him crushing. 

 

“I’m back, I’m standing in front of you. I’m gonna touch you for a second, I have a jacket.”

 

It’s like whiplash, the jolt first of loneliness and self-disgust, and now the sudden sharp twist to relief and gratitude, and wow, he does not have the energy. The jacket is warm, and it’s heavy. It’s pulled over his head so his world is dim and quiet, everything far, far away. He waits for the gasping and crying and shaking to be over, disengaging because it actually physically hurts all through his chest and back and down his limbs, to stop himself screaming. So he disengages from his body and waits, idling, for things to start being more level again. 

 

Once all that’s over and he bothers with some awareness again, he can tell that Zhao Lixin is sat next to him. He can hear commentary, it sounds like Zhao Lixin is watching the game on his phone. Xu Boyuan tunes into that, focusses. Blue Rain is losing; Thunderclap have managed to whittle down Swoksaar’s health in just a few minutes. Xu Boyuan frowns.

 

“How long?” Xu Boyuan’s voice sounds weird. Oh well. 

 

“Huh? Um…we’re fifteen minutes in, there’s still time to turn things around,” Zhao Lixin says. 

 

“How did you know what I was asking?” Xu Boyuan asks. Zhao Lixin just sighs, doesn’t answer. “I’m fine, you should watch with the others.”

 

“Will you come watch too?” Zhao Lixin asks. 

 

“Sure,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

“I want to watch with you. Why don’t you come out from under the coat and we can watch it here,” Zhao Lixin says. 

 

Xu Boyuan thinks about how small the phone screen is. They’ve watched like that before, pressed close, shoulder to shoulder. It makes more tears come from who knew where, making his skin tacky. This time it’s sadness, and not panic. That he’s out here like this, that it’s not the first time, that Zhao Lixin is so nice. That Zhao Lixin clearly misses Xu Boyuan. Misses Xu Boyuan assuming he’ll be known and understood, misses Xu Boyuan asking for what he needs, misses… 

 

“I’m sorry,” Xu Boyuan whispers. 

 

Zhao Lixin sighs really heavily, understanding that Xu Boyuan is saying ‘no’ to this too, and stands up, stowing his phone. He reminds Xu Boyuan to come join them soon, and then goes away. Xu Boyuan would just stay here forever, maybe crawl away to some darker smaller room, curl up. But he’s at work, so he takes the jacket off his head and stands up and gathers his tattered dignity, refuses to be ashamed of this happening, and goes back to the viewing. He enters as the entire group of people stand up to cheer, and he catches the tailend of Troubling Rain bursting out from some blindspot, saving Swoksaar and Soul Speaker, taking out Demon Talent and nearly getting Shattering Wind too, the Assassin and Grappler on Thunderclap. Life Extinguisher is too quick, but he has to retreat from his attack, and Swoksaar is safe, Soul Speaker healing him while the screen fills with Huang Shaotian’s speech bubbles. Xu Boyuan takes his seat and pulls his headset back on. 

 

“Any questions so far?” he asks, as if nothing has occurred. Zhao Lixin passes him a far-too-sweet tea, and Xu Boyuan’s eyes sting because it’s what he needs. He takes a few sips and grimaces at the amount of sugar. 

 

“I made a list,” Bright Moon says. “For now, just tell me if Swoksaar is playing well.”

 

Xu Boyuan tips his chair so he can see the notes Zhao Lixin is taking, flicking back a few pages to scan everything and get an idea of how the game is going. 

 

“Yes,” Xu Boyuan tells Bright Moon. “Life Extinguisher is Xiao Shiqin, you saw him corner Swoksaar. He sets a lot of traps and someone set one off, which gave Demon Talent the opportunity to get close to Swoksaar, and then basically Captain Yu will always lose in a contest of hand-speed. Because of a few traps, he lost a lot of health, but I think he was just buying attention, because the rest of Blue Rain have just closed in around Returning Wind and Firebird Messenger.”

 

“Firebird Messenger is Dai Yanci. Yes, I see. He’s clever. Swoksaar,” Bright Moon says. 

 

“Mn. He was also waiting to make an opportunity for Troubling Rain, Blue Rain is ahead now because they took out Demon Talent, and… yes, look, the cameraman isn’t,” Xu Boyuan turns away from the big screen and on his laptop he switches to a different stream, which has a different view-point, following Troubling Rain instead of the fight against Returning Wind and Firebird Messenger. “Huang Shaotian’s about to finish off Shattering Wind, too. Thunderclap relies on Xiao Shiqin to give them intelligence, Cheng Tai isn’t good enough to know where Troubling Rain is and Life Extinguisher is busy with Swoksaar, so- ha!”

 

Troubling Rain bursts out and kills Shattering Wind. 

 

“Cheng Tai is Shattering Wind?” Bright Moon checks. “Hm, I understand. Very clever. Swoksaar and Troubling Rain work together even when they’re nowhere close?”

 

“Yeah,” Xu Boyuan says, smiling. “They’re the best in all of Glory. Even if people say different,  we know the truth.”

 

They switch back to the main action, but the excitement is over - Xiao Shiqin is good, but once Troubling Rain has disrupted his rhythm, he can’t get the game back under his control. Blue Rain doesn't manage to wipe Thunderclap, but they do get a good win with plenty of points to speed them on their way into the season. Xu Boyuan leaves his laptop stream running so Bright Moon can listen to the post-match talk if she wants to, he and the guild do their own break-down. They’ll also get proper analyses from the team and researchers tomorrow, plenty of reports and things that the team needs from them, they don’t need to listen to the commentators. Xu Boyuan waits until they’re done and people are heading out, then sits back at his computer. The stream is replaying an interview with Huang Shaotian and Yu Wenzhou, Yu Wenzhou silently reeling Huang Shaotian in while Huang Shaotian noisily bounces about, topic to topic, telling everyone about his breakfast. 

 

“Do you want me to switch it off?” Xu Boyuan asks. People often get annoyed, the amount Huang Shaotian talks. 

 

“Yes you can, I’ve already seen the interview. Thank you for helping me watch,” Bright Moon says. 

 

“It’s my job,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

“It’s not. I’m old, but you can’t fool me. Did you miss some of the game?”

 

“Yes,” Xu Boyuan asks, and waits for her to question it. She doesn’t, she just asks him if he got to watch with friends. “Yes. With… yes.”

 

He doesn’t tell her about the panic, or about Zhao Lixin, or about being in love and not having the courage to do anything about it, and she doesn’t ask. 

 

<break>

 

One day, Xu Boyuan isn’t sure what happens but somehow he’s shouting at Ye Xiu, in the middle of Happy internet cafe, losing his temper and quite possibly his mind. Ye Xiu looks surprised, and that just makes it all worse. Xu Boyuan laughs hysterically and tries to ask what the hell Ye Xiu thinks happens when you push people like this. It’s not entirely Ye Xiu’s fault. Xu Boyuan had been in the city for a guild meeting, hosted by Excellent Dynasty, and he stopped by Happy because Ye Xiu wanted to talk to him about Happy Guild things and borrow Peerless Looks for something. Things had just… escalated from there, until Xu Boyuan cracked at being asked for something, he’s not even sure he remembers what. 

 

“I just want five minutes,” Xu Buyan had said. “Five minutes without the scheming and- just tell me . What do you want?”

 

“Nothing,” Ye Xiu had said, smiling his clever smile. 

 

Then there was the escalation, and the shouting, and Ye Xiu staring at him in bafflement. He still has the Peerless Looks card, which belongs to Blue Brooke Guild or Xu Boyuan might have just walked out. From embarrassment, or anger, or confusion. He can’t remember where all this came from but there’s still anger churning in him. Chen Guo comes out from somewhere and glares. She still hasn’t got over thinking he’s a bald criminal, Xu Boyuan thinks. But, no, she’s glaring at Ye Xiu , not him. 

 

“Give him back his account. You’re an idiot,” She says. She sounds fond about it. Xu Boyuan is given back his card. 

 

“He’s pissed off,” Ye Xiu says. “Does this mean you’ll stop the babysitting? Not bored anymore? I’m not forcing you to do it!”

 

“Ye Xiu, be quiet. We could pay you, now, Blue River. We need some more people to work exclusively with the guild,” Chen Guo says, looking at a notepad. “Probably not as much as Blue Rain pay, but if you wanted to come work with us instead you can. I think we can afford to buy the account as well, do you think?”

 

She’s asking Ye Xiu, who shrugs, then nods. He’s still looking at Xu Boyuan as if he’s something alien and strange. 

 

“I don’t want to leave, Blue Rain is the best team,” Xu Boyuan says. “I wouldn’t leave even if you could pay me more .”

 

“Do you know anyone who might leave?” Ye Xiu asks. “Blue Brooke has good guild employees.”

 

“No one will leave,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

Ye Xiu shrugs, and inches away. Chen Guo gives him another glare and hits him with the notepad, and Ye Xiu laughs and runs away. Chen Guo rolls her eyes.  

 

“Sorry about him. If he asks you to do too much, tell him no,” Chen Guo says. 

 

“I don’t think it was him,” Xu Boyuan says, miserable and tired, head aching. “Had a meeting between most of the guilds.”

 

“Happy wasn’t invited,” Chen Guo says, frowning.

 

“Team Happy might be firmly established, but your guild is still quite small,” Xu Boyuan says. “This was us, Excellent Dynasty, Herb Garden, Samsara. And Tyrannical Ambition.”

 

Jiang You is rash, and in-person he does walk a fine line around ‘professionalism’, but he’s not usually… Xu Boyuan can still hear his voice, frustrated, annoyed that Xu Boyuan was trying to be calm and rational, throwing insults that hit a bit close to home. Trash talk outside the game is always frowned on so it didn’t last for long. Long enough. Xu Boyuan sits heavily at a nearby computer station and rubs his forehead. 

 

“We need your help, with Happy Guild,” Chen Guo says, sitting beside him, turning her chair away from the computer. “But if you help us recruit someone to do this properly, you can retire Peerless Looks. Surely Blue Brooke will notice soon that your spying isn’t getting very much return.”

 

Xu Boyuan shrugs. It doesn’t matter much, a spy is a spy. Spies are sometimes useful once in three years, sometimes regularly useful, sometimes never useful. They’re still needed. The guild doesn't really care, as long as Xu Boyuan isn’t on Peerless Looks so often to be noticeable or detract from his work. It might be nice to not have Ye Xiu messaging him to ask about Happy Guild matters, though, because that is annoying. 

 

“I really don’t think anyone would leave Blue Brook,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

Chen Guo lets it go. She gives him a brief slightly strange talk about looking after his mental health, and a chocolate bar, and admits to not being sure if he ‘counts as one of hers to take care of’. He helps her come up with some interview questions for when they do find someone, and then he’s on his way. He’s not lying about thinking people won’t leave Blue Brook, but he does turn out to be wrong. Wrong to the tune of three people. Only one of them is an expert player, so that’s something. They’re all good at guild management, though, and Blue Brook Guild definitely feels the loss. 

 

“This is a good opportunity,” Bright Moon says, after listening politely to Xu Boyuan talking about the problem. 

 

“An opportunity for more stress?” Xu Boyuan asks. He’s not showing Bright Moon anything, today. He’s pretty much given up the pretense that this is anything to do with professionalism, they’re just friends by now. They’re sitting by a lake, just talking. It’s peaceful, even if once in a while he has to get up to kill a monster that comes too close and notices them. 

 

“I’ve noticed that you don’t have many female employees, in this guild,” Bright Moon says. 

 

Xu Boyuan wonders if she’s going to ask him for a job. She doesn’t, but she does have a list of female players who she’s noticed in the game. Xu Boyuan blinks. He recognises about half of them. He shouldn’t be surprised that Bright Moon can tell who’s good at the game, even while she herself is still a beginner. Xu Boyuan accepts the list, and checks out the players, and feels out the management to see if they’re going to replace the vacated positions. One he establishes that they are, he makes his recommendations. They end up with two new hires, both of them women, and Bright Moon is very happy about it all. 

 

The All-Stars are coming up soon, and the guild is busy - there’s always an upsurge of people joining around the All-Stars, with so many of Blue Rain members always getting chosen. They only replaced two out of three positions, and the new hires aren’t up to speed yet, they still need training, and there’s always another ‘and’. There’s a lot of stress, still, and Xu Boyuan is doing okay with all of that, even with the increasingly large chasm opening up between him and Zhao Lixin, and Zhao Lixin getting increasingly confused and annoyed by it, and, and, and, there’s a lot. Xu Boyuan is Managing. Until Blue Brook Guild steal two wild bosses in a row out from under Tyrannical Ambition’s nose, and Jiang You manages to broadcast a slew of comments against Blue River to the entirety of Glory, baseless accusations of cheating interspersed with personal comments, and it’s just the last straw. Again. 

 

Huang Shoatian finds him crying in a stationery cupboard. 

 

“Oh! Hello, what a strange place to come for a cry, I usually go and hide in the captain’s office, he’s always very nice about it,” Huang Shaotian says. “I needed some pens, do you think you can pass me a handful? I have lost every single one of my own pens, which is a shame, I have a whole collection. I had one which smelled like strawberries, and one which was Swoksaar and when you clicked the top,” Huang Shaotian stops to laugh, covering his face.

 

Xu Boyuan passes him a handful of biros. 

 

“Thank you thank you,” Huang Shaotian says. “Come on out of there, now, I’ll find you a nicer place to cry. We’ll get you some tea as well, the kitchen staff like me a lot and they’ll like me even better if they know how nice I can be to you, the kitchen staff like you a lot did you know that? They’re always saying that Blue River, so polite, so nice, so quiet, so much unlike Huang Shaotian who is noisy noisy noisy!” 

 

Huang Shaotian links his arm through Xu Boyuan’s and they walk down the corridor and into an office. Huang Shaotian is still busy busy busy, talking too fast while he bustles around shutting the blind to make it a bit darker. There’s a fridge in here, full of coffee and sweet teas, so there’s a soliloquy about how useful this is, not to have to go to the canteen afterall. Xu Boyuan is mostly done with the crying, and without the blurring he realises they’re in the captain’s office. He nearly panics, but Huang Shaotian catches him at it. 

 

“No no no, don’t do that! It’s fine it’s fine, captain won’t care, he’s working somewhere else today,” Huang Shaotian laughs, delighted by something, possibly himself. “He’s hiding from me and he knows I always look in here so he won’t be here. He wouldn’t mind anyway, he’s always telling me how nice and quiet you are. You’re not actually very quiet, I think people keep telling me you’re quiet only to disparage me, not because they think that about you.”

 

“Are you sure we should be here?”

 

“I am very sure, sure as anything. It’s fine. It’s a good place for a cry, Yu Wenzhou is the best, look look look,” Huang Shaotian does some more bustling and flourishes a blanket with a huge pictures of Swoksaar across it, and a packet of chocolate biscuits, and a very fat and round stuffed Pikachu. “Supplies! Do you get cold when you’re upset? Some people get cold when they’re upset. Some people like chocolate when they’re upset.”

 

Huang Shaotian passes him the blanket and the chocolate biscuits and Pikachu. 

 

“Pika is for cuddling,” Huang Shaotian says, beaming. He waits until Xu Boyuan has obediently put the blanket around his shoulders and wrapped his arms around Pikachu, then he takes the biscuits back and gets a second chair, pulling it to sit opposite Xu Boyuan and tucking his legs up, cracking open the biscuits and eating one. He looks more serious, when he’s done. The quiet of the room is nice, and the blanket is soft, and the Pikachu is soft. “What happened?”

 

Xu Boyuan thinks of the difficulties in the guild. Those aren’t something to worry the pro team with. He thinks of Zhao Lixin, and immediately veers away from that. He can’t touch that topic without crying again and Huang Shaotian is his boss at least in-name, and he can’t just tell people he’s in love . He settles on Jiang You. That he can talk through. He doesn’t like how weary his voice sounds, but he can’t help it. 

 

“It’s not a big deal,” Xu Boyuan finishes up with. “It’s just on top of a few other things, and on top of something he said a few weeks ago.”

 

“It’s unprofessional,” Huang Shaotian says. He sounds outraged and Xu Boyuan worries he’s going to go charging off, but-  “Don’t worry, don’t worry, I won’t do anything. I promise. I know how it works, obviously there’s trash-talk and there’s game politics and dirty tactics, it’s all fair or fair enough. I think he is being unkind and unprofessional but I am biased, I can see that I’m biased, obviously I’m biased I like you best.”

 

“Um. Thanks.”

 

Xu Boyuan thinks he might combust from blushing. He can feel his heart tripping a little bit to be sat in the Swoksaar’s office, with the Troubling Rain. These are his idols, especially Troubling Rain. He’s got ok at being in the same room as Huang Shaotian, and Huang Shaotian gives out friendship generously; he’s dragged Xu Boyuan for lunch plenty of times, and roped him into a few things. Once, when Xu Boyuan was quite new, he got Xu Boyuan to sneak out of work with him just to go to a park where he had heard there were lots of dogs. The goal was to pet every single dog. Xu Boyuan has some practice at being cool about it. But still. And to be told he’s liked, by the man he has a small case of hero worship for, it’s a lot. 

 

“Maybe I will do something,” Huang Shaotian says, slowly, thoughtful, a wicked smile blooming across his face. “I promise no one will ever know. Nothing official. Can I can I can I? I’ll film it all and show you it. It’ll be amazing! I’m so smart, this is the best plan ever! Please please please?”

 

Xu Boyuan wonders that he’s being asked for permission, but it is permission for Huang Shaotian to take unofficial revenge on someone for being mean to him, which might come back and reflect on Xu Boyuan’s professionalism too. He should say no thank you, politely, and go back to work, and suck it up. But he finds himself saying ‘yes’, and letting Huang Shaotian talk to him for another twenty minutes (mostly about the biscuits, Huang Shaotian works his way through the entire pack along with a whole host of stories about biscuits, chocolate, memories, anecdotes, bribing people in-game, something about Yu Wenzhou’s grandma making amazing biscuits). 

 

Zhao Lixin is waiting for him when he gets back to his office. He has a look on his face that is determination, helplessness, and uncertainty. It’s a difficult mixture, and Xu Boyuan almost gives in. When Zhao Lixin puts away work and offers to just play Glory with him for a while, he almost gives in. When Zhao Lixin brings him dinner, seeing as Xu Boyuan is still avoiding going out for dinner with him, Xu Boyuan almost gives in. When Zhao Lixin asks him if he’s alright, Xu Boyuan almost gives in. 

 

“Alright,” Zhao Lixin says, when Xu Boyuan manages to hold out. “Goodnight, then. Remember to delegate things to me, okay? Okay. Get some rest.”

 

Zhao Lixin waits a beat, then leaves. Xu Boyuan says, softly, to the empty doorway, “I really like you”. 

 

<break> 

 

Turns out, watching glitter absolutely explode out of Jiang You’s mouse when he moves it is a real balm for the soul. Xu Boyuan is watching on his computer, the picture jittering because Huang Shaotian, who is pointing his camera through a window from a corridor, is laughing. There’s a pause while Jiang You yells, then he clicks and then he types something and the keyboard also explodes, glitter everywhere. And then there are twin fountains of glitter from behind the computer, and Jiang You is storming into the corridor and Huang Shaotian is yelping and running and laughing wildly, and Xu Boyuan can hear Jiang You bellowing and storming and trying to see who it is who’s running away and oh, absolutely perfect - Jiang You is shouting at Zhang Xinjie

 

“Why are you helping him?! Who even was that?! I saw blue! Why are you helping Blue Rain!” 

 

“Of course I’m not doing that,” Zhang Xinjie says. Xu Boyuan can hear Huang Shaotian laughing still, and the camera veers around toward a wall - Huang Shaotian is leaning on a wall because he’s laughing. “Huang Shaotian and I had very important vice captain business, I’m sure this wasn’t him. Jiang You, are you questioning my professionalism? I am very serious about Glory.”

 

“It definitely was me and Xinjie definitely helped me,” Huang Shaotian whispers, the camera catching his face. “Oh no, here come security. Ahh! Hahahahaha!”

 

Huang Shaotian’s on the run again, and Xu Boyuan barely catches a very contrite Jiang You apologising profusely to Zhang Xinjie before the camera cuts out. 

 

“That,” Zhao Lixin says, softly, “was brilliant .”

 

Xu Boyuan hadn’t heard him come in, but he isn’t startled. He turns his chair, smiling, and Zhao Lixin looks taken aback. 

 

“What?” Xu Boyuan asks. 

 

“I haven’t seen you smile at me in-” Zhao Lixin swallows back the rest of the words. “I brought you reports from team three, about the 100 person dungeon in the Heavenly Domain they’re running. They can’t get past their current stage, and-”

 

“I’m sorry,” Xu Boyuan says, getting up. He feels calm, and he’s going to take advantage. His head is clear, for once, and he can suddenly see that actually, this isn’t the problem he thought it was. “I like you, Zhao Lixin. I’m going to kiss you, now. So say no quickly if you’re going to.”

 

Zhao Lixin doesn’t say no. He kicks blindly at the door until it shuts, and waits. Xu Boyuan kisses him. 

 

“Is this celebration for getting Jiang You back?” Zhao Lixin asks, standing still. 

 

“No. This is long overdue,” Xu Boyuan says. “I was worried. I’m your boss. I didn’t want to take advantage.”

 

“Oh, for heaven’s sake! Seriously?! You’re barely my boss!” Zhao Lixin is sharper than he has been in ages, and, right, Xu Boyuan has missed this. “You’re supposed to be smart!”

 

“I’m supposed to be about 80% anxiety,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

“Kiss me again. Kiss me, kiss me, if you talk any more I’m going to be too annoyed,” Zhao Lixin says, and then bipasses that by kissing Xu Boyuan instead, hand coming up to Xu Boyuan’s cheek, guiding him closer. 

 

“Oh,” Xu Boyuan whispers, sinking into it, holding onto Zhao Lixin’s hip, because oh, shit, he hasn’t touched anyone in… a long time. Zhao Lixin hums, pressing his forehead to Xu Boyuan’s. 

 

“I thought you were working through some crisis, realising you were gay and kept flirting and grabbing me and taking me on dates. I was waiting for you to realise,” Zhao Lixin says. “I have learnt so much patience . And all for some anxiety bullshit! Xu Boyuan-”

 

“I’ll kiss you again,” Xu Boyuan says, and does that. 

 

“You can’t just kiss me every time I-”

 

Xu Boyuan kisses him. This is great, this is perfect, this is going to be so useful. Xu Boyuan wonders how many exasperated, sarcastic, sardonic expressions he’s going to be able to just kiss away. Zhao Lixin’s hands are so warm. They’re stood, foreheads pressed together. Zhao Lixin has really nice eyes. 

 

“I’m going to be really anxious about this, soon,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

“Doesn’t matter. I know now. It’s insanely frustrating, but at least it’s- I’ve been walking on eggshells for months , you absolute spoon !” 

 

“Did you see Jiang You’s face?” Xu Boyuan asks, mind spinning, wheeling through joy. 

 

“I saw yours,” Zhao Lixin says, thumb against Xu Boyuan’s cheek. 

 

“We’ll watch the video again when Huang Shaotian sends it to me,” Xu Boyuan says. They were watching live, before. He’s certain Huang Shaotian recorded it too, though, and that he’ll get a copy. 

 

“You spoon,” Zhao Lixin says again.

 

<break>

 

“I told him,” Xu Boyuan says, to Bright Moon. They’re fighting monsters so she can level up. It’s good practice for Xu Boyuan; keeping her from dying is about three times the work of just killing monsters. She’s got quick reflexes and the more they do this, the more effective her hand speed - she’s getting good at dodging out of the way so he can swoop Blue River in to kill the monster. 

 

“Did it go well?” Bright Moon says. 

 

“I kissed him,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

“I hope you asked first,” Bright Moon says. 

 

“Yes, I did. He said yes,” Xu Boyuan says. “To that, and, we decided later for the rest.”

 

“Wonderful. I’ll send you some biscuits to celebrate.”

 

She does as well, a package shows up addressed to Blue River a few days later, a box of homemade biscuits which melt in the mouth, small and round and lovely. Huang Shaotian stops by about the recording and eats five of them, asks where he got them, and laughs really hard when Xu Boyuan tells him about Bright Moon, for some reason. 

 

“Are you laughing because she’s a woman? Or older?” Xu Boyuan asks. 

 

“No, no, no, I promise, I swear, I’m not! I’m very happy,” Huang Shaotian says. “For other unrelated reasons, not related at all, nothing to do with, did you say Bright Moon? Never heard the name before. Can I have another one of these? I’ll just take two. Mm, amazing. Ok you can’t tell Yu Wenzhou, alright? Alright, good.”

 

“About the biscuits?” Xu Boyuan asks. 

 

“About the, the, the, you know,” Huang Shaotian mimes an explosion with his hands, looking furtively around. There’s no one else here in the office. “You see Xinjie said I was doing it wrong and he wasn’t right I was doing it fine but actually I didn’t think they would explode quite that much it was definitely better that he helped and I didn’t mean to bribe him or blackmail him but anyway old Han cannot cannot find out because Xinjie is definitely definitely not meant to make his own guild rain glitter.”

 

Huang Shaotian pauses to laugh, bending with it, pulling the hood up on his jumper to hide himself. Xu Boyuan promises not to tell anyone at all, but admits that Zhao Lixin already knows. 

 

“Ok ok ok one person just you and Bound Boat and me and Xinjie, four people can keep a secret I’m sure I’m sure. Perfect, we’ll keep it secret and no one will know,” Huang Shaotian says. “Are you going to watch the All Stars? It’s going to be great great great! I have a good feeling. Me and the captain got chosen again, isn’t that great? We’re going to be great.”

 

Huang Shaotian takes another three biscuits on his way out, laughing to himself again. 

 

<break> 

 

Xu Boyuan has’t logged into Peerless Looks since Happy Guild stole three of his Blue Brook Guild players. He wanders around Glory with Bright Moon, these days, the times he might used to have gone to work for Happy Guild. He misses it in some ways, and glitter bombs aside, the relations between the main guilds haven’t got easier. Xu Boyuan still finds himself tired by it all. Zhao Lixin knocks on the open door, tablet in hand. 

 

“No, don’t,” Xu Boyuan says, thinking here comes another problem with Herb Garden, or Samsara, or last time it was Howling Heights. “No more.”

 

“Huh? It’s a report on new sign-ups,” Zhao Lixin says. “What? No more what?” 

 

“Oh. Are the numbers good?” Xu Boyuan asks, ignoring the question, taking the tablet. “Hm. Not bad. Could be better. Are there any records up for grabs?”

 

They talk about a few dungeon records that were set and no one bothered to touch but might be broken now, in the eleventh server. Xu Boyuan checks the time. They’re working day-times at the moment, which isn’t great for dungeon records. It’s Friday, and there’s still a few hours before people will start clocking off. He sends around an email so that next week team one will work at night, so they can set a few records. For now he and Zhao Lixin log in to the Heavenly Domain and help team three with their 100 person dungeon. They get to 85%, which is further than their competition from Herb Garden. It’ll just make for more politics and scheming, but for now, it’s a good outcome. 

 

“Dinner?” Zhao Lixin asks, stretching. 

 

“Later. I have a few things to finish up,” Xu Boyuan says. “Two hours?”

 

Things are still a bit tentative between them, with the rush toward the All-Stars, and still working on training and integrating the new members, there hasn’t been a lot of time. After the All-Stars there’ll be more time. Xu Boyuan logs into the tenth server to find Bright Moon, as arranged. 

 

“It’s hard,” he tells her, as he shows her how to open a room in the arena for PK, how to set a password. Now that she’s reached level 20 and chosen her class and no longer struggles with the basics so much, they’re going to finally do more than just talk about 1v1 fights. “We’re used to working together and that’s falling back into place. He’s still a bit careful. I’m not very sure of myself, I overcomplicate.”

 

“You’ll work it out,” Bright Moon says. “You’re a smart man.”

 

“Thank you. How’s your grandson?” Xu Boyuan always asks, and generally gets a small update on new things he likes, or something she’s bought for him. Today Bright Moon sighs. “Is something wrong?”

 

“I worry he works too hard at things,” Bright Moon says. “You definitely work too hard! It’s late.”

 

“I’m not working,” Xu Boyuan says. “Shall I talk to you about the different classes’ strengths and weaknesses in PvP?”

 

“I’ve read a lot of that, tell me about tactics.”

 

Bright Moon doesn’t question the ‘not working’ thing, thankfully. She’s very perceptive, she always catches on to the things he doesn’t want to expand on. He trusts that she will understand that she no longer counts as part of his work, that she will understand it as a gesture of friendship. In return for the biscuits. Or the advice, or the help, or the encouragement, or many little things she’s done for him. Zhao Lixin comes back early, with a snack, tapping on the door and coming to drop things on the desk and keeping quiet when he sees Xu Boyuan is wearing a headset and talking through PK tactics. They fight as he talks, slowly, feeling out the mechanics of it all. 

 

“Your grandson is lucky to have you looking out for him,” Xu Boyuan says, smiling as Zhao Lixin vanishes again. “I am lucky too.”

 

“You are both deserving. Now, go through that again for me, and then stop being so nice, I want to fight.”

 

It is a surprise how fierce Bright Moon is, and her hands really are fast! She might struggle with mechanics and sometimes it’s still a muddle, but he has no doubt she is already coming up with many many ways to tactically off-set all her weaknesses. Blue River is too experienced to lose, but he has no qualms setting her loose to PK people her own level. Well, he has many qualms, but only for her opponents.

 

<break> 

 

Xu Boyuan doesn’t owe Ye Xiu anything. He doesn’t owe Chen Guo anything. He definitely doesn’t owe Team Happy anything. He feels like he owes the guild something, though. Just a little bit of his happiness. A little bit of his re-found love for Glory. A tiny, tiny, tiny bit of his friendship with Bright Moon. 

 

“I don’t know what I owe them, but I think helping out in the other guild made me rethink some things, and I met you,” he says. He’s been watching Bright Moon PK, so he can offer her tips afterwards. He doesn’t have many, she has a lot of her own thoughts and questions, but they’re mostly done with that and they’re just sat in the arena now. 

 

“Which I’m glad for,” Bright Moon says. “I played with my grandson and his friend, last night. I’m not good enough to win of course, but I am finally good enough to play. We can talk. Well!” 

 

She stops and laughs, they’re using voice-chat so he hears it, a rough sound like she’s done a lot of laughing in her life. It’s a good laugh. 

 

“That sounds nice,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

“Yes, his friend talks quite a lot, it is nice to hear, but more-so it’s nice to see my grandson enjoying it. He likes to listen,” Bright Moon says. “They are quite the double-act. But, Blue River, I am saying that it is something good, and I feel like you have gifted me extra time with him. I don’t think that you owe this other guild anything, but I always like to return a gift in some way, even if the person doesn’t know the importance of what they’ve given to me.”

 

“I think I know what I want to do,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

“Good. What I want is to send you more biscuits. Just in case you shared them, and someone took more than they ought,” Bright Moon says. 

 

For a moment, something sparks, some fleeting thought which Xu Boyuan doesn’t quite grasp, but then it’s gone. He tells her that his boss did take a lot, but that he’d never mind. He tells her about the glitter, too, figuring she can’t possibly count under Huang Shaotian’s ‘do not tell another living soul’ indictment. She laughs and laughs and is delighted by it, and laughs some more. 



<break>

 

Part of working for a guild is bureaucracy, and part is not owning the shit you play with. Xu Boyuan has to fill in four different forms and also write a letter before he can sell Peerless Looks to Happy Guild. After the All-Stars, he gets an acceptable price for Blue Brook Guild, and Happy get to keep an account who guild members are familiar with. It helps, too, that Wang Zhi, one of those who Happy Guild stole from Blue Brook, has played on Peerless Looks (before Xu Boyuan used it for spying), and hasn’t got an account of his own. Of course Happy have plenty of accounts he could have, but it’s all very neat and tidy. Xu Boyuan feels like Happy get the best end of the deal. He has to visit the management offices to deliver the signed agreement, the offices are on the other side of the building, which means walking through the pro team’s side. He’s on his way back, when he has to stop.

 

“Laolao, I promise you, Shaotian is diligent reminding me, too,” the captain is talking to a tall woman, old and bent, beauty carved deep by years into her. “I look tired because I am tired, we had to travel for a competition.”

 

“The All Stars. I watched you playing,” the woman says, reaching to cup the captains face, all smiles and pride and joy. “How wonderful!” 

 

Xu Boyuan feels like he’s witnessing something private, but he’s not sure what to do about it, seeing as this is a public corridor. Maybe he should go back and go through to the guild another way. 

 

“Captain, captain, captain! You’re being really slow! Come on come on come on I want to show Mrs Liu these photos!” Huang Shaotian’s voice comes loud from a nearby room. “I have the best ones, I have the best best best pictures, I found the old photo shoot we did with the costumes!”

 

“The cos- no. Do you want me to ask again about the glitter?” Yu Wenzhou calls back.

 

His grandmother laughs, and Xu Boyuan trips from a standstill and, trying to catch himself he throws the coffee cup in his hand, and he watches in horrified fascination as it bounces off the wall, the sound making Captain Yu turn, the cup headed straight for his face. A hand snaps out at the last second and catches the thankfully empty cup out of the air. 

 

“Saved you, captain” Huang Shaotian says. “Nice cup! Ha! Troubling Rain! Look, it’s me it’s me it’s me. Xu Boyuan, you are too much, too much.”

 

“I bought it a while ago,” Xu Boyuan says, absently, eyes fixed on Yu Wenzhou’s grandmother . Oh god

 

“So I’m no longer your favourite? I’m hurt, so hurt, Wenzhou feel how difficult a time my heart is having still beating after that cruel remark from a man who once idolised me, looked up to me, thought much of me, and now he wouldn’t even buy a reusable take-away coffee cup what am I calling this? This is a long name, there must be a short name. Mrs Liu, Mrs Liu, you must know, you’re smart, smarter than your grandson, a shameful grandson who threatens me with terrible retribution just for wanting to show you beautiful beautiful- Xu Boyuan, are you alright? I was joking, you don’t need to buy cups with my face on. I will make you some for free if you want them.”

 

Huang Shaotian has wriggled his way through between the captain and the captain’s - captain of Blue Rain, Swoksaar, Yu Wenzhou, 

 

“Oh my god,” Xu Boyuan whispers. 

 

“Here, here,” Huang Shaotian catches his elbow. “Shall we go find the blanket and Pikachu and- hm, shall we shall we?”

 

“Do not eat my biscuits again, Shaotian,” the captain says. 

 

“Shall I tell him it was you? That would be really mean but he’d probably be less mad at you, especially if I tell him it was because you were upset. I won’t though, I won’t, I’m nicer than that. Hey, really, are you ok?” Huang Shaotian asks. 

 

“Yes, I’m, I’m,” Xu Boyuan tries to say something. He’s still staring at… at… “This is… this… that’s…”

 

“Oh, oh? You know who-  I think I see the problem,” Huang Shaotian says, his smile very wide. “Mrs Liu, you should meet our Blue River, Blue Brook Guild’s best and brightest!” 

 

“Blue River?” Mrs Liu says, turning away from her examination of Captain Yu, eyes meeting Xu Boyuan’s. “Hello, Blue River.”

 

“Mrs Liu,” Xu Boyuan says. “Oh no!”

 

“Oh no? Oh no? What is ‘oh no’ for? There’s no ‘oh no’, all is well this is good and brilliant and unless… unless. Oh NO! Mrs Liu, you just laughed very hard about glitter, and there’s no reason for that, and Xu Boyuan might not have known who you are but he told me ages and ages ago about Bright Moon and I knew that is you and so I know already and oh no! You told Mrs Liu?! Blue River, Blue River, Blue River! You promised, you promised ! Not a soul, you said, not a living soul, and Mrs Loi is definitely a soul! Definitely. Traitor, traitor, traitor! PKPKPKPK! I’ll PKPKPK until you learn some shame, you shameful swordmaster!”

 

“What, exactly, did Xu Boyuan tell Laolao, Shaotian?” Captain Yu says. 

 

“Wenzhou, I have come to understand that you tease Huang Shaotian out of affection and that is fine, but don’t tease poor Blue River. I will not tell you anything at all about this, and nor will Huang Shaotian, most especially if you are not kind to my friend,” Mrs Liu says. 

 

Mrs Liu. Bright Moon. Whose grandson plays Glory. Whose grandson is Captain Yu Wenzhou . And who knows about the glitter incident. Bright Moon, who’s stood in front of him, telling off Yu Wenzhou for teasing, and called him her friend. His heart-rate settles. He takes his travel mug from Huang Shaotian and steps around him (he’s still threatening to PKPKPK and talking trash under his breath). 

 

“I don’t mind. Captain Yu, I’m sorry for interrupting,” Xu Boyuan says. 

 

“This is the friend I told you about, Wenzhou” Mrs Liu says, before Xu Boyuan can say more. “He showed me how to play, he’s very patient. Now, you take Huang Shaotian away to PK some, he’s very excited and you wound him up, it’s only fair that you fight him. I am going to get tea with Blue River, and when I come back, Huang Shaotian can show me the photos so I can choose some to add to the clever picture frames he bought me.”

 

“Yes, yes, yes, fight me captain! I’ll win! I’ll show you, I’ve been practising diligently,” Huang Shaotian says, bouncing around Xu Boyuan and Mrs Liu. 

 

“Have you?” the captain asks, mildly, raising an eyebrow. 

 

“I have I have I have! I haven’t, you’re right, you’d better-” Huang Shaotian is cut short by the captain’s hand tight against his mouth. He laughs, muffled, and is pulled away, still trying to talk. 

 

“Blue River,” Mrs Liu says, smiling at him. “It’s good to meet you.”

 

“You knew,” Xu Boyuan says, and she laughs again, her familiar laugh even better in person. 

 

“I did know who my grandson is, of course. He asks that I don’t tell everyone, to keep me safe from journalists and scrutiny. He’s very good about my privacy. I admit, after a while I just found it amusing. You so clearly assumed my grandson was a child, or just out of childhood. You talked so enthusiastically about his Swoksaar, as well, it was nice to hear. I thought you might stop if you knew,” she tells him, as they walk toward the canteen. “I don’t come out very often, anymore. It is more and more of a struggle to travel, usually Wenzhou will visit me not the other way around. I didn’t mean to spring this on you, though, and I hope it doesn’t feel like broken trust, for you.”

 

Xu Boyuan assures her that it doesn’t. He understands. That their captain goes out of his way to carefully protect the privacy of the people he loves, and Bright Moon’s inclination to protect her own privacy and respect her grandson’s wishes. He is also not surprised that she decided to enjoy the humour of him not knowing, for a while. He gets them tea and they sit by a window, looking out at the outside world, watching the people pass below. 

 

“I’m glad I get to meet you,” Xu Boyuan says. “It’s ok, isn’t it?”

 

“I would have told you eventually, and I am glad to meet you as well. It is more than ok. You worry too much, Blue River. Why don’t I tell you about why I’m here, and you can sort through your worry while I talk?”

 

“That works.”

 

She’s here to help the captain and Huang Shaotian steal a rookie from Thunderclap, the woman who challenged Captain Yu at the All-Stars. Xu Boyuan doesn’t remember her name, but Mrs Liu does - she tells him about Zheng Lichun, Windblown Night, and how exciting it is to help Blue Rain recruit more female players. Xu Boyuan listens, drinking his tea quietly, letting the familiarity of the situation calm his nervousness. Mrs Liu is very calming, in person. They’ve shifted to a conversation about female players in Glory in general, when Zhao Lixin approaches the table, hesitating when Xu Boyuan spots him, waiting for Xu Boyuan to nod. 

 

“My friend’s here, he was expecting me back at the office, I think he’s come looking,” Xu Boyuan tells Mrs Liu. “This is Zhao Lixin, Bound Boat.”

 

“Perfect,” Mrs Liu says, turning her welcoming smile on Zhao Lixin. 

 

Perfect? Maybe. Things are, at least, good. There’s nothing wrong with good. Good is enough.