"Su Mucheng..." said Li Xuan softly as he reached his hand out and stroked her cheek.
Su Mucheng hummed in response but continue to stare at the laptop placed on the table.
"What soap do you use? The one they gave here stinks." Li Xuan had his head on Su Mucheng's lap and he could see flashes of the video playing on the laptop by looking at the reflection in her eyes.
"I use the soap they gave here."
'Oh? Then your lovely scent must be all yours." Li Xuan reached out and tugged at her bangs lightly.
This finally caught her attention and Su Mucheng smacked his hand away.
"Focus. We are both supposed to be working on this." Su Mucheng' s tone was stern but her eyes were still playful.
Li Xuan sighed as he sat up straight.
"And here I thought we will spend some quality time together...."
"We already did that when we went shopping. Have you forgotten already?"
"Ah but that's different..."
"Probably because you were too busy gaping at the stuff in the electronics section."
"Um well.... you were taking quite a while to choose whether you wanted the pink top or the pink top."
"It was magenta. There's a difference."
"I stand corrected" Li Xuan grinned at Su Mucheng and couldn't help but marvel at how she was so focussed even with his annoying behaviour.
The task allotted to them by the tactical unit was to study two specific players on the Netherlands Team but Li Xuan was in no mood to analyse videos extensively.
Not that he would ever get the mood for such activities.
The Netherlands had a very interesting duo on their team; a Launcher-Ghostblade combination. Their unique and excellent coordination had gained them quite a few wins. The duo themselves were so famous that their partnership had a name back in their country - The Rose and The Thorn.
The video playing on the laptop right now showed these two players setting up an ambush against the German Team and trapping their main dps classes tightly in a mesh of boundaries.
"Hey Su Mucheng... Do you think we can form a duo like that too?"
"I'm not sure if I can be a rose... But you will be very suitable as a thorn." she replied mischievously.
Li Xuan just laughed because he was used to her teasing now.
In a way, he preferred that she treated him like this. It somehow felt like they were not so distant.
Li Xuan still had no idea how he had worked up the courage to confess to her. He had always liked her, but it was only during Season 7 that he had realised that he cared about her a lot more than he had imagined.
Su Mucheng did not want to talk to anyone much after Ye Xiu had left Excellent Era and while Ye Xiu had opened up to the other pros and revealed his side of things, all Li Xuan had cared about was if Su Mucheng was alright.
It had been impossible to talk to her though and he had initially felt a bit hurt at her cold attitude. But once he had got more details he had tried to help in as small ways as possible, even if it was just sending her an occasional text or two.
After Su Mucheng had transferred to Happy, Li Xuan had felt quite relieved until he realised that now Void would have to face the headache of Ye Xiu and Su Mucheng on the same team again.
He had kept his feelings apart to be professional but after that one game when Void had been completely annihilated and Li Xuan himself had suffered at Su Mucheng's hands he had been at an all-time low.
He wondered if it was actually his feelings for Su Mucheng that held him back but his ever reliable vice-captain assured him that it was only because of his lack of skill compared to her and had nothing to do with his emotions.
It was after the All-Star when the two had started talking casually on the hotel lawn that Li Xuan had finally expressed what he felt.
He had no memory of how the conversation had veered in that direction or why he had said it, but he did remember how hard it had been to convince Su Mucheng he was not joking.
They had parted awkwardly after that as Su Mucheng had very honestly said she had never thought of Li Xuan that way.
It didn't particularly break his heart as he hadn't expected Su Mucheng to come running into his arms or something, but with the constant nudging from Wu Yuce and his one other confidant Xiao Shiqin, he had got the courage to bring up the topic with Su Mucheng again.
In the end they had decided to give it a try with the clause that they were free to leave if they wished to.
While most people would have been troubled by the physical distance in a relationship, it didn't worry Li Xuan at all. He was quite active and ready to travel around to meet Su Mucheng frequently and even otherwise didn't mind chatting on the phone or on video.
It was only after the end of Season 10 that the two actually got to spend time together. Su Mucheng was quite happy that Li Xuan didn't mind shopping or doing mundane stuff with her. Li Xuan wasn't particularly interested in all this but it had been a good opportunity to know more about Su Mucheng and bridge the gap.
In the span of a few weeks Su Mucheng had expressed how she didn't mind the way things were going at all and that she reciprocated his feelings too.
When Li Xuan had received the news Han Wenqing had declined to join the China Glory Team and Li Xuan was the next choice he had felt a mixture of emotions.
Happiness on the personal side because it meant he could be with Su Mucheng in an amazing place like Zurich but on the professional front, embarrassment that he was being added on as an afterthought just to make up the numbers.
The others had teased him a bit on the way but Su Mucheng had openly expressed how she was glad he was with them and soon the rest of the team picked up on the hints.
Of course Li Xuan was not put into a spot because most of the team weren't the kind to judge each other on their personal life but even otherwise Su Mucheng maintained such a discreet and professional aura with Li Xuan in front of the team that there was nothing to suggest they were a couple.
That was why he was in no mood for serious work when they are getting a quiet moment to themselves.
"I'm bored" said Li Xuan.
"I know..." Su Mucheng shot him a quick look before looking back at the screen "You are very obvious about it."
Li Xuan stared into space quietly.
He knew that he had nothing to contribute when it came to deep video analysis. The least he could do was explain the Ghostblade skills but there was nothing that Su Mucheng did not already know.
Suddenly out of the corner of his eye he saw the Ghostblade do something and Li Xuan let out a cry of surprise as he reached forward to pause the video.
"What?!" asked Su Mucheng immediately as his fingers brushed her hand. Li Xuan peered at the video intensely and played the segment a few times.
'What?!?!" asked Su Mucheng again impatiently and she shook his shoulder.
Li Xuan looked at her and smiled widely.
"Won't say!" he said hoping that Su Mucheng would not just slap him.
Su Mucheng raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms.
"Oh? What do you want then?"
Li Xuan took a quick look at the door and Su Mucheng's eyes narrowed because in spite of having been together for a few months now, she had no idea how Li Xuan's brain worked.
"Ok... I don't think anybody will check in on us...So-" Li Xuan stopped mid sentence as Su Mucheng picked up a notebook lying nearby and threw it at his face.
"What?!??" he cried as he caught the book "My dear Su Mucheng please tell me you did not-"
"Shut up!" said Su Mucheng immediately as she gave Li Xuan a hard poke in the chest.
"Haha...ok" Li Xuan put his arm around her shoulder and smiled "What I meant was, I am bored and maybe we can take a break for a while and I don't think anybody will catch us slacking off."
"What do you want to do then...." Su Mucheng snuggled close and rubbed her eyes. She had been staring intensely at the screen for a while and she was glad for a break too.
"Um... good question. I think you want to rest your eyes so no movies huh?"
"No.... and we are going to have a short break!" Su Mucheng thought for a second before snapping her fingers "Let's play a game!"
"As long as I don't have to get up."
"Ok.... how about asking questions to know how well the other person knows you? And if you fail to answer a question, Li Xuan, we will go back to work immediately!"
Li Xuan's eyes gleamed hearing this condition.
"So if I keep answering we don't need to work?"
"Haha! Let's see! First question! My favorite color?! "
Su Mucheng was delighted by the quick response. A lot of people just assumed pink was her favorite colour because she chose a lot of clothes in that shade but Li Xuan was good enough not to trip on the very first question.
"Ding! Correct! Now your turn!"
"Ok... wait what will I get if you mess up?" Li Xuan looked at Su Mucheng hopefully.
"Well.... I'll let you take me out for dinner tonight?"
"Su Mucheng.... really?? Please let me win something."
".... Um... I will take you out to dinner?" Su Mucheng giggled and Li Xuan sighed.
"Ah fine... Ok! Favorite color?"
"Nice... I should make it tougher."
"Me too!" Su Mucheng racked her brain for a really hard question and smiled as she got one "Favorite Chinese drama actor? Male."
"Huh? How did you know?"
"I know! You like him because he looks like Ye Xiu and you also don't like him for the same reason as you can't take him seriously in certain roles!"
"Li Xuan.... I didn't think you paid attention to my dramas." Su Mucheng had thought this was a difficult question but Li Xuan seemed much more perceptive than she had thought.
"Well... I don't watch them or anything... Just overheard you mention it. " said Li Xuan smiling sheepishly "Ok, since I don't watch dramas... My favorite sportsperson?"
Su Mucheng scrunched up her eyes in thought.
"It's a footballer right?"
"Um... it's that guy... you said he was fast! I don't remember his name exactly... "
"Ah it's fine. Wu Lei. That was hard. I'll give it to you."
Su Mucheng wanted to say that it was probably only as hard as Yang Yang but she moved on to the next question.
"Sunflower seeds, Melon seeds or Ice cream. Favorite snack?"
"Correct and... it's sweet potatoes.... ah no never mind!!!" Su Mucheng could see from Li Xuan' expression that she was miles away from the right answer.
"I'm more of a junk food person... " hinted Li Xuan.
"Oh... Wait! Cheetos!! Is that it?!"
"Yes!!" Li Xuan grinned and waited for the next question.
Su Mucheng thought a bit more carefully this time as she had realised she was not so quick with her answers compared to Li Xuan.
"Food I dislike?" she asked hesitantly. She had an idea about what Li Xuan did not like but she was curious to see what he had to say about her.
"Well.... you are not a picky eater." said Li Xuan "But I would say you are not fond of dried squid?"
"Hehe! Yes! I'm surprised you noticed! But yeah, I eat everything! Your turn!"
"What I want as a pet?"
"Eh?! Ask the same question!" said Su Mucheng immediately.
"There's a rule like that?"
"No... but that's fun right?!!"
Li Xuan hesitated for a second.
"Um..... ok... It's fine even if you don't get it... Food I dislike?"
"Garlic!" said Su Mucheng confidently but paused as she saw Li Xuan give a faint smile "Wait it's not?"
"Ah.... well it's not my favorite food -"
"Wait!! You don't dislike it?!!" Su Mucheng looked so agitated that Li Xuan patted her cheek comfortingly.
"It's ok... I mean I understand -"
"But I have seen you take so much care to separate it from your food everytime we go out to eat!!! You even said no garlic once when you ordered something!! I remember that!!" Su Mucheng tried to hide her disappointment but failed.
"Well yes... but that's because it makes my breath smell so bad and I don't want to eat it when I'm with someone that's all. I don't actually dislike it."
"Oh.... then what do you dislike?" asked Su Mucheng.
"Um... " Li Xuan gave another nervous smile "Sweet potatoes....... "
Su Mucheng made an unhappy sound and curled up tightly on the sofa.
"Ah... it's fine" Li Xuan pulled her into a hug and continued speaking "It's mostly because of the gas and I don't think I have ever mentioned it. That's why I said it's ok even if you didn't get it right!"
"But still!" Su Mucheng curled her lips, feeling annoyed at herself "You know a lot of stuff about me but I couldn't say anything!"
"Hey, it's fine! I pay a lot attention... Not that I'm saying you don't!!! You definitely do!"
Su Mucheng pulled her knees close and rested her chin on top.
"Not as much as you do I guess...."
Li Xuan tickled her lightly as he wondered how to get out of this awkward situation.
"Su Mucheng... You know everything about me in Glory though right?"
"Everybody does. You are not too deep."
"Ouch. What I meant to say is... I was putting in extra effort! Like... we have a huge mental divide and I tried to pay attention to all these random stuff just to understand you better and close the gap!"
"Mental divide?" Su Mucheng tilted her head and looked at him curiously.
"Well... you know... " Li Xuan wavered for a second before finding the right words "You are smart... and pretty.... and interesting. There's a lot of stuff to know about you. Unlike me."
"Well.... I like that. You are normal and plain and fun to hang out with... "
"And carry your bags without complaining and walk around a million shops... "
"That too... And you are not that bad-looking.... Of course if we are talking about being smart... "
Su Mucheng shook her head sadly but as Li Xuan began to tickle her more aggressively she burst into giggles.
"I'm kidding!" she said as she freed herself before linking her arm through his and leaning on his shoulder. "Ok... I lost. And it's certainly possible for me to close this distance too but for that you need to tell me more stuff however boring you think it is!!"
"Ha... that's hard. But I'll try."
Su Mucheng nodded in reply.
It was true that she did know more about Li Xuan in Glory compared to Li Xuan as a person, but they had got closer over the last two months.
She had been quite excited at the thought that he would join the China Glory Team but it was very hard to get moments to themselves.
Su Mucheng got along with most everyone and no matter what there was always her lifelong friend and teammate Ye Xiu for company. So she had been worried if Li Xuan would be lonely.
But besides the company of the Golden Generation, Li Xuan had also met an old friend in the American Team and to Su Mucheng's surprise he did not seem lonely at all.
In the end, Su Mucheng gave up her hopes of having him take the initiative for a day out in Zurich and had taken everything into her hands with her shopping expedition.
But it still felt nice to just talk to each other in a quiet room like this.
"Su Mucheng... " said Li Xuan suddenly "I will treat you to dinner tonight. Instead can you answer a question?"
"Um... ok." Su Mucheng was intrigued as to what question was worth answering by giving up on free food "As long as it's not what pet you want because I have no clue. Is it a puppy?"
"You like puppies? Then I'm fine with it too. It was just random. Ok... so the question... What was the moment that made you like me?"
"Oh!" Su Mucheng looked up with a laugh "I should only answer for myself right?"
"Yeah! Because you already know when I realised it."
"You took your time to ask me this...." Su Mucheng squeezed his hand "Do you remember that time we went to that clothes shop in City H? The big one owned by a friend."
"Yeah.... I think I do."
"Ok... so while I was trying on clothes I happened to see your reflection on the mirror.... and you were picking your nose.... "
Li Xuan had been twirling Su Mucheng's hair between his fingers but hearing this he froze.
"Su Mucheng.... " he said faintly "You liked me because of something ill-mannered like that?"
"No, silly!" Su Mucheng giggled before continuing to speak "I could see how you were awkwardly standing there wondering what to do with your dirty hands. And it was so funny how after we left when I tried to hold your right hand you kept pushing me away!!"
"Wait!! You did that on purpose?!!" Li Xuan sat up and looked at her in horror.
"Yes!!" Su Mucheng burst out into laughter seeing his expression "I was just curious! Is Li Xuan so desperate to hold my hand that he would sacrifice cleanliness?!"
"That was such a nightmare moment for me.... I can't believe you were enjoying it!!"
"And I kept visiting all those shops! And then each time I said we should eat at a roadside stall and you went 'no!! Let's eat at a fancy place!!' "
"Wait..... you.... Su Mucheng you are so cruel.... "
"I'm sorry!! But it was funny how you tried to cover it up!! You know.... I carry hand sanitizer with me at all times! You could have just asked!!"
"Right..... Hey I picked my nose... Can I get some sanitizer please?" Li Xuan began to laugh and hugged Su Mucheng tighter "I knew you were trouble... but I never guessed you were messing with me that time!"
"Hehe!" Su Mucheng cuddled close and then said softly "But I did think it was cute... I mean... you were trying so hard and - I meant it you know. I like that you are so normal and easy to be around. I can just.... talk to you."
"Me too... I mean you did seem scary at first but.... right now I can't think of anyone I am more comfortable around."
"Even if I don't know which food you dislike?" Su Mucheng looked up at him with a teasing smile.
"Ha! Please! I don't sweat over the small stuff.... at least in real life."
Su Mucheng laughed because she knew very well how Li Xuan fretted over Glory and Team Void.
"So... do you have a place in mind tonight? Chu Yunxiu mentioned she had eaten at a good restaurant the other day...."
"Oh nice... " Li Xuan's eyes flickered to the laptop screen that had turned itself off and after a pause he shouted energetically "And that's why we definitely have to beat Netherlands!!"
"Huh?" Su Mucheng was about to ask if he had gone crazy when she saw the laptop screen too and noticed the faint reflection of the door to the room which was now opened slightly.
"Oh yes definitely!!" she shouted "And with your amazing plan we will definitely take out their core duo!"
"What - Ah yes definitely! Annihilated!!"
Su Mucheng sneaked another glance at the reflection but whoever was listening in had still not left.
"You are so amazing, Li Xuan!!" she shouted and before he could say anything, Su Mucheng flung herself around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.
Su Mucheng saw the door close softly and she plopped back on the sofa with a sigh.
"Who on earth was that??" Su Mucheng said with a sigh.
"One of those master tactician guys who have plenty of time to spare..... " replied Li Xuan "But I don't mind! I did get a nice kiss."
"Ha!! Now out with your plan!!! And maybe you will get another one!!"
"I hope it is to your satisfaction, my lady..... "
"It better be!!"
Su Mucheng turned on the laptop as Li Xuan wrapped his arm around her waist and the two began an earnest discussion on the video again.
The next match the China Glory Team won against The Netherlands with an incredible counter by their very own Launcher-Ghostblade duo.
As the team stood around celebrating, Su Mucheng smiled as she nestled her hand in Li Xuan's.
"You can be the rose... " she whispered.
"Ha... and you are one hella scary thorn." said Li Xuan fondly and the two began to laugh.
"I know it's freezing but I'm in the mood for icecream!" said Su Mucheng.
"Good! It won't melt!" agreed Li Xuan.
Su Mucheng smiled.
He really did know her very well.
"Yep! Let's go!"