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above the ordinary; golden

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“Ye Xiu!” Chen Guo yelled. “Get up and come here!”

Ye Xiu jolted awake at the banging on his door, propping himself up on his elbow as he tried to process whatever it was that was being shouted at him this time.

On the other side of the room, Wei Chen let out a loud groan. “What does that woman want now?”

“For me to get up, I guess,” Ye Xiu said spiritlessly, then reluctantly placed his feet on the floor. He stood, stretched his arms above his head, and sighed at his bed.

Wei Chen just turned over and buried his face in his pillow. “Well, don’t keep her waiting.”

With a hum, Ye Xiu pulled on a not-wrinkly shirt and stepped into the chilly hallway. It was probably a good thing he had gone to sleep in his sweatpants.

Chen Guo was nowhere to be seen; the hallway was curiously empty. Ye Xiu passed the opened doors of his teammates’ rooms and noted that they were empty as well. Was everyone downstairs already? Should he go back and get Wei Chen? What time was it, anyway?

Well, Chen Guo had only called for him…

Ye Xiu arrived downstairs and ambled in the direction of the living room, which was where pretty much everyone gathered at some point between breakfast and training. And sure enough, there everyone was—minus Wei Chen, and with the dubious addition of Chen Guo, who was normally at the Internet café at this time of day.

“Good morning,” Ye Xiu said as several pairs of eyes turned to stare at him.

“Morning!” Su Mucheng returned cheerfully.

Silence. Why were they just sitting there? “Is something going on?” Ye Xiu asked, starting to feel concerned.

Chen Guo, the only person besides him who was standing, marched over to him and grabbed his arm. She pulled him forward until they both stopped right in front of the couch where Luo Ji, Steamed Bun, An Wenyi, and Qiao Yifan were sitting.

Ye Xiu looked down at the four of them, and they gazed up at him with expressions that varied between indifference and trepidation. He then glanced at Chen Guo and raised an eyebrow.

Before she could say anything, though, Fang Rui interjected from where he sat with Su Mucheng and Tang Rou. “I just want to add that Little Qiao is innocent in all this.”

Qiao Yifan’s eyes widened. “I—”

“It’s true, he’s barely involved,” An Wenyi said.

“Involved in what?” Ye Xiu demanded, growing more confused by the second. “How long have you all even been awake?” He only slept in a couple days a week, usually after the latest match. How much trouble could these kids get up to in the hour he left them unsupervised? And what was Chen Guo’s role in this?

“Bathroom,” Mo Fan grunted. He sat on the single lonely armchair, as distanced from everyone as he could be, his small frame curled into an undeniably defensive posture. “They fought in the bathroom.”

Ye Xiu blinked. “They what?”

“Not an actual fight,” Luo Ji quickly assured, looking guilty. “A—a water fight.”

“They splashed water all over the bathroom and made a damn mess,” Fang Rui clarified.

Steamed Bun nodded solemnly. “It was very messy. There was lots of water.”

You started it,” Luo Ji accused. “I don’t think you should be commenting on the mess.”

“Who made the mess?” Ye Xiu asked before they could devolve into their typical bickering.

“Luo Ji and Steamed Bun, mainly,” Chen Guo explained, “but An Wenyi egged them on. And Qiao Yifan sort of…watched, I guess.”

“Sorry,” Qiao Yifan said, “I didn’t know what to do.”

“I think Yifan is innocent,” Tang Rou said.

“Little Qiao is always innocent,” Su Mucheng added with a laugh.

Ye Xiu raised incredulous eyebrows at An Wenyi. “You egged them on?”

“I just made a comment,” An Wenyi said, crossing his arms over his chest. “I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and they were having some stupid argument about the toothpaste and splashing water from the sink everywhere. So, I said they could wrestle in the shower if they really wanted to, just get away from the sink and let me brush my teeth. And then one of them splashed me when I wasn’t looking, and it escalated from there.”

Now that he mentioned it, Ye Xiu could see that the three of them—Luo Ji, Steamed Bun, and An Wenyi—were wearing wet clothes. They weren’t soaked, but the water stains were notable.

Qiao Yifan was also a little soggy around the edges. He’d probably happened upon the three in the bathroom and gotten caught in the crossfire.

“Okay, so. You guys splashed water at each other and made a mess in the bathroom.” Ye Xiu paused. “Did you clean it up?”

“They are going to,” Chen Guo said with a glare.

“Uh huh. So, what’s the issue here? Why are we all gathered around like it’s an intervention?”

“We’re having an intervention?” Wei Chen said from behind him, trudging into the living room. “So soon?”

“What do you mean, ‘so soon’?” Fang Rui asked, mystified.

“It’s not an intervention,” Ye Xiu said. “Thanks for joining us, though.”

Wei Chen yawned. “Did you guys know that one of the bathrooms upstairs is soaking wet?”

“We know,” several voices chorused.

“Well, who’s gonna address it?”

Chen Guo grumbled under her breath about self-interested old men and then declared, “I think the three most involved parties should clean up.”

“Is it really An Wenyi’s fault, though?” Luo Ji asked, tossing An Wenyi a nervous glance. “He didn’t really do much…”

“It doesn’t matter, we have to make an example of him,” Wei Chen said solemnly.

Fang Rui revealed a disbelieving expression. “Old Wei, you don’t even have any context.”

“Yeah, you don’t get an opinion,” Su Mucheng said with a sweet smile.

“Whatever, I’m getting breakfast.” Wei Chen strolled away to the kitchen in a shameless display of unconcern.

Ye Xiu watched him go with a sigh—how many times did he have to sigh before someone took pity on him?—then turned to the main culprits. “An Wenyi is gonna have to take some heat here; he said something he shouldn’t have, after all. The three of you can grab some…towels or whatever and dry the bathroom the best you can. The rest of us will start training; join us when you’re done.”

“Is that all?” Chen Guo demanded, crossing her arms.

Ye Xiu stared at her, exasperated. “What, were you expecting me to announce an execution? Should I lob off their heads with the kitchen knife? Have them hanged? Push them off the roof?”

“Wouldn’t that just be more mess to clean up?” Steamed Bun wondered.

“Exactly,” Tang Rou said, “so no violent executions today. Can we go train?”

“I’ll get some towels,” Lui Ji said quickly, standing up. Then he paused and looked at Chen Guo. “Where are the towels?”

Chen Guo let out a gusty sigh and gestured for him to follow her. The two of them departed from the living room without a word, though Ye Xiu thought he could hear Chen Guo hissing at Lui Ji threateningly as they went.

An Wenyi also stood up. “I’ll go upstairs, then. Come on, Steamed Bun.”

“Do you need help?” Qiao Yifan asked.

“Don’t help them, Little Qiao,” Fang Rui said, rolling his eyes.

Mo Fan uncurled from the armchair and stared suspiciously at An Wenyi and Steamed Bun for a moment, as if trying to make a point, then got to his feet. “It’s time to train.”

“Yes, it is,” Tang Rou agreed, and the two of them scampered off.

Su Mucheng hummed and trailed after them, tossing a grin at Ye Xiu. Fang Rui huffed and said to Steamed Bun and An Wenyi, “Okay, you criminals, let’s go upstairs. I’m supervising you.”

“What, did they splash you, too?” Ye Xiu asked, surprised.

“I almost slipped and died because of them,” Fang Rui admitted. Then he herded the two “criminals” upstairs.

A few seconds passed in silence. Ye Xiu shook his head at the empty living room. “It’s always something with these people, isn’t it? God, I need a smoke.”

Ye Xiu did not smoke. He went to initiate training like a responsible team captain. Maybe he did smile a little, though, especially when he heard several alarming thumps from upstairs.

Su Mucheng badly concealed her giggle with a cough. Mo Fan narrowed his eyes at her.

Wei Chen and Fang Rui (who had left his charges in the dubious custody of Chen Guo) joined them shortly. Wei Chen glanced at the ceiling and asked, “What’s going on up there?”

Fang Rui threw himself down in a chair. “Nothing I’m responsible for.”

“I’m telling you, an intervention is coming,” Wei Chen insisted. “It is necessary.”

“Only divine intervention will save them from the boss’s wrath,” Fang Rui replied. “Captain, you might want to look into luring new teammates into this den of lawlessness and depravity. They’re not gonna make it.”

Another loud thump sounded above their heads. Everyone ignored it. And the faint yelling that followed.

“I’ll do that,” Ye Xiu drawled.

He would do no such thing. The kids would survive. Probably.