The Complete Guide to the Use and Care of a Personal Assistant
First Published on Chaleuria
What are you trying to do?
Ling Miao’s words beat against Su Yuyang’s heart like a drum. Su Yuyang asked himself, too: What am I trying to do?
To Ling Miao, Su Yuyang’s hesitation was an admission—an admission of hatred toward Ling Miao. Ling Miao put the bowls away and tidied the kitchen.
As Ling Miao did this, Su Yuyang stood as still as a statue in the middle of the kitchen. Though Ling Miao found Su Yuyang obstructed him by standing there, he didn’t want to talk to Su Yuyang so he didn’t try to chase Su Yuyang out.
“Xiao Miao…” Su Yuyang called out out of habit, but Ling Miao didn’t need to cut him off; he stopped of his own accord. Su Yuyang gave a faint smile, its bitterness spreading over his face as he said: “Ling Miao, I only want to be your…” Su Yuyang stopped.
“Fuck!” Yan Li’s surprised and elated exclamation came. Su Yuyang and Ling Miao’s gazes shot toward her like twin rays of light.
When Yan Li had finished packing, Ling Miao hadn’t yet come out of the kitchen, so she went to the kitchen to take a look. As she reached the entrance she saw Su Yuyang inside, and Ling Miao didn’t seem happy. She hadn’t made a sound and had instead waited to watch the show, so she heard every word the two had said.
“Ah, these two…” Yan Li hadn’t finished her exclamation when she heard Su Yuyang say, “Ling Miao, I only want to be your…” Even though Su Yuyang hadn’t finished speaking, his stopping point really let the imagination run wild. So, Yan Li instead exclaimed, “Fuck!”
Having been noticed by Su Yuyang and Ling Miao, Yan Li coughed twice to cover up the awkwardness. She rubbed her head and forced a smile: “Ling Miao, we should go. Take me to Feng-zi’s place.”
“Aren’t you going to rehearse?” Ling Miao ignored Su Yuyang’s half-finished sentence and slid out of the kitchen.
“My manager doesn’t know I’m here and I don’t want to reveal where I’m staying, so Lin-jie and I usually meet at Feng-zi’s shop,” Yan Li explained simply, then took out her phone to call Yang Lin.
Ling Miao opened the door and had one foot past the doorway when someone grabbed his hand, hard. Turning his head, he saw Su Yuyang looking at him with a longing expression. Ling Miao remembered Su Yuyang hadn’t finished speaking, and jeered: “Su Yuyang, you want to be my…?”
Su Yuyang seemed to have been stabbed by something. Every inch of his skin hurt, and his hand which had grabbed hold of Ling Miao now fell away, nerveless.
“Will… you still come back?” Su Yuyang asked haltingly.
Ling Miao shook his head. “Yan-jie isn’t here, so I don’t need to be here either.”
Yan Li couldn’t believe her ears. Wasn’t her leaving the perfect opportunity for them to interact? The plot already wasn’t progressing as she would have liked, and now one of the main characters was going missing—the show had gone completely off script! Yan Li was extremely anxious.
Su Yuyang didn’t continue to try to make Ling Miao stay. He dejectedly turned, went to the sofa, sat down, and pulled out a pack of cigarettes from the drawer to his side.
As Ling Miao was about to close the door he heard a small click from inside the house. It was the familiar sound of a lighter.
A cigarette was clutched between Su Yuyang’s teeth, and he brought the hand holding the lighter closer to the cigarette.
Whoo—Su Yuyang tilted his head back slightly and let out a breath. White smoke drifted from his mouth, thinning as it rose, giving Su Yuyang’s already desolate face an even more desolate air.
Ling Miao stared at Su Yuyang like he’d been possessed.
Over and over, Su Yuyang put the cigarette in his mouth, took a deep breath, then took it away and slowly spat out the smoke. Su Yuyang’s head was surrounded by a cloud and Ling Miao couldn’t see his expression clearly. But Ling Miao wanted to be near him, wanted to comfort him, wanted to smooth his creased forehead, wanted to…
“Ling Miao?” Yan Li gently patted Ling Miao’s shoulder.
Ling Miao gave a start. He looked at Yan Li’s concerned expression and forced a smile: “I’m fine. Let’s go.”
Yan Li sighed: “Look at you, your mind’s elsewhere. Just stay here. It’s alright if you’re not paying attention now, but if you don’t pay attention while driving that’s not good. I kind of like being alive.”
Ling Miao was well aware that he currently wasn’t in a good place. He couldn’t drive like this, but he also didn’t want to be alone with Su Yuyang .
“Yan-jie, I’ll go to W&S too.”
“You’ll go…” Yan Li found it strange and was about to ask why, but Ling Miao had already vanished around the corner.
Yan Li cut her words short and shook her head.
Yan Li turned and saw Su Yuyang smoking. Like a lit firework, she rushed into Su Yuyang’s house, snatched his cigarette and put it out on the ottoman.
Su Yuyang stared at Yan Li in shock, as if saying, “Didn’t you leave?”
Yan Li had intended to lecture Su Yuyang, but his slightly reddened eyes and watery gaze made her temper cool.
She channeled all her emotions and thoughts into a single word: “Idiot!”
Yan Li tossed the word out, then rushed out the door.
A deafening noise sounded and Su Yuyang felt the apartment shake.
Su Yuyang understood that Yan Li was mad—mad at him. He didn’t know the reason, but he guessed it had to do with Ling Miao.
“Ling Miao, Xiao Miao.” Su Yuyang dejectedly stared at the ceiling. In the smoke that had not yet cleared he could see Ling Miao’s face.
Xiao Miao, I just want to be your boss. I just want you at my side.
Su Yuyang’s own thoughts scared him. He jumped up from the sofa, the words I just want you at my side echoing in his mind.
“A strange feeling.” Su Yuyang laughed drily.
Whether Su Yuyang really didn’t understand or was trying to run away from it, from beginning to end he never let his thoughts about his feelings toward Ling Miao go in a certain direction.
Not thinking about it didn’t mean it didn’t exist. Under specific conditions, some things you don’t want to face will take the shortest path to appear in front of you, and when that happens, you’ll have nowhere to run.
As Yan Li drove toward W&S, Ling Miao took out his phone to make a call.
“Hey,” a thick voice came. Clearly the owner of the voice had been asleep.
Ling Miao glanced at the time and was surprised. He said: “Is red rain falling?¹ You’re still asleep?”
“Dumb cat, I don’t work today!!!” the person on the other end yelled, very upset that Ling Miao had interrupted his sleep.
Ling Miao slapped his forehead and said apologetically: “My work days aren’t the same as yours, I forgot.”
“So what did you call for?” The person on the other end was, of course, Ji Linxi. He was off work today and had taken the rare chance to sleep in, but Ling Miao had mercilessly woken him.
“You’re invited to dinner.”
“That’s why red rain will fall.” Ji Linxi’s voice grew much clearer and Ling Miao guessed he’d been forced to get up. “Since you’re treating, I won’t hold back. Just say where.”
With the location arranged, the call ended. Yan Li had guessed who Ling Miao had called but she still asked: “Who did you ask out? Your girlfriend?”
“Someone like me can get a girlfriend?” Ling Miao said self-effacingly. “I asked Linxi.”
“You don’t want to be alone with Old Su that much?” Yan Li inquired.
Ling Miao watched the trees by the side of the road fly by through the car window, his eyes thoughtful.
“I’m very scared,” Ling Miao said out of nowhere. He might have been answering Yan Li’s question or murmuring to himself.
Yan Li asked: “Scared of what? He won’t eat you.”
Yan Li had emphasized the word “eat,”³ and Ling Miao knew her intended meaning. Ling Miao actually wasn’t worried that Su Yuyang would do something to him. If he’d worried about this, he’d never have moved into Su Yuyang’s house in the first place.
Ling Miao’s fear toward Su Yuyang was still due to the old problem: Su Yuyang’s attitude.
Ling Miao didn’t know just what Su Yuyang’s feelings towards him were. Though he had discussed this with Su Yuyang before, the facts indicated that the discussion had failed.
Discuss it again?
Ling Miao didn’t have the courage.
“If I was worried he’d do something to me, why would I move into his house in the first place?” Ling Miao grew pensive. “Yan-jie, something seems to be standing between me and Su Yuyang.”
Ling Miao couldn’t think of what that thing might be, but Yan Li knew: it was the paper in the window!³
The hardest thing wasn’t not knowing, but knowing and not being able to say anything.
Yan Li thought about this bitterly as the car came to a stop in front of W&S.
Yang Lin was still on the way and W&S was currently busy. Yan Li wouldn’t get out of the car and Ling Miao worried she’d be bored so he waited with her in the car, making halting conversation.
Ji Linxi reached W&S and didn’t see Ling Miao inside. He asked Feng Ji, who didn’t know either.
Ling Miao only realized he was late when he got Ji Linxi’s call.
“Dumb cat,” Ji Linxi said as he got in the car.
Seeing Ji Linxi get in, Yan Li froze. This man! Things were fine when he wasn’t around, but why did her heart want to leap out her throat the moment she saw him?
Ling Miao huffed: “Don’t dredge up the past!”
“What past?” Yan Li turned around curiously, glimmering eyes pressing Ji Linxi.
Ji Linxi remained expressionless. His stoicism had a calming effect on the people around him.
“Don’t say it!” Ling Miao commanded.
Ji Linxi ignored Ling Miao’s sincere wishes. He reminisced: “‘Miao’ and ‘meow’ have the same sound, so Ling Miao’s nickname was ‘cat.’ Once, in class, he talked back to a teacher who was already in a bad mood, and the teacher threatened to fail him. So, now there’s the word ‘dumb’ in front of ‘cat.’”
“So ‘the past’ refers to him talking back to the teacher?”
“Because of that incident, he didn’t get a scholarship that term—that was the single time he didn’t get a scholarship.” Ji Linxi twisted the knife.
“You’re an honor student!” Yan Li gave Ling Miao a thumbs-up but Ling Miao felt the teasing in it.
“Hey…” Ling Miao punched Ji Linxi’s chest, neither light nor hard, and laughed: “Ji Linxi, hoes over bros?”
“Ji Linxi?” Yan Li suddenly screeched. “Your surname is Ji?”
 Referring to grid windows, which in China sometimes have paper in between for privacy. This is maybe a metaphor for ‘something easy to break through’.