After enduring a short period of ringing, Su Yuyang felt his ears return to normal. He touched the shell of his ear and said with disdain: “It isn’t my civic duty to tell you this. I read your novel to help me fall asleep when I can’t.”
“You’re really a lot.” Ling Miao lowered his register. His voice rumbled like the thunder before a summer storm.
Ling Miao slumped against the wall and sat, limply, on the cold stone floor. He took a deep breath and said self-deprecatingly: “Yeah, my novel isn’t as popular with readers as yours, but you don’t have to talk about it like it’s worthless, right? You shot to fame with your first book, but god only knows how many times you failed before you got famous. Maybe you were in a worse state than me before you made a name for yourself!
So what if you’re a god among novelists now? If you’re so great, then break out of Asia and get famous worldwide! You’re laughing at me, a no-name writer, but what ground do you even have to stand on?”
Ling Miao could not bear to lift his head and see Su Yuyang’s expression, so he fled into the bathroom without waiting for Su Yuyang’s response.
Click—Ling Miao softly closed the bathroom door. Su Yuyang watched Ling Miao’s blurred shadow behind the door.
Su Yuyang couldn’t see his own expression, but he did know his own feelings—an inexplicable pain was roiling in his heart.
While Ling Miao had been speaking, Su Yuyang had tried many times to interrupt, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to say anything, comforting or chiding. Su Yuyang had quietly listened to Ling Miao denounce him, and only when Ling Miao had closed the bathroom door behind him did he thoroughly understand how much his words had hurt Ling Miao.
Ling Miao was easily provoked, and sometimes Su Yuyang would intentionally press Ling Miao’s buttons. Ling Miao would usually fall for it then yell and scream at Su Yuyang. Su Yuyang would speak to him gently, half chiding, half consoling, and when Ling Miao quieted down, the matter would be over.
Today was the first time Su Yuyang had encountered Ling Miao’s quiet accusations. The result of his unexpected behavior was mostly extreme fear. Su Yuyang was suddenly not sure if he could make Ling Miao’s state of mind return to normal.
Ling Miao looked at himself in the mirror. Frustration and fear were written all over his face.
A drop of water slid down his cheek and landed on the back of his hand, still warm from the heat of his body.
Su Yuyang’s heart was in disarray. Ling Miao’s heart was similarly uneasy.
More than one person had called Ling Miao’s books bad, but the words seemed to gain additional flavor when they came out of Su Yuyang’s mouth. Maybe Ling Miao had already subconsciously rejected the notion that his books ‘sucked,’ in addition to not caring about other people’s opinions. So when Su Yuyang with his successful author’s halo had mercilessly revealed the truth in front of Ling Miao, it had completely destroyed his confidence.
“But since I don’t care about other people’s opinions, why do I care about Su Yuyang’s opinion? Because he’s a successful novelist?” Ling Miao splashed cold water on his face in an attempt to calm himself down, but it was mostly ineffective and only worsened his panic.
A lot of questions didn’t have answers, like how even Su Yuyang didn’t know why he had pushed out an additional update for Ling Miao, or why he liked poking at Ling Miao’s sore spots.
The last rays of the sun vanished in the west, and the city was draped in a cloak of the cold, sparkling lights that streamed in with the night.
In the time between sundown and moonrise, Su Yuyang maintained the same position he had been in since Ling Miao had entered the bathroom. Ling Miao’s silhouette still lay unmoving against the frosted glass of the bathroom door. It hadn’t moved a fraction.
A few minutes later, the splashing sound of water came from the bathroom, as did the rumble of the water heater from across the apartment.
Su Yuyang froze. If not for Ling Miao’s earlier unexpected behavior and the fact that he had stood completely still in the bathroom for such a long time, Su Yuyang would have thought Ling Miao was playing a joke on him after hearing the loud splashing and rumbling.
Thinking that Ling Miao must have calmed down, Su Yuyang didn’t linger outside the bathroom like a statue.¹
Su Yuyang returned to his bedroom and continued his nightly routine. Ling Miao finished his shower. He didn’t see Su Yuyang when he emerged, but he did see the sticky note Su Yuyang had left for him on his laptop.
“Read a lot, write a lot, discuss a lot, rinse and repeat.” Ling Miao glanced over the… field guide to writing(?) Su Yuyang had left him and came to one conclusion: Su Yuyang’s handwriting was uglier than his own. (T/N: this ‘(?)’ was in the original text)
Since this dispute, Su Yuyang hadn’t dared to intentionally provoke Ling Miao and Ling Miao hadn’t requested more pointers from Su Yuyang. But Ling Miao did take one piece of advice from Su Yuyang—he went to re-read his story. What made Ling Miao want to cry the most was that he actually felt that his earlier work was quite a bit better than his current work.
To Ling Miao, this way of living was okay, but Su Yuyang had felt uneasy ever since the second night after Ling Miao had moved in.
Su Yuyang had lived alone for three years .When Ling Miao first arrived, Su Yuyang wasn’t used to having another person around, but Ling Miao was pretty quiet so it hadn’t perturbed Su Yuyang and Su Yuyang had gradually gotten used to Ling Miao being around during the daytime. Now, life was somewhat different. Now, Ling Miao was in his house 24/7. During the day it was alright since Su Yuyang had already become used to Ling Miao’s presence, but it was different at night.
Because of Ling Miao’s work hours, he could only write at night, and his writing time matched up exactly with Su Yuyang’s sleeping time.
To someone who was typing, the pattering sound of the keyboard was very energizing. To someone who was trying to sleep, it was an extremely lethal mental attack.
Ling Miao had been living in Su Yuyang’s house for a week.
One night, Su Yuyang opened his eyes. Looking blurrily at a spot of light on the ceiling, he felt he needed to have a talk with Ling Miao.
Su Yuyang pulled aside the covers and walked unsteadily out of the bedroom.
Hearing a sound, Ling Miao raised his head to glance at Su Yuyang as he stumbled out of his room. He thought Su Yuyang was getting a drink of water and didn’t say anything, but then Su Yuyang sat down opposite him.
Su Yuyang kept yawning and looked like he was about to fall asleep sitting up.
Ling Miao said, concerned, “Su-ge, if you’re so tired you don’t have to sit next to me and give me pointers. Go rest early.”
Su Yuyang narrowed his eyes and rolled them at Ling Miao. He thought: Give you pointers? I want to jab you until you die. Rest? You make so much noise when you type, it’d be a miracle if I could fall asleep.
It was a very painful experience for Ling Miao to write when someone near him was staring at him, because he would subconsciously glance at the person from time to time.
With an esteemed person like Su Yuyang next to Ling Miao disturbing his train of thought, half an hour went by and Ling Miao had written less than a thousand words. Ling Miao grit his teeth and swore, and his gaze was filled with resentment and even a little fear as he looked at Su Yuyang. Su Yuyang noticed nothing and continued to yawn. Several minutes later, Su Yuyang fell face-first to the ground without faltering.
Even though a table separated them, Ling Miao still shot out a hand to catch Su Yuyang.
“Fuck. You’re a grown man, sleep properly,” Ling Miao grumbled as he dragged Su Yuyang into his bedroom. “You sleep like a pig and your weight’s like one too.”
Ling Miao threw Su Yuyang on the bed, then caught his breath and turned on the light.
Looking at Su Yuyang on the bed, Ling Miao froze, then rubbed his head and said to himself quietly: “Where’s his pajamas?”
Ling Miao searched the room and found nothing. He got tired of looking, pulled the covers over Su Yuyang, and left Su Yuyang’s bedroom.
“Good morning, Su-ge.” Ling Miao greeted Su Yuyang weakly.
Su Yuyang took a small sip of water from his cup and nodded: “You slept in today.”
Su Yuyang’s perkiness contrasted sharply against Ling Miao’s lethargy. Ling Miao ferociously chopped at the steamed radish on the chopping board and said resentfully: “Somebody decided not to sleep last night, went to sit on my bed, and distracted me while writing, so I couldn’t think at all. I didn’t finish writing until 4 a.m.”
Ling Miao was still chopping the radish as he spoke: one slice per two words. Listening to the vegetable knife making contact with the chopping board, Su Yuyang couldn’t help but worry that after the radish, he would be next.
But… Su Yuyang was again experiencing ‘someone who has done wrong but points the finger at others first!’
“Yo, when I disturb you it’s my fault, but when you disturb me it’s reasonable?” Su Yuyang leaned against the door and sneered. “You write in the middle of the night, whatever. But you make so much noise, I even suspect you write in the middle of the night on purpose so that I can’t sleep.”
“What, I disturbed you? I’m in the wrong when I write at night?” Ling Miao raised the knife high and sent it crashing down. A bolt of silver flashed before Su Yuyang, and in the blink of an eye he saw the knife sticking straight up from the chopping board.
“I, what?” Ling Miao tilted his head and replied. “I disturbed your sleep by typing at night, that’s my fault. I admit it. Isn’t that enough? Why do I write at night? Is burning the midnight oil really enjoyable? Just think about it. Who takes up most of my day? If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want to write at night, either.
Su Yuyang, you’re a successful novelist. You have no idea what a no-name writer like me goes through.”
“So you’re saying I brought this on myself?” Su Yuyang thought Ling Miao’s words were absurd. He rid himself completely of his earlier laid-back attitude and said to Ling Miao with a stern face: “Ling Miao, according to our agreement, your work hours are nine in the morning until the dinner dishes have been washed. Since those are your work hours, they belong to me. But I didn’t say that you couldn’t write during that time, did I?”
Ling Miao didn’t show any surprise or joy. He licked his lower lip and opened his mouth slowly, already prepared to lose his job: “Shu Yang, Great Shu, you bought my daytime hours, so the things I do during the day have nothing to do with me. Night time is my own time, so is it wrong that I write at night?
I’m sorry to have disturbed your sleep, but I don’t have a choice.”
Yes, you do. You can move out.
The words were on the tip of Su Yuyang’s tongue. If he said them, considering Ling Miao’s current situation, the latter would immediately pack his things and leave—Su Yuyang had no doubt about this. But if Ling Miao were to go, would he come back?
Su Yuyang showed an aggrieved smile. Upon seeing Su Yuyang’s expression, Ling Miao frowned.
“Eat,” Su Yuyang suddenly smiled properly and said.
A light glinted in Ling Miao’s eyes. His worry didn’t need to be expressed in words.
“Ah.” Su Yuyang sighed to himself. “Ling Miao, how much longer before I get used to having you around at night?”