Ye Ji’an did not know how their behaviour on the trip would be regarded, but he had already prepared for the worst. Although they were not the aggressors in the fight and participated in it after being provoked and there was solid audio and video evidence that even the police did not refute proving this fact, it was still his rash idea that led to their team drinking and getting wasted that night.
If anything more serious had occurred, the responsibility would undoubtedly fall on him and the root cause would’ve been his negligence as a team leader.
Ye Ji’an had never once been afraid of taking responsibility for the matter. He truly believed that it was his mistake. Besides, he’d always found the act of shamelessly not owning up to one’s mistakes and pushing the blame around a disgraceful thing.
Therefore, even if the company decided to give him a strict reprimand, take back all his bonuses and in doing so, force him to restrict his spending by eating only boiled vegetables and noodles seasoned with salt during the New Year festivities, he would still wholeheartedly accept the decision.
Unexpectedly, none of the above happened. Instead, the chairman of the company simply called him over to his office for a quick chat. Ye Ji’an had abruptly received this summons right after the morning meeting. The general manager, who had been the one to inform him of this, had sported a dark expression on his face and the summons was also delivered in a secretive manner. Naturally, this caused Ye Ji’an no small amount of anxiety.
After waiting outside the spacious office on the top floor for more than half an hour, Ye Ji’an was finally called in and stood in front of the suave, grey-haired big boss. The man asked him how he found his current position and Ye Ji’an instantly felt as if this was the prelude to him being fired.
He secretly thought to himself, Big brother, please don’t do this to me ah, I still have more than half a decade of mortgage to pay.
In his daze, he diligently and sincerely gave a long report of the tasks he’d recently done—the ones that he’d reviewed multiple times in his heart while waiting outside the office. His report was given in a professional and humble tone. However, the chairman responded with a single question that instantly stupefied Ye Ji’an.
“Are you happy with your current job?”
Ye Ji’an’s brain went into overdrive and he eventually settled on the following response: “If I were to travel back in time to when I was but a fresh graduate, I would still seek an interview at this company.”
The chairman seemed to see through his words with a single glance. Shaking his head, he laughed loudly. “None of the young people now are happy. Already a supervisor while you’re still in your thirties…There’s no way you’re happy!”1To clarify: Unhappy because he’s still pretty young but already bogged down by the work and responsibilities that come with being a supervisor
The boss was right. Happy, his ass. Ye Ji’an wanted to die every single day. He didn’t want to contradict his inner feelings and claim that he was very happy and simply gave a polite smile and a small nod in response.
Ye Ji’an then heard the boss’s next question: “How do you feel about the young people currently working under you?”
There are more than twenty people in the department, and there were around ten or so who were younger than him. Was he supposed to give his review on them? Ye Ji’an didn’t think the chairman could recognize them all, so he simply provided a general introduction and an overview.
The boss retrieved the folder containing the employees’ details and flipped through the pages. “This Xiao-Li…was transferred to your department from the general department. Are they adjusting well?”2The “Xiao” is not part of their name. It’s a word that means “small/little” and is frequently used by elders to refer to those younger than them. If I were to translate it fully, “Little Li”, “Little Zhang”. Kept as “xiao” as “little” sounds strange in Eng.
“Pretty well. Xiao-Li is diligent and quick-witted.”
“How about Xiao-Zhang? She worked in the United Nations back when she was just a graduate student. And she can speak four languages?”
“That’s right. Her translation skills are great and she has a strong grasp of various financial terms. The only issue is that she’s still a little childish, being a fresh graduate and all, but she does get along pretty well with her colleagues.”
“What about Xiao-Liang?”
“His work is meticulous, he’s intelligent and he’s pretty daring.” Liang Xiao’s smiling fox-like face surfaced in Ye Ji’an’s mind and he instantly felt a little more at ease. “He knows his stuff well.”
The chairman smiled and commented, “I’ve heard that he is somewhat arrogant. Is he lacking in the personality department?”3Raws: 是性格上不太会做人吗? Translated literally to “Personality-wise, does he not quite know how to be a human?” It’s pretty funny, but it would also mess up the sentence flow badly… ;-;
Ye Ji’an suspected that the old and bald general manager, after being rendered speechless by Liang Xiao several times, had held on to his grudges and found an opportunity to complain to the big boss before him.
Ye Ji’an thought to himself: Liang Xiao did tend to treat most of his colleagues in a lukewarm manner. He never participated in group orders for milk tea, nor did he speak much. However, he would always enthusiastically help out whenever there were any troubles. It was just that he did not have much interest in other people. Besides, in this modern era, how close could one even get to their colleagues? Only an extremely small number would truly become friends with their colleagues.
With this train of thought, Ye Ji’an remarked, “It’s true that Liang Xiao has a rather strong personality, but you see, the basis of his ‘arrogance’ is an exceptional talent.4Untranslatable. In the raws, the big boss used the phrase 恃才傲物 to describe Liang Xiao’s arrogance. The second character, 才, means “talented” and the third character, “傲” means arrogance. Ye Ji’an is pointing out that the character for “talent” comes before the character for “arrogance” and that talent is a prerequisite for this term. (In doing so, he’s trying to say that a large part of Liang Xiao being seen as “arrogant” stems from the fact that he’s extremely good at what he does.He is extremely good at what he does, it’s just that he is not someone who likes to join in the fun. He’s a mature and capable young man; I think we should respect that personality of his.”
The chairman closed the employee handbook and applauded him, smiling so widely that the crow’s feet at his eyes had turned into horizontal lines. “I see that you’re someone who cherishes talent.”
Ye Ji’an thought to himself that if he didn’t cherish capable employees, he would have no choice but to dedicate his whole life to lonely overtime. Besides, it was only right for talented people to be appreciated. The choice between giving or receiving sweet words and making a fortune was clear.
Ye Ji’an chatted with the chairman for a dozen minutes or so afterwards about various unrelated topics and the latter did not mention anything about him being fired. Eventually, when their conversation came to an end, the chairman simply dismissed him and he returned to his work just like that.
Recalling his initial impression of the big boss as “a stereotypical old man who cares deeply about the image of his employees”, Ye Ji’an couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed. He now felt that the chairman was, in truth, someone approachable and open-minded. He did have the bearing of a big boss.
As expected, the last two weeks before the Chinese New Year holidays were rather hectic. Fortunately, they had just completed a large project and most of the tasks Ye Ji’an had to deal with were trivial. He did not have to work overtime to the point of not being able to go home.
Liang Xiao and he were usually able to catch the last or penultimate trains home—and on the few occasions they were unable to, they’d call a cab and split the cost.
Ye Ji’an had already transferred most of his basic necessities and clothes to Liang Xiao’s house. Besides, even if he forgot something, it was still rather convenient to head back home to retrieve it.
Ye Ji’an’s cohabitation with his prospective boyfriend started just like that and they did not put it off until the holidays, as previously discussed.
Though it was called ‘cohabitation’, the bulk of their time was spent sleeping. They usually got home nearing one o’clock in the morning and Ye Ji’an would often collapse on the sofa and sleep like the dead while Liang Xiao took his shower.
In the living room, more than a dozen geckos kept in a box would keep him company. If not for Liang Xiao patting him awake and helping him raise the water temperature by a degree of two, Ye Ji’an would’ve already stooped as low as sleeping without showering.
Every time Ye Ji’an came out of the bathroom, he would see Liang Xiao looking as energetic as ever. The latter would wait for him to lie down before gently hugging him from behind and would spend a long time watching Max blink slowly on the bedside table before feeling the slightest hint of sleep.
On the bright side, the amount of sleeping pills that Liang Xiao had to use had already been reduced by half and there were no longer occasions whereby Liang Xiao was unable to sleep all night.
In the mornings, Ye Ji’an would get up fifteen minutes before Liang Xiao and prepare some sandwiches or wraps with yoghurt and cut fruit as a side, switching things up every so often. In the past, spending his mornings alone, Ye Ji’an did not have any motivation to put effort into his breakfast.
However, he now had company and no longer wished to simply make do. Oftentimes, Liang Xiao would walk over to the entrance to the kitchen with a yawn, sleepily greeting him with a “Ge”5 “Ge” means brother. Same thing as always – it’s often used to refer to a male slightly older than you + doesn’t have to be blood-related.and a “good morning”. After completing their morning routines, they would start the day’s flurry of activities by squeezing into a train.
Ye Ji’an kept his past habits and would still jog for half an hour before starting work. Liang Xiao followed suit—though Ye Ji’an no longer needed to avoid him the way he’d done before. After all, the issue of the tattoos and their interest in each other had already been explicitly discussed and there was no longer a need to keep those hidden. Though, of course, showering together was still unacceptable.
These days, every once in a while, Ye Ji’an would suddenly and strongly feel that his current lifestyle was pretty good. Though he was still too busy to have much personal time, that deathly feeling of emptiness and anxiety had disappeared.
On the last day before the start of the holidays, Ye Ji’an and Liang Xiao made an appointment to watch a live performance and indulge themselves at a small underground bar located beside the Tianqiao Acrobatics Theatre.
It was a Norwegian band that had a speciality in heavy metal. Their songs could be considered standard Nordic rock. Both Liang Xiao and Ye Ji’an greatly enjoyed the heavily distorted instrumentals interspersed with the unique, morbid vocals6Quick note that I’m not familiar with death metal and therefore some of the phrases/descriptions I used may not be very appropriate. I will leave the raws here: 诡异和半死不活 (translated literally to: weird and half-dead) that were oh-so-reminiscent of the chill of Northern Europe.
One day, the two got off work early and ate hotpot for dinner. Liang Xiao finished washing the dishes with great effort before enthusiastically showing off his CD collection. His collection of the band’s CDs was one early EP from completion. In a daze, Ye Ji’an brought Liang Xiao to his home, rummaged through the bookshelf filled with albums, vinyl and memorabilia and presented Liang Xiao with said EP.
Ye Ji’an felt rather satisfied with Liang Xiao’s adoring, idolising gaze.
He wanted to fully indulge in one of the band’s live performances with this soulmate7Raws: 知音 – used to refer to someone who shares your views, interests and understands every aspect of you. Can be used on close platonic friends as well. This term recently became popular in Chinese BL circles as many books/shows tried to use this term to refer to the main pairings, (e.g. Word of Honour) to bypass China’s censorship.of his that had popped out of nowhere when the year’s work finally came to an end.
Ye Ji’an’s wish was slated to come true and remained so until his work ended for the day. The company had a tradition of not working overtime on the last day of the year and Ye Ji’an had even booked a highly-rated Vietnamese restaurant in advance.
Unfortunately, this wish of his would soon go up in smoke. When Ye Ji’an made his way to the general manager’s office to give a final brief report and summary, he was suddenly intercepted.
“There’s a dinner party in the evening,” the general manager said. “My treat. Even some of the major shareholders will be going. Xiao-Ye, do come along.”
Ye Ji’an naturally knew that the general manager would expect him to drink at the dinner party. In the eyes of leaders such as the general manager, this was one considerable advantage of hiring young people, such as him. Ye Ji’an himself had attended a countless number of such dinner parties, and, as a “young talent”, had toasted and drank in place of his superiors an immeasurable number of times.8Quick cultural sharing, I guess. Large meals in China often involve a lot of toasting and drinking + it’s considered disrespectful if you do not toast or drink in response to a toast. Within families, it’s usually okay to refuse, but when it comes to networking etc. refusal to drink is often seen as disrespectful at worst and frowned upon at best. I believe this is pretty common in Korea as well.
However, Ye Ji’an had always been good at detaching himself from his circumstances. Red wine, white wine; regardless of the type of alcohol, he would always down it in one gulp, then squat in front of a toilet, vomiting until only bile was left. Even after such discomfort, Ye Ji’an would still be able to get to his feet, clean and tidy himself up, before continuing to socialise. He’d always told himself that this, too, was part of his work. Until now, he had never once hesitated the way he was currently.
“I have some matters to tend to at home. Is it possible…”
“You’re not married yet, what matters could you have?” The general manager, brewing tea for himself in front of the water dispenser, interrupted Ye Ji’an’s words with a smile and patted him on the shoulder in a friendly manner.
“There’s no need to head back and waste time, I’ve already informed your department to get off work just now. Wait for me here for a few minutes, we’ll take the same car over. You’ve got to give me face.”9Give face (给面子) is a way to describe the act of respecting/pleasing someone by agreeing to their request and thus making the other appear good in front of others (giving them a good “face” to show everyone). It’s hard to explain, but I’ll give an example. Giving face = unhesitantly agreeing to someone’s toast and downing your cup in one go. Not giving face = refusing the drink, putting the other in an awkward spot because their toast was refused.
Damn it. Those words made it clear to Ye Ji’an that the party was not something he could refuse. “One difference in an official’s rank is enough to crush a man”10Exactly as the term suggests. The need to show respect before superiors is enough to crush an underling. — If Ye Ji’an refused to get in that car with the general manager, wouldn’t it be a clear signal that he did not respect the other? Ye Ji’an gave up on resisting, took a seat on the sofa in the general manager’s office and texted Liang Xiao:
[Leader’s treating, I have to go drink. Won’t be able to watch the performance.]
Liang Xiao didn’t reply. Only a minute or two had passed, but Ye Ji’an counted the seconds, waiting for Liang Xiao’s reply. All of a sudden, his heart felt unbearably heavy, filled to the brim with guilt. It was the same feeling he’d felt when he was young and heading home with an exam paper that he’d gotten poor marks on in his hands.
Ye Ji’an picked up the phone again.
[I said I had matters at home, but that did not work. He insists on my attendance. There’s no way to refuse. He didn’t even let me out of the office.]
[Have you gotten off work?]
[Don’t skip dinner, don’t get too excited and drink excessively when you get there. The main focus is the music. You must return home no matter how late it gets.]
Liang Xiao replied.
[Ok. Is it the general manager?]
Ye Ji’an: [Yes, and several major shareholders.]
Liang Xiao did not give a reply.
The other party remained silent all the way until Ye Ji’an got into the general manager’s car. Along the way, Ye Ji’an skillfully and politely chatted with the two people in the car who were of a higher rank than him, while keeping his bag on his knee and his phone in his hand.
When Ye Ji’an arrived at the restaurant, he ushered his superiors to the elevator. Stuffing his hands in the pockets of his coat, Ye Ji’an waited alone in the lobby for the remaining shareholders, repeatedly typing and deleting a string of words: [Are you angry?]
In the end, after much deliberation, Ye Ji’an still sent this message out.
Once again, it took more than an hour for the message to receive a reply. At that moment, Ye Ji’an had just finished a round of toasts and drunk two sips of soup that had already gone cold. Ye Ji’an sat back down at his seat that had his back facing the main entrance, gathering his wits. With a focused expression, he continued to listen to the guests’ boisterous, meaningless chatter.
Though it had been said that the ones attending were major shareholders, they were in truth simply a couple of small investors. The general manager’s main focus was to draw them to his side and enlarge his network and power. Ye Ji’an could see this extremely clearly, yet, at the same time, he could also say for sure that his smile did not have any hint of a sneer to it.
A vibration of his phone jolted Ye Ji’an back to his senses from his idling mind. Liang Xiao had replied:
[Senior, take a quick leave. No need to bring your coat and bag. 】
This message was closely followed by another:
Ye Ji’an was stunned for a while and all the alcohol he’d drunk was affecting him a little. He gave a reply: [You didn’t watch the performance?]
[It hasn’t started yet. Just come out.]
Ye Ji’an pondered for a while and finally concluded that the little rascal probably needed Ye Ji’an for something. Not needing to bring his coat and bag along suggested that he’d go back to drinking once the issue was resolved.
Ye Ji’an figured that needing to use the washroom after drinking so much was pretty normal and softly excused himself from the table. He pushed at the velvet-lined door, only to realise that it was as heavy as a castle wall.
Slightly dizzy, he found it rather tough to push the door. Yet, when Ye Ji’an finally exerted his strength, he suddenly felt no resistance. Liang Xiao had helped him to open the door before immediately closing it right after.
“Hey, you really came…” Ye Ji’an dazedly smiled. Only after putting in a lot of effort did Ye Ji’an manage to stand steadily on his feet without falling headfirst into the other’s shoulder. “What’s the matter?”
“Wait for me. Two minutes tops.” Liang Xiao looked at him without any visible expression on his face. Two shadows were cast under his eyes.
“Huh?” Ye Ji’an’s thoughts could not keep up.
“I’ll go in and make a toast and bring Senior’s belongings out along the way. Everything will be alright soon,” Liang Xiao said, holding his shoulder. He then whispered in Ye Ji’an’s ear, “Just stand here and wait obediently. I’ll take you clubbing11To be more exact, the term he used was 蹦迪, which technically translates to “disco-dancing”, though it’s not a very good translation. The act of 蹦迪 is closer to clubbing/going to a rave.”
TN: Upcoming chapters will be slightly slower! Maybe ~1.5 weeks for one chapter? Word count has been increasing but I don’t want to split the chapter halfway _(:3」∠)_ This one took close to 6 hours, RL and my other stuff doesn’t give me much time haha…sorry… ;-;
Though I could also do edited MTL and release chapters faster? >< Up to you guys!
- 1To clarify: Unhappy because he’s still pretty young but already bogged down by the work and responsibilities that come with being a supervisor
- 2The “Xiao” is not part of their name. It’s a word that means “small/little” and is frequently used by elders to refer to those younger than them. If I were to translate it fully, “Little Li”, “Little Zhang”. Kept as “xiao” as “little” sounds strange in Eng.
- 3Raws: 是性格上不太会做人吗? Translated literally to “Personality-wise, does he not quite know how to be a human?” It’s pretty funny, but it would also mess up the sentence flow badly… ;-;
- 4Untranslatable. In the raws, the big boss used the phrase 恃才傲物 to describe Liang Xiao’s arrogance. The second character, 才, means “talented” and the third character, “傲” means arrogance. Ye Ji’an is pointing out that the character for “talent” comes before the character for “arrogance” and that talent is a prerequisite for this term. (In doing so, he’s trying to say that a large part of Liang Xiao being seen as “arrogant” stems from the fact that he’s extremely good at what he does.
- 5“Ge” means brother. Same thing as always – it’s often used to refer to a male slightly older than you + doesn’t have to be blood-related.
- 6Quick note that I’m not familiar with death metal and therefore some of the phrases/descriptions I used may not be very appropriate. I will leave the raws here: 诡异和半死不活 (translated literally to: weird and half-dead)
- 7Raws: 知音 – used to refer to someone who shares your views, interests and understands every aspect of you. Can be used on close platonic friends as well. This term recently became popular in Chinese BL circles as many books/shows tried to use this term to refer to the main pairings, (e.g. Word of Honour) to bypass China’s censorship.
- 8Quick cultural sharing, I guess. Large meals in China often involve a lot of toasting and drinking + it’s considered disrespectful if you do not toast or drink in response to a toast. Within families, it’s usually okay to refuse, but when it comes to networking etc. refusal to drink is often seen as disrespectful at worst and frowned upon at best. I believe this is pretty common in Korea as well.
- 9Give face (给面子) is a way to describe the act of respecting/pleasing someone by agreeing to their request and thus making the other appear good in front of others (giving them a good “face” to show everyone). It’s hard to explain, but I’ll give an example. Giving face = unhesitantly agreeing to someone’s toast and downing your cup in one go. Not giving face = refusing the drink, putting the other in an awkward spot because their toast was refused.
- 10Exactly as the term suggests. The need to show respect before superiors is enough to crush an underling.
- 11To be more exact, the term he used was 蹦迪, which technically translates to “disco-dancing”, though it’s not a very good translation. The act of 蹦迪 is closer to clubbing/going to a rave