Baal sat on the sofa closest to the entryway and watched silently as Wang Xiaoming hurried in and out while putting things away.
Actually, Wang Xiaoming didn’t have much to put away, but as soon as he saw Baal’s forceful gaze, his body moved on its own. In the end, he washed all the pots and pans in the kitchen.
Then his phone rang from inside his pocket.
He felt Baal’s gaze move up his spine and his heart tightened. He hurriedly picked up the phone. “Hello.”
There was about a three second silence from the other end before Chu Zhao’s lazy voice drifted across, “Do I need to buy you an alarm clock to remind you what two hours is?”
Wang Xiaoming paused and then hurriedly looked at his watch.
It was already 6:30pm.
“I’ll give you three minutes; get yourself over here.”
Chu Zhao commanded coolly and then hung up the phone.
In between the bouts of nervousness, Wang Xiaoming breathed a sigh of relief. Judging by Chu Zhao’s tone of voice, he hadn’t connected yesterday’s bizarre event to him. Maybe he had also felt like the thing was too bizarre and didn’t want to dig any deeper.
The truth was actually quite the opposite. Chu Zhao’s first reaction, upon being randomly moved by Baal from the 18th floor to the second elevator, had been to suspect Wang Xiaoming. Even though, in front of him, Wang Xiaoming had always been cowardly and quite obedient, everytime Wang Xiaoming turned around, Chu Zhao could feel a forceful personality. As someone who’d made the rounds in society, he could clearly tell what kind of person would have what kind of personality. But Wang Xiaoming confused him—nothing in his name, looks, education, or even way of speaking… suggested that he was capable of having such a forceful personality.
Adding that to the special treatment Xiang Wenxun gave the guy…Chu Zhao immediately stomped his way into the President’s office.
Besides their supervisor-subordinate relationship, he and Xiang Wenxun had also been schoolmates. This private connection gave him weight the other directors at the Silver House didn’t have, so he knew about things that Xiang Wenxun kept hidden from the others. That was also the reason why he dared to outright sleep on the job.
“I want to know where Wang Xiaoming came from.” He walked into the office and demanded forthrightly.
Xiang Wenxun dug out a cigarette from his pocket and slowly lit it. He inhaled and asked, “Does where he came from have any bearing on him being your underling?”
“Yes.” Chu Zhao pulled out a chair and sat down in front of Xiang Wenxun. “It determines how much insurance I need to buy.”
Xiang Wenxun’s hand which held the cigarette shook once, “For accidents?”
Chu Zhao stared intently at Xiang Wenxun and enunciated, “I just randomly went from the 18th floor to the second elevator.”
Xiang Wenxun’s expression didn’t change.
“Monster? Alien? A warrior from the future? You have to give me an answer.” Chu Zhao was determined.
Xiang Wenxun snuffed out the cigarette and said lightly, “Warrior from the future.”
Chu Zhao’s lips twitched. “Don’t joke with me.”
Xiang Wenxun said sternly, “Does it look like I’m joking with you?”
“It’s precisely because you don’t look like you’re joking that I’m shocked and terrified.” If Wang Xiaoming was a warrior from the future, he’d rather have humanity destroyed. It would be better than living under Wang Xiaoming’s protection. His stomach revolted at the thought.
Xiang Wenxun said, “I seem to recall you just wanted me to give you an answer.”
Chu Zhao demanded, “This doesn’t count!”
Chu Zhao laughed bitterly, “Do you think he looks like an alien?”
“If you already have the answer, why ask me?”
Chu Zhao frowned and asked, “He’s really a monster?”
“You think he seems like one?”
“Bunny demon? Pig demon? He doesn’t feel like a type that is highly intelligent.”
Xiang Wenxun spread his hands. “Don’t worry, he won’t hurt you.” He had no basis for this claim but he said it so reassuringly.
Yet Chu Zhao believed it. Because Xiang Wenxun was Wang Xiaoming’s boyfriend. When it came to being in danger, he was in more danger. “So why is he here at the Silver House?”
“Couldn’t demons just turn stone to gold?” Chu Zhao felt his disdain for Wang Xiaoming grow. Sun Wukong had wreaked havoc on the Heavenly Palaces and made the deities there so anxious that they had given him longevity when he demanded it and weapons when he asked for them. How awesome was that? Wang Xiaoming was a demon too, but he had to work for humans without any complaints; how disappointing.
Xiang Wenxun reassured him some more, “Don’t worry, he’ll play some tricks at the most. This is, after all, my territory and he won’t mess around too much.”
Chu Zhao looked at him quizzically. “Just how did you fall for him? Don’t tell me it’s the Legend of the White Snake stuff?”
Xiang Wenxun looked at his watch and asked, “You think it’s right that I pay you a salary and tell you a story at the same time?”
Working and salary were Chu Zhao’s Achilles’ heels. After all, everyone had to work for the hand that fed them.
He chuckled drily and stood up. “I’ll go do stuff then.”
“Oh right.” Xiang Wenxun contemplated and then said, “Whatever Xiaoming wants to do, let him do. Take care of the housekeeping division for me.”
Chu Zhao answered, “Sure. I won’t suck up to just anyone but I’ll definitely suck up to the future Mrs. President. Don’t you worry.”
Xiang Wenxun smiled and nodded.
Chu Zhao’s smile faded as he walked out of the office.
It wasn’t like Xiang Wenxun to let a demon do things at the Silver House. If he really was a lover, then just keep him at home and spoil him there. Why put him in the Silver House as a ticking bomb? There must be some other reason.
Chu Zhao’s face was as inscrutable as murky water. And it was a reason he couldn’t know.
Wang Xiaoming had no idea that since the day before he had become the equivalent of a demon in Chu Zhao’s eyes. Right now he was preoccupied with how to do his best to repay Xiang Wenxun’s trust.
On the surface, Chu Zhao treated him just as he usually did, but every move and every word was carefully filtered. Anything that could lead to conflict was dead on arrival. Even when Wang Xiaoming was nearly 40 minutes late, Chu Zhao still made him go eat first.
The cafeteria usually served dinner from 4:30 to 6:30pm.
When Wang Xiaoming got to the cafeteria, they were just cleaning up. He hurriedly asked for some of the leftovers and found a corner to wolf things down.
Baal sat down at his usual spot across the table.
A shiny, stainless steel food bowl was placed in front of him.
Baal looked up in displeasure at the newcomer.
The rich makeup seemed a bit vulgar under the white lights, but the charisma she exuded covered up the vulgarity.
“Wang Xiaoming.” She shifted her butt and was about to sit down on top of Baal.
Baal raised his eyebrows.
Wang Xiaoming worried that Jiang Xueyan would end up in the elevator like Chu Zhao and hurriedly said, “I’m done eating!”
Jiang Xueyan’s movements stopped in midair and her gaze landed on his half-filled bowl. “You don’t want to sit with me?” She intentionally kept the half-sitting position and looked at him patiently.
Wang Xiaoming had no choice but to make pleading eyes at Baal.
Baal pursed his lips.
Only when Wang Xiaoming practically stuck his chopsticks into the rice like incense sticks and bowed to him did Baal snort and move one seat over.
Wang Xiaoming released a sigh and then smiled at Jiang Xueyan. “Please sit.”
Jiang Xueyan slowly sat down and said with a smile, “Looks like you really don’t like my bloody mouth.” Her lipstick was still the bright red shade of blood.
Wang Xiaoming remembered what Wang Sis had forced him to say the last time and awkwardly explained, “That wasn’t intentional.”
“Unintentional words hurt more.” Jiang Xueyan had bought food but didn’t eat it. She dug out a cigarette from her pocket and lit it up. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled into his face.
Wang Xiaoming coughed.
“You don’t smoke?” Jiang Xueyan moved the cigarette aside.
Wang Xiaoming shook his head.
“Then eat.” Jiang Xueyan pushed her food toward him and said, “Eat this if that’s not enough.”
“You’re not eating?”
“Nope, I’m on a diet.”
Wang Xiaoming looked at her rail-thin wrist and felt speechless. He started to question if the modern standard of beauty, which equated beauty with slenderness, had been developed under the guidance of the government when food shortage was a threat.
“I heard that you’re an item with my brother?” Jiang Xueyan casually remarked.
Wang Xiaoming almost spat out his mouthful of rice. “Eh?”
Jiang Xueyan’s lips twitched and she said self-deprecatingly, “Guess that’s not true.”
“Your brother is…” Was her brother Xiang Wenxun?
“Jiang Junjie.” She paused. “Here they like to call him Jie.”
Wang Xiaoming’s eyes flew open in surprise.
He really had a hard time connecting the pure-as-fallen-snow Jie with the seductive-as-a-rose young woman in front of him.
“Tao Le told me.” Jiang Xueyan flicked some ashes from her cigarette. “Actually I was so happy when he told me. My brother is very stubborn and he’s trapped himself in a dead-end alley all this time. There’s nothing but a wall ahead of him but he refuses to turn around. Right now if there’s someone who could open a hole in that wall, even if it’s just a hole for a dog, I’d be happy.”
Wang Xiaoming said dumbly, “We’re not like that.”
“I know.” Jiang Xueyan sighed and stuck her cigarette in her rice bowl. She stood, picked up her tray, and gave him a smile. “I just wanted to tell someone.”
Wang Xiaoming turned around to look at her retreating figure. He asked Baal in confusion, “What did she mean by what she just said?”
Baal propped his chin on his hands and looked at him coldly for a while before chuckling disdainfully, “I didn’t think you’d have so many romantic entanglements nowadays.”
Wang Xiaoming kept his head lowered as he turned those words over and over again. “You mean… she likes me?”
“…” Baal twitched his lips and said, “Eat.”
Work was easy that night. He sat in his office for the most part and the floor leaders came in and updated him on their work every hour. This had been Chu Zhao’s directive; he said this was Wang Xiaoming’s main duty from now on.
In the beginning, Wang Xiaoming had felt excited. After all, he had always been the one standing while others remained sitting. This was the first time someone stood respectfully as they reported to him.
But after three hours he felt something was off.
Because those people just updated him and never waited for him to give orders or even for words of encouragement. He was treated no differently than a recordkeeper.
After Sharky left for the third time, Wang Xiaoming cautiously asked Baal, “Does this mean my authority has been usurped?”
Baal laid on the sofa and asked without a flicker of expression, “What is there to usurp?”
Wang Xiaoming thought for a long time before finally figuring out what Baal had meant—he never had any power to begin with.