Edited by PohTahTvh
Nine months later, Monday.
7.40am, Yanjiang City’s business district.
The subway station was crowded with people. Well dressed white-collar professionals took the escalator, rushing to the intersection. The moment the thick rope was released, once the signal light turned from red to green, they dispersed in every direction.
The twin towers of Jiusheng, a landmark, was built in the centre of the business district. Its walls of glass reached up, three hundred metres high, reflecting the rays of the rising sun.
Early in the morning, on the fifty-fifth floor of the east tower, lingered a stifling, oppressive pressure. With much difficulty, the staff managed to grab hold of their surroundings, gasping. Every single one of them felt as though they were on guard against all possible dangers. When bumping into each other in the breakroom, they were all silent, only communicating their feelings through their eyes and actions — some of them tightened their lips and shook their heads, some sighed and shrugged. No one opened their mouth to speak, but they could all completely understand the suffering the other party was going through.
The door to the elevator opened, and the bellman pushed in a cart covered in fresh flowers. His trail left a sweet scent in the corridor, but it did not help these disheartened staff recover a single bit of their vitality at all.
Because, in another twenty minutes, Zheng Feiluan, the world’s hardest person to serve, was about to appear.
At 7.41am, a shrill scolding broke the gloomy atmosphere.
A lady dressed in a white suit, a small sachet hanging off her shoulder, a paper cup of coffee in her hand, stood in front of the cart of flowers, blocking its way. Her eyes were rounded in a glare, her brows raised in anger, and she was currently confronting the bellhop aggressively.
“Isn’t that Assistant Yu?” Staff A asked quietly. “President Zheng hasn’t even arrived, and she has already gone mad?”
Staff B: “She’s next to President Zheng the entire time, it’s difficult not to go mad in the first place.”
Assistant Yu, her first name Yue, was a female Beta, with a Master’s degree in hotel management from Yanjiang University. She was highly capable, and was smooth and tactful. Nine months ago, in an exception, she was promoted to the head office, replacing Cheng Xiu as the personal assistant of Zheng Feiluan. It was also her, carrying a little teddy bear and a sunflower, who visited He An and Linglan on behalf of Zheng Feiluan.
She had originally thought that this promotion was basically a gift from the heavens, that from then on, fame would be on the horizon for her, and she would rise rapidly in the ranks. Who would have thought that the smooth sailing days only lasted for a few months, and President Zheng, whom she greatly admired, had a sudden change of personality. He became unreasonable, picking at everything, and no matter how meticulously and carefully the work was done, he could still find a lot of faults in it. Often, she was scolded extremely harshly, and yet she still dared not argue back.
Walking down the path of blades to this day, going to work was worse than going to the eighteenth level of hell.
At this very moment, Yu Yue was like a stumbling block. Her eight centimetres high stilettos dug deeply into the carpet, the tips of her shoes cocking up, and she firmly blocked the wheels of the little flower cart.
“Does your purchasing manager not understand simple language? I’ve emphasised eighteen times, both orally and in writing, we don’t want roses, lilies, hydrangeas, chinese bellflowers, irises, baby’s breath, anything that’s listed here…” She took out her phone from her bag, scrolling through her memos app and slapped the screen into the bellman’s face. “Are! All! Not! Wanted!”
The bellman swiftly dodged, avoiding the misfortune of having his nose slapped askew.
His temper was bad as well, and he immediately retorted, “Assistant Yu, whether you believe it or not, today, every single fresh flower that can be found from the first to the eightieth floor of Jinyuan Twin Towers are all present here. We’ve even made an exception, and provided you with a stalk of the black tulip from the top floor. If you’re still unhappy, our purchasing department is unable to help you with that.”
“How is this any different from the damn flowers on Friday?”
The thin heel of her stilettos sank another centimetre in, nearly breaking.
The bellman rolled his eyes. “Assistant Yu, I know you’re working for President Zheng, but you can’t be unreasonable. The designer has already fixed the flower selection in the guest rooms, the lobbies, and the exhibition halls for this season, and we have to purchase the flowers accordingly. Without any special circumstances, we cannot order other types and amounts as and when we like…”
“Special circumstances? President Zheng doesn’t like the flowers displayed on his desk. Is that not a special circumstance?”
“In the past, hasn’t it always been these flowers anyway? President Zheng never found a problem with them.” The bellman was completely unconcerned.
Yu Yue exploded, “The past is the past, and the present is the present!”
The bellman: “Then if we were to purchase other types of flowers for you, our accounts will not be balanced.”
Yu Yue was about to go mad. “Please, what I want is only ten stalks of flowers, not ten trucks worth! Do you guys know what is acceptable attrition? If you don’t, then ask the accountant to rip up their license, and quit today!”
She lifted her wrist, looking at her watch. It was 7.44am, and there was still sixteen minutes before Zheng Feiluan would arrive. At that moment, she no longer cared about arguing anymore, dumping every random object she had on her into the cart, then sprinted towards the elevators. Only after a few steps, she found her heels a hindrance. Removing them, she carried them in her hands, and continued running madly in bare feet.
Employee A, who observed the entire process, did not understand. “Is there a need to panic like this over a flower?”
Employee B patted his shoulder. “You were out on a business trip last week, and you’ve missed out on the latest changes in the situation — have you heard of a murder caused by a piece of toilet paper?”
As though narrating a joke, Employee B said, “You know that Jincheng on Huaining Road? One of the top three model hotels last season. On Wednesday, they held a new landmark investment meeting there, and during the break midway, President Zheng went to the washroom. After he came out, without a single word, he directly fired the cleaning crew. The manager was implicated as well, his pay reduced and he was required to submit a statement of self-reflection. Complaints and discontentment were heard everywhere. Take a guess, why did this happen?”
Employee A asked, “Why?”
“Because the first piece of the toilet paper on the spare toilet paper holder was not folded into an isosceles triangle, its axis was off by 30˚.”
Employee B sighed, “This matter can be compared to the Education Minister personally dismissing the language rep of a primary school class. Apparently, the HR of Jincheng at that time was laughing, as he thought that President Zheng was joking. He kept praising him for his sense of humour, and in the end, the entire HR department was nearly fired as well.”
“I truly pity them.”
Employee B wiped away his smile, his expression serious. “You should pity yourself. President Zheng only goes to Jincheng a few times each year, while where we work is his permanent residence. Last Friday, because of a flower on his desk, he scolded Yu Yue so badly until she cried. Once news of that spread, not only his desk, but even the potted plants in the main lobby were all trimmed neatly, and not a single wilting, curled up leaf could be seen.”
Employee A felt goosebumps creeping up his skin. “This is too terrifying.”
The elevator went straight down to the main lobby. Once the door started opening, Yu Yue, burning with impatience, shot out, only to bump into another girl standing there. That girl was carrying a canvas bag, wearing a pair of flats. She had no makeup on, and had no name tag. With the way she was craning her head around, it was clear that she was an intern coming to report to the office.
Yu Yue immediately spread her arms out, blocking the other party. Warmly, she asked, “Is this your first day at Jinyuan?”
The eyes of the girl drifted to the swaying heels in Yu Yue’s hand, nodding tentatively.
Yu Yue held out that expensive pair of shiny heels to the girl, giving a bright and friendly smile. “You should wear a pair of heels on your first day of work, it’ll enhance your presence. I’ve just bought this pair of heels on Saturday, and it’s a new design. It cost 4,300rmb, and I’ll exchange it for your flats, alright?”
Ten seconds later, a figure dressed in snow white ran out of the hotel doors.
Wearing the somewhat old pair of flats she exchanged for, Yu Yue looked at the map on her phone with her left eye, her right eye paying attention to passers-by and traffic lights. She sprinted five hundred metres to the east, running into the nearest florist.
“Laoban, give me one of everything that isn’t here!”
The boss of the flower shop took her handphone, looking at the dozens of flowers listed in the memo. He glanced suspiciously at Yu Yue. “You don’t want all this? Young lady, are you trying to make things difficult?”
Yu Yue opened her wallet, pulling out a stack of hundreds and fanned them out. “One stalk of each flower, and I’ll pay 100rmb for each stalk. Give me everything you have!”
As long as Zheng Feiluan was happy, it was nothing to be spending a few thousand yuans here.
The boss’s lips trembled in joy, and he rolled up his sleeves. “Wait here, I’ll go look now.”
On the wall, the second hand of the clock made its round again and again, while the boss of the flower shop slowly searched one by one. The timebomb in Yu Yue’s head lit up, starting to shriek in alarm. Anxiously, she urged him a few times, but the boss still leisurely scrolled down the memo, and only found five flowers in three minutes.
If it carried on like this, there was no doubt that Yu Yue would be dead.
Finally, she could no longer endure the wait. Grabbing her phone back, she dialled a number that she had once thought was beneath her.
When his phone rang, Cheng Xiu was rubbing Linglan’s feet in a small inn at the town of Luotan.
Luotan was a town in the south, very slow paced. In the east was Risheng Sea, while in the west was Mt. Luotan, and the view of the clouds in the summer night was famous throughout the country. Right now, it was close to the start of autumn, and the last bit of the flowering season had just been over. There were few tourists in town, and early in the morning, it was tranquil. The occasional chirping of birds could be heard coming from the branches of trees, and even the bugs could not be scared away.
Last night, Linglan had been crying and whimpering the entire night, and so He An had been carrying her and coaxing her for the entire night. It was only near dawn when he finally fell asleep. Afraid of disturbing his rest, Cheng Xiu took the initiative to take up the responsibility of being Linglan’s godfather, and carried the tiny, radiant beauty into the yard.
The sun was warm, and the evergreen bougainvillea had crept all over the swing set. The flowers were a pure white, each petal fluttering in the wind.
Linglan was already eleven months old, with a headful of soft, curly hair. It was just at the perfect length to be tied into a cute little braid, curving adorably on her head. The bamboo woven basket swayed gently, and holding onto a warm bottle of milk, she sat within it. Sucking at the teat of the bottle, her cheeks caved in then relaxed, as she worked on sucking hard. Occasionally, when she drank too quickly, a large wet spot would appear on her bib.
At the top of the swing set sat an orange cat, round and fat. Its thick tail drooped down, and it was studying Linglan’s every movement through the spaces between the plants, protecting its adorable little princess.
This orange cat was called “606jin”, and its nickname “606”. It was the sacred guardian beast of Olive Inn.
Before He An, Cheng Xiu and Linglan moved here, 606 was already very famous. It had appeared in Luotan’s scenic postcards, blogs and tourist magazines along with its bougainvillea covered swing set. Many people knew that Olive Inn had a lazy, fat cat who loved to occupy its swing set, and never shifted from it for anyone.
Until that day, when He An brought Linglan there.
The first day Linglan arrived, 606 ended up flattening his swing set.
The innkeeper was an Alpha of the practical type. Seeing the collapse of the swing, he immediately took out a hammer and started banging away. In no time, he repaired the swing set. Who would have known, when he woke up the next day, the board was again dragging on the floor, while the other rope was hanging loose — the ends were frayed, and it was clear that sharp teeth had bitten through it.
With great presence of mind, 606 was sitting by the side, waving its tail. A crafty look flashed through its round, amber eyes.
The innkeeper no longer tried to repair the swing, but removed it and replaced it with a bamboo-woven basket. Inside, he even placed a soft blanket.
Just like this, 606 used his beloved swing as a welcome gift, giving it to its even more beloved little Linglan.
Because of this fat cat with both intelligence and fats, as well as its kind official Alpha poop-shoveller, He An settled down in Luotan.
A simple and romantic environment would always be able to unconsciously influence and change one’s state of mind. After nine months, Cheng Xiu was already used to the leisurely pace of Luotan, and to suddenly receive a call from Yuanjiang City was like an electric drill on tiles during an early weekend morning, each word extremely jarring.
“Cheng Xiu, Cheng Xiu, do you know what flowers President Zheng prefers?”
Yu Yue was extremely anxious.
Cheng Xiu dragged over an old rattan chair that had seen many things in life, sprawling across it in contentment. “What flowers does Zheng Feiluan prefers? I don’t know.”
He casually rubbed Linglan’s tiny feet at the same time.
Linglan was currently trying her best to suck at her milk, puffing and blowing. Her mouth was not handy enough, and so her four limbs worked together in effort too, and her feet gently kicked at Cheng Xiu’s palms.
To tell the truth, Cheng Xiu did not want to pay any attention to Yu Yue at all.
After getting fired by Zheng Feiluan, he had once wanted to give the next personal assistant a friendly heads up — after all, Zheng Feiluan’s situation was special. He was not a boss with a constant level of difficulty. It was very likely that during some day in the future, he would turn into a monster, and one needed to be prepared ahead of time. However, Yu Yue thought very highly of herself. Not only did she not ask him why he was fired, and what unique quirks did Zheng Feiluan have, she immediately assumed her new position, and even mocked Cheng Xiu to his face about how he did not know how to grab onto his opportunities, to have let go of such a good position to someone else.
Cheng Xiu nearly vomited blood, but he did not argue with her.
At that time, He An was still lying in the hospital, hovering on the brink of death, and Linglan had yet to leave the neonate nursery. There were too many things he needed to be worried over, and he did not have the time to retort to the other person’s jeering.
He had never expected that this super awesome and capable Assistant Yu could only hold on for nine months.
He asked Yu Yue what happened. Yu Yue said, ever since last week, for no reason at all, Zheng Feiluan was unhappy with the flower arrangement on his desk. Even after changing around a dozen times, he was unsatisfied with them all, and he was unable to say what flowers he liked either. After this went on for a while, he exploded with rage, and declared that if such a simple matter could not be settled, Yu Yue could just quit next week.
Hearing this, Cheng Xiu knew shit was happening.
He had been working for Zheng Feiluan for over four years, and he was deeply aware that this person had a model personality of an entrepreneur. He was focused on the big picture, and never squabbled over tiny details. Small things like flower arrangements on desks would never be part of his consideration at all — once, Cheng Xiu was seized by a whim, and he stuck a bulb of garlic in the vase. Seeing it, Zheng Feiluan did not say anything at all, and so Cheng Xiu never even knew that Zheng Feiluan had any preference for flowers.
In truth, other than the part with He An, Cheng Xiu almost could not pick any faults with Zheng Feiluan.
If an unimportant flower was able to cause Zheng Feiluan to fly into a rage, this meant that Zheng Feiluan’s emotions were already out of control, and he was no longer able to rationally deal with anything in a macroscopic view anymore.
This time, things were really going into the shits.
Cheng Xiu could not help but sigh.
Hearing his sigh, Yu Yue instantly panicked even harder. “Cheng Xiu, just think about it a little more. Think carefully, has he ever mentioned any flower before, praised it, or bought it? If I’m still not able to find one that he’s fine with, I’m going to be fired! Have you ever seen an assistant that was fired because of a flower?”
Cheng Xiu was amused.
What was so strange about being fired because of a flower?
During the times when Zheng Feiluan’s temper was at his worst, he had even fired a driver who had stepped on the pedal too quickly, a cook who did not pick out one ginger slice in the soup, a secretary who poked four holes that were too ugly in a document with a stapler, as well as his previous assistant who had saved the lives of his Omega and daughter.
Kings and bears often worry their keepers.
These sort of days would still be numerous in the future.
Cheng Xiu yawned, speaking lazily, “Yu Yue, it’s not that I’m not telling you, but that I really don’t have any impression of it. I’ve worked for President Zheng for so many years, and I’ve never heard that he liked any flower in particular…”
At this point in the conversation, Cheng Xiu suddenly paused.
Little Linglan was currently sitting in the basket, sucking vigorously on her bottle while looking at him with shiny, black eyes.