XiaoYu’s arms reached out into the air and stretched. A glance outside showed it to be another bright and sunny day. Perhaps it was from the great weather, perhaps it was because XiaoYu had finally let his emotions loose. XiaoYu felt like his body was lighter than ever. However, when he thought back to how he had bawled before QiYao yesterday, he had the urge to dig a hole and bury himself in it.
Today, he’ll have to organise his luggage and decide what to pack. XiaoYu surveyed his room. He opened up his closet and scanned it. He didn’t have a single clue on where to start.
This wasn’t like packing for a holiday or a camping trip. He wasn’t just packing for a few days. The number of days he’d be staying at QiYao’s place was an unknown number. So how much clothing should he pack?
As he was stuck pondering, his phone started ringing from the living room.
“Did I wake you up, XiaoYu?” QiYao was secretly calling XiaoYu in the middle of his busy workday from his private office. The reason’s simple. He missed XiaoYu. While waiting for XiaoYu to answer the call, he was wondering if it was too early for a call. Would he see XiaoYu with bed hair? What he was met with was a confused XiaoYu instead.
“No. I was awake for a while now,” replied XiaoYu.
“What are you doing? You’re frowning,” QiYao said, pointing to his own brows. XiaoYu looked troubled. Had he gone spiralling down in doubt again?
“Yeah, um…I don’t know what I should pack.”
“Hehe. You just need to prepare some of your own personal products. You can come back for something at any time if you want to after all.” QiYao didn’t mind making a few more trips. He could use those trips to help XiaoYu overcome his trauma.
“True.” It wasn’t like XiaoYu would never return, even if every trip out would be a huge hurdle for him. “Did you need me for something?” he asked.
“Nothing. I just miss you.”
“Hehe…” XiaoYu couldn’t help but feel bashful at how straightforward QiYao was.
“You haven’t forgotten about my braised pork, right?”
“No. I’ve already gotten the ingredients.”
“I look forward to it.”
QiYao’s stomach started complaining just then. It was near lunch break. However, when QiYao finally hung up, his eyes gradually hardened into a solemn gaze. The computer monitors before him were filled with numerous news articles on a single headline. Frankly, they can’t be called news. They were from last year.
As victims were protected by the law to an extent, their full name and photos were never publicly disclosed in the news. Thus, the XiaoYu in all these reports had been processed and altered. Still, if someone really wanted to, they could still recognise the figure being squished by a crowd of reporters as XiaoYu. Unfortunately, the focus went from sympathy for the dead to a discussion of whether humanity should completely rely on automation for safety. This exploded into a great debate all over the world and the most direct victim of the incident, XiaoYu, quickly faded away from the public’s attention.
XiaoYu looked so much thinner in those articles than he did now. QiYao could just imagine just how much pressure XiaoYu was under, how much pain he was in, from those images.
“Ugh, Chief, you’re so scary when you look like you want to kill someone,” a voice rang out.
QiYao looked up and saw Lin Qiong leaning out from QiYao’s office entrance, his head peaking at him with his entire body hiding behind the door.
“Why didn’t you knock?” QiYao said.
“I’m innocent! I’ve been knocking and knocking but I heard nothing. I thought something happened to you.”
“What is it?”
“Let’s go have lunch.” When Qiong felt QiYao retract the serious air that had been bulldozing around the room, he merrily walked right in. He placed his palms on the office desk and leaned down. “Or do you want takeaway? From where?”
“Anything’s fine.” QiYao was feeling hungry before, but he wasn’t in the mood now.
“What is it?” Everyone was on their lunch break now and this morning went quite well. What could possibly make the Chief’s mood turn sour? Qiong was very curious.
“Qiong, don’t drive a black car tomorrow. Have the cars’ A.I. gone for their yearly checks yet?”
“Sure, and of course they have.”
“You have the afternoon off. Go get the car we’ll be using to fetch XiaoYu tomorrow checked again. Send the report to me tonight.”
“Huh?” Qiong didn’t feel any joy at having the afternoon off, rather he found QiYao’s orders weird.
“You would know sooner or later anyway. Come take a look,” QiYao sighed, leaning back on his chair.
“Isn’t this that infamous car accident from last year?” asked Qiong as he glanced at the articles displayed on the screens. The tragic scene of the accident, the street splattered with blood, images of a hospital and a court room, but the majority of the photos were of the same lanky figure.
“This…Is this…Could this be…?” Qiong muttered.
QiYao didn’t reply. He merely nodded.
“How can it be…?” Qiong could never have thought of it. The kind and stiff child they met in the game would have met such a tragedy in reality.
At five in the afternoon, the doorbell to XiaoYu’s home rang.
When the door opened, QiYao was stunned by how homely the apron clad XiaoYu looked. Warmth filled QiYao’s heart. Was this what home felt like?
“The pork still needs to cook for a while longer. You can watch the television while waiting, Yao.”
QiYao might’ve given an affirmative reply, but he didn’t obediently sit down before the television. Instead, he leaned against the door frame to the kitchen with his arms crossed and silently watch XiaoYu’s busy figure.
“Hm? Aren’t you going to watch the television?”
“No. I’m okay just watching you.”
“…>//<” Alright. XiaoYu still wasn’t used to how upfront QiYao was with his flirting.
“Do you need my help with anything?”
“Hm…help me set the table.”
It might just be an ordinary part of daily life, but dinner had turned into something so much more interesting with someone by his side.
QiYao didn’t stay that night either. After he confirmed with XiaoYu what luggage he had and thoroughly lay out the schedule for tomorrow’s move, he left. He too had to arrange for XiaoYu’s room in his home.
XiaoYu’s stuff were minimal, just a few personal hygiene supplies and a few sets of clothing. The gaming pod would be moved by professional movers tomorrow. Most of the move was settled. The only thing left was how XiaoYu would handle walking out the door.
The next day.
“All ready?” asked QiYao.
The gaming pod had already been picked up. Soon, Qiong had called to inform them he was downstairs. This simple move was finally at the hardest step of all.
“…yes,” XiaoYu hesitantly replied. He just had a breakdown the day before yesterday. It was impossible for him to say he was absolutely over it.
“I’ll take the boxes down first. You do the final checks.” QiYao wasn’t in a hurry to force XiaoYu forward. He gave XiaoYu some time and space to slowly get used to the idea of actually moving out.
“Hm? Where’s Xiao-Yu, Chief?” The assistant of a certain someone moving boxes down the stairs quickly stepped out of the car to help, naturally. Qiong had spent a while in the car steadying himself for the meeting with Xiao-Yu, imagining just how the other would react. In the end, Qiong had yet to spot the shadow of the figure he was hoping to see.
“Give him some time.”
“Oh.” Yesterday, Qiong had roughly understood XiaoYu’s condition. He too knew that psychological issues were hard to resolve. Why else would there be so many different kinds of perverts and insane people running about still? Of course, his cute little brother didn’t belong in that category.
Qiong thought they would have to wait a long while. He didn’t think the real LuckyCat would appear before his eyes barely two minutes after the exchange. He couldn’t help but sigh at that. This kid hadn’t collected himself at all.
XiaoYu wasn’t used to having people waiting for him. This was why he’d arrive at any gatherings early. After QiYao left, he didn’t dawdle at all. He made the final checks on all the switches, taps and valves, took a few deep breaths, and walked out.
It must be said that when XiaoYu stood next to these two over-185-cm-tall men, his height was relegated to the “third-rate useless” category. However, there was a benefit to this. With these two towering guardians, they blocked the car behind them mostly from sight. It’s why XiaoYu’s legs didn’t instantly turn to jelly.
“Big Brother Lin?” While QiYao did tell him I_Am_A_Poor_Man – Lin Qiong in real life – would be driving them today, Lin Qiong looked drastically different to his rather fragile healer avatar. He was dressed in a sharp business suit with his hair slicked and style with not a single strand out of place. The only thing missing was a large sign written all over Qiong’s face stating, “I’m part of the elite”.
“Hey, Xiao-Yu. Can’t recognise your dear brother Lin?”
“Hehe. A little, but now I’m sure about it.” The moment XiaoYu heard that familiar voice, he was 100% sure this man before him was I_Am_A_Poor_Man.
“Give me your bag.” See. This is what they call a talented assistant. When it was time to cut the chatter and just do the work, he would never waste his breath.
“Let’s go,” QiYao said. He turned around to head down to the next step when a hand clamped down tight on his arm.
When Qiong took XiaoYu’s bag and turned to the car, the previously blocked car was now halfway revealed. Then, QiYao turned too. Without his two guardians to protect him, even if it was just a parked silver car that had no chance of hurting anyone, XiaoYu’s heart froze and he instinctively held onto QiYao.
QiYao looked back and saw XiaoYu’s eyes stuck on his beloved car. He knew psychological traumas weren’t that easily cured. At least XiaoYu just grabbed his arm with quivering hands instead of collapsing from wobbly legs just like two days ago. As expected, the greatest thing haunting XiaoYu’s mind was a black car. Regrettably, that colour’s very popular with the masses. It seemed like they’ve got some ways to go before XiaoYu could walk on the streets without a care.
“Can you walk?”
“I’ll…try.” Holding onto QiYao was XiaoYu’s last sign of weakness. Someone as stubborn as he wouldn’t ask for help unless he had no other choice. He had to walk out with his own two legs.
XiaoYu slowly moved his right leg forward a few centimetres. His foot was uncontrollably shivering but it was planted solidly on the floor. Then, he slowly shifted his left forward.
In the eyes of someone else, it was just a simple step. To XiaoYu, this was the most important step in him turning around and facing his mental trauma. The few times he left home and saw a car, his feet felt like they were nailed to the ground. They wouldn’t even shuffle. The common ending to those encounters would be his legs giving way and he’d be sitting on the pavement.
The entire journey from the steps to the car was spent in silence. QiYao didn’t even reach out to help support XiaoYu. He just walked beside XiaoYu, but all XiaoYu needed to know was the other man would be by his side. His loved one silently paying attention to him and following beside him were the greatest motivators for him to keep moving. He could even feel a never-ending stream of strength coming from the arm he was grasping.
XiaoYu didn’t know his tiny step shocked QiYao and Qiong to the core. While they knew psychological problems were complicated and hard, but it was one thing to know that and another to see that with their own eyes. Seeing how hard it was to take this tiny step, they now didn’t even dare to think just how XiaoYu survived the past year or so all alone.
XiaoYu gritted his teeth and prepared to take his second step with quivering feet. QiYao nearly couldn’t resist reaching out and embrace him, but he still held it in. He knew that he needed to be a little “cruel” right now. This was the best way to convey his respect to his loved one who was currently doing his best to overcome his own issues.
QiYao and Qiong were both focused on watching XiaoYu. Just then, XiaoYu heard an alarming sound. He looked up and his eyes went wide.
“Look out, Brother Lin!”
A black car was driving past behind Qiong. To be honest, there was nothing dangerous about the entire situation because Qiong was standing by the door on the driver’s side while the black car drove past by the passenger’s side.
Thus, nothing would happen. If an outsider witnessed it, they might be wondering what XiaoYu was babbling about.
However, to XiaoYu, the black car drove by before him and someone he knew was standing very, very close to it. This was his greatest nightmare. He really cannot bear it if someone else was smashed into pieces right before his eyes again.
XiaoYu’s foot had finally descended to the next step, but then all of his courage scattered at this sudden change. Luckily, QiYao had quick reflexes. XiaoYu went from falling to the ground to falling into QiYao’s embrace.
Qiong initially wondered why he would be suddenly spooked by XiaoYu before he quickly realised what happened was an accidental recreation of something extremely horrifying to XiaoYu.
“Don’t be scared, XiaoYu. I’m right by you,” QiYao coaxed, his arms tight around XiaoYu who had been shivering this entire time. He knew what had happened actually made XiaoYu think back to the worst and most cruel memory of his life. He rather regretted this now. Perhaps he shouldn’t have pushed XiaoYu so hard at the start. He should’ve made better and more thorough plans to help XiaoYu.
“I’m fine, Xiao-Yu. See. Your Big Brother Lin is still here.” Qiong once thought that no matter what happened, he could deal with it. But this whole matter made Qiong panic. All he could do was run over to pat XiaoYu.
“I’m sorry…” XiaoYu’s voice was still trembling. He wanted to calm down. He knew Lin Qiong wasn’t in any danger, but he was unable to control his body’s instinctive reaction.
“It’s fine. It’s not your fault,” said QiYao, kissing XiaoYu on the forehead. It was the first time he’d ever realised just how powerless he truly was. He was unable to stop his precious one’s shivers at all.
Through a series of glances, Qiong asked QiYao what they should do next. The latter looked down at the young man in his arms. XiaoYu had done very well today. As for the rest, leave it all to him, XiaoYu’s somewhat unprofessional lover.
“XiaoYu, close your eyes. Relax. Hand everything over to me, okay?” asked QiYao, his hand gently patting XiaoYu on the back.
XiaoYu looked at and saw no impatience in QiYao’s eyes at all, just an endless well of warmth. He quietly closed his eyes and nodded.
QiYao lifted XiaoYu into a bridal carry and gestured for Qiong to open the car door with his eyes. His assistant immediately understood the glance.
Even with his eyes closed, XiaoYu could feel himself being carried over to and into the car. His body stiffened. Fear swelled in him. He tried to tamp it down and while it was a little uncontrollable, it wouldn’t make him panic at least. Because QiYao was by his side this entire time. The other man had stood by the promise he made two days ago that he’d never abandon him. This made him regain some sense of safety and some of the courage that had fled him.
No one said a word on the drive to QiYao’s mansion. Qiong dialled back his usual devil-may-care attitude and solemnly controlled the automated car. He hoped that this might slightly alleviate some of XiaoYu’s fear. As for QiYao’s duty, he was to hold his precious one tight through the entire journey and provide the greatest sense of safety possible to XiaoYu.
Spiralling down in doubt: The literal translation is “drilling horns”. If it was translated as an adjective, it could be translated as “pessimistic”. The slang is usually used as an adjective/action for/of someone who would think about issues from their own past experiences (usually negative) and would overthink on it so much that train of thought would be up until they’ve gotten completely off-topic (based on a petty/trivial/minor point) and are unable to extract themselves from that train of thought.