Book 2 Chapter 4 - Renewed Disappointment
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After a hasty ordering of his room, Li Yiming marked the start of his new life with Bai Ze. Aside from having a penchant for snacks, Li Yiming was relieved by Little Bai Ze’s tractability, since she ate just about everything and it did not take much food to fill her up completely. However, little did he know that she did not need to eat anything all all. Owing to her bloodline, she could simply absorb the essence of the heavens and the earth, and of the sun and the moon.
In the afternoon, Li Yiming went to the market on an errand to buy a few sets of clothes for Bai Ze. After swapping her Dao robe for a normal attire, her ostentatiousness finally settled down. A week flew by and the end of August marked the arrival of an important day for Li Yiming: he would know today whether he was hired or not for the interview he had taken earlier.
Li Yiming sat in front of his computer and entered the address of the local school board in his browser with strong expectations. He quickly found the notice on the front page. ‘...And down into despair…’ Li Yiming checked the list carefully three times but was unable to find his name. ‘I wasn’t chosen? But I finished first in the theory exam, and I was eleven points ahead of the guy in second place! Seven candidates retained and I’m eighth? Wow, my interview must have been complete trash. I remember the people at the interview asking me a bunch of follow-up questions and even some personal ones. They seemed pretty satisfied, but why…’
‘This has to be nepotism…’ Li Yiming was bitterly disappointed. ‘I’ve been blinded by overconfidence after the good results I obtained on the theory exam. I thought that there would be no problems at all. But seriously, how much in this world is decided by competence? Three percent capability, seven percent luck, ninety percent connections…
‘I was too naive… Even the world cup has cheating referees, so why would I expect anything different from such a small job offering? I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that a lot of these institutions don’t hire people based on the demand, but rather based on what kind of person is looking for a job. Creating a position because someone needs it, ha, what a banality. These teaching jobs might not be as highly esteemed as public officials, but at least there’s less public scrutiny and thus more opportunities for manipulations.
‘A stable job and long vacations. Not the best income or benefits, but a perfect retirement job for the relatives of those who do not need money.’
“What is it?” Bai Ze noticed Li Yiming’s disgruntlement as he stared at the computer screen and threw a glance at him, temporarily shifting her attention away from the game she was playing on his cellphone.
“I’ve lost my job,” said Li Yiming, visibly disheartened.
“Why would you need a job?” Bai Ze lowered her head and resumed her game. ‘This game is hard. I know that I’m better. I know it, but why can’t I just beat this guy?’ 
“I need money to feed you.” Li Yiming stood up in displeasure.
“Don’t we have domains? How about we just grab some money on the way next time.”
“Yes, but we’ll probably die of hunger before we can even make it to the next domain.” Li Yiming quickly snatched his cellphone away from Bai Ze.
“What are you doing?” Little Bai Ze was annoyed.
“Looking for a job!” Li Yiming strode in exasperation towards the balcony.
“Pfft…” Little Bai Ze quirked her lips in dissatisfaction and ran toward the computer: at least the game was available there as well.
Li Yiming lit up a cigarette on the balcony. The habit had slowly crept into him, as it did with many other smokers. Li Yiming first thought of it only as a way to entertain himself a little and did not mind it very much, but eventually it became a preferred outlet for venting out stress. So, every single time Li Yiming was irritated, he would always seek the reprieve from a cigarette out of habit. And then… And then nothing. A habit once formed was hard to change, and rather than claim that he was physically dependant on it, it would be more accurate to call it a mental routine. 
Li Yiming opened up the chat application and sent a message to his classmates group. “Any of you grandmasters have a job? Don’t even have rice to put onto the stove anymore.” The best way to find a small job was not to look online, but rather sending a message within this group. After all, they knew each other very well, and would usually call each other for work opportunities or small jobs back at school. ‘Well, I guess ninety percent connections isn’t exactly wrong.’
Li Yiming had yet to finish his cigarette when his cell phone rang: the freight of friendship sails for the distance, and the solidarity between brothers outlives heaven and earth…
“Ah, my Lady Liu! Good Fortune to you!” Li Yiming picked up his phone with an inflated greeting. With his classmates, he had no need for reservation or pretension. This was especially true given the fact that they studied dance. They lived a student life which was quite different from the average university student, and thus forged completely different bonds.
For a normal student, in a class with more than a hundred people, aside from the few dormitory roommates, it was not unusual for someone to not even know about the names of the other students until graduation. It was a common sight for students to sleep on their tables or play with their cellphones during a lecture, and play games or go on dates after school. It was to each their own, with everyone left to their own devices.
However, things were a little different for those who studied dance. First of all, everyone could in fact see each other “fully” during class. In addition to lectures, there were many performances and rehearsals, which meant that a simple backstage dance studio can become a place where students lived twenty four hours out of twenty four. Li Yiming himself had experienced living inside a studio for a full week in order to prepare for a performance. Eating, caring to each one’s own needs, everything had to be done as a group. And, as such, the men thought of their female classmates as brothers, and the women thought of their male classmates as animals.
“So it seems like my little boy has had it rough recently?” Liu Meng’s playful voice came out of the phone. Liu Meng was Li Yiming’s bro, and before Li Yiming started his relationship with Ji Xiaoqin, she was his dancing partner. Beneath her beautiful traits hid a tomboy demeanor and often crazy thoughts.
“Bah, don’t bring that up.” Li Yiming answered in a dispirited voice.
“Really? Are you serious? Didn’t you just do your interview a few days ago? I’ve heard that you had quite a good showing at the theoretical exam.” Liu Meng sounded very surprised.
“Ever heard of nepotism? It’s hard for a commoner to eat royal rice, really.”
“Ahahaha!” Li Yiming heard Liu Meng’s mocking laugh, but was rather comforted by it after all he had lived through.
“You didn’t call me just to listen to my disappointment, did you?”
“Are you really completely dry?”
“What do you think?”
“That’s not right... I remember you being the most hard-working back at school. You took every job possible and lived frugally…”
“I had a family to feed…” Li Yiming quirked his lips. ‘Girlfriend during university, especially a pretty one. Whoever has done it should know…’
“Oh, you’re talking about Ji Xiaoqin… I’ve forgotten about her. Money flows like water with her… Is she still in Hangzhou?” Liu Meng was also on fairly decent terms with her.
“Yeah.” Li Yiming stayed silent for a while and answered sloppily.
“What is it?” Liu Meng immediately caught onto the little abnormality, since she had known him for so long.
“It’s nothing.” Li Yiming equivocated.
“Don’t tell me you split up?” Liu Meng’s voice suddenly jumped up by an octave. “You’ve barely danced Butterfly Lovers [3. The Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet (kind of), read more here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_Lovers .]at graduation, that was only a few days ago!”
“We’ll talk about it later.” Li Yiming did not want to talk about that.
“She wouldn’t have cheated on you, would she?” Liu Meng knew just how much Ji Xiaoqin meant to Li Yiming, and her tone suddenly shifted.
“Hey, Madame Liu, I think that my life-or-death problem is slightly more important than love and butterflies, wouldn’t you agree?” Li Yiming detected Liu Meng’s concern and said half-jokingly. He had learnt that the most important trait of maturity was to be able to joke about everyone, including himself.
“I do have something. But it’s short term.” Liu Meng caught Li Yiming’s hint and did not insist.
“That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I already have long term plans, so as long as I manage to get through the short term, I should be okay,” said Li Yiming. ‘Wait until the next domain, and I’ll be filthy rich!’
“Alright then. It’s background dancing job for a music video shooting. It’s not very far from your home, but the rehearsals are in Wen City.”
“MV dancing? Rehearsal in Wen City?” The format itself was not a problem, since, strictly speaking, being able to record multiple times alleviates the pressure significantly compared to a live performance. In addition, the cameras are usually focused on the lead singer, so it should not be something terribly hard. However, Li Yiming hesitated upon hearing about the location of the filming. ‘Wen City. Two hours away by car, but with Bai Ze…’
“Could you let me hear the music first? Maybe if you tell me about the format, I can rehearse by myself and join you on site?” Li Yiming proposed.
“Drop that thought. Do you know who we are dancing for? Fang—Shui—Er.”
“Fang Shui’er? The imperial consort? How did you get into contact with her?” Fang Shui’er was a prime-time star in the country, and she surged to fame after a breakthrough role in an imperial harem drama a while back. She had been involved in TV dramas, movies, and the musical industry. She was more popular than ever now, and there are even rumors about her being the highest paid actress in the country.
“My roommate’s boyfriend is a manager for Five Horses Entertainment. They’ve received the job, and so they wanted me to help them look for people. Five in total, two women and three men, and I thought of you. How’s that for a real bro?” said Liu Meng in a smug voice.
“Damn, doing quite well aren’t you?”
“Of course. Do you regret refusing me when I asked you become my minion?”
“But to Wen City… When’s the rehearsal, and when are we going to shoot?”
“Rehearsal starts in three days, lasting for nine until filming on the thirteenth of September. The filming will last two days, and the compensation is going to be ten thousand yuan. Don’t worry about food or accomodations, just stay at my place. I’ll ask my roommate to go stay with her boyfriend for a little while. It’ll be my pleasure to let you leech off me,” said Liu Meng with self-confidence.
“Well, the thing is, I need to take care of a child,” Li Yiming voiced his main concern.
“A child? You…”
“Stop it right there. No need to overthink. It’s my relatives’ child. The parents are out of the country and they threw the kid to me since I had nothing to do. I’ll be watching over her. She’s eight years old.” Li Yiming quickly interrupted Liu Meng’s wild fancies. She had a natural talent for them, just like any other person who had made art their living.
“Ah, so that’s how it is? How’s that little girl, can she sit still?”
“She’s pretty well-behaved.”
“Okay, well bring her over then. In the worst-case scenario, we’ll just leave her to my mom. That’ll teach her to always urge me about getting married,” said Liu Meng.
Li Yiming returned to his room and looked at Bai Ze. “Good news and bad news. The good news is that I’ve found a job, so we don’t have to worry about going homeless. Bad news is that we’ll have to go live in someone’s place for while.”
“I also have good news and bad news.” Little Bai Ze did not answer him and instead blinked her eyes playfully, since she was not interested at all by whatever Li Yiming had to say. “The good news is that I can sense a domain approaching us.”
“What, really?” Li Yiming, unlike the usual guardian, who would treat such news with at least some fear, was ecstatic.
“Yes, but the problem is that I don’t know anything about the exact time and location.” Bai Ze stretched herself with a frustrated expression.
“Because I’m not a guardian.”
“Yes, you aren’t one either.”