“Seriously?!” Danise choked on his tea. Eyes soring in pain, coughing out the lump in his throat. “...Y-you.. you..” Pounding on his chest, his croaked voice almost couldn’t be heard. “You’re going...on a vacation with Stella..?”
“Yeah, we are planning to leave right after this,” Kyle said simply, sipping in the warm charmoline tea. “Right, Stella?”
She nodded. “Yappy. It’s been a while since we last met. So yeah, a little bit of time off is necessary sometimes,” Stella stole a quick look at Clover.
But Clover showed nothing, did nothing. Only busy blowing the tea served to her, cooling it to room temperature before it burns her lips.
“How thoughtful of you, Kyle. Going on a vacation without inviting me.” Danise squinted, eyes still red and teary. “Friend...” he pulled Kyle over, softening his voice to be heard only by him, “Are you serious? It’s S-t-e-l-l-a you’re going out with!”
“I don’t want to lose a friend like her, brother. Maybe she changed,” he murmured under his breath and brushed off Danise’s arm laying on him, erasing the stares floating around. “Heyyyyy! I did call you yesterday! But you didn’t pick up any of them.” He changed the tone of his note.
Danise breathed a tired sigh. Don’t make history repeat, Kyle, his concerned gaze spoke.
Kyle flashed him a relieving smile. “Wanna join?” he asked, shaking away the troubles locked in his phoenix eyes.
“Hmmmm....” turning to Clover’s direction, “Can I bring her along?” Danise requested.
Clover flinched, flashing him an -are-you-kidding-me- look.
“What?!" Stella mouthed.
“She’s my P.A. Of course she’s following me,” Kyle clicked his tongue, slurping down the last drop of his tea, clinking the glass on the table. “Stella, bring along your new manager! Let’s have fun together!”
Kenny, who has been sitting silently on the double-seat Tuxedo sofa, looked up from the table, “...Really?.. Can..Can I..too?” he gave a questionable look at Stella.
“Well.. if Kyle say so...” Forcing her cheeks muscles into a convincing smile, “Why not?” she hissed behind her gritted teeth.
“Alright! What are we waiting for?” Danise rose from the sofa, shooting his hand up in the air. “Let’s~~~go!”
Danise offered Clover and Kyle a ride to Guilin. Checking the distance from Guangzhou to Guilin through his phone, he had a mini heart attack. 472.8 km.
That was a long one.
“See ya in another 5 hours time, Stella.” Kyle said, stepping into Danise’s car after Clover.
It was supposed to be you and me in a car, Kyle Lee.
Holding down her temper, taking in a deep breath, “See ya,” Stella held her door open, glancing to send a goodbye wave, while watching the car containing the three shadows making for the exit.
And here she was together with Kenny. Still K, but not the K that she desired to be with.
Danise continued pressing the oil pedal once he was done setting up the navigation on his Baidu Map. Nobody sat in the front seat. Kyle and Clover were at the back, each taking the corner seats, heads turning to the nearest window.
Strong smell of the Ambi Purr was being blinded by the smell of awkwardness evolving. Kyle’s shoulders could be seen moving uncomfortably, thanks to his over breathing breaths. Playing the gaps between the other fingers with her thumb, was what she was doing to kill time. Though it seemed like the incident happened yesterday was settled, there was still a barrier.
Clover did embarrass Kyle. And Brandon did slap Clover, in the eyes of public.
These were facts nobody could change.
“You guys are making me so stress,” Danise finally spoke out as he reached a traffic light, hand running over his neck to ease the ache. “What’s wrong?”
“Hello!!” he bounced his butt on the driver’s seat, shaking the immobile car, “I’m talking!”
“Oh my gosh, Danise. Focus please!” Kyle said, grabbing the side of the front seat, pulling himself to be closer to the driver. “It’s green already!” he then shoved his hand towards the sight of the moving cars.
“Then speak!” he grumbled, trying to get some human noises generated.
Kyle trilled his lips, brushing the short fringe off his temple.
Millions of thoughts were running across Clover’s mind. All about Kyle surprisingly. Words Raymond told her yesterday, repeated again and again. She never would have imagined this painful story to happen on somebody so wonderful, like the star sitting beside.
Staring at the mysterious back of him, her heart began to twist once more. How much more are you hiding, Kyle? Too engrossed with her emotions, she stretched out her hand without her consciousness realizing, gently patted on him. Don’t keep them to yourself.
“Hmm?” Kyle turned when he felt a sudden warmth on his back.
Clover gasped, pulling back her slipped hand. “Oh...” she faked a laugh. “Nothing.”
“Clover!” Danise called out in the midst of the weird scenario.
“Yeah?” Clover blurted, part of her feeling thankful to Danise for saving her from the unanswered scene.
But the joy vanished soon after.
“Guess you should reveal your story a lil’ bit to us.”
Nodding his head in wonderment, “Yes yes! You should, Clover.” Kyle added, eyes blinking with hope.
Staring at the two of them, Clover let out a short chuckle with a mixture of pain at the edge of her voice. “You know what was I, Kyle,” she said bluntly.
Looking away from her, “...Well...” he stammered, not knowing what to do to not make her upset.
“I was a nobody. Just a tool sold out to get money.”
“What about your parents? Where is your hometown? What happened that made you like this? Your siblings? How was your life before this?” Questions he had been waiting to ask, poured out like a shooting gun.
Clover parted her mouth, but shut it shortly after. The answers to those questions were so pathetic, that even she, the bearer had to look for the courage to speak. Her lips were quivering, tip of her nose was getting wet, tears were circulating - waiting to be streamed.
Allowing the cars behind cut him one after another, Danise slowed the speed of the vehicle he was controlling. He kept an eye at the rear mirror, waiting to hear whatever she was ready to say.
Clearing her throat, she tried once more.
Her voice was cracking.
“It’s okay.” Kyle wrapped her palm in his, “Take it slow,” he comforted.
“Yeah. Don’t worry. We have five hours to listen to you,” Danise joked.
Clover puked out a soft giggle, “Thanks, Danise.”
And she began. “My family was once the most perfect family I could ask for. My dad was a CEO of a big trading corporation and my mom was the assistant. Though we had a house of our own, we spent most of the time living inside a caravan, driving around to explore the world.”
“What happened after that?” Kyle asked in a careful tone.
Sucking in a deep, long breath, “Betrayal,” she blinked off the liquid in her eyes, “Jealousy. I was too naive. I knew nothing about my parents’ company. Only did what she told me to. And it drove me to disasters...and... disasters....”
“Who’s she?” Danise interrupted.
“An evil, darkened heart, selfish, merciless, materialistic creature that claimed to be a human,” Clover snorted, clenching her fists in anger. “Though my parents were angry, they didn’t scold me. But... ” her voice turning thick, “But...luck nor justice were never on their sides. Those bribed lawsuits, bribed evidences, bribed truths, stole away the company that my parents built with their sweats and bloods.” Running a finger below her eye to wipe away the secretion that was about to fall, “.... and finally.. depressions took their lives away...”
“But.. what did that got to do with you being a se---..” Kyle trailed off instantly, hand on his lips, thinking if he had overstepped his boundaries.
“Sex slave,” Clover finished his sentence. ” We were announced to be broke, Kyle. Those so-called relatives of mine were the perfect definition of gold diggers. Our money was the only thing they aimed for. When I was sent to my aunt’s house to be taken care of, I thought I was lucky enough to still have a house to stay. But I was wrong. Very wrong. They put me on sale on an illegal website with all my details being displayed. Taking me in was just to make sure they have somebody to give when the order comes.”
Danise furrowed his brows, almost accidentally pressed the honk button, “Oh.My.God. What a mother f*****!”
Clover looked at him through the rear mirror. Within it, she saw her own reflection and the smile on her face was what shocked her.
An accomplishment smile.
She finally spoke about her story. One that she wouldn’t be proud to speak about except for the beginning.
Her hand was stuffy and sweaty from the pressures after clenching it for too long. Just as she wanted to elongate her fingers, she realized that Kyle’s hand was still on top of hers.
Warm and protective.
Holding her gaze in his, “Thank you,” he breathed.
She smiled, “Thank you, Kyle, and a yawn followed.
Kyle pushed her head on the headrest with a tender touch. “Sleep now, little one. It’s gonna be a long journey,” he whispered.
“Mmm...” Clover uttered. Her eyelids were getting heavy and keeping them open were no longer under her commands.
Moving with a purpose to the middle seat while sneaking a peep at Danise, Kyle cupped Clover’s face and softly placed it on his shoulder. “At least this is something that I can do for you,” he murmured, allowing her sleep to kick in.
Guilin, a very famous tourist spot in China. Known for possessing one of the most beautiful landscapes one can ever imagined. Paradises everywhere! - Green huge mountains, natural streaming water, fresh, relaxing atmosphere.
A mini fairyland alive on Earth, some people described it to be that way.
Reaching the town, many people were walking with an umbrella in their hands, blocking the rays from the Sun. The aromas of the mouth-watering temptations diffused into Danise’s car. He drooled, watching those items entering into the mouths of other people. Water chestnut cakes, Guilin water glutinous rice cake and of course, one can never miss - Guilin Field Snail! The car was barely moving anymore as the force on the oil pedal decreased by the tempations around.
Stopping eventually in front of a food wagon, Danise put on his sunglasses and rolled down the window, “Hello, can I have ¥50 of those fried snails?“, he asked, extending his hand to give him the money.
“Sure, just a moment.”
Noises from the outside woke Clover. She flinched. Light struck her eyes as she lifted them open, causing her to shut them down again. Sun was high up and the tinted windows weren't helping much as expected.
She stuck her palm on her forehead, sensing the heat biting her skin, “Danise... where are we?” her sleepy voice mumbled.
“Oh, Clover you are up,” he took in the packet of the paid item. “We are already in the town of Guilin,” stretching his hand far enough to reach the back and offered Clover the snails. "Want some?"
Clover made a disgusted face. “What’s these?”
“What’s with that expression?” Danise glared at her. “They are fried snails! Very tasty!” he said, grabbing a few and shoved them all at once in his mouth.
He tsked at her before turning to the front.
Woken by Clover’s loud screech, “..hmm...we are here...?” Kyle said, with his eyes only 1mm opened.
“A while more. Getting to the hotel.” Shoving the packet to the back once again, “Kyle, wanna try?” he asked.
Kyle tipped his head to look at it, “Snails?”
“Yeah. It’s so good!”
Just when Kyle sunk his hand into the bottom of the packet, Clover flashed him a weird look.
“...You want?” he asked, pointing one to her.
“Oh my God, Kyle,” she shrunk at the gross sight of it, with the sauce leaking off the shell. “Get that thing away from me.”
“Don’t waste it on her Kyle. She knows nothing about this treasure.” Danise muttered, putting another in his mouth, “By the way, what’s the name of the hotel again..?”
“Starry Land.” Kyle said, “A very.. spectacular place.”
Starry Land. A seven-star hotel, not everyone had the chance to stay. Being starred various times as one of the filming sites in movies and dramas, Starry Land had became the leading hotel across the globe. Beautiful and outstanding design. Rumours had it that the founder of this accommodation invested millions of money including most of his his properties into this project. He even flew to the United States to look for the most talented and professional architect to craft a design for his dream hotel.
He didn’t know what would be the results.
He might lose.
But he might win as well.
And yes, he made it.
Look at how bright Starry Land was shining.
Danise headed straight to the basement parking without wasting the time circling around the open area to look for empty spots. Except Clover, they were public figures, and basement obviously secured a better privacy.
Clover’s eyes were glimmering from the moment they entered the main entrance of the hotel and they were still twinkling in the basement. Her breaths were heavy, captivated by the entire visual of the hotel that she would be staying. If there were rooms in the basement, she would have questioned if this was a basement or another.. hotel.
With the flashing, healing colours of the string lights hung on the bricked walls, the underground room was ignited. Spaces between parked cars, small gardens were present- accompanied by the 3D images of butterflies, birds giving off their natural noises. Pictures of night skies composed of blinking stars were painted on the ceilings, making them seemed real and alive. Bright lines could be seen slashing in between, so fast that it was hard to be noticed in a glance. Clover was staring at them, and she dropped her jaw when she realized what they were..
It felt so magical.
Though it was just a basement.
“I can..just sleep here..” Clover said, mesmerized by how creative a human’s brain could get.
“Inside is even more enchanted,” Danise laughed at her stunned face, “Clover.”
“Let’s go,” Kyle said, shutting the door after Clover stepped out.
Even the ground was beyond perfection. No rubbish, no scars no scratches. How can a cellar be so wonderful? Clover thought.
She was so lost in her thoughts of the manmade creations, almost bumping herself into the glass door. Danise put his hand on the right spot just a second before she kissed, “Look in front, smart." he nagged.
Clover snarled at him but it only lasted for a while. She didn’t want her mood to be ruined when there was such an enchantment present around her.
“I’ll show you something more,” Kyle whispered, pressing the number 21 on the fancy lift buttons after the G. “You help us check in at the lobby first, Danise.”
Danise grinned. “Woooo~~”
“Zip it. Don’t make things awkward,” Kyle said, pushing him out once G displayed on the screen. It was just a floor away from where their car was parked.
Clover waited for the number 21 to appear on the screen. Her feet jogged on the same spot and joy was all over her face. Kyle chuckled softly to himself as he watched this innocent side of hers. She looked just like a small little girl, that happiness had found its way to her.
And when the lift door separated, the view flashed in her eyes shut her up momentarily, leaving her speechless. Her legs trembled, couldn't find the force to step out, as if her energy was drained away completely.
“....Oh..my..god.." Clover puffed.