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1 Starry Nights, Dreamy Alcohol, and Lovely Pain

    It was during her sixth-year high school reunion that Yang Yujia realized the true patheticness of her life.

    The reunion was nothing special- nowhere as extravagant as the first few had been- and less and less people were attending each year, leaving there to only be a few individuals that Yujia could recognize in the sparse crowd. People seemed to realize that these reunions were pointless and a waste of time, but for Yujia, it was a different matter.

    The restaurant that the reunion was set to take place didn't have the best food, but they offered an 'unlimited drinks' deal that sounded good to Yujia. In fact, anything alcoholic sounded good these days.

    With one of her hands propped up against the bar and the other holding an almost empty bottle of beer, Yujia scanned the crowd with bored eyes.

    There was Lu Xiaocheng on the opposite side of the room, a feminine man who was the youngest among all her classmates. Yujia faintly remembers him being picked on by all the other classmates back when they were in high school, but now he was popular with the girls for his weak, 'flower boy' appearance. He was even a trainee under MS Entertainment, supposedly planned to be in an upcoming boy group.

    Huang Liyao was near Lu Xiaocheng, and Yujia didn't have to think much to remember her- Liyao was among the most annoying classmates Yujia had, as far as she could remember. The girl was always showing off and getting on Yujia's nerves. Such a diva queen. Yet now, Liyao was supposedly a teacher, her personality becoming humble and polite.

    Across from both of them, stuck on his phone, was Wu Luo. Staring at him for a few moments, Yujia recalls that she used to be extremely infatuated with him, much like all the other girls in the grade. He was the prince of their high school, having a good family background as well as being tall and handsome. Now, look at him. The CEO of a large technology company- Yujia had seen an interview with him on the news the other day. To think that she used to believe that Wu Luo and her had a possibility together in the future.

    Foolish teenage thoughts.

    Glancing away from the crowd, Yujia grabs the bottle of beer and tilts it upwards, draining what was left in the bottle. While she sets it down on the table and asks for another one, she carelessly pulls out her phone, hearing the familiar buzz of a notification.

    '[Miss Yang], thank you for applying to the position of [Associate Art Director].

    However, we are sad to inform that the position has been taken by someone else, and there is no need for you to come to the interview on [Monday].

    ZYX Marketing Co.'

    Staring at the automated email, Yujia winces, muttering a profanity.

    She applied for tens of positions last week, believing that her art degree and talent would win her at least a few jobs to consider. However, everything turned out like usual- she couldn't even advance to the beginning interview stage for any of them.

    Grabbing the bottle of beer the nearby server just brought her, Yujia slumps against the bar and cautiously places her phone face down. She had to suffer the consequences of breaking the phone screen the last time she received one of those rejection emails and slammed the phone down against the table in anger. Without a job, she had no money, and with no money, she couldn't replace or fix the smartphone, so now, Yujia was left with a broken phone screen that she didn't want to break even more.

    While popping the cap of the bottle open, Yujia cursed herself for choosing to take an art major in college instead of a more sensible and logical one like an engineering degree. She hated the thought of any engineering back then, but now thinking about it, being a electrical or civil engineer seemed much better than someone unemployed for two years in a row because the certain someone decided that they wanted to go after an art degree.

    Why was she so stupid as a high schooler?

    If it weren't for her idiotic decisions back then, she wouldn't be attending this high school reunion to get a few cheap drinks at a bar because she couldn't afford them otherwise.

    Pathetic, truly pathetic. Her name would come up in the dictionary right under 'pathetic' as the definition.

    Taking one last look at the handsome Wu Luo standing in the corner, Yujia couldn't help but feel jealous of him. Except, truthfully, she was jealous of everyone here.

    Lu Xiaocheng was supposedly to debut as an idol anytime soon. Huang Liyao was an elementary teacher, a financially stable job that would provide for her. Wu Luo- oh, Wu Luo- was a full blown CEO, constantly mentioned as the young and successful executive in countless business magazines.

    And then, there was Yang Yujia. 24, unemployed, and with an art major, instant noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

    Yujia took another sip from the new bottle of beer, finding that it was, like the previous one, empty. How much did she drink from this hour of staying at the reunion? How long did she sit there, bathing in self-pity and self-hatred, using alcohol as her only friend?

    She couldn't remember, but perhaps it would be better that way.

    ...

    The digital clock hung on the wall of Yujia's kitchen read '12:00' when Yujia stumbled in the room, holding a plastic bag filled with freebie takeout that she received from the restaurant when she asked for some. She doesn't bother to turn on the light, fumbling as she reaches the refrigerator and pulling it open, throwing the box of takeout into it without looking much.

    Her other hand is holding another bottle of beer, the last one that the restaurant was willing to give to her. Although the workers there certainly said that they wouldn't serve her anymore alcohol because they were afraid of her getting into trouble if she became too drunk, Yujia knew the true reason why- the 'unlimited drinks' was definitely a lie.

    Continuing on with her slow, sloppy movements, Yujia drags herself out of the kitchen, in the direction of the living room of the small apartment that she converted into an art studio. The wooden floors were covered with newspaper to prevent paint from spilling on it, and the papers crinkled under her feet as Yujia walked through. She ends up slumping in front of one of the canvases, staring at it from the dim lighting of a small lamp that Yujia turned on when she walked in.

    The canvas had a simple, unfinished portrait of a bird, the feathers life-like and almost jumping off the page. Looking at it, Yujia brushed her fingers across the canvas, her face twisting into anger.

    Why wouldn't anyone buy her work? She was talented! The picture on the canvas was pure talent! Pure skill! She was the top in her college, the favorite of every professor!

    Yet, now...

    Angrily, Yujia reaches over, pulling open a bottle of black acrylic and splashing the paint forward at the canvas. The paint satisfyingly spills out of the bottle, dripping over the colorful bird and masking it with the thick darkness of the acrylic. It doesn't take long for the entire canvas to be invaded by the splash of sloppy, messy paint.

    If Yujia was sane and sober at the moment, she would likely regret her decisions in less than a second. Acrylic was expensive for an unemployed artist like her. Dumping most of the bottle on the canvas was a stupid mistake that she would become upset at later, but for now, as drunk as she was, Yujia could care less.

    Her hands fumble for the bottle of beer, but Yujia finds that she can't locate it. Perhaps she dropped it on the floor during her rage with the bird and the black acrylic.

    Yujia doesn't bother to search the floor for long. Instead, to fill her desire to drink more and more and more alcohol to flood all her emotions away, Yujia reaches over to the next best thing- the bottles of acrylic she had by her side.

    With her hazy, unfocused vision, Yujia glances at the acrylic. Some part of her brain tells her that the bottle is paint, not beer, but another part tells her that she ran out of paint months ago, and there was only beautiful, beautiful alcohol resting inside each of the bottles.

    The second part of her thoughts doesn't make much sense, but at the same time, it does. Why wouldn't she use paint bottles as containers for beer? It's only sensible. It saves money.

    At the thought of money, Yujia remembers that her rent is coming up again. Despair and anger rises up inside her once more, controlling over all of her senses. Without another thought, Yujia leans over and pulls a bottle of orange acrylic to her.

    She uncaps the bottle.
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