Work is so busy this week and it's a short week, with Friday being a public holiday.

I'm old. 😪

Posting this here, too, so it's easier to find - 城市画报赖美云专访英文翻译

All these ideas and scenarios of mine that come and go unused, and will never be written into words because there's no audience for fic in English-speaking Rocket Girls fandom.

Or to be more precise- the audience is tiny, and only interested in MeiXuan or FuXuan, both CPs that I enjoy reading but will never write for.

Really wish M. hadn't left the fandom, then at least I would have someone to bounce ideas off.

An incomplete idol zzn x cat cafe worker lmy idea that never went anywhere.

From a kakaotalk conversation back in October 2018:


zining debuts as an idol at the age of seventeen. her group doesn't find success for years, and she's ready to give upon her dream of performing and stardom when one of their songs becomes a viral online hit.

correction: one of zining's self-composed solo songs becomes a viral hit online.

zining's group fractures apart when she is on the cusp of her twenty first birthday. she signs to a new company and debuts as a soloist, and is recognised as a rising new talent to look out for. she gets recognised on the street now, and for a time, her photo is all over advertisements on the street and weibo, when she signs a slew of endorsement contracts.

lai meiyun spends her early teenage years daydreaming about becoming an artist, but a broken arm in her first year of high school during PE class snuffles that dream out. ("i don't need to see a specialist," meiyun says, thinking of how her mother returns home exhausted from work every night and of the projected medical fees she'd quietly asked the doctor about; her grip is never as steady after that.)

lai meiyun is content. it's her second year studying economics in university, and to earn pocket money she works at a newly-opened cat cafe near her house. the pay is decent, her boss is kind, the cats are sweet, and the customers are mostly young women in twos and threes. when she goes home there's always a new manga chapter or anime episode awaiting, and she can lose herself in a 2d fantasy for hours. it's a comfortable life.

i'd like to think of zhang zining stopping by the cat cafe on a summer evening - there's a drizzle out and she's wearing a light blouse; it's only sensible to seek shelter until it passes. because of the rain, and because the cat cafe isn't near a train station or bus stop, it's especially quiet on this particular evening.

meiyun guides zining in and explains the rules of the cafe, smiling her signature dimpled smile all the while ('oh, she's cute,' zining thinks) until she leaves zining to her own devices with the cats, busying herself with making zining's coffee and getting her the slice of cake she ordered. ('she's really pretty,' meiyun thinks, stealing glances at zining the entire time.)

when meiyun brings the coffee and cake over, she also offers a little towel for zining to pat herself dry. she relishes the grateful smile zining gives her, humming a little tune to herself as she goes back to the rest of her work around the cafe.

usually, customers who come in solo want to be left alone with the cats. but it doesn't take meiyun long to notice that zining seems mildly flummoxed by the cats around her, as if she has no idea how to interact with them. it would be unfortunate to lose a potential repeat customer (read: unfortunate for a pretty girl like her to leave disappointed), so meiyun goes right up to zining and asks with a friendly smile: "would you like to know more about our cats? they're a little shy with strangers sometimes, but they'll warm up to you real quick with some little tricks!"

meiyun's timing is perfect, because zining was getting so awkward with the cats she was beginning to consider just taking her chances with the weather and leaving the cafe before embarrassing herself to the cats even further.

"yes, please." she accepts the offer with undisguised relief, and meiyun sits next to her on the long sofa.

meiyun's unoccupied lap is an open invitation for her favourite cafe cat, qiqi, to come trotting over and curl up in it. zining looks amazed at the sight - it's a slightly dopey expression, and meiyun has to suppress her giggles before she teaches zining how to coax and play with cats. before long, meiyun's lapcat decides to venture to the unexplored territorry of zining's lap, making itself comfortable and purring loudly as zining strokes it.

"little traitor." meiyun grins and waggles her finger at zining's new friend, feigning insult. "qiqi always abandons me for pretty girls when they come in."

and even though meiyun can get back to her other duties now that zining will be leaving as a satisfied customer, she doesn't. instead she stays, continuing to make small talk that turns into genuine conversation. this customer is really, really nice, and she's pretty, and she has just the sweetest voice that meiyun could listen to all day. almost a full hour goes by, and it isn't until a new customer enters the cafe that meiyun (regretfully) leaves zining's side.

"did you enjoy yourself?" meiyun asks as zining passes her counter on the way out of the cafe. (the drizzle stopped half an hour ago, but zining had lingered, oddly unwilling to leave.) zining surprises herself with how sincere her "yes" is - it's been a long time since she took time off by herself like this, and she'd forgotten how refreshing alone time could be when meaningfully spent.

the next time zining returns, she's wearing a cap and mask in case someone recognises her. it's fortunate she'd taken the precaution, because the cafe is much fuller than the last time she'd come. it happens to be meiyun's shift again, but this time she's too busy to stay with zining. zining doesn't stay even the half hour she'd paid for this time, and on her way out she shyly asks meiyun about when the cafe is less busy.

"monday mornings are my quietest shift. and i guess other weekday mornings... though i'm not working on those days." meiyun says the second part of that with no little internal reluctance. "are you a university student, miss? there's a special price offer for students on weekday mornings!"

"...yes, i'm a student." it isn't a lie, since zining's still enrolled as a music composition major, even if she attends only half as many classes as her peers. but mainly, she's a little taken aback that this cafe worker doesn't seem to have any idea of who she is at all. and frankly it's a relief, to know that she wasn't being nice just because she's a fan.

"great! just remember to bring it along next time~" meiyun sends zining off with a wave, and no little hope that 'next time' will be 'monday morning during lai meiyun's shift'.

two mondays come and go with no sign of That Pretty Customer With The Nice Voice. meiyun isn't hopeful for the monday after that, but the monday after- that's when she shows up, carrying a guitar case on her back.

"hello." she sounds tired, but her smile is sincere. meiyun signs her in without fuss, and 'accidentally' upsizes her drink order while making it. the customer doesn't seem to notice when meiyun brings her drink over, too engrossed in cooing at q

meiyun leaves her to her own devices this time, attending to her chores around the cafe and playing with a couple of other cats to entertain them. but her attention keeps drifting back to the customer - a glance here, a little turn of her head there - until meiyun's nth look towards That Pretty Girl again, when she finds her looking back.

it's sufficient to serve as an invitation for meiyun to go over, sitting on her other side that isn't occupied by her guitar case. (she doesn't even try to hide the added spring in her step.)

"how was your day? wait! i can guess. it got 200% after you walked in and saw all our cute cats waiting for you, right?" it's silly and lame, but enough to make Pretty Girl laugh nonetheless. meiyun grins, and reaches over to give qiqi a little scratch behind the ears. "i'm lai meiyun, but everyone calls me xiaoqi! what's your name, miss?"

zining feels her smile go a little stiff at that question. xiaoqi may not recognise her by looks, but her name isn't exactly common...

"zhang zining," she finally replies. to her relief (and slight professional disappointment?) there's no spark of recognition in xiaoqi's eyes in reaction to the name. after four weeks of fanmeets in various cities around the country, interacting with someone who has no expectation of who she's supposed to be lifts an invisible weight off her shoulders.

they fall into light, easy conversation naturally. because zining is a little more reserved, xiaoqi carries most of the conversation, and isn't shy in talking about herself. zining learns that xiaoqi has been working in the cat cafe for just under a year (she also slips in a question about when xiaoqi's on shift); she notices that she and xiaoqi laugh the same silly goose laugh when she cracks up at some inconsequential thing she says.

the hour flies by quickly. zining wishes she could stay, but she has a session at the company after this- she'd already rescheduled the original plan and pushed it back half an hour just so she could make this visit. "i'll try to come back again next week, or the week after... but i'll definitely be back!"

mondays become meiyun's favourite day of the week, because she has an hour with zining to look forward to. there's almost always no other customers to attend to, and it's an hour of talking with zining - zining, who usually comes in with lines of stress around her eyes, but meiyun gets to see those lines fade away as they talk and laugh and play with the cats.