Wang Xiaoming stood in the hallway and stupidly tried to calculate the Silver House’s area. He did want to contribute to the Silver House instead of being a parasite that got waited on hand and foot, but to be given such an impossible mission so quickly made his heart sink.
Baal declared in displeasure, “He dares threaten my human! Hmph, when he wakes up tomorrow, he’ll discover a giant hole in his body.”
Wang Xiaoming jumped in fear. “You’re going to kill someone?”
“Does putting a hole in someone always have to mean killing someone?” Baal laughed coldly, looking for all the world like the villain about to set a trap for the protagonist.
Wang Xiaoming thought and then asked, “Where do you want to put the hole?”
“What do you think?”
After a long pause, Wang Xiaoming finally figured out a safe place. “How about you pierce his ears?”
“Uh, or maybe the nose? Nose rings are pretty popular now.” Wang Xiaoming continued trying to appease Baal with a smile.
Baal couldn’t resist whacking the top of Wang Xiaoming’s head. “When can you be tougher?!” Every story he had heard about the mortal realm that had a protagonist get stronger involved the person going on a revenge spree against everyone who had wronged them, taking over the world, and having everyone bow down to them. How come this human, who had him, remained so cowardly?!
Wang Xiaoming got dizzy from all the whacking. “I-I am tough! I’ll try my best to get all the work done tomorrow! Ow!”
Baal continued the whacking without a word.
When Xiang Wenxun walked into the dorm building, he immediately saw Wang Xiaoming standing under the hallway lights with his head bobbing lightly up and down involuntarily, like a bouncing ball.
“Xiaoming.” Xiang Wenxun blinked his eyes and hid the weariness in them. He smiled lightly. “Mr. Baal.”
Baal’s hand stopped.
Wang Xiaoming took the opportunity to take a step back and lean his body against the wall. He rubbed his temples and dazedly offered a greeting, “President Xiang.”
Xiang Wenxun asked, “Did you have a good date today?”
The beginning was great but the ending had been lacking. Wang Xiaoming had planned on complaining a little bit, but the words turned into irrepressible sweetness when they came out of his mouth. “Yeah.” Baal had promised to stay with him in the mortal world for the rest of his life.
Xiang Wenxun could see that Wang Xiaoming was trying to be calm but couldn’t prevent his lips from smiling. He nodded and said, “That’s great then.”
“Tao Le… Mr. Tao Le is alright?” Wang Xiaoming asked.
Xiang Wenxun rubbed his eyebrows. “Yeah, he’s out of the critical period.”
“Critical period?” Wang Xiaoming was actually caught off guard. He had assumed Tao Le had just gotten a bad beating and not that the man had been close to death. He noticed the weariness that Xiang Wenxun was showing and asked in concern, “Have you eaten yet?”
Xiang Wenxun paused. Ever since he moved out from the Taos, nobody had cared whether he ate or not. He quickly recovered and shook his head, saying, “Not yet.”
“Let me make you a bowl of noodles.” Wang Xiaoming felt like he owed the man a lot and really wanted to help.
“Alright.” He nodded with a smile and walked first toward the dorm.
Baal snorted from behind Wang Xiaoming and demanded, “There are chefs at the Silver House, why stick your nose in this?”
Wang Xiaoming answered, “I can make noodles pretty fast.”
He hadn’t even tasted Wang Xiaoming’s noodles, why did Xiang Wenxun get to eat them first?
The more Baal thought about it, the unhappier he became. “Why are you so nice to him?”
“He’s my boss.” Wang Xiaoming put in a bit of appeasement in his tone.
Attempt to placate, failed.
Wang Xiaoming had planned on going back to his room to grab ingredients, but he opened Xiang Wenxun’s fridge to discover that Jie had left behind quite a lot of food—cooked and raw. The kitchen also contained all kinds of seasoning and ingredients, so all he needed to do was put the things together and serve them in a bowl.
As Wang Xiaoming cooked the noodles, Xiang Wenxun took a quick shower in his room and came out in a set of lounge clothes.
His damp bangs fell against his forehead and made him look at least ten years younger. Instantly, Wang Xiaoming felt that the man became more approachable. “Do you like it?”
Xiang Wenxun nodded with a smile. “Very good.” In truth, the noodles tasted average but he had been hungry for so long that it was extra delicious.
Baal saw how Wang Xiaoming stared unblinkingly at Xiang Wenxun eating noodles and how the human’s butt seemed glued to the sofa without showing any intention of moving. He became even more unhappy. “The noodles are done, you’re not leaving yet?”
“When President Xiang finishes eating I’ll clean up, and then I’ll leave.” In Wang Xiaoming’s mind, Xiang Wenxun was one of those rich people who never did chores and had people serve him food on a silver platter.
Xiang Wenxun looked up from the bowl and smiled. “No need, I can wash the dishes.”
Though Xiang Wenxun said that, Wang Xiaoming still held onto his beliefs. He continued sitting there and suddenly remembered about Tao Le. “President Xiang, I want to go see Mr. Tao tomorrow.” No matter what, they knew each other and it wasn’t good if he ignored the man after finding out the other man had a brush with death.
Xiang Wenxun’s chopsticks paused in mid-air and he was a bit surprised. “Oh, why?”
“All patients like visitors to come and offer comfort,” Wang Xiaoming paused, “and Jie has just left. I think that he needs some comfort.”
“How are you going to comfort him?”
Wang Xiaoming answered seriously, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Xiang Wenxun was “touched” by his sincerity and answered, “He just came out of the critical period and isn’t quite stable yet. It’s probably not a good time for you to visit but I’ll relay your words of comfort.”
Wang Xiaoming nodded but couldn’t hold back his curiosity. “So why does Tao Le always get beaten up by that President Zhang?”
When it came to this question, Xiang Wenxun didn’t feel the need to keep anything hidden from Wang Xiaoming, so he responded frankly, “You remember when you met President Zhang that one time and how he was in the middle of getting beaten up?”
“I remember.” The memory would never fade from his mind.
“Tao Le was the one who had people beat him up.”
“Huh?” Wang Xiaoming paused.
Xiang Wenxun explained indifferently, “Jie has never gotten business. On one hand, I had made it clear to people that he wasn’t allowed to receive guests. On the other hand, Tao Le had chased off anyone who had designs on him. President Zhang hadn’t been to the Silver House enough times and he didn’t have friends in the circle, so he hadn’t heard. The hospital that President Zhang and Tao Le went to was one and the same. When Tao Le found out, he personally beat the man again. And that’s how the grudge developed more and more.” He didn’t mention that having President Zhang taken to the same hospital as Tao Le had been his idea. He regretted that decision so much he could weep, which is why he didn’t want anyone to know.
But even that was enough to make Wang Xiaoming’s jaw drop. “Can fighting solve problems?” Why did he feel like it was just little kids playing?
Baal glanced involuntarily at him.
Xiang Wenxun smiled in resignation. “No, but it can release pent-up emotions.”
Wang Xiaoming asked, “Then will Tao Le beat President Zhang again?”
“No,” Xiang Wenxun put down his bowl, “the Taos have sued President Zhang and the rest will be solved in court.” Solving things in court depended on who had the stronger backing, and on that front, the Taos would not lose against a nouveau riche like President Zhang. Since they were certain of that, the Taos had decided to make that move.
“That’s great then.” Wang Xiaoming let out a sigh of relief and took the bowl into the kitchen to wash.
Xiang Wenxun knew that Wang Xiaoming was too naive in his thinking, but that naivete was very precious in today’s world so he didn’t plan on bursting the young man’s bubble.
Wang Xiaoming finished washing the bowl, turned around, and discovered that Xiang Wenxun wasn’t in the living room. He wiped his hand on the dishrag and then spread it out on the counter. Then he asked Baal, “Where’s President Xiang?”
Baal stood in the hallway with his arms crossed in front of his chest and said coolly, “Bedroom.”
Wang Xiaoming tiptoed over and saw Xiang Wenxun standing by the bedroom door. The light from the living room threw his figure into the shadows and made him appear lonely and weary, as if he were going to sink into that deep darkness.
Wang Xiaoming was about to say something when he heard the repeated banging sound come from the bedroom again. It was just like what he and Baal had heard that afternoon, just clearer in the quiet night.
“The first time I discovered he could move was when I was wiping his body down.” There was a trace of hoarseness in Xiang Wenxun’s voice.
Wang Xiaoming took two steps forward and stood by the bedroom door with Xiang Wenxun, looking at the coffin parked by the bed.
“My first reaction wasn’t happiness but terror,” Xiang Wenxun mocked himself, “because I was afraid he’d turn into the blood-sucking monster that Mr. Baal had described, the one that wouldn’t even show mercy to his own brother. So I immediately purchased a coffin, a very secure coffin, and then locked him inside with the thickest, most durable lock.”
“I told the truth,” Baal said from next to them. “He really is a blood-sucking monster right now.”
“My brother went with my parents to America at a young age, only coming back a few times a year. But we’ve always had a good relationship.” Xiang Wenxun’s voice flowed like a gentle stream filled with sadness, self-recrimination, fear, and anticipation. It flowed unhurriedly as he continued, “So, Wang Xiaoming, no matter what Mr. Baal wants or what price I have to pay, please have him wake up. Human or vampire, it doesn’t matter. As long as he’s still my brother, it’s okay.”
Wang Xiaoming almost cried because he knew how strong Xiang Wenxun usually was and also knew how much the man had pretended to be strong. He looked over to Baal, his eyes pleading.
Baal pressed his tongue against his cheek and said calmly, “If my body recovers, I can help him find a vampire that can save his brother.”
Wang Xiaoming relayed the message.
Xiang Wenxun offered his thanks.
They all knew that the sentence was just a platitude right now.
The banging sound came more and more frequently.
Baal looked at the clock and remarked, “It’s almost midnight.” He suddenly stretched out a hand and made a fist in the air.
A figure suddenly appeared midair in the bedroom and covered half of the bedroom curtains.
Wang Xiaoming almost cried out. He pressed a hand against his mouth and squinted for a long time before realizing that it was Xiang Wenjie. The figure’s face was deathly pale and his head hung low like a corpse at a hanging.
“Jie.” Xiang Wenxun impulsively took half a step forward.
Xiang Wenjie heard the call and slowly looked up. The hallway light and the moonlight made it possible to see that his pupils were clearly red, like blood. His eyes moved a few times and his gaze slowly swept over toward Wang Xiaoming. Suddenly, his pupils glinted with a weird and intimidating light, terrifying Wang Xiaoming into taking several involuntary steps back until he was next to Baal and tightly grasping his sleeves.
Baal’s lips twitched disdainfully. “It’s just a fifteenth-generation vampire, what’s there to be afraid of?”
Wang Xiaoming answered in a trembling voice, “His looks are terrifying.”
Baal waved his hand and Xiang Wenjie vanished. The coffin clanged, clearly in response to him being put back in.
Wang Xiaoming noticed that Xiang Wenxun was stopping himself from asking a question, so he asked on the man’s behalf, “You didn’t break him, did you?”
Baal asked in vexation, “Why don’t I pull him out and have you check him over?”
Wang Xiaoming thought about it and shook his head, “Maybe not. After we check him over you’ll just toss him back in again.”
“Relax, I won’t.”
“Really?” Wang Xiaoming looked at him dubiously.
Baal smiled through gritted teeth and answered, “Because I won’t put him back.”
At the thought of how Xiang Wenjie had been acting, Wang Xiaoming couldn’t help but gulp. He turned around and looked at Xiang Wenxun, who had been silently standing next to him the entire time. His heart hurt and he said softly, “We’re going back first.” At a time like this, Xiang Wenxun probably needed to be by himself the most.
“Goodnight,” Xiang Wenxun smiled but couldn’t disguise his weariness.
When they returned to their own room, Baal rushed into their study without a second word. That ball toss machine stood in the study like an elephant in the room. The study hadn’t been wide to begin with and the machine blocked an entire bookcase. He pointed with his finger and the basketball arched through the air, as if guided by a rope, and then slid into the basket.
Wang Xiaoming stood for a long time by the door as though he wanted to say something. But even after he managed to turn his hair into a chicken’s nest, he couldn’t think of how he should say it. So he decided to shower first.
After taking a shower, he didn’t go to bed but rather paced back and forth outside the study and cast the occasional glance inside.
“Either come in or go to bed.” Baal was affected by him and after missing two tosses, he finally couldn’t resist speaking.
Wang Xiaoming’s footsteps halted and he called out, utterly serious, “Baal!”
Baal gave him a side-eyed look. “Hmm?”
As if in military training, Wang Xiaoming clicked his heels together and stood up straight, both hands clutching desperately at the hem of his pyjamas. He slowly looked out at about a 45 degree angle, and his eyes were filled with a fake sense of fearlessness that hid his actual terror. He enunciated, as if marching to his death, “Let’s have sex.”
The basketball dropped straight down—but nobody paid it any attention.
“No.” There seemed to be hundreds of kilograms of explosives in Baal’s eyes, filling his eyes with variously colored fireworks as they were ignited.