Adventia | Commission closed ✍️

Adventia | Commission closed ✍️

14-02-2022

16:50

modern AU where ZZS is the eldest adopted son of a kind and rich philanthropist, while WKX is a trouble-making yet charming rascal who grew up in the most unforgiving side of the prosperous city, notoriously labelled as the "Ghost Valley" a.k.a. WenZhou "Lady & the Tramp" AU

if it isn't obvious enough, this is 100% inspired by this cute little WenZhou having spaghetti art by @Nori_ette 😂 FELLAS, PLEASE GIVE THEM LOTS OF LOVE ❤️💙❤️💙

(will continue this story in 1-2 days because at the moment I'm still working on moving that GJ x ZZS thread fic to AO3, but I'm posting this opening thread here tonight because I NEED TO LET IT OUT OF MY SYSTEM FIRST OKAY)

--- disclaimer before I start: it's overall based on Lady & the Tramp, but it's not going to be kids friendly like the movie because of some stuffs I'm gonna put in here (besides, don't you guys want them to papapa? it ain't for kids)

~ WenZhou: Lady & the Tramp AU ~ Qin Huaizhang was a billionaire who owns many successful big companies his business spans across the country and he even had good ties with many big partners overseas

however, unlike the typical ultra rich people whose names were often marred with bad gossips & rumors, he was one of the very few kind-hearted man who never hesitated to share his fortunes with the less fortunate ones

QHZ was a respected philanthropist he had been making donations and contributing to good causes since his business began to grow over a decade ago even when he became more and more successful, the man never forgot to help others with whatever resources he had in his possession

one of his most well-known benevolent acts was to help build & assist orphanages all across the country it was said that he was a man who loved children but since his wife died early before they could have one of their own--

--QHZ decided to use his money to help as many children in the country as he could he regularly visited the orphanages to whom he was a benefactor of despite his busy schedules to check on their well-being and play with the children

some of the kids even ended up being adopted by QHZ himself he would make sure they had access to the best education in hope that they could improve their life and became great people in the future

and should he found them suitable for the role, he was also glad to hand over some of his business matters for them to handle, once they were old enough to work

he didn't have a child of his own anyway when he was old, he wanted to choose one of these children to inherit what he owned, so that this child could take care of their siblings and continue his charitable efforts in the future

among QHZ' adoptive children, the eldest one among them was named Zhou Zishu now ZZS was different from the other kids in the family not only he was the first child QHZ adopted, but he was also the only one who didn't come from any orphanage

ZZS' was actually the son of QHZ' good friend his parents divorced when he was still very young and he had been living with his father ever since when ZZS was in his early teen, his father passed away in an accident, leaving him behind with no family to depend on

feeling sympathy for the boy and remembering the friendship he shared with the boy's father, QHZ decided to take in ZZS into his home their relationship wasn't too much like a father and son, but it was still a very close relationship nonetheless

QHZ raised ZZS like he would to his own child, and ZZS respected the man as his mentor and guardian after QHZ adopted a few more kids, ZZS naturally became their big brother

he had always been a well-mannered kid with good temper, so QHZ trusted him fully with taking care of his younger siblings

furthermore, he turned out to be an intelligent young man who could learn things easily as ZZS grew older, little by little QHZ began to teach him the way of running business

it was still only on the surface level for now, but everyone could tell that ZZS would surely become QHZ' successor once the older man retired

as a rich man, it wasn't strange for QHZ to have many houses scattered all over the country most of them were located in big cities that he frequented for work however, his favorite house was actually a mansion that he built on the countryside

it stood near the mountains, surrounded by lush green meadow and peaceful villages, though still easily accessible from the nearest town this was where QHZ had all of his adoptive kids live, except for the ones who were sent to study in schools or universities in other cities

the mansion was taken care of by maids and butlers that had worked for QHZ' family for a long time naturally, ZZS was tasked with overseeing things whenever QHZ was away for business-which he did often

because of his good temperament, the servants also liked him and he had good reputation with the villagers who lived nearby

life was good and peaceful for ZZS despite the painful past memories of his parents, particularly his late father, he was grateful with what he had now

he used to be an only child back then, so he was very fond of his younger siblings, particularly two who were closest in age to him, Liang Jiuxiao and Cao Weining they often studied together, playing and doing activities that the younger children couldn't yet do

no matter if QHZ was at home or not, ZZS took all of his responsibilities seriously he felt indebted to the older man, thus he wanted to be able to help QHZ in any way he could coincidentally, he also found himself enjoying the process of learning his adoptive father's business

the pair of adoptive father and son, when they had some free time together, could often be seen exchanging thoughts on many topics while relaxing in the living room they would talk about business, politics, any recent issues both domestic and international

and once they began, it would be hard to make them stop as they would talk for hours and hours one could say that they were actually two peas in a pod it was hard to imagine QHZ handing over all of his business and assets to anyone other than ZZS in the future

the older man was fond of him and was always satisfied with how ZZS performed, both in his studies and in the tasks given to him and ZZS himself wanted nothing more than to be useful to QHZ, to make his beloved mentor and guardian proud

it did not matter to him whether he would inherit the company or not his dream was to continue QHZ' legacy for years to come, keeping his family safe and sound so they could always be together

one day, ZZS heard that QHZ would finally be coming back home from a long business he knew he shouldn't be so easily excitable, now that he could already be considered an adult, but ZZS couldn't help to make sure everything in the house was perfect to welcome QHZ

he waited since morning, expecting to hear that familiar sound of car engine closing in to the main entrance of the mansion near sunset, he finally heard the sound he'd been so looking forward to ZZS made haste to the foyer, calling his siblings to all come together with him

however, when the front door was opened, the QHZ who entered the mansion didn't look as bright and fit as the time when he left the older man looked somewhat pale and worn out furthermore, he wasn't alone

coming with him was another man who ZZS had never seen before he looked to be still in his prime, but at the same time carrying an air that made him felt to be even more senior than QHZ he has black hair, with a tuft of white hair on one side

(to be continued tomorrow; i'm going to sleep now, good night guys!)

"oh hello everyone, you guys seem to have grown taller since I last saw you" seeing his children already waiting for him, QHZ smiled at them his smile was as kind & gentle as always, but there was no mistaking the sickly look on his face ZZS, LJX, and CWN gave each other a look

"Uncle Qin... are you alright?" ZZS was the one who asked they might be father and son on paper, but old habits die hard ZZS was already used to calling QHZ "Uncle Qin" since he was still living with his father, so it was hard to suddenly call him "Father"

QHZ never minded this, as well, since their relationship was a bit different compared to with the other children "Of course, I'm alright, Zishu. No need to make the scary face" the older man laughed "I'm just a bit tired from the trip. Things were very busy back there."

"Continue to engage in this meaningless banter and you'll soon won't be just 'tired'. If you really feel that fine, then there is no need for me to come here, is there?" the man white partly white hair beside QHZ scolded him curtly

ZZS and his siblings never once saw anyone talked so condescendingly towards their adoptive father however, what was more surprising was the fact that not only QHZ did not mind it, he also complied to this unknown man's words

"My apologies. Doctor Ye is right. I should take your advice and rest" QHZ said he looked at ZZS and the rest, realizing their confused stare "This gentleman here is Mr. Ye Baiyi. He is a doctor" he introduced the man "He's been a friend of my family for a long time."

the man named Ye Baiyi did not make so much of a twitch; his face looked as if it was made of stone as he merely threw a glance at the younger generation of QHZ' family QHZ smiled apologetically, both to him and the children

"The timing isn't quite right at this moment, but I promise I'll properly introduce you guys some other time. For now, Doctor Ye and I will be heading to my private quarter for a discussion. I'll see you kids later, okay?" with that said, QHZ headed towards the stairs with YBY

ZZS chased after them "Uncle Qin, what about dinner?" he asked "Oh, I'm sorry... I think I'll be having dinner in my room with Doctor Ye. You guys can eat without me."

ZZS could only stare as the two older men disappeared into the corridor on the second floor at that moment, he felt a tug on his sleeves "gege, what's wrong with papa?" it was LXJ who asked ZZS realized that all of his younger siblings were sharing an equally worried look

thus, he smiled at them "don't worry. as he told us, papa is probably just tired" "what if papa got sick?" this time, it was CWN who ask "well... that gentleman with him is a doctor, right? if papa is sick, then Doctor Ye will take care of him"

his words managed to calm down the younger children somehow ZZS internally let out a sigh of relief "alright then" he smiled again "it's already time for dinner. let's go to the dining room, shall we? I heard Uncle Chef prepared something special for us tonight"

"really?! is it roasted chicken?" "is it pizza?!" "gege, are we having hotpot tonight?!" "alright, alright calm down. let's just go there first, sit down nicely and wait for the food to be served" ZZS said "don't forget to wash your hand before eating"

dinner time was always the merriest situation at their home despite the initially gloomy atmosphere over concern about QHZ' well-being, it did not take long for the children to joke and chatter with each other as they were enjoying dinner well, most of them, at least

ZZS didn't feel like eating truth be told, because he knew QHZ would be coming back today, he had arranged for the meal tonight to consist of menu that their adoptive father likes he thought after weeks of not seeing each other, they could all finally have dinner together again

unfortunately, that little wish of his wasn't granted though ZZS had remained calm in order not to worry his younger brothers and sisters, it would be a lie to say that he wasn't feeling disappointed LJX and CWN were the only ones old enough to notice this

"zishu-ge, are you alright?" LJX asked him startled, ZZS quickly fixed his expression and answered him with his usual smile "I'm alright. What's wrong, Jiu Xiao?" "you don't have to hide it from us. we all know you're worried about papa"

"well..." ZZS sighed "it would be hard not to, wouldn't it?" "I wonder if something happened to papa. I never saw him looking so pale like that" CWN frowned, unconsciously turning his spoon in his bowl of soup as he pondered in anxiety

"One is always prone to illness when they've been working too hard. I don't know too much, but I did hear that this last business trip that Uncle Qin took was to resolve a problem with one of our companies' partners overseas. He must've had very few time to rest" replied ZZS

he looked at his two brothers, smiling to assure them both and also himself "He will be alright. I'm sure of it." unfortunately, QHZ' situation did not get any better, only worse

at first, he started spending less time in the office then, he stopped going to the office altogether, doing everything via calls and emails from home after two months, he could barely raise from his bed anymore

all this time, YBY had been coming back and forth to examine him he prescribed medicines to treat QHZ' condition, leaving instructions to ZZS as the eldest child to take care of their adoptive father when YBY wasn't around

ZZS had been following Doctor Ye's instructions meticulously, hoping that it could somehow improve QHZ' health but it didn't eventually, after 3 months, YBY told them that QHZ couldn't be taken care at home anymore "he must be admitted to the hospital" the man said

"but... Doctor Ye, what exactly is Uncle Qin suffering from?" ZZS asked him "...I don't know" the older man snorted, looking displeased with himself "the functions of his vital organs kept worsening, but I don't find no cancer, no tumor, nothing."

"did he come into contact with some virus or bacteria?" "nothing that I can detect until this day. that's why he must be admitted to the hospital in the capital city as soon as possible. they have the most advanced technology, so they may be able to notice something that I dont"

"I see..." ZZS lowered his head although he kept his composure, in front of a man with so much more life experiences than him, it was futile to hide his feelings YBY was able to read him like an open book

"he cant go alone" the older man said "someone must accompany him, to take care of stuffs in his stead" "Doctor Ye, are you..." "naturally, it cant be me. as much as I worry for him, I also have my own work to do. I cant take care of him 24/7 a day" ZZS jumped from his seat

"t-then, I'll go!" "of course you'll go. who else will? the younger brats?" YBY snorted "prepare your and QHZ' things. I'll come back tomorrow morning to pick you guys up." "oh, but... where will we be staying in the capital city?" asked ZZS

"you're asking me that? I'm only going to take care of his admission to the hospital" YBY raised his brow "the rest is up to you guys. doesn't QHZ have a lot of houses all over the country? live in one of those."

and so it was decided after YBY left, ZZS immediately made arrangement for their travel to the capital city fortunately, QHZ was still able to talk, so ZZS could still ask him about who to contact and what to prepare for their journey

he left matters of the house in LJX & CWN's hands the entire night, ZZS felt extremely anxious, but he busied himself w/ their travel preparations so to distract his mind from it in the morning, YBY came as promised & the three of them left the countryside towards the airport

(To be continued again for now 🥲 Sorry for the not so long updates, I'm a bit busy recently. I'll try to update longer in the coming days. Anyway, the "prologue" part is over now and we're going into the main plot. We'll probably see the "charming rascal" soon... 👀)

the capital city was the largest town in the country skyscrapers stood tall in the business districts, their numbers were more than enough for them to be called a forest of iron the roads and streets were always full with people and vehicles, all kinds of noises filling the air

be it day or night, the town never sleeps it caters to everything its millions of inhabitants need & want jobs, education, entertainment, wealth... it promised a good life & good future, pride & fulfillment that is, as long as one did not fall out of fortune from all its glory

the brighter the light, the darker the shadow cast behind it in the southern corner of the prosperous city, there existed a place that reflected the complete opposite of the capital's illustrious image

houses abandoned by their owners, who fell out of grace and could no longer afford the city's grandeur flopping projects leaving buildings and towers unfinished, standing half done and half undone, threatening to collapse at any given minute

the slums, the dirty, the poor, the unwanted it was house to those shunned from the affluent city center, those who fell out of competition, victims of capitalism, criminals and the lawless

the "Ghost City" it was dubbed, and indeed there couldn't be other name more befitting than this the govt closed their eyes on its existence the police couldn't careless whether residents of this accursed place stabbed one another every day

as long as they didn't interfere with the "clean" part of the city, everyone wouldn't bat an eye to their presence, pretending that they never existed see nothing of it, hear nothing of it, speak nothing of it for decades, this is how it has always been

(A/N: I did write "Ghost Valley" at the top of the thread, but I think "Ghost City" sounds more befitting, so I changed it to this. I hadn't thought of it when I first wrote the concept. ><)

the sun was already high up in the sky even in the gloomy twists and turns of the Ghost City barely equipped with sufficient street lamps, during the day, the appearance of this place was less intimidating than in the pitch black night

a young girl was strolling down the cracked pavement along lines and lines of an abandoned housing complex she was dainty and lovely her long black hair had little braids on it, adorned with purple ribbons the locks were flapping on her back as she jumped & skipped occasionally

one might question why such a pretty young girl would be walking in such a dangerous place however, seeing how she had no problem navigating along the irregular paths, acting so calm and relaxed, it wouldn't be hard to conclude that she was a resident of the Ghost City

the girl was munching on a steamed bun as she walked who knew where she got a real, proper food in this godforsaken place, but the fact stood that she had one naturally, proper meals could be considered a rarity in the Ghost City sometimes, it was even more precious than money

thus, walking around in the open, showing that one possessed food was equal with flaunting fresh meat in a den of tigers the number of cases about people here brawling to death for food counted to infinity, so this girl walking while eating was literally courting death

as expected, not long after a bunch of delinquents appeared to block her path there were at least five of them, all men who were taller and bigger than her they didn't even bother hiding the mocking look on their faces

"hey miss, where did you get that delicious-looking bun?" one of them asked the girl merely threw them a look, not answering "say, you're so small and thin. surely you don't need to eat a lot right? how about sharing some with us?"

the men did not wait for her to react one of them stepped forward and reached out, intending to grab the steamed bun out of her hands unexpectedly, however, the girl swiftly dodged his approach, taking a step backward

"don't make this difficult for yourself, okay? you give it to us and we'll let you go unharmed" a normal person might have agreed with it on the spot to save their life, but it turned out that this girl couldn't really be considered normal instead of doing was she was told--

--she munched faster on the bun, swallowing the last bite before the men could even react a smile of victory appeared on her pretty face "it's gone down my stomach" she said in a provoking tone "what are you going to do about it?"

there was no need to ask with just those words, she managed to angered the five delinquents maybe they were still thinking of sparing her at first since she was just a little girl but now that she'd openly made fun of them, mercy was no longer in the agenda

the men rushed at her one of them was carrying an iron bat, the other had a switch blade, each one of them was evidently a dangerous individual who should never be engaged with but the girl was not afraid she swiftly dodged the men's attacks, side stepping and jumping back

when they tried to surround her, she didn't even blink when countering their every assault with utmost precision her counter-attacks weren't strong, but they were quick & effective before long, the men's formation broke & the girl managed to open up an escape route for herself

"Catch her!" the men scrambled to chase after her the girl was FAST she knew this place like the back of her own hand turning right, turning left, ducking into the mouth of a large pipe and out of the other, into an empty building and out on the other side--

--she was so nimble that the delinquents had to keep a close eye on her movements as not to lose her two men tried to block her path from the left and right but just as they were about to capture her, she jumped onto a ledge and grabbed the railing of an old iron staircase--

--then she climbed up to the top of the old building the third man thought he could ambush her by showing up on the window of the third floor, swinging an iron bat towards her legs the girl timed her jump and landed directly on the iron bat, stepping on it

when she saw the man struggling to pull back his weapon, she stepped away and the heavy metal rod swung back, hitting the guy on the face she was already near the rooftop by now, and there was another guy waiting for her up there, apparently having outpaced her

still, the young girl wasn't stunned she rushed straight towards the guy, and as he was about to capture her, she ducked and slid away from between his legs the man lost his balance and fell tumbling down the stairs the girl reached the open rooftop at last

"phew, I finally lost them" she wiped a drop of sweat from her temple "now I can just--AAHHH!!" "got you, you little b1tch" someone grabbed her hair and pulled her aside, laughing cruelly the girl cursed in her heart she forgot that there were five men

"we asked you nicely to share the food, but not only you refuse to share, you even make fun of us" he said "what's nice about it? you guys are just trying to rob me!" the girl retorted as she struggled to break free unfortunately, the man's grip on her hair was stronger

"it's time you learn your place. in this place, only the strong survive. I'll teach you that so you'll remember it the next time you see us" he dragged the girl by the hair however, just as he was about to reach the stairs leading back into the building--

--the man suddenly let out a scream of pain and collapsed to the floor both he and the girl didn't expect this turn of events when they looked, there was a sharp piece of glass embedded on the man's thigh

"such a nice day I'm having, and here you are, storming into my place without permission. you're ruining my view." the man screamed again this time, the piece of glass pierced his right forearm neither he nor the girl saw from where that sharp object was thrown from--

--but at that moment, they both heard footsteps approaching they were neither hurried not relaxed, just a regular pace of someone taking a casual stroll a tall figure appeared behind them the girl's face brightened at once, while the man paled in an instant

(tbc again, but we all know who's coming right? 😌 will continue tomorrow~)

a young man appeared before them he was tall and handsome, with light complexion that further amplified his sharp features the way he talked and walked was casual, languid even, as if having no care for the mundane world however--

--at the same there was a bottomless abyss in his cold eyes, cruel and unnerving, one that would instill fear the instant anyone saw it

if it must be put to words, his presence was hanging on a delicate thread between a young person much too relaxed and a lunatic who would snap another's neck on a whim

"so which is it?" holding yet another shard of glass between his long fingers, he threw an uncaring glance towards the delinquent "will you leave or should I make you leave?"

the rough man, who just now was still acting so arrogantly, immediately scrambled to his feet ignoring the still bleeding wounds on his arm and thigh, he ran away like a scared dog with tail between his legs

as he ran, he shouted some curses and empty threats "damn you, Wen Kexing! I'll remember this! don't you think I'll let it go easily!" the young man, WKX, merely snorted; a slight curl in the corners of his lips formed a faint smile, mocking and amused

"gege, you gave him a lesson!" happily, the girl jumped to her feet, walking towards him while ridiculing the thug that had almost beaten her to death "look at them! just because they're a bit bigger and have many people, they still dare to-- OWW OWW OWW!!"

"and you, young lady, just because you know someone will always come to your rescue, you forget what kind of a place this is and can't stop courting death everyday, huh?" WKX pulled the girl's ear "maybe I should let you fend for yourself next time

"oww oww I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Xing-gege! I will be careful next time" the girl pursed her lips while struggling to break free from her "punishment" WKX let her, seeing that pretty little face frowning in displeasure while she was rubbing her reddened ears

"so, did they take your food in the end?" he asked "nope, I swallowed the last bite right in front of their noses" the girl grinned from ear to ear "good" WKX nodded calmly "so, A-Xiang, are you still hungry?"

the girl, Gu Xiang, immediately nodded her head furiously, smiling in delight "hungry! I'm still hungry! Ge, are we going to eat somewhere?" "that's right. as it happened, I'm just about to go out right now. if you promise to behave, I'll take you with me."

"I'll behave! I promise!" once again, WKX only let out a snort and a subtle smile he walked away without saying another word, and seeing this as a sign of approval, GX followed closely behind him, smiling in excitement

down the stairs from the rooftop to the inner part of the abandoned building, WKX walked through a partly collapsed corridor to find an iron bar connecting the third floor's window to another building next to this one

it was only as wide as an adult's foot, but WKX and GX crossed this narrow bridge without blinking as if they were walking in a park once in the next building, they passed through the dusty hall, down to the second floor where they nimbly jump onto the roof of the house below

architecture of the Ghost City was as chaotic and irregular, because the place had long been a "graveyard" of some sort for abandoned construction projects some roads were blocked, but another would open up in the strangest place

perhaps it was simply due to obvious lack of care and maintenance perhaps it was also a way to block off the residents of this accursed place from accessing the "clean" part of the city

but for those who had been living here for a long time like WKX and GX, they would know the trick to get through this maze to reach their destination whenever they wanted

today, it just so happened that WKX was in the mood to see the bustling capital, so that was where he was heading to after slipping through an old housing complex, he and GX soon arrived behind at the back side of a packed lines of buildings

there was a small alley in between these buildings carefully, the two of them threaded the gloomy path towards the light at the other end what appeared before them was the sidewalk in a popular shopping district of the capital city quietly, WKX and GX blended into the crowd

"division" was something created by men in the end, there was no particular difference between those living inside or outside the Ghost City the latter was evidently more miserable than the first but as long as--

--they dressed up just a tad bit cleaner, nobody would be able to tell that they came from the Ghost City in fact, WKX and GX had been strolling back and forth the capital and Ghost City many times without anyone noticing them

"gege where are we going to eat?" GX asked him "what do you feel like eating right now?" WKX returned her the question "mmm, how about pizza?" the girl smiled in excitement "but noodles sound nice too. or hotpot." "which is it?" "pizza! let's get pizza!" she said

"alright, let's go. I know one Italian restaurant that opened around here just recently" WKX walked on ahead, with GX trailing behind him they passed by a lot of people because the crowd was really that dense, it was inevitable that they bumped into others along the way

GX was not too petite, but she was much shorter to WKX she was having a hard time finding her way, many times she almost lost WKX from her sight if not for his tall head pocking out from the rest of the crowd

at last, they reached a cross road in the way WKX turned towards a path that was less crowded, and only now did GX finally managed to catch up with him wheezing and panting, she leaned against a lamp post to regulate her breathing before she could even speak a word, however--

--WKX tossed her a few things, speaking casually "put them in your bag" he said when GX looked at what was in her hands, she saw 2 wallets, a brand new smartphone, two expensive watches, a gold bracelet, and a diamond ring

"did you just--" "you think your pizza is going to pay for itself? keep these now and we'll pawn it off later when we get back" "no, I mean... how did you... I didn't even know from which people you nab them from" GX was dumbfounded

"does it matter? even you can do it if you learn just a bit more" WKX shrugged "besides, these people are so full of themselves, they never bother paying attention to others around them. it's an easy thing to hook a few things from them"

he cast his gaze to the other side of the street, smirking as he spoke in a mocking tone "especially if they're new to this city like those guys, they will think that the capital is a good and safe place."

hearing his words, GX raised her brow, craning her neck to see what the older man was looking at on the other side of the street, there was a car parked in front of a store, a young man was standing next to it, but his back was facing them

"how did you know those people are new to the city?" GX asked "First, the car's number plate is not from here. Secondly, I saw someone from the car getting into that store, and that man you see standing there, instead of following the other inside--

--he stood there restlessly like an idiot. Must be some rich kid from the countryside. Had I passed by him earlier, it would've been easy...to...just..." WKX' voice trailed off to the distance that young man at the other side of the street just so happened to turn around then

and their eyes met he has a pair of startling bright spheres, pitch black like obsidian though the features of his face were striking and sharp, as if chiseled with a knife, there was a stroke of naivety in there, one that gave the young man a somewhat adorable look

WKX was stunned into silence and yet in the next moment, that young man turned away from him as the door to the store was opened and an older man with partly white hair emerged from within the two of them returned to the car and left that place but WKX was still petrified

it was different from surprise or shock it wasn't a sense of danger, or a feeling of suspicious no... WKX did not want to admit it but no matter how hard he tried to be in denial, he knew his heart couldn't lie he was smitten

"ge, what's wrong?" GX' voice shook him awake the girl was staring at him, both confused and impatient "why do you keep staring that way? nothing's interesting there, let's go eat"

she tugged at his sleeves, pulling him with her WKX stumbled forward, as if his mind was still divided he looked once more to the other side of the street that car was no longer there, and that young man was gone as well

but that beautiful face he saw remained etched in the depth of his memory, unlikely to ever be erased WKX wondered in his heart if he could ever see him again and yet in this city with millions of inhabitants, what are the chances that they could meet for a second time?

( taking a little break here, will continue later tonight the pace is kinda slower than I expected, but I can't really skip it either hopefully it's not too boring ;v; will be back to ZZS after this)

YBY brought them to the largest hospital in the capital city as the older man was taking care of QHZ' admission and other such arrangements, ZZS was beside himself with both awe and worry he very rarely visited the capital, the last time being more than a decade ago, surelyS

seeing how big the hospital Doctor Ye recommended them to, he was a little bit relief because it did look like they would have all the necessary skills and facilities to give proper care to the sick

but it was such a foreign place, ZZS couldn't help but feel uneasy leaving QHZ here alone after visiting hour was over his Uncle Qin was still wearing his usual smile until the very last moment before ZZS had to leave, telling him not to worry, so there was nothing ZZS could do

it was already dark out when ZZS finally left the hospital YBY drove him to a mansion at a prestigious residential area at the city center it wasn't as big as the one he lived in in the countryside, but it was still a mansion nonetheless, owned only by the extremely wealthy

indeed, it was one of the many houses that QHZ' family owned and this was where ZZS would be staying during their time in the capital city their car drove towards the entrance, and ZZS saw the front door opened a man about the same age as QHZ came out to welcome them

"Ah, Doctor Ye! Zishu! We've been waiting for you!" the man had a cordial smile on his face the tone of his voice was friendly as he spoke to them, someone easy to talk to and overall a very pleasant-looking person

even so, this "good person" still wasn't able to break YBY"s perpetually unfriendly expression "we're here" he told ZZS "why are you still sitting there? you wanna follow me home?"

"umm Doctor Ye... are you not going to stay for dinner?" ZZS asked him "no need" as he said this, YBY cast a brief glance towards the man who was coming towards them "...I've given you my number. If there's something urgent, you know how to reach me"

YBY drove away as soon as ZZS stepped down from the car the older man who came out from the house didn't even have the chance to say his greeting, but he didn’t seem bothered by it

"Oh, Doctor Ye isn't staying for dinner?" he asked ZZS "He...said he has another appointment after this" ZZS didnt have the heart to tell him that YBY only said a rude "no need" before he smiled and bowed slightly to the older man "It’s been a while, Uncle Zhao. How are you?"

Zhao Jing was an old friend of QHZ, who was also responsible for managing a part of QHZ' business this residence was also given by QHZ to ZJ although on paper the house still belonged to QHZ, the one who had been managing things around here was ZJ

it wasn't that QHZ didn't have any other house in this town but perhaps because he was aware that ZZS wasn't familiar with the city, he decided it would be better to have him lived with a friend, instead of leaving him alone

"I haven't seen you for a long time, Zishu. You've grown up so well" as they walked inside, ZJ patted him on the back "I'm sorry I couldn't pick you guys up from the airport. How was Huaizhang-ge?" "He's still pretty weak, but he looks alright when I left the hospital"

"I see..." ZJ nodded to himself "Huaizhang-ge may have overworked himself recently. But no need to worry, Zishu. I'm sure he will recover soon" ZZS knew it was nothing more than pleasantries, but he still appreciated it ZJ gave him a few more pats on the back

"Now then, it's already late. Zishu, how about you put your stuffs in your room, then we'll have dinner together?" "Alright. Which room will I be staying in, Uncle Zhao?" "It’s on the second floor. Xie-er will show you the way." "Xie-er?"

Just as ZZS asked, from the stairs he saw someone coming down It was a young boy, younger & smaller than him When he saw ZZS and ZJ, he smiled at them, but ZZS couldn't help feeling a shiver running down his spine He didnt know why, this boy's presence felt so unnverving to him

It was as if there was more to this young boy that meets the eye But ZZS decided to put that feeling aside They had just met; he shouldn't be so prejudiced against others

"Zishu, this my son, Xie-er" ZJ introduced them "Adoptive son, actually, but he is good and smart kid. He's been living with me for five years" "Nice to meet you, Zishu-ge" The boy called Xie-er smiled at him again, and ZZS got that uneasy feeling again

Still, he didn't let his emotions show on his face, accepting a handshake from the boy "Xie-er, why don't you show ZZS to his room? After that, we'll have dinner" ZJ said Xie-er nodded obediently "Yes, Father" replied him

ZZS followed the boy named Xie-er They both ascended the stairs Along the way, they had few exchanges, but ZZS thought that Xie-er was so polite and helpful He still couldn't shake off his uneasiness, but perhaps he would soon get used to this

Afterwards, the three of them had dinner ZJ asked him a lot about QHZ, about himself, his siblings, the manor... Sometimes Xie-er would chirp in, asking in curiosity It truly felt like a small family reunion with relatives he hadn't seen for a long time

Days after days passed ZZS was glad to have people he could depend on in this situation However, there remained that little restlessness at the bottom of his heart For some reason, even if ZJ and Xie-er were very good to him--

--he still felt that he couldn't blend in with them, with this house Therefore, ZZS spent most of his time in the hospital visiting QHZ Sometimes, he was helping QHZ on matters related to the company Some other times, they would just talk and talk about many things

Every now and then, ZJ came along, bringing fruits, flowers, and many gifts for QHZ For a while, things went on like this and ZZS was getting used to it But QHZ didn't get any better He was getting the best care in yhe entire country, yet still he only got worse

Eventually, it reached to the point where he wasn't even allowed to receive visitors any longer

ZZS was devastated all this time, he'd been telling himself to avoid negative thoughts, that he shouldn't be a pessimist he tried to believe that things would get better like everybody told him but in the end, it kept spiraling towards the worst

with this new development, he couldn't even stay by QHZ to take care of him the most he could do was see his adoptive father unconscious in the ICU, separated by glass window

all matters related to the company, he could still take care of them if it was just a day-to-day business, but he had no idea if he could manage should bigger issues come crashing on him all of a sudden

thankfully, ZJ had been nothing but extremely helpful the older man gave him a lot of tips and guidance, he also didn't hesitate giving him a hand directly when ZZS needed it for this, ZZS couldn't be any more relieved at the very least, he had someone he could depend on

since he could no longer visit QHZ at the hospital, the time ZZS spent at home—at ZJ's house—increased significantly in fact, other than managing the business QHZ left during his absence (on surface level), he didn't have any other things to do

sometimes, he was really left with nothing to do whenever that happened, ZZS would usually find himself ending up sitting in the mansion's garden, reading a book for hours

he was the kind of person who would get so immersed in the pages that he forgot everything around him at this moment, ZZS needed that more than anything, to distract himself from bad thoughts

one day, he was sitting in the garden's small pavilion as usual, bringing yet another book to read he sat down on the bench, opening the first page of the book but then he heard someone calling him, and it was definitely not somebody from the house "hey~! hey you over there!"

ZZS looked up this mansion was built between two other mansions to its left and right, no less big and luxurious than the one he was living in the garden itself was surrounded by tall gates, but there were gaps between the gates that allowed one to look outside

from the gaps, ZZS could see the garden of the other two mansions and vice versa as it happened, the voice calling him just now came from the mansion to his right ZZS closed his book and stood up he saw someone standing right outside the fence two people, in fact

they were two young men who looked to be around his age the one who called him was a very beautiful youth with clear skin and delicate complexion; he had a lovely and carefree smile on his face

the other one was tall and handsome however, his expression was stoic and he looked to be someone of few words furthermore, the features of his face indicated that he might have mixed blood

"are you...talking to me?" ZZS pointed at himself "yes, you. are there anyone else around here other than us?" the smiling young man laughed he extended his hand through the gaps for a handshake "I'm Jing Beiyuan. What's your name?"

"Zhou Zishu" ZZS shook his hand "Zishu, huh?" Beiyuan smiled "Ah, this one is my friend from overseas who come to live with us because of his study. His name is Wu Xi" the quiet young man named Wu Xi shook hands with ZZS although he didn't say much, he was solemn and polite

ZZS found this pair quite likeable "you said you wanted to talk to me. about what?" he asked "well, nothing important, actually. We've seen you coming to this mansion a couple of weeks ago, but never had the chance to talk to you because you always look so busy" said JBY

"I have been visiting my adoptive father in the hospital in the past weeks, so I wasn't at home much" "I see... But since you're here now, does that mean he's been discharged?" "No. His condition doesn't look good now, so no visitors are allowed to see him"

"I'm sorry to hear that..." JBY said "So... Are you a relative of the guy who lives in this house?" "Uncle Zhao? No, he is a friend of my adoptive father & also someone from our company. My adoptive father gave him this house because it's easier for him to do business from here"

"that Mr. Zhao is someone from your company? so you mean, that adoptive father of yours is QHZ?" JBY raised his brows "how did you know?" "who doesn't know him? he's famous, a good kind of famous" JBY laughed "even Wu Xi here knows about him, even if he's been living overseas"

ZZS gave him an "ooh" he knew QHZ was well-known, but he didn't really know how famous exactly hearing it from a stranger now was the first time ZZS felt that fact actually dawning on him

since that day, ZZS became good friends with JBY—and WX, too, in that matter JBY's parents worked for the government, so he knew of many things that the common people usually wouldn't know

talking with him was surprisingly fun, because they could discuss about almost everything from the simplest to the most complicated topics

WX came here to study about the political and economy system although he rarely talked, his insights were deep and one could tell that he was very intelligent

ZZS didn't expect him coming to the capital city would lead to him having new good friends the three of them grew closer, and they often spent their free time talking in the garden

it was one day when JBY invited ZZS to have dinner in his mansion ZZS agreed, promising that he would come tonight at 6 PM the three then went back to their respective home when ZZS had just stepped inside, he was greeted by Xie-er who seemed to have been waiting for him

"Zishu-ge" Xie-er smiled when he saw him truth be told, ZZS hadn't yet gotten used to this young boy's demeanor even if they had been living under the same roofs for weeks, he still couldn't shake off his uneasiness, even if the other always treated him with utmost respect

"Xie-er, what's the matter?" pushing his one-sided discomfort away, ZZS returned his smile "Father asked me to buy a few things for Uncle Qin. Would Zishu-ge come with me?" "Oh, of course. But Uncle Qin still isn't allowed to have visitors, right? Can he even accept our gifts?"

"We already checked with the hospital. If it's just fruits and a change of clothes, it should be fine. It's not like Uncle Qin is asleep all the time, so Father wants to buy him some books to pass time." "I see" ZZS nodded "Let's go then"

It was still just a little afternoon, so he should still be able to make it back before dinner time, ZZS thought after changing his clothes, he went down to find Xie-er again and they left in a car driven by ZJ's personal chauffeur

the car drove to the southern side of the city ZZS wondered why they needed to go so far to buy such ordinary gifts, but Xie-er told him that there were a few rare books that QHZ had been searching for a long time, and ZJ found an old bookstore in this area selling it

they stopped at some point and left the car following Xie-er, ZZS threaded through the crowded sidewalk filled with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people walking to and from all directions he bumped against those people many times, having to apologize over and over again

ZZS wasn't familiar with the capital city, let alone this area so far from home if he stopped just for a second, he would be swept away by the crowds he tried to push his way through after much effort, finally he was able to break free but Xie-er was nowhere to be seen

"...Xie-er?" ZZS looked around he found no sight of that boy, not even their car and chauffeur how far had he been pushed by the crowds? more importantly, where had he been pushed by the crowds?

ZZS reached into his pocket to grab his phone "I should just call him to ask where he is now" he thought but then he felt his entire body turning cold he was sure he kept his phone in his pocket, but he couldn't find it there he couldn't find his phone on his entire person

had he dropped it somewhere? had he been robbed by someone in that crowd? ZZS could no longer think although he was usually calm, by now he started to panic

"Xie-er?!" ZZS raised his voice there were so many people around and so many noises, but it felt as though the dense crowds were mute nobody answered him, nobody paid attention to him he was stranded in the midst of this unknown place, among these unknown people

ZZS tried to find his way back to the place where they parked the car before he thought he could at least find it by memory, but the lines of stores looked similar to each other, and he couldn't even see that well in this jammed packed crowd

he kept getting pushed and dragged around the more he tried to search, the more lost he became ZZS had no idea how far he had been separated from Xie-er no matter where he walked, everything and everyone looked so foreign to him

"hey, watch where you're going!" an angry yell fell to his ears when he bumped against someone for the umpteenth time ZZS was startled he didn't think he crash into them that hard, and all this time when he bumped into others, the most they did was grumble a bit and ignore him

this was the first time he got yelled at when he turned his head to look, he saw that it was a delinquent-looking man and the worst of all, that man wasn't alone he didn't even have to think to imagine what would happen next

"I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention" still, ZZS tried to apologize "you hurt me. how are you going to compensate for that?" "......I didn't even run that hard into you" "oh so now you're trying to find excuses huh?"

no matter what he said, these men simply wouldn't listen ZZS knew they had all the intention to create trouble with him and he shouldn't linger around them for too long

one person he was confident he could take but there were at least four that he saw, and he didn't know if there were others lying in wait somewhere ZZS weighed down his choices mentally in the end, he decided to run

"don't let him get away!" ZZS could hear their angry yell behind him, but he didn't dare look back, forcing his legs to sprint as fast as he could the crowded street would only slow him down, so he tried his best to avoid them ZZS had no idea where he should be heading to

he ran like a headless chicken from street to street, crossing the road and into alleys he could those men sometimes closing in, sometimes far away just as he expected, they seemed to have friends who had been waiting and the number of people chasing after him increased

the fancy stores and buildings gradually receded in number, replaced by old houses and half-done structures there were less and less people around him the pavement was cracked and uneven, the streets were sometimes blocked, sometimes rerouted without warning

it was clear that these people chasing him were familiar with this place ZZS suddenly realized that this had probably been their intention all along, to pick a fight with someone, caused them to flee, and baited them into coming to their lair and he had fallen into that trap

"over there! stop him there!" from an old house beside him, one of those thugs suddenly jumped from the window to capture him ZZS narrowly avoided his assault, but when he turned at the next crossroad, he stumbled into a dead end the delinquents quickly had him surrounded



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