He was an incredibly attractive man, probably of mixed race. His looks were a perfect mix of an Asian handsomeness and a Westerners’ deep and pronounced features. His skin was a healthy shade of tan, and his eyes, under the sunlight that seeped through the trees, reflected a deep green hue. His limbs were slender and well-proportioned, and the neckline of his top revealed just the right muscles. He was just sitting under the tree leisurely, yet the air around him felt slightly dangerous as if he would turn aggressive at any time.
Xia Ling looked at him and then took a calculated step back.
He smiled, revealing his front teeth. “I don’t bite. In fact, I’m injured.”
He shrugged as he told her.
That was when she realized that there was a thick bandage around his abdomen, stained dark with blood. As the leopard paced around the man in frustration, he reached out to pet its head, as if comforting it.
“What’s your name?” he asked again.
“… Ye Xingling.” She gave the name from her current life.
“From the MV filming team down the path?”
“Who are you then?” She countered.
He smiled again, his intoxicating deep green eyes shimmering in the light. “Little beauty, I’m the one asking questions, got it?”
The leopard roared at her.
… And so, she got it.
“I’m a trainee at Skyart Entertainment’s training camp.” Xia Ling gave in. “We’re here with Tan Ying to film an MV.”
He gave a satisfied look, and then casually ruffled the leopard. “Tan Ying is here too? I’m in luck.” He then asked, “Do you have his number? Let me borrow your phone for a bit.”
Xia Ling really did not want to lend it to him, but given the situation, she had no choice but to give it to him.
He caught it with one hand and then dialed a number. “Hello, is this Tan Ying? It’s not Ye Xingling… It’s your Boss…”
Alright, she finally knew who he was — Skyart Entertainment’s Big Boss Li Lei, rumored to be the brutal and violent grandson of the Li triad family. As Xia Ling partially turned to face him, she heard part of what he was saying:
“I’m injured in the mountains, come quick… What, I have to wait? Your Boss is dying… No, no, don’t bring Wei Shaoyin here, I don’t want to have to experience the toxic words of that man.”
He shifted to a more comfortable position as he continued speaking, trying to sound childlike and pitiful.
At that point, Xia Ling simply couldn’t bear to think —
This is the rumored black triad? What happened to cold and brutal?
Before Xia Ling was over her shock, Li Lei had hung up and returned the phone to her.
She subtly stole a glance at the blood spots on his head, unsure whether he got hurt or if they were stains left by the leopard. She resisted the urge to kick it aside, but as she deliberated over it, decided not to.
Tan Ying arrived very quickly and even brought along a team, with some foreign faces that were not part of the filming team. Xia Ling guessed they were probably the workers who were originally already in the mountains.
They quietly but swiftly laid the stretcher and placed Li Lei on it, their every move systematic and well-trained.
In the middle of it all, she could barely hear the urgency in Tan Ying’s voice. “How are you, is it bad?”
“Gunshot wound, but no vitals. Can’t die from it.” Li Lei sounding so casual had a certain miraculous effect in reassuring people. “Tan Ying, get some men to inspect the surroundings and check if there are other gunmen. Ignore the corpse on the tree, leave it for Er Mao’s dinner. Also…”
He turned towards Xia Ling. “That little beauty there is also injured, get someone to treat her.”
Tan Ying nodded to his every request, and then took a glance at Xia Ling as well, instructing the men. “Get her a stretcher as well, we’ll go down together.”
Throughout the journey down, nobody said a word to her nor asked for her take on anything — whether she was in pain or if she was willing to head down with them. In her previous life, Xia Ling would have lost her temper, but times have changed. She no longer had the same blessings as before. There was no halo on her anymore, thus she had to learn to live like an average person.
Fortunately, she had had her share of tough times and simple contentment, having spent more than 12 years in an orphanage before she met Pei Ziheng. Now she was back to being a common person living a common life, and maybe that’s the kind of person she should’ve been since the beginning.
The team brought her — on the stretcher — to the cluster of buildings at the mountain peak.
They settled Xia Ling into the guest room and got professional doctors to examine her wounds and treat them as needed.
“It’s just some superficial wounds, nothing too serious. Rest well for a few days, don’t let them come into contact with water, don’t take spicy food, and you should be alright very soon,” the doctor instructed her.
Xia Ling smiled and nodded, yet the moment the doctor turned his back and left, she walked straight to the bathroom.
She filled the bathtub halfway and then immersed as much of herself into the water as she could. The warm, clean water surrounded her, and the smell of blood diffused in the air along with the steam. Xia Ling struggled to use her left hand to clean herself, careful not to open the wound on her right shoulder. But still, the smell of blood got stronger and stronger.
The scene of the leopard pouncing on her kept replaying in her head.
The next moment, it turned into a large, ferocious dog with dark shiny fur, standing at more than half a human being’s height. It had tried to attack her as well, its massive body leaping towards her time and again…
In Pei Ziheng’s villa that seemed to be completely cut off from the world, she was in the dark basement trying to avoid that animal at all costs. She hit on the door like a madwoman and shouted for help, but still, she was trapped with no one to offer her a helping hand.
That was the scariest day of her life.
Even until now she’d tremble a little thinking about that day.
Before that day, she was never compliant to Pei Ziheng. Even when she was placed under house arrest in his villa, she continued to argue with him, defying his every order. He always said, “Ling, one day I’ll run out of patience with you.”
That day finally came. It was her 28th birthday.
At dawn, he left a bouquet of red roses by her bed and bent over to caress her lips. Xia Ling made her best effort to avoid his lips, but her chin was gripped firmly and her hands were pressed down on the bed. She could only watch as his handsome face inched closer, his wine and lemon-scented lips pressing against hers…
She then bit him brutally.
The smell of blood spread from between his lips.
He released her, with horror in his eyes.
She lashed out. “Get off me! You beast!”
He looked at her very seriously, his eyes terrifyingly cold. He swiftly wiped the blood off his lips and said, “Beast? Well then, let me show you what a beast really looks like.”
He dragged her out of the bedroom and left her in a basement.
The door was then slammed shut and locked from the outside. The basement was almost pitch-black, and she could only see some vague outlines of what was inside. She heard a mad, raving bark, and then a huge shadow leaped towards her.