Xia Ling let out a scream and scrambled back into a corner. It was not until the shadow in the dark knocked into something, emitting a loud clanking sound, that she realized that there was a metal barricade between the huge shadow and her.
The huge shadow was a pedigree mastiff.
She had been afraid of dogs since she was young, let alone a large pedigree mastiff like this one. Pei Ziheng had bred more than ten similar mastiffs that stood guard in the surroundings of the bungalow to prevent her from running away. She never thought that they were able to be used in this way as well.
She was locked up in the dark room for an entire night with only the mastiff’s howling, constant crashing into the metal barricade, and sounds of its deep growling and attempts at biting at her to keep her company. She was terrified, cursing at Pei Ziheng with the most vicious of words, and then pleading with him in the most demeaning of manners. Eventually, she felt her voice grow hoarse with shouting and lay curled shivering in the wall corner, close to hysteria.
She did not know when Pei Ziheng finally opened the basement door.
All she heard was his voice from above, sneering. “Still interested to see what an animal is?”
Her quivering lips could not produce any sound.
His feet materialized in front of her face, and she heard him say, “Apologies, say that you were wrong and I’ll bring you out of here.”
She could not remember how she admitted her mistake, but she seemed to remember that he had bent over to carry her in his arms and brought her back to the bedroom they were originally in. That bedroom, too, was a prison, with cameras everywhere. There were chains, handcuffs, and security was extremely tight. Yet, the natural sunlight in the room and the softness of the bed gave her a sense of security that she never had before. She collapsed on the bed, falling into a deep sleep.
She developed a high fever that lasted a week and had constant nightmares. In her nightmares, she saw the recurring face of the mastiff snarling at her.
When she recovered, she simply lay tamely in Pei Ziheng’s arms every night, tolerating his every hug and every advance without resistance. It was as if she was still the Xia Ling that loved him with all her heart, that worshipped him like a God.
As her memories faded away, the water in the tub slowly filled up.
The warm water covered Xia Ling’s entire body, wetting the open wound on her right shoulder. Her vision was a complete blur, tears flooding her eyes, the taste of saltiness by her lips. She gripped the bath towel tightly, rubbing it ferociously on her body, trying to wash off the stench of blood and animal on herself. However, even after her skin was red and painful from all the rubbing, the stench remained present.
Eventually, she threw the towel in the tub, curled up and hugged herself tightly.
The sound of flowing water circled in her ears, like a gentle, sad song. It seemed to be saying, if only she could go back in time, back to the time when she was 12 when the flowers were in full bloom. Back to the time when she could say no to that man’s outstretched hand so that everything could have ended in that glorious moment…
If that had been the case… it would be… the best.
Later, when she regained consciousness, she was on a bed.
She opened her eyes to an intricately designed ceiling, a beautiful and tasteful chandelier and feeling the soft covers of the bed all around her. She heard someone shouting out at her, and then mustered a lot of strength before she finally could hear what was being said—
“Ye Xingling, do you have a death wish? How could you have fainted while having a bath? Your wound was completely submerged in water! If the staff didn’t bring you your meal and discovered you lying there, you would have died from the loss of blood!”
The person shouting at her was Tan Ying, clearly angered.
Xia Ling took a while to recall how she ended up where she was. She opened her mouth to say something but was stopped by someone by her side. “Miss Ye, you’ve lost a lot of blood. I think you should not speak now and just have some rest.”
It was only then that she felt the dizziness and heaviness in her head and her body’s weakness like she did not have an ounce of strength left. She had indeed lost a lot of blood.
Hence, she obediently shut her mouth.
Tan Ying watched as someone changed her drip and waited till everyone had left the room before sitting down by her bed. He said, “Ye Xingling, you really have a knack of creating trouble for me. All the other trainees are getting ready to return to the training camp tomorrow. You just had to pick this moment to get injured!”
Xia Ling looked at him in silence, not saying a word. Even though her massive blood loss had been from her own doing by fainting in the bath, but the wound had been done by Li Lei’s pet animal… It wasn’t as if she wanted to get injured, shouldn’t Tan Ying be blaming Li Lei instead?
But of course, he wouldn’t take it up with his Boss. Thus, she could only tolerate.
Tan Ying continued, “Given the severity of your injury, you definitely can’t leave now. I’ve spoken to Boss, and he said you can stay here for the time being to recuperate. When you are better you can find your own way back to the training camp.” He paused and added, “Boss will also be spending some time here to recover as well. You would better stay in and not wander around too much. Do not disturb him.”
She understood him perfectly. The first half of what he said was inconsequential, it was this last line — for her not to disturb the Big Boss — that was the main thing he wanted to stress.
He didn’t have to worry, she was not planning to wander around even without him saying it. The leopard was still out there, it was not like she wanted to risk getting into trouble again.
Xia Ling nodded obediently. Tan Ying gave a look of approval and continued saying, “Also, regarding what happened today, don’t ask too much about it. When you return to the training camp, later on, make sure you keep mum about what happened as well. Understood?”
She understood. It was the underworld. They had to have secrets.
Now that she thought about it, not everyone in the entertainment circle knew about Li Lei’s background. Xia Ling only knew a little about his relationship with the notorious Li family because she had unintentionally heard Pei Ziheng talk about it. Pei Ziheng had said as well that Skyart Entertainment was really low profile and did not flaunt who their backers were. If it were not for the fact that he had intentionally dug for information, he would have no way of knowing either.
Hence, with her current identity as a small, normal trainee, it was expected that she would not know anything as well. It was not surprising that Tan Ying had to remind her to not run her mouth. Any normal person who had seen what she had would definitely think it was abnormal.
Xia Ling looked over at Tan Ying and spoke with difficulty. “Don’t worry, I don’t have much curiosity.”
Tan Ying smiled sinisterly. “It’s fine if you have curiosity as well. There is always a way to make sure you can never speak.”
A threat, this was without a doubt a threat.
Xia Ling frowned, annoyance seeping into her voice. “Mr. Tan, don’t worry, I am not ready to die just yet.” She paused before saying, “I’m tired and would like to rest. I think you should leave.”
Tan Ying narrowed his eyes as he looked at her. After a moment, he said, “Ye Xingling, I find myself increasingly unable to read you. Should I say that you are tactless or simply foolhardy? But, this is better than doing something stupid to warrant losing your life.” With that, he gave a clap and stood up. “I’ll be off, then. If you encounter any problems you can call me. Also, if you need anything while you are here, you can also look for the staff in the premises.”
Xia Ling watched as he left. Before leaving, he considerately closed the door behind him.
The room quietened down and she dimmed the lights, falling into a deep sleep under the covers.
Her days of recuperation began. Since they were on a mountain the days were quiet, with an air of peace and relaxation that was enchanting. Every morning, Xia Ling would boil a pot of flower tea and sit reading on the balcony of the second-floor guest room. Sometimes, she would simply daydream, allowing her cluttered mind to relax from all the days of worrying.
Li Lei never appeared. In fact, other than the staff that came by to clean and send her meals, Xia Ling had only seen one other person — the caretaker of the mountain villa, who had brought her a large bouquet of Hibiscus Mutabilis on Li Lei’s biding. They were a type of flower that could change color depending on the time of the day. In the morning it was an understated but classy white, turning into a passionate red in the afternoon. Delicate and charming, pleasing to the eye.
The caretaker had said that this was an apology from Boss because of her injury.