My Good Life - Chapter 8
I always felt that whatever words that left his mouth—may it be a lie, a brag, a joke—if Li Weiwei said it while staring at me like this, it’s the truth.
He’s like a lion. A predator with a full stomach and a spare time to give warnings. So, when he spat out the word “prey,” I stood frozen with goosebumps all over my body.
If his purpose was to scare me, then he succeeded.
The image reflected in his eyes was me with the appearance of a frightened deer with its pursed lips, holding its breath and staring at him wide-eyed.
He lowered his eyes and turned his head. He walked towards the unwelcoming house, while I was left standing behind him. Somehow, there’s this feeling that he’s smiling—perhaps he thought I was funny—but when he looked back, there’s no hint of humor in his eyes.
“What are you waiting for?”
I was confused at first but soon replied, “I’m waiting for the doctor who would go back with me to treat Li Peipei.”
He frowned in his typical impatient landlord manner. “Did you have something in your ear while I was talking just now? Do you think two doctors can protect you on your way back?”
I stared at him for a moment. “What then?” “
I quietly waited for him to finish his sentence, but after ten seconds, he didn’t say anything more and so I asked, “Wait what?”
He narrowed his eyes and turned around facing me. He leaned on the crumbling wooden door, pushed down his glasses, and looked at me with those judgmental eyes of his and said slowly, “In addition to waiting for me to get off work, what else do you think you and I can do here?”
Surrounded by bluestone stairs and dilapidated houses with a river in the distance below, and a crowded scenic spot far up, if I was with a boyfriend, I could think of ten thousand things to do here after all the readings I did over the years—hot, exciting, everything I desired…
But with Li Weiwei, I could only stare at him blankly before asking, “Are you saying I should wait for you, and we’ll go home together?”
“Did Li Peipei turn your brain upside down yesterday? You can’t even understand Chinese now?” He turned his scolding mode on, but I couldn’t argue in return because I was still confused.
It’s not that I’m stupid, nor that I couldn’t understand what he said. It’s Li Weiwei himself that I couldn’t understand.
I knew how disgusted he was with the word “together”.
Not only did he not like it when he’s “with” others, he also didn’t like it when Li Peipei, Xiao Lang, Xiao Mei and I were “together”. He called it gambling when we’re only playing mahjong, and an illegal assembly when we were only having barbecue. Because of that, our gatherings became less frequent. It’s only because we’re living on the same floor that Li Peipei and I were often in contact with each other.
It was as if Li Weiwei wanted us to keep our distance from each other… Or rather…
He wanted me to keep my distance from everyone.
As I said before, I believed that Li Weiwei truly hated me deep in his heart because I broke his rules.
So, from the very beginning, I never thought that he would actually go home with me for my protection.
“Come in.” I was still dazed when he said these words and walked into the run-down house.
Looking up at the cracks on the wall above and the deserted hallway, I was nervous. With small steps, I stepped inside, and the door immediately slammed shut with a creak and the room was plunged into darkness.
There was no way back, and I couldn’t see Li Weiwei walking in front of me anymore.
I was cut off by a soft sound followed by the sight of Li Weiwei standing in the corner holding a candle. The flame swayed in front of his face, making his angular features defined. For a moment, instead of a house in ruins in Ciqikou, it felt as if I’m in an ancient castle in Europe, and in that old castle lived a gloomy vampire Count…
“Come here.” At the Count’s order, the image in my imagination shattered.
“Did you know that every time you call my name, you sound like Li Peipei whenever she calls Mangzi?”
I raised my dissatisfaction, and he glanced at me in return. “I must be treating you well then.”
As we talked, I walked towards him. When I reached his side, the candle he was holding lit up fiercely and light shone from under my feet. I looked down and saw a magic circle drawn on the ground emitting a golden glow. Although I’ve lived in that residential building for a while now, it’s the first time seeing this form of magic and it was very exciting standing here.
“It’s like an animation!” As soon as I shouted this though, the light around me disappeared. Now in front of me was no longer the dark, crumbling interior of the house, but a dark passage built by piled up stones. The place was damp and dimly lit by oil lamps mounted on the walls, but the lack of lighting didn’t extinguish my avid interest. In fact, it only increased my fascination instead. I couldn’t keep my eyes from roaming around.
This place was very inspirational!
I turned to Li Weiwei and asked, “Where are we now? Are we still in Ciqikou? Is this underground? How deep have you gone? I was just thinking about how strange it was that your vampire association was located in a dilapidated house. Am I going to wait for you here? Can I walk around on my own? I promise not to touch anything!”
I chattered with excitement, gasping for breath and realized that I had broken the tranquility here. It was like breaking into a dance in the library, so inappropriate. Yet, Li Weiwei didn’t even stop me and told me to shut up.
I turned to look at him only to find that he was looking at me.
Our eyes met, and between us, was a candle with a flickering flame.
He was staring at me like someone who had seen the other side of time and space. But after I reached out and covered his mouth, he blinked, and the misty veil in his eyes dissipated. He finally returned to his usual overbearing demeanor.
“Hold this in front of you so you won’t scare the vampires.” He handed the candle in his hand to me then said, “Take this and wait for me inside the room by the third lamp ahead.”
I suppressed the irritation in my voice. “I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“Can I walk around on my own?”
His lips curled into a shallow smile. “What did I say? Prey.”
He turned and walked into the darkness behind him without any source of light. The sound of his voice seemed to float from the void, colliding back and forth in the dark passage, hollow and terrible. “Go ahead if you have the guts. The underground is big and there’s a lot of vampires here. Take the candle, that’s your pass.” He paused then turned to look at me before being completely engulfed in the darkness. “Don’t let it run out.”
As if hearing a terrible curse, my scalp went numb. In an attempt to protect the candle, I walked to the room Li Weiwei mentioned as carefully as possible. Inside was a simple chair and a desk. I sat down and stared at the flame without moving.
All my curiosity died the moment Li Weiwei said those words.
I think the main reason my ordinary self was able to survive in this dangerous world was because I prioritized my life.
So here I am, just sitting and staring at the fire for a long time. I was so bored. I took out my phone, and unsurprisingly, there’s no signal. As I played PopStar! Destroy the Stars for the second time, I heard a soft click. Then, a white light flashed from above. I looked up and saw an incandescent lamp hanging overhead. That’s when I realized the interior had brightened up, as bright as a well-maintained ordinary government office could be. The gloomy atmosphere was gone.
“Oh ѕнιт! You scared me to death. Why are you sitting here alone without turning the lights on?” A fifteen or sixteen-year-old girl at the door asked me with a puzzled face.
I responded with the corners of my mouth twitching in an attempt to smile and kept the negative emotions from showing. “No—no one told me that there were lights here…I thought you guys like to use candles…”
“Who likes to light candles? It’s smoky and stuffy. The lights in the corridor were broken last week and no one here knows how to repair it so we can only use candles for now.” She walked in and placed a cup of noodles on the table and its fragrance wafted all over the room. Its spicy taste stimulated my taste buds making me hungry. “That’s my office chair. You can sit over there.”
“Oh…” I held the candle and moved it away.
“What are you doing with that? Can’t you still see even with the lights on?”
“Not that… Aren’t candles a requirement?”
The girl was stunned. She opened the document on the desk and pulled out a landline in the corner and made a phone call.
“Hello? General Secretary’s Office, I am here at the front desk. Can you please talk to the director and tell him to stop frightening the newcomers? I’m tired of having to explain to people that we are a modern and law-abiding work unit! I’m also busy, okay? ……Oh, you don’t want to? You want me to talk to him myself? What’s the secretary’s room for then?”
The girl was tearing up as she argued with the person on the phone. This was how I got to witness a scolding war between non-human colleagues.
And then came the realization…
𝙳𝚊𝚖𝚗 it, Li Weiwei! I didn’t expect him to be a petty vampire! He actually tricked a newcomer who didn’t know the rules here!
“ꜱᴏɴ ᴏꜰ ᴀ ʙɪᴛᴄʜ! He’s making this old lady angry.” She threw the phone and scolded in a dialect, “If it weren’t for the fact that my noodles were about to get soggy, this old lady would have scolded him to death today.” She pulled apart the disposable chopsticks and ate two mouthfuls of noodles. Seeing her small face, it seemed like the noodles warmed her stomach as much as it calmed her heart. When she looked up at me, it’s clear that her emotions were no longer as intense as they were minutes ago.
“What business are you here for? Don’t be afraid, we haven’t drunk human blood for a long time.”
I knew that these vampires didn’t drink much human blood anymore. In modern society, they have long created a high-nutrition, high-value blood powder that can be efficiently produced, just like milk powder. It was clean and pollution-free. Prices range from high to low and taste could be sweet or fishy. Some drank it with sugar and salt. There’s even a debate among vampires whether it should be sweet or salty.
Of course, since it was a necessity, there were counterfeits and shoddy products sold in the market which endangered the health of the vampires. It was the association’s responsibility to get rid of them.
Some time ago, I heard that Li Weiwei seized a ton of fake and low-quality blood powder and arrested several lawbreakers and locked them up.
“I’m not here for business. I’m uh… I’m waiting for Director Li to get off work.”
When she heard this, her eyes lit up. “You’re waiting for the director to go home together?”
“Well, I’m his neighbor and today is a bit of a special case, so… Uh…”
It seemed like I didn’t explain it well as the girl’s eyes were getting brighter with excitement. Hence, I shut up and let her look me up and down. Then she spoke while eating noodles.
“Our director is good at everything. Just that he seemed to love scaring people. The people who come to do business with us get were often frightened to the point that they can’t speak. They’re afraid that we’ll eat them. The director said it would make them less troublesome, but it also made our work much more difficult. There’s no way we could gain their trust. Miss Neighbor, if you have the chance, please talk to our director.”
It’s better to tell him that yourself…
I smiled evasively and just listened to her other complaints.
It’s amazing how a comic artist who started drawing as soon as she graduated without applying to any company, was now in an underground office, meters deep and listening to a vampire vent her frustrations in the workplace.
The little girl kept talking for who knows how long. I didn’t know what time it was, but my eyes started to feel heavy. With my eyes closed, I sat on the chair with her voice becoming a background noise. But slowly, the female’s voice was replaced by another’s.
The voice sounded alarmed. She seemed to be in a stuffy and hot place. She was struggling her way through the crowd who had identical sorrowful expressions on their faces. The atmosphere was filled with misery. She kept on frantically asking the people around her. “What about my child? Did you see my child? He’s a little boy in blue clothes. Did you see him?”
The world was silent. She was alone in the search.
And suddenly there was a “boom”. The sky opened up and debris fell from above. The crowd started screaming, and amidst this chaos, she screamed in despair, “My boy! Where are you?”
She was shouting at the top of her lungs that every sound was tearing my eardrums. However, after that piercing sound, the world suddenly fell into darkness.
Someone’s calling my name.
When I opened my eyes, Li Weiwei was right in front of me with a calm expression. It was a stark contrast to the panic I felt in my dreams.
“I…had a nightmare.” I sat up and realized that my hands were sore, and my back was drenched in cold sweat.
He pulled up a chair and sat down next to me. With his legs crossed and hands clasped together, he looked at me. “Tell me.”
Seeing his confident demeanor, it seemed like no matter how terrible things were in the world, it’s not worth mentioning in front of him.
So, around him, I also felt an inexplicable confidence that this nightmare was really not worth mentioning.
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Vampire Society office building half-day tour ~
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