The wind was picking up in the evening.
The breeze lapping on Xia Wennan’s face sent a tiny chill to his alcohol-fevered cheeks, tipsiness settling over his mind.
Duan Ning didn’t drink.
He was holding a glass of fruit juice in his hands as he said, “Luchuan can tell Wennan his childhood stories himself.
I don’t know that many.” The grin on his face had faded.
His body was tilted back, as though he was getting exhausted.
“I’ve already told him my childhood stories,” Ming Luchuan cut off in an indifferent tone.
Ming Siyan slightly leaned into Xia Wennan’s space.
“Too bad Wennan forgot.”
“It’ll come back to me,” said Xia Wennan.
“Forgot what?” Duan Ning asked.
Ming Siyan glanced around and changed the subject with a peal of laughter, asking Duan Ning if he still had plans to leave.
Xia Wennan was hardly interested in their conversation.
He stretched his body and looked over to Ming Sichen, who was sitting in a corner.
At his side was Aunt Zhang, who had been feeding him all evening.
Aunt Zhang brought a small slice of pork belly to Ming Sichen’s lips, but Ming Sichen shook his head, seemingly not wanting to eat.
“Would you like to go to bed?” Aunt Zhang asked him.
He didn’t respond.
Aunt Zhang, however, stood up of her own accord and told Ming Qin that Ming Sichen was going to bed.
Ming Qin nodded.
“Sichen should go rest.”
Aunt Zhang wheeled Ming Sichen away from the garden.
Xia Wennan’s eyes followed their retreating backs, watching as Aunt Zhang slowly pushed the wheelchair over the stone slabs and disappeared behind the doors.
All of a sudden, the garden lights went out; the only lightsource came from the lights that shone through the entrance of the villa.
Everyone was taken aback.
Ming Qin exclaimed in surprise, the sound distinctly audible in the darkness of the night.
“What’s going on?”
Xia Wennan waited until his eyes adapted to the darkness, at which point he could distinguish the silhouettes of the others in the garden using the surrounding lights.
“There’s a problem with the wiring,” said Yin Zejing.
“Apparently it also cut off when Lao-Li was using the lawnmower.”
“Lao Li didn’t come in today.”
Lao-Li doubled as the family’s chauffeur and gardener.
When something went wrong with the household appliances or wiring, it was usually his job to repair them.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t present today as he had requested leave.
Just as Xia Wennan was thinking whether or not they would disperse, Ming Luchuan suddenly rose to his feet and said, “I’ll go have a look.”
Ming Luchuan left the dining table but halted after a couple of steps.
He was standing with his back to the light, and from where he sat, Xia Wennan could barely make out his face.
He only heard the man say, “Help me hold the light.”
Without thinking it through, Xia Wennan immediately stood.
He’d rather accompany Ming Luchuan to fix the wiring than stay here and listen to Ming Siyan and Duan Ning babble on like a pair of sisters.
As Ming Luchuan headed in the direction of a small building, Xia Wennan trailed behind him.
The light from the main house didn’t reach them, and their surroundings only grew darker and darker.
As he wasn’t familiar with the way, Xia Wennan’s footsteps toiled.
In a small voice, he called out, “Ming Luchuan.”
Ming Luchuan stopped in his tracks and said, “What are you sneaking around for?”
Xia Wennan could sensed that he’d arrived in front of Ming Luchuan, and while he hadn’t run into him, he could still feel the warmth radiating from his body.
He thus halted, still keeping his voice quiet as he said, “Why are you walking so fast? It’s not like we’re trying to rob the place.”
Xia Wennan’s hands didn’t remain idle as he spoke; he raised it and touched Ming Luchuan’s chest.
Even through his clothes, Ming Luchuan’s chest was still warm, firm, and solid.
Xia Wennan suddenly thought, this is an alpha’s chest, huh.
For some reason, this triggered a bout of gender consciousness in him, and he quickly removed his hand.
However, right as he withdrew his hand, Ming Luchuan took hold of it the next second.
Caught off-guard, he was about to say something, yet Ming Luchuan silently turned tail and walked away.
Xia Wennan was dragged along, staggering forward a couple of steps before he could keep up with Ming Luchuan’s pace.
He held his tongue and followed Ming Luchuan to a shed on the east side of the villa, near the garage.
The shed wasn’t locked up, Ming Luchuan easily twisted the doorknob.
It was completely dark inside.
When Ming Luchuan entered the shed, Xia Wennan let go of his hand and remained at the threshold, gripping the doorframe as he peered inside.
He couldn’t see anything and could only smell a mixture of aged wood and dust in the air.
“What’s this building for?” Xia Wennan asked, alarmed.
“A shed for junk,” Ming Luchuan’s voice resounded from inside.
Xia Wennan, who was lingering at the doorway, asked, “Can you see?”
“Can you see?”
“Of course not.”
“I’m not a cat.
How would I be able to see?”
Xia Wennan was a little miffed.
“Can you speak nicely? If you can’t see, then pass me a flashlight and I’ll hold it up for you.”
“How am I supposed to find a flashlight if I can’t see anything?”
Xia Wennan was close to tearing his hair out.
“Then what light were you telling me to hold?”
“Don’t you have your phone?”
Xia Wennan blanked.
“Oh right.” He fished his phone out of his pocket and turned on the flashlight, which instantly illuminated half the room, and standing right in front of the beam of light was Ming Luchuan.
“Why didn’t you use your phone to light the way earlier?” Xia Wennan began grumbling, “It was so dark.”
“I know my way,” said Ming Luchuan.
“Well I don’t!”
“Then why didn’t you turn on your flashlight?”
Xia Wennan was rendered speechless.
The shed was far messier than Xia Wennan had anticipated.
There was an open box on the floor packed with various tools.
A lawnmower and a long hose took up a corner of the room, while a wooden cabinet was pushed against the opposite wall, stacks of endless bits and bobs on its shelves.
Ming Luchuan squatted in front of the toolbox, searching for tools.
Xia Wennan swept a glance at the wall, and in the shadows cast by the light, he spotted a doll.
The doll was old and worn; one of its eyeballs had fallen out, and in the obscureness of the dim room, it looked incredibly terrifying.
Heart skipping a beat, Xia Wennan shone his flashlight over so he could get a good look at the objects on the shelves.
Ming Luchuan’s surroundings plunged into darkness.
His dour voice was laced with suppressed anger as he called out, “Xia Wennan.”
“Are those your childhood toys?” said Xia Wennan.
In lieu of answering him, Ming Luchuan took out a flashlight from the toolbox, turned it on, and positioned it next to the toolbox.
Xia Wennan slowly approached the shelf and asked, “Is this doll yours?”
“They’re Ming Siyan’s,” Ming Luchuan said without lifting his head.“
He liked playing with dolls when he was little? How cute.” Xia Wennan couldn’t help but smile as he envisioned Ming Siyan’s younger self looking like a doll, carrying a doll around.
The unspoken question at the end of his remark was: How did he grow up to be so unpleasant?
Aside from the doll, there were some children’s toys on the shelf, but it was a set of carved wood figurines that drew his interest.
There were five in total, and they’d been arranged in order of smallest to largest.
Xia Wennan leaned in to study them and said, “These are a set, right? They look like carvings of one person growing up.”
The wooden figurines all had the same face, their features reflecting an infant’s, a child’s, a young man’s, all the way to an elderly person’s.
“They’re mine.” Ming Luchuan got to his feet and went to stand behind Xia Wennan.
“Dad gave them to me when I was little.”
Xia Wennan’s curiosity was piqued.
“Why did he give you these? They don’t seem like the kind of toys kids like, do they?”
Ming Luchuan gazed at the row of wooden figurines.
“I had no other toys.
Aside from this set of wooden carvings, dad didn’t buy me anything else to play with.”
Xia Wennan turned his head to look at him. Ming Luchuan extended a hand and plucked a sketchbook from the shelf.
“Every toy you see on this shelf belongs to Ming Siyan and Ming Sichen.
The only things that belong to me are the wood carvings, and this book.”
The dust from the sketchbook had been cleaned away, but the dust stains remained.
Xia Wennan casually went over a few pages while shining his flashlight on them, and discovered that it contained nothing but drawings of long-haired women.
“What is this? Your drawings are really ugly.”
“Everything there was how I imagined a mother would look like.”
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