Edited by DancingDolphinsYo
Outside the office building in the evening, Ning Lan was leaning against the wall, gazing at the fractured clouds that were dyed gold by the setting sun. He was humming the debut song that he had been learning for the entire afternoon, bobbing his head and wondering, is this what they call salvation in desperation?
Maybe from this moment on, his luck had changed, and he would be heading up the path of glory. He could not help but take his phone out, using the screen as a mirror. Touching his face, he had a rare moment of gratefulness towards his mother for giving him this face.
Not long after he finished admiring his face, his phone rang. Looking at it, it was a foreign number. Ning Lan thought about it for a moment, but still picked it up.
“You damn whore, you’re finally answering your phone?” The voice was rough and boorish, extremely malevolent.
Ning Lan frowned, “Keep your fucking mouth clean.”
The man spat, “Since your mother sold you to me, you’re mine. Damn whore, you actually dared to run away?”
Ning Lan stuffed a hand in his pocket, shifting his position so that he was facing away from the setting sun. “If not? Was I supposed to go home and spend the New Year’s with you?”
The man’s breathing grew heavy, enraged by his provocation. “Where are you?”
Ning Lan raised his brow, pleased with himself. “Take a guess.”
When he escaped, he had stolen 300rmb from the man’s clothes. He did not even dare to take the train, instead taking the coach near the expressway to come to the capital. Without needing to use his identification card, he had not left any traces behind.
“You fucking wait and see!” The man threatened, “When I catch you, I’ll break your damn legs, and you’ll only be able to lie there, waiting for me to fuck you!”
Ning Lan pulled the phone away from his ear, speaking into it, “Fuck your mother! If you can, come catch me!” Then he ended the call directly.
Crouching, he fiddled about with his phone for quite some time before managing to remove the SIM card. Savagely, he broke it in two. Ning Lan’s heart, that had been trembling ever since he heard the man’s voice, was finally able to calm down a little.
He was actually not as composed as he had presented himself to be. Once he recalled that dark, empty room, the chaotic footsteps, as well as the hand that slid into his clothes, his hair stood up on ends, and he was so disgusted he wanted to vomit.
His gratitude towards his mother, which had only just welled up, completely vanished in an instant. When that woman sold him, did she ever consider that he was her son whom she had given birth to?
Ning Lan was no longer as excited as he was previously. Feeling dispirited, he remained crouching, staring at his phone in a daze until the female assistant came over and called out to him.
“Are you Ning Lan? I’m AOW’s personal assistant, An Lin.”
The girl was dressed simply, a pair of black-framed glasses on her nose, looking just like a curve wrecker.
Ning Lan dispelled the gloominess on his face, immediately replacing it with a smile and stood up to shake hands with her. An Lin’s face heated up when she looked at him and gave him a compliment. “You look better than your photos.”
Ning Lan had been hearing such praises ever since he was a child, and this was nothing new to him. However, he still responded modestly, “No, no, I’m not as good-looking as them, like… Lu Xiaochuan, Gao Ming, and Wang Bingyang.”
These names were the three members who had already been announced.
An Lin was a little surprised that he could recite all three names. “You’ve met them already?”
“No, not yet. I saw their photos online.”
An Lin nodded. “You’re all very handsome, and belong to different categories.”
They chatted as they walked. Ning Lan was curious, “What sort of category do I belong to?”
An Lin pushed her glasses up, studying him carefully. “Hmm… You’re the fresh and cute type.”
Despite having the self-awareness of being a replacement, Ning Lan still objected a little to getting such an evaluation. He said half-jokingly, “Do you think I can be the wild, cool and aggressive one?”
An Lin smiled, “I’m afraid not, there are already two members with this role.”
Two? Ning Lan recalled the three faces. From the photos, the one named Lu Xiaochuan was the most suitable for the designation. Gao Ming and Wang Bingyang looked friendlier, they completely did not look cold and aloof at all.
Who was the other one? One of the members that had yet to be announced?
Ever since Ning Lan set foot in society, he had always been solitary. Even at work, he had never tried participating in group projects. Being a singer could be considered a brand new start in his life, and thinking that he was soon about to live and eat with his other members, an unnoticed anticipatory feeling welled up in him.
An Lin drove the car, and Ning Lan sat in the passenger seat. It only took them ten minutes to reach an ordinary residential zone, not too far from the company. They parked the car in the garage and the two of them headed towards the elevator.
“2306, it has 3 bedrooms and 2 living rooms.” An Lin introduced the place to him, “There’ll be 2 to 3 people per room, the beds are single. This is the arrangement the company makes for all groups. If you have a place to stay outside, inform Zhang Fan-jie. Normally, unless your schedule requires you to stay outside, you will need to inform us if you’re not staying in the dorm.”
Seeing that Ning Lan was frozen, An Lin thought he was shocked. Smiling, she consoled him, “This is for your own good. If anything happens, it’ll affect the entire group.”
Ning Lan was noncommittal. A place to live and food to eat, why would he have any comments? It was only that the last time he had been controlled like this, he was still living in the high school dormitory. Now that someone was in charge of him again, he felt quite intrigued by it.
Walking through the last corridor, the elevator appeared right in front of them. At this moment, a black Maybach turned in from the garage entrance, passing by both of them. Steadily, it stopped in the parking lot nearby. The doors opened, and people exited from both the driver and the passenger side.
An Lin immediately changed her direction and headed towards the car. She walked towards them as she talked, “You guys went out again? Your names are about to be released, don’t go out too far, especially Chenkai, you…”
“Yes, I know, my An-jiejie.” The person speaking was a boy who exited from the passenger side. He was dressed in a plain coat and jeans, looking to be around 180cm tall. His smile was very sweet, and both his brows and eyes curved gently. “From tomorrow onwards, we won’t go out anymore. Today, Ge brought me to buy some clothes. For all we know, we might not be able to go out shopping openly again in the future.”
The “Ge” he referred to was clearly the driver. Ning Lan gave a start when he saw the car, but he told himself, there were many people driving the same type of cars in the entire capital. He had a very good memory and was extremely sensitive towards faces, names and numbers. Turning his eyes towards the car plate, his heart skipped a beat. Was it really that coincidental?
The boy driving the car stepped out, closing the door behind him. Straightening up, he was even taller than the sweetie-pie in the passenger seat. He wore a black jacket, black pants, and black shoes, and even his hair was black. It was as though “wild, cool and aggressive” was inscribed on him.
He was clearly one of the two who took the designation away from him. His height, together with the aura that he exuded, even from a distance, would make people feel overwhelmed by him.
Unconsciously, Ning Lan turned to hide his face, as he heard An Lin speak. “Sure, in the future you have to pay more attention; if not, Zhang Fan-jie will start nagging again. I’ve brought the new member over. Come say hi to him.”
They walked towards them, and Ning Lan had no place to hide. Hunching, he tried to reduce his presence as much as possible, performing his ultimate struggle.
“Ning Lan, this is Sui Yi and Gu Chenkai. Sui Yi is the leader of AOW.”
When An Lin said the group’s name, she did not say each letter individually, but as a whole. It sounded very similar to a howl.
The leader spoke first. “Hi, I’m Sui Yi.”
A slender hand extended out to him, and Ning Lan did not need to look up to know that the owner of the hand had a face that no compliments were worthy enough of.
AOW’s leader… It sounded just like the leader of a pack of wolves. It did not sound casual1, and was even a little scary, all right…
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