*** = Scene change
***** = Timeskip
Friends? They’re meant to be used, no?
Spoiled children, by the age of 10, would become incapable of distinguishing between the acts of playing and bullying.
Presently, a group of said children was assaulting another child with rocks, laughter and contempt spilling from their lips in their clear, juvenile voices. They had surrounded their victim and forced him to curl up inside their encirclement as they struck him with what seemed like an entire world of malice.
“Look at this idiot, let’s beat him to death…”
“Hey, doesn’t he look like a dog?”
A June day, and a babyish face.
Suddenly, the beaming sun was swept away by a gust of wind and succeeded by an outburst of cool raindrops.
“Ugh, it’s raining! What a downer!”
The band of children tried to shield themselves with their hands, but the rain continued to fall, heavier and heavier until the leader finally threw down his rock and led the others away.
“If you help Xu Chaoyang again, we’ll beat you to death!”
Qingruo held an umbrella as she entered the alleyway.
The alleyway was dirty, littered with torn garbage bags whose spilling contents had been rendered appalling by the rain.
She spotted a small figure huddled against a wall. His arms were wrapped around his legs, and his face was buried in his knees, making it impossible for her to tell his expression.
The trousers that clad his legs were ill-fitted, revealing his bony calves and the bluish-purple bruises on his grime-darkened skin, along with a number of glaring red wounds that had yet to scar. His hands were also covered in cuts, bruises, burns, and other injuries, and his nails were long and filthy.
Qingruo walked over and squatted down, paying no heed to the murky puddles touching her pristine skirt hem, and cautiously extended a hand. However, she stopped before her hand reached him.
“Are you okay?” she asked softly.
The crouched figure trembled before raising his head.
His swarthy little face was frighteningly thin, but his inky eyes were bright and deep. There were also injuries on his face, though not as much as there were on his legs.
With his tightly closed lips and cold, defensive eyes, he resembled a beast whose territory had been invaded.
Qingruo shifted her umbrella, bringing the boy under its protection. The powder-blue shade of the umbrella cast a soft glow over her face, illuminating her warm smile. She pulled an adorable rabbit-print handkerchief out of a little long-strapped purse and said, “Your face is dirty. I’ll wipe it for you.”
Xu Nianyang stared at her without moving. She possessed the appearance of a girl who was still pure and naive.
The handkerchief drew close, and he tensed.
When the silken fabric came into contact with his skin, his eyelashes quivered, and he dropped his gaze. The handkerchief was instantly stained, but the girl seemed oblivious as she continued to smile sweetly.
Once she was done, she tucked the handkerchief away and lifted a finger to the corner of her mouth. She blinked, and her round eyes sparkled. ”My name is Qingruo. What about you? Can we be friends?”
‘Friends?’ Xu Nianyang lowered his head as a mocking smile spread across his lips.
Due to the rock attack earlier, his entire body was throbbing in pain. His trousers were drenched and consequently plastered to his thighs, chilling his skin, but that was nothing compared to the cold emptiness in his stomach.
He couldn’t remember the last time he ate something, and it felt like the hunger was tearing up his insides. His throat hurt too. He tried to moisten it by swallowing some saliva, but to no avail. His voice came out hoarse. ”I’m hungry, give me some food.”
‘Friends? They’re meant to be used, no?’
For a moment, the girl in front of him was stunned. Then, surprised, her lips parted and formed a little ‘O’. Xu Nianyang shifted his gaze to her delicate white neck, and the corners of his lips twitched.
“I don’t have any…” she replied dejectedly before brightening up again. ”But I have money, so I’ll go buy some for you!”
She hurriedly stood up, causing the raindrops on her umbrella to splatter. She started to leave but after a few steps, she stopped and turned back. Smiling beautifully, she squatted down again and shoved her umbrella into his hands.
”Hold the umbrella and wait for me!”
Before he could respond, she had already lifted her skirt and ran into the curtain of rain.
The handle of the umbrella was still warm. Xu Nianyang squinted at the small, pink-clad figure as it disappeared, his eyes flashing coldly. Using the wall behind him as support, he slowly got to his feet. Water dripped from his trousers, following the natural rhythm of the rainfall.
He thought to leave, but when his eyes fell on the powder-blue umbrella in his hand, the corners of his lips rose.
‘Friends, huh?’ That was fresh—he could wait.
Just outside of the alleyway was a residential area, where beneath each building was a small convenience store.
By the time she reached one of the stores, both of Qingruo’s braids were wet, and several strands of hair were plastered to her forehead. Her skirt was also soaked.
She had over ten yuan1 saved in allowance and proceeded to spend all of it on a variety of little snacks rather than something practical, like bread. With the last of her money, she bought herself a chocolate bar.
She was only nine years old, so buying snacks was reasonable, right? After making her purchases, Qingruo hurried back and went over the world’s storyline in her mind.
Xu Nianyang, the illegitimate son of the Zhang family, was abandoned at birth by his mother.
The married Xu couple —his current guardians— had adopted him out of kindness when they were without a child; when Xu Nianyang was four years old, however, Mrs. Xu gave birth to a son of her own: Xu Chaoyang.
From there, Xu Nianyang’s position in the family plummeted to become no different from a servant’s.
At the time, the Xu couple was already in their late thirties. Xu Chaoyang had come like a miracle, but the family met with a financial crisis three years later when Mrs. Xu lost her job.
It wasn’t until the year Xu Nianyang turned eighteen that he was reclaimed by his biological family. However, that development had not helped him; to put it simply, he had been pulled out of one pit and tossed into another.
Because the Zhang enterprise was involved in biopharmaceutical work and had committed a number of crimes, the heir was at risk of imprisonment. Therefore, the family reclaimed Xu Nianyang… and used him as a scapegoat.
He spent three years in prison before getting bailed out by an organization that was hostile to the Zhang family, and thus began his life as a tool. Before long, he gained control of the Zhang family and destroyed its century-old roots.
However, none of that was really important. The key point laid in Xu Nianyang’s intelligence—he was a genius, more so in the field of biopharmaceuticals than any other. There, he was God’s favorite.
After he became the head of the Zhang family, his biological mother came to him. Xu Nianyang, who had been deprived of familial love, made the decision of allowing her to stay. The result? His mother remarried and gave birth to another child, revealing that the only reason she came to him was that she wanted the Zhang family’s fortune.
That caused Xu Nianyang to completely blacken. He changed from being anti-social to anti-human and created a virus—the zombie virus.
Overnight, the world was turned upside-down.
The current Xu Nianyang was only thirteen years old.
When Qingruo returned, she saw Xu Nianyang braced against the wall as he held onto her umbrella. The thirteen-year-old boy looked like he was only eight or nine years old.
She ran through the puddles and arrived in front of him. On her feet she wore a pair of little leather shoes, and in her arms she embraced a pile of sundry snacks.
As she stood before him, she realized that he wasn’t even as tall as her. Qingruo bent her knees slightly, the fluffy skirt of her dress hiding her legs, and made him taller.
Trails of rainwater trickled down her cheeks, and her hair stuck to her skin, but the little girl smiled just as before, her arms full.
”You can eat now.” A naive voice. Xu Nianyang’s gaze slid from her face to the snacks in her arms. Out of everything there, the only snack he saw that could possibly curb his hunger was a bag of chocolate.
He reached out and took everything.
The little girl didn’t mind, obediently passing him the food, and even took the initiative to retrieve her umbrella and hold it over their heads.
The umbrella was a little too small. She inched towards him, closing the distance until they were both covered.
Xu Nianyang tore open the bag and stuffed everything inside his mouth.
Qingruo said lightly, ”Slow down, it’s not like I’m going to snatch it from you. What if you choke?” What to do? He ignored her.
Raindrops dribbled down the umbrella. Qingruo was drenched, and he wasn’t any better. As he busied himself with the food, she watched him with large, clear eyes.
It was June, but the skin beneath his eyes was unexpectedly cracked.
He eventually finished the jumble of sweet, salty, and spicy snacks, the flavors mixing inside his mouth. His stomach had been empty for so long that it failed to react immediately to the sudden influx of food.
The wrappers and bags were thrown haphazardly to the ground and either swept away by the wind or pinned down by the weight of the rain.
Xu Nianyang looked up and met Qingruo’s gaze. He spoke, his voice hoarse as though his throat had been torn by the northern wind. “Xu Nianyang. My name.”
She smiled sweetly and reached up to pull away some of the hair stuck on her forehead.
Suddenly, a gust of wind drove down the alleyway, and she instinctively shrunk back. He turned a blind eye.
On a rainy day, he stood in drenched clothes in a dirty alleyway, facing a lively little girl.
”Are you still hungry?” the girl asked gently.
Xu Nianyang stared into her eyes and nodded; they were as clear as diamonds. She smiled at his straightforward response before reaching down to pull a small carton of milk out of her bag.
”Then drink this,” she offered. But her fingers were pinched tightly around the box and her arm was barely stretched out, creating an image of reluctance.
The corners of his lips twitched and he took the milk from her before she could reconsider.
The little girl pursed her lips. Her features were delicate, resembling a budding flower.
Xu Nianyang looked down and saw that the milk was strawberry-flavored. No wonder she was reluctant. Qingruo mumbled aggrievedly, ” You drink it. Strawberry-flavored is very yummy. My mommy only lets me drink it once every week.”
He unceremoniously tore the straw from the side of the carton and used it to puncture the opening before latching on, drinking in large gulps. He considered leaving some for the little girl but discovered seconds later that he had already finished the entire carton. Kid’s sized drinks always came in inadequate amounts.
Qingruo’s gaze followed the empty carton as it drew an arc in the air and landed a short distance away. She mumbled and swallowed some saliva before turning back around.
”You drink so fast,” she pouted, pulling on a dripping braid. Her sweet smile had turned into a pitiful one, and finally, Xu Nianyang returned the gesture.
His smile was faint and barely perceptible, as the slight curving of his eyes was the only indicator. Cold and oppressive they were, but when he smiled, a tiny opening was granted for Qingruo.
He brought a hand to her clean forehead and picked away some of the wet strands. Then his grimy fingers pressed down, lightly, as though feeling for the front of her skull.
“Qingruo, don’t forget that we’re friends, okay?”
Or else… Destroy.
VIN: Cheers to a new arc! And this arc actually switches between the ML’s POV and the FL’s.