Xiao Ying bought had monthly groceries, once again, in the dead of night and took advantage of all the deals and special offers he could with his low quality rice, tea, salt and oil. He had vowed to himself, feeling the weight of the bags under his eyes, that he would have a lie in tomorrow morning.
After all, exams were complete and he was simply too tired to pick up an extra shift in the stationary store he worked in. Any moment now, he felt as if he was going to pass out from exhaustion, and was thankful that he had left his bike inside his cheap one bedroom apartment.
The streets were dark and empty, with nobody walking around at 2 AM, despite the refreshing coolness of the night, compared to the muggy summer day before, a small, slight breeze ruffling his hair every now and then. The occasional rumble of loud engines on the busy dual carriage way, not too far from Xiao Ying, was the only real noise in the area, that main road towering above him on a bridge quite a bit behind the sleepy neighbourhood he was walking down.
There was no need for him to look from side to side as he crossed the road, completely sure of the fact that nothing was going to hit him in the silence.
And he was right.
Nothing happened to him, his groceries were unharmed, and he was destined to continue eating tea on rice, until he either got a promotion or an employee of the month bonus. Both of those were unlikely though, considering his manager's daughter also worked at the store and he seemed to place everyone else's performance below whatever standard she had apparently set.
Xiao Ying kept walking and made his way over to his apartment, turning down a slightly busier road with a Ramen Restaurant and a few more stores, geared towards students. Xiao Ying had stood there for hours in the stores, calculating the value for money he would be receiving by comparing prices, before finding his wonderful little specialty store, tucked away in a small corner just a little further off.
He had been as delighted as the old granny had been, when he found it, and she gave him free discounts on days whenever the weather was particularly bad. Truly, it was a blessing.
A few mumbling voices escaped through the windows of the ramen store, and Xiao Ying almost froze at the name," A-Cheng," shouted out by one eager young man to another more, annoyed one, looking, for all he was worth, like a cross between a wet blanket and a hissing cat.
Xiao Ying forced his legs to keep moving, the name 'Cheng' forcing a few bad, humiliating memories to resurface.
Bringing his hands up to his face to groan into them, the plastic of his shopping bad cutting into the skin of his arms, Xiao Ying found himself somewhat thankful that his Online Novel Writing career had never taken off.
He had been an over confident idiot before, simply thinking that if he had put something out with proper grammar and some interesting settings with an appropriate amount of mystery, he would be able to rake in at least some pity cash, but alas, it was not to be.
His novel had been a complete dud.
'The Legendary Tale of the Holy Emperor Ming Cheng' was an absolute dud.
The greatest dud of all time.
His protagonist was apparently too boring, the plot too clichéd, and the setting was unoriginal, despite all his crazy new additions, but apparently, the ghost of the protagonist's dead mother helping her son through all the machinations of the palace officials, wasn't a good enough twist on the premise of his rags to riches story.
Even as his mother betrayed his trust in the end and forced him into an arranged marriage with some princess that Ming Cheng had never heard of, forcing him apart from his devastatingly beautiful and infinitely kind childhood friend that he had planned to marry, once he had enough money for a wedding and a house. The novel had ended in tragedy, with the newly crowned Emperor dying on his wedding night before he had even consummated his marriage with the new Empress.
Sometimes, Xiao Ying wondered what he was even thinking by doing such a thing, lamenting how his life would surely be ruined if anybody he knew had written the pathetic piece of literature that he had produced, and that he would be shamed for having dreams and ambitions.
Xiao Ying rubbed his eyes once more, crossing the street without looking and making it to the other side, as safely as he did before, preparing to turn the final corner to his apartment. He could see the tall building within his sights, towering over all the small shops and terrace housing with its magnificent three story presence.
The walls were painted completely white, with every single window frame painted a stark, jet black.
Xiao Ying turned the corner and began walking towards the gate that surrounded the complex, blinking a few times as the world around him suddenly lit up. The light was facing his back and was getting brighter and brighter, and bigger and bigger.
He blinked one final time, just figuring that it was some parent trying to park in front of the building, at the side of the pavement, again, before continuing to walk on his designated footpath.
Suddenly, something cold and metal suddenly rammed into his side, sapping Xiao Ying's body of all its strength. He felt himself let go of his shopping and crumble onto the floor, arms flaying out and legs uselessly fallen awkwardly.
Xiao Ying felt a bubbling cough erupt from his throat, and felt something warm envelop his torso. He brought up one shaking hand to it, the limb feeling as if it was being sapped out light, and felt a horrid, sickening sensation of wetness there.
It could only possibly be one thing, and Xiao Ying felt blackness gather at the sides of his vision, as he choked more globules of dark crimson out onto the pavement.
The wind seemed to stop as ringing enveloped his ears suddenly.
A hand felt as if it was briefly on his back, as the black began to take over everything.
He thought that maybe there was some shouting perhaps.
Xiao Ying could barely keep his eyes open, as exhaustion came to consume everything that he knew.
He would just close his eyes for a second, using it to gather up some strength, then he could call the emergency number.
Just for a second.
Only for a small, tiny second.
He would just close his eyes.
The world went black.
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