The story begins ten years ago.
When Ah Tou saw the house, she longed for a luxurious life.
It’s so big, wouldn’t it be hard to clean? Wait, rich people don’t have to worry about that. Ah Tou realized she was being ridiculous. It’s not like they clean the house themselves. There must be a lot of maids. Maybe there’s even a gardener or something.
Ah Tou decided to remain calm.
The house was newly built. Ah Tou remembered that this man owned a lot of old buildings and was in the habit of collecting them. Was his name Hsieh or Xie (1)? She wasn’t sure. He was young and ran an antique business, which was most likely inherited. She knew about the upper class, more or less. To be so rich at that age, he had to be in IT or something. Antique trading depended on the heavens and was part of a capital-intensive industry, so it was unlikely that he could make so much money at that age. Even a genius would need a huge startup fund to get into the market.
When she entered the house, her first party (2) and the property owner were waiting for her in the living room. The first party was her client and also one of the property owner’s secretaries. It was a woman who was about thirty-eight. They had known each other for some time now, but that was another story. The property owner was wearing a pink shirt.
Not bad, Ah Tou thought as she looked at him. Very handsome, in fact. Even in pink. Ok, he’s cute.
The three sat down and Ah Tou handed them the contract, “Here, it’s a practical business. The Ministry of Commerce didn’t approve it, though. I included a consulting fee since I can offer a consultation on any renovations. If you’re ok with everything, sign it and I’ll get started.”
Boss Xie looked at the first party, “It’s so expensive, is she reliable?”
Having gotten the affirmation from the first party, Boss Xie swiftly signed his name. Ah Tou took out her drawing pad, “Alright. First things first, I can only draw the person according to your description. The more accurate your description is, the less time we waste on this. I don’t read minds, so I can’t imagine what you think he looks like.”
Ah Tou had many talents. One of them was sketching a portrait of a person according to another’s narration. Most of her talents were art related, so she did that for a living. That’s right, she was a sketch artist, just like those experts in crime movies who drew the perpetrators from the witnesses’ descriptions. But she was just an amateur.
Ah Tou wasn’t sure who Boss Xie wanted her to draw. His dream lover whom he met only once? His first love who he had no photo of? A swindler he met at work? It didn’t matter. Ah Tou didn’t care at all. She was more than satisfied with the forty thousand yuan, considering it was such a small case.
“Let’s start.” Ah Tou picked up the pencil and made a rough outline of a person.
Boss Xie looked at his watch and said to Ah Tou, “It’s not time yet. Let me first give you some background information so that you can prepare yourself for your upcoming task. May I?”
Ah Tou nodded. You’re the boss. She noticed that Boss Xie had a rash on his neck and his skin condition wasn’t so great. Oh, it might be a hickey. It’s too hard to tell.
She didn’t care what Boss Xie was going to say. A job like this didn’t need a clear cause and effect. But she still understood that a lot of people wanted to talk or organize their thoughts or something. Whatever. She could just stay quiet and stare at him. With a face like that, she could even give him a fifty percent discount.
“I won’t tell you the details or explain to you how the eyebrows look or something like that. That’s not how it works. It might be different from what you’re used to,” Boss Xie said. “You have to see it yourself and then draw it out.”
“See what?” Ah Tou paused for a moment.
“See the thing you need to draw,” Boss Xie said.
For the first time, Ah Tou was a little confused. She thought for a few seconds and then said, “Are you saying that the person I’ll be drawing will come here?”
Boss Xie nodded.
Ah Tou chuckled, “Drawing someone right in front of him? Do you think I’m a street artist who does tourist portraits? Do you think you can tell me to do anything just because you have money?”
Ah Tou felt a little insulted. No way. I don’t care how cute he is, I’m not taking that forty thousand yuan. She looked at the first party, who had been friends with her for many years and should know her attitude towards a misconception like this. The first party probably didn’t know that her boss would ask Ah Tou to do such a thing. The only reason Ah Tou didn’t leave right away was to give face to the first party.
The first party remained silent and Ah Tou noticed that she seemed a little scared.
Boss Xie continued, “This house isn’t an old house, but there’s a problem with it that shouldn’t happen in a new house. I’ll be straight with you. Every night from eight to twelve, there’s a power outage in this town for unknown reasons. During those four hours, the power cycles on and off intermittently.”
Ah Tou wasn’t sure what Boss Xie was trying to say, but she felt a little creeped out.
“The power goes out very frequently. Sometimes it’s a few minutes, sometimes it’s a few seconds.”
“I’ve been working here alone for the past few days. There isn’t any other light source around this house since it’s by the sea. So, after the power goes out, it gets completely dark. I usually stay where I am and wait for the power to come back on. The intermittent power outages have happened every single day that I’ve stayed here. And every single day, there’s a period where the frequency of the power going on and off is several seconds.”
“In those few seconds when the lights flash on, I see a person in the house.”
“Bye.” Ah Tou stood up and immediately moved to leave. Her body was covered in goosebumps and she was shaking.
Is he a psychopath? He called me over to draw a ghost? Forty thousand yuan for a portrait of a ghost? I’d rather work on an advertisement for the city.
“I’m certain that I was the only one in the house, but when the lights stayed on long enough for me to search for him, I couldn’t find him. That person only appears during those few seconds when the power goes on and of repeatedly.”
“Mr. Xie,” Ah Tou said, “I don’t want to get involved if you’re out of your mind. It’s not even funny.”
Boss Xie checked his watch, but didn’t stop her from leaving. He was very calm when he explained this to her, so it didn’t seem like a joke at all. But when Ah Tou reached the door, the lights suddenly went out. She even heard the sound of the air conditioner powering off.
Home appliances were always running and creating ambient background noises. We usually don’t notice these noises because we’re used to them, but they do exist. And they’re very annoying.
It’s only when the power goes off that one can hear real silence, and at this moment, Ah Tou got to experience it.
“It’s eight o ‘clock,” Boss Xie said. “You didn’t read the contract carefully. You can’t stop your service midway. We’ll wait for you in the car outside. Please be sure to include his face in your drawing. If you succeed, in addition to the forty thousand yuan, I can also share with you some information about the person you’re looking for.”
Boss Xie and the first party turned on their phone flashlights and stood up. The first party ran out the door while Boss Xie shined his flashlight towards Ah Tou, who looked pale and cold. She wanted to scream and run away, but there was another desire in her heart that made her stay.
Indeed, she was looking for someone, but she hadn’t found them for a long time.
She looked around at the dark house. Why is it so dark here? Doesn’t he feel scared living alone in such a massive house?
In the darkness, a cold breath suddenly washed over her.
<Introduction><Table of Contents><Chapter 2>
(1) 謝 and 解 have the same pronunciation, but they look different. Some countries use “Hsieh” to spell both 謝 and 解. 謝 is a more common surname than 解 (Xia Hua’s surname), so that’s why Ah Tou wasn’t sure which one it was.
(2) A first party is someone who overlooks the fairness of a contract and balances the interests between the two parties.
6 thoughts on “Chapter 1”
I love how she’s just like “NOPE! I ain’t doin it.” But one does not just sign a contract with a Xie and then back out. Especially this Xie!
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If i lucky enough to meet Xiao Hua in person and he wearing his pink shirt, one think that come to my mind is “Run for ur life, b!”
Man, I love Xiao Hua’s. I really need more parts!
Welcome to the crazy gang ah tou 😅🙃
I love how Xiao Hua is soooo calm always LOL He, indeed, needs more parts in the dramas.