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Chapter 1 Chapter 1
It All Started Because of Hair.
Ji Xiaotiao walked with her head down, the calculator in her hand busy at work. She mumbled to herself all the numbers she needed: lunch for one month, salary for one month, stuff she needed for every day . . .
For the entire winter break, she worked at the fast food restaurant by day and a bakery at night. School was starting in two weeks and she needed to be careful with spending. It was her luck that her parents didn’t worry about her, that only her aunt cared. Her aunt already paid for her tuition so anything else was up to her.
As the day got darker, Xiaotiao crossed an intersection, still focusing on her numbers. Suddenly, she paused and looked up, then ducked aside and looked deeper into the alley.
Light from the streetlamp was faint, not showing enough of those people’s faces, but enough to show their motions. The saying went, curiosity killed the cat. Xiaotiao swallowed. What was she seeing?
Three burly men surrounded a young guy inside, talking about something. The guy looked unsettled. Was he about to push them away and run? Xiaotiao imagined the story; was this a robbery or shake-down?
“Get away from me!” the guy yelled so loud Xiaotiao heard every word. He hit one of the men, who didn’t fight back but actually leaned forward. From where she stood, it was as if he was . . .
Xiaotiao covered her mouth, trying to silence herself. She turned stiffly. She didn’t see anything! Nothing at all! She better get out of here!
When Xiaotiao was ready to leave, a shadow darted out from the alley. She could feel a draft next to her and yells of “Don’t run!” and then her scalp was pulled by something that hoisted her backward.
An arm reached out and gripped her shoulder. Before she knew what was hppaneing, Xiaotiao felt dizzy.
A guy stood with his back to the light. He looked forbidding, his short dark hair moving slightly in the wind. His almond eyes glinted with a defiant air, and his tall nose topped lips with a proud curve.
Xiaotiao wasn’t boy-crazy, but she liked good-looking guys, too. For some reason, the gorgeous guy in front of her made her think of just one thing!
Nothing good would come from anything related to this guy!
As soon as she had that thought, the guy frowned and shouted at her.
“What are you staring at? This isn’t a show! Don’t block my way!”
If she had any lingering attraction toward this guy, it was gone now. So this guy was the one surrounded by those men earlier? Too bad he had a great body.
Her cheeks reddened. She had read some boys-love books in her life, but had never seen anything in real life. Was that . . . ? She stared at his lips and mumbled, “Please, I wasn’t blocking you. My hair is stuck on your button!” She tried to unravel her hair.
The guy looked down and saw his button did have a few strands of hair. He frowned and tried to pull the hair free.
“Hey, what are you doing? Don’t you dare break my hair!” Xiaotiao yelled. She took pride in her gorgeous dark hair.
The guy stopped, but his face was still expressionless. Before he said anything, a couple of black-outfitted men came around the corner; they stopped and looked at him, then Xiaotiao.
Suddenly scared, she raised her hands to explain. “I don’t know him! This has nothing to do with me! It’s just my hair—”
Xiaotiao was interrupted by the guy before she said more. Without realizing how to react, he grabbed her hand and started running.
The men in black chased after them. Xiaotiao was conflicted; she was running as hard as she could while trying to explain to the men.
“I . . . I . . . have nothing to do with him. Be-believe me. Let me untie my hair. You can keep chasing him, okay?”
The guy kept running with her with those men close behind. No one paid any attention to Xiaotiao.
Xiaotiao was forced to run down an entire street. She was no athlete, and after a half-hour sprint, she collapsed on the ground.
Her scalp began hurting again. She looked up at the guy who started it all, who seemed oblivious as he checked behind them and said, “Hey, it’s just hair. You could just snap it off. It’ll grow back.”
Xiaotiao stood up. “You can kill me but not humiliate me. You can cut off my head but not my hair!”
The guy rolled his eyes at her, forgoing a comeback. Seeing the men getting closer, he grabbed Xiaotiao to keep running, but she stopped him. “I . . . I really can’t run anymore. Come with me!”
Xiaotiao dragged the guy toward Third Avenue in District Nine, where her dorm was. She had to take him there to hide for now. Once she got her hair free, he could fend for himself!
The guy raised his brows, unsure what she was planning, but he was also running out of energy; a hiding place would be good.
Xiaotiao took him on many turns, down an alley, and up a staircase, before they were in front of a door, which she opened with a key.
As soon as she took two steps in, her scalp tightened; she turned back and realized he was still looking around at the door.
“Hey, what are you looking at?”
The guy’s leisurely demeanor would never make one think he was being chased all over the street earlier.
“This is the so-called regular people neighborhood?”
Xiaotiao stared at him with disdain. He spoke the truth, but did he have to act so annoying? These dorm rooms in regular neighborhoods were actually very good, with two people per room and their own bathroom, too. She was very grateful.
“Yes, this is the regular people neighborhood. Do you want to come in?”
The guy stuck his hands in his pockets and went inside.