（After the incident where Liang Chong got into a fight with someone, Ning Yiwei took Liang Chong to Ning Qiang’s supermarket to disinfect his wound.）
“My dad isn’t in the store today.” Ning Yiwei pulled Liang Chong, looking around cautiously as he led him into a secluded and narrow alley. “I’ll take you to tend to your wound.”
Despite Ning Yiwei’s sweet words, his eyes were not paying attention. He happened to press directly on Liang Chong’s injured spot from the fight.
Liang Chong winced in pain and politely said to Ning Yiwei, “Could you please be a little slower?”
“Alright,” Ning Yiwei quickly glanced at Liang Chong and said, “It’s just up ahead, not far.”
They reached the middle of the alley, where the wall indented slightly, revealing an old-fashioned screen door.
“This isn’t the main entrance to the warehouse,” Ning Yiwei informed Liang Chong, “My dad had it built. The main entrance is too big, so I use this one for convenience.”
Saying that, Ning Yiwei took out a small leather box from his backpack, opened it, and retrieved two small metal tools. He closed the box, put it in his pocket, then bent down and inserted the pointed end of the tools into the lock.
Ning Yiwei was small in stature, with a fuzzy head. His movements left Liang Chong puzzled.
After a few seconds, Liang Chong slowly asked Ning Yiwei, “Yiwei, what are you doing?”
“I’m unlocking it,” Ning Yiwei replied without lifting his head. “I always lose my keys, and this kind of lock is easy to open. I didn’t tell my mom about it.”
Ning Yiwei focused on his actions, resembling a locksmith diligently at work. It didn’t take long before a soft sound echoed, and the iron door opened.
In the 21st century, it was astonishing to see a child engaging in illegal lock-picking just because they didn’t want their parents to find out that they lost the keys.
Liang Chong stood on the side, watching as Ning Yiwei pulled open the iron door, raising a cloud of dust from the ground. He took a step back and positioned himself a bit farther away.
Inside, there was another door.
“This door is quite difficult to open,” Ning Yiwei sighed, touching the brass doorknob. He turned to Liang Chong and said, “It requires specialized tools.”
“What should we do then?” Liang Chong asked, “How do we get in?”
Ning Yiwei looked at Liang Chong with a hint of speechlessness, “We use a key, of course.”
He unzipped the outer pocket of his backpack and took out a silk ribbon with a key attached. He explained, “This door lock is expensive to replace, so my mom sewed it into my backpack.”
The warehouse was spacious, filled with various sizes of boxes. An unpleasant odor hit Liang Chong’s senses, making him hesitant to enter.
“Why are you standing there?” Ning Yiwei took a few steps and turned back to look at Liang Chong.
Liang Chong had no choice but to walk in, surveying the surroundings. He asked, “Do you come here often?”
“I come to the supermarket for dinner,” Ning Yiwei said, “My dad is usually too busy to cook for me.”
Ning Yiwei turned on the lights in the warehouse and proceeded inside.
In a small corner, there was a table with a desk lamp, and a makeshift bookshelf on the floor holding several books.
Ning Yiwei led Liang Chong to sit there, placing Liang Chong on the chair he usually used for solving problems. He then went into the warehouse to find disinfectant cotton pads.
Liang Chong glanced over and noticed the books Ning Yiwei borrowed from his own home. He picked one up and realized that his book was wrapped in a plastic cover by Ning Yiwei.
“The warehouse is a bit dirty.” Ning Yiwei walked over with two boxes and noticed Liang Chong looking at the covered book. He quickly explained, “I didn’t want to get it dirty. I’ll remove the cover when I return it to you.”
Seeing that Liang Chong didn’t say anything, Ning Yiwei immediately added, “If you don’t like it, I won’t bring the books from the warehouse next time.”
He seemed genuinely worried that Liang Chong would never lend him books again.
“It’s fine,” Liang Chong said.
Ning Yiwei breathed a sigh of relief, asked Liang Chong to sit down, and started squatting to unwrap the packaging.
Liang Chong looked at Ning Yiwei’s fuzzy head and said, “You really enjoy reading, don’t you?”
Ning Yiwei vaguely responded with a “Hmm.” Liang Chong glanced at Ning Yiwei’s small bookshelf, mostly filled with physics books that middle schoolers wouldn’t typically read, and asked Ning Yiwei, “Do you understand them?”
“Of course I do,” Ning Yiwei said, halfway through unwrapping. He looked up at Liang Chong and continued, “I plan to study physics in the future.”
“Deciding now might be too early,” Liang Chong casually picked up something that looked like a book printed on A4 paper. He looked at the first page, which had an English title. “Reviews of Modern Physics. Did you print this?”
“Yes,” Ning Yiwei replied. “Printing at the shop is expensive. I plan to buy a second-hand printer during the Lunar New Year.”
He watched as Liang Chong flipped through and proudly said, “Reviews of Modern Physics and Physics Reports have the highest impact factor. I read every issue.”
It seemed as if Liang Chong didn’t understand anything.
Liang Chong responded with an “Oh” and pretended to be ignorant as he asked Ning Yiwei, “When will you be able to contribute to Reviews of Modern Physics and Physics Reports?”
Ning Yiwei immediately became less confident, hesitating and looking around. He boasted, “When I grow up.”
“Just growing up is enough,” Liang Chong said. “That’s impressive.”
“Hmm,” Ning Yiwei replied, feeling somewhat guilty.
He finished unwrapping and asked Liang Chong to tilt his head back to tend to his chin.
Liang Chong had scrapes on the back of his hand, forearm, and chin, with the chin being slightly deeper. Ning Yiwei leaned closer to disinfect it.
He had a serious expression, as if he were picking a lock.
Without warning, Liang Chong felt a sharp sting before he could prepare himself.
Ning Yiwei applied an adhesive bandage to Liang Chong’s chin, then moved a bit farther away, instructing Liang Chong to place his hand flat.
As Ning Yiwei disinfected Liang Chong’s hand, Liang Chong noticed visible bruising and small bleeding spots on the knuckles of Ning Yiwei’s right hand.
Perhaps because Ning Yiwei had fair skin, the bruises were noticeable and unsettling.
“Ning Yiwei, what happened to your hand?” Liang Chong frowned and asked him.
“Where?” Ning Yiwei followed Liang Chong’s gaze, paused for a moment, and speculated, “Maybe I hit the person too hard… My blood clotting isn’t good, so it looks like this after a heavy impact. Auntie Kang took me to the hospital and they diagnosed it. That person was so fierce just now. It scared me.”
Ning Yiwei lowered his head again to adjust the adhesive bandage. His eyelashes were long. One could vaguely see his bright eyes behind them.
Liang Chong’s hand twitched but didn’t reach out to touch. He asked Ning Yiwei with little emotion, “You were scared to death, yet you’re still so reckless.”
Ning Yiwei casually replied, “Didn’t you say you’d bring books and DVDs for me from the US during summer vacation? You haven’t gone yet.”
He finished applying the bandage and said to Liang Chong, “Alright, make sure to change it regularly.”
“I won’t change the bandage,” Liang Chong said.
It was a casual bluff to tease Ning Yiwei. Liang Chong had experienced injuries from boxing practice before and was not completely oblivious to the world. However, Ning Yiwei surprisingly believed him. Ning Yiwei exclaimed, “Really?”
Ning Yiwei thought for a moment. Before Liang Chong could admit that he was joking, Ning Yiwei generously said, “Well then, after school, come here and find me. I’ll help you change it.”
When Liang Chong returned home, he thought to himself, “Only a fool would go to the supermarket warehouse every day to have a kid change their bandage.”
The next evening, just after Liang Chong finished school and got on the bus, he received a text message from Ning Yiwei.
It said, “I’m at the warehouse!”
Liang Chong glanced at the street view and noticed that the bus was near the supermarket where Ning Qiang worked.
It wouldn’t hurt to go for a while, especially since Ning Yiwei sent such an enthusiastic message.
Liang Chong asked the driver to pull over and got off the bus. He walked over and followed the agreed-upon plan with Ning Yiwei, knocking on the door three times.
After a while, the door opened.
“Come in,” Ning Yiwei said cheerfully.
Liang Chong glanced at Ning Yiwei’s hand resting on the edge of the door and walked inside with him.
The editor said there weren’t enough words for the word count, so I took a scene from the storyline and wrote a short extra story!
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