The house was -- delightfully strange. When Xie Lian purchased he was given a list of things that were included and it was -- extensive. After the fire, no one really touched the house. So much of the furniture had been just left, most covered to keep preserved but most barely moved or touched after the house was locked up.
In the entryway there was a coat rack and a small sitting bench -- Xie Lian gleefully ventured closer. It was solid wood, with original dark red velvet upholstery. It was darling and Xie Lian noted he’d need to see if he could find a manufacturer's mark later. The dark spiraling tile of the entryway led to the dark wood grand staircase leading upstairs.
Lovingly, Xie Lian extended his hand to brush the polished banisters. “It would have been such a shame if the fire had harmed this.” He murmured to himself. The banister was a winding intricate wood with cast iron mingling in swirling intricate ornamentation.
“Definitely Art Nouveau.” Xie Lian mused as he looked closer. It was strange though -- Art Nouveau and yet -- far east influences dotted the house.
It was so unique.
Looking through the doorway to his left, Xie Lian could see a large black velvet divan seated in front of a deep green jade fireplace.
He wanted to walk forward, but as well --
There was somewhere else Xie Lian wanted to see first.
Walking past the stairs, through a grand dinning room (a table and set of eight charis had all been stacked covered and pushed off to a corner) Xie Lian found the kitchen.
It was -- as Ted had mentioned -- unfortunately quite new.
But Xie Lian bent as he entered the room, with a smile.
The jade tiles continued here -- and these one shone in varying shades of polished mauve and russett. Running his pale fingers over a few, Xie Lian marveled at their craftsmanship.
“You survived…” Xie Lian marveled.
Straightening, Xie Lian declared. “You’re absolutely beautiful, and I’m delighted to be staying here Paradise Manor.” He even gave a light laugh at himself before turning to retrieve histhings.
There was someone in his house.
Hua Cheng stirred from where he wandered at the edge of the grounds. Eming was vibrating at his hip again, sounding the alarm of the front door.
It was probably the workers all down stairs -- but then again. After they had finished with the kitchen cabinetry, most hadn’t been around for the past couple of days. Thankfully. Their insesant chatter and knocking around annoyed Hua Cheng enough to contemplate hanging them all from the ceiling.
He gave a snort as he shifted to look back to the house. There was a white sedan now parked outfront and the shitty little pick up truck of Head Moron was gone.
No matter. As long as they left before the sun went down, Hua Cheng didn’t see any reason to bother with it.
Turns out, if Google can’t find your address, neither can DoorDash -- or Uber Eats or GrubHub. Xie Lian didn’t even like pizza and he still tried Dominoes - to no avail. Seems no where was willing to drive food out to him, so Xie Lian sighed, glad he at least had a few groceries he’d picked up for the road. He’d need to make an actual run to get food tomorrow though.
XieLian wasn’t exactly known to be the sort to cook… he really felt like he could learn though! Like a couple of recipe books and some youtube videos and Xie Lian could definitely do this!
Settling in with a premade meal in a black microwavable carryout bin, Xie Lian pulled out what little he had on the manor in a slim Manila folder.
The house was built in 1892 by a wealthy businessman from China. It had passed through several generations of that family throughout the years, by the time the fire occurred in 1983 the family could barely eke by in the large mansion. It was probably that slow decline that had resulted in the fire. Though Xie Lian could barely find anything about the fire.
Xie Lian scrunched his nose. “For something that happened in the eighties, there's not a lot about it.”
And there wasn’t really.
That summer seemed to be an outstanding plague on the house. All four of the house’s family members had perished that autumn, two of which during the before mentioned fire.
With a sigh, Xie Lian set down his chop sticks while he tried looking over the documents he had. There was no sign of a floor plan but still -- the missing tower rooms nagged at him. There had to be floor plans somewhere! Xie Lian made a note on his phone, when he ran to town for food tomorrow, bhed’ stop in at the town's local archives. An estate like this had to be well documented. This was by no means the sort of place with several gated estates, so just by nature of it benign different should mean records were ketp.
He’d see what he could dig up about that fire as well.
Xie Lian scrolled through the information he was given in an email and out of curiosity dropped ‘Paradise Manor’ into a search bar.
First thing to pop up on google was a play list of videos. Well maybe the house wasn’t as mysterious as Xie Lian thought!
Turning his phone on it’s side, Xie Lian tapped the first video --
“Sup Skeptic Fam! Today we’re here at the crazy haunted Paradise Manor! That’s right! I am going to stay the entire night -- HERE -- in one of America’s most haunted --”
Xie Lian was still smiling as he tapped frantically to get that stupid shit to stop immidiately.
Tipping his head, Xie Lian spoke to the house. “Pardon their ignorance.”
It wasn’t that Xie Lian actually thought there’d be an answer. For all the old and supposedly, ‘haunted’ things Xie Lian had restored, he had little to show for any sort of things having evil intent. But as a creature of habit, Xie Lian tended to work long lonely hours on what ever his next project was, and well -- okay he talked to things. It wasn’t that weird when no one else was a round!
Finished with his meal, Xie Lian rinsed his carton and only fork. He’d pick up somethings along with food later but right now, that was all he had.
Back in the grand entryway, Xie Lian found his suitcase back by the stairs and gingerly started up the stairs.
He didn't make it far before being mesmerized by the long hallway at the top of the landing.
For one there was a massive painting hanging over the wall, looking down through the open space of the foyer and through the front door. It was abstract and yet — not. It was of a red umbrella, Laing in a rain of blood, set against a deep blue forest.
It was absolutley exceptional! And furthermore, Xie Lian had never seen anything like it! There were Far East influences for sure but also Impressionism was quite a strong influence as well. Xie Lian was unfortunately too short and the painting too far up for him to get a proper examination for artist mark.
He’d have Ted and his employees get it down once they were back. In the mean time Xie Lian still fidgeted and oogggled and scrambled from side to side to see if he could get a better look.
The strokes were utter chaos, the reds as vivid as blood. The thick smears of paint one way then another were beautiful!
Xie Lian took out his phone to snap a photo before continuing down the hallway.
Finding the first bedroom, opened the door to find —- blue. The room was all blacks swirling into moody blues and here the furniture hadn’t been covered.
The only thing with a white sheet cover was the bed, for which Xie Lian stepped forward to pull the sheet away. It revealed a richly adorned bed, still in dark blues blacks.
Xie Lian wasted no time in gathering up all the linens tossing throw pillow after throw pillow to the window seat. These things were at most from the 1980s and not something Xie Lian was concerned with preserving. An investigation of the house later might reveal more original linen but these certainly weren’t it.
He washer and dryer he'd had installed back in the kitchen were brand new, and Xie Lian separated the sheets out first to wash.
Washer started, Xie Lian stretched as he glanced at the window. The golden hues of the beckoning twilight filtered in through the Maple trees outside. There was a door that lead from the kitchen into the back gardens. It was original to the home and so lovely — but the light filtering in through the cross seamed windows of that door reminded Xie Lian….
Eagerly he looked back to the hallway.
There was one more place he wanted to see with the last rays of the day.
He’d long removed his shoes already so a bit too eager and excited his socks slid across the hardwood as he launched into the hallway. He let himself laugh a bit as he slid past the banister before with giddy strides he continued into the east side of the manor.
There was another sitting room, a baby grand piano and several pieces of furniture all huddled in the corner with sheets strewn across, what looked like a vintage liquor cabinet peaked out.
But through a set of French double doors — Xie Lian slid them both open before his feet touched down on more russet hued tile flooring into —
An absolute masterpiece.
The crown jewel of the house, the reason Xie Lian had drive three days and several thousand miles into the middle of nowhere, the very room that had convinced him to purchase this very sad manor—
The atrium was from the floor all the way to the cascading ceiling above Xie Lian’s head made of an intricate and priceless stained glass window design.
Falling maple leaves wove through the design clearly meant to imitate a walk through a grove of maple trees. But through the trees and leaves were the cat he of thousands of butterflies, their wings all lined in tarnished silver that as the golden hues of the setting sun outside shone through them all —- it was magnificent. It was a cascade of color and light across the floors.
Xie Lian’s chest ached as he smiled, eyes awash across the room.
And then — he blinked and nearly missed it — the glass —- a butterfly fluttered it’s wings, then another —
Xie Lian took a step back.
It was moving.
The stain glass was actually moving.
The trees ever so softly swayed, and leaves fluttered down as those hoards of silver winged butterflies seemed to wake, greeting the oncoming night as their wings flicked and fluttered, before taking off. They swirled in the evening light and wove in and out of the trees across the stained glass windows.
“How—“ Xie LIan’s eyes were wide as saucers as he watched the display. He reached forward, his hand touching down on a regular, cool glass pane.
“Amazing…” Xie Lian murmured.
“They dont wake up for just anyone.” A deep voice echoed behind Xie Lian
Spinning around, for the second time, Xie Lian’s eyes went wide and his breath hitched.
Standing in the doorway to the atrium was the most savagely beautiful man Xie Lian had ever seen.
There was laughter in the house, a sound so foreign as Hua Cheng had come down through the front doors — he nearly didn’t recognize the sound.
Whoever was in his manor, clearly lacked a certain required respect for the etiquette Hua Cheng had made clear.
No one stayed in his territory after dark.
No one stayed the night in one of his family's rooms.
No one poked around when all the things living in that manor came awake to greet the moon.
It was a very simple rule — and yet, Hua Cheng grinned. It seemed he’d need to reinforce some rules yet again. Maybe this intruder would last longer than those cowards with the construction team. As arrogant as they had been — a few chilling swipes form Eming and they’d scurried like rats.
What utter trash would he get to take out tonight?
There wouldn’t be anymore laughing for the night…
As Hua Cheng came through the entry way at the foot of the grand staircase, he looked to his right, just in time to see fleeting footsteps, and a brush of long brunette hair through the doorway to the atrium.
Charging forward through the east music room, Hua Cheng already had his long fingers curled around Eming’s silver handle, and a wicked grin on his face as he stepped up to the atrium doorway—
Just as he stepped into the frame, the flutter of wings caught his eye.
The hoards of butterflies captured within the stained glass were all waking, strange for them… They usually didn’t stir until midnight or so, preferring the light of the moon to be high, a picturesque moment to reflect off their razor sharp wings and yet—
The all stirred, interest clear as they fluttered through the depicted trees to greet the manor’s uninvited guest.
He was rather— small. At least a head shorter than Hue Cheng, and with narrow shoulders, even more narrow waist, and that long brush of soft warm brunette hair down his back.
“Amazing..” His voice was soft, and melodic as he took a step back, clearly marveling at the display of Hua Cheng's little vicious pets were putting on.
If Hua Cheng released them from that window, would they tear this man to shreds? Or would they act as they are now, an excited flutter and swirl of wings?
“They don't wake up for just anyone.” Hua Cheng spoke, cocking his head in curiosity.
It had been a decade or two since anyone so interesting had come to the house.
When the guest spun around — Hu Cheng felt like whatever gasps of breath he’d ever possessed when alive had all been pulled from him.
The windows behind him were a wash with golden streaming sunlight and as the man turned it graced him with a perfect golden crown alighting through those long soft locks — but that didn’t even compare to his face. He was stunning, he was ethereal! His dark eyes shone amber and his soft perfect mouth took on an ‘o’ shape as he looked at Hua Cheng.
He was absolutely breathtaking. A god descended to grace Hua Cheng’s despicable presence.
Hua Cheng for the first time in fifty years, felt his chest lurch and a cloying feeling in his throat.
He was nervous.
Hu Cheng hadn’t been nervous since he’d still had a heartbeat.
His eyes darted from side to side at the perfect, ethereal being standing in his atrium.
“Welcome to Paradise Manor,” He acted then, more impulsive than he’d ever been, taking a step down, closer, and extended his hand out, open palm to the most lovely creature he’d ever seen.
And to Hua Cheng's utter amazement, a slender pale hand reached up and laid his palm across Hua Cheng’s.
More gentle than Hua Cheng had ever afforded another human, he took that hand, curling his fingers around those perfectly pale fingers, tightening his hold as he smiled.
AN: Oh no. It’s a Ghost. In the house.
Whatever shall Xie Lian do? Lol.
Story & Art by Pitchgold