Keeping a Clear Mind
Cash on delivery.
Ning Yu Ren handed over a silver suitcase as Pei Xuan handed over the envelope.
Within the envelope were tickets, within the suitcase was money.
Pei Xuan opened the suitcase and inspected the money, then closed it up with a smile. He reached a hand out to her. “Thank you for your patronage.”
Ning Yu Ren shook his hand unwillingly. She wanted to retract her hand the moment her fingers touched his, but he pulled her into his embrace.
“Suddenly paying such a huge amount of money, wouldn’t you have tough days to come?” Pei Xuan hugged her, his enchanting voice sounded like a snake from the Garden of Eden, tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. “Actually there is another method you can use, a much easier method to get tickets from me…”
“…There’s no need.” Ning Yu Ren pushed him away without waiting for him to finish. She took a few steps back as if she was avoiding a snake or a scorpion.
“Alright then.” Pei Xuan shrugged. He picked up the two suitcases with both hands and nodded to her. “Contact me if you need me for anything.”
He turned around once he finished speaking, his coat fluttering in the air behind him, a train’s horn rang out in the distance.
Ning Yu Ren looked down at the envelope in her hands, rubbing it with her thumb, the words ‘Yan Qing’ were written on the envelope. She looked up all of a sudden and shouted at his back, “How exactly did you get these tickets?”
“That’s a trade secret.” Pei Xuan turned his face, the brim of his hat cast a shadow, the corner of his lips were curled up in it.
Ning Ning clenched on the envelope in her hand and looked at the camera with a complicated expression.
“Mama…” Ning Ning had stood up from her seat at this time.
The two mother and daughter were looking at each other through the screen for a moment. Ning Ning fell back to the seat when the shot cutaway, she held her head in her hands as she asked in agony, “The person who bought the tickets is Mama, how much do you think Mama knows?”
“She doesn’t know anything.” Shi Zhong Tang consoled her. “She would not have asked if she did.”
Ning Ning breathed a sigh of relief, then sighed again in sorrow.
“…My mother is a very meticulous person. When she was healthy, she would personally take care of everything in the house, everything would be in order, she took very good care of me.” Ning Ning reminisced about her life in the past, repeating parts of her memory over and over again. “I really liked that period of my life. She would prepare water for me to wash my face with, I would help her squeeze toothpaste on her toothbrush, then we would brush our teeth in front of the mirror together…”
She closed her eyes and temporarily placed the warmth of that beautiful memory back into her heart, then opened her eyes to face reality.
“…A meticulous person like her would definitely investigate the name on the letter.” Her voice trembled a little. “What happened after she found out? Would she continue to buy tickets from Pei Xuan? If she continued buying them, Pei Xuan would continue..”
Continue his life of crime.
Pushing a person into the depths of life, forcing them to suffer, to despair, to then attract the movie tickets.
“…I have to go.” Ning Ning stood up abruptly with an extremely anxious expression on her face. “I have to look for someone, I have to get to the bottom of this.”
She moved hurriedly in between the rows of wooden chairs, her footsteps were frantically moving towards the direction of the entrance. Shi Zhong Tang’s voice rang out from behind her as she was halfway through.
“Ning Ning.” He shouted.
Ning Ning stopped in her tracks and turned back to look at him.
“Look.” Shi Zhong Tang remained seated as he pointed to the front.
Ning Ning slowly turned her head and looked at the direction he was pointing at.
A pair of cumbersome feet appeared on the movie screen. They walked up a flight of stairs step by step as if they were cuffed by an invisible chain.
A pair of pale arms pushed the black doors in front of them open, the wind from the rooftop rushed onto the face of a person who had reached the end of the line.
Ning Ning sighed as she watched Yan Qing walk step by step to the edge of the rooftop. Ning Ning closed her eyes, she simply could not bear to watch this scene.
“Keep watching.” Shi Zhong Tang insisted, “Keep watching, Ning Ning.”
“What’s there to watch?” Ning Ning said with difficulty.
There was another reason for her wanting to leave as soon as possible, she did not want to watch what happened to Yan Qing.
As a spectator, Ning Ning could not do too much for the main character Yan Qing, because the price of changing Yan Qing’s fate would be Ning Ning’s life. No matter what she tried, no matter how hard she tried, no matter whom she tried to use to help change Yan Qing’s fate, she had failed by the looks of it now.
In the end, Yan Qing would still go back on track to her original fate.
She stood on the rooftop and looked down at the crowd of people below.
Yan Qing was very far away and could not hear what they had to say, but as the audience, Ning Ning could hear and see everything. She saw that there was someone who was smiling, it looked like the person was waiting for a show. She could hear a middle-aged woman smugly saying to a person beside her, “Didn’t I tell you? She would not make it past three months before committing suicide. Cheating was one thing, but she even held a fake funeral to lie to everyone, she even caused me and my two daughters to be at odds with each other. They said that my words were too much and it made her take her life. Hey, how was it too much? Doesn’t a person who lies to her husband deserve to die?”
Fallacious reasoning and self-proclaimed justice, the problem was that there was a market for what she was saying. There were actually quite a number of people agreeing with her. Once the number of people supporting the opinion increased, the number of people who disagreed with it would decrease. Or it would be more accurate to say that they would choose to remain silent to protect themselves. Their silence would then fan the flames on the other side. The cycle would repeat itself. The voice of one side would get louder, the other side would get softer—this was a silent spiral.
This type of spiral was very difficult to break free from. It would require an even stronger opinion along with an even stronger instigator, or an even stronger crowd. But what did Yan Qing have? She had nothing…
As she slowly stepped out with her right foot, Ning Ning closed her eyes.
“The world kisses me with pain, but I repay it with a song.”
The singing voice of an adolescent boy rang out, it was like finding an oasis while drifting in the desert.
Ning Ning opened her eyes abruptly.
“When it hurts, don’t close your eyes.”
Wen Yu’s face appeared on screen. It was not just him who was there, there were three or four more classmates behind him. They were a little embarrassed at first. Although they were also singing, their voices were as soft as a mosquito, you could only hear them if you put your ear to their mouths.
“Where did you lot come from? It’s already late. Why are the few of you students not at home doing your homework? Do your parents know that you are here?” The middle-aged woman from before shouted at them with an unfriendly expression.
Wen Yu took a look at her. He walked towards her with a bag in hand, then took out something from the bag and shoved it in her hand.
The middle-aged woman looked down, it was a candle.
Just as she was confused on what to do with it, Wen Yu struck a match and helped her light the candle up.
The other students looked at each other, then copied Wen Yu and gave the candles out to everyone.
“Open your eyes.” Wen Yu lit up the candle in his hand. He looked up at Yan Qing as he sang, “In the darkness of the night, thousands of flames light up for you.”
“You’re crazy.” The middle-aged woman tossed the candle to the floor and snuffed the flame out by stepping on it.
There were a few people who followed her example and threw their candles on the floor.
The middle-aged woman raised her head smugly, only to be astounded to find out that there were quite a lot of people who were holding the candles, lighting up the candles for Yan Qing.
“What are you doing?” She could not help but shout, “You adults are also taking part in the monkey business of a few students? Standing up for that bitch up there, have you people slept with her as well?”
A few men frantically threw their candles to the ground to avoid suspicion. Just as the others were wavering, Wen Yu suddenly turned around and looked at the middle-aged woman, he asked her loudly, “Have you never made a mistake in your life, have you never been slandered before?”
The middle-aged woman laughed coldly, “I have never made a mistake like the one she made, cheating…”
Wen Yu, “What you are doing now is murder.”
The middle aged woman furrowed her brows, “What are you talking about?”
“The police will come later, I will tell them honestly.” Wen Yu looked at her seriously, “Teacher Yan could have survived, but you fanned the flames and forced her to jump off the building.”
The middle-aged woman stomped her feet as she heard those words, she said furiously, “You little brat, you are slandering me!”
“How does it feel to be slandered?” Wen Yu asked her.
The middle-aged woman was taken aback by those words.
Wen Yu slowly scanned his surroundings, the people who fanned the flames, the people who remained silent, the few classmates who stood beside him.
“Have you never made a mistake in your life? Have you never been slandered before?” Wen Yu asked them, then looked down and picked up a candle and gave it to a person beside him. That person had an awkward expression on his face, but he reluctantly accepted the candle. Just as the person was about to say something, Wen Yu addressed everyone present: “I don’t expect all of you to help me, but I hope that at the very least, you won’t stop us from saving a person. If Teacher Yan is guilty, the court will pass judgment, if Teacher Yan is innocent, all of you will be an accomplice to a murder. It wasn’t a murderer, all of you killed her.”
Once he was done speaking, Wen Yu did not look at the crowd of people anymore. He held the candle and walked up the building as he sang.
“Teacher Yan.” The flame lit up his young and chaste face, he told Yan Qing who was not far from him, “This is the song you taught me.”
Yan Qing had her back to him, she did not turn her head.
More and more footsteps rang out from behind him, more and more people had appeared. Some of them held a candle, some didn’t, some were there to watch the commotion, some were there to save her.
“I believe you.” Wen Yu said to her, “I will gather evidence and make others believe you too. Although there are not many people who believe you now, the number will increase. Teacher Yan, please believe in me and believe in yourself… As long as you are innocent, time will eventually clear your name.”
Yan Qing’s body trembled a little, then she slowly turned her head around.
Her face had been filled with tears long ago.
Wen Yu ran over hastily. He helped her off the dangerous side of the rooftop. The two of them took a few steps towards the crowd. The middle-aged woman tsk-ed twice, she looked like she was about to say something but Yan Qing suddenly looked up and stared at her.
“I hate you and the others more than I do Pei Xuan and Yun Lin.” Yan Qing’s gaze moved from the middle-aged woman to the crowd behind her, her eyes were filled with the flames of rage. “The two of them had their reasons to harm me, but what about all of you? Do you know who I am? You don’t even know me, you don’t have anything against me, there’s nothing you could gain from harming me, so why do you want to harm me? Do you feel happy watching me bleed? Do you feel happy watching me die? Answer me!! Answer me!! Arghhhh!!”
She suddenly howled towards the sky, it was as if the accumulated grievance and rage had been vocalised, erupting from her like lava. It was a long and forlorn shout, which in the end turned into a sobbing plea, “I did not even cheat, why do I have to die for something I didn’t even do? I want to live, to live till…time proves my innocence!”
The screen darkened, the ending theme started playing.
It was no longer the ternary form of the song ‘Person by the Pillow’, it was a song which contained pain and warmth.
“The world kisses me with pain.” Yan Qing’s voice was elevated to the sky, as if it was flying with a pair of battle-scarred wings, “But I repay it with a song!”
The credits started rolling.
At the end, the title of the film appeared.
<<Silent No Longer>>
An applause rang out in the empty theater.
Shi Zhong Tang stood up as he applauded, he said with a smile, “That’s my brother for you! Well done!”
Then he turned around and gently told Ning Ning, “You did well too.”
Ning Ning covered her mouth with her hands, tears were welling up at the corners of her eyes.
There would always be some movies, characters, or plots which would move people if they were to watch it.
“I know you, I also know my brother. The two of you are actually similar, what you want to do is also what he wants to do.” Shi Zhong Tang slowly walked towards her and reached his hand out to wipe her cheeks, “So you see, you are not alone in the cinema, right?”
Ning Ning was a little confused, she carelessly nodded at him.
“It’s not just him, I’m here too.” Shi Zhong Tang reached out and hugged her, he whispered to her, “No matter what happens in the future, don’t despair immediately. Open your eyes and look at him, then look at me. You have to know that you don’t only have enemies in the world, you have friends too…although I am only your ex-boyfriend.”
“No, you’re not.” Ning Ning said bleakly in his embrace.
“Haha, then I’m your current boyfriend?” Shi Zhong Tang teased.
“…” Ning Ning did not answer.
Shi Zhong Tang stayed silent for a moment before pushing her out of his embrace with a smile. “Alright, alright. Didn’t you want to find someone to get to the bottom of this? Quickly go.”
Ning Ning looked at him with a complicated expression for a while before acknowledging him softly and turning around to leave.
“…What do you get out of helping her like that?” A masked person asked after Ning Ning left. The other masked persons were also staring at Shi Zhong Tang even though they did not say a word.
“I just like her.” Shi Zhong Tang said without hesitation.
“Then you should make her despair more.” The masked person shook his head. “That’s the only way you can pull her in and make her stay by your side forever.”
“…Maybe there will be a day when I will want that.” Shi Zhong Tang gazed at the direction Ning Ning left in, he tilted his head and said with a gentle expression, “But for now, I just want to love her from the dark.”
No one knew what kind of choice they would make in the future, most people would make a choice in the present due to a regret in the past.
In a coffee shop, Ning Ning and Cui Hong Mei stared at each other, at a loss of what to do. Both were wearing weird expressions on their faces.
“…I thought that you will never take the initiative to call me out until the day I die.” Cui Hong Mei drank her coffee to mask her unease.
Ning Ning also did not think that she would ever take the initiative to contact Cui Hong Mei in her life. She coughed twice to mask her awkwardness, then she started, “You told me before that you knew what Mama spent her money on…”
After a pause, Ning Ning stared into Cui Hong Mei’s eyes and asked, “Did she spend all her money on tickets?”