Get Back on Track
In the hospital, the doctors and nurses were busy with work.
Chen Ju was lying on the hospital bed, there was a doctor standing by the bed who pointed at her and asked, “Did we contact the family of this patient?”
“We did.” A nurse answered.
“Did they say when they will pay up?” The doctor asked.
“It seems like something happened to them.” The nurse answered, “Their house was burnt down, now the two kids did not have anywhere to stay, they are borrowing money to get by.”
“Such a thing happened actually happened.” The doctor shook their head as they sighed. “When it rains it pours, but they can’t just leave her here and ignore her.”
Just as their voice trailed off, a weak voice rang out from behind them, “Doctor, I’m here to bring my mother home.”
The two of them turned around and saw a pair of siblings standing at the door of the ward.
Ning Ning looked a lot more frail, even Mu Gua had slimmed down by quite a bit, after his originally fat face that hid his features had slimmed down, he was actually slowly starting to have the elegance of a teenage boy.
Once they finished the hospital discharge procedures, Ning Ning bent down and told Mu Gua, “Here, give me a hand and get mom on my back.”
After the house burnt down, the two of them completely lost their source of income. Although Ning Ning tried her best to borrow money from relatives and friends, the world had more people that would give you a hand when you were successful than people who would throw you a bone when you were down. The money she had received from bitterly begging was only enough to temporarily rent a dilapidated apartment for the two of them to stay in—at least they did not have to resort to living in an unstable building—then Ning Ning found a job and finally made enough money to pay off Chen Ju’s medical fees.
Since their life had become like this, they certainly could not afford to buy a wheelchair for Chen Ju, they could only use their strength to piggyback her home.
“Ok.” Mu Gua acknowledged and walked to the side of the bed.
Ning Ning was hunched over, waiting for a long while, she looked back and was shocked, “What are you doing?”
Mu Gua was carrying Chen Ju but he did not put her on Ning Ning’s back. Instead, he immediately walked towards the door. Upon hearing Ning Ning’s shout, he yelled back without looking at her, “Why do you care?”
Ever since the house caught fire and Ning Ning gave him a slap, he had prematurely entered the rebellious phase. Now, if Ning Ning wanted him to go east, he would go west, if she wanted him to go to heaven, he would go to hell. He recently threw a tantrum about wanting to drop out of school and to start working so that he could go his separate ways from Ning Ning.
You can’t! That doesn’t suit your character specification, little brother!
Ning Ning frantically chased after him. She said in a low and gentle voice, “Aren’t you going to have an exam this afternoon? Don’t tire yourself out, just let me piggyback mom home.”
“Aren’t you also going to work in the afternoon? Why should you care if I’m tired?” Mu Gua answered stiffly, “Moreover, I don’t even want to study anymore, why should I care about the exam?”
Ning Ning felt dizzy upon hearing that.
Little Fatty, you can’t do that!
Your character specification clearly stated that you are a lazy hamster—passionate in hoarding food and running around aimlessly to slim down—but that version of you has an undeniable quality—a top student. Although your character made people despise you, but your results in school made you “that other kid” among the neighbours. Later on, you graduated with flying colours and found an excellent job.
Even with that, you remained as a fatty up to your forties, never slimming down.
…Not only are you slimming down now, you are also giving up on your only quality…
Mu Gua took two steps before turning back and frowning, “Sis, what are you doing?”
“It’s, it’s nothing.” Ning Ning held herself up with one arm on the wall, her other hand was pressing on her forehead. “I was just a little dizzy, it’s fine now.”
She put her hand that was pressing on her forehead down and walked towards Mu Gua. The two of them stood in front of the elevator, it then opened with a ding.
There were people in the elevator, a few men were pushing an empty wheelchair, all of them looked towards Ning Ning.
Ning Ning looked at the man standing in the middle, then lowered her head and followed Mu Gua into the elevator.
The elevator door slowly closed in front of them, a gentle and familiar voice rang out from behind Ning Ning, “Which floor?”
“First floor, thank you.” Mu Gua answered.
A hand reached out from behind Ning Ning and pressed the first floor (button).
But the elevator continued climbing up. The familiar voice laughed behind Ning Ning. “My apologies, we are going up.”
“It’s fine.” Mu Gua said without care.
“You don’t like to talk?” The familiar voice rang out beside Ning Ning’s ear, his voice was especially close to Ning Ning this time.
“Haven’t I been talking to you…Hey!” Mu Gua turned around and saw what was happening, he immediately turned into a hedgehog and angrily said, “What are you doing? Keep your distance from my sis!”
The elevator door opened with a ding. Mu Gua and Ning Ning gave way as the three men pushed the empty wheelchair out of the door. Mu Gua quickly pressed on the close door button after they went out.
The moment the elevator doors closed, the man outside slowly turned back.
Dressed sharply in a suit while wearing gold-rimmed glasses, beaming with a refined and cultured smile—he would smile this way as he cut steak for you, he would also smile this way as he pushed you into a sea of flames.
The elevator door finally finished closing itself up, covering up his smile.
Ning Ning immediately breathed a sigh of relief, her shoulders drooped.
“What’s with you? That was a huge sigh.” Mu Gua clearly misunderstood the situation as he coldly said, “Do you like this type of man?”
“That’s not it.” Ning Ning denied it immediately, “I can’t really stand that type of man, talking into my ear when we clearly don’t know each other.”
“Then why didn’t you hit him?” Mu Gua was even more angry now.
“There were a few of them.”
“You didn’t even think things through like you just did when you hit me!”
The two of them argued as they walked out of the hospital. They were already almost at the doorstep of their home when Ning Ning came back to her senses.
“Are you tired? Do you want me to carry her?” She asked.
“No, we’re almost there.” Mu Gua said in a low muffled voice, “Quickly go cook, you have to go to work after lunch.”
They had a simple lunch, a plate of cabbage and a plate of potatoes along with two bowls of rice.
The two of them couldn’t even afford tables and chairs, they laid out newspaper on the floor and used them as a table, eating as they sat crossed legged.
“Hey.” Mu Gua took out a folded piece of paper and tossed it at Ning Ning after he finished eating.
Ning Ning caught it then opened it up and took a look, unexpectedly, it was a poster hiring troupe actors.
“Quit your current job.” Mu Gua said blandly as he picked up his bowl and chopsticks, “Didn’t you want to be an actress? Give it a shot.”
Ning Ning flipped the poster over towards him and pointed at the fine print at the bottom, “Welfare Troupe, unpaid position.”
“I’ll go to work then.” Mu Gua snorted. “I can do a lot more things compared to a girl like you, I will definitely earn more than you as well.”
Ning Ning smiled at him then put the poster aside and stood up. “Remember to go take your exams, get a good score. I’m going to work.”
Mu Gua remained seated with his back towards her, he suddenly asked the moment she opened the door, “Wasn’t your dream to become an actress?”
Ning Ning held the door open and answered him with her back towards him, “Wasn’t attending Tsinghua University your dream?”
Mu Gua turned his head around and looked at her.
Ning Ning did not turn around, she answered him blandly, “Between the two of us, there will be one that has to give up on their dream.”
Mu Gua viciously hammered the ground with his fist the moment the door closed.
“Why do you not scold me? It’s all because of me that you…” Ning Ning heard his shouting.
On the way to work, Ning Ning felt hazy.
“This fellow is feeling guilty?” she thought, “Why would he be guilty? This doesn’t fit his character specifications.”
She finally found a job with a lot of difficulty after the fire, this was the first time she had a brief respite since then. She started to think about the plans for the future, she thought about how she could let these two siblings—especially Mu Gua—go back onto the right track in life.
“But what is the right track?” Ning Ning felt even more hazy.
Lian Lian’s autobiography could not be labelled as an autobiography as it wasn’t completely true.
It had some truths. For example, Ning Ning definitely stayed at Friendship Bistro, she definitely did have a fat little brother. It also had some mistruths—the most obvious being Lian Lian—her sister who was born into the same poor family, who had dropped out of school, who had put up with an annoying little brother and had vied to be a big celebrity—did not exist at all.
“Lian Lian lied to me, we do not know each other at all.” Ning Ning thought, “Friends ranging from those that I made in kindergarten to those in high school visited me, there were even friends from my childhood. I asked every one of them, but no one knew who Lian Lian is.”
A person who did not exist.
Or you could say a person who had zero ties with her.
How could Ning Ning believe what Lian Lian wrote to be true? Maybe Lian Lian got to know Mu Er by coincidence, then coincidentally had a meal at their house, met her mother who ran the scam shop along with her fat little brother, then randomly decided to include them when she was writing the autobiography?
“Sigh, I can’t figure it out, forget it.” Ning Ning sighed. “There are more pressing matters at hand. I should earn some money and renovate the apartment, treat Chen Ju, then put everything back on track…but where do I get such a big amount of money?”
Ning Ning walked into the hotel she was working at with a heavy heart.
Behind her, the crew-cut man who had followed her all the way did not go in with her, he stood behind a tree and took out his pager instead.
Within the hospital, Pei Xuan’s pager beeped.
“Apologies, I need to take a call.” He smiled at the doctor in front of him, turned around and walked out of the door as he asked, “How is it?”
“It’s as we’ve heard.” The crew-cut man answered, “No dad, mom’s a vegetable, there is also a little brother in high school. Besides that, there are no other relatives. Their house was burned down. She’s now working after she dropped out of school. Working at a hotel, in severe lack of money…Brother Pei, I think we can make use of this person.”
“Whether we can use her is not for you to say, I will decide.” Pei Xuan answered blandly, “Continue observing her.”
He returned to the ward after he hung up.
The discharge procedures were done. A lackey pushed a wheelchair out, a teenage girl was on the wheelchair, she was wearing a face mask which covered her true looks.
Pei Xuan reached out and touched her face. Her eyes were firmly shut, she seemed to be sleeping soundly.
“Once the plan starts, it cannot be stopped, I have to get everything back on track.” Pei Xuan told her apologetically, “Apologies, I have to find someone to replace you, Lian Lian.”