Truth of the Awakened
“…Overtime.” Ning Ning took out a stack of money from her bag and handed it to him. “They are paying me for it.”
Mu Gua leaned on the wall with his arms folded. He looked at the money in her hand with a cold and bland expression, then suddenly turned around and walked towards the room. His footsteps were heavy—very heavy, very quick—they sounded like a drum, each step was more frantic than the one before.
Crash—What fell to the floor?
Ning Ning kicked off her shoes and followed the noise.
She stood at the doorway to the room and watched as Mu Gua turned around. He was holding an overturned schoolbag in his hands, coins and notes fell out like water flowing out of a bottle, pouring down and covering the floor.
“Is that enough?” He looked up at her.
Ning Ning suddenly felt angry from the cold expression he had as he was looking at her.
“Enough?” She laughed coldly and walked over, reaching her foot out and divided a portion of the money. “This is your school fees.”
She divided another portion. “This is for your meals.”
“This is for your rent.”
“This is for your clothes and shoes.”
After she finished dividing the last portion, she patted the empty floor with her foot and laughed coldly as she folded her arms. “This amount of money is not even enough for yourself. Enough? Is that enough to provide for mom and me?”
Mu Gua’s face turned pale.
“…But you cannot do this.” He struggled to form a sentence. “You quit your original job long ago, these couldn’t be money from washing dishes…”
Ning Ning gripped the money in her hands firmly, smiling out of anger. “How do you think I got all this money? What do you think…I am doing outside?”
There was an instant when she wanted to throw the money in her hands in his face, but she had held them for too long and had used up all her strength gripping on them, thus she fell and sat on the bed. A few notes had floated out of her hands, she covered her face with her hands. “You think I like to slog my guts out for another person? The weather is so cold. I don’t want to wash the dishes, I don’t want to say ‘welcome’ to please the customers, I don’t want to come back late into the night to earn overtime pay outside at all…”
In the movies, the frostbites were just makeup effects, but here, they really hurt.
“…I’m a girl.” Her frostbitten hands that covered her face trembled slightly. “I am ruining myself now, what would I do when I get old? After I grow old, I would not be pretty anymore. I’m not cultured, when I don’t even have the strength to do labour, what would I do…? I have never thought of that.”
She suddenly put her hands down and looked at Mu Gua with teary eyes. “I was thinking about you.”
Mu Gua felt like he was punched. He stood on the spot awkwardly.
He took a step forward after a while. He raised both his arms slightly, looking like he wanted to give her a hug, but Ning Ning reached out and pushed him back.
“Sis…” Mu Gua looked at her, feeling hurt.
“…Don’t touch me.” Ning Ning lowered her head.
Right after she said those words, Ning Ning suddenly realised that, as an elder sister, as Mu Er, she had loved and hated Mu Gua. He was younger than her, weaker than her, he needed her. That was why, when something had happened to the family, it was natural for her as an elder sister to shoulder all the responsibilities, to take care of his needs and lodgings, to earn money to pay for his school fees—she also had to put up with his unreasonable bad temper.
He had burdened her, tied her down, and trapped her. Ning Ning suddenly looked up at her surroundings. Such a small, dirty and cold room, she had been staying here for the sake of saving money, she could even hear mice running across the floor after she switched off the lights. She had to endure her nights here even though she clearly had money on hand…
Ning Ning shivered and looked at the money on the ground.
“Take it, this is overtime pay. Too much? Heh heh, it’s not much—wait till you become the young lady of the Lian family, then it would be your turn to give me a tip.”
Ning Ning let out a bitter laugh, she knew why Pei Xuan gave her this overtime pay now.
This man was a partner to the thing called desire. What was scary was that lying was not what he was best at—it was the ability to pry open a gap in a person’s heart, after which he would softly sing an evil song to lure the desire to peek out its head from inside, just like a snake.
Afterall, everyone had two sides—and he was good at luring out the dark side of a person…
A few days later at the Lian house.
Her family and career seemed to be like an eternal love rival, whenever one did well, the other would flounder. Ning Ning’s family was in a mess, on the other hand, she performed really well at the Lian family.
“You’re no daughter of mine.” The second son said coldly.
“You’re no son of mine.” An even colder voice rang out from behind him.
The second son turned around and shouted at Old Master Lian who was lying on the bed, “Father!”
“Get out.” Old Master Lian said curtly.
The second son originally wanted to make a scene and not leave, but he was dragged out by Old Master Lian’s security. Old Master Lian waved for Ning Ning to approach him after the second son had left. He looked at her with a kind and pleasant countenance. “Child, tell me about yourself.”
Her character specifications were set long ago. Ning Ning sat in front of him, neither near nor far. She glanced at him occasionally, but she played with the corner of her top most of the time. “Me? I live with my mother, but I don’t even know if she is my biological mother, because she doesn’t like me one bit, she only likes my brother.”
“Favouring sons over daughters, there are a lot of people like that.” Old Master Lian asked another question, “Did you go to school?”
“I did, but I’m currently not attending school.” Ning Ning said without expression, “My mom said that girls don’t need to study too much, we get married off anyway, then we will raise kids at home.”
“Do you hate them?” Old Master Lian asked.
Ning Ning glanced at him with surprise, he seemed to have hit the nail on the head. She frowned for a very long time before she shook her head and said, “Out of the question, they are my family after all.”
“That’s right, out of the question.” Old Master Lian sighed again. He looked straight at the ceiling above him. He had felt lost for a long while before he looked at Ning Ning and said, “Say ‘Grandpa’.”
Ning Ning, “Grandpa?”
“Yes.” Old Master Lian patted her hand and smiled. “Grandpa will send you to school. I will send you to whichever school you like, you won’t have to get married off after you graduate, a man can also marry into a woman’s family in this world…”
“Stop, stop, stop!” Ning Ning said stop continuously, then looked at him with some excitement as she could not sit still. She asked carefully, “Grandpa, do you treat everyone in this family…this well?”
Old Master Lian’s eyes had a flash of a shadow. He smiled a little blandly. “Of course, I treat everyone equally well, equally well…”
Humans were close and distant to others at different times. Even if it was a family of three or four, there were times where it would be difficult to be fair, what about Old Master Lian? He was unable to be fair to everyone right now, it was even more so in the past.
Old Master Lian became absent-minded after answering the question. He talked a bit more to Ning Ning about her life before he smiled and gave a look to Lawyer Huang who was beside him. Lawyer Huang immediately told Ning Ning, “Mr Lian is a little tired, let’s stop here for today, let him rest.”
Ning Ning smiled as she stood up, “Goodbye, Grandpa. Rest well.”
The door closed firmly behind her. She knew that they wanted to discuss matters of the second audition. Old Master Lian was tired? No, he was not tired at all. Before he could find the relative who was closest to him, he would continue to be restless, just like the group of people downstairs.
Ning Ning walked down the stairs step by step. She looked at the people downstairs, the people downstairs looked back at her. They did not have the look of someone looking at their relative, they had the look of someone looking at their opponent instead.
Old Master Lian longed for family affection, but he had turned it into a battle. Since it was a battle, it was bound to be bloody and cruel, it was destined to have winners and losers. If one were to look for affection from this, they would be destined to gain none.
“How did it go?” Pei Xuan’s voice rang out from the side.
Ning Ning turned her head to look at him, she thought: It was this person, he lured out the dark side of Old Master Lian, making him long for affection but not believing in it.
“The old man said he wants to send me to school.” Ning Ning said.
Pei Xuan exclaimed, he seemed to be smiling. “I didn’t expect you to be good at pleasing middle-aged people and the elderly.”
“I only know how to please the elderly.” Ning Ning corrected him.
“You also pleased me.” Pei Xuan put a cigarette into his mouth. “I am a middle-aged person.”
The corner of Ning Ning’s mouth twitched, she felt like vomiting.
Looking at this person hurt her eyes too much, Ning Ning frantically shifted her vision to the people in the living room. They were either in groups of three or four, or brought a huge brain trust. She suddenly exclaimed, “Why is a person missing?”
Ning Ning questioned even though she had already known the answer. According to the records of Lian Lian’s biography, although five people were invited today, only four people would show up— the eldest son with his son, the third daughter and Ning Ning. The fourth son would not come because he would meet an accident along the way…
“Who knows.” Pei Xuan touched on it lightly by her side. “Maybe he met with an accident along the way.”
As his voice trailed out, a person rushed in from outside, shouting fervently at the crowd, “It’s terrible! Something happened to the fourth young master!”
Ning Ning immediately shifted her sight to Pei Xuan.
She knew this would happen because she had read the autobiography. What about him? How did he know?
At the same time, at Pei Xuan’s house.
Mu Gua was sitting on a chair in the living room, a book was placed on his knees, but he did not flip a page for a long time.
He finally closed the book out of frustration. He looked up and scanned his surroundings before wondering, “Where did everyone go?”
There were usually many people at Pei Xuan’s house, they were namely his chef, gardener and butler—but Mu Gua felt that those were not their actual occupations. Because, there was no real chef who could not even make a proper fried rice; a real gardener who could not differentiate a rose and a China rose; or a butler who could not properly brew tea.
Those people were not around today, it was only him and a fat maid.
The maid let him stay downstairs while she stayed upstairs. What was upstairs? Mu Gua who had never been upstairs didn’t know.
A loud conk rang out from upstairs.
Mu Gua jumped at the sound. He looked up. Just as he was considering whether he should go up or not, a frantic set of footsteps rang out.
A figure wearing a white nightgown appeared at the top of the stairs. She was still holding a hammer stained with blood. She was shocked the moment she saw Mu Gua, then raised the hammer with both her hands and aimed it at him. There was still blood dripping from the hammer, she shivered as she said, “Let me go!”
Mu Gua looked at her with surprise. He suddenly took off his mask and took a step towards her. “Sis, what’s wrong? Why do you look like this?”
The girl in the white nightgown who looked exactly like Ning Ning took a step back in fear.
Mu Gua stopped in his tracks abruptly. He examined her with doubt, then slowly retreated and said, “No, you are not my sister.”
He retreated to the side of the table in the living room. On the table was a fruit platter, he conveniently picked up the fruit knife that was stuck in a fruit… He flicked the fruit on the knife off to the ground and pointed the tip of the knife at the other party.
The girl in the white gown swallowed her saliva. Although both of them were armed, Mu Gua was a boy and she was a girl, he also looked physically strong while she was frail, she could not get physical with him.
“What happened to Auntie Li?” Mu Gua had seen the blood on her hammer, he coldly asked, “Did you kill her?”
Auntie Li was the fat maid. The girl in the white gown was shocked, frantically shaking her head. “I did not kill her, I only knocked her out, I had no choice either… Hold on, sister? Do you have a sister who looks exactly like me? You are her brother?”
Mu Gua’s eyebrows twitched, “So what if it is?”
The girl in the white gown suddenly laughed out loud.
Her laugh annoyed Mu Gua. He took another step towards her again and asked coldly, “What are you laughing about?”
“I am an actress.” The girl in white gown stopped smiling and told him, “One day, Pei Xuan found me and told me that I looked like the illegitimate daughter of a rich family who had died from an accident. He had paid me to act as her. ”
Mu Gua understood a lot after hearing what she had said. For example, why Pei Xuan looked for his sister then dressed her up beautifully, it made him misunderstand that they were…
“Then I also accidentally met up with an accident. I was run over by a car and had turned into a vegetable.” The girl in the white gown said, “That was when he approached your sister, because your sister looked exactly like me. Ha, I’m guessing that he said this, ‘No risk no reward, if you were to work normally, you would need to wash dishes for ten years before you can afford the leather boots you are wearing right now’, ’If you were to work starting from the republic years until now, then you would be able to afford this house’, ’As long as you nod now, all of these will belong to you’…”
“I don’t get it.” Mu Gua furrowed his brows. “Why do you want to run away from something that good?”
The girl in white gown fell silent for a moment before she said, “Because he lied to me.”
Mu Gua, “…What do you mean?”
“…I woke up a month ago.” The girl in white gown seemed to have remembered something scary as her lips trembled. “At that time, I was dead in Pei Xuan’s eyes. There are a lot of things he would not say to a living person, which he would to a dead one…”
This matter implicated his sister, Mu Gua urged, “What did he say?”
“I heard too much, so much so that I did not even dare to open my eyes, I could only continue to pretend to be a vegetable.” The girl in white gown slowly said, “Especially after I heard that even though he seeked me out, he did not intend for me to be a living Lian family mistress, but a dead Lian family mistress…“
There was a buzz in Mu Gua’s head, he shook his head. “How can that be…”
“Do you not understand?!” The girl in white gown screamed at him, venting the fear and rage in her heart, “He looked for people to groom us, teaching us how to be pretty in front of the camera, it was all for when we die at the Lian house, so that we would have a good-looking photo to be published on the newspaper, the headline would be–”
Once she had said what the headline would be, Mu Gua did not stay in the room any longer, he rushed out of the entrance of the villa.
In the living room of Lian Estate.
“What? He was detained at the police station?”
“He was reported? He had killed someone with his car? Is that true?”
“Wait a minute, I remember now, something like that seemed to have happened, but wasn’t it kept under wraps? Who disclosed it?”
Everyone broke out in a flurry of discussions, but they were just talks, no one was willing to step up to bail him. Some of them were happy that misfortune fell upon him instead.
Ning Ning could not help but frown upon looking at what was happening.
Something was fishy…
This didn’t happen before or after, it had to happen at this crucial juncture of time, it seemed like someone had a hand in it no matter how she looked at it.
“To us, it’s a good thing.” Pei Xuan smiled at her gently from her side. “We have one less opponent, am I right?”