Big Brother’s Lover
When Wen Yu arrived at Li Shan Zhu’s house, it was empty, Ning Ning was nowhere to be seen.
The landlord said after helping him open the door, “I told you, she had already left with him.”
“Whom did she leave with?” Wen Yu asked.
“There.” The landlord looked down at the photo frame which had a crack on it. “It was this person.”
The photo frame with three people, a face that was blotted out, Wen Yu picked it up from the floor, asking, “What’s this person’s name? What’s his relationship with Li Shan Zhu? ”
“I don’t know.” The landlord shook their head. “Li Shan Zhu was the one who rented the place, he has rented it for about half a year I think, he rarely stays here, but…”
“But what?” Wen Yu asked.
“But every time he comes over, he would bring two big bags of trash down.” The landlord looked at the photo frame in his hand. “So I asked him, ‘ You don’t even live here, where does all this rubbish come from?’ He smiled without answering, but I knew…he was keeping someone here.”
At the same time, the entrance of a clothing store opened, Ning Ning walked out with a shopping bag.
“Thanks.” The man in the photo frame took a brand new peaked cap from Ning Ning and put it on his head. He pressed down the brim of the hat and smiled. “Now I won’t be recognized by anyone.”
“Shan Shui,” Ning Ning asked him, “why did you want to fake your death?”
Li Shan Shui remained silent for a moment before he cracked a lonely smile. “Why else? Debt evasion.”
Even if he was quite a famous artist, after meeting a big spender that was Zhang Xin Ai, he was quickly unable to make ends meet. Diamond rings, designer items, five star hotels—her desires were insatiable. Li Shan Shui’s savings dwindled day by day, until in the end, for the sake of saving up for the Hawaii wedding she wanted, he took on a huge debt.
A pedestrian walked by, Li Shan Shui reflexively raised his right arm. Ning Ning saw that there were a lot of injuries on his arm—scars left behind by rods and knives—there were old and new scars, criss-crossing each other. He covered his face with his right arm for a while. It was only after the pedestrian walked past that he gradually put his arm down. He smiled at Ning Ning. “How awkward, I recognised the wrong person.”
“Whom did you mistake that person for?” Ning Ning asked, “A creditor?”
“Ah.” Li Shan Shui answered ambivalently. “Where should we stay tonight?”
Ning Ning’s house was now a murder scene, they could not return to Li Shan Shui’s house either. Not long later, a key twisted inside a keyhole, a door slowly opened, the light switched on and illuminated the easel and plaster statues within—the two of them had returned to Li Shan Shui’s atelier.
The initial atelier, the last atelier.
Ning Ning looked at the clock on the wall, eleven o’clock.
She looked at Li Shan Shui at her side, he was coughing twice with his back to Ning Ning, he seemed as if he was rubbing something off the corner of his mouth. He then turned his head and smiled at her. “Give me a moment, I’ll tidy this place up.”
The atelier had a sofa on which a person could sleep, he pulled open a cabinet and grabbed a blanket from within, smiling. “There’s only a blanket.”
“I’ll sleep in the blanket, you can hug me to sleep.”
“Haha…alright, but before we sleep, let’s eat first.”
They did not eat out. The two of them had lunch boxes and beers that were bought from a convenience store. Although they heated the lunch box up in the convenience store, it got slightly cold when it was brought back. The two did not seem to care, they shared the food down to the last bite.
“I’m a little bloated, I don’t want to lie down that quickly.” Ning Ning touched her stomach.
“Then stand there for a while.” Li Shan Shui shifted his sight to the easel. “Shall I draw a portrait of you?”
“Sure.” Ning Ning smiled.
Just like countless times before, she became his model, he became her personal artist—as he took a brush and stood in front of the easel.
Ning Ning’s phone rang repeatedly in her purse. Li Shan Shui asked, “Are you not taking that?”
“There’s no need.” Ning Ning glanced at the clock. It would be the weekend in an hour, the time for Zhang Xin Ai’s death was arriving soon. Besides Li Shan Shui who was in front of her, she could not think of anyone else who could be the murderer.
After all, he had motive and had put into motion a series of actions.
“The photo frame at home.” Ning Ning looked at Li Shan Shui. “The person who blotted my face out wasn’t Shan Zhu but you, right?”
“…” Li Shan Shui continued to paint. Swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish—the sound of the brush on paper. There was only a head on the drawing paper, there was no body, he was forcefully blotting the face out.
“When did you find out about…my dealings with other men?” Ning Ning asked.
Li Shan Shui tore up the drawing paper in front of him, rolled it up in a ball and tossed it aside, then changed it to another piece of paper.
“For the sake of saving up for the Hawaii wedding you wanted, I borrowed money from a lot of people.” The brush landed on the paper again, Li Shan Shui said in a seemingly calm manner, “Including Big Brother Hai.”
When men got together, they liked to talk about women—especially after drinking, there would be no limits to what they would discuss about. That day, Big Brother Hai got high from drinking, he talked about his new sweetheart—how did he talk about it?
“I recently got off with an actress.”
“Oh? Who is it?”
“It’s Zhang Xin Ai! Haha, I would not have known if I had not slept with her, she was such a hussy, she almost sucked me dry. I had only wanted to fool around with her for a bit, but now…I’m completely smitten.”
“That’s really funny, isn’t it?” Li Shan Shui laughed behind the easel. “I took up close to five million in debt for you, but you slept with other men while I was going around borrowing money.”
He was clearly laughing, but his haggard face made Ning Ning felt some pity. Even so, she was currently portraying Zhang Xin Ai, she could only tell him this as Zhang Xin Ai, “Don’t feel that way, I have some money, I’ll help you pay off your debt…”
“Enough!!” Li Shan Shui suddenly threw the brush on the floor, shouting at her uncontrollably, “Do you take me for a fool?! When would you ever spend money on someone else? You had always spent them on yourself, you had never cared for me!”
“Aren’t I caring now?” Ning Ning shouted back in retaliation, “I told you, I will pay off the debt!”
“Stop joking, five million, can you afford that?”
A blanket was tossed at her from across the room, covering Ning Ning’s face. A snow-white blanket, like the cloth used to wrap a corpse. She was pushed down onto the sofa, Li Shan Shui’s hands pressed down through the blanket, pressing down on her face. She could not breathe, she could not speak either…
At the same time, within the police station.
“Five million?” Li Shan Zhu cracked a weird smile. “This debt was paid off long ago.”
The policeman in front of him was taken aback.
He had finished getting his testimony taken in the afternoon, but not two hours later, a new development came to light. Li Shan Zhu’s house seemed to house another person, that person was his brother, a man who could only fake his death after getting into a debt of five million.
He must have hated Zhang Xin Ai a lot. He took on the debt for her, but she cheated on him behind his back instead.
How much did he hate her? There was already evidence for that. The person who called Big Brother Hai and Little Ke, the person who divulged Zhang Xin Ai’s secrets was Li Shan Shui. He had been hiding out in the apartment after he had faked his death, he then called every one of Zhang Xin Ai’s lovers, instigating them to kill her.
When it came down to it, the source of the hatred was love, and debt.
“When was it paid off?” The policeman asked, “Who paid it off for him?”
The name everyone least expected came out of Li Shan Zhu’s mouth. “Big Sister Little Ai.”
“Is that very strange?” He laughed, the more he laughed the more vicious he sounded. “Big Sister Little Ai loves my brother dearly. A thrillseeker like her, she can two-time a father and his son, a boss and his subordinate, a teacher and his student, but she was unwilling to touch me, because I am his brother.”
“Brother loved her dearly too. It was not until the moment when I showed him a half naked photo of Big Sister Little Ai taking off her wedding gown—and told him that she was the one who sent it to me—that he believed me… Actually, that photo was one that I secretly took. I lied to him. I told him that Big Sister Little Ai wanted to seduce me, that the two of us siblings were no different to anyone else in her eyes, that we were all prey who provided her with the thrill she seeked.“
“Actually no such thing happened. She was the same as him, she had been waiting for the wedding for a very long time. He used up all his savings for the wedding, she used up all her savings to pay off his debt…” Li Shan Zhu leaned back on the chair, looking up at the dusky ceiling, his eyes were also dusky. “After he died, she did not call off the wedding, she planned to have the wedding alone in Hawaii. Before that, she even planned to break up with all her lovers. Haha, what a fool…”
The atelier gradually regained its peace, the person under the blanket gradually stopped struggling.
“…I’m a fool.” Li Shan Shui slowly removed the blanket. He lowered his head and looked down at his lifeless fiancee, his smile was sweet yet bitter. “Little Ai, do you know why I blotted your portrait out?”
Someone suddenly knocked the door down, Wen Yu and the police rushed in.
“Call the ambulance quickly!”
Wen Yu stopped in his tracks when he walked past an easel.
It was a half-length portrait of Zhang Xin Ai.
There were a few paper balls that had been tossed to the side. If one were to open them, they would see that they were all portraits of Zhang Xin Ai, blotted out before they were completed. The only one that was not blotted out in time was the half-length portrait in front of him. Although it was just a few strokes of brush outlining the shape, it looked lifelike under the light, it was charming and attractive, every strand of hair seemed to be shining with light, it was as beautiful as the goddess of love.
The artist seemed to be saying with his brush, “My love for you flows through this brush. When I look into your eyes, I want to say I love you. When I hear you speak, I want to forgive you. Only by covering your face with a blanket, not being able to see a thing, not being able to hear a thing, will I be able to steel my heart and kill you…”
Wen Yu’s vision shifted away from the portrait and moved onto Li Shan Shui who was opposite of him.
He sat on the sofa in a daze, he did not even react when a policeman walked past him. All he did was to quietly stare at Zhang Xin Ai, his eyes were hollow, there was nothing there.
“She was my (big) brother’s lover.”
Within the police station, Li Shan Zhu looked at the ceiling with the same hollow expression, muttering, “She came for him, she changed for him, in the end, she died for him. From the beginning till the end, I could not replace my brother.”
Within Life Theater, Ning Ning opened her eyes.
…In the past, she had always opened her eyes on a chair, this time she opened her eyes in the midst of ruins.
“What happened?” She looked around her. Before she could stand up from the wreckage, a pair of hands reached out and picked her up from the floor in a rough manner.
A fox mask, long and wavy hair, it was Zhang Xin Ai.
“What are you doing?” A man’s palm reach out behind Ning Ning accompanied by a teasing tone. The palm smacked Zhang Xin Ai’s hand down while his other hand pulled Ning Ning into his embrace. A man wearing a jade mask gazed at Zhang Xin Ai, the corners of his eyes were like peach blossoms as they usually were. “The movie has already ended.”
“No!” Zhang Xin Ai reached out and grabbed Ning Ning’s arms. “After getting murdered three hundred and sixty-two times, why did you not kill Li Shan Zhu a single time! Just once! Once is enough! Shan Shui and I…”
She started crying abruptly. “Would have been saved.”
Ning Ning felt chills in her body. So that was it, this was the idea she had. Not saying anything she would not say, not doing anything she would not do—would guarantee that she would walk into Li Shan Zhu’s plot to murder her, then die infinitely, repeat infinitely. This repetition would make Ning Ning feel numb, fed up, broken down. Once Ning Ning were to fail to persevere and killed Li Shan Zhu…
Then Li Shan Zhu who was supposed to be alive in the future would die in this movie.
“Even if Li Shan Zhu were to die, the fate of Li Shan Shui and you would not have changed much.” Shi Zhong Tang’s voice rang out from the side, he said blandly, “No man would be able to endure being made a cuckold that many times. You have been wrong from the beginning. If you want to change the future, the thing you should change the most is yourself…”
He laughed. “But there’s no use talking about these things now, you don’t have a ticket anymore. As a masked person who has lost the main character ticket which belongs to you, you should know what will happen to you right?”