Edited by AlexPT and Planetes
Once I left the hospital, I hailed a taxi and gave the driver the address of the gated community where Yi Tian lived.
The driver kept looking back at me through the rearview mirror, sizing me up. He probably was curious why someone who lived in such an affluent neighborhood would hire a taxi.
Only cars which belonged to the residents of Yi Tian’s gated community were allowed to enter the premise. And so, I got out of the taxi once I reached the entrance. Because I wasn’t a resident myself, and I couldn’t prove that I was a friend or relative of any of the residents, the security guard refused to let me in. I had no choice and could only wait by the gates.
If Yi Tian was home, the best case scenario would be that I could stop him on his way to work in the morning. If he wasn’t… I laughed wryly in my heart. I didn’t have any other choice, and I could only wait endlessly for him here. Actually, I could have gone to Yi Tian’s company, but he really hated it if I were to badger him endlessly in public. If I angered him, I would risk losing my last resort. I dared not take that risk.
At first, there were still cars coming and going, but gradually the surroundings became quiet, without even the slightest sound. I took out my handphone and looked at the time, it was already 2 in the morning. After having been scared awake from my nightmare the night before, I hadn’t slept for the rest of the night. In the morning, I worked at the supermarket, and at night I was too fraught by my mother’s condition to rest. I hadn’t rested for an entire day, and now I was so tired I could almost fall asleep on my feet.
Just as I was blearily drowsing off, a pair of headlights suddenly shone toward me. The glare of the lights was blinding and I used a hand to shield my eyes, retreating a few steps back. Only as the car slowly pulled closer did I recognize it belonged to Yi Tian.
I hurriedly ran over, worried that Yi Tian wouldn’t stop the car for me. Gritting my teeth, I rushed in front of the car.
The piercing sound of the brakes echoed loudly. The car barely stopped in time, coming to a halt less than a meter from where I stood. The car door suddenly opened, and Yi Tian’s footsteps were unsteady as he rushed toward me. He grabbed my collar and yelled, gnashing his teeth, “What the fuck are you doing?”
This close, I could smell the alcohol on his breath. He seemed drunk. I pushed his hands away and anxiously said, “Yi Tian, I have a request…”
Before I had finished speaking, he lurched forward, his breath brushing against my ear. When he spoke, his voice held a tinge of irony, “Who swore that he’d never show up in front of my face again? It’s only been a few days since you said that?”
At this time, the door on the passenger side of the car slid open. Lin Han came over and pulled Yi Tian aside. He then turned around and punched me, speaking through clenched teeth, “Mu Ran, are you trying to force me to kill you?” He even wanted to rush up to hit me but Yi Tian stopped him as he raised his hand to massage the bridge of his nose. A moment later, he moved in front of me, looking at me as he asked, “why did you come to see me?”
Maybe because he was drunk, but Yi Tian’s gaze seemed strange. It wasn’t the usual way he looked at me, with disgust and impatience, instead, I felt his eyes held… something akin to yearning.
I was probably overthinking things again. Shaking my head, I wiped away the blood welling at the corner of my mouth before I quietly said, “I know I don’t have the right to beg you for anything, and I know you don’t actually want to see me again. But Yi Tian, I… I don’t have any other choice… Can you…”
I swallowed, drumming up the courage to finish my sentence, “can you lend me 100,000 dollars?”
The air was dead quiet.
As I lifted my head, Yi Tian’s gaze could have frozen me to ice.
Lin Han suddenly rushed over, his vicious kick landing on my stomach. “Could you be more despicable? How the hell do you have the cheek to ask for money! Hah… Yi Tian, see? I was right. As if this guy would give up on you so easily. How could he bear to leave without trying to get something more out of you?!”
Lin Han kicked me repeatedly and I fell on the floor. Wrapping my arms around my stomach, I curled my body defensively into a ball. Desperately, I explained, “that’s not it! I’ll pay you back! I’ll pay you back…”
Yi Tian turned around, staggering unsteadily back to the car. Lin Han hurriedly threw me aside and followed after him. I struggled to stand, quickly running before Yi Tian, stopping him in his tracks to beg, “Yi Tian, listen to me, my mother is ill, she needs surgery… I don’t have a job and I can’t raise enough money…”
Panicking, I repeatedly and incoherently explained myself, but Yi Tian impatiently pushed my hands away. He cut my explanation off with a sneer, “didn’t you say you were an orphan? How could you suddenly have a mother in the picture?”
I choked. In that moment I didn’t know how else to explain myself. Maybe I could recount the events that had happened to me, but I wasn’t sure if Yi Tian had the patience to listen to my story to its conclusion. Yi Tian saw me freeze and ignored me, circling around me to get to the car. I panicked. If I let Yi Tian go, I didn’t know when I would be able to see him again. I didn’t have time to draw this out any longer.
Recalling the doctor’s words, I gritted my teeth and clenched my fists. Standing behind Yi Tian, I said, emotionlessly, “I still have the photographs.”
Lin Han turned his head to stare at me with wide eyes, as if he didn’t believe what I was saying. Yi Tian continued to face away from me, showing no response. I took a deep breath, the corners of my mouth crooking up into an ugly smile. I continued, “the last time, I gave you just a portion of the photographs and the negatives. I still have more, and if you don’t give me the money, I’ll print them out tomorrow— no, today.”
Yi Tian angrily turned around and walked in front of me. He grabbed my chin forcefully, lifting my head to face him. His expression was very stormy, and his words came through clenched teeth, “or, Mu Ran, I can just end you right now.”
I held my breath. Yi Tian’s gaze made my heart pound. I knew this time, he would make good on his threat.
I opened my mouth, wanting to explain myself clearly, wanting to tell him everything, wanting to plead with him not to deny me entirely because of my past mistakes. I didn’t come here to ask for money, and I didn’t even have any incriminating photos… there was so much I wanted to say. I wanted to tell him about all the sadness and helplessness I had in my heart, because I knew, even to this day, deep inside, he was still the one I yearned for and depended on. But when he turned that gaze on me, as if he wanted nothing more than to skin me alive and to have my body mutilated and torn apart, how could it be possible that he would listen or believe me? I couldn’t buy his sympathy with my pain, quite the opposite, my pain was the thing he would revel in the most.
So in the end, I just stared at Yi Tian straight in the eye and tried to keep my voice calm. “You can try.”
His fist slammed hard into my cheek. I staggered backward and finally, lost my balance and fell to the floor. Yi Tian didn’t even look at me, pulling out a cheque book and signing it with a flourish before he threw it in front of my face. “Don’t ever let me see you again.”
“Yi Tian! How could you give him any money! Now he’s gotten his way, he’ll definitely come back again. Do you want this asshole to bother you forever?” I was just reaching my hand to pick up the cheque when Lin Han ran over and stepped viciously on my hand. I groaned in pain, but I kept my hand on the cheque— no matter how painful, I wasn’t willing to let go.
Yi Tian’s brow furrowed, and he massaged his temple. I knew that every time he was drunk, he’d get a headache. Lin Han noticed it too, and quickly walked to Yi Tian’s side, anxiously asking, “What’s wrong? Do you still feel very uncomfortable?”
“Drive me home now.” Yi Tian pushed Lin Han, who was trying to help him to the car, away. With difficulty, Yi Tian walked toward the car, opening the door and getting in. Lin Han couldn’t be bothered with me any longer and hurried after him. Before he left, he looked back at me, his gaze so vicious that it made my blood run cold.
As the car drove away from me, I stared blankly at the headlights that were disappearing in the distance. Recalling Lin Han’s last look, my heart was filled with unease. But at this time I couldn’t concern myself with that. I raised my hand to brush away the blood trickling from the corner of my mouth, picked up the cheque and ran down the road.
The night wind caressed my face. Unconsciously, I felt a chill on my cheeks. I raised a hand to wipe away my tears, silently comforting myself. It didn’t matter. Once my mother was healed, I would definitely work my hardest to pay off Yi Tian’s loan. Whether or not he was willing to listen to my explanation, at the very least, I wanted him to know that in the 3 years we were together, the reason I was with him was never because of his wealth.