Because the event was broadcasted live on the internet and on television, Zhou Yun Sheng’s performance could be heard by music lovers around the world. The performances of the players after him completely couldn’t hold their interest, after his song, they flocked onto social media platforms to post their views.
“I thought Hannah would definitely be the champion for this competition, and naturally she shocked the audience as soon as she came out. If you didn’t know, the ‘La Campanella’ she played is one of the five ’Transcendental Etudes’. At that time I thought: Oh no Hannah, that’s too cruel, how will the other contestants live? Look, even the Piano King’s sister hasn’t shown up yet! But I was wrong, Hannah might be really talented, but she’s got nothing on Joy (Xue Jing Xi’s English Name).
She can only compete against a group of teenagers, but Joy can compete with the top, world famous veteran pianists. Her ‘To Pavlochev’ can only be described as ‘perfect’, ‘shocking’ and ‘incomparable’, even her brother, the Piano King Sean(Xue Zi Xuan) has to admit defeat in front of her.”
“I’m at the venue and no one who didn’t listen to Joy first hand will ever be able to appreciate that suffocating, powerful pressure. My ears and my heart were squeezed by her raw pain, and when she finished playing, I shuddered for more than a minute.”
“This song has always been known as the Devil’s Music, I even looked up the video of Sean’s performance, but I completely couldn’t understand its charm. At that time, it just made me feel awful, nauseated and dizzy, but when I heard Joy’s performance, I cried. I cried uncontrollably, and now I just want to do something crazy to vent this inexplicable sense of despair.”
“My God, I never knew anyone could play a piano like this before! Just look at her face- twisted, ferocious, full of sweat and tears, but why did I feel that she looked so beautiful? When she pressed down the last note, I was staring at her face. Her eyes were shining with despair and pain, I felt like my heart was about to burst!”
“I usually only listen to pop music, what the heck is classical music, can I eat it? Well, that’s what I would’ve said an hour ago, but now I want to eat this sentence. Joy’s performance made me understand what real soul moving music sounds like. Her superb skills should be worshiped by the world’s musicians, of course, including her brother. She invested emotions into the melody that no one can even hope to copy. After Joy, no one will be able to play ‘To Pavlochev’ so perfectly. Joy’s performance will become a classic that can never be surpassed.”
“Joy, Joy, Joy, she’s so great! The preliminaries are already at this level, my expectations for the semifinals and finals are through the roof! I was originally all about Hannah, but now I’m only looking forward to Joy’s performances.”
“I think the Organizing Committee should adjust and put Joy in the adult group, letting her compete with a bunch of kids is too unfair. Of course, even in the adult group, she would still crush them all! She really is the Piano King’s sister, genetics sure can decide everything.”
Such wide-spread praise gave the competition unprecedented attention. Zhou Yun Sheng’s performance was too appealing, even people who’d never listened to classical music were involuntarily fascinated by him, becoming his loyal fans. After his play, many listeners couldn’t help but express their feelings on social networks, and publish their live video recordings. The boy was exceptionally exquisite, when his face distorted from playing the sad and painful music, it not only didn’t compromise his beauty, it gave him the power to move the heart and soul.
No one paid attention to the following performances, listening absent-mindedly to rest of the songs as they blocked the aisles, hoping to say a few words to the boy. He was only sixteen years old, but his thin body hid such a terrible, explosive force, even God would be jealous of his talent.
Media reporters caught wind of the commotion and rushed over to interview the boy, currently being guarded in Xue Zi Xuan’s arms. They scrambled to push microphones up to his mouth, “Excuse me, Miss Xue, how many years have you been playing the piano?”
“Excuse me, what song have you picked for the semifinals?”
“Please, can I ask why you decided to play this song? Even Prokofiev collapsed. How do you feel right now?”
Zhou Yun Sheng remained silent, a huge pair of sunglasses covering half his face. Xue Zi Xuan embraced his thin shoulders, one hand blocking his face, and frowned and said, “Please remember, my sister is suffering from congenital heart disease, she can’t be in a rowdy environment. If she has a heart attack, I’ll sue you.”
“Then, what about Mr. Xue, are you satisfied with your sister’s performance today? What do you think of the difference between her ‘To Pavlochev’ and yours? Whose was better?”
While being escorted by the bodyguards to the van, Xue Zi Xuan looked back and frankly said, “I’m very satisfied with his performance, in fact, I feel very proud of him. His ‘To Pavlochev’ has exceeded my performance, if Kallans was still alive, I think he would be very satisfied too.” He nodded slightly and shut the door, quickly departing.
Xue Yan was sitting in his wheelchair, watching from the sidelines 50 or 60 meters away. He also wanted to embrace the boy, guarding him through the noisy crowd and keeping him away from any harm. But because of his legs, he couldn’t do anything for him.
“When’s the operation? I want it as soon as possible.” He motioned for Xue Lao Si to push him away.
“I’ll call Dr. Brook and ask. When I advised you to operate you didn’t listen, and now you can’t protect your little lover, do you regret it?” Xue Lao Si ridiculed while bringing the phone up to his ear. Xue Yan’s legs were not impossible to treat, he just hadn’t wanted to go through the trouble. He didn’t seem to care about anything, including family, friendship, power, status, and himself. But suddenly, Xue Jin Yi appeared, and his hollow chest started growing a heart and lungs, pumping hot blood, finally becoming a living, breathing person.
For that, he was truly thankful.
Zhou Yun Sheng felt even more uncomfortable when he went back to the hotel. It was like his blood vessels were blocked by something thick and hard, making him felt particularly sluggish and depressed. ‘To Pavlochev’ was worthy of being the revenge song Kallans spent seven years creating, his revenge was not only taken out on the audience, but also on the player. After the performance, the player needed very strong emotional regulation to return to normal.
What Zhou Yun Sheng most wanted to do now was take some time to quietly meditate, but Xue Li Dani had heard the news and rushed to the hotel, and was currently raving at him.
“You can’t play so well! You have to hold back for the semifinals and finals.” She resolutely ordered. She had never concerned herself with the boy, so she only knew that her son was teaching him piano, and that his talent was nothing to sneeze at, but she’d never imagined that his talent was more than just good. ‘Good’? Even calling it ‘stunning, once in a lifetime’ wasn’t an exaggeration.
During the gap in her rehearsal, Xue Li Dani also watched the piano competition live, and after the boy’s performance, her mind had blanked for five or six minutes, even her soul couldn’t stop trembling. Don’t say Xue Jing Yi will never reach his level, even the veteran musician Xue Li Dani didn’t dare compare herself to him.
His performance was too perfect, attracting so much attention, if her daughter couldn’t play at the same level in future, how could she live in the outside world? This glory was too large and heavy, completely beyond Xue Jing Yi’s capacity.
Zhou Yun Sheng glanced at her, expressionless, and faintly said, “I can’t do that.”
“How can you not do it? Aren’t these your hands?” Xue Li Dani angrily questioned.
“When I sit in front of the piano, these hands don’t belong to me, they belong to the song. If you want me to use these hands to destroy those beautiful songs, then sorry, I can’t.” Zhou Yun Sheng said in a firm tone.
Xue Li Dani was a violinist, she also knew this feeling. As soon as she picked up the bowstring, every thought in her mind was dedicated to playing the melody as perfectly as she could. Asking her to deliberately destroy a song was like asking a devout believer to personally destroy their place of worship, it was unforgivable blasphemy.
Xue Li Dani was shocked, she opened her mouth, but couldn’t find anything to say, completely speechless. On one hand, she was deeply touched, on the other, she was worried for her daughter’s future. If her daughter’s piano skill couldn’t reach the boy’s level, all the current praise would become abuse and mockery in the future. The boy’s excellence wouldn’t make her daughter accomplished, it would destroy her!
Xue Li Dani walked to the bar and poured a glass of red wine, she needed to think about what to do next. Xue Zi Xuan was standing by the window, staring out at the flashing neon city lights, when the boy said, ‘these hands don’t belong to me’, his heart shook violently, and he immediately looked back at him.
How could he tempt his heart over and over again, making him incapable of thinking of anything except music and him? In fact, these past few days, he rarely thought of anything, his mind was full of the boy’s expressions as he played the piano.
“Mother, leave.” He opened the door, his voice cold.
“What?” Xue Li Dani was a little stunned.
“Leave, don’t disturb us, this matter can be discussed at the end of the competition.” He said with an impatient frown.
Xue Li Dani’s love for her son was even deeper than her daughter, seeing his unprecedented ugly complexion, she couldn’t help but feel apprehensive. She put down the glass and went to the door, then hesitated.
“Goodbye.” Xue Zi Xuan pushed her out and slammed the door.
“Don’t care about what others say, just be yourself.” He walked up to the boy and stared down at his dark hair. He wanted to be like a normal person and tell a joke to lighten up the mood, but he desperately searched his memory, and except for thousands of piano scores, he couldn’t find anything valuable.
Perhaps he should play a cheerful song. He glanced at the white grand piano, which was placed by the balcony, but the boy suddenly said in a heavy voice, “Can you leave? I want to be alone for a while.”
“Tell me, are you unable to break away from ‘To Pavlochev’s effects?” Xue Zi Xuan’s expression instantly sank.
“I can get rid of its influence, but I now need some space.” Zhou Yun Sheng looked up and bared his red eyes.
Xue Zi Xuan was startled, he unconsciously reached out to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Don’t touch me.” Zhou Yun Sheng turned his head away, no longer able to suppress the hate he felt for the Xue family buried in the bottom of his heart.
Xue Zi Xuan couldn’t understand other people’s feelings, the only person in the world that could move him was this boy. His every frown and every smile was vividly stored in his mind on a film, and whenever he relaxed, it continuously played on repeat. Perhaps because he’d re-watched that film so many times, he could now even detect the boy’s slightest emotional changes.
The boy was disgusted with him, no, he hated him. This made him feel a piercing heartache, like his heart was being twisted, for the first time. He desperately scoured his memories for anything he’d done to inspire hatred, then his face paled. No, Xiao Yi doesn’t know the reason why I originally brought him back. He has no way of knowing. He comforted himself, then decided that this must be sequelae from playing ‘To Pavlochev’. In this way, his frantic heartbeat gradually calmed down.
“I’ll leave, please rest well.” He stood at a loss for a moment, then walked away.
The room finally quiet, Zhou Yun Sheng threw Xue Li Dani’s red wine glass into the trash and found another cup to fill, then drained it. Only after drinking three cups did he finally feel his blood start to flow again, the painful and depressing heaviness dissipating little by little. He couldn’t help but let out a long sigh. At this time, the doorbell rang, he sensed something and quickly walked over to open the door.
Sure enough, Xue Yan and Xue Lao Si were standing outside.
“That’s a strong wine.” Xue Lao Si sniffed the air.
“Are you okay?” Xue Yan’s face was full of worry.
“I’ll be fine now that you’re here.” Zhou Yun Sheng gave a lazy smile, then leaned over to lift up the 193 cm man by his waist and tossed him onto the bed, straddling his waist.
Xue Lao Si quickly pushed the wheelchair in, then shut the door and ran off, saying in his heart: No wonder the boss wants to operate, he can be easily tossed over his little lover’s shoulder, that would indeed hurt the self-esteem a bit.
Xue Yan tried to turn over but the boy pressed him down, he asked in a worried tone, “What’s wrong? You haven’t come out of that song yet?” He remembered that a few people kept saying that playing ‘To Pavlochev’ could lead to mental breakdown.
“Yes, I’m scared.” Zhou Yun Sheng leaned in closer, his red eyes staring intently, he clenched his teeth and said, “Promise me, no matter what happens, don’t leave me and disappear alone. Can you do that for me? If you can’t, I’ll grab you and jump out the window right now, death will sort out all our troubles.” When his lover had thrown him back to reality and chose to die with the Lord God, he’d felt both anxious and resentful, but he’d hidden those feelings deep inside, because he’d truly believed that he would be able to find the man again.
But when he’d played ‘To Pavlochev’, his forcefully buried hatred and heartbreaking love had been pulled out. When he’d accepted the military assignment, he’d thought, if he couldn’t find his lover, dying in the virtual world wasn’t the worse outcome, because at least that world once had him, unlike the real world, which only had empty rooms and indifferent crowds, nothing worth returning to.
Now, he not only wanted to love the man, but also strangle him, to avoid any future anxiety, this contradictory mood was hard to control.
“I can do it, please trust me one more time.” Xue Yan didn’t know why he added ‘one more time’, as if he’d once failed to keep this same pledge. He squeezed until he almost cut off the boy’s breath, then reached out to rub the black earring on his earlobe.
Without warning, a string of source code was pushed into the database, forcing Zhou Yun Sheng to quickly recover his rationality.
Knowing that you’ve angered me, you hand over your source code to try and appease me? Even with amnesia, this man is still so cunning! Giving a slight humph, he dropped his head to capture the other man’s thin lips.
Xue Yan pressed down the back of his head, deepening the kiss, his eyes filling with stars and a smile.
Zhou Yun Sheng’s performance spread like wild fire, the domestic and international media were focused on him for several days, his performance re-broadcasted on television and online. Each listener felt distinct feelings about him, but without exception, they were all shocked by his superb skills and strong emotions. Others inevitably compared his version to Xue Zi Xuan’s, but even those least sensitive to music could easily distinguish the difference between the two. Xue Zi Xuan had played with his hands, but Zhou Yun Sheng had shouted with his soul.
Many critics asserted: There’s no doubt, Joy has surpassed her brother, and she will become one of the greatest pianists of this century.
Obtaining such high praise at the tender age of 16 was obviously very rare.
An international director, after listening to ‘To Pavlochev’, immediately contacted the Organizing Committee, requesting cooperation with Zhou Yun Sheng. He was currently shooting a doomsday film and desperately needed a soundtrack that could make the audience feel despair. He even felt that his film would be incomplete without the boy’s sound, becoming his lifelong regret.
Because the Xue family limited his personal freedom, let alone go out alone, Zhou Yun Sheng had never even seen a cellphone. Those who wanted to contact him were directed to find Xue Zi Xuan, vexing Xue Zi Xuan. However, the Xue Jing Yi far away in China was countless times more distressed than him.
On one hand, she was delighted with the boy’s achievements, on the other, she feared she would never be able to surpass this imperishable masterpiece. Xue Li Dani told her that it was best to have Huang Yi quickly drop out of the contest, because her talent would never catch up with him, and the difference in level might provoke a lot of trouble in the future. Although she’d flatly refused to give in, she was secretly panicking.
As long as I get Huang Yi’s heart, I can play music as well as he can. She needed to constantly bolster herself in order push back her increasingly anxious mood. Huang Yi’s excellence had re-awakened her fear, even today, she still couldn’t touch the piano, especially after listening to his interpretation of ‘To Pavlochev’. She maliciously thought: Perhaps Huang Yi is the devil, because only the devil can produce such demagogic music, mortals can’t be compared with him.
What kind of powerful force lurked in the heart of the devil? She was both terrified and excited to find out.
The semifinals began, and more than half the lounge had been cleared out, only leaving behind 26 contestants. They sat in twos and threes to chat, occasionally sneaking looks at the particularly calm and quiet boy sitting in the corner. This time, no one called him haughty, arrogance was expected of a genius, no mortals needed to understand him.
Hannah was surrounded by a group of people, when asked about her selected track, her expression turned ugly. Because Zhou Yun Sheng had changed his song, she’d had to move the song she’d selected for the final upwards, after the semi-finals, she didn’t know what else to play. She didn’t have another song that was both more difficult than her current song, yet something she could play proficiently.
“My God, you actually want to play ‘Petrushka’? The ‘Petrushka’ that pianists recognize as the seventh ranked most difficult piano piece. This for the semi-final? I have no hope!” After listening to her answer, one of the contestants covered her forehead and collapsed.
“I think you shouldn’t give up so soon, you can always faint again after you hear Joy’s choice.” Another player pointed to the teenager in the corner.
“I’ll go ask her.” A Chinese contestant volunteered. He ran over, and not surprisingly, was stopped by the bodyguards, he had to crane his neck and shout, “Xue Jing Yi, what are you going to play later? Do you mind telling us?”
Hannah didn’t understand Chinese, but she still stared intently. She sincerely hoped that whatever song the other girl picked, the difficulty would not be much higher than hers.
“‘Show Off’.” Zhou Yun Sheng faintly said.
“What did you say?” The Chinese player almost wanted to dig out his ears.
“Sears’ ‘Show Off’.” Zhou Yun Sheng supplemented.
The Chinese player gasped, then ran back and said to the female contestant, “Okay, you can faint, she’s going to play Sears ‘Show Off’.”
“Oh, my God! I’m finished!” Some screamed in mourning, some clamored in excited anticipation, the lounge immediately rowdy.
The music industry never lacked for talented people, and because of their too amazing talent and over-abundance of emotions, many musicians were crabby and not very sociable. In the last century, there were many master pianists, their matchless, glittering light making the 21st century pianists look particularly bleak and mediocre. If not for Xue Zi Xuan’s rise, critics had predicted that the new century would see a decline in interest for playing the piano.
In the last century, Sears was undoubtedly one of the most renowned master pianists. But he never wanted to accept the ‘one of’ suffix. From the age of three, he started showing amazing musical talent, at the age of six, he created a waltz by himself and performed it, and at eleven, he was world famous. He was extremely arrogant, claiming that he was the best, better than all the other master pianists of his time, and this attitude provoked a lot of criticism. In order to forcefully refute these criticisms, he created ‘Show Off’ through improvising, and declared that except for himself, no one else would ever be able to play it completely.
The styles of ‘Show Off’ and ‘To Pavlochev’ were completely opposite, it didn’t contain intense emotional ups and downs, in fact, when the author composed it, he hadn’t invested any emotions into it, it was just a means to show off his great skill. Its name was amazingly consistent with its content, in modern terms, it’s purely a means to boast one’s skills.
This song was divided into a total of four bars, each note in each bar requiring a different playing technique. It encompassed all styles of fingering of all genres, without superb skill comparable to Sears’, the pianist would make a big fool of himself when he got to the first passage of the first bar. As a result, it was known as one of the world’s most difficult piano scores, and was ranked second place. Its original name was ‘Sears Rhapsody’, but after numerous pianists got fed up with it, it was nicknamed the slightly derogatory ‘Show Off’, which was eventually accepted by the majority of musicians.
If ‘To Pavlochev’ was the Devil’s Music, then ‘Show Off’ was Peacock music, neither could be mastered by ordinary people.
Sean, your sister’s too headstrong you know? Please take her home! This was the common thought among all the contestants, including the proud Hannah.
Show Off- Another one that doesn’t exist. Readers speculate it’s referencing Michael Finnissy’s English Country-Tunes. Here’s a page from it:
Listen to it on youtube, it’s…something.
Peacock –傲慢鬼 Aoman Gui- Arrogant demon? I couldn’t think of a closer English term for arrogance than peacock.