On this day, Xue Jing Yi received an invitation from the Chopin International Piano Competition, which was the grandest tournament in the piano world, divided into the children’s group, the youth group and the adult group. If you won the youth group championship, you would be unconditionally admitted to the world’s best music college, Curtis Academy, and awarded a very generous scholarship.
Xue Zi Xuan, who’d won the youth group championship at the age of 12 and became the youngest student at Curtis, had made his mark on the world. He was hailed as the Piano Prince, and he had already succeeded in crowning himself. When it involved playing the piano, no musician dared claim they could play better than him.
He’d conquered the world with his superb skill and vigorous musical expression.
As his sister, Xue Jing Yi’s application received widespread attention from the media and the music world’s insiders. They had high hopes for her and wondered if she would be the Piano Queen. Of course, some worried that Xue Jing Yi’s health might not support the brutal completion, so they’d deliberated for a long time on whether or not to send her a letter.
But Xue Jing Yi had personally called the Organizing Committee, insisting that she could adhere to the game, and in order to support his sister, Xue Zi Xuan had taken the initiative to sign a contract with the Organizing Committee to become one of the adult group’s judges.
He was only 26 years old but he needed to review the qualifications of a group of musicians who might be decades older than him, it seemed ludicrous. However, when the news came out, no one objected to this, and every player who submitted an application to the Organizing Committee thought that having Xue Zi Xuan listen to their performance was a supreme honor.
The Organizing Committee finally agreed, and the invitation letter was issued to Xue Jing Yi. The tournament was held every five years, and every opening was very precious, so they naturally didn’t appreciate absenteeism. It was particularly unfair to those who were unable to get in.
Xue Jing Yi was overjoyed, this was the only good news she’d received since Huang Yi came to the Xue home. That morning, after Xue Yan picked up Huang Yi, she clung to Xue Zi Xuan and begged him to join her piano practice.
She opened the piano cover, smiling as she stroked the black and white keys one by one, as if life was once again full of sunshine and hope.
“Brother, can you help me pick out the songs I’ll play in the game?” She took out a few music sheets.
Xue Zi Xuan stared out the window, silent.
“Brother, what’s wrong?” Xue Jing Yi called out cautiously.
Xue Zi Xuan woke up from his trance, his tone indifferent, “Pick out your favorite songs to practice, I’ll tell you if you should choose it after listening.”
“Okay.” Xue Jing Yi was very pleased, she placed one of the music sheets on the music stand and played a cheerful dance song. She did all she could to impress her brother with the piano, as if getting his praise was the most precious gift in the world. She wanted to participate in the game, not only to get into Curtis Music Academy, but also to attract her brother’s attention, to make him see her efforts and excellence, and maybe even love her a little more.
Brother, are you looking at me? Please look at me! The cheerful dance song turned into absolute frantic sorrow. Xue Jing Yi’s hands harshly pressed on the keys, tears leaking from her eyes. She’d ruined the dance song, and if things were normal, her brother would’ve severely reprimanded her, but now, he clearly hadn’t been listening to a single note, still standing by the window and staring blankly into the distance, his back seemed so lonely.
She knew he was waiting for Huang Yi. Huang Yi usually left for 10 hours, and her brother usually kept this position until sunset. She really wanted to go over and embrace him, tell him how much she loved him, and ask him to give her some attention. But these frenzied and fervent thoughts, when they see his cold, lifeless eyes, vanish into smoke and ashes.
Her hands repeatedly pounded the piano keys to create harsh noises, but the man never looked back. Xue Jing Yi slumped in the bench, finally giving up, and wiped away her tears, then she lightly asked, “Big brother, how was my playing?”
Xue Zi Xuan didn’t turn his head to reply, “Continue.” He hadn’t listened, so he declined to comment.
Xue Jing Yi almost couldn’t help but laugh. Was this still her brother? If it was the past, he would’ve already thrown her out of the room. Now, his eyes only saw Huang Yi, his ears only heard Huang Yi, his heart could only think about Huang Yi.
In his view, except for Huang Yi, everybody else was just empty air.
Xue Jing Yi pressed down her stinging heart, then flipped to the next song and started playing, when she reached the second section, Xue Zi Xuan suddenly opened the door and rushed downstairs. Xue Jing Yi’s eyes darkened, feeling a premonition. She lifted the curtains to look into the garden, and sure enough, Xue Yan’s car was driving down the forest path.
Huang Yi was back.
Xue Jing Yi watched in jealousy as her brother protectively pulled the boy behind him, then watched as Xue Yan stuck his head out of the car window to say something. The two men looked at each other, eyes filled with flames of burning hostility.
However, after hearing Huang Yi’s clear and melodious voice say ‘Bye uncle’, the two’s ugly complexion instantly became pleasant. Obviously, their understanding of this sentence was very different, and their love of Huang Yi was so profound, he didn’t even need to do anything earth-shattering, just give a smile and say a few words, and he could please them.
They were clearly twins, but God’s gift of a healthy body, beautiful smile, and extraordinary talent were all presented to him, and except for a hole riddled heart, she had nothing. This wasn’t fair!
This way of thinking, Xue Jing Yi had obviously forgotten her sixteen years of living a luxurious and comfortable life style, and had also forgotten the hardships that her true relatives have suffered.
When she sat back before the piano, her heart filled to the brim with jealousy, the door opened, and Xue Zi Xuan led the boy in, his originally cold and indifferent face was now enveloped with a layer of warmth.
“You said you wanted me to help you pick the songs right, what are your favorites?”
“All here.” Xue Jing Yi handed over the sheets on the music stand, her heart full of unspeakable bitterness. The same instructions again, he really hadn’t been listening to her performance. Although she already knew it, she still felt miserable at his indifferent attitude.
Zhou Yun Sheng moved closer to glance at them. Xue Zi Xuan sensed his closeness and smiled, he looked back at him and pulled him into his arms, placing the music sheets on his knee to facilitate his reading. Xue Yan’s departure had put him in a good mood, if possible, he hoped the other man would never come back.
“Xiao Yi, why did you come back so early?” Xue Jing Yi did her best to not stare at their embrace.
“Uncle has something to deal with, he might not come back to the golf course for at least a month or two.” Zhou Yun Sheng blinked innocently. In fact, Xue Yan wasn’t busy, but he’d remembered that Xue Jing Yi had received the invitation letter, so he’d deliberately rushed back, signing a lot of unequal treaties to accomplish this.
In the last life, Xue Jing Yi had also received the invitation today, and the system had immediately released the task to have him try to disrupt the competition for Xue Jing Yi. But the daughter of fate was fate’s daughter, no matter how many times he beat Xue Jing Yi down, she would quickly cheer up and bravely return to the battle field. He remembered that for the finals, he’d hurt her fingers, yet she’d completed the difficult piano piece and won the championship through amazing perseverance.
It was also on that day that Xue Zi Xuan really started to see her as a fine woman, instead of a little sister.
In this life, he wouldn’t use the system’s moronic methods to trap Xue Jing Yi, he had a much more fun plan.
“Jing Yi, I heard you received an invitation to the Chopin International Piano Competition? Congratulations.” Zhou Yun Sheng smiled and said.
“Thank you.” Xue Jing Yi nodded politely, her heart hating Xue Yan for not taking him away with him.
“You can spend some of your free time helping Jing Yi with her practice. She still has a lot of shortcomings in her technique, you can point out mistakes for her or demonstrate the correct method.” Xue Zi Xuan combed his fingers through the boy’s soft hair, the joy of recovering a lost treasure hidden in his eyes.
Xue Jing Yi’s expression darkened for a moment. Although the boy had just begun learning the piano, whether it was skill or expressiveness, he was far beyond her heyday, so asking him to demonstrate for her was not absurd. But her self-esteem was still hurt, she smiled and agreed on the surface, but her mind was set on becoming better than him.
She had only neglected practice because of her illness, if she exerted her efforts for a month, she would be able to catch up with the boy, or maybe even surpass him. Thinking like this, she practiced with special effort, and attached great importance to Xue Zi Xuan’s views.
The boy no longer left him, he just quietly sat beside him every day, playing on his laptop, and occasionally using his lap as a pillow when he felt sleepy, which made Xue Zi Xuan unable to suppress a smile. He quickly recovered his state of mind, once again becoming a demanding piano teacher, if Xue Jing Yi played a wrong note, he would sternly order her to start over from the beginning.
Whenever this happened, Zhou Yun Sheng would look up at Xue Jing Yi and smile brightly. He knew that this blackened Xue Jing Yi would view this comforting smile as ridicule and contempt, which would completely disrupt her concentration.
Sure enough, Xue Jing Yi grew tenser by the day, her play more and more disorderly, especially when Xue Zi Xuan, in order to guide her, made Zhou Yun Sheng play the song correctly after she made a mistake.
The boy’s perfect playing was like a difficult to cross the chasm, and it made Xue Jing Yi feel that no matter how hard she tried, she would never catch up to him. She was strong enough to not expose her cowardice in front of her brother, but she knew that she was on the verge of mental collapse, with just a gentle push, her self-confidence would completely break.
Staying in the piano room to practice all day used to be fun for her, but now it was torture.
Seeing her haggard face and dull eyes, Zhou Yun Sheng knew that the tipping point was getting closer. These days, he deliberately crushed her with his talent, just so he could destroy her self-confidence, forcing her farther and farther down the black road and descent into madness. For those who have experienced despair for so long, the line between sanity and insanity was thin.
They walked side by side into the piano room, laughing and chatting cozily on the surface, but in fact, their thoughts were heavy.
Xue Zi Xuan took out sheets of music and handed them over, his tone severe, “If we judge your level by the past few days, you’ll be eliminated in the first round of the preliminaries. These are the songs I selected for you, if you concentrate on practicing them, you might be able to enter the finals.”
Xue Jing Yi took it and hurriedly browsed through it, her face paled. This piano score only included five tracks, but it was recognized as one of the world’s most difficult piano tunes, the alternate name was ‘Transcendental Etudes’. From the words ‘transcendent’, it was clear that the pianist needed superb skills to play it.
The world’s top musicians were afraid to boast that they could play the five tracks completely, in fact, if they could successfully complete two or three, that was enough to make them feel proud.
And Xue Zi Xuan was the only person in the world who could play the five tracks in full. The standard he set for Xue Jing Yi was so high, she felt a heavy pressure.
Xue Jing Yi’s fingertips trembled as she opened the score.
The first song was the least difficult, but after getting a glimpse of its name, Xue Jing Yi’s mind blanked. ‘Hellfire’, the song used the most double notes, one bar contained up to 120 double notes, of which there were about 70 double trills. When playing, if the fingers were too tense, or the two notes were uneven, the song would be destroyed.
Some pianists joked: Those who can play ‘Hellfire’ perfectly must have more accurate control of their hands than a robot.
Xue Jing Yi took a deep breath and forced her fingertips to relax. You can do it, you must! She kept bolstering herself, but made an error on only the second line. A double note was faulty, making the melody suddenly too sharp.
“Stop, again!” Xue Zi Xuan snapped. Seeing the boy suddenly look up from playing with his computer, his eyes wide open, somewhat alarmed, he quickly walked over to gently rub his hair.
The boy smiled shyly and bent back over his computer, then Xue Zi Xuan said in a softer tone, “Start over, don’t just completely relax your fingers, even your wrists need to be relaxed.”
Xue Jing Yi nodded, but her hands were even more rigid. She bit the bullet and continued playing, but at the end of the first bar, more than a dozen consecutive double notes appeared, frightening her. Her fingers fumbled over the keys, and the originally beautiful melody turned into unsightly noise.
“Stop! What is going on with you? I remember your level being higher than this. Step aside, I’ll give you a demonstration again.” Xue Zi Xuan frowned tightly.
Xue Jing Yi hurriedly got out of the way, then looked nervously at him.
Zhou Yun Sheng put away his computer and leaned against the piano to listen along, then he eagerly asked, “Brother, this song sounds very fun, can I play it once?”
Xue Zi Xuan’s cold face instantly melted, he said warmly, “Come try it.”
Zhou Yun Sheng sat in front of the piano and turned the music score over again, once memorized, he put the score away and played freely. This song originated from one of the composer’s nightmares. He dreamt that he had fallen into hell, where he was surrounded by blue flames and dreadful demons. The flames burned him, the demons hunted him, and he fled in fright, then he woke up kicking and screaming, only to find out that everything was a dream.
So he wiped away his cold sweat and laughed, relieved.
As a result of this experience, the first three bars of this song were filled with dazzling double notes and double trills, building up the horrifying, eerie, frantic atmosphere in detail, but the last bar was full of joy and relief, allowing the audience to completely shake off the previous feeling of panic. The huge emotional drop off and switch in style was this song’s most dazzling moment, and the consecutive emergence of double notes made the song ultra-difficult.
Zhou Yun Sheng’s slender fingers slide over the keys, neatly and accurately pressing the notes, when he finished, Xue Jing Yi unconsciously rubbed her arms and found a layer of goose bumps.
He played so perfectly, his superb skill comparable to famous veteran musicians.
Xue Zi Xuan was standing beside the piano, gazing at the teenager with obsessive eyes. When he finished, he pressed down on his frantic heartbeat and hoarsely praised “Perfect, I have nothing more to teach you.”
Zhou Yun Sheng smiled shyly.
Nothing more to teach? If even the Piano King could say such words, the boy’s skills must’ve reached a level others would find difficult to reach. Xue Jing Yi’s heart was riddled with bloody holes from corrosive jealousy. Seeing her brother waving at her to come try again, she reflexively took two steps back.
“Jing Yi, did you watch carefully? Come over and try again, remember to relax.”
“Yes.” Xue Jing Yi looked down at the piano, and a dark blue flame suddenly sprang from the gap between the keys and roared towards her face. She quickly backed up to escape the flames and almost fell down.
Zhou Yun Sheng noticed her tilt and quickly ran over to catch her, he asked in a low voice, “What’s wrong?”
“No, nothing.” Xue Jing Yi stared intently, there was no flame on the keys, her nerves had cause her to hallucinate. She slowly placed her finger on a key, but her fingertip seemed to be dipped in lava, causing unbearable pain. She clearly knew that a wonderful melody could be created with a press, but currently, she didn’t have the strength to move her fingers. The boy had played ‘Hellfire’ perfectly on the first try, and she wanted to climb up to the peak of this unreachable mountain, she even wanted to go beyond it, was that even possible?
Forget about doing it now, when it was her heyday, she also wouldn’t be able to do it. He just needed to press a few lines of notes and she lost- lost her self-confidence and pride, and also lost her brother’s attention.
Only God knew how much she wanted her brother to stare at her with the same obsession, but she knew that she could never surpass the boy.
She suddenly fell onto the piano and cried out painfully, her elbow and chest pressing down the keys, making a shrill noise. Xue Zi Xuan’s complexion immediately changed, he picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. The steward heard the commotion and called the doctor while preparing medicine and medical equipment.
Whether Xue Jing Yi was really sick or faking, Zhou Yun Sheng was not interested in knowing. He only knew that because her pride and self-confidence had been thoroughly crushed by him, the game could go on.
Xue Jing Yi was pretending, she didn’t want to make a fool of herself in front of her brother and become a foil to highlight Huang Yi’s excellence.
But perhaps because of the rapid psychological attacks, after waking up from the coma that day, she noticed that her psychological endurance had been significantly enhanced. Things that always made her heart ache in the past, like seeing an intimate embrace, she could now pretend to look on indifferently.
Early the next morning, she quietly walked into the piano room and sat in front of the piano in a daze. After more than half an hour, she put her hands on the keys and tried to play the simplest minuet, but the familiar melody didn’t appear, replaced by a bunch of messy, meaningless notes.
The music was clearly engraved in her mind, she could see it with her eyes closed, but in reality, she couldn’t use the keys to express it. She seemed to have lost her ability to play.
Xue Jing Yi panicked, then changed the tune and tried again. But the more anxious she was, the more her fingers didn’t listen to her call, and the small bit of recognizable rhythm later became completely chaotic, creaking like an old staircase about to collapse.
Where was this music, this was clearly the noise of torture, if her brother heard it, he would forcefully slam the piano cover and break her hands. Xue Jing Yi finally stopped, staring at her trembling hands in a daze.
She knew that she had to take a break, she would not be able to touch the piano again for a while. Just by sitting in front of the piano, she felt not anticipation and pleasure, but fear and anxiety. Huang Yi’s perfect performances had induced this mentality, and it grew more serious by the day, cementing after she suffered a crushing blow yesterday.
Xue Jing Yi gently closed the cover and went back to her bedroom. The piano room was insulated, so she hadn’t woken anyone up, and now she had time to think quietly. She turned on her computer and solemnly browsed information relevant to heart surgery, since last month, she’d been relying on this information to motivate her to continue fighting.
A news story suddenly leapt out, and she was unable to blink for a long time. A young man had underwent a heart transplant, and after rehabilitation, he had a lot of inexplicable memories, and also discovered talents he hadn’t previously had. This transformed his life. The experts analyzed: The human heart can also store memories, allowing heart transplant recipients to obtain some of the previous owner’s skills. Some primitive tribes in Africa performed the ritual of devouring the hearts of their enemies to gain strength.
Xue Jing Yi eerily stared at this report, and after a long moment, she smiled. If she received Huang Yi’s heart, would she be able to get his extraordinary musical talent? How would she know if she didn’t try?
What was he, just a container to store her heart, a wretch that lived in her shadow, why should he make her feel fear?
She smiled brighter, more viciously, then made a decision after catching sight of the invitation on the table.
Since she’d momentarily lost the ability to play, she’d make Huang Yi participate in the competition in her stead. She was not interested in the prize money, just the opportunity to enter Curtis Music Academy to learn. With her current ability, she’d need to practice for at least a few years to be admitted, but Huang Yi could easily get in.
He was going to die soon anyway, she might as well thoroughly use him. And when she received his heart and talent, no one would find out that the person who’d participated in the contest wasn’t her.
Thinking of this, she calmly turned off the computer, and pressed the emergency aid button.
The Xue family surrounded the sick bed with haggard faces, especially Xue Li Dani, her eyes were red from constant weeping. Xue Jing Yi pulled her hand and asked feebly, “Mama, will I die?”
“Nonsense, you’ll definitely get better, we’ve thought of a way. Honey, isn’t it true?”
“Yes, as long as your health improves a bit, we can immediately schedule your surgery.” The implication was that there’s a heart always ready for you.
Xue Jing Yi smiled slightly, then looked to the ashen faced Xue Zi Xuan and probed, “Big brother, do you think I can get better?”
Xue Zi Xuan didn’t answer positively or negatively, he just stood up and walked away, saying without looking back, “Rest carefully.”
He’d finally understood that his sister’s survival was built on the boy’s death, which made him feel suffocated. He was now unable to face Xue Jing Yi’s existence. She was a defective product, to kill a genius to make up for her incompleteness, this was a crime!
Bye –再見- Zaijian-Means both goodbye and see you again later. So they heard it the way they wanted.
Transcendental Etudes –超技練習曲- Frank Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes, but the songs the author mentions doesn’t exist. I’ll point out any song the author made up.