Xue Jing Yi was deliberately not taking her medicine so her physical condition could rapidly deteriorate, but this was only for appearance’s sake, once she reached her goal, she would nurse herself back to the best condition, then she could withstand the risk of heart transplant surgery. Before that, she would have Huang Yi return all her losses.
She proposed that Huang Yi participate in the competition in her stead to Xue Li Dani. Xue Li Dani was undoubtedly the one in the Xue family who loved her the most, she unexpectedly immediately agreed, then told the matter to Xue Rui. Xue Rui decided to send a few bodyguards to always follow Huang Yi, lest he expose his identity during the course of the game.
Xue Jing Yi put on a half-dead appearance and asked the steward to call Huang Yi over, she said that she wanted more people to remember her and wanted to personally stand on the stage but she was helpless. She wanted to leave traces of her stay in this world, this was her last wish, and she hoped her brother could help her complete it.
Zhou Yun Sheng sneered inwardly, but his eyes were flushed, he considered for a moment then promised.
Xue Jing Yi held his hand and weakly thanked him.
All the Xue family members coddled her, whenever she put forward a request, they tried their best to achieve it for her, but when she asked Xue Zi Xuan about this, she only received a cold rejection.
“No, that’s cheating, I can’t agree.” He stared blankly at his book, not even giving Xue Jing Yi a corner of his eye. These past few days, he never came over to visit her, he could no longer stand her presence.
“But I heard that Yan Ye will come back in two days, if Xiao Yi participates in the competition in my place, he can escape him for a few days.” Xue Jing Yi had already thought up a good excuse.
Xue Zi Xuan was visibly shaken, after a few minutes he nodded wordlessly.
In the past, her brother would’ve never consented to such a thing. He often said that music was the most real thing in the world, he couldn’t tolerate any deception in music, so plagiarism, cheating and other dishonest acts were absolutely despicable. But now, in order to keep Huang Yi by his side, he was willing to put aside all his principles.
If today really was her last day on earth, she didn’t know who he would pick between Huang Yi and herself.
Xue Jing Yi couldn’t stifle her feelings, she impulsively asked, “Brother, do you want me to live?” If I live, Huang Yi must die, how will you choose?
Xue Zi Xuan regarded her with exceptionally emotionless eyes, then he walked away without a word. Of course he wanted his sister to live, but only if she didn’t take the boy’s life. Death was a natural process, and no one in the world could avoid it, it just came earlier or later. On that day, calm acceptance was the best response.
He didn’t turn around, so he didn’t see the strong resentment filling his sister’s eyes.
Participating in the competition instead of Xue Jing Yi had always been Zhou Yun Sheng’s plan. The Xue family wanted to conceal his identity, so he would become world famous. When the truth was revealed, the Xue family would be unable to cover up the story.
In order to ensure that he didn’t have contact with outsiders, the Xue family sent several bodyguards to monitor him. The preliminaries had already begun, and the lounge was full of young people aged 12 to 18. Among them, most were from prominent families, but very few were as extravagant as him, always surrounded by a group of sunglasses and suits.
Some of the contestants hated his seeming haughtiness, after whispering to each other, they tried to walk up to him and protest, but the bodyguards stopped them. This move provoked even more cynicism. The competition hadn’t even started yet and he behaved so haughtily, they couldn’t wait to see his ugly complexion when he lost.
Each participant had to record a video and submit it to the Organizing Committee, and the Organizing Committee edited them together and aired it, in order to let everyone understand each other’s level.
The video was filmed by Xue Jing Yi before her heart attack, before experiencing her life and death torment, but although she was considered talented, she could only rank in the middle among all these contestants. They didn’t see her as a real opponent.
Such a mediocre talent was putting on a haughty attitude, it gave a lot of players the feeling of a fox exploiting the tiger’s might, even though Xue Zi Xuan’s talent had nothing to do with her.
Thinking like this, many contestants shook their heads and sneered, collectively deciding to alienate him. Especially the most promising Austrian contestant, Hannah, she gave a small gift to each contestant, except Zhou Yun Sheng.
But this kind of behind the scenes infighting was irrelevant to Zhou Yun Sheng, he quietly sat in a corner, looking down at the score. After a while, a collective intake of breath sounded in the lounge, and he vaguely heard ‘God, I’m going to faint’ and other exaggerated expressions.
Zhou Yun Sheng perceived the change in atmosphere and glanced up, surprised to see Xue Zi Xuan walking towards him. Today he was wearing a gray suit, his neck tied with a monochrome, gray striped mixed silk scarf. With his white gloves, he looked like an aristocrat out of a medieval oil painting.
During his walk, someone stopped him to ask for an autograph, but he rejected them and walked straight to Zhou Yun Sheng’s side. His icy expression slightly melted, and he bent forward and asked, “Nervous?”
“Nope.” Zhou Yun Sheng shook his head.
“For the sake of fairness, I can’t be your judge, but I’ll watch you from the audience seats. Believe in yourself, the championship is definitely yours.” He took off his gloves to touch the boy’s cheek, his expression and tone very gentle.
Zhou Yun Sheng smiled shyly
Xue Zi Xuan also wanted to say something soothing, but found himself particularly foreign to this area. He twisted his brows and thought for a long time, but couldn’t find anything suitable to say, so he just awkwardly stood beside the boy like a sculpture. Just when he decided that maybe giving the boy a hug was best, and was about to bend over, he was shocked to see Xue Lao Si pushing Xue Yan over.
He immediately stood in front of the teenager, “Here is the contestants’ lounge area, miscellaneous people can’t enter.”
“So how did they get in?” Xue Lao Si glanced at the stone-faced bodyguards surrounding the boy. So strict, when did he become a prisoner?
“Xiao Yi has heart disease, this is to prevent any accidents. The Organizing Committee agreed to have us send people to protect him.”
Xue Yan didn’t speak, only sneered. Xue Zi Xuan wanted to have someone escort the two people out, but a staff member rushed in, saying that the Organizing Committee had convened an emergency meeting, and he needed to quickly join them.
“Big brother, I’m fine, you can leave. Uncle won’t eat me.” Zhou Yun Sheng gently patted his arm.
Xue Zi Xuan repeatedly clenched his fists, then glared fiercely at the man before walking away.
“You can withdraw now.” Xue Yan waved at the bodyguards. These people all knew of Yan Ye, who would dare defy him, they bowed their heads and filed out.
“Big brother? That’s a very affectionate call. What kind of big brother is he?” Xue Yan held the boy’s wrist and sneered, then looked him up and down, opening in distaste, “What is this clothes? You’re dressed weirdly every time we meet, can’t they make you wear something normal?”
Zhou Yun Sheng tugged on his pure white dress and gave a helpless shrug, “This is the uniform issued by the Organizing Committee, all the female players have to wear it, what can I do? No matter, it’s almost time to leave the Xue house, then I’ll no longer be subjected to this crime.”
Xue Yan pulled him to his side, kneading his slender fingers, and said, “We’ll hold an engagement ceremony at the end of the competition. I’ll have a suit made for you, which do prefer, black or white?”
“What color will you wear?” Zhou Yun Sheng moved closer in interest, squatting down to sit on his lover’s knees, his eyes sparkling.
“I’m wearing black.”
“Then I’ll wear white.”
“Good, then it’s settled.” Xue Yan laughed lightly, then he pulled out a ring from his pocket and pushed it onto his ring finger, slowly opening. “This is the engagement ring, we’ll pick out the wedding ring together. After the contest, I want to give you a grand proposal, do you want me to kneel?”
Zhou Yun Sheng spread his fingers to appreciate the exquisite workmanship of the diamond ring, catching sight of the same style of ring on the man’s ring finger, he gave a contented smile, “Don’t, I want to handle the proposal, so I’ll kneel. You just have to wait for it.” Unable to restrain his joy, he clung to the man’s head and kissed him deeply, the loud sound attracting everyone’s curious glance.
Every time Xue Lao Si overheard their dialogue he couldn’t help but want to laugh, he had to sigh for the Boss’ luck in picking up this treasure. Although the boy was only sixteen years old, any discerning eye could see how much he threw his energy into his feelings. His love was so deep and unquestionable, once he settled on someone, he would firmly grab that man’s hand and press forward to happiness without a single glance back.
Only such a person could move a steel heart like Xue Yan’s.
Xue Yan pressed the boy’s head closer, giving him a lingering kiss, then squeezed his fingers in encouragement before leaving the lounge.
The players that had disliked Zhou Yun Sheng before were now even more convinced that he was an idiot that indulged in pleasures and carnal desires. They no longer paid any attention to him, secretly feeling sorry for Xue Zi Xuan for having such a sister.
The competition proceeded in an orderly manner, the first few contestants gave quite impressive performances, and the judges gave them very high evaluations. Especially Hannah, she played the composition ‘La Campanella’, one of the most difficult piano pieces. By using this song in the preliminaries, she directly raised the competition’s difficulty up by several levels.
The players scheduled behind her would ultimately become her foil if they didn’t give a more dazzling performance, and the judges were more unlikely to score them higher than their performance actually deserved.
Because the applause was endless, she spent a long time bowing to the audience in thanks, only leaving the stage after a full two minutes. Zhou Yun Sheng was scheduled after her, so he was standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up.
“Good luck.” Looking at the sickly and old fashioned young miss, she smirked and said.
“Did you change your entry song at the last moment?” Zhou Yun Sheng asked in standard German. He remembered that the repertoire listed Hannah’s entry as ‘Sonata Pathetique’, but she suddenly raised the difficulty, putting the remaining players in a very awkward position. Of course, if the other contestants were stronger than her, this little episode was for naught.
“Yeah, you’re allowed to change it right before you go on. Why don’t you give it a shot?” Hannah grinned and said.
“Your proposal sounds good, I like a fierce competition.” Zhou Yun Sheng smiled and nodded, then wrote a small note and handed it to the judges.
The judges seemed stunned after looking at the note, and they repeatedly sent people to consult with him to see if this was truly his decision, but he only nodded in acknowledgement. Sitting in the back row, Xue Zi Xuan noticed that the curtain was delayed and walked over to ask about the situation.
“Xuan my dear, your sister changed the song at the last minute, she wants to play ‘To Pavlochev’. We advised her, but she’s not willing to heed our words. So … …” The staff member shrugged, feeling very helpless.
‘To Pavlochev’ was not included in the ‘Transcendental Etudes’, but the difficulty compared with them was higher. This song was slightly obscure, and the musicians known for it were very few. This was not only because it required master-level piano skills, it also needed abundant emotions invested into it, emotions that ordinary people couldn’t imagine.
One of the most famous pianists in the last century, Prokofiev, had a mental breakdown from playing this song. Since then, no one could completely play it, and it became known as the ‘Devil’s Music’. The players needed to strike the keys and continuously play inharmonious chords, from beginning to end, the rhythm never waned until the climax.
When the song premiered, the audience was unable to stand the stimuli from the strong tone and chose a collective exit. From that day, ‘To Pavlochev’ was completely pushed out of the mainstream music scene, until a century later, when musicians started noticing the hidden and unique charm to its melody and tried to make it reemerge in the music world.
But they all failed without exception, and even Xue Zi Xuan announced that he could only play ‘To Pavlochev’s body, he couldn’t reshape its soul.
The Devil’s Music could only be played by the Devil.
This was why the judges were so shocked. They didn’t want to watch a player with potential be eliminated because they picked the wrong song. But if the player insisted, they wouldn’t stop it.
The host announced the last minute change, and the audience began booing. The remaining contestants were laughing loudly in schadenfreude, and throwing thumbs up at Hannah. If Hannah hadn’t provoked Xue Jing Yi, she wouldn’t have committed competition suicide. Oh well, that was one less competitor.
“Yan Ye, Xiao Yi hasn’t come out on stage yet, why are they booing?” Xue Lao Si was confused by the audience’s illogical rudeness.
Xue Yan googled ‘To Pavlochev’, after reading the summary, he couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows.
“The Devil’s Music, fuck me.” Xue Lao Si glanced at the phone, dumbstruck.
While the two men talked, the curtain opened. A girl (boy) dressed in white was sitting in front of the piano, a spot light focused on her head, lighting up her fine hair. She slightly lowered her eyelids, as if adjusting her emotions.
The judges didn’t urge her to start. The girl had demonstrated her courage by choosing this song, they were willing to give her a little more time to set up.
Sitting at home and watching the competition live, Xue Jing Yi secretly clenched her teeth, not understanding why Huang Yi changed the song at the last second. Did he think he could perfectly interpret the song, something even her brother couldn’t do? Was he too arrogant or too stupid? If she’d known it would be like this, she wouldn’t have let him compete in her place. He’d screwed up her chances!
Zhou Yun Sheng concentrated on ‘To Pavlochev’s creation. It was composed by a little known musician in the last century named Kallans. After the premiere, the song received numerous bad reviews, and he committed suicide by poison. The corpse slowly rotted away in the old attic where he lived until it was discovered by the landlord a month later.
At that time, the public thought that he had chosen death because he could not accept defeat, after all, he had spent seven years to write this song, saying he had put in ‘blood, sweat and tears’ was not an exaggeration. But Zhou Yun Sheng didn’t think so. Why was this song called ‘To Pavlochev’? Who exactly was Pavlochev, and what relationship did he have with Kallans?
The people at that time couldn’t find out, and they also didn’t truly want to check, but Zhou Yun Sheng had 008, it was a breeze to find the truth. By searching through the library of historical archives, he found out that this Pavlochev was a real person, he was Kallans’ high school classmate. Their relationship was very close, but after they graduated, Pavlochev committed suicide because he couldn’t stand his family’s abuse. From the day of his death, Kallans spent all his energy and time on composing this song, and the day after the song was finished and premiered, he also chose to commit suicide.
To devote a life’s work to a dead man, then follow him duty-bound, how heavy were his feelings? Were they really just simple friends? Zhou Yun Sheng didn’t think so, and according to local medical records, Pavlochev had been committed to a psychiatric hospital by his family because he’d fallen in love with the same sex. In those days, there was not the slightest bit of respect for homosexuals, and once discovered, they were rejected by society as a whole.
Did Pavlochev suffer inhuman torture and choose death? And Kallans, his lover, how could he persevere in that endless despair? From start to finish, ‘To Pavlochev’s melody was so violent, was it really just to express the pain of losing a loved one?
No, there was also resentment, resistance, and condemnation- condemning this cruel and pitiless society that destroyed their happiness and destroyed their will to live. These violent emotions were interwoven in the melody, pure love and pure hate, combining into pure destruction.
What Kallans really wanted to do after his lover’s death was destroy this cruel world, but he didn’t have the ability to put this into action. So he could only pour his endless love and hate into this composition, venting it on the listeners, and venting it on Pavlochev. Yes, he was also resentful of him, he hated him for leaving him to face death alone.
When the audience couldn’t stand the stimuli and hurled abuse at him as they exited, he must’ve been overjoyed, and he left the world the next day, satisfied.
The critics at that time were very sensible, their description was correct, this was indeed the Devil’s Music, because destruction and death were its main themes.
Thinking of this, Zhou Yun Sheng took a deep breath and violently pressed the first note. He had also experienced the warmest love, and the most painful torment. He’d also struggled desperately at the unseen end, also wanted to fight against this cruel and heartless world. When his lover had thrown him back into the real world to face death alone, he’d also hated him, but he’d also loved him so much he could burst.
Kallans’ feelings, he understood them.
The judges and the audience endured the long silence, waiting for his timid exit. They didn’t expect his motionless body to suddenly move, striking like lightning. After the first high note darted out, it was followed by a segment of extremely heavy, sharp, discordant rhythm, rolling down like a mountain avalanche.
The teenager quickly, violently struck the keys, and because of his excessive force, his veins bulged, his expression malevolent and painful. His back was straight one moment, then suddenly bent over, his swaying hair leaving a trail in the light. His fingers swiftly slid from one end of the piano to the other, barely perceptibly striking each note in the jam-packed, 300 note bar.
The shrill notes continuously attacked the audience’s eardrums and went straight into their hearts, making them feel fearful and uneasy, while also feeling painful and oppressed, as if a hand was covering their mouth and nose, dragging them into suffocating desperation.
But the teenager clearly felt more pain and desperation than them, because he was engrossed in the music, his face stained with sweat or tears. And as his head swung, the unknown liquid flew onto the back of his hands and the keys, the spot light glinting off it.
He clenched his teeth, pressing down heavily on the last note, and the music from hell came to an abrupt end. He weakly rested his hands on the keys, his heavy panting picked up by the receiver, echoing in every corner of the concert hall.
The audience was so quiet a needle drop could be heard. Some were clutching their chests or faces in horror, some had tightened their lips, choking back tears, and others were sitting lifelessly. Until today, they really hadn’t comprehended that music had the power to affect the soul. Every note he played had made them feel sharp pain in their quivering souls.
“Fuck! Fucking awesome!” Xue Lao Si was stunned. Even he, an uncouth fellow, could be stunned by the boy’s music, not to mention the auditorium full of professionals.
Xue Yan was the first to applaud, after him, sparse applause sounded until it became thunderous. The eight judges stood up and loudly applauded, their cheeks flushed with excitement. To hear such a pure ‘To Pavlochev’ in their lifetime, they could die without regrets.
Xue Zi Xuan squeezed through the audience and ran onto the stage, tightly pulling the boy into an embrace, every one of his cells trembling. He’d been conquered by him, body and soul.
“Encore!” Batch after batch of audience members stood up, their cheers merging into a monstrous wave.
Zhou Yun Sheng pushed Xue Zi Xuan away and gave everyone a deep bow, his face still containing traces of discomfort. Xue Zi Xuan took off his white gloves and wiped the sweat from his brow, then tightly hugged him again, his proud smile so bright the whole world could see.
Because of Xue Yan’s lack of mobility, he was stuck in the audience seats and could only stare at the stage, his expression livid.
“I want to treat my legs.” His brief sentence.
“Oh? Didn’t you say you didn’t want to?” Xue Lao Si was first stumped, then he looked back at the stage where Xue Zi Xuan was standing shoulder to shoulder with the boy and naturally understood.
“Fine, I’ll go back and help you arrange the operation.” He gave a relived smile. Once there was a person you loved more than life, your unfortunate life will slowly become fortunate.
The contestants were crammed into the hallway, their expressions particularly funny. Whether it was expressiveness or skill, the boy was able to rival the world’s top musicians. After Hannah raised the competition to a high level, the boy had pushed the level to a height ordinary people couldn’t dream of reaching. Not to mention the youth group, even if he was in the adult group, he would be a worthy champion.
And now, the contest had only just begun, there was still the semi-finals and finals, what surprises would he bring?
The judges all unreservedly gave him the highest score. Perfect, except for perfect they couldn’t give any other comments. The teenager thanked the audience and was preparing to step down when he was enthusiastically called back. They were too fond of him, and even wanted him to perform again, but this was clearly not in line with the competition’s rules. Zhou Yun Sheng could only endure the repeated curtain calls before returning to the lounge in Xue Zi Xuan’s protective embrace five minutes later.
The players scheduled behind him had little hope, but they were strangely relaxed during their performances. They knew that they couldn’t surpass him even if they put in all their efforts, so they felt no stress. The game had only just begun, but the champion among the candidates was already identified. Unless something unexpected occurred during the contest that made him unable to properly participate, he would win.
Xue Jing Yi was sitting in front of the TV, swallowing a heart stabilizing pill. The boy’s incomparable talent had far exceeded her estimations, she was now feeling agitated, unsure if she could reach his level after getting his heart.
When standing on the stage, he was like a star on the horizon, so far away.
Fox exploiting the tiger’s might- to use powerful connections to intimidate people
To Pavlochev – Doesn’t exist, Chinese readers speculate that the author is referencing Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor.
Wikipedia “The work is dedicated to the memory of Maximilian Schmidthof, a friend of Prokofiev’s at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, who had committed suicide in April 1913 after having written a farewell letter to Prokofiev. Prokofiev premiered the work that same year, performing the solo piano part…. Most of the audience reacted intensely. The concerto’s wild temperament left a positive impression on some of the listeners, whereas others were opposed to the jarring and modernistic sound (“To hell with this futurist music!”/ “What is he doing, making fun of us?”/ “The cats on the roof make better music!”). It remains one of the most technically formidable piano concertos in the standard repertoire.”