Hard to Escape - novelonlinefull.com
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Candle: Wow we on a full chapter streak…does 2 count as a streak LOL
By the month of October, Paris already began to felt a bit bleak. Walking through its streets, I was surrounded by strange faces and unfamiliar buildings. It had already been over half a month since I left Yin Li and came to Paris. He was right. Nowadays, only my familiarity with French let me feel at ease in this land.
He didn't know which was the day of my departure. Thus, he didn't even see me one last time before I left.
Li Jing rented an apartment for me in the center of Paris. He often came to see me and his behavior was always exceedingly courteous and kind. Frank managed to squeeze some time out to rush back to France to pay me a visit, but for the most part, I lived a solitary existence. At the same time, this was the one occasion that, in such a foreign environment, I wanted even more to be alone.
Without Yin Li, interacting one-on-one with Li Jing made me feel awkward. He was fond of taking me to the most expensive, most dazzling Western restaurants. Then afterwards, he would invite me to the opera, and finally we would stroll slowly along the banks of the Seine.
"It's just like we've returned to the past. Carefree and without worries," He would say with a satisfied smile. "Just like when we first met."
Every time he said that, his warm gaze would linger on me. Sometimes, he would recite lines of poetry in a beautiful, rhythmic cadence that recalled times of ancient past.
This was how we had interacted in the past. I wanted desperately to remember, and so did he. In tacit understanding, we tried to stir up my lost memories in this fashion.
But sometimes, I didn't really feel very romantic. I only felt that the wind by the Seine was a little strong.
Over this half-month period, Li Jing tried his best to replicate past scenarios. He hoped that any portion would be the fuse that would spark the return of my memories. However, my muddled mind couldn't remember anything. I felt immensely guilty, and Li Jing no doubt felt somewhat disappointed too. The gaze that he looked at me with increasingly seemed to pa.s.s through me, like he was looking at another person. It was tinged with pain and sadness, and that sort of expression instinctively made me want to flee.
"Yi Yun, how about I bring you to my studio tonight? I've already managed to retrieve various paintings that were out on exhibition." This evening, Li Jing's voice was irrepressibly cheerful. He had painted quite a few pieces for me. To help me recover my memories, he didn't even let the prospect of reneging on contracts deter him from asking for pieces to be returned from their current exhibitions ahead of time.
Even knowing that the studio would be filled with paintings of me, when the time actually came to see it in person, I was still stunned.
The studio was more s.p.a.cious than Yin Xuan's ballet room. The pieces were all of various sizes, and all haphazardly hung on the wall. It gave off a completely different feeling compared to Yin Xuan's photos, which were all neatly lined up in an orderly fashion. It felt chaotic and unusual. And directly on the wall in front of me was a life-size painting of myself.
"I painted that one directly on the wall. It took me a whole month to complete," Li Jing said, sounding pleased with himself. "I didn't go out for the whole month. When I finally finished, I excitedly went out to look for you. My scruffy beard and appearance gave you a big scare, and afterwards you continually teased me about it. You said I was an artist that didn't care about 'face.'"
He smiled and then looked over at me. Then, he turned to stare fixedly at the mural, his eyes tender and warm.
The mural's background looked like it was a church, viewed from an angle. I could see a large statue of Jesus near the side of the foreground and decorated Christmas trees all over. A priest was holding the Bible. Behind him stood a group of violinists accompanying the carolers. A flaxen haired boy was playing the piano. In the mural, there were many people lowering their heads in pious devotion. They stood silently in the pews, theirs hands each cupping a candle. The church's interior was cast in shadow, and only the light of their candles illuminated a small portion of each person's face. But those faces were blurry and out of focus, and I could barely make out their eyebrows. Only my face was clear.
I stood in the middle on the mural, cupping a candle with a solemn face, my eyes closed. It was as if I was making a silent, secret prayer. I could clearly see how much effort Li Jing put into painting my face. The shadows were just right, and my silhouette had a vague softness. It made my eyelashes appear long and beautiful. My expression was gentle, as if I stood apart from the world. In comparison to the portrait Mo Xing Zhi had taken me to see before, this mural's beauty wasn't as severe. There weren't as many sharp edges, and to the contrary it gave a slightly tender and fragile feeling.
I thought of what Mo Xing Zhi had said back then. "The artist must really love the person who's the subject of this painting." Standing in front of this wall, I also felt the emotions and quiet love emanating palpably from the mural.
"This mural portrays the first time we met. It was on Christmas Day, five years ago. I came to Paris all the way from Southern France by myself. Because I was lonely, I wanted to spend Christmas in church with everyone. Then I saw you." Li Jing's tone softened, and it sounded like he was reminiscing. "The whole trip, I was searching for inspiration. I never thought that I would settle down in a particular city. But from that day on, I settled down in Paris."
I surveyed all the pieces in the studio. There were all different versions of me. I was twirling. I was mid-air in a leap. But in a large majority, I wasn't wearing a ballet costume. There were so many me's in so many time periods resting along many of Paris's different street railings. My expression was light, and my face was young and proud.
Li Jing walked over and removed a cover that was draped on a painting. It was an unfinished piece.
"I had already heard news that the ballet troupe was planning to sign you. You would have had your first public performance. The world would hear your name for the first time and bow down to it. I had planned to paint this as a gift to you. But then you had the accident, and I could no longer bring myself to continue."
Like I was bewitched by the painting, I reached forwards and brushed my fingers against that unfinished face. In the painting, I was sitting on the ground, bent in a twisted position. One hand pressed against my left leg, and my leg muscles were taut. The laces of one of my pointe shoes were loosened. Li Jing had already finished painting the details on the hands and legs, and only the face was still incomplete. The me in the painting tilted her head upwards, with only a sketched-out silhouette where she should have had a face.
"Have you remembered something? This painting is of you during practice, when you accidentally slipped in your own sweat. That time, you pulled a muscle and were forced to recuperate for two months. In those two months, you refused to see anyone, thinking that it might affect your leg. And you couldn't accept that possibility. I wanted to gift this painting to you because you made such huge sacrifices for the sake of becoming a princ.i.p.al dancer. Your glory, your blood and your tears, I witnessed them all along the way."
This painting made me sad. Yet I didn't know how to identify the source of my sorrow.
Every time Li Jing pa.s.sed a painting, he would explain it in detail. Each one held many memories. It's a pity that we had only met five years ago, so he only knew the me from that short period of time. Such that he had seen my mom a mere three times.
The second day I was in Paris, I had gone to the cemetery. There was a clean, simple gravestone in the cemetery, surrounded by a blanket of green gra.s.s. To the side bloomed a row of scarlet tulips that were dewy from the rain. The gravestone was engraved with my mother's name: Maria Tang. Li Jing told me she was called Tang Yuan (唐苑).
"What sort of person was she?" Standing in the rain, I had asked Li Jing.
He seemed a bit embarra.s.sed. "I really don't know how to describe her. We had only met three times, and they were all very brief. I only know that your mom spoke French like a native. She didn't like speaking to anyone other than you, and she seemed very mysterious. The two of you didn't live a very glamorous lifestyle, and didn't have any other relatives. But her every movement and gesture seemed like that of a n.o.ble. She was very graceful."
"You should visit Madame Taylor. I've never met her, but she's your teacher. And you are her only pupil. She and your mother seemed to be very familiar with each other. If she knew you were alive, she'd definitely be very happy. I'm sure she'd also be able to help. You should also ask her about the past. In the world of ballet, she is the closest one to you."
At this time in the present, Li Jing probably noticed my emotions, and repeated the same suggestion he had told me that day at the cemetery.
I smiled gratefully at him, and then out of curiosity asked another long-held question.
"Li Jing, I have a question. I don't know if it's appropriate to ask, but I've always been extremely curious about it. If our memories together are so lovely and sweet, then why did I reject you back then?"
Li Jing fell silent. After a moment, he replied, "I don't know. You didn't say why. You just said that you would never marry me in this lifetime. You even told me never to appear in front of you again."
This was a bit beyond my expectations, because those words were so blunt as to be hurtful. With a little embarra.s.sment, I apologized to him on behalf of my past self, "Sorry." I even thought to myself that maybe my past self wasn't really that likable.
Li Jing surprisingly didn't seem to mind much. He only smiled. "I respect your decision. Right now, as long as you're alive, it is a blessing to me. Moreover, you've lost your memories. Maybe that too is a new beginning for us."
His voice was filled with emotion, but my heart shook. I didn't dare tell him that two days prior, I had seen Yin Li outside my apartment.
Candle: Lately I've been wondering… since it's revealed that Tang Yi Yun's her real name I'm curious where the name Yan Xiao comes from?