Try as they might, none of them can escape their past.
Once again, kudos to Peanuts for finding such an apt picture!
After praying, Yun Jin stuck her joss stick in the urn. When she turned round, she was shocked to see Zheng Xiao Tong staring woodily at her.
“… Hi, here to offer incense too? … Are you by yourself?”
Xiao Tong nodded. Try as she might, she couldn’t think of anything to say.
Yun Jin smiled at her as she tried to end this chance encounter. She walked off to the side to donate to the oil fund started by the monks to keep the lamps alight continuously. Xiao Tong hesitated before following her. Although she didn’t yet know what to say, she felt compelled to force out something, anything.
Sensing that Zheng Xiao Tong was still behind her, Yun Jin looked at her confused. “Can I help you?” Zheng Xiao Tong and her were merely acquaintance at best. Without Cheng Zheng in the equation, they weren’t even close enough to nod at each other in passing.
“You … have also lighted the Eternal Fire? Are you making a wish?” Zheng Xiao Tong asked earnestly.
Yun Jin smiled but made no reply.
“Who did you light it for?” This question was rather abrupt but Zheng Xiao Tong did not sense her impropriety. She merely wanted to know so she thought she would just make her query upfront.
“For a relative; one who’s passed away.” Yun Jin turned around to face her; she wanted to hear what Xiao Tong had to say to her.
“Oh …” Xiao Tong hadn’t expected that answer and she looked apologetic. “Cheng Zheng also has one lighted. He says it’s a wish but I don’t know what it’s about. Do you happen to know?”
Yun Jin had to re-evaluate this mousy girl who perpetually wore a blank look; it turned out that she was in the know after all.
“I’m sorry I don’t … If there’s nothing else, I best be off.” She had no intention of interacting with Zheng Xiao Tong any further.
“Wait!” Zheng Xiao Tong grabbed her sleeves frantically. “Could you tell me … Where Cheng Zheng is right now?”
She asked her for Cheng Zheng’s location? Yun Jin was mystified. “You’re his girlfriend. Why do you ask me for his whereabouts?”
“I thought you would know.”
“I’m sorry I don’t.”
This was a strange conversation.
When Yun Jin made a move to leave once again, Zheng Xiao Tong tossed out “I was the one who accompanied him through his darkest period.”
But Yun Jin understood her immediately. She turned back to look Zheng Xiao Tong straight in the eyes – her angelic and innocent eyes. So angels also had desires and people they couldn’t let go off.
“When you were with him … were you happy?” Yun Jin asked.
“Yes.” She nodded sincerely.
“You were with him when he was at his lowest but in the process, you were happy. Isn’t that a fair exchange?”
Zheng Xiao Tong didn’t understand though she continued to maintain eye contact “But you were the one who made him sad.”
Yun Jin pursed her lips tightly before replying “I think there’s something you have to get right. You and I have nothing in common apart from Cheng Zheng. We are practically strangers. What is between the two of you is your business. Similarly, my past with Cheng Zheng is none of your concern … Goodbye.” She removed the hand that Zheng Xiao Tong used to clutch at her clothes before walking away hurriedly. She didn’t need to see another of her troubled looks.
“… Cheng Zheng also has one lighted. He says it’s a wish but I don’t know what it’s about. Do you happen to know?”
She truly didn’t.
Yun Jin was halfway home when she abruptly made a u-turn and sped back to the temple.
By the time she reached the temple once again, Zheng Xiao Tong was no longer there. But it didn’t matter anyhow because Yun Jin’s purpose was not about finding her. She half-ran to the Goddess of Mercy altar. People who came to pray were still numerous but as she stood there, she could almost relive the summer eight years ago. Back then in the empty temple, she, Cheng Zheng and Shen Ju An had been in the same spot, kneeling before the deity to make their wishes.
There could be no mistake about it; this was the very same spot. The altar had quite a few books of records. She flipped through each of them diligently but the records of wishes dating to eight years ago were no longer there. At that moment, a monk happened to pass by so Yun Jin rushed up to him to ask for help. However, the young monk shook his head. Yun Jin was frantic; she placed her palms together in a pleading motion and stuffed a handsome donation in his hands. At this, the monk went to the backyard. Ten minutes later, a much older monk emerged carrying a thick book of records.
Yun Jin went up to receive it eagerly; the thick layer of dust didn’t bother her in the least. With haste, she quickly located her familiar penmanship – A simple life. Right after her wish was another set of penmanship. This was what she was seeking.
That person only wrote two words: Yun Jin.
Yun Jin closed the book of records and slowly stood up. She could hear a bell toll somewhere in the temple as she stared at the statue of the Goddess of Mercy who wore her typical look of compassion before shutting her eyes.
* * * * *
The next day, Lu Lu snuck into Yun Jin’s office in a suspicious manner and passed her a letter wordlessly. Yun Jin opened the envelope to see a letter of resignation. She placed the letter calmly on the table before taking a good long look at Lu Lu who was wearing shades indoors.
This child, can’t she behave more normally?
“Surely you must have a reason?” Yun Jin continued to train her eyes on her.
“Haha! I was afraid I’ll scare you with my reason. Since I was very young, I’ve always dreamt of touring the whole world and seeing all the handsome foreigners out there. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been saving up since I was six. With last month’s pay, I finally have enough capital to do so. If I don’t go now, then when?”
Lu Lu let out exaggerated laughter.
Yun Jin looked at her quizzically “Even if you want to covertly ogle at handsome men, you don’t have to wear sunglasses everywhere do you?”
“Oh you won’t understand this. Do you recognize it? This is the latest pair of shades the fashion magazines have been fawning over … Hey what are you doing?”
Yun Jin had no interest in her chattering as she suddenly lunged forward to whip off Lu Lu’s shades when she least expected it. Lu Lu tried to hide it with her hands but she was too late.
Without the shades, Lu Lu’s peri-orbital bruises and wounds were unveiled.
“Can you explain this?” Yun Jin was horrified.
“Hee Hee. You still found out about my embarrassing state after all. I fell while showering yesterday.” Lu Lu continued to smile.
Yun Jin didn’t care about Lu Lu’s rights or resistance as she gently pulled down her turtleneck sweater. She drew in her breath sharply at the sight before quickly lowering all the blinds in her office. She wanted to drag Lu Lu to a corner but when her hand gripped onto Lu Lu’s arm, Lu Lu squealed in pain. Lu Lu stopped resisting and allowed Yun Jin to roll up her sleeves. Thankfully Yun Jin was already mentally prepared else she wouldn’t have been able to stomach the sight. As it was, she was so taken aback that she forgot to breathe; Lu Lu’s fair skin was covered in bruises and wounds of all sizes. Some were old scars but many more were new cuts and scratches. Yun Jin could easily tell that the vicious attacker had done so with full intent. The wounds even extended to beneath her undergarments.
“You attribute these to a fall?? … Who did it? Tell me Lu Lu!” Yun Jin had always looked upon Lu Lu as a younger sister and her heart ached at the obvious abuse.
Lu Lu gently tugged down her clothes. “Don’t ask any further Sister Su, I beg you.” Finally, she was no longer smiling.
Yun Jin retracted her hands. “You still won’t say despite all this? Who could be so twisted? … Could it be … Lu Sheng?” Suddenly, the memory of Lu Lu’s wide-eyed trepidation upon seeing Lu Sheng at Left Bank resurfaced.
At Lu Lu’s instinctive cowering, Yun Jin knew she was right. Yun Jin thought back to all the moments when she had met Lu Sheng personally in business settings and even his appearance in the news. Such a gentlemanly appearance … Who knew he was such a monster in private?
“Is he even human? Come with me.” Yun Jin gingerly placed Lu Lu’s shades back on before attempting to lead her outside.
“Where are we heading?” Lu Lu struggled in Yun Jin’s grip.
“To the hospital … and to the police.” Yun Jin was rarely worked up but in that moment, she felt something stuck in her throat.
Lu Lu managed to wriggle free. “It’s no use Sister Su. Don’t worry about me; I’ve been tending to my wounds. As for him, he’s not in a better state than I am. If you truly wish me well, then please act like you don’t know anything.”
Yun Jin studied her. Was this the same old Lu Lu? The Lu Lu who was always bubbly?
Eventually, Lu Lu left. Yun Jin sat in her office in a daze. Not much time had passed before a phone rung; it wasn’t the office’s line.
Yun Jin answered her handphone. The other party spoke for less than three minutes but Yun Jin knew immediately – her retribution had arrived.