When our past comes back to hit us with full force, how ready are we to face it? Here, our Ming Xing realizes that it’s not as easy as she thought it to be to bury her painful past. Especially when the people who shared those memories with her are unwilling to let her go! And in this chapter, we have a blast from the past!
Song Of The Day: I Love You Too (오늘도 사랑해) by Baek Ji Young – OST The Princess’ Man [Download]
CHAPTER 1 (Part II): A Promise.
The first time she’d seen Han Xue Zhao, it was in the University Library.
She’d come in to borrow ‘The Dream of a Red Chamber’ and was searching for it in the many bookshelves. Then, after she found it, she found it looking too dusty. So, immediately she changed her mind.
Actually, she loved to read tragic stories as she hated the very idea of love. For some reason, she found love stories boring and loved reading more realistic stuff like tragic stories as most of the love stories end up in the path of tragedy in real life.
And as she’s a very pragmatic person, she didn’t believe in wasting her time on things like love.
After all, how many relationships did love manage to salvage? Her own parents are a living example of that. The love is still there, but it isn’t enough to sustain them together.
She started browsing through the bookshelves again, and then came across ‘7 Habits of Highly Influential People’ by Stephen R. Covey. Now, this is one of those books which she loves to read. She reads what’s beneficial to her future and nothing else.
She laid her hand on the book and tried to pull it out. But it wasn’t budging. It’s as though there’s a magnetic force pulling it backwards. Ming Xing remembered what she’d learned so many years ago in School: Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there’s an equal and an opposite reaction.
Never thought that I’ll have to apply it hear, la!
So, she decided to pull it with a greater force. Unfortunately, the magnetic force which was holding the book back didn’t act this time and the result is that she fell hard on the dusty floor with the book in her hands.
“Ouch!” she muttered to herself, and rubbed her sore back.
“Are you alright?” asked a deep voice. She was shocked that there’s a witness to her embarrassing situation and turned to look at the source of the voice.
He was tall and was well-built. He had a slightly tanned face and his hair was ruffled. He extended his hand to help her up, and she took it. His hand was warm and callused.
“Thank you!” she mumbled, feeling embarrassed.
“No, it was my fault! I was the one who was trying to pull the book from the other side of the bookshelf. I’m sorry!” he said. She could definitely see the slight amusement in his eyes.
So, he’s the culprit magnetic force ah! And to blame Newton for her tragedy… I’m sorry, Sir Newton! Rest In Peace…
“It’s alright!” she said, magnanimously, and started walking away.
But then, she stopped and turned back. “When can we meet again?” she asked him.
He was surprised, because he’d already gone back to browsing the bookshelves. He turned and asked her, “Why?”
“Don’t you want to read the book?” she asked him.
“Yes, I do. But…”
“Okay, then. I’ll tell the librarian, Madam Qin, to keep the book aside for you after I return it back to her, so that you’ll be the only one who’ll read it after me!” she said, feeling very generous.
She started walking away, when his deep voice stopped her. “What’s your name?”
This time it was she who’s caught surprised. So she blurted, “Ming Xing… Li Ming Xing of the Broadcast Journalism Faculty.”
He smiled slowly, as he said, “I’m Xue Zhao. Han Xue Zhao of the Computer Science Faculty.”
That deep voice of his — for some reason, she felt that she could never forget it. And true enough, she never did. That voice haunted her in her sleep. That voice caused her to become restless.
And now, when she didn’t hear that voice even after meeting him, she felt her heart ache like it never did before.
Han Xue Zhao had chosen to inflict the worst punishment on her — indifference.
Li Ming Xing was looking at the face staring back at her from the mirror of her new place of residence, a huge serviced apartment in a very expensive area of the city.
The young woman in the mirror has sleek and short black hair. Her features aren’t sharp, but are still good enough for a second glance. Her dark black eyes are filled with a manic energy and it seemed as if once that energy gets extinguished she’ll become lifeless.
This was definitely not the Li Ming Xing of ten years ago, who had bright eyes which passed on warmth to everyone who sought solace in her. More than that, the talkative girl of yore has disappeared, leaving behind a pale facsimile of the yesteryears.
The exuberance and activeness that one finds in most of her videos is absent in the real-world Li Ming Xing. And this has surprised all of her new colleagues in her new workplace, XX Media House, which is a State-run company. She maintained a cool distance from her co-workers and chose to remain in her own personal space, avoiding any attempts of getting close with any of them.
As a result, though many of them admired her professionally, they didn’t have personal feelings of friendship towards her.
And also, there was no one she really knew in China any longer. So, she was more alone than ever before. More than that, she felt like a stranger in her own homeland.
But no person can remain an island for long. And when Wei Xiao Xi came searching for her, she knew it was time to reconnect with her old friends from the University.
When she was working in her office, there was a knock on the door. “Come in,” she’d called out.
The door opened and a willowy girl with long black hair and soft brown eyes had stepped in. Ming Xing’s heart skipped a beat as she slowly stood up.
“Xiao… Xiao Xi?” she whispered, shocked.
“Hello, Ming Xing!” said the girl, coolly. But her lips were trembling and tears welled up in her eyes. Then she flung herself into Ming Xing’s arms as she cried, “You’re back! You’re really back!”
Ming Xing laughed and cried at the same time, as she nodded and softly assured her, “Yes, dummy! I’m back!”
When they finally calmed down their emotions and sat down, Ming Xing carefully observed Xiao Xi the same way an elder sister would look at her errant younger sister.
Xiao Xi’s still the same as she was in the University. Her long black hair and soft brown eyes are intact. And more, she’s abandoned the ugly huge glasses which she used to wear in favour of contact lenses. Happiness and contentment radiated off from her.
They’d both been like sworn sisters. And Xiao Xi was the only one who put up with Ming Xing’s incessant chatter without much complaint. When Ming Xing had left the night of their Graduation Ceremony without informing anybody, she’d been devastated.
And now, almost ten years later, in the office’s cafeteria, they were both the only people sitting on their table. Ming Xing was sipping Coke and was eating noodles, while Xiao Xi was digging into her huge meal which Ming Xing had brought for her.
“How did you find me here?” asked Ming Xing.
“It won’t take a genius to figure out where you’re working when you appear on my T.V. Set twice every week, you know!” replied Xiao Xi, matter-of-factly.
Ming Xing couldn’t help but laugh. Xiao Xi is still her old cheeky self!
“So, what’s up?” asked Ming Xing, smiling.
“I’m getting married!” declared Xiao Xi.
“Wow! When? Where? How?” demanded Ming Xing.
“Calm down, dude! So you can be a girl!”
“Of course! I am a girl!” protested Ming Xing.
Xiao Xi shook her head, smiling. “Well, it’s Liu Jin. We’ve both been dating since University. We did hit rough patches a few times, but it was only temporary and the journey till here was relatively smooth. So when he proposed, I knew that he’s the one!”
“Are you happy?” asked Ming Xing, smiling in happiness for her friend.
Xiao Xi nodded her head. “I don’t think I could be happier than this in my entire lifetime!”
“Then I’m happy for you, Ah Xi!” she said, softly. She could feel tears of happiness burning in the back of her eyes.
Xiao Xi took out a simple white and gold card. “This is the invitation.”
Taking it, Ming Xing nodded approvingly. “It’s beautiful.”
“Are you really doing well, Ming Xing?” asked Xiao Xi, her eyes filled with concern.
Ming Xing laughed unconvincingly. “I don’t think I can do better than this!”
Xiao Xi, though, wasn’t laughing. She was staring intensely at her. “You know, I’ve noticed it long back but never told you before. You’ve almost stopped talking now. You used to be so animated that your liveliness used to put mine to shame. But now, I see flickers of your old liveliness only when you’re on-air.”
She struggled to swallow the lump that got stuck in her throat, as she said unconvincingly, “No, I’m really alright!”
“Have you met Han Xue Zhao yet?” she asked.
Ming Xing froze when she heard his name and then shook her head without meeting Xiao Xi’s eyes.
“I expected that. After all, you dumped him and left to Seoul. So I knew that you would never take the initiative to meet him,” said Xiao Xi, resignedly. “But what surprised me the most was the lack of reaction from Xue Zhao when I told him that you’re back.”
Ming Xing was shocked. “You met him?”
Xiao Xi nodded nonchalantly. “We had an alumni meet recently. All of us were present except for you. The next one won’t be for another three months.”
Ming Xing tried to suppress the rising pain in her heart. She didn’t know what she was expecting to hear. Maybe she was hoping that he was just acting indifferent in front of her!
“And you surely don’t know this, but actually Xue Zhao’s mother had died the same year you’d left,” told Xiao Xi, not unkindly.
Ming Xing gasped in shock. Aunty Han had been an exceptionally kind and loving person. She felt crushed, but immediately work came to her rescue as she has to go on-air in another thirty minutes.
Ming Xing has the best evening prime-time slot as her show, ‘Open Heart’, became a huge success. The channel invited many prominent personalities and also common people, so that both can share their struggles and views. As this isn’t a live show, Ming Xing herself sat throughout the entire process of editing, and had complete say over how the programme should come out.
The viewers were instantly attracted by the new show, as it was very different to what they’d seen before. They were inspired by the prominent personalities and could connect to the common people. All this made ‘Open Heart’ into a huge success and catapulted Li Ming Xing into fame in China.
Today’s invitee is a young woman who had been abused as a child and then moved on to start a new life. She’d contacted the Creative Team, expressing her willingness to tell her story. As this is a prime-time slot, they’d been hesitant initially. But when Ming Xing had heard the girl’s story, she knew that it had to be heard.
After intense discussions with the Censoring Committee, she decided on a pre-approved script.
As she started the filming of the show with the girl, her heart felt heavy with melancholy. This girl had undergone much more hardship than her and yet found a meaning in life. Whereas she…
The girl’s story moved everyone so much that even after the filming was done, the people on the sets couldn’t stop crying. Today, there was not much to edit as it looked wonderful and touching without editing. So, Ming Xing got ready to watch it being aired.
It was instantly a huge success and the stats showed that ‘Open Heart’ is now trending on Weibo. The ratings broke all records, and the entire team of ‘Open Heart’ began celebrating.
Ming Xing was watching them partying with mixed feelings in her heart. On one level, she felt happy that the girl’s story had been heard at last. On the other level, Ming Xing wondered whether he’s seen this episode and mocked her own weakness which he’d witnessed with his own eyes…
“Ming Xing!” She turned to see that it’s Mo Wen Ru.
They’re both now working in the same news-station, only their time slots are different. Her show has occupied his previous prime-time slot, and the last she heard, his show’s in the danger of getting cancelled.
“Hi!” she said, smiling. She’d decided to put their airport encounter behind her. But when she saw his troubled expression, she frowned. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Ming Xing, my mother’s unwell and needs me right now. But my show’s scheduled to air live in another hour. I can’t afford to leave, but I can’t leave my mother alone either. If you don’t mind, will you take my place as the host?” he entreated her.
Ming Xing was surprised but seldom did she find any reason more compelling than this. “Okay. But… why me?”
“Because I know that whatever our personal differences may be, you’ll never step back when it comes to profession. And I have full trust on you when it comes to that,” he said. “Thank you, Ming Xing! I owe you one.”
She pursed her lips and nodded. “I hope that your mother gets well!”
He thanked her and shuffled out in a hurry. She downed the Coke in her hands and walked over to the studio. When Mo Wen Ru’s Crew saw her coming towards them, they held on to her as if she’s their lifeboat.
They gave her the script and explained that all she has to do is ask the questions written there. The programme is a technical interview of a prominent personality to help the young entrepreneurs to get inspired. The outlay of the programme is good, and that’s why it has secured one of the prime-time slots tonight.
No wonder why Mo Wen Ru didn’t want to leave the show tonight! It’s with great difficulty that he’s managed to secure this prime-time slot.
“Who’s the Guest?” asked Ming Xing.
“Han Xue Zhao.”
All the blood in her face drained, when she heard his name. Her hands trembled and the script paper slipped from her fingers. Him. Again.
Wow, that was intense! And also bit funny, because our high IQ heroine had comparitively lower EQ. But what I love about Ming Xing is that she’s bold and is totally different from the usually shy heroines. She doesn’t hesitate to talk down people if they try to take advantage of her, and overall, she’s a strong character who doesn’t let others trample over her. This is a welcome change from the usual trope where the C-Novel heroine usually gets taken advantage of by the Black Belly hero.
But is Xue Zhao a Black Belly hero too? I don’t think so, because his character description doesn’t sound like it! I’m not promising anything yet. So we have to wait until we get introduced to him. I’m eager to see whether he’ll pull a He Yi Chen on us, by acting as if he doesn’t give a shit about Ming Xing. He’ll definitely not welcome her back with open arms though. But their second meeting sure means a lot, because they’re going to be live on-air and it will be extremely difficult for them to play down their suppressed emotions.