Chapter 172: The Butterfly That Cannot Fly
Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
Masking her discomfort, Xia Ling continued with the third line. “Like the irises by the road, lost in time. Unable to differentiate if the gentle you is reality or a dream…”
Her tears fell without warning. Snippets of her memories flashed across her mind. A random summer, there were huge bushes of irises by the roadside, blooming splendidly in the summer breeze. A young, tall man was standing against the light, smiling at the little girl in front of him with his hand outstretched — Xiao Ling, come home with me.
Xiao Ling, come home with me.
That voice was low and mesmerizing, like a curse, making her voice choked up.
More images flowed into her mind — the luxurious bungalows in the mountains, that man holding the girl’s hand and announcing to his family. “This is Xia Ling, the girl I adopted. I hope you welcome her into the family and treat her well.”
In the quiet study room, that man had the girl in his lap as he held her hand and taught her to write.
In the rose garden, with the roses in full bloom, that man was half-kneeling as he helped the girl remove the thorns from the soles of her feet. His eyes were lowered in concentration, looking gentle and focused…
Tears blurred her vision as Xia Ling recalled all these memories of the past, and her voice changed. “… You gave me the crystal clear sky, that perfect dream…”
She seemed to have gone back to the past in the song, turning back time to become that little girl once again. She was slight but elegant, and pretty beyond measure. She pranced with agility in the dance practice room, perfectly spinning and singing with the glorious voice that she was born with, year after year.
Pei Ziheng came to visit her when the first snow started to fall outside the full-length windows. He took a soft, woolen jacket from one of his bodyguards and draped it across her slender shoulders, saying, “It’s getting cold, remember to keep warm especially after breaking a sweat from all the practicing.”
She wrapped her hands around his neck and raised her head to kiss him tenderly.
He brought with him a fragrance that was a mixture of tea leaves and the sandalwood, paper, and ink from his study room. He would wrap his hands around her waist and pull her closer, as he took over the lead from her, and they would kiss until she was breathless.
“Xiao Ling…” He would murmur in his hoarse voice. “… My butterfly… ”
That was the voice that was carved into her mind.
Xia Ling felt her heart clench in pain, and the world was spinning around her as she stood in the shroud of mist onstage. The hand that she was holding the microphone was shaking uncontrollably, and her voice trembled as well. “… Becoming a butterfly, a butterfly that belongs to you…”
In her reverie, the stage became another one that was in the middle of an open-air stadium, in front of a ten thousand strong crowd. She was dressed in a white silk dress, with golden wings on her back, her chin held high, arrogantly singing her song.
Cheers were sounding out all around her — Xia Ling! Xia Ling! Xia Ling!
Deep within her, she felt her heart breaking as she stared emptily up into the sky. Where… was this? Who was she? Is this her past or current life? Her tears kept falling with no sign of stopping, and Xia Ling no longer had any strength in her legs to carry herself. She stumbled to the edge of the stage and held onto the mic stand that was secured to the floor.
“Shining brightly… for you… for you… ” She sang through her tears, her voice breaking up, and the poignant lyrics seemed like they were etched into the depths of her soul. “Only for you… Just for you…”
“… Until that moment, when everything changed. When you broke my beautiful hallucination and pushed me into the cruelest valley of pain…”
The image of the headlines of a newspaper flashed into her mind — The Head of the Pei Family, Pei Ziheng, announces his engagement to the daughter of the Wang Family, Wang Jingwan. Xia Ling had stared in disbelief at the newspaper, before looking for him in hysterics at the Imperial Entertainment headquarters. He was holding a very important board meeting with all the directors of Imperial Entertainment then, and the atmosphere was very serious.
She had slammed the newspaper in front of him.
“What an embarrassment!” One of the old directors had said in a low voice.
Xia Ling acted like she did not hear him, as she angrily demanded an explanation from Pei Ziheng. He had been quiet, and the frown between his brows was like a knife to her heart. “Xiao Ling, this has nothing to do with you.”
She was shaking in anger, and would not let it go, shouting all sorts of things at him. The board meeting had been canceled due to the scene she made, and Pei Ziheng had dragged her home, threw her into the bedroom, and forced himself onto her, but did not mention a single word about the engagement.
No matter how hard she tried to interrogate him on it, he would just respond with “it’s none of your business.”
She had sought the opinion of many, but none were willing to be roped into her spat with Pei Ziheng, all unwilling to commit any view on the matter. Only Feng Kun and Chu Chen had advised her. “Xiao Ling, what Boss means is that regardless of whether he is engaged, it is only a political wedding and does not affect your relationship at all.”
Does not affect their relationship? What a joke!
She had given them both a piece of her mind, and her arguments with Pei Ziheng became more severe. She had even gone to negotiate with Wang Jingwan… until Wang Jingwan was poisoned, and Pei Ziheng imprisoned her in his anger.
“You lifted your fingers slightly, and without my knowledge, you broke my wings…”
Inside the cold bungalow, he had trapped her under him on the bed, ignoring her terror and struggles, claiming her time and time again against her will…
“The crystal sky, my broken dreams…”
He had locked her in the dark and narrow isolation room, without a tinge of light or sound. She wanted to scream but could not open her mouth; she wanted to struggle but could not move her fingers even an inch… The long and dead silence made the time in the room feel like ten and hundred thousands of years. She could hardly tell if she were dead or alive but could hear her weak heartbeat and the blood coursing in her veins. She saw the huge monster and spider’s web, the sickle of the grim reaper, and countless other hallucinations…
And then the door was opened, and that man walked in with the light like a God descending.
“Xiao Ling…” He swished the whip and she woke from the pain and intensity of being struck. He bent over to touch her face, his tone cold but gentle. “… all your joy and pain comes from me. Everything you have is mine.”
Xia Ling was crying her heart out, as she struggled to sing the next line of the song. “The caged butterfly…”
“The butterfly that cannot fly…” Her body slipped lower and lower until she was kneeling on the stage. She felt a burning pain near her ankles, where she had an injury — Pei Ziheng had personally shackled her with golden chains. It was an injury that was an accumulation of all the pain and suffering in that period.
“The butterfly that cannot fly…” She tried all she could to compose herself, to keep herself from breaking down altogether. “… The spreading spider’s web…”
“The bloodied wings, the killing of hopes…”
“The butterfly that cannot fly, trapped in the spider’s web…”
“Unable to escape from its cage…”
With that, she finished the last line of the lyrics.
Xia Ling continued kneeling on the stage, her body feeling numb, and the sound of her tears could still be heard. Momentarily, her mind went blank, like the wind from that day when she had fallen was blowing non-stop. No… her mind wasn’t blank, but instead, there were too many memories flashing through, churning through her mind, screaming at her. Overwhelmingly…
All of the gentleness and the pain.
When they first met, it was a bright summer’s day with the irises in full bloom at the orphanage. He had brought her back home, holding onto her hand tightly. When she was thirteen, they became a couple, and he said that he would care for her all the days of his life. At the international music awards ceremony, he was seated in the VIP seats, listening intently to the song that he had written for her to sing, “Perfect Dream.”
And that day when their destiny changed forever — in the doorway of their home, he had slapped her to the ground and furiously asked why she had murdered Wang Jingwan. Imprisonment… Despair… Almost going insane… Complete breakdown…
That nightmarish final year was something that Xia Ling did not dare think too much about. She only remembered herself falling offstage, and then, being reborn.
She bid goodbye to the life of Xia Ling and became Ye Xingling.