Candle: I debated splitting this into 2 releases since it’s so long, but if I cut it off where things would end nicely it’d be a bit lopsided. So I gave up… Please enjoy this monster of a release!
Niang Niang: tbh we should just do one loooooong release that smushes all the chapters into one loooooooooooong page. We’d call it the All-The-Chapters chapter. Whadyathink?
This was the first time since losing my memories that I gained such a deep understanding of ballet. I was unwilling to just let it be like this. Even if I couldn't remember anything, I refused to just accept things like this. I was resentful. A rejection this strong made me feel tormented and hateful. This was the first time I wanted to stand on a stage again, receiving the admiration of all that saw me. The flowers and applause, all solely for me. I didn't just want back my past memories and my past dream. I wanted my rightful glory. Yet this made me feel conflicted. Alongside those desires, I also loathed my past and hated those that had stayed by my side in the past, solely because of ballet.
This hatred coalesced into a hatred for Yin Li and Yin Xuan.
This was the first time I behaved so hysterically to Yin Li. He was still standing there outside the apartment, just like when I had left in the morning. I rushed over, yelling.
"I hate you! You guys took away everything that was mine!"
I then crouched down and broke into deep, shuddering sobs.
"I don't have anything! I don't know what sort of person I should be. Nobody needs me!"
The passersby watched our confrontation curiously. They wondered why I shouted foreign words at a man holding roses. Then the man walked over and hugged me as I cried my heart out.
Yin Li wrapped his arms tightly around me.
"I need you." As he said this, he squeezed me tighter.
That night, Yin Li came up to my apartment. I had lost control of my emotions, and he patiently comforted me.
It was a bit laughable. But I couldn't muster up a smile. This was a huge farce, like some kind of soap opera. The only person who needed me now, was the one who hurt me. I hated the person who hurt me, but I also needed him.
"Yan Xiao, regardless of who you are, you will grasp the entire world in your hand. I promise." Before I fell asleep, I could faintly hear him promise this to me.
That night, it rained in Paris. The rain also continued unceasingly in my dreams.
The scenery was overcast like the gray color of pencil lead. A younger version of me, a child, carried a backpack as she walked down a long, long corridor. The wind rushed past, and here and there a drop of rain wet my face. The whole road forward, I tried to walk on my tiptoes. Attempting to use the point of my foot to stand, I made my way slowly. I straightened my shoulders, arched my back, and lifted up my chin. On my face was an expression of both endurance and pain. I wasn't wearing pointe shoes, but instead a pair of cloth shoes that had been washed so many times they'd lost all their color. They weren't a pair of shoes suitable to practice going en pointe.
But I could sense the restlessness of my toes. Many pairs of white cloth shoes just like those I wore flashed by in my mind. They all had a pair of holes at their tips from being walked in like this by me on my way home.
Then numerous, fragmented images flashed by, intermingled with Tchaikovsky's music, and with snippets of dancing scattered in between. I could even seem to remember the feeling of my taut muscles.
I could feel the strength of my dedication and attachment towards ballet.
I spent the whole night dreaming. When I woke up the next day, my head hurt a little. After looking around, I noticed that all the lilies had been swapped for roses.
Yin Li wasn't there, but I saw the note he left on the table.
"I went out to buy groceries to make porridge for you."
When I opened my phone, there were many texts and missed calls from Li Jing, saying that today he'd helped me get in touch with several ballet critics. They had seen my ballet practice before, and he suggested that we go together in the afternoon to pay them a visit. In addition, there was a new art exhibition and new opera opening today. He'd already purchased VIP tickets.
I was suddenly a bit fed up with living this kind of life.
I hadn't even found myself yet. So being forced to act as "me" made me somewhat irritated.
The complicated emotions that I felt for Yin Li, that I couldn't even fully understand myself, also made me feel helpless.
I sat there in a daze, and only after 10 minutes had passed did I finally stand up. Then I started packing a few simple sets of clothes and my personal identification documents.
I rushed directly to the airport and bought a ticket back to China.
More than hatred and revenge, the most important thing right now was me. I shouldn't spend my life under anybody's protection. I had my own path to walk.
Yin Li, Li Jing, Madame Taylor, Frank—not a single one of them should control my life.
The person I was five years ago has already vanished, as has the person I was five days ago. I am the me of this moment.
I didn't want Yin Lia and Li Jing to know, so I only sent the two of them a text message right before I boarded.
On the plane I quietly told myself, Paris, I'll be back. Mother, I'll be back. As a different me.
The first thing I did when I returned was to give Mo Xing Zhi and Wei Yan a call.
"I've returned. Can you help me take note of any cheap housing? And are there any decent adult ballet classes? The sort that start from the basics."
Mo Xing Zhi was probably in a meeting out of town. He said that he would come see me in a few days. Wei Yan on the other hand, within half an hour rushed over to the airport with Su Lin Lin.
It might have been because we haven't seen each other for half a month, but Su Lin Lin was somewhat intrigued with me, and her attitude towards me softened a good deal.
"Yan Xiao, how come you suddenly dropped out?" Then she nosily asked, "Got dumped? Heartbroken?"
Wei Yan cut her off and turned to me, asking, "What on earth happened?" Then he explained, "I can promise Lin Lin won't leak a word about this, and I won't let Yin Li or anyone else know where you're living from now on. The two of us have gotten engaged, and she insisted on coming. She said that she was very familiar with this area's ballet classes."
Su Lin Lin and Wei Yan apparently were going steady. Moreover, I had already quit school. Because of that, though she still felt hostile towards me her attitude was pleasant, which was something I had rarely seen before. "Why do you want to learn ballet? Do you still want something more standard? Then there's only 'Movement of Dance' on the northern side of the city. They're a full time studio. Their main purpose is to help professional dancers succeed. They have an adult class you can sign up for. As for the other dance studios, they're for amateurs to have a little fun."
I bid goodbye to Su Lin Lin and Wei Yan, and made my way to the northern part of the city with the address they gave.
This area was already in the suburbs, and it felt very desolate. The signup place also had very few people. The staff member there was a older lady, but her figure was lithe and graceful. Her body's proportions were all in harmony. She sat there languidly, and seemed to have paid no heed to my arrival.
"Is there a class that will allow me to achieve a professional ballet dancer's level within a year?"
"Impossible." She looked at me and directly refuted, "You're too fat. Your muscle proportions are no good. If you want to achieve it within a year, it's impossible, unless you exercise off five kilos of body weight. Or else don't even bother coming here. Just go to the amateur studios in the city. You can't become a professional dancer with a physique like that. We won't take you. It would take too much effort to teach you."
In a fit of anger, I turned to leave. Indeed, there were quite a few ballet studios in the city. Moreover, the majority of those studios were very nice. They had big, brightly lit practice rooms. Their teachers were all young and beautiful, with grand and noble auras. It made people envious. They had large number of people enrolling probably because those people fantasized about dancing ballet and becoming like the teachers. But I observed a few classes and felt them unsuitable.
Most of the enrollees here did so to lose weight and elevate their aura. Thus, the teachers also were lax in their teaching. One group of students had already learned for 2 years yet were still unable to go en pointe. Every day, they still faced the mirror doing turnouts and plies.
"If you want to learn in earnest, we can place you in the intermediate or even advanced class depending on your performance after you enroll." All of the employees handling registration at those studios were very welcoming. "If you're in the advanced class, then according to the teaching plan, if might only be half a year before you can go en pointe. From there, you can start learning advanced ballet moves."
However, I couldn't wait that long. Upon my return, I saw in the airport advertisements in the newspapers that there was a casting call for "Only I Dance". They were looking for supporting roles and background characters, and all must have ballet backgrounds. There was only one year until the audition. Next to the announcement was Yin Xuan's upwards-tilted face along with words printed in an especially eye-catching red. "What are you waiting for? Want to be as enchanting as Yin Xuan? Want to share a stage with an top-tier, internationally renowned ballet dancer? Then it's for you! Come register for "Only I dance"! Begin your cinematic ballet dream!"
Indeed, I wanted to dance with Yin Xuan. In the end, I needed to confront ballet and confront her, with an entirely different state of mind. Not as the Yan Xiao under Yin Li's protective wing, but fully as myself.
Because of that, I ended up not registering for any of the inner city studios. Instead, I went back and rented a relatively cheap house, and then started to plan and implement a rigorous weight loss program.
However, it was easier said than done. From a normal person's viewpoint, I wasn't fat. I could even be considered slender. However, in the world of ballet, this sort of body was weak and useless.
To rapidly lose five kilos in a healthy fashion, was simply a form of torture.
At first, I restricted my diet intake and vigorously exercised. For the first few kilos, my weight fell very quickly and I lost 2.5 kg. But then, I hit a plateau. Those were my most painful days.
My mouth and stomach both hungered and hollered for a sumptuous feast. My weight loss stripped me of any desire for life. Every day was endurance and restraint. Even my mind started conjuring dreams of me undergoing my weight loss regimen.
I dreamed that every day, I only ate fresh spinach and lettuce tossed with olive oil and sea salt. In the morning, I would only have some water and an egg for breakfast. Dinner was five fresh strawberries. These dreams repeated themselves day after day. I could even feel those strong cravings in them. I desperately wanted to eat ice cream and cake.
When I awoke, I went to buy those same leafy greens that I had dreamed about. I ate them as if eating grass. However, those dreams persisted. Another scene even was added to the mix. It was of me dancing in a room washed with moonlight.
Only then did I realize that these probably weren't mere dreams, but my past memories. As a ballet dancer, in order to maintain my figure, I had eaten that kind of diet for years. Madame Taylor's words back then had proven themselves to be true. Ballet is a cruel and selfish art.
We must be sufficiently cruel to ourselves in order to perform the most beautiful dance.
I mercilessly killed off my craving for sweets and my lazy heart. I suppressed my fondness for eating potato chips on the couch while watching television.
Two weeks later, I once again stood before Movement of Dance's registration desk. When that languid staff member's gaze landed on me, her face transformed, revealing a shocked expression.
I had lost 6 whole kilograms.