120. Demon in a Human’s Skin
Tao Qi’s mouth opened and closed but she couldn’t say a word.
An eerie smile spread across YiHan’s mouth as he asked, “What’s your name?”
“I’m Tao Qi,” she replied, mind still in a haze.
The man let out a chuckle. “The same name? Tao Qi, you must’ve heard of a saying, ‘character is destiny’. Nothing can’t be changed. Over a single lifetime, we would face endless choices. Every decision could have a lasting impact on our lives. It could even change our fates forever. The phrase I’ve heard you use the most often is ‘it shouldn’t be like this’. You don’t understand. There’s nothing in this world that ‘should’ go a certain way. If you want something, then you must work equally hard for it.”
He then took a step closer and bent down to look at Tao Qi straight in the eye. “You want to be with JingYuan,” he said, “is it because you love him? I think not. Let me guess. Is it because of his status? His family background? His looks? Or is it so you can live a luxurious life as Mrs Mu?
“Have you ever thought about why you’d end up here? Why the previous Tao Qi could be Madam Mu while you can’t? You could even predict the future. What a grand advantage it is, yet you’re now being held captive. Perhaps you’d be imprisoned soon. Yes?” Time to bait her out.
Naturally, Tao Qi fell for it. “How did you know I’m a transmigrator?” she gasped in horror.
A transmigrator? YiHan frowned and steadily continued, “I’ve told you. You are way too different from Tao Qi. There’s nothing in common between you two, other than your faces. You also know so much more, things that she shouldn’t have known. How could anyone not be suspicious?”
“I’m just a normal girl,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I’ve transmigrated into a novel. I thought it’d be my chance to turn over a new leaf. But why? Why has everything gone wrong? I only want a better life. I’m just not willing to accept being a nobody for my whole life. I’ve worked so hard to survive. Why must you all do this to me?”
“I’ve already said that different choices lead to different endings,” he said. “You know plenty about the future. If you just wanted a better life, you could’ve come to me and I could’ve given you a carefree life. Even if you’d just appeared before me to give me a mere reminder that could’ve helped my sister and brother-in-law avoid being placed in danger. This is just an example. If you use the information in your brain well, you might already be at the top of the world. You wouldn’t need to be a mistress. You wouldn’t need to be anyone’s wife. You could ensure a life of riches for yourself just through your own work. Unfortunately, you chose the wrong path.”
Tao Qi’s eyes widened. The tears rolled faster downwards. She screeched in pain, “It’s not like that! I clearly could’ve been a CEO’s wife just by going along with the plot! It wouldn’t just be a life of riches!”
“See,” YiHan said with a languid wave. “This is what I mean by character is destiny. Greed is forever endless. You’re not innocent in this ending. Your avarice led you to this. In that case, why don’t you tell me about my death. You said I’d die roughly three years from now. Then, according to what you know, what happened after I died?”
“You’re afraid of death too?” Tao Qi smirked. “Haha! Why should I tell you?”
YiHan’s poker face remained unmoving. His voice was as calm as a still ocean, “Maybe you’ve forgotten your place. I’m not begging you. You think you have the right to refuse to speak?”
Tao Qi’s eyes coldly bore into him. Her lips remained shut.
YiHan glanced at her before looking down to the toolbox in his hand. He placed it on a table nearby. With a press of his slender fingers, the box opened with a clack. He slowly lifted the lid, revealing a row of brand-new sparkling tools. It had everything from pliers to wrenches.
“Do you know what these tools can be used for outside of repairing and building?” YiHan turned and glanced back at the woman in the chair. “You might not know. Let me explain. You see this pair of pliers? It can be used to pull out teeth. Once I’ve pulled out all of your teeth, I can also use it to pull out your fingernails, your toenails. Anyway, there are a lot of uses for pliers. Oh, right. There’s also this utility knife. I’ve got some experience in drawing. I can carve out a beautiful flower on your cheek. These tools are all so useful and they’re all very new. Care to try them out?”
“How dare you!” Tao Qi shouted, her pupils dilating in fear. “How could you do this to me?”
YiHan was unfazed by the shouting. He even smiled as he said, “You’ve forgotten the difference between our identities. Do you know what it means to be Little Master Bai? It means I can pluck out your teeth, your nails, draw a few flowers on your face, and even grind you into mince, no one would investigate me. Do you think your parents would risk their lives to seek justice for you? And even if they would, they would powerless.”
Tao Qi’s glistening eyes stared wide at him as he steadily got closer to her. It was as if she was looking at a demon cloaked in a human’s skin. Worst of all, she knew everything he said was true. She’d grown up sheltered by her parents. She’d never suffered a single ounce of pain at all. She’d only ever watched others suffer. She never thought about their suffering at all. But if it’s her…no! She didn’t even dare imagine what she’d look like going through all that torture.
“Don’t touch me,” she shrilled. “Don’t come closer!” She let out a shriek. “You devil! Stay away…” she drifted off sobbing, repeating “stay away” over and over again.
YiHan halted. “Maybe you should reconsider if you wish to tell me of what you know then.”
“I’ll tell you,” Tao Qi hurriedly shouted out. “I’ll tell you everything.”
By now, her face was caked with snot and tears. She continued sobbing as she recited all she knew of the novel’s story. She didn’t dare to pause for a single moment, not even for breath.
Her rambling went on for a long while. When her voice finally drifted off, a dead silence had overtaken the basement.
YiHan had sat down before her during the entire rant. His hands were clenched in tight fists. If one simply looked at the ending, they’d see a tale with a happy ending where Mu JingYuan got married to Tao Qi. They even had a kid. What he heard, however, was a tale of Mu JingYuan’s loneliness and agony. Other people may not know but YiHan knew full well what the pile of items in Tao Qi’s story were, the items JingYuan would stare at all night long. She only had to mention one item and YiHan knew those were the items he liked in his past life, the items he’d used. They’d range from something as major as a chair to something as trivial as a button. There was even a sock. There were all junk and scraps in someone else’s eyes. Frankly, it must’ve been hard collecting all of them. When the Bai family fell, everyone panicked. Who would pay attention to where those things went? Furthermore, years would’ve passed by the time JingYuan returned to China. Yet, the man could collect a full house of items YiHan had once used before. JingYuan’s marriage to Tao Qi, it must’ve been related to collecting his “things” too. Before, YiHan might not be so confident in his hypothesis. Now? After witnessing JingYuan’s passion for him, YiHan was certain. Based on Tao Qi’s recollection, JingYuan would never have thought of marrying anyone. His motive must’ve been “collecting” YiHan’s belongings. After all, the only lover YiHan ever had in his last life was Tao Qi. XueQing’s constant targeting of Tao Qi must not have been because “she loved JingYuan but couldn’t have him”, but because she felt it was unfair to YiHan.
In this Tao Qi’s eyes, all she saw was the original Tao Qi becoming the wife of a CEO. She saw the limitless glory that came with Mu JingYuan, the “male lead”. She saw the Bai family rising from the ashes and everything came to a happy ending. But YiHan was involved in the whole story. All he saw was JingYuan drifting around like a wandering ghost, spending his nights in pain and isolation. Tao Qi was treated like an obedient “object”, a love that could never be obtained in his entire life. XueQing’s love and youth were painfully lost. The relationship between Yan and Jiang-ge would fall into an awkward situation that led to them slowly drifting further and further apart. YiHan’s parents would’ve lost their elderly father and their most beloved son, then they could only watch as their surviving children become destined to be forever alone with happiness forever out of their reach. The Chen family would’ve lost their only heir. They’d then have to suffer through JingYuan’s rabid revenge and eventually be lost in a hurricane of troubles.
Everything that happened in YiHan’s last life was a tragedy. Everyone lost. No one was able to savour happiness or joy.
The thought of all of that having happened to YiHan’s friends and family only brought anguish and regret to him. He was dead but those still alive would forever bear the pain of being parted. His heart ached for his parents, his brother, his sister, his…his JingYuan. His heart hurt so much that it felt like it was about to split into half, yet he couldn’t do what this Tao Qi before his eyes did. He couldn’t travel across time and space to go back to then and comfort his beloved ones.
His gaze stared darkly down at the hands clenched together before him. All he could do was to make sure that tragedy never happened again. As long as his family had a life free of worries, YiHan was willing to descend into the deepest hells, never to be saved.
At the end of her tale, Tao Qi’s eyes had glazed over as she blanked out. Suddenly, a burst of laughter escaped her as she mumbled, “Everything would end up well. So why is everything so different now? Why would Feng Qun die so early? Why isn’t Chen TianYang dead? Why aren’t you dead? What’s so bad about going along with the original plot? Can’t you guys just obediently walk down the path destiny paved for you? Why? You’re all bullying me, a tiny girl. I’ve transmigrated into your world but I could never have what the female lead had. Why?”
YiHan’s head shot up. His face was blank. His voice was calm. The only signs of the emotions whirling in him were two streaks of tears down his expressionless face. It was enough to make anyone’s heart shatter from sadness.
“You think everything you’d said was swell?” he said. “You think that just because you’re one girl, you should be forgiven no matter what you do. Even if it’s murder?
“Chen TianYang is a great man, capable and lucky. There was nothing between you and him. No grudges, no injustice. But you planned for someone to kill him. Then, because he dodged a disaster, you’d curse him out from the bottom of your heart. Do you think this is something a normal girl could’ve done?
“You think that it’s a blessing for me to go through all that torture and die a horrible death? You think it’s great that the Bai family would burn to ashes? Do you even know the Bai Group’s existence doesn’t only involve my family? Tens of thousands of households depend on its might for their mere survival!
“You think it’s good for a man to lose everything he loves and never have a night of sleep ever again? You think it’s wonderful for the Chen family to lose their beloved son and for Madam Chen to constantly faint from crying in their family shrine? Heh. You find everything amazing but only because none of these people’s happiness matter to you. All you care about is the position as Mrs CEO. You want all of us to re-enact a tragedy, to use our torment and deaths in exchange for your own glory. Is that it?”
Character is destiny: This is a quote by Heraclitus (Greek philosopher). In the original text, this phrase actually translates to “character changes one’s destiny” which might be a typo of a quote that can be translated as “character decides one’s fate”. However, this quote only exists in Chinese for it had been translated from English with no clear origin. The quote is sometimes attributed to Jack D. Hodge (author of The Power of Habit) and sometimes to J.P. Morgan for the interview where he stated commercial credit is based primarily upon character before money or property.