Volume 24: The Metamorphosis
On June 9th, Li Mengran sat on her balcony's wicker chair and drank watermelon juice while she did calculations on a piece of newspaper. Although it was a hot day outside, her home was very cool and comfortable.
After calculating the equation a few times, Li Mengran put down the pen and furrowed her brows. Aunty Wu was at home and went over to her with cut oranges. She said, "Ranran, do you want to eat some fruit?"
Although Aunty Wu was a nanny, she had stayed at the Li house for many years. Li Mengran was very fond of her. She acted spoiled and complained, "Aunty Wu, no matter how much I calculate, I’m guessing I can only get around 630 points. I definitely can't get into Peking University!"
"Good child, you’d get into most places with 630 points... As long as you’ve done your best. If you can't go to Peking University, then don’t. People at home would worry since you’re such a young girl that’s going to school so far away!”
Li Mengran forced a smile.
On her phone, a classmate asked her if she wanted to go out to play, but Li Mengran’s family was really strict. She couldn’t go out without her father's permission. She could only regrettably reject the invitation.
Finally, she didn’t need to study anymore. She wanted to relax for a bit and took out a tablet to watch a movie. She only watched half of it before her dad came back. She quickly turned the tablet off and hid it out of fear.
Her dad had a suit jacket hanging on one of his arms as he hooked the collar of his shirt with his fingers. Then, he poured a glass of water and drank it all down quickly. Li Mengran stared at her father's throat as he drank, and her nervous heart felt like it was caught in her throat.
Putting down the cup, her dad sat on the sofa and hugged her. "I took half a day off today. It’s really hot outside. Do you have to go out and get a sunburn? ... By the way, how many points are you estimated to get? "
"What?! Show it to me."
Li Mengran tremblingly passed the calculated score on the calculator to him. The dad looked at it and his hands began to tremble. The living room had a very suffocating atmosphere as the dad seemed to be in disbelief. He moved his fingers and calculated it internally.
The dad threw the paper down on the table and glared at Li Mengran. Li Mengran held her hands together, retracted her neck out of fear, and swallowed hard.
"Don't fill out your preferred universities. Your score is really bad. I’ll find a better exam preparation class for you to go to tomorrow.”
"But I... I don't want to continue studying."
"You don't want to? Do you think I want to? How much will it cost to go down to the third year of high school again? Yet, you got such a result. Who can you face without feeling guilt?!" Dad kept pounding on the piece of paper on the table as if it was a very shameful nude picture.
"Ranran, this grade is okay. You can get into good universities with it. You’ve always been in the top ten at your high school until now." Aunty Wu interrupted.
"Don't interrupt!" The dad yelled, and then glared at Li Mengran. "I worked hard outside to make money for you to eat, to wear clothes, and to create such a comfortable environment for you. Look at the exam champions that come from the poor countryside. How can their conditions compare with yours? Tell me, how you can possibly get scores like these?"
Every time her dad said something, Li Mengran mumbled something back. She said as if she was wronged, "I understand all the key points of knowledge and I don’t have any topics where I lose a lot of marks."
"Lose a little here, lose a little there. Do you know why?" Her dad almost pierced through the coffee table with his fingers which were still pounding down on the piece of paper. "You didn't study well enough or specifically enough. The knowledge in your stomach was not digested and you still have room to rise. A lot of upside potential!"
"But I don't want to repeat my studies. I don't want to go to Peking University. Can’t I go to a normal one?"
"No!!!!" The dad roared. "You’re my daughter, so you have to go to Peking University! I could have been admitted to Peking University with just two more points back then. I pinned this hope on you and paid a full 19 years of hard work. Why can’t you work harder for one more year?! What did your father struggle to raise you for? Did you think it was so that you’d raise me in the future? It’s for your own good. In order to make you a person above all others so you don’t have to work as hard as your father!”
"Mr. Li, please stop..." Wu Ma persuaded weakly.
Li Mengran remembered the senior year of her high school life was like hell and began crying. Seeing his daughter cry, her dad seemed to soften up. He stood up and beckoned her over. "Come here."
Her dad held her shoulder as they stood at the balcony and pointed outside. "Looking out from here, what do you see?"
Li Mengran was still crying and couldn’t speak.
"What do you see?" Dad shook her, urging.
"Buildings!" Li Mengran sobbed.
"Yes, you can see a lot of tall buildings here. Why? Because you are standing in a high place! Look at the people below. There are those who stand outside when the harsh sun is shining on them, sweep the street, and drive cars. What can they see? Garbage on the streets, dirt, noisy vehicles, and crowds on the ground because they are at the lowest level! The higher you stand, the farther you can see. When you stand on the highest floor, you can overlook all beings... Do you want to stay at the bottom for the rest of your life, or at the top?"
Li Mengran couldn’t recall how many times she had heard this speech. She continued to cry without speaking.
Her dad continued, "The entrance exam is equivalent to climbing from the first floor upwards in your life. Some people climb to the tenth floor in one breath and some people climb to the 20th floor. As for those who give up the exams, they are at the bottom for the rest of their lives. In your life, you’ll have to climb multiple types of stairs. If you’re overtaken by others every time and fall behind, the distance between you and others will be extreme in the end. So, if you don’t do your best, you will never be a person above all!”
Li Mengran cried and said, "I don't want to be a person above everyone."
Her dad slapped her on the shoulder. "There are a lot of things you’ll understand when you’re older. Dad is pushing you now because he doesn’t want you to regret it later. Regretting that you didn’t study well!” Then, her dad took out his mobile phone and gave a tutoring center a call. "Hello, I'm looking for Director Liu... My daughter's grades this year were not very satisfactory and I want to take advantage of this summer vacation for extra tutoring..."
Li Mengran suddenly broke his hand away and the phone flew out. She shouted, "I don’t want to repeat the year. I want to go to university! It is your own regret not to be admitted into Peking University. Don’t force it on me! I am not a substitute for achieving your dreams!"
"Are you rebelling?" Her dad slapped her in the face.
Li Mengran covered her face, glaring at her father. "I don’t want to be your daughter! Whoever wants to be your daughter should be it!" Then, she grabbed her phone and left, slamming the door as she made her way out. Her father's roar came from behind her. "Stop! Stop right there!"
Aunty Wu stopped Li Mengran's father and said, "Mr. Li, Mr. Li. I'm going to get Ranran back. You should first calm down."
The father looked at his slightly painful hand and regretted it. He hadn't hit Li Mengran for almost ten years. He sat on the sofa in sorrow and hugged his head. "Haii, why don't you understand the good intentions of adults?"
After Li Mengran left, they didn’t hear back from her by nighttime and her phone couldn’t be reached. Aunty Wu came back a few times, but found that Li Mengran hadn’t gone home and went out to find her again. Her dad called the other parents and relatives as he sat anxiously at home.
At 1:00 in the morning, Aunty Wu panted as she went upstairs, before she screamed suddenly, "Mr. Li, Mr. Li!"
The father rushed out of the door, only to see a frightened Aunty Wu. Her finger was pointing in one direction. He slowly turned his head towards that direction. He saw a black plastic bag hanging on the door handle, and blood was dripping out, drop by drop.
He reached out his trembling hand and lifted it. When he saw what was inside, he felt that his heartbeat, breathing, and consciousness had all stopped...
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