More information is uncovered about Ke Qian as the mystery of the Anime Murders deepens. Just what did they do to Ke Qian, and why? Perhaps the issue under debate reflects a question we all face: why is it always so difficult to reconcile one’s dreams with the realities of life?NOTE
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To say that no one was shocked was just not possible. Who would have thought that the insignificant Ke Qian could pull off something as big as this?
Thinking about it, though, he was indeed the only one could have done it. He was highly intelligent, and his grades in university had always been excellent. For so many days, he had been keeping long hours, cosseted in the studio, poring over goodness knows what information. He also went out by himself many times, using public transport, and no one knew where he was going. Moreover, only he could write and understand English, understand what 'angel investment' and 'investment feasibility report' meant.
However, the human heart is fickle. Yes, this news was a delight to all. But, it had been unexpectedly achieved by Ke Qian, the person they were always bossing around. This made them all feel rather uneasy.
It seemed, though, that Ke Qian was completely oblivious to their discomfort. Seeing that everyone was silent, he energetically started to expound his plans, trying to convince everyone. ". . . With this sum of money, we don't have to worry about our livelihood for at least the next two years, and also won't have to rush around looking for work. I can draw up a short-term plan for the studio. We can participate in major domestic competitions, and even in competitions abroad. Once we have established our reputation, there will be a steady stream of business opportunities. We can buy better costumes, equipment and props, we can set up an official website and weibo
account, we can promote Xiaofeng and Lu Ji as our star cosplayers . . ."
In the end, some people smiled on hearing him, and it seemed as if he had set the atmosphere on fire.
At this time, Jiang Xueran asked a single question. "So, is this money for all of us to use?"
Ke Qian hesitated for a moment, then replied, "Yes!”
"We should think it over carefully," said Jiang Xueran.
". . . ok."
Ke Qian was renting a place in a civilian residential building* near their studio. That evening, they left the studio together; only Ke Qian was not with them.
*T/N 民居 (min ju) – China has many types of traditional or typical residential buildings, according to the geographical, climatic and lifestyle conditions of the people living in each area (see ). For example, in Beijing, the traditional residential arrangement is the 'courtyard' style, where buildings are laid out around a square or rectangular courtyard.
Lu Ji was a little hesitant. "What do you all think? I think Ke Qian's proposal is pretty good. It's just that, if I don't find a job but work for the studio, I'm not sure if my family would agree."
Rong Xiaofeng said, "We don't have to not work, we could always work part-time, and that would be good enough. Two million! We could buy lots of good clothes, and we could even rent a better studio. Do you think we could even distribute some of the money so we could each spend it as we wish?"
When she expressed this idea, everyone laughed.
Xu Sheng said, "Part-time work, distributing the money – I don't know if Ke Qian would agree."
Everyone was a little shocked.
Wen Xiaohua said, "Jiang ge
, what do you think?" Everyone looked at Jiang Xueran.
Jiang Xueran had been silent from early on. Now, he smiled and said, "He's dreaming. Are you all dreaming with him? Two million is a big sum of money. His luck must be pretty good if he was able to dupe someone into parting with this amount. I reckon whoever it is must not know the current state of affairs of the domestic cosplay scene. Or, maybe it's some rich person who is just having fun. That whoever-it-is, son-of-some-rich-man, don't you think he would also have thrown money into the gaming world? How long do you think his interest will last?"
Everyone kept silent.
, do you mean to say, this situation is a no-go?" Lu Ji asked. "Then, what do we do?"
"When I got involved in the anime community while in university, it was because, firstly, I was interested in that area, and, secondly, I wanted to gain some real-life work experience in order to boost my chances of finding a job. I never once planned to rely on this for my livelihood. Two million to be used by six of us – how long will it last? Currently, renting an apartment in Beijing for a year costs tens of thousands of dollars. No need to talk about buying equipment and props, setting up a company or whatever. Is what he's proposing so easy to achieve? Do you really think that it will be so smooth-sailing? What happens if we enter a competition and don't win a prize? What happens if we don't establish a name for ourselves? At that time, the investor won't want to invest any more money in us, so what happens when we finish spending what we have? At that time, we will have no work experience, several years will have slipped by, who would want to hire us? Right now, we are all fresh graduates, and it's already so difficult to find a job. My friends working in human resources have told me that people who have graduated for several years but are without work experience are shunned in the job market, and have even greater difficulty finding a job than fresh graduates. Are you all really still planning to gamble your futures on a person like Ke Qian?"
On the dark and quiet road, everyone was silent.
Then, Rong Xiaofeng said, "But, I like cosplay. This could be the only opportunity for us to fulfil our dreams."
Wen Xiaohua's lips moved soundlessly.
However, Jiang Xueran said, "Don't believe his words. All that talk about giving it a try, life is more than just resigning oneself to one's fate, it is the poetry and distant places one yearns for but are out of reach which give meaning to life* – all nonsense. Those who really venture to 'distant places' are those who live poor and disappointed lives. Those who stay behind, find themselves a place in society and have their feet firmly on the ground are the ones who are finally able to reach a higher societal status. Then again, what all of you are thinking is surprisingly good**. Ke Qian doesn't have a mother or a father; if he earns only enough for himself, he has no family who will starve. Of course there's less pressure on him. But, what about us? If we do this, will our parents agree?"
*T/N 人生不止苟且还有诗和远方 (ren sheng bu zhi gou qie hai you shi he yuan fang) – title and lyrics of a song by 高晓松 (Gao Xiaosong).
**T/N He's being sarcastic.
These words indeed touched squarely on everyone's weak spot.
They would not agree. No parent would agree. There was no need to even think about their response.
"Then, does that mean we cut loose from Ke Qian, and leave him to handle everything by himself?" Lu Ji asked.
Jiang Xueran did not reply immediately, but surveyed the others thoughtfully.
"This sum of money was obtained using the information from our studio. So, everyone had a part to play in the application for investment, right?"
"He's also said that this sum of money belongs to all of us, right?" Jiang Xueran then asked.
"That's right." "Yes."
"What are you getting at?" Xu Sheng's eyes gleamed.
"Since the money belongs to everyone, and most of us don't agree with starting a business, we should divide it." Jiang Xueran said, "He collated all the information, so he should get a bigger share, $400,000. I've calculated, the rest of us will get $320,000 each. What do you think?"
Everyone looked at one another. No one spoke in defence of the idea, but neither did any one raise an objection.
After all, this was a considerable amount of money for any fresh graduate from an ordinary family background. Finances would not be a pressing issue for quite a length of time.
"What if he doesn't want to give us the money?" asked Rong Xiaofeng. "He's always been selfish."
Jiang Xueran said, "The money belongs to all of us, what power does he have to refuse? Let's leave it for two days and give him the cold shoulder during that time. After that, Lu Ji, you and I can go and talk to him again and get the money back."
The sun gradually crept higher, and the pit also gradually became deeper.
Fang Qing squatted at the side of the pit and his brows slowly drew together in a frown. The pit was already so deep, yet, apart from random items they had earlier unearthed, there were no further discoveries.
Wen Xiaohua stammered, "That day, we didn't dig so deep . . . we've already gone past that depth, he's not there, he's really gone." Xu Sheng's face was deathly pale. She dashed to the side of the pit and peered into it carefully, her lips trembling minutely.
Bo Jinyan smiled coldly. "Hm, this is really interesting."
Jian Yao asked the two of them, "That night, did you make sure he was really dead?"
"He was dead . . ." Wen Xiaohua sobbed, and said, "When we reached his place, he was lying on the ground, his blood was all over the floor . . . his eyes were wide open, he had stopped breathing long ago and his body was cold. . ."
Xu Sheng's expression was ghastly. She looked at Jian Yao and said, "We were very sure that he was dead. The way he was, it was impossible that he was still alive."
If you have ever seen a dead body with your own eyes, your words cannot ring false.
Dead people and living people are completely different.
It was the first time we had seen the difference.
Our one-time buddy whom we had worked together to kill, as well as our dreams.