She was a talented child, possessing the slender fingers that can only belong to a pianist. She was an entitled princess, the privileged daughter of a wealthy businessman. She was happy, living with her father and his lover, whom she called auntie, in a beautiful maison, knowing nothing of the piles of debt her father swept under the rugs.
But like an ethereal bubble, her carefree world burst when her father stepped in front of a car and died.
The maison, the piano, and everything of value were taken, leaving little Liang Mucheng with no one to rely on but the stranger she called auntie.
Auntie tried to abandon Mucheng on the bus, but Mucheng held on. They traveled aimlessly, became hungry, and stole. When they were caught, a local lowlife saved them and took them back to his home. He fed them because he was interested in auntie. Mucheng was disgusted. She tried to leave. But auntie refused. “I’m tired,” auntie said, “I don’t want to live the life where I have to steal to stay alive anymore.” Reluctantly, Mucheng returned to the man’s home and ate the rest of the ramen.
That night, bending over a large basket of dirty dishes, Mucheng bit her lips and tied up her hair, kissing her all-too-brief blithe childhood goodbye.
Ring Ding (丁噹) – I Love Him (我爱他), Next Stop, Happiness Opening Theme Song [download]
With the passage of time, Mucheng grew. Her personality hardened; she became tough but optimistic, blunt but independent. Her hands changed; they became rough but nimble, ill-cared for but skillful. Most of all, she managed to adapt.
Maybe qualities like diligence, courage, and honesty don’t begin to describe Mucheng. But if only one word is allowed to sum up this girl, it would be resilience. Life can throw lemons at her but she certainly won’t be defeated.
And if her father’s accident was her first taste of Life’s lemon, the second one began with a fish.
On that day, Mucheng was designated with the task of bringing home an expensive fish alive. She was on the bus, planning her ultimate get away from the mess she called home — college — when an ostentatious yellow Porsche parked itself in front of the moving bus. The bus came to a screeching halt and the fish catapulted to the front. The bag leaked and the fish was half dead.
Eager to return home, Mucheng urged the Porsche driver to move his car, pointing out the traffic congestion his careless act had caused. But Ren Guangxi, the rich, young owner of the yellow Porsche, was too callous to take heed. He had just dumped his nth girlfriend and wanted only to get rid of the girlfriend he’s grew bored with. He tricked Mucheng into agreeing to move the car and instructed her to back out and hit the bus behind it.
Once the public transit was hit, an accident was considered to have occurred and no one was allowed to leave. They were all ushered to the police station. The fish died, Mucheng got held up, and Guangxi was punished to direct traffic.
The fish was intended to please the director of the school where Mucheng family business was catering at (Sheng De University). With the fish dead, Mucheng had to retract the 2000 TWD registration fee for college admission she had saved up for and replace the fish. Worse yet, when she returned home, she needed to be on a constant watch for the man who took her and auntie in. He’s been making surreptitious advances on her, watching her change and trying to lay a finger on her. Shower was worse. Before turning on the water, there were three things she had to do religiously: 1) secure the three bolts on the door, 2) cover the windows with large wooden pieces to prevent anyone from peeping in, and 3) block the cracks with towels. Even then, she still had to listen for the perverted man’s creeping behind the window.
Despite the unfortunate outlook, Mucheng did have a good friend. Hua Tuoye has had a crush on Mucheng for as long as he can remember. For her, he learned the art of flower arrangement. For her, he got accepted at Sheng De college (and became the oldest student there). For her, he swallowed the foul slangs that used to roll off his tongue. Yet she’s too busy trying to get by to notice.
Life isn’t only hard for the poor; the rich have their set of problems as well. Under the wayward disinterest Ren Guangxi always wore, buried a vulnerable child who desperately needed approval and secretly yearned for a warmth that’ll one day melt his icy pretense. He was the son of an aspired pianist and an elitist heiress to a large family fortune. Perhaps once upon a time, it was love that drew Guangxi’s parents together, but the gulf between class slowly devoured that love. Resentment grew with the father’s lack of success, then one day, the father left. When Guangxi saw his father again, it was in the morgue.
The day his father died, Ren Guangxi gave up a piece of himself. He lost motivation in life and started playing around with the hearts of women.
This was how he landed with a bet to court the most difficult girl on campus, the new bento girl Liang Mucheng. She aroused interest not because she was extraordinary — she was, in her own way — but because she turned down every boy who dared to ask her phone number. When he found out his new prey was the girl who subjugated him to community service, he knew he’s game enough to play this courtship game.
Through coercion and blackmail, Guangxi secured a date with Mucheng. She agreed because she lost a book while at the police station and Guangxi’s lawyer happened to pick it up. She only wanted the book back. But Guangxi was confident that he’ll steal her first kiss tomorrow.
The date commenced the following morning at the ice rink. While Guangxi played hokey, Mucheng shivered in the cold. He noticed it and during the break, brought her hot coffee and a jacket. Softened by the act of kindness, Mucheng meekly inquired about the book, hoping Guangxi will return it by the end of the date.
“Was your impression of me really that bad?” he asked, “The reason I asked you out today was to apologize. For your book, your fish, your time, and your innocence. I’m sorry.”
Slightly taken aback, Mucheng responded pointedly,
“You didn’t have to apologize to me, because apologies can’t change what had happened. What was lost will remain lost; what was inflicted can’t be undone. Apologies can’t reverse time, nor can they amend for the past. But since you have the heart, I accept your apology. Because that shows me you are not a douche.”
They sat basking in the harmony of mutual understanding and good intend, until Mucheng noticed that the others have left the ice rink.
At which point, he led Mucheng to the rink, held her hand, and attempted to teach her how to skate. They shared a moment of unadulterated trust, letting no cynicism nor skepticism disrupt this rare but invaluable feeling. It climaxed when Mucheng asked the question, “I’ve been meaning to ask, were you ever scared playing a dangerous game like hockey?” “So you’ve been secretly observing me,” Guangxi teased, “There’s danger to the sport, yes. But that’s also the allure to it. Being bumped, getting hit, those are the times that I truly feel alive.”
Mucheng blinked, then she changed the subject, “Did you know one time when Bach was expected to perform, someone tampered with his cello? All of the strings were cut except for G-string. When everyone was waiting to see him fail, he composed a tune on the spot, using only the G-string. That tune became the famous Air on the G-String.” Guangxi’s face darkened as the mention of the tune reminded him of his beloved father — that was his father’s favorite song. He replied coldly, “So the moral behind the story is to beware of backstabber?” Mucheng shook her head, “No. It told me that no matter how difficult circumstances become, we are still capable of producing the most beautiful melody. So when things get hard for me, I always think about the origin of this piece of music. Now, I’m sharing it with you. So please don’t say you feel dead anymore.”
Guangxi said nothing. He grabbed Mucheng by the waist and kissed her. But the kiss was truncated by Tuoye’s flying fist. His friend had overheard Guangxi’s bet and told him everything. Now he came to save Mucheng.
First there was shock, then hurt. But pride prevailed at the end. Mucheng puffed her cheeks and retorted (this following speech is the sole reason I decided to watch this drama):
“Tuoye, you came too early. Did you not hear about the bet I made with other people? Our bet was that this player will ask me out in a month, kiss me in a week.” Turning to address Guangxi alone, she continued, “You underestimated me. Didn’t you say my talent is to look innocent when I’m not? I placed a bet on you as well. As long as I win, people will buy bento from me for a whole month.”
It was Guangxi’s turn to feel disbelief and anger swelling inside of him. “What. Did. You. Say? For a fish you could demand justice endlessly, for a book you could worry yourself sick, but you bent your principles for money? What Bach, what G-string, have you even listened to Bach?!”
Mucheng swallowed hard, “The game is over. There’s no point to continue.” She turned and walked away, leaving Guangxi to his own fury.
To be honest, I’m not too confident about the story line: two unlikely people fell in love, but the star-crossed lovers were forced to separate. (Cliché.) A serious brain surgery wiped the boy’s memory clear soon afterwards. (Again, cliché.) He married another woman while girl raised their child alone. But circumstances would have it that they were to meet again. (More cliché.) Through unavoidable interaction and attraction, their love was eventually rekindled. (This, my dear, got to be the queen of cliché!)
See, the problem with melodrama is that it often falls in one of the two following classifications: poignant or pointless. Unfortunately most who attempt fail to impress. And I wasn’t gonna take the chance only to be disappointed. Especially when I don’t even have that much free time nowadays (and you see how scarce I update). But as I mentioned in the recap, when I heard Mucheng’s speech upon knowing she’s just been cheated of her feelings during the promo, I decided otherwise. I can’t promise timely, episode-by-episode recaps, but I’ll give the drama a try. Knock on wood, it may just be one of those rarities that doesn’t suck.
The one thing I really liked about the first episode is how refined the characters are from the start. For instance, Ren Guangxi isn’t just a frivolous rich boy bored of life. He’s habit of dumping girls is his way of rebelling against his mother, who carried out an affair with the family lawyer. He found her duplicitous and sought to rip every woman of their deceptive pretenses.
I’m sure a lot of us have seen contracted lovers or love based on a bet. When found out, the girls are always angry and run away crying. But here, Liang Mucheng bites back. She concocts a lie of her own and uses it to save face. This little refinement makes the otherwise overused plot appear so much more refreshing and it adds a punch to Mucheng’s personality. (You go girl!)
The acting is surprisingly solid, although Vanness’ accent requires some effort to ignore. The scene where the man (Ah Cai is his name) snuck out to watch Mucheng shower is especially memorable. You know he’s there but when the blockade is removed and you see his face imprinted on the fogged glass, it’s still startling. I almost jumped!