A shower of claps erupted from the audience as a well dressed, straight-backed teenager stepped through the door from a brightly lit stage.
"Good job with your performance. Let's see... uh, next up is Li Ying."
Mutters from the rest of the performers filled the room as the following performer's name was mentioned.
"By Li Ying, does he mean..."
"It could just be a coincidence right? There was news that Li Ying had been hospitalised and his performance was cancelled."
"I heard about that too. It's probably just a man with the same name."
Tap tap tap
The ever-so familiar tapping of leather shoes upon the hardwood floor resonated across the hallway. Each of the contestants turned towards the sound as the approaching figure passed by the line of anxious participants. The boy had messy, yet oddly stylish hair and a set of plain, black glasses that rested perfectly upon his adolescent face. Within his hand, the boy held what looked like a folded sheet of paper and a charm that was bought from the local temple.
As he stepped across the hallway towards the door to the stage, countless whispers broke out from the onlookers.
"It's really him!"
"I thought he was hospitalised."
"Who the hell was spreading those rumours, come out right now!"
Reaching the end of the hallway, Li Ying took a deep breath before gripping his hands and stepping through the door.
Bright overhead lights shone from above as Li Ying stepped across the stage towards the grand piano in the centre. A light applause welcomed Li Ying onto the stage as he took a seat upon the black-inked, leather piano seat.
Before him lay an array of white and black keys, neatly aligned to create the most beautiful form of speech he had ever experienced.
Silence anticipated his every action.
Li Ying placed his hands upon the keys, fingers trembling slightly with excitement and something else quite different. 'Ahh, this feel, this touch. Have I ever known something more pleasant?'
Unconsciously, his hands began to move, playing notes that intertwined to form the cheerful humming of an immature child.
The audience sighed in appreciation as the notes rang out.
"Ahh, this is truly the work of a master."
"I was disappointed when I heard that Ying's performance was cancelled."
"Coming here was truly worth it."
Li Ying's fingers danced elegantly across the keys as the notes sang their symphony of sweet sounds. If one listened carefully, they would be able to sense the underlying sadness behind the cheerful song, as if a song bird coming to the end of its life, yet trying its hardest to keep singing.
Gu Hong, one of the judges for the event, sat back into his seat as he sighed deeply, "This deepness within his music. Li Ying..."
Almost so subtle that none would notice, the cheerful song sunk into a slow progression of damping notes before leaping back into its original cheerfulness. The conflict within the song screamed into Li Ying's heart as he played on. His ears were completely deaf to the surroundings, to the piano, to himself. The only thing within his heart was the piano, the conflicting emotions within his heart reached out to those dissipating notes.
His hands urged him on, luring him to a false sense of bravado before dying back down from the climax. Every single eye in the audience stared in awe as they marvelled at the roller coaster of emotions within the song.
Yes, there was only one person in the world who was able to play this piece in this manner. It was something unique to Li Ying, and Li Ying only. Only he was able to embed such emotion within the notes he played. Each and every other competitor would only pale in comparison.
As the climax finally passed, the song slowed and the vision of an old man at the end of his journey appeared before the audience. Some wiped away tears from the corners of their eyes while the rest clasped their hands in appreciation.
Li Ying felt his fingers release themselves from the keys, letting go of the magnificent existence that kept his life going. His vision began to blur from tears and something that even he did not know.
Several claps reached out
The cold floor
Li Ying stared at the erupting audience from his almost shut eyes. He had managed to complete the song before his illness acted up, watching as the distant notes drifted away into the skies. Using the rest of his energy to smile, Li Ying contentedly entered the black abyss of his consciousness, sinking deep into nothingness.
Ironically as it was, his last emotion...
It was happiness.