In the year when I was three years old, my biological parents, in order to send my elder brother to high school, sold me to a woman for the price of two hundred yuan, a bag of rice and a roast chicken.
I'll never forget that drizzling day, the woman holding me while my parents count that two hundred yuan again and again, discussing excitedly that they could eat meat that night.
I cried my heart out, yet they didn't even spare me one last glance before they left.
In the new home, it was much better off with a sister and a couple.
The couple desired a male child after having a daughter on their wedding night. As their physical condition didn't permit them to have another child, they bought me.
They didn't despise me for being bought from a poor mountainous village. On the contrary, they doted on me a lot, asking me daily what I wanted to eat and serving me with plenty of lavish food.
Ironically, I didn't even have a name when I was three years old. It was my foster parents who named me Jiang Zhiyuan.
My sister, named Jiang Ning, was beautiful and two years older than me. We lived together for over a decade, sharing the same bed at night. I was young then, with a pure and undistracted mind.
As we grew older, Jiang Ning started to develop. But she never minded changing clothes in front of me, leaving me blushing and shifting my gaze away. She didn't mind it though, always asking me what clothes looked good on her.
Sometimes, I would unknowingly react physically, and Jiang Ning would smile, flushed, patting my head saying I've grown up, but we still slept together at night.
Jiang Ning was the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. She was tall and elegant, with curvy eyebrows, cherry-red lips, and a delicate oval face. Her body was full of fiery and explosive charm. Countless schoolboys would chase after her, but she never got into any scandals. Whenever asked why, she would jokingly say that she was going to marry me, her little brother.
I had become the envy of many, to have such a stunning sister accompanying me to and from school daily.
They say, "Those who are born in poor and hilly country, are mostly rascals," but I never took pride nor forgot their kindness. For over ten years, I had taken upon myself all the household chores. My foster parents advised me to be more extroverted. Eventually, I let go of my childhood traumas and stepped out of the shadow.
I initially thought that these good days would last a lifetime, but I hadn't expected that disaster would strike so suddenly...
My foster parents didn't have fixed work schedules and often worked late. One day, they called to tell us they would be working until late, and left some money on the table for us to eat out.
After we had had a big meal with Sister Jiang Ning, we took a walk in the alley, listening to her talk about her recent worries and woes. I was all ears, taking in everything she said.
Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks, her expression showing apprehensive fear as she nervously tugged at the hem of my shirt.
Furrowing my brows, I look ahead, only to see a figure dressed in black, ominously eyeing the gleaming dagger in his hand while sizing us up with complete disregard for our fear.
His face is concealed behind a mask. I may not see his face but my heart is plummeting into an abyss. Shivering with trepidation, I hurriedly start pulling at Jiang Ning's arm, urging her to run away.
But the man is too fast, his speed lightning-like. In the blink of an eye, his grip is tightly around my neck, constricting every bit of air, leaving me feeling breathless.
"Be good, be obedient, and hand over everything valuable you have," the man in black speaks. His voice is sharp, yet gentle, sending chills down my spine and making my head bang with panic.
Without a second of hesitation, I pass him my phone and all the money I had with me. Then I nudge Jiang Ning, who is rooted to the spot, paralyzed, her face ghostly white.
We are just students, for crying out loud. How could we ever have imagined that we'd be caught in a situation like this? We're lucky we didn't pee ourselves out of fear.
Jiang Ning snaps back reality. She takes out her valuables and hands them over.
Seeing the scared Jiang Ning standing right before him, the man’s eyes stills, filling with greed. He pushes me aside and comments jestingly as he teasingly grips Jiang Ning's chin, "I didn't expect you'd be this beautiful. How about you entertain me a little?"
I freeze, "Big brother, we've given you all our valuables. Please let us go," I plead, my words trembling with fear.
The man in black squints at me dismissively, "Get lost."
No sooner had he said the words than he began to reach towards Jiang Ning's clothes with his filthy hands. I was left dry-mouthed, with a heart ablaze worrying for Jiang Ning. Desperation leads me to yell around, "Help! Help!"
But my plea fell on deaf ears.
"Help!" I sob uncontrollably, the desperation in my voice echoing my terror.
Clearly... Clearly, there are so many familiar faces behind the window, all are neighbors who we interact with daily, but why won't they step out together?!
"Shut up!" A man in black spoke coldly, kicking me impatiently in the stomach.
I fell backward several steps, landing on the ground painfully, numb and in agony.
I can vividly remember how good Jiang Ning has been to me. Whenever we ate, she always offered me a piece of meat. I absolutely cannot stand watching her being humiliated by such a bastard!
I struggled to get up, just about to yell, but the man in black suddenly pointed his dagger at me, and with a mischievous smile said, "If you dare take another step forward, I guarantee you'll suffer a fate worse than death!"
At that moment, I was dumbstruck! Fear consumed every nerve of my body. I knelt on the ground, staring at Jiang Ning's pale face, and her eyes filled with hope.
"Zhi Yuan, what the hell are you doing?! Hurry up and call the police!" Tears streaked down the beautiful face of Jiang Ning, she was extremely anxious.
"Kid, do you know what it feels like to have a knife stuck in your flesh?" The man in black's cold and indifferent words made me shiver again, leaving my mind blank as I stared at the near hopeless Jiang Ning.
I dared not imagine the damage that sharp dagger would do to me. I was very worried, but the deterrent power of the dagger was right in front of me. I was shaking all over, filled with panic and anxiety, could only watch the further actions of the man in black.
"Zhi Yuan! Go and call for help!" Jiang Ning struggled frantically as she yelled at me.
But the strength of a young girl like her was just too small, she struggled in vain.
"Damn it! Shut the hell up!"
With a crisp sound, the impatient man in black slapped Jiang Ning across the face.
Under the moonlight, I could clearly see the handprint on Jiang Ning's face.
With a scream, Jiang Ning was held by the collar by the man in black, his eyes filled with excitement. "Scream! Scream louder! Anyone dares to rescue you today, I'll risk my life against him!"
His words were meant for me, as well as the many neighbors upstairs.
My heart seemed to be dripping blood. The cold moonlight made the dagger's blade sharper. I was overcome by fear, my expression blank.
I know I stand no chance fighting against this man in black, the only thing I could do was kneel down like a dog, incessantly wiping away my tears, demanding desperately, "Please, let her go!"
"Jiang Zhiyuan! Save me...hurry up and save me..." Jiang Ning hysterically screamed at me. I look up, her clothes were disheveled, a fleeting revealing moment further fueled the man's lust.
Her gaze was hopeless, how could a weak woman resist the strength of an adult man...
Could it be, am I really going to stand by and watch the woman I love get humiliated by a stranger?
My eyes burned, my heart filled with hatred. At this moment, I slowly rose.