After that case ended, I didn’t have any business for a long time. Every day, I opened my shop and spent my days leisurely, drinking liquor and reading books to pass the time.
One day, Yin Xinyue approached me. “Brother Zhang, help me a bit here.”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“I have a friend who’s a screenwriter, and he’s been complaining about his writer’s block to me for two days in a row. He told me he has racked his brain for quite a while, but was unable to write a script. Do you have any tricks to help him?” asked Yin Xinyue.
I frowned and placed the book down.
I then said to Yin Xinyue in a serious voice, “We shouldn’t use otherworldly items casually. Moreover, there’s no pie that randomly falls from the sky. When you receive something, you have to pay an equal price! Even if he can’t write a script, it’s not that serious. He should go out to travel and relax to adjust his mood. Perhaps he will find inspiration.”
Yin Xinyue sighed. “I’ve told him that, but it was of no use! You don’t understand how harsh it is in this industry. Every year, there are thousands of writers who want to join the circle of screenwriters, and the industry is already full of second-rate and third-rate screenwriters. If you can’t write, someone’s ready to take your job. If you don’t cooperate with the director immediately, you might not ever have a chance later.”
She continued, “He said that he doesn’t care if he has to meet a ghost or reduce his life span. The only thing that matters to him is getting the inspiration to write. So, could you help him this time? I know that only you can help him.” Yin Xinyue begged me.
To be honest, I felt that the domestic movie industry was already flooded. There were so many crappy scripts, and everyone thought they could become a screenwriter. However, not every bowl of rice was delicious.
I told Yin Xinyue to tell her friend that I would find an otherworldly item for him, but I wasn’t sure that it would work.
“That’s great! I’ve got his business card here. You can start by getting to know him first.”
Then, Yin Xinyue opened her wallet and handed me a business card. The card read the name of a famous screenwriter, Meng Dongye.
I jogged my memory and asked, “Is he the screenwriter that wrote ‘Empresses in the Palace’, the famous Qing Palace drama of this year?”
“Yeah, that’s him!” Yin Xinyue smiled.
Meng Dongye wasn’t an ordinary screenwriter. He was a great influencer on Weibo who often joined talk shows. It turned out I had a chance to do business with a celebrity. I was a little excited.
Yin Xinyue told me that he had to submit his newest script in the second half of this year, so she asked me to seize the time.
That night, I released the news to the Circle and asked about an otherworldly item that could inspire people. The safer the item, the better. The price wasn’t an issue.
In less than a week, someone called me. It was Brother Wei, someone who had worked with me a few times. He was also an otherworldly merchant, but he didn’t collect the items himself. He obtained the items through his connections and often helped other colleagues in this business. He charged them the intermediary fee.
I had found buyers for some otherworldly items through his channels.
“Hey brother, I just got an item a few days ago, and I’m sure it matches your requirement pretty well. We should book an appointment to meet up. However, we’ll do cash. I don’t want to use the bank. These days, I’m afraid I’m being watched.”
“How much? I’ll need some time to prepare the cash.”
He didn’t beat around the bush. “Because of our friendship, the price won’t be high. Three hundred thousand renminbi. Not much, right?”
I then set up an appointment with him and invited Yin Xinyue and Meng Dongye. The meeting was at a shabby and abandoned building still under construction. Brother Wei lived there like a homeless person and had hired a guy to deliver food to him daily.
Meng Dongye was a bearded man who wore round-framed glasses. When he saw the abandoned building, he asked me worriedly, “Mr. Zhang, your friend doesn’t live in a decent place. I have a feeling that he’s not a reliable person.”
“You can trust the people I refer to you. I’m sure he is wanted right now. He’s hiding here to avoid the limelight.” I forced a smile.
As soon as he saw me, Brother Wei started to rant about how miserable he was. “Last time, I bought an antique and sold it for double the price. However, I didn’t know that it was a second-rate national treasure. I don’t know who ratted me to the police, but they’re watching me now. They keep sending guys to watch my door. I had to move here.”
Then, he turned to greet Yin Xinyue. “Yo, is this my sister-in-law? What a beautiful woman you are! You look like a movie star!”
And then, he patted Meng Dongye’s shoulder hard. “The great screenwriter, Mr. Meng! I’ve been longing to meet you for a long time. I’ve watched all the anti-Japanese war movies you wrote! They are freaking awesome! What is the current piece of art you’re working on?”
“Life in the Qing Dynasty’s Palace.” Meng Dongye was a sort of literati, and he couldn’t adapt to Brother Wei’s style. After all, Brother Wei was like a barbarian compared to him.
Brother Wei also noticed it. He said sheepishly, “I’m just a boorish man, and I don’t really understand etiquette. Please, don’t feel offended. However, I value my reputation the most in this business, so you don’t have to worry!”
“Good, I trust you!” Meng Dongye smiled.
“Please, have a seat and let’s talk about business!” Brother Wei moved over several plastic stools. We sat face to face, with the money box Meng Dongye had brought placed on the makeshift table. Brother Wei took out a long mahogany box and showed it to us.
He opened the box, which revealed a brush. The brush handle was made of beautiful bamboo and had a bright, shiny surface. Of course, it wasn’t the result of a polishing machine. It was caused by the friction between the hand and the brush for a long time. There were some strange patterns, but they weren’t clear enough to see. There was also a small hole on the top, but the wolf hairs at the nib were neat and strangely beautiful.
“This brush can give me inspiration?” Meng Dongye sounded skeptical.
“Of course. Once you know the story behind the brush, you’ll believe it.” Brother Wei put a cigarette between his lips.
I told him not to fool around and tell us the story.
“Brother Zhang, I know you’ve been North and South these years and that you’ve collected a lot of interesting and valuable items, but I’m sure you have never seen this sort of item before.”
“What sort of item is it?” I asked.
“One that comes with its own idiom!”
I had almost slipped off the stool. I had expected something better. Yin Xinyue also sniggered.
“Okay, could you please tell me the old story behind this brush?” I tried not to laugh.
Brother Wei stayed silent for a while then said, “Jiang Yan has exhausted his talent!”
Meng Dongye jolted up and said excitedly, “You mean this brush is the magic brush in the story, ‘Jiang Yan Has Exhausted His Talent’?”
“Yeah, that’s right. The great screenwriter Meng got it right!” Brother Wei clapped his hands. “This is the magic brush of talented writing. It carries a lot of history with it. Isn’t it awesome?”
I also knew the story behind the idiom.
The folktale said that during the period of the Southern dynasty, there was a famous writer called Jiang Yan. After making a political mistake, he was demoted and sent to Pucheng to be a lowly officer. He was so sad that he didn’t even want to eat meals or drink water.
One day, he took a walk in the countryside and fell asleep on a hill as he was exhausted. In his dream, he saw an old immortal that came to him on a cloud. The deity gave him a five-colored brush. “Jiang Yan, you saved my life in your previous life. Accept this brush as my way of returning the favor.”
From that day onward, Jiang Yan’s ideas surged like a great river. He wrote a lot of splendid works that went down in history.
Jiang Yan relied on his rich knowledge and talent for writing to gradually advance to the top. When he turned middle-aged, he dreamed of that old immortal again. The immortal told him that he had been promoted quickly thanks to the five-colored brush and that it was time to return it.
Jiang Yan respectfully took the brush out of his pocket and returned it to the old immortal. From that day on, he was no longer able to write anything significant.
The idiom ‘Jiang Yan has exhausted his talent’ originated from this folktale.
However, I was skeptical. In the folktale, it was a five-colored magic brush. How could it turn into a bamboo brush?
This brush looked ordinary. Was this the difference between reality and imagination?Previous Chapter Next Chapter