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Kneel to Me

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Chapter 38: Second Arc [1]

The next day.

As the second episode of the live broadcast began, a wave of viewers flooded in, even before the official start. The number of viewers in the upper right corner kept increasing crazily.

The host, as usual, started with a recap of the previous episode and then introduced several celebrity judges. Meanwhile, Song Juyao had already been thrown into the virtual world in advance.

"Justice Trial," a reality show, offered a completely new life each episode. In this episode, Song Juyao's memories were once again suppressed, and she was plunged into the virtual world to be reborn as an entirely new individual.

Following tradition, the production team didn't intend to make things easy for Song Juyao. They were determined to stimulate her darker side. The viewers wanted to witness a flower blossoming in the murky depths of dark swamp, yet remaining pure and immaculate. Ironically, even a small amount of tolerance and understanding would reveal that such expectations were impossible to fulfill after enduring such circumstances.

For the second episode, the production team had crafted a script that was cliched but has always been quite controversial and tense, a counterfeit and real heiress script with natural conflicts.

In this world, Song Juyao was originally a rich young lady, but she was switched at birth by a maid who was infatuated with her master. The maid quickly grew impatient with the real heiress and wanted to stay with her own biological daughter. So, she abandoned Song Juyao at an orphanage, a grim and ruthless place where children were fighting for a bite at a tender age. The orphanage director was no better, forcing the children into begging, lying, and even doing handicrafts late into the night to make money.

At the age of ten, Song Juyao was adopted. She thought she was finally liberated, but in reality, she had only moved from the first level of hell to the second.

Her adoptive father was a disgusting pedophile, and her adoptive mother had taken her in merely to prevent her husband from causing trouble by targeting other children outside. She simply adopted the toy, Song Juyao, for her husband so that she could be free of worries. But while she was doing this, she treated her as a love rival, subjecting her to physical abuse, humiliation, and maltreatment at every turn, all while harboring a mix of anger and jealousy.

Finally, when Song Juyao turned eighteen, the third level of hell arrived.

Her biological parents found her, and she was brought back home. Just as she thought she might finally experience warmth in the human world, she witnessed her whole family favoring and pampering the fake heiress born to their nanny. Song Juyao could never compare to that false daughter, and every person – her family, school, neighbors – mentally abused her through words, gestures, and everything else, inflicting emotional torment upon her. They crushed her by filling her with jealousy, anger, hatred, madness, and distortion, eventually pushing her to commit the very actions the production team was expecting from her.

Judging from this script, it would be odd if Song Juyao didn't experience a dark transformation. Moreover, the difficulty level is higher than the previous episode. In the first episode, Song Juyao was only imprisoned in the second level of hell, and Liu Yan was a coward and easily controlled person. However, in this episode, from the very beginning, Song Juyao is imprisoned by the powerful orphanage and then by her domineering adoptive parents. She's trapped, unable to escape, let alone participate in shows like "I'm the Big Winner."

In this second episode, Song Juyao will endure much more suffering than the first.

Additionally, this time the production team would start recording from when Song Juyao was 7 years old. Knowing this, some celebrity judges chose to enter the virtual world before the live broadcast.

"I want to be with Song Juyao, to understand what kind of person she is in advance, so that it will be easier for me to take action." Jiang Mi said with a smile, radiating an intellectual aura. She made her debut through a performance video in her school's art festival. She's on the rise as a second-tier star, excelling in acting and singing. Her management company is quite supportive, emphasizing her versatile, intellectual and talented image.

Learning from the lessons of the first episode, the production team decided to record this time, and they will definitely show it to the audience. This provides an opportunity for her to get more screen time, maximizing her benefits.

Jiang Mi wasn't the only one with this idea. Other celebrity judges also chimed in.

"I attach great importance to this episode and want to enter the virtual world early."

"Entering early feels safer. We don't want to repeat the mistakes of Senior Tang Kai and Miss Ming Shu, being shocked and unable to take any action."

"I think so too..."

Naturally, the production team doesn't mind this. They're willing to let them enter early to learn about Song Juyao, to add to her misery and troubles. It's more advantageous for the show. Previous guests didn't want to enter early because, first, whether the production team records or broadcasts it is uncertain. Secondly, even if it's aired, whether the audience watches it is another matter. The time and effort invested don't always match the returns, so entering after the live broadcast starts is more appropriate.

But who made Song Juyao different from others! With her current popularity and attention, once the production team releases the footage, many viewers will be eager to see her childhood experiences.

However, the assigned roles were different, Jiang Mi would play the role of Song Juyao's best friend in the orphanage. As they grow up, she'll constantly whisper in Song Juyao's ear, encouraging her to do bad things. As for the other guests, one would play the role of fake heiress, while other portray Song Juyao's fiancé, who's engaged to her from a young age. So, whether they can ride on Song Juyao's popularity depends on their own strategies.

Naturally, this information was shared with the audience.

【It’s stable this time! Song Juyao can't surprise us with something unexpected like in the first episode!】

【Wow, wow, I'm really looking forward to this episode. Let it start already!!!】

【The last hour is so hard to endure. I can't wait anymore. Can't focus on my homework, just want to watch the live broadcast.】

【Go, Jiang Mi! May the bee always be with you~】[T/N: In Jiang Mi, 蜜 (mì) represents honey, and 蜜蜂 (Mi Feng) signifies a honey bee.]

【Can't help but worry about Canbao (Huang Can).】

【The previous episode was basically a solo show for Song Juyao. I was speechless. Who knows how many immature minds were confused by it. Hope the production team won't disappoint us this time.】

【You seem to be the most mature one here. After all, you're not that young anymore, right, Auntie?】

【What's there to be proud of? They're afraid Song Juyao might slip out of their control, so they let the celebrity guests in early to manipulate her. Indirectly saying that the production team is incompetent and Song Juyao is amazing.】

【What the heck, the second episode hasn't even started, and people are already voting? Are Song's fans not afraid of being proven wrong?】

【Hehe, wonder whose face will be slapped later.】

The barrage was no longer the unilateral swarm of insults directed at Song Juyao like in the first episode. She now had fans protecting her.

On the "Dawn Will Break" forum, the administrators organized members to cast sympathy votes for Song Juyao. They controlled comments on social media platforms and fought bloody battles in the barrage area. Simultaneously, on their forum, they cursed the shameless production team together and wept for Song Juyao as if they were experiencing her pain firsthand. It was a busy and emotionally charged endeavor.

[They are so despicable. Our Yaoyao is so pitiful. My heart aches for her. Everyone, let's work harder!]

[But those of us who should be attending classes and work shouldn't delay because of this. Otherwise, if she finds out, she won't be happy.]

[Right, focus on your work and studies. Otherwise, if you have no money or credits left, how will you buy tickets?]

[I've been stingy and never donated blood before. But for two credits, I went to donate. I have a rare blood type, and those saved by my blood should really thank our Yaoyao!]

...

Huo Residence,

Huo Sen opened the live broadcast room.

His face looked grim, haunted by the words Song Juyao had spoken to him. He resented the contemptuous look in her eyes; it even affected his sleep at night.

His pursuit of power was originally ongoing, but after this incident, it instantly surged into a fervent obsession.

If, at that time, the Huo family had already risen to nobility, and he had become a prominent minister in the cabinet, deeply trusted by the king, would Song Juyao still maintain that attitude? Would she still look down on him?

He inhaled deeply, his eyes fixed on the chaotic onslaught of comments in the dimly lit live broadcast room. Just wait! The third round of cabinet examinations was about to begin, and he knew that after the conclusion of Song Juyao's second episode, her attitude toward him would undoubtedly shift. Faced with such relentless scrutiny in the second episode, what other choice could she have? After enduring the lesson in this episode, she should come to realize that one can't be too inflexible, and should bow their heads and adapt to show humility in due time.

He was willing to give her another chance. He had never offered such a face to anyone before, suppressing his own pride. She should feel honored.

Huo Sen's tense and stern face relaxed slightly.

At that moment, there was a commotion downstairs, and soon the butler came upstairs to knock on his door.

"Young Master, Madam has returned."

"She's watching TV again?"

"Yes."

"She must have a death wish. Let her be. Keep an eye on her, and don't let her pull any more tricks." Huo Sen said. He had no feelings for this stepmother. Huo Hai was dead and his father lay in the hospital bed. She had nothing to look forward to in this life. He only kept her around because his father occasionally inquired about Yuan Manzhi's situation. At times like this, he couldn't just kick her out.

Now Song Juyao was the Huo family's cash cow among the nobility. If Yuan Manzhi continued to mess around, the Huo family might be implicated in case she pissed off the other side.

"Understood," the butler replied.

Watching the first episode, Yuan Manzhi was infuriated to the point of illness, nearly suffering a stroke. She had been lying in the hospital for days. Hearing that the second episode had started, she had to get up to watch Song Juyao being tortured.

Seated on the couch, her complexion drained of color, Yuan Manzhi glared at the large screen in front of her with a burning hatred.

...

Virtual world.

This script was unlike any of the episodes Song Juyao had experienced in her memories.

Song Juyao realized this when she woke up in the orphanage. She initially thought it would start from her infancy, and she had been concerned that her memories might be suppressed for this episode, repeating the same mistakes as in her past life.

However, it appeared that justice was on her side. But since it didn't start from her infancy, she couldn't know the script arranged by the production team.

Clearly, although the production team hadn't immediately provided a world background with a wide timespan for Song Juyao, they had made some adjustments. Yet, for Song Juyao, who was already well-versed in the production team's tactics, these changes were of no concern. No matter how they altered things, the essence remained the same.

Song Juyao had already thoroughly rummaged through the entire orphanage. When she was arranged to go out and beg, she had carefully observed the surrounding children as well. However, she couldn't find Jiang Baiqi, and while she felt a little disappointed, it was fine. She knew he would definitely appear.

When the girl named Jiang Mi entered the orphanage, Song Juyao recognized that she was a celebrity judge. It wasn't because she was aware of a celebrity named Jiang Mi, but because all of this was within her expectations.

After the lessons of the first episode, the production team would surely record the screen. Humans began remembering things around the age of seven, gradually developing to a mature side. At the same time, this was the phase where they would not be able to casually let motherly and fatherly love flood freely. It was likely that the degree of adorableness diminished significantly, dropping to a very low level.

So, if the production team were to record, it should start at the phase between seven and ten years old.

Since they were recording, for maximum benefit, they would release it for the viewers to see in the future. If that's the case, the major talent agencies would undoubtedly want to seize this opportunity. As for Jiang Mi, while she had good acting skills, occasionally a trace of disdain and superiority would flash between her brows.

"Yaoyao, this is so difficult. I can't finish it. I won't have dinner tonight." Jiang Mi leaned in beside Song Juyao and said pitifully.

The children were busy stringing beads, which was basically holding a needle and threading the thread, then using the needle to pull the thread through the beads in a plate, stringing a certain number of them. Stringing the beads of various shapes and colors onto the thread, they would form a long strand, which adults would use to create head flowers.

The work was monotonous. The orphanage head had piled on a load of tasks, and the children had to string beads all day long. If they didn't meet the specified quantity, they wouldn't get dinner. To eat, the children put in a lot of effort. Some of them would unconsciously continue to lift their hands in the stance of threading beads even in their sleep.

Song Juyao was close to reaching the required quantity, but Jiang Mi had barely completed half. Innately pampered adult who was adored by fans, she couldn't stay still and work but she also didn't want to go hungry. Most of the children in the orphanage were thin and pale, but she remained fair and clean, looking like a little princess.

Of course, this was deliberately done by her. She was a female celebrity, and the thought of the recording being shown to viewers subconsciously made her mindful of her appearance. Who wouldn't like a clean, pretty little child? Due to her appearance, many boys in the orphanage liked her and were willing to help her with chores.

Yet, she still preferred having Song Juyao do it for her.

Song Juyao glanced at her and grabbed a handful of beads she had threaded: "This should be enough."

"But what about you, Yaoyao?"

"It's fine. I'll be quick. I'll definitely finish before the aunties get off work." Song Juyao said, focusing once more on stringing beads.

"Thank you, Yaoyao. You're so kind. I like you the most!" Jiang Mi hugged Song Juyao. While Song Juyao was intently threading beads, Jiang Mi reached over and tampered with the beadwork in her plate. She acted as if she was just looking curiously, but actually quietly tore off the string.

Song Juyao picked up the beadwork to let the orphanage caretaker check, and as soon as the caretaker auntie picked it, the beads slipped down from the other end of the thread. She got scolded and had her ear twisted. Her skinny little body bent down to pick up the beads from the floor and then returned to rethread them.

While the other children were having their meal in the cafeteria, Song Juyao was left alone in the room to continue her work.

Jiang Mi cautiously peeked in from outside the door. Seeing Song Juyao diligently threading the beads without any anomalies, she finally went to have her dinner.

Due to Song Juyao's impressive performance in the first episode, there was a general belief that her high intelligence or some inherent traits might carry over into the virtual world. Therefore, Jiang Mi, in order to prevent Song Juyao from skyrocketing to fame by participating in various programs, kept a watchful eye on her, sticking close to her at all times.

Even during times like begging. Although Jiang Mi wouldn't usually stoop to do such a shameful thing, and the orphanage exempted her from this job because she didn't look miserable enough, she didn't forget to follow Song Juyao, using the excuse of keeping her company.

Song Juyao didn't seem to have any extraordinary qualities. She was very honest. If asked to beg for food, she would take a broken bowl and head out in ragged clothes.

Up ahead, an elderly man picking through garbage on his tricycle had a snake-skin bag slip off. He didn't notice it and bottles fell along the way. Song Juyao chased after him while picking the bottles in the way, and finally managed to stop by shouting. One small and one old picked up the scattered bottles and cans together. Pitying Song Juyao, the old man handed her some crumpled money. Song Juyao turned around and ran away with a broken bowl, refusing to accept it.

The elderly man stood behind, gazing at Song Juyao for a while. He wiped his eyes and then rode his tricycle away. Song Juyao ran for a bit, and a car stopped, waving her over. Observing her earlier actions, the owner took out some money from his wallet and handed it to her. He said something before driving away.

However, Song Juyao was easy to take advantage of. Even though she got a lot of money many times due to various reasons, she was snatched away by the strong children in the orphanage and threatened not to speak out. She really didn't say anything.

Because Jiang Mi would say, "Just give it to them. They're so pitiful. If they haven't gotten any, the dean would beat them. Helping others will be rewarded in the future!"

"Even though what they're doing is wrong, if you retaliate, won't you be just like them? Don't become evil, we have to be good people so that we will have good karma."

"Let them have it......"

"Be kind to others, we are accumulating good fortune, and there will be good rewards..."

"..."

Jiang Mi instilled these words into Song Juyao's mind, making her believe that good deeds bring rewards. Jiang Mi, while speaking, seemed to exude the glory of the Virgin Mary aura. Yet, deep down, she thought, yes, take this as a belief, and then found that there is no good reward, there is only a deeper and deeper layer of hell. And what will happen when the belief collapses? The transformation of an honest person into a villain was perhaps the most terrifying.

Since no one in the orphanage apart from Jiang Mi was willing to befriend Song Juyao, she would take Jiang Mi's words to heart.

Because of Jiang Mi, Song Juyao was sucked blood by various parties, becoming even thinner and uglier than the other kids at the orphanage. Her state was even worse than the first episode; after all, the production team had instructed to ruin Song Juyao's appearance, not allowing her to be as pretty as she was in the first episode.

Late at night, Jiang Mi stood by Song Juyao's bed, holding a hot water bottle, pondering whether or not to pour it on Song Juyao's face. Yet, she ultimately gave up on the idea.

If Song Juyao's face were ruined now, the second level of hell wouldn't unfold, and the pedophilic adoptive father wouldn't like a disfigured girl. Jiang Mi wanted to efficiently complete the task given by the production team, to please them and become a guest they favored. This would be highly advantageous for her, considering the show was backed by the nobles.

Jiang Mi turned around and left with regret. Song Juyao opened her eyes. In the darkness, her eyes were clear and as bright as a wolf, and then she closed them again.

There were always some compassionate people who visited the orphanage, bringing clothes, shoes, books, and other gifts for the kids.

On this day, a family of four arrived in a luxurious car, accompanied by bodyguards and maids. They looked very wealthy. The head of the orphanage warmly welcomed them and called all the children out.

The two siblings were dressed like prince and princess from a fairy tale. They were about the same age as the orphanage kids, making the children extremely envious. The siblings distributed candies to the children and played together.

Song Juyao also received some candy, but she didn't receive an invitation to play together. She stood in the shade of a tree, watching the enviable siblings, and heard the conversation between the head of the orphanage and the couple not far away.

"Our daughter has been kind since she was little. When we asked her where she wanted to go, she said she wanted to come and volunteer at the orphanage," the lady lady said very proudly and lovingly.

"Your family's upbringing is truly excellent. Both you and your husband are outstanding individuals, raising such exceptional children."

"Hahaha... overpraised…overpraised."

At that moment, Jiang Mi approached.

"I envy them so much. Why were some kids abandoned by their parents, yet others lead such happy lives? If I were her, that would be amazing. What do you think, Yaoyao?" Jiang Mi said enviously.

"Uh-huh," Song Juyao responded, then she noticed that Jiang Mi exchanged a glance with the little princess over there.

This family of four came again later, accompanied by another little boy who looked like a prince on a white horse. Despite his young age, he was extremely handsome. Seeing that Song Juyao didn't join them, he approached her and struck up a conversation, gently patting her head and secretly giving her a few chocolates.

"Hide them and eat them later, don't let the other kids see," the young boy said with a gentle smile. If it were any other girl, she would have been captivated by now.

Shortly after, Jiang Mi came over again, her eyes full of envy. "Do you know? He's the fiancé of that little princess. They say it's a marriage arranged since childhood. I envy them so much. If I were her, that would be amazing, don't you think so?"

"Yeah," Song Juyao nodded with a hint of envy, patting the chocolates in her pocket.

Although Song Juyao was quiet and reserved, her words were still naive and childish. She appeared as a relatively more mature child. Jiang Mi believed she understood Song Juyao thoroughly and didn't notice anything amiss. She secretly met with the two colleagues from the industry, had a relaxed chat, and agreed that once Song Juyao was adopted at the age of 10, they would help her and let her be adopted by a family with better conditions.

According to the show's rules, once they entered the virtual world, they couldn't come out. Exiting would mean quitting, and they couldn't re-enter. So, during these eight years before the live broadcast began, she wanted to live with a better family. She could also take the opportunity to learn things and enrich herself in the meantime.

Song Juyao sat on her bed, looking at the chocolates in her hands.

The presence of the three celebrity judges was unexpected, yet not entirely surprising. They all wanted to ride the wave of popularity to maximize their profits. So, let her deduce, they were planting seeds of envy and jealousy in her. These seeds had to be maximally useful. This family of four, including the fiancé of the little princess, must be closely connected to her; otherwise, planting these seeds would be somewhat redundant and unnecessary.

That made it easy to guess. Either she would be adopted by their family or this was a script involving a real or fake wealthy young lady.

In terms of tension, the adoption script wasn't as effective as the real or fake wealthy young lady script. To lead her to the depths of her dark side, the real or fake wealthy young lady script would undoubtedly be more adept at inciting her malevolent tendencies.

So, it was most likely the real or fake wealthy young lady script. And, naturally, she was the real wealthy young lady.

First, the seeds of envy and jealousy were sown in her young heart. As she underwent a series of torments later and was found back, her hatred for the fake wealthy young lady would deepen. Seeing her family's favoritism towards her, she would twist in agony and jealousy, verging on madness.

Thanks to their presence, she discerned the show's script so quickly. Truly, she owed them her gratitude.

A sly smile formed at the corner of Song Juyao's lips.

"You have chocolates!!" A child shouted when he saw the chocolates in Song Juyao's hand.

Other kids rushed over, quickly snatching away all of her chocolates.

Song Juyao hadn't really intended to eat them, so she didn't mind.

When Jiang Mi returned and saw the chocolates offered by the little boy, she knew Song Juyao didn't hold onto her chocolates. Song Juyao was the thinnest in the orphanage and was always suppressed and bullied. Jiang Mi thought about how Song Juyao had been in the first episode, but in the second episode, she was sure she wouldn't stand up like that again. After all, she couldn't see any signs of brilliance in her till now; she was just an ordinary little girl.

"Juyao, look," Jiang Mi extended the chocolates like a treasure to Song Juyao. "I managed to snatch back two for you. Hurry and eat them, so you won't get robbed again."

"Thank you, Mimi, you're so kind." Song Juyao held the chocolates in pleasant surprise and gratitude. "You also have one."

"Okay, let's eat together."

Jiang Mi nibbled on her chocolate, feeling satisfied with how things were progressing, oblivious to the meaningful smile that briefly flashed in Song Juyao's downcast eyes.

On that day, as usual, Song Juyao was assigned the task of begging on the streets, and Jiang Mi continued to follow her from a distance. Suddenly, she noticed someone.

It was a middle-aged man with a square face that seemed slightly fierce and intimidating. His gaze was fixed straight at Song Juyao. Jiang Mi wondered if he could be the perverted pedophile. No, his appearance doesn't match the character card.

Jiang Mi thought to herself, then realized the man was staring at her. Startled, Jiang Mi felt creepy and a shiver ran down her spine. She was sure that this was another pervert, perhaps a serial killer or something, who was eyeing Song Juyao. She had to be careful, she didn't want to be implicated.

Over the next period of time, Jiang Mi became increasingly certain that this was a pervert who was targeting Song Juyao. He was elusive, appearing and disappearing at odd times. Initially, he only showed up when Song Juyao went out, but eventually, he even appeared outside the orphanage.

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