A Ticket You Cannot Discard
The past could be changed, reality could be changed, but at the very least, Life Theater would never change.
Ning Ning had always thought so in the past.
“There seems to be a group fight ahead,” the driver said in a slightly nervous tone, “are you sure you want to get off here?”
Just as his voice faded out, a person flew over and smashed on the taxi with a huge bang.
Both of them exclaimed in fright as they reflexively bent down to dodge it. A few seconds later, Ning Ning slowly raised her head and looked through the cracked window, carefully surveying the scene outside the taxi.
The outside of Life Theater was a mess.
There were masked people all over the ground—some of them were heavily injured, some of them were lightly injured—but even the most lightly injured ones were groaning in pain on the ground, unable to get up at the moment.
At the same time, there were even more masked people rushing out of Life Theater.
Rushing towards the person who was standing in their way—Boss Qu.
“Ahhhh!!” They screamed their lungs out, the legs of the chairs from the theater as weapons, as if they were a person on the verge of death expending the last of their madness.
The door of the car was yanked open, the person who had been tossed on the taxi got in. It was a woman with thick wavy hair, on her face was a fox mask with long and thin eyes. She said while catching her breath, “Start, start the car quickly… It’s you!”
Her first reaction to seeing her was surprise, then ecstasy. “As long as I catch you, Boss Qu would… Ah!”
Boss Qu grabbed her hair and viciously pulled her out of the taxi. He roared into the taxi, “Why are you still in a daze?! Get out of here quickly!“
Numerous hands reached out from behind him at the same time. Some grabbed him by the throat, some by his waist, there were also a few who ran past him towards Ning Ning.
Ning Ning was frozen in fear, she watched as many hands reached out to her.
A horrible scream.
One of the arms had turned into ashes.
Boss Qu stood behind him, holding a mask in his hand. The mask that he had just ripped off was warm and fresh. The body that no longer had a mask had crumpled to his knees then turned into ashes. The clothes had fallen to the floor one by one, forming the shape of a human, they very quickly turned into ashes as well. With a gust of the wind, nothing was left.
Ning Ning stared at what happened in a daze, the other masked people also stared at what happened in a daze.
“All of you get back.” Boss Qu said coldly, “Don’t blame me if I punish you…”
Before he could finish his sentence, he was suddenly astounded, looking straight behind Ning Ning.
What did he see?
Ning Ning also turned around and looked, she was also surprised when she realised that the car behind her was a Cayenne.
Chen Shuang He? Why was he there? Did he tail her…Oh no!
The roof of the taxi suddenly bent down as Boss Qu was standing on it. He rushed towards the Cayenne anxiously.
Before he even got to the Cayenne, his mask had started to burn, crimson undying flames fanned out from his mask to his shoulders, arms then his entire body, turning him into a fiery figure. He fell from the air to the ground, rolling a few times before he started crawling towards the Cayenne again. He shouted and cursed as he crawled, “Why are you stopping me?! You can’t stop me! I have been your watchdog for so long, I have already waited for one hundred and two years… He is just in front of me!!!”
“…Oh God! I’m going to call the police!” The driver was unable to bear the unscientific scene outside. He stepped on the accelerator, the tires were screeching as the car sped off. About three meters later, it suddenly stopped, Ning Ning stumbling out of the car. She took off her coat and put it on Boss Qu.
But the fire could not be put out.
The fire would only burn him, not the clothes, not Ning Ning either. At this time, Chen Shuang He got off from the Cayenne, grabbing her hand and running back in a hurry.
“…Where are you running off to?” Boss Qu could not think straight from having been burned. He watched the two figures running away from him. Through his mask, through the flames, their figures had blurred amongst them, the figures had turned into two other characters, he murmured, “…Don’t touch my daughter, I’m right here, come at me.”
A voice that sounded like both a human and a beast at the same time rang out from behind Ning Ning.
“Let go.” She shook off Chen Shuang He’s hand. She looked back.
A sea of fire.
The masked people were screaming painfully in the flames. They wanted to run away, but they would turn into a flaming person before they could get far. There was no escape, there was no retreat. They cried, shouted and screamed. One by one, they would either walk or crawl back into the entrance of Life Theater. The instant they entered through the entrance of Life Theater, the fire on their bodies would be extinguished immediately.
There was only one person whose fire was still burning.
“One hundred and two years, one hundred and two years…I cannot wait anymore…” Boss Qu laid prone on the ground, crawling towards the two figures with difficulty, with flames on his body and tears in his eyes. “Even if I cannot kill, at least let me take a bite, just a bite…let me vent my hatred!”
Ning Ning took a deep breath then suddenly rushed towards him.
“Wait!” Chen Shuang He reached out to grab her but did not manage to grab anything. He took two steps forward but was forced back by the hatred in Boss Qu’s expression. This was really a head scratcher. Had he ever met this person, no—this superhuman—before? Why did he look like he had a deep hatred against him?
Ning Ning walked gingerly into the fire. The flames brushed past her legs, but it was cooling like a breeze. She breathed a sigh of relief. This fire could only burn the mask people, it couldn’t burn her.
She helped Boss Qu up. He was too heavy, causing her to stagger.
“Papa, don’t be sad,” she said quietly, “I’m back.”
“…Ah.” Boss Qu struggled on her shoulders, then he relaxed and called out quietly, “Ning’er…”
Ning Ning helped him into the entrance with difficulty. She had wanted to go in together, but he reached out and pushed her away. One of them went forward, the other went backward, then the entrance slammed shut abruptly with a loud crash, completely separating the two.
Ning Ning took two steps back, then she slowly looked up.
Life Theater that seemed to be forever open had closed its doors. The wall which had a new poster every night currently had a blank poster. Finally, the two lines of white lanterns at the entrance—from the start, to the end—were turning red one by one.
The wind blew, the two lines of blood lanterns at the entrance gently swayed.
“…What exactly is happening in there?” Ning Ning muttered.
A hand suddenly placed itself on her shoulder. She turned around and was met with Chen Shuang He’s eyes. He said in a low voice, “Give me an explanation.”
Explanation? How would she explain herself? Tell him that that was his great grandfather’s adversary who should have been burnt to death but was now detained by the theater to be a half-dead doorman as he waited for his arrival?
She was afraid that the moment she finished speaking, she would be sent to the mental institute.
“I don’t really get what’s going on either.” Thus she said while forcing a smile.
“Really?” Chen Shuang He stared at her with suspicion. “You seem to be very familiar with that person just now.”
Ning Ning, “You saw wrongly.”
“If you weren’t familiar, why would you rush into the fire to save him for no reason?” Chen Shuang He asked.
“A human life is at stake, I was just doing a good deed.” Ning Ning raised her arms and took a look, then she exclaimed, “That’s strange, with such a big fire, why aren’t even the corners of my clothes burnt off?”
Chen Shuang He frantically grabbed her arm to check. As she said, both her and her clothes were fine, there were no signs of them getting burned. How was that possible? Was what just happened an illusion?
With the unexplainable incident and being unable to get an answer from Ning Ning, she let go of Ning Ning’s arm and went up to the door and gave it a few knocks, but no one answered, he looked back at Ning Ning again, Ning Ning gave him an innocent look.
“Since the movie theater is operating here, I will definitely be able to find out who owns it.” Chen Shuang He said coldly, “Even if you don’t tell me, I will get to the bottom of this.”
Who opened the movie theater? Ning Ning’s eyes sparkled, she took out her phone. “Please inform me once you figure it out. That’s right, what’s your WeChat account? Can you let me scan your QR code?”
Chen Shuang He, “…”
After adding each other on WeChat, Chen Shuang He sent Ning Ning back home.
This time, Ning Ning did not intend to wander around anymore. She rubbed her face that was reflected in the mirror, took off her coat and prepared to change into her pajamas.
A piece of paper fluttered down from the pocket of her coat.
“Hmm?” Ning Ning looked down at that piece of paper. She slowly bent down to pick it up.
Once she had a clear look at the content of the paper, the look on her face darkened.
She had held many different kinds of Life Theater tickets in the past, but undoubtedly, the ticket in her hand was the most exquisite of them all.
Its texture was harder than regular tickets, but it was as light as papyrus. On it was a stamp of a half-length photograph. The photograph seemed to depict a woman with slightly wavy long hair.
Wasn’t that the woman who had opened the taxi door and almost grabbed her?
“Did she secretly stuff this in my pocket?” Ning Ning hesitated for a moment before tossing the ticket into the toilet bowl then flushing it down.
Unless it’s a last resort, never accept a ticket from a staff member—she still remembered Mama’s exhortation.
“I cannot keep the ticket of a staff member.” Ning Ning looked on as the tiny whirlpool in the toilet bowl slowly subsided. She murmured, “Not to mention a ticket that had been secretly stuffed into my pocket by a staff member.”
Once she dealt with the ticket, she went back to her normal life.
She made another trip to Director Chen’s house on the next day. Chen Shuang He was there as well. Both of them were distracted—seemingly because of the incident from the previous day—causing them to get a scolding from Director Chen after a few takes. It was Li Shan Zhu who defended them from the side, twitch made Director Chen’s rage temporarily subside. He waved his hand impatiently. “I’ll give you two another week. Go back and think carefully about how you want to portray this.”
A week, this was already the limit of Director Chen’s patience.
If they still could not meet his expectations by then, he might really swap them out with other actors.
Ning Ning returned home dejectedly. When she was about to take her keys out, she was surprised. She slowly took her hand out from her pocket.
On her palm were a key and a movie ticket.
On the ticket was a stamp, on the stamp was a woman with wavy hair.
“Why is it back?” Ning Ning furrowed her brows.
This time, she simply burned it up then flushed the remains down the toilet bowl.
Subsequently, when she turned her head while she was still half asleep the next morning, that ticket was lying on the pillow by her side without a scratch, the woman with the wavy hair on the stamp was looking at her on her side.
“What’s going on?” Ning Ning sat up. She held the movie ticket, then flipped and looked at it for a long time before muttering to herself, “The reason one should not accept a ticket from a staff member…don’t tell me, it’s because you cannot get rid of it?”
Her guess was confirmed.
Afterwards, she tested a lot of methods—drowning it in water, burning it in fire, shipping it overseas—besides giving it to another person, she had tried every other method, but it was of no use. The next morning, the wavy hair woman would always be there on the pillow, looking at Ning Ning while lying on her side.
“This is the last method.” Ning Ning looked down at the ticket in her hand, then slowly looked up, up at Life Theater that was in front of her.
Besides dealing with the ticket and thinking of how to portray Little Ai for these few days, she would occasionally take a taxi ride to Life Theater. Yet, every time she was here, the theater would be shut, the poster on the wall would always be blank, but the two lines of blood red lanterns were slowly fading, like blood that had already dried.
What happened to Boss Qu? What happened to Shi Zhong Tang? Ning Ning hesitated for a moment before she walked up and knocked on the door. “Is anyone there?”
No one answered. She tugged on the chain on the door. Unexpectedly, the chain actually fell to the ground. The door wasn’t even locked.
Ning Ning held the door handle and pushed on to reveal a small crack.
“Never ever sneak in without a ticket!” Ning Yu Ren’s exhortation flashed across her mind. She retracted her leg that was already lifted up, trying to step inside.
She bent over slightly while standing at the doorway, peeking in through the crack of the door. The interior was pitch black, she could not see anything. After a long while, an indistinct shadow appeared. It looked a little like Shi Zhong Tang. She opened her mouth—just as she was about to to call out to him, someone suddenly pushed her from behind…
“Ah!” Ning Ning exclaimed as she fell inwards.
The masked people who were walking around had stopped moving.
A red light shone on Ning Ning.
She slowly looked up and saw that the entire screen had lit up, but it was not the usual white light—a scarlet red light, like the red lanterns at the entrance. After a while, a number even appeared on it. It was ‘10’, but after a second, it turned into ‘9’.
Clomp, clomp, clomp. The sound of footsteps approached her. Boss Qu stood by her side, panting. “What are you doing here? Do…do you have any tickets on you? Quick, quickly, any ticket will do, quickly give it to me!!”
Ning Ning had never seen him so anxious, so anxious he was sweating like a pig, he could not even speak properly.
She frantically took out the only ticket she had on her.
Boss Qu snatched the ticket out of her hand before she could hand it over, saying in a hurry, “One person per ticket, invalid… A main character ticket?”
The number on the screen had already counted down to ‘3’. Boss Qu glanced at the number, trembling as he tore the ticket. “Invalid upon admission…Ning Ning, who is trying to sabotage you?”
“I don’t know.” Ning Ning sat on the floor with a confounded look. “I was pushed in.”
The moment the ticket was torn, the number on the screen had just turned to ‘1’.
The number ‘1’ on the screen stopped and stopped counting down, even the red on the screen slowly faded, from the left to right, the red slowly turned into white.
White light illuminated Ning Ning’s body, she breathed a sigh of relief, this was when she realised that she had been sweating. Red light was illuminating Boss Qu’s body.
“…You were pushed in?” He murmured before abruptly rushing out of the entrance.