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Stand-in Dancer

A fight between a mother and a daughter, a fight over a role.

This was not the first time, but most probably, this would be the last.

“Village Chief,” Ning Ning asked the village chief afterwards, “what kind of role is the owner?”

Mama looked self-assured, she probably knew how to perform the role. She didn’t know what she was supposed to act as, she could only ask people who did know.

“Didn’t I tell you before?” The village chief said amiably, “All you have to do is to sit and watch, you don’t have to do anything else.”

“…I understand, thank you.”

That was his personal opinion. The best owner in his mind was a dummy who didn’t move at all.

Ning Ning asked the others next. She asked everyone who could possibly know the answer. In the end, everyone gave her different answers. One said to be serious and stoic, another said to smile like a flower, another one said to act superior to mortals and hard to approach.

Suddenly, a familiar voice asked her, “Why don’t you ask me?”

Ning Ning looked back and saw Pei Xuan standing behind her.

“Didn’t you just return to the village?” Ning Ning smiled at him. “You’re like me, a person who doesn’t know anything.”

“No, I do know.” Pei Xuan suddenly walked forward, it forced Ning Ning into an alley behind her.

Ning Ning was only backing off by reflex. When she realised that she had retreated into an alley, she immediately shuddered. She wanted to walk forward but the tall Pei Xuan had blocked the entrance so she could not get out. She turned around and started to run. Who knew that just when she had taken two steps, a voice rang out behind her, “…The title of this film is <<A Chinese (Boy) Ghost Story>>.”

Ning Ning stopped in her tracks.

She slowly looked back. She saw “Pei Xuan” abruptly crack a smile out of relief and said, “I am Wen Yu.”

Half an hour later, at a field near the village.

Canola flowers bloomed across the mountains and plains, gold spreading out from beneath their feet out in all directions. With a gust of the wind, golden waves rolled across the mountains and plains. Amidst the wave sat a teenager, there was an easel in front of the teenager, they held a brush, painting a sea of gold on their canvas.

Ning Ning and Pei Xuan strolled by the fields of canola flowers.

“I arrived a month ago, I became like this the moment I arrived.” Wen Yu sighed, he touched his face and said depressingly, “Will I be able to turn back?”

…Looking at his decadent and dispirited look, Ning Ning reckoned that Pei Xuan might not have any white hair, it was just that they had grown in this month from Wen Yu worrying too much.

“Of course you will.” Ning Ning told him about Life Theater, along with a simple explanation of their current situation. She concluded at last, “When this movie ends, we will be able to go back.”

“When will this movie end?” Wen Yu looked at her full of expectations. To him, Pei Xuan was a pest equivalent to a rat or a cockroach, no one would be willing to transmigrate as a pest, right?

“When the main character dies…that’s not right!” Ning Ning suddenly realised a weird situation. She was shocked for a while before she murmured, “My grandfather is currently dead.”

A chill came over both of them, even the warm sun could not dissipate it.

“Are you certain?” Wen Yu asked.

“…That’s what my grandmother told me. She said that Grandfather had died long ago from illness, she raised my mom as a single parent.” Ning Ning hesitated for a moment. “Whether that’s true, only my grandmother knows… That’s right, what about you, what are you here for?”

“Pei Xuan has been collecting information on Life Theater,” Wen Yu continued, “it was not just him, he even involved a lot of people. The group of them have been collecting information for a few years. In the end, all the leads pointed towards this place.”

As he finished, he took out a folded piece of paper and show it to her. “Look, this is Pei Xuan’s plan. He was writing it halfway when I transmigrated as him a month ago.”

Ning Ning opened the paper and took a look.

One: Prepare a change of clothes, climbing equipment, money, mosquito coils, essential balm, new mosquito nets…

Why are there so many mosquito repellants? Pei Xuan, are you that afraid of mosquitos?

Two: Get fake identification.

The ever cunning Pei Xuan, he had been well prepared. Even if the village chief were to check his identification, he would most probably not expose himself.

Three: Buy a ticket for the seventh. Arrive at the village on the eighth. Meet the village chief with the mask, claim to be Li Shui Sheng’s son. Request to take part in the nuo dance ritual.


There is nothing after four…

“Li Xuan! Li Xuan!” From a distance, a man wearing a mask on his face walked towards them as he shouted, “Didn’t I tell you to come learn the dance from me at eight in the morning? No sincerity! No determination! All you know is to flirt!”

Wen Yu took a look at him, then looked back at Ning Ning and said, “I’ll go with him for now. Uncle Tie is a senior in the village, he knows a lot. I want to ask him some questions, I’ll look for you later.”

“Alright.” Ning Ning looked at the time on her phone. “Then, I’ll wait for you here at six in the evening.”

Once he left, she suddenly regretted it, she thought, “Why must I wait here at six? We have nothing to do with each other now, we’re just wandering around. I could have just gone with him, I could have even asked Uncle Tie, he’s a senior of the village, he definitely knows something about the owner.”

When her thoughts caught up to her, Ning Ning frantically walked towards the village.

Compared to the usual, the village was more rowdy and crowded, Ning Ning had to rub shoulders with another person from time to time. There seemed to only be one way to differentiate between the villagers and the people returning home in glory—masks.

She did not know what order the village chief had announced at the banquet after she got drunk and went home last night.

Starting from this morning, the streets were full of masked people.

Everyone of different surnames wore their old masks that had been passed down every generation. The workmanship was excellent, the colours were gorgeous. They looked like a human, a beast and a ghost at the same time. Other than that, some people were wearing identical masks—yin yang masks that had no facial features, the left of the face was black, the right of the face was white.

Masked person, normal person, masked person, normal person. Ning Ning was standing in the middle of the road. As they walked past her, it suddenly felt like she had returned to when <<Sneaking In>> had ended—the day she came out of the theater and looked out in the streets. Between the theater and the world, between the masked people and normal people, the moment when the final boundary that separated them was gone.

“Where’s your mask?”

Ning Ning looked towards the voice and was surprised. “It’s you?”

It was the masked young man who had led the three of them from the wild the day she arrived at the village.

He wore a ferocious mask that had four eyes and fangs as he stood in an alley and waved at her.

Ning Ning walked towards him and said, “Thanks for last time.”

He smiled as he shook his head, he asked again, “Where is your mask?”

He was that concerned about that? Ning Ning answered, “I can’t find it.”

“You can’t find it?” The young man in green clothes let out a laughter. “Do you want me to tell you where you’ve lost it?”

Ning Ning raised her eyebrows, “You know where it is?”

“Because I’m the one who lost it.” He put up a finger and gestured a shush at her, there was an indescribable intimacy in it. “I accidentally damaged the mask, don’t tell anyone.”

…Based on how the village chief and villagers viewed the Ning family, how important they viewed the ancestor worship ceremony, if the matter of the damaged mask were to be known, he would probably have to be hung from a tree branch.

“Sure, I won’t tell anyone,” Ning Ning looked over, “but you have to tell me more about the owner.”

“What’s the matter?” The green-clothed young man laughed again. His laughter was very crisp and pleasant to the ears, it sounded like he was born to love to laugh, it made people think that if they were to remove his mask, they would definitely see two cute dimples. “Did the village chief not tell you?”

“He did.” Ning Ning acted like the village chief, bending over and holding a cane, she said clumsily in an old-fashioned manner, “Cough, cough, didn’t I tell you? All you have to do is to sit and watch, you don’t have to do anything else.”

The green-clothed young man guffawed. Not just guffawing, he was convulsing with laughter. He seemed easy to amuse. “Right, right, right, he told me that too.”

Ning Ning looked at him doubtfully. “Hmm? Why did the village chief say that to you?”

The green-clothed young man blinked. “Do you know who Ah Tie is?”

“I do.” Ning Ning nodded, then it suddenly became clear to her. “You’re saying…”

“When the Li family is not around, Ah Tie stands in for them.” The green-clothed young man said as he laughed, “It’s the same for the Ning family.”

Ning Ning sized him up, “You are the stand-in dancer for the Ning family?”

“That’s right.” The green-clothed young man shrugged his shoulders. “But I don’t like to dance according to what he says, so he hates me a lot. The others, too, hate me. Besides the Nuo dance where they had no choice but to circle around me, they usually avoid me when they see me, they would even pretend not to see me.”

It was no wonder that when Ning Ning entered the village with him, the others seemed to not be able to see him.

“I digress, I digress.” The green-clothed young man shook his head and laughed. “Why did I start talking about the chief? You want to ask me questions about the owner, right?”

“…Oh, right.” Ning Ning came back to her senses. “Tell me.”

The green clothed young man seemingly smiled, “What do you want to know?”

Ning Ning’s feelings stirred, sure enough he knew.

If this village were to be a movie theater, those people who returned home in glory were people queuing up for tickets outside—they knew that the movie would be screening soon, but they absolutely didn’t know if it would be a children’s film, horror film or a romantic film.

The villagers, on the other hand, were split into two. Those wearing the yin yang masks were those sitting in the theater with tickets—although the movie had not started, they were seated in the audience seats, they knew the title of the movie and the names of the lead actors.

Finally, there were the representatives of each surname. They were the producers of the movie, as well as the leading and supporting characters. They knew what went on behind the scenes, they just didn’t want to tell her.

But now there was a person who was willing to tell her!

One look at the mask on his face and she knew! It was not a yin yang mask, but a mask as ferocious as a ghost, this fellow belonged to the last group of people—a representative of a certain surname! Even if he was not, he was most probably one of their descendants.

“I’m about to perform as the owner,” Ning Ning told him, “but I don’t know what the owner is supposed to be like. Everyone in the village tells me different things.”

“Let me think…” The green-clothed young man pondered for a moment, then laughed at her with deep meaning. “The prerequisite of being the owner—first, you have to be a person.”

Ning Ning was stunned.

“Daughter of the Ning family!”

The village chief’s voice rang out behind her, she looked back for a moment. It had been less than a second, but when she looked back again, the green-clothed young man was nowhere to be seen.

“I finally found you.” The village chief walked over with the help of his cane. “Didn’t you have trouble finding your mask? I found a carpenter from the neighbouring village, he can make you one for now, so that you make it in time… What’s the matter? Who are you looking for?”

Ning Ning opened her mouth, about to ask about the green-clothed young man… Wait a minute.

…He said that the villagers pretended to not have seen him—that was not right. It was not just the villagers who said they could not see him, she remembered that when she asked her grandmother about him, she couldn’t see him either.

“…It’s nothing.” Ning Ning took a final look at the direction the green-clothed young man disappeared in. She swallowed her words and told the village chief, “Let’s go.”

Back at home, the carpenter had been waiting for a long time. Upon seeing the village chief enter, he went up and greeted him with a smile, his hands were holding a wooden box. “Chief, it’s done, what do you think?”

Ning Ning looked down at the mask in his box, she was stunned.

Fangs on all sides, ferocious and terrifying.

Wasn’t this the same mask on the green-clothed young man’s face?

Socialite’s teatime

Ah Xia: Let’s use this for the subject of today’s tea party–how to make Little Angel fall into the river of love and not continue to bathe in the light of Buddhism where he is almost at the point of shaving his head and becoming a monk…

Shi Tou Ge: Big brother’s lover…

Shi Tou Ge’s female fans: Big brother’s lover…

Ah Xia: Don’t casually change the subject!! Don’t run all of you! Get back here! Give me some ideas orz, everyone quickly think of something, pure love you can’t die orz…

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7 thoughts on “ITTMB 149”

  1. Blownupdandelion

    So it really was Granpa Ning. Did he purposely broke the Mask? Because he didnt want his descendant to go through what he does? Maybe he even now what kind of secret The Theatre has.

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