Day one, no water.
Ning Ning licked her dry lips. She looked up, the sounds of cicadas rang out from outside the round well.
“…Where are we?” An equally dry voice rang out.
Ning Ning looked down and saw that Wen Yu had finally woken up. A ray of sunlight shone into the well, falling upon his bruised face.
“In a well.” Ning Ning said.
Wen Yu struggled to get up with one arm, but he was unable to do so as he fell back down. His head was laid on Ning Ning’s knees, he closed his eyes for a moment before he reopened them and looked at her. “Why must you do this?”
Ning Ning was stunned for a moment, then she understood. Wen Yu could not see the green-clothed young man, so from what he saw, Ning Ning had willingly jumped into the well instead of being tricked into falling in.
Just as Ning Ning was thinking about how to explain the matter, Wen Yu suddenly asked, “Do you have any regrets?”
…Why did he suddenly ask that? Ning Ning nodded.
“Have you ever had a crush on someone?” Wen Yu continued asking.
Ning Ning hesitated for a moment, then she nodded.
“Of course you have clothes you want but couldn’t get, food you want but couldn’t have, right?” Wen Yu smiled a little. The sunlight on his face was bright and beautiful, but it was not as bright and beautiful as his smile. “So what are you still depressed about? Becoming young again, becoming yourself in your teenage years, it means that a lot of things can be redone, a lot of regrets can be remedied, this is a good thing.”
“…I’m not depressed.” Ning Ning said, she did not fall into the well for that reason.
“That’s good to hear.” Wen Yu raised his hand with difficulty and touched her head. “If you do, just look at me, my hair is already white, I’m already an old fogey…”
“Pei Xuan is the old fogey, not you.” Ning Ning tilted her head and avoided his hand. “…Don’t treat me like a child.”
But she quickly realised, compared to him…she was indeed a child.
Day two, no food.
Ning Ning opened her eyes, wishing that everything that happened the day before was a nightmare. The sound of cicadas could be heard from outside the round well.
…So it was not a dream.
She turned and looked at Wen Yu, the injury on his head had scabbed, but his breathing was getting weaker…it was so weak that Ning Ning could not help but place her face close to his, like a little animal that was sniffing a person, it was not until she sensed his weak breathing that she was relieved.
It couldn’t go on like this.
Ning Ning cleared her throat, looked up to the top of the well and shouted, “Help!”
…Such a small voice, it couldn’t even compare to a single cicada, how was she supposed to get people to rescue them?
“Help!” Ning Ning shouted louder. In the end, what was strained wasn’t her throat, but her stomach. She hugged her stomach, she felt like she could eat a horse. Her stomach felt like it was on fire due to starvation, it was unable to take any more energy consumption.
“Help! Help! Help…ah.” Ning Ning could not help but drop her head, whispering, “I’m so hungry…”
Something fell on Ning Ning’s bare nape.
Ning Ning reflexively touched it, then…
Ning Ning’s screams echoed off the entire well.
Ning Ning jumped about like crazy, both her hands patting her body repeatedly. Yet, she did not dare to pat her nape, because…there was a worm there.
“Come here.” An impatient voice rang out.
Ning Ning turned around and took a look, she saw that Wen Yu had already woken up. She frantically brought her nape close to him as she sobbed repeatedly, “Quickly help me take it off!! Ah!! I can feel it trying to crawl into my clothes.”
Wen Yu took the worm off her.
Ning Ning immediately retreated far away from him like a bird frightened by the twang of a bow, placing her back tightly on the wall of the well. Her eyes were fixed on Wen Yu’s hand which was holding a completely green and fat worm that was still wriggling, the back of her neck that the worm had crawled on started to have goosebumps.
“Why are you still holding that?” Ning Ning said with a face of disgust.
“Why can’t I hold it?” Wen Yu started laughing instead, holding the worm. “Rich in nutrition, high in protein, this is our breakfast.”
Wen Yu looked above their heads. Ning Ning gazed where he was looking at, like two frogs in a well, they could only see the sky in the shape of the top of the well.
“Before the villagers find us, we have to live.” Wen Yu looked back at Ning Ning as he said seriously, “If humans want to live, we have to eat.”
After he finished speaking, he handed the worm to Ning Ning.
…The well was only that big, his hand moved to wherever Ning Ning shifted to. Ning Ning’s face gradually turned pale, her shoulders were shuddering, her eyes filled with despair, as if what Wen Yu was holding was not a worm, but a gun.
“…You can have it.” Her voice trembled, she said with her final struggle, “I’m not hungry.”
Wen Yu looked at her, then looked at the worm in his hand. He hesitated a moment before he viciously bit it in half.
“…Alright.” He swallowed it whole. Wen Yu gave Ning Ning the remaining half with a terrible look on his face. “Your turn, stay strong.”
“…This concubine can’t do it.” Ning Ning looked at half of the fresh corpse in his hand. She was on the verge of tears as she desperately pushed herself up the well’s wall, wishing that she could become a painting immediately.
But as stated earlier, the well was only that big.
Wen Yu held his breath as he bounced up from the ground and pounced at her. Ning Ning did not have anywhere to dodge to as she was force fed half of the worm.
“Ugh, ugh…” Ning Ning’s face turned green, she felt like she was about to vomit.
“You’re not allowed to vomit.” Wen Yu covered her mouth. “Swallow it, no matter what you have to survive.”
…Just let me die.
Day three, heavy rain.
Ning Ning murmured, “…We’re really going to die now.”
She had thought that the day before was the worst day of her life, she was wrong. Today was the worst day of her life.
A few thunder roared above her head. She looked up, the dark clouds above her trundled, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled continuously, rainwater was like a waterfall from the sky as it poured into the well.
Ning Ning shivered in the rain.
How long will this rain last? Will it fill up the well? Even if it didn’t, if it rained for a very long time, it would mean a drop in temperature, falling sick…
Ning Ning slowly looked down and said coldly, “Are you crazy?How can you laugh at this time?”
She knew that her attitude was bad, she did not want to treat Wen Yu with such a bad attitude either, but she had had a few consecutive nightmares about worms already…
“This is a gift from heaven.” Wen Yu raised both hands, clear water falling into his palms. He brought the pool of water in his hands to Ning Ning’s mouth, “Drink up.”
“…” Ning Ning looked at him, the rain made it hard for her to open her eyes.
“Who knows when it will rain next.” Wen Yu said gently, “If you’re not willing to eat worms, then drink more water.”
Ning Ning was at first too busy feeling afraid until the moment he reminded her. The thirst from not having any drink for two days quickly overwhelmed her throat. She licked her dry lips, then drank a little bit of the water on Wen Yu’s hands.
After she finished drinking, Wen Yu continued to catch more water and feed her.
“…You should drink some too.” Ning Ning suddenly said. She held her hands up and caught a handful of rainwater, bringing it to Wen Yu’s lips.
He smiled, did not reject it, tilted his head down and drank the water from her hands.
Day four, Wen Yu fell sick.
“Sob, sob, sob, sob, sob…” Ning Ning held Wen Yu as she cried ceaselessly.
Wen Yu coughed twice, his face was an unnatural red, “Don’t cry, crying won’t solve the problem.”
“I know.” Ning Ning cried, “But besides crying, I cannot do anything else.”
She tried to scale the walls, but she would fall down after climbing one meter up. She tried to shout for help, but only the sounds of cicadas answered her. She tried praying, from Buddha to the flying spaghetti monster, none of them answered her prayers. When one was unable to do anything, what could she do?
She could only cry, hate the person that caused them to fall in there, hate herself who was useless.
“How’s it going?” A cheerful voice rang out above her. Ning Ning looked up, the green-clothed young man with a mask appeared at the top of the well which originally only had the sky. He looked down and laughed. “Have you decided? Do you want me to pull you up?”
“…Hurry up!” Ning Ning reached out with her hands, indicating for him to quickly think of a way to pull her up. She had made up her mind. Once she got out, she would not care about the sacrifice or the owner, she would immediately get someone to save Wen Yu! Also beat him up while she was at it!
“You cannot go back on your words.” The green-clothed young man took a look at Wen Yu. “I will pull you up after he dies.”
“…There’s nothing to eat or drink here, when he dies, I will also be on the verge of death!”
“You won’t, you won’t.” The green-clothed young man consoled her, “He’s so sick, if you leave him alone, he will die very quickly.”
“…But I…” Ning Ning turned and looked at Wen Yu, murmuring, “How can I possibly leave him alone?”
Wen Yu looked up to the top of the well. After a while, he shifted his vision onto her. “Who are you talking to?”
Ning Ning looked towards the top of the well again. There was no trace of the green-clothed young man anymore, there was only a rainwashed leaf slowly twirling and falling into the well.
“…No one.” Ning Ning said stiffly.
Wen Yu closed his eyes for a moment, then he opened them and said, “I was wrong, you have been able to see people I couldn’t.”
Ning Ning remained silent.
“Not only you, my patients as well, Madam Qin for example.” Wen Yu let out a bitter laugh. “What you have been saying is all true. All of you really have an invisible person around you, there really is a movie theater that can change the past in this world…it’s just that an ordinary person like me can’t see it.”
“It’s a good thing to not be able to see them.” Ning Ning said, “If I had another chance…”
She got stuck.
Because she realised that if she were to have another chance, she would most probably still walk into the theater. For the sake of acting skills, for the sake of her dreams, for the sake of her mother, for the chance at changing her fate.
Wen Yu looked at her for a while, he smiled and said, “Although I cannot see, I can roughly guess what he told you.”
“You’re not allowed to guess.”
“Did he want you to give up on me?”
“Just give up.”
“What’s the matter?” Wen Yu looked at her gently, “One person living is better than two persons dying here.”
Ning Ning looked down, held back her tears and didn’t say a word.
She remembered the story the green-clothed young man told her.
“Volunteers started appearing amongst the refugees.”
“Some of them volunteered to become a masked person, some of them volunteered to enter Life Opera House and watch plays.”
“The Ning Village was built upon sacrifice.”
What did the owner think of while facing these people?
At that moment, male and female, lots of voices rang out by Ning Ning’s ears. They were in a mad rush to be the first, they sounded both near and far, like the voices from when a movie began, it pulled Ning Ning in.
Ning Ning looked up absent-mindedly, she had arrived at a wrecked wasteland, not far from her was a group of refugees in ancient clothes. Some of them were digging the grass silently, some of them were holding their broken arms as they curled up on the ground and wailed, one of them was leaning on a tree trunk with her top open as she nursed a baby, the baby sucked a few times then started to cry out. Someone went over and pushed the woman a couple of times only to realise that the woman had stopped breathing.
Two people staggered towards Ning Ning, the one on the left was covered with silvery hair, the one on the right was a child.
The old man knelt in front of Ning Ning. “Old Xiu wants to become a masked person.”
“Why?” Ning Ning asked, “After turning into a masked man, you will always have to stay in Life Opera House.”
“I know,” the old man said, “Old Xiu is doing it voluntarily.”
“After Grandpa becomes a masked person, I will go in and watch his play.” The child said, “This time, I would still follow you, I would still escape with everyone to look for our utopia. But when we cross the river, I would get everyone to cover every child’s mouth with a cloth, we wouldn’t repeat the incident where we attracted pursuing soldiers because of the cries of the children at night.”
“What if you don’t succeed?”
“I will go in and try again.”
“Even if you succeed, what if the pursuing soldiers appear because of another reason?”
“I will go in and try again.”
“Do you know?” Ning Ning looked at him in a serious manner. “After doing it three times, you would have to stay in Life Opera House forever after you turn into a masked person.”
“I know.” The child started laughing innocently, revealing his buck teeth. “I’m doing it voluntarily.”
Another person came over, it was a woman who was limping, staggering up to the back of the child. After hearing what he had to say, she smiled and touched his head as she said, “When that time comes, Auntie Wu will watch your play.”
The Ning Village was really built upon sacrifices.
—The self sacrifices of countless people.
Ning Ning closed her eyes, gritted her teeth and said, “…I don’t want it anymore.”
When she opened her eyes again, the old man, child and woman in front of her were gone, the starving people with broken arms along with the dead mother were also gone. She was standing in the dry well again, looking at the man beside her.
…You gotta be kidding me, I will definitely not let you sacrifice yourself! Instead of watching you sacrifice yourself, why don’t I…
“I don’t want to be the owner anymore!!” Ning Ning took a deep breath and shouted at the top of the well, “I don’t want it anymore! I don’t want to be the owner anymore!!”
Don’t want it anymore…
Want it anymore…
“Ahead of us! It’s ahead of us!”
“Where? Where? Huh, why is there a well here?”
“Where’s the flashlight? Hand me the flashlight quickly!”
A hubbub of voices approached them. Suddenly, a ray of white light shone into the well, it was so glaring that Ning Ning had to cover her face with her hand.
“Found them! They are here!”
“How did they fall into the well?”
“Rope, quickly give me the rope!”
“Ning Ning!” Ning Yu Ren had already squeezed into the crowd, shouting into the well while on all fours, “It’s alright now, Mama will rescue you right now!”
Rude awakening from the dream, the first reaction was to look up.
Swaying above her head was a white mosquito net, not the round top of the well.
“…I’m saved.” Ning Ning sighed, her voice was a little husky, her body was also a little sore, thus she called out like a spoiled child, “Mama, I want a cup of water.”
The sounds of pouring water rang out behind her, then followed by swift footsteps approaching her.
Ning Ning turned around on the bed. Just as she was about to take the cup out of Ning Yu Ren’s hand, she was stunned.
Outside the gently swaying net was a whole group of people.
The village chief, the representatives of each surname, the people that were born and raised in the village, the people who had returned in glory—every single one of them was there, quietly standing outside the tent, waiting for her to wake up.
The person who served her water was even the village chief himself.
“You’re awake.” The village chief said amiably, “Get up and take a sip of water.”
The situation in front of her was unbelievably weird, but no matter what, when a senior poured a cup of tea for you, she could not not drink it under the watchful eyes of the others. Ning Ning could only struggle to get up, reached out for the cup and quickly took a sip, then put the cup down and asked, “Village Chief, is something the matter?”
“I’m representing everyone in the village to thank you.” The village chief smiled.
“Thank me?” Ning Ning was a little confused. “Why are you thanking me?”
“Thanks for putting yourself in danger and getting it back from the well.” The village chief looked at Ning Ning’s side.
Ning Ning looked at the direction they were looking at and realised that underneath her pillow, was a mask.
…Fangs on all sides, ferocious and terrifying.
It was the owner’s mask.
At first she thought that it was the one the carpenter had made, but she picked it up and took a closer look and realised that it was different. The biggest difference was that it was too old. Coupled with the lack of maintenance, the originally resplendent colours were already mottled now, there was a long notch from the right eye down to the cheek, it looked like someone had carved it out with a knife.
“This is Heaven’s will, Heaven’s will has chosen you to be the owner.” The village chief turned around and shouted at the crowd, “Would all of you say so?”
“I also think that the one who has not been married off is better than the one who has.”
“Hehe, how is this the question of whether she has been married off or not? This is clearly…”
“It’s Heaven’s will, the mask has been lost for such a long time, she found it the moment she came back.”
“Haha, since everyone has agreed.” The village chief clapped. “Come in!”
The door suddenly opened, two women walked in, they each held a wooden plate, on the plates were clothes and accessories, they were all not modern but full of decadent flavour.
“…What are you trying to do?” Ning Ning.
“Owner, we are here to serve you.” One of the women said with a smile. The two of them held down Ning Ning who had wanted to run away. One of them put clothes on her, one of them put the accessories on her. At last, the village chief came up personally holding up the mask with both hands, slowly putting it on Ning Ning’s face.
“I don’t want to be the owner.” Ning Ning’s voice rang out underneath the mask.
“You have to.” The village chief stared at her eyes that were underneath the mask. “Something happened with your mother, but good thing we still have you. No…we only have you now.”
He had such an avaricious look, the people behind him had such avaricious looks, it was not the self-sacrificing look Ning Ning had seen.
It was the look of someone forcing others to be a sacrifice.
[Sweet Talk Version]
Shi Tou Ge: My flesh is delicious, do you want to have a bite..then my blood will become your blood, my flesh will become your flesh.
Three minutes: Godfather!!
Ah Xia: Godfather is here, I will immediately prepare a scarlet double happiness bed, a red wine to help celebrate, some oral supplies…they will be airdropped to you in three minutes.
Ughh I’m so confused. Like what happened with Chen, when did they even come out of his movie, how as the future changed because of that? Will they go back and change this whole invisible person situation because it’s honestly not it…and why doesn’t she sacrifice wenyu, it’s not even him. It’s pei xuans body, won’t wenyu just leave the movie if he dies here? Can we get back to acting please? I feel like this novel went downhill or weird after that Chen arc and I just wanna go back T-T and where is shi zong? UGHH I’m hoping it all goes back to normal soon
So confusing.. Wtf is happening