Ning Ning was under house arrest.
“No, no, how could we put you under house arrest?” The village chief refused to admit it as he smiled. “We are just afraid that you will get lost. So, before your mother comes back to fetch you, we have to look after you in your mother’s stead.”
“Where did my mother go?” Ning Ning asked.
“She got a call all of a sudden, it seemed like a big movie is about to start filming. The director designated her as the actress, so she had to rush back through the night.” The village chief looked back. “I am not clear about the details either, you can ask him…come in!”
A familiar figure walked in.
It was Mama’s manager from the past—also her current manager—Li Bo Yue.
“It is Director Chen’s <<Cathay’s Centennial>>.” Li Bo Yue said as he walked over, “It has over a hundred million in investments. It’s a film aiming for the Oscars, a lot of big stars are asking for a role while lowering their rates, your mom wants to elevate her career to the next level, so she cannot let this opportunity slip by.”
That was a lie. Ning Ning looked at him.
There was a film named <<Cathay’s Centennial>> that year, but the female lead was not Mama. Mama retired from public life due to illness, becoming bedridden with lingering sickness from then on, never participating in the filming of any films ever again.
Speaking of which…the time which Mama fell sick, it seemed to be after she returned from the ancestor worship ceremony?
“She arranged for me to stay and accompany you.” Li Bo Yu opened his briefcase, took out something and handed it to her. “Here.”
Ning Ning took a look, she was speechless. It was a handheld console.
“I still have work on hand, I can’t accompany you at every moment, so I prepared these.” Li Bo Yue held his briefcase, continuously taking things out, boxes of game cartridges were laid out on Ning Ning’s bed. “This should be enough for one summer vacation right?”
It was not just for one summer vacation, it was enough for her to kill time until the next summer vacation.
But that was really strange…Li Bo Yue was such a career-minded person, why would he miss the chance to fight for the female lead in <<Cathay’s Centennial>> and stay in the countryside to watch her play games?
“Why are you the one to stay here?” Ning Ning switched on the handheld console. “You are the one who handles Mama’s work affairs, she won’t be able to handle it without you, right? If it’s just accompanying me to play games, anyone can do it.”
“Maybe compared to her job, your mother values you more.” Li Bo Yue said with a smile, then waved the phone in his hand. “We’ll talk later, we can talk on the phone if anything comes up.”
Ning Ning blinked. “Lend me your phone to make a call, I lost mine.”
After she woke up, she had not seen her phone, when she asked the others, they said that they had not seen it, the village chief asked if she had dropped it in the well.
“Sure.” Li Bo Yue handed the phone over. “Call away.”
Ning Ning took the phone and dialed a number, the next second, a phone rang…both Li Bo Yue and her looked at the village chief.
It was a hip-hop tune that completely did not fit the style of the village, a song named <<Orc>> flowed out of the village chief’s pocket. Facing Ning Ning’s questioning look, he grinned and placed his hand into his pocket. “Someone’s looking for me, I’ll go out to take this call.”
Ning Ning hung up expressionlessly, the ringing from the village chief’s pocket immediately stopped, but he walked out unswayed. After his figure disappeared from the doorway, Ning Ning immediately told Li Bo Yue in a low voice, “This person, no, this village is strange.”
Li Bo Yue’s eyes sparkled. “How so?”
“I don’t know,” Ning Ning said, “but did my mom really go back to film a movie? Did you see it with your own eyes? Forget it, I’ll call and ask myself.”
She gave Ning Yu Ren a call.
“Hello.” Ning Yu Ren answered the call very quickly.
“Mama,” Ning Ning breathed a sigh of relief, “where are you now?”
“I’m at the director’s house, the audition is about to start.” Ning Yu Ren laughed.
“Is there anyone else there?” Ning Ning asked.
“There’s a lot of people here, Liu Xiao, Zhao Lin Zhi, Liu Tian Tian…” Ning Yu Ren listed out the names of a few famous actors and actresses.
That was strange, what exactly was wrong?
The village chief previously said that something came up for Mama. Was that ‘something’ really her going back to film a movie?
“What a coincidence! Since Teacher Liu is also there, can you help me ask her about the matter from last time?” Ning Ning suddenly said.
Ning Yu Ren fell silent for a moment. she had mentioned two people with the Liu surname just now, which one of them was the ‘Teacher Liu’ Ning Ning mentioned?
“…Alright, I’ll ask her later.” Ning Yu Ren answered.
“Don’t tell me you have forgotten?” Ning Ning said doubtfully.
“Yes…there have been a lot of things recently, remind me.”
“The matter of taking me in as a student!”
“Oh, oh! I remember now!” Ning Yu Ren sounded like she suddenly saw the light, then she laughed, “Director Chen is calling for me, I will ask Teacher Liu later then call you back.”
She used this reason to hang up on Ning Ning.
Ning Ning looked at the phone in her hand, she said in her heart: You are not my mama.
What ‘matter’ from last time? There was no such thing at all. Ning Ning had never mentioned anything about getting a teacher to Ning Yu Ren before. Even if she wanted to, she would not get a teacher who was not Ning Yu Ren. As for Ning Yu Ren herself, if she were to pick a teacher for her daughter, she would not pick those two popular actresses, she would pick a senior actor who was not as popular.
Then who was she?
Speaking of which, during the meeting at the village chief’s house that night—amidst the people who returned home in glory—she seemed to have seen a famous person, a person who attended the Spring Festival Gala, performing a wonderful skill—vocal mimicry.
“Alright.” Li Bo Yue took the phone out of Ning Ning’s hand and told her, “That’s all there is to it. Your mother is busy, don’t bother her on a whim, bother me or play some games.”
Ning Ning nodded obediently, looking down to play her game.
Both the village chief and Li Bo Yue were not trustworthy, she should wait to meet with Wen Yu.
Three days later.
That’s strange…where’s Wen Yu?
Ning Ning looked down and played her game, the character in it was rushing around the screen, it was very quickly surrounded by monsters. Game over—big blood red words floated on the screen.
She felt flighty and impetuous. She tossed the console to the side, a few children surrounded her as they laughed.
“Owner, you died again.”
“Play another round.”
“Want to play online with me? I will guide you.”
“Forget it.” Ning Ning did not want to play the game at all. Grandmother disappeared, Mama disappeared, Wen Yu was also nowhere to be seen now. When she asked the villagers where he was, they said that they didn’t know. Not only did the adults say that they didn’t know, the children also denied knowing anything when asked. Ning Ning pondered for a moment, then changed her inquiry method. “I’m sick of playing this everyday, speaking of which, what do you all usually play?”
A child smiled broadly. “Owner, do you want to play with us?”
“First, tell me what you have been playing recently.” Ning Ning said.
Even if they were a child, but a child who wore a mask could not be an ordinary child. They either had a standing in the village, or were especially clever and sensible, which was why they were sent to play with her and watch over her in the meantime.
“Spinning tops.” One of the children smiled.
“Tops?” Ning Ning said, “Deal, bring them and we’ll spin them together.”
“We can’t bring them over, they are too big.”
“How big can a spinning top be? It can’t be bigger than a person?”
That child started laughing, the other children laughed along. One of them said while laughing, “It is a person.”
The child immediately shut his mouth as he said that, but Ning Ning had already looked over. She asked, “The top you guys are spinning…is a person?”
The child that had let it slip looked down, the other children turned to look at him.
“Take me there so I can take a look.” Ning Ning said. After a while, she saw that all the children remained rooted on the spot. She decided to walk towards the entrance. As she approached the door, a flurry of footsteps rang out behind her. She looked back and saw that the masked brats were following behind her.
They only followed her, none of them led her.
It was almost lunch time, smoke came out of every house’s chimneys. The villagers Ning Ning had met on her way had greeted her passionately, the children behind her laughed noisily. The afternoon sun was so warm, a dog was snoring in front of the house, the petals of a dandelion floated past its nose, causing it to sneeze, it opened its pitch black eyes and chased after the dandelion.
Ning Ning had arrived at Wen Yu’s Nuo dance teacher, Ah Tie’s house.
Ah Tie’s house also had a dog, it started to bark as it saw a stranger.
“What are you barking at? What are you barking at?” Ah Tie rushed out of the house and gave his dog a kick, the dog ran away as it whimpered. He took a swig out of his beer bottle then burped, asking with a breath of alcohol, “What brings you here?”
“I’m here to ask about Li Xuan.” Ning Ning said.
“Him.” Ah Tie seemed to not want to talk about that name, he waved his hand and said impatiently, “He could not take the hardship, so he left.”
“He was hurt when he fell into the well, how could he have left?” Ning Ning asked.
“How would I know?” Ah Tie said, “Maybe he thought that the medical standards from a small village like this is too poor, so he went looking for a doctor in the big city.”
The words from these people were flawless, she could not find enough loopholes.
“But what would we do about the ancestor worship ceremony now that he’s gone?” Ning Ning asked, “Who will portray the role of the exorcist? Would it still be you?”
Compared to discussing Wen Yu, Ah Tie seemed to not want to talk about this even more. He took another swig of beer, saying in a low muffled voice, “It’s not me.”
At that moment, Ning Ning felt that alcohol was really a good thing, alcohol was really her good buddy. She asked him in a hurry, “Then who is it?”
Ah Tie opened his mouth, but his eyes looked towards what was behind Ning Ning.
Ning Ning quickly looked back.
All the children behind had put their fingers up to their lips silently.
She looked back again, Ah Tie had already sobered up. He tossed out the next line coldly, “You’ll see on the day itself.”
Afterwards, he left Ning Ning and the rest behind as he swayed back into the house holding his beer bottle. The door closed with a bang.
Just as she was about to leave, Ning Ning stopped when she walked by the dog kennel. It was only a ‘dog kennel’ in name. In reality, it was the casing of an old television, the screen was gone, torn paper and cloth were laid inside. Ning Ning bent down and picked up a piece of cloth, there was a little blood on it. Why did the colour of this cloth look a little like…Wen Yu’s clothes?
“Owner, dirty.” The children surrounded her. “Quickly throw it away.”
“Oh.” Ning Ning answered and stuffed the cloth into her pocket. She walked towards the other side of the street, stopping a husband and wife couple who were wearing modern clothes. “Can you lend me your phone? I want to make a call.”
The couple looked at each other. The woman was hesitating, but the man blurted, “Sorry, we didn’t bring our phone… We have matters to attend to, we’ll be on our way.”
After they left, Ning Ning stopped a few others, but it always resulted in the same thing. Why? At the last attempt, Ning Ning abruptly looked back. As expected, that group of children had their fingers put up, standing behind her silently, shhh.
Ning Ning slowly turned her head back, walking forward.
“You cannot go further.” A child behind her said.
Ning Ning ignored him, she continued walking.
“You’ll be out of the village if you keep walking.”
That was exactly what Ning Ning wanted. Since she could not make a call, she would walk out.
“The owner is running away!”
In the wake of the shouts of the few children, an old man hopped out of his rocking chair, a woman who had been washing vegetables in front of her house dropped the vegetables in her hand, there were even more people who ran over from a distance away. The people who had greeted her with smiles were now greeting her with smiles while holding ropes in their hands. “Owner, where are you going?”
“…I’m not going anywhere.” Ning Ning said.
She walked past this group of people and back into the village.
The villagers she met along the way greeted her with smiles, the children behind her laughed noisily, the warm afternoon sun shined upon a dog, the dog sneezed, it then went to chase after a dandelion.
Everything was so peaceful and tranquil, peace and tranquility were on the surface.
But in reality?
When she walked past Ah Tie’s house again, Ning Ning stopped in her tracks and looked at his kennel.
The old dog that ran away getting kicked by him had returned, it was laying inside the kennel again. It flashed its white fangs at her, there was a trace of blood on them, who knew what it hunted just now.
At night, the village chief’s house.
“I heard that you wanted to leave the village today?” The village chief asked.
Ning Ning looked over and looked at him with a weird expression.
What was she looking at? The village chief looked behind him. There was no one at all, the children from that morning had all gone home as well, it was just candles that shook once behind him, the shadows on the wall also shook. At a glance, it looked like there was an extra person in the house.
“…That’s right.” Ning Ning’s voice rang out this time, “School is about to start, why is my mom not coming to get me? If she’s not going to come, I will go home myself.”
“Soon, soon.” The village chief looked back, he smiled at her and said, “Tomorrow is the ancestor worship ceremony, after tomorrow, you will be able to go home.”
“So tonight, you must master the Nuo dance of the owner.” The green-clothed young man stood behind the village chief and said with a laughter, “Let me teach you the correct way to do it.”
We’re getting close to the climax. I’m on tenterhooks.
Thanks for your hard work!