Don’t Abandon Me
“Big Brother!!” A raging voice suddenly rang out, piercing the white forge like a sharp knife.
Ning Ning looked back, it was Wen Yu.
Wen Yu rushed over. Brothers who had not met for decades, the first thing he did upon meeting him was to throw a punch at him.
“What did you promise me?” Wen Yu said with rage, “You said you wouldn’t let her down!”
“…What do you know?” Shi Zhong Tang turned his beaten up back at him. He reached out and grabbed his collar then pulled Wen Yu up in front of himself, saying angrily, “Look at me! Look closely! Stop making sarcastic remarks! If you were to turn into my current state, you wouldn’t be better than me!!”
The obscure white fog, from a distance, all one could see were shadows.
Now that he was up close, he was able to see the mask on his face clearly, along with his white sideburns.
Wen Yu was stunned for a moment. “Big Brother…what happened to your hair?”
Shi Zhong Tang gave him a shove. He reached out to grab Ning Ning’s hand, pulled her and started to run towards the theater.
“Shi Tou Ge, why…did you turn old?”
Shi Zhong Tang suddenly paused in his tracks.
He could not help but grab a bunch of his hair, it was half black and half white. Hold on…he flipped his right hand around, his eyes gradually widened. He saw wrinkles gradually appear on the back of his hand, like rings getting added on to an old tree.
“…Ahhh!” Shi Zhong Tang looked down and wailed. The sad and shrill wail gradually turned into laughter, he laughed out as he looked back at Ning Ning and said, “Yes, I’m already old, so what?”
He dragged Ning Ning into the deep parts of the fog, laughing as he walked. “Don’t worry, the mask on my face can’t be removed, you don’t have to see my old and ugly face!”
Ning Ning staggered behind him, looking at his back absent-mindedly with disbelief.
Anxious, self-abased, raging, unreconciled…she had never seen this side of Shi Zhong Tang.
“Why did you age?” She murmured, “Doesn’t masked people stop aging…”
“Disappointed?” Shi Zhong Tang said without looking at her, “It’s useless even if you’re disappointed. If you could live to a hundred years, you would have to be with me for a hundred years. If you could live for a hundred days, you would have to be with me for a hundred days. Life in the morning, death in the evening…this was what you have promised me!”
Every word turned into a chain, Shi Zhong Tang’s hands turned into a cold and heavy chain, cuffing Ning Ning’s wrists tightly, dragging her along.
“Big Brother!” Wen Yu caught up again.
Shi Zhong Tang cursed under his breath. He pulled Ning Ning behind him then faced Wen Yu and asked, “What else do you want?”
Wen Yu stared at him for a moment before he let out a quiet sigh. “I’m sorry.”
Shi Zhong Tang cocked his eyebrows.
“…Previously, I didn’t realise the state your body was in, so I said a lot of harmful comments. I’m sorry.” Wen Yu took one step forward and looked at him with concern. “What’s wrong with your body? Can I help you?”
Shi Zhong Tang took a step back instead and let out a mocking laugh, “Ha, what are you hoping for? Are you hoping that I’m not a masked person?”
Wen Yu stopped in his tracks.
“Your body is not old, but your mental state is. You were half right with that statement. The truth is my mental state is old, but so is my body. If I don’t return to the theater quickly, I will get older and older, in the end, I will turn into what my actual age is.” Shi Zhong Tang said sarcastically, “Besides this point, you were right about the other things you said, you were completely right.”
Wen Yu looked at him silently.
“I am the person you said I am.” Shi Zhong Tang retreated into the deep end of the fog step by step, grinning. “I cannot live a stagnant life, I have to have something to do, but a hellhole like Life Theater doesn’t give me much of a choice. I cannot pursue a career nor can I pursue my dreams…”
He briefly looked back and gazed at Ning Ning behind him, saying gently, “I can only pursue you.”
Wen Yu pounced at him like a jaguar the moment he looked back. Amidst Ning Ning’s screams, he flung him to the ground, a punch landing on Shi Zhong Tang’s face as he roared with rage, “Enough! Stop speaking!”
“Haha! What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of hurting your Aunt Xiao Ning?” Shi Zhong Tang laid supine on the ground. He suddenly looked at Ning Ning and gently said, “Ning Ning, this fellow should really become a movie critic. Do you know how he looks at us? He said that I didn’t watch <> repeatedly to watch you, it was to watch myself instead. An old fellow who doesn’t want to admit my age, trying my best to act as a younger version of myself. He saw through it, but you didn’t. You love me in the movie…”
“No…” Wen Yu looked at Ning Ning’s expression out of reflex.
The reason Shi Zhong Tang said so much was to bait Wen Yu into doing this. He immediately used all his might to flip Wen Yu onto the ground. Punch after punch, he beat Wen Yu up mercilessly.
“Looking at your highfalutin air disgusts me!”
“You think you are Jesus Christ? The entire human race is waiting for you to save them?”
“Living for others your entire life, in the end you intend to die for another person as well?”
“Heh, heh. Mr. Saint, do you want me to send you off?”
Shi Zhong Tang was hitting and scolding Wen Yu joyfully, he finally grabbed Wen Yu’s collar and pulled him off the ground. He stared at the bruised face and said coldly, “…Why don’t you fight back?”
The reason he could hit as much as he wanted was not because he was stronger than Wen Yu, it was because Wen Yu had stopped resisting halfway through, allowing his fists to rain down on his face.
“…Have you calmed down now?” Wen Yu said with a right eye so bruised that only a slit could open. “Then come back.”
Shi Zhong Tang’s eyebrow twitched, he raised his fist before he finally slowly put it down.
“…You really are a saint.” He loosened his fingers and tossed Wen Yu to the ground. He stood up straight and said with a sarcastic tone, “You’re still thinking of me in this situation.”
He started walking towards Ning Ning then suddenly stopped and looked back.
“Big Brother…” Wen Yu was so hurt that he could not get up, his fingers held onto the ends of his pants as he begged, “Don’t pull her back into hell…”
Shi Zhong Tang looked at him with a complicated expression for a moment before he pulled his leg away and walked step by step towards Ning Ning.
“I thought you would run away.” He smiled.
Ning Ning folded her arms, slowly looking up at him with a very strange expression. “Let’s go.”
She walked forward in the theater’s direction.
Shi Zhong Tang was taken aback. He took off after her and asked with a smile, “Why did you suddenly change your mind?”
Ning Ning, “…”
She did not answer, she only continued to walk forward. In contrast, the smile on Shi Zhong Tang’s face gradually disappeared. He started breathing harder and harder, the two columns of lanterns fluttered in front of his eyes. She walked up the steps one by one and slowly pushed the door open, he finally could not take it anymore.
“Wait a minute!” Shi Zhong Tang pulled her back.
Ning Ning looked up at him and sneered. “Why did you suddenly change your mind?”
Shi Zhong Tang, “…”
“Let go,” Ning Ning said coldly, “I want to go in.”
After a moment of silence, Shi Zhong Tang smiled. “You can’t wait to become a masked person?”
“I will not become a masked person.”
“Haha, that’s such a funny joke.”
“Facts speak louder than words! It’s not my first time going into the theater. After so many visits, I have yet to become a masked person…”
“Ptooey. When did you not escape with a breadth of your hair? those were also when you had a ticket…”
After a pause, Shi Zhong Tang stared at Ning Ning and said, “…You are doing this deliberately? You’re planning to sneak in?”
“What else?” Ning Ning said coldly. As the two of them were speaking, two more normal people were dragged into the theater by a masked person. “I can’t beat you, neither can I beat the other masked people. If all of you want to kill me, I can’t fight back. You beat up Wen Yu in front of me, I cannot stop you either…I can only do what I can do, which is also what I’m good at.”
“You plan to sneak in?” Shi Zhong Tang said sarcastically, “You saw the consequences of sneaking in.”
“I know,” Ning Ning laughed out loud, “so what?”
She suddenly clawed at his face as if she had gone mad. She naturally could not get to his face as there was a mask in the way, she would hurt her nails instead, so she clawed his neck, she clawed everywhere she could leave a mark on.
“Sneak in to change my fate!” Ning Ning stared at him with burning eyes. Before tears could fall, she smiled, as the one who could smile would look like the victor. “You or another masked person will change my life to that of a failure. I might be a third class actress all my life, I might not even be able to be an actress anymore… It doesn’t matter. It’s best that I don’t even enter the movie theater, it’s best that I don’t even act in <<The Person within the Painting>>.”
Shi Zhong Tang looked at her speechless.
“…Without <<The Person within the Painting>>, there would not be you and me today.” Ning Ning said in a low face, her expression hidden in the shadow. “Then maybe, everything today wouldn’t happen…”
“…Impossible.” Shi Zhong Tang finally found his voice back, saying stiffly, “You will act even if you have to be forced to do so.”
Ning Ning laughed coldly. “The movie I don’t want to act in, I’ll flare up my nostrils, see if the director would still pick me at the auditions.”
“The others will act worse than you.”
“You want to put laxatives in the tea of others? Sure, sure, sure, go ahead. Drug the tea of the actresses of the entire country if you can. How’s that? Can you do that?”
“I know that you won’t be able to do it.” Ning Ning pretended to be casual as she laughed. “Actually, it doesn’t matter who acts in <<The Person within the Painting>>, you’re watching yourself anyway. Alright…let go!”
Accompanied by a hysterical shout, Ning Ning used all of her strength to break free of Shi Zhong Tang’s hand, then rushed towards the entrance without hesitation.
But she bumped into someone’s chest.
Shi Zhong Tang had rushed over like a bat out of hell, slamming his back on the entrance and blocking her with his chest, his head hung very low as he said quietly, “That’s not it…”
“Not just anyone can do it…”
The masked person with white sideburns slowly raised his head, he smiled to please, yet his tears were flowing, glittering and crystal clear, it made the jade mask wet.
“I’m sorry.” He wanted to rip off the hateful white hair. His raised hands quickly fell back down, they continued to spread out to block the door behind him. He cried as he said, “I’m sorry I turned into an old monster with a bad temper…but…I beg of you…don’t abandon me…”
Having said that, he hung his head low without holding on to any hope. He suppressed his sobs into his heart, only his shoulder was trembling ever so slightly.
“…What?” Ning Ning looked at him for a moment, the victorious smile slowly faded away from her face. She reached out and hugged him. Both sides had suffered losses, tears were flowing down her face. “I don’t like you because of your age, so of course I would not stop liking you because of your white hair.”
Shi Zhong Tang looked up ever so slightly. In his eyes that had fallen into darkness, a light lit up a little once again. Like a black lake in which the dark clouds had parted, a ray of moonlight shining on it.
“It’s almost twelve, why are you two still here?”
An unfamiliar voice suddenly rang out.
Ning Ning looked back and saw a hand reaching out to push her. A masked person stood behind her and said, “Let me give you a hand.”
In the next second, the masked person fell to the ground after getting punched.
The other party was stunned for a moment before they flew into a rage. “Shi Zhong Tang, what are you doing?”
“You go ahead.” Shi Zhong Tang threw another punch at him, he hit them so hard that they bent over and coughed so hard that they could not speak in full sentences. “I’ll catch up later.”
Although that masked person could not speak, it was almost twelve, the movie was about to start tonight, masked people were coming back one after another. Upon seeing this scene, one of them screamed, “Someone! Someone! Quickly! Ning Ning is about to escape! She’s going to find a doorman to catch us!”
Shi Zhong Tang rushed over frantically, “Why aren’t you leaving?”
Ning Ning looked at him with hesitation.
“Bring Wen Yu along with you,” Shi Zhong Tang said, “he knows where to look for a doorman.”
“…Alright.” Ning Ning could only turn around and run. After she took a few steps, she turned back and shouted, “You promised, you have to come back!”
She took two more steps before she stopped again. She turned back and shouted, “You’re really not lying to me?”
“Why did you stop again?! Sigh, how about this? If I’m lying, you can punish me by ditching me, I’ll be single for the rest of my life.”
Since he made such a vow, it looked like he would come back even if he had to crawl back.
Ning Ning finally did not look back this time.
When she found Wen Yu, he had already gotten up from the ground, hobbling in the direction the two of them had left in. Seeing Ning Ning coming towards him, he was taken aback. “Where’s my brother?”
Ning Ning rushed over and put his arm over her own shoulder. “Let’s quickly go, he will be coming later.”
“What happened?” Just as Wen Yu finished asking, he heard an uproar rang out around him. He looked back, figures upon figures were chasing after them from within the fog, shouting, “I see her! I see her!”
“Why is there one more person?”
“Catch them both! Or kill them both!”
The two of them started running frantically. They ran forward, there were masked people. They ran to the left, there were masked people. They ran to the right, there were masked people. There were even more masked people behind them.
It was as if all the masked people were chasing after them—threateningly, ferociously, surrounding the two of them, it was like a battle of trapped animals.
Victory was clearly in sight, but they suddenly receded like a tide.
The two of them remained rooted to the ground dumbfoundedly, they didn’t even have the time to wipe the sweat off their heads.
“…Why did they scatter all of a sudden?” Ning Ning asked in doubt, she was abruptly shocked. She quickly turned around to look in the direction of the theater and said with a trembling voice, “You liar.”
Twelve o’clock, Life Theater.
With a creak, the doors suddenly opened, one person entered.
The theater was in chaos, most of the masked people had already left, only a few of them were left, along with the normal people they had under control.
Amidst the cries of the normal people, the theme song started playing, accompanied by the sad and tender serenade. Shi Zhong Tang walked step by step up to the screen, he looked up and smiled.
“I, Shi Zhong Tang, an incompetent brother, a boyfriend who has just been ditched, a person who doesn’t keep his word, a fellow who is even disliked by my own family,” he said with a smile, “am willing to become the doorman.”