“Liar! Liar! Liar!” Ning Ning scolded as she ran back. “You liar! You did not intend to come back at all!”
Everyone knew the reason masked people had left. There must be a person, a person who fulfilled all the requirements, who was willing to become the doorman.
Rather than it be you, why not let it be me?
“I’m right here!!” Ning Ning stopped behind a group of masked people, they blocked the entrance of the movie theater. Like a fleet of motorcycles blocking off a junction, the people outside could not get in, the people inside could not get out. She took a deep breath and shouted at them, “Didn’t you want to catch me? Do it quickly, otherwise I’m going to run away!”
A few of them took a look back at her before they continued to squeeze with the crowd.
“…Why are you all not coming to catch me?” Ning Ning walked towards them. Suddenly, her arm tightened, she was dragged back by Wen Yu.
Ning Ning struggled repeatedly and was slapped across the face by him.
“Calm down!” Wen Yu roared at her.
Ning Ning held her face, a stinging pain.
“Big brother didn’t let you down.” Wen Yu pressed on her shoulders and said with a heavy expression, “…Don’t let him down either.”
The air was filled with the smell of blood, along with the laughter of the masked people.
“Kill him, kill him!”
“Let me deal the final blow!”
“What are you waiting for?” Wen Yu grabbed Ning Ning’s hand, “Start running!”
“…Ahhh!!” Ning Ning started running along with him. She cried herself hoarse due to her efforts being in vain as she ran.
Why were humans so weak? Why was she so weak? She could not even save the person she liked the most, she could not do anything at the crucial juncture, she could only run away like a disowned dog.
The commotion behind her continued, the killing in the movie theater continued, until a voice said…
The commotion stopped, the crowd gradually dispersed. A few combative masked people exited the theater, leading them was Rabbit Mask, holding a jade mask in his hand.
A jade mask with eyes that were peach coloured at the corners.
He tossed the jade mask to the ground and let out a cold laugh, then stared at Ning Ning’s back and said, “Next.”
Boom, boom—footsteps rang out, like ten thousand horses galloping behind Ning Ning and Wen Yu.
“Hurry up!” Wen Yu shouted, “They are catching up.”
At first, Ning Ning was filled with joy, then it was followed by tears. She looked back and muttered, “They would not let him off and come after me, Shi Tou Ge…”
You said you would come back, but none of the masks that were chasing after me were you.
None of those were your…jade mask with peach colour on its eyes.
As they ran to the entrance of an alley, Wen Yu turned and rushed into the alley. There was a rope above his head, a blanket was hanging out to dry on the rope. With a gust of the wind, it fell and covered them. The blanket was snow white to the point where it melded in with the fog. Wen Yu hugged Ning Ning and curled under the blanket, the footsteps on the outside split into two groups, one group entered the alley and ran past them.
After the footsteps had gotten farther away from them, Wen Yu tossed the blanket aside, pulling Ning Ning and running out of the alley.
“Hold on.” Ning Ning asked, “Where are we going?”
They were clearly going in the direction they came from.
“The other routes are blocked off,” Wen Yu said, “there’s only one route left—we’ll go back to Life Theater.”
“Good idea!” Ning Ning’s eyes sparkled, her face was full of expectations, her voice sounded excited, “Shi Tou Ge must be waiting for us there!”
Wen Yu’s footsteps paused for a moment, he acknowledged her with his back to her.
Ning Ning followed him silently for a few steps before she suddenly wept. “…You’re lying.”
Wen Yu was taken aback, he looked back at her.
“Shi Tou Ge lied to me, you’re also lying to me.” Ning Ning’s face was filled with tears, she choked out, “You’re not going back to look for him… You’re the same as him, you want to go back to become the doorman.”
Wen Yu opened his mouth, then he sighed. He pressed down on the center of his eyebrows and muttered impatiently, “Big Brother is indeed better at things like lying, I was seen through in an instant.”
“You’re not allowed to go!” Ning Ning hugged his arm and cried. “If you can’t run, I’ll hold you up. We’ll leave together or find a place to hide, we’ll wait till the sun rises up and for the police to arrive…”
“Even when the sun rises, the masked people won’t disappear. Even if the police arrive, they cannot see them.” Wen Yu laughed in spite of himself, he touched the tears on her face and said with pity. “…There must be a doorman.”
“Don’t even think about it.”
Wen Yu and Ning Ning were both taken aback, then they both looked in front of them cautiously.
Rabbit Mask walked out of the fog, four men followed behind him, each of them looked as fierce as fiends, they were emitting an aura similar to that of desperados.
“I knew there was a possibility of you two coming back.” Rabbit Mask took out a dagger and laughed coldly. “I was waiting for you.”
He lowered his body and rushed at them. He wanted to use the dagger in his hand to stab Wen Yu’s chest, but Wen Yu turned to his side, the dagger cut his elbow. The moment the knife fell to the ground, his knee hit Rabbit Mask’s stomach.
As Rabbit Mask was retching, Wen Yu bent over and picked up the dagger, saying, “Thanks… Go hide!”
His first words were aimed at Rabbit Mask, his next words were aimed at Ning Ning.
Ning Ning frantically turned around and ran towards the sidewalk. A number of shops were open by the sidewalk, their lights were turned on, but there was no one in them, they had all run away. She seemed to have just rushed into a convenience store and closed the door when Rabbit Mask pounced on the door, staring at her with bloodshot eyes through the glass door.
“Ignore her!” The masked people who were attacking Wen Yu shouted, “Come help quickly, this fellow is very difficult to deal with!”
“…Coming!” Rabbit Mask answered but he did not immediately return to help, he looked at his surroundings for a moment instead. He brought a bicycle that was parked on the sidewalk over, then used it to blockade the entrance of the convenience store. He smiled viciously at Ning Ning. “Wait here, you’re next.”
There was no way Ning Ning would sit back and do nothing.
She turned around and went back to the convenience store. The store was not big, all sorts of snacks were placed on three wooden shelves. There was a handful of change on the counter, a small pot of oden along with two rice balls.
Did the customer and the storekeeper run away? Ning Ning entered the staff area. Luckily, she found a window there. It was not welded with anti-theft measures, on the other side of the window was another sidewalk.
The window was not big, Ning Ning was thankful that she was an actress by profession—a profession which made her always be on (a strict) diet.
She took off her top, trying her best to reduce her body mass. Ning Ning crawled out of the window. After she fell to the ground, she looked around hesitantly, then gritted her teeth and ran towards the theater.
She wouldn’t be of any use by staying put.
“There’s only one thing I can do…” Ning Ning thought as she ran.
When they came, they came in a pair.
When they escaped, they escaped in a pair.
And now she was the only one remaining.
As she ran and ran, the sound of pursuers suddenly rang out behind her. She heard Rabbit Mask shouting with exasperation, “I see her! She’s in front! In front! Go after her!”
Her tears blurred her vision, they were coming after her, then Wen Yu…
A hand reached out behind her and viciously grabbed her hand.
Ning Ning cried out in pain, but she did not stop running, she ran even faster instead. She left the other party with a handful of hair with a bloodstained scalp.
The fog was billowing like the waves in the ocean, Life Theater was right in front of her.
“I’m not going to let you prevail!” Rabbit Mask pounced on her from behind and caused her to fall to the ground.
“Let go!!” Ning Ning was held down by Rabbit Mask, she could not stand up at all, she could only lie on the ground and try her best to struggle. She used both her arms and legs to crawl towards the theater, tears rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t want to not be able to do anything besides crying, she didn’t want to not be able to save anyone besides crying, there was only one thing she could do, there was one thing she must do…
Her fingers finally touched the steps in front of the theater entrance, but countless footsteps rang out behind her. Ning Ning looked up and shouted at the entrance of the theater, “I volunteer to be the doorman! I volunteer to be the doorman!!”
The door remained firmly shut, there was not a hint of an answer at all.
Instead, the footsteps of the masked people were getting closer and closer, louder and louder.
A trace of despair flashed across Ning Ning’s eyes. Had she failed? She had already gotten here, she was just missing the final step. She screamed at the theater, “Let me be the doorman! You said it, I fulfill the requirements. I can become the doorman! Let me, I beg you, let me!!”
“We’ve caught up!” A flurry of footsteps, the large number of masked people had finally caught up.
A foot was raised up high then stepped forcefully on Ning Ning’s hand, it twisted from left to right as it grinded her hand down the step.
Ning Ning would rather die than to move her hand away.The sound of her bone breaking rang out, but she did not move it away, her face was filled with tears. She repeated that one sentence nonstop, “Let me be the doorman! Let me be the doorman…”
“That won’t do.”
The foot that was twisting left and right stopped, a masked person looked over, another masked person looked over, all the masked people looked over to the direction of the voice.
Ning Ning looked to the front dumbfoundedly.
“You cannot become the doorman…”
The doors to the theater slowly opened to the sides, an even thicker white fog seeped out from within, blocking everyone’s vision, only a familiar and the world’s most moving voice could be heard quietly beside Ning Ning’s ear.
A mask appeared out of the thick fog, made of jade, with the corner of its eyes dyed in a resplendent peach colour.
“I’m already the doorman.”
Accompanied with these words, inexhaustible fog billowed towards that mask. Long black hair grew out of it, slender limbs, a fit and healthy body—for the sake of battling and keeping watch over all the masked people, the theater would give you the strongest body!
“Quickly stop him!” Rabbit Mask howled.
No one paid any heed to Ning Ning anymore, they all howled and rushed at Shi Zhong Tang! Just as Rabbit Mask touched that mask with his hand…
Shi Zhong Tang slowly opened his eyes.
The peach coloured corner of his eyes suddenly coagulated into a peach blossom petal, it looked like a flower and a tear as it rolled down from the corner of his eye.
That was the peach blossom that had blossomed when we first met, it blossomed in my eyes, it blossomed in my heart.
Shi Zhong Tang was suddenly holding that petal. The petal turned into a hilt, a long sword quickly grew out of the hilt. One side of the blade was still wrapped in quite a number of peach blossom branches. Shi Zhong Tang waved it, the branches shook, the petals were rich and diverse, a group of people including the Rabbit Mask grabbed their hands and screamed as they retreated.
“He’s but one person!” Rabbit Mask held his hand that was injured once again exasperatedly. “He has but one sword…huh?”
A peach blossom twirled round and round as it drifted down in front of him.
Rabbit Mask slowly looked up.
It was unknown when it happened, but the sky was filled with peach blossoms.
With the flowers as hilts, swords slowly grew out of the center of the flowers. One by one, they filled up the sky, the tips of the sword were all aimed at the ground, dots of pallid light were shone into the pupils of every masked person.
“Ah… Ah…” Rabbit Mask was dumbstruck for a moment before he shouted out abruptly, “Run!!”
At the same time, the swords of flowers fell from the sky at the same time, like a radiant meteor shower.
Amidst the resplendent rays of lights, Shi Zhong Tang slowly walked up to Ning Ning. He squatted down and said, “Why are you trying so hard? you still have me, don’t you?”
Ning Ning could not find any words, she could only let her tears flow continuously.
“Next time, you don’t have to try this hard.” Shi Zhong Tang touched her face and said with sadness, “I will protect you, no matter where I am, no matter what I am…”
Masks upon masks lost their bodies in the wake of the light, they fell to the ground with a clang. The sound that rang out one after another sounded like a requiem.
When the song ended, a laughter that sounded like a man and a woman, like an old and a young person rang out from within the movie theater.
“You have brought me the best doorman. Thank you, Ning Ning.” He said, “I have gotten what I wanted, you will also get what you want.”
Ning Ning was stunned for a moment, then she quickly said, “What do you mean? Hold on! Shi Tou Ge, where are you going? Come back! Come back!!”
The thick fog gradually dissipated, the movie theater in the fog also gradually dissipated. Shi Zhong Tang looked at her lovingly, but his body gradually moved back.
“You promised!” Ning Ning screamed, “You will definitely come back!”
“Yes!” Shi Zhong Tang smiled at her, “So you definitely have to wait for me…”
Wait for…the day we meet again.
One year later.
“Here, Little Ning, have a taste of this tea.”
Ning Ning took the hot tea out of the director’s hands and took a sip, she asked, “When are we going to start filming?”
The other’s face was full of embarrassment and awkwardness. “I’ve already told them to hurry, they said they will be here in five minutes.”
Ning Ning smiled without saying a word. All the comments had already been said by the people within the crew.
“What kind of person is he, he’s still not here after an hour, does he think he’s some sort of big shot? Can he be compared to Ning Jie?”
“Is he looking for trouble? The moment Ning Jie gets angry, the male lead will definitely be someone else!”
“Switch him! It’s best that they switch him with my prince charming Chen Shuang He, that’s a couple I ship.”
“Don’t say that, I heard that Ning Jie has a boyfriend, someone from outside the business, a psychiatrist.”
Five minutes later, the director looked down at his watch, then he left while he smiled with malice… He must have gone off to give people a scolding.
Ning Ning held the teacup in her hand as she sat on the chair absent-mindedly.
One year had passed unknowingly. The commotion the masked people had caused was once a hot topic, everyone said that the end of the world was here. But as time gone by, the people who talked about it grew fewer and fewer. This year, there were not many people who remembered it.
She had also once gone back to 35 Rouge Street, only to find out that a breakfast shop had opened there. She asked the shopkeeper, she asked the people around it, everyone said that the breakfast shop had always been there and it had opened for a decade.
Everything was as if a dream she had.
“Hmm?” Ning Ning turned her head, her phone had suddenly rang, she reached out and picked up her phone which gave her a shock.
Her phone had a new app icon.
The icon was that of a red opera house, the name of it was…Life Theater.
Ning Ning stared at the icon for a very long time. Her finger lowered and retracted a few times, in the end she gritted her teeth and tapped on it.
After the loading screen, was a login screen.
Since she had already tapped once, tapping a second time wouldn’t matter, Ning Ning tapped on the login button.
Three options appeared.
One: Audience Entrance.
Two: Stowaway Entrance.
Three: Owner Entrance.
Ning Ning tapped on the first option, login failed, she hesitated for a long time before she tapped on the second option, login failed again.
“I’m left with…owner?” Ning Ning furrowed her brows, her index finger slowly tapped on option three.
A crew member walked by behind her.
In the next second.
A group of patrons and masked people walked by behind her.
Ning Ning looked up absent-mindedly. She looked at her surroundings. Shewas standing in a big waiting hall, hanging above her head was a huge crystal lamp, it illuminated every corner brilliantly.
There were popcorn machines and crane games among others in the hall, the patrons who were waiting for the movie to start were gathered here, they shopped and played around under the guidance of the masked people.
“The next screening is about to start. Patrons, please proceed to hall number one.”
Ning Ning quickly looked back. People and masked people walked past her towards a hall that was laid with a red carpet.
“There are three stowaways, they’re currently in the waiting hall. Would the doorman please proceed to arrest them immediately, then escort them to hall number two.”
Three thug-looking people ran past Ning Ning hurriedly. “Get lost!” One of them reached out and gave her a shove, Ning Ning was pushed to the ground.
In the next second, countless swords of light caught up to them. The swords pierced their sleeves and pants, nailing the three of them to the wall. Although none of them were harmed, one of them pissed themselves, the other two wailed like ghosts and howled like wolves.
“I’ll leave it to you guys.” A lazy voice rang out behind Ning Ning, then there was the snap of a finger. “Do what you will to them as you please.”
A group of masked people ran over excitedly. They grabbed the three stowaways and raised them over their heads—huff, puff, huff, puff—like sheep to be used for a bonfire party, they transported the stowaways off as they salivated.
“Let me down!”
“Who are you people?!”
“What the hell kind of place is this?!”
The three stowaways disappeared behind the door to hall number two as they wailed.
Ning Ning let a breath out, she slowly looked back. “What is…this place?”
“It’s Life Theater.” Shi Zhong Tang knelt down with a smile. “It’s not that weird. Life Opera House turned into Life Theater, then turned from Life Theater into the Life Theater app—this fellow has always been evolving.”
“Evolving? How is it evolving?” Ning Ning asked.
Shi Zhong Tang tilted his head, then bent his elbow in front of her, signalling her to wrap her arms around it.
“Come, I’ll tell you while we watch the movie.” He sighed with a little bitterness. “We had finally met again, must we talk about this fellow?”
“…Then we’ll talk about it next time.” Ning Ning wrapped her arm around his, borrowing his strength to stand up as she used her other hand to wipe the tear from the corner of her eye. “We’ll just go on a date today, alright?”
“…Sure,” Shi Zhong Tang laughed gently, “I have been looking forward to this day.”
Tonight, a new movie was screened in Life Theater.
On the LED board hanging above the entrance of the wall, the words rolled down and a new film title appeared.
Title: Life Theater
Author has something to say:
The box was split into four pieces all of those years back, the abilities of the owner was also split into four, meaning to say that there are at least three people who can challenge Ning Mei’s stature.. But that is another story, I’m not going to go on about it this year! Writing the same genre consecutively makes me want to die! Let me write something else! Write a pure love!! Let me tell you, I have a hundred and eighty pure love plots in my hands, wait for me to pick the least scariest one from among them…
Translator also has something to say:
It’s been a long a year and a half year ever since we’ve started this, I never thought it would take this long in the beginning to be honest. Come to think of it, our release of this series seemed to have coincided with COVID19, that’s definitely a coincidence and has nothing to do with us… Jokes aside, I hope that our translation work made the pandemic more bearable. Unfortunately, I would like to go into hibernation for a while. I can’t promise any future series as of now but I do owe our dear readers two extra chapters the author had written for this series. I don’t have a timeframe for them yet, but I would really like to take my mind off translations for a while, so I apologise for that. For now I would like to thank the readers for reading our work and here’s hoping for a pandemic free world soon!