Extra Chapter: Nighttime Chat while Holding Lanterns 【2/2】
A yellow taxi bumped up and down on the road.
A man was sitting in the backseat, he had a newspaper open in his hands, it was covering his face.
“Did you see the headline today?” The taxi driver was staring at the same newspaper, he used the headline as a reason to initiate a conversation with him, “Shi Zhong Tang broke up with Yin Xiu Zhu.”
“Yes.” The man answered, his voice was very pleasant, it sounded lazy like the afternoon sunshine.
“Cui Hong Ying, Lin Xi, Liu Yi Yi…sigh, he has been with all the pretty girls of show business.” The taxi driver tsk-ed twice, “Even the most beautiful woman of all time, the empress of songs, Yin Xiu Zhu, cannot resist him, I really don’t know how long this loafer is going to loaf around for.”
“Not for long.” The taxi had arrived at its destination, the man smiled as he put the newspaper down, revealing a handsome face.
The taxi driver thought that he looked somewhat familiar, it was not after he had paid up that the driver’s vision landed on the newspaper in the backseat, exclaiming all of a sudden, “It’s him!”
On the front page of the headline, in a black and white image, was the side profile of a handsome man—Shi Zhong Tang.
Shi Zhong Tang took off his sunglasses and hung it in front of his chest, he took out a key and opened the door in front of him.
“Why is it you again?” A woman who heard the door opening immediately turned white as a sheet when she saw him. “Get lost!”
The corner of Shi Zhong Tang’s mouth curved upwards, he leaned on the door lazily. “Ling Ling, if you really don’t want to see me, why don’t you change the lock of your door?”
You Ling bit down hard on her lower lip, tears rolled stubbornly within her eyes.
“You have been waiting for me to come.” Shi Zhong Tang sighed, he spoke out her embarrassing truth, “You want to see me.”
“…You think I will still forgive you?” You Ling interrupted him coldly, “Including Yin Xiu Zhu, this is already the eleventh time you have broken up with me.”
Shi Zhong Tang gave a faint smile.
A handsome man can really do whatever he wants…that was how a lot of people evaluated his smile.
The headlines like to chase after him, because there was always no lack of a fresh face by his side. A rising actress, a veteran empress of song, a socialite, the daughter of a real estate developer, he could single-handedly keep a lot of tabloid papers afloat.
There was a mix of praise and criticism, with his notoriety, there were many in the industry who felt regret for him. If not for his personal life, he could definitely have a better prospect than what he had.
Outsiders knew this, Shi Zhong Tang himself knew this, but he couldn’t change. He had gotten even worse in recent years, getting together with different types of girls, breaking up after getting tired of them, then with a body drenched in morning dew and tiredness, took out a key and opened the door in front of him.
The same face welcomed him every time.
A face that had an even more painful expression than the last time, a face that had even less tolerance than last time.
“…I know,” Shi Zhong Tang stared at that face like he was captivated by it, “you will definitely forgive me.”
You Ling could not help but raise her right hand and swung it at his face.
Shi Zhong Tang caught that hand. Ignoring her struggles, he pulled her in front of him, his other hand reached into his chest pocket. He took out a diamond ring that he had long prepared and put it on her ring finger.
“Look, it’s a pair with mine.” Shi Zhong Tang held up his right hand and showed her his ring finger, the exact same diamond ring sparkled on his finger, it illuminated his smile, “Miss You Ling, marry me.”
A sudden wedding.
The loafer had submitted willingly, everyone was curious who had so much charm.
There were more women than men in attendance, all of them were dressed gorgeously, it was as if they wanted to compete with the bride in terms of attractiveness.
“How could it be her?” When You Ling emerged, every single one of the women thought, “How is she better than me?”
In terms of beauty, You Ling was not a match for the beauty across generations Liu Yi Yi. In terms of demeanour, she was no match for Lin Xi. In terms of talent, she was not even a match for Cui Hong Ying who debuted five years later than her, not to mention the song empress of multiple generations Yin Xiu Zhu.
“Ah Tang,” Yin Xiu Zhu even looked for Shi Zhong Tang in private and asked him, “Do you have something that… she is holding against you?”
Besides that, no one could think of another reason for these two ill-matched people to get married.
“There isn’t,” Shi Zhong Tang smiled meaningfully, “I love her a lot.”
But if he had really loved her, why would he cheat on her repeatedly?
This wedding did not change him at all.
Just like before the wedding, Shi Zhong Tang’s interest in You Ling was only a flash in the pan, once that had faded, he would leave without saying goodbye, diving into the embrace of another woman.
“…Tell me.” The interior of the villa was a huge mess, You Ling stood in the middle of pieces of broken plates and bowls on the floor, by her feet was a cake that was smashed, the words happy wedding were written on it. “Why do you always leave me?”
His suit jacket was hung over his right shoulder, the collar of his white shirt still had deliberately obvious kiss marks. Shi Zhong Tang walked step by step to her, his voice was very calm, “When I am by your side, I would always feel insipid.”
You Ling’s face turned snow white in an instant.
It was as if his words drained her body of her blood, as she died in an instant, turning into a ghost.
But in the next instance, a warm hand caressed her face, Shi Zhong Tang stared at her with full focus. “But after leaving you, I would get more and more anxious, no matter who I get together with, I would want to return to you at the end.”
Was he being sincere, or was he being pretentious?
You Ling could no longer tell them apart.
Or maybe, she had never seen him for who he was, she had never fully understood this person.
This incident became a headline as one would expect, not even three months later, the two of them would remarry again.
Breaking up and getting together again, arguing and fighting, the two of them would get divorced and remarried, cheat and fight. Gradually, even the most gossipy tabloids lost interest in the two of them, because everyone knew, no matter who Shi Zhong Tang chose to be with today, in the end he would always go back to You Ling.
In a blink of an eye, twenty years have passed.
“Which one is she?” Wrinkles had crawled up to the corners of You Ling’s eyes. It had been twenty years, time had weathered her looks along with her temper, the current her could calmly discuss Shi Zhong Tang’s new lover with him.
His suit jacket was hung over his right shoulder, the collar of his white shirt still had deliberately obvious kiss marks. Shi Zhong Tang walked step by step to her, wrinkles had also crawled up to the corner of his eyes, but his actions remained the same as they were twenty years ago.
“I’ve forgotten.” Shi Zhong Tang smiled, he took out an exquisite little gift box and handed it to her. “Celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary.”
“Just nice, the one hundredth gift.” You Ling took the gift box and opened it, a sapphire necklace was inside, she asked with a smile, “I have booked two movie tickets, are you going to accompany me or her tonight?”
Shi Zhong Tang picked up the necklace, walked behind her, then put it on for her, “I’ll go with you.”
The two of them arrived at the theater. When he saw the huge poster in front of the door, Shi Zhong Tang was dumbfounded.
<<The Person within the Painting>>.
“It’s a film I invested in.” You Ling hugged his arm and sighed, “Back in the day, we got to know each other while making this film…”
“Do you still remember the things that happened during the shoot?” Shi Zhong Tang suddenly asked.
You Ling was taken aback, she smiled, “It happened so many years ago, I don’t quite remember them.”
Shi Zhong Tang then smiled indifferently. True, matters of years long past, she had already forgotten all about it, he also could not remember them clearly.
That was until the lights dimmed and the screen lit up.
On the execution grounds, the guillotine fell.
A pretty head rolled onto the ground, its beautiful hair splayed out on the ground, like an exquisite bundle of black satin.
“As agreed, fifty taels of gold.”
The executioner received the bag of gold in one hand while he handed over a lock of hair he had cut off from the head with his other hand.
The man wearing a bamboo hat acted like he had just received some treasure, he took the hair and left town on that same night to look for a Taoist temple.
“It’s done.” The mad Taoist priest made a paintbrush out of the hair. He handed it over to the man. “From today on, you have to use your own blood and mix it with ink, then use this brush to paint. As if you are enthralled, as if you are dreaming, after exactly forty-nine days, she will be able to come alive…in your painting.”
With blood as ink, through day and night, to the point where he was only left with skin and bones, emaciated and haggard.
Exhortations of his parents, admonitions of his friends, all fell upon deaf ears. Everyone thought he had gone crazy, even he himself thought he had gone crazy.
Until exactly forty-nine days later, he slowly hung the painting on the wall.
The painting scroll rolled down like a waterfall, the woman in white on the painting suddenly opened her eyes, her gaze seemed to be a million miles away, as she looked at him.
“Ling Shan…” The man murmured.
“Ling Shan…” From the audience seats, Shi Zhong Tang suddenly stood up and murmured.
He thought he had forgotten, it turned out that he had never forgotten.
He thought it was just a dream, it turned out it wasn’t…
The woman in white walked out of the painting, as if she had not walked for a very long time, her legs gave out almost immediately, she frowned slightly before she slowly raised a hand in the direction of the screen, “Come here.”
The man seemed to walk over uncontrollably, he knelt on one knee and held her hand.
“Where are you going?” You Ling turned her head and shouted in surprise.
“Excuse me, please excuse me.“ Shi Zhong Tang frantically walked out of the audience seats.
No one knew what he was chasing after, even he didn’t know what he was chasing after. In the past twenty years, muddling along aimlessly, he would linger around different women, but none of them was the one he wanted.
In the end, he gave up.
He told himself, maybe that was You Ling, it was her appearance on set, he had fallen in love with her… fallen in love with the person in the painting she was acting as.
But was that the truth?
As he stumbled out of the theater, he did not put his phone down for a second, those few minutes were enough for him to look up everything on the leading actress.
Ning Ning, daughter of Ning Yu Ren, formally known as the queen of bad films, now she was the new favourite of the box offices…Shi Zhong Tang suddenly stopped in his tracks, he turned his head and looked over.
In the darkness of the night, a woman walked past him into the deep parts of an alley.
“…Ning Ning?” Shi Zhong Tang chased after her unwittingly, like how Li Zhong Tang was lured by Ling Shan in <<Person within the Painting>>, he walked on a path with no hope of reprieve.
The path was not long.
Following her, he had arrived at the entrance of an old movie theater.
Two columns of lanterns were hung on the left and right of the door, they illuminated the place with a dim red light.
He watched her enter, but just as he was about to enter, he was stopped.
“You don’t have a ticket.” The masked man said.
Shi Zhong Tang looked at him for a moment before he suddenly burst out in laughter. “Did you say the same thing to me way back when?”
The masked man did not answer, all he did was to stare at Shi Zhong Tang coldly, like a gatekeeper statue.
“…I remember now.” Shi Zhong Tang let out a sigh. “Twenty years ago, I did the exact same thing, I followed her and came here, then I hesitated…in the end I didn’t have the guts to enter.”
Any logical person would not enter this place rashly.
Because if you were to look over, there were numerous masked people standing behind the door. Behind the door, behind an invisible line, they quietly stared at him, waiting for him to cross the line and be among them.
“Not entering was the right choice.” The masked man finally answered him. “You look like you have been doing well.”
Achieving success and fame with a beautiful wife at home, he even had countless lovers, there were countless people who would get green with envy at the mere mention of Shi Zhong Tang.
“Have I been doing well?” Shi Zhong Tang laughed. “I have actually been dead all these while, it was not until the day that I met her that I have been revived.”
He stood here twenty years ago and made a choice, that choice made him lose part of his memory, it also turned him into a kite without its line, flying nonstop, higher and higher, further and further, never ever stopping.
“You really want to come in?” The masked man looked at him mockingly. “You might die, but you are more likely to wish you were dead.”
“The last time you told me this was twenty years ago.” Shi Zhong Tang laughed, he took off his jacket and slung it over his shoulder. “I don’t know if I have twenty more years, so…would you kindly get out of my way?”
At the end of the night…
The moment Shi Zhong Tang opened the door and walked in, a sigh rang out in your ear.
You looked over and saw Shi Zhong Tang touching the mask on his face narcissitically, “Good thing I came in, from then on the world had one more immortal ikemen.”
At that moment you had no idea what kind of expression you should have…Forget it, a smile would do.
“It’s getting late,” Ning Ning told you, “It’s time to go back and go to bed.”
You look at the clock on the wall, you complain in your mind, it was only eleven, as a night owl, you normally slept at three…
“Isn’t there another movie I have yet to watch?” You really did not want to go to bed this early, so you asked simply, “I think it’s called, <<Stop Me>>?”
Ning Ning and Shi Zhong Tang exchanged glances.
“That movie…cannot be screened.” Ning Ning told you with a complicated expression.
“Why?” You asked her doubtfully.
Ning Ning did not say a word, she picked up the remote and pressed it while pointing it at the screen. Bzz bzz bzz, the screen lit up, it was filled with snow.
“Poor signal?” You thought it was strange, that was the downside of the technological era, even Life Theater suffered from bad internet connection…
“That’s not it.” Ning Ning shook her head, “The reason this movie cannot be screened is because its leading actor…cannot enter this place.”
You seem to have been able to guess who it is…
To confirm your conjecture, you chose to walk home, but you regretted it the moment you walked out, because you just remembered that you were wearing your pajamas…
“Do you need help?” A gentle voice rang out from in front of you.
You looked at the source of the voice. “Wen Yu!”
“You know me?” He was taken aback, he looked behind you as if he was thinking of something, “…Did you just come out of the movie theater?”
You nodded frantically. Out of the entire novel, there were two men you liked. One of them was Shi Zhong Tang, the other was Wen Yu. There was not much you can do about it, the author actually only gave you two choices, the rest of them were nutcases.
Wen Yu took off coat and gave it to you, so that you wouldn’t get a cold from the night wind.
“…How are they doing?” He asked, his voice was like his smile, warm like the sun.
“Not bad, not bad, healthy physically and mentally, I just watched a movie with them.” You looked like a fan girl who met a celebrity, rambling as you recounted your experiences for the night.
Without you noticing, Wen Yu and you were seated on a bench underneath a streetlight, he gave you a cup of hot milk tea, then quietly listened to you attentively, it was as if every word from your mouth was of the utmost importance.
You finally stopped talking and asked, “You…miss them so much, why not go in and take a look for yourself?”
“I cannot go in.” Wen Yu smiled helplessly, he looked over at the direction of Life Theater. “From what I see, there is nothing over there…I cannot see anything at all, I cannot hear anything at all.”
Wen Yu. You let out a sigh. “Maybe Life Theater is like a jealous wife, it’s afraid that you will snatch Ning Ning and Shi Tou Ge away from it, so it’s stopping you from seeing them.”
The jealous wife description made Wen Yu let out a laugh.
“Alright, you should go back.” He touched your head, “It’s late, a woman should not be outside alone, I’ll send you home.”
You pitied him a little, after thinking about it for a while, you suggested, “You know, tonight I was the VIP for the theater…so, if I were to make a request, the theater might just agree to it.”
After a slight pause, you asked carefully, “…How about I bring you into the theater?”
Wen Yu stayed silent for a while before he laughed. “No thanks.”
You were stunned. “Why, don’t you want to see them? …to see your brother?”
“…He chose to stay in the theater.” Wen Yu looked behind him with a complicated expression, “Then there needs to be a person who chooses to be outside of the theater. This way, if something were to happen to the theater in the future, at least there’s still a person, at least there’s still me…”
You looked at him with a little sadness, “…Doesn’t that feel awful?”
“Yes, it does.” Wen Yu admitted frankly, but he turned around and consoled you instead, with a gentle voice he said, “But this is something I have to do, I have to stop my…desire of wanting to see them.”
Stopping his feet from chasing, putting down his hands that wanted a hug, closing his mouth that wanted to say those three words, he would forever leave himself on the outside, thinking of them, protecting them, but never be able to be close to them.