This world was preventing her from saving him.
In the snow, the footsteps were slowly fading, Ning Ning was running in this race against the (falling) snow.
Chen Guan Chao who was behind her was of no help, he even tried to stop her.
“That’s enough, what can you do even if you get there?”
“You are an ordinary person, can you deal with a murderer?”
“Go back, call the police, let the police arrest him.”
“Is that child that important? How long have you been taking care of him? Not even three months? In these three months, how much trouble has he caused you?”
“Just give up, there are no more footprints in front, we lost them.”
The wind and snow blew passed, Ning Ning breathed out a puff of white air while standing in the snow.
This world was always like this. You gave it your all but you got nothing back. She was always like this. Her efforts were always futile, but she could not help but give it her all.
“I will definitely find you, I will definitely find you…” She walked around as if she was hypnotising herself, she suddenly raised her hand, the flashlight in her hand illuminated the middle wall of a building. Her eyes grew hot, her voice trembled, “I found it…”
On an almost completed residential building site, a horizontal banner was hung on the side. On the banner was written, ‘Welcoming 1988, Embracing 1988, Celebrating 1988’.
At that moment, Wen Xiao Ning’s voice seemed to ring out beside Ning Ning’s ears. The roar of a dying old woman who had spent fifteen years waiting for a movie rang out, “1988! 1988!! 1988!!!”
Things were obviously very different, but the two of them were still able to reunite under the three 1988s. Ning Ning was a little confused for a while. Was she Ning Ning or Wen Xiao Ning? Did she change anything in the plot of the movie? Had she only been following in Wen Xiao Ning’s footsteps one after another then walked in a circle?
But she smiled very quickly .
“If there was anything that was real in this fake world, that would be his feelings towards me…” She muttered, “No, it would be my feelings towards him.”
Then, she ran to the building without hesitation. She shouted his name as she ran, “Wen Yu!!”
This voice penetrated the snowy ground. It penetrated the night sky. It penetrated the movie screen.
Ning Ning did not know, but when she chose to run towards the three 1988s, staff members began to walk into the originally empty Life Theater. They stopped in front of the movie screen and looked up at the screen in their distinctive masks. They were looking at the figure on the screen who was running as if her life depended on it.
At the same time, at the entrance of the theater, the Doorman who had been quietly leaning on the wall suddenly opened his eyes.
He turned around and looked at the poster beside him.
The poster was violently shaking even though there was no wind. It was as if a huge power was tearing it apart, to the extent that the names on the poster were also shaking.
The original title of the film, <<Abandoned Child>>, was shaking incessantly like a rock. Underneath this rock was another film title, a four-word title started sprouting out like a plant which was fighting hard to break through the earth.
“Stop!” Ning Ning rushed to the rooftop, the Skinny Man opposite her turned his head around. She tried her best to smile, “Brother, what are you doing?”
The Skinny Man was staring at her from a distance with a dark and obscure expression.
Ning Ning was angry and she was filled with hatred, but she did not dare show it. She used all of her acting skills, showing a sincere expression with no ill-intent and smiled as she walked towards him. She reached out her hand towards Wen Yu as she chatted casually about family affairs, “Did this bear of a child1 make you angry?”
The Skinny Man raised his knife and coldly commanded, “Stay back!”
His outstretched arm paused in the air, it was shivering non-stop from his fingertips. Ning Ning suppressed her desire to run away in fear and tried very hard to maintain her smile. In the eyes of others it looked like she was humbly begging him, “Bro, don’t be angry. He is but a mute, a burden. If you really dislike him, I can bring him back, so that he won’t drag… Ah!”
Ning Ning screamed, she held her right hand as she took a few steps back. Blood slowly flowed out from between her fingers.
There was blood dripping from the knife, the Skinny Man held the handle while looking at her with an extremely numb expression. It was as if the person he just pricked was not his blood sister, it was but a stranger, a deadman, a scarecrow.
The family approach did not seem to work on this type of people. Ning Ning looked at him, her expression slowly turned ferocious. She shouted very loudly at him, releasing all the fear and anger within her, “Where are you going to run to after you kill him! I know what you look like! I know your name, your age, I know everything! I will tell the police everything!”
It was then that the Skinny Man reacted a little, his eyelids twitched. He shouted back with the same fear and anger, “I am your brother! You cannot do this to me!”
“Let him go!” Ning Ning shouted while pointing at Wen Yu, “Let him go! Then you are my brother!”
The Skinny Man looked at Wen Yu then at Ning Ning. He looked hesitant, as if she had managed to persuade him. After considering it for a while, he stared at her. “…If I let him go, will you keep my secret for me? Will you say that you didn’t see me today.”
“Yes! Yes!!” Ning Ning frantically answered . She would agree to any of his demands at this moment.
The Skinny Man nodded, he pulled Wen Yu and walked towards her.
Ning Ning’s heart which was originally suspended sank, half of her attention fell on Wen Yu. Hmm? What happened to Wen Yu? Why won’t he stop crying, why is he shaking his head at me?
The knife pierced Ning Ning’s stomach.
“…You thought I would believe your nonsense?” The Skinny Man’s face was very close to hers. He held onto the handle of the knife and pulled it out before stabbing her again forcefully, over and over again, until Ning Ning fell to the ground.
Wen Yu burst into tears silently. He broke free from the Skinny Man and threw himself on Ning Ning.
The Skinny Man took a couple of steps back. He raised his hand and wiped his face, he started to laugh in a carefree manner.
A man who wanted to kill his nephew just because he suspected his nephew had witnessed him killing someone and that this nephew might divulge his secret. A man who had killed strangers just because he suspected that these strangers would recognise him based on a drawing. How could such a man believe in Ning Ning’s words?
“Sister, I didn’t want this to happen.” He looked down at Ning Ning who was in a pool of blood and mumbled, “You wanted to report me.”
Then he tilted his head and looked at Wen Yu, “Now it’s your turn.”
Wen Yu was still not aware of his surroundings. He would not stop crying, he would not stop pushing Ning Ning’s body, he didn’t care about the Skinny Man behind him at all, he did not care about the knife in the Skinny Man’s hand.
A scream rang out from beside them. The Skinny Man stopped in his tracks. He turned around and saw that Chen Guan Chao and Ning Yu Ren were standing at the stairway. Ning Yu Ren was so frightened by the situation that she buckled under her own weight and sat on the ground, Chen Guan Chao tried to help her up to no avail.
“Here comes two more.” The Skinny Man’s voice actually sounded sad. It was unknown whether he was sad for the two of them, or sad that he was turning into a serial killer.
“Save me, save me!” Ning Yu Ren grabbed onto Chen Guan Chao as she looked at the Skinny Man approaching them. She tried her best to help herself up by climbing up Chen Guan Chao’s body like a dodder flower.2
Chen Guan Chao looked at the bloody knife in the Skinny Man’s hand. His vision moved past the Skinny Man and onto Ning Ning who was lying on the ground in a pool of blood. She was bleeding so much and was not moving, she looked like she was dead.
“Wen Xiao Ning!!” He shouted defiantly. His eyes were filled with the pain of someone who was looking at a ruined precious artwork. He shouted at her a few times, but she did not react. The Skinny Man sneered at him, “Are you her boyfriend? You don’t have to shout anymore, she is already dead.”
“She is already dead…” Chen Guan Chao murmured. He suddenly looked down at Ning Yu Ren who was sitting down beside his leg.
At the moment they crossed their eyes, Ning Yu Ren saw the look of retreat, apology and unconcern from Chen Guan Chao’s eyes.
The persistence which had led him here was due to Ning Ning, or one could say it was for the Phantom, it was not for Ning Yu Ren.
“….I’m sorry.” He suddenly pried Ning Yu Ren’s hand apart, then quickly turned around and disappeared down the stairs.
Ning Yu Ren stared at his back view blankly. She lowered her head, covered her face and started crying.
“Shit!” The Skinny Man chased after Chen Guan Chao for a few steps before returning. He looked at Ning Yu Ren ferociously. “I’ll deal with you first!”
Upon hearing this, Ning Ning who was in her own pool of blood, weakly opened her eyes.
Ning Ning struggled to stand up, but she fell back down the moment she got up a little. Wen Yu looked at her from the side, then at Ning Yu Ren across from him. He suddenly ran over, opened his tiny arms and grabbed the Skinny Man’s leg. Due to his fear, Wen Yu closed his eyes while he was grabbing the leg, trembling silently.
“What’s this?” The Skinny Man looked down and grimly smiled. “You want to die first? Come, I will fulfill your wish.”
Upon finishing this sentence, he grabbed Wen Yu’s hair and dragged him towards the edge of the roof.
Ning Ning struggled to get up. The Skinny Man’s silhouette was reflected in her pupils. This was the first time she had hated someone so much in her life. This hatred supported her as she stood up. She started to walk over, but it was not enough, it was still not enough…
“Ning’er…Qu Ning’er!!” She roared in her heart, “Come out! Help me! Come out! I’ll hand this body over! Come out! Take it!”
…Damn it, she wouldn’t appear even at such a crucial moment.
Then she could only rely on herself!!
She gritted her teeth and ran towards the Skinny Man. Upon hearing movement behind him, the Skinny Man turned around and collided with Ning Ning. She held onto his waist tightly and refused to let go.
“What are you trying to do?” The Skinny Man was knocked two steps back by Ning Ning. Once he saw that he was two steps closer to the edge of the roof he started to feel a lingering fear. He turned around and stabbed Ning Ning’s back crazily, “Let go! Let go! Quickly let go!”
“…AHHHHH!!” Ning Ning held on firmly, she endured the immense pain, she shouted hoarsely, for the sake of一letting another person live on.
Upon hearing the shout, Chen Guan Chao who was already on the streets below the building looked back up.
He saw Ning Ning who was holding onto the Skinny Man fell across the sky like a glorious shooting star.
That image hit Chen Guan Chao hard. He stood unmoving on the spot for a very long time, before suddenly shouting, “I understand now, I understand now!”
Then he reached into all of his pockets. He found a pen but he did not have a book, thus he took out two drawings. On one side was the drawing of the Skinny Man committing a murder. He sat down by the road alone, flipped the paper around and put it on his thighs then started writing a new <<Phantom of the Theater>> superciliously.
The first rays of sunlight of 1988 broke through the clouds, illuminating the three 1988s on the horizontal banner and the face of Ning Ning who was on the verge of death.
A child’s cry accompanied the break of dawn.
Wen Yu quickly ran downstairs and arrived at Ning Ning’s side. He cried so much that his face was wrinkled. He opened his mouth and used a crying voice that sounded awkward and cried, “Aunt Xiao Ning.”
Ning Ning had managed to save one final breath due to the Skinny Man hitting the ground first. She slowly turned her head over, “You have a wonderful voice.”
It was just like the voice she heard for the first time at Life Theater, it was moving and ethereal, it was as pure as the flapping of pigeons in a church.
“I’m sorry…” He reached out with his tiny hand and touched her bloody cheek. He choked, “If not for me…”
“…Before I met you, I have always been a ghost.” Ning Ning smiled at him, “Because of you, I started to come alive, so I…”
1This is a Chinese saying for a naughty child
2Wikipedia link for reference