Milk, Dumpling, Coriander
Three days later…
A videotape was placed in the video player.
Ning Ning returned to the chair and sat down. She raised the remote control beside her and pressed on the power button.
Ning Yu Ren appeared on the screen. This was the young Ning Yu Ren, not affected by cancer; with crystal clear skin, bright eyes, just like her name—Yu Ren.1
“This is my first time transmigrating.” She said to the camera, “I transmigrated to the ancient times, becoming an unloved imperial concubine. There were three thousand women in the harem, we were all vying for the same man.”
She was not just narrating, she acted along with her narration.
Ning Ning held onto the remote control and watched Ning Yu Ren without moving.
She had a lot of doubts in her heart. For example, what was going on with the staff members of the movie theater? Did the masks on their faces have any connection with the masks decorating the room? Why could you only change the past twice, what happened if you changed it thrice? Mama was dead, no one could answer these questions. Ning Ning could only look for the answers through Mama’s diary.
Ning Yu Ren was an actress. She recorded all the stories she had transmigrated to, but she didn’t write them down. She recorded them in videos.
These stories were stored in pieces of DVDs and videotapes. Ning Ning had been watching them for three consecutive days. She thus discovered a secret—someone who was labelled as a genius actress by the public was no genius at all.
Ning Yu Ren was also a normal person. She was also poor at acting in the beginning. But after she transmigrated as different people and gained more life experiences, she finally gained quality through quantity!
But everything has a beginning.
The beginning of this was in the videotape in front of her!
“…This was my first transmigration, my first life.” Ning Yu Ren on the screen had finished acting the last scene, she smiled and concluded (the video), “The time is 1990 July 7th.”
July 7th 1990. This was the beginning of everything. On this day, someone gave Mama a movie ticket and directed her to walk into Life Theater.
This person was vital. He had to know more things than Mama. Ning Ning turned on her mobile phone. She searched for the period around July 7th 1990, then murmured at the phone screen, “The Person within the Painting.”
On April 10th 1990, Director Shi Quan filmed a historical movie (titled) <<The Person within the Painting>> and picked a relatively unknown minor actress Ning Yu Ren. He gave her the role of the supporting female Yan Hong Xiu. This film was the beginning of Ning Yu Ren’s acting career. This was where she started her road into becoming a movie empress.
“Director Shi Quan, starring Shi Zhong Tang, You Ling, Ning Yu Ren, co-starring…” Ning Ning looked through the cast, they were all reputable directors and actors at that time. But now some of them had passed away, some had retired from the industry, some were married into a rich family. The only two people who were still active in the industry were only a costume designer and a fight scene choreographer, but she knew neither of them.
She thought about it, who at this moment could be of help to her? Who knew people in the industry and was able to contact these two?
Ning Ning gave Manager Li Bo Yue a call.
“Liu Shi Mei and Tao Yun?” Li Bo Yue asked doubtfully, “What? Why are you looking for them?”
“I want to ask them some questions.” Ning Ning said, “…About my mom while she was filming <<The Person within the Painting>>.”
“<<The Person within the Painting>>?” Li Bo Yue laughed. “Then you don’t have to ask them, there is someone better suited.”
Ning Ning was stunned, “Who?”
“Remember the psychiatrist I recommended whose appointment you skipped out on?” Li Bo Yue Said, “He is the adopted son of Director Shi Quan, his name is Wen Yu.”
Later in the afternoon, at the entrance of a restaurant.
Li Bo Yue gave Ning Ning a call, “Are you here yet?”
“I am here.” Ning Ning answered the call as she looked at the entrance of the restaurant.
She had arrived fifteen minutes earlier, but for some reason she loitered around the entrance, afraid to go in. The name Wen Yu reverberated in her mind, giving her a familiar feeling.
“Maybe it’s another person sharing the same name.” She told herself, “Ning Ning, don’t think that it’s him just based on the name.”
Ning Ning pushed the door and entered the restaurant after making mental preparations. She scanned the surroundings once. Someone from the table by the left wall waved at her, it was Li Bo Yue.
She walked towards him, her vision gradually fell to the man seated with his back facing her.
It was a man of great stature in a grey suit.
Music flowed beside him, a pianist was playing the piano in the middle of the restaurant, he was playing <<You Flow in My Memory Forever>>, better known as <<River Flows in You>>, a sad and gentle piano tune.
“Hello.” Ning Ning sat across from him and reached out a hand, “I am Ning Ning, nice to meet you.”
The man sitting opposite her raised his head.
It was an unfamiliar face, an unfamiliar man.
If you describe Wen Yu from her memory as a little angel, like someone made of cotton candy, gentle and sweet; then the man in front of her was like a relief sculpture of a bigger angel within the walls of a church, marble-casted, hard, eternal, with looks and a body that were near perfection.
“Hello, Wen Yu.” He shook her outstretched hand, his voice was special and moving, giving off an awe-inspiring, noble and unsullied feeling. “I heard you have business with me?”
Ning Ning looked down at his hand, it was a hand that wore a white glove.
“Yes.” She quickly looked up and smiled at him. “I have a question for your father. Is it possible for you to arrange a meeting with him for me?”
Wen Yu lightly shook his head. “Apologies, my father is currently hospitalised, the doctor says he needs to recuperate.”
They shook hands for a mere five seconds for the first time, they spoke for a mere five seconds for the first time. They loosened their fingers, looking at each other, Ning Ning was at a loss of words momentarily.
“Right, what would the two of you like to drink?” Li Bo Yue interrupted from the side.
Wen Yu, “Milk.”
Ning Ning, “Milk.”
The two of them looked at each other silently as they finished talking.
“What a coincidence.” Li Bo Yue laughed from the side. “The two of you have similar tastes.”
“Personal habit, couldn’t get rid of it.” Wen Yu replied blandly, “My living conditions were not that great when I was young, the people who knew me would always make a drink out of milk candy for me.”2
Ning Ning made a small movement with her finger on the table.
…She had only ever seen two people make a drink out of milk candy.
In <<Abandoned Child>>, in the year 1987, milk candy was flourishing in China. It was a luxurious type of candy, its price was seven times that of a normal candy. There was also a rumour that you could make a drink out of milk candy and substitute actual milk with it.
Chen Guan Chao who had grown up abroad said that he had heard of it but not experienced it. Curiosity got the better of him so he bought a big bag of milk candy to try it out. He could not even finish a cup of the drink so he gave out the rest of the candy (to other people)…The amount he gave out to each person was based on acting skills, so Ning Ning received the most candy.
But she didn’t like sweets.
“For you.” So she turned around and gave them to Wen Yu.
As a result, after she came back from training on the following day, she saw Wen Yu holding onto a cup as he waited for her. The cup was steaming with white steam, a milky-white liquid was in it, there were still bits of candy that had not fully melted floating on top of it.
Because she simply could not dissuade him, Ning Ning pulled her long hair behind her ear, lowered her head and took a sip from his hands, then she looked up. “You finish the rest.”
<<River Flows in You>> was still flowing by their ears, Li Bo Yue raised his hand to call a waiter over. He smiled at them and said, “Might as well order some snacks, the food from this restaurant is pretty good.”
Ning Ning and Wen Yu opened the menu at the same time, flipped three pages at the same time.
Wen Yu, “Dumplings.”
Ning Ning, “Dumplings.”
The two of them looked at each other silently as they looked up from the menu.
“…Hehe, hehe, milk with dumplings, the two of you really have similar tastes.” Li Bo Yue felt that he was quickly becoming a voice recorder.
Ning Ning smiled along with him, the man sitting across her also smiled faintly. He was not like the little Wen Yu from her memory, other than his tastes in food.
“Let’s order other snacks.” Ning Ning opened the menu and looked at him. “Do you have anything you don’t eat?”
“I can eat everything.” Wen Yu answered in an urbane manner.
“Then we will have a plate of crystal shrimp dumplings, phoenix claw3, beef siew mai, beancurd rolls, and lastly…” Ning Ning closed the menu. “Agaric and coriander dumplings.”
The snacks were served. Wen Yu who claimed that he would eat anything kept a distance from the agaric and coriander dumplings. He has the same likes and dislikes. Ning Ning looked at him, slightly in a trance. Li Bo Yue coughed from the side as she was too focused in staring at him.
“What business do you have with my father?” Wen Yu suddenly asked.
Ning Ning came back to her senses. “I want to ask him about the things that happened during the filming of <<The Person within the Painting>>.”
“Ask away.” Wen Yu said.
Ning Ning was stunned for a moment, she had not comprehended the situation.
“What a coincidence.” Wen Yu put down his chopsticks and leaned back on the sofa. “I was with the cast during that period of time, what did you want to ask?”
Although the situation was slightly different from what she anticipated, she finally found someone who knew what happened. Ning Ning closed her eyes for a while before reopening them. “I would like to ask, during that period of time, were there any strange people around my mom, Ning Yu Ren?”
“…Ning Yu Ren.” Wen Yu had a weird reaction to this name. At first he slowly repeated the name once, then he closed his eyes and thought for a while. He opened his eyes and told Ning Ning, “From what I’ve seen, the cast at that time was a little special—everyone in it was strange.”
…Aren’t you wasting your breath?
“But the strangest person was still my brother.” Wen Yu asked, “Have you heard of the name Shi Zhong Tang?”
Of course Ning Ning knew, she had done her homework before coming here. Shi Zhong Tang, the most famous actor in the 80s-90s. Because he acted in a wuxia film as the lead male actor, he became popular all over China, becoming the ideal “husband” of thousands of girls at that time.
“My brother was the most famous actor at that time, the future of his acting career was resplendent. But after filming <<The Person within the Painting>>, he suddenly committed suicide, no one knows why.” Wen Yu said blandly, “I am in the same boat as you, I also want to know what he experienced in that period of time. Did someone strange appear beside him, said something or did something to him?”
…Not only did she not get an answer, the number of questions grew…
After leaving the restaurant, Ning Ning respectfully rejected the two of them when they offered to send her back, she walked on the streets alone.
It was not until a familiar building came into view that she stopped walking. She raised her head and mumbled, “Why did I come back.”
35 Rouge Street, Life Theater
The first time she saw it, it was a rest stop amongst a storm. The second time she saw it, it was a golden palace brightening up her life. But looking at it now, the hand which Ning Ning used to clutch her purse while trembling non-stop.
It was late at night, the two clusters of lanterns at the entrance were not lit by anyone. They suddenly lit up by themselves, like demons in the night, suddenly opening their eyes.
“I don’t want to go in…” Ning Ning muttered, she was scared. There was a voice in her heart which was telling her, there were many ways to hone her acting skills, she didn’t need to enter Life Theater, especially now that she had been recognised by Director Chen, she could land a lot of roles. Even if she didn’t rely on him, she could use the valuable experience she had gotten from the two times she had transmigrated, she could get better…
But the moment she saw the new poster, the voice in her heart fell silent.
Title: <<The Person within the Painting>>
Starring: Shi Zhong Tang
1Yu Ren(玉人) directly translates to jade person
2They are referring to a very specific brand of milk candy here, namely White Rabbit
3Phoenix claw is the name for chicken feet in Chinese cuisine.
TN: A reader commented in the previous chapter that he or she would like to pay for chapters to be released quickly. While we do have chapters stockpiled, there aren’t that many and some of them are not ready to be released. We came up with the idea of doing kofi goals for people who are interested.
It will be a goal for a third release for the week, the third release will be on Sundays and the goal will only reset for the next week if the goal is met, it will not reset when the week is up. The rationale for this is that we do not want to set goals that we might not be able to fulfill, as if we did a goal for a chapter with no limits we might not be able to cope with the volume of work required.
Please leave a comment on whether this would be something you guys would be interested in, we would hate it if people gave us the money and it goes to waste because the goal is never met.
I feel like I’m Ning Ning. The more this goes on, the more questions I have, the more I know she should stay away from the theater yet the more I want her to go to find out the truth. Just because all those people are real and what happens in the movies truly happened to them. But I want her to be safe more than anything and not end up sick like her mother.
I cannot contribute financially so I will abstain from commenting. I’m already very grateful for all the hard work you put in by releasing as you currently do. Thank you very much!
You’re right Abe, it’s such a nice novel, never knew i would start to like horror-transmigration novels… but i think this will mostly will be the first and the last..
Still, thank you! for translating this gem novel.
I miss eating White Rabbit candy. I still remember they sold White Rabbit drink with boba last year at my hometown.
Oh no. I feel like she’ll be forced to not save Shi Zhong Tang because of what her mother told her about not changing the fate of the main character, and only changing history twice. If she does save him, then she won’t be able to do anything for the many other stories she’ll enter later, right?
Ugh. This is such a moral conundrum, now that we know these are all real people.
Thank you for your hard work translating this awesome story!!
You know how stupid main characters are chances are she ignores that warning
I am currently reading this at night and it gave me goosebumps. I keep glancing on the window LOL
This is a horrible horrible story. It’s making me live through Ning Nings life. It’s so suffocating but I can’t stop wanting to know what happens next. I’m on an emotional rollercoaster and it doesn’t seem to stop anytime soon. Ugh.
I kinda hate you dear translator, but I’m forever grateful that you are living through this horror first to give us this masterpiece.
You’re doing a fantastic job. I’ve never read anything this well translated.
I love white rabbit candy! I’m Chinese American and my family has a tradition where, every Chinese New Year I talk about it’s history with my class, and hand out red packets with white rabbit candy in them.