“Shi Tou’s specialty is not acting,” Director Shi said, “it’s guiding actors.”
There was no one else around them. Director Shi looked at the young man who was trapped in his own talent in front of him, he planned to use this chance to wake the other up.
“You’re not as good as him at this.” Director Shi said, “You are always chasing your so-called perfect actress. The perfect person does not exist in this world. Could you not use more of your thoughts to do something a director should do? For example, giving guidance to the actors?”
Chen Guan Chao’s face twitched, he refused to face the facts. “I have guided them…”
“‘This sucks’, ‘redo’, ‘change the actor’, this is how you guide them? Haha.” Director Shi slapped his belly once as he laughed, his belly made a bam as it was slapped.
Chen Guan Chao’s face gradually turned red.
“We are directors, not decorations. Guiding the actors is also part of our job.” Director Shi collected himself and looked at Chen Guan Chao seriously. “Let’s take You Ling as an example. If it were up to you, how would you tell her to portray today’s scene?”
Chen Guan Chao looked down and thought about it. After a while he looked up and said, “I will first go over the lines with her, then pinpoint how she should act in certain parts, tell her what kind of feelings and expressions I want her to portray.”
There were film buffs in the world, there were also directing buffs. He quickly forgot everything around him and entered a world of his own. He took out the script he would always have with him, writing and drawing on it as he read through it.
First he wrote weary beside the line: ‘This wall is too dirty, you are not allowed to hang me on it.’
“First you have to portray the weariness.” Chen Guan Chao muttered as he wrote, “She was not complaining about the place, she was complaining about the male lead, she wanted to break up with him.”
Next, he underlined the thought monologue: ‘He would be better off dead, she would be free if he died’.
“Then you portray hate.” Chen Guan Chao muttered as he underlined the line, “The male lead is but a lonely gigolo to her, yet this plaything dares to force her, command her, even threaten her. She had never endured such humiliation, she wished that he would die.”
His vision went down the script as his pen followed, he pointed at Princess Ling Shan’s ‘Get up’.
“Is this concern or love?” He furrowed his brow, scrawled and corrected himself for a while, hesitated for a long time before concluding, “It should be concern, she was not sure what her intentions were.”
He got to the end of the scene, where Princess Ling Shan looked at the injured male lead with a complicated expression. Chen Guan Chao breathed a sigh of relief as he wrote love beside it, then showed the script that was full of his notes to Director Shi and smiled. “That should be it, you won’t go wrong if you act according to how it is written here.”
Director Shi sniggered, “You are theoretically correct, but not all actors would be able to take this in.”
The confident smile on Chen Guan Chao’s face stiffened.
“Every actor is different. You can guide some actors beforehand, some actors will need to be guided as they go along, some actors require more guidance, some actors require less guidance. You will need to let them feel it out themselves.” Director Shi smiled as he continued, “Take You Ling as an example. She is the type that requires less (initial) guidance and will take in guidance as she goes along.”
Director Shi took the script out of Chen Guan Chao’s hands when he finished. He added a sentence at the end of the script and returned it to him. “Look at it again, look at what Shi Tou has done.”
Chen Guan Chao took the script back and saw that Director Shi added the two lines Shi Zhong Tang ad-libbed.
‘Isn’t it better to let me die? If I die, you would be free.’
Chen Guan Chao looked at the first sentence silently for a while, until Director Shi came to his side and pointed out. “This line is what Princess Ling Shan was thinking about in her mind.”
That seemed to have enlightened Chen Guan Chao, he quickly looked at the next line.
‘You can’t bear for me to die.’
“This line…” Chen Guan Chao muttered, “Is the answer in Princess Ling Shan’s heart.”
No wonder this scene felt completely different from yesterday. Because no matter if it was yesterday or the day before yesterday, the relationship between the male and female leads were shallow at best. But now Shi Zhong Tang had opened the door to Princess Ling Shan’s heart with these two lines. He dug out the thoughts she had repeatedly refused to admit for her and the audience to see.
This could be considered the first time Princess Ling Shan showed her true feelings ever since they started filming. Of course it would be completely different from anything before. Not only was she surprised, the audience was also surprised, because Shi Zhong Tang’s performance had an ‘unveiling the truth’ effect.
“You should learn from this.” Director Shi patted the shoulders of Chen Guan Chao. “You still have a lot to learn. Stop obsessing over your <>.”
Upon finishing the sentence, he childishly stuck his tongue out and told Chen Guan Chao. “The male lead of <> is better than you. At least he was obsessed over the painting of a beauty, why are you obsessing over a bunch of words you wrote?”
Chained to the past, chained to the person within the painting. Besides Chen Guan Chao, how many people in the world were like that as well?
The crew came to a standstill while the two of them were not around, they took this chance to take a break.
“We did pretty well on that scene.” Shi Zhong Tang was wiping the fake blood off his neck with a towel while offering a clean one with his other hand. “Here.”
Ning Ning’s face still had fake blood on it. She reached out and grabbed the towel, then slowly wiped the blood off her face.
“What’s up?” Shi Zhong Tang’s vision fell upon her thighs, he smiled. “Studying for the next scene?”
Ning Ning was sitting on a chair with a pen behind her ear. She had a script opened on her thighs, it was cramped with an amount of notes comparable to Chen Guan Chao’s.
The director was not the only person that had to figure out the thoughts of the character and think about how the character should be portrayed, the actors themselves have to put in the work as well. So if you were to find an empty script in the hands of an actor…apologies, you might have seen a fake script, or you might be looking at a fake actor.
“You disrupted my overall plans.” Ning Ning said grumpily, but after puffing her cheeks for a while, she finally dishearteningly said, “…You’re right, the scene looks better this way.”
Shi Zhong Tang chuckled.
“I have my motives.” He smiled, “Let’s not talk about this scene anymore. We are about to start on the next one, my favourite scene.”
The corner of Ning Ning’s mouth twitched.
Next scene: kissing scene.
They were past the halfway point for the filming of <<The Person Within the Painting>>, next would be the second half. The conflicts would be getting more intense, Princess Ling Shan would also finally open up her heart and fall in love with the male lead who had been continuously wooing her.
But he died.
At the moment when she was finally revived, he died from a serious injury. At the moment she finally fell in love with him, he died.
This was a first love that ended the moment it began.
Shi Zhong Tang suddenly leaned onto Ning Ning, his movement was so conspicuous that the people around them looked towards their direction. Everyone smiled understandingly when they saw that it was the two of them, because everyone knew that Shi Zhong Tang was wooing Ning Ning, so they thought that this was another one of his tricks.
But that was far from the truth.
“… Are you alright?” Ning Ning looked up and saw that he was breaking out in cold sweat. She stood up and gave the seat to him. “Sit down, I will go get a doctor.”
Shi Zhong Tang used his left hand to press down on Ning Ning’s shoulder and pulled her back.
“I’m fine.” He said with gritted teeth. He used a towel to cover his face, his muffled voice from behind the towel said, “Don’t alarm the others.”
Ning Ning especially sympathised with him as she had gone through the same experience. She made sure not to alarm the others, she even…looked down at the back of her hand that was held within his hands, not pulling it out.
Her hand was very warm, while his were as cold as a dead man’s hands.
“Don’t go to that theater anymore.” She reminded him again, “You’re like this after one time, who knows if you will be able to get out of the bed if you were to go again.”
Shi Zhong Tang covered the back of her hand with his left hand and asked softly, “…Then why did you go into the theater?”
“…” Ning Ning fell silent in the face of this question for a long time before she finally spoke, “I am an actor. But unlike you who is talented and could act as anything, there was a period of time where I could not act at all. I would look like a clown and could only make people laugh. Besides tossing myself into the theater, besides turning myself into another person again and again, I cannot think of another way to hone my acting skills.”
Shi Zhong Tang put the towel down. He looked at her in surprise with his amorous eyes.
“…Why are you looking at me like that?” Ning Ning felt chills on her back, she could not help but rub her back on the chair.
“This is the first time you talked to me about yourself.” Shi Zhong Tang’s expression became gentler. “That’s right, what’s your name?”
Ning Ning raised her guard, “Why are you asking this?”
Shi Zhong Tang spoke in a coquettish way, “Tell me please.”
Ning Ning raised her guard further. “What significance is there in knowing this?”
“It’s significant to you.” Shi Zhong Tang smiled in an even sweeter manner. He leaned his body on her, the two of them looked like swans with their heads close together. He said in a gentle voice, “In a foreign country, no, in another time and space, if a person calls you by your name, your real name…wouldn’t you like it?”
“No.” Ning Ning said resolutely.
She made up her mind to not let anyone know her real name, because the way Life Theater screened its movie was to first paste a poster on its entrance. On the poster were the title of the movie and the name of the lead characters. You entered with a ticket if you were interested…So, telling someone your real name was a very scary thing, you wouldn’t know if the other party would wait at the entrance for days upon days for your name to appear.
“…Are you scared?” Shi Zhong Tang tilted his head and looked at her with clear and bright eyes. He exposed her thoughts like how he exposed Princess Ling Shan’s thoughts, “Are you scared that I will go search for you?”
Ning Ning looked up and stared at him, just like how Princess Ling Shan could only look at him without saying a word after she had been exposed.
This man had a kind of charm. He messed up Ning Ning’s heart with a few words, he even caused confusion within Ning Ning’s senses. It made her start to lose the ability to differentiate whether she was acting or not, unable to tell the difference between her and Princess Ling Shan.
She was becoming more and more like Princess Ling Shan.
She could not wait for him to die, but she could not bear for him to die either.
She was afraid of him wooing her, but she was also hoping for him to continue doing so.
“Alright, alright! Everybody get ready!” Director Shi interrupted by clapping his hands, he led a somewhat unhinged Chen Guan Chao back. “We will film the next scene!”
The next scene, the kissing scene.
Several swords came at him like a fish net.
Shi Zhong Tang welcomed them with a sword in hand, he weaved around the net of swords. The swords started to fall to the ground one by one as he passed by each of them, the assassins began to fall one by one along with them. In the end, he was the only one standing in the bamboo forest, everyone else was already lying in a pool of blood.
The green bamboo leaves, the tip of the sword which was dripping with fresh blood and the assassins dressed in white created a bright and magnificent scene in the camera.
Shi Zhong Tang closed his eyes as the sword fell from his hand, then he fell head first into the ground.
The night had already fallen when he reopened his eyes, there was a bonfire beside him. Beside it there was a woman in white, bright and clear like the full moon, lighting up the night.
The bonfire crackled, sparks danced in front of Shi Zhong Tang’s face. He smiled weakly at Ning Ning. “I’m so tired.”
Ning Ning looked at him without any expression.
“Give me a little reward.” He looked at her gently and a little pitifully. “I’m so silly, wooing you without asking for anything in return…Give me a little reward, so that I can carry on…”
Ning Ning was slightly taken aback.
At the moment he looked at her that way, at the moment he said those words to her, her senses completely melded with Princess Ling Shan.
The surroundings started to become hazy, stalks of bamboo began to sprout from the ground one by one, spreading outwards from behind her. Director Shi had vanished, Chen Guan Chao had vanished, Mama had vanished, the cameras had vanished, everything vanished.
All that was left was a ground full of corpses and the two of them.
It was as if the reflection of the moon was rising out of the water, as if the flower within the mirror was blooming right in front of your eyes, the border separating the real world and the illusory world was gone, everything was like a dream.
Ning Ning sat down beside Shi Zhong Tang, she slowly brought him within her embrace.
He looked at her. The two of them had already spent many spring nights under the hibiscus canopy, yet he still looked at her with bewilderment and agitation; he seemed to not have expected that he could actually get anything in return from her.
Ning Ning could not help but find it funny.
She gently kissed his lips with a smile, it was like kissing the moon in the water, the flower in the mirror.
“You chasing after me…” She opened her eyes and looked down at him, “Caused me to not feel lonely anymore.”
After the border was lost and the worlds were merged, the filming went even more smoothly.
The day was arriving quickly.
October 10, the end of filming for <<The Person Within the Painting>>.
E/N: I was so hyped the first time I read/edit this chapter. They finally kissed!!!! (And Ning Ning finally acknowledged a lil something inside her heart, but more importantly, they kissed!) My ship is sailing~!