“Why did you ask me since you already knew?” Cui Hong Mei laughed coldly.
Ning Ning was dizzy for an instant, she closed her eyes and opened it again. “Whom did she buy the tickets from?”
“How would I know?” Cui Hong Mei placed her coffee cup on the table and added a few sugar cubes, she mixed them with a spoon. “She treated only you as family, not me. She hid everything from me, had her guard up against me…”
Cui Hong Mei stopped stirring her coffee, a desolate expression flashed across her face.
But the desolation only lasted for a few seconds, she quickly reverted to her usual looks, a face of bitter sarcasm. “But I have eyes and ears, I can hear and see things, she cannot hide those things from me.”
“What did you hear?” Ning Ning could not help but sit up and look at her. “What did you see?”
“Everyone treated me as the bad guy, and treated her as the good one.” Cui Hong Mei said blandly, “There is no one in the world who is purely good or bad. The peerless movie empress, the crown jewel of art, a world’s wonder—leading an ill-fated life due to her bloodsucking mother who destroyed it…She was not as innocent as all of you thinks she was.”
…What the hell, isn’t this what’s written on the entertainment news? You said that you don’t care about people scolding you on the surface, but the fact is that you’ve already memorised the exact things people were scolding you about?
Ning Ning ridiculed Cui Hong Mei in her mind and asked, “Why did you say so?”
Her phone suddenly rang before Cui Hong Mei could answer.
It was her manager calling.
“Hello.” Ning Ning stood up impatiently, she took the call in the washroom. “I’m a little busy right now…”
Li Bo Yue interrupted her, “What is more important than work?”
“A little personal matter.” Ning Ning said, “I will call you back later, maybe in an hour?”
“We don’t even have a minute to lose.” Li Bo Yue said, “Opportunities are hard to come by, you have to come back immediately.”
A few minutes later, Ning Ning returned from the washroom. Cui Hong Mei tilted her head and sneered at Ning Ning before Ning Ning could say anything. “You are turning more and more like your mother.”
Ning Ning was stunned by those words.
“Work, work, work.” Cui Hong Mei slowly repeated this word a few times. “The two of you only have work in your lives, nothing else.”
Ning Ning was suddenly flushed, she wanted to refute, but she did not know how to.
Because she had indeed needed to go back to work.
“…I have something urgent today.” After a period of time, she said awkwardly, “I will invite you again next time.“
Ning Ning picked up her bag stiffly and left after she paid for the coffee, but Cui Hong Mei’s voice rang out from behind her before she could take a few steps.
“Oh that’s not right.” Cui Hong Mei laughed at her back. “You two claim it’s for your dreams, giving up everything for your dreams, how noble.”
Ning Ning stopped in her tracks for a moment, before continuing to leave.
She raised her hand to hail a taxi, boarded it and stated the name of her company.
The taxi drove off. She stared at her reflection in the window and raised a hand to touch her cheek. “Am I becoming more and more like Mama?”
The reflection in the car window was definitely looking more and more like Ning Yu Ren, regardless of looks or demeanour.
Under the polish of Life Theater, under the polish of different movies and roles, the two of them were gradually becoming identical.
“Isn’t this my dream?” Ning Ning mumbled, it was as if she was interrogating her reflection in the window. “Wasn’t my dream to become someone like Mama?”
The peerless movie empress, the crown jewel of art, a world’s wonder…
The cheers, the acknowledgements, and the praises of countless people…
Suddenly a disharmonic voice rose up.
“Work, work, work! The two of you only have work in your lives, nothing else.”
Ning Ning was suddenly awakened and shouted, “Stop.”
The taxi stopped.
After ten minutes or so, the door to the coffee shop opened.
Cui Hong Mei was eating on the sofa, she seemed to have gone to the coffee shop without eating prior, hungry as a wolf. She ordered a tableful of food once Ning Ning left, it was mostly desserts with high sugar and butter content.
“You’re already this old, you should eat less junk food.” A stern voice rang out in front of her, “Aren’t you afraid of getting diabetes?”
Cui Hong Mei was taken aback by those words. She slowly looked up at the person who was talking, a trace of surprise was in her eyes. “Why did you come back?”
Ning Ning stood expressionlessly in front of Cui Hong Mei, her phone was ringing non-stop.
Cui Hong Mei glanced at her phone then back at her. “Are you not picking that up?”
Ning Ning answered (the call). She did not put it on loudspeaker but Li Bo Yue’s shouts erupted from the phone, a fancy tenor rang out in her ear, “Are you coming! You little annoyance! Life rests within exercise, why aren’t you starting to run? One, two, three. One, two, three…Why am I not hearing you run??”
“I’m running! I’m running!” Ning Ning started to run on the spot. “Oh no, my phone is running low on battery from your shouts!”
She quickly stopped running after turning off her phone, then sat down opposite of Cui Hong Mei.
“…Hahahahaha!!” Ning Ning did not know what Cui Hong Mei found funny. Cui Hong Mei laughed so hard that she almost spat her dentures out! She wiped her tears and said, “Seeing that you made me laugh so hard, I will allow you to ask me three questions today. I will answer as long as I know the answer.”
Ning Ning thought about it, then asked, “Do you know what the tickets are used for?”
“I don’t know.” Cui Hong Mei answered. “All I know is that ever since Yu Ren started buying tickets, she had continuously changed. Sometimes the changes were good, sometimes they were bad, but outsiders could only see how much her acting skills improved.”
“What was the bad side of it?” Ning Ning asked.
“There was a lot.” Cui Hong Mei smiled.
This answer was too vague, Ning Ning probed further, “For example?”
“For example…” Cui Hong Mei thought about it. “In 1997, the time when you went missing, guess what her reaction was?”
Ning Ning was surprised. She answered, “It was of course to look for me.”
“No.” Cui Hong Mei laughed, “She did not go to look for you. In the month that you were missing, she calmly stayed at home. Ate when she was supposed to eat, slept when she was supposed to sleep, acted when she was supposed to act, it was as if she did not have a daughter.”
“That’s impossible!” Ning Ning quickly stood up, then sat back down under the stares of the people around them. She said to Cui Hong Mei in a low voice, “You are lying to me!”
“I’m not lying to you. If not for a teenage couple who picked you up, you probably would have frozen to death in the harsh winter. Speaking of which, what were their names?” Cui Hong Mei thought about it. “The name of the boy seems to be Wen…Sigh, I’m getting old, I cannot remember clearly.”
“…Then?” Ning Ning stared at her with gritted teeth, she was already beginning to suspect that Cui Hong Mei was talking nonsense. Just because Mama could not jump out of the coffin to refute, she had free reign to malign her.
“Then?” Cui Hong Mei seemed to have remembered something relevant and let out a joyous laugh. “A month later, she seemed to have turned into another person. She looked everywhere for you like a madman. She even lost her temper at me, asking me why I didn’t take good care of you. I was incredulous. If she was really nervous about you, shouldn’t she have gone to look for you long ago?”
Her actions were indeed weird, Ning Ning could not think of a reasonable explanation at the moment.
On the contrary, it was Cui Hong Mei who thought up a barely passable explanation. “I carefully thought about it afterwards and understood. Your mother probably wanted to abandon the annoyance that was you in the beginning, then regretted it a month later. She started to lose her temper at me after she failed to find you. But you should count your lucky stars that the teenage couple brought you home. Your mother started to really dote on you after that, she wished she could tie you to her belt. Haha, that was the kind of person she was. She would forever try to compensate after she made a mistake.”
“My mom was not that kind of person.” Ning Ning said stiffly.
“Okay, okay, okay. Your mother was a good person, I am a liar. Don’t believe in what I just said, it was all lies.” Cui Hong Mei waved her hand casually. “Alright, I have already answered your three questions, is there anything else you want to say to me?”
The two of them fell silent.
Although they were relatives, the relationship between them was weak, they didn’t even share any memories in life. If Ning Yu Ren were to be put aside, the two of them would not have a common topic…they didn’t even have the same taste in shows! Ning Ning liked to watch idol drama, but Cui Hong Mei preferred modern drama…
“Looks like there is nothing else to say.” Cui Hong Mei smiled as she got up, “I’ll go have my hair done, you…you should go back to work, earn money diligently so you can take good care of me.”
Half an hour later, a taxi stopped at the entrance of Ning Ning’s office.
After she alighted from the taxi, she ran all the way to look for Li Bo Yue. She was panting heavily when she found him. “Life rests within exercise. I ran all the way here, what’s the matter?”
Li Bo Yue looked at his watch and sighed. “I don’t know if we can still make it. Forget it, let’s give it a shot.”
He pushed Ning Ning from behind and walked out of the office with her.
“Quick, deal with the oil on your nose.” Li Bo Yue said as they walked.
Ning Ning frantically took out her powder box from her bag. She asked as she fiercely powdered her face, “What are we doing now?”
“The company is about to film a biography, the subject is a world famous singer. They are already at the office.” Li Bo Yue said, “This person is remarkable. Famous, rich and is passionate about charity. The public has a very good opinion of her…Of course, the most important thing is that the investor is her husband and student, so she wants to personally pick the female lead for this documentary.”
“What’s her name?” Ning Ning had finished touching her makeup up and placed the powder box into her bag.
Li Bo Yue stood in front of a huge door and knocked on it thrice. The person in the room said, “Come in.”
The huge door was opened, a few pairs of eyes were looking up at Ning Ning, one of which was old and gentle.
The pair of eyes belonged to an elegant old lady with white hair. She was sitting on the sofa, smiling at Ning Ning. It was a peaceful and gentle smile that could comfort even the deepest pain.
“Let me introduce you.” Li Bo Yue walked up to the old lady to do the introduction. “This is the famous singer from our country—Yan Qing, Madam Yan.”
TN note: Thanks for the well wishes.