There were two other actresses in the room besides Ning Ning.
Ning Ning was a step too late, Yan Qing had already finished talking about the events of the first half of her life, she was now going to talk about the second half.
“…It was thanks to the few students of mine that I did not commit suicide.” She touched her combed white hair. “But the days did not go by easily. Most of my hair turned white then, I would dye it black in secret with shoe polish, but the smell was really bad, it was so smelly that my parents would not get close to me.”
She let out a laugh, the people around her laughed along with her.
“Then, with the help of the students and their parents,” she said, “I went overseas. I studied music in France…Of course, I studied foreign language at first.”
For a small town female teacher, going overseas was like transmigrating to another world. A street full of people were speaking in a language she didn’t understand. But this kind of world was a sigh of relief for her, because they would not stare at her with weird looks.
Thus Yan Qing settled down in France. She studied French arduously, she studied music arduously. She worked very hard, because she knew that if she did not achieve anything there, she would have to return to the small town full of rumours and gossip, a small town where even her parents treated her with disdain.
“…I met my current husband, Mr. Wood, when I was studying.” Yan Qing smiled like a teenage girl when she mentioned him. “He was not like a typical French man at all. He was not romantic in the slightest nor would he say anything sweet. The first thing he said when he saw me was, ‘Could you stop using shoe polish on your hair?’”
After the awkward encounter, there were surprising developments. One day when Mr Wood finished helping her wash her hair. “Stop applying shoe polish on your hair, I think you look quite nice the way you are now.” Not long after, Yan Qing actually stopped dyeing her hair. She combed her white hair neatly and wore fashionable little hats. In the beginning, she was worried about her everyday life, until her teacher gave her a thumbs-up and told her that the look was very fashionable and that it suited her very well.
Yan Qing maintained the style after receiving that encouragement. Throughout her concerts, throughout her charity work, throughout her interviews, her white hair and tiny hat would slowly become a trademark of hers.
“That was my life.” Yan Qing said in conclusion, “I hope that one of you could bring my life onto the screen and to reenact it for me and the audience.”
Yan Qing did not stay long because she had a speech in the afternoon, the others in the room left not long after Yan Qing did. The actresses started to discuss the role with their managers.
“Three parts.” All the managers had the same conclusion, “Yan Qing’s life contains three parts.”
The three actresses listened quietly.
“The rumours and gossip in the little town, the new lover and life in a foreign country, the accomplishments in her career and charity.” Li Bo Yu told her actress, “Ning Ning, which part would you like to act in?”
Ning Ning thought about it. “Can’t I act all of them?”
“There is no need.” Li Bo Yue said, “This is not the official shoot. Your objective now is to move Yan Qing, to make her feel like you are the best candidate, the candidate that is most suited to portray her.”
Ning Ning looked down and thought about it deeply.
“How about it?” Li Bo Yue asked, “Which part are you the most confident in?”
“The first part, the small town with rumours and gossip.”
She had personally experienced that part of Yan Qing’s life. She had personally heard those rumours and gossip, personally seen Yan Qing getting attacked by them, being at her wits’ end, and getting forced step by step to the rooftop.
“Honestly speaking, that is not the best choice.” Li Bo Yue folded his arms. “A person would usually subconsciously avoid their tragic past and present their brilliance in front of others instead. Did you not realise? Yan Qing was the most sentimental when she was talking about the second part, she spent the most time talking about the third part. It would seem that she wishes to exhibit her love life and career (accomplishment) to people more.”
He smiled at Ning Ning when he got to this point. “…Not the part about her life in a small town she spent five minutes talking about.”
Ning Ning now knew approximately how long she was late for. In these five minutes Yan Qing had narrated her life in the small town.
Li Bo Yue was right, the first part was definitely not the best choice.
She should pick the second or third part for the sake of pleasing Yan Qing.
But Li Bo Yue answered a call at this moment and his brows furrowed as he listened to the call. In the end, he hung up and told Ning Ning, “We don’t have a choice.”
Ning Ning was surprised.
“Xu Yue will act out the second part, Lin Yin Yin will act out the third part.” Li Bo Yue cursed under his breath. “Damn it, they want to use us as a foil to serve as a contrast.”
He looked really angry, because not only did they play Ning Ning, they also played him. He was not as docile as Ning Ning, he was a person who would bite back the dog that had bitten him. Thus he immediately made a few phone calls then told Ning Ning coldly, “Come with me tonight and be prepared to stay up for the night.”
“What for?” Ning Ning could not help but shudder.
“We are working overtime, Dear.” Li Bo Yu answered with a smile.
A few days later, during a speech held in the hall of a certain university.
“…In 1994, I almost lost all my dignity and reputation, I even almost lost my life.” Yan Qing told the university students attending her speech, “The truth of this incident was only revealed years later. It cost me a lot of time, effort and money. What did it cost the other party?”
Yan Qing held up three fingers.
“Thirty dollars.” Yan Qing said with a smile. “Twenty dollars1 to hire someone to force a kiss on me, five dollars1 to rent a camera, the remaining money was used to develop and spread the photos. She succeeded. She used thirty dollars1 to set off a storm of rumours and gossip which almost destroyed public opinion of me.”
“That incident happened in a small town, and now, there are a lot of similar incidents happening online. Students, can someone tell me, how much does it cost to set off a storm of rumours and gossip now? Or to put it better, how much does it cost to push a post on Weibo onto the trending page?”
A few hands were raised, there was a student who shouted the answer without raising their hand. “Three thousand dollars1 per post! Paying people or bots to comment and paying VIPs to share the post are additional costs, the prices are fair so no one will be cheated of their money.”
“What the hell, there is one of them among us? He even used this opportunity to advertise?”
“Screw you! I only researched them for some knowledge. Who would want to be one of them?”
The hall erupted in laughter, even Yan Qing found it amusing. She sighed after laughing and said, “Three thousand dollars to destroy a person’s life. No one does these things in real life, but there is already a price for it on the internet.”
The laughter gradually faded, the audience looked at the white-haired woman who was wearing a little black hat on the stage. She slowly said, “The internet is a good thing. If I had it back then, I might have written about my incident and pleaded to the netizens. To ask the netizens to help me find the person who forcibly kissed me, to help me find a witness for the incident, but–”
She suddenly dragged out her words, her voice sank abruptly.
“If I could use the internet, the person who set me up could also use the internet.” Yan Qing said in a low voice, “Since the person could create a storm in real life, who knew if they could create the same storm online? When two completely opposite posts were presented to you students, which one would you believe in? Which one would you attack? How could you be sure…that you were not being manipulated? You insist on justice, but is that really justice?”
The speech lasted for around two hours. Two hours later, Yan Qing ended her speech in a round of applause. She sat in the lounge to rest for a while. The door opened and a young man smartly dressed in a suit walked in.
“Wen Yu.” Yan Qing opened her eyes and smiled at him. “What brings you here?”
“I came to attend your speech.” Wen Yu walked towards her and handed a bouquet of flowers over. “You’ve worked hard, Teacher Yan.”
“I should be the one thanking you.” Yan Qing accepted the flowers and smiled as she said, “If not for you and Director Shi back then, I would not have what I have today… Sit, sit, let’s look at something together.”
Wen Yu sat by her side and watched as she took out her phone and opened WeChat. There were videos sent by three people in it.
“I brought it up to you in the past that I wanted to make a documentary about myself. I went over to take a look at the actresses they proposed. They are all very pretty, much prettier than me when I was young.” Yan Qing smiled as she said, “I was originally invited to watch their auditions, but I am too busy. I need to fly off at once after this speech, I simply don’t have the time to drop by. So I told the three of them to send me their audition videos. Here, watch them with me, critique them while you’re at it.”
Wen Yu nodded and shifted his vision onto her phone.
She played the first video. The video was of a young actress who was quite popular. She had really good looks and figure, she was a typical vase-type beauty who would dazzle in front of one’s eyes.
She was sitting at a door, applying shoe polish on her hair, then used a comb to even the polish out.
The door was suddenly flung open and a man stepped in, he immediately took a step back while pinching his nose. He spoke in French, “Could you stop using shoe polish on your hair?”
Wen Yu heard Yan Qing laughing softly from the side, it looked like this video reminded her of a beautiful memory.
The second of Yan Qing’s three-part life—meeting a new lover in her new life overseas.
The video was very short, it ended after four minutes. Yan Qing smiled and asked Wen Yu when it ended, “What did you think?”
“It was not bad.” Wen Yu answered frankly, “Although she is lacking in acting skills, watching her act gave people a good feeling.”
Yan Qing nodded as well. She seemed a little moved, but she would not deny the others their opportunities, thus she tapped on the second video and said, “Let’s watch this one.”
The second video started playing, an older actress appeared in the video. Her looks naturally could not be compared to the previous actress, but her technique was very refined.
She was also very skillful. She was standing on a stage giving a speech, the content of the speech was coincidentally the same as her speech today, about cyber-bullying.
“Students, which one of them would you believe in? Which one of them would you attack? How would you be sure…that you are not being manipulated?” The actress looked around her. There was no one around her, but it felt like she was talking to a crowd. She was only wearing her pajamas, but she was as imposing as a warrior. “The justice you insist on, is it really justice?”
This video was not long either, it ended in five short minutes. After that Wen Yu and Yan Qing looked at each other, Yan Qing could not help but chuckle. “That actress was so good, I was just thinking, who recorded my speech and sent it to me.”
That sentence meant that she completely acknowledged the actress.
At least based on likeness, this actress named Lin Yin Yin had already completely captured her essence, the Yan Qing she had portrayed was virtually Yan Qing herself.
Wen Yu could tell that Yan Qing favoured the second actress more than the first one, she liked the other’s portrayal of the third part of her ternary life—the success of her career and her charity work. After all, this was supposed to be part biography and part public welfare film. Yan Qing wished that this film would convey ideas to the audience rather than exhibiting her personal life.
Afterwards, Yan Qing rewatched this video two more times. She felt more satisfied as she watched it, she even seemed to have forgotten the existence of the third video.
“Let’s watch the third video.” Wen Yu said.
It actually did not make a difference to him whether they watched it or not, but his good friend Li Bo Yue called him ten times consecutively and said that Yan Qing had to watch that video no matter what.
That was why Wen Yu helped to put in a word for him.
“Alright.” It also didn’t matter to Yan Qing if she watched it or not. Since Wen Yu had mentioned it, she conveniently played it. She looked tired from her speech and the two videos from before as she leaned back on the sofa, her eyes narrowed, looking like she could not concentrate.
“I’ll get you a glass of water.” Wen Yu got up and left, he heard a clack from behind him after just taking a few steps.
He turned back and saw that Yan Qing’s phone had fallen on the floor.
She was sitting on the sofa, her hands were still in the same position they were when she was holding the phone, all of her fingers were trembling slightly, she stared at the phone on the floor without blinking.
It was as if she had seen the worst nightmare of her life.
1These are in Chinese Yuan, 3000 yuan equates to approximately 428usd, 30 yuan equates to approximately 4usd.