“Is that you?” Smoke slowly billowed out of a pair of red lips, a woman in a cheongsam who was holding an opium pipe in her right hand slowly walked towards Ning Ning. She looked like a socialite who walked out of an old republic photo. She reached out and lifted Ning Ning’s chin to have a better look at her. “You don’t look as pretty as you are on TV.”
“It proves that she is photogenic.” Li Bo Yue answered for Ning Ning, “Her looks are well suited for the big screen.”
The woman snorted softly, it was not clear whether she was mocking Ning Ning or had accepted the explanation.
“Sit.” The woman in the cheongsam turned around, walked to the sofa and sat down.
“You should know who I am right?”
“I do.” Ning Ning looked at the other party.
The other party was a well-known woman like Yan Qing.
What was different was that while Yan Qing was famous, this woman was infamous.
“Tell me.” The woman in the cheongsam lifted her chin slightly, looking at Ning Ning in a slightly haughty manner. “What kind of person am I in your eyes?”
Ning Ning certainly could curry favour with her by complimenting her, but did the famous woman in front of her need Ning Ning to do so? Maybe the thing she had experienced the most in life was having people compliment her in her face while vilifying her behind her back.
“There are two types of women in the world, one who makes a living out of talent and one who makes a living with her looks.” Thus, Ning Ning answered honestly, “You are the latter.”
Li Bo Yue frantically shot a look at Ning Ning, he did not expect the woman to laugh upon hearing what Ning Ning said.
“That was quite well put.” The woman gently touched her face and sighed deeply. “Most people don’t see things as clearly as you do, they call me a scheming bitch, but with a face like mine, would I even need to scheme?”
She laughed at Ning Ning as she finished her sentence.
Ning Ning could not help but be smittened by her smile even though she was a woman.
There was a kind of beauty which transcended age, gender and personality, the woman in front of Ning Ning certainly was that kind of beauty.
The granddaughter of the founder of Lian Company.
Throughout her life, she had never displayed any political savvy or intelligence. This woman who did not even complete high school had often performed foolishly compared to her siblings and cousins who had graduated from famous schools. But even then, she remained as the grandchildren her grandfather doted on the most, holding the highest stake of the company.
Because her smile was one of an angel’s, innocent and cute.
That was why the old master was not the only one who liked her, there were a lot of others. These people were people of all ages, most were rich men from rich families, there was even a fugitive who escaped from prison to help her, helping her become who she was today, establishing her vagabond reputation.
“As for me, I initially wanted to pick Mei Xin to be the female lead.” Lian Lian said, “Because she is the prettiest actress in show business.”
“Why didn’t you pick her?” Ning Ning asked.
“Because I found out that even though she qualifies as a celebrity, she does not qualify as an actress.” Lian Lian sighed softly, “She cannot portray two characters at the same time.”
Celebrities and actors had gradually become two different kinds of careers since an unknown period in time. The former depended on popularity, the latter depended on acting skills. Most of the time the two didn’t go together, if someone were to achieve both statuses, the person would definitely be a megastar.
“As for you, your acting skills could barely pass.” Lian Lian opened her eyes and looked at Ning Ning. “But you are not pretty enough.”
Li Bo Yue spoke before Ning Ning had a chance to open her mouth.
“Our Ning Ning is certainly not that spectacular in real life, or you could say that she is not as spectacular as what you’ll see on screen.” Li Bo Yue said with a smile, “There is no hurry to start filming this movie anyway, how about this? Let’s talk after <<The Great Empire>> has begun airing.”
Lian Lian tilted her head and looked at him for a moment before nodding. “Deal.”
She then turned and smiled at Ning Ning. “I will wait in anticipation to see how you will look on screen.”
The days flew by as she waited.
<<The Great Empire>> successfully wrapped up filming, Ning Ning as one of the main stars naturally had to do a series of promotions, she was as busy as a bee. In the meantime, Li Bo Yue informed her that he had received the call from Yan Qing’s side, asking if Ning Ning was willing to act as the supporting character—Yun Lin.
“What did you say?” Ning Ning asked.
“What do you think?” Li Bo Yue waved his hand casually. “I told them to go to hell.”
“…You really said that?” Ning Ning was shocked.
“Are you dumb? Of course I said that in my mind.” Li Bo Yue gave her a look of disdain. “I did not verbally agree or disagree, I just glossed over it. I will tell them to go to hell if you land the Lian Lian role, otherwise, falling back on the Yun Lin role is not bad either.”
“…Wow, how cunning.”
“Whom did I do it for!!”
Later on, <<The Great Empire>> started broadcasting.
It was first aired online, then on television. Ning Ning also watched it on her computer at home the day it aired—mainly to look at the audience’s comments.
As an actress widely known as a vase, she had fans…mostly haters. This group of haters had their own sense of justice. They would deem a movie as bad, as long as her name appeared in the credits. A movie would be a terrible film if she was the lead character or the supporting character.
So before the show started airing, there were already quite a lot of negative comments: “I feel bad for my Movie Emperor Chen”, “I feel bad for my Little Zhu”, “I feel bad for my Sister Rou”. They wrote that they felt bad for every single important character once, it was as if acting in the same show as Ning Ning would forever pull down their intelligence and acting skills.
All these commotions stopped abruptly after the first episode aired.
“Her Royal Highness Princess Qing Luan!”
A graceful and poised Ning Ning appeared on screen accompanied by the shrill shout of a eunuch.
She walked in from the entrance. Every minister, general, eunuch and court lady bowed down as she walked by.
Then, she stopped in front of Chen Shuang He and blandly said, “Raise your head.”
Chen Shuang He pursed his lips and furrowed his brows in the shot, looking as if he was resisting something, but he failed and slowly raised his head. He tried his best to hide the ambition in his eyes as he carefully looked at her.
She looked at him without expression before slowly cracking a smile at him.
There was a type of smile which transcended age, transcended gender, transcended personality, that type of smile had to be the smile that she was displaying right now.
Once this smile appeared in the shot, countless people reacted in countless different ways.
A hater quickly searched the end of the episode to look at the credits after being stunned for a moment, he wanted to make sure he was not seeing things, thus he used the eye drops three times before typing a single comment: “The Ning Ning I have seen in the past might have been a fake, this is the real Ning Ning.”
A famous movie critic on Weibo recovered from their shock and deleted the pre-written thousand-word bad review, then opened a blank document to start writing: “The most amazing smiles in the history of film: number one……number two……number three……number ten, Ning Ning. The smile she debuted on <<The Great Empire>> reminds people of the famous painting <<Mona Lisa>>. It was equally mysterious, people are unable to grasp whether she was happy, disgusted, scared or angry…This time I think we need to get an emotion analysis software from the Amsterdam University to analyse the percentages of emotions in her smile.”
Li Bo Yue made a call as he watched his computer, “What are the ratings now? Oh…hahahaha!”
“Dad…”Chen Shuang He laid on a sofa within the family theater of his villa, his patience had reached its limits. He turned around and gritted his teeth. “You have already rewound this thirty-two times, can we have a break and finish the episode first?”
Chen Guan Chao seemed to not have heard what he said, smiling as he rewound the show back to when Ning Ning entered the scene. Upon seeing this, Chen Shuang He wailed mournfully as he covered his eyes with his hands.
“Meow.” An orange fat cat jumped on the table, its paw was stepping on the keyboard. An arm grabbed the cat down from the keyboard and gently patted it within an embrace.
The owner of the white-gloved arm was Wen Yu.
He looked at the computer screen without blinking, watching Ning Ning on the screen. Her face was reflected in his eyes, but another person appeared before him.
“…You Ling?” He said softly.
He unwittingly stroked the cat harder as the name escaped his mouth. The orange cat meowed and leapt off his lap, its tail swept Wen Yu’s phone off the table to the floor.
Wen Yu bent over and picked his phone up then silently looked at it… silently looking at Ning Ning’s number on the screen.
A few minutes later, Ning Ning’s phone rang.
Ning Ning pressed the mute button and looked at the screen, it was an unknown number.
“Hello?” She answered the phone.
“It’s me.” Lian Lian’s voice rang out from the other side of the call, her voice had a trace of arrogance. “I am watching your performance in <<The Great Empire>>.”
“What do you think?” Ning Ning asked.
“You do look better on screen.” Lian Lian said.
“Then…” The corners of Ning Ning’s mouth slowly turned upwards into a smile. No matter how many times she had experienced it, she would feel full of anticipation when she received a new role.
“The female lead is yours.” Lian Lian said, “Right, there’s something I forgot to tell you.”
“What is it?” Ning Ning asked.
“I heard that you auditioned for Yan Qing’s film?” Lian Lian asked.
Ning Ning’s heart skipped a beat, she did not know if Lian Lian had a deeper meaning in bringing this up now.
“I’m different from her, I don’t like to preach or talk about life values.” Lian Lian laughed, “To be honest, the reason I invested in this film is for fame and fortune. It’s a commercial film under the guise of being adapted from a true story. I want more audience, higher box office and better reputation.”
Such a big appetite.
“So I looked for the best screenwriter, the best director, and you.” Lian Lian told Ning Ning, “Don’t disappoint me. You have to portray me well…and Mu Er as well.”
The script was quickly sent to Ning Ning.
Film Title: <<Trial of the Witch>>.
Female Lead: Lian Lian.
Female Supporting Role: Mu Er.
Ning Ning opened it to take a look, it was really an extremely stereotypical story.
Lian Lian and Mu Er were a pair of siblings, they were both born into the same poor family, both dropped out of school at the same age, both had an annoying little brother, they also had the same ambition of becoming a star on television one day. They were originally supposed to continue living the same lives, but in the winter of 1997, a man found Lian Lian.
He said to her, “Greetings, Young Lady.”
Lian Lian, “Young lady? You must have mistaken me for someone else.”
“I did not make a mistake.” The man took off his hat and smiled at her politely. “You are the granddaughter of Lian Company’s founder who had led a wandering life in poverty, a true to life young lady.”
Thus the lives of the two girls branched out from here.
And the name of this man that had changed the destiny of Lian Lian was…
Ning Ning’s fingers which were holding the script turned slightly pale as they trembled slightly.
She looked at the name and quietly read it out, “Pei Xuan…”