ITTMB 160

What Hurts Me

Director Chen fell sick.

The news spread like wildfire, some unscrupulous tabloids had already published his obituary.


“He’s now holding on to his last breath.” Li Bo Yue placed the contract in front of Ning Ning. “His time should be up around the time this show finishes filming. The tabloids are not wrong, this is probably his last piece of work in his life.”

In other words, his swan song.

Ning Ning picked up the contract to take a look, she casually asked a question, “What happened to the villagers afterwards?”

A sentence that came out of nowhere, but Li Bo Yue followed up on it.

“You came out without finishing <<A Chinese (Boy) Ghost Story>>?” He said with a smile.


There was a saying: Everyone is an actor in life.

Ning Ning did not believe that up until this moment, she believed it now.

The best actor was right beside her. Li Bo Yue had known about the existence of Life Theater long ago, he might even have known that Mama had been relying on the theater to hone her acting skills, that she was also relying on the theater to hone her acting skills.

“…There was something I have always thought of as a coincidence,” Ning Ning said, “every time I return from the theater, I will always receive the roles that are extremely similar to the roles I transmigrated as…”

Li Bo Yue looked at her with a smile.

That expression of non surprise seemed to have already given her the answer.


“My father and your mother are from the same village,” he crossed both his hands on his knees as he said leisurely, “if they were to have stayed in the Ning Village and never left, then they would have probably been married according to the traditions of the village—you would have to address me as Big Brother.”

Ning Ning looked at him without saying anything.

“Of course, it’s fine if you want to address me as such now.” Li Bo Yue said with a smile, “Because even after they had left the village, my father continued to care for your mother. He also cared for you—of course, I’m the same as well…I care for you.”

His eyes were burning with ambition, it clearly showed that his care was not out of sincerity…but out of ambition.


Ning Ning stared at him for a while then asked, “What do you want?”

Li Bo Yue leaned back on the sofa, he seemed to be reminiscing, also seemed to be organising his words.

“All these while, my dad has been researching Ning Village together with Pei Xuan, they have been researching Life Opera House.” He said slowly, “At first, I thought he was being conned, afterwards, I realised…it was real. Life Opera House really existed in this world, there is really a place which could turn a person immortal.”

…Immortal?


Ning Ning thought hard about it, but did not expect that his main area of concern was actually this. She was stunned for a moment before she said, “Don’t…tell me that you want to be a masked person?”

“Masked person?” Li Bo Yue shook his head and smiled, “No, I think the doorman is more suitable for me.”

“…Do you know what you’re talking about?” Ning Ning looked at him grimly. “Do you know what the doorman does?”

“I only know that everyone dies. It was the case for Pei Xuan, it’s the case for Director Chen, it would be the case for me.” Li Bo Yue looked at her with an equally grim expression. “Pei Xuan left even earlier than Director Chen. He left last year, the time frame was not that far off from your mother, do you know what his last regret was?”

It couldn’t be…


Li Bo Yue started smiling. “He regretted that he left the theater. No matter how rich he became, he would still get old, fall sick, and die. Yet, if he had remained as the doorman, then even after we have all died, he would still be alive.”

“So, you’re serious?” Ning Ning looked at him in disbelief. “You really want to be a masked person?”

He didn’t know…or had Pei Xuan say something on his deathbed that misled him, causing him to only see the benefits of being a masked person, blind to the downsides of being a masked person.

“A masked person wouldn’t be good enough.” Li Bo Yue shook his head, seeming to have remembered something, his eyes revealed the lingering fear in his heart. “Those people from the Ning Village…they went in without a ticket, they suffered too much under the then doorman. I don’t want to end up like them. If there was a choice, humans would also choose the side that rules, not the side that’s being controlled by someone, isn’t that so?”


He reached out towards Ning Ning.

His face was ever familiar, with an ambitious and determined smile.

“I’ve helped you so much,” he said, “you have to help me too.”

In the face of death, there were people who would start to come up with detailed long term plans, there were people who reached the verge of madness.


“Cut!! Cut!! Cut! Cut! Cut!!”

Two months later, on the set of <<Phantom of the Theater>>, Director Chen shouted cut repeatedly from a wheelchair. He ended up coughing violently from shouting, his assistant who was standing beside him frantically poured his medicine into his palm.

“Cough, cough, cough…” Director Chen stuffed the medicine in his mouth as he shivered, then grabbed a cup of warm water and took a few sips out of it and swallowed the medicine. He panted for a long while before he told Ning Ning, “Come with me for a moment.”

Ning Ning pushed his wheelchair to the side to take a break.


In two months, Director Chen had lost quite a lot of weight. He lost so much weight that he seemed deformed, no matter who saw him, they would advise him to quickly rest in bed, not to expend his remaining life, but he wouldn’t listen, he would rather burn his life out for this movie.

“Ning Ning,” he asked Ning Ning while seated on the wheelchair with his back to her, “have you ever loved a man?”

Ning Ning remembered the fear from getting forcefully matchmade, the corner of her mouth twitched. “I have.”

Director Chen laughed coldly. “Not the familial kind of love, can you love a person like how I love movies?”

Ning Ning fell silent.


The wheelchair stopped by the corridor. Red maple leaves were scattering down outside of the corridor, the red leaves fell onto the wooden corridor one by one, at the former mansion of the Qu family which turned into the Orchid Theater afterwards. This was the first place that was used to film <<Phantom of the Theater>>, it was also the last place that was being used to film <<Phantom of the Theater>>.

“…Go fall in love with someone,” Director Chen said abruptly, “I need you to fall in love with someone.”

“…Who?” Ning Ning asked.

“Anyone will do,” Director Chen said, “all I need is for you to use the passion of having been in love into this movie, bring about, bring about the phantom.”

The wind blew a piece of red leaf past Ning Ning’s temple. She raised a hand to gather her hair and shook her head. “…I can’t do that.”

Director Chen looked back at her. His eyes that looked exceptionally big due to his emaciation had a very terrifying look.

“Director Chen, for the sake of a movie, you can do anything, you can ignore anyone, but I cannot.” Ning Ning told him without changing her expression, “I cannot harm another person for the sake of a movie.”


After all, a movie is a movie, real life is real life.

On a sour note, after getting a huge scolding, Ning Ning left the set cutting a sorry figure. There were regrets, but if she were to do that again, she would probably have said and done the same thing.

“I don’t want to turn into a person like Director Chen after all…” She murmured.

“Ning Ning!”

Ning Ning looked back and saw a person waiting by the entrance.


“What brings you here?” She asked.

Wen Yu walked towards her with a smile. ‘Aunt Xiao Ning’ was what he addressed her in private, in front of outsiders, he still addressed her directly with her name so that they would not attract strange looks.

“Here.” He handed the gift box in his arms to Ning Ning.

Ning Ning took it out of his hands, “What’s this?”

Wen Yu smiled, “Open it up and take a look?”


Ning Ning opened the box, in it was a costume—the blue costume the phantom wore in the show.

“I heard that you have not been progressing well recently.” Wen Yu smiled gently. “I was pondering if you would want to do what you did in the past, to act as the phantom—be it in the show or real life—so that you can maintain your mental state.”

Ning Ning did have that kind of plan. She closed the box and smiled at him… “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Wen Yu paused for a moment, before he told her solemnly, “Also, you can call me anytime, I will answer your call no matter when you call me.”


Back home, she placed the box on a chair, her clothes falling to the floor piece by piece. Ning Ning wore that costume in front of the mirror, then she touched her own reflection.

Ning Ning let out a mocking laugh, “Can I only wear this at home in the future?”

With Director Chen’s temper, even if she was the female lead, it would not be impossible for him to have her changed.

“You might as well. Wear it for me, for me alone.” Shi Zhong Tang sat down behind her, placing both his palms up, like an infatuated audience member eagerly anticipating sharing a stage with their favourite actor.


The lips in the mirror curved up, Ning Ning turned around and tossed her long-flowing sleeves as she sang, “Orioles dream-waking coil their song, through all the brilliant riot of the new season.”

The flowing sleeves were tossed at Shi Zhong Tang who looked up and smiled. The snow white sleeves fell on the mask on his face, bit by bit they slid off from his mask onto his chest. He gently grabbed them in his palm.

“Orioles dream-waking coil their song, through all the brilliant riot of the new season. His peach blossom eyes looking toward Ning Ning, he sang as well, with an even more tender tone, with even more sincerity, as if he had shattered his heart and put it into the song, like he would die at the end of the song.

Sweet nothings might be moving, but they were not as moving as his singing.


Ning Ning paused for a moment, before she followed up, “I am the partner born of the fairest line, for whom you wait as the river of years rolls past.

“I am the partner born of the fairest line, for whom you wait as the river of years rolls past.”


Everywhere I have searched in compassion for you, secluded in your chamber.

“Everywhere I have searched in compassion for you, secluded in your chamber.”


There, just beyond this railing, peony lined against the mound of weather Tai-hu rocks.

“There, just beyond this railing, peony lined against the mound of weather Tai-hu rocks.”


Somewhere at some past time you and I met…” Ning Ning’s voice turned softer and softer until it finally went completely quiet.

“Why aren’t you singing anymore?” Shi Zhong Tang tugged the flowing sleeves towards himself, pulling her closer.

Ning Ning’s chest rose and fell, she gazed at him silently. How could she continue singing? He did not say anything to profess his love, but every word he sang, every line, was telling her: I love you.

“..There’s no need.” Ning Ning steeled her heart and said coldly, “I don’t need you to do that, there’s so many shows I can act in, I don’t have to act as the phantom.”


After a pause, she looked down. “…What Director Chen said, don’t listen to him.”

I don’t want to love or harm a person for the sake of a movie.

Shi Zhong Tang looked up at her for a moment. He got up and walked towards her, the flowing sleeves fell from between his fingers, he lifted Ning Ning’s face with his hand.

“But, you, not loving me…,” he looked down at her and said, “that’s what hurts me.”


After a while, he started laughing helplessly again, his other hand also caressing her face. “I was joking, don’t take it to heart… Don’t cry, I’m not deliberately trying to make things difficult for you.”

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1 thought on “ITTMB 160”

  1. I don’t know who’s the maddest here: LBY, Director Chen or even SZT. Well, Director Chen’s reaction is kind of expected. LBY’s is just flabbergasting. SZT’s makes me so sad because it shows very clearly that NN was never going to be able to save him from the theatre. The fact that the theatre asked for a doorman, and LBY even recommends himself to become it… In the end, the theatre wins?

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