The First Adopter
In the early morning, Ning Ning woke up alone while Ning Yu Ren and Wen Yu were still asleep .
“I really don’t understand.” She looked at Wen Yu who was sleeping beside her and thought, “Isn’t it cold to hug me to sleep? This body is as cold as a corpse…”
Wen Yu looked like he was lacking a sense of security, or maybe he was afraid that she didn’t have enough sense of security? He slept while hugging her like a koala, his arms were wrapping around her tightly while he was making chewing sounds twice.
Ning Ning carefully pulled her hand out. Her palm was a little numb so she stretched her fingers, she let out an exclamation. Was it because she had a warm meal yesterday? Her fingers actually had some warmth…
The door to the room was gently opened and closed without waking up anyone inside of it.
The courtyard had a layer of light fog. Ning Ning walked under the plum tree, she opened the hand-held mirror in her palm and said to the reflection, “Qu Ning’er.”
Qu Ning’er appeared in the mirror.
Ning Ning was not afraid or angry like she was in the past, she even laughed and talked to her calmly, “You have been helping me all along. If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t have passed the audition for <<Ugly Girl>>, not to mention <<Phantom of the Theater>> afterwards.”
Qu Ning’er also laughed.
“But you have been hindering me along the way. You don’t allow me to love nor to act as other characters.” Ning Ning’s smile slowly faded, she told Qu Ning’er word by word in a serious manner, “I’m grateful towards you, but I’m sorry, I want to part ways with you now.”
Qu Ning’er started to cry all of a sudden. As she did so she started shouting at Ning Ning angrily from inside the mirror.
But Ning Ning closed the mirror with a clack. Qu Ning’er’s expression, her voice, all of them were enclosed within.
“Let’s start anew.” Ning Ning said to herself while letting out a deep breath, “I cannot achieve instant success and become an actress like Mama. Mama also started from flaring her nostrils. Let’s take things one step at a time. Don’t think about being able to become the Phantom. I want to do well in ‘Seeing Heaven’ first.”
Starting anew is very difficult. It was especially difficult for Ning Ning. If she had started out at around the same level as Ning Yu Ren, then the others would be able to see her improvements. But her performance in the beginning was too eye-catching, so all everyone saw was how she had regressed since then.
Especially Chen Guan Chao. He now looked at Ning Ning with a face of a person who had been lied to, like a person who found a girlfriend only to find out that she was a man after she took off her makeup.
These mockery, pity, and resentment were all accepted readily by Ning Ning.
She was not required for the rehearsal, so she sat and observed from the audience seats. After the rehearsal was over, she called out, “Can you come with me for a bit?”
Ning Yu Ren stopped in her tracks, turned around and looked at Ning Ning.
They arrived at the corridor where Ning Ning first gave Ning Yu Ren guidance. Ning Ning modestly asked, “Can you teach me how to act in this scene?”
Ning Yu Ren was momentarily shocked, she looked down and tugged at her clothes. “Why are you asking me? Everyone said I acted poorly.”
“You improve the fastest among everyone here.” Ning Ning calmly said, “Do you remember? You didn’t know how to act two months ago, now you are already able to decently act on the stage with another person.”
No one had ever praised her so directly, Ning Yu Ren blushed slightly. After a while she looked up. “Look at me.”
As she said that, she regulated her expression, then smiled happily at Ning Ning. The tip of her brows had a hint of an amorous and sophisticated feeling. Upon seeing the object of her admiration, she showed her most seductive smile. This same expression, this same smile, Ning Ning had seen these on another person—Socialite Mu Rong.
“You should recognise it.” Ning Yu Ren laughed. “I am imitating Mu Rong.”
“Why her?” Ning Ning asked.
“Because she is Young Master Chen’s girlfriend.” Ning Yu Ren’s answer was quite simple. “Young Master Chen is the male lead, he…he is a little weird. I don’t know how I would like him, but Mu Rong is his girlfriend, she definitely likes him, so I cannot go wrong imitating her.”
After a short pause, a wave of embarrassment flushed across Ning Yu Ren’s face. She said in a low voice, “I know this kind of imitation is very clumsy, but I, I really cannot be like you. To sleep in a coffin, eat cold meals, not interact with people, and close yourself off in the cellar everyday for the sake of being close to a character… If I think about it, I came from my hometown to participate in this movie. Maybe all I wanted was to stand out among my peers, but I absolutely was not prepared to bear the hardships. Do…do you look down on me?”
“Why would I?” Ning Ning walked over and gave her a hug. Ning Ning gently told her, “You chose a very tough road, I only want to root for you.”
Ning Ning could not take Ning Yu Ren’s path, likewise Ning Yu Ren could not take Ning Ning’s path. Ning Ning was not innately good at imitating another person, or you could say that she could do so, but she could not do it as accurately as Ning Yu Ren.
“No, maybe I can do it—exchange it with a method I am good at.” Ning Ning slowly took out a few paper cranes as she thought.
Wen Yu took down all the narrations of methods of acting from his questioning, but the child could not differentiate the cast from the crew. So, out of the people he had asked, only a portion of them were actors, the others include: the chef, the drama teacher, the prop master etc…
She had originally thought that the cranes would be useless, but now she tightly held on to the cranes in her hand and laughed. “I have figured out how to act in this film now.”
But before that, she still needed to make arrangements for Wen Yu.
According to the Doorman’s hint, Wen Yu’s life spanned from 1980 to 1988. They were close to 1988. Furthermore, Ning Ning didn’t know if the movie would end once they get past 1988. As a precaution, she wanted to look for a good family that would adopt Wen Yu before that day came.
Her few relatives did not seem like good people. Not only did Ning Ning have difficulties providing for herself, there was also a good chance she would leave at the end of the movie, so none of them were good candidates. Thankfully, Wen Yu had a good relationship with the cast. Ning Ning asked around and obtained an address from Cook Chen who indicated that their senior might be able to adopt Wen Yu.
“Let’s go.” Ning Ning arrived at the entrance of the theater, she reached her hand out to Wen Yu who was waiting there.
Wen Yu looked a little unhappy. He only walked over after a while, placing his tiny hand into hers.
“…Master Cao is the owner of a restaurant, you can eat whatever you want if you stay with him. Maybe the next time I see you, you would have gotten fat.” Looking at how Wen Yu was in low spirits, Ning Ning immediately changed her tone. “You will only be there for a few days. If you don’t think you can get along with him, I will fetch you back here.”
Wen Yu forcefully smiled, he suddenly felt something behind him and turned around.
Behind him, a man stared at him with mouth agape.
It was the skinny man who refused to adopt Wen Yu at the family meeting. The way he looked at Wen Yu was as if Wen Yu was a monster, or a dried corpse that had crawled out of a coffin; his face uncontrollably turned pale and he started to sweat. After a few moments, he hesitantly called out, “Wen, Wen Yu?”
Wen Yu abruptly turned back and ran.
“Where are you going?” Ning Ning chased after Wen Yu and followed him onto a bus. The ticketer stopped her and told her to get a ticket. She had no choice but to look down and open her purse, taking out the money she had borrowed from Ning Yu Ren which was supposed to be for a gift for Master Cao and used it for two bus tickets.
She didn’t realise that as she was looking down and buying the tickets, a man was chasing the bus like a mad man, shouting Wen Yu’s and her names in the process.
Wen Yu saw it, but he turned around and pretended not to see.
When the bus arrived at the bus stop, Ning Ning led Wen Yu off the bus. In front was a small and dirty restaurant. An overweight man was sitting at the entrance, removing feathers from a duck with his mouth. He looked up at them. “You guys are…”
“We are here because of Master Xiao Liu’s1 introduction.” Ning Ning said as she pushed Wen Yu forward.
The overweight man was happy to see such a clean and pretty child. “I have waited for so long. Come in, come in!” He said with a duck in hand.
Master Cao had a wife, but she was poor in health and could not give him a child in ten odd years. Now that she was getting on in her years, they decided to adopt a child after some discussions. They preferred a boy so he could take over the restaurant in the future. At first, Master Cao was very passionate towards the two of them, he personally prepared a few expensive dishes, he also continuously put meat and vegetables on Wen Yu’s bowl. But once Wen Yu took out a paper with ‘Thank You’ for him to read, Master Cao furrowed his brow, “What’s this? He’s a mute?”
“He is not a natural born mute. He received some trauma due to his mother’s death.” Ning Ning frantically explained.
“Then when will he recover?” Master Cao asked.
There were no concrete answers for this, Ning Ning also did not dare to give him false promises. Maybe he wanted to show respect to the person who gave the recommendation, Master Cao suddenly drank a few mouthfuls of wine and sighed, “Forget it. A chef needs his hands and brains, not his mouth. He can stay here for a few days, we will wait for my wife to return from the hospital to see if the two of them can get along.”
Ning Ning breathed a sigh of relief. It was easy to find a family that could provide for Wen Yu, but it would not be easy to find a family that would not discriminate against a mute. From the looks of it, Master Cao seemed to be able to accept it for now, all that was left was for his wife to accept it. Ning Ning turned around and touched Wen Yu’s head and told him gently, “Get along well with Master Cao, I will come back to look for you after a few days.”
Wen Yu looked up and looked at her silently with his pitch black eyes.
In the evening, just as Ning Ning arrived at the theater, the person who introduced Master Cao to her ran over frantically. “Wen Xiao Ning, it’s a disaster!”
Ning Ning stared blankly, “What’s wrong?”
“My senior’s shop assistant just called, he said that my senior’s house was on fire!” The other party said with horror, “It’s burnt, everything’s burnt down!”
Ning Ning was startled, she rushed out of the theater entrance in a crazed manner and ran to Master Cao’s house without stopping.
Just like what the person said, everything was burnt down.
The restaurant which was bustling with people and was filled with food smell in the morning was now in ruins. Neighbours and firefighters were putting out the last bit of fire. Ning Ning rushed toward them and asked one of them, “What happened to the people inside?”
“Sigh, they burned to death.” The other party seemed to be the neighbour, he shook his head and said, “I told Old Cao long ago, drink less when you cook, but he never listens. He must have been drinking again this time, then fell into the wok (because of it).”
Ning Ning loosened her grip on him. As she was about to rush into the rubble, someone beside her pulled her back.
“Let go! Let go of me!” Ning Ning struggled with all her might, until a small hand tugged the corner of her clothes. She looked down, tears suddenly filled her eyes, she squatted down and hugged him.
With only his face blackened, Wen Yu, who seemed to be fine, hugged her back.
“Are you alright?” Ning Ning choked.
Wen Yu nodded and patted her back as if to console her. His chin was pressing down on her shoulder, his eyes were looking at the direction of the restaurant, the remaining embers were reflected in his pitch black pupils.
1They are referring to Cook Chen with his first name here.