…But before July 7th could arrive, Ning Yu Ren got into a big trouble…
“What?” Ning Ning said with surprise, “She was arrested? Why?”
Shi Zhong Tang put a finger to his lips and shushed her, then said in a low voice, “Don’t let anyone else hear this…she is at the police station along with a group of prostitutes.”
The information was not made public because Shi Zhong Tang was the first to receive it. He was usually easygoing, but once he started to move he would move very quickly. He would immediately attract the attention of every entertainment reporter within an extremely short time the moment he took off his sunglasses on the street.
By the time the reporters turned back to search for Ning Yu Ren again, they would find out that she had been bailed out. Even when they tried to buy a little information, the relevant people would not say anything, they were obviously bought off.
“You owe me one.” Shi Zhong Tang moved closer to Ning Ning’s ear and smiled as he told her the name of a cafe.
Moonlight Cafe, 7pm.
The place was not far away from the crew, plus it was quiet and secluded, actors would frequently eat here.
Ning Ning rushed over and looked around, she quickly entered the cafe then knocked on a coffee table with a checkered table cloth laid over it.
Ning Yu Ren slowly looked up from behind the table, she looked very gaunt.
Ning Ning sat across from her. She looked at the coffee cup in front of Ning Yu Ren that had already turned cold. She turned over and called for the waiter and ordered two new cups of coffee. She turned back and said, “What exactly happened to you?”
“…I didn’t do anything bad.” Ning Yu Ren said softly, “I only… I could not portray the seduction scene well. I only wanted to see… how those prostitutes do it.”
Ning Ning answered with silence.
“If I don’t do this, I really wouldn’t know how to continue acting.” Ning Yu Ren waved her hands around, looking a little lost. “Director Shi told me not to imitate others anymore, especially not famous female stars like Bai Rong, Chi Xue Li… If I am not allowed to imitate them, who else can I imitate?”
Ning Yu Ren had been scolded very badly by Director Shi in this period of time because she had subconsciously imitated current popular stars while she acted. She imitated them too realistically, she would even imitate the small gestures which the original person probably would not have noticed themselves. If you did not look closely, you would have thought you were looking at the popular stars themselves.
But this was the cast for <<The Person Within the Painting>>, not an imitation show.
“I…I don’t think I can create something out of nothing.” Ning Yu Ren pressed her eyes with a paper napkin, her eyeliner had been smudged long ago, the areas around her eyes were black. “I cannot act as someone whom I have not seen before.”
Ning Ning looked at her with complicated feelings. She initially thought Mama could achieve a breakthrough if she had similar feelings with the character in the movie, just like what Ning Ning went through…
This way, Mama would not need a movie ticket…
“…Is there a place in this world where I can interact with more people?” Ning Yu Ren seemed to have forgotten about Ning Ning’s existence, she said to herself, “I really want to go to a place that has ancient people, republic people, princesses and slave girls. A place with a lot of people, ideally people that do not exist in reality…so I can imitate all of them…
Ning Ning opened her mouth, but she did not know what to tell Ning Yu Ren. She inadvertently took a glimpse behind Ning Yu Ren, forgetting to speak momentarily.
There was a window behind Ning Yu Ren, it was closed because it was slightly cold on that day. There was a shadow at the bottom right corner of the window. Ning Ning initially thought that the window was dirty, but upon closer inspection she realised that it was a mask.
A smiling mask was looking at them through the window.
Clank. The coffee cup was tipped over, the brown of the coffee quickly seeping into the entire table. Ning Yu Ren exclaimed in surprise and stood up along with Ning Ning.
The waiter quickly came over and cleaned things up. After the confusion, Ning Ning looked at the window again and realised that the mask was not there anymore.
“Was I seeing things?” Ning Ning stared at the window, fear lingered in her heart.
The two of them left the cafe afterwards and returned to where they live. Everyone thought they were returning from a meal when they saw the two of them as the information of what happened with Ning Yu Ren was not announced. Director Shi even made a joke as he slapped his beer belly, “You guys only just came back from your meal? Don’t get fat and cause yourself to not fit into the costume tomorrow.”
“We won’t, we won’t.” Ning Ning answered with a smile. Ning Yu Ren who was behind her did not dare say a word.
The two of them walked up the stairs one after another as both of them lived on the same floor. They walked one after another in the long hallway.
Ning Yu Ren lived in the middle whilst Ning Ning lived at the end of the hallway. As such, Ning Yu Ren arrived at her room first. She opened the door and hesitated before she said in Ning Ning’s direction, “Good night.”
Ning Ning smiled and turned back, but the words ‘good night’ were stuck in her throat.
A smiling mask emerged from behind the wall in the direction from which they came, quietly looking at them.
“…What is it?” Ning Yu Ren was getting chills from Ning Ning’s expression, she quickly turned back and took a look only to see that nothing was behind her. She breathed a sigh of relief then turned and said to Ning Ning, “I’m returning to my room.”
“Oh…oh…” Ning Ning answered. Truthfully, her brain was blank, she didn’t even know what she was saying. She came back to her senses when she heard the sound of the closing door, leaving her alone in the hallway. She frantically rushed back to her room.
Ning Ning could not sleep well at night. Once she closed her eyes, she felt a mask appear beside her, thus she did not dare to open her eyes. It was not until daybreak when she finally opened her eyes with fear, before breathing a sigh of relief.
“What’s wrong?” Shi Zhong Tang touched her face while they were having a break after a scene, he said worriedly, “You looked a little frail.”
“…I didn’t sleep well last night.” Ning Ning hesitated, she did not know whether to tell him the truth.
“Then do you want me to accompany you?” Shi Zhong Tang smiled, “Actually, acting is just my side gig, I’m actually an expert in singing lullabies.”
Ning Ning rolled her eyes at him.
At this moment, a commotion rang out beside them, someone shouted, “Get him!”
The two of them looked towards the noise. They saw a tree being violently shaken by a security guard that leaves were falling from it while a reporter with a camera around his neck was clinging on to the tree for his dear life.
“Wow, that’s remarkable.” Shi Zhong Tang touched his chin, looking at the reporter who was clamouring for the security to go up and get him. “This reporter is not bad, he has a lot of guts.”
Just when he thought he was safe, a security guard brought a chainsaw over and threatened to saw the tree. It was only then that the person on the tree came down unwillingly and handed over the photos and film.
“Let me have a look.” Shi Zhong Tang grabbed the prize of victory and shared it with Ning Ning.
He was the biggest deal out of all the actors, so the photos were mostly of him. Ning Ning also suspected that this person was a fan of Shi Zhong Tang. He shot Shi Zhong Tang with good lighting and effects, but the other photos were taken candidly…
Ning Ning suddenly felt stunned as she stared at the photo in front of her.
“What is it?” Shi Zhong Tang moved closer to take a look, a corner of his mouth curved slightly upwards. “Not bad, this couple’s photo was taken quite well, I’ll mount it up later.”
The photo was taken from an upwards angle. It was taken the moment Shi Zhong Tang touched Ning Ning’s face, the leaves were colourful, the beauty was looking down, the scene looked like it came out of a poem or a painting…but that was not the point.
“Look at this.” Ning Ning asked while pointing at the corner of the photo, “Do you know this person?”
The corner of the photo included the nearby crew members. It included Director Shi who was drinking water, Ning Yu Ren who was getting her makeup touched up, a makeup artist who was bending over to pick up an eyebrow pencil, and…a person wearing a mask.
“Hmm?” Shi Zhong Tang frowned. He stared at the masked man for a while, then took the photo out of Ning Ning’s hands and said, “Let me have this for a bit.”
He brought the photo to Director Shi. She could not make out what they were saying, but the security guards started to get busy again. Unfortunately, their venture this time bore no fruits. The masked man in the photo seemed to have vanished, they could not find anything.
“This might be a prank by someone from the crew.” Shi Zhong Tang returned with the photo and shrugged. “This was probably taken from the props.”
Ning Ning took the photo from him knowing that it was not a prank. Although the figure and the mask in the photo were blurry, she was certain because she had seen it twice before.
It was a smiling mask.
Because of the false alarm that day, Director Shi specially invited everyone out for a meal after the shoot was done. Initially, everyone was happy about it, but they found out later that they were really required to slim down, so everyone was staring at a table full of vegetables.
After they left the place, quite a lot of them ran towards a roadside stall waving their money while ordering, “Three sticks of barbecued meat.”
Ning Ning looked around and found that Ning Yu Ren was also sitting in a shop, digging into a bowl of millet congee. She stepped into the shop as well. The shopkeeper placed a cup of water in front of her. She thanked the shopkeeper then took the photo out from her pocket, placed it on the table and passed it to Ning Yu Ren.
Ning Yu Ren stopped eating. She grabbed the photo and took a look then looked back at Ning Ning doubtfully.
“Do you have any impression of him?” Ning Ning asked.
Ning Yu Ren shook her head.
“He had already appeared a few times.” Ning Ning said, “The first time was at the cafe, he was looking at us through the window. The second time, he was peeking out at us in the hallway. The third time…”
She suddenly paused, sweat was rolling down her forehead.
The first time was outside the window, the second time was at the hallway, the third time was by her side…
Wouldn’t one say that the distance between the mask and the two of them was getting smaller?
Across the table, Ning Yu Ren’s eyes were slowly widening as she stared at the photo.
Ning Ning looked down at the cup filled with warm water in front of her.
Reflected on the water, was a smiling mask.
He was already behind her.