“Life Theater is an intriguing place.” Smiling Mask looked to Life Theater to his side, he sighed deeply. “It has always been here, but not many people will notice it. Only those with despair and paranoia, those who are unresigned to their fates and have delusions of changing their fates can find it.”
He turned back and smiled at Shi Zhong Tang and Ning Ning. “It will also only open its doors to these types of people.”
After a moment of shock and anger, Shi Zhong Tang quickly calmed down and searched for a way to save himself.
“…It didn’t find me, the one who found me was you.” He had to clarify one thing first, thus he said coldly, “You lied to me. A person could only change the fate of a main character twice, but not thrice, right?”
Ning Ning was stunned, she looked at him helplessly.
Shi Zhong Tang had no concept of how many times one could change the fate of the main character, the source of his concept came from her—it was when she told him about the candle analogy! It was her who told him he could only change the fate of a main character twice!
If that was not the case.
Then the one who had lied to him…was her.
She was the accomplice of Smiling Mask!
“It’s thrice.” Smiling Mask said, then he smiled at the two of them, “Did both of you breathe a sigh of relief? Haha, don’t worry. She is not my accomplice.”
Both of them were stunned for a while, then their faces turned pale.
Smiling Mask was obviously experienced, Shi Zhong Tang attempted to probe him with words, he saw through it immediately, then used words to make fun of them.
“I admit defeat.” Shi Zhong Tang gave in a little first, then flattered him thoroughly, “You’re good. I still don’t understand what I did wrong. I only took two tickets from you, I only entered Life Theater twice, and I ended up like this. Good for you…not only did you get your wish, you even got a free facelift…”
Smiling Mask started sniggering, he seemed to have felt flattered.
This was good, this was good, the more he felt good about himself, the more he would let his guard down, the more questions he would be willing to answer.
“Boy, you were still playing with mud when I was using this trick.” Smiling Mask ruthlessly destroyed his fantasy. “You don’t have to play these tricks on me, you can ask whatever you want…before you completely become a masked person. Haha.”
Shi Zhong Tang pursed his lips.
He originally only had a small piece of a mask on his right cheek, now the right side of his face was almost covered. The speed was not too fast nor too slow, it was like the torment experienced by a person at the execution ground with a noose around his neck, waiting for his turn.
“…Since everyone can change the fate of the main character twice.” He touched his face, “Why did I end up like this? Why am I the exception?”
“You are no exception.” Smiling Mask waved his fingers at Shi Zhong Tang. “Three. You’ve changed the fate of three masked people.”
Shi Zhong Tang furrowed his brows, he suspected Smiling Mask’s math was taught by a language teacher. He had to remind Smiling Mask again, “…I only took two tickets, I only entered Life Theater twice.”
Smiling Mask glanced towards the direction of Life Theater.
A group of staff members had gathered at the entrance when no one was looking. They looked as if they were watching an outdoor movie, they silently watched the three of them while in high spirits.
“Every masked person has a ticket. You can watch what happened to them with that ticket, you can even change their fate.” Smiling Mask laughed. “But there is one person who is the exception. Not only does the person not have their own ticket, their fate is also not allowed to be changed.”
“…That person is me.” He raised his right hand up to his chest and bowed gracefully to the two of them. “The Doorman of Life Theater.”
“Former Doorman.” A cold voice rang out from behind him.
Clop, clop, clop. The sounds of footsteps slowly emerged from the darkness. A mask full of flame patterns appeared behind him, he was wearing a white Chinese-style unlined upper garment1 with a black waistband, it was the Doorman.
…So he was not the Doorman yet at this time.
“Congratulations.” Smiling Mask turned and looked at him, the mask on his face slowly peeled off along with his movement. “You have been promoted. You will be able to replace me soon enough and become the official doorman.”
A big hand reached out from in front of him and viciously pressed down on his face.
“…It’s useless.” Smiling Mask’s voice came from behind the hand. “Based on the rules of the theater, I am already free. You have no power to punish me. You should actually thank me. I would have left long ago if not for the fact that I wanted to leave a few words for you.”
The Doorman did not care. Crunch, crunch, crunch. If he could not use the powers Life Theater bestowed him to punish Smiling Mask, he would use his own power to punish him. The grip from his hand was getting stronger, he wanted to squish Smiling Mask’s head!
Smiling Mask was unable to bear it any longer.
Smiling Mask knew the Doorman well. The latter would not listen no matter how glib you were with him, he would only laugh if you were to beg, so Smiling Mask might as well laugh first.
“Hah, I would never have thought that someone would want this position.” He said mockingly, “Watching the entrance forever without being able to leave it a single step no matter rain or shine, just like a guard dog, what do you seek?”
The Doorman ignored him.
“Oh, you seek revenge.” Smiling Mask suddenly started laughing, ruthlessly and craftily. “But who would you seek revenge upon? So many years have passed by, your enemy would have already died of old age…”
“He has sons! Grandsons!” The Doorman interrupted him coldly, “I will wait here endlessly, until the day his descendant walks in!”
“So what if that happens? Can you exact your revenge then?” Smiling Mask’s words were like knives stabbing his heart. “Would your daughter come back to life after you have your revenge? She will never come back to life, you will also never leave this place, unless you defect like me. But with me as a precedent, would the theater even give you a chance? Hahahaha!!”
His laughter and the Doorman’s angry shouts echoed behind Ning Ning. She took a glance at them before she continued to help Shi Zhong Tang escape.
The streets were long and dark, streetlights lined both sides of them.
The streetlights did not illuminate a large area, they only shone in a white circle underneath it, like a spotlight on a stage. Ning Ning helped Shi Zhong Tang along the lights, their figures were swallowed by darkness for a moment before appearing under the light.
“…I should have expected it.” The process of forming the mask seemed to be very painful, the pain seemed to be increasing as more parts of the mask formed. Shi Zhong Tang put a hand on Ning Ning’s shoulder and placed his other hand on the mask. He breathed heavily. “Changing a person would affect the people around him. What would the remaining swindler think if the two other swindlers manage to escape? What would he do? He would definitely become vigilant…”
He suddenly turned and looked at Ning Ning. The mask had already covered more than half his face. It was a very good looking mask, the texture was that of a jade.
“Do you still remember the news I showed you before? Three years ago, three swindlers, a huge amount of money, all of them died in the end. I transmigrated as two of them and changed their fates. In the end, all three of them survived, but the last person went missing.” He told her, “If I’m not wrong, the person in the smiling mask is the third swindler, who is also the mastermind. His name is… Pei Xuan.”
After he said those two words, he suddenly wailed mournfully. He knelt on the ground and shivered non-stop.
Ning Ning looked at him from the side, her heart was extremely conflicted. She did not know if she should help him, she also did not know how to help him.
Shi Zhong Tang shouted in pain for a very long time before his shivers slowly stopped. He took very deep breaths while holding his face with both hands.
“…Dad always nags at me, telling me not to be rash, to consider the worst case scenario first.” He let out a laugh. “But I’m afraid if I take too long, you would already have left.”
He slowly put both his hands down and turned his face over.
A complete mask had covered his face.
With the texture of jade, smooth and shiny, it looked like someone had used a brush and dipped it on a peach flower which was growing on a branch, acquiring the brightest of red and gently brushing the tops of his eyes.
Thus the jade mask which originally made him look like a straight-laced gentleman had a burst of glamour added to it.
“That is why I don’t regret it.” He got up and walked towards Ning Ning, but stopped short in front of her.
Ning Ning was enveloped under a beam of white light which was shining down from the street light, she was standing in the light as he was standing outside of it.
“Because if you were to let me choose again, I would definitely have made the same choice.” Shi Zhong Tang laughed out. “Did you know? <<The Person Within the Painting>> was the happiest movie shooting for me. At the end, I even felt that I was Li Lang in my past life and you were Princess Ling Shan in your past life. We could meet in this lifetime because we could not be together in our previous lives.”
Ning Ning looked at him sadly, her heart felt a wave of irrepressible desolation. It would be nice if a person didn’t know what love was. If you didn’t know love, you wouldn’t know hate. If you didn’t know love, you wouldn’t know loneliness. And you wouldn’t make a mistake and ended up in the state you are today.
“I am Shi Zhong Tang in this lifetime, you are You Ling. We could not be together yet again, so we would meet in another lifetime.” Shi Zhong Tang asked with a smile, “At that time…what would your name be?”
“…Ning Ning.” Ning Ning told him softly after remaining silent for a moment, “My name is Ning Ning.”
He looked at her with surprise. He seemed to have not expected to actually get anything in return.
“Ning Ning…” He softly called out her name a few times. Suddenly he started laughing out loud, “Don’t tell me you believe in my nonsense? I lied to you.”
“I don’t like you.”
“I only like a thrilling and adventurous life.”
“I would have gone to the theater without you, is there a place that is more thrilling than it?”
“I would have eventually ended up as a masked person without you…” Shi Zhong Tang reached out and touched her face. His expression had an unprecedented gentleness and pain. “…so don’t cry, it’s not your fault.”
Am I crying? Ning Ning touched her face, it was wet.
She looked at her fingers with surprise. She abruptly pulled his arm. “Let’s go, we are escaping.”
The moment she decided to burn her life for the second time, a ball of flames lit up behind Shi Zhong Tang. An arm then reached out from behind him and grabbed the mask on his face, forcefully pulling it to the side—
The Doorman tore Shi Zhong Tang’s mask off his face right in front of Ning Ning.
The moment the mask was torn, the whole world seemed to have frozen. The moths fluttering underneath the lamps froze, the broken bottles rolling in the wind froze, the woman who was bringing in her clothes on the balcony froze. The whole world fell silent, as if doomsday had come.
Only the Doorman could move. He slowly turned around with the mask in hand. He was full of resentment and hate, but those feelings seemed to disappear the moment he saw Ning Ning.
He had officially become the doorman of the theater and had attained the power the doorman should have. He blinked, then he blinked again. Finally, he stared at Ning Ning without moving his eyes. “You are…”
1Example photo of the clothes