Eternal First Love
His voice was drifting further and further away…
His figure was drifting further and further away…
The world was closing in on the sides, turning it narrow and dark, seemingly like the curtains of a stage, closing in a quiet ceremony.
Ning Ning opened her eyes.
She was sitting in the audience seat of the theater, the opening theme had just ended. <<The Person Within the Painting>> had just started screening on the snow-white screen.
Shi Zhong Tang was standing in the wooden cloister, he watched as Ning Ning and Wen Yu left, then he looked down and opened the sketchbook Wen Yu had left behind.
The drawing of Ning Ning had yet to take form. The wisteria flowers and the pillars beside her were all outlined, peeking out from behind the pillar was an indistinct mask.
Shi Zhong Tang turned his head and took a look. Behind a pillar in the cloister not far from him, a smiling mask was peeking out, saying with a smile, “Let’s strike a deal.”
Smiling Mask took a movie ticket out. There was a stamp on it, in which there was the portrait of a man.
“Help me save this man,” Smiling Mask said, “and I will tell you her secret—the secret of why she refuses to accept you.”
Ning Ning could not help but mutter at this moment, “Don’t do anything stupid.”
On the screen, Shi Zhong Tang reached out and accepted the movie ticket.
She watched as he entered the theater, watched as the poster slowly changed, watched as the title changed from <<Fraud>> to <<Escaped>>, then he stumbled out of the theater and suddenly fell on to the floor while vomiting.
With the first ticket, he changed the fate of Zhou Ai Guo the swindler.
He also found out Ning Ning’s secret.
“Tell me.” He laid on the bed, as he held the hand of the girl who was beside him. His smile was a little desolate. “Is my life but a two-hour movie to you?”
Ning Ning raised her hands to wipe her tears. She abruptly stood up from her seat and walked towards the masked person who was closest to her.
Just like last time, they had already rushed over before the movie even ended. It was as if she was the fountain of youth and there would be none left if they were late.
The movie was still playing behind her, she walked past the masked people one by one.
“That’s right, what’s your name?”
It’s not you. She walked past a person wearing a scholar mask.
“Tell me please.”
It’s not you. She walked past a person wearing a crying mask.
“It’s significant to you. In a foreign country, no, in another time and space, if a person calls you by your name, your real name… wouldn’t you like it?”
It’s not you either. She walked past a person wearing an old farmer’s mask.
Smiling Mask appeared on the movie screen behind her once again.
“Let’s strike another deal.” He took out another ticket. “Help me save another person, I will teach you how to get her to stay.”
Shi Zhong Tang looked down at the ticket. It was another movie ticket with a stamp showing a portrait within, he did not accept it this time.
“Why are you hesitating?” Smiling Mask asked.
Shi Zhong Tang, “A person could at most change the fates of two main characters right?”
Smiling Mask, “That’s right.”
Shi Zhong Tang, “My body deteriorated after changing one, I was thinking if I would get early dementia, turn bald and grow a beer belly if I change two.”
Smiling Mask, “Haha, it won’t be that scary.”
Shi Zhong Tang, “Then why don’t you do it yourself?”
“…I can’t.” Smiling Mask answered honestly, “To be honest, I am the original doorman of the theater. Once one were to take up this position, they would never be able to leave it. Any normal person wouldn’t be able to take it, right? So I want to escape. Now the reserve doorman is pursuing me to the ends of the world, I dare not return. He would tear my face off immediately.”
Shi Zhong Tang, “…That sounds a little scary, are you guys some kind of underground evil corporation?”
“Hahaha.” Smiling Mask seemed to find him funny. He asked after laughing for a while, “Then are you doing it or not?”
Shi Zhong Tang fell silent for a long time.
“…Why not?” In the end, he started laughing.
The movie narrated his thoughts the moment he accepted the movie ticket.
“If life and death is what comes between Princess Ling Shan and Li Lang, then what comes between me and her would be, time…”
Is life and death harder to overcome, or is time harder to overcome?
Ning Ning stopped in front of a person.
This person had a tall stature, he was wearing the clothes of an ancient swordsman. She had a hard time finding him as he was mixed in within a crowd of people. She slowly reached out and attempted to remove the jade mask on his face.
But she could not.
“How can this be?” Ning Ning was unwilling to give up.
“…That’s enough.” Shi Zhong Tang’s voice sounded out from behind the mask. He held her hand and smiled at her. “We meet again, that is enough for me.”
Was this enough? He became a masked person who would be chained to the movie theater for eternity. To everyone else, to his relatives and friends, he was already dead. Furthermore, the cause of his death was suicide.
Ning Ning looked at him dully for a long time, suddenly she reached her hand out. “Ticket.”
Shi Zhong Tang, “Hmm?”
Ning Ning held back her tears. “Give me your ticket.”
Shi Zhong Tang looked at her for a long time, before he started to laugh. “Not giving.”
“Give it to me!!”
Shi Zhong Tang suddenly pressed down on Ning Ning shoulders and spun her around on the spot, making her face the screen. He was like a boyfriend who was watching a movie with his girlfriend, holding her from behind, telling her intimately, “Look.”
On the screen, Shi Zhong Tang entered the theater for the second time.
The second ticket.
The second time he changed the fate of a main character.
He immediately fell face first on the ground when he came out, he started convulsing as if he had epilepsy. A female passerby took the long way around him. What a coincidence, that was the woman who had said she loved him at the banquet. He didn’t even need to wait for him to turn old and bald, she couldn’t even recognise him now, she did not even dare to get near him.
“Woah, why is it this scene.” Shi Zhong Tang frantically raised his hands to cover Ning Ning’s eyes. “Don’t look, don’t look, let’s wait for the next scene.”
“Give me the ticket.” Ning Ning’s tears made his fingers wet. “I want to change your fate.”
“…It’s fine.” Shi Zhong Tang pressed his chin on her head and laughed softly. “I’m doing very well now.”
Ning Ning, “Liar! What’s so good about turning into a masked person!”
“I’m not lying.” Shi Zhong Tang looked at the screen, he watched himself as she kissed him on the screen and smiled. “After becoming a masked person, my movie has been screening continuously. Also, they gave me special privileges because I was tricked into this. Besides having the ability to enter the movies like the other masked people, I am also allowed to watch them from the audience seats.”
“…But I very much prefer entering the movie.” His voice was slowly turning gentle, like music slowly flowing out of the keys of a piano. “I can see Dad and little brother. I can act. I can meet you. I can fall in love with you again and again. Haha, now that I think about it, I really profited from it. Everyone else could only experience first love once, but I have already experienced it twelve times…”
“Wouldn’t it be fine if you just give me your ticket!” Ning Ning would not let it go. “I can get you out of this place. You would be able to meet your father and brother. You can continue acting. You can…can meet me…”
“…If that happened, I would become an almost air-dried old man.” Shi Zhong Tang said softly, “The me in that scenario would not be able to make you the most blissful woman in the world, so this is good enough…”
Was this really good enough? Living for an eternity, forever repeating his past life.
“…Isn’t it painful?” Ning Ning turned around.
“It’s not painful.” The mask covered his expression, but even if he was showing his face, this talented actor must be pretending to be very happy. He was afraid that she wouldn’t believe him so he repeated himself, “It’s not painful.”
He hugged her tightly as he said that.
A pair of arms slowly climbed up his spine, Ning Ning hugged him back tightly as well.
The two of them hugged on the screen, the two of them hugged outside of the screen as well. It looked like the reflection in the water, the reflection in the mirror…in the end everything was but the moon in the water, the flower in the mirror.
Time had frozen this love and stored it in the past.
This was a first love that bloomed but would never be able to bear any fruit.
Clop, clop, clop. Footsteps slowly approached them from a distance. The two of them looked towards the sound, it was the Doorman.
He looked coldly at Shi Zhong Tang, clenching and cracking his fingers by the side of his body, making a threatening display. He looked like he would tear the mask off Shi Zhong Tang’s face again.
“Ah! Father-in-law!” Shi Zhong Tang addressed him loudly.
Poof! The Doorman’s head started to emit smoke, his mask started to light up with fire.
“I did not break the rules, you cannot burn me.” Shi Zhong Tang pushed Ning Ning from behind as he laughed. “Go.”
Ning Ning stumbled and fell into the Doorman’s embrace.
The Doorman protected her like a mother hen protecting its chick, the only thing that was missing was him running out of the theater with her in his mouth. He pulled and tugged Ning Ning out of the door and lectured her with exasperation along the way out.
“I told you, do not get close to that man. He is a playboy! None of what he says are true! They are all exaggerations. Exaggerations!!”
“You do not have to feel sorry for him either, he would have been swindled into the theater ever since he was targeted by Pei Xuan. It didn’t matter if you were involved!”
“He dared address me as father-in-law, this old man will burn him to death, burn him to death…”
“Papa.” Ning Ning cried out softly.
The Doorman’s rage burnt out, his fiery mask had returned to its original state.
The snow-white mask.
The mask was incomparable to Shi Zhong Tang’s mask, it was an inferior five dollar mask from a mask stall.
Ning Ning looked at the mask. How could she have forgotten? Boss Qu had once bought the same mask from a mask stall and put it on his face then laughed as he said to her, “Alright, now we are the same.”
“You are Boss Qu, right?” Ning Ning stared at him and said, “You are Papa, right?”
“I!” The Doorman was suddenly very agitated, the word ‘I’ escaped his mouth, he trembled for a moment before saying with difficulty, “…I am not.”
“You definitely are!” Ning Ning started crying. “Don’t lie to me, you definitely are!”
The Doorman did not know what to do with his hands. He helped wipe her tears with his sleeve continuously, he trembled as he did so and said, “What’s good about Boss Qu? He is so old, he is so evil, he did so many bad things…”
“But he is helping me wipe my tears right now.” Ning Ning suddenly grabbed his sleeve and looked at him with her reddened eyes. “Besides, you can choose not to be evil. You don’t have to do so many bad things…Papa, give me your ticket!”
The Doorman—which was to say Boss Qu—stiffened. He seemed to have woken up from a nice dream. Reality was very cruel, it made his body feel cold.
“…I don’t have a ticket.” He said deeply.
“No, you’re lying again!” Ning Ning stared at him, but she realised with disappointment and sadness that this was different from just now, he did not look like he was lying.
“…Everyone has a ticket, except for the doorman. You can save everyone, except for the doorman.” Boss Qu said coldly, “Besides, I don’t need saving. I want to stay here. I want revenge!!”
E/N: This is my favorite chapter in the whole series so far. If you didn’t cry you are a heartless heartless person! QAQ
…or prolly just tougher than me and our translator, lol. Send hugs to SZT!