“You stupid fatty.”
“This is too boring, bring a watermelon, I want to play darts.”
“There’s no watermelon? Then stand there, don’t move.”
Ning Ning was holding a dart in her hand, she aimed it at him and counted, “One, two, three…”
Why are you not getting out of the way?!
“Five, six, seven…eighty, eighty-one, eighty-two…” The door opened when Ning Ning had no way to back down, Pei Xuan entered with a woman. She immediately hid the dart behind her like a little girl who had been caught red-handed pulling a prank. “You’re here.”
“It’s time for your lesson.” Pei Xuan introduced the woman behind him. “This is Teacher Li. She will be responsible for teaching you everything about etiquettes. You have to properly learn from her in the next two months.”
The teacher was a woman in her thirties or forties, but she had aged well and still looked attractive.
Her appearance reminded Ning Ning of when she first met Lian Lian—she also had red lips, wearing a cheongsam and holding an opium pipe in her hand. You could say that Lian Lian had learned well from her teacher.
“Don’t worry.” She licked and moistened her lips. “I will teach her well.”
A week later, Ning Ning knocked on the door to the study.
“Come in.” Pei Xuan said.
The door opened and Ning Ning walked in, she said in a straightforward manner, “Did I hear that wrongly? You want me to act as the illegitimate daughter of a big boss, not the lover?”
There were a few bookshelves, they were filled with books, there were Chinese and foreign books, as well as picture albums, they emitted the unique scent of books.
There was no need to be afraid of a conman who could fight, but be afraid of a cultured one... Based on what Ning Ning could see, Pei Xuan was already quite a successful conman, what was scary was that this conman was continuously improving. He had begun to read foreign books, yet she could not recognise a single squiggle on the covers of his books?
No matter the language, she only hoped that his studies would be applicable practically, so that he would leave this land and her honest people as soon as possible. Going overseas to put his theories into practice…it would be best if he went somewhere in the middle east, if he dared to trick anyone they would teach him a lesson with an AK.
“What’s the matter?” Pei Xuan closed the book and looked at her.
“Chest training, waist training, arms training, legs training…” Ning Ning tried to raise her arm…she had just finished practising and her arms were too sore to be raised. “…and walking training—including bare feet, high heels and slow walking…is this a modelling class?”
Pei Xuan pondered for a moment, then ordered the maid, “Help me bring Teacher Li over for a moment.”
“You called for me?” Teacher Li arrived quickly.
“Let’s change the training plan.” Pei Xuan said, “There’s not enough time. Reduce the time allotted for physical training, but teach her how to dress herself up. I don’t wish for her to not know how to touch up her makeup after a meal.”
“Understood.” Teacher Li leaned at the side of Pei Xuan’s chair, her right hand holding an opium pipe… After interacting with her for a few days, Ning Ning found out that Teacher Li did not smoke, she said that it would give her bad breaths. The opium pipe in her hand was but an accessory, it had the same use as her bracelets and handbags, they were there to go together with the clothes she was wearing. “What else do you want to add, or maybe you want to reduce other parts?”
“You are the professional, you decide.” Pei Xuan said, “I just want to see a beauty that would make any man’s eyes who sees her go wide by the end of the month.”
“She can make any man’s eyes go wide right now.” Teacher Li said, “She can even make them stiff, the problem is that they would go limp the moment she speaks.”
Pei Xuan and Ning Ning said in unison, “Can you be more civilised?”
“Oh, alright.” Teacher Li stopped talking dirty, she put on the look of a lonely hero. “What I meant to say is, I want to fall asleep the moment she opens her mouth. Even if she were to wear a low-cut spaghetti strap, it would not prevent me from falling asleep. She is a big failure as a woman.”
“You’re not even a man.” Ning Ning glared at her.
“No,” Teacher Li suddenly switched to a man’s voice and blandly said, “I am a man.”
Ning Ning, “…”
“Then let’s add ‘Three hundred golden sentences that would not let men fall asleep’, and ‘One thousand topics to talk about when two persons meet’. ” Pei Xuan smiled at Teacher Li, “Time waits for no man, begin.”
“Alright.” Teacher Li switched back to a female voice, charming and moving as he pulled Ning Ning away.
“Hey!” Ning Ning asked with her last gasp, “Are you really not grooming a lover for the big boss??”
Ning Ning was full of doubts over Pei Xuan which caused her usual attitude towards Mu Gua to worsen, but this fellow seemed to have awakened Mu Gua’s masochistic side—he would not react no matter how much Ning Ning tortured him. It was not exactly that there was no reaction, the fellow seemed to be quite happy at times…
Ning Ning completely did not understand what he was happy about.
People say that it was impossible to make sense of an adolescent girl, Ning Ning felt that adolescent boys were the ones who were impossible to make sense of!
Adult men were also impossible to make sense of! Like Teacher Li who was in front of her.
“A woman who goes out without makeup is no different from a woman who goes out naked.” Teacher Li slowly twisted the lipstick in his hand, “You have been going out naked for ten odd years already, it’s time to wear some clothes.”
Ning Ning, “…”
“As for the so-called ‘Three hundred golden sentences that would not let men fall asleep’…Sigh, there is no need for as many as three hundred sentences, you only have to remember three sentences.” Teacher Li twisted his waist, his eyes twinkling. “The first sentence: Wow! You are so good! The second sentence: Can you teach me? The third sentence: Me no understand, you are so good!”
Ning Ning, “…”
Was it too late to reincarnate as a man?
This abyss of misery—or you could say this hellish life—persisted for around a month. Ning Ning could not help but think about the consequences of breaching the contract after she remembered that this would persist for another month. It was then that Pei Xuan asked her, “How’s the progress of your lessons?”
The three hundred golden sentences were reduced to three, even if it were only those three sentences, they were enough to make Ning Ning sick to the stomach. She did not really want to work for Pei Xuan anyway, thus she said accommodatingly, “It’s going okay. I know how to do my makeup, three…three hundred golden sentences are also pretty much done.”
“That’s good.” Pei Xuan said with a smile, “We will have a rehearsal tomorrow.”
Ning Ning was surprised by what he said. “That quick? Am I not going to be acknowledged by him next month?”
“You are right.” Pei Xuan pushed his gold-rimmed glasses up. “I have to give you a warm-up this month in preparation for next month.”
The current date was November 1997.
It was the beginning of winter.
It had begun to snow, the white snow covered the ground, a small pair of red leather shoes walked on it, leaving behind a trail of footsteps.
Then they stopped in front of a car.
The car door opened and a man stepped out and stood in front of her. “Greetings, Young Lady.”
Ning Ning’s nose was slightly red from the cold. She looked up at Pei Xuan, her vision shifted to the reporters behind him, did they come on their own accord? Or did Pei Xuan invite them? Ning Ning guessed that it was the latter, be it the itinerary for the day, the timing for the meeting, the lines that they would read out, they were all prearranged. She thought that the reporters were no exception.
“Miss?” Ning Ning read out the lines that were prepared for her, “Did you get the wrong person?”
“I didn’t get the wrong person.” Pei Xuan took off his hat and smiled courteously at Ning Ning. “You are the granddaughter of the founder of Lian Company, a bonafide young lady.”
Click, click, click. A number of cameras captured the moment.
Pei Xuan walked towards Ning Ning then used his hands to cover her, shouting with pretense, “No photos allowed!”
Ning Ning felt chills while she stood behind him.
This scene had her feeling a sense of deja vu.
The time and place where she had met Pei Xuan, the words he had said to her, his reactions and the actions he had taken were all recorded somewhere…
They were in Lian Lian’s biography, <<Trial of the Witch>>.
This part where they were photographed was in the movie script. It was the beginning of the film, the beginning of everything.
The reporters swarmed them, they wished they could push their cameras up Ning Ning’s face. Pei Xuan frantically pushed Ning Ning into the car, which then sped off amidst the reporters chasing and shouting. On the road, he tossed something at Ning Ning and smiled. “Great job.”
“What is this?” Ning Ning asked with the box in her hands.
“Open it up and look.” Pei Xuan said.
Ning Ning opened it up and saw that there was a pair of black gloves within.
“Next month.” Pei Xuan turned the steering wheel. “Wear this to meet your family, Lian Lian.”
The car stopped at an intersection. He did not send Ning Ning home directly, when Ning Ning got off the car, she had already changed out of her red coat and little red boots—those were work uniforms for her. Now that she was home, she changed back into her grey cotton-padded jacket and cotton shoes as she walked into the little area she currently lived in.
She first greeted the landlord who was taking out the trash at the entrance, then took out some money from her pocket. “This is the rent for the month and the money for taking care of my mother…”
“No need, no need.” The landlord pushed Ning Ning’s hand which was holding the money back. “Your brother has already given me the money today.”
Ning Ning was stunned, she looked up and saw that the light in the house was light. The orange light was pouring out of the window, like a lighthouse that was pointing the way home.
She walked upstairs and opened the door with her key. Mu Gua’s excited voice rang out from within, “You’re back, I have a gift for you…”
He turned his head and saw the pair of black gloves in Ning Ning’s hands.
He was busy turning around so he had nowhere to toss what he was holding, thus he stuffed it in his clothes for the moment.
“What gift do you have for me?” Ning Ning asked as she approached him.
“…I saw that eggs was on sale on the way back, so I bought some.” Mu Gua looked up at her and smiled. “Let’s have some fried rice for dinner tonight.”
“Sure thing.” Ning Ning walked into the kitchen after answering him.
“Sis.” Mu Gua’s voice rang out from behind her, “Who gave you this pair of gloves? They look like something of a superior grade.”
“…I picked it up off the streets.” Ning Ning said.
“Oh.” Mu Gua answered, the sound of a door opening followed immediately after. “I’m going out for a while.”
“Take out the trash while you’re at it.” Ning Ning said without turning her head as she beat the eggs.
Mu Gua took the trash bag out of the door. After he was done disposing the trash, he reached into his clothes again and took out a pair of white gloves. He hesitated for a long time until a voice rang out behind him. “You can give it to me if you are not going to throw it away.”
Mu Gua quickly turned around and saw that Ning Ning had already been standing behind him for God knows how long.
She reached out and pulled on the pair of white gloves in his hands. Initially, he was unwilling to let go of them, Ning Ning crisply put her fingers in and looked up at him.
They looked at each other for a while before he let go in resignation. He said softly, “This pair is not even as good as the ones you picked up.”
“But I like them.” Ning Ning put her gloved hands on her face, she closed her eyes and smiled. “So warm.”
Mu Gua slowly turned his head and looked at her.
Two similar faces were standing beneath the streetlight. The wind whirred, snow fluttered down by the streetlight, the world was sparkling and clear, just like a snowglobe. Ning Ning opened her eyes and looked at him, she suddenly reached out and put her hands on his face that was red from the cold and asked, “Is it warm?”
“…Yes.” Mu Gua put both his hands into his pockets, he smiled as he closed his eyes. “It’s warm.”