The movie had begun.
A filament lamp was crackling above his head.
Mu Gua looked up from the chair he was sitting on, his face was covered with a wet towel as he let out a painful cry.
A hand took the towel off and a man asked him, “Talk, have you been talking to Lian Lian from a long time ago?”
Mu Gua caught his breath, then shook his head.
“Where did she run off to?”
Mu Gua shook his head again.
“Who else knows about this?”
“…Just me.” Mu Gua looked at the ceiling with a dazed expression, then shifted his sight to the man, “Just me.”
“Good.” The other party let out a laugh before he placed the towel on Mu Gua’s face again.
Air was running out, his nose was getting filled with water. Mu Gua struggled as if he was drowning. On the verge of death, his short life flashed across his eyes.
The spring flowers blossomed, the figure of a girl who seemed to be standing in front of a source of light was approaching him with a smile.
“Angel…” He murmured in his heart.
The girl slowly walked towards him, the glow around her slowly disappeared and turned into an unbecoming set of old clothes. Suddenly, he was slapped across the face, then was grabbed by the collar and shouted at, “Fatass! Give me my character specification back!”
Mu Gua opened his eyes, the filament lamp and the viscous man had both disappeared, the only thing that was with him was his fat body. He smiled as his fats jiggled. “Sis…”
“How should I put it?” Shi Zhong Tang sat on the audience seat, he touched his chin with his right hand, as if he was a picky interviewer, he said regretfully, “Your performance this time is a failure.”
“…What makes you say that?” Ning Ning was stunned, she turned and looked at him.
“Look.” Shi Zhong Tang pointed at the screen with his chin.
On the screen, Ning Ning settled the school withdrawal procedures on her own, then walked into a hotel. She asked with hesitation, “Are you hiring?”
Oily plates were placed into a sink, coming out clean after. A pair of tender hands were placed into a sink, coming out full of frostbites after.
At the end of the month, this pair of frostbitten hands held onto a few crumpled pieces of cash and handed them to Mu Gua.
“Get yourself a new set of uniform and stationery.” Ning Ning told Mu Gua with a tired expression, “Don’t let your schoolmates make fun of you, saying that you are a kid that your parents don’t love.”
Mu Gua looked at her hands and did not take the money for a long time.
“You knew that the script on hand has problems, especially the character specifications of Mu Er, why did you still act according to it?” On the audience seats, Shi Zhong Tang looked at Ning Ning sincerely and asked, “Is it because it is easier to act according to the script?”
Ning Ning’s face turned red, her eyes had a look of agitation of being misunderstood, “That’s not it…”
“Then why?” Shi Zhong Tang asked as he looked back at the screen.
Pei Xuan’s face appeared on screen. With his gold-framed glasses, he sat in a refined manner on the sofa across from Mu Gua and pushed a contract in front of him.
“Is it because of him?” Shi Zhong Tang asked.
Ning Ning pursed her lips, placing both of her hands on her knees and clenched her fingers tightly.
Pei Xuan’s face remained on screen, but the person sitting across him had changed to Ning Ning, another contract was pushed forward.
“Ning Ning, look.” Shi Zhong Tang put his arm around her shoulders and said while he laughed, “A movie is around one and a half hours. What we are looking at now is the edited version of life, but real life is not that short. When you are in the movie, when you are another person, you can actually do a lot of things, try a lot of things that you usually would not or would be too afraid to do…”
“…How can I do that?” Ning Ning said in a low voice, “How can I change another person’s life wily nily?”
“So that’s it.” Shi Zhong Tang said, this time his voice did not have doubt, it had a tone of surety, he laughed at Ning Ning and said, “You are afraid.”
“Should I not be afraid?” Ning Ning asked him in return.
“Who are you afraid of? Pei Xuan? He is indeed quite scary. You may lose if you were to go up against him, but you can’t not have the courage to go up against him.” Shi Zhong Tang gazed towards the screen. “Take a look at what you are doing.”
Ning Ning sprang up from her seat, but Shi Zhong Tang forcefully pushed her back down.
It was painful to be forced to watch this movie. Just like those trash movies she used to act in—shame, remorse, she was infinitely disappointed at herself…
“You are acting with your hands and feet bound because you are too scared. Be it Mu Er or Lian Lian, they both had the same feeling from your portrayal.” Shi Zhong Tang shook his head. “The feeling of one who was resigned to their fate.”
Ning Ning opened her mouth, but she realised that she was unable to retort. No amount of excuses would be as convincing as what the actual movie was showing. Within the screen, her Mu Er and Lian Lian took turns to appear. Her expressions, movement, and even her tone of speech and habits were completely different, but the melancholy between her eyebrows were exactly the same.
They were even doing the same thing…submitting.
“Submitting to your mother, submitting to your brother, submitting to Pei Xuan, submitting to fate.” Shi Zhong Tang shook his head, “You did not even retaliate once, do you think that is normal?”
That was of course not normal.
Submitting to her mother was to be expected, because she held all the power in the family, she managed money and thus managed Ning Ning.
But after her mother hadmet up with an accident, Ning Ning would hold all the power in the family, she would manage money and Mu Gua.
Based on this situation, she could have chosen to take revenge on the little fatty, she could also choose to let bygones be bygones and work together. The one thing that was the least likely was for her to continue to bear the same hardship without complaints, making herself his slave.
This wasn’t a melodrama film, it was reality. It was the life of an actual person, it bore the weight of a person’s happiness, anger, sorrow, joy, love, hate along with the most genuine yet most selfish thoughts.
Ning Ning did not carefully consider this at all.
Looking back, she realised that she had only acted according to Lian Lian’s biography, according to the script, according to her character specification.
But it just so happened that both the script and character specification were fake.
“Ning Ning, the script is not important. In Life Theater, no one would shout NG at you, no one would blame you for wasting film. You don’t have to be so nervous every time, you don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes.” Shi Zhong Tang gently caressed Ning Ning’s cheeks. “Although people might say life is a play, but a play has a fixed setting, fixed characters, fixed opening and a fixed ending. Life is different. There are limitless possibilities waiting for you to explore! You can be afraid! But you cannot be stagnant, you have to be willing to try.”
Boom. Those words were like a hammer on Ning Ning’s shell. They had smashed her shell into pieces, they fell to the floor. The first piece was overcautiousness, the second was prudence, the third was wariness. Although there were still quite a lot of the shell left, she at least had started to regret her performance in this movie.
Ning Ning sighed once more. “Why did you not tell me this before, if you had told me…”
Her vision shifted to the movie screen. At the end of the story, the scene shifted back to the beginning. Under the filament lamp, a wet towel covered Mu Gua’s face, this time, he slowly stopped struggling…
“It’s never too late to change.” Shi Zhong Tang laughed at her as he said this.
Ning Ning wanted to laugh too, but she couldn’t.
Is it true that it’s never too late?
“…It’s getting late.” Ning Ning murmured, “If Mu Er had chosen to become Lian Lian at the end, she would be working towards the same goal. She would know who I am, Pei Xuan would too.”
As she said that, Ning Ning could not help but look at the entrance of Life Theater.
“…Maybe once I go out, there would be someone outside waiting for me.” Ning Ning muttered.
Like she said.
At the entrance of Life Theater, in the silent night with no stars nor moon.
A car was parked in front of the entrance. The interior of the car could not be seen clearly due to the dark skies. All you could make out was the figure of a person, sitting in the driver’s seat, looking in the direction of the entrance.