“It’s indeed a way out, but I can’t do this for life. It’s more taxing and harmful to my health than leaking Heaven’s secret.”
“That’s true. But, Sister, how did you get on this path?”
“Me? I was abandoned by my parents at my Master’s doorstep on the mountains. Master passed away a few years ago, and thus, I decided to leave the mountains,” answered An Xiaoning succinctly.
“Oh, so that’s how. You must have considered your Master to be your greatest kin.”
With a nod, An Xiaoning said, “Indeed. Don’t you think the production unit we joined seems rather low-budget? Notice how they didn’t even ask to check our identity cards before hiring us.”
“Perhaps every production unit is different.”
The clothing coordinator called for Mei Yangyang the moment she finished her sentence. She then hurried over before even finishing her meal.
An Xiaoning proceeded to the dressing room only to be told by the makeup artist that they were going to be filming on the mountains that day. The other actors involved were waiting in the room with their faces done, and all she had to do was to touch up their makeup.
She had meant for An Xiaoning to follow the production unit to the mountains to film, without the need for the makeup artist to tag along.
She agreed immediately, got all her beauty and makeup tools ready, and stood at the side to wait for the female lead, Sun Weiwei.
After the makeup artist finished doing Sun Weiwei’s makeup, An Xiaoning stood up, thinking that she was free to leave. Little did she expect that Sun Weiwei’s assistant would remind her at the last minute, “Sis Weiwei, your sponsor had asked for you to upload a selfie of yourself holding up a bottle of beverage onto Weibo in the afternoon 1 .”
“I’ll do just that. How annoying,” Sun Weiwei lamented in irritation.
She reached into her purse for 5 yuan and handed it to An Xiaoning. “Go get me a bottle of Brand X green tea,” she instructed.
An Xiaoning took the money and immediately went to buy the beverage.
There was a huge crowd of fans waiting at the door, perhaps because they had gotten the news that Sun Weiwei was going to be involved in outdoor filming that day. An Xiaoning took about 20 minutes to and fro. The very moment she entered the dressing room, she was faced with a lashing, “Did you die outside? You took forever!”
“There were too many fans outside. I had to exit from the back door to go buy the drink,” explained An Xiaoning calmly.
Sun Weiwei grabbed the green tea beverage from An Xiaoning and her purse from her assistant before leaving the dressing room, wearing a cap and shades.
“Follow along, quick,” the makeup artist signalled.
An Xiaoning nodded and followed closely behind Sun Weiwei and her assistant. She watched as Sun Weiwei greeted her screaming fans excitedly, a completely different person from the Sun Weiwei back in the dressing room.
Sun Weiwei managed to make her way into the nanny van, escorted by her bodyguards. Meanwhile, An Xiaoning boarded the coach and followed the rest of the production team, including the videographers, to the filming location.
The location of filming was on Heyuan Mountain, which was situated in the rural area of the city.
Unthinkingly grasping her clothes tightly, An Xiaoning felt extreme chill the moment she alighted from the coach. “What type of place is this? It’s so different from the city! Why is it so cold?” fumed Sun Weiwei as she got down from the nanny van.
“Hurry and get to your positions. The faster we finish filming, the earlier we get to leave. Hurry up, quick,” instructed the director, gesturing for everyone to get into position.
Sun Weiwei’s assistant proceeded to drape a jacket over her while An Xiaoning looked out for the actors’ makeup, giving them touch-ups when necessary. When it was Sun Weiwei’s turn, she harshly instructed, “You’d better do a good job,” with a stern and hostile look on her face.
When An Xiaoning was putting some powder onto Sun Weiwei’s face, she was shocked to see a wound which was concealed by a thick layer of powder. Noticing An Xiaoning staring at her, Sun Weiwei snapped, “What are you looking at? Never seen a face before? Go stand aside once you’re done, don’t be an eyesore and get in the way.”
“You’re good to go.”
“So annoying,” uttered Sun Weiwei. Carrying a highly-unapproachable aura, she seemed to detest others looking at her face.
During the process of filming, Sun Weiwei could not seem to get into it and ended up putting on a very unnatural performance. The director had no choice but to call her out, “What’s wrong? Are you unwell?”
“I need some rest,” she answered, her hands shaky, before turning around to enter the nanny van.
The director then proceeded to film the other scenes involving the other actors.
An Xiaoning constantly weaved through the crowd, looking out for actors to touch up their faded makeup.
“Whoever that is… come here and touch up Sis Weiwei’s makeup,” ordered Sun Weiwei’s assistant.
A strange, pungent odour attacked An Xiaoning’s senses as soon as she got into the van. Afraid to ask about it, she simply moved next to Sun Weiwei and went ahead with touching up her makeup all over again. However, An Xiaoning soon realized that there was a spot on her face that cannot be touched up anymore.
“Ms. Sun, there’s pus oozing out of the wound on your face. It shouldn’t be covered with makeup anymore, lest it becomes infected and deteriorates.”
Without consideration, Sun Weiwei retorted, “Would I not be aware of that? How am I supposed to continue filming without makeup? Are you going to stand in for me?”
An Xiaoning was about to explode with anger, but she suppressed it and kept mum. She reminded herself not to get into too much conflict, especially since she wanted to keep the job for at least a month.
It was lucky that the wound was rather small and, after cleaning away the pus and debris around the spot, it could be concealed very well with a fresh layer of powder.
Just as she was about to stand up and leave, carrying her tools, An Xiaoning accidentally tripped over the foot of Sun Weiwei’s assistant, who was sitting opposite her. She fell forward and landed on the seat next to the assistant. A small pouch was crushed beneath her.
Before An Xiaoning could even react, Sun Weiwei pushed her aside and hollered while staring daggers at her, “You idiot! I’ll kill you if you damaged my precious treasure.”
She then unzipped the pouch and took out a small, clear jar containing a white powdered substance. “Sis Weiwei…” exclaimed her assistant frantically.
Although Sun Weiwei had subconsciously put the jar back into her pouch, An Xiaoning still managed to catch a glimpse of it nonetheless.
An Xiaoning let out a huge sigh. She felt a strong urge to vent her anger and give Sun Weiwei a tight slap for chiding her, even though she did not sit on the jar on purpose. However, on second thought, she decided to endure the humiliation and not retaliate.
After closing the door of the van, Sun Weiwei’s assistant worriedly apologized, “I’m sorry, Sis Weiwei. If it weren’t for my leg, she wouldn’t have tripped and that wouldn’t have happened…”
Before she could finish her sentence, Sun Weiwei interjected, “She can’t continue working with the production unit. Come here, I’ll tell you something.”
The assistant leaned in, and Sun Weiwei whispered into her ear before ending off her sentence by saying, “Do as I instructed.”
It was already past 5 PM by the time the filming ended. An Xiaoning was exhausted. Although it was not labor-intensive, constantly having to stand around and touch up the actors’ makeup was also tiring. Thus, as soon as she was finished with her duties that day, she quickly rushed to board the coach.
At that very moment, Sun Weiwei’s assistant appeared again and asked, “What’s your name?”
“An Ning,” An Xiaoning said. It was the name she had used during the job application. She removed the character ‘Xiao’ to prevent people from recognizing her name.
“Oh, An Ning, will you come with me for a while? I have something to ask you.”
“But we’re leaving real soon. You can ask me about it when we get back,” answered An Xiaoning. She was feeling that something was amiss, though she did not know why the assistant was looking for her.