“Has she woken up?”
“Nonsense, I saw her open her eyes!”
“Really, she hasn’t. It was probably just a reflex.”
“She has to wake up soon, or we’ll end up losing everything!”
“But she’s still unconscious, how can she wake up?”
“I’ll do it!”
“Wu… Qing… Luan! Wake up! Wake up, wake up, wake up, sis! If you don’t wake up, we won’t have a single penny left! Wake up!”
In an antique room, a chubby middle-aged man crawled onto the bed, vigorously shaking a woman who was still unconscious.
“Brother, please stop! You’ll shake her to death like this!” Beside him, a thin female assistant rushed forward, desperately trying to calm the man down.
In the midst of vigorous shaking and noisy arguments, Wu Qingluan finally opened her eyes.
“Brother Guo, are you trying to kill me?” Wu Qingluan raised her hand and pushed the man who had been shaking her off the bed.
“Ouch!” The man rolled off the floor like a ball, but quickly climbed back up, jubilantly exclaiming, “She’s finally awake, my lady! If you don’t get up and start working, we’ll be in legal trouble!”
Wu Qingluan slowly sat up, looking around. ‘Did I just time travel?’
She glanced at the two people standing by her bed: Brother Guo, her agent, dressed in a black shirt and flowery shorts, wearing flip-flops; Xiao Ma, her personal assistant, in a white T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers.
Sure enough, she had been mistaken. She was still a poor working woman in modern society!
Wu Qingluan, a female star under the Giant Star Entertainment Group, 30 years old, unmarried, had been working in the entertainment industry since she came of age. She had always been in the realm of “not quite famous but not entirely unknown,” barely considered an A-list actress.
However, recently, she had struck gold by receiving an unprecedented opportunity – playing the female lead in a film directed by the renowned director Li, and her co-star was none other than the crown prince of Star Path Group, Qin Rong. He was a rising star who had become incredibly popular in the past two years, with exceptional resources at his disposal.
Director Li always aimed for awards, and this was almost Wu Qingluan’s last chance to make it big. At her age, she had already worked in both television and film, but she had never won any noteworthy awards. If she successfully completed this film, she could practically secure the Best Actress award for the next edition.
However, right after Wu Qingluan joined the cast, an accident occurred. She stumbled over a doorstep while filming a night scene, hitting her head, and had been in a coma for three days now.
If it weren’t for Brother Guo’s forceful shaking, she might not have awakened at all.
Wu Qingluan touched her forehead. “I have a bit of a headache.”
Brother Guo said decisively, “No, you don’t. I’ll tell Director Li that you’re perfectly fine and ready to shoot. Xiao Ma, take her to freshen up!”
“Wait!” Wu Qingluan stopped Brother Guo. “I’m not doing this film!”
“What did you say?!” Brother Guo screamed, clutching his face, resembling the distorted figure in the famous painting “The Scream.”
Wu Qingluan threw back the covers and declared firmly, “I said, I’m not, filming, this, movie!”
A thick stack of documents landed on Wu Qingluan’s face, courtesy of Brother Guo. “Black and white, you signed it yourself. How dare you say you won’t film anymore?”
Brother Guo revealed his capitalist fangs and menacingly said, “This heaven-sent opportunity was obtained after pulling every string possible. Apart from Director Li, no one can refuse to film it! Wu Qingluan, you haven’t just entered the industry yesterday; you understand the rules, right?”
Wu Qingluan glanced through the contract and calculated the compensation she would have to pay for breaking it. She cried out, “Brother Guo, please listen to me. I didn’t intend to breach the contract. There’s something eerie going on with this production, sniffle, sniffle!”
“Are you talking nonsense? Did you really hit your head?” Brother Guo was exasperated.
“It’s true!” Wu Qingluan said in a trembling voice. “Who would believe me if I told you? I’ve been feeling uneasy since the first day I joined the set. On several nights, especially in the late hours…,” she shuddered, “someone has been in my room. I can’t see them, but I can feel them watching me!”
Brother Guo and Xiao Ma exchanged glances, and Brother Guo tried to reason with her in a patronizing tone, “You haven’t even started filming yet, have you?”
“No!” Wu Qingluan lifted the blanket covering her, raised her left leg, and shook it in front of them. “See it?”
Brother Guo leaned in closer. “What?”
Xiao Ma admiringly commented, “Sis, your legs are really long and beautiful.”
“Focus! Do you see the ghostly handprint or not?” Wu Qingluan put her leg down and anxiously searched for it.
Brother Guo sneered, making it clear he didn’t believe her.
Wu Qingluan still had lingering fear in her heart. “It’s true! When have I ever broken a contract? I tripped over the doorstep that day, didn’t I? It wasn’t a trip; it was when I approached the doorstep, something invisible grabbed my calf. I got frightened and fell.”
“Oh, are you sure something invisible grabbed you and not because your dress got caught?” Brother Guo questioned.
“Brother Guo, open your mind!” Wu Qingluan wailed. “I can still feel that thing on my leg now. It’s terrifying, it’s all hairy, with long nails, incredibly sharp! This place is really haunted. I can’t stay here anymore. I have a vivid imagination, and I’ve been afraid of ghosts since I was a child!”
Wu Qingluan’s description was detailed, and Brother Guo’s expression became more solemn.
Wu Qingluan directed Xiao Ma, “Quickly help me pack my things; we need to leave immediately. If I stay any longer, I might lose my life.”
“Okay!” Xiao Ma hurriedly went to grab the suitcase.
“Stop!” Brother Guo slapped his thigh and shouted, “Wu Qingluan, stop being dramatic. Where would ghosts come from in broad daylight? You’ve been unconscious for three days, and the whole production has been on hold because of you. The loss of productivity has already reached astronomical figures. If you don’t get back to work, you don’t need to say it; Director Li will kick us out.”
“Please, Brother Guo, I won’t be able to perform if I’m scared. We’ll have to leave sooner or later,” Wu Qingluan pleaded.
Brother Guo was relentless. “If you can afford the consequences, feel free to leave.”
Wu Qingluan sighed.
Seeing her deflate, Brother Guo switched to a more gentle tone. “You’re just tired, and that’s causing these hallucinations. Besides, the role you’re playing in this movie is inherently mysterious. It’s natural to feel a bit jumpy when you get too into character. Have a drink of water and calm down. The place we rented is Qinglong Temple, a bustling Taoist temple. Even if there were ghosts, they wouldn’t be able to enter. Stop overthinking it. Xiao Ma, you stay with Qingluan for these days, and I’ll go talk to Director Li.”
Wu Qingluan sank back onto the bed. It seemed that quitting the production was not an option. Given Brother Guo’s temperament, even if there were real ghosts, he would force her to finish the film. But she was really, really scared!
“Big sis,” Xiao Ma saw her looking pale and offered, “how about we go light some incense together? Some mystical things can be quite inexplicable. Let’s pray, and maybe everything will be fine.”
The Qinglong Temple, rented by the production team, was one of the most famous Taoist temples in Huaguo. Located on Qinglong Mountain in the city of Yuezhou, it covered a vast area and had a rich history. It was also renowned as one of the most responsive temples in Huaguo.
However, since it was a weekday morning, there weren’t many tourists in the temple.
Wu Qingluan and Xiao Ma entered the main hall, and as soon as they crossed the threshold, a gentle breeze brushed against their faces, carrying a faint, refreshing fragrance. Both of them felt immediately rejuvenated.
Xiao Ma remarked, “Big sis, there’s a divine aura here.”
“Um, I can feel it too,” Wu Qingluan nodded. “Let’s offer our prayers quickly.”
Wu Qingluan and Xiao Ma each took three sticks of incense and devoutly knelt on the cushions.
In the main hall, the deities being worshipped were the Three Pure Ones of Daoism: Yuanshi Tianzun in the Jade Clear Heaven, Lingbao Tianzun in the Upper Clear Heaven, and Daode Tianzun in the Great Clear Heaven. These three figures held the highest position in the Huaguo Daoist tradition, and they were typically enshrined in the main hall of Daoist temples.
The statues of these three deities in Qinglong Temple were exquisitely crafted, exuding an otherworldly aura, truly exceptional in their craftsmanship.
Wu Qingluan chanted softly, “Emperor Jade Yuanshi Tianzun, please bless me, protect me from ghostly intrusions, and help me complete my work here quickly.”
As Wu Qingluan lifted her head, she was horrified to find that the three deity statues had disappeared, replaced by a gleaming, cold sword, entirely silver-white and brimming with a murderous aura.
“Ahh!” Wu Qingluan exclaimed, dropping the incense from her hand.
“What’s wrong, sis?” Xiao Ma was equally startled by her reaction.
Wu Qingluan pointed ahead, “The statues have disappeared!”
“What are you talking about, sis? Aren’t those the statues?” Xiao Ma was becoming frustrated.
Wu Qingluan looked closely and saw that the three smiling, old deities were still seated on their golden pedestals. There was no sword in sight.
Wu Qingluan stood up, terrified, and said, “I won’t pray anymore!”
“Sis!” Xiao Ma called out to Wu Qingluan but eventually gave up and ran away.
Wu Qingluan ran around Qinglong Temple in panic, confirming that there was indeed something wrong with this place, and she was definitely entangled with something strange.
Thud! Wu Qingluan collided heavily with someone.
Crash! Something else fell and shattered on the ground.
The person caught her by the waist, helping her steady herself, and incidentally, cradled her in their arms. A faint, cold fragrance wafted into Wu Qingluan’s nose.
She looked up and was left dumbfounded by the person she had bumped into.
‘Oh my goodness, he’s absolutely stunning!’ Wu Qingluan thought to herself. ‘Look at that tall nose bridge, those well-defined eyebrows. This is what they mean by ‘face like a jade crown’ and ‘eyes like bright stars.’ I’ve never been so awestruck by someone’s appearance before. And that tall, lean physique…’
Having mingled in the entertainment industry for so many years, Wu Qingluan had seen her fair share of handsome men and beautiful women.
However, she had never been genuinely impressed by anyone’s looks until now. The person before her was truly handsome. But suddenly, Wu Qingluan shivered involuntarily.
Why did his gaze feel so cold? His expression seemed to suggest that she owed him money or something.
It was only then that Wu Qingluan realized she was still leaning against him. She quickly pushed herself away and stammered, “I’m sorry!”
With a bit of distance between them now, Wu Qingluan could see him more clearly.
Was he a member of their production team?
He was dressed in a pristine white Daoist robe, giving off an ethereal and cold aura, with a perfect posture.
Wait a minute, why didn’t she remember anyone in their production team looking this otherworldly?
“You broke my antique,” the handsome man spoke, his voice exuding a magnetic quality that sent a shiver down Wu Qingluan’s spine.
“What?” Wu Qingluan hadn’t quite grasped the situation.
“You broke my antique. How do you plan to compensate for it?”