When Li Luo gets home from the prison, it’s already past eleven. He doesn’t feel like going out again, so he makes Deng Liang order a simple takeout from a restaurant nearby. Yet, he opens the box to see creamy Chinese kale, stir-fried lily bulb and celery, plain-fried shrimp…
He tries a few mouthfuls. The dishes taste so bland, and he loses his appetite. He pushes everything to Deng Liang’s side.
“Ge, you’re not eating?”
“How can I eat this? There’s not a pinch of salt or oil in them, is there?”
Deng Liang advises earnestly, “You’ve been staying up late and your schedule is busy. You can’t eat anything too oily, or else you might get a breakout or put on weight!”
“You think the equipment at my gym is just for decoration?” Li luo lifts the hem of his shirt and reveals a milky waist. “Come, come, look at my abs. Do you count any missing?”
Deng Liang hurries to cover his eyes, but he can’t help peeking through his fingers. “Damn, Ge, your body’s so erotic!”
“Do you even know how to talk properly? It’s called masculine.”
“E-Either way, it means you’re hot!” Deng Liang grabs at his own stomach flab, letting out a burp. “I’m also done. I’m seeing my goddess this afternoon. Gotta look decent.”
Li Luo laughs. “You want me to pick out your outfit?”
Deng Liang nods like crazy.
“Wait a sec. I’ll go change first.”
Li Luo walks into his closet and removes his jacket. Looking at the countless number of garments, he considers his outfit for the day.
He wore something quite simple when he visited his dad, and he’ll have to change again at the shoot, but what he’s wearing between the two occasions can’t be too casual either. Or else, if the media catches a shot of him slacking off on his appearances, his façade of an elegant young master would surely collapse.
The good thing is that he’s almost a born clotheshorse — he wouldn’t look that bad even if all he wears is an old sack. With his taste in fashion, he has always been a favored example that fashion bloggers look to. If it weren’t for this, he wouldn’t have been chosen by the G brand* to be its first Asian endorser, either.
*It’s likely that the G brand is based on Gucci.
Li Luo throws the G brand garment he just took out back into the closet.
Duan Mingyang agreed to cooperate with Li Luo, but he probably wouldn’t give the endorsement position back to Li Luo. After all, a new lover feels fresher than an old one.
Besides, he can’t even be called an old lover.
Lin Cheng can openly call him “Mingyang-ge,” and even receive an intimate “Chengcheng” in return. When Li Luo called him “Mingyang” in the past, the most he got was an indifferent “what is it?” Duan Mingyang rarely even called his name, much less nicknames like “Luoluo.”
Blergh. It sounds gross. Too cute and girly. Who’d want that?
Li Luo can’t decide. Annoyed, he shuts his eyes and picks something at random, pulling out a set of casual sportswear.
Fuck. It’s the G brand again.
A while ago, the brand thought that the endorsement was already set in stone, and so they sent him a mountain of outfits — it’s quite hard to choose something that’s not from them.
There’s no time to lose. Li Luo can only go along with it, putting on the set of clothes he picked. Afterwards, he stands in front of the full-length mirror, picking his accessories.
Beside him, his phone suddenly buzzes. He glances at the caller and selects the speakerphone option—
“Hey, hurry up if you got something to say. I’m busy.”
“I got something to say? More like you do,” Best Actor Jiang Liushen proceeds immediately with mockery. “I’ve heard it already. Duan Mingyang is taking over Shuoxing? And he’s even forcing you out of the industry? Son, let me know if you want it sorted out. As your dad, I won’t watch you die like this.”
“Yeah right.” Li Luo laughs. “You have time for me? Haven’t you had quite the buzz with that singer, the one with the last name Xia? What, your sexual orientation changed? You don’t like cute girls with big tits anymore?”
“Of course not.” Jiang Liushen pauses for a moment. “But that kid’s really quite interesting. I’ll introduce him to you someday.”
“Huh, when did Young Master Jiang become so kind?”
Jiang Liushen doesn’t continue this line of conversation. “Don’t change the subject. I’m serious. You really don’t need me for this?”
“No, I met with Duan Mingyang already, and we’ve made a peaceful deal. He won’t find trouble with me anytime soon, and I won’t make him pay for what he did either.”
“Fuck, you made a deal with Duan Mingyang?” Jiang Liushen is shocked. “Did you forget who made your dad this way?”
“I did.” Li Luo takes another necklace and holds it at his collar, comparing it to another one. His tone is calm. “So I’m going to prove his innocence.”
“You’re a lamb in a tiger’s mouth.”
“You have to go in the tiger’s den to get hold of its cub.”
“You sure you’re doing it just to save your dad? Not to rekindle things with your old lover?” Jiang Liushen continues, his tone meaningful, “A-Luo, don’t say yes to the script of the scum gong and the cheap shou*.”
*A well-known danmei trope that involves the shou (bottom) chasing after the gong (top) despite the latter’s coldness/lack of affection for the shou.
Li Luo bursts out laughing. “Where did you even learn these things? Even if I wanted to rekindle things, we need to have had a thing in the first place. Was there ever any love between us?”
“You know the answer to that quite well. Who was the one crying like an idiot back then?”
Li Luo pauses in his movements. He tosses the necklace back inside the drawer. “I was crying about my dad. I had misunderstood him for so long and felt guilty about it, okay?”
“Sure, it’s whatever you say it is. You’ve already decided anyway, so I can’t make you change your mind. But promise me. Next time you run into that guy, look at him with your nostrils.”
“Fuck off. I’m still an idol, y’know,” Li Luo curses in laughter. “Anyways, don’t worry about us two. I can make it work.”
After he hangs up, Li Luo finally manages to choose a necklace he’s satisfied with. He brushes his long hair to the side and fastens the necklace behind his neck. He spends a few moments examining himself in the mirror. Finding the hair troublesome, he takes a rubber band and ties it, but after some more examining, it still looks annoying to him.
Knock knock. Having been waiting outside for too long, Deng Liang knocks on the door. “Luo-ge, you ready?”
“Yeah.” Li Luo opens the door and starts complaining the second he walks out, “Long hair is such a pain.”
Deng Liang feels helpless, repeating for the hundred-and-eighth time, “Then cut it off.”
Li Luo doesn’t respond, pushing Deng Liang into the closet. Only after they spend some time choosing Deng Liang’s outfit does he answer for the hundred-and-ninth time—
When the bright, flamboyant Ferrari reaches the TV station, to nobody’s surprise, it’s immediately surrounded by screaming fans. Li Luo is one of the few celebrities who drive their own cars to events, and his cars are always especially extravagant. It’s impossible for him to not be recognized.
Fencing has already been set up around the TV station. The fans themselves are also quite obedient and don’t force their way inside. They only wave their banners in the outer circle, shouting their idol’s name.
Getting out of the car, Li Luo takes off his sunglasses and hangs it on his collar. He waves at his fans, grinning. “Miss me?”
He spent quite some time overseas this time, and he didn’t show his face much when he got back. It has almost been a whole month since he last appeared before his fans. Because of this, the fans seem even more enthusiastic than usual. They cup their hands around their mouths and shout, “Yes!!!”
“I miss you too.” Li Luo gives them a wink. “Remember to watch our program.”
Deng Liang walks into the TV station behind Li Luo. Deng Liang’s head still feels a little muddled from the explosion of screams just now.
His Luo-ge is really great at interacting with fans. Li Luo’s character is the suave young master type to begin with, and he always plays Gary Sue male leads. With that breathtaking face, every ordinary word that comes out of his mouth sounds like the flowering of a lotus. No matter how gross the pick-up line is, as long as he’s the one to say it, the fans would go wild.
Like how, during one of the scenes in the hit show Li Luo acted in, he pushes Zhao Shanshan’s character, the female lead, down onto the bed, unties her satin sash, and whispers into her ear—
“I want you…”
The few short frames have been repeatedly cut into countless gifs and edited images, every single one of which reposted tens of thousands of times. Everywhere he goes, girls cry rivers of blood, wailing that they want to have Li Luo’s children*.
*It sounds really creepy in English, but it’s a popular phrase used by “girlfriend-type fans” in China and usually said jokingly.
Much less fans, even Zhao Shanshan, who often plays female leads in romantic dramas and has worked with many handsome male celebrities, had to retake the scene a couple of times. Even a couple of days later, she blushed whenever she saw Li Luo, giving him quite a few flirtatious glances, obviously having gone too deep in the act.
But Li Luo is always quick to remove himself from the story. No matter how sweet and intimate the scene is, he can leave his character the moment the director calls cut. As such, he appeared quite distant, ignoring her moves.
Yet, just a few days later, people caught him and Zhao Shanshan eating together privately.
Sometimes, Deng Liang doesn’t know whether Li Luo feels anything towards these female leads either.
But right now, Li Luo and Zhan Shanshan seem to be chatting quite happily.
“I watched your show in Paris. Your catwalk was quite professional.” Zhao Shanshan tilts her head while her stylist is curling her hair, joking, “The endorsement position will fall into your hands for sure, huh? Remember to save the newest looks for me.”
Leaning against the back of his seat, Li Luo’s eyes are closed as he rests. He lets the makeup artist mess with his face, replying absent-mindedly, “Not necessarily.”
More like definitely not.
It was good enough that Duan Mingyang agreed not to force him out of the industry. Duan Mingyang must still be saving the endorsement position to make his little lover happy. He’d never return it to Li Luo.
“Why so secretive? You think I don’t know?” Zhao Shanshan grins flirtatiously. “Yang Jing went to watch the show too. She just signed the contract to be the brand’s Chinese publicity ambassador. I heard from her that you’re the new global endorser.”
Li Luo’s eyes spring open. “What?”
Zhao Shanshan is surprised. “You really didn’t know? Maybe they haven’t told you yet. She just signed it yesterday. The brand would probably contact you soon.”
Li Luo turns to his assistant. “Did you know this?”
Deng Liang shakes his head. “Mr. Luo never told me.”
Before he can dial the number, Luo Peng calls first.
“A-Luo, you’re the best. How did you make Mr. Duan change his mind?”
“What do you mean?”
“The endorsement! The brand already emailed me. They’d send somebody for the contract tomorrow. You happy now?” Luo Peng beams.
But Li Luo is unexpectedly calm. After a few seconds, he asks, “Then what about Lin Cheng?”
“Does he know yet?”
“Not yet… Are you worried that he’d be disappointed? But he never wanted it in the first place. Why do you care?”
“Never mind. I’ll go talk to him.”
Li Luo hangs up right then. He then gestures for the stylist to wait a moment as he heads out. Just as he reaches the entrance, somebody pushes through the door.
“Hello, Mr. Li.” The person is wearing an ironed suit and has a serious-looking face. He pushes up his glasses, a pair of sharp eyes glinting behind them. “I’m the new manager assigned to you by Mr. Duan — I’m Jin Ren. I’ll be following you from now on.”
Li Luo shakes Jin Ren’s hand in quite a polite way. “Nice to meet you. Talk to my assistant for now. I’m going to make a call outside.”
The moment Li Luo steps outside, a curse spills from his lips. “Fuck.”
As usual, Duan Mingyang gives no consideration to other people’s feelings, changing the endorser and switching his manager at will. He doesn’t give him any time to prepare mentally at all.
The call rings a few times before being answered. Lin Cheng’s clear voice comes from the other side. “Luo-ge! What’s up?”
“Xiao-Cheng, the endorsement… was given back to me.”
After Li Luo says it, he feels even more like a white lotus* deliberately flaunting in front of his rival. To prevent a misunderstanding, he adds, “I didn’t ask for it. Mr. Duan gave it to me, uh… out of his own volition.”
*Usually a female character who pretends to be innocent.
… Fuck, why does he sound even more like a white lotus?
Lin Cheng seems to be a little surprised. “Huh… Oh, that’s good, isn’t it?”
Li Luo chooses his words carefully. “If you want the position, I can talk to Mr. Duan about it.” The opportunity isn’t so important to him now, anyway.
Lin Cheng laughs. “What are you talking about? Luo-ge, I spent so much effort convincing Mingyang-ge to give you the endorsement position.”
Li Luo’s pacing steps halt. “… You asked him to change it?”
Before Lin Cheng has the chance to answer, another male voice comes from his end of the phone. “Chengcheng, who are you talking to? I bought you mousse cake. Come have some.”
Lin Cheng replies to the person. “It’s Luo-ge. Mingyang-ge, do you want to talk?”
Duan Mingyang really takes the phone over. He asks coldly, “What business do you have with him?”
Li Luo swallows, easing the soreness at his throat. “Why do you care? Lin Cheng should be training at the company right now. Where did you take him?”
“He caught a cold a few days ago. I requested sick leave for him on his behalf. He’s living with me right now.”
“Hah, already living together, Mr. Duan? Are you his parent? What right do you have to request for sick leave for him?”
“I’m his boss,” Duan Mingyang speaks contemptously, “and I’m your boss too.”
Li Luo snorts. “You’re not signing the contract until tomorrow, Mr. Duan, and you’re already putting on airs?”
“I’m only performing my duties ahead of time.” Duan Mingyang tells Lin Cheng to go have some cake before he seems to sit down. His guarded tone feels a little more relaxed. “Right, are you pleased with your new manager, Mr. Li?”
“Not really. I much prefer the pretty girl from before. With such a serious guy around, I feel like I’ve lost my motivation to do work.”
“Mr. Li, your source of motivation seems to be quite shallow indeed.” Duan Mingyang continues, “He’ll supervise your work from now on. If you slack off or misbehave, I’ll know immediately.”
“So what if you know?” Li Luo doesn’t care. “You’ll try to force me out of the industry again?”
“That doesn’t seem to work on you, Mr. Li, so I’ve come up with another idea.”
A hint of mockery makes its way into Duan Mingyang’s voice.
“If you make me dissatisfied again, I’ll have the stylist… cut off your hair.”