Once the endorsement position is settled, a series of brand-related events immediately begins to unfold. The week after signing the contract, Li Luo returns to Paris to continue filming the print ad that had almost fallen flat.
The brand is relieved as well. All of their previous proposals had been based on Li Luo’s personal style and characteristics. If the spokesperson was really going to be changed, they would’ve had to start over completely or look for someone with a similar style, which was quite difficult. Thus, being able to continue their cooperation, both sides feel that it’s a hard-earned success. Using all their energy, they push the program’s progression forward without any delay.
The only one who can’t seem to feel excited is probably Li Luo himself.
“Tsk… It’s so cold. Why do I have to suffer through this again?”
He wraps his coat tighter around himself, briskly walking toward somewhere against the wind. Even the tips of his fingers are trembling.
Deng Liang hurries after him, passing him a thermos. “Luo-ge, have some hot water. You don’t wanna catch a cold.”
Li Luo takes the bottle and unscrews the lid. Steam rises from within, forming a swirling white fog against the cold air.
It’s the beginning of spring. The temperature hasn’t risen much yet, and the brand is ruthlessly making him do the shoot in flimsy clothes atop a tall building. The gusts of wind are messing up his hair, and he has a splitting headache. Eyes red from the cold, he can’t help but let a fierce light escape his eyes — it should be quite a frightening look.
Yet, the photographer gives him a thumb-up and praises him with unintelligible French. He only understands after his interpreter tells him what the photographer said. “Great eyes! Very arrogant! Very wild! Please keep it up!”
The wild and arrogant Young Master Li is now squatting in a corner, shivering in his coat and relishing in the steam from the thermos in his cupped hands. From afar, he almost looks like a tired, middle-aged veteran.
“Fuck, can’t they change the location? Can’t they just photoshop the background in?” Only after Li Luo takes two gulps of hot water does his stomach feel warmer. “How many more outfits left?”
“Five more. Try to bear with it for now, Luo-ge.”
Deng Liang can’t do anything about it either. In this shoot, Li Luo is only wearing a single layer of shirt in every outfit; he can’t even stick on heating pads underneath. It’s the norm for ordinary models to shoot outdoors on a cold day, however, Li Luo isn’t a professional model, but a celebrity.
And he’s a superstar celebrity who grew up pampered, unmotivated, and who always chose the easier path at that.
Simply agreeing to this shoot and managing to hold up in this “dreadful environment” until now are two of the most dedicated, praiseworthy acts of his celebrity career.
The good thing is that despite the abundance of complaints, Li Luo doesn’t throw a tantrum. He does everything the photographer tells him to. When evening comes, he finally completes all of the tasks within the scheduled time.
“Which restaurant do you want to eat at, Luo-ge?” Deng Liang shows him the phone while scrolling at the screen. On the page are some of Paris’s signature restaurants. “You were so tired today; you have to reward yourself.”
Exhausted, Li Luo leans against the seat of the van. He has adjusted his seat down to the lowest possible position. Massaging his temples, he says, “You guys can go ahead and eat. Just bring back a few things for me. I’m gonna take a nap in the hotel first. My headache is killing me.”
Sitting on the other side, Jin Ren inspects the schedule in his laptop. “Yes, rest is important. We have to get up at five tomorrow morning, and then fly to England. Expect to arrive at the shoot at eight, finish styling at nine-thirty, and—”
“Stop, stop!” Li Luo can’t take it any longer. “Let’s worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. Can’t I get some sleep first?”
“Yes”, Jin Ren replies again and stops talking. Instead, he turns to his laptop and begins typing, probably sending an update to whomever he’s reporting his work to.
Li Luo sneers and closes his eyes. He doesn’t have the energy to think about those unnecessary things. It’s such a bother.
The next day, when they arrive in England, a vehicle directly brings the group from the airport to the location of the shoot.
Li Luo is really tired. He sleeps for most of the car ride and is only woken up by Deng Liang when they’re almost there.
Yawning, he peels his eyes just slightly open, blearily looking out the car window. When his gaze focuses, his mind slowly clears — a sudden realization that this street… looks a little familiar.
“Which street are we shooting on?” he asks.
Jin Ren immediately answers with its name.
Li Luo is now completely awake.
The street… is just about a mile away from his college.
This was where Duan Mingyang’s rented place used to be.
The scenery outside the window speeds by. It’s mostly the same as that of his memory. But there are some changes too. The old buildings have either been repainted or torn down for the construction of new buildings. For example, he doesn’t remember the name of the place where they’re doing the shoot this time. It must’ve been built in the last few years.
The car drives on. As it passes somewhere, Li Luo can’t help but pay attention.
That rented apartment… is gone too.
It’s now a Western-style restaurant, one that looks pretty and romantic. Outside of it is a fence, pots of plants such as sunflowers and bluebells placed neatly on top. On the other side of the wooden door are a few tables, perfect for al-fresco dining. Many customers are sitting there, chatting as they dine, enjoying the warm sunlight of early spring.
Just looking at this, who would expect that only a few years ago, this was a run-down residential building without even a light in its stairways?
What would Duan Mingyang think if he saw that the rental where he used to live has become such a happy place?
He’d probably just laugh. And maybe he’d say, “Small restaurants like these don’t earn any money at all. They should’ve built something else instead.”
After all, that guy isn’t the slightest bit romantic.
Many times, Li Luo has felt that in Duan Mingyang’s mind, almost every romantic gesture in this world is a boring trick or just plain insincere affection.
However, there was one exception.
Back then, he’d already been pursuing Duan Mingyang for some time. At first, he was excited, appearing at the gay bar whenever he had time at night. This created an uproar among the circle of wealthy business successors overseas. His dad was fuming with rage — he had successfully accomplished his goal.
In reality, he didn’t do much at the bar. If he could get his hands on Duan Mingyang, he’d chat with him about the most unimportant matters, but if he couldn’t, he’d just sip juice quietly at the counter, wasting time playing games on his phone. He could download three to four games a night, spending thousands on them.
Duan Mingyang’s shift schedule wasn’t fixed. It sometimes ended at eleven or twelve, sometimes one or two, or even three in the morning. Only after asking the bartender did Li Luo know that part-time jobs were paid by the hour. If Duan Mingyang had class the next morning, he’d finish early, but otherwise he’d go home later.
To Li Luo, it was a complete waste of youth and energy to work so late into the night for the insignificant hourly wage. Many times, when he grew impatient, he almost wanted to toss his platinum card at Duan Mingyang. “Can’t I be the one to pay you instead? You’re making me wait for the sake of so little money?”
In the end, he repeatedly told himself, “I can’t get out of character,” and he managed to hold back his temper.
It seemed as though Duan Mingyang didn’t know how bored and tired Li Luo was at all. Every time his shift ended, he gave Li Luo a stoic “I’m leaving” and went back on his own. Li Luo had to catch up to him and ask from behind him, “Can I go back with you?”
He only wanted to take a photo of him in bed with Duan Mingyang. The next time he was forced on a blind date by his dad, he could use it to fool the latter.
But apart from the first time, Duan Mingyang never agreed again.
One night, Li Luo felt like being stubborn. After having been turned down by Duan Mingyang, he imitated the lovesick protagonists from dramas and waited for an hour downstairs. He hoped that Duan Mingyang, like the other lead in the drama, would see him from the window, come down for him, and bring him inside with worry.
When a drizzle began to fall from the sky, Li Luo couldn’t take it any longer and went home.
From then on, it seemed like his passion had also been dampened by the droplets of rain.
The human heart is made of flesh. Nobody could withstand the cold shoulder for so many days, and he was a prideful person to begin with. Even though his plan was for the script to be one of clingy pursuit, Li Luo always subconsciously felt that he was humbling himself in this role. Duan Mingyang knew that Li Luo had an impressive family background and high status among the international students, so he should’ve been a little more polite in turning Li Luo down. Treating Li Luo so coldly seemed a bit too artless.
And so, the daily appearances became periodic appearances. On the days he didn’t go to the bar, Li Luo would gather with his clique from before and went out for fun, drinking and racing with them. The extravagant lifestyle that he hadn’t experienced in a while made him laugh at how humble he had been, waiting for Duan Mingyang.
If he wanted it, was there any type of men or women Young Master Li couldn’t get? An unsmiling iceberg didn’t deserve so much of Li Luo’s time and effort trying to warm him up.
After he thought this through, he went out partying for a string of nights, and he didn’t visit the bar for an entire week. Yawning, he walked to class with a tired expression, only to run into Duan Mingyang on the boulevard that led to the academic buildings.
Li Luo paused, a little surprised. Out of habit, he put on an innocent smile and walked over to greet Duan Mingyang, “Mingyang, morning!”
For some reason, Duan Mingyang’s complexion wasn’t too good either. He seemed as if he hadn’t rested in days. The dark circles beneath his eyes made him look even gloomier.
“Is it? It’s eleven already.”
His tone was gloomy as well. What a let-down.
Li Luo maintained his smile, but he was already prepared to leave. He also had the feeling that once he left, he’d never visit the bar again.
“That’s right. It’s not morning anymore. I’m gonna be late. See you!”
“Wait.” Surprisingly, Duan Mingyang stopped him suddenly.
“Huh? What is it?”
“You left your wallet at the bar. Remember to collect it sometime.”
“My wallet?” Li Luo was puzzled.
“There’s a photo inside. It’s you and your mom.” There seemed to be disdain in Duan Mingyang’s eyes. “How could you lose something so important?”
Li Luo didn’t like his tone. He replied a little harshly, “It’s important, but I have photos in all my wallets, as well as digital backups at home. It’d be fine if I lost it.”
Duan Mingyang frowned. “Do you want it or not? I’ll throw it away if you don’t.”
“Of course I do. I’ll get it tonight. Thanks!”
After Duan Mingyang walked away, Li Luo’s smile slowly faded.
Just a broke college student — why was he pretending to be all high and mighty? The sheer arrogance in his tone was even more apparent than in Li Luo’s.
Tonight was definitely going to be the last time he went to the bar, and he’d leave right after he took his wallet. He didn’t want to waste a single second — after all, he needed to look for a new puppy-dog.
It’d definitely be more obedient than this one.