Edited by DancingDolphinsYo
Sui Yi saw the trembling of Ning Lan’s lips. With Ning Lan’s wet lashes covering his eyes, Sui Yi was unable to discern what he was thinking.
Ning Lan looked just like how he had looked when he was about to run away in front of Hotel 4S. The only difference was that he looked even paler now, and that might be due to the fright from his unsuccessful escape.
Just now, after Ning Lan had taken the money and rushed away, Sui Yi walked to the window and realised that it was raining heavily outside. Borrowing an umbrella from An Lin, he chased after him, only to see Ning Lan get into a cab. Sui Yi shouted after him, but Ning Lan did not hear him. Suddenly feeling that something was wrong, Sui Yi flagged down the next cab and followed.
His instincts were proven right. The cab ahead did not stop at the company, but continued making two more turns and stopped near their dormitory.
The second before the door opened, Sui Yi was still hopeful. Maybe Ning Lan had remembered that his amulet was in the dormitory? He was a pretty careless guy, and this was completely within expectations. Today was the first show that AOW would put on, it was impossible that he would be so reckless and run away at the last minute.
“Let’s go, we’re about to go on stage.” Sui Yi reached out to pull Ning Lan. Ning Lan shrunk backwards, but his feet still pointed towards the door, looking as though he could run at any moment.
Sui Yi was a little anxious, and he suddenly snatched at the bag in Ning Lan’s hand. Ning Lan wanted to switch the bag to his other hand behind his back, but forgot that he was still holding onto something in his palm. With a motion, all the things fell onto the ground.
In a panic, Ning Lan crouched down to pick them up. Sui Yi caught his arm, stopping him.
The moment before the voice-activated lights dimmed, Sui Yi saw a pile of money on the ground.
Amongst the five people who spent most of their time in the dorm, Wang Bingyang never drew more than 500 from the ATM each time. Gao Ming’s drawer was locked, and he, himself, would only have 200 on him in case of emergencies. As for Ning Lan, despite getting two months’ salary, he was always tight on cash. It was evident whose money this was.
“Is that Xiaochen’s money?” Sui Yi still ended up asking.
Ning Lan did not struggle out of his grip. He lowered his eyes, “Yes.”
After a moment, he continued. “I have to go.”
Although he had already surmised it, this response still came at Sui Yi like a tight slap. He always misread people, trusted the wrong people, and he did not know if these sort of things had to do with his age and experience, or if it was just because he was too stupid.
Ning Lan had not changed at all. He was selfish, arrogant, and he could betray his group mates if he stood to gain anything. He was even unashamed of being in debt and stealing. Sui Yi must have been crazy to think that this person was inherently kind, just because when he smiled, he looked pure and innocent, and there were no shadows in his eyes, which was very similar to that person.
Sui Yi felt that there was something in his chest that was expanding, fermenting, rolling about and bubbling as though it was about to burst out.
Ning Lan struggled, but did not manage to get out of his grip. With just one hand, Sui Yi was able to hold onto his two hands, so of course Ning Lan was unable to break free. Using his hand that was holding onto the bag, Ning Lan pushed him, his voice pleading. “I’ll return the money… I really have to go.”
Ning Lan actually had countless dirty tricks to make Sui Yi let go. For example, he could just knee him in his groin, but he did not want to do so.
The youth in front of him had aided him, had given him warmth when he was cold. Even if it was only out of responsibility, or out of habit, it was enough for Ning Lan to remember it.
Ning Lan looked at Sui Yi’s hand that was holding onto him, and noticed that the veins on his arm were bulging. He wondered muddledly, who would not be angry about this? It only showed how excellent Sui Yi’s upbringing was, seeing that he had yet to hit him. Feeling vacuous, Ning Lan slowly repeated, “I have to go.”
A moment later, he heard Sui Yi speak. “How much more money do you need?”
Ning Lan raised his head, meeting Sui Yi’s guarded eyes. His lips moved, a little disbelieving.
Sui Yi relaxed his grip on Ning Lan’s wrist. “How much money do you need? I’ll give it to you, go with me to the show.”
That night, the debut of Starlight Entertainment’s new boy band on Focus Show’s music festival ended successfully. Less than an hour after the seven youths left the stage after their performance, a new topic #AOWoutoftheworld appeared in the top ten list of Weibo. Even when the festival ended, their ranking was still increasing.
On the way back in the car, Wang Bingyang and Gu Chenkai kept refreshing Weibo, reading the comments out for everyone excitedly.
“When will the single be released? I’m going to play it on loop ten thousand times!”
“The singing and dancing aren’t too bad. They’re V-Wish’s juniors, I think I’ll like them.”
“Is that the new boy band with an average age of 18? How young and capable!”
“The rapper’s not too bad, he’s fluent and doesn’t have an accent… Hey, it’s a compliment for you, Chuan-ge.”
It was rare that Lu Xiaochuan would be in the same car as them. He turned his head around. “This can be called a compliment? The next time I’ll do a Chinese-styled English rap for them, and let them hear what’s really cool.”
Everyone burst out laughing.
“Wow wow wow that tallest one is too handsome… Lead, it’s about you!” Wang Bingyang reached out and patted the shoulder of Sui Yi, who was sitting in front.
With his arms crossed, Sui Yi was leaning back in his seat and looking out of the window. Hearing Wang Bingyang, he turned his head back, looking a little weary. “What?”
Gu Chenkai tugged at Wang Bingyang, “My brother is tired, just let him rest.”
The two people continued huddling together and reading comments aloud. During the performance just now, everyone had been extremely nervous. Fortunately, there had been no mistakes, and they did manage to showcase their normal standards from the studio. Their performance was complete and powerful, and the more explosive song, <Out of the World>, together with the advanced acoustics and lighting effects, the intense rhythm and melody of the chorus had the entire crowd moving along.
The comments for the edited video from the festival circulating Weibo were mostly from fans. Together with some commenters and marketing accounts bought by their company, they spread even more rapidly. The phrase “the light of local boy bands” even appeared, and the youths were both happy and anxious. They could not wait to get the affirmations and suggestions from the comments, so as to better improve their performance for the next time.
“The one in the black jacket is the one parachuted in, right? He’s better looking than his photo…” Wang Bingyang read it halfway before raising his phone to Ning Lan, who was sitting next to him. “Lan-ge, someone said that you’re good looking!”
Ning Lan was distracted. Wang Bingyang nudged him a few times before his shifty gaze focused, and he slowly turned his head around.
Wang Bingyang continued reading. “It’s just that his hairstyle is a little strange. The company should pay more attention.”
Ning Lan touched his hair unconsciously. At that time, he had left in a hurry, and after getting caught in two bouts of rain, the fluffy hairstyle that they had given him had drooped quite a bit. When he returned back to the show, he took a hairdryer and dried his hair any old how before taking his seat. He did not even have time to straighten up the clothes that he was wearing for the performance. Covered in cold sweat, before the first song came to an end, he noticed that his fringe was disobediently stuck to his head. In that moment, his thoughts were in a mess, and when his earpiece fell out, he also did not replace it. It was amazing that he had been able to endure the two songs without any mistakes.
“Didn’t the leader go look for you with an umbrella? How did you two still end up drenched, and your makeup even got washed off?” Fang Yu asked.
Ning Lan forced out a tiny smile. “The umbrella was too small, it wasn’t enough for the rain.”
Arriving at the company, the youths split up. Lu Xiaochuan and Fang Yu both returned to their own homes. The parents of Gu Chenkai, Wang Bingyang and Gao Ming had made the rare trip down, and each of them took their child out to celebrate. Sui Yi rejected the dinner invitation from Gu Chenkai’s mother, who was also his aunt, saying that he wanted to go back and rest. He walked back to the dorm with Ning Lan.
The rain outside was still pattering down. Ning Lan opened the umbrella, hesitating for a moment. In the end he still chased after Sui Yi’s footsteps, walking next to him, and slowly held the umbrella over him.
Sui Yi did not react, and even his face was expressionless. His steps were large, and while holding the umbrella, Ning Lan pretty much had to run to catch up. By the time they reached the stairway, he was already gasping. Half his body was soaked away, and he looked extremely pathetic.
Back in the dorm, Ning Lan first took a towel to wipe his face. Just as he came out from the bathroom, Sui Yi took his phone and asked him for his bank account number. Ning Lan returned to his room to look for his bank card before reciting the digits to him, and he soon received a text informing him that the money had been transferred to his account.
“I’ve hit the limit, I’ll transfer the rest to you tomorrow,” Sui Yi said.
Ning Lan nodded. Picking up the notebook by his bed, he tore out another piece of paper, “I’ll write an IOU for you.”
“There’s no need for that,” Sui Yi’s tone was flat. “An IOU without notarisation does not hold any legal effect.”
Feeling a little helpless, Ning Lan put his pen down and bit his lip. “I’ll return the money to you as soon as possible.”
After he said that, Ning Lan recalled that he had said the exact same words to many previous debtors. Even this new debtor in front of him had heard it before. The words “as soon as possible” from his mouth were equivalent to a fairy tale.
Sui Yi was still expressionless, clearly not taking his words to heart. He put his phone back in his pocket. “I hope you’ll keep your promise, and stay in AOW until you fulfil your contract.”
He did not mention the money at all, but Ning Lan’s heart felt like a stone rolling down a cliff, sinking all the way down.
Later on, it took Ning Lan some time before he understood. To Sui Yi, money was not important. He had helped him out only to save the group. Just like Gu Chenkai, he was a young master who never had to worry about money. Naturally, he did not understand that for a person in dire straits, having money meant that they would not have to sell themselves out, that it would represent freedom, and the future.
Sui Yi would never be able to understand why he would betray his conscience and go against his promise for a little sum of money.
The day after the music festival, AOW’s new song and MV were officially released. Before the morning was over, the song had reached the top of the music charts. Taking the opportunity of their current popularity, the official Weibo account of Starlight Entertainment posted two new updates. First, AOW would be a guest on the broadcast of Sweet Orange tomorrow evening; and second, the physical copy of AOW’s first single would be available for sale, and starting from the end of the month, they would kick off a series of autograph sessions around the country for one and a half months.
During the broadcast that night, Ning Lan received a call from his mother. Xie Tianhao had a violent temperament, but he was quite trustworthy. Once he received the money, he immediately let her go.
“You ungrateful heartless bastard. You told Jin Feng that you changed your number, but you didn’t tell me. Are you even my son? You gave her quite a bit of money behind my back, didn’t you?” Ning Lan’s mother asked sharply through the phone.
Jin Feng was his aunt’s name.
Ning Lan kneaded the center of his brows. “No, I didn’t. I have to work, I’ll hang up now.”
“Hey, hold on!” His mother shouted, “Where did you get the two hundred thousand from? Is there any left? I’m a little short on cash recently…”
Without a word, Ning Lan hung up and turned on the silent mode for his phone.
The location of the broadcast was an empty studio. The host of Sweet Orange loved making their guests participate in all sorts of strange games. This time, he specially designed a little game to test the coordination between the members of AOW, and split everyone into pairs. Sui Yi was the most popular, and the comments were all about him. As such, he gained the right to pick his first choice, and the host asked the members who wanted to work with their leader to raise their hands.
Afraid of being left out, Ning Lan silently raised his hand.
Out of everyone who had their hands up, Sui Yi picked Fang Yu.
As expected, Ning Lan was the odd one out, and formed a team with the host. Again, as expected, he lost the game.
The punishment was very interesting. He had to choose someone for the Pocky challenge. To enhance the broadcast, the host first clarified that he, himself, could not be chosen. Holding onto the Pocky stick, Ning Lan stood awkwardly in front of the camera. His eyes swept past the six people standing in front of him, and gritting his teeth, he again chose the leader, Sui Yi.
Gao Ming and Gu Chenkai were antagonistic towards him. He could not really tell what sort of temperament Lu Xiaochuan and Fang Yu had. Wang Bingyang hated chocolate, and he had been signalling at him all this while to not choose him. The only person left was Sui Yi alone.
Since Sui Yi was able to share a mango with him, there should not be an issue sharing a Pocky stick with him now, right?
The background music was light and joyful. Ning Lan bit one side of the Pocky, walking towards Sui Yi.
Sui Yi had a smile on his face, and it could not be seen if he was looking at Ning Lan or not. Raising his hand, he directly broke the Pocky stick in Ning Lan’s mouth, then tossed the half in his hand into his mouth. Finishing it, he asked the camera, “This will do, right?”