Edited by DancingDolphinsYo
The day they returned from S City, AOW experienced an unprecedentedly grand welcome at the airport by fans.
They had only debuted two months ago. Previously, at most seventy to eighty fans would be waiting for them at the airport, and the group could even chat with them as they walked. This time, there were more than three hundred people, and the support crew that had just been recently set up had only appointed two staff to maintain the order. The unexpected situation threw the scene into chaos, and the fans were all squeezed together, blocking the exit of the airport completely. Within a few steps, all seven members of the group were split apart. Ning Lan fell right to the back, squeezed by the crowd until he had no idea where he was, and could only follow along with the crowd helplessly.
“Lead, wait for Fang Yu!” A girl in the crowd shouted.
Sui Yi was disoriented as well. Hearing the voice, he turned and looked around as well. He did not manage to find Fang Yu, but immediately saw Ning Lan who did not have a mask and sunglasses on. There were two girls next to him holding onto his arms and taking selfies with him, and Ning Lan’s face was red from the pressure of so many people around him.
“Ning Lan!” Sui Yi called out, reaching a hand towards him.
Ning Lan looked up, then averted his eyes as though he did not see Sui Yi, and continued to move forward with his head bowed.
In the end, Lu Xiaochuan, who was even nearer to Ning Lan, went over and pulled him along, guiding Fang Yu over as well. The seven members managed to gather together again.
Once in the vehicle, everyone gasped for their breaths as though they had just survived a disaster. In everyone’s hands were gifts from the fans. Sui Yi and Lu Xiaochuan had the most, Fang Yu and Gu Chenkai took second place, and the difference in popularity among the group members could clearly be seen.
Ning Lan only had a little fruit basket filled with strawberries and a letter that was shoved along with it. He opened the letter, and within it, a fan wrote saying that he was too thin, pleading with him to eat a little more.
Back in the dorm, he washed the strawberries. Fruit could not be kept for too long in the current weather. He gave half to Wang Bingyang, yet there was still quite a lot left. Today, Lu Xiaochuan had surprisingly returned to the dormitory with them, and was sprawled on the couch playing on his phone with a dark face. Perhaps he was still grumpy from getting up in the morning.
“Would you like some strawberries?” Ning Lan asked him as he walked past him.
Lu Xiaochuan stuck his head out from behind his screen, lazily opening his mouth and asking to be fed. “Ah—”
Ning Lan always gave in to Young Master Lu, especially since he had never ostracised him before. Picking up a strawberry with a toothpick, he held it to Lu Xiaochuan’s mouth. Craftily, Lu Xiaochuan caught Ning Lan’s hand and fed himself the strawberry, then smiled naughtily after eating. “It’s very sweet, just like you.”
Speechless, Ning Lan pulled his hand back. Turning around, he saw Sui Yi standing at the door of his room, watching him calmly.
The two people looked at each other for two seconds. Ning Lan looked away, going into the room with a plate of fruit.
Before lunch, AOW received a new task. The company wanted to hold the first showcase for them ever since they debuted, and the location would be an indoor stadium in the capital that could hold a thousand people. It would be rather similar to a small-scale concert.
After receiving this notice, some of the members were delighted, while others were worried. The ones eager for an opportunity to display their talents were Gao Ming, Gu Chenkai and Wang Bingyang. After lunch, they rushed off to the company. Lu Xiaochuan wailed and whined, saying that if he knew earlier that being an artiste was so tiring and there was no time to rest, he would not have debuted.
Then, hanging onto Ning Lan clingily, he insisted that Ning Lan take him to the company.
Ning Lan treated him like a child, a big-sized, playful little kid. Allowing Lu Xiaochuan to play around, he accepted all his teasing with a smile. Following behind them, Sui Yi’s eyes darkened a little.
In the afternoon, Zhang Fan found some time to check up on them. She said that the showcase would last an hour and a half, and as AOW only had two songs, they definitely would not be able to fill up the time. As such, they had to prepare other performances, both group and solo. In the list were some suitable songs that had been selected. Other than everyone having to do a solo performance, the members were even divided into pairs, which added three more performances for the show.
With how the company was trying to promote the group through fanservicing and the official pairings of the members, AOW was naturally divided into the three official pairs.
“Gao Ming, Wang Bingyang, the two of you will have a dance segment. Make it more explosive. I’ve already told Xu Rui, go look for her later to discuss this… Lu Xiaochuan, Gu Chenkai, the two of you will sing a song.”
Lu Xiaochuan whined, “Jie, I’m a rapper….”
Zhang Fan glared at him. “You can add a rap in the lyrics, go and look for Zhao-laoshi to write it later.”
Lu Xiaochuan wailed again, “Zhao-laoshi hates me the most, I’m not going!”
Zhang Fan placed a hand on her hip. “Skip another class if you dare!”
Lu Xiaochuan pursed his lips, remaining silent.
“Sui Yi and Fang Yu, you’ll be dancing as well. The song has already been chosen, and it isn’t difficult. Just watch the video and learn.” Zhang Fan continued assigning the work, “Ning Lan… other than a solo, you temporarily don’t have any other performances. You can learn from the rest, and on that day, we’ll play along by ear.”
Ning Lan nodded. He understood that playing along by ear meant that he should stand by the sides and not create any trouble. This completely agreed with his intentions, and he could relax happily.
Who would have guessed that Fang Yu would raise his hand and suggest, “I want to sing, how about letting Ning Lan dance with Lead.”
Ning Lan tensed up abruptly.
Rolling up the document, Zhang Fan knocked it against her palm. “This is the arrangement made by the higher ups, it won’t be easy to change it.”
Fang Yu whined cutely, “Zhang Fan-jie, aren’t you the higher ups?”
Zhang Fan laughed aloud. “I’m not, don’t say nonsense. In any case, this is the arrangement made by the planning department according to the current situation. You’ll have to understand that they know more than you about how to make this showcase more entertaining, and how to garner more fans for you.”
Fang Yu’s hand dropped listlessly.
Taking advantage of how everyone was in the midst of discussion, Sui Yi turned his head to look at Ning Lan, only to see Ning Lan patting his chest and heaving a large breath of relief. He did not know if it was because Ning Lan did not have to dance, or it was because he did not have to dance with him.
After Zhang Fan left, the members dispersed into different training studios to practise.
After looking at the dance video, Sui Yi finally understood why the management would arrange for Fang Yu and him to dance together.
This had originally been a dance for a male and a female. After some modifications, some extremely intimate steps involving close body contact had been removed. Sui Yi’s part was still fine, as he was dancing the male’s part, and the moves displayed a male’s masculine fortitude. However, Fang Yu’s part was very feminine, involving a lot of raising of the legs and twisting of the hips. Together with many parts of the dance where they had to hug and hold onto each other, the entire dance had a very heavy sexual taste to it.
The company clearly wanted to firm up their pairing, and this was what the fans called fanservice.
Sui Yi immediately gave Zhang Fan a call, asking if they could change to another dance. In the conversation, Zhang Fan spoke breezily, “Just dance this one. You’re not at the point where you can dance whatever you want, you have to dance according to what the fans want. If you want to become popular, you have to give it your all. Don’t treat yourself like an idol, after all, which boy group hasn’t danced this kind of dance before?”
Sui Yi hung up, silent and tightlipped.
In actual fact, Fang Yu was not resistant to this dance. He was very pretty, and before his debut, he had played a girl’s role before in his school’s art performance. Photos of that had been discovered by fans and posted on Weibo. He was also well aware of the fanservice the management was trying to employ. They only had to put on a show, and would be able to create a synergistic effect, so why would they hesitate?
However, it seemed as though Sui Yi could not really accept it.
“Lead, do you have a girlfriend? Are you afraid that she’ll see it?” Fang Yu made a daring conjecture.
Sui Yi paused, “No.” Then, seemingly to prove his words, he stood up and walked to the center of the studio. “Let’s dance along to the video once to try.”
The moves were not difficult. When Xu Rui-laoshi dropped by to check on them, they could almost complete the entire dance already. Even the move where Sui Yi had to lift Fang Yu up and spin him around before placing him on the ground had no problems.
However, Xu Rui kept shaking her head as she watched them. She said that they were not in the right mindset, especially Sui Yi. He was too stiff, and the stiffness was not in his movement, but his expression.
“You have to imagine that the person in your arms is your beloved,” Xu Rui explained.
Sui Yi’s expression became stiffer.
Fang Yu fell down laughing. “I’m lacking two bumps on my chest, I’m afraid Lead cannot get into the act while looking at me.”
They practised for another hour. Fang Yu headed downstairs to get some food, and Sui Yi made a call.
The last time he called his aunt, he was connected to his uncle instead. His uncle said that she was overseas, and would return in about a week. At that time, Sui Yi was a little anxious. Trying to come up with an answer, he even called his teacher. After the call was connected, he then remembered that the bank card had been left behind by his mother, how could his father know about it?
His teacher was very happy receiving his call, and his voice even lit up. He asked if Sui Yi was living well, and when would he come back to have a meal. Greatly holding back his impatience, Sui Yi brushed him off politely, then hung up.
It was impossible for him to go home. Giving up the opportunity to further his studies in an overseas music college, and joining the group despite everyone’s persuasion, these were the only ways he could declare his stand and determination. He had already burned his bridges, and destroyed all paths of retreating.
Also, why would he go home? To watch his beloved and respected teacher of over a decade be intimate with his father at home, to watch them live like a couple?
How extremely disgusting.
Sui Yi walked to the stairway, took in a deep breath, then dialled his aunt’s number.
As expected, his aunt was back in the country already. After some greetings, Sui Yi asked her directly if she was able to see the activity in the bank account that his mother had left him. After a moment of silence, his aunt admitted to it.
“Jiejie had asked me to take care of you before she left. You’re still young, and you don’t know how evil people can be. I’m too far away, and I can’t take care of you, so I asked Xiaokai to help me see what sort of friends you’ve been making recently.”
It was just as he thought.
Feeling helpless, Sui Yi closed his eyes. He knew that what his aunt had said to Gu Chenkai was not only this. She had definitely found out the name of the person he had transferred the money to. If not, Gu Chenkai would not have been able to name Ning Lan so accurately, and insisted that the twenty thousand had been transferred to Ning Lan.
In the conversation, Sui Yi requested his aunt to stop supervising his daily life.
“I’m already an adult. Although I still need to rely on my mother’s inheritance to live, I have great confidence that I’ll soon be able to remain independent. I hope that you can let me have my rights to manage my own finances. I’m also well aware of the sort of friends I’m making, I hope that you won’t interfere.”
The polite yet rather discourteous remarks caused his aunt to fall silent for quite some time.
In the end, she still agreed. Telling him to take care of Xiaokai and vice versa, she hung up.
Sui Yi remained standing in the stairway for sometime. The narrow and dim stairway made him recall the scene where he shared a mango with Ning Lan one night before their debut.
The current Ning Lan would no longer make funny gestures at him. He would even avoid him now, and no longer speak to him. And this was simply because of one misunderstanding.
While feeling very regretful, Sui Yi felt that it was not worth it for someone like Ning Lan. If not for Ning Lan’s treacherous actions first, attempting to abandon the group, things would not have become the way they were.
So what if Ning Lan no longer smiled at him? Ning Lan did not even have the qualifications to make him feel down.
Ning Lan was only an unimportant person, and his existence, sooner or later, would be wiped away from his life, leaving no trace.
After convincing himself, Sui Yi turned to pull the door of the stairway open, prepared to go back to the studio to practise some more.
The stairway was next to a corner of the building, quiet with a view, and it was a great place to smoke or exchange secrets. Before Sui Yi could pull the door open, he heard two voices coming from outside.
“As a manager, I’m only responsible for passing the word down, and I’m not in charge of making a decision for you. With regards to such matters, some people feel that it’s a betrayal of their dignity, and cannot accept it, while others feel that it’s necessary to make a sacrifice for what they want. So, you have to weigh it yourself.”
It was Zhang Fan’s voice.
If her words made Sui Yi confused, then the other party’s reply enlightened him completely on their topic of conversation.
“I only have to drink with them?” Ning Lan asked.
“Yes. It’s hosted by a famous film producer. You’re not the only one, I have some youths under me who are going as well. You don’t have to think of this as something dirty. In this industry, those people who have achievements yet do not come from any powerful backgrounds, which of them are clean? Everyone is only out to help themselves. Those attending this today are all powerful people, if you’re not used to it, you can come back after drinking and chatting with them, no one will stop you.”
“Mn, I understand.”
“Then I’ll take my leave first. Whether you’re going or not, send me a text before 6 to let me know.” Zhang Fan’s high heels tapped on the ground as she left.
“I’m going,” Ning Lan called out to her. Through the thin door, his voice sounded very calm. “Where’s the location, and what time should I go?”
Zhang Fan stopped. “It’s eight o’clock, at Green Tide Hotel.”