Edited by DancingDolphinsYo
Before Sui Yi had joined the group, Zhang Fan had accepted an appearance on a variety show on behalf of all the AOW members.
It was a talk show, and every week, they would invite guests and chat about a certain topic. The seven members of AOW were split into two rows. The female and male hosts of the show were both famous. During the recording, they would rattle away about anything, and the atmosphere was quite harmonious.
During the portion of the show where they showed off their talents, Fang Yu and Gu Chengkai garnered applause from the audience as they sang together. Wang Bingyang performed a magic show as his talent, and despite saying “I’ll perform a mushroom show” in his nervousness, it attracted good-natured laughter from the crowd instead.
The later part of the show was an impromptu question and answer time. The female host, with a frank and bold character, did not conceal her liking for Sui Yi at all. She made every use of any opportunity to ask him what sort of girls he liked, and Sui Yi recited the model answer prepared for him by the company. The female host said that he was too perfunctory about it, that all the girls in the audience could fit his description, and so insisted on him telling the truth. With no choice, Sui Yi added a phrase — “pretty eyes”.
The female host exaggeratedly found a mirror to examine her eye makeup. Sitting in the back row, Ning Lan reached up to his own face. The tip of his finger brushed against that tiny mole at the corner of his eye, and he swiftly put his hand back down, tucking it behind his back.
For the last part of the recording, the show freed up time for AOW to perform as a group. When they were backstage, changing their clothes and applying makeup, Ning Lan received a call from Zhao Jinshan, his mother who never called unless she needed something from him.
“Little brat, did your head get kicked by a donkey? You’re going to pay for Ning Xuan, that wench, to study overseas? If you have the money, why didn’t you transfer it to me? I’ve been living in such hardship my entire life, and I’ve never even been to the capital. You ungrateful brat, are you actually my child?”
Like a machine gun, the rebukes sprayed all around. Covering his phone, Ning Lan avoided the crowd and went into a corner. “Where did you hear that from?”
“You still want to hide it from me? I bumped into that wench below your uncle’s apartment, and asked her where she was going. She said that she was attending some TOEFL class. You think I never went to school before and I don’t know what this class is for? How could their family have so much money to send that wench overseas to study? You gave them the money, right?”
The grating voice pierced right through Ning Lan’s eardrums. He pulled his phone away a little, thinking that the intelligence his mother had in her life was all used up on racking her brains to come up with ways to get money from him.
Ning Lan said resignedly, “I only gave her the money to sign up for classes. It’s not certain whether she’ll be able to pass them.”
Zhao Jinshan refused to let it go. “You shouldn’t give her the money for the classes as well! Does she not have a father or a mother? Why are you the one to pay her fees?”
“Then do I not have a father or a mother? Was it not my uncle and aunt who brought me up?” Ning Lan asked.
Silence fell on the other side of the line, and very quickly, sounds of sobbing travelled across. “Listen to that, just listen to that, is that what a human being should say? Your uncle and aunt are credited with raising you, then, as your mother, I’m nothing? Who was the one who carried you inside her for ten months? Who was the one who protected you when your father was beating you in a drunken frenzy? This heartless kid, why is my life so tough…”
Ning Lan pinched the centre of his brows. He already knew that saying those words would result in this scene that was hard to conclude. But just now, his frustrations had swelled up, and he had been unable to control himself.
Since he had already said the wrong things once, he did not want to speak anymore. Holding his temper back, he asked directly, “How much do you want?”
Zhao Jinshan immediately stopped crying, reporting a number.
Ning Lan did not even ask what it was for. He straight away hung up, transferring the money on his phone.
He knew that his unconditional acquiescence would make his mother even more audacious and unscrupulous. However, he understood his mother well. If he did not give in, once or twice was fine, but once it happened too often, she was the sort who would be able to do anything, no matter how brainless it was.
Five years ago, he had just arrived in the capital, and was working in a hotel. During the first three months, when he was in training, his salary was a little lower. Squeezing out whatever money he could, he transferred it all to Zhao Jinshan. Yet, she felt that it was too little, and thought that Ning Lan was hiding money from her. Ning Lan was unable to get through to her, and so just ignored her. Who would have thought that she had somehow managed to find a phone number, and then tracked her way to the office of the hotel president. She told him that they had an employee called Ning Lan, who was heartless and inhumane, not providing for his mother who was lying in her sickbed. Once the matter blew up, everyone in the hotel knew about it, and the eyes of his leader were filled with probing and queries whenever he looked at him. In the end, he did not manage to pass his probation, and he could only leave dejectedly.
Now, he was in a career that paid even more attention to his image. He could not withstand another episode like this, and so he could only give what he could.
Ning Lan looked at the account balance displayed on the screen of his phone. It was clearly quite a big sum, but he was unable to feel happy about it at all. Something that had been gained without having earned it, in the eyes of others, it may be a good thing that had fallen out of the sky, but in his eyes, it was an extremely heavy burden. He wanted to live in an upright and honourable manner, and the first condition of that was to not owe anything to anyone.
So even if Sui Yi never mentioned it, he would still return it, no matter what method he used.
After the recording, it was already dusk. Fans were standing on guard outside the recording studio, and some had even rented cars, about to follow theirs. The seven members of AOW split into three rental cars, and without raising any alarms, they slipped away from the back door.
They still had to rush back for a livestream. Today was Lu Xiaochuan’s birthday. As they did not hold a fan meet for this occasion, they had to give the fans something to share and discuss.
The location was a meeting room in the company. The place had been decorated, and on the wall were the words “Happy Birthday” pasted in colourful letters. The cake was also ready in the room next door, waiting to be shown.
There was still an hour to the livestream, and the birthday boy Lu Xiaochuan was sprawled on the couch disinterestedly. Casting a glance around the room, he asked, “Where’s that Fang fellow?”
An Lin answered, “He’s gone home, and he said he’ll come by a little later. It’s alright, we can start first.”
No wonder that fellow had taken the last rental car, it turned out that he was running away. Lu Xiaochuan became even more gloomy, punching the armrest of the couch in frustration.
The livestream started punctually at 8pm, and the people there first presented their gifts that they had prepared. Despite his lack of interest, Lu Xiaochuan still had some professionalism and acting ability. Smiling, he unwrapped the gifts. Sui Yi was the most generous, giving him a watch, while the other members prepared items like sneakers and a wallet, all of them putting some thought into the presents.
Ning Lan’s gift was the last to be unwrapped, and it was a box of cookies.
“I went to the shop yesterday to make them, and froze them in the chiller for an entire night. The weather’s hot now, so quickly eat them,” said Ning Lan.
Lu Xiaochuan was astonished. “You made this yourself?”
“Mn.” Ning Lan smiled. “My skills are so-so. If it doesn’t taste good, just throw it away.”
There and then, Lu Xiaochuan picked one up and shoved it inside his mouth. As he chewed, he said, his voice muffled, “It’s delicious, how could it not be?!”
He then shared it with everyone else to have a taste. Sui Yi said that he was not hungry, and did not take a piece. Across the screen, fans asked the leader if he was feeling uncomfortable, and the staff in charge of reading the comments expressed the fans’ concerns on their behalf. Reading in sequence, they came across a comment, “Is it because Flower isn’t around, so Lead is not in a good mood?”
The Mountain X Flower CP was famous both among the fans and the staff, and there was no one on the scene who did not know about it.
Sui Yi said mildly, “No, Fang Yu’s about to arrive.” He then did not continue to comment about any discussion with regards to the CP.
As the fans flooded the screen with gifts and well wishes, over here, the AOW members performed their talents to celebrate the birthday boy. Wang Bingyang repeated his “mushroom” show again, and Lu Xiaochuan pretended to be seeing this for the first time, applauding him enthusiastically. The company even thoughtfully invited his little brother, Lu Xiaozhou, who lived overseas. Lu Xiaochuan had been living in China ever since he was born, and in reality, he was not close to his brother at all. When Lu Xiaozhou walked out, he still had to feign delight, and after hugging each other, they were both mutually at a loss for words.
Ning Lan looked between the two, saying, “You brothers really look alike.”
As the candles were lit and Lu Xiaochuan was making a wish, Lu Xiaozhou squeezed over to Ning Lan’s side. In poor chinese, he whispered, “Beauty, come, add me on Wechat.”
Ning Lan looked at his greyish-blue eyes and wickedly charming smile that were identical to Lu Xiaochuan, thinking that they truly were brothers.
Sui Yi did not like to eat anything sweet, and so he was leaning against the wall, watching everyone horsing around. Ning Lan cut a slice of cake, going to one side to eat it, and Lu Xiaozhou enthusiastically followed after him. Seeing that he was about to reach up and wipe away the cream smeared on Ning Lan’s face, Sui Yi strode a couple of steps forward and pulled Ning Lan to one side. “This area is still within the view of the camera, turn around and eat.”
When Sui Yi had his poker face on, his aura spelt for people to stay away from him. Lu Xiaozhou’s eyes darted between the two of them, then he stuffed his hands in his pockets, pouting as he walked away.
Ning Lan obediently turned around to eat the cake, and when he was done, he accepted the napkin Sui Yi held out to him, wiping his mouth. Quietly, he said, “Thank you, Lead.”
Seeing that the cream on his face had been wiped clean, Sui Yi nodded, returning to the crowd.
It was only after the birthday song was sung, the candles blown, and more than half the cake had been distributed, did Fang Yu finally hurry over.
“My apologies. Something happened at home, so I’m late.” He put his bag down, first greeting the camera, then wished Lu Xiaochuan a happy birthday. After that, he held his stomach and said that he was hungry, asking for some cake to eat.
Seeing how perfunctory he was, the smile on Lu Xiaochuan’s face gradually vanished. He thought about it, and was still unreconciled, so he deliberately walked over, pacing about in front of Fang Yu.
The livestream came to an end, and everyone bade farewell to the fans. The camera was turned off, and Fang Yu continued eating his cake, completely ignoring the big birthday boy in front of him.
“Eh, where did you go just now?” Lu Xiaochuan asked.
Fang Yu did not even look up. “I went home.”
Lu Xiaochuan’s expression turned even uglier. “Why did you go home?”
“To play,” Fang Yu said as he picked up a cookie from the box nearby, shoving it inside his mouth.
Lu Xiaochuan’s eyes widened. “That was given to me by Lanlan, who let you eat it?”
Fang Yu swallowed what was in his mouth, looking up at him with no fear. “I even ate your cake. It’s not like you made it.”
Lu Xiaochuan was very angry. Since early this morning, he had been waiting, and despite waiting until now, all he got was a perfunctory “Happy Birthday” from this person. The more he thought about it, the more he felt that he was an idiot.
“What were you doing at home?” He asked again.
Fang Yu laughed. “What does it have to do with you?”
Lu Xiaochuan was completely enraged by Fang Yu’s unbothered laughter. Channelling his anger through his laugh, he asked, “Hah, did you go home to serve your sugar daddy?”