Edited by DancingDolphinsYo
Sui Yi only arrived half an hour later. Dressed in a black T-shirt, black pants, a black mask and a black cap, he looked like a walking heat absorber.
During this half an hour, Ning Lan thought about many things, and the chaos in his mind calmed down too. Now, when facing Sui Yi, he didn’t know what he should say. He wanted to feign breeziness and ask him why he took so long to come, but Sui Yi spoke before he could. “The filming location isn’t here. It was just moved yesterday to a school in the east.”
Ning Lan felt even more awkward. Scratching his nose, he made a sound of acknowledgement.
Taking a couple of steps forward, Sui Yi then turned his head around. Ning Lan thought he wanted to ask him why he came here so suddenly, and feeling anxious, he stopped as well. In the end, Sui Yi only reached out to take his bag from his hand, then turned back and continued walking ahead.
Hailing a cab, they spent the entire journey in silence, before arriving at the entrance of some university. As Ning Lan got out of the car, he pulled the hood of his hoodie over his head, and the two people, covered firmly from head to toe, entered the shopping street outside the school.
“The hotel that the production team booked is over there.” Sui Yi pointed over to the end of the road, but he led Ning Lan to another hotel instead. “You can stay here tonight.”
Accommodations around the school area were very cheap. Ning Lan had no money in his pocket, and Sui Yi quickly took out his wallet, handing over both the deposit and the room charge. Upon opening the door and entering the room, only then did Ning Lan realise that during that half an hour, Sui Yi must have thought about many things as well. Just look, he had even thought about where he should stay.
Although the room was small, it was quite clean. Sui Yi put Ning Lan’s bag down and asked, “Have you had lunch?”
Ning Lan shook his head.
“There are many places to eat where we just walked past. You can go down and buy some food. If you don’t want to go out, you can get the food delivered too.”
Ning Lan shook his head again. Sui Yi didn’t know if that meant he didn’t want to go downstairs, or if he didn’t want to eat. As such, he made the decision for him. “I’ll go down and order you a meal to be sent up.” He paused, then continued, “I still have a scene to film in the afternoon, I’ll leave first.”
Afraid that he wouldn’t return after leaving, Ning Lan hurriedly asked, “How long will the shoot take?”
Walking to the door, Sui Yi turned around and said, “Until seven or eight at night.”
Ning Lan nodded slowly. “Oh, come back…Take care.”
Less than ten minutes after Sui Yi left, someone knocked on the door, delivering the food. Ning Lan had seen the person delivering the food before. When they were walking along the shopping street, he had seen this guy standing by his food truck, yawning.
Ning Lan hadn’t had anything from morning until now. He only had two cups of coke on the plane, and now, he did feel hungry. Finishing all the food, Ning Lan then headed downstairs to throw the trash. Standing by the door of the hotel, he glanced at the big bronze script “XX University” that was a distance away, before returning to his room alone.
After filling his tummy, Ning Lan started to feel sleepy. He sat on the bed, switching the TV channels with the remote control. There was nothing worth watching, and so he stopped at a channel that was currently playing a show about animals. Hugging a pillow, he fell asleep.
He had a dream.
It was a small, cramped room, the mattress smelling of mildew. The windows were covered with thick, heavy curtains, and he could also hear non-stop arguing. Bang, a metal rod flew through the window, shattering it. He was terrified, and without even putting on his shoes, he ran out. The sound of bare feet hitting the ground was feeble yet jarring. When he reached there, he discovered that his parents, who were just arguing, had disappeared. The house was empty, and only a ceiling fan above him whirred noisily.
What happened next was a loud crash. A large piece of glass crashed onto the floor, and people from outside came running in. He wanted to escape, and desperately, he tried to unlock the door. The cacophony of footsteps was drawing closer, but the door had been locked from outside, and no matter how he tried, he couldn’t open it.
No one wanted him, he was a burden to everyone.
When he woke up in alarm, his forehead was covered in sweat. Ning Lan flung his blanket away, sitting up and gasping for air. Only when his breathing settled did he then look out of the window. The nights came late in summer. The sun had yet to set, and the sky outside was still bright.
Pleasant Wolf and Big Big Wolf was playing on the TV. Amidst the cheerful music, he picked up his phone, sending Sui Yi a message. “Are you coming over at night?”
After about twenty minutes, Sui Yi’s reply finally came. “You need something?”
Ning Lan found it a little amusing. He clearly knew the reason why he came over, yet he could still ask that.
“Let’s have dinner together.” Ning Lan typed on his phone.
Another thirty minutes passed, and Sui Yi replied, “Mn.”
There was still ten minutes to eight when someone knocked on the door before opening it. Holding something, Sui Yi entered. Upon seeing how there were already a few boxes of food on the table next to the TV, he was a little surprised.
“Why didn’t you tell me you’re getting food? I bought dinner too,” said Ning Lan as he took the plastic bag from Sui Yi’s hand. Opening the box right on top, he said, “Roast duck? It smells great. I thought you would have to watch your weight because of filming, and so I only bought healthier food.”
The two sat down to eat. There was only a chair in the room, so Sui Yi offered it to Ning Lan while he sat on the edge of the bed. The bed was a little far from the table, and it wasn’t too convenient for serving himself.
Ning Lan was not very hungry. He had half of a small bowl of congee before splitting apart a new pair of chopsticks to take some roast duck for Sui Yi, picking the slices with bigger pieces of crispy skin.
At first, Sui Yi was unwilling to accept the food, saying that he could do it himself. However, Ning Lan insisted on filling his bowl, saying “this piece is tasty,” then “this piece is tender,” picking out more food for him. Unable to stop him, Sui Yi then let him be.
As he cleared the table after dinner, Ning Lan asked, “What would you like to eat tomorrow? I’ll bring some food back earlier… Right, do you want supper?”
Sui Yi felt that Ning Lan’s current state was a little different from how he was in the afternoon. He seemed to be a lot more chatty now, and even a little clingy.
As he headed downstairs to throw the trash, Ning Lan continued to follow closely behind him, babbling on, “When I was buying dinner, I saw that there was a stall selling Tianjin-style pancakes. I never thought that they would sell them here as well. I wonder how they’ll be compared to the ones sold below our dorm… Shall we have that for breakfast tomorrow?”
Not getting any response, he then pointed at the gate of the university, asking, “How’s the university here? School’s about to start, will they let you continue filming? When the filming is happening, do people come and watch?”
Sui Yi picked a question to answer. “They will. The crew rented a multipurpose room.”
“What does a multipurpose room look like? Will it change shape?” Ning Lan continued asking.
Back in the room, Sui Yi picked up the bag hanging off the back of the chair and slung it across one shoulder. Leaving a “rest early” behind him, he turned, about to go.
Almost without thinking, Ning Lan blurted out, “You’re not going to look at the injury on my hand?”
Sui Yi’s hand on the door handle hesitated for a moment, but in the end, he still put his hand back down. Turning, he faced Ning Lan and asked, “Let me see.”
Ning Lan was wearing long sleeves today. He lifted his arm, pushing up his sleeve and revealing his wrist.
“Aiyah, I got it wrong. It’s my left hand.”
Ning Lan switched his hand. His left wrist, covered by his shirt, was as fair and clean as his right. Thin and slender, his bones under his skin stood out starkly, and his veins could be seen faintly. It was a wrist that was well suited for a bracelet.
Sui Yi scrutinised it for a moment, then concluded, “It’s all healed already, right?”
Half a month had passed already, it’d be strange if it hadn’t healed.
Shifting his backpack up his shoulder, Sui Yi bade him farewell again. “Then I’ll head off first. If there’s something, just give me a call.”
Again, he put his hand on the door handle.
In the end, he still wasn’t able to open it. Ning Lan had taken two steps forward, suddenly hugging him from the back.
Sui Yi’s back stiffened, and he looked down to see two slender arms, their sleeves rolled up, wrapped around his waist.
Ning Lan had his face pressed against Sui Yi’s broad back. Not realising it, he nuzzled into it as he mumbled, “It’s not healed yet…” A pause, and he added, “It really hasn’t healed, it’s still a little painful.”
Sui Yi stayed. There were two beds in the standard room, and each slept in one, no different than how it was in the dorm.
He had toiletries and clothes in his bag, having previously prepared them for a night shoot. He didn’t like the feeling of his clothes being soaked in sweat. He stepped out after a shower. Ning Lan was sprawled across the bed by the door, looking at his script, and he even looked quite serious.
Flipping a page over, Ning Lan looked up at him. “The female lead is Huang Xiaoxi, right? How is she? Is she pretty in real life?”
Sui Yi didn’t blow his hair dry. Covering his head with a towel, he casually rubbed at his head, saying, “She’s quite pretty.”
“Eh? Don’t you young people like the pure and innocent style? Or are you the sort that welcomes everyone who knocks at the door?”
“Us young people?” Sui Yi felt that this demarcation was very strange.
Ning Lan flipped the script close, getting out of bed and gesturing at Sui Yi to take a seat on the chair. “You young people, none of you like to blow your hair dry. Come, I’ll help you dry your hair.”
Sui Yi originally wanted to refuse, but Ning Lan had already taken the towel. Hesitating for a moment, he still sat down.
Ning Lan was as gentle as the time when he applied medication to Sui Yi’s finger. It was as though he often did such caring things.
His back facing him, Sui Yi was unable to see what Ning Lan’s current expression was. This gave his impression of Ning Lan a temporary, hazy veil.
Flipping the towel over, Ning Lan asked, “When did you dye your hair?”
“Before filming started. It was required by the production team.”
Ning Lan seemed a little regretful. “You still look better with black hair.”
Before Ning Lan stepped out of the bathroom after his shower, Sui Yi had already gotten into bed and pulled his blanket over himself.
Only then did he feel that the one being strange was himself. He didn’t ask Ning Lan why he came, and neither did he refuse his invitation to stay the night, but now, he was avoiding him.
The running water in the bathroom came to a stop. Ning Lan came out, walking gingerly over to the bed further into the room.
As Ning Lan spoke, Sui Yi noted a refreshing, minty scent mingling in the sweltering warmth from the bathroom. Just now, when he was showering, he completely didn’t pay any attention to the scent of the soap.
He heard Ning Lan walk away, then the light behind him went out. Then, came some rustling. Ning Lan had climbed back into his own bed.
Shutting his eyes, Sui Yi exhaled slowly.
The next day, the weather started playing tricks. It was still sunny and bright in the morning, but during the afternoon, thunder crashed loudly, and very quickly, a storm broke through the dark, grey clouds, scouring the land audaciously. The production crew was only left with filming the scenes outside the school campus. With the bad weather, they were unable to continue shooting, and so they had no choice but to call it a day.
Ning Lan stayed in the room the entire day, and feeling stifled, he wanted to go out for a walk. Sui Yi was watching a movie on his tablet. Behind him, Ning Lan spun around a few times, but still did not capture his attention. He could not help but glance at the screen, then a naughty thought popped into his head and wickedly, he said, “This older brother, the one played by Lin Weifan, ended up killing his half-brother who shared a father with him, then gave himself up. The reason he did so many bad things was actually because he wanted to attract his father’s attention.”
Despite his movie having been spoiled for him, Sui Yi was not angry. His eyes were glued to the younger brother on the screen, who was dressed in a school uniform and had a pure and innocent smile on his face. It was only when the boy disappeared from the screen did he then put the tablet away, standing up to say, “Let’s go.”
The two shared an umbrella as they walked down a path inside the university campus.
School had yet to start, and it was also raining. Hence, there was no one else on the path, and they could see all the way down to its end.
All across the ground were leaves blown off by the storm. Ning Lan made sure to land his feet on a leaf every time. This was something the younger brother in the movie did, and humming the main theme song of the movie, he did all this unconsciously.
Holding the umbrella, Sui Yi followed along, speeding up and slowing down accordingly. Ning Lan was focused entirely on stepping on the leaves for a while before he remembered that there was someone walking with him as well. Turning to search for him, he saw how a shadow was cast across Sui Yi’s face by the canopy of the black umbrella, yet how his face seemed to have been washed by the summer rain, so gentle that it seemed all edges had been smoothed out.
Seated on the steps under the gymnasium’s porch, the two people chatted for a while.
Ning Lan took a deep breath. The fresh air filled his lungs, and he exclaimed, “Going to school is great…Why didn’t you continue studying but come and be a star instead?”
Sui Yi said, “Isn’t that the same case for you?”
Ning Lan’s eyes traversed through the rain over to the sports ground in front of them. “I’m different from you.”
Sui Yi turned to look at him. The little mole at the corner of Ning Lan’s eye dragged his eyes upwards. Ning Lan’s eyelashes were very long, his pupils black. He could barely see any impurities within, and they were like mirrors, reflecting exactly what the world was like.
It was no wonder that the first time he saw him, he felt that he should be a student, and he had used the words “pure and simple” to describe him.
Unfortunately, people were different. People could share similar appearances, but a clean, clear heart was not something everyone could have.
After dinner, they were free to do whatever they wanted. Ning Lan continued waffling his boredom away by looking at his script, while Sui Yi opened the book he brought with him, annotating it with a pen as he read.
Reading for a little while, Ning Lan’s eyes started to ache, and he ran over to the table to look at what Sui Yi was doing instead.
The book was filled completely with words. Looking at them separately, he knew them all, but when put together, he didn’t know what he was reading. Ning Lan blinked, surmising, “You’re taking the exams as a private candidate?”
There was no need to keep this matter a secret, and so Sui Yi said, “Mn. If I can’t get famous, it’ll be good to have another path of retreat.”
Ning Lan’s jaw fell. “Other people treat getting into university as their path in life, and you’re seeing it as a form of retreat?”
Sui Yi saw how silly he looked, and so he continued playing along, “Yes. My results were very bad. If I really can’t make it in this industry, only then will I consider going to school.”
Ning Lan pursed his lips together, signalling his doubt. Seeing that Sui Yi didn’t seem like he was joking, he believed him a little more. Thinking that he was poking at Sui Yi’s sore spot, he said guiltily, “Don’t worry too much. These days, it’s not so difficult getting into university… As long as you don’t insist on getting into the top universities.”
Sui Yi gave a serious nod.
Perhaps their interaction today had been too harmonious, Sui Yi could not help but put down his guard. When he was done with his book, he took a shower, then lay on his bed and scrolled through his Weibo, preparing to go to sleep.
There was only one lamp still lit in the room, and the sound of the rain outside was gradually coming to a stop. Not too long after he put his phone down. Half-asleep, he felt a weight on his bed. Then, an arm suddenly encircled his waist.
Sui Yi woke up immediately, turning around to come face to face with Ning Lan’s dark, bright eyes.
Their eyes met, and they watched each other quietly, keeping quiet in tacit understanding.
After some time, a smile slowly appeared on Ning Lan’s face. The corners of his lips curved up, revealing two cheeky dimples.
“Lead, are you going to film a kissing scene tomorrow?” he asked.
Sui Yi’s heart jolted. The warm breath brushed across his skin, and just like Ning Lan’s body, it also smelled like mint.
This made him recall that dark room. It was a different scent, but it evoked exactly the same effect.
Looking at his eyes, Ning Lan drew a few centimetres closer, and his voice became even lower. “Lead, have you kissed anyone before?”
Sui Yi’s lips parted slightly, and just as he was about to answer, Ning Lan’s face magnified in front of him, and then he felt his lips covered by softness.
Things were happening too quickly. A few seconds later, the two people drew apart, their distance increasing again.
Ning Lan’s back was facing the door, blocking the light. As such, Sui Yi could not see his bright red cheeks and ears. They were not hugging as well, so Sui Yi could not hear how loud his heart was pounding.
Holding onto one of Sui Yi’s hands, Ning Lan placed it on his waist. Then, with his knee, he nudged gently against Sui Yi’s crotch, which was already starting to react. Huskily, he asked, “Then… Lead, do you want to?”