Edited by DancingDolphinsYo
The next day when Ning Lan woke up, he found that his entire body was sore. Even a simple motion of getting up from his bed required five minutes.
He had always thought that he was quite physically fit. In the past, standing for the entire day as a waiter or a bellboy, he did not feel any discomfort. Who would have thought that just some stretching of muscles would cause so much pain, his joints aching so much that his body did not feel like it belonged to him.
Like a stiff robot, he slowly made his way to the bathroom. Only after turning on the tap, did he remember that after buying everything yesterday, he forgot about something extremely important — a towel. When he was done brushing his teeth, he was resigned to wiping his face with the toilet roll like what he had done last night.
“You didn’t buy a towel?” A voice called out from behind him.
Ning Lan looked up into the mirror. Sui Yi, who was half a head taller than him, was standing behind. Dressed in black athletic wear, there was still sweat on his face. It looked like he had just come back from a run.
“Mn. I forgot.” Ning Lan responded feebly.
“Hold on, I’ll get you one.” Sui Yi raised his hand to open the door of the cabinet above the sink. He leant forward, and Ning Lan too shifted in front slightly. With their chest and back against each other, they stood very closely together.
Sui Yi soon got what he wanted. Closing the cabinet, he returned to his original position and handed the towel to Ning Lan. “It’s brand new, wash it before using.”
Ning Lan accepted it. “Thank you very much.”
He took Sui Yi’s actions as a leader’s care for his group members, just like how he had given the bed to him yesterday. However, Ning Lan was still concerned about the 4S Hotel incident, and did not dare to easily have a good impression of this person.
Although he thought that way, he still chit-chatted with the group leader. “Putting your towels here, aren’t you afraid that others would just use them?”
“It’s fine. They’re meant to be used anyway.”
The bathroom had been renovated to fit two sinks. Both people used the same style of grey towels and washed their faces, hanging them on the towel rack once they were done.
Ning Lan rubbed at his chin. “Hmm. I’ll hang mine on the right while you hang yours on the left. Remember, don’t grab the wrong one.”
With a turn of his head, Sui Yi could see the mole on the left side of Ning Lan’s neck. He replied, “Alright.”
The group of five headed to the company, and headed to different floors.
Ning Lan returned to the studio that he had used yesterday. Following the music, he grimaced as he stretched his body. Not long after, Zhang Fan, the manager, and the dance teacher Xu Rui appeared.
Zhang Fan directly asked how Ning Lan’s training was coming along. Xu Rui said that his body was a little inflexible, but his rhythm was pretty good. Zhang Fan nodded, then informed Ning Lan that he would have to go to the music classroom in the afternoon to attend music lessons, before hurrying away.
Halfway through the morning dance class, Ning Lan limped his way to the mobile kiosk near the company to apply for a new SIM card. He then sent a message to Zhang Fan and the few group members whose numbers he had stored in his phone yesterday.
Gu Chenkai ignored him, and Sui Yi was the last to reply with an “Mn”. He seemed to be very busy.
Ning Lan did not know what sort of training the other members were doing. However, he had heard that the group members who were not very good at singing would be attending the music class with him in the afternoon. Finally, he would not be foolishly training by himself, and he was a little excited about it.
During lunch in the staff canteen, Ning Lan happened to bump into Gao Ming and Wang Bingyang. Ning Lan could see that the relationship between the two of them was pretty good, probably because they both came from an ordinary family background. On top of that, they had also participated in the same talent show, and so they had fostered a camaraderie between the two of them.
People would always draw a line according to their status and ranks. As for Ning Lan, he was of a rank lower than this two.
Thinking about this, Ning Lan’s excitement faded away. He asked casually, “Will you be attending the music class later?”
Wang Bingyang shook his head. “We’re not. My dancing isn’t up to par, and I’ve asked Ming-ge to guide me in the afternoon.”
Gao Ming bit his chopsticks. “The music class… Most likely the leader and Lu Xiaochuan will be attending it. Their singing isn’t up to standard yet.”
Ning Lan’s eyelid twitched. Did this not mean that he would have to attend the class with two “wild, cool and aggressive” people, both above the height of 185cm?
“What about Gu Chenkai and that Fang Yu? Don’t they have to attend the music class?” Ning Lan asked.
Wang Bingyang was amused. “They’re the main vocals. They’ve long surpassed such basic music lessons.”
In the end, Ning Lan’s excitement had completely been washed away, and he even had cold feet.
He arrived at the music classroom half an hour before the class started. Someone was even earlier than him. There were 3 rows of seats in the classroom, and that person had chosen a corner in the last row. Sprawling across the table, he was napping. Ning Lan could only see his hair that had been dyed a golden yellow, as well as his coat.
From his body, it was most likely Lu Xiaochuan.
The average height of AOW’s members was around 180cm. Wang Bingyang and Gu Chenkai both happened to be 180cm, while Ning Lan and Gao Ming were the shorter ones. Sui Yi and Lu Xiaochuan both helped to pull up the average.
Ning Lan stared at his legs, thinking that his height of 185cm, which was what had been reported online, was not false advertising. It was unavoidable that tall people would have a sort of oppressive aura about them, and the 177.5cm tall Ning Lan thought that he should go to the supermarket that evening to check if there were any soles for his shoes that could elevate his height.
Sui Yi arrived right on the dot. Like Ning Lan, he chose to sit in the second row, leaving a seat empty between the both of them. Just as he sat down, the teacher walked in.
The surname of the music teacher was Zhao, and she was a middle-aged woman around forty years of age. Her dress sense was fashionable, and she was very solemn. Leading the students through a musical scale, she discovered that someone was sleeping at the back of the classroom. Straight away, she knocked on a desk in the front row with her pointer. “Lu Xiaochuan!”
The student who had been called out, slowly lifted his head. He stretched his body first, before drawling, “Here—”
“Move to the front!” Zhao-laoshi was relentless, and she knocked on the desk a few more times.
Lifting his long legs, Lu Xiaochuan crossed over the desk and moved a row up, sitting between Ning Lan and Sui Yi. Ning Lan could smell a heavy fragrance wafting off him, and the fragrance was like a mixture of various different perfumes.
The teacher continued on with her lesson.
Lu Xiaochuan was still fooling around and was not paying attention. He nudged Ning Lan with his elbow, whispering, “What’s your name? I’ve never seen you before.”
Ning Lan looked at his defined facial features and grey-ish blue eyes with some astonishment. Lu Xiaochuan was of mixed-blood, and his appearance was more biased towards his caucasian side. Ning Lan did not expect that his chinese would be so good.
Lu Xiaochuan seemed to have guessed what Ning Lan was thinking and he smiled. “Don’t look at me like this. I grew up in the capital, and I don’t know how to speak English.”
Ning Lan nodded. “Oh. I’m Ning Lan.”
“Which Ning and which Lan?”
Zhao-laoshi could no longer tolerate it and knocked the desk again. “Lu Xiaochuan, if you’re not going to pay attention, you can just leave!”
Lu Xiaochuan raised his hands, signifying his surrender. He shut his mouth to show that he would no longer speak. He took a paper and pen from Sui Yi’s desk on his right, then scrawled some words on it before sliding it over to Ning Lan. Ning Lan had no choice, and wrote his name down on the paper.
Lu Xiaochuan replied: Your name sounds nice and is really pretty.
Ning Lan glanced at him. He felt that the “wild, cool, and aggressive” label was really only a designation, and this person, other than having an air of a hooligan, had nothing to do with the label at all.
He wrote down two words neatly: Thank you.
Lu Xiaochuan then wrote his own mobile number for him. Since they were group members, Ning Lan too wrote down his new number for him.
Finally, Lu Xiaochuan drew a pair of full, plump lips on the paper. His strokes were confident and practiced, and it was obvious that he had drawn them more than three hundred times.
Ning Lan drew a smiley face by the side, ending this silly exchange of notes.
Lu Xiaochuan smiled happily as he tossed the paper he used onto the table. Next to him, Sui Yi glanced at it, and a small, barely present crease appeared on his forehead.
In the evening, Ning Lan did not leave with the other group members. Gao Ming and Wang Bingyang were going to the canteen, Sui Yi and Gu Chenkai were going to a restaurant, and he could afford neither of them.
He was left with only about 200rmb out of the 800rmb Gao Ming had lent him. He decided that he would only have five meals at the canteen this month, and he would settle the rest of his meals with instant noodles.
After walking one round around the supermarket, Ning Lan did not find the soles he wanted. He picked up three sets of underwear, as he was about to start stinking if he still did not wash his clothes.
Returning to the dorm, he found that the group members were not back yet. As he showered, he washed his clothes as well. Spending about half an hour in the bathroom, he wrapped his lower body with a padded jacket when he exited, and hung his clothes out on the balcony.
As such, when Sui Yi opened the door, he was immediately faced with a swaying pair of fair legs.
Ning Lan was humming their debut single that he had just learnt in the music class. Tip-toeing, he bounced on his feet to toss his clothes over the clothesline. Fortunately, there was Gu Chenkai’s woolen blanket there to act as a cover; if not, he would have ended up revealing his buttocks.
Ning Lan heard the door close and turned his head around, greeting Sui Yi. “Lead, you’re back.”
“Mn.” Sui Yi headed to his room.
After hanging his clothes up, Ning Lan too went into their room. Covering himself with a blanket, he held a glass of hot water to his chest to keep warm, occasionally sneezing. He had always been afraid of the cold since he was a child. Even though there was heating up north, it did not always work well. He often had to spend his winters coughing and sneezing with a stuffy nose.
Sui Yi who was sitting by the table doing something suddenly stood up. He opened a cupboard and rummaged through it, then handed a few heat packs over to Ning Lan. “Use these, they’ll emit heat after you stick them on.”
Ning Lan extended his hand out from under the blanket, accepting them. “Lead, you even prepare such things for yourself?”
With Sui Yi’s musculature, the heat packs did not suit his image.
“Xiao Chen’s mother mailed them over, but he doesn’t use them.”
All of Ning Lan’s clothes were hung out on the balcony, and he did not have anything on. Fiddling about for some time, he finally stuck one outside his underwear. It felt a little like he was using a heating pad for menstrual cramps, but at least his stomach was now warm.
Having received so much help from Sui Yi over the past two days, Ning Lan was also not an ungrateful and unthankful person. Wrapping himself in the blanket, he stood up and hopped his way to Sui Yi’s table. Placing the food he bought from the supermarket on it, he spoke generously, “Just take whatever you want.”
“I’ve already eaten, thank you.”
Ning Lan had expected that he would look down on such cheap, instant food. Happily, he packed them back into the plastic bag, then casually glanced over at the book he was reading. It seemed to have something to do with music, as he could see musical notation on the pages.
“Lead, you can read music?” Ning Lan asked.
Sui Yi nodded.
Ning Lan’s eyes brightened, and he dragged over a nearby stool and sat down. “Can you teach me? I felt like I was basically listening to a foreign language in class today.”
He had wanted to ask Gao Ming when he returned, but he did not know where the two kids had gone, and they had yet to come back.
Sui Yi paused before answering, “Ok.”
As the leader, Sui Yi had quite a bit of patience. Ning Lan was also not stupid, and within fifteen minutes, he had learnt the notes and sounds of the musical notation. Just as Sui Yi was starting to explain the differences in the duration of the notes, the door of the room opened. Gu Chenkai was back.
The little young master was pulling a long face today, and there was no trace of his usual sweetness. Seeing Ning Lan sitting next to Sui Yi with bare legs, he immediately rolled his eyes, looking at him as though he saw something dirty.
Ning Lan guessed that Gu Chenkai must have confirmed that the one outside 4S Hotel was him. After all, Sui Yi had already confirmed it, and with their close relationship, they were bound to share this information.
Ning Lan stood up, unconcerned. He thanked the group leader, then returned to his bed in the blanket.
It was only when he met Wang Bingyang in the studio the next day did he learn why Gu Chenkai was so moody.
It was Gu Chenkai’s turn yesterday to be revealed to the public. His profile had been posted onto the company’s website, and he received a mixed reception from the public in the comments. It was common knowledge that he came from a privileged background. Even during the talent competition there were already people saying that his high ranking was due to him buying votes, especially since his family was so rich.
Someone had mentioned this in the comments yesterday, and others had immediately joined in the discussion. As such, Gu Chenkai was extremely angry, and ended up singing Vitas loudly in the studio the entire evening.
Ning Lan felt that this little young master was too pretentious. He secretly thought, I’m not afraid of getting scolded, why not let me be a rich person too.
Today’s schedule was still dancing in the morning and music in the afternoon. Lu Xiaochuan again shamelessly sat next to him. Like yesterday, he asked for a piece of paper from Sui Yi, then drew a large heart on it and passed it to Ning Lan.
Ning Lan was extremely speechless. He felt no delight in having a brat flirt with him, but as he could not offend his group members, he pressed his pen heavily into the paper, drawing a savage smiley face before passing it back.
Lu Xiaochuan laughed lowly when he saw that face with a crooked smile. He then drew on it, and shoved it again at Ning Lan. Now, this face had two additional marks on the side. They seemed like dimples, and next to the face was a sentence: Give me a smile.
Ning Lan who had dimples when he smiled was unable to smile.
This music lesson lasted a little longer. When leaving the company, the sky had already darkened. Ning Lan packed his belongings and left swiftly, but Lu Xiaochuan still managed to catch up to him. He patted Ning Lan’s shoulder, “I have something on today, I’ll treat you to a meal next time.”
Lu Xiaochuan then walked to a silver sports car parked by the entrance. After opening the door, he even blew a kiss at Ning Lan. Ning Lan gave him a superficial wave. Turning around, he bumped into Sui Yi who just happened to exit the building as well. Ning Lan gave him a friendly smile, but Sui Yi seemed to not have seen it, and walked away by himself.
In the evening, Ning Lan specially spent 3rmb to purchase a notebook. He dragged the stool over to Sui Yi’s table, asking him to continue teaching him about the musical notation. However, he was rejected.
“Just look at this, you should be able to understand it.” Sui Yi handed a green book titled <Basic Music Theory> to him.
Ning Lan felt that something did not seem quite right. However, he did not know how to ask about it, and could only take the book and return to his bed to study it.
A while later, Gu Chenkai returned. He seemed to be in a much better mood than yesterday. In his arms, there was a bag that contained snacks Ning Lan knew were more expensive than his. As Gu Chenkai munched on them, he even distributed some next door.
But he did not give any to Ning Lan.
Ning Lan did not want any, after all, he was not a child. Gu Chenkai was really very immature.
Sui Yi was not much better. His unpredictable moods were truly baffling.