Edited by DancingDolphinsYo
Ning Lan’s motive was actually very simple. He was about to make his debut, and he wanted to change his appearance and start anew. Since time did not allow him to replace his face entirely, then he would just add a mole. At least, it would prove that he was no longer the Ning Lan from before.
He desperately wanted to get rid of the version of him that was helpless against his fate, and greatly anticipated the next step of his life.
Although, in his subconscious, he did not hold much hope.
He had thought that in the entertainment industry where plastic surgery was so commonplace, such a small change was nothing. However, the next day, all the people who saw him seemed to have swallowed a large rock.
When Gu Chenkai woke up, he stared at him for a moment before huffing his scorn. Gao Ming bumped into him in the bathroom, and he bit his toothbrush as he looked at him through the mirror. His words were mumbled, and Ning Lan did not understand what he was saying. Wang Bingyang was even more exaggerated, cupping his face in his palms and wailing, “Lan-ge, why did you walk this road of despair?!”
Ning Lan asked him what he meant, and Wang BingYang pressed at his mole. “Doesn’t a mole at this location mean tears? It’s unlucky.”
On the way to the company, Ning Lan searched online. He was amused, thinking, my mole isn’t even real, and it means I’m “born under an eclipse”?
Sure, come get me if you dare.
The company arranged for a 9-seater SUV to send them to the photography studio. Not long after the seven of them took their seats, the assistant An Lin joined them.
Wang Bingyang asked, “An’an-jie, aren’t you our assistant for our daily lives? You’re also following us for work?”
An Lin opened up her big canvas bag, retrieving a few bottles of water from within and handing them to the members and the driver. “Outside of work, I’ll take care of your private lives, and during work I’ll be your assistant as well. Do you have any comments?”
The youths all laughed and shook their heads.
Ning Lan said, “Then the company should increase your pay.” He took An Lin’s bottle, opening it before handing it back to her.
An Lin smiled and accepted it. After drinking, she spoke. “I think so too… Hey, what happened to your face?”
The driver heard the alarm in her voice, and he too turned his head to look.
Today, Ning Lan had been studied by everyone he knew. When they gathered in the meeting room, he was even reprimanded by Zhang Fan. She told him that if he wanted to make any changes to his face in the future, he would have to talk to her first.
By then, he was already used to everyone making a mountain out of a molehill. “I’ve only added a little black dot. People who don’t know would have thought that I’ve replaced my entire head.”
An Lin leaned over and scrutinised him. “It’s actually quite good-looking. Previously, I never noticed that your eyes were so pretty. Later on when your hair is getting styled, we’ll get the stylist to cut your fringe a little; the effect would definitely be even better.”
Ning Lan quickly agreed.
Sui Yi, who was sitting all the way inside next to the window, glanced over at him, then averted his eyes and looked out of the window again.
The photos would be taken in an indoor studio. There were two outfits for each of them, one styling them as rebellious young teenagers, and the other as cute and fresh youths. The theme coincided with the styles of their two songs in their EP.
For their rebellious look, the style was not exaggerated a bit. With canvas sneakers and clothes from a trendy brand, the clothes looked ordinary yet their details were inlaid with a sense of design, keeping a fashionable style yet leaving everyone with the aura of youth.
Ning Lan’s hair would be dyed a chestnut colour. To maintain the colour for the shooting of the MV next week, they used a long-lasting dye.
Sui Yi and Wang Bingyang too had to dye their hair. One was grey and the other gold, and they did not look too outlandish or bizarre. Ning Lan felt that the aesthetics of this company were not too bad, and they were quite trustworthy.
Now that everyone had been styled and dressed up, the shooting process was very fast. The group shots of the seven people were according to their arranged positions and poses. For the one with the rebellious flair, they only needed to be expressionless, while for the cute one, they had to smile brightly.
As for Ning Lan’s solo shots, it took quite a bit of time. He was unused to the shutter snapping every half second, and was unable to come up with a variety of poses. The photographer probably had never seen such a stiff idol before, and he kept shaking his head as he saw the photos on the screen.
Ning Lan believed that he had already done everything that he could. Even the embarrassing pose of forming a heart with his arms above his head, he gritted his teeth and did it as well. Now, he could only wait and see if everything worked out.
After the shoot, he first went to wash his face. Rubbing and rubbing for a long time, the eyeliner still did not come off entirely. He just ruffled through his hair, hiding behind his newly cut fringe.
On the way back, An Lin got everyone to register a new Weibo account each, their username using the group’s name along with their own name, following the company’s account as well as following each other mutually. Lu Xiaochuan joyfully followed a few other popular internet celebrities, only to get reproached by An Lin. He unfollowed them unhappily, saying that if he knew that his personal freedom would be so restricted, he would not have joined this industry.
Ning Lan entered “AOWNingLan” and confirmed, before asking An Lin, “Why is this the name of our group?”
An Lin replied, “It’s an acronym for All Over The World.”
Ning Lan pondered over the meaning, and Gu Chenkai sneered at him. “It means the entire world.”
Whatever Ning Lan was, he still did finish high school. He smiled at Gu Chenkai, “Then shouldn’t it be AOTW?”
Wang Bingyang yawned. “The planning department said it didn’t look nice, so the T got dropped.”
Ning Lan silently took back his compliment about how trustworthy this company was.
Their schedule for the afternoon was dance practice for the entire group. Ning Lan had been training alone for an entire week, and his basic steps were pretty decent. However, when all seven of them were together, they often had to dance and move into various formations. Even though Ning Lan was mostly standing all the way at the back, there were moments where he still could not catch up.
Ning Lan again bumped into someone when changing positions. Gao Ming, the one who had been bumped, was annoyed. “How many times is this now? It shouldn’t be difficult to move from front to back, right?”
Before this session, Gao Ming never thought that Ning Lan’s ability could not even make the passing grade. Ignoring how poor his coordination was, his movements were weak and feeble. With one look, it was clear that he lacked any foundations in dance. If he had not been arranged to stand at the back, and with others covering him such that he could not be seen very clearly, the entire group would have been dragged down by him.
Gao Ming was a talented dancer who had been grabbing all opportunities to practice in the studio, giving up 3 years of sweat and blood. Previously, he did not know Ning Lan’s background, and so, was always polite towards him. Now, knowing that he was just someone who had parachuted in, without money nor capability, Gao Ming did not even want to look directly at him.
Ning Lan was no fool as well. He knew that Gao Ming definitely had a “new appraisal” of him. Ever since he noticed how bad this person’s temper was, he never really wanted to be close to him. When he had returned him his money, Ning Lan even added 200rmb more, and he did not know if Gao Ming had discovered it.
This matter had nothing to do with the few people in the front row, yet standing right in front, Fang Yu still turned to diffuse the situation. “Working together for the first time, we’re bound to have some issues. Let’s try it again.”
Wang Bingyang too came over and patted them both on their backs. “It’s fine, it’s fine, we’re all brothers here.”
They all returned to their positions.
Another two more times, and Ning Lan finally stopped stepping on anyone else’s feet.
During their break, Ning Lan took the initiative to head downstairs, buying water for everyone. He had originally taken seven bottles of mineral water, but when he was about to reach the cashier, he thought about it then gritted his teeth and swapped six bottles for isotonic drinks instead. Back at the studio, he took the mineral water, and distributed the rest to the other six members.
Very gentlemanly, Lu Xiaochuan wanted to exchange his isotonic drink for Ning Lan’s water. Ning Lan smiled and said that he was on a diet, and Lu Xiaochuan pinched his cheek intimately. “Don’t go on a diet anymore. What happens if the dimple I like disappear?”
Ning Lan did not expect this touch. He did not like it and unconsciously took two steps back, nearly falling onto Sui Yi.
Sui Yi supported him. After steadying himself, Ning Lan turned his head, about to thank him, but Sui Yi had already walked off.
Looking at his back, Ning Lan inexplicably thought about what had happened last night. He then touched his new mole that was still itching.
They practised as a group for a week. Before the song recording as well as the filming of the MV, the company arranged for a dinner for AOW as well as the other people involved in the entire process.
It was a seafood buffet, and there were more than two hundred guests. Ning Lan saw the price per person and his heart hurt. It was enough to buy more than a hundred packets of instant noodles.
As such, he was prepared to eat his worth. Ignoring the rice, the drinks, the vegetables, the dessert, and even the chicken, duck, and fish, he stood guard in the seafood zone. Whenever the sashimi was refilled, he would squeeze with the crowd to fill his plate up. He kept taking plates of salmon, crab, scallops and prawns, and even Fang Yu and Lu Xiaochuan who loved seafood started exclaiming that there was too much, and they could not finish them. They asked him to take a seat instead, and stop taking more food.
Wang Bingyang placed an orange segment on his plate. “Lan-ge has been busy alone, and fed our entire table full. Don’t tell me, you’re also taking the nanny role?”
Ning Lan tilted his head. “There’s actually a nanny in our group?”
Fang Yu pointed at Sui Yi. “There, our leader! I heard that in the dorm, he’s even in charge of washing your underwear for you?”
Gu Chenkai spoke up, “When did that happen? We all wash them ourselves. However, Ge truly works very hard. As a girl, it’s not convenient for An Lin-jie to come to our dorm, so every small thing is passed on to him.”
Gao Ming led the group in paying respects to the leader with a drink. Sui Yi laughed and accepted it. Sitting across, Ning Lan observed him secretly, registering that even the way he raised his glass was different from others his age. Steady and composed, yet not too worldly, he truly was the best person for the role of the leader.
When Ning Lan went to fill his plates for the last time, he took a serving of pizza and fried chicken for Sui Yi. Wang Bingyang asked him why he knew about the leader’s preferences, and he said, “Just now I saw the leader eating the crust of the spring roll and not the filling, so I made a guess.”
Sui Yi thanked him, slowly emptying everything on that plate.
The dinner lasted till after 9pm. Out of the seven members of AOW, five were drunk. Sui Yi who did not drink, and Ning Lan who only had a taste of the cocktail so as to save space in his stomach, helped the drunk and half-conscious teenagers into the car.
The back office personnel had also attended this dinner. Five cars had been allocated for the use of a dozen or so people, and they helped shove the drunk Wang Bingyang who was cheering “Long live AOW, AOW will be famous!” into a car. In the end, only the trunk of one car was left empty.
At this moment, the window of the backseat wound down. A car key was tossed out, and Sui Yi caught it.
So drunk that his words were slurring, Lu Xiaochuan shouted, “Lead, you… you drive my car. I-it’s at car park zone B.”
So Ning Lan followed Sui Yi down the elevator to two floors underground. Searching about for several minutes, they finally managed to find the silver sports car which was not parked in zone B but zone D. The two looked at each other in resignation, smiling wryly and climbing in.
Ning Lan had never sat in such a luxury car before. After pulling on the seat belt, he stared straight ahead. Feeling breathless, he did not even dare to blink.
Something seemed wrong to him, and he kept feeling as though he wanted to stand up. Only when the car was on the stable main road did the leader/chauffeur notice his uneasiness.
“This car has a low chassis.”
Ning Lan was finally enlightened. He pointed at the large truck in front of them. “If this truck in front were to slam on the brakes, will we just end up driving under it?”
Sui Yi laughed. “You think an emergency brake is a game?”
“I think I’ve seen it on the news before. Didn’t those stars, who died in car accidents, all drove sports cars like this?” Ning Lan wrapped his arms around himself, his teeth chattering. “Lead, drive a little slower. Safety comes first.”
The amusement on Sui Yi’s face did not lessen. “I won’t offer up your life.”
“I’m relieved to hear that.” Ning Lan’s eyes fell shut, and he spoke earnestly. “In the entire AOW, Lead, you’re the most reliable.”
Sui Yi was caught off guard by the praise, and asked curiously, “How am I reliable?”
Ning Lan said leisurely, “Xiao Gu was right. If I were to be the leader, I definitely won’t be able to do it. It’s too fucking tiring. Yesterday, in the middle of the night, I even heard you getting up and going next door to close the windows for them. If it’s me, I can’t even be bothered about my own biological brother.”
Sui Yi turned and glanced at Ning Lan. Maybe he was drunk too. Swearing silently, he noticed that from his angle, he could see the mole in the corner of Ning Lan’s eye fading in and out of sight under the street lights passing by.
Later on, Sui Yi had contemplated over this. The reason why he would notice Ning Lan’s eyes that night was probably because that sudden mole had drawn his attention to the upper part of his face. Without a sound, it caused people to unconsciously be drawn into that pair of deep, black eyes.
Ning Lan registered Sui Yi’s eyes, and turned to look at him as well. His lips split in a smile, revealing two deep dimples.
A moment of absent-mindedness passed, and Sui Yi was quickly wrenched back to reality. He turned his head back to the front, speaking composedly. “It’s no bother.”
Ning Lan laughed to himself. “Thank you for your towel that was no bother, your heat pack, your music theory book, and… and sending me back to the dorm.” Ning Lan wanted to stretch his body, but just as he raised his arms, he immediately hit the car ceiling. Timidly, he shrunk back into his seat, complaining in a small voice, “It’s so uncomfortable in this damn car.”
“Just endure it a little while more, we’ll be reaching soon.”
Ning Lan’s consciousness drifted a little, only feeling that this voice was very gentle, and it made him even sleepier. He acknowledged Sui Yi quietly, wrapping his arms around himself and leant back into the seat. His head started nodding off, and then he fell asleep.
Sui Yi no longer heard any sound from beside him. When he stopped at the traffic lights, he could not help but look to the right. Ning Lan’s side profile glowed under the reflection of the dim light, and his ear was as fair as his face.
He did not have any piercings. In the afternoon, An Lin had let him try on a clip-on to prepare for the MV, and there was still a red mark left from it even now.
As though possessed, Sui Yi raised his hand. Just before he was about to touch his ear, he quickly pulled his hand back.
Fortunately, Ning Lan did not wake up.
Before he had time to think about why he would do something so strange, his phone suddenly rang in his pocket.
The ringing as well as the vibration made Ning Lan, who was not deeply asleep, mumble something. Sui Yi grabbed his phone in a panic and randomly tapped on it, and the call was connected.
“Hello, Sui Yi?”
The car was very quiet, and a steady male voice emitted from it.
Sui Yi looked at the caller ID, his eyes dimming.