Edited by DancingDolphinsYo
The traffic light turned green. Sui Yi turned on the handsfree mode for his phone, then placed it on the center console of the car as he released the brakes.
“Mn.” He answered.
The man on the line quickly said, “You’re not asleep yet?”
“How have you been recently? Are your living expenses enough? Do you need…”
Before the other person could finish talking, Sui Yi interrupted. “It’s enough, I don’t need anything.”
He was firm and distant, unwilling to speak even one more word.
The other party was silent for a moment. “Alright. It’s your father’s birthday next Saturday. He misses you very much. If you have time, come back home to see him.”
Despite Sui Yi’s rudeness, that man’s voice was still gentle and calm, and he did not seem even a little bit angry.
“I’m not free. I’m hanging up.” Sui Yi completely did not appreciate the warmth, and was going to hang up straight away.
“Sui Yi, hang on.” The man stopped him in a hurry. “Laoshi1 knows… I know you still hate me. About your mother, it’s really my fault, and I don’t plan on pushing the responsibility away. However, it has already been so long, and what you saw was not the entire situation. Your father’s health hasn’t been very good recently. You should at least come back and take a look at him; listen to what he has to say.”
Sui Yi hung up, and the car returned to silence.
After driving down a section of the road, Sui Yi spoke up. “You’ve woken up already?”
Ning Lan had been frozen in his position, and his neck was almost stiff. Hearing Sui Yi speak, he slowly turned over, yawning exaggeratedly, and he put on a blank expression as though he had just woken up. “We’re here?”
Sui Yi did not expose him. “Soon.”
Ning Lan was actually very nervous. He had not eavesdropped on purpose. Even more so, this was such a private conversation, but he could not have covered his ears, right? In this sort of situation, pretending to sleep was already the best way to handle it.
Parking the car in the underground garage, the two of them took the lift upstairs.
“Looking around, it seems like there are quite a few expensive cars in this area.” Ning Lan spoke randomly after the door to the lift closed.
Sui Yi was not paying attention to it, and he replied casually, “You’ve done some research on cars?”
“No, I just like them. If not, I also would not have gone to 4S Hotel to work.” Ning Lan glanced at Sui Yi. “Hey, don’t tell me you were thinking that I went there specifically to get beaten up?”
Sui Yi smiled and shook his head. “No.”
Looking at his expression, Ning Lan knew that he was not telling the truth. Ning Lan wanted to explain everything, but he suddenly recalled how he had called him “Hubby” that day. In the end, he did not say anything, only coughing awkwardly a couple of times and rubbing his nose.
When they exited the lift, Sui Yi asked. “Are you still in need of money?”
His tone was calm and placid, and following behind him, Ning Lan could not see his expression. He was unable to confirm whether Sui Yi was really showing concern or just mocking him. However, no matter why Sui Yi decided to ask this question, Ning Lan would still give the same answer.
“No, I don’t. Lead, thanks for your concern.”
Sui Yi did not press on any further. Taking out his keys, he unlocked the door. The other group members who had arrived earlier were all sprawled across the couch in the living room. The two people worked together to carry them back to their respective rooms, and by the time they were done, it was already very late at night.
Sui Yi returned to his usual manner as a leader, and told Ning Lan, “We’ll be shooting the MV outdoors tomorrow. Don’t sleep too late.”
Despite being young and healthy, the youths could not withstand the impact of alcohol. It was only till afternoon the next day when the five drunk youths recovered a little. After washing and dressing up, they all rushed to the shooting location.
It was a school field. Taking advantage of a Sunday when no students were around, they had booked the area, and they wanted to shoot the youths running and chasing after each other in the light of the setting sun.
Before he left the house, Ning Lan had secretly inserted elevated soles into his shoes. He was now a little more confident when standing, but he was not as smooth when it came to running. He kept feeling as though if he were to run too fast, his shoes would fly out.
Fortunately, everyone was busy, and no one noticed his weirdness. Gao Ming, Wang Bingyang and Gu Chenkai were all on skateboards, practising, while Lu Xiaochuan and Fang Yu were still arguing.
“We’ve already agreed that you’ll stay in the dorm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while I’ll stay there on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Yesterday was Saturday!”
“I know, but I was drunk yesterday. You think I want to stay with you too?”
“Who knows if you did it on purpose. You probably think that I’m rich and handsome, and so you decided to throw yourself onto me.”
“Then why wouldn’t I go find Lead instead?”
“You even want to seduce Lead?” Lu Xiaochuan leapt up immediately. “Do you still want your dignity? What sort of karmic retribution is this, for me to be in the same group as you… Zhang Fan-jie, Jie, please change a group for me, I don’t want to be in the same group as this fellow, or you can chase him out…”
Ning Lan shook his head, listening to them. They had been arguing the entire way here, and they still were not done yet.
A few days ago, he had heard the reason for the conflict between the two of them from Wang Bingyang. Apparently, when the rakish Lu Xiaochuan saw Fang Yu for the first time, his eyes had nearly fallen out. Crying and whining, he was begging to debut in the same group as him. Later, after hearing some rumours from somewhere, his attitude towards Fang Yu did a complete 180 degree turn. Ignoring his constant vicious jabs, he also often behaved in a very annoying and childish manner towards him.
Ning Lan asked what sort of rumours they were. Wang Bingyang looked around before leaning over and whispering secretly into his ear. “I heard… It’s only hearsay, ok, Fang Yu-ge is being kept by someone outside, and that’s why he rarely stays in the dorm. I also heard that he’s actually already 21 years old, and to debut, he changed his age to 18. Once, Ming-ge saw him being picked up by a luxury car outside the company. However, he denied it resolutely, and this matter became an open secret in the company.”
Ning Lan laughed dryly after listening, thinking that it turned out he was not the first one to change his age and pretend to be young.
Fortunately, everyone sleeping in the dormitory was straight. At least he could sleep comfortably at night.
On the grass, the two people started arguing again. Zhang Fan went over to persuade them, before Lu Xiaochuan was willing to stop.
“AOW gather around!”
In the evening, under the setting sun, the clouds in the sky were dyed a deep, golden colour.
Seven youths stood in a line on the track. The director called out, and all of them ran forward in a rush. The gentle spring breeze blew past their faces, and in front of the camera, they all jumped towards the sky, reaching up as they tried to touch the last thread of the golden light of the setting sun.
At 8pm, the last member of AOW was announced, and so, all members were now present. Starlight Entertainment posted their group photo and released the social media accounts of the seven members accordingly.
Sitting in the living room of the dormitory, the gang of five heterosexuals each had a phone in their hands. Wang Bingyang was the first to get nervous, and his trembling legs affected Gao Ming. The nervousness spread down the line, only ending at Sui Yi.
“Lead, aren’t you nervous?” Even Wang Bingyang’s teeth were chattering.
Sui Yi shook his head, reassuring him, “The company’s promotion has been prepared very well, there’s no need to worry.”
“But the comments that the some of us received weren’t very good…” Wang Bingyang cautiously looked at Gu Chenkai. “Would AOW become infamous even before we could get famous?”
Gao Ming, “Touch wood, don’t say nonsense.”
Wang Bingyang shrunk back, closing his mouth.
Ning Lan also was not nervous, but he accompanied them, sitting there trembling with them.
He was very open minded. Whether he would be popular or not, that was something out of his control. It was enough that a couple out of all of them could become famous. In the next three years, all of them would be in a group, and at that time, they would be able to benefit from their association, right? His objective here was to earn money, and he had heard that even the most unpopular stars in the industry could earn more than ordinary citizens out there.
After the announcement, the fan count of all seven people started rising. The fastest rising ones belonged to the three who had participated in the talent show, followed by the other three who had outstanding appearances. Twenty minutes later, Ning Lan was left all the way at the back, and the distance was only increasing.
Now, Wang Bingyang was no longer nervous. He even comforted him, “Lan-ge, you’re just not photogenic, so they don’t realise how good looking you are. Once the MV is released, your fan count would definitely rise.
Ning Lan only smiled and exited his Weibo page.
He had read most of the comments. “This person can actually debut with his appearance”, “the standards of Starlight Entertainment is really dropping”, “his appearance is so smarmy, did he do plastic surgery for his dimples”… Many of the comments were derogatory, and only a few were complimentary. It was most likely because he was Feng Qiu’s replacement, and so, the online citizens were especially critical towards him.
If he truly was 18 years old, he might have gotten angry like how Gu Chenkai did that day. However, he was 23, and the so-called youthful vigour had long been polished away by the grinding of time. Even he himself could not feel where his edges were.
Refusing to let anyone casually arrange his life was probably the last line he would defend in his life.
They kept watch till 10pm, and the first wave of publicity dissipated. They all returned to their rooms.
Gu Chenkai was the first to shower. Ning Lan went to the balcony to keep his clothes, and collected Sui Yi’s and Gu Chenkai’s clothes as well, out of convenience. Sui Yi stood up, taking the clothes. “Just leave them, I’ll do it. Don’t move around.”
Ning Lan paused. “Huh?”
Sui Yi placed the clothes on their beds accordingly. “You hurt your waist during the shooting in the afternoon, right?”
Ning Lan blinked. “How did you know that?”
“I was right next to you when we were hurdling.”
Ning Lan recalled what had happened. In the afternoon when they were shooting, the director had suddenly requested for a shot of all of them hurdling over the fence of the school field. Ning Lan had already left school for five years, how would he still be able to do something like that? However, seeing that even the delicate Fang Yu had no objections, Ning Lan could only grit his teeth and do it. In the end, he immediately sprained his waist on the first jump. If not for someone behind helping him, he would have crashed face first into the wall, and broke his teeth.
At that time, all he could focus on was his pain, and he did not notice who was the one who had helped him. Now, thinking about it, according to their positions at that time, the person on his left was Sui Yi.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m getting old… Oh, no, I’m getting old before my prime… I have to thank you again.” Holding onto his waist, Ning Lan spoke in embarrassment.
Sui Yi was done separating the clothes. From his cupboard, he retrieved some medicated plasters. “This one is quite effective, you can use them.”
Ning Lan wanted to thank him again, only for Sui Yi to speak first. “This belongs to Xiao Kai. He has injured his joint before, and I bought some just in case.”
Ning Lan did not mince about. Taking the plasters, he lifted his shirt, trying to position the plastic. In an awkward position, he spoke, “From your daily life, I have experienced how difficult it is to be an older brother.”
Sui Yi saw that he was having trouble, and so he took the initiative to go up and help. “You have an older brother?”
“I don’t.” Ning Lan again pulled his shirt up higher, revealing a slender waist. “I’ve been alone since coming out from my mother’s womb. That’s the meaning, right?”
“Alone since coming out from your mother’s womb means that you’ve been single until now, not that you’re an only child.” After correcting him, Sui Yi pressed onto his waist. “Is it this spot?”
“A little lower… then to the right. Yes, there… Hahaha don’t touch that spot, it tickles!” Ning Lan suddenly broke out into laughter. Curling up, he shied away.
Sui Yi had finally found the right spot, and now that Ning Lan had moved, he again did not know where to place the plaster. Sui Yi just grabbed onto one side of Ning Lan’s waist, trying to hold him down. “Don’t move.”
Feeling ticklish, Ning Lan’s movements only turned more vigorous. Laughing loudly, he pushed Sui Yi’s hand away, and the two of them pushed and pulled at each other, nearly falling off the bed.
Finally, it was Sui Yi who grabbed both of Ning Lan’s wrists and held them behind with one hand. He then quickly applied the plaster with his other hand, smacking it down on his waist, ending this difficult process of applying a medicated plaster.
The indoor shooting of the MV was done on Monday.
To release two MVs for their debut, the company was regarded to be very generous in the entertainment industry, and showed how big an importance the company had placed on the group. The youths who were about to debut were all in high spirits, and they had all done their preparations for their single. Hence, the shooting of the MV was done efficiently, only having a few hiccups when shooting the MV with the cute flair.
“Lead, let’s redo the last shot. 1, 2, 3, smile~” The director demonstrated how he should smile again for the nth time, and the muscles on his face ached badly.
It was not that Sui Yi did not know how to smile, only that in An Lin’s words, it was “too official”. When he smiled, he would raise the corners of his lips, just like a robot that had received a command. His looks were too handsome, and if he did not smile naturally, it looked a little fake. If one did not focus, his smile would still look acceptable in a photo. However, in a video, it could not deceive the audience.
“We have to try smiling sincerely. You can fantasise a little. Think about seeing a girl you like, or a beautiful flower.” The director tried describing a scenario for him.
Sui Yi shook his head. He did not have any girls he liked, nor did he like flowers.
Gu Chenkai searched for some lame jokes online, reciting them to him. In the end, Sui Yi did not laugh, but Gu Chenkai was rolling on the ground, laughing.
All sorts of methods were tried, and they failed. Exhausted, the director called for a break.
Ning Lan stroke his chin, watching Sui Yi from the side. Then, taking advantage of him talking to others, he suddenly pinched his waist.
Sui Yi, “… What?”
Ning Lan was surprised. “You’re not ticklish?”
Ning Lan saw that his expression did not seem feigned, and sighed. “Your funny bone must have been stolen away by your younger brother when you were in your mother’s womb.”
Sui Yi thought about it. “We’re not actual brothers.”
“…” Who was supposed to be making who laugh here?
After the break, the director was too tired to have any more hope, and declared that no matter what, this would be the last shot. The camera aimed at Sui Yi, and all the other members of AOW twisted about behind the camera, making all sorts of faces.
Sui Yi still could not find anything to laugh at. Resigned, he mustered up his spirits. As he faced the camera, and tried his best to cultivate a smile from within.
His eyes swept past the crowd. Everyone was looking over at him, and only Ning Lan, seeing that no one was watching him, was hiding in a corner, lifting his shirt up and rubbing at his own waist, grimacing.
Sui Yi suddenly called how this fellow was twisting about yesterday, trying to avoid being tickled. He was laughing breathlessly, his dimples deep within his cheeks, and his eyes were squinting in laughter, looking like two crescents.
“Very good, this is the smile!” The director shouted excitedly, “Cut!”