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Since Yi Wenze was not speaking, Jia He could only stand there beside the door.
In contrast to the function hall with its warm, amber lights, here it was actually a little brighter, but because the lighting was stark white, this place seemed especially cold and bleak.
Jia He suddenly remembered how one time during their university days, in order to see Wang Leehom, Qiao Qiao had followed some television reporters to the airport late at night to meet his flight. However, when she came back, she had heaved sighs and moans, saying, when she truly did get to meet him, she had actually not even dared to say to him that she had liked him for many years. At the time, Jia He had scorned her, yet now wasn’t she doing the same? It would seem that idols are still more suitable for coming into contact with through television or the Internet…
Her mobile phone in her pocket all of a sudden began vibrating. Hurriedly, she covered it with her hand. After a short while, Yi Wenze appeared to have heard the noise, and turning his head, he brought his gaze onto her, his eyes carrying a slight look of polite inquiring.
She quickly pulled out her phone. On the other end of the line was Qiao Qiao’s voice, and there was obvious edginess in it. “Have you found him?”
Jia He answered in a low voice, “I found him. He’s right by my side.”
It was evident Qiao Qiao was already at the point where she could not handle things anymore on her side. “Forget it. Come down in the elevator. The van’s in front of the hotel doors.”
Jia He gave an “mm-hmm,” then looked at him. “The van’s downstairs already.”
He stubbed out his cigarette and walked over to Jia He. “It’s going to be almost four hours on the road. Do you need to bring some light refreshments along?”
The tone he used was inquiring, but he was already opening the door for her first.
Gazing puzzledly at him, Jia He was motionless with surprise for three or four seconds before comprehending his intention. “That would be good. From what I could see, everybody didn’t really eat much this evening. I’ll go pack some food. What do you want to eat?” There were countless cameras out there already, lying in waiting, and it would be best now for them to split up to leave, so as to not bring about any trouble.
He smiled. “Anything will be fine.”
Not daring to say anymore, she left that stairwell first.
Sometimes, merely a single photograph is enough for a news story, one so ridiculous you are beyond laughter or tears, to be fabricated. In particular, during this last half a month since the divorce news broke, Yi Wenze’s ex-wife, Tian Chu, had time and again gone on various programs and wept heartbrokenly, like all the land should be grief-stricken with her. Yi Wenze, on the other hand, had all along not accepted any questions that directly addressed the matter. If he were to be photographed at this time with a woman, it would basically be equivalent to throwing himself into the line of fire.
She had someone pack up two boxes of refreshments and then went into the elevator with a few staff members.
When they arrived downstairs, the blazing hotel lobby was filled with the shrieks of fans and shouts of questions from the reporters.
Yi Wenze was again surrounded by the media downstairs. However, unlike the earlier, routine interviews for the start of a new drama project, currently each of these people was more excited than the previous, and each person’s voice was crying out louder than the one before. Relentlessly, they repeated the words that Tian Chu had said ten minutes ago on a television talk show, and they continuously pressed to know whether Yi Wenze had been the one to first propose divorce and whether they had been living apart for a long time already.
Qiao Qiao was beside him, her hands extended outwards to block any person who got too close, the smile on her face obviously already forced and stiff. Even the hotel security guards were nosily taking a few extra looks at Yi Wenze as they shielded the several of them. The entire time, however, Yi Wenze wore a very well-mannered smile on his lips, and repeatedly he urged the people all around him to watch their steps. Other than this, towards any questions thrown at him, he maintained the proper silence that he should.
After they were inside the van, Qiao Qiao at last slid the door shut forcefully, cutting off from them all the flashes of the cameras outside and leaving them with only the silence in the interior of the car.
Yi Wenze took a seat beside Jia He.
Jia He gave a sniffle of her nose, not daring to utter a word. Qiao Qiao picked up her own mobile phone and sent a text message to her: Hey, missy, I just told you to go find a person, but it still ended up being so difficult. And here I was saying that I was giving you a chance to get close to your idol. All it did was cause me trouble.
Jia He was indeed in the wrong in the first place. She sent back a reply: He wanted to have a smoke and just some quiet time, and I didn’t dare just drag him away.
Qiao Qiao suddenly turned around and shot a look of contempt at her.
The tall buildings rising on either side of them crowded against the heavens until only a narrow line of sky remained. The decorative streetscape lighting was changing, flashing through various city-type slogans, obscuring the glow of the moon and stars. Qiao Qiao was making phone call after phone call, quietly talking about work-related matters. Jia He could do nothing but self-consciously stare out the window. Here, on the streets of Shanghai on Valentine’s Day, it was as if everyone ought to be hand in hand with someone else, ought to be like a docile, little woman leaning against a man, and ought to be holding roses.
But all these “ought to bes” happening and piling up right before her eyes actually caused the atmosphere to become even more awkward.
Yi Wenze was sitting right next to her, not moving in the slightest, and even after the vehicle had driven out of Shanghai, he still maintained the same posture.
“Call from Mai Jie [Big Sister Mai].” His assistant, A-Qing, suddenly answered a phone call and then immediately handed the mobile phone over to him.
Mai Jie was Yi Wenze’s agent. There was no need to guess what she was calling about.
He took the phone. As a result of the overly quiet atmosphere in the van, the rises and falls of that female voice on the other end of the line were very obvious, and with a rapid rhythm to her words, she repeated what Tian Chu had said on the talk show. Jia He was so close and, in discomfiture, heard it all clearly. From beginning to end, Yi Wenze only gave two sounds of “mm,” not showing much other reaction. After the call went on for ten minutes, he finally switched the phone from his left ear to his right one and said in a low voice, “Phone’s out of battery. We’ll talk again when I get to Hengdian.”
With those words, he unhesitatingly hung up.
“I just charged my phone.” A-Qing muttered this one sentence, taking her mobile phone back.
When a mountain range, swathed in the curtain of night, could be seen, Qiao Qiao at last grumbled out a sentence of “I’m hungry.” Instantly, as if she had been set free, Jia He stuffed one box of refreshments over to her. “Here, eat. I purposely got it for you.”
Qiao Qiao looked at her with astonishment. “Since when did you become so thoughtful?”
Having no words to say to that, Jia He continued looking out the window.
For the entire four-hour drive, she did not dare doze off for even half a minute, bearing through with nerves stretched taut the whole way until they arrived in Hengdian.
Only when they had all gotten off the van did she slip over beside Qiao Qiao. “You and I are staying in one room?”
Qiao Qiao jeered at her, “You wish. You’re staying next door to Director Jiang. The story editor didn’t come, so you can just await the torture from Director Jiang.”
Jia He had more to say, but Qiao Qiao was already lowering her voice to inform her, “I’ll tell you, that Taiwanese guy is coming. Don’t disturb me.”
Jia He looked in surprise at her. Just the mention of Qiao Qiao’s Taiwanese boyfriend immediately brought on a headache for her. She had no idea where Qiao Qiao had met this nearly forty-year-old fellow who claimed to be one of the leading bass players in Taiwan. However, the very first time Jia He saw him, she had already been given quite the scare.
She could still remember that first meeting with him at Lippo Plaza. When the black car door opened, two stick-thin legs wrapped in snake-skin pants had stretched out from inside, followed by a face covered in wrinkles and a head of long hair that was not at all light and flowing… For the entire dinnertime, that great bass-playing talent had repeated incessantly that people should eat nutritiously. Then, he had very cautiously ordered one order of rice, one order of flat rice noodles, and one order of rice porridge for the three of them to share.
A leading bass player of Taiwan, when treating people to dinner, was only willing to spend enough to order dishes of staple foods. Would you believe that? Qiao Qiao believed it…
Jia He had no intention of hearing more about Qiao Qiao’s “life of sweetness” in which she was being duped but still enjoying herself. Pulling her suitcase, she strode into the hotel.
It was not until after she had taken a quick shower that she discovered a note had been stuck on the hair dryer: Out of order. Do not use.
Hengdian’s temperatures were frightfully low. A hair dryer was basically a necessity. She immediately gave a few haphazard rubs to herself with the towel and then went back into the bedroom to call the hotel’s customer service desk. However, right when the hotel reception answered with a hello, there was an unexpected knock on her room door, and she could only hastily state her room number to the person on the other end of the phone before straightaway jogging over to open the door.
The person knocking was, surprisingly, Liao Jing, that female lead who, as mentioned by Qiao Qiao, liked to “be valued.” Two steps behind her stood Yi Wenze, garbed completely in casual clothing. When he saw Jia He step out, he gave a slight nod of his head, which could be considered his greeting to her.
Liao Jing was leaning sideways against the doorframe, looking at her with a smile. “A-Ze and I are going to talk through the script with Director Jiang. Want to come with us?”
Jia He, in fact, very much wanted to tell her that she would go after she had blown her hair dry, but when the words came to her lips, they became, “Sure, just wait for me to put on a coat.”
Because the door was open, the air, which was near freezing temperatures, sent shivers through her, and she gave a sniffle of her nose. Just as she was about to turn around to go grab a coat, a room attendant bearing a hair dryer in hand had already appeared behind Yi Wenze. “Who wanted a hair dryer?”
Having seen many celebrities here, this room attendant was much more composed than the average person and still spoke with a gruff voice.
“You can give it to me.” She awkwardly extended her hand forward.
“Oh, my! Your hair is still wet.” Seeming as if she had just noticed that Jia He had finished having a shower only a short while ago, Liao Jing at once turned her gaze to Yi Wenze and smiled. “We’ll go first. Let Screenwriter first dry her hair.”
Jia He grew even more abashed. “It’s okay—”
Before she had finished what she was going to say, Yi Wenze spoke up, interrupting her. “Go in first and dry it. No need to rush.”
The white hair dryer was wrapped carelessly with its black power cord.
He casually took it from the room attendant’s hand, said a thank you, and then handed it to her. Reflexively, she took it from him. Only when they had left did she recall that she had not even said thank you…
She shut the door, feeling terribly downcast, and pressed her forehead against the wall, silently berating herself for half a minute.
Very soon, she had taken care of everything with herself. When she arrived at Director Jiang’s room, Liao Jing was smiling and saying how she was new and inexperienced, so since hearing that she would be acting alongside Teacher Yi, every day she had been so excited that she was unable to get a good sleep… Going along with her words, Director Jiang took the opportunity to throw a few teasing sentences at Yi Wenze. Yi Wenze, however, merely shook his head and gave a light laugh, not saying anything.
In reality, despite calling this a discussion about the script, it was simply an informal conversation between the several of them, and they only arbitrarily brushed over the script.
Jia He made herself a cup of coffee. When she heard Liao Jing casually mention that the emotions for her in a certain scene were not there and there was not enough substance to act out, she tried hard to listen carefully, but as it was Cantonese that she was speaking, Jia He could only approximately grasp what was being said. However, because Director Jiang and Yi Wenze were both from Hong Kong and she also did not feel right interrupting, she could only force herself to try to understand, and only when she truly did not would she raise her hand and ask a few questions.
Jia He even began to admire Liao Jing. A Mainland actress who had just risen into popularity had actually been able to learn to speak Cantonese so well…
“In that palace coup scene, I feel the emotional undercurrent isn’t quite there either.” Yi Wenze suddenly spoke, but he was using Mandarin. “Li Chengqi plotted for so many years, but in the final moment, first his control of the military power is seized from him by his younger brother, Li Longji, by way of trickery, and then later Empress Wei is killed as a result of the coup. Yet, Li Chengqi only ends up taking Li Longji’s woman away with him and does not contend for power anymore. I feel like this climax just comes to an abrupt end.” With a cup in his hand, he sat quietly in his chair and enunciated each word, each sentence. When he got to the phrase “comes to an abrupt end,” he even paused and thought for a moment over whether he had used the saying accurately. “However, a few days ago, I did read through this particular piece of history. The script is generally more of a dramatic and loose interpretation of historical events, so I could only just turn it over and read the actual records on Li Chengqi…”
Jia He listened attentively and waited until he had finished speaking before setting down her own cup.
This particular production was a historical drama on Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty. The world and women—the drama plotline basically consisted only of these.
Most actors and actresses, after receiving the script, will try to understand the parts by, at most, reading through the overall character outline and descriptions. She had not expected that Yi Wenze would be so professional and devoted to his work that he would read up on that period of history. A seldom-experienced urge to debate arose in her, a compulsion to state her thoughts aloud. “Actually,”—she mulled carefully for a moment—“the point at which his emotions reach a peak and burst forth is at the very end.”
Director Jiang listened with a smile to the debate between these two, the whole time not interrupting them.
And so the discussion progressed along like this until eleven o’clock, when it at last came to a close. The cast would be going through makeup and costuming the following day. She could only jot down tonight all the things that were to be revised and then one by one make the changes tomorrow. When they were about to leave the room, Director Jiang finally remembered the several scenes that he had previously asked her to first make changes to. Jia He hurried back to her own room, brought her laptop back with her, and, with the other three people’s gazes on her, pressed the power button.
But the next second, she completely froze.
There will always be some habits that, when you are not expecting it, will bring sheer disaster upon you.
A password was not required to unlock the computer. The screen was black for half a second and then slowly the desktop appeared.
Overlaid on a light-blue background was a collage of all the magazine covers Yi Wenze had modeled for in the last three years—one where his head was bowed taciturnly, one where his head was tilted slightly while a faint smile touched his lips, one where only his lone backside remained. In short… they were all him, and only him.
And scrawled across the top right corner were words written in a cursive font: You smile, I smile.
 Often Chinese will address someone older but in the same generation as them with whom they are relatively acquainted as Jie “big sister” or Ge “big brother.” Here, the Jie also contains tones of respect, for Mai Jie has a certain level of authority.
 力宝广场 Lippo Plaza in Shanghai is located in the busy Huangpu business district in downtown Shanghai and consists of an office tower and shopping mall.
 The prefix 阿 “A” in general is more commonly used in southern dialects of China. It can be placed in front of a name to express familiarity, endearment, or intimacy with someone. Generally, it is placed in front of a single character. With Yi Wenze, it is placed in front of the last character of his given name; hence, those better acquainted with him call him A-Ze.
 老师 “teacher” nowadays is used to respectfully address someone who is knowledgeable or has expertise or a certain status in a field.
 In Hong Kong, the most common dialect spoken is Cantonese, which also explains Jia He’s observation previously that Yi Wenze’s Mandarin pronunciation is not standard.
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