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They were already getting out of the car when Wu Zhilun’s vehicle finally drove in. His vehicle appeared to have quite a few others in it, and as those people followed Wu Zhilun out, they all greeted Yi Wenze with a smile. Jia He stood wordlessly to the side, attempting as best as she could to turn herself invisible. Thank goodness that in front of outsiders, Wu Zhilun retained a very reticent and refined demeanour, absolutely no different from that melancholy idol image he portrayed to the public. Only while he was giving a nod in greeting did he flash a cryptic smile at Jia He, and then another cryptic smile…
Since one of her eyes was blurry, Jia He could only unsteadily, carefully follow Yi Wenze in through the doors and up the stairs. The flooring and stairs were both made of grated steel plates. At first she had admired the contemporary feel, but as she walked higher and higher up, she discovered that, because the design was too clean and simple, she actually felt as if she was walking on a tightrope.
Unfortunately, she had a fear of heights…
By the time they reached the second level, her legs were already starting to grow weak. Yi Wenze, though, was still continuing upwards. With a silent howl of anguish, Jia He summoned her courage and continued the climb, unconsciously gripping tight to the terribly thin handrail, her palm drenched in cold sweat. She had had this fear of heights since she was a child. Back when the carnival was in Shanghai, she had gone there originally filled with excitement but had ultimately only been able to be a random Jane Doe spectator, standing at the bottom and looking up at those tall thrill rides and equipment while Qiao Qiao ridiculed her countless times. Then, the most pathetic thing was that the following year in Beijing, when Xiao Yu called her to go hang out and pass the time, it was again at the carnival…
The view before her eyes was unclear. With each step, her heartbeat sped up rapidly. A boy happened to run down from the third floor at that moment, and this staircase that was already narrow to begin with felt even more cramped. Gingerly, she shifted over half a step and leaned against the railing, trying hard to divert her attention.
“Hi, Boss.” The boy nodded in greeting.
Giving an “mm,” Yi Wenze asked, “Preparing for the screen tests?”
“Yup. They’re starting at two this afternoon.” When the boy finished saying this, he took a look at Jia He. Instantly, he became extremely keen and enthusiastic. “Hi, Boss’s wife.” Receiving a shock at this, Jia He reflexively turned her eyes to Yi Wenze. He, however, merely smiled and did not say anything.
Seeing the boy’s effusive friendliness … she had no choice but to respond with an “mm.” And then, she felt even dizzier.
As the boy ran downstairs with a grin, Yi Wenze at last noticed her complexion. “You’re not feeling well?”
“No…” She just needed to get upstairs. Once she was on the third floor, she would definitely be fine.
Yi Wenze turned around and carefully observed her.
Clutching the handrail, Jia He continuously prayed, Don’t look anymore. Let’s just hurry up and go…
“I forgot. You’re scared of heights.” Rather apologetic, Yi Wenze reached his arm over and circled it around her, holding her against him as they walked up the stairs. “The first floor is all workrooms. Tomorrow, I’ll have someone move my office down to the second floor.”
Jia He was somewhat astounded. How did he know everything? Probably it was Qiao Qiao again who had told him.
Because she was in his embrace and also purposely avoiding looking at her feet, her fear gradually subsided by quite a bit. Ultimately, though, that psychological barrier was difficult to overcome, and unable to even care that they were out in full view of everyone and that she should be embarrassed, she of her own accord tucked herself even tighter against him.
As they stepped up to the third floor, A-Qing was just coming out of a room, and her jaw actually fell open before she immediately shifted her eyes away. The smile on her lips was very apparent. “Teacher Yi, I saw the name list for the screen tests. Three days probably won’t be enough.”
Yi Wenze was somewhat surprised. After giving her a few general instructions, he asked her to help find menus of some nearby restaurants. A-Qing very astutely left straightaway. Jia He was evidently still caught in the aftershock from her fear of heights, for she simply remained as she was and listened to them, and it was not until they were inside the room that she realized she was still buried in his arms…
She swiftly tried to think up an excuse. At last, she had a flash of brilliance. “Weren’t you going to get some contact lenses for me?” Then, she successfully escaped.
Lunch did not have many dishes, just enough for two people to finish without any leftovers. Immediately after she set down her chopsticks, Yi Wenze was already casually tidying them away. He wrapped everything up in newspaper, then put it all into a plastic bag and placed the bag outside the door. As she watched him do all this with easy, fluid motions, a sense of pride continually gushed up in her. See how top quality, how down-to-earth and easy to get along with her idol was! So worthy of being her idol!
Then he picked up a little green bottle and poured out a piece of gum. “Would you like some water?”
“Coffee.” Once the word came out, though, she felt she had committed a heinous crime—she had actually ordered her idol around like he was some page boy. Hence, before he could even move, she was already rushing into the coffee station.
On the shelf were seven or eight different kinds of coffee.
There were simple, easy-brew ones and ones that required you to set the brew ratio yourself, and there were also coffee powder and coffee beans. She stared at all of these for a while, but in the end she still grabbed a package of the simplest type, Nescafé. Turning her head, she asked him, “What are you going to drink?”
“Iced water will be fine.” Stepping into the room, he glanced at the bag in her hand. “Why aren’t you brewing some?”
“This is easy and convenient.” She ripped the package open. “I drink coffee just to boost my energy. After drinking it for a while, it eventually just became a habit. I’m actually not picky about it at all. As long as I get that taste, it’s good enough.”
He took the package from her hand. “Instant coffee is very convenient.”
After saying that, though, he tossed the package into the garbage. Bringing down the coffee pot from high up on the shelf, he rinsed it clean with cool water and then with very practiced motions began to brew some coffee for her. “I used to like coffee, too, but later, because of filming, I developed stomach issues and had to force myself to give it up.”
The water slowly began to boil, producing gurgling sounds. His right hand casually resting on the glass table, he simply waited patiently. Jia He’s gaze moved from the collar of his shirt to his hand and finally glided to the tips of his fingers. As the aroma gradually began to permeate outwards, his fingertips made a slight, sudden movement, yanking her back to awareness. When she lifted her head, his face was already right by hers. And then, he finally brought it down and covered her lips in a gentle kiss.
The scent of coffee and also the taste of mint on the tip of his tongue instantly flooded all her senses.
Unlike the abruptness of the first time, with their current relationship, everything now could not be any more natural. However, she still felt lightheaded, as if the heavens and earth were spinning around her, and had a hard time catching her breath. After a long time, a thought finally managed to charge into her previously blank mind.
Oh no. She hadn’t had any gum.
Yi Wenze was holding her snugly against him, but when he tilted his head to deepen this kiss, she unexpectedly gave him a little shove.
With his lips against hers, he softly asked, “What’s the matter?”
“Um, well…” It was not as if she could blame him for not giving her a piece of gum. She hesitated. “The time has passed. Forty seconds.”
Good thing she knew how to brew coffee. After letting the coffee stand and infuse for forty seconds, you need to move to the next step.
He was silent for a moment before giving her another light kiss. Then releasing her, he began to pour the coffee, a faint but obvious smile on his lips. Pretending she did not see it, Jia He shuffled away a bit.
Sure enough, the power of knowledge was amazing!
When they stepped out of the coffee station, they found a few sheets of paper had already been slipped under his door. Yi Wenze picked them up and skimmed through them. They were the work schedule for the next two days. As Jia He’s eyes scanned over them, she remembered the screen tests mentioned earlier. “You’re starting to look for actors for your new film?”
He nodded. “There will be screen tests over these next couple of days.”
“What sort of theme is it?”
“Republican period.” Yi Wenze set the papers on his desk. “Other than the leading actress’s part, the female roles are not very big. I didn’t expect there would be so many people trying out for the screen tests.”
That’s because there’s you and Wu Zhilun, Jia He muttered silently.
He all of a sudden asked her, “Screen tests are on the first floor. It’s open viewing. Would you like to watch?”
Remembering how high up they currently were, Jia He replied glumly, “Forget it. At this type of height, I don’t dare even to look down.”
If her blood pressure soared at that time and caused a little scene of an object plummeting from on high, things would get even livelier…
“It’s okay. I’ll be with you.”
The film production company had only just been established but had already immediately started on a large collaboration project with one of Mainland China’s leading corporations, Yi Hua. Consequently, Yi Wenze very quickly slipped into working mode. Jia He sat in the wicker chair by the window, holding a newspaper and casually flipping through it. Sunlight streamed through the glass, which infinitely magnified its warmth. And then, drowsiness began to creep onto her… until there was a light rustle. Starting awake, she discovered that the newspaper had slid down off of her knees.
Yi Wenze looked at her with a smile. “Go inside and sleep for a bit.”
She hurriedly answered, “It’s okay.”
What a crime she had committed. He was so busy and bogged down in work, but here she was dozing off.
At this time, voices suddenly started up downstairs. The screen tests seemed to have begun. Finally, she had an excuse to escape from this awkward situation, so quickly cutting in and changing the subject, she said, “Screen tests have started?”
“Let’s go out and have a look.” Lightly moving and stretching his fingers, he rose. “It’s a good time to take a break.”
The two of them walked out the door. On the first floor, the seats were already filled with people. Sure enough, it was open viewing.
Jia He took only a little downward glance but her legs immediately went limp. When she was about to back away, however, she felt warmth surrounding all of her. Yi Wenze’s two hands were resting on the railing, enfolding her against his chest. “Is it a little better this way?”
“Much better,” she softly replied. Though she knew this was the best way to overcome her fear of heights, there were so many people downstairs… Plus there were people watching the screen tests from the second and third floors, too. This wasn’t very appropriate, was it?
While she was wavering over whether they should go back, it was already the next candidate’s turn. From her vantage point, Jia He could not see that young girl’s face, but judging from the figure, she was certain the girl was a beauty.
To her surprise, when the girl spoke, her voice sounded very familiar. “Hello, teachers. I am candidate number thirteen, Jiang Xing.”
Why was the voice so familiar? Jia He carefully searched through her mind. She should not know this person; she had never heard the name before.
Jia He did not ponder on this anymore, reckoning it was just coincidentally similar to the voice of someone she knew. Sweeping a look over the people sitting downstairs, she saw that Wu Zhilun was in a seat on the rightmost side, wearing a very solemn, melancholy expression. She could not help giggling and remarking quietly, “The image that Wu Zhilun portrays is definitely wrong. He obviously has a very sunny, cheerful face, yet he’s always acting in roles that are very psychologically complex and dark.”
Yi Wenze also spoke in lowered tones. “It has to do with his own experiences. He used to live in a public housing estate, and his family’s financial situation then wasn’t very good. Later on, he did lots of auditions for modeling but with no success and could not get into an artiste training program either. He could only hang out on film sets and wait for roles as an extra or a minor character.”
Jia He only knew that Wu Zhilun had been famous for seven or eight years now, but as he was not her type, she of course had not really paid much attention to his career. Now that she truly thought about it, he and Yi Wenze were the same age but he had not risen to popularity until many years after Yi Wenze. It had probably been very difficult for him.
“In Hong Kong, it’s not easy to get a start in the entertainment business, is it?’ It seemed that those who managed to bear through and make a name for themselves had spent many years in minor roles.
Yi Wenze gave a very mild “mm.”
All of a sudden, she recalled what Qiao Qiao had said, that Tian Chu had struggled for many years as well.
But asking now on topics about his ex was definitely inappropriate. Jia He very wisely restrained herself and turned her gaze back downstairs. That young girl had already, as requested, acted out a scene of reuniting with long-lost family and was currently being asked to act alongside someone else and play the role of a virtuous, filial child.
She watched carefully for a short while. That girl honestly was quite good. Her voice, though, still really did sound familiar.
Near the end of that girl’s audition, Wu Zhilun appeared quite satisfied with her performance as well. “Answer me very quickly: what is the thing that has left the deepest impression on you lately?”
Daring not to delay, the young girl blurted, “When I saw your rumoured girlfriend.”
When these words were tossed out, everyone was taken aback. The look on Wu Zhilun’s face went from puzzlement to comprehension, and then finally, with a wry expression, he flicked a barely perceptible glance at the third floor. Stupefaction had long since possessed Jia He, and it was only with this look from him that she abruptly realized why this girl’s voice was so familiar. Wasn’t she that person in the restaurant that night who had said she was going to be going for a screen test?
While a tempest sea was still raging inside her, she felt a warmth on her ear.
“You’ve seen her before?”
 民国. The Republican era (1912-1949), also known as the Minguo era, in Mainland China is the era immediately after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912, in which the Republic of China was established.
 Hong Kong has a significant public housing program. The government has built many public housing estates of apartment buildings to provide affordable housing to those with low incomes, and due to government subsidization, these are rented out at significantly lower rates than private housing.
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