Easily Set Aflame Chapter 7

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Published at 30th of March 2019 09:53:26 AM Chapter 7

At this point, the call was hung up. Jia He still felt as if in a fog.

Yi Wenze set her mobile phone to the side, picked up his telephone, and dialed an internal line. “Qing, would you please bring some food in? Thank you.”

Plain rice porridge served with a few other small, simple dishes. She was not certain whether it was because she was sick or because he was watching her the whole time as she ate, but the food was bland in her mouth. With difficulty, she managed to finish everything before putting down her bowl. “What time is it?”

Yi Wenze lifted his wrist. “Nine o’clock.”

Nine o’clock? …

She had actually slept all the way into the middle of the night. “I’m so sorry. I’ve troubled you for such a long time.”

He did not reply to that. “Do you want to sleep for another little while?”

Sleep… His one sentence wholly exposed to her what the situation was, and she all of a sudden realized that she truly, right in front of him, had just blatantly slept for a really long time.

In the past, she had watched his television serials in her own room and, hugging her blankets, her mind hazy, drifted off into slumber. She had even felt that being able to fall asleep while listening to her idol’s voice was truly such a happy thing. But it was apparent the current situation was a whole other matter.

In this very dim room, there were only the two of them, one lying on the bed, one sitting at the bedside.

“I slept too much. I want to go out and watch some TV.” Jia He wrestled inside herself for a long time before managing to squeeze out this sentence that had no value whatsoever.

After a lengthy quiet, he finally answered with a chuckle, “How about we watch a DVD?”

Her mind was dull for a moment, then caught on. Yi Wenze’s home likely did not have cable television…

Her original intent had been to avoid the awkwardness of being alone with him, but in the end, they merely changed locations, from the guest room to the study, and continued being together. Compared with the liveliness of last night, tonight was quite a bit quieter. Qing offhandedly explained that Wu Zhilun was attending an event tonight and would probably be coming back in the middle of the night to sleep. Then she began informing Jia He of where the herbal teas and teapot were kept and even specifically brought Jia He to have a look at the place where the tealight candles were stored…

Her fever had actually broken a long time ago; she simply felt a little faint now. However, in comparison to Yi Wenze, she would still be considered a healthy person.

And hence, from the moment Qing closed the door, she instantly took on the role of taking care of him.

She steeped some tea, lit a candle, and placed the transparent teapot above the flame.

Only then did she stop to look at Yi Wenze, who was sitting behind the desk. “Would you like to go downstairs and get something to eat?”

Yi Wenze smiled, “No, it’s okay. The DVDs are on the shelf. Go ahead and choose one.”

Since Jia He was the one who made the suggestion, it would not be right for her to continue being overly polite, and she therefore could only face the shelf after shelf of discs and carefully look through them. There was a generous variety of types of films. In particular, one shelf was devoted to recently-released ones.

In a glance, she spotted Gillian Chung’s new film, Ex[1].

The word-of-mouth reviews on this movie were pretty good, so without thinking too much about it, she stuck the DVD into the player.

In the beginning, the movie was still rather fun and amusing, but the further along it progressed, the more it became scenes of suggestive, yet still ambiguous, interaction between Gillian and her ex-boyfriend. And the more she watched, the more she felt this was not quite right. Jia He inconspicuously lowered the volume a little and peeked at Yi Wenze. Observing that he was still reading through some doc.u.ments and did not seem to have noticed the movie picture, she secretly breathed out in relief.

But when she was in the middle of changing out the disc, he suddenly spoke up.

“What’s wrong? It’s not a good movie?”

Jia He hemmed and hawed for a bit, answering equivocally, “No, I just suddenly realized that I’ve watched it before.”

“Of the recent Hong Kong films, there are several smaller productions that are pretty good.” Yi Wenze was holding a stack of doc.u.ments, signing as he spoke. “That film, Love in a Puff[2], is quite good. It’s a rather close portrayal of real life.”

The words spilled off Jia He’s lips before she had even thought them through. “That movie about a romance in seven days?”

She had watched this movie, starring Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung, completely from beginning to end, and the impression it left with her was merely like that of a romantic love song that lasted for seven days, very in line with the fast-food-type love prevalent in current culture. But regardless of how she evaluated it, she still felt that the basic foundation itself of the film was weak.

Seeming very much in a leisurely mood, Yi Wenze set down his pen. “The reviews for both of these movies are quite good. Which one do you prefer?”

Why was it that, no matter how she heard these words, they sounded like he was asking her, “Which do you prefer, an ambiguously intimate relations.h.i.+p with an ex or a fast-food style romance with a new love?”

The flame of the tealight candle was unhurriedly warming the tea.

Jia He hesitated briefly. “To be honest, I don’t really like modern movies with an urban setting. I prefer Ashes of Time[3].”

A very old film. Back in her university days, she was already able to recite almost all the lines in it.

“Go take a look at the tenth disc on the third shelf. It should be the disc for that movie,” he unexpectedly said.

“The old version or the new one?”

“The old one.”

Following his instructions, she went over and pulled out the disc. Sure enough, it was the right one.

“When the film was released in 1994, its initial box-office reception was terrible, but because it received a lot of awards, it suddenly became popular.” He stopped, looking at Jia He with a smile. “At the time, you should have only been in your teens.”

Jia He quickly calculated in her mind. “Not even ten years old.” Seeing how well the disc was kept, she asked offhandedly, “You really like this film, too?”

He replied, “From a cinematography and editing standpoint, I very much like it. But I don’t really appreciate the protagonist’s character.”

Jia He thought about Gege, Leslie Cheung[4], and could not contain a sigh. “How he let himself live a self-indulgent, unchecked life?”

Yi Wenze smiled. “His att.i.tude of hiding from his own feelings.”

Not expecting that the conversation would develop to this topic, Jia He for a moment did not know what to say and could only give a cursory laugh. Then, while remarking on how good Gege’s acting skills were, she set that disc into the player and carried on whittling away the time. It was some time past eleven o’clock and the movie was nearing its end, when Qing at last knocked on the door and told them that Qiao Qiao was back. When Jia He heard these words, it was like she had received a special pardon, and, practically fleeing, she sped downstairs.

Qiao Qiao had carried in two boxes of Demae Ramen instant noodles and was now downstairs drinking water. Seeing Jia He, she immediately winked and signaled with her eyes. “One box is for you to b.u.t.ter up your idol and one box is for me to b.u.t.ter up my ba.s.s-playing talent. How about it? I’m such a good friend, right?”

Qing snorted out giggles when she heard this, making Jia He terribly embarra.s.sed.

She helped Qiao Qiao bring a box into the kitchen, while the other one was moved into the guest room.

“Will I be able to sleep with you?” Qiao Qiao asked out of the blue.

Looking at her in bewilderment, Jia He countered, “Why wouldn’t you?”

Qiao Qiao immediately flopped onto the bed, answering with a grin, “Will I get in the way of your ‘happy activities’?”

Jia He finally understood what she meant. “Cut the jokes. If you hadn’t driven my car away, I wouldn’t still be staying here tonight.”

From top to bottom, left to right, Qiao Qiao swept her eyes over Jia He. “When you were pa.s.sed out in sleep this afternoon, I was already back. How come I didn’t see you driving it away then?”

“You came back this afternoon?”

“Of course. You had a high fever that wouldn’t go down. You think I’d dare to not come back?” Qiao Qiao laughed. “Sadly, though, it was obvious my presence was redundant. Wu Zhilun is so able to act, but even he didn’t dare be an atmosphere-spoiling light bulb[5], let alone me.”

Jia He had no words to say to that. This afternoon, she had been dead to the world when she slept, so Qiao Qiao could fabricate things however she wanted and Jia He would not be able to expose her. Therefore, she decided simply to hold her silence.

Qiao Qiao fussed about for another little while before falling into a deep sleep, a pillow nestled in her arms. Jia He, on the other hand, having slept too much during the day, tossed and turned on the bed, and at one in the morning, she still had not fallen asleep yet. When she stepped out to get herself some water, she unconsciously glanced towards the study. The lights inside were still on.

After wavering for half a minute, she slowly treaded upstairs and gave a knock on the door.

“Come in.” Yi Wenze’s voice was slightly deeper than before, and weariness could be heard in it.

Pus.h.i.+ng the door half open, she saw that he was still sitting behind his desk, looking at his computer.

The tealight candle had long burned out, and all that remained was a thin layer of tea at the bottom of the pot.

On the television screen was still the picture at which she had paused the movie, with Maggie Cheung, dressed in a bright red gown, frozen in an action.

He typed out his last word, then lifted his head to look at her. “Why aren’t you sleeping yet?”

Fortunately, Jia He had come up with an excuse before coming upstairs, and now she only smiled and replied, “I was in bed and then felt hungry. It so happens that Qiao Qiao brought a box of Demae Ramen back with her. I’m going to be making some anyway, so if you want some, I can make yours together with mine.” Ah, sure enough, she was calmer if she first drafted up in her mind what she was going to say. More and more, she admired her own composure.

“Sure.”

“Want to add an egg to it?”

She was not really clear on what Hong Kong people’s tastes were. If Qiao Qiao had not exposed her to it, she would not have even known about this brand, Demae Ramen. From her own common knowledge, she just believed that when you cook noodles, you need to add an egg in before it will be tasty.

He nodded again, his smile deepening. “Sure.”

Jia He had originally wanted to ask a few more questions, but remembering that he might not even know what the refrigerator contained, she decided it would be better to simply go herself to have a look, and whatever was good to eat, she would just add into the noodles. Seeing that Yi Wenze truly did seem interested, she hurriedly went downstairs, found her way to the kitchen, and began rummaging around. She suspected that that Shanghainese housekeeper would have brought a lot of things here today. Very soon, she had dug out some luncheon meat and eggs, and pulling out a pot, she boiled some water. Only now did she notice that the box of noodles had not yet been opened.

There was a wide strip of tape across the box. Squatting on the floor, she slowly tore at its edge with her fingers. The sound of boiling water was heard a short while later, but right as she was about to stand, a hand was already reaching from behind her and turning down the stove.

She turned around. Yi Wenze, leaning against the edge of the marble counter, told her, “The scissors should be in the cupboard to the right.”

Hastily crouching down again, Jia He grabbed the scissors, opened the box, and pulled out two packs of noodles.

Package of sesame-flavoured Damae Ramen. Packaging may vary in design and colour, depending on flavour and region. (Image credit)

Steam rose relentlessly from the roiling water, which emitted very light noises.

When she ripped open the package and pulled out a dried cake of noodles, Yi Wenze had already cut open the pack of luncheon meat, and taking out a clean plastic cutting board, he began cutting it into slices. His knife work was pleasant to watch and skilled and made Jia He, a smatterer when it came to working with a knife, sweat profusely with embarra.s.sment at her own skills.

Boil the noodles, crack the eggs, put in the meat.

He practically did everything. Jia He, standing to one side, gradually became the person who merely helped hand things over to him. Not until he was holding a pair of chopsticks and starting to stir things together did she recall, wasn’t she the one who said just earlier that she wanted to make noodles for him to eat? …

Feeling a little sheepish, she began randomly searching for things to talk about. “What a coincidence. The two movies that we talked about today both have scenes with cooking noodles. It seems you Hong Kong people really like to eat this stuff.”

His lips turned up ever so slightly, and he took a glance at her. “Bring over two empty bowls.”

Hurrying again to rifle through the dish cupboard, she brought out two large, white, porcelain bowls. Before long, one bowl was filled.

He got some more cold water and began to heat it.

“How about you eat first?” She helped him rip open the other package of noodles.

He told her, “It’s okay. It’ll be ready really soon.”

She was a little embarra.s.sed. “I was the one who said I’d make noodles for you… You coming downstairs like this, will your leg be okay?”

Calmly, he replied, “It should be fine. As long as you have no need for me to play ball or go running, there should be no problems.”

Jia He was glum for a moment. If she really did make any sort of request for him to play ball or run, she reckoned that everyone, from his talent agency down to his fans, would hack her to death, then grind up her bones into ashes and scatter them to the wind.

Tiny bubbles climbed up from the bottom of the pot. Slowly, the water began to boil again.

All the things that needed to be handed had been handed to him already. There was nothing else for her to do, and she was unable to find anything to converse about either. She could therefore only stand beside him, staring at those bubbles on the bottom of the pot to try to distract herself. After he poured out the noodles into the other bowl, she hastily stretched out her arm to take the pot from him, wanting to first bring it away to wash.

And then, completely catching herself by surprise, her hand b.u.mped into his.

[1]《前度》 Ex (2010) is a Hong Kong film starring Gillian Chung and William Chan.

[2]《志明与春娇》Love in a Puff (2010) is a Hong Kong romantic comedy starring Miriam Yeung and Shawn Yue. It is about two smokers who fall in love over a one-week period, after meeting outside while having a smoke.

[3]《东邪西毒》Ashes of Time is a Hong Kong wuxia movie that was first released in September 1994. It is a loose prequel to Jin Yong’s Legend of the Condor Heroes (also known as The Eagle-Shooting Hero). In 2008, it was re-edited and released as Ashes of Time Redux.

Ashes of Time stars big names: from left to right, Leslie Cheung, Brigette Lin, Tony Leung KFai, Jacky Cheung, Carina Lau, Charlie Yeung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Maggie Cheung was also in the movie, though she is not shown here on this poster.

[4] The extremely-loved Hong Kong actor and singer, Leslie Cheung, is also fondly referred to by the nickname 哥哥 “Gege,” which literally means “Big Brother.” He suffered from depression, which ultimately led to his death by suicide in 2003, hence Jia He’s sigh as she suddenly thought of him. Leslie Cheung played the role of the main character, Ouyang Feng, in Ashes of Time.

[5] In Chinese slang, being a light bulb is like being a third wheel when you are with a couple. A person who is hanging out with a couple is like a light bulb, s.h.i.+ning brightly on them and spoiling the atmosphere.

“Sorry.” She hastened to apologize. The next instant, her hand slipped against the side of the pot and she burned herself, drawing a sharp hiss through her teeth.

Seriously, the more anxious she was, the more she messed things up.

Out of reflex, she pinched her earlobe. “Teacher Yi, let me wash it.”

Before her words had completely left her lips, though, Yi Wenze had already twisted on the faucet and put her hand under the stream. Water flowed along his fingers and down onto her hand. As he was blocking most of the light, Jia He could only see the running water before her and her own hand. She was utterly unable to control the waves of scorching heat already coursing through her body.

It seemed like it was a very long time before he shut off the water and, gently pulling her, turned her around.

Jia He dared not make any movement. Only her gaze flitted around, from the b.u.t.ton of his s.h.i.+rt to the two bowls of noodles on the counter. Just a tiny package of sesame oil, about the size of a thumb, had been poured into each bowl, but its aroma suffused through the entire room. Simply looking at those bowls made her stomach rumble in hunger.

“If we don’t hurry and eat the noodles, they’re not going to taste good anymore…” She spoke up, wanting to turn to grab the noodles.

His back against the marble counter, with one hand, he drew her into the circle of his arms. Her frame was tiny and was nearly engulfed within his embrace. She did not dare move. The heat of her body rose incessantly, so hot it could sear.

His voice lowered. “Jia He.”

“Hmm?” She lifted her head.

“If you don’t want to, just let me know.”

Merely nine words. But before she had pieced them together into a cohesive sentence in her mind, he had already brought his face down and was kissing her.

In the beginning, he simply tested tentatively, his kisses sometimes light, sometimes firmer, inch by inch caressing her with his lips, waiting for her to adjust to this.

After quite some time, he finally gently teased open her lips and kissed her deeply. This was their first kiss, yet surprisingly they merged together so easily, so deeply. He was not hurried in the least. They had this suitable time, this suitable place, and this long night in which no one would disturb them… Until the tip of his tongue ever so lightly feathered across the roof of her mouth. A quiver raced through Jia He, and a faint moan escaped from her, so light it was barely perceptible.

But what this brought in exchange was his even more thorough a.s.sailment.

At first, it was not clear who was trying to escape and who was giving chase. In the end, though, there was nothing but surrender, to utterly submit and fall into this moment…

Only when he finally released her did she slowly open her eyes, the view before her going from stark white to the deep black of his eyes, but she merely stared blankly.

Extending an arm, he lightly flicked Jia He’s forehead with his finger. “Let’s have noodles.”

And then he was the one to pick up the two bowls of noodles and stroll out to the dining room first, turning on the lights.

She, however, still stood in the same spot, watching as he stepped out, her mind filled only with that scene from a moment ago—the scent on him of cigarettes, that embrace that nearly squeezed the breath out of her, and also… that very ungenerous sentence of his.

Her lips had already been sealed. Even if she hadn’t wanted to, how was she supposed to tell him? …

And then Jia He decided, that sentence had to be written into a script somewhere—it couldn’t be wasted.

“It doesn’t taste good?” Seeing that she was practically eating one noodle at a time, Yi Wenze could not help chuckling.

Jia He picked up another single noodle with her chopsticks and carefully put it between her teeth. “It tastes really good.”

This absolutely was not a lie; it really was delicious.

He watched her with a smile, not saying anything. Finally, when she grew abashed beneath his gaze, he asked, “So, just how many noodles are in that bowl, Miss Jia He?”

Jia He gave an “Ah?” Hearing him laugh aloud, she slowly, half a beat behind, caught on that she was being poked fun at.

The hanging light in the dining room, brand-new, was enclosed in a deep-red paper lamp shade.

Seriously, it tinged the atmosphere with absolutely the most suggestiveness possible.

Cradling her bowl between her hands, Jia He took a sip of the noodle’s soup. She was about to say something when a sound was heard coming from the entryway of the home. Straightaway, like she had just been a thief, she plopped down her bowl and rushed to get some words in before Wu Zhilun could open his mouth. “Why are you so late?”

Giving a start, Wu Zhilun looked at her with a bemused expression. “You guys are waiting for me?”

After asking this, he took in the current appearance of those two people and also the noodles in front of them and added, “You’re waiting for me to have a late-night snack with you?”

Embarra.s.sed, Jia He at once stood. “There’s still a box of noodles. If you want to eat, I’ll cook some now.”

Wu Zhilun looked at her, then looked at Yi Wenze, then looked back at her again.

“Did the fever burn your fan’s brain and now she’s gone silly? Or did she suddenly discover that she’s actually more my fan?”

“You can just forget that. Jia He doesn’t like men whose looks are too girly.” Appearing like a wraith out of nowhere, Qiao Qiao, a gla.s.s in hand, walked over to the bar counter and poured some water. “I’m hungry, too. Just make both of ours together.”

Why… was everyone suddenly popping out?

Rattled, her scalp feeling like it was tingling, Jia He jogged into the kitchen, made two bowls of noodles for them, and carried those back out. Seeing that Yi Wenze had finished eating, she straightaway began tidying away his bowl and chopsticks as well and took them to wash, not daring to look anymore at any of the expressions on those several people’s faces. At last completely done with waiting on those two obtruders who had suddenly bounded into the scene, she returned to her room. Feeling terribly confused and twisted inside herself, she bunched the blanket into a mound, hugged it against herself, and stared with glazed eyes at nothing in particular.

What could that be considered as? An instance of being unable to restrain their emotions?

In the right place, at the right time, there was a stirring of feelings, so they had filled some of their loneliness?

Her heart was beating fast one moment, slow the next, and she was increasingly agitated.

So, she decided simply to pick up her mobile phone and look at the calendar, planning on calling tomorrow to book a plane ticket to Beijing.

“Can’t sleep?” Qiao Qiao walked in and closed the door, the smile on her face suggestive. “I can’t sleep either. How about we chat?”

Jia He glowered at her, a persistent feeling eating at her that Qiao Qiao had seen something but was just not saying anything. It was not as if she could outright ask her, though, so she responded only with a sullen “Humph!” and snapped, “I slept for the whole day. Of course I can’t fall asleep.”

Kicking off her slippers, Qiao Qiao clambered onto the bed and yanked the blanket from her arms. “Ask me! How come you’re not asking me?”

Jia He turned her back to Qiao Qiao, holding her silence. But in reality, her heart was flip-flopping rapidly, and she wished with all her might she could burrow herself beneath the bed.

“Were you the one who initiated it or was he?” Qiao Qiao shuffled up beside her.

Jia He almost tumbled off the bed. “You saw it all?”

“I saw the beginning and then put my ear against the door and listened for sounds and movement. It was a long time, eh… I waited for more than ten minutes.”

Jia He was even more mortified.

After a long moment of quiet, Qiao Qiao at last remarked unhurriedly, “You’re just too awesome. That day in the ma.s.sage room, I saw him pick you up and put you on the bed, and I thought that you had already ‘savoured’ him. Never thought this! Gosh, I totally never thought! Progress is sloooow here.”

Click. Shutting off the wall lamp, Jia He only managed to grit out one word: “Sleep.”

Jia He earlier had already set an alarm on her mobile phone. The next day, she changed into her own garments, gathered up her bag, and prepared to leave. Qiao Qiao, seeing this seldom show of seriousness from her, did not dare say anything and only immediately pulled on her clothes to go out and refuel the car, hence leaving the house first. Alone in the room, Jia He dallied this way and that for a long time, all the while deliberating silently how she should say goodbye to Yi Wenze. However, no matter what she came up with, she still felt her manner would not seem sincere enough.

Forget it. Her arrival here and b.u.mming a place to stay had been unexpected in the first place. Now that she was not sick anymore, of course she should leave.

And so, brainwas.h.i.+ng herself like this, she pulled her bag onto her back and left the room.

To her surprise, aside from the housekeeper, who was wiping the floors, there did not appear to be anyone inside the house.

The housekeeper smiled and greeted her, “You’re up now? Would you like to have breakfast?”

Jia He shook her head. “No thanks. I’ll eat when I get home. Thank you, though.”

Saying, “Oh, all right,” the housekeeper bowed her head and continued scrubbing the floor, but then she seemed to think of something. “You’re going out now? Mr. Yi isn’t here.”

With this one sentence, it was as if the stone enc.u.mbering her heart had been removed. Finally, she no longer needed to come up with an excuse. She needed to take advantage of this opportunity and leave quickly.

In the entryway, though, as she put on her shoes, she felt she was being too impolite. No matter what, she should say farewell. However, when she pulled out her mobile phone, she only looked dazedly at it for a long while before, in the end, putting it away again. Asking the housekeeper for paper and a pen, she wrote a row of words: I’m going now. Thank you for everything in these last couple of days. In the future, when I get the chance, I’ll treat you to dinner.

But after she was done the note, she felt it was not very appropriate. Ripping that sheet off, she wrote another one: Things are really urgent on the Beijing end. I need to leave first. If we get a chance to see each other again in the future, I’ll treat you to dinner. Jia He.

She gave the note to the housekeeper and then, crumpling the other useless, spent sheet into a ball and stuffing it into her pocket, left the house. She had stayed here for two days, but this was actually her first time stepping outside during daytime. Crossing over the front entryway, she turned and took a look at the house. Many plants were placed on the balcony, a lush display of rich green.

“Jia He.” Qiao Qiao had pulled the car to a stop outside the door, and grinning, she called to her.

Hastily, Jia He pulled her gaze back, getting into the car in a slight fl.u.s.ter.

“Look.” Qiao Qiao handed her mobile phone over for her to see something. It was a snapshot of the previous moment. “Just look at that little expression of yours. That’s totally one of brokenheartedness at having to leave.”

Taking the phone from her, Jia He first, as if prodded by an unseen presence, sent the photograph to her own mobile phone before pressing delete.

The car drove onto Yangpu Bridge. Sunlight streamed through the front winds.h.i.+eld, landing on her. She felt a little hot.

“Why did Shanghai just suddenly get hot?” She was wearing her clothes from only two days ago, but looking at the people in the cars beside them, Jia He felt as if she was from Mars.

Qiao Qiao did not answer, asking questions of her own instead. “Did you tell Yi Wenze? What did he say?”

Jia He lowered her window halfway. “He wasn’t home.”

A gust of wind suddenly blew in, whisking her hair so that her gaze was slightly obscured. When she was offhandedly smoothing her hair away, she noticed that, inside a vehicle driving in the opposite direction to them, there was a figure who appeared to be Qing. Her heart lurched. If they saw her at this moment, it would be too awkward…

She buried her head down, hoping to hide, but ended up whacking her head on something in front of her and crying out in pain.

“What are you doing?” Qiao Qiao gaped at her. Their car had already sped past that other vehicle.

Jia He gave an arbitrary, perfunctory answer. “Looking for my mobile. Booking a plane ticket.”

So long as it is not a working day, the Beijing-Shanghai route has the most available flights. Soon, she had booked her ticket on Ctrip[1], a flight for nine o’clock tonight, and after taking Qiao Qiao to her company office, she immediately went home to pack. There were still some items in the refrigerator, but she threw them all into the garbage. Every time she returned to Beijing, she would stay there for a lengthy period, so even if she kept these items for now, by the time she got back, they would not be edible anymore.

It was already one-thirty in the afternoon when she was done packing. Taking a few nibbles of a bun, she then sat on the couch and, once more, began to do nothing.

As long as she was not occupied with any sort of task, the memory of what happened yesterday would once again begin continuously replaying through her mind. Unable to settle her heart, she fished out her mobile phone, but her mind was flooded entirely with the words he had said, the expressions he had shown, and that kiss from him… After fiddling with her phone for half an hour, she still did not know what exactly she wanted to do. Eventually, she simply opened up a webpage and began randomly perusing the news.

Login to her QQ[2] account was automatic, so the instant she was online, she saw Xiao Yu’s avatar flas.h.i.+ng nonstop.

When she clicked on it, Xiao Yu had already typed a chunk of words: I’m in a meeting and not available to talk on the phone. Hurry and look at Wu Zhilun’s Weibo.

Given a scare at this, Jia He did as she had directed, doing a search and finding her way to Wu Zhilun’s Weibo. She brushed her gaze over the number of comments on it. Very high. However, other than this, she was unable to make out any hints of anything peculiar. She typed back a question: What’s wrong?

Xiao Yu’s reply: Check out the very last comment. Look for someone called “PurelyForBeingAGossip.”

Following her instructions, Jia He found that person’s Weibo page.

On it, there was only one photograph. It was as if this account had been created specifically for posting and commenting about it. Inside the photo, Jia He was getting out of her own car, her head turned to the side, talking to Wu Zhilun. The location was very obvious: outside of Yi Wenze’s home.

[1] 携程网 Ctrip.com is a Chinese-based travel agency and is the largest online travel agency in China.

[2] Tencent QQ, otherwise known as QQ, is an instant messaging service in China with features such as text messaging, file transfers, voice and video chats.

The number of reposts had already soared to more than thirty thousand.

Following beneath that photo was a simple line of words: The night before last, I couldn’t sleep and was taking in some air on the balcony, and then, totally surprisingly, I saw Wu Zhilun’s girlfriend who’s been keeping invisible! Oh, and also, the owner of that house is no ordinary Joe either. But he’s my idol, so I won’t give the gossip on that.

A line of small words that was so frightful to behold.

Jia He was frozen in shock for a long time before finally speedily sending Xiao Yu a question: How did you manage to see this?

Xiao Yu sent over an animated sticker of a rabbit that was continually wagging its bottom, then her reply: Just look at the number of reposts. That’s just the number of times the original post was reposted. There are also countless second-hand and third-hand reposts. My co-worker’s Weibo had this on there too. I got such a scare I nearly went into cardiac arrest.

Jia He’s chest felt tight as she sent her message: I’m going to go into cardiac arrest soon, too…

And then nothing more came from Xiao Yu. She did seem to truly be in a meeting. All that remained now was that chubby, white bunny happily wagging and wagging this way and that.

Jia He chucked aside her mobile phone. Less than half a second later, though, she was hastily picking it back up again and staring at that photograph, examining it carefully. Despite being taken from a very far distance, the side view of her face could be seen in it. This absolutely was not something a mobile phone camera could do.

It very much appeared to be the work of an SLR camera. Jia He’s smile was wry. Nowadays, even the gossip scoop sourced from common folk was so professional.

Before she had the chance to come up with words to comfort herself, her phone was already ringing with all its might.

“Go online.” Qiao Qiao’s words fired tersely and rapidly. “Go look at the entertainment news.”

Jia He was dumbstruck.

“Are you online yet?” Qiao Qiao continued hurrying her.

“It has nothing to do with me, right?” Jia He desperately prayed.

Qiao Qiao gave an “Ah?” and asked, “You know already? Weibo is honestly so scary. I’m looking at a post that’s exposing dug-up info on you. Basically, it’s pretty darn close to the mark. It’s a good thing the people who actually know you are showing bit of mercy when it comes to their tongues. There are only some ‘persons in the know’ who are trying to colour the situation and add some spice.”

Jia He cried a tearless cry. “Have they dug up my real name yet?”

“Don’t panic. Wu Zhilun just clarified things on his Weibo, saying that you’re just friends. Everyone’s already starting to try to get the scoop on whom that villa belongs to.”

“Thank goodness.” Jia He exhaled with relief. Yet when she heard the last half of Qiao Qiao’s words, she unexplainably grew uptight again.

Qiao Qiao snorted. “Don’t be happy too soon. There’s already someone saying she saw Wu Zhilun on Huaihai Road with a girl. She even took a picture with her mobile. Even though we can’t see your face, the car and clothes are the same. Just think, Wu Zhilun came here to Shanghai all low-key, and then from Huaihai Road all the way to Pudong he’s with a woman. And what’s more, they’re driving a toy-looking MINI Cooper. You’re going to have enough trouble with just the things filled in by people’s imaginations. He’s got a movie hitting theatres soon, so it may be that in just a bit he’s going to start zipping his lips and not replying to media. If that’s the case, it’ll get even more interesting.”

Jia He was in no mood to joke. After shooting back a retort, she hung up.

Fortunately, it was only a side shot of her face. It was not like she was a celebrity. People wouldn’t readily remember her face.

There are differences between a photo and the real, live person, and what’s more, the differences are really big. Jia He continuously brainwashed herself. Back when Qiao Qiao was photographed having dinner with one of the artistes under her management, she had only been teased with a couple of sentences here and there by a few good friends; there had been no impact to her. Jia He could only pray now that there would not be any busybody people acquainted with her, coming out to join in on the excitement.

As a journalist, she had never read the articles she wrote, fearful she would find them shallow only after they were printed.

As a screenwriter, she never watched the dramas she wrote, fearful she would not discover how corny they were until they had aired.

Therefore, when she was the subject of gossip, naturally… she also did not dare go to any forums to read those posts exposing her personal details.

One moment she was thinking this was no big deal, the next moment she was terrified that this really would turn into an ordeal of some sort.

Feeling conflicted and torn like this, she walked from the bathroom to the bedroom, then looked in the closet, checking item by item to see whether she had packed everything. A long while later, she once more pulled out her mobile phone, took a look at the text message Ctrip had sent her, and verified her flight time. There were still more than five hours. But since there was nothing to do at home anyway, it was perfect; she had enough time to have a decent dinner. Thinking this, she straightaway, towing her luggage with her, strode out of her home and locked the door behind her.

While she was waiting for the elevator, Auntie Zhao, her next-door neighbour, happened to come out to throw out the garbage, and seeing Jia He, she at once came over and greeted her. “Jia He, you’re home?”

Jia He nodded. “I just got back, but I’m leaving again to go to Beijing on business.”

Ding. The elevator doors opened. Jia He was about to say goodbye, but Auntie Zhao was already following her into the elevator. “Such nice suns.h.i.+ne. I’ll go downstairs to walk around.”

Jia He was puzzled by this. It was not until she had pressed the b.u.t.ton for the first floor that Auntie Zhao whisperingly asked, “You’re going to Beijing to register your marriage?”

“Huh?” Jia He jumped with shock.

“Just now my daughter was playing on the computer and she showed me a picture.” Auntie Zhao’s smile was enigmatic. “With such a boyfriend, does that mean from now on you don’t have to pay whenever you go watch a movie?”

Jia He did not even know how she should react to this. So, to these aunties, the benefits of being an actor were actually that simple…

“Auntie, people are just joking around about that. You absolutely cannot believe what’s said on the Internet. It’s all fake.”

Auntie Zhao’s response was an “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” as well as a nod. “I get it. My daughter already told me. We have to seal our lips. Even when reporters come asking, we can’t say anything.”

Jia He fell into utter silence. Managing to bear through until they finally reached the first floor, she carried her suitcase down a set of stairs and yanked out its handle. “Auntie, I’m going now.”

“Oh my, Jia He, is that Yi Wenze?”

That absolutely was a tremor in her voice from being overwhelmed by this wonderful surprise that was beyond all her expectations. And hence, she basically did not hear what Jia He had said. Jia He’s heart gave a little skip, and for a long moment she was unmoving until she finally turned to look in that direction.

In her heart, she secretly prayed that Auntie Zhao was mistaken.

Alas, this place was awash with Yi Wenze’s strong presence and had long turned into an outdoor shooting location.

A black car was parked beside the reflecting pool, its door half open. And he, beside the door, was leaning against the car. He wore merely a simple, understated black jacket and held a casual posture, his hands in his pockets. But these were already enough to give her the feeling that at any moment, someone would shout, “Action!” and then a heartrending, melodramatic, feeling-infused, urban-setting love drama would begin playing out. Right now these were still regular working hours for people and this was also a standalone apartment building, so there were only two or three people coming and going here. However, they all stopped to look, their giddiness br.i.m.m.i.n.g over in their speech and expressions…

Her heart was racing one moment, slowing the next, and she stood rooted to the spot.

Auntie Zhao beside her seemed to be lamenting in mutters that she had forgotten to bring her mobile phone out with her. Otherwise, she could have taken a photo and given it to her daughter to upload onto Weibo, and surely then she would become an instant Internet celebrity or something like that…

All of a sudden, as if he could sense something, Yi Wenze turned his head to look towards where Jia He was and then beckoned very obviously to her.

It was a very natural gesture of greeting but it left her in a slight fl.u.s.ter.

“Auntie, I’m going now.” Resigning herself to this situation, she dragged her suitcase and once more bade a farewell.

Having observed everything to this point, the truth suddenly dawned on Auntie Zhao. “Don’t tell me Yi Wenze is actually the one who is your boyfriend, and Wu Zhilun is just a random person who has nothing to do with this at all?”

Jia He wanted to cry. Gosh, just what in the world was all this? Did knowing a celebrity automatically equate to a secret romance?!

In her chest, she felt as if there were tens of thousands of horses stampeding about, but on her face, she still tugged up a smile. “No, no. I’m his screenwriter. It’s purely a work relations.h.i.+p. We’re heading to the office right now to have a meeting.” With that, she did not wait for Auntie Zhao to throw out any more questions, immediately wheeling her suitcase and escaping with brisk strides from this place.

Handing her suitcase to the driver, she pulled the car door shut herself and then expelled a long breath.

The next second, though, she discovered she was snug against Yi Wenze, her leg against his leg, with not so much as a gap between them, to the extent that she could even feel the warmth of his body… She wanted to move away but was also worried that doing so would make them both feel awkward. She could only arbitrarily search for something to say, asking, “You came looking for me?” Once she finished saying this, she stealthily s.h.i.+fted herself away a few inches.

The car at this instant happened to be driving over the speed b.u.mp at the front gate and jolted abruptly, so, once more, she b.u.mped against him.

It was still leg against leg, but now even their bodies were touching…

Yi Wenze could not restrain his smile. “We’ll go have dinner first?”

In the front seats, Qing’s ears were stuffed with earphones and the driver was watching the road intently. It was as if, without even any prior discussion, they were both giving Jia He and Yi Wenze this s.p.a.ce to talk.

But the more things were like this, the more discomfiture Jia He felt. “I booked a flight to Beijing. It’s at nine.”

“I know. Qiao Qiao told me already.” He lifted his wrist and glanced at his watch. “It’s six right now. There’s still time to have dinner together.”

His tone was natural and his suggestion was not at all unreasonable. Jia He wanted to be able to answer in a natural tone as well, but after being stuck for words for a long time, she only said one: “Okay.”

After some time, Qing began talking on the phone, and every so often the name of a restaurant would show up in the dialogue. It seemed to be the place to which they were heading. The name sounded familiar and Jia He had a vague recollection of where it was. Although it was quiet and secluded, it was still a public setting…

“Let’s just go to that club of yours,” she gingerly suggested.

Yi Wenze brought his gaze onto her. “What’s wrong?”

“That’s a public place. That won’t be really good,” Jia He explained.

“It’s okay.”

Words were on the tip of her tongue but she swallowed them. She could not well tell him that she was afraid of being photographed again. Yi Wenze did not say any more, offhandedly picking up a magazine and leafing through it. And so, the two of them sat like this, close against each other such that she could even clearly sense his subtle movements as he flipped the pages. However, in view of the lesson she had learned from her earlier attempt, the entire the way until it was time to get out of the car, she did not dare move again.

After the car was parked, Qing unexpectedly called out, “Director Jiang.” Looking in the direction to which her voice was addressing, Jia He saw Director Jiang and a.s.sistant Director Cheng Hao chatting at the doorway. Oh, so this was a dinner gathering of the drama’s production team. She at last relaxed in relief. When she stepped into the private dining room, though, she received a slight surprise. Not only were there the production team members of “Tune of Yong’an,” there were also many unfamiliar faces. The most unexpected part to her was that Wu Zhilun was present as well.

When he spotted Jia He, he immediately covered up his mobile phone, which was still connected in a call. “Hey, my rumoured girlfriend, long time no see.”

Though everyone here was in the entertainment circle and would not gossip carelessly or be nosy, this type of quipping still caused the people at several tables to turn their heads and take extra glances at her. Wu Zhilun wanted to continue saying more, but Yi Wenze had already nonchalantly swept a look at him, quite successfully sealing that mouth of his.

Six tables had been set up in this private room. Jia He had originally planned to sit with Qiao Qiao, but discovering that Qiao Qiao was actually not in attendance, she could only blindly follow Yi Wenze around. Waiting until he had finished talking to a few people and was preparing to head over to the head table, she finally halted her steps abruptly. Yi Wenze looked down at her. “What’s wrong?”

“May I sit with Qing?” she softly requested.

He contemplated for a moment but eventually nodded, telling her, “Go ahead.”

He had only just finished saying this before someone was already coming over to greet him. Jia He took advantage of this opportunity to steal away from there. The table at which Qing sat was in the corner and more than half of its seats were empty, so it was very quiet.

Jia He pulled out a chair and was already sitting when Qing noticed her. Astounded, she asked at once, “Screenwriter, why are you sitting here?”

“It’s nice here.” Jia He brushed over this question with a laugh. “Just look, it’s a tableful of food but only half a table of people to eat it. Such a good deal.”

Qing answered, “Oh,” seeming to think that this was reasonable, yet also finding it unreasonable. But after mulling on it at length, she did not continue inquiring.

Surrounding Jia He was lively, enthusiastic conversation, but none of it had anything to do with her. Only when people from the production team occasionally came over to say h.e.l.lo would she smile and respond with a couple of sentences. Before long, she was already viewing herself as thin air and had begun to eat in silence. Someone, she was not certain who, mentioned that Yi Wenze and Wu Zhilun were partnering to start up a film production company and had already begun engaging in discussions with many companies regarding collaborations. Once this topic commenced, many people began teasing those two, saying that they were the entertainment circle’s two most handsome bosses of a production company and in the future there would be no way they would be able to stop the influx of admirers even if they wanted to.

She could not resist peeking at the head table before continuing with mechanically eating her food.

When she was almost full, out of nowhere, someone clapped a hand onto her shoulder. Beside her, Wu Zhilun leaned down and grinningly remarked, “Hey, Harmonious Family Prospers! For you, Ze, the one who most dislikes having to do social engagements, was actually willing to treat people to dinner.”

Jia He was mystified.

“You and me plus so many other people”—he swept his gaze around the room—“and also this public setting. Today, there’ll be who-knows-how-many-photos that end up leaking out from here. Add on top of that the news of the production company, and who’s still going to pay attention to that Weibo post?”

Jia He suddenly comprehended. She took a drink of tea. Her heart should actually have settled with this news, but surprisingly, she felt even uneasier, antsier.

Wu Zhilun gave her a rather meaningful pat on her shoulder, then, holding his wine gla.s.s, sauntered away.

So that was the plan.

Tilting her head slightly, she looked once more at the head table. Yi Wenze was speaking to someone. Right as she was about to s.h.i.+ft her eyes away, he cast an inadvertent glance at this spot where she was. Alarmed, Jia He instantly picked up her gla.s.s and, pretending to be looking around, evaded his gaze.

At around seven-thirty, Yi Wenze finally took Jia He from the restaurant. Seeming pre-arranged, the car was already waiting at the front entrance, and after the two sat into the vehicle, it immediately drove onto the elevated freeway, heading straight for the airport.

“Thank you.” It was very quiet inside the vehicle, so she could only drop her voice low to avoid being heard by the driver. “Wu Zhilun said this dinner was to defuse the effects of that photo.”

“It’s nothing. This dinner has always been in the plan. It was just moved up a little earlier.”

Replying with an “mm-hmm,” Jia He thought, in any case, she could not go wrong with apologizing.

It was quiet for a while, and then he suddenly spoke up. “That day, I didn’t drive you, because, with my leg, I’m still unable to drive.”

Jia He carried on as before, making another sound of “mm-hmm.” She did not understand what he was trying to say.

Calmly, he added another sentence. “So, regarding the whole romance rumour, I do not intend on having him take my place for it.”

Jia He’s paused in blank surprise. As she lifted her head, he happened to turn his gaze towards her.

But just as he was bringing his face down slightly, her mobile phone unexpectedly vibrated. Hastily burying her head, she began hunting through her bag. The spot that normally took only three seconds for her hand to find, this time needed a full minute. When she saw it was a text message from Gu Yu, she even more so felt an unexplainable guilt, as if she had been found out, and she simply deleted it with a tap, not daring even to look at it.

But, at such a distance… It was such a giant screen, and he was so close to her, too.

Hesitating for a long time, Jia He eventually explained, “That was a text from Gu Yu.”

He uttered a light, impa.s.sive “mm,” asking, “He’s still contacting you?”

At this point, the call was hung up. Jia He still felt as if in a fog..

Yi Wenze set her mobile phone to the side, picked up his telephone, and dialed an internal line. “Qing, would you please bring some food in? Thank you.”.

Plain rice porridge served with a few other small, simple dishes. She was not certain whether it was because she was sick or because he was watching her the whole time as she ate, but the food was bland in her mouth. With difficulty, she managed to finish everything before putting down her bowl. “What time is it?”.

Yi Wenze lifted his wrist. “Nine o’clock.”.

Nine o’clock? ….

She had actually slept all the way into the middle of the night. “I’m so sorry. I’ve troubled you for such a long time.”.

He did not reply to that. “Do you want to sleep for another little while?”.

Sleep… His one sentence wholly exposed to her what the situation was, and she all of a sudden realized that she truly, right in front of him, had just blatantly slept for a really long time..

In the past, she had watched his television serials in her own room and, hugging her blankets, her mind hazy, drifted off into slumber. She had even felt that being able to fall asleep while listening to her idol’s voice was truly such a happy thing. But it was apparent the current situation was a whole other matter..

In this very dim room, there were only the two of them, one lying on the bed, one sitting at the bedside..

“I slept too much. I want to go out and watch some TV.” Jia He wrestled inside herself for a long time before managing to squeeze out this sentence that had no value whatsoever..

After a lengthy quiet, he finally answered with a chuckle, “How about we watch a DVD?”.

Her mind was dull for a moment, then caught on. Yi Wenze’s home likely did not have cable television….

Her original intent had been to avoid the awkwardness of being alone with him, but in the end, they merely changed locations, from the guest room to the study, and continued being together. Compared with the liveliness of last night, tonight was quite a bit quieter. Qing offhandedly explained that Wu Zhilun was attending an event tonight and would probably be coming back in the middle of the night to sleep. Then she began informing Jia He of where the herbal teas and teapot were kept and even specifically brought Jia He to have a look at the place where the tealight candles were stored….

Her fever had actually broken a long time ago; she simply felt a little faint now. However, in comparison to Yi Wenze, she would still be considered a healthy person..

And hence, from the moment Qing closed the door, she instantly took on the role of taking care of him..

She steeped some tea, lit a candle, and placed the transparent teapot above the flame..

Only then did she stop to look at Yi Wenze, who was sitting behind the desk. “Would you like to go downstairs and get something to eat?”.

Yi Wenze smiled, “No, it’s okay. The DVDs are on the shelf. Go ahead and choose one.”.

Since Jia He was the one who made the suggestion, it would not be right for her to continue being overly polite, and she therefore could only face the shelf after shelf of discs and carefully look through them. There was a generous variety of types of films. In particular, one shelf was devoted to recently-released ones..

In a glance, she spotted Gillian Chung’s new film, Ex[1]..

The word-of-mouth reviews on this movie were pretty good, so without thinking too much about it, she stuck the DVD into the player..

In the beginning, the movie was still rather fun and amusing, but the further along it progressed, the more it became scenes of suggestive, yet still ambiguous, interaction between Gillian and her ex-boyfriend. And the more she watched, the more she felt this was not quite right. Jia He inconspicuously lowered the volume a little and peeked at Yi Wenze. Observing that he was still reading through some doc.u.ments and did not seem to have noticed the movie picture, she secretly breathed out in relief..

But when she was in the middle of changing out the disc, he suddenly spoke up..

“What’s wrong? It’s not a good movie?”.

Jia He hemmed and hawed for a bit, answering equivocally, “No, I just suddenly realized that I’ve watched it before.”.

“Of the recent Hong Kong films, there are several smaller productions that are pretty good.” Yi Wenze was holding a stack of doc.u.ments, signing as he spoke. “That film, Love in a Puff[2], is quite good. It’s a rather close portrayal of real life.”.

The words spilled off Jia He’s lips before she had even thought them through. “That movie about a romance in seven days?”.

She had watched this movie, starring Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung, completely from beginning to end, and the impression it left with her was merely like that of a romantic love song that lasted for seven days, very in line with the fast-food-type love prevalent in current culture. But regardless of how she evaluated it, she still felt that the basic foundation itself of the film was weak..

Seeming very much in a leisurely mood, Yi Wenze set down his pen. “The reviews for both of these movies are quite good. Which one do you prefer?”.

Why was it that, no matter how she heard these words, they sounded like he was asking her, “Which do you prefer, an ambiguously intimate relations.h.i.+p with an ex or a fast-food style romance with a new love?”.

The flame of the tealight candle was unhurriedly warming the tea..

Jia He hesitated briefly. “To be honest, I don’t really like modern movies with an urban setting. I prefer Ashes of Time[3].”.

A very old film. Back in her university days, she was already able to recite almost all the lines in it..

“Go take a look at the tenth disc on the third shelf. It should be the disc for that movie,” he unexpectedly said..

“The old version or the new one?”.

“The old one.”.

Following his instructions, she went over and pulled out the disc. Sure enough, it was the right one..

“When the film was released in 1994, its initial box-office reception was terrible, but because it received a lot of awards, it suddenly became popular.” He stopped, looking at Jia He with a smile. “At the time, you should have only been in your teens.”.

Jia He quickly calculated in her mind. “Not even ten years old.” Seeing how well the disc was kept, she asked offhandedly, “You really like this film, too?”.

He replied, “From a cinematography and editing standpoint, I very much like it. But I don’t really appreciate the protagonist’s character.”.

Jia He thought about Gege, Leslie Cheung[4], and could not contain a sigh. “How he let himself live a self-indulgent, unchecked life?”.

Yi Wenze smiled. “His att.i.tude of hiding from his own feelings.”.

Not expecting that the conversation would develop to this topic, Jia He for a moment did not know what to say and could only give a cursory laugh. Then, while remarking on how good Gege’s acting skills were, she set that disc into the player and carried on whittling away the time. It was some time past eleven o’clock and the movie was nearing its end, when Qing at last knocked on the door and told them that Qiao Qiao was back. When Jia He heard these words, it was like she had received a special pardon, and, practically fleeing, she sped downstairs..

Qiao Qiao had carried in two boxes of Demae Ramen instant noodles and was now downstairs drinking water. Seeing Jia He, she immediately winked and signaled with her eyes. “One box is for you to b.u.t.ter up your idol and one box is for me to b.u.t.ter up my ba.s.s-playing talent. How about it? I’m such a good friend, right?”.

Qing snorted out giggles when she heard this, making Jia He terribly embarra.s.sed..

She helped Qiao Qiao bring a box into the kitchen, while the other one was moved into the guest room..

“Will I be able to sleep with you?” Qiao Qiao asked out of the blue..

Looking at her in bewilderment, Jia He countered, “Why wouldn’t you?”.

Qiao Qiao immediately flopped onto the bed, answering with a grin, “Will I get in the way of your ‘happy activities’?”.

Jia He finally understood what she meant. “Cut the jokes. If you hadn’t driven my car away, I wouldn’t still be staying here tonight.”.

From top to bottom, left to right, Qiao Qiao swept her eyes over Jia He. “When you were pa.s.sed out in sleep this afternoon, I was already back. How come I didn’t see you driving it away then?”.

“You came back this afternoon?”.

“Of course. You had a high fever that wouldn’t go down. You think I’d dare to not come back?” Qiao Qiao laughed. “Sadly, though, it was obvious my presence was redundant. Wu Zhilun is so able to act, but even he didn’t dare be an atmosphere-spoiling light bulb[5], let alone me.”.

Jia He had no words to say to that. This afternoon, she had been dead to the world when she slept, so Qiao Qiao could fabricate things however she wanted and Jia He would not be able to expose her. Therefore, she decided simply to hold her silence..

Qiao Qiao fussed about for another little while before falling into a deep sleep, a pillow nestled in her arms. Jia He, on the other hand, having slept too much during the day, tossed and turned on the bed, and at one in the morning, she still had not fallen asleep yet. When she stepped out to get herself some water, she unconsciously glanced towards the study. The lights inside were still on..

After wavering for half a minute, she slowly treaded upstairs and gave a knock on the door..

“Come in.” Yi Wenze’s voice was slightly deeper than before, and weariness could be heard in it..

Pus.h.i.+ng the door half open, she saw that he was still sitting behind his desk, looking at his computer..

The tealight candle had long burned out, and all that remained was a thin layer of tea at the bottom of the pot..

On the television screen was still the picture at which she had paused the movie, with Maggie Cheung, dressed in a bright red gown, frozen in an action..

He typed out his last word, then lifted his head to look at her. “Why aren’t you sleeping yet?”.

Fortunately, Jia He had come up with an excuse before coming upstairs, and now she only smiled and replied, “I was in bed and then felt hungry. It so happens that Qiao Qiao brought a box of Demae Ramen back with her. I’m going to be making some anyway, so if you want some, I can make yours together with mine.” Ah, sure enough, she was calmer if she first drafted up in her mind what she was going to say. More and more, she admired her own composure..

“Sure.”.

“Want to add an egg to it?”.

She was not really clear on what Hong Kong people’s tastes were. If Qiao Qiao had not exposed her to it, she would not have even known about this brand, Demae Ramen. From her own common knowledge, she just believed that when you cook noodles, you need to add an egg in before it will be tasty..

He nodded again, his smile deepening. “Sure.”.

Jia He had originally wanted to ask a few more questions, but remembering that he might not even know what the refrigerator contained, she decided it would be better to simply go herself to have a look, and whatever was good to eat, she would just add into the noodles. Seeing that Yi Wenze truly did seem interested, she hurriedly went downstairs, found her way to the kitchen, and began rummaging around. She suspected that that Shanghainese housekeeper would have brought a lot of things here today. Very soon, she had dug out some luncheon meat and eggs, and pulling out a pot, she boiled some water. Only now did she notice that the box of noodles had not yet been opened..

There was a wide strip of tape across the box. Squatting on the floor, she slowly tore at its edge with her fingers. The sound of boiling water was heard a short while later, but right as she was about to stand, a hand was already reaching from behind her and turning down the stove..

She turned around. Yi Wenze, leaning against the edge of the marble counter, told her, “The scissors should be in the cupboard to the right.”.

Hastily crouching down again, Jia He grabbed the scissors, opened the box, and pulled out two packs of noodles..

.

Package of sesame-flavoured Damae Ramen. Packaging may vary in design and colour, depending on flavour and region. (Image credit).

Steam rose relentlessly from the roiling water, which emitted very light noises..

When she ripped open the package and pulled out a dried cake of noodles, Yi Wenze had already cut open the pack of luncheon meat, and taking out a clean plastic cutting board, he began cutting it into slices. His knife work was pleasant to watch and skilled and made Jia He, a smatterer when it came to working with a knife, sweat profusely with embarra.s.sment at her own skills..

Boil the noodles, crack the eggs, put in the meat..

He practically did everything. Jia He, standing to one side, gradually became the person who merely helped hand things over to him. Not until he was holding a pair of chopsticks and starting to stir things together did she recall, wasn’t she the one who said just earlier that she wanted to make noodles for him to eat? ….

Feeling a little sheepish, she began randomly searching for things to talk about. “What a coincidence. The two movies that we talked about today both have scenes with cooking noodles. It seems you Hong Kong people really like to eat this stuff.”.

His lips turned up ever so slightly, and he took a glance at her. “Bring over two empty bowls.”.

Hurrying again to rifle through the dish cupboard, she brought out two large, white, porcelain bowls. Before long, one bowl was filled..

He got some more cold water and began to heat it..

“How about you eat first?” She helped him rip open the other package of noodles..

He told her, “It’s okay. It’ll be ready really soon.”.

She was a little embarra.s.sed. “I was the one who said I’d make noodles for you… You coming downstairs like this, will your leg be okay?”.

Calmly, he replied, “It should be fine. As long as you have no need for me to play ball or go running, there should be no problems.”.

Jia He was glum for a moment. If she really did make any sort of request for him to play ball or run, she reckoned that everyone, from his talent agency down to his fans, would hack her to death, then grind up her bones into ashes and scatter them to the wind..

Tiny bubbles climbed up from the bottom of the pot. Slowly, the water began to boil again..

All the things that needed to be handed had been handed to him already. There was nothing else for her to do, and she was unable to find anything to converse about either. She could therefore only stand beside him, staring at those bubbles on the bottom of the pot to try to distract herself. After he poured out the noodles into the other bowl, she hastily stretched out her arm to take the pot from him, wanting to first bring it away to wash..

And then, completely catching herself by surprise, her hand b.u.mped into his..

[1]《前度》 Ex (2010) is a Hong Kong film starring Gillian Chung and William Chan..

[2]《志明与春娇》Love in a Puff (2010) is a Hong Kong romantic comedy starring Miriam Yeung and Shawn Yue. It is about two smokers who fall in love over a one-week period, after meeting outside while having a smoke..

[3]《东邪西毒》Ashes of Time is a Hong Kong wuxia movie that was first released in September 1994. It is a loose prequel to Jin Yong’s Legend of the Condor Heroes (also known as The Eagle-Shooting Hero). In 2008, it was re-edited and released as Ashes of Time Redux..

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Ashes of Time stars big names: from left to right, Leslie Cheung, Brigette Lin, Tony Leung KFai, Jacky Cheung, Carina Lau, Charlie Yeung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Maggie Cheung was also in the movie, though she is not shown here on this poster..

[4] The extremely-loved Hong Kong actor and singer, Leslie Cheung, is also fondly referred to by the nickname 哥哥 “Gege,” which literally means “Big Brother.” He suffered from depression, which ultimately led to his death by suicide in 2003, hence Jia He’s sigh as she suddenly thought of him. Leslie Cheung played the role of the main character, Ouyang Feng, in Ashes of Time..

[5] In Chinese slang, being a light bulb is like being a third wheel when you are with a couple. A person who is hanging out with a couple is like a light bulb, s.h.i.+ning brightly on them and spoiling the atmosphere..

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“Sorry.” She hastened to apologize. The next instant, her hand slipped against the side of the pot and she burned herself, drawing a sharp hiss through her teeth..

Seriously, the more anxious she was, the more she messed things up..

Out of reflex, she pinched her earlobe. “Teacher Yi, let me wash it.”.

Before her words had completely left her lips, though, Yi Wenze had already twisted on the faucet and put her hand under the stream. Water flowed along his fingers and down onto her hand. As he was blocking most of the light, Jia He could only see the running water before her and her own hand. She was utterly unable to control the waves of scorching heat already coursing through her body..

It seemed like it was a very long time before he shut off the water and, gently pulling her, turned her around..

Jia He dared not make any movement. Only her gaze flitted around, from the b.u.t.ton of his s.h.i.+rt to the two bowls of noodles on the counter. Just a tiny package of sesame oil, about the size of a thumb, had been poured into each bowl, but its aroma suffused through the entire room. Simply looking at those bowls made her stomach rumble in hunger..

“If we don’t hurry and eat the noodles, they’re not going to taste good anymore…” She spoke up, wanting to turn to grab the noodles..

His back against the marble counter, with one hand, he drew her into the circle of his arms. Her frame was tiny and was nearly engulfed within his embrace. She did not dare move. The heat of her body rose incessantly, so hot it could sear..

His voice lowered. “Jia He.”.

“Hmm?” She lifted her head..

“If you don’t want to, just let me know.”.

Merely nine words. But before she had pieced them together into a cohesive sentence in her mind, he had already brought his face down and was kissing her..

In the beginning, he simply tested tentatively, his kisses sometimes light, sometimes firmer, inch by inch caressing her with his lips, waiting for her to adjust to this..

After quite some time, he finally gently teased open her lips and kissed her deeply. This was their first kiss, yet surprisingly they merged together so easily, so deeply. He was not hurried in the least. They had this suitable time, this suitable place, and this long night in which no one would disturb them… Until the tip of his tongue ever so lightly feathered across the roof of her mouth. A quiver raced through Jia He, and a faint moan escaped from her, so light it was barely perceptible..

But what this brought in exchange was his even more thorough a.s.sailment..

At first, it was not clear who was trying to escape and who was giving chase. In the end, though, there was nothing but surrender, to utterly submit and fall into this moment….

Only when he finally released her did she slowly open her eyes, the view before her going from stark white to the deep black of his eyes, but she merely stared blankly..

Extending an arm, he lightly flicked Jia He’s forehead with his finger. “Let’s have noodles.”.

And then he was the one to pick up the two bowls of noodles and stroll out to the dining room first, turning on the lights..

She, however, still stood in the same spot, watching as he stepped out, her mind filled only with that scene from a moment ago—the scent on him of cigarettes, that embrace that nearly squeezed the breath out of her, and also… that very ungenerous sentence of his..

Her lips had already been sealed. Even if she hadn’t wanted to, how was she supposed to tell him? ….

And then Jia He decided, that sentence had to be written into a script somewhere—it couldn’t be wasted..

“It doesn’t taste good?” Seeing that she was practically eating one noodle at a time, Yi Wenze could not help chuckling..

Jia He picked up another single noodle with her chopsticks and carefully put it between her teeth. “It tastes really good.”.

This absolutely was not a lie; it really was delicious..

He watched her with a smile, not saying anything. Finally, when she grew abashed beneath his gaze, he asked, “So, just how many noodles are in that bowl, Miss Jia He?”.

Jia He gave an “Ah?” Hearing him laugh aloud, she slowly, half a beat behind, caught on that she was being poked fun at..

The hanging light in the dining room, brand-new, was enclosed in a deep-red paper lamp shade..

Seriously, it tinged the atmosphere with absolutely the most suggestiveness possible..

Cradling her bowl between her hands, Jia He took a sip of the noodle’s soup. She was about to say something when a sound was heard coming from the entryway of the home. Straightaway, like she had just been a thief, she plopped down her bowl and rushed to get some words in before Wu Zhilun could open his mouth. “Why are you so late?”.

Giving a start, Wu Zhilun looked at her with a bemused expression. “You guys are waiting for me?”.

After asking this, he took in the current appearance of those two people and also the noodles in front of them and added, “You’re waiting for me to have a late-night snack with you?”.

Embarra.s.sed, Jia He at once stood. “There’s still a box of noodles. If you want to eat, I’ll cook some now.”.

Wu Zhilun looked at her, then looked at Yi Wenze, then looked back at her again..

“Did the fever burn your fan’s brain and now she’s gone silly? Or did she suddenly discover that she’s actually more my fan?”.

“You can just forget that. Jia He doesn’t like men whose looks are too girly.” Appearing like a wraith out of nowhere, Qiao Qiao, a gla.s.s in hand, walked over to the bar counter and poured some water. “I’m hungry, too. Just make both of ours together.”.

Why… was everyone suddenly popping out?.

Rattled, her scalp feeling like it was tingling, Jia He jogged into the kitchen, made two bowls of noodles for them, and carried those back out. Seeing that Yi Wenze had finished eating, she straightaway began tidying away his bowl and chopsticks as well and took them to wash, not daring to look anymore at any of the expressions on those several people’s faces. At last completely done with waiting on those two obtruders who had suddenly bounded into the scene, she returned to her room. Feeling terribly confused and twisted inside herself, she bunched the blanket into a mound, hugged it against herself, and stared with glazed eyes at nothing in particular..

What could that be considered as? An instance of being unable to restrain their emotions?.

In the right place, at the right time, there was a stirring of feelings, so they had filled some of their loneliness?.

Her heart was beating fast one moment, slow the next, and she was increasingly agitated..

So, she decided simply to pick up her mobile phone and look at the calendar, planning on calling tomorrow to book a plane ticket to Beijing..

“Can’t sleep?” Qiao Qiao walked in and closed the door, the smile on her face suggestive. “I can’t sleep either. How about we chat?”.

Jia He glowered at her, a persistent feeling eating at her that Qiao Qiao had seen something but was just not saying anything. It was not as if she could outright ask her, though, so she responded only with a sullen “Humph!” and snapped, “I slept for the whole day. Of course I can’t fall asleep.”.

Kicking off her slippers, Qiao Qiao clambered onto the bed and yanked the blanket from her arms. “Ask me! How come you’re not asking me?”.

Jia He turned her back to Qiao Qiao, holding her silence. But in reality, her heart was flip-flopping rapidly, and she wished with all her might she could burrow herself beneath the bed..

“Were you the one who initiated it or was he?” Qiao Qiao shuffled up beside her..

Jia He almost tumbled off the bed. “You saw it all?”.

“I saw the beginning and then put my ear against the door and listened for sounds and movement. It was a long time, eh… I waited for more than ten minutes.”.

Jia He was even more mortified..

After a long moment of quiet, Qiao Qiao at last remarked unhurriedly, “You’re just too awesome. That day in the ma.s.sage room, I saw him pick you up and put you on the bed, and I thought that you had already ‘savoured’ him. Never thought this! Gosh, I totally never thought! Progress is sloooow here.”.

Click. Shutting off the wall lamp, Jia He only managed to grit out one word: “Sleep.”.

Jia He earlier had already set an alarm on her mobile phone. The next day, she changed into her own garments, gathered up her bag, and prepared to leave. Qiao Qiao, seeing this seldom show of seriousness from her, did not dare say anything and only immediately pulled on her clothes to go out and refuel the car, hence leaving the house first. Alone in the room, Jia He dallied this way and that for a long time, all the while deliberating silently how she should say goodbye to Yi Wenze. However, no matter what she came up with, she still felt her manner would not seem sincere enough..

Forget it. Her arrival here and b.u.mming a place to stay had been unexpected in the first place. Now that she was not sick anymore, of course she should leave..

And so, brainwas.h.i.+ng herself like this, she pulled her bag onto her back and left the room..

To her surprise, aside from the housekeeper, who was wiping the floors, there did not appear to be anyone inside the house..

The housekeeper smiled and greeted her, “You’re up now? Would you like to have breakfast?”.

Jia He shook her head. “No thanks. I’ll eat when I get home. Thank you, though.”.

Saying, “Oh, all right,” the housekeeper bowed her head and continued scrubbing the floor, but then she seemed to think of something. “You’re going out now? Mr. Yi isn’t here.”.

With this one sentence, it was as if the stone enc.u.mbering her heart had been removed. Finally, she no longer needed to come up with an excuse. She needed to take advantage of this opportunity and leave quickly..

In the entryway, though, as she put on her shoes, she felt she was being too impolite. No matter what, she should say farewell. However, when she pulled out her mobile phone, she only looked dazedly at it for a long while before, in the end, putting it away again. Asking the housekeeper for paper and a pen, she wrote a row of words: I’m going now. Thank you for everything in these last couple of days. In the future, when I get the chance, I’ll treat you to dinner..

But after she was done the note, she felt it was not very appropriate. Ripping that sheet off, she wrote another one: Things are really urgent on the Beijing end. I need to leave first. If we get a chance to see each other again in the future, I’ll treat you to dinner. Jia He..

She gave the note to the housekeeper and then, crumpling the other useless, spent sheet into a ball and stuffing it into her pocket, left the house. She had stayed here for two days, but this was actually her first time stepping outside during daytime. Crossing over the front entryway, she turned and took a look at the house. Many plants were placed on the balcony, a lush display of rich green..

“Jia He.” Qiao Qiao had pulled the car to a stop outside the door, and grinning, she called to her..

Hastily, Jia He pulled her gaze back, getting into the car in a slight fl.u.s.ter..

“Look.” Qiao Qiao handed her mobile phone over for her to see something. It was a snapshot of the previous moment. “Just look at that little expression of yours. That’s totally one of brokenheartedness at having to leave.”.

Taking the phone from her, Jia He first, as if prodded by an unseen presence, sent the photograph to her own mobile phone before pressing delete..

The car drove onto Yangpu Bridge. Sunlight streamed through the front winds.h.i.+eld, landing on her. She felt a little hot..

“Why did Shanghai just suddenly get hot?” She was wearing her clothes from only two days ago, but looking at the people in the cars beside them, Jia He felt as if she was from Mars..

Qiao Qiao did not answer, asking questions of her own instead. “Did you tell Yi Wenze? What did he say?”.

Jia He lowered her window halfway. “He wasn’t home.”.

A gust of wind suddenly blew in, whisking her hair so that her gaze was slightly obscured. When she was offhandedly smoothing her hair away, she noticed that, inside a vehicle driving in the opposite direction to them, there was a figure who appeared to be Qing. Her heart lurched. If they saw her at this moment, it would be too awkward….

She buried her head down, hoping to hide, but ended up whacking her head on something in front of her and crying out in pain..

“What are you doing?” Qiao Qiao gaped at her. Their car had already sped past that other vehicle..

Jia He gave an arbitrary, perfunctory answer. “Looking for my mobile. Booking a plane ticket.”.

So long as it is not a working day, the Beijing-Shanghai route has the most available flights. Soon, she had booked her ticket on Ctrip[1], a flight for nine o’clock tonight, and after taking Qiao Qiao to her company office, she immediately went home to pack. There were still some items in the refrigerator, but she threw them all into the garbage. Every time she returned to Beijing, she would stay there for a lengthy period, so even if she kept these items for now, by the time she got back, they would not be edible anymore..

It was already one-thirty in the afternoon when she was done packing. Taking a few nibbles of a bun, she then sat on the couch and, once more, began to do nothing..

As long as she was not occupied with any sort of task, the memory of what happened yesterday would once again begin continuously replaying through her mind. Unable to settle her heart, she fished out her mobile phone, but her mind was flooded entirely with the words he had said, the expressions he had shown, and that kiss from him… After fiddling with her phone for half an hour, she still did not know what exactly she wanted to do. Eventually, she simply opened up a webpage and began randomly perusing the news..

Login to her QQ[2] account was automatic, so the instant she was online, she saw Xiao Yu’s avatar flas.h.i.+ng nonstop..

When she clicked on it, Xiao Yu had already typed a chunk of words: I’m in a meeting and not available to talk on the phone. Hurry and look at Wu Zhilun’s Weibo..

Given a scare at this, Jia He did as she had directed, doing a search and finding her way to Wu Zhilun’s Weibo. She brushed her gaze over the number of comments on it. Very high. However, other than this, she was unable to make out any hints of anything peculiar. She typed back a question: What’s wrong?.

Xiao Yu’s reply: Check out the very last comment. Look for someone called “PurelyForBeingAGossip.”.

Following her instructions, Jia He found that person’s Weibo page..

On it, there was only one photograph. It was as if this account had been created specifically for posting and commenting about it. Inside the photo, Jia He was getting out of her own car, her head turned to the side, talking to Wu Zhilun. The location was very obvious: outside of Yi Wenze’s home..

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[1] 携程网 Ctrip.com is a Chinese-based travel agency and is the largest online travel agency in China..

[2] Tencent QQ, otherwise known as QQ, is an instant messaging service in China with features such as text messaging, file transfers, voice and video chats..

The number of reposts had already soared to more than thirty thousand..

Following beneath that photo was a simple line of words: The night before last, I couldn’t sleep and was taking in some air on the balcony, and then, totally surprisingly, I saw Wu Zhilun’s girlfriend who’s been keeping invisible! Oh, and also, the owner of that house is no ordinary Joe either. But he’s my idol, so I won’t give the gossip on that..

A line of small words that was so frightful to behold..

Jia He was frozen in shock for a long time before finally speedily sending Xiao Yu a question: How did you manage to see this?.

Xiao Yu sent over an animated sticker of a rabbit that was continually wagging its bottom, then her reply: Just look at the number of reposts. That’s just the number of times the original post was reposted. There are also countless second-hand and third-hand reposts. My co-worker’s Weibo had this on there too. I got such a scare I nearly went into cardiac arrest..

Jia He’s chest felt tight as she sent her message: I’m going to go into cardiac arrest soon, too….

And then nothing more came from Xiao Yu. She did seem to truly be in a meeting. All that remained now was that chubby, white bunny happily wagging and wagging this way and that..

Jia He chucked aside her mobile phone. Less than half a second later, though, she was hastily picking it back up again and staring at that photograph, examining it carefully. Despite being taken from a very far distance, the side view of her face could be seen in it. This absolutely was not something a mobile phone camera could do..

It very much appeared to be the work of an SLR camera. Jia He’s smile was wry. Nowadays, even the gossip scoop sourced from common folk was so professional..

Before she had the chance to come up with words to comfort herself, her phone was already ringing with all its might..

“Go online.” Qiao Qiao’s words fired tersely and rapidly. “Go look at the entertainment news.”.

Jia He was dumbstruck..

“Are you online yet?” Qiao Qiao continued hurrying her..

“It has nothing to do with me, right?” Jia He desperately prayed..

Qiao Qiao gave an “Ah?” and asked, “You know already? Weibo is honestly so scary. I’m looking at a post that’s exposing dug-up info on you. Basically, it’s pretty darn close to the mark. It’s a good thing the people who actually know you are showing bit of mercy when it comes to their tongues. There are only some ‘persons in the know’ who are trying to colour the situation and add some spice.”.

Jia He cried a tearless cry. “Have they dug up my real name yet?”.

“Don’t panic. Wu Zhilun just clarified things on his Weibo, saying that you’re just friends. Everyone’s already starting to try to get the scoop on whom that villa belongs to.”.

“Thank goodness.” Jia He exhaled with relief. Yet when she heard the last half of Qiao Qiao’s words, she unexplainably grew uptight again..

Qiao Qiao snorted. “Don’t be happy too soon. There’s already someone saying she saw Wu Zhilun on Huaihai Road with a girl. She even took a picture with her mobile. Even though we can’t see your face, the car and clothes are the same. Just think, Wu Zhilun came here to Shanghai all low-key, and then from Huaihai Road all the way to Pudong he’s with a woman. And what’s more, they’re driving a toy-looking MINI Cooper. You’re going to have enough trouble with just the things filled in by people’s imaginations. He’s got a movie hitting theatres soon, so it may be that in just a bit he’s going to start zipping his lips and not replying to media. If that’s the case, it’ll get even more interesting.”.

Jia He was in no mood to joke. After shooting back a retort, she hung up..

Fortunately, it was only a side shot of her face. It was not like she was a celebrity. People wouldn’t readily remember her face..

There are differences between a photo and the real, live person, and what’s more, the differences are really big. Jia He continuously brainwashed herself. Back when Qiao Qiao was photographed having dinner with one of the artistes under her management, she had only been teased with a couple of sentences here and there by a few good friends; there had been no impact to her. Jia He could only pray now that there would not be any busybody people acquainted with her, coming out to join in on the excitement..

As a journalist, she had never read the articles she wrote, fearful she would find them shallow only after they were printed..

As a screenwriter, she never watched the dramas she wrote, fearful she would not discover how corny they were until they had aired..

Therefore, when she was the subject of gossip, naturally… she also did not dare go to any forums to read those posts exposing her personal details..

One moment she was thinking this was no big deal, the next moment she was terrified that this really would turn into an ordeal of some sort..

Feeling conflicted and torn like this, she walked from the bathroom to the bedroom, then looked in the closet, checking item by item to see whether she had packed everything. A long while later, she once more pulled out her mobile phone, took a look at the text message Ctrip had sent her, and verified her flight time. There were still more than five hours. But since there was nothing to do at home anyway, it was perfect; she had enough time to have a decent dinner. Thinking this, she straightaway, towing her luggage with her, strode out of her home and locked the door behind her..

While she was waiting for the elevator, Auntie Zhao, her next-door neighbour, happened to come out to throw out the garbage, and seeing Jia He, she at once came over and greeted her. “Jia He, you’re home?”.

Jia He nodded. “I just got back, but I’m leaving again to go to Beijing on business.”.

Ding. The elevator doors opened. Jia He was about to say goodbye, but Auntie Zhao was already following her into the elevator. “Such nice suns.h.i.+ne. I’ll go downstairs to walk around.”.

Jia He was puzzled by this. It was not until she had pressed the b.u.t.ton for the first floor that Auntie Zhao whisperingly asked, “You’re going to Beijing to register your marriage?”.

“Huh?” Jia He jumped with shock..

“Just now my daughter was playing on the computer and she showed me a picture.” Auntie Zhao’s smile was enigmatic. “With such a boyfriend, does that mean from now on you don’t have to pay whenever you go watch a movie?”.

Jia He did not even know how she should react to this. So, to these aunties, the benefits of being an actor were actually that simple….

“Auntie, people are just joking around about that. You absolutely cannot believe what’s said on the Internet. It’s all fake.”.

Auntie Zhao’s response was an “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” as well as a nod. “I get it. My daughter already told me. We have to seal our lips. Even when reporters come asking, we can’t say anything.”.

Jia He fell into utter silence. Managing to bear through until they finally reached the first floor, she carried her suitcase down a set of stairs and yanked out its handle. “Auntie, I’m going now.”.

“Oh my, Jia He, is that Yi Wenze?”.

That absolutely was a tremor in her voice from being overwhelmed by this wonderful surprise that was beyond all her expectations. And hence, she basically did not hear what Jia He had said. Jia He’s heart gave a little skip, and for a long moment she was unmoving until she finally turned to look in that direction..

In her heart, she secretly prayed that Auntie Zhao was mistaken..

Alas, this place was awash with Yi Wenze’s strong presence and had long turned into an outdoor shooting location..

A black car was parked beside the reflecting pool, its door half open. And he, beside the door, was leaning against the car. He wore merely a simple, understated black jacket and held a casual posture, his hands in his pockets. But these were already enough to give her the feeling that at any moment, someone would shout, “Action!” and then a heartrending, melodramatic, feeling-infused, urban-setting love drama would begin playing out. Right now these were still regular working hours for people and this was also a standalone apartment building, so there were only two or three people coming and going here. However, they all stopped to look, their giddiness br.i.m.m.i.n.g over in their speech and expressions….

Her heart was racing one moment, slowing the next, and she stood rooted to the spot..

Auntie Zhao beside her seemed to be lamenting in mutters that she had forgotten to bring her mobile phone out with her. Otherwise, she could have taken a photo and given it to her daughter to upload onto Weibo, and surely then she would become an instant Internet celebrity or something like that….

All of a sudden, as if he could sense something, Yi Wenze turned his head to look towards where Jia He was and then beckoned very obviously to her..

It was a very natural gesture of greeting but it left her in a slight fl.u.s.ter..

“Auntie, I’m going now.” Resigning herself to this situation, she dragged her suitcase and once more bade a farewell..

Having observed everything to this point, the truth suddenly dawned on Auntie Zhao. “Don’t tell me Yi Wenze is actually the one who is your boyfriend, and Wu Zhilun is just a random person who has nothing to do with this at all?”.

Jia He wanted to cry. Gosh, just what in the world was all this? Did knowing a celebrity automatically equate to a secret romance?!.

In her chest, she felt as if there were tens of thousands of horses stampeding about, but on her face, she still tugged up a smile. “No, no. I’m his screenwriter. It’s purely a work relations.h.i.+p. We’re heading to the office right now to have a meeting.” With that, she did not wait for Auntie Zhao to throw out any more questions, immediately wheeling her suitcase and escaping with brisk strides from this place..

Handing her suitcase to the driver, she pulled the car door shut herself and then expelled a long breath..

The next second, though, she discovered she was snug against Yi Wenze, her leg against his leg, with not so much as a gap between them, to the extent that she could even feel the warmth of his body… She wanted to move away but was also worried that doing so would make them both feel awkward. She could only arbitrarily search for something to say, asking, “You came looking for me?” Once she finished saying this, she stealthily s.h.i.+fted herself away a few inches..

The car at this instant happened to be driving over the speed b.u.mp at the front gate and jolted abruptly, so, once more, she b.u.mped against him..

It was still leg against leg, but now even their bodies were touching….

Yi Wenze could not restrain his smile. “We’ll go have dinner first?”.

In the front seats, Qing’s ears were stuffed with earphones and the driver was watching the road intently. It was as if, without even any prior discussion, they were both giving Jia He and Yi Wenze this s.p.a.ce to talk..

But the more things were like this, the more discomfiture Jia He felt. “I booked a flight to Beijing. It’s at nine.”.

“I know. Qiao Qiao told me already.” He lifted his wrist and glanced at his watch. “It’s six right now. There’s still time to have dinner together.”.

His tone was natural and his suggestion was not at all unreasonable. Jia He wanted to be able to answer in a natural tone as well, but after being stuck for words for a long time, she only said one: “Okay.”.

After some time, Qing began talking on the phone, and every so often the name of a restaurant would show up in the dialogue. It seemed to be the place to which they were heading. The name sounded familiar and Jia He had a vague recollection of where it was. Although it was quiet and secluded, it was still a public setting….

“Let’s just go to that club of yours,” she gingerly suggested..

Yi Wenze brought his gaze onto her. “What’s wrong?”.

“That’s a public place. That won’t be really good,” Jia He explained..

“It’s okay.”.

Words were on the tip of her tongue but she swallowed them. She could not well tell him that she was afraid of being photographed again. Yi Wenze did not say any more, offhandedly picking up a magazine and leafing through it. And so, the two of them sat like this, close against each other such that she could even clearly sense his subtle movements as he flipped the pages. However, in view of the lesson she had learned from her earlier attempt, the entire the way until it was time to get out of the car, she did not dare move again..

After the car was parked, Qing unexpectedly called out, “Director Jiang.” Looking in the direction to which her voice was addressing, Jia He saw Director Jiang and a.s.sistant Director Cheng Hao chatting at the doorway. Oh, so this was a dinner gathering of the drama’s production team. She at last relaxed in relief. When she stepped into the private dining room, though, she received a slight surprise. Not only were there the production team members of “Tune of Yong’an,” there were also many unfamiliar faces. The most unexpected part to her was that Wu Zhilun was present as well..

When he spotted Jia He, he immediately covered up his mobile phone, which was still connected in a call. “Hey, my rumoured girlfriend, long time no see.”.

Though everyone here was in the entertainment circle and would not gossip carelessly or be nosy, this type of quipping still caused the people at several tables to turn their heads and take extra glances at her. Wu Zhilun wanted to continue saying more, but Yi Wenze had already nonchalantly swept a look at him, quite successfully sealing that mouth of his..

Six tables had been set up in this private room. Jia He had originally planned to sit with Qiao Qiao, but discovering that Qiao Qiao was actually not in attendance, she could only blindly follow Yi Wenze around. Waiting until he had finished talking to a few people and was preparing to head over to the head table, she finally halted her steps abruptly. Yi Wenze looked down at her. “What’s wrong?”.

“May I sit with Qing?” she softly requested..

He contemplated for a moment but eventually nodded, telling her, “Go ahead.”.

He had only just finished saying this before someone was already coming over to greet him. Jia He took advantage of this opportunity to steal away from there. The table at which Qing sat was in the corner and more than half of its seats were empty, so it was very quiet..

Jia He pulled out a chair and was already sitting when Qing noticed her. Astounded, she asked at once, “Screenwriter, why are you sitting here?”.

“It’s nice here.” Jia He brushed over this question with a laugh. “Just look, it’s a tableful of food but only half a table of people to eat it. Such a good deal.”.

Qing answered, “Oh,” seeming to think that this was reasonable, yet also finding it unreasonable. But after mulling on it at length, she did not continue inquiring..

Surrounding Jia He was lively, enthusiastic conversation, but none of it had anything to do with her. Only when people from the production team occasionally came over to say h.e.l.lo would she smile and respond with a couple of sentences. Before long, she was already viewing herself as thin air and had begun to eat in silence. Someone, she was not certain who, mentioned that Yi Wenze and Wu Zhilun were partnering to start up a film production company and had already begun engaging in discussions with many companies regarding collaborations. Once this topic commenced, many people began teasing those two, saying that they were the entertainment circle’s two most handsome bosses of a production company and in the future there would be no way they would be able to stop the influx of admirers even if they wanted to..

She could not resist peeking at the head table before continuing with mechanically eating her food..

When she was almost full, out of nowhere, someone clapped a hand onto her shoulder. Beside her, Wu Zhilun leaned down and grinningly remarked, “Hey, Harmonious Family Prospers! For you, Ze, the one who most dislikes having to do social engagements, was actually willing to treat people to dinner.”.

Jia He was mystified..

“You and me plus so many other people”—he swept his gaze around the room—“and also this public setting. Today, there’ll be who-knows-how-many-photos that end up leaking out from here. Add on top of that the news of the production company, and who’s still going to pay attention to that Weibo post?”.

Jia He suddenly comprehended. She took a drink of tea. Her heart should actually have settled with this news, but surprisingly, she felt even uneasier, antsier..

Wu Zhilun gave her a rather meaningful pat on her shoulder, then, holding his wine gla.s.s, sauntered away..

So that was the plan..

Tilting her head slightly, she looked once more at the head table. Yi Wenze was speaking to someone. Right as she was about to s.h.i.+ft her eyes away, he cast an inadvertent glance at this spot where she was. Alarmed, Jia He instantly picked up her gla.s.s and, pretending to be looking around, evaded his gaze..

 .

At around seven-thirty, Yi Wenze finally took Jia He from the restaurant. Seeming pre-arranged, the car was already waiting at the front entrance, and after the two sat into the vehicle, it immediately drove onto the elevated freeway, heading straight for the airport..

“Thank you.” It was very quiet inside the vehicle, so she could only drop her voice low to avoid being heard by the driver. “Wu Zhilun said this dinner was to defuse the effects of that photo.”.

“It’s nothing. This dinner has always been in the plan. It was just moved up a little earlier.”.

Replying with an “mm-hmm,” Jia He thought, in any case, she could not go wrong with apologizing..

It was quiet for a while, and then he suddenly spoke up. “That day, I didn’t drive you, because, with my leg, I’m still unable to drive.”.

Jia He carried on as before, making another sound of “mm-hmm.” She did not understand what he was trying to say..

Calmly, he added another sentence. “So, regarding the whole romance rumour, I do not intend on having him take my place for it.”.

Jia He’s paused in blank surprise. As she lifted her head, he happened to turn his gaze towards her..

But just as he was bringing his face down slightly, her mobile phone unexpectedly vibrated. Hastily burying her head, she began hunting through her bag. The spot that normally took only three seconds for her hand to find, this time needed a full minute. When she saw it was a text message from Gu Yu, she even more so felt an unexplainable guilt, as if she had been found out, and she simply deleted it with a tap, not daring even to look at it..

But, at such a distance… It was such a giant screen, and he was so close to her, too..

Hesitating for a long time, Jia He eventually explained, “That was a text from Gu Yu.”.

He uttered a light, impa.s.sive “mm,” asking, “He’s still contacting you?”.

Easily Set Aflame Chapter 7

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Easily Set Aflame Chapter 7 summary

You're reading Easily Set Aflame Chapter 7. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Mo Bao Fei Bao already has 202 views.

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