These two were her true wealth and assets.
As for that production company, her involvement had only been because Tong Fei had suffered a setback in her career and had spent the better half of a night sobbing to Chu Jian. Hence, Chu Jian had decided to pull out all the savings she had accumulated since graduation to support this BFF of more than ten years, investing in her undertaking of starting up a production company.
However, all along, Chu Jian believed that she truly did not have much of a connection to the entertainment industry.
After they came back from Macau and parted company at Hongqiao International Airport, Chu Jian returned to her little nail salon that was alongside the street. She flipped through the appointment book. Business today had been quite good, but it was now past eight o’clock and there remained only the last two clients, who were nearly done their treatments.
Right as she was planning to arrange with someone to go out together for a late-night meal, Jian Bianlin unexpectedly called. He stated that he was going to come here to look around but did not say for what reason…
The call was hung up before Chu Jian could process this and react. He had landed in Shanghai? Why did she seem to remember Tong Fei mentioning that Jian Bianlin was going to return directly to Beijing? Their production company and Jian Bianlin’s company were currently collaborating on something, so Tong Fei should be very clear on his whereabouts…
Could it be his schedule and travel plans had changed?
An hour and a half later, a man, whose cap brim obscured more than half his face, walked in unobtrusively along that pebbled path, pushed open the door, and gave her this definite answer: Yes, he had changed his travel plans.
A chilly wind was carried in from outside the door. Tugging the blanket that was on her knees a little higher, she pointed at the small card on the counter. “I recharged money onto it for you. This card isn’t yours? It’s your agent’s?” He gave a somewhat uncomfortable cough.
“If you had told me earlier that it belonged to someone else, I wouldn’t have used it…” It was rather inappropriate. After all, she was not very well acquainted with his agent.
Jian Bianlin lifted his chin slightly, motioning to Chu Jian to hand him the cup of warm water beside her hand. He gave another couple of coughs. This time, she could tell that he did have a serious cold.
“You caught a cold?”
Picking up the cup, she handed it to him. However, when he extended his hand to take it, she suddenly pulled it back. “Oh wait, no, this is my cup. Wait a sec. I’ll find one for you that no one is using.”
After hearing her words, Jian Bianlin did not say anything in response.
Chu Jian had not really eaten anything on the plane, and her stomach was now rumbling hungrily. Originally, she had planned on going out for a late-night meal after he retrieved that membership card from her. Seeing the fatigue written on his face, though, she could not make herself open her mouth to rush him. Wordlessly, tentatively, she punched at her calculator, indifferently doing bookkeeping while, in passing, peeking at him from the corner of her eye and praying that she would be liberated from this situation soon.
Unhurriedly, he drank half a cup of warm water, then brought her account book over to himself, flipping through a few pages. “You’ve invested in Tong Fei’s production company?”
“Yup. Didn’t you know that already?”
“How much did you invest? Five hundred thousand?”
Two million. Sold her little apartment to do it.
Chu Jian silently converted this to become, “Not very much.”
A while ago, when she was selling that little apartment of hers, she had told her parents that she wanted to expand her nail esthetics training business and was opening three separate branches in Guangzhou and Beijing. Only in this way had she managed to cover up the matter. Jian Bianlin was one of the closest people to her parents. She could not let the secret slip.
He circled where he stood, like a supervisor inspecting the place, and while he was at it, he somewhat inquiringly surveyed that glass wall that had more than a hundred different colours of nail polish arranged on it, seeming lost in thought.
She could not think of what else he could ask. When she was praying in her mind for the third time that he would leave, he slipped his hands into the pocket of his coat again. With a manner and posture like he had just finished filming a cops and robbers movie on the streets of Macau, he told her, “On the way here just now, I invited Tong Fei out to go for a late-night meal. Want to come with us?”
“I’m not done doing the books…” She was halfway through what she wanted to say when she saw his expression turn somber, so she turned her words around. “But that sounds pretty good. I’m dying of hunger.” Fine, I’ll just view it as if I must owe you from our previous life.
In regards to this matter, she genuinely felt baffled and innocent in it. The relationship between the two of them could be traced back to somewhere between ten and twenty years ago, when they were schoolmates in primary school.
Jian Bianlin’s parents had divorced. He and his dad had moved from Guangzhou to Hangzhou, where they rented an apartment next door to hers. And so, Chu Jian’s oh dearest mother would volunteer herself to take the two out to play whenever she had nothing to do.
Gradually, in the course of this back and forth contact, the friendship between the two families deepened.
Then in middle school, when Chu Jian’s understanding of feelings and relationships with the opposite gender had still not yet developed, there was already an unspoken view in her entire class—even her entire grade—that she was his girlfriend.
Later, she had felt that she did not have any of those feelings or that intention at all.
On a certain day after school, taking advantage of that moment in the stairwell when he was helping her lock up her bicycle to the railing, Chu Jian had mustered up her courage and declared truthfully to his backside—
“I actually honestly don’t like you in that way.”
At that time, he had merely gazed at her for a little more than a minute. Then, he picked up both of their schoolbags and walked upstairs, not expressing any dissent.
Originally, if this story had been allowed to develop smoothly and normally, their relationship should have drifted apart, and then after graduation, they would not have had any contact with one another anymore.
Alas, the relationship between the two families was simply too tight. Even now, they would often travel together. And so, as a result of a series of strange chances and odd incidents, the two of them ended up becoming good, good friends. Nevertheless, all these years, she had always had the feeling as if she had been a disloyal heartbreaker who had callously dumped him back then, and she carried a subtle, but remarkable little twinge of guilt.
The location of their late-night meal, a small establishment where they were regular patrons, had been arranged and reserved by his agent, Xie Bin.
After that small, private dining room had been thoroughly inspected all around and it was certain that they would not be photographed by anyone, they each put on a nonchalant look and separately slipped into the restaurant.
Chu Jian thought that Tong Fei would be grumpily stomping in. After all, she had thrown too much of herself into her work in Macau and each day had slept only two to three hours. When they stepped off the plane, her face had been ashen, and she had sworn that she would never answer another work-related phone call.
Now, though, she was absolutely beaming with happiness from ear to ear. Bringing a “hunky young pup” of a lad in with her, she busily gave greetings and made introductions. “This here is Teacher Jian, this here is Teacher Xie.”
However, when Tong Fei and that “hunky young pup” took their seats, they could not get a word in at all because right then, Chu Jian was solemnly explaining to Xie Bin the profit model of her nail esthetics business.
“You wouldn’t know—I bet you can’t guess—that the main marketing platform for this business is actually through Weibo.” With a pair of tongs, she flipped the spicy chicken gizzards that she wanted to eat on the metal grilling plate. “All those shop owners who own small nail salons just need to do a search on Weibo, and then they will come find me to check out the products, select some, and place an order. If every month, I have a stable number of five or six people dropping in to do that and the orders on average are fifty thousand [RMB] or more, it’s a guaranteed profit for me.”
Xie Bin expressed his admiration. “You can be considered to have your own business now. You’re an able woman, an able woman.”
Jian Bianlin took a sip of plum wine [umeshu], then set down his small, glass tumbler.
Inside the tumbler, the ice cubes bumped gently back and forth, giving off faint clinking sounds.
His gaze was more tranquil than ever as he watched her, how she held the small, stainless steel tongs, cheerily and patiently flipping, one at a time, the little pieces of food that were being grilled.
She was grilling with wholehearted focus; he was watching with all seriousness. In fact, he did not ask for much. Every time he passed through Shanghai, if he could see her, watch her little expressions from really wanting to reject him but yet feeling guilty about it, force her to have a meal with him and say a few words to him—that was already enough.
Chu Jian still wanted to carry on talking about her business methods and know-hows, but when she received a stomp under the table from Tong Fei, she very sensibly shut her mouth straightaway. Pointing at that “hunky young pup,” she said, “This, uh, this friend here, Lin Shen, is the new artiste Fei Fei just signed.”
Jian Bianlin’s pointer finger glided in a semicircle over the rim of his glass. He spoke no unnecessary words, not a single one, and merely allowed his eyes to follow in the direction she was pointing to cast a token glance at that boy. And then, he continued looking at her.
In contrast, Xie Bin actually smiled. “Have I seen you before, in the past? You’re not a newcomer in the strictest sense, right?”
Lin Shen responded with a reserved smile. “You have seen me. In Macau.”
“Ah, right. I remember now.”
“The purpose of my Macau trip this time was to persuade him to sign on with me,” Tong Fei added.
Lin Shen had once, in the past, actually signed with a producer, but because the producer had been doing worse and worse in the industry, he had never really had any filming projects the entire time. Afterward, when he rescinded the contract and returned to his hometown to sell pork jerky, his life was actually going quite okay. By chance, Tong Fei got ahold of information and details about him. Making several trips to Macau, she had put in great effort, each time personally paying a visit to him to try to sway him, and had even met with his parents. Finally, she was able to sign him and bring him to Beijing to put focused efforts on fostering his career.
Xie Bin cleared his throat. “Let me say it this way. I want to collaborate with your production company.”
Tong Fei stuttered, “Collaborate?”
This was totally unexpected. Even all the terms that he was offering were very attractive.
“Our company bought the rights to adapt several well-known pieces, and we want to promote some new talent.” Xie Bin explained, “I want to ask your company’s screenwriter to write the screenplay. Jian Bianlin will be the lead. In addition to one of the new talents in our company whom we will bring in to mentor, you guys may select one of the third male lead roles that has relatively more scenes and give it to this friend, Lin Shen, to take on.”
Tong Fei gave a cough, so excited her face had turned red. Jian Bianlin had not been accepting any roles in television dramas of late, his focus placed instead on filming movies. If he was willing to accept a television drama project, then it most certainly was going to be a super big production, one that would be especially easy to boost someone’s career with. To act alongside Jian Bianlin—at the very least, you would become a familiar face to the masses!
This late-night meal was eaten with satisfaction and delight for everyone.
After it was done, they all parted and went in separate directions, like scattering birds and animals. Naturally, Jian Bianlin was the one who, alone, drove her back to her home.
So that she could develop and expand her business, Chu Jian had rented an apartment by herself in Shanghai. Her parents would frequently come from Hangzhou for short stays and help her improve her daily living. Therefore, it had been logical and natural for Jian Bianlin to ask Chu Jian’s mother to also help him rent a place, somewhere that could be considered his place to stay should he need one. His apartment was directly across from hers…
As a result, when he and Chu Jian returned home together and her mother spotted Jian Bianlin after the door was opened, it was unavoidable that he was immediately pulled inside to have a short visit.
Utterly exhausted, Chu Jian slipped into her own room. He sat to rest in the dining room. Once Chu Jian’s mother found out he was sick, she insisted on stuffing some cold medicine to him and making him take it. Hot water brought over to him, concerned inquiries into how he was feeling—it was as if she was seeing her own son.
“Tired? You still have to film, even when you are sick?” Chu Jian’s mother took a seat opposite him.
Jian Bianlin removed his cap, his hair clinging softly and messily to his forehead. The entire time, the tightly closed door of Chu Jian’s bedroom was always in his gaze. “Auntie, I’m okay.”
Sighing, Chu Jian’s mother said, “Here you are still saying you’re okay. Just look. You’ve lost weight from exhaustion.”
“Actors like them lose weight because they want to look good on camera.” Wearing her cotton slippers, Chu Jian, with her mobile phone held high, shuffled by through the living room and headed into the kitchen to look for some juice to drink. “It’ll be even more painful if he gets fat and then has to lose the weight.”
While she spoke, she opened the refrigerator.
“Jian Bianlin’s still at your home?” Tong Fei was still immersed in the excitement of having clinched a huge deal tonight. Hearing Chu Jian’s words, she instantly sighed, “Hey, there’s a question I’ve been especially wanting to ask you. As your BFF whom you speak heart-to-heart with and whose relationship with you is one that you can only have once in a lifetime, could you just secretly tell me the answer?”
“What?” Discovering that there were no beverages left in the large refrigerator, Chu Jian stepped back out.
She gave a pat on the chair that Jian Bianlin was sitting on, signaling to him that he should shift forward slightly.
With a glance at her, Jian Bianlin pulled his chair forward. Squatting, she opened the mini fridge that was there.
Inside the phone, that person cleared her throat and gave a couple of coughs before lowering her voice to a tone that sounded very suggestive. “Did you and he ever… do it?”
静安寺. Jing’an Temple, which literally means “Tranquility and Peace Temple,” is one of the most famous temples in Shanghai and is located in the heart of the bustling core of the city. Some of the buildings date back to the late 1800s and the temple holds the largest pure jade Buddha statue in China.
When someone reaches a certain status or experience in a field, they are often referred to as 老 师 “teacher” by layman or those less experienced in that field. Jian Bianlin is still young, but his status and popularity would make him “teacher” to a newcomer, while Xie Bin is considered a veteran agent in the industry.
微博. This literally means “microblog.” Weibo is often compared to Twitter but with other features such as the ability to comment beneath posts in long thread. The biggest microblogging service in China is offered by Sina, and its full name is actually Sina Weibo, although due to its popularity, “Weibo” usually directly refers to Sina Weibo.
 The distance between Shanghai and Hangzhou is approximately 170 km.
1 of 1 Prologue
1 of 36 Chapter segments
0 of 1 Epilogue