Jian Bianlin instructed his assistant, Xiao Yu, to accompany Chu Jian back to her room while he rode the car back and rejoined the film cast and crew. When Chu Jian returned to her room, there was still a feeling of anger that seemed wedged in her chest.
“Jie [literally “big sister”], could I borrow your computer to use for a bit?” Xiao Yu smiled, “Xie Zong told me to look at something.”
Nodding, Chu Jian opened up her computer and turned it so that the screen was facing the young assistant.
Before long, the sounds of a video could be heard. There was singing, and it sounded very lively.
Xiao Yu chortled at the computer screen and called, “Jie, look. Those fans are so funny.”
Xiao Yu turned the computer back toward her.
Inside the video, Jian Bianlin, his upper body bare, was dancing beneath the light to the strong beat of the music. The footage was shot from a far angle and seemed to be a recording taken by a fan. She could approximately make out his action of biting down on his lower lip as well as the faintly discernible, thin layer of sweat on his chest and over his waistline…
“His birthday event last year. Is he hot or not, Jie?”
The picture jumped to another one. On another stage, he seemed to have just finished a dance segment, and as he turned away, his two fingers tugged the back of his waistband up …
Next, it was the airport, summertime. Two nearby fans had somehow caught his jacket and tugged it down slightly, exposing his collarbone…
His assistant was cackling with mirth because the editing of the video was simply too awesome.
It was all sorts of shots where he had had a wardrobe malfunction or shown skin.
“Fans nowadays are so amazing.” Xiao Yu grinned. “This video has several hundred thousand clicks on it already. Ha ha. Back when I was young and following celebrities, there was no stuff like this. Back then, the internet still wasn’t such a big thing.”
The young assistant was still chattering away, joking around in a WeChat group chat with some people in their company. Everyone in the chat was animatedly commenting that even though this video was made by fans, they could still turn it into something big.
Their discussion fell into the public relations category. In this day and age, attaching a label and defined manners and behaviours to an idol was practically the norm. However, Chu Jian reckoned that even this young assistant would not believe her if she stated aloud that this was the first time she had ever watched in detail something like this that was part of Jian Bianlin’s normal life as a celebrity…
Perhaps because she had grown up with him, when she saw stuff like this, she would feel a little weird, especially… shots of this type where he was so “exposed.” Watching him through a camera lens dance with a naked upper body was honestly a bit awkward, you know. Even more awkward was that this young assistant of Jian Bianlin’s was particularly fond of sending voice messages, and he was firing them off one after another. “I think our Jian Ge’s body really is just gorgeous, and his waist is so narrow. Hey, Xie Zong, how about we get a ‘waistophile’ thing going?”
Likely because he did not view Chu Jian as an outsider, the young assistant did not even bother at all to keep the group’s voice messages private from her as he listened to them.
This one sentence really excited quite a few people, and they one by one began to throw their banters back.
“Ha ha ha ha ha! Knock it off! That term just sounds bad. But Jian Ge’s body is truly top of the tops. It’s totally got stuff worth ogling,” someone replied to him.
“In his fans’ own words: especially lust-invoking.”
“No, no. I think the best one isn’t in here. This video is missing one.” Xie Bin guffawed, “The best ones are when you tease the viewer by showing something just peeking through, but at the same time, it seems like you’re not quite showing anything either. Last year, he had one scene in a movie that later ended up being cut. The director specified that he only wear a suit jacket with nothing underneath it. When I have a chance, I’ll go back and ask for that clip to show you guys. There’s nothing cool about watching a ruffian doing things that ruffians do, but when the normally refined, serious, gentleman-type does a few ruffian things, that’s the killer!”
Someone even went as far as directly sending back an audio message that contained a string of uncontrollable laughter.
Feeling embarrassed from listening to all this, Chu Jian retreated off to the side to watch television alone.
She flipped through channel after channel but was unable to find one that she could watch with a settled heart. Glancing at her mobile phone, she discovered that Jian Bianlin had sent her a WeChat message a few minutes ago.
6th floor of the hotel, far east end of the white walkway that’s on this side. Come down.
… So just this, and now things were considered okay between them?
Clasping her mobile phone, Chu Jian waged an internal battle for a while. Forget it. She was not going to bother quibbling with someone who was ill.
Outside, the sky was already completely dark.
The lamps illuminating this raised area were all hidden in the bushes lining the path. From time to time, several men and women wearing bathing suits and wrapped in bathrobes would walk by her. Sensuous views, oh my, such teasing, sensuous views.
All those skin-showing images from earlier on—the contours of his waistline, his collarbones, and many other shots—were still clear in her mind, and the joking banter of the people in his company still seemed to be ringing by her ears.
And now, to have views like these suddenly come at her. Although outdoor swimming pools and manmade beaches were very common to see, nevertheless, at this particular time, they still triggered some thump-thumping in her heart.
Though she did not even know what she was thump-thumping about…
Following the instructions to the location that he had given, Chu Jian searched for a few minutes and then successfully found him.
Jian Bianlin certainly knew how to find good places. It was absolutely an isolated corner, around a bend, not easily detected by nearby eyes, and no one would pass by it. With one hand in his pants pocket, he was watching something tiny crawling slowly on a vine. He could not really discern what it was. He was doing this purely out of boredom as something to pass the time.
“How about we go upstairs?” Chu Jian walked up to him, still feeling that this was unsafe.
She was always aware of the things around her. Several years ago, when Weibo first launched and Jian Bianlin still was not yet popular, he had pulled her out in the middle of the night to go have a meal with Xie Bin. To their surprise, one of his pathetically few hardcore fans at the time had actually managed, through a folding screen, to steal a blurry, yellowy photograph of the side view of his face. From then onward, she was constantly nervous and jumpy. This was likely a psychological scar left from her student era, and she was especially afraid of being gossiped about …
She was not certain whether it was because the trees’ shadows were masking him in the veil of the late night, but it seemed difficult to determine Jian Bianlin’s emotions, whether he was happy or angry as he said, “We’ll go up in a little bit.”
“Oh, okay.” So what were they going to do now, then?
The atmosphere was weird.
Chu Jian looked at him. Still, no expression could be seen on him. Of course, under other circumstances where she was not mad, this would not bother her; after all, she had been accustomed to this for twenty years already… She just found it odd. Ever since he was little, he was obviously someone who was occasionally cold and aloof and lacked expression on his face, yet when he was acting, he was always very much in character. How did he manage to do that?
Jian Bianlin glanced around at their surroundings. This location truly was quite good. He had been strolling downstairs here for more than twenty minutes.
This particular place was a shared rooftop terrace between several upscale hotels. Aside from some villas, there were only the individual pools and manmade beaches of the various hotels. There were relatively fewer people here, and entry could only be gained by swiping a key card, so at least it was safer than the casino or shopping area downstairs.
Closing his hand into a loose fist, he covered his mouth and gave a cough.
Pulling out a lighter from his pocket, he then fished out a small item from a cardboard box beside him that was sitting on a stone bench on one side of the covered walkway. The production crew’s site was such a good place. Anything that you wanted could easily be found there—even though this particular thing was a little silly.
Before Chu Jian had even gotten a good look at what he had pulled out, she saw the faint, flickering flame of the lighter spring up from his palm and light that item.
Sparks flew out in every direction.
With the glow emitted by the sparks, Jian Bianlin observed her carefully, trying to come up with something he could say that would be appropriate for this moment. However, after contemplating deeply on this, in the end, he still did not utter even half a word. He placed into her hand that item that was going hiss hiss and sending out sparks. “Don’t you like these? The production team was using them today. I noticed that they all seemed to like them, so I brought a few back for you. When this one’s done burning, there are still more.”
It was… a torch sparkler.
When Chu Jian took it from him, it seemed burning hot in her hand. She utterly exhibited awkwardness syndrome. “It was when I was kid that I liked these. Who still plays with them when they’re twenty-something?”
There were hissing and crackling sounds as well as a slight burning smell that was continuously permeating outwards.
Chu Jian’s hand was going numb. “How do you put this thing out? …”
She knew that those words really were unromantic and insensitive.
But this was all just too stimulating and provoking to the mind. Outside. Beside the swimming pool. If she were playing sparklers with Jian Bianlin’s dad, or even Xie Bin or her own parents, there would be no problem, but she simply could not do it with him.
Her entire mind was filled only with thoughts of being in the devastating state where all her information would be searched up and nothing left unexposed, that even the questions she had gotten wrong on her primary school entrance examination would be displayed on the world wide web for all to see…
Jian Bianlin was silent for a moment. “Wait until it burns out. It should be quick.”
Chu Jian felt a little bad. “I’m actually quite happy.”
“I can see that.” He gave a token response.
He could see that she was not at all happy.
Frankly, Chu Jian’s reaction was not even as excited as the assistants who had been playing with these same things this afternoon. This caused Jian Bianlin, who had purposely asked the props master for them, to feel—how could he describe it?—frustrated, like he was a failure, or, perhaps, edgy, from not knowing what his next step should be, and this feeling seemed to flood his nerves.
So in this way, the two watched blankly as the torch sparkler, giving off sounds of pop, pop, burned itself out and grew dark.
At last, Chu Jian unconsciously sighed in relief. But, after the fact now, she remembered that he had specifically gone and gotten this from the production team to bring back here. Holding that little wooden stick that was now blackened after it had burned out, she gazed dazedly at it for a long while.
Actually, she genuinely was quite touched.
It seemed he really had changed a lot.
Chu Jian lifted her heels lightly off the ground, a little nervous.
She’s still mad? Jian Bianlin hesitantly reached his hand over, wanting to take from her that thing that was now burnt up and useless, find a trash can, and throw it away.
His hand was only halfway to its destination when something bumped lightly into his chest. Chu Jian had wordlessly stretched out her arms and embraced him. This action of hers was not smooth, nor was it natural.
Her stray hairs were tickling his chin. When he tilted his head down to say something, Chu Jian again instantly jumped in ahead of him. “Next time, don’t use these. There’ll be so much trouble if you get photographed.”
The corner of Jian Bianlin’s lips, which had been pressed tightly together, now relaxed.
Lifting his arms, he slowly set his hands on her shoulders, then slid them down, wanting to return her hug. However, the girl in his embrace seemed as if she had suddenly thought of something deplorable and shoved him away again. “Let’s go back up.”
With hasty steps, Chu Jian spun around and darted away, her face truly burning up all the way to her ears.
Just now, she had accidentally touched his belt at the back part of his waist. And then, images had popped up one after another in her mind, all of them shots from that video. It really was not a good thing to be dating an actor. Since they were kids, she had never seen his chest or back when he was not wearing anything on top. Now, though, they had not even done anything yet, but she, along with everyone else in the country, had already seen him completely bare…
When they returned to the hotel room, Xiao Yu was still doing as Xie Bin had instructed, going through video after video to collect “material,” with the intention of sharing it with their public relations department the next day.
They stepped inside, one close behind the other. Chu Jian was about to head into the living room when, from behind, he encircled one arm around her. Half dragging, half carrying her, he towed her into the closet that was separated from the living room by a single wall.
Hearing the noise, Xiao Yu called out “Jian Ge” and said, “Just now, Xu Ge from the props department called me. He said that all fireworks are prohibited here and that you should be careful when you’re playing.” Xiao Yu lifted his head puzzledly. “Jian Ge, he said that you took half a box of torch sparklers away with you to use them to play with a bunny. There are rabbits even outside such a high-end hotel? Is it some special activity?”
The look in Jian Bianlin’s eyes was rather insipid. He did not really want to explain.
With guilty discomfiture, Chu Jian stepped in to answer. “It’s just downstairs. The hotel specially arranged to have it for kids to look at. A Scottish lop-eared rabbit.”
All she wanted to do was run inside, but Jian Bianlin was there blocking her, not letting her go over.
Chu Jian took one step around to the left, then one step around to the right. Worried that Xiao Yu, who was beside the desk on the other side of the wall, would see them, she did not dare force her way.
“Oh, okay, okay.” Xiao Yu cheerily carried on asking, “Scottish lop-eared rabbit? That’s new, hey? I’ve only heard of Scottish lop-eared cats.”
“Yeah, there are. It’s just, just that not a lot of them exist, so that’s why the hotel brought one in for kids to see.”
In fact, she did not know if such a rabbit even existed…
Jian Bianlin seized this opportunity to catch her in his grasp.
Turning her head with his hands so that she faced him, he took hold of the back of her head and kissed those little lips of hers that wanted to continue explaining. His breath seared against her nose and the side of her face.
Chu Jian was completely unprepared for this, and involuntarily, she took a light swallow—a subtle action, but it felt as if she was gently sucking the tip of his tongue.
Jian Bianlin paused for a moment.
His fingers that had been holding the back of her head suddenly tightened their hold, and he covered her lips fiercely with his own. His hand that was thrust through her short tresses was pressing her forcefully, pulling her close against him. Chu Jian’s eyes were wide. Her knees were weak from his kiss, that tingly feeling coming like wave after wave of the sea, incessantly washing over her back…
A brief, deep, thorough kiss.
An hour ago, on a certain unknown little street in Macau, the contact between their lips that had halted after only a brief taste had not been any different from that very first time. But now…
They really were kissing…
The two of them—she and Jian Bianlin—were actually, truly kissing…
“Aren’t rabbits really timid?” Xiao Yu’s voice once again drifted in. “It wasn’t scared?”
“Scottish lop rabbits are bold and not afraid of fireworks. It was watching…” All Chu Jian could see were his eyes as she, in a befuddled state, said, “… watching really happily…”
姐 “jie.” The most literal translation of this is “big sister.” It is a way to address a woman older than you. Similar to “ge” that has been used when addressing men, the pinyin was maintained rather than using “big sister” in this scenario as it is not as familiar/intimate-sounding as the literal English translation. It is friendly but there is a still a respectful overtone.
总.Xie Bin is being referred to by his title of Xie Zong in their company. In Chinese, sometimes when a title is appended to someone’s name to address him, it is condensed. Zong could actually be short for President, Vice President, General Manager, etc, but regardless, it is only used for someone high in the hierarchy of a company. Since I don’t know Xie Bin’s exact position, I did not want to make it up, and I have kept the original pinyin.