She discovered that Macau was a very mysterious place. For instance, it was after she and Jian Bianlin had run into each other in the casino last time that they had started to frequently see one another. Huge strides had been made in their relationship that had caught her completely off guard, and nights of sleeplessness also began to occur one after the other.
Some time past three in the morning, while staring at the ceiling, Chu Jian had already finished thinking through the decorating style that would be used in her salon’s new branch store that would open next year, but she still could not sleep. So, she pulled out a rose-red knit cardigan and stepped out the door of her room.
But in the end, she had just arrived downstairs and exchanged for some casino chips, with the intention of experiencing the thrill of sitting at a table game, when Jian Bianlin’s phone call came in.
At three o’clock in the morning, many of the tables only had one or two patrons.
Chu Jian selected a table where no one was sitting. Soon, Jian Bianlin arrived and sat down next to her. To conceal some of his distinguishing facial features, when he came out, he had put on a pair of grey, half-frame glasses with flat lenses.
“You can’t sleep either?” For some reason, Chu Jian had feeling a like she was squandering away her fortunes and had been caught redhanded. “Don’t you have to film tomorrow?”
His expression extremely solemn, he picked up the little stack of gaming chips in front of her and began counting them one by one.
One sound of clack… Another sound of clack… There was a distinctive rhythm to his actions…
After pondering for half a minute, Chu Jian still did not know what he wanted to do. She could not help herself and wanted to reclaim a couple of chips from his palm so she could place a bet. However, right as she stretched out her arm, he flipped his hand over and seized the back of hers.
She struggled slightly against his grasp, her face a little hot.
Fortunately, Jian Bianlin merely clasped her hand for a moment and then loosened his hold. “You didn’t lose enough last time in the machines? This time, you’re even daring to play a table game?”
Chu Jian answered sullenly, “My whole purpose for changing these was to lose them anyway. It’s just to kill time.”
“Why won’t you win?”
“It’s not like I know how to play.”
Jian Bianlin pulled off his glasses, a rarely-seen smile on his face. “You’re lucky in love, so that means you’re unlucky at cards?”
Chu Jian was taken aback for a moment. Propping her chin on her hand, she shifted her eyes away to look elsewhere.
Pretending she had not heard.
From somewhere on him, Jian Bianlin pulled out disc after disc of large denomination gambling chips, until finally, when seven stacks were laid out in display in front of her, he opened his mouth and told her, “Go lose all these.”
Chu Jian had initially thought he was joking. However, after an hour, she was not laughing.
In only sixty-odd minutes, she had lost all except for the one red, leftover chip that she now held in her palm and was flipping over back and forth. She was practically on the verge of tears. “You’re not even helping me win it back.”
“I’ve got a bit of a headache. Don’t want to think.” Jian Bianlin seemed to be in quite a good mood, though. “It can be considered our contribution to Macau’s taxation.”
In fact, there was one thing he had not said.
This amount in casino chips was actually what he had won on his previous trip to Macau, when he had sat in this very same casino. That night, before Jian Bianlin bumped into Chu Jian here, he had won a fair amount in the VIP casino room. At the time, he also had not been feeling well, but no matter what he bet on, he would win.
Surrounding him were a bunch of bosses of private firms with briefcases slung across their shoulders, and their eyes had gleamed with excitement as they all sighingly praised his gambling skills. But, really, there were no gambling skills to speak of. “Unlucky in love” was adequate in summarizing everything.
That was why he had given all these to her tonight. He wanted her to lose them again.
The best would be if she lost it all. And in the end, Chu Jian did not disappoint—she lost every last bit.
Chu Jian had never seen anyone lose money so happily. She, however, could not muster up any cheer and fell into an incessant bout of self-reflection and criticism. Pushing her chair back, she pulled him along to return directly to the room.
During the entire elevator ride back to their floor where she was heaving lamenting sighs, she was immersed in her thoughts of “Sure enough, insomnia is taxing on your mind and your wallet. Ensuring excellent sleep quality is the only way to protect your wallet, especially in a place like Macau.”
Jian Bianlin walked behind her. Though he still had a headache, he was not in a hurry to return to the room and leisurely kept pace with her footsteps, listening to her grumbles.
“I’m going to frame this and hang it up”—Chu Jian abruptly stopped and turned around, holding between two fingers that lone, remaining red chip up in front of him—“to remind myself to never…”
Jian Bianlin lowered his head and touched his lips to those fingers that were pinching the chip.
Chu Jian’s hand quivered slightly, the chip nearly dropping from it.
He merely pressed his lips there, with no additional, unnecessary actions. That soft, warm feeling, as well as the subtle texture of his lips, was infinitely magnified and seemed to burn into her fingers…
She completely forgot what he said after that or how they returned to their rooms. All she remembered was this one action and how it seemed to have seared a mark into her heart…
Afterward, Jian Bianlin flew directly from Macau to Changsha for a promotional event.
Chu Jian also returned to Shanghai.
When the two parted company at the airport, Jian Bianlin, as if it was only reasonable and natural, got from Chu Jian a key to her home. While her parents had also given him a key last time, things then and now were different. Anyway, it was a very strange feeling when Chu Jian fished it out from her purse and handed it to him.
She could not really describe it, honestly could not describe it.
As Chu Jian sat in a Western-style restaurant that was located on the second floor of a certain small building near Shanghai’s Fuxing Park, nibbling on a spoon and having a private little get-together with Tong Fei, she still could not figure out how things had progressed at such a godly speed between the two of them in Macau.
And thus, she utterly was unable to open her mouth to tell Tong Fei that she and Jian Bianlin were suddenly together.
“Would you give your home key to your boyfriend?” Chu Jian out of nowhere asked this question.
“Yeah, he needs to help me feed the cat and change out the cat litter.” Tong Fei did not read too much into this and said, “Let’s go. I need to go see a producer and have her introduce me to a director to help lay the groundwork for Lin Shen’s next drama.”
“Where are we going?” Chu Jian asked bewilderedly.
“Just somewhere around here. A temporary film set.”
Tong Fei waved her hand for the bill and paid it. Then, bringing Chu Jian along, she left this place and walked to the filming location.
Deep in an alley not far from that Western-style restaurant, after turning a corner at the furthest end, there was a temporarily rented site that had been constructed into a makeshift apartment. To prevent disturbances, the front door of the apartment was locked, and a young fellow was crouched in front of the doorway, guarding it. Catching sight of them, he asked, “Who ya looking for?”
“Producer Xie.” Tong Fei gave him the producer’s name. “Xie Linlin.”
After turning around to ask, the young fellow let them in.
It just so happened that when the two of them stepped inside, it was break time for everyone. While Tong Fei searched for Xie Linlin based on the instructions for the location she had been given, she also informed Chu Jian in a quiet voice, “In the past, the male lead of this drama and Jian Bianlin were similar in popularity. Ying Chen, too. But Jian Bianlin is a big name in movies while the others are all focused on TV dramas.” Tong Fei had once taken Ying Chen under her wing, but right when she had brought him to the point where he was well-known and sought after, someone had stolen him from her. Consequently, any mentions of his name were very much through gritted teeth. “This year, Jian Bianlin has shot up in popularity while this guy hasn’t been as strong. But the guy’s pomp is way more than Jian Bianlin’s. Between assistants and make-up artists, he brought six people along with him when he joined the cast and crew on site.”
Chu Jian responded with an “oh, I see,” not really understanding why one person would need so many assistants.
The two of them circled past the living room where shooting was in progress and found Xie Linlin in the dining room.
Xie Linlin was sullenly flipping through the item she was holding. When she saw Tong Fei, a miserable look came over her face. “You say, the contract is all signed and states that filming will last until the seventeenth, but he’s insisting that he needs to leave by the fourteenth to record some sort of program. There’s still a ton of scenes that hasn’t been shot yet. You don’t even know how many scenes I’ve tossed out for him and not filmed. There’s one set that I spent more than a hundred thousand to build, but we didn’t even get to shoot a single scene with it because he tossed them all out.”
“Lu Congwen’s always been like that.” Tong Fei put an arm around Xie Linlin’s shoulder. “I told you last time not to use him, but you just wouldn’t listen to me.”
“Well, he’s hot right now, right? It’s not like you don’t know there’s a shortage of actors these days. And when the channels purchase the broadcast rights for dramas, they know and like him. Two years ago, before he got all popular, he wasn’t like this. He was even willing to go out to the far outskirts of the city to do screen tests.”
The more Xie Linlin thought about it, the more irate she became, and she threw out another couple sentences of griping. All of a sudden, she remarked with a sigh, “Actually, in the very beginning, the script had been given to Jian Bianlin to look at. That guy may not be all that easy to talk to, but at least he’s professional.”
With a cough, Tong Fei cast a glance at Chu Jian.
Chu Jian took the beverage that was offered to her by an assistant, pretending she had not heard anything.
“But Jian Bianlin doesn’t do television dramas,” Xie Linlin continued glumly. “Any scripts that you give to him are always returned with one word—“declined.” You don’t even get a chance to discuss it with him.”
Tong Fei gave another cough.
Xie Linlin eyed her over suspiciously. “What’s up with you? Every time Jian Bianlin is mentioned, you have this look on your face like you just took an aphrodisiac. I heard you know him pretty well? Don’t tell me you—”
Tong Fei truly choked on that. “Whoa, just knock it off there. He’s not at all interested in anyone from the entertainment industry.”
“Hard to say.” Dropping her voice, Xie Linlin argued, “I heard he brought a girl along with him when he was filming in Macau this time. And there’s also that girl who, back then, made her debut at the same time as him in that singing competition, and they both became popular. Doesn’t she have a special relationship with him, too? I heard that from the people working at the station.”
Chu Jian’s hand paused. There was a slight, peculiar feeling in her heart.
Just now, she had rather enjoyed listening to the conversation between the two, especially when Jian Bianlin was praised for being professional. But now… Chu Jian all of a sudden felt that she had lost her mood to listen.
The other two continued exchanging industry news and information. All around, there were staff members, but she did not know any of them. Chu Jian wandered once around the place by herself and then walked into a bedroom that had no one inside.
Tong Fei had mentioned that the props team had been in charge of the interior design of this place. It really was quite tasteful.
She touched a decorative wall, then turned around. By chance, Lu Congwen had just completed a scene and stepped into this room.
When Chu Jian saw him, she immediately remembered the lengthy depiction Xie Linlin had given earlier.
He, too, was taken aback when he spotted Chu Jian, and the meaning of the look in his eyes was obvious: A fan who came with one of the crew to visit the set?
He likely was long accustomed to being disrupted and spectated every day in situations such as this. This big star pulled over a folding chair and took a seat, eyeing her with an expression of “since you came in with one of the staff, fine, I’ll put up with the onerous task of being pleasant to you.”
Ugh. So awkward.
If he found out that she actually had no desire to talk to him, take a picture with him, or get an autograph… Chu Jian silently felt awkward for him. Feigning an expression like she had not seen anyone, she ran her hands over the wall, the furniture, the table, and the wall lamps, as if she was admiring all the furniture, and then innocently walked out of there…
When she stepped out from the bedroom, she finally exhaled in relief.
To avoid having such a situation occur again, Chu Jian did not dare wander around anymore and, like a good girl, sat in the dining room to wait for Tong Fei. This wait, though, lasted for two hours.
When Tong Fei and the director were nearly done their discussion, the work here was also wrapping up for the day. Xie Linlin invited Tong Fei to go with everyone to find a place to eat and continue the conversation. Tong Fei did not decline the invite.
By the time they all stepped outside, the sky was already completely dark, and a light drizzle had started to fall.
“It should be pretty hard to catch a cab here.” Chu Jian surveyed their surroundings, a one-way street lined with a row of parked cars along the curb. There were no signs at all of any taxi driving by this place.
“No need to take a cab. We can just walk there,” Xie Linlin smiled.
Chu Jian pulled her gaze back and then caught sight of an especially familiar-looking vehicle stopped by the roadside. Before she could catch a glimpse of the license plate number, the driver’s door was pushed open from the inside. The person getting out of the vehicle was dressed in a black pullover sweatshirt and workout pants, and he did not look the least bit like a celebrity.
Everybody was astounded, including Lu Congwen, who was at the very back of the group, walking out with his two assistants. This place was not any major filming base. It was just an apartment rented temporarily by the production team, and after two or three days of filming, they would be leaving the site. To actually be able to come across him here, then, was such an amazing coincidence.
Jian Bianlin had worked with Lu Congwen before, and they would also frequently run into each other at various awards ceremonies, so Jian Bianlin gave a slight nod in his direction when he saw him. Then, he also nodded in greeting to a few other people whom he was relatively familiar with.
As he drew near to Chu Jian, he simply ignored those people whom he was not well-acquainted with or did not know.
It had been four days since they last saw one another.
“Why are you back?” Chu Jian felt a little flustered from his stare. There was a disconcerting feeling of embarrassment, like being suddenly exposed under the brilliant light of day.
He gazed at her amusedly. “What, you expect that I don’t come back and just settle in Macau for good?”
Chu Jian did not reply.
Could they not stand in here in front of so many people to chat? …
Taking in the complex expression on her face, Jian Bianlin inferred that she did not like being with him in this type of environment and surrounded by onlookers. He turned to Tong Fei and asked, “You guys are done for the day and heading for dinner?”
“Ah, right, yes.” Tong Fei snapped her mind back. “Yes, we’re heading to dinner. I was wondering what you wanted when you asked for the address. I never thought you really would be able to come. Want to join us?”
He shook his head. “I’m here to pick her up.”
“Oh, okay, then you guys go ahead.” Tong Fei explained to Xie Linlin, “I’m so well-acquainted with Jian Bianlin because of Chu Jian. The two of them have been neighbours since they were kids. You know, really good childhood friends.”
Understanding, Xie Linlin smiled, “That’s so nice. I really admire those friendships that were formed since childhood.”
Hearing Tong Fei’s explanation, Jian Bianlin could not be bothered to say anything. He lifted a hand and touched it to Chu Jian’s face, which was damp from the rain. Still warm. She must not have been outside and getting showered on the whole time. That was good.
“Let’s go home?” he asked.
She breathed out in relief. Oh yes, oh yes. Going home was the safest bet.
But after thinking again, she realized that that would not be good. She told him, “I didn’t buy groceries these last few days. How about we just go eat with Tong Fei?” After all, he knew these people anyway.
Jian Bianlin was silent for a moment before saying, “A bone broth has been simmering at home for the whole afternoon. Winter bamboo shoots and pork bone broth.”
Huh? He had been back for so long already?
Chu Jian had thought he had just left the airport not long ago.
“… Then let’s go home to eat.”
The two got into his vehicle and drove away, passing through the traffic lights at the intersection, until even the shadow of the backside of the car could not be seen, let alone the license plate. Only then did everyone start back from their daze—and also comprehend.
Xie Linlin was furiously sending messages to Tong Fei with her eyes. “You’re kidding me, right? Good friends, my foot!”
Tong Fei was stunned silly as well. “Holy crap! I didn’t know either…”