“Be good. Let’s stop the joking now.” He patted her lightly.
When Jian Bianlin first caught sight of his dad, he had been taken aback as well and had hesitated over whether or not he should arbitrarily say something to brush over the situation and prevent his dad from relentlessly interrogating them. However, this little interlude from Chu Jian had left him ridiculously amused…
Chu Jian very clearly understood that her little antic was even more daft than burying her own head in the sand. Hiding her head in the crook of his neck, she protested, “Don’t expose my fib right in front of your dad… Now what do we do?”
“What do you mean ‘what do we do’?”
“I don’t even dare look at your dad right now.” This was actually the important point.
“If you’re embarrassed, then just don’t look at him. He likes you the most anyway.”
She shook her head disconsolately.
Through the half-open window, Jian Bianlin exchanged a look with his dad. The meaning of it: That’s right. From now on, Chu Jian’s your daughter-in-law.
Right then, Jian Bianlin’s dad had been musing, what was up with those two kids that they were hugging each other back and forth? Was Chu Jian embarrassed because they had been caught on the spot? Should he just back away and leave them alone? … When he saw the signal from his son, though, it was instantly as if he had swallowed a pill that could soothe his mind. Good son! You didn’t let me down!
He sent another signal to his dad with his eyes. The meaning of that one: She’s embarrassed. At least give her a face-saving way to get out of this.
The wrinkles at the corners of Jian Bianlin’s dad’s eyes were spilling over with the joyfulness that came after a surprise. Catching the unspoken message, he beamed delightedly as he swept his eyes over Chu Jian, who was still burying her head on Jian Bianlin’s shoulder and unwilling to bring it back up. Purposely putting on the airs of a parent, he said, “You two kids are being so thoughtless.” He heaved a fake sigh. “Don’t be in a hurry to go. Come upstairs and chat for a bit.”
After saying that, he was unable to conceal the smile that was lighting up his entire face, and with his hands behind his back, he strolled into the entrance of the apartment building.
As a result, Chu Jian had no choice but to get out of the car and walk mindlessly in step with Jian Bianlin as they trailed after his dad to step through the building door and into the elevator again. She was standing half a step back from Jian Bianlin, and after the elevator door slid open, she grabbed the corner of his down parka, staring at him with a long, gloomy face.
He, in contrast, was unperturbed.
Once they had all stepped back in through the apartment door and Chu Jian’s parents had listened to Jian Bianlin’s dad, in a few words, share the happy news with them, her dad and mom turned their surprised gazes on Chu Jian. The three parents had not expected this sudden news, which turned out to be the absolute best of outcomes. Their years of friendship had transformed, and now they were practically relatives by marriage. The three sat down in a row on the sofa, delighted grins on their faces as they looked at the two people who were still standing.
Chu Jian’s back was leaning against the fish tank. She pressed her lips together, relaxed them again, then glanced at Jian Bianlin…
The families knew each other simply too well, inside and out. Chu Jian’s mom discovered that the preparation work she had once done ahead of time—such as liberally allowing herself to think through the scenario of the first meeting with her future son-in-law and how she would interrogate him, from his family background to his highest education level, or even researching and making connections in order to be ready to verify whether any university certificate of graduation was falsified—was… all useless.
At the end of the day, she merely gave a joyful “mm” and converted the long, complicated steps into a couple of simple sentences: “What are your plans? When are the two of you planning on having the wedding?”
“Mom!” Chu Jian felt that if the glass were not so thick and strong, she could crush the fish tank under her. “Mom…” But in the end, after two cries of “Mom,” her mind was still blank and she could not squeeze out any additional words.
The room was extremely quiet.
“Jian Bianlin.” Jian Bianlin’s dad had an ugly expression on his face.
What came next was a firing of Cantonese that burst uncontrollably from the lips of Jian Bianlin’s dad, with the general meaning as follows: “You’ve been a big star for too long, and you have all those bad, playboy attitudes now! Chu Jian’s dad and mom are both right here, and you’re still not even giving a definite answer. Let me tell you, Jian Bianlin, if you have even half a thought about just playing around, then don’t even bother coming home anymore. And you don’t need to call me ‘Dad’ anymore, either…”
Chu Jian’s head shrunk low into her shoulders as she listened, and her nails dug against the glass of the fish tank behind her. Jian Bianlin listened to the rant from start to finish. At the very end, when his dad was picking up a cup of tea to moisten his throat, Jian Bianlin used this opening to give a six-word reply: “I’ll defer to what she wants.”
A smile simultaneously came over each of the three elders’ faces.
Since the kids had said that, then they should let go of the things that should be let go of. Nowadays, people valued having the freedom to love as they chose. And so… meeting dismissed!
Of course, there was routine business that needed to be handled in due order.
Jian Bianlin’s dad took Chu Jian’s hand into his own, incessantly expressing how extremely happy he was and that Chu Jian could marry into the family with her mind at ease. Things would be no different from before since the one he loved most would absolutely still be Chu Jian. At the same time, Chu Jian’s mom called Jian Bianlin into the kitchen and talked ceaselessly about how, ever since Chu Jian was a child, she was full of mischief, was willful, and liked to act up. Of course, those were things that she did not have to explain to Jian Bianlin, seeing as he had had to tolerate quite a bit of those traits since they were kids.
In a thick, happy atmosphere of “we’ll be seeing the bright future of holding grandbabies soon” as well as “the two families are finally going to be doubly close, and when we’re old, we can totally live together in the same home and take care of the grandkids together”…
Chu Jian felt so embarrassed she was cringing and could not make herself say a single word.
They returned again to the car.
Jian Bianlin was recalling how smooth the process of publicizing their relationship had been. With his right arm propped up against the edge of the window, he concealed half his face with the back of that hand—he was laughing silently.
“Are you laughing…?”
Jian Bianlin nodded and then could not help laughing again, this time audibly.
From his pants pocket, he fished out a bankbook and handed it to Chu Jian. “This is spending money for you from my dad.” His old man sure was generous, straight up giving her a hundred thousand [RMB]. Jian Bianlin reckoned that his dad likely had only saved two hundred-odd thousand over the course of his entire lifetime, but once he learned that his daughter-in-law was Chu Jian, he was willing to part with half of his estate.
Chu Jian: “… Don’t want it.”
Jian Bianlin: “Okay, then I’ll give it back to him.”
Throwing him a glare, Chu Jian yanked the bankbook out from between Jian Bianlin’s fingers and put it safely away. She would view it as just keeping the money on behalf of Uncle Jian for the time being, lest she get a lecture from her parents because Uncle Jian had been hurt that she had not accepted his gesture and had gone to them to pour out his sorrows.
They drove into Hengdian by six that evening, and by the time she completed the check-in procedure in the hotel lobby, it was approaching seven o’clock. Keeping with the old, established practice, Xie Bin gave up his room to Chu Jian. If you were to sum things up, when it came to the whole matter regarding Jian Bianlin’s wife, Xie Bin had absolutely no principles he kept to or temper whatsoever, because, well, she was Jian Bianlin’s wife, after all…
Despite investing in Tong Fei’s production company and occasionally going with Tong Fei to meet some people who were part of the entertainment industry, to Chu Jian, this whole acting business was strange and unfamiliar. She was sitting inside Jian Bianlin’s private van, and seeing the makeup artist meticulously applying makeup onto Jian Bianlin, she was rather curious and watched fixedly for a long while.
Eventually, Jian Bianlin detected her stare on him. Unable to move his head, he flicked his eyes in her direction.
Nibbling on her lip, she smiled.
When Jian Bianlin saw her smiling so beautifully, he could not restrain the curve that was also turning upwards at the corners of his lips.
Chu Jian caught the expression on his face, and blushing slightly, she turned her head away to look out the window.
This type of scene was normal occurrence through the entire makeup process. Consequently, when the makeup artist had completed his task and stepped off the vehicle, squatting off to the side and having a smoke with Xie Bin, he was still grumbling, “Man, seeing Jian Bianlin with his wife makes me want to find a girlfriend to spend time with.”
Xie Bin stubbed out his cigarette butt, saying with a snicker, “Are they especially lovey-dovey, like the ‘you gaze at me and I gaze back at you’ type—you know, just especially innocent and pure?”
The makeup artist shook his head. “Yup. That whole innocent feel made me feel like I’d returned to my teenage days of messenger-style schoolbags and copying people’s homework—that was like a century ago.”
Xie Bin was positively gleeful. “You actually really shouldn’t be envious. Those two there really are one another’s first love.”
Outside of the vehicle, those two bachelors exchanged a look. Oh, the sighs of life’s long, arduous journey. And then, they continued to bury their heads, silently puffing away on their cigarettes.
Inside the van, Chu Jian shifted closer so she could talk quietly with him. “Xie Bin said just earlier that filming’s only going to be for two days here in Hengdian, and they’ve only built the set for the interior of a temple and the interior of a little motel? Then you’re going to be heading to a really impoverished place?”
He explained, “This story’s setting goes from the high-altitude Tibetan Plateau to Nepal and then over to India. A few of the bigger, grander scenes will be shot in the actual locations, and then for the other ones, we will need to find places to build sets. Otherwise the budget won’t be able to cover the cost of everything.”
“If that’s the case, when I go back to Shanghai in a couple of days, I’ll pack up a bunch of stuff for you and courier it over there first. That way, you won’t be caught without anything to eat and become undernourished. Oh, and I’ll pack items that you may need to use.” She began planning in her mind.
Jian Bianlin shook his head. “You don’t need to go. It’ll be too hard and demanding on you.”
“You’re the sick patient, and you’re not even finding it hard. What could be hard about it for me?” After saying this, Chu Jian thought of something else, and feeling his hair, she asked, “Xie Bin also said that you’re playing the role of a monk who later returned to the secular life, so in between, you’re going to have to shave your head?” She was trying to imagine what he would look like bald—and could not imagine it…
However, just judging by his makeup at present as well as the clothes that had been tossed to the side, she could see that this time he was truly playing a subversive character.
He gave an “mm-hmm.” Then, after thinking for a moment, his brows twisted together slightly. “I forgot to tell you, I have a kissing scene in a little bit.”
Chu Jian’s heart dropped with a thud, but the words that left her lips were, “That’s really normal. Which drama series nowadays doesn’t have kissing scenes?”
Jian Bianlin gave the back of her head a little rub, not daring to tell her that, actually, it was not just a kissing scene.
When they stepped into the film set that had been constructed, she saw that it was a laundry room that exuded a rather foreign, exotic air.
In the half of the room that was illuminated, the camera showed one corner of the laundry room. A gaudy-looking blanket was spread on top of the washing machine. The film crew as well as other miscellaneous people were all behind the lighting stands, some standing, some squatting as they chatted quietly.
Chu Jian sat on a chair in a corner, watching as the executive director walked through the scene with Jian Bianlin and the female lead of the drama. On the spot, he directed Jian Bianlin to lift up the actress so that she was sitting on the washing machine. The general idea of his instructions was that, in a moment, Jian Bianlin’s actions were to be very manly as he swept the female lead up into his arms and onto the machine, then passionately embraced and stroked and kissed her deeply…
In accordance with the director’s request, Jian Bianlin tugged the neckline of his button-up shirt so that it was open wider, pulled out the hem of half the shirt from the waist of his pants, and rolled his sleeves up past his elbows.
Even though Chu Jian could not hear what the executive director was saying, from Jian Bianlin’s actions, she could roughly tell that this was an intimate scene of passion. From the moment she discovered this, she began contemplating whether she should temporarily withdraw herself from there.
In the end, Jian Bianlin very seriously offered three suggestions:
First, it was a given that this drama’s airing rights were sold, and it would air in a prime time slot. The review and approval process for anything that filled a prime time slot was especially strict, so they could forget about the whole sequence of feeling the thigh from the outer to the inner part since, even if they shot it, it would not be allowed to air.
Second, if there were any scenes that required him to touch her bosom, they could just make use of camera angles to create the illusion. Also, to respect the actress, they absolutely had to add a few extra layers of foam pads in front of her chest.
Third, for the kissing… they could just use camera angles, too—artistry and beauty in a reserved type of way.
The actress was terribly grateful to him. As she sent her assistant off to find some foam breast pads, she even softly praised him, “Teacher Jian is so professional. The kissing scene that I did a few days ago took me an entire day to film. Now the other party is saying that they want to re-film it because there was no feeling in it.”
Jian Bianlin took advantage of the gap of time used for preparation before the shoot to return to Chu Jian’s side.
He was wearing black, hard-soled military boots, khaki-coloured pants made of a rough material, and a beige button-up shirt with the top two buttons unfastened, revealing his fair neck as well as collarbones.
His down jacket was draped over his shoulders.
Chu Jian knew that in this drama series, he was playing a character who, in the first half of his life, had been a wicked person, while in the second half, had turned from his wicked ways, though still not stepping wholly onto a path of righteousness. With his blood-stained hands, he led the police’s secret underground ops team, fighting evil with evil. But now, here on filming location, when she was watching the rehearsal of that scene a moment ago as well as now, as he looked down at her, Chu Jian felt as if she had personally stepped into the story.
That sense of tension and pressure exuding from him, where one was sauntering along the dividing line between life and death, was completely unlike the usual Jian Bianlin.
Perhaps this was the quality that made an actor, that the instant he stepped onto the set, he would become immersed in character.
Xiao Yu poured a cup of hot tea for Jian Bianlin. Squeezing that paper cup in his hands, Jian Bianlin looked at her and said, “In just a bit, how about you go out and walk around?”
Chu Jian was taken aback momentarily but then understood. “Oh, okay. It’s really cold here. I’m going out to walk around for a bit.”
In a low voice, Jian Bianlin surprisingly followed up with another sentence. “The plot needs it.”
“Uh-huh, uh-huh. I know.” Chu Jian was terribly embarrassed, replying with a small voice, “I understand.”
It’s just a love scene, that’s all…