The annual party was held one week before Christmas. In addition to the company employees, many media people also came. Zhou Xiang was still busy behind the scenes even on the very day.
Lan Xirong, who was originally supposed to be in the banquet hall, was for some reason at the back door of the hotel looking for Zhou Xiang.
Zhou Xiang had squeezed in a break and was smoking a cigarette. When he saw Lan Xirong, he said with shock, "What're you doing all the way here?"
Lan Xirong laughed, "I've been looking for you the whole night. I didn’t expect that you'd be hiding here."
"I'm not hiding. I'm working behind the scenes in the first place. Hurry and go back. Someone will probably be coming to look for you soon."
"I've come out for some fresh air." Lan Xirong tenderly gazed at him, "Xiang'ge, thanks for your hard work."
"It's no problem. I'm not working for free anyway." Zhou Xiang put out his cigarette.
"I never thought that we would be able to act together in a movie. I can't wait to act opposite you." Lan Xirong said with slight anticipation.
Zhou Xiang froze, "We're going to be acting opposite each other?"
"Yep, you haven't seen the script?"
"Oh, right, you're acting Wang Yudong's little brother so we'll definitely act together."
"Not that, not as a body double. The character that you're playing interacts with mine."
Zhou Xiang laughed, "I wouldn't know, I don't have much screen time. Director Wang didn't give me a script."
"That's because they haven’t finished modifying the script yet. Chief Wang helped win over quite a few more scenes for you. I had a look at the old script, your character has a very positive image. Xiang'ge, I'm really looking forward to it." Lan Xirong gazed unblinkingly at Zhou Xiang, his eyes sparkling.
Zhou Xiang also felt a bit excited, but he was too embarrassed to show it, "In a few days, I'll go find the screenwriter to ask."
"There's going to be a meeting after Christmas, you can ask him then."
Lan Xirong smiled faintly, "Xiang'ge, how are you planning to spend your Christmas? Are you going to... spend Christmas with your boyfriend?"
"Oh, probably. We've been too busy, so we haven't discussed it yet." Although Zhou Xiang had also thought about how they’d be spending Christmas, he hadn't asked Yan Mingxiu yet. He didn't know whether Yan Mingxiu would refuse or not.
Lan Xirong dropped his head down with slight disappointment. "Xiang'ge, if it turns out that you don't have plans for Christmas, spend it with me, we'll eat hotpot."
Zhou Xiang laughed, "You're so busy, there's no way you'll have time."
"If you spend Christmas with me, I'll clear my schedule, I'm serious." Lan Xirong looked at him very earnestly.
Zhou Xiang uncomfortably turned his head away, "Let's talk about it again when the time comes."
They chatted a little more. Lan Xirong looked at the time, and grudgingly returned to the banquet hall. Zhou Xiang smoked one cigarette after the other, staring at the inky blue starry sky. His head was a swarming mess. He thought of everything, but still couldn't come up with a conclusion.
It was already nearly two-am by the time he returned home. He had busied about the entire day. His body was about to fall apart from exhaustion.
To Zhou Xiang’s surprise, Yan Mingxiu wasn't asleep yet and seemed to be waiting for him. This made Zhou Xiang feel really touched.
Yan Mingxiu poured him some hot water. "Come over to drink some water."
Zhou Xiang took off his jacket, sat down in front of the table, and wrapped his cold hands around the warm cup.
Yan Mingxiu stared at Zhou Xiang’s face, which was flushed red from the cold. He reached out a hand to touch it, and frowned, "Didn't you drive? How did you still freeze yourself to this state?"
"After the annual party ended, I helped transport a few things."
Yan Mingxiu didn't like seeing Zhou Xiang look exhausted like this at all. It was jarring to the eye no matter how he looked at it. In his eyes, the value produced from Zhou Xiang's work was too small, yet Zhou Xiang still very liked doing it.
He asked quietly, "Your company's annual party, Lan Xirong was there too, right?"
Zhou Xiang was taken aback, and then affirmed with an "Hm."
"Did you two talk?"
"...No, he was at the banquet hall, I was busy working at the back, I didn't even see him." Zhou Xiang felt a bit diffident, and upon remembering what Lan Xirong said to him today, he felt even more worried. He had been trying to find the opportunity to tell Yan Mingxiu that he was going to be in Wang Yudong's movie, and that Lan Xirong was also in it, but seeing Yan Mingxiu's attitude, he couldn’t pluck up the courage to tell him.
Yan Mingxiu nodded, pleased. His hand moved from Zhou Xiang’s cheek to his ear. "In the future, don't be foolishly proactive with things you shouldn't be doing. What were you trying to do, freezing yourself like this?"
Zhou Xiang said smoothly, "We're all colleagues, it’s normal to help each other out."
Yan Mingxiu shook his head. "Go have a shower and quickly go to sleep."
Zhou Xiang finished drinking his water and went to have a comfortable hot shower. When he entered the bedroom, he discovered that Yan Mingxiu was already lying down.
He squeezed into the blankets, and embraced Yan Mingxiu from the back. He said softly, "Mingxiu, do you have any plans on Christmas?"
Yan Mingxiu turned his body over, "What plans do you want to make?"
Zhou Xiang laughed, "You're letting me plan Christmas? Then your entire day will belong to me?"
Yan Mingxiu nodded, "It doesn't matter how you spend this sort of holiday. It's not any special occasion."
"It's called joining in with the fun. Why don’t we go out to eat and then watch a movie? A friend recommended a restaurant to me last time. They said that it has a really romantic ambiance. You have to wait three months before you can get a booking. My friend knows the owner, should I get him to arrange a booking?"
"OK, you do as you see fit." Yan Mingxiu wasn't interested in days like Christmas which the entire nation celebrated just for the sake of it. However, seeing that Zhou Xiang seemed care a lot about it, Yan Mingxiu was willing to join in with him. Yan Mingxiu said, "Then I'll book a hotel, and change the location..."
As for changing the location to do what, it naturally needn't be said. Zhou Xiang laughed wickedly, "Good idea, I was just about to say that."
Yan Mingxiu placed a hand on Zhou Xiang's waist, and borrowing the light of the moon, he calmly gazed at Zhou Xiang with his bright black eyes.
Zhou Xiang felt himself being sucked into his gaze, unable to tear his eyes away. They quietly gazed at each other. It had already been a long time since they had carefully looked at the other person.
Zhou Xiang lowered his voice, "What are you thinking about right now?"
Zhou Xiang smiled, "Mingxiu, I feel really blessed right now, what about you?"
Yan Mingxiu blinked, and replied softly, "Hm." He didn't say 'yes' and he also didn’t say 'no', merely a single 'Hm'.
Zhou Xiang laughed as he closed his eyes.
Yan Mingxiu moved closer, and wrapped his powerful arm around Zhou Xiang's back, practically enclosing Zhou Xiang inside his embrace. Although with Zhou Xiang's build, this pose was a bit comical, Yan Mingxiu could feel Zhou Xiang's breath on his neck and felt very warm.
Just let it be. Leaving things the way they are isn't bad either.
Yan Mingxiu came home early on Christmas Day. Zhou Xiang was at home to waiting for him. After Yan Mingxiu changed his clothes, they set out early to make sure they wouldn’t be late.
It was Christmas Day and also a Friday. The roads were so blocked it was even faster to walk. Fortunately, that restaurant wasn't far. On normal days, it would have taken fifteen minutes to get there. Today, it took an hour.
The restaurant was a full house today, but the atmosphere was very peaceful, a clear-cut contrast from the busy streams and crowds of people outside.
Yan Mingxiu and Zhou Xiang were surrounded by couples in all directions. The two big men sat face to face, having a candle-light dinner. They truly looked a bit out of place. Yan Mingxiu’s looks especially, made them even more conspicuous. Almost everyone was stealing peeks at them.
Zhou Xiang hadn't expected that such an awkward situation would arise. He paid constantly observed to Yan Mingxiu's expression, afraid that he would get angry.
Yan Mingxiu however, acted as if there was no one else around them. Seeing Zhou Xiang look at him, he even laughed, "What are you getting so nervous for? Don't let strangers influence your own mood, eat your food."
Only then did Zhou Xiang let out a breath of relief. He laughed, "Have you been stared at so much that you're used to it?"
Yan Mingxiu shrugged his shoulders, declining to comment.
"Even that stable and calm attitude of yours is a perfect celebrity trait. It's a real shame that you won't become one."
Yan Mingxiu shook his head, "I hate occupations where you have no privacy at all, makes it inconvenient to do anything."
Zhou Xiang responded, "Yeah, you'll never imagine how frightening those reporters are, they can even dig old affairs from ten years ago that even the person involved might not remember. Being a celebrity truly isn't for humans. That greatest thing would be to have money yourself, without anyone else knowing."
Zhou Xiang told Yan Mingxiu some of the relatively classic gossip stories in the entertainment circle. They usually didn't talk about this kind of stuff because Yan Mingxiu didn't seem very interested. Today, however, he listened in rapt attention. It had been a long time since they last talked this much to each other. It was an extremely happy meal.
After they ate, they headed for the underground parking lot. When they were about to get in the car, a woman's voice suddenly sounded from behind, "Mingxiu?"
Zhou Xiang and Yan Mingxiu turned around at the same time, and saw that two people with linked arms, a beautiful woman and a man with sunglasses, were standing behind them.
Zhou Xiang instantly recognised that the man wearing sunglasses was Wang Yudong.
Yan Mingxiu's complexion changed the moment he saw the two people. He unclearly mumbled out, "Sis."
"Mingxiu, you came here to eat too? Why didn't we see you?" Yan Mingmei said while she walked forward. When she noticed Zhou Xiang, she froze.
Wang Yudong pulled off his sunglasses. He looked at Zhou Xiang, eyes filled with warning.
For a moment, Zhou Xiang was so embarrassed he didn't know where he should go to hide. He could only force himself to calm down, and aim a polite smile at Yan Mingmei.
Yan Mingmei didn't smile. She almost immediately started having suspicions about her brother and this man’s relationship. It wasn't that Yan Mingmei didn't know there was a problem with Yan Mingxiu's sexual orientation, but she, like their parents, always liked to selectively forget.
She glanced at Zhou Xiang and then looked towards Yan Mingxiu, "Mingxiu, this is your friend?"
Yan Mingxiu’s eyes were fixed upon Wang Yudong's arm which was linked with Yan Mingmei’s. He loathed the sight of it.
Wang Yudong wrapped his arm around Yan Mingmei's waist, and said lightly, "This person is a colleague I've worked with. It was me who introduced them to each other."
Yan Mingmei seemed relax, but was still not too reassured, and turned her head, questioning Wang Yudong with her eyes.
Yan Mingxiu said stiffly, "We still have some matter to attend to, we're going now."
"Hey." Yan Mingmei held him back. "What are you in such a rush for? Yudong and I are going to watch a movie, let's go together." She was still uneasy, and wanted to observe the two people's relationship.
Yan Mingxiu said impatiently, "I said that we're still busy. How can we still have time to watch a movie? Go by yourselves."
Yan Mingmei perceptively detected the fluctuations in Yan Mingxiu's mood. She furrowed her brows, "What's wrong? Why are you in such a hurry?"
Yan Mingxiu said with emphasis, "I'm busy." He then unlocked the car doors with the remote, and said to Zhou Xiang, "Let's go," and then sat in the driver’s seat.
Without looking back, Zhou Xiang also sat into the front passenger seat. He could feel that there were two scorching gazes glued onto his back.
The mood on the way back was very heavy. Yan Mingxiu didn't utter a single word. His complexion wasn't very good either.
Zhou Xiang figured that he was worried about being discovered by his sister. Zhou Xiang didn’t know what to say either, unable to even offer any words of comfort, and could only remain silent along with him.
After Yan Mingxiu drove home and entered the house, he went straight into the study, loudly slamming the door closed.
Zhou Xiang gazed at the tightly closed door. He knew that he had been locked outside of Yan Mingxiu's heart's door again, and as always, couldn't find any chance to step in.
Both tacitly never brought up that Christmas day again, as if that day never happened. However, Yan Mingxiu became increasingly uncommunicative.
Two days before the New Year, Director Wang convened another meeting. It didn't matter whether a minor character like Zhou Xiang's came or not, so no one notified him to attend. It was only after Chief Wang arrived that he discovered that Zhou Xiang hadn't come, and specially called him to tell him to come over, wanting him to come in contact with more people.
Zhou Xiang rushed over in his car as soon as he got the phone call but he was still half an hour late. To his surprise, after he entered the room, he saw that Director Wang and Wang Yudong were in the heat of an argument, and had argued to the point that their faces were red and their voices were hoarse.
The moment he walked in, everyone in the room turned to look at him. Zhou Xiang wished he could become invisible. Who would be willing to draw fire at this point in the time?
Chief Wang also hadn't expected that the two would ultimately start fighting. He hastily used his eyes to tell Zhou Xiang to find a place to sit down.
Hunching forward, Zhou Xiang ran over to sit next to Chief Wang.
He then heard Wang Yudong coldly say, "My engagement is a one in a lifetime event. Everyone else has agreed to postpone the opening ceremony. Can't you accommodate once, Director Wang? I must go on this vacation, I hope that Director Wang can understand."
Director Wang slammed the table. "The date was set two months ago, now you expect it changed just because you say so. How many matters will be delayed?! The date will definitely not be changed. If you don't come, then your name will not be in the performer’s list!"
Now that it had reached this stage, their relationship was already almost irreparable. The three investors' faces were all gloomy and Chief Wang openly rolled his eyes, too lazy to bother.
Wang Yudong was so mad his face muscles were a bit distorted. "Fine then, find another person to replace me, Director Wang. I hope that you'll find someone who will satisfy you."
"There are plenty of people who can replace you!" Director Wang was also puffed with rage. He immediately spotted of Zhou Xiang, whose buttocks hadn't even had time to warm his seat yet, and said sternly, "Zhou Xiang!"
Zhou Xiang quivered with fright. Everyone turned to look at him.
Director Wang heavily ‘hmphed.’ "I think Zhou Xiang's pretty good. You're been Wang Yudong's body double all along, and you know how to act. We'll have you act Wang Yudong's character, not as a body double. I'll let you be the lead."
As soon as these words were spoken, everyone's eyes almost popped out. The conference room fell into complete silence. Zhou Xiang was struck dumb with terror by those words, and didn't even dare to breathe.
The people who had a good relationship with Zhou Xiang all revealed sympathetic eyes.
Everyone understood that the reason Director Wang said those words was not because Zhou Xiang had talent, and was not because Zhou Xiang really had the qualifications to carry this big bridge, but because it could humiliate Wang Yudong to the greatest degree.
Being replaced by your body double in your own role, if this truly came to pass, Wang Yudong would become the entertainment world's biggest laughing stock.
This move of Director Wang was indeed vicious enough, but had pushed Zhou Xiang into the teeth of the storm.