Zhou Xiang arrived at the company very early.
Cai Wei was currently the managing deputy director of this company. He was their boss’ left and right hands, and took care of everything. The boss wasn’t in Beijing most of the time. He basically managed and supervised all of the company’s matters. His connections and position in the entertainment circle now was leagues better than two years ago, thus, arranging a job for Zhou Xiang was a walk in the park.
Two years ago, no for Zhou Xiang, only a month ago, Zhou Xiang was also an employee in this company. In the past, whenever Cai Wei introduced jobs to Zhou Xiang, he would deduct the lowest commission fee and treated Zhou Xiang extremely well. Zhou Xiang had been in the company for a long time; he was well-liked and had good relationships with the people in the company so he really liked this company. He felt that being able to work here was a very good start to his new life.
Zhou Xiang came across a few of his old colleagues inside the building. He resisted the urge to greet them. In these people’s eyes, he was a complete stranger.
Cai Wei brought Zhou Xiang into his office. He smiled as he invited him to sit down and then answered a phone call. After finishing the call, he grabbed his keys and said to Zhou Xiang, “Let’s go, I’ll take you to that film studio to have a look around. Our Chief Wang invested over 10 million to make that film studio. Right now it’s the biggest film studio in Beijing. We get quite a lot of jobs every day. So, do some old jobs first, work hard, move about and be active, and who knows, you might fish up a chance to shoot a commercial one day.”
Zhou Xiang smiled. “Wei'ge, right now I’m happy as long as I have a job. I’m not planning on thinking about anything else at the moment.”
Cai Wei glanced at him appreciatively. “Good, a stable and patient person of your age is hard to come by. Work well, and if there’s an opportunity, Wei'ge will definitely help you. I know that it’s not easy for you and your mum. I’m sure she must have spent a lot of money for your treatment. Take your time, life has to go on, it’ll get better in the future.”
Zhou Xiang was a bit moved. In an outsider’s eyes, Cai Wei was strict and unkind, and he had a sense of craftiness, shrewdness and ruthlessness, but Zhou Xiang knew that it was a guise that he created in order to survive in this circle where good and bad were mixed. Cai Wei was actually guy who was very loyal to his friends.
Cai Wei drove him towards the Tongzhou area, taking him to that newly built film studio at the border of the 6th Ring Road. Their boss had leased the first four floors of this large building. The total floor area was over one thousand square meters. The interior had been remodelled into large-scale filming headquarters. Every floor was divided into two districts. The specialisation or focus of every district was different and could be changed at any time.
As soon as they entered the building, they saw a few tall and slim, lightly dressed models walking around with exaggerated heavy makeup on their faces. The two didn’t bat an eye at the strange sight and headed straight for the second floor.
They passed by a production team which was in the middle of filming a family comedy drama and then walked to the other side to the district which specialised in shooting special effects films. They were currently in the middle of filming a science fiction commercial. The male model's healthy and beautiful body was wrapped inside skin tight silver costume, and he was dangling from a wire, flying about in the air.
“A’Liu.” Cai Wei called out to white and chubby youngster.
The person called A’Liu immediately ran over, and warmly called out “Wei'ge.”
Zhou Xiang didn’t recognise this person. It was possible that he was new.
“Let me introduce you to my little brother from my hometown. Help arrange some work for him here. He’s just been discharged from the hospital, don’t give him any heavy work, try get him to learn all of the things in the studio; I’ll leave it all up to you.”
“Okay, no problem, you can count on me, Wei'ge.”
Cai Wei said to Zhou Xiang, “A’Liu is twenty four this year, he’s younger than you by two years, so you can call him A’Liu. He’s part of the administration team here, he’s in charge of odd jobs, follow him and learn as much as you can. There will be opportunities in the future for you to be a planner or stage manager, etc.”
“A’Liu.” Zhou Xiang greeted A’Liu with a smile and then nodded at Cai Wei, “Thank you Wei’ge.”
When Zhou Xiang had just graduated, he had also hung around film studios and various sets doing miscellaneous jobs. He was extremely familiar with this kind of work, and his wealth of experience greater than anyone else. Although this old profession of his was hard work, it was at least something he could do skilfully and easily. He felt more and more grateful to Cai Wei.
“I’m busy in the afternoon so I won’t be eating lunch with you, I’ve got to go now.”
“You don’t have to worry about me, Wei'ge. I know how to look after myself.”
A’Liu said, chuckling, “See you later, Wei'ge.”
A’Liu was an easy-going and friendly person who interacted with everyone with a smile. After Cai Wei left, A’Liu led Zhou Xiang into the film studio, and briefly introduced him, “We have a new comrade, a lady-killer, you guys all better not be envious, do your work properly everyone.”
The several people who were busy at work responded with a few words of abuse.
Zhou Xiang swept a glance around the place. Unexpectedly, there was no one he recognised. Although it was fact that the mobility of staff and crew members in the entertainment circle was high, only two years had passed, yet he already couldn’t find even one familiar face. Zhou Xiang couldn’t help but feel melancholic.
Zhou Xiang calmly smiled. “My name is Zhou Xiang, please take care of me from now on, this little brother thanks everyone.”
A person, who had been adjusting the stage lighting with his back towards Zhou Xiang and hadn't turned his head the entire time, turned around and silently glanced at Zhou Xiang.
Zhou Xiang froze for a moment. He had finally found an acquaintance. This person used to be one of the stage lighting guys at the company. His surname was also Zhou, and everyone called him: Lao Zhou.
Lao Zhou stood up and looked at Zhou Xiang. He seemed to have thought of the past Zhou Xiang and let out a sigh. "Hello."
Zhou Xiang also had a good relationship with Lao Zhou in the past. Meeting face to face like this, but being unable to acknowledge him, Zhou Xiang didn't know how many times in the future he would have to experience this sort of sad and awkward scene.
A'Liu said to Zhou Xiang, "It’s almost noon. After lunch I'll take you around to show you the ropes. For now, go have a stroll around the place, there’s a lot of interesting stuff here, but don’t go touching the filming equipment, they're dead expensive."
Zhou Xiang nodded, and then started walking around, getting himself familiarised with his new workplace.
Ever since Zhou Xiang was small he had always been a people person. He had a sort of generous and tolerant yet principled personality which made his broadmindedness obvious to the eye, but it also made it so that people didn’t dare to carelessly offend him. He was a righteous, honest and upright person, and never used his seniority to bully newcomers. He was witty, and he could hit it off with just about everyone. Whenever someone around him was in trouble, they always liked going to find him for advice or get him to lend a hand. The girls and guys who had come in contact with him generally all really liked him. If he wasn't gay, he would have married a good beautiful wife with a great body a long time ago.
Using just one lunchtime, this charismatic man got familiar with all his colleagues. When they started work after lunch, he first helped Lao Zhou to set up the lighting and after that, went to help the stage props coordinator. For the next few hours, he wasn't idle for even a second. Although it was a bit tiring, everyone praised him for being a fast learner. Zhou Xiang would then seamlessly play dumb.
When they finished shooting the commercial, it was nearly eight o'clock. The director was a real handful; it took him an entire day up before he was finally satisfied. Everyone was starving. They rushed to pack up and go to eat.
While Zhou Xiang was helping Lao Zhou pack up the equipment, Lao Zhou glanced at him twice, and sighed, "Your name is Zhou Xiang..."
Zhou Xiang put on an act of ignorance. "What's wrong?"
"In the past, I used to have a little brother who was also called Zhou Xiang."
"Oh, I've heard from Wei'ge about him."
Lao Zhou said, "I don't know if it's because you two have the same name but, why do you feel so similar to him? The way you speak, the way you act... It’s also possible that I’m unconsciously giving myself that idea. Actually, he's already been gone for two years, I can't remember him that well now either."
Zhou Xiang smiled helplessly. He didn't know what he should say.
It was at this moment that A'Liu answered a phone call, and shouted loudly, "Right now?!" Give me a break, it's already eight, I'm almost gonna go flat from starvation."
A person mocked, "Liu'ge, is your girlfriend making you go out to buy dog food?"
A'Liu dejectedly hung up the phone. He glared at that bloke, "Stop talking nonsense. Still laughing? Let's see if you can laugh any longer."
"Why won't I be able to laugh?"
A twisted expression appeared on A'Liu’s face. "Everyone, stop packing up, today's work isn't over yet. A big big big big celebrity is gonna come over to shoot a commercial."
Everyone broke out into dreary cries and screams. Although they frequently had to work overtime to match with some celebrities’ schedules, and this sort of situation wasn't rare, today was a Saturday and they could finally have a day off tomorrow. In the first place, they didn’t have fixed working hours. After working hard all day, everyone wanted to quickly go home to rest. They never expected to be given more work at this time. Plus, they also didn't know how many days it would take to complete. And what was most heart-breaking was that if they didn't get it right today, they would have to work tomorrow, which meant overtime again.
"Who? Who is it?"
"It's the Great Young Master Yan. He's downstairs already and insists on shooting today."
A newly hired female assistant suddenly shrieked, startling everyone present. She jumped up and down in excitement. "Yan Mingxiu! Yan Mingxiu! I'm gonna see Yan Mingxiu in person!"
All colour cleanly faded from Zhou Xiang's face. His hand trembled uncontrollably a few times.
Lao Zhou swore resentfully. He lowered his head and saw Zhou Xiang's frightening complexion. He quickly asked, "Xiao Zhou? What's wrong? Are you hungry?"
Zhou Xiang mumbled, "Ah, oh, yes, a bit."
Yan Mingxiu? How could this be happening? It wasn't that it hadn’t crossed his mind that if he worked in this profession he would encounter Yan Mingxiu again. He had planned out that he would just not participate in any jobs that Yan Mingxiu was involved in. However, he never would have imagined that he would be forced to see him on his first day of work. He was caught completely unprepared, and was instantly stunned stupid.
A'Liu also cast a glance at Zhou Xiang. "Zhou Xiang, are you okay? Why do you look so pale?"
Zhou Xiang stood up. He said awkwardly, "A'Liu, I was just discharged from the hospital, I think my body can’t quite keep up, may I go home first?" There was no need to bow his head; he could already sense everyone's resentful gazes. He, a man, was using the excuse of feeling unwell to escape from working overtime. Above all, he was also a newcomer. Their criticism was unavoidable. If he wasn't at the end of his rope, he wouldn’t make this sort of request either.
A'Liu also didn't want to let him go, as the others would definitely get cranky. However, Zhou Xiang was someone that Cai Wei had personally brought over. Cai Wei had also frankly told him in the really beginning that Zhou Xiang's health wasn’t good, so he also couldn't make things difficult for Zhou Xiang. Thus, he nodded, and asked Lao Zhou, who was the most senior here, "Zhou'ge, what do you think? Wei'ge told me that he had just left the hospital, maybe he really doesn’t feel too well."
Lao Zhou nodded. "Let him go home. Look, there's no colour on his face."
The other people shot a glance at Zhou Xiang and discovered that he truly did look out of sorts. His body looked like it was on the verge of collapsing. However, as he was perfectly fine working all afternoon and only started having problems when he heard that they needed to work overtime, it was true that it didn’t sound too convincing.
A'Liu said, "Catch a taxi when you get out. I'm busy here so I can't leave, or else I would personally send you home."
Zhou Xiang waved his hand. "There's no need, I can go by myself. I'm really sorry everyone, I will make up for today's share of work next time. I’m really sorry." After apologising repeatedly, he packed up his own stuff, and then headed for the elevators like he was fleeing from something.
Just as he was about to reach the elevator doors, the second floor elevator 'dinged', and the two sides of the elevator doors slowly but steadily slid open from the middle.
Zhou Xiang's heart trembled. He wiped away the sweat on his forehead, and his heart gradually calmed.
Yan Mingxiu won't recognise him, so why would it matter if they met?
The doors were fully opened now. Standing right in front was the man who had appeared on the LED screen in that commercial that day, and was at the pinnacle of stardom at the mere age of twenty three years old, the hot and mighty film star, Yan Mingxiu.
Yan Mingxiu had grown a little.
Zhou Xiang's memories of him were still frozen at his boyhood phase where he liked wearing sportswear and jeans and had a youthful, brash and arrogant air. The Yan Mingxiu right now was wearing a casual suit. He looked calm and reserved and his expression looked as if it was frozen on his face, extremely cold and detached. Zhou Xiang had been in the entertainment circle for almost ten years. He had seen every kind of beauty possible, but be it three years ago, or even now, in terms of appearance, he felt that Yan Mingxiu's was the most perfect he had ever seen. He didn't know how God managed to sculpt him out so beautifully; his being able to captivate millions of people wasn’t surprising at all.
Even he himself, who thought himself as someone who had experienced and interacted with all sorts of people , had once been infatuated with Yan Mingxiu.
His mind had no way of stopping itself from remembering all the bits and pieces between him and Yan Mingxiu. From when he and Yan Mingxiu first meet, to their final phone call, beginning to end, was only a period of one year. For him, those memories were too recent. It was a very strange feeling, as if, a person who was still a boy when he saw him last week had already turned into a man when he met him this week. Those two years, which were a total blank to him, had changed everyone, had changed many things. Only he had lost those two years of time, yet he was forced to accept the changes that occurred in those two years.
Zhou Xiang stood on a straight line leading towards the elevators. When Yan Mingxiu walked out of the elevator while being swarmed by a crowd of people, Yan Mingxiu saw him at first glance.
He should have just been a stranger who Yan Mingxiu would never spare second glance, but when Yan Mingxiu saw the indescribably deep and complicated expression in Zhou Xiang's eyes, it was like his body was being sucked in, and his heart started palpitating violently.
Why did that expression look so familiar?!
Yan Mingxiu faintly bent his back. He couldn’t stop the frenzied pounding of his heart. He had absolutely no idea what was wrong with himself. Why was he getting so rattled over a stranger?
The two people looked at each other, separated by a few meters. The distance between them was so close, yet they seemed to be thousands of rivers and mountains apart.
Zhou Xiang felt hopeless. In front of Yan Mingxiu, just like in the past, he became unlike himself. He forced himself to stay calm, and lowered his head, planning to use the stairs instead.
Just when he passed Yan Mingxiu, Yan Mingxiu suddenly charged one step forward. Under everyone's shocked gazes, he grabbed Zhou Xiang’s arm, using so much force Zhou Xiang knitted his brows.
Zhou Xiang abruptly turned his head to look at him. Yan Mingxiu’s height which was almost 190cm was very intimidating. He saw a light suddenly appear in Yan Mingxiu’s eyes. Lips faintly trembling, in an ice cold tone which brooked no intervention, Yan Mingxiu suddenly asked, “Who are you?”
 阅人无数 - has two meanings
1) Has a lot of knowledge and experience because they've met, seen, and interacted with many people, good at reading people
2) Has a lot of sexual experience with many people