The name Carmen Clovis was a familiar name to any artist who had entered the film industry.
For the past five years this exceptionally prolific director had maintained the peak of his career. Since making his directorial debut he had continuously produced one or two blockbusters each year and had swept up all the major awards and won numerous honors. However, just six years prior, he was an ordinary commercial film director with a less special status.
What had really launched his popularity was a movie series, “Blade Warrior 1” that he had released five years ago, and which had received a great response. Relying on a fascinating story-line and extremely intense fight scenes, this film series set a new box office record in the history of European and American films and also succeeded in making this director, who had worked hard in the entertainment industry for years, a household name.
Since then, he had captured the audience’s preferences and crafted his own production style. His work all had a clear story line, were emotionally moving, had exquisite cinematography, and unconventional plots.
Additionally, he had the foresight to choose actors with ability. He selected handsome men and beautiful women who could easily display their greatest charm under his lens. As a result, even the general audience had developed great confidence in him. There was a saying that “all Carmen products must be classics.” Regardless of the person or the circumstances under which this saying was uttered people could easily see how much power this director, who had been enshrined in the film industry, wielded.
Duan Xiubo had worked with Carmen Clovis from time to time since “Blade Warrior II”. Due to Duan Xiubo’s outstanding acting skills and Carmen’s superb directorial ability this series of films escaped the film industry’s curse on sequels. The second installment had even better results than the first. Duan Xiubo won an award for this film at the Global Film Festival and became the first actor in China and even Asia to win this award which was only held every five years. Further, Carmen also relied on winning the title of Best Director at the Global Film Festival to become an “artist” who had left a strong impact on film history.
Though Luo Ding had initially declared that he was not nervous, after learning that he was going to meet Carmen, he was a little worried. It was not easy for Chinese stars to develop in Hollywood. Additionally, compared to Duan Xiubo, Luo Ding did not have access to good resources and so this was a relatively rare opportunity.
Fortunately, his skill at camouflaging his feelings had already reached its peak. Except for a slightly accelerated heartbeat, he did not appear any different from any one else.
The sound of Duan Xiubo’s voice beside him also eased some of his nervousness. The two men walked along the dark corridor until the scarlet door at the end came into view.
Duan Xiubo did not give Luo Ding any more time to prepare and reached out to push the door open.
There was a very spacious practice room that was large enough to accommodate many people in a class at the same time. The curtains of the floor-to-ceiling French windows were all opened, and the light was sufficiently bright.
A short man, wearing protective boxing gear, was throwing punches in the ring. His graceful movements like that of floating clouds and rushing streams carried the magnificence and agility of Tai chi. His gestures were very pleasing to the eye.
In the practice room classical music with a very intense rhythm was playing. The violin’s rapid and high melody and the piano’s crisp heavy notes were mixed with the martial arts movements.
Luo Ding stood still and looked around carefully for a while. Then he saw Carmen Clovis, who was very focused, sitting underneath the boxing ring and looking up with rapt attention.
This was a man with the temperament of a vagrant singer. His features were prominent but because of his weight they were not so conspicuous.
Generally, Europeans and Americans tend to look older and likewise Clovis’s face with its wrinkles and rough, spotty skin combined with his stout figure made him look at least 50 years old. However, his long golden curly hair unexpectedly did not look out of place while the stubble on his face was really scruffy. Ordinary people who were used to clean shaven faces will be given the impression that he had neither bathed nor washed his face for many days.
As he gradually approached the platform area with Duan Xiubo, Luo Ding stared at Clovis’s ungroomed stubble which looked like he had been gnawed by a dog and suppressed the obsessive-compulsive desire in him to scrape the other party’s face clean.
Carmen’s attention was finally focused on the two guests who were initially not in the room. He looked at Duan Xiubo and immediately stood up in surprise: “Hey! Duan, I haven’t seen you in a while. You look even more handsome yet again!” “
Duan Xiubo responded slowly in slightly accented English: “So? Are you planning to give up hot dogs?”
Carmen touched his double chin, pinched his waist, happily twisted his hips and said: “I’m perfect!” Then, he probingly looked behind Duan Xiubo and discovered Luo Ding. When he saw Luo Ding’s excellent features, his eyes lit up immediately: “This is …?”
“That’s my friend, Luo Ding. He’s a very good actor.” Duan Xiubo hooked his lips up in a smile. He wanted Luo Ding and Carmen to get to know each other but he suddenly he realized that there was a big problem he hadn’t considered until now.
Did Luo Ding speak English?
The domestic performing arts circle was actually quite frustrating. Although it has been said that English was popular, there were really very few artists who could master two languages at the same time. While some of the well-off stars among the younger generation may have accumulated enough foreign language skills before their debut, Luo Ding, if he remembered correctly … seemed to be an orphan.
Duan Xiubo gritted his teeth inwardly. His head was currently in a mess. He had been so negligent. Issues like communication barriers could be really mortifying. What should he do if Luo Ding felt so embarrassed over this?
He hurriedly tried to explain to Carmen that Luo Ding’s English was not very good. Unexpectedly, Luo Ding interrupted before Duan Xiubo could speak, and his fluency coupled with his authentic beauty immediately attracted Carmen’s attention.
Duan Xiubo opened his mouth slightly and glanced at Luo Ding with a dumbfounded look. He then coughed, closed his mouth and pressed down the doubt in his heart.
Luo Ding had a skill which was that no matter how nervous he was before a scene, while confronting any difficulties, he will quickly recover his poise and calm. He smiled, and his aura was not inferior to Carmen’s. He demonstrated his respect for the other party without being servile: “Hello Mr. Clovis, my name is Luo Ding.” His calm expression immediately made Carmen view him a little differently.
“Hey, you look like a girl. Has anyone told you that before?” Carmen was very direct and never beat around the bush. As soon as he spoke, he made Luo Ding frown. “Also, are you an adult? Are you eighteen years old?”
Although Luo Ding’s facial features were not as deep-set as those of Europeans and Americans, his features were not flat. Additionally, although his skin was not as pale as that of Caucasians, he was considered a standout among ordinary Chinese people. This Asian man was born with delicate skin, so he did not have blood streaks and large pores. Therefore, in light of western aesthetic standards, he really looked much younger than his actual age.
“I’m twenty-three years old,” he replied calmly. “As for looking like a girl, you are the first to say that. I will take it as a compliment, thank you.”
When he saw that Luo Ding could take a joke, Carmen laughed happily. He leaned and patted Luo Ding’s shoulders and paid him some more compliments: “You are interesting, I meant you look really good. You speak English very well, have you ever lived in New York? “
Luo Ding laughed and didn’t respond. Lived in New York? Currently, he was fluent in speaking English, but this was only because in his last life he had been forced to learn little by little while filming in Hollywood. The bitterness of a language barrier in another country was really difficult to describe in words. Only the feeling of being excluded could stimulate people’s most primitive potential.
After stimulating this chatterbox, all sense of unfamiliarity was immediately relieved. Carmen was not as stern and as serious as Luo Ding had previously imagined. He had a certain unruliness and rebellion that was unique to artists. He also seemed to be immature in his speech and actions. In general, he did not appear as stable as most domestic directors.
But such people were also very pleasant. Whenever they wanted to, they could create a relaxed and happy atmosphere through conversations. It was also easy for them to turn strangers into confidantes.
Duan Xiubo also deliberately marketed Luo Ding’s positive sides to Carmen and tried to cede ground to Luo Ding. Seeing that the two of them were conversing more and more freely, he simply got up and talked to the martial arts instructor who was resting at the side.
The deeper Carmen talked to Luo Ding, the more surprised he was.
The young man in front of him looked like he was still in his infancy yet was incredibly knowledgeable. Other than his appearance, nothing else matched the characteristics of his age. Carmen himself had a lot of hobbies: astronomy, geography, sports, even painting and playing musical instruments. For decades, other than filming he had delved into many other activities as a release from loneliness and to find inspiration.
Most of his friends who were of the same age were intoxicated in the pleasurable world bought on by women and alcohol or marijuana. Meanwhile his younger friends were busy running their businesses and occasionally indulging in leisure activities which were not necessarily to his taste.
Because he was too knowledgeable, Carmen seldom met people with whom he could cover the full range of his interests. Everyone had a blind spot in their knowledge. For instance, Duan Xiubo as familiar as he was with music, astronomy and basketball, had no interest in football and painting. For the same reason, some of his friends who loved football could not study music into any depth.
But with Luo Ding, he could actually talk to him about everything, and his observations were always sharp and humorous. It made people want to clap their hands and laugh.
This was by no the pretense of an ignorant person.
During their conversations, Carmen always had a strange feeling. Should he cover Luo Ding’s face and modify his voice, the humor and experience of the person in front of him would be exactly that of person of Carmen’s age. He couldn’t even imagine how a young man in his twenties could squeeze out time and instill so much knowledge into himself. He thought about his own twenties … Oh, at that time he was still loafing around in bars and exchanging contraband with other bad kids.
Carmen looked at Luo Ding with his eyes full of laughter. Only he knew how happy he was to meet such a compatible young man. The older he got, the more he liked to find young people with whom he could befriend as doing so gave him a sense of returning to his youth.
But life was short and most young people had not experienced much and were rebellious and ignorant. This inevitable shortcoming was possibly the most unbearable thing for Carmen who could not avoid the disadvantages brought on by his age.
Duan Xiubo had won Carmen’s friendship by being distinctive. Now, Carmen had met another friend who was even more compatible with him than Duan Xiubo.
To friends, he could speak without reserve.
“What?” Seeing that Carmen had taken the initiative to raise this topic, Luo Ding appropriately expressed some surprise. “Have you started preparing for the third installment of the film? The popularity of the second sequel has not faded yet!”
Carmen looked him up and down with a sharp examining look in his eyes and instead of answering Luo Ding’s question, he muttered: “I need Chinese actors, probably two people …”
Luo Ding looked puzzled: “Mr. Clovis?”
Carmen seemed to be awakened by him and he suddenly sat up in his chair and held Luo Ding’s shoulder: “Hey, Duan said you are an actor?”
“Yes.” Luo Ding nodded without hesitation.
“In Part III, I need two Asian actors.” He said so, but seeing that Luo Ding’s eyes were still calm and serious, he immediately chuckled, “Yes, I think you understand what I mean. Are you interested? We will start organizing auditions for actors next month or little later, and your appearance … will surely be amazing when you put on an army uniform.”
Luo Ding was very surprised by the other party’s invitation. Although his expression did not change much, his heart was filled with surprise. After all, for such a large production Carmen’s attitude towards inviting an actor was a little too casual.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Carmen explained quickly. “It’s just an audition. I have already contacted a few Asian actors who are interested. Other than the protagonist role, the role of the second Asian is still to be determined. This is a one-time only audition opportunity. “
“… Of course, I’m interested.” Luo Ding responded slowly but in his heart he felt excited by the sudden good fortune. Other than smiling, he didn’t know what other expression he should show. He could only whisper, “Thank you.”
Duan Xiubo lowered his head and exchanged texts with Carmen, while perking up his ears to listen to the sound of running water in the bathroom next to him.
He was shocked.
Luo Ding actually … In such a short time, … he actually secured an audition opportunity. This was really …
That’s right. At the start, he had introduced the two people with the intent of letting Luo Ding and Carmen get familiar with one another and opening the door to more job opportunities. He clearly knew that Luo Ding had his own way of handling things after he was assured that the two had no obstacles in their personal communication, he directly gave way to Luo Ding.
But no matter how much he believed in Luo Ding, he did not forget how “eccentric” Carmen’s personality was. Artists who had reached such heights in their careers always had certain quirks.
In this regard, Westerners were even more prone to being direct. Just like Carmen, he was easily excited, irritable, agitated, and motivated. The jumps in his chain of thought could be compared to a rocket that could cross space and time. Although everything will be fine after becoming friends with him such a changeable and sensitive person was difficult to befriend.
He found that Luo Ding would always give him an unexpected surprise whenever he was not hopeful about something. There were always more surprises around Luo Ding thus Duan Xiubo had now learned to not show his astonishment.
Duan Xiubo folded the coat and trousers Wu Fangyuan had left for Luo Ding and put it on the bedside table. He got up and poured a glass of water for himself. After drinking, he felt that the itch in his throat was suppressed.
The sound insulation in the bathroom was poor. After all, it was just a lounge area in a martial arts hall. Because they relied on their excellent teaching quality to attract students their facilities were not particularly good.
The bathroom door opened, and a stream of water vapor poured out. The faint fragrance of shower gel penetrated into his nose. Duan Xiubo turned his head sharply and looked at the source.
Luo Ding was wearing a thin white robe that was provided in the lounge area and was walking towards the bed in a pair of ill-fitting slippers. His mid-length hair was wet, and the tips of his hair were still dripping with water. Consequently, Luo Ding had turned his head slightly while walking and was shaking his head slightly and wiping his hair with a towel.
The skin of this young man who had just taken a bath was covered with a layer of tender pink and appeared so transparent and fragile that people dare not touch it. He was probably very tired, because his eyes were slightly dazed. He was like a big cat who was ready to take a nap after a full meal and was lazily and lethargically lying in the sun yawning and ignoring the world. The disinterest in his gaze looked extra cute.
This big cat approached the bed and threw the towel directly onto the bedside table. He lay right on top of the quilt and fell down to sleep.
The loose hem of Luo Ding’s bathrobe had lifted by a lot, and the view of his entire thigh was almost unobstructed. The bathrobe was held together by a thin belt and the slit of the fabric which had opened up at the base of his thigh was pinned down by a very round buttock. However, it was so shadowy that one could barely see the scenery inside.
Duan Xiubo straightened his gaze again and he held his cup of water while staring at Luo Ding’s sleeping figure for a while. Only then did he notice a problem from the water stain on the quilt.
Luo Ding had fallen asleep without drying his hair.
Duan Xiubo coughed and struggled to recover his attention. Listening to the shallow breathing sounds in the room he suddenly felt a little uncomfortable in his heart. It seems that since he met Luo Ding, he had been wandering around with various uncomfortable emotions.
If Luo Ding was too busy filming and didn’t even have time to sleep, Duan Xiubo was uncomfortable. If Luo Ding had irregular meals and the pressures of filming was too heavy such that he lost weight rapidly, He was also uncomfortable. Now, the other side was tired and fell asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow, a state he had obviously experienced often, yet Duan Xiubo still felt uncomfortable.
Sleeping without drying your hair could cause rheumatic headaches. Duan Xiubo’s gaze stretched out over Luo Ding’s body on the bed. It slid along his thin white calf to his thighs, then abruptly returned to his head. After thinking about it, Duan Xiubo nevertheless stretched his hand into the cabinet and brought out the hair dryer.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, reached out and gently stroked Luo Ding’s wet hair.
Luo Ding trembled all over then quickly opened his eyes. His gaze instantly regained clarity and he stared closely at Duan Xiubo’s face.
“…” Duan Xiubo was a bit startled and he raised the hair dryer in his hand. “You can keep sleeping, I will blow-dry your hair.”
Luo Ding’s expression calmed down, and after a while he said in a sleepy manner, “… Duan ge, you haven’t left yet?”
Duan Xiubo held up the hair dryer for a moment, and then slowly put out a finger and raised it in front of him: “What’s this?”
Luo Ding stared at him with a serious expression on his face as if he was participating in a large conference.
Duan Xiubo chuckled, turned on the power in silence and started blow-drying Luo Ding’s hair. The feeling of his fingers passing through Luo Ding’s hair and scalp gave him an intimate and beautiful feeling. The strength he applied was appropriate. Not too heavy and not too light and soon the resistance that Luo Ding had mobilized was slowly dispelled again.
Duan Xiubo was now his friend. Luo Ding was never too vigilant with his friends.
The hair that tangled through his hands and fingertips was soft and thin and it bore no similarity to the personality of its owner. However, the fluffy feel was unexpectedly pleasing to the touch. Duan Xiubo finished drying Luo Ding’s hair, rested his palm on top of his head, and stared down at the young man’s sleeping visage. He was reluctant to leave, so he sat quietly.
Luo Ding’s thick eyelashes cast a heavy shadow over his lower eyelid. Because he slept on his side, his face was slightly puffed up by the pillow, his pink and tender lips were full and lovely. He was completely different from when he was awake.
Duan Xiubo sighed and shook his head when he thought back to what Luo Ding had said to him in the corridor. He was not a fool and naturally he had also noticed that he held a certain amount of excessive affection in his heart towards Luo Ding.
But feelings were things that could be restrained. Duan Xiubo was a rational person and he was very confident in his ability to control himself. Even if there was no love, getting along with Luo Ding as friends made him happy and energized. That alone was enough. Friendship was no different from anything else.
He was unlike that stallion-like father of his who sprayed his sperm on any unlucky woman. Under the trials of his father’s quest for true love, Duan Xiubo had already learned to restrain his emotions early on. His feelings had only ever been freely sent and received as he performed on stage. This had really confirmed to him that life was indeed like a play.
Probably stifled by the big palm on top of his head, Luo Ding’s breath quickened and he struggled to turn over, while extending his left hand in an attempt to swipe off the foreign body on his head.
Duan Xiubo allowed his hand fall off and stared at the other party while laughing quietly. Suddenly, something flashed in his mind and he remembered a detail that he had accidentally forgotten.
He stared nervously at Luo Ding and after confirming that the other party was really asleep, he reached out and flipped Luo Ding’s left hand over very lightly, while at the same time he pulled up his sleeve with as little movement as possible.
He peered at Luo Ding’s uncovered wrist, and his brows immediately wrinkled.
Compared to the delicate, snow-white skin beside it, the pink scars were particularly prominent. The thin and narrow scars were overlapped and staggered one over the other. There were even corners where the scars obviously intersected.
Alone, these scars did not seem to be shocking, however woven together they created a ferocious looking blade wound.
Last time, he had accidentally touched Luo Ding’s wrist while filming and he had felt that something was wrong. The feel of the scars was too obvious, and it was beyond the scope of an accident.
However, at that time, it had been impossible to determine whether or not it was his own imagination. After that, he had failed to find another opportunity to confirm his suspicions. However, this time, he had finally answered a question that had burdened his mind.
But the answer to this one question only led to more questions.
Such a scar, this level of healing, in such a position. Without further explanation, Duan Xiubo could guess what this represented. Luo Ding actually cut his wrists? why? He was such a tough and powerful character. No matter how one looked at him, he did not seem to be the type of existence that would be seeking death!
He stared anxiously at the young man who was sleeping soundly, and the uneasiness in his heart grew stronger.
A video of Luo Ding singing at Shanhai Building quickly spread on the Internet.
The hot trends page was once again overtaken, and the main character was still Luo Ding, but this time the content had been separated from all other incidental relationships and was purely about his talents.
The fans who filmed on the spot had probably discussed in private and did not circulate all the videos they had filmed but picked and uploaded the clearest version.
The video was posted by a Weibo blogger named “I am higher than the sky” who was a small “v” account with less than four thousand fans.
However, among fans this blogger was not unknown. Luo Ding’s fans always liked to repost his blogs using especially exaggerated words to express their excitement. Likewise, this blog post, which was full of “Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!’s ” and “kneeling” and “licking”, was no exception.
Many people thought this was a spoof video at first, but after clicking on it, they found out that it was not the case.
There were metal-colored music equipment set up behind the transparent glass window. A handsome young man with closed eyes stood behind the microphone and frowned slightly while singing emotionally. The video of the performance was shaky, and the picture resolution was not clear enough. There was also some noise included in the background. All in all, it could be regarded as an amateur recording. However, many people could not turn off the video after clicking on it.
Most people had first spotted Luo Ding from Pan Yiming’s MV filming. They had been attracted by the two teaser photos which displayed huge differences in his temperament. Then, they had learned of the news of his movie filming and had been awed by his outstanding photo stills. Finally, after watching Luo Ding ’s dance performance at the launch of Pan Yiming’s new album as well as his high-level performance in the MV, they had been thoroughly convinced. It could be said that the reason everyone, including his fans, liked him so far was due to his outstanding appearance and temperament.
Luo Ding did not yet have any representative work. Although two very well-known movies and TV shows were being filmed not even the flowers on set had been leaked. In the MV with Pan Yiming, while he was handsome and charming he had no part in singing the lyrics. Thus, to many people who did not like him, Luo Ding was undoubtedly just a pretty face.
Naturally, where there is hype there will be critique and the only means by which the sunspots could ridicule him was that he had no work and relied solely on hype to gain popularity.
However, this video now undoubtedly appeared to be a slap in the face of these people in the most direct and intense way.
Though the quality of the audio was poor you could nevertheless hear the singer’s deep emotion pouring through the lyrics. Even the most critical audience could find no suitable shortcomings to attack.
Different from the feelings conveyed by the original singer, the atmosphere of this cover was more inclined to melancholy and sorrow. While you were not paying attention, it will hit the softest corner of your heart. Most ordinary listeners, particularly those who had suffered experiences similar to that described in the song, could not help but cry one after the other. After crying, they used their pair of swollen walnut eyes to give the original blog-post a like.
Weibo influencers from all walks of life sprung out of their nests and were happily and busily forwarding the post. A video that had not undergone any post-processing has surpassed 100,000 comments in just three days. The original Weibo account, which had only 4,000 followers, had doubled in popularity, and the number of playbacks on the original upload site was even more shocking. It had broken through the million views mark. Naturally it was impossible for things to remain harmonious and another bloody storm began on Weibo.
Luo Ding had gained popularity too fast and many artists in the entertainment industry were jealous. Those who didn’t know who he was couldn’t help wondering if he was just another successful industry plant.
Conspiracy theorists have never been lacking in any era. With the help of people hidden behind the scenes to fan the flames, questioning voices gradually began to appear in the comments under the original post.
“How could it be possible to sing this well live? It must have been processed later?”
“This video must be fake. How could the background be so quiet?”
“Is this not written, directed and performed by the marketing company itself who is now pretending to be a fan to lie to the audience?”
As soon as a voice of opposition appears, it will not stop. More and more people with unknown purposes joined the camp of these voices. Those who were easily incited, those who lacked self-worth and could only gain attention by fighting and opposing others as well as others who were clearly set up to discredit Luo Ding. The combat effectiveness of these people was quite impressive at a glance.
Fans ignored these voices at first, but this calm attitude made these opponents even more emboldened.
They were not satisfied with just venting their words directly under the video post on Weibo, but instead they went under the latest post on Luo Ding’s own Weibo homepage to clamor and yell abuse at a person who had not wronged them.
“The sound engineer is about to cry. How can you ignore him after he worked so hard to fix your voice?!”
“All hype, no substance. If you have the ability bring it out or leave the entertainment circle!”
“Just continue being a good vase, don’t come and harm the singing world!”
Some of the messages directly attacking Luo Ding were so unpleasant that one couldn’t help frowning on seeing them.
As we all know, celebrities and their fans are a wonderful existence. No matter how much one criticizes the behavior of fan bases, fans may choose to swallow it silently for the sake of the reputation of their idols and for the harmony of the fan circle.
But if you transfer that critique from the fans to their idols…
What bad luck. Their fighting power is sharper than the beak of a hen protecting her chicks.
The author has something to say: Xiao Ding’s fan circle is too hotheaded, and this fight will only settle after the work comes out, ah! Let the battle be fiercer! Baptize the first batch of mother-in-law fans, who will then later become a rational and powerful backbone of the fan circle! !! !! !!
 Term for Anti-fans
 Hype was what the author used here. But the streets use industry plant and I thought it reflected the meaning better i.e. someone who was generally unknown (possibly untalented) who is hyped through paid publicity until he/she becomes a household name without any work to back it up.
T/N NOTE: Duan Xiubo is so whipped! Chapter 35! We are a third of the way through friends.
Also, a KO-FI button has been added to this site. Your support is greatly appreciated. Thank you <3