“I’m surprised by your sudden announcement,” Zhang Qingyun remarked, after they entered the lift. “Will this sit well with Mr Chang?”
“There won’t be any problems on his end,” Ning Xi laughed. “Don’t you remember that I had once said to the press that I won’t hide my relationship if I ever got attached?”
“You still didn’t have to rush to reveal it though …” Zhang Qingyun was worried that the Chang family might see Ning Xi’s actions as a ploy to pull some strings with them, that she couldn’t wait to become the wife of a wealthy man. “It might have been better if Mr Chang had revealed it himself."
As a manager, he naturally knew which way of revelation would be beneficial to Ning Xi. Moreover, from his observation of Mr Chang’s attitude towards Ning Xi, it was likely that he would be more than happy to accommodate such a plan.
“The confession last night had already caused such a stir. If the media found out that I was the one involved, and I had chosen to stay silent even when I had promised to tell the public about my relationship, how would my fans see me then?” Ning Xi saw that they were reaching the ground floor, and put on her sunglasses. “I won’t ever let others benefit from negative news about me.”
Zhang Qingyun had also thought briefly about this. Since Ning Xi did not reveal the identity of her boyfriend, this revelation would not affect her too much, save for the loss of a few male fans.
“Miss Ning,” a stout man dressed in a suit approached them. “I’m Mr Chang’s chauffeur, he’s waiting for you over there.”
Ning Xi observed this man. She had seen him before, and he was definitely one of Chang Shi Gui’s bodyguards, who also took on the role as driver. Therefore, she smiled and thanked him.
Zhang Qingyun walked Ning Xi to the side of a black vehicle, and left only after confirming that the person in the passenger seat was Chang Shi Gui.
It wasn’t that he was over-reacting; after all, there had been cases where female celebrities had been kidnapped before.
“You have a very good manager,” Chang Shi Gui was not unhappy with Zhang Qingyun’s actions. Instead, he was relieved that Ning Xi had such a manager. “It’s no wonder that he was the top manager in Jiuji.”
“How do you even know this?!” Ning Xi would have never thought that Chang Shi Gui would care about the situation within Jiuji Entertainment, given his identity.
“I might not be aware of others, but I’ll always try to get to know more about anything or anyone related to you.” Chang Shi Gui shrugged. “There are people around me who have good relations with people from the entertainment industry. I was worried that your agency might make you do things that you didn’t like, hence I specially went to ask around.”
His tone was reserved, and did not contain any trace of negativity relating to the entertainment industry. Ning Xi understood his concerns, and explained, “People outside the industry would always demonise us. This is especially so for female actresses. In fact, some might even hold the view that any beautiful actress who was famous had probably obtained their popularity through underhanded means.”
She held her hands up in protest. “I’m not sure about others, but most of the people around me are truly talented. There are also few untrustworthy entertainment agencies. Rumours are all around, and us celebrities can’t help it if anyone takes it seriously. In the worst case, we’d just be generous and let them nose around us for some time. We consider this a kind deed too.”
Her nonchalant attitude pained Chang Shi Gui. No one would naturally be immune to rumours and gossip. It was only when they were used to getting hurt that their hearts would be strong enough to put aside what others said of them.
Ning Xi looked at Chang Shi Gui’s heartbroken expression and beamed. She patted his shoulder and said, “Don’t think too much about it. What’s important for us is that we’re happy. Where shall we go for dinner?”
"To a restaurant which serves quality Sichuan and braised dishes.” Chang Shi Gui held the hand on his shoulder and continued, “Let’s try that place, and we can go back frequently if you like it.”
Ning Xi nodded excitedly. “Sure! How do you know that I like Sichuan and braised dishes?”
Chang Shi Gui replied, “It was a guess.”
He had paid special attention to her Weibo, and read through every single post of hers. How could he not have known her preferences?
The car turned into a small town with fresh air. When they alighted. Chang Shi Gui asked Ning Xi, “Is that anything that you don’t eat?”
Ning Xi shook her head as she scanned her surroundings. This was a luxurious town with strict security controls. However, Chang Shi Gui’s car was not stopped when they entered the area.
They went into a building, and the moment they walked out of the lift, a young man clad in a white shirt and black pants was waiting for them. The young man welcomed the couple, and then ushered them into the restaurant.
“Has Mr Chang arrived?” A middle-aged lady with a warm and kind smile spoke as they stepped in. She invited Chang Shi Gui and Ning Xi to a couch, and exclaimed, “Mr Chang, you’re so lucky! Your girlfriend is beautiful!”
“Thanks.” Chang Shi Gui eyed Ning Xi as he replied, “Sister Yang, she’s always hard at work. If you have any tasty and nourishing dishes, please prepare more of those.
“I’ll do that. I’ve also prepared two other soups that will be beneficial to a woman’s health and beauty. Would this young lady like to try?” The middle-aged woman could tell that the decision-maker for this meal was not Chang Shi Gui but the young lady beside him, so she tried to pay more attention to her.
“Sure. Thanks!” Ning Xi smiled at her.
“Don’t mention it.” The lady quickly left the couple alone.
Soon enough, their table was filled with many dishes. Ning Xi glanced at the table and told Chang Shi Gui, “We probably won’t be able to finish all of these.”
Chang Shi Gui smiled as he scooped half a bowl of soup for her. “We don’t have to finish all of them. Come, have some soup to warm your stomach first.”
“Thanks.” Ning Xi took a sip of the soup. “I can’t believe that your food recommendation is so good!” In her mind, aristocrats like Chang Shi Gui would normally just choose the best restaurants to dine in, and people would automatically serve what he wanted.
Chang Shi Gui made no attempt to explain. It was true that he was usually not bothered by such things, but ever since he knew that Ning Xi was a foodie, he started to look out for more information about food recommendations.
“This restaurant would normally not take in new customers. I only managed to get a table because I’m personally acquainted with them …”
Ning Xi heard a lady speaking outside the restaurant, and looked towards the entrance. A few ladies who were dressed in dazzling riches made their way in. The one who spoke was the one who led the group in.
The lady obviously did not expect there to be other customers at the restaurant. She paused, and then recognised Chang Shi Gui. “Oh, President Chang, what an honour it is to meet you here!”
“Nice to meet you.” Chang Shi Gui smiled politely, obviously unfamiliar with this lady.
“Mrs Chen.” Sister Yang heard the commotion and hurried out to receive the guests. She was startled at the sight of these ladies, as she had intentionally rejected all reservations in order to serve Mr Chang. She did not expect someone to come unannounced.
“Hi Mrs Chen, I’m so sorry.” Sister Yang smiled patronizingly, “I didn’t expect your presence today, so I didn’t make any preparations. I’ll definitely make it up to you when you come next time.”
Mrs Chen looked at Chang Shi Gui. She was aware that Sister Yang would not serve anyone as long as this man was around. Hence, she tried to say in a calm tone, “I’ve indeed come on the wrong day. You’d better make a few more nice dishes the next time I’m here, or I’ll really be upset.”
“Of course. It’s already my honour that Mrs Chen is willing to dine at my humble restaurant. The next time you’re here, I’ll be sure to serve a whole table of dishes for you!” Sister Yang smiled as she ushered them to the door. She had already tried to salvage the situation as much as she could.
Mrs Chen’s mood lightened up as soon as she heard Sister Yang’s words. “Oh yes, Sister Yang, is the female guest President Chang’s girlfriend? I wonder which family’s daughter was lucky enough to gain the favour of President Chang.”
Sister Yang thought to herself, Mr Chang did not simply like the girl; he was pampering her! These wealthy ladies might not be aware, but she could see the warmth and gentleness in the way Mr Chang looked at his girlfriend. Even an older woman close to sixty years old like herself could not help but feel envious of his girlfriend!
“I’m not too sure about this,” Sister Yang remarked, “But they look like a loving couple.”
Mrs Chen’s smile froze when she heard the word “loving”, and tried to play it cool. “Men are always passionate at the beginning of the relationship.”
The other ladies heard her, and nodded in agreement. It was unclear if they were feeling resentful, or saw such situations regularly.
Sister Yang heaved a sigh of relief after sending away the group of women. She was fortunate that it was Mrs Chen who arrived this time. If it had been a brainless rich woman who insisted on dining in, then she wouldn’t be able to diffuse the situation so easily.
Mrs Chen was also a pitiful character. Everyone thought that she had a loving relationship with the husband, but some time ago, an illegitimate child who was about the age of her son appeared out of nowhere, and even threatened her son’s inheritance rights. This showed how long her husband had been cheating on her.
The issue might not have made the headlines anywhere, but it was an open secret. However, the couple continued to put up a front.
“I’m so full.” Ning Xi put her chopsticks down, and took the digestive tea that Chang Shi Gui handed over to her. She could only manage a sip. “This is bad. If I’m eating so much for every meal, it won’t be long that I’d become so fat that I can’t take on any roles anymore.”
“That’s fine, I like you no matter what size you are.” Chang Shi Gui recalled Ning Xi’s plump figure in the past, and felt that she was cute even then.
Ning Xi glared at him. “That can’t happen. I’m still reliant on my appearance for a living.”
“I’ll support you if you can’t make a living for yourself.” Chang Shi Gui held Ning Xi’s hand. “No matter what, I’ll be your strongest support.”
Ning Xi paused, as a memory of a movie flashed past her mind. The female lead was a beautiful sex worker, and the male lead was a down and out supporting actor. When the actor told the female lead “I’ll support you”, the female lead burst into tears, even though the male lead could not even afford his own upkeep then.
Perhaps that female lead did not actually want the male lead to give her anything. All she wanted was to know whether the male lead was willing to give her anything.
That was a touching scene. However, Ning Xi was not the female lead. There were many things she wanted, not just a man who was willing to support her.
“Wouldn’t it be best if I could match up to your wealth by being famous for my talent and beauty?” Ning Xi touched her cheek and grinned. “In future, when others introduce you, they would say, this is Ning Xi’s boyfriend. Wouldn’t that be good?”
“Boyfriend?” Chang Shi Gui looked at her solemnly. “Isn’t it husband?”
“Young people should not think too much.” Ning Xi raised her brows, “Don’t you think so?”
“For me, youths need to have longer-term aspirations.” Chang Shi Gui helped Ning Xi to her feet, and took her handbag for her. “I’ll send you home. Will you have a hectic day tomorrow?”
He knew that Ning XI’s recent schedule was packed, so he couldn’t bear to let her stay up to accompany him.
"I’ll be attending the premiere of The Legendary Chronicles of Tanhai tomorrow night. In the afternoon, I’ll need to re-shoot two indoor scenes for Three Lives of Rouge.” Ning Xi yawned. “That’s quite manageable.”
Chang Shi Gui frowned, but kept his silence.
After sending off Chang Shi Gui and Ning Xi, Sister Yang’s son turned and asked, “Mum, don’t you recognise President Chang’s girlfriend?”
“Huh?” Sister Yang looked puzzled. “Don’t tell me that you know who she is?”
“She’s that princess in Yunyue of the Han Dynasty! You were hooked on that show previously, how could you not have recognised her?” Her son did not expect that Chang Shi Gui and Ning Xi were a couple.
He thought about all the news and articles that had thrown shade on Ning Xi and felt a tinge of pity towards the fate of these people who had offended her. They had all insinuated that she had seduced someone rich, and sought to bully her because of her lack of a strong backing. Whoever knew that she actually had such a strong supporter? These people were not going to have it easy.
Yet, Ning Xi could truly keep her cool under such circumstances, and had never boasted about her relationship. If others were in her shoes, the whole world would likely already know about her relationship.
He returned to his room and turned on his computer. Almost immediately, entertainment news about Ning Xi popped up on screen.
Who is Ning Xi’s mysterious non-celebrity boyfriend?
Shocking news! The reason why Ning Xi refuses to reveal the identity of her boyfriend!
The articles carried all sorts of speculations about Ning Xi’s boyfriend. The majority guessed that this boyfriend was likely someone that Ning Xi met when she was overseas, and she was unwilling to reveal his identity out of fear that the media would harass him.
Ha! A bunch of insolent fools.
Looking at the ridiculous hypotheses from the articles, the son of Sister Yang suddenly looked at the media news in a disdainful manner.
After completing her filming for Three Lives of Rouge, Ning Xi rushed to the backstage to prepare for the premiere of the Legendary Chronicles of Tanhai. She went into the dressing room after greeting her seniors.
The actors had all brought their own outfits, but the makeup team was prepared by the crew. Given Ning Xi’s popularity, she was placed third in line behind Zhou Haili and lead actress Sun Yuhan for makeup.
Zhu Moli, who had been afflicted by scandals in recent days, had not appeared. Everyone did not mention her, as if they had long forgotten about her existence.
“I heard that the media had found out who the confession the previous night was for,” one of the makeup artists said in an excited voice. “If I was Zeng Xue, I would definitely be so touched!”
“Cough!” Ning Xi was drinking some water, and almost choked when she heard those words.
“Zeng Xue admitted to it?” Another makeup artist was surprised. I was in the crew for her previous show, but I never heard that she was attached.”
“She might not have admitted to it, but she’s not coming out to refute the claims either.” A makeup assistant took out her phone and said, “There! She even posted on Weibo this afternoon, thanking someone for giving her roses. The timing coincides with when the media exposed her, so it’s probably a sort of silent confirmation.”
Ning Xi took out her phone and scrolled through Zeng Xue’s Weibo. True enough, many fans have given her their well-wishes and praised her boyfriend for his romantic gestures.
On the other hand, Zeng Xue remained impassive about the rumour. She neither confirmed nor denied that she was the female lead who was proposed to under the “galaxy lights”.
If it was later discovered that she was not the one, she could explain that people were complimenting her boyfriend. So long as no one stepped out and claimed the news, she could ride on it to increase her popularity and exposure, which was beneficial for her.
Both Ning Xi and Zeng Xue had acted in My Heart Longs for You. Zeng Xue was the second female lead, while Ning Xi was only a supporting actress with a few scenes. Apart from sharing pleasantries at the celebration dinner for the show, they did not cross paths any further.
However, Ning Xi now only felt disgust towards how Zeng Xue had made use of Chang Shi Gui’s confession to her to make the news.
Even if Zeng Xue had been innocent, without her PR team driving the news in her direction, no one would have really thought that she was the female celebrity involved. Further, Zeng Xue’s impassive attitude was actually meant to lead the public on. The public and fans might not know about this, but anyone in the industry knew that she was intentionally acting this way.
“I was wondering why this piece of news suddenly trended. It turns out …” The makeup artist was about to rant, but held her tongue because Sun Yuhan and Ning Xi were still present.
Sun Yuhan smiled. “This shows that everyone is still looking towards real love.”
“Teacher Sun is right,” the makeup artist returned her smile and said, “Who wouldn’t be envious of such a romantic confession?”
“However, I think that the frame of the woman in the picture is quite different from Zeng Xue’s figure?” Sun Yuhan said breezily. “Though it could be an issue with the angle of the image.”
Sun Yuhan’s role as lead actress in the Legendary Chronicles of Tanhai was proof of her standing in the entertainment industry. She might have just made a simple comment about how the female in the picture did not look like Zeng Xue, but to others, that was a different story.
Zeng Xue was at most a B-lister whose acting skills were mediocre. She was not widely popular, and no matter how many shows she was cast in, she wasn’t able to rise up the popularity ranks.
Conversely, Sun Yuhan was at the peak of her career. She had a large fandom, and many big productions favoured her appearance. Zeng Xue was, in comparison, a far cry away.
“Sister Yuhan is right. I also think that there’s a difference.” Ning Xi smiled innocently, as she continued, “But I’m not too well-acquainted with Teacher Zeng, so I could also be wrong.”
Sun Yuhan was surprised by Ning Xi’s remark. Throughout the time they shared in the production crew, she had never heard Ning Xi gossiping about anyone. This was a first.
Sun Yuhan disliked Zeng Xue because the latter had offended her previously. But what about Ning Xi?
She recalled that when she saw the photos of the romantic confession, she felt a strange sense of familiarity to the woman, as if she had seen this woman before.
Could it be …?
She widened her eyes in Ning Xi’s direction.