“Brother Chang, you are finally here. Come, take a seat.” The others who were seated at the sofa were extremely intrigued by the fact that Chang Shi Gui had brought a partner along.
Some of them did not follow entertainment news, hence they weren’t aware that the lady beside Chang Shi Gui was Ning Xi. However, looking at Ning Xi’s aura and beauty, added with their assessment that she hadn’t gone under the knife, they started speculating about Ning Xi’s identity.
Du Kang, who had been sitting at the corner, had recognised Ning Xi. However, he was just an errand boy in the entertainment industry, hence he didn’t dare to say anything.
He recalled a few months back when he had accompanied Bai Lu to look for Ning Xi at the set. Ning Xi had rendered Jiang Cheng speechless, and even dissolved Bai Lu’s animosity towards her. He had known from then on that Ning Xi was not a simple woman.
“Let me introduce my girlfriend, Ning Xi.” Chang Shi Gui pulled Ning Xi to his side and took their seats, his gaze sweeping over the people at the table.
Those who qualified to take their places at the table were not fools. Of course they understood what it meant for Chang Shi Gui to specially bring his girlfriend to this gathering. He was serious about her!
“Hi, Sister Ning.” Du Kang personally had a good impression of Ning Xi, so after Chang Shi Gui introduced her, he smiled and waved at her.
Damn! This fatso was quick on his feet!
The others were criticizing him internally, but they also acted quickly and called Ning Xi “Sister Ning”, before introducing themselves enthusiastically.
Ning Xi memorized every single name and face she saw. She was clear that their enthusiasm wasn’t because she was Ning Xi, but because of Chang Shi Gui. Although she might not be familiar with who these people were, she could tell how much they revered Chang Shi Gui from their attitude towards him.
After the round of self-introductions concluded, Ning Xi moved and sat down beside Bai Lu, smiling widely. “Sister Bai Lu, it’s been awhile.”
Bai Lu was trying to sort out the flurry of emotions that she felt, but after she saw Ning Xi’s smiling eyes, her feelings immediately cleared. She could only blame Ning Xi for bedazzling her with her smile.
Her heart let out a long sigh, as she pulled a plate of figs over. “You’re so busy filming, it would be difficult to even meet you once.”
Ning Xi grinned as she grabbed a fig and started peeling it. “My schedule’s really been tight recently. I just started filming today, but we managed to end earlier.”
Bai Lu looked closely at Ning Xi and noticed that there was a faint trace of darkness under her eyes. She frowned and said, “You shouldn’t push yourself too hard when filming. It’s not good for your health.”
“I can’t help it. My career has just taken off. I might have some popularity, but my position is not stable. If I don’t take on a few more programmes, I would be replaced by others very quickly.” Ning Xi smiled. “But it’s fine, I just need to get through this period.”
When Bai Lu heard her words, her frown deepened. What was Chang Shi Gui doing as her boyfriend? Didn’t he know to help her from the sidelines when he saw that his girlfriend was tiring herself out?
She wanted to ask the question, but eventually held her tongue. She had witnessed Ning Xi personally on set. If she went ahead to ask, she would be insulting Ning X’s past efforts.
“One of my friends went to watch The Legendary Chronicles of Tanhai.” Bai Lu’s expression was unnatural when she said this. “She said that you played Fairy Qingyan beautifully, and your expressions were especially mesmerizing.”
Ning Xi’s smile widened. Bai Lu must be unaware of the commonly used “The friend is actually me” excuse. From Bai Lu’s expression, Ning Xi was certain that she had watched the movie.
“Really?” Ning Xi did not expose the noble lady. “Then please help me thank her, Sister Bai Lu.”
Everyone else was shocked from witnessing the two ladies engaging in this hearty conversation. According to the usual plot, shouldn’t Bai Lu be criticising and making things difficult for Ning Xi, and then Ning Xi would either mock her in return, or play the victim in front of Chang Shi Gui?
How did it turn out to be that the two ladies were enjoying themselves and chit chatting over some dried fruits, while Chang Shi Gui, the male lead, was tossed aside?
“Du Kang, is Sister Lu acquainted with Ning Xi?” One of the men who had been stupefied by this turn of events tugged at Du Kang’s sleeve, and asked softly, “Didn’t someone say that Sister Lu had even gone to the set to see her a few months back?”
Where was the dramatic conflict that was supposed to take place? Why had it changed into this harmonious scene that was unfolding before them?
Du Kang looked at this man seriously, then shook his head. “Haven’t you heard of a saying?”
“A woman’s heart is like a needle in the depths of the ocean.”
Chang Shi Gui and Ning Xi had not eaten their dinner, hence someone ordered food in so that they could eat while the others continued drinking and singing.
After listening to these men sing, Ning Xi finally understood that there was no such thing as a perfect man. God had given them outstanding backgrounds, but forgot to give them a good voice. They were not singing; they were just slaughtering the songs.
“Shi Gui,” Ning Xi whispered to Chang Shi Gui, “Your friends are so unrestrained when singing, and their voices are really heavenly.”
While it sounded like a compliment, it obviously wasn’t. Chang Shi Gui held back his laughter. “You just need to get used to it.”
After feeding a slice of fish to Chang Shi Gui, Ning Xi put down her chopsticks and cleaned her mouth slowly. “Can you sing a song for me later?”
Chang Shi Gui’s expression froze. He coughed dryly, then said stony-faced, “I’d better not.”
“You don’t want to sing for me?” Ning Xi blinked, appearing exceptionally innocent and disappointed. “Alright then.”
Du Kang was in the midst of selecting songs when he suddenly felt someone beside him. He turned, and was shocked by the man beside him. “Brother Chang?”
“Umm.” Chang Shi Gui looked through the song menu, then finally decided on one.
Ning Xi looked at his back view when he was selecting his song, her smile unwavering.
Soon enough, Chang Shi Gui returned to her side and smiled gently at her. “I haven’t sung for a very long time. Don’t laugh if I don’t sing well later.”
Ning Xi shook her head and laughed, “I’ll bear with it, no matter how bad it is.”
Chang Shi Gui could only smile helplessly at her response. He couldn’t help but lower his head and placed a kiss on her forehead, his voice hoarse. “It might just be a song this time, but rest assured that I’ll do anything you want me to.”
Ning Xi was surprised by the warm and gentle touch on her forehead. She looked up and stared into Chang Shi Gui’s loving eyes.
“Who chose the song To My Lover? It’s such an old song!”
“Brother Chang did.” Du Kang said dryly, “So I pushed this song to the top of the list.”
The people in the room stared at each other in astonishment, while the one who ridiculed the choice of song was speechless. They had never heard Brother Chang sing, what more for him to pick an oldie. If he even just sang “ABC”, they would also be more than willing to listen!
“Brother Chang! Here you go!” The one who denounced the old song then handed the microphone over to Chang Shi Gui respectfully, then shoved another one into Ning Xi’s hands. “Sister Ning, sing a duet with Brother Chang!”
Ning Xi looked at the man’s overly-mature face. Didn’t he feel embarrassed to address her as an elder sister with a face like that?!
Bai Lu twirled the glass in her hand. The ice cubes knocked against the walls of the glass, emitting a crisp sound. It was only through this sound that she could collect her thoughts and keep herself calm.
She had never heard Chang Shi Gui sing. Even during their graduation party, Chang Shi Gui had sat at a corner, and did not accede to any requests no matter how they tried to get him to participate.
However, it only took one simple comment from Ning Xi for him to do so.
All the acts of silence and indifference were only because these people did not mean anything to him.
“You before the window are so beautiful, as the fine drizzle envelopes my heart.”
“Our love is as deep as the ocean, we’ll never be apart.”
These lyrics might sound old-fashioned and pretentious in the modern context, but Chang Shi Gui sang it seriously, as though he wasn’t simply singing a song.
Unexpectedly, Chang Shi Gui was not a bad singer. Even though he could not be compared to a professional, he was at least the best among the deathly howls of the others in the room.
When he got to the line “We’ll never be apart”, Chang Shi Gui held on to Ning Xi’s hands lightly, the gentleness in his eyes like a net that wrapped her into his warm embrace.
Almost immediately, a commotion began; there were some who applauded, some who whistled, and even some requested for them to kiss.
“Even if I wanted to kiss, I’ll do it at home.” Chang Shi Gui put down his microphone and teased, “You guys won’t have the chance to watch.”
“Yes, yes, I know, Sister Ning is so pretty, why would Brother Chang bear to let us look longer?” Tao Shenyan put on an understanding face, then said, “We get it.”
“That’s right.” A few others nodded in agreement. “Since Brother Chang has already sang, then there’s no reason to sing further. How about we play something else?”
“What shall we play?” Du Kang asked curiously.
“How about truth or dare?” The one who spoke up was an attractive man who appeared very lively. Ning Xi recalled that his name was probably Zhao Meng.
“That’s so old school.” Another man looked at them disdainfully. “Can’t you think of something newer?
“It’s not about how old the game is, but how meaningful it can be.” Zhao Meng retrieved a deck of cards from under the table, then took out the numbers two to ten, and the king and jack cards. “There are eleven of us in total. The one who draws the King can allow any other card to either speak the truth or carry out a dare. If the one who is chosen doesn’t agree, then they will have to drink a bottle of beer.”
Tao Shenyan looked at Chang Shi Gui and Ning Xi, then folded his sleeves and said, “Let’s do it. Brother Chang, Sister Ning, join us.”
Chang Shi Gui did not say a word, and looked at Ning Xi. Seeing their faces of anticipation, Ning Xi nodded.
The first few rounds did not involve Ning Xi. Yet, watching the affluent men imitating cats and dogs or even doing handstands was rather exciting.
“Who’s the king this round?” Zhao Meng looked around after giving out the cards.
“Me.” Bai Lu waved the card in her hand for everyone to see. “I choose number nine.”
Chang Shi Gui flipped his card over. It was a nine, and he looked at Bai Lu without a word.
The men looked quietly at Bai Lu, then turned to look at Ning Xi, who was sitting between the two of them.
“Should I choose truth or dare?” Bai Lu grinned at Chang Shi Gui and Ning Xi. “Why don’t you just answer a question of mine?”
Chang Shi Gui put his card back to the pile, then said plainly, “Sure.”
Zhao Meng, Du Kang, and the others felt immense pressure, worried that Bai Lu would ask something that would disrupt the mood.
Ning Xi reached out for the fruit platter, seemingly ignorant of the awkward atmosphere.
Tao Shenyan noticed her movement, and pushed his own fruit platter in front of her.
“Thanks.” Ning Xi responded with a smile.
Tao Shenyan waved his hand sheepishly. He didn’t expect that after so many years, his cousin and Ning Xi could get together.
But this was a good thing. That year, in order to look for Ning Xi, his cousin had lost a lot of weight. Later, when he couldn’t find any news on her whereabouts, he gradually stopped mentioning her.
They had finally become a couple even after being apart for so long; how many people would have such a good fortune?
“Would you want a peach?” Chang Shi Gui placed a slice of peach near Ning Xi’s mouth. She opened her mouth and bit the peach, then frowned. “It’s sour.”
Chang Shi Gui took a paper napkin and put it in his palm, before placing his hand in front of Ning Xi. “Then don’t eat it anymore.”
“It’s fine.” Ning Xi took the napkin and cleaned her mouth. “It’s not that bad.”
Looking at their interactions, Bai Lu finally smiled with relief. She threw the card away and folded her hands. “Forget it, let’s do a dare. I don’t have anything in particular to ask.”
The look at Chang Shi Gui reserved for Ning Xi was too gentle, to the point that she could not kid herself and question him about his feelings. Whether she was resigned to her fate or not, she knew that this gentleness did not belong to her. She might as well save her dignity, and not make things ugly for them both!
“A dare is good!” Zhao Meng clapped his hands. “Sister Lu, quickly! What shall we let Brother Chang do?”
“How about … let him do a handstand for three minutes.” Bai Lu laughed. “People would probably be envious that I could make Brother Chang do a handstand!”
Hence, Chang Shi Gui removed his blazer, and folded the sleeves of his shirt, then carried out a handsome and noble handstand performance.
Ning Xi swept a quick glance over at the expressions of Bai Lu and the others, then fished out her handphone and said, “Go, Shi Gui! I’ll monitor the time for you!”
“No, no! Sister Chang, you’ll definitely cut some corners for him. It’s better that I do this.” Zhao Meng stood up.
“You might not believe this, but I’m known for my honesty.” Ning Xi waved her phone. “I definitely won’t cheat.”
Bai Lu looked at how her friends could joke with Ning Xi. They probably hadn’t noticed it, but they had started to accept Ning Xi’s presence already.