Wen Bao, this average height, extremely amiable, and always smiling dude from Beijing was from a family that ran a chain of hot pot restaurants. And it was the most characteristic instant boiled mutton hot pot of old Beijing. At the time when Tao Mu was reborn, their hot pot restaurant had actually become a listed company. Described in the online words of later years, Wen Bao was a veritable young master of a large wealthy family. The kind that belonged to the category of people who could just inherit their family business if they didn’t do well in the entertainment business.
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But this kid probably didn’t like being a domineering CEO, so he was very hard-working when acting. What Golden Crow film emperor, Golden Lily TV emperor, Golden Chime best actor award. Various kinds of awards took turns being brought back home. He was definitely not like Tao Mu and people like him who had to work hard for seven or eight years to win even one award.
But speaking of, his achievement could still be considered high enough. All the elite students of the 2008 Beijing Film class from all departments were all included in this dorm. In the next ten years, those who won prestigious awards such as the best director and best screenwriter or film emperor and TV emperor would not exceed two hands. But today, he happened to run into three at once, and they were all in the same dormitory. And in the next four years they would be facing each other day and night. This luck meter was really off the charts!
Could it be said that after he was reborn and stayed far from the scope of the cannon fodder buff of the original plot, his luck had finally turned around?
Tao Mu was currently letting his imagination run wild, when suddenly a heavy arm threw itself on his shoulder.
“——I say, buddy, I just saw you at the school gate.” Du Kang threw his bedding onto the bed, not bothering to tidy up the bed: “I was in the front. Holy, I saw that bunch of girls surrounding you, all kinds like twittering birds, helping you run errands and picking things up for you. It really made me envious. You say, I was already there by seven o’clock in the morning but I’ve been waiting in line for such a long time, afraid to even drink anything for fear I would need the bathroom. But in the end I was cut off by a pretty boy like you.”
“And I was wondering! How handsome was this guy for so many of these girls from Beijing Film to completely forget their reservedness and future superstar airs, and instead throw themselves over all starry-eyed. So, I craned my head and took a look! Alas! Oh my god, my eye was almost dazzled blind. You say, you’re not only this handsome, you also dress like this and are followed by such a large group of people next to you. It’s as if you’re some international superstar who came to visit our campus. I also saw that group of media reporters at the gates all practically rushing to your side. Some people even sighed that it’s a waste you applied to Beijing Film instead of Yan Film when you’re so handsome.”
“I was so sad at the time. You say, this is already the 21st century. Why do these people still look only at face like this! Fine, if they must look at the face then why not look at me? I have thick eyebrows and big eyes, and I’m 1.9m tall. Being admitted to Beijing Film also proves that I have decent looks too, so how come no one pays attention to me!”
“You don’t know, my mood at the time was just like being struck by thunder despite it being a clear sky. This heart of mine instantly shattered into pieces. Do you know the famous line in ‘The Romance of the Three Kingdoms’?”
“Since you (heaven) made me, Zhou Yu, why did you make Zhuge Liang too!” (TN: basically lamenting the fact that there is someone better than you who is outshining you at every turn)
“I thought at the time, whoever shares a dormitory with you must be really unlucky! Looking at your face every day, watching a bunch of girls throwing themselves at you while everyone else is just so much background. After a while, just how big will this psychological shadow be! And it’s not just shadows, I estimate that people’s hearts would feel so defeated that green hair will grow out.”
“But then, boom, this big thunder exploded on my head. When I opened the door and saw you, I knew it! It’s over! You say, just how will I live with such an inhumanly handsome guy like you. How will I make it in these next four years? The pressure is simply too great for me. The number 1 school hottie I have maintained for nearly two decades will now meet its demise today. Is it easy for me? Aren’t I just going to university to be an actor? Why must I be hurt like this…..”
Du Kang clearly didn’t need others at all, just by himself he could perform a lively stand-up comedy. And this fellow had never stopped his mouth ever since entering the dormitory.
Wen Bao tried to interrupt with his own input with difficulty, but didn’t succeed at all. He could only touch his nose sheepishly and wave his paw to interrupt Du Kang. He practically wanted nothing more than to rush up and cover Du Kang’s mouth directly: “No, I say, buddy, can we continue chatting when we get to the restaurant? Aren’t you hungry?”
“I’m hungry!” Unexpectedly, Du Kang grabbed his hand and said righteously: “I’m so hungry, my stomach has shrunk to press against my back. I’m just trying to divert my attention with a few words. Otherwise, I can faint on the spot. Faint from hunger, you know?”
There was even something to say about this?!
The other three looked at each other and were speechless.
No wonder he was nominated for the best actor more than a dozen times. Attending the award ceremonies but didn’t get a single award for seven or eight years. So in his anger, he changed his career to director and made a movie. Unexpectedly, he instantly won the best director and best picture in one breath. When he went on variety shows he would crush all fresh meat in the circle, setting off a bloody storm in the entertainment circle and establishing himself as a well-known big director/variety show celebrity!
This comedy logic was truly something to admit defeat to even if you don’t want to.
This was natural wit!
“Ai, you say, if I was to faint in hunger in the dorm room today, would the reporters give me a headline or something? In that way, will my road to fame be less difficult?”
Du Kang was not done yet. He stood there and began talking to himself, even laughing idiotically: “Don’t they say that one must be famous as soon as possible! If I can be so famous once, even starving to death will put a smile on my face.”
Wen Bao patted his head in exasperation and looked up at the ceiling. Why did he come to report with such a person! And even share a dormitory! How would he make it these next four years of university?
Due to Du Kang’s outstanding performance, the four roommates of 301 became very familiar with each other on the first day of reporting to school.
At noon, Wen Bao really took the large group of people to Wen Ju Xiang’s newly opened branch near Beijing Film, and treated everyone to eat lamb.
The decoration of the store inherited the characteristics of old Beijing. The old-style furniture made of fragrant rosewood, the red lacquer carved hollow partitions, the wooden tables and chairs were also in the old style, and there were all kinds of palace style lanterns hanging overhead. There was also a musician hired with a high salary who sat in a cheongsam and played the guzheng. To the melodious sound of the string instrument, Wen Bao proudly showed everyone around: “…..Sometimes we would also invite old artists to sing opera or perform comic dialog. It gets very lively.”
As he spoke, Wen Bao pulled everyone to the bar to take pictures: “You will all be big stars and film emperors in the future. My dad specifically told me that you all must take pictures when you guys come over. And make sure you leave your signatures. When you become famous, this shop will rely on your reputation to promote the shop.”
“This is your store?” Du Kang, who didn’t know Wen Bao’s details, was shocked. In fact, when Wen Bao came to report, he wore a round-neck T-shirt that was so faded from repeated washing, a pair of beige slacks that could be bought for 30 yuan in the wholesale market, and a pair of flip-flops on his feet. His short hair was also cut really close to scalp, and when he smiled there were two dimples. No matter how one looked at him, he appeared like the ordinary poor people squatting in the alley neighborhoods of old Beijing basking in the sun. As a result, Du Kang was completely unable to connect this high-end hot pot restaurant with Wen Bao.
“Yes! So in the future, when you come to eat you get a 20% discount.” Wen Bao curved his natural crescent eyes and said with a smile: “Roommate benefits, you know?”
“We’re roommates and you just give us a 20% discount? Can you be more stingy? Why don’t you give us two more plates of meat!” Du Kang snorted, pretending to act like a country bumpkin. He even groped around the bar, touching this and that, and asked the waitress wearing a cheongsam: “Ai, do you have any benefits for the boss’ family members? Say, we are all roommates of your young boss. For at least the next four years, we’ll all be living together, right? With such a close relationship, we should at least get a 50% discount, right?”
The little waitress giggled, and did not hesitate to joke back: “There is really no 50% discount. But how about two pots of herbal tea?” This autumn was dry and irritable, so drinking some herbal tea to cool the fire was just right. Four boys in one dorm room after all!
“Sister is too kind!” Du Kang gave the girl a thumbs up: “You didn’t shame the people of the capital!”
“I say, can you guys stop acting like smart alecks? Aren’t you all so hungry your stomachs shrunk to touch your backs!” Tao Mu handed the signed “Star Collection Book” to the front desk girl and looked at Wen Bao: ” Young boss, let’s go.”
Wen Bao admired Tao Mu’s signature for a while, shocked at its aesthetics: “Damn, Taozi, have you practiced signing signatures specially? It’s beautiful!”
When the other two heard this, they craned their heads and looked over. Chu Sui’an, who had never spoken much, said affirmatively: “This signature must definitely have been practiced. It has the momentum of flying dragon and dancing phoenix, the strokes so smooth and flowing. It’s better than the signatures of those big stars.”
Du Kang slapped a bear paw on Tao Mu’s shoulder: “I say, buddy, I can tell, your idol baggage is quite serious!”
Tao Mu’s smile was perfect as he said in a very reserved manner: “I’ve made you laugh, I’ve made you laugh.” It’s not like he could say that he was used to it in the past life. After all, having turned from an online star to a film emperor, this signature couldn’t be too shabby. If it was too shabby, even his managing team wouldn’t let him go, okay? So this pot could only be carried with tears.
When they heard this, Liu Yao and Meng Qi, as well as Song Daozhen and others who had seen Tao Mu fuss in front of the mirror for more than an hour before leaving the house, looked at each other in unison, secretly agreeing with classmate Du Kang——their puppy’s idol baggage was indeed very serious.
“Make you laugh my butt!” Du Kang couldn’t help it anymore. His sturdy arm hooked Tao Mu’s neck while the other paw messed up Tao Mu’s carefully crafted hairstyle with an embittered envy: “I say, kid, are you planning to take the idol road in our simple Beijing Film Academy! Kid, you’re quite clever! Taking such an unconventional gambit and blazing a new trail! Everyone is just following the standard rules, while you just have to take a different path, right? Let me look at your shoes. You’re wearing Meters/bonwe, aren’t you? Do you want to be their endorsement model?”
Da Mao and Xiao Pang also heckled next to him: “Ai, if Meters/bonwe really uses my brother Mu as their product endorser, with my brother Mu’s attractiveness index and fashion sense, their sales will definitely increase!”
“Attractiveness index?!” The three roommates, who had never heard of this word, were confused.
Xiao Pang explained patiently: “It is the rating of one’s attractiveness. My brother Mu said that there is a scoring standard for everything these days. This face is also the same. Whether you are handsome or not, whether you look good or not, all have a rating.”
“This term is a bit interesting!” Du Kang instantly laughed: “Then how about my looks, how many points can it score?”
Before Da Mao and Xiao Pang could reply, Chu Sui’an, who had not said much, suddenly said, “Hey, aren’t we gonna eat instant boiled mutton? Where does the mutton come from? Is it organic?”
The topic had changed quite bluntly. The large group of people looked at each other and burst into laughter.
Unexpectedly, Chu Sui’an, who was such a shy guy, actually had such a hidden surprising side! He could insult someone without saying anything directly.
Du Kang looked at Chu Sui’an with an expression that looked like he had been struck by a thunderbolt, the incredulous appearance full of comedic effects.
Chu Sui’an looked up at the lines on the ceiling with a calm face, and turned his head from time to time to discuss with his parents that the decoration style of the hot pot restaurant was particularly imperial family style. Especially the ceiling, the pattern on it was a bit like the ceiling of Prince Gong’s Mansion…..In short, it was a very country bumpkin manner. Looking and pointing everywhere, but just won’t look at Du Kang.
Wen Bao laughed so hard his tears were about to come out. Finally, this large group of people were brought into a private booth. Father Wen, who had been in the kitchen for a long time, personally prepared slices of mutton for everyone. The slices of mutton were cut as thin as cicada wings, so thin they could transmit light when picked up. In addition, there were beef tripe, frozen tofu, white radish, bean vermicelli, and various fresh and tender vegetables.
When the dishes were ready, father Wen even opened two bottles of Maotai and came to toast in person.
But when he saw old man Song, who was pushed to the main seat by everyone, he was shocked: “Song Shifu? Is it you, Song Shifu? Ai, it’s really you! What a coincidence…..”
Song Daozhen squinted at father Wen, but couldn’t remember.
Who was this person?
“You don’t remember me anymore?” Father Wen slapped his thigh with a distressed look: “I am Wen Aiguo, Wen Xiaojiu’er. Back in ’68, I just joined Song Ji as an apprentice. The chef of Song Ji at the time was still your grandfather. At that time, you were responsible for teaching us apprentices. My instant boiled lamb was actually a craftsmanship that I learned from you. Later I heard that your family was given trouble by the bastard surnamed Yao, and the whole family was criticized and denounced…..You were also sent to Linhai Farm——”
“Oh!” Song Daozhen interrupted Wen Aiguo’s words with an indifferent expression: “I remember it. It’s you.”
Wen Aiguo also noticed that Song Daozhen didn’t seem to want to bring up the past. He smiled immediately and said in a very warm and enthusiastic voice: “I say, you should also try my craft today. See if it has managed to inherit a bit of your techniques.”
As he spoke, he picked a piece of mutton with a pair of shared chopsticks, dipped it in the hot pot and then placed it respectfully on the small dish in front of Song Daozhen.
Tao Mu took a spoonful each of leek flowers, fermented bean curd, sesame paste, soy sauce, chili oil and braised shrimp oil in front of him and mixed a bowl of dipping sauce for the old man.
Wen Aiguo smiled enthusiastically with his back bent over slightly and said, “Try some?”
Song Daozhen picked up the lamb meat and dipped it in the small bowl of sauce, put it in his mouth and chewed slowly. He then praised it politely: “Not bad.”
Wen Bao’s eyes flickered and he looked at Tao Mu with a smile: “It seems that we two really have an affinity. My father actually knows your grandfather. According to the old saying, our two families are also family friends.”
“Yoh, it turns out that this young man is your grandson. This handsome face really looks like my senior brother.” Wen Aiguo looked at Tao Mu and complimented with a smile: “You and our Wen Bao are in the same dorm room? Look at the affinity of our family. You must come often from now on. Your orders will all be on the house.”
Wen Bao, seeing that his father still hadn’t figured out the situation, couldn’t help but subtly hint: “This is my classmate Tao Mu. These two are Du Kang and Chu Sui’an.”
Wen Aiguo was taken aback. What’s going on, the grandfather’s surname was Song, so why was his grandson’s surname Tao? Was it a grandson from the mother’s side?
Meanwhile, Wen Bao introduced his father to the parents present here. When dean Tao was introduced, Wen Aiguo felt that he realized something. He looked at dean Tao, who was sitting next to old man Song, and felt that he had touched upon something. He suddenly smiled with joy, and asked cautiously: “This…..is this Shimu?” The old companion that the old man found later? (TN: shimu is the wife of shifu)
Old man Song: “…..”
Dean Tao: “…..”
The group of melon eaters: “…..”
Old man Song slapped his chopsticks down and scolded, “What nonsense! This is the dean of the orphanage.”
“Ah? Oh, oh, oh,” Wen Aiguo finally realized that he seemed to have misunderstood something. However, he was someone who had dealt with people and business for many years, so he had a very thick-skinned face. He easily acted as if nothing had happened, and began to toast a glass of wine to apologize. Then he escaped under the guise of being busy.
The atmosphere became a bit embarrassing for a while.
Everyone looked at each other, and occasionally glanced at Song Daozhen, who had a face so dark that it seemed to be able to drip ink.
Tao Mu gave a light cough, raised his wine glass and asked Chu Sui’an’s parents: “Uncle and aunt, how long can you stay in Beijing this time? Have you walked around and seen the sights yet?”
Mother Chu immediately replied: “We haven’t had time to visit. Today we had to send An An to report to school. We were thinking about doing the serious things first, and then walking around tomorrow. After that we will be going back. From now on, An An will be in everyone’s care.”
“That’s for sure. Uncle and aunt, don’t worry.” Tao Mu smiled and said, “How about I show uncle and aunt around tomorrow. It’s rare for uncle and aunt to come here so as a local, I have to do my best as a host. “
After he finished speaking, he smiled and begged brother Yao: “Brother Yao, can you lend me the car tomorrow.”
Liu Yao squinted at Tao Mu, and teased their little puppy with a smile: “It’s fine to borrow the car. But do you have a driver’s license?”
Tao Mu was startled when he heard these words. He had completely forgotten about it.
It seemed he must take the driving exam as soon as possible, otherwise it would be too awkward.
Seeing their puppy staring blankly for a while, Liu Yao smiled and said, “I will ask Da Hui to follow you tomorrow.”
Chu Sui’an’s parents repeatedly thanked: “We really trouble you.”
“No trouble, no trouble.” Meng Qi smiled and said: “Beijing Film has so many students, but these four children just happened to get together in one dormitory. This is fate.”
“That’s true.” Chu Sui’an’s mother suddenly smiled and lectured her son: “An An, you must get along with your classmates in the future, do you understand?”
Chu Sui’an was a big boy, but he had to be treated like a child in front of so many people, so he instantly felt very embarrassed. He impatiently replied: “Aiya, I know. Mom, have you tried this. The lamb here is delicious. It is much more authentic than the lamb meat in our Shanghai city. This lamb does not smell at all. You should eat more.”
Tao Mu smiled and asked Du Kang: “You came over to report to school, but your parents didn’t come with you?”
Du Kang waved his hand: “They wanted to follow along. But I feel that as a grown man already in college, it would be too embarrassing to have my parents send me over. So I didn’t let them. And it saved two train tickets. The money can now be used for my living expenses next month.”
Du Kang felt that his calculations were very clever. But the others were very speechless. This young man was really…..sincere and straightforward!
Everyone enjoyed the meal.
After the meal, Wen Bao took the two non-local classmates to buy necessities such as soap and towels. On the way, he also took the two classmates and Chu Sui’an’s parents to visit the scenic spots and commercial buildings near Beijing Film.
Liu Yao and Meng Qi were planning to go back to the club to have a look while also sending dean Tao and old man Song back.
Da Mao’s father was still thinking about the stock market and wanted to chat with Tao Mu. But Tao Mu was preoccupied with what Wen Bao’s father had revealed at the meal. He declined the invitation of uncle Wang, and then got into brother Yao’s car.
This time Liu Yao drove a seven-seat SUV, and Meng Qi sat in the passenger seat as usual. Dean Tao and Feng Yuan sat in the middle row, and Tao Mu sat at the back with his old man.
There was silence all the way. When they arrived, Tao Mu helped the old man get out of the car, and directly sent the old man back to the restaurant——
The old man’s restaurant was called Song Ji. Tao Mu hadn’t noticed it before, only thinking that the old man named it Song Ji for his own surname. But today, listening to father Wen’s words, it seemed that there was a long history here. And listening to what father Wen said, old man Song was originally a man with a wife and a son. But since Tao Mu’s first day in Song Ji in both lives, he hadn’t seen old man Song’s family members at all, not even distant relatives.
“Don’t ask.” Just as Tao Mu spoke, he was abruptly interrupted by Song Daozhen.
“You are not allowed to ask about this matter. Never ask. And never inquire about it. If you let me know that you are inquiring about it outside, then you will never be allowed to come into my door again in this life!”
Before Tao Mu could even finish speaking, the rest of his words were stunned back by the old man. And looking at the old man’s stern face and extremely serious manner——it was not at all like usual. Although he also liked to scowl at Tao Mu, it was as clear as day that he was just being untruthful, appearing unfriendly and blunt, but was actually warm and tender inside.
So the more the old man looked like this, the more serious the situation was. And as a result, Tao Mu became more curious.
What was going on with Song Ji? Why haven’t the old man’s wife and child ever visited him? Did the old man have any relatives? And who was the bastard surnamed Yao that father Wen mentioned? What did he do to wrong the old man and his whole family? Was it related to the old man being left alone and without any family?
The more Tao Mu thought about it, the more he hated his heartlessness in his previous life. He didn’t even know anything about the old man’s family affairs and what’s more, he didn’t even want to inquire about it. So now he wanted to figure out what was going on. But he didn’t want to go against old man Song and make him unhappy. So he nodded obediently at the moment: “Alright.”
Song Daozhen looked at Tao Mu’s large dark eyes and knew that Tao Mu hadn’t listened. But he didn’t have the energy to argue with Tao Mu. The appearance of Wen Aiguo, as well as the words he said, evoked the last thing Song Daozhen wanted to remember in his life.
He was tired and wanted to sleep. He could only see the Song Ji of the past in his dreams, and see those people of the Song family. And his young son who was not much older than Tao Mu. When he woke up from the dream he was still that lonely and stubborn old man with a reclusive and strange temperament. No children, no wife, no support.
“You go back. Aren’t you going to accompany your classmates’ parents to tour Beijing tomorrow. Then don’t come here. Let me have some peace for two days.”
Tao Mu was driven out of the small restaurant by the old man. He stood on the blue brick steps outside the courtyard. The two doors that were originally painted with vermilion lacquer had long been mottled and peeled off under the erosion of the years. Even the high door thresholds were half chipped away due to years of wind, rain and trampling. However, the old man never repaired any of it.
He just let this small courtyard gradually decline under the erosion of time and oil smoke. He just lived in this empty courtyard by his lonesome. Every night after the restaurant was closed, he wandered the deserted patio with a big broom, walking through the silent promenade and bypassing the secondary doors. The dry broom would make a rustling sound on the bluestone slabs. Occasionally, the night wind would blow by and the old locust trees in the yard would also make rustling sounds. This was probably the only sound in the courtyard at night.
You c an fi nd t he la te st cha pte rs at ( th e ir on tr ee bl oo ms. c o m )
Tao Mu quietly clenched his fists that were hanging at his sides. He stood in front of the door for a while, then turned and entered the orphanage.
He felt that dean Tao might know something.
TN: bonus chapter coming up!
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