Chapter 3: Film Emperor
On the weekend, the administrative building was empty. He Bai walked towards Xu Yinrong’s office following the route in his memory, seeing the door was already open, pushed his head in to look inside.
“Why are you pushing your head inside without coming in?” The serious looking old man sitting behind the desk next to the window took off his glasses, put down the photographs that he had just developed, and waved his hands at him, “Come inside and sit over here,” saying this as he pointed towards a chair in front of his desk.
The corners of He Bai’s mouth raised up, smiling at him flatteringly with his eyes squinted together like two crescent moons. He walked over there to sit down, leaned over, and rested his arms on the table. His slightly round eyes widened just a little, and showing dimple on the left side of his face, he said, “Good morning Professor, have you eaten breakfast yet?”
Xu Yinrong raised his eyelids to take another look at him. Pressing the pictures in his hands under his arms, he snorted, “Don’t try to act like a good student. I already saw the email you sent me yesterday. The photography homework that you retook is pretty good.”
The smile on He Bai’s face got bigger.
“So now, you better give me a good explanation. Since you obviously have the ability to take good pictures, why did you end up handing in such a horribly composed set of photographs last time? They completely deviated away from the main theme, and the light and shadow were completely overexposed.”
The smile on He Bai’s face stiffened. So, this is where the Professor was waiting for him.
“You can’t speak all of a sudden? It’s fine, you can slowly spend time thinking of an excuse, I’m not in any rush.”
The thirty-three year old He Bai, with a memory that wasn’t that great, sighed with what seemed like the vicissitudes of life. He tried to remember what had happened this year- how he had felt as though he had been struck by lightning when he received a zero for this assignment, and the empty figures in his savings account. His face fell, and very honestly said where he had gone wrong, “I’m sorry. I’m poor and I’m clumsy.”
Xu Yinrong leaned back in his chair, silently watching him act out this scene.
“When I was taking the pictures for the assignment, the weather wasn’t good. The camera I borrowed ended up having some little problems here and there… of course! This is definitely not a good reason for me for trying to get away with a lackluster performance. Wrong is wrong. I’m sorry Professor, I’ve failed to meet your expectations!” After saying this, he lowered his head, looking very much the part of a little pitiful child who was ready to accept any type of scolding and abuse from his guardians.
Xu Yinrong waited for a while, but didn’t hear him continue speaking. He looked at the top of his head for a while before asking, “Are you done speaking?”
He Bai raised his head, blinked a few times, and then moved his line of vision towards some plastic flowers inside a vase. He asked cautiously, “Then I… will try and make amends?”
The atmosphere was a little heavy.
Xu Yinrong put on his near-sighted glasses again, lowered his head, and took out the pictures that he had put in his arms. He flipped through them and finally loosed his mouth, “It’s possible for me to change your grades”
He Bai’s eyes started to sparkle like gold.
“Take two more sets of photographs and bring it to me.” Xu Yinrong took out one of the pictures from his hands and placed it in front of him. He lightly tapped on it and said, “At this kind of level, with five pictures for every set, so I want ten pictures for two sets sent to my inbox by next weekend.”
He Bai lowered his head to look at the picture, and then his eyes widened in shock.
Di, Qiu, He!
Isn’t this the picture that he took when he accidentally pressed down on the shutter yesterday? When did he end up including it in his homework?! But this picture really is taken very well, with an angle facing upwards from below, the composition of him leaning downwards with the diagonal rays of sunlight that give full illumination, and the model’s handsome side profile reflected in the camera lens… it was really perfect!
“Do you know why this picture is so good?”
He was called back from his thoughts, with a somewhat guilty conscience, “It’s because of the… composition?”
Xu Yinrong took another look at him, shook his head, and spread out the rest of the photographs that he had been keeping under his arms. He put them all out in front of him, and pointed at them one by one. “These are the photographs you took for this makeup assignment. The theme was ‘people,’ so you took pictures of little boys, little girls, a couple, elderly folk, a homeless person, and this young man right here. If we look at these photos from a composition standpoint, the picture of the little boys was taken the best. From the way you adjusted the light and shadow contrast, the one with the homeless person would be given a full score. If we’re talking about concept, then the one with the elderly folk would definitely make your eyes light up when you saw it. All in all, this one that you took of the young man, is the one that you were the worst in technically.”
Of course, a picture that he just randomly took wasn’t going to be technically sound. He Bai tried hard to make his expression serious, “Can I please ask Professor Xu to tell me why this is?” Before his rebirth, he had already achieved a little success in the field of photography, but he specialized in taking pictures of scenery, not taking pictures of people. On the opposite end of the spectrum stood Xu Yinrong, who before becoming a professor had been one of the best journalists and documentary photographers of his time. He was especially good at taking pictures that captured the happiness, anger, sorrows, and joys of the people that he was working with. His style became a genre of its own, and he enjoyed a pretty high position in the photography world.
With a master photographer of the older generation standing in front of him, he still had a lot to learn.
Xu Yinrong saw that he finally got his spirits back together, and silently nodded in his heart. He turned around to take out a set of developed photographs from a drawer, and spread them out on top of the other set of pictures. “This is what you sent in for this week’s homework. The theme was ‘scenery.” When I first saw this set of photographs, I was really amazed. The technical skills, compositions, contrast, concept… it was perfect from any angle. The effect from the visual impact almost immediately grabs the attention of the viewer. He Bai, although I don’t know where your sudden progress came from, but from this set of photographs, when it comes to taking pictures of scenery, you already have your own style, and you technique is already mature. I have nothing more to teach you in this respect.”
“Professor…” He Bai was a little taken off guard.
“Therefore, I have decided to give you and the other students separate homework assignments in the future. The theme will be people. I’ll sponsor some equipment for you, and every week I expect you to hand in two sets of photographs which I will grade in person.”
Xu Yinrong furrowed his brows, “What, I’m going to open a back door for you, and you’re still not satisfied?”
The back door of a master photographer, a chance that students specializing in photography can only dream of because it can’t be bought by money. He was only a student from the journalism department with grades in photography class that were only slightly above average, and he just got this opportunity out of nowhere? And privately sponsored equipment… this was just like a pie had fallen from the sky out of nowhere!
“No, I am very satisfied!” He pressed down on the table in excitement, the corners of his lips uncontrollably turning upwards. Squeezing out the dimple on his left cheek, he said, “Thank you Professor! I will definitely study hard!”
Privately sponsored equipment= no need to borrow from the school= can save money= can save up his tuition as soon as possible= can eat meat! Professor Xu was simply like his parents that had come back to life!
“Yeah.” Making a stark contrast with his excitement, Xu Yinrong only very reservedly nodded his head and pointed to a camera bag on the cabinet near the door. Waving his head in dismissal, he said, “Okay, bring the camera with you and go do your homework. Remember, five photographs for each set. Two sets is ten photographs. If i’m not satisfied, then you have to retake them. You can go now.”
He Bai nodded his head, happily picked up the camera bag, and then left.
Xu Yinrong waited until he left to take off his nearsighted glasses. He carefully put away the photographs that had been scattered on the desk, and a light smile could be seen on his serious and strict face. Taking out his cell phone, he gave his old friend a call, “Hey Lao Jiang, I’ve discovered a talented seedling… ”
Squatting at the end of a street where a lot of people came and went, He Bai picked up his camera, coming to understand that he had unknowingly walked into a pit.
From his recent trip to the office, he only got three conclusions: one, his grades still haven’t been changed; two, his weekly photography assignment was not changed to two sets instead of one, and the theme was even the subject he was most weak at, people; and three, Professor Xu left him with a problem, and didn’t tell him the answer. When he remembered to give him a call to ask what he meant, all he got was a profound and mysterious, “Find a way to understand it yourself.”
He really got the short stick in this bargain. So in the end, what was it about Di Qiuhe’s picture that made it so good?
He wiped his face, raised his camera, and aimed the camera lens at the crowd of people.
One week later, Old Comrade He Bai, as his young and tender college aged self, gradually adapted to university life. Because he couldn’t remember what part-time jobs he had been working at this time, he simply flipped through his cell phone to call all the numbers of any suspected employers to call in his resignation.
On Saturday, he came out of the Professor’s office with a worried and bitter face, sitting on the bus to leave school with his camera in his arms.
His technical skills were on par, but he wasn’t able to take a picture with soul, so he needed to retake the photos. This was Professor Xu’s evaluation after looking at the assignment he turned in this week.
He wasn’t able to grasp the soul… He furrowed his brow, stared at the picture of Di Qiuhe on his cell phone screen that seems almost fake, staring at the screen until he almost turned cross-eyed.
Surely the Professor couldn’t have meant that this picture was able to capture the soul of Di Qiuhe? Wasn’t he just a little more handsome than average, with legs longer than usual, and with a jawline that was better looking than other people when he lowered his head? But this guy’s hands seem to look really good, and his eyelashes are also really long…
His mind flashed through an image of Di Qiuhe’s eyes that seemed to have no emotion. His line of sight went upwards to look at the side profile of Di Qiuhe in the photograph. He really was a strange person. He obviously has a pair of eyes that look so gentle, but looks so indifferent when he looks at other people. He was a walking contradiction… wait a second, a contradiction?
The public bus suddenly took a sharp brake, and he held onto the back of the seat in front of him to stabilize himself. As the other passengers shouted out in surprise, he raised his head to look at what was going on in the front.
“I’m sorry, there was a puppy that suddenly rushed out into the street,” the slightly overweight middle-aged driver apologized in a raised voice, explaining nervously. The passengers stopped complaining after hearing the reason, and after indicating that there was nothing wrong, the bus gradually went back to the way it was before the accident.
He Bai sat in a position where he could just so happen to see half of the driver’s face from the rearview mirrors. He looked at the man’s wrinkled but warm and gentle eyes. He raised the camera by reflex, and without taking into regard the composition, the lighting, or the shadows, and pressed down onto the shutter.
He took a deep breath, put the camera back inside his bag, got up and went to stand near the door in the back. After the bus stopped at the next stop, he went outside with the rest of the crowd.
… Then, he looked up.
“Di, Qiu, He!”
It was really a small world. Even though the other party was wearing a mask and a hat, covering his face from top to bottom, but that figure, those god damned long ass legs- he had looked at this person’s picture for so many days before and after his rebirth, so if he couldn’t recognize him then he would livestream himself eating shit!
Carrying a shopping bag while passing by the bus platform, Di Qiuhe stopped in his steps and turned his head to look his way.
Both of their eyes met in midair, paused for two seconds, and then they started running away with very tacit mutual understanding- shouting the name of an actor in the middle of a crowd was really asking for death!
One person running after the other, they hid in a small alleyway. After making sure that there was nobody following them, both of them stopped running to take some deep breaths.
“Really, really exciting, huh… ” He Bai wiped away his sweat, feeling his heart beat out of his chest, “Haven’t you only filmed two dramas? Even though you became the Film Emperor, your level of national recognition shouldn’t be that high. How, how do you have so many fans? After just shouting out your name in the middle of the street, a huge crowd can just come running like that …”
Di Qiuhe raised his head, leaning back against the wall, taking off the mask on his face in order to stable his breathing. He lowered his head, taking out a bottle of mineral water from his grocery bag and said, “Here.”
His deep and low slightly out of breath voice after exercising was extremely sexy.
He Bai rubbed at his ears, glanced over at the long fingers holding the water bottle, and said a word of thanks. He opened it before taking a long drink.
“It hasn’t been two days since I moved around here.” Di Qiuhe stood upright, suddenly opening his mouth.
He Bai looked at him in confusion.
“You’re really good at your job.”
“You found out my new address pretty quickly.”
“Don’t follow me anymore. I’ve been blocked by Huangdu, so even if you have any news about me, you won’t be able to send it out.”
Di Qiuhe bent down to look straight at him, and stepped forward to take a good look at him. He suddenly laughed, “Have you even come of age? You should go back to school- being a part of the “pup”arazzi isn’t a good job. If you want to become a journalist, you should go back and obediently apply for college. After I’ve established my own work studio, you’re welcome to come and interview me at anytime.” After saying this, he took out a business card to hand to him.
He Bai’s body froze in shock.
This person… seemed to be a little different than how he imagined him to be.
In his last lifetime, he never paid much attention to news from the entertainment industry. He only knew about Di Qiuhe because he was really too famous. Most of the classic TV dramas and movies broadcasted and re-run during the summer season were starring Di Qiuhe. He occasionally would see an interview with the other party, and thinking about it now, only knew that this person had a very friendly personality. Most of the highest ranking members of the entertainment circle were friends with him, and also greatly respected him. But who would really take that kind of interview seriously? Maybe it was all just rehearsed- the intrinsic nature of the entertainment circle was poor, with any person that you picked out of the crowd being someone who’s being supported by a sugar mama or daddy.
Until the moment he took the photograph of the other party falling down from the building, his impression of him only stayed at the level of “a very successful actor.” But right now, just because of one smile, the static image of him in his mind suddenly came to life.
“Why don’t you say anything?” When Di Qiuhe saw that he didn’t take his business card, he slowly took back his hands and looked down at him to ask, “Do you also think that I won’t be able to open my own studio? That’s right, I’ve been blocked in the industry right now, and my career looks like its about to be over…”
He took on a self deprecating tone, with the gentle smile in his eyes nowhere to be seen, seeming to have returned to the time when they first met.
He Bai was called back from his thoughts, furrowed his brows, and his mind flashed through the image of his blurred figure falling down through the air. He hesitated for a bit before lowering his head to take out his student ID from his pockets. He handed it over seriously, saying, “I am not “pup”arazzi, I’m a second year in the journalism department of Q University. Both times that we met were just coincidences. Also, your career is not over. In the future, you’re going to win more than a dozen awards for Film Emperor, set up your own company, stand at the top of the entertainment industry, and look down at all the people who used to look down on you. Di Qiuhe, you will definitely succeed.”
This time, it was Di Qiuhe’s turn to be stunned. He was in a bad mood these past few days. He was extremely tired of having to deal with his stepmother who harboured evil thoughts and her two foolish children, so he decided to retreat in order to advance. He took the initiative to break off relations with his father, gave up the right to the inheritance, and let his stepmother block him off from any jobs in order to make his father feel extremely guilty.
His plan succeeded, and he achieved a short period of quiet and freedom, but the peace of mind that he imagined coming never came.
All paths of retreat had already been cut off, with the future full of uncertainty. Sometimes he also wonders if all of his planning were for naught. Besides his stepmother and his younger half-siblings, all of the people who saw him would praise him, and respond to his gentle demeanor with a friendly attitude. But that was just it- in the face of interests, goodwill can only extend so far. They would only go so far as to not kick him while he was down. As for sending firewood in the snowy weather, this basically would not exist.
When he first saw this little “pup”arazzi, he had believed that the other person was a trap that his not so smart sister had arranged. So, he wore his disguise of harmlessness out of habit, not giving the other person a chance to find any possible ways to blackmail him. He planned on silently increasing the other party’s goodwill towards him, and then turn the other person to his side.
He was born to be an actor. All of his acting was flawless. But this time, he failed to calculate that the audience that he had performed for was really just a casual passerby that had coincidentally seen him, while also giving him the best response to his performance.
“Do you really think that I’m going to succeed?” He reached over to take the ID handed over by the other party, took a glance at the student information written on it, and raised his eyebrows slightly. His originally gentle expression suddenly took on a trace of evil, “Are you one of my crazy fans? Or maybe just a regular fan?”
He Bai rubbed at his eyes, seeing that the other party still kept a gentle expression on his face, fell into confusion for a few seconds before shaking his head to dispel his previous doubts about that slight feeling of violation earlier just now. He replied, “Yes, you will succeed.” As for one of his crazy fans or whatever, these kinds of questions that will let both sides feel awkward and embarrassed, he just wouldn’t answer them.
Di Qiuhe looked at his delicate eyebrows, and the dimple that appeared on the left side of his face as he spoke. His bad mood suddenly got a lot better, and he put the ID into his pocket. He waved at him, “Thank you for your encouragement. If we’re fated, let’s meet again.”
“If we’re fated let’s meet… wait a second.” He Bai shouted at the other person to stop on an impulse. He considered his words for a few moments before asking, “Film Emperor, do you want me to read your fortune?”