As the makeup artist had applied some foundation on his face before filming, Tang Feng went to the restroom to wash his face after the final exam.
In the midst of cleaning up, his phone suddenly started ringing. Tang Feng pulled it out to see an unknown number displayed on the screen.
“Hello?” He answered the call, while pulling a few paper towels out of the dispenser to dry his hands.
“Mr. Tang, that was an excellent performance. Very excellent indeed. It was stunning enough that I couldn’t resist giving you a call. I like your acting. I like how you stood by the window and appeared as if on the verge of tears. I like the determination and purity I see in your eyes. I have been mesmerized by your performance! Completely and utterly mesmerized!”
With that theatrical way of speaking, that strange and exaggerated tone, and that voice that was more or less beautiful and smooth, it was difficult for Tang Feng to pretend that he didn’t know who was on the other end of the line.
After having a cup of coffee with Albert in the United States, Tang Feng knew the strange man would call him sooner or later. However, he didn’t expect Albert to call just three months after their last meeting. He also didn’t expect the onslaught of admiration from Albert in just their first phone call.
“Thank you.” Out of mere courtesy, Tang Feng expressed his gratitude.
“No, I’m the one who has to thank you. For a man who lives in the dark, you are the bright star that has lit up my heart.”
Tang Feng had heard corny words of praise before, but hearing those same words come out of Albert’s mouth made his hair stand on end. It was like they were enacting a Shakespearean tragedy. It was awkward and strange no matter how they went about it. Tang Feng squeezed the bridge of his nose and walked out of the restroom. He’d better find an empty room before continuing their call; a special man like Albert wouldn’t call him out of nowhere just to express some admiration.
“Your determination and your intelligence, they’ve completely enthralled me. I’d heard that you had been kidnapped a few days earlier. Ah, heavens, I was very shocked when I came to know of it.”
I don’t hear an ounce of shock in that flat voice of yours, Tang Feng remarked to himself. However, how did Albert come to know that he had been kidnapped by Su Qi Cheng?
“But you had used your own power to escape from the devil’s claws. In that kind of urgent and dangerous situation, the intelligence and decisiveness you’ve displayed is enough to make me insane!”
You can only blame going insane on yourself. Don’t push the responsibility onto me, Mr. Albert the Insane.
“Then,” Tang Feng said, “Mr. Albert, why exactly did you call me?”
“Relax, don’t worry. I’m only a loyal audience member of yours. I’m simply trying to express my adoration for you. Haha… I look forward to the day when you will light up the sky with your brilliance. At the end of everything, I’m the only one who can offer you love. A harmless and unique type of true love.”
Albert chuckled deeply on the end of the line and ended the call.
Loyal audience? An obsessive psychopath was more like it.
True Star Training Class had come to a perfect conclusion. The Tian Chen Group was holding a celebration banquet and awards ceremony at their office building the next evening. Before entering the banquet hall, all the attendees had to walk a stretch of the red carpet, signifying their smooth path toward future stardom.
Before the ceremony had even begun, reporters from various media outlets had already crowded around the two sides of the carpet. The awards ceremony of a small training class would never draw out that many reporters. While the trainees were future stars in their teachers’ eyes, to the public, they were merely small-time celebrities who had just debuted without any reputation or works to their names. However, besides the trainees, numerous famous actors, directors, and other individuals had been invited to walk the red carpet tonight. They were the true focus of the paparazzi’s cameras.
Before stepping onto the red carpet, the trainees were dressing and grooming themselves in a company-provided dressing room. Due to the lavish sponsoring from Dior, the young trainees who hadn’t officially stepped foot into the entertainment world had the chance to wear luxurious clothes they normally couldn’t afford. Of course, they had to return everything after the ceremony.
Tang Feng was wearing a dark blue, checkered suit today, appearing like a young urban professional. His look was completed with a smart bowtie, a large pair of black frames, and a swept-back hairstyle.
According to Xiao Yu, Tang Feng was going for a hipster-gentleman look. Standing on the red carpet, he wouldn’t lose to any other male celebrity. It didn’t matter whether it was appearance or the way he carried himself, Tang Feng had what the other smalltime celebrities didn’t: the temperament and aura that came with experience.
Whenever a red carpet was rolled out, people usually focused on the sexily-dressed female celebrities. However, the focus of the show would probably be different this time around.
Tang Feng was currently sitting in a black car heading toward the ceremony venue. Xiao Yu, his manager and assistant, was sitting next to the driver at the front. He was sitting in the back with Lu Tian Chen to his left and Charles to his right. As two of the three biggest investors of the training class, Lu Tian Chen and Charles would be walking the red carpet as well. With their tall and handsome―not to mention rich―profiles, numerous girls would be screaming for them tonight.
In a moment, they would be walking down the red carpet together. That was right, all three of them. With Tang Feng in the middle, Lu Tian Chen on the left, and Charles on the right; they would be stepping onto the carpet together.
“This is your first time walking the red carpet. Are you nervous?” Lu Tian Chen asked in a quiet voice.
“With the two of you acting as guardians, it would be hard for me to become nervous.” Tang Feng lifted the corners of his mouth in a smile. After walking all sorts of red carpets year after year, he had already said goodbye to being nervous. After all, all he had to do was pose for pictures for the media, sign autographs for the fans, give a greeting, and look handsome.
“This isn’t my first time walking the red carpet, but it’s definitely the most memorable one,” Charles said good-humoredly.
A while ago, scandals about Tang Feng had flooded the news. He remembered how one headline had been saying that he had his feet on two ships at the same time: a ship called Lu and a ship with a mixed-blood. Now both ships were escorting him to the awards ceremony; hopefully, that would shut some people up.
“Please head over to the preparation area and get ready,” a staff member informed them when they reached the venue.
The driver drove the car to the preparation area. While they were there, they heard that Su Qi Cheng, as the other big investor of the training class, had already walked with Ge Chen for the start of the red carpet show. On the other hand, the three of them were set to walk last and close the show.
The sound of music and cheers drifted faintly into the car. It felt as if they were floating in the dark, blue ocean.
When the car door opened, the blinding lights of the entertainment world lit up the space. Music and cheers engulfed them in a sudden violent wave. The ones who could endure the torrent were the ones who would walk until the end.
And this was merely the beginning.
Charles and Lu Tian Chen got out of the car from their respective doors. When Tang Feng stepped out, he saw two hands reached out waiting for him. He smiled and grasped those hands without any hesitation.
At that moment, the flashes of countless lights going off lit up the night. Under the bare scrutiny of camera lenses, the three of them walked down the red carpet hand in hand.
As they walked, many spectators wondered about their relationship. Was it the proclaimed love triangle that fueled the rumors? If that were the case, why were they walking hand in hand with not a hint of worry on their faces? Perhaps those rumors were fake in the first place.
Facing the cameras, Tang Feng gave a confident and easy smile.
As for the answers to those questions, outsiders would never know.
After they walked a stretch of the red carpet, there was an interview and autograph signing session waiting for them. After signing the sponsor backdrop that hanged behind them, the three men were dragged away by a beautiful, red carpet host. One by one, she asked them questions.
“Our first question is for President Lu. Tonight, we saw you walk the red carpet together with Tang Feng. Does that mean you will be personally watching over his career in the future?” The red carpet host’s eyes drifted between Tang Feng and Lu Tian Chen, clearly hunting for gossip.
Lu Tian Chen accepted the microphone with a faint smile and gave a reply with the flair of a bureaucrat: “As long as it’s someone with promise, Tian Chen Entertainment would certainly watch over their future. Of course, everyone has seen Tang Feng’s excellent performance in the training class.”
This overly serious fellow. Tang Feng resisted a smirk.
“Mr. Charles, we never knew you were one of the investors for True Star Training Class. Is that the reason why you have chosen Tang Feng time after time in Dream Lover?” The host turned and directed a question at Charles.
“What gave you that impression? I would never let my work affect my private life. My reasons are very simple. Tang Feng is a good man. I feel very relaxed and happy when I’m with him.” Luckily, in front of the cameras, Charles appeared like a normal person rather than his usual indecent self.
After the two tall, handsome, and rich men finished their interviews, loud cheers rang out among the female fans outside. Faintly, they could make out calls of “Tang Feng and Lu Tian Chen” and “Tang Feng and Charles are the true couple” among the cheers.
“Just make it a threesome!” Of course, there was also the occasional loud yell from a male fan mixed in the noise.
The host’s smile grew even more suggestive at the cheers. She handed the microphone to Tang Feng and asked, “Tang Feng, if you were asked to choose between President Lu and Mr. Charles, whom would you choose?”
“Truthfully, I don’t like making choices.” Deliberately exaggerating his response, Tang Feng spread his arms and hooked them around Lu Tian Chen and Charles’ elbows. He raised an eyebrow and smiled, appearing like a proud man who was winning at life. “My decision isn’t the problem here. The problem is that both of them love me too much. Isn’t that right?”
Charles and Lu Tian Chen didn’t comment on Tang Feng’s response, but the host and the reporters nearby all chuckled at the actor’s humorous banter.
After the red carpet interview, there was another stretch of carpet saved especially for autographing and questions from media reporters. Most of the people who had walked the red carpet before them were still in this area, having not stepped into the banquet hall. Despite having walked hand in hand from the interview area, the three of them were temporarily separated as numerous reporters swarmed over them.
For the most part, Charles and Lu Tian Chen got surrounded by a crowd of business reporters. As for Tang Feng, due to the multitude of rumors about him lately, he also got caught in the hold of several reporters from online news sites and TV stations.
Holding a series of microphones plastered with logos from multiple TV stations, Tang Feng faced the reporters. The familiarity of the way he handled the microphones drew questions from several female reporters.
“Tang Feng, have you practiced holding microphones at home?”
The other trainees frequently mishandled their microphones and dropped them onto the ground. They weren’t like the man in front of them, who held his microphone with an easy grace and not even a hint of fluster.
“Right now, I’m holding microphones. In the future, I’ll be holding trophies. Of course I’ve practiced at home. Rather than microphones though, I’ve practiced holding four or five trophies at the same time.” It was certainly a reply only he would make, in true Tang Feng style.
“We believe in you. Your last performance in the training class was wonderful!” Even while asking questions, one of the reporters didn’t forget to express her adoration.
“Oh, of course.” The cheeky smile Tang Feng gave made others chuckle alongside with him.
Unfortunately, not every reporter was as nice and cute like the one who had praised Tang Feng. Quickly, someone asked, “There are rumors proclaiming that you do not have a good relationship with the president of Su Entertainment. Is this true? Also, what kind of relationship do you have with Ge Chen?”
“All of those rumors are rubbish. My relationship with President Su couldn’t be any better. Last week, we even went to a hotel together. Of course, it wasn’t for the sake of getting a room. We simply sat down for a while and chatted about work and acting.” If he didn’t give that kind of answer, was he expected to tell the truth? Have him face the camera and say: Actually, we really did go to a hotel last week. However, President Su had kidnapped me and forcefully taken me there. A few minutes longer and we would have slept together! But I ended up giving President Su a beating instead.
Suddenly, a reporter looked behind Tang Feng and exclaimed, “Look, there’s President Su.”
Tang Feng blinked a few times before he understood the hidden meaning of the reporter’s words. Was she asking for a confrontation so she could compare their answers? Acting shocked, he turned around to see Ge Chen and Su Qi Cheng standing together as the latter answered a few questions from a reporter. On the surface, Su Qi Cheng looked rather well. Of course, there was a reason for that. Aside from slapping the man in the face, Tang Feng had mainly punched Su Qi Cheng in areas that would be hidden by clothes, such as the abdomen, the chest, the backside, and etcetera.
“President Su. Su Qi Cheng.” Tang Feng handed the microphones back to the various reporters around him. Underneath the frenzied flashes of cameras, he walked unhurriedly toward Su Qi Cheng; as if to prove that they had a good relationship and that nothing was wrong between them.
Su Qi Cheng narrowed his eyes and stared at the handsome Tang Feng who had walked right up to him. He lowered his voice and spoke beside the actor’s ear, “What are you doing?”
“Face the cameras and smile. That is, if you don’t want your stocks to fall tomorrow morning,” Tang Feng said quietly. He wrapped an arm around Su Qi Cheng’s shoulders and pretended to be close with the man. He then turned to the cameras and flashed a brilliant smile.
Su Qi Cheng let out a light snort, but when he looked at the cameras, he was the image of intimacy with Tang Feng. Cooperating with Tang Feng’s suggestions, he smiled while bending down to talk beside the actor’s ear.
“Did I scare you the last time?”
Su Qi Cheng was still trying to act like a formidable and intimidating man.
Tang Feng didn’t buy his act at all. He wasn’t the type of smalltime celebrity who would be scared off by a few words. “Last time, I seemed to have stepped on you Little Su Su. Does it still hurt?”
“The sight of the big superstar Tang Feng masturbating in the bathroom was a steamy sight. If it had been captured on camera and made into a film, it would surely top the box office.” Su Qi Cheng was not to be outdone with biting remarks. After receiving a beating from Tang Feng, he had to recover some lost ground. No matter what, he wasn’t losing the verbal battle this time.
“Did you become hard after looking? Did President Su take care of it yourself, or did you ask your two big and strong lackeys to help you? Now that I’m thinking about it, President Su, you aren’t very good at kissing. If there’s ever an opportunity, I can teach you.” Tang Feng chuckled and pulled Su Qi Cheng away from the crowd of reporters; they’d already taken enough pictures.
“I was merely joking with you the last time. I think you’ve given me enough retribution.” The minute they turned around, Su Qi Cheng changed his tone of voice.
“I don’t think everyone is capable of withstanding a joke like that from President Su.”
“If I had truly wanted to deal with you, Lu Tian Chen and Charles would never have found you that quickly. I would never have been fooled by your act.”
Tang Feng didn’t know whether that was the truth or not.
“You had drugged me.”
“Perhaps I had only wanted to capture the beautiful sight of you taking care of your physical need?” Su Qi Chen paused and looked at Tang Feng, a slightly earnest expression on his face.
“Why are you telling me this now? Don’t say that you want to bury the hatchet and return to our previous relationship, or that you had fallen for me. Because of you, I almost jumped out of a three-story window. If I had heart disease, I would’ve died from all that excitement.” Tang Feng didn’t give Su Qi Cheng a chance to reply and walked away right afterwards. He headed toward Ge Chen, who was standing by the side looking at them with a barely contained look of curiosity.
“Congratulations on your discharge from the hospital.” Tang Feng walked over and hugged him.
Under the scrutiny of cameras, no one would dare try to ruin their own image. With the labels of “bright like sunshine” and “perfect” weighing him down, Ge Chen gave a fake smile. “Drop the act please. I didn’t realize you were so talented before. Were you just pretending in the past?”
“We are all in the same boat, there’s no need to compare so much. Watch over that Su Qi Cheng of yours, don’t let him out of the house so easily next time.” Occasionally, Tang Feng could be harsh with his words as well.
“Did you seduce him?!”
Tang Feng felt a bit helpless at Ge Chen’s answer. He gave a wry smile and said, “Don’t worry, my tastes aren’t that bad. If you truly like him, then stop acting as a double agent.”
“So they told you everything. Haha.” Suppressing his anger and unwilling to admit defeat, Ge Chen continued, “Who do you think you are? After they grow tired of you, they’ll abandon you sooner or later. You’ll end up no better than roadside trash. Do you know what kind of people Lu Tian Chen and Charles are? They are ferocious wild animals. They’ll swallow you whole and not even spit the bones back out.”
“That depends on…who’s playing whom.” Tang Feng smiled and patted Ge Chen on the head. “I agree with your last statement. Dealing with wild animals definitely requires the abilities of an animal trainer. I’ll also give you some advice: keep your acting and drama for the films. Meddling in things that you’re not good at will only bring you trouble.”
Unknowingly, Tang Feng had ended up spending longer than he’d liked talking with Ge Chen. After giving enough time for the paparazzi to take a few more pictures, he left and went to find Lu Tian Chen and Charles. He had given Ge Chen advice out of the good of his heart, but whether Ge Chen will listen to his advice and accept them was not something he could control.
To the public’s eyes, the two of them simply seemed to have been whispering in each other’s ears. However, those seemingly intimate whisperings were not as wonderful as everyone liked to believe.
Celebrity gatherings were such interesting places to be, right?
At seven o’clock on the dot, the True Star Training Class Award Ceremony officially began. The guests gradually migrated inside the banquet hall and took their seats. A host walked onstage and gave a bureaucratic opening of the event. After that, the three big investors of the show, Lu Tian Chen, Charles, and Su Qi Cheng went up onstage separately to give their speeches. The three of them shook hands and smiled at each other like they were old friends. The people who didn’t know them personally probably believed in the facsimile produced onstage without a doubt in their hearts.
Following the series of speeches, it was finally time for the main focus of the ceremony: congratulating the trainees on their successful graduation. In addition, the investors would be gifting the most exemplary trainees with generous checks as awards. Rather than a trophy, a real and tangible check was a much more appropriate award for talents who had just debuted.
The first award was the Best Potential Award. The receiver was a young and handsome man called Zhang Rui Cheng. Off-screen, he had a good relationship with both Tang Tian Tian and Tang Feng. He was an earnest and respectful new talent. Prior to receiving the award, he had already signed with Tian Chen Entertainment.
Tang Feng had met Zhang Rui Cheng before the training class began filming. When he had been on Chen Ming Xu’s talk show, he had planned on calling Zhang Rui Cheng for the telephone game. He had wanted to give the new talent more exposure to the public, but then Gino had cut in and his plans went down the drain. All in all, Zhang Rui Cheng was a handsome young man who was willing to work hard for his future.
Charles was the one responsible for handing out the Best Potential Award. Zhang Rui Cheng walked up to him and shook his hand emotionally. After accepting the award, he gave a speech dictating his thanks. Unexpectedly, he mentioned Tang Feng’s name.
“I’ve been wanting to thank this person the whole time while I was participating in the training class. Whether it be life, music, or acting, he had helped me so much. Tang Feng, thank you!” Zhang Rui Cheng turned in the direction Tang Feng was sitting at and bowed. Tang Feng smiled and nodded in acknowledgement.
It didn’t matter if Zhang Rui Cheng’s gratitude came from the heart or if it had been an act for the media, Tang Feng was happy to accept it.
In the entertainment circle, was there anyone who wasn’t capable of a little scheming? As long as it didn’t hurt anyone, a small calculated move was acceptable.
After that, Su Qi Cheng called out the name for the Most Photogenic Award. The winner was Tang Tian Tian, whose future path was bright like a sea of stars. After getting to know Tang Tian Tian, Tang Feng discovered that while she might appear like a simple-minded and cheerful girl, she had an ambitious heart when it came to acting.
A celebrity who didn’t have any ambitions wasn’t suited to be a celebrity. Tang Tian Tian was young and she had the looks to match. She had already signed with Su Entertainment. Tang Feng didn’t like Su Qi Cheng, but he couldn’t help but admit that the man gave good opportunities to new talents. Su Entertainment was a rather good place to sign. It was a company with deep roots and good backing. It might be a competitive place to be, but once Tang Tian Tian has made a solid name for herself, she would have plenty of opportunities at her fingertips’ reach.
While walking onstage, Tang Tian Tian appeared unexpectedly calm. Without any signs of anxiety, she accepted the check from Su Qi Cheng and expressed her gratitude to the crowd. As she was walking offstage, she glanced triumphantly at Tang Feng. He couldn’t help but chuckle at her expression.
After the first two awards, the names for several more were called out. Lukewarm awards such as the Best Dancer, the Best Etiquette, the Most Popular, and more were handed out one after another. Upon looking closely, one would find that almost every trainee had received an award. In a way, this was the production team’s method of encouraging each and every trainee to try hard in their future career.
The real prize was at the very end. As the show was called True Star Training Class, the final prize would naturally have “True Star” in its name.
“In this moment, we will hand out True Star Training Class’ last award. The trainee who receives the True Star Award will also receive a check worth one million. In addition, they would have the opportunity to collaborate with one of the country’s most respected directors for a role in their film. They would also be given a contract for a commercial that is again worth one million. Lastly, they will have the opportunity to become the cover model for one of the country’s four largest magazines. Now, exactly who will be receiving this award? Before revealing their name, please allow me to explain to everyone how we had decided on the receiver of the True Star Award.
“Firstly, the receiver has to be someone whose coursework grades rank in the top three among the trainees. Secondly, the receiver has to gain the approval of two-thirds of the other trainees. Lastly, the receiver must also gain the approval of the training class’ instructors.” After the host stopped speaking, a video appeared on the screen at the back of the stage.
The first person who appeared in the video was the dance instructor, Pacino. The charming man with wrinkles on his forehead smiled at the camera. “If I have another chance, I would love to dance another tango with Tang Feng.”
Cheers and claps immediately rang out in the banquet hall following Pacino’s words. A spotlight also beamed down on the spot Tang Feng was sitting in. He looked at the screen and smiled at Pacino’s image. He would be very happy to dance with him again.
The one who appeared next was the music instructor, Sting. His appraisal was: “If you ever release an album, I hope I would have the honor of working as your producer.”
Subsequently, the instructors for horse-riding, social interaction, and more appeared on the screen. Following that were videos of each of the trainees. The host had asked each of them whether they would support Tang Feng as the receiver of the True Star Award, and none of them had disagreed.
This is the might of a sly old fox like me, Tang Feng thought self-mockingly.
Of course, the three big investors who were still standing onstage, Lu Tian Chen, Charles, and Su Qi Cheng also appeared in the video. It wasn’t strange to hear Lu Tian Chen and Charles praising him, but Tang Feng was thoroughly surprised when he saw Su Qi Cheng voice out his approval.
Tang Feng looked toward Su Qi Cheng. Coincidentally, the man also glanced back at Tang Feng. He smiled coldly and seemed to be saying: I’m serious when it comes to work. However, despite the fact that I’ve acknowledged you, I will still remember what you have done to me.
Giving me something sweet after I gave him a beating? Was this the whole good cop, bad cop routine?
Just when everyone thought that the host was about to announce Tang Feng’s name, just when Tang Feng was thinking that he’d be able to sit there calmly and accept the award no matter who appeared, an old man showed up on the screen.
It was one the world’s most celebrated actors, Fiennes’ teacher, Leroy.
Wrinkles covered the old man’s face, but that pair of black eyes was alive with spirit. When Tang Feng glanced up at Leroy’s reflection, it seemed as if he were having a conversation face to face with the old actor. Barriers like life and death did not exist, his unexplainable identity did not matter, and the screen that separated them did not hinder them.
When Leroy appeared on the screen, Tang Feng felt tears at the rim of his eyes.
With a kind expression, the old man slowly spoke, “Just when I had thought that the brightest star in this world had fallen to oblivion, I saw the performance of a young man from China. He didn’t speak, and he didn’t move much. But all you needed to do was look at that pair of bright eyes to see an untouchable world.”
At that moment, a lively old man walked out from behind the screen. With a smile on his face, he spread his arms. “Congratulations, my child. You are the true star.”
The audience burst into applause. One by one, people stood up to welcome the arrival of such a revered artist.
“Tang Feng, quickly, go onstage.” Seeing Tang Feng standing still with shock apparent on his face, Xiao Yu gently pushed him forward.
Tang Feng took a deep breath to calm himself, and then ran up onstage. The moment he had his arms around Leroy in a hug, the tears that he had been holding back fell down his cheeks. What should he say? He couldn’t say anything; his tears were the accumulation of all his emotions.
“If Fiennes were still alive, he would be extremely happy to see you right now, because you have succeeded his spirit.” Leroy was extremely saddened by the passing of a gifted actor like Fiennes, but he was also extremely happy to see the rise of another true star during his life. Like a father, he kindly patted the man silently crying on his shoulder. “You’re very much like Fiennes. You are both grown men on the outside, yet occasionally, you both would cry nonstop like children.”
“Leroy, thank you.” Choking on his emotions, Tang Feng attempted a smile. “Thank you. Really, thank you…”
“I know you will become a true star in the future. I’m very happy to have met you, my child.”
Leroy, this grey-haired old man, not only was he Tang Feng’s first acting teacher, he was also a father at times. Tang Feng didn’t have a father. He didn’t know how a real father should act, but he thought if he did have one, his father would be like Leroy.
His father would teach him acting, guide him on the principles of life, and quietly pat him on the back when he was feeling weak and hurt.
Tonight, a true star was reborn.
Next: Chapter 128: The End of Dream Lover
Previous: Chapter 126: The End of True Star Training Class (1)
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Proofreaders: CC Britannia, dinoj