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Time Machine

Chapter Text

The moment Zhu Yilong saw the perplexed look of his manager, he knew there was trouble. He tried to think about what could have happened as he settled down on the chair opposite his manager. Was it a breach of contract? A delay in one or more of his projects?

 

“Zhu laoshi..” his manager began, a hint of hesitation in their voice.

“Yes? What seems to be the problem?”

“Well…” his manager began.

“It’s not technically a problem, but…”

 

His manager pushes a brown envelope towards him. Puzzled, he took it and felt a bunch of papers inside. A script maybe? But how could it cause his manager so much trouble.

 

He unwound the string closing the flap and pulled. The moment he saw the title of the project, he knew.

 

Zhenhun.

 

He took a couple of seconds to process this. Was he seeing it right? His eyes shift from the paper to his manager who just sighed and motioned for him to continue reading. And so he read. It’s a new script, and by the looks of it, it’s only for one movie? Episode? The story was adapted from one of the additional chapters of the novel.

 

“Shen San?” He blurted out. His manager sighed again but nodded.

 

“We were approached for this special episode in commemoration of the show’s fifth year since airing.” Zhu Yilong continued reading as his manager talked.

 

“It would appear that the rise in popularity of danmei adaptations prompted networks to cash in on anything they can. Their people told us that this will have a proper budget and script. We’d just like to let you know about this before we turn them down. Just in case the press and fans asked.”

 

Zhu Yilong’s fingers froze as he attempted to flip a page.

 

“Turn down?” He looked at his manager, big, doe eyes filled with a mixture of surprise and disbelief.

 

His manager sighed once again.

 

“Zhu laoshi. You know how sensitive this kind of…” his manager waved their hand, as if it could explain what’s unspeakabe.

 

“You’ve already established a solid career. You can have the pick of any role you want. You don’t have to do… This.”

 

He flinched upon hearing those words.

 

“Please give me time to consider...”

“Zhu Laoshi!”

“It was Shen Wei who got me to where I am now. I… I just don’t want to throw it all away and pretend it didn’t happen.”

“Please” he added.

 

His manager looked at him, studied his face, the woeful look in those eyes that seemed to pierce through the soul.

 

“Fine, I give-“

“A week! Thank you!”

 

Zhu Yilong’s expression changed almost instantly, his almost teary eyes suddenly gleamed, and he was grinning. His manager sighed for the nth time that morning and wondered if they had been played.

 

“Three days.” Was the stern reply.

“If I don’t receive something from you for three days, I’ll decline the proposal.”

 

~o~

 

Even with a packed schedule for that day, Zhu Yilong felt himself to be full of energy. During breaks, he would pull up the script and read bits and pieces of it. Of course he’d read the chapter it was adapted from, and he actually liked it. The chapter was bittersweet, but full of promise. His mind wandered to the young Ghost King and what almost immediately, he felt his connection with the character once again.

 

It’s nice to see you again, Wei

 

He closed his eyes and it’s as if he could see the young Ghost King in front of him, smiling. That’s when a thought suddenly unsettled him.

 

I wonder if he was approached as well?

 

In his mind, he saw, not Shen San, but Kunlun from the drama. And slowly, the image shifted until only Bai Yu was left, grinning at him.

 

I wonder

 

“Zhu Laoshi. It’s time for the shoot.” The assistance broke his reverie.

 

For the rest of the day, the image of Bai Yu haunted him.

 

~o~

 

That night, after he’d finished work and was able to properly look at his phone, he noticed a Wechat notification. It’s from the SID cast chat from Guardian.

 

 

Yunlan’s Angels

Peng Xin: Is everybody in?

Yan Li: meow~

Mingyang: yes.

Yuer: our ghost lovers are in, so am I

Peng Xin: I think that only leaves our chief and Professor Shen?

 

 

His finger hovers over the phone. Now that he’s read it, he’s wondering if he should reply or not. After a good minute, he send a single smiley and closed the app. This might be the only time he was thankful he has the ability to end conversations.

 

~o~

 

Two days passed by like a speeding train, and before he knew it, he only had a day to decide.

 

Normally, it would be easy to decide whether to take a project or not, a mere look at the script could be a deciding factor. But this time, he’s too torn to make a rational decision.

 

But then again, what is a rational decision in this case?

 

His manager had a point. Being in a danmei adaptation may get into trouble, not only with censorship, but also with his image, and reputation. He frowned thinking about this, not that he didn’t care, he just can’t understand why that would matter.

 

And one more thing, if he’s going to be really, really honest, there’s nothing more he’d want other than to join the production.

 

So how hard could it be?

 

“Zhu laoshi, do you want to eat before we head home?” his stomach growled in response.

“Yes please. Is there a good hotpot place nearby?”

 

~o~

 

Three hours.

 

He tried not to stress about the time limit. There’s plenty of time. Instead, he picked up a strip of beef to stew in the boiling stock in front of him, and followed it up with a variety of vegetables.

 

For the meantime, he focused on filling himself up with good quality hotpot. But of course that would run out in due time and he soon found himself back in the van, feeling sleepy.

 

One hour left.

 

~o~

 

“Long-ge!” the familiar cheery voice called.

“Long-ge let’s PK right now!”

“Lao Bai, you’re so childish. No.”

 

It’s as if he’s watching a movie. He could see himself and Bai Yu playing around while the crew sets up for the next scene. Bai Yu was on his segway, running in circles around the park, often times chasing him around. He saw himself shaking his head in disapproval, but he had a smile on his face.

 

“Come on Long-ge, let’s PK!” Bai Yu never gave up, he rarely did. And he saw himself, also on a segway dashing towards Bai Yu.

 

“Now who’s the childish one.” He thought, shaking his head.

 

The scene then changed to the first time he took Bai Yu out for breakfast.

Then to their first scene together.

 

Scene after scene, he watched while something in his chest tightened. He’d smile unconsciously and sometimes shake his head. But all in all, he enjoyed living it again.

 

And then he came to Bai yu’s last day on set. He gave him flowers and later they hugged. He could feel his face redden as he noted that there was no space between them, and that Yuer was laughing, obviously enjoying the sight.

 

“I’ll see you soon.” Bai Yu sent him a message later that night.

 

Soon was almost a year after, when promotions started. He remembered feeling unsure about the new attention, the overwhelming questions, the anxiety of having hundreds of eyes on him. But there’s always a constant presence beside him.

 

“Meow by yourself!”

“Come on, I’ll teach you.”

 

He laughed as he watched them do the meow meow dance, play tag, go for a karaoke session. The know in his chest grew tighter everytime he sees Bai Yu smile. A sense of longing started to well up inside him.

 

“You’re not Shen Wei.” He told himself.

 

“Long-ge, looks like this is our last gig together.” Bai Yu said as their plane landed. At last, they were free from their contractual obligations to the show, and a part of him wished it wouldn’t. Not yet.

 

“You’re not Shen Wei. He’s not Zhao Yunlan”

 

Before they parted ways, he reached out his hand to Bai Yu for one last handshake, but Bai Yu walked past his hand and hugged him instead.

 

“Until next time, Long-ge. Don’t forget about me.”

~o~

 

He was jolted awake by his alarm. Ten minutes, fuck. He straightened himself in his seat and before he could dial his manager, his thumb slipped and pressed Weibo instead.

 

And as if a higher power was trolling him, the first post he saw was none other than Bai Yu’s. It was a photo from a hotel room, and as usual Bai Yu looked handsome in a formal tux, styled up hair, and a shadow of a beard. In his hand he was holding a bowl of noodles and Zhu Yiulong laughed. Bai Yu and his noodles.

 

His eyes then saw a little detail. Instead of a pocket square, there are two sticks of lollipops tucked in Bai Yu’s coat pocket. As if snapping out of a daze, he immediately closed the app and called his manager.

 

“Accept it.” He said, almost breathlessly.

“Are you sure.”

“Yes. Please accept it.” He heard his manager sigh.

“Thank you. Thank you so much.”

 

He ended the call and told the driver that they had one last stop before they go home.

 

~o~

 

As soon as he arrived home, he immediately did what he planned to do. He didn’t think much, he was afraid he’s back out, and worse call his manager to retract his acceptance of the role. And so he went through the motions of his plan and immediately threw himself onto the couch, as if what happened in the past hours drained the life out of him. He slept soundly, not even dreaming about the past, or a certain person.

 

When he woke up the next day, he had to take a moment to process what happened the night before. He reached out to his phone to contact his manager and confirm that they had forwarded his acceptance to the production. But a Wechat notification stopped him cold.

 

He saw a photo of his weibo post from last night, a single mango tart, and laying beside it, a pair of glasses. He then read the message that followed.

 

“Long-ge. I’ll see you and Xiao Wei soon!”

 

And since we’re talking about Bai Yu, the rascal child followed it up with a meme of a monkey running around with the caption “Catch me Shen San”

 

He laughed out loud and typed: “I’m looking forward to seeing you and Shen San soon”

 

~o~