Chapter 1: Murder Scene
What do you mean I’m reborn?
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He Bai stared at the computer screen with his eyes open wide in shock, his hands shaking as he continuously enlarged the photograph he had just imported into his computer.
Inside the photograph, you could see a gorgeous scene of the city nightlife. The lights of ten thousand homes and stars spread out on the horizon, with soft and gentle natural starlight and extravagant artificial lights blending together, like the collision of reality and fantasy.
This was a very successful photograph of the evening scenery, very in line with the main theme of the International Photography Exhibition《Sky》, which was hosted by the famous photographer Zhao Tianhu. His three days camping out on the mountain to take this picture were not spent in vain.
But now, none of these were the main point. The main point was that in the corner of this photograph, next to H city’s tallest clock tower, a human figure could be seen jumping from the tallest floor of some big building.
His phone suddenly rang, calling him back from his thoughts. Picking up the phone, not waiting for the person on the other side to say anything, he said in an urgent tone, “Uncle Zhao, I might have taken a photo of something crazy.”
“What did you take a picture of?” Zhao Tianhu asked in his very characteristic hoarse voice, with a very light tone showing his evidently happy mood, “It looks like our newest master photographer Mr. Xiao He, is going to give these old guys a big surprise, huh? What happened, did you end up hallucinating after taking the photo of your dreams?”
“No.” He Bai’s throat felt a little tight, he swallowed and said, “It seems like… I might have photographed a murder scene.”
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The great Film Emperor Mr. Di Qiuhe committed suicide by jumping off a building!
This explosive news quickly became viral, occupying the front page headlines of all of the online news websites. Various fans and passersby crazily refreshed the sites of all the major news networks, questioning whether this was just an April Fool’s Day joke done in extremely bad taste, scolding the different news platforms as shameless for cursing Film Emperor Di to die.
Nobody could believe that Di Qiuhe would ever commit suicide. He was such a talented, gentle, and powerful person. Fifteen years after his debut, he brought so many excellent works to the masses. He established a company that fostered so many outstanding juniors in the entertainment circle. His relations with other people were some of the best in the industry- anybody who mentioned him wouldn’t be able to help themselves from saying something good about him. How can this kind of person, who even when he was banned from work in the industry was able to work hard for his dreams, decide to commit suicide! Most importantly, he was only 35 years old! He was still so young!
The crazy questioning from his fans flooded the internet. Everybody thought that this was just a joke by someone with bad taste, but a message sent out by Huading Company’s official Weibo plunged them all into the abyss.
[It is with great pain and grief that we send our chairman Di Qiuhe to a better place. Rest in peace.]
The whole internet seemed to be shrouded in silence. The news from the official Weibo of his company made it impossible for anybody to deceive themselves anymore.
“No! I don’t believe it!” Di Qiuhe’s little sister Di Chunhua cried and fell to the floor with her makeup running down her face and her hair a mess. Her pure white skirt became covered in dust after coming into touching the ground, “That isn’t my brother, my brother can’t be like this…”
On the other side of the shaking camera lens, Mr. Di Qiuhe’s sister fell to the ground surrounded by a circle of reporters, crying in a disordered and pitiful way, letting anyone who listened to feel sad and anyone who saw her to cry as well.
The policewoman turned off her cell phone that she had been using to look at the news with a darkened face, sneering, “Of course he isn’t your brother, your only brother is Di Xiasong! Her tears really look like they’re real, but who doesn’t know that Di Qiuhe doesn’t have any kind of relationship with this half-sister. She’s so fake and hypocritical, only knowing how to act.”
Inadvertently witnessing this scene, He Bai awkwardly coughed and leaned over slightly, “Um, excuse me, I would like to report a case.”
The policewoman finally noticed that there was a person standing in front of the desk, quickly put away the emotions on her face, put her cell phone back on the desk, and smiled at him a little embarrassed, saying, “I’m sorry, what would you like to report?”
“I think, murder.” He Bai pretended not to see her previous gaffe, pulled out the developed photos, and put them in front of her, and pointing at the magnified image, “I am a photographer. Two days ago, I was on the mountains on the outskirts of the suburbs taking pictures of the night scenery, when I inadvertently took this photo and was a little concerned.”
In the enlarged photo, a human figure could be seen leaping down from a window, while behind the curtain of that window, a white arm could be seen moving back inside.
After seeing this picture, the policewoman suddenly stood up with her eyes focused on the blurred human figure and her facial expression distorted, “It isn’t suicide…”
“What?” He Bai was confused by her sudden agitated state.
The policewoman didn’t answer, turning over the other enlarged pictures, picking them up and running excitedly towards the captain’s office at the back, “Boss! There’s been a major discovery! Di Qiuhe didn’t commit suicide! He was killed! There’s someone with evidence!”
What? Di Qiuhe? The black shadow in the photo is Di Qiuhe? The male protagonist of 《Immortal Way》Di Qiuhe?
He Bai felt like he couldn’t process anything, wanted to walk up and ask for specific details, but accidentally knocked over the calendar on the policewoman’s desk.
The calendar hit the floor with a muffled crash. Taped onto it were several old photographs that fell to the ground as well, one of which just happened to end up next to his feet.
He stopped, and picked up the picture.
This was a picture of a man, a very young man, probably around twenty years old. The man’s facial features were perfect, his eyes gentle and with a smile, wearing loose everyday wear- a white baseball shirt that on him added a touch of elegance.
His mind flashed the name of this person- Di Qiuhe, and he quickly realized that this person was already dead, and he seemed to have, probably, might have just… shot the moment this man had died.
He Bai opened his eyes and looked at the familiar yet unfamiliar ceiling of his dorm room. He turned over, pulled the blanket over his head, and painfully shut his eyes, “No, right now I am thirty-three years old, not twenty, not twenty…”
“Xiao Bai, come down and eat!”
He pulled on the blanket, trying to trick himself into believing that what he had just heard was just an auditory hallucination.
“You have to turn in the photography homework on Monday. Quickly get up, I already helped you borrow the equipment.” The oldest in the dorm Lao Da, Wang Hu, stretched out his arms, pulled at his blanket, “Didn’t you just get a zero for the last photography assignment, all you have to do is take another set today, and then beg Professor Xu for another chance. It’s still possible to makeup the score, so get up quickly.”
With the blanket pulled away, He Bai opened up his eyes, sitting up with hair like a chicken’s nest, looking sideways at Wang Hu’s face that looked younger by at least ten years, with his heart full of despair.
It had already been three days. He could no longer deceive himself.
Four days ago, he had taken a bunch of photos to the police station to report a case, when he had accidentally knocked over a policewoman’s calendar. He had been looking at a photograph that had fallen from the calendar, and then… and then he had just closed his eyes for one second, and opened his eyes the next, to see that he had disappeared from the police station only to find himself in a classroom at his alma mater.
Going from the age of thirty-three back to the age of twenty, from a savings of six million to a savings of six hundred, from a newly anticipated photographer to a journalism student with horrible grades in photography class… in just a blink of an eye, the whole world seemed to have changed completely.
“Okay okay, cheer up, it was only one assignment. People who don’t know what’s going on would think you just got your heart broken or something.” Wang Hu knocked on the railing of the bed, continuing to persuade him, “Normally, that score is only twenty percent of the final grade. If you re-do it, you can definitely still get the scholarship money, so don’t feel so sad.”
He Bai shook his head, saying apathetically, “It’s not me who’s heartbroken.”
“It’s the third eldest, Lao San.”
Wang Hu was confused, “Lao San is heartbroken? When did he even have a girlfriend?”
As soon as he finished saying this sentence, Lao San Niu Junjie burst through the door sobbing, hiccuping while falling to the floor drunk. He hugged Wang Hu’s thighs, “Lao Da, I was dumped… Liu Huanhuan she cheated on me! She cheated! I treated her so well, bought her anything she wanted, and if she told me to go east, I would never go west! Why did she have to cheat on me? Why did she have to treat me this way?”
Wang Hu was in shock, “Liu Huanhuan? The Broadcasting Department’s flower? You were dating her?!”
Niu Junjie lowered his head, throwing up on his shoes, and passed out drunk.
Wang Hu’s face twisted up like he had just eaten a sour lemon.
The bad smell floated up, He Bai pinched his nose, and fell back onto bed.
Sure enough, this isn’t a dream… so why the hell was I reborn?
After helping Wang Hu settle down the passed out Niu Junjie, He Bai ate his lunch in two or three bites, picked up the borrowed camera on the table, and left the school.
Bell bottoms, suspender skirts, stripes, checkers, black rimmed glasses… all the things that were in fashion more than a decade ago fell into his sight. He took a deep breath, squatted on the side of the road, raised his camera casually, and aimed at the crowd while adjusting the focus skillfully, found a good angle for light, and pressed down on the shutter.
The picture was taken when a black SUV pulled up in front of him, making the dust rise from the road.
The little girl who was supposed to be the main subject of the composition was replaced by a blurred image of a car. He Bai’s brows twitched, and waved his hands in front of his face to avoid the dust, looking at the SUV parked two steps in front of him.
The back door of the car was opened, and a long leg stretched out.
Basic clean sneakers, simple jeans, a white graphic tee, broad shoulders, a long slender neck, a perfect jawline, tightly pursed thin lips, a high nose bridge… and a pair of eyes that naturally brought a gentle taste.
He Bai’s eyes opened slightly in shock, this face… is Di, Di Qiuhe?
“Don’t think that being a little famous will let you have an opportunity to turn over in this lifetime. You can only dream of it!”
A slightly shrill female voice could be heard coming from the car. A backpack was thrown out, followed by a thirteen or fourteen year old girl’s body leaning out of the car towards Di Qiuhe who was standing outside, “The only person who can be Huangdu’s heir is my brother. You just wait to be blocked by everyone in the entertainment industry. Driver, drive!”
The SUV left in a hurry. He Bai looked at Di Qiuhe standing at his side, and tried to reduce his presence.
It seems like he saw something he shouldn’t have seen…
Ka-cha, his hand accidentally pressed down on the shutter.
Di Qiuhe looked back.
He Bai stuffed the camera back into his arms out of habit, then realized how this seemed to be a little bit silly, so he pulled out the camera again. Facing Di Qiuhe’s expressionless line of vision, the corner of his mouth twitched as he said, “The ground is dirty, your bag…,” pointing at the black backpack next to his feet that had been thrown there by the young girl.
Di Qiuhe withdrew his stare, lowered his head, picked up the bag from the ground, patted it a few times, and looked at him again. You couldn’t see any awkwardness from having a shameful moment seen by others on his face, asking bluntly, “Which news company are you from?”
“Next time don’t take a picture in such an obvious position, someone will end up beating you up.” Di Qiuhe put his backpack on, stopped a cab, got on, and left.
After He Bai was sprayed a face of car exhaust, he looked at the camera in his arms, and realized too late, “Hey! What are you trying to say! I’m NOT “pup”arazzi!” [T/N: In Chinese, the phrase for paparazzi has dog in it, which is why I will write “pup”arazzi as it will be relevant later on in the story]
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