Reborn as a Substitute Chapter 4

Ji Sheng unilaterally announced that Xie Xuanming was a miser.

After being contacted by the agent, he doled out Ji Hui’s little sh*tty company an itinerary——a children’s show at Stardust Kindergarten.

When hearing about this resource, someone as knowledgeable as Ji Sheng was speechless.

He was poor for half of his previous life and couldn’t afford refusing any jobs, such as business openings, amusement park performances, wedding backup singing… anything and everything.

But a band performance in a kindergarten…

This scene was too avant-garde for Ji Sheng to think about, or dare to think about.

Ji Hui’s little band was called ‘Niepan’, homophonic with ‘niepan’ meaning ‘nirvana’, or rebirth in fire(1).

“Why not just call it Nirvana?” Ji Sheng couldn’t help asking.

The lead singer of the band, an eloquent older guy, replied: “Since it was the owner who suggested the name and he had the desire to make the band more popular, he changed the word to make the band name more comprehensible.”

Ji Sheng didn’t understand: “What do you mean?”

Playing the bass fiercely, Xiao Huang said in a rough voice: “It’s just that our boss is f*cking illiterate and wrote it wrong.”

Ji Sheng: … …

Ji Sheng: Okay.

Although it was a kindergarten performance, the organisers offered a good price and a TV station was invited to broadcast the whole process live. Considering that rock music was too intense for young children, the organisers required Niepan to wear doll costumes when performing and determined the setlist that consisted of ‘Happy Birthday’.

When the news reached Niepan, the faces of the members turned black.

Although Niepan had no fame, no resources and no capital, its members were all young men with a lot of energy, playing in underground bands for years, so they were a bit rebellious and couldn’t stand being told what to do by condescending outsiders.

Now, the organisers had thrown in a bunch of requirements and made it clear that they couldn’t get on the stage as a band, had to be masked to be eligible to perform and had no right to choose the repertoire.

How could the members feel comfortable?

However, even if they were not happy, they still had to rehearse seriously and prepare for the performance conscientiously.

Niepan had been inactive for several months. They couldn’t get any large-scale commercial performances and the company wouldn’t let them go for small-scale jobs.

If Niepan could no longer create value for the company, it was very likely to be abandoned.

Being abandoned did not mean termination of the contract, and Niepan members could not return to the underground while the contract was still in the hands of the company. The company controlled their activities. Until the contract expired one day, they did not have the right to choose what to do.

The band members who were not hot but had a contract lived in the streets that were darker than the underground, repeating boring practice routines day after day. If they couldn’t go up, they could only sink.

After seeing the requirements, the members cursed for a while, then honestly put on the doll costumes sent by the organisers and began to practice “Happy Birthday”, the most popular song in the world known to children from three to eighty years old.

Since the members of Niepan were signed by the company, they were obviously impeccable in terms of expertise and had  a couple of tricks up their sleeves.

After practising a couple of times, they became familiar with the repertoire.

But just because you practice fast doesn’t mean you don’t feel suffocated when you practice.

In early autumn the weather barely started getting cooler, and the air inside the dilapidated underground garage was stagnant, isolated from the outside air currents. The temperature in the garage was already a few degrees warmer than the daytime temperature outside and the doll costumes completely cut off any fresh air, making them sweat and gasp for breath after two or three practice sessions.

The harsh environment caused the band members to make frequent mistakes and the otherwise smooth progress gradually came to a halt.

Stopping for the fourth time because of a mistake, Xiao Huang broke down completely.

“Practice, d*mn it! It’s a children’s show, are you serious? Practice if you like, Lao Tzu doesn’t have the time to wait on rich young masters and young ladies anyway!”

He pulled off his headgear irritably, threw it on the ground, slammed the door fiercely and went out.

The remaining members stayed where they were, large, naive, bloated dolls looking at each other, none of them having any intention of going after him.

The lead singer took off his headgear and rubbed his sweaty hair: “Let’s rest first. ”

He was the oldest among them, gentle in temper and had a certain right to speak for the team.

After he said that, the keyboardist and guitarist also took off their headgear. They took off their heavy clothes, found a place to sit down and relaxed.

The lead singer sat on the floor, feeling uncomfortable. Bassist Xiao Huang was the youngest member of the band and was stubborn like a mule, grouchy and unpredictable, and would not listen to anything he said.

He was afraid it would be very difficult to persuade him to come back to practice.

The lead singer was sighing when someone suddenly tapped his shoulder.

He turned his head, and Ji Sheng, dressed lightly, bent towards him from behind: “I’ll go out and find him.”

The lead singer was a little surprised. Ji Hui had always been quiet and timid, shrinking in a corner and not talking much. Xiao Huang didn’t like him because of his weak personality and often mocked him mercilessly. Ji Hui was also afraid of him because of it and avoided Xiao Huang as much as possible…

At this moment, surprisingly, Ji Hui said that he wanted to go out to persuade Xiao Huang, who was in conflict with him.

But if someone wanted to make his life more difficult, the lead singer was not going to stop him.

“Okay,” he said.

Ji Sheng got up, took two steps and turned back: “By the way, what’s his name again?”

Lead singer:… …

Ji Sheng didn’t mention his amnesia to the other members. Although the lead singer knew that Ji Hui was not particularly friendly with the band members, he didn’t expect that he didn’t even know the names of the guys who spent days and nights by his side.

Ji Sheng’s eyes were too innocent, and the lead singer didn’t say what he was going to say. He finally sighed helplessly: “Huang Sizhe.”

Ji Sheng opened the door: “Thank you.”

Huang Sizhe didn’t go far; he squatted a few metres away from the door, his doll costume bloating and bunched up, offering Ji Sheng a bulging back.

Ji Sheng walked up and patted him on the shoulder: “Hi, Huang Sizhe.”

Huang Sizhe turned his head, saw that it was Ji Sheng and his expression sank.

He still remembered the abhorrence of being locked up in the dorm room by Ji Sheng two days ago. That day, he had to stay hungry for most of the day because of Ji Sheng, until the lead singer passed a takeaway from the balcony of a neighbouring room with a clothes rail and he managed to eat a good meal. He said angrily: “Aren’t you practising hard to show your skills to young masters and young ladies? Why are you coming out? ”

“To rest.” Ji Sheng yanked his doll costume. “Are you not hot?”

Ji Sheng’s movements were a bit too violent and ripped up the drenched lining along with the inside of the doll suit.

As the sweat-soaked clothes separated from his skin, Huang Sizhe felt a chill run through his body and overreacted by getting up and slapping Ji Sheng away.

Ji Sheng took a half step back, his loose collar slipping, revealing the charming teeth marks on his shoulder.

Huang Sizhe caught a glimpse of this brilliance, his face alternately turned red and white, and finally went black. He gritted his teeth and cursed: “You really don’t know what’s good for you! You’ve suffered once and still want to stick to your ways. Can’t you live without a man?”

In the face of the insult, Ji Sheng remained calm as he reached out and tugged down the cuffs of his doll suit, “Go back to rehearsal.”

Huang Siche shrugged him off, “I’m not f*cking going back. Who wants to be like you, doing anything for money.”

“Don’t go back, don’t rehearse, don’t go to gigs, don’t make any money, get buried by the company, demand to be released from your contract, pay a huge termination fee…” Ji Sheng calmly recounted, “You’re happy with that, I’m fine with that too.”

Huang Sizhe was stuck for a second and then continued to yell: “It’s none of your business, are you qualified to take care of me?”

Ji Sheng stepped forward and grabbed Huang Sizhe by the collar.

His expression was colder than Huang Sizhe had ever seen before: “My friend, I was the one who begged for the costume you’re wearing, and I was the one who asked for the gig you’re going to. Even the company that pays your salary would have gone out of business long ago without me. I don’t expect you to be grateful, but it’s better not to be so condescending when you’re taking the money earned by someone else selling his body. In your own words, you are not qualified.”

Huang Sizhe was shocked by Ji Sheng’s sudden outburst. He recovered soon and was going to get angry, but found that everything Ji Sheng said was reasonable and he had no room for refutation.

Huang Sizhe’s face flushed; he couldn’t say a word.

“Come back to rehearse.” Ji Sheng had no intention of making things difficult for the child, withdrew his hand and turned to walk away.

Huang Sizhe looked at his back, gritted his teeth for a while and finally reluctantly dragged his feet back.

The internal contradictions of the members were resolved, and the next rehearsal process went a lot smoother.

The birthday song was not difficult; even if it was adapted, it would not be much more complicated. A few days before the performance, Niepan had already practised it to perfection and could complete the performance with their eyes closed.

But new bad news came——musical instruments were not available at the venue.

The price of musical instruments required for a band was not small. Even though Stardust Kindergarten, a private, aristocratic kindergarten, was financially strong, it was unlikely to have all kinds of instruments, let alone spend a large sum of money on a single performance.

Therefore, musical instruments could only be acquired by Niepan itself.

Although it was just a very bullsh*t commercial performance, it was going to be on TV in the end. The members didn’t dare to take their fourth-hand, a hundred yuan or so worth trashy musical instruments on stage, fearing they would be taken for junk collectors. They worked hard making calls and looking around for people to borrow musical instruments.

After a few days of scraping and scrambling, Niepan finally managed to get a guitar, bass and keyboard. But the big one, the drum kit, no member was eventually able to borrow.

Two days before the performance, the lead singer ended another call and shook his head helplessly.

Everything is futile.

The keyboardist was silent for a while, then gave up and said, “Let’s just chip in to buy a set.”

“A set of drums for performance costs at least 15,000 yuan, Roland electronic drums cost 8,000 yuan if cut in half, 2,000 yuan for a double step and 1,000 yuan for a single step. Even a drum chair costs more than 100 yuan…” The lead singer rubbed his eyes wearily and made a rare foul-mouthed remark, “D*mn, a band is really rich people playing and poor people having fun.”

The air pressure in the underground garage dropped very low.

Huang Sizhe looked at Ji Sheng who was unhurriedly arranging his doll costume and said with an irritated stab, “You’re not worried?”

Ji Sheng took off the doll costume and folded it, then said quietly, “I’ll think of a way.”

Ji Sheng’s way was to summon an invincible Pokémon —— a mad dog that could knock out human teeth when he was not in his right mind, but at the same time was very rich.

Ji Sheng felt it was unlikely that Xie Xuanming would agree to help, but he was still optimistic. After all, he could only mentally conjure Xie Xuanming’s supernatural powers last time; this time, he had a specific means of summoning.

Ji Sheng fished out his mobile phone and dialled the number given by Xie Xuanming.

The one who answered was not Xie Xuanming. Ji Sheng said, “Please give Senior Xie the phone, thank you.”

The man was very cautious: “What is the name of the gentleman?”

“The surname is Ji.” Ji Sheng smiled, “Just tell him that someone named Ji is looking for him, there’s trouble.”

The call was quickly transferred to Xie Xuanming, and a low voice full of unpleasantness came from the microphone:

“I remember I said not to call me if nothing is wrong…”

Ji Sheng went straight to the point: “Something is wrong. I need a drum kit…”

“…it’s none of my business.”

“To prove my value.” Ji Sheng added, “You have to give me the means to prove it.”

“…” Xie Xuanming was silent for a while, then suddenly smiled, “If you want to drum, you can. Building X, No. XX, XX Road,” he quickly recounted. “Take a shower and be there by nine o’clock.”

  1. Nirvana actually doesn’t mean rebirth, does it? 🙂 Anyway, ‘nirvana’ is spelled 涅槃, while the name of Ji Sheng’s little band is spelled 涅盘, the last character meaning ‘a plate’ or ‘a dish’.

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6 thoughts on “Reborn as a Substitute Chapter 4

  1. Oh man, I love it when showbiz stories show the bleak, not-all-glitter-and-glamour side of the industry. Thanks for the chapter! 🤗

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