Deep in the Act
Quality Check: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria
Scene 99, set in Gao Zhun’s home, revolved around a conversation between Gao Zhun and Fang Chi about Justin. Although Zuo Linlin also appeared in this scene, Qin Xun-er was still away. Hence, apart from a single shot that would be completed with the use of a hand double, filming for the day would focus on the interaction between Zhang Zhun and Chen Hsin.
Zhang Zhun had changed into Gao Zhun’s expensive nightwear; the luxurious champagne silk clung to his body, hugging every contour on his sculpted torso. Lifting his chin, the makeup artist applied his eyeliner with careful strokes, adding a touch of cat-like pride to his features. Chen Hsin could not take his eyes off the sight, could not take his eyes off the other man; his eyes remained glued to Zhang Zhun no matter how much he tried to look away.
“Are the two of you… eh?” Chen Cheng-Sen probed nosily in the midst of his half-hearted chat with Chen Hsin. No reply. “You know,” the director pressed on in the next breath, “that girl of yours isn’t too bad. Quit messing around.”
This time, Chen Hsin muttered something in response, but it was lost in the noise of sudden exclamations from several female staffers checking their phones in a corner. Zhou Zheng yelled at them. Blushing, one of the girls held up her phone for Chen Hsin and asked, “Are you getting married, Chen-laoshi?”
Zhang Zhun was the first to react to her question. He snapped his head around at once, and the eyeliner went straight into his eye. The makeup artist cried out in alarm. When Chen Cheng-Sen and Zhou Zheng rushed over at the sound, Zhang Zhun had pressed both hands to his eye, evidently injured. Confusion ensued as the crew members that had gathered around him hurried to lift his head for a better look. They succeeded at last, and saw that his face was covered in tears.
“Get me some tissue!” Zhou Zheng pried away those hands after several flustered wipes. “Zhang-laoshi, can you open your eye?”
It was unclear whether any of them noticed that Zhang Zhun’s uninjured eye was just as wet. He wanted to see Chen Hsin; a look was all he wanted. But now, surrounded by so many bystanders, Zhang Zhun had no choice but to smile for them. “It’s nothing. Just feels a little sore.”
Chen Hsin did not dare to go over. He was stunned, and only a single thought remained in his mind – he had to make a call. In his trouser pocket was his phone. He wanted to reach for it, but was spooked instead when it started ringing out of the blue: Goodbye my almost… The call was answered in an instant. On the other side of the room, Zhang Zhun heard him holler into the phone, “You!”
Feng Yunting’s caller ID flashed on the screen. “Have you checked Weibo?” she asked as soon as she opened her mouth. Chen Hsin gnashed his teeth, forcing down the impulse to shred her to pieces, but she continued without any sense of urgency, “The problem doesn’t lie with me.”
“It’s my problem, then?” Chen Hsin returned, an odd inflection in his voice.
“My manager has already lodged a police report. Wait…”
“For what? For Weibo to notify me that our marriage application has already been completed?!”
Dead silence descended upon the set. A soft sigh came from the other end of the line. “A person can be jailed for spreading false and baseless information if it’s shared five hundred times and above,” Feng Yunting said, with the calmness of one laying out the facts. “The police will be able to track down the IP address. You’re filming now, aren’t you? We’ll talk when you come back.”
Chen Hsin did not hang up immediately. In the brief moment before the call ended, the young woman added a final cheerful declaration: “I’ve got some good news, by the way. Thanks to the rumors, I’ll be signing the contract for the endorsement deal today.”
The line died, and the dead tone began beeping in Chen Hsin’s ear. He put down his phone, turned around, and found himself the center of everyone’s attention. All eyes were on him, colored by all kinds of judgment. He ought to look ashamed or afraid, but he did not. He still seemed like his usual arrogant self as he shoved aside the crowd around Zhang Zhun and articulated, at last, his belated words of concern, “Are you alright?”
Zhang Zhun knew that he could not remain silent. He needed to speak if he was to appear unaffected; he had to say something to show that he felt no misgivings. But he could not open his mouth no matter how hard he tried, and his lips quivered every time he parted them. “That’s enough!” Chen Cheng-Sen cut in just then with a timely yell. “The eye is fine. Finish the makeup and get going!”
Once they were ready, Gao Zhun and Fang Chi got into position – one crawled into bed, while the other sat by the bedside. The one in bed seemed a little timid; his face lay half-buried under the covers, while a pair of reddened eyes peeked up at the other man. “I’m sorry…” Yet, despite the muffled words, there was a telling chill to his expression while the hint of an elusive anger ghosted across his cheeks.
In contrast, it was Chen Hsin who appeared guilty, as if he was the one in the wrong. “What happened?”
“Justin…” The covers slipped away. Zhang Zhun’s narrow chin and open collar appeared on camera, magnified. He seemed to have lost weight in the span of mere minutes – as if he had been ravaged by fire, or ground to a husk under the crushing weight of a mill. It seemed like he would dissipate into the air like a wisp of smoke any minute now. So fragile was he that Chen Hsin could not help but stretch out a hand towards him. He merely wanted to stroke Zhang Zhun’s hair a little with the lightest and briefest of touches. A harmless touch –
Slap. Zhang Zhun swatted the hand aside, catching everyone by surprise. “Cut!” the director called out at once, bringing the filming to an immediate halt. Zhang Zhun froze, seeming just as stunned by his own response. After a moment of silence, he bowed his head and apologized in shame.
Frustration mounted in Chen Cheng-Sen. Agitated by the series of mishaps and the bizarre tension between the male leads, the director sprung out of his seat behind the monitor and thrust his rolled-up script in the direction of the actors. Although he had intended to point at Zhang Zhun, he shifted his hand a little to the side as soon as he saw the look of devastation on the older actor’s face. “Chen Hsin!” He berated the younger lead like he would an insignificant extra, “Who gave you the right to make your own changes? Is this your first day on the set?!”
This was the first time that Chen Cheng-Sen had ever shamed Chen Hsin in public. It was also the first time that Zhang Zhun had put up a genuine fight against his touch. To be thus humiliated, and treated with such distrust… Chen Hsin could no longer tell which of the two was more frightening or more unbearable. His head reeled. Getting to his feet in a daze, he turned and strode out of the room without a word. Some crew members tried to stop him, but Chen Cheng-Sen called them off in the heat of the moment: “Don’t! Let him go!”
Chen Hsin disappeared. Very soon, Zhou Zheng’s phone began ringing; it was a call from one of the drivers waiting downstairs, reporting that Chen Hsin had driven off in a work van. Chen Cheng-Sen panicked a little, but did not dare to show it on his face. Yelling and cursing, he returned to his seat. “I’ll wait! See if he’s got the balls to break the contract and never come back!”
Zhang Zhun twisted his fingers together, nervous and distressed. He wanted to dash out right now – but he could not. He stumbled out of bed to look for his phone. Then, surrounded by watchful gazes, he began dialing Chen Hsin’s number over and over again, trembling uncontrollably in plain sight of everyone.
About half an hour later, or forty minutes at most, Chen Hsin returned. He kicked down the door, still sporting his floppy curls and his characteristic air of arrogance. He seemed whole and unhurt, as if he had never left at all. The film crew began going about their tasks again, thinking that the episode had blown over, but Chen Cheng-Sen let out a deafening bellow all of a sudden. “You’re out of your freaking mind!” Pointing straight at Chen Hsin’s swollen left ear, he cursed at the top of his lungs: “Why the hell did you pierce your ear?!”
The scene mentioned in this chapter takes place in Chapter 16.1.