“Hungry?” Soft laughter escaped Song Yucheng’s lips.
The Song Yucheng right now had none of the arrogance he had displayed during the day, perhaps because there was no camera on him. He looked surprisingly gentle under the moonlight with his lips upturned in a light laugh.
Chu Rong wrinkled his brow. He did not respond, but he reddened further and was even more embarrassed. Song Yucheng was not put off by his coldness, however, and reached out instead to grab the rope of the bucket.
“Your position is not right, and that’s why you can’t pull it up when you can’t put strength into it. You need to follow this direction to make it easier to use your strength.” Song Yucheng gave instructions to Chu Rong in a soft voice, and the distance between them closed. There was no intention to seduce in his actions, but Chu Rong became nervous still.
It was not what Chu Rong had imagined. He’d thought that he would be disgusted. The temperature of Song Yucheng’s skin was cooler than a normal person’s, like the finest jade. The occasional touches on the back of his hand entranced him easily on a night like this, especially those eyes of his, laced with indulgence and promise of full acceptance — his guard fell readily.
But Chu Rong frowned more deeply when these feelings surfaced, because the relationship between Song Yucheng and Xu Muzhi was a knot in his heart that he found difficult to untie. And this situation right now too. Song Yucheng’s easy manner made him all the more of a mess.
Made his feelings all the more of a mess.
The air about them turned very cold very suddenly.
But silence was not necessarily a bad thing to Song Yucheng, and he thought that Chu Rong was oh so adorable right now.
From Song Yucheng’s perspective, the old Song Yucheng’s tragedy had no real relation to Chu Rong from the start, and it was all Xu Muzhi’s fault. And in the old Song Yucheng’s world, Chu Rong had been disgusted by him, but he had still hinted that he would help him out during the shooting of the programme. However, the old Song Yucheng had rejected the olive branch, so Chu Rong did not bother with him anymore.
He could also be considered the only person who had shown the old Song Yucheng kindness out of all the people he’d met.
This kindness was just pity for the weak, but Song Yucheng felt that this told him, at the very least, that Chu Rong was a good person by nature.
And right now, he was pursing his lips and looking a little stubborn, like a little abandoned kitty feeling so wronged; it needed to bare its fangs to show that it was not to be trifled with.
His fierce-pouty face was quite attractive.
But come to think of it, he was a pampered young master who was a big star adored by the masses. Who knew how many wrongs had been committed against this person in one day, throwing him into the countryside and making him end up with dirt on his face and hair.
Song Yucheng had always had a soft spot for pretty children, and he felt no anger towards Chu Rong’s behaviour.
“Come with me.” Song Yucheng sighed, and gave him a wry smile as he led him to the kitchen.
“What do you want to do?” Chu Rong couldn’t help asking while being pulled along with him. But he felt like he had uttered nonsense after saying that, and he pursed his lips again, refusing to speak.
Chu Rong’s nervousness made Song Yucheng’s bad side show, and made him want to tease him.
“Why are you being so petty now? You were so warm and reliable during the day.” Song Yucheng looked back at him and teased deliberately.
“You’re one to talk. You can’t even look people straight in the eye during the day.” Chu Rong felt like he was being belittled, and he narrowed his eyes; he sensed danger.
Was the kitty going to unsheath his claws? Song Yucheng’s smile grew wider. But he thought about how late it already was, and that fact that they would have to film tomorrow too and decided against dragging it out. He was also afraid of going overboard with the teasing and really making him angry, so he stopped talking too. He quickly found some ingredients, started a cooking fire and got ready to cook.
Consuming a heavy meal at night could lead to indigestion, so a simple bowl of egg noodles was best.
Song Yucheng’s cooking skill could not be compared to that of a chef, but he was definitely above average. He was also cooking to appease, so he was going to make it look and taste awesome, even if it was just a simple dish.
The soup base of bean sprouts and white radish had a natural freshness of flavour, and that was complemented by a dash of sesame oil and some salt as seasoning. The noodles were cooked, rinsed and added to the broth. This dish was refreshing, and best for one with an appetite in the summer night.
The final touches were a fat, white soft-boiled egg and some of the landlord auntie’s pickled vegetables, with green onions and sesame seeds sprinkled over the top. An enticing bowl of egg noodles, freshly prepared.
“Try my cooking.” Song Yucheng put the bowl down in front of Chu Rong. He had bought the ingredients from the landlord before he’d gone to bed, just in case he got hungry. He was now giving it to Chu Rong.
Chu Rong hesitated, then picked up the chopsticks and had a bite.
It was surprisingly delicious. Chu Rong paused, and glanced at Song Yucheng in astonishment. He was encouraged to keep eating by Song Yucheng, and he munched in silence.
Good food could pacify moodiness, and a quiet environment enticed one to relax. Chu Rong’s complicated thoughts calmed in this atmosphere.
Song Yucheng was not idle either. He cleaned up the cooking area as Chu Rong ate.
Sounds of movement. Quiet. It was very cosy in the little kitchen. Chu Rong watched Song Yucheng busying about, and was inexplicably moved.
However, another thought popped into his head in an instant. Song Yucheng was so skilled at taking care of others — was it because he usually took care of Xu Muzhi like this?
The delicious noodles lost all flavour at that thought, but Chu Rong quickly chased that thought with another, that his sudden thought was peculiar. He hurriedly forced that thought down, but his heart beat with anxiety.
“Thank you.” He was always thrown off-kilter whenever he came into contact with Song Yucheng. He finished the last mouthful with difficulty, thanked Song Yucheng, and made to stand and leave quickly.
It was unbearable. Whether it was because he was being taken care of by Song Yucheng in the same way he took care of Xu Muzhi, or because he was seen by Song Yucheng in such a haggard state, it all made Chu Rong feel at a loss as to what to do.
Exhaustion abruptly overwhelmed him after the tiring day he had had, and his legs grew weak. Chu Rong was suddenly having difficulty walking. Song Yucheng saw the state he was in, and quickly supported him from the front.
Song Yucheng was shorter than Chu Rong, and he had had a tiring day too. His hands were, understandably, not very steady. The addition of Chu Rong’s weight made them both stagger. Chu Rong out his arms around Song Yucheng rather subconsciously, and just so happened to envelop him in his embrace.
Chu Rong rarely had such close contact with another person, and he froze right away as his ears were swiftly stained red. He was like a kitty which had been lifted by the scruff of the neck all of a sudden — even the fur on his tail was all bushy. He was so pure and innocent, no matter which angle you looked at him.
Song Yucheng found his inexperience adorable, and he couldn’t help himself as he reached out a hand and pinched Chu Rong’s ear teasingly.
H, How could he just touch him so casually like this?
Chu Rong stared wide-eyed at Song Yucheng in astonishment. Song Yucheng, on the other hand, was calm and he looked pointedly at Chu Rong’s arms around his waist. The ruffled little kitty morphed into a puffer fish, and he backpaddled two paces, then turned around and ran.
“Hahaha.” Song Yucheng watched him go and couldn’t help his soft laughter as he leaned on the table. His clear voice seemed especially gentle because of the laughter, reaching out like thread which could capture a person’s heart.
Chu Rong heard him clearly, and he felt his face grow hotter. He burrowed straight into his bed once he got back to his room.
That Song Yucheng was such a flirt! ‘I still hate him!’ thought Chu Rong.
Chu Rong told that to himself, but he couldn’t help peeking over at Song Yucheng to see what was going on there. He could not figure out his feelings, and he watched till Song Yucheng switched the lights off before he went groggily to sleep.
Song Yucheng had returned to his room after Chu Rong ran back into his, and continued working on the fabric flowers.
Yep, teasing that pretty child sure did put him in a good mood. He had been tired but he was now quite energised.
That night was difficult for Chu Rong. Maybe it was because dreams at night were made of thoughts in the day, but Song Yucheng’s laughter at the end, and the accidental embrace they had shared played over and over in Chu Rong’s dreams, and he tossed and turned all night.
When day came, and the cameraman with it, Song Yucheng’s deliberate arrogant act made the night’s events all the more surreal. Chu Rong knew that Song Yucheng had received a script to put on a specific persona, and that this should all be an act. That flirty man last night who had loved to tease him like he was a child was most likely his true self.
But even so, he still felt like he was in a dream. He could not understand why a person like Song Yucheng, whose true personality was so wildly different from the personality he was displaying, could act the part so well. He was even better at acting than him, the actor who had been called a “genius child actor”.
Chu Rong started to pay even closer attention to Song Yucheng because of this, and he grew more aware of the small details which Song Yucheng had let slip under his watertight acting. He noticed, especially, the fabric flowers they had coincidentally found, which could be used to adorn the straw hats, in the corner of the courtyard just as they had been about to go out. Chu Rong strongly suspected that these flowers had been made by Song Yucheng, in a secret bid to lend them aid.
Chu Rong had been watching Song Yucheng in secret last night, and he knew that Song Yucheng had come out of his room at about two in the morning and put something over here. He clearly recalled that Song Yucheng had been fiddling with something in this very spot too, before they had discovered the straw hats. Plus, Chu Rong realised that they had forgotten a very important question. How had Song Yucheng managed to make that much money on the first day?
There was only one answer when he put all these events together. The straw hats they held in their hands now had been handwoven by Song Yucheng.
Why did he have to go so far for them, then? They had been quite rude to Song Yucheng after all. Was it because he just helping out because it was no big trouble for him? Or was he doing this because someone ordered him to and he had no other choice?
No matter which it was, it was upsetting. Chu Rong’s heart sank immediately, and an unpleasant feeling rose. He glanced at Song Yucheng’s tightly-shut door in the distance, and felt like there was some mystery there which he could have laid bare to him if he only went to open that door.
But now was obviously not the best time. He had to first solve his own problem of food.
Chu Rong looked away with that thought in mind, and walked out the courtyard with Li Zhao and the others.
The end of the three days drew close. Chu Rong and the others finally succeeded in making money with Song Yucheng’s help, and they got through the most difficult first stage. What followed next was the true challenge. The production crew was finally going to take them to the village.
This was not something worthy of celebration, however. Even Song Yucheng had not thought in his wildest dreams that the directors would take such a direction with the programme.
It was different from the past seasons where the participants had been separated and placed with host families. This time, they were all thrown into a small pension lodging together because they had successfully made money and paid rent. The pension lodging looked like it was about to fall apart, and the inside was way worse than it looked outside. And in this terrible place, they were given a new task to complete.
“Due to the limits of the programme’s budget, you guys cannot stay with host families and can only stay here now. As for the daily necessities you lack, you have to buy them with the money you have on you now.”
Holy sh*t! Everyone was stunned. The group only had under 300 yuan, even if they counted Song Yucheng’s earnings. The six of them had to survive here for a month?
There was another pressing problem too. This pension lodging they were in now didn’t even have a pot to cook in.
The livestream bullet screen was going crazy with laughter.
“Hahaha! The director is so cruel!”
“I can’t take it. They’re so pitiful but I still want to laugh.”
“Hugs for my Chu Rong~ I think I saw him go pale when he heard the task.”
“Kinda tsundere. Hey, don’t you guys think that Song Yucheng and Chu Rong are similar at some angles? They look like brothers when they stand like that.” That last comment had been written in Song Yucheng’s individual livestream channel. The gossip bloggers who had decided to speak on Song Yucheng’s behalf had not finished putting the video together after all, so they would easily draw flak if they commented on the main livestream, but it was no problem for them to throw out comments on their own “home turf”.
Though the atmosphere was jovial in the comments, it was gloomy on Song Yucheng’s end.
It was not not just him. The other youngsters were still in shock and they took quite a while to get over it. The key thing was, perhaps because Song Yucheng had been the first of them to earn money, and this in turn had an impact on them, but the rest of them, including Chu Rong, all automatically looked at Song Yucheng with a pleading gaze for help.
Song Yucheng was speechless. His task here was to cuckold the bad guy. How had it turned into taking care of children?
Even so, they could not keep standing dumbly when the sun was at that point in the sky. They had to at least fix their beds, doors and windows, or their safety would not be guaranteed at night.
Song Yucheng decided to make a move first.
And so, he still used the same old method to “encourage” them, and got Li Zhao and the others to get to work. When the sun went down that day, the place was still run down, but the beds and doors and windows were fixed, and their rest would not be disturbed at night.
Their dinner was bought with their own money from the villagers nearby. The production crew had shown them the prices clearly, and this meal was way more expensive than the meals they’d had in the small county town. Because of this, the money they had was reduced to over two hundred yuan.
But the blow they were struck later was what really made them want to despair. They had never imagined that the production crew would be so cruel as to not treat them humanely anymore. The rental for a month for this dilapidated house was actually going to cost them 500 yuan.
If they couldn’t pay up by midnight tomorrow, they would have no roof over their heads and be forced to roam the streets.
The youngsters who had just filled their stomachs were shocked speechless once again by the grievous news.