“Stop bothering Brother Yucheng about it. If you guys are itching to make your calls, then you can go first…” Li Zhao anxiously stopped the three of them from saying more, but his dry tone of voice betrayed his uneasiness.
Chu Rong also nervously drew close to Song Yucheng like he was some fragile being, filled with worry. Even the directors reacted all of a sudden and they all looked at Song Yucheng with a subtle expression in their eyes.
The joyous atmosphere in the room abruptly turned cold. The three people who had been cajolling Song Yucheng into making the first call were at a loss. They had had good intentions but it now looked like they had done something bad.
Song Yucheng’s reaction was the opposite of what they’d expected. He was calm, as if he was not the focus of everyone’s attention, and the expression on his face was almost unchanged.
“Brother Yucheng…” called Li Zhao tentatively.
Song Yucheng raised his head to look at him without a word. He then tossed the phone indifferently to the girl next to him. “I’ll give my time to you. This device is of terrible quality. I fear it would deafen me if I used it.”
He turned around and left after saying that.
“You guys!” Li Zhao was anxious and he moved to go after him. However, Chu Rong stopped him. “You explain it to them. I’ll go see how he’s doing.”
“Sure. I’m bad with words so please be sure to talk to Brother Yucheng.”
“I got it.” Chu Rong was way more anxious than Li Zhao. He hurriedly opened the door after making that promise, and left.
Chu Rong thought that Song Yucheng would walk far, far away since he was in a bad mood, but he found him lying on the chaise lounge in the courtyard right after walking out the door.
Song Yucheng was looking up, like he was enjoying the view of the night sky. His beautiful eyes seemed to reflect the starlight, and even the quirk of his lips was gentle and contented. His guard on his display of emotions was so tight that it was impossible to tell if he was sad.
Chu Rong’s heart, however, was all choked up with anxiety.
“Aren’t you going to call home? Not afraid of being beaten when you go back?” Song Yucheng turned his head and met his gaze when he heard footsteps. He waited for a bit, and waved Chu Rong over when he did not reply, gesturing for him to come sit with him.
Away from the cameras, the smile Song Yucheng wore after dropping his act was especially warm. His faint smile, that small curve of his lips, was enough to melt a man and draw him irresistibly closer.
Met with this invulnerability of his, Chu Rong felt his heart ache instead. He felt like even his breathing was hurting his internal organs and it he was in so much pain he wished himself dead.
Chu Rong had asked his cousin about the results of his investigation into Song Yucheng’s background, so he knew a lot about him.
He knew that Song Yucheng had lost his beloved parents six years ago, and also knew that Son Yucheng had no family to call. The only one he could contact was Xu Muzhi, but he was a cold-hearted man; calling him would be like throwing his sincerity to the ground for that scum to stomp on.
What he’d said about the phone being terrible was just a clumsy excuse. Song Yucheng avoided it not because he was throwing a tantrum, but because he was just too upset. He had all these depressing feelings inside, but he still kept up appearances so that others would not worry about him. Just why… why was he so kind?
Chu Rong felt like he could not even begin to imagine how much suffering Song Yucheng had gone through to be able to perfect his facade.
Chu Rong pressed his lips together, and reached out to yank Song Yucheng into his embrace.
“Are you acting spoilt?” Song Yucheng could not help teasing Chu Rong at his sudden display of affection. He restrained his smile when he saw Chu Rong’s reddened eyes, and worked on calming him. “Okay, okay, I won’t tease you anymore. Why’s a big boy like you crying so much that your nose is all drippy? Don’t ruin your image of a gentle Adonis.”
Why talk about his public persona at a time like this?
Chu Rong said nothing, but he tightened his arms around Song Yucheng. It seemed as if he was hoping that this action of his would bring more comfort to Song Yucheng, and ease his heart a little.
He actually knew that Song Yucheng had no need of this empty show of backing him up since he was so capable, but Chu Rong still hoped that he would be able to become a person who would be able to support Song Yucheng.
But anyone could say such a thing — just not him. Chu Rong knew that Song Yucheng was in such pain now largely because he had been groomed by Xu Muzhi to become a substitute for him.
In other words, he was one of the people who had caused Song Yucheng’s pain. Even so, he had feelings for Song Yucheng, and wanted nothing more than to hold him in his heart and to brand him with his own soul.
Chu Rong put his head on Song Yucheng’s shoulder with those thoughts in his head. He did not speak for some time. He was like a kitty cat; anxious to please, but not able to do so. The way he looked cautiously at Song Yucheng was so tender that even the coldest of iron-hearts would melt.
Song Yucheng, too, knew that Chu Rong was in such agony because his heart hurt for him. This straightforward expression of emotion was also what Song Yucheng was weak against.
Song Yucheng sighed and relaxed; he let Chu Rong hold him. His hands moved to Chu Rong’s back as he relaxed, and he hugged him gently.
On his end, Li Zhao could not hold back anymore and he blurted out Song Yucheng’s situation.
“Brother Yucheng has no family he can call. His parents died in an accident six years ago,” said Li Zhao.
“What?” The two girls and the young man exclaimed reflexively. They could not believe what they were hearing.
They had known that Song Yucheng was not a son of a wealthy family, but they had not even imagined that he would actually have no family.
After Li Zhao spoke, they lowered their heads too, and their eyes immediately turned red with crying.
He would not have spoken on it if it hadn’t been for the live broadcast. It was not a good thing for Song Yucheng too, to have such details revealed by someone else. He had no care for the useless sympathy of the public, and he had even less need of pity.
But Li Zhao was afraid that Song Yucheng would be misunderstood by others. The incidents of the past had already proven the terrors of cyber bullying. He could totally envision Song Yucheng making no move to talk about his tragic past with his pride and tendency to bear things silently. That, in turn, would mean that those keyboard warriors would insult Song Yucheng out of context before the end of the programme broadcasting, and say that it was useless no matter how capable he was if he did not respect his parents, and that he was absolute trash.
This was why Li Zhao felt like he had to speak in Song Yucheng’s defence. His Brother Yucheng had had a tough time already, so those senseless insults should definitely not be thrown at him again. It was Li Zhao’s first time to want to do his best to protect someone.
Song Yucheng’s past was revealed, just like that. The part about him being a kept pet was kept hidden, and all that was spoken of was that he had been living on his own ever since his parents passed away. He had participated in the programme for the pay.
The livestream chat was overflowing with comments right away. Who would have thought that Song Yucheng, who looked like a little prince, was actually a person who had experienced such a tough life?
“He was all on his own from junior high school? What a tough life he must’ve had!”
“So that must be why he has those weaving skills. It’s probably to make money for his living expenses… No wonder Song Yucheng was calm when they got to the county town when even Chu Rong and Li Zhao were panicking. Was it because he has been earning his own living from a young age?”
“But him participating in the programme to earn money is just too ridiculous. Just learning of this makes my heart ache for him. So many people were insulting him at the beginning of the fourth season of the programme!”
“My heart aches too.”
Many people were saddened by Song Yucheng’s past. Meanwhile, whether intentional or not, there was a cameraman following Song Yucheng and Chu Rong, and he was hidden in the darkness.
Song Yucheng dropped his mask of arrogance and gently calmed Chu Rong down. He was not one bit weak; he exuded strength.
The hearts of many quivered at that. They all felt that Song Yucheng was really so very encouraging.
The ratings for “Swapping Lives” climbed yet higher. Song Yucheng and Chu Rong’s embracing under the moonlight also became this season’s most tear-jerking scene.
Some people said that “Swapping Lives” could just end there, because the programme would never again find someone who could bring as many surprises and emotions to the fore as Song Yucheng.
There was no banquet without end in this world, and the filming for “Swapping Lives” ended the next morning in this mood. The production crew sent each of the youngsters back home to their families.
At the airport, the two girls and the other young man hugged Song Yucheng, unwilling to let go. They could not bear to. They only let go reluctantly after Song Yucheng promised to keep in contact with them.
After that, as arranged by the production crew, Chu Rong, Li Zhao and Song Yucheng took the same flight back to Beijing.
They went in silence. Everyone’s parting was imminent at the Beijing Airport. Li Zhao was trying to hold himself back but he finally could not, and he grabbed Song Yucheng’s sleeve, refusing to let go.
“Come with me, Brother Yucheng.” There was no trace of the disdain he had had for him in the beginning. The Li Zhao now was looking at Song Yucheng with eyes full of affection, and heartache.
He had heard quite a bit of chirping from little birds on their way back to Beijing.
Song Yucheng and Chu Rong’s “brother-like” coupling was currently one of the most popular on the internet. Everyone knew that they did not really have any relationship in real life, but even so, to Xu Muzhi, this was akin to cheating on him.
The unrequited love he had had for years had actually been matched up with the substitute he had groomed. There was no other case like this in his circles. Xu Muzhi had now become the laughingstock in the world of heirs of Beijing city.
Meanwhile, Li Zhao was also finding out about the things Xu Muzhi had done while the programme was being filmed. He also heard about how Xu Muzhi had used the house which Song Yucheng’s parents had left him to threaten him and keep him under control. He had only stopped after Chu Rong got his cousin to take action. This incident was the second thing for which Xu Muzhi’s name became a mockery.
His unrequited love had got his own cousin to warn him off in order to protect his substitute. This was a most laughable thing no matter which way you looked at it. When Li Zhao heard it all, though, he did not feel like laughing at all — he was seething with anger.
It wasn’t as if he had not seen his share of scum, but this bastard Xu Muzhi was a rare pearl of evil. He got angrier the more he thought about it, and Li Zhao’s heart grew heavier with worry. He felt that whatever evil this Xu Muzhi scum did would come as no surprise, so he did not want to let Song Yucheng return on his own, no matter what. He cautioned him.
“Brother Yucheng, my family has influence in Beijing too. We are not as powerful as Xu Muzhi, but we can still shield you. I will be going overseas at the end of the year too. You have good grades in school, Brother Yucheng, so it will be no problem for you to come with me when the time comes to leave.”
Song Yucheng rejected him cooly. “Don’t make a fuss. I’m fine.”
“But…” But even your villa had been half-burnt. Where are you going to live if you go back now? Li Zhao started to say something, then stopped. He could not voice these thoughts of his.
Song Yucheng shook his head in refusal still.
The more he refused, the more worried Li Zhao got. He felt his temper overcome him when he saw that he was not getting through to him, and he became anxious. He had a sudden impulse to just throw himself over Song Yucheng and hold him there, and he said rather rudely, “What’s so great about that bastard Xu Muzhi? Do you like him that much?”
The atmosphere around them became cold right away as soon as he uttered those words. Even Chu Rong’s gaze turned sharp. Song Yucheng tucked away the faint smile which had been on his lips.
“Brother Yucheng, I…” Li Zhao knew that he had spoken out of turn too. He pressed stubbornly on, however, and refused to apologise.
What he had said was the truth. He wanted nothing more than to spend every day by Song Yucheng’s side and not leave him, but Song Yucheng, oh Song Yucheng… Song Yucheng loved that scum of a man, Xu Muzhi.
Li Zhao grew increasingly upset the more he thought about it, and his eyes reddened as tears kept falling. He looked like a little bullied wolf cub, and not at all like a prince of the entertainment world.
“Don’t cry…” Song Yucheng could only sigh at this display of emotion. He pulled out a tissue and gave it to him. “Calm down, Li Zhao. There are some things which can’t be solved through making a fuss about it.”
“Then tell me how I can solve this.” Li Zhao was actually just a big child. He would have reacted better if Song Yucheng had been firm, but this gentleness of his made him feel even more upset. He impulsively blurted out the truth he had kept silent about for a long time. “I like you, Brother Yucheng.”
He, he’s actually confessing?!
It was not just Song Yucheng who was taken aback — Chu Rong was shocked too. He eyes Li Zhao oddly, and frowned reflexively. What Song Yucheng said in response next sent a chill across Chu Rong’s heart.
“I know. I like you too.” Song Yucheng spoke sincerely, like a good elder brother speaking indulgently to his younger brother.
He was warm to him, but his words still held rejection.
Chu Rong understood that Song Yucheng only saw Li Zhao as a younger brother. No, it was not just Li Zhao… him, too. Li Zhao was no fool either, and he understood. He also understood that Song Yucheng was giving him a way to bow out gracefully to avoid embarrassment. He could only hold Song Yucheng’s sleeve tighter in his hand, and cry harder.
He really was still a child! Song Yucheng shook his head and let him cry all he wanted. He waited for Li Zhao to tire himself out with crying, then walked him over to the Li family car which had come to pick Li Zhao up.
He’d finally sent him off. Song Yucheng let out a quiet breath of relief as he watched Li Zhao leave. Soon, however, he was hugged from behind by another person. It was Chu Rong.
Chu Rong had grown a little taller since the last time. It was just two centimetres, but this little bit of height was enough for him to fully envelop Song Yucheng in his embrace.
“What’s this? You want to cry over me too?” Song Yucheng turned his head to meet his eyes, his gaze full of teasing. Chu Rong hugged him tighter.
“I have some notices to give when I go back. Can I come look for you after I’m done with them?” Chu Rong’s voice was all gloomy, a little reluctant, and a little sad.
“Sure.” Song Yucheng relaxed when he saw that he was calm. He had already gone through the experience of having four youngsters cry over him, so having an obedient little one cling to him like this was like having an angel visit him. Song Yucheng had the patience to deal with him because of this.
Chu Rong let him go reluctantly after about ten minutes, and watched as he got into the taxi to go home.
He returned to his private van when he lost sight of Song Yucheng. His obedient self which he had shown Song Yucheng earlier faded away, and a trace of indescribable depth marred the usual warmth he had.
“What are your plans?” Chu Rong’s cousin was in the van, and he knew full well what his little cousin was like. He obviously had feelings for Song Yucheng. His cousin didn’t mind Song Yucheng’s background, and he was quite respectful of how he had survived on his own too, but even so he was not very optimistic about their chances.
Song Yucheng had offended Xu Muzhi terribly. It was not a problem with the Chu family protecting him, but that backer of Xu Muzhi’s had returned to China recently, and this was making him all conceited again.
More importantly, they had no grasp of that person’s temperament. If that man grew concerned about Xu Muzhi’s reputation, then Song Yucheng would be in danger.
Chu Rong also understood why his cousin was worried, but he did not care. He was definitely no match for the young Godfather backing Xu Muzhi, but the Chu family was not useless like Xu Muzhi, who had to rely on sucking up to another person to live.
The only thing Chu Rong was worried about was the feelings Song Yucheng had for Xu Muzhi.
After all, how could a person like Song Yucheng let scum like Xu Muzhi step all over him if he did not love him deeply?
But how was that trash of a human being, Xu Muzhi, deserving of Song Yucheng’s deep love? Chu Rong recalled the way Song Yucheng had acted, like an indulgent elder brother, and an idea popped up in his head.
Chu Rong felt that he had not enough power right now, and could only slowly plan things out. However, Xu Muzhi could not afford to wait. His constant machinations to cause pain for Song Yucheng was whittling away the love he had for him till there would eventually be nothing left. When that happened, that would be the best time for Chu Rong to take his place.
And he had lots of patience.
Meanwhile, Song Yucheng had arrived home with his luggage. He had not even had time to clean up when he received a text message from a very familiar phone number.
Xu Muzhi: Tomorrow night, nine. I’ll wait for you in the ocean-blue suite on the top floor.
The ocean-blue suite on the top floor? Song Yucheng couldn’t help raising his eyebrows. This place was where Xu Muzhi always had someone to tutor the old Song Yucheng. It was where he had gone for lessons, to learn how to be a better substitute, to learn how to be a plaything. And this time, it was probably because Xu Muzhi wanted to give him a good dressing down.
But it was also about time to go meet this “master” of his. He was going to cuckold his man after all, so he should go and admire the fruit of his victory.
Song Yucheng opened his wardrobe slowly with that thought in mind, and started to pick his clothes carefully.
The next day, Xu Muzhi was already waiting when Song Yucheng arrived at the ocean-blue suite. He had a smile on his face, but there was no hiding the sinister glint in his eyes.
Based on how things normally went, some show of force was to be expected. However, Xu Muzhi did not seem to have those sort of intentions.
Song Yucheng did not understand it at first, but information from the old Song Yucheng’s memories soon surfaced in his head, and his eyes lit up. He remembered something about a very interesting setting in the system of this world.
This world was very strict about the protection of minors. Sexual relations with minors was absolutely not allowed. So if this was the case, then it was very interesting indeed. Song Yucheng curved his lips up in a smile, and his gaze on Xu Muzhi turned meaningful.
It was not like the last time, when they had talked over the phone. They were standing face-to-face now. Song Yucheng observed Xu Muzhi, and found to his surprise that Xu Muzhi had quite a handsome face; it was, to Song Yucheng’s eyes, the type of face which called for bullying.
Oh, this was going to be exciting.