What was going on here?
Chu Rong was stunned. An unexplainable anger soon consumed his thoughts.
He had been so worried on his way here, worried that something bad had happened to Song Yucheng, but here he was, doing something intimate with his cameraman in front of everyone. How could he be so…
Several thoughts circled about in Chu Rong’s head, but he could not find the right words to form them.
But when he walked closer to them, Chu Rong couldn’t help perking up at what he saw, because he discovered that the cameraman was not holding Song Yucheng like a lover. He was just supporting him because he had been so tired that he could hold on no longer.
Song Yucheng’s wet hair stuck to the sides of his face, and he looked like he had been pulled out of the water. However, his weak state did not diminish his charisma. That calm and composed way he held himself, like he had everything in the palm of his hand, was exceptionally attractive on this night.
It also had this extraordinary effect of rousing a particularly abusive desire to break him.
Chu Rong was dazzled and he said nothing for a while. A strange anxiousness flashed in his usually gentle eyes.
However, Song Yucheng raised his head when he heard footsteps approaching and met his eyes. His unfocused gaze landed on him, and he lifted his lips in a slow smile. “I’m back.”
Perhaps it was because of his exhaustion, but Song Yucheng had completely forgotten to disguise his smile. The smile he gave Chu Rong was the same smile he had when he had invited him over to have noodles. Also, maybe it was because he was too weak, but Song Yucheng’s soft voice, that voice which spoke of pampering, thickened with meaning and beckoned intoxicatingly to him.
Chu Rong’s heart thumped. The aching from the depths of his heart rose up, and spread about his being instantly. Even his breathing grew a little more hurried. He took notice of nothing else, and stepped forward quickly to take Song Yucheng from the cameraman’s arms. He put him on his back straight away when he found that Song Yucheng had no strength to walk back.
“There’s still quite a distance to go. Put me down. I’ll be fine after a short rest.” Song Yucheng made a small protest. He had walked this path in the day, so he knew how tough it would get later. It was night now too, so it was already pretty good if Chu Rong could make it back himself. He would find it tough indeed with him on his back.
However, Chu Rong pursed his lips and stubbornly refused to speak, but his steps quickened.
So was he pouting because he thought he was being belittled? Song Yucheng couldn’t help a low laugh. This laugh was a little raspier than his usual clear voice, but it was all the more alluring for it.
Chu Rong heard his laugh and he furrowed his brow. Before he could say anything, he was interrupted by Song Yucheng’s next move.
Song Yucheng handed him all his earnings of the day.
“You…” Chu Rong twisted around to look Song Yucheng in the eye with disbelief when he saw the wad of money which had appeared all of a sudden in front of him. He had already been very surprised when Song Yucheng had managed to make 170 yuan in a morning. He had actually earned even more this time! Chu Rong abruptly felt like Song Yucheng and he were not participants in the same programme at all.
Song Yucheng did not avoid him either, and he let him watch as he counted the money. He put the money in Chu Rong’s jacket pocket after he counted it all.
“How did you do it?” Chu Rong was dying of curiosity.
“Wanna guess?” Song Yucheng smiled teasingly at him with his wicked eyes, till Chu Rong started to get a little anxious, then said, “I’m skilled! The county townspeople were quite generous too. I just did one job and I got the money easily. Am I awesome, or am I awesome?”
“You…” Chu Rong was at a loss for words. He was so annoyed by his nonsense that he stopped in his tracks. He fell silent in the next second, and his spirits sank.
Chu Rong abruptly recalled what Li Zhao had said when they had first met Song Yucheng. Li Zhao had said that Song Yucheng was Xu Muzhi’s plaything. So was Song Yucheng so self-deprecating because he was overly conscious of this? Chu Rong already found it unbearable but the added guilt made it even more clueless about how to express himself, and he looked at Song Yucheng for quite a while, at a loss as to what to say.
Up close to him, the young man’s clear eyes were writ with apology and remorse, like a shamed kitty cat, helpless, with its ears flattened. His gaze of grief was so adorable it melted his heart. Song Yucheng saw this and could not bear to tease him, so he quickly soothed him. “Okay, okay, sorry. I went to the county town today and made a wedding dress for a big sister who is going to get married. Stop making that face. Don’t worry, I won’t let you starve, hm?”
He raised his hand weakly and pinched Chu Rong’s face. Song Yucheng gave Chu Rong a brief description of what had happened over the course of the day, but avoided talking about the part in the middle where he had had difficulty. Chu Rong was no fool, however, and he knew how tough the walk had been on Song Yucheng. He had only walked half an hour out of the village and already felt pain in the soles of his feet, so how tired must Song Yucheng be, when he had walked all the way to the county town, made clothes, and come back?
Emotions roiled about in Chu Rong’s heart as Song Yucheng talked and talked… and fell asleep. This was a young body, but he had laboured for so long that he had pushed it to the limit.
Chu Rong heard a steady breathing in his ear, and he turned his head subconsciously to see Song Yucheng in exhausted sleep. He quickly and carefully made his steps lighter, and more steady, afraid that he would wake him up.
Meanwhile, Song Yucheng’s cameraman drew close too, and spoke quietly to Chu Rong in detail about the things Song Yucheng had done since they had started the filming. The rims of Chu Rong’s eyes reddened as he listened, and the softest depths of his heart was struck.
He wanted very much to know what the upper limits of Song Yucheng’s kindness towards others were.
The paths travelled by night were most difficult, and with a person on his back, it was past eleven when Chu Rong returned to the village. He saw Li Zhao and the others in the doorway of the lodging, looking anxious as heck. They were surprised to see Song Yucheng on Chu Rong’s back.
“What’s going on here? Should we call for a doctor?” Li Zhao was in a panic. Chu Rong had gone out to look for Song Yucheng because he had not come back when it was so late, and the two of them had not come back for quite some time, so he knew that something must have happened. He’d never expected that it would be so serious though. Song Yucheng was actually finding it difficult to stand. Just where was he injured?
The other three were also in a panic. Only Chu Rong remained calm. He signalled for them to quiet down and said in a low voice, “It’s fine. He’s just sleeping because he’s too tired. Li Zhao, go with your cameraman to the directors to get some medicine from them. Somebody go heat up some water. You two girls, please have the beds made. Hurry.”
After a lot of busying about for about 30 minutes, things settled somewhat. All through this time, however, Song Yucheng woke not once; his strength had been thoroughly spent.
It was late at night now, but Chu Rong and the others were not of a mind to sleep; they kept watch by Song Yucheng’s bedside. Under the weak lamp light, Chu Rong lifted Song Yucheng’s hand and everyone involuntarily covered their mouths.
Song Yucheng’s perfect fingers and palms now had eye-piercing blisters. After his shoes and socks were removed, they found that his feet were bleeding from excessive friction. Just looking at them made them wince in sympathy.
“Who the hell did this!” Li Zhao was outraged. He thought that the directors had given Song Yucheng a tough time, and he wanted to talk some reason into people in his hotheadedness.
“Stop!” Chu Rong hurriedly yelled for him to stop, then spoke with a heavy heart. He told Li Zhao and the others of all the things Song Yucheng had done to take good care of them.
“N, No way!” Li Zhao and the others were stunned. They all looked at each other, unsure of how to react to what they had heard.
Who would have thought that the first meal they had had in the county town was the fruit of the labour Song Yucheng had done under the sun, wicker weaving. The first small fortune they had made was also the result of Song Yucheng’s painstaking efforts to give them an opportunity, and not help that was given by the production crew. The kind-hearted landlady had given them food because she had been instructed to by Song Yucheng. Even now, Song Yucheng had extended his last bit of strength and walked for seven hours on top of entreating someone to entrust him with a job, all in exchange for stability for them for the coming month.
Silence enveloped all of them at once, and a terrible guilt rose in their hearts.
Li Zhao and the others felt like they were the true useless ones when compared to Song Yucheng. Just thinking about his background made a sourness sting them so badly they could not speak.
Song Yucheng had truly suffered.
They were all the pampered children of their families, but Song Yucheng was a plaything created by Xu Muzhi, a thing with a clearly marked price in certain circles. Song Yucheng had also been given a script too, and he could only act as it dictated, his original personality disregarded; he had no freedom to act independently. Even then, he had painstakingly taken care of each and every one of them. The care he had shown them was equal, if not more than care for a sibling.
In contrast, the five of them had enjoyed Song Yucheng’s care of them and taken it for granted on top of complaining about him all the time. What utter ungrateful pricks they had been, to have not recognised his good intentions!
They would have had nothing to eat in the small county town if it had not been for Song Yucheng.
Now, looking at the wounds on Song Yucheng’s hands and feet, and the money Chu Rong had placed on the bedside table, the four youngsters flushed red and were at a loss for words. Li Zhao felt like cutting his mouth for all the things he had said, and the two girls had cried so much that they had gone silent.
“It’s better for us to split up. We still have work to do tomorrow. I’ll keep watch here.” Seeing that they had understood the situation, Chu Rong did not keep them and continued treating Song Yucheng’s wounds. Only his tightly pursed lips and the red rims of his eyes showed that his heart was not calm at all.
Li Zhao and the others sensed the mood and knew that now was not a good time to talk. It was late, and Song Yucheng needed rest too. It was best if they left.
The youngsters departed quietly, and each returned to his or her bed to sleep. Even so, it was the worst night that Chu Rong and his group had to bear, and the most uncomfortable.
All of them tossed and turned, and did not know what expression to put on their faces when they spoke to Song Yucheng in the morning. They did not know how they were going to apologise enough for it to be sincere either.
At three in the morning, when everyone was asleep, Chu Rong got out of bed quietly and went to the other end of the village to seek out the directors. He asked for his mobile phone from them, saying that he wanted to contact his family.
It went against the rules of the programme, but Chu Rong’s status was special so the directors did not dare say anything about it. Chu Rong’s phone was quickly found and handed to him.
“Thanks.” Chu Rong took his phone, turned around, and left.
Chu Rong’s phone call actually went to his elder cousin. It was very late at night, but he was not worried that his night-owl cousin would be asleep. Sure enough, the call was picked up after only two rings. Chu Rong’s first question was about Song Yucheng.
“Why are you interested in him?” Chu Rong’s cousin was immediately disgusted when Song Yucheng was mentioned.
Everyone in Beijing knew about the crap that Xu Muzhi was doing. The Chu family was already showing him respect for their long-term relations when they had not cut ties with him in public. The Chu family would not have tolerated one who lusted after their heir, and created several substitutes otherwise.
“Don’t say that.” Chu Rong could hear his cousin’s bad opinion on Song Yucheng, and he subconsciously rebutted, “He is different from what they say about him. I want to know more details about certain things. I remember I’d asked you to get someone to investigate, right? So what is the result of that? Also, do you know what is up with that article in the morning paper about a fire in a villa? Give me all the details.”
“Just go film your programme. Why are you bothering with all of these? Hey, lil’ Rong, don’t get tricked. A plaything like Song Yucheng is the most insincere.” Chu Rong’s cousin gave him a warning when he sensed that he had some good feelings towards Song Yucheng. He did not oppose his wishes though, and quickly found the results of the investigation.
His favourite little cousin was going on a programme where Xu Muzhi had placed such a person after all, so data on Song Yucheng had all been collected on Chu Rong’s cousin’s desk way before filming started for “Swapping Lives”. His assistant had read through it and said it was no problem, so Chu Rong’s cousin had not taken a proper look at it. Now that Chu Rong was asking about it, he took it out and read it again. What he read was like a slap to the face.
What “insincere plaything”! This Song Yucheng was a foolish child!
They’d thought that Song Yucheng had been with Xu Muzhi for money, but what he read said otherwise. Song Yucheng had been driven into a corner by his grasping relatives in his junior high school years, and that had been when Xu Muzhi picked him up.
Xu Muzhi, supporting him? He was obviously supporting himself. The villa he lived in was what his parents had left for him, and Xu Muzhi had only flapped his lips. The annual upkeep fees for that villa was not small either, and there was the daily expenses, living expenses and school fees to consider too. Song Yucheng had shouldered all of these expenses. What Xu Muzhi had provided was only some seemingly high-end lessons.
In actual fact, these lessons and tutors Xu Muzhi had arranged for Song Yucheng were probably the greatest burden for him. These additions made it difficult for him to earn money, and also increased his workload on the studies front. This was simply not advantageous at all. Song Yucheng being able to bear it and even learn everything well was a miracle in itself.
All these were trivial. What shocked Chu Rong and his cousin the most was Song Yucheng’s specific address; they dared not believe their eyes.
Xu Muzhi was just too cruel.
If the data collected was right, that villa was the last thing Song Yucheng’s parents had left to him. Xu Muzhi was even making a move on that — it was clear that he did not intend for Song Yucheng to have any recourse. Even an outsider would be frightened just looking at this. Then what what about Song Yucheng? How had he felt when he had seen the news in the morning?
“Insane. Is he insane? How can he bear this? Why is he with that Xu Muzhi scum? It’s not like he can’t survive on his own either. Song Yucheng has what it takes to make it in the entertainment world. Just what is he doing all this for?” Chu Rong’s cousin felt his breath catch in his chest; he felt suffocated. His view of him was overturned in that instant.
Chu Rong lifted a corner of his mouth in a smile, but his eyes were ice-cold.