“What is going on here?” The fans watching the live broadcast of “Swapping Lives” were shocked at the arrival of the police.
Chu Rong, Li Zhao and the others were also shocked by this development and had no idea how to react.
“Has there been some sort of misunderstanding? This is filming for a TV programme.” The fan club president tried to put forth an explanation. Li Zhao and Chu Rong moved forward at the same time and put Song Yucheng behind them protectively.
Their vigilance made it such that the police officers could not do much. They spoke gently, explaining that they were here on official business and that there was no problem, that they would not trouble everyone.
They had mainly come over for two matters — the legality of the business, and the safety of the property. There had been a big fuss kicked up over this after all, and it had not just been one or two people over the internet who had reported this. Investigation orders coming in from the system were practically eight lengths high, and they still had to go by the book though they knew that Song Yucheng and the others were filming a programme.
“I understand. I am the person who came up with the plan for this guesthouse. You can ask me your questions.” Song Yucheng stepped forward when he saw that there was a situation. Li Zhao pulled him back in worry, but Song Yucheng looked over at him and shook his head, telling him that it was okay. He then called Chu Rong to come with him while he brought the police and the inspection experts into the lodging to get evidence.
This was the first time a turning point like this happened in the middle of an internet variety show programme. Right then, the main broadcast of the “Swapping Lives” was being flooded by the netizens who had caught wind of it, and who were gathering to watch it all play out. Those people slinging insults about on the internet followed, hoping to see how Song Yucheng and the production crew were going to be slapped in their faces.
Unfortunately for them, they had nothing to rejoice over. Instead, they were slapped silly by what happened.
Contrary to expectations, this dangerous-looking lodging the production crew had procured was actually very safe indeed; it had a safety guarantee. In the words of the experts, this lodging would still remain secure in a magnitude six or seven earthquake.
As for the shabby-looking furniture, each piece had its own unique characteristics. The point was, that unlike regular home furnishing, these pieces of furniture were free of the usual problems like excessive formaldehyde due to Song Yucheng’s use of all natural materials.
All of the materials in the lodging, with the exception of the small pieces made of rattan or straw, and the bigger pieces of furniture, were all made with ancient woodworking techniques. Even an ordinary, unremarkable stool was not put together with nails or glue, but with woodworking joints.
These skill was one used by senior carpenters, and not common anymore these days. It was more likely for this sort of ancient woodworking skill to still be in use in the more backward little villages.
Plus, those dyes used to dye the clothes were not artificial dyes either, but extracted from all-natural plants.
As for the question of whether the price was fair, Song Yucheng produced a list. The thousand-yuan price listed was the all-inclusive price for the entire lodging.
No matter how many people you brought to the guesthouse, they would be housed so long as there were rooms for them. Three meals a day were also included in this price, and the stove was kept at the ready all day so that you could have a meal prepared at any time you wanted.
There was a 24-hour fruit and dessert service, and the fruit juice was all freshly squeezed. The tea was all-authentic, fresh wild-grown tea.
Additionally, there was no high-level tech here, but there was still lots of entertainment.
The hills and streams behind the lodging were a natural amusement park. When dressed in traditional clothing, it made you completely immersed in the atmosphere and it was just like you had been brought back a thousand years into the past.
“I think… A thousand is really not expensive at all. This entire lodging is being rented out at 1,000 a day, so if you go in a group of three, each person would only have to pay over 300 yuan. And the atmosphere of the place, plus the service… It’s like heaven.”
“Yeah! In all fairness, I want to go too. I wonder if I can still put my name down for it with all this fuss happening.”
“So what? They’re conducting illegal business.”
“Those youngsters started doing this for the show. They just need the audience to cooperate with them.”
“Sure, cooperate. It’s so damn far away and the guesthouse has no easy transport. Is the production crew going to take responsibility if something goes wrong?”
Arguments started up again. It was not just a one-sided fight this time — the main broadcast, Weibo and a few online forums were all being occupied by keyboard warriors and paid posters.
People who stepped forward to defend Song Yucheng and Chu Rong were branded as brainless, brainwashed fans. Pictures from the livestream were also analysed by so-called “tech experts”, who said that it was so beautiful only because of filters. They said that people would see filth and ugliness if the filters were removed.
However, these were all just temporary. On the livestream screen, Song Yucheng went into his room and brought out a small box. He opened the box and everyone was rendered speechless.
He actually had a licence for this! And this sort of permit was not something that Song Yucheng or the other youngsters could apply for under their own names — it had to be done by the owner of the property.
What was even more outrageous was that even the housewives who were preparing food for them had health and hygiene certification. The vegetables they used, too, were all certified as organic, pesticide-free produce.
“How’s this possible?” Everyone was gobsmacked. Soon, however, voices of doubt and retorts sprang up.
“There’s no way! I watched their live broadcast. It’s only been five, six days since they said they would start a guesthouse and worked on setting it up. Also, licences would normally take at least a month, even through the most direct processes. How did they do it?”
“It has to be fake! The media takes us for fools these days; it is true just because they say it is. Do they think that everyone is as lacking in common sense as those brainwashed fans?”
The relevant evidence was soon made public and it shut the naysayers up once more.
The business licence was real. It was as if it had all been arranged in advance, even before the programme started broadcasting. The relevant licence number was made public, and anyone could go to the relevant government website to check its authenticity.
“H, how… Why?” The keyboard warriors full of righteous indignation were nonplussed.
The production crew took that opportunity to explain things, and it had to do with the history of this county town and the village.
Who would have thought that this village was where the descendants of the Confucian masters of ancient times were located, and that it was also one of the first cultural heritage sites of China. With the village dialect and cuisine at its core, this seemingly backward and ordinary village was, surprisingly, able to hold on to the feel of the ancient past completely.
This was why, years ago, the owner of this place had gotten the licence for operating a guesthouse when China established a set of standards for guesthouses. Unfortunately, this place was not well known nor successful due to its remote location.
Song Yucheng, the person who came up with the plan of running a guesthouse, faced the main broadcast camera and explained his thought process. “It is better to teach a man how to fish than give him fish. This programme is titled “Swapping Lives”. Is it just a simple change in environment to experience another walk of life? Why not expand this concept and change the fate of this village too? All good things are worthy of praise after all.”
The entire livestream fell silent. All the netizens who heard him were in awe. These words of Song Yucheng were quickly made into a clip and uploaded to the internet.
The people on the forums who had been slinging insults everywhere and saying the production crew was just acting all fell silent.
They could doubt the validity of the guesthouse business licence, and they could insult the production crew and Song Yucheng and Chu Rong for getting their fans to turn huge profits for them… But they could not and dared not take their culture and the history of their ancestors lightly.
Everyone knew the meaning of cultural heritage, and understood what it meant. It represented national identity on the verge of disappearing, and every bit of cultural heritage was a treasure worth cherishing.
“I think all those people spewing insults should apologise to Song Yucheng. I don’t know about you, but I would never have this sort of thinking at 17, nor the talent or skill.”
“Narrow-minded people can only see darkness in their blindness. I just hope that people will remember to take their brains along the next time they decide to ride some hate wave.”
“Pfft. As if they would realise that they were wrong. They’re standing on the side of ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ after all. They were just afraid of everyone else getting scammed!”
“Heh. A bunch of so-called mature adults. They’re just moving their fingers and hiding behind their screens while letting their malicious thoughts loose on the good intentions of others. They’re evaluating the situation with ill intent and passing judgement on everything. Compared to Songsong, these guys are the real losers.”
The fans of “Swapping Lives”, who had been pressed into silence, finally found their chance to fight back. The keyboard warriors, who had still been insulting others a second ago, now found themselves the subject of ridicule, and helpless to retort.
It was useless. Song Yucheng’s slap in their faces was too powerful, and their faces were all swollen. These people would probably stop chatting in the forums soon, since their faces were hurting so much.
The crisis had only presented itself for a day, and it dissipated on its own. In Beijing, Xu Muzhi was shocked by the development in the situation. He had heard from many of Song Yucheng’s tutors that he was very clever, but he had no idea of the degree of his cleverness, and how capable he was till this day.
Did Song Yucheng already know about this village, or was it a coincidence? Xu Muzhi could not wrap his head around it; he finally decided to categorise this as a coincidence.
Even the programme producers had not known about the history of this village. He remembered clearly that this place had been chosen only because it was poor when the plans for the fourth season were submitted.
However, the eyes of the young man next to him grew even more distant, and cold. He had known that Xu Muzhi was stupid, but he had not expected that Xu Muzhi would become stupider than he was two years ago.
Song Yucheng’s idea to run a guesthouse had been planned; it was not a coincidence. He had been careful when he was modifying the house, and had not changed the layout of the place. He had only put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and kept everything else as it was. This was proof that Song Yucheng knew that this place had a history, and was a remnant of the past. And when the policemen had requested an inspection, he had been calm. That response proved his confidence in the plan; it was seamless.
So just what did a person like Song Yucheng see in a man like Xu Muzhi? It couldn’t be that he wanted to get himself a moron to balance himself out because he was so smart, could it?
The young man frowned. He suddenly felt like Xu Muzhi, standing behind him, was so stupid that it hurt to look at him.
He stood up and walked to the doorway, and motioned for Xu Muzhi not to follow him. He called his own aide over and gave an order. “Go investigate those paid posters who were trying to guide the public opinion to a negative slant, and the gossip magazines which started these rumours too. Notify the legal department when you’ve found the perpetrators and tell them to follow official procedures. If others can report this to the police and to the authorities governing internet activities, then we cannot just stand still and let them hit us.” He left with his men.
Xu Muzhi grew even more apprehensive. He felt that that last look that the young man had given him had some disgust hidden in it.
The programme, “Swapping Lives” was trending once again. It was well and truly the number one variety show of the people now. The village where it was being filmed shot to fame too, and there was no doubt that future developments in this place would go smoothly thanks to this.
As for Song Yucheng, Chu Rong, and the youngsters, they had also become a hot topic on the internet.
Everyone was stunned when the viewership statistics of the second-last week were released.
10%. This was the highest viewership percentage for a variety programme for the past fifty years. The last programme to hit this percentage was a newscast.
This was definitely a miracle!
“Swapping Lives” was being streamed over the internet, and the television broadcast was made of clips from the livestream. The time of the television broadcast was not in the ideal timeslot either, and it was only available at ten in the evening on a cable channel.
Even so, the programme had set a glorious record.
This was not the end of it either. The number of people watching the livestream had hit the scary number of ten million on the day before the official end of the programme broadcast.
The production crew were also very excited by the results. They made the first exception in all four seasons of the programme and gave the youngsters a reward.
The production crew provided them with a mobile phone and allowed them the opportunity to contact their families; each person had five minutes.
Even Li Zhao was a little excited by this.
They had been away from their families for a month and a half, and had been forced to be independent. They had suffered, been wronged, and had been only able to rely on each other for consolation. The hard physical labour they did every day had thinned them, but experience had taught them to be unflustered. When they heard the word ‘parents’ though, their eyes reddened.
“Let Brother Yucheng make the first call,” suggested one of the girls. Song Yucheng had expanded the most energy on the programme since it aired, taking care of them and earning money while at it. They had not even had the time to have a good meal in the beginning. If it had not been for Song Yucheng, Chu Rong and his group would probably not be able to bear a single day. The girl’s suggestion was met with approval as soon as she spoke of it.
Song Yucheng, on the other hand, had no intention of making any calls.
“Go on, Brother Yucheng!” The other girl thought that Song Yucheng was embarrassed to make the first call, so she moved in close and shoved the phone in his hand.
She had some measure of Song Yucheng’s temper through their many interactions, and she knew that he saw her as a younger sister, so she acted as intimately as a sibling would with him. The other young man also encouraged him. “Don’t be embarrassed, Brother Yucheng. You must miss your parents very much after spending so much time away from them. Quick, give Auntie and Uncle a call. It will be easier for us to make our calls if you go first. You have worked really hard to take care of us this past month and a half.”
The three of them all looked expectantly at Song Yucheng but he did not budge.
And standing next to them was Li Zhao, who knew some insider information, stopped smiling right away and grew pale. Chu Rong’s heart sank.
Miss his parents? Was this some sort of meanest joke of all time?
Song Yucheng’s parents were long dead, and even the house he had worked so hard to keep had been half burnt away days ago.
For a person like him… Just who was he going to make this call to?