Song Yucheng got to his feet after Li Zhao and the others were done eating and left the courtyard to find work. He did some light cleaning up, changed his clothes and went out the door.
He bought two stuffed buns and a plain one from a little hawker stand, and threw the stuffed buns casually to the cameraman, saying, “Greasy.” He then held the bag with the plain bun in his hand and took bites out of it as he walked.
It was not good for a person’s image to eat while on the go, but there was nothing inelegant about it when Song Yucheng did it; he seemed quite carefree. The meaning behind the action of tossing stuffed buns to the cameraman did not escape the cameraman’s close observation.
The cameraman was almost certain that Song Yucheng was a truly kind-hearted young man. Those barbed words he threw out, and that haughty attitude were just things he had to do for the script. In fact, if you got past the thick shell of his outward personality, you would find that the soul within was actually very kind.
Plus, he was just a cameraman. It was common for folk like him to not have the time to eat the whole day if things got busy. Why did Song Yucheng need to make up such an excuse to give him something to eat?
These two stuffed buns were not expensive, but it had not been easy for Song Yucheng to make the money to afford these.
At that thought, the cameraman looked at the stuffed buns in his hand and found himself at a loss for words.
And this time, the viewers of Song Yucheng’s individual livestream detected something amiss. However, Song Yucheng had made too many bad impressions on them, and they did not react right away when they sensed something amiss. Instead, they interpreted his actions as him being pretentious.
“Even a meat bun is too greasy for him? I’d like to know what exotic delicacies he usually eats!”
This sort of discussion was what Song Yucheng had been hoping for. He had set the bait, and it was now time to reel it in.
As a lawyer in the real world, Song Yucheng had experienced cases of all sorts and seen people of all kinds.
People like Li Zhao knew to express themselves and demand things. In fact, those who seem fierce on the surface, but would work hard to give to others even if it hurt themselves were the sort who people would most want to hold in an embrace and love.
And Song Yucheng had planned to act out a “vile supporting character” like this. He would act as instructed in the script the production crew had given him, but what the people saw, and what result came of his plan, would have to depend on his technique and skill in acting.
The old Song Yucheng has been driven onto the road of despair by these netizens, so the new Song Yucheng was going to use the public’s opinion to paint himself as a noble and benevolent character, to make it fair to the old Song Yucheng.
The plain bun in his hand became extra tasty at that thought. He had arrived at the foot of the mountains behind the town when he finished the plain bun, and he went to the stream to pick a large bundle of sabai grass from its banks.
“What are you going to use these for?” asked the cameraman curiously.
Song Yucheng did not answer; he only glanced up at him as if to retort ‘you talk too much’. He carried the sabai grass he’d picked back to the pension lodging and sat in the coolest part of the courtyard, under the grapevine trellis.
What were Chu Rong and the other kids doing right now?
Song Yucheng took guesses at the youngsters’ situation as he worked idly with the sabai grass in his hands. He was quite certain that they must be rather dishevelled now, whether they managed to earn money or not. Song Yucheng wished, quite wickedly, that they would be in an even worse state, so that the gift he would give him later would appear even more thoughtful and just perfect for them.
He called up the system and asked about the number of people cursing him in the livestream, and couldn’t help chuckling when he heard the number 20,000.
In a few hours, he was going to make these people apologise to him for all the cursing they’d done about him in the daytime.
Song Yucheng had things all calculated fairly precisely on his end, but the others were in a terrible slump on the main live broadcast screen.
Song Yucheng’s guesses had been all too accurate, because Chu Rong and his group were indeed in a terrible state which was beyond dishevelled.
About half an hour ago, Chu Rong and his group increased their job-seeking radius because they had not been able to find jobs in the town. They’d walked till they reached a pig farm at the very outskirts of town, where they found their first job.
Cleaning out the pig stys.
These were elite, city-bred young masters and ladies who turned down their noses at low-grade pork, calling it dirty. Telling them to clean up pig stys now was no different from simply killing them.
The disgusting smell coming from the stys was enough to nauseate a person even before stepping inside, and they all stopped in their tracks in front of the pig stys. The memory of Song Yucheng’s mocking, however, spurred them on to gather their courage and not give up.
“I’ll go first! You girls wait outside.” Li Zhao was gentlemanly still. He clenched his jaw and entered, tools in hand.
Chu Rong settled the two girls down, and hurried in after him.
Never in a million years did they think that a seemingly simple job such as this could be so difficult when they actually did it. It wasn’t just the horrible smell which was making them dizzy — little piglets were running everywhere too, and they caused quite a few problems for them.
The two girls went inside in the end, and all five of them worked together, slaving away for a full three hours to finally clean it all up. All that hard work, for 20 yuan.
“Money! We earned money!” The youngsters laughed excitedly when they saw Chu Rong receive the 20 yuan from the pig farm manager.
The two girls didn’t care about getting dirty either, and they hugged each other and jumped for joy. Li Zhao and the other young man were also in a similarly excited state.
Twenty yuan was not a lot, but it was their first time earning money for themselves. It also meant that they would not be starving tonight.
Even Chu Rong sighed with relief.
“Buns! Let’s buy buns!” they yelled. They then started doing calculations for their dinner. Five people, 20 yuan… Vegetable-stuffed buns were half a yuan each, and the meat-stuffed ones were one yuan. The money they had was definitely enough to fill all their stomachs no matter how they looked at it.
The auntie selling buns thought they were adorable and gave them an extra bun with meat filling. This freebie made their spirits soar with happiness.
“I’ll throw this in Song Yucheng’s face when we get back. Ha! We can earn money too!” Li Zhao got more worked up as he spoke, and the memory of the humiliation he had suffered at noon made him eager to rush back to the pension lodging and have his revenge.
Meanwhile, Song Yucheng was still working on the sabai grass.
The beautiful young man sat under the grapevine trellis in the small courtyard, working his slender fingers nimbly to weave the sabai grass into shape. His hands shaped one delicate straw hat after another.
Downturned lashes and lips pursed in concentration… It seemed that even the breeze in the courtyard became gentle due to his focus, and he looked like a painting of tranquil peacefulness.
“Man, Song Yucheng looks so fiiiiine when he’s making stuff like that.”
“He’s like a devil. People will flock around him if he doesn’t speak, but they will want to curse at him once he opens his mouth. I’m convinced that he’s schizo. I can’t find any words to describe him.”
“My heart is weary but I can’t stop myself from watching on. Why am I such a masochist?”
The gradual sunset was accompanied by the scattered chatter of the netizens watching Song Yucheng’s livestream. Chu Rong and his group arrived at the door to the courtyard just as Song Yucheng tucked in the final bit of grass on the last straw hat he was working on.
They had come back straight after purchasing the buns, and they spotted Song Yucheng fiddling with something under the grapevine trellis right after they entered the courtyard. His handsome, serious face was as pretty as a picture and it made them pause in awe.
Chu Rong, too, could not tear his eyes away.
Song Yucheng had something about him which drew the attention of people naturally. His looks drew even more attention the crappier his personality was. If it weren’t for his potty mouth and the knowledge that he was Xu Muzhi’s plaything, people like Li Zhao would probably quickly accept and even like him after interacting with him for a longer time.
People were more forgiving of beautiful people after all, and Song Yucheng was a beautiful existence such as this.
They quickly snapped back to their senses, and the humiliation they had suffered at noon came to their thoughts once more.
“Li Zhao! You tell him!” The two girls pushed Li Zhao forward.
They had finally made money and wanted to shove the buns they had bought in Song Yucheng’s face. Li Zhao was of the same mind, and he strode towards Song Yucheng with buns in hand.
“Hey!” Li Zhao barked at Song Yucheng with a condescending look in his eyes, feeling like he was all awesome now and that he was definitely going to be able to squash Song Yucheng.
Song Yucheng looked up, and that mocking gaze of one looking at the brain-addled son of a landlord hit Li Zhao, and made him subconsciously bow his straightened shoulders.
Wh, what’s this scary feeling?
Li Zhao looked back in a panic, seeking out the others. He then discovered that aside from Chu Rong, the others were all deliberately acting like they had not noticed what was going on at his end.
His drive to show off died immediately, and he grew especially embarrassed about the bun that they’d said they would throw in Song Yucheng’s face. Li Zhao handed the bun over in embarrassment in the end, mumbling, “This is to pay you back for lunch! And this is just our leftovers from after we’ve had our fill.”
Li Zhao’s voice was loud, but there was no force behind his words. He couldn’t be blamed for that, though. Song Yucheng had made over 100 yuan in the morning after all, so their achievement of earning 20 yuan paled considerably in comparison.
What was unexpected was that Song Yucheng did not ridicule him this time; he accepted the bun very calmly.
“Only you would buy such bad and tasteless food.” Song Yucheng stood and returned to his room right after saying that, as if he was extremely disgusted and that he would be infected by their stupidity if he stayed in their company a second longer.
Wait, he got snubbed again?
Li Zhao stared at Song Yucheng’s back for while before finally coming back to his senses.
“He’s such a…” Li Zhao felt choked by his anger, and he stomped about on the spot several times. He stopped, then pointed at Song Yucheng’s window and yelled, “Just you wait, Song Yucheng! We’re going to get money, and cover the tabletop with a feast!”
His outburst was met by Song Yucheng’s soft laughs of disbelief. This made Li Zhao even madder, and he drew several buckets from water from the well to vent his anger. He watered all of the landlord’s vegetables in the courtyard before he let his anger go. To his surprise, the landlord appreciated the watering of the vegetables, and offered them stewed meat and a bowl of mung bean soup for each of them as thanks.
Good food is always the best thing for a person down in the dumps, and on this summer night they had fresh, juicy buns coupled with the tasty stewed meat, which they chased down with cool and refreshing mung bean soup. The tiredness they had all went away.
The youngsters who were upset at being unable to successfully slap Song Yucheng in the face with their success got the wind back in their sails again. Though they had only earned a small bit of money, they had still earned some! Plus, they had a pretty good dinner. This gave them more confidence, and a hope that the would definitely earn more tomorrow.
They chatted with each other, and encouraged each other, and they were soon cheery again.
The netizens watching their livestream were infected by the cheer too, and the bullet screen became quite lively.
“The young are easily satisfied. A good meal, a small target met, and they can be very happy.”
“That’s why they say that young people don’t know about hardship.”
“Ah, how nice. I want to be with them too. But where did that stewed meat come from? I don’t remember the landlords in the previous seasons giving the contestants meals.”
“Who knows? That’s not important.”
“True.” The small suspicion was quickly forgotten by the netizens. Those who had watched Song Yucheng’s individual livestream, however, all had mixed feelings.
They knew that the stewed meat and mung bean soup had been purchased from the landlord by Song Yucheng. He had also bought his cameraman a bowl of noodles while making that purchase.
He had said the usual rude thing, that he was “just pitying the poor suckers who have to buy mostly vegetable-stuffed buns”, but no one called him ‘loathsome’ or ‘arrogant’ this time. Instead, they started to reflect on their opinions of Song Yucheng, and wonder if they had grossly misunderstood him due to their own one-sided views and exaggerated perceptions of him.
~ Back to half an hour ago, when Song Yucheng had walked away from Li Zhao ~
Song Yucheng returned to his room, but he did not sit and rest right away. He stood carefully by his window and peered out at the others in the courtyard.
He waited till he saw the landlord send over the stewed meat and mung bean soup as a “reward” for watering the vegetables, then seemed to let out a sigh of relief. A smile came subconsciously to his lips. When he noticed the camera pointed at him, however, that smile was quickly curbed.
“Why do you have to make up such an excuse to help the others get more food?” The cameraman thought over it for a long time and he couldn’t help but blurt out this question. The answer was actually clear — Song Yucheng was worried that they would not have enough to eat. But Song Yucheng stayed stubbornly to the script, and explained it by saying, “I’m just paying them back.”
“But that bun they gave you and the stewed meat you gave them is not a very balanced exchange, is it?” The cameraman responded with a piercing question.
He was finding it difficult to hold himself back now. He felt that Song Yucheng had been grievously wronged. Song Yucheng had clearly been taking care of everyone, so why did he have to suffer the blackening of his good name because of some unfortunate script? What live broadcast? What job? All these were nothing to the cameraman now when compared to the wrongs Song Yucheng was suffering.
This was why he wanted to give Song Yucheng a chance to say everything that he wanted to say.
However, he did not expect that Song Yucheng would still follow the script and say words which fit the role, not after that short pause and that bite from the bun in his hand. But that desolate way in which he spoke made all the watching netizens’ hearts ache for him instantly.
“I have a younger brother who’s about the same age as Li Zhao, only… unlike him… he’s disabled…”