“He’s the one standing and talking.” Xu Muzhi kept his head down. He felt even more suffocated by the powerful aura hidden under the young man’s calm after he had spoken.
Fortunately, the young man’s attention soon went to the live broadcast, away from Xu Muzhi.
The screen showed Song Yucheng lying on a chaise lounge, arranging something methodically. He was not lifting a finger either — he was just watching, and making casual remarks, and the others marched to his orders. Chu Rong and Li Zhao, the eldest of the group, stayed constantly by his side and even those two girls were tending to his needs; they even fetched water and set it next to him.
A scene like those would normally draw tons of flak, but this was Song Yucheng. This person gave one a strange feeling that this arrogance was simply natural.
Still, Song Yucheng could not lie still for over three minutes though the others were willing to take such good care of him.
It was not just him. Of all the youngsters, only Chu Rong could be said to do good work. The others, like Li Zhao, were not really reliable though they were enthusiastic. They kept making mistakes and were pretty much useless.
Song Yucheng finally could not take it anymore and put his glass down. He stood up and walked a circle around the courtyard. He went about slapping youngsters upside the back of their heads and said in disgust, “Move aside!”
“You’re so stupid!”
“Put that down! I’ll do it!”
And he took their work into his own hands.
The youngsters who had been scolded were not angry at all. Instead, they drew close to his side with smiling faces, and called him “Brother Yucheng” very intimately. People who did not know about their relationships would have thought that they were actual siblings.
The young man saw all of this, and a rare show of amusement appeared in his eyes.
His attention had been captured by Song Yucheng the moment he had accessed the livestream. It was not just because of Song Yucheng’s above average looks and personality, but his easy skill in doing things.
The way he teased these youngsters, and the indulgence which leaked out once in a while, coupled with the attitude of someone who had everything under control… This was obviously because he had some hidden trump card and insider information to back his confidence up. How was this the behaviour of a plaything?
Parasitic flowers which needed an outside source to survive would definitely not have this sort of natural poise of the strong.
This Song Yucheng was really quite interesting.
Based on what he saw, the young man could confirm that this guesthouse of Song Yucheng’s was not as simple as it seemed. There must be some secret hidden behind it. Those people slinging insults at Song Yucheng on the bullet screen now were likely going to have a sound face-slapping later.
At that thought, he spoke to Xu Muzhi again. “You’re very stupid, but you have a good eye. It’s unfortunate that this Song Yucheng is so blind.”
So did this mean that Song Yucheng was blind for loving him? Xu Muzhi’s eyes widened. He felt quite sick.
That damned boy was a pet he had picked up randomly to play around with. If it hadn’t been for him back then, Song Yucheng would have been forced out of his home by his relatives and made to roam the streets. He could have ended up digging through garbage for food. It was him who had helped Song Yucheng get his house back. It was him who had hired tutors to teach him etiquette, given him knowledge, and him who had raised him to be who he was today. And now this young man here had evaluated Song Yucheng and said that he had been lucky to meet Song Yucheng? And that Song Yucheng had been blind to fall in love with him?
Did he hear wrong?
Great humiliation and embarrassment turned Xu Muzhi’s expression sour instantly. However, the young man was a person who meant just what he said. Xu Muzhi had no power to retort, and could only stand there with a smile on his face for the whole thing. He felt like he had never, in all his years, been so stupid and cowardly.
What made him most embarrassed was the situation being shown over the livestream.
The situation was actually taking a turn.
There was no need for emergency public relations measure, nor need for hired yes-men to change the public opinion. Song Yucheng only needed facts to shut the mouths of all those people insulting him, and give those doubters a hard slap across their faces!
Those keyboard warriors would never, not in a million years and not even if they expanded the last iota of their brains, imagine that Song Yucheng’s guesthouse would actually be hiding such a miracle.
This was probably what the people of ancient times meant when they talked about “returning to nature”.
Fast forward ten minutes.
Chu Rong’s fan club president got out of her transport and was stunned by what met her eyes.
The peaceful village had beautiful scenery and an honest countryside charm. The coziness which she saw was all real, and not fake at all. Song Yucheng had his group had also changed into special clothing to welcome their very first guest.
They were wearing traditional ancient Chinese clothing.
People could tell that the clothing had been made in a hurry and that the stitching was not fine enough in some places, but it still conveyed the feeling of idyllic charm, of “returning to nature”, beautifully. The raw woven fabric was dyed simply with the basic of indigo-dyeing, but it lent a certain elegance to the ensemble.
This elegance was not that of lofty aristocracy, but of a young lady of a minor house. The clothing complemented the skin of the young men and women, and the sight of them standing in a row in the courtyard to welcome their guest was quite a beautiful sight indeed.
As for the building, it had been renovated to become quite comfortable. The simplest materials had been used for the most artistic result. The rough finished work did nothing to diminish its elegance, and even brought a more homely and sincere feel to the place. The straw and rattan were naturally cooling too, and they helped keep the heat of summer away. What remained to the eyes was just comfort. She just needed a cup of cool tea and some tasty snacks to enjoy a perfect afternoon.
To sum it up, for a house like this, it was pure enjoyment in itself to just stand on the threshold and soak in the atmosphere.
The events later, which Li Zhao and the others had prepared with great care, were even more interesting. Li Zhao and the older youngsters brought the fan club president to the water to catch fish, and to the fields to pick vegetables. They didn’t leave the chicken nest they’d stumbled across alone either. They tried to get at the eggs in the nest and only gave up when the protective mother hen pecked them twice.
What they had collected were all ingredients for dinner that night. Song Yucheng’s guesthouse had no set menu — you had to collect ingredients for the dishes you wanted to eat. There was no need to worry that the young hired housewives would not be able to handle the cooking in the kitchen either. These women’s ancestors had lived life after life in this village and they knew every ingredient in the region like the back of their hands. Even the simplest stir-fried vegetables could be turned into a refreshing dish.
What was most delightful was that these cooks did not hide away at all. As long as the person did not mind, the kitchen could very well be the most lively place in the lodging.
Summer days were always longer, so the sun had not set at six. A small column of smoke rose from the little chimney of the cooking stove.
The young housewives speaking in the local dialect, the group of youngsters doing work riddled with mistakes and being all boisterous while they were at it… They made a big fuss when they found an oddly-shaped potato, and they made another big fuss when they touched the fish in the small pail.
Cheer and laughter filled the lodging. There was no trace of the standoffishness of big hotels, and even if their lunch was halfway done, they could just talk to the big sisters in charge of cooking when they had any last-minute ideas, and the big sisters would make it happen.
The final delectable dish was served. The natural fresh sweetness of the dish had no need of any complicated food processing to conquer a person’s taste buds.
After the meal was rest time, and the just-gathered mulberries in the courtyard and cherries picked from the backyard were the best things to snack on.
These two fruits, however, were just the most basic of snacks. What Song Yucheng had designed was an astounding simulation of a lifestyle. You could enjoy your whole day as a person dressed in ancient traditional garb if you wanted, and living like one too. Even the clothing was readily available.
In the words of Song Yucheng’s fans, he was an endless treasure. You’d never know just how truly amazing the breadth of his talents were.
It was not just indigo-dyeing — Song Yucheng was proficient in the relatively niche technique of cherry blossom dyeing too.
The white gauze squeezed the most natural hue from the pale pink petals. Under Song Yucheng’s masterful design, the simplest muslin skirt, too, was able to bring out the richness of the flowers with just a few trimmings.
The two girls’ were quite skillful in decoration too. Straw and cherry tree twigs were made into hairpins, light and delicate. The beautiful fabric flowers and refined colour of the headband completed the look of a girl from ancient times in traditional clothing. And in this village, it was not so out of the ordinary to be dressed like this. Everyone was quite used to it, and would even give kind words of praise like “What a pretty young lady”.
“This place is awesome!” The fan club president stood on the footpath between paddy fields with her camera in hand, enjoying all that she saw and experienced. She felt like everything she had experience so far was deeply engrossing.
The netizens watching the live broadcast, too, were of similar mind.
“It is so pretty! 1,000 is totally worth it.”
“Yeah! Just the traditional clothing and accessories alone are quite worth it. I heard them say that you can take this set of clothing home with you after your stay, right? This is cherry blossom dyeing! Custom-made traditional clothing like this is which is not for show is worth hundreds.”
“The food is good too. Did you see the dishes they had last night? That there is the true village flavour! Watching that made me drool.”
“Dang it… I came here to scold people but I’m getting all this brainwashing shoved in my face now. I actually want to spend money and go play too!”
“You’re not alone in that.”
As time went on, more and more netizens were drawn to the guesthouse Song Yucheng designed, and the theme of the guesthouse was introduced in detail to the viewers — ‘Immerse yourself in the quintessence of national culture’.
Traditional clothing, willow weaving, straw weaving, indigo-dyeing, and cherry blossom dyeing were all common folk crafts of ancient times. With the rise of technology, however, the work done manually by craftsmen had been gradually replaced by machines and these skills slowly became a minority of the skillset of the populace.
The recipes passed down to the young housewives of the village were what surprised people the most.
They lived in this village all year round and were used to being self-sufficient, but their quiet, ordinary lives did not weaken their view of the world; they seemed to be more wise and resourceful. Add Song Yucheng’s out-the-box thinking to the mix, and there was nothing they couldn’t make.
A simple oven was used to produce Chinese pastries.
Oily pastry and various fruits collided with fresh flowers to bring out the most elite feast for the taste buds. At dinner, the warm-hearted villagers also served up a specialty smorgasbord of steamed bread in various patterns. There were so many beautiful steamed buns — made just with a chopstick, a comb, and a pair of scissors.
This wasn’t just food anymore. It was art.
It wasn’t just the fan club president whose eyes bugged in awe; even the people watching the livestream were entirely engrossed in it. The people throwing out insults too, could not find a negative word to say when they saw that. What’s more, the people who had been wavering over their decision made plans to have a holiday where they could just pack and go.
Oh, to leave the hustle and bustle of the city, to forget the pressures of relationships and life; to cross mountains and rivers to some to this village and soak in a day of leisure.
Even if it was just to “rough it” and see the views, the satisfaction to be got was priceless.
Living like this was a true holiday after all, and something people longed for.
Now, the line was not quiet when the production crew put up their contact number again. The phone was ringing off the hook in just a few minutes. Li Zhao, who was in charge of handling calls, was up to his ears in work. Song Yucheng finally took over and stated that they were only going to take ten guests in total, and that he would accept the top ten.
A piece of bad news hit them like a bolt out of the blue just when they were ready to decide on who the next guest would be.
The head office governing internet activities had issued an order to ask that “Swapping Lives” stop their broadcast and reform the programme immediately. As for the reason, it was, of course, involving the problems due to the actions of celebrities and the illegal operation of a guesthouse.
As the viewers stared at what was happening on their screens, the production crew had not even had time to shut off the livestream when the local policemen came to their door.
“Hello. We have some questions about a situation which we need a Song Yucheng and a Chu Rong to clarify.”