Li Zhao and the others were shocked by Song Yucheng’s actions.
“Hey! Just what are you planning to do?” They needed to work together at this time, so Li Zhao quickly stepped forward to block Song Yucheng’s way, fearing that there was something wrong with his head. However, Song Yucheng did not spare him his dignity at all.
“I haven’t had enough to eat for breakfast, so I’m going to look for more. Besides, this is money that I earned myself. I can do what I want with it.” He was as arrogant as ever. Song Yucheng turned away as soon as he was done talking, and left the lodging. He did not even have any inclination to explain himself.
The youngsters were hopping mad at that. Li Zhao, too, had no way of dealing with Song Yucheng.
He had a clumsy tongue and was impulsive, and he always came away from his interactions with Song Yucheng in a state of anger, no matter if the interaction had been reasonable or not. This was why Li Zhao was not willing to trade words with Song Yucheng after days of interaction, even if he was boiling mad inside.
He gloomily swept the top of the table, and picked up a leftover steamed cornbread. He bit into it savagely, then said to the others, “It’s about time for us to set out too! Let’s not bother about him. I don’t believe that we won’t be able to earn money without him! Didn’t we earn our own rent money while doing the previous task? Come! Let’s go out and take a look around, and look for work!”
“Yeah! Let’s go together. We will shock Song Yucheng when he comes back!”
The youngsters were all aflame with fighting spirit because of Song Yucheng’s provocation in the morning, and they went out in a group. However, Chu Rong stayed at the back of the group, feeling unsettled. He had a feeling that Song Yucheng had not gone to have breakfast, but to earn money. He just didn’t want them to know about it.
Could this be related to that newspaper? He recalled the obviously-placed article on the fire, and how Song Yucheng’s face had paled all of a sudden. This helplessness, this feeling he couldn’t grasp, made Chu Rong’s heart uneasy with a feeling that something bad was going to happen.
He did not like this feeling of not being in control. However, his circumstances now did not allow him to analyse it in detail, so he could only walk with the rest of the group.
Meanwhile, on Song Yucheng’s end, he had not gone to have breakfast after leaving the lodging. He walked through the village, and out of it.
“Where are you going?” asked the cameraman curiously.
It looked like Song Yucheng had not had a good night’s rest. He did not look good today, and seemed a little out of it. He did not answer the cameraman’s question. Even so, he wasted no time; he looked for what he wanted as he walked.
It was just that this path he was taking and the direction was unclear. It kind of looked like he was heading to the county town.
Holy crap! He’s insane! The first thoughts of the netizens watching the livestream was that Song Yucheng was being too optimistic. Even if he wanted to use his previous method of selling his handmade woven items, it was going to be impossible just based on the time needed for it.
The two times he had been successful before was because what he had was novel in the small county town. Plus, the marketplace had a good stream of people coming and going in the morning. It was different now, though. Based on the speed at which Song Yucheng walked, he would take three hours to get there. And after he got there, the market would have in all likelihood dispersed. The small county town itself did not have a population with high purchasing power, so it was very difficult to get a good amount. Also, even if he could sell that much, Song Yucheng was not going to be able to make the number of items he needed.
It was 500 yuan after all.
It looked like it truly was impossible. That was what practically everyone was thinking. However, Song Yucheng’s persistence and determination far exceeded their expectations.
1030hrs. The sun burned bright in the sky. Song Yucheng stepped quickly along the path to the county town alone, on his own. Perspiration soon dripped from his face.
Someone was keeping track of the time; he had walked for almost two hours. It was not a dirt path, but the surface of it was not even and it was still difficult to walk on it. It was also an unfamiliar road, and the ups and downs of it tired him further.
People would not normally watch a person simply walking on a road, but it was entirely different in Song Yucheng’s case. Perhaps it was his persistence and determination, or his patient endurance under that cloak of arrogance, but many did not switch to another livestream. They became more absorbed in what they were watching instead.
As he walked along that long, long road, the things in Song Yucheng’s hands increased in number. He had started with sabai grass, and turned it into a wicker basket, and more things were then added to this basket. He also put in a big bouquet of fresh, colourful flowers.
“We can basically confirm that Song Yucheng’s aim is to make money off his handicrafts!” guessed a person in the livestream comments. That comment was quickly followed by more discussion.
“But there probably won’t be enough time. What time will it be when he gets to the county town?”
“I’m not so concerned about the time. What I’m concerned about is… don’t you guys also think that Song Yucheng is already very tired?”
The livestream chat was silent in an instant.
That’s true. Song Yucheng was indeed at his limit.
They could all tell that Song Yucheng’s breathing had become short. Pearls of perspiration slipped from his forehead, and the shirt on his back was soaked, revealing his slender frame below. Even so, he had not taken a break, not even a short stop to rest his feet.
“How much further is the county town?” Someone couldn’t help asking for more information. This question was not out of frustration that the livestream was too plain and lacked detail, but out of the pain of an aching heart. Hearts ached for Song Yucheng, who had been walking for so long. Hearts ached for him, who had to suffer so.
After this comment popped up on the bullet screen, others couldn’t help expressing their displeasure at the unfairness Song Yucheng faced too.
“I feel so sorry for this child. Just what is the production crew thinking? They should be taught to endure, not tortured. What did they create all those tasks for? Are they so set on driving them all to exhaustion?”
“Speak no more of it. Just looking at him is killing me. If Song Yucheng were my younger brother, I would definitely run over there and tell them that we won’t film anymore. There is no reason to torment our precious child like this.”
“Yep. He’s just 18. That’s the age when he should be pampered by his family. It’s the summer holidays, and instead of going out to have fun, he’s here being punished in a rural town. I really can’t stand it anymore.”
The bullet screen was full of comments condemning the production crew, and meanwhile, the main live broadcast screen was exploding.
Many people had become Song Yucheng’s fans after they had watched the gossip bloggers’ video redeeming Song Yucheng’s good repute. This was why this time, there were many who were watching both the main live broadcast, and Song Yucheng’s individual livestream, and commenting on the bullet screen. Those who had felt bad for the difficulties Chu Rong and the others had faced while looking for work were even more upset on behalf of the programme participants when they heard about what Song Yucheng was going through.
To be quite honest, the guests on the previous seasons of “Swapping Lives” had all been rather not-diligent, and had needed to be re-educated through hard work in the programme. The process of them changing their mindsets step by step was quite interesting to the viewers. However, Song Yucheng and Chu Rong’s group were entirely different in this season. The six of them were all good kids. Even if they were not very used to hard work, they were still willing to work, and were clever. This was why the task which the directors had set for the youngsters now was seen as a deliberate move to make things difficult by the netizens.
The livestream screens imploded with comments. What these viewers did not know, was that the directors were way more distressed than the viewers were. They were even a little scared.
Because these children were working too damn hard.
Whether it was Song Yucheng or Chu Rong, they were all working too hard. They were working so hard that the directors were surprised at the turn in events.
Who could have predicted that a group of young masters and ladies who usually did nothing would be so willing to dirty their hands? The two girls, who were usually conscious about cleanliness, were even willing to sling dung water over their shoulders for ten yuan. Chu Rong and Li Zhao, too, had gone all out.
That feverish zeal made the directors fear that something had snapped in them due to tiredness.
And Song Yucheng was beyond description. The cameraman following him around was going crazy. He had never seen a person more persistent, no, more persevering, than Song Yucheng.
The cameraman was used to walking a lot and relying on his strength for his job, but he was at the end of his tether now from all this walking. Song Yucheng kept going. Furthermore, this cameraman was part of the director’s crew, so he knew better than the other people that Song Yucheng had no hope at all of reaching the target amount he wanted to earn. All that he was doing was sure to end up being useless. Song Yucheng was clever, so he should have known it himself already, but even so, he stubbornly kept on. Just where was this courage to burn his boats coming from?
As he watched Song Yucheng’s steps grow heavier and heavier, the cameraman behind him found himself at a loss. He was worried that Song Yucheng would collapse before he got to the county town, and also afraid that Song Yucheng would be saddened if he gained nothing after going to the town.
And it was in this conflicting mood that Song Yucheng finally arrived at the small county town before noon.
“Finally there.” The watching netizens breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the familiar scene. However, the following development caught them by surprise.
The viewers had thought that Song Yucheng had planned on looking for a place and setting up a small stall, but he didn’t. He went straight to a small building which looked rather elegant.
“What is he doing?” Quite a few people were curious. When the owner of the building opened the door, the line which Song Yucheng said astounded all of them.
“I can make the wedding dress your daughter wants.”
Holy sh*t! A wedding dress?!
Did they hear right?
Was Song Yucheng mad?
The minds of all the netizens watching the livestream were blown. They didn’t dare believe what they had heard. Even the cameraman behind Song Yucheng was so shocked he stumbled. The owner of the building was also stunned by this sudden proposal from Song Yucheng. The proposal was quickly followed by a rejection. The bride-to-be was also at a loss.
She had indeed bought a small woven flower basket from Song Yucheng, and chatted a little with him because he was handsome. She had mentioned her dissatisfaction with her wedding dress and her wedding which was just around the corner. Even so, she didn’t quite believe that Song Yucheng was really able to do it.
Wedding clothing and basket weaving were not the same after all, so they could not be talked about as if they were.
Song Yucheng was persistent, however, and very sincerely marketed himself. “I know you don’t trust me, but I still hope that you will give me a chance to prove myself. How about we do this? Let me take your measurements. You don’t have to put down a deposit. I will make a ceremonial dress for the ritual toast first. If you think it’s good, we can negotiate the wedding dress. If you don’t think it’s good, it is still no loss to you. Could you do me this favour, please?”
“We’ll try, then.” It was difficult to refuse a beautiful, earnest young man. And so, after a short silence, the bride’s family agreed. However, they did not think that Song Yucheng would be able to make anything that could surprise them.
It was such a short period of time after all. It would be difficult, even if it were just a normal dress. A stunning dress? That would be a fantasy story.
The livestream screen was bursting with comments.
“What is Song Yucheng thinking? A wedding dress in such a short amount of time? He doesn’t even have a bolt of cloth!”
“He’s being forced to do this by the production crew. He’s scared that he won’t make enough money, so he’s being driven to desperation. He’d do any job.”
“This is so worrying! What is he going to do if he can’t make the dress!”
The bullet screen was full of comments expressing concern for Song Yucheng. Their anxiety was sky-high when Song Yucheng exchanged all the money he had in his hand for dress making materials.
“Aaaah I’m dying of anxiety! I have two livestream feeds open. Chu Rong’s group has found work. If they finish the job successfully, they will get about 120 yuan in all. Add that amount to what they had this morning, and Song Yucheng won’t have to make ceremonial clothing at all. He can just keep it simple and sell flower baskets, and they could scrap 500 yuan together.”
“That’s right. Even if that’s not enough, the six of them can go look for some work at night, and they would have roughly enough. What he’s doing now, spending all his money to make some ceremonial dress… it’s too reckless!”
“Plus, small county towns don’t have any good cloth. Did you guys see what Song Yucheng bought? It’s tacky and shoddy beyond belief. How terrible is the final product is going to be?”
“I am so anxious for them! Why is the group not coordinated at all?!”
The bullet screen was filled with comments; everyone was talking at once, and all of them were worried for Song Yucheng. The boy in question, though, was completely oblivious to their worry. He used his last 20 yuan to borrow a sewing machine from the owner of the tailor shop, and he got ready to get to work.
He glanced at the time. It was exactly noon. He could make it in time.
The netizens watching were of completely different mind. But later, ten minutes later, to be precise, those netizens were all thunderstruck by the skill of Song Yucheng’s hands.
A feature of grass is that it is soft, yet easily malleable. What surprised the viewers was that Song Yucheng could weave grass into a dragon and phoenix. The small, vivid and lifelike figures were so exquisite they almost couldn’t tear their eyes away from them.
“O.M.G. Every time I see Song Yucheng do that I feel like it’s a blessing on my eyes.”
“But that’s no use. Are his good looks going to plaster themselves on that piece of red cloth?”
“It’s woven grass after all. It can’t look high class no matter how exquisite it is.”
“What a shame.” Several people sighed silently.
And then there were times when the words “brimming with so much talent it’s more than human” could be used to slap people in the face. They didn’t think that Song Yucheng was capable of much more than just weaving. He really could make clothes.
Draw, cut, stitch. The basics of a bandeau dress was formed in just three steps. It was cut simply in a modest style, with no real shape or drape to the dress yet, and the mermaid-bottom flare had yet to be added; it was not much different from a rag. Soon, however, Song Yucheng used a pen and worked a miracle.
Regular patterns on dresses were made with brocade, but Song Yucheng used acrylic paint to add lush flowers to the cloth.
The dusty gold had a natural subtle hint of time to it, and was a wonderful complement to the red of the cloth.
The patterns Song Yucheng drew were beautiful and quite ingenious. The gold bordered the cloth, and elegant peonies of romance and prosperity bloomed from a bed of red. Silvery emerald green was added in the form of leaves. It was just three basic colours, yet the result spoke of a graceful beauty.
Loveliness, from hem to hem, more refined than any gongbi brushwork. There was no need for the dress to be worn for one to visualise how lovely it would look.
“So pretty!” The netizens watching were once again stunned by Song Yucheng’s skill. They did not dare believe what they had just witnessed.
“I don’t know that to say. This is just… really amazing.”
As time went by, Song Yucheng’s actions drew attention from the folk of the small county town. Even the bride-to-be had heard, and she came over. She had not thought much of it in the beginning, but one look at his work surprised her so much that she could not speak.
It was simply beautiful. It was more grand and perfect than all the ceremonial dresses she had envisioned.
And when the final touches, the grass-woven dragon and phoenix, were added, it became shockingly beautiful.
The grass-woven accessories adorned the dress, and Song Yucheng did not just simply sew them on; he added colour. He used gold and silver to embellish them too, and made them unexpectedly even more magnificent.
The weight of the grass-woven accessories was fairly light, but weight enough for the cloth. When the garment was complete, no one was willing to believe that it had been born of the tacky red cloth and the inferior rubbish they had seen earlier.
“Do you like it?” Song Yucheng let out a soft breath, and asked this question of the bride-to-be, who was looking the ceremonial dress up and down.
“I do, I do. Is this really for me?” The bride-to-be looked emotional.
“Mm-hmm, you can try it on. I’ll help you modify the wedding dress if you have no objections.”
“Yes, of course. I’ve brought my wedding dress.” The bride-to-be could not be more eager. And this time, after witnessing Song Yucheng’s capability, she was fully confident in him; she was also beginning to look forward to what surprise Song Yucheng could bring her.
She soon saw with her own eyes what true craftsmanship was.
What Song Yucheng had chosen to do with the wedding dress was completely different from what he had done for the ceremonial dress. If the ceremonial dress was graceful and elegant, then the wedding dress was a vision from a fairytale.
Lifelike fabric flowers became a natural accessory on the train of the dress, held in place with woven grass. The rich blossoms which fell from the hairs of the brush at the collar became an echo of beauty. What was even more amazing was the floating gossamer at the sleeves, like fairy wings. Song Yucheng’s hands had painted them with the vision of a sea of flowers.
There were no words which could properly describe it anymore.
The bride-to-be went eagerly to try it on, with the urging of the watching crowd. After she had changed into it, Song Yucheng went up to her and suggested, “You can also try this hairstyle to go along with the dress on your wedding day.”
His slender fingers had a natural warmth. He used just a few clips to lift the bride-to-be’s long hair up, arranging it into style similar to a wreath of flowers.
“This is…” The bride-to-be looked at herself in the mirror, wide-eyed with surprise.
Song Yucheng motioned for her to stay still, and put the flowers he had picked in the morning in her hair. The charming bride-to-be was instantly transformed into a flower fairy. Pure and graceful, so beautiful that one could not look away.
“He’s so talented!”
“Woooah! This wedding dress and that ceremonial dress are so beautiful! I’m choking on envy.”
“Nope, I’m not envious I’m jealous! Why didn’t I go to a small county town to get married!”
The bullet screen of Song Yucheng’s livestream was flooded right away. The bride-to-be was so stunned she could not speak. She could not believe that the fairy-like woman in the mirror was herself.
Song Yucheng did get his money in the end, of course. He gave the bride-to-be detailed instructions on the handling of the dress and where to add delicate stitching, received his money, and headed back.
Two thousand yuan. This definitely was a large haul. Song Yucheng was quite pleased with the result, and a rare smile spread across his face. The viewers’ hearts were all captured by that smile, and they wished that he would have that happy smile always.
The cameraman following him was blanked-out, as usual.
He had no more words in his vocabulary to describe the impact that Song Yucheng had on him. It was surprising enough that this boy knew how to weave wicker and grass, but he could even make clothes! Was he really a normal 18-year-old young man? He was absolutely the greatest glitch in the programme.
The cameraman was starting to suspect that Xu Muzhi had not sent Song Yucheng over to act as a stepping stone for Chu Rong, but to deliberately cause a scene.
What task could pose a difficulty to him when he could already achieve all of this?
All was running smoothly on Song Yucheng’s end, but Chu Rong and his group’s results were not as satisfying for them. They had never done farm work in their lives, and they earned very little after a hard day’s work. If they added what they earned to what they had, the total came up to just a little more than 200.
“We’re screwed. What do we do?” The youngsters were frustrated, but their exhausted selves didn’t even allow them to move a finger; they could only lie messily on their temporary straw beds.
The early summer night was warm and most suitable for one to take a breather. Chu Rong and his group were also dog-tired, and they all fell asleep quite quickly. They were only awakened in the dark of night by the cries of their bellies, and they discovered that it was going to be nine soon. Just then, one of them suddenly blurted, “Why hasn’t Song Yucheng come back yet?”
The others then reacted. They had been too busy during the day and had all fallen asleep when they had returned, so they had taken no note of where Song Yucheng had gone. Now that they had time to think, they found that something was not quite right.
Song Yucheng had actually not made an appearance at all the whole day!
Could something have happened to him? The relationship between teenagers was quite pure, so even if they did not get along, they would still worry for Song Yucheng because they were fellow participants in the programme.
Chu Rong bolted upright. “I’ll go take a look. You guys stay here and rest.”
“I’m coming too.” Li Zhao was concerned too and he sat up, but the screaming of his tired muscles toppled him backward again.
“No. There are girls in the house, so you can’t leave them alone. You watch the house, and I’ll go look for him.” Chu Rong saw the state that he was in, and shook his head to tell Li Zhao to stay. He put on his shoes, and ran out.
It was late now, but there was still no news from Song Yucheng. Chu Rong was very worried. He asked his cameraman, and was even more worried when he learnt that Song Yucheng had headed to the small county town.
No wonder he was still not back. What state was he in now? Chu Rong walked towards the entrance of the village while thinking that thought, hoping to spot Song Yucheng’s arrival.
The villagers close by saw him, and quickly called him to a stop. “Don’t go over there, boy! The road is bad there. Careful, or you’ll fall.”
The road’s bad? How bad? What about Song Yucheng, then? Was he delayed because the road was difficult to travel by night?
Chu Rong’s heart sank, and grew unsettled. He thanked the villagers, and his steps grew more hurried. He was flustered — what if something had happened to Song Yucheng on his way back, and no one knew about it?
It was already past nine, and the small village had no street lamps; it was dark all around. Chu Rong had just the light from his electric torch as he stumbled over the uneven road which lead to the small county town. There was no one else on the road. The barely discernible cry of insects made the atmosphere dark and gloomy.
Chu Rong grew more nervous the further he walked, and the worry he had for Song Yucheng deepened. Half an hour passed before he knew it, and Chu Rong still had not met up with Song Yucheng. A familiar figure by the side of the road caught Chu Rong’s attention just as he was about to tell his cameraman to stop recording for now and ask the directors to send someone to look for Song Yucheng.
Chu Rong took a closer look and saw Song Yucheng sitting by the side of the road… and leaning into the embrace of his cameraman?!