He was courting disaster; there was no holding it back. Song Yucheng watched with cold eyes, and he did not respond right away.
The old Song Yucheng was all alone in the world after the death of his parents. What Xu Muzhi could use to threaten Song Yucheng with were just things which represented some part of his past. Other things, like money, were not what the old Song Yucheng desired. There was love, but it was beneath Xu Muzhi.
This was why Xu Muzhi mostly always threatened the old Song Yucheng in this way; it was convenient and it gave him quick results. He also only needed soft coaxing words afterwards to make the old Song Yucheng obey him.
Unfortunately for him, the new Song Yucheng was not like the old. He held no love for Xu Muzhi and was no sufferer of Stockholm Syndrome. What Xu Muzhi did only made Song Yucheng want to think of a way to crush him better.
It was good timing. The email he had scheduled to be sent before he had left was coming. Song Yucheng lowered his head to conceal the contempt which flashed in his eyes.
This soundless response looked like an equivalent of an outright refusal to Xu Muzhi, and the type of refusal that he loathed and despised the most too.
A person like Song Yucheng, who had nothing and could only live by depending on others… Where had he summoned the courage to dare to disobey him from? He could end him in one move. Did he not fear that he would be left with no other way out?
Xu Muzhi held those thoughts in mind as he put the thing in his hand aside. He said slowly, “You’ve grown up, Songsong. You’re getting better and better at sinking your hooks into people. Someone came bearing a message for me this morning, warning me not to touch you. Can you guess who sent the warning?”
“Was it Chu Rong?” Song Yucheng knew.
“You’re smarter than I thought.” Xu Muzhi laughed a laugh that did not reach his eyes. His tone grew much harsher. “I had indeed underestimated you, but you’re underestimating me too, aren’t you? You think that I won’t dare to punish you because you seduced Chu Rong into speaking up for you?”
“How’s that possible?” Song Yucheng laughed too. “I am just a little plaything of yours that you can throw about carelessly. I don’t even dare to have a temper around you, so how can I be disobedient to you?”
His words were submissive, but the derision and intensity in Song Yucheng’s eyes was a complete opposite of what he said, and he did not lower his eyes.
Xu Muzhi was angered right away. “Do you think that I really won’t dare to touch you?”
“I don’t think that you won’t dare to do so — I am certain that you won’t bear to.” Song Yucheng raised his eyebrows and laughed, completely dropping the act of weakness. The lightening of his brows and those eyes overflowing with youthfulness were so dazzling that one could not look away. It made one feel like there could not be another young man as attractive as him in this world.
“Xu Muzhi, you have a very special addiction to raising beautiful children, particularly children who are 12 or 13, and are cute, delicate young boys. You desire to see them to maturity yourself from the way they act to the way they see the world, even their personalities will be molded to your own preferences. Afterwards, you will wait till they reach legal age and pluck those ripe fruits and eat them yourself. For you, this is what excites you the most.
“And Chu Rong is the type that fits your preferences the best. It’s too bad for you that Chu Rong is not willing at all to be your toy, and you have no right to make him yours. That’s why you found one substitute after another. Old, young, male, female… till you found me.”
Xu Muzhi’s dirtiest desires were outlined, word by word, as Song Yucheng’s voice gradually grew deeper. It looked like he was gathering an aura of warmth and elegance about him and channeling it — it was like he had turned into Chu Rong.
Xu Muzhi was shocked speechless by this transformation. He continued staring at him, and obsession was added to his gaze.
Song Yucheng saw that, and he laughed slowly. His slightly husky voice seemed to be hiding a hook, drawing him in, and every word that he uttered was a complete match to the warm person he was copying. What he said, however, was full-on mockery.
“I look a lot like him, don’t I? Do I look like Chu Rong? Do you feel like you’ve fallen for me? Uncle Xu, I am the product of your most successful attempt at creating a substitute. You lust after Chu Rong but cannot have him, so you can only use these despicable methods to deceive yourself and others. You made a whole bunch of playthings but is there no one other than myself who can satisfy your obsession? Who will play with you when you’ve destroyed me? Can you truly bear to kill me off?”
Xu Muzhi was silent. He stared at Song Yucheng’s face and said nothing for a long while.
Similar. So similar. Was it because he had personally interacted with Chu Rong? The Song Yucheng now was even more like Chu Rong than when he had had lessons from those teachers.
Every frown and every smile of his was like the real Chu Rong. More importantly, Song Yucheng gave off a feeling which was different from Chu Rong’s soft arrogance as the scion of a powerful family; he was more intense. And this intensity was what made him most alluring. It was like seeing a fully mature Chu Rong a few years later, all ripe for picking at any time.
Xu Muzhi was entirely blank-faced. An email alert abruptly popped up on his computer, interrupting his roaming imagination.
He opened it up absentmindedly to find that it was from an anonymous sender. The contents of the email detailed evidence of tax evasion in his subsidiary finance departments. It wasn’t much in all, and the amount small, but every transaction was recorded in detail. This proved that the person who had managed to collect all this information was fairly adept at digging things up.
No. The person didn’t necessarily have to be adept at digging things up. It could be someone close to him. Xu Muzhi’s face darkened. He looked up again at the very calm Song Yucheng in the video chat, and realisation dawned.
This anonymous email was most likely the work of Song Yucheng. Xu Muzhi had been too lazy to move about when he had been at Song Yucheng’s place, and used Song Yucheng’s computer to open up the document with financial numbers that his secretary had sent. He’d thought that Song Yucheng could make no sense of the data, and had no guts to betray him so he had been careless. He had underestimated him.
Ha! He’d grown balls. The plaything he had raised from a young age had actually learnt to bite its master.
Xu Muzhi was a man used to wielding power, and for a long time too, so he calmed quickly. He’d already been played by Song Yucheng anyway. Just the email in his inbox proved that the words uttered in pleading for mercy earlier were all an act, and underneath that gentle and agreeable facade was pure mockery.
Song Yucheng seemed to not care about whether he made him angry. He kept up his portrayal of Chu Rong and said in soft persuasion, “Anger is harmful to the body, Uncle Xu. It’s best if you don’t act out of anger. I’m just a small fry to you anyway. What you can see are merely trivial things which you don’t care about — I will never cause trouble for you.”
It was a naked threat.
Xu Muzhi had occasionally heard rumours about others getting bitten by the dogs they’d raised, and he found it so very laughable that the powerless boy he raised had betrayed him. How could he, as an authority, fail to manage his own backyard? He’d never expected that a day would come when this sort of thing would befall him too. Anger filled his chest in an instant, and he lost his usual cool. He glared at Song Yucheng with vicious eyes, wanting nothing more than to stomp him flat.
Just then, the landline phone rang, interrupting their confrontation.
“What?” Xu Muzhi’s expression changed abruptly when he heard the name mentioned over the line. He’d never in a million years expected that the young Godfather, younger than himself, and especially hard to please, was actually coming over to China on the tail of Song Yucheng threatening him.
Was it a coincidental trip back because he had something to do, or was it because of some background machinations by Song Yucheng? What had let that man feel that something was not quite right, and decide to some knocking around in China?
He had let his guard down in the five years of interactions with Song Yucheng; Xu Muzhi could not recall offhand if he had left any blackmail material for him. He could not make any careless moves for now. Business came first after all, and he could deal with Song Yucheng at any time. The important thing now was the problem with the accounting entries.
Xu Muzhi was not afraid of an investigation into taxes, but he was afraid of this young Godfather’s inspection. He would be very willing to get down on his knees and call him ‘Daddy’, but the man wouldn’t necessarily want him as a son. He had only chosen him back then because of his ambition, and because he was more clear-headed than the other sh*ts of the Xu family. If the Godfather found out about these small schemes of his which he’d been running in China, the result would be unimaginable.
With that thought in mind, Xu Muzhi could only tamp down his anger, point at Song Yucheng and make a gesture of warning, and hang up.
It was not an amicable parting.
On the other end of the line, Song Yucheng had his head down, looking at his phone. He didn’t move for quite a while.
He had indeed won in this confrontation and successfully stopped him from acting against himself. However, Song Yucheng knew that this advantage had been won only because Xu Muzhi had not been prepared for it. He did not have enough chips to bargain with right now; he would have to prepare much more if he wanted to take him on and give him a sound face-slapping.
Good thing that he did not have to worry for a month.
This was a live broadcast after all, and the public was watching. Xu Muzhi was daring, but he wouldn’t dare to do anything — he wouldn’t be giving just a simple warning otherwise.
Song Yucheng pondered his counterattack as he walked towards the group of directors to return the phone.
Another person stepped out of a shadowed corner after Song Yucheng walked off. The person looked at Song Yucheng’s retreating figure but did not move for a long time. It was Chu Rong.
Xu Muzhi and Song Yucheng’s conversation from earlier had been too hushed for him to hear them clearly but he could see all of Song Yucheng’s expressions. He had, of course, also seen Song Yucheng act like he was him. That perfect imitation of himself had made Chu Rong feel as if he had been looking in a mirror.
If it had been any other person, Chu Rong was sure that he would be disgusted by this malicious imitation… but this was Song Yucheng. Song Yucheng made Chu Rong feel great sorrow, and pity.
Song Yucheng was so obviously perfect, with his exquisite mind and astonishing hands, that even that bit of indulgent provocation he’d thrown out after shrugging off his imitation of Chu Rong was so damn likeable.
But a person such as Song Yucheng had forced his true personality into hiding and transformed himself into another person, all to please Xu Muzhi.
Just what was he thinking? And what was he doing this for? It was obvious that Xu Muzhi had never been true to him, but he was still willing to abandon his pride and become a toy for him.
“Does he… love him that much?” murmured Chu Rong as he watched Song Yucheng move away. His slender figure seemed rather lonely under the moonlight, but he gazed at Song Yucheng with greater intensity; the look in his eyes gradually deepened into a strong desire to possess.
There was no helping it — Song Yucheng had been the one to provoke him. Chu Rong knew that Song Yucheng had done it on Xu Muzhi’s orders, but even so, there was no controlling the abnormal desire deep in his heart. The desire drove him ever closer to wanting to plunder, to possess, as time went on.
Xu Muzhi deemed such a dazzling person insignificant, but Chu Rong… Chu Rong wanted him. He wanted to hold him in cupped hands and hold him in his heart.
Chu Rong’s change in mentality only took a short time. The shooting for “Swapping Lives” went on, and nobody else had an inkling of the secret in his heart.
The youngsters had all surrendered Song Yucheng after the money-earning event, and were even responding to him en masse.
Song Yucheng stayed the same, arrogant as ever, but the way people saw him was different now. The netizens saw his arrogance as nervousness due to his inability to express himself, and they found this adorable. As for the youths who knew of the finer details, their hearts hurt more for him, and they trusted him more.
Watching him play the role in the script so resolutely made them feel that he was especially reliable. Li Zhao, who had initially looked down on Song Yucheng, in particular, was even going close to Song Yucheng on purpose to let himself get verbally abused. He was definitely a low-key masochist. Li Zhao could not be at ease while at work if he missed one day of Song Yucheng’s scolding.
As for Chu Rong, he had simply become a good younger brother with a brother complex. He took care of Song Yucheng’s needs — re-applying medication, bathing, and his three meals. He would carry Song Yucheng on his back everywhere he went if he could; he was that punctilious.
Song Yucheng was not uncomfortable at all; he liked teasing pretty children after all. Chu Rong looked docile and was beautiful, and when he did get mad occasionally, he would be in a pouty fit of anger like a cute little angry kitty. He was just the type he liked. Plus, Li Zhao and the other youngsters were all quite protective of him now. He only had to reach out a hand to have clothing put on him and open his mouth when food was delivered. Song Yucheng simply went along with all of it and cooperated with the pampering.
The fans of the coupling on the internet were in even more of a hive of activity, and support for the Chu-Song pairing strengthened. Clips and pictures of the two of them in the same scene were made and spread everywhere.
In the words of the fans, this Song Yucheng and Chu Rong pairing was a solid example of a pairing which evoked an abundance of fan-fiction to fulfil the pervy desires of the fans. They stuck to each other like glue the whole day long, emitting sweetness — there was no end to the number of scenes of handsomeness.
However, this seemingly calm life was just the calm before the storm. Right then, though, the mood of the long-time “Swapping Lives” viewers was at an all-time high.
As the first participants in the fourth season to have successfully passed the second round, Song Yucheng and his group were going to be faced with the greatest challenge. They had established themselves, so it was now time to prove themselves. According to the flow of the programme, the task now was for Song Yucheng and his comrades to build their empire. They were to earn 10,000 in a month.
More importantly, there was a condition they had to work around. Song Yucheng was not allowed to make money by selling his craftwork or making clothes this time. These methods of his would make things too easy for them. Right after he delivered the news, the chief director glanced at Chu Rong with a trace of terror on his face and added, “You can’t use your influence or connections either.”