Chapter 12 — New Shoot
“If you like cars, work hard to become popular and earn more money. So when you’re worth more, you can buy whatever car you want.” Zhang Qingyun opened the door of the car and Ning Xi got in. He leaned towards her and said, “But, if you like women, you have to do all that covertly. Don’t let the media catch you doing anything like that.”
Saying this, Zhang Qingyun himself was touched. Where could one find an enlightened agent like him?
Ning Xi pulled at her shawl and said helplessly, “You think too much.”
“I’m not thinking too much! It’s just that the gleam in your eyes when you saw the woman was so blatant that–” Zhang Qingyun hadn’t finished talking when he heard footsteps from behind him. He looked back and was suddenly dumbfounded.
When did Mr Chang arrive? Did he hear him say that nonsense? At that moment, he felt that the air was filled with awkwardness.
“Hello, Mr Chang. What a coincidence.” Zhang Qingyun smiled dryly, trying to block Ning Xi from the other’s view. Such a shameful matter, it was better that he lost face for it. Ning Xi depended on her face for her livelihood, he couldn’t drag her into murky waters.
“Hello,” Chang Shi Gui looked at him with a complex expression and turned away. Ning Xi covered her face with the shawl.
When his eyes fell on Ning Xi, his expression seemed to become more gentle under the orange light of the parking lot. He nodded to the both of them. “Good night.”
Ning Xi pulled down her shawl to reveal half her face and looked out from behind Zhang Qingyun. She smiled a little and said, “Good night.”
Zhang Qingyun laughed awkwardly. Ning Xi closed the door and, nodding at Chang Shi Gui, stepped on the gas to leave the hotel.
After some time, Zhang Qingyun blew out a breath. “Do you think Mr Chang would really believe you are a…?”
“He is not my man, how does it matter what he thinks?” Ning Xi held her chin thoughtfully. “You mustn’t gossip around such people.”
“I’m sorry,” Zhang Qingyun apologised solemnly. “I won’t joke around outside again.” As an agent, he knew how powerful the media was and how they could twist words. He shouldn’t have casually joked about such matters. Today’s event was a warning to him.
Ning Xi didn’t think that he would apologise so seriously. She froze for a second and laughed. “It’s okay. Anyway, I’m not all that famous yet. I will generously forgive you.”
“Thank you.” Zhang Qingyun smiled, glancing at Ning Xi from the rear-view mirror. “I will certainly make you famous.”
Ning Xi smiled and nodded as if convinced by his words.
“Boss?” The driver looked back and whispered, “Are we going back now?”
Chang Shi Gui silently nodded. The driver hurriedly opened the door for him and he got in. As the car drove in the dark, Chang Shi Gui closed his eyes, sitting in the back seat. He was reminded of the past – many bits of his memory were lost. Only that chubby girl was still fresh in his mind.
He opened his eyes suddenly and saw a movie theatre outside. “Park the car.”
The car stopped slowly. Wearing a grey jacket, his long, slender legs didn’t hesitate to walk to the theatre. It was late in the night. Other than some couples outside the theatre, there weren’t many people.
He walked inside and went to the ticket counter and spoke to the stunned man sitting on the other side. “Please give me a ticket for ‘My Heart Longs for You‘.”
The movie had already started. He sat in the corner and watched the male and female leads on the screen. Finally, they come together happily. And his first love, once the most beloved person in the male lead’s mind, was buried in his memory.
Once the movie ended, he didn’t wait for the broadcast, didn’t look at the loving couple and walked out in silence.
Ning Xi went back home and had a splendid shower, finally lying on the soft bed. Having drunk wine in the evening, rather than feeling sleepy, she felt some strange excitement.
She opened her phone. Several of her friends abroad had sent her messages. She dutifully replied to them all.
After replying, she put on a lullaby for herself. When the soothing, low music surrounded the room, she finally fell asleep.
In another mansion in the capital, Chen Yijun and Wei Siqi were quarrelling. The computer had been smashed, the books and papers were all over the place. The entire house looked like it had been hit by a tornado.
“Wei Siqi! Are you crazy?!” Chen Yijun’s expression was very ugly. He forced down the anger in his heart.
“Who are you calling crazy?” Wei Siqi’s eyes were red and tears streamed down her face. “Things are in the past, why can’t you let it go?!”
Chen Yijun dug into his pocket irritably and took out a cigarette. He quickly lit it and took a drag. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
Wei Siqi smiled through her tears. “So you blame yourself? Or… you can’t forget her?”
“Why are you raking up old matters?” Chen Yijun asked huskily. He looked at the mess in his room. “I’m going out to drink a couple of glasses of wine. You go to sleep.”
“Chen Yijun!” Wei Siqi screamed angrily, looking at his retreating back. She smashed down the bookshelf, finally holding her face and crying.
Her heart had endless hatred towards that person.
Getting up early was very painful. Ning Xi was awakened by Zhang Qingyun’s call and she helplessly got up to get ready.
This time, he was taking her to meet a new crew for a historical drama called, ‘Yunyue of the Han Dynasty‘. Both the male and female leads were quite powerful in the entertainment circles. In this movie, she would play the eldest and most favoured daughter of Emperor Wu of Han, Princess Dangli. She didn’t have many scenes but it wasn’t an insignificant character either.
According to unofficial history records, along with being the most beloved daughter of the Emperor, Princess Dangli was also very beautiful and the only princess sealed with the title ‘gongzhu’1. Later, because of the case of witchcraft suspicions, she was implicated and executed by Emperor Wu. But, in the official records, the princess wasn’t involved in the witchcraft case. So ‘Yunyue of Han Dynasty‘ wasn’t shot according to the unofficial records, but according to the official ones.
Most people admired competent people. Ning Xi was no exception. When she arrived, she greeted the staff with respect, taking the initiative, then sat down to get her makeup done.
Historical records about Princess Dangli were not many. But because she had the title of being the most beautiful in the Han Dynasty, it was an excellent plot device for the TV drama.
Putting on a gorgeous costume with her hair coiled into a bun, Ning Xi went to meet the director.
Director Xu was an expert in shooting historical dramas. All the movies and the dramas he directed were perfect in terms of details. All the etiquette, props and costumes had absolutely no mistakes like Song Dynasty objects or rituals appearing in a Han Dynasty drama.
Ning Xi appeared before him wearing the costume, and he smiled with satisfaction. He looked at Zhang Qingyun who had recommended her and said, “Her shape is very good. She deserves to be called the most beautiful woman of Han.” The only question was whether Ning Xi would have a good grasp of her role, as Princess Dangli was older in the drama than Ning Xi.
In his dramas, the role was said to be the ‘first beauty’ but all the actors had very ordinary looks. In his opinion, this was simply insulting the intelligence of the audience.
“It is all because of the makeup artists and the costume designers,” Zhang Qingyun smiled. “She is still a newcomer. If her performance is poor, Teacher Xu2 can criticise her freely.”
Teacher Xu chuckled and patted Zhang Qingyun’s shoulder. “Alright. This is an artist you have brought. I believe in her strength.” He looked at Ning Xi, “You go and prepare. Wait for when your scene comes, and don’t be too nervous.”
Actors needed a good reputation and so did the agents. To be able to follow such an agent was her good luck.
“Thank you, Teacher Xu. I will work hard.” Ning Xi smiled at him gratefully and didn’t linger around him. She sat down with her script.
Half an hour later, it was Ning Xi’s turn to shoot.
The scene had been set up well. The male lead, Liu Zhendong and the female lead, Zhou Haili had put on costumes of the emperor and empress. They were kneeling at a table and having a meal.
“All groups get ready!” Director Xu said, holding the megaphone. He gestured to the two actors, “Action!”
“Your Majesty, how could your son do such an evil thing? Please, your majesty, investigate this matter carefully.” The woman had aged gracefully and was no longer young. Wei Zifu was no more the lovely dancer in the princess’ mansion. She gave birth to children for Liu Che. As she became old and the prince grew up, her husband had begun to dread her and her children.
Liu Che was lightly carrying the glass of wine. On the surface, one couldn’t see his anger, but his shivering hands revealed his uneasy emotions.
Perhaps the crown prince was really innocent, perhaps he was not. But he was growing taller and taller and more admired by the courtiers; he began to feel threatened.
More importantly, did the empress and the crown prince really not have any ambition?
He looked at the empress kneeling before him with tired eyes.
“Your Majesty, the princess has requested to see you.” The small palace guard was quivering as he knelt, not daring to look at the two esteemed figures.
Hearing that his favourite daughter had come, Liu Che put down the glass and gestured towards the guard, “Get up.”
Wei Zifu and Liu Che had been married for so many years; how could she not know that, at the moment, he didn’t want to listen to her explanations? She also knew that the more she explained, the more His Majesty would feel suspicious. So she wiped the tears from her face and knelt to the side.
“Allow the princess to come in.” Liu Che said mildly. Perhaps because his daughter couldn’t threaten his authority, and perhaps because she was beautiful and pleasing to the eye, he favoured and pampered this daughter in his heart.
The camera panned to her and Director Xu looked at the monitor seriously. Liu Zhendong and Zhou Haili’s performance was very powerful. If Ning Xi’s performance was too weak, then it would become very obvious under the lens.
“Fuhuang3, muhou4.” The brightly-dressed woman had a smile on her face as she walked to the camera. She only held a plate of desserts and smiled. Just with this, it was enough for people to understand why Liu Che pampered his daughter so much.
Director Xu turned to Zhang Qingyun and sighed, “The artist you brought is indeed excellent.”
With good looks and good acting, there was no worry about whether she would become famous.
(1) Gongzhu – It is a title of a first-rank princess. Below that are junzhu, xianzhu, junjun, xianjun.
(2) I will refer to him as either Teacher Xu or Director Xu as appropriate. Both are the same person. If you have any suggestions, do tell me.
(3) Fu – as in father, huang – related to imperial family; It means Imperial Father. The sons and daughters of an emperor address him this way.
(4) Mu – mother, huo – empress; It means Imperial Mother. All sons and daughters of the emperor, including those born from consorts, have to address her this way.