Zhou Xiang's complexion was pallid. He didn't dare to even raise his head. He could sense the countless gazes on him, which were just like needles, making him unable to sit still.
He cursed Director Wang and Wang Yudong a hundred times inside his heart. Why do these two bastards never let him off whenever they fight?
Chief Wang tried to smooth things over. "Aiya, cool down, Director Wang. The misunderstandings between you two can be settled by communicating. Don't get worked up."
Director Wang was more than just worked up. He was practically about to stand and slam the table. He said obstinately, "There's nothing we can talk about, I feel that Zhou Xiang is pretty good, so I'm recommending him to be the lead. Zhou Xiang, do you dare to accept?"
Zhou Xiang raised his head. Wang Yudong icy knife-like gaze rested on his face. Zhou Xiang forced out a smile, "Director Wang, you really know how to joke."
"Who's joking with you? I never joke. I've shot films my entire life, I won’t make mistakes in my judgement of people. If I feel that you can do it, then you certainly can. Agree now, as long as you agree, that leading role will be yours!"
Several of the investors couldn't sit still anymore, and one after another, started trying to persuade him out of it. They were investing real money into this movie and had already publicly announced that Wang Yudong was the lead. Who would change the lead actor to nameless small body double in the last minute? Even Chief Wang wouldn't.
Zhou Xiang truly wished that he could stand and leave at this moment. He didn't want even a cent anymore and he didn’t want to act some supporting character either. He just wanted to stay far away from this cast and production team. Wang Yudong's career was currently flourishing, and he had also tied connections with the powerful Yan Family. If he offended Wang Yudong, how would he be able to stay in the entertainment circle from now on?
He only wanted to earn his meals.
Wang Yudong said darkly, "Zhou Xiang, state your position. Director Wang is vigorously endorsing you like this, you can't let down his great expectations, right?"
Cai Wei wanted to cover for Zhou Xiang, but Chief Wang stopped him before he could even open his mouth. Cai Wei didn't have enough power or influence. At this point, anyone who spoke would become a target.
Chief Wang stood up. His complexion looked very bad and his tone wasn't too polite either. "We've worked together up to this point, we’ve already spent money on promotions and advertising, and we’ve already invested money in the first stage of the budget. I'm sure fighting at this point in time isn't good for anyone, right? Three investors are currently present. I know that this might not be nice to hear, but whoever pays is the boss. You two can have personal grudges all you like, but can't you two give us investors some face, not let your emotions affect your decisions, and drag your personal grudges into the workplace?"
Chief Wang's background also couldn't be treated lightly. No one truly dared to offend him and as he had already said this much, for a moment, the conference room sank into a peaceful silence again.
After a long while, Wang Yudong said, "Wang'ge, I would never dare to not give you face. It's just that Director Wang's bullying has gone too far, I have my honour and dignity too. Director Wang is giving the role to another person, I can't be shameless and ask him for it."
The implication was that he wanted Director Wang to swallow back the words that he had said out of anger.
Director Wang was a resolute and uncompromising crabby old fellow. He drank some water, and slowly said, "Chief Wang, I am not letting my emotions affect my decisions. In my heart, Zhou Xiang is more suited for this character than Wang Yudong. I can give you a lot of reasons to justify my decision, and I can convince all of you. It's not the first time I've used a newcomer for my movies. Every time I film a movie, I take responsibility to the very end. When have I ever disappointed the investors? There is no way Wang Yudong and I can work together. If you force us to, I won't be able to shoot what I want to create. Even if it's not Zhou Xiang, it will still be someone else. Either way, it will definitely not be Wang Yudong."
Wang Yudong was so mad his lips were trembling. If his assistant wasn’t pressing him down, he would have stood up and left a long time ago.
Director Wang gave Wang Yudong a challenging glance and then said to the investors, "I'm not talking nonsense, Zhou Xiang can act this character, and he can do it well, and we can also shoot a good film. I don't need Wang Yudong, and I will never collaborate with him again. I'll make this perfectly clear, if you have him, then there won’t be me, you guys can swap me out."
No one would dare to swap out Director Wang. Director Wang was truly unshakeable this time.
The investors exchanged helpless looks at each other. Wang Yudong's face was ashen. All the other people were too scared to breathe loudly.
Director Wang asked Zhou Xiang, "Zhou Xiang? Say something. Do you dare to accept? If you accept the lead role for this movie, your status will immediately rise, you'll have everything."
Zhou Xiang wasn't silly. There was no way he could rashly believe his words.
There was indeed a possibility that he would shoot to stardom from this movie. However a greater possibility was that he'd be sprayed to death by Wang Yudong's swarm of fans, and be ruthlessly shut out by the other people in the entertainment circle. No one would dare to collaborate with him after this movie was over, and in the end he would have no choice but to find another livelihood.
Even thinking about that aftermath made his scalp numb.
Zhou Xiang was just a law-abiding little performer. Although he had once dreamed of becoming a big star, when there was a really a possibility of realising it, his instinctive reaction was only terror.
Chief Wang heavily sighed. "The decision can't be made now. You need to give Zhou Xiang some time. Let's break up for today. Director Wang, I will discuss with you alone tomorrow." He then left, dragging Zhou Xiang along with him, with Cai Wei following closely behind.
After they entered Chief Wang's office, Chief Wang was so angry he kicked over a chair, and swore roundly, " One old stupid cunt, one little stupid cunt, always f***ing looking for trouble for Laozi!"
The other two didn't dare to breathe loudly.
He had heard that Chief Wang had invested over ten million into this movie. It was one of his main investment projects next year. How could he not be anxious?
Chief Wang walked back and forth in the room for a long time, before sitting back on a chair gasping for breath, looking at Zhou Xiang with narrowed eyes.
Zhou Xiang also glanced at him, and said in a low voice, "Chief Wang, please point a path for me. I still want to stay in the circle to earn a living. I don't want to be treated like a cannon and be set off like this."
Chief Wang tapped the table with a finger. He looked very agitated. "Go back home first, let me have a think. Tomorrow I'll go have talk with Director Wang, if he truly persists on not using Wang Yudong, then we'll still have to find someone else, I reckon the chance won’t fall to you. However, if he insists on using you, then you do it, still better than letting someone else benefit."
Zhou Xiang said gloomily, "Chief Wang, I can't act a leading role, I've always been a body double."
"If you intend to be a body double the rest of your life, then you’re a stupid and cowardly good-for-nothing." Chief Wang slapped the table. "Go home, go home. Let me have a think. I'll ring you in two days."
Zhou Xiang turned to leave. Cai Wei wanted to follow after. Chief Wang stopped him, "Cai Wei, you stay."
Cai Wei squeezed Zhou Xiang's shoulder. His look of concern made Zhou Xiang's heart feel a little better. Zhou Xiang forced out a grin, lowered his head and left.
It was the New Year's in two days, but Zhou Xiang's mood remained heavy the entire time.
For the next few days, he waited in fear and trepidation for Chief Wang's phone call, but the call never came. In those days, Yan Mingxiu didn't come home at all, and didn't phone even once. Zhou Xiang figured he had returned home to celebrate the New Year, and after the celebrations, he still needed to attend Wang Yudong's engagement banquet, so he probably wouldn't be coming back for a few days. Normally, Zhou Xiang would definitely ring and send messages, but right now his head was an utter mess, and he couldn't muster up the mood. Moreover, he probably wouldn't be able to reach him anyway.
Cai Wei rang him once and was very frank. His opinion was that as long as Director Wang persevered, Zhou Xiang had to accept the role no matter what. The reason was that even if Zhou Xiang didn't accept, he had already offended Wang Yudong. His future days would definitely not be easy. If Zhou Xiang accepted, he still had a chance to shoot to fame, his status would rise up rapidly and Wang Yudong wouldn't be able to do anything to him. This was in fact a gamble, a gamble whether he, Zhou Xiang had that sort of fate.
Zhou Xiang felt that what Cai Wei said wasn’t unreasonable and then asked if that was Chief Wang's opinion.
Cai Wei hesitated for a long time before replying, 'No, this is my own opinion.'
Zhou Xiang didn't state his opinion at that time, and only said that he'll have a good think about it. The truth was he really hoped that Chief Wang would be able to pick a path for him. He truly couldn't work out what to do. He hoped that Chief Wang who had always been wise and farsighted could make a decision for him.
Thus he anxiously waited for Chief Wang's phone call the whole time.
The day after New Year's Day, which was also the night of Wang Yudong's engagement, Zhou
Xiang still hadn’t received a call from Chief Wang, and instead received one from Yan Mingxiu.
It was already past two in the middle of the night. Zhou Xiang had already gone to sleep a while ago but was woken up by his phone ringing.
As soon as he saw the name Yan Mingxiu on the display, he answered it without a second thought. A stranger's voice came from the other end. "Hello sir, is the owner of this phone your friend?"
"Ah, yes he is. May I ask who you are?" Zhou Xiang suddenly became nervous. He was really afraid that the person on the other end would say that they were at the hospital.
The other side said, "Your friend is drunk, sir. Your number is his most frequently contacted number. Please come to pick him up, we will be closing in an hour.
Zhou Xiang let out a sigh. "He's drunk? Is he alone?"
"Yes, he came by himself.
Zhou Xiang pulled on his pants as he said, "Send the address to my phone."
Zhou Xiang drove to the bar in the fastest speed permitted. Inside the bar were only two employees, who were polishing glasses and preparing to lock up. Yan Mingxiu was lying on a sofa on the side, dead drunk.
Zhou Xiang crouched down by his side, and patted Yan Mingxiu’s bright red face. Yan Mingxiu didn't react at all.
He asked the bartender, "How long did he drink?"
"He came over past nine. He didn't say a word, and kept drinking the entire time."
This was clearly the behaviour of someone drowning their sorrows. He couldn't understand why Yan Mingxiu would come here by himself to drown his sorrows. Wasn't today the day of his sister and Wang Yudong's engagement? Why wasn't he at home?
Zhou Xiang paid for the alcohol, and moved Yan Mingxiu into his own car with the bartender's help.
Zhou Xiang's house was on the third floor. There was no elevator as it was an old apartment block. By the time he finally managed to carry Yan Mingxiu into the house, even though it was in the twelfth lunar month of winter, his entire body was drenched in sweat.
After he threw Yan Mingxiu onto the bed, Zhou Xiang sat on edge of the bed gasping for breath for half a day. Yan Mingxiu was seriously too heavy.
He rested for a while and then stood up to take off Yan Mingxiu's jacket, trousers, shoes and socks, stripping him down to his briefs, and then stuffed him into the blankets. Afraid that he'd be cold, Zhou Xiang even turned on the electric blanket.
Zhou Xiang went to the bathroom to get a towel, wringing it out after soaking it with hot water, to use to wipe Yan Mingxiu's face.
Yan Mingxiu face reeked of alcohol. Zhou Xiang wiped it a few times. Yan Mingxiu flipped over and surprisingly, slowly opened his eyes. However, his gaze was extremely vacant, and didn't have any focus.
Zhou Xiang softly called out, "Mingxiu?"
Yan Mingxiu opened his mouth. His throat let out an eerie sound. Zhou Xiang didn’t catch it.
Zhou Xiang was planning to get up and fetch him a cup of water but Yan Mingxiu suddenly grabbed him. This time Zhou Xiang heard that Yan Mingxiu's hoarse voice was saying something.
Zhou Xiang bent down, wanting to hear what Yan Mingxiu was saying, but Yan Mingxiu wrapped his arms around Zhou Xiang’s neck and quietly called out, "Dong'ge."