Eat Kebabs Together

As she spoke, Tong Le put down the bun in her hand and ran over to the clothes rack. She took down a broad, red, wide-sleeved flowing dress. Not only was the pattern and embroidery ugly, the waistband was especially thick and green. The combination of red and green was obviously strange and awkward.

“That’s not surprising. Which female lead would be willing to let a female supporting character steal her spotlight? It’s already good that your scenes weren’t deleted.” The makeup artist said with conviction while scrolling her phone, clearly this kind of thing happened often.

“Fxck.” Tong Le cursed under her breath and angrily hung the costume back onto the rack. “This is too sordid.”

“You guys have just entered the industry. This kind of thing is actually very common. In a production I had participated in before, the second female lead’s acting was excellent, but she wasn’t very popular. The female lead had bad acting but was very good with hype and publicity. She trended on hot search every few days and it gave the impression that she was very popular, but she actually didn’t have many dedicated fans. All the views and numbers on the broadcasting platforms were all faked by the water army. She was afraid that the second female lead would steal her spotlight, so she hired a water army to post hate comments about her past and find black history. The second female lead got so much hate she developed depression. She wasn’t obsessed with fame so she ended up leaving the entertainment industry. I think she’s married to some rich businessman now.” The makeup artist said, rather heavy-heartedly.

In the entertainment industry, anything could be done for personal gain and rise in status. Su Shen wasn’t surprised. Just like the makeup artist said, it was already good that her scenes weren’t deleted.

But in this society, you would soon reap what you sowed. She couldn’t do anything about it today, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be able to do something about it in the future.

“This is too insane. No wonder everyone says this industry is messed up.” Tong Le clutched at her hair, looking shocked.

It was all for money. A famous star could earn up to millions or tens of millions of RMB in a single production. Who didn’t want to earn more money? There were only a few really popular ones and every year, more went out of date. Every day, more rookies appeared. If you didn’t grasp the chance to move up the food chain, sooner or later, you’d be out too.

After breakfast, they chatted, and Su Shen started with her makeup. This time, heavy makeup was applied and when she put on her costume again, it actually didn’t look too ugly.  

“Damn, it really does depend on your looks. The outfit is so ugly but when you wear it, you look rather intimidating and even domineering.” Tong Le walked around her twice and pulled at her hideous waistband.

The makeup artist was still fixing up her makeup, but she also agreed and added a compliment, “Su Shen’s foundation is good. She can hold up light or heavy makeup. A lot of people look rather gaudy once they apply heavy makeup, but her features really suit this type of style.

Su Shen looked at the girl in the mirror, with red lips and feng mei*, and felt like she had returned to her past life. She had looked like this too, a pity that before her veil could even be lifted, she died under the sword of the assassins.

feng mei – a style of eyebrow, literally called the phoenix eyebrow

“Su jie, the Director wants you to go over to him right now.” Xiao Zhou suddenly walked in.

In response, Su Shen could only lift her heavy skirts and carefully walked step by step out of the dressing room.

The staff outside saw her strange outfit combination and muttered amongst themselves, but Su Shen’s calm attitude and confidence silenced them.

The female lead and second male lead were still filming a scene together. After the Director yelled cut, Su Shen just so happened to have reached the monitor.

“Fan Meng, come over here.” The Director yelled towards Fan Meng, who was still getting her makeup fixed, then looked back at Su Shen. “Later, you need to get a handle on that ruthless feeling and gaze. Not malicious or evil, it needs to be savage, ferocious. You need the kind of gaze that instills fear into people’s hearts, understand?”

He seemed to think that it would be very difficult for a little girl to act this type of scene and character. Yesterday’s scene was quite easy but today’s would not be so easily handled.

“Director, do you need something?” 

Fan Meng walked over, clad in military attire, valiant and formidable. Her looks weren’t bad but in the entertainment industry, she was only classed as just above average. That’s why she had plastic surgery. It looked like her face had already recovered.

“The scene you two have later is a one take, no cuts. The two split scenes that I told you about before are combined into a single scene, so you two better hurry up and familiarize yourselves with the lines. It’s best if you two practice together.” The Director finished speaking and ran back to the filming site to rearrange the props.

Fan Meng’s makeup artist was still behind her. After the Director left, she only spared Su Shen a look out of the corner of her eye and turned to leave and get her makeup fixed.

The rest of the workers just quietly pretended not to see what had happened. Fan Meng was famous for her tendency to bully and suppress actresses better looking than her. Su Shen’s costume was an example of this.

“Su jie, how about you practice your lines with me?” Xiao Zhou said from the side.

Su Shen turned her down then took her script and sat down in the great hall they would be filming in.

The great hall had been constructed by the film crew. Director Huang was a perfectionist, constantly improving, he insisted on personally checking every placement of the props. Su Shen sat there and kept reading her script.

“Hi, do you want to eat stinky tofu?”

The soft couch next to her sunk slightly. Su Shen turned her head only to see a young man in imperial robes* sitting next to her. He was very handsome but he had a bowl of stinky tofu in his hand, which seemed out of place, especially in comparison to his costume.

long pao – means dragon robe, the emperor’s court dress, imperial robes

“Aren’t you afraid of getting your clothes dirty?” Su Shen raised her brows. This person seemed quite different to his image that was spread online.   

Wang Cheng, an extremely popular xiao xian rou* born after the -90s. He also debuted with idol dramas. The emperor he would act was young and newly into power, easily influenced. Bewitched by treacherous subjects, he spent his days in debauchery with no care for the affairs of state. Coincidentally, the third female supporting character was his favoured concubine.

xiao xian rou – literally ‘little fresh meat’, means attractive young man

As someone who filmed television dramas, nobody would reject the chance to enter the film industry and raise their class and status. Director Huang obviously wanted to use Wang Cheng’s popularity. This kind of xiao xian rou had dedicated fans who would promote the film of their own accord. They would share, re-blog and stream associated media, and would eventually save a lot of PR money. Hiring Wang Cheng was a win-win deal.

“What’s there to be afraid of? This is the famous stinky tofu from the nearby street. I had my assistant line up for half an hour to get this. Here, have some.” Wang Cheng immediately pushed the bowl closer to her.

At this, Su Shen was tempted. She rolled up her sleeves and shoved a piece into her mouth with a pair of single-use chopsticks.

Su Shen coughed and her face turned red, she seemed to have choked on the tofu.

“Haha, so you can’t take spicy food. I added two kinds of chilli to this.” Wang Cheng’s mouth was covered in oil but he still considerately handed his own bottle of unopened water to her.

Su Shen took it unceremoniously and drank. It made her throat feel slightly better. It wasn’t that she couldn’t handle spicy food, she just hadn’t expected it to be so spicy.  

“What are you two doing still eating, filming is starting. Hurry and go get ready!” The Director yelled from the side.

In response, Wang Cheng handed the stinky tofu over to his assistant right away and took a napkin to wipe his mouth. Then, he leaned back casually against the soft couch. Su Shen followed and leaned into his arms.

Wang Cheng didn’t take advantage of her. His hand appeared to be held firmly against her waist but it was just placed lightly against her very thick waistband. Unlike some other actors, he didn’t take the chance to grope her.

“Okay, all departments ready. Action!”

After the Director’s yell, the cameras immediately panned over. The maid on the side began to fan them and Su Shen smiled lightly. She reached for a grape from the platter held in another maid’s hands then leaned over and pushed the grape into Wang Cheng’s mouth, “Emperor~”

The latter opened his mouth with an expression full of enjoyment and even lecherously kissed the maid standing to the side on the cheek, the picture of an incapable, self-indulgent ruler.

A palace maid suddenly walked in, head bowed. She kneeled and said, “Reporting to the Emperor, Nangong da ren* is already outside the door waiting for her summons.”

da ren – means lord, term of respect for a man of importance

When she finished speaking, Wang Cheng suddenly opened his eyes and looked confusedly towards Su Shen, “Why did you tell zhen* to summon this Nangong Xue?”

zhen – a pronoun used by the emperor instead of ‘I’ or ‘me’, like the British royalty use the royal ‘we’

She blinked, then started to slowly draw circles on his chest, “Why does Emperor ask so much, chen qie* naturally has a reason.”

chen qie – literally means this subject and concubine, a term used instead of ‘I’ or ‘me’ by concubines to their ‘husband’, in this case the emperor

Provoked by her teasing, Wang Cheng moved closer lecherously to kiss her, but Su Shen reached out and pushed him back, “Emperor~”

Her eyes shone like a lake after the rain, with light rays dancing on rippling waves.  Her small, stunning face was full of displeasure. Wang Cheng seemed dissatisfied, but still stood up angrily, then glared at her, “Zhen will properly punish you next time!”

He then walked with large strides out of the great hall, just as Fan Meng walked in. When she saw him she naturally hurried to kneel and bow, while Wang Cheng didn’t even spare her a look before walking out.

Su Shen signalled all the servants still in the great hall to leave. When only the two of them were left, she leaned back casually against the soft couch and said, “General Nangong really is a woman that isn’t inferior to any man. No wonder General Zhang has given his heart to you.”

The last sentence already took on a mocking tone and the camera turned towards Fan Meng. She still had one knee on the ground and furrowed her brows, “This humble subject does not understand what gui fei* niang niang* means by that.”

gui fei – imperial concubine, one of the ranks of concubines, the highest rank beneath empress

niang niang – a term of respect used for concubines/ wife of the emperor, can be used with their rank, imperial title, or family name

“You don’t understand?” Su Shen laughed coldly. She stood up slowly and walked towards Fan Meng, step by step. Her beautiful, phoenix-like eyes narrowed, and her voice filled with sarcasm, “Then ben gong* will give General Nangong a piece of advice. You should not labour under a delusion about people you have no right to claim. Otherwise, if you fall and get smashed to pieces, do not place the blame on nobody warning you.”

ben gong – literally ‘this palace’, is a pronoun used by concubines or empress who are the head of their own palace (have a high rank)

Her red lips pressed together slightly, face devoid of any emotion except for indifference as she looked down on Fan Meng.

In front of the monitor, the Director was rather surprised. Although Su Shen’s performance wasn’t the best, it had already exceeded his expectations. Her ruthlessness wasn’t evident through her expressions or her words individually, but pieced together it made those who watched feel that murderous intent. 

Fan Meng, who was still kneeling on the ground, seemed to want to say something. However, she couldn’t control her expression and ended up laughing.  

“Sorry, sorry, let’s do another take.” She stood up after she finished laughing and her assistant immediately handed her a bottle of water.

Although the Director was dissatisfied, he didn’t express it, and just told her to take some time to adjust her state of mind.

After a long wait, the scene started again, but Fan Meng made another mistake. The scene took a whole hour of filming to finally pass. 

It was so hot, sweat was rolling down Su Shen’s face, and she ran into the dressing room to change out of her clothes. She had no more scenes that day anyway.

When she finished changing and got ready to go back to her hotel, Wang Cheng had also just finished his next scene. He saw her and walked over, still in his imperial robes, “Do you want to go eat kebabs together later? I know there’s a really good barbecue restaurant in the next street over!”

“Cheng ge, are you trying to give your fans spoilers?” His assistant tried to remind him from the side.

At this, Wang Cheng just waved his hand, very open-mindedly, “Who would recognise me if I wear a face mask?!”

Then, he waved to someone he saw behind Su Shen, “Yan ge, do you want to go eat kebabs together? My treat!”

Su Shen turned her head just in time to see Xie Yan and Li Hao, who acted as the second male lead, walk over. Both were still in costume and seemed to be discussing the script.

After they walked over, Li Hao rolled up the script and immediately answered, “Yes, yes, yes, it’s been so long since I’ve drank alcohol!”

Li Hao rose to fame with a bold, unrestrained, tough guy image. This was not very far off from his own personality.

At this, Su Shen hesitated, “Then… perhaps I shouldn’t go?”

It’d be better if she didn’t go, just in case photos were taken. People would say she was doing publicity stunts again, and this time clinging onto Xie Yan and Wang Cheng. Those two’s fans could spit a mouthful of saliva each and it would be enough to drown her.

“Ah, we can all go together. Tell Fan Meng and the others to come as well, after all it’s Wang Cheng’s treat!” Li Hao laughed loudly.

Su Shen still wanted to decline, but Wang Cheng kept staring at her from the side. She could only nod. 

Satisfied, Wang Cheng turned to look at Xie Yan, “Yan ge, are you going to come? That restaurant has really good food.”

In response, Zhao Tong laughed and said, “Sorry but our Yan ge doesn’t eat that stuff.”

“I’ll go.” Xie Yan ignored Zhao Tong and instead looked calmly towards Wang Cheng, “It’s good to try something new occasionally.”

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