Chapter 4 – Female scoundrel
There were only two judges for this round of audition.
One was the scriptwriter. It was rumoured that this script took him three years to finish, so he was rather attached to it and viewed the movie seriously.
The other was the director, Li Min, who took the most well-known prize in the director circles and was the only female director to have been awarded the ‘Best Director’ award in the past ten years. She was also Su Yi’s Bo Le [note: there was a well-known Chinese fable about a horse tamer who was able to discover a good horse from among many. It’s now used to show a person who’s good at discovering, recommending and training a new talent, particularly a person who had chosen one from among the masses.]. The first TV show Su Yi had been part of was a big production, her role as the second female lead was thanks to Li Min’s decision to have her regardless of the disagreements from other parties.
When Li Min saw her, she smiled and nodded imperceptibly.
Su Yi curved her lips upwards slightly in response. To the left of the stage, there was a Qi Pao on the chair. It was bright red, one of the dance wears of the second female lead in ‘Undercurrent’; this role was that of a famous prostitute in that era, a beautiful seductress who died under the male lead’s sword. Su Yi put on the outfit, took her hairband off and tied her black hair loosely behind her neck.
Li Min said, “Then let’s begin, the third act, opening scene…”
“Wait,” the scriptwriter sitting to the side interrupted her. He was frowning as he flipped through the script, only finding the scene he wished to see after a long while. Looking up at Su Yi, he asked, “Have you seen the whole script?”
Su Yi said, “I’ve read the whole thing.”
“Okay, then can you perform that scene where you present a dance and offer a toast? You know which one that is right?”
Faced with the sudden request, Su Yi was not flustered. Instead, she smiled.
Li Min smiled too. The few actress who came before had performed the third act as was prescribed, Su Yi was the only exception the scriptwriter made.
Which meant that Su Yi was also an exception.
Su Yi didn’t reply. Instead, she raised her right hand, her fingers curled into beautiful curves as if she was holding a wine vessel.
She hadn’t actually been in a dance class before, but because of the requirement of one of the roles she’d acted as before, she’d self-studied pole-dancing.
With the backdrop being the early years of the Republic of China, pole-dancing wasn’t of much use, but it could make someone appear to be extraordinarily limber – in short, twisting her waist, lifting her leg and bending over weren’t much of an issue.
She improvised a section, emphasizing her hand and offering up a nonexistent wine vessel a few times. There was a challenge in her eyes as she blew kisses at the judges’ table. Her robes were spacious yet they let people unconsciously feel that she was extremely seductive.
At the end of her dance, she stepped forward and with a slight bow, offered up the wine to air, saying, “My lord, Qiu Ji toasts you.”
The scriptwriter was a man who was forty-something, with black-rimmed glasses and an obvious beer belly. He looked at Su Yi, satisfaction filling his eyes. “Good, good, what a beauty? Slender hands, expressive eyes and a flexible waist. As expected of someone Director Li finds acceptable.”
Li Min smiled, “Don’t say that, someone who isn’t in the know might think that I gave her a free pass.”
“Haha, we’re done here, go back and wait for the notification.” He smiled as he sat down. Su Yi had pretty good eyesight and could clearly see the guy drawing a circle on the notebook by his hand.
Su Yi walked out of the audition room, tying her hair up. When Wu Xue saw her come out, she got up and went over. Instead of asking how had it been, she’d asked, “What are we eating tonight?”
Su Yi shook her head. “You can eat with An Xuan, I’m waiting for Director Li.”
When the two of them had left, Su Yi found a corner and sat down. She put on a mask and pulled out her phone, starting to play Anipop.
A long time later, she had broken her record twice by the time Li Min’s voice sounded, “Why are you still here?”
Su Yi raised her head. The mask covered her curved lips, but her eyes had smiled into little crescents. “Looking to treat you to a meal.”
“Is this a bribe?” Li Min was already forty-three, spending her years going places to direct the shows; the marks time had left on her face were particularly deep. She was a rather thrifty person too, not putting much effort into what she wore, when walking on the streets who could think that such a woman was the winner of the Treasury Awards Best Director award?
“Yeah, Director Li is the easiest person to bribe that I have met, one meal and we’re done.” Su Yi smiled as she drew her arm. “What are we eating?”
Li Min seriously said, “This… cannot be done without Chuan food.”
The two of them went to a locally famous Chuan food restaurant. This restaurant was a small business. It had a rather small storefront, but it’s food tasted really good. Between the kitchen and the hall there was only a glass wall that allowed everyone to see the process of the food being made and it was rather clean. There were plenty of people already queueing for a spot.
Su Yi took a look. It was already past eight o’clock and there were still sixty more tables to go.
Li Min said, “…How about we go somewhere else?”
The server calling out table numbers suddenly picked up a horn and asked with a strongly accented voice, “One of the private room bookings has just been cancelled, is there any customer who wants to get it?”
The people immediately answered, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
There were too many people and the server had no idea what to do, going in to ask for directions. When the server returned, it was with a container for lots. “The boss said that a minimum spending of four hundred is required for the private room and we’ll draw lots for the spot. Don’t be unreasonable!”
Once this was said, the crowd dispersed quite a bit. Most of the people who came had come in twos and threes. A dish was at most thirty plus, if not forty, how much must they eat to get to four hundred?
Five minutes later, Su Yi and Li Min comfortably entered the private room.
Li Min said, “Xiao Yi, you’ve got pretty good luck, there’s more than ten people and you still got us in.”
Su Yi smiled. “Well, I’m usually unlucky when it comes to the big things, if I didn’t get lucky with these small things how am I to live?”
“Hey, don’t speak nonsense about this.” Li Min was frowning, and then she changed the topic, “What do you think about this character, have you an idea how you intend to play this role?”
Su Yi laughed, teasingly saying, “You’re really going to open the back door for me?”
“I can’t even if I wish to. Don’t think that just because I was sitting in there just now, I have the power to decide everything, the characters in this movie are all cast by that scriptwriter, I don’t get a single say.”
Su Yi took a bite of Ma Po tofu. “This dictatorial? The investors are okay with it?”
“How can they not be, do you know how many companies want this script? As far as I know, it’s this number.” Li Min gestured a seven. “And they’re all big companies.”
“The script is rather well-written…” Which was why when she looked at the scripts, she hadn’t thought twice before choosing ‘Undercurrent’.
“If you get this role, you’ll have no competition for next year’s Best Supporting Female Lead.”
Su Yi smiled, revealing a row of tidy white teeth. “How dare I have such big dreams!”
Li Min said disapprovingly, “How can anyone not have some targets?”
Just when Li Min got ready to start lecturing, the few main dishes were served. Su Yi immediately picked up some meat and placed it in her bowl, “Hurry and eat, it’s not nice when it’s cold.”
Due to the fact that on the venue they’re always rushing for time, the two were fast eaters. They talked while eating and it was barely half an hour before more than half the dishes were finished.
Su Yi wiped her mouth. “Let’s go out?”
Li Min easily agreed.
Su Yi got up, “Give me a moment, I’m going to the toilet.”
When Su Yi returned to the private room, there wasn’t anyone in there except for the server cleaning up the table.
The server saw her and hurriedly said, “The customer said that there was something at home, she needs to go first and you didn’t pick up.”
Glancing at her phone and noticing that there were calls from Li Min, she nodded. “Alright, bill please.”
“The customer has paid already.”
As Su Yi left, she sent a message to Li Min, “Thanks for the meal, next time please don’t fight me for the bill.”
The private rooms of the Chuan food restaurant were arranged to be down a little corridor. It was already nine but the main hall was still bustling. This restaurant didn’t just keep serving even at night, when it was late they had barbequed food as well, so it’s as good as a barbeque restaurant outside.
Su Yi was getting ready to go out when she heard the sound of the TV from the main hall.
“Any woman who dares to compete with me for the place as the emperor’s favorite must die!”
“If you wish to work for me, you have to make sure there’s nowhere else for you to go. That’s the only way I’d be willing to use you, do you understand me?”
… It was the imperial-harem show that was trending recently that Su Yi had acted in.
One of the girls sitting near the corridor going to the private rooms said, “This Su Yi is quite wicked, always playing the role of such disgusting characters, doesn’t she deserve to get eggs thrown at her?”
At that, Su Yi pulled her mask up higher. After thinking about it for a moment, she decided to put on her cap.
She had just reached into her bag when she heard a commotion from the private room she was standing beside.
“Just, just one sip captain Ying…”
“Driving.” A low and timbered voice entered Su Yi’s ears.
She widened her eyes, feeling as though her ears had straightened up like a rabbit’s.
The private room’s window was made of glass, with just one turn of her head Su Yi could see Chu Ying.
He was wearing simple casual clothes, a huge contrast against those men around him who’d drunk until they were red in the face.
When Chu Ying left the army and came back, his old teammates in City A had been clamoring for a meal together, in commemoration of their old days fighting together.
It was in the name of their old teammate, but those who came this time were all the ones who had left the army.
Around the table were all real men, unrefined people who didn’t hesitate about drinking. It didn’t take long for most of them to get drunk.
The guy was still asking him to drink, “Captain, Captain Ying, you’re coming out with us why are you even driving? It’s… we rarely even get to drink together and you can’t drink to your heart’s content!”
Another guy said, “Captain Ying is a big boss now… do you think he’s just, just like the rest of us!” After a belch, he continued, “Captain Ying is so capable, how could he be just like us… after leaving the army we could only… only get jobs as security guards…” The guy was obviously drunk, making huge leaps in his sentences and starting to sob as he continued speaking.
Once he said this, the table went silent.
Chu Ying glanced at the glass, thinking that he’d just have to get Liu Xi to pick him up tonight.
He’d just reached out, prepared to take the glass, when a pale hand snatched the glass away.
“Chu Ying has to drive me back, I’d drink this for him.” The voice was sweet and gentle.
Everyone looked up. The first thing they saw was a pair of long legs, the person’s pants short enough that the inner pocket linings were visible.
Above that, a simple white T-shirt.
Further up, the mask had been taken off and was hanging loosely by the face, the delicate features arranged into an appropriate smile.
A whole table of people were staring at her, confounded. Su Yi craned her neck, giving the glass a shake. “Is that alright?”
The guy who had passed her the drink was the first to react. After giving Chu Ying an understanding, ‘I get it’ look, he said with a grin, “Sure sure, definitely!”
Chu Ying frowned, intending to take the glass back from Su Yi, but she was prepared for that and had already raised the glass high up.
Chu Ying asked, “Why are you here?”
“Didn’t I tell you I’m here to eat Chuan food with a friend?” Su Yi smiled, she did say it. One of the messages she sent that the other obviously didn’t read.
“You don’t have to drink it.” Chu Ying lowered his volume and got up, ready to snatch the glass back.
Before he’d finished speaking, Su Yi had quickly brought the cup to her mouth and finished it in one gulp.
When she finished drinking, she tilted her head to one side and smiled, “Too late, I’ve drunk it.”
There was a droplet of alcohol on her lips, her two lips shining under the lights in the private room, her eyes bright and clear with the delight of having gotten her way.
Almost as if she was a female scoundrel.
edited by Anne, and then by Larkspur ~