“This role isn’t easy to secure, make sure to treasure it.
In Shengshi Media’s high-level office, Lu An Qi handed over a contract to Jiang Jiang, smiling. “Starting next year, you’ll need to have Qin Le help you to carefully select your film projects. You should target for higher-quality dramas, and endorsements need to be chosen with caution too. During the critical phases, you should also be cautious of yourself and make sure not to create any strange negative news.”
Jiang Jiang gratefully accepted the contract. He never would have thought that after missing out on the male lead role in “Against the Wind,” Lu An Qi would manage to secure him the male lead role in a film directed by Zhang Yi. Reflecting on his minor discontent with the company over the past few months, Jiang Jiang felt a bit ashamed. He lowered his head and said, “Thank you, President Lu.”
Lu An Qi shook her head. “Just make the most of the opportunity. To be honest, don’t worry too much about it. Your age… poses a bit of a challenge. Roles that are too young won’t suit you, and trying to force yourself onto them might come across as awkward to the audience. On the other hand, films set in historical periods where you’re required to portray characters significantly older than you only hired people of that age. Well, I’ve said it before – you need a career transition. So, for the past six months, I have been considering the factors whenever I select roles for you. Thankfully, this role seems tailor-made for you. Director Zhang was very satisfied after viewing your audition video. The company will help create buzz, but once filming starts, it’s up to you.”
Jiang Jiang nodded. Zhang Yi’s films were practically a guarantee for box office success. He knew it had the potential to become a hit. Thinking about the current state of the company’s actors, Lu An Qi seemed quite pleased. She continued, “It’s almost been a year, and it wasn’t all for nothing. From now until mid-next year, you’re going to be incredibly busy. Tian Qing just picked up two dramas recently, and with his prior ones, we’re just waiting for next year when he’ll be all over TV. Wei Xi and the others are doing well too, and with Xia Qi… next year is going to be a fruitful one.”
When Lu An Qi mentioned “Xia Qi,” Jiang Jiang’s eyelid twitched. Ever since that day when Bai Mu Chuan had pressured him to team up with him to deal with Xia Qi, it had been over two months. Yet, for a long time, nothing had happened. Now that he knew Lu An Qi was also trying to secure resources for him, Jiang Jiang’s previous annoyance towards Xia Qi had dissipated. He hesitated, saying, “Xia Qi… lately…”
“He’s doing well,” Lu An Qi lit a cigarette, smiling. “His film project is about to wrap up. Fei Dao is planning for a Lunar New Year release. Oh, by the way, you have a spot at the premiere too. We’ll go together. I met Fei Dao a few days ago, and he even praised Xia Qi to me. He said Xia Qi has good acting skills, takes his work seriously, and is willing to endure hardships. I remember the two of you have a good relationship. He’s quite young, so you’ll have the opportunity to mentor him a bit.”
Jiang Jiang nodded. After a moment’s thought, he decided not to mention the matter Bai Mu Chuan had brought up. It was probably just a complaint on Bai Mu Chuan’s part. If Jiang Jiang told Lu An Qi now, he might not only completely offend Bai Mu Chuan, but he also was not able to explain why he had waited until now to mention it. Despite this decision, Jiang Jiang still felt a bit uneasy. Subconsciously, he said, “Of course, Xia Qi, he… he…”
Lu An Qi raised an eyebrow. “What’s the matter?”
Jiang Jiang snapped out of his thoughts and gave a dry laugh. “No, I was just thinking… this is Xia Qi’s debut work, and the film is about to wrap up, so he might be feeling nervous.”
Lu An Qi smiled. “He probably is.”
If Lu An Qi could see Xia Qi right now, she would know that he was not just “nervous,” but rather “super nervous.”
It took Xia Qi from Summer to Winter to film, and now, after today, a new year will begin. During these past few months, Xia Qi had endured hardships and learned a lot. He had gained a lot from “Chaos Era,” a production with a massive budget. Xia Qi believed that working alongside Director Fei had accustomed him to large-scale scenes, and he would not easily get stage fright in the future. With this newfound confidence, he approached the last scene of his shoot.
Looking at the vast expanse of withered yellow rice fields in front of him, Xia Qi turned back to the set. Counting in his mind—one, two, three, four, five, six…
Xia Qi did not miscount. Tonight, for his final scene, there would be six camera angles working simultaneously. A pang of pain suddenly struck Xia Qi, as it was all about expenses.
It was not that Director Fei had gone mad. It was just that the final explosive scene required multiple angles to be captured, and the director insisted on shooting it in the rice fields. That meant this scene had to be completed in one take. If anything unexpected happened, and they failed the first attempt, the cost of setting up the scene again would be even more terrifying.
Xia Qi felt an immense amount of pressure.
“As you walk, sprinkle the gunpowder from your pocket onto the bridge. Keep going until you reach the rice fields,” Director Fei explained while wearing a military coat, and his breath was visible with every word due to winter. “You’ve already been shot twice on your left abdomen, so be mindful of your walking posture.”
The martial arts instructor had already analyzed the scene for Xia Qi. He nodded, and as they walked toward the rice fields, Director Fei continued to gesture. “By this point, the bridge will have already been halfway destroyed. You don’t need to worry about it. There’s an assistant director on that side keeping an eye on it. Just focus on your part. Look toward the rice fields and keep walking. The fire will follow you. Finally, when you’re about to get off the bridge, it will collapse completely.”
In the story, this bridge was initially built by You Zai’s father. At this moment in the narrative, his father had already died. His brother, who was the male lead in the drama, had been brutally tortured by the enemy. Upon learning of his brother’s original plan, You Zai decided to fulfill his brother’s mission. As Japanese soldiers marched across the bridge, he detonated the explosives, destroying the bridge that his father had spent his life constructing. At the same time, You Zai and the Japanese soldiers were doomed to die together.
Director Fei explained the scene to Xia Qi further, “In the final moments, you’re already about to descend from the bridge. You can’t hear any sounds from behind, all you know is that the mission is complete, and they’re all dead. The gunpowder was planted by your brother, and you know its location. You’re fully aware that as long as you crawl across this stretch of the bridge, you won’t die. However, you’re also aware that it’s impossible to crawl to safety as the explosion is imminent. At the last moment, you reminisce about your childhood – you, your brother, Ying Ran – the whole family setting off firecrackers in the snowy field. Ying Ran always loved the sound of firecrackers, while you were timid and never dared to set them off, until this very last time.”
“In the final cut, the scene will cut to the people who are still alive – your brother in the dungeon, Ying Ran sleeping at the military headquarters, and the others still in the city. They’re all awakened by this explosion.”
Xia Qi took a deep breath as Director Fei patted his shoulder. “This explosion will wake up your family and all the ordinary people in the city. It’s crucial. Take some time to think about it, but don’t get too nervous.”
With Director Fei attending to other matters, Xia Qi paced back and forth while bundled up in a down jacket, rubbing his hands together.
Since yesterday, Director Fei had been urging Xia Qi to immerse himself in the role. Xia Qi had been trying, but every time… he ended up thinking about Lu Xuan.
Returning to the set this time, Xia Qi had been quite uneasy. He was worried that he would not perform well and would disappoint Lu Xuan. He feared that their separation would lead to distance between them, and he was also concerned that Lu Xuan might find other partners. However, none of these worries had come true.
Just a week after he returned to the set, one evening, Yan Zhuo Yi had approached Director Fei and “kidnapped” Xia Qi. The reason was simple: Lu Xuan, after a social engagement, had suddenly wanted to see Xia Qi.
On that particular day, Lu Xuan had consumed quite a bit of alcohol and was already a bit tipsy. It was late at night, and things did not progress to intimacy. He had merely held Xia Qi and fallen asleep, but Lu Xuan seemed to find that quite satisfying. In the two months that followed, Xia Qi had been “kidnapped” a few times by Yan Zhuo Yi for a “sleep over.”
Xia Qi could meet Lu Xuan quite frequently. He understood that Lu Xuan had indeed become busier since mid-year, with even more social obligations. As the year came to a close, the engagements multiplied beyond count. Even with Lu Xuan’s high libido, when he did have leisure time, he preferred resting over seeking entertainment. If there were occasional needs, he would summon Xia Qi instead.
Moreover, at some point, Lu Xuan had become accustomed to initiating contact himself. Xia Qi’s phone was filled with his call records, which he could not bear to delete. These were records of Lu Xuan calling him, along with the occasional text messages from Lu Xuan.
Usually, Xia Qi did not dare to proactively contact Lu Xuan unless it was necessary. But whenever he found himself unable to withstand the longing for Lu Xuan, it would not take long for Lu Xuan to reach out to him. The frequency of their interactions had been increasing.
Xia Qi could not help but smile. This… does not seem like Lu Xuan was getting tired of him, right?
He took out his phone and checked the call history. His most recent call with Lu Xuan was just yesterday. Lu Xuan was currently out of town, but if things went as planned, he would be returning tomorrow. Warmth filled Xia Qi’s heart at the thought of meeting Mr. Lu again tomorrow!
Yesterday, when Lu Xuan called Xia Qi, it was during the night. After Lu Xuan finished his work-related matters, he could not sleep in the hotel room and decided to call Xia Qi.
Lu Xuan had just successfully negotiated a major business deal, putting him in high spirits. Perhaps it was also due to having consumed some alcohol. He asked Xia Qi if he missed him. Naturally, Xia Qi did miss him, but expressing it over the phone made him a little embarrassed.
At that time, the film set was still bustling with activity, and Xia Qi was surrounded by people. Lu Xuan asked him, and he dared not answer. He had to move aside, blushing, and covered his phone while speaking in a barely audible voice, “I miss Mr. Lu.” However, Lu Xuan was still not satisfied. He chuckled and asked him where he missed him. Xia Qi’s face turned so red that it seemed like smoke might come out, and he was so embarrassed that even the fuzz on his down jacket seemed to stand on end.
Xia Qi was almost brought to tears by his teasing. He begged for mercy in a pitiable manner, explaining that he was still on the film set. Only then did Lu Xuan let him off the hook, teasing him a couple more times before ending the call. Xia Qi then put away his phone like a little thief, only to realize that he had accidentally been overheard by the assistant of the female lead. The young girl winked at him and asked softly, “Were you calling your partner?”
Xia Qi nodded discreetly, and the assistant gave him a knowing smile and said playfully, “Wishing you a hundred years of happiness!” The sweetness in Xia Qi’s heart was almost overflowing.
The assistant director called for Xia Qi. He quickly suppressed the pink bubbles in his heart and hurried over to prepare for the final big scene.
The director was worried that Xia Qi might be stressed and told him in advance that even if he had a “no good” (NG) take, it would be fine, they could reshoot. Xia Qi was quite nervous, but once the director shouted “action,” Xia Qi instantly immersed himself in the role.
In this scene, Xia Qi’s makeup was the messiest in the entire movie. His black student uniform was covered in dirt and dust, with gunshot holes and bloodstains on his left abdomen. His face was also covered in grime, and he had a scrape on his forehead. He looked completely different from the young master in the first scene.
However, the bloodstains and dirt added depth to his face. Xia Qi’s eyes were practically sparkling. He stood in the middle of the bridge, staggering as he looked backward, watching the Japanese military vehicle loaded with weapons collapse along with the bridge, causing a massive explosion.
A satisfied smile crept onto his lips.
The prop master anxiously watched and closely followed the action.
The explosions grew louder and more intense. Xia Qi ripped open the dirty bag filled with gunpowder that he had been carrying, scattering it as he limped forward. The flames were right behind him, almost catching up. He was hit by several bullets from behind, swayed for a moment, and astonishingly started moving even faster.
After a few steps, Xia Qi fell to the ground. He gritted his teeth and desperately tore the bag in his arms, scattering gunpowder around him. Looking up, Xia Qi realized that within a few more steps, he could reach the shore.
After crawling a few steps, You Zai eventually gave up. The explosives hidden under the bridge, mixed with the gunpowder he had scattered along the way, began to explode one after another and were about to catch up to him.
You Zai struggled to support himself, turned over, and laid down as if he had no strength left. What came into his view was the vast starry sky after the smoke and flames.
Many years ago, during a past New Year’s celebration, he had hidden behind his grandfather, watching enviously as his older brother and sister-in-law lit firecrackers. He had never dared to get closer.
You Zai spreaded the last bit of the gunpowder on himself, with tears in his eyes, he laughed and shouted, “Sister Ying! Can you hear me? Can you hear me?! Is it loud enough?!! Did I make it loud enough?!!”
With a “bang,” the entire bridge collapsed. You Zai destroyed the bridge that once facilitated trading within their city and also blocked the route for the Japanese army to transport weapons into the city.
The production crew and Xia Qi’s assistant rushed over to help him up. Xia Qi’s face was covered in tears. Director Fei gestured from a distance, signaling that the scene was a success. Many girls on set were crying, and they all came forward to hug Xia Qi, celebrating the completion of his work.
“Thank you, thank you.”
Xia Qi repeatedly bowed to everyone, tears flowing uncontrollably. Director Fei was about to check the effects of a few other camera angles, but he came over to encourage Xia Qi with a few words, urging him to always stay true to himself and work even harder. Xia Qi thanked him profusely. Many members of the crew came to talk to Xia Qi, the assistant director patted him on the back, and Xia Qi, tears streaming down his face, shared his feelings and expressed gratitude to the crew, as well as to Shengshi Media.
The male and female lead also came over for a group photo with Xia Qi. He was genuinely surprised by all the attention and affection. Everyone was in tears and laughter, and it took a while to bid farewell. Xia Qi exchanged contact information with many people and made plans to celebrate together after finishing the filming.