“Three minutes…” Chen Shuang He muttered while looking down.
“What are you talking about Chen Ge1?” The Rookie beside him looked at him curiously.
“No, it’s nothing.” Chen Shuang He looked up, his smile was like a spring breeze.
He had to have been seeing things, Chen Ge was publicly acknowledged as the gentleman of the entertainment industry, how could he have had a scary expression? The Rookie complained to him, “Chen Ge, I’m about to be in trouble.”
The two of them were a little acquainted, Chen Shuang He asked gently, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s that Ning Ning, the queen of crap films.” The Rookie complained softly, “Let’s take the scene we’re about to film as an example, Yang Yue had twenty-odd NGs while we filmed with her, I almost fell asleep while kneeling on the floor. Wouldn’t I be sleeping on the floor the whole day if we swapped Ning Ning in?”
It appeared again! That demonic expression!
“How can it be?” The demonic expression on Chen Shuang He’s face disappeared in a flash, his smile was still so gentle. “She is not as bad as you described her to be.”
The Rookie had long forgotten about Ning Ning, he stared at Chen Shuang He stupidly. Was he seeing things again? Or should he visit an ophthalmologist?
“Alright, it’s almost time. Let’s go over.” Chen Shuang He gave his shoulder a pat. He conveniently got closer and whispered in his ear, “Oh right, she is a very good actress.”
“…Huh?” The Rookie was taken aback.
“Not even I would dare to underestimate her.” Chen Shuang He smiled gently at him. “You’re but an actor who makes a living because of your looks, who are you to underestimate her?”
The Rookie looked dumbfoundedly at Chen Shuang He’s back as he left. Someone gave his shoulder a pat and asked, “What did Chen Ge talk to you about? Did he give you pointers for your scene?”
Rookie, “He said, Ning Ning is a very good actress, not even he would dare to underestimate her, I am but an actor that makes a living because of my looks, so I shouldn’t even think about underestimating her.”
The other party, “…How are you hard of hearing at such a young age!”
No one would believe that Chen Shuang He had said such a thing. Similarly, no one would have believed that Ning Ning had any acting skills.
There were even people making side bets on how many times Ning Ning would get NG in the next scene.
“Yang Yue already had twenty-odd NGs. If it were Ning Ning, two hundred?”
This was a joke, but this was also what everyone genuinely thought.
<<The Great Empire>> was a scramble for imperial supremacy, a fight between a pair of brothers. When did it start? Where did it start?
It started from the announcement of the arrival of a princess. It started from a regal beauty walking in from the backdoor. The foreign ministers, the imperial bodyguards, the palace maids and the eunuchs were all bowing down without fail.
Among those were the male lead who was a general, and the second male lead who was a notable minister.
It would have been fine if neither of them raised their heads, even if they did, it would have been fine if the Princess did not smile at them when they did.
It was only when they looked back in their old age that they realised, everything had started from that smile.
This smile was also the opening scene for <<The Great Empire>>. In this superficial era we lived in, a lot of people watched a show for its opening scene, read books for its opening (chapter). If the opening was not done well, they would give up on the book. No one cared about what happened later on. So, no matter how well your show was in the latter parts, the opening must be fascinating enough to attract people.
This also caused Yang Yue to receive a lot of criticism when she was doing the scene. “That smile is too fake”, “That smile is too suggestive”, “That smile is too dumb”… She had to endure criticisms for an entire day, so much so that she only barely passed after her face had stiffened from smiling too much.
What about Ning Ning? What kind of smile would she show what kind of laughing stock she would be? Everyone waited with bated breaths—especially the Rookie who was acting as the second male lead. He was the one who couldn’t wait the most!
On the royal court, in the midst of silence.
The silence was not because there was no one in the court, on the contrary, it was filled with civil and military officials, but none of them were speaking to one another, they only exchanged looks.
The six-year-old Emperor on the throne started to cry, as if he finally could not bear the overwhelming atmosphere in the court. He cried as he climbed off the throne and waddled towards the front door while sobbing repeatedly, “I want Auntie, I want Auntie!”
The court ladies and eunuchs frantically chased after him, like a flock of chicks chasing after a mother hen. The usually serious Royal Court had turned into a market because of his tantrum.
The old ministers shook their heads and sighed, the new ministers whispered among themselves, there were also a few of them whose eyes were burning with ambition. Who knew what kind of ideas were brewing in their mind? Countless pairs of eyes filled with varied implications took turns to appear in front of the camera.
The shot first fixed itself on the eyes of the second male lead, the Rookie was doing quite well today, frowning with worry.
But harms would not exist without comparisons.
Once the camera shifted onto the eyes of Chen Shuang He, one would realise that the Rookie’s performance was limited to his eyebrows, the expression in his eyes were dead.
Chen Shuang He quietly gazed at the Little Emperor from the crowd, his eyes were filled with concern, but this type of concern was superficial. When the Little Emperor cried for ‘auntie’, the concern started to change into disdain, then slowly changed into something even more dangerous.
“Do you see that? That is acting with your eyes.” Someone quietly discussed, “I can tell that the Emperor is definitely useless just by watching his eyes. So useless that the ministers are starting to stir.”
“Shut up!” The Director shouted cut, then he roared at the direction where the person was speaking, “Get out if you want to talk! Do not make a fuss here!”
Chen Shuang He did not even flinch at the prospect of reshooting the scene, but the Rookie was extremely agitated in his mind, he was even trembling a little. <<The Great Empire>> was actually a show with dual male leads, but the filming had just started and Chen Shuang He had already stolen everyone’s attention…
“Her Royal Highness Princess Qing Luan!”
He quickly gathered up his negative feelings upon hearing the shrill scream of the eunuch, bowed down and welcomed the princess alongside the ministers and generals, “Your Royal Highness.”
A fragrance filled up the court.
Two maids dressed in white were holding incense burners as they crossed the threshold. They had no makeup on their faces, the smoke from the incense burners were spiraling upwards, causing them to look like two heavenly maidens in a Buddhist painting.
They purified the air with the incense burners as they walked past everyone.
Afterwards, a regal lady dressed in white slowly crossed the threshold.
“Auntie!” The eyes of the Little Emperor who had a faceful of tears lit up. He struggled free from the grasp of a eunuch and rushed up to hug her leg, then started crying again.
“Hush, now.” The lady in white lectured him in a languid manner. Her voice was placid, but it had the trace of a threat.
The Little Emperor hiccuped twice before wiping his tears grudgingly. It was then that she was willing to hold his hand and walked to the throne together with him.
They walked past the minister who had been there for three imperial reigns, the veteran generals, but somehow, they stopped in front of a non-authoritative minister.
“Raise your head.”
The Rookie heard her bland command.
He was stunned for a moment, then slowly looked up at the familiar yet strange face.
Was this Ning Ning, or someone else? This person was looking down at him condescendingly—yes, condescendingly, he could only think of such a term. He was definitely taller than her, but the way she looked at him made him feel he was an inch shorter.
What was the inch she had on him? Bloodline? Position? Power?
She slowly started to smile at him after gazing at him for a while.
It seemed like she paid special attention to him, it also seemed like she was interested in the power he represented in a spur of the moment, it also seemed like she was interested in him as a person at the same time.
The smile was fleeting. She returned to her serious conduct as she turned and walked towards the throne, leaving behind the Rookie who was dumbstruck, along with a group of ministers who were quickly exchanging glances. What was she smiling about? What was she hinting at? What was she planning to do? That smile was full of secrecy, everyone had different interpretations of it.
The Rookie suddenly came back to his senses after being in a daze for a while. He shouted, “That’s not right!”
The people around him got a shock, the Rookie then walked quickly towards the Director. He conveniently took the script from his assistant and pointed at it while telling the Director, “This is not how the scene is supposed to go. She does not have this line at all!”
Ning Ning was slightly taken aback as she heard that.
“Which line?” She came over to take a look, her brows furrowed. She compared it with her version of the script and was surprised to find out that—the two of them had different scripts. The line ‘raise your head’ was not in his script.
What was going on? She borrowed a script from another person to check, that script did not have the line as well. The line was only in her script.
Ning Ning had an ugly expression on her face. The others had a strange look on them. On the surface, it looked like Ning Ning took the wrong script, but it was more likely that someone had given her the wrong script on purpose.
“It’s better to add this line.”
A man’s voice broke the silence.
Ning Ning along with the others looked towards the voice. They saw Chen Shuang He flipped through his script while saying, “My character is an ambitious person who plans things deliberately, the second male lead is a smart and fiercely loyal person. Neither of our characters are frivolous and audacious enough to peek at the princess. For both of us to raise our heads to look at her…”
He looked up and told the onlookers, “It has to be because she said, ‘Raise your head’.”
Just as the Rookie was about to dispute the point, the Director answered with a laugh, “That is exactly the case.”
He looked at the onlookers, especially the Rookie who was tongue tied as he explained, “The script Ning Ning is holding is the unedited version of the script. That is to say, it is the true <<The Great Empire>>!”
The Rookie was surprised. “Then what about the version we are using now?”
“…The version that had the difficulty lowered.” The Director thought while putting a cigarette in his mouth, “The difficulty was lowered for Yang Yue.”
The crew did not know that Yang Yue was the second female lead appointed by the sponsors.
She had received the script long before anyone else and had auditioned in front of the Director.
She had twenty NGs with just the smile and fifty NGs with the line.
In the end, Yang Yue cried as she was going crazy. “This line isn’t even that important, can’t you just remove it?”
They could only edit the script as she was the actress appointed by the sponsors.
He did not expect her to be replaced and to end up with an actress who was publicly acknowledged to be worse. He thought he had already made the necessary changes to the script, making the necessary preparations by lowering the difficulty, but by the looks of it now, it was not necessary.
“Which version of the script do you guys like better?” The Director asked with a smile, “Lower or higher difficulty?”
Chen Shuang He, “Higher difficulty.”
Ning Ning, “Higher difficulty.”
The Rookie hated himself for being slow to respond, how could he say lower difficulty now. “…Higher difficulty.”
The Female Lead who was late just followed along with the crowd even though she did not know what was happening, “Higher difficulty.”
A super high difficulty and hellish <<The Great Empire>> had begun.
1This literally translates to ‘elder brother’ which is a polite way to address an older male.