Hu Xiao’s facial expression was bad. When he had realized that both he and Luo Ding were auditioning for the same character, he started paying attention to the latter who was giving him an inexplicably strange feeling.
He really didn’t like this guy who always pretended to be aloof.
A few years ago, Luo Ding had stolen a march on him and snatched his chance to debut with Su Sheng Bai. Yet wasn’t he still unpopular? It is unfortunate that the company had actually arranged for the same agent to represent them both!!
Hu Xiao could be considered a young but talented artist. The foundations for his singing and acting had already been laid and with effort he had accumulated some popularity and status. But Luo Ding had it easy just by virtue of his good looks. Although the gap in their statuses had gradually widened, he often thought back to those days when he had painstakingly sharpened his vocal and acting talent while Luo Ding secured appearances just by being silent.
This was why he disliked Luo Ding. Although Hu Xiao was proud, he was not contemptuous of everyone. However, at Yaxing Entertainment, Luo Ding always the recipient of this honor. Unfortunately, Hu Xiao could never fully vent his anger on Luo Ding because the latter always pretended to remain calm even after being scolded by him till he could no longer refute.
Today, the company had arranged for Luo Ding to audition alongside him. This had originally made him slightly unhappy, but at this moment, Luo Ding had actually chosen to also audition for the same role! Was he trying to be provocative?
Hu Xiao held onto his script and gnashed his teeth in anger, but Luo Ding seemed not to care at all. He was only practicing his lines outside, seemingly more focused than Hu Xiao himself. Hu Xiao walked around absent-mindedly for a while and out of nowhere he felt a sudden urge in his heart to show that boy his strength.
The moment he pushed opened the door to the audition room, Hu Xiao keenly noticed a change in Luo Ding’s temperament but as the room was filled with veteran directors, he did not dare to look around any further and could only anxiously try to recall his lines.
Hu Xiao had sharp eyes and he immediately noticed that the two judges in the panel had turned their heads to look in his direction. While he did not know what they intended he nevertheless angled himself to present his best side.
“Similar! Very similar!”
“It does look comparable. He has the essence …”
Hu Xiao stood close to the judges’ seats and as he could faintly hear a similar discussion there, his expectations began to rise.
When it was his turn, Hu Xiao swallowed hard and suppressed the tension in his heart while standing nervously in front of the judge
Zheng Kezhen, with his short white beard, moved his eyes away from the doorway and looked over lightly at Hu Xiao. Zheng Kezhen flipped open the resume in his hands and was surprised: “You have already filmed a few dramas? … This drama, the ratings were good! What role are you auditioning for? “
This being his first-time face to face with such a heavy-weight director, Hu Xiao’s throat was dry: “Yes … Fu Zhu.”
A character with a tragic end in the drama. Although the number of times this character appears could not be considered high, its appearance rate was constant, and the character also had key rivalries with the leads. More importantly, although the character is a tragic one, it was very well written.
The Xuanwumen incident had already taken place when Fu Zhu appears in the drama. As the gate keeper for Prince Li Jian Cheng, Fu Zhu had been forced to run away to avoid Li Shimin’s subsequent attempt to purge Prince Li’s followers. But in his heart, after receiving many favors from Li Jian Cheng, the latter was both a father and a friend to him, therefore, when he survived, he was naturally determined to avenge Li Jian cheng. He studied hard, and when he reappeared, he had passed the imperial examinations. After hearing of his scholarly achievements, Li Shimin nominated Fu Zhu to be appointed as an official.
Fu Zhu believed that he would have the opportunity to kill Li Shimin. Thus, despite showing reluctance he gained the trust of Li Shimin. On his first attempt to kill Li Shimin, while hidden, he overheard, Li Shimin and his ministers talk about vigorously promoting civilian education thus, thinking that there will be countless poor people in the dynasty whose life would be improved by education, he silently put away his knife.
On his second attempt to kill Li Shimin, while on the roof, he overheard Li Shimin and his confidante rebuking corrupt officials, with Li Shimin declaring that he would personally would go out into the world to observe the people’s lives. Hearing that all the vermin in the land under the heaven will be cleansed by the hand of the world’s most powerful emperor, he silently stowed away his knife a second time.
The third time he decided to kill Li Shimin, the latter met him in private to bid him farewell and informed him of his decision to lead men into Gāolí . Looking at Li Shimin who, to motivate his men, had decided to personally lead them into a dangerous battlefield despite the threat to his life, Fu Zhu put away his dagger for the last time. And even before Li Shimin made a request, Fu Zhu wrote down three battlefield stratagems as a farewell.
After Li Shimin’s departure, Fu Zhu set down the incense holder which held 999 sticks of incense in Li Jian cheng’s honor, and then ended his short life with the dagger that he had not been able to use cut down Li Shimin.
However, Li Shimin was able to save himself three times because of Fu Zhu’s three stratagems. He originally wanted to reward Fu Zhu after returning to the dynasty, but he never expected to receive news of Fu Zhu’s death instead. Li Shimin was severely impacted by the news of Fu Zhu’s death and mourned his passing for many years.
Such a small character clearly supported the emperor’s great achievements from the side and in this adaptation, he also had a relationship with Empress Changsun. He and Empress Changsun were childhood playmates who secretly admired one another in their hearts. Unfortunately, as an ordinary official, he was destined to have no future with such a woman. Empress Changsun married Li Shimin, and he, Fu Zhu, became a bereaved dog after Li Jian cheng’s death. Thus, after returning to Chang’an, he still had a fondness for Empress Changsun, but as could not reveal his identity, he instead secretly protected her several times from the conspiracies of Wei Guifei.
Being such a big part of a coherent harem plot as well as the plot concerning the former dynasty, this character was crafted to evoke heartbreak. Not to mention that in the original work, this tragic character was described as “elegant and scholarly, like an immortal”. Such a role, if played well enough, could be as popular as the male and female protagonists. But wanting to perform well is by no means a simple matter. Almost half of the participants in this audition came specifically for this role, but so far there was no one who had satisfied the director.
Hu Xiao took a deep breath, stepped back and began to act according to Fu Zhu’s audition script.
The excerpt in the script described the scene where the emperor Li Shimin, who was moved by Fu Zhu, sends someone to invite him to Chang’an to become an official. Hu Xiao had to act out the scene of Fu Zhu’s refusal. This scene was not difficult for Hu Xiao. The directors who had worked with him in the past all praised his line delivery. Those with experience know that even more important than acting with your eyes and facial features, was the subtle use of line delivery to express emotions through precise intonations. God was helping him.
Hu Xiao, his face showing a cold expression, lifted his right arm and flung his hand proudly: “Get out of here!”
Zheng Kezhen’s brows jumped slightly. When he heard how the other had vocalized the light and soft ending of that line he started to look at Hu Xiao in surprise. Such a line could covey hatred as well as expectations and while he had no comments on other parts of Hu Xiao’s acting, his line delivery was really accurate.
Zheng Kezhen reigned in his emotions and focused.
As though Hu Xiao could hear what the other party was saying, his body stiffened, and he slowly turned his head to give the “invisible” person a mysterious concealed look: “The Emperor really said that?”
A moment later, a slight sneer appeared at the corner of his mouth: “So concerned about the people … great, then I will accompany you on this trip,” he said. His darkened eyes, in contrast to the optimism in the words, as though he was conceiving how to make Li Shimin die by a thousand swords. In just three sentences, the character’s intricately tangled emotions and his hatred of Li Shimin was vividly displayed.
Zheng Kezhen nodded, his appreciation displayed in his eyes: “You are good. Your name is Hu Xiao? Stay and rest there for a while, when this group of auditions is completed, you can audition for me alone.” Today, there hadn’t been many that could catch his eye like Hu Xiao just did. Although Zheng Kezhen has strict requirements for the film, he is not bull-headed. If he cannot find an actor for this role, he cannot begin filming. It is also impossible for the entire crew to sit around waiting for this role to be determined. Even if, as a director, he is reluctant to do so, when necessary he could take a step back and make a choice.
“Next. Luo Ding!” He said while turning the page without looking at the unsuppressed excitement on Hu Xiao’s face. He glanced at the Luo Ding’s resume and nodded slightly. This actor had very good facial features.
Luo Ding smiled slightly, stood up lightly, and walked towards the stage unhurriedly. His gaze was focused on Zheng Kezhen, his expression seemed to be smiling, yet his eyes were like a bottomless pool of water.
Zheng Kezhen glanced at him subconsciously, and Luo Ding’s expression suddenly became serious. His back that had been slightly bowed gradually straightened. This was it!
Luo Ding could not be compared to his photos which showed nothing except his excellent facial features. Looking at him now, Zheng Kezhen was stunned. Could a photo distort a person to such an extent?
However, the next moment, Zheng Kezhen immediately realized that something was wrong. After Luo Ding came on stage, he didn’t introduce himself and state what part he intended to audition for, but rather turned to face the wall and presented them with his back.
Zheng Kezhen immediately wanted to pose the question but before he could speak, Deng Jian Lian tapped his shoulder.
“… what?” Zheng Kezhen looked at the other side questioning but was surprised to find that Deng Jian Lian’s face showed the joy and earnestness that had been missing throughout this entire audition.
“Haven’t you not noticed?” Deng Jian Lian, whispered, as if he was afraid of disturbing the young elder that stood not too far away from them with his fists clenched, “He already in character.”
Zheng Kezhen opened his mouth and turned his gaze to the stage and on Luo Ding’s back. Deng Jian Lian’s words were like bullets and a bang went off in his head.
The lofty and leisurely other-worldly walk, the arrogance displayed throughout his body and those deep eyes that, just now, seemed capable of sucking people in.
A person that had experienced all the hardships in the world yet remained carefree and had survived by dint of the blood feud buried in his heart. Where does his ” elegant and scholarly, like an immortal” persona come from? This persona was because there was nothing tying him to the world other than revenge. Therefore, he should appear like this, seemingly empty because he has nothing to love.
Zheng Kezhen could not find a trace of vitality from looking at Luo Ding’s back, his quiet figure, like a dead man walking.
Zheng Kezhen clenched his fists, his palms sweating.
If Luo Ding could truly act at this level, then his final work would be better than he thought.
The next second, the figure that had been standing still finally shook slightly and turned around.
Luo Ding and Zheng Kezhen stared at each other without blinking, seeing the emptiness in Luo Ding’s eyes the hairs on the back of Zheng Kezhen’s neck stood up one by one.
This chapter was a beast to MTL :’). Let me know in the comments if you catch any errors. Thanks
 The Xuanwu Gate Incident was a palace coup over the throne of the Tang dynasty on 2 July 626, when Prince Li Shimin (Prince of Qin) and his followers assassinated Crown Prince Li Jiancheng and Prince Li Yuanji.
 Li Shimin, personal name of second Tang emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (TángTàizōng)
 The word used here is 半推半就(Bàntuībànjiù) which I think does not quite have an english equivalent. The clearest definition I found was “to strike an attitude of half-declining and half-accepting so as to provoke the other party to greater or more ardent efforts or to a more agreeable offer”
 Ancient Korea