The Play of Lips and Teeth

Chapter 1 - The Sudden Airdropped Guest

Role Number Two Official Weibo: "When a variety program has a xiangsheng performer and a well-known presenter swap their jobs with one another, what spark will arise from the meeting of their ‘violent mouths’? @ZhouChenYu @YanZhao"

In the lounge meant for the show guests, Yan Zhao read the new Weibo post that popped up without a warning on his phone. He was startled, “What? What about the agreed male idol?

The high-heeled shoes of his manager, Wei Lan, made clicking clacking noises as the owner took big strides over to the side of the sofa he’s sitting on.

She loudly tossed the stack of documents she was holding to the coffee table, then asked in a grumpy tone, “You haven’t seen the news yet? That little idol we had an agreement with suddenly had his romantic affairs exposed by the paparazzi today. Their company later had him blacklisted.”

Before her words finished, Yan Zhao was quick to swipe into the Hot Search page. And indeed, there was the headline with the orange ‘Boiling’ icon.

“The hell,” sighed Yan Zhao in frustration, “Tomorrow is the first day of the official recording. Are they deliberately embarrassing us by making such a thing happen today?”

Role Number Two was an innovative variety show program of Huanyu TV which was shining a spotlight on some relatively 'niche' occupations in the current entertainment industry. These said occupations may already have their sizable fanbase, but they're yet to be understood by the general populace. Trainees were one good example, as were e-sport athletes.

What Role Number Two did was inviting celebrity guests from multiple fields of work, pairing them up in twos, and having the two guests with different work characteristics experience the life of the other by exchanging their identities. By recording down this process of experiencing and studying, it could then achieve both the goal of popularizing it to the masses, as well as hyping some romance, friendship, and/or 'bromance' on the side.

As Yan Zhao was the currently popular emcee of Huanyu TV–as well considering his high attractiveness index, his youth, and his many fans–, it was only natural for him to be paired with a member of the current popular boy idol group and try experiencing the life of an idol trainee.

Every preparation was well in order, and today was the day they'd be taking the promotional photos. Just who would have thought such a problem would crop up?

The most outrageous part was, rather than the reasonable course of action in such a situation which was to postpone the recording, not only didn't they postpone, the production team had even managed to pull up a 'substitute guest' at the speed of light.

–While keeping Yan Zhao completely in the dark. ‌‌It was to the point that he himself knew he had a sudden change of partner only after reading the official Weibo push.

Wei Lan just got more and more irritated by the thought. A sweep of her hands brought the many documents on the table fluttering to the ground. "You're also one of the program's planners and screenwriters, to say the least. Does the production team attach no importance to us at all?"

Despite also feeling a bit mad, Yan Zhao could only speak consolingly when he saw Wei Lan acting like that, "Let's calm down first, Wei-jie."

It wasn't a wonder that Wei Lan would be so heated. Ever since taking over as Yan Zhao's manager, she had been used to the feeling of being the one high above and having others cater to their wishes. Never had anyone dared to slight them like so.

The only reason for that was the Jack-Sue-worthy, protagonist-trademark, miraculous 'golden finger' that Yan Zhao possessed. In his 23 years of life, both his academic and celebrity careers had been very smooth sailing, akin to sesame blossoms blooming higher one after the other.

Yan Zhao himself had a striking appearance, swift reflex, eloquence, and talent. There's no further need to talk about the basic essentials required of him as a host.

What was most awesome from all these was how he wasn't from a broadcasting major yet joined this field of work without the academical training.

He scored a seat in Peking University's Department of Journalism with his high achievement in the College Entrance Exam. Then during his college years, he joined a talk show program and made a name for himself from that one appearance.

He later entered Huanyu TV right after graduation, then simultaneously took on the job as the scriptwriter and presenter for many of its programs. These programs mostly were the TV company's various large-scale evening parties and trademark variety shows. His resources were so impressive that people would click their tongues.

Yan Zhao was clever, no doubt. However, such a heaven-defying résumé looked absolutely impossible for a 23-years-old hairy kid to achieve relying on cleverness alone.

Such was the reason why he had no lack of anti-fans, those who questioned his professional ability because of his disparate major, and those who commented on how he only relied on his face to get to his current position.

All kinds of gossip also never ceased to be heard. The most popular one among them being the mass-favorite melodramatic plot: That Yan Zhao had a sugar daddy who’d been assisting him up his position.

Yet when the matter reached such a precarious situation, who knows where this legendary omnipotent ‘Sugar Daddy’ had disappeared to?

Wei Lan had a short temper, but Yan Zhao was understanding. He’s one of the Huanyu TV’s people after all, and he also had no less of his own contribution to the planning of this Role Number Two variety show.

For the production team to decide like so, they must have had their reasons. Furthermore, the announcement had been made on Weibo. Yan Zhao had absolutely no justification to back out from the contract now, and he could only take whatever’s coming his way.

Since the production team wanted him to perform xiangsheng…

No, wait, is the production team okay? Perform xiangsheng?

Him, this barely-twenty-three-y.o., talented, handsome youth?

The point was that he knew next to nothing about performing xiangsheng. Also, the sole impression he had on it was that sentence ‘teasing you for fun’ from Mr. Ma Sanli?

The production team was fricking teasing him for fun, right?

What’s more, weren’t all xiangsheng performers those veteran artists advanced in age?

Could this twenty to thirty years of age gap still be used to hype bromance? Rather than brothers, it’s more to father and son, alright?

Hold up, this xiangsheng performer that he had to swap jobs with…

Who was the name again?

Thinking to this point, Yan Zhao only found out this matter of sudden guest switch just now had messed with his head so much that he completely forgot to note what’s the name of this sudden airdropped new partner of his.

He belatedly opened the Weibo announcement once more and had a look at the name of the other party.

Not looking in a haze. Once he looked, in a daze.

If it was anyone else’s, Yan Zhao might not have known the name. Yet for this renowned one, it was practically impossible for any internet-addicted youngster of the current era to be unaware of his name.

Yan Zhao couldn’t help but frown, “Zhou Chenyu? It’s that ‘Flower Vase Support Gen’?”

[t/n: flower vase = just a pretty face (fig.)]

This was not an appellation Zhou Chenyu had before he became famous. He was nicknamed so to mock him to ‘get out of the entertainment circle for he only knows to rely on his partner’.

His partner was He Chenfeng, a xiangsheng performer of the same folk art group called Liao Feng Xuan. He once performed out of his field in a small literary film and got an wholly unexpected award as The Best Actor, which was the reason for his explosion in popularity as well as of his support gen's as a collateral effect.

As their reputation rose, Zhou Chenyu then got this unanimously accepted public image under the joint effort of the fans-vs-anti-fans war and the melon-eating masses:  The support gen of an outstanding tease gen who relies entirely on his partner to reach his height. Someone who has such a low sense of existence under the brilliant light of his partner that his presence (and absence) made literally no difference whenever he's performing xiangsheng with He Chenfeng.

However, there's this one thing that got the unified approval of his fans, anti-fans, and the melon-eating masses alike: That face of his looked really good, indeed.

As a result, some people also said that the point of Zhou Chenyu sticking over there was to attract the audience's gaze with his face. Presumably if He Chenfeng's next performance was done solo with a flower vase put on his side, the effect would've been better than them doing it as a duo.

Yan Zhao really wasn't being anti on purpose–for he hadn't even watched any of his xiangsheng performances. It was this title of Flower Vase Support Gen that had long been popularized internet-wide that he also went with the flow and blurted out so.

Yan Zhao opened the search engine. He was just about to get into in-depth research of this Flower Vase Support Gen when some neither light nor heavy knocking sounds were heard from the lounge's door.

Not waiting for him to look up, a sentence full of bantering floated into his ear, "Leaving the door open when talking bad about others now, are we, 'Little Flower Vase Emcee'?"

Wei Lan by his side sprung up. She stole a glance at the incoming person, a glance at Yan Zhao, before exposing some awkward expression, "I was too anxious I forgot to close the door…"

Yan Zhao stood up while buttoning the jacket of his suit. This time, he got the chance to size up the person before him.

Trendy K-styled bangs, flashy T-shirt, exquisite countenance with a mischievous smile-yet-not-a-smile expression, and a wicked trace behind a good-looking face.

Somewhat resembling those act-all-cool bad boy protagonists in a campus idol drama, or more to the dominance visual of an internet-popular boyband.

Just not the least bit resembling a xiangsheng performer whichever angle you look at.

If not for a few of his photos on the net that Yan Zhao had seen, he would never have believed this person was the legendary Zhou Chenyu.

In the course of standing up, both Yan Zhao’s brain and facial expression went through rapid operation and an apologetic smile quickly settled on his face.

As Madam Du showed that Zhou Chenyu was two years older than himself, Yan Zhao chose a quite proper-sounding title, “Hello, Zhou-laoshi. I was making jokes. Please don’t take it to heart.”

[t/n: Madam Du referring to the search engine Baidu]

Zhou Chenyu gave him a glance, then exposed a smiling-yet-not expression, “In front of the one in question is called joking. But it’s also counted as so when done behind?”

Yan Zhao of course understood he was the one at fault, but it was also only a slip of his tongue. He never would have thought Zhou Chenyu to be such a petty person. The dripping sarcasm in his tone had Yan Zhao’s smile appear stiff instead.

Having realized this was not an easy opponent, Yan Zhao internally dabbed at his own sweat. But just as he was about to round the topic back, he saw Zhou Chenyu suddenly beamed in smile, “I was joking too, you see. Look at you all scared.”

His expression had unexpectedly changed faster than the flipping of a page. Yan Zhao stared at his un-predictableness while inwardly commented: In the end, does this one just appear wicked, or does he have a real problem in the brain?

Zhou Chenyu held out his hand to Yan Zhao, “Xiao didi, this is gege's first time recording a variety show. No prior experience. So, I’ll be counting on you in the future.”

This weird form of address had Yan Zhao stunned, yet his heart also basically settled on the answer: real problem in the brain.

[t/n: Uh, Xiao didi means little brother, but that specific one down there.]

He quickly reached to grab the other party’s hand. “You flattered me. We’ll both look out for each other.”

Saying that, a standard emoji-like smile hung on his face, “It’s just, can you not call me… Xiao didi?”

Zhou Chenyu looked up at him with a teasing smile. He tightened his throat and spoke in a soft coquettish voice, “Alrighty, XiaoYan gege~”

Yan Zhao: … *vomits

‌             ‌

Link for the chapter in raw‌‌. Footnote equates trouble–not automatic and remove the styles of the text. I'm striving not to use them and just add explanation below or in-between the paragraphs based on their importance.

Chapter's Glossary‌‌- Weibo : a Chinese social networking app almost like Twitter if I may so myself. Here's a vid, but it's lengthy.‌‌- Xiangsheng : a comedy performance done by usually two people (stand-up comedy duet?). It usually had a certain topic and may include drama and singing inside. As for Mr. Ma Sanli, he's apparently a famous figure in this domain.‌‌- Melon-eating Masses : unrelated peeps who's just there for the gossips a.k.a. melon-munching.‌‌- Support Gen and Tease Gen : English equivalence would be 'Straight man and Funny man', but it's rather 'unfit' to be used in this case (ahem). Bluntly, it's the main jokester and the sidekick who keep the other in check.‌‌- Best Actor Award : the literal title Mr. He got was 'Movie Emperor'‌‌- Gege, didi, jiejie, and meimei : Elder brother, younger brother, elder sister, and younger sister, respectively.‌‌- Laoshi : an term of address meaning 'Teacher' that was also used commonly in celebrity circle.‌‌- Jack Sue : a term for the too-perfect male role in fictions.

Name(s) Introduced:‌Role Number Two《第二角色》‌‌Yàn Zhāo 晏朝 (Protagonist [1])‌‌Zhōu Chényú 周辰瑜 (Protagonist [0])‌‌Wèi Lán 卫岚 ( P1's manager)‌‌Hè Chénfēng 贺辰烽 (P0's partner)‌‌Liǎo Fēng Xuān 蓼风轩 (P0's workplace)‌‌Huányǔ TV 寰宇卫视 (P1's workplace)

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