Lan He's character in the play was called Zhang Xunchun, the Villain who hid behind the guise of a lovely young master. He liked pigeon-coiling, a hobby that he had in common with the Male Lead. It was one of foreshadowing in the film too.
The few scenes that were scheduled for Lan He today were all related to pigeons. This morning scene, for instance, in which the character was carving a pigeon whistle inside the room.
The story’s background was also located in the capital. Growing flowers, keeping birds, raising fish, and collecting insects. The entertainment of the capital’s citizens was typically among these four. Generally, the birds kept were of three types: birds-of-prey like eagles, falcons, and hawks; songbirds like the Chinese Hwamei; and also, as the representative of the homing group, pigeons.
—It's said that when the script was first written, Liu Chunyang had once considered letting them raise a big eagle, as it would be more exciting. But he then changed his mind, he thought that would be too much of a show and not too fitting with the character development itself. The pet was originally intended as a metaphor after all. Making it too obvious would just decrease the taste.
What about the pigeon whistle, then? This one was also based on an old tradition.
Before the pigeons were set off, various sizes of whistles would be tied onto their bodies. So when the birds were making their rounds in the sky, the wind would blow through their whistles and produce some sounds. Because the flight paths were altering, the whistling sounds also wouldn't stay the same. Not only would differentiating and locating each pigeons' groups be easier, they also sounded especially pleasant.
The pigeons' whistle had at least dozens of variations. With the five pentatonic notes all present, they thus become an aerial symphony.
Zhang Xunchun could carve pigeon whistles for himself—Actually, the original setting didn’t have this. It was Liu Chunyang who later added it.
It was because he's aware of Lan He's ability with knives, so might as well take a shot of Lan He carving the pigeon whistle himself.
As this could conveniently leave a hint about his knife skill in the later showdown between the villain and the leads.
The crew especially invited a master pigeon-raiser, an uncle surnamed Wang. Besides guiding about pigeon-related knowledge, he would also play cameo as the servant who assisted Lan He in taking care of the pigeons.
Lan He had received his guidance. He held the knife at the ready to carve the bamboo down into a whistle.
A hand double was completely unneeded for this part. Except Liu Chunyang, no one in the crew had previously seen Lan He play with a knife. Those first few scenes were also mostly Lan He acting his pure and innocent guise.
So, now that they were looking at him whole-heartedly fiddling with a knife... and on watching how those slender fingers pinched that sharp, glinting cold blade in the alternation of light and dark... Making a sudden, precise, downward cut—
One just have to say, it was quite the thrill.
Upon bearing witness to this, Uncle Wang straightforwardly commented on how those hands must have had some real skills. The fall of the knife was extremely precise despite him never making a pigeon whistle ever before.
In accordance with Liu Chunyang's request, Lan He did them neat and tidy, with added bits of dazzling moves. The shooting of this section thus went through very smoothly. And seeing how the needed effect was reached, Liu Chunyang directly approved of the take.
Having his beautiful fingers with their beautiful movements appearing on the screen was visual bliss in itself.
Moreover, the pigeon whistle that Lan He had made did look decent.
It was the second time for the camera team's boss to cooperate with Lan He. He silently mused to himself, meeting Liu Chunyang was Lan He's awaited opportunity to shine bright.
In the afternoon, Lan He had another scene where he'd play against the Male Lead. This was also where 'Zhang Xunchun' first appeared. In the scene, his pigeons and those of the Male Lead would fly across each other before separating. This was called 'Clash of Coils', with the 'Coil' referring to the flocks of pigeons.
The flocks of pigeons were like army troops. Only a flock of well-trained pigeons could hold their unity in the collision against the enemy flock, and not being swept away into forgetting their way home.
With pigeons as soldiers, their owners would naturally be the commanders. The Male Lead boasted that his pigeons were trained into superb combatants. He took along the Female Lead to command the pigeons. They watched as other people's pigeons’ flocks would detour in their flight upon sighting his raised ones, not daring enough to clash.
Putting other people's flocks to the side, a peal of exceptionally resounding whistles sounded before followed by the flock of pigeons raised by the big player Villain emerged from afar. Not only didn't they evade the Male Lead's flock, that flock even chased, taking the initiative to rush over.
Both parties commandeered the pigeons for a 'battle'. The pigeons raised by the antagonist were immensely fierce, had distinctive stamina, and obeyed the commands deftly. The Male Lead, upon seeing that the situation wasn't to his advantage, unexpectedly released another small flock of pigeons to wrap away lesser trained new recruits from the Villain's flock. He was simply hopping mad.
Pigeon whistles echoed throughout the skies during the entire process, as if bringing a rhythmical battle BGM for themselves—But of course, the sound wasn't easily recordable and lacked rendering. Post-production edits were surely needed to bring out the intended dramatic effect later on.
Once the battle ended, the villain flipped over the wall, and both sides met each other.
At this time, the Villain still appeared guileless and innocent. The only hint to his true nature was in the flock of pigeons he raised.
The overall shooting process was fine. But that excluding a particular scene where Lan He had to to throw the pigeons up to their house: meaning that he had to hold the pigeons first.
With the key tricks learned from Uncle Wang, Lan He wanted to pick the pigeons up. In an unfamiliar environment or with an unfamiliar person, pigeons would certainly feel out of sorts. However, these pigeons were docile and also trained from a young age, and that’s why they could be taken for shooting. The crew would also maintain their quietness so as not to startle them.
A similar shot had been taken by Chen Xingyang earlier. It was very smoothly done. He grabbed the pigeon then threw it up, looking steady and handsome. The pigeon had also been very cooperative.
Who would know that as soon as it arrived in Lan He's hands, the pigeon began struggling like crazy.
"Aiyo! What's the matter? Does the pigeon feel unwell?" Uncle Wang separated the two immediately.
Scenes with animals weren't that easy to shoot. They had, however, prepared back-ups. So they changed it to another pigeon. As a result though, the pigeon was changed but it was still as fiercely resisting as the one before. Moreover, these pigeons would be this frightened only when they came in contact with Lan He. As soon as they were taken away, they would soon become well-behaved again.
"What are they doing, even...?" Lan He took a step back and stood in front of the pigeon cage. Those behind him were all the pigeons that were being used for the shooting. Yet as he approached, feathers instantly exploded en masse. The pigeons all squeezed persistently to the corners, very much as if they deliberately wanted to get away from him.
Lan He: "..."
At this moment, everyone could feel there was something amiss. Wasn't this somewhat aimed?
Liu Chunyang: "Stand further."
Lan He moved some steps away.
The pigeons immediately recovered their nature and dispersed somewhat.
Liu Chunyang: "Go closer."
... Lan He neared the cage again.
Pigeons clung to the corners in a flash.
Liu Chunyang stood up: "What the hell? Did you bring something with you?"
Everyone in the crew was baffled. They had also approached that pigeon cage, but where would they be met with such a situation? These pigeons seemed to be deathly afraid of Lan He.
"I didn't bring anything, ah," Lan He felt very wronged, "What I wear is the shooting costume, there wasn't any things." He certainly hadn't been scaring those pigeons just now.
Because Liu Chunyang used pigeons as one of the story's foreshadowing, he had inevitably learned bits of knowledge related to them. He thus wondered, "Maybe you've been in contact with dogs, cats, or other small animals and have their scent remained on you? Pigeons are afraid of those, aren't they?"
The others in the crew also spontaneously looked around, wondering if any stray cats or dogs had managed to slip in.
"No, right? I remember not even seeing any cats or dogs here. Moreover, I took a shower just this morning. Any smell would at most be from the shower gel," recalled Lan He.
"This...," Uncle Wang paused in hesitation, catching the attention of everyone.
A long while passed before he tentatively asked, "Young man, do you believe... in the supernatural theory?"
Lan He: "I don't."
He doesn't believe, ah.
Uncle Wang gave it a thought. "Well... the pigeons probably sensed your bio-induced electromagnetic field was kinda off, or maybe you've been to some strange place and touched some strange things so that your electromagnetic field was muddied. Or maybe your innate magnetic field was just in disharmony with the pigeons."
Lan He: "..."
...Old Uncle was quite an imaginative one.
Pigeons are birds with very keen senses. It was said that they could sense the Earth's magnetic field, and that's the reason why they possessed such a powerful ability to distinguish directions. Some people also thought that due to the same reason, pigeons would be sensitive to dirty things as well.
Lan He was clear about it in his heart. As a living Impermanence, he’d been in contact with things like ghosts and other weird stuffs for quite a few times. Their breath should be particularly scary for small animals, ba.
But facing everyone's gazes, he spoke with utter calmness: "Maybe because I used to like drinking pigeon soup."
Chen Xingyang couldn't help butting in, "In fact, there are indeed people who innately have no fate with small animals. I once acted in a certain drama, and the dogs were particularly aggressive to a single actor at that time."
He was right.
Uncle Wang said a few more speculations. And even though everyone felt puzzled, they didn't look at Lan He with strange gazes. At best, this matter would be regarded as a wonder.
Even the superstitious Liu Chunyang only said, "Use a hand double for this part, then. Let's just edit it later on."
Liu Chunyang was still comparably amiable to Lan He. Lan He, who thought that the matter would end up just so, was especially sought after by Liu Chunyang in his rest time. “Everyone will probably talk about this matter for two days. Don't worry about it too much," he comforted.
Lan He nodded, "I know. I don't believe nor care about this kind of thing anyway."
"Hmm." Liu Chunyang mysteriously lowered his voice. "I thought about it. It was maybe at that time when you were shooting 'Treasure', that time when you were staying next to Cheng Haidong just beside the former room of that old man. Even though Cheng Haidong was the only one being haunted, there is still a possibility that you've also touched some dirty things. It's just that you're more courageous than him so nothing happened to you. Anyway, you can visit the Juehui temple to burn some incense when you're free. Just to neutralize it a bit."
Lan He:"...Director, I think it purely was just me having no fate with pigeons. With how busy the shooting is, how can I even have the time to go?"
Liu Chunyang: "That's right too... Never mind, let's eat."
What he meant by 'eat' was he, himself, eating. There were both meat and vegetables on his meal, yet Lan He's controlled diet was different from this.
Lan He stared with fixed eyes while Liu Chunyang ate very heartily.
Liu Chunyang: "Are you hungry?"
Lan He: "Hungry."
Liu Chunyang: "Then why aren't you going back? You couldn't eat these anyway! Hahaha."
Lan He: "... Director, you laughed it out loud."
Liu Chunyang gleefully clasped his lunchbox. With another person staring, the food he ate tasted much more delicious.
Lan He bitterly walked away...
At first, Liu Chunyang thought that there'd be one or two who’d gossip about Lan He and the pigeons.
Who'd know that there'd be no more people discussing this matter again by the afternoon. During the break, their topic of discussion was this:
The production team next door was being haunted, oh.
So what if pigeons feared people? This team was shooting in the same film and television base as them, as well as staying in the same hotel as them. It was said that the protagonist of their drama had an important prop, an antique inkstone, and that prop had quite inexplicably disappeared again and again.
The first time it was lost, the crew just put an identical one as a substitute. When it was lost twice more after that, they started to be wary and stored the inkstones more properly the next times.
Yet even after they had stored it properly, the inkstone would still disappear!
At this time, more people took notice, because in one the footage they had previously taken, the inkstone that was placed out of everyone's observation, and wasn't touched by anyone, had changed positions by itself!
It absolutely was not moved by any of their hands or feet, and no possible dead angles for tricks were found!
This news simply couldn't be covered. It spread like wildfire and made the crew members frightened.
As things stood, no one had the mind to follow up the thing between Lan He and the pigeons.
The night fell.
Lan He lied down in his room. His soul left his body and opened the take-out box that contained the sweet tea rice cakes he had just ordered. It's both soft and glutinous. Taking a bite of the soft and sweet outer layer would reveal the melty stuffing on the inside.
Lan He ate half a box in one breath. When he heard Liu Chunyang shouting for himself outside the door, he stopped his savoring and inhaled them all at once before hurriedly returned his soul. With mouth still carrying a faintly sweet aftertaste, he went to open the door. "What's up, Director?"
"Lan He, ah." Liu Chunyang entered from the outside and greeted him. Chen Xingyang followed in as well.
He took out a gorgeous five-colored string bracelet and said to Lan He, "I heard the crew next door wasn't peaceful. So I got everyone a five-colored string bracelet to ward off evil spirits. You tie one on yourself too." (tl: the literal word is rope)
Lan He: "Oh... Director, did you go out to ask about the gossip next door?"
Liu Chunyang: "Of course, ah. They even found a master to consult with. But I knew he was unreliable as soon as I listened to him."
Lan He: "Hmm?"
Liu Chunyang: "The first thing he said when he opened his mouth was to stop the work and do rituals for seven days and seven nights. Outrageous! Superstitious!"
He finally realized that the word 'superstitious', in the mouth of this director, was used based on practicality...
"Hurry up and tie it on! What are you still getting dazed for?!" said Liu Chunyang.
"It wasn't yet the Dragon Boat Festival. Why would I need to tie a five-colored string bracelet?" said Lan He with laughter. The five colors represented the five elements and five directions. It was said to be able to ward off evils if tied to one's hand. Nowadays, it was generally part of the Dragon Boat Festival.
Liu Chunyang judged that Lan He wasn't very willing. He directly rolled up Lan He's sleeve and shouted to Chen Xingying, "Tie it on for him!"
Lan He didn't struggle at all. He actually wasn’t planning to resist and was ready to comply with the bigshot. In any case, and as his vision judged, even though this thing had no practical use, it wasn't going to be detrimental either.
Liu Chunyang: "What do you know? This is a blessed five-colored string bracelet. Except being tied on to ward off evil spirits, you can also throw it out as a binding device in the case of emergency! Just like those ghost-binding ropes that the ghost officials use."
Lan He wanted to say something but hesitated. We called those Soul-Hooking Ropes actually...
Chen Xingyang: "Look at you, why is there a red mark on your hand? I'll tie it a bit loose so you won't be pained."
Lin He: "Okay..."
Truth be told, that is my other rope.
Liu Chunyang only felt satisfied after seeing him had it tied on. He shot a glance at the take-out box on top of Lan He's desk. "Hey, what these you're eating? I did tell you to control your weight, didn't I?
Lan He: "I'm not..."
"You're not what?" Liu Chunyang grabbed up the box, "Let me take a look. Sweet tea cake from Yuexin Restaurant? Tut-tut, this one was too sweet. Confiscated! Just so happens that I'm hungry. I won't treat myself as a guest then!"
Lan He hurriedly shouted, "Director!"
As if afraid Lan He would block him, Liu Chunyang picked up two of the cakes and stuffed them all together into his mouth.
Three seconds later, his expression froze, "???"
Angered, he garbled as he spoke, "What kind of disgusting food is this?!"
He was caught off-guard! It looked sweet and delicious, but was as tasteless as cotton! It simply was the greatest insult to the tongue!
Liu Chunyang wanted to spit it out.
Lan He and Chen Xingying were swift to notice and quick to move. Pressing their hands together to block his mouth, they forced him to swallow it down.
Liu Chunyang: "......."
Lan He firmly pressed his hands on his mouth, "This is my weight-losing meal. No sugar, no fat, no salt, coarse-grained sweet tea rice cake. Please have a taste."
Liu Chunyang rolled his eyes. "Mmmh!"
He struggled to shout out: "This can still be called sweet tea rice cake?! This sweet tea cake has no soul!!!"
Lan He: Yes, the soul had been sucked away by me.