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, where 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 on second thought, that would be too much of a show and not too fitting with the character development. The pet was originally intended as a metaphor after all. It would decrease the taste if it was made too obvious.
What about the pigeon whistle, then? This 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 the whistles and produce 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 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 added it.
It's because he's aware that Lin He knew how to use a knife, so he might as well take a shot of Lan He carving the pigeon whistle for himself.
This could conveniently leave a hint about his knife skill in the later showdown between the villain and the main 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 seen Lin He play with a knife before. These first few scenes were also mostly Lin He playing his pure and innocent guise.
So, now that they were looking at his whole-hearted knife-fiddling appearance... Watching how, in the alternation of light and darkness, those slender fingers pinched the sharp blade glinting with cold light... Making a sudden, precise cut downward—
One has to say, it was such a thrills.
Witnessing this, Uncle Wang straightforwardly commented that those hands must have had some real skills. The fall of the knife was extremely precise despite him never making a pigeon whistle beforehand.
Following Liu Chunyang's request, in addition to being neat and tidy, Lan He added extra bits of dazzling skilled movements. The shooting of this section went through very smoothly. 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, that pigeon whistle, the one Lan He had made, looked genuinely decent.
It was the second time for the shooting team's boss to cooperate with Lan He. He said nothing but silently mused, meeting Liu Chunyang was Lan He's opportunity that arrived.
In the afternoon, Lan He had another scene where he'd play against the Male Lead. This was also where 'Zhang Xunchun' first appeared. His pigeons and those of the Male Lead flew 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 collisions with the enemy flock, rather than being swept away into forgetting their route 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 to clash.
Putting other people's flocks to the side, following a peal of exceptionally resounding whistle sounds, the flock of pigeons raised by the big player Villain emerged from afar. Not only didn't they evade, that flock 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, 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 rhythmical battle BGM for themselves—But of course, the sound wasn't easy to record and lacked rendering. Post-production edits were surely needed later on to bring out the intended dramatic effect.
Once the battle ended, the villain flipped over the wall, and both sides met.
The villain still appeared innocent and untainted at this time. The only hint to his true nature was in the style of the flock of pigeons he raised.
The overall shooting process was fine. That excluded a particular scene where Lan He needed to throw the pigeons up to their house: meaning that he had to hold the pigeons.
With the key tricks learned from Uncle Wang, Lan He was meant to pick up the pigeons. In an unfamiliar environment or with an unfamiliar person, pigeons would certainly feel upset. However, these pigeons were docile and were also trained from a young age, and that’s why they could be taken for shooting. The crew would also maintain their quiet so as not to startle them.
A similar shot had been taken earlier by Chen Xingyang too. It was very smoothly done. Grabbing the pigeon then throwing it up, appearing steady and handsome. The pigeon was also 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? Is the pigeon feeling uncomfortable?" Uncle Wang separated the two immediately.
Scenes with animals weren't easy to shoot. They had, however, prepared back-ups. So they changed it with another pigeon. As a result, the pigeon was changed but it was still as fiercely resisting as the one before. Moreover, these pigeons would be frightened like this only when they came in contact with Lan He. As soon as they were taken away, they would become well-behaved again.
"What are they doing, even...?" Lan He retreated a step and stood in front of the pigeon cage. Those behind him were all the pigeons that were being used for the shooting. As he approached, feathers instantly exploded en masse. The pigeons all squeezed persistently to the corners, very much as if they deliberately wanted to be far from him.
Lan He: "..."
At this moment, everyone could feel something was amiss. Wasn't this a bit aimed?
Liu Chunyang: "Stand a bit further."
Lan He moved some steps away.
The pigeons immediately recovered their nature and somewhat dispersed.
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 the pigeon cage before, 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 costume, there's not a thing." He certainly wasn't scaring the pigeons just now.
Because Liu Chunyang used pigeons as one of the story's foreshadowing, he also learned much of their related bits of knowledge. He 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. At most the smell would 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."
Not believing, ah.
Uncle Wang gave it a thought. "Well... then probably it was the pigeons sensing your bio-induced electromagnetic field was 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 rich in ideas.
Pigeons are birds with very keen senses. It was said that they could sense the Earth's magnetic field. 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 or other weird stuff for several times. Their breath should be particularly scary for small animals, ba.
But facing everyone's gazes, he spoke with utter calmness: "Maybe it's because I used to like drinking pigeon soup."
Chen Xingyang couldn't help saying, "In fact, there are indeed people who innately have no fate with small animals. In one of the dramas I once acted in, the dogs were particularly aggressive to a single actor."
What he said was right.
Uncle Wang said a few more speculations. Even though everyone felt puzzled, they wouldn't look at Lan He with weird eyes. 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 relatively amiable to Lan He. Lan He, who thought that the matter would end up just like 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', 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. Just that you're more courageous than him so nothing happened to you. Anyway, you can also visit the Juehui temple to burn some incense when you're free. Neutralize it for a bit."
Lan He:"...Director, I think it purely is just me having no fate with pigeons. With how busy the shooting is, how can I 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. Lan He's controlled diet was different from his.
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 was the team that was shooting in the same film and television base as them, as well as staying in the same hotel as them. The protagonist in their drama had an important prop, an antique inkstone, which had quite inexplicably disappeared again and again.
The first time it was lost, the crew just put up 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 every time.
Yet even if they had stored it properly, the inkstone would still disappear!
At this time, more people noticed that in one the footage they had previously taken, the inkstone that was placed out of everyone's observation, with the touch from no one, had moved positions by itself!
It absolutely was not moved by any of their hands or feet, and no possible angles for manipulations 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 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 sucked them all in a breath 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 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 it."
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 '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, 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. In addition to being tied on to ward off evil spirits, you can throw it out as a binding device in 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 tie it on. He shot a glance at the take-out box on top of Lan He's desk. "Hey, what are you 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.