8 My Costar gets on my last nerve

After Tan Liansi, the next person to introduce themselves is Gao Wu.

An up and coming actor who has played some well received minor roles in the past, and who will be playing Rong Zi, Xie Huan's shidi(1), and the junior from the demonic realm who joined Frozen Peak alongside him. Another one of Yan Shuyi's disciples.

Rong Zi is also the drama's main villain.

While Tan Liansi's character will play only a minor antagonist role for some time before eventually letting go of her juvenile crush on Xie Huan, and will even help them later on -- Rong Zi will have the opposite journey.

He'll start out as Xie Huan's close friend, much more quiet and introspective than him, and in that way a much more believable Frozen Peak disciple than the unruly and fiery Xie Huan, but the one-sided crush he'll develop on his Shizun, Yan Shuyi, will make him grow resentful and spiteful.

Gao Wu doesn't look like a resentful person. He smiles politely while introducing himself to the rest of the cast, and expresses his wishes that filming will go smoothly.

He's handsome in an athletic, sporty way, with close cropped hair, a strong jaw and defined brows. It will be interesting to see how he portrays the duplicitous Rong Zi.

Yao Shen smiles and nods politely at him.

Xin Hulei doesn't say anything but he gives Gao Wu a cool, accessing look almost as if he's taking up his measure.

Yao Shen rolls his eyes, Xin Hulei is always looking at people as if they don't meet his expectations.

Does that have anything to do with being a demon, or is he just that kind of asshole?

How can Tan Liansi stand him? Does she even know that he's a demon?

That doesn't seem likely.

[Host can't discard the possibility of her being either a Demon or another Exorcist.]

Yao Shen is taken aback by those words. How the hell can't the same system who saddled him with this insane mission, not be able to tell one apart from the other?

[I am a task assignment System, but not omniscient. If Host is tasked with capturing another Demon besides Xin Hulei I'll be able to tell him. Only an Exorcist can reveal their identity, that information is not shared to avoid Exorcists stealing each other's catches.]

Why would anyone do that? Isn't having to capture the Demon you're assigned to bad enough?

He can almost hear the System's dispirited sigh.

[Besides saving the human realm from assured destruction, there are rewards for those who can capture a Demon.]

What rewards?

[Depends. In Host's case the first reward will be an increase of his luck modifier, which is incredibly low.]

Yao Shen does have a vague recollection of the system mentioning that. However at the time he was a little more worried about the fact that he was hearing voices to pay close attention to what said voices were saying.

'What other rewards can I get, and how?' Yao Shen thinks at the system, his eyes studiously fixed on the script in his hands in order not to draw anyone's attention.

[Isn't saving the human realm from certain destruction reward enough for Host?]

No.

The reproach in the System's voice is blatant when he next speaks:

[Rewards have tiers, considering how close Host gets to the target, each time a vulnerability is exposed Host will get a reward. I'll only know what the second reward entails after the first one is cleared, and so on.]

Yao Shen chances a sideways glance at Xin Hulei from the corner of his eye. The bastard ruined his chances of having a successful career -- it's only fair that Xin Hulei benefits from being forced to work with him for the drama.

They need an amicable working relationship in order to portray their characters' relationship believably, anyway.

Yao Shen can pretend to be friendly, for the sake of the system rewards.

And then he can hold off capturing Xin Hulei until the drama finishes shooting.

[...Host is once again putting his own goals ahead of the safety of the human realm.]

Yao Shen rolls his eyes and sighs inwardly.

He thinks humanity will survive Xin Hulei's terrible plan of playing yet another sexy, tortured, character on screen.

---

After everyone introduces themselves, the director asks them to read one of their character's short monologues.

He offers insight and his own recommendations after everyone has their turn, and then gives space to the other actors to give their own opinions on their colleague's interpretations.

Everyone is polite and encouraging, praising five things before criticizing a single one.

Except Xin Hulei, who addresses everyone with his usual brand of callous honesty.

"That was a terrible, she can be playful, but she isn't a little girl. She would never make those kinds of faces," he tells Tan Liansi after her interpretation of Chao Yue's inner musings regarding the possibility of Xie Huan finding Yan Shuyi more attractive than her.

She nods in understanding, humming along with Xin Hulei's harsh words, but Yao Shen doesn't miss the way her fingers tighten on the script or the glare she shoots towards Xin Hulei.

Maybe they aren't dating after all?

Maybe she really is another Exorcist.

Yao Shen smiles a little to himself, he wouldn't mind the opportunity of growing close to his teenage crush.

Xin Hulei's criticism doesn't stop with Tan Liansi. After her, he switches targets to Gao Wu.

"Rong Zi isn't a pushover. He isn't differential when addressing Xie Huan. They are friends of equal standing who confide in each other. Don't act suspiciously and like you have something to hide before that's true. That will make the reveal of his betrayal loose all the impact for the audience."

Gao Wu nods seriously, and then says, "Thanks for the advice, Xin-ge, I'll remember your words."

Well, he took that with much more grace than Yao Shen would have.

Of course he doesn't have to wait long until it's his turn to be viciously eviscerated.

He goes over the long monologue where Yan Shuyi reveals to Xie Huan the full extent of his backstory.

It's a pivotal scene between the two of them, and a turning point in their relationship.

When Yao Shen finishes reading and puts down the script he feels like he has delivered a good performance, managed to hit all the right emotions to convey Yan Shuyi's feelings at the moment.

He lifts his eyes from the script to look around the table.

The director smiles at him, a thoughtful look on his eyes. The casting director next to him sighs in relief.

Just as Yao Shen is about to recline in his chair with a sense of having surpassed everyone's expectations, Xin Hulei clears his throat.

It's a quiet sound, but it reverberates through the room like the ring of a brass gong.

Yao Shen's fingers dig into the armrests of his chair.

"Too melodramatic. Yan Shuyi didn't tell Xie Huan about his past to invoke pity, he was confiding in him. It's an intimate moment, where he allows himself to be vulnerable in front of his disciple. They aren't lovers yet, but he's already peeling back the veil of their filial relationship."

His icy gaze meets Yao Shen's before he says, "If you don't understand Yan Shuyi's nature, then you aren't qualified to play this role."

Yao Shen can feel himself drawing nearer to the brink of a bad decision.

It's Xin Hulei's casual expectation that he'll acquiesce to his words that pushes him over the edge.

His nails digging painfully into the upholstery of the armrests, Yao Shen shoots Xin Hulei a vicious glare.

"What the fuck is your problem?"

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