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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 72 - Servant Turned Leading Lady

    Mother Zhong's smile blossomed like a peony, joyous and expansive. "Teacher Tang, this tea is from Wuyi Mountain..."

    "I don't really enjoy tea, Auntie." Tang Fei pushed the elegantly packaged tea tin back towards her.

    There was a brief pause in the room, which was soon filled again with boisterous laughter as if the atmosphere had experienced a temporary glitch.

    Tang Fei made it clear she had no intention of listening to idle chatter. They had no choice but to dive straight into the heart of the matter without any preamble.

    "Here's how I see it," Mother Zhong glanced at Director Gu Chang, her hands awkwardly fidgeting. She rubbed them together. "Back then, everyone on the crew was held up, so this incident truly wasn't our doing.

    Teacher Tang, do you recall? Before filming even started, they pulled you away. The director and production staff were all preoccupied with drinking."

    Before Mother Zhong could continue, Tang Fei stood up, clearly indicating that their visit was at an end.

    She didn't want to hear a single word of this nonsense.

    If they were trying to shift blame or beat around the bush, they could leave.

    Sigh!

    How could such a young lady be so stubborn?

    Madam Zhong's plump figure suddenly moved with the agility of an experienced martial artist as she leaped up, not forgetting to pull Gu Chang along. She bowed ninety degrees towards Tang Fei. "Teacher Tang, I'm sorry. We were unaware of this matter from the start, but our negligence afterwards was our mistake. I sincerely apologize to you and hope for your forgiveness."

    Only then did Tang Fei stop in her tracks. Her eyes and nose suddenly felt a tinge of sourness, as if some emotions, memories, and events had been buried deep within her heart and were only now beginning to surface. The original owner and she were, in fact, inseparable.

    An admission and an apology – there was no tangible compensation, but mentally, no amount of money could replace the relief she felt.

    Tang Fei took her seat again.

    Madam Zhong's approach proved to be the right one.

    Gu Chang was startled by Madam Zhong's action. It was as if she had put aside all her previous arrogance when begging for help; she was decisive and straightforward.

    After all, it was for her daughter that she could put aside her pride. Today, when coming to apologize, Madam Zhong did not bring Zhong Xue along.

    She wanted to shield her daughter from witnessing such a scene, to prevent her from feeling wronged, so she took on all the discomfort herself.

    He pondered for a moment before bowing his head and saying, "Indeed, I acted poorly afterward. Fearing Yao Hui's influence, I tried to distance myself from the matter. I'm ashamed of my responsibilities as a director. Tang Fei, please accept my apology."

    "Let's publicly apologize on all platforms for the malicious hype and the wire incident," Mother Zhong bowed again.

    Knowing that Tang Fei appreciated such gestures, she went all out – this was their last straw.

    Not only their family's investment, but also her daughter's opportunities were at stake.

    "Tang Fei, you can sit down. Apart from apologizing, what about those who stopped us and hung me with the wire? What are your plans for them?" Tang Fei's attitude toward the two accomplices was already lenient enough. She felt that it was acceptable.

    As for the public apology, she smiled slightly and said, "Let's do the public apology before the broadcast. Both positive and negative publicity should wait for the right moment."

    Mother Zhong, whose intentions had been exposed, didn't feel awkward. Instead, she nodded flatteringly, "Ms. Tang is always thoughtful."

    Zhou Weichuan, who had been silent until now, chimed in, "Ms. Tang has always been sharp-minded."

    Gu Chang looked around. There were only four people present, and two had already flattered Tang Fei. He couldn't be left out, could he?

    "Ms. Tang even considers us – we're ashamed."

    ...

    She's mocking us!

    Do you understand sarcasm?

    Are you competing to see who has the thickest skin?

    One doesn't hit a smiling face, and it's even harder to hit someone flattering you.

    Tang Fei glanced at Zhou Weichuan, furrowing her brow in displeasure. In response, Zhou Weichuan gave her a gentle, warm gaze and a smile.

    Tang Fei shivered. Forget it, I'll let it slide since he's still somewhat pleasing to the eye.

    Gu Chang let out a sigh of relief. It had been a while since he last practiced brown-nosing; his words felt rusty.

    He sat down and said, "After the production team disbanded, those prop masters went missing. No one knows where they are. If you choose to report them to the police or file a lawsuit, the team will fully cooperate in providing evidence. This can be included as a clause in the agreement."

    "We can also negotiate the compensation. The previous 200,000 was given to you by Guan Mo. We didn't mention it earlier to avoid offending people. Had we known that you were acquainted with Chairman Guan..."

    "I don't know him well," Tang Fei replied with a sharp glance.

    Zhou Weichuan's smile broadened even more. Mother Zhong and Gu Chang nodded eagerly, "Yes, yes, not at all familiar."

    Ah, Tang Fei was getting a headache. She wondered how others would perceive her when she went out in the future. Yesterday, she had seen online discussions dividing Sugared Candy into five factions, like a Five Mountains Sword Summit.

    There were the pure fans who believed that Little Sister was the epitome of beauty and must be supported. They wanted to marry her and bear children for her.

    Then there were those who shipped Feiyun Above All, insisting that they were true love and that Brother was merely a shield.

    "Sugar Porridge" - it was a conflict between the Tang Zhou and Tang Zhou factions. Tang Zhou emerged victorious, and as a result, Tang Zhou transformed into Fei Zhou Wan Li.

    "Sugar-stamped, the White Knight rescues the princess! A couple of effortless winners."

    Now the industry was like this; she had just dispelled the label of being a CP maniac who clung to others, and now she was eagerly attaching new tags to herself.

    "Professor Tang, we have only one request of you. Please take on the leading role of Zhu Xiansheng. Currently, our casting efforts are being hindered, and advertisers have little faith in the new female lead. Our male lead, who was supposed to be the main character in another production, just had a flop, and advertisers no longer consider him viable."

    Our rival is a holiday-themed drama, 'Youthful Football Star,' starring child prodigy Ning Xiaodou, who's known as the 'Holiday Slayer.' We have very weak competitiveness. If you're willing to take the lead role, we can renegotiate the remuneration package."

    "A palace maid as the lead? Would advertisers really buy that?" Was this some kind of joke?

    Tang Fei nearly choked on her tea!

    "The advertisers suggested it! They want us to change the drama's title to Si Cuichuan," Zhou Weichuan revealed.

    ...

    If Tang Fei weren't such a skilled actress, she would have spat out her tea in disbelief.

    What an utterly vulgar name!

    Furthermore, if she were to focus on portraying a princess's love and hatred in Si Cuichuan, she'd be ridiculed by viewers for sure.

    She finally understood how those awful dramas that fed garbage to audiences had come to exist.

    Tang Fei gave Zhou Weichuan a meaningful glance, silently urging him to speak up. How could they decline without tarnishing their reputation?

    Zhou Weichuan pondered before responding, "I need to see the original footage."

    "Did you agree?" Mother Zhong asked in delight.

    "I'll decide after watching the original footage."

    My big boss, why did you agree to such a thankless task?

    When the boss decides, we minions have no choice but to forge ahead.

    Time to repay the favor of his flattery.

    Tang Fei added, "Reediting the original footage into a genuine Si Cuichuan could be a viable solution."

    "There's not enough time! The scheduled broadcast is only seven days away," Gu Chang pointed out.

    "Forget about the prime time slot. This year, the Television Association is supporting sports competition shows, especially ones featuring youth and football. 'Soccer Boys' has all the elements, and Xiangnan TV Station receives a special five-thousand-yuan subsidy per episode for airing it. It's clear who they'll choose for the prime time. Unfavorable sponsorship is just one of the reasons."

    "What can we do then?" Mother Zhong was unaware of this development; the Television Association had yet to announce its plans for the year before the Lunar New Year.

    Zhou Weichuan's insider information was indeed swift.

    "Let's aim for the 10 PM timeslot on Saturdays for weekly broadcasts. That way, we'll have enough time for editing," Zhou Weichuan proposed, seemingly well-prepared.

    " Weekly broadcasts... Won't that affect the ratings?" Mrs. Zhong hoped her daughter would gain popularity through this.

    "I'd rather not air the drama at all if I had a choice. Actually, with your team, broadcasting it might negatively impact Tang Fei's reputation and career path," Zhou Weichuan stated, adopting an unenthusiastic attitude.

    The drama was expendable to Tang Fei. Considering their previous offense, the fact that they were still discussing it showed Tang Fei's accommodating nature.

    "Suddenly, all genres during holidays are competitive themes?" Tang Fei asked.

    "Yes, it's the main focus this year. The top three channels and five secondary ones, even CCTV's New Year's drama, are all centered around competition," Zhou Weichuan guessed Tang Fei's thoughts, feeling a sense of shared understanding and sweetness, which flushed his cheeks.

    "Then it's settled."

    Mrs. Zhong looked at her doubtfully. Tang Fei expressed her perspective as a viewer, "When many similar products are released at once, it's like being forced to devour a table full of heavy dishes. People will crave something refreshing, like a glass of Coke amidst such saturation."

    "Is this still considered a good timeslot then?" Mrs. Zhong seemed to grasp the insight.

    "Everything depends on the original footage. If we can't produce a decent storyline through editing, such a poorly received work should be kept in storage," Zhou Weichuan criticized.

    Mrs. Zhong panicked. "Postponing the release would result in commercial losses for the actors, right? We..."

    "Postponement wouldn't affect the sixth lead's role," Zhou Weichuan smiled.

    Both Mrs. Zhong and Gu Chang held their breaths. Tang Fei was doing them a favor by offering to help; it was perfectly normal if she declined. They could only hope that she would take pity on them.

    Tang Fei pondered. She recalled that Xiangnan TV's editors were exceptional in the industry, skilled at using editing, subtitles, and dubbing to create a rollercoaster of emotions within a thirty-second preview from an otherwise mediocre raw footage.

    They were adept at capturing viewers' attention.

    Viewers jokingly referred to Xiangnan TV's previews as 'trailer scams.' In hindsight, it was understandable. Imagine a table full of unappetizing dishes delivered from another hotel, with the in-house chef desperately assembling visually appealing combinations for promotion. Yet, the food remained unpalatable.

    It might be better to let the in-house chef give it a second try.

    "We could collaborate with Xiangnan TV on the editing and grant them creative control. Since it's a weekly release, there's time for editing."

    "What if they mess it up? If they cut it short, we won't receive the final payment," Mrs. Zhong fretted, her anxiety flaring up again.

    "As long as the drama is good, the TV station won't dare to cancel it halfway. The production team and the station are on the same side. If the drama does well, everyone benefits. And with the TV station being the most direct recipient of viewership ratings, they have a sharper sense of the market trends.

    "This drama doesn't need to be profound. As long as it becomes a hit, it will have accomplished its mission. Entrusting the editing to someone who has the best grasp of the target audience's taste is the optimal solution.

    "The TV station has the power to cancel a show, which makes us more competitive than our rivals. With less risk involved in broadcasting our dramas, they'll be more willing to collaborate with us."

    Tang Fei's line of thinking was imaginative, appearing implausible at first glance but seemingly feasible upon closer consideration.

    The worst-case scenario was already their current situation—having their dramas shelved or returned!

    It was worth a shot; there was still a chance for change.

    "Then let's proceed with that plan. I'll arrange for the tapes to be sent over right away," Gu Chang agreed, marking the first step in their endeavor.

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