Striving to earn gift money
Translate: Sae | Proofread: Julieta
At the outdoor filming location of the drama, Comrade You Qi stood beside Comrade Yang Meng and watched as the makeup artist helped him change into the female lead’s outfit, along with a wig. Taking in the distinctive feature of Yang Meng’s body, the few stand-in roles that You Qi helped him get were all as a female. Yang Meng was extremely unwilling at first, but after he saw the payments, he hopelessly nodded in agreement.
However, Yang Meng had clearly expressed that he could take a female role, but it only had to be for action scenes and absolutely no intimate ones.
Today it was a water scene, and since the female lead did not know how to swim, the shot was handed over to Yang Meng to complete. He was instructed to fall into the water— gracefully, and when he struggled, he did not only have to embody fear, he could not be overly pitiful. As for the final scene, he had to possess a type of hopelessness before his entire head was to be submerged under the water.
While Yang Meng was getting his makeup done, he practiced his expressions by looking in the mirror.
As soon as You Qi finished filming his parts, he ran over to accompany Yang Meng.
Once Yang Meng felt that his interpretation of those needed expressions was well enough, he turned to You Qi and made a hopeless look, and then asked You Qi to guess. “What is the feeling that I acted out just now?”
You Qi thought for a moment and said, “Constipation.”
“Are you asking for a fight?” Yang Meng shouted loudly.
Unexpectedly, the director was standing not too far away, and when he heard that bold roar, he immediately pointed at Yang Meng. “Stop making a big fuss! Hurry up and get into the mood. Otherwise, when it is your turn on the set, you will not be able to get into character no matter how much time you get!”
Yang Meng quickly closed his mouth and mulled the feelings of fear and hopelessness over.
When filming officially began, the director shouted, “Silence, start filming!”
Yang Meng plunged into the water with a whoosh and after he struggled for a bit, he sank his head straight into the water. However, after waiting for a long while and not hearing the director say ‘cut’, Yang Meng swam out only to realize that everyone was staring at him sluggishly.
“What happened?” Yang Meng asked.
You Qi coughed lightly from the side. “Did you read the script?”
“I don’t have any lines, what would I read the script for?” Yang Meng said casually.
Also standing at the side, the director’s face became completely unsightly. You Qi turned his back to the director and whispered to Yang Meng. “According to the script, you were pushed into the water by someone and not jumped in there yourself.”
Yang Meng, “…”
Hence, Yang Meng angrily sat back down at his previous spot to get his makeup touch-up.
You Qi explained to the director, “The pool area was too slippery just now and he accidentally fell in.”
The director maintained his calm and did not say anything.
Once his makeup was fixed, Yang Meng went over again.
This time, he listened to the stunt instructor’s words with earnest—remembering how to dodge and how to jump very clearly. Afterward, he made his way back to the side of the pool, and when he saw the director’s hand gesture and loud shout to start, he immediately concentrated.
When a pair of strong hands pushed his chest, Yang Meng swayed both his arms and fell in.
The feeling of being caught off guard was indeed acted out well, but unfortunately, his movements were somewhat foolish. Instead of being sympathetic upon seeing him like that, one would actually want to step on his head.
“Start all over again!” the director shouted.
Yang Meng went to fix his makeup and once that was done, he was pushed into the water before his clothes even had a chance to dry.
“Cut!” The director shouted again, “Start all over again!”
Yang Meng was pushed in again. This time, his movement was a bit better, but the aesthetic feeling of it wasn’t enough.
“Cut! Do it again.”
Yang Meng was pushed in again.
“Cut!” The director simply waved his hand.
Yang Meng fell into the water… again.
After going back and forth for more than twenty times, he finally got the scene done properly.
Before he had a chance to breathe, he was ushered to the next shot, which was to struggle in the water up until he was submerged.
Learning his lesson from the previous shot, this time Yang Meng’s struggling movements until he was submerged were done very beautifully from start to finish.
Just as he pulled his head out of the water, he heard the stunt instructor ridicule him from the side. “Are you doing a synchronized swimming performance?”
Yang Meng, “…”
Standing at the edge of the pool, You Qi was laughing mischievously. All the staff, actors and actresses on set had never seen You Qi laugh that foolishly before since in their eyes, he was a pure idol who had never done anything to damage his image.
This time, Yang Meng struggled with confidence and was able to complete the entire movements in one go. His interpretation of the panic a drowning person felt was done brilliantly, to the extent that he became overly satisfied with himself. Therefore, when he was completely submerged in water, he could not act out the look of hopelessness no matter what.
He fell short of success for the lack of a final effort.
When he went ashore to fix his makeup again, Yang Meng suddenly sneezed, which caused the small box of foundation in the makeup artist’s hand to sprinkle to the ground.
“Did you catch a cold?” You Qi asked anxiously.
Yang Meng rubbed his nose and carelessly said, “No, someone is thinking of me.”228
Just as he finished saying that, he sneezed for the second time and before he could explain the meaning of this sneeze, a third, fourth and fifth one followed suit…
Finally, in front of You Qi’s inquisitive expression, Yang Meng laughed embarrassingly. “It seems a lot of people are actually thinking of me.”
Soon, Yang Meng went into the battlefield again. However, he could not find that feeling of struggling and after soaking in the water for half an hour, the more he acted the less feeling he had. That, in turn, led the director to lose his patience as he continuously shouted out loud. “Can you do it or not, huh? If you can’t, I will have you replaced!”
You Qi rushed over and said a lot of good words to convince the director to give Yang Meng another chance.
This is the last chance… Yang Meng silently said to himself.
When the director shouted ‘start’, Yang Meng held his breath and concentrated on every movement precisely. Not hearing the director’s shout ‘stop’ for the first half, Yang Meng gradually gained confidence, and really put out more energy for the latter half. Just as there were some chances of success, Yang Meng’s leg suddenly cramped. This time, there was certainly no need to act—he really could not float up as he continuously flapped his arms around while choking on a few mouthfuls of water.
“Oh… he’s really getting into the character.” You Qi was deeply moved as he stood and watched from the side.
I can’t anymore, I can’t anymore, I’m going to drown. Who is going to save me… Yang Meng screamed anxiously in his mind. Both of his legs were completely powerless, as he stared with hopelessness sinking in his eyes.
“Stop!!” The director exposed a rare smile, “That was amazing, we can use it!”
You Qi walked over to the director and happily asked, “Will you also let him be a stand-in for the scene where he needs to collide into the trees tomorrow?”
The director contemplated for a short while before asking somewhat concerned, “That scene will be very difficult. Is his small build going to be able to handle it?”
“That won’t be a problem.” You Qi glanced at the pool, “Just look. After being submerged for so long, he got out and disappeared immediately after, his movements are very nimble.”
Hearing that, the director laughed heartily and simply said ‘alright’.
Once he received the director’s approval, You Qi enthusiastically went to find Yang Meng. The sky was getting dark, and since the daytime filming was completed, the staff members had started to pack up the equipment already. However, Yang Meng was nowhere in sight.
“Have you seen Yang Meng?” You Qi pulled the stunt instructor’s arm and asked.
The stunt instructor wore a shocked expression, “Didn’t he leave with you?”
You Qi’s heart tightened as he hurried to the side of the pool, and as he looked carefully, he unexpectedly saw Yang Meng’s leg floating.
That night, Yang Meng curled up in his blanket and counted the one thousand yuan229 of payment he received— it was so beautiful and satisfying that he could not keep his mouth closed. It was so easy to earn this money ah! Normally, when we get dispatched to the scene of an accident and get injured, no matter how serious it is, we won’t even get paid extra. But, after drowning in water for a bit today, I got a thousand yuan. It feels so good.
This time, I finally have the gift money for Xiao Zhou Zi’s wedding.230
The next day, Yang Meng arrived on set at the appointed time, only to see that everyone was wearing short-sleeved shirts while standing in the shades as the wind brushed them. Meanwhile, he was standing beneath the blazing sun, wrapped in a thick overcoat— trembling uncontrollably.
“Are you going to be able to do it ah?” You Qi looked at Yang Meng with a look of concern. “How about we switch to someone else instead? If you really don’t want my money, then you can just borrow it first. I won’t rush you to pay me back either.”
Yang Meng shot You Qi a glance and faintly said, “There’s no need.”
After that, he made his way to the makeup artist with a noble and virtuous attitude.
This time, Yang Meng was to act as a young palace eunuch;231 yet another fragile character without the strength to truss a chicken. He was going to be struck by the other party, who would send him flying into a huge tree that was about five to six meters away. Because the swinging strike would employ an immense force, all the critical parts of his body were covered with protective pads, however, there was none for his head. Therefore, Yang Meng’s chest had to touch the tree at first contact, otherwise, it was considered dangerous if his head collided.
Nonetheless, Yang Meng appeared to be very excited to be suspended with a wire harness for the first time.
After practicing repeatedly for a long time, the filming officially started.
When the warrior attacked, Yang Meng’s body was lifted off the ground by the wires and swung fiercely towards the tree. He bore in mind the director’s words that his chest must hit the tree first! My chest must hit the tree first, hit the tree first, stick out my chest, stick out my chest…
With a loud thump, Yang Meng’s chest touched the tree first.
The director shouted and then clamped down the clapperboard with a clang sound— this scene was done with just one take.
However, Yang Meng lied on the ground for a very long time without getting up.
You Qi quickly ran over and crouched down in front of Yang Meng and asked anxiously, “What’s wrong?”
Yang Meng firmly bit down on his teeth, unable to say anything.
Noticing that, You Qi hastened over to help him up, only to see a piece of sharp stone stuck in the back of Yang Meng’s head.
That night, with his head properly bandaged, Yang Meng bewilderedly counted the money in his hand. Two thousand yuan… well, there’s only a thousand left since the medical bill alone was a thousand, but I still have enough money for Lao Yang’s newborn baby.
On the fifth day, Yang Meng was set on making a comeback.
This time, he would be standing in for the female lead in a huge scene that required him to fall off a horse.
Fortunately, Yang Meng had gone to the horse racetrack with his classmates before and understood a bit about the techniques of riding a horse. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for him to get this job. Even so, You Qi was still very worried as he looked over at Yang Meng. “Let me remind you, don’t be conceited and show off just to fall over and become disabled because of a few thousand yuan.”
“You don’t have to worry!” Yang Meng patted You Qi’s shoulder, “I was out of luck for the first two incidents. I definitely do not believe that I will always be that unlucky, right?”
Under the repeated guidance of the stunt instructor, Yang Meng confidently mounted the horse. And after he rode around for a good while, the performance to fall off started. This time, it was not only You Qi, but also every single person on the set was feeling very tense. Luckily, Yang Meng did not need to actually fall off the horse. He only had to do a few highly dangerous movements while still on the horse.
Facts have proven that Yang Meng was truly fortunate this time around. During his entire performance, whether it was the loud shouting or the twist and turn of his body, the horse was never once frightened. Even when the director shouted ‘stop’, the galloping horse merely slowed to a stop, and Yang Meng remained unscathed.
Seeing that, You Qi was finally able to let out a sigh of relief.
Just as Yang Meng was about to dismount, the horse that had suddenly stopped started to gallop again. Yang Meng’s body fell and one of his feet got caught in the stirrup— just like that, he was dragged for many meters. While he used his abdominal muscles for support, his foot refused to loosen up no matter what. He could only see the horse’s hooves flying hither and thither in his face as a burst of black and white appeared before him.
After an unknown amount of time, Yang Meng finally heard a clear and familiar voice calling him.
“Yang Meng, Yang Meng. Are you alright?”
Yang Meng opened his eyes and saw You Qi’s face above his head.
“I have the gift money for Xiao Zhou Zi’s wedding and the gift money for Lao Yang’s newborn baby. Since Da Zhang’s new store will also be open for business in two days, I have to at least give him three thousand yuan. With this job completed, I have all the money I need.” After he said that, Yang Meng cracked open his reddish-purple mouth and smiled weakly.
At long last, he could finally rest in peace.
At that moment, Yang Meng’s phone suddenly sounded, and since it was in You Qi’s pocket, he had him pass it over.
“Meng Zi ah! It’s Yin Zi. I have good news to tell you. I’m getting married in two days.”
Yang Meng’s face became pale instantly.
Once he put his phone down, he looked at You Qi and muttered. “Yin Zi is getting married, did you know that?”
Hearing that, the corners of Yang Meng’s mouth twitched. “How much are you planning to give him?”
Without hesitating, You Qi replied, “He is an old friend and classmate ah! Plus, since he is also someone with such a great position and status, anything less than twenty thousand would definitely not be acceptable.”
Yang Meng fainted immediately.
228 “…someone is thinking of me.” – according to superstition, when you sneeze, it means that a relative or a loved one is thinking about you.
229 1000 yuan – about $145.
230 gift money – in China and many Asian countries, it is normal to give money during weddings and etc.
231 palace eunuch – generally refers to a man who has been castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences.
The tradition of using eunuchs in the imperial court goes back at least 2,000 years. Beginning in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.” A.D. 220), palace eunuchs often ran the day to day affairs of the court. They vied for power with military leaders and scholar-bureaucrats. The word eunuch comes from the Greek word for bed watcher. Eunuchs were used in China, the Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Turkey and other imperial states by monarchs as “keepers of the couch,” or guardians of the royal harem. Chinese imperial eunuchs were nicknamed “bob-tailed dogs”. During the Ming dynasty, it was said that 20,000 of them were employed in the Forbidden City. Imperial eunuchs survived until 1924 when the last 1,500 of them were banished from the Forbidden City, according to one observer, “carrying their belongings in sacks and crying piteously in high pitched voices.”