Filming a drama was hard work. The cast and crew often stayed on set late into the night. Gu Wei worked tirelessly the few days before he was due to depart for his next variety show recording. As the weekend approached, Escape Without a Trace finally released the official announcement of their second installment—
@EscapeWithoutATraceOfficial: Honored guests, assemble! @CocoaBeiKe @T.ATW-GuWei @T.ATW-ShiXinyan @TMW-Xun @QianYiningLovesSinging Our next installment will be filmed on a specially constructed set, with all our esteemed guests in historical costumes! Let's all look forward to seeing them with Little Tao!
Even though the announcement had been released on a weekday morning, the fans who had anxiously awaited the second installment eagerly rushed to Weibo to leave their comments—
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: IT'S HEEERRREEEEEEEEE!!! @T.ATW-GuWei, we'll be looking forward to our Weiwei's performance on this new installment! I heard all the guests will be in period costumes. I can't wait to see what Gu Wei and Jiang Xun will look like!
@Doraemon's Ears: Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. If you guys are short on cash, we'll fundraise for you. Please give Qian Yining lots of screen time!
@Good-Looking Netizen: Why are you so slow to release new installments? Hurry it up, won't you? Don't you want to make money? I'm here refreshing your page every day. As soon as you release a new part, I'll send you all my money!
@You Know What My Family Is Like: Ahhhh, why did it have to come now? I only have a month before my exams, can I get invested right now? Hurry, hurry! As soon as you put out the new part, I'll watch it right away! #FoodForXunWei
@LittleFlowerPetalKANI: I became a fan of Gu Wei after watching the last 'Wandering With You', and I already watched the first installment of this show too! It was really so, so good. I can't wait for the next part!
When the official announcement came out, Gu Wei was already on his way to the filming location—a movie and television studio in D City. The showrunners had only told the guests where they would be filming. All the other details were still under wraps.
Jiang Xun had had some business elsewhere, so he wasn't able to travel to D City with Gu Wei. Gu Wei could only look forward to reuniting with Jiang Xun once they were both on set.
Bright and early in the morning, in a group chat the guests had made for themselves, the stars of Escape Without a Trace were secretly conversing—
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Morning, morning, morning~
[Qian]: Gu Wei, good morning.
[stone]: I'm so sleepy. Chi Yunkai made me stay up half the night playing games with him.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: If our manager found out, she would kill you both.
[stone]: You don't tell anyone, I won't tell anyone. How would she ever find out?
[Bei Ke]: It's nice to be young. When you get to be almost thirty, you can't mess around all night anymore. When we get a chance, Old Bei Ke will teach you all about how to stay in good health.
[100K Volts]: I'm trying to imagine what traps the director has laid for us this time.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: He's probably going to talk about how they don't have enough funding.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Ah, I just don't want to guess idioms again!
[Qian]: Your charades game last time was really too funny! How did you manage that? I almost started to think there was some story with you two. I'm seriously about to start believing all those sweet rumors about you online, hahaha.
[100K Volts]: Let's make some plans in advance so the director can't mess with us this time.
[Qian]: I'm completely on board. If that director tries to get me to wear a miniskirt again, I swear…
[stone]: Also on board. Fuck, some tabloid took that footage of me washing dishes from the last installment and said that my career in entertainment was over, that I was washing dishes to scrape by. And some people even believed it! My mom called me and said we had plenty of land at home, and even if I failed as an entertainer, I could just go home and be a farmer. No need to wash dishes. I spent all night explaining it to her.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: candle.jpg
[100K Volts]: candle.jpg
The guests chatted for a while longer, but didn't come up with any useful plans to tackle whatever the showrunners had in store for them. They would have no choice but to wait and see what the director had actually planned, though they all shared a common goal:
Not to be bullied by the show again.
Since they didn't know what to expect, Gu Wei sneakily sent Jiang Xun a private message as well.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Jiang Xun, see you soon!
[Husband]: Remember to rush over as soon as you see your husband.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Will do!
In order to create a spooky atmosphere, recording started at night. Gu Wei spent all afternoon getting into costume, watching the makeup artist fuss with his hair and outfit. It was already evening by the time the makeup artist finally finished her work.
Gu Wei had gotten up too early that morning, and he'd started falling asleep in the makeup chair. It was only when he heard the makeup artist say she was all done that he blearily blinked open his eyes, hearing Mu Yue let out a gasp from behind him.
"Weiwei, you look incredible in period clothing!" Mu Yue exclaimed.
"His facial structure is amazing, his features are gorgeous. He could make a living just off that face. Beautiful out of makeup, beautiful in makeup," the makeup artist raved. "Didi, in the future, you should star in a period drama."
As Gu Wei's assistant, Mu Yue was extraordinarily proud. "He's a very talented actor, too. Just a few days ago, the director of his drama was showering him with praise."
Gu Wei finally lifted his head and looked into the mirror. The youth in the mirror was a little familiar, but also a little foreign, like a stranger. He had been dressed in a blue-green period costume, and his hair was done up in a high ponytail. The bangs that remained hanging over his forehead would stir softly in a breeze.
It was undeniably a good look on him.
The costume designer waved him over to one side for some photographs. Gu Wei was asked to sit on a rock and strike a pose where he looked up at the sky with a long blade of grass in his mouth. The showrunners planned to release photos of the guests in costume on Weibo as soon as they started to record.
Mu Yue had been working in the entertainment industry for almost half a year now, and she had seen countless beautiful faces in her everyday work. She thought she'd long since become immune to gorgeous celebrities, but looking at Gu Wei now, she felt like she was having the same 'ah ah ahhhhhhh' feelings as all his little hedgehogs.
"I think your fans are going to cry tears of joy once they see this photo of you," Mu Yue declared.
"Do I really look that good?" Gu Wei asked, uncertain.
"Really," Mu Yue reassured. She couldn't resist taking a picture on her own phone and sending it to Manager Zhao. "You always underestimate how good-looking you are."
The manager responded swiftly: "Not bad. We'll think about getting him a period drama in the future."
It was just as the makeup artist had said. Mu Yue smiled and added, "Didi, your future is very bright."
"It's getting dark." An announcement came out from the directorial team. "Guests, please turn in your cell phones and get ready to enter the set. Assistants, make sure the guests haven't hidden anything on them. Our budget is very limited, so we won't be able to provide any food. If you get hungry, look around the set for something to eat."
Director Zhang sat in the back of a car and swiped through the photos of the guests in costume that he had received. Sometimes he let out an evil snicker, sometimes he smiled in genuine delight, and eventually, when he reached the last photo, he let out a deeply moved sigh and uttered, "Inviting Gu Wei truly wasn't a waste."
"What's got you so moved again?" his assistant asked. During this time, the assistants had heard Director Zhang let out far too many of those deeply moved sighs.
Director Zhang showed off the photo and said, "'Wandering With You' can't see his truth worth. They just know how to keep stirring up controversies around him, but not me. Just you watch, I'm going to show the world a brand new Gu Wei."
"Cell phone, please," a staff member said to Gu Wei. "Are you hiding anything on you?"
Gu Wei shook his head. "No, definitely not."
The staff member didn't suspect him of anything and sent him off with his camera crew. He was escorted into a car that carried him out to the walls of an ancient palace. By the time he was dropped off, it had already gotten dark. The lights of the palace gradually lit up, and soon it was only Gu Wei and the two cameramen following him that remained on that road.
This time, Gu Wei's role was that of the young master of an important chancellor's family. Rumors were floating around that the palace 'changed' at night, and Gu Wei's character had come to investigate the truth behind those ghastly rumors. The self-assured young master who believed himself capable of anything arrived at the palace walls… and stopped, not knowing which way to go.
"Do you guys know where I'm supposed to go?" Gu Wei asked, attempting to communicate with his camera crew. All he could see, stretching endlessly in either direction, were the palace walls. The streets were empty and silent; this atmosphere truly was a little terrifying.
Neither of his cameramen said anything.
The director had told them: Silence is golden.
"Do you know where Jiang Xun is?" Gu Wei asked. "Or Shi Xinyan?"
The cameramen continued to remain silent.
Both of the cameramen wore black, and it was almost as though they could disappear into the dark at any moment. Gu Wei suddenly felt as though he were truly all alone on that road.
He could only walk along without a destination in mind, until he heard a burst of indiscernible noise from ahead.
A group of people dressed in white suddenly appeared, moving in his direction. They were led by a person holding a circlet of silver bells.
Gu Wei froze.
Even though he knew this was a clue, he felt the urge to spin around and flee. If the director had hired this many background actors, it was no wonder their production had run out of money.
Silently, Gu Wei caught up to those actors and started to follow them, hoping to find a hint as to how to get inside the palace grounds. But these actors simply circled the palace walls aimlessly, occasionally shaking that string of silver bells. After spotting the same red lantern for a third time, Gu Wei realized something wasn't right.
He stopped in place.
He had already done three laps around the palace walls.
As he thought back, he realized the actors had jangled the silver bells more than usual at one spot along the wall during each lap. That must have been where the entrance was situated.
"He finally figured it out," Director Zhang mumbled from the surveillance room. He had his head in his hands. "You know we have to pay those actors more for every lap they take, right?"
The actors who had walked three laps around the palace walls, all wearing heavy garments, were clearly starting to look exhausted.
"Sorry, sorry," Gu Wei whispered to them when they got back to the entrance. "Good work."
The lead actor handed Gu Wei the string of bells once he'd cracked the code, then recited the line: "Go. Go bring her home."
"Who? Bring who home?"
But Gu Wei didn't receive any other hints before the actors slowly wobbled away.
He stood in front of the entrance to the palace now. The grand vermillion doors swung open with a resounding creak. At just that moment, Gu Wei was pretty sure he heard, in the distance, an anguished scream.
And judging by the voice, it was Shi Xinyan.
Gu Wei still didn't have a lead on where Jiang Xun was, so he decided to head in that direction and investigate the scream first.
The area inside the palace walls was guarded. Gu Wei tried to ask one of the guards for directions, but the guard didn't say a word. Instead, he only held out a tube of sticks to Gu Wei, gesturing for him to draw one.
"What's this?" Gu Wei was worried it was another trap laid out by the director.
"The road ahead is long," the guard recited. "The young master needs a steed."
"Oh! I'll get a ride?" Gu Wei perked up at that. "Are you going to give me a horse?"
Whether or not Gu Wei knew how to ride a horse was a different matter. The mere thought of galloping along, dressed in ancient robes, was a dreamy idea.
"Draw," the guard said, shaking the box of sticks. "There are horses, there are donkeys. It depends on your luck."
Gu Wei drew one of the sticks and gave it to the guard to decipher.
"Go fetch the young master's steed," Guard 1 commanded.
Guard 2 instantly answered, "Right away."
Five minutes later—
Gu Wei stared, dumbfounded.
Then he spun on his heel and started to flee.
His two cameramen chased after him.
And behind the cameramen, there were the two guards. One of whom was holding the reins of an alpaca.
"I don't want it!" Gu Wei protested.
"If you don't accept it, you fail the task," said the director through the earpiece that Gu Wei was wearing. "If you fail the task, you're eliminated from the show."
"You're doing this on purpose," Gu Wei complained.
He definitely couldn't be eliminated. Jiang Xun was still waiting for him. It was so rare for the two of them to get a chance to appear together, so there was no way Gu Wei would let go of this opportunity.
With no other options before him, Gu Wei reluctantly took the reins of the alpaca. He couldn't even begin to guess where the director had gotten a creature like that. The alpaca's weight was clearly far above the average for its breed, and it was chewing on something that Gu Wei couldn't see. It eyed Gu Wei disdainfully and would obviously only hinder Gu Wei's progress.
"Director Zhang, I didn't think you would be this mean." Gu Wei did indeed get a 'ride', but it was one that only brought him trouble. Not only was he afraid of riding it, he was afraid of being spat on as well.
"Come on, take a step. Let's go." Gu Wei held the reins and did his best to urge the alpaca along. "Please? Please, come with me."
After painstakingly moving a few hundred meters forward, with the alpaca in tow, Gu Wei could hear Shi Xinyan's panicked screams getting closer and closer. He stopped where he was and waited for Shi Xinyan to come to him.
A minute later, the screams had grown even closer. From a corner up ahead, Shi Xinyan appeared, fleeing for his life from a horde of female NPCs dressed as ghoulish ghosts.
Gu Wei stared.
T.ATW's variety show specialist was dressed as a court eunuch, sprinting wildly towards Gu Wei.
"AHHHHHHHHH—Gu Wei!" As soon as he'd entered the palace, Shi Xinyan had been chased around by these female ghosts. They'd pursued him relentlessly all over the palace grounds, and now he finally saw a familiar face.
"Oh, Shi-gonggong1…" Gu Wei tried to warn him. "Be careful of…"
Because Shi Xinyan was running too fast and not watching where he was going, he ran smack into the already irritated alpaca next to Gu Wei. And so—
The look in the alpaca's eyes grew even more disdainful as it spat a huge glob of spit at Shi Xinyan.
Shi Xinyan, who'd just started to believe he had escaped danger, was summarily drenched in alpaca spit.
"What the hell is that?" Shi Xinyan stared at the animal next to Gu Wei, and the animal stared back with a look of utter contempt.
"Um, a… divine beast," Gu Wei said. "Wanna hold it for a while?"
"The director is making fools out of us," Shi Xinyan complained. He and the alpaca continued to glare at each other.
At least the mob of NPC ghosts had disappeared in the dark, after seeing the string of silver bells in Gu Wei's hand.
"Those bells seem like they're going to be pretty important," Shi Xinyan said. "Now the question is, where's everyone else?"
"Should we try shouting a few times?" Gu Wei suggested.
"Sure, let's call out for them while we walk," Shi Xinyan agreed. He cleared his throat, then bellowed, "IS ANYONE THERE?!"
"Is anyone around?" Gu Wei called out.
No response. Nobody seemed to be in the vicinity. It probably wouldn't have made a difference no matter what they screamed.
The two of them walked along with the alpaca, intermittently shouting something out as they moved. Since they never received a response, they let themselves go and started to… have fun with it.
Shi Xinyan shouted, "Gu Wei sucks at video games!
And Gu Wei shouted, "Shi Xinyan sells out his teammates!"
The cameramen following them remained totally silent, and that silence emboldened the two members of T.ATW even more. They gave up on attacking each other and started in on other people.
Shi Xinyan started, "Chi Yunkai is hella dumb!"
Gu Wei continued, "Director Zhang is super mean!"
Shi Xinyan added, "Fu Zhi likes underground electronica!"
Gu Wei accused, "Luo Chenxuan steals my snacks!"
The two of them started to find some true enjoyment in screaming into the night.
Shi Xinyan suddenly took a break and heaved a heavy sigh. "Last time, they really made me wash too many dishes, I…"
At the mention of washing dishes, Gu Wei instantly thought of the last installment of this show. And when he thought of that, he thought of Jiang Xun. And when he thought of Jiang Xun, he thought of the moment just a few days earlier, when Jiang Xun had whispered to him another… thing he wanted Gu Wei to kiss.
Gu Wei, on a roll, inadvertently blurted out: "JIANG XUN IS A BIG PERVERT!!!"
The sound echoed through the empty palace grounds and traveled farther and farther.
Far in the distance, Jiang Xun—who had just gotten a horse from the directorial team—heard the sound of his own little friend's voice ringing out.
He froze for a solid minute.
He didn't know what Gu Wei was going through, but the kid seemed to have had a great time screaming out his complaints.
Complaints about his bandmates, about Director Zhang, and now about Jiang Xun.
"I'm a pervert?" Jiang Xun muttered to himself. "That only means you're too naive."
And in that case, in the future, Jiang Xun would have to dial it up a notch.
1. An honorific for eunuchs.