At Jiang Xun's interview, he was mostly asked about the recent world championship tournament he had participated in. He had led his team to victory, blazing a path through their competition and winning glory for their country by being crowned the grand champions.
Since they returned home from the tournament, the interviews with the team had been coming in nonstop.
The magazine that Jiang Xun was giving an interview to today had been trying to get him to agree to an exclusive interview for ages. They pulled all the strings at their disposal and called in all their favors just to get him there.
"God Xun, now that the big tournament is over, what do you plan to do next?" asked the reporter from the magazine.
"The team is going to take a week-long vacation in a little town in northern Europe. We're just going to take it easy, and after we get back, we'll start training for the next tournament."
Jiang Xun discreetly snuck a glance at his own watch. The interviewer's time was almost up.
"Just one week? You don't want a longer break than that?"
"No," Jiang Xun answered with a polite smile. "On the surface, the brilliance of esports seems simple and fleeting. The audience sees an amazing play, and they just remember those few seconds. They don't realize the amount of work and training we do behind the scenes."
They were starting to wrap up the interview now.
"Could I ask you a somewhat personal question?" the reporter asked, looking a little nervous. She had just received a text from the magazine's editor-in-chief, in which she had been issued a rather daunting task.
"Go ahead," Jiang Xun said, gesturing for her to proceed.
"We heard a rumor that… your family…" The reporter trailed off.
"It's true," Jiang Xun said unashamedly. "This isn't a secret. That kid out there who's doing a photoshoot for your magazine's cover—the one with a bad attitude, I mean—is my little brother Jiang Ying. That's what you wanted to hear, right?"
Jiang Xun was unflustered and seemed to think this wasn't any sort of big news, but the reporter was visibly excited as she said, "These little Easter eggs will be great to include in the interview."
"Sure, go ahead." Jiang Xun flashed a smile.
The reporter's cheeks turned slightly red.
Although he was a professional esports player, a career in which looks weren't the most important thing, Jiang Xun's appearance left nothing to be desired. He was 1.87 meters tall, with a great figure and a handsome face. His family's genes were strong, and there was no way he wouldn't have turned out hot.
The reporter was practically beside herself with excitement as she skimmed her interview notes.
Jiang Xun was something of a legend, not only because of his reign over the esports world. His father was the renowned actor Jiang Zheng, and his mother was the famous screenwriter Song Jingxi.
Coming from such a star-studded family, Jiang Xun could have easily been a popular star in the entertainment industry. But he had chosen a difficult path, leading away from the brighter spotlights of the traditional entertainment stage.
"Thank you for your time," the interviewer said, with her cheeks still flushed and warm.
"You're welcome," Jiang Xun said. When the interview was well and truly over, he asked, "Why is your magazine doing two cover photoshoots today? Are you running an issue with a double cover?"
"No." The answer came from a set supervisor who had overheard Jiang Xun's question. "Jiang Ying is going to be the cover on the issue with your interview, and Gu Wei is going to be on the cover of the issue after that."
By the time Jiang Xun got out of his interview, it seemed Gu Wei had already left the studio. The only photoshoot still in progress was Jiang Ying's, so Jiang Xun waved a quick goodbye and went home.
Gu Wei got back to his dormitory just in time to receive a call from his manager.
"Zhao-jie, what's up?"
"We just paid to have your trending tag removed," she stated in her usual all-business, no-nonsense tone. "Don't be late to the airport tomorrow. Wandering With You is about to start filming its fifth installment, and the location was just changed to a little town in northern Europe. Be on your best behavior, got it? It's fine if you don't have a charismatic personality, but you can't keep doing these sorts of things that attract negative publicity."
"I got it. I won't mess up."
Hastily, Zhao-jie added, "I mean it. Be really careful. If you trend for bad behavior again, the company won't help you suppress the bad press. You'll have to deal with it yourself."
"I got it, Zhao-jie," Gu Wei promised. "I promise I won't cause any trouble. I won't trend again anytime soon."
When his manager hung up, Gu Wei was still a little worried about the buzz from that morning. He stayed on his phone and opened Weibo again.
Just as Zhao-jie had said, the trending tag from that morning was gone and all the bad press had been covered up.
While he had the app loaded up, Gu Wei snuck a peek at Jiang Ying's page as well. For the past year, ever since Gu Wei had been given a job that Jiang Ying wanted, Jiang Ying had been insistently treating Gu Wei as his 'sworn nemesis'.
Every time Gu Wei and Jiang Ying had anything to do with each other, their fans inevitably got into a heated argument with one another. This time, with the magazine scheduling Gu Wei's photoshoot before Jiang Ying's shoot, Jiang Ying had had to wait around while Gu Wei finished up.
Gu Wei couldn't help but wonder if Jiang Ying had posted anything to social media, trying to reignite old feuds.
But there was nothing.
On Jiang Ying's page, the most recent post was a selfie from three days ago. All was calm, as though nothing of note had happened.
The usually ill-tempered Jiang Ying had, apparently, let this one go.
At the Jiang family's villa in H City, Jiang Ying was bemoaning his existence to his mother.
"Mom, do you know what it means to have a nemesis?" he asked, his face dancing with belligerence. "It's a there-can-be-only-one sort of thing. If he exists, I'm nothing. If I exist, he's nothing. If he gets a job, that's one less job for me. If he gets a fan, that's one less fan for me. I'm not being petty or jealous, and I'm not afraid of him being more popular than me. Defeating your nemesis is a matter of pride, you get it?
"But! Listen to this! That brother of mine has betrayed me. He's stabbed me in the back. He spouted some bullshit about protecting his fans, and now he won't let me post on Weibo!"
"You always want to post about every little thing on Weibo," Jiang Xun said. "If you get popular by offending countless people along the way, our family's the one that has to bail you out and pay to fix your public image. All those anti-fans flock to you because of your awful temper. Seriously, when you go out in public? Don't tell people you're Jiang Zheng's son."
Song Jingxi was starting to get a headache from her sons' bickering. "Auntie Zhang made some buttered crab. It's in the dining room, you can go have some."
Jiang Ying bolted out of the room at that, and the living room was finally quiet with only Jiang Xun and his mother staying behind.
"How have you been lately?" Song Jingxi asked, now that she had a chance to have a proper conversation with her older son.
"Pretty good." Jiang Xun couldn't count the number of times he had heard that question, and his answer was just as rehearsed. "My team is growing stronger and stronger. We just won a world championship title."
"Who's asking about your game?" Song Jingxi shook her head mournfully. "I want to hear about feelings! Has anyone caught your eye?"
"Nope." Jiang Xun spread out his hands as though to show they were completely empty, just like his love life. "I've got my hands full watching over the guys on the team, and none of them are going to catch my eye. Where am I going to find time to look elsewhere?"
"I knew you were going to say that," Song Jingxi lamented. "So I found someone for you! A very nice child, cute and well-behaved. Not a bad person to spend your days with."
"Forget it," Jiang Xun said, quickly shaking his head. "It's not like you don't know that I don't…"
"Don't like girls? Not a problem." Song Jingxi had been immersed in the entertainment industry for so long that nothing shocked or scandalized her anymore. "Of course your dear mother knows. So what? I've heard that people belonging to sexual minorities need to make plans to settle down early.
"That's why I'm telling you about this boy. He's the son of a screenwriter I know. I've met him once, and he's polite and quite good-looking. According to his father, he swings your way."
Jiang Xun really wanted to say that being gay didn't mean he was about to jump into a relationship with just any random gay guy his mother picked up off the street.
But Song Jingxi interrupted him again. "Don't be so quick to turn it down. Let me give you that boy's WeChat information. Add him, have a chat. If you like him, I'll talk to his father and set the engagement for you. Getting married won't be urgent, but we can start making plans."
Jiang Ying was still off eating crabs, and Jiang Xun was starting to miss him. Helpless against his mother's insistence, Jiang Xun wound up having to accept this 'nice' and 'well-behaved' boy's contact information.
The username, If You Love Me Please Send Me Money, was quite… unique.
"Be sure to actually add him," Song Jingxi insisted. "His father already told him you would be adding him, so he knows to expect you. Make sure you have a proper conversation with him."
"Sure," Jiang Xun said. His head was already aching.
"Oh, that's right." Song Jingxi took her phone out again, as though suddenly remembering something else. "Here, I'll send you a picture first. Feast your eyes on this."
Jiang Xun was almost speechless. "Do I really seem thirsty enough that a picture would…"
He trailed off abruptly as he opened up the picture Song Jingxi sent. It was undeniably the boy he had seen earlier that day.
Gu Wei. Who seemed to be his fan.
What a coincidence.
In the picture, Gu Wei was dressed casually. He wore a white dress shirt and no makeup. Bathed in sunlight, he looked both refreshed and refreshing. The photo seemed to be a candid shot. There was a faint look of surprise in Gu Wei's eyes, but it seemed the picture had been taken before he had time to hide or escape.
Jiang Xun was speechless.
Song Jingxi was right. The Gu Wei in the picture was, indeed, a feast for the eyes.
Gu Wei, lead dancer of T.ATW, suddenly found himself dragged into the bathroom by the group's rapper, Chi Yunkai.
"What's up?" Gu Wei asked. "Why are we being so secretive?"
"I have a feeling," Chi Yunkai started, "that sooner or later, the two of us… are gonna see our careers go down the toilet."
Gu Wei stared at him with a look that plainly said, WTF?
He had no idea what he was supposed to say to that.
"We just trended for some stupid stuff," Gu Wei reassured. "I'm already used to being yelled at for that sort of thing. You shouldn't let it bother you, either."
"Just listen to me." Chi Yunkai brought his head closer and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "It's not about the trending tags. I wanted to tell you I've got a new money-making… skill."
"Your 'sponsor' isn't giving you money these days?" Gu Wei whispered back.
"Forget sponsors," Chi Yunkai said. "I'm going to be self-sufficient. I started a web store."
"Selling what?" Gu Wei asked.
"Services. Farming mats and exp and doing dailies for gamers, stuff like that. I've got a friend who started a group for that sort of thing, and I've been asked to help find some customers," Chi Yunkai said. "I'll tell you all the details."
Before he could get to the details, however, Chi Yunkai received a call from their manager and had to rush back to work. He left Gu Wei with a huge and arduous request:
"I gotta get to work, but I arranged for a big customer to contact you soon," Chi Yunkai said. "Introduce him to the service for me."
"Big customer?" Gu Wei echoed.
"Yeah, it's some little kid. The sort that's rich as hell and super stupid when it comes to money. His avatar and WeChat name are both pretty childish. You'll know it's him as soon as he adds you," Chi Yunkai explained. "And be polite to him! You need to put on a better attitude when you're talking to big customers.
"If he doesn't understand our packages, do a good job of explaining it to him. I'm leaving all the details with you. You have to get this kid to sign up, got it? He'll be our first big customer. Whether our shop gets popular or not is all up to you."
"Well… alright, I guess," Gu Wei agreed in the end.
They were good enough friends that Gu Wei would do him this favor, even if he didn't really understand why Chi Yunkai suddenly wanted to get a side gig doing this sort of gaming work.
After Chi Yunkai rushed back to work, Gu Wei started watching some dance choreography videos while waiting for this supposed 'big customer' to contact him.
It was ages later, when he'd washed up and had some water and medicine and started to feel sleepy, that his cell phone finally lit up.
[100K Volts] has sent you a friend request.
The avatar was a pikachu, and there was no signature or greeting message.
Gu Wei perked up and shook off the drowsiness that had started to creep over him. This was it. With just one glance, he knew it had to be Chi Yunkai's big customer.
Childish, stupid, and rich as hell.