Gu Wei was about to lose it.
He couldn't stand it anymore.
His heart beat faster and faster. His palms were starting to sweat. Finally, he opened his mouth and began to at least try to explain:
"Back then… I didn't know you were Jiang Xun."
He also hadn't known Jiang Xun was the poor, unfortunate soul who'd gotten caught up in this whole engagement mess.
"Who did you think I was?" Jiang Xun asked. His gaze took on a faintly dangerous glint.
"I thought you were…" Gu Wei caught a glimpse of that dangerous look in Jiang Xun's eyes and swallowed what he was about to say. Instead of admitting he thought Jiang Xun was 'a little kid', he said, "I thought you were a customer."
He couldn't say he thought Jiang Xun's avatar and username were like a little kid's. He had to try to smooth things over.
And so, under Jiang Xun's scrutinizing gaze, Gu Wei thoroughly recounted all the misunderstandings that had transpired during their long-distance communications. But he was very, very careful to omit the words 'little kid' from the whole story.
When he finished his explanation, Jiang Xun was silent for a long moment.
In all twenty-three years of his life, he had never encountered such a bizarre confluence of events.
So this kid really was a nice kid. A good boy. He had lived a simple life. There was no overabundance of experience. There was no body count of one hundred and eighty.
This convoluted WeChat conversation of theirs, that was so like a chicken talking to a duck, could only have been born from the errors of man.
"I'm a serious idol, I can't sell you a year," Gu Wei concluded. "If I sell you a year, my career is over."
Gu Wei had an exceptionally clear understanding of where he stood in society and in the industry, and what he could and couldn't do.
"I can't date, either," he continued determinedly. "Dating would also kill my career."
After finally clearing up all the misunderstandings, Gu Wei let out a sigh of relief. But he didn't realize his every twitch and breath were taken in by Jiang Xun's sharp eyes.
It seemed to Jiang Xun that the little idol, who could make fans shriek and scream when he put on his stage persona, was actually a pretty easy person to talk to offstage.
How could a cute little star like this have such a bad reputation online? Where did all those people badmouthing him on Weibo even come from?
When Jiang Xun thought of those scathing comments on Weibo, he frowned slightly and furrowed his brow.
Gu Wei had started inching a hand towards the locked door, ready to make a break for it. But then Jiang Xun suddenly lifted his phone and showed Gu Wei the screen, brandishing the screenshot of the evidence of Gu Wei's blunder from earlier that afternoon.
"What are you running for? Feeling brave?" Jiang Xun pointed at the screenshot. "What's the explanation for this?"
Gu Wei fell silent.
He had forgotten about that part.
"You really do have guts," Jiang Xun said, looking straight at Gu Wei. "You had the gall to trash-talk me without even blocking me first."
"I did block you!" Gu Wei protested. The mere thought of that mistake made anger rise up in him, causing his voice to grow louder as well. "I didn't know I accidentally made it so that only you could see it!"
It was definitely all WeChat's fault.
Jiang Xun took a moment to process those words, then understood.
Gu Wei wasn't bold. He was just careless.
As soon as Gu Wei finished making that declaration, he got the feeling that he had said something wrong. His hand flew up, and he covered his own mouth tight, refusing to utter another word.
The more he explained, the deeper he dug himself into this hole.
"So your complaints were just for me to see. You really could use a lesson in manners," Jiang Xun said. He looked Gu Wei over once more, then concluded, "I still want to order a year and teach you that lesson. What do you think you should do about that?"
"I'm not good at being teased," Gu Wei complained, his morale deflating more and more by the second. "And I'm not selling a year, so you can't subscribe for a year."
It really, really was all WeChat's fault that Gu Wei couldn't get away from this talk of a year.
"Ge, buying a year isn't good for your body either, okay? Let's calm down and think about this rationally," Gu Wei said. He had changed tactics and taken on a sweeter tone, trying to reason with Jiang Xun. "You pro gamers must be super busy, right? You don't have time to be thinking about buying a year with anyone, isn't that right?"
Facing a huge pervert like Jiang Xun, a new self-defense mechanism was suddenly born within Gu Wei.
He would use logic to persuade Jiang Xun, and emotion to convince him.
But Jiang Xun just raised his eyebrows. "What part of me do you have a problem with?"
"No! No part at all, it's not like that. Absolutely not," Gu Wei countered hastily. "I'm just worried about your health."
Putting on the most sincere face he could muster, Gu Wei said, "Ge, it was my bad. Honestly, I swear there won't be a next time."
Next time, he definitely wouldn't block the wrong person.
There was still the matter of the engagement hanging between the two of them, left in an ambiguous state. But Gu Wei hadn't really done anything wrong. There was a limit to how much Jiang Xun could tease and bully him.
"We can forget about it," Jiang Xun said. "Since you're my fan, I'll take that into consideration and forgive you this time."
It would be bad if he genuinely scared Gu Wei off. The future was long, and they would have many chances to meet again.
"Huh?" Gu Wei had frozen in place.
This time, the misunderstanding was Jiang Xun's.
Gu Wei was not Jiang Xun's fan. He was just a fan of his memes. As for all those complicated esports strategies and skills, Gu Wei didn't understand that stuff one bit.
It was probably because he always went to tournaments with his bandmates, and because he had collected countless memes of Jiang Xun, that Jiang Xun had gotten the wrong idea.
A wise man knows when to go with the flow.
And Gu Wei, in a moment of wisdom and clarity, was suddenly all about the flow.
He, Gu Wei, in that very moment, became one of Jiang Xun's die-hard fans.
"God Xun!" Gu Wei exclaimed, relying on the absolute best acting skills in his arsenal. "I've been your fan for such a long time. So give me your autograph, okay?"
That little act would save his hide, and later he could even sell the autograph.
It was the perfect plan.
After all this was over, and after the engagement was called off, he would make sure he stayed far, far away from Jiang Xun.
Jiang Xun stared at Gu Wei for a long while. He didn't comment on Gu Wei's genuinely awful acting skills, and in the end he tracked down an autograph board to sign for Gu Wei.
"Can you not put my name on it?" Gu Wei dared to ask. He knew Jiang Xun rarely gave out his autograph, and if it was made out to Gu Wei, he would have a much harder time selling it to those four rabid fanboys in his group.
"No," Jiang Xun answered. His refusal was firm and swift. "Where's your sincerity?"
To Little Gu Wei:
Here's to a promising future.
Gu Wei took the world champion's autograph and finally made his escape from the lecher's evil claws.
A promising future.
The meme was intimidating and calculating, and he had a fierce stare. But other than that, he seemed… like maybe not a bad person?
But this engagement still had to go.
The meme was just too fierce.
As soon as he climbed back into the group's van, Gu Wei came face to face with Zhao-jie for the first time in a while.
"What took you so long?" Zhao-jie asked.
Gu Wei hid Jiang Xun's autograph behind his back. "Sorry, I got held up for a bit."
His manager didn't quibble over the little details and got straight to business: "There are two things I need to tell you."
Gu Wei nodded. "Go ahead, Zhao-jie."
"It's one piece of good news, and one piece of bad news," she said. Starting with the bad news, she continued, "You've been dropped from Like the Moon, that big-name idol drama you signed on for earlier. Your role is going to someone else."
Gu Wei stared blankly.
His manager studied him for a moment before she explained, "You were replaced by someone who's a little less well-known than you. His name is He Cheng, and he probably bought the role for himself."
Fu Zhi, from his seat off to the side, glanced over. "That little internet celeb?"
"He's catching up to us," Luo Chenxuan said, shaking his head.
That was how this business worked. If there was someone willing to support you, or someone willing to pay, then you would have no problems making it to the top.
Things like buying a role were common. It hadn't happened to Gu Wei before, but he had at least heard of that kind of business.
But, inevitably, he was still disappointed.
He had worked hard for that role.
"But the script for that drama is very suitable for you," the manager continued, "and the company has a supporting role available to you. Do you want to take it?"
"I'll take it," Gu Wei said, after only a short moment of hesitation.
After his debut, the company he signed with had taken advantage of the controversy that always seemed to surround him and gotten him gigs on various variety shows. But he wanted to branch out and needed to get some credits on other types of projects as well.
He didn't have time to dwell on whether or not his role had been wrongly snatched away from him. In this industry, he simply had to move on.
"Understood," his manager said. She seemed quite satisfied with his answer. "The company also took into consideration the type of role. The script is good, and this supporting character is likeable. Do a good job, and you're sure to reel in more fans.
"I'll send you the script first, so look it over. You would be playing an esports player, so if you decide to take the role, you'll need to start preparing for it soon."
Gu Wei was stunned.
The only impression he had of an esports player was the one left upon him by the big pervert Jiang Xun.
Not to mention, behind his back, he was still hiding an autograph from that shady world champion.
Besides carefully reading the script and character information, Gu Wei had no idea how he was supposed to go about understanding this supporting character in Like the Moon.
"The good news…" His manager pinched the bridge of her nose, showing clear signs of exhaustion after a long day's work. "The agency got you booked on another variety show, an escape and mystery-solving type. It's called Escape Without a Trace."
Gu Wei frowned and said nothing to that.
To him, that wasn't any sort of good news.
"Don't turn it down yet," his manager said, easily reading the dissatisfaction on his face. "I know you don't have any TV charisma. Everyone knows that. Just take your controversial popularity and do your best."
That was his selling point. As long as Gu Wei was part of the cast, the show was sure to get more viewers.
All the variety shows that extended invitations to Gu Wei were counting on that controversial popularity of his.
"Just don't cause any trouble," his manager said. "The sort of thing that happened on Wandering With You can't happen again. I'll tell you once more, the company won't cover the expenses to bury the story if you end up trending again. You'll have to take care of it yourself if anything happens.
"I'll update your schedule for you. Get some rest as soon as you get back to the dorm. You're heading out again tomorrow night, and I'll have Shi Xinyan go along to look after you."
Knowing he would have a bandmate with him on that new variety show reassured Gu Wei quite a lot. The fact that it was Shi Xinyan, who had a great personality for TV, was even better. He just had one question:
"Who are the other guests?"
"We don't know that yet. To preserve the element of surprise, the showrunners haven't released the full list of guests. We know, including you two, there will be five guests in the main cast, and if the show is popular, they'll invite special guests in the future. But I can tell you Jiang Ying and Jiang Enyuan aren't involved."
That was all Gu Wei needed to hear to relax. With that, his involvement in the new variety show was a done deal. He would head out the following night, leaving him one night and one day to rest.
The program T.ATW had performed on ran late into the evening. By the time Gu Wei got back to his dorm, it was nearly one in the morning. He was a light sleeper, often jolting awake in the middle of the night, and he couldn't get a good night's rest without relying on sleep medication.
He took his pills, got into bed, and checked the script that his manager had sent over.
Like the Moon was to be an inspirational coming-of-age idol drama. The story started with two boys and two girls in high school, all young and confused as they tried to find their way through life. Eventually, they would each find their direction and become outstanding in their chosen field.
Gu Wei was now to play the supporting male character, who just so happened to be a professional esports player.
What was the life of a pro esports player really like?
Jiang Xun was the only one Gu Wei knew.
Suddenly, Gu Wei had a brilliant idea. He could go scroll through Jiang Xun's Weibo history and get a sense of what that big pervert's life was like.
Gu Wei opened Weibo and typed TMW into the search bar. The very first thing that popped up was that familiar name, TMW-Xun.
Jiang Xun's account had been made a pretty long time ago, and he already had over a thousand posts on there.
Gu Wei was very, very careful to avoid the 'Follow' button under the TMW-Xun account's name. Under the cover of night, he grew bold and began to dig through Jiang Xun's past.