Ten years ago, Jiang Xun was a very smug second-year in middle school. Practically every day, he would pick up a thin wafer roll and pretend to smoke it like a cigarette. And every now and then, he would tip his head up at a forty-five degree angle to gaze at the sky.
When he penned that ancient Weibo post, Jiang Xun had been in the middle of fighting with his parents over a training camp he wanted to attend. At only thirteen, he was a precocious and stubborn kid, and he often struggled to properly communicate with the people around him.
As for whether or not he felt lonely back then, he didn't know. But he had definitely felt misunderstood.
The post was just so old. Not even Jiang Xun himself could remember what he had been thinking or feeling when he wrote it.
Everybody had some darkness in their past. Some skeletons in the closet. But not everyone's skeletons were pulled out and put on display for the whole world to see.
Gu Wei, the meddling little archeologist, had sunk his shovel in and, in one deft plunge, unearthed the worst of Jiang Xun's dark past.
There was no further communication from Gu Wei, but some sharp-eyed fan had taken a screenshot within seconds of him liking that post. The evidence had since spread like wildfire across every major social media platform, and a bud of something very… not good had started to sprout.
Gu Wei had a controversial sort of popularity, but he had scores of followers. His fans spread the incriminating screenshot to their followers, and their followers spread it to their followers, and in no time at all, the screenshot of that piece of Jiang Xun's dark past was plastered all over every social media platform imaginable.
Unsurprisingly, just twenty minutes later, the world-renowned professional esports player Jiang Xun and the tabloid starlet Gu Wei once again ascended to the top of Weibo's trending topics—
This kind of tag was the perfect bait for curious netizens. Just looking at it made people want to click through.
Within five minutes, the sticker next to the tag changed from 'NEW' to 'HOT'.
Jiang Ying, in the living room of their home, was still laughing so hard that he'd started snorting like a pig.
"I warned you about him," Jiang Ying wheezed, "and you said you protect fans." The pig-like snorting turned into a goose-like honking. "Go ahead and protect your fan. Too bad he's a thankless little punk."
The honking turned back into a chicken-like squawking sort of laugh, and it just went on and on and on.
Jiang Ying was single-handedly turning their living room into a zoo.
And Jiang Xun, all the while, remained silent.
Trapping Gu Wei against the door. Teasing him by calling him a 'young bride'. Had that been all it took to offend him?
But that wasn't the end of it.
Things were just getting started.
The guys in Jiang Xun's team were all kings of staying up late. One after another, their reactions were lured out by Gu Wei's like. One of them responded to that old loneliness post with a doge face emoji. The others quickly added their own comments, and soon the four of them were all swept into the trending tags by spectators as well.
It was already one in the morning, and Jiang Xun's cell phone hadn't stopped buzzing with new notifications. Their team's QQ chat group was abnormally active as each of the other members took turns checking in on their leader.
[TMW-SK]: @TMW-Xun, God Xun, feeling lonely? [smokingcigarette]
[TMW-BigPineapple]: @TMW-Xun, God Xun, feeling lonely? [smokingcigarette]
[TMW-Kumachan]: @TMW-Xun, God Xun, feeling lonely? [smokingcigarette]
[TMW-West]: @TMW-Xun, God Xun, feeling lonely? [smokingcigarette]
None of them seemed to care if Jiang Xun actually saw their messages or not. They were more interested in chatting amongst themselves.
[TMW-SK]: Captain, it's over. Your cool, cold, and handsome persona is shattered. Are you going to be okay with the trash talk before our next tournament? I'm afraid your intimidation tactics might not work anymore.
[TMW-SK]: But you're impressive to us, Captain. Just after elementary school, you already knew all about loneliness.
[TMW-Kumachan]: Hahahahahaha, this is either your most loyal fan or your worst enemy. What a fearsome move, revealing our God Xun's vulnerabilities. Now everyone knows the god who thrashes them at tournaments was a fucking idiot ten years ago.
[TMW-BigPineapple]: Gu Wei? Isn't he that little celeb that our ol' leader teased a while back? They were trending once before. Maybe this is revenge, hahahahaha. But, man, this is way too vicious for revenge.
[TMW-BigPineapple]: I think I remember him watching Jiang Xun at tournaments. Is he a fan? Don't tell me he's a fan trying to get your attention, hahahaha.
[TMW-West]: Friends, I'm getting the feeling that this is true love.
[TMW-Kumachan]: Xi-ge, explain.
[TMW-West]: Just look at us. We're Jiang Xun's best buddies, but would we go digging ten years into the past on his Weibo in the middle of the night?
[TMW-Kumachan]: Good point.
The texting speeds of these professional esports players were being put to the test. They were typing like this was a life-or-death match in an important tournament.
System Notification: TMW-Xun has left the group.
[TMW-SK]: He ran! He ran away! Our boss totally bailed hahahahaha.
[TMW-West]: Brothers, listen. Based on my finely-honed intuition, I can tell there's something going on with these two.
[TMW-SK]: Xi-ge, you're so thick, and even you can tell?
[TMW-West]: Yep. Wanna bet on it?
Jiang Xun pulled up his private chat with Gu Wei. It was utterly silent, like the culprit himself had no intention of fessing up to his crime of stirring up a brand new mess.
The incident had completely blown up on Weibo. In the past hour, Jiang Xun's old post had been shared over ten thousand times. There were almost ten thousand comments as well—
Netizen 1: God Xun, that third-rate star is trying to leech off your fame again, but this time he's really got you in his clutches.
Netizen 2: So the godly pro player I love was like this ten years ago. God Xun, don't be lonely. Your fan will keep you company, I'm waiting~
Netizen 3: I'm a Gu Wei supporter, and I know our little Weiwei didn't do this on purpose. His hand probably just slipped. Weiwei worked until very late tonight, most likely he's already asleep. Tomorrow, he'll definitely apologize to God Xun. We'll apologize on Weiwei's behalf first. We're sorry, Jiang Xun! [kneeling.jpg]
Netizen 4: Hey, you fans trying to do damage control, are your heads totally empty? A slip of the hand can slip back ten years? How long is this hand, huh? Your little Gu Wei did this on purpose. It's one of those schemes of his. He doesn't have enough drama in his own life, so he's here digging up Jiang Xun's dark past.
Netizen 5: That's right, Gu Wei just can't surpass his rival, so he's here taking it out on his rival's big brother.
Netizen 6: Lonely Xun, did you find the 'Lonely You' you were waiting for ten years ago? [SurprisedDoraemon.jpg]
Netizen 7: Fuck, why did I check Weibo before I went to sleep? Now I laughed so hard that I'm totally awake. How am I supposed to go to work tomorrow?
Jiang Xun's fangirls were scrambling to confess to him, all hoping to be the one to alleviate his loneliness, while fans of his gameplay were laughing like maniacs.
Gu Wei's protective fans were protecting him like he was their wounded baby, while his anti-fans were having a blast dragging him to pieces.
Then there were the uninvested spectators who only came by to get in on the commotion, sharing the reaction clips and mindlessly adding their own raucous laughter into the mix.
The culprit who got them into this hot mess was still dozing in the comfort of his own bed. He slept soundly through all the chaos, clutching his cell phone in one hand and hugging a big pillow with his other arm.
Outside his room, two people were pressed up against the door.
"Is he sleeping?" Shi Xinyan whispered.
"I think so, but that's fine." Chi Yunkai laid down flat on the floor and squinted in through the crack below the door. "I knew it."
"Let's let him sleep," Shi Xinyan said. "If you wake him up now, he won't be able to get back to sleep tonight."
Their leader Fu Zhi had the work and sleep patterns of a middle-aged man. He had gone to bed as soon as they got back to the dorms. But lead vocalist Luo Chenxuan had just emerged from his own room to get a glass of water before turning in. He was already drowsy as he passed by Gu Wei's door, cradling a glass of hot water.
And he didn't see the two people sprawled out on the ground.
He didn't know whose leg he tripped over, but in the blink of an eye, his glass went flying and the near-boiling water inside rained down on the vulnerable butts of the two floor-dwellers.
Chi Yunkai squeaked.
"Fuck," Shi Xinyan bit out. "That's hot."
Inside the room, Gu Wei's cell phone vibrated twice. But in the haze of his deep, medicine-induced sleep, Gu Wei only furrowed his brows and pushed his cell phone away, towards the edge of the bed.
The phone tumbled over the edge and fell onto the floorboards.
The screen lit up, displaying the most recent message to arrive—
[100K Volts]: See you tomorrow.
This bit of trending 'news' brought joy and delight into the otherwise dull and uneventful lives of almost a hundred thousand netizens. The hot topic stayed hot, and the tag was still trending the next morning.
When Gu Wei was roused from his deep sleep by an early morning alarm, he sat up and rubbed blearily at his eyes, feeling like he'd slept better than he had in a long, long time.