The two cameramen assigned to Jiang Xun and Gu Wei both seemed to know Jiang Xun. As Gu Wei looked on with desperation in his eyes, they took their leave together.
"Don't go!" Gu Wei called out towards the closing door, from where he was still slumped on the ground. "This meme has a history of being a big old pervert!"
Outside, the two cameramen could only be heard letting out a round of merciless, raucous laughter.
"Get up," Jiang Xun said, extending a hand to Gu Wei. "It's cold on the floor."
Gu Wei blinked up at him a few times before taking Jiang Xun's hand and climbing to his feet.
"Did you hurt yourself when you fell?" Jiang Xun asked.
Gu Wei blinked again. "Huh?"
He followed Jiang Xun's line of sight. When he realized what Jiang Xun was talking about, he quickly shook his head with a faint blush.
"That's good," Jiang Xun said. "That makes it easier for us to settle the score."
Although his family had warned him over and over again to not bully Gu Wei, Jiang Xun couldn't help it. Every time he saw Gu Wei, he just wanted to tease him. And this time, Gu Wei had practically delivered himself, gift-wrapped, to Jiang Xun's doorstep. He'd provided Jiang Xun with the perfect excuse to torment him a little.
The last time Jiang Xun saw Gu Wei, a few days ago, Gu Wei's hair had been dyed a brilliant, powdery white, giving him a flashy appearance. Today, perhaps for the purposes of filming the reality show, Gu Wei's hair had been dyed back to black.
The dark color made his pale skin look even paler in contrast. Gu Wei was young, and his frame was rather slight as well. With that head of black hair, he looked even more like a sweet, obedient, and slightly frail kid.
When he wasn't causing trouble, Gu Wei just looked way too adorable and nice. Even Jiang Xun could hardly bear to make him pay.
Gu Wei shifted restlessly, nervously under Jiang Xun's piercing gaze. In the end, he was the one who spoke first: "Ge, I was wrong."
He had been led over to the chair in the infirmary, and Jiang Xun had pressed down on his shoulder to make him sit. The whole atmosphere reeked of one person who was about to make another pay for a heinous crime.
When Gu Wei confessed his guilt, even he himself had to admit the words were already starting to sound familiar. Hadn't it been just a short while ago that he'd sworn he would never cause any trouble for Jiang Xun again?
If he really thought about it, he had been making an endless string of careless mistakes ever since that engagement came out of the blue.
"What do you think you did wrong?" Jiang Xun asked, gazing intently at Gu Wei, like he was the most interesting thing in the world.
Gu Wei was very, very used to being criticized by his anti-fans. He was a total pro at apologizing, and he instantly started ticking off the long list of his wrongdoings on his fingers:
"I was wrong to excavate your dark past, I was wrong to accidentally like that post, I was wrong to disappear after liking it, I was wrong to ignore it after finding out what I did, I was wrong to not answer your text."
He admitted to every fault he could think of, then looked up at Jiang Xun as though hoping to be praised.
Jiang Xun only gave him a stern look. "All incorrect."
There was no praise. Gu Wei didn't know where to go from there.
"You dug through my Weibo," Jiang Xun prompted. "You dug ten years into the past. You liked a post. And, in the end, you didn't even follow me."
And Gu Wei had claimed to be his fan.
Gu Wei suddenly understood.
He was super sure that he understood completely.
He had almost forgotten that, just a short while ago, he had claimed to be one of Jiang Xun's biggest fans.
And if he was one of Jiang Xun's biggest fans, how could he not follow him on Weibo?
Since he was a fan, that meant he'd done nothing wrong. He hadn't been digging through Jiang Xun's unspeakable past. He had just been… admiring the epic journey of his beloved idol.
"I got it," Gu Wei said. When he was wrong, he would always make things right. "As soon as we're done filming, I'll give you a follow."
"And what else?" Jiang Xun asked. He was relentless.
"What else?" Gu Wei asked, bewildered. "Well, I can make a Weibo post to try to clear things up for you."
Gu Wei was used to having to clean up his own messes on social media. He was such a pro at that that he could already imagine what he would write—
Hello, everyone. I'm your beloved God Xun's good friend Gu Wei. He's really not lonely at all. Thank you to everyone who was concerned. Please be sure to watch Jiang Xun and I on our new show. He worked very hard!
He could also host a little giveaway or give all of the meme's other Weibo posts a like as well. If he set his mind to it, he could really shine the spotlight on Jiang Xun.
The meme's fanbase wouldn't collapse so easily.
"What are you plotting?" Jiang Xun asked. "Do you intend to get even more of my dark history trending?"
Jiang Xun had completely seen through him and basically read his mind.
Gu Wei didn't dare to speak for a moment.
"Nope," he said, finally. "Definitely not."
Gu Wei had clumsy hands and a weak heart. He glanced at the door behind Jiang Xun. "Ge, what about the show? Since I'm your diehard fan, why don't we settle this privately?"
Jiang Xun always protected his fans. That was really, really good for Gu Wei.
Of course, Gu Wei could only be considered a fan of Jiang Xun's memes. When it came to esports, he was still as clueless as ever.
But that didn't matter. Fans didn't need to pass a test to be fans.
"Alright," Jiang Xun said, smiling. "How would you like to settle this privately?"
This was a perfectly innocent, normal question. But for some reason, Gu Wei instantly thought of that night in the dressing room, when Jiang Xun had blocked him in against the door and called him his young bride.
An unbidden blush spread across Gu Wei's cheeks.
This big pervert couldn't… couldn't possibly still be thinking about 'buying a year', right?
Gu Wei had already called off the engagement, too.
"Why are you blushing?" Jiang Xun asked, noticing the change in Gu Wei's expression as soon as it happened. "Are you thinking about something that's… not suitable for children?"
Gu Wei hurriedly denied, "I'm not…"
Jiang Xun deliberately lowered his voice and whispered, "It's fine. I don't mind at all. We can settle this 'privately' in any way you want."
"I mind!" Gu Wei protested.
He frantically racked his brain and finally came up with a proposal: "How about… I let you see what I was like ten years ago."
The Gu Wei of ten years ago was a little eight-year-old brat. A pure and innocent 24 kilogram grade schooler. A bit foolish, and not very well-off.
Jiang Xun probably wouldn't be curious about that at all.
Gu Wei had already started to think deeply on matters of 'buying a year' and selling his body, wondering how likely those outcomes really were. He never thought that, after Jiang Xun considered it for a moment—
Jiang Xun nodded. "That works."
Gu Wei had escaped the worst possible outcome.
"Let's film this show first," Jiang Xun said. "Then when there's time, show me the you from ten years ago."
Jiang Xun hadn't planned on bullying Gu Wei too much. He extended a hand to Gu Wei to help him up.
Gu Wei took Jiang Xun's hand and followed him out, allowing himself a small, victorious smile behind Jiang Xun's back.
It seemed the big pervert wasn't as bad as he thought.
"But my loving embrace was wasted on you," Gu Wei muttered under his breath, assuming Jiang Xun wouldn't be able to hear him.
He didn't see the way the corners of Jiang Xun's eyes crinkled with amusement.
The early morning fog was starting to dissipate, and the scenery around the school became more clear. As he followed behind Jiang Xun, Gu Wei felt inexplicably calmer and safer.
He couldn't make sense of that sort of feeling yet, so he shoved it to the back of his mind and did his best to ignore it.
Their cameramen had caught up with them and started filming again. Gu Wei and Jiang Xun made their way downstairs, looking for their other three teammates.
After setting their personal issues aside for the time being, the two of them got along pretty well.
"I have a question," Gu Wei said. It was something that had been bothering him for a long time now.
Jiang Xun turned back and smiled. "Go ahead."
"This is just a normal school uniform I'm wearing," he said, tugging at the collar of his own costume. "What makes me the school bully?"
Jiang Xun gave the Gu Wei in front of him a slow, thorough once-over. Sure enough, with that tidy uniform and his head of black hair, Little Gu looked every bit like a smart and well-behaved student who had yet to graduate. He didn't look remotely like the 'bully' he had been assigned to play.
The only real indication of his role was the word 'BAD' that the showrunners had stuck onto the back of Gu Wei's outfit.
"What are you smiling at?" Gu Wei asked, alarmed.
"Nothing." Jiang Xun schooled his face back into a neutral expression.
In the past, when filming variety shows, Gu Wei had always found the experience dull and uninteresting. His reactions tended to be slower and less pronounced. But today, everything was different. He had no idea what this diabolical meme was capable of, so he cautiously placed his full attention on Jiang Xun.
Which, in turn, helped Gu Wei actually get invested in what they were doing. For the first time, he felt that a reality show could actually be fun and exciting, and he began to put some real effort into climbing out of this hole the showrunners had put them in.
"The other guests probably aren't in this building," Gu Wei guessed.
The showrunners definitely would have made the game more difficult than that. They wouldn't have allowed all the guests to start out in the same place.
Jiang Xun nodded his agreement. "Let's check outside."
But when they reached the ground floor, they were stopped by one of the hosts of the show. They were told: "Class is currently in session. Only the school nurse can go outside. Students have to say here."
Gu Wei suddenly realized that the costumes and roleplay served an actual purpose in this game.
What now? He couldn't possibly stay stuck in this building for the whole show.
"Three questions. If you answer all of them correctly, you can leave this place," the host continued. "The questions are all related to our honored guests. They're not very difficult. Want to give it a try?"
"I'll try," Gu Wei said. He could feel himself getting fired up now.
The host took out a set of index cards and rapidly fired out the questions—
"Number one pop song of this spring?"
That was easy. Gu Wei's eyes lit up.
"'Missing' by Qian Yining."
"Releasing next month, with two male leads and a criminal investigation plotline…"
That was even easier. Gu Wei's eyes shined even brighter.
"Bei Ke's 'No Tomorrow'! I know these!"
Two down, one to go. Victory was in sight.
"Last question," the host said. "In the recent world championship tournament of the FPS game 'Shou Ze', the MVP Jiang Xun's total elimination count was…?"
That was easy, too. For Jiang Xun.
If Gu Wei was Jiang Xun's fan, then it was impossible for him to not know the answer.
Gu Wei said nothing.
He was pretty sure he was about to faint.