Chapter 43: He's With Me

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The first time Gu Wei saw the group dedicated to the ship of him and Jiang Xun, he had figured he could leave it alone and it would die of natural causes. But after the first episode of Escape Without a Trace aired, the membership count in #FoodForXunWei just continued to go up and up and up.

At the same time, the number of trolls and anti-fans in the trending tags about Gu Wei was increasing as well—

@1.5kg Kiwi Fruit: Who exactly is Gu Wei? I see him trending all the time these days. Is he famous?

@KOGHF: Not really famous, no, but he's got a pretty face, and his dancing is really good. And his legs, his hips? Eheh. His agency probably paid to get him trending. That sort of thing happens all the time. I don't think Gu Wei and Jiang Xun have anything to do with each other outside this variety show, so I dunno why Gu Wei's agency is trying to leech hype from Jiang Xun. Taking advantage of a coincidental meeting, maybe?

@User97876675: +1, they're taking advantage of Jiang Xun because Jiang Xun isn't signed to any entertainment agency. That has to be the reason. Gu Wei is so problematic, I'm literally begging his fans to stop trying to cover that up. I just can't look at him anymore about his choreography plagiarism scandal.

@8000 Miles of Moonlit Clouds: Don't you guys get sick and tired of bringing up that old 'scandal' every time Gu Wei comes up? You seriously just don't stop. Gu Wei and Jiang Xun recorded a variety show together. Isn't it normal for us to be talking about them right now?

@User97876675: Well, sure, you can talk about him. But it's not like I made up that plagiarism story just to attack Gu Wei.

@TMW Forward March: Alright, break it up. We don't know who Gu Wei is, and we don't care. God Xun might play around with this little third-rate celeb for a while until he gets bored, but he's immune to your entertainment industry bullshit. Haven't you looked into his family background? Even if you set aside the fact that Jiang Zheng is his father, Jiang Xun himself holds a stake in a bunch of media companies. He's a bigshot, you know. He just keeps a low profile to focus on his gaming career.

But these voices were soon drowned out by the still-growing army of shippers that had started to mobilize—

@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: Here's a gift for all my new sisters. Save them for your own use if you like them~ FFXW IS REAL!

[image] x9

Gu Wei clicked open the pictures and found that several of the fleeting moments he and Jiang Xun shared on the show had been captured and made into gifs by their shippers. Someone had even added a twinkly, rosy filter to the gifs.

The very first gif showed Jiang Xun picking Gu Wei up in a bridal carry and dashing past the staff member to escape the school building, snatching the task key they'd won along the way. The Gu Wei from back then, not reacting in time, had even leaned into Jiang Xun like he was perfectly comfortable in his arms.

Back then, in the heat of the moment, Gu Wei really hadn't felt like they'd done anything inappropriate. But now, it was obvious that their actions gave their fans plenty of room to let their imagination run wild. This first gif in particular was particularly damning, especially after someone had added a blush SFX to Gu Wei's cheeks.

As Gu Wei continued to flip through the images, he could distinctly remember each of the things depicted happening during the filming of the variety show. But even he was starting to see those moments in a brand new light, influenced by the shippers' perspective.

Naturally, the gifs also included the moment of eye contact between him and Jiang Xun, during the last round of their game of charades. It showed, in high-definition, the subtle way Gu Wei shyly looked away as well as the intensity with which Jiang Xun had gazed at him.

@Little Hedgehog's Cocoa Bean: Waaaaaah, I'm happy happy tears. My little Weiwei is really just too sweet, he's not cold and standoffish at all. These two are already my OTP.

@Glazed Chestnuts QmQ: I wonder if Weiwei has watched the show with us already. Has he seen that perfect bridal carry? Has he seen all his little expressions around Jiang Xun? My only question is when they're going to get hitched! We seriously need to thank Director Zhang for coming up with that last phrase for them. Now we just need to wait for them to tie the knot for real!

@Very Very Very Small Bird: Let's all keep a low profile and keep our content to our group. We don't want to make any trouble for the boys. Weiwei is so busy with work all the time, and Jiang Xun has his competitions too. We don't want to disrupt their lives, but I really have to say… these two are just so shippable!

There were many different types of fans in the entertainment industry. Solo fans who stan just one idol, or group fans who support a whole group. Of course, there were the shippers as well, many of whom adopted this mentality of keeping a low profile and sharing content only within circles of like-minded fans.

Gu Wei understood where all the attention was coming from, but he was really starting to get worried about how quickly this ship was growing. At this rate, he had to wonder if it wasn't only a matter of time before Jiang Xun noticed the rapidly growing group.

Things had changed from their first meeting to now. Gu Wei truly wasn't that insistent on breaking off their engagement anymore, but if they were to talk about actually getting married…

Gu Wei wasn't ready to even think about that yet.

In truth, Gu Wei wasn't very good at interpersonal relationships in general, and he especially lacked the knowledge and experience to form close, intimate relationships with others.

What was marriage actually like? Due to his parents' divorce, Gu Wei really didn't have a clear idea of what being married actually entailed. At that point in his life, Gu Wei didn't have the mental or emotional fortitude to even consider spending the rest of his life with someone.

But that didn't seem to be the case for Jiang Xun.

Jiang Xun had been concentrating on the show until he noticed Gu Wei had grown restless. Gu Wei was looking at his cell phone, then looking at Jiang Xun, then looking at the desktop monitor, then looking back at Jiang Xun; all of that fidgeting made it seem like he had something he wanted to say.

"Is there something you want to say to me?" Jiang Xun asked. He paused the video playing on the screen and turned to Gu Wei.

Gu Wei jumped and instinctively covered his cell phone screen. He hadn't expected Jiang Xun to turn around so suddenly. He clutched his cell phone protectively and scooted back a little, desperate to hide the trending topics list from Jiang Xun.

That, of course, only made Jiang Xun curious. "What are you hiding? Do you still think I have a perverted and depraved look in my eye?"

"No, no," Gu Wei quickly denied, dodging Jiang Xun's gaze.

It was Gu Wei's guilty conscience that made him feel like crawling into a hole to hide.

"That's good," Jiang Xun said, before giving Gu Wei such a long and thorough once-over that Gu Wei scooted even farther away in his chair.

But all the hiding in the world wouldn't have done Gu Wei any good. Because someone delivered the news of the currently trending topics straight into Jiang Xun's eyeballs.

Jiang Xun's phone suddenly lit up with a string of new WeChat messages from Jiang Ying—

[Big-Clawed Crab]: [screenshot][screenshot][screenshot]

[Big-Clawed Crab]: If you confess willingly, I'll go easy on you. If you lie to me, your punishment will be severe. What are you getting all chummy with my nemesis for???

[Big-Clawed Crab]: You're engaged to be married, you know.

[100K Volts]: So?

[Big-Clawed Crab]: You need to be more conscious of your actions.

[100K Volts]: ……

[Big-Clawed Crab]: What would your fiancé think if he saw these trending topics? How would he feel?

[Big-Clawed Crab]: Be good to your partner. I can't believe I need to teach you that.

[100K Volts]: Actually, my fiancé……

[Big-Clawed Crab]: Don't explain it to me, go explain it to him.

[100K Volts]: Alright.

[100K Volts]: I offer you my humble thanks.

[100K Volts]: slightsmile.jpg

The question of what his fiancé would think of these trending topics was one Jiang Xun wished to have answered as well. He reached out and grabbed hold of Gu Wei's chair by the armrest, dragging him back over to his side, chair and all, so he could show Gu Wei the screenshots Jiang Ying had just sent over.

"Weiwei," Jiang Xun said, passing Gu Wei his phone. "How does this make you feel?"

"What is it?" Gu Wei asked, curiously taking Jiang Xun's phone to have a look.

He didn't see the recent chat history between Jiang Xun and Jiang Ying. He only saw a screenshot of a certain superchat group.

Gu Wei stared at it for a long moment.

How did that make him feel?

Well, that was… complicated.

As he had feared, hiding an entire fandom from Jiang Xun simply wasn't going to be possible.

Jiang Xun didn't seem to be satisfied just showing him a screenshot, either. Right in front of Gu Wei's face, he opened up Weibo and typed that accursed little hashtag into the search bar.

"Can we… maybe not look?" Gu Wei suggested meekly. The shippers were really too clever. The more he saw this ship name, the more it seemed to roll off the tongue.

"We can't," Jiang Xun said, as though having a look at the group was the only rational course of action to take. "This involves me, so why can't I have a look?"

Jiang Xun clicked open the superchat group. The first post was a video edit starring the two of them, and the background music was a sweet little love song T.ATW had recently released. The snippet of the song used in the video happened to be sung by Gu Wei, and the lyrics had to do with a secret romance. These lyrics matched up way, way, way too well with the Gu Wei in the video, who flashed a subtle little smile after sneaking a glance at Jiang Xun.

Gu Wei was alarmed.

These were all tiny little details that he hadn't even noticed while watching the show, and tiny little actions that he certainly couldn't remember taking while filming the show. How were these shippers able to capture each and every one of these tiny, incriminating looks? They really did study the footage as though they had microscopes for eyes.

"Was this what you were trying to hide from me?" Jiang Xun reached over and pried Gu Wei's fingers away from the screen Gu Wei had tried so desperately to hide. Just as he'd expected, the same content was displayed on that phone. "So, your answer?"

"I wasn't trying to hide it," Gu Wei argued. "I just…"

"Alright." Jiang Xun scooted his chair even closer to Gu Wei. "Then, let's have a look together."

Gu Wei fell silent.

Watching the variety show together was one thing. Why did they have to scroll through their shippers' group together, too?

"You don't want to look?" Jiang Xun asked. His voice was a whisper that fell directly next to Gu Wei's ear. Seeing as there was no one else in the training room, with everyone else at dinner, Jiang Xun even took the opportunity to give Gu Wei's cheek a poke. "Or you don't want to blow this ship up with me?"

Gu Wei suddenly lifted his head. "Blow it up?"

Jiang Xun nodded, pulling up his chat log with Director Zhang. "Originally, Director Zhang planned on bringing the show some extra publicity by having tabloids run a few stories about us to stir up interest in our ship. You know how it is, this sort of thing happens all the time."

Gu Wei did know, but something felt off to him. This didn't feel like a case of the tabloids stirring the pot to conjure a ship out of thin air. This felt more like a hurricane.

"Originally?" Gu Wei echoed.

"Right, originally," Jiang Xun confirmed. "But before he could get anything published, we already started trending on our own. Director Zhang praised you a lot for being such a natural at creating some buzz. He said that you're a treasure, and that the fee for hiring you certainly wasn't a waste. He even told us to keep a low profile for a while so that other people could have a chance to trend."

Gu Wei felt a bit like sulking at that.

He'd been trying to keep a low profile all along. He was still laying low even now, lurking around Team TMW's club without appearing in public for two whole days.

"Ah, there was one more thing," Jiang Xun said, his voice interrupting Gu Wei's sulk.

Gu Wei looked up again. "What?"

"Drawing attention by hyping up a ship is one of the show's main weapons, but Director Zhang knew my family had arranged an engagement for me. He even asked if my partner and I would be okay with those tactics," Jiang Xun said. "I told him I didn't have a problem with it."

Gu Wei stared at him.

"So…" Jiang Xun said, fixing his full attention on Gu Wei now that he had finished recounting his conversations with the director. "Does my little partner have a problem with it?"

There was no way Gu Wei would dare have a problem with it. As Jiang Xun asked, his hand was hovering right near Gu Wei's cheek, as though he had very much enjoyed the sensation of prodding it once and was just waiting for an opportunity to poke it again.

Gu Wei, feeling vaguely threatened, forced himself to shake his head. That answer seemed to satisfy Jiang Xun, who finally moved his hand away as he gave Gu Wei a lingering, meaningful look.

A call from his manager, Zhao Ya, came at just the right time, saving Gu Wei from the clutches of the big, menacing pervert.

"Zhao-jie, what's up?" Gu Wei asked into his phone.

"The start date for filming on Like the Moon has been moved up," she said. "Be ready to start tomorrow afternoon."

"That soon?" Gu Wei asked, unable to contain his surprise. "But tomorrow…"

Tomorrow was Jiang Xun's birthday. Gu Wei had already decided to spend Jiang Xun's birthday for him, and the gift he had chosen would be arriving tomorrow as well.

"Mu Yue will pick you up tomorrow morning," his manager continued. "Also, trending once in a while isn't a bad thing, but don't forget that you're a controversial star. Every time you trend, there are tons of people waiting to attack you. You can't stay in the spotlight all the time. So, for the next while, stay away from Jiang Xun and especially don't allow yourself to be photographed with him. There's still some time until the second part of that variety show will be filmed, so naturally the shippers will quiet down by then."

Gu Wei looked at Jiang Xun, sitting next to him, and said into the phone, "Okay, we won't spend too much time together. Don't worry, Zhao-jie."

His manager went on to give him some instructions for tomorrow, before she asked, "I heard from Mu Yue that you're staying somewhere else for a few days, and that you left the agency's dorm without taking a bodyguard or an assistant. Where are you right now?"

"He's with me," Jiang Xun said, his voice sounding out from right behind Gu Wei.

Gu Wei froze.

His manager said nothing.

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