As Gu Wei sat in the back of a car, speeding away from H City, he checked the time and realized Jiang Xun should have received his birthday present already. He wondered if Jiang Xun was feeling pleasantly surprised.
The training room could get so stuffy sometimes, so Gu Wei was pretty sure he had chosen the most suitable present imaginable.
Mu Yue took out her earphones and started relaying Gu Wei's afternoon schedule to him. "Once we arrive on set, you'll be taking some in-costume cast photos for Like the Moon. You'll need to have your hair styled and dyed for your role."
"I know," Gu Wei said. He had already thoroughly read the script and character profile several times, and he'd gained a very clear understanding of what Miao Zihan was like.
"One more thing," Mu Yue said. "If I'm remembering correctly, you were originally supposed to play the male lead in this drama?"
"Right," Gu Wei said. "But then I was told He Cheng would be given that role, and I was given the supporting male role instead."
When he first heard that news, he had complained a little and of course he had been disappointed. But after reading the script, he grew fond of the stubborn and strong-willed Miao Zihan and became determined to do a good job of acting out this role.
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about," Mu Yue continued. "He Cheng, who replaced you, started out as a net star, and he's invested heavily in this show. He isn't as well-known as you, but I've heard his temperament isn't pleasant, and his fans are vicious when they feud with others. Manager Zhao has asked you to stay away from him as much as possible, to avoid conflict, and to just focus on filming."
"I know, I won't cause any trouble," Gu Wei promised. He wasn't interested in the darker machinations of the industry, and being cast in a drama was a rare opportunity for him. He had every intention of taking his job seriously. He had prepared for this role in earnest, taking lessons with a coach hired by his agency and even going to visit Jiang Xun. All of it was for the sake of portraying Miao Zihan well.
"Also," Mu Yue added. "Didi, Zhao-jie asked me to remind you to do your part for the variety show that just aired. Get on Weibo and do some promo. The other four guests have already interacted, and Jiang Xun's post is the most recent one in the thread, so you can just share that."
Gu Wei had genuinely forgotten about that. He opened up Weibo on his phone and saw that Jiang Xun had already done some promo for the episode. He must have spent some time on Weibo last night after Gu Wei had fallen asleep.
On Jiang Xun's Weibo page, the first two messages were ones Jiang Xun had posted quite recently. One of them was the one Jiang Xun had sent out while lending Gu Wei his training account. After Gu Wei accidentally slaughtered one of Jiang Xun's teammates in cold blood, a teammate who was livestreaming the incident no less, Jiang Xun had personally gone on Weibo to shut down a few tabloids that were trying to use the incident to stir up some drama.
@TMW-Xun: My bad, I'm entertaining a little sweetheart right now. No need to worry. Anyone looking to start rumors and gossip can disperse now.
The other post was the one Jiang Xun had sent late last night, promoting the variety show—
@TMW-Xun: See you on the next installment. @T.ATW-ShiXinyan: Hmph! Next time, I'll make sure I'm the first to find my group's lead dancer! @CocoaBeiKe: We'll work hard next time too. @QianYiningLovesSinging: Next time, make the director wear the miniskirt! angyface.jpg @EscapeWithoutATraceOfficial: Did everyone enjoy the first episode? We'll be filming the second installment soon! Everyone, stay tuned!
The first installment of the show had been a hit. It received overwhelmingly positive responses from netizens, and it ranked at the top of the charts everywhere it was broadcast. The show became a popular topic on Weibo, TikTok, and other social media platforms, and the announcement that a second installment would soon be filmed got viewers even more excited.
@Peanut Brittle: Please, please, please film the second episode soon! My ship can't be apart for too long! I bet they haven't seen each other for several days already. Can you film as early as this week?
@cocoFriedChickenAndMochi: That might be impossible. Isn't Gu Wei about to start filming a big drama? I think he's playing the supporting male character. I remember he was supposed to be the lead at first, but then they changed it for some reason. But that doesn't matter, I'll watch anything that Weiwei is in!
@The Cuckoo Calls: I heard a rumor that the next installment is horror-themed. They're still working on the setting, and all the background actors are going to be in costume. It's going to be so expensive! I would totally send them money if it gets the second part made faster!
@STREAM T.ATW NEW YEAR'S CONCERT: Shi Xinyan, good luck! I'm rooting for you! Be sure to get Gu Wei back from Jiang Xun next time!
@You're a Box Gremlin: Qian Yining, I'll look forward to your revenge on the director in the next episode.
Gu Wei remembered what his manager had told him about making sure the shippers didn't get too wild. When he went to share the promo post, he very carefully typed just a short, simple message—
See you next time.
He gave it some thought, then decided it sounded much too cold. So he added one of Weibo's default kissy emojis as well.
Before he could switch over to his own Weibo page to see if he shared the post successfully, a bunch of notifications popped up at the top of his screen all at once.
The T.ATW group chat had become active again.
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: Morning, Gu Weiwei.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Good morning, gege.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: CuteBlush.jpg
[The Sun At Dawn]: I saw on Weibo that it's Jiang Xun's birthday today. Gu Wei, did you give him a present?
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Of course I did, and I put a lot of thought into it.
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: Speaking of which, Weiwei, the 'friend' you were talking about getting a… companion for earlier. That wasn't God Xun, was it?
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: ……it was.
[Fu Zhi]: ……
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: MOTHERFUCKER, Weiwei! If you keep having ideas like that, God Xun is going to think we're a group of total morons.
[If You Love me Please Send Me Money]: ??? You're scolding me?
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: I'm just curious what you actually wound up giving Jiang Xun for his birthday?
[The Sun At Dawn]: +1, also curious.
[stone]: I'm getting a real bad feeling about this.
[If You Love me Please Send Me Money]: I gave him some Hulunbeier air.
[If You Love me Please Send Me Money]: I'm so thoughtful, right? I spent a ton of time choosing the perfect present, and I just know this was the best choice.
[Fu Zhi]: CuteBlush.jpg
[The Sun At Dawn]: CuteBlush.jpg
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: CuteBlush.jpg
Gu Wei smiled, very satisfied with his own thoughtfulness and what he thought were responses of obvious approval from his bandmates. He moved his thumb over to the CuteBlush.jpg sticker that he had been using for many years. Just as he was about to follow up the train of reaction stickers with one of his own, a new message suddenly popped up on screen—
[You have been removed from this group.]
Gu Wei blinked.
"What's wrong?" Mu Yue asked, noticing something was suddenly off about Gu Wei's expression.
Gu Wei huffed. "I think there are four toxic Jiang Xun stans in my group."
Mu Yue had no idea what to make of that.
No more than half an hour after Gu Wei left the building, Jiang Ying barged into TMW's training room, gasping for breath and carrying all sorts of bags and packages.
In the training room, the four highly-renowned world champions were, surprisingly enough, not training. They were still gathered around Jiang Xun, staring blankly into a giant box of canned air.
"Do you… feel refreshed?" Kumachan asked. He hesitantly lifted a can and took a deep huff of the supposedly high-quality air.
"A… a little bit? Maybe?" SK answered with immense uncertainty.
"Does it smell sweet?" Kumachan asked. "One breath of this is a few dozen yuan."
"A… a little bit? I guess?" SK repeated, still uncertain.
"Ge! Happy birthday!" Jiang Ying exclaimed, flinging the presents he'd brought onto an empty chair. "I finally got some time off! So? Where's the fiancé? Bring him out quick and let me have a look! Mom specifically made me bring a bunch of presents for him."
"You're out of luck, he left half an hour ago," Jiang Xun said. "If you'd gotten here a little earlier, you could have given each other a nice surprise."
"What's this?" Jiang Ying asked as he sat down, quickly distracted by the box in front of Jiang Xun. He reached over and grabbed one of the cans.
"A birthday present," Jiang Xun said.
"From your fiancé?" Jiang Ying asked.
Jiang Xun nodded. His little brother had taken the time to come all the way out here, so Jiang Xun figured he should at least give Jiang Ying a little more information. "Right, it's from…"
"So thoughtful!" Jiang Ying interrupted, waving the can around as he started to heap praise on this mysterious little fiancé. "This is such a great gift, I'm totally going to start giving it to other people. It's so practical, and it suits you so well, ge."
Jiang Ying spoke with such confidence, like what he was saying was perfectly rational, that Jiang Xun's teammates didn't dare speak up. The three of them looked towards Jiang Ying, and all of them began to doubt themselves.
Maybe it was a good gift after all?
"Then the two of you… probably speak the same language," Jiang Xun said, after a long pause.
Jiang Ying slapped the table. "Of course! We must be two peas in a pod."
Jiang Xun fell silent again.
As their van approached the hotel where the cast and crew of Like the Moon would be staying, Mu Yue received a call from Gu Wei's manager. As she listened, an incredulous expression began to spread across her face.
"Hm?" Gu Wei hummed.
"Didi," Mu Yue said, slowly. She drew a deep breath to calm herself. "You seem… to have… shared the wrong Weibo post."
"Wasn't I supposed to share Jiang Xun's?" Gu Wei asked while unlocking his phone to have a look.
What he saw rendered him speechless.
@T.ATW-GuWei: See you next time. kisskiss.jpg @TMW-Xun: My bad, I'm entertaining a little sweetheart right now. No need to worry. Anyone looking to start rumors and gossip can disperse now.
Well, he… he had definitely shared a post from Jiang Xun's Weibo page. But it had been the post from the day before yesterday. Underneath that post, countless commenters were trying to guess the identity of the 'little sweetheart' who dared to use a world champion's training account to mess around aimlessly.
And here was Gu Wei, the little sweetheart himself, accidentally sharing that post to his own Weibo page. He'd even added a kissy face emoji. Underneath his post, tens of thousands of likes, comments, and shares had already accumulated in the past ten minutes alone.
He… had made a huge mistake.
To make matters worse, Gu Wei reflexively deleted that post, shared the correct one, and decided to pretend nothing had happened.
"Let's… say I did share the wrong post," he said. "Everyone should be able to tell it was just an innocent mistake, right?"
Mu Yue watched Gu Wei try to cover up his tracks, but it was obviously too little, too late. Reluctantly, she reported, "Zhao-jie said… many people have taken screenshots already, and your shippers are celebrating like there's no tomorrow. Zhao-jie also said… in order to make sure we don't exacerbate the situation, I should relieve you of your phone and handle your social media business for a while. You can just focus on filming your drama."
In truth, what Manager Zhao had actually said was, Take his phone even if you have to beat him and his lovey-dovey boyfriend to death. But Mu Yue couldn't bring herself to repeat such harsh words.
Mu Yue's honest opinion was that it was perfectly natural for shippers to pop up in any fandom. But Zhao Ya was a veteran of the industry. She was perhaps a little more old-fashioned in her ways of thinking, but Mu Yue still couldn't help but feel Manager Zhao was making a mountain out of a molehill.
In Mu Yue's opinion, Gu Wei was an extremely easy-to-manage celebrity. Compared to the other celebs she had met, Gu Wei was well-mannered and well-behaved. He led a clean personal life without any heinous scandals. He wasn't haughty and cold, though he did seem somewhat distant or lukewarm when interacting with people at times, but overall Mu Yue was very content to be his assistant.
This had just been a careless mistake on Gu Wei's part. Was it really that big of a deal? Mu Yue really had to wonder if Manager Zhao wasn't overreacting.
Gu Wei was feeling a little down and dejected. Not only had he been rudely kicked out of his band's group chat just moments earlier, he was about to have his phone confiscated now as well. But, of course, he did obediently hand his phone over to Mu Yue.
Mu Yue was a few years older than him. Seeing him look so crestfallen, she couldn't help but at least try to comfort him a bit. "Don't worry, didi. I'll keep your phone while you're at work, and I'll give it back right after you're done for the day. You don't tell anyone, and I won't tell anyone. Manager Zhao never has to know."
"Okay," Gu Wei agreed, mustering up a smile for her.
Before Mu Yue could say anything else, the cell phone Gu Wei had just handed over began vibrating in the palm of her hand. A string of new messages showed up on screen. Mu Yue looked down instinctively, and—
[Husband]: I'm starting to think you need to be taught a lesson again.
[Husband]: I liked the you from last night. You weren't like your usual self.
[Husband]: Will you wear my pajamas next time, too?
Mu Yue stared as she took in those notifications.
Her eyes filled with immeasurable shock.
The experience of an industry veteran was nothing to scoff at. It seemed the manager had been right to be concerned!