Yi Qing crouched down and rubbed her twisted ankle. She shot a glance over her shoulder at the door to the training room, then shook her head, sighed, and continued on her way downstairs.
"How was I supposed to know you were stalking people on your main today?" Jiang Xun retorted. He had been so thoroughly chewed out by Jiang Ying that his head was starting to hurt, so he felt it was only reasonable to slip on his headset and block out some of the noise. "Isn't that what your twenty alts are for?"
It really hadn't been on purpose, anyway. Jiang Xun had just seen Gu Wei's photo and instinctively gave it a like, forgetting that it wasn't his own phone that he was holding.
But, intentional or not, Jiang Xun had to admit it was his bad.
"I don't care," Jiang Ying complained. "My dignity is gone. Give it back."
"How is it gone?" Jiang Xun sighed. He didn't really understand how Jiang Ying could get so worked up over these petty feuds.
"My fans work tirelessly all day to shut down my rival's fans, and now I've given that same rival's official cast photos a like! Do you have any idea how mortifying that is?"
Jiang Ying planted himself next to Jiang Xun and spent a solid ten minutes explaining exactly why this was the end of the world.
In the end, Jiang Xun gave up and agreed to compensate Jiang Ying fairly. He gave Jiang Ying his cell phone and let Jiang Ying use his Weibo account to boost his own celebrity ranking.
That seemed to be all it took to placate Jiang Ying. His anger faded, and he calmly returned Jiang Xun's phone when he was done.
"What were you doing all that for?" Jiang Xun asked, taking in the whole process Jiang Ying had gone through. Liking this, sharing that, casting a vote. It seemed needlessly complicated, but Jiang Xun memorized all the steps.
"It boosts popularity and visibility. It's pretty important for celebrities like us," Jiang Ying explained. "With popularity comes new connections, and with new connections come new endorsement deals, new scripts, new commercials. It all goes back to popularity."
Jiang Xun nodded thoughtfully as he listened, then turned back to concentrate on his training.
The like that came from Jiang Ying's account did, as expected, send huge waves through both Jiang Ying's and Gu Wei's fan bases. Gu Wei's fans saw this as an act of hostility, while Jiang Ying's fans saw it as a declaration of war.
@Little Hedgehog's Rice Cracker: Weiwei looks so amazing in these cast photos! He's going to do a great job in this drama, and he's going to get so so so so so much more popular. What's Jiang Ying giving it a like for? Is he trying to act all calm when he's actually freaking out? Ugh!
@Fleeting Shadows: His hand probably just slipped, alright? Don't talk yourself up like your Gu Wei is so important. Get more popular? Please, he's just playing the supporting male in a book adaptation! As long as Gu Wei doesn't piss off the fans of the novel, he can probably consider that a win. Pfft, get popular… as if!
@Fluffy Hedgehog: Alright, alright, everyone calm down. What's the point in fighting about this? Let's all cool off a little and focus on supporting Weiwei. No more catfights. If you see someone fighting, that's not a real little hedgehog.
@Reflected Shadow - Jiang Ying Forever: Nobody wants to fight with you, stop being so dramatic and leave Jiang Ying alone. Jiang Ying has been working hard on his new TV drama these days, he doesn't have time for this!
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: Wahhhhhhhhhhhh, don't fight, don't fight. Ahhhhhhhhhh, I really don't know what I should say here…
Late that night, Gu Wei finally finished his work for the day and sat in the dressing room, waiting for his makeup to be removed. After spending all day on set with them, he'd gotten to know Xuan Huitong and Ning Yao a lot better.
Although the persona Xuan Huitong presented to the world was that of an elegant beauty, she was secretly quite a star chaser herself. She was a big fan of T.ATW's lead vocalist, Luo Chenxuan. She bugged Gu Wei for all sorts of information on Luo Chenxuan's daily life, and she even asked him to get her Luo Chenxuan's autograph.
Ning Yao was a newcomer to the industry, freshly signed with some agency. She was the least well-known member of the main cast, and when she smiled, she looked a little shy about being around the others. She would be playing the supporting female character, Cheng Linya, which meant she would have lots of scenes with Gu Wei.
When they had time, Gu Wei ran some lines with her to practice for the roles they would be playing.
As for He Cheng, Gu Wei didn't get a chance to talk to him all day, but already Gu Wei was detecting some hostility from the other actor. That day alone, Gu Wei was pretty sure he caught He Cheng rolling his eyes at him no fewer than three times.
But the entertainment industry was vast, and Gu Wei didn't feel a need to make friends with every single person he worked with. So he didn't take He Cheng's treatment to heart.
After getting out of his costume and makeup, Gu Wei returned to the hotel that had been arranged for the cast and crew.
Mu Yue met him along the way. Her expression was a little stiff as she said, "Your… cell phone. You can… have it back."
Gu Wei took his phone back from her, but he got the feeling there was something else she wanted to say.
"Is something wrong?" he asked as he collected his phone.
"Nope, nothing!" Mu Yue answered hastily. Then she fled, just as hastily, before Gu Wei could check his phone.
Gu Wei tilted his head, confused.
After returning to his own room, he closed the door and unlocked his phone with his fingerprint, and—
Gu Wei stared.
There were three notifications of new messages from someone named 'Husband' on his phone.
Gu Wei suddenly understood exactly why Mu Yue had drifted around restlessly all afternoon, like she was biting her tongue and holding back something she really, really wanted to say or ask.
A while back, Gu Wei had changed Jiang Xun's WeChat username to 'Filthy Adult'. He had been caught, apprehended, and taught a lesson. Jiang Xun had even forcibly changed his own name in Gu Wei's phone to this new nickname.
Gu Wei had originally planned on sneaking away to change the nickname back when he got a chance, but he'd spent the past few days cooped up in Jiang Xun's territory. They were never apart for long, so there was no need for them to communicate using WeChat, and Gu Wei had completely forgotten about the nickname.
Jiang Xun's perverted messages and misleading nickname had all been seen by the assistant Mu Yue.
Of course, Gu Wei's first priority now was to change the nickname so that this sort of misunderstanding could never happen again. However, as soon as he got ready to click into Jiang Xun's profile and change the nickname, a notice that someone was typing a message appeared at the bottom of their chat log.
Jiang Xun was typing a message?
Gu Wei completely forgot about the matter of the nickname once more. He sat down at the edge of his bed, feeling a little inexplicably nervous as he waited for the new message to appear.
But, after a while, the typing stopped and no new message came.
If Jiang Xun had something to say, why wasn't he saying it?
Gu Wei felt an odd sense of disappointment, but before he could decipher what that disappointment meant, he received a call from his manager.
"Long day?" she asked. She could hear that he seemed a little down. "Why do you sound so tired?"
"I'm not tired," Gu Wei said. He gave himself a shake and did his best to lift his spirits as he answered the next few questions his manager had for him.
Just as he got ready to hang up, thinking their conversation was over, he heard his manager ask, "Really, what's the matter? Are you this depressed just because we told you not to contact Jiang Xun for a while?"
"…I'm not depressed," Gu Wei insisted, after a moment's hesitation.
His manager sighed. "Look, I'm not forbidding you from dating, and your contract doesn't say you can't date either. But your popularity is on the rise right now, and you haven't completely shed that 'controversial' label yet. Right now is just not a good time to throw your personal life into the spotlight, and Jiang Xun…"
"Zhao-jie," Gu Wei interrupted. "Please don't worry, Jiang Xun and I aren't in a relationship."
"Really?" she asked, obviously skeptical.
"Really," Gu Wei insisted. "I promise! We haven't done anything that people in a relationship would do."
After a moment, his manager said, "Alright. I'll believe you this time. You just be careful."
She finally hung up, and Gu Wei was left staring at his chat log with 'Husband' again. For some reason that he couldn't explain, the sight made him feel a little… empty. Lonely.
But at least T.ATW's group chat had gotten lively again.
And, after spending a day rudely exiled from the group, Gu Wei noticed the group name had even been changed. It used to be 'T.ATW GO GO GO', and now it was 'No Dumb Dumbs Allowed'.
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: Anyone up for a round?
[The Sun At Dawn]: Me.
[Fu Zhi]: I've got an event. No time. You guys play.
[stone]: We have three, missing one. Where's Gu Wei? He should be done with work by now right? Gu Wei, come out and play~
[The Sun At Dawn]: @If You Love Me Please Send Me Money, hello hello? Where are you?
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: slightsmile.jpg
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Do you guys still remember what you did to me?
Hours had passed since then, but Gu Wei was still a little resentful about his abrupt ejection from the group earlier that day.
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: Thaaaaaat was just an accident. Human error! Come on, we're all groupmates here, why do we need to quibble about that sort of thing?
[The Sun At Dawn]: @If You Love Me Please Send Me Money, let's not sweat the details. That's the spirit of the group, got it? No bickering. We're all friends here.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Alright.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: But I have one more question. Have you all turned into toxic Jiang Xun stans?
[stone]: We have a full team now that Gu Wei's here, let's play! Play then sleep, play then sleep, play then sleep~
Gu Wei sighed and supposed he had no choice. He exited WeChat and loaded up the game they sometimes played together. In the waiting room, three garishly dressed characters were already standing around. One of them was even wearing a giant pumpkin as a helmet.
"Is Weiwei here yet?" Chi Yunkai asked.
"Here," Gu Wei reported, joining the team's voice chat.
"Let's go," Luo Chenxuan said. "Let's see if you've improved after receiving private lessons from God Xun."
As it turned out, the answer to that was a resounding 'no'. Gu Wei's level of skill—specifically, his lack of skill—wasn't something that could be remedied overnight.
Gu Wei ran around behind his teammates. His movements were random and unfocused, and he was barely paying attention to the game at all. He just couldn't find any enjoyment in it.
"Oi! What did God Xun even teach you?" Chi Yunkai complained with a sigh. "Weiwei, when you were at God Xun's place… what exactly did you do?"
What did they do?
That question gave Gu Wei pause and made him think back over the few days he had spent with Jiang Xun.
He remembered sitting in the training room in the middle of the night, gazing at Jiang Xun's face.
He remembered Jiang Xun tickling him and trapping him in the chair in the training room as he stole his phone and changed his WeChat nickname.
He remembered wearing Jiang Xun's pajamas and dancing for him in his dorm room.
He remembered Jiang Xun pressing him down in bed, and…
Without realizing it, Gu Wei had slowly, gradually allowed Jiang Xun into his world.
"Weiwei!" Luo Chenxuan called out through Gu Wei's earphones. "What are you spacing out for?"
After a clamorous burst of noise, Gu Wei saw that all three of his teammates had been downed.
In this game, players who were downed could be saved from elimination if a teammate rescued them in time.
"Quick, quick, quick!" Chi Yunkai exclaimed. "Help me!"
"Weiwei," Shi Xinyan said, "come save me first! We're almost in the finals, get me back up, and I'll take care of the rest."
"Hurry up, hurry up," Luo Chenxuan urged. "Save me."
"…okay, I'm coming," Gu Wei said after a moment's hesitation.
While he had been spaced out, he'd somehow become his whole team's only hope. The pressure was too much.
Gu Wei was just about to start navigating towards his teammates when, suddenly, a notification popped up at the top of his screen—
[Husband] has started a video chat with you.
Gu Wei jumped.
Jiang Xun didn't end up sending a message at all, but had decided on a video call instead?
Gu Wei's teammates were still waiting for him to rescue them. Should he take his husband's—ah, no, Jiang Xun's call?
"Weiwei," Chi Yunkai said, his voice suddenly sounding a little shaky and fearful. "What are you holding in your hand?"
Gu Wei refocused on the video game interface. At some point, somehow, the frying pan he was holding had disappeared.
It had been replaced by a grenade.
The grenade went boom, and the whole team went bye-bye.
Chi Yunkai, Shi Xinyan, and Luo Chenxuan all howled in agony.
"When we only had three people, why didn't we just go play cards?" Chi Yunkai bemoaned. "Why? Why? Why?"
Gu Wei exited the game and returned to WeChat to apologize for what just happened. He pulled up the keyboard and quickly typed—
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Sorry, I suddenly got a notification on my phone just then.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: I didn't do it on purpose, it was a complete accident.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Give me one more chance, 'kay?
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: CuteBlush.jpg
Then, once more, a familiar message appeared on the screen—
[You have been removed from this group.]
Gu Wei blinked.
So that was the 'spirit of the group'.
In just one day, he had been booted from the group chat twice.
His phone buzzed with another notification. 'Husband' was inviting him to a video chat again. Gu Wei took a breath to calm himself, then accepted the call.