Jiang Ying stared at the two people in front of him, taking them in like he had never seen them before. He thought back to the day of his magazine cover photoshoot, the day Jiang Xun had said some nonsense about protecting fans. From there, he played through the events since then, going all the way up to the previous night, when he had seen such incriminating evidence of an affair on Gu Wei's cell phone screen.
"Oh?" Jiang Ying said.
"Oh…" he added.
Then, finally: "Oh!"
"Figured it out?" Jiang Xun asked. Based on the different tones of that 'oh' trio, he could pretty much map out the journey Jiang Ying had just gone on in his mind.
"Are you alright?" Gu Wei asked. "Hell-oh?"
He reached out and waved a hand in front of Jiang Ying's eyes.
"I'm fine." Jiang Ying threw down the chicken feather dusters and firmly shook his head, pretending to have calmed down. "I'm going back. I need to work on my rankings. You guys have fun."
"It's pretty late, so you boys get some rest," Song Jingxi suggested, dragging a nearly lifeless Jiang Ying towards the door. "I won't bother you any longer. Weiwei, when you have time, let Jiang Xun bring you over to our house for a visit."
"I will." Gu Wei nodded happily. Jiang Xun's mother was so nice that he felt instantly relaxed around her. All his worries about making a bad impression were dispelled. The only thing he was still worried about was that Jiang Ying didn't seem quite… right.
Jiang Ying looked calm on the surface. But he was both a little happy and a little sad.
He was happy because his big brother wasn't a manwhore. The Jiang family's reputation was safe.
And he was sad because he and his nemesis… would soon become family.
How was he supposed to feud with Gu Wei in the future?
"Is your little brother okay?" Gu Wei felt bad, but he genuinely hadn't managed to find a good time to talk to Jiang Ying about this, and he'd never imagined that Jiang Xun would have also neglected to tell him.
"He's fine, don't worry." Jiang Xun tousled Gu Wei's hair. "My little brother has a bad temper, but he's diligent about protecting family. If you're engaged to me, then you'll be family as well. Jiang Ying understands that."
Gu Wei sort of doubted that, but he sort of believed it too. Jiang Ying had only squawked a little about the whole thing before leaving without saying much else.
But Gu Wei didn't have time to dwell on whether or not Jiang Ying really understood what this soon-to-be engagement meant for their rivalry. He was distracted when his manager, working overtime, suddenly called him.
"Where are you?" she asked.
Gu Wei looked at Jiang Xun with wide eyes and silently mouthed, "Where should I say I am?"
"Forget it, I won't ask. I already know where you are," the manager said before Jiang Xun could answer. "Go take a look at what's trending on Weibo and explain the situation to me."
"Trending?" Gu Wei blurted out. The last time his manager asked him to check what was trending, the previous installment of Wandering With You had just aired.
Jiang Xun loaded up Weibo on his tablet, and Gu Wei was indeed sitting right there on the trending topics list again—
The tag had originated from a post with a video showing the front of Gu Wei's hotel, back where he was shooting Like the Moon. The footage just so happened to show him calling over the security guards, saying, "Stop them, don't let them in."
User96435345: Chasing our idol is just too hard. We waited for our gege all day, but we were chased away by Gu Wei. [sobsob.jpg]
Gu Wei took one look and knew the clip was from that day, after work, when they returned to the hotel and encountered He Cheng's stalkers. At that time, Gu Wei had only thought about getting the stalkers out of there. He hadn't considered that one of them had a camera, and that she could have been filming. Now, with this clip taken out of context, it clearly looked like Gu Wei was in the wrong.
@Chengzi Gege I Love You: @T.ATW-GuWei, you went too far! What right do you have to get rid of our gege's fans? This kind of behavior is really super low.
@Yueyue Loves He Cheng: Why can't Gu Wei just focus on doing his own work? Ugh, why does he have to interfere with us fans? Listen to him! He's talking like he's some hotshot.
The worst part of a story like this was when the story was deliberately spun in one direction. When that version of events gained momentum, the truth no longer mattered. He Cheng's fans led the pack, and many passersby also joined in on the attack against Gu Wei without wondering what had really happened.
@Wooden Snowman: This Gu Wei is just looking for trouble. He's trending practically every other day, and it's always for some sort of scandal. I'm really sick of seeing his name already.
@Blanket Fort: Agreed. First he's a plagiarist, then he's even shameless enough to try to leech fame from an esports player. I get annoyed just seeing his name now.
@Little Hedgehog's Fulingbing: @Blanket Fort, no one ever proved anything about that dance choreography incident, and Jiang Xun and Gu Wei have a good relationship. Before you attack someone so baselessly, could you at least try to grow a brain?
@Raw Ginger Darling Loves Enyuan: Oh, shut up already, there's no way you're washing him clean of his crimes. He plagiarized that dance choreography, end of story. He should just stop dancing. He's not fit to be a lead dancer.
"So, what the hell?" Manager Zhao demanded. "Didn't I tell you not to start anything with He Cheng?"
"They were stalkers," Gu Wei explained. "They were touching the cast and crew, and I stopped them, but He Cheng didn't seem to care."
Plenty of other people had been present at the time. They must have all seen what really happened. But Ning Yao wasn't popular enough to interfere with something like this, and Xuan Huitong was a little aloof and indifferent towards others. She probably didn't care enough to butt in.
"Then I get it, and it's not a big problem," Manager Zhao said, though she still sounded rather tired. "I'll see if the hotel has any surveillance footage of the incident. You don't have to respond to any of this. It's clearly just meant as an attack on you, so the agency will take care of it."
His manager hung up then, and Gu Wei moved to sit on the bed. He thought he had been attacked so often by anti-fans that he'd gotten used to it. He thought he wouldn't be so affected by these things anymore, but when faced with a new 'scandal', he still felt down and depressed.
He didn't want Jiang Xun to see this side of him.
The dance choreography scandal felt like something that would stain him for life. He couldn't dodge those accusations or throw them away. At the slightest provocation, his anti-fans would trot out that old story without a single care for the truth of what actually happened back then. In many people's eyes, controversial celebrities just deserved to be attacked. Whether or not they responded made no difference.
Gu Wei sat quietly for a while, trying to get his mood under control. He could vaguely tell that Jiang Xun was sending someone a message.
After a moment, Jiang Xun moved over and sat on the bed next to him, reaching out to take Gu Wei into his arms. "Come here. Ge wants to give you a hug."
Gu Wei had really thought he'd become immune to the slander that was constantly thrown at him online. But when Jiang Xun offered to embrace him, he still felt his eyes redden with the threat of tears.
"I'm okay," Gu Wei mumbled. He craned his aching neck and rested his head on Jiang Xun's shoulder. "I just don't want you to see all those things people say about me online."
"Don't worry, it'll all be taken care of soon," Jiang Xun promised, hugging him tight.
Five minutes later, Jiang Xun's promise came true.
Gu Wei's team hadn't managed to dig up the surveillance footage from the hotel yet, but Xuan Huitong suddenly published a new post on Weibo—
@XuanHuitongLisa: #NoStalkers If you want something to gawk at, why don't you gawk at the full story?
The video Xuan Huitong posted had everything. It showed the whole process of Gu Wei fending off the stalkers, and even showed He Cheng scolding Gu Wei and signing autographs for those stalkers.
When this Weibo post went up, the clip from earlier naturally became a laughingstock—
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: Hmmmm, our Weiwei hasn't done anything wrong, has he? Doesn't everyone in the entertainment industry agree it's best to turn stalkers away? Why would someone take this kind of thing out of context and use it as an opportunity to attack Weiwei? Our Weiwei has been wronged, hasn't he?
@Three Watermelon Peels: Just a passerby here, but isn't He Cheng kind of strange? Why is he doting on stalkers? Those are obviously stalkers, aren't they? They even recorded this footage and put it online without any context, trying to attack the other guy. And even now, He Cheng won't say anything?
@Go Go Little Hedgehog: They really went too far. Gu Wei obviously did the right thing here, and now he's the one being attacked.
Xuan Huitong was wildly popular, and her influence on social media was immense. Her post quickly gained more views than the previous video that had been released, and many of the passersby who had leapt at the chance to attack Gu Wei now apologized. It was just He Cheng's rabid fans who were left, still insisting Gu Wei was in the wrong.
It was at that time that Gu Wei's manager called him back. "Your husband," she said, "is really far more efficient than our team."
"My husband?" Gu Wei turned to Jiang Xun, surprised and confused. "Jiang Xun, what did you do?"
"Xuan Huitong is one of Bei Chi's artists," Jiang Xun said. "When we saw the video earlier, I just had a few words with her and reminded her to look out for you."
"Then everything's fine. I'd actually forgotten Xuan Huitong was signed with you guys," Manager Zhao said. "You might get some new fans now that the full video is out. As for the rest, we'll let He Cheng's team deal with it."
After she hung up again, Gu Wei turned back to Jiang Xun, still a little shocked. "Did you ask her to look out for me a long time ago?"
Xuan Huitong was cold and distant by nature, but every time Gu Wei ran into her, they exchanged a few words.
"Well, you were filming, and I was busy with my tournament," Jiang Xun said. "I couldn't see you, so I had to have a way of making sure no one stole you away."
Although Jiang Xun put it so casually, Gu Wei could tell what Jiang Xun was truly feeling in his heart.
Without Gu Wei's knowledge, Jiang Xun had silently done a lot to help him behind the scenes. Dating and being engaged were both matters that required two people. Did Gu Wei need to work harder to pay back Jiang Xun for all that Jiang Xun had already done for him?
"Little Gu, why did you enter the entertainment industry in the first place?" Jiang Xun asked.
"Because…" Gu Wei thought about it for a moment, then decided to be completely honest with Jiang Xun. "I was going through some mood problems at the time, and my dad said there were lots of people in the entertainment industry. He said if I found more people to talk to, I would probably get better."
Jiang Xun was silent.
What kind of careless, unreliable parent was Gu Cai?
There was still a lot about Gu Wei that Jiang Xun wanted to understand, but now clearly wasn't a good time to pry. Jiang Xun wouldn't force the kid to talk.
"You don't have to worry about the internet showing me your bad side," Jiang Xun said. "What you're like is something I'll see for myself, with my own eyes. And, once in a while, you can try to let yourself rely on me a little more."
A glimmer of light flashed through Gu Wei's eyes when Jiang Xun said that. When Jiang Xun offered to be someone he could rely on.
Gu Wei suddenly wanted to tell Jiang Xun everything, including all the things that had weighed heavily on his heart for a long time. He had always thought that revisiting those bad memories would be like reopening old wounds. He'd thought there was nothing but pain and misery down that path. But now, he wanted to show Jiang Xun his whole self.
Next time. The next time they met, Gu Wei would muster up his courage and bravely open up about everything.
Jiang Xun was staring at the trending topics on Weibo again. "We just took care of your trending problem," he mused, "but it looks like that kid Jiang Ying has sent himself up the trending board again."
Gu Wei made an inquisitive sound.
It was already so late at night. How could Jiang Ying get himself trending even now?
Gu Wei unlocked his own cell phone and saw that Jiang Ying had sent out a new Weibo post just a moment ago.
@JiangYingKANI: The lonely night, the lonely rain, the lonely shadow1… waiting for the lonely you. [smokingcigarette.jpg]
Gu Wei stared.
As he'd expected, the calmness that Jiang Ying had displayed before leaving their hotel room had just been for show. The storm raging within him had now burst forth on Weibo.
All of Jiang Ying's followers were baffled—
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: What does this mean? Is he channeling his big brother?
@Shadow Soldier 67487: Gege, what's wrong? Why are you lonely?
@DongDongDong: I feel like Jiang Ying's emotional state is a little complex right now. When you see this post, you can't help but think of his brother and Gu Wei. This must have something to do with Jiang Xun, Gu Wei, and Jiang Ying. [glasses.jpg]
@Sunset Friends: @TMW-Xun must feel like this is a personal attack.
@TMW-Xun: @JiangYingKANI, [smack.jpg]
Meanwhile, T.ATW's group chat was getting active again—
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: He Cheng is a piece of shit, case closed.
[stone]: The thread on Tianya has an update, the one we checked out last time.
[The Sun At Dawn]: Send it to us, let's take a look.
Days after Shi Xinyan had first sent that link, Gu Wei laid eyes on that familiar topic once more—
My big brother is getting married soon, and his match is pretty much ideal. Good-looking, kind, and well-behaved. But recently I caught my brother flirting with my nemesis and being all secretive about it. What should I do…?
The OP had just shown up and posted a few updates.
OP: My nemesis and I have been feuding for a long time. I always thought either he would die, or I would perish. I never thought there would be a third option.
OP: My brother's fiancé… is my nemesis??? The person who's good-looking, kind, and well-behaved is my nemesis???
OP: Fuck. My nemesis and I are about to become family.
[The Sun At Dawn]: I suddenly feel a little sorry for OP.
[stone]: This is getting good. I kind of want to know who the nemesis is?
[Fu Zhi]: Also want to know. +1
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: Also want to know. +2
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: ……
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: It's me.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: CuteBlush.jpg
1. Just as the 'Xun' in 'Jiang Xun' can mean 'search', the 'Ying' in 'Jiang Ying' can mean shadow.