Jiang Xun really wasn't tired after staying up for just one night. To a professional esports player like him, staying up for a single night was nothing, so he was fully alert as he swiped through the few screenshots Yi Qing sent him.
One of them was a screenshot of a recruitment ad for the little hedgehogs' defense squad. The ad included a detailed list of the requirements for membership.
1. You must be 18 or older.
2. You must be efficient, dedicated, and a good team player.
3. You must be online frequently, you must love Weiwei, and you must never defame Weiwei.
4. You must only follow Gu Wei's supertopic.
P.S. To join, DM the group leader for an assessment.
Jiang Xun certainly met the first three qualifications. He was over eighteen, he was highly efficient, and he loved Weiwei. But the fourth requirement—
Back when he was competing in the world championship tournament, he had followed his own supertopic group. Without even thinking about it, he unfollowed it and followed Gu Wei's supertopic instead.
It didn't take long for Yi Qing to send him another message.
[sunny]: You, sir, are epic.
[sunny]: Using your main to chase an idol.
[sunny]: Captain, don't unfollow your own supertopic. The leader of the defense squad is my friend. Just make an alt, and I'll get you in.
[100K Volts]: Why should I make an alt?
[sunny]: Show some care and mercy to all your shippers. You can't feed us too many sweets all at once. Our hearts can't take it.
[sunny]: Oh, that's right. In addition to shippers, there are a lot of Gu Wei's solo fans in this group as well. But don't worry, they're all good people. No stalkers or toxic stans.
[100K Volts]: Give me a minute.
[100K Volts]: I'll go get an account.
Jiang Ying had just finished chatting with Gu Wei not long ago. He was getting ready to start working for real now, when he suddenly received a message from Jiang Xun.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: What?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Did you guys make some arrangement to take turns messaging me?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Instead of sleeping with Gu Wei, you're here worrying about my work. Are you a man or not? My nemesis is pure and pretty good-looking, so… you get what I'm saying, right?
[100K Volts]: Shut up.
[100K Volts]: Lend me one of your Weibo alt accounts.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Sure, easy. I've got plenty of alts. What kind of account do you want? One of my Shadow accounts or one of my Crab accounts?
[100K Volts]: Crab, I guess.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Then do you want Hermit Crab, Red King Crab, Coconut Crab, Buttered Crab, or Edible Crab?
[100K Volts]: Any crab is fine. Give me one that hasn't dissed Gu Wei.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Then you can have Edible Crab, I don't use that one a lot. I'll send you the account number and password.
[100K Volts]: Thanks.
Jiang Ying was fast. Soon enough, Jiang Xun had the account information for Edible Crab on his phone.
He didn't contact Yi Qing again right away. First, Jiang Xun logged into the alt account and had a look around. Even though it was an alt that Jiang Ying claimed he didn't use a lot, it wasn't a very new or inactive account. It had been created two years ago, and it had made over a thousand posts. It even had an annual premium membership paid for in full.
Jiang Xun scrolled through the account's posts and saw there really wasn't anything problematic buried there. Mostly, the account had just shared various posts by Jiang Ying. There were just a few comments, from about a year ago, trash talking Jiang Enyuan.
Jiang Xun followed Gu Wei and changed the account name to Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab, then sent the account number to Yi Qing.
[sunny]: One sec.
Just a short while later, a new notification popped up in the Edible Crab account.
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll followed you.
Jiang Xun followed her back and was soon recruited into the defense squad's official group.
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: Welcome, welcome~~ @Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab, no need for an examination, this is someone I know. We're all family here.
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: Wow, welcome new sister~
@Little Hedgehog's Rice Cracker: Welcome to the family, let's all protect didi together in the future.
@Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab: Hello everyone, I'm new here, and I love Weiwei a lot. [CuteBlush.jpg]
@Little Hedgehog's Cocoa Bean: Awww, our new sister's reaction memes are so cute, I bet our new sister is super cute in person too.
Back in TMW's club dormitories, Yi Qing was just getting ready to climb out of bed and get dressed. She failed miserably and tripped over her blankets, tumbling to the floor, but she couldn't even bother to feel any pain as she grabbed her phone to send another text.
[sunny]: Captain, you're too fucking good at this.
[sunny]: I mean, 'sister', you're so cute~
[sunny]: I seriously can't not laugh.
[sunny]: [CuteBlush.jpg] lmao what kind of ridiculous sticker is this?
[100K Volts]: A reaction meme I stole from someone else.
[100K Volts]: If you're awake, go train. You can tell me more later. I'll look around myself first.
[sunny]: Okay, training comes first. The rookie Yi Qing has the future of TMW on her shoulders.
Yi Qing rubbed her bruised knees and finally got up from the floor, mumbling to herself, "Training can kiss my ass. My ship comes first."
After greeting the other members of the group with his new alt account, Jiang Xun started to lurk. He watched the other members of Gu Wei's defense squad making plans for fundraisers and strategizing over how to boost Gu Wei's rank and visibility.
Due to his family background, Jiang Xun already had a pretty good understanding of how the entertainment industry worked. He knew fans bonded over their love of the same idol, and these defense squads diligently worked to help their favorite idol become more popular. Their work was distinct from that of the fans who created fanworks, like stories and art, of the idols they chased.
The group Yi Qing had invited Jiang Xun into was the core of Gu Wei's support team. Most of the members were big fans of Gu Wei, and they were currently discussing the funds they would need for upcoming events.
@Little Hedgehog's Bamboo Dragonfly: 'Like the Moon' should be coming out soon, right? It's Weiwei's first television drama, so I want to rent the big billboard in downtown H City to support him with a commercial.
@Little Hedgehog's Lulu: I think that's a good idea, our didi is worth it. Even if there's been some drama on set, this is still a really important project for Gu Wei. We have to show him our support!
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: But I think Jiang Enyuan's fans are eyeing that billboard, too. I bet they're going to try to steal it from us.
@Little Hedgehog's Sprite: Let them try it. I don't ever want to see Jiang Enyuan's face up there, he's so vile.
As he watched the little hedgehogs chat, Jiang Xun took notes on how they talked as well as notes on what they talked about. He jotted down the details about the billboard they wanted to rent. They were even talking about having a professional commercial made for Gu Wei, with various clips featuring his past work stitched together. For these fans, just liking Gu Wei wasn't enough; they went the extra mile to truly support him and his work.
Jiang Xun memorized everything he learned before finally getting up to draw the curtains shut. He slid back into bed slowly, careful not to wake Gu Wei.
Even though Jiang Xun's movements were light and nearly silent, Gu Wei still stirred in his sleep. He blinked open his eyes and, upon seeing Jiang Xun next to him, curved his lips in a little smile before falling back asleep. After crying earlier, Gu Wei's eyes were still a little red and wet. At the sight of them, Jiang Xun felt as though his heart had been scratched by a little kitten's claws.
"Sleep well," Jiang Xun murmured. "Everything is going to be okay."
Gu Wei's schedule was packed. He only got a day off after shooting the second installment of Escape Without a Trace. After catching up on some sleep, he had to hurry back to the set of his TV drama to continue filming there.
"You've been great lately," said the director after shooting one day. "Did something big happen in your life? You've been working so hard that it perfectly reflects the way Miao Zihan works hard to achieve his own dreams."
In the scene Gu Wei had just done, his character Miao Zihan was back home, dodging his mother's assault with a broom handle while gathering up some of his clothes and belongings before vaulting himself over the balcony again, in a fluid motion that seemed well-practiced.
"Scram!" Miao Zihan's mother roared. "Get the fuck out of here and never come back!"
"Oh, sure. Then this time I won't come back," Miao Zihan uttered icily. He slipped on the backpack he had just stuffed full of clothes and made his way to the street, finally starting to smile when he saw Ning Yao's character standing there.
"Here," the director said, pointing out the scene they'd just recorded as he played it back for Gu Wei. "We've seen Miao Zihan's growth through your portrayal of him, and I feel like I've seen you grow as well. I don't know why, but I feel like you're different from the way you were a month ago. Not just in acting, but in other ways too."
And it wasn't just the director. Everyone could see that Gu Wei was changing.
The woman playing Miao Zihan's mother was a veteran of the industry. Seeing this, she also smiled and said, "Gu Wei has been working so hard. Whenever he has time, he comes to me for acting tips. I almost can't bear to swing a broom at him these days. Gu Wei is really capable. It's like they say, you young people are our promising future."
While Gu Wei laughed and joked with the cast and crew, He Cheng sat not far away. His expression was more or less indifferent, and it was hard to tell what he was actually thinking or feeling.
Anyone with eyes could see how hard Gu Wei was working. After returning from D City, he studied his script more earnestly than ever. If there was anything he didn't understand or didn't know how to portray, he went and asked the more experienced actors for advice. He'd made countless notes in his character bio, revising the nuances again and again.
Gu Wei had fallen for Jiang Xun, and he wanted to become worthy of standing at Jiang Xun's side.
He couldn't stay a third-rate, controversial net star; that wasn't good enough. Gu Wei wanted to work harder and become a suitable partner for Jiang Xun, who was already a world champion in his field.
This TV series would be incredibly important for him. The reviews of the first episodes would have a huge impact on the type of job offers Gu Wei received in the future. He Cheng could laze around on set, but Gu Wei couldn't afford to waste any time. He had to give it his all in order to become more popular, to receive better jobs, and to climb far enough to reach Jiang Xun.
"Eat some more," Mu Yue said. "You don't need to lose any more weight. We'll get the nutritionist to draw up a new plan for you as soon as you're done filming here."
"Okay, I got it," Gu Wei said.
At some point, someone had changed T.ATW's WeChat group name again. They were now called the 'Little Losers Club', and they were banding together to summon Gu Wei.
[Yunkai Sees Mooncakes]: @If You Love Me Please Send Me Money, what have you been up to? You haven't been checking in here lately.
[The Sun At Dawn]: @If You Love Me Please Send Me Money, are you busy filming or are you busy dating?
[Fu Zhi]: I won't survive this week, I'm about to die of exhaustion. Did you guys hear about this from the manager yet? They want us to perform on CoconutTV for the new year's special. The music is undecided but we're probably going to have to drop our other gigs and head back to rehearse pretty soon. There isn't much time. I don't think we'll be able to put together a new song.
[The Sun At Dawn]: Then we'll sing one of our existing songs. That way we don't have to write anything new. Gu Wei's been so busy too, he won't have time to choreograph anything for a new song.
[stone]: Let's get together when we have time and talk about what we want to perform.
[Fu Zhi]: Where's Gu Wei? Is he working or is he falling in love?
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Both.
[stone]: Then you really are busy. I haven't seen your shitty gaming lately, I feel kind of lonely. That's one source of entertainment, gone.
[stone]: Wait, what am I saying, what's wrong with me? I don't miss that at all.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: I have to work hard to stay close to Jiang Xun. I don't want to be a loser.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money] changed the group name to [Little Losers Club Has A Bright Future]
[Fu Zhi]: It's rare for us to see our Weiwei so worked up. People who are in love really are on a different level.
[Fu Zhi]: Ah, I just got a message from a friend saying the new variety show Gu Wei and Shi Xinyan shot released a trailer?
[The Sun At Dawn]: Nice, I'll go check it out.
[The Sun At Dawn]: EH??? Did you guys diss us on your show? Chi Yunkai, they called you 'hella dumb'.
Gu Wei froze.
Now that he thought about it, it really had been half a month since they recorded the second installment of Escape Without a Trace. It was about time the trailer came out.
The part where he and Shi Xinyan had shouted all sorts of unspeakable things into the night… hadn't been cut.
Two minutes later, in the WeChat group 'Little Losers Club Has A Bright Future'—
[stone] has left the group.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money] has left the group.