"Who?" Jiang Xun echoed.
"Should we get out?" Gu Wei suggested, trying desperately to change the subject.
Gu Wei was keen to escape this conversation and this situation, but Jiang Xun wasn't so easily bamboozled. He tugged down the zipper of Gu Wei's down jacket and slipped his slightly cold hands under the hem of Gu Wei's sweater. Before Gu Wei could mount a protest, one of those hands pinched a… certain spot on his chest.
Jiang Xun's touch sent a tremor through Gu Wei's whole body. Gu Wei leaned even more heavily against Jiang Xun's shoulder, and a whimper that sounded like a plea for forgiveness escaped his lips.
"So, who was it who asked me that?" Jiang Xun asked, picking up the topic without removing his wandering hands.
"It was… me."
"Wouldn't it have been easier to admit that sooner? It's not like I won't tell you," Jiang Xun teased. Once he had an answer, he let Gu Wei go. "And didn't I once tell you I would have you pay for all your mistakes? Does Gu Weiwei remember that?"
"I remember…" Gu Wei's voice was so quiet that it was almost inaudible.
"Then, later, let's count up how much you owe together."
Jiang Xun stopped messing with Gu Wei, and Gu Wei scrambled back into the passenger seat. The two of them sat in the car in silence for a while, quietly trying to calm themselves down. But once that sort of atmosphere arose between two people, it was very difficult to quell.
Gu Wei leaned against the car door, willing the heat that had risen in his body to go back down. It was cold enough outside that a thin layer of condensation had formed on the glass of the window. Gu Wei absently lifted a hand and started scribbling and doodling on the glass.
It wasn't until a while later that he realized he had been scribbling Jiang Xun's name.
"Let's go," Jiang Xun said curtly after a long while. He sounded like he wasn't in a very good mood.
Gu Wei hastily followed Jiang Xun out of the car. "Are you angry?"
"I'm not angry. It's a little angry."
Gu Wei was silent.
Well, he didn't care about that. It could be as angry as it wanted. Not like it was the first time Gu Wei had made it angry. If it was still mad, it could just go back in the car and sit for a while longer.
Jiang Xun seemed to have some business at the club that day, so he asked Gu Wei to wait for him at his seat in the training room. There weren't many people in the training room, but Yi Qing was at her computer, intently gazing at her monitor. Gu Wei scooted his chair closer and watched her train.
The young lady was focused on her training with single-minded determination. She seemed even more irritable than usual when she was in the middle of a match. Her fingers flew across the keyboard, slamming out a clicky-clacky cacophony.
At the end of the round, she spat a scathing insult into her mic: "Fuck off, noob. You think you can beat TMW at your level?"
Gu Wei frowned.
The 'noob' in him was a little offended.
Whoever Yi Qing had been playing obviously tried to counter, but Yi Qing interrupted, "Let's not even talk about your shitty positioning. If you scattered some rice onto your keyboard, even a fucking chicken could…"
She turned and suddenly discovered there was someone else sitting in Jiang Xun's usual seat.
Gu Wei waved. "Ah, hello."
Yi Qing fell silent.
When she started to speak again, her voice had become extremely warm and gentle. "A chicken, ah… how could a chicken be better than you? You're much better than a chicken. Don't stress out about this round. Do your best next time! No one will suck forever, I believe in you!"
Her opponent was clearly baffled.
"Um, sunny, are you high?" The opponent who had just been roasted was clearly perplexed by her unusual tone of voice. "Are you okay, sunny?"
Yi Qing abruptly muted her mic and quit the game. She spun her chair around and gave Gu Wei a onceover. Outwardly, she maintained a calm expression, but inside her heart, a barrage of bullet comments were shooting around—
[My gege is too good-looking, even without any makeup on! He's been working too hard on his drama, he's gotten so much thinner, bwahhhhhhh!]
[What kind of feeling is this? Finishing a game and turning around to see your idol? I must be blessed.]
[Is this what a sugar high feels like? I think I've peaked. This is the best moment of my life.]
[What do I do? My idol saw me trash talking someone! At least I smoothed it over. I'm so smart. I think so fast.]
[How did the captain trick Gu Wei into coming here again? Ah, I can't go on, this is too sweet. I'm drowning in sweetness.]
[WAIT. What's that on my idol's neck???]
[Is that… A HICKEY?!]
"What kind of animal is our captain?" Yi Qing blurted out. "You just finished filming, and he's already bullying you?"
Gu Wei blinked. "Huh?"
Yi Qing fished a small mirror out of her pocket and handed it to Gu Wei, pointing at a spot on her own neck. Gu Wei checked out that spot on his throat, and it was only then that he discovered a love bite reddening his pale skin.
Gu Wei stared.
No wonder Jiang Xun had seemed so proud of himself earlier.
"Here, cover it up." Yi Qing offered him a bright and colorful band-aid. "Don't you have a livestream tonight?"
She really wished her little idol would raise his defenses a bit. Jiang Xun had definitely left that mark on purpose.
"Thank you." Gu Wei accepted the band-aid and used the mirror to stick it on over the hickey, effectively covering it up. When he finished, he saw Yi Qing rubbing at her temples. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Yi Qing said, waving a hand dismissively. "I'm just a little dizzy from… having too many sweets."
The girl with the twin buns picked up a lollipop from her desk, unwrapped it, stuck it in her mouth, and leaned back in her chair to admire Gu Wei.
"This is so nice," she sighed, immeasurably content. "Weiwei, can I have your autograph?"
"Sure, of course." Gu Wei smiled and signed several banners and flags for her.
"Why are you eating a lollipop every time I see you?" Gu Wei asked. It was a question that had been puzzling him for a long time now.
Yi Qing blinked, surprised for a second, before she answered, "I'm trying to quit smoking."
"You smoke?" Gu Wei was the one who looked surprised now. If he remembered correctly, Yi Qing was a year younger than him.
"Not anymore. The captain won't let me. He scolds me every time he catches me, and he's hella fierce," Yi Qing said. "Besides, the idol I'm a fan of is so perfect. What excuse do I have to not fix my bad habits?"
Yi Qing had completely abandoned her training. She just blew compliment after compliment at Gu Wei, like an endless barrage of rainbow farts.
"Weiwei, did you know? We chase idols in order to become better people. When we feel down, we can heal ourselves right up by looking at our favorite idol's smile.
"Your little hedgehogs know exactly how hard you've been working. When you feel bad or suffer, we want to carry the burden for you.
"We know how amazing you are. We know there'll be a day when you're even more popular than you are right now."
Gu Wei had read all these things on Weibo countless times, but hearing a fan say them directly to his face still felt different. There was undeniably a magical, two-way connection between idols and their fans.
"Weiwei, come here." Jiang Xun knocked on the frame of the door to the training room. He glanced at Yi Qing's computer monitor while he was there. "Slacking off again, sunny?"
Yi Qing shook her head. "Nooo…"
"Give yourself another three hours of training. You're still having some problems at the assembly point. Your teamwork needs work," Jiang Xun said. "I know you're a top-notch player, but you have to work with your teammates."
"You're a monster, captain! I have a livestream to watch tonight," Yi Qing complained. "You're taking my idol away, and now you're taking my livestream away too. At this rate, I'll stop being a shipper."
Gu Wei joined Jiang Xun out in the hall, and it was only after Jiang Xun closed the door to the training room that Gu Wei noticed there was someone else standing behind Jiang Xun.
"Hello, Gu Wei," that person greeted. "I've watched your concert videos."
This person's appearance and style of dress were both very proper. Right away, Gu Wei got the sense that he was nice and approachable.
Chu Yi glanced at the band-aid on Gu Wei's neck, then breathed a silent laugh.
"Weiwei, this is Chu Yi. My friend from A University. His research is focused on applied psychology," Jiang Xun explained. "Do you feel like talking to him about your phobia?"
Gu Wei suddenly understood why Jiang Xun had brought him here. Everything he feared, everything he'd experienced… Jiang Xun hadn't made light of any of it. He'd taken it all seriously.
"Okay," Gu Wei said. To Chu Yi, he asked, "Is it okay if Jiang Xun comes along?"
If Jiang Xun was with him, there was nothing Gu Wei was afraid to face.
"Generally speaking, we wouldn't allow it because we need to maintain our patients' confidentiality. But we will, of course, honor our patient's request." Chu Yi smiled warmly and nodded. "So, let's have Jiang Xun come along."
They went into one of the vacant rooms at the club, where Chu Yi moved around some of the tables and chairs until the room resembled a makeshift counseling office.
At Chu Yi's request, Gu Wei started by filling out a few forms and handing them over for Chu Yi to examine.
"What are these for?" Jiang Xun asked.
"It's a self-assessment to check for symptoms of depression," Chu Yi explained. "Don't worry, there are no symptoms present right now."
Gu Wei had been clutching Jiang Xun's wrist the whole time while Chu Yi looked over his forms. Finally, he relaxed his grip a little.
"Why are you so nervous?" Jiang Xun asked, smiling. "Even if any problems come up, I won't stop wanting you."
"Do you remember why or when you started to fear sharp objects?" Chu Yi asked. "Do you know the reason for this phobia?"
Gu Wei shook his head. He had no memory of it whatsoever.
"That's not a problem, forgetting these things is a common defense mechanism." Chu Yi passed over a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. "Let's have you draw a few things. Please draw a house, a tree, and a person for me. Try not to draw a stick figure."
Gu Wei took the paper and began to draw according to Chu Yi's instructions. Once he was finished, he handed the paper back to Chu Yi.
"Have you heard of the house-tree-person test?" Chu Yi asked.
Gu Wei had not.
"Let's go over what you drew." Chu Yi laid the sheet of paper down on the coffee table. "Normally, we think of our left side as the past and our right side as the future. We think of what's above us as fantasy, and what's below us as reality. What you drew trends to the bottom left of the page. It seems to indicate an attempt to convey things you'd experienced in the past.
"This house from the past, did it not have any windows?" Chu Yi looked over the drawing again before he continued, "Or are the windows in your heart closed to the outside?"
"I… think it had windows," Gu Wei answered, hesitant and unsure. "I lived with my mother in a rural town. We must have had windows."
But, truth be told, his memories from that period of his life weren't very clear to him.
"Was it that there were no windows, or was it that something on the windows caused you to ignore the windows themselves?" Chu Yi prompted.
The conversation continued for nearly fifty minutes. By the time Gu Wei left that room, he realized it had already gotten dark outside. Jiang Xun and Chu Yi were still talking about something, so Gu Wei wandered down the hall until he passed the training room again. From within, he could hear Yi Qing snapping fiercely at someone.
"Hurry up, hurry up! Don't get in the way of jiejie and her livestream. God, all of you are shit."
It seemed sunny's sense of teamwork still needed some work.
"Can his fear of sharp objects be treated by systematic desensitization?" Jiang Xun asked.
"I'm not an advocate of systematic desensitization, it leaves the patient too open to relapses. We need to find the root cause of the phobia, which should lie somewhere in his past," Chu Yi said. He and Jiang Xun were still in the room that Gu Wei had left. "Furthermore, it most likely has something to do with his mother. He only spoke of his mother a few times earlier, and three of those times he spoke with his head down.
"I would suggest taking him back to the place where he used to live. If any problems arise, get in touch with me."
"Got it," Jiang Xun said. "Thank you for your help today."
"He may be resistant to intimacy early on, and he may try to find ways to avoid it. But that's something… well, it looks like you've already found a way around that," Chu Yi teased. "Not even counseling is as effective as you."
"Thanks for the high praise, but it's too soon for that. Let's address these problems first," Jiang Xun said with a humble wave of his hand. "I can't even imagine how long it'll take to get him in bed. I've already decided how I want to eat him up. I think I'd like to make him cry."
Gu Wei, who had just wandered back down the hall and pushed the door half open, froze in place.