It seemed like Jiang Xun, out in the living room, had gotten off the phone. Gu Wei was still staring into the monitor playing his livestream feed. His gaze was growing shifty.
There was no way he could escape this subject now. After all, he and Jiang Xun weren't just ordinary friends.
"It's exactly what it looks like," Gu Wei said in the end.
The viewers in his stream were way too smart. They could even guess the truth behind the band-aid on his neck. Not knowing how to respond, Gu Wei had had no choice but to fall back on the same answer he'd given in an interview earlier that day.
Gu Wei wasn't the only one who had been warned not to talk about Jiang Xun. The others who had come to spectate finally started to serve their purpose of steering the conversation away from these dangerous waters.
@T.ATW-LuoChenxuan: Everyone, please remember to support our Weiwei in our upcoming events. We'll be performing for New Year's in February, and we have a concert coming up in April too.
[Don't worry, we'll definitely support him.]
[I knew you guys would be appearing on CoconutTV's New Year's gala! We've already started making banners and lights for you guys.]
[I hope I can get tickets. You guys are way too popular, it's so hard to get tickets to any of your events now.]
@T.ATW-FuZhi: We'll also be recording 'In A Small World With You' tomorrow. It'll be broadcast live, and we'll be filming right in our dorms.
[Ahhhhhh, so you guys are the next guests on that show! Does that mean we'll get to see inside T.ATW's dormitory?]
[That's amazing, I hope we get to see it soon!]
[We get another live broadcast tomorrow? Ah, we're just so lucky to be your fans!]
[Good work! You guys have all been so busy lately. Don't forget that it's important to take breaks.]
Fu Zhi and Luo Chenxuan did a great job of steering the conversation from then on. All the viewers began to chat about their upcoming show and concert appearances. Gu Wei knew they could still see him, so he flashed the camera a smile as he tried to show his gratitude.
[Weiwei, that's a foul! Why did you suddenly smile at me?]
[Is he trying to show his brothers his gratitude? We get to enjoy that beautiful smile too!]
[Wahhhhhh, didi, how can you look so good even when you're not wearing any makeup?]
[Get some rest early, you have a show to film tomorrow. Your agency has scheduled so many things for you, my heart hurts.]
Just as Gu Wei was getting read to end the stream, he felt a furry little something brush past his legs. He looked down and saw that MVP had wandered over to him at some point and was now waddling back and forth in front of his legs.
"MVP, what are you doing?" Gu Wei whispered.
But, of course, the viewers heard.
[What's an MVP?]
[I'm super curious! Weiwei, can you give your curious little hedgehogs an answer?]
That was an easy request to fulfill. Gu Wei reached down and scooped up the corgi, lifting it up and letting it set its stubby front legs on the table.
[Waaaaaah, so cute!]
[A corgi! Gu Wei, what did you call it? MVP?]
[Okay, now I believe it. You really are at Jiang Xun's place. Besides God Xun, who the hell would name a dog MVP?]
[We understand. This is Jiang Xun's dog, isn't it? Jiang Xun has posted pictures of it on Weibo before.]
[Agreed. We've seen that dog before.]
[I hate these eyes of mine. Why won't they let me see just a little more!]
"Its first name is Jixiang," Gu Wei continued. He still didn't mention Jiang Xun at all, or address any of the questions about Jiang Xun. He only talked about the corgi, which definitely didn't violate his manager's instructions.
[This dog's name and nickname are both so auspicious.1]
[Weiwei, aren't you scared of dogs?]
[Ah, that's right! I remember in one interview, didi said he didn't like dogs.]
"It's just my dad's golden retriever that I don't like," Gu Wei explained while lovingly cuddling the corgi. "I'm not scared of other dogs."
[Understood. Those tabloids from back then were just bored out of their minds. I can't believe they would try to turn that into a scandal.]
[Ahhhhhh, I really want to pet Jiang Xun's dog too!]
As the end of the hour approached, Gu Wei said good night to his viewers while hugging MVP to his chest. It was only after he ended the stream and quit out of the streaming app that he discovered he had received quite a few new messages on his phone, most of which had come in recently.
Gu Wei opened Song Jingxi's messages first.
[Song Jingxi]: Weiwei, did Jiang Xun take you back to his place up north?
[Song Jingxi]: Next time, come over to our place.
[Song Jingxi]: Jiang Xun isn't taking my calls, but if he bullies you, tell me right away.
Gu Wei hastily sent her a response.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: I'm at Jiang Xun's place, but everything's okay. He doesn't bully me.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: CuteBlush.jpg
Afterwards, Gu Wei opened up Jiang Ying's messages. He'd sent some an hour ago, and some just twenty minutes ago.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Gu Wei, Gu Wei, is Gu Wei there? Are you with my brother? My mom wants him to answer his phone.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: HELLO??? What are you two doing? Why are neither of you answering me?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Are you doing adult things? Well, then I won't interrupt.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Oh.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: My app says you're streaming. Then I'll go find you there.
And so, just like that, one controversial little celebrity visiting another controversial little celebrity's stream to look for a certain someone became a trending topic.
The messages from twenty minutes ago—
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Oi.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Man, I've had a rough night. Your manager just called me and chewed me out. She's way fierce. You have a hard time with her, huh?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: This story's coming out one way or another, sooner or later. Why's she so desperate to hide it? If she's really that overprotective of you, she shouldn't have let that thing with Jiang Enyuan slide.
Gu Wei stared at these messages.
It was just then that Jiang Ying sent a new text.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Let me tell you a secret.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: What secret?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: In the cabinet in the corner of the living room, my brother is hiding some liquor. Tastes pretty good. You get what I'm saying, right?
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: I do not!
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Get me a bottle, obviously. Come on, we'll all be family soon enough.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: EatFarts.jpg
"You're using my reaction memes again?" Jiang Xun asked. He had just returned to the room and come up behind Gu Wei. "That reminds me. At the beginning, you only knew my reaction memes. Not me."
Fearing that all his old mistakes were about to be rehashed again, Gu Wei hastily reassured, "You're way, way, way better looking than your reaction memes. I swear."
"I haven't scolded you yet, and you're already panicking," Jiang Xun mused, easily seeing straight through to Gu Wei's heart. "What is Jiang Ying saying?"
Gu Wei switched over to his chat with his manager and sent her a message.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Zhao-jie, I didn't say a single word about Jiang Xun today.
[If You Love Me Please Send Me Money]: Jiang Ying was an accident.
[Manager Zhao]: My plans. All my plans. [sobsob.jpg]
[Manager Zhao]: Don't tire yourself out too much tonight. You have a show to record tomorrow.
[If You Love me Please Send Me Money]: Okay.
"Why do people think I'm going to tire myself out tonight?" Gu Wei mused.
"Probably because I look like I want to tire you out tonight," Jiang Xun said.
Gu Wei was silent.
He looked past Jiang Xun and suddenly noticed a bunch of identical cans stacked up on a shelf.
"Is that the birthday present I sent you?" Gu Wei got up and moved over to have a look. "You brought it home?"
Two of the cans had been opened when Jiang Xun unboxed the gift, and Jiang Ying had asked for a can to take with him. The remaining ninety-seven cans had all been brought home by Jiang Xun, where they now sat neatly stacked up in a display case.
"You didn't want to keep them in the training room?" Gu Wei asked. "I felt like the air in the training room wasn't too fresh."
"I genuinely don't know what to tell you." Jiang Xun decided to skirt around any subjects that would be too taxing on anyone's IQ. He reached out and ripped the band-aid off Gu Wei's throat again. "Besides the show, do you have anything planned for tomorrow?"
"A few interviews, a meet-and-greet, and then rehearsals for our performance on CoconutTV." With all the new fans Gu Wei had pulled in from his recent variety show appearances, he was getting more and more work as his popularity soared.
"I'll be wrapped up in training soon," Jiang Xun said, a little regretfully. "The winter tournament is about to start."
Gu Wei knew that meant the two of them wouldn't get a chance to see each other for a while. They wouldn't even have that many opportunities to message each other.
After watching many of Jiang Xun's games, Gu Wei had gained a better understanding of his work. He knew the winter tournament would be extremely important for Jiang Xun. It would be Jiang Xun's last tournament before he retired, and his performance would have an impact on how his whole career as an esports player was regarded.
"Disappointed that you won't see me for a while?" Jiang Xun asked as he moved over to Gu Wei and took MVP from his arms. "The next time you see me, I'll be very fierce."
Gu Wei knew exactly what Jiang Xun meant by 'fierce'. He shyly ducked his head.
Jiang Xun noticed the way Gu Wei's ears turned red. He reached out and rubbed a thumb over the love bite he'd left on Gu Wei's throat, as though to confirm for himself that the mark was still there.
"It'll probably be New Year's by the time we finish our work," Jiang Xun said. "Are you going anywhere for New Year's Eve?"
"I'll be at the dorms," Gu Wei said. Last year, he'd spent the holidays there as well. "I'll only have a few days off."
"Then, this year, let's go home together," Jiang Xun said.
And he only said 'home'. Not 'my home', but simply 'home'.
Gu Wei lifted his head. "…really?"
"Of course," Jiang Xun said. "We've already decided to get engaged. You'll come home with me sooner or later."
Gu Wei suddenly thought that the best thing his unreliable father had ever done was allowing him and Jiang Xun to meet.
"Over the New Year's holidays, how about we go back to the place where you used to live and have a look around?" Jiang Xun suggested. "Do you remember what you said when we filmed the first installment of 'Escape Without a Trace'? You said you would show me the you from ten years ago."
Of course Gu Wei remembered. "That place has become a tourist town now, but it's still pretty remote. Not a lot of people visit. Are you sure you want to go?"
"I'm sure," Jiang Xun said. "I want to see where you grew up."
"Then I'll take you there." Gu Wei knew this was Jiang Xun's way of trying to help him find the root cause of his depression and phobia of sharp objects. Strangely, though, he no longer felt so resistant about digging into his past.
The thought of not being able to see Jiang Xun for a long while made Gu Wei feel bolder. He gazed at Jiang Xun for a long moment before moving closer, reaching out, and grabbing hold of the collar of Jiang Xun's shirt. Jiang Xun met him halfway as he stretched up to bring their lips together.
Naturally, Jiang Xun didn't pull away. "Gu Weiwei is getting braver. I'll feel like bullying you again."
MVP scurried away on its short little legs. Jiang Xun pressed Gu Wei back down in a chair and lowered his head, deepening the hickey on Gu Wei's throat.
Gu Wei was kissed so thoroughly by Jiang Xun that his whole body felt hot. "Why do you always kiss that spot…"
Jiang Xun didn't answer right away. He opened a drawer and pulled out a whole box of pikachu band-aids. He gave Gu Wei the box and said, "These'll be enough to cover it up. I won't see you for ages, and we agreed you would pay for your mistakes. Let me collect some interest first."
There was nothing Gu Wei could say to that.
Meanwhile on Weibo, the shippers who had just watched Gu Wei's livestream could no longer hold in their excitement. The 'FoodforXunWei' supertopic was flooded by new and old fans alike.
@Yellow Peaches Are Delicious: Is this the place? Did I find the right place? I came from the livestream.
@A River Crab: This is the place. (whisperwhisper)
@Has Jiang Enyuan Apologized Yet: I'm new here, just signed up. Where should I start with this ship?
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: @Has Jiang Enyuan Apologized Yet, sister your name is pretty awesome. Check the stickied post for a masterlist of all our sweet, sweet content.
@Pilipala: Everyone, remember to ship responsibly. Let's keep a low profile. For all we know, these two really are just close friends (though I don't really buy that anymore). But, still, let's all pace ourselves and keep calm. Don't tag them. Lay low. Jiang Xun and Gu Wei are probably both resting now. Let's make sure we don't get them trending!
1. The corgi's Chinese name, Jixiang, is written '吉祥', which means lucky/auspicious. MVP means 'most valuable player'.