Manager Zhao was starting to spiral into despair. "Why didn't I stop you…"
"It's fine," Fu Zhi said. "As long as the talk of Weiwei's personal problems doesn't trend, anything else is fine. If you're still worried, just buy a random trending tag for any one of us and send it up there to draw attention away from Gu Wei."
The manager still had her concerns. "I'm just worried you and Jiang Xun will split up later…"
"We won't," Gu Wei reassured, shaking his head.
"Zhao-jie, just sit back and wait for their engagement announcement," Luo Chenxuan said. "You can already start drafting the company's official statement."
"We have unconditional faith in God Xun's moral character," Chi Yunkai said. "Just based on his tactics and techniques."
Trapped in a ring of Jiang Xun's fanboys, Manager Zhao felt a chill run down her spine.
Everyone in this room was Jiang Xun's fan. In addition to fans of his gaming skills, there was even a boyfriend fan. She couldn't afford to rile them up.
And so, the day before TMW was set to enter the winter tournament, netizens went wild over two little Weibo posts.
@TMW-Sunny: Do your best together! I hope to see my captain and my idol soar to greater heights!
@TMW Must Win The Winter Cup: God Xun's last tournament before he retires… these games are going to be beautiful for sure, ahhhhhhhh!
@Sesame Seed: Is this ship fodder? Can I ship this?
@KikiandChuchu: @Sesame Seed, ugh, look at you. Do you just ship and ship and ship all day? God Xun is just comforting our Weiwei, got it? (pssst, check your dms, I'll lead you to the right place)
@Sesame Seed: Oh, understood. Everyone do your best, TMW is the greatest! (excited!)
@Has Jiang Enyuan Apologized Yet: Good luck at your tournament, God Xun. Thank you Jiang Xun for taking care of Gu Weiwei these days. We hope your relationship will become better and better.
Under Jiang Xun's post and the latest posts from TMW's official account, many fans had gathered to wish them luck. Gu Wei's little hedgehogs were also there, leaving heartfelt words of gratitude. By changing his avatar and making a timely post, Jiang Xun had prevented the subject of Gu Wei's depression from trending. Many people could tell, or at least guess, that that had been his intent.
The discussion of Gu Wei's depression didn't spread, but it left a lasting impact on a smaller scale.
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: I'm really so close to crying about this. If it weren't for 'Small World' ambushing them in their rooms, we probably never would have found out about Weiwei's sleeping problems. Gu Wei has been struggling with this all by himself. In front of the cameras, he's always so warm and sweet. He always shows us his best self.
@Hedgehog Hug: Do you guys remember that part in 'Wandering With You' where Jiang Enyuan said Gu Wei was bad at English and tried to get people talking about Gu Wei dropping out of school? Just recently, someone leaked the news that Gu Wei was at the top of the rankings in his first year of high school at H City's Jiu High. Then, in his second year, he got sick and had to leave school.
A few days ago, someone had indeed put up a huge post on Weibo, listing the celebrities that joined the entertainment industry even though they could have easily gotten into an excellent university. Gu Wei had been included in that list.
In that long post, the author talked about getting Gu Wei's academic records from H City's Jiu High. He had indeed ranked among the best of the best during his first year, only to withdraw from school a year later. Many of his teachers expressed regret over losing such a promising student.
And in the comments section of that long post, some people had already connected the dots between this new story and the old news of Gu Wei being attacked for dropping out of school.
@Little Hedgehog Grow Up Fast: He's not uneducated at all, you have to do really well on the national entrance exams to get into Jiu High, don't you? They don't take just anyone. If Gu Wei had taken his college entrance exams, he definitely would have gotten into a top-tier university. Ugh, I'm pissed! Gu Wei is two years younger than me. He doesn't deserve to be attacked like this. If I were in his shoes, I would totally fall apart. And the worst part of it all is that Gu Wei just loves dancing. Why do people have to attack him for this sort of thing? It's completely irrelevant!
@Little Hedgehog's Senbei: I think we've been too sweet and gentle. We need to learn from the rival's fans and become fiercer. Maybe we'll attract more bad publicity that way, but at least our idol won't be bullied as much.
@Little Hedgehog's Hedgehog: I'm glad Weiwei's T.ATW gege are all so good to him, and he even made some new friends on the variety shows he's done recently. Jiang Xun and the other guests on 'Escape' are all pretty nice. We all need to work harder too! Gu Wei's rank is rising, and his new drama is coming soon. If we do our best to promote him, he can get even more popular.
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: Speaking of which, I feel like we haven't seen Edible Crab lately. Is our sister busy with something? @Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: DoraemonSurprise.jpg
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: Doll, do you know where Edible Crab is? You guys know each other, don't you?
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: Ah, ah, ah… right, yeah, I forgot to tell you guys. She's been a bit busy lately. She's… preparing for grad school entrance exams! She'll be back after a while.
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: Understood. Then we'll wish our Edible Crab sister good luck on her exams!
In TMW's training room, Yi Qing set everything aside and quickly sent Jiang Xun a few WeChat messages—
[sunny]: Boss, I told the girls in the defense squad that you're studying for grad school entrance exams.
[sunny]: Remember to protect Edible Crab's secret identity.
[sunny]: Good luck at the tournament!
As for the other scandals that kept popping up on Weibo—
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: #JiangEnyuanDissesXuPeiAtMeetAndGreet, has a certain someone bought a subscription to trend all year?
@Has Jiang Enyuan Apologized Yet: #HasJiangEnyuanApologizedYet, no he has not. Let's see how much longer this little flea can keep jumping.
@Hydrogen Ball: @Has Jiang Enyuan Apologized Yet, I think we need to come down on him even harder. Setting my personal feelings aside, this plagiarism scandal has had a huge impact on Gu Wei. It's been so damaging to his reputation.
@KikiandChuchu: Is someone paying for this wave of Jiang Enyuan news? He's been trending so much lately that I bet passersby are starting to get fed up.
@A River Crab: Isn't it good for passersby to get fed up with him? Anyway, have you guys seen the coupley avatars Jiang Xun and Gu Wei are using? Even their avatars are matching now. Their wedding can't be far off, right? This is a public display of affection, right?
@Sesame Seed Crisp: The good luck message Gu Wei sent before the tournament was just too sweet. You know, the one with Jiang Xun's corgi. The dog is named MVP, isn't it? And Jiang Xun even responded. Ah, this is really going to my head. I'm getting drunk on these two. I'm really starting to believe they're real.
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: Go ahead. Let it go to your head.
When Gu Wei walked into their dance rehearsal room with a paper cup of water, he found the other four members of T.ATW huddled together on the wooden floorboards. Chi Yunkai was holding his tablet, and the others were crowded around him, squeezing in close to watch whatever he was playing.
"We're not rehearsing?" Gu Wei asked, freezing in place.
"Tournament," Luo Chenxuan said, waving Gu Wei over. "It's time."
"Oh, okay." Gu Wei happily squeezed in between the others in front of Chi Yunkai's tablet.
The five of them were looking less and less like proper, dignified idols. Some were sitting on the floorboards, some were sprawled out on their stomachs. Occasionally, one would even slap the floor in his excitement.
"Weiwei, look! Jiang Xun!" Shi Xinyan exclaimed.
The cameras zoomed in on Jiang Xun, giving him a close-up. His player stats showed up on screen, and the announcers started to introduce him and his various achievements. Of course, they also mentioned that this would be his last tournament as a professional esports player.
Jiang Xun turned to the camera. His lips curved up in a small smile. He opened his hand, showing a small golden TMW emblem that sat in the center of his palm.
"Go, Jiang Xun!" Gu Wei cheered. He clutched an identical emblem in his own hand, one that had been given to him by Jiang Xun.
Their manager crept in quietly with a cameraman, taking some footage of the five boys crowded together on the floor. That would make a good clip for their daily update to T.ATW's official Weibo page.
@T.ATW: Shhh, they're currently very focused on 'rehearsing' for their New Year's performance…
In the clip released by their official Weibo account, the five members of T.ATW were all transfixed by the livestream that was playing on Chi Yunkai's tablet.
@Dongdongdong: @T.ATW-ShiXinyan, get out here, we need to teach you a lesson! You promised to work hard and practice your dancing. You're going to be accused of being a waste of air at your next performance again…
@Paper Crane: So it isn't just a rumor that everyone in this little losers club is an esports fan. I remember, in one interview, Chi Yunkai said they would always have to force Gu Wei to watch these games with them. But I get the feeling that Gu Wei is really into it now, ahahaha!
@Osmanthus Falls: Of course he's really into it now. The other day, Gu Wei even wished Jiang Xun good luck while holding his family's MVP.
@Wenwen: Is this ship fodder? The pin in JX's hand and the pin in GW's hand are the exact same pin.
@Has Jiang Enyuan Apologized Yet: @Wenwen, shhhhh, go home! Ship at home!
T.ATW continued to rehearse together every day, and at night they all crowded together on the floor to watch TMW's games and cheer them on.
Gu Wei and Shi Xinyan eventually made time in their schedules to go film the third episode of Escape Without a Trace. Jiang Xun couldn't make it to that installment, so Director Zhang had brought in a popular television host to replace him.
Gu Wei had already become friendly with the other guests while filming the first two installments, and he had Shi Xinyan there with him as well. Even though Jiang Xun wasn't there, Gu Wei did a great job. The recording ended smoothly, with everyone in high spirits.
The days flew by. TMW didn't breeze through the winter tournament as everyone had expected. Several of their old members had joined other teams and become formidable opponents. In the semifinals match, SK made a grievous blunder that caused TMW to briefly slip into second place in the tournament rankings.
Netizens had high expectations for TMW. Their followers refused to tolerate even the smallest mistake. After the semifinals, SK and even the captain Jiang Xun both came under fire by their more aggressive fans. No small number of angry fanboys mindlessly spat their vitriol at the team.
[Is Jiang Xun going to be able to pull this off? He'd better not turn himself into a joke in his final tournament.]
[What the hell was SK doing? Even I wouldn't have fucked up that bad if it were me in the game.]
[Wtf was wrong with TMW in this last match?]
[Jiang Xun didn't lead them well.]
[Ah, I can't watch this shit anymore. This point gap… just how well are they going to have to play in the finals in order to catch up to first place? Looks like their last world championship victory really was their last victory.]
Those days, Gu Wei got on Weibo as soon as he woke up and left Jiang Xun a 'good luck' message on his page. Then he went through the comments and reported each and every one of those belligerent insults from people who were just indiscriminately attacking Jiang Xun for anything they could think of.
And he always used his main account. During their free time, the other members of T.ATW did the same, joining Gu Wei in the comments of TMW's latest posts to wish the team good luck and cheer them on. This behavior was considered normal for fans of the team, so their manager allowed them to do as they pleased.
When it came to the attacks against Jiang Xun, Jiang Ying was also fiercely fighting back on his main.
@T&K Is The Best: Jiang Xun is going to regret ending his career like this, hehe.
@JiangYingKANI: @T&K Is The Best, I feel like you're going to regret ending your life like this.
@User25738475: TMW has been getting worse and worse. They've been in poor shape all season, and now their captain's come out to put on this shitty show right before his retirement.
@T.ATW-FuZhi: @User25738475, [slightsmile.jpg]
@Dudu Dada: They can't win anymore, can they? The team in first place right now is way too good. The point gap is just massive.
@TMW-Sunny: @Dudu Dada, don't be scared. The boss is in great shape.
Gu Wei's little hedgehogs took note of his recent activity, and even the ones who didn't understand the esports world at all began to cheer for Jiang Xun. They joined their idol in rooting for TMW, and even in reporting the hostile comments under TMW's Weibo posts.
For the first time, Gu Wei's little hedgehogs and Jiang Ying's shadows presented a united front. The two fan bases joined hands and worked together to fiercely fight back against the vile comments on TMW's page, but of course they turned right around and fought each other when it came to Gu Wei's and Jiang Ying's celebrity rankings.
The night before TMW was due to play in the finals of the winter tournament, all the little hedgehogs saw Gu Wei share a new Weibo post—
@T.ATW-GuWei: To me, the best news I could hope for this year is news of your victory. @TMW-Xun @Good Luck Koi: Share this post and tell us the best news you've received this year! [koi fish photo]