A certain response to a certain Good Luck Koi post was spread around Weibo by certain members of a popular boy band, and more and more people rallied to wish Team TMW good luck.
All these tags trended that day.
The netizens who had closely observed these recent developments began to chime in with their opinions—
[I suddenly get the appeal of Jiang Ying. He's fierce, but he's cute.]
[Holy crap, my favorite gege and I shared the same Good Luck Koi! Can I take this to mean we're made for each other?]
[Gu Wei is pretty brave to share a post like that. He must know that Jiang Xun's toxic fans are all super vicious.]
[I used to think the members of T.ATW just minded their own business and did their own thing. I thought they weren't close at all, but that really doesn't seem to be the case.]
[I don't know why, but ever since I saw that photo of Fu Zhi-gege reading a newspaper in their rehearsal room, I've felt like every post he puts up on Weibo has an old man smell to it lololol.]
[I have faith in TMW. They can win this. It was their superior abilities, not luck, that led them to victory in the past. All these rabid spammers can just shut up and go to sleep already.]
On that day, a certain celebrity who had been dragged to hell and back let out a breath of relief. Until now, Jiang Enyuan had been trending for days on end.
"Jiang Xun is such a good person," Jiang Enyuan's manager enthused. "Whether it was intentional or not, he's helped you get off the trending board for now."
"Looks that way," Jiang Enyuan said absently. He had been attacked so fiercely and so frequently these past few days that he seemed to exist in a constant state of panic.
"The agency is working hard on doing damage control for you, and your new drama is coming out soon. When it airs, you'll probably pull in a bunch of new fans. Enough to make up for the fans you've been losing. There are some people that only care about your face, after all. Not your personality."
Gu Wei knew Jiang Xun was busy with his tournament and wouldn't be checking Weibo for a while. Even so, Gu Wei didn't like seeing all the negative comments about Jiang Xun and TMW flooding the internet.
The final round of the winter tournament was one of the toughest matches TMW had faced all year. For one thing, the score gap between them and the first place team was fairly substantial. For another, the team in first place had adopted an aggressive playstyle that was difficult to contend with.
Every member of Team TMW emitted a heavy aura of intensity. They gave their monitors their full concentration, doing their utmost to claim a victory.
No one in T.ATW had any shows to film that night, and none of them had even gone into the dance rehearsal room. They were all gathered in the living room, intently watching the livestream of the finals on TV.
Whenever TMW lost a point to the other team, it seemed all five members of T.ATW stopped breathing. Whenever Jiang Xun or another member of TMW claimed a point, the living room broke out in raucous cheers.
"Let them go crazy," Manager Zhao said to Mu Yue that night, shaking her head to indicate that they shouldn't disturb the boys. "This happens once in a while. You just need to get used to it. The only difference this time is Gu Wei is going crazy with them."
In front of their fans, they were dazzling idols. But underneath those sparkling personas, they were still just a group of overgrown boys.
The winter tournament was the first esports tournament Gu Wei had ever followed in earnest. In the past, he never understood how Chi Yunkai and the others could get so worked up while watching a game. Now, Gu Wei was the one who cheered the hardest.
"Jiang Xun! Go, go, go!"
"You can do it, Jiang Xun!"
The Jiang Xun on screen bagged another point for his team. His unwavering gaze remained fixed on his monitor as he said something to his teammates.
"Weiwei, drink some water. Don't shout yourself hoarse," Fu Zhi said. At that point, he was the only one who was still somewhat level-headed. The others had already shouted themselves into a delirium.
When most of their fans had already given up hope, TMW somehow managed to come from behind and tie the score. But the match was drawing to a close. The stream cut to a shot of Jiang Xun's monitor, with footage of Jiang Xun slamming away at his keyboard playing in the bottom right corner. The action on the screen was so fast that Gu Wei started to get dizzy. But even when his vision blurred, he didn't take his eyes off the screen, desperate not to miss a single second.
In the final moments of the match, Jiang Xun barked a command that seemed especially profound. The whole team changed their playstyle in an instant, whipping out tactics and techniques that they had never demonstrated before. Their opponents clearly hadn't been able to anticipate such a sudden shift this late in the match, and in an instant they were left panicked and confused.
An opponent tried to sneak up behind Jiang Xun, but Jiang Xun successfully predicted their movements. Soon enough, TMW began to gain a lead.
At that time, the aggressively negative commenters were starting to change their tune.
[Jiang Xun's back in good form.]
[I was too soon to diss them yesterday, sorry. TMW's guys are truly still worthy of being called our daddies.]
[Not a single one of them made a single mistake today. I shouldn't have been so disappointed yesterday. TMW's skills are the real deal.]
[Can Jiang Xun not retire yet? He's so good, he could play for at least another two years.]
[Everyone on TMW is pretty strong. They really fought tooth and nail to get here.]
[Awesome, now this is what I call a tournament match. What was that garbage yesterday?]
Finally, Jiang Xun's last kill brought the match to a close. The live audience erupted in cheers as the winter tournament came to an end.
TMW ranked first on the leaderboard, and Jiang Xun was named the MVP with the highest elimination count in the tournament.
Downstairs, Manager Zhao was talking to Mu Yue about their plans for the upcoming New Year's holiday. Even from that far away, they could hear the elated screams ringing out from T.ATW's dormitory upstairs. There were even the sounds of a drum and gong mixed in with the wild cheers.
"The tournament is over, right?" Mu Yue asked. She had never seen a group of boys follow an esports match so enthusiastically. It was enough to make her feel a little worried.
"Over," Manager Zhao confirmed calmly. She had seen this sort of thing far too many times. "And their team probably won. If they'd lost, we wouldn't be hearing anything right now, and we wouldn't be able to expect those fanboys to be productive for days."
Now that Gu Wei had watched the winter tournament from beginning to end, he truly understood what a difficult path Jiang Xun had chosen for himself. It wasn't all glamorous. Behind those moments in the spotlight, Jiang Xun put in countless hours of backbreaking work to hone his skills. He also suffered attacks from netizens who were displeased with his performance. It wouldn't have been an overstatement to say he fought to the top of the industry, shedding his own blood, sweat, and tears along the way.
"Post-game interview is coming up," Shi Xinyan said, setting aside the tambourine in his hands. "Jiang Xun is retiring. They're definitely going to ask him a billion questions."
On screen, the other four members of TMW appeared in the post-game interview room. But Jiang Xun was nowhere to be found.
"Where's Jiang Xun?" Luo Chenxuan asked.
Gu We's cell phone, sitting on the coffee table, began to ring. The caller ID said it was Jiang Xun.
"Weiwei," Jiang Xun greeted, his voice flowing out from the other end of the line. "Did you watch the game?"
"I did," Gu Wei answered. Or, at least, he tried. He wanted to say he had seen everything, and he wanted to tell Jiang Xun that he was amazing. But when he opened his mouth, no sound came out.
He had gotten too excited earlier, and he had screamed too much. So much that he'd lost his voice.
"Weiwei?" Jiang Xun had just finished playing an important match. His voice was a little unsteady with adrenaline. "You there?"
"God Xun?" Chi Yunkai rasped from next to Gu Wei. His own voice was also hoarse from shouting. "Weiwei cheered too hard and lost his voice. He can't talk right now."
"You were that excited?" Jiang Xun asked, with an obvious smile in his tone. "Did I do a good job?"
"I like you," Gu Wei said, soundlessly. "I really like you so much."
"Go drink some water, take good care of your voice. Don't you still have to sing?" Jiang Xun urged. "The tournament's over now, and I'm officially unemployed. I'll come see you soon."
Gu Wei ended the call. He still felt restless, brimming over with energy from the thrill of watching the match. He finally understood why people followed esports. The outcome of these games could change in the blink of an eye. The action could thrill people, could evoke all sorts of heart-pounding emotions.
Mixed in with all the feelings of excitement, Gu Wei felt deeply, irrevocably moved.
The tournament was over, and the post-game interview was playing out on the television screen now. Jiang Xun stood in the middle of his teammates, delivering his retirement speech to a horde of interviewers.
"God Xun, what do you plan to do after you retire?" asked one reporter.
"I'm going home to my family," Jiang Xun stated plainly.
The reporter wasn't sure what to make of that.
"Go to sleep," Fu Zhi ordered. The game was over, and his circadian clock was telling him it was time to rest. He whipped away the floral comforter that the others had wrapped themselves up in, getting ready to go back to his own room.
"Bedtime," Luo Chenxuan echoed, getting up to pour himself a cup of water before heading off to his room as well.
"You guys go," Chi Yunkai said, clutching a bag of potato chips. "I'm going to watch that girl from TMW stream her review of tonight's game."
"Oh, sunny?" Gu Wei asked.
"Yeah, sunny," Chi Yunkai said. "I think she was just promoted to a substitute for the first-string team."
Gu Wei was careful to get enough rest whenever he had a day off. He said goodnight to Chi Yunkai and headed back into his room, placing the TMW pin on his nightstand. He picked up his coloring pencils and colored two pages of the mandala book, then gradually started to doze off.
In TMW's training room, Yi Qing was catching up on her assigned streaming hours for the month. She held a lychee-flavored lollipop in her left hand.
"This part, see, it's a bit risky. I admit, at my current level, I probably couldn't have pulled that off. But in the future, who knows…" She leaned back in her gaming chair, lazily going through the highlights from that night's match.
[Listening to explanations from an actual member of the team is really the best.]
[Staying up all night to watch this stream feels great. I seriously feel so refreshed after tonight's match.]
[The semifinals match made me feel so uneasy, but TMW didn't let us down in the end.]
[sunny, can I be a fan of your face?]
The bullet comments drifted past the screen, crossing Yi Qing's field of vision.
"Thanks, but I'm not all grown up yet," Yi Qing answered casually. "My idol is really good-looking, though. I suggest you go be his fan."
She continued to run through the highlights for a while. "And here, at this rickety old bridge… hang on a sec."
The QQ instant messenger icon at the bottom of her screen was flashing.
[Arare: Doll, are you already sleeping? The hedgehogs and Jiang Enyuan's biggest fans are feuding. We need reinforcements who are really good at fighting back.]
"On my way," Yi Qing muttered under her breath.
The choice between her livestream and a feud was no choice at all. The feud came first.
Without any hesitation, she loaded up Weibo on her computer. She was already logged in as Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll. There was no need to switch accounts before charging into the fray, flinging around all manner of insults and roasting the hell out of Jiang Enyuan's fans. Her fierceness was alarming.
The bullet comments on her screen—
[What's sunny doing?]
[Daily trash talk exercises? This little girl is pretty aggressive. I hear all the other rookies are scared of getting on her bad side.]
[I feel like when you feud online, you shouldn't ever get on an esports player's bad side. No one can outdo them when it comes to trash talk.]
[@JiangXun, your rookie is slacking off during her stream.]
[@JiangXun, sunny is mixing work and play.]
[Hang on, sunny = Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll? It was you all along?]
[WTF, the one cussing me out on Weibo was you?]
[Ah! Am I really running into one of my sisters here?]
Soon enough, the news traveled over to the private FFXW group chat that the shippers had made to keep a low profile—
@Has Jiang Enyuan Apologized Yet: We have some news. TMW's pro player sunny is Sunny Doll on Weibo. [screenshot] Take a look and see if this looks familiar.
@KikiandChuchu: omg @Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll, is this you, sister? [DoraemonSurprise.jpg]
@A River Crab: Holy shit, so it was her. [DoraemonSurprise.jpg]
@Sesame Seed Crisp: I scrolled through her Weibo. She's always telling us to stay strong and keep shipping. [screenshot][screenshot][rofl.jpg]
@Has Jiang Enyuan Apologized Yet: There's no doubt about it. Sunny Doll is coming to us from inside TMW. Then the real question is… why were we telling her to keep a low profile? Why are we trying to keep a low profile at all? Even the insiders are shipping this!
@KikiandChuchu: Understood. We weren't staying strong enough!