In the FFXW shippers' private group, someone dug through Sunny Doll's Weibo and compiled the highlights from the past few months. The conclusion—
Sunny Doll had been one of the first FFXW shippers, and she had always led the charge. Occasionally, she even gave pep talks to those who were losing hope.
Jiang Enyuan's fans had been bombarded by negativity for a long while already. As soon as their idol finally slipped off the trending topics list, they started talking him up on Weibo in an attempt to restore his battered reputation. But they had barely started blowing smoke up his ass before they ran into a big, bad hedgehog that had come out to play in the middle of the night.
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: You guys get this full of yourselves just because your idol slipped under the radar for a day or two? You asshats are dumb as hell.
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: Honestly, I feel bad for you guys. Jiang Enyuan doesn't have a heart that's capable of caring about you.
Yi Qing finished berating all of Jiang Enyuan's loudest fans, then switched back over to her livestream interface to continue going through the highlights of the finals match. However, she noticed many new viewers had joined her room.
[Everyone, gather around. It's time to pay our respects to the biggest hedgehog of us all.]
[I'm here, I'm here. Checking in~]
[We were the ones who didn't stay strong. We'll learn from our mistakes.]
[The fan takes after the idol. She's hot as hell.]
It was only then that Yi Qing realized she had streamed the entire process of her whipping out the worst sides of her personality to defeat the evil of Jiang Enyuan's rabid fans.
"Ah, sorry, I wear many hats," Yi Qing apologized. "Esports player is my main occupation. Idol chasing and anti-fan suppression are my side gigs.
"Well, since you're all here anyway, why don't you get out your phones and go like, follow, and share Gu Wei-gege's content."
[@JiangXun, future boss of TMW, please come school your rookie. She's soliciting personal favors on her stream.]
[Liked, followed, and shared. All done, okay? Meimei, hurry up and get back to the highlights.]
[I'm done too. Seriously hurry up with the highlights, I need to go to sleep after this.]
Yi Qing grinned into the camera, hit play on the tournament footage, and resumed her rundown of the game.
Much later that night, in the little hedgehogs' defense squad—
@Little Hedgehog's Senbei: @Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll, you're a very important person, aren't you, Doll?
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: It's not even worth mentioning. We're all little hedgehogs here. No matter what, we all love Weiwei the same.
@Little Hedgehog Grow Up Fast: Doll, is Edible Crab taking her grad school entrance exams tomorrow?
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: ……yep.
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: Tell her good luck for us.
@Little Hedgehog's Sunny Doll: I'll pass it on…
"I don't understand," Manager Zhao said, finally unable to hold in her bewilderment. "Jiang Xun has been busy with his tournament lately, and the second installment of 'Escape' aired a while ago. They haven't done any work together in ages. So why do they keep gaining new shippers?"
Not only were their numbers still growing, the FFXW shippers had completely abandoned their attempts to keep a low profile. They were now self-righteously shipping right out in the open. Photo edits, short videos, fanfiction, fanart… Manager Zhao stumbled across so much FFXW content that her whole head was turning into a migraine.
"It's probably just divine providence," Luo Chenxuan guessed. He lifted his hands from the piano keys, and the music in the room came to an abrupt stop.
"I was watching TMW's sunny stream the other day, and she seems to have accidentally leaked her idol-chasing Weibo," Chi Yunkai said. "It just so happens that the idol she chases is our Weiwei, and she seems to be one of their biggest shippers too."
Manager Zhao fell silent.
That explained it.
No wonder the shippers who had advocated keeping a low profile were getting wild and reckless now.
There was no way to stop this ship now. All Manager Zhao could hope for was that those two would seal the deal quickly. Otherwise, they could turn themselves into a PR nightmare.
"How are rehearsals going for the CoconutTV gala?" she asked.
"We're pretty much ready," Fu Zhi said. "We're singing an old song, so we basically just need to iron out the kinks in our new dance choreography."
Manager Zhao still had some other business to attend to, so she left them to it. The five members of T.ATW stayed back in their rehearsal room, and Gu Wei started correcting the little missteps in Shi Xinyan's dance movements.
"Is God Xun coming back soon?" Chi Yunkai asked.
"I think he said tomorrow," Gu Wei said. He demonstrated a sequence of steps for Shi Xinyan. "Your head and your hands need to move together, or you'll look stiff."
The five of them each had their shortcomings, but by helping each other and supporting each other on stage, they always gave a phenomenal performance.
"One, two, three, four. A half-turn here, and… ah, try to make a more natural expression at this part." Gu Wei lifted his head, suddenly hearing a familiar voice near the door. He looked up just in time to see Jiang Xun, for the first time in a long time, waving to him from the door to the rehearsal room.
They'd talked about Jiang Xun coming back tomorrow. Seeing him in their rehearsal room now, a day early, was the nicest surprise Gu Wei had ever gotten.
Jiang Xun held out his arms for a hug. Gu Wei felt inordinately happy in that moment. He moved towards Jiang Xun, jogging the last steps, and spontaneously leaping into Jiang Xun's arms. Just as Gu Wei had expected, Jiang Xun caught him.
"Why did you come back early?" Gu Wei felt Jiang Xun's hands securely supporting his butt, so he wrapped his legs around Jiang Xun's waist and slung his arms around Jiang Xun's shoulders. Drawing close, he whispered in Jiang Xun's ear, "Am I heavy?"
"Heavy? No. You don't weigh enough. I bet you haven't been eating properly again." Jiang Xun nodded at the other people in the room, then carried Gu Wei out into the hallway. "Weiwei, you're doomed."
"Why am I doomed?" Gu Wei didn't understand.
"I'm unemployed now, you know," Jiang Xun said. "So, from now on, I'll be able to watch you eat every single meal. I'll make sure you eat three square meals a day. With plenty of spinach."
Gu Wei's excitement swiftly disappeared. Flatly, he stated, "There's a surveillance camera in the hall."
Jiang Xun obligingly set Gu Wei down and sighed. "Raising an idol is pretty hard. I tell you to eat properly, and you won't let me hold you anymore."
"I said there's a camera," Gu Wei repeated. Then, he asked again, "What are you doing here?"
"I needed to talk to your manager," Jiang Xun answered. "So I dropped by to see you along the way. When's your performance?"
"On the night of the first," Gu Wei said. "It's pretty soon. We're almost done rehearsing."
"Do you have plans for New Year's Eve?" Jiang Xun asked.
Gu Cai was still working on some screenplay; he hadn't made a peep in three months.
But Gu Wei hadn't forgotten what Jiang Xun told him last time. "Are you going to take me in?"
"I'll take you home. We can also find time to visit the place you used to live." Jiang Xun grinned. "Guess what your manager just told me."
"She told us to hurry up and get engaged. The sooner the better," Jiang Xun said. "We're definitely not allowed to stir up any drama. She doesn't care if we go public or keep our relationship a secret, as long as we don't break up."
Gu Wei was silent.
People really could change. From the start, his manager had been staunchly against their relationship, waiting every day for them to reach a bad end. And now, Manager Zhao had finally become one of the good guys.
The CoconutTV gala was scheduled for the first day of the new year. On New Year's Eve, besides Fu Zhi and Luo Chenxuan, no one else in T.ATW had any work. Chi Yunkai and Shi Xinyan had taken off a day earlier, while Gu Wei was whisked away by Jiang Xun on New Year's Eve.
Since it was New Year's Eve, there weren't many people out and about. The winter air was exceptionally refreshing that day. With so few people milling about, Gu Wei only put on a face mask for his shopping trip with Jiang Xun.
"Just pick whatever you want to eat," Jiang Xun said, "but not too much junk food."
Jiang Xun pushed their shopping cart, and Gu Wei threw various snacks he liked into the cart while walking and chatting with him.
"Should we pick up some crabs?" he asked. He had a sneaking suspicion his rival liked crabs.
"I think we still have some at home," Jiang Xun said.
"What do you plan on doing now that you're retired?" Gu Wei asked. It was the same question they'd heard the interviewer ask in TMW's post-game interview. He hastily added, "But don't just tell me you're 'going home to your family'."
"Oh, you watched my interview?" Jiang Xun teased. "In all honesty, back in September, I was feeling pretty lost. But I have a new direction now. There are more things I can do to improve Team TMW, but I'll need to do more on the entertainment side of things as well. If there are any movies or TV dramas that catch my eye, I'll invest in them. But my main focus will still be TMW."
The two of them adjusted their face masks and went up to pay for their groceries.
Gu Wei helped Jiang Xun load their stuff onto the checkout counter. The short-haired girl in line behind them was carrying too much in her arms, without a basket, and a box of candy slipped free.
Gu Wei stooped down and picked it up for her. "Here you go."
The short-haired girl, with her arms full of various boxes of snacks, caught sight of his eyes and suddenly gasped. "Weiwei?"
"Shhh." Gu Wei smiled at her with his eyes, then looked around, gesturing for her to keep quiet.
The girl glanced past Gu Wei and caught a glimpse of Jiang Xun. Her gasp of surprise turned into a resounding: "Holy fuck!"
"Let's go," Jiang Xun said once he'd paid for everything. "What was that? A fan?"
"I… think so." Gu Wei wasn't quite sure.
"Have you noticed yourself getting more and more popular lately?" Jiang Xun asked. He opened the car door for Gu Wei, and he helped him buckle his seatbelt.
"My follower count on Weibo does seem to have gone up by a lot."
But those followers had all found him through his variety shows and the various feuds and scandals he'd been a part of lately. That kind of publicity wouldn't help him advance his career. He needed to put something out that really demonstrated his talent. Both he and his agency were eagerly awaiting the broadcast of Like the Moon.
On Weibo, in the 'FoodForXunWei' supertopic group, someone posted a new message—
@KikiandChuchu: I believe it now. They're real. Sunny Doll has been suffering this sweet burden all alone for so long. I'll carry that weight with her now.
@A River Crab: @KikiandChuchu, sisters, let's give shipping a break. It's almost New Year's Day. Go home and celebrate with your family.
@KikiandChuchu: IT ALREADY FEELS LIKE NEW YEAR'S DAY TO ME!!!
Out of Jiang Xun's family members, Gu Wei knew Jiang Ying and had met Song Jingxi once. He still hadn't met Jiang Zheng, and he was a little nervous when they arrived at the house.
It was only after stepping inside that he realized his nervousness was completely unnecessary.
"Ah, you've seen something embarrassing," Song Jingxi said, greeting them with a kind smile.
When Jiang Xun and Gu Wei entered, Jiang Ying and his father were just in the middle of arguing about something relating to acting. But upon seeing the two new arrivals, they both turned to offer their warm greetings.
Gu Wei had never been a part of a big and noisy family like this before. He was deeply intrigued by all their interactions, and he was delighted to be welcomed into their home. Song Jingxi and Jiang Zheng seemed to have tacitly agreed not to put too much pressure on Gu Wei. They didn't hover over him all night, asking him countless questions. They gave him and Jiang Xun plenty of time to have their own conversations
"Hey, you know what?" Jiang Ying drummed his chopsticks against the crab shells on the table. Everyone was gathered around, chatting after dinner. "It's New Year's Eve, and our fans are at each other's throats again."
"What are they fighting about?" Gu Wei asked.
"'Gu Wei and Jiang Ying in Period Clothing. Who Wore It Better?'" Jiang Ying recited. "Your fans say I don't have any life in my eyes when I act, and my fans say you don't have any relevant works. Then your fans called my acting soulless, and my fans said you just look good in costume but can't act at all."
Gu Wei was silent.
"Since it's New Year's, I won't get on my alts and join the fray." Jiang Ying took back his hand, which had already started reaching for his phone to log into one of said alts.
Gu Wei was silent for a moment longer before he said, "…thanks."
After a while, they both got out their phones at the same time and sent out a New Year's greeting to their fans.
@T.ATW-GuWei: Happy New Year, I'll always be with you.
@JiangYingKANI: I'll love you all next year too.
"Then I'll post something too," Jiang Xun said.
@TMW-Xun: Happy New Year. [DoraemonSurprise.jpg]
The photo captured Jiang Xun, Gu Wei, Jiang Ying, Song Jingxi, and Jiang Zheng.
The hedgehogs and shadows who were in the middle of tearing each other's hair out, and the 'FoodForXunWei' family who were ringing in the new year, were all given a great big shock.