CoconutTV's New Year's gala never failed to trend. The popular discussions surrounding that year's gala were—
The little hedgehogs' defense squad were also discussing the gala in their group—
@Little Hedgehog's Senbei: The red costumes are so auspicious. CoconutTV really helped them put on a good performance this time. Our didi will become more and more popular in the coming year.
@Little Hedgehog's Ruirui: The new drama starts on the 10th of the new year. Sisters, get ready!
@Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab: Ready! Let's be sure to make the show trend on the 10th.
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: Wow! I haven't seen you in ages, Miss Edible Crab. How did it go? Your entrance exams?
Gu Wei was downstairs playing video games with Jiang Ying. They were soon cussed out by their randomly-matched teammates for their garbage skills, and the team quickly disbanded after that. Gu Wei slipped upstairs and didn't see Jiang Xun in his room, but he did see Jiang Xun's cell phone on the table.
The cell phone was still unlocked, showing a chat interface. New messages came in swiftly, and all the IDs seemed to belong to little hedgehogs.
Gu Wei snuck a curious peek.
This was obviously the little hedgehogs' defense squad group. How had Jiang Xun gotten in?
The group was very lively, and the chat moved fast. Gu Wei only knew about the group through Mu Yue. He'd never seen what their conversations were like.
Now, he saw.
@Little Hedgehog Grow Up Fast: I have a serious question. Gu Wei is afraid of sharp objects, right? But… we're calling ourselves his little hedgehogs. Does Weiwei not like that?
Gu Wei was silent for a moment.
That was a good question.
@Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab: No, chibi hedgehogs are fine. You don't see hedgehogs in real life all that often, anyway.
@Little Hedgehog Grow Up Fast: Wow~ how can you be so sure of that?
Because I'm me, Gu Wei thought to himself.
@Little Hedgehog's Arare: Weiwei's almost at 16 million followers on Weibo. I wonder if he'll give us some special fan content to celebrate? But I'm probably just dreaming. Gu Wei has been really busy lately.
@Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab: dogeface.jpg
There was nothing impossible about that request. Gu Wei set aside Jiang Xun's phone and picked up his own. He chose a few recent photos and posted them for his fans.
Instantly, the comments section of his new post exploded.
[Weiwei, you're doing social media during your break? I'm saving all these photos, they're mine now.]
[WTF? My wish came true this fast?]
[I suspect there are wish-granting fairies in our group.]
[It can't be Edible Crab, can it? I feel like all our wishes have been coming true ever since she came back.]
[@Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab, can you get me one of their mascot plushies?]
[@Little Hedgehog's Edible Crab, their concert tickets are too hard to get. Let me make a wish! Can you let us meet Gu Wei in person?]
[What group is this? I want to join.]
[Try another group, this one is full.]
"How did you get into my defense squad?" Gu Wei asked when Jiang Xun returned.
"Didn't we agree to be each other's fan? I had to do my best," Jiang Xun said, like it should have been obvious. "You lost your voice cheering for me while watching my tournament. It's the least I could do to cheer for Weiwei too."
"So your banner…" Gu Wei thought back to the light-up sign Jiang Xun had held up the day before.
"The group mailed it to me," Jiang Xun said. "I'm more or less a big name fan in your family by now."
Yi Qing lay in her bed at home and liked and shared the photos Gu Wei had just posted. She posted twenty or so deliriously elated comments under the post, then tapped and held each of the photos to save them to her phone.
It was just then that her phone told her she had a new message.
[Arare]: Doll, are you there?
[Sunny Doll]: Here, here, here. Didi just gave us some exclusive new content, make sure everyone likes and shares it soon.
[Arare]: Done and done. Our family has always been good at promoting Weiwei. [CryingLaughing.jpg] Let me confirm something with you.
[Sunny Doll]: Go ahead.
[Arare]: You're TMW's sunny, right? You've already exposed yourself pretty thoroughly.
[Sunny Doll]: Right. So why are you bringing it up now?
[Arare]: I was bored earlier, so I reviewed the addresses we mailed Weiwei's support banners to. And I found…
[Sunny Doll]: What did you find?
[Arare]: We sent two packages to TMW's club building. Besides yours, we sent Edible Crab's sign there too.
[Arare]: So my question is… that sister of yours. Was she busy with grad school entrance exams, or was she busy playing a tournament? [SuspiciousLook.jpg]
[Sunny Doll]: ……
[Arare]: Your team is really interesting. I think I suddenly understand why you have so much fun with your ship.
[Sunny Doll]: Shhh, shhh. Low profile, low profile.
[Arare]: Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. Edible Crab is already starting to turn into our group's mascot, or saint. People are bowing down and making heartfelt wishes to Edible Crab.
[Arare]: Enjoy your evening, I'm turning in now. My friends are dragging me out on a trip to some remote village tomorrow. It's really out in the middle of nowhere, and it was only turned into a tourist trap a few years ago. There's probably only a few interesting bars there. I don't know why my friends are so keen on going to a place like that.
On the morning of the 3rd, Jiang Xun fished Gu Wei out from under the blankets bright and early in the morning. Although it was a cold winter in H City, the weather was very good. Jiang Xun entered the address into his GPS and drove Gu Wei out to a remote village far outside the city.
"Have you ever been back since moving out?" Jiang Xun asked.
Gu Wei shook his head. "Not since I started high school. I think they rebranded two years ago, and became a sort of arts and culture tourist town."
The village sat in the middle of nowhere, and since it was the New Year's holidays, very few people were out and about. The few pedestrians that milled about on the roads all glanced curiously at Jiang Xun's car.
"This used to be a normal street, but it looks like they built up a lot of new bars on both sides," Gu Wei said. He gave a cursory introduction of everything that seemed a little interesting. "There's really not much to see around here. If you keep going, the place I used to live will be at the very end of the road.
"Lots of seniors lived here before. Now that it's become something of a tourist town, some younger people are moving back in," Gu Wei continued. "My mom was a bit famous back in H City, but pretty much no one here knew her. She says this is where she grew up, but I've never met her parents."
The little village didn't even have any parking spaces. Jiang Xun could only park at the side of the road.
"This is where you used to live?" Jiang Xun peered out at the very plain and ordinary two-story house before them. He thought of the house Gu Wei had drawn for Chu Yi. Gu Wei hadn't drawn any windows on that house, but the house in front of them clearly had a normal amount of windows.
"I don't know if my key will still work." Gu Wei rummaged through his pocket for the old key he'd managed to find earlier. He inserted the key into the lock, and the front door swung open.
Inside, the furniture all looked the same as it had a few years ago. It was likely that no one had been back here in several years.
"Is that Little Weilai?" asked a neighbor. The man was in his twenties, and he had been curiously eyeing Gu Wei and Jiang Xun ever since they arrived. It was only when Gu Wei opened the door that he recognized the boy.
"Xu Yan-ge?" Gu Wei turned around at the sound of the familiar voice. "I just came back to look around."
"I thought you and your family would never come back. We've heard you're getting pretty famous out in H City." The young man named Xu Yan smiled as he spoke, then turned to Jiang Xun. "And this is…?"
"Boyfriend," Gu Wei said. "I'll talk to you later. We're going to have a look inside first."
"Go ahead, go ahead." The young man sat down in front of his own family's bar and waved at Gu Wei. Then, under his breath, he mused to himself, "He's changed quite a lot."
Gu Wei closed the front door. Inside, the house had a musty odor.
"Little Weilai?" Jiang Xun echoed, repeating the nickname he'd just heard.
Gu Wei didn't harbor much fondness towards that nickname. "Gu Wei sounds better, right? I heard my parents decided, before they divorced, to name me Gu Weilai1. They thought it sounded auspicious. But then they had a big fight when I was born, and my mother had a little too much to drink, so she forgot the last character when she registered my birth. That's how Gu Weilai became Gu Wei."
Jiang Xun was silent.
"That's the one thing I'm grateful to them for," Gu Wei said, half-jokingly. "It's enough that you know 'Wei' is the 'wei' from 'weilai'. That's already auspicious enough for me."
Gu Wei brushed some dust off his hands. "It's been too long since anyone's lived here. I think the water and electricity have been turned off. Let's just look around a bit and leave, okay?"
They did take a stroll through the house, but it had been unoccupied for so long that there truly wasn't much to see. Jiang Xun lingered for a moment in Gu Wei's old room. The walls were full of various prizes and awards Gu Wei had won in elementary school and middle school.
There was also a flower pot on the windowsill, but the plant inside had withered a long time ago. There was no way to tell what Gu Wei had been growing.
"You used to keep flowers?' Jiang Xun asked, pointing to the flower pot.
"I don't remember." Gu Wei's eyes were a little confused and disoriented, like he couldn't even remember when he'd put a flower pot there. "Hey, so… do you really think my fear of sharp objects has something to do with this place?"
Could it really be that he hadn't simply been born with this fear?
"If Chu Yi thinks that's the case, he must have a reason for thinking that," Jiang Xun said. He took a picture of the awards hanging on the wall and sent it to Song Jingxi. "If you can't remember anything, that's fine. Let's go next door and have a look."
Even though it was only five in the evening, the sky was already starting to darken. Next door, a garland of pretty, colorful lights had lit up outside the bar.
It was still New Year's break. Not many people were inside the bar; the atmosphere was a bit cold.
"The only people here now are kids who don't like visiting their relatives over the break. Usually, we're busier," Xu Yan said as he brought Gu Wei and Jiang Xun a drink menu. "Take a look and see if there's anything you'd like to try."
"It's so quiet in here. You don't have a live musician coming in today?" Gu Wei glanced over at the empty stage. "Jiang Xun, I'll sing for you."
"Go ahead," Jiang Xun said indulgently.
Gu Wei constantly practiced all sorts of songs, but he never got tired of performing. There weren't many people in the bar, and the bar belonged to an old acquaintance, so he didn't feel shy. He picked out a slow song, cued the music, and started to sing.
The handful of people scattered around the bar, sitting in groups of two or three, stopped talking and turned to watch his impromptu performance.
Gu Wei hadn't chosen a T.ATW song, but rather an old-timey folk song. His voice was clear and clean, but—
"Pfft, he's gone off-key…" Xu Yan laughed.
"Mm, that last line was off," Jiang Xun agreed. But he still thought Gu Wei sounded good, and Gu Wei soon got back to the right pitch.
Gu Wei was clearly cutting loose. He'd heard this song before, but he'd never practiced it. When he sang, he was obviously only concerned with having some free, unrestrained fun.
"You can take a short video and upload it," Jiang Xun suggested. "Your business will really pick up in a few days if you do."
"Really?" Xu Yan wasn't sure if he could believe that. "He's that popular now?"
"Really," Jiang Xun said. "And if you get me in the shot too, your business will be even better."
Xu Yan didn't know what to make of that.
The windchimes by the door of the bar jingled crisply as a group of new guests arrived.
"It's just some boring old town. Not interesting at all," grumbled the one who stepped in first.
"Oh, come off it, Arare. It's better than sitting at home with your seven or eight gossipy old aunts, isn't it?" said another. "At least it's quiet out here."
Arare was still disgruntled. "We had to drive for half a day, and I got super carsick. I so regret coming out here. If I'd known it was going to be this boring, I would've stayed home and spent all day fawning over my idol."
Her friend laughed and said, "That's all you ever care about. You can't be expecting to see your idol out here, right?"
1. 'Weilai' means 'future'.