Arare froze before her friend even finished speaking.
Her friend looked over, confused.
"M-m-m-m-m… MY IDOL?!" Hearing the voice drifting out from the far end of the bar, Arare turned her gaze to the stage and promptly let out a shriek. "Ah, ah, ahhhhhh, I'm seeing my idol on my trip, I can't, I can't!"
Her friend looked even more confused now. She hastily clapped a hand over Arare's mouth.
"That's Weiwei!" Arare exclaimed as her friend dragged her into a corner. "That's definitely my idol! I've saved thousands of photos of him, I can recognize him from any angle, whether it's the side or the front or the back."
Arare took several deep breaths and did her best to get her emotions under control. "This is amazing. This divine town you've brought me to is amazing. You're the best. You really understand me better than anyone."
Arare's friend was still silent.
Who was it who'd just called this place a shitty little hellhole?
"Your idol… his name is Gu Wei, right?" Arare's friend asked after racking her brain to remember. After a moment, she felt she had to drizzle a little rain on Arare's parade. "Look, think about it. Your idol is a celebrity, right? He's at least internet-famous. Do you really think he would spend his New Year's break singing folk songs in a place like this? Wouldn't he be home, celebrating with his family? He's not even singing one of his own group's songs."
This friend thought she'd made a very sensible argument.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bar, Gu Wei finished the folk song and flipped through the other songs Xu Yan had available. He soon found one that T.ATW had released last year.
"It's still a bit quiet," Gu Wei mused to himself. "Should we get pumped up?"
And with that, he started to sing one of his own group's songs.
Arare promptly lost her entire mind, and her friend could no longer do anything to dampen her excitement.
"Quick, if you have any other arguments, make them now or forever hold your peace," Arare said. She slapped a nearby table and wailed, "Ahhhhh, Weiwei, I can't believe I found you here of all places!"
Arare's friend had no choice but to shut up.
A fast-paced song could indeed change the atmosphere in a room. Instantly, the bar livened up.
"Has this little gege debuted yet?" someone called out. "With that face and that voice, he could beat tons of today's celebrities in popularity."
"Boss, the new singer you hired is pretty good," someone else praised.
"See, I told you." Jiang Xun and Gu Wei's old neighbor were still chatting.
"Compared to the way he used to be, he really has changed a lot," said Xu Yan, Gu Wei's old neighbor.
"What was he like before?" Jiang Xun asked.
"Before… he seemed like a very quiet kid. Very nice and well-mannered, but he didn't like to talk much," Xu Yan said. "The neighbors all liked him, but he and his family suddenly moved away one day. I never thought he'd come back."
"Do you still remember what his family was like?"
"His family… well, if you're his boyfriend then you should already know. It's a bit complicated. Divorced parents and all that." Xu Yan furrowed his brows. "The people around here all said his mother was a kind and warm person, while his dad in the city was just some useless old man. But I think those people might not have known the full story."
"What makes you say that?" Jiang Xun asked.
Gu Wei started yet another song, waving at Jiang Xun from afar before lightly banging on the drum kit a bit. Jiang Xun lifted his glass to Gu Wei in a toast and took a sip.
"I remember once, through my window next door, I saw him out in the backyard late at night. It was the middle of winter, and he was only wearing one layer. He looked like he had some sort of injury on his face, and he was crying. By the time I went out there, he was already gone." Xu Yan paused for a moment after reminiscing on that memory. "Who could have hit him, in the middle of the night, if not his mother?"
"Did he ever talk about that?" Jiang Xun asked.
"No. It was like it never happened."
Jiang Xun tightened his hand around his drink. He picked up the half-full glass, then heavily set it back down again.
In his everyday life, Gu Wei was surrounded by people wherever he went. It was rare for him to get a chance to perform in a quiet place. After singing a few tracks, his excitement finally began to fade, allowing him to realize he was getting tired.
One of the bar servers came up to the stage with a tray and presented an exquisitely-made cocktail to Gu Wei.
Gu Wei blinked. "…but I didn't order this?"
"The gentleman by the window ordered it for you." The server pointed over to a window where a few guests were seated; they were the ones who had been calling for Gu Wei to debut a moment ago.
"Sorry, he doesn't really drink." A hand appeared in front of Gu Wei, blocking the server from delivering the cocktail.
Arare's friend had spent the past half hour listening to Arare's little 'ah, ah, ah' sounds. Finally, she heard a different sound. Arare, playing back the video clips she'd just recorded, suddenly dropped her phone. It hit the ground; the screen shattered.
"Ah, it shattered," Arare murmured, as though in a daze. "How nice."
"What's the matter with you?" her friend said. "This is such a good opportunity. Why don't you go ask for a photo or an autograph?"
"No, I won't." Arare only looked at Gu Wei and Jiang Xun from afar, tearfully shaking her head. "Fans need to keep themselves out of their idol's personal life. It's enough for me to watch him from here."
That night, while she was gaming, Yi Qing received a video from Arare.
[Sunny Doll]: !!!
[Sunny Doll]: Where did you take this?
[Arare]: The little town I told you about yesterday.
[Arare]: I've been converted. I ship this now. Please invite me to the group. Thank you.
"Take your time, have a chat." Xu Yan could sense that Gu Wei and Jiang Xun had something to talk about. He excused himself and got up to help out at the bar.
"Did you have fun singing?" Jiang Xun asked. He passed Gu Wei the fruit wine he'd ordered earlier.
"Didn't you say you weren't going to let me drink?" Gu Wei asked.
"You can't drink what someone else ordered for you. It's fine if it's from me." Jiang Xun placed a long, rectangular box on the table between them. "Do you want to set off some fireworks?"
"Sparklers? Where did you get them?" The fruit wine was sweet and aromatic. When Gu Wei spoke, the scent of wine was already heavy on his breath.
"From your neighbor," Jiang Xun said. "That's one good thing about these little towns. No one really cares if you set off fireworks."
When the two of them arrived earlier that afternoon, the streets had been littered with countless fireworks wrappers. It really gave the place a sense of New Year's spirit.
"Then let's go back to my house," Gu Wei suggested. "No one will disturb us in the yard."
Jiang Xun and Gu Wei's neighbor had gotten along great. In just a short amount of time, Jiang Xun had scored them a whole box of assorted fireworks. Gu Wei sat on the steps of his house while he watched Jiang Xun bend over and light up two fountain fireworks. As he watched, Gu Wei smiled wider and wider, feeling a little intoxicated by the sight alone.
"What's on your mind?" Jiang Xun asked. The ends of the hand-held fireworks were sharp. Jiang Xun didn't hand them to Gu Wei, instead clutching them tightly in his own hand, carefully hiding the points from view.
"I'm thinking about the drama that's about to air," Gu Wei answered truthfully.
"Why are you suddenly thinking about that now?" Jiang Xun asked. His voice was soft and warm, as though he didn't want to scare or startle Gu Wei.
"Don't laugh if I tell you," Gu Wei warned. He felt a little uncertain, but eventually continued, "…you remember Miao Zihan, right? My character in the drama? There was that scene where I leapt off the balcony on the second floor. The director had me do that stunt a bunch of times before he was satisfied. I'm just suddenly realizing… the second floor of Miao Zihan's house is pretty similar to the second floor of this house."
"And what about you?" Jiang Xun asked. He wasn't smiling; it was a serious question. "You and him. Are you similar?"
At first, Gu Wei couldn't figure out why Jiang Xun had asked such a question. The fountain fireworks Jiang Xun had lit gradually went out, leaving only the sparks flying out from the firework in Jiang Xun's hand.
As those sparks flew through the night air, Gu Wei suddenly felt like he was starting to understand the purpose of their trip.
"What I said before, about the me of ten years ago…"
In that moment, it was like time ran in reverse. Gu Wei suddenly saw himself, at the age of nine—
It was night. The lights in the two-story house were on. A flower pot sat on the windowsill. Inside the pot was a cactus that the nine-year-old Gu Wei had bought from a stall in front of his school.
"Do you want to learn to dance or not?
"I've taught you so many times. Why can't you just do it?"
Fury twisted the woman's pretty, delicate face. The nine-year-old Gu Wei cowered by the window. Too afraid to speak, too afraid to move.
Similar scenes had played out countless times in Gu Wei's childhood years. Ling Yixuan was typically very warm and gentle, but when she taught Gu Wei to dance, she had no patience. She lost her temper. If Gu Wei just didn't speak, if he didn't argue or resist, he would usually be able to weather her anger and escape unscathed.
But this time, things were different.
"Why are you as useless as your father?!" Li Yixuan sobbed. "He's never going to get anywhere writing those scripts of his. Do you want to end up just like him?"
"…I remembered," said the Gu Wei of the present, many years later. He sat in the yard of his old house and tightly gripped Jiang Xun's sleeve. "I remembered why I would sink so deeply into Miao Zihan's life when I filmed those scenes."
Because, in their lives, there were many overlapping pieces.
That night, when Gu Wei was nine years old, Ling Yixuan's gaze had landed on the potted cactus on the windowsill.
"Why do you have to buy these useless things every day?!" she demanded. Rage was making her lose all sense of reason. She upended the flower pot and grabbed Gu Wei's hand, forcing it down onto the spikes of the cactus.
"Don't be afraid," Jiang Xun whispered. Gu Wei was trembling in his embrace. Jiang Xun knew words alone wouldn't be enough to console Gu Wei. He soothingly rubbed his hand over Gu Wei's back as well.
"I… I'm okay, actually." Although he trembled, his heart felt strangely at peace. This long-buried memory had finally resurfaced, and it felt almost like a cure. He was much calmer than he'd expected. "So this… this is why I'm afraid of sharp objects. I'd forgotten all about it."
Gu Wei had only remembered Ling Yixuan holding him afterwards, apologizing over and over again. He'd forgotten the most important part.
The pain and suffering he'd experienced had been buried for many years, hidden from his conscious mind. But those memories remained, deep in his subconsciousness. That was why, when faced with sharp objects, he instinctively reacted with fear.
Now that he was thinking about it, he was starting to feel like there was really nothing to be afraid of.
"Chu Yi said repressing memories could be a form of protecting your mind, but there's no guarantee those memories wouldn't hurt you in the future. Only by remembering can you confront your fear," Jiang Xun said. "If only I'd met you sooner. I would have stood outside your house every day, waiting for a chance to take you away."
Gu Wei imagined that and felt his lips curve into a smile.
"Now that you remember, do you hate her?" Jiang Xun asked.
Gu Wei shook his head. His breathing had evened out again. "No, I don't. Hating is a waste of time. I have more important things to do."
They weren't here to reopen old wounds. They were paving a path to the future.
Gu Wei reached for Jiang Xun's hand and pried open his fingers, exposing the sharp end of the sparkler he held. Slowly, Gu Wei reached out, daring to touch the pointed end. He still shook a little, and he still felt a bit anxious, but he didn't experience the intense wave of dizziness that usually assaulted him when he saw sharp objects.
"Okay, that's enough. It's already more than enough." Jiang Xun took Gu Wei into his arms again, holding him close. "We'll take it slow."
"Actually, the choreography I did for our first single was a way for me to say farewell to the past," Gu Wei murmured. Their surroundings were so quiet that he felt safe in saying all these things to Jiang Xun. Things he normally wouldn't ever bring up. "But it was taken away from me."
"You'll get it back," Jiang Xun said.
This was the Gu Wei he loved. Despite all the suffering he'd endured in the past, both in his childhood and afterwards, Gu Wei still loved to dance.
"I'm glad I remembered, or this trip would have been a waste," Gu Wei said, breathing a sigh of relief. "This town is really too far from home."
"Who says it would have been a waste?" Jiang Xun asked.
Gu Wei blinked, uncomprehending.
Then he felt Jiang Xun take his hand. Something cold, ice cold, slipped onto his finger. Jiang Xun slowly pushed it down, letting it settle at the base.
"Let's get engaged, Weiwei."
By the time Gu Wei came to his senses, Jiang Xun had laid a hand at the nape of his neck, urging him to tilt his head up. The small, colorful lights from the neighboring bar twinkled in the night, making Gu Wei feel as though he were in a dream.
Jiang Xun's kiss brought him back to reality. Except for their first kiss, each of Jiang Xun's kisses could only have been described as chaste. But this kiss was different.
Gu Wei suddenly remembered what Jiang Xun had said to him before going into isolated training.
"The next time you see me, I'll be very fierce."
"I haven't said 'yes' yet," Gu Wei whispered.
"Go ahead and try saying 'no'," Jiang Xun said, just as fiercely as he'd promised. "I don't care if you have a gig anytime soon."
Gu Wei hadn't known a simple kiss could arouse such intense flames inside a person, and Jiang Xun was still pouring fuel on those flames. He nipped lightly at Gu Wei's lower lip, as though still dissatisfied by Gu Wei's response, and pinched Gu Wei's cheek to make him behave.
"With just this much, Gu Weiwei can't handle it anymore?
"Then, I wonder what we'll do in the future. Will I have to teach you everything, from the beginning?"
Gu Wei was silent.
He couldn't speak. The night air was cold, but his body was flushed with heat.
Gu Wei, panting slightly, finally pushed Jiang Xun away and backed up two steps. Underneath the porch light, he lifted his hand and saw the band on his finger.
The 'proper' celebration… was truly quite satisfying.
During the New Year's break, countless people stayed up all night. A short video clip, uploaded in the dead of night, was quickly liked and shared and sent up the trending topics list.
The video had been taken at a bar, and it featured a singer performing live music on stage.
The caption: I heard my bar is going to be popular now?
The comments count below the post was rising at the speed of light—
[Why is this video so popular?]
[Who's the singer? He's really cute. Can someone clue me in?]
[It sounds like a T.ATW song. Is this Gu Wei?]
[Weiwei seems so happy in this video. He's even messing around on the drums, lol!]
[@JiangXun, why is our Weiwei singing at some bar over the New Year's break? Aren't you taking care of him?]
[@JiangXun, where are you?]
[Which bar is this? Can we get an address? I want to go over and check it out.]
[It's in a pretty remote village that just became a tourist town. I went with my friend today, and just happened to see my idol there. I've been walking on air ever since.]
[What kind of luck does the previous commenter have? I'm jealous.]
[This is a celebrity? Well, fuck me. I was at this bar today, and I was telling the little gege that he should debut. Turns out he's already famous, huh?]
[Is Gu Wei still there? Is it too late if I go now?]
[Timeout. We don't need to @ Jiang Xun anymore. I can hear someone speaking in this video, just off to the side. It's Jiang Xun.]