By the final week of the season, Jiang Enyuan's fans had started to relax. They believed their idol was a lock for a spot in the Top 5 of the season's celebrity popularity rankings.
But then, contrary to their expectations, Gu Wei's rank began to rise. First, he would surpass Jiang Ying in seventh place. Then he would rise into sixth place. The points gap between him and Jiang Enyuan in fifth would gradually grow smaller and smaller.
It was only then, seeing a prophecy of this bleak future, that Jiang Enyuan's biggest fans panicked. They rushed to Weibo and urged everyone to vote for Jiang Enyuan, but by then it was already far too late.
The little hedgehogs were relentless, and T.ATW's captain Fu Zhi posted to Weibo at the same time—
@T.ATW-FuZhi: I heard someone thinks our Weiwei isn't popular enough. Then, why don't we show him how popular our Weiwei can get? @T.ATW-GuWei
That post was liked by the other three members of T.ATW, as well as the group's official Weibo account. Their fans instantly understood their meaning and focused their attention on sending Gu Wei higher and higher up the rankings. All their fans were united by a fierce fighting spirit.
Jiang Enyuan's fans had clearly realized that this was an important season for him. They tried to rally their forces, but their fighting power paled in comparison to that of Gu Wei's army.
The night after hearing the audio clip, Jiang Xun, who hadn't streamed in several months, announced an impromptu livestream. His fans eagerly rushed into his streaming room and waited for him to go live.
[God Xun is actually streaming?]
[Please stream more often, thank you. It's too hard to catch you streaming these days.]
[I feel so much better every time I watch you stream.]
"Good evening, everyone." Jiang Xun appeared before his viewers, still sitting in TMW's training room as always. The viewers were all familiar with the sight of the room behind him. "I'd like to make a small request before we get started with tonight's stream."
The viewers all responded with the same sentiment: As long as God Xun streamed all night, they would do anything he asked.
And so, they all watched as Jiang Xun sent a link through the stream's chat interface.
"A little kid in my family has been bullied," Jiang Xun said. "He doesn't mind, but I'm furious. So please allow me to trouble you all to help him in the rankings before we get started."
For a moment, all the viewers were silent. This request…
How could they refuse?!
Jiang Xun had never agreed to stream so easily before. If this was his condition, his fans were more than happy to oblige.
But that was only the beginning. Once he started streaming his gameplay, Jiang Xun added—
"You want to know how this move works? Go cast a vote first."
"Want me to play another round? Alright, but let's get some background music. Go stream one of my little friend's songs."
"Hm? You want to see my suppressive fire again? Sure. Go cast a vote."
"If we hit our next target in the rankings, I'll add half an hour to the stream."
And the netizens watching the stream all agreed—
[Vote. We definitely have to vote.]
[Hurry up! If anyone hasn't voted yet, hurry up and do it now.]
[Let me grab my other phone. I'll vote again.]
At the same time, each member of T.ATW released an announcement of their own upcoming livestreams. But they each set a condition that would need to be fulfilled before they streamed; they all asked their fans to vote for Gu Wei. And just like that, all five of them started trending.
Esports fans were fast and ruthless. They clicked the link Jiang Xun sent, voted, and went right back to Jiang Xun's stream without wasting any time. Gu Wei's points soared. Just ten minutes after Jiang Xun started streaming, Gu Wei surged past Jiang Ying in the polls.
As soon as Gu Wei claimed seventh place, Jiang Xun received a message from Jiang Ying.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Ge, what are you doing?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: AggroJiangXun.jpg
[100K Volts]: Someone is bullying a member of our family. Are you going to help or not?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Got it. I heard the audio clip too. I'm pissed.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: My 20 gigs will send him into the spotlight. And that spotlight is going to be his funeral.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Although this is my nemesis, you guys are engaged. So I guess I'll need a new nemesis.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: But, you know, in my opinion… if you're going to fight in the rankings, you gotta fight for real. Get fierce and get some real results. Otherwise you're just like elementary school kiddies fighting on the playground.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Just you wait.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: I'm already rubbing my hands in excitement.
[100K Volts]: Don't trash your own reputation…
Five minutes later, there was some activity from Jiang Ying's Weibo account. He had been silent on Weibo for a long while. And now, under the watchful gazes of millions of netizens, he cast a vote for his nemesis in the season's celebrity popularity poll.
@yingying: Shadow, what's wrong with you? [CryingLaughing.jpg] Is your brother making you do this?
@September Shadow: Your family is really interesting. Why are you all helping Gu Wei get his rank up?
Soon, Jiang Ying put out a new post—
@JiangYingKANI: FFXW is real. For the sake of Jiang Xun's epic love, vote for Weiwei. Thanks. [link]
His shadows were baffled.
"Epic love?" they asked.
The little hedgehogs were also baffled.
"…FFXW is real?" they asked.
In the 'FoodForXunWei' group—
[Holy fuck! This can't be an official announcement, can it?]
In the offices of Xueqing Entertainment, T.ATW's manager Zhao Ya sat with a cup of floral tea and a little biscuit, leisurely watching the numbers come in for the celebrity rankings. She was comfortable. Relaxed.
Suddenly, her cell phone lit up with an alert of a new trending topic on Weibo. Zhao Ya jumped. Her hand shook, and she upended half her cup of tea onto her keyboard.
She stared at her cell phone.
Mu Yue, sitting next to her, looked over and made an inquisitive noise.
"PR. Call PR, right now." She hastily fumbled for the phone to connect to an internal line within their agency. "Where's the press release I prepared?"
Jiang Ying's post was like a stone that sent out a thousand ripples. Even in all the chaos, the three fan bases that had been mobilized didn't stop voting for Gu Wei.
Their multipronged attack was working.
Gu Wei's hedgehogs were still going strong. Tens of thousands of fans continued streaming his music and liking and sharing his content. The content creators in his fan base spent all night putting together promo edits for Gu Wei. Some even put together a compilation of all of Jiang Enyuan's scandals, including the recently leaked audio clip; even passersby who happened upon that compilation were enraged.
The next day, early in the morning, Gu Wei blew past Jiang Enyuan in the rankings. Jiang Ying followed before long, surging into sixth place and leaving Jiang Enyuan in seventh.
Gu Wei received a call from Jiang Xun at noon.
"Busy?" Jiang Xun asked.
"My manager just lectured me. She seems really angry," Gu Wei whispered. He cupped his hand over his mouth, stifling a little laugh.
"What did she say?"
"She said… your little brother can really start shit." Finally, Gu Wei couldn't suppress it anymore. He laughed.
Jiang Xun laughed too.
"We'll have to make the official announcement sooner or later. Just consider this a preview. It's better this way, so people won't be too shocked later on." Jiang Xun didn't seem to care about his little brother's machinations at all. He could tell, just by listening to Gu Wei over the phone, that his little friend was in a good mood.
"By the way," Gu Wei added. "Thank you for helping with my ranking, but don't work too hard. Fifth place is already a very nice surprise for me."
"Why do you think I did anything?" Jiang Xun asked. "You think you got this far because of me?"
Gu Wei moved outside the office. "Isn't that the case?"
"You earned it yourself," Jiang Xun said. "And you deserve even better."
"What are you planning?" Gu Wei asked. He already had a feeling… a premonition of what was to come.
"Don't worry about it. Just focus on preparing for your concert," Jiang Xun said without answering Gu Wei's question. "We agreed, didn't we? You'll dance for everyone, but you'll only cry for me."
Gu Wei fell silent.
It wasn't until that night that Gu Wei realized what Jiang Xun had meant.
Jiang Enyuan had slipped into seventh place overnight. His fans were tired, and most of them had given up on fighting their way back up. They'd shifted their focus to consoling Jiang Enyuan.
[Gege, don't worry about it. We're sending you hugs. Gu Wei is leeching his popularity off so many people. He didn't accomplish anything on his own.]
[That's right, gege. There's no point fighting with him. We're still in the Top 10. That's good!]
[Yeah. What's the point in fighting with a shitty plagiarist anyway?]
Jiang Enyuan himself also figured staying in the Top 10 would be good enough to convince his agency to not give up on him just yet. But, before long, Xueqing Entertainment's official Weibo account made a post announcing a change in their board of directors.
The news didn't concern any celebrities in particular, so most netizens who followed the account just gave it a like and moved on with their lives. There wasn't much to discuss.
However, a few big accounts on Weibo sensed that this meant a big change was coming. They all began to voice their opinions.
[A big change at the top? That always makes me feel like something is going to happen.]
[+1, am waiting.]
That night, T.ATW's official Weibo released a video with little fanfare. Fans clicked into it, thinking it would be a short clip of the boys' daily lives.
But that wasn't the case.
The band's official Weibo account had released a clip of surveillance footage from two years ago. In that surveillance footage, Gu Wei stood in front of a mirror and practiced a piece of choreography over and over again, making small adjustments each time.
Jiang Enyuan stood behind him, watching him work.
This was the very first time T.ATW's official account acknowledged this story. Instantly, netizens were whipped into a frenzy.
"Is this the dance for the single you're releasing next year?"
The audio of the surveillance footage was crisp and clear. It was easy to hear exactly what the two people were saying.
"Yep, for the new song," Gu Wei answered. He accepted a towel that Jiang Enyuan passed him and wiped away some sweat.
"Can you teach it to me?" Jiang Enyuan asked. "I'm not very coordinated, and my manager is always saying my dancing is no good. I could practice with you."
"Sure," Gu Wei said.
The surveillance footage continued. Jiang Enyuan was shown learning the choreography from Gu Wei, bit by bit. Once in a while, when his movements weren't quite right, Gu Wei would correct him. But there were a few difficult steps that Jiang Enyuan never managed to master.
After the video was released, it was shared over ten thousand times in just five minutes. It shocked half the entertainment industry. Every member of T.ATW shared the post, followed by every other artist signed to Xueqing Entertainment. In no time at all, the topic trended.
The date was printed on the upper right corner of the surveillance footage. It clearly predated Jiang Enyuan's first public performance of that piece of dance choreography. All the fans who'd fiercely defended Jiang Enyuan while attacking Gu Wei promptly shut their mouths.
The notoriously combative internet celebrity Jiang Ying chimed in on the matter, making sure to mention Jiang Enyuan directly in his post.
@JiangYingKANI: @JiangEnyuan, it's no big deal if you can't dance. But if you steal someone else's dance? Go get yourself ready for your own funeral, thanks.
At almost the exact same time, Fengxun Entertainment's artist Xuan Huitong made a post to her own Weibo account. She uploaded a video of previously unaired footage from a reality show she'd once participated in.
One of the other guests was Jiang Enyuan.
In that clip, the two of them were chatting. Xuan Huitong pointed out a few details in Jiang Enyuan's choreography that were a bit off. Jiang Enyuan was visibly upset. He pulled a face and muttered, "Impossible. Gu Wei wouldn't make a mistake."
After saying this, he lifted his head with a look of alarm, glancing first at Xuan Huitong, then at all the cameras surrounding them. Of course, that part had been cut from the episode before it aired.
Xuan Huitong was an A-lister, and she was the female lead in Like the Moon. Since the drama was wildly popular, her post also went viral in no time at all. Many new trending tags were born that day.
At just that time, Jiang Xun shared the official T.ATW account's post.
@TMW-Xun: Little Weilai, may your future be bright. [hug.jpg] @T.ATW-GuWei, @T.ATW-Official: [vid]