Gu Wei lifted his hand to his lips and brushed a kiss over the ring on his finger. In a sea of little hedgehogs, Jiang Xun echoed the same gesture.
"I really like you all so much, and… I like you so much too."
Yi Qing and Arare, on either side of Jiang Xun, had nearly cheered and sobbed themselves hoarse. Somewhere in the crowd, someone screamed Jiang Xun's name.
Gu Wei waved at the crowd and didn't say anything more. The stage lights dimmed again, and T.ATW's first concert of the tour began in earnest.
The concert was high-energy from beginning to end. T.ATW had never prepared more thoroughly for a performance before. Each member brought their best to the stage. The final song was their debut track, which they had carried with them for the past two years.
Though it was a lively, lighthearted song, many of the fans in the audience began to cry as they sang along.
Because everyone knew, for T.ATW, it hadn't been an easy two years.
At the end of the concert, the captain Fu Zhi stood at center stage and thanked everyone. "We want to continue walking down this road with all of you, forever."
Then, he led the other four in a deep bow of earnest gratitude.
Fans in the crowd called out their names over and over again, reluctant to see them go.
After the concert, the core members of the little hedgehogs' defense squad planned on taking a group photo outside the venue.
"Doll, is Edible Crab coming?" Arare asked, turning to Yi Qing. The three other hedgehogs waiting for the group photo had already asked Arare that same question.
"I'll ask," Yi Qing said, before suddenly looking up.
Mu Yue stepped out from backstage and smiled at the few of them, waving them over. "The five of you, please follow me."
The small band of little hedgehogs followed Mu Yue backstage. Gu Wei was sitting in a dressing room, talking to Jiang Xun. He looked up when the door opened and saw that it was Mu Yue.
"Hi guys," he greeted.
Arare survived. She was relatively stable, seeing as she'd already happened upon Gu Wei in that small, remote village. Senbei and the other two hedgehogs, on the other hand, shrieked their heads off.
"We agreed to take a group photo," Jiang Xun said, standing up. "Come on."
After getting over their initial shock, the girls unfurled the big banner they had prepared in advance. They crowded around Jiang Xun, sandwiching him in the middle.
"You guys don't want me in the group photo?" Gu Wei asked.
"Of course we do!" Senbei exclaimed. Her voice was still high and shrill with excitement. "Can we?!"
"Of course." Gu Wei moved to stand next to Jiang Xun and raised two fingers in a victory sign for the camera.
After the photos were taken, the little hedgehogs giddily took their leave. It was only then that Gu Wei turned to Jiang Xun and asked, "Why did you want to take a group photo all of a sudden?"
"Because I like you," Jiang Xun said. "Of course, I want to take good care of your little hedgehogs, but I'm also your genuine fan."
"I see, Miss Bread Crab," Gu Wei said, casually ripping the veil off of Jiang Xun's secret identity.
"You're getting bolder and bolder," Jiang Xun mused.
"Manager Zhao just sent out the press release," Fu Zhi announced after knocking on the door. He poked his head in and reminded, "Weiwei has the next three days off, so whether or not you respond to media inquiries is up to you."
The official press release addressing the relationship between Jiang Xun and Gu Wei more or less said—
It's exactly what it looks like.
This time, netizens could no longer remain blind to the truth.
[Gu Wei even kissed his ring on stage at the concert. It's obvious. It really is exactly what it looks like!]
[Understood, understood. I wish them a lifetime of joy!]
[Have they applied for their marriage license yet? Hurry, hurry! Why wait?]
[I heard that someone screamed Jiang Xun's name at tonight's concert. Those two really are well-suited for each other.]
[Jiang Xun was there. Someone got a picture of him.]
[Now I can finally shout it loud and proud. FFXW IS REAL!!!]
As #TheCloudsPart began to trend on Weibo, Jiang Ying got online to answer some questions.
Q: Do you still consider Gu Wei your nemesis?
@JiangYingKANI: Sorry, we're family now, so I'll be looking for my next nemesis.
Q: Are Jiang Xun and Gu Wei really together?
@JiangYingKANI: Didn't I already say that? Ah, you guys are really letting me down with your subpar reading comprehension skills.
Q: Then, how much has their relationship developed so far?
@JiangYingKANI: I'm pretty concerned about that too. If they're really stalled, I'll give them another push.
"Ready to go?" Jiang Xun stood behind Gu Wei and lightly pinched his cheek. "There's someone who's waiting to see you."
The person who wanted to see Gu Wei was sitting in the living room of the Jiang family's villa, waiting for Gu Wei to return.
Song Jingxi didn't know what Gu Wei had gone through in his youth; when Gu Wei's mother came looking for him, Song Jingxi had good-naturedly invited her to stay and wait for the boys to get back.
Gu Wei hadn't seen Ling Yixuan in nearly five years. She felt almost like a stranger to him now. Ling Yixuan had a two- or three-year-old girl with her, and there was a strong resemblance between her and the little girl.
"Weiwei, it's been a while," Ling Yixuan greeted, looking and sounding a bit exhausted. She pointed to the child next to her. "This is your little sister."
"Right, long time no see." Gu Wei held tight to Jiang Xun's hand and avoided the subject of the little girl.
"I couldn't get in touch with your father, so I had to find you here," Ling Yixuan said. "You're so popular now that it's been hard to get in touch with you."
"Weiwei just finished performing a concert," Jiang Xun said, almost offhandedly. "He needs to rest."
"Then I'll keep it short," Ling Yixuan said. She could tell there was a deeper meaning in Jiang Xun's words. "A few days ago, I saw the news on Weibo. You two are going to get engaged?"
"Yes," Jiang Xun said. "But we're not 'going' to. We're already engaged."
Jiang Xun took Gu Wei's hand; a matching pair of wedding bands sparkled on their fingers. Song Jingxi smiled as soon as she saw them. She had been a screenwriter in the entertainment industry for many years; she knew how to read these people. It was obvious to her that Jiang Xun's words carried some hostility.
"You're not even twenty yet. Your life has yet to begin," Ling Yixuan said to Gu Wei. "Marriage isn't a game for children. What if you regret it later? What will you do?"
"I won't regret it," Gu Wei said, shaking his head. "I'm not… I'm not like you."
After a moment, he added, "And… to me, the moment I met Jiang Xun was the moment my life began."
Meeting Jiang Xun. Meeting T.ATW. That was when he'd started to feel truly alive.
The old memories that had resurfaced left an unignorable mark on him. When he heard Ling Yixuan raise her voice, just slightly, he began to tremble.
"Auntie Ling." Jiang Xun stepped in front of Gu Wei, shielding him and blocking his line of sight. "It's like you said. Marriage isn't a game for children. You gave birth to your son, but you didn't treat him well. So, when it comes to important matters in his life, let Weiwei make his own choices."
Jiang Xun pulled Gu Wei out of the house without another word. Even when they arrived back at Jiang Xun's own house, Gu Wei was still in a sort of trance. He thought Ling Yixuan had stopped caring about him a long time ago; he'd never expected her to show up at a time like this.
His feelings towards her were complicated. She had made him feel pain and sorrow, but he truly couldn't bring himself to hate her.
If they could simply wish each other well, that would be the best state of coexistence for Gu Wei.
"Don't worry, Mom will give her a good talking to," Jiang Xun said. "I worked hard to chase you and captivate you, Weiwei. No matter what, I won't let go. If I'd known she wanted to say this sort of thing to you, I wouldn't have let her see you.
"You already have my ring. If you want to run away now, I'll stop being your fan right away."
Song Jingxi had an impressive mouth. She could talk and talk until her conversational partner felt dizzy and helpless to do anything but agree with whatever she was saying. Jiang Xun had once suspected that that was exactly how Song Jingxi had gotten Gu Cai to agree to their sons' engagement.
"It's not just you chasing me." Gu Wei smiled. "I… like you too."
"When did you start liking me?" Jiang Xun asked, pushing Gu Wei into his own territory.
"I don't know," Gu Wei huffed. He wasn't happy about admitting it.
"Was it when I helped you with your script? Or when I taught you to play our game? Or when I called you my 'young bride'?" Jiang Xun paid close attention to Gu Wei's reaction as he asked each question. "Ah, got it. It was when I called you my 'young bride'. Weiwei likes to be bullied by me, right?"
"Wrong," Gu Wei retorted. He refused to answer any of those other accusations and stooped down to pick up MVP instead.
"Weiwei." Jiang Xun took the corgi from Gu Wei. He set MVP back down on the ground, gave it a pat on the butt, and sent it totterring away in high spirits. "I didn't steal you away from your mother and bring you back here for you to play with MVP."
Gu Wei was silent for a moment. "…then what am I here to do?"
"You don't have to do anything," Jiang Xun said. "I'll do it all."
Gu Wei was silent for a moment longer.
"But you said I just had a concert and needed to rest," Gu Wei protested.
"I don't remember that," Jiang Xun claimed. "I have to do something, don't I? To make sure they all know you're mine."
"I'll take a shower first," Gu Wei said hastily. He hadn't brought anything with him, so Jiang Xun lent him a set of his own pajamas.
"The sooner you come out," Jiang Xun reminded, "the sooner we can get some rest."
Gu Wei stayed in the bathroom for a long time. After getting out of the shower, he wrapped himself up in a bathrobe and stood in front of the sink. Droplets of water dripped down from his hair, caressing his cheeks and trickling down his neck. He knew what Jiang Xun was talking about, but he…
He was nervous.
Those who grew up lacking affection often struggled to accept intimacy later in life. For Gu Wei, every step in their physical relationship was a difficult one for him to take.
But Gu Wei did understand what Jiang Xun meant. And he didn't want to make Jiang Xun wait. He just… inevitably, still felt some hesitation.
"What are you thinking about?" Jiang Xun's voice came from behind him. "You've been in there for hours, Weiwei. If I didn't come in, would you have hidden in here all night?"
"I wasn't…" Gu Wei tried to explain himself, but Jiang Xun covered his mouth.
"No talking," Jiang Xun said. "No more explanations."
Gu Wei could sense that Jiang Xun was a little displeased, so he obediently swallowed the rest of his words. Soon afterwards, a soft band of cloth slipped over his eyes, darkening his vision. Gu Wei felt a little uneasy at the temporary loss of his sight. He wanted to ask what Jiang Xun was doing, but suddenly remembered Jiang Xun had forbidden him from speaking.
So he could only purse his lips and shift restlessly.
Jiang Xun patted him on the back, reassuring him.
The blindfolded Gu Wei was extremely well-behaved. Because he was nervous, his breathing quickly grew shallow. His lips parted just slightly, and his cheeks were still reddened from the heat of his recent shower.
The little idol who was so dazzling on stage leaned into Jiang Xun's arms in that moment, meek and obedient. The more Jiang Xun looked at him, the more he wanted to bully him.
"Staying in here and not coming out," Jiang Xun mused. "Can I take that to mean… you want to do it here?"
Jiang Xun suddenly lifted Gu Wei in his arms and set him down on the edge of the sink.
A long while later, Jiang Xun pulled back and carried Gu Wei into the bathtub.
"Little Weilai, do you like me?" Jiang Xun asked.
"I like you…" Gu Wei could only mumble the words. He had no strength left in his body.
"Are you satisfied?" Jiang Xun pursued.
Gu Wei was silent. He relaxed in the bathtub and fell asleep.
Jiang Xun kissed him and carried him into their bedroom. He turned off all the lights, and they finally got some sleep.
After five months of isolation, Gu Cai completed the script of a historical tragedy and reentered the land of the living.
His first order of business was written on a sticky note:
Break the engagement.
Jiang Xun had kept Gu Wei up very late the night before. Early in the morning, he was woken by the noisy buzzing of his cell phone.
"Mom, what is it?" Jiang Xun whispered. He'd taken the call, but he kept his voice to a whisper, worried about waking Gu Wei.
He listened as Song Jingxi spoke, echoing a few key words:
"Call off the engagement?"
"…Gu Wei says he isn't satisfied?"
Jiang Xun looked over at the peacefully sleeping Gu Wei next to him and slowly curved his lips into a smile. "Mm, okay. I got it. I understand."