In a certain ancient city, constructed as a film set, a xianxia period movie was being shot.
"Three, two, one…" A member of the crew counted down. "Okay, up you go!"
Gu Wei, dressed in ancient robes, soared through the air, suspended on wires. As described in the stage directions, he flipped in midair and brandished his sword. He swung his blade with a flourish as his robes fluttered all around him. While flying, he delivered his lines.
All the surrounding background actors fell to the ground at the director's command, and Gu Wei gracefully came to a steady, stable stop in midair.
"Good, that's a keeper." The director was extremely satisfied with that take. "Great energy in the eyes, good movements. Once we add the special effects in post, it'll be perfect."
With his background as a dancer, Gu Wei picked up all the stunts with ease. He was good-looking as well, and his acting skills were advancing at the speed of light. The movie's director was typically very strict with his actors. Not only did he have high expectations for their stunts, he forbade them from dubbing in lines after recording. But this director was consistently impressed by Gu Wei's work.
"We don't have any scenes for you in the afternoon," the director said. "Go get some rest."
"Here, wipe your sweat." Gu Wei's assistant Mu Yue handed him a towel. "Want some water?"
The pressure from the harness that had kept Gu Wei in the air left behind some pain. Gu Wei stumbled a few steps when his feet touched the ground again. After steadying himself, he took the towel and wiped at the sweat on his cheeks.
His character in this movie wasn't the main character; he didn't have many scenes or many lines. But every time this character appeared, he flew in gracefully, as though he were as light as a feather. Which meant in nine out of ten of Gu Wei's scenes, he was lifted into the air on wires.
According to his manager, this was a very desirable role. Although it wasn't a leading role, and although it was hard work acting out these scenes, this character was well-liked and the character's actor was sure to gain fans. Gu Wei would certainly advance his career if he did a good job here.
"Didi, the assistant director was just praising you. He said your acting skills have been showing a lot of rapid improvement, and you're very agile," Mu Yue said. She handed Gu Wei a bottle of mineral water. "He said your delivery wasn't quite up to par during your audition, but you've really gotten much better."
"I still need lots of practice," Gu Wei said, smiling. "I'm a long way behind everyone else."
"You're already doing great," Mu Yue reassured, wishing he wouldn't be so modest. "You're not even twenty yet. Your potential is boundless."
Gu Wei could tell that his acting skills truly had improved.
He'd once told Jiang Xun he liked acting, and Jiang Xun had promised to find him a teacher. In truth, Gu Wei had forgotten all about that promise, and he'd never imagined Jiang Xun would actually find someone for him.
With the legendary movie star Jiang Zheng teaching him, how could Gu Wei not improve?
Three months ago, at the end of T.ATW's concert tour, Jiang Xun brought Gu Wei home for acting lessons.
Jiang Xun's father Jiang Zheng was thrilled. His son Jiang Xun was mired in esports, and his other son Jiang Ying only cared about the gossip and scandals in the entertainment industry. Finally, they had someone in their family who genuinely cared about acting. It was only natural that Jiang Zheng eagerly taught Gu Wei everything he knew.
For quite some time, the Jiang family's villa was filled by the sounds of Gu Wei and Jiang Zheng chatting. Song Jingxi sat nearby cracking sunflower seeds, and Jiang Xun was playing video games. Jiang Ying, meanwhile, was taking some of his alt accounts out for a stroll.
"What are you doing?" Gu Wei asked Jiang Ying during one of his breaks.
For a while now, Jiang Ying had been tapping away at his keyboard nonstop. He was clearly typing with the cadence of someone who was fighting with netizens again.
"That coward Jiang Enyuan can't take a beating," Jiang Ying complained. He let out a heavy sigh of disappointment. "He was all tough and fierce when he was instigating attacks against you, but he ran off with his tail between his legs as soon as we turned the tables on him. I'm still sitting on a bunch of dirt that I haven't released yet. I wasn't done playing with him!"
"Your hobby is… very special," Gu Wei praised.
"He never does any real work," Song Jingxi lamented while cracking away at her sunflower seeds. "But I suppose that's fine in this family. Our boys can do whatever makes them happy. Weiwei, that goes for you too. Don't be shy. If you like acting, we'll support you all the way."
Ever since Song Jingxi learned of Gu Wei's past from Jiang Xun, she had become determined to spoil him rotten. She was heartbroken for the poor thing, and she had gotten into the habit of buying him things every other day, saying she had to make up for everything he didn't receive as a child.
"What are you still sitting on?" Jiang Xun glanced over at Jiang Ying's monitor. "What the hell is all this on your hard drive? Gu Wei, 5 gigs. Jiang Enyuan, 20 gigs. Who's the one marked 50 gigs? Who do you have 50 gigs of dirt on?"
Gu Wei stared in silence.
Who was… 'enjoying' such a large piece of real estate on Jiang Ying's laptop?
Jiang Ying quickly closed his laptop. "It's nothing, it's nothing. Just a personal hobby, not worth mentioning."
Before anyone could question him further, he swiftly changed the subject: "When are you two getting your marriage license? You only got engaged. Everyone's impatient. Netizens are even bugging me about it on Weibo. Be good, go get your marriage certificate, and show it off on Weibo. Do I really have to be the one to teach you these things?"
"We'll wait for Weiwei to finish filming his movie," Jiang Xun said. "We're not as busy near the end of the year. What are you in such a hurry for?"
"You can start thinking about the wedding ceremony too," Song Jingxi called out from off to the side. "I want the best for Weiwei."
And that was three months ago.
On set, Gu Wei finished getting out of his costume and makeup, then took a call from Jiang Xun.
"You're done, right? I'll wait for you outside," Jiang Xun said. "Remember to put on a coat."
Jiang Xun had visited him on set countless times, and each time he ordered plenty of food and drinks for the cast and crew when he arrived. It got to the point that other members of the cast and crew would regularly ask Gu Wei whether or not Jiang Xun would be visiting that day.
"Are you hurt?" Jiang Xun asked as soon as Gu Wei climbed into the car.
Being suspended in midair was no easy feat. To achieve a light, airy, and graceful aesthetic, Gu Wei's costume was extremely thin. The harness would often leave him with green and purple bruises. Recently, Jiang Xun hadn't gotten too aggressive while bullying Gu Wei. Maybe he felt bad for Gu Wei, or maybe he was just dissatisfied; either way, he often complained about the injuries Gu Wei sustained on set.
"Just a bit," Gu Wei said.
"We're going to Mom's place today," Jiang Xun said. "She said she made dumplings."
"Sounds good," Gu Wei said.
Gu Wei was usually very busy nowadays. On the rare occasions he had time off, he typically went over to Jiang Xun's own house. His visits to the Jiang family's villa were more infrequent, so he was still quite curious about the secrets in Jiang Xun's old bedroom.
"What are you looking at?" Jiang Xun asked. He found Gu Wei in his room after dinner, sprawled out on the bed, flipping through a photo album.
"I wanna see what our 'Lonely Xun' looked like," Gu Wei said, ducking his head to hide a smile. He flipped a page and said, "Mom just brought this over."
This photo album contained a record of Jiang Xun's life, from childhood to now. Song Jingxi was rather sentimental about these things, and she was adamant about taking photos of Jiang Xun and Jiang Ying every year.
Gu Wei didn't have any photos commemorating each year of his life, so he found this sort of album extremely interesting.
"This photo…" Gu Wei stopped on one page of the album. "Where did you take it? This place looks familiar."
"Which one?" Jiang Xun sat next to Gu Wei and pulled the photo album closer. "Oh, this one."
In that photo, Jiang Xun was barely over twenty. He was sitting in a small restaurant, surrounded by his teammates.
"Back then, TMW wasn't very well-known yet. If we couldn't get results, then we were nobodies," Jiang Xun explained. "I think this restaurant was near Jiu High. We'd just gotten some mediocre results in a tournament, and we were feeling pretty down. So we decided to stop somewhere and eat to calm ourselves down."
"Near Jiu High?" That was a familiar name to Gu Wei. "Then I… might have seen you."
Three years ago, Jiang Xun was twenty-one. Gu Wei was sixteen.
At sixteen, Gu Wei was still attending high school. He would have been at the end of his first year. He'd received his final report card and his diagnosis of depression at almost the exact same time.
Mild depression and insomnia took a toll on him. The doctors had advised him to reside at the hospital for a while for treatment, and Gu Cai had advised him to join the entertainment industry to find more people to talk to.
Gu Wei, however, had still wanted to take his college entrance exams.
He remembered sitting in a little restaurant, wearing his high school uniform. He'd stared at his report card while four people, a few years older than him, sat one table over.
"Alright," someone from the neighboring table had said. "Quit moping. Why do we all look like our spirits have been broken, huh?"
Gu Wei lifted his head and glanced listlessly at the table next to him.
"Hey, the good-looking didi over there." The person who had just spoken waved Gu Wei over. "Come take a photo for us."
The speaker handed him a cell phone, which had a small pikachu strap attached.
Gu Wei could tell the owner of the cell phone was several years older than him, and yet he stilled like pikachu-themed stuff?
Absently, Gu Wei gave the pikachu charm a squeeze, and it actually emitted a 'pika-pika' noise.
As he stared at the pikachu charm hanging from the phone, Gu Wei suddenly felt his lips curve into a smile. His poor mood, which had plagued him all day, finally brightened.
"You look even better when you smile," the older boy said. "Take a picture for us, didi."
Gu Wei did as he was told, and after that short exchange, the mood at both their tables seemed to brighten.
"Good-looking didi, what's your name?" asked the person who'd requested the photo.
At just that moment, Gu Wei's cell phone began to ring. He nodded to the other boy, offered a small smile, and fetched his own phone from his table to take Gu Cai's call outside.
By the time Gu Wei reentered the restaurant, the guys at the table next to his were gone. On his seat, there was a cup of milk tea. The owner of the shop said it was from the guys who'd just left.
The little restaurant's milk tea was just okay. It was too sweet, to the point that it was almost cloying. But Gu Wei sat there and drank the whole cup. After he finished, he felt better than he had in ages.
The bleak future no longer seemed so bleak.
"So you were the one who took this photo." Back in the present, in Jiang Xun's room, Jiang Xun looked down at the photo album with surprise.
"I didn't realize either," Gu Wei said, smiling. "I never imagined the people I photographed back then would become the formidable Team TMW."
"Neither did I," Jiang Xun said. "I never imagined the good-looking didi who didn't get a chance to tell me his name would become a popular celebrity."
Before they were famous, before they existed in the public eye, they'd met as ordinary people.
Before they were dazzling stars in the sky, they'd already warmed each other's lives.
Neither of them had anticipated stumbling upon such an unlikely coincidence while flipping through old photographs.
"It wasn't a coincidence," Jiang Xun said as he closed the photo album and swept Gu Wei into his arms. "We were meant to be."