At 11 pm that evening, just as the drama exacerbated to a new height on Weibo, Wen Rui finally saw Zhou Ye's name appear on the trending topics. Someone had done a detailed comparison of Zhou Ye's physique from the back before doing some 'forensics' and deducing the apartment that they were in too, just solely based on the decor of the lobby.
The level of stalking involved would be terrifying if Wen Rui weren't so infuriated.
The post, which was written by one of the online tabloids, concluded with a leading question:
"Hiding a Beauty in a Golden House: Zhou Group's pristine heir finally caught in depravity?"
The post became a trending topic within a blink of an eye. #ZhouGroupHeir#, #ZhouYeWenRui#, #WenRuiKeptBoy# #ZhouYeDandy# climbed up the top ten search queries.
Wen Rui tucked himself deeper into his blankets, rolling into a cocoon to feel more secure, his hands clammy with sweat as he tightened his grip around his phone. Pei Jun was right. This didn't seem like it was the work of CE or even Hong Si anymore. Neither of them would be foolish enough to drag the Zhou Group into this.
Chewing on his lower lip, he contemplated calling Zhou Ye. But what would he say? They'd only shared one short WeChat conversation this entire week and their relationship had always been on thin ice. Wen Rui could apologise but that wouldn't even begin to solve the massive problem on their hands.
In an almost masochistic fashion, he forced himself to scroll through all the posts flaming Zhou Ye and him. He needed to update himself on the situation as much as possible. If he'd dragged Zhou Ye into this mess too, he was going to have to come up with a way to clear Zhou Ye's name for him. High school rivalry aside, this concerned Zhou Ye's reputation and Wen Rui wasn't going to be the one to ruin that.
Just as he was considering the pros and cons of releasing a statement from his personal Weibo, he noticed a new post, also tagged with #ZhouYe# and #WenRui#, that was quickly rising in the popular ranks. He clicked on it, half-expecting it to be filled with the same incendiary nonsense, but as he read through, a funny feeling spread through him.
The original poster was someone called 'SaltedFishBrinjal', a popular gamer with a substantial following for his streams. Wen Rui deduced this from his page but didn't know who he was personally since he didn't usually play FPS. He wasn't sure why someone who didn't look like he would give a damn about the entertainment industry was making a gossipy post like this.
In the post, SaltedFishBrinjal had attached two photographs, which were very familiar to Wen Rui. They were taken from a Yi High School yearbook, and one was of class 3-1, another was of 3-7. In the class 3-1 shot, two faces were circled, one which Wen Rui would recognise in his sleep because it irritated him to no end, and another which Wen Rui saw in the mirror every day.
It was bizarre, to see a shot of himself graduating from high school when his brain kept trying to tell him that he still had a couple of months to go before the ceremony. It was like looking at the life of his doppelganger.
The other photograph was of a scrawny boy with pimples, which SaltedFishBrinjal labelled as himself.
The post read:
[I graduated in the same year as Wen Rui and Zhou Ye from Yi High School (fuck, I didn't want to upload proof because next to those 2 male gods I'm committing social suicide lol but I know some of you haters out there will demand it so here goes nothing).
I know a lot of people are saying that that's ZY from Zhou Group in the pic. And I think it is too. But I also wanna clarify, that's ZY. From ZHOU GROUP. Not ZY the useless second-generation young master that got drunk and crashed his Ferrari at a junction two nights ago. Or ZY the playboy that is now on trial for the molestation of young girls in a private nightclub VIP room. He's the heir of the biggest conglomerate of the country for good reason. You might be wondering why some rando gamer dude is going out of his way to praise some ex-classmate of his.
But it's because I'm also a young master lol. I own a streaming company, a gaming company, and an e-sports team. And I know for a fact that compared to ZY, I'm the dirt beneath my very exasperated father's Louboutins.
Sorry, I'll stop flaunting my wealth now lol. My point is, being the crown prince of the Zhou Group might not be a testament to ZY's character, but it doesn't make him a useless dandy like so many idiots on this platform seem to think he is. Yes, I'm talking to you, all you fake bots used to generate false news.
Lastly, ZY and WR hanging out is weird to you? What, you've never hung out with a classmate after graduation before? You've never hung out with a friend before? You've never hung out with a human being before? Ah, I get it, it's because you're a loser, that's why you don't have anything better to do than to spy on 2 bros just going about their lives. Got it.]
SaltedFishBrinjal's tone was provocative, designed to draw backlash from antis, but it was also a rallying point for Wen Rui's stans and OT4 HEX4 fans. This gamer young master, whose post comments were usually filled with serious fanboys asking for him to impart some flick shot sniping tips, was flooded today with rabid girls and haters here to stir up some shit.
HEX4EVAMINE: [Thank you for your support Big Brother! Ahhhh you were Rui Rui's schoolmate?! What was he like in high school?]
PuddleofRui: [Big Brother SaltedFish is right, so what if Rui Rui really was with Crown Prince Zhou that day? I have close friends from high school and we'll definitely still be in touch in university!]
ScaryFebruary: [What, you cling to your close friends like a limpet too? You sound annoying af IJS, just like your bias]
RuiJunhearteu: [??What, you can't have any physical contact with your friends without everyone suspecting you of being a sugar baby? What is the world coming to?]
Cohless: [Remember that gay marriage has been legalised? So yeah suddenly touching your same-gender friends is the same as touching your other gender friends]
Authetique: [Try looking at this objectively, is it odd for two guys to be this close? No, not really, just because same-sex marriage has been legalised doesn't mean everyone prefers that. And ZY does have a reputation to maintain. As SFB said, he's not an idiot, do you really think he'd go out in broad daylight with a boy toy if there were something fishy going on? Personally, I think they're just friends]
FlashyXiaoQ: [Lol I'm a schoolmate too, yeah sure they're classmates but everyone in the year knows that they hated each other come on]
ReimbusaHEX4: [Don't talk shit if you don't have proof]
OPMingming: [Er I'm their classmate, I don't think their relationship was that bad?]
Chen2000Er: [Their classmate too! <3 I'm pretty sure it wasn't bad at all! A lot of their fights were because ZY's concern got too bossy and WR couldn't take it anymore? >< uwu I always thought they had a lot of cute steamy tension, I know quite a few girls in school would secretly ship them]
Halistone: [Er, guys, can you take the fight somewhere else…SFB's a streamer, no need to bring the drama into a gaming Weibo]
MegaRed: [Ikr girls are scary]
This wasn't the only post like that. One by one, almost as though there was an invisible hand orchestrating it behind the scene, big and small accounts, all proving that they were once Wen Rui's and Zhou Ye's schoolmates, stood up for them. By the time midnight rolled around, Wen Rui had almost been hoodwinked by them into believing that instead of a rivalry, Zhou Ye and he shared the 'Bromance of the Century'.
His WeChat too had blown up, everyone in the once-dead '3-1 2018' group chat rising from their graves to spam Wen Rui, asking if he was okay and offering him their support.
He felt his eyes sting. These guys…to them, he was an ex-classmate that they hadn't been in contact with for ages. But to him, they were friends that he'd been sitting amongst just a couple of days ago, all struggling to stay awake during class because they were the elite batch of their year and had spent too many nights burning the midnight oil together to cram in just a bit more studying.
Wen Rui wasn't stupid. He knew that the amount of effort it would take to coordinate all this required an extensive PR team and he was certain that it wasn't CE's that was responsible for it. Knowing CE, they were waiting to see Zhou Group's reaction, their own interests way more important than Wen Rui's. If Zhou Group had shown any signs of dissatisfaction with Wen Rui, he did not doubt that CE would throw him under the bus.
There was only one person who could have done this, only one person left in Wen Rui's life who would give enough of a shit. Zhou Ye could have chosen to clear his name while leaving Wen Rui in the lurch. His company could have released an official statement saying that Wen Rui had been pestering him. But he hadn't.
He wanted to talk to Zhou Ye suddenly.
But now, it was even harder to start the conversation. Why was it always so easy to blow his top at Zhou Ye? The fiery antagonism that he felt towards Zhou Ye always came so naturally. But now…he wasn't sure he could still treat Zhou Ye like that anymore without feeling guilty.
He typed and then deleted and then typed again, letting out a rueful chuckle when he realised he was doing what Zhou Ye had done that night.
Come to think of it, that poster, Chen2000Er, had a point. Zhou Ye did take care of him, he had even back in high school. But Wen Rui couldn't think of any reason why. Perhaps it was because they were just classmates and that had meant something to Zhou Ye. Maybe he took care of others too, when Wen Rui wasn't looking, which was why he was so popular despite his constantly dour face.
He was just about to compose his tenth new 'thank you' message when Zhou Ye solved his problems for him. Again.
Zhou Ye: ?
Zhou Ye: Rest early
Bossy concern. Cute steamy tension.
Wen Rui's cheeks heated up.