Everyone in the gym gasped as Xiao Nai stood up, wiped the sweat off his forehead, and then started walking toward the bleachers. Fans whispered in their seats.
What's he doing?!
Bei Weiwei wondered this too.
Pushing away the panic in her brain, she made herself think like Naihe. She’d logged so many hours gaming by his side. By now she could often guess how he'd react to things. Even in social situations, he made choices like a computer playing chess.
Dashen, I know you.... I know you... What are you doing....?
In a flash, she understood:
You're trying to settle things once and for all...!
He was about to do something dramatic. Decisive.
A big public gesture.
Something that might result in a lot of photos on the school's forums...
And then what?
And then Weiwei would be catapulted straight into this relationship. No turning back. No one else would approach her. All other men would assume she was taken. Or maybe worse. People might say she was used goods.
Dating Xiao Nai didn't sound like a bad situation at all! Just the thought of seeing him again--it filled her with nervous anticipation. Maybe they’d meet at Mrs. Jiang's for a second meal...
But... by dating someone like Xiao Nai, she was also signing up to be the target of endless school gossip.
Would she miss out on precious studying time whenever some jealous girl "accidentally" spilled a milk tea on her and she had to dash to the library bathroom to wash out the stain?
What if Er Xi and Sisi come to her crying whenever they read something mean about her online? What if it's the day before a big exam, and she's forced to spend an hour reassuring her friends she's OK?
Plus, what if Xiao Nai turned out to be nothing like Naihe? Unlikely.
But what if we part ways, after two months of face-to-face dates?
If so, will our break-up become “Trending Topic Number One” on campus? It'll be MY reputation that gets torn to pieces! Your possessive fans will say you dumped me! And they'll say it's because I have all kinds of flaws!
Xiao Nai's fans were already his inescapable reality. He already had his own defenses in response. Like his cool and distant persona.
But Weiwei still had a choice. She didn't have to deal with the perpetual pack of wolves. Yet.
On the spot, she had made a decision.
Leaning down, she whispered to Er Xi, "I have to go. I realized I forgot to write a three page essay, due tomorrow."
"What!?" Er Xi looked up at her and shook her sleeve. "Just wait and see what's going on! Senior Xiao Nai's walking this way."
"Not worth my scholarship to wait here and find out."
"Weiwei!" Er Xi sighed, "I thought you were my co-fangirl!"
"You'll just have to give me the full postgame report later," Weiwei said. And then, before her roommate could respond, she quickly made her way down to the front row, then scurried out the gym’s far exit.
She ran home to her dorm room, shut the door, and put her hands in her head to think.
* * * * * * * *
As Xiao Nai begins moving toward the bleachers, his gaze is fixed on his online wife. She's there. There! Seated beside her roommates. Her radiant, dark eyes stare back at him. Every other face around her seems like a blur.
Then he pauses. Weiwei is standing up. Is she moving toward him too?
She hurries down to the court and then starts running along the far courtside, only to leave the gym through the exit furthest away from him. Disappointed for a moment, Xiao Nai watches the last bit of her blouse and blue skirt flutter out of the doorway.
What are you doing, Weiwei?
Then he smiles.
She wants to call the shots.
Like in a basketball game, he’s been setting a quick pace. Maybe she’s like an opponent team pushing back, setting her own pace.
His smile grows. Interesting. Furen has a mind of her own in real life, too. As he already pretty much guessed.