Huo Ren suddenly found himself enveloped in a warm and strong embrace, his mind a mess.
Even the sharp pain at the corner of his eyebrow seemed negligible.
There were so many people around.
And Teacher was actually holding him.
“Tea… Teacher.” He weakly hugged back and whispered, “Please let me go first.”
Pei Ruye maintained the position, turning his head to Uncle Jiang, “You go rest first, I’ll take care of things here.”
Uncle Jiang didn’t expect that Boss Pei would come to check on them after working overtime for four or five days straight, “Is your live broadcasting platform set up?”
“It’s being adjusted. I can work remotely, it’s not a problem.”
Pei Ruye stretched out his hand to rub the tip of the boy’s ear, and the boy let out a low whine.
“How grown up you are, still acting spoiled with Teacher,” Uncle Jiang scratched his head and staggered to his feet, “I am really exhausted. I gave the original documents to Assistant Zhang, make sure to check them.”
“Alright, don’t worry about this end.”
“The doctor said whether there will be scars depends on the recovery,” Uncle Jiang took a couple of steps but still couldn’t relax, “Boss Pei, if you know someone who is experienced in this area, please also help to contact them.”
“I definitely will, go get some sleep.”
“I’m getting old… I can’t stay up like this…”
After Uncle Jiang left, Pei Ruye patted the boy’s shoulder.
Huo Ren silently let go and laid back down on the table to be by himself.
Before Teacher arrived, he could endure the pain on his own, and would dare to shoulder the sky if it fell.
But with Teacher here, all the whining in his heart wanted to spill out, yet he couldn’t even enjoy an extra moment of the embrace.
Why couldn’t he sit back and feel happy…?
Xie Lianyun inexplicably shivered.
“I’ll stand in as an agent manager for a while,” Pei Ruye took over the folder from Uncle Jiang, “Uncle Jiang is too high-level, normal agents can’t handle this matter, and in the future, if there’s a need for a stand-in, I might be the one to coordinate with you.”
Xie Lianyun was still observing Huo Ren, who seemed to be wagging his tail.
Why did the captain’s temperament seem to soften… just a moment ago, he was still a fierce and iron-blooded warrior.
“First of all,” Pei Ruye tapped on the tablet to confirm the analysis report in the email, “about Huo Huo’s insurance compensation issue.”
“The company has individually insured different parts of the body for all six of you,” the man turned the tablet around to show them the current assessment data: “Huo Huo’s facial injury is expected to receive an insurance payout between thirty to eighty million, the specific amount will need to be negotiated.”
Overseas senior surgeons’ hands are insured for millions of dollars, and the insurance for the facial features of top domestic artists is no less than that.
There are rumors in the industry that a top beautiful female star has insured her face for over a hundred million, which is understandable.
Huo Ren was equally stunned, subconsciously touching the gauze at the corner of his eyebrow.
“What if my scar heals well…”
“The contract terms are clearly defined, so don’t worry about that.”
Nowadays, the after-tax income of top-tier artists is only two to three hundred million, and within SPF, the company’s cut and initial training expenses are also considered, so the actual annual income is not as exaggerated as rumors on Weibo suggest.
Suddenly being able to receive tens of millions… means his personal assets could inflate even more rapidly.
“Teacher,” he spoke again, asking in front of his other ‘brothers’, “If I can get this insurance payout, can I invest in SPF?”
Pei Ruye’s eyes narrowed slightly, he spoke unhurriedly: “It depends on the specific state of your assets.”
“I have made investments,” Huo Ren said, with his hands pressing on the edge of the table: “I also want to become a shareholder of SPF.”
“Subscribing to shares above a certain amount requires notification to the Securities Regulatory Commission.” Pei Ruye said indifferently: “I’ve noted this, we’ll discuss it once the progress is confirmed.”
“The second matter,” Pei Ruye brought up another PDF file and passed it to them to look at in turns: “Based on the creative idea previously proposed by Huo Ren, we’ve designed a live broadcast variety show.”
“It’s called ‘Crown Prosecutor’.”
There is a difference between celebrities, internet celebrities, and ordinary people.
This is first and foremost reflected in the sense of distance.
If one were to live broadcast seven or eight hours a day, revealing all aspects of their daily life without reservation, no matter how famous, they would only be considered an internet celebrity—because a lack of mystique means an inability to ascend to the pedestal of stardom.
In the era of print media, stars were always very distant figures to the average person.
Later, with the advent of blogs, forums, and social media, their works and private lives began to be fully exposed, becoming an integral element of the entertainment world.
Social media is concise and can give fans the illusion that they can interact with their favorite stars at any time, so it quickly became widespread and universally used in a short period of time.
“Live broadcasting means reality.” Pei Ruye looked at them: “But you can’t reveal too much of your reality.”
Too close can stink, and too far can enchant, so it’s essential to get the balance right.
Huo Ren took the tablet passed to him by Chi Ji, his gaze falling on the gold-embossed cursive title of “Crown Prosecutor.”
This could be his chance for a turnaround.
“The plan we discussed with Uncle Jiang is to have a live broadcast once a month for the program, with a real-time interactive comment section and bullet comments enabled. However, there will be a three to five-minute delay on the backend, and a keyword mechanism will filter the comments.”
Xie Lianyun suddenly stood up.
“President Pei.” His phoenix eyes held anger, his tone cold: “I don’t mind escalating things further.”
Pei Ruye nodded slightly: “I don’t oppose it.”
At this moment, Weibo’s hot search was dominated by two headlines.
Huo Ren’s Injury May Lead to Blindness
Uncontrolled Fans Attack Xie Lianyun
The fans, referred to as ‘gems’, were cautious about taking sides when Xie Lianyun’s incident happened, trying to shift the topic to preserve the group’s image.
Since the beginning of last year, a large number of fake fan accounts that seemed indistinguishable from the real ones appeared in the square, performing the act of fans turning haters while disrupting their control over likes, creating chaos out of the original order.
— And they were well-trained, with clear divisions of labor, a professional team paid to do the job.
The main fan base of ‘gems’ reported suspicious signs to SPF immediately, arranging for reliable internet insiders to infiltrate different boy band fan groups to look for clues.
Today, with Xie Lianyun’s incident, they even had a sense of ‘just as expected’ fulfillment.
The same tactics, more frequent and fiercer attacks than before, were clearly aimed at breaking up the group.
CORONA must not be broken; without even one person, it could not be CORONA.
Shortly after the incident, several major fan leaders of corona got in touch with the old fans on Yun Duo’s side, working together to shift the heat and do damage control, trying to scatter and block those sensationalist ‘performance fans.’
The comment sections of several major official media platforms were quickly taken over, and although many irate bystanders accused them of disrupting their gossiping, it did not affect the overall impression.
Then came the battlefields of the A-level and B-level marketing accounts.
What made this incident different from the past was that most of the ‘gems’ were group fans, and even solo fans would help promote the album and contribute to controlling the comments.
But Xie Lianyun, who debuted earliest, had been accumulating popularity and fans for nearly ten years, with a consistent national profile.
He had numerous fans, and even more bystanders knew of him — too many were waiting for a familiar superstar to fall and unravel.
Whether there was plagiarism or not didn’t really matter anymore; it was all about the spectacle.
The ‘gems’ and ‘clouds’ were all in a state of panic, dividing tasks and coordinating tactics. When they learned that Huo Ren was injured while protecting Xie Lianyun, they were all dumbfounded.
Injured?! Was it the fans, or did someone else sneak in?!!
What were the security guards doing??
Who did it? Have they been caught? Has the lawsuit process started?!
Cloud of Lianyun: Damn it, are they trying to force my favorite to go solo? What kind of trash company can’t even protect its artists? I can understand if the security gets hurt, but why are the artists injured too??
Little Gem: Sister above, please calm down. Going solo won’t help the current situation. I hope SPF will soon make a statement about the situation and bring the malicious assailant to justice.
Corona Unparalleled: Everyone has good intentions, but I think there are others controlling the comments and likes in the comment section lately. There are people who keep supporting negative comments while pretending to be fans, it’s very strange… can SPF come out and explain the situation as soon as possible?
Clouds of Cotton: I believe Xie Xie wouldn’t plagiarize! Are the haters not ashamed to take such money? Can’t they speak clearly and just denounce my brother who has won so many awards, huh—ptooey!
At 5:32 PM, SPF finally spoke out again.
And this time, the public statement came with a video.
The first Weibo post was an official-format explanatory letter, giving a complete explanation of the cause, the process, the measures taken, and the condition of the artists, with precise and leak-proof wording—of course, only fans would read it seriously, passersby are not interested in such things.
The second Weibo video post, however, completely exceeded people’s expectations.
— The video content was a segment of a police interrogation.
At noon, they had taken control of the involved fan, Gong Mou, and sent her to the police station for an official recorded interrogation.
Initially, Gong Mou was very agitated, shouting and cursing non-stop, behaving like an extreme psychopath.
After forty minutes, when her energy finally drained, the police began to interrogate her.
“Why did you intentionally hurt someone?”
“Xie Lianyun—he doesn’t deserve it!! I’ve liked him for ten years, and he just—”
“So you’re saying you’re his die-hard fan, right?” the police interrupted.
“Yes, of course, I’ve been—since he debuted, I—”
“Please name his works, at least eight songs.”
Gong Mou paused for a second, stumbled, and counted on her fingers, but managed to name them all.
The police then brought out a laptop and played an audio clip edited by SPF.
“In this one-minute audio segment, there are snippets from ten different songs.”
“I ask you, how many of Xie Lianyun’s songs appeared in this segment?” the officer in the video inquired.
Gong Mou in the video appeared completely dumbfounded.
“I’ll ask again,” the officer said impatiently: “How many of his songs are in this?”
The girl stuttered, “I need to listen to it again.”
“Aren’t you his die-hard fan?”
The music played again, and the girl’s expression turned bewildered and frantic.
The comment section couldn’t hold back anymore.
“Does she even listen to the music?? Three of the songs are everywhere, in internet cafes, supermarkets, BBQ stands, and she still can’t recognize them??”
“Damn, is this the idiot who threw the bottle and hurt someone?? Counting ten years with her toenails???”
“I’m impressed, at least show some professionalism when you’re paid to do a job!”
“Three,” she said quickly: “I’m not familiar with his new songs, but at least three of them are mixed in here.”
The officer closed the laptop with the back of his hand and turned to look at the SPF manager beside him.
The manager was expressionless: “There’s not a single one, this is from Qi Lin’s new album.”
When the video was released, both ‘gems’ and ‘clouds’ felt vindicated.
They knew someone was playing dirty!!!
The fake fan who threw the glass bottle has shown their true colors, and the performance troupes on Weibo are not far behind!!
The taglines of fans turning haters, dare you not ask your directors for something more original!!!
Bystanders always enjoy the drama and don’t care about who’s right; the more intense the fight and the provocation, the more it pumps their blood.
Although there was still a group clinging to Xie Lianyun, saying things like ‘this woman is probably out of her mind, but Xie Lianyun’s plagiarism is undeniable,’ many more were genuinely hoping for a more thrilling and bloodier spectacle.
The Giant is only a Capybara: This twist is impressive… Now it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake between real life and the internet, I just hope my idol never encounters such a thing.
Ah, running out of hair: The drama of these three days has seriously delayed my progress on my graduation thesis, damn it! So what’s the situation? Has the behind-the-scenes manipulator been caught? How much money did this woman take? Will she be sued? Procrastination has never been so enjoyable ah woo woo ah…
This video was oddly tagged by an AI and repeatedly watched by the public, with the view count breaking ten million within minutes.
The malicious intent of many was diffused into laughter by the stupidity of this inside job, and even many came over to Qi Lin’s page to join in the mockery.
Qi Lin quickly responded.
Qi Lin: Hahaha, thank you for liking my new song
The act of pretending to be a loyal fan and then turning against the tide was so clever that it further fermented the discussion.
SPF then announced the current progress of the lawsuit, revealing all the core individuals involved in defamation and physical assault.
The heat of the issue was pushed to the peak, with the mix of truth and lies becoming so confusing that no one could understand what was going on anymore.
After remaining silent for a long time, Xie Lianyun, who had been tagged hundreds of thousands of times but had not responded, finally came online on Weibo.
Xie Lianyun: To the one who made a video specifically to accuse me of plagiarism, Nut is not a Fruit, come over for a live broadcast this weekend, let’s talk face to face. Do you dare?
Now everyone was really energized.
What is this??
This is a blatant challenge!!
People were too lazy to read through the verbose and technical jargon on Weibo, but a live broadcast fight? They would skip class just to watch it!!!
From the past to now, which star accused and slandered hasn’t hidden behind their agent and company? The result was always losing their cool and mystique, and the moment something happened, they would instantly shut up like a coward, not just once or twice!
Xie Lianyun really wasn’t like the average mediocre star, huh?! He actually dared to face it head-on?!
The crowd began to swarm Nut is not a Fruit with private messages, egging him on to come out and get to work.
“Dude, didn’t you know everything?! Come on, it’s time for a debate!”
“Why is there no movement for ten minutes? Don’t tell me you’ve chickened out? Xie Lianyun was insulted like this and he didn’t chicken out, so why don’t you respond?”
“Half an hour has passed… Xie Lianyun was liking other people’s posts on Weibo before he made his post, have you gone mute? Was your video fake?”
Meanwhile, the SPF public relations department was brightly lit.
Xie Lianyun and Bo Jue were working with the head of the public relations department to set up the program flow and counter-attack tactics, while Long Jia was contacting technical experts to help stabilize the live broadcast platform’s connection and enhance security defenses.
Chi Ji was helping them prepare midnight snacks, and Mei Shengyao was exhausted from running around with his brothers all day, now sleeping on the couch.
Huo Ren sipped his coffee, relieved to see the turn in public opinion.
He and his teacher were the masterminds behind this storm.
To counter-attack, the first step was to reverse the thinking.
People’s desire for revelry can become a dagger, but this dagger can also be turned around to target the enemies of CORONA.
SPF couldn’t openly drag the rival company out for a showdown, but they could at least use this video to reiterate how much Xie Lianyun was being targeted.
Once the live broadcast variety show “Crown Prosecutor” is launched, it could very likely disrupt the current rules of the game.
And this is exactly what they want.
Live broadcasting means no editing, which means it’s all about real-time responses.
Initially, Uncle Jiang, along with Huo Ren and other executives, held a meeting and ultimately came to a unanimous conclusion.
In the new era of public opinion warfare, the core principle is ‘speaking the truth is harmless’.
People no longer pay attention to public relations statements, nor do they trust so-called authorities and experts.
They only believe what they see with their own eyes.
— Even if those things have been manipulated by capital.
To speak plainly and reveal hidden, obscure truths can often disperse the onlookers.
“Teacher, do you think they will accept the challenge?”
Huo Ren leaned back in his chair, his gaze on the data that was continuously refreshing.
The program was capturing keywords from the current topic square in real time, constantly reporting on the progression of events.
Pei Ruye was still absorbed in looking at the white gauze on his eyebrow, and after a long while, he said, “What do you think?”
Huo Ren didn’t notice his gaze, his attention still on the task at hand.
“With this strategy, whether they respond or not, we hold an absolute advantage.”
Because “Nut is not a Fruit” is ostensibly an independent content creator, seemingly producing a finely crafted and provocative video all on his own.
In reality, it’s the work of a team, and the video is the result of their collective effort.
This content creator is just a puppet being paraded out front.
— Who can make a puppet speak and reason?
Pei Ruye withdrew his gaze, continuing to discuss work with him.
“We need to add another layer of insurance.”
“Indeed,” Huo Ren was already accustomed to discerning the core message from his few words: “If the other side accepts the challenge and brings a professional analyst to claim they are Nut, it’s inevitable they’ll have to discuss music theory knowledge with Xie Xie.”
If the live broadcast turns into a complex and abstruse theoretical discussion, it’s very likely to deter a large portion of the audience, which would be counterproductive.
All the spectators essentially want to see some entertainment.
“How about… we get a team to make a three-minute animation, what do you think?”
Pei Ruye smiled as he looked at him.
“I’ve already found the right people.”
Terms like ‘creative motive’ and ‘melodic development’ can be confusing to laypeople if merely discussed in technical jargon.
But if the song creation process is expressed through simple animations like baking a cake, making milk tea, or little pigs building a house, explaining the entire content bluntly within three minutes can increase the audience’s sense of involvement.
“The public relations department has already engaged a well-known young lecturer from the music academy and a famous animation team that has won the Red Stone Award to collaborate on an educational piece, striving for clarity and conciseness.” Pei Ruye adjusted his collar for him, his tone steady: “We will win.”
Huo Ren finally noticed they were sitting very close to each other.
At this moment, the other people in the office had gone to a meeting, and his teammates were busy or resting in other rooms.
…It was just the two of them sitting in front of the computer, their chairs close together.
When Huo Ren tried to speak again, his thoughts couldn’t drift to anything else.
He suddenly remembered the hug from earlier that day.
Everyone was there, even Uncle Jiang, but Teacher still rushed over quickly, hugging him tightly while being careful to avoid the injury.
Teacher cares about me too.
A smile crept across the young man’s lips, mingled with a hint of melancholy.
During the New Year incident, it was a hug, and now it was still…
I really want to be kissed by Teacher.
But he wasn’t a child anymore, and he couldn’t even find a reason to be kissed.
Seeing that he was silent, Pei Ruye closed the laptop and spoke in a low voice.
“It’s late, you should go back and rest.”
Huo Ren looked up, slightly flustered.
He had only been alone with his teacher for a short while, and walking away now, he didn’t know when he would see him again.
He didn’t voice his full thoughts, but the look of loss in his eyes was unmistakable.
Pei Ruye placed a hand on his shoulder, then suddenly leaned down to smell the side of the young man’s hair.
The scents of white roses and kumquat liqueur lightly intermingled.
The touch on his hair was like a kiss that barely made contact, as if to say it was just enough.
“Hmm…” he said softly with a smile: “It smells good.”
Huo Ren felt like he was caught by the scruff of his neck, frozen in that second, not daring to move or ask, even hoping for him to smell again.
Did Teacher just kiss my hair?!
He held his breath, cautiously looking up at the man.
Pei Ruye noticed his shyness and said softly, “I’m not teasing you anymore, go rest early.”
Huo Ren blinked, stood up, and gently nuzzled against the man’s neck.
I’m an injured person, it’s not too much to act spoiled today.
You’re not allowed to dislike me.
Pei Ruye froze in place.
The young man’s nose was cool, his hair soft.
Just gently rubbing against the side of his collarbone, affectionate and tender.
“The ocean scent suits you well,” he said slowly.
Every time I smell it, I feel so fond of it.
Pei Ruye came to his senses, realizing that this interaction was bordering on inappropriate, and reached out to push him away.
But Huo Ren pressed his cheek against his collarbone and spoke in a muffled voice.
“Teacher, it hurts a lot today.”
“Let me lean on you for a bit… just for a moment.”
Pei Ruye realized he was completely at a loss with this young lord, frowning as he scolded him.
“How could you just stand in the way when there’s trouble, what if you hurt your eye?”
Huo Ren said quietly, “I didn’t think that much.”
At that moment, he was the closest to Brother Yun, and it was instinctual for him to want to protect him.
“…Don’t let there be a next time.”
Huo Ren thought he was angry and pulled back half an inch, looking up to try and explain again.
But a soft kiss landed silently next to the gauze.
“Kiss it, and it won’t hurt anymore.”