Xiao Zhan thinks that whatever higher power created the concept of soulmates, it did it solely to laugh at silly humans trying to make something work, that was clearly not designed to work at all. How is one supposed to find a single human in the crowd of what? seven, eight billions? having just one or two words of their soulmarks to go with? And such marks they are!
Take Reading for example. What a unique hobby indeed. Xiao Zhan knows at least four people with a high passion for it and three more who have this word as their soulmarks. They all are definitely not each other’s soulmates from what he can say.
Or Photography. Nowadays every second person with an iPhone claims to be the most passionate about this. Xiao Zhan wants to see how all of their unfortunate soulmates are going to find their own in that mass.
His own mark is not that much to go with either, to be honest. Dancing , it says for the main part of the past fifteen or so years ever since it appeared on Xiao Zhan’s wrist. It changes occasionally to Video Games and Lego but never stays in that state for too long, and just this is enough for Xiao Zhan to conclude that his soulmate is hella younger than him, that, even if he ignores the fact that he spent the first decade of his life with a bare wrist that held no soulmark on it.
It is not the worst thing to have as basically a permanent tattoo on such a visible place, he has to say. He once saw a guy in a cafe with an innocent acting on the side of his wrist, that turned out to have a Porn before it, that Xiao Zhan noticed when the guy was paying for his order and his sleeve pulled up a bit . Why the guy wasn’t wearing a wrist band is seriously beyond Xiao Zhan’s understanding.
Guess he should really thank his faceless soulmate that they chose such an innocent hobby(s?). Once he meets them. If he ever meets them.
If when he meets them the two of them actually manage to somehow figure out to be each other’s soulmates with their Dancing and what is most likely Design marks on their respective wrists.
Such a great concept indeed. They all might as well go without any soulmarks or any other ridiculous marks and just decide who they want to be with based on their feelings alone.
And not to mention the awkward situations with already established couples, when a soulmark on the wrist of one of the couple suddenly changes from something neutral like Reading to something more exotic like Extreme Ironing. Yes, this is apparently a thing, Xiao Zhan googled that after a couple of his friends broke up when the soulmate mark on the girl’s wrist changed to that and the man in this couple had no idea what kind of activity this could be, but his other friend apparently discovered a new passion in ironing clothes sitting in a kayak competing with other such… creative individuals.
Very awkward. Xiao Zhan still cringes internally recalling this incident.
Anyway, by the time he can safely consider himself an adult he learns not to pay much or any attention at all neither to other people’s soulmarks he occasionally sees, nor to his own, figuring it will not do him any good anyway reflecting on this.
When he joins a boys band and starts singing and dancing on a stage, he briefly wonders whether the soulmark on his soulmate wrist has changed, considering he can’t really say to himself with absolute confidence if he enjoys singing more than creating designs.
He adds acting to this sometime later, right about the time the soulmark on his own wrist, that seemed to be permanently settled on Dancing for the past couple of years, starts its shenanigans again, as his soulmate apparently grows up enough to get their driving license. Motorcycles , the marks tells Xiao Zhan one morning and he raises a brow. There can’t be too many girls in the world who rather equally enjoy dancing and riding a motorcycle (and playing Lego and video games in between), so he probably should feel more hopeful now, he knows others would. But he just shakes his head and pulls his sleeves low on his arms ― he doesn’t need a soulmark, he is sure he would meet a person he can find happiness with without the help of a higher power with a bad sense of humor.
Doesn’t mean he can ignore the blinking on the side of his vision, when his soulmark changes from Dancing to Motorcycles at least twice a day, and he just figures it is probably hard to combine such different and no doubt time consuming hobbies.
Without even realising this he begins to think about his soulmate more, and now not as just a concept as he did before, but an actual human. From a soulless word “tattooed” on his skin it becomes an indicator that there is a living breathing person somewhere, going on with their life, practicing their dances and learning something new on their motorcycle.
Xiao Zhan catches himself thinking, “Ride safe” when it is a Motorcycles on his wrist, and laughing in amusement, when the mark occasionally changes back to Lego again on some weekends. “Right, you deserved some rest”, he thinks then.
By the time the filming of The Untamed starts, his soulmark stays in its Motorcycles state more often than it is something else, and Xiao Zhan is happy for his soulmate that they finally figured out their priorities.
One of the very first things Wang YiBo, his fellow actor on the set, tells Xiao Zhan once he gathers enough courage to actually speak to him about something not The Untamed related, is,
“I have ‘acting’, what’d you have?”
And it takes Xiao Zhan a few moments to understand what the boy actually means. Wang YiBo doesn’t wait for Xiao Zhan’s slow brain to catch up and rolls up his sleeve, shoving his soulmark that indeed says Acting under Xiao Zhan’s nose. The boy looks happy and almost proud, like it has been solely his doing that his soulmate chose the same career as him. But Xiao Zhan can understand the smile ― being so popular, it really is easier for Wang YiBo to meet someone in his field of work rather than a person outside.
“Good for you, Wang YiBo,” Xiao Zhan says with a polite smile.
Wang YiBo pulls his hand back and asks again, “So, what does your say?”
“Let me check,” Xiao Zhan answers, tugging the sleeve of his hoodie up.
“What, you don’t know?”
“It has a habit of changing when I least expect it,” he explains shaking his head. “Oh, it’s back to ‘dancing’ again,” he says with surprise.
Wang YiBo raises up from his position across the table and leans forward, looking at Xiao Zhan’s wrist curiously.
“Not much to go with, I think I’ve seen at least five people with the same,” he says, then thinks a bit and adds, “And I know even more who can’t live without dancing. Hell, I can’t go without dancing for a week, man.”
Xiao Zhan pulls his sleeve, covering his wrist and Wang YiBo sits back in his chair. “It mostly says Motorcycles , though, just been chang―”
He doesn’t have the chance to finish his sentence when he is being swarmed by the whole lecture about motorcycles given to him by his overly enthusiastic younger colleague. By the end of it he knows the detailed story of Wang YiBo buying his first motorcycle, his favorite gear brand and the difference between a full face helmets and flip-ups; he learns the size of Wang YiBo’s head, how Wang YiBo’s motorcycle received its first scratch and almost learns how to do a ‘donut’ only it is probably useless without an actual motorcycle. Plus Xiao Zhan can’t drive it anyway. He gets the whole rant about why it is stupid to ride without proper footwear and when Wang YiBo finally cools down, breathless but evidently happy to talk about his passion with someone who listens, Xiao Zhan finds that despite barely understanding a half of what the boy has been saying, he is not bored at all, and Wang YiBo’s shiny smile is definitely worth sitting through this confusing lecture.
This somewhat sets the mood for their interactions on set, Wang YiBo constantly attacking him verbally or physically with whatever his mind demands of him to rant about, he is in constant seek of attention from his gege, and despite how annoying it feels sometimes after long days of filming, Xiao Zhan is bathing in the energy coming from that boy, and for four long months that pass way too fast for his liking, he hasn’t thought about his soulmate even once.
They say goodbye after the filming is finished but stay in touch, exchanging texts and occasional phone calls when their schedules allow enough time for it.
Wang YiBo sends him the photos from his photoshoots before they are uploaded on social media, and Xiao Zhan responds with the compliments he knows the boy is hoping for, and the photos from the location he is filming in.
Xiao Zhan calls him after the most difficult scenes and rants until he is too tired to and Wang YiBo is listening quietly, and once Xiao Zhan falls silent, he tells him about the cat he adopted and about the new Lego car he bought for his collection, his steady low voice lulling Xiao Zhan to sleep.
Wang YiBo calls him after the incident on track, when his motorbike caught a malfunction, and there are tears in his voice, and Xiao Zhan can’t think about anything else but “Thank God he is safe,'' absolutely freezing inside on the thought that something worse might have happened.
“I will win next time,” Wang YiBo says confidently, and Xiao Zhan believes him. If not next time, then the one after, because he knows this boy will never stop, and it almost takes Xiao Zhan breath away.
“Ride safe, Bo-di,” he tells him warmly, and he suddenly remembers how he used to say this in his mind when he was looking at his soulmark before. He rolls his sleeve, staring at the word on his wrist, his mind blank.
“Hey, Zhan-ge, what does it say,” Wang YiBo asks in a tired voice ― his tears has dried but he sounds exhausted.
“Same,” Xiao Zhan says.
They are silent for a moment and the next time Wang YiBo speaks there is a smile in his voice,
“I found a new cool hobby, Zhan-ge.”
Xiao Zhan looks up at a wall of his small hotel room and drops his hand on his lap.
“Another one, YiBo? Don’t you have enough?”
“Define, enough, Zhan-ge,” Wang YiBo says with a laugh and Xiao Zhan just chuckles in answer.
“And what’s this new hobby?” Xiao Zhan asks.
“You’ll see,” Wang YiBo says and then laughs as if he just said a joke only he can understand.
Next time Xiao Zhan opens their chat there is a link to the interview Wang YiBo has given recently, and Xiao Zhan watches it from the corner of his eye while preparing a simple dinner.
“Do you believe in soulmates or love at first sight?” A journalist asks in the video.
“Both,” Wang YiBo answers and Xiao Zhan chuckles recognising a subtle annoyed note in it that Wang YiBo can’t fully hide when he thinks a question he is asked is so stupid it isn’t worth his attention.
“You need to choose one,” the journalist insists.
“Love at the first sight of my soulmate. Happy?”
Xiao Zhan laughs, shaking his head. He finishes his cooking while listening absentmindedly to the rest of the interview ― nothing he hasn’t heard before ― and sits at the kitchen table, opening the chat with Wang YiBo.
“ Ever the romantic, YiBo ,” he texts. “ You should be nicer to the poor journalists, though. ”
He gets a meme picture made of Wang YiBo’s photo with his tongue sticking out.
“ Zhan-ge, I learnt something cool, wanna see? ” the next text says.
“ Sure ,” Xiao Zhan answers.
“ Tell me first what your soulmarks says !” he receives instead of a video he’s expected, and he sighs, looking down at his wrist. Wang YiBo apparently finds it amusing that Xiao Zhan’s soulmark lives such an active life compared to his own never changing one.
“ Motorcycles ”, he types. “ But it was a dancing again a few days back .”
“ Okay ttyl .”
“ Wait, you wanted to show me smth !”
“ I realised it’s not cool enough to show it to Xiao-laoshi (ง ื▿ ื)ว ,” Wang YiBo texts and logs out.
Xiao Zhan stares at the chat for a moment, shrugs and just accepts it. As everything, pretty much, that is related to Wang YiBo ― one can either accept it or get out of his way, and Xiao Zhan definitely doesn’t want to go anywhere too far from the path Wang YiBo is going.
The next time the conversation repeats itself basically word by word after two weeks. Xiao Zhan just finished with a scene and now is sagging against a chair in the make-up room, scrolling through his phone without paying too much attention to the text and pictures on the screen.
“ Zhan-ge quick what it says? !” The notification pops up informing him about a new text from Wang YiBo. Xiao Zhan groans and taps on it but ends up swiping it away accidentally. By the time he opens the chat, there is a new message that screams at him, “ NOW ZHAN-GE !” and Xiao Zhan has to go out of his way to peek under the tight sleeve around his wrist.
“ Same ,” he sends and gets a set of displeased meme pics and emojis for his trouble. As if he is somehow responsible for his soulmates loving motorcycles so much.
He doesn’t hear from Wang YiBo for another week, their only interactions are occasional funny pictures either of them stumble upon, both too busy to actually talk properly.
Xiao Zhan walks into his hotel room, dropping his suitcase on the floor beside the bed and himself ― on said bed, when his phone vibrates with a notification. He pulls it out of his pocket and smiles to the already familiar question on his screen.
“ What does it say now, Zhan-ge?! ”
Xiao Zhan throws a glance on his wrist expecting to see the familiar Motorcycles or perhaps Dancing but it is neither and he raises his eyebrows in surprise.
“ It’s a new one! Skateboard! ” Xiao Zhan texts and receives a short video almost instantly in response.
Xiao Zhan opens it and sees Wang YiBo performing some tricky looking jump… on a skateboard. The video ends and Xiao Zhan stares blankly at the screen.
“ It’s harder than it looks! But it’s really cool, I even learned how to make my own skateboard, Zhan-ge! ”
Xiao Zhan watches the video again, and then again, and then looks at his wrist and the Skateboard is still there.
“ Zhan-ge, isn't it cool?! ”
Xiao Zhan is not sure what exactly Wang YiBo is referring to ― the skateboard trick or that these past few weeks he has definitely been expecting for the word Skateboard to appear on Xiao Zhan wrist, which means that he has been sure that they are―
“ Impossible ,” Xiao Zhan texts impulsively.
Almost instantly there is a video call request on his screen and he accepts it automatically, his brain uncomfortably blank of any coherent thoughts.
Wang YiBo’s face is unreadable, which means he is doing his best to keep his guard up and it actually pains Xiao Zhan that the boy feels he has to do it with him.
“Show me,” Wang YiBo says darkly and Xiao Zhan obediently raises his hand turning his wrist to the camera. Wang YiBo nods and, mouthing, “I’ll show you impossible ,” closes his eyes.
He frowns lightly, concentrating, opens one eye a bit, looking at Xiao Zhan’s wrist, huffs angrily and squeezes his eyes shut even harder. He looks amusing and Xiao Zhan would’ve laughed, but his brain is still in its frozen state and he is just staring at the screen of his phone, his mouth slack.
Wang YiBo opens his eyes finally, looks at Xiao Zhan’s wrist again and beams.
“Look, look, Zhan-ge!”
Xiao Zhan obediently looks and it is Lego now on his wrist.
“I was thinking really hard about how satisfying it is to finish each Lego car and how cool it was when I finally collected the whole set,” Wang YiBo declares proudly, and Xiao Zhan looks back at him. “I bet I can make it back to Skateboard again, I think I figured out how it works, give me a second.”
Wang YiBo shuts his eyes again but this time it is much faster, and he is opening them with a smile, looking curiously at Xiao Zhan.
“Check it, Zhan-ge!”
“Ge, check it, ge!” Wang YiBo shouts and it breaks something in Xiao Zhan’s head that has been holding his brain hostage. He glances at the Skateboard word written across his wrist and feels his lips pulling in a wide smile and he starts laughing.
“What are you laughing about, ge, I’ve worked so hard for all of this!” he hears Wang YiBo’s angry voice, and he looks down at his screen, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
“I know, Bo-di, I know you did,” he says sincerely, feeling his cheeks starting to hurt from smiling so intensively but he just can’t help it.
Wang YiBo looks at him a bit unsure, but then smiles sunnily, and Xiao Zhan feels his heart picking up the pace.
“I can make it into Motorcycles again, do you want?” Wang Yibo asks almost playfully and sure, leave it to him to make this into a game.
Xiao Zhan shakes his head laughing breathlessly.
“How did you know?” he asks.
Wang YiBo tilts his head and blinks. “What? How to make it change? I just tried to think really hard―”
“Not that,” Xiao Zhan stops him. “How did you know it would work? How did you know that we are…” He trails off, suddenly not able to say this out loud. “You know,” he finishes lamely.
“Soulmates, Zhan-ge, you can say it, it won’t bite you,” Wang YiBo says teasingly and smirks, winking.
“Yeah, how did you know?” Xiao Zhan repeats the question and the familiar annoyed expression crosses Wang YiBo’s face ― who would’ve thought that Xiao Zhan would one day be in the shoes of those journalists asking Wang YiBo stupid questions, because of course he should know, shouldn’t he.
“Who else could I fall in love with but my soulmate,” Wang YiBo says simply with a shrug, like it is the most obvious thing in the world and Xiao Zhan truly is stupid for not realising it on his own.
“Who else, indeed,” Xiao Zhan says breathlessly, and he still can’t quite process everything that happened, and Wang YiBo’s stunning smile and piercing eyes don’t really make it easier for him, not to mention the crazed beating of his blood in his ears and his fingertips itching to reach and touch , but he can only hold onto the phone in his hand. “So cruel of you, YiBo, to have this conversation over the phone, couldn’t you wait one more month before we meet for the promotion campaign?” he whines and Wang YiBo laughs.
“I’ve waited for almost two years, you can wait for one month, gege,” he says and Xiao Zhan’s brain screeches to a halt once again.
Wang YiBo laughs, apparently at Xiao Zhan’s ridiculous expression this time.
“At first sight, remember?” he says softly and Xiao Zhan swallows around the lump in his throat. “I was so happy when my mark changed from design to acting, figured it would be easier to meet. And then I saw you on Day Day Up and I thought he looks like a designer.”
“I don’t look like a designer,” Xiao Zhan can only say. “How do designers even look like?”
Wang Yibo cracks another laugh and shakes his head. “No idea,” he says joyfully. And then his grin softens into a warm smile and he adds, “Does it matter?”
And no, it absolutely doesn’t.