In addition to the investors of the show, a few members of the cast had been invited to the dinner as well. Miao Ye had debuted quite a while ago, and he knew the way the industry worked. Although he'd only landed minor, cannon fodder roles in the past, he knew this cannon fodder role on 'An Auspicious Snow' would net him new fans if he did a good job.
Miao Ye and his agency had both worked hard to help him get this role, and naturally he'd leapt at the chance to make an appearance at this important dinner. He'd just parked in the underground garage when a flashy red sports car with an inordinately loud engine roared through the parking lot and pulled into the space next to him.
Miao Ye stared.
What kind of capitalist was this?
The car doors swung up, and a burst of shitty, old-people dance music flowed out from within. That was certainly some… unique taste in tunes.
Miao Ye took a few steps back. The person who climbed out of the driver's seat was dressed in an immaculately tailored suit, looking every bit like an elite of the business world. That person came around to the passenger side, and it was only then that Miao Ye realized there was someone else in the car.
"Stop singing, let's go," the driver said, without much emotion in his voice. "Be careful not to hit your head."
The person who climbed out of the passenger seat was wearing a hoodie and white sneakers. He looked every bit like a clean, refreshing college student. Anything could happen in the entertainment industry, so Miao Ye's mind instantly branded the scene before him as a sugar daddy doting on his young and innocent charge.
That 'innocent' and 'refreshing' young charge took one look at Miao Ye and clicked his tongue. "Hey, isn't that what's-his-face?"
Miao Ye shuddered.
This voice. He had yet to forget this voice.
Jiang 'Way Too Fierce' Ying.
Fortunately, it seemed Miao Ye wasn't Jiang Ying's target that night. Jiang Ying just greeted him with a cursory wave before setting his sights back on the man next to him.
At that point, Miao Ye finally recognized the man at Jiang Ying's side as the lead actor of 'An Auspicious Snow'.
Although Miao Ye wasn't an especially popular celebrity, he had access to a little something called the internet. It was only natural that he knew how fiercely Jiang Ying's fans and Qi Zhu's fans had been feuding over the past few days. Miao Ye had gobbled up plenty of gossip about the two of them in the past. Now, seeing those two climb out of the same car at a time like this, Miao Ye felt like a deer caught in headlights.
He had no idea how to process the scene unfolding before his eyes.
"Qi-laoshi," Miao Ye greeted. Although Qi Zhu wasn't very old, there was no question that he deserved to be seen as a 'teacher' for his acting abilities and the level of fame and success he'd already achieved.
Qi Zhu remained as collected as ever, acknowledging Miao Ye with a polite but cold nod.
"Your Qi-laoshi is on his way to a beauty pageant," Jiang Ying drawled.
Miao Ye knew of Qi Zhu's reputation. Everyone in the industry knew that Qi Zhu didn't have any patience for nonsense. He had once asked to have an actor in a drama replaced when that actor had had to do too many takes of one scene.
Jiang Ying's offhanded provocation sent a chill down Miao Ye's spine. But Qi Zhu didn't show much of a reaction to it. He only gave Jiang Ying a light push and said, "Talk less. Walk."
The unlikely pair made their way to the elevators. Miao Ye watched them go. He stared as they got into an elevator, and he gaped in disbelief at what he saw next. In the split second before the elevator doors slid shut, Miao Ye was pretty sure he spotted Qi Zhu lifting a hand and ruffling Jiang Ying's hair.
Miao Ye cocked his head to the side.
No, that was impossible. He must have been hallucinating.
In the ascending elevator, Jiang Ying faced the mirrored wall and carefully rearranged his hair, which had just been tousled by Qi Zhu. Looking at himself now, he really regretted not dressing up more for the occasion.
"Some people really change after they get famous," Jiang Ying muttered as he leaned against the wall. "Dolled up all the time. Do you expect to run into your fans tonight? Who are you dressed up for, anyway?"
Qi Zhu cast a disinterested glance at Jiang Ying's mussed-up hair. "Some people sound rather envious right now."
"I envy you?" Jiang Ying scoffed and flapped a hand to dismiss the idea. "I have better things to do than getting famous."
For example, collecting dirt on Qi Zhu.
"You seem like you're in a good mood," Jiang Ying accused after a moment. Qi Zhu wasn't smiling, but Jiang Ying still got that vibe from him.
Qi Zhu hummed. "Lately, I seem to have… gained a diehard fan."
Jiang Ying instantly remembered the unwarranted and unwanted superfan label that had been slapped onto Boss Crab. Gritting his teeth, he grumbled, "Then I seem to have… gained a serious anti-fan."
The two of them bantered back and forth on their way to the private dining room, making the most of their 'bad relationship'.
"Oh, Jiang Ying. You're here," the director greeted when they entered the room. He was old friends with Jiang Ying's dad, and he was thrilled to have Jiang Ying in his upcoming drama. "Qi Zhu, take Jiang Ying over to the investors and say hello."
"It's just saying hello," Jiang Ying complained, wandering towards a group of people who looked to be in their fifties or so. "Not like I don't know how to speak. Who needs to be taken by Qi Zhu?"
"Is this Jiang Ying?" greeted one of the investors as Jiang Ying approached. "I met you once when you were little. How time flies! You're all grown up already."
The middle-aged man's hair was already starting to go gray at the temples. A young woman around Jiang Ying's age stood next to him and greeted Jiang Ying with a courteous smile.
"Good evening, Li-zong," Jiang Ying said. Not to be outdone by a certain someone, he donned a courteous and professional demeanor and continued, "Your daughter has really grown up too. She's blossomed into such—"
Before he could finish speaking, Qi Zhu reached out and fiercely pinched the center of his palm.
Jiang Ying jumped and shot Qi Zhu a fierce glare.
"Why did you pinch me?!" he snapped.
Qi Zhu said nothing.
He only nodded towards Li-zong before grabbing Jiang Ying's wrist and dragging him into a corner. "That isn't his daughter. She's his second wife."
After that little mishap, Jiang Ying had a pretty good dinner. He was usually too busy to eat when he was working and too lazy to eat when he was home, so he rarely got to have a proper meal.
However, Jiang Ying kept himself busy while eating. If there was anything Qi Zhu didn't like, Jiang Ying generously served some into Qi Zhu's plate for him. Before long, Qi Zhu's plate was full of things Jiang Ying had served him.
"The design on this thousand-year egg is gorgeous," Jiang Ying said. "Have some."
"The color of this pumpkin is great," Jiang Ying said. "You have to try it."
"This cilantro is so fragrant," Jiang Ying said. "Don't let it go to waste."
Miao Ye watched all this with his heart in his throat. He didn't know how Qi Zhu felt about pumpkin and cilantro, but he remembered an interview in which Qi Zhu had said he abhorred thousand-year eggs. Surely, now, Qi Zhu's infamous temper would flare up.
"You seem to know a lot," Qi Zhu mused as he looked down at the small mountain of food on his plate.
Jiang Ying blinked, feigning innocence. "Hm?"
The conversation at the dinner table soon drifted back onto the topic of Jiang Ying.
"This kid can really act," the director praised. "The people of the Jiang family are all just too modest."
"Little Ying, I recently heard from your mom that you grabbed a keyboard during your zhouzhua ceremony?" the screenwriter prompted.
Jiang Ying, hearing those words directed at him, set down his chopsticks and answered, "Apparently. My family's pretty interesting, actually. I hear my big bro grabbed a keyboard too, and he went on to become an esports player."
"What about you?" Qi Zhu suddenly asked.