Jiang Ying had dozens of angry reaction memes stockpiled on QQ. He cycled through his old ones and new ones, sending a copy of every single one to Qi Zhu.
[Class Monitor]: QuestionMarkFace.jpg
[Class Monitor]: So you weren't sleeping.
It wasn't until after Jiang Ying had finished bombarding Qi Zhu with his reaction meme spam that he remembered he was supposed to be 'asleep'.
Jiang Ying froze.
As if he could sleep.
Even if he'd been sleeping, that news from Qi Zhu would have made him wake up in a cold sweat.
[Class Monitor]: [poke poke]
[Class Monitor]: You took a long time to respond. What were you doing?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Watching your old shows.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: wonderful.jpg
[Class Monitor]: You don't want to do the reality show?
Jiang Ying didn't even have to think about it to know that nothing had 'come up' for whoever was supposed to participate in this show. The show obviously just wanted to borrow some hype by bringing in two members of the cast of 'An Auspicious Snow'.
Qi Zhu may have been toying with him, but this was definitely something Jiang Ying's agency wanted him to do.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: I'll do it, I'm not scared.
As long as the variety show wasn't expecting peace or harmony from the two of them, everything would be fine.
At times like these, Jiang Ying got more irritated the more he stared at Qi Zhu's default QQ penguin avatar. He was itching to pick a fight.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Tsk, your avatar is so ugly.
[Class Monitor]: Oh.
[Class Monitor]: I didn't think you cared.
Jiang Ying stared.
In mere seconds, Qi Zhu changed the avatar that he'd been using for years. He switched to a different penguin avatar that was promoted by QQ. This penguin was red, and Qi Zhu even upgraded his account to add a multi-colored animated sparkling effect to the new penguin.
Jiang Ying was speechless.
It was even uglier than the last one.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: LittleDinoSweats.jpg
[Class Monitor]: It's late. Get some sleep.
[Class Monitor]: GreenShirtHug.jpg
Jiang Ying stared at the default hugging emoji for a moment, then laughed.
He'd been scared wide awake. Qi Zhu was dreaming if he thought Jiang Ying was going to let him sleep.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Who needs sleep? Come on, let's do what you said. Let's have a passionate discussion about the script.
[Class Monitor]: ……
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Neither of us is going to sleep tonight.
And so, Chen Shu didn't get through to Jiang Ying's phone until ten the next morning.
"Sleepy…" Jiang Ying mumbled when he answered. He hadn't managed to open his eyes yet.
"No idol I've ever met is better at sleeping than you," Chen Shu said, lodging a thinly-veiled complaint. "Did you forget you have a live interview about the upcoming drama this afternoon?"
Jiang Ying hadn't forgotten. But he'd stayed up too late getting revenge on Qi Zhu by discussing their script with him until the middle of the night.
In order to slay his enemy, he'd had to wound himself.
"I'm coming," Jiang Ying said. He finally dragged himself out of bed, haphazardly combed his hair with his fingers, and grabbed a jacket before bolting downstairs.
"Were you clubbing all night?" Assistant Chen asked, unsure of whether he wanted to laugh or cry at the sight of Jiang Ying's unruly hair. "No, wait. Didn't you go to dinner with Qi Zhu last night?"
"Long story," Jiang Ying said. He found a pocket mirror and started to straighten out his hair properly.
Assistant Chen suddenly thought of their big ships on QQ, which were allegedly maintained by their constant bickering. He felt perhaps there really was a long story there.
"Oh," Assistant Chen started, remembering something all of a sudden. "By the way, there's a variety show…"
"Qi Zhu already told me."
Assistant Chen nodded. "The agency has lined up a lot of work for you. You'll be busy for a while."
"That's fine, I asked for it," Jiang Ying said, leaning back in his seat. "Mom said we don't raise lazy people in our family."
Chen Shu could see that. Jiang Ying was indeed a hard worker. He wasn't always the most diligent person on a set, but he practically never went a day without work. And he worked hard at fighting, too. He had lots of anti-fans who attacked him fiercely, but his popularity was the real deal and he made the agency quite a lot of money.
Most ordinary people wouldn't have been able to walk the arduous path of a controversial celebrity.
Chen Shu focused on driving. In the back seat, Jiang Ying watched a video of Qi Zhu that was entertaining enough to make him laugh out loud.
The video had been posted by a certain tabloid that always liked to post nonsense about hot topics. Qi Zhu had just been cast in a new drama, and as the lead to boot; it was only natural that tabloids would want to take advantage and use his name to get some attention.
Tabloid: A certain actor has been cast in a certain drama adaptation. Setting this actor's talent aside for now, we have to ask… can he really do justice to our Luo Nanke with this relentlessly cold and emotionless aura of his?
The video the tabloid shared was from a show Qi Zhu had done a while ago to promote one of his earlier movies. Jiang Ying had seen way too many of these. He could tell with just one glance that the actress who played the supporting female character in the movie was trying to attach herself to Qi Zhu. If she could stir up some gossip surrounding the two of them, her popularity was sure to soar. But Qi Zhu deftly dodged each and every one of her attempts to cozy up to him.
That show featured a segment with a game that tested the guests' ability to read the room, and it was then that this actress saw her chance. She turned to Qi Zhu and asked him what he thought of the outfit she was wearing.
The question wasn't actually part of the game, but once it had been asked, it couldn't be avoided.
Qi Zhu had taken a few seconds to look at this actress before answering, "The color of your lipstick doesn't suit you."
The poor girl had been rendered speechless.
Naturally, that part had been cut out of the episode before it aired. But there were always people leaking these little snippets behind the scenes, and tabloids were always waiting to snatch them up and put them on display when the time was right.
It was indeed the actress's fault for going off-script and asking a question that wasn't part of the game, but Qi Zhu's response was the sort that attracted anti-fans the way honey attracted flies.
"Is that Qi-laoshi's voice?" Assistant Chen asked.
"Yeah." Jiang Ying liked the post, then saved the video. "This is another one of Qi-laoshi's excellent scandals. When he speaks the truth, especially when he says the things you're not supposed to say out loud, he's way more interesting than usual. I gotta save this."
"Is he usually uninteresting?" Assistant Chen asked, thinking back to what Jiang Ying had previously said about Qi Zhu.
"Just look at his QQ avatar. You'll see."
Jiang Ying hadn't switched to an alt account before liking that tabloid post. His fans and Qi Zhu's fans, who had been enjoying a temporary ceasefire, began to feud again.
Qi Zhu's fans were exceptionally quick when it came to comment control. They rushed to the scene mere seconds after Jiang Ying hit 'like'.
Qi Zhu Fan: ?
Qi Zhu Fan: For heaven's sake, if anyone else wanted to like this post, fine. But you? You want to like it? Don't you have plenty of scandals hanging over your own head?
Qi Zhu Fan: [link] You guys wanna gobble up a juicy scandal? Then take a look at this. When it comes to offending other people, Jiang Ying is second to none.
That link led to a video documenting a fight from back when Jiang Ying had first debuted. He'd been arguing with some vlogger who obviously didn't know much about Jiang Ying's family background. The vlogger had probably just wanted to get some attention, and the first diss he threw was that Jiang Ying wasn't attractive enough to be an idol.
As soon as those words came out, that vlogger was ridiculed from all directions. Jiang Ying's shadows mocked him, passing netizens mocked him, and Jiang Ying's army of crabby alts mocked him.
And finally, Jiang Ying had logged into his main account to deal the finishing blow—
@JiangYingKANI: Alrighty, then. If thou art such hot shit, send over some pics. I'll print them out and send everyone a copy to ward off evil spirits.
That had been Jiang Ying's first battle after entering the industry. The persona of a cute and charming young prince that his agency had devised for him was obliterated within a month of his debut.
Not long after that link was posted, Qi Zhu gave the comment a like.
The netizens went wild with delight.
[What are these people doing? Admiring each other's scandals?]
[This year is off to a great start. We've already seen two hugely controversial stars clawing at each other. This is way more interesting than those stupid affairs that trend all the time. The best part is, these two have such aggressive fans.]
[I've been following this feud for a week now, and I'm seriously about to laugh myself to death. These two fight so much. Are they really going to be okay on their drama?]
[Am I the only one who thinks these two have… a little something?]
[I'm waiting for 'An Auspicious Snow' to start filming. That production is going to be a trainwreck. I'm psyched.]
[Hey, I just remembered. Isn't Li Mao Station streaming an interview about that show soon? Are these two going to be there?]
[Let's go check it out.]
Jiang Ying had gotten up late, but he wasn't late to the interview. When he arrived, only Xuan Huitong was already in the process of getting her makeup done.
"Huihui-jie," Jiang Ying greeted. The two of them were with the same agency, and Xuan Huitong was his elder, so he went out of his way to say hello first. "Who else is coming?"
"It'll be me, you, and Yin Jiayu," Xuan Huitong said distractedly. She was staring at a cup of milk tea on the vanity, seemingly lost in thought. "Oh, and Qi Zhu. But he has a press conference in the morning, so he might be a little bit late."
After a long moment of deep consideration, she heaved a heavy sigh. "Here, take the milk tea. You can have it. Later, during the interview, I'll throw you some easy questions. Just be sure to answer them."
Jiang Ying, who didn't get fat no matter what he ate, happily claimed a cup of free milk tea and crashed on a vacant couch to start scrolling through his cell phone.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: [poke poke]
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Is Qi-laoshi sleepy today?
[Big-Clawed Crab]: SuperTiredRabbit.jpg
[Big-Clawed Crab]: LittleDinoIsTired.jpg
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Zzzzzz
Qi Zhu seemed to be busy. Jiang Ying stared at the zzz's and the sleepy reaction memes he'd sent and gradually fell asleep.
Finally, at one that afternoon, eager netizens were presented with Li Mao Station's live interview with the cast of 'An Auspicious Snow'. The interview was arranged in collaboration with the drama, but since the drama was in its very early stages of production, there was no need to talk too much about the show. The main purpose of that interview would be to bring Li Mao Station some attention.
Once she'd gotten into makeup, the exquisite Xuan Huitong picked up her cell phone and streamed a shot of herself and the up-and-coming actress Yin Jiayu waving to the camera. Qi Zhu, who'd just arrived, also waved to the watching netizens as he passed by.
The bullet comments instantly picked up speed.
[Jiayu, look at me, look at me! Ah, ah, ahhhh! She smiled!]
[Qi Zhu-gege, ahhhhhhhhh! Gege, you're super super super handsome today. I feel like you're always so busy these days. We haven't seen you on social media in ages! It's so nice to see you on a livestream like this. QAQ]
[Wahhhhhh, I can't overstate how amazing gege looks right now! His stature, full marks. His outfit, full marks. His expression, full marks. Gege looks so good I could cry.]
[Wow! Gege, you were wearing something else during your press conference, weren't you? Did you change just for us?]