Chapter 23: Celebrity Guests and Big Ships

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[Big-Clawed Crab]: ???

[Big-Clawed Crab]: SlightSmile.jpg

[Big-Clawed Crab]: Did you take the wrong meds today.

[Big-Clawed Crab]: That's an insult, btw.

Jiang Ying wasn't sure if he was still half-asleep or if Qi Zhu was still half-asleep. Either way, Qi Zhu wasn't acting like Qi Zhu at all. Everything about those last few messages from him felt downright wrong.

But after those messages rained down on him like a barrage of fist-sized hail, Jiang Ying did feel more awake. All traces of sleepiness were blown clear out of his head.

Qi Zhu's timing had been pretty good; the time for their departure was drawing near. Jiang Ying set his phone aside and rolled out of bed to pack what he would need for the trip.

Since it was a lifestyle variety show, Jiang Ying would need to pack carefully. He pulled out a 28-inch suitcase and tossed in two changes of clothes. Then he started to choose his snacks.

He made his way over to the refrigerator and grabbed all the snacks he could find. He didn't let the cookies on the coffee table off the hook either. All the snacks in the house went straight into his suitcase.

Jiang Xun's corgi, who had been left at home, barked twice. Jiang Ying bent down and gave its head a pat. "MVP, be good. Play by yourself today. Gege has to go to work now. If you miss me, just check the trending topics list."

The corgi cocked its head to the side and barked again.

Jiang Ying was an incorrigible lazybones. He always slept in, but he'd never once been late to a job. Assistant Chen had yet to arrive by the time he finished packing, so Jiang Ying sat back down on his bed and gave his big Krabby plushie a pat. It was only then that he saw Qi Zhu's responses on QQ.

[Class Monitor]: Hm?

[Class Monitor]: Finished packing? BlushingFace.jpg

[Big-Clawed Crab]: All done.

[Big-Clawed Crab]: Why do I feel especially angry whenever I see you talk today? Why?

[Big-Clawed Crab]: LittleDinoSweats.jpg

The slightly smiling and blushing emojis were particularly unsettling. Jiang Ying knew Qi Zhu's slight smile was a real slight smile, and not a passive-aggressive slight smile. But it was still strange. To a lifelong fighting enthusiast like Jiang Ying, every single emoji—except the all-powerful doge face emoji—had a double meaning. Every emoji could be used as a weapon.

[Class Monitor]: Oh.

[Class Monitor]: See you at the airport. WavingGoodbye.jpg

At least that 'oh' was in keeping with Qi Zhu's usual style, and Qi Zhu didn't send any other messages after that. Inexplicably, Jiang Ying relaxed a little. He started to realize that he'd gotten way too used to Qi Zhu's dry and lifeless way of chatting.

Even that uncharacteristic waving emoji looked inordinately aggressive.

As soon as the two of them met up at the airport, they exchanged their usual greetings.

"Morning," Jiang Ying said. "Your cologne sucks."

"Morning," Qi Zhu said. "Your hair is a mess."

The place where the variety show would be recorded was really out in the countryside, far from H City. They traveled all day, and it was evening by the time Jiang Ying climbed into the car prepared by the show.

"What did you bring?" Qi Zhu finally asked, unable to resist his curiosity as he eyed the suitcase that was practically half Jiang Ying's height.


Qi Zhu looked like he wanted to laugh, but in the end the corners of his lips only twitched a little. A sympathetic expression came over his face. "You won't be able to bring that in with you. They're checking our bags before we enter. Besides clothes, we're not allowed to bring anything."

"Huh?" Jiang Ying blinked and froze. He'd worked tirelessly that morning to pack his suitcase full of snacks. Would the show really do something like that?

"What were you thinking?" Qi Zhu finally laughed and reached up, giving the side of Jiang Ying's head a push. "The audience wants to see you cook for yourself. They're not tuning in to watch you eat snacks. The crew will probably get some footage when they open your suitcase. That'll give the viewers a laugh."

"Then… are they going to pat us down?" Jiang Ying asked. A lightbulb had gone off in his head.

Qi Zhu eyed him warily. "No. What are you planning?"

Very quickly, Qi Zhu began to think he shouldn't have brought this up at all. As soon as Jiang Ying learned they wouldn't be subjected to a body search, he started stuffing snacks into his pockets. He even stuffed some into Qi Zhu's pockets.

By the time they got out of the car, both their pockets were bulging.

"Welcome, welcome! You guys are up."

Two of the other celebrity guests had already arrived. They were the leader of top boy band T.ATW, Fu Zhi, and T.ATW's rapper Chi Yunkai.

"New arrivals, come line up over here," the director called out through a megaphone. "Let's see what you guys have packed."

Needless to say, as soon as Jiang Ying's massive 28-inch suitcase came up for inspection, several crew members' eyes lit up with glee.

The inspection table was already littered with items that had been confiscated from the other guests. Although only two others had arrived so far, there were already countless banned goods on the table.

"…which one of you brought a compass and a tent?" Jiang Ying asked.

"Him." Fu Zhi pointed at Chi Yunkai. "He was playing a game when he took this job. Up until now, he's been thinking it was going to be a wilderness survival show. He even learned how to start a fire with sticks."

Jiang Ying stared.

Well, that was no surprise. Everyone in the world knew T.ATW was an incredibly unreliable boy band.

While they chatted, the director and crew members finished checking Qi Zhu's luggage. Qi Zhu's suitcase was as sleek and tidy as the man himself. He'd only packed clothes and basic necessities. Everything was neatly folded and arranged. Nothing prohibited or superfluous was found.

"Qi-laoshi is such a minimalist even when it comes to traveling," Jiang Ying snarked.

Those minimalistic tendencies had even somehow been twisted into a label of 'frigid, sexless ice prince'. It was abundantly clear that a certain someone really couldn't go three minutes without starting shit with Qi Zhu.

"Before we open Jiang Ying's suitcase, would everyone like to listen to a voice message?" Qi Zhu suddenly asked. "The person who sent me the message couldn't get in touch with Jiang Ying and asked me to have Jiang Ying listen to this clip."

Jiang Ying furrowed his brow, confused. "Then why didn't you tell me in the car?"

"Why don't you tell me," Qi Zhu said, "what you were busy with in the car."

Jiang Ying fell silent.

Oh, right. He'd been busy hiding snacks in every pocket he had.

The director could sense that this would make for good footage. Naturally, he said, "Let's hear it, let's hear it."

Qi Zhu opened up QQ on his phone and hit play on a voice clip which began:

"Ogre Jiang, if you think you can ignore my calls, then you'd better not even think about coming home."

It was Jiang Xun's voice.

"I can tolerate you emptying out the fridge, but why the hell did you take MVP's dog biscuits with you? I just bought those last night."

All listeners, in unison, stifled a laugh.

Jiang Ying froze. "That…"

"Open the suitcase, open the suitcase!" the director urged excitedly.

Jiang Ying had no choice. He unlatched his suitcase, which was so overstuffed that it popped right open. And thus, Jiang Ying's massive snack supply was summarily exposed.

As Qi Zhu had said, all of Jiang Ying's precious snacks were confiscated on the spot.

"There's one more guest who won't be arriving until tomorrow, so you guys can check in first," the director said once they finished filming that segment.

"Weren't they supposed to confiscate our phones?" Jiang Ying whispered to Qi Zhu as they started walking. "Why didn't the director bring it up?"

"The director said we can control ourselves," Qi Zhu whispered back. "No Weibo, no playing around on our phones while filming. The rest of the time, we can do what we want."

"Awesome." Jiang Ying breathed a sigh of relief. "I was worried we would lose our big ships."

"Big what?" The director, who just so happened to pass the two at that moment, was bewildered.

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