Jiang Ying didn't know what the other party was doing, but he didn't get a response for a long while. Just as he started thinking he wouldn't get another response that night, a new message popped up on his screen.
[Fighter3357868]: There's some deeper meaning to 'sir'?
[Boss Crab]: Of course, of course.
[Boss Crab]: Believe me, I've weathered many storms and waged many wars. I know a lot of things.
[Fighter3357868]: Sounds like it's really quite deep…
His apprentice obviously needed some time to process this profound information. Jiang Ying was so good at understanding others. He charitably gave Fighter3357868 a moment to mull over his words before he continued.
[Boss Crab]: However, I actually use 'thou' more often.
[Boss Crab]: But take your time. Learn these basics first, and always remember that attitude is the most important thing.
[Fighter3357868]: Thanks, sir.
Jiang Ying stared at that last message for a moment.
All things considered, this 'sir' from his apprentice was probably a real, sincere 'sir'. There was probably no hidden meaning. Jiang Ying suppressed the feeling of unease rising in his chest and decided not to quibble over that for now.
It was already late, and imparting his wisdom to his apprentice wasn't an urgent matter. Jiang Ying was already pretty happy about unexpectedly getting to use his cell phone that night. Since he had work in the morning, he had to wrap things up and get to sleep soon.
[Boss Crab]: I still have work tomorrow, so I'm going to sleep now. We'll talk later.
[Boss Crab]: See ya~
This guy was still a man of few words, but Jiang Ying had already gotten used to that after speaking to him a few times. He'd never taken an interest in teaching anyone his skills before; it seemed like a hassle. But now, he was starting to think this was at least more interesting than the subject fights the game offered.
Their conversation ended there for the night. Jiang Ying was feeling more and more tired after having spent the whole day on the road. He slipped out of his room, intending to use the bathroom before hitting the sack. Most of the lights in the living room had already been turned off. Just one dim, orangish light remained.
Qi Zhu sat in the warm glow of that lamp. His back was to Jiang Ying, and he was flipping through a copy of a script. His cell phone sat on the coffee table with the screen facing down.
The show had arranged for the celebrity guests to stay in this rustic little farmhouse in a rural, nearly deserted village. The glow of the March moon and the glow of the lamp were both soft and soothing. Jiang Ying, who usually preferred noise and excitement to moments of quiet, found that he didn't want to disrupt this moment.
He slowed his step and tiptoed into the bathroom, careful not to make any noise.
Just as Qi Zhu was about to flip to another page in his script, he looked up and caught sight of a sneaky shadow slinking back towards the bedrooms.
Qi Zhu watched for a moment.
Then he lowered his script and reached into a tray of nuts. He took out a shelled pistachio, lifted his arm, and threw. His movements were fluid, and his aim was precise.
"Ouch." Jiang Ying froze when the pistachio struck him. Suddenly remembering the others were most likely already sleeping, he clapped a hand over his own mouth and walked over to Qi Zhu. "What are you doing?"
This technique was way too familiar to Jiang Ying. If Qi Zhu wasn't the culprit, then who could it have been?
There was a time, back in middle school, when their teachers had often struggled to find a piece of chalk. Flinging bits of chalk at each other had become a popular pastime among the students, and a whole box of chalk would be spirited away, one stick at a time, as soon as it was opened.
Qi Zhu had never taken an interest in that sort of game, but that didn't mean Jiang Ying wasn't the type to get involved. Jiang Ying's mouth was always getting him into trouble, even back then, and when the chalk battles began, the bulk of the 'ammunition' was often aimed at him.
Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu were still deskmates at that time. Even if Qi Zhu was uninterested, he had no choice but to get involved. After helping Jiang Ying dust chalk off his hair a few times, Qi Zhu had had to retaliate. He'd started firing back on Jiang Ying's behalf. And he got pretty good at it, too.
"It's already this late, and you still aren't sleeping?" Qi Zhu was sitting on the couch. He set the script down on the coffee table and turned to Jiang Ying. "What are you sneaking around for? Are you planning some surprise performance for the living room in the middle of the night?"
"You seemed like you were really focusing, so I was afraid to disturb you," Jiang Ying said. He had been dressed quite well during the day, but now he was wearing his pajamas. The fabric of his shirt was thin, and the front and back were both printed with a big, menacing crab with its pincers raised.
"There are times when even you feel afraid?" Qi Zhu asked. His voice was full of obvious disbelief.
Since he'd already been discovered, Jiang Ying abandoned his plans to go back to his room. He grabbed a seat on the couch right next to Qi Zhu. But he could only sit still for a few seconds before he reached out to snag the script Qi Zhu had placed on the coffee table.
Qi Zhu smacked his hand away and grabbed the thick blanket that had been draped over the back of the couch. He wrapped Jing Ying up tight, scolding, "It's only early spring, and you're already dressed this lightly? If you get sick, netizens won't care why you have no energy when we film tomorrow. They'll scold you regardless."
Jiang Ying was completely cocooned. Not even his hands were left free. Only his head was left sticking out of the blanket. He could only give up on reaching for the script, though he hadn't really felt like reading it anyway.
"How rare," he said. "Class Monitor is worrying about me."
"It's nothing special."
Normally, if Jiang Ying were provoked, he would snap back without fail.
But the warm, orange light was weakening his typical aggression, and the blanket Qi Zhu had wrapped him up in really was quite warm. Plus, Jiang Ying had just thought back on the times Qi Zhu helped him fire back at the kids who'd flicked chalk at him in school. Inexplicably, in that moment, Jiang Ying found himself thinking Qi Zhu didn't look that objectionable. He even felt like he wanted to praise Qi Zhu a little.
It was the dead of night, and Qi Zhu was still out here studying his script. If this wasn't a good actor, then there were no good actors in the world.
Jiang Ying rarely ever felt the urge to praise anyone. With his hands trapped under the blanket, he shifted and nudged Qi Zhu with his shoulder. Then, deliberately changing his form of address, he said, "Qi-gege, my good sir. You really are a very dedicated actor."
Before he even finished speaking, a flash of cold crossed Qi Zhu's face. Qi Zhu's light, disinterested gaze swept over Jiang Ying.
"You're dissing me?" Qi Zhu asked.
Jiang Ying blinked.
No? That had been a rare nugget of praise.
But maybe his reputation as an aggressive, negative troll had already been cemented in Qi Zhu's heart. Maybe Qi Zhu would hear an insult in anything and everything he ever said.
"Go to sleep," Qi Zhu ordered irritably. "You spend all day thinking about nonsense instead of studying your script. If you don't do a good job on 'An Auspicious Snow', it's over for you."
And now Jiang Ying was inexplicably being lectured. He couldn't even begin to figure out where he had gone wrong in his attempt to offer a word of praise.
"You sound like my mom when you scold me," Jiang Ying snapped before running off, still wrapped up in the blanket.
In any case, Qi Zhu really was dedicated. Jiang Ying suddenly felt motivated to spend some time reviewing his script as well.
Back in the living room, Qi Zhu remained in the soft, orange glow of the table lamp and picked up his script again. Although this booklet was marked as a script on the outside, it actually contained printouts of the QQ chat history between Qi Zhu and a certain someone.
Qi Zhu held the script in one hand and a red pen in the other. He studied the 'script' closely, marking out every point of interest.
All uses of 'sir' and 'thou' needed to be circled.
The slightly smiling and waving emojis had to be circled as well. Questions marks, circled. Qi Zhu even circled the ones at the ends of sentences.
Jiang Ying had expressed a distaste for ellipses, and that showed in his way of chatting. He rarely used them.
Besides those little details, there were countless reaction memes scattered throughout their conversation.
Qi Zhu set down the booklet and picked up his cell phone. He opened the chat with the person with a big ship next to his name, then started saving memes one by one.