Chapter 28: I Considered You a Deskmate, and You Considered Me…

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The director could only think that in all his years, he had never seen a 'little' scene like this.

"I heard you two… were middle school classmates?" the director said, suddenly remembering that little tidbit.

"Mm. We were also classmates in elementary school and for a bit of high school," Qi Zhu said. "For family reasons, I went to school abroad for a while. Besides those times, we were always classmates."

"Then…" The director searched for a delicate way to phrase his thoughts. "He's always been like this?"

"Hyperactive. Aggressive. Energetic. Ill-tempered. Inexhaustible. Likes making trouble, causing commotions, and—more than anything—fighting. But he's reasonable. If you don't provoke him, you won't be bitten," Qi Zhu stated plainly. After giving his thorough assessment of Jiang Ying, he added, "That last part doesn't apply to me."

The director was rendered speechless once more.

Originally, this director had only wanted to record a light and refreshing variety show in which big stars visited a small village and got a taste of a slower, more leisurely life. He wanted to bring viewers a sense of tranquility and to let them experience the peace that only existed in these little towns.

Ever since Jiang Ying took that break to watch a fight, the director had been feeling a sense of unease rising within him. As expected, this refreshing little show had taken a wrong turn somewhere. It was practically turning into a celebrity sports competition now.

And Jiang #2 clearly didn't not know how to roller skate at all. He had just wanted to create some trouble for Qi Zhu.

Miao Ye didn't have a lot of assets to his name, but he did have his long legs. In times of peril, he ran like the wind. But Jiang Ying gave chase like his roller skates were Nezha's wind and fire wheels. The two of them raced halfway down the street, with a gaggle of cameramen and bodyguards desperately trying to keep up behind them.

"Don't worry, he won't fall," Qi Zhu reassured the director. He meandered unhurriedly in Jiang Ying's direction.

The director's worries continued to grow.

After giving chase for half a street, Jiang Ying easily caught up with the frantically fleeing Miao Ye. He was just getting ready to reach out and grab the bag of quest items from Miao Ye.

Miao Ye, panting heavily, shot a look at Jiang Ying's roller skates with an incredibly twisted, complicated look on his face.

"Let me ask you, Classmate Meow. Do you think I bite?" Jiang Ying reached out and waved his right hand in front of Miao Ye's face. "Why are you running?"

Miao Ye wanted to do more than run. If he'd known Jiang Ying was the other replacement guest on this show, he never would have agreed to come.

"Ai, you know, I think you're a pretty interesting person," Jiang Ying said. On roller skates, he was considerably taller than Miao Ye and spoke to him in a condescending tone, with a condescending look. "You have no guts. Like, none. So why did you pick a fight with me the other day?"

"That was just about making a living," Miao Ye muttered under his breath. He took several deep breaths, like he was trying to fortify his psychological and emotional defenses. After steeling his resolve, he added, "I just don't think you can hack it in this industry. You don't work hard even when you're filming variety shows. People say you're better at treading water than a goose."

Maybe it was because he was running out of breath, or maybe it was because he just wasn't brave enough. Either way, Miao Ye's words came out like the buzzing of a weak mosquito.

"What was that?" Jiang Ying didn't catch everything he'd said. He skated closer to Miao Ye and put a hand on his shoulder. "Who said that to you?"

Miao Ye was silent.

A hand came up from behind Jiang Ying and took hold of his left shoulder, dragging him and his skates back half a meter.

Miao Ye could finally catch his breath. At the same time, he felt his admiration for Qi Zhu growing by the second.

This was probably the only man in the world who could subdue a certain someone's aggressive temperament.

"We're still recording," Qi Zhu stated calmly. With just those few words, he tamped down the fighting spirit that had been swelling within Jiang Ying.

"You're right." Jiang Ying flashed Miao Ye a small smile. "Come on. Let's do a good job."

"Then… then let's get on with it," Miao Ye agreed. He suddenly remembered his own task. Reaching into the bag he carried, he pulled out a little scrap of paper and hesitantly pointed at Jiang Ying. "The one who spotted me first was… you."

Jiang Ying nodded. "Mhm, me."

Qi Zhu kept his hand on Jiang Ying's shoulder the whole time. That made everyone else feel a lot safer.

"So, that means you get a chance to answer my question. If you answer correctly, you'll win a task item… a basket of eggs," Miao Ye recited.

"Alright," Jiang Ying said.

He finally seemed like a reasonable, rational person.

Nearly all directors in the industry liked to use these questions as opportunities to dig up some gossip on their celebrity guests. Jiang Ying never imagined the director of this show would be like a breath of fresh air. The question he received was a high school International Mathematical Olympiad problem.

Jiang Ying blinked.

He instantly turned to Qi Zhu and stuffed the scrap of paper into Qi Zhu's hand. It was an incredibly practiced move, like he'd done it a thousand times before. "Class Monitor, Class Monitor. Can you do it?"

Finally, finally, the director caught some of the quaint, refreshing footage that he wanted. The guests gathered at a cozy little teahouse. Qi Zhu and Jiang Ying put their heads together and worked on the math problem. Miao Ye sat to the side and waited for their answer. Fu Zhi, who had arrived in town much earlier, sat nearby and sipped a cup of tea.

As for the other guest, Chi Yunkai… he'd paddled his raft in the wrong direction and had yet to make it to town.

"See? This is it," the director whispered to the assistant director. He heaved a sigh of relief. "This is the slow-paced lifestyle I wanted to capture."

"Do you have any scratch paper?" Qi Zhu asked, lifting his head.

Miao Ye blinked, bewildered. "No."

"Can you work with this?" Fu Zhi asked, slowly producing a sheet of the morning newspaper.

Qi Zhu stared at him for a moment. "…is there anything else?"

"I'll reluctantly give you a sheet," Jiang Ying said. He took a little notebook out from one pocket, flipped past the first few pages, and ripped out a piece of paper from the middle for Qi Zhu.

"Bringing a notebook with you everywhere is a good habit," Qi Zhu said.

Jiang Ying's gaze grew a little shifty at that. Surprisingly, he didn't offer any sort of retort.

The director needed to get some interesting footage, but he had no intention of tormenting his guests. By the time Qi Zhu finished working on the problem, Chi Yunkai—who'd spent the whole morning drifting down a river—had been fished out and brought to the teahouse. All five guests were finally united.

After the guests dined together, they did some more shopping before heading back to the house later that evening.

The farmhouse only had four bedrooms. Last night, each guest had taken one. Now that Miao Ye was with them, he had nowhere to sleep.

"Chi Yunkai and I could squeeze in together," Fu Zhi offered.

"Nah, it's fine. The beds are too small," Jiang Ying said. To Miao Ye, he added, "I'll give you my room."

"Huh?" Miao Ye was stunned. Never in a million years would he have expected Jiang #2 to offer him a room. "What about you?"

Jiang Ying pointed to Qi Zhu's room, then he pointed to Qi Zhu. "I'll take the bed, he'll take the couch."

Miao Ye fell silent.

Well, whatever. Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu knew each other. Even if they argued about this, it surely wouldn't turn into a serious fight.

After dinner, Jiang Ying dragged his blankets and pillows into Qi Zhu's room. He took his few packs of contraband snacks with him as well, only leaving Miao Ye a single bag of sunflower seeds.

"Not messing with your phone today?" Qi Zhu asked. He was a little surprised to find Jiang Ying sitting quietly at the edge of the bed, staring off into space.

"Not in the mood." Jiang Ying had wasted a little too much energy that day, and now he couldn't get his energy levels back up. "I'm going to take a shower."

He shucked off his jacket, tossed it onto the bed, and strode out of the room. The moment he closed the door, his jacket slipped off the bed and fell onto the ground. And a little notebook fell out of the jacket.

Qi Zhu stooped down to pick it up. When it landed, the notebook had just so happened to fall open to one of the first few pages.

Battle Potential Evaluation

Qi Zhu blinked.

What was that supposed to mean?

Qi Zhu gave the page a cursory skim and instantly understood. This irritating, restless imp had evaluated everyone around him and scored their fighting prowess. He'd even added his own little notes under each score.

Jiang Ying's most recent entry was Miao Ye. He'd given Miao Ye negative five points and added the remark: Pitiful. Free kill.

Qi Zhu was silent.

No wonder Jiang Ying had been so secretive about this notebook earlier that day. He'd been very careful not to let anyone see these pages.

Flipping forward in the book, Qi Zhu saw that Jiang Ying had given his older brother Jiang Xun a score of infinity. And the remark next to Jiang Xun's name: Must not provoke.

Gu Wei had initially received 60 points, but his score had been crossed out and a new remark had been added: Must not provoke.

Yi Qing, 100 points. The note next to her name: Pretty much on my level.

Qi Jun, 9 points. The note: Garbage.

Besides those, there were many other names in the notebook that Qi Zhu recognized, as well as many he didn't recognize.

On the very first page, only one name was written—

Qi Zhu.

Score: ???

Evaluation: Prodigious.

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