This astounding 'Fight!' app had, at some point, started wandering down the long path of pushing out update after update.
Along with the announcement of the upcoming annual tournament, they released a new feature: a forum for their players.
The forum rules—
- First and foremost, we are a serious online fighting app. Not a dating app.
- Using this forum to arrange offline meetings between players is strictly forbidden. Players found engaging in such conduct will be banned.
- The annual tournament is almost here! We welcome all discussion of the tournament on these forums.
And so, not long after Jiang Ying registered for the tournament on his apprentice's behalf, someone brought up a new topic on these new forums.
Boss Crab registers for his apprentice. What do you guys think?
[I don't really care, to be honest. This guy has too many tricks up his sleeve. A while back, all of Weibo was feuding because of him. He definitely isn't a good person. Sure, he can make a name for himself on a pointless app like this, but I bet he's the type of person everyone hates in real life.]
[But a lot of people wanted to be his apprentice. Someone even offered to pay for the privilege, and he totally ignored them.]
[Paying tuition for something like this is stupid, right? Anyone can learn this stuff by browsing through some forums. But if anyone wants to pay me, I'd gladly teach them everything I know.]
[Off topic, off topic! Let's get back to the point. How well do you guys think Boss Crab's apprentice will do?]
[No clue. And I still don't know where he found an apprentice that looks like someone's alt account. That player's name and avatar are both defaults. It feels like he thinks he's too good for us.]
[Oh, that's right. Speaking of Boss Crab himself, isn't there some sort of meet-and-greet for the Top 10 this year? Where we can actually meet the players in person? I wonder if Boss Crab will go.]
Jiang Ying discovered this new forum on the homepage of the app. The interface was pretty nice and clean, and the very first topic that entered Jiang Ying's line of sight was about him.
Forum ID: Boss Crab Himself
Forum Post: You guys are overthinking this. I'm happy as long as my apprentice is having fun. I just want him to gain some worldly experience. His rank and position are all meaningless. If you want to fight someone for a rank, come at me. MiddleFinger.jpg As for the meet-and-greet, do you people honestly think you'll get a glimpse of me that easily? Pfft, naive.
Following Jiang Ying's response, a slew of responses from disgusted users appeared—
[Ffs, he's so full of himself.]
[Who the hell would want to meet you, anyway?]
"Who wouldn't want to meet me?" Jiang Ying muttered to himself as he typed those words out as a new response. "But if you want to see me, you'll have to snatch your tickets off scalpers first."
Miao Ye, sitting across from Jiang Ying, overheard his mutterings and was immediately rendered speechless.
Finally, after sending out that message, Jiang Ying set down his phone and fixed his gaze on the bowl in front of him.
At some point, a little mound of bok choy had appeared on his plate. They stared at him, all green and nasty. And at some point, it seemed he'd even taken a few bites.
Jiang Ying blinked.
Then he snuck a glance at Qi Zhu, who sat next to him. Qi Zhu didn't seem to notice any of Jiang Ying's little movements at all. He was completely focused on talking to T.ATW's Fu Zhi about chess.
Jiang Ying faced forward again. He noticed that Miao Ye just so happened to be looking at him, so he flashed a very kind and cordial smile before shifting and mercilessly slamming his knee against Qi Zhu's leg.
Qi Zhu looked over.
Jiang Ying tapped his chopsticks against the side of his bowl, producing a pleasant, tinkling sound.
"Mm." Qi Zhu didn't show any traces of guilt, shame, or embarrassment over being caught. He calmly reached down and pushed Jiang Ying's leg back to where it belonged. "Eat your food. No putting it back."
Jiang Ying was still a bit sick, so he couldn't taste much. He couldn't be bothered to argue with Qi Zhu over some bok choy. In the end, he obediently finished what was in his bowl without attempting to sneak it back onto the serving plate.
Watching the two of them, Miao Ye was thoroughly stupefied. A piece of fish slipped off his chopsticks several times.
By then, the director had gotten pretty much all the footage he wanted. The guests were allowed to do as they pleased with the rest of the evening.
Jiang Ying was a child who'd grown up in the city, so this sort of rural environment was naturally new and unique to him. Earlier, he'd had to go along with the show's itinerary. When he did have free time, he was laid up with a fever. There hadn't been a good time to run around and explore. Now, he could wander to his heart's content.
"Little Ying, have you taken your cold medicine?" Qi Zhu asked after clearing the dinner table.
It was only after he asked that he realized a certain someone had disappeared again.
After asking Miao Ye and heading outside, Qi Zhu found Jiang Ying spacing out next to the river. Jiang Ying was sensitive to the cold, so he'd grabbed Qi Zhu's jacket from the back of the couch before stepping out.
The jacket was a bit too big for Jiang Ying. When he crouched by the river with that oversized jacket draped over his shoulders, he looked somewhat small and frail. In Qi Zhu's eyes, he was still the boy who'd been his deskmate a number of years ago.
"Let's go back," Qi Zhu called out from the side of the road.
Jiang Ying, sitting out by the river, looked quite nice and docile. But upon closer inspection, one would notice that he'd yanked up all the grass in a patch near him, leaving a bald spot by his feet.
There was no way of knowing how he'd been raised. What kind of upbringing must he have had to produce such a restless nature?
"Class Monitor, what are you doing here?" Jiang Ying got up. He'd worn the roller skates out of the house. As he moved along the river, he took each step carefully.
"Take your medicine," Qi Zhu said. He held out a thermos and the medicine he'd brought along.
Jiang Ying took the thermos. "Class Monitor, this jacket of yours is from last year, isn't it? It's out of style. Aren't you going to change it?"
"If you don't like it, give it back to me."
"Petty." Jiang Ying shook his head. Feigning a tone of genuine concern, he continued, "It's a good thing I'm so nice to you. Class Monitor, with your personality, you'll definitely freeze your future partner to death."
"Mm. And you'll definitely annoy your future partner to death," Qi Zhu stated matter-of-factly. "What's so interesting about the riverbank? Let's head back."
"Fine," Jiang Ying said. He was too lazy to move again, so he plopped both hands onto Qi Zhu's shoulders to let Qi Zhu pull him back to the house.
March nights were still cold, with hardly a touch of warmth in the air. Jiang Ying hadn't worn much when he left the house, and he'd spent a fairly long time gazing out at the river. His hands were cold. As Qi Zhu walked, Jiang Ying suddenly slid his hands up to Qi Zhu's neck. When the warmth of Qi Zhu's bare skin bled into Jiang Ying's fingers, Jiang Ying let out a dreamy sigh.
Unexpectedly, this time, Qi Zhu didn't push him away.
Jiang Ying had reviewed much of the script for 'An Auspicious Snow' by now, and he felt like the atmosphere was pretty good. On a whim, he exchanged a few lines with Qi Zhu.
"Setting aside your acting skills for now, your delivery really is awful. Practice your lines when you get back," Qi Zhu said. "The emotion is good, though."
"My fundamentals are lacking. I'll practice," Jiang Ying agreed. But even he had noticed that his delivery wasn't all bad. "I did feel something."
Five minutes later, Qi Zhu answered, "Mm. There was a feeling."
The recording for the variety show was just about over. The two guests from T.ATW had busy schedules, so they said goodbye to everyone and embarked on their return trip that very night. Miao Ye wasn't popular; he decided to stay the night at the farmhouse and enjoy the slow-paced life of the countryside for a little longer.
"Do you need to rush back for work too?" Jiang Ying asked as he laid out the covers on his side of the bed. Since he was there, he made up Qi Zhu's side of the bed too.
"I'm not too busy these days. We can head back together tomorrow," Qi Zhu said. He was leaning against the wall by the door to the bedroom, scrutinizing something on his phone with his brows furrowed. It seemed like he was looking at something utterly unbelievable.
"What are you looking at?" Jiang Ying stopped what he was doing. "You've been staring at your phone this whole time. Is there something amazing on there?"
"…then what's giving our unfazeable, indomitable, ever-unchanging class monitor a headache now?" Jiang Ying asked.
Qi Zhu's expression went completely blank before he lifted his head and looked Jiang Ying over.
Jiang Ying blinked.
"Is there something amazing on my face?" Jiang Ying asked.
"Do you keep your promises?" Qi Zhu asked out of the blue.
"What's this about promises?" Jiang Ying had been in the middle of stealing a bit of Qi Zhu's half of the bed with his covers, but he was confused enough to freeze for a moment. "Speak human."
Qi Zhu couldn't be bothered to explain. He just kept his impatient gaze fixed on Jiang Ying, like he wanted an answer but wasn't interested in giving an explanation.
Jiang Ying thought back to everything he'd said in the past three hours or so.
The only thing that could even sort of qualify as a promise was what he'd said as they made their way back from the river—
My fundamentals are lacking. I'll practice.
That had to be what Qi Zhu was referring to.
"And I thought it was something serious," Jiang Ying muttered. He graciously made his way around the bed and crossed the room to pat Qi Zhu on the shoulder. "Class Monitor, don't worry. I swear I always keep my promises. I won't hold you back."
"Good." Qi Zhu finally looked away. Before he exited the room, he waved his own cell phone in front of Jiang Ying's eyes. "I recorded that."
Jiang Ying blinked. "You sly, cunning old…"
When Qi Zhu left the room, Jiang Ying hollered out into the hall, "Am I really that unreliable? You think I would renege on a promise? Qi Zhu, you're looking down on me?"
Miao Ye, who had just been about to knock, jumped at the sound of that voice. He was still looking a little alarmed when he saw Qi Zhu step outside.
"The director says two rooms have been freed up," Miao Ye whispered cautiously, relaying the director's message. "You guys…"
"No need," Qi Zhu interrupted.
Jiang Ying finished making the bed, took two steps back, then flung himself onto the soft and cushy comforters with a flying leap. He rolled around twice, creasing the covers, before finally settling in to start his nightly routine of playing on his phone.
The most recent notification from his phone was from the 'Fight!' app. The automated system alert asked him—
Did you have a fight today?
In fact, Jiang Ying hadn't fought in several days.
He thought of the forum thread he'd replied to earlier that day and suddenly felt like checking in on it. As expected, scads of users had chimed in with various reaction memes and beautifully crafted words of disdain.
[Buy a ticket to see you? Pfft, do you really think you're cool enough to be that arrogant?]
[Boss Crab has gone crazy. At least this is funny.]
[What's the point of acting this way? To be frank, you're just a guy who likes to fight. Why bother acting like a celebrity?]
[I wouldn't want to meet you even if you gave me the tickets for free. Pah.]
Jiang Ying picked a few users who seemed particularly feisty and scheduled proper fights with them. Then, he suddenly received a message from that cold and aloof apprentice of his who, at times, almost seemed to live in a higher plane of existence.
[Fighter3357868] has accepted your invitation to participate in the upcoming tournament.
Your apprentice [Fighter3357868] has set a battle cry: Leave me alone.
Your apprentice's performance in this tournament will be calculated into your joint master-apprentice score.
[Fighter3357868]: You there? SlightSmile.jpg
[Boss Crab]: This 'You there?' of yours is already making you sound like me.
[Boss Crab]: But I'm going to believe this slight smile of yours is a genuine smile.
[Boss Crab]: Don't worry too much about the tournament. Just have fun.
[Fighter3357868]: I was thinking the same thing.
[Boss Crab]: ……
[Fighter3357868]: By the way, if I 'work hard' and 'never give up' and 'thoroughly trounce' that 'aggressive friend' of mine, will I get a 'reward'?
[Boss Crab]: Why are you putting so many air quotes around your words. CuriousPeek.jpg
[Boss Crab]: But yes, of course there'll be a reward.
[Boss Crab]: I always keep my promises.