Qi Zhu was silent.
Miao Ye, who had been dozing off, suddenly snapped awake and asked, "Huh? What streak?"
The director and crew all stared on with blank expressions, thoroughly confused.
While everyone watched on, Jiang Ying raced off with Qi Zhu, dragging him along by the wrist and sprinting towards their assistants.
It was now 23:59:50.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: [poke poke]
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Hurry up, hurry up.
[Class Monitor]: [poke poke]
Their streak was successfully renewed.
Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu had saved the big flames next to their names.
[Class Monitor]: I think I understand what you get 'super serious' about now.
[Class Monitor]: Spits.jpg
The clouds cleared, the rain stopped. Jiang Ying felt reinvigorated.
"Come on, come on, come on!" Jiang #2 was brimming over with energy and enthusiasm now. He waved over at the director and called out, "Let's try another take."
The director was more than pleased by that enthusiasm, and Jiang Ying's performance in their next take was exceptional. His acting was right on, the emotion in his eyes was perfect, and he nailed the scene in just one more take. Everyone could leave work much earlier than expected. Many members of the crew cast grateful looks in Jiang Ying's direction for that.
"What did you guys run off to do? Why are you in such good shape all of a sudden?" asked the director of 'An Auspicious Snow'. "I'm getting on in years. I don't understand what you young people are into these days."
"I dozed off earlier. I don't get it either," Miao Ye said. With absolute certainty, he added, "But I do know I'll be seeing this in the highlights."
Although they wrapped up earlier than expected that night, it was still very late by the time they finished. That afternoon, Assistant Chen had fetched a lot of Jiang Ying's things and gotten him set up in the room where he would be staying while shooting the drama.
Jiang Ying quickly gathered up his things, wanting to get some rest as soon as possible. But Qi Jun's words suddenly drifted through his ear again.
I spend every day chatting with our agency's pretty little meimei. Like clockwork, I check in to maintain our streak. I put in the time to work on our sailboat, to turn it into a big ship. Do you have the patience to do that with anyone?
Jiang Ying actually did. He had the patience. He had someone.
He took out his phone, pulled up his chat with Little Qi-zong on WeChat, and began to answer.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: I do.
[Big-Clawed Crab]: You know nothing.
It was already one in the morning, but Qi Jun was still up. He answered within seconds.
[Qi Jun]: Wtf?
Qi Jun probably had to take a moment to read what he'd sent earlier, before more or less understanding what Jiang Ying was responding to.
[Qi Jun]: Your response speed is too slow, don't you think?
[Qi Jun]: If you're telling the truth, you wouldn't have needed all day to think of an answer, right?
[Qi Jun]: How patient could you possibly be? Come show your gege once you have a streak.
[Qi Jun]: Byebye~
Jiang Ying had the big flames of a streak, and he had a big ship too. It was just hard to explain to Qi Jun why his flames and his ship were both docked next to Qi Zhu's name.
As a controversial idol and a member of the entertainment industry, Jiang Ying was no stranger to shippers. But the existence of fans who shipped him and Qi Zhu was still baffling to him. He'd thought about it all day, but he just couldn't figure out what could have sparked that ship.
In their daily lives, he and Qi Zhu just didn't get along. Even in the two years Qi Zhu had spent studying abroad, they never stopped not getting along.
On his phone, Jiang Ying still had logs of conversations they'd had in their third year of high school—
[Big-Clawed Crab]: [photo of hotpot][photo of Sichuan chicken skewers][photo of Chinese mitten crabs][photo of guoqiao mixian]
[Big-Clawed Crab]: Bet you're drooling.
[Class Monitor]: [photo of study guide][photo of study guide][photo of study guide]
[Class Monitor]: Finished your homework?
That had been their daily routine for years.
"If I showed you these chat logs, you would all drop this ship," Jiang Ying muttered to himself. "So then why did this ship come into existence in the first place?"
"Why? Why?" A cold, mechanical voice ran out from next to Jiang Ying's pillow. "It's very late. Now is the time to go to sleep. Little Buddy hopes you won't be perplexed and confused much longer. It's important to get some rest. I'll play you a song to lull you to sleep. Here's 'Because of Love'."
Jiang Ying fell silent.
His words must have contained some sort of trigger. Just like that, music started to fill the room.
Jiang Ying craned his neck around and found the smart speaker, Gossip Buddy, on his nightstand. When had this damnable thing been put there?
Assistant Chen must have brought it over earlier that day. He'd probably mistaken it for an alarm clock or something.
The thoughts that plagued him during the day followed him into his dreams. Jiang Ying's dreams were full of Qi Zhu that night. When Gossip Buddy woke him up the next morning, he was still a little disoriented.
"So this really is an alarm clock. I knew you would need it," said Assistant Chen when he came to wake Jiang Ying up. He seemed immensely grateful for the existence of Jiang Ying's little buddy. "When did you buy an alarm clock?"
"Qi Zhu gave it to me. He said it was from the organizers of that charity dinner…" Jiang Ying trailed off there, coming to a sudden realization.
He'd been a guest at that dinner too. If the organizers had given out gifts to those in attendance, they definitely wouldn't have left him out.
"Your schedule isn't as packed today," Assistant Chen said. "The villain doesn't do much in the earlier episodes. You only really start to make trouble in the later parts of the show. Qi Zhu has a solo interview in the afternoon. You can go watch if you want, or you can take it easy and rest."
"Alright." Jiang Ying collected his thoughts. "I'll watch."
Qi Zhu's interviews, to Jiang Ying, were genuinely interesting and often hilarious. As soon as Qi Zhu sat down with an interviewer, the mood became dull and lifeless. Jiang Ying wondered if this reporter would have any tricks for brightening the atmosphere.
The cast and crew of 'An Auspicious Snow' were composed of incredibly talented people. Besides the main cast, the supporting actors were all accomplished veterans of the industry. Everyone was in great shape in front of the cameras, and their work progressed very quickly and smoothly.
Jiang Ying was used to idling around on set. This was his first time working with such a highly efficient team. He found himself swept up in their rhythm, and even he felt the urgency in everything they did. Gradually, he started to get serious.
But when he got serious, he got nervous. He lost the feeling he'd been able to capture yesterday. He found himself incapable of recapturing that carefree and naive spirit of the young Xuan Moling.
"Little Ying, try to get into the same mood you had yesterday," the director advised.
Before the director even finished speaking, Qi Zhu pulled Jiang Ying aside and gave him a scolding of his own. "Even an ogre like you knows how to get nervous?"
Jiang Ying fell silent.
There it was. The class monitor's fierce attack.
"In these early scenes, your character hasn't changed yet," Qi Zhu said. "No one's trying to hurt him or kill him. He still sticks to his Luo-gege all day, every day. Why are you so nervous?
"Yeah, there are a lot of people on set today. But think about it. Is that any reason to be nervous? Does that make you as nervous as almost losing our streak?"
"Of course not," Jiang Ying answered.
Instantly, he got back into the mindset he'd maintained yesterday, and he didn't slip again.
"Your mental fortitude is pretty impressive," Miao Ye said. He came over and sat next to Jiang Ying during their lunch break. "Qi-laoshi scolded you, and you actually managed to adjust your mood. If it were me, I'd be scared stupid."
"It's not a big deal," Jiang Ying said. "He didn't say much."
He'd only said exactly what Jiang Ying needed to hear.
"I get anxious if he even walks near me," Miao Ye said. "Seriously, I get chills."
"Is he really that scary?" Jiang Ying had to laugh. "Do you know what he was like, in middle school, when he rushed me to turn in my homework?"
Miao Ye had already heard about the two of them being classmates in the past. "How fierce was he?"
"He would carry a stick, this long." Jiang Ying set his lunch aside and held up both hands to demonstrate. "After collecting everyone else's homework, he would set the pile aside and just watch me try to finish mine. If I got distracted or started talking, he would slam the stick down on my desk, like—WHAM! The guy who sat in front of me was scared out of his mind."
Miao Ye fell silent.
He wiped at the sweat that had beaded on his forehead before he asked, "Then you must have finished your homework real fast, right?"
"Nah, one time I messed around too much over the weekend and didn't do much. He could rush me as much as he wanted, but I definitely wasn't going to finish. In the end, Class Monitor let me copy his math homework," Jiang Ying said. "I wrote my own essay, though. I like writing essays. The prompt was 'Someone You'll Never Forget'.
"I wrote about Class Monitor, about how he was such a good person. Not only did he watch over me to make sure I finished my homework, he even let me copy his math homework. He's definitely someone I'll never forget, for my whole life."
Miao Ye was almost afraid to ask. "…what happened next?"
"Well, later we were both punished with standing out in the hall, and my parents were called in. My homeroom teacher sent my essay into the parents' group chat as an example of what kids shouldn't do," Jiang Ying said. "But my parents didn't have time to come to school, so my brother came. He was dressed up, looking all cool. I think at least twenty people asked me for his WeChat contact info that day."
"…your homeroom teacher really didn't have it easy."
Jiang Ying was just about to say something else when someone appeared behind him and lightly kicked at the legs of his stool.
Jiang Ying looked back.
Qi Zhu stood behind the two of them. There was no telling how much he'd heard. He simply pointed to the lunchbox Jiang Ying had set on the ground and said, "Hurry up and eat. It's getting cold."
"M'kay." Jiang Ying was in a pretty good mood. "You're finished?"
"I don't talk so much when I eat," Qi Zhu said, before turning to leave.
"Hey, Class Monitor." Jiang Ying picked up his lunchbox and quickly caught up to Qi Zhu. "You have an interview this afternoon."
Qi Zhu nodded. "Yes."
"What kind of interview is it going to be?" Jiang Ying asked. He looked down into his lunchbox, carefully hiding the glint of mischief in his eye.
"They told me it'll just be a few simple questions. Then I'll be reading some comments from netizens."
"Reading netizen comments?"
Interesting. Very interesting. Jiang Ying would definitely have to see that with his own eyes.
And so, when Qi Zhu sat down for his interview that afternoon, Jiang Ying and Miao Ye both loitered around by the door, peering in to watch.
After prompting Qi Zhu to greet their viewers, the interviewer from CoconutTV asked, "What expectations do you have for this drama?"
"I have high hopes for the plot, actors, and overall production quality."
"Look," Jiang Ying whispered to Miao Ye. "If you watch a lot of his interviews, you'll notice that his answers are always simple, concise, and professional. In other words, boring."
"You've watched a lot of his interviews?"
Jiang Ying frowned. Miao Ye was focusing on the wrong details.
"That isn't important," Jiang Ying said, waving it off.
After a few more basic questions were asked and answered, the comments segment that Jiang Ying was eagerly looking forward to arrived.
Jiang Ying and Miao Ye both craned their necks to catch a glimpse at the index cards Qi Zhu held in his hands.
The first netizen comment—
[Ah, ah, ahhhhhh! We're looking forward to your new drama!]
Qi Zhu read it calmly and simply added, "Thank you."
Jiang Ying had to hold back a laugh. To Miao Ye, he said, "See for yourself what 'emotionless' really means."
Miao Ye was silent. He didn't dare laugh.
The second comment—
[I hope Qi Zhu-laoshi will take this opportunity to 'bully' Jiang Ying a bit. Help us netizens vent our anger.]
After reading that one, the corners of Qi Zhu's lips actually quirked up. He answered, "I will."
"Hmph," Jiang Ying huffed.
The third comment—
[JSYK, you're the first celebrity I've ever truly followed. I love all your works. I'll support you forever.]
When Qi Zhu reached that card, he paused for a moment and seemed a bit surprised.
There it was. The legendary comment-reading pit celebrities could so easily fall into.
"Bet you fifty cents," Jiang Ying whispered to Miao Ye. "He won't know what 'jsyk' means."
"Deal," Miao Ye said, never passing up a chance to make some money.
Then, a second later, Jiang Ying heard Qi Zhu read out the words 'just so you know' fluidly, clearly, and without a hint of hesitation.
"Fifty cents. Gimme." Miao Ye instantly held out his hand. Fifty cents was fifty cents, after all. "I'll accept a transfer. Jiang-ge, do you want to use Alipay or WeChat?"
The interviewer also seemed a little surprised. Their plan had been to get some laughs by throwing all these unfamiliar terms at Qi Zhu, but it seemed Qi Zhu knew a lot more than they'd anticipated.
The ensuing comments all contained abbreviations like IMHO, FWIW, BTW, TYSM, OML, and so on. Qi Zhu correctly read out the full forms of each and every one.
In a short span of time, Miao Ye won several more fifty-cent bets.
"Why do I get the feeling he upgraded his software again?" Jiang Ying mused.
"Huh?" Miao Ye didn't understand.
They continued to spectate until Qi Zhu flipped to a certain comment card.
[Qi Zhu-gege, what do you think of ZFZY? doge.jpg]