"Little Buddy?" Jiang Ying interrupted. "You can stop now."
He was perfectly capable of reading these things on his own. Where exactly did Qi Zhu find a smart speaker that could read netizen comments, anyway?
"I haven't finished reading your search results. You don't want to listen anymore?" Gossip Buddy replied mechanically. "Then I'll play one of Jiang Ying's songs for you."
"No, stop. Why would I listen to my own songs," Jiang Ying grumbled as he felt around under his pillow, searching for his cell phone. He'd only ever recorded a few opening and closing songs for TV dramas. He'd practiced them countless times, recorded them countless times, and streamed them countless times while rallying his fans to get them trending. He'd long since grown sick of those songs.
"Okay. I don't understand your hobbies, but Little Buddy will always be with you," the speaker continued. "Next, I'll play your recommended tracks. Here's a song by Qi Zhu."
Well, whatever. Jiang Ying supposed he could just let it play. This stupid speaker was seriously insufferable.
Jiang Ying was already completely focused on scrolling through Weibo.
He'd guessed correctly. Qi Zhu's interview had already been broadcast, and it had even been aired during a prime time slot. Qi Zhu had gained quite a lot of fans through his previous works, and his fans tended to be clingy to the max. They diligently watched all his interviews, so this latest one had already become a hotly discussed topic.
As soon as that CoconutTV interview aired, his fans instantly swarmed the comments section—
[Just watched. I'm super, super satisfied with this interview. I've been waiting for it for ages! I feel reinvigorated.]
[I'm here to watch gege's interview! I wonder if the reporter laid out any interesting traps for Qi Zhu?]
[Whenever I listen to Qi Zhu's interviews or press conferences, I feel like I'm reporting in for duty. Obviously I can't miss a single one, hahaha!]
[Sisters, don't chat yet. Go watch the interview first. I promise there are some nice surprises in this one. You'll definitely come back and laugh.]
This interview, after being edited in post-production, was genuinely very entertaining. After a few proper and professional questions, the comments reading segment—which all netizens looked forward to—began.
[OMG, I thought our Qi-laoshi never paid attention to Weibo. I never imagined he would know so many internet terms. I'm impressed!]
[This is what I've been saying. Sisters, we can't slack off and not even vote for him in the popularity polls just because we think Qi Zhu doesn't check Weibo. I feel like he definitely lurks once in a while.]
[I've come back to laugh. LMAO, he really knows too much! No, no, wait… did Qi Zhu sneakily find a tutor to teach him all these things? lololol]
[Alright, which one of you submitted the third-to-last comment? You're really going to talk about his ship to his face?]
New comments started popping up under one of CoconutTV's older posts as well. Three days ago, the channel's official account had announced their upcoming interview with Qi Zhu, on the set of 'An Auspicious Snow'. They asked netizens for comments to fuel this comment reading segment of the interview, and now the netizens whose comments were selected to be read spoke up.
Netizen 1: Holy crap, I'm stoked! That first comment was mine. I'm so pumped up now. I could even write ten essays in one go. Chasing stars has filled me with the energy to study.
Netizen 2: QAQ If I'd known they were going to choose me, I would have written more! Wahhhh, gege's voice is so nice. I never thought CoconutTV would notice little ol' me. Thank you, Coconut.
Netizen 3: Aha! CuriousPeek.jpg I sent in the third-to-last comment. Qi-laoshi's reaction was way too good! I'm satisfied. I didn't flaunt this ship on purpose, I just said something random. Never thought CoconutTV would choose my comment. But thank you, Coconut. I have no way to repay you, but I promise I'll never ask you for anything else again… for at least three days.
Netizen #3, who'd inadvertently pushed the subject of that ship into Qi Zhu's interview, caught Jiang Ying's attention. Her Weibo username was pretty long: A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain.
"Why does that name look a bit familiar to me?" Jiang Ying mused. The username looked familiar, and the avatar looked familiar. Jiang Ying clicked into the mouthy culprit's Weibo page.
Ah, this really was someone he knew.
Netizen 'A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain' had 120,000 followers. Her profile revealed that she was the captain of the debate team at A University, and—
She was the #1 'Fight!' player for three years running.
On the 'Fight!' app, this user went by the name Little Lemon. She seemed to be active on the app at all times. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. She'd fought in over two thousand matches. It seemed she practically lived on the app. She proved that, with effort, any achievement was possible. And—
She also proved college students really did have way too much free time.
Jiang Ying slowly took back the hand that had been prepared to pick a fight with this netizen. Seeing as they were both big names on the 'Fight!' app, he decided to refrain from starting shit on Weibo.
There was no telling who had chosen Little Lemon's comment and presented it to Qi Zhu. Everyone involved in the CoconutTV interview must have thought Qi Zhu wouldn't know how to read that card. Either that, or he would simply avoid the comment. But, in the end, he'd given a fantastic response.
[He's way too powerful! Qi Zhu: I understand this reference, but I won't say anything. I'll cue in the other relevant party and have him talk to you guys.]
[!!! How did he know Jiang Ying was sneakily listening in? How mysterious. What were those two doing by the door, anyway? Messing around on their phones?]
[Jiang Ying always says Qi Zhu is a bad guy, and I think I get it now. I get what kind of 'bad' it is. He's just a super hot bad boy, isn't he?]
[No one can argue that they have a bad relationship now, right? I feel like their relationship is pretty solid.]
[I don't know about that. It could just be a marketing ploy for the drama?]
[I've said this a billion times already. 'An Auspicious Snow' is a serious drama. They'll rely on the plot and their production quality to become successful. They don't need marketing ploys.]
[There was never anything to fight about. Their 'bad relationship' was just fabricated by that shit-stirring Boss Crab to make us fight! As a shadow, let me be the first to say, I look forward to seeing Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu work together!]
Boss Crab, who just so happened to be browsing Weibo, stared at that comment for a while.
Alright. He would have to accept that harsh criticism. In this matter, he had no right to protest.
A knock sounded at Jiang Ying's door. "Little Ying, are you asleep?"
"No, nah, nope." Jiang Ying jumped off the bed and went to open the door.
When he pulled it open, he and the person on the other side of the door were both a bit flabbergasted.
"You're listening to my music?" Qi Zhu asked, surprised.
Not only was Jiang Ying listening to one of Qi Zhu's songs, he was listening with the speaker's volume turned way, way up. When the door was shut, it was quiet enough. But once Jiang Ying opened the door, the blaring speaker could even be heard in the hallway.
"I just forgot to turn it off," Jiang Ying said.
After a second, he added, "It's terrible. Zero out of five stars."
Qi Zhu blinked.
Jiang Ying fell silent. Bah, he shouldn't have said anything at all.
Qi Zhu stepped inside and pulled the door shut behind himself. He took stock of Jiang Ying's temporary abode, and his gaze ultimately fell upon the 'Gossip Buddy' next to Jiang Ying's bed.
"Are you okay?" Qi Zhu asked, turning his attention back to Jiang Ying.
"Huh?" Jiang Ying was confused for a beat before he realized Qi Zhu must have been asking because he'd nearly flipped himself over while filming on wires earlier that day. "I'm totally fine. You helped steady me in time. It was nothing."
"Next time, stay focused when you're filming," Qi Zhu said. "The safety measures on set are reliable, but it would still hurt if you fell from that height. What was so important that you were thinking about it during a scene, anyway?"
At the time of that midair incident, Jiang Ying really had been distracted. That was a scene in which he and Qi Zhu had fought in very close proximity. Useless and unbidden questions had flooded Jiang Ying's mind, like whose eyelashes were longer—his or Qi Zhu's? With all those thoughts clouding his mind, he'd managed to move his arms according to the stage direction, but his legs hadn't kept up, causing him to nearly tip himself over.
But he couldn't tell Qi Zhu that sort of thing.
"It was nothing," Jiang Ying repeated, shaking his head. "That's not all you came to ask, is it? Ah, that's right, Class Monitor—do you want this?"
Jiang Ying moved over to his luggage and rummaged through his suitcase until he found a bag of individually wrapped fruit candies. He shook out a few for Qi Zhu. "My assistant bought them. I remember you used to like this sort of candy."
"Mm." Qi Zhu watched as Jiang Ying picked out a select few pieces. Jiang Ying's words were generous, but he stingily stuffed just a few pieces of candy into one of Qi Zhu's pockets. "I came to talk to you about our character songs."
Jiang Ying blinked. "Songs?"
Qi Zhu crossed the room and gave Gossip Buddy a pat, cutting off the music in the room.
"But the songs for 'An Auspicious Snow' are being done by T.ATW, right?" Jiang Ying asked. He vaguely remembered his brother saying something about that.
"Just the opening and closing themes. There are also the character songs. All four leads are participating," Qi Zhu explained patiently. "Do you want to sing your part, or do you want the crew to hire someone?"
Jiang Ying raised his hand. "I'll do it, I'll do it. I want the clout."
"I figured you would say that. So when the crew asked earlier today, I answered for you," Qi Zhu said. "I just remembered now, and figured I should tell you."
This guy really had an 'act first, ask permission later' mentality.
"Class Monitor, you know too much," Jiang Ying admonished.
"Then what would you have preferred?" Qi Zhu shot him an inquisitive look and lifted a hand to smooth down a stray lock of hair sticking up from Jiang Ying's head. "Should I have said nothing?"
The music in the room had just stopped, and there wasn't much distance between the two of them. Jiang Ying usually wouldn't have thought anything of it, but the netizen comments he'd just seen on Weibo drifted back to the forefront of his mind.
[Those two are pretty sweet with each other. It's so easy to ship them.]
Due to the memory of those comments, Jiang Ying suddenly got the feeling that something about the lighting and the atmosphere in this room… just wasn't right.
Were they shippable?
Jiang Ying had shipped various people before. He'd shipped couples who met bed ends, and he'd shipped couples who weathered all storms and found a way to be together. But he never thought he would, one day, be shipped.
What kind of ending would his own ship have?
Qi Zhu's voice suddenly disrupted his thoughts. "Ogre Jiang, haven't you been getting distracted while looking at me more often these days?"
"You're good-looking," Jiang Ying answered dismissively. He pushed the subject aside and lifted a hand to shoo Qi Zhu out of his room.
After ejecting Qi Zhu and closing the door, Jiang Ying leaned back against the door and pressed a hand to his own chest, trying to feel out what his pulse was doing.
Miao Ye, who'd just finished work for the day, happened to pass through the hallway at just that moment. He saw Qi Zhu leaning against a door with a restrained smile quirking the corners of his lips. It was a long while later, after walking away, that Miao Ye realized…
That door belonged to his Jiang-ge, didn't it?
Jiang Ying started to bother Qi Jun again.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Jun'er.
[Qi Jun]: Oh? Jiang #2 has changed his name.
[Qi Jun]: This is my business account. Too bad I can't get all fancy with my display name.
[Qi Jun]: What are you confused about?
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Spent too much time on Weibo.
[Qi Jun]: Makes sense. My family's Qi-zong is always telling us young people to spend less time on Weibo.
[Qi Jun]: You should just stick to fighting.
That was a good idea.
Jiang Ying had been in the middle of chatting with his apprentice just a short while ago. He decided to get back into the app and continue that conversation.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Still there? Still there?
[Fighter3357868]: Here, here.
[Restless Boss Crab]: I suddenly feel a bit empty inside.
[Fighter3357868]: Do you need me to sacrifice my dignity and keep you company with my body?
[Restless Boss Crab]: You've changed.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Apprentice, your cold and uncaring persona has collapsed.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Anyway, I have some free time now. I'll give you another lesson.
[Restless Boss Crab]: We've been talking about internet fights all this time. Let's talk about real life arguments. Besides the idiots that come looking for trouble, you can go out and find some meaningful fights for yourself as well. It's sure to bring some excitement to your dull and boring life.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Let me teach you how to start a fight.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Oh, but you have to be careful. You need a good reason to provoke someone. We don't bully people. And we don't pick fights with people we can't beat. We have to find suitable opponents.
[Restless Boss Crab]: I've always provoked my class monitor, for example.
[Restless Boss Crab]: He's the one who brings me the most joy.
[Restless Boss Crab]: You can try starting something with that aggressive friend of yours.
[Fighter3357868]: Mm, okay.
[Fighter3357868]: How do I start?