Jiang Ying didn't know whether it was delicious or not. What he did know was that Little Lemon had sent that message at one hell of a time.
She'd just so happened to send it when Qi Zhu was there to 'start something'.
"So, by 'start something', you mean… you're looking for a fight?" Jiang Ying asked, a little hesitant because of his uncertainty.
"What do you think?" Qi Zhu countered.
"I don't know what to think. Ge, this is not how we pick fights."
This was more of a seduction technique, wasn't it?
When that thought drifted through Jiang Ying's mind, he quickly shook his head to clear it away. There was no need to venture down that path.
Qi Zhu wouldn't have those sorts of tricks up his sleeve, anyway. Jiang Ying didn't need to overestimate him.
"What are you looking at?" Qi Zhu asked. Jiang Ying had only glanced at his tablet; he hadn't had a chance to turn it off yet. Qi Zhu continued, "Is it interesting?"
"Nope, not interesting," Jiang Ying lied. His eyes grew a bit shifty, and he felt bad for disparaging the app that he had loved for more than three years. "Really."
"Then, what is it?" Qi Zhu asked, resting his gaze on the screen next to Jiang Ying.
Little Lemon had disappeared again, maybe because she'd gotten out of class. For whatever reason, she didn't send any other messages, so Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu were left staring at the last thing she wrote.
"It's that app, from before. You said you thought it suited me, so I'm checking it out." Jiang Ying tilted his head cautiously, wary of Qi Zhu's movements. "Just… checking out its features."
There was no denying that the person in front of him was Qi Zhu. But these days, Jiang Ying kept getting the feeling that this present Qi Zhu was… not quite right. Jiang Ying couldn't, however, put his finger on what was so unusual about this Qi Zhu.
"Then, who's this?" Qi Zhu asked. His gaze skimmed over the usernames on the screen.
Jing Ying blinked.
Was Qi Zhu really here to pick a fight? Why did he have so many questions?
Did 'this' refer to Little Lemon?
"Oh, just an ordinary player," Jiang Ying said.
A super ordinary fighting champion from A University. Captain of her debate team. Winner of, oh, just a few dozen tournaments or so. No big deal, right?
Well, none of that mattered. Qi Zhu wouldn't know the truth.
"Mm." Qi Zhu finally let go of Jiang Ying. It wasn't clear whether he'd bought the lie or not.
"Class Monitor, seriously, what are you doing?" Jiang Ying asked. When Qi Zhu released him, his fingers brushed Jiang Ying's cheek and elicited a teensy bit of an inexplicable emotion from Jiang Ying's heart.
"I told you. You seem bored, so I'm here to pick a fight," Qi Zhu deadpanned. His tone was perfectly calm, not unlike his usual cold and unaffected way of speaking.
That fleeting moment of… something, something strange and ambiguous, seemed to be nothing more than a figment of Jiang Ying's imagination.
"Is there anyone who picks a fight like you?" Jiang Ying demanded. Qi Zhu's hand was still resting on his shoulder. He brushed it off. "You're a…"
"A what?" Qi Zhu asked. He seemed genuinely curious now.
Jiang Ying eyed him suspiciously for a moment, but he really couldn't tell what this person was thinking just by looking at his face. In the end, he had no choice but to drop the subject.
"I'll practice the song," he said dispiritedly.
But Qi Zhu wasn't prepared to let him change the subject so quickly. "The subject you were fighting about, was that what came up last—"
Suddenly, Jiang Ying interrupted him by bursting out in song, bellowing at the top of his lungs.
The vocal coach just so happened to step into the control room at that exact moment. The awful performance scared her half to death.
"Jiang #2!" the coach admonished loudly. "You practice for hours, and this is what you have to show me? I'm telling your mother."
Jiang Ying fell silent.
Fuck. He was doomed.
Round One: Qi Zhu. Winner.
"Class Monitor." Jiang Ying, finally released from the recording studio, ran to catch up to Qi Zhu. "Congratulations on your long legs, but slow down!"
Qi Zhu stopped when he set his gaze on Jiang Ying, who was panting after sprinting to catch up to him. He studied Jiang Ying for a moment with a deeply thoughtful look.
"I'm starving," Jiang Ying complained. "Treat me to lunch."
"You dragged me out here even though I didn't have any work scheduled for today, so you owe me lunch," Jiang Ying reasoned. These were all facts, after all. His assistant had run off as soon as he heard Jiang Ying had been abducted for the day. Now, Qi Zhu was the only person in the world who could make sure Jiang Ying was properly fed and watered.
"My assistant ran away," Jiang Ying said. He looked at his phone with a mournful pout, rereading the message from Assistant Chen about taking a day off. "Who said he could have the day off?"
"Me," Qi Zhu said.
"You?" Jiang Ying shot him an incredulous look. "Why did you give him the day off?"
"I thought about it," Qi Zhu said. "Since I was taking you with me this morning, I figured I should give your assistant a heads up. I sent him a text and told him I would be borrowing you for today."
Jiang Ying felt a headache coming on. No wonder Assistant Chen hadn't even sent a car to pick him up.
"He seemed pretty happy," Qi Zhu said.
"How could he not be happy? He's getting a paid day off. And—"
Jiang Ying looked around to make sure they were alone. Then he continued, "You set me up. If that vocal coach tells me on, my mom is going to cut me off for the month. I won't get an allowance. She'll even withhold my salary."
That was the downside of being signed to his own family's agency.
"If I starve to death, will you feed me?" Jiang Ying demanded, still blocking Qi Zhu's path.
Qi Zhu nodded. "Mm."
"What kind of 'mm' is that?"
"I got it," Qi Zhu said. "I will, begrudgingly, treat you to lunch. Just an ordinary meal."
"Sure, I'm not picky," Jiang Ying said with a victorious grin.
Round Two: Jiang Ying. Winner.
Twenty minutes later, Jiang Ying found himself standing in front of a very familiar supercar in the underground parking lot. He felt a bit conflicted.
Although he hadn't been totally awake that morning, he was pretty sure this wasn't the car they'd taken to the recording studio.
Which posed a few questions.
What was this car doing here? When did it get here?
"Where to?" Jiang Ying asked, rubbing the spot between his brows.
"An ordinary restaurant," Qi Zhu said, once again emphasizing the word 'ordinary'.
Jiang Ying raised his eyebrows. He suddenly felt a bit uncertain.
In the car, he loaded up his own family's QQ group chat.
[Big-Clawed Crab] (Dragon King): @100K Volts, GE!!!
[Big-Clawed Crab] (Dragon King): Ge, are you there?
[100K Volts]: ?
[100K Volts]: If you need damage control, call your manager.
[Big-Clawed Crab] (Dragon King): Where's the supercar I asked for?!
[100K Volts]: PikachuRage.jpg
[Big-Clawed Crab] (Dragon King): Wahhhhhhhhhh.
[Big-Clawed Crab] (Dragon King): Everyone else has a supercar.
[100K Volts]: It's not that we won't buy one for you. It's mostly that you can't drive.
[100K Volts]: Here's an idea. Since you suck at driving, just make friends with 'everyone else' and have them drive you around.
[Big-Clawed Crab] (Dragon King): LittlePandaRage.jpg
This supposed 'everyone else' glanced over at Jiang Ying in the passenger seat. "Dragon King?"
Jiang Ying covered his cell phone screen. "You looked at my phone?"
"I guessed," Qi Zhu said. "Did you forget how our language teacher loved and hated you?"
Jiang Ying fell silent.
It was true that their old language teacher had both loved and hated students like Jiang Ying. For the most part, Jiang Ying's language scores were excellent. He wasn't like other students; he never struggled with his essays. He wrote well-crafted papers with very reasonable logic. It was just that sometimes… the content was a little concerning.
For example, that essay about a person he would never forget.
"What'd I ever do to him?" Jiang Ying protested, even though he knew.
"Your essays would go off topic. They would go so off that they'd run into outer space," Qi Zhu said. "There was an essay about two people who were fighting, and the prompt was to talk about cooperation. Do you remember what you wrote?"
Jiang Ying did remember. He'd used up every last bit of space on his test paper to critique the crappy arguments the two hypothetical people were flinging at each other, and to lay out exactly how he would have won the argument instead.
He'd gotten 1 point for the essay, and 1 point out of pity.
To that very day, Jiang Ying didn't think there was anything wrong with what he'd written.
"Why did you suddenly bring that up?" Jiang Ying asked while putting his cell phone away. This person was suddenly dredging up Jiang Ying's dark, ancient past, which didn't make Jiang Ying happy at all. "Since you're treating me to lunch, I won't bite your head off yet."
Peering out at the road, he continued, "Where are we going, anyway? Why aren't we there yet?"
"We're here," Qi Zhu said. "Let's have a simple meal."
This 'ordinary' restaurant was located in the heart of H City. It was pricey, and tables had to be booked in advance.
And that day, they were the restaurant's only two patrons.