From the moment he stepped out of the car to the end of that meal, Jiang Ying felt as though he were in a trance.
Qi Zhu, as logical as ever, gave a perfectly rational explanation that totally had no holes whatsoever: "I made the reservations a long time ago and forgot about them. Since you mentioned lunch, I remembered."
Jiang Ying said nothing to that.
And the red supercar in the underground garage? Had that car been teleported there, just by chance?
And the bouquet of red roses next to their table? Had they just magically bloomed on their own?
"Who did you plan on taking to lunch?" Jiang Ying asked, blinking at Qi Zhu from across the table. He instinctively started to rack his brain for any ideas of who Qi Zhu could have intended to bring.
"I can't have lunch by myself?" Qi Zhu asked.
Jiang Ying shook his head. "You don't seem like the type."
Then he started listing out all the celebrities Qi Zhu had been rumored to have had affairs with. Qi Zhu denied each and every guess, then said, "These people you're naming, I don't even remember some of their faces. Why do you remember them so clearly?"
How could I not remember clearly? Jiang Ying thought. I collected all your scandals and scroll through them when I'm bored.
He and Qi Zhu could both be considered second-generation celebrities. They came from good families, and they had no shortage of connections in the industry. It was common for people to try to leech off their fame by stirring up rumors of a relationship scandal. Jiang Ying was just so fierce that only complete idiots tried to mooch off him like that.
As for Qi Zhu, everyone in the industry knew he'd never shown any interest in anyone. The people who tried to stir up rumors of a relationship with him never got much attention.
But Jiang Ying had meticulously collected all those nonsense tabloid rumors.
Of course, Jiang Ying wasn't about to out himself as an avid collector of celebrity gossip and scandals. Haltingly, he said, "I just… sometimes hear people talk about these things."
"I didn't know you were so concerned about me," Qi Zhu remarked. "Don't overthink it. I didn't invite anyone else, just you."
"Why did you invite me?" Jiang Ying's hands froze for a second.
"To thank you," Qi Zhu said cryptically.
"Thank me?" Jiang Ying didn't understand. In fact, he felt even more confused after hearing Qi Zhu's answer. "What kind of help have I ever given you? Why do you need to thank me? Do I have any assets that can benefit you?"
"You do," Qi Zhu said. "I've benefited greatly."
Jiang Ying blinked, utterly baffled now.
Why did he feel like it was getting harder and harder to talk to Qi Zhu?
Besides his ability to fight, what other assets did he have?
All through their lunch, Jiang Ying remained confused. That afternoon, when they returned to the lodgings for the cast, they heard about some new commercials they would need to film. The agency that belonged to Qi Jun's family had just become one of their show's sponsors. Soon after returning, Jiang Ying saw a familiar, chubby figure nearby.
"Your dad is investing in this drama?" Jiang Ying asked. "Is it really going to be popular? Can't believe you guys are trying to get in on it too."
"Seems like it'll be a hit. Just based on the cast members' looks, we definitely won't take a loss. My dad never makes bad investments," Qi Jun said. "Qi Zhu and your brother have both invested, right? If there's money to be made, let's all get rich together."
An impromptu meeting was called on the set of 'An Auspicious Snow'. Jiang Ying and Qi Jun grabbed a couple seats for themselves, on opposite sides of the conference table. Jiang Ying didn't have much to do with the new commercials they would have to shoot, so he decided to use that time to chat with the hardworking Little Qi-zong about the things that were perplexing him.
Jiang Ying looked across the table and sent Qi Jun a message with his eyes: Check your phone. Let's talk.
Little Qi-zong answered: Will do.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Qi-zong.
[Qi Jun]: Oh, no. No, no. I wouldn't dare. Qi-zong is my father. I'm still only Little Qi-zong.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: I'm a bit confused right now.
[Qi Jun]: Yeah, I can tell.
[Qi Jun]: Even your display name is confused.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: In your opinion, if a person got you out of bed way early in the morning, then drove off with you in a supercar and took you to a restaurant, the sort of restaurant where you need a reservation, and you were the only two people in the restaurant…
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: What would you say that person is doing?
[Qi Jun]: Is your brain broken?
[Qi Jun]: That's obviously a date.
[Qi Jun]: And this person sounds pretty impressive.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: ???
Jiang Ying's hand trembled. He dropped his phone onto the table.
"If you don't want to listen, don't listen. But at least be quiet," Qi Zhu whispered to him.
"Oh," Jing Ying mumbled. "Okay."
From across the table, Qi Jun mouthed, Are we still talking?
Jiang Ying nodded.
Their conversation continued—
[Qi Jun]: Where's this coming from? Where did you see something like that, in a TV drama?? You love sweet romances like that, don't you? How come you don't recognize a date when you see one all of a sudden?
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: I just had lunch.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Do you get what I'm saying?
[Qi Jun]: !!!
[Qi Jun]: Good lord. Who would have the audacity to date you?
Seriously? Qi Jun asked with his eyes, blinking frantically across the table in an attempt to convey his incredulity. Who?
Yes, seriously! Obviously! Jiang Ying retorted, also with his eyes.
But there was only a limited amount of information that could be conveyed through the eyes. Simultaneously, Qi Jun and Jiang Ying lowered their gazes to their phones again. They each typed in a new message and hit send at the same time.
[Qi Jun]: Who's pursuing you?
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Class Monitor tricked me into going to work with him. I told him to treat me to lunch, and he brought me to…
With their different typing speeds, the two of them entered vastly different amounts of characters in the same amount of time. But both messages contained alarming amounts of information.
At the same time, the two of them latched onto a keyword in the other's message. Qi Jun saw 'Class Monitor', and Jiang Ying saw 'pursuing'.
And at the conference table, Qi Zhu was just in the middle of speaking his mind.
Just then, Jiang Ying and Qi Jun both lifted their heads.
"Holy shit?" Qi Jun blurted out.
"Huh?" Jiang Ying uttered.
The discussion around the table stopped. Everyone turned to look at the two of them.
"Does Little Qi-zong have something to say?"
Qi Jun quickly ducked his head. "No, no."
Both people were given a cold look by Qi Zhu.
[Qi Jun]: I'm shaking in my boots.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: No need. I'm used to it.
In his heart, Qi Jun thought, That's a really weird thing to get used to, dude.
[Qi Jun]: Did you just wake up after dreaming all morning?
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: GTFO.
[Qi Jun]: Do you desire his body?
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Does he desire my body?
Two thumps from falling phones sounded out again. The two of them had managed to startle each other once more.
Qi Zhu observed the two of them for a brief moment. After taking their simultaneous reactions into consideration, he seemed to conclude there was some mischief at play here. He silently reached out and confiscated Jiang Ying's phone.
Qi Jun was speechless.
As was Jiang Ying.
Fifteen minutes later—
One sec, Jiang Ying signaled to Qi Jun, suddenly remembering he still had his tablet.
The conversation continued.
[Qi Jun]: Tsk, tsk, tsk. The class monitor is an expert at confiscating your phone.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: He took it plenty of times when we were in middle school and early high school. After he went overseas, no one ever took my phone again.
[Qi Jun]: You guys are a pretty good match.
[Qi Jun]: Why don't you two just give it a shot? You even have shippers already. If there are people bold enough to ship you, then anything is possible.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: What do you mean 'give it a shot'???
[Qi Jun]: But, in all seriousness, the class monitor pursuing you seems even less likely than me pursuing you.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Spits.jpg I'm not interested in you.
[Qi Jun]: Then you're interested in him? CryingLaughing.jpg
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: That depends on whether or not he's interested in me. Then I'll think about whether or not I'm interested in him. Spits.jpg
Qi Jun's phone thunked onto the table again. Jiang Ying gave his own words some thought and decided he hadn't said anything too shocking just now. Qi Jun must have just lost his grip.
"This table," Qi Zhu suddenly remarked, with a bit of dissatisfaction in his expression. "Do you two have some sort of grudge against it?"
Jiang Ying said nothing.
[Qi Jun]: Okay, let's wrap this up fast. He seems pretty unhappy. I don't want to ruin this business opportunity for my family.
[Qi Jun]: Did he say why you invited you out?
Jiang Ying thought back to his conversation with Qi Zhu and picked out a suitable answer.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: He said he wanted to thank me.
[Qi Jun]: Then that's probably it.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Thank me for what, though?
[Qi Jun]: Dunno. Maybe you did something good without knowing about it. Just wait and see for now. In any case, it's rare for him to be so nice to anyone. You be a little nicer to him too.
[Qi Jun]: You've already let him treat you to a meal, so be good to him.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Makes sense.
Jiang Ying wondered if he'd just blown all this out of proportion.
Spending too much time on Weibo really could change one's way of thinking. Jiang Ying was sure of it now.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Oh, that's right. He also said he wanted to 'start something' with me.
[Qi Jun]: The two of you really have a baffling coexistence.
[Qi Jun]: Deal with it yourself, I guess. I'm retreating for now.
"What do you think?" Qi Zhu suddenly asked, turning to Jiang Ying in the seat next to his.
"Huh?" Jiang Ying lifted his head. "I'm fine with whatever."
He hadn't heard a word of what went on at that meeting, so he could only say 'fine' to anything.
"He said he's fine with it, and I'm fine with it too," Qi Zhu said. "You guys can contact his agency to talk, and my studio will arrange the schedule."
Talk? About what?
It wasn't until that evening, when Jiang Ying received a call from his manager, that he realized he had 'accepted' another variety show.
"The other party said you agreed to it," his manager said. This manager always spoke quickly to Jiang Ying, as though afraid Jiang Ying would cut in and pick a fight if he got a chance. "So, anyway, that's how it is. We've made the arrangements already, and we'll get everything scheduled, and Qi Zhu will be there too. It'll just be one installment, won't take too much of your time. I don't think I need to worry about you, you've been working with Qi Zhu a lot lately, and you guys have been doing well. Your last variety show got a good response, and my kid is crying now, so I'll go check on him. That's all, bye."
A dial tone sounded out from the other end of the line.
Jiang Ying blinked.
When did his manager acquire a kid?
His thoughtless answer of being 'fine with whatever' got him wrapped up in another variety show. This was to be a live reality show, but the details were still hazy. It was unclear what he would actually need to do.
Qi Zhu had tricked him again.
Jiang Ying was gradually coming to realize that this was a problem.
He just didn't know if he was already at the bottom of this hole Qi Zhu had dug for him, or if there was still a ways to go.
The variety show that had just aired was a must-watch for him. He'd been looking forward to it all day. Jiang Ying didn't participate in all that many variety shows, and this was the first 'refreshing' lifestyle show he'd been on. He was interested in seeing what netizens would think.
But 'Fight!' was still in the middle of its annual ranking tournament. Jiang Ying had to rake in some points, so he decided to spend some time in the app before watching the show.
His apprentice, whose name was still only a string of random numbers, was online. And his apprentice had even racked up a bunch of negative scores.
Jiang Ying blinked.
What had his apprentice-didi done while he wasn't paying attention?
Jiang Ying clicked into his apprentice's battle history and saw that every single battle had taken place in the 'romance' category.
Jiang Ying had never set foot in that category before.
[Restless Boss Crab]: What are you doing?
[Restless Boss Crab]: You're fighting in the 'romance' category?
[Restless Boss Crab]: Us bachelors don't go there. That place isn't right. No matter what question comes up, those fights always ultimately turn into some flowery lovey-dovey nonsense.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Apprentice-didi, you don't have your eye on someone, do you?
[Fighter3357868]: Not in a hurry.
[Fighter3357868]: Taking it slow.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Oh, then you're going to fight some more?
[Fighter3357868]: Forget it.
[Restless Boss Crab]: ?
[Fighter3357868]: They don't understand.
[Restless Boss Crab]: I understand fights, but I don't really get romance.
[Restless Boss Crab]: I only know a bit.
[Fighter3357868]: Tell me?
[Restless Boss Crab]: Ancient feelings aren't always here to stay, but if you have a trick up your sleeve, you'll always get your way.
[Fighter3357868]: SlightSmile.jpg Mm, you know a lot.