"Whoa, that's too impressive." Miao Ye couldn't hide his astonishment. His screen persona completely collapsed.
"Shhh, let's quietly cover this up for Qi Zhu," Chi Yunkai whispered. "Don't let the director see."
He was very aware of how to do bad things, and he quickly shifted to block the cameras.
The bullet comments—
[Jiang Ying: zzzzzz]
[Pfft, they all know they're doing something bad. They're even trying to block the cameras.]
[Meow Meow, don't panic! Qi Zhu is the culprit here. Don't be scared of Jiang Ying!]
[T.ATW: If we don't say anything, no one will ever know.]
[Hahahaha, I want to see them again in the next installment, bwahhhhh. It's too bad they're only here temporarily.]
[Totally agree. In just one installment, we've learned so much about their hidden abilities.]
[Thank you for the food, I'm shipping again.]
[Me too, me too. When I saw these autographs before, I never would have known Qi Zhu signed that one. It's too similar! When did this gege practice this skill?]
The showrunners had known that would be a point of interest. They gave Qi Zhu's forgery a close-up. It really was nearly identical to Jiang Ying's actual signature.
At that point in the show, the editors had added in some more on-screen captions. They typed out several question marks, followed by—
Jiang Ying: What did you guys do while I was sleeping?
They'd even added a confused reaction meme to Jiang Ying's bedroom door.
The viewers all started laughing.
Except Jiang Ying, whose head really was filled with question marks.
This show was mystifying. Not only did someone forge his signature, someone had even predicted his reaction and expressed his feelings on his behalf.
Qi Zhu's forgery was clearly a highlight of the show. Jiang Ying grabbed a pen and paper and signed out his own name, comparing it to the one Qi Zhu had done.
They were identical. Jiang Ying himself couldn't distinguish the real from the fake.
No wonder he couldn't remember signing his name. No one had asked him to sign in the first place.
Jiang Ying got onto his main Weibo account and shared that post from the show's official acount—
@JiangYingKANI: ? I thought I was half asleep and confused when I signed and just forgot about it. But you guys… @Let'sTravelTogether: We made some fond memories in this latest installment. Everyone, keep your eyes open and look very, very carefully. [photo]
Everyone who was following the show clearly understood what Jiang Ying was saying with that question mark. Very quickly, a few new trending tags popped up.
Miao Ye, who had witnessed the whole forgery go down, quickly shared that post and exonerated himself.
@MeowMeowMiaoYe: I thought you knew. CoveringMouth.jpg @JiangYingKANI: ? I thought I was half asleep and confused when I signed and just forgot about it. But you guys… @Let'sTravelTogether: We made some fond memories in this latest installment. Everyone, keep your eyes open and look very, very carefully. [photo]
Since the episode aired, Jiang Ying had gained a lot of new fans who were followers of the variety show. These netizens were especially active that night.
Netizen 1: I laughed my ass off, and I have one question. Just one. Why is Qi Zhu so good at that? He didn't even hesitate. Just how much homework did he write for Little Jiang Ying in school? I suddenly feel some… sympathy?
Netizen 2: Can I ask you all, my lovely baobei'er, do we think Qi Zhu practiced this signature? Does anyone know what school they went to? I want to check out their school forum so bad.
Netizen 3: I think someone found their high school, but they were only at the same high school for a year, right? Anyway, different question. Do we think Jiang Ying is watching the variety show with us? That's too cute! Looking at his reaction to the official account's post, it feels like he could be right there with us in the bullet comments.
Netizen 4: Hahahaha, omg, Qi Zhu just posted.
@QiZhu: @JiangYingKANI Oh, I forgot to tell you. SlightSmile.jpg
Netizen 5: Hello, Qi-laoshi. Trembling.jpg Let's all appreciate this slight smile for a moment. As we all know, Qi Zhu's slight smiles are real smiles. Nothing passive aggressive about this at all.
Netizen 6: Our Qi-laoshi is saying, 'I'm just telling you now. End of discussion.'
Netizen 7: Am I the only one who really wants them to give that autograph away? If you guys don't want it, I'll take it. Even if you raffle it, that's fine! I really really want it, wahhhhhhh.
Jiang Ying put down his phone. When he returned his attention to the variety show, the mood in the bullet comments had taken a turn.
[Who was it that said they were just friends? Look, they have big ships.]
[So what if they have big ships? I have a big ship with my best friend too. The two of them don't even follow each other on Weibo.]
[Do you feed your big ship every day?]
[Forget about that. This forged autograph is way too impressive. This proves their relationship isn't as bad as people on Weibo think it is. The people who think they're on bad terms with each other can really shut up now.]
[As usual, we have Boss Crab to blame for that.]
[By the way, do you guys know about Li Mao Station? The main cast of 'An Auspicious Snow' did a stream with that platform before they started filming, and now the show has opened up an account there. They post lots of exclusive behind the scenes content there.]
[Thanks for the tip, we'll check it out later.]
The variety show continued. It was obvious that the director was still trying his hardest to recapture that calming, soothing atmosphere that he wanted for his show. The meal the guests made together and the fishing trip both brought viewers immeasurable amounts of joy.
Jiang Ying fell asleep while watching the show. When he woke up, his tablet had run out of battery. He hazily remembered the sea of netizen comments he'd taken in before drifting off last night.
[They're so sweet, wahhhhhhh. Are they really not going to be back for the next installment?]
[I love them so much, I just love how they interact with each other.]
'Travel Together' was already a popular show for being a light, refreshing variety show that featured a few regular guests from popular boy band T.ATW. With the addition of popular actor Qi Zhu and controversial idol Jiang Ying, the new installment got more views than ever. It instantly shot to the top of its streaming platform after release.
Netizens were wild about that installment. But Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu were both too busy to participate in the show again. When the variety show started filming its next installment, they would still be busy on the set of 'An Auspicious Snow'.
After that episode aired, a new supertopic called ZhuYingYaoHong1 gradually began to gain traction.
When Jiang Ying first stumbled across that supertopic while viewing Little Lemon's Weibo page—
"Oh," Jiang YIng said.
That probably had nothing to do with him.
Then, when he found his own name inside the supertopic—
"Oh?" Jiang Ying said.
It did have something to do with him?
Jiang Ying knew everything about the inner workings of fandom and the entertainment industry. After skimming through the supertopic, he could see that their ship had gained a lot of attention after the variety show aired. This surprised him, but he couldn't deny that it made sense on some level.
Netizens were starting to see that he and Qi Zhu got along, which meant shippers would ship even harder, and the troublemaking Boss Crab would be flamed even harder.
RIP Boss Crab.
But Qi Zhu and Jiang Ying hadn't worked together all that much. Their shippers were starved for content, and they inevitably set their sights on the highlight reels that 'An Auspicious Snow' uploaded to Li Mao Station every week.
The drama had announced a long time ago that they would upload some non-spoilery highlights of on-set shenanigans to Li Mao Station. Fans only recently discovered that they'd already put up some highlights a week ago.
"Watch what you say," Jiang Ying warned Miao Ye in the highlights that had been uploaded. They were standing around on set, chatting as they waited to film their next scenes. "Anything you say now has a chance of making it into the behind the scenes highlights that air before and after the drama."
Miao Ye instantly became more alert. "Got it, Jiang-ge."
The scene in the highlights video changed. Night fell. Jiang Ying was dragged away by Qi Zhu to practice his lines over and over again.
Qi Zhu rolled a script up into a little tube and occasionally gave Jiang Ying's head a whack.
The two of them got into position to film the scene they had been rehearsing, and a few words appeared on screen—
Turn up the volume. You won't regret it.
And then, a countdown appeared.
As everyone watched, the Jiang Ying from the highlights clip dragged Qi Zhu away all of a sudden, saying, "Oh, no, we forgot to chat today! We're going to lose our streak!"
Netizens were stunned.
[This drama really does have a big budget. The costumes and props all look good, and the acting seems pretty on point too.]
[Hey, you up there. You're focusing on the wrong things.]
[Hahahahahahaha, so what this tells us is… even celebrities care about their streak?]
[Public condemnation! Jiang Ying is slacking off on set. He doesn't care about acting, he's only worrying about his streak.]
[I really want to know if they managed to save their streak. Just watching is making me nervous, lololol! My idol can't lose his streak!]
[This is nice. This is really nice. This crew really knows what we want to see. Their big ships are meaningful after all. I can ship to my heart's content.]
Plenty of tabloids shared that video, and the clip quickly made its way into the shippers' supertopic, where it was gobbled up as a delicious morsel.
Over the past few days, Jiang Ying had been roped into countless battles with Little Lemon.
Maybe it was some sort of occupational disease, but Little Lemon was dead set on making people see things her way. She pestered Jiang Ying on 'Fight!' every day, dragging him into freestyle fights about—
[Little Lemon]: ZFZY is the best. You're just blind to the truth.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Bullshit. You're the blind one. You're sitting in a well, looking up at the sky, unable to see the whole truth. That's just their everyday routine. Besides, you only know part of the story, got it?
[Little Lemon]: Everyday routine my ass. You're the innocent little baby who doesn't know anything.
[Little Lemon]: Even if I only see part of the story, it's sweet enough to get me through my CS exams.
[Restless Boss Crab]: WTF? I'm the one who doesn't know anything? I don't understand what you don't understand. DurianAttack.jpg
[Little Lemon]: If it's their everyday routine, that's even better. That means they're that sweet every day. I won't even have to go looking for candy. I can just open my mouth, and it'll fall out of the sky.
[Restless Boss Crab]: No, you're the worst. Even if there's candy, it won't fall into your mouth.
Because of these incessant battles, Jiang Ying hadn't gotten a chance to talk to his apprentice lately. His apprentice probably wasn't very happy about that. At some point, he had started sending Jiang Ying a slight smile emoji at exactly nine in the evening. Rain or shine. Nothing stopped him.
Tonight, for example. Jiang Ying was in the middle of a spat with Little Lemon when he received a slight smile from his apprentice.
He was just about to respond when he saw a flash of dark clothing in the corner of his eye. At some point, Qi Zhu had wrapped up another scene and come over to Jiang Ying's side.
Jiang Ying couldn't say why, but he sensed a distinct sort of dissatisfaction rolling off Qi Zhu. But Qi Zhu's expression didn't show any hint of that dissatisfaction, and Jiang Ying didn't have a good way of bringing it up.
"What are you doing?" Qi Zhu asked. He'd just stepped away from his last scene, and he was still dressed in his costume. It flowed with him, highlighting his every move.
"Just… chatting." Jiang Ying suddenly remembered what he was fighting about and felt a pang of unease in his heart. He shiftily dropped his gaze from Qi Zhu to a random patch of grass on the ground.
"What are you sitting around for? You don't have any more scenes tonight, you could've left a while ago," Qi Zhu said. He gestured for Jiang Ying to get up and follow him. "Aren't you uncomfortable in your costume?"
"I forgot…" Jiang Ying had stooped down next to the set and watched Qi Zhu shoot for a while. Originally, Miao Ye had been with him, but when Jiang Ying looked around now, he found that Miao Ye had disappeared long ago.
"Who are you talking to?" Qi Zhu asked casually. "I saw you on that app again. Are you still talking to that 'ordinary player' from before?"
Jiang Ying froze. How did Qi Zhu still remember that? Even Jiang Ying himself had almost forgotten.
Taking note of Jiang Ying's reaction, Qi Zhu continued, "I was just making conversation. You don't have to pay it any mind."
"Oh…" Jiang Ying said.
Don't mind, don't mind. He didn't dare pay it any mind.
"Then," a certain someone continued, still 'making conversation'. "Are you and that 'ordinary player' still talking about the same subject as before?"
1. Zhu Ying Yao Hong (烛影摇红) is another version of the ship name for Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu; the first two characters sound like their given names. 'Zhu Ying Yao Hong' roughly means 'a candle's flickering shadow', and it's also the name of a piece of traditional music.