"You… after downloading this app, did you play in the tournament?" Jiang Ying asked. He felt like this really was too much of a coincidence. It was so surreal that he didn't dare believe it. Tentatively, he asked, "You know, the ranking tournament on the home page?"
Such a coincidence really wasn't possible… right?
"Oh, sure. I've been playing the whole time," said the friendly foreigner. "Holy shit, it's so useful! I improved so fucking fast. One day, I even got into the Top 20."
Jiang Ying fell silent.
Just based on that foul way of speaking, he had to believe it.
Such coincidences really did exist. The dark horse that Jiang Ying had seen people talking about on the 'Fight!' forums just a few days ago was now standing in front of Jiang Ying's very own eyes.
"Hey, friend," Jiang Ying said, waving a hand and gesturing for the other party to come closer. "Can you tell me… who recommended that app to you?"
"Him." The foreigner pointed onto the set, past a crowd of people, at Qi Zhu. He pointed directly at Qi Zhu.
"HIM?!" Jiang Ying squawked.
Qi Zhu just so happened to look up at that exact moment. He nodded slightly at them, and Jiang Ying waved back with the bare sticks of foxtail in his hand.
He was starting to suspect this gentleman wasn't actually Qi Zhu's friend.
But since he had nothing better to do, Jiang Ying showed this supposed friend of Qi Zhu's around the set for a while. He struck up some conversation along the way.
This friend's Chinese name was much easier to remember than his English name. According to him, it had been given to him by his girlfriend—he was called Zhuoyue. The man's name sounded a lot more reliable than the man himself.
Zhuoyue and Qi Zhu had gone to the same university in their first year of college. Since Zhuoyue was back in the country, passing through the area, he'd decided to pay his friend a visit on set.
Seeing as Qi Zhu had just helped him out, and seeing as this was Qi Zhu's friend, Jiang Ying obligingly played the part of a tour guide and properly showed Zhuoyue around. He introduced a few local spots to Zhuoyue, speaking in an easy-to-understand mix of Chinese and English.
At the same time, Jiang Ying did his very best to correct the offensive fighting tactics this guy had picked up and incorporated into his everyday speech.
Jiang Ying had never imagined this day would come. He had spent so many years being an uncivilized troll, and now it was his turn to teach someone to speak politely.
"Does he talk about me a lot?" Jiang Ying asked. After listening to the way Zhuoyue spoke to him, he got the feeling that he wasn't a stranger to Zhuoyue.
"I've heard a lot about you."
Even with Zhuoyue saying that, Jiang Ying still couldn't imagine what Qi Zhu was like when he talked about other people. "What did he say?"
"You… you're Ogre Jiang, right?" Zhuoyue asked. He spoke like they were very familiar with each other already, and he was a good student as well. He'd already learned to drop the 'sir' and 'sire' from his speech.
But Jiang Ying was still a little baffled.
"I'm Jiang Ying," he corrected through gritted teeth. "Surname Jiang, given name Ying."
As if he was going to let just anyone call him an ogre.
"Oh, yes. That too." Zhuoyue nodded with a sort of understanding that may or may not have been genuine. "Anyway, he says you're super cute."
"He can praise people for being cute?" Jiang Ying asked. "Are you sure those were his exact words?"
Ogre and cute. Those words didn't usually go together, right?
While they chatted, the two of them finished their walk around the area and returned to the filming set. Jiang Ying studied this foreign friend for a moment and suddenly conceived of a new plan that he had to put into motion right away.
"So, you're his little boyfriend, right?" Zhuoyue asked again. "He told me more than once, he said he…"
"Ai, let me ask you a question," Jiang Ying interrupted. He was extremely preoccupied with his new idea, so he didn't hear Zhuoyue's question at all. He slung an arm around his new friend's shoulders and continued, "Class Monitor—I mean, Qi Zhu. Why did he recommend that app to you?"
"He said it was easy to use," Zhuoyue answered obligingly. "So he said I should try it."
"Okay, different question." Jiang Ying scooted a step closer and lowered his voice, like he was about to share a secret. "Does Qi Zhu himself… use that app?"
"Let me see." Zhuoyue unlocked his cell phone. On the screen was an app that was extremely familiar to Jiang Ying. "I think so…"
Jiang Ying was beyond shocked. Just knowing that Qi Zhu had downloaded an app as inane and useless as this would be enough fodder for Jiang Ying to mock him for a year.
Jiang Ying continued, "Then, do you remember his username?"
"I think he stopped playing after a while, but I have a screenshot. His name isn't easy to remember," Zhuoyue said. After a moment, he said, "Ah, I'll look through our chat logs."
Jiang Ying's eyes lit up. "Okay."
Zhuoyue started scrolling through right away.
Jiang Ying snuck a peek. "You two don't really seem like friends, judging by your chat history."
Then again, it was Qi Zhu. If he wasn't friends with someone, he probably wouldn't be willing to send them any messages at all.
Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu, on the other hand, had their streak and their big ships and their routine of poking each other every day. Their chat logs were flourishing.
When Jiang Ying thought of their chat logs and Qi Zhu's chat logs with anyone else, he had to wonder if Qi Zhu gave him some sort of special treatment.
Then did he give Qi Zhu…
"Ah, found it. This should be it," Zhuoyue said, holding out his phone to Jiang Ying.
"Let me see." Jiang Ying turned around and looked down at Zhuoyue's cell phone screen.
A copy of a show proposal filled his gaze.
Jiang Ying blinked.
Qi Zhu, who'd just returned from shooting his last scenes, had walked over at some point and passed the plan for their upcoming reality show to him. "It's been revised," Qi Zhu said. "Take another look and see if there's anything else that needs to be changed."
After a moment, Jiang Ying breathed, "…oh."
"Also, for the scene you shot earlier, the director wants to talk to you about editorial choices. What angle to use, how to cut it. He wants to hear your opinion," Qi Zhu said. "He's waiting for you over there."
"Got it, I'll head over," Jiang Ying said. Work came first. He instantly forgot what he'd been talking to Zhuoyue about and quickly walked off to meet with the director.
"What's Little Ying doing here?" the director asked, looking a bit surprised. He was in the middle of reviewing the footage they'd shot that day, and he quickly gestured for his assistant to get Jiang Ying a chair. "How are you feeling?"
"Pretty good," Jiang Ying said. He took a seat.
"Good. And you have great timing," the director said. "I wanted to get your opinion on something. I was just about to send someone to fetch you."
Jiang Ying blinked.
So he hadn't called for Jiang Ying yet? Then Qi Zhu was pretty impressive, to have anticipated that much.
In his little notebook of battle power evaluations, he would have to level Qi Zhu up again.
By then, the first half of 'An Auspicious Snow' was basically complete. The cast and crew would be moving onto the second half now. Si Meng, played by Yin Jiayu, had been killed off, so Yin Jiayu was free to go. All the other characters would be going through some major changes.
For Jiang Ying, today's crying scene had been a difficult battle. And the scenes to come would be even harder.
It was only after he got back to the hotel that Jiang Ying realized what had happened while he was talking to the director. In the time they took to discuss the scene they'd just shot and the second half of the show, Qi Zhu had efficiently met up with his friend, treated him to dinner, and sent him packing on a return flight.
When Qi Zhu returned to the hotel from the airport, he found Jiang Ying sitting on the stool outside his door.
"Your friend is pretty interesting," Jiang Ying said, blocking Qi Zhu's way to the door. He seemed to have no intentions of stepping aside.
"He's alright," Qi Zhu said. He wasn't in a hurry to get into his room, anyway. He could waste some time with Jiang Ying.
"He isn't going to stay for a few more days?" Jiang Ying asked.
Qi Zhu shook his head. "No. He's busy."
"Leaving after half a day. Didn't even get a chance to have a proper meal." Jiang Ying propped his chin up on one hand and looked up at Qi Zhu. "It's too bad. Qi-gege was so happy yesterday."
"Who said I was happy because he was coming?" Qi Zhu furrowed his brows ever-so-slightly. "Does there have to be a connection between my good mood and him coming out here to make trouble?"
Jiang Ying blinked. Well, what else could have made Qi Zhu that happy? Surely it wasn't just refreshing his chat streak with Jiang Ying.
"Forget about me." Qi Zhu reached out and grasped Jiang Ying's chin, forcing him to look up and meet his gaze. "What about you? The director didn't notice when we were filming, but I noticed. What was going on with you back there? Why were you feeling so miserable?"
If Qi Zhu hadn't mentioned it, Jiang Ying would have been fine. But now that Qi Zhu had brought it up, Jiang Ying couldn't help but think back to that moment. Just because of that scene, he had started to fear the inevitability of Qi Zhu leaving him one day.
He was already used to the way they were. It had become a part of his life.
Would it, one day, become a part of someone else's life?
"Alright, forget it." Qi Zhu brushed his hand over Jiang Ying's cheek and lightly grazed his eyelashes. "Don't let me tease you to tears."
Qi Zhu pulled his hand back. After interrupting Jiang Ying's thoughts, his expression became solemn once more.
"No one's crying, stop talking nonsense." Jiang Ying had just started to feel a bit sad again. With Qi Zhu suddenly dropping the subject, Jiang Ying instantly leapt back to what they had been talking about a moment ago. "Your friend's Chinese…"
"Is it bad?" Qi Zhu asked.
"It's way too good," Jiang Ying said with a slight smile. "How did you think to recommend that to him?"
"I just happened to mention it," Qi Zhu explained. "I only suggested it. Whether or not he used it is his business. I'm pretty sure I recommended that app to you, too. Did you find it interesting?"
Jiang Ying fell silent.
After a moment, he lowered his head and said, "Nope."
"I thought you might feel that way," Qi Zhu said, nodding thoughtfully. "Every time I see you on that app, you seem to be fighting about the exact same topic."
Jiang Ying fell silent once more.
He picked up his little stool and got ready to leave, then suddenly remembered another thing he'd wanted to ask. "Can I add Zhuoyue as a friend?"
"No," Qi Zhu refused bluntly as he fished out his room key. "You can just keep annoying me."
"Then, will he visit again?" Jiang Ying persisted. "Sometime soon?"
"Probably not in the next three years," Qi Zhu said, pushing open his door. "What? You have a question?"
"Nope. No way. How could I?" Jiang Ying tucked his stool under his arm and made to leave. "Our Qi-laoshi's time is so precious. I won't disturb you any longer."
Jiang Ying decided to give up on that lead. Qi Zhu was so busy. Even if he had downloaded the 'Fight!' app, he definitely wouldn't use it. Jiang Ying could be as curious as he wanted, but it seemed he wouldn't find any interesting results along this path.
The dark horse had left too quickly. Jiang Ying had no choice but to forget about the screenshot he hadn't gotten a chance to see.
There were some other issues, however, that Jiang Ying would need to devote some time to thinking about. Even if that meant cutting into his usual fighting time.
Ever since 'An Auspicious Snow' opened an account on Li Mao Station, they'd diligently uploaded more and more behind-the-scenes highlights. They had gained plenty of followers, including fans of the show and fans of the actors, and they'd brought Li Mao Station a lot of traffic and publicity as well.
The drama's marketing team had uploaded a clip of Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu rushing to save their chat streak, and they'd also uploaded a clip of Xuan Huitong rehearsing a dance.
A short while ago, they'd even released a clip of the actors sitting around, waiting for their next scene, playing doudizhu on QQ on their phones—
In that video, Jiang Ying could clearly be seen employing a variety of wily tactics to interfere in the game. He constantly gave Qi Zhu favorable cards while giving all his crap to Miao Ye. In the end, Miao Ye suffered a humiliating loss.
The video had over a million likes.
Today, the marketing team had uploaded a new video. Jiang Ying, who'd just finished shooting a scene, was still down on one knee. He didn't seem like he would get up for a long while. Qi Zhu picked a bundle of foxtail from the side of the road and came over, bending at the waist to brush the fuzzy ends of the foxtail spikes over Jiang Ying's neck.
Jiang Ying's eyes had been red, but Qi Zhu managed to make him look up and smile. Then Jiang Ying grabbed hold of Qi Zhu's sleeve and pulled himself to his feet.
Many netizens had already screamed their heads off in the comments section of that video—
[AH, AH, AHHHHHH! I want to become that stick of foxtail. That's me now. No one fight me on this.]
[No, trust me, you don't want that. Keep watching. Jiang Ying totally plucks it clean. Do you want to go bald?]
[Good god, Qi Zhu knows how to comfort people? Wasn't he supposed to be some sort of emotionless acting robot?]
[Ahhhhhhhhh, is this candy? This is candy, isn't it? Little Xue, please show us a little more! Just seeing my beloved ship makes me love them more.]
[Is Qi Zhu comforting him because the scene made him cry? Hahahahaha.]
[I'm sorry, but I feel like they really are just one step away from the next level. Does anyone want to volunteer to give them a push? Please, please, please!]