When Jiang Ying logged into the 'Fight!' app that day, he saw an unprecedented matchup.
His good friends Little Lemon and sunny were online, and their statuses showed that they were currently locked in a fierce battle in the freestyle zone.
Jiang Ying clicked open the menu after sunny's name and chose to spectate her match, joining the audience on her side.
An experienced fighter could take stock of a battlefield and instantly understand what the battle was about. In less than thirty seconds, Jiang Ying got what they were fighting over—
Whose ship was sweeter.
Little Lemon carried the banner of ZFZY, while sunny waved the flag of FFXW. With their fierce logic and ridiculous typing speeds, neither of them gave an inch.
Normally, these two could both carry out a good, clean fight. But the more personal an argument became, the easier it was for the combatants to lose all sense of reason. By the end of their fight, the two were both starting to go fantastically out of control.
[Little Lemon]: Don't you understand the appeal of secret candy? The pleasure is in finding it yourself.
[sunny]: Pah, you call it secret candy, but it could be your own delusions.
[sunny]: My ship is different. They're real. They have a marriage license and everything. They're super sweet.
[Little Lemon]: Finding your own candy is much sweeter. You know nothing, dumb-dumb.
[sunny]: Meimei, I'm long past the days when I need to hunt for my own candy. Shrug.jpg
[Little Lemon]: You're calling me 'meimei'? I'm older than you, brat. MiddleFinger.jpg
These two were two of the best fighters on the whole app. New messages popped up one after another, alarmingly fast. Just as Jiang Ying moved his finger, getting ready to exit out of the match, Little Lemon spotted his name in the list of spectators.
[Little Lemon]: Coward Crab.
[Little Lemon]: You said you had no interest in ZFZY, so what are you watching our match for?
Jiang Ying, spotted before he could make his escape, was held captive and forced to listen to Little Lemon list out all the reasons why Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu were the sweetest. Again.
Jiang Ying had already been preoccupied by thoughts of him and Qi Zhu. He decided to go have a fight of his own to take his mind off things.
In order to climb the ranks in the 'Fight!' tournament, just fighting in freestyle matches wasn't enough. One had to participate in subject fights as well. Jiang Ying had only been doing freestyle fights lately, and he'd lost a bunch of them. His rank had slipped, so he decided to try a subject fight that night.
There was a new category of subject fights, one called 'Whimsy'. This new category was composed of questions submitted by players. Jiang Ying had carefully avoided the entertainment category for a long time, and he did the same thing now. He queued up for a 'Whimsy' fight.
This new category came with a new set of rules. One player with a strong opinion would defend their stance and wait for challengers to contest them. If the challenger lost, the opinion-holder scored some points. But if a challenger won, the opinion-holder lost all their points.
That was pretty unique for this app. All the people who ventured their opinions were basically being dissed into early graves.
Little Lemon's match ended in a draw, determined by the system. She instantly rushed over to check out Jiang Ying's fight.
[System Notification]: The subject fight will soon commence. Here is your chosen subject.
[System Notification]: Does someone like Jiang Ying deserve to be loved?
Jiang Ying stared.
Seeing that question, he seemed to suddenly come back to his senses. Over the past few days, hadn't he… been asking himself that exact same question?
The spectating Little Lemon seemed to be Jiang Ying's fan. Even though spectators couldn't talk, she swiftly found a WatchYourMouth.jpg reaction meme and set it as her avatar.
The countdown timer elapsed, and the fight began. Jiang Ying got himself into a fighting state of mind. He instantly understood why he kept running into questions like this.
His antis were here.
He didn't know when he had offended these particular anti-fans, but they had clearly set up camp in the 'Fight!' app. They were working their asses off to make sure he was dissed every day.
Jiang Ying laughed. "You're doomed."
The two combatants greeted each other—
[camera]: Good evening, sir. Are you well?
[Boss Crab]: ???
[Boss Crab]: It seems to me you aren't doing so well yourself, sir.
[Boss Crab]: Don't you know, sire, it's crass to bring personal affairs into the game?
[Boss Crab]: Dragging personal matters into a quarreling game like this… is that fun for you? We're all just here to relax, and you're finding loopholes in the rules? The official guidelines clearly prohibit personal attacks.
[Boss Crab]: How about you run along and read the Terms & Conditions?
Little Lemon promptly changed her avatar to a chibi figure waving flags and cheering, Good luck!
[camera]: ? Everything I'm saying is the truth. How is this a private matter, anyway?
[camera]: So you're Boss Crab, huh? You're the one who tore Jiang Ying apart for being a shitty actor. And he's so fierce. No one in the entertainment industry likes him.
[camera]: I feel bad for his fans.
Little Lemon changed her avatar to a bomb.
[Boss Crab]: What kind of person doesn't deserve to be loved?
[Boss Crab]: You must not have been loved all your life. Were you never hugged as a child? Did you sprout from the earth like a weed? If you had love in your life, you wouldn't say these things about anyone.
[Boss Crab]: You and I are different. What I said about Jiang Ying was purely out of my desire to win a fight.
[camera]: Then go ahead and tell me. What part of him deserves to be loved?
Little Lemon changed her avatar back to WatchYourMouth.jpg.
[Boss Crab]: Jiang Ying has tons of anti-fans, but he has lots of fans too. He's never done anything that would shame his fans.
[camera]: Shitty acting and wasting time on variety shows don't count?
[Boss Crab]: Pffft, you just keep repeating those two points, that's all you have. Your prompt has a hole in it, anyway. Isn't Jiang Ying loved by his fans? By his family? By his friends?
Cutting away the tangents and getting straight to the heart of the matter was something that scored big points on the 'Fight!' app.
Jiang Ying had participated in countless fights, and he knew how netizens liked to argue. They obscured the main subject and tried to rouse a mob, gradually drawing attention away from the topic and leading the conversation down some twisted alleyway.
But Jiang Ying wasn't like that. When he fought, he got straight to the point.
After concisely making a few valid points, Boss Crab won the match. The topic disappeared, and user [camera] was banned for going AFK.
[Little Lemon]: I FUCKING LOVE YOU. You scolded that anti so good that they ditched.
[Little Lemon]: I love your desire to win.
[Little Lemon]: Your poisonous attacks are beautiful.
[Little Lemon]: Coward Crab, just you wait. I'm going to clear your name.
Jiang Ying blinked.
What was that supposed to mean?
Although he'd won his battle, Jiang Ying was still thinking about the question that had been posed.
Does someone like Jiang Ying deserve to be loved?
For some reason, he suddenly wanted to take that question and ask Qi Zhu.
Even he was scared by that bizarre impulse. But he couldn't help wondering… what kind of answer would he receive, if he threw that question at Qi Zhu?
As 'An Auspicious Snow' headed into its second half, the director gave the cast and crew a day off. But for many of the actors, like Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu, vacations simply didn't exist. They both had other jobs to attend to.
When Jiang Ying headed out the next morning, he just so happened to run into Qi Zhu, who was also on his way out.
"Morning," Jiang Ying greeted. He wasn't fully awake yet, and his eyes were still half-lidded.
"Morning." Qi Zhu approached and, like it was something he'd done countless times before, helped Jiang Ying straighten out his collar. "Don't forget to eat breakfast."
"It's going to rain today. Qi-gege, don't forget to bring an umbrella," Jiang Ying said. It was only after he finished speaking that he realized these little things, like bringing an umbrella, would all be taken care of by Qi Zhu's assistant.
"Okay." Qi Zhu didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with what Jiang Ying had said. He only tousled Jiang Ying's soft hair, helping smooth down an unruly lock that often stuck up. Although the ogre's tongue was sharp, his hair was undeniably soft.
Jiang Ying's gig of the day was that show Little Qi-zong had arranged in order to debut his agency's pretty little meimei. Qi Jun had invested in that show just for that meimei, and he'd invited Jiang Ying to fill a judge's seat.
"Come here, let's finalize the contract," Qi Jun said when he also arrived at the filming location. "We didn't get a chance to send it over to you earlier. You can just sign here."
"Which one is your pretty little meimei?" Jiang Ying asked. "Did you get her yet?"
"Almost." Qi Jun held the cap of the pen while he waited for Jiang Ying to sign. "I'm dieting, aren't I?"
Jiang Ying stared for a moment. "…tsk, Little Qi-zong really knows how to suffer for love."
He and Qi Jun were friends, so he knew Qi Jun wouldn't put anything in the contract that worked against him. Jiang Ying didn't bother reading the details before signing while the two of them chatted. Once he was done, he passed it back over and said, "Alright, done. Take it."
"Disciplinary Committee Member Jiang?" Qi Jun asked, suddenly frozen in place.
"What are you addressing me so formally for?" Jiang Ying asked.
"Absent-minded Student Jiang Ying, take a close look." Qi Jun passed the contract back to him. "Just whose name did you sign?"
"I signed…" Jiang Ying also froze.
He had been too busy talking to Qi Jun while he signed. Distractedly, he'd put down Qi Zhu's name.
"And that's a pretty good forgery," Qi Jun said. He had resisted bothering Jiang Ying for several days already, and he could finally resist no more. "You and Class Monitor, the situation between you… don't tell me you're the type to practice each other's signatures for fun?"
Jiang Ying couldn't even deny it. "Then, in your eyes, what kind of 'situation' are we in?"
Qi Jun lifted a finger and pointed to a delicate young celebrity a ways away. "Just, you know. The same as the situation between me and my pretty little meimei, I guess."
Jiang Ying was silent.
"Then, Little Qi-zong, how do you usually resolve situations like yours?" Jiang Ying asked, deciding to seek some advice from the experienced and accomplished person before him.
"Just go for it," Qi Jun declared, slapping the table. "If you can catch your target, you'll be together. If you can't, you'll split up."
Qi Jun scratched his head and added, after a moment, "But you guys aren't like us. I didn't know my pretty little meimei until recently. Now, this isn't coming from me, but people say it's not good to be too familiar with the object of your affection before you pursue them. It makes things complicated. You have to proceed with caution.
"The more familiar you are, the more delicate the situation is. You have to treasure what you already have.
"Of course, that's just how I feel. Why don't you tell me what your actual situation is these days?" After relaying his own relationship experience, Qi Jun began studying Jiang Ying and analyzing his expression. "What have you been thinking about lately?"
"We have big ships and a streak, and a chat log going back years without a break."
Qi Jun hastily flapped a hand to shoo those words away. "No, no. I can't listen to this. I still don't have any of that with my pretty little meimei."
"I don't want anyone else to have my big ship or my streak," Jiang Ying said, spilling out all the thoughts that had filled his head after filming that one impactful scene. "I don't want him to become a part of someone else's life. I just want him to fight with me, and only me. That's what I've been thinking."
"You're pretty damn possessive," Qi Jun said.
Jiang Ying fell silent again.
"Okay. If, and I'm saying if, you wanted his body, you would just tell him. You wouldn't be dithering over it for ages," Qi Jun said. "Now, you don't know if he's into guys or if he's into you. If I suddenly told you I wanted your hot bod, how would you feel?"
"Ew." Jiang Ying clapped a hand over his eyes.
"See? I'm just sacrificing my dignity to give you an example, and you already want to smack my head off my shoulders. And don't say you don't want to, because that's exactly what your expression is telling me.
"If I had to take a blind guess, I would say Class Monitor doesn't feel nothing for you. He doesn't treat anyone the way he treats you," Qi Jun said. "You just need to work up your nerve. Class Monitor already took you out on a date. I think you just… put all your skill points into fighting."
Jiang Ying gave that some thought.
Was it too late to reallocate some of his skill points?
"I can see this is weighing on you," Qi Jun said. "If you don't feel nothing for him, you should give him an answer. You fighting kings are experts at getting to the heart of the matter, right?"
"Forget it. I'm going to ask my ge." Jiang Ying signed another copy of the contract with his own name. "I think he knows more about this than I do."
After acting as a judge for Little Qi-zong, Jiang Ying immediately pulled up his chat with his brother—
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Ge, ah, ge. You changed your avatar again.
[100K Volts]: New couple avatars. Weiwei just changed his too.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: ……
[100K Volts]: What are you confused about?
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Long story.
[100K Volts]: Let me guess. Does it have something to do with the 'everyone else' who has a supercar?
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: CuteShock.jpg
[100K Volts]: Tell me.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Do you think me and Qi Zhu… have a chance?
Confused Big-Clawed Crab recalled a message.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Do you think me and Qi Zhu… have something?
Confused Big-Clawed Crab recalled a message.
[100K Volts]: Alright, alright. I get why you're confused now, stop recalling your messages.
[100K Volts]: I already thought about that when you started dating in school.
[100K Volts]: I approve. √
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: CuteShock.jpg
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Me? Dating in school?
[100K Volts]: Yeah, in high school. Qi Zhu's family made him study abroad, and you were upset for ages, like you'd broken up. We told you to go with him, but you didn't want to. You said you wouldn't get used to the food.
[Confused Big-Clawed Crab]: Me?
[Awakened Big-Clawed Crab]: CuteShock.jpg