Originally, the livestreaming platform Li Mao Station had just wanted to get some publicity by hosting Jiang Ying. They'd copied the comment reading segment from CoconutTV. When Qi Zhu appeared on screen during the stream, the staff members from the platform were thrilled beyond belief. They figured that would bring them even more publicity than Jiang Ying alone.
But they never imagined Qi Zhu could read a single comment and crash their entire platform.
At that point, the bullet comments—
[AH AH AHHHHHHHHHHHH.]
[I'm no good with words. All I can say is… AHHHHHHHH!!!]
[How did Qi Zhu manage to take a super ordinary netizen comment and read it with so much emotion?]
[Lag? Why is it lagging?]
[Li Mao crashed?]
The bullet comments stopped moving.
It was the middle of April holidays. When Jiang Ying started making up his own comments instead of reading off the cards, plenty of bored netizens had rushed into the livestream to check out the commotion. Now, with the streaming platform crashing so abruptly, countless netizens were pent up with many things they wanted to say.
Naturally, they rushed onto the next platform.
And so, while Li Mao Station's employees worked hard to get their platform back up, all those impassioned netizens took to Weibo to express their thoughts.
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: !!! OH. MY. GOD. Why did this have to happen during the Qingming festival? I was outside burning an offering for my great-grandfather. Burning and watching the stream at the same time… and I literally screamed. The whole village heard me.
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: SobbingIntoHands.jpg Everyone paying their respects within a hundred meters knows about me now, wahhhhhh.
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: A super, super pretty jiejie even came over to comfort me, saying everything would be okay. I wasn't sad, alright? I was happy! Happy!
@Darker Than Dark Chocolate: It was my comment, it was mine. That was my confession to my idol. I just knew my earnest feelings would be chosen, but I never thought my comment would get such a dramatic, passionate live reading. I'm dead, that was way too sweet.
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: I can't be stopped now. Thank you, everyone.
@Proud Shadow: I'm speechless. Literally speechless. Something is… going on.
Miao Ye, who'd filled in as the temporary interviewer for that segment, stared at the livestream monitor as it filled up with row after row of 'ah ah ahhhhhh' comments. That was the last thing he saw before the screen froze and displayed a crash notification.
"Jiang-ge and Qi-laoshi are way too popular," Miao Ye mused to himself, feeling a teensy bit salty.
"Silly." Xuan Huitong just happened to be passing by. She glanced at the screen behind Miao Ye. "Do you think this is due to their popularity?"
Miao Ye remained frozen in place, deeply contemplating the hidden meaning of her words.
After reading out that final comment, Qi Zhu acted like an innocent bystander. He gave Jiang Ying an innocuous smile. Just then, someone from the set called for him, and Qi Zhu returned to film his next scene.
"I need some water," Jiang Ying said. He lifted his head after a moment, feeling like he had to find a way to calm down.
"Oh, oh." Miao Ye hurriedly passed his Jiang-ge a bottle of iced water, then watched as his Jiang-ge stood up and wobbled away with the bottle in his arms.
"Your phone," said a crew member by the door, handing over Jiang Ying's cell phone as he passed. "You have a call."
It was Qi Jun.
"You guys are really something," Little Qi-zong said over the phone. "If I didn't know he would ignore me, I would totally ask Class Monitor for tips on how to pursue my little jiejie."
"He flirted and ditched. What kind of monster is he?" Jiang Ying seethed. "Honestly, never again will I believe he's 'unintentionally' flirty."
"Well, duh. Class Monitor is usually like a block of wood. He doesn't show any interest in anyone, but he'll always give a reaction when it's you," Qi Jun said. "I said ages ago that you two had something going on."
"I'm not waiting anymore. We're in our twenties, and he thinks he can still make me wait to date?" Jiang Ying screwed the cap off the water bottle. While Miao Ye watched on in horror, Jiang Ying upended the bottle of iced water over his own head. "In the next few days, I'll definitely say something. I'll say something first. As a fighter, I need to get the first word in."
Miao Ye was speechless.
"Good luck," Little Qi-zong urged from the other end of the line. "If you guys can get together, I count as a veteran supporter, right? When the time is right, how about you let me show you guys off on Weibo?
"But, Jiang #2, remember that dating isn't fighting. Do you really need to be so competitive?"
Jiang Ying hung up.
He had to accelerate his plan to strike first.
As soon as Li Mao Station came back online, the behind-the-scenes highlights of 'An Auspicious Snow' suddenly received a huge influx of new views—
[I came from Weibo. I heard there's candy here?]
[This cast gets along so well. Everyone is so nice to one another.]
[I've read the original novel. At the end, the characters rip each other apart. It's heartbreaking.]
[Ahhhhh, okay, real talk? I've never seen Qi Zhu treat anyone so well before.]
That night, on the 'Fight!' app's chatting system—
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: No thanks.
[sunny]: What're you busy with?
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Thinking about life.
[sunny]: Weirdo. You've either fallen in love or lost your mind.
Jiang Ying really was busy thinking about life. He was, specifically, thinking about the matter of confessing. Was this something that had to be done at the right time and the right place? Or was he just supposed to throw open his door and shout it down the hall?
Qi Jun's advice was unreliable, and sunny didn't understand anything.
[Little Lemon]: Fight?
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: No thanks.
[Little Lemon]: Ugh. Coward Crab.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Do you know how to pursue someone?
[Little Lemon]: No, you're barking up the wrong tree. I'll always fly solo.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: That's fine. Someday, someone will love you.
[Little Lemon]: Thanks for the support?
[Little Lemon]: My god, Coward Crab. Have you fallen in love? Why are you so weirdly cute right now?
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: SlightSmile.jpg If you're going to praise me, just praise me. Don't half-ass it.
After a short exchange, the top student of A University revealed she'd always been too proud and arrogant to set her sights on anyone, and she was probably also too fierce for anyone to set their sights on her. So, as a perpetually single college student, she had no way of offering any meaningful advice.
Which meant she and sunny were both useless.
But Jiang Ying had one more good friend.
His apprentice, Fighter3357868.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Good evening!
[Fighter3357868]: You're in a good mood?
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Pretty good.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Apprentice-didi, you and your aggro friend… how have things been going?
[Fighter3357868]: He's gotten cuter. FlowerPetals.jpg
It was only then that Jiang Ying realized his apprentice had changed his avatar. Although it was still the default stick figure avatar that came with the app, the background had been changed to pink.
With that lovey-dovey avatar and the lovey-dovey reaction meme his apprentice had just sent, it was obvious that Jiang Ying's apprentice was over the moon.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: You were right. Even aggro trolls can be loved.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: I'm ready to teach you the most essential lesson about fighting. The core of the art.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Hey, I have that same reaction meme on QQ.
When that subject came up, Jiang Ying suddenly remembered Qi Zhu had recently stolen a bunch of his reaction memes from QQ. Jiang Ying would have to find himself some new ones pretty soon.
A phone call came in, interrupting his thoughts. Jiang Ying rejected the call, ignoring it for the time being.
Adopting the spirit of a responsible teacher, Jiang Ying refocused his full attention on the 'Fight!' app.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Last time, I talked to you about interruptions. Have you tried it out?
[Fighter3357868]: ? Haven't had a chance yet.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Interrupt your opponent, then distract them with some crooked logic. Then, once they're sufficiently confused, throw their own questions back in their face.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: You'll see a lot of fights like that on Weibo, especially between people who are about equal in skill. Eventually, you'll see a lot of these fights go off topic. That often happens when netizens just get distracted, unintentionally, but some fighters like to stick their noses in and intentionally lead the subject astray.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Once you learn how to do that, you'll become a master of leading a conversation or debate. Good luck fighting your friend. I hope you win soon and live happily ever after.
[Fighter3357868]: Got it. Thank you. SlightSmile.jpg
Although Qi Zhu had bailed after stirring Jiang Ying up that afternoon, Jiang Ying really was in a pretty good mood. He was willing to tell his apprentice a few more things.
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: You'll only gain a shallow understanding of these topics when you talk about them. Fighters like us have to actually practice to really get the hang of these skills.
[Fighter3357868]: Don't worry. FightOn.jpg
[Ready Set Go Boss Crab]: Okay, I'll leave you to it. I have something big I need to do.
After completing their mentoring session for the day, Jiang Ying received an award of gold coins from the 'Fight!' app. Gold coins could be obtained through master-apprentice activities as well as through fights, and they could be exchanged for souvenirs from the in-app shop.
'Fight!' had launched a mascot as soon as it launched its app—
An argumentative little stick figure.
The default avatar for all players was an image of that little mascot, and the in-app shop came out with little figures of their mascot in new poses every year. The quantity was limited, and they couldn't be purchased with any currency except those gold coins. Only the best of the best players could afford them with their hard-earned coins.
Jiang Ying had already collected three of those figures. They sat in a neat row on his desk back home.
He had yet to trade in his coins for the new figure of the year, so he entered the shop and placed his order, successfully bringing home a fourth little commemorative figure.
After he finished his diary entry for the day, Jiang Ying suddenly remembered the call he'd rejected earlier, while teaching his apprentice. He went through his call logs, found Qi Jun's number, and called him back.
"Little Qi-zong, what's up? Worried about me?" Jiang Ying asked. "Why do I feel like you're just trying to get in on the commotion?"
Qi Jun had been called out on his busybody nature, but he had thick skin and quickly denied, "I'm not. I'm really worried about my old classmate."
"Speaking of which, I just got a new idea. Let me talk to you about it." Jiang Ying scribbled idly on the piece of paper in front of him, ultimately producing Qi Zhu's name again.
"Go ahead," Qi Jun urged. He really had just called to get in on the commotion.
"He flirted and ran off this afternoon, right? I want to try it too." Jiang Ying smirked. "I'm super curious to see how he'll feel about that."
Qi Jun was silent for a moment. "…you? Tease him? Jiang #2, you… really wanna act up again?"
"Of course. Obviously, if I don't act up, what kind of ogre would I be?" Jiang Ying reasoned. "You just wait. I'll report the results of our battle to you later. You love gossip like that, right? I'll be sure to tell you all about Class Monitor's reaction, hahahahaha."
"Love and desire are enough for a relationship, aren't they? Why are you so competitive? Do you have to be so obsessed with winning? You're treating this like a fight. There's no need for this back-and-forth. Just go up to him and…"
Jiang Ying hung up on him.
He fished out his battle evaluation notebook from under his pillow and flipped to the first page. He ripped out that page, then started to update the information.
Score: ??? <erased>
Score: !!! <erased>
Latest Score: ??? (<3 <3 <3)
Jiang Ying folded that scrap of paper into a little square, then got up to execute his 'flirt and run' plan.
At that time, Qi Zhu was probably already sleeping, which was perfect for the crime Jiang Ying intended to commit.
Jiang Ying tiptoed down the hallway and stopped in front of Qi Zhu's door. After looking this way and that to make sure no one was around, he quickly slipped the note out of his pocket and stooped down to stuff it through the crack between Qi Zhu's door and the floor.
Seeing as it was his first time doing such a thing, Jiang Ying was struck by a sudden realization. He couldn't help but wonder, as he stuffed a little card under a certain someone's hotel room door, if a certain someone was way better at this than him.