Jiang Ying had a very limited amount of time in which he could commit this crime. But he had no experience. It took him several tries to get the scrap of paper under the door. He finally stuffed the folded square under the door, then pushed and prodded it a few times until it fully disappeared from his sight.
Time to escape.
The 'flirt and run' plan was already half complete.
Jiang Ying patted the dust off his hands and turned to go, only to find a very familiar figure standing not far away.
Miao Ye stared.
Jiang Ying stared back.
One of them had been caught doing a bad thing. The other had caught someone doing a bad thing.
It was awkward.
After a moment, one of them looked up at the ceiling and the other looked down at the floor. They did their very best to avoid letting their gazes meet again.
"You saw nothing," Jiang Ying said emphatically.
"I saw nothing," Miao Ye agreed, covering his mouth. "Don't worry."
Miao Ye wanted to go downstairs, and Jiang Ying wanted to go back to his own room. They would inevitably have to pass each other in the hall.
"You go first?" they both offered, at the exact same time.
They both fell silent again.
"I'll go, I'll go," Jiang Ying said. This was nothing. He wasn't panicking. Really. Not panicking at all.
Jiang Ying made his way back into his room, shut himself in, and leaned back against the door. He stayed right there until his heartbeat gradually slowed to a more even, normal pulse again.
"Little Qi-zong, my mission seems to be half-complete," Jiang Ying said into his phone, feeling like he could give himself a pat on the back. "Come, wait with me. We'll have Class Monitor's reaction soon."
"Question," Qi Jun said. "How did you flirt?"
Jiang Ying gave Qi Jun a cursory summary of his adventures with the little square of paper.
"Not bad. Pretty creative, and not too difficult to execute." Qi Jun paused, like there was something else he wanted to say. "But…"
"Who says it wasn't difficult?" Jiang Ying interrupted, already taking issue with Qi Jun's evaluation. "It was nerve-racking! I had to shove it a bunch of times before it would go in. The people who do this sort of thing… are they all as nervous as me?"
"No," Qi Jun answered absently, still thinking of the matter he wanted to discuss. "But…"
"Now we just have to wait to see Class Monitor's reaction. You stay on the line and wait with me," Jiang Ying said. He rubbed his hands together excitedly. "I want him to experience the suffering of being riled up and ditched."
In the past, he'd never realized it. He could never explain why he felt sometimes troubled and sometimes delighted by Qi Zhu's every little action. Now, he understood. All of Qi Zhu's actions qualified as 'flirt and run' tactics.
"So I need him to experience exactly what he put me through," Jiang Ying continued, still laying out the next steps of his plan. "When do you think Class Monitor will find the note?"
"Jiang #2, can you just let me finish my sentence?!" Qi Jun finally bellowed. As soon as the words left him, he realized who he'd just bellowed at and instantly felt a bolt of fear. Hastily, he explained, "I need to tell you something while I have you on the line."
"Huh?" Jiang Ying put the call on speakerphone and set his phone down on the table. "Go ahead, talk. I'm not stopping you."
Qi Jun was silent for a moment.
Finally, he continued, "I wanted to say your idea is pretty creative, but are you sure Class Monitor is going to be able to see the note?"
"What do you mean?" Jiang Ying's hand froze in the middle of opening a bottle of water. "He'll definitely see it if he wants to leave his room, or if he even just passes by his door."
"But what if he isn't in his room? What if he went out earlier?"
Jiang Ying blinked. "What do you mean?"
"Although this is a little tragic, I have to be the bearer of bad news. Some reporters just photographed Qi Zhu in C City, participating in a press event for a movie. It was scheduled a long time ago. I just saw it on Weibo…"
Qi Jun worked up his nerve and got to the point.
"You might have to wait for him to get back before you know if your plan succeeds."
Jiang Ying was silent.
Impossible. Such a coincidence was just not possible.
[Supremely Enlightened Big-Clawed Crab]: ?
[Class Monitor]: ??
[Supremely Enlightened Big-Clawed Crab]: ???
[Class Monitor]: LittlePandaQuestionMark.jpg
[Supremely Enlightened Big-Clawed Crab]: Where are you?
[Class Monitor]: [location]
Qi Jun hadn't been wrong. In the middle of the night, Qi Zhu had flown out to C City.
That meant Jiang Ying's plan was doomed. He'd stuffed the scrap of paper under the door too soon. This wasn't what he'd imagined at all.
[Supremely Enlightened Big-Clawed Crab]: Why didn't you tell me you were going?
[Class Monitor]: Mm, I actually did…
[Supremely Enlightened Big-Clawed Crab]: Hm? When?
[Class Monitor]: After reading the comments today.
Right after Qi Zhu read that final netizen comment, Jiang Ying had been deeply affected. He'd wobbled away without the slightest idea of what else Qi Zhu might have said to him.
[Class Monitor]: I flew out to C City tonight, and I'll have a media event here tomorrow. The day after tomorrow, I'll fly straight out to the island and see you there, Little Ying.
Five minutes later.
[Class Monitor]: You there?
[Class Monitor]: Have you done something behind my back?
Jiang Ying said nothing.
He took the bottle of water he'd just opened and poured it over his head again.
The little square of paper was a time-sensitive matter, and Jiang Ying wouldn't be able to duplicate it. Once they came back from the reality show, would there be any point to his 'flirt and run' plan?
The next day, while filming, Jiang Ying was noticeably preoccupied. He had a lot on his mind, which coincidentally reflected his character's mental state in the scenes they filmed that day. The director and assistant director even praised him for his portrayal.
That night, Jiang Ying made a decision. He wasn't the type to sit around and do nothing. He needed to get his little piece of paper back.
Yesterday, to make sure Qi Zhu saw the note, Jiang Ying had gone out of his way to push the paper as far under the door as he could. That made his new task a lot more difficult.
But it wouldn't be a problem. Jiang Ying was extremely resourceful. He treated the cast and crew to barbecue that night, where he ordered a tool to assist in his new crime—
Qi Zhu was in C City, and he wouldn't be coming back to his room before flying out to the island for their reality show. There was no rush, and there was no risk. Jiang Ying didn't have to worry.
After dinner, Jiang Ying went through his usual routine of chatting with Qi Zhu and Qi Jun, then opened up the 'Fight!' app.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Hi~
[Restless Boss Crab]: Not busy.
[Fighter3357868]: Why are you restless?
[Restless Boss Crab]: Because of my desire to win.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Hey, we really get along great. We even use the same reaction memes. I have that one too.
[Restless Boss Crab]: Let's meet up sometime, if we get the chance. We can talk about our relationship problems.
[Restless Boss Crab]: I feel like we have a lot in common.
[System Notification]: Content irrelevant to the master-apprentice relationship has been detected in your conversation. Your exchange has been deemed irrelevant to fighting. As a warning, you will both be issued a red card.
[System Notification]: Use of our app to make friends or start relationships is prohibited. Don't do it. Ever.
[Restless Boss Crab]: @SystemNotification GTFO.
[Restless Boss Crab]: @SystemNotification Have a little heart. I, your big daddy, am already in love. I'm in pursuit.
[Restless Boss Crab]: @SystemNotification The two of us are just talking as normal friends. Don't go assuming everyone is trying to hook up on your app.
[Public System Announcement]: User 'Restless Boss Crab' has been muted for 24 hours for insulting the system. Friendly reminder to all users that the system is innocent. Fight with each other. Not the system.
[sunny] has sent a congratulatory message.
[sunny]: Beautifully done. I've wanted to diss the system for ages.
Jiang Ying, muted, was unable to reply.
[Little Lemon] has sent a congratulatory message.
[Little Lemon]: This shitty system has been irritating me for ages, but I never realized you could talk shit about it.
[Little Lemon]: I feel like my eyes have been opened to a brand new world.
Jiang Ying used Boss Crab's Weibo account to send Little Lemon a private message: Go ahead. Make it cry on my behalf. I have some major life issues that need my urgent attention.
Due to the lesson he'd learned yesterday, Jiang Ying had the foresight to send Miao Ye a message today.
[Enlightened Big-Clawed Crab]: Meow Meow, between 22:30 and 23:00 tonight, do not go outside. No matter what you do.
[Meow Ye]: You're still up to something?
[Enlightened Big-Clawed Crab]: Mhm!
[Meow Ye]: Although I don't know what Jiang-ge is doing, good luck.
[Enlightened Big-Clawed Crab]: Thank you. Ge will cover for you in the future.
[Meow Ye]: Terrified.jpg Thank you, ge.
At exactly 22:30, Jiang Ying changed into a black hoodie, took out the extra bamboo skewers he'd ordered at dinner, and tiptoed out into the hall.
He'd decided. First he would get that piece of paper back. Then he would wait until the reality show began. He'd find a chance to slip Qi Zhu that note then, and he would still be able to capture the essence of his 'flirt and run' plan.
The bamboo skewers were perfect. Not long after he stuck one under the door, he was able to sweep the note from yesterday back out.
Time to escape.
Jiang Ying froze.
Someone reached out from behind him and covered his eyes with one hand.
"Tell me. What are you doing?"
It was Qi Zhu.
The 'flirt and run' plan was a complete and utter failure. He hadn't even managed the 'flirt' part yet, and he'd already failed the 'run' part.
Little Jiang Ying, caught red-handed at the scene of the crime, struggled a little but couldn't break free.
He made a helpless, inquisitive noise. "What are you doing here?"
Hadn't Qi Zhu said he was going to fly directly to the island? They'd talked about this!
"I came back to see what you were up to.
"And, sure enough, you were up to something.
"Ogre Jiang, I've been gone for one day. And you just couldn't sit still." Qi Zhu finally released him. "Isn't that right?"
"Who cares if you're back or not. I'm leaving." Jiang Ying shoved the little square note and his bamboo skewers into Qi Zhu's hands, then flounced off in a huff.
The battle evaluation note—
Remark: Evil. <crossed out>
Latest Remark: Wily. Crafty. Seductive.
Qi Zhu looked at the three hearts drawn on the scrap of paper and breathed a silent laugh.
"Qi-zong!" Jiang Ying had called Qi Jun as soon as he got back to his room. "You know that I, your big daddy, have never done anything cowardly in my whole entire life. Right?"
"Sure, sure, sure," Little Qi-zong agreed hastily. "So your plan failed, huh?"
"I guess it counts as a failure. I almost didn't manage to escape. Qi Zhu is just a big liar. He told me he wasn't coming back tonight. What happened to that?"
Though, ultimately, Jiang Ying had still carried out his plan.
"Right, right, right," Little Qi-zong agreed again. "You're right about everything."
"No. I'm angry."
"Keep your cool," Little Qi-zong said. "Your ridiculous need to win at everything is playing tricks on your mind. Didn't I tell you? Dating isn't fighting. Why are you being so aggressive about this?"
"The way I see it, he likes it when I'm aggressive," Jiang Ying said decisively. "Screw the right time and screw the right place. Screw the candlelit dinners and roses. Before our pure streak is corrupted and turned into a paid streak, I'm gonna… I'm gonna get it."
Thirty minutes later, Jiang Ying got back his fighting spirit and kicked open Qi Zhu's slightly ajar door. He stepped boldly into Qi Zhu's room—
Qi Zhu had just finished taking a shower. He was wrapped up in only a bathrobe, with the belt loosely tied around his waist. When he saw Jiang Ying, he was in the middle of drying his hair with a towel. And he didn't seem too surprised to see Jiang Ying. He simply pointed at the chair by the bed, gesturing for Jiang Ying to sit and wait a moment.
Jiang Ying froze.
In an instant, countless fannish remarks raced through his mind like bullet comments—
[wow, gege's body is really nice.]
[Gege's waist is nice. Gege's legs are nice. And he has abs.]
[Gege, can I desire your body? Ah, ah, ahhhhhh.]
"The, uh… what? Gege." Jiang Ying shook his head and found his resolve again. He didn't wait another second. "I…"
I like you. A lot.
I like your supercar and your marshmallows.
And I like your body a bit.
How about… you become my boyfriend?
However, before Jiang Ying could say any of those things, Qi Zhu reached out and covered Jiang Ying's mouth like he knew exactly what Jiang Ying wanted to say.
Jiang Ying blinked.
Who told Qi Zhu to interrupt him?
"I like you," Qi Zhu said, striking first. "You lose."