"Quit filling up the bullet comments with your nonsense. Even if you don't say anything, I know what you're thinking." Jiang Ying propped up his chin on his right hand and continued teasing the netizens in the comments. "He's him and I'm me. Everyone citizen of the world wide web deserves some respect, so don't go disturbing this innocent stranger's life now. Okay, fans?"
If you guys are really all that, go find some evidence.
[Message received! As a shadow, I definitely won't go bother Boss Crab.]
[Our gege is so nice. Even though he's fierce, he's reasonable.]
[Even a troll can talk like that? I'm on my knees.]
[You guys really do have wild imaginations, hahaha. I'm Little Lemon, A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain, three-year veteran of the 'Fight!' app. I know Boss Crab. I guess you could say we're friends. I can tell you guys with absolute certainty that he and Jiang Ying don't have anything to do with each other.]
[Hahahaha, no one is taking this seriously, we're all just joking around.]
The postcards at that island's souvenir shop were extremely unique. They were all drawn by the islanders' daughters, and each customer was limited to purchasing just one per visit. After buying one, they could write down their address and mail it out to anywhere in the world from the post box at the end of the street.
In one night, the guests made great sales of souvenirs and seafood dishes. It was just the beach activity packages that no one had any interest in.
"There's a sense of accomplishment in earning money like this," said Mu Quanming, one of the other guests. He was a new star that had grown wildly popular after taking part in a web series, and he'd drawn in plenty of guests that day. "Let's work hard tomorrow too. I want to hit our sales goals early so we can go play on the beach."
"Me too, I wanna play on the beach too," Jiang Ying said.
[Gege, don't slack off. You guys will have time to go.]
[Work hard tomorrow! Ahh, I'm doomed. I'm going to want to stare at this stream all night.]
[Gege, jiejie, are you guys going to do anything tonight? If not, I'll go to sleep.]
The lights were still on in the main room of the shop. All the guests finished tidying up, then went upstairs to their respective rooms.
The weather on the island was hot and humid, and Qi Zhu had tricked Jiang Ying into wearing a sweater upon their arrival. After they wrapped up their work for the day, Jiang Ying immediately went upstairs to take a shower and change. Then he flopped down on his bed, in his air-conditioned room, and began to miss his cell phone.
A few days ago, he'd exchanged some of his gold in 'Fight!' for the annual mascot figure. He was counting down the days to its arrival. The package was probably going to be delivered pretty soon, and Jiang Ying didn't want anyone to see his glorious badge of honor. So he'd filled in his own address for the delivery, and he'd used Boss Crab's name.
However, he would be on this island for the next few days. No one would help him take in the package, and he didn't want his badge of honor to be stored at his little neighborhood's mailroom for too long.
Jiang Ying lay in bed and thought and thought, running through the names of the people he knew in his head. And he finally decided on one person—
Little Qi-zong could help him pick up his delivery, but Jiang Ying couldn't get online now. So how was he supposed to reach out to Qi Jun?
"Little Ying?" Qi Zhu's voice came from just outside Jiang Ying's door. "I borrowed the laptop. Didn't you say you wanted to look at recipes?"
"Coming, coming." Jiang Ying leapt off the bed and ran across the room to open the door for Qi Zhu.
Jiang Ying's gaze instantly fell to the laptop in Qi Zhu's hands. "Wow, nice. Can it get online?"
"In your dreams." Qi Zhu passed him and entered the room, sitting down at the table. "Hard drive?"
"It's in my suitcase, go find it yourself. The red one." Jiang Ying quickly hatched a plan. "I'm going downstairs real quick, I'll be right back."
"Mm." Qi Zhu stooped down next to the suitcase to find the hard drive. "Got it."
Jiang Ying made his way downstairs and found that the shop was indeed deserted by now. The big television downstairs still showed plenty of netizen comments streaming across the screen.
[The hallway is so quiet.]
[What are Qi Zhu and Jiang Ying talking about? Let me switch to a different camera and have a look.]
[They closed the door. We can't see inside.]
[Of course they won't let you see inside their rooms, they have to protect the guests' privacy. You're dreaming.]
[Waaait a sec, what's this? Why did Jiang Ying come back downstairs? What's he trying to do?]
[He just went through the shop, and… and… he seems to be looking at us?]
[He's just… looking at us.]
"Help me out, friends," Jiang Ying said to the bullet comments. "Who wants to do me a favor? Go get Guapi Media's Little Qi-zong and tell him to come into the stream."
[Roger that. We're going right now.]
[Is this… allowed?]
A few minutes later, Little Qi-zong rushed into the stream. He'd been scared half to death by the horde of fans piling into his DMs all of a sudden. It was only after reading through several of the messages that he realized Jiang #2 was calling for him through the stream.
The screen displaying the comments showed a new line—
[I'm Little Qi-zong: It's the middle of the night, what are you doing up? What do you want?]
[I'm Little Qi-zong: I'm really pretty impressed by you.]
"Qi-zong, do me a favor. Pick up a delivery for me," Jiang Ying said, smiling sincerely at the screen with the bullet comments.
Upstairs, in Jiang Ying's room, Qi Zhu was looking for the red hard drive that Jiang Ying had mentioned. He'd practically turned Jiang Ying's suitcase inside out, but he didn't see any red hard drive—
Only a blue one.
Maybe Little Ying had misremembered?
Qi Zhu took out the blue hard drive and plugged it into the laptop borrowed from the shop. Very quickly, a new drive popped up on the screen.
Real, Fake, Public, Exclusive — I Have It All
Qi Zhu blinked.
Did his Little Ying really have such a unique way of classifying his recipes?
Jiang Ying had said that he'd gathered 30 gigabytes of cooking recipes and videos. But based on the information about the new drive that popped up, there seemed to be a lot more than that.
Qi Zhu clicked into one folder, and tons more showed up. Each one was labeled with a person's name.
Qi Zhu blinked again.
Among those names, he found a folder labeled with his own name—
Qi Zhu Qi Zhu Qi Zhu, Hehehe
These… probably weren't recipes, were they?
It was gossip. It was all gossip from the entertainment industry. Gossip and scandals. Pretty much every person in the industry had a folder on them.
Qi Zhu clicked open the folder with his name.
That folder was practically overflowing with files about his scandals. Since they'd been deskmates for so many years, Qi Zhu remembered exactly what Jiang Ying had been like when he'd served as a member of the disciplinary committee at school. Jiang Ying had collected dirt on basically every member of their class.
But Qi Zhu had no idea that, so many years later, a certain disciplinary committee member had turned into an infamous, controversial idol with the same old habits. It was true what they said; you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Out of all the idols in the world, there probably wasn't a single one who loved to hoard gossip as much as his Jiang Ying.
Back when Qi Zhu first debuted, he'd gotten explosively popular through a high-budget film. He'd blown past many other people who were hoping to get famous, and many of those people shelled out huge sums of money to have tabloids attack him all day and night. Those tabloids quickly spun the narrative that Qi Zhu came from a prestigious entertainment industry background, and that he only got famous through family ties.
"I can't choose my family, and I don't consider my family a scandalous point," the Qi Zhu of back then had said. "But I hope everyone can place their attention and interest on my work. If anyone has time to dwell on my background, your time would be better spent honing your own acting skills."
Right away, some people deemed him haughty and arrogant. They were sure he would crash and burn soon enough. Meanwhile, others thought he was simply inexperienced and naive. They said he'd just debuted, so he still foolishly believed the sky was the limit.
The video of Qi Zhu's response to that 'scandal' had been named by Jiang Ying—
You Guys Don't Get It, He Just Talks Like That
Another file recounted one of Qi Zhu's red carpet appearances. Some other star had tried to get too close to him, to stir up rumors of an affair. Qi Zhu had kept a responsible distance, and the media had called him out for being rude and disrespectful. That file had been named—
In that folder, Jiang Ying had collected every single story—big or small—since Qi Zhu's debut. There were also lots of little stories that the public didn't know about. Qi Zhu missing a line in a speech at a charity dinner, Qi Zhu getting distracted while filming a drama one day… Jiang Ying had all the receipts.
And all the videos and photos were titled with Jiang Ying's opinion of each matter—
That's All It Takes to Make People Mad?
Fake News (but this set photo is really sexy, hehehe)
Qi Zhu Won't Fail Even If Jiang Ying Fails
When Qi Zhu dug even deeper through the folder, he found a bunch of pictures of handwritten notes and cell phone photos. Those file names were all written by Jiang Ying as well, and they would have been perfectly at home on any major tabloid website.
Shocking! Popular Actor Qi Zhu Plays Video Games In Class With HIs Deskmate — Photo Evidence!
A Certain Celebrity (Mr. Q) Rejected So Many People In Middle School That Those People Could Hold Hands And Make A Circle Around H City's Yi High
From childhood to now, Jiang Ying had always kept his eyes on Qi Zhu.
Downstairs, Jiang Ying had successfully summoned Little Qi-zong. He was still relaying the task about the delivery to him.
[Everyone Stop Pretending, I'm The Real Little Qi-zong: What delivery? Is it really that important?]
"It's my badge of honor," Jiang Ying said honestly. "Please be sure to pick it up yourself, in person."
[Everyone Stop Pretending, I'm The Real Little Qi-zong: …damn, you're really something. We graduated years ago, and you'll still send me to get your deliveries.]
"The recipient's name is…" Jiang Ying gave the comments a pointed look. "You'll know."
[Seriously, People, Stop Pretending To Be Me, I'm Me: ……understood.]
Little Qi-zong let out a long sigh and disappeared from the bullet comments, leaving behind a horde of netizens desperately trying to guess what this important delivery was.
Jiang Ying, brimming over with pride, swanned back into his own room. "How's it going? Find any promising recipes?"
"These recipes are pretty good," Qi Zhu deadpanned. He shot a somewhat sympathetic look at Jiang Ying.
Jiang Ying froze.
Something was wrong.
It would seem… he'd brought the wrong hard drive.
The blue one… the blue one was…
"Fuck! What are you looking at?!" Jiang Ying dashed across the room and pounced, trying to cover Qi Zhu's eyes with his left hand while shutting the laptop with his right hand. He managed to forcibly stop the video that was playing on screen.
"Mm, you're a little late." Qi Zhu didn't move, allowing Jiang Ying to continue covering his eyes. "I. Already. Saw. Everything."
Jiang Ying fell silent.
"…I spent years building up this precious collection. How could you just watch it all so casually?"
"How about you explain something to me." Qi Zhu reached up and wrapped a hand around Jiang Ying's wrist. He pulled Jiang Ying's hand away and took both of Jiang Ying's wrists in one hand while he spun his chair halfway around. "Go ahead. Tell me why you've collected all this dirt on me."
"'cause you're cute," Jiang Ying answered plainly. Everything had been exposed already, so he figured there was no point in hiding anything anymore. "You're usually so cold, and you look at everyone with the same expression. But you're pretty cute when you get aggressive with people. You're not as icy when you fight back.
"Got a problem with that, boyfriend?"
Jiang Ying really was thick-skinned, and he had a very quick reaction time. His fighter's spirit and instincts kicked in. He instantly got to the heart of the matter and threw the question back at Qi Zhu.
"Your boyfriend wouldn't dare have a problem with that." Qi Zhu released him. "Your boyfriend isn't cold or icy to you, though."
"If you have a problem, just say so," Jiang Ying offered generously. "I promise I won't do it anymore."
"What kind of hobby is this?" Qi Zhu thought back to the file names he'd just read. "You never stopped, ever since you were a kid."
"It's a hateful hobby, right? I'm super self-aware," Jiang Ying said. "I'm aggressive, I'm an ogre, I'm a gossip hound. I'm the barbarian of the entertainment industry. I'll fight anyone I see. Sometimes I'll become a total troll…"
"I like it." Qi Zhu got up and pulled Jiang Ying into his arms, bowing his head to interrupt Jiang Ying's words with his own lips. "I don't hate it at all."
"Film Emperor Qi, how come I never realized how sweet your mouth could be?" Jiang Ying pushed Qi Zhu away, panting slightly. His heart was racing, and his knees were weak. He suddenly realized that the kiss he'd stolen out of his desire to win… that hadn't been a victory at all. "You're a smooth talker, aren't you?"
"Try me, as many times as you want, to find out."
"Being in love is so nice," Jiang Ying sighed. He still felt a little dizzy. "It's so nice that even a troll can be loved."
Saying that, Jiang Ying suddenly thought of another matter.
Since he couldn't get online for a few days, he wouldn't be able to log in to the 'Fight!' app. He wouldn't be able to find out if his apprentice had made any progress with that friend of his.
What was his apprentice-didi doing right now?
How far had he gotten?
Had he won his fight?
Did he seize his chance?
Have all his dreams come true?