"What time is it?" Jiang Ying sensed someone next to him. He clawed at the covers, still half-asleep, and wrapped himself up in a tight ball on the bed.
The other person in the room was clearly doing their best to walk quietly; it could only be Qi Zhu. Jiang Ying remained totally defenseless, only squirming sleepily under the covers and mussing up the bedding even more.
"Noon. It's already past lunchtime." Qi Zhu had just pulled the covers up around Jiang Ying. "Little Ying, do you want to keep sleeping, or do you want to get up and eat?"
Jiang Ying had followed Qi Zhu out to D City bright and early in the morning. Just now, he'd already started dreaming of finding something to eat. As soon as he heard there was lunch, he instantly opened his eyes and became more alert. Qi Zhu's jacket, which Jiang Ying had claimed as a blanket, was lightly creased.
"I'm up, I'm up. I want to eat." Jiang Ying picked up Qi Zhu's crinkled jacket and handed it over. "Oh, and sorry about that."
A certain someone wore an apology on his lips, but wasn't even a tiny bit guilty about creasing Qi Zhu's jacket.
The habits a person formed in their youth could become deeply ingrained. When Qi Zhu saw Jiang Ying looking so disheveled and disoriented, he reflexively reached out and tousled Jiang Ying's hair, making it even messier.
"What are you doing, what are you doing?!" Jiang Ying hurriedly sat up. "Qi Zhu! I feel like you've gotten addicted to doing that."
"Someone messaged you earlier. I said you fell asleep." Qi Zhu took his own jacket and draped it over his arm.
Jiang Ying thought back to the few people he'd chatted with before falling asleep. Qi Zhu had probably responded to Little Lemon. Her mood had been rather turbulent these past few days. Every time she posted to Weibo, it was some incomprehensible nonsense, like she was just rolling a lemon over her keyboard.
When Jiang Ying opened Weibo now, he was just in time to see Little Lemon put up a new post with a gif of an erupting volcano attached.
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: Ahhhhhhhhh, I can't. I can't anymore. [gif]
Comment 1: Drunk on your ship again?
Comment 2: Love yourself, Lemon. Keep a safe distance from your idol's private life.
Comment 3: Little Great Mountain has been like this every day for a while now. I really want to know how much ship material she's been hiding from us.
Comment 4: She's out of her mind with glee. How much candy is she enjoying all by herself? When will she share it with us?
"Is this gege done with work?" Jiang Ying asked, scooting over to the side of the bed. He couldn't fully contain a mischievous smirk before pouncing and flinging his arms around Qi Zhu.
"Done," Qi Zhu confirmed. He slowly lifted a hand to help Jiang Ying straighten out his mussed up hair.
"Then… your place or mine?" Jiang Ying lifted his index finger and waggled it back and forth between Qi Zhu and himself.
"My place," Qi Zhu said without even thinking about it. "Today or tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow," Jiang Ying said, also without having to pause to think. "Right time, right place."
The two of them were in perfect agreement on this matter.
Half a minute later—
Jiang Ying was silent.
As was Qi Zhu.
"Class Monitor, why are we so good at this?" Jiang Ying asked, speaking up first. It was a perfectly earnest, genuine question. Weren't they way too familiar at setting a date, as though they'd done it a million times before?
Qi Zhu studied him for a while before he said, "You're just treating it like nothing's changed."
"I guess." Jiang Ying closed his eyes and thought back, deciding to accept that explanation.
They'd been like this back in middle school, too. But of course they did what they were supposed to be doing at that age. Back then, they made dates to study and do homework. Now, they were making a date to…
In Jiang Ying's eyes, he was a family member who'd tagged along with Qi Zhu to his next job. But in the eyes of the cast and crew at Qi Zhu's movie set, Jiang Ying was unfinished business—a ticking time bomb—from Qi Zhu's last job.
"Jiejie." Jiang Ying struck up a conversation with a crew member while Qi Zhu discussed something with the director. "Don't look at me like that. I'm really not all that fierce.
"Don't listen to all that nonsense you hear online. I don't just spew vulgarities at anyone. I only fight to defend myself."
"Let's go." Qi Zhu returned and placed a baseball cap on Jiang Ying's head before starting to lead him away.
"Jiejie, don't forget!" Jiang Ying called back. "Vote for me in the popularity polls!"
"I'll vote for you," Qi Zhu said as he ushered Jiang Ying into the car and shut the door. "I'll fight your antis, too."
By the time they got back to H City, it was already two in the morning. Jiang Ying's assistant sent a driver out to the airport to pick him up.
"Class Monitor, I'll probably have to make a trip to my agency tomorrow morning. Gotta report on the whole 'my alt was exposed' situation." Jiang Ying was so sleepy that he didn't really know where he was going. "So you'll pick me up from my agency tomorrow night?"
Qi Zhu watched as Jiang Ying's car pulled away, disappearing into the distance.
"Little Ying, what are you and Qi-laoshi planning? So secretive," his assistant asked curiously.
"Adult things," Jiang Ying answered emphatically, innocently blinking a few times from the back of the car. "Do I need to report it to the agency?"
"Oh," his assistant uttered blandly.
Jiang Ying blinked. "Oh?"
His assistant seemed so calm. What was that all about?
"I have to tell you something," his assistant said.
Jiang Ying blinked again. "Hm?"
"Since Jiang #2 ran off with Qi Zhu right after filming, I had your luggage shipped to Qi-laoshi's place," Assistant Chen said with a slight smile.
Jiang Ying was silent.
If he'd known that just a little earlier, he wouldn't have bothered going home that night.
Well, fine. The two parties involved had gotten used to their new status quo, and it seemed the people around them were getting used to it too. Soon enough, netizens would probably get used to it as well.
[Anxious Crab]: Little Mountain, question for you.
[Little Lemon]: ahhhhhhhhh.
[Anxious Crab]: Have Qi Zhu and I sent you into a sugar coma with our daily routines?
[Little Lemon]: Ahhhhhhhhh.
[Anxious Crab]: This is the new status quo. Don't get so worked up over nothing.
[Little Lemon]: AHHHHHHHHHHH.
Little Lemon was, apparently, broken. Jiang Ying went over to check the 'Fight!' forums instead, where he discovered a very unusual thread—
Someone had come to pick a fight with the entirety of the 'Fight!' playerbase.
This app is pretty questionable, isn't it? So many unreasonable people have gathered here. You don't do any real work, you just fight all day. Are your real lives all garbage?
2: ? It's the middle of the night, and you're here for an ass whooping?
3 (sunny): Cuteness.jpg My real life is pretty ordinary. But do you, sir, think your monthly income is even 0.001% of mine?
The 'Fight!' app had received unprecedented waves of attention since the grand reveal of Boss Crab's celebrity identity. There were people who liked the app, and naturally there were people who hated it as well.
But most people who found the app objectionable weren't like today's poster. Most of them didn't blindly wander into a den of wolves.
4 (sunny): If you don't like the app, you don't like it. That's fine. But you just had to barge in and run your mouth in someone else's territory? Do you not get enough of a verbal spanking in your everyday life?
5 (OP): You talk a big game, but isn't this app just a breeding ground for trolls? All you do is fight, and you think you're some sort of hotshot?
Jiang Ying received a new private message—
[Little Lemon]: Every time I see your names now, I want to ahhhhhhhh.
[Anxious Crab]: [link] Stop shipping! We have an intruder! CHARGE!
[Little Lemon]: wtf, I'm on my way.
[Little Lemon]: We can diss our own stupid little app, but what the hell does this guy think he's doing?
6 (Little Lemon): Cuteness.jpg My real life is pretty ordinary. I'm just a national scholarship student.
7 (Anxious Crab): Cuteness.jpg My real life is pretty ordinary. I just have ten million fans or so.
8 (Fighter3357868): ??? SlightSmile.jpg Weak troll, no self-awareness. Short-sighted, narrow-minded.
9 (Fighter3357868): Cuteness.jpg My real life is pretty ordinary. I won over the person I like.
10 (Little Lemon): You, sir, say we're trolls. But are you any match for us? Can you, sir, understand us? If you can't understand, gtfo right now. If you can, listen well to what I have to say.
11 (OP): You guys are all fucking *&￥%#@&%**……
12 (Little Lemon): 'Fight!' is a hobby, and it's a way to destress. I personally believe most of our players are good people. We don't rely on cursing each other's mothers and fathers, but that doesn't mean we aren't capable of it.
13 (Little Lemon): Come, let me give you a taste of what it's really like to be trolled.
From then on, no further support was needed in that thread. Little Lemon-jiejie's battle power was truly formidable. She whipped out every trick in the book and sent that vile, lowly troll scurrying away with his tail between his legs. She tore into him and ripped him apart, until he gave up on his thread and deactivated his account in a huff.
And Little Lemon, after feuding from dusk to dawn, got herself and the 'Fight!' playerbase trending.
Meanwhile, Jiang Ying was startled to find an incredibly familiar username browsing that forum thread. He almost couldn't believe his eyes, and he took several looks before sending a message.
[Anxious Crab]: Wow, apprentice-didi! This is you?! [screenshot]
[Anxious Crab]: You've matured, apprentice-didi. You can diss people all on your own now.
Teaching truly was a rewarding art. Seeing the result of his efforts, Jiang Ying felt his body and soul ascending to a higher level.
[Anxious Crab]: You won over the person you like! Congrats!
[Fighter3357868]: You too.
[Anxious Crab]: Don't bother with that guy on the forums anymore. Little Lemon and sunny are both there. His life is already over.
[Anxious Crab]: Since you're online, let me teach you the ultimate fighter's technique.
Apprentice-didi was as cold and haughty as ever, but Jiang Ying firmly believed he was really interested in learning.
[Anxious Crab]: Last time I told you about muddying the point and directing the flow of the argument.
[Anxious Crab]: I believe in you. You'll definitely put that lesson to good use.
[Anxious Crab]: Once you've set the flow of the fight, your opponent will either be pissed or stupefied. Either way, they'll be stunned for a moment. You need to take advantage of that opportunity to flip the world upside down on them. That's when you strike. While your opponent is speechless, you keep attacking to keep them that way.
[Anxious Crab]: Got it?
[Fighter3357868]: Got it. FightOn.jpg
That was exactly what Jiang Ying wanted to hear. He couldn't be happier with his apprentice.
[Anxious Crab]: What I've relayed to you are the tricks and techniques I've accumulated over many long years of fighting. But just equipping yourself with this knowledge isn't nearly enough. The composition of a successful fighter is 1% effort and 99% experience.
[Anxious Crab]: Some moves are set in stone, but people are living beings. You still need practice to learn to roll with the punches in any and every situation.
[Fighter3357868]: Okay. I will.
[Anxious Crab]: Lastly, it's important for us to remember that we only use our fighting skills to protect ourselves online. We don't use them to hurt others. DoYouKnowWhatIMean.jpg
[Anxious Crab]: This can also be considered my little, insignificant hobby.
[Anxious Crab]: Congratulations! You've graduated!