The stream of the day was the last installment of a talent show that was neither too popular nor too unpopular. But due to the live format of the final episode, it attracted a decent number of viewers.
[I haven't been following this show, but I figured I would check out the last episode to see what the commotion is all about.]
[It's alright. We pretty much already know for sure which contestants will be debuting, so it isn't very exciting.]
[I'm here, I'm here! I'm a shadow, I heard this is Little Qi-zong's show? Has my idol been here slacking off the whole time?]
[Has it started yet? I came for Boss Crab, then somehow became a fan of the show.]
[I'm bored out of my mind, so I figure I may as well watch this. I heard Little Qi-zong is putting on this show for a little you-know-who?]
Jiang Ying's seat at the judges' table couldn't be left empty for this final episode, and Qi Jun obviously wasn't going to look this massive gift horse in the mouth. It was undeniably a blessing that Qi Zhu had shown up.
So when the judges' table rose onto the stage, the five seats were all filled. One by one, the five judges greeted the contestants and viewers.
"Good morning," Qi Jun said with a slight nod.
The contestants stared.
The live audience stared.
The netizens viewing the stream online stared as hard as anyone else.
On the card in front of that seat, Jiang Ying's name was still written. But the person in his seat had changed.
Chaos descended upon the stage in the blink of an eye. The contestants all gasped and covered their mouths in shock. The screen of the livestream filled up with confused bullet comments—
[What's with the name card? Does Little Qi-zong think we're blind? This is Jiang Ying? Who does he think he's fooling?!]
[That's Qi Zhu.]
[AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, why is my god here?! I came to watch this show out of sheer boredom, and I got to see my god?!]
[Where's our Little Ying?! The name card still has Jiang Ying written on it! Was this a sudden last-minute change?]
[Hahahahahaha, the last episode is already so amazing. We can tell Little Qi-zong is working hard.]
"I'm here as a substitute today," Qi Zhu continued, speaking into the microphone once the commotion on stage died down. "I'll be acting as a judge in a fair and impartial manner. Everyone, please give your attention to the competition, not to me."
[Fuck, don't even try to stop me. My mind's already in the gutter. What happened between you two? What's going on? Did you bully our Little Ying?]
[Oh, screw you. Who would dare bully your little troll? He probably trolled too hard and got himself sick, right?]
[Didn't you two just finish filming 'An Auspicious Snow'? What are you up to now? Hahahaha, this isn't a normal substitute. Qi-laoshi is way too famous to take a show like this. I seriously have to know what made him accept this gig.]
[This is too much, this is way too much. I'm going crazy with all the ship content that we're getting, hahahahaha. First they followed each other on Weibo, and now this? How far has their relationship progressed?]
[I can't handle this, I'm about to act up. You film emperor! You pig! What have you done to our Little Ying?! LOLOLOLOL]
Little Qi-zong's program continued as planned. The contestants performed, the judges critiqued, and the viewers voted. This sort of program took votes through various mediums, so the viewers were primarily interested in hearing the judges' live remarks.
And thus, in this long-awaited installment, they all watched as—
"Number 9," Qi Zhu said. "You went off-key during the chorus. I thought you would correct yourself quickly, but you stayed off-key through the rest of the song."
Qi Jun was speechless.
"Number 57," Qi Zhu continued. "Your dancing was off-beat. You were off as soon as you started. Also, you stepped on your teammate's foot."
Qi Jun could only stare in horror.
Qi Zhu went on, "Number 81…"
Qi Jun frantically blinked at Qi Zhu, trying to catch his attention and get him to hold his horses.
But Qi Zhu ignored him and continued to deliver his fair and impartial judgment: "Number 81, your singing and dancing were both ridden with flaws. I don't know if you had a bad day or if you just don't have the talent, but in any case you need to improve your craft."
After a moment, Qi Zhu sighed and said, "I'll stop there."
Luckily, the class monitor seemed to be in a good mood. His way of speaking was only half as harsh and offensive as usual. Qi Jun let out a long sigh of relief.
Then he watched as Qi Zhu turned to the other four judges and critiqued, with some sympathy and some remorse in his tone, "The four of you need to improve as well. Do better."
The other four judges were all rendered speechless.
Little Qi-zong was dumbstruck. He wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't come. Everything had happened so quickly earlier, with only ten minutes left before they were due to go live. Qi Jun had forgotten to tell Qi Zhu that he could just slack off and look pretty at the judges' table.
Qi Zhu seemed to take into consideration that Qi Jun was his old classmate. He generously worked diligently through the whole show. No one—not the other judges, not the production crew of the show—escaped his criticisms.
Little Qi-zong had always been good at turning a profit, and he never turned down a chance to get some good publicity. But this time, he'd gotten his hands on a publicity bomb.
[CryingIntoHands.jpg This really is his style. Is he here to ruin the show? Hahahahahaha.]
[I miss the slacker Jiang Ying, hahahaha. When he just slacks off and doesn't open his mouth, his face is absolutely gorgeous. I took a bunch of screenshots when he was here before.]
[Qi Zhu: How did you guys get through to this round?]
[Qi Zhu: Fine, I'll reluctantly turn off my mic.]
[This is nice. I feel like Qi Zhu's in a really good mood today. You guys don't know how harsh he can be. You probably haven't seen the way he tore into that screenwriter one time.]
[All of you are totally right. This show is stuffed with so much filler, and Little Qi-zong set so many pitfalls for Jiang Ying. Now he's the one in the pitfall, hahahaha.]
[@JiangYingKANI Wake up. Hurry and come take Qi Zhu home. Little Qi-zong is about to lose his mind, lololol.]
After gently obliterating the mood of the show, Qi Zhu quietly turned off his mic and didn't speak again, saving Jiang Ying some face. The program proceeded to its end as planned, concluding with the whole audience whipped up into an excited frenzy.
Little Qi-zong was deeply moved. He turned to Qi Zhu and offered his gratitude with tears in his eyes. "Class Monitor, thank you, I can't thank you enough, sir. Thank you."
"It's nothing." Qi Zhu waved it off. "We're old classmates. No need for thanks, and no need to call me 'sir'."
In order to help his agency's pretty little meimei debut, Qi Jun had bought several trending tags on Weibo. But none of them trended harder than the tag about Qi Zhu crashing the party, which indirectly brought quite a lot of attention to the show.
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: I checked in right on time to see my idol on this show, but I never imagined there would be such a big surprise waiting for me. I just want to ask you two… what exactly did you get up to last night? Hahahah, Mr. Substitute seemed to be in a pretty good mood. I wonder if my idol is happy or not.
At the same time, on the 'Fight!' app, a new thread rose to the top of the forums.
The Everlasting Master-Disciple Bond? Boss Crab just cut ties with his apprentice!
1: This is why you don't disrespect your elders. What kind of debacle is this?
2: Didn't Fighter3357868 just graduate last night? What exactly did he do to his master in the middle of the night? Crab-ge even skipped out on Little Qi-zong's show today.
3: Poor Boss Crab. He only maintained his master-disciple bond for one night. Breaking it off bright and early in the morning, how extreme…
4: Hmm, he has time to cut ties with his apprentice, but he doesn't have time to go to work? And he had such a shocking substitute. The whole thing is already trending.
5 (Little Lemon): I'll go! I'll go ask right now! I'll go!
6 (sunny): lol
Jiang Ying was woken by the buzzing of his cell phone. He'd woken once earlier, with all his bones feeling like jelly. At that point, he'd only rolled over, grabbed his cell phone, cut off his master-apprentice relationship, and went back to sleep. But his cell phone kept vibrating throughout the morning, making it impossible for him to sleep for long.
[Anxious Crab]: LittlePandaRage.jpg I'm sleeping.
[Little Lemon]: Uh, it's almost noon, sir. Is it really okay for you to be so grumpy?
[Anxious Crab]: Sleepy. Stayed up late.
[Little Lemon]: So, were you just sleepy and confused? Or did your apprentice actually do something to you?
[Anxious Crab]: I'll never take an apprentice again, wahhhhhhhh.
[Anxious Crab]: I suffered a crushing defeat, wahhhhhhhh.
[Anxious Crab]: My body and soul hurt all over, wahhhhhhhh.
[Anxious Crab]: My desire for victory has come under assault, wahhhhhhh.
[Little Lemon]: It's that serious? You were bullied by your own apprentice?
[Little Lemon]: RollsUpSleeves.jpg No matter what, you're my idol. If someone wants to bully you, they have to go through me first.
[Anxious Crab]: Really? LittleDinoCries.jpg
[Little Lemon]: Really. I'm Little Lemon. Who could I possibly be afraid of?
[Little Lemon]: Come on, Coward Crab. Man up, speak up. Tell me his name. Who hurt you?
[Anxious Crab]: Qi Zhu.
[Little Lemon]: Geh?
[System Notification]: The user 'Little Lemon' has unilaterally removed you from their friends list.
Jiang Ying blinked.
[Anxious Crab]: ??? You're a fake fan.
[Anxious Crab]: SlightSmile.jpg
On Weibo, Little Lemon put up a new post—
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: On the matter of chasing idols, I've always been completely rational. I know perfectly well that a fan has to stay away from their idol's personal life. I'll always keep that in mind. I'll never forget. I, Little Lemon, solemnly swear to never get involved in my idol's personal affairs. Never! Never again!
[screenshot evidence of friend removal]
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: Hehehe, this is too much candy. I'm dizzy. This is a sugar high. Forget chasing idols. I'm happy enough just being a shipper.
@JiangYingKANI replying to @A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: ??? I really believed in you. CryingIntoHands.jpg
@QiZhu liked @JiangYingKANI's reply.
"You're up?" The bedroom door was opened from outside. Footsteps approached the bed from afar.
"Nope." Jiang Ying cocooned himself in the covers and hid with his cell phone. His voice was a little hoarse.
Qi Zhu said nothing.
"Eliminate yourself from existence for three minutes." A certain troll stuck a hand out from under the covers and held up three fingers. "Three. Don't talk to me for three minutes."
A certain someone who had picked up all his bad habits had used every single one of Jiang Ying's tricks against him last night, until Jiang Ying was rendered completely dazed and speechless. Jiang Ying definitely couldn't allow that to go unpunished.
The lump of blankets started to move across the bed, scooting over to the other corner.
Qi Zhu breathed a silent laugh. There was a faint little bite mark on one of his fingers, left by Jiang Ying's sharp little canines. A few droplets of blood had risen from that wound last night. Qi Zhu hadn't paid it much mind in the morning, but now that he was facing Jiang Ying again, that bite mark seemed to pulse with faint waves of pain, synchronized with their heartbeats.
"It's been three minutes," Qi Zhu said after exactly three minutes. "Little Ying, are you still angry?"
"Yep." There wasn't much oxygen under the blankets. The lump shifted across the bed again. "Three more minutes."
Qi Zhu was afraid of him not getting enough air. He reached out and tugged the covers away.
The person under the covers wasn't wearing a single stitch of clothing, and his collarbone was mottled with love bites. After being curled up under those stuffy covers for so long, his cheeks had turned red. His eyes were red as well, and shiny with a sheen of unshed tears.
Jiang Ying huffed and mumbled something totally incoherent that no one in the world could have understood. He grabbed the covers and wrapped himself up again, leaving only his head exposed.
"Does it hurt?" Qi Zhu asked. He watched Jiang Ying squirm around in bed, and he knew he'd gone over the top last night. This was the person he'd held in his heart for many years. That person had suddenly delivered himself to Qi Zhu's doorstep, and Qi Zhu hadn't been able to pamper him or hide his own needs. He'd laid hands on Jiang Ying, none too gently.
"Hurts. Hurts everywhere," Jiang Ying complained earnestly. "My eyes hurt, my throat hurts."
Qi Zhu was silent for a moment. "…those parts aren't my fault."
Jiang Ying's eyes hurt because he'd cried, and his throat hurt because of his unrelenting thirst for victory. Even though his voice had already gone soft, Jiang Ying had still stayed up and loudly voiced his grievances to the ceiling until 4:30 in the morning. Those aches were of his own making.
"Then who am I supposed to blame?" Jiang Ying demanded, shooting Qi Zhu a sidelong glance.
"Who should you blame?" Qi Zhu echoed. "Who told you to keep shouting 'Qi-gege' at a time like that?"
He stuck out his own finger for Jiang Ying to see. "Look. You even bit me."
"Ai, I haven't even gotten started on you yet, and you're already complaining about me?" Jiang Ying's fighting spirit instantly flared up. "No matter how I look at it, you screwed me over last night with all that talk about winning and losing. I got the short end of the stick. So what if I bit you, huh? You think you deserve to feel more wronged than me?"
"I wouldn't say that." Qi Zhu reached out and touched a hand to Jiang Ying's forehead, taking his temperature. Once he was reassured that Jiang Ying wasn't running a fever, he continued, "I've put everything you taught me into practice. You could say I understand it all now. Doesn't that mean you've succeeded, as a master?
"So don't be angry. You can feel proud, relieved."
Jiang Ying stared at him for a moment.
"That's exactly what makes me angry. Let's forget about your secret identity for now, I won't bring it up," Jiang Ying ranted. He scooted closer to Qi Zhu and wriggled one hand out from under the blankets to prod at Qi Zhu's side. "This crab told you that we learn to fight in order to defend ourselves online, and not to bully other people. And you, Qi-gege—what did you do?"
"I didn't bully 'other people'," Qi Zhu said. He wrapped his arms around Jiang Ying, covers and all. "I only bullied you."