At six-thirty in the morning, a loud and crystal clear 'chicken shriek' sounded out through the halls of the women's dormitory at A University. It pierced through the tranquil calm of the morning, waking nearly everyone in the building.
The culprit was standing on the balcony of the fifth floor. She shrank back and covered her own mouth, then grabbed a little stool and huddled up in a corner to continue scrolling through Weibo.
@A Lemon Tree Growing Deep In A Great Mountain: AHHHHHHHHH, waking up early to study is the best. I love waking up early. Even if this candy isn't exclusive, I—Little Lemon—got to take the first bite.
Jiang Ying's post from last night had seemed like an ordinary report of his ordinary daily life. His fans blew some rainbow farts. Fans of the crab came over to flatter Crab-ge. And some passersby chimed in with a few comments of their own. That was all. The post hadn't stirred up much of a commotion.
Then, half an hour ago, Qi Zhu sent out a nearly identical Weibo post. There wasn't anything 'ordinary' about this now. Netizens instantly started digging for details—
Netizen 1: [Jiang Ying's photo] vs [Qi Zhu's photo] Let's play spot the difference, hehehe.
Netizen 2: RaisingHand.jpg I know the answer! The subject matter is the same, the angle is the same. But one was taken at night, and one was taken at dawn. The person who took and posted the photo also changed.
Netizen 3: Ah, ah, ahhhhhh! Why are we wasting time on 'spot the difference'? How dumb and naive can you guys be? This is an official announcement, isn't it?! It's so obvious! Neither of them had any work on their schedule yesterday, and they obviously spent the night together. In the same room!
Netizen 4: What else is there to say? A long time ago, I used to fight with my neighboring shadows. But now we're at peace. All I can say is, congratulations.
Netizen 5: Yeah, exactly. Congratulations. That's enough. Do we really need to make it any more obvious? The photos are nice, but I still have to ask… what exactly did these two do during the time between the first photo and the second?
@A Certain Entertainment Tabloid: [photo][photo] A certain controversial internet star and a certain popular actor each posted one of these photos. One last night, one this morning. Even their comments are the same. It looks like they spent the night in the same room. Their relationship seems very strong, disproving many earlier rumors.
Comment 1: ! It's too obvious! This has really gotten real.
Comment 2: They were classmates, after all. They have a foundation for their feelings. And they filmed a drama and some variety shows together recently… they just need a little level-up to their relationship, and everyone's ship will become real.
Comment 3: #ILikeIt# Wahhhhh, congratulations, congrats, best wishes.
The tag #ILikeIt# started to climb up the trending topics list, eventually becoming the top tag of the day.
When Jiang Ying opened his eyes, Qi Zhu was leaning against the windowsill. The wind chimes occasionally let out a crisp, clear sound.
"You're up so early?" Jiang Ying lit up the screen of his cell phone to check the time. He thought for a moment, then said, "I think I slept pretty well. No fussing or turning."
Qi Zhu nodded. "You were pretty well-behaved."
Jiang Ying had slept very peacefully. He must have gotten used to hugging his pillows and plushies at home; whenever he slept, he instinctively wanted to hug something in his arms. And so, Qi Zhu had slept through the whole night with Jiang Ying's arms wrapped around his neck. It was only when he got up in the morning that he replaced himself with the stuffed penguin.
"Let's sleep some more." Jiang Ying was too drowsy to fully open his eyes. He ignored the dozen or so missed calls from his manager and habitually checked Weibo instead. "…what's this tag that's trending at number one?"
I like it?
It looked immensely familiar.
Before long, both of their names were sent up the trending topics list too—
@GuapiMedia-LittleQiZong: Rose.jpg x3 Daddy Jiang, don't forget to thank your valiant son for his sacrifices.
@MeowMeowMeowYe: Rose.jpg x3 Flowers for you, Jiang-ge.
"I'm number eight in the top trends, and you're number nine. And we're still rising." Jiang Ying peered at his cell phone screen while lying down. "I'm sure, I'm absolutely certain, I haven't done anything catastrophic in the past few days."
"Mm," Qi Zhu agreed. "I just… made a Weibo post."
Jiang Ying blinked.
I didn't cause a catastrophe. But you did?
Just a short while ago, the two of them had followed each other on Weibo. When Jiang Ying clicked on his following list, Qi Zhu's name was at the very top. He opened up Qi Zhu's Weibo page and instantly saw the post Qi Zhu had put up not too long ago.
"Friend," Jiang Ying began in a gravely serious tone. "Retract your tail feathers. They can see you showing off in outer space."
He could tell that this guy had been possessed by the desire to show off as of late. Whenever the slightest opportunity arose, Qi Zhu wanted to flaunt their affections in front of the whole world. He seemed so unmovable, but when it came to Jiang Ying, he wouldn't let a single chance slip by.
Qi Zhu understood what Jiang Ying was trying to say, but he only looked at him blankly, with an expression that clearly challenged, What are you going to do about it?
His cell phone was, as usual, in silent mode. The screen lit up and stayed bright for a long time before Qi Zhu finally accepted an incoming call.
"Mm, it's me."
"Right. He's here with me."
Jiang Ying could tell that Qi Zhu was talking about him. He mouthed, almost silently, "Someone's looking for me? Who?"
"My manager." Qi Zhu paused his conversation with the other person on the phone and turned to Jiang Ying. "Our publicists want to talk to us both. They want to get our opinion on something."
Jiang Ying cocked his head to the side.
Opinion on what?
"It's up to you," Qi Zhu said, offering the choice to Jiang Ying. "Do you want to have the trending tag removed? Or do you want to deal with it another way?"
"You're the one who got us trending," Jiang Ying said. "And you're asking me?"
And what would be the point in removing it, anyway? It was all true.
Qi Zhu seemed to have asked Jiang Ying just for his own amusement. He gave Jiang Ying a cursory once-over, then answered the person on the other end of the line: "No comment. We'll admit it, silently."
Letting the truth come out like that, silently, was a pretty good move. Jiang Ying felt like Qi Zhu was handling this quite well. If they were together, they were together. There was no need to hide something like that. And they both fostered an intense desire for victory; neither of them would give up on the other.
The war between them was a war of attrition. The sort that would last a lifetime.
Those two pictures of the wind chime in the window, and those two identical captions, were shared across Weibo for several days. Netizens finally understood what the silence from the two involved parties meant. After the initial wave of surprise passed, they began to offer their congratulations.
[These two both have a lot of connections and resources at their disposal. They don't need to rely on fueling gossip to get popular. By not responding, they're just flaunting their confidence, aren't they? Hahaha, congrats to them. I'll be sure to follow their work!]
[In all honesty, I'm probably more of a mom fan than anything. I started following Little Ying three years ago. He turned me into a fan of his when he used his army of alts to fight back against those tabloid accounts back then. He's unlike anyone else in the entertainment industry, but I just love his natural and real persona. I've watched his passive-aggressive 'confrontations' with Qi Zhu all this time, and I always got the feeling that their relationship must be pretty good. So now I can really relax.]
[Eagerly awaiting 'An Auspicious Snow'. Congratulations!]
[Awesome. It has to be said that their personalities are super, super compatible.]
[Exactly! Those tabloid accounts that Jiang Ying has been dissing for, like, two years have all given Qi Zhu's post a like. Is this a sign of respect or gratitude? Or are they being forced to like it?]
[Wahhhhhhh, this is all I can think about now.]
Three months later, the high-budget production of 'An Auspicious Snow' finally started to air to an eager audience. The drama had gained a huge number of fans even before its broadcast began, due to the popularity of the original work and the cast.
While the drama was being filmed, Jiang Ying had been exposed for dissing his own acting skills. As a result, an extra wave of curious fans started following the show. They were all eager to see whether or not Jiang Ying's acting skills really were crap.
And, of course, the relationship between Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu had also become a hotly discussed talking point.
In short, the drama was already receiving unprecedented levels of attention.
"I think the plot is very good. I hope everyone will give the show a shot," said Xuan Huitong during a cast interview about the drama. "And every single person involved in this drama worked very, very hard."
"No talking about my shitty acting skills in the bullet comments," Jiang Ying warned, glaring at the audience through the cameras filming their interview. "If you have a problem with me, take it up with me on Weibo."
"I feel like the drama is pretty good," Qi Zhu said, when the mic came to him. "It's watchable."
Qi Zhu was the type of person who had extremely high, strict standards for himself. Whenever he was asked about the quality of his work, he would respond that it was 'okay' or 'just alright'. This time, during their press tour, he surprised everyone by giving the upcoming drama a review of 'pretty good'.
[Qi-laoshi probably thinks that Jiang Ying is the one who's 'pretty good', hahahaha. I can tell what he really means.]
[The higher my expectations, the more likely I am to be disappointed. I'll try to keep my hopes low.]
[Just watch for their faces. Everyone in this drama is super hot.]
[I've been waiting for over half a year. This drama has become my reason to live.]
Jiang Ying was pretty sure that he'd worked harder on 'An Auspicious Snow' than he'd worked on any other drama before. He'd thrown himself into the role, and he'd thrown himself into the arms of the leading actor.
That part of his job was done now. He'd finished acting out his scenes. He'd finished running around on their press tour with Qi Zhu. Now, all that remained was for the viewers to judge the show.
Not many people frequented the romance district in 'Fight!' these days. Anxious Crab, using his few months of spare time, had basically burned the place to the ground.
[Little Lemon]: Fighting?
[Anxious Crab]: Why are there so few people online tonight? I'm so bored. It seems like everyone is busy.
[Anxious Crab]: Fight me?
[Little Lemon]: Nah, I'm going to watch the drama. Bye-bye.
[Little Lemon]: I'm on the third episode. There's a nice, tranquil sort of feeling there. Makes me happy.
[Little Lemon]: I have to praise you, idol. You're so good-looking.
[Anxious Crab]: Oh, keep watching. Everything is going to change in the tenth episode. Lots of fighting, lots of disagreements. All the characters are going to go their separate ways and fight until it's hell on earth.
[Little Lemon]: ??? Spoilers? Get out, get out, get out. Spits.jpg
Other idols were flattered and praised by their fans every day. Jiang Ying, on the other hand…
He was starting to think that he wasn't all that well-respected as an idol. He decided to go have a chat with Qi Zhu, only to discover that Qi Zhu was watching the drama too.
Jiang Ying blinked.
"You're blocking the TV," Qi Zhu said unhurriedly. "Come here. Sit."
"Why are you watching yourself in your own drama?"
"The one I'm watching is you," Qi Zhu corrected. He shifted and made room for Jiang Ying on the couch.
Jiang Ying thought about that for a moment.
Alright, that checked out.
"I don't wanna watch," he said. "I'll check Bilibili later to see if anyone's roasting me there."
His acting was bad and he knew it. Why shouldn't he admit it?
Qi Zhu coolly swept his gaze over Jiang Ying, then returned his attention to the drama again.
While Qi Zhu watched the drama, Jiang Ying curled up with his own tablet. He found a comfortable spot on the couch and opened Weibo.
His team could talk him up in a lot of ways, but they couldn't talk up his acting skills. That was even more true of the crew of 'An Auspicious Snow'. There was simply nothing good to say. That could only mean…
Someone had already paid off another tabloid to diss his acting skills?
However, when Jiang Ying clicked into that tag, he found that no one was dissing him at all. A horde of passersby who'd started watching the drama were praising him. A few posts had turned into a great many posts, picking up momentum and sending Jiang Ying straight up the trending topics list.
@Playing Basketball At 3AM: #JiangYingActingSkills# [drama clip] What the hell? This is what you call shitty acting? These skills could leave plenty of actors in the dust!