Qian Huang rubbed his face when he finished reading. Shit. Somehow, he couldn’t even be angry at this Shi Ru Qiu guy. His words seemed much too heartfelt to keep being furious. Even though seeing this had definitely reopened old wounds for Xiao Ming, Shi Ru Qiu had done this for their benefit because he saw that they were treated unfairly and wanted to help them. It really was difficult to not feel at least a little touched.
Li Shui looked at him, not sure what to say for a moment. “So … what do we do now? I’d say our case has already gotten pretty high profile. I’m afraid that from now on, there will be even more eyes on us. It won’t get any easier.”
Qian Huang nodded. He was a bit worried but then again, thinking of Xiao Ming’s attitude when he had come into the kitchen this morning, he actually calmed down again. Xiao Ming wasn’t unnecessarily worried about people talking. He was worried about not doing a good job.
Streaming was still something that he had experience in so for the next three weeks until ‘Golden Spoon’ started there shouldn’t be a problem. When the casting began, he would definitely be worried beyond belief but the main focus would be on the participants and not the judges. Especially in the casting, Xiao Ming’s role would actually be quite small. That meant that he would have a chance to get accustomed to things first before his role became bigger and would make up a central part of the show. Most likely, he would be able to do well with this kind of slowly progressing tasks.
Realizing this, Qian Huang gave a faint smile. “Well, I think that at this point, things are out of our hands anyway. So we’ll just deal with it as it comes. There’s no way to plan anything anymore. We can only give our best and hope that it’s enough. Now though …” He looked at the door again, his expression turning worried once more. Whatever the public would say definitely wasn’t the biggest problem right now. “We should probably go over and see how he is doing. Thankfully, we don’t need to stream today. He probably needs quite some time to calm down.”
Li Shui nodded and the two of them got up, leaving the kitchen and going over to Xiao Ming’s room. The door was closed and they couldn’t hear anything from inside, making them wonder how exactly he was doing right now.
Li Shui glanced at Qian Huang, his expression a little panicked. He lowered his voice, trying to make sure that Xiao Ming inside wouldn’t hear him. “He wouldn’t be crying, would he?” He really hated it when Xiao Ming cried.
Looking back, it wasn’t like that happened often but the few times it had, it really broke his heart. Because Xiao Ming was always such a cheerful person, the disparity was so big that it really scared him. If it was possible, he would’ve liked it if he didn’t need to see it even a single time more in this life. Unfortunately, now here they were, maybe right at the moment before he once again would have to deal with that. The big question was: If he was right, how to calm Xiao Ming down?
Qian Huang also looked a little reluctant. When it came to Xiao Ming, he couldn’t help but feel a bit like a mother hen protecting its chicks. Seeing him in distress was definitely the worst thing that could happen. It had never been the same with Li Shui because that guy had always had a thick skin but Xiao Ming was different. He was a little more vulnerable and really took things to heart. This kind of situation where the worst thing that ever happened to him was pulled out like that … he was afraid it would be devastating to him.
In the end, he shook his head and knocked, carefully opening the door and poking his head through the crack. In any case, no matter how he was doing, as his friends, they should be there for him. Their fear of seeing him cry be damned.
Xiao Ming was still sitting on the bed but he had already put away the photo. He looked up, his eyes clearly a little red. Seeing the two of them, he gave them an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have left just like that. Did you … finish reading?”
Li Shui winced when he heard that his voice sounded a little hoarse but he hurriedly pushed Qian Huang inside. In any case, it was better to take care of this now before it could even worse.
Qian Huang threw him an angry look and then went over to Xiao Ming, sitting down at his side. “It’s okay. Don’t mention it.”
Li Shui nodded fervently and sat down on the other side, reaching out to take Xiao Ming’s hand. “Yes, ah! Don’t think too much about it.”
Xiao Ming looked at his hand in Li Shui’s and then up at his expression that was hovering between ‘I’m scared’ and ‘please don’t cry, ah!’ and his lips actually curved up a little. These two … he really didn’t know what he would do without them. He leaned to the side and put his head on Li Shui’s shoulder, squeezing his hand. “It’s alright. I’m … just a bit sad.”
Qian Huang reached out and patted his back, otherwise also being at a loss as to was what to do. You’d think that after years of living together and knowing each other for almost all their life, they would have a bit more proficiency in cheering him up but, actually, he felt pretty useless right now.
“It’s alright. We probably shouldn’t have let you read. That guy was really too much saying all these things!” He continued to pat his back, thinking that he would just push all the responsibility to that Shi Ru Qiu-guy. In any case, the mood had been pretty good before they sat down to read the text.
Xiao Ming turned his head and glanced at him with a smile. “You know, that’s one of my favorite authors you’re talking about there.”
Qian Huang tensed up, not sure if maybe he had said the wrong thing. This probably wasn’t the best approach after all. He tried to think of something else but his mind was blank. Xiao Ming wasn’t even crying and just looking at him, but he still felt that it was something that might happen any moment now.
Li Shui thought the same so he hurriedly took over. He tugged at Xiao Ming’s hand, trying to get his attention back. “That can still be a thing of the past. I’m sure there are other authors out there that you can like. Let’s just ignore him!”
Xiao Ming looked speechless when he heard the two of them talk like this. “You guys, what are you even talking about? If I had been a fan of Misses Youya, then I would understand you talking about her like this. But what’s the problem with Mister Shi?
“In any case, didn’t you say before that this text was a good thing happening for us? So I guess he was speaking out for us. From what I read, it didn’t sound like it was malicious either. I mean I haven’t read the second half but I guess he wanted to tell people that we didn’t have it easy and didn’t just use the back door to get where we are now. I think that’s a good thing to say about us, no?” He lifted his head from Li Shui’s shoulder and looked from one to the other.
Li Shui and Qian Huang exchanged a glance, not quite sure what to make of this. While Xiao Ming definitely seemed sad and had obviously been crying before they came in, he was actually doing quite well right now.
Li Shui couldn’t help but poke his side. “You know, if you want to cry, you can let it out. We can deal with it.”
Qian Huang was the one who nodded along this time. “Yes, just go ahead! We’re here for you. You don’t have to pretend to be strong in front of us.”
“Yes, in any case, we’ve seen you in much more embarrassing situations before.”
Xiao Ming raised his brows at Li Shui. “I say, Ah Shui, are you sure that you are trying to cheer me up and not trying to make me angry? What kind of embarrassing situations are you talking about?”
“Ah, like that time back in school when —”
Qian Huang furrowed his brows and reached over, slapping the back of Li Shui’s head. “Will you shut up? Do you really need to pull that kind of thing out right now?”
Xiao Ming chuckled when he saw the two of them act like that. He didn’t know what else Shi Ru Qiu had written but he had to say that he had been exactly right in the first half. No matter what he had gone through, no matter how lonely he had felt at the beginning, he should never forget that he had these two at his side. Even without his family, there were still his friends. He wasn’t alone. He would never be.
He reached out to the other side and gripped Qian Huang’s hand as well, looking at the two of them with a genuine smile. “It’s really alright. It always makes me sad to think of them but I know it’s not going to change anything so I won’t obsess over it. In any case, I’ve done what I could. So let’s not spoil the mood, alright?”
The other two hurriedly nodded. As long as they managed to cheer Xiao Ming up somehow, they didn’t care about anything else. They just wanted him to be happy.
Xiao Ming’s smile eased a lot when he saw that reaction. “To be honest, reading the text, I felt a little sorry. I didn’t have a choice back then but the two of you gave up so much. In all these years, I’ve been getting closer to my goal, but what about you? I’m really sorry about that.”
The two of them simultaneously reached out to rub his back and then exchanged a glance. In any case, this was a conversation they had had several times before. This was familiar territory. They knew what they were supposed to say.
Li Shui immediately took the lead and tugged at Xiao Ming’s hand again. “What are you saying, ah? You’ve always wanted to be a chef since we’ve been little. Whenever you were cooking, you were always so excited and when somebody asked what you wanted to do when you were grown-up, you never hesitated for a single moment.
“How can I compare to that? I just casually decided I wanted to be a cameraman when we were almost out of school. Sure, it’s a nice job but it’s also not that I definitely have to do this. I don’t care if it’s something else. In any case, I just decided on this because I figured I liked those wuxia movies and it would be cool to go to a set and be part of them. Since I don’t have the looks for being an actor and wouldn’t want to put in the work for keeping up appearances anyway, I just decided on this. It was actually pretty arbitrary when I did so I don’t mind doing something else at all. It’s not really a dream of mine.”
“From action movies to cooking food, I guess the excitement can’t compare though.” Xiao Ming also knew that they had had this conversation several times already so he really wasn’t surprised by what Li Shui said but there was still a faint trace of guilt in his heart. He just couldn’t help but feel that he had made these two give up on something that was important to them.
Li Shui didn’t want to hear any of that though. He just clasped his hand tighter and hurriedly shook his head. “Nonsense! Don’t think too much. In any case, you also know me. As long as I can eat well and sleep well, I’ll be happy. So this arrangement is actually perfect for me. I don’t have to worry about what to eat every day and it’s always tasty. If you had really gone to culinary school and then worked at a restaurant like you wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to have tasty dishes all the time. I think I would deeply regret that.”
Qian Huang hurriedly nodded along. “Yes, you also know Li Shui is. He’s basically living the life of a pig here. His job isn’t that hard. Just filming a bit and setting up the equipment, I think he got a pretty sweet deal out of this.”
Li Shui furrowed his brows, not happy with what Qian Huang was saying. “I also help Xiao Ming out with the heavy stuff. Out of ten days that he’s going to the market to get ingredients, I’ll accompany him nine and carry everything. When do you do that?”
“Xiao Ming doesn’t even want me to follow him and he is just giving you this task so you won’t feel that useless. In any case, I already have my work cut out for me. Just look at everything that’s going on online. I have to deal with all of that.”
“Then how come, I read the text from that Shi Ru Qiu before you?”
Xiao Ming shook this had at the two of them and lightly cleared his throat. “There is really no need to argue, is there? In any case, I’m glad if you’re not unhappy. I just didn’t want to make things difficult for you. You could’ve had it much easier without me.”
Qian Huang gave him a push with his shoulder, raising his brows at him. “Why are you still saying stuff like this? In any case, we’re really not unhappy. It’s good how it is right now. It’s the best decision we could have made. And in any case, if I hadn’t made that decision and had let you struggle alone, I don’t think I would be able to live with myself. We’ve been friends for all our lives. I’m not suddenly going to dump you when it gets difficult. If I did, I wouldn’t be a friend.”
Li Shui reached over and hugged Xiao Ming’s shoulders, nodding as if he was pounding garlic. “Yes! Me too! So don’t think about it. Whatever anyone writes online, you just ignore it. Just focus on cooking.”
Xiao Ming looked up, the corners of his mouth growing up. “Is that your stomach speaking?” He reached out and poked it, slowly raising his brows. “Ah, it seems that you actually put on some weight, Ah Shui. Maybe you should leave out a few meals for the time being.”
Li Shui pursed his lips and hurriedly grabbed Xiao Ming’s hand. “How can you say something like this? In any case, you still haven’t made me breakfast. Do you want to starve me to death?”
Xiao Ming chuckled and pulled his hands from his shoulders, getting up. “Of course I wouldn’t. I guess if it’s that urgent, I should better go and start preparing. I’ll be done in half an hour.”
Li Shui nodded excitedly and hurriedly trailed behind him, going to stare at every move he made in the kitchen so he would be able to dig right in when the food was finished.
Qian Huang raked a hand through his hair and glanced at the book on Xiao Ming’s bedside table that was actually written by the very same author that had just written about them online. He sighed and then went over to his room, grabbing his laptop before he followed the two of them to the kitchen. “Well, I’ll deal with everything online. You should really just focus on yourself. Don’t think about anything else.”
Xiao Ming nodded and the three of them went back to doing what they did best. The crisis that had suddenly appeared also seemed to have been resolved quietly. Thinking about it, they were actually quite lucky.