“Does it make a difference?”
Su Yuyang replied with a faint smile and kept walking, but he’d increased his pace.
Before, Ling Miao would have retorted, “Do you think there’s a difference between eating food and eating trash?” but this line didn’t seem suitable for the situation and Ling Miao also had a lot on his mind, so he was silent for a while before catching up to Su Yuyang.
Upon returning home, the two didn’t exchange a single word; Su Yuyang went to his bedroom and Ling Miao to the study, both shutting their respective doors, and isolating themselves from the outside world.
Time passed quickly and Ling Miao’s phone rang.
Hearing the sound, Ling Miao figured out the cause—it was the alarm.
Ling Miao shut off the alarm, got up, and walked out of the study.
Ling Miao was preparing dinner in the kitchen when Su Yuyang’s shout rang in his ears. Ling Miao flinched and the vegetable knife sliced across the pad of his index finger.
“Hss—” Ling Miao inhaled sharply and watched blood bead on the wound. He frowned and stuck his finger in his mouth.
The wound was probably pretty deep; the blood didn’t stop. Su Yuyang’s shout came again.
If Su Yuyang’s earlier shout was thunder, this shout was an erupting volcano.
If Su Yuyang was this anxious, Ling Miao thought, something serious must have happened. Ling Miao quickly took care of the wound and rushed to Su Yuyang’s room.
Ling Miao stood in the doorway and hesitated.
“Su-ge?” Ling Miao called, testing the waters.
Su Yuyang turned his head and looked at Ling Miao. A thick layer of ice seemed to have frozen over his eyes; eddies of icy air shot toward Ling Miao and wrapped him in an icy cocoon.
Su Yuyang’s steady voice, laced with warmth, melted the freezing air surrounding Ling Miao, but Ling Miao’s heart was still beating furiously. Ling Miao walked with halting steps to Su Yuyang’s side and glanced at Su Yuyang’s monitor. The first thing he saw was a novel, open to reading view. With one glance, he understood why Su Yuyang had called him over.
“I’ll fix it right away.” Maybe he felt he needed to leave the area of low atmospheric pressure—after Ling Miao said his piece, he turned and walked away. Su Yuyang’s hand shot out and caught ahold of Ling Miao; he tugged, and Ling Miao stumbled and fell onto Su Yuyang’s bed.
Ling Miao felt that something bad was going to happen and his heart instantly went cold.
Su Yuyang wasn’t looking at Ling Miao’s face and so didn’t guess what Ling Miao was worried about. Su Yuyang’s voice, devoid of the rise and fall of emotion, fell on Ling Miao’s head: “Did I tell you you could leave?”
“That…” Ling Miao had shut his eyes, but he could still feel a shadow falling over his head.
Ling Miao opened his eyes and averted them from Su Yuyang’s thoughtful gaze. Su Yuyang laughed: “You like my bed that much?”
“Fuck!” Ling Miao shot to his feet, disdainfully brushed himself off, and said coldly: “Who likes your bed? Who knows what kinds of fluids are on these sheets.”
“Mm, it definitely has my sweat,” Su Yuyang blandly replied.
Su Yuyang’s ‘obliviousness’ had once again defeated Ling Miao, who stood up and said sincerely: “I’m sorry, Su-ge, that I didn’t check your newly published chapter in time and made such a rookie mistake. I’ll go and fix it right away.”
“You even know this is a rookie mistake?” Su Yuyang said disdainfully. “Then do you know that if typos or other issues that make reading hard for the reader appear in the text, readers can complain? And do you know that if more than sixty percent of a chapter’s readers complain, the subscription fee on VIP chapters¹ needs to be completely refunded to the reader?”
“Don’t you have a three-hour time window to edit?” Ling Miao said indifferently.
“Three hours?” Su Yuyang sneered and Ling Miao’s heart clenched—this chapter had been published at 10 o’clock in the morning and it was now… 6:23 p.m.!
“I…” Ling Miao didn’t know what to say. Anything he said right now would be wrong. Ling Miao hadn’t seen how many subscriptions Su Yuyang had for this chapter, but he had done the math before and Su Yuyang had about 20 to 25 thousand subscribers. Ling Miao pulled out his phone. If they all paid the lowest subscription price Su Yuyang would still get about $720 in fees.
$720 (US$106) was not a small sum to Ling Miao, who felt as if his heart was being cut with a knife. He lowered his head and glanced up toward Su Yuyang.
Prior instances where the Great Author’s chapters were refunded due to reader complaints about too many typos and ‘*’ characters² (aside from dividers) did exist.
“$720 to Su Yuyang is just a paltry sum, but if Su Yuyang is trying to use this opportunity to teach me a lesson, he might really make me pay for it. The important thing now is to…”
Ling Miao raised his head sharply and asked in a panic: “Hey, Great Author, will you have to refund your subscribers?”
“I’ve already refunded them.” Su Yuyang opened his author’s dashboard; he didn’t let Ling Miao see his subscriber count, but he showed Ling Miao the news feed—Chapter 850 of your work, Massacre of the Nine Heavens, has been reported by readers for an excessive number of typos. After investigating these reports, we request that you refund the subscription fee to the readers, per site rules.
“Su-ge… I…” In a moment, Ling Miao felt that he had entered an icy wasteland; his lips were numb to the point they could not make a coherent sound.
Ling Miao stuttered, ‘I…’ for quite a while, but couldn’t say anything more, so he shut his mouth and waited for Su Yuyang’s decision.
Su Yuyang closed out of the author’s dashboard and the window automatically refreshed to the reading pane. Even in just this section Ling Miao could see three ‘*’s, and as for typos—even though Ling Miao was reasonably confident there weren’t any, he couldn’t be a hundred percent sure.
“When we left, this chapter had already been published, right?” Su Yuyang asked suddenly.
Ling Miao said, “Mm.”
The click of a mouse rang out four or five times.
“Why didn’t you check in time?” Su Yuyang asked.
“I forgot,” Ling Miao said frankly, but something clearly wasn’t right.
“You didn’t forget.” At this point, resignation dripped from Su Yuyang’s words—he had given up on Ling Miao.
“I…” Ling Miao had barely begun to speak before he couldn’t say any more. It wasn’t that he had nothing to say; it was that everything he could possibly say would be in vain.
It had just not occurred to Ling Miao to check for illegal words after the chapter had updated.
Although Ling Miao looked at the day’s update and future updates while he was editing, he was well able to separate work and life, so he very happily read Su Yuyang’s update for the day after he got off work. Usually, it was then that he discovered illegal words in the chapter that had been replaced with asterisks, and fixed them.
“Ling Miao, now I’m suspecting you’re one of my anti-fans, here to smear my name,” Su Yuyang said in a joking tone.
Ling Miao did not think Su Yuyang was joking with him. Before, when Ling Miao had forgotten to delete Su Yuyang’s drafts, Su Yuyang had taught Ling Miao a lesson. This time, Ling Miao had caused Su Yuyang a financial loss—even if it wasn’t a lot—and Su Yuyang was treating Ling Miao very calmly. So calmly, in fact, that it seemed like the calm before a blustering thunderstorm.
Only… Ling Miao was Shu Yang’s die-hard fan. He even read the officially published editions of Shu Yang’s novels; even if Ling Miao were to bankrupt his family to buy everything, he had to do it. Even though the comic adaptation’s art style wasn’t to his taste, he had still grit his teeth and read it. He had even played the game Shu Yang’s novel had been adapted into, and played it every day at that. In the discussion forum, Ling Miao was a lively presence. Every time someone appeared and tried to slander Shu Yang, Ling Miao was always on the front lines of battle.
(T/N: Some serial webnovels are later repackaged and published as more traditional novels)
This was how he treated Shu Yang, and Shu Yang?
All because of a small oversight while updating a chapter, Shu Yang had called him an anti-fan sent to smear his name…
Not fully grievance, not fully hatred, not fully resentment—Ling Miao’s heart right now was like a bowl in which various seasonings had been mixed into an unknowable paste. Even he couldn’t tell what his feelings toward Su Yuyang were.
Just not read Su Yuyang’s novels from now on? He couldn’t do it. Reading Su Yuyang’s novels had become an essential part of Ling Miao’s life.
Ling Miao bit down on his lip, eyes gradually reddening.
Su Yuyang couldn’t see Ling Miao’s expression, but he heard Ling Miao inhale. The latter was clearly holding something in.
Su Yuyang lifted Ling Miao’s chin with a finger and Ling Miao’s hand mercilessly hit Su Yuyang’s forearm. “Say it. What do you want me to do?”
Ling Miao’s steadfast gaze was like glass: it looked sharp, but would break at the slightest touch. Su Yuyang retorted: “What do you want to do?”
“I’ll pay for the damages, but I don’t want to lose this job.”
“That’s all?” Su Yuyang didn’t seem satisfied with Ling Miao’s answer. Ling Miao’s mouth fell open. Another possibility had taken root in his mind, but the outcome wasn’t acceptable to Ling Miao.
Su Yuyang noticed the change in Ling Miao but didn’t rush him.
Su Yuyang stood up and left the room. Ling Miao’s gaze followed Su Yuyang’s departing silhouette, then followed Su Yuyang as he returned. Su Yuyang had gone to the kitchen and made two cups of coffee; he held one and placed the other within Ling Miao’s reach.
A bitter feeling burned in Ling Miao’s nostrils and tears threatened to spill from his eyes.
“I’ll bear the losses. This assistant job—if you want it back, then take it back.”
There was no anticipation in Ling Miao’s eyes. To him, Option B was Su Yuyang’s most likely choice, regardless of what Ling Miao wanted.
“I’m not an idiot.” Su Yuyang sipped his coffee.
Ling Miao locked eyes with Su Yuyang; behind the latter’s eyes was the joy of someone who had gotten their wicked way.
Su Yuyang held his cup aloft and clinked it against Ling Miao’s, the ring of porcelain against porcelain clear and pleasing. Su Yuyang smiled radiantly and said: “You’re my die-hard fan. If I’m suspecting even my die-hard fan, then something’s wrong with my head. I was just trying to scare you so that you’d know what to do in the future.”
“So?” Ling Miao’s expression didn’t change, but he felt like his heart had been pinched, and the person doing the pinching was Su Yuyang.
“So go and make me dinner, idiot!” Su Yuyang ordered fondly.
“Fuck, my hand’s injured and I don’t want to move it. Instant noodles tonight!” Ling Miao announced today’s dinner on the spot and ran towards his second suitcase, ignoring Su Yuyang’s expression of ‘pain worse than seeing all his effort go down the drain.’
After finishing the noodles Su Yuyang asked, “How’d you injure your hand?”
“While I was cutting vegetables, someone yelled for me. My hand slipped and this happened.”
Su Yuyang didn’t say anything more. He definitely knew who Ling Miao’s “someone” was referring to.
“… I’ll go shower.”
“Go, go,” Ling Miao said impatiently.
Hearing the splashing of water from the bathroom, Ling Miao laughed: “Su Yuyang, you think it’s fun to poke fun at me, right? I’ll give you something to laugh about. You really think I’m a doll you can play with as you please?”
 Web novels may have some chapters behind a paywall, known as ‘VIP chapters’. People holding VIP accounts can pay a small amount of money to read each chapter after it comes out (‘subscribing’), where the cost of each chapter depends on the wordcount or the progress of the story. ‘VIP accounts’ are also tiered, where higher tiers pay less than lower tiers for a given amount of words. Ling Miao seems to be considering the case when all Su Yuyang’s subscribers are highest-tier and pay the lowest price.