There will be spoilers for the novel or novel series Lip and Sword.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to rape, pedophilia, kidnapping, abduction, violence, self-harm, sexual coercion, prostitution, suicide, and homophobia, as it appears in the novel or novel series.
Xing Ming is the host of Pearl Line, a news analysis show for the station Pearl TV Station News Center. He's attractive, talented, and truly cares about the news he puts out. As a result, during the end-of-the-year banquet for the station, Xing Ming is awarded the Top Ten News Centers of the Year award. However, not everyone feels he is deserving of it. Director Chen Linan, who actually recruited Xing Ming initially and put him in the position of hosting Pearl Line, now no longer feels he is worthy of his accolades or role on the show. This is all because Zhuang Lei, rumored to be Chen Linan's niece or lover, was the host of Pearl Line before she went on maternity leave, which allowed Xing Ming to be her replacement. Even though she has recovered and is ready to return, Xing Ming refuses to give up his spot.
Due to his frustration and drunkness, Chen Linan confronts Xing Ming at the party. At first, Xing Ming isn't worried over the drunken Chen Linan's pestering… until Chen Linan brings up Xing Ming's dead father, a convicted rapist. In a blind rage, Xing Ming beats Chen Linan over the head with a wine bottle in front of everyone at the party. In a panic, knowing his job is on the line, Xing Ming reaches out to the station chairman, Yu Zhongye, and offers himself up in exchange for leniency regarding his punishment. While Yu Zhongye does take him up on his offer, and they spend a night together, the director and chairman are set to fire him the following day. Once more, in a fit of rage, Xing Ming fights off the security guards and poses an offer to the chairman: let me create my own show with my own team from scratch. If he doesn't get decent ratings during a six-month period, he will leave on his own.
Yu Zhongye agrees, but as Xing Ming faces setback after setback, he constantly has to return to Yu Zhongye for favors. As he gives himself over to the chairman repeatedly, Xing Ming begins to question if this is all worth it and what his sexuality is. However, more than anything, Xing Ming wonders if what he feels for Yu Zhongye is truly admiration or if it is something deeper? And is Yu Zhongye capable of loving anyone for more than their body?
First off, this desperately needs another round of edits. Unfortunately, I do think this would be well-written if not for all the misspelled words, grammatical errors, repeated words, etc. Still, any hint of beautiful writing is overshadowed by the poor editing. There are undoubtedly beautiful and heart-rending passages, but those are followed up with terribly edited sections, which is painful for a whole other reason. The first volume of the three is the best edited of them, but it isn't perfect, and it only worsens as the volumes go on. It is super distracting, especially in a story reliant on industry terms and heavy exposition.
Moving on from the quality of the edit and the writing, let's talk about the romance element. I find it questionable to call it a romance. Sex is used as a weapon for a majority of this. Our top is Yu Zhongye, the chairman of Pearl Station, where Xing Ming is a host, so we already have a questionable power dynamic. Then, we have a considerable age gap, which I am attracted to – I like the older man/younger man coupling – though that also creates a questionable power dynamic. However, mix all that with Zhongye being an insufferable, cold, and cruel asshole, and he becomes my least favorite top I've ever read. He beats Xing Ming with a belt before having sex with him, and another time he hits him with a horsewhip before doing the same, and I say sex, but there are times when it is questionable whether it is sex or rape. If you want a sweet romance, turn away right now because this isn't it. There are sweet moments, but they are overshadowed immediately by Zhongye's cruelty.
And poor Xing Ming can't help himself. He, of course, falls in love with Zhongye despite how cruel he is. However, he is a man who shoots first and asks questions later. The number of problems he causes for himself simply because he can't withhold his violent streak is crazy. Pretty much every character in this series has a short fuse, and as a result, there is no shortage of conflict. The amount of needless violence and fights was shocking to me. I don't think anyone acts reasonably or realistically with this, which is necessary for this story to exist, seeing as all of this starts with Xing Ming knocking out a man with a wine bottle.
This thing is a rollercoaster of violence, sex, mystery, and intrigue. There are huge swaths of sex scenes between chunks of exposition detailing corruption and conspiracies. There are really high highs and really low lows. The interpersonal relationships between everyone were much more interesting than all the intrigue and industry stuff, which is unfortunate because there is a ton of intrigue, mystery, and industry-related content. As a result, it took me way longer than usual to read because, in all honesty, I was bored for the majority of the story. However, I will say once you get to the bonus stories, those are really fun. They were my favorite part of all this, which isn't great, as they aren't even part of the main story. Unfortunately, though, Zhongye is still an ass in them and even purposefully creates a misunderstanding with Xing Ming by inviting over Luo You and essentially flirting in front of Xing Ming on their anniversary/Chairman Yu's birthday. Totally unnecessary and cruel, to say the least. So even the sweet bonus/side stories are undermined by Chairman Yu's asshole-ness.
I am simultaneously angry, happy, sad, and bored, having read this entire trilogy. I am glad it's over, but at the same time, I wish there was more simply because the bonus and side stories were so much fun in comparison to the main story. I will probably never reread this, and I don't know that I will ever recommend this to everyone, especially due to the quality of the edit on this. It's a tough read, and I am not sure how worthwhile the journey was. There is a manhua officially licensed in English for this on Bilibili Comics, which I will be reading. I am looking forward to seeing how this story plays out in a different medium.
Have you read Lip and Sword? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!