#NEW# Recommendations-Raising a Fox Spirit in My Home

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  • Kris raised her arms above her head and stretched herself, groaning in pleasure when she felt several pops in her spine. She turned to her right and saw John staring at the exposed skin near the waistband of her skirt where her shirt had ridden up. Kris smirked. "Like what you see?"

    John's eyes snapped to hers instantly. "You know you're beautiful, Kris," John mumbled, then cleared his throat. "So. About this article of yours. Think it’s good enough to be a hit?"

    Kris sighed and lowered her arms.

    "That stupid comb-over douche erased the video I took," she growled. "Now nobody would believe anything I wrote. Damn it! I could've made a ton with this piece."

    John burst into laughter.

    "Yeah right, Kris. As if a video could prove your article’s credibility. Hello? Ever heard of CGI? Hell, we wouldn't have believed it too if we weren't there to see it with our own eyes..."

    Kris grew silent. She had to admit that John made a valid point. She turned away from John and stared at the fluffy clouds outside the window.

    "Do you believe it, John?" she asked. "That there are people with extraordinary powers in this world? Superhumans?"

    Her seat's armrest trembled slightly. Kris didn't even have to turn around to know that John was nodding his head enthusiastically. He'd always been very energetic.

    "Of course I believe it! I saw it with my own eyes after all," John said. "Christ... When I saw him dodge those bullets, Kris... It was like everything I knew about fighting and martial arts were thrown out of the window. It was like I knew right that instant"—John snapped his fingers—"that there's so much more to fighting than what I currently know."

    Kris said nothing, choosing instead to mull over John's words. So much more about the world that we don't know...

     "That guy is basically a legend, Kris. I've already decided to join the student exchange program after we get back. I'll come here and become his disciple."

    Something in John's tone made Kris turn away from the window. She looked into John's eyes which were filled with determination and passion. At least somebody here has made up his mind about Li Yundong…

    "Wanna join me, Kris?" John nudged her.

    Kris didn't answer. If only she could make up her mind.

    "You once told me that you've always found the wonders of China fascinating," John went on. "I thought you'd jump at the chance to be here."

    Kris sighed and slid down an inch in her seat. "I don't know, John. I gotta ask gram first, I guess?"

    "Oh, come on! What are you hesitating for?"

    Kris crashed into the window after John nudged her "lightly" with his elbow.

    Damn those muscles.

    Kris rubbed her cheek and shot him a glare. The bastard was grinning back at her. The nerve of him.

    "Think about it, Kris," John said, shifting closer to her. "You wanna win a Pulitzer Prize, don’t you? Then come to China! You said it yourself, right? China is a land full of wonders! Which means you'll get a lot of materials to compose a prize-winning article!"

    "John—"

    John silenced her with a finger.

    "A guy sending a grown man into the air without even touching him. Catching a fast-moving blade between his fingers. Catching a falling woman from the fourth floor, and then landing on his feet like it was nothing. Catching a woman who fell off a seven-floor building and then walking it off? Dodging bullets at point-blank range! Jesus, Kris. Need I go on?"

    "Ooh, looks like you're his fanboy now, John."

    Kris raised her head. The guy in the row in front of hers was smiling at them.

    The girl beside him chuckled. "Hey, I'm his fan too, you know?"

    "Really now?" John said with a smirk. "So! Louise! Why don’t you tell us your favorite Li Yundong moment."

    Louise let out a dreamy sigh. "Well, it's gotta be the moment when his shoulder joints got popped back into place, and he didn't even make a sound. God, that's so hot!" Louise fanned herself with both hands. "I swear to God I've never seen a manlier guy in my life!"

    Louise released another sigh, which, to Kris, sounded more like a moan.

    "I wonder what it'll be like to f*ck him," Louise said. "I bet I'll die and go to heaven, but what a way to go, right?"

    Kris burst out laughing, then slapped her hand over her mouth.

    "Hey, hey, Louise. Aren't you forgetting something?" said the guy sitting next to Louise. "Guy's got a girlfriend already. And wow, you've seen that chick, right?" He let out a whistle. "She's smoking."

    Louise shrugged.

    "Yeah, I saw," she said in a dejected tone. "That's why I didn't ask him out yesterday."

    "Hey, hey, hey..." John said. "Don't you all start having strange ideas now. He's my master, so he's off-limits. Back off."

    Kris rolled her eyes as another round of laughter filled the cabin.

    "Say, John. Are you serious about becoming his disciple?"

    All the chatter ceased right then. Kris raised her head and studied John's expression carefully.

    "Of course I am," John said with a serious expression. "I'm telling you guys he's a legend. I'm not gonna miss this chance." John raised his fist and stared at it. "I'm going to go to China, and then I'm gonna become his disciple!"

    "What, like how Luke Skywalker became Obi Wan Kenobi's disciple?"

    The seats shook as John bobbed his head with zest. "Exactly! I've found my Jedi Master! I've found my Obi Wan Kenobi!"

    Someone sneered. "If he would take you on as a disciple, that is."

    A round of laughter filled the cabin.

    Kris sneaked a glance at John and nearly laughed at the pout she saw there. He could be such a child sometimes.

    "I don't care! I won't give up!" John declared. Then, his eyes went wide. "Hey, isn't there a Chinese saying that goes like... ching... ching... something, ching chong shuo jee... bleugh." He turned to Kris. "Yo, Kris, what's that phrase again?"

    Kris burst out laughing.

    "God, you're such an idiot," Kris said. "It's jing cheng suo zhi, jin shi wei kai!" (T/N: A Chinese idiom whose English equivalent is "faith can move mountains")

    "A-HA!" John slapped his thigh. "Ching chong chuo ji, chin shit week kai?"

    Kris burst into chortles, pressing her hand against her forehead. "Oh, you have a long way to go, John," Kris said. "A long, long way."

    The conversation died down after that. Kris stared out of the window as John launched into a series of Mandarin pronunciations which sounded way worse than Sheep Poos.

    Thick, white clouds obscured everything on the ground, and she couldn't help but wonder just how many more secrets the world had to offer that were still unknown to most people, that most people couldn’t even fathom. Should she plunged into the clouds, and venture into the unknown? Or should she coast above the clouds? Safe, but forever ignorant.

    John's declaration echoed in her mind.

    He is a legend…


  • Chapter 84 Tips

     

    Li Yundong honestly didn't get it. You save a few lives, and people around you start acting weird. Doctors, firemen, and policemen save thousands of lives every year, yet nobody's treating them like idols. Maybe that's exactly what's wrong with the world these days. People would rather fawn over a pop star with chronic heroin addiction than the real heroes of society.

    After their conversation this morning, Li Yundong had brought Su Chan to a cafe to have breakfast, which turned out to be rather pleasant despite how their morning had begun. They shared a few laughs over egg wraps and porridge, then joked around with each other. None of that heaviness from their earlier conversation seemed to have left his room. They finished breakfast in twenty minutes, then left the cafe and made their way towards campus. Despite the horrors he'd witnessed yesterday, Li Yundong was ready to put everything behind him. Good old, boring campus life — that was what he wanted. If nothing else, he deserved a break after yesterday's incident. He wanted everything on campus to go back to normal, like hitting the reset button.

    Which, apparently, was too much to ask for.

    The moment he and Su Chan passed the campus gates, the chatter surrounding the campus compound diminished like a receding wave. Everyone stopped what they'd been doing just to stare at him. And when he led Su Chan across the compound towards the academic building, doing a shit job of pretending that everything was normal, the crowd parted to two sides to create a path for them. These overzealous folks made him feel like an emperor on the way to his throne rather than a student trying to scramble enough semester credits to not get expelled.

    Well, that was earlier. And now, Senior Feng Na was staring at him as though he had just materialized in front of her and then told her that he was from Mars.

    So yeah, Li Yundong didn't get it at all. Everyone was acting weird. Then again, he wasn't even sure why he was surprised, what with all the weird shit happening to him these days.

    Weird is the new normal.

    Maybe he should get that printed on T-shirts and start selling them to pay off his bank debts.

    "Hey... Hello? Earth to Feng Na... Earth to Feng Na," Li Yundong said, waving his hand in front of Feng Na's face. When that failed to bring Feng Na out of her daze, Li Yundong looked at Cheng Cheng. "Is she alright? She's a little red in the face."

    Cheng Cheng chuckled, then gave Feng Na a hard nudge, which nearly caused Feng Na to fall over Li Yundong's table.

    "Wh- what?"

    "He's talking to you," Cheng Cheng said, pointing a finger at him.

    Only then did Feng Na snap out of it.

    "Oh! Uh... h- hi..." Feng Na said.

    Li Yundong wanted to laugh at Feng Na's sudden demureness. What happened to that tough-as-nails woman who had contrived an elaborate scheme to smash a pebble on his chest? Where did she go?

    "Morning," Li Yundong said. "What brings you two here? Not that I'm not glad to see you, but I thought only second-year students attend this lecture."

    Cheng Cheng beamed at him. "Isn't it obvious? We're here to shake hands with the living legend!"

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Oh, come on... Not this again..."

    Cheng Cheng's grin widened just a tad. "What? You're a living legend now. They even gave you a new nickname. The Hero of Tiannan University. It's all over the forum."

    "The forum? I'm surprised they haven't pulled down those posts yet. Wait. I thought they shut down the forum last night?"

    Cheng Cheng rolled her eyes. "Right. Like that's enough to stop everyone. People started spamming posts again once the forum was back online."

    Li Yundong chuckled and looked at Su Chan. His princess was grinning back at him too. Warmth filled his chest at the look of pride he saw on her face.

    "Come on, now, legend! Stop dallying and give your number two fan an autograph," Cheng Cheng said, pushing a pen and a book towards him.

    Li Yundong took the book. "Number two fan? Is that a thing now?" He looked towards Feng Na who appeared to be studying his face intently.

    "Of course it is," Cheng Cheng said. "I'm the best friend of the number one fan, after all."

    Li Yundong flipped open the cover page, then looked at Cheng Cheng with a raised brow. "You want me to sign your Econs textbook?"

    Cheng Cheng giggled, then stuck out her tongue sheepishly. "Oops... I don't have anything else with me..."

    Li Yundong's brow rose even higher. "Or I could just... I don't know, not sign anything?"

    "Nope! That's not an option!"

    "You sure?"

    "Oh, come on. Quit stalling and sign the damn thing already."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Alright, alright, geez..."

    Li Yundong took the pen and flipped to the textbook's title page. While putting down his signature, he could feel Feng Na's gaze on him. When he was done, he capped the pen, then placed it on top of the textbook. "Something wrong, Senior Feng Na?" Li Yundong said, handing both items to Cheng Cheng. "You've been staring at me the whole time."

    Feng Na took the textbook from Li Yundong's hand before Cheng Cheng could reach it. Cheng Cheng scrambled to grab the pen and managed to prevent it from falling. Li Yundong frowned when he saw Feng Na rolling up the book into a tube. At first, he thought she was going to hit him with the book, but then she shoved one end of the rolled-up book in front of his lips.

    "Mr. Li Yundong," Feng Na said. "What was going through your mind when you were trying to save both girls?"

    "Umm... That I should... save them?"

    Feng Na smacked his arm with the book. Li Yundong burst into laughter.

    "Come on, be serious, please," Feng Na said, putting the make-shift microphone in front of his mouth again.

    "Alright, fine." Li Yundong cleared his throat and sat up straighter. "At that moment, I was thinking about my beloved country"—Li Yundong placed his palm over his heart—"and the people that I have sworn to protect with utmost valor—"

    Cheng Cheng and Su Chan burst into laughter.

    Feng Na lowered the book, her eyes fluttering close. "Oh, thank God... You're still the same guy I know."

    "Oh, come on," Li Yundong said, placing a hand on his cheek. "Surely, I haven't changed that much."

    Hah. If only she knew half of what he did about these changes of his. She’d probably need a medic.

    "No. You've changed Li Yundong. Really changed," Feng Na said, leveling him with a serious stare. "And I'm not talking about something like a hairstyle change or anything trivial like that. It's like..." Feng Na gestured at his face. "It's like... you carry yourself differently now."

    Li Yundong smiled. "That a good thing?"

    Feng Na paused in thought. Sounds of chatter filled in the silence between them as the start of the lecture drew near.

    "It depends, I guess," Feng Na said. "Most of your changes are good. But you used to be much more candid."

    Li Yundong burst into laughter. "Nah... You're overthinking this. I'm still the same me."

    Li Yundong wondered who he was really trying to convince. Feng Na, or himself.

    ***

    Feng Na and Cheng Cheng didn't leave when the lecture started, much to Li Yundong's surprise. Instead, they both took their seats at Li Yundong's row and got their notepads out.

    "You guys don't have classes today?" Li Yundong asked.

    "Nope! We're both free today," Cheng Cheng said.

    Li Yundong's brows rose to his hairline. "And you both choose to spend your precious free time sitting here, listening to a boring lecture, when you could’ve… I don’t know, gone shopping or something."

    He didn't even need his super vision to see the blush rising up to Feng Na's ears.

    "Ever heard of refresher courses?" Cheng Cheng said while Feng Na remained strangely quiet.

    Seriously, what's up with Feng Na today? Was she scared of him after hearing that he could dodge bullets? Usually, there was this comfortable banter between Feng Na and him, but today, the air between them felt awkward.

    He decided to tease her a little. Maybe they would start bantering again after that.

    "You know, Feng Na," he said. "The way you interviewed me just now seemed pretty legit. Ever think of going into journalism?"

    A grin spread across Feng Na's face. Aha... there we go... The shy look didn't suit Feng Na at all. She looked so much prettier smiling.

    "Seriously? You really think so?" Feng Na said. "That thought did cross my mind recently."

    Li Yundong studied Feng Na for a moment. "Nah. I'm just kidding. Don't take it to heart," he said with a straight face.

    He nearly laughed when Feng Na's jaw drop open.

    "Damn you!" Feng Na smacked his arm. "You're messing with me!"

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Oh, yeah? So you can dish it out, but you can't take it? This is nothing compared to that rock-smashing thing you..."

    The lecture hall fell silent. Li Yundong glanced towards the door and immediately understood why.

    To say that Ding Nan knew a thing or two about women's fashion was probably an understatement. The girl was a walking fashion magazine cover. She strode in confidently as though she hadn't fallen off the rooftop of this very building just yesterday. The clicking of her 3-inch stiletto heels accompanied her every step, reminding every guy in the room just how far out of their damn leagues she was. Oh, yeah. Those heels had probably stomped on and broken a lot of guys' hearts. Not because she had rejected those guys, but because she wouldn't so much as look their way. Ding Nan paused at the lectern when her eyes landed on him. She gave him a smile and a brief nod before going on her way.

    Li Yundong wasn't surprised at all that Ding Nan didn't arrive to class together with Zhou Qin today. The f*cked up circumstances yesterday must've caused a rift between the two of them. He wasn't even sure if Ding Nan was able to see Zhou Qin as a friend anymore after yesterday.

    Speak of the devil...

    Zhou Qin walked into the lecture hall with her usual grace.

    Li Yundong watched as Zhou Qin moved from the door past the first few rows. At the fourth row, Zhou Qin stopped, then frowned. It made sense; Ding Nan was sitting in the fourth row. Before Li Yundong could think further about it, Zhou Qin was moving past the fourth row. She passed three more rows before she halted again, but this time, she was looking straight at him. Li Yundong gave Zhou Qin a little nod. Much to his surprise, Zhou Qin averted her eyes and kept on walking as though she never saw him. When she turned away just now, she almost looked like she was panicking. Li Yundong followed Zhou Qin's movements until she took her seat. What the heck was that about? Was she frightened of him? Did she have PTSD? Li Yundong meant every word when he told Kris that he didn't want fame or glory. This was one of the reasons why he didn't care much for all that celebrity nonsense — people start acting weird around you, like you're some freak instead of just another human being.

    A rapping sound brought his attention to the front of the lecture hall. The professor was already standing at the lectern.

    "Morning class..."

    A chorus of half-hearted murmurs followed that greeting.

    It was a little creepy to think about the fact that the last professor who uttered that greeting ended up with a bullet between his eyes. Beside him, Feng Na and Cheng Cheng were whispering to each other while Su Chan sat with both arms hugging her knees.

    "Well! As you guys know, we only have a few lectures left, which, of course, means that your finals are approaching..."

    Groans filled the lecture hall.

    "And today, I thought I'd go through some exam tips with you guys!"

    A ruckus shook the lecture hall.

    "Oh, come on, professor! It's only the beginning of June! That's way too early!"

    "Yeah! We've been through hell yesterday! Some of us nearly died! Can't the university cut us some slack?"

    "Exactly! We've all been traumatized! Please don't add to our stress!"

    "SILENCE!!"

    "It is precisely because of yesterday's incident that the university decided to set the exams at an earlier date so that we can end the semester earlier. The university needed time and space to deal with this mess after all. The dates of your finals are already set, so there's no use whining and complaining about it. The best thing you can do now is be ready for it. Now, do you want those tips or not?"

    There was a chorus of "yes."

    "Yeah? I have a better idea. Just give us a copy of the exam paper," muttered the guy sitting in front of Li Yundong.

    "Oh, before we start… Li Yundong! Is Li Yundong here?"

    The professor's voice caused the lecture hall to grow quiet. Everyone swiveled in their seats to look at him. Gone were the days where he was just a normal university student. Gone.

    "I'm here, Professor Ma," Li Yundong said loudly, raising his hand.

    More silence ensued.

    At the lectern, Professor Ma was peering over the rim of his reading glasses as though he was having a hard time seeing Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong fought the urge to give his hand a little wave.

    "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Is this the way you people treat the Hero of Tiannan University, by having him sit all the way at the back of the class? Shouldn't the living legend at least be given a spot in the front row?"

    A round of giggles—mostly female—ensued.

    "Can you even hear anything at the back? What if someone in the first row needs saving, and you couldn't hear their screams of help?"

    More giggles sounded.

    Li Yundong thought he could probably fry an egg with his cheeks.

    "I can hear you just fine, Professor Ma."

    The professor nodded.

    "Ah… So you can hear me, then. Good, good. Though I must say it is for your own sake as much as it is for the sake of those who need a dose of your impeccable heroism..."

    Li Yundong frowned. The professor's tone sounded a bit strange.

    "Pardon me, sir? What might you be referring to?"

    Professor Ma looked at him strangely. "Well, you see, if you can't hear the contents of my lecture, then you'll be having several new monikers very soon, I'm afraid..."

    "Um... what?"

    "The Hero Who Got Expelled, for instance. Oh, here's another one. The Hero Who Failed to Save His Own University Degree."

    The lecture hall erupted in laughter.

    "H- huh? I'm gonna get expelled?! But didn't you—" Li Yundong turned towards Feng Na. "I thought you..."

    Did Feng Na lie? He thought she'd already convinced Director Qian not to expel him?! Feng Na gave him a shrug which said she didn't know anything about this new development.

    "It's because you've skipped over fifty lectures, dumbass," Sun Li said from the first row. "The finals will consist of eight papers, and each paper will contribute to your total semester credits. But unlike all of us who are wise enough not to skip lectures, you can only sit for the finals in one subject. Which, if you haven't figured out already, is the subject taught by Professor Ma."

    "What!!!" Li Yundong nearly had an aneurysm right then and there. "Wh- wh- what about th- the other seven!"

    More laughter ensued. Great. Just great. To think that he'd just saved all their asses yesterday! Argh! These f*cking ingrates!

    "Tsk! Didn't you hear what I said just now?" Sun Li went on. "You're banned from the examinations for the other seven subjects because you've skipped too many lectures!"

    Li Yundong slid down on his seat by a couple of inches. Shit... He was screwed. His goose was cooked. Well and truly barbequed.

    "Now, now... Do not despair," said Professor Ma. From his tone, it was clear that the professor was enjoying this as much as the other students were. "You just have to pass this paper and you'll be fine."

    Pass this paper. Yeah. That was exactly the problem. It was probably easier to dodge a hundred bullets than pass this paper.

    "Psst! Psst!"

    Li Yundong raised his head. The guy sitting in front of him was leaning towards his table.

    "Don't worry," the guy whispered. "I got your back, boss. I'll pass my answers to you during the finals."

    "Whoa! My man!" Li Yundong said, clapping the guy's shoulder. "What's your name?"

    The guy's face fell.

    "You're shitting me right? I've been your classmate for two years, and you don't even know my name? I think you just broke my heart, boss."

    Li Yundong rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "Yeah... It's just... well.. I mean... I'm not exactly the most sociable person..."

    Then, the guy was grinning again. Thank f*ck.

    "Nah, don't worry about it, boss. My name's Zhang Qian. I'll help you in your exams, don't you worry. But..." Zhang Qian shot him a hopeful look. "Do you think you can teach me how to fight?"

    "H-huh?"

    Su Chan's warning from earlier this morning came to mind.

    "I mean... teach me how to do those badass moves like you did!" Zhang Qian said.

    When Li Yundong glanced furtively to the side, he noticed the subtle headshake Su Chan was giving him.

    Li Yundong cleared his throat. "Listen, buddy, I'm sorry but I don't think—"

    "Boo! You're such a slimeball Zhang Qian," said a girl sitting in the same row as Zhang Qian. "You're just taking advantage of the guy!"

    "What! It's a legit deal!" Zhang Qian argued.

    "Legit my ass!" the girl bit back. "How do you know you're both gonna be seated together during the exams? You don't even know if your exam halls are going to be in the same building!"

    Zhang Qian seemed to be at a loss for words.

    Li Yundong just shrugged at him. Sorry pal, no deal.

    Then, the girl who had dismissed Zhang Qian earlier suddenly gave Li Yundong a coy look. "Um... Li Yundong..." she cleared her throat. "First of all, I think you're super hot!"

    "Um... th- thanks... I- I guess?"

    The girl winked at him. Frying eggs with his cheeks, huh? How about melting steel?

    "You know... if we end up sitting beside each other during the exams, I'll give you my answers unconditionally."

    "Yeah, and probably your lady parts too," the girl beside her muttered.

    The girl flushed a deep crimson and unleashed a round of physical abuse onto her companion.

    "Hey, hey, hey! You guys at the back! Enough fooling around!" Professor Ma's voice silenced the chatter.

    Li Yundong looked towards the lectern and saw Professor Ma staring straight at him. Behind those reading glasses were eyes that held amusement.

    "I suggest you don't forget who your real savior is, O Hero of Tiannan University," Professor Ma said, pointing to himself.

    Li Yundong sat up straighter. "Yes, sir!"

    Professor Ma nodded in satisfaction, then turned away to address the rest of the class.

    "Now, class! Tips! Open your textbook to page..."

    About five minutes later, Li Yundong felt a nudge on his side.

    "Hey... You really skipped that many lectures?" Feng Na whispered.

    Li Yundong rolled his eyes. "Tsk. Will you stop rubbing it in? I feel bad enough as I do."

    Feng Na giggled. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Poor Li Yundong... You risk your life to save others, but who's gonna save you..." Then, Feng Na sighed wistfully. "Ah... I guess I won't be seeing you around next semester then... Too bad. I'm gonna miss you though..."

    "Shut up," Li Yundong mumbled.

    "Ooh, I know. How about we set up a memorial for you," Cheng Cheng piped in.

    "Great idea," Feng Na said. "We can put flower garlands everywhere. Ooh. How about we carve out the names of those students you saved."

    "We can set up a foundation in your honor. The Li Yundong Foundation. Wow. That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?" Cheng Cheng said. "We can even launch a fundraising event. How about this as a slogan. Support our fallen hero, Li Yundong, who ended up on the streets because he got expelled for insufficient semester credits!"

    Li Yundong stared at the Feng Na and Cheng Cheng in disbelief. "You girls suck, you know that?"

    Feng Na and Cheng Cheng burst into giggles.

    Li Yundong shot a helpless look at Su Chan, who smiled back at him. Right. As if Su Chan could appreciate the full significance of him not getting expelled.

    "Hey, Li Yundong. Don't worry, okay," Feng Na said. "We did this paper last year. You should consider yourself lucky that the professor is giving you tips. We didn't even have tips last year. Just follow the tips and you'll be fine."

    Li Yundong glared at Feng Na. "Finally some words of encouragement," he grumbled. "Couldn't you have begun the conversation with this?"

    "... Alright class! That's it for the tips! Good luck with your studying!"

    Li Yundong froze and looked towards the lectern. The professor was already stepping away from the lectern and heading towards the door. The rest of the students were packing and ready to leave the lecture hall as well.

    "B- but wait!! Th- the tips! I haven't finished..."

    Li Yundong glanced back towards Feng Na and Cheng Cheng.

    His expression of shock morphed into a glare when he saw both of them laughing their heads off.

    "Hey! This is all your fault!" Li Yundong said, jabbing a finger at them.

    Li Yundong groaned into his hands, then hung his head dejectedly.

    It seemed like he had to kowtow to Sun Li again.


  •  

    Chapter 85 Mending Fences

     

    "Come on... It's not the end of the world. Just ask one of your classmates for the tips!" Feng Na said once she and Cheng Cheng were done laughing at his expense.

    Most of the students were filing out of the lecture hall while Li Yundong stared broodingly at the chalkboard. Sun Li was nowhere to be seen in the lecture hall. Pretty sure she was the first one to leave, probably to head to the library or wherever it was that she spent her time polishing her super shiny egghead. Great. Now he had to call her and beg for the tips, assuming that she would even pick up his calls. Thank the Universe for small favors, truly.

    "Yeah! I'm sure your fellow classmates are all eager to lend the Hero of Tiannan University a helping hand," Cheng Cheng said.

    Yeah, and in return, they were probably going to ask him to take them on as his disciples, which was a big no-no. Su Chan had already warned him about the risks this morning.

    "Why don't you just ask... ask... Zhou Qin," Feng Na said. "Or... or Ding Nan."

    Li Yundong thought Feng Na's tone sounded a little odd, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

    "Oh, that's right! You saved both of their lives yesterday, didn't you?" Cheng Cheng said. "I think they owe you that much."

    Li Yundong snorted. "Thanks, but it ain't the tips that I'm worried about. It's this." He waved the thick textbook in the air, then slammed it down on the table.

    "Look on the bright side," Feng Na said. Li Yundong shot her a glare. Feng Na was grinning at him.

    "I mean, you still have two weeks to study," Feng Na said. "And unlike your fellow classmates, you only have one subject to study for. The others have seven more!"

    Li Yundong rolled his eyes. "Yeah, thanks for reminding me that I won't be getting any credits for the other seven papers. That makes me feel so much better."

    Cheng Cheng chuckled. "Two weeks to prepare for one subject? What a luxury!"

    Li Yundong gaped at her, then picked up the textbook again. "Hello? Can't you see how frigging thick this is? Might as well ask me to memorize a dictionary!"

    Feng Na waved her hand. "But you've got tips. Just focus on the important chapters that the professor highlighted."

    "Right. Tips," Li Yundong flipped to the table of contents. "Chapter 3, page 56 to 80? That's 24 pages already! 24! And that's only from one chapter! Wait, what font size is this?" Li Yundong flipped to a random page. "Oh, f*ck me. Look at these tiny things! They're like Times Roman 12 points or something!"

    Feng Na and Cheng Cheng looked at each other for a moment, then burst into laughter.

    "So what do you say, Nana? How about we get out of here and get a head start on that foundation, eh? The poor guy seems pretty helpless."

    "Good idea. We can form a committee first. Then come up with a strategy to raise funds."

    Cheng Cheng suddenly turned to him and winked. "Hey, Li Yundong! What's your bank account number? I'll make sure that 5% of the funds goes to you so that you don't starve and end up on the streets."

    Li Yundong raised the textbook and tried to smack Cheng Cheng with it. He missed by an inch as Cheng Cheng dodged away, giggling as she did.

    Then, he felt a tug on his shirt. He turned and came face to face with Su Chan's puzzled expression. A confused Su Chan was adorable.

    "What's so funny? What are they laughing about?" she asked.

    Li Yundong cracked a smile. "Nah, it's nothing. They're just, you know..." Li Yundong raised his finger and drew imaginary circles beside his head. "Something's not right with their minds."

    Su Chan, bless the girl, seemed even more puzzled than before, which nearly made Li Yundong laugh.

    "Alright, alright, geez. We're done messing with you," Feng Na said, standing up. Cheng Cheng was already packing her things into her backpack.

    "We're gonna leave you to your studying now," Feng Na said. "Good luck, okay? Two weeks is still a lot of time, so work hard!" Feng Na gave him a little wave, then left the lecture hall with Cheng Cheng.

    With a loud groan, Li Yundong dropped the textbook on the table, then slouched in his seat. Here comes two weeks of hell...

    Two tugs on his arm made him turn to his left. Su Chan's round eyes blinked back at him.

    "What's the matter, Yundong?"

    Li Yundong held her gaze for a moment or two before groaning into his palms.

    He tapped a finger on the textbook. "This is the matter, princess..." he said.

    "Um... But... It's just a book?"

    "A very thick book, whose contents I have to memorize in two weeks if I wanna avoid getting my ass expelled..." And he would bet his soon-to-be-expelled ass that this was Professor Liu's doing. Wait a minute... Pushing forward the exam dates? Wasn't that part of Director Qian's job description? Oh, hell. Those two were in cahoots!

    Su Chan picked up the book from the table and flipped through a couple pages. Then, she gave him a dismissive wave. "This isn't difficult at all."

    Li Yundong's jaw dropped open. "What! Are you frigging kiddin— Hey, this isn't like math, you know. This is the History of Ancient Chinese Literature! History! Which means all that stuff needs to be memorized. And look how thick it is!"

    Su Chan's nose wrinkled in puzzlement. "I know," she said. "But I'm telling you that it isn't difficult."

    Li Yundong paused in thought.

    Okay, yeah. In hindsight, it made sense. Su Chan could probably recite a bunch of ancient medical text backwards if she wanted to.

    But still, she wasn't the one who was going to sit for the exams.

    Suddenly, Su Chan opened the textbook and flipped to a page. Her lips moved slightly as her eyes scanned across the page. Seconds later, she closed the book.

    "I've just memorized the first page."

    Li Yundong nearly fell off his seat.

    Holy shit! Sure, she could recite ancient medical texts backwards and all that, but memorizing one page in a few seconds? Nope. No way anybody could do that. She had to be pulling his leg.

    "You're joking," Li Yundong said with a smile.

    One of Su Chan's delicate brows arched challengingly. She handed him the book. "Try me."

    Li Yundong took the book and flipped to page 1. He read through a few lines, then cast a skeptical glance at Su Chan. Nah... she's messing with me... she has to be...

    "Ready?" Su Chan asked.

    Li Yundong nodded.

    "Writing in China dates back to the hieroglyphs that were used in the Shang Dynasty. Chinese literature is a vast subject that spans thousands of years. One of the interesting things about Chinese literature is that much of the serious literature was composed using a formal written language that is called Classical Chinese..."

    By the time Su Chan had recited the entire first page (even the frigging image captions!) without a single error, Li Yundong was on the verge of losing his mind. He suddenly remembered Cheng Cheng's comment the other day when they were on their way to the hospital to visit Zhao Yujian, something about Su Chan being a genius who skipped grades. With a memory like this, he was starting to wonder if it was true...

    "Holy shit... You really do have it all, don't you?" Li Yundong stared at Su Chan in awe. "You've got the looks and the brains... The full package... Just... Wow..."

    Su Chan blushed, then smiled sweetly at him. And Li Yundong was pretty much a goner the moment he saw that smile. He glanced furtively around the huge lecture hall, then pulled Su Chan towards him until she was straddling his lap, then kissed her right on the lips. Su Chan's lips parted in a gasp. However, before Li Yundong could deepen the kiss, she pulled away sharply. All of a sudden, Li Yundong's lips felt far too cold despite the summer weather.

    "We can't, Yundong," she said, panting heavily. "We really can't."

    Li Yundong glanced around again. They'd been quiet, so they didn't draw any attention to them. A few students lingered inside the lecture hall, chilling out or doing God knows what, but they were all facing the chalkboard. Ding Nan was sitting in the fourth row, but she, too, was facing the front.

    Li Yundong returned his eyes to Su Chan, who was now blushing to the tip of her ears. He cleared his throat and ruffled her hair. "S- sorry," he mumbled. "Guess I got a little carried away."

    Su Chan climbed off his lap and took a seat beside him.

    Awkwardness spread between them. Say something, you idiot!

    Li Yundong cleared his throat again. "W- well, y- you were great," Li Yundong said lamely, then quickly realized how easily his words might have been misconstrued. "I- I mean great as in... as in the way you memorized the textbook! Not the... Ahem! Anyway! I wish I had your memorization skills. That would certainly help—"

    "Hey!" Li Yundong slapped his thigh, then turned to Su Chan. "Maybe you can sit somewhere on campus when I'm taking the exam! Then I'll be able to hear you as long as I activate Eryue! You can basically just read everything to me!" (T/N: Eryue gives its user long-range hearing; it's a skill that a Cultivator obtains once they passed the 2nd dan of the Ningshen phase; it works best when the sound travels across open spaces)

    Su Chan burst into a round of giggles.

    Li Yundong didn't see what was so funny. "What? You don't think it'll work?"

    "It will," Su Chan said after the last of her giggles subsided. "I just don't think that's necessary. It's much easier if you memorize the book yourself."

    "Yeah, I wish," Li Yundong scoffed. "I'll probably be asleep by the end of the first paragraph. Besides, unlike you, I don't have super memory."

    "Oh, but you do."

    Li Yundong swiveled his head around so quickly that he thought he might've torn several neck muscles. "What?"

    "You can memorize things too," Su Chan said nonchalantly.

    Li Yundong stared at her for several seconds, then chuckled. "Nah... I honestly think that it's easier to dodge bullets."

    A moment later, Li Yundong saw the textbook being waved in front of his face.

    "Why don't you try it?"

    Li Yundong took the book, then put it back down on the table with a chuckle. "Trust me, I can't memorize worth a damn," he said, shaking his head. "You should see my high school test scores for History."

    "Mmmmm..." Su Chan whined. "Just try it... Please?"

    Li Yundong's body swayed after Su Chan gave his arm several tugs.

    Then, he made the mistake of staring into Su Chan's huge, puppy dog eyes.

    "Please....? For me? Pretty please?"

    She's gonna be the death of me one of these days...

    Li Yundong chuckled and raised his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, I'll try it," he said, picking up the textbook. "But trust me, you're gonna be disappointed." He flipped to the first page, then stole a glance at Su Chan when he felt her intense gaze on him.

    "Just focus on the words," Su Chan said. "Don't think about anything else."

    "Okay..." Li Yundong said, then turned his attention to the page.

    After a while, Li Yundong closed the book. "Okay, I've read the first five pages," he said scratching his head. "But I'm not sure if I remember anything I read."

    Su Chan took the book from his hand. "You already did," she said. "You just need to recall it."

    Li Yundong gave her a puzzled look. "Err...What? Recall? How am I supposed to recall if I don't even remember?"

    "Close your eyes..." Su Chan said, her voice low and throaty.

    Li Yundong's mouth suddenly went dry. He stared at her blankly. God, she's so hot when she's all serious like this...

    "Go on." Su Chan nudged him. "Close your eyes and try to think back to what you've just read," she said. "It'll come back to you. Trust me."

    Li Yundong shook his head and swallowed hard. Then, he shut his eyes and focused his mind on the first page. Moments later, he jumped in surprise. "What the—" His eyes snapped open, and he saw Su Chan beaming at him.

    "Holy shit..." he whispered. "Did you... did you do something?"

    "Nope..." Su Chan said with a shake of her head. "That was all you."

    What the hell? Li Yundong shut his eyes again. A vivid image of the first page formed in his mind. It was as though there was a photograph of that exact page inside his head. As long as he focused on holding the image in his mind, he could literally just read the whole page out as though the page was right in front of his eyes.

    Li Yundong opened his eyes and gaped at Su Chan.

    "See? I told you," she said, grinning from ear to ear.

    "B- but how?" he asked, shaking his head. Then, his eyes snapped to hers. "Is this because of the dr—" He stopped himself when he saw the panic in Su Chan's eyes. He'd nearly blurted out drug just now, which, according to Su Chan, would put his life in great danger if some other mutant—

    Wait, no. Not mutant. Cultivator. If some other Cultivator found out about this mysterious super drug.

    Okay. Maybe Su Chan was right to keep this dangerous secret from him. If he blurted things out like he nearly did just now, he would probably give the whole game away in seconds.

    Li Yundong cleared his throat and backtracked. This time, he lowered his voice into a whisper. "How did I...?" Li Yundong's eyes went wide. "Wait, it's got something to do with all the Qi-control practice I did, doesn't it?"

    Su Chan leaned back in her seat. The panic he'd seen in her eyes earlier was now gone. "Well, yes, Qi control does play a role in boosting memory. But in this case, it's more of an indirect cause. What you did just now?" Su Chan looked deep into his eyes. "That's a direct result of Guanxiang."

    Li Yundong stared at Su Chan wordlessly.

    "What's the key to Guanxiang?" Su Chan said. "I told you the other night before you first attempted Guanxiang."

    "Visualization," Li Yundong answered in a heartbeat.

    Su Chan nodded. "You see, when you visualize something, it's actually your Spirit doing all the work."

    "Right. Because the Spirit relates to the mind. The conscious will."

    "Exactly. And when performing Guanxiang, you're essentially shaping your Qi with your Spirit. That’s why you need to use your imagination and visualize in order to perform Guanxiang, because the Spirit is doing all the work. Your Qi just responds to your Spirit by taking the shape that your Spirit visualizes." Su Chan raised a finger. "But here's the thing. Guanxiang also trains a Cultivator's Spirit by having your Qi interact with your Spirit."

    Seconds passed in silence. Li Yundong was starting to see Su Chan's point.

    "Remember that weird place with the clouds and stuff?"

    "Yeah," Li Yundong said. "It was like I was still aware that I exist, but I couldn't see my physical body."

    "Mm," Su Chan said with a nod. "That's because you were inside your Spirit Space. It's a non-physical entity that only your mind has access to. It's also the space where your Spirit interacts with your Qi."

    Li Yundong leaned back in his seat, his gaze boring holes into the front cover of his textbook as he began to put the pieces together. "That's why I ended up there, inside my Spirit Space, the moment I tried to perform Guanxiang." Li Yundong looked towards Su Chan. "Because that's what Guanxiang is all about, isn't it? Getting the Spirit to interact with my Qi."

    Su Chan nodded. "And the process trains—"

    "Ah... I get it now," Li Yundong said, closing his eyes as understanding washed over him like a tsunami. "Qi... It's all in the Qi! That's the secret, isn't it? The Qi enhances everything it interacts with!" Li Yundong opened his eyes and sat up straighter. "Yesterday, before I tried to climb up the windows, you told me to mobilize my Qi to whichever body part, joint or muscle, that required it. You said that doing so would give my joints and muscles a boost in strength and endurance… So when Qi interacts with our muscles or joints, it enhances them. But it works the same for the mind and Spirit too, doesn't it? When Qi interacts with the Spirit, it enhances it too..."

    Li Yundong looked at Su Chan. She was beaming at him. Whoa! Were those tears in her eyes? Li Yundong panicked. "Hey, hey, what's wrong?"

    Su Chan sniffed, then looked away. "I'm fine, I'm fine," she said. "I just..." She looked straight into his eyes. Despite the tears, the smile in her eyes was unmistakable. "You just made me happy, that's all. So happy..."

    Li Yundong chuckled, then reached out to pinch her cheek. "Just because I explained a few things?"

    Su Chan cleared her throat, and just like that, their little moment was gone.

    "Anyway, you got it right," Su Chan said. "During Guanxiang, your Qi enhances your Spirit through direct interaction between them. Your visual memory will be enhanced, and you'll be able to reconstruct objects from memory in vivid detail."

    "Qi control..." Li Yundong said, shaking his head lightly. "Awesome stuff, huh?"

    Su Chan cracked a smile. "Of course! Mastering one's Qi has loads of benefits!"

    Li Yundong chuckled at Su Chan's sudden enthusiasm. "Such as?"

    "Do you know that Peng Zu lived until he was over eight hundred years old?"

    "What! You're joking..."

    Su Chan shook her head. "When he was about 760 years old, his body was still in good condition with minimal signs of aging. So was his mind. He could still speak coherently and think clearly."

    Li Yundong scoffed. "How's that even—"

    Memories of his own crazy abilities came to mind. Li Yundong sighed, then dropped his gaze. He honestly wasn't sure anymore. If crazy shit like clairvoyance and telescopic vision were possible, what was so strange about the ability to live for hundreds of years?

    "Excuse me?"

    Li Yundong raised his head at the voice and pretty much got the shock of his life. Ding Nan was there, standing in front of his table, smiling sweetly at him. Smiling. Not smirking or sneering, but smiling. Ding Nan the viper, who never smiled at anyone other than to mock them, was smiling at him.

    Weird is the new normal.

    He really should have that slogan printed on T-shirts.

    ***

    "Something I can do for you?"

    Li Yundong hadn't meant for his voice to sound so cold, but he honestly couldn't bring himself to trust Ding Nan, not after all the mean stuff she had said to him.

    Ding Nan's smile faltered. She took a breath and began playing with her fingers. She seemed nervous.

    Li Yundong arched an eyebrow at her. "What is it?"

    More finger twiddling ensued. "Um... I- I was wo- wondering if... if we could talk..." Ding Nan stole a glance at him, then quickly looked away again.

    Li Yundong's eyebrow rose higher.

    Ding Nan's eyes darted to Su Chan beside him. "A- alone, I mean."

    Li Yundong did a quick scan of the lecture hall with his eyes. The hall was now empty except for present company.

    "You can speak freely before her," Li Yundong said, pointing at Su Chan.

    Holy shit. Was Ding Nan blushing?

    "I- I- I just... I just wish to speak to you alone..." Ding Nan gave him a pleading look. "Please?"

    Li Yundong wanted to flat-out say no, but then something made him stop. It wouldn't be right to dismiss Ding Nan like that just to get back at her for how she'd treated him in the past. He was better than that.

    Li Yundong nodded and stood up. "Su Chan," he said. "Wait here for me, okay?"

    "Oh, okay..." Su Chan answered.

    Li Yundong led Ding Nan out of the academic building, then made a right turn at the building's entrance. There was a small garden beside the academic building, which was secluded enough to have a private conversation.

    Li Yundong stopped under a tree and turned to face Ding Nan. "Okay, nobody’s here," he said, leaning his back against the tree bark. "We’re alone. So. What did you want to talk about?"

    Ding Nan was standing a few feet away from him, near the edge of the shade provided by the tree. Seconds went by in silence.

    Li Yundong frowned. "Um... Ding Nan? Is something wro—"

    "Thank you..." Ding Nan blurted out. "Thank you for... for saving my life."

    Li Yundong sighed and shook his head. "You don't have to thank me. Any decent human being would've done something to help."

    Ding Nan stepped closer into the shade. Li Yundong studied her face and noted the redness dusting her cheeks. He smirked. Must be killing her pride to say these things to me, someone whom she thought was beneath her.

    Ding Nan raised her head and met his gaze. "It's not that simple." She took another step closer. "What you did yesterday... what you did for me..." She bit her lip and shook her head. "It's so much more than helping out a random stranger you see on the streets, or even helping out a friend in need. You... God... You risked your life for me. Me, someone who..." Ding Nan let her words trail off. Not that she had to say the words. He knew exactly what she meant.

    Li Yundong pushed himself away from the tree trunk he'd been leaning against. "Well, you're welcome," he said, giving Ding Nan a tight smile. "And I'm glad you're okay."

    Then, Li Yundong began to walk away.

    "You hate me don't you?"

    Ding Nan's voice made him stop. He stood there, but he didn't turn around.

    "You think I'm mean and spiteful, that I'm a horrible person," Ding Nan went on. "And you still hate me because I once humiliated you in front of everyone..."

    Anger flared through Li Yundong. Seriously? Was she shitting him right now? Did she honestly expect hugs and kisses from him after the way she had treated him in the past?

    The grass rustled behind him. Li Yundong could feel Ding Nan's presence behind him. If nothing else, the heavy scent of her perfume gave it away.

    "I swear to you... that wasn't who I am... That wasn't the real me... I swear..."

    Ding Nan's voice sounded so desperate that it made Li Yundong's anger melt away.

    The rustling of tree leaves and the sounds of birds chirping filled the silence between them. Li Yundong turned around slowly and regarded Ding Nan carefully. Her expression was filled with remorse and shame. Li Yundong lowered his gaze and stared at his feet. Forgive and forget... forgive and forget... It’s all water under the bridge… None of those chants made it past his lips. He felt too awkward to say a word. Oh, come on, Li Yundong... Say something! Anything!

    "I- I understand... I won't bother you again..."

    Li Yundong raised his head and noted the crestfallen look on Ding Nan's face. Before he could say anything, Ding Nan had already moved past him. When their shoulders brushed, Li Yundong caught a whiff of Ding Nan's perfume again.

    "Y- your perfume!" Li Yundong said lamely.

    Ding Nan stopped, then turned back around to face him. "What?" she said, her eyes brimming with hope.

    Yeah. Bring up her perfume. Great idea, genius. Now what?

    "Uh... I think it's a little um..."

    Great conversationalist Li Yundong was not.

    Ding Nan stepped closer. "A little...?"

    "Strong! It's strong—"

    Li Yundong flinched when Ding Nan suddenly grabbed his hands.

    "You don't like my perfume?"

    "What? No, no... That's not—"

    "Then I won't use it again! If you don't like it, I won't use it!"

    What? Why would she stop using it just because he didn't like—

    Oh.

    Now he was starting to see what this was all about.

    Li Yundong sighed, then gently removed his hands from Ding Nan's grip.

    "Listen, Ding Nan. You're a beautiful woman, okay? And you've got loads of personality." Li Yundong paused to look at Ding Nan, then smirked. "And not to mention you're sexy as hell."

    He was a little proud that the last comment got a blush out of Ding Nan. A little proud. Just a little.

    "Look, my point is," he went on. "You were a bombshell even when you were harsh and mean to everyone. Just imagine for one second what would happen if you start treating everyone nicely. You can bring a lot of guys to their knees without even trying. Just think about that."

    Li Yundong patted Ding Nan's shoulder, then started making his way back towards the academic building.

    "W-wait!"

    Li Yundong stopped, then turned around again.

    "The things you said just now... Why did you tell me those things? What were you really trying to tell me?"

    Li Yundong gave Ding Nan a penetrating stare, then smiled. "Nothing much. Just a friendly reminder."

    Two more steps later, Li Yundong heard Ding Nan's voice again. "Wait! Does that mean we're friends?"

    Li Yundong swiveled his head around, but kept on walking. "Think about what I said, okay?" he said, tossing Ding Nan a smile. "Start being nice to people!"

    Ding Nan caught up to him just outside the garden. "Li Yundong, wait! I can explain. I really didn't mean to act like a bitch to everyone. That wasn't the real me—"

    "Then why did you?" Li Yundong didn't slow his pace.

    "I did it because—"

    "Nannan? What are you doing here?"

    Both Li Yundong and Ding Nan stopped. Zhou Qin was standing somewhere on their right, smiling at them.

    Ding Nan yanked Li Yundong's arm, then leaned into him. "Stay away from that woman," Ding Nan whispered. "She's a serpent."

    Li Yundong stared after Ding Nan in shock as she stormed off.

     


  • Chapter 86 Poetic Feelings

     

    Ding Nan had already entered the academic building by the time Zhou Qin stopped beside him.

    "What happened between you two? You guys used to be so tight." Li Yundong turned away from the building’s façade to face Zhou Qin. "And now it's like she hates your guts."

    Truth be told, he already had a pretty good idea what happened between them; Su Chan had given him the full play-by-play of what happened between Zhou Qin and Ding Nan on the rooftop yesterday. But for appearance's sake, he had to ask and pretend he didn't know anything. He knew how perceptive Zhou Qin was, and he didn't want to risk rousing her suspicions. As far as Zhou Qin was concerned, there was no way Li Yundong could've known why things had turned sour between her and Ding Nan.

    When Zhou Qin didn't answer right away, Li Yundong studied her expression, which, as always, was cold and aloof.

    All of a sudden, she sighed. "I guess things have changed," she said cryptically.

    "What changed?" he asked, again for appearance's sake.

    Zhou Qin shook her head, then hooked a strand of her dark hair behind her ear. She met his gaze. The subtle curve of her lips revealed a smile that was tinged with sadness and regret. "It doesn't matter," she said. "Time heals all wounds."

    Suddenly, Li Yundong had the feeling that there was more to the story between them than what he knew from yesterday's incident at the rooftop. However, he didn't want to push. Everyone had the right to keep secrets. Hell, he himself was keeping quite a few secrets, and so was Su Chan.

    Li Yundong returned her smile and gave her a quick wave. "Well, then, have a good day. He stepped away and headed for the academic building. His little princess must be starving by now. It seemed like they would be lunching at the cafeteria again today; going home and then cooking lunch would probably take too long.

    "Wait!"

    Zhou Qin's voice stopped him after a few steps.

    He turned back around. "Yeah? What is it?"

    Zhou Qin strode over. "Oh, well, it's nothing," she said, smiling at him. "I haven't really thanked you for saving my life. So. Here I am. Expressing my gratitude."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Nah... It's no big deal. I told Ding Nan the same thing earlier. Any decent human being would've done something to help. You don't really have to thank me." Li Yundong paused, then regarded Zhou Qin briefly. A moment later, he gave Zhou Qin a nod. "But you're welcome."

    Zhou Qin stared at him as though he was nuts. "You can't be serious…"

    "I am," he said with a shrug.

    "Of course I have to thank you! You risked your life for me. Like it or not, I owe you one."

    Li Yundong held up his palm. "Okay. First of all, I'm really glad you made it out alive. And secondly, you don't owe me anything. Like I said, it's what any decent human being would do."

    The slack-jawed expression on Zhou Qin's face nearly made him laugh. He figured this was as flabbergasted as the Ice Queen could get.

    "What? Did I say something weird?" Li Yundong said, smirking.

    Zhou Qin sighed. "No..." She shook her head. "Well… I mean, yes."

    Li Yundong's smirk widened. "So is that a yes or a no?"

    Zhou Qin looked at him with a frown. "You really are a strange person, Li Yundong."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "I'll take that as a yes, then." He looked at Zhou Qin questioningly. "But now I'm curious. Why am I strange?"

    Apart from having the ability to dodge bullets, of course.

    Zhou Qin regarded him for several moments. "Well, for one, you aren't trying to curry favors with me right now."

    Li Yundong laughed. "I guess that happened often with you, huh?"

    Zhou Qin smiled. "Oh, you have no idea," she said. "If it were anybody else who saved my life yesterday, this conversation would've gone differently."

    Li Yundong raised a brow. "Let me guess, it would end with the other party giving you their bank details?"

    Zhou Qin smiled. "Something like that."

    The conversation stilled for a moment or two.

    Zhou Qin sighed. "Seriously, why aren't you asking me for something in return?" she said in a tone of utter disbelief. "Most people would be all over it by now with their demands."

    Li Yundong wondered what kind of life Zhou Qin had led to make her so disillusioned with humanity. It was like she didn't believe in basic human kindness.

    Li Yundong shook his head. "Guess I’m not most people then," he said, moving past Zhou Qin towards the academic building.

    "You know I have the power to change a person's life, right?"

    Li Yundong stopped short and turned back around. He nodded. "I suppose you do." Then, he shrugged. "But what does that have to do with me?"

    "I can change your life too if you let me."

    A smirk pulled at Li Yundong's lips. Someone already did. And that someone was currently sitting in a lecture hall, waiting for his return, no doubt wondering if he had once again abandoned her.

    "I appreciate your gratitude," Li Yundong said, then gave her a pointed look. "And your offer, of course. But, I'll have to decline." He grinned. "I'm a firm believer of hard work and good old grit."

    Zhou Qin was now looking at him as though he'd grown twenty heads.

    "Unbelievable..."

    Li Yundong laughed. "I guess there's a first for everything." He slapped his thighs. "Well! I'll see you around, then? I'm gonna head to lunch, so..." He jerked his thumb in the direction behind him.

    It surprised him when Zhou Qin suddenly ran forward and grabbed his arm. "Wait, don't go..." Her voice sounded like a plea, which made Li Yundong frown.

    "Is something wrong?"

    "No, no, I just..." Zhou Qin shook her head. "Can we talk some more?"

    "Uh... but I..." Li Yundong glanced towards the academic building. Su Chan must be worried sick by now.

    "Just for a while," Zhou Qin added. "It won’t take long. I promise."

    Li Yundong turned away from the building and regarded Zhou Qin. He really should say no and go back to Su Chan, but denying Zhou Qin right now felt too much like an asshole thing to do. Especially when she was giving him that pleading look which would probably make other guys go weak at the knees. Oh, what the hell.

    Li Yundong sighed. "Okay, then. But just for a while."

    Zhou Qin smiled. "Thank you," she said, then jerked her head towards the garden. "Follow me."

    Li Yundong was surprised a while later when Zhou Qin moved past the garden entirely and led him to a footpath lined with trees on both sides. He knew this footpath. It was the same one he and Su Chan took when he gave Su Chan a nickel tour of the campus a few days after they met. By the time the copse of trees near the end of the footpath came into view, Li Yundong had a pretty good idea where Zhou Qin was heading towards.

    When Li Yundong reached a low hedge near the edge of the copse, he stopped. Warm feelings flooded his chest and he couldn't help the smile forming on his face. This was the same hedge where he and Su Chan had hidden behind during their little mischief. Li Yundong glanced ahead, and there it was, the gazebo where Zhao Yujian's love confession to Zhou Qin had taken place. His smile widened into a grin. He and Su Chan had been spying and eavesdropping on the love confession until the end.

    "Is something wrong?"


  • Li Yundong glanced up from the hedge. Zhou Qin was already standing a few feet away from the steps leading up to the gazebo, looking at him quizzically.

    "Why are you standing over there?" she asked.

    "Oh, it's nothing..." Li Yundong said, moving past the hedge towards the gazebo.

    Zhou Qin waited for him in front of the gazebo, then suddenly took his hand when he was within reach.

    Li Yundong flinched and shot her a panicked look. "Um... what are you...?"

    Zhou Qin wasn't even listening; she started pulling him towards the gazebo.

    Li Yundong was in too much of a daze to resist, so he let himself be pulled along. They climbed up the steps and stepped onto the gazebo’s huge deck.

    Once they were at the center of the deck, Zhou Qin let go of his hand and turned away from him. Li Yundong stared at Zhou Qin's back, his mind still puzzling over what just happened. Zhou Qin's shoulders rose and fell a few times as she took several deep breaths. The awkwardness in the air was palpable.

    When a ray of sunlight shone into the gazebo, Li Yundong could make out the redness on the tip of Zhou Qin's ears. Zhou Qin was blushing. Zhou Qin, the Ice Queen, was blushing.

    Then, realization hit him like a ton of bricks. Holy shit... it can't be...

    The sound of Zhou Qin's giggles shook Li Yundong out of his reverie. Li Yundong raised his gaze and noticed that Zhou Qin no longer had her back facing him; instead, she was smiling at him.

    No way this is happening... No f*cking way...

    Zhou Qin cleared her throat, then raised one of her eyebrows. "You wanna know something?"

    "What?" Li Yundong croaked.

    She glanced towards the steps of the gazebo. "That was actually the first time I reached out to hold a man's hand."

    Li Yundong's eyes widened in alarm.

    "O- Oh! U-uh... Well... I'm… honored?" Li Yundong said. Suddenly, he shot her a worried look. "Wait, don't tell me you're asking me to... to... t- take responsibility?"

    Zhou Qin burst into giggles. "You're cute," she said. Something flickered inside her eyes, and she looked away. "Even if I want you to take responsibility, would you?"

    Li Yundong chuckled, then rubbed the back of his neck a few times. This has got to be some kind of joke...

    An awkward silence filled the gazebo until Zhou Qin broke it with a chuckle. By the time Li Yundong tore his gaze away from his shoe, Zhou Qin had already moved towards the edge of the gazebo's deck. "Do you know that my father is a government official," she said, her hand reaching out to touch a sprig that had slipped between two of the gazebo's balusters. The white petals of the cape jasmine flower bobbed under the touch of her fingers.

    Somehow, Li Yundong managed to find his voice. "Yeah... I do. Heard about it during your party."

    "Then do you know that my grandfather is with the government too?"

    "No... No I don't."

    "Well, he is," Zhou Qin said, her hand falling away from the sprig. "They both are. High ranking government officials, I mean."

    Li Yundong frowned. Why is she telling me all this?

    "Well, that's me," Zhou Qin went on. "The descendent of one of the founders of the Communist Party of China."

    Li Yundong's eyes widened a tad. "No shit?"

    "Mm-hmm." Zhou Qin chuckled. She cast him a glance. The amusement in her eyes was accentuated by the arch of her brow. "You can say it, you know? That I'm one of those rich, spoiled princesses. That's usually the image associated with a background like mine."

    Li Yundong laughed, glad that the awkward tension had eased a little.

    "Shall I address you by your title from now on then, Your Royal Highness?" Li Yundong said, adding a little bow at the end.

    Zhou Qin looked at him with a faint smile. "You really speak whatever that comes to your mind, don't you?" She rolled her eyes. "You don't have a filter at all, I swear."

    Li Yundong rubbed the back of his neck and shrugged. "Oops."

    All of a sudden, Zhou Qin moved back to the center of the deck, stopping just a few feet away from him. She was standing close enough to him that he could see the blush dusting her cheeks even without his telescopic vision.

    "It used to be so annoying, you know?"

    "Wh- what?"

    "Your callous mouth," Zhou Qin said. "It used to be so infuriating. But now..." Their gazes met, and the air hung thick between them. "Now I just find it endearing."

    Li Yundong felt his own cheeks grow hot. So much for diffusing the awkwardness.

    A breeze drifted into the gazebo, carrying the scent of flowers with it. The silence between them was like a tight noose around his neck, choking him. Li Yundong knew he had to change the subject before this conversation spiraled out of his control. In fact, this conversation never should have happened in the first place.

    Li Yundong cleared his throat. "A-Anyway. Here's what I don't get. Why Tiannan University? I mean, with your background, I’m sure you could apply to any university and get accepted easily. Hell, you could even go overseas if you wanted to. So why here?"

    Something flickered inside Zhou Qin's eyes. "Because of my background, my life has pretty much been decided since I was born." Zhou Qin shook her head. "Every single detail of my life has been planned out. My father's plan was to send me to Renming University of China. He wanted me to complete a business and finance program there, and then take over his position in the government after I graduate. To be fair, it isn't a bad path to follow. Female politicians are in high demand these days. The path that my father had chosen for me pretty much guarantees a bright future for me..."

    "Then how come you're here?"

    That wasn't a ploy to change the subject. Li Yundong was genuinely curious.

    "I... I don't like the fact that I'm just a puppet hanging from strings, that someone else has control over my life."

    "Okay... But how did you pull it off? I don't think going behind your father's back is that easy."

    Zhou Qin smirked. "Not if you're resourceful."

    When Li Yundong looked at her questioningly, she added, "I gained access to the State Education Commission's files using my father's name, then changed my father's entry for my university of choice."

    Li Yundong burst into laughter. "Okay, that's pretty sneaky, I'll give you that," he said, giving her a thumbs up. Then, another thought crossed his mind. "Wait, and of all places, you picked Tiannan University? This piece of sh—" Li Yundong cleared his throat. "This tenth-rate university?"

    Zhou Qin hid her smile behind her hand. "I admit that this... tenth-rate university, as you called it, wasn't my first choice. But in the end, I chose it precisely because of its low popularity. I figured it'd help me keep a low profile, you know."

    Li Yundong nodded. "Right. Makes sense."

    "But I'm glad I decided to come here."

    Zhou Qin's strange tone shifted something in the air. Li Yundong looked up and saw Zhou Qin staring at him through her lashes.

    "Because I met you," Zhou Qin said. "I think it's fate."

    Okay. Now they had officially treaded into deep waters. Dangerous and treacherous waters, filled with sharks that could maul his sorry ass off in a single bite.

    If this conversation happened months ago, before he met Su Chan, it would have propelled him straight to cloud nine and had him wallowing in eternal bliss. However, the fact remained that this conversation wouldn't even take place if he'd never met Su Chan.

    Right. As if the beautiful Ice Queen would confess her undying love to a pathetic ball of fat.

    Was this one of karma's fancy little tricks again?

    Regardless, it was time for him to make things right.

    Li Yundong smiled. "Listen, Zhou Qin. I think there's something we need to address—"

    The rest of his words were muffled by the pressure of Zhou Qin's palm. "Please don't. Whatever you're about to say, please don't say it."

    Li Yundong stared at Zhou Qin with wide eyes. The mild chilliness of Zhou Qin's hand on his lips was a stark reminder that he really should put some distance between them before someone walked by and got the wrong idea.

    Li Yundong took a step back and sighed. "We should—"

    The intensity in Zhou Qin's eyes stilled his words. "Everything I said earlier... is... is meant as a clarification. So please don't read too much into it."

    "Clarification? I don't understand."

    Zhou Qin sighed. "I just want you to get to know me better," she said, finding his gaze. "As a person. I guess I want you to hear things about me from my own lips, not from other people. Does that make sense?"

    Li Yundong nodded.

    "And I want to clear up some potential... misunderstandings or misconceptions you might have about me."

    Li Yundong frowned slightly. What does that mean?

    He smiled despite his confusion. "Well... I'm listening."

    Zhou Qin seemed relieved by his compliance. He wondered how many times she had rehearsed this conversation in her head.

    Suddenly, Zhou Qin laughed. "Do you know how many guys confessed to me after I came to Tiannan University? My God. 78 in just the first month! Can you imagine that? It nearly drove me crazy."

    Li Yundong chuckled, then gave her a strange look. "What number am I?"

    Zhou Qin's eyes went wide in panic as she eyed him cautiously. Li Yundong couldn't help but wonder if he'd said something to offend her. Zhou Qin spoke before he could backtrack. "I'm sorry," she said. "There were so many of them that I can't even keep track. Around 200-ish? I guess?"

    Li Yundong burst into laughter. "Hey, relax, okay?" he said after his laughter had subsided. "I was just asking. I don't really care about the answer anyway. But, come on. Don't tell me you never saw this coming. A beautiful girl like you being confessed to? That's pretty much inevitable!"

    Li Yundong's smile faltered when he noticed the hurt look on Zhou Qin's face. What? What the hell did I say? I just told her she's beautiful! How's that even offensive?

    Zhou Qin sighed. "Most people think that people like us, us as in the descendants of government officials, are showy and ostentatious. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Most children of high-ranking officials tend to keep a low profile. They wouldn't try to draw extra attention to themselves...”

    Li Yundong nodded. "Right. What they do reflects back to their family. One wrong move could cause their parents to lose their positions in the government."

    "Exactly. There are, of course, several exceptions. But those cases didn't end well."

    "I can imagine."

    Zhou Qin nodded. "Anyway, you have to understand that those men…" The subtle frown on Zhou Qin’s face betrayed her disgust. "They are relentless. They won’t stop coming after me if I reject them nicely."

    Li Yundong nodded. "I can imagine that too."

     

     

    "And I was sick and tired of it, of their relentless pursuits. And I needed a way to deal with them harshly without making myself look bad. So I struck a deal..."

    Understanding dawned upon Li Yundong. "Ding Nan..."

    Zhou Qin nodded gravely. "Yes. She came from a poor family, but she craves the lifestyle of the rich and wealthy."

    "So, she says those harsh things and basically acts like a bitch to make those guys stop harassing you in exchange for... what, money?"

    Zhou Qin sighed. "That's the gist of it, yes. I'll give her designer dresses, branded handbags, and fancy jewelry. But in return, she has to ward off those men."


  • Li Yundong closed his eyes as the pieces began to fall together: the fact that Ding Nan never left Zhou Qin’s side whenever they were both out in public; Ding Nan’s dismissive and caustic treatment of all those guys who had tried to approach Zhou Qin; Ding Nan’s behavior during their conversation earlier; Ding Nan’s insistence that none of her past actions reflected the real her.

    So it was all part of a deal, a mutualism.

    "Don't..."

    Zhou Qin's pleading tone made Li Yundong open his eyes.

    "I know what you're thinking..." Zhou Qin shook her head. "It isn't like that, okay? I have never asked her to sell her body for me. Gosh, do you really think so little of me—"

    Li Yundong held up his hand. "Whoa, whoa, whoa... Chill. That thought never even crossed my mind."

    "But just now you looked like you were thinking hard about something... So I thought maybe..."

    Li Yundong waved his hand. "Nah... Your words just helped me make sense of a few things, that's all."

    Zhou Qin cleared her throat. "Anyway. I truly believe that I wasn’t in the wrong in all this. It was just a business deal, a transaction where both parties walk away with benefits. I never blackmailed her or forced her into doing anything she didn't want—"

    Li Yundong held up his hand. "I get it. I do," he said with a firm nod. "Besides, it isn't my place to judge. But I don't understand. Why are you telling me all this? It’s not like you owe me any explanations."

    The intensity of Zhou Qin's gaze surprised him a little. "Like I said, I want to clear up some misunderstandings you might have about me. I... I don't want you to think of me as a horrible person."

    Li Yundong regarded her silently. After a while, he smiled. "You've got nothing to worry about, okay? I have eyes and ears, you know?" His smile turned into a smirk. "And I know this might be hard to believe, but I have a functioning brain too. I can make my own judgment about things."

    "Oh, no. I wasn’t implying that," Zhou Qin said, shaking her head. "It’s just… No matter how harsh the truth is, it can never be as scary as those negative rumors surrounding it. Rumors color and distort one's judgment, causing prejudices and preconceptions. And if you’re already prejudiced against me..." Zhou Qin stared into his eyes. "Then nothing I say will matter, even if it is the truth."

    Li Yundong nodded. "A valid point," he said with a smile. "But, for what it’s worth, this conversation did clear up a few things. And I think it's safe to say that I know you better now. Anyway, can we go now? I'm kinda starving... so."

    Zhou Qin chuckled. "We don't have any classes in the afternoon... Got a place in mind for lunch?”

    "Err… usually we just—"

    "My treat, of course." Zhou Qin smiled. There was a hopeful look in her eyes. "Consider it repayment for saving my life."

    "Hmm… I might take you up on that, actually." He hesitated for a moment, then regarded Zhou Qin seriously. "But I'm taking Su Chan with me. I'll only go if she agrees."

    Zhou Qin's smile faltered, but a moment later, it returned in full bloom. "Oh, of course! That's not gonna be a problem. In a way, I kinda owe her too. Without her, you'd probably be wearing shoulder slings now, which will add to my guilt."

    Right. Guilt.

    Truth be told, Li Yundong probably wouldn't have been able to save anyone yesterday without Su Chan's help. If anything, Zhou Qin owed her life to Su Chan. Then again, Zhou Qin would never know, and Li Yundong had no plans of ever telling her, since it would lead to all kinds of questions that would foil the whole cloak-and-dagger business he and Su Chan were involved in. 

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Okay, then. Any suggestions?"

    Zhou Qin smiled back at him. "I'm just paying. It’s your pick."

    Li Yundong waved his hand in a wide arc. "Alright then! Today, we shall feast to our hearts’ content!"

    The two of them left the gazebo and made their way back along the footpath. In front of the academic building, Zhou Qin suddenly stopped. Li Yundong turned and looked at her quizzically.

    "Li Yundong... If... If I had accepted your confession the other day... would you... I mean, would we..."

    Li Yundong gave her a self-deprecating smile.

    "Would you be asking me this question now if I was still the fat nobody I used to be?"

    The ensuing silence was charged and heavy with meaning.

    Li Yundong turned around and strode away, leaving Zhou Qin there in a daze. He didn’t plan on waiting around for an answer. He didn’t need to. He already knew the answer.

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  • Chapter 87 Twins

     

    Li Yundong, her savior, the reason she was even alive and breathing today, was drifting further and further away from her, in both a literal and figurative sense. Zhou Qin wanted to follow him, to run after him, to fill up this seemingly bottomless chasm between them, but her legs felt like lead. She couldn't move. She could barely even breathe, not with the weight of his parting words crashing down on her chest, smothering her.

    Would she? Would she spare Li Yundong a second glance if he was still his old self? Would she really?

    Guilt and shame ripped through her as though they were tearing her apart from the inside. After all that talk about prejudice, Zhou Qin realized what a hypocrite she was. There was no point in lying to herself. She had been the one with prejudices against him, not the other way around. She was the one who had judged him based solely on his appearance. She'd been shallow, and her superficial judgment had nearly cost her the chance to get to know the good man hidden beneath the mediocrity of his appearance.

    Well, his past appearance, since there was nothing mediocre about his current appearance. Now, he was easily the most attractive man she had ever laid eyes on, and that was saying something because she had encountered a lot of physically attractive men during the endless dinner parties and social events she'd been forced to attend.

    In her defense, Li Yundong's lackluster physical appearance wasn't the main reason she had brushed him off and deemed him as unworthy of her attention. She had, after all, begun to take a liking for Li Yundong ever since that incident at the Taekwondo club's dojo, where he bravely stood up to Zhao Yujian instead of letting himself be bullied. Back then, Li Yundong was still chubby, so his appearance couldn't have been the only factor giving rise to her early prejudice against him. No. Her prejudice had stemmed from her upbringing, from all those years spent around superficial men who wanted her only for her status and beauty. For years, men had looked upon her with nothing but lust in their eyes — lust for power, sex, and wealth. None of them held genuine feelings for her. None of them wanted Zhou Qin, the woman behind all that glamor; they just wanted Zhou Qin, the beautiful daughter of the Deputy Governor, their gateway to power and unlimited resources. Even her own father, who was supposed to love her unconditionally, was one of those men who cared for nothing other than status and power. So much so, in fact, that he was willing to sacrifice his own daughter's happiness to secure the family's position in power.

    Family. Funny how she used that term, since she hadn't experienced real familial love since... ever.

    But Li Yundong...

    Li Yundong was different. So different, in fact, that his existence almost seemed unreal to her. Every time he looked at her, every time their eyes met, she found herself shocked, completely baffled, utterly confounded. But it wasn't what she saw that shocked her; it was what she didn't see. Lust. Greed. Avarice. None of those things were present in his eyes whenever he looked at her. All she saw was genuine admiration of her as a person, not for her status or her beauty. At first, she couldn't believe it. She thought he was just faking it, that it was all just a deliberate act to fool her into believing that he was different. After all, how could such a man exist! All her life, she'd been around power-hungry and greedy men. And those men weren't ordinary men either; they were all men of considerable status and influence! Powerful men. Wealthy men.

    If even rich and powerful men craved power, shouldn't a man of lesser status crave it even more?

    Indeed, even though she'd seen the difference in the way Li Yundong had treated her, her preconceptions about men and human nature made her doubt what she saw. But Li Yundong had proven himself to her time and time again. She had been watching him for weeks, carefully analyzing every interaction and eye contact they had shared. She was biding her time, waiting for the moment where his mask finally slipped and he revealed the first hint of greed.

    That moment never came.

    Whenever they saw each other, his eyes were always the same — pure and innocent. Even during her birthday party, where he'd been thrown into the midst of opulence and grandeur, into the epitome of upper society, his eyes held the same genuine admiration. That was when her doubts began to slowly chip away. At long last, there was a man who would regard her as a human being, not some tool to gain wealth and power.

    Their conversation earlier was the final proof she needed. She had presented him with the opportunity to demand anything from her, anything that he wanted. He could literally ask her for anything that money could buy, and that power could influence. Yet, he flat-out turned down her offer, and had even done so without batting an eye! He didn't demand a single thing in return, even when he'd nearly lost both his arms to save her. That pretty much pulverized all the doubts and prejudices she had about him. Indeed, waiting for the moment where his mask would slip was an exercise in futility because there was no mask. There was no charade. He'd been genuine all along. She'd just been too blind to notice it.

    All this while, Zhou Qin had been wondering why she was attracted to Li Yundong. But after her near-death experience yesterday and the conversation they shared earlier, she realized that she'd been asking the wrong question all along. How could any woman not be drawn to Li Yundong, the selfless man with outstanding virtue, not to mention the ability to dodge bullets and send grown men into the air?

    Zhou Qin's legs moved on their own, carrying her towards the academic building, towards the man who had ignited the flames of her desire but had extinguished his own desires for her.

    ***

    Yundong would never abandon her. Never ever. Their union was fated. The laws of the Universe required it, and the Yin-Yang principle demanded it. Su Chan and Yundong, the legendary Shenxian couple. That was what they were fated to be. They were meant to be together, and nothing could change that. Ever.

    Besides, she'd been good, hadn't she? She'd been super obedient. She hadn't caused him trouble again since they moved into their new home, so there was no reason for Yundong to abandon her. Nope. Not at all.

    Su Chan glanced at the clock in front of the huge classroom. Half an hour. He'd been gone for half an hour already. What could Ding Nan possibly want from him other than to thank him for saving her life? Speaking of... How was Ding Nan planning to thank him?

    Oh, no! What if Ding Nan offered to let Yundong perform Yin Feeding on her, and then... and then Yundong agreed! (T/N: Yin Feeding is basically a man feeds of a woman’s Essence through sexual intercourse)

    Jealousy flared, and Su Chan tore her gaze away from the clock. Stop that nonsense, Chan'er. Half an hour meant nothing. For all she knew, he could be on the way to buy one of those milk drinks, the ones with the little chewy balls in them. Or he could be getting one of those cones from Mac Doo Nurls. Right? That must be why he'd been gone for so long, right? Su Chan glanced at the door, which was open. The last student to leave had forgotten to close it on her way out.

    Su Chan looked away from the door and rearranged a few pens, then fiddled with a pair of scissors. Maybe he wasn't okay with her keeping secrets from him after all...

    He was so smart. He'd already figured out that it was some kind of medicine that had made him stronger than others. It turned out that him entering a new stage of his Cultivation training was both a blessing and a curse. His newfound drive to seek answers had caused him to start demanding answers from her, answers that she wasn't ready to give. Was he secretly mad at her for not telling him about the Renyuan Jindan? But it was too dangerous! If Cultivators had nearly killed her just for stealing it, what would they do to someone who had consumed it? Maybe I'm overthinking this... He'd made her a promise after all. He'd promised her that he wouldn't leave her. Su Chan flicked another glance at the door. Still nothing. She sighed and picked up the two paper dolls she'd cut out from Yundong's notepad earlier. Then, she turned around in her seat until she was facing away from the chalkboard. She didn't want to look at the clock. It kept reminding her that Yundong had been gone for forty minutes now.

    She stared at the paper doll in her left hand. She had messed up Paper Yundong's hair earlier when she was cutting it from the page. Now, the outline of Paper Yundong's head looked like an onion. She was hopeless in these kinds of things. She couldn't even chop fish properly.

    She raised the paper doll in her right hand. At least Paper Su Chan looked somewhat like her. Though upon a closer look, "somewhat" seemed to be a bit stretching it. She stared hard at Paper Su Chan's eyes. "Hey, you. Pay attention," she told Paper Su Chan sternly. "You must be a good girl. Otherwise, your beloved would abandon you. You hear me?"

    Paper Su Chan stared back at her. "Somewhat" seemed like a complete travesty now.

    Paper Yundong sidled up to Paper Su Chan and bumped into it a few times. Su Chan deepened her voice: "Hey, princess. Be a good girl, otherwise I'll feed you junk food every day."

    Not that she minded. Those Mac Doo Nurls breads tasted pretty good. Not to mention those yellowish, crunchy thingies that came in thin strips.

    Su Chan returned to her normal voice. "Hmph! Your princess is super obedient these days. How about I give you a kiss?" Paper Su Chan pecked Paper Yundong's head a few times. "Muack! Muack! Muack—"

    "Why kiss a piece of paper when you can kiss the real thing?"


  • Su Chan turned around with a loud gasp. There he was, her beloved, standing right there, grinning back at her. Joy and relief surged through her. Paper Yundong and Paper Su Chan joined the rest of the stationery on the table as she threw her arms around his neck. Then, she kissed him. Long, hard, and deep.

    "Where have you been!" she half-shouted once they parted for air. "I was so worried and... and... and I'm starving!"

    Yundong laughed and lowered her to the ground.

    "Oww!" Su Chan said, smacking his hand away from her nose. She wondered why he loved pinching her nose so much. She shot him a glare, but then felt her cheeks grow warm when she saw the heated look in his eyes.

    "So you're starving, huh?" he said, smirking. "How about you give me another kiss right here." He pointed at his lips. "After that, I'll take you out for a feast!"

    Feast? Did he just say feast? Feast! He said feast! Yayyyy!

    Su Chan was just about to kiss him again, but then something made her stop. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Zhou Qin standing at the door, watching them closely. Su Chan blushed and pulled away from Yundong.

    Yundong frowned. "What's wrong?"

    "W- we can't..." Su Chan said, lowering herself back down into her seat. "Someone's watching..."

    Yundong glanced around the room until his gaze landed on the door.

    "Oh, it's you, Zhou Qin..." Yundong said. "Give us a moment. We'll be right with you."

    Su Chan frowned slightly. What? Was he with Zhou Qin all this time? Was that why he took so long?

    Yundong nudged her. "So. What were you doing talking to yourself just now, hmm?"

    Su Chan picked up the two paper dolls. "Ta-da!!!" She beamed. "Meet Paper Su Chan and Paper Yundong!"

    Yundong took Paper Su Chan first, then Paper Yundong.

    "What! My hair doesn't look like this! This is a frigging onion!"

    Su Chan giggled and dodged one of Yundong's attempts to pinch her cheek.

    "Oh, you've been a naughty little girl, haven't you? Clearly, this is your way of making fun of me. Grrrr...."

    "Kyaaa!!!" Su Chan smacked Yundong's hand away before it could reach her waist. The last time he tickled her, she had laughed so hard that she ended up in tears.

    "Prepare to be spanked!"

    "Kyaaa!!! Hahaha!" Su Chan scrambled all the way back to the end of the row, then curled up to protect her backside from his spanking hands.

    Yundong laughed. "Damn. You naughty little minx. You really know how to run, huh?" he said, stopping his spanking attempts. "Fine. If that's how you wanna play it, then... No food for you today!"

    Su Chan's face fell. But she quickly recovered and clambered her way back to Yundong. She seized his arm and gave it a few tugs. "Mmmmm...." she whined. "I made those dolls because I missed you... And... and I'm not artsy at all... A- and you... you're a meanie! Why do you always have to threaten to starve me?"

    Yundong didn't say anything, though he was giving her a half-serious and half-amused look. She honestly couldn't tell whether he'd been serious about starving her. Regardless, she decided that a change of tactics was in order.

    Su Chan glanced furtively towards the door. Zhou Qin was still there, watching them. Miss Ideal Dinglu seemed to be frowning. Maybe she was getting impatient. Yundong did request her to wait for them after all.

    Su Chan leaned closer to Yundong's ear. "Um... Why don't I... I kiss you some more?" she whispered, fighting the urge to fan herself to cool down her warm cheeks. "I- I mean wh- when we are in... private."

    Yundong leaned back and gave her yet another heated look.

    The temperature of her cheeks rose just a tad.

    "Nonsense," Yundong said. "Why wait until we're in private? If we're gonna kiss, we'll damn well do it openly."

    "Fine, fine..." Su Chan said, giggling a few times. "We'll kiss openly!" Then, she made several kissy sounds, which caused Yundong to laugh out loud. When he was done laughing, he hooked his finger under her chin and lifted her head up. Warmth filled her lips, and she felt as though she was melting. Mmmmmm... Then it was gone. She opened her eyes and saw Yundong smirking at her. She blushed, and smacked his arm. "You're shameless."

    Yundong threw his head back in laughter while Su Chan stole another glance at the door. Zhou Qin wasn't even looking at them now. Her head was turned away and her fists were balled at her sides. Okay... now she's really getting impatient... Su Chan turned away from Zhou Qin and looked towards Yundong.

    Yundong was studying the paper dolls. There was a deep frown between his brows. "Su Chan..." he said.

    She didn't like that tone at all.

    That was his Su-Chan-you've-just-done-something-silly tone.

    Uh-oh.

    ***

    Li Yundong grabbed his notepad and flipped through its pages. When he flipped from cover to cover, his heart sank to the pit of his stomach. Oh f*ck my life...

    "U-um... Yundong... Wh- what's... the problem?"

    Li Yundong wanted to pull every single strand of his hair off his scalp, that's the problem. "You tore off the page with the tips I jotted down..." Li Yundong said with a defeated sigh. "And now, here it is." He tossed the paper dolls onto the table.

    "Oh. Do you still need those things?" Su Chan asked, looking genuinely puzzled. "I thought you could memorize the entire textbook easily now. I mean, I just told you about Guanxiang and your memory..."

    Li Yundong considered that for a moment. Okay. Fair point. But it would still help to have some tips. Whatever. He was going to have to ask Sun Li about it anyway. Or wait... maybe I can just ask...

    Li Yundong turned towards Zhou Qin, then returned his gaze to Su Chan

    The fearful expression on his princess' face nearly made him laugh. But still... No harm in teasing her a little. Li Yundong feigned a stern look. "Listen up. This is your punishment."

    Su Chan sat up straighter. Li Yundong struggled not to laugh. He cleared his throat. "Once we get home... you have to... kiss me a hundred times!"

    Su Chan jumped slightly. The huge pout on her lips nearly made Li Yundong demand that she give him those 100 kisses right then and there.

    "But my lips will become swollen after..." She blushed adorably. "After so many kisses..."

    Oh... I'm not letting you off the hook that easily...

    He poked Su Chan's head with his index finger. "That's your punishment for tearing up my notepad. Deal with it."

    When Su Chan made a face at him, he finally laughed.

    Then, he ruffled her hair. "Come on, let's pack up and head to lunch. You're starving right?"

    Su Chan nodded.

    "Good. Since Miss Zhou over there is treating us to lunch today."

    Su Chan's eyes gleamed in a way which was only possible with the mention of food. "Really? Really?"

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Yes, really," he said, zipping up his backpack. "Now let's get going."

    Before he could sling the straps of his backpack on his shoulders, he felt a weight on his back. Su Chan's alluring scent filled his nostrils.

    "I want a piggy back ride..."

    That throaty voice brought a jolt of heat straight to his core.

    Li Yundong turned around and gave Su Chan a helpless look. "Hey, quit messing around. Someone's watching us."

    It was ridiculous, really, since they had locked lips in front of Zhou Qin earlier. But it was the best excuse his brain could come up with while struggling to hold back his not-very-helpful libido.

    Su Chan's breath tickled the shell of his ears as she giggled. All of a sudden, his pants felt dangerously tight.

    "I'll stop messing around if you promise not to make me kiss you a hundred times!" Su Chan said.

    Why you sneaky little...

    "Nope! No can do! I still want a hundred kisses. But if you really want a piggy back ride, I'll give you one at home!"

    Su Chan giggled.

    "Piggyback ride..." she said. "Wait! That would be like me riding a pig!"

    Li Yundong growled playfully. "Hey! Are you calling me a pig? How dare you!"

    He smacked Su Chan's butt, which induced another round of giggles.

    Their frolicking was interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat. Li Yundong turned and saw Zhou Qin standing there, watching them with amusement. Li Yundong cleared his throat and lowered Su Chan to the floor.

    "Sorry you had to see that," he said, then chuckled sheepishly. He ruffled Su Chan's hair a few times, causing her to giggle. "This girl is too playful."

    Zhou Qin's smile widened just a tad. "It's fine," she said. "I... I kinda envy you." Zhou Qin was looking at Su Chan the whole time she said that.

    "Oh, you don't really have to! Because you are an ideal ding— mmph!"

    Li Yundong clamped his hand over Su Chan's mouth just in time to prevent her from finishing that sentence.

    F*ck! That was close... Li Yundong sneaked a glance at Zhou Qin, who had a puzzled look on her face.

    "Um... Excuse me? What did she..."

    "Oh, it's nothing!" Li Yundong said quickly, then shot Su Chan a glare.

    He leaned in and whispered into Su Chan's ear: "Idiot! You can't say things like that..."

    Su Chan's cheeks puffed out adorably. "Oh..."

    Zhou Qin still looked puzzled.

    "Don't worry about it," Li Yundong said. "She meant to say that you're an ideal friend! Um... you know... for... for wanting to treat us to lunch."

    Smooth. Real smooth, Li Yundong. And you wonder why you got rejected 21 times in a row...

    Zhou Qin's confused expression morphed into a smile.

    "Hello, Su Chan," she said, nodding at Su Chan. "It's good to see you again."

    Su Chan returned the greeting with a smile of her own. "Hello..." she said.

    Li Yundong did a double take when Su Chan bowed slightly. Whoa. Would you look at that. This girl had manners after all!

    Zhou Qin's eyes were on him again. "So. Got a place in mind for lunch?"

    Good question. He hadn't thought of a place yet.

    "Maybe somewhere near campus?"

    Zhou Qin laughed, much to his surprise. Maybe she was taking his advice and ready to drop the Ice Queen exterior?

    "No," Zhou Qin said, shaking her head. "That won't do. You'll have to pick a proper restaurant and let me repay you properly." Zhou Qin looked at him, her eyes glinting playfully. "Besides, didn't you mention something about a feast? You can't really have a feast in a street stall, can you?"

    Mirth bubbled inside Li Yundong's chest, and he unleashed it with a loud chortle.

    "Well, small-town folks like me aren't hard to please at all," he said, then raised his fist in the air. "Our ability to feast transcends geographic limitations! In other words, we can feast anywhere!"

    Seconds passed in silence. Then both Su Chan and Zhou Qin burst out laughing.

    "Oh my God," Zhou Qin said, hiding her smile behind her hand. "You really are something else, you know that?"

    Li Yundong patted Su Chan's back several times; she had laughed so hard that she ended up choking on her own spit.

    "All jokes aside," Li Yundong said, looking towards Zhou Qin. "I really won't mind if you decide the place for us. It's your treat after all." Li Yundong held up a finger. "One condition though. Just don't pick a place where not even you can afford."

    Zhou Qin laughed again.

    "Oh, don't worry," Zhou Qin said. "There isn't a single place in Tiannan City that I can't afford."

    Li Yundong chuckled, then glanced at Su Chan who had just recovered from her laughing fit. "See that?" He pointed at Zhou Qin without taking his eyes off Su Chan. "Spoken like a true moneybag." Then, he poked Su Chan's side a few times. "Now you can order twenty bowls of rice like last time without having to worry about us going broke."

    "T-twenty?!"

    Li Yundong turned.

    The gobsmacked look on Zhou Qin's face might've just made his day.

    ***

    "Come on, surely you're joking," Zhou Qin said. "Twenty bowls! That's ridiculous."

    Li Yundong chuckled. They had just stepped out of the academic building. "Oh, no, that wasn't a joke," he said. "Twenty bowls."

    "Normal-sized bowls?" Zhou Qin asked, still sounding skeptical.

    "Yep. Normal-sized bowls," Li Yundong said as they moved past the turn which would lead to the garden. "This girl can really eat." He ruffled Su Chan's hair, and promptly got his hand slapped away. Su Chan made a face at him.

    "But how could that— I mean, she has such a nice figure!" Zhou Qin protested.

    "Yeah, trust me. That part confused the hell out of me too—"

    Li Yundong stopped, causing Su Chan and Zhou Qin to stop as well.

    Oh. It's you... Li Yundong's jaw tightened as he glared at Xie Fei, who was leaning against a lampost just outside the academic building with a cigarette held between his lips. Just then, Xie Fei glanced up and saw him too. Li Yundong took a step forward. Looks like today's your unlucky day, pal—

    The f*cker ran.

    Li Yundong growled. "Hey!!! Hold it right there!!!"

    However, a voice sounded from the academic building before Li Yundong could give chase. "Li Yundong??!"

    Li Yundong swiveled around.

    Two girls, identical twins in fact, were staring back at him in awe. They were even dressed in the same style of clothes.

    "I'm sorry, but do I know you?"

    One of the girls, the one with a cute little red ribbon on her hair, laughed. "Aww... You've forgotten about me already?" she said, pointing a finger at her own nose.

    Li Yundong appraised the girls again, searching his memory for their identities. "Sorry, but I really can't recall..." So much for having a photographic memory. Maybe he ran into the girls before all this Cultivation stuff happened to him.

    "Oh, come on! McDonald's? Remember?"

    Li Yundong frowned. "McDona..." He slapped his thigh. "Oh! You're the... the mascot!"

    Ribbon girl chuckled. "Right. Now you remember."

    Li Yundong gave Su Chan a stern look. "Tsk! You see? That's the girl you punched the other day. You nearly ruined her pretty face. How could you sleep at night knowing that?"

    Su Chan was so gullible sometimes that he couldn't help but want to tease her.

    Li Yundong watched in amusement as Su Chan shifted from his side to stand behind his back. The redness dusting her cheeks was a sight for sore eyes. "M- meanie..." she mumbled. "I- I told you already that it wasn't on purpose... She startled me."

    Well, he already knew that. Punching things was Su Chan's default reaction when she got startled, if that TV she had broken in half was anything to go by.

    Suddenly, Su Chan poked her head out from his left shoulder. "I- I'm sorry!!" she yelled at red ribbon girl. "I really didn't mean it!"

    Li Yundong burst out laughing, then pulled Su Chan out from behind his back. "Nah... I was just teasing you," he said, tapping her nose. "Don't worry. I'm sure it's all water under the bridge."


  • Turning to red ribbon girl, he said, "I didn't know you were a student here. I've never seen you on campus before. Are you still working part-time at McDonald's?"

    Red ribbon girl smiled. "Well, can't say I'm surprised that you don't know me," she said. "You're a celebrity around here. You wouldn't have time to spare for normal folks like us. And, to answer your question, yes. I'm still a part-timer at McDonald's. I think I can convince the manager to give you a discount if you come to mac dee next time!"

    Li Yundong laughed. "Thanks, but it's okay," he said. "I don't think that's a good idea. Your manager's probably gonna take it out of your wages or something." Li Yundong turned to the other girl, the one with the blue ribbon. Then, he looked at red ribbon girl again. "If you don't mind me asking, who's older between you two?"

    Red ribbon girl suddenly gave him a strange laugh. Somehow, she reminded him of a mischievous elf, or a pixie. "Why don't you take a guess?"

    Li Yundong studied the twins for a few seconds. Huh. This might be easier to guess than I thought.

    Li Yundong's lips pulled into a confident smile. "You're the younger one," he told red ribbon girl.

    Red ribbon gaped at him. "How did you..." She shared a look with her elder sister, then turned back to Li Yundong. "That's amazing. How did you guess? Even our parents mistook us for each other sometimes."

    Li Yundong waved his hand nonchalantly. "Nah... It's just a matter of observation," he said. "When you asked me to guess, I saw the way your sister was looking at you. It was warm and affectionate, like someone who was used to taking care of another person. So I just took an educated guess. Besides..." Li Yundong raised both palms. "No offense, but the way she carried herself seemed much more mature than yours."

    Red ribbon girl chuckled. "None taken," she said. "Good one, though. Not many would have been able to tell us apart. As expected from my idol!"

    Li Yundong groaned inwardly when red ribbon girl pulled out a pen before taking a notepad from her sister.

    Oh man... not this again...

    "So. Hero of Tiannan University. May I have your autograph please?"

    Well, too late to back away now... Li Yundong chuckled, then took the pen and pad from red ribbon girl. He uncapped the pen, then suddenly looked at red ribbon girl. "Who should I make it out to?" he asked.

    Wow. Months ago, he never would've imagined himself saying something like that. Not even in his wildest dreams.

    "I'm Deng Yu, and my sister is Deng Jiao."

    Li Yundong signed the notepad and returned it to Deng Yu. "Are you both in the same class? Which year are you both in?"

    "Oh, we're first years!" Deng Yu answered, smiling exuberantly. "I'm in the Department of Foreign Languages, and my sis is in the same department as you!"

    Li Yundong nodded. "I see. Well then! I guess I'll see you around in McDonald's or something?"

    "Sure," Deng Yu said. "But I'm not gonna be a part-timer in McDonald's forever. So let's hope we run into each other then! Hehe!"

    The twins gave him a wave each, then headed off. Li Yundong glanced at Su Chan and saw her staring after the twins in awe.

    "Wow... Those are two very fine ding—"

    "Oww!" Su Chan glared at Li Yundong when he pinched her nose.

    Li Yundong gave her a stern look. "Remember what I told you about not saying that kind of stuff in public, hmm?"

    Su Chan smacked his hand away and rubbed her nose. The huge pout on her lips brought a smirk to Li Yundong's lips.

    "Can we go now, President Li? Or do you have more business to attend to?"

    Li Yundong turned and saw Zhou Qin smirking at them.

    "I'm sorry, what? President Li?"

    Zhou Qin gave him a cryptic smile.

    "Well? Aren't you? You seemed busier than a CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company from what I see."

    Li Yundong laughed. "Not by choice, I assure you," he said. "Not by choice."

    Suddenly, he remembered something, and his gaze snapped towards the direction that Xie Fei had run off to earlier. Anger gnawed at him. The f*cking coward had hired a bunch of goons to ambush him, and those goons had attacked Su Chan with knives. His Su Chan. With f*cking knives. Maybe he should move his Qi to his Shenting and activate his telescopic vision. As long as the bastard wasn't more than ten miles away, he could easily see where the bastard had run off to, maybe even find out where he and his goons were holed up. But then he would have to climb to a tall place for that to work. Where he was, there were too many objects obstructing his field of vision. Besides, Xie Fei probably wasn't stupid enough to keep running in a straight line, so it would probably take Li Yundong quite a while to do a full scan within a ten-mile radius. The thought of which caused his stomach to raise its objections by rumbling loudly. It seemed like he'd been wrong about today being Xie Fei's unlucky day.

    Li Yundong snorted and returned his gaze to Su Chan and Zhou Qin. "He won't be so lucky next time," he muttered.

    Zhou Qin was staring at him pointedly, which unnerved him a little.

    "What?" Li Yundong asked.

    Zhou Qin sighed. "Sometimes, a grudge is best left buried."

    You don't know half of what the bastard tried to do to me... to Su Chan...

    Li Yundong shook his head. "Whatever," he said. "Let's not talk about that piece of trash. I'll deal with him when the time comes. Now. Let's get going! I'm starving!"

    Su Chan let out a cheer. "Yep! Yep! I'm starving too! I want a feast! A mountainous feast!"

    Li Yundong snickered. Oh, he knew what "mountainous" entailed, alright; he'd seen it first-hand during Zhou Qin's party.

    "Yeah? You can have a hundred plates for all I care," he said. "Just don't erect Mount Everest on your plate like last time."

    Peals of Zhou Qin's laughter permeated the space between the company of three, punctuated by the sounds of Su Chan smacking Li Yundong's arm.

    ***

    As they approached the campus gates, Li Yundong halted in his steps. His eyes widened in alert and vigilance as he turned around to look at the academic building again. What the hell was that?

    Su Chan was beside him almost instantly. "What's the matter?" she asked.

    Li Yundong stared at the academic building for few more seconds, then looked at Su Chan.

    "I don't know," he said with a frown. "I just feel like someone's watching me."

    Su Chan leaned closer.

    "Xianjue?" she whispered into his ear.

    Li Yundong shook his head and looked towards the academic building again. "No. I released my Qi from my Shenting when I woke up this morning."

    "You're a celebrity in the university now," Zhou Qin said, her tone amused. "Of course there'll be people watching you."

    Li Yundong chuckled and shook his head.

    "Maybe you're right," he said. "Well. Let's get going then."

    Li Yundong gave the academic building one last glance, wondering if he had imagined everything. Then he turned around and walked away, willing the niggling at the back of his mind to disappear.

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  • Chapter 88 Chopsticks

     

    He Shao didn't know how Li Yundong knew he was being watched. He had made sure that he stayed hidden from view behind the corner of the building, but somehow Li Yundong knew. It was like the guy had some kind of animal instinct.

    He Shao stepped out from his hiding place once he was sure Li Yundong was gone. He spat on the ground. "Unbelievable! That f*cker managed to cheat death again! And now he even has a beautiful woman hanging on each arm? F*ck!"

    "He Shao!!!!"

    He Shao turned and saw Xie Fei running towards him.

    He Shao's glare stopped Xie Fei in his tracks. The two men stared at each other for several seconds before He Shao waved Xie Fei over. Xie Fei approached him warily.

    "You dumb f*ck!" SMACK! He Shao slapped Xie Fei in the face. Xie Fei staggered backwards, then looked back at He Shao in fear, his hand holding his left cheek.

    "Don't yell my name like that while we're out in public, you useless piece of shit," He Shao hissed. "What would it look like to others if they see a person of my status hanging around a lowly thug like you, huh? You f*cking idiot! And of all the places we can meet, you had to pick here?" He Shao straightened out his suit jacket, then glared at Xie Fei. "Why did you ask me to meet you here anyway?"

    Xie Fei smiled at He Shao sheepishly, the hand on his cheek dropping to his side. "He Shao... actually... I was thinking if you could lend me some cash..." Xie Fei said. "I mean... I'm kinda in deep shit here. So, can I—"

    "You motherf*cker!" He Shao slapped Xie Fei again. "You knew you're in trouble and yet you want to drag me into your shit? F*ck! You can't even do one thing right! I asked you to deal with that Li Yundong, and now look at this! Look at the shit job that you've done! I even gave you a f*cking gun!" He Shao snorted. "Zhao Yujian. Really? That's your idea of a hitman? Why didn't you hire someone who knows what they're doing?"

    Xie Fei held both of his cheeks, which were now red and swollen. "How was I supposed to know that Zhao Yujian would fail? He really looked like he wanted Li Yundong dead when I spoke to him at the hospital! I really thought he could finish the job!"

    He Shao snorted, though he remained wordless.

    "Come on, He Shao! Just help me... please! I'll call you my boss, o- or become your servant! I'll do anything! Just get me out of this mess, please!"

    He Shao stared down at Xie Fei, his eyes filled with disdain.

    "Come on... please? You know how it is with cases involving guns!" Xie Fei begged. "The cops are all over it like a bunch of bloodhounds! I'm screwed if you don't find a way to help me lay low."

    He Shao's vicious glare made Xie Fei jump back in fear. "You useless piece of shit! You were the one who came to me the other day swearing and cussing like you really wanted Li Yundong dead!" He Shao sneered. "I gave you a f*cking gun, and what did you do with it? You created a mess is what you did! You f*cked everything up! And now you have the guts to show your face before me and ask for my help?"

    Xie Fei dropped to his knees and threw his arms around He Shao's legs. "He Shao... Boss..." Xie Fei wailed. "Please... You’ve gotta help me... If I get caught then you—"

    Xie Fei was once again silenced by He Shao's glare. "So you're saying you're gonna rat on me, is that it! Huh?!" Xie Fei stumbled to the ground after receiving a kick from He Shao. "You're gonna sell me out?!" He Shao delivered another kick to Xie Fei's head. "You gonna give my name to the cops?! Is that it?" He Shao released a roar of laughter. "Here's some bad news for you, you fool. Do you know who my father is? Huh? Do you?"

    Xie Fei whimpered.

    He Shao laughed again, then sneered. "You're a nothing but a lowly piece of trash that I can literally destroy with just a single phone call. You think I'm afraid to let you get caught by the cops? Let me tell you something, you dumb f*ck. I own the cops! Even if you end up in jail, I can have you murdered before anyone approaches you with a deal!"

    Xie Fei clambered to his knees, then slapped his own cheeks hard. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Xie Fei slapped himself again. "I didn't mean that! I swear to God I didn't mean that! I'll never rat you out, boss! Never! I swear to God!"

    He Shao laughed. "Fine by me! Go rot in jail then! That's no concern of mine."

    Xie Fei threw his arms around He Shao's legs again to prevent him from leaving. "Wait! He Shao! Wait! I won't rat you out, I swear! But it might still lead back to you if I'm caught! Like I said, the cops are all over the case! Then you might have to deal with bad PR and all that shit. So isn't it better if you give me some cash and I disappear from the city once and for all? The cops will never find me, I swear!"

    He Shao jerked one of his legs free; Xie Fei stumbled, but quickly recovered and threw his arms around He Shao’s calves. He Shao wrenched and tugged a few more times, but Xie Fei refused to let go.

    "Haven't you heard what I just said, you dumb f*ck! I already told you the cops are inconsequential to me! My father—"

    "Wait! Wait! He Shao! B- but y- you don't want to trouble your father over trivial matters like this, right?" Xie Fei tightened his arms around He Shao's legs. "B- besides, you're a man of status, He Shao. Surely you don't want to be dragged down by my shit?"

    He Shao growled and wrenched one leg free. Then, with his free leg, he delivered a harsh kick that caused Xie Fei to roll on the ground a few times. "You motherf*cker! How stupid do you think I am? If you really didn't want to drag me into your mess, you wouldn't have asked to meet me here in the first place!" He Shao sneered. "I'm done with you. Enjoy yourself in jail, or go kill yourself for all I care."

    Xie Fei was up on his feet in an instant. "N-n- no! P-please! Just some cash! Just a little bit of cash is all I ask! Then I'll get out of your sight forever! You'll never see me again! I swear!"

    "Out of my sight forever, huh?" He Shao's eyes glinted, his countenance twisting into something sinister. "You know I have easier ways to make that happen..."

    Xie Fei's knees gave out, and he fell flat on his butt. "H- H- He Shao! Don't tell me... y- you... wanna k- k- kill me..."

    He Shao raised his brows. "Oh? Looks like you're not completely dumb after all..."

    "N- n- no! Please! Please! I- It's not worth it! It- it wi- will cost you more money to hire a hitman to kill me than to just pay me to disappear! I don't need much! I don't need much! I swear!"

    With narrowed eyes, He Shao stared down at Xie Fei, who was still trembling on the ground. Moments later, He Shao snorted. "So that’s why you asked me to meet in a public place. You knew I wouldn’t try to kill you myself in public, and you knew it would cost me a lot more money to hire a hitman to wipe out your sorry ass. Well played."

    Seconds passed in silence. Xie Fei used those seconds to slowly climb back to his feet.

    He Shao glowered at Xie Fei. "100 thousand, and that's it. Get the hell out of this city. Don't let me see your face again."

    Xie Fei smiled at He Shao obsequiously. "Th- thank you, boss! I'll disappear! I swear! You'll never see me again!"

    He Shao pulled out a checkbook from his jacket and tore out a check. "Here!" He Shao tossed the signed check to Xie Fei. "Now scram!"

    Xie Fei groped around in the air for the check, which was floating in the air after He Shao had tossed it. Xie Fei got the check after several attempts. "Th- thank you boss!"

    He Shao shook his head in disgust. "Go! Get out of my sight!" He Shao waved his hands. "Seeing your face makes my eyes hurt."

    A few women passed by just then, whispering and pointing fingers at He Shao.

    "What are you looking at?" He Shao roared. "Never seen a hot guy before!?"

    The screams of the frightened women intermingled with He Shao's roaring laughter— an amalgamation of fear and mockery.

     

    ***

    Nobody should be able to tuck a napkin into their collar with as much grace as Zhou Qin had done. Nobody. Unless, of course, they had ten doctorates in fine dining etiquette or something, then that might be a different matter.

    Zhou Qin had brought him and Su Chan to an upscale French restaurant called Biarrotte French Restaurant. At the door, the three of them were immediately greeted by an immaculately dressed—suit and bowtie—foreign waiter, who, after noticing their ethnicity, seemed a bit taken aback. Although Li Yundong couldn't for the life of him understand why. Hello? You're running a restaurant in China, who do you expect to walk through the door, anyway? A Martian?

    Maybe the guy was new.

    By the time they got settled at their table, Li Yundong had come to the conclusion that the purpose of this establishment wasn't to feed the public, but to increase the country's bankruptcy rates. That napkin hanging from Zhou Qin's collar, for instance looked like it cost more than his rent. He dreaded the moment he actually looked at the menu. God forbid he ended up with a brain aneurysm.

    "So. What are you guys having?" Zhou Qin asked, looking at him with an arched brow. Li Yundong met Zhou Qin's gaze across the table and tried not to cringe when he caught a glimpse of the prices listed in the menu. Su Chan was... well... being Su Chan: fiddling with the cutleries and plates as though they were national treasures, even though it was pretty clear to everyone what—or who—was the real national treasure.

    "This restaurant has the best French cuisine in town," Zhou Qin said when Li Yundong failed to come up with a response. "This is the go-to place if you want authenticity. It's the real deal."

    Li Yundong acknowledged her remark with a smile and a nod.

    "I've been here before," Zhou Qin went on. "The food's pretty good."

    Li Yundong’s smile faltered a bit, and he shook his head. "I've never been to a fine dining restaurant before. So I don't really know what I'm doing. Or, in this case, reading." Li Yundong paused emphatically, then pushed the menu aside. "I think it would be best if you order for all of us." Li Yundong smirked. "You know, to save us some humiliation."

    Zhou Qin's mouth opened, but the waiter came to take their order before she could speak. She passed the menu to the waiter and then spoke to him in fluent French while Li Yundong entertained himself by studying the look of shock on the foreign waiter's face.

    The waiter recovered quickly and switched back to Mandarin. "The full-course meal, miss?"

    Zhou Qin nodded elegantly. "Yes, please. We would also like a bottle of Royal Takaji Wine, and your freshest Foie gras. Also, for the caviar..." Zhou Qin paused as though she was sifting through her memory for something. "I already tried your Osetra caviar the last time I was here. I guess I'll be having your Beluga caviar today."

    Li Yundong wondered if the waiter had valid health insurance since the poor man's eyes looked like they were seconds away from popping out of their sockets. "T- the B- Beluga caviar, miss?"

    Li Yundong sniggered inwardly. He didn't even want to know how much this elusive Beluga caviar cost.

    Zhou Qin smiled at the waiter elegantly. "Yes, the Beluga caviar." Zhou Qin arched a delicate brow. "Shall I pronounce it in French for you?"

    The waiter recovered and straightened himself. "There's no need for that, miss. The Beluga caviar it is. And I must compliment you on your superb French. Not many non-native French speakers could reach that level of eloquence, and yet you speak like you're one of us! That's very impressive! Not to mention your elegance and your good looks. Truly, it is an honor to serve you today, miss." The waiter bowed slightly.

    Zhou Qin pulled out a 100-yuan bill—because that's what rich people do— and gave it to the waiter. Li Yundong wondered how fast he could settle his bank debts if he dressed up in a suit and bowtie and sweet talk a bunch of rich people.

    "Thank you for your compliment." Zhou Qin lips curved elegantly. "But, as you can see, my friends here are eager to say bon appetit. So I would appreciate it if we are served quickly."

    The waiter bowed and retreated from their table. For the next few seconds, Li Yundong found entertainment in observing the waiter, who was alternating between sneaking glances at Zhou Qin and walking forward. When the waiter bumped into his colleague and got a dirty glare in return, Li Yundong shook his head and looked away.

    "So, the great Miss Zhou speaks French, huh," Li Yundong said with a smile. "I'm impressed."

    Zhou Qin's answering smile was subtle, just wide and brief enough for Li Yundong to detect it. "My dad had plans to send me to Paris. So he pretty much forced me to take lessons in French."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "And here I am, someone who can't even speak English properly." He look at Zhou Qin. "Seriously though. The way you spoke French just now was..." Li Yundong nodded. "Impressive."

    Zhou Qin's intense stare made Li Yundong feel like squirming in his seat. "Being able to speak a foreign language is nothing special." Zhou Qin took a sip of water. "But someone like you..." Zhou Qin's gaze found his again. "A hero. That's rare."

    Li Yundong cleared his throat. "Nah, like I said. It's what any decen—"

    "Yeah, but can just any decent human being catch and support the weight of a grown woman who had fallen off the top of a building? Is there another man out there who is honorable enough to draw gunfire to himself so that his classmates, the same ones who had mocked him countless times, could escape unharmed? You're a good man, Li Yundong. And you're special."

    Heat rose to Li Yundong's cheeks. Special. Right. The only thing special about him was probably his dumb luck. His meeting with Su Chan. Taking that drug whether by intent or accident. He didn't obtain those things by his own efforts. They were flukes, nothing more. He wasn't born special. He was just some fat dude who got lucky.

    Li Yundong shoved his self-deprecating thoughts to the back of his mind and tried to make things light. "You know that's not gonna work right?"

    Zhou Qin raised a quizzical brow. "What do you mean?"

    "Buttering me up," he said, winking at Zhou Qin. "I'm not gonna hold back my appetite on your account today. Nope. I’m not going to show you any mercy."

    Yeah right. As though he had control over how much he could eat since he wasn't even the one who ordered their food. Still, Zhou Qin burst into laughter. Maybe she was just taking pity on him.

    The waiter returned a while later with a serving cart.

    The waiter uncorked the exquisite wine and began pouring into their flutes. Li Yundong watched the waiter work until he felt a tug on his arm.

    "Yundong... I have a question..." Su Chan was looking at him with a curious gleam in her eyes, which sounded a million alarm bells in his mind.

    Li Yundong shot her a warning glare. "What question? If it's a rude question, then you better keep it to yourself."

    Su Chan pouted adorably. "You're such a meanie! Who's being rude? I've been a good girl lately, haven't I?"

    Li Yundong studied Su Chan for a moment, then chuckled.

    "Yes. Yes you have. " Li Yundong nodded. "Fine then. Fire away."

    The waiter had already put the wine bottle away and begun dishing out the appetizer, the first course in their thirteen-course meal. Zhou Qin was watching them while sipping wine from her flute.

    Su Chan held up luncheon knife in one hand, and then a steak knife in another.

    Then, she gave Li Yundong a look of utter puzzlement. "Yundong... Why do they have knives on the table? Do they perform autopsies here?"

    Li Yundong raised his napkin just in time to avoid being drenched by the wine that Zhou Qin had just spat out.

    There was a loud clink.

    When Li Yundong lowered his napkin, Zhou Qin was already on her feet, frantically wiping her skirt with her own napkin. Beside Zhou Qin's plate lay an overturned flute whose contents were now on Zhou Qin's skirt. The waiter quickly righted Zhou Qin’s flute and begun refilling it, though his eyes were on Su Chan the whole time.

    Li Yundong tore his gaze away from Zhou Qin and glared at Su Chan. Su Chan flinched, then hunched her shoulders slightly.

    Before Li Yundong could come up with a suitable reprimand, there was a loud gasp followed by a high-pitched shriek. Li Yundong turned away from Su Chan and nearly jumped back in shock when he saw what the waiter was doing to Zhou Qin's dress.

    "Hey! Are you trying to rinse my dress with wine? Good God…"

    The waiter gasped and immediately righted the wine bottle in his hand. It was too late; the front of Zhou Qin's dress was already drenched with wine. Li Yundong wondered how the guy had even landed this job with such shitty hand-eye coordination. Apparently, the guy had missed the mouth of Zhou Qin’s flute by inches in his attempt to refill it. Like, seriously, what the hell happened?

    Which, of course, would be a silly question to ask, since the answer was pretty obvious.

    Su Chan happened.

    "Oh, gosh! I'm so sorry, miss! I'm so sorry!"

    The waiter scrambled around for a napkin. Zhou Qin took a deep breath and then waved off his attempts to clean up the mess. "Never mind. Just leave it," Zhou Qin said, her voice surprisingly calm. "I'll clean it up myself."

    Li Yundong did a facepalm and groaned inwardly.

    The waiter apologized profusely and left their table after Zhou Qin’s polite dismissal. Eventually, having realized the futility in cleaning her skirt with the napkin, Zhou Qin excused herself to the ladies' room.

    Li Yundong raised his face from his hands and sighed. "Su Chan... For once in your life would you please just think before you speak?"

    "I... I was just curious... Aren't knives used for killing and cutting up dead people?" Su Chan mumbled weakly. "Who uses killing tools to eat? Isn't that a bit barbar—"

    "Enough!" Li Yundong hissed.

    Su Chan flinched and clammed up instantly.

    Li Yundong glanced around their table. Sure enough, the occupants of other tables were casting disapproving glances towards their table, no doubt having heard Su Chan's thoughtless remark.

    Why? Why me?

    Li Yundong closed his eyes, then took a deep, calming breath. Seconds later, once he was sure he wouldn't start screaming profanities, Li Yundong opened his eyes and looked at Su Chan seriously.

    "Su Chan..."

    "Hmm?"

    "Let me ask you a question."

    Su Chan fiddled with her napkin for a moment. "O... okay..."

    "Suppose that I screwed up yesterday and let Zhao Yujian get the drop on me," Li Yundong said.

    "But that's impossible—"

    "Shush..." Li Yundong held up a finger. "Let me finish."

    "Oh..."

    "So Zhao Yujian was holding a gun to my head. And obviously, if he shoots, I'll die for sure. Suppose that you were there, but you didn't have any weapons with you. No knives, no needles, no swords, nothing. And you only have one second to save my life. Given those circumstances, what would you do?"

    Su Chan bared her teeth. "I'll move in with lightning speed and then punch him in the face."

    Li Yundong raised his brow. "Will that hurt him? Remember that if you fail to hurt him, he's gonna shoot, and I'd be dead."

    "Of course it's gonna hurt him! I'll have you know that my punches are powerful enough to kill."

    Li Yundong nodded. "Okay. I believe you. Now. A second scenario. Suppose I put an apple right here" —Li Yundong tapped his finger on the linen-covered table — "on the table, then ask you to eat it. What would you do?"

    Su Chan looked completely affronted, perhaps even more so than the time he told her that silly bird joke at McDonalds. "What kind of question is that? I'll pick it up and take a bite of course!"

    Li Yundong raised his finger. "So you would pick up the apple with your hand and then take a bite? Is that what you would do?"

    "Of course!"

    "But earlier, you told me that your hands are capable of murder," Li Yundong said with a raised brow. "And now you just told me that you'd use your hands to eat. Does that make you barbaric?"

    Su Chan suddenly glanced down at the table top. "N- no?"

    "Look at me, Su Chan."

    Su Chan raised her gaze timidly.

    "So why is using a knife to eat any different?"

    "I- I don't know..."

    "Listen. A tool is just a tool. It's how you use the tool that counts. In the hands of a barbarian, even a pair of chopsticks can be used to take a life. Do you understand?"

    "Yes... I'm sorry, Yundong."

    "People from different cultures do things differently. But just because it's different doesn't mean that it's wrong or less respectable." Li Yundong reached out and took Su Chan's hand in his. "Remember the outfit I wore to Zhou Qin's party the other night?"

    Su Chan nodded.

    Li Yundong smiled, then begun tracing circles on the back of Su Chan's palm. "Do you think I looked good that night?"

    A small smile tugged at Su Chan's lips. She bobbed her head up and down.

    "So you liked that outfit, then. But here's the thing. That outfit is from another culture. The western culture, and it's called a suit."

    Su Chan's expression took on a guilty look.

    "So I wore the suit that night. But was it a wrong thing to do?"

    When Su Chan didn't react, Li Yundong gave her hand a little nudge.

    Su Chan shook her head.

    "Okay. Again, I wore the suit. But does that make me less respectable? Or look less good?"

    Su Chan shook her head, slower this time.

    "See? The same principle applies for using knives and chopsticks to eat our meals. There's no right or wrong here. It's just a different way of doing things."

    "Mm... I'm sorry..."

    "Remember that night when we were chased out of our old home?" Li Yundong smirked. "Well, I'm sure you won't forget, since you were crying like a baby in front of everyone. Then you started yelling all this stuff about me becoming a hero or something."

    Su Chan blushed and tried to pull her hand away from his grasp, but he tightened his grip.

    "And then after you were done crying like a baby, you told me I'd always been nice to you..."

    Su Chan nodded.

    "Remember what I told you right after that?"

    "You said... You said that everyone should be nice to each other. That the world is going to become a better place if everyone's nice..."

    "Yup. I did. And I truly believe that." Li Yundong sighed. "Well, you see, one way of being nice is by respecting each other regardless of skin color, culture, or any other stuff that makes people different."

    "Oh..."

    "If a foreigner suddenly comes up to you and starts talking trash and mocking our Chinese culture, how would you feel?"

    "A- angry..."

    Li Yundong smiled. "Exactly. You'll feel angry. Then do you think it's fair for others to mock our culture?"

    "No..."

    "Right. So the same principle applies to us as well. We don't go around mocking other people's cultures. We try to respect them."

    "I understand, Yundong. I'll watch my words next time."

    Li Yundong ruffled Su Chan's hair. "Good."

    When he released Su Chan's hand and looked up, he saw Zhou Qin sitting in a chair at an unoccupied table, smirking at him. Zhou Qin stood up and strode towards them. There were still noticeable wine stains on the skirt of her dress, but at least it looked somewhat dry.

    "Nice lesson there, Confucius," Zhou Qin said as she took her seat.

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Stop joking around." Then, he studied Zhou Qin for a moment. "You okay?"

    "I'm good. It was an unfortunate accident." Zhou Qin paused with a quirk of an eyebrow. "Though I believe the waitstaff here needs a serious lesson in professionalism."

    Li Yundong chuckled and shook his head. He glanced at Su Chan, who was staring down at her lap.

    "Hey, princess."

    Su Chan lifted her gaze. "Hmm?"

    "Don't worry about it, okay? Just enjoy the meal. Are you up for a feast?" Li Yundong wiggled his eyebrows.

    Su Chan giggled, then bobbed her head twice. Food always worked on Su Chan. Always.

    Zhou Qin raised her hand to summon the waitstaff. When a waiter (a new one, not the wine-spilling one) came, she said, "Please give us three pairs of chopsticks."

    Li Yundong nearly fell off his chair when he heard the request. He gaped at Zhou Qin, who just smiled back at him.

    The waiter was now staring at Zhou Qin like she was nuts.

    "Um... Zhou Qin... Is that even appropriate? I don't think they have chopsticks at French restaurants..."

    When Zhou Qin winked at Li Yundong, he suddenly saw the twinkle of mischief in her eyes.

    "Well, you see... it's just that I suddenly have a craving for Fusion cuisine..." Zhou Qin quirked her brow. "What can I say? Having wine spilled all over her dress does that to a girl."

    Li Yundong burst into laughter. So Zhou Qin did have a playful side after all. This was gold. He gave Zhou Qin a thumbs up, then stared at the waiter's gobsmacked expression. "Well? You heard the lady. Three pairs of chopsticks! What are you waiting for? Chop! Chop!"

    Merry Chrismas!

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  • Chapter 89 Feast?

     

    "B- but sir... This is a fine-dining restaurant..."

    The waiter looked so much like a kicked puppy that Li Yundong almost took pity on the guy. Almost. He shared a glance with Zhou Qin. The teasing glint in Zhou Qin's eyes brightened just a tad. Li Yundong suppressed a laugh. Who knew Zhou Qin had such a playful side hidden beneath that Ice Queen exterior? Pulling a prank at a fine-dining restaurant? Boy. This was going to make his day.

    Zhou Qin schooled her features and turned to the waiter who was practically squirming at that point. Everyone in the restaurant was now watching their table, but Zhou Qin didn't seem to care. Zhou Qin regarded the waiter for a moment, her eyes regal and unyielding. "Do I need to repeat myself?" Zhou Qin arched an eyebrow. "Three pairs of chopsticks. I know you have them."

    Poor dude might need to file a claim for his health insurance after all if that grimace on his face was anything to go by. The guy might even need plastic surgery to undo the severe contortions that he had done to his own face.

    "My God… You're full of surprises, Zhou Qin..." Li Yundong said after the waiter left.

    Zhou Qin’s only response was a smirk.

    Minutes later, the waiter returned with, guess what, three pairs of chopsticks.

    "Fine dining with chopsticks," Li Yundong said, lifting his wine glass. "All the food connoisseurs out there are going to have a field day."

    Zhou Qin smirked and lifted her own glass. "To a new era of Fusion cuisine."

    Li Yundong chuckled and clinked his glass against Zhou Qin's.

    Yeah. This was going to be an interesting meal.

    ***

    The meal went on without any further mishaps, thank heavens. While he ate, Li Yundong found himself constantly scanning every corner of the restaurant for potential threats. He had no clue where this newfound need for heightened vigilance and situational awareness came from, but he figured it was better to be safe than sorry. He supposed being forced to dodge bullets could do that to a guy. Not that there were actual threats in the restaurant. He did notice quite a few stares directed at their table, but none of them seemed malicious. A few condescending looks were tossed his way, no doubt because of the chopsticks, but that was it as far as malicious went. The rest of the stares were aimed at Su Chan and Zhou Qin, which, truth be told, held more admiration than malice. Funny how these clever folks had completely missed the fact that the two ladies were using chopsticks too.

    Su Chan seemed awfully subdued after that moral lesson he had given her earlier. It wasn't his intention to make her feel bad or anything, but he had to at least try to rein in her tendency to say the wrong things during social situations. It did, however, made him wonder just what kind of things her master had been teaching her all these years? Was Cultivation the only thing she'd been taught back in the mountains? And why wouldn't she tell him who she was and where she came from? It wasn't like he was asking her to tell him about the drug or anything. If she didn’t want to tell him about the drug, then fine, he could live with that. For now.

    He just wanted to know at least something about her past. Maybe her parents? Her village, hometown, or wherever it was that she stayed at back in the mountains. Was she ashamed of who she was? Was that why she refused to tell him about herself? Did she lead a deplorable past?

    Li Yundong stole a glance at Su Chan. Well, as far as he could tell, Su Chan had a good heart. She could've killed those goons who'd ambushed them the other night, but she didn't. She also seemed pretty concerned about Ding Nan and Zhou Qin's well-being yesterday. Hell, if she could see value and worth in the fat loser that was his past self, then she couldn't have been a bad person. Could a terrible person see past someone's hideous appearance to reach the goodness underneath?

    Li Yundong shook his head slightly. No. He didn't think so.

    Su Chan wasn't a bad person. She made a lot of mistakes and faux pas because she didn't know enough about the world outside of the mountains, not because she was inherently bad.

    Come to think of it...

    How did she get here? How did she end up in Tiannan City?

    Even now, she was still so clueless about the world, so it was obvious that she hadn’t spent a lot of time outside the mountains before they met.

    Did she only get here the day she met him?

    The waiter's serving cart stopped beside their table. The waiter removed a plate of something from the cart, then placed it at the center of their table. The dish looked like a large piece of ham with brown sauce drizzled all over it. Although Li Yundong would bet his entire bank account (and overdraft) that it wasn't ham he was staring at.

    Zhou Qin grabbed her chopsticks, then picked up a slice of the meat. Much to his surprise, she placed the slice on his plate instead of her own.

    "Try it," Zhou Qin said, smiling at him. This is called foie gras, one of French cuisine's signature dishes."

    Li Yundong nodded and picked up his chopsticks. He didn't even try to pronounce the name of the dish lest he embarrass himself.

    One mishap was more than enough, thank you very much.

    Li Yundong picked up the slice and bit into half of it. The meat tasted surprisingly like beef, though, again, Li Yundong doubted that it was actually beef. If it were beef, they would've called it steak or something instead of some gobbledygook. The meat’s texture was soft and buttery. Smooth, too, as though the meat was melting the moment it touched his mouth.

    "It's actually goose liver," Zhou Qin explained, sipping her wine. Li Yundong glanced up, then gave Zhou Qin a nod.

    Li Yundong brought his chopsticks to Su Chan's lips. "Wanna try?"

    Su Chan didn't even hesitate. She bit off the remaining half of the slice and chewed. Her face lit up instantly. "Not bad..." she said. "But I still prefer Yundong's cooking."

    Zhou Qin lowered her flute. "You cook?"

    Li Yundong smiled. "Yeah." He shrugged. "Nothing too fancy though. Just a couple of Chinese dishes and that's it. I'm totally clueless when it comes to French cuisine. But I guess that's pretty obvious by now."

    Zhou Qin seemed impressed. "Wow... I mean, I know a lot of things, but cooking is..." Zhou Qin chuckled. "It's not something I'd put on my resume any time soon."

    Li Yundong was pretty sure that she didn't need a resume. Her name should do the trick just fine.

    Li Yundong bit into a piece of shellfish. "That might not be such a bad thing, you know," he said after swallowing. "All that smoke would take a toll on your skin if you ladies spend too much time inside the kitchen. And also..."

    Li Yundong shot Su Chan a pointed look.

    Su Chan had the decency to blush, no doubt remembering the time where their entire kitchen got blown to kingdom come when Su Chan tried to "cook."

    "What? What is it?"

    Li Yundong turned away from Su Chan and saw Zhou Qin studying him curiously. Li Yundong chuckled and leaned against his chair. "Well, let's just say that my kitchen had seen better days before"—Li Yundong jabbed a finger at a blushing Su Chan—"this one stepped into it."

    Su Chan giggled.

    Then, she stuck out her tongue at him and went back to her food.

    "Sounds like there's a story there," Zhou Qin remarked.

    Li Yundong smirked. "Oh, you have no idea..." he said, then went back to his meal.

    Zhou Qin took the hint and didn't ask again.

    The meal went on quietly for a while until they were interrupted by the waiter's approach. The waiter stopped beside Zhou Qin and spoke to her in a subdued tone. "I'm sorry, miss, but a customer has already pre-ordered the last of our Beluga caviar today."

    "Please let me speak to your manager," Zhou Qin said.

    "Zhou Qin... Is that really necessary?" Li Yundong asked when the waiter left to get the manager.

    Zhou Qin smiled at him. "Yes, it is."

    "You know we can just switch to another dish, right? I'm sure the other dishes taste just as good."

    "But they won't be the best," Zhou Qin stated firmly. "You saved my life yesterday. It's only right that I repay you with the best."

    So this was how the rich and wealthy do things, putting a price tag on literally everything. Somehow, he wasn't even surprised.

    What did surprise him though, was the fact that the manager was local.

    The manager stopped beside their table, then bowed at Zhou Qin.

    "How may I serve you, miss?"

    Li Yundong lowered his chopsticks and watched the exchange.

    "According to your staff, the last of your Beluga caviar has been pre-ordered."

    The manager smiled. "Yes indeed, miss. I'm terribly sorry about that. Beluga roe is highly rare, and we only have a limited supply of it every month. Most of our regular customers know this, so they pre-ordered it. Would you like to switch your order to some of our other dishes, miss?"

    Instead of answering, Zhou Qin regarded the manager steadily.

    The poor guy was sweating bullets at this point.

    Li Yundong decided that it was time for him to step in.

    "Zhou Qin, it's really no big deal. We can just—"

    "Cancel the previous order." Zhou Qin took out a gold card from her purse and handed it to the manager.

    The manager blanched the moment he saw the gold card.

    "Very well, miss. I'll make the necessary arrangements," said the manager, taking the gold card with both hands, and with reverence.

    "Also, please purchase a knee-length dress from the mall beside the restaurant," Zhou Qin said. "Your staff spilled wine onto my clothes earlier."

    The manager apologized to Zhou Qin profusely before leaving their table.

    If Li Yundong did a facepalm right now, he would probably break his neck or punch a hole through his face. He honestly didn't know what to make of that power play. It was lost on him how the rich operate.

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Is that what you rich folks do all the time? Flash a card, and people will scramble around to do your bidding?"

    Hell. I think I might need a break from all this... Li Yundong glanced around for the bathroom.

    "The rich. The poor. We all have our own set of problems..."

    The loneliness he detected from Zhou Qin's voice made him do a double-take.

    "I, for one, envy you two." Zhou Qin studied him and Su Chan with her gaze. "I hope you'll both stay with each other forever."

    Su Chan chose that moment to insert herself into the conversation. "You bet! We're meant to be together, Yundong and I!"

    Li Yundong felt a tug in his arm. When he looked to the side, Su Chan was clinging on to him.

    Li Yundong smiled and pinched Su Chan's face. "Hey, hey... Let me go."

    Su Chan pulled back suddenly and gave him a hurt look. "Are you tired of me already?"

    Li Yundong laughed. "No, silly. I'm just gonna head to the men's room for a bit." He raised a brow. "Don't tell me you wanna tag along too?"

    "Eww..." Su Chan made a face at him. "Go on then. Shoo. Shoo."

    Li Yundong shook his head in amusement. Then, he turned to Zhou Qin and gave her a nod. "Excuse me. I won’t be long."

    Li Yundong stood up and left their table.

    He wondered what he would see in the men's room. Gold-plated urinals?

    ***

    The alarm bells sounded in Li Yundong's mind when he returned to their table a while later. Su Chan and Zhou Qin were both staring blankly at each other, not to mention the strange air surrounding them. Oh shit... Don't tell me they got into a fight while I was away...

    Li Yundong sat down warily and eyed the two women for a moment. Then, he snapped his fingers a few times. "Hey. Hey. What's the matter with you two?"

    Zhou Qin sighed and shook her head slightly. "Oh... It's nothing. I just..." Zhou Qin sipped her wine. "I just realized that sometimes… Sometimes the things that you've missed out on tend to be the most precious ones."

    What the heck was that supposed to mean?

    He turned and shot Su Chan a glare. "Hey. Did you say something silly again, hmm?"

    Su Chan looked utterly affronted. "You're so mean!" She smacked Li Yundong's arm. "Do I look like someone who says silly things?"

    Seriously? Was she f*cking kidding him right now?

    Li Yundong nodded. "Yes. Yes you do."

    The huge pout on Su Chan's lips made him want to reach out and pinch it. Or kiss it.

    Su Chan smacked his arm again. "Meanie!"

    "Don't be too hard on her," Zhou Qin said. "She just told me some of the experiences you shared together. You're..." Zhou Qin trailed off.

    Li Yundong regarded Zhou Qin steadily and noted the faraway look in her eyes. Seconds later, Zhou Qin shook her head and cleared her throat. Then, she held Li Yundong's gaze. "I mean, you treat her really well."

    Li Yundong smiled at Zhou Qin, then turned to Su Chan.

    Realizing that it was a losing battle, Li Yundong reached out and pinched Su Chan's pouted lips, which earned him another smack on the hand. He made a few more attempts to tickle Su Chan, which ended up with Su Chan twisting around in her seat and giggling like a schoolgirl. Li Yundong released a wistful sigh and looked at Zhou Qin again.

    "How could I not?"

    For a brief moment, their table was silent except for the tapping of Su Chan's chopsticks against her plate.

    Glad to see that at least one of them was in a mood to feast.

    Zhou Qin was still staring at him, no doubt waiting for him to elaborate.

    Li Yundong gave Zhou Qin a meaningful look.

    "Before I was like this," he said, gesturing at his face. "Everyone only saw me as a fat loser."

    Zhou Qin opened her mouth to protest, but Li Yundong silenced her with a raise of his finger.

    "Don't bother denying it." Li Yundong smirked. "I'm not stupid. I know what everyone has been saying behind my back. And fat is definitely one of the kindest compared to all the other stuff they said about me." Li Yundong glanced at Su Chan. "She was the only person who thought of me as someone worth a damn. The only person." Li Yundong turned back to Zhou Qin. "So yeah. I'll be damned if I don't treat her like a princess."

    "Boo! You’re all talk and no action. You’re always so mean to me!" Su Chan grumbled.

    "Tsk! Stop talking back to me."

    Li Yundong and Su Chan teased each other for a while until he noticed the tension in Zhou Qin body language. She looked a little pale too.

    "Hey, Zhou Qin. Are you alright?"

    Before Zhou Qin could answer, a waiter came over and handed Zhou Qin a new dress. Zhou Qin took the dress and smiled at Li Yundong. Her smile seemed forced.

    "Excuse me," she said, standing up from her chair. "I'm gonna go get changed."

    Li Yundong glanced at Zhou Qin's ruined skirt, then nodded. "Sure. But you better make it quick. Or else that glutton over there"—Li Yundong pointed at Su Chan—"will gobble up all the food and leave nothing for you."

    Then, Li Yundong winked at Su Chan. "Twenty bowls of rice, remember?"

    Su Chan smacked and clawed at Li Yundong's arms repeatedly. "I hate you! I hate you! Why do you always make fun of me!"

    Li Yundong chuckled. By the time he raised his head, Zhou Qin was already gone.

    A while later, Li Yundong and Su Chan were staring at the twelve dishes that the waiter had just brought to their table. Zhou Qin was still nowhere to be seen.

    "Um… Yundong..." Su Chan whispered beside him. "These look kinda expensive."

    Li Yundong stared at Su Chan in mild disbelief. Yeah? You only realize this now? That should've been obvious from the moment they walked into this place.

    "How much do you think all this cost?" Su Chan whispered again.

    He honestly wasn't even sure he wanted to know.

    Li Yundong cleared his throat, then studied the dishes on the table for a while. "Several thousand at least?"

    He heard a snort coming from the table beside theirs. He turned and saw a waiter rolling his eyes at him.

    Li Yundong's cheek heated up.

    Su Chan tugged his sleeve. "Um... Yundong... What if..."

    Li Yundong turned and saw Su Chan glancing around the restaurant as though she was looking for someone.

    "What?" Li Yundong nudged her.

    Su Chan leaned towards him and said, "What if Zhou Qin decided to leave us here?"

    Li Yundong jumped slightly as though someone had shoved a porcupine up his ass. He glanced at the washroom. Still no signs of Zhou Qin.

    Li Yundong forced a smile. "Nah... She wouldn't just leave us..." He hoped his voice at least sounded a little bit reassuring.

    Su Chan shot him a worried look. Okay. Maybe not.

    "But what if she did?" Su Chan asked. "What if we couldn't afford anything here?"

    Li Yundong smacked Su Chan's forehead. "Then I'll leave you here to wash dishes!"

    Su Chan looked at him like a hurt puppy. "H- ho- how could you?"

    Li Yundong chuckled and ruffled her hair. "No, silly. I wouldn't do that. Zhou Qin wouldn't do that either..."

    She damn well better not. I saved her life yesterday, for f*ck's sake. She wouldn't do that to me, right?

    "I'm worried Yundong... I don't want you to get into trouble again..."

    "Nah... Don't worry about—"

    "Yo, yo, yo! Look who we have here?"

    Li Yundong turned around at the familiar voice.

    Great... Just when I thought this day couldn't get any worse...

    Staring back at them was a good-looking man who had tried to "buy" his seat the other day — the noveau riche, Liu Chuan.

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  • edited December 2019

    Chapter 90 A Rich Fool

     

    Before Li Yundong could say anything, Liu Chuan was right beside their table along with his entourage, which consisted of a bunch of good-looking men and women.

    "Well, well, well... What a coincidence!"

    Li Yundong decided that he didn't like the look on Liu Chuan's face.

    "Ooh... I see you've ordered the full-course meal, eh? Whoa! Tsk, tsk! What's this?" Liu Chuan turned around to give his entourage a look. "Using chopsticks at a fine dining restaurant!" Liu Chuan guffawed. "Man... This is creativity on a whole new level!"

    Several giggles sounded.

    When Li Yundong lifted his gaze and appraised Liu Chuan's entourage, the giggles stopped immediately. Li Yundong smirked. Call him vain, but he was glad he had that kind of effect on people these days; he could end a fight or a confrontation before it even began.

    Li Yundong returned his gaze to Liu Chuan, who was now entertaining one of his groupies with an attempt to pick up a shellfish with Zhou Qin's chopsticks. Looks like this guy hasn't learned his lesson last time.

    Li Yundong regarded Liu Chuan for a moment.

    I bet this is about revenge...

    Liu Chuan got humiliated the other day when Li Yundong had him pinned up against the wall with one hand. Li Yundong didn't remember much—he was in a Zouhuo Rumo state—about that incident, but he knew that Liu Chuan became the university's laughing stock after that day. Apparently, Li Yundong's violent behavior had caused Liu Chuan to forget all about his potty training. Some said that Liu Chuan had peed himself while others mentioned that he had shitted himself. Li Yundong personally thought that it was both.

    Li Yundong did a quick scan across the restaurant. No signs of Zhou Qin yet.

    Too bad.

    Li Yundong had a feeling that this would be over very quickly if Zhou Qin were present.

    Li Yundong smirked. He wondered what would happen if he announced to the entire restaurant about Liu Chuan little "accident." He was honestly surprised that his entourage hadn't heard about it already. Then again, maybe they did, just that Liu Chuan's big, fat, checkbook was too hard to say no to.

    Liu Chuan planted himself in Zhou Qin's chair. From the corner of his eyes, Li Yundong noticed Su Chan's scowl. Li Yundong patted Su Chan's knee under the table, then gave her a subtle head shake. No need to cause any trouble here. This should be handled with tact.

    Liu Chuan appeared to be studying the dishes on their table. "Not bad, not bad... You even knew what to order. I didn't know you have it in you... Hmm... the full thirteen courses... Oh, wait, wait, wait. Something isn't right... One course is missing!" Liu Chuan's face morphed into a smug look. He turned to the side and waved at someone in his entourage. "Hey, babe. Come here for sec."

    A beautiful woman who wore heavy make-up strode over. "Um... Liu Chuan... Who are they? Are they your friends?"

    "Oh, he's my classmate," Liu Chuan said offhandedly, pulling the woman into his lap.

    "Babe..." Liu Chuan gestured at the table. "There's a course missing on this table. Can you guess which one? I'll give you a big reward if you guess it right!"

    The rest of Liu Chuan's friends, which consisted of two men and two women, came over as well.

    Li Yundong chuckled and put down his chopsticks. Oh... Now I see where this is going... He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He believed he had just figured out the identity of the customer whose pre-order Zhou Qin had just canceled earlier. A small smile tugged at Li Yundong's lips as he watched Liu Chuan running the show. Or at least the guy thought he was running the show. This pathetic, attention-seeking drama queen had no idea that he was in for a huge surprise, and Li Yundong certainly had no plans on telling him. Why ruin all the fun?

    Beside their table, the two men and two women who came into the restaurant with Liu Chuan whispered among themselves. Li Yundong heard a few French terms being tossed around as they tried to guess the name of the missing dish. Despite the promise of a reward, the woman in Liu Chuan's lap wasn't as enthusiastic about the guessing game as were her other companions. Instead, the woman kept sneaking glances at Su Chan. Li Yundong had to hold back his smirk every time he detected the look of insecurity on the woman's face.

    "So, babe? Can you guess what the missing dish is?"

    The woman tore her gaze away from Su Chan. "Aww... I really can't guess, baby... This is my first time trying out French cuisine! You know that! Why don't you...um…" The woman traced circles near the collar of Liu Chuan's shirt. "Why don't you teach me?" Her voice was so sickeningly sweet that it nearly made Li Yundong throw up.

    Liu Chuan's face was practically dripping smugness at this point. He waved his hand across the table.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, the missing dish is... wait for it..."

    Li Yundong suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. F*cking drama queen. Should I do a drum roll for you too?

    "The Beluga caviar!" Liu Chuan announced proudly. "It's one of French Cuisine’s finest dishes. And also one of the most luxurious!"

    Silence spread across the table. Li Yundong smiled when he saw the look of recognition flitting across Su Chan's face. About time she figured it out...

    Liu Chuan hooked his finger under Miss Groupie's chin. "I brought you guys here today because I managed to pre-order this restaurant's Beluga caviar. This restaurant serves the freshest and the best Beluga caviar in the city. They only have a limited supply though. And the waiting list was so long that I actually had to wait for half a year!"

    Li Yundong detected movement beside him. He turned and saw Su Chan shift to the edge of her chair before leaning towards him.

    "Yundong..." she whispered. "Just now Zhou Qin canceled someone's order, right? Don't tell me it's—"

    Li Yundong grabbed Su Chan's knee under the table, then shook his head at her.

    Su Chan took the hint and stopped talking.

    Li Yundong brought his lips to her ear, trying hard not to laugh. "Let's just sit back and watch how this plays out, okay? No need to ruin their fun."

    "Aww... I knew it! I knew you're the best, Brother Liu!" Miss Groupie said fawningly. "I've heard about it from my friends. They used to complain about how hard it was to order this restaurant's famous Beluga caviar. They tried a lot of times, but none of them even made it to the waiting list! Is there anything you can't do, Brother Liu?"

    Li Yundong sniggered inwardly. I bet I could list down a few. Maintaining bladder and bowel control, for instance.

    "But wait, Brother Liu," Miss Groupie went on. "Why is there a grading system for caviars?"

    Piqued, Li Yundong sat up straighter and leaned forward a little. Good question. He was kind of curious about that too. Suddenly, the conversation stilled. Li Yundong studied Liu Chuan's face, waiting for him to answer. However, instead of looking smug, Liu Chuan looked downright uncomfortable.

    Holy shit... the guy doesn't know!

    A laugh escaped Li Yundong's lips, which he quickly masked as a cough. Li Yundong reached for his flute and took a small sip of wine.

    "Brother Liu... Why don't we order the same dishes?" Miss Groupie said, no doubt giving Liu Chuan an out. Li Yundong set down his flute and pressed his lips together to smother his smile.

    What a fool. Rich, yes. But still a fool. A f*cking imbecile.

    "Do you know how much this full-course meal costs?" Liu Chuan said.

    No. Li Yundong didn't miss the smug look Liu Chuan had thrown his way before he asked that question.

    The fool just had to dig himself deeper into this. This was going to be fun to watch.

    "Well... I don't know, Brother Liu..." Miss Groupie said shyly. There was a brief pause, then she added, "Don't tell me you can't afford it, Brother Liu!"

    Liu Chuan snorted. "Some people might not be able to afford it. Not me."

    Then, Liu Chuan pointed at the ham-like dish. "This foie gras alone costs several thousand yuan. All of these dishes cost around 24 thousand yuan! And much higher if we add in the Beluga caviar!"

    Li Yundong cringed inwardly.

    He felt a tug on his sleeve. Su Chan was looking at him worriedly.

    "This is too expensive..." she whispered. "We can't afford it..."

    Their table shook a little as Liu Chuan's guffawed.

    Guess there was no point in reminding Su Chan to keep her voice down now.

    "Oh my, my... You guys might have just made my day! Good God! This is probably the joke of the century!" Liu Chuan stopped laughing and pointed at Li Yundong. "You should know your place, buddy. Don't come to a place like this if you're flat out broke! What are you guys planning, eh? An eat-and-run?"

    Giggles and chortles ensued.

    Li Yundong smirked, but made no comments. He glanced to his side when he heard Su Chan's low growl. His princess honestly looked like she was about to do a number on Liu Chuan's nutsack. Li Yundong gripped Su Chan's hand under the table to prevent her from doing anything stupid.

    Su Chan glared back at him, her eyes flashing with anger.

    Li Yundong brought his lips closer to her ear. "Don't worry," he whispered. "I know what he's gonna do."

    Su Chan gave him a questioning look.

    "Just let him talk," Li Yundong whispered. "Like I said, I know what's he's gonna do. And we'll be the ones having the last laugh. I promise." He gave Su Chan's hand a brief squeeze before letting go.

    Liu Chuan slapped his thighs a few times as the last of his laughter subsided.

    "Damn, what a joke. A penniless dude coming into a restaurant like this," Liu Chuan said, swiping a stray tear from the corner of his eye. "You wouldn't be able to settle the debt even if you offer to wash dishes in this restaurant for years!"

    Su Chan looked at Li Yundong again, her eyes flashing dangerously.

    Li Yundong gave her a reassuring smile. "Just trust me," he mouthed the words to her.

    Just then, Liu Chuan raised his hand in the air and summoned the waiter.

    "Put the tab for this table on me," Liu Chuan told the waiter.

    The waiter seemed surprised at the request. "Everything, sir?"

    "Yes! Everything!" Liu Chuan said. "This is nothing after all."

    The waiter studied Liu Chuan for a moment before leaving the table with a strange smile. Li Yundong flicked a glance at Su Chan, who now had a look of realization on her face. Li Yundong raised his brows and gave her a small shrug. See? I told you so.

    "Consider yourself lucky that you ran into me today," Liu Chuan said in a smug tone. "And also... about that thing between us last time... Let's just call it even, eh? But, here's some free advice. Know your place, otherwise you're gonna run into trouble, like today. Eat at a place that fits your status. And for God's sake, don't use chopsticks in a fine-dining restaurant." Liu Chuan tilted his head slightly towards an occupied table nearby. "You're gonna embarrass us in front of the Westerners."

    Li Yundong just smiled and said nothing. He didn't even want to waste his breath on that moron; it wasn't worth the time and effort to give a shit about snobs like Liu Chuan. They could flaunt their status and money for all he cared, but take those material things away, and what are they? An empty shell with no notable qualities to speak of.

    The waiter stopped beside their table with the bill, then smiled at Liu Chuan. "That will be 132,500 yuan in total. Shall I charge the amount on your credit card, sir?"

    Liu Chuan's wide-eyed stare brought Li Yundong a surge of satisfaction. "H- h- how much?"

    The waiter's smile didn't waver. "That will be 132,500 yuan, sir."

    Liu Chuan snatched the bill and gave it a quick glance. "132,500? What the— You think I'm an idiot?" He glared at the waiter. "I'm a regular here, so I know your menu. Together, these twelve dishes should only cost about 24 thousand!"

    "Oh, but there's another dish that hasn't been served up yet."

    "Another dish? Stop joking around! What dish could cost more than 100 thousand?"

    "Why, the Beluga caviar, of course!"

    Oh, the look on the bastard's face!

    Li Yundong had to bite the insides of his cheek to stop himself from laughing.

    "Y- y- you o-ordered the caviar..." Liu Chuan said. "B- but how! I was on the waiting list for months! And you j- just walked in and... No! That's not possible! Could it be that you ordered it even earlier than I did?"

    Beside him, Su Chan burst into giggles.

    By some miracle, Li Yundong managed to compose himself enough to answer Liu Chuan’s question.

    "Nah... I didn't order it ahead of time," Li Yundong said offhandedly. "I just came in and ordered it straight from the menu. I mean… I didn't even know it's that expensive. I just thought it looked pretty cool and ordered it."

    Not even the waiter could hold back his laughter at this point.

    Liu Chuan honestly looked like he was seconds away from vomiting blood.

    The waiter suddenly cleared his throat. "Sir, shall I charge it on your credit card?"

    Li Yundong did a quick scan of the restaurant, which had gone completely silent. Everyone was staring at their table now: the other customers; the waitstaff; even Liu Chuan's companions.

    The silence stretched on for several seconds before Liu Chuan broke it with a huff. "Fine! I'm a man of my word after all!"

    Miss Groupie was clearly relieved as she practically sagged against Liu Chuan's chest. "Aww... You're such a generous man, Brother Liu!"

    Li Yundong grinned, then clapped his hands a few times. "Indeed, indeed!" he said, raising his flute. "A toast to this generous man!"

    A round of laughter permeated the restaurant. Even the waitstaff seemed to have forgotten their duties and had joined in their customers’ mirth.

    Miss Groupie shrieked and nearly fell off Liu Chuan's lap when Liu Chuan stood up abruptly.

    Li Yundong watched Liu Chuan storm off towards the table he had reserved. Liu Chuan's friends followed him to their table, though some of them honestly looked like they'd rather be elsewhere. Li Yundong shook his head and lowered his flute.

    The waiter's serving cart stopped beside their table once again. Li Yundong thanked the waiter after he had placed a plate containing a clump of dark, bead-like substance, which he now knew cost more than 100 thousand yuan. When he turned to Su Chan, he saw that her face was buried against her arms, which were folded on top of the table, her shoulders quivering violently with laughter.

    Li Yundong reached over and poked her ribs a few times. Su Chan raised her head and revealed her face, which was flushed in the most adorable way imaginable.

    Li Yundong jerked his head towards another table not far away from theirs. Liu Chuan and his groupies had just settled into that table.

    "Keep watching," Li Yundong said conspiratorially. "Show's not over yet."

    Li Yundong glanced towards Liu Chuan's table.

    Oh, yeah. The show was definitely still on.

    ***

    A while later, the show that Li Yundong had been waiting for finally came. The manager strode towards Liu Chuan's table with an apologetic look on his face. Li Yundong glanced towards Su Chan to make sure she was watching. She was.

    "Excuse me, sir? Are you Mr. Liu Chuan?"

    Liu Chuan gave the manager an impatient look. "Yes, that's me. Why hasn't my Beluga caviar been served yet?"

    "I'm sorry, Mr. Liu. But the Beluga caviar is no longer available—"

    "What is that supposed to mean?"

    "Um... You see, sir... The thing is—"

    "I pre-ordered it months ago!"

    "Well... There has been a mistake, and the order was supposed to go to someone else—"

    "What! That doesn't even make sense! I've been on the waiting list for months! How could you just..." Liu Chuan took a deep breath. "Who? Who got the order?"

    The manager turned and pointed awkwardly towards Li Yundong's table. "They did, sir."

    When Liu Chuan glanced over, Li Yundong picked up his flute and saluted Liu Chuan with it.

    Liu Chuan was gaping at them like a fish.

    "How about this, sir. As a token of our apology for the mix-up, we shall serve you another one of our finest caviar dishes, the Osetra caviar. On the house..."

    Li Yundong wasn't even listening anymore. He lowered his flute and dissolved into laughter.

    Once his laughter subsided, he scooped a spoonful of Beluga caviar and then placed it on an empty plate.

    "What a bunch of kind folks, aren't they?" Li Yundong said dryly, pushing the plate towards Su Chan. "We couldn't afford any of these, sure. But now look at us!" He waved across their table. "We get to enjoy these luxury foods without having to pay a single cent all thanks to that generous man over there. Ah... My faith in humanity is restored."

    Su Chan smothered her laugh behind her hands.

    "You know, Su Chan..." Li Yundong said with a straight face.

    "Hmm?" Su Chan's face was still flushed after all that laughing earlier.

    "If given the choice between having more money and having more brain cells. I'd go with the latter any day."

    Su Chan giggled and ate a spoonful of caviar.

    "You see, people with brains would eventually find ways to accumulate wealth," Li Yundong went on. "Rich fools, on the other hand, would eventually go broke because they have no idea how to spend their money wisely."

    "Mm-hmm! Mm-hmm!" Su Chan nodded, her cheeks puffed out adorably as she chewed.

    Li Yundong chuckled, then raised his index finger. "Moral of the story..."

    Su Chan was still chewing her food, but he knew he had her full attention.

    "Just like a knife, or a pair of chopsticks, money is just a tool. It's value depends on its user. In the hands of kind and intelligent people, it becomes a powerful resource. In the hands of dumb people, however..." Li Yundong looked towards Liu Chuan's table pointedly. "It will just be a total waste."

    Li Yundong returned his gaze to Su Chan. She had stopped chewing and was now looking at him with starry eyes. He recognized that look. She had given him that same look the other night when he told her about visualizing nine lotus thrones during Guanxiang.

    Li Yundong leaned back in his chair, then replayed his words.

    "Dang..." he said, then looked towards Su Chan with his brows raised. "When did I become so wise?"

    Seconds passed in silence.

    Then, the two of them burst into laughter.

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  • Chapter 91 Never Ever Waste Food!

     

    A loud smack interrupted Li Yundong and Su Chan's enjoyment of their 100 thousand yuan dish. Li Yundong glanced towards Liu Chuan's table.

    "This is outrageous!" Liu Chuan's table shook after his fist pounded into it. Liu Chuan was now up on his feet, pointing an accusatory finger at the restaurant manager who clambered back a few steps.

    "Pl- please c- calm down, sir... Like I said, we will serve you and your friends another dish, and it will be on the house..."

    "Shut up!"

    The back of the manager's legs hit the edge of an unoccupied table after Liu Chuan shoved the poor guy’s chest.

    Li Yundong frowned and lowered his spoon. He pushed his chair out slightly and shifted his legs so that his feet were no longer under the table. Seriously? This moron was going to start a fight here? In an upscale restaurant? Clearly, wealth wasn’t an accurate measure for class and sophistication.

    "How dare you people cancel my order without my permission!" Liu Chuan roared.

    "Sir, please calm down. There will be a refund—"

    "I don't give a f*ck about your refund. I want an explanation! I ordered it first. So how come they got the dish?" Liu Chuan jabbed a finger towards their table.

    Okay. Enough was enough. Time for him to intervene. The poor manager was probably going to end up with a black eye if he didn't step in.

    Li Yundong moved to stand up, but then something he saw made him stop. Looks like there's no need for me to intervene after all. Li Yundong smirked and leaned back in his chair. Oh, this is gonna be fun to watch...

    The manager was still desperately trying to calm Liu Chuan down.

    "... Like I said, sir. We apologize. But due to certain unforeseen circumstances, we had no choice but to cancel your order. I assure you we—"

    "Unforeseen circumstances?" Liu Chuan sneered. "Then how do you feel about having your restaurant shut down due to unforeseen circumstances as well?"

    The manager paled. "Sir, we truly meant no disrespect. But the other customer had been very insistent that—"

    Liu Chuan released a derisive sneer. "Who?! Who has the balls to cancel my order. And I'm gonna bet all my assets that it wasn't that penniless loser over there!" Liu Chuan jerked his chin towards Li Yundong.

    "I canceled your order," said a cold voice. "You got a problem with that?"

    Liu Chuan huffed out in anger, then turned around.

    "Of course I have a prob—" Liu Chuan gasped. "Z- Zh- Zhou Qin? Wh- what are you doing here?"

    Li Yundong crossed his arms in front of his chest. God, seriously. The drama never ends with these rich people. It never does...

    Zhou Qin stopped right beside Liu Chuan's table, then leveled a cold gaze at Liu Chuan. Her LV purse hung from one elbow while a large shopping bag hung from the other.

    "I'm treating my friends to lunch, of course," Zhou Qin said. "Why? You have a problem with that too?"

    Liu Chuan smiled fawningly. "O- of course not, Zhou Qin. Why would I have a problem with that? But you could've just called me and let me know if you wanted to try the Beluga caviar. I'll let you have it. I mean, for old times' sake and all..."

    There was a subtle lift of Zhou Qin's chin.

    "Did you just say let me have it?" Zhou Qin smirked. "I'm going to make one thing clear. The things that I want, I get. Nobody has to let me have it."

    Okay. That comment was pretty badass. Li Yundong could admit that much. Spoken like a true femme fatale...

    Li Yundong tried to picture in his head what Zhou Qin's future husband might look like. Whoever he was, he had to have some serious cojones to go toe to toe with Zhou Qin. Yeah. Serious cojones. Balls of steel, in fact. How else could the poor guy endure having his balls busted by Zhou Qin all day long?

    Liu Chuan was blushing to the tip of his ears at that point. Zhou Qin seemed like she was so done with the conversation. Indeed, she turned away from Liu Chuan and gave Li Yundong a smile.

    "Sorry to keep you guys waiting!" Zhou Qin said.

    "It's fine," Li Yundong said, though his eyes were focused on Liu Chuan's friends, who were now whispering among themselves.

    Li Yundong closed his eyes. When he felt the ball of heat in his lower abdomen, he willed his Qi towards his Shenting. The buzzing returned to his ears instantly.

    By the time Li Yundong re-opened his eyes, sounds of their whispers filled his ears.

    "God... Look at her... She's so gorgeous when she smiles..." a guy said.

    "I know right? She looked so cold just now that I almost thought she never smiles..." the second guy replied.

    "Tsk. You're wrong, brah. Women like her will only smile for people she likes..."

    Zhou Qin pulled out her chair and sat down. Li Yundong smiled at her and tuned out the voices from Liu Chuan's table.

    Ten minutes later, Zhou Qin pushed her plate away. "Um... Li Yundong..." she said in a low voice.

    Li Yundong glanced at her. "Yeah? You alright?"

    "I'm fine, I just..." Zhou Qin leaned forward. "Do you think we can eat somewhere else?"

    Li Yundong regarded Zhou Qin for a second and noted how uncomfortable she looked. Then, he flicked a glance towards Liu Chuan's table. Every occupant at that table, including Liu Chuan, was staring at their table. I see…

    Li Yundong returned his gaze to Zhou Qin and studied her for a while.

    Did she mean switching to another table or...?

    Li Yundong took stock of their table. Zhou Qin had barely touched her food and, truth be told, she looked like she wanted to be anywhere but here. Su Chan, on the other hand, was busy stuffing food into her mouth because she was being... well, Su Chan.

    So much for having a feast.

    Li Yundong laid down his chopsticks on his plate. "Here's an idea," he said. "Why don't I cook for all three of us?"

    Zhou Qin's eyes snapped to his. "Are you suggesting that... that we... go to your... place?"

    Li Yundong shrugged. "The mood's ruined anyway," he said, jerking his chin towards Liu Chuan's table. "All thanks to those assholes."

    Su Chan preferred his cooking anyway, so there was no point in staying. Plus, they wouldn't have to worry about wasting money since their food had already been paid for by rich idiot over there.

    "Are you serious?" The sparkle returned to Zhou Qin's eyes for the first time since her return from the ladies room.

    Li Yundong smiled. "Yeah, I'm serious. I mean, if you can stomach my lowly and humble cooking, then sure, I don’t mind cooking for you."

    Zhou Qin was already waving for the waiter. "Nonsense. I'd be honored to try your cooking." Zhou Qin smiled at Li Yundong, who was trying very hard not to laugh.

    "Actually... our food has already been paid for."

    "Y- you took care of the bill?" Zhou Qin said.

    Li Yundong would've felt offended by the look of disbelief on Zhou Qin's face if it weren't so funny, not to mention completely justified.

    "No. He did." Li Yundong pointed towards Liu Chuan.

    "Oh." Zhou Qin shot a quick glance towards Liu Chuan's table. "Thanks," she said, then turned away just as quickly.

    She probably didn't catch Liu Chuan's smile, which, if Li Yundong would venture a guess, was meant to be charming. Sadly, it only made Liu Chuan's face look like a case of plastic surgery gone horribly wrong.

    Zhou Qin picked up her LV purse. "Shall we go then?" She looked at Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong eyed the remaining food on their table. "Not planning to get a takeaway box?"

    The corner of Zhou Qin's lips lifted slightly. "Don't think that's a good idea. It wouldn't taste as good if you keep it overnight."

    That was when Li Yundong saw that sudden twinkle of mischief in Zhou Qin’s eyes again. When Zhou Qin practically shouted her next words, Li Yundong immediately understood why.

    "Liu Chuan paid for our food, right? Why don't we just let them have the rest?"

    Amidst the buzzing in his ear, Li Yundong could make out the sound of someone spitting out their drink. (T/N: The buzzing is a result of Eryue; a Cultivation skill that enables long-range hearing; activated when Cultivator's Qi is at their Shenting) Li Yundong stole a glance at Liu Chuan's table, and zoomed in with his vision. Liu Chuan's groupie was desperately wiping the front of Liu Chuan's expensive-looking suit jacket with a napkin. Liu Chuan didn't even care; he was too busy glaring at Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong shook his head, then turned back to his own table. When he did, what he saw nearly made him fall off his chair. Su Chan's mouth was stuffed with so much food that her face looked like a frigging chipmunk!

    When Miss Chipmunk reached for another piece of shellfish (despite her full mouth), Li Yundong smacked her forehead hard.

    "Mmmph!!!" Miss Chipmunk glared at him indignantly. Some kind of dark sauce dribbled down from the corner of her mouth. Good Lord Almighty have mercy on my soul... Please. Please.

    A feminine giggled sounded. Li Yundong turned and saw Zhou Qin hiding her face behind her hand, her shoulders quivering violently. No words could describe how much Li Yundong wanted to kill himself right now. None. He almost wished Zhao Yujian would return from the dead and then put a bullet in his skull. At least he would be free of this torture.

    Li Yundong smacked Su Chan's forehead again.

    "Mmph!"

    More sauce escaped those massive chipmunk pouches.

    "Enough of that!" Li Yundong hissed. "Stop eating and let's get out of here already! God! You're such an embarrassment!"

    "Buuuhhh eeep wood bee a wuuuaishh eeeshh wee doon fuwineesh duh fooo."

    Lord God Almighty. O Great Buddha. O my Lord Confucius. Or any other Shenxians who are kind enough to heed my plea. Kill me now. Release me from this torture... Li Yundong pressed his palms onto his eyes and sighed. Then, without further ado, he yanked Su Chan to her feet.

    "Wuuueefff! Shhteel not doon yeff!"

    Li Yundong smacked Su Chan's hand when she tried to reach for the remaining Beluga caviar.

    "Enough!" Li Yundong hissed.

    They were out of the restaurant in record time. Leaning against a streetlamp, Li Yundong banged his head against the lamppost a few times before letting out a long groan. Now that they were outside, the buzzing in his ears grew louder. Not loud enough, however, to muffle that annoying little voice at the back of his mind which was urging him to go kill himself. Li Yundong glanced at Zhou Qin, who was—thank God— no longer laughing her head off. As though sensing his eyes on her, Zhou Qin looked up at him and cleared her throat. "I'll go get us a cab," she said, her voice surprisingly aloof.

    When Zhou Qin left, Li Yundong turned to Su Chan, a reprimand already at the tip of his tongue. His words stilled when he saw Su Chan staring longingly into the restaurant through the glass window. Li Yundong followed her gaze; the waiter had already begun clearing up their table.

    Li Yundong sighed. "Should've gotten that takeout box after all..."

    "What's a takeout box?" Su Chan asked without taking her eyes off the glass window.

    "It's a box that—" Li Yundong sighed heavily. "Never mind..."

    The buzzing in his ears droned on as he and Su Chan observed the restaurant. The waiter was now pushing the serving cart away from their table. Surprisingly, the waiter stopped when he reached Liu Chuan's table. For some reason, the waiter seemed a bit stressed out. Wait. What's going on in there? When Li Yundong zoomed in his vision, he saw Liu Chuan saying something to the waiter. The waiter squirmed and kept pulling at his bowtie. Seconds later, the restaurant's manager appeared from the back of the restaurant and was slowly approaching Liu Chuan's table.

    Piqued, Li Yundong focused his hearing on the sounds coming from inside the restaurant. His telescopic vision now provided him with a blown up view of the manager's face as he approached Liu Chuan's table cautiously. The poor guy was sweating bullets. The waiter continued to squirm.

    The manager wiped his sweat off his brow when he stopped beside Liu Chuan's table. "Sir... The Beluga caviar has barely been touched. Would you like to..."

    There was a dull clack; Liu Chuan had practically slammed his flute against the linen covering his table. "Are you— Are you shitting me right now! You're serving me leftovers from another table? How dare you!"

    The manager wiped his forehead again. "N- n- no... that isn't what I..."

    There was another voice. It was soft and barely audible. Li Yundong focused harder until the voice became audible. "... nothing wrong with that, Brother Liu. You said it yourself that this stuff is worth 100 thousand yuan! What a waste to just throw it away! Those guys barely tasted it! Plus, this stuff is in short supply, right? You had to wait for months just to order it! We can't let this opportunity go to waste, Brother Liu!"

    Li Yundong zoomed in on Liu Chuan's face. The guy looked conflicted now, like he was about to cave.

    Suddenly, Liu Chuan scowled. "You guys have it if you want! Like hell I'm gonna eat someone else's leftovers like some kind of…" Liu Chuan's face twisted in distaste. "Some kind of beggar!"

    Li Yundong rolled his eyes. I'm never gonna understand what goes on in that idiot's mind...

    "Come on... just take it, Brother Liu..."

    "Yeah. You paid for it... At least try some of it..."

    The cajoling and wheedling went on for about a minute before Liu Chuan caved. Liu Chuan waved at the manager impatiently. "Whatever. Serve it up then." Liu Chuan glared at the manager. "Don't ever cancel my order again. Have I made myself clear?"

    "Y-yes sir..." said the manager. Li Yundong heard a sigh before the manager indicated nodded at the waiter.

    The waiter lifted the plate containing the caviar from the serving cart and begun lowering the plate onto Liu Chuan's table... what the—

    "Hey!" Li Yundong yelled when Su Chan shook her hand free from his tight grasp.

    He tried to make a grab for her. Yeah, tried. Somehow, Su Chan had managed to cover the distance between the lamppost and the restaurant's entrance in less than a second. Holy f*cking shit! Sh- she's fast! Knowing that it was pointless to chase after her, Li Yundong looked through the glass window into the restaurant, then zoomed in. Su Chan was already inside, and was charging towards Liu Chuan's table as though her life depended on it. Su Chan's rapid footsteps resounded in his ears. Then, he watched in horror as Su Chan yanked the plate from the poor waiter's hand. The poor guy didn't stand a chance and nearly keeled over onto Liu Chuan's table. Su Chan activated Chipmunk mode and gobbled down the caviar in three seconds.

    Three seconds.

    She didn't even use a f*cking spoon.

    Su Chan licked her fingers and dumped the plate onto the serving cart. At least she didn't lick the f*cking plate. Thank the Universe for small favors, really. She turned and shot a sheepish look at everyone seated at Liu Chuan's table. "Sorry guys... I forgot to eat that just now... Well. Bye..."

    Seconds later, Su Chan was out of the restaurant and standing beside him again. Li Yundong stared at her in disbelief. O Great Buddha... Am I in heaven now? Have I achieved nirvana? Surely I must be getting pretty close after all that torture I'd been put through...

    Li Yundong's hearing was still focused on the sounds coming from inside the restaurant, though he didn't even know the point in him doing that. The entire restaurant was so silent that it was as though nobody was even breathing.

    Li Yundong groaned into his hands, then looked up at Su Chan.

    She looked genuinely puzzled, and gosh darn it to hell, why did she have to look so f*cking adorable?

    "What's the matter, Yundong?" Su Chan asked quizzically.

    Li Yundong pointed at the restaurant. "Why did you do that just now?"

    Why? Why the f*ck indeed?

    "Oh. Master told me to never waste food..."

    Li Yundong just stared at her without answering.

    "Hey, guys! Our cab's here. I don’t know your address so you have to— what?"

    Li Yundong turned and saw Zhou Qin standing there looking at the both of them. Zhou Qin's phone was out.

    Li Yundong closed his eyes and released his Qi from his Shenting.

    When the buzzing disappeared, he opened his eyes.

    Zhou Qin's gaze was bouncing between him and Su Chan.

    "What? What did I miss?"

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  • Chapter 92 A Fulfilling Meal

     

    "Good God! What on earth were you thinking! Why didn't you just tell me you wanted the rest of the food? I would've asked for a takeaway box!"

    "B-but I did tell you! You didn't hear me because you were too busy dragging me out the door!"

    "I didn't hear you? See, here's the thing, princess. I couldn't hear you! Not with your mouth so full, Miss Chipmunk."

    "Cheap monk? Ugh! How many times do I have to tell you that I'm not a Buddhist monk! And you just called me cheap! How could you!"

    "You— Argh! Never mind..."

    Zhou Qin pressed her lips together to stop herself from laughing. She had spent pretty much the entire cab ride to New Hongsheng District listening to those two bicker. And they were relentless, both of them, almost like they were a couple who had been married for years. Zhou Qin bit down on her bottom lip; the sharp pang in her chest was now impossible to ignore.

    A loud ding announced the elevator's arrival.

    Zhou Qin followed Li Yundong and Su Chan into the elevator.

    "But you can't just run back in and then gobble up the food that is about to be served to another table!" Li Yundong pressed the button for the 20th floor.

    "What choice do I have? I was already outside the restaurant because you dragged me out! Besides, what's wrong with going back in to finish our food?"

    "What's wrong with— It's impolite! God, you just embarrassed all of us!"

    "Impolite? How could that be worse than wasting food? Hello? Don't you know that it's a bad habit to waste food? Food is a precious resource! There are a lot of people out there who are starvi—"

    "Tsk! Don't talk back to me." Li Yundong smacked Su Chan's forehead.

    Then, Su Chan burped. Loudly.

    Zhou Qin couldn't take it anymore. She clamped her hands over her mouth, and her shoulders trembled with laughter. She even had to lean her body against the metal wall of the elevator to support herself.

    Somehow, neither of those two seemed to have noticed the spectacle that Zhou Qin was making of herself.

    "Yes, fine... Wasting food is bad, I get that. But you could have asked the waiter politely for the food instead of just yanking the plate straight out of his hand. And the way you ate... You have no table manners at all! How hard is it to grab a goddamned spoon!"

    Su Chan had a contrite expression now. Zhou Qin honestly thought the poor girl was about to burst into tears.

    Zhou Qin reined in her laughter and studied Li Yundong closely to see his reaction.

    Li Yundong's response surprised Zhou Qin. He reached out and pinched Su Chan's cheek a few times. "I know you have a healthy appetite. But remember what I said about respecting other people, hmm? Table manners is a form of courtesy too."

    Su Chan nodded obediently. "Oh. I'm sorry... I won't do it again next time..."

    It baffled Zhou Qin how clueless Su Chan was and how tolerant Li Yundong was towards her. How could a girl in this modern age know so little about social decorum and polite behavior?

    It all seemed so strange. Su Chan was already in her teens. Well, at least she looked like a teenager. Yet, sometimes her behavior was like that of a three-year-old. Did nobody teach her anything when she was young? Was she an orphan?

    How did Li Yundong and Su Chan meet each other?

    The elevator arrived at the 20th floor. The three of them stepped into the corridor after the doors slid open. Li Yundong and Su Chan walked ahead. Zhou Qin followed behind them and watched their interaction without saying a word.

    "Did you at least enjoy the meal? I mean, out of all three of us, you're the one who ate the most."

    "Hmm... I don't think I managed to savor the taste..."

    "Why's that?"

    "Because I ate too fast!"

    "Yeah? And you only realize that now?"

    "Hehehe... Oopsie?"

    They stopped right outside apartment 20A, and Li Yundong began shifting the grocery bags to one hand.

    "Need a hand with that?" Zhou Qin asked.

    Li Yundong turned around. "Sorry?"

    "With the bags, I mean."

    Li Yundong smiled. "Nah. Don't worry. I got this." He pulled out his keys from his pockets using his free hand.

    Zhou Qin suppressed a smile. Such a gentleman...

    The large mahogany door creaked open, and the three of them stepped into the apartment.

    "Well. This is it. Our humble abode." Li Yundong spread his arms out wide.

    "Nice," Zhou Qin remarked.

    Li Yundong chuckled. "I'm sure our place looks like a hovel compared to yours."

    Zhou Qin couldn't disagree with that assessment more. The apartment was wide and spacious. There were four balconies in total, each of which had a sliding door and windows. When the windows were opened, the apartment would be airy and cool even during summer. Plus, she liked the decor, which filled the apartment with warmth. The place looked lived-in, like an actual home.

    "No," Zhou Qin said, shaking her head. "This is a home." She sighed. "My place is a prison. Both literally and figuratively."

    There was a long pause.

    "Uh... I think I get the figurative part..." Li Yundong said. "But why literally? I mean, your place isn't surrounded by metal bars or anything, right?"

    Zhou Qin hid a smile behind her hand. "No. Of course not. It's just... Well. The security there is pretty tight. There are guards with guns stationed everywhere." Zhou Qin shook her head. "It doesn't feel like a home at all."

    Another stretched of silence ensued.

    "Anyway!" Zhou Qin smiled. "Your place looks really nice. And I mean it. I like how spacious it is. And the decor is perfect. Like I said, this is what a real home should look like."

    Li Yundong's lips curved into a smirk.

    Zhou Qin found that smirk dangerously attractive.

    "Well. Make yourself at home then," he said before turning around.

    Li Yundong disappeared into the kitchen for a minute. When he came out, he was no longer carrying the grocery bags.

    "Is this place rented? Or did you buy it?" Zhou Qin couldn't help but ask.

    Li Yundong looked at her as though she'd grown two heads.

    Zhou Qin suppressed the sudden urge to blush.

    "Of course it's rented," Li Yundong said with a chuckle. "You must have had too much wine earlier if you think a penniless guy like me owns a property."

    Zhou Qin didn't know how to respond to that, so she decided to go with a joke. "So. Li Yundong. What does it feel like to live under the same roof as a beauty?"

    Li Yundong put his hand beside his ear. "Sorry, what? Did you just say beauty? I think you meant pig."

    There was a loud gasp.

    "Wha— How could you! Meanie! Meanie! Meanie!" Su Chan smacked Li Yundong's arms endlessly. "Grr! You're the pig!"

    "Uh-huh..." Li Yundong dodged a few more of Su Chan's swipes. "I'm not the one who eats like a pig. That's you, missy. So you're the pig. And since you ate so much at the restaurant earlier, I won't be cooking your portion later."

    Su Chan stomped her foot. "You see? You see? He's always bullying me!"

    It took Zhou Qin a second to realize that Su Chan was talking to her.

    When Zhou Qin looked at Su Chan, she couldn't help but find the girl endearing. Even though Zhou Qin was harboring not-so-platonic feelings for Li Yundong, she couldn't bring herself to dislike Su Chan at all. That girl was just so… cute.

    Lovable.

    Zhou Qin smiled at Su Chan. "Oh, don't look at me. It isn't my place to interfere with your private matters."

    The huge pout on Su Chan's lips nearly made Zhou Qin laugh. Gosh. Zhou Qin had never had to suppress her laughter this much until she met these two. Life just seemed fuller and brighter around them. They were like a tornado or a whirlwind that blew away the dark and dreary clouds which defined her life.

    Still pouting, Su Chan plopped down onto the couch and picked up the TV remote from the coffee table. Then, she began switching channels randomly. Zhou QIn honestly thought the remote would snap in half at any time given how hard Su Chan was pressing it.

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Look at her. She's sulking now."

    Su Chan turned and made a face at Li Yundong.

    "I won't take long," Li Yundong said. He had donned an apron now. "You can use my laptop if you want?"

    Zhou Qin smiled and shook her head. "Don't worry about me. Go do your thing. I'll just look around your apartment, if that's okay with you?"

    "Sure. Go ahead!" Li Yundong yelled from inside the kitchen.

    Zhou Qin glanced around the apartment. There were two bedrooms in total, and beside each bedroom was a bathroom. She glanced towards the living room. Su Chan was still on the couch, sulking. The noise from the kitchen told her that Li Yundong had already begun whipping up their lunch. It shouldn't count as snooping if he gave me permission, right? Zhou Qin's legs were already moving towards one of the bedrooms as that thought ran through her mind.

    She stepped quietly into the bedroom, the one whose door was open. She knew the moment she entered that this was a guy's bedroom. But wait... That doesn't make sense. They're a couple aren't they? It shouldn't look like a guy's room at all... Zhou Qin surveyed the room, looking for a feminine touch. There were none. She didn't see any cosmetics lying around the nightstand. There wasn't even a comb. Wait... there were two rooms! Could it be that they haven't slept with each other yet?

    That thought eased a tight knot inside Zhou Qin's heart.

    Zhou Qin padded over to the bed and sat down. She ran a hand gently across the sheets. Li Yundong's masculine scent wafted to her nose.

    Zhou Qin bit down on her bottom lips and stole a glance at the living room. Su Chan was curled up on the couch, staring at the TV. Li Yundong was nowhere to be seen, but the sounds from the kitchen left little room for doubt as to his whereabouts. Deep inside Zhou Qin's chest, a spark of boldness ignited. Slowly, her hand crept along the sheets until it reached Li Yundong's pillow. She then lifted the pillow to her nose and took a long sniff. God... his scent is so...

    Zhou Qin gasped and dropped the pillow as though it had burned her hands. Heat rose to her cheeks as she stared at the pillow in her lap. Her body felt as though it were on fire, and there was an uncomfortable ache between her—

    Zhou Qin grabbed the pillow and quickly put it back in its original place.

    Ugh! What is wrong with you, Zhou Qin? What were you thinking!

    She had no idea what came over her just now. It was like someone had cast a spell on her, a spell which turned her into a shameless and wanton—

    Zhou Qin stood up from the bed and backed away a few steps. She had to put some distance between herself and the bed before she did something stupid.

    She glanced around the room, hoping to find something to distract her from her… issues.

    A bookshelf in the corner of the room caught her eye.

    Most of the books on the shelf were novels. She ran her index finger over the spines of the books, then removed one of them from the shelf. When she flipped through it, the book opened naturally to a bookmarked page.

    Zhou Qin had to suppress a laugh when she saw what Li Yundong had used as a bookmark. It was a CD titled, "Cohabitation with A Flight Attendant."

    Granted, Su Chan didn't look like a flight attendance, but the resemblance in the circumstances was a bit amusing.

    Zhou Qin slid the CD back into the book and returned the book to the shelf. She spent another while in Li Yundong's room until she was creeped out by her own snooping.

    Su Chan was still watching TV when Zhou Qin came out of the bedroom. Instead of joining Su Chan in the living room, she headed to the kitchen. She opened the door slightly, then peaked into the kitchen through the narrow slit between the door and the door jamb. Li Yundong was slicing vegetables with what appeared to be impeccable knife skills. Not that she was qualified to make that assessment, but those even slices of greens seemed pretty amazing. When Li Yundong added the ingredients into the pan and started stir-frying (was it stir fry? She wasn't sure) them, Zhou Qin was once again struck by how attractive Li Yundong was.

    Especially the look in his eyes, which were filled with intensity. Those eyes held so much focus that they were like the lens of a magnifying glass under the sun, generating so much heat that she felt as though she was burning up. Was this not what she had been yearning for all this while? A simple life? She didn't have to be rich or wealthy. She didn't crave status, nor did she long to live in a big house. She just wanted a man who would love her, cherish her, cook her meals, and then cheer her up whenever she was down.

    She would give anything to have all that.

    Zhou Qin opened the door wider, then stepped into the kitchen. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

    Li Yundong looked at her briefly before turning back to the pan. "Nah. It's good. I've got this."

    "Let me help too! Let me help too!" Su Chan barreled into the kitchen.

    Li Yundong burst into laughter, which, again, Zhou Qin found to be endearing.

    Zhou Qin bit down on her bottom lip, hard.

    God, she was in trouble. Deep trouble...

    "Hey, you! Stop right there!" Li Yundong was pointing at Su Chan. "You're not coming anywhere near this kitchen today. Nope. Nuh-uh. In fact, I'm banning you from the kitchen forever."

    "You are so meeeeaaannn! I just wanted to help! Hmmph!"

    Zhou Qin laughed. "Why are you so against her being in the kitchen? She can't be that bad, right?"

    Li Yundong raised a brow. "Is causing a gas explosion bad enough?"

    Zhou Qin felt like she had to pick her jaw up from the floor.

    "Oh my God! A gas explosion?" Zhou Qin looked around the kitchen several times. "Then the repairman must have done a fantastic job. I mean, this doesn't look like a kitchen that had survived a gas explosion at all."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Oh, no. The explosion was back at our old place."

    "Your old place?"

    Just how long had he and Su Chan been living together?

    "Oh yeah, I don't think I've told you yet, but we just moved here. In fact..." Li Yundong glared at Su Chan. "We got kicked out of our old apartment because of the explosion."

    Zhou Qin shook her head in disbelief. "But a gas explosion! What did she do?"

    Li Yundong seemed to consider her question for a moment. "Okay, well. It might have been caused by a faulty stove, I suppose..."

    Zhou Qin stole a glance at Su Chan, who was blushing to the tip of her ears.

    By the time Li Yundong was done explaining the ins and outs of the explosion, Zhou Qin realized that she hadn't heard a single thing Li Yundong said. She cleared her throat. "I'm glad you guys made it out okay. I mean, you didn't get hurt, right?"

    "Nah, we didn't. But it was a close call though. That's why I'm not allowing this one"—Li Yundong pointed at Su Chan—"near the kitchen anytime soon."

    "But I just wanted to help..." Su Chan mumbled.

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Yeah? Trust me, you'll be of a much greater help outside the kitchen."

    Zhou Qin pressed her lips together to suppress a smile. She then turned to Su Chan. "Why don't we both get out of Master Chef's hair and go hang out in the living room?"

    Su Chan was looking at Li Yundong with piteous eyes. "Was I really that bad?"

    Li Yundong smiled. "Nah... You're not bad. You just didn't know how things work in the kitchen, that's all."

    Zhou Qin wondered if he was just sugar-coating it.

    "Anyhow! Shoo! Shoo! Off you go, ladies! Go hang out in the living room." Li Yundong waved his hand. "The food's gonna be done soon, anyway."

    Zhou Qin left the kitchen with Su Chan, then shut the kitchen door behind her. They sat on opposite ends on the long couch, watching a soap opera that was playing on the TV. Neither of them had spoken a word to each other yet, though Zhou Qin could feel Su Chan's gaze boring holes into her body.

    Zhou Qin resisted the urge to squirm.

    Was she angry with her after all? Was she jealous that Li Yundong was friends with her?

    "Hehe... Can I address you as elder sister from now on?"

    Zhou Qin's head snapped to the side, her eyes wide with confusion. Elder sister? Why would she...? Oh my God... Did she mean in the traditional sense? Like when the younger wife addresses the older wife as her elder sister...?

    But would that be such a bad thing though? Since they would both be Li Yundong's…

    Heat rose to Zhou Qin's cheeks.

    Zhou Qin cleared her throat. "U-uh... Wha- I mean, I don't think that's... appropriate?"

    Zhou Qin had rarely lost her composure. But this. This was something else.

    "It's okay! It's totally believable that you're my elder sister!"

    Zhou Qin gaped at Su Chan. She honestly couldn't tell if Su Chan was being serious or just messing with her head. Neither options sounded ideal. Zhou Qin took a deep breath and cleared her throat again. "Do you… Do you have an elder sister?"

    "Well... sorta..."

    Okay. Now it definitely sounded like Su Chan was just messing with her. You either have a sister, or you don't. How could anyone "sorta" have a sister?

    The kitchen door opened before Zhou Qin could question any further.

    Su Chan leaped off the couch and pointed a finger at Li Yundong. "Lunchtime! Yayy!!!"

    "Nuh-uh. No lunch for you, you pig!"

    "Who are you calling a pig!" Su Chan stomped her foot.

    Li Yundong pinched Su Chan's nose. "You, of course! You're a pig. A chipmunk!"

    "I told you I am not a monk! And I'm not cheeeapp!"

    Zhou Qin burst into giggles and rose from the couch as well.

    Li Yundong gestured towards the dining area.

    "Go grab a seat," he said to Zhou Qin. "I'll bring out the dishes."

    Turning to Su Chan, he said, "And nope. Nothing for you."

    Su Chan made a face at him. "Hmph! I'll just steal from your plate, you meanie!"

    As it turned out, Li Yundong was only kidding about not giving Su Chan any food. Su Chan now had two bowls of rice in front of her, and she seemed to be making a quick work of those too. Zhou Qin was starting to believe the truth in Li Yundong's claim about Su Chan finishing twenty bowls of rice.

    Zhou Qin gave Li Yundong a smile. "Wow. This smells amazing. I'm impressed, Li Yundong."

    "Nah... I bet this is nothing compared to those Michelin-star places you often dine at. But thanks. I hope you enjoy it."

    Zhou Qin picked up her bowl and chopsticks. "Bon appetit, then!"

    Zhou Qin tried the dish that she thought had the most amazing smell, some kind of duck meat.

    "Oh my Gosh! This is really good... What's it called?"

    Li Yundong smiled. "Stewed duck in beer."

    Zhou Qin took another bite, then arched her brow. "I think this tastes much better than the stuff served at these Michelin-star restaurants that I allegedly frequented."

    "Now, now, Zhou Qin. I'm sure that's a complete exaggeration—" Li Yundong suddenly stopped talking and was now gaping like a fish.

    Puzzled, Zhou Qin followed his gaze and nearly spat out the duck meat in her mouth. The plate containing the stir-fried mixed vegetables—which was still full about a minute ago—was now nearly three-quarters empty.

    And Su Chan, it seemed, was proving herself to be every bit a squirrel's namesake—if those pouches on her cheeks were anything to go by.

    "Tsk! Su Chan! We have guests, for Buddha's sake. Guests! Where are your manners! Oh, wait! Don't answer that." Li Yundong did a face palm. "I already know the answer. You have none. But come on! At least leave some for others!"

    Li Yundong shook his head and turned to Zhou Qin. "Hey, you might wanna hurry up and start eating. That pig is gonna gobble up the rest if we don't hurry."

    "Oh," Zhou Qin answered blankly. She was still busy trying to wrap her head around one very curious question—how could any woman eat that much food and still maintain that kind of figure?

    Zhou Qin shook herself out of her reverie and went back to her food.

    The rest of the meal went on in a rowdy and riotous fashion.

    The Food War. That was what Li Yundong called it. And apparently, it was an every-day occurrence at la Casa de Yundong.

    It was probably the most unpolished and unsophisticated meal she ever had, where table manners and dining etiquette were almost non-existent. But it was also the happiest and most delicious meal she ever had.

    It would've been the most satisfying meal too, if she didn't have to fight tooth and nail for every bite.

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  • edited December 2019

    Chapter 93 Interruption

     

    Su Chan felt a little bad. Just a little. That was why she had offered to clear up the dining table and do the dishes after lunch. Because she felt bad. Not because there might be a small chance she could eat the leftovers from the plates. Nope. Not because of that.

    Su Chan dried the last of the dishes and placed them into the cabinet. There were voices outside the kitchen, which meant that Yundong and Zhou Qin were still chatting in the living room. For some unfathomable reason, that thought brought a strange feeling to Su Chan's chest, as though something was squeezing her heart. She wondered what they would both be saying to each other when it was just the two of them—basically when Su Chan wasn't there to be the third wheel.

    Third wheel. What a strange term to use. It made the whole thing feel as though Yundong and Zhou Qin were having a torrid love affair with each other. Which, of course, wasn't the case. No idea why she even used that term. She must be getting a bit loopy after stuffing down all that food. Suddenly, her need to listen in to their conversation became dire. Curiosity gnawed at her chest, egging her on.

    Curiosity killed the cat, sure. Nobody said it would kill a fox.

    The door of the kitchen was still closed, so Su Chan leaned her back against it, then closed her eyes. The muffled voices from the living room turned into distinct words the moment her Qi reached her Shenting. Hah. The Ningshen phase. One of the most useful phases of Cultivation to pass for those who dabble in espionage, infiltration, or just good old eavesdropping.

    Through the closed door, Su Chan could now hear the words exchanged between Yundong and Zhou Qin as though she was right there beside them. Ninjas worldwide would be proud.

    "... How? How did you do it? I fell from, what, seven floors up? God... That's gotta be a... 20... 30 meter fall? After that you just walked it off..."

    "Err... Well... I did some training... Like, joint and bone strengthening stuff. You know how the Karate masters could smash through concrete without cracking their bones? Or... you know how the Shaolin monks could crack ice blocks with their heads and stuff? Yeah. Kinda like those."

    Bravo, Yundong! He had done a decent job in keeping things vague. For a moment there, Su Chan wondered if it would be better if she just came clean with him about the Renyuan Jindan. He was, after all, smart enough to come to the conclusion on his own that he'd been given some kind of drug. Well, it wasn't a drug per se, but it was still pretty close.

    Su Chan sighed. Admittedly, she'd been careless. She should've prepared for the eventuality that he might figure things out on his own. She should've seen this coming a long time ago. Once he had reached the 4th dan of the Ningshen phase, Yundong's mind would start craving for ways to make sense of things, and he would start seeking answers. She knew this. She herself had experienced this before during the early stages of her own training. Unfortunately, she'd been too caught up in Yundong's quick progress (and the fact that he was a genius) to prepare for it. And she'd paid the price for her negligence this morning when Yundong nearly announced to the entire city that he thought he'd been given a pill. Worse, they were on the balcony when that conversation took place. The balcony, where even a mortal could easily hear them let alone a trained Cultivator with long-range hearing skills such as Eryue.

    Su Chan shuddered at that memory.

    What happened this morning was a wake-up call. She would have to be extremely careful from now on to ensure that something like that never happened again. The Cultivators in the city were probably on high alert already after Yundong's long roar the other night, one that she had failed (Argh! Stupid, stupid, stupid, Chan'er!) to prevent. The cunning ones might've even traced the source of the roar to their building already! What if Cultivators were actually staking out somewhere in the area, spying on them? If they spoke freely about things like what they'd done on their balcony this morning, any Cultivator with long-range hearing could've easily overheard them!

    Yundong would disagree with this, but discretion really wasn't his strong suit at all—he'd nearly blurted it out a few times despite her warnings. Besides, he'd always been a candid person, a man who spoke his mind and held nothing back. Keeping a secret this big would be too hard for him.

    Plus, it wasn't like there was a really good reason to tell him everything about the Jindan at this point. For one, his lack of knowledge hadn't hindered his training in any way. He'd been making good progress so far even when he knew nothing of the Jindan's existence. Okay, sure, he might be dying to know the truth and that might affect his focus a teeny bit? But as far as she gathered, it just wasn't a risk worth taking. The people from the Zhengyi Taoist School were most likely still prowling the city in search of the Renyuan Jindan, so it would be unwise to leave everything to chance, which was exactly what she would be doing if she reveal everything to him and then relied on him to be discrete.

    Another wave of shudders coursed through Su Chan.

    What if the Zhengyi people knew spells to make people talk? What if they tried to extort the information from Yundong by threatening the lives of his friends?

    "... I'm sorry about today. I was supposed to repay you with a meal, but... That didn't really turn out well, did it? You're the one who had to do all the work in the end..."

    "Nah... Don't worry about it."

    "I guess I'll have to repay you some other way, then..."

    "Or not repay me at all."

    Zhou Qin chuckled. "Nope. That's not negotiable. I'm forever in your debt."

    "Here's an idea of how you can repay me."

    "Really? Do tell."

    "You can repay me by..."

    "By...?"

    "By stopping all this repaying nonsense and just be my friend."

    Zhou Qin laughed. "Very funny, Li Yundong. Very funny."

    "Err... I suppose you could... I don't know, make yearly donations to charity groups?"

    Zhou Qin laughed again. "Who says I haven't been doing that already?"

    Yundong laughed. "How am I supposed to know? You're the one with the deep pockets here. You know I'm still trying to wrap my head around how you folks operate."

    There was a long silence. Su Chan wondered if she should step outside now.

    "Where's Su Chan?" Zhou Qin asked.

    "Oh. She offered to take care of the dishes." Yundong chuckled. "I think she feels bad."

    "She's... an interesting girl."

    Yundong chuckled. "I'll be sure to tell her you said that."

    Su Chan held her breath. Oh, no... Is she gonna start asking him questions about my origins? Please, don't. Please, please, please—

    "I suppose I should get going, then."

    Su Chan heard movement outside.

    Zhou Qin was probably standing up.

    Su Chan opened the door by a crack and peered outside. Zhou Qin was tidying up her bag, which had a really strange name. Ail Vee. Loowee Veetong. Yup. That was what Yundong had told her. Seriously. Ail Vee. Tee Vee. Mac Doo Nurls. And Hello Kee Dee for a cat? These mortals were so creative when it came to names.  

    "You know it's still early," Yundong said. "You can stay for longer if you want. It won't be a problem."

    Zhou Qin slung the straps of her bag onto her shoulder. Su Chan focused her eyes and zoomed in on Zhou Qin's face. Zhou Qin was frowning a bit now. Was she in pain?

    "Nah. I wouldn't want to get in the way of you and Su Chan's... alone time." Zhou Qin was smiling again, though her smile seemed forced. "I mean, I'd hate to cramp your style."

    Hmm… Something about Zhou Qin seemed a little off…

    Yundong laughed. "Okay, then. I'll see you in class?"

    Zhou Qin's frown deepened, and she was biting her lip now. "Mm-hmm..." Zhou Qin moved away from the couch towards the door.

    Yundong followed.

    At the door, Zhou Qin picked up her shoes and put them on gracefully.

    Why did she look so sad?

    Was it because...

    Was it because Su Chan had eaten most of the food?

    Oh, no… What if Zhou Qin hated them and wanted nothing to do with them anymore? Then...

    Then Yundong would lose a valuable ally in his journey to greatness! Hey… now that she thought about it... Zhou Qin would make a great ally. She could support Yundong financially while Yundong focused on his Cultivation training. Yundong might not even have to go to school anymore since he would be financially secure with Zhou Qin's help! If he didn't have to go to school, then he could focus all his time and energy on Cultivation. Just imagine the progress he could make! And in return, maybe Yundong could teach Zhou Qin a bit about Cultivation? Would that be a good idea? Or would that be too risky? Su Chan was against Yundong taking disciples after all. But the financial advantages...

    The door of the apartment opened with a loud click. Zhou Qin was now standing at the doorway, facing Yundong.

    "Thank you for lunch today. I had an enjoyable meal."

    "You're welcome," Yundong said. "And you're welcome here any time."

    "Well then, I should..." Zhou Qin backed away a few steps.

    Oh no... she looked even sadder now... Say something, Yundong! Say something to cheer her up!

    "Bye then. Have a safe trip home."

    Zhou Qin cleared her throat. "Bye."

    The door slammed shut.

    No, no, no... This won't do...

    They were about to lose a valuable ally!

    Su Chan charged out of the kitchen.

    Yundong turned around abruptly and smiled. "Oh, there you are—"

    Su Chan didn't wait for him to finish; she grabbed his arm and pulled him down so that she could whisper into his ear. "You should go and send her off..."

    "What? What do you mean send her off? I just did, didn't I?"

    Su Chan stomped her foot and shook her head. "No, no, no... I mean send her off properly! Walk her to the metal box and then send her off to the gates!"

    The hurt look on Yundong's expression puzzled Su Chan a little.

    Yundong cleared his throat. "First of all, that metal box is called an elevator. And second of all why are you constantly pushing me towards other wo—" He suddenly stopped talking. The hurt look on his face seemed even more pronounced now. Why though? She was doing this for his own good! Having Zhou Qin's support could speed up journey towards greatness. Besides, weren't he and Zhou Qin friends? But Zhou Qin seemed pretty upset just now. Weren't friends supposed to cheer each other up when one of them was upset?

    "Okay, okay, fine. Elle Vador. I'll remember that. But you should hurry up and send her off properly." Su Chan pushed Yundong towards the door. "And be sure to say nice things to her. Cheer her up a bit."

    "Hey, what the hell is the matter with you tod—"

    Su Chan yanked the door open and pushed him out.

    "Nothing's wrong with me. But you need to go to her now." Su Chan waved her hand a few times. "She's going to leave the building if you don't hurry."

    Yundong stared at her for a few moments. Suddenly, he smiled.

    Su Chan did a little cheer inwardly.

    "Okay, then. I'll go to her now."

    Su Chan bobbed her head up and down, then gave him a few waves.

    "I'm really going now, okay. I'm going to send Zhou Qin off, say nice things to her, and then maybe..." Yundong smirked.

    Su Chan giggled. "Alright already! Just go now! Shoo! Shoo!" Su Chan shut the door and then leaned her back against it.

    Yes. That was the right move. Zhou Qin was an important ally. Yundong's friendship with Zhou Qin would greatly ease his path to greatness.

    Su Chan giggled again. Oh, how things had changed! At first, things between Yundong and Zhou Qin were strained to say the least. In fact, Su Chan was pretty sure that Zhou Qin didn't like Yundong very much at the beginning. But now look at them! They had just shared a wonderful meal with each other like they were old friends! Now that they had established some sort of rapport, Yundong should definitely strive to maintain their friendship. Or better yet, improve their friendship.

    Su Chan sighed and allowed herself to imagine what would happen if Yundong and Zhou Qin grew closer to each other. Perhaps they would have more conversations, or start spending more time with each other? They would probably start teasing each other too. Or maybe sharing a few hugs? And… Hey... Would they start kissing too? Yundong wouldn't do that right? He would only kiss Su Chan. Zhou Qin was just his friend, a good friend, but still just a friend. Right. Of course Yundong wouldn't kiss Zhou Qin. Friends don't kiss each other, after all.

    Besides, why would Yundong prefer Zhou Qin who was beautiful, elegant, and wealthy, over his Chan'er who was a bit of a slob and a troublemaker, who always stole his food, who tended to say the wrong things at the wrong time, who was obedient most of the time... and... and...

    Tears slid down Su Chan's cheeks. Images flashed in her mind, images featuring her life without Yundong.

    Of course Yundong would pick Zhou Qin. Of course. Zhou Qin was an elegant queen while Su Chan was nothing but a troublemaker. A cheap monk.

    Tears pattered against Su Chan's feet. Suddenly, her legs were moving on her own. She wasn't even sure what she was going to do when she yanked the door open and...

    Found Yundong standing right outside as though he'd never left. He was smiling at her warmly, and the affection in those eyes was enough to turn her insides to mush.

    They stared at each other for what felt like ages. It was as though time had stopped and nothing else existed except for Yundong's beautiful smile. There he was, her Yundong, smiling at her as though she was his everything.

    Su Chan released her bottom lip from her between her teeth. The first sound that escaped her lips sounded like a deep wail as she pounced, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Yundong... I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I was wrong... I won't say stupid things anymore. I won't eat like a pig anymore... I'll stop being a cheap monk... I'll be a good girl... Please don't leave me... Please don't toss me away..."

    Yundong's gentle touches on her back soothed the tight knot in her chest. The arm wrapped around her waist felt like the touch of the evening sun, warm and comforting. Yundong's gentle voice sounded beside her ear. "I already told you so many times that I'll never abandon you, silly. When will you start believing me, hmm?"

    Su Chan didn't answer. She was too busy sobbing. When Yundong started stroking hair, her knees almost gave out. She tightened her arm around his neck and held on for dear life.

    "Alright, alright. Stop crying now. People are gonna make fun of you if you keep crying like a baby in public."

    Su Chan sniffed, then wiggled a few times against him. "C- carry me."

    Li Yundong chuckled. A moment later, his arm slid downwards to the back of her knees. The temporary weightlessness was a welcomed feeling, as was the steady beating of Yundong's heart against her cheek.

    Somehow, it didn't surprise her at all how well their bodies fit together. The groove between the underside of his jaw and his clavicle was just the right size so that her face fit snugly in the gap. So she did just that. She buried her face in that groove and inhaled his scent greedily, causing the heat to spread from her cheeks, down her neck, and to other parts of her body. The ache between her legs was starting to become noticeable.

    When her face left the warmth of his chest (not by choice), she realized that Yundong had laid her down on the couch. When did they even enter the apartment? She didn't even remember the door being opened. She squeezed her legs together and raised her head, finally allowing herself to stare into Yundong's eyes. The heat in his eyes lit a fire inside her core, and she felt as though she would combust right then and there if she didn't do something about this burning need to give herself to this man who she adored with all her heart.

    "Yundong..." Her voice came out in a husky lilt. Her hand, shaky yet certain, rose to his cheek in a gentle caress. "Kiss me..."

    Yundong's eyes darkened instantly, as though the heat in them had grown so intense that they charred everything inside. Su Chan's lips parted in a gasp the moment their lips met. Her gasps turned into moans the moment their tongues met in a tangle of passion. She spread her legs wider, and Yundong responded by sliding his own body through the space between her parted legs. The friction between their bodies felt heavenly, but it was not enough. She needed more. Much, much more.

    Emboldened by passion, Su Chan began to reciprocate. She matched the rhythm of his tongue. With every stroke of her tongue, her hips undulated against his body to generate more friction. When one of Yundong's hands slid under her shirt to cup her breast, she thought she was seeing stars. A delicious flick of Yundong's thumb caused her eyes to roll to the back of her head, and she moaned. Loudly.

    But wait.

    No... No... We can't...

    Su Chan broke their kiss and pushed his hand away from her breast. The delicious contact ended, and her skin suddenly felt cold. Good. This was what she needed. "Stop... Yundong..." she rasped. "Stop..."

    Yundong's breaths caressed her ear. When he nipped her earlobe, she couldn't help but moan again. "I want you, Chan'er... I want you so bad that it hurts..."

    Yundong traced the shell of her ear with his tongue. Su Chan moaned and arched her back. "Ah... Y- Yun... Dong..." Su Chan pressed her palms against his chest and tried to push him away. But she couldn't. She had no strength left. Her entire body was on fire and it was like the heat had melted her arms, rendering them useless.

    A loud and insistent rapping jolted them out of their lust-filled haze. They stared at each other for several seconds, their eyes wide and hazy with lust. The door. Someone was knocking on their door. Neither of them moved.

    The knock sounded again. This time, however, it returned the strength to Su Chan's arms. She shoved Yundong away and ran to the security of her bedroom. Yundong didn't try to stop her. She shut the door of her bedroom and leaned her back against it. Calm down, Chan'er. Calm down. Su Chan took a deep breath and pulled out a strand of her hair. The hair became stiff like a needle the moment she pushed her Qi into it. She reached behind her back and jabbed the strand onto her Lingtai, an acupoint between her shoulder blades. Calmness washed over her, and she could finally think again. Oh, God...That was close. She had nearly killed him. Before he passed the Zhuji phase, they could never ever have sex.

    Someone was still knocking on their door. Was Yundong going to answer the door at some point? Was... was he mad at her for rejecting him again? What if he asked her for the reason she rejected him? There was no way she could explain everything without revealing her secrets. Another knock sounded. Who could it be? Was it Zhou Qin? Did she forget something? Su Chan mobilized her Qi to her Shenting.

    The person was still knocking. Was Yundong planning to ignore them?

    "Alright, alright! I'm coming!" Yundong shouted. The rustling sound she heard meant that Yundong had moved away from the couch.

    "Goddamned cockblocker..." Yundong mumbled.

    What?

    Cock?

    Why was Yundong suddenly talking about chickens? Ooh! Was the person at the door supposed to deliver fresh chickens? Would they be having chicken for dinner tonight? That thought brought Su Chan a pleasant distraction.

    The door creaked open. Su Chan focused her hearing and listened to the conversation between Yundong and their visitor.

    Seconds later, Su Chan felt her knees go weak.

    Oh God... Oh God... No... She's here...

    They found her.

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  • edited December 2019

    Chapter 94 Shenxians?

     

    It was that girl, the same one he saw at the gazebo when he first moved into New Hongsheng District, the one who got scared out of her wits when their eyes met across their apartment blocks that morning. Now she was here at his door, looking all pretty while dressed in her high-school attire (red stockings with yellow stripes up to mid-calf, hair tied in a ponytail), staring at him like he was some creature from another planet. She didn't seem scared at all.

    "Can I help you?" Li Yundong tried to keep the annoyance out of his tone. As if that was even remotely possible after this chick had just pulled one of the greatest cockblocking stunts in existence. He would have stomped his foot if his manhood didn't feel like it was about to explode at any second.

    Instead of answering his damn question and stating her purpose, the girl began to appraise him intently, her eyes scanning his body from head to toe like he was some kind of science experiment. Which, of course, annoyed Li Yundong to no end.

    "Um... Excuse me? Who are you? And how can I help you?"

    The girl stopped her appraisal and stared hard at his face. Her eyes, however, held a hint of distaste, as though she thought he was some kind of vile creature.

    What the hell was the matter with this girl? She came knocking on someone's door for no other reason than to give them judgmental looks? Did she have a loose screw or something?

    "Hey, what are you—"

    The girl kneeled, and then kowtowed. Literally.

    Before Li Yundong could bend down to pull her up, the girl was up on her feet. One of her hands was raised to the level of her chest with the palm turned sideways.

    "What on earth are you doin—"

    "Peace in the Tao, my fellow friend and brother in the Tao. May you be blessed with longevity and boundless happiness. It is an honor to finally make your acquaintance."

    Honestly, she might as well be speaking to him in another language at this point. If this was some kind of weird sales pitch, then it wasn't working.

    "What? What is this? Who are you?"

    The girl maintained her hand posture and bent slightly at the knee as though she was doing a curtsy. "I am Ruan Hongling, a disciple of the venerable Zhenren Wang. May I know who your master is and which sect or school you belong to, my fellow brother in the Tao?"

    A loose screw. How about a hundred loose screws?

    Li Yundong frowned. "Listen, girl. I don't know what game you're playing here, or what kind of sales pitch this is. But you're young and you're clearly still in high school, so I'm going to let this go. I suggest you leave now before I call the cops on—"

    "Ah, I see. It seems I might not have made my origins clear enough. I mean no disrespect. Allow me to properly introduce myself then." The girl did that curtsy thing again. "Hello there. I am Ruan Hongling, a 45th generation disciple of the venerable Zhenren Wang from the Linggong Sect of the Qingzong Zhengyi Taoist School. Our school is located at Mount Longhu in the south." (T/N: Zhenren is an honorific and a title of respect used to address Cultivators or great Taoists)

    What the hell? Mount Longhu? Ching Chong Zheng Yi what?

    Li Yundong shook his head. "Look. I don't understand a single thing you just said. But right now, you're at my door. And I would appreciate it if you state the purpose you're here." Li Yundong stepped forward so that his body was fully blocking the doorway. At the same time, he scanned the corridor with his eyes for threats.

    The girl seemed taken aback by his hostility; she took a huge step back, as though she was afraid of him.

    "So?" Li Yundong took another step forward. "Are you going to tell me why you're here?"

    The girl frowned and gave him a brief nod. "My apologies. It seems like I've mistaken you for someone else."

    Li Yundong looked at the girl for a while, then shook his head. He stepped back into the apartment and shut the door. "What the hell was that about?" he mumbled. What's with all those weird names? She dresses like a modern high school girl, but acts like someone from the ancient times. The way she acted kind of reminded him of Su Cha—

    Li Yundong gasped and yanked the door open, but the girl was already gone. The empty corridor was all he saw. Could she be someone from Su Chan's past? A sister? A friend? It would certainly make sense if they were related; the girl looked so pretty. Or could it be...

    All of a sudden, Li Yundong's spine tingled. Wait a minute... Those strange names... and she also mentioned Taoist School... Su Chan's warnings about his life being in danger flooded his mind. Was this about the drug? Was this what Su Chan was afraid of? That someone would come looking for them?

    Li Yundong stepped back into the apartment and shut the door, making sure to lock it. He shot a glance towards Su Chan's room. Only one way to find out.

    ***

    Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States.

     

    "Bye Uncle Tom! Thanks for driving me. Send my regards to Aunt Cheryl!"

    "Will do! And you take care now, kiddo!"

    Kris waved at her personal driver, who waved back at her. "Drive safe!"

    Kris kept waving even as the car pulled away from the gates.

    When Uncle Tom's car was out of sight, Kris lowered her hand and walked through the gates towards the manor. She made her way across the huge lawn, which was pristine and well-maintained. Near the manor, she was greeted by one of the lawn's diligent maintainers.

    "Kris? Hey, you're back! How was the trip to China?"

    A wide smile lit up Kris's face. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Fresh air. Heavenly. "The trip was fine, Uncle Andy. Thank you for asking! I still prefer the air here though." Kris opened her eyes. "Is Gram home?"

    Uncle Andy gave her one of his cheerful smiles. "Oh yes, she is. She's at the usual place." Uncle Andy chuckled. "About time you come for a visit, Kris. She's been moping around lately. Never stopped talking about you. Kept asking if you'd called or when you'd come for a visit."

    Warmth flooded Kris's chest at those words. I miss you too, Gram...

    "Then I better go say hi." Kris gave Uncle Andy another wave before making a beeline towards the back garden.

    The back garden was essentially a square that had been sectioned off from the rest of the manor's backyard with tall wooden fences. On the front side of the fence, there was a gate that led into the garden. Beside the gate sat a folding screen with a beautiful peacock painted on its lacquered surface. With its colorful feathers fanned out, the peacock was eye-catching even from far away. Delicately carved rosewood panels bordered the wooden frames of the tall fence. Kris stopped in front of the gate and swung it open, her grin widening. Of all the places in gram's manor, this was one place she would never grow tired of. It was the most distinctive spot in the entire estate, one that showcased Gram's Chinese heritage.

    Through the gates, Kris jogged past a bunch of knick-knacks: several potted plants, mostly bonsai; an array of beautifully carved rocks arranged into miniature ravines and canyons; a Thangka; and several paintings of traditional Chinese women.

    Near the center of the square garden, Kris found what she was looking for: an area filled with twenty or so wooden poles that had been arranged to form a peach blossom pattern on the ground. The poles were slightly above a meter in height and had girths the size of a rice bowl.

    Affection surged through Kris when she saw her grandmother's figure leaping from pole to pole with the finesse and agility of someone in their early twenties. Some days, Kris still had a hard time believing that her grandmother was more than ninety years old. Today was one of those days.

    Instead of making her presence known, Kris decided to watch her grandmother from the sidelines. Far be it from Kris to deny herself the chance to watch the Meihua Quan in action.

    Her grandmother leaped down from one of the poles at the end of the routine. Kris did a cheer and began clapping her hands loudly.

    "You're amazing, Gram! I've seen people in their twenties who couldn't even stand straight on one leg. Yet here you are, dancing around on a bunch of poles!"

    Her grandmother sauntered away from the poles and approached Kris. "Tut-tut, Kris. Didn't we agree to speak to each other in Mandarin when it's just the two of us?"

    Kris smiled sheepishly. "Oops. Sorry Gram."

    Before Kris knew it, she was enveloped in a warm hug.

    "Welcome back, my dear."

    When they parted, Kris regarded her grandmother briefly. "You look great, Gram." Understatement of the century. Her grandmother looked fantastic. Even though she was well into her nineties, her grandmother looked like a middle-aged woman in their late forties. Kris had lost count of the number of times where she was astounded by the sharpness and intensity in her grandmother's eyes. Those eyes held a level of focus and mental clarity that no living person in their dotage should possess.

    "And you look genuinely baffled," her grandmother said, smoothing down her maroon Tang costume. One of her brows rose. "Bad trip to China?"

    "No. The trip was great. Fascinating, even," Kris said, shaking her head. She stared down at the ground. Her grandmother's green cotton shoes stared back at her.

    "Well? What is it then? What's gotten my precious granddaughter so confused?"

    Kris smiled and lifted her gaze. "It's just... Well, I've always been meaning to ask…" Kris stared into her grandmother's eyes. "How do you do it?"

    "What do you mean?" The affectionate smile on her grandmother's face was infectious; Kris couldn't help but smile back.

    Kris pointed at the poles. "I couldn't even climb up one of those things. But you were up there kicking and punching and doing weird stances..."

    Her grandmother laughed. "Oh. It's just a matter of practice, that's all. It's no big deal."

    Her incredulity must've shown on her face because her grandmother released another round of laughter.

    "Come on, Gram! You must be joking! I don't think there are many people in the world in their nineties who look like you. No, scratch that. You're probably the only ninety-year-old in this world who looks like..." Kris gestured at her grandmother from head to toe. "Like you could still appear in the front cover of Vogue and not cause it to go bankrupt."

    Her grandmother laughed again, but Kris wasn't done yet. "And Jesus, you just performed some fancy kung fu routine for, like, fifteen minutes on a bunch of wooden poles, yet you barely broke a sweat! That's just incredible!"

    Her grandmother patted her head a few times. "Oh, Krissy dear. Seems to me like you know a lot less about China than you think." Her grandmother chuckled. "You see, dear, you're not supposed to sweat at all while performing the Meihua Quan's routine. Heavy sweating is a sign of incompetent Qi control."

    Qi control?

    Kris was piqued. She'd been wondering if that was how Li Yundong was able to send John flying without even touching him. That stuff he did back then seemed a lot like Qigong.

    "Umm…Gram?"

    "Yes, dear?"

    Her grandmother sounded amused.

    Kris cleared her throat. Here goes…

    "Do you think it's possible for humans to dodge bullets?"

    Her grandmother laughed. "How many times have I told you that movie scenes aren't accurate depictions of actual combat?"

    Kris's cheeks burned. "It was a serious question, Gram. I didn't ask because of some movie. I asked because… because I was curious... So? Do you think it's possible?"

    Her grandmother gave her a funny look.

    "No, my dear. That's not possible. No human could dodge bullets no matter how well-trained they are. Human reflexes are too just slow to handle an assault from firearms."

    "But that's not what I saw when I was in Tiannan City!" Kris blurted out.

    Her grandmother gave her a look of alarm. "What? You were in a gunfight?!"

    Kris waved her hand a few times. "No. I wasn't. I just witnessed... Ugh. That's not the point. The point is that there was this guy who dodged the bullets fired from a handgun seven times in a row! I saw it with my own eyes. And you know what's crazy? The shots were fired at him from less than five meters away! That's practically point-blank range!"

    The shift in her grandmother's expression was obvious. "No... That's not possible... Unless..."

    Something stirred inside Kris's heart. For days, she had been puzzling over the matter. Now she was finally getting somewhere. "Unless what?"

    Her grandmother had a faraway look in her eyes, like she was searching her memory for something.

    "Gram?"

    "Unless the person is a Shenxian... or on the way to becoming one."

    Disappointment settled into the pit of Kris's stomach. She sighed. "Come on, Gram. Shenxians don't exist."

    Her grandmother chuckled and shook her head wryly. "The universe is a large place, Krissy dear. You never know what mysteries lie in it." Her grandmother looked at her wryly. "Well, I suppose the matter is still a moot point. Even if Shenxians do exist, I don't suppose mere mortals like us could even comprehend the intricacies of their existence. So there's that."

    The conversation stilled as her grandmother stared out into the large expanse of the backyard. Occasionally, the chirping of birds would break the silence.

    "Come," her grandmother said, turning around abruptly. "Let me share a story with you."

    Wait... what?

    Kris was thrown into a daze, and by the time she came to her senses, her grandmother was already walking towards the gate.

    "Wait... Grams! You... you mean a story about your past?" Kris asked hopefully.

    Her grandmother paused at the gate. "Yes. Now are you coming or what? I'm in the mood for some tea."

    Kris didn't need to be told twice. She ran to catch up to her grandmother, her nerve endings tingling with excitement. Wow. This was big. Really big. Kris knew that her grandmother had done some pretty heroic things in the past, but she didn't really know the details. Not that she hadn't tried to find out. Her grandmother refused to tell her anything no matter how hard she pleaded and begged. At one point, Kris just gave up, figuring that she would respect her grandmother's privacy. But now, her grandmother was offering to tell her bits and pieces about her past. Kris's inner Lois Lane was screaming in joy.

    They left the garden and decided to sit at one of the most relaxing spots in the backyard—a quaint patio table near the back of the manor.

    "I'll get the tea, Gram," Kris said once she pushed her grandmother down into a stool. "Black or oolong?"

    Her grandmother smiled. "Oolong please."

    "Sit tight, Gram. I'll be right back." Kris entered the house and went straight into the kitchen. The manor was a token of their family's success, which was built through many trials and tribulations.

    When her grandparents first came to the United States, gangs reigned over the lands. Even so, her grandmother refused to give in to subjugation. She rallied the local Chinese community and fought back. That was how their family had managed to put down roots in the United States. As such, her grandmother remained one of the most influential members in their family. Her grandmother's words held a lot of weight in any of their family's decisions.

    Kris returned to the patio table a while later with a tray containing two steaming cups of oolong tea. After serving out the tea to her grandmother, Kris sat down across from her grandmother, ready to listen to the story her grandmother was about to share.

    "You know that I like traveling?" her grandmother said, setting down her teacup.

    Kris nodded, taking a sip from her own cup.

    "In 1922, I went to Mount Huangshan on a hiking trip."

    "Alone?" Kris asked, putting down her cup.

    "Yes. Alone. And I ran into a bunch of bandits." Her grandmother shook her head in disgust. "Those were bad men. Very bad men. Not only did they try to rob me, but they also tried to rape me."

    "And let me guess, you kicked their asses with your awesome kung fu skills?"

    Her grandmother burst into laughter. "No! I was helpless! A damsel in distress! Back then, I was just your typical spoiled girl from a rich family. I didn't even know how to throw a punch."

    "What?" Kris blinked a few times. "Ooh! I know. Some badass hero saved your life! Was he handsome?"

    "Someone did save my life, yes. But it was a she not a he. She was a Taoist priestess." Her grandmother gave her a playful look. "You wouldn't even be born if it were a handsome man."

    Kris chuckled. "I suppose that's a good thing. I'm sure Grandpa would be heartbroken in the afterlife if he knew you were once swept off your feet by a man other than him."

    Her grandmother smiled. "Anyway, the priestess fought off the bandits and saved my life. After that, we talked and she decided to teach me the Meihua Quan."

    "What? Just like that?" Kris could barely contain her surprise. But that damned Li Yundong had refused to take her and John as disciples no matter how hard they begged! That infuriating, arrogant, and selfish little... ugh!

    "Yes, just like that. She knew I like to travel, but she thought it was unsafe for a young girl like me to travel alone without knowing how to defend herself if necessary."

    Kris stared at her grandmother in awe. "Wow... That's... That's generous of her..." Unlike a certain someone who could dodge bullets and catch falling bodies.

    "Yes, she is..." Her grandmother had that faraway look in her eyes again. "But her generosity isn't why I'm telling you this story."

    Her grandmother's tone was serious now. Kris leaned forward in her seat. Her tea had gone cold, but she didn't care.

    "In my younger years, I've barely scratched the surface of the Meihua Quan. I thought it was merely a self-defense system, and nothing more."

    Kris could feel her own jaw going slack. "You mean it isn't?"

    "Well, it is, but that isn't all there is to it. It's only when I was older that I realize there's something... magical about the Meihua Quan."

    Something clicked inside Kris's head. "Wait, are you saying that… You mean that's how you retained your youthful appearance and health? Because you've been practicing the Meihua Quan?"

    Her grandmother's smile was cryptic. "I believe so, yes." There was a pause. "Like I said, I think there's something special about the Meihua Quan. In fact, I highly suspect that the whole system was invented and passed down by a Shenxian."

    Kris burst into chortles. "Oh, come on, Gram! That's ridiculous! How do you even know that?"

    Kris rubbed her thigh after her grandmother had slapped it under the table.

    "It's not ridiculous if you take a look at the ancient history of China. Do you know the first emperor of the Song Dynasty?"

    Kris nodded. "Zhao Kuangyin, right? Also known as Emperor Taizu of Song!"

    There was an impressed look on her grandmother's face, and Kris's heart swelled a little at the sight.

    "Not bad, not bad..." Her grandmother nodded. "Anyway. Zhao Kuangyin started out as a foot soldier. He had a hobby, though. In his free time, he liked to travel around and challenge people to chess games. One day when he was passing by Mount Huashan, he heard from the locals about a famous man named Chen Tuan. He was intrigued, so he tracked down Chen Tuan to challenge him to a game of chess. Zhao Kuangyin lost the game in the end, but Chen Tuan saw something in him. Chen Tuan saw in Zhao Kuangyin the potential to be a ruler, so he taught Zhao Kuangyin a fighting system. Zhao Kuangyin became a formidable fighter after he picked up the martial art. He quickly gained recognition and rose through the ranks in the government. Eventually, he became the first emperor of the Song Dynasty!"

    Kris had been listening to everything her grandmother said with rapt attention until her grandmother suddenly gave her a teasing look, one that made her feel like squirming in her seat. "Why am I even explaining these things to you, my dear? Shouldn't you already know this? Weren't you bragging to all your friends that you are... what was the term you used? China-savvy?"

    Kris's cheeks heated up. Suddenly, the teacup's handle seemed like the most interesting object in the universe.

    "Have you heard of Chen Tuan before, my dear?"

    Kris honestly wouldn't be surprised if she started steaming at the ears at this point. "N- no..."

    Her grandmother laughed. "Now, now... Don't look so embarrassed. I was just teasing. You do know a lot about China for a foreigner, but sometimes you have to see and experience things for yourself."

    "So who is Chen Tuan really?"

    "Oh. He's a great Shenxian, just like the great Lu Dongbin!"

    Kris huffed. "But Gram! There's no proof that those historical figures really became Shenxians! Aren't these stories just legends and folklore? They are just anecdotes! Surely they don't count!"

    Her grandmother shook her head and gave her a meaningful look. "Listen, Krissy dear... Right now, you're in a lot of doubt, and I can understand that. It's because you haven't encountered a true Cultivator yet. If you are fortunate enough to encounter one, then I assure you that all your doubts will be gone. These individuals, those on the path to becoming Shenxians, are highly extraordinary. The things they are capable of are out of this world." Her grandmother chuckled. "I was like you too when I was young. Completely clueless." She shook her head. "That Taoist priestess I met was actually a Cultivator, but back then, I thought she was only a martial artist."

    Her grandmother's wistful expression brought a pang to Kris's chest. She reached out across the patio table to touch her grandmother's hand. Her grandmother raised her head and released a sigh. "If I knew where that priestess was right now, I'd drop everything and become her disciple. I'll follow her guidance and become a Cultivator."

    Kris withdrew her hand in shock. "B- but Grams... aren't you happy with your life? Why would you throw everything away to lead a difficult life like that?"

    Her grandmother just shook her head. "You're still young, so you don't yet realize how precious life is. Cultivation isn't just about gaining strength and powerful abilities. It's also about discovering the true meaning and nature of life. And most importantly, it can prevent you from aging!"

    Her grandmother's sharp eyes brought chills down Kris's spine.

    Was her grandmother right? Was Cultivation the key to immortality? Did Shenxians with extraordinary powers really exist? Was Li Yundong a Shenxian? Was that how he dodged those bullets?

    The touch of her grandmother's palm on her head jolted Kris out of her reverie. Her grandmother was looking at her with affection. "Krissy dear... If you ever have the good fortune to cross paths with a Cultivator, you must find a way to become his or her disciple. Otherwise, you'll end up like me, forced to watch my youth slip through my fingers like sand. And when your body is depleted of its youth, you'll be left with nothing other than regret."

    The pressure on her head eased. Kris turned slightly in her seat. Her grandmother was slowly making her way back towards the manor.

    Kris's hands rose to touch her face.

    Immortality. Eternal youth. Were those things possible?

    Was Li Yundong able to give her those things?

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  • edited January 2

    Chapter 95 The Birds and the Bees

     

    Li Yundong stared at his laptop screen: about 2255000 search results for "Zhengyi" in 0.22 seconds.

    He clicked into the first article titled "Zhengyi Taoism."

    Most of the article was about the history of this so-called Zhengyi Toaist School: Taoist movement in the Tang Dynasty; founded by Zhang Daoling, the first Celestial Master; canonized by Emperor Xuanzong.

    Something made Li Yundong stop scrolling.

    Wait…Mount Longhu? Didn't the girl mention that name just now? Li Yundong clicked on the term and was redirected to another page.

    Mount Longhu. Located in Jiangxi, China. One of the birthplaces of Taoism. Temples built on the mountainside. Claimed to be the spot where Zhao Daoling, the founder of Zhengyi Taoist school, united with the Tao. Where temple of the Zhengyi Taoist school was located... blah blah blah.

    Okay. So this Zhengyi thingy seemed legit.

    Li Yundong stared at the screen for a moment. Then, he opened a new tab and typed "Linggong Sect, Zhenren Wang" into the search bar. He hit the enter key and then waited.

    112600 results in 0.53 seconds.

    He started clicking and scrolling.

    Surprisingly, none of the search results for "Zhenren Wang" had anything to do with Taoism. There wasn't even a single mention of Linggong Sect. Li Yundong shook his head. Maybe that girl is cuckoo after all... Li Yundong sighed and put his laptop on the cushion beside him. He stood up from the couch and glanced towards Su Chan's room. The door was still closed. She had been in there ever since their heated, "I wanna rip your clothes off and take you to bed" make-out session, which ended fifteen minutes ago when that cuckoo cockblocker interrupted them. Shit... Maybe I pushed her too far... But dammit, she seemed so into it earlier! She kissed him back and then...

    And then she said no.

    Okay, yeah. This was his fault. He should've kept it in his f*cking pants. He did promise himself that he would work hard and become a man worthy of her affections first before they...

    Don't even go there, you idiot.

    Li Yundong sighed and carded his hands through his hair. He padded over to Su Chan's room and knocked on the door. "Su Chan... Can we talk?"

    He waited.

    No answer.

    Maybe she needed some space?

    Of course she needs space, you moron. You touched her under her shirt!

    Li Yundong cleared his throat. "Listen. Just now some weird girl came by. Said she was from some Zhengyi Taoist school or something. I just thought you should know... And um... I'm sorry about earlier."

    Okay. He apologized. He also told her about the girl. Great. Now what?

    Right. Space. Got it.

    Li Yundong went back to the living room and plopped down on the couch. Was it possible that the girl and Su Chan were related? He turned that idea over in his mind for a moment. Nah... That doesn't make any sense. If she came here looking for Su Chan, why didn't she just ask for Su Chan straightaway? Instead, she had to spout all this Wuxia nonsense like some lunatic. But why couldn't he just forget about the encounter and let the whole thing go?

    Well, he knew why.

    The resemblance between that girl's behavior and Su Chan's behavior was too great to be a coincidence. Not to mention all that Taoism stuff the girl had spouted earlier.

    Li Yundong grabbed his laptop from the couch.

    On the search bar, he typed, "Taoist schools in China."

    He clicked on the first link.

    In China, schools of Taoist thought and ideologies are geographically classified. As such, any Taoist school in China is either a Northern or Southern school, but in general, the Southern schools are far more prominent than the Northern schools in terms of strength and influence. Schools and temples were established deep inside the mountains, chiefly Mount Gezao, Mount Maoshan, and Mount Longhu. All Northern schools are based in Mount Maoshan…

    Not exactly helpful, but Mount Longhu did pop up. Li Yundong scrolled down until something caught his attention. It was a heading. The Great Seal of the Three Mountains. The Greatest Taoist School in Existence. He scanned through the rest of the section, which consisted of long paragraphs explicating the history of the Zhengyi Taoist School. Apparently, the Zhengyi Taoist School represented the entire Southern school of Taoist thought in China. It was also the most powerful Taoist organization in the world.

    And that strange girl claimed to be a disciple of this elusive school...

    Li Yundong's scalped tingled.

    What the heck is going on here?

    Things just kept getting weirder and weirder.

    He searched the entire article for the keywords "Zhenren Wang" and "Linggong Sect."

    Nothing.

    Then, he switched to another tab and typed the same keywords into the search engine.

    Also nothing.

    Wait a minute...

    He closed the tab and opened a new one. This time, he did a search for "Taoist drugs" and "Taoist pills." He clicked into several articles but found that most of them were about Traditional Chinese Medicine prescriptions meant for curing diseases and improving overall health. Nothing about super strength or Spidey senses. Of course not, you idiot... Everyone would have known about this drug by now if it were out there on the web. He tried again, but this time, he searched for "Taoist super potion," which ended up with a bunch of articles about some Wuxia novel.

    Li Yundong shut the lid of his laptop, then put the device aside. This was pointless. He couldn't find out anything on the web. He sighed and lay down on the couch. He closed his eyes and tried to sort through his thoughts.

    It would be foolish to dismiss that strange girl just now as just some loony. It was the way she spoke; that was what bothered him the most. The speech pattern and lingo was old-fashioned and esoteric, like they came straight out of the page of an Wuxia novel. But that wasn't the main problem. The main problem was that Su Chan spoke in a similar way too.

    He heard a soft swish, like the rustling of a piece of cloth. He opened his eyes and sat up. He glanced towards the sliding door leading to the balcony. The curtains were swaying gently in the afternoon breeze.

    Then there it was again, another swish. But this time, the sound came from inside his bedroom. He frowned. Did I leave the sliding door open this morning? He rose from the couch and padded into his room. The sliding door was closed; the curtains weren't even moving. Chills travelled down his spine. What the hell? He walked over to his bed and lifted the blanket. He didn't find anything strange under the blanket. He glanced up at the ceiling. Also nothing. He sighed and unclenched his fists.

    Then, when he was rearranging the blanket on his bed, he suddenly had a strange feeling that something was approaching him from behind. Wait. No. It wasn't just from behind, but from... all directions. He heard another swish, this time it was as if it came from right beside his ear. Li Yundong gasped and sprang to his feet, his heart pounding and his ears ringing. His did a quick scan of his room.

    Again, he didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

    Another swish. This time it came from the living room. Alright, what the f*ck? Enough is enough... Li Yundong moved his Qi to his Shenting, and then charged out of his bedroom, fully prepared for a fight.

    But there was nobody in the living room.

    Su Chan was still holed up inside her room, so it couldn't have been her as well. Li Yundong closed his eyes and tried to sort through the buzzing in his ears. He didn't hear that strange swishing sound again.

    Was it a bird?

    No. It couldn't have been a bird. That didn't sound like a bird at all. It sounded like someone waving a flag or a piece of cloth.

    Minutes later, he threw his hands into the air. "Argh. You know what? This is getting ridiculous," he mumbled, lying back down on the couch. All this nonsense was making him paranoid. He needed to just chill and calm his f*cking tits before he did something stupid like calling the cops because "there's some invisible person waving an invisible flag inside my apartment."

    After a while of staring blankly at the ceiling, he got up and pulled out his thick textbook from his backpack. He had asked for the tips from Zhou Qin earlier, so he might as well start studying for the finals now.

    ***

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  • edited January 2

    Su Chan opened her door slowly and peeked out. The sun was already up, and the living room was bright since the curtain was open. Su Chan stepped out and shut her door quietly. She padded over to the bathroom but stopped just outside of it. She turned and looked towards Yundong's room. The door was open, as usual. Yundong never slept with his door closed, but that would have to change soon. They would have to be extra careful now that the people from the Zhengyi School had come knocking on their door.

    The Zhengyi School. Su Chan shuddered at the mere thought of that name. She stepped into the bathroom and began her morning routine. The glory days of most Taoist schools were over. That had been the case since the falls of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Even so, it didn't mean these schools no longer existed, just that most of their members—master Cultivators—had left their respective schools and ventured out into the world. Some of these Cultivators went to live in the mountains. Others chose to hide themselves in the mortal world. A while ago, when word of the Renyuan Jindan's existence got out, a lot of these Cultivators came out of hiding in order to hunt for it. Blood was spilled and lives were spent in this great war to gain possession of the Renyuan Jindan. She herself had nearly died at the hands of several master Cultivators the night she stole the Jindan. The only reason she was even alive was because Master had managed to distract them long enough for her to escape with the Jindan. Ruan Hongling and Zi Yuan were the two Cultivators sent by the Zhengyi Taoist School to hunt her down.

    And yesterday afternoon, one of them, Ruan Hongling, had knocked on their door.

    This was bad.

    How did they even find her here?

    It would make sense if it was their old apartment, since that was the last place Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling had seen Su Chan. But here? Their new place? How did they even know?

    Su Chan dried her face with a towel and studied her own reflection in the mirror. Thanks to the one thousand Xiao Zhoutians and Da Zhoutians she had spent the entire night completing, she looked refreshed and well-rested. She'd been so freaked out by Ruan Hongling's arrival yesterday that she ended up spending the entire night Cultivating inside her room. She didn't even come out for dinner.

    Which was why her stomach sounded as though someone had placed a bunch of explosive talismans in it. She could use one of those Mac Doo Nurls breads right now. Even the not-so-tasty food from the restaurant at Yundong's school would do at this point. 

    She got out of the bathroom and tip-toed towards Yundong's bedroom. She peeked around the edge of the doorjamb and frowned when she saw Yundong's empty bed. Is he up already? Neither of the bathrooms were occupied, so he couldn't be in there. Su Chan went into the kitchen next, but she saw no signs of Yundong there as well. Had he gone out on his own? Su Chan leaned against the kitchen counter and began running through a list of scenarios that could explain Yundong's absence.

    Oh, no...

    Su Chan felt her knees go weak.

    Oh, God no...

    Su Chan pushed away from the counter and charged out of the kitchen. Had he been kidnapped by the Zhengyi people? Did they manage to figure out that he had consumed the Jindan? But how! Did Yundong tell them? Did they extort the information from him?

    Oh, no, no! This wasn't supposed to happen! They would absorb the Jindan, and then they would kill him! Su Chan dashed past the living room and reached for the front door.

    Then, she halted. Keys. She needed to get the keys. When she turned back around, she nearly jumped out of her skin.

    Yundong was there on the couch, fast asleep, his entire face covered by that thick book of his. Su Chan's knees buckled, and she sagged to the floor. He's safe... he's safe...

    Moments later, she crawled towards the couch and then sat beside the coffee table. She spent a while just watching him sleep. His deep and slow breathing suggested that he was still in deep sleep, which was a bit strange, since he was usually up by now. He must have stayed out here all night, reading his book…

    The Cultivators from the Zhengyi School were here. They were here, at their door. Their lives were in serious danger.

    What was she supposed to do now...

    Ugh! Enough, Chan'er! Stop being so weak!

    Su Chan shook her head in disgust.

    Alright Chan'er... First, look at the facts.

    Yes! Facts, facts, facts! Bring it on, facts!

    Hmm…The enemy had yet to attack them, nor had they made any threatening moves so far. Zi Yuan hadn't even shown herself yet, so there was a good chance that the Zhengyi School was still in the dark about the Jindan's whereabouts. Yes, that made sense. If they knew where the Jindan was, Zi Yuan would most certainly be all over it.  

    Alright then. The Jindan's whereabouts was still secure. Phew.

    But why was Ruan Hongling here yesterday?

    Su Chan replayed the conversation between Yundong and Ruan Hongling yesterday. All Ruan Hongling did was introduce herself… And then she asked Yundong about his affiliation and who his master was. Ruan Hongling sounded curious about Yundong… Almost like she was trying to get to know him better...

    Hmm...

    The roar.

    Yundong's impressive roar must have piqued Ruan Hongling's curiosity, so she decided to drop by to pay Yundong a visit!

    So this might have nothing to do with the Jindan after all. Phew…

    But…

    Wasn't it just a matter of time before they got found out? Who knew what kind of tricks Ruan Hongling had up her sleeves. Spells? Magical objects? It was certainly possible to extort information with the right tools…

    Should they move to a new place? Don't be silly, Chan'er. What would that even accomplish? It wasn't like Yundong could alter his facial appearance. Besides, suddenly moving away would just make them look even more suspicious.

    But how were they supposed to survive if their cover got blown? The Zhengyi School was a force to be reckoned with.

    The Zhuji phase. She had to help Yundong pass the Zhuji phase as quickly as possible. That was the only way they could survive this.

    Yundong groaned and began pushing the thick book away from his face. "Ugh… Wazz dizz..."

    Biting her lip, Su Chan leaned forward and placed her elbows on the table. Then, she rested her chin in her hands and watched Yundong closely. The book fell to the floor with a thud. Yundong shifted around a few times, then blinked his eyes open. He gasped loudly the moment he saw her.

    "Argh!!! Shit!"

    He fell off the couch and landed face-first on the floor.

    Su Chan giggled. She couldn't help it; he was just too cute.

    Yundong was up from the floor in a second, his hair sticking out in odd angles. "S- Su Chan?"

    Su Chan cracked a smile and waved at him. "Morning... Yundong."

    "B- but... y- you're here... I thought..." Yundong stared at her as though he couldn't believe his eyes.

    Su Chan felt an urge to smooth out his messy hair, no matter how cute he looked right then.

    Yundong got up from the floor and sat down on the couch. He continued to stare at her.

    "So you... you're not… you're not mad at me anymore?" he asked tentatively.

    Su Chan frowned. Mad? Why would she be mad—

    Images flashed across her mind. Steamy images involving tangled bodies, and intertwining tongues, and...

    Su Chan's cheeks heated up.

    "Are you?" Yundong asked again.

    Su Chan shook her head.

    Yundong lay back down on the couch and sighed. "Thank God... You were holed up in your room for the whole day yesterday. You didn't even come out for dinner..." He rubbed his hands over his face. "I was worried sick..."

    So was I... But for a completely different reason.

    "Look Su Chan... I'm sorry... About yesterday I mean... Dammit. I got carried away again. And... you were right to push me away... It's too soon, and I know you aren't ready... Hell, I'm probably not ready myself. Hey, you now what? If I do something like that again next time... just... just..." Yundong gestured wildly. "Just kick me in the nuts!"

    Su Chan burst into laughter, slapping the tabletop as she laughed. When she was done laughing, she saw Yundong looking at her softly. Suddenly, he reached over and pinched her nose. She still didn't understand why he liked doing that.

    "Forgive me, princess?"

    There was really nothing to forgive, but Su Chan nodded nonetheless. "Mmm!"

    They stared at each other until Su Chan noticed the conflicted look on his face. He looked like he had something else to say to her.

    "What is it, Yundong?"

    Yundong sat up, then picked up the book from the floor.

    "Tell me," Su Chan prodded again.

    Yundong placed the book on the table and held her gaze. "Did you hear something strange yesterday?"

    "Like what?"

    Not that she would know. She'd been performing Xiao Zhoutian and Da Zhoutian until dawn.

    "I mean strange noises... like..." Yundong gestured wildly again.

    Huh? What was he talking about?

    "Like...?"

    Yundong stopped gesturing. "Like someone waving a flag? Or a handkerchief? Or a shirt...Gah! You know what? Don't worry about it. It's silly. I must have imagined it—"

    Su Chan's stomach growled loudly.

    They stared at each other in silence. Su Chan wondered if steam was coming off the top of her head now.

    Then, Yundong laughed and stood up from the couch. "Come on! I'll take you out for breakfast! You must be starving after skipping dinner last night."

    Su Chan's stomach answered with another growl.

    One of these days, she was going to invent a medicine that cures hunger for good.

    ***

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  • "Hey!!! Li Yundong!!!"

    Li Yundong stopped just outside of the academic building. Turning to his left, he saw Feng Na waving at him.

    Li Yundong smiled and waved back. "Yo! Good morning!"

    Feng Na greeted Su Chan with a nod, then pulled out something from her bag. It was a DVD, which she quickly stuffed into Li Yundong's hand. "Keep this for me please?" she said anxiously.

    "Ooh... what's this, eh?" Li Yundong wiggled his brows. "Don't tell me it's part of your porn stash?"

    Feng Na rolled her eyes. "No it's not—"

    "Nana!!!! Seriously? Would it kill you to lend that disk to your own bestie?!"

    Li Yundong turned to his left again. This time, he saw Cheng Cheng running towards them at full speed.

    Seconds later, Cheng Cheng pounced on Feng Na, throttling her and shaking her shoulders.

    Li Yundong could barely contain his amusement. Didn't know that these two are so into porn...

    "Come on! I only need it for two days! Is that too much to ask? I'm your best friend, dammit!"

    Feng Na smiled at Cheng Cheng fawningly. "Look... I told you I've already lent it to someone else. Why won't you believe me?"

    "Uh-huh..." Cheng Cheng eyed Feng Na skeptically.

    "Okay, look... Would it make you feel better if I tell you that I myself haven't had the chance to watch it yet?"

    "So, what, you lend the DVD to someone else before you watch it yourself?"

    Feng Na stomped her foot. "Yes! That's what I've been telling you..."

    Cheng Cheng glared at Feng Na for a moment. "Well. I. Don't. Believe. You."

    Feng Na groaned. "Oh, come on!"

    "Alright, fine. Who? Who has the DVD now?"

    Li Yundong nearly laughed when Feng Na shot him a guilty look.

    "A fourth year senior…" Feng Na said.

    Li Yundong tried to secretly pass the DVD to Su Chan behind his back, but he was already too late; Cheng Cheng was staring right at the DVD.

    "You!" Cheng Cheng gasped, then pointed a finger at Li Yundong. "Don't tell me Li Yundong is this so-called fourth-year senior?!"

    "What! No!" Feng Na yelled. She had done a terrific job covering up her panic with an indignant expression, though Li Yundong honestly doubted she could keep up the charade for long.

    The next thing he knew, Cheng Cheng was staring at him again. "You!" Cheng Cheng wagged a finger in front of his face. "Be straight with me. What's this DVD you're holding?"

    Li Yundong glanced at Feng Na who was giving him a pleading look.

    Fine... You owe me, Feng Na...

    Li Yundong cleared his throat and put on a straight face. Then, he leaned down and whispered into Cheng Cheng's ear: "Hey... This is the good stuff. But it's only a small part of my huge collection."

    Cheng Cheng drew back in surprise, then burst into laughter. "What collection?"

    "Oh, well... I've got the ones featuring the westerners. Those are pretty hard core. And if you're into the more oriental stuff, I've got those featuring the Japanese too. So. Pick your flavor."

    Cheng Cheng was blushing to the tip of her ears now. Gotcha...

    "Feng Na didn't give me this," Li Yundong added. "It fell out of my textbook, you see." Li Yundong waved the textbook in his hand. "I must've used it as a bookmark while I was studying last night."    

    He stole a glance at Feng Na, who was now giving him two thumbs up behind Cheng Cheng's back.

    "And I'm pretty sure my…um… tastes in DVDs are completely different than Feng Na's… Why would I be interested in borrowing her DVD anyway?" Li Yundong smirked. "I'll have you know that the stuff that I'm into are—"

    Cheng Cheng stomped her foot loudly, though her earlier bravado seemed to have evaporated—probably by the heat from her cheeks. "Y- you... shameless pervert!" Cheng Cheng smacked Li Yundong's upper arm, then turned to Feng Na. "And you! I know you're lying. And you've really hurt my feelings! How could you not lend it to me first? Me! Your best friend! Hmph! You won't lend it to me, is that it? Fine! I'll just go look for it on my own! I know you're hiding it somewhere!"

    Then, all three of them watched Cheng Cheng storm off.

    Feng Na sighed in relief. "Oh God... Thank you for that. I guess I owe you one..."

    Li Yundong chuckled and flipped the DVD around a few times. "What's on this DVD anyway? Why are you acting so secretive about it?"

    Feng Na grinned. "Oh, just some chick flick. You won't like it."

    "Oh? I'll have you know that my interests are broad."

    Feng Na just raised her brows at him.

    Li Yundong smirked. "I tell you what. Why don't you lend me this DVD for a day or two. I'll check it out, then I'll let you know if it fits my taste? How about that?"

    "H-hey... y-you're double-crossing me?"

    "That's the deal. Take it or leave it."

    They stared at each other for a moment. Then, Feng Na pounced for the DVD. Nice try. Li Yundong raised the DVD above his head, completely out of Feng Na's reach. Feng Na started jumping around to grab the DVD. "Give it back! Give it back, you jerk! I'll start screaming if you don't give it back."

    Li Yundong stepped back and hid the DVD behind his back. "Screaming you said? Well. That's a fantastic idea. How about I do it for you." Li Yundong turned in the direction where Cheng Cheng had stormed off earlier. "Yo!! Cheng Cheng!!"

    Cheng Cheng stopped walking and turned around. "What do you want?" she hollered back.

    Li Yundong shot Feng Na a gleeful look. "Your choice," he said with a shrug.

    Feng Na released a low growl. "Fine, dammit! You win! One day! And then you give it back to me!"

    Li Yundong smiled triumphantly. "Deal."

    Li Yundong hollered back at Cheng Cheng: "Oh, it's nothing!! Just wanted to say hi!! Have a good day!!!"

    Cheng Cheng just laughed and kept walking.

    Feng Na threw her hands in the air. "Ugh! Me and my rotten luck..." she mumbled before storming off too.

    Li Yundong shared a glance with Su Chan, then stared down at the DVD in his hand. It was just a plain DVD without any labels. What the heck was on this disc that could have those two girls so worked up? It couldn't be porn, could it?

    Whatever. He'd know for sure once he got home. For now, it was time to head to class.

    ***

    Hmm... Why was this ice cone shaking? Better yet, why was the entire Mac Doo Nurls restaurant shaking? Grrr! Couldn't a girl have a meal in peace without—

    "Su Chan! Wake up, sleepyhead!"

    Su Chan jolted awake. Class was over, and the students were slowly filing out of the classroom. Su Chan rubbed her eyes and wiggled against Yundong's shoulder.

    "What do you feel like having for lunch?" Yundong asked.

    Su Chan snuggled up to Yundong again. "Dunno... Anything I guess?"

    "So. Li Yundong. How about we have lunch together? My treat."

    Hey... That voice... Su Chan was instantly awake. Zhou Qin!

    Ooh... So she wasn't mad at Yundong after all. Hehehe. That's perfect! Looks like I was worried for nothing...

    Su Chan glanced sideways. Say yes, Yundong... Say yes... We need powerful allies...

    "Your treat again?" Yundong said. "You're starting to make me feel bad, you know. I don't want to take advantage of your kindness. Besides, we still have class in the afternoon. I'll just grab something simple for lunch."

    Zhou Qin arched an eyebrow. "Yesterday's meal doesn't count, all thanks to Liu Chuan. Besides, you were the one who did all the cooking, remember? I was supposed to repay you, but I didn't even do anything."

    Much to Su Chan's surprise, Yundong started laughing. Then Zhou Qin joined in too. I wonder what's so funny... Suddenly, Su Chan felt her cheeks heating up. Are they laughing at... me? How mean! Hmph! What was she supposed to do back then anyway? She was hungry! And... and Master told her not to waste food... Su Chan picked up a pen and began doodling on the open page of Yundong's notebook. Yundong and Zhou Qin were still laughing. Hmph. Meanies! Su Chan filled the page with twin mountain peaks, the same ones she'd seen on those Mac Doo Nurls boxes. She still couldn't tell if the symbol was meant as mountain peaks or an inverted 3.

    "Speaking of Liu Chuan... I kinda feel bad for the guy," Yundong said. "He ended up having to pay for everything!"

    Su Chan stopped doodling. Wait... So they were laughing at that stupid rich man, not her? Oh.

    "Nah... Don't worry about him," Zhou Qin said. "He's rich. He can afford it."

    All of a sudden, the door opened with a loud bang. Whispers filled the classroom seconds later.

    "Speak of the devil," Zhou Qin mumbled.

    Su Chan glanced up from her doodles. Hey… it was him again, that silly rich man. And why was he carrying such a huge bouquet of roses? Su Chan frowned. Is he here to court someone? Su Chan surveyed the classroom, then returned her gaze towards the man.

    The man was heading towards them. Ooh... I bet he's trying to court Zhou Qin! Well. Of course he was here to court Zhou Qin. Who wouldn't be drawn to such an ideal dinglu?

    Su Chan sneaked a glance at Zhou Qin, who was doing a valiant job hiding her disgust behind her aloof expression. Beside her, Su Chan could feel the trembling in Yundong's shoulder. When she glanced sideways, Yundong appeared to be holding back his laughter.

    Liu Chuan was still walking towards them. Su Chan wondered what kind of game plan the fool had come up with in order to overcome Zhou Qin's obvious disgust for him. Ha. What could that silly man do anyway? Buy two seats instead of one?

    Eh... Who cares... Zhou Qin would probably just reject his ass and then he would go home crying...

    Su Chan went back to her doodling. How she wished there were spells that could turn drawings of food into real food, because she was famished.

    "Yo! Liu Chuan!" Yundong said. "Are you going to pay for our lunch again today?"

    Ooh… That's right. Yundong managed to trick the fool into paying for our food yesterday…

    Food. How nice. Su Chan doodled a chicken drumstick. Then, she drew a little bowl with soup in it. After that, she added a few blobs of duck meat in the soup. That stewed duck dish was honestly one of the most delicious things she had ever tasted. She had never had something like that back in the mountains. Maybe she could ask Yundong for the recipe and—

    What in the Tao?

    Something tickled her nose.

    Su Chan recoiled with a loud gasp.

    There it was, the red bouquet of Tao knows how many roses, shoved in front of her face. Liu Chuan was kneeling in front of their table staring back at her. Su Chan sneaked a glance at Yundong. Her beloved was no longer smiling now. He looked like he was about to punch someone in the face. Hmm... What was she supposed to do here? This imbecile clearly had intentions towards her.

    Should she...kick him in the gonads?

    After all, she did that when the silly comb-over man tried to hit on her, and it worked like a charm. 

    The bouquet shook a little. For a moment there, Su Chan expected a gun to suddenly appear from the bouquet and start drilling holes into people's skulls.

    "Miss Su Chan! Your beauty is unparalleled and your innocence unmatched!"

    Okay. No guns, then.

    "You have bewitched me and captivated my heart. Please accept this bouquet of 999 roses as a token of my admiration!"

    How about I kick your gonads 999 times?

    Beside her, Yundong rose. "Liu Chuan... What the hell do you think you're doing, huh? She's my girlfriend."

    "It's a free world," Liu Chuan said. "Everyone has the right to pursue love."

    Uh-oh... Now Yundong looked like he was about to rip the idiot into shreds. Su Chan could feel the power of his Qi leaking out from his body. "Yundong..." Su Chan grabbed his wrist and held on as tightly as she could. However, he freed himself with an easy twist of his wrist.

    Ugh! Damned Jindan super strength.

    "I've been tolerant with you, Liu Chuan. You can mock me all you want, but this! Coming after my girl? You've crossed a line today, and I will personally make sure that you regret it."

    Su Chan grabbed Yundong wrist a second time. Again, he broke free and began moving towards Liu Chuan. Fortunately, Zhou Qin got in front of Yundong just in time and blocked his path towards Liu Chuan.

    "Calm down," Zhou Qin whispered. "Look over there."

    Zhou Qin pointed at a corner of the classroom.

    Su Chan glanced at the corner and frowned. A group of students stood in that corner with rectangular objects—which looked kind of similar to Yundong's phone—in their hands. What are they doing? For the life of her, Su Chan could never understand how these mortals operate.

    Yundong sidestepped Zhou Qin. "Oh! So you came prepared, huh? You son of a bitch!" Yundong cracked his fists a few times. "Have it your way then! I'm going to beat up your sorry ass while they record everything on their phones. And then you can watch the replay back home!"

    Liu Chuan sprang to his feet and scrambled backwards. Su Chan could see the fear in his eyes.

    "B- beat me up?! Y- you're just bluffing! You wouldn't dare!"

    Yundong snarled and began to move in. Uh-oh... Su Chan got up from her seat and moved towards Yundong. She had to stop this. They had drawn too much attention to themselves already. Ruan Hongling was at their door yesterday, for Tao's sake!

    Yundong yanked Liu Chuan up from the floor by the collar. When Yundong cocked his fist back, Su Chan pounced and grabbed his arm. Yundong turned and looked at her quizzically. Su Chan gave him her most reassuring smile and said, "Let me handle this, beloved."

    "You sure?"

    Su Chan nodded, then brought her lips to his ear. "Qi to Lingtai. That would help calm you down."

    Yundong regarded her for a moment, then nodded. He released Liu Chuan's collar. "Hurry up and get rid of this retard, princess. I might lose my appetite after seeing his face for too long."

    Su Chan held Yundong's hand, then traced soothing circles on the back of his palm before releasing his hand. She walked over towards Liu Chuan, who was adjusting his collar.

    When she got near, Liu Chuan smiled at her and raised the bouquet again. Okay. How should I handle this? Well, she would obviously need a non-violent approach to avoid drawing attention. Su Chan surveyed the classroom again. A few students were watching them, which meant she had to do something without appearing like she did anything at all.

    A spell. She needed a spell. Also, it had to be the non-life-threatening kind, otherwise she would be violating one of the major commandments that all Cultivators should abide by.

    "Your beauty captivates me, Miss Su Chan. Please accept these flowers!"

    Su Chan looked at the flowers in front of her, then at Liu Chuan. An inconspicuous spell that wasn't life-threatening…

    Hmm…

    A hallucination spell it is, then…

    Su Chan stepped forward and took the flowers. Then, she pretended to admire the flowers. "Wow... So pretty!"

    "Ah... But their beauty pales in comparison to yours, my dear Miss Su Chan!"

    Su Chan tried not to gag. And no, she did not miss the smug look Liu Chuan had given Yundong while he was dishing out that corny line.

    Fool. In a few seconds, he would look anything but smug.

    Su Chan grinned, then sniffed the flowers twice. "And it smells so good!" Su Chan lifted the bouquet and shoved it at Liu Chuan's face. "Here. You sniff it!"

    With her face now being obscured by the bouquet, Su Chan closed her eyes and muttered a quick incantation. In her mind, she visualized fifty hornets flying out of the bouquet.

    "Hehe!! Don't you think they smell good?" Su Chan waved the bouquet in front of Liu Chuan's face.

    When she saw Liu Chuan's body grow as stiff as a pole, Su Chan knew that her spell had worked.

    "Hello?! I asked you a question," Su Chan said, shaking the bouquet again. "Are you deaf? Do they smell good or not?"

    Su Chan turned around and saw Zhou Qin mouthing some words to her: "What's wrong with him?"

    Su Chan just shrugged and turned back to Liu Chuan.

    "Oh... I guess the flowers don't smell good, then? Well. Then I don't want them!" She tossed the bouquet at Liu Chuan, who caught it with both arms. He stared at the bouquet for a moment or two, his lips trembling and his face as white as a sheet.

    Then he dropped the bouquet and ran for the door, waving his arms like a maniac.

    "Arrrrgggggghhhh!!! Bees!! Bees!!! Helpp!!! Heeeeeelllllpppp!"

    Goodbye, loser.

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  • Chapter 96 I Will Destroy You!

     

    Hehehe! That was fun! Of all the spells Su Chan knew, hallucination spells were definitely her favorite! She liked hallucination spells because of how versatile they were. There was so much room for imagination when casting hallucination spells. Like, the caster could literally generate any effect with them. Granted, hallucination spells weren't her strongest spells, since she was a fox sprit who was naturally gifted in seduction spells. But against a silly mortal like Liu Chuan, even a weak hallucination spell would do the trick.

    "WAAAAHHHH HAAAAHHHH... Helllpppp! Somebody helllp!!! GAAAHHHH! Get them away from me!!!" Liu Chuan clambered his way to the front of the classroom and then—SMACK—ran facefirst into the chalkboard, no doubt having mistaken it for the door.

    Su Chan giggled a few times.

    Behind her, Yundong chuckled. "What on earth is the matter with that cuckoo?"

    Su Chan feigned ignorance. "Eh... Who knows... Maybe he's allergic to flowers."

    Zhou Qin chuckled. "What kind of idiot buys flowers knowing that he's allergic to them?"

    "The same kind who got tricked into paying other people's meals," Yundong said.

    Yundong and Zhou Qin were still talking to each other, but Su Chan was no longer paying attention to what they were saying. Did I use enough Qi for the spell? The spell's effect wouldn't last if she didn't. Then that silly man would come bother Yundong again. Grrr. Su Chan moved her Qi to her Shenting and began sifting through the ambient noise. Seconds later, she heard Liu Chuan's screams. Ah... So he's still in the building... He was still screaming as he ran. It had been, what, three minutes since she cast the spell? A good sign. Definitely a good sign. From the looks of it, the spell would last for a least fifteen minutes unless he got startled—like if someone suddenly punched him in the face, for instance.

    "Shall we go, then?" Zhou Qin said. "Seeing as we've gotten rid of the annoying pest and all."

    Yundong laughed. "Good idea. Hey, why don't we just grab lunch at the cafeteria? I heard that the great Miss Zhou had yet to grace the cafeteria with her presence. Tsk, tsk! What would the cafeteria's staff think? They must be feeling so shitty right now thinking that you have deemed their place unworthy of your presence."

    "Says the one who doesn't even stay at the university dorms," Zhou Qin said dryly, "O Hero of Tiannan University."

    Yundong burst into laughter. "Touche."

    Su Chan's Eryue was still active as the three of them were leaving the classroom. On the way out, she could make out some of the students' whispers amidst the buzzing in her ears. Out of curiosity, Su Chan focused on those voices.

    "God... He's so hot... Even the way he laughs is sexy..."

    Hey... I know that voice...

    It was the girl who fell down on stage during the rehearsals. Back then, Yundong told her that those people were "dancing" on the stage. Truth be told, Su Chan still had trouble seeing it. No matter how she looked at them, those moves looked like they were taken from a bunch of shamanistic rituals...

    There was a laugh, a derisive one. "You're out of mind, Zhuang Hui."

    Su Chan knew that voice too. It belonged to the same woman who'd made fun of her clothes the other day at the school restaurant. Su Chan had accidentally knocked over the woman's tray that day, spilling soup and juice all over her Dee-Oh or Dee-Ooh clothes.

    "What? I was just telling the truth!" Zhuang Hui said. "Don't you find him hot?"

    There was a derisive snort. "Him? Please. Didn't you see what happen just now? He couldn't even settle his own problems! His woman had to step up and deal with the problem for him. I can't believe you're swooning over such a wuss."

    Zhuang Hui sighed. "Looks like you've been out of the loop for way too long, Ke Lu. That's because you haven't been to campus for the past few days. Do you even know who he is? He's the Hero of Tiannan University!"

    "Pfft! Don't even get me started on all that nonsense on the forum," Ke Lu said. "Dodging bullets? That's bullshit. This is real life, Zhuang Hui. Real life. Not some scene from an action movie."

    Su Chan halted her steps halfway down the corridor. Then, she turned around and stormed back towards the door of the classroom. Grrr... How dare she make fun of my Yundong! Su Chan already had the perfect idea for a nice little hallucination spell she would cast on that insolent, foul-mouthed swine. Let's see how you enjoy having your breasts shrink to the size of a grain of rice! Hah! Su Chan yanked the door open—

    She was stopped by a hand on her shoulder.

    "What's wrong, princess? Did you forget something?" Yundong was back looking at her with concern.

    Su Chan glanced into the classroom through the open doorway. "That girl over there is making fun of you." Su Chan jerked her chin towards Ke Lu.

    Neither Zhuang Hui nor Ke Lu seemed to have noticed them yet.

    Yundong was now saying something to her, but Su Chan wasn't listening to him at all; her attention was fully focused on Zhuang Hui and Ke Lu's conversation.

    "...A lot of people saw him dodge those bullets, you know! Even the foreigners swore by it!"

    "Right. And there are a lot of people who swore they'd seen UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster, but that doesn't make UFOs or the Loch Ness Monster real! Wake up, Zhuang Hui!"

    "Say, Ke Lu, I really don't get it. What is it about him that rubs you the wrong way? Why do you hate him that much?"

    "He's just a gigolo," Ke Lu said snidely. "Just look at the way Zhou Qin was throwing herself at him like some kind of sugar mom."

    Su Chan could feel Yundong tensing up beside her.

    Zhuang Hui looked affronted. "I won't speak to you anymore if you keep talking bad about him!"

    "Wait... You're not ending our friendship because him, are you? Him? That useless gigolo?"

    Su Chan growled. Alright, that's it! I've had it with her! Time to show that foul-mouthed swine what the Fox Zen School's hallucination spells are made of! A strong grip wrapped around her arm before Su Chan could take a single step through the doorway.

    Su Chan turned sideways and saw Yundong staring at those two girls. "Remember what I said about ignoring shallow people?" Yundong said without taking his eyes off the two girls.

    Su Chan opened her mouth to protest, but Yundong cut her off again. "It's the quality of our actions that determines our worth." Yundong released her arm and began walking away. "Let them talk."

    Su Chan stole one final glance at the classroom. Ke Lu's face was now as pale as a sheet. She looked as though she had just seen a ghost.

    ***

    Liu Chuan ran out of the academic building, his hands flailing in the air to swat away a swarm of hornets that only he could see. When he stumbled out of the campus gates, a man grabbed Liu Chuan by the shoulder and then delivered a harsh kick on his butt.

    Liu Chuan crashed headlong onto the concrete pavement and then rolled around a few times. "Help!!! Help!!! Get them off me!! Please!!"

    He Shao stared down at Liu Chuan, who was still rolling on the ground like some nutcase high on drugs. He Shao kicked Liu Chuan's butt with the tip of his dress shoes. "Hey! What the hell is the matter with you! Get your shit together!"

    Liu Chuan grabbed the fabric of He Shao's pants. "Bees!! Bees! There are so many of them!!!"

    He Shao growled and yanked Liu Chuan up by the collar before slapping Liu Chuan's cheeks four times. "Snap out of it, you f*cking idiot! What bees? There aren't any bees around, you nutjob!" He Shao released Liu Chuan's collar and shoved him away. Liu Chuan stumbled and ended up falling flat on his ass.

    Indeed, He Shao's slaps had shocked Liu Chuan enough to break Su Chan's spell. Liu Chuan sat on the ground in a daze.

    Moments later, Liu Chuan reached up with a shaky hand and began patting his face. "No bumps..." Liu Chuan muttered. "No swelling... Hey! Hahaha! I'm fine! Hahaha!"

    He Shao rubbed his temple a few times. "Why do I keep running into idiots these days," He Shao mumbled. "First Xie Fei, and now this f*cker?"

    He Shao bent down and yanked Liu Chuan up by the collar again. "Hey! What are you mumbling about, you numbskull! I asked you to teach that Li Yundong a lesson! Have you done it yet?"

    Liu Chuan's face paled at the mere mention of Li Yundong's name. He jumped up as though someone had shoved a durian up his ass. He Shao was, needless to say, not impressed by Liu Chuan's show of wimpiness. He Shao smacked Liu Chuan upside his head. "You f*cker! You failed me, didn't you? You f*cking failed me, just like that good-for-nothing Xie Fei!" He Shao raised his hand again to strike Liu Chuan but the latter threw his arms up just in time to shield himself from the blow.

    "Argh!!! He Shao! He Shao! I can explain! Please! Let me explain!"

    He Shao lowered his arm and adjusted his jacket. "Talk!"

    "Look, He Shao... I don't think Li Yundong is a guy you wanna mess with... Something's not normal about the guy, you know. It's like there's some supernatural stuff—"

    He Shao smacked Liu Chuan's head again. "Super"—SMACK—"natural! Is that the best excuse you've got? Huh?! That he's into some voodoo stuff?"

    "B-but it's true! Weird shit keeps happening around him!"

    "F*ck you and your nonsense! You can't even do one thing right! I just asked you to provoke him a little, and then force him to assault you. And you can't even accomplish that simple task? F*cking useless piece of shit!"

    "H- He Shao... I don't think I'm the right guy for the job..." Liu Chuan gave He Shao a fawning smile. "Wh- why don't you look for someone else..."

    He Shao glare nearly made Liu Chuan melt into a puddle of Armani. "Find someone else," He Shao said, then laughed incredulously. "Find someone else! Oh, you've gotta be shitting me."

    The second part of He Shao's statement wasn't that far from the truth since Liu Chuan was pre-tty close to losing his bowel control at that point.

    "I- I'm telling you that something's off about that guy, He Shao! Weird shit keeps happening to me every time I ran into him! It's like a curse or something!"

    "A curse..." He Shao stared at Liu Chuan incredulously. "You're losing your shit because you think he cursed you..." He Shao raised his hand to slap Liu Chuan. "How about I beat you to death right here and now, huh! I bet that's scarier than a stupid curse!"

    Liu Chuan flinched back in fear. However, the blow never connected. He Shao's withdrew his hand at the last minute and pinched the bridge of his nose. Moments later, He Shao exhaled harshly through his nose and seized Liu Chuan's shoulders.

    "Listen to me, you moron," He Shao growled, shaking Liu Chuan's shoulders a few times. "Try again this afternoon. But this time, I'll be there watching. I guarantee you that he won't harm you as long as I'm there. And if he does, I'll f*ck him up for good."

    The colors returned to Liu Chuan's face. "Really? You have a way to deal with him?" Liu Chuan said tentatively. "B- but He Shao...Li Yundong isn't some guy you can just mess with. I swear there's something weird about him."

    He Shao huffed out in frustration, then motioned with his hand. When Liu Chuan brought his ear closer, He Shao began speaking to him in whispers.

    When He Shao was done talking, Liu Chuan jumped away in fright. "H- He Shao... I don't think that's a good idea... I mean, I just received an earful from my dad yesterday!"

    He Shao's eyes went wide in anger. "What? You saying you have a problem with my plan?"

    "U- uh... I- it's nothing! I- I'll find a way..."

    ***

    Li Yundong stood up from the last row of the lecture hall after what felt like days—or weeks—of torturous boredom. If there was a way to transform boredom into cash, he was pretty sure would've settled his bank debts by now. Li Yundong stretched his arms above his head, then glanced down at Su Chan. His princess was still doodling on a page of his notepad. Upon a closer look, Li Yundong noticed a bunch of Mac Dee logos strewn all over the page. There were other things too, of course: French fries; cheeseburgers; several cones topped with at least twenty layers of ice-cream; chicken drumsticks; and huge bowls filled with soup and some strange-looking blobs.

    That last one looked suspiciously like his stewed duck in beer.

    Li Yundong chuckled and ruffled Su Chan's hair. "Ready to go home, princess?"

    Su Chan looked up from the page and nodded. "Mmm!"

    They packed up and left their row. At the first row, he suddenly stopped. Zhou Qin was standing there, smiling at them.

    "How about I give you guys a ride home?" Zhou Qin asked.

    Okay. It seemed like Zhou Qin had taken this repayment thing a tad too far.

    Li Yundong returned Zhou Qin's smile and waved his hand a few times. "Nah... It's okay. We don't live far. Besides, we don't want to trouble you."

    Zhou Qin's smile widened. Li Yundong heard gasps somewhere behind him. And if he turned around, he'd probably see a bunch of hanging jaws too.

    "Why are you still acting so formal with me," Zhou Qin said. "Aren't we friends?"

    Friends. With the enigmatic Miss Zhou, the Ice Queen of Tiannan University. They were friends now. Friends, as in "let's all hang out after class and treat each other to meals" friends.

    Li Yundong was still trying to get used to that idea.

    A month ago, Zhou Qin wouldn't even look at him, let alone offer to give him a ride home. Then again, a month ago, he couldn't even climb out of bed without feeling like he'd pulled about a hundred muscles. Now he was dodging bullets and climbing walls.

    Weird is the new normal.

    Li Yundong sighed. "Well... Okay then... Wait. You actually drive yourself around?" Admittedly, he had assumed that Zhou Qin would be chaperoned around town by a legion of drivers who had no doubt mastered the art of limousine driving. Seemed like this was another stereotype that he had to throw away.

    "Yes, I do."

    "But I've never seen your car."

    "Oh. I don't usually park on campus. I don't want to draw attention, so..."

    "Wow... You're a completely different kind of rich from Liu Chuan." Li Yundong gave her a thumbs up. "Low-key. I like that."

    Zhou Qin blushed a little. "Is that a compliment? If it is, then I'll gladly accept."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Well, then consider yourself complimented!"

    Su Chan tugged his arm a few times. "Yundong, Yundong... Can we go now? I'm hungry."

    Yeah. What else was new?

    ***

    Li Yundong stopped short when they reached the campus gates. "Hey. What's happening over there?"

    A huge crowd had gathered at the kerb not far away from the campus gates, and as far as he could tell, most of them were students. It seemed like the students had formed a circle around something.

    Li Yundong turned to his left, wanting to ask Zhou Qin if she knew what was going on. However, he was surprised by how pale her face seemed. Her posture seemed tense too.

    "Hey, Zhou Qin," he said. "You alright?"

    Zhou Qin shook her head slightly, then smiled. "I'm fine. Let's go check it out." Zhou Qin strode over towards the crowd without waiting for them to catch up.

    O...kay?

    Li Yundong took Su Chan's hand and followed Zhou Qin. As they neared the crowd, the crowd's whispers became clearer.

    "Wow... whose limo is this?"

    "I don't know. But damn, look at that! It's a Mercedes!"

    "So cool... Ooh! I think it's got scissor doors!"

    "Seriously... whose car is this..."

    "I bet it belongs to some rich guy..."

    "Yeah... maybe he's here to pick up his date..."

    Some of the students turned around as though sensing their approach. The students stepped away when they saw Zhou Qin. The crowd parted to reveal a dark and sleek limousine parked at the kerb.

    The sight of the limo made all three of them stop short. From the corner of his eye, Li Yundong saw Zhou Qin's shoulders sag with relief.

    "What, don't tell me that's your car?" Li Yundong asked even though he knew the answer already.

    Zhou Qin gave him an amused look. "No. I don't go for the showy models."

    The crowd raved on about how awesome or cool the car was. Their comments made Li Yundong want to roll his eyes. Li Yundong studied the crowd, and when he did, he noticed a few familiar faces. Some of his classmates were there. He even saw Zhuang Hui and her bitchy friend admiring the car beside it.

    When he turned to Su Chan, he laughed out loud.

    Su Chan's head was tilted by ninety degrees as she studied the car. "Yundong... How come it's so long? And why didn't they put more wheels in the middle?"

    Li Yundong reached over and righted her head. "Do you like it?"

    Su Chan's nose scrunched up adorably. "Eww... It's so long. And it feels like it would snap in half if a reeeaally fat guy sit in the middle."

    Li Yundong guffawed. Oh God... Only you, Su Chan... Only you would say something like that.

    "Hey, Su Chan..." Li Yundong said. "I'll work hard and earn enough money to buy you a nice car."

    Su Chan looked at him like he was nuts. "What? Why would you want to waste money on garbage like that?" Su Chan lifted her chin proudly. "I assure you that your future mode of transport will be much cooler than that long thing over there."

    Li Yundong chuckled and pinched Su Chan's cheek. "You really do have a lot of faith in me, don't you?"

    Su Chan looked at him as though he'd just told her that fish live on land. "Of course!" she said. "You're the greatest!"

    Before Li Yundong could come up with a reply, he caught a glimpse of Zhou Qin's frown. She was staring at the limo intently. Did she know the owner?

    "What is it, Zhou Qin? You recognize that car?"

    "Liu Changhe..." Zhou Qin said.

    Li Yundong frowned. "Sorry who?"

    "He's a famous businessman in the city." Zhou Qin suddenly looked at Li Yundong, her lips curving into a smirk. "And the father of your BFF, Liu Chuan."

    Li Yundong's gaze snapped back towards the limo. As if on cue, the door of the limo slid open. Li Yundong shook his head. Great... Here we go again. Liu Chuan, dressed to the nines in a suit and a pair of shiny dress shoes, stepped out of the limo. Oh, how Li Yundong wanted to wipe that smug look off the bastard's face. Would the shockwaves generated from his punches work from this distance? Maybe he could try making Liu Chuan shit his Armani pants one more time.

    "Grrr... What an annoying man," Su Chan said. "I'm going to get rid of him this time."

    Li Yundong smirked. If Su Chan wanted to kick Liu Chuan in the nuts, he sure as well wouldn't try to stop her this time.

    "No..."

    Li Yundong turned. Zhou Qin was staring at Liu Chuan like she meant business.

    "Let me handle this."

    ***

    Zhou Qin watched as Liu Chuan sauntered towards them as though he owned the place. Zhou Qin had had her suspicions before, but now she had no doubt that this drama queen and diva wannabe was doing somebody else's bidding. Someone else was pulling the strings here, and the only way for her to find out who was by loosening Liu Chuan's tongue and getting him to spill his guts.

    Liu Chuan stopped before Su Chan and bowed slightly. "Oh, my beautiful Miss Su Chan. Would you make me the happiest man in the world by agreeing to go out on a date with me?"

    Zhou Qin resisted the urge to gag. She could feel Li Yundong trembling beside her, so she placed a reassuring hand on his arm. "Let me handle this," Zhou Qin mouthed the words to Li Yundong when their gazes locked. Su Chan looked like she was about to slap Liu Chuan, but then Li Yundong took Su Chan's hand and pulled her to his side.

    "Your beauty captivates me, Miss Su Chan. There isn't a night since I met you that I could close my eyes without seeing your beautiful face in my mind..."

    Zhou Qin rolled her eyes. Enough is enough... She stepped forward and shielded Su Chan behind her.

    Zhou Qin smiled snidely, pouring every ounce of contempt she felt for Liu Chuan into that smile. "Looks like your persistence rivals your stupidity, Liu Chuan. You even brought out your dad's car. Not that I'm surprised. That's all you're capable of, isn't it, Liu Chuan? Hiding behind your father's status and wealth?" Step one. Destroy the man's confidence. Judging from the blush on Liu Chuan's face, her taunt had found its mark. But she wasn't done yet. Not by a long shot.

    "You might not want to scratch it though," Zhou Qin said. "I don't think Mr. Liu would take it well if you do. I hear he has a thing for spanking."

    The tremble Zhou Qin saw in Liu Chuan's hands brought a surge of satisfaction to her. "Zh- Zhou Qin! Wh- why do you always have to... to get in my way!"

    Zhou Qin arched her brow, a well-practiced move that would cause even the most confident man to waver in his beliefs. "Getting in your way?" Zhou Qin said, turning around to look at Su Chan.

    Interestingly, Su Chan was looking back at her with so much awe that Zhou Qin was starting to wonder if Su Chan had been serious yesterday when she said she wanted Zhou Qin as an elder sister. It certainly wouldn't be bad to have an adorable little sister like Su Chan.

    Zhou Qin gave Su Chan a smile. "Su Chan..."

    "Hmm?"

    Zhou Qin pointed a finger at Liu Chuan. "Are you interested in that man?"

    Su Chan shook her head a few times, her double braids swinging adorably.

    Zhou Qin raised a brow. "Not even a little?"

    Those braids swung around again.

    Zhou Qin turned around to face Liu Chuan again. "You see?" Zhou Qin smirked. "How am I getting in your way when the girl isn't even interested in you?"

    "Y- you... you!" Liu Chuan sputtered.

    Zhou Qin had to side-step a little to avoid getting Liu Chuan's spit all over her clothes.

    "I suggest you think things through before you act, Liu Chuan. Otherwise, you're just going to end up embarrassing yourself and your father. You don't want that, do you?"

    Liu Chuan didn't seem to be capable of speech at this point. Good, because Zhou Qin wasn't done yet.

    "What is it that you like say, Liu Chuan? That everyone should know their own place? I suggest you take your own advice and stop lusting after a woman who is clearly out of your league!"

    The ashen look on Liu Chuan's face was the final confirmation Zhou Qin needed to know that she had utterly demolished Liu Chuan's bravado. Now it was time to get him to talk—

    "I think you should know your place, too, Miss Zhou."

    Zhou Qin's body went taut instantly. That voice... It can't be...

    Zhou Qin looked past Liu Chuan's shoulder towards the limo. Another man had just stepped out of the limo and was now heading over towards them. Zhou Qin frowned slightly. Calm down, Zhou Qin... You can handle this...

    "What brings you here, He Shao?" Zhou Qin said, keeping her voice as cold as possible. I should've known that he's the one behind this...

    "What I do here is none of your business, Zhou Qin," He Shao said, though he wasn't even looking at her. Instead, this vile man was staring at Li Yundong like he was just a piece of trash.

    Anger coursed through Zhou Qin, cold anger, which turned her voice into something colder than ice. "It is my business if you're interfering with my affairs."

    He Shao finally tore his eyes away from Li Yundong. "Your affairs? I don't see how a guy trying to ask a girl out concerns you, Zhou Qin..." He Shao said. "Aren't you being a bit too controlling here?"

    "He Shao, seeing as our families have a good relationship with each other, I'm gonna give you one piece of advice. No evil deed goes unpunished. I'd watch my six if I were you."

    He Shao burst into laughter.

    Zhou Qin suddenly had a bad feeling in her stomach. "Well said! Well said! I don't have any advice to give you, Zhou Qin. So I will return the favor by telling you a simple fact. No matter how much you despise me, you are my fiancé. You are my woman. Mine! And nothing you do or say can change that!"

    Whispers and chatter erupted from the crowd, but Zhou Qin didn't care.

    Her eyes snapped towards the only person whose opinion she cared about.

    Li Yundong was staring back at her, his eyes guarded and unreadable.

    Ignoring the heat in her cheeks, Zhou Qin glared at He Shao.

    "I would rather die than marry you, He Shao."

    He Shao started laughing again, and Zhou Qin had to ball her fist tightly to prevent herself from slapping that abominable man.

    "You'd rather die than marry me. Is that so?" He Shao sneered. "Then who are you planning to marry? Him?" He Shao pointed at Li Yundong. Before Zhou Qin could come up with a response, He Shao was already moving past her towards Li Yundong.

    "Listen up, you bum," He Shao said, once he had gotten in Li Yundong's face. "Zhou Qin is my woman. Mine! And if you touch her, I will destroy you!"

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  • edited January 3

    Chapter 97 Strength Beyond Wealth and Status (Part 1)

     

    Li Yundong met He Shao's stare head on. If this prick thought he could intimidate him by getting in his face, then the guy had another think coming. Guns Li Yundong had stared down. Bullets he had dodged. Threats of destruction from an obnoxious prick couldn't even hold a f*cking candle. If nothing else, He Shao's behavior amused Li Yundong.

    Honestly, the guy was like a tin can—empty inside, but noisy as f*ck.

    "You've crossed a line, He Shao," Zhou Qin said. "I'm warning you. Back off."

    He Shao's breath tickled Li Yundong's face as he laughed. "So this is all you got, eh? Relying on Zhou Qin to get you out of trouble every time? You're a pathetic loser. A penniless gigolo."

    Li Yundong smirked and shook his head. Say what you want about me. Bark like a dog for all I care.

    He Shao turned to Zhou Qin. "And you, Zhou Qin. Tsk, tsk. I never thought you would stoop to such a level. I mean, becoming someone's sugar mama? Really?" He Shao snickered. "Are you that horny? You know... If you needed a good f*ck, you could've just called. I bet I can outperform this wimp without even trying."

    "He Shao, you—" Zhou Qin gasped. "Don't touch me!"

    "Oh? I can't touch my own fiancé?" He Shao laughed. "If you need... services, there are far better options than using that gigolo." He Shao snickered, then glanced pointedly at Li Yundong's waist. "Tsk. Tsk. Come on, Zhou Qin. Even the cheapest dildo in the market is better than that."

    "Shut up, He Shao... Shut. Up." Zhou Qin's voice had lost its usual aloofness.

    He Shao took a step towards Zhou Qin. "Or better yet. You can have me. I'm available to you anytime, babe. And you won't even have to pay a single cent."

    Li Yundong's hand shot out and grabbed He Shao's arm before it could reach Zhou Qin's waist.

    Li Yundong realized that for all his big-talk, He Shao was surprisingly lightweight. All it took was a light shove from him and He Shao was already staggering backwards. Li Yundong smirked. Who's the wimp now, dipshit?

    Li Yundong stepped forward and shielded Su Chan and Zhou Qin with his body.

    "Watch your mouth," Li Yundong said coldly. "That's my friend you just insulted."

    He Shao straightened his suit jacket with an angry scowl, then got in Li Yundong's face. He Shao grabbed Li Yundong's collar.

    "Touch me again," He Shao growled, "and I will destroy you."

    Li Yundong pressed his thumb and index finger on He Shao's wrist, smirking at the grimace he saw on He Shao's face. Li Yundong pressed down harder until He Shao's grip loosened.

    Instead of letting go, Li Yundong kept his thumb and index finger on He Shao's wrist, then twisted He Shao's arm behind his back. He Shao groaned, then stumbled away when Li Yundong shoved him on the back.

    Li Yundong snorted. F*cking lightweight...

    He Shao regained his footing and shot a vicious glare at Li Yundong. "You f*cker—"

    "Enough!" Zhou Qin yelled. "Leave now—"

    Li Yundong silenced her with a raise of his hand. He took a step towards he Shao. "Destroy me, you said?" Li Yundong said in a casual tone. "And how do you suppose you can do that when you couldn't even stand in front of me for more than five seconds without falling on your ass?"

    He Shao threw his head back and laughed. "Oh, so you still haven't figured it out yet?" He Shao sneered. "I guess a clueless bum like you wouldn't know." He Shao's eyes was filled with scorn when he snorted. "Fine. I'll explain to you how I can tear you to pieces."

    He Shao got in his face again. "There are only two things you need if you want to rule over the world. One, wealth!"

    He Shao pointed at the limo. "I have all the money in the world," he said loudly. "And you! You're a penniless nobody who doesn't even have parents!"

    Okay. That stung. That really f*cking stung. Li Yundong took a calming breath through his nose. Walk away... just walk away. Keep a low profile, and don't cause any trouble. Too much exposure would risk his life. It would risk Su Chan's life too. Focus on what's important here. Just let it go, Li Yundong. You're better than him. You're better than him...

    Li Yundong exhaled through his nose slowly and turned around to face Su Chan and Zhou Qin. Su Chan was watching him carefully. Zhou Qin was glaring at He Shao.

    "Come on," Li Yundong said, taking Su Chan's hand. "Time to go. Let's not let shallow people and their shallow thoughts get to us."

    Li Yundong moved past He Shao, pulling Su Chan with him.

    He Shao blocked his way. "Hey! Where are do you think you're going, huh? I'm not done talking to you yet."

    Li Yundong kept walking, but stopped when he felt He Shao's palm on his sternum. It took every ounce of Li Yundong's will power not to grab that hand and break every single bone in it. Stay cool, Li Yundong. Stay cool.

    The pressure on his sternum was gone.

    He Shao held up two fingers. "Number two. Power."

    Li Yundong could feel his own brows shooting up to his hairline at that arrogant declaration. He wondered why God hadn't sent a bolt of lightning from the sky and roast this piece of trash already.

    He Shao snapped his fingers, then waved his hand a few times.

    Liu Chuan clambered over towards He Shao like a f*cking lapdog.

    Li Yundong shook his head in disgust. He wondered if Liu Chuan ever felt a bit too airy or ventilated down there. After all, even the smallest pair of boxers in the market would feel a little loose on a man with balls the size of peanuts. Scratch that. Liu Chuan should just shop for panties from now on.

    "Yes? He Shao?" Liu Chuan asked.

    Instead of answering, He Shao slapped Liu Chuan right across his cheek. Liu Chuan crashed to the ground and rolled a few times.

    Li Yundong stared at He Shao with wide eyes.

    Holy Mother of God... Who does this guy think he is?

    Li Yundong could feel the flames of ire raging in his chest, begging to be unleashed. How could anyone be capable of such atrocious behavior? This had gone far beyond bullying; this was f*cking tyranny.

    "The man I just slapped is the son of a famous businessman," He Shao roared. "But so f*cking what!"

    Li Yundong shook his head.

    He Shao gestured his arms wildly. "I can do whatever I want with him and walk still away with it! I'm untouchable!"

    Li Yundong glanced at Zhou Qin, whose expression remained unreadable despite the circumstances.

    And at that moment, the final piece of the puzzle clicked inside Li Yundong's head. Finally, he got it. Now he understood the reason behind Zhou Qin's distrust of men and people in general. Being forced to marry a lowlife like He Shao would disillusion just about anyone.

    Then, another thought occurred to Li Yundong.

    What if Zhou Qin didn't reject those men because she had anything against them or because she deemed them unworthy of her attention?

    Okay, well, maybe she did find some of those men unworthy, but what if that wasn't her only reason for rejecting them?

    What if she was trying to protect those guys from He Shao?

    In hindsight, it made sense.

    The moment Zhou Qin agreed to date a guy, she would literally be painting a huge target on his back.

    The poor dude would end up on He Shao's shit list, and there was nothing Zhou Qin could do to protect him from He Shao because, apparently, even Zhou Qin's family was big on the whole arranged marriage idea. Hell, it was probably Zhou Qin's father's idea to begin with!

    In other words, whomever Zhou Qin agreed to date was pretty much screwed.

    Li Yundong cast a glance at He Shao.

    Well, he certainly wouldn't put it past that son of a bitch to have a guy murdered just for expressing romantic interest in Zhou Qin.

    What a f*cked up world to live in. 

    How? How did Zhou Qin endure this shit for so many years?

    He Shao's laughter pulled Li Yundong out of his thoughts.

    He Shao was now kicking at Liu Chuan, who was still sprawled on the ground. "You!" He Shao pointed down at Liu Chuan. "I just slapped you. Do you have problem with that?"

    Li Yundong lowered his gaze to the ground. He studied Liu Chuan face, which was now flushed either due to shame or He Shao's strike. Probably both. Liu Chuan looked completely subdued and defeated. The guy didn't even dare raise his head.

    Seconds later, Liu Chuan shook his head meekly.

    He Shao sneered, and once again, Li Yundong found himself staring at He Shao's smug expression.

    "You see that?" He Shao raised his brows. "Do you get it now?" He Shao threw his head back in laughter.

    Whispers from the crowd drifted to Li Yundong's ears. Apparently, Liu Chuan's admirers—well, former admirers—were now mocking Liu Chuan's cowardice. Li Yundong also heard a couple of mentions about how the "Hero of Tiannan University" should step up and "teach that arrogant snob a lesson."

    He Shao was now sauntering towards him like some pompous diva. "Money! Wealth! Status! Power!" He Shao punctuated those words with each step before finally stopping in front of him. "That is how I can destroy a nobody like you." He Shao's lips twisted into an ugly smirk. "Starting with your love life... when I make your woman mine." He Shao reached out with his filthy hands to touch Su Chan's face.

    Something inside Li Yundong snapped. People could mock him all they wanted, but nobody touches his Su Chan. Nobody.

    "You son of a bitch!!!!"

    Li Yundong moved forward with a speed that he didn't even know he possessed. He grabbed He Shao by his throat, and then hoisted the bastard off the ground with a powerful jerk of his arm. He Shao released a series of gagging sound from his throat, but Li Yundong ignored them. He stared hard into He Shao's eyes. "Touch my girlfriend again, and I will end you."

    Li Yundong had never felt this much anger before. And every ounce of that anger was now being channeled into the fingers curled around He Shao's throat. He tightened his fingers, slowly squeezing the life out of this piece of trash.

    Li Yundong's ears rang. Through the ringing, he could hear voices—two voices—speaking to him. The voices were muddled and distinct, like a cacophony of overlapping echoes. He couldn't make out the words.

    Suddenly, he felt a pricking sensation on his back, right between his shoulder blades, like someone had poked a needle there.

    The ringing in his ears morphed into distinct words.

    "...Li Yundong, calm down... He's not worth it."

    "Beloved... beloved... Don't let him get to you. He'll never have me, okay? Never. I'm yours. Always. Let him go, beloved. Let him go. People are watching us…"

    A strange wave of calmness washed over Li Yundong.

    Zhou Qin and Su Chan were now standing on each side of him, pulling him back from God knows what he'd been about to do. A wheezing sound caught his ear, and he realized that he was still holding He Shao in the air in a choke hold. He Shao's face had turned an unhealthy shade of scarlet.

    Another wave of anger swept through him at the sight of He Shao's face. How dare he try to touch Su Chan. How f*cking dare he! How dare he treat people like trash just because he was rich.

    Li Yundong unleased a loud roar, pouring every ounce of frustration into his voice.

    "Li Yundong!! Stop!! You're gonna kill him!" Zhou Qin's frantic voice sounded beside his ear. "He isn't worth it! Don't throw your life away because of him!"

    "Beloved… Come on… Just let him go, okay?"

    Li Yundong's roar diminished into a growl. Then, he hurled He Shao into the air.

    He Shao flew across the pavement and crashed into the limo.

    "Hey! My car! Watch the car..."

    Liu Chuan's voice was quickly drowned out by a chorus of cheers.

    "Yeahhh!!!! That's the way! Go, Hero of Tiannan University!"

    "Hell yeah!!! Kick his ass! Show the bastard who is boss!"

    Li Yundong felt another sharp prick on his back. It was the same spot, right between his shoulder blades. Another wave of calmness flooded him, but this time, it came with something else—mental clarity. Li Yundong could feel his breathing evening out and the pounding on his temples subsiding. The next thing he knew, he was staring right into Su Chan's beautiful eyes. Su Chan's were hands cupping his face.

    "Shh… Shh... It's alright now, beloved. It's alright."

    Li Yundong covered Su Chan's palm with his hand. "Did you do something? Why do I suddenly feel so..."

    Li Yundong struggled to find the right words.

    "Calm? Tranquil?" Su Chan said.

    "Yeah. Something like that."

    "I stimulated your Lingtai."

    "Between my shoulder blades..." Li Yundong sighed, then nodded. "Right. Thanks."

    That would explain the pricking sensations he felt earlier. She must've poked a needle into his back.

    "Li Yundong..."

    Zhou Qin's voice made him turn.

    "Let's just get out of here," Zhou Qin said, though her gaze was focused on He Shao, who was already up on his feet.

    "Mmm!" Su Chan bobbed her head a few times, then lowered her voice to a whisper. "We can't risk any more exposure. They might be watching."

    Li Yundong had a pretty good idea which "they" Su Chan was referring to. Could that crazy Ruan Hongling girl be watching as well?

    Li Yundong nodded. "Alright. Let's get out of here."

    "Where do you think you're going! I'm not done with you yet!" He Shao yelled.

    Seriously? After I just tossed you into a car?

    "Just ignore him, Yundong..." Su Chan whispered beside him. "Don't risk your life because of a silly man like him..."

    Zhou Qin was already walking away.

    Li Yundong nodded, took Su Chan's hand, and turned around.

    Then, out of nowhere, another voice sounded, a voice that Li Yundong had never heard before in his life.

    "Children, children, children! What a bunch of annoying brats. Now get out of my way before I hurt your tiny asses."

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  • Chapter 97 Strength Beyond Wealth and Status (Part 2)

     

    Li Yundong swiveled around to identify the owner of that voice. He did the quick scan of the area, but he didn't see anyone other than the crowd, He Shao, and Liu Chuan.

    Liu Chuan was now standing beside He Shao, apparently to help keep He Shao upright.

    The voice sounded again.

    "I said out of my way, you punks!"

    All of a sudden, a commotion broke out among the crowd. The students were now screaming in fear. Seconds later, the crowd was forced apart when someone barreled through it and leaped onto the hood of the limo.

    It was an old man dressed in a dark, Wong Fei-hung style robe. The man had a strange beard, which looked like a mouse's whiskers. Li Yundong glanced at Zhou Qin, who was staring at the scene with a frown.

    "You know him?" Li Yundong asked.

    Zhou Qin shook his head.

    The old man leaped down from the limo. "Out of my way, punks!" The old man pushed He Shao and Liu Chuan away. The guy seemed pretty strong for an old man, since He Shao and Liu Chuan nearly fell over after that shove.

    He Shao recovered first. "Hey! Watch it, old man! Which mental institute did you escape from, huh? Do you know who I am?"

    The old man tilted his head to one side and studied He Shao for a moment. "No idea who you are. And I don't care."

    "Don't know who I am…" He Shao started laughing like he'd just been told the funniest joke ever. "You have a death wish old man."

    The old man sneered and stroked his whisker-like beard. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Children these days... No respect for their elders at all." The old man released a derisive chuckle. "Not even the Chief Executive of Hong Kong has the guts to speak to me with that kind of tone, let alone a nameless punk like you. Get out of my sight. Seeing your face puts me in a bad mood."

    Whispers broke out among the crowd again.

    "Come on. Let's just go," Li Yundong said, turning around to leave.

    "Hey! You there! The guy with the two pretty chicks!"

    Li Yundong froze, then slowly turned back around. He gave Su Chan's hand a reassuring squeeze when he felt it tense inside his grip. Li Yundong lifted his gaze and stared ahead. The old man was looking right at him.

    "Yes?" Li Yundong said.

    The old man chuckled. "Well—"

    "Hey! I wasn't done talking to you, old man!" He Shao reached for the old man's shoulder, but the old man grabbed He Shao's hand instead and twisted it into a gruesome joint lock. He Shao's knees hit the ground as he screamed.

    "Chin Na..." Su Chan whispered.

    Li Yundong glanced at Su Chan, who was now watching the old man intently. She seemed to really know what she was looking at, which, of course, didn't come as a surprise to Li Yundong anymore.

    Li Yundong himself had seen Chin Na in action through a video featuring a demo during the International Martial Arts Festival. From what he remembered, the martial art focuses exclusively on joint lock techniques.

    In another video, he saw a teenage girl bring a massive—as big as Dave Bautista—bodybuilder to his knees with just a twist of the poor guy's thumb.

    So yeah. Pretty badass stuff.

    He Shao's screams filled the area. Admittedly, hearing that bastard scream felt somewhat satisfying.

    The old man bend down and patted He Shao's cheeks a few times.

    "Didn't your parents teach you to respect your elders? Tsk, tsk, tsk…" said the old man. "Or do I have to do their job for them."

    "Aaarrrrggghhhh!!!" He Shao's hand was twisted in the opposite direction.

    Li Yundong cringed. Shit… That has got to hurt like a bitch.

    "Argh, what a bother. Just get out of my sight, you pest." The old man eased the pressure on He Shao's hand. "I have business with that man"—he pointed at Li Yundong—"over there. And you're wasting my precious time."

    Li Yundong tensed up.

    Business with me? But I don’t even know you.

    "Oh! So that's how you wanna play it, old man! You'll regret touching me, you old fool! You're dead man walking I'm telling you!" He Shao yelled. "You're dead meat!"

    The old man glanced down at He Shao. "Oh... you annoying little pest."

    The old man's strange robe billowed as though a breeze had blown around it. Li Yundong's scalp tingled. Something wasn't right with that picture. There was no breeze; the surrounding air was completely still.

    Then, it happened.

    The old man gave the sleeves of his dark robe a quick and powerful flick. Air currents, strong and powerful ones, swirled around the old man like a mini cyclone. Li Yundong's instincts took over. He burst forward and shielded Su Chan and Zhou Qin with his body. Screams of terror blended together with the strange howling of the wind, enveloping them like a blanket.

    Several seconds later, it was over.  

    Liu Chuan and He Shao dropped to the ground at least five meters away from where they had been, both trembling in fear.

    The old bastard had just thrown two grown men into the air with just a flick of his robe.

    Great. More X-men shit to deal with. Just f*cking great.   

    Li Yundong surveyed the area. The students were all down on the ground with hands covering their heads. None of them were seriously hurt. He turned around. Su Chan was hiding behind his body, but her eyes showed no fear at all. Instead, she was eyeing the old man intently. Zhou Qin seemed terrified but composed.

    "Is he one of the people after us?" Li Yundong whispered to Su Chan. After what? The drug in his body? Su Chan?

    Su Chan kept her eyes on the old man. "I don't know. But it doesn't matter. We've gotta get out of here."

    He agreed. This old man was dangerous. He'd never seen a move like that before.

    The old man was now smoothing down his robe and saying something to He Shao, but Li Yundong didn't care. He and Su Chan were already beside Zhou Qin, helping her to her feet.

    "Are you alright?" Li Yundong asked Zhou Qin.

    Zhou Qin nodded shakily.

    "Where's your car? We've gotta go. Now."

    "I parked in front of a restaurant near campus."

    "Is it far?"

    Zhou Qin shook her head, but steadily this time. "Just a five-minute walk from here. Come on, follow me."

    The three of them broke off into a sprint, heading in the opposite direction, away from the scene.

    Li Yundong had barely taken two steps when the old man's voice sounded behind him. "Hey... I didn't say you could leave, young man! We still have some unfinished business, you and I!"

    Li Yundong turned his head around but kept running. The old man was staring at them, but he wasn't chasing them.

    Li Yundong looked to the front again.

    "Don't stop," Li Yundong said firmly. "Just keep running."

    "Stop! Or I'll kill this girl!"

    Li Yundong stopped short, then turned around slowly. Shit… The old man had a female student in a choke hold.

    Dammit to hell...

    Su Chan and Zhou Qin had stopped running as well.

    "Come back here," the old man said. "Like I said, you and I have unfinished business."

    Li Yundong took a deep breath and mobilized his Qi to his Shenting. Eryue came to life in the form of the buzzing in his ears.

    "Zhou Qin," Li Yundong said. "Take Su Chan to your car and get out of here. Call the cops once you're inside your car."

    "No! I'm not leaving you!" Su Chan protested.

    "Don't argue with me, princess." Li Yundong started walking back towards the old man. "Go. Now."

    Li Yundong kept walking without looking back, though he knew from the sound footsteps behind him that the girls had complied with his request. Then, the old man yelled again. "Now, now! I didn't say the two girls could leave!"

    Li Yundong stopped walking and cursed under his breath. He turned around. Su Chan and Zhou Qin had stopped running as well.

    "Your business is with me, not with them," Li Yundong said loudly.

    The old man chortled. "You think I'm an idiot? They'll just call the police once they're out of here." Then the old man turned to address the crowd. "You hear me, kids? None of you leave till I say you can!"

    Li Yundong muttered another curse, then shared a look with Su Chan. Su Chan gave him a slight nod.

    "Hey! Stop dallying and come over here! All three of you!"

    Li Yundong sorted through the buzzing in his ear for the sounds near the old man. He heard a whimper from the girl and the old man's breathing. Using his telescopic vision, he zoomed in, focusing on the old man's fingers around the girl's throat, where dark bruises had already formed. Li Yundong zoomed out. "Let the girl go first!"

    "No. You get over here first, or I'll crush her windpipe!"

    The girl whimpered again. Li Yundong clenched his jaw.

    "Zhou Qin... Whatever happens, I want you to stick close to Su Chan, okay?"

    "Okay..." Zhou Qin's reply was firm and steady.

    "Come on, girls. Let's head over there before shit happens," Li Yundong said.

    Right. Who was he even kidding. Shit had already happened.

    Li Yundong walked towards the old man, making sure to keep Su Chan and Zhou Qin behind him. When he was three feet away from the old man, he stopped and stared into the old man's eyes.

    "We're here," Li Yundong said. "Now let her go."

    The old man uncurled his fingers around the girl's neck. The girl stumbled away and broke into a coughing fit. A few of her friends rushed over to support her.

    The old man smirked. "It's an honor to finally meet you, Li Yundong."

    What the f*ck? The hair on the back of Li Yundong's neck stood on end. Clearly, someone had put the old man up to this. Was it Xie Fei again? Did Zhao Yujian's parents blame Li Yundong for their son's demise? Did they hire this guy to avenge Zhao Yujian?

    Li Yundong mobilized his Qi to his leg and arm muscles. Like it or not, he had to prepare for the worst. This guy was clearly dangerous. And that strange robe of his. Li Yundong still hadn't figured out how it worked.

    "Who are you? And what do you want from me?" Li Yundong asked.

    The old man chuckled. "Now we're getting somewhere."

    The old man stepped forward and performed a Bao Quan Li (T/N: A hand gesture used by Chinese martial artists when they greet each other; right fist pressed against left palm).

    "A pleasure to meet you, Li Yundong. I'm Lin Youfa from Foshan."

    First Mount Longhu. Now Foshan. It was like he was running a f*cking travel agency around here.

    "What do you want from me?"

    Lin Youfa smirked. "You don't have to know what I want. You're going give it to me anyway."

    Li Yundong tensed up. What's that supposed to mean? Is he after the drug?

    "Pardon me for doing this..." Lin Youfa said.

    Do what? What the hell was this guy's problem—

    Lin Youfa's fist came flying to his face at the same time Zhou Qin screamed.

    Instincts took over. Li Yundong caught Lin Youfa's fist with his hand, but Lin Youfa managed to wrench his fist free before Li Yundong could follow up with a counterattack.

    Lin Youfa laughed and began circling around him. "Nice reflexes. Not many people can catch a punch like you just did."

    Li Yundong glanced to his side. Su Chan was about six feet to his right, crouching in front of Zhou Qin. She must have reacted and pulled Zhou Qin away the moment she noticed Lin Youfa moving.

    Li Yundong wanted to smack himself for his own carelessness. He would've been able to anticipate the punch before it was thrown if he had used Xianjue earlier. And of all the things he could've done to stop the punch, he had chosen to catch it, which was a stupid thing to do since Lin Youfa was clearly a Chin Na master. One wrong move and Li Yundong would end up trapped in some deadly joint lock. Well, that won't happen again.

    Lin Youfa kept circling him as though he was looking for an opening to launch his next strike. Li Yundong began to take slow steps away from the crowd. From the looks of it, things could get ugly, so it would be best to lead Lin Youfa away from the crowd lest an innocent bystander got caught up in the fight. It didn't seem like Lin Youfa had noticed his plan yet; he was still walking around Li Yundong in circles while Li Yundong gradually led them away from the crowd.

    "Why are you doing this?" Li Yundong said, making sure that his Qi was still at his Shenting. "There's no reason for us to fight."

    "That's for me to decide," Lin Youfa said.

    "I don't want to fight you," Li Yundong said in a warning tone.

    Lin Youfa laughed. "I'm afraid you don't have a choice, boy."

    So be it then.

    Li Yundong's Xianjue responded to his will and came alive in a burst of white light. A strange sensation washed over his body, and he knew instantly that he was in clairvoyant mode. He fast-forwarded the vision in his head and he saw through Lin Youfa's next three attacks.

    So that's the robe's purpose... I see…

    Lin Youfa was still circling him when Li Yundong turned off Xianjue's clairvoyant mode. Li Yundong stopped moving; he was already far enough from the crowd.

    "Last chance to back out," Li Yundong warned. "I don't want to hurt you..."

    Lin Youfa sneered. "Oh, it's still too early to tell who's gonna get hurt."

    Lin Youfa charged forward and, just as Li Yundong anticipated, Lin Youfa's dark robed billowed around his body, causing the air to pick up speed. The purpose of the robe was to distract Lin Youfa's opponent with the air currents and also to conceal the direction of his kicks. A pretty decent trick, but it wouldn't matter; Li Yundong already knew which direction Lin Youfa's kick would come from thanks to Xianjue.

    "Shadowless kick!!" Lin Youfa yelled.

    Li Yundong leaped to his left side.

    SWISH!

    The front kick missed his groin.

    Then, Li Yundong parried the follow-up punch with his left hand.

    Now he's gonna try to use Chin Na on me...

    Li Yundong ripped his arm away before Lin Youfa's fingers could close around his forearm, and then jumped backwards to put some distance between them.

    Silence reigned over the crowd as Lin Youfa stared at him in disbelief.

    "You've lost," Li Yundong said coldly. "Now get lost."

    Lin Youfa roared, then charged at him again. Li Yundong didn't even have to use Xianjue to parry and avoid the flurry of attacks that Lin Youfa launched at him. Those attacks were frenzied and uncalculated, which made them predictable.

    Li Yundong kept parrying and dodging Lin Youfa's frenzied strikes. At one point, he realized that Lin Youfa had forced him back towards the crowd. Shit. Was he planning to take a hostage now that he knew he was on the losing end? But what's the point? I literally gave him the chance to walk away just now.

    Li Yundong dodged another kick. The kick left an opening in Lin Youfa's defense, which Li Yundong decided to capitalize on.

    Li Yundong delivered his first punch of the fight.

    Much to Li Yundong's surprise, Lin Youfa blocked the punch with his forearms instead of dodging it. The force of the punch pushed Lin Youfa back a few feet.

    Lin Youfa's back crashed into the limo.

    "Hey! Watch the car!" Liu Chuan yelled from God knows where.

    Lin Youfa pushed away from the limo and pounced on Li Yundong again. Lin Youfa threw another punch, which Li Yundong parried with ease.

    Okay. Time to end this stupid fight.

    First, he had to disarm that robe. That tornado move earlier seemed pretty deadly if it could send two grown men into the air. Best if he didn't give Lin Youfa a chance to pull that shit again. But how? How do I disarm the robe?

    Suddenly, Li Yundong had an idea. He relaxed his stance and held out his hands in front of him in a gesture of peace.

    "Come on, sir," Li Yundong said, making his voice as soothing as possible. "Why do we have to fight when we have no quarrels with each other? I don't even know you."

    Li Yundong slowly approached Lin Youfa, keeping his hands out in front of him the whole time. That's it, old man. Use your Chin Na. Grab my hand...

    "Even if I did wrong you in some way," Li Yundong went on, "isn't it better if we talk things out and come to a peaceful resolution?"

    Li Yundong inched closer again.

    "Come on... What say we stop this violence, eh? We can go have a cup of tea. Or grab some beer. Whichever you prefer. My treat."

    Li Yundong stopped walking, then reached out as if to offer Lin Youfa a handshake.

    Li Yundong focused his hearing on the sounds from Lin Youfa's feet. The moment Lin Youfa's feet moved, Li Yundong would be ready to act.

    That's it... that's it... Use your Chin Na...

    Lin Youfa's hand shot out.

    But Li Yundong flipped his palm over and grabbed the sleeve of Lin Youfa's robe moments before Lin Youfa could wrap his fingers around his wrist.

    Hah! Got you now, old man!

    Li Youfa stared back at him with wide, fearful eyes.

    Li Yundong yanked the fabric backwards with all his might, but Lin Youfa twisted his torso and leaped backwards at the same time. The sleeve was ripped off, but the robe was still on Lin Youfa.

    The plan had failed.

    Li Yundong cursed and tossed the torn sleeve aside.

    The robe billowed again.

    SWISH!

    A strong gust of wind hit Li Yundong right in the face. Li Yundong hissed when he felt the stinging sensation in his eyes. Li Yundong covered his eyes with his hand and tried to get his Xianjue to work, but it was no use. The pain in his eyes was too distracting. He couldn't focus.

    Footsteps sounded in front of him. Li Yundong blinked his eyes desperately, but his vision remained a blur. Shit, shit, shit... Lin Youfa was probably going to attack and he couldn't see a f*cking thing.

    "Yundong!!!!" Su Chan's scream speared through his heart, throwing him into panic. Should I retreat? No. The old man would just keep coming.

    Argh! To hell with keeping a low profile!

    Li Yundong made a split second decision. He mobilized his Qi as fast as he could, using it to connect his three Dantians together—the Bridging of the Three Gates.

    Please work... Please work...

    Li Yundong cocked his fist back and punched the air in front of him with all his strength.

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  • Chapter 98 Man vs God (Part 1)

     

    Su Chan knew something was wrong the moment she saw Yundong flinch. What happened? What in Tao's name happened? Su Chan zoomed in with her eyes. Yundong's face was twisted in pain, and he kept blinking his eyes. Grr! That pesky old man must have done something to Yundong's eyes!

    Yundong's knees hit the ground.

    The old man was now moving, though he appeared to be limping.

    Yundong was still kneeling on the ground, doing nothing to defend himself.

    Xianjue, Yundong! Xianjue!

    With Xianjue, it was still possible for Yundong to dodge the old man's attacks even though he couldn't see. But why wasn't Yundong standing up to defend himself? Staying in a kneeling position would impair his mobility and compromise his defense.

    Argh! No use worrying about this now. I have to go help him!

    Su Chan sprang to her feet. But then she stopped. She turned back around. Zhou Qin was staring back at her grimly.  

    "Go," Zhou Qin said with a nod. "Go help him, I'll be okay. I'll call the cops and go check on the others." Zhou Qin jerked her chin towards the students who were cowering in fear near the long vehicle.

    Su Chan nodded and returned her gaze to the old man. Footsteps sounded behind her; Zhou Qin was already running towards the car. Su Chan wasn't sure who these "cops" were supposed to be, but she didn't care.

    Maybe they were the same men who wore those strange badges.

    The old man stopped moving. He crouched down. Blood spilled from the old man's mouth, and he broke into a coughing fit.

    For a moment there, Su Chan thought the old man had given up. But then the coughing stopped, and the old man rose to his feet again. Determination flashed inside his eyes as he wiped the blood off the corner of his mouth with the sleeve of his robe.

    Then, the old man started limping towards Yundong again.

    "Yundong!!!!" Su Chan yelled. She tried to switch on her Xianjue's clairvoyant mode, but cursed when she realized that the old man was out of her range. Only Yundong's Xianjue had that kind of insane range.

    Su Chan's legs moved, propelling her towards Yundong.

    She had barely taken two steps before something made her stop.

    Wait a minute… Is he…

    Yundong had let his hands drop limply to his sides. Su Chan zoomed in with her eyes, focusing on Yundong's face. He was no longer blinking. His eyes were closed, and there was a tranquil look on his face.

    The penny dropped when Su Chan noticed the state of Yundong's hair, which was standing upright.

    Oh, clever, clever Yundong…

    Su Chan zoomed out, her eyes darting around as she searched desperately for Zhou Qin's whereabouts.  

    Yundong was bridging the Three Gates just like she'd taught him last time. He knew that a frontal attack was coming, so he was trying to create distance. Forcing his opponent away to keep himself outside of his opponent's striking range. That way he wouldn't have to dodge or parry at all.

    Brilliant.

    Great combat instincts.

    She found Zhou Qin seconds later.

    Zhou Qin was beside the long vehicle, helping two girls to their feet.

    But that's in the direct line of—

    Su Chan's gaze snapped towards Yundong.  

    Yundong was now on his feet.

    She zoomed in.

    White steam rose from the top of his head

    Uh-oh....

    Su Chan sprinted towards the car as fast as her legs could carry her. "Back away from the car!!!" Su Chan yelled at the top of her lungs.

    Zhou Qin, along with several other students near the car, froze.

    "Get away!!!" Su Chan waved her arms wildly.

    Su Chan reached the car in record time. She dove for Zhou Qin and grabbed her arm.

    Then, Su Chan scurried away from the car, dragging Zhou Qin with her. As they moved, Su Chan swiveled her head and looked towards Yundong. The old man had finally reached Yundong and was about to launch another Shadowless kick.

    Yundong cocked his fist back.

    "Down!" Su Chan yelled, pulling Zhou Qin to the ground.

    The moment they both hit the ground, the air in front of Yundong exploded in a soundless clap. The old man did some weird acrobatic move at the last second—he twisted his body sideways while jumping backwards.

    WHOOSH!!!

    A powerful shockwave blasted a straight path from Yundong towards the long car, hurling the old man away like a rag doll. A loud, metallic crunch sounded followed by the sound of glass shattering. The car skidded sideways, producing an ear-piercing screech which lasted for seconds on end.

    Then it was over. Silence fell.

    The smell of burnt rubber assaulted Su Chan's nose. She glanced towards the ruined car. All of its windows were shattered, and the dent in the middle of its body was so great that the car appeared slightly bent lengthwise. Several dark lines marked the pavement, no doubt left behind by the car's rubber wheels when they were sliding across the concrete.

    "Stay down," Su Chan whispered to Zhou Qin.

    Su Chan climbed to her feet and sprinted towards Yundong.

    To her surprise, the old man was still standing even though he had been blown away by the shockwave earlier. His dark robe, however, was now torn apart with pieces of it still floating in the air.

    Su Chan's footsteps echoed as she ran. The moment she got close, Yundong stiffened and started backing away from her.

    "Who's there!" he said and got into a fighting stance.

    He still can't see…

    Su Chan immediately stopped running. "It's me, beloved. It's me."

    Yundong's posture relaxed. "S- Su Chan?"

    Su Chan closed the remaining distance between them. "Yes, I'm here now, beloved. Let me see your eyes."

    Yundong lowered himself to the floor with a loud groan.

    Su Chan crouched down and flipped open one of his eyelids.

    "The bastard went for my eyes..." Yundong grumbled. "I dunno what he did. But it hurt like hell. I think it's that robe of his."

    "Rock dust. Sand," Su Chan said, lowering his eyelids. She made a sound of disapproval in her throat. "Must have sent it to your eyes with those air currents. Now hold still. Keep your eyes closed."

    Su Chan adjusted her posture so that her hands were hidden behind Yundong's body, away from the crowd's view.

    Yundong tried to rub his eyes with his hands.

    "Tsk! Don't rub your eyes," Su Chan said, slapping his hand. "Hands off!"

    Yundong let his hands drop.

    Su Chan shut her eyes and muttered an incantation for an extraction spell.

    "What? I didn't catch that. You were whispering something," Yundong said.

    A green glow appeared in Su Chan's hand.

    ''Nothing," Su Chan said. "Just hold still."

    Su Chan held her hand in front of Yundong's eyes.

    Yundong sighed. "Much better…"

    Seconds later, Su Chan withdrew her hand.

    "Okay, you can open your eyes now."

    Yundong's lashes fluttered.

    "Why didn't you use Xianjue?" Su Chan asked.

    "Couldn't get it to work," Yundong said, blinking a few times. "Eyes hurt too much."

    Oh… Right.

    "Can you see now?"

    "Yeah." Yundong wiped a stray tear with his sleeve. 

    "Are you hurt anywhere else?"

    "No. Just the eyes. But the pain is gone…" Yundong stared at her. "What did you do?"  

    "It—"

    The sound of maniacal laughter stilled Su Chan's words. Slowly, she rose to her feet. "Up, Yundong. Quickly!" Su Chan held out her hand.

    Yundong slid his hand into hers and she pulled him up.

    "Damn it. I thought I had him for sure," Yundong said. "How the hell did I miss?"

    Uh… Hello? Maybe because you couldn't see?

    Su Chan bit back the snarky remark. Sheesh. All this stress must be getting to her.

    Su Chan cleared her throat. "He was thrown away by the shockwave, but he dodged at the last second, so he didn't take the full brunt of it."

    The old man started clapping his hands.

    "Wow... Wow!" the old man said, removing the rest of his tattered robe from his body. "I haven't had so much fun in years. Years! Hahahaha! Oh… This is going to be interesting!"

    "Hahahahaha! Can you imagine? After spending so many years engaging in boring duels with hacks who claimed to be masters… And now, finally! Finally I found a worthy opponent!"

    "Crazy son of a… Hey… Why is he ripping his shirt off? What the hell is he up to?" Yundong said.

    The old man was now naked from the waist up. The way his ribcage was pushing out against his skin made him look like someone who hadn't eaten in weeks.

    Su Chan narrowed her eyes. "I don't know..."

    Su Chan scanned the area for the crowd.

    Zhou Qin had done a superb job getting the injured students away from the damaged car.

    Most of the students had already fled the scene while the old man was busy exchanging blows with Yundong. Those who remained were either unconscious or incapacitated somehow.

    "Holy shit... Is the old bastard still planning to fight in his condition?" Yundong said.

    Su Chan zoomed in on the old man's face.

    The old man was still laughing like a loony. He looked like he was enjoying himself.

    "Whoa, whoa, whoa... What's that thing in his hand?" Yundong whispered. "Did you see that?"

    Su Chan zoomed out of the old man's face and focused on his hands instead. She managed to catch a glimpse of a flat, yellow object (a cloth? a piece of paper?) before the old man hid his hand behind his back. His other hand slid into the pocket of his pants as though to look for something.

    "I knew there's something special about you, boy! I knew it!" The old man unleashed another round of laughter. "Looks like that kid wasn't lying when he told me that an expert Cultivator lives in this city!"

    "Did he just… Shit! Su Chan!" Yundong hissed. "He mentioned Cultivator. He knows about us!"

    Su Chan narrowed her eyes. Kid? Which kid told him about Yundong?

    Was it Ruan Hongling?

    The timeline fit.

    Just yesterday, Ruan Hongling was at their door, speaking with Yundong. And one day later, this old man appeared out of nowhere to have a dust-up with Yundong?

    But this man couldn't possibly be a Cultivator from the Zhengyi School. The Zhengyi School would never act so overtly, especially in a place crawling with mortals. Well, there was only one way to find out for sure. They had to get this old man to talk—

    Hey... what's that smell?

    Su Chan closed her eyes and sniffed the air a few times. Burning. Something was burning.

    "Umm...Su Chan? He just threw something away..." Yundong said. "It's a lighter... And he's holding some kind of yellow paper in his hand... "

    Su Chan's eyes shot open. A talisman!

    He's casting a spell!

    But what spell?

    "And… the paper's gone. Burnt into ashes. What kind of sick game is this lunatic playing?"

    "Hyaahhhhhh!!!!" The old man slapped his chest.

    Yundong flinched.

    "Yundong... Move your Qi to your legs," Su Chan said. "Prepare to run."

    "What! Run? Did you forget his threat earlier? He's gonna kill..."

    Su Chan didn't hear the rest of Yundong's sentence. She was already tuning her Eryue to focus on the sounds coming from the old man's lips. Incantations... If it's a spell... It probably involves some kind of incantation... Come on, come on... Here we go!

    "...Maoshan Jida Zhen Shengong. Bada Yuanshuai Xian Shentong! Hearken to me, O Great Celestial Lord of the Three Realms! Come to me! Show me your power! I offer you my body as a vessel..."

    Su Chan's blood ran cold. No… No… It can't be…

    She took Yundong's hand and gave it a sharp tug.

    "Yundong, we have to go. Now!"

    Yundong didn't budge.

    "Yundong, come on!! We've gotta move!"

    Yundong pointed a shaky finger at something in front of them.

    Su Chan lifted her gaze.

    The old man's body was now twitching and convulsing violently. The convulsions were accompanied by a series of crunching sound, like the cracking of knuckles, only ten times louder. His skin bulged and contorted as though his muscles were expanding from within. His face began to warp and shift as though a bunch of creatures were trying to crawl out from within his skull but was held back by the elastic layer of his skin. Spit and some kind of unknown fluid dripped to the ground. The old man's contorted mouth dropped open as he gurgled. More fluid spilled to the ground. Su Chan thought the fluid looked a lot like the contents of a person's stomach. A putrid smell filled the air a split second later. The old man's mouth gaped wider as his teeth shifted and rearranged themselves inside his oral cavity. His jaw engorged and shrunk in an erratic rhythm.

    All of a sudden, the old man hunched over.

    The crunching stopped.

    When he rose to full height seconds later, he was no longer an old man. Instead, standing before them was a six-foot-tall man with the build of a tough warrior.

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  • edited January 6

    Chapter 98 Man vs God (Part 2)

    X-men shit be damned. Dodging bullets be damned. Clairvoyant visions be damned. This? This was f*cking occult.

    Was he dreaming? Was this a nightmare? Li Yundong pinched his thigh hard. No. Not a dream. This shit was real.

    Ra's al Ghul over there had just transformed from a skinny old man into a young hunk who looked like he pumped iron for a living. F*ck.

    Li Yundong could feel a headache coming. But judging from those bulging muscles on Lin Youfa's new body, a headache was probably the least of Li Yundong's worries. He'd be lucky if he still had a head by the end of all this.

    "What an honor, Zhenren Li! What a great honor indeed! Now allow me to properly introduce myself!" Lin Youfa cupped both hands in front of his chest and bowed slightly. "Lin Youfa of the Divine Fist School!

    "Who of the what? The Divine Fist School?"

    "That's right, Zhenren Li. The Divine Fist School was founded by the great Shenxian Huang! Today, we are based in Kowloon, Hong Kong! Surely you've heard of us, Zhenren Li…"

    I've heard jack squat.

    "Shenxian Huang? What the hell is this guy talking about?" Li Yundong glanced at Su Chan, who looked dangerously pale.

    "Shenda…" Su Chan whispered.

    Great. More gobbledygook. Just what he needed.

    "Shenda? What Shend—"

    "Look out!!!"

    Li Yundong's eyes snapped to the front. A dark shadow appeared in front of his face, and Li Yundong raised his arms by instinct. He grunted when he felt a crushing pain in his forearms. Next thing he knew, the soles of his shoes were sliding against concrete as his body was thrown backwards by a strong force. He even had to lean his body forward to prevent himself from falling flat on his back.

    "Yundong!!!"

    Su Chan's scream sounded as though it had come from quite some distance away.

    Just how far had he been thrown away?

    Li Yundong tried to lower his arms. Or had he lowered them already? He couldn't tell since he had lost feeling in both arms.

    Footsteps sounded ahead.

    When he opened his eyes, he realized that his arms had indeed been lowered and were now hanging limply—uselessly—by his sides.

    He hoped nothing was broken. Those medical bills were going to be a real bitch.

    Su Chan was suddenly beside him, examining his arms. It was weird as hell, watching someone touch you, yet not being able to feel the touch at all.

    "I can't feel them," Li Yundong said. "Can't feel my arms."

    Su Chan looked into his eyes briefly before lowering her gaze back to his arms.

    "Nothing is broken," Su Chan said. "Just hold on."

    Su Chan pulled out a long, black needle out of nowhere—seriously, where did she keep those things? And why was the needle black? Sometimes he couldn't tell if it was a needle or a really stiff strand of hair.

    Su Chan poked the needle into a few spots on his arms and, moments later, he could feel his arms again. Maybe he didn't have to worry about those medical bills after all.

    More footsteps sounded ahead; Lin Youfa was approaching them slowly. The bastard was smiling.

    "Well, well, well! Very impressive, Zhenren Li! To be able to take the full brunt of that strike with just your arms? Tsk, tsk, tsk." Lin Youfa laughed. "How nice to be young!"

    Li Yundong took a step forward, shoving Su Chan behind his back as he did. He would rather die than let this bastard touch a single hair on Su Chan's pretty head.

    Su Chan tried to step out from behind him, but he held her back with him arms.

    "Yundong! Stop! Listen to me—"

    Li Yundong clamped a palm over Su Chan's mouth.

    Stall for time. Keep the guy talking.

    "What's so impressive about that?" Li Yundong said, his eyes scanning the area around them, assessing the situation. Zhou Qin and some of the injured students still lingered nearby. But they were further away from the car now. Many of them had actually sneaked off, but Lin Youfa didn't seem too concerned about that anymore.

    The bastard's main objective right now seemed to be beating the living daylights out of Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong zoomed in on Zhou Qin, who appeared to be speaking on the phone. When he sort through the buzzing in his ears, he realized then that Zhou Qin was calling the cops.

    Good. Now he just had to keep stalling until the cops arrived.

    "What's so impressive?" Lin Youfa raised a brow. "That strike could smash through fifty layers of concrete." Lin Youfa smirked. "Yet you took the hit like it was nothing."

    Well, it wasn't nothing. It actually hurt like a bitch, at least during the moment of impact.

    "Yundong… mmph… mmph… mmph…"

    "Shh," Li Yundong said, then swiveled his head to look at Lin Youfa. Stall… Stall him…

    "You keep telling me your name, sir," Li Yundong said, keeping his gaze on Lin Youfa. "But it's funny cuz' it didn't ring any bells at all. And you seem to know a lot about me while I know nothing about you. Have we met before? How did you know me?"

    All of a sudden, Lin Youfa stopped walking. He tilted his head as if to ponder Li Yundong's words. Then, he stared at Li Yundong with narrowed eyes.

    Li Yundong used the hiatus to mobilize his Qi. Seconds later, he managed to link his three Dantians together, once again bridging his Three Gates.

    "Well, you've met my disciple Huang Yifei before. And you kicked his ass." Lin Youfa chuckled. "That brat was foolish to challenge you. He was in way over his head, that boy."

    "Mmph! Mmph!" Su Chan began slapping and clawing at Li Yundong's arm. Li Yundong shushed her again.

    "So you're Huang Yifei's master, huh?"

    Li Yundong moved his Qi to his Shenting and Lingtai. A wave of calmness and mental clarity washed over him.

    Lin Youfa laughed. "Why, yes. He's one of the naughty ones, I'm afraid. You no doubt thought of him as just an annoying pest, Zhenren Li. I apologize on his behalf."

    I don't want your f*cking apology. I want you to leave me the hell alone.

    Li Yundong put on his most charming—he hoped—smile. "Water under the bridge, sir. So. How about a truce?"

    Lin Youfa burst into laughter. "Very funny, Zhenren Li. But I'm not here to talk about my stupid disciple. Now. Tell me, Zhenren Li. Which sect or school do you belong to? And who's your teacher?"

    Seriously? Again with this shit?

    "Mmph, mmph, mmph!" Su Chan kept struggling against him, and then—

    Oww! She bit my hand! That little minx!

    Li Yundong shot Su Chan a warning look and clamped his hand down on her mouth harder.

    "Which school?" Li Yundong pretended to think hard, then smirked. "Why, Tiannan University, of course! You're standing right in front of it. Want a nickel tour? I could give you one."

    Lin Youfa's brows twitched a little. A moment later, he chuckled. "Looks like I'm gonna have to force that information out of you, Zhenren Li."

    Uh-oh. Shit had officially gotten real.

    Okay. First things first. He had to get Su Chan as far away from here as possible. This bastard packed a wallop. And judging from the fact that he had threatened to choke a girl to death earlier, he wasn't above hurting the members of the fairer sex. Honestly, what happened to chivalry these days?

    "I hope you don't hold back, Zhenren Li!" Lin Youfa began to make his way towards them, cracking his knuckles and rolling his neck around as he walked.

    "Hey, Su Chan…" Li Yundong whispered without taking his eyes off Lin Youfa. "You're pretty good at landing on your feet, right? I've seen you perform those acrobatic tricks. Well, I think it's time you put those skills to good use."

    "Mmph! Mmph! Mmph! Mmph!!"

    Li Yundong unclamped his hand from Su Chan's mouth.

    "What—"

    Li Yundong flung Su Chan away from him with all his strength.

    "Noooooooooo, Yuuuundddoooonnngg….Aaaahhhhhh!"

    "Run! Get as far away from here as you can!!! Don't come back!!!" Li Yundong yelled.

    Sounds of Lin Youfa's laughter drifted to his ears.

    "Hahaha! Oh, the lengths you would go to in order to protect your woman! Hahaha! What an honorable man you are, Zhenren Li! This is perfect! This is absolutely perfect! The honorable ones always make the best warriors!" Lin Youfa marched towards Li Yundong resolutely. "Come! Zhenren Li! Let this be the hour we fight!"

    Li Yundong got into a fighting stance. Okay. Here we go… Xianjue! 

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  • edited January 6

    Heavy footsteps sounded in front of him.

    Err… What? Li Yundong focused harder. Come on, come on… Xianjue!

    Nothing.

    Shit. Shit. Shit.

    "Here I come, Zhenren Li!"

    Oh… f*ck.

    SWISH! Li Yundong narrowly avoided the punch to his head, then quickly dodged the follow-up palm strike to his sternum. Li Yundong landed five feet away from Lin Youfa.

    His Xianjue had failed him. His most powerful weapon had just failed him. But how? It had worked perfectly during the beginning of the fight!

    Lin Youfa came at him again, this time with a quick roundhouse kick.

    "Hyahh!"

    SWISH!

    Li Yundong dropped to his knees just in time to dodge the kick. Then, he scrambled backwards to put more distance between himself and Lin Youfa. He wasn't stupid enough to try to block any one of this bastard's strikes again. Not after what the first block did to his arms.

    "Tsk, tsk, tsk! You're still holding back on me, Zhenren Li." Lin Youfa shook his head with dissatisfaction. "You know it's a major disrespect to your opponent if you hold back in a fight…"

    I'm not f*cking holding back, you moron! I'm already balls deep here!

    He kept that thought to himself.

    Negotiating with this lunatic was pointless after all. Just like how asking for world peace was pointless.

    "Come on, dammit! Fight me, Zhenren Li!" Lin Youfa growled. "Fight me for real!"

    SWISH! SWISH! SWISH!

    That last punch would've taken his f*cking head off if he hadn't dodged it.

    Li Yundong backed away from Lin Youfa slowly. All of a sudden, he felt like he was his old self again: fat; aimless; useless; helpless.

    "You know you can't win fights by running, Zhenren Li," Lin Youfa said. "Why are you still holding back?"

    Li Yundong took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

    "Ooh… Finally getting serious now, are you?"

    Li Yundong cocked his fist back and punched the air in front of him.

    CRACK!

    The shockwave blasted its way towards Lin Youfa who quickly raised his arms to protect his torso. The shockwave rammed into Lin Youfa's forearms, causing him to slide back a few inches. Then… Nothing.

    The guy wasn't even scratched.

    "Now that's more like it, Zhenren Li." Lin Youfa chuckled. "My turn!!!"

    Lin Youfa charged at him.

    He's fast!

    SWISH! SWISH! Li Yundong leaped back to avoid two successive punches. He'd seen that move before; Huang Yifei had used the same move against him during the performance night.

    Li Yundong unleashed two more shockwaves, which Lin Youfa dodged with ease.

    "Tsk, tsk, tsk…" Lin Youfa shook his head. "Do you actually think that the same trick will work against me more than once, Zhenren Li?"

    Li Yundong lowered his center of gravity and got into a defensive stance. He was running out of options now. He had already used up all his moves, yet he couldn't even touch Lin Youfa. He had got nothing else up his sleeves.

    He needed a plan if he wanted to survive this. A weakness. He needed to find a weakness he could exploit.

    Li Yundong zoomed in on Lin Youfa's body to look for wounds. All he saw was huge muscles with bulging veins. How the f*ck did that happen? How did a scrawny old man turn into a frigging Dave Bautista lookalike? It was like Ra's al Ghul taking a dip into his Lazarus pit or something.

    Was it a drug? Some kind of super steroid?

    He did burn some kind weird-looking paper just now. Did he inhale something to juice himself up?

    Li Yundong zoomed out.

    Close-quarters combat was clearly not an option since it would put him at a serious disadvantage. Lin Youfa was a master martial artist who probably knew, like, a hundred fighting styles whereas Li Yundong had never even thrown a punch until a few weeks ago. Besides, Lin Youfa knew Chin Na.

    Dammit.

    This whole situation was seriously f*cked up.

    "Tsk! Clearly, you still think of me as an unworthy opponent," Lin Youfa said. "Looks like I'm going to have to up my game."

    Li Yundong nearly fell over.

    What the f*ck? This guy wasn't fighting in full strength yet?

    Lin Youfa broke off into a sprint.

    Just don't get hit. Just don't get hit.

    "Hyah!!"

    SWISH! SWISH! SWISH!

    Li Yundong did the only thing he could think of to avoid those vicious blows—retreat.

    "Nobody wins a fight by avoiding blows, Zhenren Li! Come on! Fight me!"

    Li Yundong's back hit something solid. The limo. He'd been forced all the way back to the limo and he didn't even know it.

    Lin Youfa was barreling towards him, so Li Yundong pushed himself away from the car, forcing Lin Youfa to change direction. That managed to slow Lin Youfa down a little. A teeny little.

    "Tsk! Running around like a mouse," Lin Youfa said. "I really didn't expect you to be such a coward, Zhenren Li!!!"

    Li Yundong gasped in surprise when Lin Youfa suddenly leaped about 6 meters into the air. Shit! Li Yundong dove sideways.

    CRACK!! A tiny crater formed on the concrete pavement where Lin Youfa's elbow had smashed into it. Lin Youfa tried to pull out his elbow, which was now stuck in the concrete. Lin Youfa frowned after his first tug had failed to free his elbow from the crater.  

    Now's my chance!

    Li Yundong scrambled to his feet and unleashed one of Zhao Yujian's signature kicks—the spinning hook kick.

    SMACK!  

    Lin Youfa grunted as his head whipped to the side.

    Li Yundong followed up with two successive roundhouse kicks, both of which landed squarely on Lin Youfa's jaw.

    Lin Youfa managed to free his elbow from the pavement.

    Not wanting to give Lin Youfa a chance to recover, Li Yundong kicked Lin Youfa's chest with all his strength. The force of the push kick threw Lin Youfa backwards until his back smashed into the limo's passenger door.

    Li Yundong immediately followed up by pushing his feet off the ground in an explosive leap. His body hurtled forward—towards the limo—and, while in the air, Li Yundong rotated his hip counterclockwise and bent his right leg at the knee.

    The flying knee strike.

    John had used this move on Li Yundong that night before Li Yundong blew him away with his shockwave. He just hoped that it would work.

    A split second later, Li Yundong's right knee rammed into Lin Youfa's sternum. The force of the impact caused the passenger door to bend and the entire limo to skid several feet away.

    Did that finish him? Did I get him?

    Li Yundong studied Lin Youfa's face for a moment. Then, he started backing away from the limo, not because Lin Youfa was KO-ed, but because Lin Youfa was actually getting back up and he didn't want to stay too close to him.

    Lin Youfa pushed away from the car, rolling his neck and rotating his shoulders a few times. "Muay Thai. Taekwondo. Not bad, Zhenren Li. Not bad at all! A fighter who's well-versed in various fighting styles is unpredictable, hence formidable."

    Well-versed? Would it be considered well-versed if he had only seen those techniques performed once?

    Lin Youfa snickered. "Though I suspect you're still not fighting me with everything you have."

    Why did the f*cker keep saying that? Couldn't he see that Li Yundong was balls deep here?

    Holding back? Really? Was he kidding him with this shit?

    All of a sudden, Lin Youfa gave Li Yundong a look of amusement.

    That look sent chills down Li Yundong's spine.

    Li Yundong's scalp tingled.

    He tried to get his Xianjue to work again.

    Still nothing.

    "What's the matter, Zhenren Li? You look a bit stressed."

    Li Yundong closed his eyes and moved his Qi to his Lingtai.

    "Here. How about"—there was loud crunching sound, like a piece of metal being ripped off—"a little gift to calm you down?"

    Gift? What gif—

    Li Yundong opened his eyes and saw the limousine's sliding door flying towards his face. Holy f*cking shit!

    Li Yundong punched the air in front of him. The resulting shockwave blasted the metallic door away. Li Yundong pulled back his fist and felt his blood run cold.

    Lin Youfa was gone. What the hell? He was still beside the car earlier! Where the hell did he go?

    Li Yundong glanced around desperately. Nothing. No signs of Lin Youfa.

    A shadow appeared under his feet. At that moment, Li Yundong didn't even think; he reacted by diving sideways.

    The ground trembled at the impact. A few girls shrieked not far away.

    Li Yundong climbed to his feet and saw Lin Youfa pulling his right foot out from a wok-sized crater on the ground. Cracks spread out radially from the crater's center. Note to self: this guy likes to launch his attacks from the air for maximal impact.

    Lin Youfa kicked a piece of broken concrete away from his feet. Then, with a loud roar, Lin Youfa burst forward again.

    SWISH! SWISH! SWISH! SWISH!

    "Argh!"

    Li Yundong messed up his timing when he tried to dodge that last punch. The punch merely grazed his left shoulder, but the impact was enough to send him tumbling to the ground.

    Is it just me, or had his movements become much faster?

    The buzzing in his ears alerted Li Yundong to the whispers from the crowd, though he didn't have enough mental resources at the moment to isolate those voices with his Eryue.

    Li Yundong rolled over with a grunt and slowly sat up. He felt something pressing against his left butt cheek. When he glanced down, he realized that it was that chunk of (palm-sized) broken concrete that Lin Youfa had kicked away earlier.

    Li Yundong made a show of stumbling when he was trying to climb back to his feet. When he stumbled, he made sure that his right palm covered the concrete chunk. By the time he was up on his feet a second time, the concrete chunk was held securely inside his right fist.

    Distract him. Get him to talk. Let him brag.

    "Phew! That was pretty close, huh?" Li Yundong said, putting on a charming smile. "I mean, damn! You're fast! So much faster than before! Was that your top speed?"

    Lin Youfa smiled. "Attack me if you wanna find out."

    Damn it!

    "Before we continue," Li Yundong said, raising his left index finger. "Just explain one more thing to me."

    "What's that?"

    "That tornado thing you did with your robe. How does that actually work?"

    Using his Mingmu, Li Yundong zoomed in and magnified the view of Lin Youfa's face. The timing had to be perfect.

    Lin Youfa chuckled. "I'm honored that a great Zhenren such as yourself would express an interest in one of my techniques. Well, you see—"

    Now!

    Li Yundong flung the concrete as hard as he could towards Lin Youfa's head.

    However, Lin Youfa caught the concrete piece with his hand like it was nothing.

    Li Yundong could feel himself gaping now.

    Lin Youfa sighed and gave Li Yundong yet another look of amusement. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not yet, huh?"

    Li Yundong's jaw clicked shut. "Not yet what?"

    Lin Youfa snorted. "You're not desperate enough to fight me for real."

    Li Yundong tensed slightly. Desperate? What did he mean by desperate? He channeled more Qi towards his Lingtai.

    Suddenly, there was a murderous glint in Lin Youfa's eyes. "Especially if you're resorting to such petty tricks. Who do you think I am! One of those lowly thugs you beat up, huh!" Lin Youfa crushed the chunk of concrete with his hand, letting the pieces fall to the ground. Lin Youfa shook his head. "What an insult!"

    His Xianjue wouldn't work. The shockwaves wouldn't work. Punches and kicks wouldn't work. What the hell was he supposed to do now? If he ran, the bastard would just chase after him. And truth be told, Li Yundong wasn't even sure he could outrun the bastard—the guy was frigging fast. Well, at least Su Chan was far away from here. Safe.

    Lin Youfa chuckled, though he didn't sound amused at all. He sounded… sardonic.

    "Looks like I'll have to take this to the next level," Lin Youfa said.

    How many f*cking levels was there?

    "Let's see," Lin Youfa went on. "I could just grab one of the students over there and kill them. That pretty girl who was on the phone earlier seems like a good candidate. She's your friend right? I bet you'll start getting serious the moment her life is in danger."

    Anger flared inside Li Yundong. "Leave them out of it! This is between us!"

    Lin Youfa smirked. "Ooh… I knew that would work."

    "Don't you dare," Li Yundong growled. "Don't you fucking dare!"

    Li Yundong channeled his Qi towards his thighs and calves.

    "Hahaha! Wonderful, Zhenren Li! Wonderful! If you want to protect your friends… Then why don't you try stopping me!"

    Lin Youfa charged towards Zhou Qin. Screams of terror erupted.

    In a blink of an eye, Li Yundong was there to intercept Lin Youfa.

    SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! Li Yundong delivered three successive kicks, which were easily blocked by Lin Youfa.

    Li Yundong raised his leg and feigned a roundhouse kick to Lin Youfa's face. When Lin Youfa raised his arm to block, Lin Yundong snapped his legs downwards and slammed his foot into Lin Youfa's knee cap.

    The impact took Lin Youfa by surprise, causing him to lower his hands and hunch over slightly.

    Li Yundong snapped his legs upwards again, delivering a roundhouse kick to Lin Youfa's face.

    Lin Youfa's head whipped to the side when Li Yundong's feet slapped his left cheek.

    Lin Youfa stumbled a little, leaving his chest wide open.

    Li Yundong made a sharp twist of his body and then leaped, fully extending his right leg at the last moment. The sole of his foot slammed into Lin Youfa's sternum like one of Bruce Lee's famous side kicks.

    Lin Youfa straightened himself and smiled at Li Yundong.

    He didn't like that smile. It felt like the bastard was just toying with him. Then, a sick thought occurred to Li Yundong—maybe he was just toying with him.

    Lin Youfa charged at him again with tremendous speed.

    Aim for the soft spots.

    Li Yundong dodged a punch, then launched a front kick at Lin Youfa's groin. Lin Youfa blocked the kick with his arm and trapped Li Yundong's leg. Then, Lin Youfa swept Li Yundong's other leg out from under him, causing Li Yundong to fall the ground.

    Li Yundong rolled away just in time to avoid having his head stomped by Lin Youfa's foot. I've gotta fight back, dammit! Li Yundong clambered to his feet but Lin Youfa's punch was already flying towards his face. Li Yundong titled his head sideways

    SWISH!

    The punch missed.

    Fight back!

    Li Yundong growled and grabbed Lin Youfa's extended arm before he could pull it back.

    Take this, you son of a bitch!

    Li Yundong yanked Lin Youfa's arms towards him, twisting his body around at the same time. When Li Yundong felt his hip crash into Lin Youfa's groin, Li Yundong bent his body at the waist, using his hips as a leverage to flip Lin Youfa's body over.

    Lin Youfa's body slammed to the ground.

    Li Yundong growled and aimed a downward punch to Lin Youfa's face.

    A sharp pain on his wrist stopped Li Yundong mid-punch.

    Li Yundong's eyes grew wide. Uh-oh…

    Li Yundong screamed in pain, and when he glanced down, he realized that his wrist had been twisted into a sick joint lock.

    "A Judo hip throw. Impressive." Lin Youfa rose to his feet, then manipulated Li Yundong's wrist joint again. Li Yundong screamed, then felt his knees hit the ground.

    Li Yundong gritted his teeth and tried to pull his wrist free. But all that did was cause him more pain. He screamed again.

    Lin Youfa laughed. "I know you're strong, Zhenren Li. But brute force won't get you out of this joint lock. Pulling will only cause you more pain. This is the power of Chin Na!"

    Li Yundong screamed when Lin Youfa twisted his wrist into a new angle.

    The buzzing in his ears vanished, and his telescopic vision was deactivated. That was the moment Li Yundong knew that he had lost control of his Qi. The pain was just too great. The bridge connecting his Three Gates was gone too. His three Dantians were no longer linked by his Qi.

    He had lost the fight.

    The Hero of Tiannan University had just been defeated.

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  • edited January 8

    Chapter 98 Man vs God (Part 3)

    "Why are you doing this?"

    "Tsk, tsk, tsk. I'm disappointed that you even have to ask, Zhenren Li." Lin Youfa laughed. "Why, to find out which one of us is better, of course!"

    "Fine!" Li Yundong growled. "You win! You're better than me! Happy?"

    Lin Youfa twisted Li Yundong's wrist again; Li Yundong released a sharp hiss.

    "Win?" Lin Youfa sneered. "I don't see this as a win at all. I see this as an insult! An insult to me and the Divine Fist School!"

    I've never even heard of your stupid school…

    "Never heard of my school? Yeah right! Keep pretending!"

    Had he said that out loud? Apparently he had.

    "You're holding something back, Zhenren Li. I know you are. Show me!"

    "Proof…" Li Yundong gritted out. "What proof do you have that I'm keeping something from you?" Stall. Stall. Keep stalling him until the cops get here. This stupid fight must have gone on for around fifteen minutes by now.

    "Proof!" Lin Youfa snorted. "Not even skilled Cultivators can generate shockwaves with just a punch like you did!" Li Yundong groaned when Lin Youfa applied more pressure on his wrist.

    C'mon… Reach him with the other hand. I just need to reach him with the other hand…

    "And also this!!!" Lin Youfa increased the pressure again, causing Li Yundong to scream. "I'm applying enough force to bend a steel pipe! And your wrist is still intact. Do you take me for a fool, Zhenren Li?"

    No. I take you for a lunatic. A whack job.

    "There's something special about you, Zhenren Li. I just don't know what it is yet."

    "Nothing is special about me, man. How many times do I have to tell you that!" Li Yundong snapped. "I'm just a university student." Who is about to get his ass expelled if you break his hand and prevent him from sitting for the finals.

    "It must be the way you train. Tell me what kind of Cultivation trai—"

    Lin Youfa's words stilled.

    Li Yundong groaned in relief when the pressure in his wrist eased slightly. There was a hissing sound as some kind of mist drifted in from both sides of his cheeks. The mist stung his eyes a little, so he shut them. Something strange was going on.

    Then, he heard a scream, which, for once, didn't come from him. The pressure on his wrist eased completely, and his arm dropped limply to his side. A familiar scent assaulted Li Yundong's nostrils. His eyes shot open instantly.

    "Beloved! Arm around my shoulders. Quickly!"

    "What… S- Su Cha—"

    "Tsk! Come on!"

    Li Yundong slung his right arm around Su Chan's shoulders.

    "Don't move your left wrist. Keep it still," Su Chan whispered beside his ear. "And hang on to me."

    "What—"

    And then they were flying. They were actually flying. Flying… floating… levitating… something. He didn't even know what the hell Su Chan did, just that the ground was suddenly leaving his feet, and he felt as light as a helium balloon

    First, he became a psychic and dodged a bunch of bullets. Then, he saw an old man turn into a young hunk in some kind of reverse-aging stunt which, he was sure, would put Benjamin Button to shame.

    And then Su Chan was flying. His princess was f*cking flying.

    Li Yundong might need to see a psychiatrist.

    They landed on another side of the limo—Lin Youfa was on the other side. Su Chan must have done something to Lin Youfa, because that lunatic wasn't attacking them again. A couple of injured students on the ground stared at them in shock. Poor fellows probably needed psychiatric services too—but at least they weren't broke.

    "Why did you come back? I told you to stay away! This guy is dangerous!" Li Yundong hissed.

    Su Chan had already begun working on his wrist. "I couldn't leave you, beloved," Su Chan said without taking her eyes off his wrist. "I'd rather die than leave you."

    Something warm bloomed inside Li Yundong's heart. God damn it! What was he supposed to do now? He couldn't even protect himself from that lunatic let alone protect his girl. What the f*ck was he supposed to do now?

    Su Chan was suddenly looking into his eyes. He couldn't help but stare right back. Her eyes were so beautiful.

    "This is gonna hurt, beloved."

    Li Yundong gave her a nod.

    Su Chan pulled out several dark needles.

    "What did you do to that guy?" Li Yundong asked as he watched her get to work.

    "I did the same thing he did to you," Su Chan snarled, her eyes glinting murderously. "I went for his eyes." Then, she turned her attention back to his wrist. "It's only temporary though." Su Chan jabbed the needles all over his left arm. Several needles went to the back of his palm, but most of them were on his forearm. He was pretty sure it was supposed to be a painful business (it sure seemed painful), but at that moment, Li Yundong just felt numb.

    Su Chan held Li Yundong's gaze steadily.

    "Ready?"

    Li Yundong nodded.

    He winced a little when Su Chan twisted his wrist joint back into place.

    "All done."

    Li Yundong rotated his wrist a few times while Su Chan put her needles away. All of a sudden, a sinking sensation formed in the pit of his stomach. It felt as though he had swallowed a ton of lead. Li Yundong let his chin drop to his chest.

    "S- Su Chan… I… I don't think I can beat him."

    "I'm not expecting you to," Su Chan said, lifting his chin back up. "Because you can't beat him. It's impossible."

    "Yeah? Thanks for the vote of confidence." Li Yundong grumbled. "I feel so much better hearing that."

    "It's not your fault, beloved—"

    "He kicked me around like I'm some useless toy, princess. I was helpless. Not even my Xianjue worked."

    Su Chan sighed. "Yes. Because he using the art of Shenda. It—"

    Someone screamed. It took Li Yundong a full second to realize that it was Zhou Qin.

    "Su Chan! Li Yundong! Look out!!!" Zhou Qin yelled.

    Li Yundong jumped to his feet and swiveled around. Lin Youfa was charging towards the limo like a mad bull.

    "Come out, Zhenren Li! Where are you!!! Stop hiding like a coward!"

    So he couldn't see us? But why is he running towards the car…

    "Fine then! I'll force you out!"

    Li Yundong's blood ran cold when he suddenly realized what Lin Youfa was about to do.

    Another voice sounded.

    "Nooooooo!!!!! Not my caaaaarrrrr!!!!!"

    "Get back here, Liu Chuan!" Zhou Qin yelled. "Do you want to die!?"

    Lin Youfa roared like a beast. There was a loud crunch as Lin Youfa's foot slammed into the midsection of the limo's chassis.

    A split second later, the limo was sent tumbling through the air.

    Li Yundong's instincts took over. He turned around abruptly and shoved Su Chan away from him as hard as he could.

    Then he turned back around to face the airborne limo which was now flying and tumbling straight at him. Screams broke out behind him, and a sickening realization dawned on him right then and there: if he dodged the limo instead of trying to stop it, those injured students behind him would be crushed to death.

    "Yundong!!! Stop that thing!! I'll move the students away!" Su Chan yelled from somewhere behind him.

    Determination coursed through Li Yundong. His Qi responded by careening along his meridians towards his three Dantians. Within a split second, Li Yundong's had bridged his three Gates. More screams erupted, blending with the sounds of crunching metal to form a symphony of terror and chaos. Li Yundong knew that timing was crucial. His timing had to be perfect. One slip-up, and people would die.

    Now!

    Li Yundong punched the air in front of him with both hands at the same time. Two shockwaves swept through the air before they slammed into the underside of the limo's chassis. The impact generated a torque that opposed the limo's spin, causing the limo's rotation to slow down.

    The limo crashed into the concrete pavement. However, instead of stopping, it kept sliding forward. "Shit!" Li Yundong yelled. He knew he needed a follow-up strike, and fast.

    Another shockwave?

    No. It might blow the vehicle apart and the debris might hit someone. Argh! To hell with it. This better work… Li Yundong mobilized his Qi to the muscles and joints of his right leg. He charged forward with a roar and then twisted his body sideways while extending his right leg with a powerful snap. His right foot slammed into the limo's moving body—it was Bruce Lee's infamous side kick.

    There was a loud screech as the limo—now turned turtle—skidded away in the opposite direction. In an instant, the screams of horror turned into triumphant cheers: from behind him; and also from the campus gates, where a new crowd of onlookers had gathered.

    Chants of "Hero of Tiannan University" filled the air, punctuated by Lin Youfa's roaring laughter and Liu Chuan's despondent wails for the limo's demise. Then, Su Chan was beside him.

    "We have to move. Now. We can't fight him here," Su Chan whispered. "Too much collateral damage."

    "B- But how are we gonna beat him?" Li Yundong said, sneaking a quick glance at Lin Youfa. "I don't think I'm a match for him—"

    "I'll beat him," Su Chan said, her voice soft yet confident, gentle yet resolute.

    That declaration sent Li Yundong into a tizzy.

    "What! Are you nuts! Didn't you see what he just did? He just flipped a f*cking—"

    "I have a plan," Su Chan said. "I've already got everything set up at a garden nearby. We just have to get him to follow us there."

    "No! Absolutely—"

    Su Chan growled and yanked Li Yundong's hand.

    "Just come with me," she hissed. "We'll talk on the way."

    They broke off into a sprint.

    "Oh, no you don't Zhenren Li! Now you're running?! Just when the fun has started?!"

    More screams erupted behind them.

    Li Yundong turned around and saw Lin Youfa leaping over a sea of students. Lin Youfa landed with a loud thud and was now running after them.

    Li Yundong wanted to say that he was too old for this shit. But then he realized that he really, really wasn't.

    ***

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  • Su Chan sprinted down the street, ignoring the strange looks that the pedestrians were giving her. Yundong ran alongside her, muttering a bunch of strange curse words that she didn't even know existed.

    "Su Chan, what the hell is going on here? One moment he was still a skinny old dude, then the next, he looked like Schwarzenegger? What the f*ck?"

    "Shenda—"

    "And he sent a limo into the air! And it was spinning, Su Chan! Spinning!" Yundong kept ranting. "A f*cking limo! That shit probably weighs like 6 tons! And—"

    "Yundong! Shut up and listen to me!" Su Chan growled.

    Behind them, Lin Youfa was stirring up a commotion in his pursuit of them.

    "That man is a Cultivator like us," Su Chan explained after they had made turn at the corner of a building, "but he's from the Divine Fist School, so his techniques are a bit unorthodox. It's a special type of magic called Shenda. Look, I won't go into details, but it basically involves a bunch of spells and rituals to request a god or a Shenxian to take over the practitioner's body—"

    "Holy f*cking shit!" Yundong stopped running, causing Su Chan to pull ahead a few steps.

    A few seconds later, Yundong caught up to her again. "You mean I was trading blows with a god for almost fifteen minutes?"

    "Yes. Well, he's isn't actually a god. He's still just a Cultivator. It's just that he has access to a portion of the god's power for a limited amount of time," Su Chan said.

    Not limited enough, apparently, which was exactly why Su Chan needed to finish this quickly before Lin Youfa caused more damage. Trepidation tugged at Su Chan's heart. Could she do it though? Could she really do it?

    Yes, you can, Chan'er. You can do it. Now stop doubting yourself.    

    "So which god did he summon to turn him from a lanky old man into a hunk?"

    "The Great Celestial Lord of the Three Rea—"

    "Speak human language please…"

    Su Chan tamped down a wave of frustration. "Guan Yu, okay? The God of War, Guan Yu!"

    Yundong stumbled a few steps.

    "G- Guan Yu?!!!"

    Su Chan snorted. "Still think you can beat him now? That's why your Xianjue didn't work on him. Xianjue only works if your opponent is less powerful than you. But Guan Yu is a Shenxian! He's basically a god! And Lin Youfa has a portion of his powers!"

    "And you think you can beat him?" Yundong asked.

    "Yes!" Su Chan somersaulted over two cars and landed on the other side of the street. When she turned around, she saw Yundong staring at her from across the street with a stunned expression. Su Chan sighed inwardly. Sometimes she forgot that Yundong was still new to Cultivation. Okay, most of the time.

    "Hurry up! Yundong!" Su Chan pointed at towards her right. "This way!"

    Yundong started moving again. When he finally crossed the street, Su Chan broke off into a sprint again. A minute later, they arrived at the tiny gate leading into a park. It had taken her more than ten minutes to locate this area after Yundong had tossed her away from the scene (and what a toss that was—damned Renyuan Jindan). It shouldn't have taken her that long, but she didn't know the city very well. Also, this damned city was seriously lacking in its forestry department! Like, really? She had to search for ten minutes just to find a few trees! And even then, all she found was a miserable grove hidden in some pathetic park! Ugh! What was it with mortals and trees anyway? Why did they hate trees so much?

    Well, she supposed she could've just used the copse inside Yundong's school—the one with the gazebo. Then again, that would defeat her purpose. For her to execute her plan, the area had to be secluded and completely free from prying eyes. Because for the first time since she met Yundong, she was going to use one of her more powerful spells. And she couldn't risk using those spells out in the open, lest she be discovered by the Zhengyi people. Hence the secrecy and the need for seclusion.

    Su Chan pulled them to a stop in front of a park bench, then took Yundong's hand and dragged him towards another section in the park. When a small garden came into view, she knew they had arrived at the right place. Su Chan pulled them to a stop again.

    "Go hide in there," Su Chan whispered, pointing at the grove at the far end of the garden.

    "What? What about you?" Yundong whispered.

    "I'll stay out here and lead him into the grove."

    "Alone? Are you crazy!" Yundong hissed.

    "Just trust me…" Su Chan said, sending him a pleading look.

    "Zhenren Li! Stop playing hide and seek with your woman and come out!"

    They both froze and looked at each other for a moment.

    "Go," Su Chan hissed, shoving Yundong towards the grove. "Hide!"

    "Fine," Yundong growled. "I'll keep my Eryue activated. The moment I hear that you're in trouble, I'm coming out."

    "Okay, okay! Fine. Just hurry up and go hide."

    Yundong disappeared into the grove.

    Good. She needed Yundong out of sight so that the old loony would focus on her instead of Yundong.

    Su Chan pushed her Qi to her Shenting and activated her own Eryue. She sifted through the buzzing until she heard Lin Youfa's angry growls.

    "Where are you, Zhenren Li… Come out and fight me…"

    Su Chan tuned out Lin Youfa's voice.

    "Make sure you stay hidden," Su Chan whispered, knowing that Yundong could hear her. "Enemy approaching now. When I lead him into the trees, you have to stay out of sight, you hear me? I can't afford to be distracted."

    Su Chan reached up and removed a golden hairpin from her hair.

    Lin Youfa's figure burst through the garden just then. He started glancing around the garden, no doubt looking for Yundong.

    Su Chan slid the hairpin between her fingers.

    "Where is he, woman!" Lin Youfa growled. "Tell me where he's hiding!"

    Su Chan smirked. "Catch." With a flick of her fingers, the hairpin whizzed through the air.

    "Hah!" Lin Youfa clapped his hands together and caught the hairpin between his palms before it struck his carotid artery.

    Su Chan turned around and ran into the grove. Inside the grove, Su Chan leaped onto the bough of large tree and waited. She kept her Eryue focused on Lin Youfa and tuned out all other noises.

    "Aiming for my arteries? That girl is really looking to kill me..." Lin Youfa muttered.

    "Enemy stepping into the grove now," Su Chan whispered. "I want you to stay out of sight no matter what happens, okay?"

    Lin Youfa's figure emerged from between two hedges. "Where are they… where are they…"

    Su Chan removed several strands of her hair and pushed her Qi into them. Then, she shut her eyes and muttered an incantation. Time to end this…

    When she reached the end of the incantation, Su Chan opened her eyes.

    "Shadow Mist…" she whispered.

    Wisps of fog shrouded her body as she descended from the tree and landed soundlessly behind Lin Youfa. Surrounding objects blurred into streaks of colors as she charged, the two strands of her—stiffened—hair ready in each hand. However, Lin Youfa turned around suddenly and swung out his arm.

    Su Chan sidestepped Lin Youfa and went around behind him instead. But Lin Youfa suddenly unleashed a back kick, forcing Su Chan to retreat before she could poke the two needles onto his back. The mist disappeared around her legs, and she was once again face to face with Lin Youfa. Damn it! How? The Shadow Mist had allowed her to move swiftly and soundlessly. How did he even notice my attacks? Right. Because she was fighting against someone who had borrowed a portion of a god's power.

    Lin Youfa sneered. "So that's your trick, then. That's how you managed to sneak up on me and ruin my fun with Zhenren Li." Lin Youfa laughed. "Impressive. Which school are you from, young lady?"

    Like hell I'm gonna tell you…     

    Su Chan muttered an incantation while mobilizing her Qi from her lower Dantian. Then, she released a portion of her Qi from her body through her mouth. Her Qi morphed a ring of thick smog which surrounded Lin Youfa in a matter of seconds.

    "Oh? Another trick?" Lin Youfa laughed.

    Shadow Dance…

    The smog began to shift and morph. Moments later, the smog cleared, and nine clones of Su Chan stood around Lin Youfa.   

    The clones moved in simultaneously, striking Lin Youfa in his vulnerable spots.

    Su Chan quickly joined the small army of her clones, hiding herself among them. She just had to get behind Lin Youfa for a chance to strike him with her needles. This fight would be over in an instant if she could poke her needles into the two acupoints on Lin Youfa's shoulder blades—the Gaohuang.

    Focus, Chan'er! Focus!   

    Su Chan controlled her Qi with her mind. Her Qi clones responded to her conscious will by attacking Lin Youfa relentlessly, hitting him with one lethal strike after another: chop to his neck; kick to the groin; palm-heel strikes to the sternum; finger jabs to the eye and throat.

    Lin Youfa's screams echoed throughout the grove.

    Su Chan danced amidst her Qi clones and crept behind Lin Youfa. Timing. This was all about timing. She had to distract him just moments before she attacked.

    Su Chan inched closer.

    Lin Youfa began to fight back. One of her Qi clones disappeared after he'd punched it. She had to finish this quickly before she ran out of Qi clones.

    Su Chan mentally controlled one of her Qi clones to knee Lin Youfa in the sternum. When Lin Youfa staggered backwards, Su Chan flicked two needles at Lin Youfa's Gaohuang. Lin Youfa suddenly ducked as though he knew the attack was coming. Instead of hitting Lin Youfa's shoulder blades, the needles lodged themselves into two spots just under Lin Youfa's ears—the Tianzhu. Lin Youfa hissed in pain, and swung out his arm in wide arc. Three of her clones disappeared.

    Lin Youfa's knees hit the ground. "Zhenren Li! Are you just going to keep hiding and let your woman fight your battles for you, huh? Come out here and fight me yourself!"

    Suddenly, Lin Youfa's eyes widened. He reached behind his neck and removed the two needles from the back of his head. Terror filled Lin Youfa's eyes.

    "Y- You demon witch!" Lin Youfa pointed a shaky finger at Su Chan. "You were aiming for my Gaohuang, weren't you?"

    Su Chan stared at Lin Youfa coldly. "I won't miss next time."

    Lin Youfa released a loud roar and stomped his foot.

    "I'll remember this, you demon witch!"

    Lin Youfa turned tail and bolted.

    Su Chan lowered her arms and sighed. Her clones transformed back into a smog, and she breathed her Qi back into her body and returned it to her lower Dantian.

    "You can come out now, Yundong," Su Chan whispered. "It's over."

    Silence fell. When she turned around, however, Yundong was standing right there staring at her. Disbelief colored his eyes, and he was looking at her as though she was a stranger.

    "Who the hell are you?"

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  • Chapter 99 Revelations

           Words can hurt. But sometimes, silence hurts even more.

           "Yundong…"

    That was the 17th time Su Chan had called his name without receiving a response. Or was it the 19th? She wasn't sure. She'd lost count some time during their car ride home.

    Su Chan rose from the couch and padded over towards the sliding door, where Yundong stood with his back to her. He was staring out into the city, seemingly lost in thought.

    "Yundong…" Su Chan tugged the hem of his shirt. "W- Why aren't you speaking to me?" You know why, Chan'er, she added silently.

    He'd seen her powers now. He must think I'm a monster… Just like everyone else does… 

    After what felt like hours, Yundong released a sigh. "Chan'er…" His eyes remained fixed on something beyond the balcony.

    Su Chan's grip on the hem of his shirt tightened. "Y- Yes?"

    "Tell me," he said, his voice flat and emotionless. "Tell me everything."

    Su Chan froze. Everything? Including the fact that she was a fox spirit?

    Su Chan let go of the hem of his shirt and took a step back.

    She bit down on her lip and stared at the floor. Could she do it? Could she reveal everything to him now? Seconds later, she shook her head. He would probably hate her guts the moment he found out who (or what) she was. He would be revolted by the mere sight of her. He wouldn't want her around anymore.

    Demons. Fiends. Foul creatures. Spawns of evil. The depraved. Evil spirits.

    Those were just a few names associated with her kind.

    For decades, fox spirits were regarded as the embodiment of everything that Cultivators hated, all thanks to the Mystical Silver Fox, whose actions had besmirched the good name of the Fox Zen School. There wasn't a single Cultivator alive today who didn't loathe the Fox Zen School and anyone associated with it.

    Could Yundong really see past decades' worth of hatred and accept her for who she was? Could Yundong overcome the stigma surrounding her kind? What if the idea of having a fox spirit as a lover disgusted him so much that he got rid of her for good?

    And if she was no longer around…

    Who else would be there to watch over his training and help him pass the Zhuji phase?

    Who else would be there to watch his back and protect him from those hunting for the Renyuan Jindan?

    And speaking of the Renyuan Jindan…

    Yesterday, Yundong had already agreed to let her tell him about the Jindan in her own time. But it seemed like today's incident had triggered his need for answers again.

    Oh Tao… What was she supposed to do now? Well, she supposed she could just tell him about the Jindan but leave out the bit about her being a fox spirit? But what if Yundong accidentally let slip that he had consumed the Jindan…

    Just thinking about that made Su Chan sick to her stomach.

    Those Cultivators would never let him live. They would absorb the Jindan and then destroy his body until there was nothing left of him. Oh God… Before Yundong reached the Shentong—or at least the Zhuji—phase, he didn't stand a chance. Su Chan raised her head and stared at Yundong's back. At the end of the day, it all boiled down to one thing: could she trust Yundong to be discreet?

    "Yundong… Hehe…" Su Chan said, injecting a faux cheeriness into her tone. "You've probably passed the 4th dan of the Ningshen phase by now. And if you work hard, it shouldn't be long before you complete the Zhuji phase as well… so… maybe until then…"

    Yundong turned away from the sliding door until he was facing her.

    "And how much longer would that take? Months?" He snorted. "Years?"

    Su Chan shuffled forward a step, then reached out to take his hand. When he flinched away from her touch, it felt as though someone had stabbed a knife through her heart. Su Chan swallowed. The lump in her throat was now impossible to ignore. She cleared her throat. "I told you yesterday, didn't I? I'll tell you everything when the time is right…"

    Yundong huffed and stormed past her. "Why? So I can keep walking around like an ignorant fool?"

    No! So you don't accidentally give yourself away and end up dead!

    Su Chan followed him into the living room. "I told you it's for your own safety—"

    Yundong turned around abruptly, his eyes flashing in anger. "Seriously, princess? Safety? After everything that happened just now, you're here talking to me about safety?"

    "But that's different! That was just Lin Youfa looking to regain the honor of his school after you defeated his disciple. That's not the kind of safety I was referring—"

    "Oh, you have got to be shitting me." Yundong threw his hands in the air and plopped down on the couch. He sat there with his elbows resting on his thighs and his face buried in his palms.

    Su Chan walked over to the couch and kneeled down in front of him.

    "Yundong… These people are dangerous. They have ways to—"

    "Oh, come on! Don't you get it yet?!" Yundong growled into his palms.

    "Get what? I think you're the one who doesn’t understand how serious this is!"

    Yundong's head suddenly shot up.

    "The game is up, princess!"  

    The sharpness in Yundong's tone drew a gasp out of her. She stared into Yundong's eyes. The anger in them had been replaced with a pleading look.

    "This whole charade is over," Yundong said. "It won't work anymore. It's not going to fool anybody. Not after what happened today."

    Yundong broke their eye contact and rubbed a hand across his face. Weariness settled into his countenance. He sighed. "Whether we like it or not, our cover is blown."

    Su Chan shifted around until she was sitting cross-legged on the floor.

    "C'mon princess. Limos spinning in the air? Some dude generating shockwaves with a punch?" Yundong snorted. "Before we know it, we're on f*cking national TV."

    Su Chan sniffed and swiped away a stray tear. This was all her fault. Yundong got into danger because of her. He'd been so nice to her, and yet all she brought him was trouble.

  • Su Chan sniffed again. "W- Would we really end up inside the talking box?"

    Seconds passed in silence.  And then Yundong laughed. A genuine and full-blown laugh. What a beautiful sound. And Su Chan had never felt more relieved in her entire life.

    Su Chan sniffed again. "W- What?"

    Her cheeks were so warm that her tears would probably just evaporate.

    Yundong stopped laughing right then and lifted her chin up. "I don't know, but I think it's likely."

    Su Chan turned her head left and stared at the TV for a moment. "B- But… How do we get in there?" She pointed at the TV. "There aren't any doors."

    "Pfft… Hahaha."

    Su Chan lowered her hand and stared down at her lap.

    Yundong cleared his throat. "Well, that's not how it works. I'll explain it to you next time."

    The fact that there would be a next time eased a tight knot inside Su Chan's chest.

    "Look, the point is…" Yundong said. "There's a good chance that everyone in the city—hell, everyone in the country—will know about today's incident within the next few days."

    Su Chan fiddled with her sleeve. "Does… Does everyone have one of those boxes in their homes?"

    "Yeah. That's pretty much true nowadays." Yundong sighed. "God. I can even imagine the front page title already. The Hero of Tiannan University fights Shapeshifting Old Man. And those nosy students might even be posting about it on Weibo already… Sooner or later, everyone's gonna know, including the people who are after us."

    Another stretch of silence passed.

    "Lin Youfa could be one of them," Yundong said moments later.

    Su Chan's gaze snapped up. "What?"

    Yundong sighed and shook his head. "He kept insisting that there's something special about me."

    Fear speared through Su Chan's chest, taking away her ability to breath. Oh no…

    "A- And what did you tell him?"

    "I denied it, of course," Yundong said with a snort. "Told him I'm just a university student."

    Su Chan sighed in relief.

    Yundong looked into her eyes. "He didn't believe me though. Crazy bastard kept twisting my wrist around trying to force me to tell him."

    Su Chan regarded Yundong carefully. So he didn't yield under pressure. Maybe he can keep secrets after all…

    "Did he…?" Su Chan cleared her throat. Damn, she really needed a glass of water. "Did he give you any indication that… that he knows?"

    Yundong considered her question for a moment, then held her gaze again.

    "No. He kept saying that he thinks there's something special about me, just that he didn't know what it is. He thinks it has something to do with the way I train."

    So the possibility that Yundong had consumed the Renyuan Jindan never occurred to Lin Youfa? That was a little odd. But admittedly, it was also a huge relief to hear. Su Chan hadn't thought Lin Youfa was one of the people hunting for the Renyuan Jindan. What Yundong had told her just confirmed her suspicions.

    "Chan'er…"

    Su Chan shook herself out of her reverie. Only Master called her Chan'er. But she had to admit that she liked it better when Yundong called her that. The previous time when he called her Chan'er, they were…

    She hoped she hadn't started bleeding from her cheeks. And was it a little hot in here?

    "I know I've promised to stop pushing you for answers. And I know you're just trying to protect me. You want me to become stronger first, I get all that," Yundong said. "But don't you think it would be better for me to know exactly what I'm capable of so I don't end up doing things that would risk exposure?"

    Su Chan froze. She'd never thought of it that way.

    Yundong shook his head. "And not just what I'm capable of. I also need to know what you are capable of. Earlier, I removed you from the fight because—"

    "You mean you tossed me," Su Chan snapped. "You tossed me away. Literally."

    Yundong sighed. "I know. I'm sorry. But that's exactly the point. I didn't know what you're capable of. I didn't know you could do all that"—Yundong did a couple of weird gestures with his hand—"badass Cultivation stuff or whatever you call it. I was just trying to keep you safe. That guy was so dangerous and I didn't know if I could beat him. I panicked! And…" Yundong lowered his head. "I guess I wasn't sure if I could protect you." Yundong lifted his head and gazed right into her eyes. "I don't know what I'd do if I lose you, Chan'er. I… I can't live without you."

    Tears stung Su Chan's eyes as warmth flourished inside her chest.  However, that mushy feeling was short-lived as fear and disappointment soon crept in. Will you still say that once you find out that I'm a fox spirit? That I'm a demon? Su Chan decided that she didn't even want to go there. It hurt too much.

    Yundong took a breath. "And of course, there's also the fact that our cover is blown. I need to be ready. I need to know who or what I'm up against. Otherwise I'll just end up having my ass kicked like today…"

    Su Chan sighed. He's right... I've been so blind.

    "Chan'er…" Yundong cupped her cheeks. "I think it's time you tell me."

    Su Chan nodded.

    "Okay."

  • ***

    They sat on the floor across from each other. Two pads and pens lay on the coffee table between them.

    Su Chan broke the silence first. "Um… How much do you know?" she asked, pulling one of the pads towards her.

    Yundong took a pen and started fiddling with it. After a moment, he stopped fiddling and sighed.

    "I didn't use to belief in magic and all that woo-woo stuff… But now…" Yundong shook his head. "Now I think I do. I mean, after everything I've seen and experienced… It's just…"

    Oh, Yundong… You've barely scratched the surface…

    Yundong uncapped his pen and opened his pad to a blank page. He stared at her for a few seconds without writing anything down. Su Chan felt like squirming under his intense scrutiny. What was he going to ask first? Her past? Had he already begun to suspect that she was a demon? Moments later, Yundong scribbled down a few words and showed her the pad: Fly for me.

    "What?"

    He wrote something down again: Fly. I want to see you fly. Like… Like what you did earlier.

    Oh. That.

    Learning how to fly was the requirement to pass the fourth dan of the Shentong (fifth) phase of Cultivation.

    Yundong scribbled: Please? I just need to see it for myself.

    "O- Okay…" Su Chan stood up, then backed away a few steps from the coffee table. Their gazes locked, and Yundong gave her a nod. Su Chan closed her eyes and took a deep breath. A moment later, her feet left the floor.

    "Holy f*cking shit…"

    Su Chan's eyes shot open and her feet dropped back to the floor with a thud.

    Yundong's hands were now gripping his hair. "Son of a f*ck!"

    Defensiveness crept in. "Just because we have abilities doesn't mean that we're evil or that we're monsters—"

    Yundong released his hair and shook his head, his eyes widening in alarm. "No, no… That's not what I meant… I was just surprised that's all. I didn't mean to imply that. I'm sorry."

    "Oh."

    Yundong sighed and waved her over.

    Su Chan walked back towards the coffee table and sat down.

    "Listen, I really didn't mean anything by my reaction. I was just surprised." Yundong shook his head, then held her gaze again. "I meant what I told you at the restaurant."

    Well, he'd told her a lot of things at the restaurant. He might need to be more specific.

    "A lot of things in this world aren't inherently bad. They are just tools. Their value depends on their user," Yundong said, looking straight at her. "I won't think of you as an evil monster just for having special abilities. Like money, it all depends on how you use them."

    Su Chan suppressed an eye roll. Tell that to the rest of the Cultivation world who wanted nothing more than to wipe out fox spirits from the face of the earth.

    Yundong chuckled. "Damn. Now I'm positive that we'll be on TV tomorrow. There were so many people watching the fight just now and you just…" Yundong paused and drew an arc in the air connecting one spot on the table to another. "Like, right in front of everyone."

    Su Chan uncapped her pen and wrote: Made it look like jump.

    "Right, I'm sure that's enough to convince everyone," Yundong deadpanned.

    Was he being sarcastic? Yep. He was. The teasing glint in his eyes said so.

    Su Chan's cheeks grew warm. "What? It really did look like a jump." Mortals could jump pretty high too, couldn't they? Or do those stunts she saw on TV not count?

    Yundong chuckled. "If that's what you call jumping, then you just broke the Olympic record for high jump."

    What?

    "Old limp pig? But how could a pig jump if it was already limping?"

    "No. It's Olym—" Yundong dissolved into laughter.

     Had her cheeks combusted? Su Chan looked down and stared at a spot on the table top. "If… If it doesn't work, then y- you could just… tell them that… that there are springs in my shoes?"

    Yundong laughed even harder. "Springs in your—" He started slapping his thighs. "My God you really are a national treasure…"

    Well. At least he was laughing.

    Yundong recovered himself a while later and took his pad again: This drug I took. Magical?

    Su Chan nodded, then wrote something down on her own pad: Magical pill. Renyuan Jindan.

    "What does it do? How does it work?" Yundong whispered.

    Ugh. Where to even begin?

    Su Chan pondered his question for a moment. In the end, she decided to go with the shorter version. She wrote: Long story short? Reformed your body. Make your body stronger.

    She didn't want to bore him with details. Besides, a lot of the Cultivation stuff would sound foreign to him.

    Yundong suddenly reached up to touch his face, then wrote: That's why I not fat?

    Su Chan stared at him for a moment. Hmm… Technically, he lost body fat after his meridians were forcibly activated when he went into Zouhuo Rumo state. But the effects wouldn't be this pronounced without the Jindan…

    Su Chan scribbled: It did play a role. There was a process.

    There was a contemplative look on Yundong's face. Moments later, his eyes widened. "Holy shit…"

    "What?" Su Chan shot him a questioning look.

    Yundong grabbed his pen: Three days. I slept for three days.

    Su Chan bobbed her head up and down.

    "Are you tired?" Yundong said. "Um… Because I… I have a lot of questions. Oh, wait." A worried look flitted across his face. "Were you hurt during the fight?"

    Not exactly. Except maybe for her pride, since he, you know, tossed her away and everything. It would probably take her a while to get over that.

    Su Chan shook her head. "What about you?"

    Yundong grinned. "I was. But then my best girl fixed me."

    Butterflies fluttered in her stomach.

    Yundong began scribbling again: Run me through?

     "The process?"

    Yundong nodded.

    Su Chan grabbed her pad: Renyuan Jindan's function = enhance whatever that is already there.

    Su Chan stared at Yundong for a moment to make sure he was following. Then she wrote again: Everything enhanced. Bones. Muscles. Qi. Everything.

    Yundong paused in thought, then wrote: Punch machine. Punch guys into air. Climb up walls. All that.

    Su Chan nodded, picking up her pen again: Stronger. Faster. More agile. Faster reaction time. Better reflexes. Improved senses.

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