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  • ***

    "Please father... all you have to do is make a call," Zhou Qin pleaded into her phone. She listened to the voice on the phone for a few seconds.

    "He doesn't deserve this, father! Look... We don't have time, okay? The meeting will be held today. The chancellor is already on his way to the university. Just give the chancellor a call. Please." Zhou Qin sighed. "One phone call from you and all of this will be over."

    Zhou Qin suddenly perked up, an unbidden smile forming on her face. "You'll do it? Thank you—" Zhou Qin's smile vanished instantly. "What condition?"

    Seconds later, Zhou Qin lowered the phone from her hand. She stared at the floor, her eyes swimming with tears. A moment later, Zhou Qin raised her hand and threw the phone on the floor. A loud smash sounded as the device hit the floor with pieces of it flying asunder.

    ***

    Feng Na stared at her own reflection in the mirror. She didn't like what she saw. There were dark rims around her eyes, which were puffy from all the crying she'd done for the past few hours. Her face looked pale and a bit gaunt. Those were marks—the marks of guilt.

    She should've said something to Director Qian. She should've spoken up instead of let Cheng Cheng drag her away from the scene. She should've taken part of the blame, but she didn't. Instead, she let a good man shoulder all the blame while she walked away blameless. The whole movie screening was her idea in the first place. And she should've checked the damned DVD before playing it on the big screen, but she didn't. This was her fault.

    Feng Na exited the bathroom and returned to the dorms. Feng Na trudged to her bed and spotted Cheng Cheng sitting there with her back against the headboard. Cheng Cheng had her laptop with her, and was now staring fixatedly at the screen. Feng Na plopped down onto the mattress. A heavy sigh escaped her lips.

    Cheng Cheng looked up from the screen. "Someone just posted on the forum. The chancellor has been spotted in the university compound." Cheng Cheng let out a dejected sigh. "Makes sense. The meeting is today. They are going to brief the chancellor about Li Yundong's expulsion. If the chancellor agrees to the expulsion, Li Yundong is gone for good."

    Feng Na whimpered. "Oh God… Why didn't I say anything, Cheng Cheng." She tugged her hair. "I'm such a selfish bitch!"

    Cheng Cheng put her laptop aside and patted Feng Na's back. "Hey... None of this is your fault, okay?"

    Feng Na snorted. "What are you even talking about? Everything is my fault."

    "No," Cheng Cheng said, her tone firm and unyielding. "It's Director Qian's fault. He expelled Li Yundong straightaway without even conducting an official investigation into the matter first! That's just unfair." Cheng Cheng snorted. "Everyone knows that he's been out to get Li Yundong for weeks. He was just looking for the right opportunity to expel him."

    Feng Na groaned. "And I gave the slimeball the means to do just that. I literally placed the opportunity right into his hands!"

    Cheng Cheng sighed. "Nana... Listen... You can't keep doing this to yourself. It's not your—"

    "God damn it!" Feng Na sprang to her feet and stormed away from the bed. "Enough is enough. I'm going to fix this." Feng Na yanked open her wardrobe and pulled out a few hangers.

    "Whoa, whoa, whoa... Hold on a second there..." Cheng Cheng slammed the wardrobe shut before Feng Na could grab another article of clothing from it. "What do you mean by fix this? You've already called Zhou Qin and asked her for help, right? You've done all you could."

    Feng Na pushed Cheng Cheng aside and opened the wardrobe again. "That was a day ago. If Zhou Qin really did something about it, this meeting wouldn't even be taking place!"

    "Okay, so not even Zhou Qin could help. Well, that's it, right? That's your trump card, and it didn't work. So what do you mean by fixing it?"

    "You know what I mean. I'm going to tell them everything."

    Feng Na stumbled when Cheng Cheng suddenly yanked her backwards. "Are you out of your damn mind, Nana?" Cheng Cheng hissed. "You're throwing away your future for nothing!"

    "It won't be for nothing!" Feng Na seethed. "If I told the council I'm partially at fault, then Li Yundong—"

    "They would find a way to make Li Yundong look bad anyway! Come on, Nana!" Cheng Cheng said in exasperation. "This is Director Qian we're talking about. Do you really think what you say is going to make a damn difference? Li Yundong was there on the scene that night. He's already involved, okay? Hell, it was his DVD, for God's sake. Do you really think Director Qian wouldn't try to find a way to pin everything on Li Yundong? That sick pervert would just twist everything around and turn Li Yundong into the culprit no matter what you say!"

    Feng Na bit her bottom lip and pushed past Cheng Cheng. "The chancellor is back... He will... He will see to it that a fair investigation i- is conducted..."

    "Nana!" Cheng Cheng slammed the wardrobe shut again.

    Feng Na looked at her bestie, whose eyes were filled with tears. It was like Cheng Cheng was pleading with her eyes. "Please don't do this, Nana... If you do this, Li Yundong's efforts would go to waste."

    Feng Na lowered her gaze.

    Cheng Cheng sighed. "Don't you see? He did it to protect you, Nana. He knew that Director Qian would find a way to drag him into this. That's why he decided to take all the blame."

    Feng Na raised her gaze and stared at Cheng Cheng intently. "Cheng Cheng, there are some things in life that you must do to avoid regretting it for the rest of your life. This, to me, is one of those things. If I don't do this, if I let Li Yundong take the fall without at least try to do something about it, the guilt will stay with me no matter how bright my future is, or how successful I become in the future. Do you understand that?"

    They stared at each other for a while. Then, Cheng Cheng sighed and lowered her head. A moment later, Cheng Cheng met Feng Na's eyes with steely resolve. "Fine. But I'm coming with you."

    Shock coursed through Feng Na. "What?"

    "I'll be there when we explain to the council together," Cheng Cheng said.

    "B- But... But what if you got dragged into this mess too a- and..."

    Cheng Cheng smirked. "As if I'm going to let you steal all the glory!"

    Tears stung Feng Na's eyes. "You..." Feng Na sniffed and opened her arms. "C'mere, you bitch."

    Cheng Cheng chuckled and stepped into the hug. "I've got your back, bitch."

    Feng Na chuckled. "Thanks, FCupCC."

    "No problem, you flat-chested... Oww!"

  • ***

    The door flew open when Feng Na and Cheng Cheng was approaching the conference room on the third floor of the academic building. Director Qian stormed out with a dark scowl.

    Cheng Cheng and Feng Na stopped beside the door and shared a glance with each other.

    "The meeting's over already? But it's only been..." Feng Na looked down at her watch. "Five minutes..."

    Cheng Cheng stared after Director Qian. "He doesn't look too happy. Maybe the meeting got postponed?"

    Feng Na opened the door and peeked into the conference room. Cheng Cheng stopped behind her.

    "Oh my God… Nana... isn't that..."

    "Yeah..." Feng Na said.

    "What the hell?" Cheng Cheng whispered.

    What the hell indeed.

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  • Chapter 123 Good News and Bad News

     

    Feng Na walked out of the academic building in a trance-like state. Her emotions were all over the place: shock; disbelief; awe; elation; relief; gratitude;

    A tug on her arm made her stop. "Nana. Let's go sit down over there."

    Feng Na turned and saw Cheng Cheng pointing at a bench near the academic building. She nodded half-heartedly and let Cheng Cheng pull her to the bench.

    "Holy shit..." Cheng Cheng said after they'd both sat down. "I never thought I'd see the country's Director General of Education in person…"

    Feng Na shook her head. "Don't you find it odd?"

    Cheng Cheng shot her a questioning look.

    Feng Na gestured with her hand. "Where's the entourage? Where's the cavalcade? The police escorts?"

    A contemplative look formed on Cheng Cheng's face. "Hey... You're right. Director Sun arrived rather quietly, didn't he? Like, if we didn't go to the conference room today, we wouldn't even know that he's been here."

    Feng Na frowned. Something strange was going on here. "Is this Zhou Qin's doing? Maybe Governor Zhou and Director Sun are golfing buddies and he requested the director general to be discreet?"

    "Why not just call her and ask?" Cheng Cheng said. "You have her number, right?"

    Feng Na pulled out her phone and dialed. A while later, Feng Na lowered her phone and glanced at Cheng Cheng. "Voicemail."

    "Try her house?"

    Feng Na nodded. Seconds later, the call got through. "Zhou residence."

    "Hi. May I speak with Zhou Qin please?"

    "May I know who's calling?"

    "Um... I'm her senior at Tiannan University. Feng Na."

    "Alright, miss. Please hold on. Your call will be redirected shortly."

    Some kind of music played. The music ended with a click, and Zhou Qin's voice drifted in. "Hello?"

    Feng Na suddenly felt nervous. "Um... Hi. It's me, Feng Na."

    "Hello, senior. How can I help you?"

    "I just want to say thank you," Feng Na said. "You know, for your help in waiving Li Yundong's expulsion."

    There was a brief moment of silence. "I'm sorry, what did you say? Li Yundong, he..."

    Feng Na's eyes shot to Cheng Cheng, who was staring back at her expectantly. "Hey, Zhou Qin... Are you okay?" Feng Na asked.

    Zhou Qin cleared her throat. "I- I'm fine. Thank you for telling me, Senior Feng Na. Look, I'm sorry, but I'm gonna have to call you back."

    Feng Na frowned and glanced at Cheng Cheng again. "Okay..."

    The call ended with a click. Feng Na lowered the phone and stared at it.

    Cheng Cheng inched closer to her. "So? What did she say?"

    "It wasn't her, Cheng Cheng. She didn't do it."

    "What? But... Then who was it?

    ***

    The strangest shit just happened, Li Yundong thought as he stared at the ATM's screen. Well, it wasn't all bad, he supposed. The numbers on the ATM's display could be interpreted as either good or bad news, depending on how he looked at it. The good news: his bank overdraft had decreased in amount, which meant that his parents had yet to stop sending him money. The bad news: every single cent that his parent sent had gone into repaying his bank debts, which meant he couldn't make a withdrawal.

    Li Yundong sighed and pressed the "cancel transaction" key. The ATM machine said its goodbye before spitting out his ATM card. He took the card and leaned against the ATM booth. F*ck... He had yet to convince Su Chan to let him go to work, so he had called President Yin earlier and told her about some family emergency. President Yin probably thought the excuse was bullshit but was just too polite to say it. Instead, she told him it was okay, that it would give President Cao a few days to recuperate at home. Li Yundong didn't know what to make of it. Was this a veiled way of saying "you're fired," or was this an actual suggestion.

    Li Yundong trudged back to the motel with a heavy heart. When he entered their room, Su Chan was shouting into her phone. "Oh, hey! He's back! Why don't you tell him yourself!"

    Li Yundong frowned and walked over. Zhou Qin? Li Yundong mouthed the words to Su Chan, then took the phone from her hand. Su Chan shook her head.

    Li Yundong lifted the phone to his ear. "Hello?"

    "Finally, I've managed to get a hold of you, O Hero of Tiannan University!"

    Li Yundong chuckled sadly. "You mean the ex-Hero of Tiannan University." Oh, how about the Penniless Hero? Or the Heroic Beggar?" Li Yundong stretched his arms above his head.

    "How did you even get this number, Feng Na," he said lazily. "Ah. Of course. Zhou Qin must've given it to you."

    "Who cares how I got your number! You have to come to the university. Your expulsion has just been waived!"

    Li Yundong nearly dropped the phone. What in the ever loving f—

    "What?!" Li Yundong half-shouted into the phone. Seconds later, he started laughing. "Nah. You're just shitting me... This is a prank. It wouldn't be the first time."

    Feng Na huffed out in exasperation. "This isn't a prank, Li Yundong. I swear to God, okay? I overheard the chancellor talking in the conference room. Your expulsion is waived, Li Yundong. The chancellor even sang your praises in front of the Director General of Education, for God's sake! He called you a good student."

    "The Director Gene—" Li Yundong's mind went blank for a moment. "You're shitting me… Why would the Director General of Education be here…?"

    What in the world? Was it Zhou Qin again? It had to be Zhou Qin. Ugh. How many favors do I have to owe her... He suppressed a sigh. "Wait. Did you say the chancellor? He's back?"

    Feng Na groaned in frustration. "Look. That's not important. Just come to the university. Now."

    "Fine. I'll be there in half an hour." Li Yundong hung up the phone, then stared at the device for a moment.

    Su Chan shuffled over to him tentatively. "What is it, Yundong?"

    Li Yundong ruffled her hair. "Well, princess. Looks like I'm not expelled after all."

    ***

    "The call is here, Elder Sister."

    Zi Yuan reached across the center console and took the phone from Hongling.

    "Hello?"

    "It's done, Zhenren Zi."

    "Quietly, I hope?" Zi Yuan asked.

    "Of course."

    Zi Yuan smirked. "Thank you, Director Sun. The Zhengyi School owes you a favor."

    The middle-aged man laughed. "No. Thank you, Zhenren Zi." There was a pause. "Is there anything else I can assist you with?"

    "No. That will be all. Thank you, director general."

    Zi Yuan handed the phone back to Hongling, who was practically beaming when she took the phone. "Oh, you're so clever, Elder Sister Zi Yuan! This really is the most inconspicuous way to draw him out! Why didn't I think of this before?"

    Zi Yuan gave Hongling a sidelong glance. Because you're young, immature, impulsive, and reckless. Zi Yuan held her tongue; she wasn't in the mood to deal with Hongling's sulking and temper tantrums.

    From the corner of her eyes, Zi Yuan saw Hongling shift in her seat, leaning forward and placing her arms on the car's dashboard. Together, they watched the front gates of Tiannan University through the car's windshield.

    A while later, Hongling seemed to have reached the limit of her patience. "Elder Sister Zi Yuan... We're going to confront him the moment he shows up, right?"

    Zi Yuan sighed inwardly. When will you ever grow up, Hongling... She shook her head. "Hongling... Good Cultivators shouldn't rely solely on their powers and the influence of their school… Good Cultivators think before they act."

    "Yeah, yeah... So are we going to confront him or not?"

    Zi Yuan shook her head. "No. We will observe him first before we make a move."

    "Observe? What's there to see, Elder Sister Zi Yuan? That demon witch and that vile man should be destroyed at once! Together, I bet we could beat them up and turn them into nothing but ashes—"

    "Enough!!!"

    Hongling jerked away from the dashboard and stared at her fearfully. Zi Yuan didn't usually raise her voice at Hongling, but this child had gone too far with her impulsiveness, not to mention her penchant for violence. "Keep acting like this and you mark my words, I'll confine you in Mount Longhu for a year!"

    "Have I made myself clear!"

    "Y- Yes... Elder Sister..."

    "Good. So tell me our next course of action," Zi Yuan said sternly.

    "We keep our distance and o- observe..."

    Zi Yuan turned away from Hongling and stared out the windshield. Yes, they would observe. At long last, the Jindan's Heir had appeared. Now it was time to see what he was truly capable of.

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  • Chapter 124 The Prophecy

    The university's chancellor wanted to see Li Yundong. That was the reason Feng Na insisted on him coming to the university. Actually, that wasn't entirely accurate. The chancellor didn't just want to see him, per se; he also wanted to shake Li Yundong's hand, give him fatherly pats on the back, and then have their photos taken.

    "Um... Thank you so much for your help, Chancellor Feng," Li Yundong said, shaking the chancellor's hand awkwardly. "I really appreciate you giving me another chance…"

    "Tsk, tsk. No, no, no... That's where you're mistaken young man," Chancellor Feng said. "You see, we should be the ones thanking you. Your courageous actions during the shooting incident have not only saved the lives of over fifty students. You've also saved the university from being shut down. And on behalf of the university, I'd like to express our sincere gratitude for your courage and sacrifice. We are forever indebted to you, Hero of Tiannan University."

    Li Yundong cleared his throat awkwardly and glanced around Chancellor Feng's office. Vice-chancellor Ke and several of the university's staff were nodding back at him appreciatively. Except for Director Qian and Professor Liu, of course; those two were glowering at the corner. "It's no big deal, sir... I'm happy to help... And about that DVD incident..." Li Yundong shot a furtive glance at Feng Na. "I really didn't mean for that to happen, sir. I give you my word. And it wasn't senior Feng Na's fault either. It was just a misunder—"

    Chancellor Feng waved him off. "That's already been cleared up. It didn't make sense to me anyway why you would do something like that on purpose." Chancellor Feng shot Director Qian a pointed look. "Indeed, it boggles my mind. I mean, why on earth would a student on the verge of expulsion"—He turned back to look at Li Yundong—"like yourself be stupid enough to pull a stunt like that? Clearly, there has been some kind of mistake here." Chancellor Feng shot another look at Director Qian before giving Li Yundong a smile. "Anyway, you don't have to worry about that incident anymore. Just make sure you keep your… um… private collections, well, private, next time."

    Li Yundong's cheeks grew warm. "Y- Yes, sir."

    Chancellor Feng turned around and gave Vice-chancellor Ke a hand signal. Vice-chancellor Ke nodded, then bent down and took out a piece of folded cloth from inside his briefcase. When Li Yundong gave Feng Na a questioning look, she just shrugged.

    Chancellor Feng took the item from Vice-chancellor Ke and cleared his throat. "Now. Here is a little something for you," he said.

    "Sir?"

    Chancellor Feng smiled and unfolded the cloth. It was a red flag, with a bunch of words embroidered on it: The Hero of Tiannan University; a Symbol of Valor and Courage.

    Li Yundong stared at the item until Chancellor Feng stepped forward and clapped him firmly on the back. "Come," Chancellor Feng said, wrapping his arms around Li Yundong's shoulder. "Smile at the camera over there."

    When the camera's flash went off, Li Yundong didn't know whether he had actually smiled.

    After that little ceremony, Li Yundong left the chancellor's office together with Feng Na and Cheng Cheng. The three of them headed towards the cafeteria, where Su Chan was waiting for Li Yundong to return from the meeting with the chancellor. The professors and members of the staff nodded cordially at him whenever they passed by. There were, however, a few professors who had looks of disbelief in their eyes, as though they couldn't figure out the kind of background Li Yundong must have to be able to enlist the help of the nation's frigging Director General of Education to intervene. And truth be told, Li Yundong was wondering about that as well. Why on earth would the Director General of Education step in? How the heck did Zhou Qin pull it off? Did her father have connections with the director general? But her father was just a deputy governor, wasn't he? Did he really have the power to influence someone that high up in the hierarchy?

    Feng Na nudged him. "Are you going to treat everyone to a celebratory meal?"

    Li Yundong gave her an exasperated look.

    "Yeah," Cheng Cheng piped in. "Seeing as everything has all worked out for your. You're no longer expelled. You got praised by the teachers and even received a"—Cheng Cheng took the flag from him, her brows furrowed in confusion—"what is this... A flag of honor, from the chancellor himself."

    Li Yundong snorted. Cheng Cheng smiled at him. "I'd call that a win, don't you think? We should celebrate. When's the party?"

    Li Yundong rolled his eyes. "You can keep it," he said, pushing Cheng Cheng's hand away when she gave the flag back to him. "That thing has no practical use anyway. I'd rather they reward me in cash."

    Feng Na laughed. "Since when did you become so money-minded?"

    "Since I went broke," Li Yundong muttered under his breath.

    "What's that?" Feng Na asked.

    "Nothing," Li Yundong said, putting an end to the conversation.

    When they arrived at the cafeteria, Li Yundong found Su Chan sitting by herself at a long table, which was full of dishes: noodles; soup; steamed buns; fried dumplings; fried rice; fried eggs; not to mention the huge stack of empty plates near the edge of the table.

    Li Yundong stopped at the cafeteria's entrance and bade farewell to Feng Na and Cheng Cheng. After that, he hurried over towards Su Chan's table.

    "H- How did you even…? Where the heck did all this food come from? I don't remember giving you that much cash..."

    "Mmmfff..." Su Chan sucked a spoonful of noodles into those huge chipmunk pouches. "Dossh guyssh ahh... naiishhh." Li Yundong followed Su Chan's gaze and saw a couple of guys who were sneaking glances at Su Chan. And yes, those dudes looked totally smitten. Li Yundong scowled and sat down with a huff. "Hurry up and finish your food so we can get outta here," Li Yundong mumbled.

    "Oh." Su Chan said and went back to her food.

    Li Yundong sat back and watched her eat. A stab of guilt pierced through him. He really had to figure out a way to balance school and his new job at the same time. If he could do that, he would be able to have two income sources: one from his parents, and the other from his new job.

    A while later, a voice brought him out of his brooding. "Congratulations, Li Yundong. I heard you've officially been pardoned."

    Li Yundong looked sideways, then smiled. "Hey... What's up, Madam Class Rep. Long time no see."

    Sun Li smirked. "Now that you're officially back, I hope you're ready for the finals."

    Li Yundong's smile faltered. Oh. Yeah… that.

    "Hey, um... class rep?"

    “Yes?" Sun Li's smirk widened as though she already knew what was coming. Hell, who was he even kidding; the fact was that he did the same shit last year.

    Li Yundong smiled. "Well... I mean, I know the professor gave us tips. But I was wondering if you could let me borrow your notes..."

    Sun Li giggled, her eyes sparkling with amusement. "Sure."

    Li Yundong cheered inwardly and did a mental fist pump.

    "But what's in it for me?" Sun Li added with a quirk of a brow.

    Li Yundong gaped. "Oh, come on... I know you're a kind person, Madam Class Rep." Li Yundong smiled fawningly.

    Sun Li broke into a wide grin. "Fine. I guess I can let you borrow my notes since you saved my life during the shooting and all that..."

    Relief washed over Li Yundong. "Wow, great... Thanks class rep. You're the best class rep I've ever had!"

    "Whatever," Sun Li said, rolling her eyes. A hint of redness dusted her cheeks. "Just wait here. I'll bring the notes to you."

    Moments after Sun Li left, Su Chan raised her gaze from her plate and stared at Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong chuckled and pinched her cheek. "What? Full already?"

    Su Chan kept staring at him.  

    "Yundong... Do you really have to come back to school?"

    Li Yundong sighed. "Well, I've told you already." He gave Su Chan a pointed look. "Attending this university is gives me an excuse to receive money from my parents."

    Su Chan blinked those huge puppy dog eyes adorably, and Li Yundong found himself distracted for a moment there. "But you already have a job, right?"

    Li Yundong ruffled her head. "At this point, we need all the money we can get, princess."

    A contrite expression formed on Su Chan's face, and she suddenly looked back down at her plate. "I'm sorry... Yundong..." she mumbled. "It's all because of me that you..."

    "Hush..." Li Yundong said. "We'll get through this, okay?" Li Yundong cracked a smile. "Now eat your food."

    Ten minutes later, there was a loud thunk on the table.

    "W- What... C- Class rep! I asked for your notes, not a frigging encyclopedia!"

    Sun Li shrugged. "You asked for my notes. Well, these are my notes." She waved at the huge stack she'd dumped on the table. "Take it or leave it." Clearly, her definition of "notes" was a little askew. Seriously? How many frigging pages were there in these? Fifty? A hundred?

    There was another thud as Sun Li placed yet another stack of folders filled with A4 papers on top of the already-mountainous pile. Li Yundong nearly slid off his chair. "T- There's m- more?" Sure, he could memorize all that with his super memory, but that would only take care of the factual questions in the exam. What about the questions that test the application and understanding of the study materials?

    Li Yundong's shoulders slumped. "I have to memorize and understand all this?"

    Sun Li just smirked.

    Li Yundong's forehead hit the table with a loud thunk. "I'm screwed..."

    Seconds later, Sun Li's laughter filled the cafeteria. Li Yundong raised his head in confusion.

    Sun Li was holding her stomach with one hand and pointing at him with the other. "Oh my God... You should look at your face..."

    Li Yundong scowled. "Wait a minute… You're just messing with me, aren't you?"

    Sun Li straightened herself and cleared her throat. "Here," she said, pulling out one notebook from the stack. "That's all you need to go through."

    Li Yundong flipped through the notebook and found that it had around thirty pages. Still a lot, but at least it was manageable.

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Thanks for this, Sun Li." Suddenly, Li Yundong's eyes went wide. "Wait. But how are you gonna study if you give me all your notes? Here, why don't I just"—Li Yundong opened his backpack to take out Su Chan's phone—"snap photos of the pages and return it to you."

    Sun Li chuckled. "Relax, Li Yundong. You can have the notebook. I'm already prepared, so I don't actually need the notes."

    Li Yundong looked up sharply from his backpack, then smiled. "Of course you're prepared. You're Sun Li, the Einstein of our class."

    Suddenly, Sun Li started giggling.

    Li Yundong gave her a strange look. "What?"

    Sun Li pressed a hand to her mouth to stifle another giggle. "Nah. I was just thinking that you don't actually need to borrow the notes from me."

    "Yeah?" Li Yundong snorted. "My grades from last year say otherwise."

    "No, that's not what I meant. I meant there are a lot of girls who would voluntarily give you their notes." Sun Li smirked. "And I wouldn't be surprised if you see little hearts drawn on the pages or love letters falling out from between the pages."

    Li Yundong blushed. "Nope. No thanks. I prefer borrowing from you, if you don't mind."

    Sun Li chuckled. "Well, good luck, then. See ya around, Mr. Hero."

    After Sun Li left, Li Yundong packed the notebook into his backpack. Su Chan was almost done with her food, so he took out a packet of napkin too. Once Su Chan was done, he handed her a piece of napkin.

    "Full?" Li Yundong asked with a smile.

    Su Chan's face lit up in joy. "Mmm!"

    Li Yundong stood up and grabbed his backpack off the seat. "Come on. Let's get outta here."

    "Mmm! Mmm!" Su Chan smacked Li Yundong's arms a few times.

    Li Yundong looked at her quizzically. "What?"

    Su Chan pointed at his backpack. There was an adorable frown on her face, as though he had just taken away her favorite toy.

    "You wanna carry it?"

    Su Chan's face lit up. She bobbed her head up and down.

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Why do you like to carry my backpack so much?"

    "Hehehe... I don't know... I just wanna carry it!"

    Li Yundong sighed. "Okay, then. But tell me if you feel tired okay? I'll carry it."

    "Nope! Not tired at all..." Su Chan said, placing the straps over her shoulders.

    Says the one who nearly died yesterday... Li Yundong felt a sharp tug in his chest. No. Never again. It was time for him to rise and get stronger. He was going to ace this exam, and then focus on passing the Zhuji phase. "Alright, princess. Let's head back. Time to do some last-minute cramming!"

    Su Chan did a little leap and then spun on the spot a few times. "Yayyy!!!" She took off ahead of him, his backpack swinging and knocking against her back. Li Yundong laughed and followed her. Despite everything that had happened, he was happy.

    ***

    "You've made a complete blunder, Hongling..." Zi Yuan said as she stared out of the windshield. A young man and a pretty girl with a backpack had just walked past the campus gates.

    Hongling looked totally affronted. "What blunder?"

    "Look closer," Zi Yuan said, pointing at the windshield. The couple was now standing at the roadside, no doubt trying to get a cab ride for themselves.

    "I'm still not seeing it, Elder Sister..."

    Zi Yuan looked at her protégé coldly. "You spout all this nonsense about those two being vile perverts when in fact they are both still virgins."

    "What!!" Hongling shouted. "B- But how could that be..."

    Zi Yuan sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you, Hongling? Do not let your prejudices cloud your judgement. You need to observe and come to conclusions based on objective facts, not your emotions."

    Hongling opened her mouth to protest, but Zi Yuan silenced her with a raised hand.

    Zi Yuan pointed at the windshield. "Just look at the girl. Open your eyes and look. Which part of her doesn't scream maidenhood to you? Are you really that blind? Her brow bones, her pelvic structure, even the lack of gap between her thighs. These are all tell-tale signs that she's still a virgin.

    "I admit that I was surprised at first that Li Yundong was able to take the damask from you. But now that I've taken a closer look at him, it's not surprising at all."

    "But look at him, he's a sick perv..."

    Zi Yuan silenced Hongling with a glare. "You are the one who isn't looking, Hongling." Zi Yuan turned away to face the windshield. "Despite your claims about him being a pervert, Li Yundong is a virgin too."

    "But that's... that's because he had the Jindan's aura!" Hongling said defiantly.

    "The Jindan only helped him break through the damask's protective aura." Zi Yuan regarded Hongling pointedly. "That isn't how he made you lose connection with the damask, Hongling." Zi Yuan paused to let her words sink in. "His Spirit is stronger than yours!"

    "You don't know that," Hongling said petulantly. "I... I was startled, that's all! My Spirit faltered when I got surprised. It- it was a slip up. I bet if I stayed and fought, th- those two wouldn't be a match for me!"

    "You foolish child!" Zi Yuan seethed. "He took the damask from you. You lost your weapon, and you still think you can take him on and walk away alive? Your arrogance is going to get you killed!"

    "That's not a fair assessment, Elder Sister! I was taken by surprise! It wasn't even a fair fight! It—"

    Zi Yuan regarded her protégé icily. "A fight? Is that the reason you want to become a Cultivator? To fight? To show off your powers and use it to oppress others? If it is, then you're a disgrace to the school!"

    "You're just taking his side because of that stupid prophecy!"

    Zi Yuan stiffened in her seat, then turned away from Hongling. She couldn't even look at the girl right now. Stupid prophecy? How dare she?

    "E- Elder Sister Z- Zi Yuan... I'm sorry... I didn't mean it... I'm sorry."

    After a while, Zi Yuan turned in her seat and stared at Hongling. "By calling it a stupid prophecy, you have disrespected Master as well as our school." Zi Yuan took deep breath, then exhaled slowly. This conversation was over.

    Hongling could say anything she wanted about the prophecy, but the truth wouldn't change—the prophecy had already come true. Zi Yuan had been waiting for ten years to see the first sign of the prophecy coming true. Now she had finally seen it, albeit in the most unexpected of ways. You were right, Master... You were right all along...

    Zi Yuan was just nine when her master brought her the summit of Mount Longhu for the very first time. Zi Yuan could still remember that day as though it were just yesterday: the way her master still looked handsome despite being over 200 years old; the clouds and wisps of fog floating under their feet as they stared down from the summit.

    "Zi Yuan, do you know that you can see your past and your future on this stone?" her master said, pointing at the Obelisk of Fengchen.

    Zi Yuan let her eyes travel up the length of the tapering stone pillar erected at the center of the summit.

    "Interested to know your past? Your future?" Master prompted.

    Zi Yuan shook her head. "I don't want to know about my past, Master. Because nothing can change the past. But..." Zi Yuan paused, turning away from the pillar to look at her master. "I want to know about my future."

    Her master chuckled, then snapped a long branch off a tree beside them. Zi Yuan studied her master's actions quizzically. "Master...? What are you doing?"

    Her master merely smiled and pointed at the Obelisk of Fengchen. "Just watch..." He lowered the branch so that the tip was buried amidst the clouds under their feet, then did a swirling motion as though he was stirring the clouds. A while later, he raised the branch and waved it in the air a few times. Words appeared on the Obelisk of Fengchen's surface.

    "Zi Yuan... Your destiny lies within this poem."

    Zi Yuan raised her gaze and read the first line: The Jindan's coming ordains thine fate. The sound of the first thunder shalt complete thine soul.

    Zi Yuan tore her gaze away from the stone pillar and regarded her master in confusion. "What does it mean, Master?"

    Her master stroke her head lovingly. "Well, that line basically means that you'll meet your soulmate when the Jindan emerged in the mortal world."

    Zi Yuan frowned. "Soulmate? But what if I don't know him? Why should I see him as my soulmate?"

    Her master chuckle. "Nobody knows a person during the first meeting, Zi Yuan..."

    "But... What if I hate the man... Or what if I feel nothing for him? What then? Why would I end up falling in love with him?"

    Her master sighed. "Ah... Well, as for the why, you shouldn't be asking me." He then looked at Zi Yuan seriously. "You have to discover the why for yourself. The Obelisk of Fengchen merely states a prophecy. It never states the reason behind its predictions..."

    Zi Yuan released a long sigh and leaned her head against the car's headrest. Li Yundong and the girl had just hopped onto a cab. Master... I've already met the Heir, and I feel nothing for him. Why, Master? Why is a mere mortal destined to be my soulmate?

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  • Chapter 125 Mischief

    "Yundong..."

    "Hmm?" Li Yundong tore his gaze away from the pages of Sun Li's notebook. Su Chan was sitting in front of him on the bed, hugging her knees. She looked like a hurt puppy.

    "I... I miss home..."

    The notebook bounced on the mattress after Li Yundong tossed it aside. Li Yundong sighed. "So do I..."

    "W-Why don't we... Go home?" Su Chan said weakly.

    "Aren't you afraid we'll be ambushed again?"

    Su Chan's cheeks puffed out. She honestly looked like she was about to cry. "Can we go back and have one meal? One meal won't take too long right? I... I miss your cooking..."

    Li Yundong began to stroke Su Chan's head as he pondered her suggestion. Technically, it really wouldn't make much difference where they were. Besides, he himself was getting a little tired of being holed up inside this motel. "Alright, then. Let's go home."

    Su Chan's face lit up. "Really, really, really?" She bounced on the bed a few times.

    Li Yundong smiled. "Yes, really." He paused for a moment. "Ruan Hongling no longer has her weapon, right? That should make her less dangerous?"

    Su Chan bobbed her head up and down.

    Li Yundong scratched his chin a few times. "Maybe they won't even look for us at the apartment." Li Yundong shrugged, then held Su Chan's gaze. "Like, they might think we wouldn't be stupid enough to stay at the apartment after we got ambushed there. They would assume that we'd be on the run." The safest place is the most dangerous place. Perhaps there was a ring of truth in that saying after all.

    "Mmm!" Su Chan leaped up from the bed and headed for the door.

    "Hey, wait!" Li Yundong said. "Come back!"

    Su Chan came to a halt in front of the door, then shuffled back towards the bed.

    Li Yundong scooted to the side, then leaned his bed against the headboard. He patted the space next to him and said, "Come sit down. We need to work out a plan first."

    "Oh." Su Chan climbed onto the bed obediently.

    "Obviously, we'll need to wear a disguise..." Li Yundong said after Su Chan got settled.

    "A disguise..."

    Li Yundong nodded. "Yeah. They might still be watching the building, so let's not take any chances. We just need to get inside the apartment building without being recognized as... well, us. We should be fine once we're inside the building." Unless they've got someone monitoring the security cameras as well...

    Suddenly, Su Chan leaped out of bed and started poking around the motel room as though she was looking for something. Seconds later, she returned to the bed with a pencil and a huge paper bag. Su Chan plopped down on the bed and then poked two holes on one side of the paper bag. Li Yundong stared at her, half-amused. "What are you doing?"

    Su Chan tossed the pencil aside and gave him a sweet smile. And then...

    "Ta-da!!!" She pulled the whole paper bag over her head. Through the two holes she'd just created with the pencil, he could see her eyes blinking back at him. "A disguise!" she said proudly.

    Li Yundong stared at her. Moments later, he was hit by a wave of uncontrollable laughter that had him in tears within seconds. "Hahahaha..." Li Yundong held his stomach and rolled around on the bed. "Oh my God... Su Chan... You... Hahaha."

    Su Chan readjusted the paper bag on her head and struck a few poses. "What? It's perfect! Nobody could see my face, but I can see perfectly fine!" She poked her fingers through the two holes on the paper bag for emphasis. "Hmm... Maybe I should cut a hole for the mouth too..."

    Oh God, his stomach hurt. Were his muscles cramping? Yep, his muscles were totally cramping. Hell, he was lucky he didn't shit his pants.

    Su Chan removed the paper bag from her head, revealing her slightly tousled hair. "I'm gonna make one for you too!" she said, then moved to climb off the bed.

    Li Yundong's hand shot out and pull her back down. "No..." Li Yundong got out through his laughter.

    Su Chan looked adorably puzzled. "Why not?"

    Li Yundong cleared his throat and wiped the tears from his eyes. "Because that's not gonna work, silly."

    "Oh." Su Chan's expression turned contemplative. A moment later, her face lit up. "Should we wrap our faces with bandages?"

    Li Yundong sighed. Yeah. This was going to be interesting day.

    ***

    Thankfully, they made it into the building without the need of paper bags—ball caps and face masks did the trick. Or at least he hoped they did the trick.

    "Home sweet home!" Li Yundong exclaimed the moment they stepped through the door.

    "Yayy!" Su Chan crossed the living room in quick strides and dove onto the couch.

    Li Yundong followed her into the living room and sat down on the floor.

    "Oh, wait!" Su Chan suddenly sat up.

    Wariness crept in. "What?" Li Yundong asked.

    Su Chan was up on her feet in an instant. "I need to check out the place first."

    Li Yundong got to his feet and followed Su Chan. "Yeah, good idea."

    Fifteen minutes later, Su Chan shut her wardrobe with a loud clack, satisfied that there weren't any magical objects lurking in the apartment.

    "All good?" Li Yundong asked.

    Su Chan nodded. "Yep!"

    Li Yundong sighed inwardly. That was a relief to hear. Truth be told, he really liked staying here. The Zhengyi School and their holier-than-thou attitude could go to hell.

    "Wee!!" Su Chan dove onto her bed. She hugged her cute bolster and rolled around the mattress a few times. "This bed is sooooo nice...."

    Li Yundong smiled at the sight and glanced around her room for a while. The room looked the same as it did when they left that night. "Hey, why don't you take a nap?" Li Yundong glanced towards the bed. "I'm gonna go outside and continue study..." Su Chan was already fast asleep with her arms and legs wrapped around the fat bolster like a koala. Li Yundong smiled and walked over to the bed. After pulling the blanket over Su Chan, he bent down and dropped a kiss on her forehead. Sleep tight, princess...

    ***

    Hours later, Su Chan's head appeared from behind the edge of the notebook Li Yundong was reading. "Yundong..."

    "Hmm?" Li Yundong said distractedly.

    "I'm hungry..."

    Li Yundong pointed at the kitchen. "There's still some food inside the fridge... Why don't you eat those first?"

    Su Chan plucked the notebook from Li Yundong's hands. In an instant, Li Yundong was greeted with what appeared to be the largest pout in existence. Li Yundong had to stifle a laugh.

    "Mmmm......." Su Chan whined. "Won't you cook something for me?"

    Li Yundong smiled. "I told you, didn't I? There's still food left in the—"

    "I don't want the ones in the ice box..." Su Chan said in a whiny tone. "They're cold..." She shivered and shook her shoulders for emphasis.

    Li Yundong chuckled. Funny how she didn't have such complaints when she was eating ice-cream.

    Su Chan tugged his arms. "I feel like having a hot, steaming meal..."

    Well, there's always the microwave oven...

    Li Yundong put his hands behind his head. "Fine. I'll cook something for you."

    "Yay! I knew—"

    "But..." A teasing glint formed in Li Yundong's eyes. "You'll have to say two things nice about me."

    Su Chan stared at him for a moment. Then, she smiled. "Hehehe… Two things nice about me!"

    Li Yundong frowned. "What?"

    Su Chan's smile widened into a grin. "Two things nice about me!" Hhe stuck out her tongue.

    Understanding dawned on Li Yundong. He laughed. "Oh, you think you’re so clever, don't you?" He tickled Su Chan's side. "That's not what I meant and you know it."

    Su Chan giggled, then placed a finger under her chin while looking up at the ceiling. "Beloved... Hehe..." She smiled at him, her eyes sparkling like diamonds. "You are the best! You're my favorite person in the world!" Then, she bent down and planted a loud, smacking kiss on his cheek. Tingles traveled down Li Yundong's spine.

    "Booooriiingg..." Li Yundong said in a singsong voice. "That's old hat. I wanna hear something new!"

    Su Chan's face fell before her lips protruded into a huge pout. After a while, the pout disappeared, and she was once again smiling sweetly at him. "You love me the most right, beloved? Won't you cook something for me?"

    Li Yundong's mouth dropped open. Is this how she wants to play it? "Try again, princess," he said, pinching her cheek.

    "Beloved..." Su Chan batted her lashes. "Please?"

    Li Yundong burst into laughter. "Fine... You win." Yeah, right. As if he even stood a damn chance against Su Chan's charms.

    "Yay!"

    Li Yundong stood up from the couch. "Alright then. Let's see if I can whip up a feast for this little chipmunk of mine."

    "Feassst!" Su Chan threw her arms around his neck. "You're so nice, beloved!"

    Li Yundong stroked her hair. "Of course. You're my best girl."

    Su Chan's grin could lit up a room. "Oooh! I know! Lemme help you!"

    Li Yundong could feel his stomach dropping. Uh-oh... "Oh, no, no, no... No thanks, princess. I can handle it."

    Su Chan's face fell. "But I can help... Let me help..." she begged.

    "No. You're gonna stay away from the kitchen. Please. I beg you."

    Su Chan's cheeks puffed out. "Meanie, meanie!"

    Li Yundong chuckled and poked her cheeks. "Stop sulking."

    Su Chan's mood seemed to improve a little. "Will you be quick? I'm hungry..." As if on cue, her stomach growled loudly.

    Li Yundong laughed and ruffled her hair. "Don't worry. I'll be done in no time."

    It turned out that "no time" meant twenty minutes. Li Yundong and Su Chan dug into the three dishes that Li Yundong had whipped up from the remaining ingredients in the fridge.

    At some point, Su Chan suddenly lowered her spoon and stopped eating.

    "Something wrong?" Li Yundong asked.

    "I don't feel like going back to the motel..."

    Li Yundong nodded. He understood the feeling. He put down his bowl and chopsticks, then took Su Chan's hand. "Is there a way to secure the apartment?"

    Su Chan looked down at the table top. "I... I could... put a simple protective spell?"

    "Will it hold?"

    Su Chan sighed. "Not against magical weapons. But they will work fine against low level spells."

    Li Yundong leaned back and crossed his arms. "Say, princess... Is it just me, or does something smell a little fishy here?"

    Su Chan looked up at him, then sighed. "No, it isn't just you. To be honest, I've been waiting for them to show up again since yesterday."

    Li Yundong snapped his fingers. "Exactly. Like, why aren't we attacked already?" He shook his head. "We literally went to campus in broad daylight. But nobody approached us. Everything's just normal. None of this makes sense if the Zhengyi School wants the Renyuan Jindan as badly as you said." Li Yundong looked at Su Chan. "I don't suppose they've suddenly decided to give up?"

    Su Chan stared at him as though he was nuts.

    Li Yundong chuckled. "I suppose not."

    Silence spread between them. They sat there for a while, nursing their thoughts.

    "Well, the only explanation I can think of is that they're watching us," Li Yundong said. "Maybe they're waiting for the right opportunity to strike?"

    Su Chan nodded. "Agreed. Maybe they're worried because we now have one of their most powerful weapons in our possession."

    Li Yundong hummed his agreement. That made sense. Actually, he had no idea how to use the damask, but the Zhengyi School didn't know that.

    A moment later, Li Yundong came to a decision. "We'll stay here."

    Su Chan looked up sharply. "Really?"

    Li Yundong nodded. "If our theory is right, that they're observing us, then it really doesn't matter where we hide." Li Yundong held Su Chan's gaze. "They might follow us around wherever we go."

    Su Chan nodded. "Master told me that the Zhengyi School's influence in the mortal world runs deep. I don't exactly know what that means, because I..." Su Chan suddenly blushed. "... don't know much about the hierarchy of authority in the mortal world. But there could be spies everywhere."

    A fire lit up in Li Yundong's chest. He picked up his chopsticks, and placed a piece of meat into Su Chan's bowl. "I told you right from the start that running wouldn't solve the problem," he said. "I need to train myself so that I can hold my own against them if they bother us again. Eat up, princess. Let me deal with this stupid exam first, and then you can help me pass the Zhuji phase."

    ***

    Next morning, Li Yundong dropped Su Chan off at the cafeteria before he headed towards the exam hall. All around him, students trudged along towards the designated lecture hall. The students were laughing and smiling. None of them seemed worried about the exam at all. He wondered what gave them such confidence; even with his super memory, Li Yundong still wasn't confident enough to be laughing before the exam.

    Li Yundong followed the other students into the lecture hall. Question booklets and answer sheets had already been arranged on the tables when they walked in. As if on autopilot, Li Yundong strode to the back of the lecture hall and took his seat on the last row.

    A minute later, Zhou Qin walked in, pausing the moment she spotted him at the last row. She smiled and walked over towards him.

    "Good morning," Zhou Qin said, taking a seat beside him.

    "Morning..." Li Yundong mumbled. "Hey... Um... Thanks again."

    Zhou Qin frowned. "For what?"

    Li Yundong gave her a look: stop playing dumb.

    When Zhou Qin didn't say anything after a few seconds, Li Yundong rolled his eyes. Gee. She really wants me to spell it all out, doesn't she? He sighed. "For the expulsion thing..."

    Zhou Qin regarded him seriously. "It wasn't me," she said, turning her eyes downwards in a contrite expression.

    What...? It wasn't Zhou Qin? "But... Then who?"

    Zhou Qin shook her head. "I don't know. But—"

    "Alright, class! Get ready! The exam will begin in two minutes."

    Zhou Qin looked away from the lectern and gave Li Yundong a pointed look. "Let's talk about this later," she whispered.

    Li Yundong nodded and took out his stationeries.

    Two minutes into the exam, Li Yundong began to notice something strange. Something really strange, as in the what-the-f*ck-is-this-shit kind of strange. He noticed a few students flipping through their notebooks while answering the questions.

    What the hell? These knuckleheads were cheating so overtly! When Li Yundong glanced ahead, his eyes nearly bugged out when he saw the professor leaning against the lectern, reading a f*cking newspaper!

    A loud smack sounded beside him. He turned and nearly fell off his seat when he saw what Zhou Qin was doing.

    "Hey, Zhou Qin," he whispered. "What the hell are you doing? How can you be copying answers from the textbook during an exam!"

    Zhou Qin turned and looked at him as though he'd grown five heads. "Umm... Are you alright, Li Yundong? Don't you know that this is an open book exam?"

    An open book what?!

    Li Yundong scanned the exam hall. To his utmost chagrin, he noticed that everyone had at least something to refer to while they answered the questions. Everyone except for poor him, who'd spent hours memorizing the contents of pretty much the entire frigging textbook.

    "Did nobody tell you about this?" Zhou Qin was now looking at him with a frown.

    Li Yundong groaned into his palm.

    "Sun Li..." he growled softly.

    His beloved Madam Class Rep, it seemed, had just pulled one over him.

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  • Chapter 126 What Is She Doing Here?

    Li Yundong was a man on mission, a mission to give a certain Sichuan model student a piece of his goddamn mind. He spotted her at the corridor outside the exam hall, laughing and chatting with a couple of her friends. There you are…

    "Sun Li!!"

    Even from afar, he could see Sun Li's posture going rigid the moment she heard his voice. Then, before he could get another word out, she bolted without even looking at him.

    "Hey! Hold it right there!" Li Yundong yelled, picking up his pace. You think you can run away from me? Think again!

    Sun Li shouldered past the throng of students gathered at the corridor and kept running.

    Eventually, Li Yundong caught up to her and grabbed her arm to stop her. "We need to talk," he growled, staring at Sun Li, who was heaving and panting due to the physical exertion. She looked like she could barely remain upright.

    "Hey, you alright, class rep?" Li Yundong asked worriedly.

    "I'm fine." Sun Li straightened herself and exhaled. "What did you want to talk about?"

    Li Yundong rolled his eyes. "Don't play dumb. Why didn't you tell me it was an open book exam, dammit! Do you know how much time I've spent memorizing all those notes and textbook passages!"

    Sun Li gave him an innocent expression, though she wasn't fooling anyone. "Really? I didn't tell you?" She shrugged. "Well, I guess it must have slipped my mind, then. Whoops."

    "You—" Li Yundong pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. "Bullshit! This is a prank! You withheld the information from me on purpose!"

    Sun Li burst into giggles. "Serves you right for neglecting everything that's been going on in class."

    "Hey!" Li Yundong gave her an affronted look. "It wasn't by choice you know..."

    "Yeah, yeah, yeah..." Sun Li smirked. "Besides, you didn't ask, so it's reasonable to think that you already knew."

    "You—" Li Yundong sighed and let his shoulders sag. "Fine... You win."

    "Yuuuundoonng..."

    Li Yundong instantly brightened up at the sound of that voice. He swiveled to his right just as Su Chan barreled into his chest, throwing her arms and legs around him.

    Laughing, Li Yundong wrapped his arms around her and then spun her around a few times. "What are you doing here, princess?" Li Yundong pinched Su Chan's cheek. "I thought I told you to wait at the cafeteria."

    "We told her we'd bring her to you."

    Li Yundong turned around and saw Feng Na walking over with Cheng Cheng in tow.

    Moments later, Feng Na stopped in front of Li Yundong and smirked. "So. What's with this game of tag between you and model student over there?" Feng Na tilted her head in Sun Li's direction.

    "Ask her," Li Yundong grumbled, shooting Sun Li a glare.

    Feng Na turned to Sun Li with a raised brow. Sun Li spent the next three minutes recounting the little prank she'd played on Li Yundong. When Sun Li was done talking, Feng Na giggled and high-fived Sun Li. "Welcome to the club, Sun Li! You're the second woman who has successfully pulled a prank on the Hero of Tiannan University!"

    Li Yundong gaped at Feng Na. "You girls suck, you know that? You too, Feng Na. To think that I'd actually put my ass on the line to save you—"

    Li Yundong stopped talking when he felt a few tugs on his arm. He turned his head and saw Su Chan looking at him quizzically. "Yundong... What's so funny? Why are they laughing?"

    Li Yundong snorted. Why indeed. It wasn't even funny. "Nothing. Those girls aren't right in the head. They have issues." He drew circles beside his head. "It's best if we stay away from them."

    Then, Li Yundong took Su Chan's hand and led her away from the other girls. However, he had barely taken a few steps before Feng Na's voice stopped him. "Hey, Li Yundong! Wait up!"

    Li Yundong turned around. "What?"

    Feng Na glanced around surreptitiously, then lowered her voice into a whisper. "Well... It's just... I wanna treat you to lunch."

    Li Yundong looked at her strangely. "Why?" Suddenly, his eyes narrowed. "This isn't another prank, is it? What, you gonna put laxatives in my food or something?"

    Feng Na giggled into her hand, then smacked him on the head. "No... I just... I just wanna thank you for what you did. I mean during the DVD incident..."

    Li Yundong regarded Feng Na to gauge her sincerity. A moment later, he sighed. "You're welcome," Li Yundong said. "I just did what I thought is right, that's all. I was partially at fault anyway. And..." Li Yundong nudged Su Chan with his elbow.

    Su Chan poked her head out from behind Li Yundong's arm. "Um... Elder Sister Feng Na... I... I'm sorry for breaking your DVD."

    Feng Na smiled at Su Chan. "It's okay. It's water under the bridge. But... Please help me convince Li Yundong to accept the invitation?"

    Su Chan didn't even hesitate when she heard the request. It was a clever move on Feng Na's part to appeal to Su Chan's insatiable appetite.

    "Yundong, Yundong, Yundong... Please? Can we go... Please? Pretty please?" Li Yundong stared into Su Chan's puppy dog eyes and that delicious pout that he wanted to kiss off her face. Seconds later, he chuckled and met Feng Na's gaze. "Fine. Lead the way." He raised an eyebrow, then smirked. "Just so you know, I wasn't actually planning to turn down the offer. I just wanted to make you sweat a little before agreeing." Yeah. He'd be an idiot to turn away free lunch considering how broke he was.

    Feng Na's face lit up. "Then it's settled! Let's go."

    The group made it down the staircase with Feng Na leading the way and Li Yundong and Su Chan bringing up the rear. At the academic building's main entrance, they ran into Zhou Qin.

    "Where are you guys headed to?" Zhou Qin asked.

    Feng Na and Cheng Cheng shared glances with each other. For some strange reason, neither of them felt inclined to answer the question. Silence passed between them until Li Yundong stepped forward in an attempt to diffuse the awkwardness. "To eat," he said, then pointed at Feng Na. "Miss Generous over here is treating us to lunch today." Li Yundong gave Feng Na an evil smirk. "And I think I'm gonna try to squeeze every penny out of her."


  • Zhou Qin gave Feng Na a strange look. "What's the occasion?"

    "No special occasion," Feng Na answered quickly. There was a strange edge to her tone. "Just one friend treating another friend to lunch. I don't think it requires an occasion for friends to have lunch together."

    "Well, why don't you join us, Zhou Qin?" Li Yundong asked.

    "Uggghh! Why are you guys still standing arooounnnd? I'm soooo hungry!" Su Chan whined, then smacked Li Yundong's chest a few times. "It's all your fault, Yundong. You took too long!"

    Li Yundong chuckled, then pinched her cheeks with both hands. "I have to finish all the exam questions first, dummy!"

    "Um guys... Isn't that..." Cheng Cheng spoke for the first time.

    Everyone turned their heads and saw Ding Nan heading over towards them. Seconds later, Ding Nan stopped in front of Li Yundong with a tiny smile adorning her features. "Long time no see, Li Yundong. I see that your fame is growing."

    Li Yundong chuckled wryly. "I don't want that kind of fame."

    Ding Nan's smile widened as though she had already expected that answer from him. Then, she studied the rest of their group. "You guys are heading to lunch, right?"

    "Oh my God... Finally someone who is making sense!" Su Chan said dramatically. "I'm practically starving to death over here and yet these guys are still standing around talking nonse— owww!" Su Chan rubbed her head where Li Yundong had poked her.

    Ding Nan chuckled. "Well, here's an idea. Why don't I treat everyone to lunch?"

    Li Yundong cleared his throat. "Well, there's no need for that, Ding Nan. As a matter of fact, Senior Feng Na here will be paying for our lunches. But you're welcome to join us..." Li Yundong glanced at Feng Na. "I mean if Senior Feng Na doesn't mind, of course."

    Li Yundong smirked a little when he heard Su Chan's frustrated growl behind him.

    Ding Nan smiled at Feng Na. "Senior Feng Na. You probably know that Li Yundong saved my life during the shooting, right? I've been thinking about repaying him for days now. So..."

    Feng Na returned Ding Nan's smile. "Well, I don't mind. But are you sure though? There are so many of us here." Feng Na gestured at their group. Zhou Qin was staring at Ding Nan with slightly narrowed eyes. Clearly, those two hadn't buried the hatchet yet.

    What struck Li Yundong the most though was how different Ding Nan seemed. He hadn't seen Ding Nan ever since their conversation under the tree—after which she had accused Zhou Qin of being a serpent. Seeing her today, Li Yundong couldn't help but notice the change in Ding Nan's demeanor. There was no longer a biting edge in her voice when she spoke. Instead, she seemed friendly and approachable.

    "Of course I'm sure," Ding Nan said. "It's my pleasure to treat everyone here. Well, let's see... We still have exams this afternoon, right?" Ding Nan glanced around. She received several nods of confirmation. "So why don't we pick a place near campus? I'll treat you guys properly next time."

    After everyone decided on a place, the group began moving away from the academic building towards the campus gates. This time, it was Zhou Qin and Ding Nan who brought up the rear, with Sun Li, Feng Na, and Cheng Cheng leading the way. Li Yundong and Su Chan were sandwiched in between.

    At one point, Cheng Cheng leaned towards Feng Na and whispered, "Hey, Nana... Is it just me, or does Ding Nan seem a little... different."

    "I know right?" Feng Na murmured. "And what's with that strange vibe between her and Zhou Qin? It's starting to creep me out..." Li Yundong suddenly thought back to the advice he gave Ding Nan the last time they talked. He smiled. He never expected Ding Nan to change that quickly. Maybe it really was just an act? Maybe deep down Ding Nan really was a decent human being.

    The group kept moving until they passed the campus gates. In front, Feng Na and Cheng Cheng kept whispering to each other while Sun Li walked quietly beside them. Behind him, Ding Nan and Zhou Qin were conversing with each other as well. He hadn't expected Ding Nan to ever want to talk to Zhou Qin again, to be honest. Perhaps they were taking the first steps to mending their friendship?

    "Yundong... What do you think we'd be eating later?"

    Li Yundong chuckled. Of course Su Chan would be thinking about food. Of course. Li Yundong patted her head. "We're going to a place near campus. I think they have the same stuff as the cafeteria." Li Yundong regarded Su Chan strangely. "Do you mind? I mean, we could go have lunch on our own if you prefer."

    Su Chan shook her head. "Nope!" Then, she blushed all of a sudden. "I… I don't want us to end up as beggars..."

    Li Yundong laughed out loud and pinched her nose. "Then maybe you should control your appetite for once, hmm?"

    Su Chan pouted and smacked his hand away. "But I'm hungry."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "I was just joking. Of course I wouldn't let you starve—"

    He bumped into Feng Na, who had suddenly stopped walking. Feng Na barely even reacted when Li Yundong bumped into her. She was straight ahead at a red Lamborghini parked beside the curb. A moment later, the Lamborghini's door swung open. A woman clad in a black, strapless dress stepped out. Dark, coffee brown curls framed the woman's face. Even though her eyes were hidden behind a pair of sunglasses, there was no mistake who that woman was.

    "What the hell is she doing here?"

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  • Chapter 127 Talismans

    "Li Yundong!" President Cao's voice sounded amidst the clicking of her heels. "Going AWOL on the first day of your job? What is the meaning of this?"

    Curious glances were cast towards Li Yundong. Seconds later, President Cao stepped in front of Li Yundong with her arms akimbo.

    Li Yundong cleared his throat. "Um..." He glanced at Su Chan. "Su Chan, this is President Cao, my boss."

    Technically, President Cao was only his temporary boss; his real boss was President Yin.

    Li Yundong squared his shoulders and gave President Cao a nod. "Hello, President Cao. These are my friends."

    President Cao's eyes were hidden behind her sunglasses, though Li Yundong could tell that she was looking at Su Chan. 

    "Oh, and um, this is my girlfriend, Su Chan."

    Silence pervaded. He felt movement behind him—probably Zhou Qin or Ding Nan. This is awkward…

    Li Yundong nudged Su Chan with his elbow.

    Su Chan stared at him in confusion. Li Yundong tilted his head slightly towards President Cao and gave her a pointed look. A look of recognition formed on Su Chan's face. She smiled, then gave President Cao a slight bow. "Hello, President Cao."

    President Cao moved her sunglasses to the top of her head. Then, she let her hand hover near Su Chan's jawline. "May I?" she asked, looking at Su Chan.

    Su Chan nodded.

    President Cao hooked her fingers under Su Chan's chin and gently turned Su Chan's head from side to side. "Wow. You really are beautiful," she said before releasing Su Chan's chin.

    Su Chan grinned. "Hehe. Thanks!"

    "Ever thought of joining the entertainment business?" President Cao remarked casually, eyeing Su Chan from head to toe. "With your looks, you'll become a superstar in no time."

    For a moment, Li Yundong tried to picture Su Chan as a world-famous actress. He didn't find the idea appealing at all. He wasn't sure if his innocent princess could survive in a place as dark as the showbiz.  

    "You should sign with us if you ever decide to enter the entertainment business, Miss Su Chan," President Cao continued with a smile. "We have the resources and experience to put your gifts to good use..."

    President Cao looked up sharply, her gaze fixed upon something behind his back.

    "Are you... Zhou Qin?" President Cao asked, causing Li Yundong to turn around.

    Zhou Qin nodded politely. "Yes, I am. It's a pleasure to meet you again, President Cao Kefei."

    Smiling, President Cao stepped forward and extended her hand towards Zhou Qin. "Likewise. I'm quite surprised that you even remember me. We only ran into each other briefly during the party. We barely exchanged a few words."

    Zhou Qin shook the proffered hand. "Of course I'd remember you, President Cao," she said with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "You're a big name in Tiannan City's entertainment circle. Not to mention you're a very beautiful woman. It's hard not to remember you."

    President Cao chuckled and released Zhou Qin's hand. "Thank you. But I'm sure my beauty pales in comparison to yours, Zhou Qin."

    "Not that it isn't a pleasure to see you," Zhou Qin said, "but I'm a little curious as to why you're looking for Li Yundong."

    President Cao sighed. "Well... Li Yundong has proven himself to be a valuable asset…." President Cao looked at Zhou Qin. "I'm sure you've heard about the incident at President Yin's building?"

    "I know you recommended him to President Yin, but my company ran into some trouble lately, and I think Li Yundong's skillset can help me deal with some of my headaches." President Cao raised a brow. "You don't mind, I hope?"

    Zhou Qin smiled. "Of course I don't mind, President Cao." Zhou Qin glanced at Li Yundong. "I'm glad my recommendation benefits you and President Yin."

    A warm breath tickled Li Yundong's ear. Li Yundong turned away from the conversation and met Su Chan's piteous eyes. "Yundong... I'm sooo hungry..." Su Chan whispered. She glanced around and tugged Li Yundong's hand. "Can we please talk on the way?"

    Li Yundong chuckled and pinched Su Chan's nose. "Excuse me, President Cao. Can we at least go to lunch first before we start talking shop?" He glanced around at everyone. "I mean, I don't know about you guys, but I'm starving."

    President Cao stopped talking and looked at Li Yundong pointedly. "No," she said. "I'm afraid you'll have to skip lunch today."

    Li Yundong frowned. "Why?"

    President Cao smiled wryly. "Because I need your help."

    "My help? With what?"

    President Cao sighed. "With security." Her expression turned somber. "Two high-profile celebrities will be arriving at the city today. But they're kicking up a fuss saying that they don't trust my company's security team after... after that incident with Wang Yong..."

    Li Yundong's frown deepened. "So, what, they'll agree as long as I'm providing the security detail?"

    "Pretty much." President Cao nodded. "I called them personally and told them about how you handled Wang Yong. Plus, President Yin also vouched for you. So..." She shrugged.

    Li Yundong sighed. "But I have to sit for an exam this afternoon..."

    President Cao froze. "An exam?"

    Li Yundong nodded grimly. "I'll flunk out if I don't pass it."

    "He won't have enough semester credits to graduate if he skips," Sun Li remarked.

    President Cao nodded and pulled out her phone.

    "Hello, Chancellor Feng. This is Cao Kefei, the president of Huasheng Studios. I'm calling on behalf of one of your students, Li Yundong." There was a pause. President Cao nodded. "Yes, that's him. Well, he is a part time employee at my firm, and I need him to come in this afternoon. But I also understand that he has to sit for a compulsory exam this afternoon?" President Cao smiled. "Oh? Is that so? But what about his credits? Oh. Okay. Thank you, chancellor."

    President Cao hung up the phone and smiled at Li Yundong. "Done. You no longer have to sit for the exam this afternoon."

    "What? Just like that?"


  • President Cao nodded. "You will get your semester credits for internship instead."

    Li Yundong's brows rose. "Internship? Is that what this is?"

    "You'll be paid, of course," President Cao said quickly.

    "A paid internship..." Li Yundong said. "Interesting."

    President Cao's eyes sparkled with hope. "Is that a yes? You'll help me out?"

    Li Yundong went silent in thought. After a while, he smiled at President Cao. "Excuse me for a moment," he said. "I need to speak with my girlfriend in private.

    Ignoring everyone's curious glances, Li Yundong pulled Su Chan away, stopping only when he was sure they were out of everyone's earshot. "Su Chan... I... "

    Su Chan placed a hand on Li Yundong's arm. "It's okay, beloved. I understand." Su Chan smiled. "Money is tight, right? You have to do what you can to earn money."

    Li Yundong sighed, then suddenly looked towards President Cao. "Maybe I should ask her if I can bring you along..."

    Su Chan shook her head. "It's okay, Yundong... I don't want to cause any trouble. Also, I think I should lay low for a bit." She gave Li Yundong a pointed look. "I dunno if it's safe for me to be walking around in public."

    Li Yundong cupped Su Chan's cheeks. "But isn't it best if we stick together? I mean... What if... What if those Zhengyi people attack either one of us when we're apart?"

    Su Chan's expression turned contemplative. Seconds later, she patted Li Yundong's hands. Li Yundong took the hint and released her cheeks. She glanced around a few times, then took out two pieces of paper from her pocket. "Here..." she whispered. "Take one of these."

    Li Yundong reached out carefully and removed the top piece before studying it. The paper was thin and yellow in color, like a page from an old Chinese calendar. Printed on it were four Chinese characters: Heavenly Thunder Slays Evil. Chills traveled down Li Yundong's spine. His scalp tingled. He stared at Su Chan, his fingers trembling slightly. "What's this?"

    "It's a talisman for the Five Thunders Spell. My master gave me these and told me to only use them during emergencies."

    Li Yundong frowned. "But how do I…? I mean, I haven't even passed the Zhuji phase..."

    Su Chan shook her head. "With this talisman, you don't need to generate magical powers from your body to use it. The spell's magic is already sealed inside the talisman. You just have to break the seal by channeling your Qi into the talisman. But..."

    Li Yundong met Su Chan serious eyes.

    "Never, ever, use the talisman on a mortal. And do not use the spell lightly. Use it only if you have no other choice. This spell is unpredictable. Unless you've been taught how properly control it, it's easy for the spell to turn on you."

    Li Yundong nodded and slipped the talisman into his pocket. "But what if it isn't enough?"

    "The spell can also act as a signal to either one of us. We'll go to each other the moment we see a shift in the weather."

    "Is it easy to tell the difference between the spell and normal weather changes?"

    Su Chan nodded. "There will be an instant shift in the weather once the spell is cast. Normal weather changes are slow and gradual, but the spell causes rapid changes. Also, the weather changes caused by the spell will be focused on the area directly above the caster, so it should be obvious. If we use Mingmu, we can easily pinpoint the caster's location."

    Li Yundong sighed. "Okay. I got it." Li Yundong levelled her with a serious look. "I don't think it's safe for you to be home alone, Su Chan." He leaned closer. "Why don't you find a place to hide while you wait for me?"

    Su Chan nodded. "Good idea... It's best if it's somewhere public with a lot of people. The Zhengyi School wouldn't dare make a move where mortals are present."

    "Ah, I got it." Li Yundong smiled. "Remember that theme park we went to the other day?"

    Su Chan grinned. "Mmm! We had so much fun that day."

    Li Yundong looked at her warmly. "Yeah. Why don't you wait for me there? I'll meet up with you once I finished the job."

    "Mmm!"

    Li Yundong reached into his pocket and took out a wad of cash. "Here. Take these with you." He shoved the cash into Su Chan's palm.

    "Thank you, beloved." Su Chan stuffed the cash into her pocket, then looked up at him with watery eyes. "I'll be waiting for you, Yundong... I'll miss you..."

    Li Yundong patted her head and pulled her into a hug. "I'll miss you too. Pay attention to your phone just in case I contact you," Li Yundong whispered into her hair. "Don't leave the theme park unless you have no other choice. And... if you're really bored, you can play a few games at the theme park."

    Su Chan shook her head. "I don't feel like playing any games without you. Besides, we should save money."

    Li Yundong pulled back and looked down at Su Chan affectionately. "Okay. We'll visit the theme park next time after I get my first paycheck."

    Su Chan broke into a grin. "Promise?"

    Li Yundong smiled and patted her head. "I promise."

    Su Chan lifted her pinky, a gesture that elicited a chuckle from Li Yundong. He hooked his own pinky around hers and then pressed their thumbs together. "Okay, princess. I have to go now. Be careful, okay?"

    Su Chan nodded.

    With a heavy heart, Li Yundong took Su Chan's hand and rejoined the rest of the girls, who were all looking back at them expectantly. "I'm sorry guys. I'm afraid I can't join you guys for lunch today."

    "Don't worry about it," Zhou Qin said.

    "Yeah... Just go do your badass thing or whatever," Cheng Cheng said with a smile.

    Li Yundong smiled. "Okay. Maybe I can treat y'all next time." He turned towards President Cao. "I'm ready to go now, boss. Sorry to make you wait."

    "Great! Let's get going, then." President Cao turned around and walked back towards the Lamborghini.

    Li Yundong gave Su Chan a parting wave and followed President Cao to the car.

    ***

    Zhou Qin stared after the Lamborghini as it pulled away from the curb and hit the traffic. It was Ding Nan's mocking laughter that made her look away. "Did you see that, Zhou Qin?"

    Zhou Qin tilted her head and regarded Ding Nan coldly. "See what?"

    Ding Nan chuckled. "A good, and unmarried man is like a loose treasure. Every ambitious woman would try to stake her claim on him. This is a battle."

    A dark look formed in Zhou Qin's eyes. "What's your point?"

    Ding Nan smirked. "Oh, you know what my point is. I don't have to spell it all out for you." Ding Nan turned and walked away without even bidding the other girls goodbye. Clearly, the mood for lunch was ruined. Zhou Qin would be a fool if she still couldn't see what Ding Nan's words meant—a declaration of war. Somehow, Zhou Qin couldn't shake the feeling that Ding Nan had something up her sleeves.

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  • Chapter 128 Movie Stars

     

    "Where are we going?" Li Yundong turned away from the window beside the passenger seat and shot President Cao a curious glance. "This isn't the way to Dongsheng Realtors."

    Li Yundong found out during his job interview that Dongsheng Realtors had rented out an entire floor to Huasheng Studios, the entertainment company ran by President Cao.  

    President Cao laughed. "Oh, no. We're not going to my office. Nobody in the city knows about Zhang Guozheng and Tan Fei's arrival."

    "Zhang Guozheng and Tan Fei?" Li Yundong couldn't keep the surprise out of his voice.

    President Cao smiled. "Yeah. They're the co-stars of the new TV series that my company is producing. The filming schedule is still being planned, but they wanted to explore the city before filming starts." President Cao sighed. "As the head of my Huasheng Studios, I'm also in charge of their travel arrangements and security while they are in the city."

    Li Yundong studied President Cao's profile for a moment. "Okay... But what does that have to do with me?" Li Yundong asked with a raised brow. "You have a team of professional bodyguards who are trained for the job."

    President Cao sighed. "That's the thing. They think my security team is incompetent," she said in a grim tone. "And I don't blame them, what with all the stuff that's been going on in my company..."

    "What stuff?"

    "There were a bunch of riots and protests a few months back. And more recently, Wang Yong's stunt."

    "And you're worried that they might terminate the contract with your firm?" Li Yundong paused in thought. "They signed a deal with you, right? That TV series?"

    President Cao shook her head. "I don't think they'd go that far. But still, those two are VIPs that I can't afford to piss off if I want to survive in this line of work. If anything happens to them during the filming, or while they're in the city, I'll lose credibility. My career will be over."

    Li Yundong stared out the windshield. "I see."

    They drove in silence for the rest of the journey, which lasted about fifteen minutes.

    "Shengyuan Hotel..." Li Yundong said once the Lamborghini pulled to a stop in front of a building. This was the same hotel where Zhou Qin's birthday party was held the other night.

    "Yeah," President Cao said, killing the engine. "Come on. Let's go meet the movie stars."

    Li Yundong exited the Lamborghini and followed President Cao into the lobby. To his surprise, they didn't stop at the concierge's counter. Instead, President Cao led him towards a cafe at the lobby. He glanced around a few times and immediately understood why President Cao had brought him to that cafe— privacy. The cafe was located near the end of the huge lobby, away from prying eyes. The choice made sense considering the fact that the movie stars had arrived at the city in secret.

    Inside the cafe, President Cao stopped in front of the counter and exchanged a few words with a waiter. The waiter nodded and led them to a secluded booth at the back of the cafe. President Cao pulled out her phone once they slid into the booth.

    "Do you want to order anything?" President Cao asked without looking away from her phone's screen.

    Well, he hadn't had lunch yet, so he could eat. However, after a moment of thought, Li Yundong declined the offer. He didn't want to be eating on the job because of, you know, professionalism.

    President Cao began to make some calls. "Hey, Xiao Zhang. It's me. I'm already here at the cafe. Can you give me Zhang Guozheng and Tan Fei's ETA?" President Cao stopped talking and listened to the voice on the phone.

    "Sure," President Cao went on, "and tell Da Liu that I won't be needing his services anymore. Yes, Da Liu, the one in charge of security." There was another pause. "Just tell him that the situation has changed. He'll understand. Yes. I've recruited someone else for the job." President Cao suddenly looked at Li Yundong and smiled. "Of course he's qualified. Yeah. It's a last minute thing though." A crease formed between President Cao's brows. "What do you mean you don't know how to tell him?" President Cao rolled her eyes. "What, are you saying you want me to tell him myself? What am I paying you for, anyway? Fine. Be on standby. Wait for further instructions."

    President Cao hung up the phone with a snort. "Young girls these days..." she grumbled. Then, President Cao looked up as though sensing Li Yundong's eyes on her. She smiled, then shrugged. "My assistant."

    Li Yundong smiled back. "Problems?"

    President Cao opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again when her phone vibrated against the table. She took one glance at the screen and sighed. She gave Li Yundong an apologetic look and slid out of the booth "Sorry. I have to take this."

    "Go ahead, don't worry about me."

    President Cao left the booth in a hurry. Li Yundong sat back and studied the cafe's interior. Ten minutes later, when President Cao still didn't return, he was starting to feel bored. He reached into his pocket and took out the talisman that Su Chan had given him before they parted ways at the campus gates.

    The more he studied the talisman though, the more peculiar he found it. The first thing he found strange was the texture of the paper. On the surface, it looked thin, like it would tear if he applied the slightest bit of force onto it. However, when he tried to pull it apart with his fingers, the paper felt sturdy. It wouldn't even bend. It was as though the talisman was made from an ultra-thin piece of concrete rather than paper. And here was the weirdest part—the talisman released a burst of green light and vibrated in his hand the moment he tried to pull it apart. Next thing he knew, his hand was repelled from the talisman.

    Li Yundong took a deep breath to calm his hammering heart. He glanced around the booth to see if anyone had seen that flash of green light. He really didn't want to run into any more trouble. Thankfully, nobody noticed anything strange because of how hidden the booth was.

    The talisman fluttered in the air for a moment, then lay motionless on the table. A sense of wonderment filled his heart as he stared at the piece of paper which, according to Su Chan, could summon lightning and cause instantaneous weather changes.


  • It was President Cao's voice that brought him out of his trance-like state a while later. He raised his gaze and saw President Cao approaching the booth with her phone still pressed to her ear. Li Yundong quickly placed his palm over the talisman and removed it from the table. By the time President Cao slid back into the booth, the talisman was safely stored inside his pocket.

    President Cao put her phone away and gave him an apologetic smile. "Sorry about that. They're both late." She sighed. "Well, you know how it is with hotshots like them."

    Li Yundong shrugged and got comfortable in his seat. "Guess we'll just have to wait."

    ***

    "They're here. Finally," President Cao growled.

    Li Yundong turned around in the booth and saw a man and a woman heading over towards them.

    "About damn time," President Cao said, rising to her feet. Despite the irritation he'd detected in her tone, President Cao was smiling. Li Yundong followed President Cao's lead and rose from his seat as well. President Cao was already moving away from their booth towards the two movie stars.

    Li Yundong glanced at the clock and realized that he and President Cao had spent over two hours waiting for the movie stars to show up. From the booth, Li Yundong saw President Cao shaking hands with the celebrities, both of whom were wearing sunglasses. The man, Zhang Guozheng, was tall—probably around 180 cm. He had a square face, a chiseled jaw, and looked to be in his early thirties. In a green, Polynesian dress and also a pair of high-heels with white straps, Tan Fei looked like a diva straight out of a fashion magazine.

    When President Cao and the two movie stars arrived at the booth, Li Yundong stepped aside to make way.

    "How come it's just you two?" President Cao asked as they all took their seats again. "Where are your agents?

    Zhang Guozheng removed his sunglasses. "They're dealing with our luggage. We've decided to come see you first." Zhang Guozheng's eyes found Li Yundong. "And... Is this your younger brother, President Cao?"

    President Cao laughed. "No, he's not. He's Li Yundong, the man who will be keeping you safe throughout your visit."

    Silence passed as Zhang Guozheng regarded Li Yundong with skeptical eyes.

    "He looks young, right?" President Cao went on. "But don't let his youth fool you. I assure you, he's a total badass."

    More silence.

    A while later, Li Yundong decided to break the silence. He nodded politely and said, "Hello, Mr. Zhang."

    Zhang Guozheng merely smiled at Li Yundong and said nothing.

    Someone giggled.

    "A badass?" Tan Fei said snidely. "Is this some kind of joke, President Cao?" Tan Fei stopped talking to give Li Yundong a onceover. "When you mentioned on the phone about a badass who single-handedly took out a suicide bomber, I imagined a tough military guy, not some kid who looks like he's barely passed puberty."

    Silence spread in the booth.

    President Cao suddenly laughed, though Li Yundong could tell that it was forced. "Well, we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, Miss Tan."

    "Don't judge a book by its cover?" All of a sudden, Tan Fei removed her sunglasses, then leaned forward to take a closer look at Li Yundong. "Tsk, tsk, tsk... Not bad, President Cao. You really know how to pick the good-looking ones. Although..." Tan Fei glanced sideways at President Cao. "Running security isn't the only thing he does for you, is it?"

    What the hell? Li Yundong clenched his jaw and balled his fists under the table.

    "Miss Tan," President Cao seethed, leaning forward as well. "This young man is an expert we have hired to ensure your safety. So I'd appreciate it if you treat me and my employee with respect."

    Tan Fei laughed. "Relax, President Cao. I was only joking." Then, Tan Fei batted her lashes at Li Yundong. "Well… If you're really that good, why don't you show me a few moves and prove me wrong."

    Li Yundong sneered inwardly. So this was the real Tan Fei, the so-called "elegant beauty." Three minutes with the woman and Li Yundong couldn't detect a single ounce of elegance in her. Clearly, her public persona was as fake as her lashes.

    Li Yundong smirked and rose to his feet. "Well. I must say that this has been a complete waste of my time." He chuckled. "Miss Tan... You clearly don't think I'm qualified to be put in charge of your safety. So I'm gonna get out of your hair now." He smiled. "Good luck defending yourself against a gun or a knife without me. Oh, and I'd watch my six if I were you. You don't exactly have a winning personality." The smug look on Tan Fei's face morphed into a scowl, but Li Yundong ignored her and nodded at President Cao instead. "Have a good day, President Cao. I'll head back to the university. Let me know when you have another assignment for me."

    "You—" One of Tan Fei's arms swept across the table when she tried to stand up, knocking a half-filled coffee cup off the edge of the table. Li Yundong's hand shot out quickly and held the cup upright near the edge of the table. Hot coffee sloshed against the rim of the cup when Li Yundong set the cup back onto the table.

    Li Yundong smirked. "Might wanna be careful there, Miss Tan." He glanced down at Tan Fei's feet. "Don't wanna ruin those fancy shoes."

    Which, he was sure, cost more than his month rent.

    Li Yundong left the booth with a smile on his face.

    The bright side? He got exempted from the exams without having to do anything at all. How cool was that?

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  • Chapter 129 Proposition

    "Wait!" Someone squeezed Li Yundong's forearm. Turning around, he saw President Cao staring at him with pleading eyes. "Where are you going?" she hissed. "You have a job to do. You can't just leave."

    Li Yundong shrugged. "I don't think it's gonna work, President Cao. Your clients don't trust me." Li Yundong gave her a strange look. "Isn't that the whole point? Isn't that why they demanded my service in the first place? Because I managed to handle Wang Yong's incident?" Li Yundong snorted. "Clearly, they've changed their minds." Li Yundong's face twisted in distaste. "And because of my appearance, no less."

    President Cao sighed. "Listen. I can convince them, but you can't just leave me here. I've got nobody else I trust enough for this job! I've seen you in action. If something happens, you can keep them safe. I know you can."

    Li Yundong shook his head. "It's going to cause problems, you know? I doubt they'd listen to anything I say if they think I'm incompetent. It's hard to keep someone safe if they won't even follow your instructions."

    President Cao took a step close. "You just need a chance to prove yourself, that's all. They'll respect you once they see what you can do."

    Li Yundong sighed. "But—"

    "Will you stay?" President Cao squeezed Li Yundong's forearm. "Please?"

    Li Yundong regarded the woman for a second. "Fine. But I wanna a damn raise." Li Yundong glowered at the booth where Tan Fei and Zhang Guozheng were sitting. "Do you know how shitty it felt to sit there and listen to people talk shit about you?"

    "Done," President Cao said quickly. "You get a ten percent raise. Deal?"

    Li Yundong stared at President Cao. A moment later, he nodded. "Deal."

    President Cao dragged Li Yundong back to the booth.

    "This young man is the best I've ever seen," President Cao said confidently. "And you ought to take my word for it."

    "Your word?" Tan Fei snorted. "No offense, President Cao. But your word lost a great deal of credibility the moment you showed up with this..." Tan Fei glanced at Li Yundong. "I mean, this kid doesn't even look like he's thrown a punch before."

    Li Yundong released a low growl. President Cao's fingers tightened around his forearm as though she was afraid he would barged out of the cafe any second. Whatever. A 10% raise wasn't so bad. He needed the money anyway.

    "Let me share with you a story about a real badass," Zhang Guozheng said excitedly. "One time I was filming this Wuxia movie, and one of the actors knows martial arts. In between filming, we asked him to do a demo. Back then, we had a bunch of bricks on set. Real bricks, you know." Zhang Guozheng gave each of them a pointed looks. "As in the ones produced in a kiln. Anyway, the director stacked up three of the bricks and challenged the guy to break all three of them without the use of any tools. So the guy walked over to the stack and smashed his elbow right through the stack." Zhang Guozheng mimicked the motion with his own elbow. "Like, holy shit! All three bricks broke apart! You see? That's what I call badass." Zhang Guozheng paused in his spiel and gave Li Yundong a pointed look. "Think you can do the same?"

    Li Yundong couldn't take it anymore—he burst into laughter. Smashing bricks. Li Yundong could dodge bullets and generate shockwaves with his fists, and this fool was sitting there talking about bricks.

    Zhang Guozheng frowned and looked towards Tan Fei for support. "What's so funny, huh?" Zhang Guozheng growled. "Are you making fun of me?"

    Li Yundong stopped laughing and took a deep breath. "My apologies," he said, clearing his throat. "You're absolutely right, Mr. Zhang. That is an impressive story."

    "Yeah," President Cao jumped in, no doubt trying to salvage the situation. "Tell us more! What else did he do?"

    Zhang Guozheng gave Li Yundong a passing glance before going back to story. However, as Zhang Guozheng droned on, Li Yundong could feel Tan Fei's eyes on him, drinking him in. Like Li Yundong, Tan Fei didn't seem too interested in Zhang Guozheng's story either.

    At one point, Li Yundong felt a light touch on his foot. The touch lingered on his foot for a few seconds before moving up his leg. Someone was trailing their foot up his calf, and Li Yundong was pretty sure he knew who it was. Li Yundong frowned and shifted slightly in his seat. Minutes later, Tan Fei leaned forward to grab her coffee cup. And he felt it again—a gentle caress, moving up from his calf to his inner thigh, straight towards his crotch. Li Yundong angled his body and shifted his legs slightly to the side. When he glanced up, Tan Fei was sipping her coffee like nothing had happened. Then, as if sensing Li Yundong's gaze, Tan Fei leaned forward to put down her cup. The movement caused the front of her dress to dip, revealing her deep cleavage. Li Yundong quickly looked away, shaking his head slightly.

    Moments later, when he felt another one of Tan Fei's attempts at playing footsie with him, Li Yundong decided he'd had enough of this shit. He cleared his throat and stood up from the booth. Zhang Guozheng stopped talking, whereas President Cao was now looking at him questioningly.

    "Excuse me," Li Yundong told President Cao with a slight tilt of his head. "The men's room."

    President Cao smiled and gave him a nod. Li Yundong forced out a tight smile and got out of the booth.

    Alas, Li Yundong was stopped by a voice just as he was about to enter the men's room.

    "Aww, come on, handsome. Why are you so cold? Are you mad at me because of what I said earlier?"

    Li Yundong closed his eyes and sighed. When he turned around, Tan Fei was standing a few feet away, smiling coquettishly at him.

    Li Yundong raised a brow. "Do you mind, Miss Tan Fei? In case it isn't obvious, I'm going into to the men's room. So if there's anything you wish to discuss, it'll have to wait until later."

    Tan Fei inched closer to Li Yundong. "What's the hurry, handsome? I just want to ask you a question, that's all." Tan Fei winked. "Security isn't the only thing you're doing for Cao Kefei, isn't it?"

    Li Yundong frowned and took a step away.

    Tan Fei moved closer again. "Come on, you can tell me. How much is Cao Kefei paying you a month for... you know, extra services?"

    "Ex-cuse me?" Li Yundong growled.

    Tan Fei waved nonchalantly. "I can pay you the same amount... and then some." Tan Fei gave him a salacious wink. "Why don't you be with me instead? I'll make it worthwhile."


  • Li Yundong glared at Tan Fei. "I am not an escort. And you've just insulted me." Li Yundong turned around and stormed into the bathroom.

    The door of the men's room swung open just as Li Yundong was stepping away from the urinal. Zhang Guozheng walked in and paused when he saw Li Yundong. Zhang Guozheng smirked and approached the urinal, patting Li Yundong's shoulder when he walked past him. "A word of advice, young man." Zhang Guozheng positioned himself in front of the urinal and unzipped his pants. "It's tough to survive in this line of work, you know. Without talent, looks, and—"

    Li Yundong silenced him with a finger. "Do you smell that?"

    Zhang Guozheng frowned. "What?"

    Li Yundong sniffed the air a few times. "Something's burning..."

    Zhang Guozheng zipped up his pants and stepped away from the urinal. Li Yundong lowered himself into a crouch.

    "What the heck are you doing man," Zhang Guozheng said with a laugh.

    Li Yundong ignored him and kept sniffing.

    Zhang Guozheng let out another incredulous laugh. "Are you out of your mind—"

    "Shh!" Li Yundong said harshly, then pointed towards an occupied stall at the far end of the bathroom.

    Li Yundong motioned Zhang Guozheng to be quiet, then crept towards the stall. Smoke rose from the stall's partition towards the bathroom's ceiling.

    Li Yundong stopped in front of the door and knocked. "You alright in there, sir?"

    There was no answer. Li Yundong knocked two more times. "Sir?"

    Zhang Guozheng had moved away from the urinals and was now standing behind Li Yundong, watching the stall curiously. Li Yundong was just about to knock again when a loud smack—like someone hitting their bare chest—sounded from inside the stall. Then, he heard a series of gurgles, as though someone was choking.

    The next thing Li Yundong heard made his blood run cold.

    "...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..."

    "Get down!!!!" Li Yundong tackled Zhang Guozheng to the side just as the stall exploded.

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  • Chapter 130 Rematch

    The partitions of the bathroom stall flew apart as though a force had pushed them out from the inside. Li Yundong's knees scraped the floor as soon as he tackled Zhang Guozheng to the ground. When their bodies skidded to a stop, Li Yundong scrambled to his feet and turned around to face the destroyed stall. "It's you," Li Yundong said coldly.

    A series of loud, derisive laughter rang out as a solid hunk of a man kicked aside pieces of the broken stall partition.

    "We meet again, Zhenren Li," said Lin Youfa, rolling his neck.

    Li Yundong moved his Qi to his Shenting, causing the familiar buzzing to return to his ears.

    "How did you know I'm here? Have you been following me?" Li Yundong said, rising to his feet.

    Lin Youfa kicked more debris aside and shrugged. "I admit it's a little frustrating." Lin Youfa's face puckered in disgust. "I mean following you around. Ugh. Had to watch you and your girlfriend act all lovey-dovey with each other. But that's a small price to pay." Lin Youfa smirked. "Your badass girlfriend isn't here. So now we can fight without outside intervention."

    Li Yundong sighed. It seemed like this fight was unavoidable after all. The problem was that Li Yundong wasn't sure he could beat Lin Youfa. Should he use the talisman Su Chan gave him? As soon as that thought occurred to him, Li Yundong wanted to laugh at how ridiculous it was. How was Li Yundong even supposed to summon lightning and thunder when from inside a frigging skyscraper? Incidentally, he realized that this was probably Lin Youfa's plan all along—to ambush him in an enclosed space. That way, Li Yundong would be forced to fight Lin Youfa in close quarters.

    Li Yundong took a deep breath and mobilized his Yuanyang. In mere seconds, the Qis of his five Zangs were drawn out and channeled towards his upper Dantian.

    Li Yundong glanced down at Zhang Guozheng. "Get out of here," he said coldly. "This guy is dangerous."

    Zhang Guozheng stared up at him with trembling lips. "Y- You... Wh- What the hell? Y- Your head is g- glowing..."

    Lin Youfa's laughter rang out. Li Yundong turned away from Zhang Guozheng and regarded Lin Youfa. That maniac sounded way too excited to his liking.

    "The Convergence of Five Qis!" Lin Youfa said and started clapping. "Now you're finally getting serious! Bring it on, then!" Lin Youfa smashed his fist into a wall; pieces of concrete fell off.

    Li Yundong got into a fighting stance, then exhaled as he guided each of his five Qis to various parts of his body: his Lung's Qi to his right arm; his Spleen's Qi to his left arm; his Liver's Qi to his right leg; his Kidney's Qi to his left leg; and his Heart's Qi to his torso.

    Li Yundong might not be able to beat Lin Youfa when the bastard was all juiced up with a portion of Guan Yu's power, but he was damn well going to put up a fight. Su Chan mentioned something about there being a time limit to Shenda's magic. If Li Yundong could last through the time limit, who knows he might even stand a chance to beat Lin Youfa.

    Lin Youfa cracked his knuckles. "Come on, then! Let us decide once and for all, which one among us is better, and which school is stronger. Your school, or my Divine Fist School!"

    Lin Youfa charged forward with a roar. The first punch was aimed at Li Yundong's sternum. The punch slammed into a wall when Li Yundong leaped sideways.

    "Good reflexes!" Lin Youfa yanked his fist out from the dent on the wall just as Li Yundong got into a boxing stance.

    "Hyah!" Lin Youfa yelled.

    Li Yundong ducked the punch aimed at his head and followed up with a straight punch to Lin Youfa's gut. Lin Youfa's body flew backwards and crashed into another stall. Lin Youfa ripped off a partition and hurled it at Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong caught the flying debris with both hands, but realized seconds later that it was a mistake—his body flew backwards and then slammed against the wall behind him after Lin Youfa kicked the partition he was holding. Grunting, Li Yundong tossed the partition aside. Shit! He raised both arms just in time to block a punch to his chest; all the air left Li Yundong's chest in a loud gasp. Li Yundong's spine slammed into something solid, drawing another grunt from his lips. Yelling like a maniac, Lin Youfa punched Li Yundong's arms again and again. At one point, Li Yundong could actually feel the wall cracking behind his back.

    "Hyahhh!"

    Light exploded in Li Yundong's eyes when the back of his head slammed into the wall. There was a loud crack, and all of a sudden, the solid surface behind his back was gone. The ensuing shriek told Li Yundong that he'd just been punched through the wall of the men's room into the adjoining ladies' room.

    Li Yundong stumbled backwards and crashed into an unoccupied stall. When he got back up, he saw Tan Fei staring at him from in front of the sink, her lipstick hovering in front of her lips.

    "Zhenren Li!!!"

    Li Yundong looked towards the hole on the wall. Shit! Lin Youfa barreled into him and wrapped those bodybuilder arms around his waist. Don't let him do a takedown... Don't let him do a takedown... Li Yundong rammed his knee into Lin Youfa's groin as hard as he could. When Lin Youfa's arms dropped from his waist, Li Yundong knew his chance had come. He hoisted Lin Youfa into the air over his head, and then slammed Lin Youfa's body backwards with all his strength. Lin Youfa crashed into floor, demolishing an entire row of bathroom stalls in the process.

    Li Yundong turned towards Tan Fei. "Move! Get outta here!"

    Tan Fei, apparently, didn't need to be told twice. She scrambled towards the door. She even left her branded handbag behind.

    A roar sounded. Li Yundong dodged a piece of ceramic—from a broken toilet bowl—that Lin Youfa had hurled at him. Behind him, the bathroom mirrors shattered when the ceramic piece smashed into them. Lin Youfa rose from the debris, laughing as he did. Water had begun to flood the floor. "That was actually the first time someone performed a suplex on me, Zhenren Li!" Lin Youfa spat onto the ground, then smirked. "You're full of little tricks, aren't you?"

    Li Yundong lowered his stance and readied himself for Lin Youfa's next attack. What's next? Another takedown?

    Li Yundong didn't have time to ponder the question further as Lin Youfa came charging at him like a bull. Dammit! Only then did Li Yundong realize that he didn't have enough room to dodge—the space was too confined. Li Yundong had no choice but to fight force with force. A loud crunch sounded the moment their bodies collided. Li Yundong grunted and pushed back against Lin Youfa with all his might. However, before Li Yundong could push Lin Youfa down to the floor, his legs were swept out from under him. The bathroom spun as he stumbled. Thick fingers wrapped themselves around his neck, choking him. Seconds later, his back slammed into something hard, which he immediately recognized as the opposite wall of the ladies room.

    "Is that all you got, Zhenren Li!" Lin Youfa yelled.

    Li Yundong grunted as punch after punch were delivered onto his stomach. F*cking piece of shit! A surge of anger coursed through Li Yundong. With a growl, he caught Lin Youfa's fist mid-punch and then twisted it into a sick joint lock.

    "How about a taste of your own medicine!" Li Yundong twisted Lin Youfa's wrist again. This time, the amount of pain he had inflicted managed to bring Lin Youfa to his knees. Li Yundong grabbed Lin Youfa's neck in a choke hold, then hoisted him into the air. "What the f*ck did I ever do to you, huh?" Li Yundong squeezed Lin Youfa's neck. "Why won't you f*cking leave me alone!" Li Yundong pushed himself away from the wall, and then hurled Lin Youfa through the air. Pieces of marble fell to the floor when Lin Youfa crashed head-first into the bathroom's countertop. Lin Youfa leaned against the smashed countertop, seemingly dazed. Li Yundong charged while cocking his fist back. Lin Youfa dove away just in time to avoid Li Yundong's punch. CRASH! Li Yundong's fist smashed into the marble countertop where Lin Youfa's head had been leaning against seconds ago. The entire countertop collapsed to the floor, bringing the sinks and soap dispensers with it.

    Li Yundong freed his fist from the debris and glared at Lin Youfa, who was slowly backing away from Li Yundong. Thanks to the Qis of his five Zangs, Li Yundong barely felt any pain in all the places where he took heavy hits. "Go!!!" Li Yundong roared, slashing his hand in the air. He pointed towards the exit. "Go now, and leave me alone! Don't ever bother me again!"

    Lin Youfa sneered. "I haven't lost yet." Suddenly, Lin Youfa crouched down and pulled out something from his right shoe. Chills careened down Li Yundong's spine. His blood ran cold when he activated his telescopic vision and saw the object that Lin Youfa had pulled out from his shoe. It was a golden needle.

    Su Chan's golden needle.

    "Where did you get that?!" Li Yundong's roar shook the walls. Was Su Chan alright? Had Lin Youfa gotten to her? A ball of heat formed at Li Yundong's lower belly. "Answer me, you son of a bitch!! Where did you get it!"

    Instead of answering, Lin Youfa smirked and jabbed the needle into a spot on the top of his head—the Baihui. Then, with his free hand, Lin Youfa performed some kind of strange hand sign. "Maoshan Jida Zhen Shengong. Bada Yuanshuai Xian Shentong! Hearken to me, O Heavenly Marshal of the North! Come to me! Lend me your power! I offer you my body as a vessel..."

    Wait a minute... The Heavenly Marshal of the North? Isn't that...

    Zhu Bajie!

    Li Yundong honestly thought his ear drums were going to burst when Lin Youfa released a loud roar.

    Oh f*ck...

    The next thing he knew, Lin Youfa's body was expanding. Red, bulging veins snaked around his arms and torso. Purple blotches covered Lin Youfa's skin, which appeared stretched thin under his expanding muscles. Li Yundong almost thought the man would suddenly burst like a balloon. In just seconds, Lin Youfa had transformed from a hunk into a hulking figure that was more than two meters tall.

    Lin Youfa charged towards him with a speed that was too fast for his size. Li Yundong dodged sideways. CRACK! The floor caved slightly, and Li Yundong watched in horror as Lin Youfa pulled his fist out from the huge dent on the floor.

    "Holy shit..." Li Yundong whispered.

    "Hargh!" Lin Youfa's fist whizzed past Li Yundong's ear before smashing into the wall behind him.

    Li Yundong burst into action, unleashing a flurry of punches—jab, cross, left hook. Lin Youfa stumbled back a slightly, but Li Yundong's strikes didn't appear to have done much damage—Lin Youfa was smirking at him. SWISH! SWISH! Li Yundong bobbed and weaved around two punches aimed at his head. When he saw an opening in Lin Youfa's defense, he delivered a quick jab to Lin Youfa's sternum, then followed up with a powerful right cross.

    Lin Youfa grunted and absorbed the blow like it was nothing.

    Out of sheer desperation, Li Yundong kicked Lin Youfa's groin again and again. To his horror, Lin Youfa didn't even budge.

    CRACK! Li Yundong ducked another punch, then slipped behind Lin Youfa through the space between his legs.

    "So we're back to this shit again, eh? Zhenren Li? Me attacking and you running? How boring."

    Li Yundong kept backing away while keeping his eyes on Lin Youfa. Reaching into his pocket, he touched Su Chan's talisman. Gotta lead him to an open ground... Li Yundong scanned the bathroom for possible escape routes. The exit was right behind Lin Youfa, so that option was clearly out. He glanced to his left. The only option was the hole in the wall, which would lead into the men's room.

    "Don't even think about it, Zhenren Li."

    Li Yundong returned his gaze to Lin Youfa. Right now, Li Yundong had two options: one, outlast him until Shenda's magic wore off; two, lead him to an open and secluded area where he could—hopefully—summon lightning. Either way, he had to get the hell out of this bathroom.

    But how? Lin Youfa could probably get to both exits before he did. Lin Youfa was fast, and his transformation had lengthened his limbs. Li Yundong would never be able to get past him.

    "Prepare to run... I'll distract him..."

    What the—

    Li Yundong whipped his head around. That voice... Had he imagined it?

    "Follow the mist..."

    Su Chan? What the hell? Li Yundong looked towards Lin Youfa to see if he had heard Su Chan's whisper too. However, Lin Youfa appeared to be in a daze, his face half-obscured by a dense cloud of green mist.

    More green mist wafted in through the hole in the wall.

    "Go. Now!" Su Chan's whisper sounded harsh this time.

    Li Yundong moved his legs and charged through the hole in the wall. When he reached the men's room, Li Yundong saw Zhang Guozheng sitting on the floor. He ran past the dazed actor and charged out of the bathroom, keeping an eye out for the green mist. Seconds later, he heard a loud roar.

    "Zhenren Li!!! You coward!!!"

    A loud smash shook the entire building.

    Li Yundong emerged from the bathroom area and ran towards the booth President Cao was sitting in.

    "President Cao. Get out of here. It's not safe," Li Yundong said as he ran past the booth.

    Someone grabbed Li Yundong's wrist once he'd passed the hotel's revolving doors. "Come on! Over here!" Su Chan tugged him away from the door towards the curb. "We have to keep moving. His Shenda will probably wear off in another five minutes."

    Li Yundong ran alongside Su Chan. "How did you... Why are you here?"

    Su Chan stared up at him with huge eyes. "I was worried about you! So I followed you!"

    Li Yundong wanted to ask her how on earth she managed to follow him, since President Cao had driven him all the way out here. Maybe she took a cab and followed President Cao's car?

    "Are you hurt, Yundong?" Su Chan asked when they ran past Shengyuan Hotel's front gates.

    "Nah. I'm okay. He landed a few hits, but I took the blow pretty well."

    "Do you know which Shenxian he called upon this time?"

    Li Yundong nodded. "Yeah. Zhu Bajie, right?"

    Su Chan nodded. "He's even more powerful than Guan Yu."

    A loud crash made Li Yundong turn around. There was a series of shouts. Then, the security booth stationed beside the gates crumbled. A moment later, the gate was sent flying, and Lin Youfa barreled through.

    Li Yundong turned around and kept running. "Damn it. What the hell is the matter with that nutcase? I thought Cultivators are supposed to be low-key."

    "We are, or at least we should. I don't know Lin Youfa is thinking, but he's clearly breaking a lot of rules." Su Chan shot a quick glance behind her shoulder. "Come on! We gotta move faster!"

    Li Yundong picked up his pace. "Where are we going? Home?"

    Su Chan was quiet for a few moments. "No. We gotta lose our tail first. Over here!" Su Chan made a sharp right. Li Yundong followed, hoping to dear God that Su Chan knew what she was doing.

    ***

    "This is ridiculous!" Elder Sister Zi Yuan's sharp tone made Ruan Hongling turn sideways. There was a frown between Elder Sister Zi Yuan's brow as she stared at the scene below them. A series of screams drew Ruan Hongling's attention to the Shengyuan's Hotel's front gates. The security booth had just collapsed, and a huge man rammed his shoulder into the gates, which flew off their hinges. Ruan Hongling's face twisted in disgust.

    "Outrageous!" Elder Sister Zi Yuan hissed. "I can't believe the Divine Fist School is capable of such atrocious displays!"

    "Elder Sister Zi Yuan," Ruan Hongling said, "when are we going to make our move? Things are going to get worse if we don't intervene—"

    "I've already told you, Hongling," Elder Sister Zi Yuan said in a warning tone. "Patience."

    Patience? No. Ruan Hongling had had enough of waiting, not when that vile man was walking around with her damask! "Elder Sister Zi Yuan," she said. "I'm going after them."

    Then, Ruan Hongling disappeared in a flash of green light without waiting for Elder Sister Zi Yuan to reply.

    ***

    Lin Youfa came to a halt after he'd rounded a corner. He was now back to his original form; the magic of his Shenda had worn off a minute ago. He cursed, staring after the direction where he knew Li Yundong had run off to.

    "You won't get away next time!" Lin Youfa growled.

    The sound of footsteps made Lin Youfa turn around.

    A teenage girl stood there, staring up at him. Dressed in a high school uniform with her hair pulled into an elegant ponytail, the girl looked pretty.

    "What do you want, young lady?"

    The girl performed a hand gesture which instantly made Lin Youfa realize that she was a fellow Cultivator. "Peace in the Tao, fellow Cultivator. May you be blessed with longevity and boundless happiness." said the girl. "I am Ruan Hongling, a 45th generation disciple of the venerable Zhenren Wang from the Linggong Sect of the Qingzong Zhengyi Taoist School."

    Lin Youfa stared at Ruan Hongling in shock.

    "So you're from the Zhengyi School..." Lin Youfa put his left fist to his right palm, then bowed. "My apologies for not recognizing you, Ma'am. I am Lin Youfa of the Divine Fist School."

    Ruan Hongling held her hand in front of her chest—with her palm facing sideways and her thumb slightly bent. "It is an honor, Zhenren Lin. May I know what business you have here?"

    Lin Youfa sighed and waved his hand a few times. "My disciple misbehaved a while back and put the name of my school to shame. He challenged someone out of his league and ended up losing the fight. I'm here to regain the honor of my school by defeating the man my disciple lost the fight to."

    "This man you're seeking… Is he Li Yundong?"

    Lin Youfa looked at Ruan Hongling in surprise. "How'd you know?"

    Something flashed inside Ruan Hongling's eyes. "Was there a girl with him? A young, pretty girl."

    Lin Youfa narrowed his eyes. "What are you up to?"

    Ruan Hongling sneered. "I have a suggestion to make."

    Lin Youfa eyed Ruan Hongling warily. After a while, Lin Youfa nodded. "I'm listening..."

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  • Chapter 131 Double Assault

    "Yundong... Why does this street seem so familiar...?"

    Su Chan came to a halt and started looking from left to right. They were now standing in front of a long avenue lined with dozens of digital advertisement boards on both sides. Soft music drifted in from afar, followed by a woman's voice expounding GUCCI's awesomeness.

    Su Chan pressed a finger against her chin and tilted her head slightly. "Hmm… I feel like I've been here before..."

    Li Yundong laughed and flicked her forehead. "This is where we bought all your fancy clothes the other day, silly." And also where we went broke...

    "Oh!" Su Chan's eyes lit up. Then, she stared longingly down the avenue, where rows of high-end stores stood with their flashy storefronts. Around them, shoppers bustled about, most of them carrying shopping bags filled with luxury items. One of those bags could probably feed thousands.

    Su Chan suddenly grabbed Li Yundong's hand and pulled him down the avenue.

    "Wow..." Su Chan said when they stopped in front of a clothing store. Su Chan pressed her face against the glass of the display window, her eyes gleaming with delight.

    "Hey, Su Chan..." Li Yundong cast a wary glance over his shoulder. "Are you sure Lin Youfa's no longer following us?"

    Su Chan turned away from the display window. "Nah. He stopped following us ten minutes ago."

    Li Yundong sighed in relief. "Okay..."

    Su Chan pressed her face against the display window again.

    "What now?" Li Yundong asked.

    "Let's hide out here for a while..." Su Chan said without looking away from the window. "It's crowded here. So it's pretty safe..."

    Before Li Yundong could open his mouth to remind Su Chan that they couldn't do anything more than window shopping, Su Chan was already pulling him towards another store.

    "Look! Look!" Su Chan pointed at a cocktail dress on display. "So pretty..."

    A moment later, Su Chan's shoulders sagged. When she turned around, the sparkle in her eyes was gone. Something tugged inside Li Yundong's chest.

    "What's the matter?" Li Yundong asked, even though he already had a good guess as to what was bothering her.

    "I- I miss buying clothes with you..." Su Chan stared up at Li Yundong, her lips puckering and sticking out into a huge pout. "I had so much fun that day."

    Li Yundong pulled Su Chan into a tight hug. "You know I would buy the entire street for you if I could... But…" Li Yundong sighed gently. "I just don't have the money right now. I'm sorry, Su Chan."

    "Yundong..." Su Chan mumbled into his chest.

    "Yes?"

    "Am I a horrible person?"

    Li Yundong pulled back to look at his beloved princess. "No. I don't think you are. What made you think that?"

    Su Chan started rubbing a spot on his shirt. "You went broke because of me..."

    A twinge of guilt stabbed through Li Yundong's chest. "Don't say that." He hugged Su Chan again. "If anything, I'm the one at fault for not working hard enough to support us." Li Yundong sighed. "Actually, President Cao gave me an important assignment today." Li Yundong pulled back and stared into Su Chan's eyes. Those eyes had a calming effect. They anchored him somehow. "I'm supposed to guard two high-profile celebrities. But then Lin Youfa showed up and..." Li Yundong waved his hand weakly, then let his hand drop. "Well, you know the rest..." He shook his head. "Damn it."

    They stood in the middle of the avenue for a while, ignoring the curious glances from the other shoppers. Li Yundong stared at his feet, willing the heaviness in his heart to go away. They were now in a deep crisis, so he had to pull himself together and start making things happen.

    The gentle strokes of Su Chan's fingers on his head pulled him from his thoughts. "It's okay, beloved. We'll get through this." Su Chan's fingers ran past his temple, drawing a sigh from his lips. "You're destined for greatness, Yundong. You'll see."

    Li Yundong sniffed, then cleared his throat. "Y- You really have a lot of faith in me, huh?"

    Su Chan grinned. "Hehehe!" All of a sudden, Su Chan leaped onto Li Yundong's back and swung her fists in the air. "Yes! I have faith in you! My beloved is the greatest!"

    Li Yundong took a ragged breath and willed his tears not to fall. "C- Come on..." His voice came out a little hoarse, so he cleared his throat harshly. "I might not have enough money to buy clothes for you today, but I can still buy you some snacks. I hope you're hungry!"

    "Wee!!!" Su Chan cheered. "I'm starving." Then, Su Chan kicked Li Yundong's butt with her feet. "Move! Piggy, piggy!"

    Li Yundong chuckled and walked away from the avenue. As he walked, he made no attempts to wipe away the wetness on his cheeks.

    ***

    "Are they good?" Li Yundong asked, glancing sideways at Su Chan. They were now on the way back towards New Hongsheng District.

    "Mmmph! Mmmph! Mmmph!"

    Su Chan's cheeks looked puffy. A segment of grilled squid poked out from her pouted lips—he'd bought the squids from a roadside stall earlier.

    Li Yundong smiled. Well. Guess that answers the question.

    Li Yundong bit off the final piece of grilled squid from the wooden skewer, then placed a hand on her forearm to stop her.

    "Mmph? Mmph? Mmph? Wua iff fit?" Su Chan said in between chews.

    Li Yundong laughed. "Don't talk with your mouth full. And give me those." Li Yundong took the empty skewers—there were ten of them—from Su Chan's hand and tossed them into a trash can.

    "Fanks!" Su Chan grinned.

    Li Yundong chuckled and patted her head. "You're welcome. Now let's get going."

    They walked along the street in silence until Su Chan finished chewing and swallowed all the grilled squid she'd stuffed into her mouth.

    "Yundong…"

    "Yes?" Li Yundong reached over and wiped away a bit of sauce from the corner of Su Chan's lips.

    "Why is this cat called a piggy bank?"

    The Hello Kitty piggy bank clinked loudly when Su Chan shook it. Su Chan lifted the piggy bank, then peered into the coin slot. "Heeellooo Keedee!"

    Li Yundong burst into laughter.

    "What?" Su Chan stopped walking and stared at him quizzically.

    Li Yundong held his stomach and kept laughing.

    Su Chan pouted. "So is this a cat or a pig?" Su Chan held Hello Kitty out in front of her. "It looks more like a cat though..."

    Li Yundong regained his composure after a while. "You can call it a money box too," he said. "It's called a piggy bank because it's usually shaped like a pig. This one is just designed to look like Hello Kitty."

    "Oh..." Su Chan studied the piggy bank curiously. Suddenly, she tilted it upside down, and shook it again.

    "What are you doing?" Li Yundong asked in a tone of amusement.

    More clinks sounded. Su Chan stared at the piggy bank with a frown.

    "Just wondering if the coins would fall out…"

    Li Yundong smiled. "Don't be silly. Just unlock the thing with its key if you wanna take the money out."

    "Oh." Su Chan righted the piggy bank. Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks. "Yundong, Yundong!" She jumped a few times. "Look! Look! Mac Doo Nurls!!"

    Li Yundong chuckled and pinched her cheek. "What say we get some ice cream, hmm?"

    "Yayy!" Su Chan yelled, then started running towards McDonalds.

    ***

    "Two sundaes, please," Li Yundong told the man behind the counter.

    "What flavor?"

    Li Yundong turned around to look at Su Chan, whose head was tilted slightly as she studied the huge McDonald's logo in front of the counter. Li Yundong nudged her.

    "Hmm?"

    "What kind of flavor do you want for your ice cream?"

    Su Chan tore her gaze away from the logo. "What flavor do they have?"

    Li Yundong turned towards the man behind the counter and repeated Su Chan's question.

    "We have chocolate, vanilla, and yam."

    "So?" Li Yundong smiled at Su Chan. "Which one?"

    "Su Chan placed a finger on her chin. "Hmm..." Suddenly, Su Chan's eyes twinkled. "Chili!"

    "Err..." The man shot Li Yundong a helpless look.

    Li Yundong laughed. "She's just messing with you, just ignore her."

    The man forced out a few laughs. "T- Then which flavor would you like, sir?"

    "Give us... Give us a chocolate sundae and a vanilla sundae please."

    "Right away, sir."

    They left McDonald's after Li Yundong paid for their sundaes. "Here," Li Yundong said, handing the loose change to Su Chan.

    Su Chan took the coins, then slotted them into her piggy bank.

    "Su Chan..."

    "Hmm?" Su Chan scooped a huge spoonful of ice cream.

    "I wanna try to pass the Zhuji phase when we get back," Li Yundong said.

    Su Chan stopped walking, causing Li Yundong to stop too.

    "Okay..." Su Chan said after a moment.

    "There's been so many distractions lately, you know?" Li Yundong sighed. "Right now, I can't even beat Lin Youfa. And we also have the Zhengyi School to worry about."

    Su Chan dug her spoon into her sundae cup. "We need to be careful," she said. "You can't be interrupted or attacked when you're trying to pass the Zhuji phase. It's dangerous."

    Li Yundong nodded. "It's a risk. But I don't think we have much time left. The Zhengyi people are coming." He shook his head. "God knows who they're going to send next."

    Su Chan stood there quietly with a sad look on her face.

    "I'll be fine." Li Yundong reached out and ruffled her hair. "Come on. Finish your ice-cream. And then we'll head back."

    "Mmm!" Su Chan took her spoon again.

    They sneaked past New Hongsheng District's gates once they were sure that nobody was following them—they had to walk around in circles for that. On the way to their apartment block, Li Yundong stopped by the security booth and asked the security guard on duty whether anyone had spotted someone who matched Lin Youfa's physical description. When the security guard shook his head, Li Yundong thanked the man and left the security booth.

    Li Yundong stopped Su Chan below their block. "Hey. I still think it's safer for us to stay at the hotel tonight."

    Su Chan looked up their apartment block with longing eyes. She hugged the piggy bank tighter. ”Y- You think so?"

    Li Yundong followed Su Chan's gaze, then sighed. "I don't really know to be honest..." Li Yundong shook his head. "As much as I hate to say this, I think we should start moving some of our stuff out of the apartment."

    Li Yundong studied Su Chan's expression carefully. A moment later, Su Chan took a breath and nodded. "You're right."

    Li Yundong sighed. "We don't have to give up the lease just yet." He wrapped his arm around Su Chan's shoulders. "I'm just saying maybe we should stay away until I'm ready to face them."

    Su Chan smiled. "I understand, Yundong."

    They rode the elevator to the 20th floor. When Li Yundong opened the door and walked in, nothing in the apartment seemed out of place, except for one thing.

    "Hey... Su Chan..." Li Yundong frowned. "I thought we closed the sliding door this morn..." He turned around just in time to see Su Chan pouncing on him.

    "Yundong! Look out!"

    "Die! Demon witch!"

    The living room exploded in a flash of green light.

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  • Chapter 132 The Vital Orb

    It took only a split second for Li Yundong to realize that Su Chan wasn't pouncing on him, but on something behind him. When Su Chan flew past him, Li Yundong didn't turn. Instead, he ran forward, using his body as a shield to block the green flash he'd noticed earlier. Something solid rammed into his chest, but he held on, then pushed back with all his might. The green light disappeared, and the living room went dark once again. A petite figure stumbled to the floor and skidded along the floor until it hit the wall.

    Ruan Hongling was up on her feet in an instant. "Out of my way, you fool!"

    Li Yundong ignored her and turned around to check on Su Chan.

    Su Chan was weaving agilely around Lin Youfa, dodging all of his vicious punches.

    "Damn it! I thought you said you'll handle this girl!" Lin Youfa yelled when another one of his punches missed. "You said you'll take on the girl while I duel Zhenren Li! That was the deal!"

    Clenching his jaw, Li Yundong turned around to face Ruan Hongling again. So those two were in cahoots after all. Ruan Hongling pulled something out from behind her back. Li Yundong activated his telescopic vision and squinted through the darkness. The object was small and thin, though he couldn't make out what it was; Ruan Hongling had quickly hidden the object behind her palm.

    "Don't worry about me, Yundong!" Su Chan's voice sounded behind him. "I can handle him!"

    "How dare you underestimate me, girl!" Lin Youfa growled.

    Before Li Yundong could turn around to see what was going on, one of Ruan Hongling's arms rose, after which she gave her hand a sharp flick. The movement was so subtle and quick that Li Yundong almost missed it. Thin rays of green light streak through the air towards Su Chan. Li Yundong reacted instinctively by stepping into the rays' path with his palms raised. There were three of rays in total, but Li Yundong only managed to block two of them with his palms; one of the rays whizzed past his ear.

    "Ahhh!!!" Su Chan screamed in pain.

    Shit! Li Yundong whipped his head around and saw Su Chan kneeling on the floor with one hand holding on to her shoulder.

    "Hah! You've let your guard down, girl!" Lin Youfa's leg swung out in a roundhouse kick aimed at Su Chan's head. Li Yundong burst forward and once again used his body as a shield.

    CRACK! He grunted when a powerful force slammed into his ribs. Li Yundong wrapped his arm around Lin Youfa's leg, trapping it against his ribs. With one leg raised, Lin Youfa's balance and defense was compromised. "Take this, you son of a bitch!" Li Yundong kicked Lin Youfa in the groin as hard as he could, then sent Lin Youfa away with a hard shove. Lin Youfa stumbled, fell, and then rolled on the floor a few times.

    Alas, it didn't seem like Li Yundong's attacked did much damage at all. Lin Youfa got back up in no time.

    "Come! Let us have our duel, Zhenren Li!" Lin Youfa burst forward and tackled Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong lowered his center of gravity and pushed back against Lin Youfa's shoulders. Li Yundong knew he shouldn't allow himself to be taken down to the ground; Lin Youfa's size and strength would give him a huge advantage in a ground fight.

    The following few seconds was a battle of raw strength with Li Yundong trying his best not to let Lin Youfa overpower him.

    "Oh no, you don't, demon witch!" Ruan Hongling shouted.

    A split second later, Su Chan was right beside him. Her hand shot out and struck a spot on Lin Youfa's chest. The force pushing back against Li Yundong's body weakened almost instantly. Li Yundong gritted his teeth and pushed his legs harder. Just a little bit more…

    A green ray whizzed past his head and struck Su Chan's back.

    Su Chan's body sagged to the floor, where she lay completely motionless.

    "Nooooo!!!!!" Li Yundong's blood boiled inside his veins. "Dieeee!!!!!!" He drove forward with his legs.

    Lin Youfa gasped, clearly taken by surprise by Li Yundong's sudden burst in leg strength.

    "Arrrgggghhh!!!" Li Yundong pushed harder, forcing Lin Youfa backwards. Eventually, they stumbled through the sliding door into the balcony. Li Yundong lowered himself even more and drove his shoulder into Lin Youfa's groin. Then, he roared, and hoisted Lin Youfa's 2-meter-tall body into the air. "Go to hell!" Li Yundong hurled Lin Youfa's body over the railing.

    Li Yundong turned around and re-entered the apartment. A golden radiance lit up the living room the moment he walked in. He glared at Ruan Hongling who was staring back at him fearfully. Without taking his eyes off Ruan Hongling, Li Yundong kept walking until he reached Su Chan's body. A red spot had already formed on Su Chan's shirt. His princess was moaning and groaning as her body twitched and rolled in a series of violent convulsions. She looked like someone having a seizure.

    "You think I won't hurt you just because you're a woman?!" Li Yundong yelled. The living room flashed in gold. "Again and again... You come in here and try to hurt us..." Li Yundong raised his gaze sharply. "No more... This ends now."

    "I'm sick and tired of this bullshit…" Li Yundong growled, stepping towards Ruan Hongling. "I'm going to end this tonight. I'm going to end you..."

    Ruan Hongling backed away from Li Yundong fearfully. "Y- You..."

    "What! What about me?! What the f*ck do you people want!" Every piece of glass in the apartment shattered. The Jindan's aura radiated outwards from Li Yundong's body like a golden blaze. Li Yundong kept moving forward, forcing Ruan Hongling out onto the balcony. When Ruan Hongling's back hit the balcony's railing, he stopped.

    "I've warned you time and time again not to bother us..." Li Yundong growled. "And yet you keep coming back."

    Defiance replaced the fear in Ruan Hongling's eyes. "Wake up, you blind fool!" she yelled. "That a look at that girl you're so obsessed with! She's a fox spirit! She's manipulating you! She'll drain your Yang Qi one day and then leave you to die!"

    Li Yundong reached into his pocket and pulled out the talisman.

    "You leave me no choice..." Li Yundong said coldly. The talisman glowed with a green light the moment it came in contact with the golden aura emanating from his body.

    There was a gasp. "T- That's... Th- The... Five Thunders Spell..." Through the golden light, Li Yundong could see that Ruan Hongling's face had grown pale.

    Before he could get another word out, Ruan Hongling disappeared from the balcony in a flash of green light.

    ***

    Li Yundong laid Su Chan on his bed. Su Chan's body was still convulsing violently. Her lips were chapped and her face pale. She looked like she was in unbearable pain. Li Yundong cupped her cheeks. "Su Chan! Talk to me. How can I help? Tell me what to do?"

    Su Chan whimpered and rolled around on the mattress. Li Yundong went into full-blown panic mode. God damn it all to hell! Li Yundong punched his thigh. He looked around the bedroom. Should he perform the massage again? Maybe take her to the hospital? Li Yundong leaped up from the bed. "Hang on, okay? I'm taking you to the hospital." Li Yundong ran to his wardrobe, wanting to retrieve the rest of his cash.

    "Yun... Yun...dong..."

    Li Yundong turned away from the wardrobe and ran back towards the bed. He grasped Su Chan's cold hands. "What? What? What can I do, princess? Just tell me what to do…"

    Su Chan shook her head a few times, then released a sharp cry. Her hand shot out to grab his collar. "N- No... Hos...pi..tal... Don't..."

    "I'll give you the massage." Li Yundong moved to stand up but was yanked back down by his collar.

    "Use...useless... Take me... t- to... motel..." Su Chan's eyes rolled to the back of her head. "Too... Dangerous... H- Here... Zi... Zi Yuan... might come..."

    "But you're in pain!" Li Yundong yelled.

    Su Chan's breathing turned ragged. "N- needle... in pocket."

    Li Yundong patted her pocket, then pulled out a long, dark needle.

    Su Chan's body twitched a few times, the veins and cords on her neck pulling taut against her skin.

    "Okay... I've got the needle. What now?" Li Yundong wiped away the sweat on Su Chan's forehead.

    "B- Bai...hui... L- Ling..."

    "Lingtai?" Li Yundong said.

    Su Chan nodded.

    Li Yundong got to work immediately. The convulsions stopped the moment Li Yundong poked the needle into her Lingtai. Slowly, her breathing evened out. And when Li Yundong poked the needle on her Baihui, the colors returned slightly to her face.

    Li Yundong put the needle away. "Are you still in pain?"

    Su Chan nodded. "Need to hurry... Have to push the aura out... C- Can't do it here..."

    Li Yundong didn't waste time arguing with her. He picked her up from the bed and ran out of the bedroom towards the door.

    "Wait..." Su Chan said when they were at the doorway.

    "What is it?" Li Yundong asked.

    "F- Forgot... something..." Su Chan pointed at something on the floor.

    Li Yundong glanced to his right and saw the Hello Kitty piggy bank lying on the floor.

    Li Yundong sighed, then walked over to pick up the piggy bank. "You're practically half-dead, and you're still worried about this thing?"

    Su Chan's fingers trembled when she took the piggy bank and hugged it to her chest. "Y- You... need the money..."

    Tears stung Li Yundong's eyes. He picked Su Chan up and left the apartment.

    ***

    After they got into a cab, Li Yundong wanted to smack himself in the head. He'd forgotten to take the cash out from his wardrobe amidst trying to help ease Su Chan's pain. Now he didn't have enough cash left to pay for their cab ride. With a heavy sigh, he reached for Su Chan's piggy bank.

    Su Chan pulled the piggy bank away from his reach. "No..." She shook her head. "There's some in my pocket."

    Li Yundong pulled out a fifty from inside Su Chan's pocket. "I thought you've put everything in there." He pointed at the piggy bank.

    Su Chan forced out a smile. "No. The money inside Hello Keedee is for some other purpose..."

    "What purpose?"

    Su Chan hugged the piggy bank tighter. "Just... I plan to use the money to look for you in case you abandon me one day..."

    The tears that he'd been holding back since they left the apartment finally flowed. He sniffed and wiped his cheeks. "D- Don't be stupid..." Li Yundong sobbed. "I'll never abandon you..."

    Li Yundong wiped his tears with his sleeve, then regarded Su Chan affectionately. "You'll always be my best girl."

    ***

    "P- Please turn around while I do this..." Su Chan pleaded.

    Yundong frowned and lowered himself onto the mattress. "What? Why?"

    Su Chan shook her head weakly. "I don't want you to see me like this! Please... Yundong... Please..."

    Yundong nodded and turned around to face the wall. "Okay... I won't look. Just... Will you feel better if... I mean after you do whatever it is that you're about to do?"

    "Y- Yes..."

    "A- Are you sure you don't need any help?"

    Su Chan bit down on her lip. She could use some help, to be honest. But she didn't want Yundong to see her like this. Plus, if the removed her Vital Orb from her body, there was a chance that she would…

    No. She didn't even want to think about that. Right now she didn't have a choice. She would die if she didn't flush the Divine Aura out of her body within the next hour.

    "I can manage," Su Chan said shakily. "I just need you to look away... Please?"

    "Okay."

    "Promise me you won't look..." Su Chan gritted out.

    Yundong sighed. "Okay, okay. I promise. Now hurry up and do your thing," he said. "God, you were in so much pain just now."

    Su Chan got into a meditative posture on the bed. She stared at Yundong's back for a few moments, then took a deep breath. A bulge slowly formed on her lower abdomen. Her chest heaved, and the muscles in her throat constricted.

    Seconds later, a colorful orb floated out from Su Chan's mouth. The orb glowed brightly, lighting up the entire hotel room.

    "What the— Hey! What's with the glowing thing? What the hell is going on..." Yundong said.

    "Don't!" Su Chan pleaded. "Don't turn around... Please, Yundong... I beg you... Please..."

    Yundong's back stiffened, but he didn't turn around.

    Su Chan sighed and removed her hands from her Vital Orb. The colorful sphere hovered in front of her, just a few inches away from her chest. Green tendrils rose from the sphere like a bunch of luminous seaweeds. The tendrils seeped into Su Chan's body. Su Chan sighed as a cooling sensation coursed through her meridians. Moments later, white tendrils rose from her skin, and she felt the last vestiges of her pain leave her body.

    Relief coursed through her, until her body started to itch all over.

    ***

    Li Yundong tamped down his curiosity and resisted the impulse to turn around. The fact that the whole frigging room was glowing like crazy didn't help.

    He knew something was wrong the moment the bed started shaking. What the f*ck? "Su Chan?" Li Yundong said warily. "What's the matter? Why's the bed shaking?"

    "I- I'm fine..."

    Li Yundong clenched his jaw. "No! You're not fine! What the hell is going on?"

    "No! Don't turn around!" Su Chan shrieked. "Just... Just gimme a minute, okay? I'm almost done...."

    Li Yundong took a deep, calming breath and balled his fists. The bed stopped shaking, but there was now a series of scratching sound. Slowly, the bright lights in the room started to dim.

    Li Yundong felt the mattress dipping behind him.

    There was a loud gasp. "Oh, no, no, no..." Su Chan groaned.

    Suddenly, the room dimmed as the colorful lights diminished.

    "Su Chan...?" Li Yundong struggled not to turn around. "What's the matter Su Chan? You're scaring me..."

    There was a snivel, which turned into sobs. That was when Li Yundong decided that enough was enough.

    He turned around. "No!!!!!" Su Chan screamed. "Don't look at me!!"

    Li Yundong froze.

    "Oh my God..."

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  • Chapter 133 Missing

    At first, Li Yundong didn't see anything wrong with Su Chan. She had stopped screaming at him and was now sobbing quietly into her hands. Li Yundong reached out with his hand, wanting to pat her head. "What's the matter—"

    His hand stilled when he saw it. Spread across the mattress, under Su Chan's folded legs, was a thick and bushy fox tail. "Oh my God..." Li Yundong whispered.

    Ruan Hongling's words came rushing into his mind. The girl had mentioned something about Su Chan being a fox spirit earlier, but Li Yundong thought she was just trying to mess with his head back then.

    So it's true...

    Su Chan was a fox spirit. Wow.

    Li Yundong reached out to touch Su Chan. She resisted him and tried to lean back, but Li Yundong managed to pry her hands away from her face after several attempts.

    Li Yundong cupped his hand under Su Chan's chin. "Listen, there's nothing to be—"

    "No!"

    A green flash blinded Li Yundong's eyes. The next thing he knew, he was stumbling backwards and falling off the bed. There was a sharp click followed by a loud thud.

    Li Yundong's eyes went wide as realization hit him. The sliding door…

    He sprang to his feet and looked towards the balcony.

    What he saw through the open sliding door filled his heart with horror.

    "Su Chan! No! Don't!!"

    Li Yundong charged towards the balcony, but he was too late; Su Chan had leaped off the railing before Li Yundong could reach her.

    Li Yundong's clutched the top of the railing with his fingers and peered out into the night. Su Chan's tail fluttered in the night air as she floated away from the motel with great speed.

    "God damn it!"

    The railing trembled when Li Yundong slapped it with his palm.

    Li Yundong pushed away from the railing and ran towards front door, grabbing his phone, keys, and wallet on the way out.

    While waiting for the elevator, Ruan Hongling's words kept replaying inside his mind: "She's manipulating you... She'll drain your Yang Qi and leave you to die..."

    "Shut up, you bitch... Shut the hell up!" Li Yundong growled, shaking his head harshly. "I'm not going to listen to you..."

    Su Chan was a good person. A kind person. That would never change no matter what everyone else told him. He'd seen Su Chan's goodness with his own eyes, damn it! Ruan Hongling and the Zhengyi School could go to hell.

    A loud ding signaled the elevator's arrival. Li Yundong entered the elevator car and pressed the button for the ground floor, then began slapping the elevator close button repeatedly.

    Once the doors slid shut, the elevator descended the building in a painfully slow manner. Li Yundong used the time to compose himself and go through a list of possible places that Su Chan might go.

    Su Chan's piggy bank was still in the motel room, so she likely didn't have any money with her. Which means she can't take a cab...

    Li Yundong banged his head against the back of the elevator and huffed out in frustration. So what? Why would she need to take a cab when she could frigging fly?

    But at least she can't check into another motel without cash...

    Damn it, how the heck was he supposed to find her? The city was so big. She could be anywhere by now. Hell, she could've gone back into the mountains for all he knew.

    Should he lodge a missing persons report? F*ck!

    A loud ding jolted him out of his frantic thoughts. He rushed out of the elevator the moment the doors slid open. Outside the motel, he came to a halt. A moment later, he gripped his hair with his hands and started pacing in front of the motel's entrance—he had no idea where to even start the search.

    "Calm down, Li Yundong... Calm down..." he muttered. "Where would she go... Think!"

    Li Yundong took a deep breath and went over the facts. Su Chan didn't know the city very well, so wherever she was heading towards had to be some place she knew. Maybe it was a place that they'd both been to before? The campus? McDonalds? Their old apartment? Li Yundong huffed out a breath and released his hair. But what if she didn't even have a destination in mind? What if she was just flying around aimlessly? How the f*ck was he supposed to find her then?

    To hell with it. So what if he didn't have a clue where she was going. He'd search the entire city if he had to. He owed it so Su Chan to at least try. He ran to the roadside and hailed a cab. "Tiannan University!" he shouted at the cabbie the moment he got in. "Step on it!"

    ***

    "Wait here! I'll be back!" Li Yundong yelled at the cabbie before he got out of the cab and ran towards the campus gates. He went to the academic building first, where he checked every classroom and every lecture hall inside. Then, he went to the library and study lounges, which were packed with students doing their last minute cramming—the finals were still going on. He didn't find Su Chan in any of those places. He left the academic building and then headed towards the copse of trees on the right. He moved past the copse and came to a halt in front of the gazebo, which was empty except for the pieces of rubble left behind after he had smashed the stone table.

    "Damn it!" Li Yundong muttered, then turned around and headed back towards the gates.

    Where are you, Su Chan?

    Li Yundong slid back into the cab. "New Hongsheng District!"

    The cabbie, bless the man, seemed to have sensed the urgency in Li Yundong's voice. He pulled away from the curb and drove off quickly. Hell, the guy even broke the speed limit.

    They arrived at New Hongsheng District in record time. Li Yundong thanked the cabbie and told the guy to wait for him in front of the gates—just in case Su Chan wasn't in their apartment.

    Li Yundong unlocked the door of apartment 20A with trembling hands. Darkness greeted him inside. Halfway along the doorway, he stopped, too afraid to keep moving, too afraid to face the possibility that Su Chan might not be here after all.

    "Su Chan?!" he yelled.

    His voice echoed in the doorway, taunting him with its emptiness. Images flashed across his mind, and at that moment, he remembered. He remembered every moment they had shared: the moments of laughter and joy; the moments of tears and arguments; even normal and routine stuff like bumping into each other in hallways during the mornings, or fighting for food across the dining table.

    He missed his princess. He missed Su Chan.

    He wanted his little chipmunk back.

    Li Yundong's feet moved on his own. As he walked, shards of broken glass crunched beneath his shoes. Ten minutes later, he slumped to the floor in the middle of the living room, utterly vanquished.

    Tears spilled from his eyes.

    "Where are you, you idiot... Where the hell are you... Why did you run? Why?"

    The truth was that it really didn't f*cking matter that Su Chan was a fox spirit. He'd witnessed her kindness, her inherent goodness, her sincerity, and her selflessness. None of those things could be faked. Hell, she'd been so damned loyal to him. She had faith in him. Him, a pathetic and penniless loser with no real achievements to speak of. She could literally have any man she wanted, yet she picked him.

    Regret filled his chest, drowning him. This was all his fault. He should've made his feelings clearer, should've tried harder to convince her that he really didn't care what other people called her. In hindsight, the signs of her insecurity were all there. How many times had she expressed her fear of him abandoning her? How many times had she cried when she thought he was leaving her? It was all there. He'd just been too blind to see it, too much of an idiot.

    Now she was gone, and he was sitting here crying like a loser.

    Li Yundong wiped his tears. There had to be something he was missing, some place he hadn't looked. Alright... think... Li Yundong exhaled. Where could she be? Where was the last time they had the most fun toge—

    "Holy shit…" Li Yundong whispered into the empty room.

    Seconds later, he was up on his feet and out the front door.

    She had to be there. She must be.

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  • Chapter 134 The Final Confession

    The park was just the way Su Chan remembered it. The giant wheel—with long spokes radiating out from its center and cute compartments hanging at the end of the spokes—was still there at the center of the park. At another corner to her right, she saw those spiraling tracks, which she now knew were meant for those long carts to travel along. It was called roller-coasting… something, if she wasn't mistaken.

    The only thing different about the park was that it was now completely deserted. The lights were turned off, and there was no music. Nor was the giant wheel rotating like last time. When she first came here, this park was lively and filled with people, especially children. And then there also were these colorful spheres—with strings attached to them—floating about in the air. She remembered going nuts over those things when she first saw them.

    Too bad none of those things were present tonight. Too bad indeed, since she could really use some cheering up after what happened at the motel. Darkness pervaded the a-moose-ment park, mirroring the state of Su Chan's heart.

    She hadn't meant to run away from the motel. She just... Well, she panicked. Even though Yundong had only seen her tail, not her full fox form, she still couldn't bring herself to face the possibility of him looking at her with nothing but rejection and disgust in his eyes. Instead of staying and watching how Yundong would react, Su Chan fled. She had to get out of there. She needed some space to work through everything on her own.

    Su Chan glanced down at herself. Her tail was gone the moment she'd recovered enough of her magical powers to transform herself back to her full human form. Not that it mattered now; Yundong had already seen her tail. She wondered what he was thinking right now. Had he started to hate her already? Was he vomiting, hurling out his stomach's contents?

    Why didn't she give him a chance?

    Stupid, stupid, Chan'er... There was no chance to give. Nobody would want a fox spirit. Nobody. 

    With a heavy heart, Su Chan trudged along the perimeter of the a-moose-ment park. Regardless of how Li Yundong felt, Su Chan knew she had to return to Yundong at some point. Not for her own sake, but for Yundong's safety.

    Su Chan had already left detailed instructions on how to pass the Zhuji phase for Yundong. She had written the instructions down on a piece of paper that she'd torn off Yundong's notebook. After Ruan Hongling's first visit, Su Chan knew it was just a matter of time before Yundong found out about her true identity, so she'd made preparations in advance. If Yundong couldn't accept who she was and ended up kicking her out, he would at least have some form of guide to help him go through the Zhuji phase. That piece of paper currently lay in some corner inside her wardrobe. Maybe Li Yundong would discover it when he was emptying her wardrobe after he kicked her out.

    After wandering aimlessly around the park for minutes on end, Su Chan stopped in front of a tall, vertical structure with a large platform in the middle. A large sign with the words "Space Shuttle" hung above her head.

    This was the first thing they rode when Li Yundong brought her here the other day. Smiling at the memory, Su Chan hopped over the metal barrier and then climbed onto the empty platform. She sat down in one of the seats, then pulled down the harness. The metallic coldness of the harness bit into her bare shoulders—a stark contrast to Yundong's arm, which felt warm and comfortable.

    Tears stung her eyes.

    The more Su Chan thought about it, the more hopeless she felt. Maybe their relationship was doomed from the very start. How could she be so naive to think that they were meant to be together? A genius Cultivator like Yundong shouldn't be dragged down by a fox spirit like her...

    Su Chan gripped the shoulder harness tighter. A strangled sound escaped her lips as her tears began to fall.

    "But I miss you, Yundong!" Su Chan wailed. "I miss you so much! I miss you… Yundong… Please don't hate me!!!"

    "I miss you too..."

    What—

    Su Chan turned around in her seat so quickly that her cheek smacked into the shoulder harness. However, the sharp pain was totally worth it because she got to see her beloved standing right there below the platform, staring up at her. His eyes looked puffy and his nose was red, so it was obvious that he'd been crying as well.

    Joy bloomed inside Su Chan's chest. However, the feeling of joy didn't last as wariness and doubt crept in. She forced herself turn away, her fingers trembled against the harness as she did. She wasn't ready to face him yet. In fact, she didn't think she'd ever be ready to face him, not when it had anything to do with what she was about to tell him.

    Footsteps sounded behind her, and that was how she knew that Yundong was moving towards her. Su Chan pushed the shoulder harness upwards.

    "Don't! Don't run!" Yundong pleaded loudly. "Please don't run away again, Su Chan! I don't care that you're a fox spirit!"

    Waves of emotions coursed through Su Chan: joy; elation; doubt; surprise. Her gaze snapped towards Yundong, who was standing directly in front of her below the platform. "What?"

    Yundong's eyes went ablaze with passion. "I said I don't care that you're a fox spirit! You're my best girl, the love of my life, and nobody can tell me otherwise!"

    Yundong's figure turned blurry as tears filled her eyes again. "B- But..." She sniffed. " But all I did was cause you trouble... A- And..." Another sniff. "And everyone in the Cultivation world hates my kind—"

    "I don't give a damn what anybody else says!" Yundong yelled. "The rest of the Cultivation world can go to hell! I just..." Yundong's shoulders sagged. "I just want you, okay? I just want you."

    "F- For real?" Su Chan's lips trembled. "Even though I'm an ugly fox spirit?"

    Their gaze met across the meager space between them. Yundong's eyes were warm, loving, and oh-so-beautiful...

    "Yes... For real... Why won't you believe me?" Yundong reached up and cupped her cheeks in his warm hands. "How am I going to convince you that I will never, ever, abandon you?"

    Su Chan averted her gaze. "T- There's... something else that I haven't told you yet... And..." Su Chan lowered her head. "And if you still want me around after I tell you, then I'll believe you."

    "Okay..." Yundong said, releasing her cheeks. "What is it?"

    "D- Do you... Do you remember what Ruan Hongling said about me? I mean back when we were at the apartment..."

    There was a brief moment of silence. Yundong frowned. "You mean the part about you being a fox spirit? I thought I already told you that I don't care—"

    "No. Not that part." Su Chan shook her head. "I meant the part about... about..." Su Chan averted her gaze. "About what I was planning to do to you."

    Silence filled the space between them.

    "Oh," Yundong said after a while.

    Su Chan stole a glance at Yundong.

    Yundong was staring back at her, his eyes guarded and unreadable.

    Su Chan forced herself to look away again.

    A moment later, she took a deep breath and decided to take the plunge. "I... I really did plan to steal your Yang Qi at the beginning..."

    The air hung thick between them. The silence was now palpable, almost like a noose tightening around her neck.

    Several moments passed before Yundong's voice cut through the thick silence like a blade.

    "What about now? Are you still planning to... you know."

    Su Chan looked up sharply and started shaking her head vigorously. "No! Now I would never..." Su Chan sighed. "When I told you the other day that there's a way to take the Renyuan Jindan's power from you, this is what I'm talking about. Yang Feeding." Su Chan stared deeply into Yundong's eyes. "But I also told you that I no longer want the Jindan." Dejection filled Su Chan's heart. "I'm sorry, Yundong... I admit that I did plan to steal your Yang Qi. It's just... I really wanted the Jindan at the beginning. God, do you know how many Cultivators are willing to die for that pill? And when you got lucky and somehow ended up with the pill, I was just so angry and... and—"

    Su Chan yelped when her body was hoisted off the platform. The next thing she knew, her cheek was pressed snugly against Yundong's chest.

    Yundong's hug enveloped her like a warm blanket during winter, and at that moment, Su Chan realized something—she was home.

    "You idiot..." Yundong mumbled into her hair, his chest vibrating against her cheek. "Don't you get it yet? I know I'm lucky, okay? But not because of the Renyuan Jindan. I'm lucky because you came into my life."

    Su Chan pulled back to study Yundong's face. When their eyes met, she saw truth and sincerity leaking out from Yundong's eyes.

    "Yundong..."

    "Yes?"

    Su Chan's cheeks heated up. "K- Kiss me..."

    Yundong's eyes grew several shades darker. Slowly, his hands rose to her face. A moment later, those strong hands cupped her cheeks, and when their lips met, it was like someone had cast the Five Thunder Spell inside her; it was the most passionate kiss they shared by far.

    After what felt like minutes, they broke apart, heaving and panting. Their forehead touched, and Su Chan thought her legs were going to give out. When Su Chan recovered enough of her senses a while later, she giggled.

    "What's so funny?" Yundong asked. He still sounded a little out of breath.

    Su Chan giggled again. "Nothing. It's just... I can't feel my lips."

    Yundong chuckled. "Yeah? I can't even feel my tongue. You were sucking on it so much that—"

    Su Chan slapped a hand over his mouth. "S- Shut up!"

    If someone told her right then that her cheeks had burst into flames, she might actually believe it.

    Yundong threw his head back and laughed. "Come on. You don't have to feel shy. There's no one here."

    Su Chan giggled, then made a face at him. "You're shameless."

    "Shameless, huh?" Yundong's eyes grew darker again. "You ain't seen nothing yet."

    All of a sudden, Yundong took Su Chan's hand and then...

    Su Chan gasped the moment her hand touched the bulge between Yundong's legs. "Y- Yundong..."

    "This is what you've done to me..." Yundong said in a strained voice. "Take some responsibility."

    Su Chan thought she might start bleeding from the pores of her face. "W- We can't... Not yet..."

    Yundong laughed wryly. "I know. The Zhuji phase right?"

    "Mmm!" Su Chan pulled her hand away. She shouldn't keep her hand there for too long; she'd end up doing something really stupid if she did.

    Yundong sighed. "Fine." Then he leaned back a little to study her face. "Are we okay now?"

    Instead of answering, Su Chan threw herself into his arms. Yep. Everything was going to be okay.

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  • Chapter 135 Flying without Wings!

    Everything was perfect until Su Chan started sobbing into his chest again. Just like that, Li Yundong went from mushy, heart-and-flowers romantic mode to a full-blown panic mode.

    "Hey, hey. What's wrong, princess?"

    Su Chan shook her head. "I'm just so happy and..." Suddenly, Su Chan looked up at him tentatively. "Aren't you afraid of me?"

    Li Yundong sighed inwardly, then smiled. Looks like it's gonna take a long, long time to convince her that I don't really care. "Nope. I'm not afraid. And I don't get scared that easily."

    "But I'm a fox spirit. People see my kind as demons."

    Li Yundong shrugged. "So?"

    "So—" Su Chan gaped, looking adorably baffled. "You do know what a demon means, right? Oh, you know, those vile and evil creatures that—"

    "But you don't kill people at random," Li Yundong said in a firm tone. "In fact, it's the opposite. You even helped save lives. Look, let me make something clear. Labels don't mean shit." Li Yundong shook his head lightly. "I assure you that there are some who are labelled as humans but are pure evil."

    People like He Shao, he added silently.

    "Labels don't mean anything, Su Chan. Only your thoughts and actions count…"

    "But most people hate me!"

    "Well I'm not most people," Li Yundong said pointedly. "And I happen to love you, so..."

    Su Chan's lips trembled slightly, after which she let out another sob.

    Li Yundong patted her head. "Come on, stop crying already. It's gonna be alright, I promise."

    Su Chan bobbed her head. "Mmm!"

    Suddenly, Li Yundong lips curved into a smile. "Hey... I also have a secret to tell you."

    Su Chan raised her gaze and blinked those huge, watery eyes at him. "Hmm?"

    Li Yundong's heart might have just melted a little. He cleared his throat. "Come closer and I'll tell you."

    Su Chan brought her face closer like an obedient little girl.

    "You have snot all over your face..." he whispered into her ear.

    "Kya!! Really? Oh my god!"

    The next thing that happened took him by complete surprise. Su Chan yanked the front of his shirt and then used it as some kind of face towel. Li Yundong struggled not to laugh. A moment later, Su Chan released his shirt and started patting her face violently.

    "Is it still there..." She glanced around frantically as though she was looking for something.

    "Umm… You've actually made it worse..." Li Yundong said with a straight face.

    However, when Li Yundong saw the horrified look on Su Chan's face, he couldn't hold back his laughter anymore. "I was messing with you, geez!"

    Su Chan gaped at him for a moment. "Meanie, meanie, meanie!" She slapped his chest. "I thought I looked ugly and terrible and—"

    Li Yundong trapped her hand against his chest and smiled. "You don't look ugly, princess. You look perfect."

    Su Chan blushed and tried to look away, but Li Yundong held her chin and prevented her from turning away. "Now I've got some questions."

    Suddenly, Su Chan's eyes turned wary. "W- What?"

    Li Yundong gave her a reassuring smile. "There's nothing for you to worry about, okay? I won't abandon you... Ever."

    Su Chan sighed. "Okay..."

    "What happened back at the motel?"

    Su Chan hesitated for a few seconds, then said, "I'll tell you everything. But not here. Let's head back to the motel first."

    Li Yundong slapped his forehead. "Oh, shit..."

    "What?"

    Li Yundong ran a hand through his hair. "I didn't tell the driver to wait for me after I paid the cab fare. The guy left already. It's pretty hard to find a cab here." Li Yundong paused in thought. "We'll have to walk out to the main road, and who knows we might get lucky and see one driving by."

    "No. We don't have to do that, silly," Su Chan smiled brightly. "I can fly."

    Li Yundong looked up sharply. "But you'll be carrying me and I'm kinda heavy... Um... Will that be a problem?"

    "Nope! Hehehe..."

    Wow. Okay. He was going to fly. Not by mechanical means, but by magical means. Holy frigging wow.

    "Come on," Su Chan said, tugging Li Yundong's arms.

    Li Yundong frowned in confusion. "Where are we going? I thought we're flying."

    Su Chan led him away from the Space Shuttle towards the amusement park's gates. "It's too open here. People might see us."

    Li Yundong glanced around. The place was pretty much empty at the moment, but Su Chan was right to practice precaution. They'd had too many close calls lately.

    Su Chan led him into a dark alley beside the park.

    "Put your arms around me," Su Chan ordered once they were standing in the alley. "Hug me from behind."

    Li Yundong quickly did as he was told. A moment later, Su Chan turned her head around to look at him.

    "Whatever you do, don't let go of me," she said. "I don't know what I'd do if you fall off..."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Of course I won't let go. I'm not that stupid, you know..."

    Su Chan pouted and turned away from him. "Okay... Ready?"

    "Yep!"

    "Here we go..."

    Li Yundong gasped and closed his eyes instinctively when a burst of green light exploded around them. The wind howled beside his ear, blustering against his face. When he opened his eyes slowly a few seconds later, he saw nothing but darkness in front of him. But then when he glanced lower, he saw tiny dots of light flying past them. Holy shit... They were God knows how many feet above the city.

    "Hang on! We're almost there!" Su Chan voice sounded amidst the wind. A second later, he felt a sharp dip, like they were taking a deep plunge. Li Yundong hugged Su Chan's body tighter. Green light blinded his vision. A moment later, the wind stopped blowing. When he opened his eyes, they were hovering above the balcony of their motel room.

    "We're here," Su Chan said.

    Slowly, they descended onto the balcony until their feet touch the floor.

    Li Yundong unwrapped his arms around Su Chan's waist and stared at Su Chan for several seconds. "You have got to teach me that."

    ***

    "So. Ready to tell me what happened?" Li Yundong asked once they got settled on the bed.

    "I had to remove my Vital Orb from my body," Su Chan said.

    "Vital Orb? Wait, is that the thing that caused the room to glow?"

    Su Chan nodded. "I had no choice. That was the quickest way to remove the Divine Aura from my body. I knew I wouldn't survive if the Divine Aura stayed in my body for too long."

    Li Yundong sighed and drew her into a hug. "I'm glad you're okay." He went quiet for a few seconds, pondering his next question. "Is that why you changed into…" He cleared his throat. "I mean is that why your tail came out?"

    "It takes a lot of magical power to maintain my human form. And the Vital Orb is like a reservoir inside the body that stores magical powers. So if I take it out…"

    "Your body will eventually run out of magical powers?"

    Su Chan nodded. "I tried to work as quickly as possible before my magical powers are depleted. But I was too late. I couldn't..." Su Chan stole a tentative glance at him. "I couldn't maintain my... my human form."

    Li Yundong rubbed her back gently. "For what it's worth, it wasn't so bad. I mean, other than your fluffy tail—which looked super cute by the way—you looked pretty much the same."

    Su Chan suddenly withdrew from their hug. She slid away to the edge of the bed, then hugged her knees. She looked like a frightened child.

    "Hey... What's—"

    "That wasn't my true form... Not even close."

    "Okay... So you're saying you can actually transform into a fox?"

    Su Chan hugged her knees tighter and nodded weakly. "D- Do you feel disgusted now?"

    Li Yundong yanked Su Chan back into his arms. "No, silly. I told you already that I don't care about that. And besides..." Li Yundong caressed her shapely butt. "I kinda like your human form."

    Su Chan moaned at his touch. "No... Stop touching me there, Yundong..." she said breathily. "I- I can't..." She moaned again.

    Li Yundong jerked his hand away. "S- Sorry..." He cleared his throat. "You forgot again."

    Su Chan looked thoroughly puzzled. "About what?"

    "I told you to... you know... kick me in the nuts if I try to touch you again."

    There was a moment of silence. Then, Su Chan burst into giggles.

    Li Yundong pinched her nose. "Stop laughing," he growled playfully. "You have no idea how hard it is not to touch you."

    Su Chan removed his hand from her nose, then laced their fingers together. "I really don't mind giving myself to you, beloved. But not until you've passed the Zhuji phase."

    Li Yundong smiled and lifted their joined hands. "I know," he said, dropping a light kiss onto the back of her hand.

    Su Chan sighed and snuggled into his chest, causing their thighs to rub against each other.

    Dang. This no-touching policy was a lot harder than he thought.

    Li Yundong cleared his throat harshly.

    "So… Um… Where's your tail now?"

    "After I flew off, I hid myself away." Su Chan scratched the fabric of his shirt. "Once I recovered enough of my magical powers, I transformed into my human form again."

    "I see..." There was a pause, then a curious thought hit him. "Is that why you ran? Because I saw your tail?"

    "Even after I reabsorbed my Vital Orb, I didn't have enough magical powers to maintain my human form. My tail appeared and… and I didn't know what else might appear, so... so I left..."

    Li Yundong sighed. "Don't do that again, okay? I was trying to tell you that I didn't mind. But then you just flew off..."

    "S- Sorry... I panicked."

    Li Yundong smiled. "It's okay. Just know that I really don't mind."

    The relief on Su Chan's face was palpable. She nodded. "Mmm..."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "Seriously though..." He gave Su Chan a sidelong glance. "I do find your tail cute. It's so fluffy and bushy..."

    Li Yundong laughed out loud when he saw the look on Su Chan's face, which was as red as a tomato.

    "S- Shut up..." Su Chan mumbled. "And... And..."

    Li Yundong laughed again. "What?"

    "It isn't... It isn't my only tail!"

    Li Yundong nearly fell off the bed. "What? You mean you have more than one tail?!"

    Su Chan's tentative expression made her look like a frightened puppy. She nodded slowly.

    Li Yundong glanced down at her curvaceous booty. "Um... How many?"

    Su Chan held up three fingers.

    "Three tails..." Li Yundong leaned back and tried to picture it in his head. Nope. He couldn't come up with a good picture. "Wait... How many tails do fox spirits have?"

    "Well... In our strongest physical form, we have nine tails..."

    "You mean the stronger you are, the more tails you have?"

    Su Chan nodded. "In humans, having large muscles is a sign of physical strength. But in fox spirits, physical strength depends on the number of tails we have. Nine is the most number of tails we can get."

    Another thought occurred to Li Yundong. "So if you consumed the Renyuan Jindan... You would get nine tails?"

    Su Chan shook her head. "Six. But it's also possible to enhance our physical form through Cultivation..."

    A pang of guilt speared through Li Yundong. "I'm sorry, Su Chan." He sighed. "If I didn't end up with the Jindan, you would've been a six-tailed fox spirit by now..."

    Su Chan snuggled up to him. "Yundong... I don't care about that anymore. Even though I'm a lowly three-tailed fox spirit, I know I can be happy."

    Li Yundong frowned. "Are you sure?"

    "Mmm!" Su Chan nodded enthusiastically.

    "But how can you be sure? I mean you went through so much trouble to steal it. You even told me you nearly died in the process—"

    "Because I have you."

    Li Yundong stopped talking and stared at her.

    Certainty filled Su Chan's eyes when she nodded. "I'm sure because I know you'll always be there by my side. Power doesn't make me happy, Yundong. You do."

    Something wet slid down Li Yundong's cheek. It took him a second to realize that it was his own tears. Su Chan's face became a blur, and he had to bit his lip to stop himself from sobbing. He drew Su Chan tightly against him, pressing his chin on the top of her head. More tears fell, but he forced himself to speak anyways. "Thank you, Su Chan. You're the best thing that happened to me. Never forget that."

    "Mmm!"

    "A- And... I'll w- work hard to become stronger." Li Yundong's voice cracked a little. "W- We can help make each other stronger. You can help me become a Cultivator while I help you become a nine-tailed fox. How about that, huh?" Li Yundong cleared his throat.

    There was a moment of silence.

    "S- Su Chan?"

    "I heard you..." Su Chan sighed. "I don't think it's possible for me to reach a nine-tailed fox form through Cultivation alone. I don't think I have the talent..."

    Li Yundong sniffed loudly. "What? That's ridiculous! Have you seen the stuff you did? You're a total badass! I mean just look at the way you—"

    "There are only two known fox spirits who had achieved the nine-tailed fox form. The founder of the Fox Zen School, and also the Mystical Silver Fox."

    "So what? You'll get there one there." Li Yundong wiped his cheeks with his sleeve.

    "I doubt it, Yundong." The dejection he heard in Su Chan's voice brought a sharp pang to his chest. Then, her tone turned cheery again. "But it's okay, hehehe! Nobody will dare bully me once they know that I'm the great Li Yundong's lover!"

    Li Yundong chuckled a few times before his expression turned somber. He patted Su Chan's shoulder and turned her around so that they were looking into each other's eyes. "I promise you I'll work hard, Su Chan. And then we can become stronger together," Li Yundong stated firmly. "Nobody's leaving anybody behind, okay? We're both in this together. Am I clear?"

    Su Chan smiled, then bobbed her head up and down. "Mmm!"

    "I think it's time, Su Chan" Li Yundong took a deep breath and looked straight into her eyes. "Help me pass the Zhuji phase."

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  • Chapter 136 Preparations Part 1

    "Aren't we supposed to leave the windows and curtains open?" Li Yundong asked. Su Chan had been bustling about their motel room, closing windows and drawing the curtains shut. "I mean, that's what we did when we were training at home, right?"

    "Not this time," Su Chan answered distractedly. She was now floating in the air a few feet above the floor, checking the ventilator for God knows what. "This time you really can't afford any outside interruptions." Su Chan's body floated towards another corner of the room. "Each person only has two attempts to complete the Zhuji phase."

    A sinking feeling formed inside his stomach. "What? Only two?"

    Su Chan seemed to have detected the undertone of distress in his voice. She paused what she was doing and floated back to him. "Yeah. That's why I need to do everything I can to increase your chances of success."

    Two attempts. Which means he'd never become a true Cultivator if he screwed up both attempts. Damn.

    Li Yundong took a deep breath, then nodded resolutely. "Two attempts. Alright. Got it. Tell me what I have to do."

    Su Chan opened her mouth, but then closed it a moment later. Before he could ask her what was wrong, she turned around and ran towards the door.

    A wave of fear coursed through Li Yundong.

    "Hey! Where are you goin—"

    Li Yundong was cut off by the sound of the door opening. Li Yundong leaned over the edge of the bed and glanced towards the doorway.

    Su Chan was hanging the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door knob.

    Li Yundong sighed in relief. Okay. She wasn't running again. Thank f*ck.

    Su Chan shut the door and walked back towards him. Outside the bathroom, she suddenly came to a halt, her eyes wide as though she'd just remembered something important. She turned around and went into the bathroom.

    Minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom with a wooden stool, which she placed in his hands.

    Li Yundong gave her a strange look. "Umm... What's this for?"

    Su Chan was busy looking for something in their luggage. "Help me break off one of its legs."

    Li Yundong stared down at the stool. "Seriously?"

    "Just do it," Su Chan said, zipping up the luggage. In her hand was a booklet whose cover was filled with strange drawings and patterns.

    Li Yundong wrapped his fingers around one of the legs of the stool, then gave it a sharp bend, wincing at the loud snap that followed. There goes another few hundred yuan from his miserable—and negative—bank account.

    Su Chan took the broken leg from him and then glanced around the room. "Yundong... Did you see the— Oh, there it is."

    Following Su Chan's line of sight, Li Yundong realized that she was looking at the nightstand.

    "What?" he asked.

    Instead of answering, Su Chan padded over to the nightstand and grabbed the ashtray. She then placed the ashtray on the floor and lowered herself into a crouch. After that, she held out her hand with her palm facing the ceiling.

    Li Yundong watched with curiosity and awe as Su Chan began muttering a strange incantation under her breath. By the time she was done, the air on top of her palm combusted—holy f*cking shit!—into a tiny ball of flame.

    Su Chan brought the wooden piece over the flame. The wood caught fire instantly and, after a minute or so, burned to ashes.

    Su Chan collected the ashes and soot in the ashtray and rose to her feet. She then carried the ashtray towards the window and set it down on the ledge. She opened her booklet and flipped through a couple of pages before setting it down on the ledge beside the ashtray. Then, she dipped her index finger into the ashtray and began to draw a bunch of weird symbols on the window pane.

    Li Yundong frowned in confusion. "What are you doing?"

    "Casting a spell," Su Chan said, moving away from the window towards the door.

    "Yeah well, obviously you're casting a spell," he muttered under his breath. What he wanted to know was what the spell was for.

    Su Chan opened the door and, again, drew a bunch of symbols on it. After a while, Su Chan closed the door and then placed the ashtray back onto the nightstand. She walked back towards the center of the room where she stood with her eyes closed.

    Her lips started to move. Seconds later, there was a blinding flash of green light followed by a deafening silence, which permeated the entire motel room. The sounds from the city... and the rowdy crowd at the bar downstairs… they were all gone. It was as though a mute button had been pressed.

    "What in the world…?" Li Yundong whispered in awe.

    "That's an isolation spell," Su Chan said. "An invisible barrier that connects the symbols I've just drawn. No sound from outside the barrier can reach the space within the barrier and vice versa."

    Li Yundong stared at Su Chan for a few moments, then started to laugh.

    "What?" Su Chan asked.

    Li Yundong shook his head in amusement. "You know you could've done this a long time ago, right? We didn't even have to use the pen and pad to talk about the Jindan, for God's sake."

    A cute blush bloomed on Su Chan's cheeks. "You weren't exposed to magic back then. So I... I didn't want to scare you off."

    "How many spells do you know anyway?" Li Yundong said in awe. "Like, you know how to fly, generate fire, form protective spells, and now this thing?" He gestured around the room. "That's a lot of spells."

    "Hehehe... Well... That's the thing about us from the Fox Zen School. Most of us know a lot of spells, but only a few of us are true experts in the spells we know."

    "The Fox Zen School, huh?" Li Yundong chuckled a few times, then shot Su Chan a playful glare. "The first time you told me about your school, you told me it's called the Zen School."

    Su Chan's blush took a deeper shade of red. "S- S- Sorry..."

    Li Yundong laughed. "It's okay. So. I'm guessing your master is one of the few who are experts in a lot of spells?"

    "Hmm... Well, yeah... I guess you could say that?"

    Li Yundong gave her a look of amusement. "You don't sound sure at all."

    "My master is a seven-tailed fox spirit who knows 18 types of major spells and 36 types of minor spells. Although she is considered an expert in all the spells she knows, she often complained to me that she wasn't a true master in all those spells..." Su Chan trailed off with a vacant look on her face. Moments later, the cloud in her eyes cleared and she suddenly gave him a hopeful look. "Yundong... Maybe the Fox Zen School will thrive again under your leadership."

    Li Yundong chuckled. "How am I supposed to lead the Fox Zen School if I'm not even a fox spirit? I don't think your people will accept a mere human as their leader."

    Su Chan deflated. "Hmm... I guess that's true..." She poked her chin with a finger and thought for a moment. "Maybe you should start your own school..."

    Li Yundong smiled and held up his hand. "O...kay. I think we're getting way ahead of ourselves here. I haven't even passed the Zhuji phase yet." He sighed. "Besides, I don't think it's that easy to start my own school."

    "Hehehe!" Su Chan threw her arms around his neck. "But I have faith in you!"

    Li Yundong wrapped his arms around her waist and studied her face. There, within the depth of his eyes, he saw her conviction behind her words. He nodded. "What do I need to do?"

    ***

    Li Yundong knew right then and there that this would be the first—of many—pivotal moments in his life. He held Su Chan's gaze as though it was his lifeline. He knew that whatever Su Chan was about to tell him was important, and he didn't want to miss a single word of it.

    "The Zhuji phase isn't like the early phases of Cultivation. In the early phases, you can go through each dan separately," Su Chan said.

    Li Yundong leaned forward slightly. "Okay?"

    Su Chan nodded. "But to pass the Zhuji phase, you need to go through all the stages successively until you complete the final stage. And all that has to be done in a single meditative session without any breaks or interruptions." Su Chan gave him a pointed look. "Everyone is given only two attempts in their lifetime to pass the Zhuji phase."

    The room fell silent as they stared at each other. For the first time since his Cultivation journey began, Li Yundong could feel a huge weight resting on his shoulders. He took a deep breath and then released it. "Got it, princess."

    "Okay. Now let's go through the theory behind the Zhuji phase." Su Chan got comfortable on the bed. "The whole idea behind the Zhuji phase is to use your body's Essence, Qi, and Spirit to form your Vital Orb."

    "The Vital Orb… That's the thing you took out from your body just now, right? The one that made the whole room glow?"

    "Yes," Su Chan said with a faraway look in her eyes. "Anyone who passed the Zhuji phase has a Vital Orb." Su Chan's eyes snapped to his. "The Vital Orb is important for two reasons. One, it is the source of your magical power. And two, it helps keep your Qi secured inside your body and prevent other people from stealing it."

    Li Yundong nodded a few times. "Okay. Understood."

    "Good. Now let me walk you through the steps."

    Li Yundong found himself sitting up straighter.

    "The first step, obviously, is to go into a meditative state." Su Chan paused for a moment. "Oh, wait. Before you even begin, you need to know a special breathing technique."

    There was a moment of pause, as though Su Chan was checking to see if she had Li Yundong's full attention. "Always breath through your nose," Su Chan continued. "And when you breathe, remember this tip. Blind the eyes, deafen the ears, empty the mind, and be one with your breath."

    "Be one with my breath?"

    Su Chan nodded. "You need to reach a point where you let your breath take its own course. In other words, you have to be breathing through your nose subconsciously. And, obviously, this breathing technique has to be sustained throughout the entire session. Anyway, once you can perform the breathing technique subconsciously, your Yuanyang will start moving automatically and then flow into your upper Dantian." Su Chan gave him a pointed look. "If you think about it, this is just the—"

    "The Convergence of Five Qis," Li Yundong cut in, nodding. "Because the Yuanyang is moving, it draws out the Qis of the five Zangs."

    Su Chan smiled. "Yes. And don't forget what happens when your Qi reaches the top of your head—the Baihui."

    "I'll be wearing the crown of three flowers." Li Yundong shot a glance at Su Chan. "Just like during the massage you gave me."

    Su Chan's smile widened. "Exactly. The Zhuji phase involves a lot of things. One, all types of Qis in your body, including those of your five Zangs. Two, your Spirit. And three, your Essence. Which is why you need to converge the Five Qis and wear the crown of three flowers simultaneously and sustain it throughout the process."

    "Okay. So what's next?"

    "You just have to sustain the whole process until your Vital Orb forms."

    "Just like that?"

    "But..." Li Yundong laughed in disbelief. "But it sounds so easy. It's like I'll just sleeping and waiting for the process to complete."

    Su Chan held up her palm. "No beloved. You won't be sleeping during the process." She gave him a pointed look. "You'll be inside your Spirit Space the whole time until your Vital Orb is fully formed."

    "So I have to perform Guanxiang again?"

    Su Chan gave him a serious look. "You'll have to meet your personal god again."

    "You mean the one with three faces and six arms?" Li Yundong frowned slightly. "But I nearly let it consume me last time."

    Su Chan nodded grimly. "Yeah. And it's going to be even more dangerous this time..."


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  • Chapter 136 Preparations Part 2

    Li Yundong's heart grew heavier. "Even more dangerous?"

    Su Chan nodded. "Because this time, you'll be spending a much longer time inside your Spirit Space."

    Li Yundong pondered Su Chan's words for a moment.

    "Because the Vital Orb takes a while to form?"

    "Mmm. And you'll achieve and sustain Ishvara through the whole time."

    Li Yundong released a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. "Which means..."

    "Which means it's the final dan of the Ningshen phase all over again. Just that you have to sustain it for a much longer period of time."

    "But I did it before, right?" Li Yundong said in a hopeful tone.

    "It'll be different this time," Su Chan said with a shake of her head. "Like I said, you not only have to achieve Ishvara, but also sustain that state throughout the entire process." Su Chan glanced at him. "Do you still remember what happened the other day when you passed the Ningshen phase?"

    Li Yundong stared at the ceiling and sifted through his memory. "I got trapped for a while, but then something pulled me out and I woke up."

    "That's right. That day, you woke up from your meditative state as soon as you conquered your personal god and achieved Ishvara. But this time, you have to stay inside your Spirit Space and remain in control of your personal god until the formation of your Vital Orb is complete." Su Chan sighed. "And there'll be temptations."

    "Temptations?"

    Su Chan sighed. "Temptations, tricks, illusions, whatever you want to call it. Their sole purpose is to make you lose track of reality. And if you do, your personal god will regain control over your Spirit."

    "But..." Li Yundong frowned. "Can't I just take back control?"

    "No." Su Chan shook her head firmly. "The moment your personal god reclaims control, your Ishvara would be broken. And if that happens before the formation of your Vital Orb is complete, you would not only fail to pass the Zhuji phase, but you'd also be trapped inside your Spirit Space and lose your soul."

    Silence permeated the room. Li Yundong replayed Su Chan's words over and over again.

    "No room for error…" he whispered. Could he do it? Could he overcome the challenge?

    A touch on his chest brought him out of his thoughts. When he looked up, Su Chan was kneeling in front of him with her palm over his heart.

    "I- I'm sorry, Yundong..." Su Chan lowered her gaze. "I didn't mean to scare you. I just... I…"

    Li Yundong pulled her forward until her face fit snugly against his chest. When he felt her hair tickling the underside of his jaw, he breathed in deep and inhaled a lungful of her scent.

    "It's alright, princess. I'm gonna be fine."

    Su Chan said nothing for a while, though Li Yundong could tell that her mind was occupied.

    Li Yundong rubbed her back gently. "You're still worried, aren't you?"

    Su Chan pulled back and looked at him. "Aren't you?"

    Li Yundong sighed. "A little bit, I guess?" He smiled. "But I feel safe knowing that you'll be watching my back."

    Su Chan's lips quivered. A moment later, she threw her arms around him. "I'll watch over you! I promise! I won't let anything happen to you!"

    Li Yundong smiled. "Thanks, princess. That's all I need."

    Su Chan pulled back, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand. "Sit properly."

    Li Yundong obeyed and got into a meditative posture. Once Li Yundong got settled, Su Chan climbed towards him and kneeled in front of him. Then, she started patting his face with her palms.

    "What are you doing?"

    Su Chan rubbed his temples with his palm with a circular motion. "Improving your chances of success," she answered in a heartbeat.

    Minutes later, Su Chan shifted her position.

    "Now close your eyes," she said.

    Li Yundong obeyed without question. Seconds later, he felt Su Chan's hands pressing into his ear. There was also a light pressure—was it her index fingers? Or maybe her middle fingers?—onto the back of his head. Suddenly, he heard a subtle pounding inside his ears, as though someone was playing drums inside his head.

    "This technique is called the Heavenly Drum." Su Chan's voice sounded amidst the pounding.

    Li Yundong smiled. I guess the name fits…

    A while later, the pounding inside his ears stopped. "Keep your eyes closed," Su Chan said.

    Li Yundong could feel Su Chan shifting about on the bed.

    Something warm touched his eye lids. Golden light filled his vision even though his eyes were shut. "Umm... What's going on?"

    "Relax..." Su Chan said. "This is another massage technique called the Channeling Vision."

    Li Yundong sighed. "Whatever it is, it feels good."

    Su Chan kept working on his eyes. "Try opening your mouth and then clack your teeth together. Gently, not too hard. Do it 36 times. It will help wake up your Kidney's Qi."

    Li Yundong did as he was told and clacked his teeth together once every second.

    "Done?" Li Yundong asked when Su Chan removed her hands from his eyes.

    "Not yet," Su Chan said.

    Li Yundong groaned when Su Chan's fingers slid down from the bridge of his nose along the two sides of his nose.

    "God..." Li Yundong sighed. "And what's this one for?"

    Su Chan kept applying pressure along the two sides of his nose. "This one is to activate the Qi of your Lung."

    The sensation on the sides of his nose ended all too soon. When Su Chan's hair tickled the back of his neck, Li Yundong realized that she had shifted once again and taken up spot behind him. Next thing he knew, Su Chan was pushing her knuckles into the two sides of his lower back.

    "How does that feel?"

    "Good," Li Yundong groaned.

    "You should experience a warm sensation around your waist. It will feel like some kind of force is pushing out from waist, like your waist is swollen."

    "Yeah, well, my waist isn't the only thing that's hot and swollen..." Li Yundong muttered under his breath.

    Su Chan kept working instead of answering. Either she hadn't heard him or she'd chosen to ignore his remark.

    A while later, Su Chan's arms snaked along his waist to the front of his body. Li Yundong glanced down to see what she was trying to do. Her fingers were interlocked with her left hand lying on top of the right. She adjusted the position of her hands until her right palm was pressing against his sternum, then she began to massage his sternum in a circular motion. After about ten times or so, she switched hands and did the same thing.

    "Now give me your foot," Su Chan said.

    Li Yundong opened his eyes and saw that Su Chan had gotten off the bed and was now kneeling beside the bed.

    Li Yundong complied and stretched his right foot towards her. Su Chan took his foot and massaged a spot on the arch of his foot.

    "And the other one also," Su Chan said after a while.

    "Okay..." Li Yundong said, shifting his position on the bed before stretching his left leg out.

    The massage ended after a while. Su Chan stood up and rubbed her hands together. "Okay," she said, staring deep into his eyes. "Now you're ready for the Zhuji phase."

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  • Chapter 137 The Fine Line Between Reality and an Illusion

    Ishvara wasn't that difficult to achieve this time around. Li Yundong managed to gain control of his three-faced, six-armed personal god in just a short time after he entered his Spirit Space. Why had it seemed to difficult the first time he did it?

    The only reason he could come up with was that he was much more aware this time around; he would no longer be swayed by the illusion of omnipotence that came with his interaction with his personal god.

    Now he just had to sustain Ishvara until the formation of his Vital Orb was complete. He wondered how long the process would take.

    Li Yundong took stock of his Spirit Space, which seemed like a boundless ocean of thick clouds. He glanced down at himself, at the six arms that were now his to command. This was only the second time he'd taken control over his personal god's body, so the whole experience still felt kind of weird.

    Li Yundong raised one of his arms. There was a loud rumble and the clouds shifted in response to his movement.

    Hey... Isn't that...?

    Fascinated by what he saw, Li Yundong waved his arm harder. Bolts of lightning streaked across his Spirit Space, and the clouds continued to roil until they eventually parted.

    Whoa...

    His Spirit Space wasn't comprised of just clouds; there was a ground too. More bolts of lightning darted around him. The bolts struck down on the ground beneath the clouds, but strangely. For some strange reason, none of the bolts seemed to be able to touch him. The bolts swirled around him as though he was protected by some sort of barrier.

    Hmm... What if I...

    Li Yundong raised his hand, then pointed a finger at a spot on the ground. A blinding flash of light lit up his Spirit Space. A loud thunderclap followed suit. A huge bolt of lightning struck the spot on the ground he was pointing at, causing a series of cracks and explosions.

    A while later, Li Yundong found himself staring at the charred spot on the ground beneath him, stunned by the amount of destruction he could bring with literally just a finger.

    He suddenly wondered if he could do that in real life—

    A burst of white light filled his vision the moment that thought crossed his mind. Li Yundong shut his eyes and used his arms to shield himself from the blinding light. Seconds later, he opened his eyes and slowly lowered his arms.

    What the...

    He was no longer inside his Spirit Space—the clouds, lightning, and the charred ground were gone. Instead, he found himself standing in the middle of a banquet hall...

    Hey… Wait a minute.

    He recognized this place. No. He didn't just recognized the place; he recognized this event. It was Zhou Qin's birthday party.

    "You're a nobody!"

    Li Yundong turned around sharply and found himself face to face with He Shao.

    "You're nothing!" He Shao pointed his finger at Li Yundong's nose. "How dare you try to take my woman from me! You listen well, pathetic loser. Zhou Qin is my woman. Mine! And I'll destroy you if you dare touch her!"

    Destroy me? We'll see who's the one getting destroyed in the end!

    Li Yundong raised his hand and, in a blink of an eye, they were both transported from the banquet hall onto an open ground. Take this, you scum! Li Yundong pointed his index finger at He Shao. Bolts of lightning descended from the sky. He Shao's scream only lasted for a second as his body disintegrated almost instantly. There was nothing left of He Shao, nothing except ashes.

    A derisive laugh sounded. Who the hell...? Li Yundong turned around with a growl.

    Liu Chuan stood there, looking at him snidely. "You can kill him, but you can't kill all of us!"

    "Oh, yeah. There are so many of us in this world!" Another voice sounded from his right. "You'll never get rid of people like us! Never!"

    Li Yundong turned right and saw Zhao Yujian.

    There was another laugh, this time coming from his left. Li Yundong swiveled his head.

    "Xie Fei…" Li Yundong growled.

    Xie Fei was smirking at him. "You killed He Shao because… what? Because he told the truth. You are a pathetic loser. A nobody."

    Li Yundong could feel his body trembling in anger. "Do you all want to die!!!" Green light emanated from his body as electricity trickled along his—six—arms.

    A pleading voice sounded just as Li Yundong was about to start summoning lighting. "Stop it, Li Yundong! It's wrong to commit murder! It's against the law!"

    Zhou Qin? Li Yundong let out a derisive snort.

    "The law," he said snidely. "Does the law bring justice?" He laughed. "No! The law is full of holes. It's a breeding ground for corruption! It'll never be able to deliver true justice." Li Yundong turned away from Zhou Qin. "I'm the only path to justice! I'm the one who's going to deliver justice! And I'm gonna start with wiping these vile creatures off the face of the earth!" Li Yundong raised his hand again.

    "Let them go! Please!" Li Yundong's hand stilled in mid-air.

    Feng Na. He turned around and saw both Feng Na and Cheng Cheng giving him pleading looks.

    "Don't do this, Li Yundong! They aren't worth it!" Cheng Cheng shouted.

    Li Yundong released a bestial roar, one that shook his surroundings.

    "Wake up!" he yelled. "Look at these people!" He pointed at Liu Chuan and the others. "Are they showing any signs of remorse? Of repentance? They had many chances to repent, but again and again, they chose to stray from the path of good. They chose evil! They are evil!" Li Yundong swung his arms harshly. Blinding flashes permeated the sky followed by the loud rumbling of thunder. "Enough is enough! I'm going to end them once and for all!"

    "No!!! Don't!!!"

    Li Yundong let his arms drop. That voice… That was the voice of an angel. His angel.

    "This is the work of your inner demon! Fight back! Don't let it control you!"

    Li Yundong's anger vanished the moment he saw Su Chan's figure. The electricity coursing through his arms disappeared, and his body stopped glowing.

    "Are you here to stop me too?" he asked weakly.

    Su Chan approached him slowly. Somehow, his heart fluttered with each step she took. Her eyes, though... Those eyes were so bright and clear. He could really lose himself in her eyes.

    "I'm not here to stop you," she said with a gentle tone. "I'm just here to remind you about the promise we made to each other..."

    "P- Promise?"

    Su Chan nodded. "You promised you'd never leave me, remember? You promised me that you'd never abandon me…" Tears welled in Su Chan's large eyes.

    "Of course I won't abandon you. I will never—"

    "Then you need to stop this madness. Murder is one of many mortal sins. Don't let it control you. Fight your inner demons!"

    Fight my inner demons... Fight... Fight!

    His surroundings shattered, leaving only darkness behind.

    The first thing he felt was the movement of his eyelids. His eyelids were fluttering; he was blinking. Seconds later, the motel room came into view. Su Chan was sitting right in front of him with a huge grin on her face.

    "Yayyyy!!!! You've passed the Zhuji phase, beloved!"

    Li Yundong stared at Su Chan for a moment. "What? I did it? So soon?"

    Su Chan's grin widened and she bobbed her head harder. Then, she crawled forward and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Of course! That's because you're a genius, beloved!"

    Li Yundong stared down at the woman in his arms and inhaled her tantalizing scent. They were so close to each other that her breath was tickling his neck. The grin on Su Chan's face slowly dwindled. Li Yundong stared into her eyes and noted the widening of her pupils. His hand rose to cup her cheek. "Su Chan..." he whispered.

    Su Chan's lips parted as she licked her lips. He'd been waiting for this moment for God, so long. And now he could finally do what his mind, body, and soul desired.

    Su Chan moaned the moment their lips met. That voice... God, so throaty and sexy, lit a fire inside Li Yundong. He released a low growl and pushed Su Chan down onto the bed.

    "I'm going to make you feel so good tonight, my princess..."

    ***

    Su Chan paced the room anxiously. Oh, Tao. What do I do now? What do I do? Two days had gone by since Yundong went into meditative state. Things had been going well until an hour ago when Su Chan first noticed the bulge in Yundong's pants.

    Su Chan stopped pacing and kneeled down in front of Yundong. The bulge between his legs was still there. Worst, the bulge was twitching. Su Chan's face went pale as horror filled her heart. This is bad... If he ejaculates now...

    Su Chan sprang to her feet and continued pacing. She had to do something. Come on, Chan'er... Think! Su Chan stopped moving and turned around abruptly. The orb-shaped glow inside Yundong's chest was still there, which meant that the formation of his Vital Orb was still ongoing. But the problem was that Yundong's Spirit...

    Wait, what if I... Argh! No! It's too dangerous! Her master had warned her countless times never to disturb or disrupt a person when they are trying to pass the Zhuji phase.

    But... Yundong…

    She shot a worried glance at Yundong. She studied his face, which had morphed into an expression of lust.  

    No. She had to do something. She couldn't just sit around and let Yundong lose his soul. To hell with her own safety.

    Gritting her teeth, Su Chan approached Yundong carefully. She palmed the top of Yundong's head—his Baihui—with her left hand, then poked her right index finger into Yundong's Lingtai.

    Yundong's powerful Yang Qi flowed into Su Chan's body almost instantly, drawing a gasp from her lips. Su Chan bit her lip and pushed her Yin Qi into Yundong's body. Once her Yin Qi mixed with the Yang Qi inside Yundong's body, harmony would occur, and Yundong would be fine…

    She just had to hang on long enough for it to work... Hold on, Chan'er... Hold—

    Su Chan's legs go weak. The room tilted sideways and she felt a sharp pain in the side of her head a second later. Dark spots formed in her vision. She tried her best to blink them away, but everything was quickly turning into a blur. Yundong's Yang Qi was too powerful. She couldn't hold on. This was bad. Had she channeled enough of her Yin Qi into Yundong? Had she done enough?

    Through her haze, she could make out the outlines of Yundong's body. He was still sitting unmovingly in a meditative posture. Oh, no… This was it. This was the end. They were both screwed.

    Su Chan's eyelids suddenly felt immensely heavy. "Help... Master..." she whispered. "Help… us…"

    Everything went dark.


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  • Chapter 138 Let's All Go Look for Him Together!

    Yin Mengfan hung up the phone and reached for her car keys on her desk. The door of her office burst open as soon as she rose from her chair. She glanced up sharply and saw Shen Hui sauntering into her office. Yin Mengfan sighed inwardly. What is she doing here again…

    "Going somewhere, cuz?" Shen Hui said in a cheery tone.

    Hello? Isn't it obvious? Yin Mengfan resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Instead, she smiled. "Yep. Heading out to meet someone." Yin Mengfan paused to study the young woman standing in front of her desk. "It's your summer holidays, right? How come you're so free? I thought Uncle Shen would've assigned you to some odd tasks by now?"

    Shen Hui curled her lips in disdain. "As if he has time for me." Shen Hui rolled her eyes. "He's already gotten his hands full with his many mistresses."

    "Tsk! Hush!" Yin Mengfan raised her hand to feign a slap. "Don't talk about your father like that."

    Shen Hui scrambled back a step and made a face at Yin Mengfan. "I was just telling the truth!" Shen Hui fired back. "You know as well I do the ways of that disgusting and narcissistic old man." Shen Hui laughed bitterly. "You should drop by my house some time. That way you can check out the huge parade of women he had inside the house." Shen Hui snorted. "It's like he's a feudal lord or something. Just thinking about it makes me wanna puke. Eugh!"

    Yin Mengfan shook her head and sighed. "Well. I guess Uncle Shen's promiscuity is his only flaw..."

    Yin Mengfan could already imagine the inheritance war in the future, when his children—and there would probably be a lot of them what with the number of women Uncle Shen had slept with—fought tooth and nail for his assets.

    It wasn't rocket science to know that this wasn't going to end well.

    After a moment, Yin Mengfan snapped herself out of her gloomy thoughts. "Well, I'm heading out," she said. "You're welcome to hang out in the building while I'm out. Just don't cause any trouble. I'll be back soon, though."

    Yin Mengfan walked around her desk and headed for the door.

    "Wait!" Shen Hui yelled. A moment later, Yin Mengfan felt a weight pulling on her right arm. She turned and saw Shen Hui clinging tightly onto her arm. The fawning smile on Shen Hui's face meant that she was up to something.

    Yin Mengfan sighed. "What?"

    "Can I tag along? Please? I'm so bored..." Shen Hui batted her lashes.

    Yin Mengfan stared at her younger cousin.

    Shen Hui, the daughter of the great Shen family. Uncle Shen had indeed spoiled Shen Hui rotten. All her life, Shen Hui never really had to work for anything she wanted. If she wanted something, all she had to do was open her mouth, and voila. Uncle Shen would serve it up to her in a silver platter. On the downside, that was also the reason why Shen Hui was so immature and, well, spoiled. She would kick up a fuss and start throwing tantrums the moment things didn't go her way. And when she did kick up a fuss, nobody dared do anything. After all, nobody wanted to get on the Shen family's bad side.

    Yin Mengfan smiled wryly. "I heard your co-mother enrolled you a bunch of classes. Let's see..." Yin Mengfan counted off her fingers. "Piano class. Calligraphy class. Art class. And dance class..." Yin Mengfan gave Shen Hui a pointed look, then raised a brow. "You have so many classes to attend. Why are you even here?"

    Shen Hui's face twisted in contempt. "My co-mother? That bitch? Stop joking around, cuz." She snorted derisively. "She doesn't give a damn about me. All she cares about is her son's future. She's just using me to suck up to the old man. Ever since she gave birth to her son, she wanted the old man to herself! I saw through her schemes ages ago!"

    Yin Mengfan stared at Shen Hui wordlessly, stunned by the younger woman's outburst.

    "Oh, and also," Shen Hui ranted on. "That woman is a wolf in sheep's clothing. And guess what, her son is exactly the same! He might seem like a perfect gentleman from the way he dresses and the way he acts in front of others. But the truth is that he's nothing but an asshole. Do you know how many women got their hearts broken because of him? And that's not even worst part." Shen Hui gave Yin Mengfan a look. "The worst part is that he even tried to get into my pants. My pants. Ugh. Who does that brute thinks he is!"

    Suddenly, Shen Hui's face changed. She turned and gave Yin Mengfan a piteous look. "You're the only person in my family who is nice to me, cuz. And you're genuinely nice to me, not because you have some ulterior motive. And if... if you don't wanna hang out with me, then I've really got no one else to hang out with anymore."

    Yin Mengfan pressed her palm against her forehead and sighed. "Alright, alright... You win... Geez."

    Shen Hui brightened up instantly. "Really? So I can tag along?"

    Yin Mengfan gave Shen Hui a stern look. "On one condition."

    "What?"

    "You must listen to everything I say, you hear me? Watch that mouth of yours. And don't do silly stuff. Is that clear?"

    Shen Hui let out a cheer, then nodded with zest. A moment later, Shen Hui threw her arms around Yin Mengfan. "I knew it! I knew you're the best, cuz!" Shen Hui stepped back and beamed at Yin Mengfan. "But where are we going though? You should tell me. Maybe I can help."

    Yin Mengfan gave Shen Hui a wry smile. "You? Help?" Yin Mengfan rolled her eyes. "Yeah right."

    Shen Hui's face fell. "What? I can help."

    Yin Mengfan sighed. "I'm going to see Li Yundong..."

    "What!" Shen Hui jumped slightly. "Why on earth are you going to see that perverted basta..." Shen Hui gasped. "Don't tell me... Oh my God! So it's true... People are saying that he brought Cao Kefei to an orgasm with a head massage…" Shen Hui pointed a shaky finger at Yin Mengfan. "Y- You are attracted to him, cuz! You wanted him to... to... Oh, I can't believe this! You of all people, cuz! What about the pure and innocent image that you've always maintained? Was all that just an act? Is everyone in the Shen family perverts like—"

    Yin Mengfan's palm connected with Shen Hui's cheeks with a loud smack. Yin Mengfan herself didn't even realize what she'd done until she heard the loud smack and felt the stinging sensation on her palm.

    Yin Mengfan recovered from her shock first.

    "Stop talking nonsense!" Yin Mengfan shouted. "Do you know that what he did that day saved Cao Kefei's life? Cao Kefei! My best friend! Me? A pervert? How could you even say that about me? How could you..." Yin Mengfan slumped back down onto the couch near her desk.

    "I- I'm sorry, cuz... I didn't mean—"

    "It was for Uncle Shen's sake, okay? Li Yundong cured Kefei, so I figured I'd ask him to take a look at Uncle Shen's condition." Yin Mengfan glared at Shen Hui, who'd taken a seat beside her on the couch. "Uncle Shen's birthday is in two months. This is supposed to be my birthday gift for him—a person who can cure his illness!" Yin Mengfan sniffed.

    A guilty look formed on Shen Hui's face. "I'm sorry, cuz... I misunderstood you. I- I was wrong... Forgive me?"

    Yin Mengfan looked away without saying anything.

    "Come on, you know me! Me and my stupid mouth, right? Always saying things without thinking them through first... Here, how about this? Why don't I hit my own stupid mouth..."

    SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! SMACK—

    Yin Mengfan burst into laughter. Shen Hui stopped smacking her mouth and smiled. "Should I hit myself some more?" Shen Hui raised her palm again.

    Yin Mengfan laughed and pulled down Shen Hui's hand. "Enough already, geez." Yin Mengfan studied Shen Hui's cheek, where red fingermarks had already formed. "Does it hurt?"

    Shen Hui grinned. "My skin is super thick, so it's fine! As long as you're not mad at me, of course..."

    Yin Mengfan shook her head helplessly. "I hate you..." she grumbled. "Why do you have to make me cry the moment you see me. Now my makeup is ruined!"

    Shen Hui clung to Yin Mengfan's arm. "You don't need makeup. You're a natural beauty, cuz."

    Yin Mengfan rose from the couch. "Whatever. Now let's go or we're gonna be late, or worse, miss the chance to see him." Yin Mengfan grabbed a napkin from her desk and dabbed her eyes with it. "It took me quite a while to track him down." She tossed the napkin into the dustbin. "I had to ask Zhou Qin for his address."

    Shen Hui snorted. "You asked Zhou Qin for help?"

    "Yeah. And now she's waiting for me at Tiannan University. So let's not keep her waiting, shall we?"

    "Of all the people in the world, why does it have to be him..." Shen Hui grumbled, rising from the couch.

    Yin Mengfan began fixing her makeup. "You weren't there, okay? I saw with my own eyes how he brought Kefei out of a cardiac arrest with just a head massage. He didn't even break a sweat."

    Shen Hui snorted. "I bet it's all an act. I heard he and Cao Kefei went out for drinks after that. Cao Kefei must have helped him put on an act and then receive sexual favors from him in exchange!"

    The makeup kit clacked loudly against the desk when Yin Mengfan slammed it down in anger. "Keep saying stuff like that and I won't be bringing you along with me!"

    Shen Hui jumped slightly. "No, don't! I- I'll shut up. I'll be good! I swear!"

    Yin Mengfan shook her head and retrieved her car keys again. "Hurry up. Let's go."

    ***

    Twenty minutes later, Yin Mengfan's Audi A6 pulled up by the curb near Tiannan University's gates. When Yin Mengfan lowered her window, she saw Zhou Qin having a conversation with two other women beside the gates.

    Yin Mengfan poked her head out. "Zhou Qin!" When Zhou Qin looked over, Yin Mengfan gave her a wave.

    Zhou Qin nodded in greeting, then turned back to address the two women she'd been speaking with. After that, all three women approached the Audi A6 together.

    "So good to see you again, President Yin!" Zhou Qin greeted with a smile.

    Yin Mengfan got out of the car and studied the two women beside Zhou Qin.

    "These are my seniors, Feng Na and Cheng Cheng," Zhou Qin said.

    Yin Mengfan smiled. "Hello. I'm Yin Mengfan, the president of Dongsheng Realtors. It's a pleasure to meet you both." Yin Mengfan shook hands with both women and exchanged a few more pleasantries.

    "I dropped by Li Yundong's apartment this morning," Zhou Qin continued. "But he wasn't there. After that I ran into my seniors, who told me that they know where Li Yundong is. It just so happens that they have business with Li Yundong too. So I figured why not we all go see him together."

    Yin Mengfan smiled. "Sounds good." She jerked her thumb towards her car. "Shall we?"

    Zhou Qin nodded. "I brought my car as well." Zhou Qin looked towards Feng Na and Cheng Cheng. "Do you two mind if we take my ca—"

    The rumbling of an engine cut Zhou Qin off midsentence. A second later, another car—a Lamborghini—pulled up by the curb, stopping right behind Yin Mengfan's car.

    Yin Mengfan stared at the Lamborghini in surprise. Kefei? What is she doing here?

    A moment later, the Lamborghini's door swung open and Kefei stepped out. When Kefei took off her sunglasses, she seemed as surprised as Yin Mengfan felt.

    "President Yin? What are you doing here?"

    Yin Mengfan chuckled. "I could ask you the same thing, President Cao. What are you doing here? I thought you're supposed to be resting."

    Kefei laughed bitterly. "Right. As if I have time to rest when there's so much work to be done... And speaking of work... That brat Li Yundong bailed on me without even completing the assignment I gave him. And now he wasn't even picking up my calls! I've been trying to reach him for two days, geez! So here I am, hoping to find him in Tiannan University."

    Yin Mengfan chuckled. "Must be an important assignment, then. I mean, you usually just let Xiao Zhang handle such menial tasks."

    A tiny smirk tugged at the corners of Kefei's lips. It disappeared quickly, but not before Yin Mengfan saw it.

    Kefei seemed to have noticed Yin Mengfan's curious gaze on her. She turned away to address the rest of the group. "Wait. Don't tell me you guys are looking for Li Yundong too?" Kefei's eyes went from person to person in their group.

    Yin Mengfan smirked. This was clearly an attempt to change the subject. What are you up to, Kefei?

    Still, Yin Mengfan decided not to inquire further into what Kefei was hiding, at least not in front of outsiders. People in their line of work hated it the most when others start poking their noses into their business. Yin Mengfan smiled and decided to play along. "Well, how observant of you President Cao! All of us here are looking for Li Yundong. And these two girls"—Yin Mengfan gestured at Feng Na and Cheng Cheng—"know where he is. In fact, they're just about to take us to him."

    "Wow! What a coincidence! That's great! Why don't we all go together!" Suddenly, Kefei's gaze zeroed in on Zhou Qin. "I can give you guys a lift if you want."

    Zhou Qin smiled. "That's so kind of you, President Cao. And yes, if it's no trouble, then we'd like a lift."

    "It's not a problem at all," Kefei answered casually.

    Zhou Qin turned towards Feng Na and Cheng Cheng. "Do you guys want to ride with President Yin, or...?"

    Feng Na and Cheng Cheng shared a glance. "We prefer to ride with you and President Cao, if that's okay?" Feng Na said, glancing from Zhou Qin to Kefei.

    "No problem at all!" Kefei said. "Hop in!"


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  • Chapter 139 Assemble

    Right. Room 2203. Here we go... Zhou Qin raised her knuckles and knocked on the door a few times, then waited for a few seconds.

    No answer came.

    Zhou Qin glanced at Senior Feng Na and Cheng Cheng. There could be no doubt that Senior Feng Na had given them the correct information. Li Yundong was staying at this motel; the receptionist had checked the motel's registrar.  

    "Maybe he's asleep?" Feng Na suggested.

    Zhou Qin rapped her knuckles on the door again, then waited some more.

    About a minute later, Senior Feng Na seemed to have lost her patience. She moved towards the door, then slapped her palm against its surface.

    "Hey! Li Yundong!" Senior Feng Na yelled. "Are you in there?! We need to talk!"

    Again, there was no answer.

    "Did you see him leave the motel this morning?" President Yin asked the receptionist.

    Zhou Qin turned away from the door to look at the receptionist. She was wondering about the same thing.

    The receptionist, a girl in her early twenties, shook her head. "No, ma'am. In fact, he and his girlfriend hasn't left the room for two days."

    Chills ran down Zhou Qin's spine, and her heart clenched. Two days... A sinking sensation formed at the pit of her stomach. What if something happened to Li Yundong and Su Chan? Were they both okay?

    "Two days? Not even once? Not even to get food?" President Cao asked.

    "No, ma'am," the receptionist answered.

    "But…" President Cao paused in thought. "Did they order in? Were there any deliveries to their room?"

    The receptionist shook her head. "No, ma'am. No deliveries."

    Zhou Qin glanced at the number plate on the door. 2203. It was the correct room number.

    Zhou Qin slammed the back of her fist against the door, then waited for a few more seconds. No answer came. Zhou Qin sighed. This was pointless. Suddenly, a thought occurred to Zhou Qin: she had Su Chan's number.

    Zhou Qin reached for her handbag, then pulled out her phone from inside it. She unlocked her phone, then quickly dialed Su Chan's number.

    Instead of listening to her phone, Zhou Qin pressed her ear against the door. Looks of recognition flitted across President Yin and President Cao's faces.

    Seconds later, fear coursed through Zhou Qin; Su Chan's phone was ringing inside. Zhou Qin knew that ringtone, because she was the one who'd set it.

    Oh, God no... Su Chan...

    Something must have happened to the both of them.

    Zhou Qin pushed away from the door.

    "They're inside," she said, hanging up the call. "They're definitely inside. I can hear Su Chan's ringtone."

    "Oh my God… Do you think he's..." Senior Feng Na said. She looked dangerously pale.

    Zhou Qin frowned and turned towards the receptionist. "Unlock the door!"

    The receptionist jumped at Zhou Qin's harsh tone. "U- Um... I- I'm sorry, miss... I can't. I mean it's the motel's policy to always ensure our customer's privacy. S- So unless you have a warrant, I'm afraid I can't—"

    "Her phone is inside!" Zhou Qin snapped. "And you said it yourself that they haven't stepped out of the room for two days! Use your common sense! Do you think that's normal?"

    "B- But… I can't just…" the receptionist stammered.

    Zhou Qin took a deep, calming breath. "What if something happened to either of them? Are you going to take responsibility?"

    The receptionist looked around in a panic.

    "Just open the door," President Yin said calmly. "We'll take care of any consequences you might face. Don't worry. I'll vouch for you."

    The receptionist looked at President Yin first, and then at President Cao.

    President Cao gave the receptionist a firm nod.

    A look of resignation flitted across the receptionist face. She pulled out her keycard and tapped it against the sensor beside the door knob.

    Zhou Qin pushed the door open the moment she heard the beep.

    ***

    When Yin Mengfan stepped into the room, she immediately noticed how tiny the room was; it barely had enough room to accommodate all six of them.

    Yin Mengfan stumbled a little when she bumped into Zhou Qin, who had suddenly stopped walking.

    "What's wrong?" Yin Mengfan asked.

    When Zhou Qin didn't answer, she looked ahead and pretty much had the shock of her life.

    "What in the world…?"

    Li Yundong was sitting on the bed with his legs crossed, and a young woman—who Yin Mengfan assumed was Li Yundong's girlfriend—was standing behind his back. God, is that...

    Oh, yeah it was.

    Steam was rising from the top of the woman's head, and she seemed to be doing something strange with her hands. Yin Mengfan leaned forward a little, then looked past Zhou Qin's shoulder.

    Li Yundong's girlfriend had her palm resting on Li Yundong's head, while her other hand was pressing against a spot on Li Yundong's spine. The whole thing looked like a scene straight out of a Wuxia novel.

    "What the hell...?" Kefei whispered beside her.

    Yin Mengfan glanced sideways and noted the look of pure shock on her friend's face. Yeah. What the hell indeed.

    Before Yin Mengfan could comment, Zhou Qin was moving towards the bed. A moment later, Zhou Qin was standing directly in front of Li Yundong.

    "Li Yundong...? Are you—" Zhou Qin let out a squeak before quickly turning away. Zhou Qin was also blushing to the tip of her ears.

    Frowning, Yin Mengfan strode towards the bed. "Zhou Qin? What is it—"

    Yin Mengfan saw it too, the thing that made Zhou Qin and—who was she even kidding—her blush. That huge, tent-like monolith between Li Yundong's legs was impressive to say the least. Is he... Is he having a sex dream? Yin Mengfan tore her eyes away from Li Yundong's "assets" and studied his face instead. Li Yundong's face was flushed and God, his expression...

    Li Yundong had an expression of pleasure—pure and unbridled sexual pleasure. And then she heard it—a soft moan that came unmistakably from Li Yundong's lips.

    Yin Mengfan tore her gaze away from Li Yundong's face and looked towards the others. All the other girls were staring at Li Yundong as well, and not a single one of them was without a blush on their cheeks. Heck, Kefei was even biting her lip.

    Shen Hui was the only one who was showing a negative reaction to what she was seeing.

    Shen Hui snorted. "This perverted bastard..." she growled, storming towards the bed. "Hey, pervert!" Shen Hui stopped beside the bed and then patted Li Yundong's right shoulder. "Are you even alive? There's so many people looking for—"

    Suddenly, Shen Hui's body went taut, and her strangled gasp filled Yin Mengfan's heart with horror.

    And it didn't end there.

    A second later, Shen Hui's mouth dropped open as if she was trying to scream. However, no sound came out. Shen Hui's eyes rolled to the back of her head. And the next thing Yin Mengfan knew, Shen Hui's body was twitching and convulsing violently.

    "Shen Hui! Are you okay—" Yin Mengfan stepped forward but was pulled back by someone.

    "Don't. Don't touch her!" Kefei hissed.

    Yin Mengfan shot Kefei a look of panic. "What the hell is going on?"

    Kefei shook her head grimly. "I don't know. But I don't think you should touch her. I just have this…" Kefei gestured with her hand. "This bad feeling that the same thing's gonna happen to you if you touch her."

    "But she's my cousin! I can't just leave her like this!" Yin Mengfan said. "How am I supposed to explain it to Uncle Shen if something happened to Shen Hui on my watch!"

    "I think the best way is to wake Li Yundong up..." Kefei suggested. "Who knows he can fix Shen Hui after he wakes?"

    Yin Mengfan shot a glance at Zhou Qin.

    "I'll give it a try," Zhou Qin said.

    Yin Mengfan stared at Zhou Qin in surprise. "But… Are you sure?"

    "I don't think we have a choice now..." Zhou Qin glanced sideways. Yin Mengfan followed Zhou Qin's line of sight and saw that Zhou Qin was looking towards her cousin. Shen Hui's body was still twitching and convulsing violently. It was a miracle that she was even standing at this point.

    "Wait! Maybe don't touch him directly with your hand?" Yin Mengfan suggested.

    "Yeah," Kefei said. "Why don't you use..." Kefei glanced around the room for a few seconds, then strode over to the nightstand. "Here. Use this ashtray." Kefei picked up the ashtray and handed it to Zhou Qin.

    Zhou Qin took the ashtray and extended it tentatively towards Li Yundong.

    "Ah!!" The ashtray flew away from Zhou Qin's hand the moment it touched Li Yundong. Both Yin Mengfan and Kefei jumped in surprise.

    "What...? How did...?" Yin Mengfan whispered, staring at the ashtray, which was now rolling around on the floor. "But..." Yin Mengfan's gaze snapped towards Shen Hui, whose hand was still holding on to Li Yundong's shoulder. How come Shen Hui wasn't repelled when her hand touched him?

    Zhou Qin seemed to have come to the same conclusion too as she slowly reached out with her hand. Zhou Qin was biting down on her bottom lip, and she seemed scared, like she was anticipating something bad to happen.

    Zhou Qin winced the moment her hand touched Li Yundong's waist. It barely took a few seconds before Zhou Qin's grimace morphed into a pained expression. Worry speared through Yin Mengfan. She gritted her teeth and moved forward to pull Zhou Qin away from Li Yundong. Once again, Kefei pulled her back. "Wait, look!"

    Kefei was pointing at Li Yundong's girlfriend, who was now awake and...

    Good God...

    Never in her life had Yin Mengfan seen something like this before. Like, who on earth could move their hands that fast?

    Heck, fast was probably an understatement! Yin Mengfan couldn't even see her movements clearly. It was like she was striking, jabbing, or poking at various spots on Li Yundong's body almost simultaneously: his spine; his shoulders; a bunch of spots on his head. This girl could put all the masseurs in the world to shame.

    Then again, whatever the girl was doing seemed to be working as Li Yundong's cheeks were no longer flushed, and his expression was slowly returning to normal. Yin Mengfan let her eyes trailed downwards. The bulge inside Li Yundong's pants was slowly... um... deflating? Then, Li Yundong let out a long sigh. Just when Yin Mengfan was thinking that the whole weird experience was finally over, a jet of white gas expelled from Li Yundong's lips.

    ***

    Voices echoed inside his head. A lot of voices.

    "Hey! Hey! Shh!"

    "Is he awake yet?"

    "Wait... Lemme check... Yeah, I think he is."

    "He's waking! He's waking!"

    Li Yundong blinked, fully expecting to see his princess's beautiful face the moment he opened his eyes. However, disappointment coursed through him the moment his vision cleared.

    "Z- Zhou Qin...? What are you doing here? And where's..." Li Yundong looked past Zhou Qin's shoulders and nearly jumped out of his skin.

    Feng Na, Cheng Cheng, President Cao, President Yin, and even Shen Hui, were all standing beside his bed. The weirdest part of all this—aside from the fact that they were all here inside his motel room—was that they were all staring at him like he was some kind of creature from outer space.

    Li Yundong shut his eyes, then slapped his cheeks a few times. Was this some kind of illusion? Was he still inside his Spirit Space? When he opened his eyes, the women were still there.

    "W- What are you guys doing here? Wait. How did you guys even get in?"

    Nobody answered him. And where the heck was Su Chan? By right she should be—

    There was a strangled sob. Li Yundong turned his head around and saw Su Chan kneeling by the edge of the bed. Her face was buried against the sheets as she cried.

    Li Yundong crawled over towards Su Chan and pulled her into his arms. "Hey... Hey... What's the matter?"

    Su Chan's whispered words shook him to the core.

    "You... You failed, Yundong…"

    "What...? I thought you said..."

    "No... You failed. "Su Chan shook her head and sobbed into his chest. "You failed the Zhuji phase."

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  • Chapter 140 The Mother of Success!

    Li Yundong started to panic the moment Su Chan's sobs turned into full-blown wails. He looked towards Zhou Qin and the others for help. Alas, the others, even though they were all women, looked about as shocked and clueless as he was.

    Li Yundong shook himself out of his daze and cleared his throat. "Um... Do you guys mind giving us a moment?"

    The women glanced at each other.

    A moment later, Zhou Qin smiled. "Sure. Take your time."

    Li Yundong gave her a grateful nod, then carried Su Chan off the bed towards the bathroom.

    He came to a halt just outside the bathroom door. He turned around. "Please. Sit anywhere you like," he said to the women. "Oh, and um… there are some drinks in the fridge. So you can help yourself to them if you want."

    "O- Okay..." Feng Na answered.

    An awkward silence ensued. Li Yundong cleared his throat again. "Well. Make yourself at home. I won't be long." He carried Su Chan in the bathroom, then used his foot to close the lid of the toilet.

    After that, he placed Su Chan on top of the lid and started drying her tears with his palms.

    "Hey... It's okay now," Li Yundong said with a low tone.

    Much to Li Yundong's horror, Su Chan wrapped her arms around Li Yundong and started bawling loudly instead of calming down.

    Li Yundong felt as though someone had stabbed a dagger through his heart. His hand rose instinctively and stroked along Su Chan's spine.

    "Shen Hui! Where are you going?!" President Yin's muffled voice startled Li Yundong. Seconds later, he heard the sound of the front door being opened, followed closely by a loud slam. Li Yundong turned away from the bathroom door and went back to comforting Su Chan, whose sobs had turned into gentle snivels.

    Someone opened the front door again. A moment later, the door closed, but at least it was closed gently this time.

    Li Yundong lowered his gaze and hooked a strand of Su Chan's hair behind her ear.

    "Hey..." he said gently.

    Su Chan looked up at him with teary eyes.

    "Ready to talk now?"

    Su Chan sniffed twice, then nodded.

    "Why did you say I failed the Zhuji phase? But I clearly remember you telling me that I passed..."

    "T- That was just an illusion, Yundong..." Su Chan suddenly looked away and released a choked sob.

    Disappointment coursed through Li Yundong. He lowered his gaze and stared at the bathroom's ceramic tiles for a moment. Suddenly, he lifted his gaze again.

    "Wait... How come I'm still..." Li Yundong raised his hands and studied them. "How come I didn't lose my soul?"

    "You almost did..." Su Chan said. "I kept trying to bring you out of your Spirit Space." She sniffed. "I actually passed out a few times."

    Li Yundong's eyes nearly bugged out. "What? You passed out?"

    Su Chan nodded. "Your Qi is too powerful..." Su Chan glanced towards the bathroom door. "Thank God Zhou Qin arrived..."

    Li Yundong frowned and followed Su Chan's gaze. Zhou Qin? Did she do something?

    "Aren't you devastated at all, Yundong?" Su Chan's voice brought him out of his thoughts.

    Li Yundong looked towards Su Chan and smiled. "It's okay, princess. I have another chance, right?" Li Yundong clapped his hands together. "What is it that the great ancient scholars said? Ah! Failure is the mother of success!" Li Yundong wagged his brows. "Although I sometimes wonder which guy did Failure go to bed with… Must be one hell of a night if it led to the birth of success."

    Su Chan burst into giggles and slapped Li Yundong's arm. "Shut up! I- It's not funny...!"

    "Then why are you laughing?" Li Yundong tickled Su Chan's neck.

    "Kyaaa! Stop!" Su Chan tried to run, but then Li Yundong held her tighter. "Kyaa! Stop—"

    Li Yundong kissed her. Su Chan stopped struggling and kissed him back. A minute later, they parted for air, their foreheads touching each other. "Yundong..." Su Chan's breath tickled his lips. "I'm sorry..."

    Li Yundong trailed a finger down her cheek. "Whatever for?"

    "For causing you to fail..." Su Chan lowered her gaze.

    Li Yundong was having none of that. He hooked a finger under her chin and lifted her head. "Don't say that... I failed because of my own shortcomings. It wasn't your fault."

    Su Chan shook her head. "B- But you were having sexual thoughts because of me... That's the illusion that nearly made you lose your soul."

    Li Yundong thought back to that moment when Su Chan "told" him that he had passed the Zhuji phase. And then after that, he had unleashed all his carnal desires onto Su Chan.

    None of that had been real. Every single one of those moments was an illusion. A lapse. A moment of weakness. At the end of the day, that was really what it all boiled down to, wasn't it? His weakness. His mind was too weak. He had to get stronger. For his own sake. For Su Chan's sake.

    Li Yundong cupped Su Chan's cheeks with both hands and kissed her on the lips. When he pulled back, he stared deep into Su Chan's eyes, conveying every ounce of the resolve he felt through his eyes.

    "I'll work harder," Li Yundong said firmly. "I'll make it the next time."

    Su Chan nodded. "Mmm!"

    Li Yundong smiled, then turned towards the door. "Now we've got some explaining to do."

    ***

    Four heads turned the moment Li Yundong stepped out of the bathroom. Feng Na, Cheng Cheng, and Zhou Qin had all taken seats on the bed. President Cao stood beside the bed with her butt resting against the nightstand. Neither President Yin nor Shen Hui was in the room.

    Li Yundong led Su Chan out the bathroom. However, Su Chan insisted on hiding behind his back once they were out.

    "So!" Li Yundong cleared his throat, then put on a charming smile. "To what do I owe the pleasure guys?"

    President Cao snorted loudly. "Are you kidding me right now?"

    Li Yundong looked towards the others. Zhou Qin's expression held its usual aloofness, whereas Feng Na and Cheng Cheng were looking at him like he was nuts.

    Li Yundong's gaze travelled from women to women. "What?"

    "You were missing for two days," Feng Na said.

    Li Yundong's eyes bugged out. "Two da—" He swiveled around to look at Su Chan for confirmation.

    Su Chan nodded meekly at him.

    Well. Shit.

    Two days... He was in a meditative state for two days.

    "Err…" Li Yundong released an awkward chuckle. "Oops?" He winced at his own lame response.

    Beside Feng Na, Cheng Cheng shook her head and did a facepalm.

    Feng Na sighed. "Let me explain everything since you clearly have no clue what's been going on around here."

    "Yeah? You can say that again," Li Yundong muttered, then gestured for Feng Na to go ahead.

    "President Yin has been looking for you for the past two days. She hasn't been able to reach your phone, so she called Zhou Qin to ask for your address." Feng Na paused for a moment to look at Zhou Qin. "Well, Zhou Qin dropped by your apartment this morning, but you guys weren't there. After that, Zhou Qin ran into me on campus, so I told her about your whereabouts. So here we are."

    "I see... But..." Li Yundong turned towards President Cao. "What brings you here, President Cao."

    "What brings me here?" President Cao closed her mouth and glared at him. "You have the nerve to ask me that, Li Yundong? Seriously? After the mess you left behind during your assignment, which you didn't even complete! You bailed on me! And guess who had to deal with the mess you left behind? Me!" President Cao started ticking off a list of his messes on her fingers. "Two broken bathrooms. Two traumatized movie stars! And some maniac on steroids wreaking havoc in one of the most prestigious hotels in the city!"

    "But that maniac attacked me! It wasn't me who started—"

    "Oh. Please. That maniac clearly has some kind of sick vendetta against you. I looked him up. You fought him in front of campus some time ago, didn't you?"

    Li Yundong rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. F*cking Lin Youfa. He would've gotten paid by now if that idiot hadn't ambushed him at Shengyuan Hotel. Li Yundong stole a glance at President Cao, who was still glaring daggers at him. And now he was probably gonna be fired. F*cking hell...

    Suck it up, Li Yundong, he thought. Obviously, he had to come up with a viable excuse to justify his abrupt departure from Shengyuan Hotel that day. Li Yundong squared his shoulders and met President Cao's gaze steadily. "I did what I judged to be right, President Cao..."

    President Cao's brows rose to her hairline.

    Li Yundong raised a hand. "Wait. Please just hear me out..."

    President Cao sighed. "Fine. Explain yourself."

    "The guy ambushed me in the bathroom," Li Yundong said. "He's a dangerous man. I figured he might endanger you and your two clients if I stayed. So I lured him out of the hotel."

    President Cao seemed to be pondering over his words. "And what happened after you left the hotel? And why didn't you pick up my calls?"

    Li Yundong rubbed his neck. "Well... After I left the hotel... I ran around the city for a bit." He looked towards President Cao. "Got the guy to chase me around..."

    "Is he still out there?" President Cao asked.

    Li Yundong shrugged. "I dealt with him."

    A look of alarm formed on President Cao's face. "Wait… You mean y- you... You killed him?"

    "Of course not!" Li Yundong protested. I just tossed him off the 20th floor... Okay. Shit. Was Lin Youfa dead?

    Nah. He was probably fine. The guy had Zhu Bajie's powers, for God's sake.

    "Okay… So if you didn't kill him, then what happened to him?"

    Hell if he knew.

    "He... He ran away," Li Yundong said.

    "And will he be a threat in the future?" President Cao asked.

    "No. I don't think so."

    "Good." President Cao nodded, then rolled her eyes. "A bodyguard is supposed to keep me and my clients safe, not bring more danger to us, for God's sake."

    "Got it, President Cao. I'll be more careful from now on. But, um..." Li Yundong grimaced. "You mentioned that you've dealt with those messes I left behind?"

    President Cao snorted, then glared at Li Yundong. "Oh yeah I did. Cost me quite a lot, mind you." She jabbed a finger at Li Yundong. "You owe me, young man."

    Li Yundong thought back to that brawl with Lin Youfa. God, the damage they did to the bathroom... Wait, two bathrooms.

    Li Yundong sighed. "Shit..."

    All of a sudden, President Cao laughed. "Relax. I'm not asking you to pay me back."

    Wait, what? Li Yundong looked up in surprise. "You're not?"

    She smirked. "Nope."

    Suspicion crept into Li Yundong. His eyes narrowed. "What's the catch? Why are you here?"

    President Cao's smirk widened. "I have a new assignment for you." She gave Li Yundong a pointed look. "I have a dinner party to attend. And you're gonna be my bodyguard."

    Li Yundong stood up straighter. "An assignment…"

    This was good news, especially during times like this when money was tight. "But..." Li Yundong turned around and was surprised to find that Su Chan was no longer standing behind him. Instead, Su Chan was standing beside the bathroom door, having a whispered conversation with Zhou Qin.

    Li Yundong watched as Su Chan grabbed both of Zhou Qin's hands and then bowed slightly to Zhou Qin.

    Zhou Qin, on the other hand, looked utterly baffled.

    Well... Guess I'll tell Su Chan about the job later.

    Li Yundong turned around to face President Cao again. "I'll do it."

    President Cao nodded. "Good. I expect you to keep me safe before, during, and after the party. Understood?"

    "Of course," Li Yundong said, then paused for a moment. "But just to give me a heads-up… What sort of threat should I be expecting?"

    "Random knife attacks. Acid splashes. And... Sexual assaults?"

    Acid splash—

    Li Yundong's eyebrows rose just a tad. "Who exactly did you piss off, President Cao?"

    President Cao waved off his question. "It doesn't matter. Just make sure I'm in and out from the party in one piece, then you'll receive your payment in your bank account."

    Well, what do you know? He still had a job.

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  • Chapter 141 Wrath

    Li Yundong plopped down on the floor, then leaned his back against the side of the bed with a sigh. President Cao had just finished briefing him on his new assignment. And apparently, he was supposed to suit up for the dinner party tonight.

    Tonight, as in six hours later. He didn't expect to be summoned for duty on such short notice. Granted, he had gone radio silence for two days straight, so there was that.

    Silence permeated the motel room. The awkward air from earlier was gone. Right now, everyone just seemed weary and exhausted. Especially Su Chan, whom Li Yundong had caught nodding off while President Cao was giving him the briefing earlier. Su Chan had finished her conversation with Zhou Qin a while ago. Although Zhou Qin looked confused at first, Li Yundong did notice a tiny smile on Zhou Qin's face when the conversation ended. He wondered what those two had talked about.

    Neither Feng Na nor Cheng Cheng had said much after he and Su Chan came out from the bathroom. His two seniors were now sitting beside Zhou Qin on the bed, staring at the floor. They both looked like they had something to say but were too reluctant to say it.

    Seriously, what was the matter with everyone today?

    More silence ensued. Li Yundong looked to his left, where President Cao stood. The woman seemed busy as hell, tapping vigorously on her phone's screen.

    Someone's stomach rumbled.

    Someone as in a certain chipmunk who probably hadn't had a bite in two days straight. Heads turned towards the source of the sound. Li Yundong had to stifle a laugh when he saw the blush on Su Chan's cheeks.

    "S- S- Sorry..." Su Chan mumbled.

    Li Yundong laughed out loud. "It's okay, princess."

    Feng Na cleared her throat. "Well... It is lunch time now," she said, glancing at her watch. "Why don't we all have lunch together?"

    "Agreed," President Cao said, putting her phone away. "How about this? I'll treat everyone to lunch today. How does that sound?"

    Li Yundong clapped his hands together. "Wonderful!" He turned to Su Chan. "See, princess? I told you my boss is nice! Now she's taking care of our meals as well." Li Yundong winked at Su Chan. "Hey, princess. You have my permission to unleash the full power of your appetite later."

    Su Chan jumped up so abruptly that her chair fell backwards. "Yayyyy!" she cheered, raising both fists in the air.

    President Cao chuckled. "Sure, sure. You guys can eat all you want. I doubt one meal can cause me to go broke."

    Li Yundong smirked. Famous last words... He glanced up to see Su Chan and Zhou Qin looking at each other, then at him. A moment later, all three of them burst into laughter.

    "What?" Cheng Cheng asked in confusion.

    "Yeah, what is it?" President Cao asked, looking equally confused. "Did we miss something? Or was that an inside joke?"

    Zhou Qin covered her lips with her hand. "President Cao, when it comes to these two..." Zhou Qin paused to give Su Chan and Li Yundong pointed looks. "One meal really can lead to poverty."

    President Cao chuckled in disbelief. "What? How?"

    Zhou Qin cleared her throat, then schooled her features. "We went to a restaurant last time. The three of us. Someone took care of our bill, and guess how much the meal cost?"

    Li Yundong laughed out loud. He couldn't forget the look on Liu Chuan's face the moment he saw the bill.

    "What, like three figures?" President Cao said.

    Zhou Qin smiled, then shook her head.

    President Cao's eyes widened slightly. "Four figures?"

    Zhou Qin laughed. "No. Six figures."

    President Cao gasped. "S- Six figures! What on earth did you guys..."

    Li Yundong and Su Chan burst into laughter again.

    "Don't worry, boss," Li Yundong said once he'd recovered from his laughing fit. "If you can't afford it, then..." He winked at Zhou Qin. "You can always eliminate a few zeros from Zhou Qin's fat checkbook."

    ***

    The group left the motel after Su Chan's stomach growled loudly for a second time. On the way towards President Cao's Lamborghini, Li Yundong regaled President Cao with tales of Su Chan's culinary escapades: the Mount Everest she'd erected on her plate during Zhou Qin's party; their daily food wars; twenty bowls of rice... and, well, you know the drill.

    President Cao was laughing and giggling all the way, which Li Yundong took as a win. At least his boss was no longer pissed off at him for the mess he'd left at Shengyuan Hotel the other day.

    "Twenty bowls of rice?!" President Cao pressed the fob to unlock her Lamborghini. "Can anyone actually eat that much?"

    Li Yundong chuckled, then dodged one of Su Chan's swipes. "It's true, boss."

    President Cao opened the door, then paused at the door. "Hmm. We came here with two cars... But President Yin left already."

    Li Yundong glanced at the Lamborghini. "It's alright. Su Chan and I can take a cab if there isn't enough room. Just tell us the place. We'll meet you guys there."

    Yep. He still had enough cash to afford a cab ride. Maybe.

    "Nonsense." President Cao waved her hand. "You can hold Su Chan and take the front seat. The other girls can take the back sea—"

    "Hold it right there, you motherf*cker!!!"

    Li Yundong turned around instantly and looked towards the corner of the street where the voice came from. What the hell?

    "Stop running, you f*cker!!!"

    "Yundong, Yundong… Look!" Su Chan tugged the hem of his shirt. "Isn't that...?"

    Oh, hell yeah it was.

    Apparently, Er Lu, the son of the vegetable stall owner, was in huge trouble.

    "Why are so many people chasing him?" Su Chan asked quizzically.

    Li Yundong shrugged. "Who knows..."

    From afar, Li Yundong saw Er Lu falling flat on his stomach after he'd tripped over the raised surface of the curb. A bunch of gangsters quickly surrounded Er Lu's prostrated form. Each gangster was wielding a metal-pipe.

    "Do you know him, Li Yundong?" Zhou Qin asked curiously.

    "Yeah," Li Yundong answered without taking his eyes off Er Lu, whose body was now being pummeled repeatedly by the gangster's metal pipes. Er Lu rolled around on the ground, screaming and howling in pain.

    "You think you can run from us forever, huh?!" one of the gangsters, a bald man with thick arms, yelled. He struck Er Lu's back with the pipe. "Where's my money! Pay me now, or I'll kill you!"

    Er Lu shielded his face with his arms. "P- Please! Give me a few more days! J- Just a few more days! I swear!"

    The gangsters continued to strike Er Lu with their pipes. Er Lu curled up on the ground like a shrimp.

    "A few more days! I've given you months, you f*cker! I want the money now, or I'll break every f*cking bone in your body!"

    "Argh!" Er Lu scrambled to his feet and tried to run. A metal pipe struck the back of his knees, causing him to stumble to the floor again. More gangsters surrounded Er Lu.

    "Pay!" the bald gangster, who Li Yundong assumed to be the leader of the gang, yelled. "Pay! Me! The! Money!" The pipe slammed into Er Lu's ribs again and again.

    "Noooo!" A new voice sounded.

    A middle-aged woman emerged from the bend of the street. Li Yundong frowned. He recognized that woman. It was the owner of the vegetable stall. "Stop!! Stop beating my son!!! You're going to kill him!!" The woman pushed herself through the group of gangsters, then kneeled down to shield Er Lu's prostrated body with her own.

    The bald gangster pointed his metal pipe at Er Lu's mother. "Out of the way, you old bitch! Your son owes us money but refuses to pay up!"

    The woman flinched and glanced down at Er Lu with a loud gasp. "Again? You owe people money again?! How could—Why didn't you listen to me, you foolish child! You promised me you'd stop gambling!"

    Er Lu whimpered. "I... I'm sorry Ma... I couldn't resist." Suddenly, Er Lu grabbed his mother's hands and gave her a pleading look. "Please help me pay back the money, Ma. I won't ever gamble again after this! I swear to God!"

    Li Yundong shook his head in disgust.

    Er Lu's mother started bawling like a child. "All the valuables in our home has been sold off to pay your previous debts, you foolish child! The only possessions we have left are the few pieces of land from our ancestors!"

    The bald gangster laughed derisively. "A few pieces of land, huh? Fine then! This dunce owes us 180,000 yuan! Hah! Now you can get the money to pay me by mortgaging those lands." The gangster tapped the metal pipe against the pavement a few times. "Hurry up! Bring me the land certificates! Now!"

    The vegetable stall owner sprang to her feet. "My God, you people are ruthless, aren't you? Those lands belong to our ancestors! We'll never hand them over to you! Never!"

    "Die, you bitch!" The bald man swung his metal pipe.

    There was a loud crack as the pipe struck the woman's ribs. "Arrgh!" The woman crashed to the ground.

    "Nooo!!!! Ma!!!! No!!!!!" Er Lu screamed.

    "Those bastards...." Li Yundong growled, his nails digging into his palms. Why? Why were humans capable of such cruelty? Of such injustice? Why, goddammit, why!

    A ball of heat formed at the pit of Li Yundong's stomach. Should he do something? Maybe he should just call the police and let them handle it... But those two were going to be beaten to death by the time the police arrived.

    A blood-curdling shriek sounded. Li Yundong looked up sharply. What he saw made his stomach drop. The bald man was pulling Er Lu's mother off the ground by her hair.

    "Don't touch her, you bastards! Don't touch her! Take me instead! Leave my mom alone! Stop—" One of the gangsters smashed his metal pipe onto Er Lu's back, silencing him.

    Er Lu's mother screamed and screamed until her voice cracked.

    Li Yundong glanced sideways.

    Su Chan was staring back at him. A moment later, he received a subtle nod from Su Chan.

    Li Yundong started to move away from the Lamborghini towards the gangsters.

    After a few steps, he halted and turned around. "Call the police," he said to the others.

    "Already did!" President Cao yelled, sticking her head out through the Lamborghini's window.

    Then, Su Chan ran towards him and grabbed his arm. "Stick to hand-to-hand combat," she whispered. "And be careful."

    Li Yundong nodded. "Watch out for the others." Li Yundong nodded towards Zhou Qin, Feng Na, and Cheng Cheng.

    "Mmm!" Su Chan nodded.

    Li Yundong patted Su Chan's head and stormed towards rampant gangsters. Time to put an end to this injustice.

    ***

    "Leave her alone!" Li Yundong's yell sounded from across the street. The bald gangster's metal pipe stilled in the air. All the gangsters turned their heads towards Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong moved across the street under the gangsters' scrutiny, not once slowing down his steps.

    "Who the hell are you?" the bald gangster said.

    Li Yundong stopped in front of the group of gangsters. "Someone who is about to put an end to your bullshit."

    The bald gangster burst into laughter.

    "You? Alone? Against all of us? You're f*cking nuts. I'll have you on screaming the floor in no—"

    Li Yundong burst forward with lightning speed. He grabbed the bald bastard's wrist before giving it sharp twist—one of Lin Youfa's signature Chin Na moves. The bald guy screamed and fell to his knees.

    Li Yundong ripped the steel pipe out of his grip, then crouched down to give the guy a cold stare. "You were saying?"

    Footsteps sounded around Li Yundong.

    "Boss! Boss!"

    "Boss, are you alright?!"

    "You're gonna pay for that, you punk!"

    Li Yundong released the bald man's wrist and then stood up.

    "I'm gonna pay?" Li Yundong sneered. "Oh... We'll see"—He bent the steel pipe—"about that!"

    The steep pipe curved until its two ends touched to form a ring-shaped object. Loud gasps sounded around him followed by hurried footsteps as the gangsters backed away from him.

    That's right, you bastards. Know the meaning of fear…

    Li Yundong slammed the steel ring into the pavement. Sparks flew from the metal as cracks spread out from the spot where the steel ring was lodged into the concrete pavement. A few gangsters whimpered. The bald man was now staring back at Li Yundong with trembling lips.

    Li Yundong moved towards the bald man.

    "W- What a- are you doing! D- Do you know w- w- who has my back!"

    "I. Don't. Care." Li Yundong growled, then yanked the man from the floor by his collar. "You're still gonna rot in jail! But not before I teach you a f*cking lesson!"

    "H- H- He Shao!" the bald man yelled. "If you touch me, He Shao will ruin you!"

    "He Shao?" Li Yundong sneered. "That's perfect! I've got a score to settle with that son of a bitch anyway! You've just made it easier for me to find him!"

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  • Chapter 142 Kindness

    "Li Yundong, wait..."

    Zhou Qin's voice sounded from behind Li Yundong.

    "You should've stayed with the others, Zhou Qin," Li Yundong said without taking his eyes off the bald gangster's frightened expression. "These punks are dangerous."

    "Not as dangerous as I am..." Zhou Qin's fingers curled around Li Yundong's wrist. "Let him go. Let me handle this."

    Li Yundong turned and raised his brow at Zhou Qin. "You sure?"

    Zhou Qin smirked. "Of course. Besides..." She looked towards the bald gangster. "I know how hard you can punch. You could probably kill this weakling with a finger."

    "Well maybe I should." Li Yundong tightened his grip on the gangster's collar.

    The bald man whimpered.

    "But what would that accomplish?" Zhou Qin said. "With you ending up in jail? What about Su Chan?"

    Li Yundong released the gangster's collar. The bald man stumbled and fell flat on his butt.

    Li Yundong glared down at the bald man. "If this goes south, if this douchebag tries anything funny, then I'm taking over."

    The bald man slid backwards on his butt.

    Li Yundong looked towards Zhou Qin. "Well. I guess you're calling the shots now."

    Zhou Qin nodded and stepped forward. "You people work for He Shao?" she asked loudly, though the question was clearly directed at the gang leader.

    None of the gangsters answered.

    Zhou Qin smirked. "Then do you know who I am?"

    The gangsters looked at each other. None of them spoke. No doubt these punks were terrified by the poise and calmness that Zhou Qin exuded in spade.

    "Yes," the bald leader finally said. "He Shao is our boss. And you are?"

    Zhou Qin smirked. "I see." She took another step forward. "Then you should call him right now and tell him that Zhou Qin wishes to speak to him."

    The bald gang leader looked towards his underlings, then back at Zhou Qin again.

    When the gang leader didn't move after a while, Zhou Qin's expression turned stone cold. "Didn't you hear what I said?" Zhou Qin arched a brow. "I said call He Shao. Now."

    The bald gang leader shot Zhou Qin a skeptical look.

    Li Yundong had reached the limit of his patience.

    "Do as she said!" Li Yundong roared loudly. "Now!!!"

    The gang leader visibly flinched. A few seconds later, the bastard pulled out his phone and started dialing.

    "Hello... Yes, He Shao, it's me..." The gang leader flinched and pulled the phone away from his ear as though he'd just been yelled at. "Well… There's a woman here who wishes to speak with you. Says her name is Zhou Qin."

    A few seconds later, the gang leader lowered the phone from his ear and switched it to loudspeaker.

    Sounds of heavy panting could be heard. The panting lasted for quite a while before it was replaced by He Shao's voice.

    "Well, well, well, Zhou Qin... Is this your way of telling me that you miss me?"

    Zhou Qin released a snort of contempt. "So you're associating yourself with the gangsters now? Just how low will you stoop, He Shao?" Zhou Qin paused for a moment. "Then again... Now that this has come to my attention..." Zhou Qin's voice suddenly turned cold. "I suggest you call off your minions unless you want to face dire consequences." Zhou Qin smirked. "You know how incriminating it can be for people like us to have ties with the mafia."

    The panting in the phone became heavier and heavier, which eventually turned into a loud, angry roar.

    "Do as she says!" He Shao growled.

    There was a loud click, and the line was cut off.

    The gang leader glanced up at Zhou Qin with reverence. However, when his gaze landed on Li Yundong, the look of reverence changed into fear.

    He quickly averted his gaze and climbed back to his feet. He slipped his phone into his pocket, then walked over to Er Lu and his mother, who was still down on the ground.

    "Consider yourselves lucky! You better pray that you don't run into me next time!"

    The gang leader spat a mouthful of saliva at the woman on the ground.

    The woman tried to shield her face by raising her hands, but she was too late—her face was already covered in the man's saliva.

    Something inside Li Yundong snapped. A powerful surge of Qi rushed from his navel to the top of his head.

    "You son of a bitch!!!!!!"

    Li Yundong's roar blasted through the entire street. Seconds later, his voice dissipated into echoes, leaving the sound of car alarms in its wake.

    None of the gangsters moved an inch; they all seemed too transfixed too scared to move.

    "Apologize..." Li Yundong's voice came out in a low, menacing growl.

    Li Yundong snarled and slowly advanced towards the bald gangster.

    "A- Argh! Argh!" The bald gangster tried to back away from Li Yundong but ended up tripping over something on the ground and falling flat on his ass once more.

    Li Yundong balled his fists and released an angry snarl. "I'm not going to ask again…"

    A few other gangsters scrambled towards their leader to help him up. Li Yundong stopped his advance and glared at the thugs. "Apologize to the lady!" He pointed towards the floor where Er Lu's mother was lying. "And wipe your filthy spit off her face!"

    The bald gangster flinched. "O- O- Okay! Okay! I'll apologize!"

    "Then what the f*ck are you waiting for!" Li Yundong gestured at Er Lu's mother. "Do it now!"

    The bald gangster pushed his henchmen away and crawled towards the fallen woman.

    "M- Ma'am, I'm sorry..." He pulled out a napkin and patted the woman's face with it.

    Seconds later, the bald gangster stood up and shot a fearful glance at Li Yundong as though seeking his approval.

    "Now get out of my sight!"

    The gangsters didn't need to be told twice. Metal pipes clattered against the concrete pavement as the thugs fled the scene and ran for dear life. Li Yundong's eyes followed the gangsters until they reached the bend of the street.

    Once the gangsters were gone, Li Yundong turned and looked towards the Lamborghini. Clearly, he had given everyone quite a fright. President Cao had a hand pressed against her chest while Su Chan gave her a head massage. Feng Na and Cheng Cheng were staring slack-jawed at him as though they couldn't believe what they'd just witnessed.

    When Li Yundong turned sideways, he saw Zhou Qin staring at him as well.

    "What?" Li Yundong asked warily.

    "You're glowing..." Zhou Qin pointed out. Even though her tone was neutral, Li Yundong could detect the tremors in her voice.

    Li Yundong raised his forearms. Unsurprisingly, his arms and body were radiating a golden radiance. He'd experience the same thing when he tried to stop Ruan Hongling from hurting Su Chan. Back then, he just ignored the glow and it disappeared on its own. Maybe this time it would too.

    "Let's head back to the others." Li Yundong began to move, but then stopped after a few steps. He turned and saw Er Lu crawling his way towards his mother. The vegetable stall owner was struggling to get up. Li Yundong walked over towards the lady and hoisted her up in a fireman's carry. Then, he walked towards Er Lu and offered the guy his hand. When Er Lu took Li Yundong's hand, Li Yundong pulled the man to his feet. Er Lu stumbled slightly, but Zhou Qin was there to support him. Together, they all headed back towards the Lamborghini.

    Li Yundong lowered the vegetable stall owner to the ground, then leaned her against the side of the Lamborghini. His movements drew Su Chan's attention away from the head massage she was giving President Cao. Su Chan's eyes widened the moment their gazes met. The next thing he knew, Su Chan was pulling him away from the Lamborghini.

    "Sit down," she whispered urgently. "Quickly."

    Li Yundong lowered himself to the ground and got into a meditative posture. Su Chan moved around so that she was standing behind him.

    "My God... This is the Jindan's aura..."

    "This isn't the first time…" Li Yundong said.

    "I know," Su Chan answered.

    "The last time it happened, it disappeared on its own after I left it for a while—" Li Yundong felt a sharp prick on his spine between his two shoulder blades. "Hey..."

    "Hold still..."

    "O-Okay…"

    Minutes later, the pricking sensation was gone. "Alight, we're done."

    Li Yundong rose to his feet again and patted Su Chan's head. "Thanks princess."

    "Mmm!"

    Li Yundong took Su Chan's hand and led her back to the others.

    "I'm sorry you girls had to see that..." Li Yundong said, stopping in front of Feng Na.

    "Y- Your whole body was glowing just now..." Feng Na said, pointing at Li Yundong's face. "And now you're back to normal..."

    Li Yundong rubbed the back of his neck. How the f*ck was he supposed to explain any of this shit? "Well—"

    "But oh my gawd!" Feng Na gave him a thumbs up. "That was so badass!"

    Clearly, Feng Na was stepping into her role as the president of the Li Yundong Fan Club.

    "I thought you'd be terrified of me now," Li Yundong said wryly.

    "Oh, I was! But that was only because you look like you were about to tear that bastard into pieces—"

    "Nana, look!!"

    Li Yundong turned around.

    Cheng Cheng was standing across the street, trying to yank the metal ring out from the cracked pavement. When the metal ring didn't budge after several tries, Cheng Cheng let go of the metal and started gaping at them like a fish. The look on the poor girl's face was so hilarious that Li Yundong burst into guffaws.

    "Hey! Mom! What are you doing— Owww!"

    "Come with me you good-for-nothing child!"

    Li Yundong turned his head back to the Lamborghini. The vegetable stall owner was heading over towards him. And apparently, it wasn't just her; she was dragging his son over towards him.

    The woman kneeled when she was a few feet away from Li Yundong.

    Li Yundong's eyes widened in shock. "Hey— Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! What are you doing!" Li Yundong bent down to help the woman up.

    The woman pushed Li Yundong's hands away and then slapped herself across the cheek, hard.

    "Oh, what a blind fool I've been!" The woman started sobbing violently. "Oh, I can't believe this! Y- You..." The woman sobbed harder. "You came to our rescue even after I swindled a hundred yuan from you back then... Thank you, thank you, thank you! And my son... Oh, my good-for-nothing son... You saved his life as well... Oh, how am I ever going to repay you!"

    "Li Yundong stepped forward again. "Ma'am—"

    "I have nothing valuable to give you. So please accept my kowtow as a gesture of my gratitude!"

    The woman prostrated herself until her forehead touched a spot on the ground near Li Yundong's feet.

    Li Yundong sighed, then pulled the woman to her feet. "Just forget about the 100 yuan, okay? That's already in the past." He put a hand on the woman's shoulder. "Are you hurt anywhere?"'

    The woman shook her head.

    "Then you should take your son home and sort out the mess he's caused." Li Yundong turned towards Er Lu. "And you!" He glared at the man. "You should be ashamed of yourself! How can you allow your own mother to take a beating by a bunch of thugs. And in broad daylight no less!"

    Something tugged inside Li Yundong's chest, and he softened his tone. "Can't you see how much your mother loves you?" Li Yundong glanced at the vegetable stall owner again. "She was willing to take a beating for you." Some of us doesn't even have parents... Or at least parents who give a f*ck. Li Yundong shook his head and pointed a finger at Er Lu's face. "You better get your shit together and start treating your mother right from now on!"

    Er Lu broke apart right then and there. He threw his arms around his mother and started bawling like a child, not caring at all that he was in public. "I'm sorry, Ma! I'll never gamble again!"

    Er Lu's mother sniffed, then patted her son's back. "Okay, okay... Let's live a good and honest life for now on, okay?" The pair hugged each other and kept crying and crying without any signs of stopping.

    At one point, Li Yundong felt the sting of his own tears in his eyes. He struggled not to let them fall. He wondered if his own mother even knew how he was doing right now, or if she even care whether Li Yundong was alive or dead.

    Something warm slid into Li Yundong's palm. He looked down and saw Su Chan lacing their fingers together.

    "I'm here, Yundong. I'm here." Su Chan stared deeply into his eyes. "You have me."

    Li Yundong sniffed and patted Su Chan's head. After that, he stepped forward and cleared his throat harshly.

    Er Lu and his mother stepped out of each other's arms and shot Li Yundong grateful looks.

    "It's alright, now," Li Yundong said. "You guys should get out of here before those guys change their minds and return with more people."

    After that, Li Yundong returned to Su Chan's side and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Standing side by side, they watched the gradually diminishing figures of Er Lu and his mother.

    "I'm proud of you, Yundong," Su Chan whispered. "So proud..."

    Li Yundong smiled and gave Su Chan an affectionate look. "That's good enough for me. Because your opinion is the only thing that matters to me."

    Su Chan wasn't looking at him though. Instead, she was staring straight ahead. Suddenly, Su Chan patted his arm, then pointed at something in front. "Yundong, Yundong, look!"

    Li Yundong raised his gaze and saw Er Lu running back towards them. When Er Lu was about three feet away, he kneeled down in front of Li Yundong and gave Li Yundong three full kowtows. This time, Li Yundong was too stunned to stop him. When Er Lu raised his head, his forehead was covered in blood. "I, Er Lu, apologize for all my wrongdoings in the past, especially for all the troubles I've caused you, my savior!"

    Li Yundong shared a glance with Su Chan, who seemed just as surprised as he was.

    "I never should have tried to pick on a good man like you! But I am turning over a new leaf starting today! I will follow your example and be a good, kind, and responsible man! And from today onwards, you have my full loyalty, my brother! Rest assured that if there is anything you need, big brother, just say the word and I will be there in an instant!"

    "Listen, dude..." Li Yundong said.

    Er Lu lifted his fist, then uncurled his pinky. "I swear to you on this pinky!"

    Zhou Qin and the other girls shrieked when Er Lu bent his pinky until it snapped into a grotesque angle.

    "Hey!" Li Yundong and Su Chan moved forward. Su Chan already had a needle in one hand, ready to help fix Er Lu's broken finger.

    "It's okay, big brother." Er Lu stood up and smiled through his pain. "This broken finger is a token of my loyalty to you. I swear to you on my life that you have my allegiance forever!"

    Er Lu ran back towards his mother.

    When Er Lu and his mother vanished around the bend of the street, Li Yundong turned back to face everyone.

    "Well!" he said, clapping his hands together. "Who's hungry?"

    Awkward silence pervaded. And then…

    "Me!!!"

    Su Chan was the one who answered.

    Why was he not surprised?


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  • Chapter 143 It's Algebra!

    The Lamborghini was not designed with ergonomics in mind. Trying to fit six people into it was a test of willpower and patience. Even with its roof lowered, Feng Na, Cheng Cheng, Zhou Qin had to crawl and squeeze themselves into the tiny convertible's back seat.

    "Su Chan and I could've taken a cab, you know…" Li Yundong told President Cao after she had pulled away from the curb.

    President Cao snorted. "No point taking a cab when my car has enough room for everyone."

    Li Yundong turned his head towards the backseat. Yeah? I wouldn't call that enough room. Despite their slim figures, Feng Na, Cheng Cheng, and Zhou Qin looked anything but comfortable in the backseat.

    "Stupid FcupCC," Feng Na mumbled. "Why didn't you grow smaller boobs?"

    Cheng Cheng snorted. "You're just saying that because you're a flat-chested—oof!"

    Cheng Cheng stopped talking when Feng Na's elbow connected with her ribs.

    Li Yundong chuckled and turned around to face the front. Su Chan sat between his legs, poking around the Lamborghini's fancy center console.

    "President Cao, I think you should drop us off at the campus so that I can retrieve my car." Zhou Qin's strained voice sounded from the backseat. "No offense, but it really doesn't feel comfortable sitting like this."

    "Why don't we just pick a place near the campus to have lunch?" Feng Na suggested.

    Li Yundong laughed. "We might as well just eat at the campus cafeteria!"

    President Cao did a cheer, clapping her hands together. "Nice! That's a great idea! It's been so long since I've tried the food there! I kinda miss—"

    "Whoa! Watch out!"

    "Hey! Watch where you're going!"

    "Ahhh!"

    A chorus of screams sounded.

    President Cao quickly gripped the steering wheel and steered the Lamborghini to the correct lane. "Whoops! Sorry. I haven't been back to the university after I graduated. Guess I got a little excited."

    "I bet you're just saying that because it's cheaper to eat at the cafeteria," Li Yundong teased. "Didn't know you're this cheap, boss."

    President Cao shot Li Yundong a glare. "Cheap? Seriously? Do you know how much money and effort I've expended to clean up the mess you made at Shengyuan Hotel?"

    Li Yundong's face fell. Uh-oh…

    "Ahem... Well… Surely, a woman of unparalleled beauty and status such as yourself wouldn't hold it against a humble citizen like me..."

    President Cao snorted, then rolled her eyes. "Humble citizen. Right."

    Li Yundong gave her a strange look. "What?"

    President Cao chuckled. "If you are just a humble citizen, then everyone else are all just lowly peasants."

    "How about a troublemaker?" Zhou Qin added from the backseat. "You have no idea how much trouble Li Yundong can cause in literally just days."

    Li Yundong laughed, then wrapped his arms around Su Chan. "Hey, princess. Looks like these women are all ganging up on me. Won't you step out and defend me, my dear?"

    Su Chan sat up straighter inside Li Yundong's embrace. She turned around and gave everyone a menacing look. At least as menacing as it could be when those chipmunk pouches of hers were on full display—her cheeks were puffed out.

    Su Chan swung her tiny fist. "None of you are allowed to bully Yundong! I'm the only one who can bully him!" More fist swinging ensued.

    Everyone in the car was stunned into silence.

    Moments later, laughter filled the Lamborghini's interior.

    Li Yundong began pinching Su Chan's cheeks.

    "Wuaad?? Yeeww asshhk mee dooo diifffainn you..."

    And she did. In her cute, chipmunk sort of way. And he wouldn't have it any other way.

    ***

    The cafeteria was almost full by the time the group arrived. Students sat around the tables with their heads half-buried in books while they ate.

    "Wait, didn't you guys have exams to sit for today?" Li Yundong asked once they found an empty table.

    "We left the exam hall early so that we could go look for you," Cheng Cheng answered.

    Li Yundong smile wryly. "I wish I could sit for the exams like you guys..."

    Anything was better than being hunted by a crazy girl with flying damasks and brawling with a jacked up psycho.

    Zhou Qin shook her head and let out a sound of disapproval. "How insensitive of you to say that, Li Yundong. All of us have to study hard to earn our semester credits, but look at you. You skipped over ten lectures, and now you're getting all your credits without even trying." Zhou Qin sighed. "How unfair."

    Li Yundong laughed. "Well, in that case, allow me to make up for my insensitive remark by sharing with you guys a personal motto of mine. Call it a pearl of wisdom if you like."

    Feng Na chuckled. "Ooh! This is interesting. What pearl of wisdom? Do tell! Do tell!"

    Li Yundong sat up straighter and closed his eyes. "Ahem! Ahem! Okay. The pearl of wisdom is..." Li Yundong paused for a dramatic effect. "Studying will lead to failure!"

    When Li Yundong opened his eyes, everyone except Su Chan was looking at him as though he'd grown ten heads.

    Silence permeated their table.

    Then, Cheng Cheng burst into giggles. "Oh, come on! That's bullshit!"

    Li Yundong gave her an affronted look, then studied each person at the table. Feng Na, Zhou Qin, and President Cao still had skeptical looks on their faces. And finally, when he turned to Su Chan for support, his princess looked adorably puzzled.

    Suddenly, Li Yundong chuckled. "You girls clearly don't believe me." He nodded a few times. "But don't worry. I can prove it."

    Feng Na raised a brow. "Uh-huh..."

    Li Yundong laughed. "I really can."

    Feng Na smirked. "Yeah? How?"

    Li Yundong leaned back confidently. "With mathematics."

    "With mathematics?" President Cao said, putting down her teacup. "Okay. Now I have to listen to this. I have a feeling this is gonna be interesting." She gestured at Li Yundong. "Well? Go ahead then. Show us the proof of this statement of yours."

    Li Yundong nodded smugly. "Why, you see, my friends. It is merely a matter of simple algebra."

    ***

    Su Chan hadn't a single clue what this elliegeebra thingy was, but when Yundong asked her for his notebook and pen, she took them out from his backpack obediently.

    Yundong placed the notebook at the center of their table, then flipped through a few pages of her doodles—oopsie—until he reached a blank page.

    "So!" Yundong said, clicking the pen. "Let's begin!"

    Everyone leaned forward to look at page.

    Yundong wrote down a simple line: Studying = No Failure.

    Yundong stopped writing and glanced around the table. "Everyone agrees with this?"

    Su Chan looked around the table and saw everyone nodding. Su Chan looked down at the page again. To be fair, the rule wouldn't apply in the world of Cultivation. It would take so much more than just studying to succeed in any endeavors in Cultivation. Then again, she supposed the rule sounded quite reasonable when applied to exams. But still, where was he going with this?

    Yundong wrote down another line: No Studying = Failure.

    Yundong looked around the table again. "Agree?"

    Once again, everyone else at the table gave nods. Hmm, that seemed pretty reasonable too. Su Chan scratched her head.

    Yundong smirked. "Therefore..."

    Studying + No Studying = Failure + No Failure.

    "And..." Yundong said.

    Studying (1 + No) = Failure (1 + No)

    "Which means..."

    Studying = Failure (Q. E. D)!!!

    Yundong dropped the pen onto the table.

    "And there you have it! The mathematical proof of this time-tested principle of life!"

    Silence spread across their entire table.

    Su Chan stared at the page. She had never felt so confused in her life.

    Zhou Qin was the first one to react: by bursting into giggles.

    Seconds later, Feng Na and Cheng Cheng threw their heads back in laughter. Even the older lady, President Cao, was chuckling into her hand.

    So this nonsensical thing was elliegeebra? B- But Su Chan didn't understand a single thing! Su Chan glanced at the page, then at the other women, who were pretty much laughing their heads off. Worse, Yundong was laughing together with them! Hmph! Meanies!

    Gaaahhh! Master… why didn't you teach Chan'er elliegeebra back in the mountains…? Now I feel like a total idiot…

    At one point, someone started slapping the table. Su Chan looked up and saw Feng Na pressing her forehead against the table's surface. "This is complete nonsense," Feng Na got out between laughter. "I can't believe you spout all that crap with a straight face! Dear God..."

    Su Chan had had enough. She tugged Yundong's sleeve. "What's so funny?"

    Yundong stopped laughing and stared at her. "What? You didn't get it?"

    Meanie, meanie! Stop rubbing it in! Grr... Su Chan puffed out her cheeks, then shook her head.

    "Alright, alright, enough already…" President Cao said. "We should get some food first. You guys go ahead. I'll wait here."

    Finally some food! Su Chan leaped to her feet, then pulled Yundong up.

    "Whoa, slow down, princess," Yundong said.

    "I'm hungry!" Su Chan said, then began marching towards the queue.

    Ten minutes later, everyone was back at the table, which was now filled with trays and plates. Su Chan had merely taken several bites when she noticed something strange: instead of digging into their food, everyone was staring at her. Correction: staring at her tray.

    Su Chan blushed and looked at Yundong sheepishly. "B- But... Y- You said I could un... unleash m- my... appetite..."

    Yundong laughed, then gave President Cao a look. "Now do you believe me?"

    President Cao nodded without taking her eyes off Su Chan's tray. The poor woman looked like she was about to pass out. Should Su Chan give the woman another massage? She sure looked like she needed one.

    Su Chan glanced down and took stock of everything she had piled onto her tray: six medium-sized bowls of rice; three apples; two bowls of those tubular noodles (mah-roh-nee? ma-cah-roh-nee something, something); a plate of roasted chicken; a bowl of beef stew; a plate of mixed veges; two small bowls of soup; one of those bread dishes with patty in between (the ones at Mac Doo Nurls tasted nicer).

    Su Chan blushed, then sneaked a glance at Yundong. Well, at least he didn't look angry. She suspected that Yundong had already figured out by now why she had such a huge appetite. He'd probably put two and two together ever since he found out that she was a fox spirit.

    Yundong patted Su Chan's head and gave her a smile that nearly melted her heart. "Eat up, princess." Then, he leaned in and whispered into her ear. "I know you haven't eaten in two days. You've probably been busy watching over me when I was trying to pass the Zhuji phase. And..." Yundong's hand slid into hers under the table. "You passed out several times, right?"

    Su Chan nodded. "Mmm!"

    When she passed out the first time, she really thought it'd be all over for the both of them. But for some strange reason, she woke up a while later feeling much better. It was as if her Qi had been restored. She still hadn't figured out how that happened.

    A woman cleared her throat behind her.

    Su Chan turned around and saw two girls standing beside their table. Hey... I know these two...

    The two girls wore dresses of the exact same style and had identical faces. The only way to tell them apart was from the headbands they were wearing—one of them wore a red headband while the other wore a blue one.

    "Deng Yu? Deng Jiao?" Yundong said. "Hey, what's up? Long time no see!"

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  • Chapter 144 Obsession

    "Um... Hi, Li Yundong. C- Can we... Can we join you guys?" said the girl with the red headband. "The other tables are occupied... So…"

    Li Yundong looked towards the others. "You guys don't mind, right?"

    When he received a bunch of nods, he smiled at the girl. "Please," he said, gesturing at the empty seats beside President Cao.

    A look of relief formed on the girl's face. She turned to her twin sister. "See? I told you he wouldn't mind, sis!"

    Li Yundong smiled at the girl with the blue headband, who looked away shyly.

    "Wait... Let me see if I can tell you two apart." Li Yundong studied both girls for a moment, then pointed a finger at the girl with the red headband. "You're Deng Yu, am I correct?"

    A look of surprise formed on Deng Yu's face. "That's the second time you're able to tell us apart!"

    Li Yundong shrugged, then pointed at the empty seats. "Why don't you two sit down first?"

    The two girls walked around to the other side of the table and sat down beside President Cao. Li Yundong smirked when Deng Yu did a double take when she caught a glimpse of Su Chan's tray. He schooled his features and cleared his throat. "Guys, these are Deng Yu and Deng Jiao." Li Yundong turned to the twins. "And this is Miss Cao Kefei, my boss and the president of Huasheng Studios."

    The twins stared at President Cao in awe. "Hello..." Deng Jiao mumbled.

    "Nice to meet you, Miss Cao," said Deng Yu.

    President Cao smiled. "Hello. You two are pretty. Let me know if you're interested in joining the showbiz."

    Li Yundong smiled and moved on with the introductions. "This is my course mate, Zhou Qin. And these are my seniors, Feng Na and Cheng Cheng."

    More pleasantries were exchanged before everyone dug into their meal. Fifteen minutes later, everyone was pretty much done with their meals, except for—duh—Princess Chipmunk.

    Deng Yu pushed her tray away and reached for a napkin. "I'm really surprised that you still remember us, you know?" She turned towards Deng Jiao. "Sis thought you wouldn't remember..."

    Deng Jiao blushed.

    Li Yundong chuckled and set down his cup. "Of course I'd remember you two." He reached over and pinched Su Chan's cheek. Su Chan looked like she was about to spit out her soup. Li Yundong smiled and turned to Deng Yu again. "After all, my dear Su Chan nearly ruined your face the other day."

    Su Chan suddenly dropped her spoon and smacked Li Yundong's hand away. "Ugh! Stop bringing that up, you meanie! I told you I didn't do it on purpose."

    Li Yundong laughed, then patted Su Chan's head. A cute blush colored Su Chan's cheeks as she turned away to give Deng Yu a contrite look. "I- I'm sorry. I just… I got startled... I really didn't mean to hit you..." Su Chan said.

    Deng Yu smiled. "Oh, it's totally fine. But, um... actually..." Deng Yu pulled out a notebook from her handbag, then handed it to Li Yundong. "Can I have your autograph?" she asked, her eyes brimming with hope.

    Li Yundong gave Deng Yu a strange look, but he took the notebook anyway. "But I thought I gave you an autograph last time."

    Deng Yu grinned, then stole a glance at Deng Jiao. "Actually... this time, it's for my sister..."

    "Deng Yu!" Deng Jiao hissed. "Shush! You—" She looked at Li Yundong shyly.

    "Aww, c'mon sis," Deng Yu said. "You're not the only Li Yundong fangirl around here, you know..."

    Deng Jiao's cheeks turned scarlet. "You—" She stood up abruptly. "I'm leaving!" Deng Jiao stormed away from their table.

    Li Yundong scrawled his signature onto the first page of the notebook, then passed it back to Deng Yu. "Do you always bully your sister like that?"

    Deng Yu laughed. "I'm doing her a favor, trust me. She's just shy, but I bet deep down she's happy to finally have your autograph." Deng Yu glanced at her watch. "Anyway, thanks for the autograph. I gotta go to work now!"

    Li Yundong looked up in surprise. "McDonald's again?"

    Deng Yu gave him a casual wave. "Nah..."

    Li Yundong laughed. "So you finally quit your job at McD?"

    Deng Yu rose from the table. "Nope. I'm still working part-time at McDonalds. But I've got other jobs too." She slung her handbag onto her shoulder. "Anyway. Gotta run now. See ya!"

    Li Yundong smiled. "Bye, then. Take care!"

    After that, Deng Yu hurried away from their table. "Hey, sis! Wait up!"

    Deng Jiao's voice sounded from outside the cafeteria: "Hurry up, you slowpoke!"

    Li Yundong shook his head and turned back towards their table. He noticed President Cao studying his face with a look of amusement. Li Yundong cleared his throat. "Umm... Boss. About the assignment tonight..."

    President Cao's eyes narrowed. "What, you're not bailing out on me again, are you?"

    Li Yundong raised his palm. "No, I didn't say that. I mean I'll do the job." He met President Cao's gaze resolutely. "On one condition."

    President Cao's brows rose to her hairline. "Are you kidding me right now?"

    Li Yundong stared at President Cao intensely.

    Their staring contest lasted for about a minute or so before President Cao relented with a sigh. "Fine. What condition?"

    Smirking, Li Yundong slung his arm around Su Chan's shoulders. "I'm taking her with me."

    President Cao did a double take. "You're what?"

    Li Yundong shrugged casually. "I'm bringing my girlfriend along. I'm not going anywhere without my girlfriend." Li Yundong gave President Cao a challenging look.

    "But—" President Cao held her forehead for a moment, then raised her gaze again. "But you'll be too distracted to do your job if your girlfriend is around!" President Cao suddenly gave Su Chan an apologetic look. "No offense, Su Chan."

    "Oh, that's not going to be a problem," Li Yundong stated firmly.

    President Cao snorted. "Please. You'll be too busy making heart eyes at each other to keep me safe."

    Li Yundong smirked. "Okay then. Good luck finding my replacement." He stood up and pulled Su Chan to her feet. "Let's go home, Su Chan."

    Su Chan stood up hesitantly, her eyes darting to President Cao. "But..."

    Li Yundong gave Su Chan a reassuring smile, then whispered into her ear, "It's okay. I know what I'm doing."

    "Oh."

    Li Yundong gave the others a wave. "See you guys, then."

    "Wait! Fine, fine. Bring your girlfriend along," President Cao grumbled. "Geez. Young men these days… So full of themselves."

    Li Yundong gave Su Chan a triumphant smile, then sat back down at the table. "When are we leaving?"

    President Cao glanced at her watch. "We can leave after this if you don't mind."

    Li Yundong turned to Su Chan, who gave him a nod. He turned back to President Cao. "No problem, boss."

    President Cao sighed, then released a chuckle. "God, you two lovebirds..." She shook her head. "Are you guys always joined at the hips like this?"

    Li Yundong shrugged casually, though he didn't say anything in response. The last time Li Yundong left Su Chan alone, she was attacked. Worse, she'd been all alone with no backup. And she nearly died, for f*ck's sake. He'd be damned if he let his princess go through that shit again.

    Someone's phone rang. Li Yundong looked around the table, pausing when he saw Zhou Qin rummaging through her handbag.

    A moment later, Zhou Qin pulled out her phone and smiled at Li Yundong. "Excuse me."

    Li Yundong nodded. Zhou Qin's face turned cold the moment she glanced at the screen. She picked up the call and pressed her phone to her ear.

    "What do you want?"

    By then, everyone at their table was staring at Zhou Qin; the sharpness of Zhou Qin's tone had drawn everyone's attention.

    A frown marred Zhou Qin's features. Li Yundong shared a glance with Su Chan, who looked like she had something up her sleeves. Li Yundong grabbed Su Chan's hand under the table, then shook his head subtly. Su Chan looked at him questioningly. Li Yundong pointed at his own ear, then shook his head again: Don't use Eryue. They should respect Zhou Qin's privacy. A look of recognition formed on Su Chan's face, and she nodded.

    Minutes later, Zhou Qin hung up the phone and dropped it back into her handbag. She gave Li Yundong another smile, though he could tell that the smile was forced. Zhou Qin glanced around the table. "You'll have to excuse me guys," she said. "There's something I need to take care of."

    Zhou Qin stood up and gave President Cao, Feng Na, and Cheng Cheng parting nods before leaving their table in a hurry.

    "Well," Feng Na said, standing up with her tray. "I guess we should get going too. We have another exam to sit for this afternoon."

    Feng Na waited for Cheng Cheng to rise, then gave Li Yundong a smile.

    Li Yundong waved at Feng Na and Cheng Cheng. "Good luck. And thank you for today."

    Li Yundong watched Feng Na and Cheng Cheng put their dirty trays away. When the pair vanished through the cafe's entrance, Li Yundong turned back to President Cao.

    "Say, boss... We'll be attending a dinner party tonight, right? I mean for the assignment."

    "Yeah, why?"

    "Okay. Isn't it too early to leave now? It's just a little past noon."

    President Cao waved off his concerns. "We still need to get you suited up for the event. That will take some time."

    Li Yundong chuckled bitterly. "I actually own a good suit, but it's at my apartment." Li Yundong shook his head. "I don't want to risk going back there though."

    President Cao frowned in confusion. "Risk? Does this have to do with that crazy maniac who attacked you at Shengyuan Hotel?"

    Li Yundong felt a pinch on his left side. He turned just in time to see Su Chan giving him a warning look. He gave President Cao a casual smile. "It's nothing. Just don't want to run into the landlord, that's all."

    To his relief, President Cao let the subject drop. After taking care of their dirty trays, the three of them left the cafeteria and headed towards the carpark, where President Cao's Lamborghini was parked.

    "Now, Li Yundong," President Cao said, clicking the Lamborghini's fob. "Ready for some shopping?"

    ***

    Zi Yuan lowered the Great Mirror after the Lamborghini sped away from the parking lot. With a sigh, she leaned back against the seat of her own car, then handed the mirror to the young girl beside her. Hongling took the mirror and placed it back into the glove compartment.

    They sat in silence for a moment until Hongling broke it. "I don't believe this, Elder Sister Zi Yuan... This is just... This... This cannot be real!"

    Zi Yuan turned her head and studied her young protégé's face. Hongling looked genuinely puzzled. For once, her protégé was showing emotions other than anger or irritation, which was always the case whenever things involved Li Yundong.

    "How's that even possible?" Hongling whispered, then shook her head. "H- Her soul structure is incomplete! Yet she's alive and walking..." Hongling turned in her seat to face Zi Yuan. "What in Tao's name is going on, Elder Sister Zi Yuan?"

    Zi Yuan sighed and turned away from her protégé. Zi Yuan stared out of the windshield as she pondered her Hongling's question.

    "The Heaven-Soul and Earth-Soul are both missing..." Zi Yuan mumbled. "How strange..."

    "And the Qi-Soul, the Strength-Soul, the Essence-Soul, and the Elite-Soul are missing as well... " Hongling said in awe. "Perhaps there was a mistake?"

    "The Great Mirror never lies," Zi Yuan snapped, then dropped her voice into a low murmur. "It never lies..."

    Still, Zi Yuan couldn't deny that the Great Mirror had shown them something completely anomalous. According to the principles of Taoism, the human soul consists of ten components, three of which (the Heaven-Soul, the Earth-Soul, and the Life-Soul) are transcendent, while the rest are material.

    Cao Kefei's soul was incomplete. Some components were either missing or somehow obscured from the Great Mirror.

    Hongling's frustrated sigh pulled Zi Yuan out of her thoughts. "Regardless, Elder Sister Zi Yuan... When are we going to make our play? We can't just sit back and watch them forever, you know? The longer we take to reclaim the damask, the more Qi I'll have to expend to win back its allegiance!"

    Zi Yuan gave her protégé a sidelong glance. "Didn't you say that you're going to reclaim it on your own?"

    The blush dusting Hongling's cheeks nearly made Zi Yuan smile. "H- How am I supposed to reclaim it without... without any help?"

    Zi Yuan stared out of the windshield. "Without help? So are you saying that you didn't have any help during your previous failed attempt to reclaim the damask? No help at all?"

    There was a moment of silence. Then, the car shook a little when Hongling slammed her head against the headrest.

    "So what if I asked for some help? I just wanted to take back what's mine! Is that so wrong?!"

    Zi Yuan turned in her seat. "The Divine Fist School! You asked someone from the Divine Fist School for help, and to deal with a person who hasn't even passed the Zhuji phase no less! Seriously, Hongling? Are you out of your mind?" Zi Yuan glared at her protégé. "The Linggong Sect's reputation will be ruined if this ever gets out."

    Hongling met Zi Yuan's glare with a look of defiance. "Have you forgotten about that demon witch, Elder Sister? I had to deal with two of them! What's wrong with me seeking some outside help? And he is the Jindan's Heir, for Tao's sake! His aptitude far surpasses that of any other Cultivator! Do you know that he nearly killed me with just a roar? Do you?"

    Zi Yuan's glare faltered a little. Still, she didn't back down.

    "Yeah, that's right, Elder Sister. His Qi was so powerful that he nearly shattered my soul when he roared." Hongling snorted. "Shouldn't you be worried about my safety instead of his?"

    There was a brief pause. Zi Yuan shook her head, then sighed.

    Hongling kept ranting. "I can't believe you care more about him than me. Me, your sister for over ten years!"

    Anger coursed through Zi Yuan. She turned in her seat to glare at Hongling. However, her anger dissipated the moment she noticed the hurt look on Hongling's face.

    "You don't know what you're talking about, Hongling." Zi Yuan sighed. "Yes, he's the Jindan's Heir, that's true. But that doesn't mean I care about him. I'm just curious about him, that's all. Although I'm quite disappointed with what I've seen so far, to be honest. He… He seems more interested in romance than Cultivation. Even with the Jindan's help, his future as a Cultivator doesn't look promising..."

    "Exactly!" Hongling laughed snidely, then clapped her hands together. "I say we act right this instant, Elder Sister Zi Yuan! We've been watching him for so long already. Haven't you seen enough?"

    Zi Yuan arched her brow.

    "Seen enough? When you first told about him, the way you described him was like he was some kind of evil creature to be exterminated." Zi Yuan gave her protégé a pointed look. "But why would he save the woman and his son just now if he's truly evil?"

    "Oh my God!" Hongling shrieked, throwing her hands in the air. "You're still taking his side!"

    "Hongling…" Zi Yuan said warningly. When would this girl ever grow up?

    "You're taking his side… That's what it all comes down to at the end of the day, isn't it? I can't believe this..." Hongling said, then huffed out in anger. "What's so great about that man, huh? What's so special about him that drove you into this… this"—Hongling gestured wildly with her hands—"obsession with him?"

    Zi Yuan sighed. "I'm wondering the same thing, Hongling. What's so great about him that Master would write that prophecy on the Obelisk of—"

    "The prophecy!" The car shook when Hongling yelled. "Again with that damned prophecy! Ever since Master wrote it, you started acting strange. You shut yourself off and refused to deal with anything! Even when other sects of the Zhengyi School tried to mock or bully the Linggong sect, you kept quiet and never tried to defend our sect. It's like you were possessed by an evil spirit or something. God!"

    There was another moment of silence.

    Hongling laughed snidely. "And yet you rushed off the mountain the moment I told you about the Jindan's Heir…" There was a snort. "Clearly this shows where your true priorities lay, Elder Sister Zi Yuan."

    Zi Yuan bent forward and opened the glove compartment. Zi Yuan took out the Great Mirror again.

    Hongling huffed out in anger. "And I can't believe you're blatantly ignoring the fact that he had stolen my damask! Not only that, but you even defended him!"

    Zi Yuan ran her palm over the Great Mirror's surface. Wisps of mists swirled around inside the mirror surface.

    "Don't worry, I'll help you retrieve the damask tonight," Zi Yuan said, stopping Hongling mid-rant.

    "R- Really? You'll really do that?" A mixture of joy and surprise colored Hongling's tone.

    "Mm-hmm..." Zi Yuan answered distractedly.

    "Yes! Finally we're getting somewhere! And while you're at it, please help me beat him up. Time to teach that perverted bastard a lesson!"

    Zi Yuan lifted her gaze off the mirror's surface and stared off into space.

    "I guess there's no harm in interacting with the Jindan's Heir up close..." Zi Yuan said. "It'll give me a chance to see what kind of person he is..."

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