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.
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?