"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.
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.
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!" She 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.
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.