"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."
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.