"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 barge 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.