Perhaps there was a good reason why old-school communication was deemed as, well, old school—it was unreliable, even though it functioned by magical means.
For hours Li Yundong had stood on his balcony and waited for the paper crane's return, yet there were no signs of it. Maybe Su Chan had gone to bed already? Did Ao Wushuang confiscate the paper crane? Li Yundong sighed. This was stupid. He should head back inside. It wasn't like standing out here would make the crane come any faster.
Li Yundong pushed away from the railing and entered the living room.
Zi Yuan rose from the couch as soon as he stepped in.
"I'm gonna head back," she said.
"Oh," Li Yundong said, closing the sliding door gently. "Thanks for dinner. I really appreciate it."
Zi Yuan nodded. "Good night, then."
Following Zi Yuan's departure, Li Yundong did a quick visual sweep of the apartment, which felt empty all of a sudden. Guess he had gotten used to Zi Yuan's presence inside his apartment.
He walked around the apartment for a bit and ended up standing outside Su Chan's room. A wave of loneliness rose inside him, but he tamped it down. He lowered his hand from the door knob and let out a heavy sigh.
Sneaking around in her room wouldn't make him miss her any less.
He strode into the living room, then moved past the couch towards the kitchen.
Zi Yuan had cleared the dining table and taken care of all the dishes. He came to a halt outside the kitchen. He turned and slowly walked towards the dining table.
Zi Yuan had replaced the table cloth.
A teacup sat at the center of the table. When he touched the teacup's surface, he found that it was still warm. Pressed underneath the teacup was a note: "The Heavenly Thunder is approaching. Stay focused. Drink it while it's still warm."
Li Yundong picked up the teacup and studied its contents. He raised the teacup and then brought its rim closer to his nose.
He sniffed a few times and found that the liquid was odorless. He took a small sip and realized that it was tasteless as well.
Probably just warm water...
He drank up the rest.
Li Yundong nearly dropped the teacup when he felt it: a strong pulse in his lower abdomen, right at his lower Dantian.
It was like his Vital Orb had just grown stronger.
Li Yundong stared at the teacup. That couldn't have been just water. Even though it tasted just like water, he knew that Zi Yuan must have fed him something.
Li Yundong sighed and placed the teacup back onto the table. I'll just ask her tomorrow.
He turned away from the table and glanced around the apartment again, wondering what he should do.
The answer was pretty obvious.
He padded towards the center of the living room and got into a meditative posture.
The next morning, Li Yundong was proud to announce that the Running Man had set a new record: half an hour from New Hongsheng District to Tiannan University, and he'd done it while carrying a bulky magical object on his back.
The strange looks and hushed whispers began the moment he walked past the campus gates. Great. The entire university had probably found out about yesterday's incident at the canteen by now. Right. As if that wasn't par for the course.
He wondered what kind of excuse he could come up with to justify the Fan of Seven Treasures' magical properties. That it was a component of an AI-controlled robot? So believable right there.
What were Zi Yuan's reasons again for her insistence that he should return to the university? He honestly didn't know anymore.
On the way to the academic building, a voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Tsk, tsk, you think that guy can still walk?"
"Hmm... I don't know, Nana. But I think he might run into a little trouble considering how swollen his head must be."
There was a giggle.
"Well, fame does that to people."
Li Yundong laughed out loud. Those two...
He turned around and saw Feng Na and Cheng Cheng standing side by side, staring at him.
He gave them a wave. The two women waved back and began walking towards him. Cheng Cheng was dressed differently today. Instead of her usual casual attire, she was wearing a long-sleeved blouse and a pair of black dress pants.
"Whoa. Somebody's giving out a lot of OL vibes." He gave Cheng Cheng a thumbs up. "Nice. Very professional."
Feng Na stopped right in front of him while Cheng Cheng stood slightly to his left.
Li Yundong gave Feng Na a nod. "Morning."
"Don't so sound surprise, please," Cheng Cheng said. "You make it sound like I don't usually look nice—"
Li Yundong whipped his head to the side. At the same time, his hand shot out and grabbed...
Cheng Cheng's wrist.
Li Yundong and Cheng Cheng stared at each other for a second.
Cheng Cheng's eyes were wide with shock.
With a sigh, Li Yundong relaxed his stance and let go of Cheng Cheng's wrist.
"Sorry. That was a reflex," Li Yundong said. Then, he shot Cheng Cheng a worried look. "Are you okay?"
A smile spread over Cheng Cheng's stunned expression. "Nah. It's fine. I should've known better." She chuckled. "You're a trained martial artist after all." She gave him a strange look. "Though you do seem a bit wound up tight today. I mean, it wasn't like I was trying to slap you or anything. I was just trying to pat your shoulder..."
"Yeah… My bad," Li Yundong said. "Like I said, it was just a reflex."
Cheng Cheng waved off his concerns. "So. I heard from Nana that you put on a show again yesterday. At the canteen."
Li Yundong groaned. "Don't even start."
"I'm pretty sure putting on a show is an understatement, Cheng Cheng," Feng Na piped in. "He tore the whole place apart!"
Li Yundong shot Feng Na a glare. "You're not helping."
"What?" Feng Na hid a smile behind her hand. "I was just stating the truth."
Li Yundong narrowed his eyes at Feng Na. "And you still want to be near me after what you saw?" Li Yundong jerked his chin towards his backpack, where the Fan of Seven Treasures sat. He'd wrapped up the thing with another piece of cloth today. "Not scared that it might try to hurt you?"
Suddenly, Feng Na didn't look so smug anymore. "Um... Will it?"
Li Yundong laughed out loud. Either she was either slow on the uptake or she had balls of steel.
"No," he said. "It's completely harmless as long as you don't try to touch it."
He could see the curiosity in Feng Na's eyes as she stared at his backpack. She was probably dying to ask him about what the fan does or how it works. In which case she would be completely out of luck, because Li Yundong himself had no clue.
"Damn..." Cheng Cheng clapped her hands together. "Now I'm curious about what happened. Can't believe I missed the whole show!"
Li Yundong raised a brow. "You do know that it was a dangerous situation, right?"
Cheng Cheng shrugged as though it wasn't even a big deal. "Maybe I like to live precariously."
Until death got in your face, he added mentally.
"Well? Just look it up on the goddamn forums," he grumbled. "I'm sure it's up there already." He looked towards Feng Na. "So what's up anyway? There has to be a reason why you guys are here bugging me so early in the morning."
Feng Na broke into a grin. "As a matter of fact, we do!" she said.
"Yep! We need your help!" Cheng Cheng said.
"Right. Why am I not surprised," he said dryly.
Feng Na cleared her throat. "So we've got these tables that we have to move, you see?"
Cheng Cheng nodded. "And since we know you're strong..."
Li Yundong chuckled and raised his palm. "Okay. Okay. You need my help moving a bunch of tables. I get the idea." Li Yundong looked towards Feng Na. "When and where?"
Feng Na grinned. "We'll take you there after your lecture."
Li Yundong smirked. "What if I just, I don't know, decided to run off after my lecture?"
Feng Na smirked back. "Not a chance."
Li Yundong raised his brow. "You sound confident."
Cheng Cheng giggled. "That's because we'll be following you around today to make sure you don't run off."
Li Yundong did a double take.
The two girls were smiling at him cheekily.
"Are you guys serious?" he asked.
A smug look spread across Feng Na's face. "Of course we are," she said. "You're not getting off the hook that easily."
"What about your classes?" Li Yundong studied the two women with suspicious eyes. "Your schedules just happen to be free right now?"
"Of course," Feng Na said smugly. "Which is why we'll be sitting in your lecture hall until your lecture ends, so deal with it."
"Mm-hmm," Cheng Cheng said. "We'll be watching you." She pointed two fingers at her eyes.
"This is ridiculous." Li Yundong laughed. "You know there's no chance in hell you two can stop me if I really want to run right? I suggest you save yourselves some trouble and… What?"
Neither of the women were even looking at him right now. Instead, their eyes were focused on something behind him.
Li Yundong turned around and followed their gazes.
Li Yundong's stomach clenched.
Ding Nan was heading straight for them.
Li Yundong was cut off by Ding Nan's cold voice: "Do you want to know where Zhou Qin is?"
It took everything in Li Yundong's power to stay cool.
"Yes," he said almost too quickly. "Where is she?"
Ding Nan didn't answer the question. Instead, she seemed to be observing him, watching his reaction to her words. Somehow, the frosty look on Ding Nan's face rubbed Li Yundong the wrong way.
"Ding Nan..." Li Yundong said, his voice betraying his urgency. "Stop playing games. Tell me where she is. Why isn't she attending her classes?"
A small part of him feared what he might hear from Ding Nan. But still, he needed to know the truth so that he could do something to help.
"Classes?" Ding Nan laughed snidely. "I doubt she'd be able to attend classes ever again."
Li Yundong's blood ran cold. His hand rose instinctively to grab Ding Nan's shoulders, but then he held himself back at the last second, fearing he might hurt Ding Nan.
"What's that supposed to mean? What happened to her? Tell me!"
A smirk pulled across Ding Nan's lips.
"Why, are you worried about her?" Ding Nan sneered. "Does your heart ache for her?"
Li Yundong took a step back and schooled his features.
"Of course I'm worried about her," he said in a firm tone. "She's my friend."
"Friend?" Ding Nan sneered, then pointed a finger at his face. "I bet you only befriended her because of her status and money!" A look of disdain spread across Ding Nan's features. "I wonder how you would treat her now that she's become a penniless nobody."
Anger rose inside Li Yundong.
"I don't give a shit about her status and money," Li Yundong said coldly. "She's my friend." Li Yundong took a step forward. "Now I'm gonna ask you again. Where is she?"
Ding Nan's smug expression faltered, and she took a step backwards.
"If she's in trouble, then I wanna help." Li Yundong said, softening his tone. "I don't care whether she's rich or poor. None of that matters. She's my friend."
His words seemed to have renewed Ding Nan's confidence somehow. She snorted. "Just wait till you see the state she's in."
Li Yundong's heart stopped. What the f*ck happened to Zhou Qin? Did she get hurt?
"So what if she's in a bad state?" Cheng Cheng said in a tone of disdain. "Li Yundong isn't a suck-up who only befriends someone for their status." There was a pause. "Unlike a certain someone."
Anger flashed across Ding Nan's eyes. She turned and glared daggers at Cheng Cheng and Feng Na.
"Drop the pretense," Ding Nan snarled. "You're all just a bunch of hypocrites!"
Cheng Cheng looked like she was ready to pounce, but Feng Na held Cheng Cheng back and gave her friend a subtle headshake.
Li Yundong decided to step in right then. "Quit stalling, Ding Nan. Just tell me where to find her."
Ding Nan rolled her eyes and turned around to walk away.
Son of a bitch!
Li Yundong hurried after her. "Ding Nan! Come on!" He grabbed Ding Nan's arm and forced her to turn around. "If you know where she is, just tell me!"
They stared at each other for a moment. Ding Nan's expression was guarded and unreadable. As the staring match dragged on, Li Yundong began to sift through his memory for the contents of the Mahamudra Tantra. Perhaps there was a tantric mudra that would allow him to force the truth out of someone.
He came up with none.
Ding Nan freed her arm from his grip. "I'll give you one day to think things over." She backed away a step, then turned around to walk away. "Come find me if you still wanna know where she is. I'll tell you then." Ding Nan stopped walking and stood there with her back facing him. "You might not like what you see. Don't say I didn't warn you."
Ding Nan began to walk away again.
"I don't need a day!" Li Yundong yelled after her. "Just tell me now!"
Ding Nan kept walking until she disappeared into the academic building.
"Son of a bitch!" Li Yundong ran a hand through his hair. "I should go after her—"
Cheng Cheng pulled him back. "You know she could be lying just to get your attention, right?"
Feng Na nodded grimly. "I agree. Their friendship ended months ago." Feng Na glanced towards the academic building. "There's no way she could've known Zhou Qin's whereabouts."
Li Yundong sighed. "But they were in the same circle." Li Yundong shook his head. "Ding Nan still have connections. She might really know something."
"Why don't you head to class first?" Feng Na gave him a sympathetic look. "She said she's gonna tell you tomorrow anyway, right?"
"She's right, you know," Cheng Cheng said. "Besides, I don't think you're gonna get much out of Ding Nan even if you go after her right now."
Feng Na rolled her eyes and snorted. "Yeah well, given how stubborn she is, I'd say it's damn near impossible."
Cheng Cheng shook her head in disgust. "I still think she's just vying for Li Yundong's attention."
Li Yundong huffed out a breath. "Let's just go."
It would be naive to think that Zhou Qin was okay at this point. Something had happened to her, and he was going to f*cking find out what.
The lecture went by in a blur. By the time Li Yundong was walking out of the lecture hall with Feng Na and Cheng Cheng, he could barely recall the contents of the lecture, super memory notwithstanding.
Feng Na and Cheng Cheng had stayed true to their word by sitting through the entire lecture with him. They hadn't said more than a few words to him during the lecture though. They had probably sensed his foul mood and didn't want to disturb his brooding.
"Hey, Cheng Cheng," Feng Na said in a faux cheery tone. "How was your internship job? We never got around to ask."
Li Yundong knew that Feng Na was just trying to lighten the mood, but he was honestly too worked up over their conversation with Ding Nan to care. As the three of them walked along the hallway, he stole a glance at Cheng Cheng. The girl seemed to be having some kind of silent communication with Feng Na.
Li Yundong sighed inwardly and decided to indulge them.
"Yeah, Cheng Cheng. How was it? Think you can get hired for good?"
"Ugh!" Cheng Cheng grimaced as though she had just swallowed something rotten. "Just thinking about that stupid job drives me mad."
Li Yundong pulled up short. "What? Why?" He looked towards Feng Na. "I thought it was going well?"
"Well, the job itself was great," Cheng Cheng grumbled. "But the boss? Not so much?"
"What happened?" Li Yundong pulled Cheng Cheng to a stop, then glanced at Feng Na.
Feng Na didn't look all that surprised, so he guessed she must have known about it already.
"I got sexually harassed is what happened," Cheng Cheng said with a sigh.
What the hell?
"What did the bastard do?"
"He kept staring at my chest whenever we were in the same room." Cheng Cheng pressed her hands to her chest as though to emphasize her point. "If that was all he did, then fine, I could handle it. I mean I'm already used to people staring at my chest anyway. But then yesterday he touched my legs and told me to stay at the office until after hours." Cheng Cheng curled her lips in disgust. "Said he wanted to" —Cheng Cheng did air quotes—"discuss work-related matters with me." Cheng Cheng rolled her eyes. "Stupid old geezer thought I'd fall for that kind of thing."
Li Yundong frowned. "Please tell me you kicked him in the nuts."
An image of Su Chan kicking Director Qian flashed in his mind.
"Nah. He's bigger and stronger than me." Cheng Cheng chuckled sadly. "I'd be stupid to pick a fight with him." Cheng Cheng glanced at him. "Though if I have your fighting skills, he'd probably be dead now." Cheng Cheng released a heavy sigh. "Worse. I can't even file a HR complaint. I mean, what would be the point? He owns the company."
"What about…?" Li Yundong paused in thought. "Have you tried reporting him to the police?"
Cheng Cheng waved her hand. "I've got no evidence against him."
"So what'd you do?"
Cheng Cheng stared at him like he'd grown ten heads. "I quit the job and left, what else." Cheng Cheng shrugged. "Bye-bye job opportunity."
Li Yundong sighed. "Shit... That sucks..."
There was a snort. Li Yundong glanced sideways and saw Feng Na giving him a wry smile.
"See? I told you the other day, didn't I?" Feng Na said in a tone of resignation. "It's hard to get a good job these days."
"Hey, Li Yundong." Cheng Cheng smiled. "If you ever plan to start your own company, don't forget about us, okay?"
Feng Na nodded with zest. "Yeah. It's much better to have you as a boss than those perverts."
"Me? Starting my own company?" Li Yundong chuckled. That was probably as likely as pigs flying. "Don't hold your breath."
Li Yundong moved further along the corridor while the two girls followed him. They were headed to the media room. Apparently, these tables and chairs had to be moved from the media room to somewhere.
"If you want, I could call President Cao or President Yin and ask them if they have suitable positions for you two," Li Yundong said as they descended the stairs of the academic building.
Cheng Cheng and Feng Na spoke over each other.
The three of them stopped walking and stared at each other for a moment.
Cheng Cheng had sounded pretty excited just now, but Feng Na just flat-out denied the offer.
"What's the matter with you two today?" Li Yundong asked, his eyes narrowing. "Do you want me to put in the call or not?"
Cheng Cheng and Feng Na did their silent communication thing again.
"Uh, guys?" Li Yundong waved a hand in front of them.
"Um… Well." Cheng Cheng laughed awkwardly. "I think I agree with Nana. Don't think that's a good idea. I mean, I don't think we'd..." Cheng Cheng cleared her throat and grinned. "I don't think we'd be a good fit there."
Li Yundong gave them a strange look. What the hell was that about?
Feng Na clapped her hands together.
"Come on, let's go! The tables and chairs aren't gonna move themselves!"
It wasn't until Li Yundong had strode into the media room that he realized that he'd just been played. These supposed tables and chairs were already arranged into neat rows when they got there.
The media room was filled with students, who sat in those chairs. Some kind of stage was set up in front of the room.
Li Yundong glared at Feng Na and Cheng Cheng.
"There never was any tables and chairs to move, was there?"
Cheng Cheng stuck her tongue out. "Ta-da!" She gestured proudly at the room.
"Nope." Feng Na smirked. "That was just an excuse to get you here."
"What the hell is this?" Li Yundong jerked his chin towards the stage.
Feng Na clapped his shoulders. "Relax, pal. The candidates for the student council president will be giving their speeches shortly."
"What? I thought that's supposed to take place this evening?"
Feng Na waved her hand casually. "The schedules got moved up. The speeches will begin in..." Feng Na checked the time. "Probably fifteen minutes."
Li Yundong laughed. "You know you guys could've just told me, right? I already gave you my word that I'll be there when you deliver your speech."
A slow grin spread across Feng Na's face. "Nope. That's not good enough." Feng Na's grin turned into a smirk. "I had to be sure that you're here on time."
"That's why you followed me around," Li Yundong said, shaking his head in amusement. "So you could drag me here."
Feng Na shrugged. "I didn't want to take any chances."
Li Yundong scanned his eyes across the media room. More students were filing in, and the chatter seemed to have gotten louder now.
Li Yundong tore his eyes away from the stage and looked towards Feng Na.
"I don't get it," he said, shaking his head slightly. "Why is it so important that I'm here?"
Cheng Cheng laughed out loud.
"Well…" Cheng Cheng stepped towards him and patted his shoulder a few times. "The truth is, my friend, you play a crucial role in ensuring Feng Na's victory today!"
Li Yundong narrowed his eyes at the two women. What's that supposed to mean?
"What the hell are you two up to?"
Feng Na and Cheng Cheng exchange several looks.
"Oh... You'll see." Feng Na smirked. "You'll see soon enough."