When Li Yundong strode into Room 502 the next day, he did not expect to run into a sneak attack.
"Is this your way of greeting someone who, A) comes visit you in his free time, B) took the time to cook your lunch, and C) gives you massages?" Li Yundong said, staring at the pillow beside his feet, the same pillow that had smacked him in the face the moment he opened the door.
And yes, he had allowed the pillow to hit him in the face because: one, both of his hands were occupied (he was carrying plastic bags containing his ungrateful attacker's lunch); and two, he was too busy mulling over Acalanatha's message to dodge random, unexpected pillow assaults.
He raised his gaze from the pillow and looked towards Zhou Qin's corner of the room.
Zhou Qin was sitting in her wheelchair, smiling back at him.
Somebody, it seemed, was in a good mood.
Li Yundong resisted the urge to pick up the pillow with Qi Kinesis. No need to frighten the poor girl. He side-stepped the pillow and strode further into the room.
"You seem to be in a good mood today," Li Yundong said, setting the plastic bags on top of the cabinet.
Zhou Qin's smile widened just a tad. "Of course I'm in a good mood. I saw a certain idiot today, that's why."
"Oh yeah?" Li Yundong shot her a playful glare, then feigned a disgruntled snort. "I'm here out of the kindness of my heart. And you're calling me an idiot?"
Zhou Qin gave him an innocent look.
"Did I say I was talking about you? Hmm. I don't think I did."
Li Yundong chuckled.
Zhou Qin arched her brow challengingly.
"Alright, alright. You win, geez." Li Yundong smiled. "Now why don't you tell the real reason you're in such a good mood…"
Zhou Qin chuckled and rolled the wheelchair towards the bed. She reached for the overbed table, where a laptop sat idly. She spun the laptop around to show him the screen.
"What's this?" Li Yundong walked over, then leaned down to take a good look at the screen. Moments later, Li Yundong shot her a look of amusement. "Seriously? The stupid forums? That's what's got you so happy?"
Zhou Qin smirked, then nodded at the laptop. "Read the latest posts."
Li Yundong returned his gaze to the screen and began reading out the first few threads.
"Stage play, or magic show: Tiannan University's drama club outshining Broadway?" Li Yundong smiled and read the next one. "Li Xiaoyao: The Noobest Noob in the History of Noobs; the pathetic loser who lets his girl be stolen by an old man?" Li Yundong burst out laughing. Then he peered at Zhou Qin over the top of the laptop's lid. "What the hell is this shit?"
Zhou Qin smirked. "Keep reading."
Li Yundong scrolled down. "Hilarious parody of Chinese Paladin turns a martial arts film into an age-gap romcom. The greatest swordsman in existence, or the greatest manther in existence? Closet gerontophile Zhao Ling'er elopes with a master swordsman who is old enough to be her grandpa..." Li Yundong did a face palm and shook his head.
"Goddamn morons..." he mumbled as he clicked into page two.
He scanned the second page, pausing at a thread near the bottom of the page.
"X-Files: Tiannan City, starring Li Yundong?" Li Yundong chuckled. "God. These knuckleheads really have too much free time." He passed the laptop back to Zhou Qin, shaking his head as he did. "I can't believe reading this nonsense put you in such good mood."
Zhou Qin closed the lid of the laptop.
"What?" she said innocently. "Some of them are pretty funny."
Li Yundong sighed and sat down in the chair beside the bed. "Look... You must be wondering about what happened during the event last night… All I say is—"
"Look, you don't have to explain anything to me," Zhou Qin said, pausing to look at him. "I know you're capable of..." She cleared her throat. "Stuff."
Li Yundong gave her a wry smile.
Zhou Qin chuckled. "What, do you think I'm an idiot like those students?" She tilted her head towards the laptop.
Li Yundong cleared his throat. "No, not at all." He glanced down at his hands.
An awkward silence permeated the room.
"I get it, you know?" Zhou Qin said after a while.
Li Yundong looked up in surprise.
Zhou Qin smiled at him weakly. "It can be difficult to explain things to someone who doesn't know."
Li Yundong stared wordlessly at Zhou Qin.
Zhou Qin sighed. "Sometimes it's easier to just not talk about it at all." She shrugged. "I used to do it all the time. So yeah, I totally get it."
Li Yundong cleared his throat. "Well, that, plus the fact that those nosy people couldn't keep their damned mouths shut." Li Yundong jerked his chin towards the laptop.
Zhou Qin chuckled. "True."
"Anyway. Enough about that." Li Yundong rose from the chair. "Are you hungry? Do you want to eat before or after the massage?"
Zhou Qin considered his question for a moment.
"I'd like to have the massage first if that's okay," Zhou Qin said.
"Sure," Li Yundong said with a smile. Then, he raised a brow. "Not hungry?"
Zhou Qin shook her head. "Had a late breakfast."
Li Yundong nodded, then rolled the wheelchair towards the bed.
"Okay. Here's the thing. The massage I'll be giving you today is more advanced than the previous ones," he said while clearing the clutter on the bed to make space.
Li Yundong straightened up and turned around to face Zhou Qin. "It won't just be a head massage this time. I'll be massaging your spine directly."
A look of surprise flitted across Zhou Qin's features. "Directly, as in..."
Li Yundong nodded. "As in right in the area of the blood clot." He sat down on the edge of the bed. "This is the second and final phase of your treatment." He gave her a serious look. "I told you I'd help you stand up again, Zhou Qin. And this is it." He tapped the wheelchair's armrest. "The moment of truth."
The air hung thick between them.
Suddenly, Zhou Qin turned her head away, but not before he caught a glimpse of her conflicted expression.
"Is something the matter?" he asked.
Zhou Qin turned back around and shook her head. "No, it's nothing."
Li Yundong rose from the bed. "Shall we begin then?"
"Wait!" Zhou Qin grabbed his arm, then quickly released it. "Do I need to..." She cleared her throat. "I mean... Do I have to take off my gown?" She peered up at him. "My back needs to be bare, right?"
The poor girl was blushing like hell.
Li Yundong sighed. "I do need to touch your back directly." He paused to give her a reassuring smile. "But you can keep the gown on."
He needed a way to hide the Jindan's Aura anyway. The gown would do just that.
When Zhou Qin didn't respond, he nudged her to get her attention. "Is that okay with you?"
Zhou Qin nodded.
Li Yundong turned the wheelchair slightly. "Alright. Now I'm gonna carry you onto the bed."
It took Li Yundong five minutes to get Zhou Qin settled into a comfortable position on the bed. The whole process was awkward as hell, of course. He didn't even dare let his gaze linger on Zhou Qin the whole time he was helping her. He just wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible and then get on with the massage.
By the time he was done, Zhou Qin was lying face down on the bed, keeping herself fairly entertained with the two hamsters he bought the other day.
Li Yundong chuckled when Zhou Qin clicked her tongue and tried to poke her finger into the cage.
"It's a wonder that the nurses even let you keep them," he remarked.
"They never found out," Zhou Qin said, sounding a little smug.
Meanwhile, the hamster wheel rotated ferociously inside the cage.
"And you managed to hide them how?" Li Yundong walked over and rapped the metal cage with his knuckles. He expected Uncle Zhou to take the hamsters back to wherever he was staying instead of leaving them here.
"Hid it under one of the empty beds, of course." Zhou Qin snorted haughtily. "As if anyone can stop me from keeping them."
Li Yundong smiled to himself. That's the spirit...
"They are cute," Zhou Qin said, poking her finger at the cage again. "And entertaining."
"I know," Li Yundong said. "That's why I bought them."
"He helped too…" Zhou Qin added seconds later.
Li Yundong froze at the use of the pronoun, which he assumed referred to Uncle Zhou.
"Helped hide the hamsters, I mean," she clarified.
Li Yundong cleared his throat. "Look, I know it's none of my business... but do you think there's a chance for you to patch things up with your dad?"
Zhou Qin didn't respond. She seemed rather content to let the hamsters make all the noise.
"We had a conversation the other day, your father and I. And..." Li Yundong sighed. "You didn't see the look on his face when he was talking about you." He paused for a beat. "He cares about you, Zhou Qin. He really does."
There was a noncommittal hum. "We'll see."
There was a soft sigh after that.
Li Yundong smiled. "Well. I hope everything works out between you two."
Indeed, Zhou Qin was lucky to have a father who still cared; some parents didn't even give a shit.
Li Yundong glanced at the main door, then at connecting door near the bed. Once he was certain that no one would walk in, he bumped up the speed of his Qi flow in his right hand.
His right hand started glowing almost instantly.
He brought the hand to his face and studied the golden light coating its surface. The dosage had to be just right since he would be treating the spinal injury directly this time. The human spine is a delicate area, after all.
It took Li Yundong another minute or so to convince himself that the Jindan's Aura in his hand was stable, and that its intensity guaranteed safe exposure. Before he began, he mobilized a bit of Zhenqi to his Shenting and activated Eryue so that he could hear the sounds coming from the corridor. Things would look pretty bad if someone happen to barge in while he had one hand shoved under Zhou Qin's robe, so it was best if he prepared for that eventuality.
"I'm gonna start now, okay? Don't forget to breathe."
Once he received a nod from Zhou Qin, Li Yundong slipped his right hand under the fabric of Zhou Qin's gown to reach her spine.
Zhou Qin squealed the moment his fingers touched her skin.
"Hey, keep it down, would you?" Li Yundong hissed. "Do you want to get me into trouble?"
Zhou Qin giggled. "Oops. Sorry. I was just surprised."
Li Yundong pressed down on her spine again. Zhou Qin released yet another squeal.
"Zhou Qin..." he said warningly.
"Sorry, sorry," Zhou Qin said before burying her face into a pillow.
Li Yundong chuckled and shook his head wryly.
Ten minutes into the massage, Zhou Qin broke the silence.
"You know..." she said, her voice muffled by the pillow. "My dad's probably gonna flip out if he walks in to find us in this compromising position."
Li Yundong smiled at her use of "my dad" instead of "he."
"Which is why I'm trying to get the job done as quickly as possible," he said, then paused for a moment. "I agree with you, though. He's definitely not gonna be happy seeing his daughter in such a... I quote, compromising, position."
The man himself had admitted his own desire to put a bullet through Li Yundong's skull, for God's sake.
"I'm gonna reveal a little secret to you," Li Yundong said as he moved his fingers to Zhou Qin's Shenshu and Qihai. "I mean, just in case you still have doubts that your dad truly loves you."
Zhou Qin back tensed up under his fingers.
"Oh? Do tell?"
"He... uh..." Li Yundong cleared his throat. "He threatened to put a bullet through my skull... I mean, for hurting you."
Zhou Qin was silent for a few moments. Then, she burst into giggles.
"I don't find that surprising at all," Zhou Qin said once her giggles subsided. "My dad kinda hates you."
Li Yundong answered with a grunt.
"You could probably just dodge those bullets or something," Zhou Qin remarked casually.
Li Yundong chuckled. "You make it sound like dodging bullets is child's play."
There was a snort. "No... You made it seem like child's play."
Li Yundong laughed. "Fair enough."
Ten minutes later, Li Yundong picked up Uncle Zhou's voice with his Eryue. Uncle Zhou was approaching the room from the corridor and he wasn't alone.
Li Yundong deactivated the Jindan's Aura and removed his hands from under Zhou Qin's gown.
"Done already?" Zhou Qin turned her head around to look at him.
"Someone's coming," Li Yundong said, raising a brow. "And I think we better hide that." He pointed at the hamster cage.
Zhou Qin nodded.
Li Yundong walked over and lifted the cage. "Which bed?"
Zhou Qin pointed at the bed next to hers. Li Yundong scrambled towards the bed and slipped the cage under it.
Li Yundong straightened up but then froze when saw Zhou Qin on the bed: no patient would lie face down on their bed.
"Alright," he said, stepping forward. "Now I'm gonna flip you over so that you're lying on your back."
Zhou Qin nodded.
Alas, the door swung open when Li Yundong was in the middle of flipping Zhou Qin over.
Uncle Zhou paused midsentence.
"What is going on here?" Uncle Zhou asked in a tone of suspicion. "Why are you—For God's sake, why is there a pillow in the middle of the doorway!"
Li Yundong groaned internally and adjusted Zhou Qin's position on the bed. Then, he turned around to face a scowling Uncle Zhou.
"She wanted to lie down, so I was helping her onto the bed," Li Yundong answered smoothly.
Uncle Zhou bent down and picked up the pillow that Zhou Qin had thrown at him earlier. "Is that so?"
"Yes sir," Li Yundong answered with a straight face.
Uncle Zhou's eyes narrowed. "Then why does my daughter look so flustered?"
Li Yundong gave Zhou Qin a sidelong glance. Zhou Qin did look a bit flustered.
Uncle Zhou moved away from the door and walked further into the room, his eyes watching Li Yundong's face like a hawk.
"I don't know, Uncle Zhou," Li Yundong said.
Oh, I don't know… maybe because she's just been exposed to one of the most powerful auras in existence? he added silently.
Behind Uncle Zhou, two middle-aged doctors stepped into the room.
"You know, young man," said one of the doctors, "the hospital isn't the right place for inappropriate behavior..."
Li Yundong's eyes bugged out at those words. Uncle Zhou turned his head sharply and glared at the doctor who had just spoken.
"Enough," Zhou Qin said in an icy tone. "I will not have you people insult my friend like that." Zhou Qin stopped talking and glared at the two doctors. "I was a little stiff from sitting too long, so he gave me a massage, that's it. There's nothing inappropriate going on here. And I would appreciate it greatly if you would stop making baseless assumptions."
From the corner of his eyes, Li Yundong saw Uncle Zhou looking at Zhou Qin with nothing but pride in his eyes.
Seconds later, Zhou Qin smirked. "And by the way, I actually felt much better after the massage he gave me." Zhou Qin arched a brow. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say that he's doing a better job at treating me than you two."
"Really now?" said one of the doctors.
One of the doctor snorted.
His colleague, on the other hand, shot Li Yundong a glance.
"Do you have a medical degree, young man?"
Okay... Time to stop this nonsense before things escalate any further.
Li Yundong stepped forward, put on a diplomatic smile, and then offered the doctor a handshake.
"Hello. I'm Li Yundong," he said politely. "Are you the doctor in charge of Zhou Qin's treatment?"
The doctor shook Li Yundong's hand briefly. "Are you a medical student?" the doctor asked.
Li Yundong smiled despite the fact that this douchebag had just brushed his question aside like nothing.
"No," Li Yundong said, shaking his head. "I'm not a medical student."
The doctor shook his head and sighed. "You know you shouldn't be giving massages unless you know what you're doing, young man."
Li Yundong smirked. "Of course."
Here's the thing you don't get, though. I know exactly what I'm doing.
The other doctor stepped forward, looking all too happy to introduce his colleague to everyone.
"Hello everyone. Meet Zhong Guofang, a well-known neurology and hematology specialist in the country!"