One thing to note about Li Yundong's personality was that he was as stubborn as a mule. He could be coaxed, but never forced; persuaded, but never strong-armed. If you wish to get him to listen to you, any approach other than the soft approach would blow up in your face. Oh, and treat him courteously if you expect him to treat you courteously in return. If you act like an asshole with him... Well, let's just say that you'll get a taste of what the word "asshole" literally means — by having shit shoved down your throat.

That, in fact, was exactly what happened to Zhou Yu. He had tried to insult Li Yundong but ended up suffering an insult that was several times worse.

Still, Zhou Yu put on a fake smile.

"Oh? You sound pretty confident, Li Yundong," he said. "What makes you think that I—"

"Very well! I'll spar with you!" Huang Yifei said.

Zhou Yu gaped at Huang Yifei.

"B-b-but senior!"

Huang Yifei ignored Zhou Yu, keeping his eyes on Li Yundong instead. He didn't dare take his eyes off Li Yundong. Something about Li Yundong made Huang Yifei deem it unwise to relax for even a second. It was as though he was anticipating Li Yundong to pounce on him the moment he dropped his guard.

Huang Yifei had joined illegal fight clubs before, so he understood the "dirty-fighting" mentality where no rules and honor applied. The goal was to maim, or even kill, one's opponents. Any moment in which one's opponent let their guard down was an opportunity to be exploited. In this type of fighting, distractions and carelessness would lead to injuries and, in extreme cases, one's demise.

This was the vibe that Huang Yifei had gotten from Li Yundong the moment their gazes met, so letting his guard down was the last thing he wanted.

"Your skills have yet to reach the level where you can pull your punches to avoid injuring your sparring partner," Huang Yifei said without looking away from Li Yundong.

Zhou Yu looked as though someone had just shoved a handful of lemons down his throat when he heard Huang Yifei's remark. His senior's dismissal was a tough pill to swallow, but then he realized he had no choice but to play along if he wanted to see Li Yundong get beaten and humiliated in a fight.

Zhou Yu nodded and turned around to face the vice-chancellor. "There you have it, sir," he said. "Having my senior spar with Li Yundong is a safer choice, since he is so much more skilled than I am. He has perfect control of his strikes, so you can rest assured that there won't be any accidents during the spar!"

Alas, Vice-chancellor Ke was an old scholar who knew nothing about combat and martial arts. He didn't know that when two skilled martial artists clash, the chances of injuries and mishaps are much higher. The only way "pulling punches" can work is if one of the fighters was a total amateur while the other one was a professional.

On the other hand, when two masters fight each other, holding back is the last thing they want to do! The margin of error is just too small; one misstep might lead to them being crippled for the rest of their life. That would mean that the years spent on conditioning their body and perfecting their art would go up in flames.

Throughout the long history of Chinese martial arts, there were countless cases where martial artists ended up injuring their peers during friendly sparring!

Unfortunately, not many people were aware of this fact, not the vice-chancellor and the teachers, nor Li Yundong, who had yet to experience even a single day of martial arts training.

Su Chan was, of course, aware of it, but she wasn't the slightest bit worried about Li Yundong's chances of winning; the Renyuan Jindan's power coursing through Li Yundong's meridians pretty much rendered him an invincible opponent to normal martial artists.

The vice-chancellor snorted.

"This is absurd!" he snapped, then stormed off.

That short statement alone proved how cunning the vice-chancellor truly was. That ambiguous parting shot could easily be construed by the students as an approval, yet, in the event of an accident, nobody would be able to pin it on him: I told you it was absurd, so I've made my disapproval clear!

In any case, the vice-chancellor would have nothing to lose. If the idea panned out, he would get all the credit; if it didn't, he wouldn't have to shoulder any blame.

The sly bastard.

Director Qian was fully aware of Vice-chancellor Ke's crafty wordplay. You cunning old fox, Director Qian thought, staring after Vice-chancellor Ke's back. When the vice-chancellor's figure vanished through the entrance, Director Qian turned back and smiled at the students.

"Alright then! The vice-chancellor has approved," he said. "The exchange visit is in a few days, so you should spend more time practicing. Just don't embarrass us in front of the foreigners!"

Huang Yifei had been harboring sinister thoughts the whole time he was staring at Li Yundong vigilantly. Would he charge me if I blink? I heard he's strong, so I can't let myself take a hit. If he gets close, should I go for the head? Maybe his ribs?

Li Yundong, on the other hand, had nothing but pure thoughts; he just wanted to fulfill his promise to Feng Na and hopefully not get expelled in the process. The reason behind Li Yundong's confidence was, of course, the powerful Qi coursing through his meridians. Li Yundong's Qi was so much more powerful than Huang Yifei's, which was why, unlike the latter, he didn't really feel the need to be hyper vigilant.

With an air of nonchalance, Li Yundong turned his head to look at Director Qian, but he didn't like the smirk on the old geezer's face. Not one bit. The old bastard's up to something, he thought.

The sound of whispers pulled Li Yundong out of his thoughts. He turned away from the old geezer and looked towards the left of the stage where two girls were whispering to each other animatedly with their heads close together.

"Hey, I bet it's going to be fun to watch!"

Then, he heard a low but high-pitched squeal. "Ahh! I'm so excited."

"Who do you think will win?"

"Pfft! Do you even have to ask? Li Yundong, of course!"

Li Yundong shook his head wryly.

So naive, he thought. They all just want a good show and are blind to the schemes of others.

Li Yundong ignored the whispers and returned his gaze to Director Qian.

What the hell was the old geezer up to?

 

***

 

Among the students, Zhou Qin and Ding Nan were perhaps the only ones who smelled something fishy, which, considering their background and character, was hardly surprising. One of them was born in a prominent political family, so she was aware of the ins and outs of humanity's dark side. The other one was born with a sharp mind and a knack for reading people.

"Is it just me or is Director Qian up to no good?" Ding Nan said, narrowing her eyes.

Zhou Qin frowned slightly but didn't comment. Admittedly, Zhou Qin found the whole thing to be a bit out in left field. She hadn't expected a hilarious prank to turn into something this violent.

"Let's go," Zhou Qin said blandly, turning around to leave.

"Aren't you worried at all?" Ding Nan asked in surprise.

The only answer Zhou Qin gave was her gradually diminishing form as she headed for the grand hall's exit.

Ding Nan curled her lips in contempt. Yeah... Keep being so uptight and bottling up your emotions. You'll go insane one day...
 

***

 

Huang Yifei and Zhou Yu didn't see any point in hanging around since they had already gotten what they came here for — the challenge had been issued.

Shortly after Huang Yifei and Zhou Yu left, Feng Na and Li Yundong's newly-acquired fangirls crowded him. Li Yundong was barraged with words of encouragement along the lines of: "Good luck, Li Yundong! All the best! We're all rooting for you! Kyaa!!!"

When the fangirling was over, Feng Na gave Li Yundong a furtive and apologetic glance.

"Hey..." Feng Na said. "I'm... I'm sorry. You got into this mess because of me."

Li Yundong chuckled.

"Not at all. My awesomeness incites challenges everywhere I go. So, none of this is your fault."

His narcissistic remark reduced the girls to giggles.

Li Yundong's remark and, subsequently, the girls' giggles reached the ears of Zhuang Hui, who was staring at Li Yundong from not too far away. The longer she stared, however, the more disgruntled she felt. Eventually, she stomped her foot and left the hall.

 

***

 

On the way home, Li Yundong suddenly turned to Su Chan and said, "You didn't stop me."

Su Chan gave him a puzzled look. "Stop you from what?"

Li Yundong sighed.

"I mean you didn't stop me from accepting Huang Yifei's challenge," he said, pausing to let his words sink in.

Seconds later, he continued, "Do you really think I can beat him? I've never had a single day of martial arts training."

"Of course!" Su Chan answered as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

All of a sudden, his mind returned to all the questions that he had earlier this morning: Why have I constantly been running into trouble after I met you? Are you the one who caused the changes in my body? What did you do to me...?

Those words were already on the tip of his tongue when he suddenly stopped himself.

Argh... Whatever. I'll ask her after the exchange visit... I can't afford to lose focus right now...

They spent the rest of the morning at home, then went back to campus in the afternoon; afternoon classes were still on despite the rehearsals this morning. Most of the students had already heard about Li Yundong's upcoming sparring match with Huang Yifei. As a result, Li Yundong was pestered to no end the moment he arrived at campus.

By some miracle, Li Yundong managed to last through afternoon class without punching anyone in the face. However, the moment class ended, Li Yundong grabbed Su Chan's hand and sprinted towards the campus gates. So help him God he might lose his shit if he heard another, "Hey, think you can win the match?"

"What do you feel like having for dinner tonight?" Li Yundong asked as they walked into the apartment.

Finally some peace and quiet, he thought.

Home sweet home indeed.

He loved it at home because the apartment was where he got to spend time with Su Chan alone with no interruptions. And, of course, no lewd gazes from random men.

Su Chan clung to Li Yundong's arm.

"Whatever you make is fine! I love it all!" she declared, grinning from ear to ear.

Li Yundong pinched Su Chan's nose lovingly.

"Fine then! I'll prepare a bunch of junk food and fatten you up!"

"Junk food?" Su Chan asked, still grinning at him.

Li Yundong paused in thought.

In all fairness, it wasn't every day that he had to explain the concept of junk food to anyone.

Moments later, he said, "Well, junk foods are those oily foods, I guess. Remember McDonald's? Yeah. That's one example of junk food."

All of a sudden, Su Chan's grin turned into a huge pout.

"Hmph! I thought you were being nice back then! So you were feeding me junk! Hmph!"

Li Yundong laughed.

"Says the one who finished her burger in three bites!"

"Hmph! Hmph! You fed me junk. I'm mad at you!" Su Chan said sulkily.

Oops... Seems like the little princess is sulking. We can't have that now, can we…? Well! Only one way to fix this, I suppose, Li Yundong thought, rolling up his sleeves.

"How about I prepare a feast for you today! Wait for me at home. I'm going to get some groceries from the supermarket."

At the word "feast," Su Chan nearly salivated all over the floor.

If the usual dishes taste so good, Su Chan thought, then a feast would be... Yayyyy!!!!"

Su Chan grabbed Li Yundong's arms and clung to his side, smiling like there was no tomorrow.

"Don't you dare leave me behind!" she said. "I'm going with you!"

The sight of Su Chan clinging on to him made his heart race.

Is it just me, or have we become even more intimate... Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute! This counts as cohabitation, right? If it is... then what exactly are we?

The pair left the apartment together and went to the supermarket. When they returned with groceries a while later, Li Yundong put on an apron and got to work immediately. Su Chan stayed inside the kitchen to watch him work.

Su Chan wanted to help, but Li Yundong soon learned that he was better off without her "help." Way better: when he asked for the soy sauce, she passed him the vinegar; when he asked for sugar, she gave him... salt.

"Good Lord... You really can't do anything right, can you?"

"Come on! It's not like I know about all these things!" Su Chan said with a huge pout.

Li Yundong felt a sudden impulse to hang the grocery bag around her lips. One way of helping, right?

Li Yundong chuckled helplessly.

"Alright, alright, that's enough now. Just wait for me outside, okay?"

Sensing her own uselessness, Su Chan fiddled with the hem of her shirt and headed towards the entryway with slow steps. She stopped when she reached the entryway and turned around. Li Yundong had his back turned to her, and he was slicing vegetables.

Su Chan's puffed out her cheeks and said, "I'm going then..."

She didn't move but stayed at the entryway, waiting for his response.

Li Yundong didn't even turn around to look at her. Instead, he just waved his hand beside his ear.

"Fine, fine. Just go outside and wait."

Hmph! Su Chan turned away and stormed off.

She sat in the living room with nothing better to do. Eventually, her mind drifted off and she began to reflect on every moment since her fateful meeting with Li Yundong. It was then that she realized she'd pretty much been living off Li Yundong since the day they met!

I've been staying at his place, eating his food, wearing his clothes... and he... A warm sensation bloomed inside her chest. He's been so caring and attentive... She glanced towards the kitchen. The guy was even standing in front of the stove to prepare a feast, just because it would make her happy.

And yet I...

A pang of guilt crashed into her.

And yet she was deceiving him, just so she could feed on his Qi once he completed the Zhuji phase.

I'm horrible, aren't I?

No! I have to find a way to make it up to him! But... I can't repay him with my body... Su Chan thought. Magical items! But no, no. That would give my identity away...

A second later, Su Chan's eyes sparkled brightly: AHA! Why don't I learn how to cook and prepare a feast for Li Yundong?

I. Am. Brilliant!

And since I'm so brilliant... learning how to cook is definitely not going to be a problem for me! Ooh... this is perfect!

But... what should I make?

Su Chan spent a while going through her options until she remembered the fish they'd bought from the supermarket earlier.

Hey... didn't I have fish back in the mountains? Master made it a few times, right?

Still, that wasn't the important point.

The most important point was that... she vaguely remembered how to prepare fish!

Before she knew it, she was inside the kitchen, tugging on Li Yundong's arm. "Yundong! Yundong!"

Li Yundong's insides turned to mush the moment he heard Su Chan's sweet, angelic voice. Well, half an inch more and he might've lost his finger too. Placing the knife back down on the chopping board, he turned around to give Su Chan a wry smile.

"What is it my dear little princess?"