"Class rep?" Li Yundong rubbed his eyes, then groaned. "Why are you calling me this early in the morning?"
"You think I wanted to call you?!" Sun Li said in annoyance. "The only reason I'm calling is because a bunch of auditors from the city council will be here today to conduct an evaluation on the university!"
Li Yundong yawned. "What? Auditors? From the city council?" He sighed. "Why don't they just, I don't know, go build new schools for the underprivileged or something if they're that free? Why bother coming to our shitty university?"
"That's because the exchange visit is in two days," Sun Li explained. "They probably just want to make sure that we don't screw up and embarrass the city or something. Look, it doesn't matter. Just get your ass over here. There will be a roll call in class later. They'll deduct semester credits for those who are absent, so if you don't care about your credits, then by all means, don't come."
"Holy shit! They're deducting credits just for that? Man, what if someone is sick and couldn't make it?" Li Yundong sat bolt upright. "Argh! Fine! I'll be there as soon as I can!"
Li Yundong hung up, then jumped out of bed. When he opened the door of his bedroom, he saw Su Chan coming out of her own room.
"What is it?" she asked groggily, rubbing her eyes.
"Time to go to campus!" Li Yundong said, then ran into the bathroom. Seconds later, Su Chan burst in. "I wanna come along! Take me with you!"
Li Yundong chuckled. "Nah, you should just stay home and catch up on some sleep," he said. "The auditors will be here today, which means everyone's gonna act all uptight and formal like a bunch of stuck-up snobs. It's probably gonna be boring."
Su Chan wrapped her arms around Li Yundong's neck and hung on. "No, no, no..." she whined. "You promised me you wouldn't abandon me!"
An evil grin formed on Li Yundong's face. Then he opened his mouth and unleashed his morning breath on Su Chan.
"Kyaaaaa!" Su Chan flinched, then covered her nose and retreated all the way to the bathroom's door. "Eww. You smell!" she said, stomping her feet. "I don't care! I'm still coming with you!"
"Fine," Li Yundong said, pointing at the second bathroom beside Su Chan's room. "You should hurry up and get ready. We'll be off in ten!"
Li Yundong went through his morning routine quickly. When he was done, he walked out of the bathroom to go back to his room. However, he pulled up short when he passed Su Chan's bathroom and saw that the door was open. He retreated a few steps, then leaned against the door jamb to watch Su Chan, who had just finished brushing her teeth. Su Chan splashed water onto her face a few times, then pulled her hair up into a messy bun, and that was it. No muss, no fuss. No fake lashes, eye-liners, or lipstick. Just the good old natural look.
She was gorgeous nonetheless.
For a second there, Li Yundong almost envied the water droplets that were sliding along the planes of Su Chan's cheek. If only he could transform himself into one of those droplets, and experience the feel of her soft skin. The long and elegant column of her neck seemed glossy and lustrous under the morning sun. She was a work of art, a beautiful white marble sculpture. Eventually, Li Yundong pushed away from the door jamb and made a beeline to his own bedroom. Watching her was torture. Sweet torture.
Their cab pulled up in front of Tiannan University. The first thing that caught Li Yundong's attention when he got out of the cab was the flashy banner hanging above the campus gates: "Welcome to Tiannan University!!!"
Li Yundong curled his lips in disdain, then snorted. "Much ado about nothing," he muttered, shaking his head.
Li Yundong paid the cabbie after Su Chan got out. Together, they entered the campus and made their way towards the academic building.
From afar, Li Yundong noticed a group of women gathered near the entrance of the academic building. When they got nearer, he noticed that the women wore light make-up and were all wearing dresses of the same design. And no, it did not escape him that they were among the prettiest women in the university.
When Li Yundong and Su Chan stopped in front of the women, one of them stepped away from the crowd and hurried towards Li Yundong.
You cleaned up good, class rep, Li Yundong thought with a smirk.
"Oh, you're here. Finally," Sun Li said in a low voice.
"What's all this?" Li Yundong asked, pointing at the women.
A look of displeasure flashed across Sun Li's countenance.
"Don't ask," Sun Li growled.
"You girls planning to start a girl band or something?"
"No," Sun Li said, rolling her eyes. "Some genius thinks it's a good idea to use us as usherettes to welcome our esteemed guests."
Apparently, the banner wasn't enough to do the trick.
Li Yundong burst into laughter. "Hah! This should be interesting!"
"Stop gloating!" Sun Li said, jabbing a finger at Li Yundong. "You know what they say about karma."
"Yeah? What are they gonna do to me, eh? Put me in a dress and ask me to parade around campus as an usherette?" Li Yundong sniggered. "I think not."
"Whatever," Sun Li said, shaking her head. "I've got work to do, so I'm off. Just don't cause any trouble today. Nobody can save you if you screw up."
Li Yundong sighed. "It's not that I'm going around looking for trouble. Trouble has a way of finding me, that's all." He shrugged. "What can I say? My awesomeness incites challenges no matter where I go!"
"Pfft..." Sun Li burst into laughter. "Real modest today, aren't you."
After Sun Li left, Li Yundong and Su Chan walked past the crowd towards the entrance of the academic building. However, they barely made it a few steps before another voice interrupted them.
"There you are! I've been looking all over the place for you!"
Li Yundong turned around and smiled at the owner of the voice. "Morning, Senior Feng Na. How can I help you today?"
The round-faced beauty sighed.
"It's about Zhao Yujian," Feng Na said. "I think you should visit him at the hospital."
Li Yundong froze. He had actually forgotten about the guy.
"Visit him?" Li Yundong asked skeptically.
"Just hear me out first, okay?" Feng Na said, raising her palm. "Look. I know he was the one who started the whole thing. But like it or not, he ended up in the hospital because of you. Shouldn't you at least pay him a visit? You won't be going alone, of course. I'll go with you. I was thinking... I was thinking we could all pitch in and help cover for his medical fees. Then, hopefully, you guys can bury the hatchet and move on from that incident..." Feng Na glanced up at him. "What do you think?"
Li Yundong went silent in thought.
"Fine," he said after a moment. "How much do I have to pay?"
Feng Na's face lit up. "Is that a yes?"
Li Yundong chuckled. "Did you think I would refuse?" he said, raising a brow. "Come on, do I look like an unreasonable person? Zhao Yujian started it. That's a fact. I broke his leg, that's an undeniable fact too. Facts are facts. I mean, we all have to own up to the things we did, right?"
Feng Na looked at Li Yundong with newfound admiration. Then she smiled. "Wow..." she said. "Damn, looks like I've really underestimated your integrity. I actually prepared several pages of bullet points before I came to talk to you."
Li Yundong's eyebrows arched.
Feng Na smirked. "Mm-hmm. A list of arguments to convince you."
Li Yundong laughed and waved his hand casually. "Just tell me when to be there, and also how much money I need to prepare."
"We can go now if it's alright with you," Feng Na said. "As for the money... that's not your call." Feng Na winked. "What, you think you have the right to decide how much compensation money you need to pay after breaking someone's leg?"
Feng Na laughed gloatingly.
Li Yundong sighed and touched his bank card in his pocket. F*ck... I'm really gonna end up broke at this rate...
"Wait, we can't go now, right? The auditors are coming today. Our credits would be deducted if we skip class today... Wait a minute..." Li Yundong narrowed his eyes. "How come you're not one of the usherettes?!"
"Hey, shush!" Feng Na smacked Li Yundong's shoulder with her left hand and pressed her right index finger to her lips. "I barely escaped just now, dammit!" Feng Na glanced around nervously a few times, then lowered her voice into a whisper. "This is so stupid! Ugh! Believe or not, this isn't even the worst part! I hear they're planning to send a group of female students to the airport on the day of the exchange visit to welcome the foreigners. And we have to put on miniskirts! Miniskirts!"
Li Yundong gaped at Feng Na. "You're joking, right?"
Feng Na snorted, then mumbled, "I wish."
Li Yundong chuckled incredulously. "Man... what were those fools thinking? Is all that even necessary? They make it look like the US President is coming for a visit!"
Feng Na's lips twisted in disgust. "I know right!" she said. "So stupid. The whole point of the event is to promote cultural exchange and mutual respect! Now they are making it look like we're just a bunch of pathetic suck-ups! Ugh!"
Li Yundong chuckled. "Come on, look on the bright side—"
"Hey!!! What are you girls still doing here!! Go get changed and join the other usherettes! We still need two more!"
Li Yundong and Feng Na turned around to face the middle-aged professor who had just yelled at them.
Li Yundong sighed. "Well, there goes our plans to sneak off the campus..."
"Ugh! This is your fault" Feng Na grumbled, elbowing Li Yundong lightly on the ribs. "You jinxed it just now! Now that they've caught me, I'll be forced to become one of their showgirls."
Unfortunately, Li Yundong barely heard Feng Na's complaint since he was too busy glaring at the douchebag professor, who was standing before them, ogling Su Chan lewdly.
Feng Na cleared her throat. "I'm afraid we can't, Professor Liu," she said. "We have other important matters to attend to."
Professor Liu glanced at Feng Na briefly, then cleared his throat. "Well, you're free to go if you have other business." Professor Prick's eyes went to Su Chan again. "But this young lady should stay and join the other usherettes. We need one of the usherettes to present flowers to the auditors and also our foreign visitors. I think she's a perfect fit for the role." Professor Liu's eyes traveled up and down Su Chan's figure.
Enough of this shit, Li Yundong thought. "Sorry, Professor Liu, we'll pass," he said coldly. "She's my girlfriend, and she isn't a student here."
Professor Liu froze. Li Yundong nearly smirked when he saw the look of disappointment and anger on Professor Liu's face.
"Not a student here?" Professor Liu said condescendingly, then raised his chin haughtily. "Then what is she doing on campus?"
Li Yundong had had enough of this professor and his holier-than-thou attitude. This man called himself an educator, but in reality, he was nothing but a perverted and morally-corrupt scumbag masquerading as a virtuous saint! Li Yundong had already stated loud and clear that Su Chan was his girlfriend, yet this prick was looking at Su Chan like he was seconds away from ripping her clothes off!
Li Yundong laughed loudly, injecting every ounce of contempt he felt into his tone. "Oh? So non-students aren't allowed inside the campus? What do you think this is, military school?" Li Yundong sneered, then scanned Professor Liu's figure with his eyes. "No offense, but you look nothing like a military sergeant. You'd probably have trouble lifting a cat."
"How dare you speak to me so impudently! I am a professor here!" Professor Liu yelled. "State your name and your department! I will see to it that the appropriate disciplinary actions are taken against you!"
"Li Yundong, second-year student in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature!" Li Yundong said. "Why, you're not gonna start throwing expulsion threats at me now, are you?" Li Yundong laughed derisively. "Expelling a student just because of a difference in opinion. Go ahead, then! You're not the first bigoted professor who wanted to do that anyway."
Professor Liu wagged his finger in front of Li Yundong's face. "You, you... You!"
Li Yundong released another derisive snort. "What about me? You have a problem with me? If you don't, then I'm outta here." Li Yundong turned to Feng Na. "Hey, are you coming or what?"
Li Yundong held Su Chan's hand and walked away. Feng Na caught up to them seconds later, then the three of them headed towards the campus gates.
"Damn, pal. That's some guts you have," Feng Na said once they were a distance away from the academic building. "Sassing a professor! I salute you, buddy. I knew it! I knew there's a reason why you're my idol. You're such a badass!"
Li Yundong snorted. "A little sass is nothing. He's lucky I didn't mess up his face for looking at Su Chan like a piece of meat. Yet he calls himself an educator!"
"Yundong... If you want, I could go back there and ruin his testicles..." Su Chan suggested.
Both Li Yundong and Feng Na froze momentarily.
"No! Don't even think about it!" Li Yundong said.
Su Chan tugged at their joined hands. "I was just offering to help you blow off steam!"
"Blow off steam?" Li Yundong said, smiling wryly, then pinched Su Chan's nose. "More like blowing a hole in my savings account."
Beside them, Feng Na's eyes went back and forth between Su Chan and Li Yundong. Then she stole a glance at their joined hands. "You two seem to be getting along well, huh..." Feng Na remarked, sounding a bit upset.
Li Yundong gave Feng Na a modest smile.
"Oh, we get along okay, I guess."
Feng Na turned and saw her bestie, Cheng Cheng, approaching them.
"You managed to sneak off as well? You go, girl!" Feng Na said excitedly, giving Cheng Cheng several high-fives.
Cheng Cheng sighed. "Well, I'll probably die of embarrassment if I stay. Those idiots want us to recite some kind of welcoming slogan. Worse, they even added music to it and made it sound like some kind of stupid nursery rhyme!"
Silence fell upon the group as Li Yundong and Feng Na pictured the scenario in their heads.
Then Li Yundong and Feng Na burst into laughter.
Seconds later, Cheng Cheng joined in as well.
The welcoming banner flapped above their heads as though it was stirred by their guffaws and cackles.