"I feel like strangling that obnoxious woman to death! Ugh!" Feng Na hissed as the group walked along the corridor.
Yeah? Then get in line, Li Yundong thought with a scowl.
"Seriously, what is the matter with her!" Feng Na continued her tirade. "She jumped in to defend her asshole son straightaway. She didn't even try to listen to the other side of the story and get to the bottom of things!" Feng Na began mimicking Mrs. Zhou's voice. "Oooh, my Yujian is cultured and educated." Feng Na made a gagging sound. "Cultured my ass! He's nothing but a bully! Hardly surprising with a bitchy mother like that."
"What a bunch of blind and bigoted fools!" Chengcheng said angrily. "We shouldn't even have bothered showing up here. They stomped all over our kindness like it was nothing." Chengcheng snorted. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I've been pretty blind as well. I can't believe I used to think of Zhao Yujian as a great guy! Now I've seen through his looks and facade. He's just a mama's boy. Hell, he's probably still being breastfed!"
Li Yundong chuckled despite his anger.
Chengcheng patted Li Yundong's arm. "By the way, dude," Chengcheng said. "Nice punch. Do it again if you have the chance. Maybe aim for his face next time!"
Li Yundong chuckled and shook his head, then turned to Zhou Qin.
"Thank you for bailing us out earlier," Li Yundong said earnestly. "I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have ended well if you hadn't."
Zhou Qin didn't answer, though Li Yundong could feel her eyes on him, studying him curiously. I bet she's wondering how I've changed so much in just a short amount of time, Li Yundong thought. Well, join the club.
A moment later, Zhou Qin smiled at him. "You're welcome," she said. "But I do in fact have something to talk to you about."
Surprised, Li Yundong halted his steps, causing everyone to stop walking as well. The group stood in the middle of the corridor silently.
"Okay...?" Li Yundong said, his brows raised. "What is it that you needed to talk to me about?"
"My birthday is in three days," Zhou Qin said, holding Li Yundong's gaze steadily. "Will you come to my party?"
Feng Na shared a glance with Chengcheng. Wait... what? Feng Na thought. Zhou Qin? Zhou Qin is actually taking the initiative to ask a guy to go to her party?!
Both Feng Na and Chengcheng had heard rumors before about Zhou Qi and the air of superiority she exuded in spades. It was utterly shocking that she would personally ask a guy for something, and a guy whose confession she had rejected no less!
Little did they know that something even more shocking awaited them.
Li Yundong turned around to look at Su Chan, then turned back to Zhou Qin again. "Can I bring my girlfriend along?"
Chengcheng's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets in shock. Wow... Right in front of Tiannan University's beauty queen... That’s just... wow.
While Chengcheng was looking at Li Yundong in awe, Feng Na was struggling with her own emotions. Yes, she was shocked. But amidst that shock, she felt a twinge of disappointment as well.
Silence filled the corridor as Zhou Qin studied Su Chan's face. A while later, Chengcheng and Feng Na were once again taken by surprise.
Zhou Qin grinned widely, revealing a perfect row of teeth. "Yes. Of course you can bring your girlfriend along," Zhou Qin said, then smiled at Feng Na and Chengcheng. "Seniors, I'd really like it if you both came as well."
Feng Na and Chengcheng had been expecting Zhou Qin to feel offended by Li Yundong's bluntness, not throw out two more invitations!
Feng Na and Chengcheng reacted at the same time.
"It would be my pleasure and honor to join you," Feng Na said with a smile.
Chengcheng, on the other hand, pointed a finger at herself hesitantly. "Me?"
Zhou Qin nodded and smiled at Chengcheng kindly. "Yes," she said.
Chengcheng returned Zhou Qin's smile. "Then I'll gladly accept."
Zhou Qin smiled at everyone regally. "Great! See you guys at the party."
Li Yundong, Feng Na, and Chengcheng stared after Zhou Qin's elegant figure as she walked away. When Zhou Qin disappeared at the end of the corridor, all three of them looked at each other. The question in each of their eyes was clear: Just what kind of social background does this girl have?
Li Yundong led the group of ladies out of the elevator.
When they walked past the hospital's reception, Chengcheng suddenly slapped her thigh. "Argh, shucks! I can't believe that bitch took all the stuff we bought!" Chengcheng said. "F*ck! She threw insults at our faces right after she accepted our gifts! What a sh*tty person."
Feng Na chuckled and smacked Chengcheng upside her head. "Enough already, geez," Feng Na said. "Those gifts are meant for the patient anyway. We gave our gifts and played our part. Deep down, we know we did the right thing, and that's the only thing that matters. Let her mock, insult, or say whatever she wants about us. At the end of the day, what goes around comes around. The mocker will be mocked, and the insulter will be insulted. Isn't that right?"
Li Yundong chuckled. "Well said. Guilt is a scary thing, you know. It can easily destroy a person if they allow it. Anyway, we know we did the right thing by showing our kindness. So none of us has to struggle with feelings of guilt, right?"
"Absolutely!" Feng Na said. "As expected from my idol!"
Feng Na and Li Yundong laughed away at their little inside joke until they were interrupted by Su Chan's contemplative voice.
"The great Buddha once said that even the enlightened should fear and always be mindful of the laws of moral causation, otherwise known as karma."
Su Chan's profound words blew everyone away. Everyone halted in their steps and stared at Su Chan in amazement.
"What happened earlier has set the principles of moral causation in motion," Su Chan went on. "The wheels of karma have begun to turn, and from here on out, a chain of events shall unfold, each being the moral consequence of its predecessor. And from what I see, things wouldn't end well for those people."
Feng Na was starting to think that Chengcheng might be spot on about this beautiful girl being some kind of super genius who skipped grades. Who cared about nursery rhymes when the girl could blurt out something so profound and deep that nobody could understand?
Li Yundong was the first to recover. He knew that Su Chan had learned a lot from her enigmatic master back in the mountains. Heck, the girl could stop an effing nosebleed with just a couple of taps on his neck and head! He smiled, then reached out and patted Su Chan's head. "Then will this great sage explain to us ignorant fools the true meaning of Buddha's statement?"
Incredulity flashed in Su Chan's eyes. She opened her mouth, then closed it after a second.
Maybe she's worried about saying the wrong thing again, Li Yundong thought, amused.
"Go on, then," Li Yundong said smiling encouragingly. Su Chan took a deep breath, then exhaled. "It means that karma affects everyone, no matter how enlightened and powerful they are."
"Err..." Chengcheng said.
"Do you guys know what karma really means?" Su Chan asked.
"Only its common usage I guess?" Chengcheng said, then shared a few glances with Li Yundong and Feng Na, who shrugged.
"Technically, karma refers to action that is driven by intention," Su Chan explained. "And karma, the action, will lead to future consequences, also known as karmaphala. The nature of these consequences depends on the moral quality and the intention behind the action."
Li Yundong's eyes widened slightly. "Right... I think I get it now," he said. "Like, for example, Zhao Yujian's family is privileged and powerful. Zhao Yujian himself has pretty much everything. He's good-looking, rich, and has a doting mother. But the problem is that he and his family are morally corrupt. So everything they did was driven by bad intentions..." Li Yundong trailed off.
A couple of seconds later, Li Yundong picked up where he left off. "Take Mrs. Zhao, for instance. She doted on her son in the past, but I doubt she did it purely out of maternal love. I mean, did she dote on him because she wanted the best for him so that he could grow up to become a decent man? Or did she spoil her son in order to turn him into another trophy that she could brag to others about? Mrs. Zhao's actions were driven by impure intentions, which led to Zhao Yujian's poor character development. But Zhao Yujian's sh*tty personality is also the cause of his ending up in the hospital... That's karma at work..." Li Yundong chuckled. "And no matter how much status and power, or how rich his family is, they're still bounded by the workings of karma, which is exactly what Buddha said..." Li Yundong glanced at Su Chan. "Is that what you meant?"
Su Chan beamed at Li Yundong. "Yup!"
Chengcheng laughed and clapped her hands. "Wow, Li Yundong," Chengcheng said. "Looks like your girlfriend is quite the philosopher."
Li Yundong burst into laughter, his heart swelling with pride and joy. "Better not praise her too much," Li Yundong said, ruffling Su Chan's hair affectionately. "She might become full of herself."
Feng Na felt a tug in her chest at the adoration she saw in Li Yundong's eyes when he looked at Su Chan. She forced out a smile. "Hey, you better watch it, pal," she said. "Remember how karma works? If you spoil your girl like how Mrs. Zhao spoiled her son, there might be terrible consequences awaiting you." Feng Na shrugged. "Maybe you'll end up henpecked after you get married."
That comment reduced everyone to laughter.
Inside the VIP room, Zhao Yujian lay on his side, ignoring his mother's loving coos and words of comfort. The blanket crumpled inside the clutch of his left hand while his right fist trembled in anger. His eyes, clouded with hatred, were fixed at the wall, yet concrete wasn't what he saw. What he saw was Li Yundong's ruination and death.
Nourished by feelings of deep hatred, as well as Zhou Qin's harsh rejection, the seed of revenge inside Zhao Yujian's heart continued germinating.
A frivolous voice interrupted his thoughts. "Yo! If it isn't the handsome Zhao Yujian! What are you doing here?"
Zhao Yujian turned away from the wall and glanced towards the door. Xie Fei, he thought.
"And what are you doing here?"
Xie Fei chuckled and entered the room without waiting for an invitation. "I came to visit a buddy of mine," he said. "But then I saw you in here from the corridor."
Mrs. Zhao frowned at Xie Fei. "And you are...?" she asked.
Xie Fei nodded at Mrs. Zhao. "Hello, aunty! I'm Zhao Yujian's classmate!"
A hint of a smile formed on Mrs. Zhao's lips. "Very well," she said, rising to her feet. "I'll get you a glass of water." Mrs. Zhao picked up the thermos from the nightstand, then frowned upon realizing that it was empty. She flashed Xie Fei a smile, then gestured at the chair beside the bed. "Sit down, sit down! I'm going to get a refill."
"Oh! Thanks, aunty!" Xie Fei said and took a seat.
"Finally, a sensible person," Mrs. Zhao said, smiling at Xie Fei in satisfaction. Seconds later, she turned around and headed towards the door with the thermos in hand. "Unlike those uncultured brutes who came earlier. What a bunch of damned barbarians!"
Xie Fei waited until Mrs. Zhao was out of the room. "What's with that?" Xie Fei said, jerking his chin at the door. "What happened earlier?"
Zhao Yujian was pretty chummy with Xie Fei since they were both Taekwondo practitioners. In fact, Zhao Yujian had helped Xie Fei out a few times in some of the skirmishes the latter was involved in. All in all, Zhao Yujian considered Xie Fei an ally, so he gave Xie Fei a brief rundown on his grudge against Li Yundong.
"I wanna end him!" Zhao Yujian growled. "I won't rest until I finally get my revenge!"
"Bravo! You've got guts!" Xie Fei said. "Why don't I lend you a couple of my guys so you can f*ck him up!"
Zhao Yujian shook his head. "This is my fight! I must do it alone!"
Xie Fei gave Zhao Yujian a strange look. Seconds later, Xie Fei sighed. "Alone? Forget it," Xie Fei said. "I'll give you a piece of advice, brah. You won't stand a chance if you go up against him alone. The guy packs a wallop!"
Silence filled the room as Xie Fei went deep in thought.
"Unless..." Xie Fei said.
A murderous glint flashed inside Xie Fei's eyes. "Unless you have a gun!"
"A gun?" Zhao Yujian sat up straighter, the flames of vengeance flaring in his eyes. "You have access to a gun?"
Xie Fei snorted. "Me? Of course not!"
Zhao Yujian's shoulders sagged a little.
"But I know someone who does..."
Li Yundong brought Su Chan back to their new apartment after they parted ways with Feng Na and Chengcheng.
That evening, Li Yundong prepared a feast for the two of them. After another intense bout of chopstick sparring with Su Chan, Li Yundong sat on the floor of his wide living room in a meditative pose to practice Qi control.
Li Yundong had found a new hobby in Qi control training. No, it wasn't just a hobby; it was a passion, something that he never had in his previous idle and lackadaisical lifestyle. He enjoyed it because he felt stronger and more refreshed after every session, not to mention the immense, and near euphoric, pleasure that he felt during the process.
Su Chan watched over Li Yundong for about an hour or so before she went back to her own room. Now that Li Yundong had completed his first Da Zhoutian, all the meridians inside his body had been activated. As such, his Qi was free to move to every part of his body without the risk of it running rampant and destroying his body from the inside. As long as he wasn't abruptly interrupted, the risk of him going into the Zouhuo Rumo state was minimal.
Inside her room, Su Chan walked over to her nightstand and picked up the black rectangular object, the one with little buttons on it. She pointed it at the talking box, like Li Yundong had taught her, and pressed down on the red button. The talking box came to life. TV! Yep, that was the name of the talking box. Ever since she punched a hole in the TV back in their old home, Li Yundong had given her a crash course on the wonders of talking boxes. Apparently, these boxes didn't actually contain people or objects in them; they merely displayed pictures and images of people and objects. Admittedly, she was really surprised at first. She'd never seen this kind of magic before, so she was a tad bit wary of it. What if it started shooting fire like that booby-trapped stove last time? However, after spending some time on it, she found that she rather enjoyed this TV thing! In particular, she enjoyed many of those shows which depicted the daily lives of a group of people. Most of them were funny, and some were, admittedly, a tad bit melodramatic. Still, they were really fun to watch! Su Chan found herself giggling in front of the TV on more than one occasion. When she asked Li Yundong what those shows were called, he told her that they were called 'soap operas.'
Even now, Su Chan was still wondering what soap had to do with the lives of people. Instead of explaining it to her, Li Yundong just laughed when she asked.
On the day of the exchange visit, Li Yundong rose early to get ready for the event. After going through his morning routine and getting changed, he left the apartment with Su Chan.
When they arrived at campus and stood in front of the gates, Li Yundong nearly thought that their cab driver had driven them to the wrong place. The compound of Tiannan University looked completely different. Colorful banners and flags, printed in English and Chinese, hung everywhere. Every student in the compound was dressed to the nines: guys in suit and tie; girls in elegant dresses. Li Yundong thought he'd never seen the campus this lively before. The whole place was bustling with activity and filled with excited voices as the students launched into endless discussions about the kind of epic things they hoped to see. Li Yundong even heard his name mentioned a couple of times.
"Oh, wow! So pretty!" Su Chan said, clapping her hands and jumping on the spot a few times.
Li Yundong smiled at her affectionately. The sparkle and joy in Su Chan's eyes warmed his heart to no end. Could he one day make her this happy too? Oh, what he would give to make her smile like that.
Li Yundong took Su Chan's hand. "Come on, let's go inside," he said, pointing to the gates.
"Mm!" Su Chan nodded happily.
"Hey! Hey! You two over there! Who are you people?!"
Li Yundong turned around and saw Professor Liu rushing over to the gates. Behold, the middle-aged prick who tried to force Su Chan to become the event's usherette two days ago.
Li Yundong frowned and leveled a cold glare at Professor Liu who had just stopped in front of them. "Forgotten about me so soon, Professor Liu?"
Professor Liu took a step closer to Li Yundong and stood with his hands behind his back. Then he looked Li Yundong over from head to toe. "Well, sorry. There are so many students in this university. I don't think I recognize you."
"Professor, I'm a sophomore here. I'm Li Yundong, from the Department of Chinese Language and Literature. Please let me pass," Li Yundong said patiently.
"Oh? Show me your student ID then," Professor Liu said with an outstretched hand.
This prick is messing with me, Li Yundong thought angrily. Keeping his expression neutral, Li Yundong took out his wallet. "Here," Li Yundong said, waving his student ID in front of Professor Liu's face. "Now can we go in?"
Without waiting for Professor Liu's response, Li Yundong took Su Chan's hand and led her through the gates.
Li Yundong paused, then turned around to face Professor Liu with his brows raised.
"You're allowed to go in," Professor Liu said smugly. "But not her."
"Why not?" Li Yundong said, raising his voice slightly.
"It's the exchange visit today," Professor Liu said. "Outsiders aren't allowed to enter the campus."
Bullsh*t, Li Yundong thought. He knew what this was about. Professor Liu was getting back at him for what happened two days ago during the auditors' visit. Talk about abuse of authority.
"Well she isn't an outsider," Li Yundong snapped. "Nobody has ever tried to stop her from entering before. And now all of a sudden, she became persona non grata? What kind of logic is that! She was there during the rehearsals, for crying out loud! Even the vice-chancellor was there! Now you're treating her like some kind of international terrorist."
Professor Liu sneered. "Technically, she might be a terrorist. I mean, you never know. Bad people come in all shapes and sizes these days. Some are covered in scars." Professor Liu smirked, then gave Su Chan a quick once-over. "While others look like prostitutes."
Li Yundong's face darkened instantly. He released Su Chan's hand. "What did you say?" he growled. Li Yundong got up to Professor Liu's face. "SAY THAT AGAIN!!! SAY IT TO MY FACE!!!"
Professor Liu scrambled backwards in fear. The campus, which was bustling with activity just moments ago, was now utterly silent.
"What's going on over there!" yelled the security guard who was rushing over to the gates.
Emboldened by the presence of the security guard, Professor Liu puffed out his chest. "What's the matter, eh?" he taunted. "Are you trying to pick a fight with a university professor? Go on then!"
Li Yundong balled his fists, his knuckles cracking due to the strength of his grip. Then he felt a warm and tender hand on his forearm. He turned and saw Su Chan shaking her head gently. "Yundong, it's okay. I won't tag along today. Why don't you go on ahead? I'll wait for you here. Just..." Su Chan looked down at her feet. "Just remember to pick me up."
A pang of emotion shot through Li Yundong's heart. Then, his anger returned with double the ferocity. "You won't let her in, is that it?" Li Yundong said. "Fine! Then I'm leaving as well!"
Professor Liu laughed snidely. "By all means! We couldn't care less about a student like you who disrespects his professors!"
Li Yundong laughed out loud, though his laughs were sonic venom — caustic, derisive, and laced with pure anger.
"A professor?" Li Yundong sneered. "Is that what you call yourself? I'll tell you what you are." Li Yundong got up into Professor Liu's face and dropped his voice into a low, menacing growl. "You are a f*cking lowlife is what you are."
Li Yundong turned around and walked back to Su Chan, taking her hand. Then, he walked away from the campus with his head held high.
He was done with this crap. Those bigoted lowlifes could rot in hell.