Zhao Yujian yanked the bouquet away before Ding Nan could reach it, then swung it above his head in a wide arc. Roses fell from the bouquet's wrapping, scattering across the floor, the long table in the front row, and the lectern. The entire lecture hall erupted in screams as soon as the bouquet's wrapping joined the pile of discarded roses.
The palm-sized, metallic weapon glinted ominously as its wielder brandished it in the air.
"Shut up! Shut up! All of you!" Zhao Yujian's deranged voice echoed in the lecture hall. "Sit down! Nobody move or I'll shoot! Put your phones on the table! Now!!"
The students complied, resulting in a series of rustling and clacking.
"Hands on the table where I can see them!" Zhao Yujian growled. "And if any of you reach for your phone, I swear to God I will blow your head off!!"
Then, silence fell. A deafening hush. A harbinger of doom.
The calm before the storm.
Everyone's eyes were now trained on the Type 54 "Blackstar" handgun whose muzzle was levelled at Ding Nan's head. Darkness spread across Zhao Yujian's countenance, turning his once devilishly handsome features into something devilishly evil.
Footsteps from the hallway interrupted the silence. Moments later, the door swung open.
"Morning, class! Now settle down—"
A blood splatter sprayed across the chalkboard, and the professor crumpled to the floor.
One shot. One death. One bullet hole, right between the eyes.
Screams of horror shook the hallway and the lecture hall.
"Shut up!!! I said shut up!!!" Zhao Yujian roared, swinging the gun around like a maniac. The screams petered out, though a few whimpers were still audible.
Blood was everywhere: on the floor, pouring out from the bullet hole between the professor's lifeless eyes; on the cheeks, hair, and blouse of the poor girl who'd been standing behind the professor when the shot was fired; on the door; on the chalkboard; on the professor's copy of the textbook, which was now a soggy pile of crimson mess.
So much blood.
So much gore.
So much hatred.
Zhao Yujian released another bestial roar which struck terror into the hearts of every student inside the lecture hall. The roar lasted for a good ten seconds before it dissolved into echoes, leaving frightened whimpers and pounding hearts in its wake. Those girls who used to fawn over Zhao Yujian's good looks were now staring at him with utter disbelief and shock, like they could barely recognize the man. Indeed, gone was the most handsome student in Tiannan University, and in his place was the Devil's spawn — the living embodiment of evil and hatred.
"Why! Why must you people do this to me?!! Arrgghh!" Zhao Yujian bared his teeth and slammed his fist against the table repeatedly. A harsh swipe of his cane sent books and stationery scattering across the floor. The surface of the long table in front of Zhou Qin was now empty except for a few drops of Zhao Yujian's tears. "How could you be so cold, Zhou Qin. How could you! I gave my heart to you... yet you stomped on it over and over and over again like it was nothing! You wouldn't even give me a chance... not even a f*cking chance..."
The table shook again, causing more stationery to clatter onto the floor. Then, Zhao Yujian's hateful gaze zeroed in on Ding Nan. "And you!!!" The barrel of the gun rose sharply; the dark muzzle stared at Ding Nan like the Devil's eye. "You foul and spiteful bitch!!! My pride and dignity was ruined because of you! I'm gonna make you pay for all the terrible things you said to me. Every single word!"
A round of maniacal laughter ensued, and Zhao Yujian retreated slowly until his back hit the lectern.
"Oh... I've been dreaming about this! I've been waiting for the moment when I finally put a bullet in your skull and then watch the life drain out of you!!!"
The barrel trembled slightly.
"And now I finally have my chance!"
"Z- Zh- Zhao..."
Ding Nan's words failed her right then. She stared at the quivering muzzle, knowing full well that her end was near. That dark, threatening hole on the muzzle... Would the hole on her forehead look the same once he pulled the trigger? Would it be quick and painless? If she died today, would anyone care at all?
Ding Nan stole a glance at the woman sitting beside her, her so-called "friend." Although calm and composed in appearance, Ding Nan knew that Zhou Qin was rattled as well; Zhou Qin's hands hadn't stopped shaking under the table.
Would Zhou Qin care?
No, she wouldn't.
Why would the great Zhou Qin care about Ding Nan, the lowly girl from some unknown village out in the sticks? Why would that bitch care about a mere pawn, a tool that she would use and then cast aside when it was no longer useful? From the very start, Ding Nan knew that she was merely Zhou Qin's tool. Wasn't that why she was even allowed to remain by Zhou Qin's side in the first place, so that she could play the role of Zhou Qin's shield? A scapegoat who took all the flak from everyone while Zhou Qin pranced around like a flawless queen? Wasn't that why Zhou Qin brought her along to all those fancy parties in the first place? Oh, no, no, no. Her Highness Zhou Qin would never deign to say the harsh words necessary to reject the advances of those sleazy men, whom she no doubt deemed as annoying insects. Her Highness Zhou Qin should never be the bitch. Leave that task to Ding Nan, the lowly and inconsequential country girl. Ding Nan, the insect repellent. Ding Nan, the viper. Ding Nan, who was now about to eat a bullet because of Zhou Qin.
Could a cheap canister of insect repellant stop a bullet? Ding Nan dreaded the moment she found out the answer to that.
Ding Nan turned away from Zhou Qin and, in a fleeting moment of delusion, hoped that the gun would no longer be pointed at her.
No such luck.
Zhao Yujian was now limping towards her, looking as menacing as ever despite the whole crippled look he had going.
Ding Nan's feet trembled, and her manicured fingernails tapped noisily against the tabletop — the rhythm of fear. She tried to get her mouth to start functioning again.
"Zh- Zh- Zhao... L- lis..."
Listen to me! I didn't mean any of those things I said to you! It was all Zhou Qin! Zhou Qin made me do it!
Zhao Yujian's fingers curled around her throat. Next thing she knew, she was yanked to the side by the throat, away from the long table, towards the lectern. Ding Nan whimpered when she felt the cold metal press against her forehead.
"P- p- please—"
"What's the matter, huh, bitch?! Has your mouth stopped working! Go on then! Speak! Open that foul mouth of yours! See if your harsh words can save your pathetic life!"
Ding Nan's teeth clattered in fear as unbidden tears slid down her cheeks. Then, she made the mistake of staring into Zhao Yujian's eyes, where she saw nothing but raw madness. Zhao Yujian had completely lost his mind, and Ding Nan knew that she was about to take the full brunt of his insanity.
A cold voice sounded.
"Zhao Yujian, can't we all just sit down and talk things out calmly like proper adults? Is all this drama necessary?"
A twinge of hope coursed through Ding Nan when she heard Zhou Qin's voice. Maybe Zhao Yujian would finally redirect his hatred towards the right person? Maybe he would—
A whimper sounded nearby.
"Who!!! Who made that noise!!" Zhao Yujian roared, his eyes rapidly scanning the first few rows of seats. Seconds later, he pointed the gun at a girl in the third row. "It was you, wasn't it!"
Another whimper sounded. "Shut up!!! Shut up or I swear to God I'll blow your f*cking brains out!!!"
The absence of the metallic coldness against her forehead brought Ding Nan a small amount of relief.
The lecture hall grew quiet after that. Ding Nan held on to the lectern for support as she listened to the sound of her hammering heart. It was all Ding Nan could do not to pass out or hyperventilate right then and there.
A soft thud sounded, causing Zhao Yujian to whip around and point the gun towards the door. The girl with the bloody face had slid down to the floor, and was now lying unconscious in the pool of the professor's blood.
All of a sudden, the door burst open.
"This is outrageous! Which one of you delinquents brought firecrackers on campus! This is a classroom environ—"
Director Qian paused mid-sentence.
"See, Director? I told you this class is nothing but trouble. I bet it's that Li Yundong again—" Professor Liu crashed into Director Qian at the doorway. "What's wrong?"
Neither of them were prepared to see the muzzle of a gun pointed right at them.
"You two! Step inside and shut the f*cking door!"
Neither of the professors moved.
The barrel of the gun quivered violently.
"Don't make me repeat myself!"
The lectern trembled after Zhao Yujian kicked it. "Move it! Now!"
Director Qian and Professor Liu shared a glance.
"Hey, he's talking to you!" Director Qian hissed.
"No, he's talking to you!" Professor Liu countered anxiously.
"I'm the Director of the Office of Academic Affairs, so what I say goes! Now get over there Professor Liu!"
"That's exactly my point! You're the authority figure here. You need to step up!"
"That's not how it—"
The bullet whizzed past Director Qian's head and struck the wall beside the door. A few strands of his comb-over fluttered in the air, which was now filled with the scent of gun powder.
"WAHHHHHHH!!!!!" The two professors screamed in unison. Director Qian's voice actually cracked a little. A moment later, they were both scrambling towards the door.
Director Qian made it through the door first.
Professor Liu, on the other hand, tripped on the body of the unconscious girl on his way out, sending him to his knees. On the floor, Professor Liu noticed the pool of blood under his palms, then his dead colleague's lifeless eyes. That was when he totally lost his shit.
Professor Liu didn't even bother climbing to his feet; he literally crawled his way out the door. Throughout the hullabaloo, the unconscious girl's body was kicked and pushed around until her whole body was sprawled across the doorway. The door hinged inward, but stopped short of closing fully when its bottom rail crashed into the poor girl's wrist, which ended up wedged between the door and the doorjamb. The girl didn't stir.
Behold, the courageous professors of Tiannan University. Those two men deserved an honorary medal of cowardice.
The students inside the lecture hall watched as their hope for survival crashed and burned in the form of Professor Liu's wimpy departure. Zhao Yujian's maniacal laughter resounded through the lecture hall seconds later, reminding each and every student there that they were now the hostages of a madman.
The religious ones were praying that the two professors could at least keep their wits about them long enough to call the police. For all they knew, those two cowards could be wetting themselves and drowning in their own piss right about now.
In the last row, Su Chan crawled on the floor past Li Yundong's legs. Argh! Those useless cowards! When the two teachers came in just now, Su Chan was hoping that they could at least distract the bad guy long enough for her to sneak up on him. Who knew they would suddenly bolt out the door like that. Screaming like a bunch of girls no less! Unbelievable! Su Chan stopped crawling when she reached the left end of the long table. Then, she craned her neck and peeked around the table's edge. That Zhao Yujian guy was still laughing with wild abandon, swinging his metallic weapon in the air. What a loony...
Su Chan pulled back from the edge of the table, then crawled her way back towards Li Yundong.
"Yundong," she hissed, shaking his leg. "Come on, beloved. Snap out of it."
He'd been in this state ever since he stood up and yelled at the top of his lungs, something about a gun, which she assumed was what that metallic weapon was called. After that, all hell broke loose and the enemy drew his weapon from inside the bouquet. Su Chan was pretty sure that the enemy had heard Li Yundong's yell. Then again, he wasn't quick enough to pinpoint Yundong's exact position in the room because Su Chan had pulled Yundong back down right after he yelled. That was minutes ago, and now the enemy was threatening everyone with that dangerous weapon of his.
Admittedly, the sorcery behind the weapon baffled Su Chan. Even though she was a relatively experienced Cultivator, she had never encountered a weapon that could drill a hole into a man's skull in less than a second! Was this what Yundong meant by "shooting a bird" when he teased her mercilessly with that bird joke at Mac Doo Nurls? Was he referring to the same weapon? Sheesh! Back then, she thought he meant shooting with an arrow!
Wait... what's happening over there?
Su Chan craned her neck slightly and glanced towards the front of the room. That loony had finally stopped laughing and was now looking at Zhou Qin.
Zhou Qin, bless the girl, was saying something to him in a muted tone, though Su Chan was too far away to make out what she was saying. Su Chan lowered herself to the floor and hid herself under the table. Then, she closed her eyes and began mobilizing her Qi. The Ningshen phase (T/N: Third phase of Cultivation) definitely had its quirks. One of them was granting a Cultivator the ability to enhance their sensory faculties. Moments later, when Su Chan's Qi reached her Shenting, the surrounding noise became clear. (T/N: Shenting is an acupoint at the center of the hairline)
Zhou Qin's voice drifted to her ears.
"......out. Listen to me, you don't want to do this, Zhao Yujian. Let Nannan go. Nobody has to get hurt. Let's sit down and talk things out calmly. Just you and me. On your terms. What do you say?"
"It's too late now, Zhou Qin. It's too late..."
"No, it's not..."
Su Chan tuned out the voices. Good job, ideal dinglu. Keep him distracted until I figure out a way to get us out of this mess. From under the table, Su Chan glanced up at Yundong. His eyes were still glazed over and vacant. Well, that was definitely not a good sign. He was in shock. Whatever he saw in his clairvoyant vision earlier must have spooked him bad. Okay, Chan'er, first things first. Keep him out of the enemy's line of sight.
Without further ado, Su Chan shifted Yundong's legs forward, causing him to slouch in his seat. Soon, his butt left the edge of his seat and he joined her on the floor.
Okay. Done. Now she had to figure out what the deal was with that metallic weapon. Wait. Before that...
Su Chan shook Yundong's shoulders a few times.
No reaction. Crap.
Never mind. Back to the weapon first. Hmm... How does it work? Well, she remembered hearing a loud explosion before there was a hole in that poor man's head. And she was pretty sure that something had flown out of it immediately after the explosion, like some kind of pointy object. A small arrow? A dart? Oh, don't be stupid, Chan'er... How could a dart blow a hole through a man's skull!
Ugh, how she wished she could use her Xianjue to figure out what that loony was about to do next (T/N: Xianjue is a skill that gives a Cultivator clairvoyant abilities; obtained after passing the 3rd dan of the Ningshen phase; details in glossary). But unfortunately, that loony was too far away for her Xianjue to work. Unlike Li Yundong's Xianjue, whose range was absurdly large no doubt due to the Renyuan Jindan and the fact that he was a prodigy, hers only worked when the enemy was in close range. That was actually how she'd managed to prevent Yundong's arm from being chopped off by that buffoon, Er Lu, the first time they had a run-in with those thugs outside the market. Back then, her Xianjue had allowed her to see Er Lu swinging the melon knife at Li Yundong a few seconds before he actually did. She’d immediately reacted by turning around and kicking the guy away. Not that Yundong would ever know.
That loony had kicked something again. A table? Maybe a chair? Su Chan took a peek from the tabletop. Mr. Loony was now gesturing wildly at the dead guy on the floor. Su Chan slid back under the table. I have to get Yundong to snap out of it. But first, I need a plan…
Another loud slam sounded. Ugh! What in Tao's name is this lunatic's problem! Su Chan took another peek. The loony was now pressing the weapon against the temple of that pretty girl with the poisonous tongue. What was her name again? Ding Nan. Right.
Zhou Qin, bless the girl again, was still talking to the guy, presumably trying to calm him down. Su Chan didn't even bother to eavesdrop on their conversation at this point. It didn't matter what they were saying so long as they kept talking.
Su Chan took stock of her surroundings. The room had only one exit, which was, unfortunately, too close to the enemy. Nobody could sneak out without that guy noticing. Seated among the rows of seats were students who were all wearing looks of terror. The girls —several guys too— were sobbing quietly in their seats. Poor mortals are probably scared out of their wits...
Should she just sneak up on him, disarm him, and then take him out? Well, she definitely could. She had pretty much mastered the art of stealth and concealment back in the Fox Zen School. But that would be a terrible idea, wouldn't it? What if that weapon had other magical abilities? Counter-stealth spells? Qi detection? Would it start shooting lightning? What if it suddenly spewed fire like that stove the other day? Worse, what if he tried to attack her, but missed, and then ended up blowing a hole in some other mortal's head? Argh!!! This is such a paaaaiiin!
No. She couldn't possibly handle this alone. She'd put these mortals' lives at risk if she did something rash. There was too much room for collateral damage.
A distraction. A distraction was what she needed. A huge distraction. Someone had to distract the bastard completely while she used her stealth to sneak up on him. Although Zhou Qin was trying her best at the moment, her efforts just wouldn't cut it.
She and Yundong had to work together as a team. There was no other way. As partners in Cultivation, they would be doing so in the future anyway, so they might as well start now, right? Su Chan removed a strand of her hair, then pushed her Qi into it, causing it to go stiff like a needle. Then, she jabbed the needlelike hair into Li Yundong's Renzhong (T/N: Renzhong is an acupoint between the upper lip and the nose).
Li Yundong gasped, then began glancing around in panic. Su Chan stroked his cheek and stared into his eyes.
"Shh, shh... beloved," Su Chan whispered, placing her index finger against her lips.
"S- Su Chan? Wh- what happened?"
"We're under attack, but you had a clairvoyant vision just now and went into shock," Su Chan whispered.
Note to self: teach Yundong how to properly control his Xianjue and manage his clairvoyant visions.
"What? Under att—" Li Yundong's eyes widened instantly. "No, no, no.. Ding Nan...The gun... I gotta warn—"
"Shh..." Su Chan said, looking towards the front of the room. "Right now, the enemy is in front with his weapon. He's got hostages, so he has the upper hand."
Li Yundong tried to stand up, but Su Chan held him down.
"But I gotta do something," Li Yundong said, his shoulders trembling violently. "H- He's gonna kill someone... I- I saw... I saw..."
Damn it, he's panicking...
"Shh... Shh... Look at me," Su Chan said. "Just look at me for a second, okay?"
Li Yundong leaned back and held her gaze.
"Listen to me carefully, beloved. Things are probably gonna go south, so I need you to be ready for a fight. Right now, you're freaking out a little because of that vision you saw, but that's okay. I'm gonna show you a trick that will make you feel much better."
Li Yundong nodded.
"It's all about Qi control," Su Chan whispered, then paused when Li Yundong suddenly tensed up again. Su Chan cupped his cheeks. "Hey, hey... Don't worry. You can do this, Yundong. Have faith in yourself. This is just the same thing you've been practicing all this time."
Li Yundong nodded shakily.
"Now. Generate your Qi from you lower Dantian. Then move your Qi towards these acupoints. Huiyin, Lingtai, Shenting, and then Baihui! Go on, do it."
Much to her relief, Li Yundong closed his eyes and did as he was told. This was a textbook battle preparation trick known to almost all learned Cultivators. The moment his Qi reached his Lingtai (T/N: On the middle of the spine between two shoulder blades), Yundong would feel instant calmness; his mind would become clearer, sharper, and more rational. As for moving his Qi towards the Shenting... Well, she'd already told him this morning what that does: give him super eyesight, super hearing, and clairvoyant abilities (T/N: the official names are Mingmu, Eryue, and Xianjue respectively).
Su Chan checked the flow of Li Yundong's Qi. His Qi had already reached his Shenting and Lingtai. Good... All that remained was for his Qi to reach his Baihui, by which time he would've completed both Xiao Zhoutian and Da Zhoutian.
Suddenly, Li Yundong's eyes shot open. White steam rose from the top of his head and his eyes flashed like lightning.
Now that's more like it beloved!
Then again, Su Chan's plan crumbled the moment Li Yundong sprang to his feet. No, no, no... This isn't part of the plan! Su Chan tried to pull him back down, but it was too late.
"Yundong," Su Chan hissed. "Sit back down, let's work out a plan first, and then attack him toget—"
"No," Li Yundong said. "I want you out of the line of fire, you hear me? Hide under the table."
"What? No! I can help—"
"No," Li Yundong said sternly, staring down at her with what appeared to be the most intense pair of eyes she had ever seen. "You will do as I say and get under the table. And you will stay down until this is over."
"No buts!" Li Yundong growled. "I won't be able to live with myself if you get hurt."
Su Chan shot a panic glance towards the front of the room.
The loony's weapon was now pointed straight at Li Yundong.
Su Chan's head was shoved under the table.
Li Yundong glanced down and held her gaze. "Be a good girl and stay there while I take care of this."
"Will you be able to hold him off on your own?" Su Chan asked worriedly.
Li Yundong gave her a confident smile. "Of course, my dear little princess. Just trust me."
"O- okay..." Su Chan said.
Li Yundong nodded, then raised his head and looked towards the front of the room.
He's gonna be fine, right? H- he has the Renyuan Jindan! And he's a genius...
Suddenly, Su Chan heard Li Yundong's low voice, but he wasn't talking to her.
"Listen up, guys." Li Yundong said. "Things are gonna get ugly pretty soon. Whatever happens later, just duck under the table and stay down. Make sure to keep your eyes open. When you see a chance to get out of the room, take it. There has to be someone inside this building who heard the gunshots earlier, so the cops will probably be arriving soon. Just stay out of the line of fire and y'all are gonna be fine."
"O- o- okay..." someone answered.
Probably some guy in the row in front of theirs.
"B- but what about you? What are you gonna do?" another guy asked.
"Me? I'm gonna end that son of a bitch."