"I-I-I'm warning you!"
The cane in Zhao Yujian's left hand tapped against the floor as he slowly backed away from the lectern. Since his right arm was wrapped around Ding Nan's neck, the bastard was dragging Ding Nan along as he moved. Much to Li Yundong's annoyance, Zhao Yujian had positioned himself behind Ding Nan's body, no doubt planning to use Ding Nan as a human shield. F*cking coward.
"Don't come any closer!"
Li Yundong kept walking. He was near the end of the long aisle now. He'd just walked past the fifth row.
"Drop the gun and give up now," Li Yundong said. "Do that and you have a chance to walk out of here alive."
Zhao Yujian's back hit the chalkboard. Ding Nan whimpered.
Fourth row... third—
Some dude in the first row sprang to his feet, then made a dash for the door. No, no, no!!!
Zhao Yujian unwrapped his right arm from around Ding Nan's neck and straightened out his arm.
"No! Don't shoot!" Li Yundong yelled.
A red spot formed on the student's shirt before he crashed face-first onto the floor a few feet away from the door.
"Damn it!" Li Yundong smashed his fist onto the third row's table. The sound startled Zhao Yujian, and the next thing Li Yundong knew, the gun's muzzle was levelled at him.
A burst of white light dazzled his mind's eyes as Xianjue came to life. In an instant, Li Yundong was in clairvoyant mode again. Two consecutive rounds, straight to the chest.
Another burst of white light brought Li Yundong back to real time.
Li Yundong dove to the side a split second before the trigger was pulled.
Both bullets hit the floor somewhere behind him. Li Yundong got up to his feet immediately, then charged forward. Third row... second row... first—
"Stop!!! Stop!!! Or I swear to God I'll kill her!!"
Something in Zhao Yujian's voice made Li Yundong halt his steps. Li Yundong zoomed in and got a magnified view of Ding Nan's temple, where the muzzle of the gun was now pressed against. The skin under the muzzle was red and lacerated. The bastard had applied enough pressure to draw blood.
When Li Yundong focused his hearing, the buzzing cleared almost instantly, and Ding Nan's soft voice floated to his ears.
He also heard Zhao Yujian's heavy breathing and the gentle clicking of the gun as it shook against Ding Nan's temple.
Li Yundong zoomed out and stared into Ding Nan's eyes, which were now wide and round. The viper was terrified.
"It's okay..." Li Yundong said, raising his palm a little, giving Ding Nan a reassuring look.
Li Yundong took a small step forward.
"I said stop!!! Dammit!! Stop!!"
Li Yundong stopped beside the first row. Zhou Qin was somewhere to his right a few feet away.
At this distance, Li Yundong didn't even have to zoom in to see the fear and terror in Zhao Yujian's eyes. Nevertheless, the fact remained that Zhao Yujian still had the upper hand. There was nothing Li Yundong could do at this point without putting Ding Nan at further risk.
A feminine whisper sounded on his right: "Two bullets. He's got two bullets left."
Two more bullets. That wasn't a lot. Did he have extra magazines? Li Yundong zoomed in and tried to check for any bulges near Zhao Yujian's pockets. Unfortunately, he couldn't get a good view because Zhao Yujian's pocket was obscured by Ding Nan's body. He couldn't see Zhao Yujian's back pocket either, since the bastard had his back against the chalkboard. Nah... it won't matter even if he's got extra rounds. At this distance, Li Yundong knew he was fast enough to take the bastard out while he was reloading. Now I just have to get him to waste those two bullets on me.
"Let her go, Zhao Yujian," Li Yundong said, then spread his arms out wide. "It's me you wanna kill, right? The guy who stole all your glory?"
Li Yundong could hear the squeezing of Zhao Yujian's muscles as they tensed up.
"You think I'm a fool?" Zhao Yujian growled. "You just want me to run out of bullets!"
Just when Li Yundong was thinking about charging forward and putting an end to this clusterfuck, white light filled his mind's eye once again: him charging forward to grab the gun; Zhao Yujian firing the gun at him; Ding Nan lying in a pool of her own blood; the blood splatter spreading across the chalkboard...
No! The vision disappeared in a flash, and Li Yundong stepped forward instinctively.
The sheer desperation in Zhao Yujian's voice made Li Yundong go still.
"Don't you dare make another move, or I swear..."
"Okay! Okay!" Li Yundong raised his hands up high. "I won't move. See? I'm not moving. Just... Just don't shoot. Don't shoot."
Damn it. He shouldn’t try to disarm Zhao Yujian. Ding Nan would die if he did.
Li Yundong zoomed in on Ding Nan's temple and was relieved to find that the pressure of the muzzle had eased slightly. Ding Nan whimpered again. Damn, the girl honestly looked like she was seconds away from passing out.
"Think about your mother, Zhao Yujian," Li Yundong said, switching tactics. "I don't have to tell you how much your mom loves you, man. I know it, and you know it. So think about her for a second, would you? Who's going to be there for her if you ruin your life like this?"
Zhao Yujian's features contorted into something Li Yundong couldn't even recognize. Moments later, Zhao Yujian released a series of hysterical laughs, which then turned into violent sobs.
"And you think there's a way out of this mess! Even if I stop now, I'm still a criminal!" Zhao Yujian yelled with tears streaking down his cheeks. "No. It's all over for me. You might be able to dodge bullets, but you can't bring back the dead!" Zhao Yujian jerked the gun towards the door. Li Yundong glanced towards the door briefly and—
He nearly jumped out of his skin. What the hell? Where's the professor's body? Then, he realized that the student who got shot in the back earlier was nowhere to be seen as well. However, he didn't have time to ponder on that particular mystery because Zhao Yujian suddenly started bawling like a baby.
Li Yundong tore his gaze away from the doorway and focused on Zhao Yujian, whose shoulders were quivering as he sobbed. Ding Nan flinched every time the gun pressed too hard against her temple.
Suddenly, Zhao Yujian raised his head, and Li Yundong honestly thought the guy looked like some kind of wounded beast. Zhao Yujian stared at him for a while before turning his gaze towards Zhou Qin.
"Why! Why must you force me into doing this! Why!"
"Zhao Yujian," Zhou Qin said, "nobody is forcing you into anything. You're the one who's forcing yourself."
The muzzle of the gun left Ding Nan's temple at bullet speed. "Shut up!" Zhao Yujian screamed like a maniac, pointing the gun at Zhou Qin. "Shut up!"
"Don't," Li Yundong said in a steady tone. "Don't shoot. Just tell us what you want. You're the boss here."
When Li Yundong stole a glance at Zhou Qin to check on her, he found that the woman wasn't fazed at all. She sat behind the table with her back straight. Her cold gaze was fixed on Zhao Yujian, and her breathing was surprisingly calm and even. It made Li Yundong wonder if she even noticed the gun pointed at her face. Somehow, Li Yundong didn't find any of that surprising. She wasn't known as the Ice Queen for nothing.
"Stand up," Zhao Yujian said, jerking the gun towards Zhou Qin.
Moments passed in silence. Still, Zhou Qin made no moves to stand up. Li Yundong zoomed in on Zhao Yujian's trigger finger. What the hell is he planning? What’s his endgame?
The gun jerked again. "I said, stand! Up!"
Li Yundong detected movement on his right as Zhou Qin slowly rose to her feet.
"And you!" The gun turned towards Li Yundong. "Hands in the air where I can see them!"
Li Yundong complied immediately.
"Walk out of the room slowly!" Zhao Yujian yelled. "Keep your hands in the air as you walk! And no funny business, or else I'll kill either one of them!"
Li Yundong stepped forward until he cleared the first row entirely. Then, he crab-walked towards the exit, keeping his eyes focused on Zhao Yujian's trigger finger.
When he reached the side of the lecture hall, Li Yundong heard a voice that nearly made him jump out of his damn skin.
"Yundong... You distract him, and I'll attack."
When did she—
Li Yundong whipped his head around and saw Su Chan huddled against the side-wall of the lecture hall.
"What are you doing here!" Li Yundong hissed. "I told you to hide under the table!"
He would never forgive himself if Su Chan got hurt.
"I can sneak up—"
"No! He's got a gun—"
"What are you whispering about!" Zhao Yujian yelled. "I told you to step outside! Now!"
"Fine! We're heading out now!" Li Yundong yelled with his hands still raised. "Just don't shoot."
"Get to the ground floor, then step out of the academic building!" Zhao Yujian shouted. "Stand at a spot where I can see you from the window!"
"Do it!" Zhao Yujian cut him off. "Do it or I'll shoot someone!"
Li Yundong clenched his jaw and pulled Su Chan towards the door. Sidestepping the professor's blood and the unconscious girl's body, Li Yundong slowly backed away until his back touched the door, which was slightly ajar.
Outside the lecture hall, Li Yundong stumbled on the solution to the dead professor's missing body. The dead professor's face was covered by what appeared to be John's jacket. Kris, whose torso was bare except for a beige bra, was attempting first aid on the student who had been shot in the back earlier. John was right beside her, applying pressure on the student's wound.
"What are you two doing here?" Li Yundong asked.
John raised his head, and Li Yundong cringed when he saw the blood covering John's forehead and cheeks. Then, John unleashed some kind of rigmarole in English, which made Li Yundong cringe even harder. The only word he could understand was "Sheep Poo." Not that it was even a word.
Li Yundong approached the Americans with Su Chan in tow. Kris lay the wounded student on the floor and eyed Li Yundong warily.
"How did you pull it off?"
Instead of answering, Li Yundong crouched down and checked the wounded guy's pulse, which, although present, was weak. Probably lost too much blood. Gotta get him some help soon.
"Answer me," Kris said, nudging him. "How did you dodge the bullets?"
Li Yundong looked up and saw the curiosity and thrill in Kris's eyes. He smirked. You wouldn't believe me even if I told you. Hell, he could barely believe it himself.
Li Yundong stood up. "And why are you here dressed like a model in a Playboy magazine cover?" he said, gesturing at the blonde woman's bra-clad torso.
Kris pointed at the makeshift bandage on the wounded guy's body. "Had to improvise," she said. Li Yundong took a closer look at the bandage and realized that it was actually a woman's blouse.
John went on another spiel: something, something, Sheep Poo, something, something, Kris, something, something, Sheep Poo...
"Stop avoiding the question, Li Yundong," Kris growled. "How did you—"
"I said no funny business, Li Yundong! Move your f*cking ass or I'll shoot someone!"
Li Yundong glanced towards the door.
"Crazy son of a bitch..." Li Yundong muttered under his breath, then turned back to Kris. "You heard that?" Li Yundong said, tilting his head towards the door, then gestured at the wounded guy on the floor. "Call an ambulance. Guy's lost too much blood."
"Already did," Kris said.
"Good," Li Yundong said. "Now I gotta go. Otherwise, that lunatic is gonna kill someone else."
"Come on, Su Chan!" Li Yundong said, then broke off into a sprint.
"Hey! Wait up!" Kris yelled. "I'm coming with you!"
The last thing Li Yundong heard before he stepped through the emergency exit was, unsurprisingly, a series of Sheep/Cheap Poos.
Zhou Qin followed Zhao Yujian's movements with her eyes even though her mind was still busy processing Li Yundong's bullet-dodging feat earlier. What was it again that she thought last night while she was pouring her sorrows onto her oil painting? That she'd known a lot of men who were far more talented than Li Yundong? Clearly, the universe was keen on proving her wrong. It certainly took more than just talent to dodge five... no, seven, bullets in total. Yes, such a feat required something beyond talent to pull off. It would take... God, she didn't even know what it would take.
Zhao Yujian's cane knocked against a table as he limped his way towards one of the windows, which was lodged on the wall directly opposite of the door. The tapping of the cane echoed in the lecture hall until he stopped beside the window and pushed it open. Zhao Yujian leaned his hip against the windowsill and glanced out the window while keeping the gun pointed at the door.
Someone dropped an object.
"Silence!!" Zhao Yujian yelled.
Zhou Qin glanced around and noticed their class rep, Sun Li, picking up her textbook from the floor.
"What's the point of all this, Zhao Yujian?" Zhou Qin said, trying her best to keep her emotions out of her voice. "Can't you see how pointless this is?"
"My whole life is now pointless," Zhao Yujian gritted.
"Not if you turn around and give yourself a chance," Zhou Qin said.
"Enough!" Zhao Yujian's eyes flashed with anger. "It's too late now. It's all over for me." Then, he glared at Zhou Qin in such a way that gave her goosebumps. "And it'll be all over for you too."
Zhou Qin stiffened. What is he planning? If he wants to kill me, why not just shoot me now?
Li Yundong's voice pulled her out of her thoughts.
"Hey! Zhao Yujian! I'm already downstairs! Don't do anything rash!"
"Show me your hands!" Zhao Yujian shouted through the window. "Hands where I can see them!"
"Alright! Alright! Here! My hands! Just chill, man..."
"Stay there! And don't you dare move a f*cking inch if you value the lives of your two fangirls!"
Zhou Qin bristled at the outright lie that Zhao Yujian had just spouted. Whatever this madman was planning, it definitely wouldn't involve her and Nannan getting out unharmed.
What the hell am I supposed to do now?
Ding Nan flinched when she felt Zhao Yujian's hands on her throat.
Ding Nan stumbled a few steps after she was shoved away from the chalkboard where she'd been leaning against. She caught the edge of the lectern and managed to keep herself upright. Zhao Yujian was behind her before she could do anything else.
"You too!" Zhao Yujian jerked the gun towards Zhou Qin. "Move!" Zhao Yujian gestured at the door with the gun.
"Where are we going?" Zhou Qin said. The coldness behind that voice surprised Ding Nan no matter how many times she heard it.
Ding Nan felt Zhao Yujian's breath tickling her ear. "To the rooftop!" he said.
Ding Nan stumbled again after Zhao Yujian shoved her from behind.
"We don't have access to the rooftop anymore," Zhou Qin said with a frown. "The door is locked."
"You're lying!" Zhao Yujian growled. "That door is never locked!"
"It is now," Zhou Qin said calmly. "The staff decided to restrict access to the rooftops of all the buildings on campus ever since Li Yundong climbed to the rooftop of the dorms."
Despite how much she hated the cold-hearted bitch, Ding Nan was grateful that she was stalling for time. Time for what, Ding Nan knew not. She was just glad that she was still alive and breathing instead of bleeding on the floor.
The sudden coldness she felt on the skin behind her neck made Ding Nan flinch.
"I don't care if it's locked!" Zhao Yujian growled. "Just move! Now! I'm not going to ask again!"
Ding Nan gasped, then shot Zhou Qin a fearful glance.
"Guess what! Now the door is unlocked!" Zhao Yujian yelled, smacking the ruined door knob away with his cane. "Open the door and walk up the stairs!"
Ding Nan looked away from Zhou Qin and noticed that Zhao Yujian was looking at her pointedly.
Ding Nan stepped forward and pushed the door open. Why me? Why does it always have to be me?
The journey to the rooftop took several minutes. Ding Nan's head was spinning by the time she arrived at the rooftop. She stole a glance at Zhou Qin, who, much to her chagrin, looked as composed as ever. The tapping sound of the cane announced Zhao Yujian's arrival at the rooftop. Ding Nan did a quick scan of the rooftop area. Hopelessness crept into her heart when she realized that there was no way out of this place, no way other than the staircase or over the ledge.
Zhou Qin's cold voice sounded again. "You only have one bullet left."
Ding Nan studied Zhao Yujian's face to see how he would react.
Zhao Yujian's face twitched slightly. Suddenly, the gun's barrel turned from herself to Zhou Qin. Ding Nan secretly heaved a sigh of relief.
"What's your point?" Zhao Yujian growled.
"Isn't it obvious?" Zhou Qin said. "There are two of us here, but you have only one bullet remaining."
Every ounce of relief fled Ding Nan's body. She did not like where this was going.
Zhao Yujian sneered. "Who do you think I'll shoot then?"
A shiver ran down Ding Nan's spine. She flicked a glance towards the staircase. If she made a run for it...
"I have no idea," Zhou Qin said nonchalantly. "But I should let you know that if you kill me today, you're not the only one whose life is gonna end. Your mother, your father, and your entire family will be finished!"
Ding Nan felt her knees go weak. Th- this bitch is... throwing me under the bus...
"Y- you cold-hearted bitch!" Zhao Yujian yelled.
Ding Nan had to agree with Zhao Yujian on that assessment even though he was the enemy.
"This has nothing to do with me being cold-hearted," Zhou Qin said. "It is nothing but a simple fact."
Ding Nan eyed Zhao Yujian warily. Oh God, Oh God, Oh God... He's going to kill me... He's going to kill me for sure...
"The power and influence of my family is far too great," Zhou Qin went on. "That's beyond either of our control. So if you kill me..."
Zhou Qin didn't even have to complete her sentence to get the point across. The underlying implication was clear: Kill Ding Nan and spare me, otherwise my family will ruin yours.
A deluge of emotions crashed into Ding Nan: pain; regret; fear; anger; hatred. She hated Zhao Yujian and his obsession with Zhou Qin, hated Zhou Qin and her coldness, but most importantly, she hated herself.
Why didn't she choose to remain as Ding Nan the village girl? Why did she have to obsess over the LVs, Guccis, and all those fancy parties? Why did she volunteer to become Zhou Qin's scapegoat? Deep down, Ding Nan knew the answer to all those questions — vanity.
Tears slid down Ding Nan's cheeks, and her knees buckled. She slid to the floor, drowning in an ocean of hopelessness. Her tears flowed silently. She didn't even have the energy to sob.
The sound of Zhao Yujian's deranged laughter spread across the rooftop. It was sinister and foreboding, like the voice of the angel of death.
"Get up! Up on your feet!"
Ding Nan's body swayed to the left after Zhao Yujian kicked her.
More tears slid down her cheeks, turning her vision blurry. Ding Nan didn't move. What was the point? She was as good as dead anyway.
Then, Ding Nan felt a grip on her arm, a feminine touch. Beside her ear, a cold voice sounded, the same cold voice that she hated so much: "Come on. Don't give up."
What the hell is going on up there? Li Yundong paced back and forth on the compound just outside the academic building. Why can't I hear anything?
Li Yundong had been focusing his hearing on the sounds coming from the lecture hall for the past three minutes or so. His efforts came up empty. He didn't hear anything that would give him a clue as to what was happening.
Li Yundong stopped pacing and tried again, willing himself to focus more. Chatter. Chatter. More chatter. None of those voices belonged to Zhao Yujian, Ding Nan, or Zhou Qin. Well, at least he didn't hear any gunshots. One thing Li Yundong had noticed about his super hearing was that it was only sensitive for sounds transmitted through open air. At least that was what he inferred from the fact that the voices inside the lecture hall weren't as clear the moment he stepped out of the building. It was either that, or he was losing his super hearing. Nah, the buzzing was still there, so his super hearing must still be working.
Li Yundong glanced up at the open window of the lecture hall. Zhao Yujian was no longer standing there. Should he sneak back into the lecture hall to check? Nope, bad idea. All hell would break loose if Zhao Yujian suddenly appeared at the window again and saw that he was no longer there. Li Yundong glanced towards Kris and John who were both staring at the screen of a phone. Should he ask one of them to check? Yeah, maybe he should—
"Yundong!" Su Chan suddenly yelled.
Li Yundong whipped his head around and saw Su Chan pointing at the sky. No, not the sky. She was pointing towards the academic building's rooftop.
Li Yundong wanted to smack himself for his own stupidity when he saw two feminine figures inching closer and closer towards the ledge of the rooftop.
Li Yundong focused his eyes on the ledge, then zoomed in. Indeed, the two women were Ding Nan and Zhou Qin. No wonder he didn't hear their voices when he isolated the sounds from the lecture hall just now. They weren't even in the lecture hall! He'd been focusing on the wrong place!
"Oh my God!! Are they jumping?!" Kris yelled, her voice colored with desperation. "Li Yundong! Hurry up and do something, would you!"
Li Yundong held up a hand to quiet Kris. He backed away a few steps and glanced up at the rooftop. After that, he spent the next thirty seconds listening to the conversation at the rooftop.
"Shit..." Li Yundong said.
"What? What did you see?" Kris asked anxiously.
Beside Kris, John said something in English and made a couple of wild gestures with his hands: Sheep Poo, something, something, something, Sheep Poo!
Li Yundong shook his head and began glancing around the building. Suddenly, he paused and turned towards Su Chan.
"Su Chan! Help me find a spot where I can climb up!"
Su Chan nodded obediently and got to work.
Li Yundong paced around and studied the building. There's gotta be somewhere I can climb. A wall. A balcony. Something! Dammit!
Kris caught up to him. "What the hell are you doing! What do you mean by climb up," she yelled. "Why don't you just use the stairs if you wanna get to the rooftop!"
Li Yundong stopped walking, but he kept glancing around. "No. I won't be able to save them if I use the stairs," he said. "I won't get there in time."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"He's gonna force one of them to jump, Kris," Li Yundong said. "I won't be able to catch them if I take the stairs. But if I climb up from below, I might be able to catch them in midair if one of them jumps."
"Holy shit... you're nuts..."
"I dodged like, what, seven bullets?" Li Yundong said. "Yeah, I think nuts pretty much sums it up."
"Yundong! Over here!" Su Chan yelled. Her voice came from somewhere on his left.
Li Yundong quickly made his way over towards Su Chan.
"Wait!" Kris yelled. "How did you even know that he was gonna force one of them to jump?!"
That question made Li Yundong stop short. Yeah. And how the f*ck did I dodge seven bullets?
Li Yundong turned around and said, "Deduction!"
Then, he ran towards Su Chan, leaving a dazed Kris behind.