The moment Li Yundong pushed his feet off the ground, he felt as though he was flying. It was like his body knew that he only had seconds to act. His sneakers pounded against the concrete as he sprinted along the sidewalk. His arms swung wildly at his sides as he stared up into the sky. He zoomed in, then quickly zoomed out again. Right, or left? Him, or her? That was what it all boiled down to in the end. He could only save one, and there was no question in his mind who she was. Left!!
A sickening crunch sounded the moment Zhou Qin's weight landed in his arms followed by a loud splat a couple of feet away from them. The sharp pain in his shoulders made him lose his footing. He twisted his torso around and somehow managed to keep Zhou Qin’s body above his own just before his back hit the ground. His vision exploded in white, then black, then white again when the back of his head smashed into the concrete. A groan sounded nearby, but he realized a second later that it came from his own mouth. The buzzing in his ears was now gone and was replaced with a loud ringing sound. When he closed his eyes, he realized that he'd lost control of his Qi; he couldn't feel it anywhere inside his meridians. He wasn't even sure if it had returned back to his lower Dantian. His arms and shoulders felt weird, and his head felt as though it was on the brink of exploding.
Everything hurt like a bitch.
Su Chan... I just want Su Chan...
Behind his eyelids, Li Yundong could vaguely make out a bunch of moving shadows.
"My God, Li Yundong... You're crazy, you know that?"
Suddenly, the weight on his chest lightened. He opened his eyes and saw John pulling Zhou Qin off his chest. Without the extra weight on his chest as a distraction, his mind now turned its full attention to his shoulders, which honestly felt as though the joints had been replaced with a couple of bowling balls.
Li Yundong sat up and hissed in pain when he tried to lift his arms.
"Don't move around, you idiot!" Kris yelled. "Your shoulder joints are dislocated. Jesus..."
Kris was now crouching beside him and looking over his shoulders.
"Move out of the way!"
Li Yundong glanced up just in time to see Su Chan smacking Kris's hands away.
"H- hey... Su Chan... You were right," Li Yundong said, smiling wryly. "My body really can't handle the weight from the ground floor."
His eyes stung when sweat slid down from his forehead into them. He shook his head, blinked a few times, then chuckled. "My shoulders got totally busted," he said in a light tone, "Guess this is what I get for ignoring my wise princess..."
Su Chan crouched down beside him and wiped away the sweat on his forehead.
"You were brave, Yundong," Su Chan said. "You saved her life. There was no other way."
Li Yundong’s chuckles turned into a sharp hiss when Su Chan raised his right arm until it was parallel to the floor. "Brave? I was terrified," Li Yundong said in a strained voice.
"Hey, miss," Kris said. "He's hurt pretty bad. I think it's best if you let me take a look at him."
Su Chan lowered his right arm back down and shot Kris a skeptical look. Li Yundong was about to tell Kris that Su Chan was a skilled healer, but apparently, Su Chan didn't take shit from anyone.
"You're not qualified to treat him," Su Chan remarked.
"Wha— I'm not qualified?" Kris said. "Now you listen here, missy. I'll have you know that I'm a trained—"
The conversation stilled for a moment. Clearly, something happened to make Kris shut up, but Li Yundong was in too much pain to care. When he raised his head, he saw Su Chan glaring at Kris, teeth bared and all. It actually reminded him a little of the look she got during their "food wars." He would've laughed if his shoulders didn't feel like they were sporting a bunch of wrecking balls inside their sockets.
Li Yundong flinched slightly when Su Chan struck a spot on his chest with her index finger.
"Don't move, Yundong."
Sweat was dripping off Li Yundong's forehead again. He nodded at Su Chan and forced out a smile.
Su Chan began to massage the joints on his shoulders. It didn't feel painful at all, much to his surprise. This girl might score a big fat zero in table manners, but she more than compensated for that particular shortcoming with her legendary massage skills.
"Feels better," Li Yundong muttered when Su Chan's fingers moved from his shoulder joints to his right shoulder blade. "What did you do?"
"Getting blood to flow to your rotator cuffs and shoulder joints," Su Chan said. "And now, I'm about to force your shoulder joints back in place."
That definitely sounded like a lot of fun.
"This will hurt a little, okay? You're gonna have to bear with the pain, Yundong."
"I'm good, princess. Do your worst," Li Yundong said through gritted teeth.
Su Chan's lifted his right arm with one hand holding onto his forearm and the other one wrapped around his biceps. The two ensuing pops sounded every bit as painful as he felt. Then, Su Chan began checking his elbow and wrist.
"That's amazing... How many times has she done this?" Kris muttered beside him.
Li Yundong didn't answer her. He wasn't even sure if the question was rhetorical.
Then he saw John leaning towards Kris and whispering something in English. Surprisingly he was able to understand a few words this time: girl; my (might?); look like; Barbie doll; scary; kill... no, killer.
Kudos to his high school English teachers, truly.
Once Su Chan was done with the right arm, she moved on to his left arm and did the exact same thing. Two loud pops later, she was done with his left arm as well. By some miracle, Li Yundong managed to endure the whole process without so much as a whimper. Although he did wonder at one point whether he needed to schedule an appointment with his dentist after this considering the amount of grinding and clenching his poor molars had to suffer through.
"There, you're all fixed, my darling," Su Chan said, wiping the sweat off his forehead with her palm.
When he looked up at her, she was smiling at him proudly. He loved that smile, not just because he was happy that someone finally saw value in no-name Li Yundong, but also because of how genuinely happy she seemed whenever she smiled like that. He decided that he wanted to spend the rest of his life making her smile like that. Su Chan stood up, and the next thing he knew, he was pulled to his feet. He rotated his arms, tentatively at first, but in huge swings when he didn't feel any sharp pain. He felt surprisingly okay, considering. His shoulders were a little sore, but that was about it. His knees and legs were fine. His spine, too.
He stopped moving his arms and pinched Su Chan's cheek. He leaned down beside her ear.
"Thank you, my princess," he whispered. "I wish I could kiss you right now..."
Li Yundong pulled back and smiled when he saw the blush on her cheeks. And, apparently, his best girl had a newfound interest in concrete tiles considering how hard she was staring at the ones under her feet.
Li Yundong patted Su Chan's head.
"Seriously, Su Chan. Thank you," he said. "You're awesome."
Su Chan tore her gaze away from the concrete tiles and looked into his eyes. The blush was still there on her cheeks.
"No beloved," Su Chan said. "You are. You saved a lot of lives today."
Li Yundong shrugged it off. "Nah... I can't take all the credit. I couldn't have done it without you. And besides..." Li Yundong paused, looking towards the Americans. "Kris and John helped a lot as well. They didn't have to care, but they did. Looks like I have to revise my opinion on them."
As if they had heard his mention of their names, Kris and John suddenly turned and began moving towards him. The moment John moved away from where he stood, Li Yundong saw Zhou Qin sitting on the ground with a blank expression. He patted John on the shoulder and walked over towards Zhou Qin.
When he crouched down beside Zhou Qin, her eyes snapped to his. The tears and vulnerability swimming in those eyes reminded Li Yundong that behind that Ice Queen exterior was an actual human being with feelings.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Zhou Qin stared at him without answering.
Just when Li Yundong was about to stand up, he heard her voice.
"I- I'm alive?"
Truth be told, her voice sounded more like a croak.
Li Yundong stared at her intently.
"Yes you are," Li Yundong said. "A little shocked and banged up, but otherwise alive and breathing."
Li Yundong stood up and pressed his palm on Zhou Qin's shoulder. "Just take it easy, okay?"
When Zhou Qin didn't reply, Li Yundong jogged towards Ding Nan.
"Ding Nan?" he said, crouching down. "You good?"
Li Yundong studied Ding Nan's face. She was staring back at him and, like Zhou Qin, her eyes were swimming in tears. Seconds passed without a single word exchanged between them. Li Yundong was honestly a little surprised by how Ding Nan was looking at him right then. He didn't think she had ever looked at him like this before, with gratitude and, dare he say, admiration? Then again, he had never paid much attention to Ding Nan ever since she said those harsh things to him the day after Zhou Qin’s rejection.
"Um... Ding Nan? You might wanna stop..." Li Yundong pointed at her bottom lip, which was now bleeding because she had been biting down too hard onto it. Ding Nan made no moves to release her lips, nor did she speak. Li Yundong sighed inwardly. She's badly traumatized... Who wouldn't be? Ding Nan might be mean and spiteful, but she still didn't deserve to go through this kind of ordeal. Being forced to choose between jumping or taking a bullet to the head? What a f*cked up situation.
Li Yundong patted Ding Nan's arm. "You're gonna be alright, okay? Nobody's gonna hurt you anymore." Li Yundong rose to his feet. "Just take care of yourself."
From the corner of his eyes, he saw Kris, John, and Su Chan walking towards him. Li Yundong had deliberately avoided looking at the mess lying ten feet away from Zhou Qin. Other than blood, gore, and the fruits of evil, what was there to see anyway?
"H- h- how?! How is this even possible!"
Li Yundong turned and saw Kris pointing a shaky finger at his shoulder. He moved his arms around several times. Still a little sore, but it felt so much better now. Su Chan had poked a needle into his arms and back after she had put his shoulder joints into place. Was it a needle though? He wasn't paying attention earlier but he thought the needle looked super long and fine, almost like a strand of hair or a piece of thread.
"B- but your shoulders were swollen like a balloon earlier!" Kris went on. "Now the swelling's all gone! How in the world...?"
"Hehehe... See? I told you you aren't qualified to treat him..."
Su Chan was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Li Yundong flicked her forehead.
"Hey, Su Chan... that wasn't nice you know," he said. "They were just trying to help."
"Oh," Su Chan muttered and stopped grinning.
"Well?" Li Yundong nudged her. "What are you waiting for? Apologize."
"Nah, it's alright," Kris said with a quick wave of her hand. She was now looking at Su Chan with an expression of awe. "Her claim wasn't entirely unfounded. She was amazing back there... I mean, I've honestly never seen anything like that... And the swelling. It subsided so quickly... It's like... Gosh..."
Then, Kris shot Su Chan a hopeful look. "Will you... will you teach me?"
A desperate voice interrupted their exchange.
"Out of the way!! Out of the way!!"
Everyone turned and saw Vice-chancellor Ke, Director Qian, and the entire legion of the university's staff pushing their way through the crowd that had formed around Zhou Qin.
"Oh! Thank God! Zhou Qin's alright! She's alright! She's still moving! Oh, thank God!" Vice-chancellor Ke screamed. The relief in his voice was almost palpable.
Then, a couple of professors started hurling out their stomach's content at the side, no doubt after seeing Zhao Yujian's dead body. Li Yundong glanced down at Ding Nan, who was sitting beside his feet in a daze, then looked towards the vice-chancellor and his entourage. The white-collars continued to fuss over Zhou Qin. F*cking assholes. Li Yundong shook his head in disgust. Ding Nan was sitting right here, yet not a single one of them bothered to check on her. Had they forgotten about the dead professor, or the student who got shot in the back? Did they even care? The selfishness he saw in these people left a bad taste in his mouth.
"Typical bureaucrats," Kris said, moving her phone around.
Li Yundong realized that she was recording the whole thing on video.
It just so happened that Director Qian turned his head in their direction at that moment.
"Hey! You! Who authorized you to film any of this!" Director Qian stormed over.
Uh-oh...This can't be good.
Kris froze, then lowered her phone slowly.
"Ever heard of freedom of the media, sir?" Kris said, her tone loud and bold.
Kris gasped when Director Qian snatched the phone away from her hand.
"Freedom of the media?" Director Qian sneered. "You're in China, not the United States."
Li Yundong frowned and shook his head. This was no doubt another act of self-preservation. Tiannan University's reputation would probably be ruined if Kris's video ever got out.
Director Qian's hands made a quick work of Kris's phone. Seconds later, the phone's memory card was out. Kris literally pounced on Director Qian when she saw what he did. Good thing John was on her before she did anything stupid, like kicking Director Qian in the nuts for instance (nice kick, Su Chan).
Director Qian waved the memory card in front of Kris smugly. "Here. You can have your phone back." Director Qian tossed the phone back to Kris, then smirked. "You can have the memory card back too. But only after we have wiped it clean."
Kris pounced again. Li Yundong and John moved at the same time and grabbed her shoulders on each side.
"Kris..." Li Yundong said in a warning tone.
The blonde was too worked up to care.
Then, John leaned in and whispered something into Kris's ear.
Suddenly, Kris pointed a finger at Director Qian.
"I'm gonna sue him!" she yelled.
Director Qian burst into laughter. Li Yundong saw the redness spread from Kris's cheeks, through her neck, all the way to the top of her bra-clad chest. Director Qian was already walking back to rejoin the other white-collars.
Director Qian stopped beside Vice-chancellor Ke and whispered something into the latter's ear. Vice-chancellor Ke suddenly looked towards Kris, then patted Director Qian on the shoulder. Li Yundong felt a sudden urge to punch Director Qian's shit-eating grin off his face.
"Damn it! They're all in on it!" Kris growled.
"I bet they're just bullying me because I'm not a Chinese," Kris grumbled. "None of these fools know that my grandmother is Chinese!"
Li Yundong's eyes went wide. He shared a glance with Su Chan.
"Wait, what? Your grandmother is Chinese?" Li Yundong asked.
"Yeah," Kris said with a nod. "My grandmother's name is Lin Guoying. She's a Chinese from the Hunan province! Why do you think I can speak Mandarin so well? I picked it all up from her!"
"Ah... So that explains the Hsiang accent," Li Yundong said with a nod. (T/N: Xiang or Hsiang Chinese, also known as Hunanese, is commonly spoken in the Hunan province)
Li Yundong's eyes sought out Su Chan. She hadn't said a word ever since Director Qian snatched Kris's phone. As it turned out, Su Chan was preoccupied. She was staring intently at something on the floor, her expression grave and somber. Li Yundong didn't have to follow her gaze to know what she was staring at.
"How bad is it?" Li Yundong asked.
Su Chan shook her head. "The head's completely smashed in. His spine is probably fractured in at least six places. And he also had severe internal bleeding in his torso before he died."
Li Yundong's spine tingled. "He didn't die right away?" he said, turning towards the physical evidence of Zhao Yujian's crimson demise.
"No..." Su Chan said. "His Qi was still present after the impact. Thirty seconds? Or about a minute? I can't tell."
How did things come to this?
Zhao Yujian was a brilliant and multi-talented student. He was blessed with good looks, which made him very popular among the girls. His only flaw was his narrow-mindedness and his proclivities for extremism, which led him down the path of destruction. None of this would have happened if he could just take Zhou Qin's rejection in stride and move on with his life.
Li Yundong sighed. "You were right, Su Chan," he said. "Even the most enlightened person should fear the workings of karma..."
"Yeah..." Su Chan sighed wistfully. "I had a feeling that something terrible would happen to him the moment I saw his mother spoiling him like that."
While silent melancholy filled the air, a twinge of guilt crept into Li Yundong's heart. If he hadn't broken Zhao Yujian's leg, would today's tragedy still happen? Should he have let himself get beaten up at the dojo that day instead of fighting back? Was he, Li Yundong, one of the cogs turning the wheel of karma which led to Zhao Yujian's tragic demise?
Someone nudged him.
"What's with the doldrums, Li Yundong?" Kris said. "Why the long face? You saved the lives of two women today. You're a hero. Shouldn't you be soaking up all the glory and accepting autographs from your fanclub?"
Nice try, Kris...
Li Yundong sighed. While he appreciated her efforts in trying to lighten the mood, he just wasn't feeling it at the moment. Everything was still so raw.
"I'm no hero, Kris," Li Yundong said. "I don't want fame, glory, or any of the shit that gets people ticking these days. If I had a choice, I'd rather none of this happened."
The distant wail of sirens mirrored the melancholy pervading the compound. It was as though the Heavens were wailing the tragedy that had struck Tiannan University.