Su Chan stared at Li Yundong as though he'd grown a second head.
"What's so great about this xuetang anyway? From what I see, that man is more like a barbarian than a schoolmaster!" (T/N: Xuetang is an archaic Chinese term for 'school')
That statement just about fried every single one of Li Yundong's brain cells. He stared at Su Chan in utter disbelief and said, "Xuetang? Schoolmaster? My God, woman. Which era are you from! Did you time travel here from ancient times?"
Su Chan blinked at him in confusion.
"What do you mean?"
Once again, Li Yundong was thrown into speechlessness.
Oh hell. What am I going to do with you...
After a while, Li Yundong released a long, despondent sigh.
"Argh, forget it. You wouldn't understand. Look, just…" Li Yundong grabbed two fistfuls of his hair and sighed again. "I can't afford to get expelled, okay? I won't get a single cent from my parents if I do!"
"Then... Did I do something wrong just now? Did I cause you trouble again?" Su Chan asked timidly.
Li Yundong shook his head and said, "No. You didn't do anything wrong. It was all me."
Li Yundong breathed in deep and then exhaled. In an instant, his chest felt lighter, as if his frustration had been expelled from his body via his breath. He was a born optimist, so it didn't take him long to recover his mood. When he did, he smiled at Su Chan and said, "How about I take you on a tour of my university?"
It was a little past ten and most classes were still ongoing. Li Yundong didn't feel like going home just yet, so he gave Su Chan a nickel tour of the campus. Eventually, they arrived at a footpath lined with trees on both sides. Above the path, the canopy of thick foliage provided ample shade, making it a good place for a stroll. Soon, the pair was promenading along the path.
Although he wasn't allowed to hold Su Chan's hand as they walked, Li Yundong couldn't find any faults in his present circumstances. Here he was, sharing a walk with a drop-dead gorgeous woman on a sunny day, with speckles of sunlight flickering on his shoulders like some kind of dynamic mosaic pattern, and whiffs of feminine fragrance mixed with a grassy scent tickling his nostrils. What fault could he possibly find in that? Life was pretty good as far as he was concerned.
Along the way, Li Yundong and Su Chan passed by quite a few students, all of whom did double takes when they saw Su Chan. Indeed, she had that kind of effect on people; she looked like a little angel, a perfect amalgamation of chaste, innocence, and cuteness that would captivate anyone who laid eyes on her. As they walked, Li Yundong secretly reveled in the effect Su Chan had on everyone they passed by. The looks in their eyes said it all, like they had never seen anything so beautiful in their whole lives.
"Wow, your xuetang, ah, I mean, your university, is so huge!" Su Chan remarked as she glanced around with curious eyes.
Li Yundong's lips curved into an amused smile.
"Well, this is just some crappy, third-rate university anyway," he said. "You haven't been to the country's top university yet. Its campus is way larger than this one."
"Really? I feel like going there to see for myself one day," Su Chan said in an envious tone.
Li Yundong laughed and said, "So. You're the type who likes noisy crowds?"
Su Chan suddenly became quiet. For a moment there, Li Yundong wondered whether she had even heard his question. But when he turned to the side to look at her, he noticed that she was deep in thought. When she finally spoke a moment later, her voice came out soft and wistful.
"Maybe? I mean, I don't really know," she said. "Maybe I've been living in the mountains for too long. Sometimes it would be years before I even see a single soul."
At this point, they had nearly reached the end of the footpath. Several feet ahead, there was a copse of trees that spread out like some kind of dense thicket.
Li Yundong was just about to speak when he heard a voice.
"Zhou Qin, I really, really like you. I would do anything for you."
The voice came from the copse.
Hm? A love confession? Li Yundong thought.
Ha. In the past, I was always the one who confessed and got humiliated. F*ck, I even made it to the university forums! Well, I guess the tide has turned...
Joy coursed through Li Yundong's veins.
Turning to Su Chan, Li Yundong pressed his index finger to his lips and whispered, "Shh! Let's go check it out."
Su Chan's very existence revolved around mischief; it was an inborn trait. Needless to say, Li Yundong's sudden cloak-and-dagger behavior kicked her innate penchant for mischief into overdrive. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Su Chan mimicked Li Yundong's shush gesture.
They shared a look with each other, both grinning like there was no tomorrow.
Then, they slowly crept towards the edge of copse until they arrived at a low hedge, where they crouched down and kept their heads low. The confession was happening inside a gazebo not too far away from where they were crouching. Alas, neither of them could see past the dense greenery well enough to get a clear view of the confession, so they settled for eavesdropping on the conversation.
"Zhao Yujian, we really aren't right for each other..."
Zhou Qin's voice was as melodious as ever. If it weren't for the aloofness and indifference that it contained, it would've been angelic.
"But Zhou Qin, you've never even given me a chance to prove myself. Please, give me a chance. What do I lack that makes me undeserving of your affections? Tell me! I'll change! I'll improve myself! I'll do anything!" Zhao Yujian implored.
Another voice sounded.
"Hey! Stop your babbling! Do you know how annoying you are? What do you lack, you asked?" There was a derisive snort. "Wrong question, pal. The real question is, what do you even have that makes you deserve to be with Zhou Qin?"
Li Yundong's brows shot to his hairline.
This voice... Ding Nan?
Li Yundong poked his head around the side of the hedge and peeked towards the gazebo. He couldn't help it; he had to see what was happening.
Zhou Qin's figure caught his eye immediately. She was standing with her back to him, dressed in a pale green blouse with medium-length sleeves. And, as if the blouse wasn't pretty enough as it was, it had to be lace-trimmed around the cuffs and neckline. Her dark hair, long and straight, cascaded past her shoulders with their ends reaching around mid-back level. A long, beige lace-trimmed skirt flowed from her waist down to her ankles.
The gazebo looked like an ancient architectural masterpiece. The weight of its roof was borne by pillars whose ends were fitted with brackets constructed from interlocking wooden blocks. The roof was no less remarkable, with cornices which curved upwards like a bull's horn. And, with Zhou Qin standing there amidst the antiquated ambience, the whole scene seemed like some kind of tableau. The rustling of foliage announced the arrival of a breeze which swept across the gazebo a second later, causing Zhou Qin's skirt to billow out around her legs. At that precise moment, Li Yundong thought a goddess had just arrived on earth in the form of Zhou Qin. After all, how could a woman of such ethereal beauty and elegance be anything less than a goddess?
Not even Su Chan could help the sound of praise that came out of her mouth after witnessing such ethereal beauty.
"So beautiful…" Su Chan whispered.
Su Chan had met Zhou Qin before, though all of her attention was focused on Li Yundong during that time. Hence, Su Chan had never really given Zhou Qin's appearance its due attention until now.
Standing beside Zhou Qin was none other than Ding Nan. Although Li Yundong was looking at Ding Nan from the side, he could still make out the cute Hello Kitty sketch printed across the chest of her white sports singlet. Below, a pair of Daisy Dukes left nearly every inch of her long, white legs open to view. If there was one thing that those sorry excuse for shorts did extremely well, it was to accentuate the outline of her round, firm, and curvy bubble-butt; which, by the way, was amazing.
No matter how much Ding Nan's usual behavior revolted Li Yundong, he had to admit that the woman was every bit deserving of the title "Belle of the Foreign Language Department." Within her youthful beauty, there was a sexiness and sultriness to be found. If Zhou Qin could cause a guy to daydream, then Ding Nan could give them wetdreams.
With her choice of outfit, Ding Nan seemed, in every sense of the word, cute. Until she opened her mouth, that is. With her mouth open, Ding Nan was a f*cking viper, spewing venom everywhere.
"Ha. Before, there was this Li Yundong guy, who's just a stupid toad lusting after a swan, and now there's you! Say, are you guys super annoying or what? Seriously, do you guys not own mirrors or something? What makes you believe that you even belong in the same league as Zhou Qin? Let me tell you something. You little shits don't even have a right to look at her!"
See? Viper. Not even an outsider (sort of) like Li Yundong could stop himself from frowning at those acrimonious words.
Su Chan stuck out her tongue in distaste.
"What a mean woman," she mumbled. "I can't believe she dragged you into this as well!"
Li Yundong smiled at Su Chan and then jerked his head slightly at the gazebo.
Su Chan got the message and immediately returned her attention to the conversation, which, in all honesty, felt more like an all-out ass chewing rather than a love confession at this point.
Li Yundong stared at Zhou Qin and Ding Nan for a little while longer before finally turning his gaze towards Zhao Yujian. The moment he did, Li Yundong was reminded of just how much of a preferential little shit genetics could be. Here he was, sporting a spare tyre around his waist while the guy over there was practically a 183cm tall walking beefcake. Tall frame and lean muscles aside, he had to have a handsome face as well! In a suit and tie, he could easily pass himself off as Takuya Kimura.
Wait a minute... I think I know this guy. Zhao Yujian... Zhao Yujian... That name sounds so familiar.
Then, everything clicked.
This Takuya Kimura lookalike was none other than the president of Tiannan University's Taekwondo club and Tiannan city's Taekwondo champion. Li Yundong was honestly surprised that he hadn't recognized him sooner, because this was the Zhao Yujian, the one acknowledged by pretty much everyone to be the most handsome student in the university. Well, if Li Yundong was the King of Love Confessions, then Zhao Yujian had to be the King of Love Letters since he had already received love letters from more than thirty females students!
Heh... so even a guy like Zhao Yujian would be rejected by Zhou Qin, huh?
Well, I'll be damned...
Deep down, Li Yundong was nothing if not shocked. As far as he was concerned, Zhou Qin was an enigma. Well, he did hear from somewhere that she came from a powerful family, but that was it. Other than that, her true status remained a complete mystery to him. Not that people cared, since the woman was nothing short of outstanding even when her background was taken out of the equation. Brains, looks, poise, and prestige, she had it all in spades. Other than her infuriating aloofness, she was basically flawless.
But, seriously, what was even her type?
She just turned down Zhao frigging Yujian!
What the heck!
Meanwhile, Zhao Yujian seemed appalled by Ding Nan's harsh words. It was as if Ding Nan had just delivered a roundhouse kick to his face, one that he never saw coming. Tremors ran through every part of his body: his lips; his index finger that was currently pointing at Ding Nan; even his voice when he finally recovered enough from his mortification to speak.
"You, you, you—"
Ding Nan cut off his stammering with a cold sneer.
"Me? What about me?” Ding Nan snorted. “Oh, you want my advice, is that it? Sure, I have two words for you. F*ck! Off! While you're at it, go dig a hole in the ground and bury yourself in it! Stop embarrassing yourself here!"
Zhou Qin stopped the viper's onslaught with a few pats on her hand.
"Xiaonan, that's enough," Zhou Qin whispered. "Stop talking."
After that, Zhou Qin looked Zhao Yujian right in the eye and said, "Zhao Yujian, please don't contact me anymore. A relationship between us won't work."
Seconds later, Zhou Qin and Ding Nan walked away from the gazebo, leaving a devastated Zhao Yujian staring after them in a stupor. At that moment, Li Yundong thought the poor guy looked like a sculpture standing amidst the remnants of a war-torn city: unmoving, broken, and covered in ashes and glowing cinders.
Zhao Yujian kept staring after Zhou Qin until something inside him finally snapped: "Zhou Qin! You'll regret this!"
Zhou Qin's steps never faltered, nor did she look back at Zhao Yujian. It was as if she never even heard him.
Ding Nan turned around with a sneer, then flipped him the bird.
A spasm of rage contorted Zhao Yujian's handsome countenance. All of a sudden, he burst forward but stopped immediately after his first step with his fists tightly clenched and his body as stiff as a post. Seconds later, he began pacing around the gazebo like a lion about to go berserk. When he finally stopped pacing a while later, he stared out of the gazebo, his eyes filled with menace. However, a moment later, he just stormed off in an angry huff.
Li Yundong and Su Chan crawled out from under the hedge after Zhao Yujian's angry departure. Li Yundong was still trying to process whatever the heck it was that he'd just witnessed. It was like reliving his own experience but from a different point of view; so close, yet so far.
Well, shit, Li Yundong thought. It didn't seem all that bad when it happened to me... But to see it happen to someone else? Damn. I must have f*cking balls of steel to do it twenty-one times over!
Regardless, what he just saw hit too close to home, and Li Yundong was no longer in the mood to carry on with the tour. After a moment of thought, he said, "Come on then. Let's head home and I'll whip up a couple of nice dishes for you. How about that?"
Su Chan's face was practically glowing when she heard his suggestion. For a moment there, Li Yundong thought she looked like the hungriest chicken he'd ever seen, what with the way her head was bobbing up and down as if she was desperately pecking at every piece of poultry feed she could find.
And was that drool he saw at the corner of her lips?
Li Yundong burst into laughter and started walking away. "Come on! Time to get some groceries!" He halted his steps and turned around to look at Su Chan. "How about you do the buying this time?"
Su Chan's smile faltered.
"But... I'm worried that I might cause you trouble again."
Li Yundong waved off her concern with a smile. From the pockets of his pants, he took out a wad of cash, which consisted of dozens of red hundred-yuan notes, and shoved it into Su Chan's palm.
Little did Su Chan know that this was actually Li Yundong's ploy to give her some extra money to keep on her in case of emergency. Any normal person would've smelled a rat immediately. Tens of thousands of yuan, just for groceries? What, were they going to feed a town? Then again, Su Chan didn't exactly fall into the "normal" category.
How much are these red papers worth? Su Chan thought, blinking a few times. She didn't even know this was what money looked like in the mortal world.
However, she didn't let herself dwell on the question for any longer as she tore her gaze away from the money in her hand and looked up at Li Yundong instead.
"Oh," she said, tightening her grip on the cash.
They left the campus and went to the marketplace nearby.
At the marketplace, Li Yundong led Su Chan to a butcher stall.
"I'm going to tell you what to do, okay?" Li Yundong said when they were both standing in front of the stall. "Now. Tell him that you want 500 grams of pork belly and a piece of pork bone."
Su Chan repeated what Li Yundong had told him to the letter. Struck by her beauty, the butcher shot a few furtive glances at Su Chan. After receiving Su Chan's order, the man deliberately selected the finest cuts of pork belly he had for the day and then packaged them up for Su Chan in a plastic bag. Yeah, beauty could be the downfall of a man, but if a man is lucky enough to have one by his side, it could be pretty damn fulfilling as well.
Su Chan took the bag and then turned around to leave.
"Hey, hey," Li Yundong said, grasping her arm before she could take a single step. "You haven't paid yet."
Su Chan stuck out her tongue and gave the butcher a sheepish look.
"Oops. I forgot," she said, fumbling around in her pocket.
She shoved the entire bundle of cash in front of the butcher's face.
The butcher nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw that much money being dangled in front of his face.
"But this is way too much!" the butcher exclaimed.
Cringing awkwardly, Li Yundong pulled out one note from the bundle in Su Chan's hand and then handed it to the butcher. Moments later, he took the change from the butcher and reached for Su Chan's other hand.
Li Yundong stuffed the change into her palm.
"Groceries doesn't cost much at all. One of these" —Li Yundong pulled out a note from the original bundle—"can get you quite a bit of groceries. Well, it'll be a different story if you eat out, of course. You'll definitely need more than one if you eat at a restaurant."
"Do restaurants have delicious dishes? Are they as good as yours?"
Li Yundong stared into Su Chan's eyes, amused by the excitement he detected in them and the rapid batting of her lashes.
Then, he laughed and said, "Well, that's hard to say. Each has its own merits, I guess."
Li Yundong nodded at the butcher and left the stall.
When Su Chan fell in step beside him, Li Yundong grinned at her and said, "You haven't tried the best of my cooking though. I've still got a couple of special dishes up my sleeves."
After leaving the butcher, the pair headed towards the vegetable stalls.
As they drew nearer to the vegetable stalls, Li Yundong felt as if they were being watched. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed that the vegetable stall lady who had tried to rip him off last time was staring at them. Well, glaring would be the more appropriate term.
Li Yundong, being an unforgiving person, met her glare with a glare of his own.
He got an eye roll in return.
Li Yundong didn't have a lot of achievements, but what he lacked in accomplishment he made up for in pride. Some would say that perhaps his pride was his greatest achievement. There were several vegetable stalls in the marketplace, which was fortunate since Li Yundong had long since decided that he'd rather starve to death than do business with that hoodwinker again.
After getting what they needed from the other vegetable stalls, the pair left the marketplace with several bags of groceries.
However, on the way home, something caught Li Yundong's eyes. That douchebag whom he nearly came to blows with a few days ago was standing nearby, watching them.
Er Lu shot a murderous glare at Li Yundong, then let his eyes wandered to Su Chan.
Li Yundong could discern the lust in the guy's eyes as they lingered on Su Chan. Hell, the douchebag was practically undressing Su Chan with his eyes. Then, Li Yundong saw douchebag turning his head to utter a few inaudible words to another dude who was young, blonde, and dressed in jeans.
This young dude, who looked like he'd just robbed a convenience store of all its hair dyes, cast a glance at Su Chan after he heard Er Lu's words. A lewd smile formed on his face as he nodded.
"Mmhm. Ooh yeah, she's definitely a fine-looking young thing," said blonde dude. "I must say you've got good tastes, you son of a gun!"
Li Yundong's face turned grim in an instant.
He moved closer to Su Chan and did a quick scan of their surroundings.
F*ck, Li Yundong thought when he saw five guys approaching them from behind, all of whom were carrying long objects concealed in rolled-up newspapers.
Li Yundong's heart sank to the pit of his stomach because he knew they were in big trouble now, even more so when he suddenly recognized who the blonde dude was. Xie Fei, a third-year from Tiannan University's Department of Economics. He was a hooligan with a bad rep, as well as a predilection for picking fights and harassing women.
Li Yundong transferred the grocery bags to one hand and then grabbed Su Chan's wrist with his free hand.
"When I say run, you run, got it?" he whispered.
"Huh? Why run?" Su Chan said, her face scrunched up in confusion. She was a Cultivator, for the love of the Tao. These goons weren't even a threat.
Li Yundong almost laughed at her question.
Why run? Are you f*cking kidding me? We're surrounded by seven guys! You want us to stay behind and get our asses kicked?
Alas, Li Yundong had no idea that he'd been enhanced from head to toe by the Renyuan Jindan. And he sure as hell didn't think of himself as a badass like Jet Li or Donnie Yen.
Apparently, Xie Fei had heard Su Chan's question too since he began laughing out loud. "That's right, pretty lady. There's no reason for you to run. It's not like we're going to do something to you or anything. Just have a meal with us!"
Li Yundong's fingers tightened around Su Chan's wrist.
"Go f*ck yourselves!" Li Yundong flung the grocery bags at Xie Fei and then yelled, "Run!"