Chapter 100: Apprentice?
“He’s a teacher?” Tan Lingyun, like the Director, looked at Lan Jue in astonishment.
The Director rounded on his female colleague in anger. “Lingyun! Again with this temper of yours! Clearly you acted without thinking and dragged the poor instructor all the way down here. Let – go – at – once! And what would happen if you hurt Professor Lan with that crushing grip of yours?”
“I, eh…. I didn’t know.” Tan Lingyun released her death grip and Lan Jue crumpled to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Without his discipline to protect him, the pain was excruciating.
“Oh, I do apologize.” She immediately stooped down and helped the great mercenary king to his feet.
Upset could not begin to describe the look on Lan Jue’s face.
“Why didn’t you just say you were a teacher?” Tan Lingyun’s eyes widen, her tone accusing.
“And what opportunity did you give me to do so!” Lan Jue shot back in indignation.
Tan Lingyun’s shock only deepened. She took a good long look at this Professor Lan. His meticulously teased black hair, thin body, handsome face, fine white suit and bowtie. Only, the suit had been coated now with dirt, and hopelessly wrinkled.
She covered her disgrace with anger, narrowing her eyes and glaring at him. “What kind of man are you, anyway? You’re an instructor of the National Eastern University, and you don’t employ a Discipline to defend yourself?”
Lan Jue almost gagged, but in the end his response was muted and dejected. “Fine… you win.”
She snorted scornfully, then turned away. “Director Wu, I’ll leave this to you. Take care of this young pilot, because if I find him skulking around my classroom again I won’t be held responsible for my actions.”
Richard’s scowl was deep and bewildered. “I was just there to meet my wife! What’s wrong with that?!”
Tan Lingyun squared her shoulders and glared down her nose at him, full of a domineering arrogance. “First, this is not your house. This is a university. The only relationship we tolerate between students in these walls, is as schoolmates. If you want to go meet your wife, meet her at home. Second, Qianlin has never acknowledged you as her husband. This marriage you have concocted is all wishful thinking, with no legal documents or proof to back it up. Therefore, if I ever see your face again I will be formally submitting a request to have you expelled from school.” 1
“You!” Finally, Richard’s temper spun out of his control. The faint aura of his discipline began to exude from around him.
“ENOUGH!” Wu Junyi’s thunderous voice rang through the office, cold and commanding. Richard suddenly felt a devastating pressure bearing down on him. The sudden fear that filled him helped to control his temper.
“Professor Tan, you may go. I’ll deal with this.”
“Goodbye, Director Wu.” Tan Lingyun gave him a curt nod, turned, and left. As she stomped out she muttered, just loud enough to hear.
“No kind of man at all.”
Both Lan Jue and Richard stiffened visibly at the insult. They looked briefly at each other, unsure to whom she was referring.
Director Wu watched ‘the Savage Goddess’ leave, helpless. “Professor Lan, this was a misunderstanding. I apologize on behalf of Lingyun. And as for you…” Wu Junyi’s eyes shot quick and fierce to Richard. “I’ll deal with you momentarily. Stand to the side.”
Lan Jue made his way from the teaching affair’s office and back towards the teaching building he was so cruelly thrown from. As he did, a cold gust followed. He shivered and hunched in his suit, burdened and bleak. But more than the chilling breeze, there was that ineffable feeling lingering in his heart. Such was life! In the end, at least it was interesting. A laugh come unbidden from his lips, then. Could I be some sort of masochist?
“So I’ll assume everything’s fine, with you smirking to yourself like that.” The sultry voice arose from nearby. He turned his head, and sure enough there she was. Zhou Qianlin stood behind him, only a short distance away. The look on her face was more inquisitive than accusatory.
“Yup, everything’s fine! Why wouldn’t it be?” Lan Jue stuck out his chest in prime manly fashion.
Zhou Qianlin advanced towards him, a knowing smirk on her face. She ran a hand through her long, silken hair. “Your clothes are soiled.”
“Oh, this…” His squirmed.
“Let’s go,” she said, dropping the issue and any further questions.
The two walked side by side, and as predicted there was no shortage of curious glances directed their way. The title of School Beauty wasn’t lightly given, after all.
“Did you recognize him?” Zhou Qianlin’s voice was low as they meandered through the university.
“Mm. Your fiancé,” he replied.
Zhou Qianlin lifted her eyes to stare at him. She found a face as still and calm as the surface of a pond. “That’s right, and he’s here for me. What do you think I should do about it?”
Lan Jue blinked. “That’s up to you, how should I know?”
Her face stiffened, but a huff of laughter soon followed. “That’s right! It is up to me. Even though I’m a ‘soiled woman’ I think he’ll still want me. No problem then, you can go!”
Her pace quickened and she pulled out in front. Lan Jue came to a stop, making no effort to follow. He watched as she slowly vanished in to the distance. His features never changed, no expression revealed, except perhaps that shade of gloom returning. He turned the opposite direction, and began to walk.
“Are you serious? Listen kid, if you’re messing with me you know what’ll happen.” Tang Xiao crackled his knuckles, glaring fiercely at Dumb-Mutt Jin situated before him.
There was a real fear in Jin Tao’s eyes as he tittered nervously. “Look, buddy, how am I messing with you here? You shouldn’t keep treating me like before. I mean, now we’re the same – we’re both apprentices under the same master!”
The fat on Tang Xiao’s face jiggled perceptibly. “Fellow apprentices? I really have no idea what Professor Lan was thinking. A guy as insignificant as you, working with him? I mean he can oscillate!”
“Oscillate?” Jin Tao’s eyes popped and he almost salivated at the prospects.
Tang Xiao laughed patronizingly. “That’s right, oscillation! Otherwise how could I be sure of his abilities as a master instructor? Only… he surely is a tough one. I still feel the beating he gave me.”
“Did your Discipline…” Jin Tao whispered cryptically.
His compatriot’s eyes hardened. “It’s a secret. How am I going to share that with some mangy dog.”
“Tang Xiao,” Jin Tao growled. “I’ve tolerate your insults for a long time. If you keep talking down to me, I’ll –“
Tang Xiao replied by puffing out his expansive chest. “What are you gunna do? That sentence is the best way to describe you. Not to mention you look like a mangy dog. For other people, a tall forehead means intelligence 2, but you prove the saying false. What’re ya gunna do, man, bite me?”
Jin Tao snorted derisively. “And you’re better? You’re growing in the wrong damn direction. When you were born whatever monstrous thing created you had to apologize for the error!”
“You are REALLY looking for an ass-kicking!” Tang Xiao’s hand shot out, looking to grab his opponent by the neck.
“Professor!” Jin Tao’s call froze Tang Xiao but only for a moment. He snagged Dumb-Mutt by the collar and grinned hideously in his face.
“Don’t give me that garbage. A three year-old wouldn’t fall for that nonsense. It’s not time yet, and the professor isn’t here. I could stand here and curse his mother and nothing would happen.”
“Is that so?” A dispassionate voice wafted over in reply.
Tang Xiao went stiff as a board, his jiggling fat swallowing that malicious grin. Slowly his expansive girth turned, and he addressed them an behind him with perfect propriety. “Oh, professor. You’re here. I-I was just messing around.”
Lan Jue’s hands were stuffed in his trouser pockets. He looked at him, then to Jin Tao, and nodded. “Hm, not bad. Both of your disciplines have improved. But it’s not enough. I’ve been on a business trip, and just got back. Are you two serious about learning with me?”
Before Tang Xiao could even open his mouth, Jin Tao practically leapt forward, falling to his knees before Lan Jue. Flop.
“Master, I am absolutely serious. I beg you to accept me as your student!” He assurances came as he bowed low to Lan Jue’s feet, so deep as to bang his head on the floor.
The suddenness and intensity of Jin Tao’s actions stunned both Tang Xiao and Lan Jue speechless. Students bowing low to instructors like this, what year was it?
Tang Xiao’s jaw set, and he bowed as low as he could manage. “Sir, I’m also determined.”
Lan Jue pulled Jin Tao up from the ground, and shook his head. “Good. That being the case, from now on I will also genuinely consider you both my disciples. However, if at any point in the future you do not acquiesce to my commands, any relationship we have as student and master is immediately dissolved.”
Jin Tao was overjoyed. He practically shouted at his new master. “Professor, whatever it is, just tell us what to do.” Despite his incessantly arrogant demeanor, it was clear the boy was no idiot. He and Tang Xiao were different, to be sure. The latter was talented, an ace student. But this one? It was fair to say that here, he was nothing. If it wasn’t for his sister’s position as a teacher here, he’d never have passed muster to join the school.
It was Jin Tao’s customary state to be uncaring, aloof, even dismissive. However, in his heart he did strive for dignity. This was increased when he listened to Lan Jue’s speech that day in class. On that day, he became even more determined. He wanted to be a prince among men, to be a true noble. In his eyes that meant he first had to grow strong. With strength, the most basic requirements for greatness would be met. That is why without hesitation, without question, he threw himself to the floor before his master. He needed to prove his sincerity.
“Go on… beat him!” Lan Jue jabbed a finger at Tang Xiao, he stared helplessly at his teacher. “You may fight back, but neither of you may use your discipline.”
“Heh!” A devilish light shone in Jin Tao’s eyes, and as he slowly advanced on his pudgy opponent his grin became predatory.
“Jin Tao is nothing but a damn rabid mongrel. Insane, and nobody wants anything to do with him. No, not that. He’s a rabid mongrel who blindly follows a master. I’m convinced he’s only pretending to be a madman most of the time! He shouldn’t be called the Frenzied Lion Mastiff, no. They should call him the Scheming Idiot!”
Memoirs of the Metal Fox, Army General Tang Xiao
“That fat-ass Tang Xiao isn’t worth being called a human. A brain full of filth and obscenities. Anyone who becomes his enemy doesn’t dare give him a chance to open his fool mouth, otherwise even if you come out the victor you’ve still given him what he wants. The best method is simply to beat him. Beat him to within an inch of his life. Until he can’t even open his mouth. If I was tasked with giving him a nickname, it would be this: the Fathead Porkbucket. That suits him best!”
Memoirs of the Frenzies Lion Mastiff, Army General Jin Tao