Chapter 107: He Returns
That aromatic spice filled the small room. Hua Li and Lan Jue felt covered in it.
“Oooee… that hit the spot. It’s been ages since I’ve eaten this much. If my agent found out I’m eating like this she’d kill me.” Hua Li pressed his hands to his head and stared at the ceiling in contentment. His eyes were half-lidded, his long lashes fluttering. In the fuzzy, indistinct lamplight he looked even more beautiful.
“You owe me a favor,” Lan Jue reminded.
“Hm,” Hua Li said. “Let’s head back to your place. Ah, by the way, how am I supposed to help you here anyway? You planning to go somewhere?”
They started towards the Jewelry Store.
Lan Jue shook his head. “Not planning to head anywhere.”
“No? So why’d you call me here? What place could be safer than the Avenue anyway? There wouldn’t be any danger if you just stayed here.”
Lan Jue gave him a bitter smile. “But I do need to teach classes, and I have my bodyguard duties. Xiuxiu and the other girls could do it, but it’d cause them no end of trouble. I also have no way to protect them if it comes to it. So you’re right, it’s safer in the Avenue. For them.”
“Classes? Bodyguard?” Hua Li’s eyes shot open. He looked lost.
“A-Jue, what’s going on? You still need to go classes? And still acting as a bodyguard for someone? If you’re still so interested in guarding, why not guard me! But whatever you need, just let me know.”
Lan Jue waved his hand, strolling slowly ahead. “Nah, listen…” He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “It’s sort of a long story, actually. I owe somebody for something I did, and my payment is to ask as a bodyguard. What’s more, I decided to head out. People shouldn’t always live in the past. I guess too, that if Hera was alive she wouldn’t want to see me living like this. I want to start a new life. I’ll never forget Hera – she’ll always live in the most important part of my heart. But I have my own life. Maybe the future me will never fall in love with someone else… but life goes on. If I keep avoiding life, I’m not worthy of the title Zeus.”
Hua Li stopped in his tracks. There was shock in his eyes, but joy as well as he stared at Lan Jue. “Go on. I’m a good listener.”
So Lan Jue did. “I’m a teacher at National Eastern University. Teaching Etiquette. You should find a way to enroll as a student. Go with me to and from school, secretly, and help me recover. With you here it should only take about a month before I’m more or less back to normal. And there’s something else. In a few days representatives from the Dark Tower and the Pontiff’s Castle will be coming here. I was supposed to help handle the situation, but I can’t now. I’ll need you to replace me.”
“The Pontiff’s Castle? They still have the balls to come here?” Hua Li’s pretty eyes held violence in their depths.
Lan Jue went on. “What don’t they have the balls to do. I heard the Keeper went over there as well, though I don’t know what happened.”
“The Keeper…?” Hua Li trailed off in thought, but it didn’t take long for him to come to the proper realization. “The Arcane Magnate? The one the other Paragons call the Crazy Magnate?”
Lan Jue nodded his head.
This brought a smile to Hua Li’s face. “Interesting. He deigns to rear his psychotic head for you. The Castle’s really gotten themselves in trouble now.”
Lan Jue chuckled. “It is what it is. How could they know when they set their trap I was collaborating with the Keeper?”
“None of this should be hard to deal with,” Hua Li assured. “I’ll help you work all this out. I’m also curious what you’re like as a teacher!”
“Dashing, of course,” Lan Jue said, standing a little taller. He struck a dramatic pose.
Hua Li sneered in feigned disgust. “Standing next to me you still have the nerve to call yourself handsome? Pitiful.”
Lan Jue snorted. “What you are can’t be called handsome. You’re a beautiful flower!”
The rising sun always brought with it hope. It’s faint golden rays washed over the NEU campus as though it awakened the scholarly spirit. Students living on campus were already roused from sleep by the morning bell, and after washing up were in the midst of their various morning routines.
Jin Yan had arrived early, and walked through the campus grounds. Her forehead was creased in worry.
Yesterday Jin Tao had returned home, once again beaten bloody. When she asked what had happened, he still steadfastly refused to tell her. He’d even refused to eat. Luckily their parents were away on a trip and weren’t home to see it.
If things continued like this what good could come of it! A bad student, but a good fighter – worrisome! Ugh, what can I do about this kid to make me stop worrying?
Suddenly, she couldn’t help but think back to that transitory figure, the man who’d arrived for just one class and then vanished. Still, he’d left quite the impression on her in that short time.
That one class had really got her thinking.
“What is nobility!” Jin Yan couldn’t help but run that sentence over and over through her head. Were it not for his explanation, she’s not sure she would have known what true nobility was. She even still remembered the change that had overcome her younger brother that day, after class – loudly proclaiming he would be a noble.
Unfortunately Professor Lan had only come for the one class, and his person had not been seen since. Reputedly he’d asked for leave, but how could he after his first class had gone so well? Not to mention he was so handsome…
“Professor Jin!” Someone called from a short distance off. She turned her head towards the sound, and spied meticulously teased hair bobbing her way. Wang Hongyuan, the dance instructor.
“Professor Wang, you’re also here early!” Jin Yan called out courteously.
Wang Hongyuan responded with a smile. “I’ve got to keep training or I become rusty. Oh, did you hear? Professor Lan returned yesterday.”
“Lan… you mean Lan Jue, that Professor?” She blinked, surprised at the news.
A mischievous light shone in the dance instructors eyes. “That’s right. I heard he came yesterday to report in, then…”
“Then what?” Jin Yan asked impatiently.
Wang Hongyuan continued. “He went to the post-graduated classes, I don’t know what for, and did something that had him dragged to the teaching affairs office by Professor Tan Lingyun. A whole host of students saw the exchange, culminating with her pulling Lan Jue along behind her like a dog. At first he looked like someone with significant personal ability, but I guess there’s nothing special about him after all.”
Jin Yan overcame her surprise to give her companion a cold look. “Professor Wang, we’re all instructors here. It doesn’t matter that he teaches etiquette and not combat. You really shouldn’t be talking behind someone’s back like this.”
She moved on without waiting for a response. There was no anger in her expression – on the contrary, there was joy. He was back!
As for this business with Professor Tan dragging him to the Director, could it have been some sort of misunderstanding? There were only a few in the school capable of beating on that tomboyish woman anyway.
“What? Planet Skyfire? When did this information surface?” The sound rang through a magnificent, palatial room. The questions had come from a thin, beautiful woman in white. She looked around twenty five or twenty six, with sharp eyes and an imposing bearing. Her long hair was tied in a bun atop her head. She seemed entirely confident and capable.
“Yes, Miss Mo. We just received this from the intelligence department. They got it from a local police woman.”
“Bastard!” Mo Xiao spat the word venomously. “What the hell is Hua Li doing all the way out there? Doesn’t he know his damn album Poseidon, Sounds of Nature is dropping? He even had the gall to order all sales to the Pontiff’s Castle stopped! Was he raised by pigs? What did he say when he left?”
“He sent a communication from a secure line, saying he wanted to go on holiday, but he didn’t say where. He often grumbled earlier about how difficult work was, so we didn’t pay any attention to it. He could have known he’d disappear an hour later, without taking anything.”
Mo Xiao stood with her hands on her hips, her well-endowed bosom rising and falling with her angry breaths.
“Start preparing. The launch event for the album will be held on Skyfire. We’ll start getting everything ready from there. And call an airship, I’m leaving immediately.”
“And as for his blockade against the Pontiff’s…”
She stopped the assistant with a stare sharp as icicles. “What is this your first day? If he wants something do we ever ignore it? Do what he asked! Even if he wanted to sell you all off there better not be a one who dares do the contrary!”
Mo Xiao’s ferocious voice arose again as she spoke to herself. “If he’s off squandering his money, I swear I’ll murder him!”
As ever, Lan Jue was pedaling his way towards the NEU campus for work. Only this time, he had an extra passenger on the back of his bicycle.
A mask covered the bottom portion of Hua Li’s face, and he’d changed his hair to black. Close inspection would show it was a wig. His eyes had also changed, also black. They were covered by a pair of dark sunglasses. All to make him somewhat less recognizable.
“Your school is pretty obnoxious. It was hard as hell to get a visiting student’s ID, and I still can’t get in to the post-grad department. And by the way, are you sure it’s alright you wear that to teach a class, A-Jue?”
Today Lan Jue had chosen a dark blue three-piece suit, black tie, white kerchief and handmade Ferragamo leather shoes. He looked like he was dressed for a party.
Lan Jue’s reply was indifferent. “Have you forgotten what I teach? Your older brother teaches etiquette. If one’s own tastes are less than superb, how can one teach young minds? Plus, today I plan to teach them the rules and simplicities of formal wear.”