Chapter 129: The History of Richard and Zhou Qianlin
Hua Li and Lan Jue walked from the warehouse. Hua Li repeatedly tossed and caught the green gem Lan Jue had given him moments before. “If people knew you were using the restorative stone or this, they’d curse you as a wastrel. It’s no cheap b-ranked stone, you know. Each time you use it, that’s one less. Eventually it’ll be gone.”
Lan Jue smiled. “Wealthy and headstrong, what can ya do. If it can really motivate Tang Xiao’s discipline evolution, then it’s worth the cost. I’m handing it over to you for the next few days. I’m heading out to participate in that trip soon.”
Hua Li’s response was sour. “You head out to play and leave me with all the hard work. If I’d have known from the onset it’d be like this I wouldn’t have come to help your ungrateful ass!”
Lan Jue slapped a hand on his friend’s shoulder and chortled. “Alright, stop complaining. I’ll be back in a few days. By then A-Cheng should also have arrived. It’s tough for the group of us to get together these days. When he shows up we’ll have some good joint training to undergo. We can’t lose this competition coming up.”
“When you come back,” Hua Li began, “I still have that concert. I was thinking, what about holding it at the National Eastern University? After all the students there are all fans of mine.”
“Are you crazy?” Lan Jue shot him a chastising look. “Aren’t you afraid of blowing your cover? What kind of nonsense is that.”
It was Hua Li’s turn to chuckle dismissively. “I’m holding my concert there to make sure you stop stealing away all the pretty girls. I’ll steal that Zhou Qianlin and you’ll be hopeless.”
“Bah! You still think the whole of the galaxy’s women like you?” Lan Jue muttered.
Hua Li loftily let his opinions be known. “Unless they’re lesbians, or don’t know good looks when they see them, there are no other exceptions.”
Lan Jue slapped his forehead in exasperation. “This arrogant punk. Do what you like, only make sure you have public security locked down.”
“All set. Gobi Entertainment has thrown countless of these sorts of things. Our experience is unparalleled in all the Three Alliances. We know precisely when and how to get it all done with government cooperation.” 1
Lan Jue lifted a brow. “It sounds like you’re saying Mo Xing has already arrived.”
Hua Li’s face turned bitter. “You think she wouldn’t? I got her message yesterday. I didn’t reply, but I can’t hide for long. You know her temper. If I keep avoiding her I’m liable to have an ‘accident’.”
Lan Jue looked as though he were suddenly counting his blessings. “Your problem, yours to deal with.”
“You aren’t going to help?” Hua Li shot back at him, full of indignation.
“How can I? You want to go up there and reveal to everyone that I’m Zeus? Good friend to Poseidon? Don’t forget, I’m a wanted man throughout all of the Eastern Alliance for what I did. If I dared to reveal myself I’d be run out of town.”
Hua Li scowled at him. “In my darkest hour it is revealed you are completely unreliable! Fine, you go then. I’ll go find Mo Xing. If she really does lose her temper I doubt I’ll be able to handle it.”
The two gentlemen separated at the door of the Jewelry Shop. Lan Jue returned to the surface and immediately made for the verti-car. He slipped in once the doors opened and engaged the auto-pilot to return the vehicle to the parking garage. He then began pushing his bicycle. Eventually, he arrived at that familiar corner.
It was precisely ten minutes after she’d finished her classes. She’d so far not used the soulcaller gem to make contact with him. Instead she made for their designated corner directly. As her eyes laid upon Lan Jue, they softened visibly. She pulled herself up on the bike.
Lan Jue also did not speak, but he knew his cue and began to pedal. They slowly made their way from the university campus.
“Are we going to the hospital today?”
“Oh,” Lan Jue responded.
They kept going, along that long road, neither speaking. Lan Jue brought her to the foot of the mountain Qianlin called home.
“Bye.” He waved a hand at her.
She smiled back at him, waved, then made her way up the mountain.
Lan Jue watched her as she left, then turned his bike around to leave.
“Her cuz, I was hoping we could have a small talk.” Just then, a chilling voice could be heard from nearby.
Lan Jue paused, and turned his head to look. He spied Richard approaching from the shadows not far off.
“It’s you.” Lan Jue pushed his bicycle towards the young man. “What do you want to talk about?”
Richard responded in quiet tones. “Let’s find somewhere to sit.” As he spoke, he pulled his own bicycle from the treeline and hopped on. They both made for the base of the mountain.
Lan Jue always felt guilty whenever it came to Richard. After all, had it not been for him and his actions at their wedding, he and Qianlin would already be married. He had tried desperately to be kind and fair to the kid the few times they’d met.
Richard appeared to be quiet familiar with the road and their surroundings. They rode for about ten minutes before they found a deserted section of road to stop.
They stopped their bikes and placed them against the trees, stepping in off the road. Lan Jue narrowed his eyes at the suspicious behavior, but followed all the same.
They walked for another few minutes, until they were well within the pressing trees. Richard stopped, then, his back to Lan Jue, and began to speak. “It was a coincidence that Qianlin and I met. She was attending a birthday, last year, and my father was in the Eastern Alliance for a state visit. I accompanied as his entourage, successor to the Austin Family dynasty. It was her father’s birthday, the Chief Minister Zhou Xueguan. I met her first at that birthday party.”
“From that very first moment, even though it was only the first time I’d seen her, I was captivated. She had that simple, quintessential Eastern beauty. Delicate, without the slightest flaw. If she hadn’t spoken, just stood out there, I’d have thought she was a sculpture, the product of the galaxy’s greatest artist. From that moment, I knew, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from falling in love with her.”
“I used everything at my disposal, found every opportunity to talk to her. She asked me if I was some playboy. Of course I told her no, but then she left. I chased after her, asked what was wrong. She shook her head, and told me she was looking for a playboy. She was looking for a bad boy.”
“I changed my tone in a hurry. Of course I was a playboy, I told her. A bad boy. I told her about some things I’d done, trouble I’d caused. Peeping in to the girl’s bathroom when I was young and so forth. She started to pay attention to me then. Then she asked, if I wanted to get married. I felt… so lucky. The luckiest guy under heaven. Of course I agreed right away. I told my father first thing, and he was understandably surprised. He thought it was some trap set by the Chief Minister.”
“It took time but I convinced him. After his own investigation he determined this wasn’t elaborate ruse. So he decided to use this opportunity to deepen cooperation and relationships with the East. None of this was important to me. All I cared about was making Qianlin my wife.”
“But that day… that was nothing short of a living nightmare. That guy, out of nowhere, stealing away Qianlin. The wedding was thrown in to chaos and my father, enraged, took me from here. For a long time I didn’t know what to do, something came over me. Until I knew she was safe I was completely oblivious. I just knew I had to get back to her, so we’d be together.”
A fanaticism had crept in to Richard’s eyes as he spoke. He looked almost crazy; paranoid, angry, intolerant.
“And then there’s you. You know, as far as I’ve been able to discovered Qianlin doesn’t have any cousins. Calling yourself that was a pretext. Why. Why does she sit on the back of your bicycle? Be straight with me.”
The craze in his eyes began to change, shifting appreciably to a bitter cold. The icy depths of abandonment.
Lan Jue narrowed his eyes. Thoughts raced through his head as the young man spoke. At first he’d felt sorry for Richard, but now, hearing his tale, doubt filled him. From the story he determined the two of them must not have known each other long. Establishing a wedding date the first time they met? And why would Qianlin want a playboy? A bad guy as her spouse? It all was too strange.”
“I’m her bodyguard,” Lan jue replied, speaking frankly.
“Bodyguard?” The realization surprised him.
After discovering Qianlin had no older cousins, many possibilities came to Richard. His first thought was of course that the two of them were together. He certainly hadn’t expected that he’d be her bodyguard. Lan Jue’s revelation left him speechless.
As the heir to the Austin family, his ‘sixth sense’ had been finely tuned. After determining Lan Jue and Qianlin had no blood relation, there was nonetheless some strange, unexplainable crisis that assailed him. There was something strange about Lan jue, a peculiarity. As though he wasn’t what he seemed.
“You’re Qianlin’s bodyguard? Hired by Uncle Zhou 2?” His questions came quickly.
Lan Jue smiled, cool and relaxed. “Anything more is between she and I. And why did you call me here, Richard? To make your presence known? To tell me all about your history with her?”
Richard’s voice came low, almost a growl. “The wedding never went through, but Qianlin is still my fiancé. I don’t want you to have any further contact with her. Especially don’t go to pick her up. I hope you agree. If you are indeed her bodyguard then this should be easy to handle – here’s a check. Write a number, accepted at any bank.”
He fished out a blank check from his pocket, and stretched it towards Lan Jue.
It was a strange thing, made of some metal material. It possessed at least ten anti-faking checks, the best electronic money exchange available.