Chapter 151: Aftermath
Hua Li followed Chu Cheng to the strange rock. They both had to see with their own yes the result of this treatment. Lan Jue did indeed look like he was going to be fine.
The Doctor pushed passed them to his patient, and placed his hands over his body. Almost immediately the familiar virescent glow encompassed them both. After a few moments of concentration, the Doctor’s surprised voice arose.
“All his meridians are as they should be, no longer broken or tangled. Blood flow is one point five times normal rate, vital signs are good. Skin elasticity about twice as good as it was… and that’s all I can see now. The rest I suppose we’ll discover later. It’s almost inconceivable, I mean his meridians were a mess. Now it’s like nothing ever happened. They weren’t kidding when they said -”
“A-hm!” The Wine Master’s sudden cough stopped the Doctor from going further.
The Doctor knew his cue, and stepped over to join the other three. “The Jewelry Master is already in much better condition. All he needs now is rest. He’ll wake up on his own after a little while.”
Hua Li narrowed his eyes, but he did recognize how much better Lan Jue looked. He relaxed visibly with the confirmation there before him. He turned then to the paragon and spoke in deferential tones. “Sir, are you and the Doctor planning to return to Skyfire soon?”
The Wine Master nodded.
“If the Cosmagus would prefer, we could take Poseidon 1.”
“I appreciate it, thanks for taking the trouble.”
Ten minutes later, the group was safely aboard Poseidon 1 as it rose. The ship dissolved in to a brilliant blue light, streaking off towards the heavens, then was gone.
Their escape was quickly followed by the arrival of dozens more ships. The destruction of Taihua was monstrous, and the aftermath would require a great deal of manpower and effort to address. First, of course, would need to be a search and rescue operation for the missing. It would be an exhaustive process to finalize the list of the dead – and then, the families had to be told, and compensations made.
The airship shuddered gently as it began its descent.
“Hm?” Tan Lingyun awoke with a start from deep sleep. Her body protested every movement with aching pain and groaning joints that caused her to moan in discomfort.
Her eyes were hazy, like the area around her was covered in a fog, but with each passing moment her vision cleared.
“Where am I?” She suddenly shot up to a sitting position, assailed by the crippling pain in her muscles. She winced against the discomfort, trying to look in all directions at once.
It was clearly the interior of a ship. Empty. Save for herself, it looked like there wasn’t anyone else around. It wasn’t a large vessel, and judging by the interior it was for civilian use.
She patted her forehead, urging her sluggish mind to recall the details of the last few hours. What stood out most among the haze was a towering blue figure. But there was more. Eyes, stately eyes that glowed gold.
Such a powerful mecha! Was that the thing that saved me?
“You’re up?” The voice that greeted her was somewhat curt.
Tan Lingyun turned in time to see a decidedly disheveled Wang Hongyuan exiting the cockpit.
“You? It was you who saved me?” Tan Lingyun’s surprise was anything but concealed. Her expression was incredulous. Was it even possible that this dance instructor was the one who piloted that magnificent mecha?
“No, not me.” Wang Hongyuan’s voice faltered, and his eyes grew distant as though lost in a painful thought.
“Not you… then who?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “Some blue mecha just deposited you on to the ship. Then it was gone as quick as it’d come.”
Tan Lingyun’s face fell. She struggled to remember any detail of what occurred, but the more she fought the less she remembered. Only that sapphire machine and those golden eyes.
The reason she stayed behind came back to her all of a sudden. “And Professor Lan?”
Wang Hongyuan hesitated. The briefest flash of sadness darkened his features before he spoke. “I don’t know. We got separated.”
Tan Lingyun, the powder keg that she was, immediately burst in to a rage. “Separated? Didn’t you run out there like an idiot specifically to get him and bring him back? He’s just some man, and you’re supposed to be an Adept with power. You’re telling me you couldn’t even protect a single teacher? You’re as garbage as I’ve always said you were!”
Her sudden outburst took him by surprise, but contrary to their earlier spat the dance instructor did not attempt to refute her curses. “You’re right,” he muttered.”
“Compared to him, I am garbage. Go, we’ve already arrived on Skyfire and its time to disembark. I take full responsibility for Professor Lan’s disappearance.
Tan Lingyun took a deep calming breath. She spoke again when she regained some measure of composure. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t meant to be directed at you, it’s just with what we saw, if he isn’t here it likely means… I’m just upset. I’m sorry!”
Wang Hongyuan met her apologies with a sad smile. “You aren’t wrong. We’re the lucky ones to get back alive. But I, at least, don’t deserve to be. I am not as courageous as the others who stayed behind to help. After a catastrophe like this, things have become clear.”
Tan Lingyun sorrowfully nodded her head. “Let’s go… there’s still a lot we have to do.”
“This is the Eastern Alliance News Network, bringing you the latest information from around the galaxy. We’ve just begun receiving reports from Taihua, where we hear a terrible attack has occurred. Monstrous beings from outside of our galaxy attacked the tourist destination. Preliminary reports say that as many as thirty percent of the visitors lost their lives in the ensuing chaos. This truly was a terrible tragedy for everyone involved. Thankfully a number of stranded and missing tourists have already been found as rescue operations continue. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”
“Satellite video and images from around Taihua were uncovered, revealing a number of heroic individuals who fought the fiends themselves. Undoubtedly their brave deeds saved untold lives. We will continue to look in to the events on Taihua, and the identity of those heroic people. Whoever you are, we salute you.”
“Already we’ve heard of both the North and Western Alliances calling Chief Minister Zhou to offer their condolences. They’ve sworn to cooperate with our own agencies to try and uncover where these beasts came from, and what exactly they want.”
“The Goby Entertainment group has pledged ten transport ships for use in the search and recovery effort, in addition to their state of the art facilities which they’ve graciously opened up for use during this catastrophe. This comes with a donation of one hundred million NED which they hope can help in discovering where the aliens came from, and bring some small measure of peace to the bereaved.”
Jin Yan sat within the electives building, stunned and silent. She stared off in to the distance, with images of Taihua racing through her mind. She still felt like she was locked in that nightmare, unable to free herself from the fear of certain death. Her body was still shaking.
In the whole of the office, there was only her. When they’d returned, it was Wu Junyi’s first order of business to send all the teachers home to rest. Jin Yan, however, didn’t know what do. After what felt like half a day she stirred herself to move. Her feet led her here.
She’d been kept appraised of the events as they unfolded, and knew that the last of their number had come back, Wang Hongyuan and Tan Lingyun. Professor Lan was nowhere to be found.
Is he really gone? When she’d heard, it was like the world went dark. The ring of the class bell chimed in her mind, with his voice calling over the din: “This is nobility!”
That elegance, his impish grin, that noble countenance. They all lingered in her slowly beating heart.
Gone… missing! What about Jin Tao? Where did he bring my brother? With him gone, what about the boy? What am I going to tell our parents?
She sat in the encroaching darkness, lost.
She was roused when the sound of footsteps came from down the hall. Clunk, clunk, clunk.
Immediately her head shot up, grasping at the unlikely hope that she’d see that thin figure rounding the bend and entering the office. Desperately praying she’d face him again.
But it was not to be.
White shirt, black suit, slick black hair. Wang Hongyuan silently entered the electives office.
Without a sound, he walked in, making his way towards the far window where Lan Jue had chosen his desk. He stood before the vacant chair for a time, then dropped to his knees and bowed.
“Wang Hongyuan…” Jin Yan slowly rose to her feet.
The dance instructor rose to his feet and turned to face her. His face was pale and drawn. “Professor Jin,” he muttered.
Her response came hard and bitter. “Do you really have no hope that Professor Lan will come back alive?”
He stood silently before her, shifting from foot to foot. It was a dozen long seconds before his sunken voice replied. “I can tell you that he was a damn hero. But I’m afraid…”
Jin Yan’s eyes were red and swollen. “Whether or not he’s a hero isn’t important. I’m only interested in whether or not he’ll be coming back!”
Wang Hongyuan said nothing further. His own eyes were red from tears. The Etiquette teacher’s final words before they parted were still fresh in his memory.
Beep, beep, beep! Jin Yan shook with a start as the communicator on her wrist vibrated. She looked down out of pure habit, but was met with an unfamiliar number.
Still, she answered.
“Hello, who is this?” Jin Yan fought valiantly to get her voice under control, forcing the sadness down.
“Hello Professor Yan. I was hoping you could help me ask for leave. I’m afraid I’ll need a few days of rest before I can return to work.” The voice that greeted her on the other end of her communicator sounded tired and worn.
She looked at the contraption on her wrist like it was made of snakes. When she did talk, her voice was several octaves louder than she intended.
Hearing her cries Wang Hongyuan rushed to her side. He stared at the number with eyes wide as saucers.
“It’s me. After helping where I could I took another shuttle back. I’m already back on Skyfire. Please tell Director Wu and the others not to worry over me. I’ll be back to work in a few days.
She couldn’t help it. The tears she’d been fighting came unbidden to her eyes and rolled down her pretty cheeks. Only these were tears of a different origin. And as her body shook it was not from fear or sadness, but joy and relief.
Wang Hongyuan grabbed her wrist and pulled it towards him. “Lan Jue, it’s really you? You really aren’t dead?”
Lan Jue’s response was a tepid one. “Disappointed?”
Wang Hongyuan scowled at the communicator. “Why didn’t you let us know earlier?!”
“What’s this about,” Lan Jue challenged. He sounded uncertain.
The dance teacher was quiet, a flood of emotion crossing his face before settling on a small smile. “I’m just glad you’re alright!” With that, he cut the connection, then with as much force and ferocity as a thunder strike he grabbed Jin Yan up in a hug.
Jin Yan yelped. Her tears had stopped, but she heard the choked sobs coming from her shoulder.
“He’s alive… alive. Thank whoever’ll listen the bastard made it! Hah! He made it!”