Chapter 165: Goddess, Friend
Director Shi did not shirk his duties as guest, nodding pleasantly as he entered the university campus. The array of students and teachers who also arrived from Lir followed at his heels.
“Eh?” A lanky student’s eyes twinkling lustily as they fell upon Zhou Qianlin.
It was always a surprise that, even though everyone was wearing the same school uniform, Qianlin was invariably picked from the crowd. She was ever the center of attention.
“Oh man look, that girl’s smokin’ fine!” The skinny student stopped dead in his tracks and whispered to a tall friend nearby.
The second student stretched over two meters tall with a head of sandy brown hair. He had a solid, strong face and copper-colored skin. Overall he was the very picture of health. He followed the skinny one’s eyes, immediately finding what the fuss was about.
His eyes were penetrating, to the point where Qianlin was instantly aware of his attention. She unconsciously looked his way.
He wasn’t the most handsome man, this tall student, but his looks were almost heroic; strong jaw, hard lines, stoic, with a pair of piercing black eyes that seemed capable of looking right through her.
Those eyes were bright with interest as they snaked over Qianlin’s alluring figure. He made no effort to conceal his intent, either, instead breaking rank to walk her way.
Qianlin froze, trying to decide whether to flee or stay. She eased perceptibly when the familiar voice rang through her mind.
“It’s alright. I’m here.”
As ever Qianlin had more than one pair of eyes cast her way, No small number of male students from her own university tried to block the tall outsider’s approach in various ways. This was their Goddess, and they aimed to ‘defend’ her even though only the older students knew much of the rivalry between the two schools.
“Get out of my way!” The man growled coldly at the wall of young men who’d suddenly appeared. The aura of his discipline flared, pulsing outward to intimidate the others. It was a strange sensation, almost more like a presence. The students of the NEU were forcibly pushed to either side. The power receded before it encountered Qianlin. To the others looking on it simply appeared as though the young men were doing as commanded, moving out of his way.
However, with the path before him opened the tall student made no further advance. He stood back a ways, staring at Qianlin. When he spoke, his voice was boisterous. “Hey there cutie, my name’s Xiao Han. You sure look good enough to be my girl.”
The surrounding students exploded in a chorus of indignation. No small number of young men approached threateningly.
Xiao Han’s voice was loud, loud enough for both Wu Junyi and Director Shi to hear despite the fact they were already on campus.
Both of them stopped the instant they heard it.
Qianlin, however, seemed unaffected. She was still, calm, and beautiful as ever.
“I’m not interested in little boys.” Her smooth, melodious voice was biting. Her rejection clear, she made for the gates.
“Heh, you heard her guys. All you little boys go run home to momma, now.”
“Sod off back to Lir University!”
“Our goddess is a person of character! Long live our school goddess!”
Xiao Han’s face grew dark. Once more his aura reached out, even more oppressive than before.
At this moment, Director Shi’s voice stopped the inevitable escalation. “Alright, Xiao Han. Save your energy for the competition.”
Xiao Han froze in reaction to the voice behind him. His expanding Discipline suddenly vanished. He turned on his heels without a word and returned to the dwindling group of outsiders. His exit was cheered on by a chorus of sniffs and curses from the NEU students left behind.
“The young have no sense of social responsibility, Director Wu.” Director Shi shook his head, laughing easily at the situation. “Young-uns, am I right? So full of piss and vinegar, all raging hormones. But we weren’t much different when we were young, eh? Heh heh.”
Director Wu’s response was measured and calm. “Mm, hormones. More like a group of beasts. Isn’t your university supposed to be for mecha pilots?”
“You-!” Director Shi suddenly let his good-old-boy facade slip, but as quickly as he’d lost his temper he was back to normal. “It looks like teaching the young is definitely a passion of yours! I’m eager to see how they perform during our competition.”
“Oh you’ll see it, alright,”Director Wu replied.
Lan Jue followed the bulk of students as they pushed passed the crowd to enter the campus. He worked valiantly to keep Zhou Qianlin in sight.
He was unpleasantly surprised to see her in this sort of situation. Every man that looked upon her was like a fiend, with a strange madness in his eyes. And yet none dared come within two meters of her. It was like they were a group of would-be white knights protecting their queen as they moved as one disjointed unit further in to the school.
What a place, this Lir University! They were so uncouth and aggressive. The relationship between the two large educational facilities was interesting, at the very least.
Lan Jue made sure Qianlin was safe before making his way to the electives building. As ever, all eyes turned to him as he entered.
He stopped amid a round of applause, nearly frightened out of his skin.
“W-what is all this…?”
Jin Yan rose to her feet and approached, a small smile lighting up her cute features. “We’re happy to have you back safely, Professor Lan. This time it was really frightening for all of us.”
Lan Jue laughed it off. “Wasn’t it? Making it back alive was a miracle! And you’re doing alright, too, Professor Jin?”
She shook her head, and it was then he noticed the red tinge to her eyes. She was fighting the urge to wrap him in an embrace. “Fine, only going through this, surviving, certainly makes it clear how much of a treasure life really is.”
“Exactly! And we’re family here, friends and colleagues in hardship. Isn’t that right, Professor Lan?” Wang Hongyuan spoke up emphatically as he approached from behind Jin Yan. He clapped a hand on to Lan Jue’s shoulder. Though it looked like a gentle greeting, the expression was more forceful than it appeared.
Lan Jue retained his composure, shooting the dance instructor a glance. “It’s good to see you also made it back alive, Professor Wang.”
The two gentlemen’s eyes met. Each saw the caution and admonition within the glance of the other.
Jin Yan tittered at him. “Alright, Professor Wang. Professor Lan just got back, let’s let him rest up a bit before we start beating on him.”
“There’s actually something Professor Lan and I have something to discuss, right Professor?” Wang Hongyuan smiled disarmingly. “Would you might speaking with me for a minute in the hall?”
“Absolutely!” Lan Jue knew what this was about, and if he hadn’t had been approached by the dance instructor, Lan Jue would have eventually sought him out himself.
The two men exited the office under the suspicious gaze of Jin Yan. They smiled pleasantly until they walked a ways down the hall to a secluded window. Then Wang Hongyuan threw a punch at Lan Jue.
The etiquete teacher didn’t move, effortlessly knocking the hand aside.
“You moron,” the skinny man spat. “What the hell were you thinking? I’m honestly flabbergasted you made it out in one piece.” Wang Hongyuan hissed at him in a whisper.
Lan Jue’s response was equally as agitated. “No wonder you wanted me to make it back. You don’t know what happened after you left.”
Wang Hongyuan continued, his voice quiet. “How the hell did you get so strong so suddenly? What did you take?”
Lan Jue give him a bitter smirk. “Not even worth it to keep asking. All you need to know is I very nearly died from that fiasco. It really was a miracle I was able to make it back. I do need you, though, to keep the fact that I am an Adept and a mecha pilot a secret.”
Wang Hongyuan nodded. “No need to even say it. Just make sure you keep my own secret under wraps!”
Lan Jue’s answer displayed his uncertainly. “I’m curious myself. After all, you revealed your secret to us on Taihua. No one checked up on you or said anything when you got back?”
It was Wang Hongyuan’s turn to smirk. “Of course they checked up on me, but for better or worse I stayed behind to save people. Nor do they know I’m a mecha pilot. So in the end we came to an agreement. So long as I keep my Discipline under wraps, I can continue teaching dance. There were some provisions, but basically it boils down to this; so long as I stick to the university’s rules, I’m fine. Otherwise I’m out.”
Lan Jue smiled at him. “The humanity! If the school knew you were that great hero from the news they wouldn’t dare punish you for anything.”
Wang Hongyuan shot back with a sarcastic rebuttal. “Enough. You know I’m still single – I’ll need to get engaged soon, and that anchorwoman looked pretty good. You should think about it, actually. I can’t, since it’d kill my girl.”
Lan Jue’s eyes widened in surprise. “You mean Jin Yan? Since when were you two a thing?”
Wang Hongyuan’s posture straightened with pride. “You didn’t know about that, eh? A friend in need is a friend indeed is what they say, right? I actually took her out for a meal yesterday. As a result our relationship is better than ever. All I need is for you to be scarce for a little while, and there’ll be no problems. Oh, that’s right – you can leave now.”
“Leave?” Lan Jue looked at him in confusion and irritation. “I have classes to prepare! There’s a class tomorrow.”
“We just got the news,” Wang Hongyuan continued. “Due to this concert, all electives courses for the next three days have been canceled. The concert is the day after tomorrow. You think anyone will actually be interested in coming to your class under these conditions?”
Inwardly, Lan Jue cursed Hua Li for his interference. “I won’t complain about a day off. Who doesn’t like a little relaxation. Fine, I’ll head out. Good luck!”
With that said, Lan Jue starting walking down the hall to leave. Lately he had a wealth of things to handle, a mountain of things to prepare. Not the least of his worries was the competition approaching in DreamNet. Aside from the implications for humanity, the more immediate concern for him was the honor of the Four Divine Monarchs – a reputation on the line. He had to make sure to get back and practice his mecha combat skill set.
“Professor Lan!” Wang Hongyuan called after him.
Lan Jue stopped and look back. “What’s up?”
The dance teacher’s mouth curled in to a grin. His voice was clear, but sounded as though it were being whispered directly in to his ear. “You’re part of Skyfire Avenue, aren’t you. Are you still looking for members?”
Lan Jue shrugged a shoulder lazily. “Whether or not they do, I have no idea. I can make some introductions, though. Ah, right, and later just call me by name. You forget what I told you on Taihua? If we made it back alive, we’d be friends.”
Wang Hongyuan laughed amicably. “Get out of here. Keep away from my lady, you hear me?”
Lan Jue waved and made his exit.
Wang Hongyuan remained where he was, watching Lan Jue leave.
I got a friend, huh, he thought.
Not a bad feeling.