Chapter 218: Quite the Adventure
Today, Zhou Qianlin didn’t bother to call Tang Mi. Perhaps there was still some expectation she’d run in to her bodyguard.
She followed the familiar road down mount Tian.
As she did, she noticed the bicycle parked to the side. A familiar figure stood beside it. Grey suit, green shirt, and a grey jacket today. Fresh and clean, with a lopsided grin on his handsome face.
Qianlin couldn’t help but mirror the smile the moment she saw him. She quickened her pace to catch up to him.
Lan Jue pushed his bicycle forward as he walked to meet her. Once they met, neither said a word. Qianlin climbed on to the back of the bike and they were on their way.
The antique bicycle carried them smoothly along the road towards the university campus. At once point Lan Jue’s left hand left the handle bars just long enough to hand something to Qianlin.
She took it in her hands, a white metal bracelet. It was delicate and beautiful, without any unnecessary flourishes. The pelagic pearl had been set along it’s spherical make.
Her lips curled up in an appreciative smile. She said nothing, did not refuse his gift, instead immediately slipping it on to her wrist. Her smile spread wider. Sher slipped her arms around his waist and scooched closer.
Tan Lingyun had been agitated for days! Indeed, the Savage Goddess was in a foul mood – worse than normal.
She’d become the focus of everyone’s attention since the games, but it was the last thing she wanted. Being constantly under scrutiny wasn’t a feeling she relished. What’s worse, she didn’t even deserve it.
Where is that guy hiding!
She felt like a thief. Every day she accepted the praise and attention of teacher and student alike. As she did, however, she also furtively observed the male faculty for signs they might be the mysterious ‘Lei Feng.’
Unfortunately, she’d had no luck. She’d started with the mecha combat department, carefully watching every male teacher there for any indication. Contrary to her hopes, though, nothing revealed itself.
He’d vanished as mysteriously as he’d arrived, like a phantom.
Who? Who on earth is he?!
Tan Lingyun sat within the teacher’s lounge, lost in thought. Her fingers were buried in her hair, entangled – much like her heart felt.
For years she’d had a contentious relationship with nearly every man she’d encountered. In her eyes most were trash, hardly worth her attention.
But that day, for the first time in ages she’d met a man who made her feel like a weakling. The encounter had left quite the impression on her.
She couldn’t even clearly pinpoint why this strange man suddenly occupied so much of her attention. The only thing she absolutely knew without a doubt, was that she needed to find him. She needed to!
“Professor Tan, isn’t your class starting soon?” The teacher seated at the desk next to her offered the gentle reminder.
Tan Lingyun’s head shot up, frightening the teacher who’d addressed her. Sher fixed her hair, muttered a curt thank you, then left for the classroom.
At the same time, Lan Jue was lazily seated before his own desk. His eyes were closed as he enjoyed the quiet moment.
He was a little tired after his return from Lir, but it was not because of his late-night jewelry-making. Instead, he was still recovering from the exertion of the sim tests he’d endured from the Bookworm.
He was still excited over the prospect of an upgraded DreamNet. Although he hadn’t had the opportunity to finish the entire process, the God-ranked battles alone were clear indication of it’s worth.
He wondered how the two old friends were getting on. He hopes there weren’t any problems.
Skyfire Avenue, Skyfire Library.
“Eh? It’s actually fine. Interesting, interesting!” The Bookworm hopped from foot to foot in excitement like a small child.
The Keeper stood before an expansive testing table. Upon it were arrayed various research equipment. In the center rested the Tear of Neptune. The piece of Tai Hua monster they’d recovered rested upon another apparatus.
At this moment a pale, gentle blue light was being emitted by the tear. It spread until it covered the monster core. The living matter had begun to change as the Tear’s power flowed through it.
The turbid aura that surrounded it had faded, and its natural coloration had changed. Little by little it went from purple, to clear, to a deep jasper.
It was a quick change, that took only the night to complete. A dozen or so hours had seen the process through.
Neither the Keeper nor the Bookworm had slept, instead bringing the full force of their collective intellect to bear in researching the items. For researchers of their caliber, a single night of work was only the beginning.
It hadn’t taken the Keeper much effort to persuade the Bookworm to help. All he’d needed to do was explain where the subject had come from, and what he suspected it did. The novelty of it was enough to get the Bookworm’s full cooperation.
The Keeper nodded his white-maned head. “It looks good. The Jewelry Master is a clever boy. He thought of this on his own, without my input. The Tear of Neptune itself isn’t worth its weight, but if it can join with this energy core and catapult it to s-ranked, then it’d be priceless.”
The Bookworm shot him a crooked eye. “So you’re hoping to see it release all that energy.”
“Horse-puckey,” the Keeper grumbled in irritation. “That would be an unimaginable massacre.
There’s no saying how many would lose their lives in order to create such an energy crystal.”
The Bookworm huffed. “At any rate, purifying it will require no small amount of time. We should address the situation between you and I. You, you old bastard, tricked me to get me back here. You tell me, how do we rectify this?”
The Keeper grunted 1. “What makes you so sure that I’m lying?”
“You said so,” The Bookworm accused.
The Keeper replied. “I only said that so the kid wouldn’t worry. Three months. That’s really all the time I have left. Everyone assumes this frail exterior is feigned. I’ve also spread that I am the oldest living man in the universe. However, as you know, I am the oldest among the Paragons. I asked you back because, if and when I do pass, I can do so with an easy heart.”
The Bookworm just stared at him for a time. “You’re really dying?”
“Shouldn’t you be pleased?” The Keeper said quietly.
“Bullshit I should be happy,” the Bookworm hissed. “Who will I have to curse? Who will be my arch enemy? How am I supposed to be happy?!” The Bookworm veritably roared at his old nemesis, but there was a sorrow gradually creeping in to angry eyes.
The Keeper gave a small laugh. “If it was a choice, who would choose death? Not you, not me.
My death will undoubtedly effect no only the Avenue, but all of the Eastern Alliance. Worse, the Clairvoyant is nearly as old as I, leaving only the Wine Master to protect our little slice of neutrality now that we’re reaching the end of our stories. The West and North are also aware of this, if only faintly. And so, it’s a fair assumption that they are sending their agents here to feel us out, under the guise of a friendly visit. Not long ago I took a trip to the Pontiff’s Castle myself, both to impart justice on behalf of the Jewelry Master, but also to let them know I’m still breathing. But the Pontiff, the wrinkled bastard, must have noticed something. Now he’ll be coming to this exchange himself.”
The Bookworm slapped his hands on the table, the sound like an explosion in the small study. “Don’t talk to me about this garbage. I haven’t been a part of the Avenue for years!”
The Keeper responded through croaking laughter. “That’s where you’re wrong – you absolutely are part of the Avenue. You always have been. They never removed your name from their roster, so even in your self-imposed exile you’ve always been one of us. What’s more, even though I may indeed die soon, who’s to say what the future will hold? 2” A cunning smile spread across the old pedant’s face.
“You’re saying…” The Bookworm trailed off.
The Keeper indicated the energy core. “It’s not just me. You’re getting on in years yourself. Hell, you probably only have a few more days over me. And with that being the case, we should spend our final hours immersed in the work we love. If we end up cheating death a while longer, we’ll be a couple crotchety old scoundrels denying everyone their wish for our demise. Heh! It’ll give those bastards one hell of a headache!”
The Bookworm’s eyes brightened. “Well, if you really do manage to stave off dying for a little while, I can give you a break. But the second you die, I’m whipping your corpse in to tiny bits.”
The Keeper laughed at his old friend’s threat. “I doubt it. What’s more, it looks like your old scars are finally healing. In the end, neither of us were wrong. We were correct, just in different ways. But don’t you want to see it for yourself? In all my years, I’ve found a way to do it. A bit of a bottleneck, but not impossible. See, your biggest failure is physical limitations, is it not? And if we could figure out this problem, what then? Heheheh!”
The Bookworm stared dumbly at the Keeper, and again the change in his thinking was revealed in his eyes. “You crazy bastard. You…”
The Keeper patted him upon the shoulder. “Perhaps I am. Hell, at our age crazy is the only thing that keeps us going. Like they say ‘You’re only given a spark of madness, don’t lose it.’ Trust your elder, I’ll take you on quite an adventure!”
Knock knock! The gentle noise roused Lan Jue from his slumber.
“Oh, Director Wu, what brings you here?” Lan Jue shot up in his chair, surprised by the appearance of his employer standing directly in front of his desk.