Chapter 342: The Two Great Beauties
It was unlikely any public airship would let you change seats on a whim while already in flight. Every seat was tied to its occupant’s ID’s, making changing a troubling issue.
“I warn you – if you touch me, you can’t blame me for my reaction.” Tan Lingyun growled in Lan Jue’s direction.
He could only reply with a tight scowl. He desperately wanted to say something, to tell her that golden-masked man she pined for was him! The look of shock and confusion on her face would be delicious.
The thought would have to die unspoken, however.
“Trust me, it’s definitely not a situation I want either.” As he spoke, Lan Jue shuffled as far as he could toward Tan Lingyun. He curls in arms in and pressed his elbows to his side, like a beaten dog licking its wounds.
Wu Junyi sat nearby. Although he was the teaching director, he was also among them in economy class. He lived by the doctrine of equal treatment for all – and after all, the university’s coffers had its limits. Hearing the two bicker, he couldn’t help but snicker in spite of himself. He turned his face away so his mirth would not be discovered.
He was, of course, the architect of this seating arrangement. He would do whatever it took to keep Lan Jue tied to the university, so requests like this were happily agreed to. In inviting Zhou Qianlin, it clearly showed that Lan Jue had more than a healthy interest in beautiful women. If that was the case, then how better to keep the man that to surround him with beautiful women? From the beginning Director Wu had thought Lan Jue and Tan Lingyun were a suitable couple. The only obstacle was the Savage Goddess’ ignorance, for she didn’t know Lan Jue was Lei Feng.
When the ARC group returned from training, Tan Lingyun had sought out Director Wu. With a dogged determination, she tried to compel him to reveal the Drillmaster’s identity. Wu Junyi had made a promise, and more than that, was quite afraid of Lan Jue’s power. So of course he didn’t tell her. But how could a man as shrewd as he not immediately see her infatuation?
Tan Lingyun had become quite enamored with the mysterious, golden-masked man.
It was not an opportunity he could pass up. He would have to manufacture some sort of opportunity for things to take their course. The journey to the Barrows would take days, he thought – what better opportunity than that? The school couldn’t afford first-class accommodations for Lan Jue, but he could at least be sandwiched between two gorgeous women. Perfect, he thought. The tighter the better.
Lan Jue could not know of Director Wu’s clandestine maneuvers. All he could do, is lament his situation. When he’d tried to scooch away from Tan Lingyun, Qianlin had reacted be recoiling, and blocking him with her hands. It wasn’t overt, but the expression on her face was like a stranger trying to keep someone at bay.
“Why don’t you just say what’s on your mind, huh?!” Tan Lingyun rudely rapped on his forehead with a fist. She was strong, Lan Jue remembered painfully.
“What the hell are you doing?!” He yelped.
Immediately, the Savage Goddess’ eyebrows shot up. “What do you think I’m doing? You better be straight with me or I will throw you from this airship! Qianlin, if he even breathes on you, you let me know. I’ll deal with him.”
Zhou Qianlin could see how tortured Lan Jue was, and for an instant her eyes revealed pity. She hurriedly shook her head, and dropped the hand she held up to keep Lan Jue away.
The ship calmed as it broke through Skyfire’s atmosphere. Portholes set along either side of the hull revealed the beautiful scenes as space slid by. Window seats always sold best. Qianlin had been given the one on their isle, and so she took advantage by aimlessly staring out in to the black. Lan Jue remained locked in the middle. Five days, he whined inwardly. He figured he’d probably die.
This must be what the students had felt during training, he thought. Pain of the body meant nothing, but afflictions of the soul were dire. Like them, there was nothing be could do about it.
“I need to visit the restroom.” Lan Jue half-stood as far as possible in this little nest.
Lingyun shot him a dismissive glance. “Who are you talking to?”
“You, of course,” he said in irritation.
“I guess your parents never taught you to be polite,” she replied.
“You-“ With great effort, Lan Jue managed to bite back the deluge of expletives he had in mind. His teeth audibly ground as he spoke. “Professor Tan. I’m sorry to trouble you. Thank you tremendously.”
She finally stood, and Lan Jue rushed passed as quickly and as carefully as he dared. His long legs send him toward the toilets and just short of a run.
A detestable scowl followed him as Tan Lingyun watched. She turned to her young student. “Be careful with that one. He looks useless, but he certainly is not a good person. Ugh, I can’t stand this kind of good-for-nothing garbage. And he’s supposed to be teaching etiquette! Back on Taihua he held everyone else up as we were running for our lives. Not only is he useless, he’s also stupid.” She didn’t despise him quite so much as she let on, of course, but the result of him running from the escaping plan was still fresh in her memory.
Her opinion of Wang Hongyuan had changed considerably since their encounter on Taihua. But this was not the case with Lan Jue. Him, she still hated.
“Prfoessor Lan can’t be that bad. I think he’s a good man, I’ve listened to his class.” Qianlin couldn’t bear to hear this woman bad mouthing Lan Jue so viciously. Of course, she couldn’t make here disagreement too vociferous.
“Oh? And what is his class like?” The Savage Goddess was genuinely curious.
Zhou Qianlin carefully weighed her words. “He teaches very well. Very noble. We’ve learned a lot of things you don’t usually learn in a university, and you can tell he’s very warmhearted.”
“Hmph,” Tan Lingyun grunted. “I really don’t know what the administrators were thinking. Making us sit with that waste of air, honestly…” It was as though she hadn’t heard Qianlin at all.
Lan Jue found a place with enough headroom for him to stand straight, and hung around there. It was then a familiar face came in to view.
“Professor Lan.” The tender voice was always a pleasure. Jin Yan smiled up at him.
“Hello Professor Jin.” He replied pleasantly.
“What’s wrong? You look upset.” She had spied his unpleasant expression, and that was why she’d approached.
Lan Jue shook his head. “It’s nothing. A small matter.”
Jin Yan smiled prettily. “Professor Lan, I didn’t get a chance to thank you properly before Professor Wang joined us. Although I haven’t the slightest idea what my brother had to go through, but he came back a completely changed person. My parents and I hardly believe it. I’m certain this is a result of something you did, so thank you very much. Jin Tao was lucky to meet you.”
Lan Jue chuckled sheepishly, but said nothing.
Wang Hongyuan was like Jin Yan’s shadow, never far away. He slid seamlessly in to their little gathering. Who knows how, but he must have arranged it so he could sit beside her on this journey.
“Hello Professors.” He grinned wide at them.
Lan Jue greeted him with a flat stare. Jealousy was this guy’s only motivation. He couldn’t even seal the deal.
“Oh, Professor Wang. You were also looking for Professor Lan?” She cantered her head in curiosity as she looked his way.
Wang Hongyuan chortled. “No, no. I just saw the two of you talking and I figured I’d join. It’s boring sitting in one place, and anyway we’re all elective teachers. We have a commonality.”
“You two chat,” Lan Jue said, sighing inwardly at the inevitable. “I’m going to head back. Ugh, these long rides are rough.1”
Wang Hongyuan’s pleading eyes had forced him to leave. It was impossible to find a quiet corner in this tiny ship! Lan Jue was beginning to regret coming with the school. If he’d known it’d be like this, he would have gone with the Wine Master. But that would have blown his cover.
He made his way back to his seat. He stopped upon encountering Tan Lingyuan. “My deepest apologies, Professor. Could I trouble you to let me pass?”
This time, thankfully, she said nothing – only got up and let him pass unmolested.
He slunk passed and crouched in to his chair once more. Immediately he was even more uncomfortable than he had been. However, as he was musing on his misfortune, he felt a hand tug on his right sleeve.
Turning his head, Lan Jue saw Zhou Qianlin quietly lift the armrest between them. She scooched closer to the window, giving him a blessed few more inches of space. A warm feeling spread through Lan Jue’s chest. Although she didn’t say anything, her actions spoke volumes. She really was a great girl!
Ships were constructed like this in consideration of couples. It was a nice feature that removed the obstacles between them during these long flights, so they could keep close and comfortable.
Without the armrest to constrain him, Lan Jue was able to spread out. His legs and elbows were able to separate enough so he could at least breathe. It was still uncomfortable, but who was he to reject such a kindness.
Naturally, the close quarters caused their arms to touch. The Spirit Caller gem warmed.
Lan Jue: Thank you.
Qianlin: Don’t worry about it.
Lan Jue: I’m sorry, Qianlin. I was wrong before – I just reacted poorly to a sudden situation. I’m an adult, and there are certain things I’ve learned. I also know that we should always be looking forward. I’ve told myself endlessly that I need to begin my new life. But there’s a part of me that remains, a root that sprouts when things get emotional. I silence it every day, but it always comes back. It’s the part of me that never dies.”
- I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but train rides are a reality of life in China. They are far and away the primary means of getting around. These airships are sort of meant to evoke that, even more than airplanes. Every year during the New Year Festival, everyone has to return to their families, often across the country. Trains are the cheaper option, but you’ll have people sitting on little more than benches for literally almost a week in some cases. ↩