Chapter 98: Returning to Work
Jin Tao bobbed his head, setting his pink hair swinging manically as he made his way to school.
Man, Professor Lan hasn’t been around for a while. When are we gunna get another class? I mean, how much longer is he gunna be gone?
Jin Tao glowered at the ground in front of his feet, suddenly in a sour mood.
The day after Lan Jue’s ‘lesson’, Jin Tao had been beaten so bad he was practically begging for death. He had to take several days off school. But he swallowed the pain, and refused not only to visit the hospital but also the probing questions of his family.
However, it had seemed worth it. To his surprise, once the pain had cleared and his wounds had healed, he did indeed notice a change in his Discipline. Before his abilities only allowed him to change in to a pug. Now the base of his abilities got him to the level of a wild dog. It was absolutely a big change!
With the discovery that he was improving, Jin Tao’s body had stopped aching so desperately. On the contrary, he was eagerly looking forward to more instruction from his new instructor. But to his dismay, when looking for Professor Lan he heard from his sister that the master had taken leave. One class and suddenly he’s absent for so long? Certainly a capricious guy! He’d visited the yard behind the electives building every day since, but Professor Lan was never there.
Still, Jin Tao’s performance in school had leapt forward at least as much as his discipline had. Maybe it was the inspiration he got from that first Etiquette class, or maybe it was the better control he had over mechas since his Discipline’s cultivation. Whatever the means, a quiet self-confidence had grown within Jin Tao. It may have been small now, but it was an improvement that everyone could see.
Ding ding! The sound of rattling bells sounded nearby, jolting Jin Tao from his gloomy trudge.
“This blind moth-… hey, Professor Lan!” He’d scuttled to the side and swung around, ready to curse out the source of the bells when he noticed who it was. Lan Jue stood behind him, one leg planted on the floor and the other on the pedal of his antique bicycle, staring his pupil up and down.
“Hey,” he replied.
“Ah awesome you’re back.” Jin Tao’s rush to greet his master was so sudden and so intense Lan Jue had to lift his arms to protect himself from the onslaught. He kept his student at bay by the shoulder, and just in time otherwise he’s afraid Jin Tao would have trampled down on top of him.
“What are you doing,” Lan Jue said, glowering dubiously at him.
“I-it’s me, Dumb-mutt. You don’t recognize me?” Jin Tao almost shook with excitement.
“Sure I do,” Lan Jue said. “You’re the little pig-faced one I beat right?”
Jin Tao vigorously shook his head like a tambourine, his pink hair flopping about comically. “Nah nah. Pig-head was Fatty Tang. I’m the mutt.”
Lan Jue frowned at him. “Why so anxious to be the mutt?”
Jin Tao chortled. “What’s wrong with it? Dogs are loyal, bright, strong, good runners, have an excellent sense of smell and are man’s best friend. It’s my discipline… how can I dislike myself?”
His tirade had taken Lan Jue by surprise. He didn’t expect such a response. “And what are you doing blocking my way?”
“Waiting for you to beat me again! You probably don’t know, but when you beat me the last time my Discipline advanced by leaps and bounds. Go on and beat me, I can’t wait to get better!”
Lan Jue caught him in a sharp glare. “If you want the whole school to find out about it keep up the yelling.”
Suddenly Jin Tao became keenly aware of his surroundings. He’d forgotten where he was, about their agreement in his excitement. Now, several students on their way to classes had stopped to give the two strange looks. He winced, his face growing stern as he shuffled closer to his teacher and dropped his voice to a whisper.
“Sorry, my fault. Don’t worry about it Professor, our secret. Between master and apprentice. No one will find out about it. So how about it, when ya gunna beat me next?”
Lan Jue shook his head and smirked. “Still looking for a beating. Noon, I still need to go to the office and report in. Go and tell Tang Xiao as well. After lunch – wait, no, don’t eat. Waste of calories. Just come to the yard behind the electives building at noon.”
“Got it!” Jin Tao was practically bursting with joy. He whooped excitedly as he raced off. Lan Jue watched helplessly as the youth raced madly towards the school.
Frankly speaking he had no interest in taking on an apprentice. His main purpose that day was to provide a catalyst for that pitiful wretch Tang Xiao to better himself. He wasn’t interested in wandering around, randomly smacking around students. He’d also stimulated the guy’s discipline with his own thunderbolt 1 powers so he wouldn’t feel he’d suffered the beating in vain.
As for Jin Tao, he couldn’t tell whether he should have considered himself lucky or unlucky. A chance meeting. And so Lan Jue did what was asked of him, of course boosting Jin Tao’s abilities as well. He hadn’t expected he’d run in to him again today. The guy had sampled the sweet taste of improvement, had learned he can improve. And now Lan Jue knew he wouldn’t get any peace. But it really did look like the kid had gotten better.
So did he really inadvertently acquire two new disciples? It would appear so, but these two guys? One so pathetic he associates with a wild dog, and the other morbidly obese. Whatever, he’ll deal with it as it comes. This time, he thought, he’ll beat them harder. They won’t come knocking tomorrow.
National Eastern University. Teaching Affairs Office.
Wu Junyi stared at the suited young man in front of him. After a long moment, his sour countenance broke to reveal a smile.
“Professor Lan. You’re finally back with us.”
Lan Jue’s response was offered with sheepish expression. “Director Wu. Please accept my apologies, asking for leave just after starting classes. It was an emergency, but it’s been dealt with. I’m ready to get back to classes at your convenience.”
“Immediately, naturally,” Director Wu replied. “Of course you wont be receiving a salary for last month – since you weren’t here. As you’re aware electives teachers don’t have a base pay.”
“Ah, good.” Lan Jue was just pleased he hadn’t been fired.
Wu Junyi went on. “After listening to your class it got people really thinking! Professor Lan, under your guidance I think our students could enjoy a distinct advantage. You even got my heart going there. How about this – we set you up with your own, school sponsored ethics course. You can teach these kids how to act like proper members of society. It’d be a much better situation than your Etiquette classes, and if things go well you’ll be a full professor within three years.
“Huh?” Lan Jue hadn’t expected such a response, and repeatedly shook his head. “No, no it’s fine Director. Really, you’ve already done so much and I’m certainly not qualified for the position. Really I’m only suited for this small area I’m teaching. I believe it’s best if I just continue with the Etiquette course.”
Director Wu gave him a regretful look. “Very well, we’ll keep it as is, for now. You earned a good reputation with the students after that first class. Quite a number hope they have the opportunity to enroll in your course. If you’re prepared, you can have your next class tomorrow. I’ll have an announcement made to let the students know. From then on, two classes a week. If things go well, and the benefit to the students is good, we’ll consider making your Etiquette class a standard course.”
“Excellent. Thank you very much, Director Wu.” His response was earnest and hasty, though in his heart he was secretly hoping it wouldn’t come to that. Two classes a week was already more than he wanted.
With the situation explained, Wu Junyi bade Lan Jue return to work. As head of teaching affairs he had a full plate, after all. Though he greatly appreciated the skill and effort of this young man, mecha studies and research had to come first for the NEU.
As he exited the offices, Lan Jue lifted his arm and peered hesitantly at his communicator. After a few moments of consideration he tapped out a brief message.
Beep! Zhou Qianlin was attentively listening to a lecturer when she felt the communicator on her wrist buzz, and issue the quiet sound. Almost by unconscious habit her eyes immediately went to the screen, and she spied those two words.
A tremble went through her slender body, and a flash of pleasant surprise flitted across her face. However, it was quickly replaced with a bitter expression. She pushed the thoughts away, and turned her attention back to class. At least that was her intention, however only a few seconds had passed before her eyes wandered again to her communicator. Her red lips pursed ever so slightly, then evolved in to a nasty, impish grin.
Her fingers raced over the buttons, tapping out her own response.
I’m in trouble. Trouble you brought! Come get me from the scholar classroom immediately! Class is done in twenty minutes.
Huh? Lan Jue stared at the message. Trouble? Trouble he brought?
He felt the icy grip of fear squeeze his heart. Could it be the Pontiff’s Castle, looking for revenge?
The anxiety grew until it almost threatened to overcome him. But then, it was gone. No… no it couldn’t be the Castle, he thought. They only knew he was on Skyfire, part of the Avenue – not what he was doing here. Plus if it were, she wouldn’t be so relaxed about it. It had to be something else.
I have to keep my head! But… if it’s not that, why should I bother?
He shook himself free of the conflicting emotions, and made his way towards the classroom. He tapped out a message on the way.
Suddenly you’re not afraid the other students will know about us?
Zhou Qianlin glared daggers at the message. She responded: It’s a big problem, you need you take care of it right away, the quicker, the better. If it means the other students find out I know you, that’s a risk I’m willing to take. Just tell them you’re my cousin.
“Cousin…” Lan Jue was speechless. How could he ever pass as her cousin? And this is Hera’s sister…
Fine, cousin it is.
- Thanks ren 😛 ↩