Chapter 101: Bodyguard, Where Are You?

Tang Xiao stumbled to the floor with a swollen face and bloody nose. It was difficult to see his expression through the results of his beating.

Jin Tao, conversely, sat not far away. His expression was clear – the satisfaction of a man who’d finally taken a dump after days of constipation. In a way, finally beating on Tang Xiao was just that, release. He hadn’t escaped the fight without a few bruises of his own, but they were few compared to Tang Xiao’s.

“Hurts?” Lan Jue stood at Tang Xiao’s side, looking down on him. The young man looked at his instructor, grunted, and said nothing further.

“Up!” Lan Jue hissed at him.

It was almost by reflex that Tang Xiao shot up. “What the hell is this about!” His words were muffled from the beating.

“Got a problem?” Lan Jue peered at him. “You probably thought he was so much weaker than you. Only reason you lost was because you couldn’t use your Discipline, right?”

Tang Xiao didn’t answer, but the look in his eyes did it for him: You’re damn right!

Lan Jue continued. “As an Adept, as a pilot, your physical abilities are your foundation. Your will to fight is the key to success. You’re fat, but you’re also supple – flexible. You’ve got that up on Jin Tao. So why did you lose? Because you didn’t have his dogged 1 determination. What that means is, if your powers were equal, he’d beat you every time. This was just a little contest. You lose, you suffer a little pain. But if this was war… you’d be dead.”

“So today the lesson I leave you two with is this: Treat every drill like a battle. Treat every opponent like an archenemy!”

The stubborn dissent in Tang Xiao’s eyes slowly melted away. It was replaced with a solemn consideration. He was, after all, a smart and talented student. There was no doubt he’d come to understand. He was twenty-three years old, and already he possessed considerable ability. However despite his innate skills, he’d certainly heard similar things from his other instructors. Perhaps it had never really resonated with him before, or maybe they had never impressed the fact that success would really require physical sacrifice.

“You lost the war of wills. Now do you understand?” Lan Jue concluded.

Tang Xiao lifted his head, and nodded solemnly.

Lan Jue then turned his scowling face to Jin Tao. “Understanding doesn’t mean we’re finished. I never told you to stop.”

This time, Tang Xiao was the one with a malicious, hungry grin on his face.

“Wait a minute, this isn’t right!” Jin Tao howled as the massive girth descended towards him, like a hungry tiger pouncing it’s prey.

By the time Lan Jue was leisurely waltzing from the NEU campus, both the future Metal Fox and Frenzied Lion Mastiff lay sprawled on the dirt. This time Professor Lan hadn’t lifted a hand, but they were in a sorrier state than the before. It only ended when they had no more strength to fight.

Ah. Teaching really is pretty nice. At the very least, relaxing.

Thinking back on the actions of the two gentlemen, guys not really much younger than himself, brought a smile to his face. Fifteen years ago he first experienced something like they did today. It froze the smile on his face, when the memories came. Fifteen years ago… a pain that went to the bone! Every time it was like that.

Serves you right, sitting there counting cigarette buts in the street! Hmph!

Classes weren’t until tomorrow, and there wasn’t anything he needed doing. It was time to go home. Still there were things to consider. Not only for himself, but for his young ladies as well. If they only worked together their development would skyrocket. Maybe things would be different this time. He wasn’t sure how it would feel treating them like students.

His thoughts were interrupted as a familiar figure crossed his vision, exiting the university’s main gate. He recognized him as his fellow sufferer from earlier in the day. Richard stood a short distance from the entrance smoking a cigarette. He looked glum, and ashamed.

“Oh hey, its you,” he greeted amicably as he spotted Lan Jue.

“Don’t come over here,” Lan Jue snarled. “I don’t know you.” If it wasn’t for this guy he wouldn’t have been so publicly humiliated, abused by that hateful woman.

Richard was sheepish and apologetic. “Look, I’m sorry Professor! But you really shouldn’t be blaming me, that woman really is just a bully. It’s a damn tragedy she’s my lady’s class leader!”

Lan Jue had struggled to bring his anger under control, and was nearly back to his indifferent norm. But hearing him refer to Qianlin as his lady brought it all back bubbling to the surface.

“So what are you doing, casing the place?”

“Nah I’m not loitering or anything. Classes are almost out for the day, and Qianlin will have to come out this way. A gentleman sends his wife home, right?”

“Oh,” Lan Jue replied, “alright then, as you were.” He shrugged dismissively before pushing his bicycle out of the campus and down the street.

Suddenly he felt a heat welling up in his chest. He paused, and then a sound rang through the back of his mind: Bodyguard, where are you?

Bodyguard!

His response was almost subconscious, channeling his psychic energies through the soul-caller gem resting against his chest: Gate of the University.

I’ll be there soon. Send me home! Repel anyone who tries to get near me. That’s your responsibility. Even in his head Qianlin’s voice was cool and dismissive.

Fine. His exodus from the school stopped. It was true – he still had a responsibility to act as her protector for the next couple of years. Nor was her request excessive, and so he had no grounds to refuse.

Not long after their exchange, Qianlin appeared by the gate. She walked by herself, clad in form-fitting clothing with her long black hair flowing down her back. Her face was neutral, but regardless was possessed of a quiet beauty. Her flashing blue eyes glimmered behind the cascading waves of black hair – certainly attention-grabbing.

“Qialin!” Upon seeing her, Richard sprang in to action. He barreled towards her at a run. “I’m sure you’re tired, huh, Qianlin. Here, my verti-car is parked just over there. I’ll send you home. Oh, but I was invited to dinner by my aunt.”

Qianlin shot him a withering glance. “Great! You go ahead. I have someone here to send me home.”

“Eh?” At first, hearing her enthusiasm his heart nearly leapt from his chest. However, when she finished her sentence a bitter taste filled his mouth. His formerly friendly demeanor suddenly grew prickly as he shot his eyes around. “Whose sending you?”

“That’d be me,” Lan Jue interjected lazily.

Richard looked at him, confused. “You?”

“That’s right.”

“So,” the young man started, “this morning, before the classroom. You were there waiting for Qianlin as well?”

Lan Jue nodded in confirmation.

“You her cousin?” He asked.

Again, he nodded.

Zhou Qianlin had already moved to Lan Jue’s side. She deftly pulled herself up onto the back seat of the bicycle. “Let’s get going.”

“Yup.” Lan Jue watched Richard’s slack features as he pushed off the floor, one foot on the pedal. Sadly Zhou Qianlin’s presence on the back of his bicycle cramped his standard riding style. He had to squat over the seat.

“Cousins…? The hell was he driving, anyway?” He stood watching them meander away for a good few minutes, but still couldn’t quite wrap his head around what had just happened.

Richard didn’t feel threatened by the handsome instructor. Their relationship as cousins – and the fact he was just as easily disposed of as he by Tan Lingyun earlier – made him less problematic. Sure there were plenty of handsome guys who were interested in Zhou Qianlin, but how may could boast his personal status? He had a deeply connected family, a blessed and comfortable life, and an outstanding education. All of this conspired to instill him with a healthy sense of self-confidence from a young age.

Still, in the wake of his recent interaction with Zhou Qianlin he felt something odd. His interest in her, his courtship, wasn’t a new endeavor. In fact he’d fallen in love with her the very moment he first saw her. After their disastrous wedding, his father – enraged from the shame and disgraceful treatment – finally conceded after Richard had used every means at his disposal to convince him to let the young man come back to Planet Skyfire. Through all of this he felt he knew his fiancee very well, and yet for reasons unknown he sensed her overall mood had changed markedly from before.

ζ

Lan Jue pedaled the bicycle, and Zhou Qianlin sat perched on the back. Both were silent. And though their rolling journey through the landscape of Skyfire was picturesque, there existed a strange barrier between them that made the trip uncomfortable.

For a while it continued in this way, until Lan Jue spoke up. “So, where we going?”

“Grace Hospital,” she replied.

“Got it.” Lan Jue began the journey towards the hospital. He’d only been there once, but the profound effect it had left on him meant he knew precisely how to get there. They continued in relative silence before arriving at the doors.

Zhou Qianlin deftly dismounted from the bicycle’s back ‘seat’. However, she didn’t move towards the door. Instead she lifted her hands, and rubbed her face for a few moments.

“I’m not going in.”

“Don’t go in!”

The two spoke on top of one another. They exchanged a look. It was Lan Jue’s awkward tones that broke the ensuing silence. “I have a friend coming to Skyfire City. I promised I’d go see him.”

“Your responsibilities aren’t finished,” Qianlin responded coolly. “I’d have to increase your contract duration a few days. Go then, no need to come back. I’ll find my own way home.” With that she turned and pushed her way in to the hospital. As she did, her back turned to her bodyguard, a smile spread across her pretty face. No matter her grievances, or how sour her mood, a smile always covered her features when she entered here. She was here to bring joy to her elderly charges, to make their lives better.

Watching her leave, Lan Jue’s face also twisted unnaturally. “Hera, she’s your sister,” he muttered to himself. “If I didn’t already have you, I don’t know if I’d be able to help myself from falling in love with this one. Helpful, attractive… but my troubles are many, and I wouldn’t want to involve her. But don’t worry. I’ll help you watch after her.”

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