This Professor Le was an average man man, not strikingly handsome. He exuded an erudite and scholarly air that was enhanced by the pair of gold-rimmed glasses pressed up on his nose. He had the sort of face that made him look as though he were always absorbed in thought, no matter the time. It looked like it would be a chore for anyone to intrude upon his own little world.
Upon hearing Wu Junyi’s words he nodded ever so slightly, but said nothing.
“Look, Professor Le, what do you think? Which students should participate in the competition? Lir University suddenly changed the competition date on us, and now we have no time to prepare.” Wu Junyi complained.
Le Ziqian shook his head. “There’s no need to be worried about this educational exchange. Cold feet solve nothing. Besides, our National Scholars are exceptional students. As far as I’m aware, that Zhou Qianlin from Professor Tan’s class is a fair choice. Then we have Yang Zi Mo and Jie Guangsheng from my own class. Those three should be sufficient.”
“Alright.” Wu Junyi wasn’t interested in discussing the matter, and settled it quickly. And regardless of his own opinions, Le Ziqian was definitely the authority when it came to this.
Tan Lingyun was seated next to the brooding intellectual. As he spoke her eyes were glued to him, her face calm. But there was a look in her eye – a lingering flash that was hard to pinpoint.
Were one to look down upon the NEU campus from on high, they would see it as a shifting sea of blue. What’s more, it looked shut up so tight not even a drop of water could escape from it.
Scores of police and security personnel were on hand to lock down the exits. If you weren’t a student or teacher, you weren’t getting in – period.
Eventually one o’clock arrived. The various members of the media were permitted to enter, but only after a rigorous security check. It was a process that everyone had to endure, students included.
The NEU’s auditorium was the largest in the Alliance, capable of housing over ten thousand people. If necessary, however, it could fit three times as many.
At this moment the auditorium was empty. This area was still blocked off by the security guards for the Poseidon concert, who kept it free of media and students. There was, however, a single exception.
A red-haired young man was sat comfortably on a chair in the middle of the first row. Despite all the chaos outside, he was seated cross-legged like he had not a care in the world. His eyes were on the stage in front of him.
“A-Jue, why aren’t you here yet? Didn’t A-Li tell you to arrive early? We’ve already set aside a seat for you. Later there’ll be a mess of people pushing in here, you’re gunna get trampled.” Chu Cheng lazily drawled in to his communicator, grinning with pleasure at the prospect of his friend’s forthcoming difficulties.
“At the door,” Lan Jue’s voice replied.
And he was indeed, handing a golden card to the guards blocking passage beyond. Once they saw it, they let him pass with bows and scrapes and a great deal of respect.
The moment he stepped in, Lan Jue’s eyes lit up. He’d never actually entered the auditorium before – more like an arena, in truth – but he absolutely hadn’t expected it to be like this.
In a glance he could confirm that indeed the arena could hold a downright frightening number of people. It was beautiful and large, with three fifty-meter tall walls hemming it in. Each were covered top to bottom in fresh forget-me-nots. The ceiling above them dripped with shimmering crystal lights. They were in the shape of various sea fauna; fish, crustaceans, clams, starfish and sea urchins. Anything one could think of when considering the ocean, was present in some fashion or other. This was underlined by the largest piece – a thirty-meter long crystal whale. Never mind how the damn things were made, how were they even safely suspended like that?
The lighting of the auditorium interior was still dim, but the gentle light was working from several angles. It’s reflection off of the towering walls covered in flowers gave everything a soothing blue hue. As the lights shone through the shimmering crystals, too, their reflections filled the arena. It looked like they were underwater, with reflections of sunlight dancing on the ocean floor.
The crystalline figures hung a few dozen meters from the ceiling, and as Lan Jue cast his eyes around he was convinced there must have been ten thousand or more of the exquisite decorations hanging here and there. It was of course the stupendously large whale that especially gave Lan Jue pause. Were that thing to fall 1 the death toll would be staggering.
A thick curtain hung heavy over the stage, hiding the contents of the stage from view. Every seat he passed on the way forward sported a single blue flower, and a copy of Poseidon’s Sounds of Nature.
Each album was a treasure, as far as the common man was concerned. Poseidon’s releases always came with a steep price, the last release running around four hundred NED. This album would be more expensive, undoubtedly. More than ten thousand seats, which meant ten thousand albums. It was an enormous profit to be giving away for free.
Lan Jue shook his head in wonderment as he walked. It wasn’t long before he arrived at the front and took a seat beside Chu Cheng.
“I’m a teacher here,” Lan Jue complained. “If I’m seen up here sitting so close to you it could bode poorly. I’ll stay a while then move to the back.”
Chu Cheng chortled at his friend’s concerns. “You think there’ll be space in the back? Stay here, trust me. I’ve seen one of Hua Li’s concerts before, and the second it kicks off no one will be able to keep their head. No one will be paying attention to you, I promise. Besides Hua Li’s already thought about your potential troubles, so he set your school luminaries off to one side. We’ll have international big-wigs and Poseidon staff on either side of us, so no one will recognize you.
“So be it,” Lan Jue answered grudgingly. “I have to say, Poseidon Media 2 certainly knows how to do these sorts of things. But the amount of money they threw in to this must have been insane. And that’s not counting the whole rest of the school they decorated!”
Chu Cheng chimed in. “Just the surface, bro. The amount of money they give the school just to do the performance here would cross your eyes. You think all these stuffy suits would let some star take over their school for a concert otherwise, much less attend themselves? But in the end you know this is a good thing for the university – not just because of Hua Li and Poseidon Media’s name, but also the fact that it’s a benefit concert.”
Lan Jue shook his head. “This guy! It seems like being a superstar is anything but worth the effort and hardships. And having to hide every time you want to go out… it looks like even Hua Li is tired of it.”
Chu Cheng laughed. “What can he do about it? It’s in his blood, a product of heritage. If he wants to be rid of it, he’s gunna have to find a woman to birth the next victim. A son, and then he’ll have to wait for him to come of age. Only then will he have the ghost of a chance at a normal life. The reputation of the Poseidon line is the product of generations. when you think about it, it’s like it has a life of its own, an amazing thing.”
Lan Jue looked off across the auditorium as he changed the subject. “When the concert’s done, how about you two come stay over mine tonight. We have some training of our own to get to.”
Chu Cheng nodded his fiery red head. “That DreamNet thing. The news is already all over. Go to any search engine and you’ll see the first result is the God-team battles. Second is the Divine Monarchs and this ‘mysterious challenger’ that we’re up against. Then the next ten down the list are about various aspects of this whole thing. There is absolutely no way we’re allowed to lose this.”
“Ngh.” Lan Jue nodded his head resolutely.
Beep, beep, beep! Lan Jue’s communicator beeped to get his attention.
Lan Jue answered, and Jin Yan’s voice chirped at him from the other end. “Hello Professor Lan. Where are you? The Poseidon concert will be starting soon, we’re out here in line. You should get here soon! We’ll keep a seat for you.”
Lan Jue waggled a finger at Chu Cheng as though to say ‘I told you so’. “I’ll be there soon, thank you guys.”
The young etiquette instructor cut the connection, and rose to his feet. “What was that about no seat in the back? It’s safer back there anyway. I like to keep things low key.”
Chu Cheng shook his head helplessly. “What about your seat here then? We can’t just have an empty spot right here in the middle.”
Lan Jue snorted. “You were just telling me about how busy this’ll get. Give me a moment and I’ll find someone outside to fill the spot, alright?”
He didn’t wait for Chu Cheng’s response, making his way towards the exit. He had become accustomed to the university life since being here. He was learning to enjoy it. It wouldn’t be at all worth it for his cover to be blown over some concert. Indeed, it would be best for him to be back with the other teachers.
Lan Jue avoided the main entrance of the auditorium, deigning instead to exit from a side door. However, despite his attempted subterfuge, he was met outside by a crowd so large he nearly yelped when he saw them. It was a veritable sea of humans, but luckily the guards were doing a fine job of keeping order.
Lan Jue called Jin Yan once more to determine their location, and went off to meet them.
He turned a corner on his trek, only to be caught in a deluge of students making their way to the arena. He quickly jumped to one side, but as he did he stepped directly in to the path of another rushing figure. His attempts at being covert caused him to collide right in to them.
He felt like he was hit by a truck. He very nearly let his unconscious take control and employ his Discipline to keep him upright. Fortunately, he remembered who and where he was. Unfortunately, this meant he had to allow himself to stagger to the side, and fall.
A hand grabbed him by the collar and yanked him straight.
“Be careful.” The voice was chillingly familiar.
Lan Jue nearly crumbled to the ground by virtue of the realization alone. There’s no way, he inwardly lamented.
He slowly, slowly turned around. There in front of him was the single last person he ever wanted to see again.
“You?” Tang Lingyun’s eyes were hard and cold as they fixed on Lan Jue. The disdain was so thick in her glare that he felt as though it might actually cut him.
Lan Jue smiled, but it came out more pained than anything. “When is it not me. Hello, Professor Tan. I’m very sorry to have run in to you. Are you alright?”
Tan Lingyun dropped her head to look at her feet. Lan Jue followed her gaze and saw the invitation envelope for the concert on the ground. He quickly stooped to pick it up, fumbling with it.
Each admission ticket came in a large envelope. He laughed sheepishly as he handed it to her, then hastily made his retreat.
“Who was he?” Le Ziqian asked curiously from Tan Lingyun’s side. They’d arrived together after their meeting. He was just about the only teacher who didn’t stay as far away from Professor Tan as they could.
“A teacher. Electives, I think. A damn waste of space. He almost got us all killed on Taihua.
Le Ziqian chuckled. “Little Yun, you shouldn’t always be so cold. From what I can tell he doesn’t seem all that bad! Polite and courteous. You know this will only get you in to more trouble the older you get. It’s time a phase that has passed its time.”
Tan Lingyun responded with displeasure. “Ziqian, if you’re getting ready to lecture me I can just go home. If I decide never to marry then that’s my decision to make. Men have nothing good to offer.”
Le Ziqian rubbed his nose in exasperation and annoyance. He pushed his gold rimmed glasses higher on his nose, grinning sourly. “You shouldn’t always burn bridges. Already you can see it in the school – be it student or teachers, they all hide when you pass by.”
Tan Longyun laughed. “That’s good then, saves me the trouble of having to deal with morons. Women should always be out to protect themselves. Now let’s go and get in line.”
It looks like the author decided to make some changes to the terminology, or I’m an idiot. Either way, I’m going to make an adjustment here: Gobi Entertainment is the name of the entire company of which Hua Li’s family is the primary owner. Poseidon Media will be their PR and activity arm. ↩