The Accountant scrambled off the back of the bicycle. “There was some talk of people greeting me when we got here, Jewelry Master. These must be them. Let me say hello.”
The younger man quickly tapped a few digits in to his communicator.
As if on cue, two gentlemen from within the security kiosk extricated themselves, and made their way over.
Just a couple of days ago Lan Jue would not have recognized the stocky man who trotted over, but now he recognized him immediately as Dean Xu Renjian. The teaching director, Wu Junyi, was hot on his heels.
“You must be our newest addition. Hello, hello!” Xu Renjian eagerly greeted the Accountant, and vigorously shook his hand.
Wu Junyi gave Lan Jue a curious look. “Professor Lan, how do you know this young gentleman?”
“Saw him on the way in,” Lan Jue began. “Thought I’d offer him a ride. You all look busy, so I’ll leave you to it.” He wanted to keep him interaction with them brief, otherwise too many questions about his relationship to the Accountant might arise. It would certainly have an effect on his work here in the university.
By now Xu Renjian’s attention had also swept towards the etiquette teacher. It was his first time seeing their newest instructor, but he knew him by reputation. “Ah, you must be Lan Jue. The one the grandmaster recommended 1. Let me think… etiquette, right?”
Lan Jue smiled politely, and nodded his head.
Xu Renjian was all smiles and propriety. “And hello to you as well, Professor Lan. You’ve been here for some time already and this is the first time we’re meeting. I am the Dean, Xu Renjian. If you should need any help, make sure you give me a call, or you can ask Director Wu here 2. Of course, the both of us will do our best to make sure our teachers have everything they need.”
“Thank you very much, Dean Xu.” Lan Jue channeled his etiquette experience, engaging his superior with poise and politeness. He took this as his opportunity to leave and, waving goodbye to the Accountant, pushed his bicycle passed the gate and into the campus.
Grandmaster? Could Xu Renjian be the Keeper’s disciple? The Keeper must be even older than he looks… It’s no wonder he’s the shining star of the East’s scientific community.
Students weren’t required to watch the academic portion of their competition. By the time night rolled around and Lan Jue picked Zhou Qianlin up to bring her home, he saw that she looked despondent.
“What’s wrong? Did you lose?” Lan Jue asked with a smirk.
Qianlin nodded. “We might as well not even have showed up. We had a new student show up today, someone sort of twitchy. He said he wanted to compete against Su He. The issues they argued were so far over my head, I couldn’t even understand what they were talking about. After an hour, the new student ultimately lost. But, he didn’t seem bothered about it at all. He spoke a few words to Su He, who then quickly left. He didn’t seem overly happy about his victory, either.”
Lan Jue, of course, knew what was going on. Inwardly he scowled.
“Qianlin I… something’s come up, again, I’m sorry. It looks like I have to leave once more for a few days.” Lan Jue was genuinely put-out by his constant absences. This was the third time he’d had to ask for leave since joining the university staff. He was going out more now, than he had in the last three years combined.
Zhou Qianlin balked. “Again?”
“Planet Lir,” he explained. “Host to Lir University, obviously. It’s very close to Skyfire, so I’m suspected it won’t be more than three or four days that I’m gone. I’ll definitely be back before a week.”
Qianlin nodded. “Go on then. Will there be any danger this time?”
Lan Jue just stared at her, stunned. He hadn’t anticipated this conversation would go so smoothly. Looking at her face, he saw no indication she was upset or displeased with the decision.
She smiled at him. A dazzling smile that disarmed the suspicious Lan Jue.
“Why are you staring at me like an idiot? Men are like eagles, and shouldn’t be constrained in a single place. At any rate I’m keeping track of your absences. We’ll add them to the end of your contract.”
Lan Jue smirked at her. “Here I was hoping my excellent demonstration yesterday might’ve shaved some days off my sentence.”
Qianlin rolled her eyes. “Is this such a painful prison for you? Let’s get going, it’s getting late. To Grace Hospital. I haven’t gone lately because of everything that’s been happening at school. I imagine my friends will be worried.”
Lan Jue nodded. “Alright,” he said through a smile.
The busy work they did at the old folk’s home always eased his heart, gave him a sense of comfort. Every time he went, for a little while he forgot all his pressures and responsibilities. In his estimation, charity wasn’t just about helping others. It also had a cleansing effect on one’s soul.
The next morning, Zeus-1 was slowly rising from the public air hanger. It slowly turned towards Planet Lir, then was off with a flash.
The Accountant was seated uncomfortable before the master controls. Occasionally, his eyes would flit to Xiuxiu and Goguo.
A hand came out of nowhere, slapping the lecherous young man in the forehead.
“What the hell, Jewelry Master?!” The Accountant spat indignantly.
“Eyes to yourself,” Lan Jue muttered. “And get out of my chair.”
The Accountant grunted his displeasure. “I have a love of beauty, what’s wrong with looking?”
“A lot. Who says you can just willy-nilly stare at the girls of Zeus’ Jewelry Shop?” Lan Jue glowered.
The Accountant sneered at him. “Fine, as you wish. Anyway, I saw much prettier at the university campus. She was like an angel fallen from heaven. I was captivated the moment I saw her. If it hadn’t been for the distraction, I wouldn’t have lost like I did. Really, just so beautiful. Ugh, you just don’t know. Dark hair, soft and smooth like silk. Big beautiful blue eyes clearer than the sky, deeper than the ocean. Long, natural eye-lashes… all natural, no make-up or ‘enhancements’ necessary. Incredibly beautiful. You must help me woo that one, Jewelry Master. If I were to have a girlfriend like that, I could die tomorrow and be happy.”
Lan Jue’s expression curdled as he stared down the Accountant. “You need talent to be good at chasing women. I guess I could teach you the three basic fundamentals, though.”
“Oh? What are they?” The Accountant stared wide-eyed and excited at his new pick-up coach.
Lan Jue counted them off with his fingers. “Be bold. Be careful. And be resilient.”
The Accountant’s brows furrowed. “What does this mean?”
Lan Jue explained, adopting his professorial air. “The meaning is this: If you like a girl, and you want to profess this to her, you need to take the initiative. You have a fifty-percent chance of success right there. But if you’re just sitting there, thinking about it, worrying over it, you have zero chance. Understand?”
Clearly the Accountant only half-comprehended the lecture. “I understand. Are there any risks?”
“Of course there are,” Lan Jue replied. “For example, say for instance you’re pursuing a girl who is protected by a bodyguard. Tragic for you. You might get beat so badly your grandfather would beg to put you out of your misery.”
The Accountant chortled. “He’d never have the chance. I’m no slouch, I’ll have you know! It’s not easy to get the best of me!”
Lan Jue only smirked knowingly. “Oh yeah? You should give it a shot, then.”
Without hesitation, the Accountant shot to his feet and made his way towards Lin Guoguo with purposeful strides 3. When he spoke, his voice was thick with a sort of slimy charm. “Guoguo. I love you. Be my girlfriend, what do you think? The Jewelry Master told me to come over here and woo you. He said I had a fifty-fifty chance at success.”
Lin Guoguo didn’t even give him the benefit of looking his way. She focused on the control panel before her, but did speak as one might when dismissing a telemarketer. “I guess you’re part of the other fifty percent. Get away from me before I make you regret it.”
The Accountant turned, giving Lan Jue a pained and indignant glare.
Lan Jue could only helplessly shake his head. “In old Earth they used to say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
The Accountant took a deep breath, getting his facial expression back under control. He shot his eyes towards Xiuxiu.
She knew what was coming, and her response was to lift her left hand. The motion summoned a fan-shaped array of impossible sharp light between them that, when it moved, sounded like it was cutting the air it passed through.
The Accountant spat fiercely. “My dark-haired angel is a vast improvement over the both of you! Not an iota of appreciation among any of you, hmph!”
“Increase to sub-light speed,” Lan Jue said softly, ignoring the Accountant’s impotent complaints.
“Roger!” Lin Guoguo coaxed the thrusters in to high speed. The ship shuddered, and quickened.
Lan Jue stood with both feet planted firmly on the floor. The Accountant yelped as he was thrown clear across the bridge.
It was a beautiful planet, one they called the Sapphire of the East.
Ninety-percent of its surface was covered in sparkling blue water, while the planet itself was roughly three-fourths the size of Skyfire. It was possessed of a rich and abundant marine environment, and all the resources that came with it.
Specifically, the planet was home to many special sorts of power gems and undersea precious metals. Essential items for high-level mecha construction.
Zeus-1 hovered over Lir’s largest city, it’s capital Dwarka. Just below lay the public airship hangar for the city.
“Extend the boarding bridge in advance. Extinguish main engine reactor.”
The ship began it’s slow decent in to the hangar. The girls took off their safety harnesses, while the Accountant moaned in pain. He pulled himself to his feet, casting a resentful glare towards Lan Jue.
“Off we go,” their captain stated, waving for them to follow. He was the first to disembark.
The Accountant followed, careful to remain behind the former mercenary. Hmph, he thought, without me here they wouldn’t even know who to get in to contact with. I’ll make you beg me for the information!
A shuttle delivered them from the hangar to the pickup-area. The four of them walked out from the gate, with the two beautiful women at the forefront. They gathered no small number of curious stares as they exited.
Today, Lan Jue was clad in a light grey suit. As ever, it was well fit and finely tailored. It made him look taller, and very handsome.
“Lan Jue.” The Accountant eagerly awaited the Jewelry Master’s request, ready to shut him down in retaliation for his poor treatment. Just as he was salivating at the prospect, that call shattered his dark fantasy.
Lan Jue waved towards the beckoning voice. Xiuxiu and Lin Guoguo followed dutifully as he walked over.
Su He was clad in a black track suit. He made a show of stepping forward to greet them, and embraced his former charge with a hug.
“You got here fast! We only just got back ourselves. I got your message and decided to just wait for you here. Just you three?”
“I’m invisible, I suppose,” the Accountant grumbled. “How do you two know each other?”
Su He shot the Skyfire representative a glance. “Ah, my bested opposition. You’re here, too, I see.”
Meaning the Keeper ↩
This is a very common Chinese offer, which doesn’t really mean what it says. Connections are very important in Chinese society, and the idea of ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ is one of the pillars of its societal foundation. However, you can also really ask for help from someone above your station if you have leverage; something they want, their respect, a mutual friend, etc. His insincerity is made clear when he mentioned’ or talk to Director Wu’, putting up a far more reasonable alternative for Lan Jue’s station as a junior teacher. ↩
Gotta appreciate his gumption! Would you be so eager to date a woman who can explode starships with her brain? Could you imagine having an argument with her? ‘Damnit honey, that’s the THIRD time you’ve made me punch myself in the face. Couples counceling just isn’t getting through to you. ↩