Lan Jue: You’re an amazing girl, and I like you very much. You’re perfect in so many ways. Had I met you before I met your sister, I’m sure I would have loved you as I love her. Like her, I wouldn’t be able to give you up. But that’s not the case. Your sister is gone, and she took my heart with her. Give me some time, please. I will never be able to forget her, but I’ll keep trying to put the pain away. If I can, then my heart is yours. Any other way would be unfair to you. Will you wait for me?
Zhou Qianlin quietly listened to Lan Jue’s confessions through the Spirit Caller gem. When she lifted her head, her eyes were puffy and red. Tears traced wet lines down her cheeks.
Don’t cry. Don’t cry. He told her through their soundless connection.
Qianlin: Who likes you, huh? Stop trying to make yourself feel better!
Lan Jue: You’re right, I’m trying to make myself feel better. Don’t cry!
Ah! The cry was from Zhou Qianlin. Lan Jue felt his whole body tense up and then, he was flying through the airship’s fuselage.
Time slowed as he was in the air. He could clearly see Tan Lingyun’s hand gripping his shoulder. That’s what had pulled him up. He fought against his instinct, going through the many ways he might be able to free himself from this situation, but he’d break his cover.
“I…” Lan Jue had just enough time to lament his misfortune.
Bang! An instant later, he was a crumpled heap on the floor.
Tan Lingyun had ‘gone easy,’ at least considering what she was capable of. She’d only thrown him around through the air instead of doing any real damage. If she had chosen to use her full strength, it would have ended very poorly for Lan Jue.
All eyes were drawn to the sudden, dramatic turn of events. Tan Lingyun was on her feet, glaring down at the dizzy etiquette teacher. “Clearly you weren’t paying attention to anything I said,” she growled.
“I didn’t do anything!” Lan Jue looked up at her, his face pained and pleading.
Tan Lingyun’s eyes flashed dangerous, and she jabbed a finger toward Zhou Qianlin. “You didn’t do anything? Why is the arm rest between you two up then, huh? Why is Qianlin crying? You absolutely did something!”
Her screaming had attracted the attention of nearly the entire airship. Everyone nearby were faculty from the school, and they looked on in shock from their seats. Wang Hongyuan and Jin Yan, who had just sat down, were especially stunned.
“You must be mistaken, Professor Tan.” Jin Yan’s pleasant voice spoke up, and she stepped forward to insert herself in the exchange. She reached down to help Lan Jue to his feet.
“The truth is right in front of us,” she snarled. “How can I be mistaken? You mustn’t be taken in by his appearance – this man is a cancer!”
The bile rising within him wouldn’t be denied, and he couldn’t help but speak up. “A cancer! I haven’t done a single thing to you, ever! And yet you’re always focusing your anger on me. I’m not bothering anyone!”
To this, Tan Lingyun huffed. “I can’t stand weaklings like you. Such a little bitch.”
“Alright, what’s going on!” Just then, the air marshals onboard became involved.
The two gentlemen were tall, and carried powerful equipment to deal with trouble makers. The most frightening thing for any airship operator was encountering mischief in flight. As a result, the marshals were always well armed, and treated exceedingly well. They’d only been in the air for a short time, and with all this ruckus they came running in a hurry.
“You’re just in time,” Tan Lingyun said. “This man is bullying your passengers. I think he should be isolated. I refuse to fly with him.”
“Me?!” Lan Jue’s anger was bubbling out of his control. Her constant abuse and the unwanted attention was more than he could handle.
Before the marshal’s could respond, a small sheepish voice interrupted. “That’s not right. Professor Lan didn’t do anything to me. You’re mistaken, Professor Tan.” This was, of course, Zhou Qianlin.
The Savage Goddess’ brows furrowed. “Don’t be scared, Qianlin. There’s no need to try and placate this waste of space.”
Qianlin continued. “No Professor, you’re wrong. I was thinking about family matters, that’s why I was crying. I pulled up the armrest so I could go to the bathroom. That’s when you…”
Tan Lingyun looked at her skeptically. “Are you sure?”
“You forget that I was part of the ARC class, Professor,” she answered. “He’s weak, so even if he did want to do something, I’d be able to protect myself just fine.”
Tan Lingyun couldn’t refute the logic. Although Qianlin had been among the weakest of the ARC participants, but she had completed the entire program on her own. Compared to any normal person, she was far stronger.
Lan Jue’s face alternated between a sickly green and a furious red. This was her plan? She was just as bad! She even looked pleased!
“I’m sorry, gentlemen. It looks like this was all a misunderstanding.” By now Director Wu had finally deigned to intervene. He spoke to the two marshals. “These two are teachers from my university. They seem to be having some trouble getting along. I do apologize. We’re sorry to trouble you. I’m the NEU teaching director, so I’ll handle this from here. I’ll make sure they don’t cause any more trouble.”
He was all smiles until the marshals left. This his face darkened dangerously as he looked toward Tan Lingyun.
“I have told you more times than I can count, Professor. You cannot just react, you need to understand before you decide to get involved! You’re far too impulsive! Apologize to your co-worker! How could you treat him so poorly, then expect him to behave the way you like?”
Tan Linyun looked between Wu Junyi’s face – dark as a thunderhead – to Lan Jue’s murderous scowl. Her mouth curled in to a distasteful frown. “Sorry,” she muttered.
Lan Jue ground his teeth so hard he thought they might shatter. If it hadn’t had been for Director Wu’s involvement, Lan Jue wasn’t sure he’d be able to constrain himself much longer. This Savage Goddess was a damn nightmare! He had to train. He had to keep training until he got his strength back, then one day he’d show her how wrong she was.
“Hmph!” He stomped back to his seat without any of the degrading begging from before. He crumpled in to that uncomfortable position and yanked the armrest down between he and Zhou Qianlin.
Director Wu turned his attention to the cabin full of lookie-looes. “Alright. Get back to your seats, there’ nothing to see here.”
As he returned to his own seat, he sighed inwardly. Ah, Linyun, this woman… She was handed a golden opportunity, and made a mess of it. Can’t she see how differently Qianlin looks at Lan Jue now? You’ve been around him for so long already, and you still you can’t see what kind of person he is.
Of course, he couldn’t tell her this. It was a thought he could share only with himself. Worse still, now the situation between Lan Jue and Tan Lingyun looked even more hopeless.
Lan Jue sulked quietly in his chair. He busied himself with conjuring up a hundred ways to torment Tan Lingyun. But alas, a proper man did not strike a woman. There would be no redemption for him. Moreover, though she had a very coarse exterior, Tan Lingyun was – somewhere deep inside – a good person. But these realizations only made Lan Jue more depressed. Taking out his frustrations on a good woman was even worse.
Alas, this woman was his bane. He was absolutely sure the only way to fix the situation was to stay away as far away as possible.
Lan Jue once more felt a light touch at his right shoulder. Lan Jue remained absolutely still, as though he never felt anything at all.
She tapped him again. Then her voice came through the Spirit Caller gem.
Qianlin: Are you upset?
Lan Jue: No.
Qianlin: It was Professor Tan who threw you. Why are you upset with me?
Lan Jue: Don’t think I didn’t see that smirk of yours when that whole thing was happening!
That’s right, I was just letting off some steam. Sometimes I wish I could beat you myself.
Qianlin covered her mouth, and forcibly choked back a laugh.
Lan Jue: No! Wait!!
Qianlin snickered, shoving him lightly with her shoulder.
Watcha gunna do about it?
Me? Lan Jue silently stretched out a hand and placed it on one of Qianlin’s long thin legs.
Suddenly Qianlin’s self-satisfied smirk froze. Strangely, her first reaction was not to push Lan Jue’s hand away – instead, her eyes immediately shot toward Tan Lingyun. She used her sweater to hide his hand.
The temperamental woman was not paying attention. Her eyes were closed as she rested. She didn’t seem the least upset by Director Wu’s rebuke, and it was unlikely she took anything he’d said to heart.
Qianlin: What are you doing?! Let go.
Lan Jue: Shit, I already have a bad reputation. I might as well try a few bad things!
Qianlin: Let go or I’ll scream!
Lan Jue: Go ahead.
Qianlin: You seem to be forgetting something.
Lan Jue: Oh yeah? What’s that?
Gzzt! The cocky Lan Jue felt a jolt of electricity sear up his arm, forcing him to instinctively retracted his hand. Half his body went numb.
He did forget. The moment they touch, Qianlin becomes his equal.
The airship continued on its way, ignorant of the drama occurring within. It entered light speed a little while later, where they would remain for a day’s time as they reached the next jump point.
Lan Jue nested in his seat, about as uncomfortable as one could get. He didn’t dare open the armrest between himself and Qianlin now, after what had happened. He was legitimately terrified of Tan Lingyun. Getting thrown around wasn’t a big deal. The worst was the disgrace! What a loss of face!
The trip and excitement had exhausted many of the passenger, who now were also feeling the discomfort of economy class. Zhou Qianlin was asleep beside him, unknowingly leaned against him with her head on his shoulder. Her body felt soft, and a sweet fragrance surrounded her. Finally, he thought, something peaceful and gentle in this trial of a journey.
Tan Lingyun saw it, too, and watched with a strange look in her eye. She wasn’t stupid, and the moment she heard Qianlin’s defense of Lan Jue she knew something was up.
Seeing the young girl leaning against him made it even clearer. There was definitely something strange about their relationship!