The classroom for National Scholars was located in the post-grad building. It was the most strict and rigorous area on campus, home to the most talented – and fortunate – students the NEU had to offer. Be it safety, learning environment or any other measure of respectability, the post-grad section of campus had the best of the best. And, average students were barred from entering.
In this, Lan Jue’s status as an instructor served him well. He proceeded unmolested to the classroom Zhou Qianlin had indicated. He pushed his way in to the post-grad building and took the stairs to the third floor. He followed the signs and quickly arrived at his intended destination. He stopped when he came across the sign.
Second Year National Scholars, Classroom Four.
Yup, this is the place. He stopped before the door and took a look at the time. Still ten minutes before class was slated to end.
It was then he discovered he wasn’t alone, standing there in the corridor. He was a handsome man, with blond hair and blue eyes, and a whip-thin figure. A strikingly large diamond stud twinkled on his left ear. The youth, seeing Lan Jue stop not far off, also swept his eyes over the newcomer.
He gave the kid a smile – and then froze. He knew, just then, that he’d seen this young man before. Could it be? That day, at the wedding… luminaries abound… was this the young man who was there to marry Zhou Qianlin? The man whose bride he stole?
It was, and if it wasn’t for his intervention that day, this would be Zhou Qianlin’s husband.
He was locked in place, thoughts running chaotically through his brain. His heart thumped raggedly in his chest. But despite what happened, what followed, he felt no pang of regret 1.
“You a teacher?” Richard asked.
Lan Jue simply nodded. He followed Richards eyes to his own clothing and understood why he might have asked.
“Good morning, professor,” the young man greeted politely.
“Good morning,” Lan Jue returned. He nodded, forcing that languid smile back on his face. He was no fool, and quickly deduced that the ‘trouble’ Qianlin had described was standing right in front of him. But it was strange… he was from the Western Alliance, and the wedding that day was as much for them as it was for political insurance. When it fell through, it was undoubtedly a great shame on both their illustrious families. In the face of a situation like this, what was he doing here? In school? In uniform? It was, in a word, weird.
Richard continued his polite inquiries. “Are you here looking for someone?”
“I am,” he said, nodding once again. “My cousin.”
He shot Lan Jue a bright smile. “Oh great! Your cousin goes to school here. I’m waiting for someone as well. My wife.”
“Wife?” For reason unknown, hearing those two words coming from the young man’s mouth made Lan Jue want to punch him in the face.
“Yup! The most beautiful girl in school. She should be finishing school soon. Look for the gorgeous one – that’s her.” Richard was almost bloated with pride.
Richard’s tutors were good and, seeing Lan Jue had no interest in speaking further he himself lapsed in to silence. He returned to his languid pose against the nearby wall and watched the door of the room, as though capable of seeing what was going on behind it.
It wasn’t long before classes ended. As the bell rang and students filed from their rooms, the once quiet hallway burst in to pandemonium. The door to the classroom opened and a teacher exited – no, a model.
The instructor wore a pair of pressed black pants, a short black blazer and a white shirt. Her black hair was pulled in to a tall bun on the top of her head, and black-framed glasses hung on her pert nose. But despite her severe choice of clothing, Lan Jue wasn’t off-put – but rather, intrigued.
The woman couldn’t have been older than twenty five – not much different than Lan Jue himself. Her big eyes were fetching, but it was her figure that caught one’s attention. She bore a graceful charm, the confidence and experience of an adult. Each curve of her figure seemed to go on forever, a playground for the eyes.
Richard, however, upon seeing her, unconsciously slid a little behind Lan Jue to hide.
“You again.” Her eyes, sharp like razors, landed instantly upon Richard. “I’ve told you already, stop harassing my students. I guess my warnings don’t mean any more to you than the air it takes to speak them. I honestly don’t care who you are, this is the National Eastern University. Three times already you’ve done this, and you know what they say about three strikes. We’re going to the teaching affairs office.”
She swept past Lan Jue like he didn’t existed, and grabbed Richard by the shoulder. “P-Professor Tan, now just wait a moment,” he said. “I’m not harassing Qianlin. I’m just here to meet her after class. I’m her husband!” He sputtered as Professor Tan tugged him along, and he likewise lifted a hand to resist.
But despite his protests Professor Tan appeared determined. Her tugs were fierce, and Richard’s poor attempts to extricate himself bore no results. She was like a force of nature, pulling him effortlessly through the hall. Richard’s struggles faltered when he suddenly lost control and feeling in half of his body, rendered nearly paralyzed by a shuddering gust of power from Professor Tan’s hand.
She was fierce! As Lan Jue looked on he was immediately reminded of Mika. The two were remarkably alike in some ways.
“And you are you?” Her piercing glare had turned to him, then. “At least this one’s wearing his uniform, which you have failed to do. You’re coming to the office, too.”
She hadn’t even finished before her right hand reached out like a claw for him.
“Ah?”Lan Jue opened his mouth, but she wasn’t interested in an answer. Her fingers stretched closer. Lan Jue had recognized right away when she reached for Richard that hers was an uncommon Discipline. But it was just that, uncommon. Nothing he had to worry about.
Almost without thought, Lan Jue raised a hand. Were this any other situation, the motion would have been sufficient to stop Professor Tan’s advance. But he’d forgotten that he wasn’t Zeus here – and regardless, an injured Zeus.
A blast of energy exuded from the Professor’s hand. Lan Jue, meanwhile, felt his upraised palm tremble. He tried to urge his Discipline to action, but a dull pain filled his chest and nothing happened. It was just enough time for Professor Tan to grip him with a pinching grip to his trapezius. The numbness that filled his body was almost instantaneous. Even his face froze up.
How novel! It was the first thought that entered his mind. Here he was, King of the Mercenaries, Ninth-Level Adept, with the power of Thunder and Lightning at his disposal, even capable of defeating the best the Pontiff’s Castle had to offer… snatched up by an angry teacher.
He couldn’t even remember the last time he felt like this! Professor Tan humphed in agitation and stomped off down the hall, dragging Richard and Lan Jue behind her.
Richard’s wide, innocent eyes shot towards Lan Jue. Zeus, meanwhile, was suffering from crippling unbidden facial convulsions. He wished desperately to employ his Discipline to escape the embarrassing situation, but this woman’s own capabilities were nothing to scoff at. Her claw-like fingers dug painfully in to his shoulder, and with his own body weakened from injury he found it difficult to fend off even the slightest assault.
Is this to be my piteous end, dragged to death like a dog? Disgraceful, utterly shameful. And my suit!…
Now, the only thing going through Lan Jue’s mind was the desperate desire that as few people as possible saw what was happening to him. But reality would be cruel and deny his pleas. Nearly every eye in the hall was on them. Teachers stood by their open doors, and every student was pressed along the walls. It was a nightmare, only real and happening before his twitching eyes.
“Hello Professor Tan.”
“Good morning Professor.”
She stomped past each overly polite student. With each greeting Lan Jue keenly felt their eyes following him. Gone, all gone! His illustrious name. All he could do was shut his eyes and wish for death. Professor Tan, meanwhile, nodded to each of her greeters and kept on.
Zhou Qianlin never liked the crowds when classes ended. As a result she was often the last to leave the classroom. He must be here, she thought. Richard too. I wonder if he saw him…
Richard had enrolled and arrived at school only a few days prior. Since then, he’d come calling after every class, for all the world acting like they were a wedded couple. Of course by any measure, ceremonial or legal, the two of them had no relationship. But Zhou Qianlin had been patient with him. She felt guilty – but the reason…
She pushed past the door and stood in the hall, looking left and right.
“Eh? Where is everyone?”
The trepidation in her heart from seeing the young men again subsided, replaced by confusion.
“The Savage Goddess put on another display, lost art of torture and public humiliation. The two guys didn’t even see her coming, poor bastards. Looks like she was in a bad mood today.”
The words of the passing student reached her ears. Savage Goddess? That’s what they call Professor Tan. Nice enough lady, but that temper…
It was likely Richard was the victim. He’d already tried several times to meet her here, and the last time was explicitly warned against it. But the second? It couldn’t… was the second Lan Jue?
The concept flabbergasted her. How could that be, with Lan Jue as strong as he was? Professor Tan was something else, but surely no match for him.
Teaching Affairs Office.
“Director Wu, these two gentlemen have been harassing my students. I demand they get an official warning and reprimand from the school.” Tan Lingyun practically howled her demands.
“Eh? Professor Lan? What in the world are you doing here? Didn’t you just get back, and now you’re harassing students? Ugh, Professor Tan let go of him immediately.” Wu Junyi stared slack-jawed at the teacher who’d just moments before he was praising.
Lan jue’s eyes were still shut tightly from shame and grief.
Gone! Finished! My reputation!