Chapter 16-Great Changes Are Coming
The man was their headmaster!
The headmaster of the Sky Academy, Zhuang Huayang!
And the woman was the deputy director of the teaching of the Sky Academy, Qin Ke.
Both Li Baitian and Li Tianlan felt startled. In fact, they should not be surprised to see either of them at anytime, anywhere.
But it was a little unexpected to see them at this time, in this place.
This was the first internal maneuver for freshmen, and the maze was, of course, a very important place. But their headmaster and deputy director of the teaching hid silently in a dead end of the maze. What did it mean by that?
Were they playing hide and seek?
If Li Tianlan hadn’t heard that Zhuang Huayang was Qin Ke’s real grandfather, he might even have suspected that the two had an improper relationship.
Li Tianlan exhaled softly and regained his composure in an instant. He bent slightly toward Zhuang Huayang, then straightened up and looked at Qin Ke. “Hello, Director Qin.” He greeted her with a respectful smile.
Qin Ke let out a sneer and still stared at Li Tianlan sternly.
In sharp contrast to Qin Ke, Zhuang Huayang nodded to Li Tianlan with a smile on his face. He looked at Li Tianlan as if he were looking at a very rare and valuable object.
This kind of look in his eyes was similar to that of Wang Yuetong at Li Tianlan a few minutes ago, but it was not completely the same.
Wang Yuetong’s eyes were full of interest, and at the same time, there were testing, curiosity, and guess.
Zhuang Huayang’s eyes too were full of interest, but with a hint of understanding.
Li Tianlan was still smiling, as if he was wearing a mask on his face, but his heart was completely on guard.
“Are they here because the old man knows who I am?” He wondered.
“Or it’s because I had a fight with Qin Ke?”
“But in that fight, Qin Ke did not suffer, and I was badly wounded. Is Zhuang Huayang here to block my way for the sake of that teacher Zhou Mo?” Li Tianlan speculated in his mind.
“How could he?”
For a few seconds, in this dead end of the maze, all four of them had their backs to the wall of black brick, and the atmosphere in this corner became very solemn and depressing instantly.
Li Baitian wiped the sweat from his forehead and straightened up quietly. He focused, stand beside Li Tianlan, and seemed to have made up his mind.
Qin Ke’s eyes hardened as she noticed the detail.
At this moment, there were footsteps behind them.
Ning Qiancheng, Wang Yuetong, and Yu Qingyan followed Li Tianlan into the dead end at the same time. And at the sight of Zhuang Huayang and Qin Ke, they also showed a little consternation.
Qin Ke’s expression did not change.
Zhuang Huayang still wore an amiable countenance. He nodded with a smile and replied. “Hello, guys.”
“Headmaster, why are you and Director Qin here?”
Behind Li Tianlan, Wang Yuetong had a kind of vacant look on her pretty little face, but she glanced at him quickly with her thoughtful eyes.
In the entrance maneuver, it was unusual for two senior members of the school to show up to meet a group of freshmen. Intuitively, Wang Yuetong felt it must have something to do with Li Tianlan.
She felt this way not only because Li Tianlan was very likely to have been in the most secret maze, but also because she had a kind of indescribable intuition.
Wang Yuetong had always trusted her instincts, and this time they told her that Li Tianlan was rather suspicious.
The young man was too quiet, neither sharp nor imposing. He stood casually, and as the core of these people, he was so quiet that others could not help but ignore him.
Still, waters ran deep. In a trance, Wang Yuetong had a feeling that he was unfathomable.
Of the five people present, Li Baitian and Ning Qiancheng had powerful backing, but they were not powerful enough for Zhuang Huayang to meet them in person in the maneuver.
Yu Qingyan was sort of like Zhuang Huayang’s sworn granddaughter, and to avoid arousing suspicion, he was more likely to stay away from her on purpose than to see her in person.
As for Wang Yuetong herself, she had already been visited by Zhuang Huayang and some of the senior staff of Sky Academy when she was enrolled, so there was no need for him to see her again now.
Then, the mystery Li Tianlan was probably the one Zhuang Huayang wanted to see.
Sure enough, Zhuang Huayang’s next words confirmed the accuracy of Wang Yuetong’s intuition.
“I have something to communicate with Li Tianlan. It won’t take much time and hold up your valuable time of maneuver. Do you mind, guys?”
Zhuang Huayang said with a smile. As one of the top 10 experts in the Zhongzhou State, he appeared to be a man with a good temper and had a smile on his face no matter what happened. And thus he made a good first impression.
Only a fool would say they minded.
The other four shook their heads, but either by accident or design, no one offered them any privacy. Since the headmaster didn’t ask for it, they were willing to pretend they didn’t realize it.
Zhuang Huayang just smiled at Li Tianlan, waiting for him to say something.
“Headmaster, what do you want to talk to me about? Please go ahead.”
Li Tianlan said respectfully.
Zhuang Huayang was still smiling, but his eyes had become sharp. “Li Tianlan, why do you come to the Sky Academy?” he asked.
It was a question that was easy or hard to answer, because it seemed to ask Li Tianlan about his goal, or whether he had other purposes.
“I don’t understand what you mean, Headmaster Zhuang,” Li Tianlan said in a slow way, looking quite cool.
“Well, I’ll put it in a more concrete way.”
Zhuang Huayang narrowed his eyes and went, “Do you have a goal when you come to the Sky Academy? Are you like many freshmen, planning to earn credits here in order to graduate? Are you here to muddle along, and to be assigned to an officer after you graduate, which could ensure that you are properly fed and clothed and even have a bright future?”
Li Tianlan’s look remained the same. “I want to be number one.” He replied and looked at Zhuang Huayang right in the eye.
Zhuang Huayang gave a little chuckle, not surprised. “At the Sky Academy, some students fail to graduate and have to stay for some reason. Some of them don’t have enough credits for ordinary graduation in three years, and they have half a year to make up the credits. And there are a few people who, due to bad luck or some other special reasons, end up missing out on the first place that everyone wants. These students were the most powerful ones in their class, and they will mix with the freshmen and start over. In other words, they’re going to compete with you. That means you’re competing for first place not only with the people you have seen, but also with some of your seniors. Under such circumstances, you have the confidence to take the first place?”
“Yes, I have.”
Li Tianlan responded without hesitation. It was a deep, not loud voice, but the people present could tell his confidence from his words.
He sounded pretty confident!
“You really are ambitious!”
Zhuang Huayang smiled, and added, “So your goal is to be number one and to be a giant, a big shot that matters and fights for our country?”
Li Tianlan nodded solemnly. He did not speak, but he exuded an aura of determination to achieve this goal even if he had to sacrifice his life.
“Oh, I have a question then.”
Zhuang Huayang shook his head and made a sigh. “Why do you want to keep a low profile when you have great power, ambition, and confidence? Li Tianlan, what are you trying to hide?” He inquired.
“If you want to be number one, you have to be so remarkable at all aspects that it’s hard not to get noticed. You even must be first in everything. If you pretend to be an ordinary student, how can you not arouse suspicion? You’re so low key and mysterious, even if all of us can resist the curiosity to explore your secrets, even if you graduate first, what does it matter? You still can’t win the trust of the state. In the end, it’s just a useless effort. Is it good for you?”
Li Tianlan’s body shook violently, and for an instant, he was drenched in cold sweat.
“What does it matter even if I graduated first when I deliberately keep a low profile to hide my identity, not to be known?”
“After the case of treason, the top brass of the Zhongzhou State is wary of hiring people. How can you be a giant if you are capable but not trusted? Even if I don’t ask you what you’re trying to keep a secret, others will, such as Director Gu, Gu Yunxia. She is mainly responsible for the ideological education of the whole school students. You look so shady that she will definitely target you. Why bother?”
“I’m not shady!”
Li Tianlan denied that very emphatically, but he actually had fallen into great confusion.
“Why did Zhuang Huayang specially mention the treason case and point out Gu Yunxia? Does this old man really know who I am? Did Yu Donglai tell him about it? It’s a very sensitive matter; does Yu Donglai dare to tell him? Can Zhuang Huayang be trusted then?”
“Not shady? Maybe.”
Zhuang Huayang put on a gentle smile, looked at Li Tianlan abruptly, and asked, “Li Tianlan, do you dare to trust me? Trust your headmaster?”
Li Tianlan slightly squinted at Zhuang Huayang as the mask of softness he had been wearing on his face seemed to be fading away. Eventually, his eyes grew suspicious and cold.
“What’s the difference?”
“If you trust me, please give it a go! On my honor and the life of my family, I will, at any rate, do my utmost to secure your safety for a year!”
Zhuang Huayang said gravely, looking into the cold eyes in front of him. Then, taking a deep breath and ignoring everyone’s sudden change of expression, he continued, “Of course, if you don’t trust me, just pretend that I never told you this and that we never met today.”
Wang Yuetong, as an onlooker, had been watching it as a drama, but now her eyes changed rapidly and her breathing was a little short.
Zhuang Huayang had given Li Tianlan the security which any man, even her family, so badly needed.
“But why?” She wondered in shock.
Only Li Tianlan remained as calm as the water. “I’m flattered, headmaster. How can I not trust you, but please give me a reason.”
Zhuang Huayang’s smile was wide open. “There are many reasons, but I can only tell you two. First, Boss Qin takes you very seriously, and she persuaded Old Yu to ask me to keep you safe for one year. In this way, she and Old Yu own me a favor respectively. Second, I am willing to protect you because of my respect for something or someone.”
A silence followed then.
After a long silence, Li Tianlan finally replied in an indifferent voice. “In that case, I owe you one too, headmaster.”
Zhuang Huayang’s smile was even brighter, for he knew that the purpose of his talk had been achieved. “Then I will wait and see your result of the maneuver,” he said with a nod.
“Okay, just wait and see.”
Li Tianlan answered, and his eyes were calm and cold.
Zhuang Huayang laughed and turned around a little.
Then a light flashed in front of the wall of black brick, and he and Qin Ke disappeared in an instant.
Li Tianlan stood where he was, deep in thought.
Ning Qiancheng and Li Baitian stood on either side of him, looking solemn.
Yu Qingyan looked muddleheaded.
Only Wang Yuetong vaguely felt that she had witnessed something important.
At the same time.
On another road less than 30 meters away from Li Tianlan, Zhuang Huayang and Qin Ke appeared again.
The air around them was distorted, but everything was still and soundless. Freshmen kept passing by a few meters away, but none of them noticed their presence.
“Grandpa, why are you helping him like this?”
Qin Ke asked, standing beside Zhuang Huayang. There was no discontent in her words, only some doubt.
Zhuang Huayang gave her a subtle smile and stated. “‘Li taixu and Ning Qiancheng, two of the top 10 young experts, are willing to follow him around. What’s more, Wang Yuetong is now paying very much attention to him. Thus, it is proof that he has come into the sights of some of those big shots behind the three. Why don’t I help a person like him?”
“Is that all?”
Qin Ke asked earnestly, staring at her grandfather’s face carefully.
Zhuang Huayang was silent for a moment before he shook his head gently in the expectant look in his granddaughter’s eyes. “Didn’t you always try to ask me where I was the other day?” he said gravely.
Qin Ke nodded faintly.
“Actually, I didn’t go anywhere else,” Zhuang Huayang said after laughing at himself. “I’ve been at the Sky Academy, watching Li Tianlan in his room. You don’t know, and neither does he.”
Qin Ke’s countenance suddenly became extremely strange. “He has been meditating every day for the last few days. Qin Ke, have you ever seen a man who has not yet entered the Four Realms of Martial Arts spend more than 16 hours a day in deep meditation?” he continued while looking at her face.
Qin Ke said flatly, “I’m at the Thunder-shocking Realm, but I can only meditate for 10 hours a day at most. I can’t even meditate for 16 hours.”
In terms of sitting still, Qin Ke, as an expert at the Thunder-shocking Realm, was able to do it for a few days. But meditation was different from sitting still. What meditators pursued was the state of losing themselves and to absolutely concentrate and focus concentration on their own will. Qin Ke was now an expert at the Thunder-shocking Realm and could only make her will maintain absolute concentration for 10 hours. If she wanted to improve, she could only do it over and over again, one more minute this time, two more minutes next time. The longer she meditated, the faster she progressed.
With Qin Ke’s current state, her limit of absolute concentration was only 10 hours. Once she meditated for more than 10 hours, her mind faltered, and if she forced herself to do so, the effect would be reversed.
A man who could meditate deeply for 16 hours must have entered the Four Realms of Martial Arts. With so strong will, a man would be definitely able to get into the Fire-flaming Realm even if he had been a fool.
With a complicated smile and complicated eyes, Zhuang Huayang looked in Li Tianlan’s direction and whispered, “Isn’t there one?”
At this moment, even if Qin Ke had some speculation, she was still shocked speechless.
“How could that be?”
She murmured, breathing deeply.
“Nothing is impossible. He meditated not just 16 hours a day, but for days on end. I wanted to see how long he could last, but…”
Zhuang Huayang shook his head with regret.
Qin Ke asked subconsciously.
“But I couldn’t hold on. I watched him for three days in a row and almost starved to death.”
“With his identity, talent and family, I am willing to keep him safe for a year.”
Zhuang Huayang gave a sigh again.
“His identity? His family?”
Qin Ke frowned and said nothing, but wondering what her grandfather had found during those days.
“Because of Li Tianlan, Weakness Li, Ning Qiancheng, Qin Weibai, Yu Donglai and I have now become pawns of the people who set the tables in the dark. See how many forces have been involved? In recent years, there has always seemed to be a hidden force driving something, and now it seems more and more obvious. No matter who is behind Li Tianlan, what he is going to do can be earth-shaking.”
Zhuang Huayang shook his head and then laughed sarcastically. “But today that stupid Gu Yunxia brought up the treason case once again. Now it seems that this matter is likely to help the hidden man unintentionally. It’s getting more and more interesting.”
Qin Ke twitched the corners of her mouth, and coldly said, “What Director Gu has done at the welcome ceremony for freshmen today is completely beneath her.”
Zhuang Huayang shook his head again and put out. “She had no choice. Gu Yunxia is just a pioneer and can only follow the trend. What the person behind her is nothing but a fierce weapon. Everything behind Li Tianlan is really horrifying when you think about it carefully. This is just the beginning, but it has already caused a stir. What kind of dramatic situation will it lead to once it breaks out in its entirety?”
“Grandpa, you mean…”
Qin Ke Qin hesitated for a second and asked tentatively, “Do you think this will involve the Palace Master behind Qin Weibai? Or is it all secretly planned by him?”
As a mysterious rising figure in Huating in recent years, whether Qin Weibai had a backer in the Zhongzhou State was still rarely known, but people with a little status all know her backer in the dark world.
“I don’t think so.”
Zhuang Huayang thought for a while, shook his head very slowly and said, “He is abroad now. The aid is too slow to be helpful. No matter how invincible he is, it is impossible to proceed or step back freely under the attack of the Human Emperor. Neither the one with the Human Emperor nor the one behind Gu Yunxia will allow him to enter the Zhongzhou State unless he wants to die.”
He took a deep breath, looked up at the sky and murmured, “The wind is now rising…”
“Grandpa, do you remember what Semi-immortal Xuan Xuan said when he appeared in Youzhou a few years ago?”
Qin Ke asked all of a sudden.
“He spoke of the one with the Human Emperor as learning both sound in theory and practice’, didn’t he? That old fellow just deliberately mystified others.”
In front of his granddaughter, Zhuang Huayang was dismissive of the legend Taoist, who was something of a semi-immortal in the Zhongzhou State.
“Deliberately mystified others? Grandpa, do you really mean it? Xuan Xuanzi is well-known in the Zhongzhou State. He seldom speaks, but when he does, he never says something wrong, not to mention his legendary deeds of locking the dragon vein for 30 years in the Zhongzhou State.”
Qin Ke said disapprovingly.
“Why do you mention that old guy Xuan Xuanzi?”
Speaking of the famous semi-immortal in the Zhongzhou State, Zhuang Huayang was obviously a little irritable.
“When he saw the one who owned the Human Emperor, he said the person was both sound in theory and practice. But, grandpa, do you still remember what he said when he saw the super big shot behind Director Gu?”
Qin Ke demanded in a serious tone.
Zhuang Huayang squinted thoughtfully.
“When a peerless genius one appears, the disaster will come; the peerless genius will cope with the disaster, but who is the peerless genius?”
Qin Ke said, word for word. “Grandpa, great changes are coming to the dark world. We should make early preparation.”
Zhuang Huayang did not speak, just silently looking at Li Tianlan with meaning, who was still standing in the same place thinking tens of meters away.