Li Yao's cheeks were flushed in embarrassment. He faltered and failed to give an answer.
Yuan Manqiu misunderstood his awkwardness. She said in a comforting voice, "Students of the Grand Desolate War Institution are all grown-ups. The institution does not forbid students and teachers being in a relationship. Your situation is special, too. You've been more than qualified for graduation based on the facts that you passed the Refiners' Registration Examination and the three months' training in the Thunder Training Camp. Now, you are already a research associate of the institution. So, there is no need to worry about the code of conduct."
"It's not like that, professor."
Li Yao tried to explain, vaguely, "Ding Lingdang and I are only training partners."
After saying that, Li Yao felt somewhat both jealous and lost.
He was dazed. He didn't understand why he felt that way.
Yuan Manqiu was surprised. She stared at him for a long time before she said, "Li Yao, I've read the report from the Thunder Training Camp which concluded your advantages and disadvantages that were observed during your three-month training. The Thunder Training Camp gave you a high score in every regard. There was only one shortcoming: you are too crazy about training."
Li Yao didn't understand, "What's wrong with training crazily?"
Yuan Manqiu was quiet for some time. Then she continued, not without sadness, "Li Yao, do you know the one thing that I regret most in my entire life?
"One year ago, the night before what we thought would be the day of the Project Mystic Skeleton's success, Old Mo told me that he made a reservation in a nice restaurant and he wanted us to go to dinner alone to celebrate it in advance.
"When the refinement of the super-compressed crystal reactor succeeded the next day, the entire Refining Department would definitely celebrate together in great joy. There wouldn't be private space for us.
"However, I turned him down, because of an unimportant data assessment task.
"Over the years before that, we had fully devoted ourselves to the Project Mystic Skeleton like two fanatics. We barely expressed our feelings to each other. Our meals were either eaten in the school cafeteria or were takeaways that a lot of people gathered together to eat. I could hardly remember when was the last time that Old Mo and I went out for a serious dinner.
"At that time, I always thought that it was not important. Training and research were what mattered most.
"Also, after the Project Mystic Skeleton succeeded, we would have the rest of our lives to share with each other.
"I was wrong.
"You know what happened the next day.
"I don't regret that I left Deep Sea University; I don't regret that I walked on the path of the grassroot refinement ideology. Even Old Mo's accident by itself never shook my perseverance in Cultivation.
"But I deeply, deeply regret that I didn't go out to dinner with him that night.
"Even if one day the Mystic Skeleton Battlesuit is successfully refined and the Refining Department of the Grand Desolate War Institution becomes famous all over the world, I'll never have the opportunity to talk with Old Mo about our sufferings in the past decades and share the happiness of success with each other at a dinner table anymore."
Li Yao sniffed. He felt that something deep down his heart was touched.
Yuan Manqiu sighed and said solemnly, "Crazily training is good. Greatness cannot be achieved without obsession. How can you break the barrier of Cultivation without a bit of craziness? But bear in mind that the purpose of Cultivation is to become a genuine human being, instead of a training machine.
"Refinement, Building Foundation, Core Formation, Nascent Soul, Spirit Transformation the path of Cultivation never ends.
"There are countless worlds in the boundless cosmos.
"But the precious things in your life are likely to be gone forever before you can appreciate them.
"And once they're gone, you can't find them again even if you become the best Cultivator in the entire universe.
"Remember, you are, first and foremost, a human being and then a Cultivator. Training is important, but it's more important to be a human being first.
"Therefore, I want you to withdraw from your crazy training for a moment and examine the beautiful things in your life.
"Only after you've tasted the beauty of life can you face brutal battles valiantly; only after you found the things that you cherish most can you understand the true meaning of Cultivation."
Li Yao bit his lips. He was breathing hard. His eyes beamed out two thin lights.
He felt his brain was in a mess.
Many memory pieces that looked like glittering glass surged in his brain and gathered into a giant smile, a smile so contagious that anyone who saw it would immediately start smiling, too.
Yuan Manqiu said seriously, "Ms. Ding's mother was also a faculty member of the Grand Desolate War Institution. She was a colleague of mine for decades. Although our research fields were different, and we didn't communicate a lot, I have been very familiar with her daughter ever since she was a little girl. Ms. Ding is a good girl. But her parents' accident was too much for her. She has been somewhat stuck in the mire of Cultivation.
"For years, she has been a lunatic in training like yourself. There is nothing but training, training and training in her head.
"You are the first one to have ever disrupted her training and let her forget it temporarily."
Li Yao opened his mouth, but he didn't know what to say.
Yuan Manqiu glared.
"Don't you dare say again that the purpose of you meeting each other alone at midnight is for training! Why don't you come to me for training at midnight?"
Failing to come up with any rebuttal, Li Yao shut his mouth.
Yuan Manqiu glanced at him and told him one last shocking message, "The day before you reached out to the outside world again, when everyone thought that you were dead, Ding Lingdang was the only one determined to go to search for you in the Dark Desolate Domain. She even cried in front of the principal."
Li Yao's head went blank. The world seemed to have turned into a giant cloud on which he was standing dizzily.
He jumped up and dashed out.
"I'm going to find her now!"
Li Yao was running through the campus.
It was a cool autumn day. Red leaves that looked like fire were everywhere on the ground, burning Li Yao's feet and pushing him to be faster and faster.
Ding Lingdang and he were back in touch several days ago. But during their talk via the spiritual crane messenger, she was talking and laughing as usual and never mentioned anything about her rescue plan.
"Why didn't she tell me?
"Did she really cry?"
Every moment since they first met each other popped up in Li Yao's head. It was not until now that Li Yao realized he remembered everything so clearly, as if he had a crystal processor inside his body that recorded Ding Lingdang's every smile.
Ba bump! Ba bump! Ba bump!
Li Yao's heart was beating like drumming and his sweat was pouring from his forehead. He felt more anxious than when he was faced with the two demon general hunters.
Rushing all his way, and by a lift in the end, Li Yao finally arrived at the floating mountain of the Combat Department.
Yuan Manqiu told him that Ding Lingdang would be teaching the physical exercise class for the freshmen of the Combat Department.
Although there was still a long way head, Li Yao was already able to see Ding Lingdang dashing like wind and fire kicking dozens of freshmen down before she roared that they needed to do long-distance running while carrying plates of hundreds of kilograms.
Li Yao couldn't help but smile.
She was just like the old days, a phoenix flying in fire that would never stop on the ground.
Li Yao sat cross-legged beside the playground, leaning on one of his elbows while waiting for the class to be over.
Or rather, he was waiting for the class not to be over. It felt good to watch her dancing cheerfully so far away.
Soon, Ding Lingdang noticed him and put on a big smile.
"Look over there!"
"Ms. Ding is smiling! So gently!"
"Are my eyes deceiving me? I never saw such an expression on Ms. Ding's face before. What's going on? Has she been possessed by a devil?"
The freshmen were all stupefied. Many of them, not realizing that their plates had fallen on their feet, didn't even scream out in pain. The playground was caught in a weird vibe.
Their school had started only a few days ago, but they had all learned the toughness of Ding Lingdang already. Ms. Ding was truly a devil in training. Her crazy training methodology had put the most enthusiastic students in tears.
After consulting the sophomore students, they learnt more history about this human-shape tyrannosaurus.
Apart from everything else, the fact that she was the sole female president of the Iron Fist Club was evident enough of her resolution.
Never would they ever believe that Ding Lingdang had such a personality that could almost be called 'sexy', which fascinated all of them.
"Who's this guy? He has an air of sharpness around him, like a wild beast that just came out of the forest!"
"He seems to be coming for Ms. Ding. Look! Ms. Ding's eyesight has never been away from him for even a single second ever since he came here. Wow! She smiled again! Did you see that? A smile with so much femininity! Ms. Ding must've been put under a spell!"
"Ms. Ding walked to him. Ms. Ding opened her arms. Wow! They hugged! Hugging, not tugging!"
"Could he be the 'Vulture', Li Yao, the legendary strongest man of the new generation of the Grand Desolate War Institution?"
"That's right. It must be him. But the reason why he is the well-acknowledged strongest man of the new generation is not because of his credits or his achievement in the Limit Challenge Competition, but, according to sources, because he is very likely to be Ms. Ding's boyfriend!"
Countless eyes gazed at Li Yao in admiration.
To think that he could tame a human-shaped tyrannosaurus! No wonder he was the new legend of the Grand Desolate War Institution! What a godlike man!
The roof of Ding Lingdang's house was surrounded by bamboos. Lying on the roof, one would feel like sailing in a sea of bamboos with nature as the helmsman. It was quiet and peaceful.
Stars were dancing in the sky. Their brilliance gathered and formed a big smile.
Li Yao shook his head to get rid of the illusion. He rubbed his face hard.
Ding Lingdang came out through the skylight. She laughed when she saw Li Yao's grimace, "What are you doing?"
Work-life balance is very important both in the cultivation world and in real life.
Reading a few chapters of webnovel might be a good rest after tedious work or studies.
Or at least we hope so.
May you all live long and prosper.