Chapter 78 Man vs Gun
Ten minutes earlier. Another lecture hall inside the academic building...
Of all things Kris had expected to experience during this trip, hearing a gunshot in the middle of the day definitely wasn't one of them. For one, it didn't make sense at all, since China had one of the strictest gun control regulations in the world.
"Kris... Was that... was that a gunshot?" John said.
They were having a lecture. Well, had been having a lecture, since the lecture hall was now eerily silent. All the students were looking at each other in shock, and the professor was frantically searching for his phone. Nope. No lecture going on here.
"Duh," Kris said while standing up, then shot John a hopeful look. "Can you tell where it came from?"
"Err... Upstairs I think," John said, pausing for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, definitely upstairs."
John might be all brawn and no brains, but Kris had to admit that his combat experience came in handy at times. Kris fumbled around in her backpack for the stuff she knew she'd need: notebook; pen; tape recorder...
"Hey, wait a minute... Upstairs..." John said, grabbing Kris's arm all of a sudden. "Isn't Sheep Poo having his lecture upstairs?"
"I think so," Kris said, freeing her arms from John's grasp. I don't have time for this... I can't miss this chance. Kris found her phone, then disconnected it from the power bank. She glanced at the screen. 70% battery. That would do. She stuffed her phone into her back pocket, then made a beeline for the lecture hall's exit with the rest of her items.
John caught up to her outside the hallway and pulled her to a stop. "Kris, stop! Where the hell are you running off to?"
"To check out what's going on, duh!" Kris tried to shake off John's grip, but he was too strong.
"Are you nuts? There's probably a gunman on the loose up there! Or a f*cking terrorist, for Christ's sake! Who do you think you are? Wonder Woman?"
"No, not Wonder Woman, you dummy. Lois Lane!" Kris said, still trying desperately to free her arm.
Damn those muscles.
John looked at her as if he didn't have a clue what she was talking about.
Kris sighed exasperatedly. "John, have you forgotten that I'm a double major? I'm majoring in Journalism as well as Chinese Literature."
"But you're gonna get yourself killed!"
Kris shrugged. "Worth the risk if I can get enough material to write a prize-winning story. Isn't that what the great Robert Capa said? The closer you are to a scene, the closer you will be to a Pulitzer Prize!"
"That's horseshit!" John yelled. "Capa never said that, you just made that up!"
"John, let me go," Kris pleaded. "I have to do this. Please."
John sighed and released her arm. "Fine! But I'm coming with you to make sure you don't do anything stupid," he said sternly.
"Fine! Tag along if you want," Kris said, already turning towards the stairs. "Now, are you sure that the gunshot came from upstairs?"
"Nope! I lied. The shot actually came from downstairs, just outside this building," John said with a straight face.
Kris rolled her eyes and flipped him the bird, then ran towards the staircase.
"Hey! Wait up!" John yelled behind her.
"Keep up, slow poke!" Kris yelled back, but kept running.
They ran up the emergency staircase as quickly as they could. When they reached their intended floor, they realized that there were two hallways on that floor. Each hallway probably had dozens of lecture halls along it. The entire floor was empty; the students had probably fled after they heard the gunshot.
"John, can you tell which lecture hall the shot came from?"
John rolled his eyes. "My hearing is good," he said. "But not that good."
"Well, there are two hallways, right? Guess we'll just have to split up—"
Kris looked at John, whose eyes were now wide with shock.
Following that blood-curdling scream was the sound of a door opening.
"Left hallway," John said. "Go."
Kris broke off into a sprint. John ran along beside her. Instead of charging ahead, John had chosen to match her pace, which Kris appreciated. Despite his earlier attempt to get in her way, Kris was actually glad that John was there to watch her back. A Pulitzer Prize was no use to her if she ended up in a body bag.
Up ahead, they saw a middle-aged man with a strange comb-over charging towards them in the opposite direction.
"I think that's one of the staff here," John said.
"Yeah, I've seen him before during the performance night," Kris said. That comb-over had left quite an impression.
The man charged past them before Kris could ask him where the gunshot came from. Poor guy looked absolutely terrified.
They kept running until another scream made them stop short.
The scream was much louder this time.
Kris shared a look with John.
"We're near. Left side of the hallway," John said confidently.
They broke off into a run again.
Then, they saw a door swing open about twenty feet away. A man whose hands and knees were covered in blood crawled out of the lecture hall, then stood up on wobbly feet. Another professor... Kris rushed ahead, hoping to get some answers.
The professor jumped in fright when he saw them and would've fallen to the ground if John hadn't been there in time to steady the man. Kris signaled John with her eyes, to which John answered with a nod. When John pulled the professor away from the door, Kris caught a glimpse of the professor's nametage. Liu...
"Are you okay, Professor Liu?" Kris asked once they were further away from the lecture hall. Clearly, she had to be the one doing all the talking, since John couldn't speak Mandarin worth a damn.
Professor Liu shook his head. "G- g- gun.... Gun... Student..."
Kris looked at John. Student with a gun. Yeah, well. No shit.
John just shrugged.
"You should go downstairs and get some help, professor," Kris said. "Call the cops."
Then, Kris stood up and headed back towards the lecture hall.
"Hey, Kris!" John hissed. "Kris! Wait up, you crazy woman!"
"No, you keep up, you dumb jock," Kris said. "I have a Pulitzer prize to win. Besides, I was also hoping to see your precious Sheep Poo get his brains blown out."
Kris nearly laughed when she saw John's horrified expression.
"I'm kidding," Kris said as they slowly approach the door.
"Yeah? Not funny," John grumbled.
Apparently, Professor Liu didn't close the door completely when he crawled out earlier.
"Jesus Christ..." John whispered as they stopped a few feet away from the lecture hall's entrance. The door was ajar, but even through the small gap they could still see the blood and gore smeared across the door's inner surface. Below, a girl's hand lay across the doorsill, wedged between the door and the doorjamb. They had no idea whether the girl was dead or alive.
"Christ help us all..." John said again.
The next thing they heard sent chills down their spines: "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA..."
The sound of that laughter made Kris sick to her stomach, but she knew she had to push on. She'd come this far already. She had no right to call herself a journalist if she got creeped out by the mere sound of a man's laughter, even though that laugh would give the Joker's laugh a run for its money.
Kris crept towards the door, keeping her head low. She stopped just outside the door, then waited for John to settle beside her. A few seconds later, he did.
"So, what's the play, Lois Lane?" John said. "It's not like we can just walk in."
Kris pulled out her phone from her back pocket, then opened up the camera app. She switched to video mode, then tapped on the screen to start recording.
Holding her breath, Kris slid the phone through the gap between the door and the doorjamb...
With great power comes great responsiblity. For once in his life, Li Yundong could fully comprehend the essence of the Peter Parker principle. Knowing what he was now capable of, Li Yundong would not sit around and do nothing while this son of a bitch hurt others for no reason other than a wounded ego and pure selfishness. Li Yundong would put his own life on the line if it meant stopping this madman.
Li Yundong’s gaze zeroed in on the muzzle, which was now pointed straight at him. Good. Come at me, leave the others alone.
Li Yundong had no idea why Zhao Yujian wasn't shooting at him yet. He had deliberately made himself an open target by standing up. Then again, it wouldn't matter because Li Yundong knew that Zhao Yujian wouldn't be able to kill him with the gun. He didn't know how he knew, he just knew. In fact, he was hoping that Zhao Yujian would fire at him. He would just dodge every single bullet until the bastard ran out of bullets. And then he would end that pathetic lowlife.
Maybe he just needs a little more incentive.
Keeping his eyes on Zhao Yujian, Li Yundong moved along the last row until he reached the aisle at the center of the hall. The muzzle followed his every move, but still, there was no gunshot.
Li Yundong stepped into the aisle. He and Zhao Yujian were pretty much facing off now, albeit from a long distance away. Li Yundong could feel everyone's eyes on him then, though he kept his gaze focused on Zhao Yujian. The buzzing in his ears was loud, but he had already gotten the hang of working with his super hearing. He could now isolate and choose the sounds to focus on without confusing himself. It was just a matter of practice.
Li Yundong's eyes narrowed when he heard a familiar voice amidst the buzzing. Su Chan. She was whispering something.
When Li Yundong focused his mind, Su Chan's melodious whisper filled his ears.
"... overwhelmed by them. The key lies in your focus. Your Xianjue responds to your Spirit, which means you have to focus your conscious will on the right things. Do that, and you can tune in and tune out your clairvoyant visions without being overwhelmed by them... The key lies in your—"
"I got it, princess," Li Yundong whispered, knowing that Su Chan could hear him too. "Now you stay put under the table, got it?"
"I can help, you know..." she whispered back.
"Please?" Li Yundong whispered.
Zhao Yujian's face was now filled with hatred, but Li Yundong wasn't afraid. Just shoot me already, damn it.
"Be careful, beloved..."
Li Yundong had no idea how Su Chan's voice could fill his heart with so much warmth despite the shitty situation, but it did.
"I will," Li Yundong whispered back, then tuned out Su Chan's voice.
"You!!!!" Zhao Yujian roared. "This all started because of you!!! You broke my f*cking leg, and then took my place during the performance. You stole all my glory!!!"
Li Yundong could see Zhao Yujian's spit flying everywhere through a magnified view of the guy's face.
Suddenly, a look of recognition flitted across Zhao Yujian's countenance.
"It's because of him, isn't it, Zhou Qin?" Zhao Yujian said. "You're rejecting me now because of him! You were impressed by his performance that night, weren't you? And now you're swooning over him because he was the star of the show... I-it was... It was supposed to be me!!!"
"Stop this madness now, Zhao Yujian," Li Yundong said in a loud voice.
"Madness!" Zhao Yujian roared. "I'll show you what madness is when I put several rounds through your head!!!"
Li Yundong moved along the aisle towards the lectern.
"Hahahaha! I see! Are you giving up already? Finally accepted your fate? Come closer then! I want to see the look on your face as you die!"
Li Yundong kept walking with slow and steady gait. As he walked, he made sure to keep both his hands hidden behind his back.
"Last chance, Zhao Yujian," Li Yundong said, giving a couple of hand signals behind his back.
The students he'd walked past immediately understood his cue as they all began moving away from the aisle towards the side of the lecture hall.
"Last chance?" Zhao Yujian said. "Hahahaha! You deluded fool! I'm the one with the gun!!!"
Then, it happened.
Bursts of white light filled his mind, and an image took shape inside his mind. In the image, Zhao Yujian's lips were moving. He was saying something. But what was it? Focus your conscious will on the right things... Su Chan's words suddenly came to him. Wait... What if I...
Li Yundong tried to focus his awareness on slowing down those images inside his head, as though he was reducing the playback speed of a video with his mere thoughts. To his surprise, the vision responded to his thoughts; the movement of Zhao Yujian's lips slowed down. Then, Li Yundong tried the opposite — he sped up the images in his head. The vision fast-forwarded until Li Yundong saw Zhao Yujian firing the gun. Then, Li Yundong slowed down so that the vision played out in slow motion. He didn't need to know all the details. He just had to identify the bullet's trajectory.
The bullet would be flying towards his head.
Knowing that Zhao Yujian would likely fire more shots, Li Yundong fast-forwarded the vision again, then slowed down when he saw the second shot being fired. The second shot was aimed at his right chest. Okay. Now he just had to get himself out of clairvoyant mode. Once again, he took Su Chan's advice and willed the images to go away. Another burst of white light brought him back to real time.
"... my woman! You stole everything from me! I'll kill you! I'll f*cking kill you!" Zhao Yujian raised the gun, but it didn't matter. Li Yundong already knew where both bullets would hit. Tilt head to the left in one second. Wait another second, then twist torso clockwise.
BANG!! The first bullet grazed Li Yundong's right ear.
BANG!! The second bullet whizzed past Li Yundong's right shoulder.
Li Yundong righted himself after dodging the second bullet. Wasting no time, Li Yundong went into clairvoyant mode again. It took less than a second for him to figure out that Zhao Yujian would fire three more shots at him. He switched back to normal mode, then isolated the noise in his ears and focused his hearing on Zhao Yujian.
Li Yundong stared at Zhao Yujian. Ignoring the look of disbelief in Zhao Yujian's eyes, Li Yundong zoomed in and paid attention to Zhao Yujian's trigger finger. Then he waited. He already knew that the next three rounds would be fired consecutively. All he had to do now was wait for the right time to dodge.
Not yet... not yet...
Two seconds later, Li Yundong's super hearing picked up Zhao Yujian's low growl and the clacking of his teeth. Then, Zhao Yujian's trigger finger moved.
Li Yundong dove to the side.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Li Yundong's knees scraped against the floor as he slid to a stop.
Blood dripped onto his palm from his right ear, where the first bullet had grazed.
The gun in Zhao Yujian's right hand trembled. Li Yundong could hear everything: Zhao Yujian's rapid breathing; Zhao Yujian's pounding heart; the way his palm was rubbing against the gun's grip as it shook; the clattering of his teeth.
"Y- y- you're a monster!!!" Zhao Yujian yelled hysterically.
Li Yundong wiped his palm on his pants.
"No, I'm not a monster," Li Yundong said, slowly rising to his feet. "You are."
The phone trembled in Kris's hand. She'd never seen something like that before. Never. Whatever this was, it was supernatural. No human could possibly do what Li Yundong just did.
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph..." John whispered beside her. "What the hell was that, Kris?"
Kris didn't reply. She couldn't reply. Not when she herself could barely process whatever the hell it was that she just witnessed.
"H- H- he just dodged five bullets in a row..." John went on. "Christ Almighty..." John's butt hit the ground as he sat there in a daze.
"Y- y- you're a monster!!!" yelled the gunman.
Kris turned her attention back to her phone's screen.
Her hands were still shaking a little, and she still had goosebumps all over. Dodging bullets... What the hell am I seeing...
Then, Kris heard another voice. "No, I'm not a monster..." On the screen, Kris saw Li Yundong rise to his feet. "You are."
Oh God... Is his hair standing upright? Oh God... What is happening...
On the screen, Li Yundong took a step forward.
"S-s-stay back!!!" yelled the gunman.
Li Yundong kept on walking. "Are you done with this madness now?"
"I- I- I'm warning you! D- don't come any closer!"
Li Yundong kept on advancing. "Drop the gun and give up now. Do that and you have a chance to walk away from here alive."
A chill ran down Kris's spine. On the screen, she saw the gunman backing away from the lectern until his back hit the chalkboard.
All of a sudden, Kris saw movement in the first row.
THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD!
The screen showed the rapidly enlarging figure of a guy. Some idiot was making a run for the door. No, no, no, you fool!
"No!!! Don't shoot!!!" Li Yundong yelled.
A loud crash followed.
Kris dropped the phone and turned towards John.
"Hey, hey!" Kris hissed. "John!"
"Jesus Christ... Five bullets… Jesus Christ... Lord Christ Almighty..." John muttered, still in a daze.
"John!" Kris slapped his cheek. Finally, John's eyes cleared a little.
"Snap out of it!" Kris hissed. "Someone else just got shot. We gotta help them—"
Both Kris and John jumped in fright.
"F*ck!" John said.
"Come on, John," Kris urged. "A guy got shot just now. We gotta drag him out and check his vitals." Then, Kris crept towards the half-open door.
A strong grip wrapped around her bicep and yanked her back.
"No, you're not going in there," John said.
"I'll do it," John said.
Kris nodded, knowing that they didn't have much time to argue; if they wanted to save someone, they needed to do it soon.
"Okay. Be careful," she said.
Kris shifted away from the door and watched John position himself beside it. When John turned around to look at her, Kris gave him an encouraging nod.
John took a deep breath and gave the door a gentle push. The door opened a tad wider, and John poked his head in. Seconds later, John pulled back and looked at her.
"What is it? What did you see?"
"I saw three victims near the door. Two men and one woman. I think the woman's only unconscious, coz I don't see any GSW on her," John said.
"Can we pull them out without alerting the gunman?"
"I think we can," John said. "The gunman's holding a girl at gunpoint as we speak, and the girl's body is partially blocking his view of the door. Besides, Sheep Poo's distracting him."
"Think you can do it?" Kris asked.
"I'm gonna try anyway," John said. "I'll drag the two men out first."
"Okay, hurry..." Kris whispered.
Kris watched with bated breath as John crawled into the lecture hall. Seconds later, he crawled out, dragging a middle-aged man with him. It was a professor. Kris didn't even have to check the man's pulse to know that he was gone; the bullet hole between his eyes pretty much said it all.
When John crawled out with the second victim, he was grinning at her. "Kris, Kris! This one's still got a pulse!"