Chapter 352: Paying Tuition
It was 7:15 a.m. Luo Nan hurriedly dug into his meal with several bites. He grabbed his aunt's super-stuffed meat pie and a cup of milk, and he sat inside his uncle's SUV. He displayed the extraordinary power of the Appetite King as he ate and drank the rest of his breakfast completely clean before the car could even leave the community. He opened the window and threw the empty paper cup quite accurately into a roadside trash can. The level of his moving target shooting skills blew the minds of the majority of people on the street.
Uncle Mo Haihang shot Luo Nan a glance as he closed the window. "That's not a magic trick, right?"
"How can it be? See, it hasn't been a waste for me to learn martial arts." Luo Nan still remembered clearly the scene of his guardians racking their brains atop their bed. Luo Nan felt ashamed. He subconsciously spoke in jest, "Look at my skills, my aim, Uncle. You should take me to shooting one of these days. It's been a few years. I don't even remember which way the door opens in the shooting center."
"Sure, it's rare for you to ask something," Mo Haihang readily agreed. Then he casually asked, "How's school been treating you these days? I mean, has your social circle gotten any bigger?"
Luo Nan could feel that his uncle's words had a deeper meaning behind them. He grunted a few times and said some vague things in worry. It was not very convincing, but then Luo Nan recalled a matter he was dealing with. He changed his speech superficially, asking for guidance.
"Uncle, how do you work together with people? There was a school society activity that I participated in. We formed temporary teams to do stuff together, but I don't understand how to do things better."
Mo Haihang responded while driving the car, "So it's a team, eh? Then you need to understand your role in the team. Whether it's the leader or the planner, the technical staff or logistics, make sure everyone is satisfied with their role."
This answer was too comprehensive. Luo Nan was dissatisfied. He said, "These are team positions…."
"Yes. Since we're talking about working together, naturally we need to talk about the team."
Luo Nan rolled his eyes. "I want to know how to get the respect of others in the team from the point of view of an individual."
Mo Haihang's eyes remained on the road, not looking at Luo Nan. He laughed in reply, "The concept of respect is too vague. There isn't a universal standard. Everyone's role is set in a different way, so the way they express their respect is different. A fellow who believes himself to be the leader may express his respect to his subordinates as praise. But would the target of that praise believe he is being respected if he doesn't believe that he is a subordinate?"
"So, don't talk about the relationships within the environment if the environment hasn't taken form yet. The environment can change as it pleases. For example, respect can be a reward or a price. Your temporary team needs to first become a qualified team before further discussion."
Luo Nan withdrew from this topic; listening to his uncle, an intellectual, speak was very brain cell-burning. He closed his eyes and looked at Peony's evaluation in the internal report.
"The person known as Crow has an unknown level of profession. The initial judgment for Crow's temperament is introverted. Crow's not good at communication, and Crow lacks initiative. It may be more suitable for Crow to be considered an 'aid.’ There may be room for bargaining for future collaboration."
This was his partner. The operation hadn't even started and she's seizing power in the team dynamic. How unduly! And she wants to bargain!
Luo Nan admired Peony's acuity and judgment, but this sort of behavior made him feel unwell. It also made him doubt Peony's plan.
It must be known that this outsourcing of work was a form of compensation given to him by Her Majesty Empress Wu. Whatever the case, he wouldn't be given less than the anticipated value. The way Peony expressed herself clearly showed that she was in a relatively normal position within the firm. She didn't have a feel for her boss's intent.
Hm, hold on a sec. This didn't seem like Peony's style!
Luo Nan read the words, being fastidious about the phrasing, and he suddenly understood. The so-called 'bargaining' was perhaps not a shot at reducing funds for the outsourced worker, but instead a solicitation in recruitment for future work.
This was quite a brilliant move if this was the case. At the very least, she was able to understand some of Her Majesty Empress Wu's intentions. But Luo Nan decided that it would be better to first consult with He Yueyin before arriving at conclusions.
Luo Nan felt very tired with this sort of person on the team who wanted to seize the upper hand.
Then Mo Haihang spontaneously spoke to Luo Nan, "I have a general idea of what you're thinking about. You feel that there needs to be a target or a paradigm in order to do stuff. If you really don't know what to do, then learn from me. I feel that us two are quite alike. See if what I say suits you."
Luo Nan immediately went teary-eyed. This is just what I wanted!
"I have a personal motto. Take a look." Mo Haihang sent him a message. It was very short, consisting of only two sentences.
He who stands on his tiptoes does not stand firm. He who stretches his legs does not walk easily.
Luo Nan was lost in thought for a time. He had read this classic script when he was a kid, and recently he followed Gym Master Xiu in studying classical martial arts. Gym Master Xiu crammed him full of this kind of knowledge. He recognized that this was a saying from "The Book of the Dao" by Laozi.
The first sentence meant that when one looks afar by standing on their tiptoes, they stand unsteadily. The second sentence meant that when one stretches their gait to make large strides for faster movement, they won't be able to get far.
These two sentences were followed by, "So, he who displays himself does not shine; he who asserts his own views is not distinguished; he who vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged; he who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him..." and so on in a long series. There was a general idea: Actions that were made carelessly and impatiently, selfishly and boastfully, were unreliable. There were also deeper meanings: Sometimes one must retreat to make progress; one must let things take their own course, and things will naturally resolve, and so on.
Fine, this was, indeed, a style of doing things. It matched his uncle, whose words and actions were low-key in daily life, quite well. However... However, the current circumstances weren't like this!
Mo Haihang didn't know the knot in Luo Nan's heart. He even asked, "Do you understand?"
"I understand. Oh, Uncle. Do you have anything else?"
"I do. For instance, 'A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving'...."
"Then there's also, 'Know the masculine. Hold the feminine. Be the fountain of the world'...."
"'Know the white. Hold the black. Be an example for the world. Be an example for the world, forever virtuous and unchanging. Return to the infinite…. The carving of wood forms tools. The sage uses the tools to become the ruler, thus keeping the great whole undivided.’"
Luo Nan was scared. He simply recited out the entire passage. There could be a hundred sentences or eighty sentences within "The Book of the Dao" by Laozi. It made no difference to him. This really wasn't what he needed.
Mo Haihang laughed heartily, "Look, you've already thought about what to do. Your mind is obviously very clear. Why do you need to ask me?"
Luo Nan knew that he had been played with and was left speechless for a time. Actually, he wasn't interested in any possible methods. It wasn't absolutely necessary to keep Peony down. If it were up to him, he would rather stay idly in his corner in peace and refine the external neuron. He wanted to carefully experience this process of refinement and see what sort of results he would ultimately obtain.
However, matters had to be attended to before he could obtain this peace and quiet.
There was no use telling others of this bind he was in.
Mo Haihang twirled his fingers around his temples. "Let me guess what you're thinking. You want to do something, but you don't know whether or not you can do it. So you want to find a paradigm of success. Like a formula. You want to input all sorts of parameters and get the complete answer."
Luo Nan gulped. "...I just want a reference."
Mo Haihang nodded, but then he shook his head and sighed, "Nanan, how old are you again?"
"What a great age. Back when I was sixteen, I knocked a classmate up. My dad found out and kicked me down the stairs, leaving me with a bloody mouth."
Holy cow, what gossip!
Luo Nan's jaw dropped to his chest, not closing for quite some time.
Mo Haihang's eyes were glued ahead. He was smiling quite delightedly as he recalled memories of his irretrievable youth. But Luo Nan ultimately was the final topic of the day. "I haven't given you a smacking since you turned ten, am I right?"
"Uh, I think so."
"A kid in his teens. Second time developing. The stage of puberty. The rebellious period. What a wonderful stage in life, and it passed just like that?"
Is Uncle very disappointed that he never had the chance to beat me up?
As Luo Nan cursed under his breath, new words poured into Luo Nan's ear, "Do you think I should be happy that you're mature for your age? Or should I be worried that there are problems with your physical development and mental growth?"
Luo Nan raised his head in astonishment, meeting Mo Haihang's cold and clear gaze. He understood the seriousness within them.
"Humans have never been perfect creatures. The evolution of this species is one filled with trial and error. At most, we get by with some good-enough luck. So, society is very cruel, but it always gives people a bit of room for trial and error. This is true especially so for young people. Your father's Societal Format Diagram has a separate box for students. Those that are in it are people who 'pay tuition.’"
His uncle's words had the certain earnestness of a scholar. Luo Nan was a bit confused. He didn't know what sort of attitude he should respond with. In the end, he just mumbled in agreement.
Mo Haihang continued with what seemed like an interrogation, "Then Nanan, tell me. Why are you so stingy with 'tuition'? Are you prepared to repress all flaws and wait till a more brutal stage to lose everything?"
Luo Nan didn't even have the energy to grunt. He felt that today's uncle was completely different from his normal uncle. Perhaps the matter from last night made his uncle make some cognitive associations, and right now his uncle was probing his behavior.
Luo Nan really wanted to say that it was a misunderstanding. There wasn't any odd organization that found him. But he thought a bit deeper. The nature of the situation he was facing was quite similar. Wasn't this an issue that Her Majesty Empress Wu and her people created?
His brain churned for a while before he barely thought of something to say. "So you're saying I should wade the river by groping for stones, feel my way around, and fall down a few times, right? You uncle and aunt are like a wolf and a hawk, okay? That's enough, I know that Uncle, you don't like my student life."
Luo Nan did his best to disrupt the atmosphere. He grumbled, "’Know the masculine and hold the feminine. Know the white and hold the black. Know honor and hold disgrace. Suffering is fortune.’ I can handle it. Isn't that enough?"
Mo Haihang quietly looked at him; the serious, cold, and clear intent ultimately washing away from his gaze. Warmth returned to him as his smiled and said, "If only. Right, the thing I just mentioned to you about when I was young. You need to seal your mouth shut. Unless you really want me to beat you."
Luo Nan blinked his eyes. "Didn't you say that I should have the courage to pay 'tuition'—oh god!"
Luo Nan felt a breeze by his ear. Mo Haihang had grabbed onto it. Of course, he didn't use force. Even if he did, it would be useless against Luo Nan who was strengthened by the heart lantern of the eyes orifice.
The car became quite lively, and the automatic driving system of the car displayed its function properly.
Within the noisy laughter, Luo Nan knew that certain matters had changed into something different, and he had to get used to these changes.
The car had yet to arrive at Acumen College, but far away in a certain park in the River Wu District, an enormous crow flapped its wings as it flew off into the sky. It followed the river of the city and the green vegetation surrounding it as it flew in low altitudes. A rubberband tied to its leg faintly vibrated, immediately sending information to the crow.
About ten minutes later, Luo Nan entered the school campus forty kilometers away in the Pingjiang District. As for Ink, it already found its target, and it plunged into an ordinary SUV parked by the roadside.