The faint smile on Liao Yuqing's face opened up into a big arc. "Wang Zheng? It's been so long."
"What the heck? You can still remember that ugly nickname? Wow, look how you've grown; you're even taller than me now. Are you here on holiday? You've really changed. You look good!" Xiao Xia was checking him out carefully.
Wang Zheng also smiled heartily, remembering his childhood days. How miraculous it was that he had received so much care and attention from the two before him. It was just sad that he never got to see them after he moved, not to mention how surprised he was to see them in Aslan.
"I am an exchange student here," Wang Zheng said.
"Hello, I'm Yuqing's boyfriend, Zhang Lu." The tall guy smiled generously.
The four of them went to a nearby café, reminiscing the good old days.
"Oh, now that you're all grown up, do you have a girlfriend?" Xiao Xia asked while standing in front of Wang Zheng. "Wow, you were way shorter than me in the past."
"Hey, Sister Rain, I am not the same child," Wang Zheng said helplessly. Liao Yuqing had not changed much at all. While her hair had become shorter, she was much more mature and energetic, and she looked very happy.
Xiao Xia patted Wang Zheng's shoulders. "Little radish, no matter how tall you are, you are still our little brother. Did you say you exchange here?"
Wang Zheng shook his head, swallowing his laughter. When he was still a boy, he had a good impression of Liao Yuqing, a gentle big sister from next door. Thinking back… the only reason he was so fond of her was because she would give him snacks everytime they met…
"Yes, I entered Ares College and then managed to come here for exchange."
This shocked the other three, especially Xia Yu. It was as though she saw a monster.
"How could this be? Since when were your grades that good? Oh, God, that's unreasonable. To think that even I did not get in; I really must learn from you," Xia Yu said while covering her mouth.
"Xia Yu, Wang Zheng definitely worked hard. How did you expect to get in with how you studied… Congratulations, Wang Zheng!"
"Sister Yuqing, you're making me feel embarrassed. I did not expect you to have a boyfriend already. Looks like I was too slow." Wang Zheng laughed.
Zhang Lu also smiled. "Fortunately, I was quick enough, or I would've had a strong competitor. The pressure you give out is like that of a mountain!"
Liao Yuqing also laughed. "Now you know how popular I am."
"I always knew that," Zhang Lu said softly.
"I really can't stand the two of them. Are we invisible..." Xia Yu looked disgusted.
"Wang Zheng, bring your girlfriend to meet us." Liao Yuqing laughed.
Wang Zheng nodded. "We are still working on it."
"Wow, even you can find a girlfriend, yet here I am single…. What on earth! Where is she from?" Xia Yu was quick to ask the right questions.
"Aslan." Wang Zheng nodded.
"Not bad! It must have really boosted your ego. Remember to bring her to us before we leave. I really wonder what kind of girl would be tricked by you," Xiao Yu said heartlessly.
Liao Yuqing was also very happy. "Remember how naughty you were before? You only knew how to play and eat. Time really flies. Oh, right, how's that old man? Still tending to his shop?"
These memories could never be erased. "Old Merchant moved too, not sure where to. I remembered you guys moved to the Moon, right?"
With such a temperament, Zhang Lu looked like he was from the moon.
"Yeah, when we left, we were worried that the old man would sell you off," Xia Yu said.
Wang Xiao smiled. What a foresight. He would be considered lucky if he could even be abducted. "Do you still remember Xiaosu? He is also at Ares College."
"Of course, the boy who was always looking to play with you. Short, tanned face, pretty cute too." Liao Yuqing smiled.
Zhang Lu was a good guy, but not particularly talkative. He periodically handed water to Liao Yuqing. Wang Zheng could tell that he was a very stable and peaceful person, and he felt happy for Liao Yuqing. Although they were living in completely different worlds, he really hoped for the best for them.
A notification popped up in his Skylink.
"Dr. Ari's reply!"
"Oh, be quiet."
Xia Yu blinked and gestured for Wang Zheng to quieten down. It looked like an important call.
Liao Yuqing, who had been joking, also looked seriously at Zhang Lu.
The Skylink connected. The caller looked like a short man who was about 50 years old. He was clothed in an institute's white lab coat. He was direct and to the point. "Mr. Zhang, your sincerity touched me. The quantum engineering model you were planning to do has limited prospects in my opinion. My schedule is quite full now, but maybe you should focus on some other methods."
"Thank you for your interest, I hope there will be opportunities for cooperation next time. Good-bye." Dr. Ari was very decisive and hung up the call even before Zhang Lu could reply.
Zhang Lu reluctantly smiled and his gaze averted to Wang Zheng. "Company matters, do not be too concerned."
"Sigh, to think we spent all that effort just to get here just to get rejected again…. Why are Aslanians so difficult to handle? I don't give a f*ck anymore," Xia Yu said in injustice.
Wang Zheng also learned about their situation. Zhang Lu managed a small-scale technology company. He recently encountered a bottleneck in development and needed expert guidance from Aslan. Based on the size of the company, it was difficult to collaborate, but they still gave it a shot and made it to Aslan. It took a lot of effort to get connected, but they had gotten rejected in the end.
"It's okay. Dr. Ari is no good. We will look for others. There will be a way; I believe in you." Liao Yuqing held Zhang Lu's hands encouragingly.
Zhang Lu smiled. "Oh, having a girlfriend like you already motivates me. Let's just ignore this matter and have a good celebration for your reunion!"
Zhang Lu was a person who understood that while life came with endless hurdles to be conquered, it was important to enjoy it too.
Zhang Lu would try as hard as possible with the limited time he had. The reunion was planned for the next evening, and Zhang Lu took the initiative to treat them.
"Zheng, remember to bring your girlfriend! Let Sis check her out for you!"
"I will try." Wang Zheng nodded.
"Xia Yu, stop fooling around." Liao Yuqing pulled back Xia Yu. The problem was whether Wang Zheng did indeed have an Aslanian girlfriend or if he had just said it in the spur of the moment.
She did not want to make things difficult for him.
Xia Yu wanted to ask how much of a big shot Wang Zheng's girlfriend was that they had to compromise to her schedule, but seeing how Liao Yuqing was, she rephrased her sentence.
"See you tomorrow night."
They exchanged contact numbers.
On the way back, Wang Zheng felt inexplicably happy. It was the kind of happiness that could not be felt by winning battles. He felt truly happy for his old neighbors, but they way they were still treating him like a child caused him headache. He had no face at all in front of them. Maybe it was better that way.
Wang Zheng dialed Aina's skylink. He knew that after joining the club, his Skylink was automatically upgraded to silver grade. Even Aslan's royal family could not monitor his calls, and he could have privacy calling Aina.
Wang Zheng told Aina about his encounter just now. "So, Your Royal Highness, care to join tomorrow?"
"What to do? The Princess is very busy; Princess duties naturally come first."
Aina could tell from Wang Zheng's tone how important they were to him. The big sister from next door… was she his first crush?
Yuqing… such a familiar name. Remembering Yan Xiaosu's confession, Wang Zheng was not fond of anyone in high school, but he had a first crush before that. That person was called Yuqing or something!
In the end, once Wang Zheng hung up, Aina immediately dialed back.
"Neighbor's sister? Was it that Yuqing?"
Wang Zheng's jaw cracked. It had nearly dislocated from his surprise. How did Aina know?
"Don't be too alarmed. Yan Xiaosu told me everything. If that's the case, I better prepare!"
Xiaosu, that traitor…. When did he even spill all these secrets? Hopefully he did not make too many exaggerations.
"No need to be too alarmed, we are all just friends!" Wang Zheng did not want Aina to be too showy, as Liao Yuqing and Xia Yu were all down-to-earth people.
On the other side, Zhang Lu and Liao Yuqing were caught in a crisis. Back on the Moon, several Aslanian scientists were very interested in their projects, but a few factors posed a threat to a collaboration. Mainly, the duration of the project and the long distance.
"We have competitors, but it is difficult as we are an emerging company. It seems that a few of the industry leaders are jointly competing against us."
"Maybe there's an internal spy. It just doesn't make sense that the few interested Aslanian specialists suddenly chanced upon better opportunities. "
Zhang Lu quietened down. After analysis, their situation was dire, and they might return empty-handed.