Five clouds—each with their own color—hovered inside Li Yundong's Spirit Space. Su Chan wasn't kidding when she told him that the five Qis are much powerful than the Qi generated from his Essence. Each of the five clouds appeared so much bigger than the white clouds he saw the other night. Not only that, but the five clouds also seemed much more dynamic and energized—constantly vibrating and spinning. Time to get started then... Li Yundong spent a while studying the five clouds until he realized what his first challenge was: Should he shape each cloud separately, or merge them together first and then shape them all at once?
After a moment of thought, Li Yundong decided to go with the latter. Su Chan did mention something about each of the five Zangs containing a fragment of the god's spirit, so it made sense to combine the fragments to form a whole first before attempting to shape them. Having made his decision, Li Yundong immediately got to work and willed the clouds to move. It took him several attempts, but eventually, the five clouds combined to form a large clump. Then, Li Yundong waited. When the clouds didn't disintegrate or fly apart after a while, Li Yundong decided to move on to the next task: shaping the combined cloud.
Which, he soon found to be hopelessly difficult. After his thirtieth failed attempt, Li Yundong gave up and studied the huge cloud before him. The five colors were interspersed now, making the cloud look like a huge cotton candy with colorful spots. Still, he couldn't shape the cloud at all. Why? What was different? Well, the obvious difference was that the clouds represent the Qis of his five Zangs.
Hey... Hold on a sec. Something weird was going on here. When he first merged the five clouds together, the colors on the combined cloud weren't interspersed at all. Each color stayed in its own region in the cloud. But now it's like the colors have rearranged themselves... hmm... It was like the colors had their own will. Yes! That's it! Each of the five Zang holds a fragment of the god's spirit. That must be why the colors could move on their own in the huge cloud: they were responding to the will of the god's—fragmented—spirit.
The solution seemed obvious now. Li Yundong didn't even have to do anything. He just had to allow the cloud to shape itself. That was it, wasn't it?
However, after what felt like hours, or maybe days, Li Yundong discovered another problem with his solution. The process was taking too frigging long.
He stared at the large cloud in front of him. Although the colors seemed more homogeneous now, the cloud's was still shaped like a, well, cloud. Definitely not what a god would look like.
No. Something wasn't right. For one, he wasn't even doing anything here. He was literally just waiting for the god's outline to appear. Which, in hindsight, didn't make sense. Su Chan mentioned that this task involved Guanxiang. But as far as he could tell, he hadn't done much Guanxiang at all. Okay, well, he did, but none of his attempts worked. Was there something wrong with the way he performed Guanxiang? Well, the key to Guanxiang was imagination and visualization—
Good God, he'd been such an idiot! He'd been going about it the wrong way and he didn't even realize it. Of course his attempts at "visualizing" the god's shape wouldn't work. Of course. How could he visualize something that he'd never even seen before in his life? That was why all his Guanxiangs didn't work—he'd never seen the god before, so he had nothing to base his visualizations on!
Well, at least now he knew what to do. He had to use his imagination in a different way. Instead of trying to imagine the cloud morphing into some shape, Li Yundong imagined speeding up the cloud's self-shaping process, as though he was fast-forwarding a video playback.
It worked. Eventually, the cloud transformed itself into a human-shaped object. Like Su Chan said, the object had no detailed features, only a vague outline. He knew right then that he'd just completed Yinling.
On to the next task, Juxian.
Li Yundong studied the human-shaped cloud for a moment. The head seemed disproportionately big, and the figure seemed to have more than two arms. Were those even arms? He supposed he wouldn't know until he found a way to make the form clearer. But how? How could he get the figure to reveal its form in full detail?
After a moment of thought, the answer seemed obvious to him. He just had to do the same thing he'd done to get the outline in the first place.
Once again, Li Yundong allowed cloud to shape itself but imagined the process speeding up. This time the process took a very long time, but eventually, the cloud transformed into an iridescent figure with three heads and six arms.
The three heads were honestly the weirdest things Li Yundong had ever seen, yet they were so fascinating that he couldn't help but stare. Each head had its own face: the first one had an angry face and a glowing third eye on its forehead; the second one had an arrogant expression with its eyes slightly narrowed; the last one looked extremely amiable and approachable, as though its very existence revolved around world peace.
Upon closer look, Li Yundong realized that all three faces resembled his own. Is this... Is this the god living inside me? He supposed it was. It honestly felt creepy as hell, looking at three version of his own face on the same body. He turned his attention to the six arms. Three pairs of arms. One pair for each head, I guess? He studied the arms for a moment and found that those arms were indeed paired, with each pair positioned slightly below the three heads. The whole sight was the very definition of grotesque.
Li Yundong studied the two arms under the first head, the one with the angry face. One of the arms was holding a black, metallic war fan—a Tessen. A red, glowing, halo-like structure circled the middle of the fan. Just outside the red halo was yet another ring-like structure. The outer ring was composed of strange symbols, like those found in Buddhist scriptures. The second arm wielded a sword that was three-foot long. The sword was broader near the hilt but tapered to a sharp point near its tip, almost like a narrow and elongated triangle.
The second head, the one with the arrogant face, carried huge tripod cauldron on one hand and a Bagua mirror on the other. The cauldron was black in color and its body was covered in what appeared to be carvings of ancient hieroglyphs and drawings. A red, mist-like substance rose from the center of the cauldron. In the Bagua mirror, he saw the life and reincarnation of a man replayed over and over again. Even though it wasn't clear who the man in the mirror was, it was still creepy as hell.
The head with the peaceful face was carrying a thick—as thick as a human thumb—calligraphy brush in one hand and some kind of glass bowl in another. The color of the glass bowl seemed a bit unnatural. It was mostly green, but with a little bit of grey mixed into it, sort of like a piece of jade that had just been removed from a pile of ash.
Before Li Yundong could peer into the glass bowl to see what it contained, the figure pounced on him. No. Not on him, more like into him. In an instant, he felt an insurmountable surge of power from within, as though he could alter the universe with just a snap of his fingers. At that moment, there was only one word he could use to describe that feeling.
3.20PM (Ten minutes into training session)
The protective spell was done. Su Chan crawled forward until she was sitting right in front of Yundong. Yundong had a peaceful look on his face, a sign that he was already in a meditative state.
Yundong's head was glowing like an iridescent soap bubble. The Convergence of Five Qis had occurred. Right now, Yundong was probably inside his Spirit Space, attempting Guanxiang on the five Qis. Su Chan hadn't told him the trick to shaping the five Qis. It wouldn't be fair if she had. An insightful Cultivator is a strong Cultivator, so Yundong had to learn to figure things out on his own and solve his own problems.
Yundong's face continued to glow and change colors. Su Chan found herself incapable of looking away from his face. The changing colors were strangely soothing.
Nothing had changed. Yundong's head was still glowing like an iridescent soap bubble. Clearly, he hadn't figured out the trick to complete Juxian yet. According to Master, it had taken Su Chan days to figure it out the trick. How long would Yundong take?
Su Chan's forehead thunked against the floor. Ugh… Still nothing. Hours ago, the changing colors on Yundong's face had a soothing effect. But now it was like a burr up her ass. Her very, very sore ass, which had been pressing against the hard floor for hours. What did you expect, Chan'er? That it'll only take Yundong minutes to figure it out? Please. You yourself had taken days to complete the task. Su Chan sighed. She rose to her feet to give her poor derriere a much needed break. Then she started pacing around, checking the integrity of her protective spell as she did. The spell's effect were slowly fading, so she would have to recast it soon. She stopped pacing and stared down at Yundong's face. C'mon, Yundong… You can do it. Just think outside the box… I'm rooting for you…
With a huff, Su Chan plopped down on the floor to watch another cycle of "red, black, green, yellow, repeat."
Paper Yundong had a new hairstyle. And this time, it didn't look like an onion. Woohoo! Su Chan studied the two paper dolls on the floor. Paper Su Chan looked decidedly worse for wear; the scissors were too far away, and she had to stay within range to keep the protective spell alive. At least Paper Yundong looked fairly decent, but that was probably because she had spent at least fifteen agonizing minutes tearing him out from the notepad's page.
Su Chan picked up Paper Yundong and studied it up close. She had stopped watching Yundong's face a long time ago, opting instead to check on Yundong once every few minutes to see how he was doing. Not because she was lazy or anything, but because the morphing colors would lull her to sleep if she kept staring at them. She supposed it gave the term "soothing" a whole new meaning now.
Su Chan shook Paper Yundong a little. "Think you can figure it out, beloved?" Paper Yundong didn't answer. Nor did Real Yundong.
Su Chan's stomach answered with a loud growl.
Why? Why didn't she eat something before they began the session? Stupid, stupid, Chan'er. Hungry, hungry Chan'er.
Su Chan's stomach growled again as if to mock her and her own silliness. Paper Yundong stared up at her from the floor. Maybe she should add a worried look on Paper Yundong's face with the pen. She would probably feel better knowing that at least somebody was concerned about her well-being, even if said somebody led a two-dimensional existence.
The living room was dark except for the colorful glow at its center—red, black, green, yellow…
When would it end?
Good morning, world! And finally some progress! The color changes had finally stopped, and the bubble around Yundong's head had turned murky.
Yundong had just completed Juxian, and Su Chan was still hungry.
The murkiness had cleared slightly. Soon, Yundong would come face to face with the god living inside him. She wondered what form Yundong's god would take. Hers was a nine-tailed fox.
She was no longer hungry. In fact, her stomach was now in knots. She tried not to think about the consequences following Yundong's possible failure in achieving Ishvara. She would lose everything: Yundong's soul; the love of her life; her happiness; her partner in Cultivation; the Renyuan Jindan; and possibly her own will to live.
Too much was at stake. Too much.
The murkiness had cleared completely. Now, Yundong's face was radiating white light; Yundong's god had revealed itself to him. The final task had begun.
Su Chan rose to her feet to recast the protective spell. The area had to be completely secure to prevent any possible interruptions or disturbances. She didn't want to take any chances. Yundong's Spirit had to be fully focused and ready to conquer the spirit of the god.
Su Chan completed the incantation and took a seat in front of Yundong. The radiance of his face seemed to have grown in magnitude. She pleaded and prayed, to whom she knew not. Please let him get through this… Please… Please… I don't want to lose him… I can't lose him… I can't… White light burst from Yundong's face, dazzling her.
And so it began.
Horror filled Su Chan's heart. The sight in front of her made her blood run cold. Yundong's expression had lost its meditative tranquility. Yundong was smiling, grinning blissfully as if he was experiencing some kind of euphoria.
Tears spilled from Su Chan's eyes. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed. What had she done? What had she led him into?
Please, Yundong… Not like this... Not like this…