Someone was sobbing. Sniveling, really, like the person was too afraid to cry loudly even though she was clearly distraught. His eyelids felt heavy, which was strange because just moments ago, he felt as though he had all the power in the world. Darkness greeted him when he opened his eyes. He blinked a few times and wondered what time it was. Light from the city streamed in through the open sliding doors and windows. The light was faint, just enough to cast shadows on the walls and floor.
Gentle sobs drew his attention to his 2 o'clock. He blinked his eyes rapidly, then squinted through the semi-darkness. He saw Su Chan's prostrated form a few feet away. She was kneeling with both arms on the floor and her face buried in them. Her shoulders trembled as she sobbed into her arms.
"S- Su Chan?"
The sobbing stopped and Su Chan's head shot up. Her eyes were wide and they seemed a bit puffy on the edges. Clearly, she had been crying for quite some time. Her cheeks, and nose were red, and her hair was a mess. She was beautiful.
"Y- Yundong? Is that really you?"
What? Of course it was him. Did she expect someone else to be here? "Yeah, of course. Why are you cry—"
His back crashed into the floor, and Su Chan was suddenly on top of him, straddling him. The whole thing would've been erotic if she wasn't sobbing into his chest. Li Yundong's hands rose to pat her back. "Tell me what's wrong?"
"Idiot, idiot, idiot!" Su Chan emphasized how much of an "idiot" he was by pounding his chest with each mention of the word. "I thought I lost you!"
What? Lost him? But he was just meditating, wasn't he? She got out a few more garbled words after that before she dissolved into sobs.
What the heck was going on here? Shouldn't she be happy that he passed the test? Li Yundong stroked her hair gently. "You didn't lose me. See? I'm here now."
Su Chan didn't answer, though her sobs seemed to have quietened. He wondered what she'd seen to make her cry like this. Did he do something while he was meditating? Did he look like he was dying? He kept comforting her until the sobbing subsided, which took quite a while. Eventually, Li Yundong patted her shoulder a few times and tried to sit up. This time, Su Chan let him. Li Yundong sat up and extended his arms above his head in a long stretch. After that, he looked towards Su Chan, who was drying her tears with her hands. He patted her head. "Ready to tell me what's wrong?"
Su Chan stared at her lap. "I- I thought you were about to fail the test..."
Chuckling, he tickled Su Chan's neck. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. So little faith in me. I think you've hurt my feelings..."
Su Chan pushed his hand away and looked him in the eye. "Your face... It changed completely. It didn't even look like you were in a meditative state anymore. You didn't look peaceful. You looked… You looked like... like some kind of maniac with an addiction. I thought... I thought your Spirit gave in to the god's control."
Li Yundong rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "Uh... well..."
"What happened?" Su Chan asked earnestly.
Li Yundong sighed. "The god appeared and then..." He shook his head. The whole experience honestly felt so weird that he couldn't even find the words to describe it. "I think the god went inside me? Or was it the other way round... I don't know. All I know is that I'm controlling the god's body. And I felt powerful."
Su Chan inched closer. "And then?"
"I did a lot of things. Flew around in the god's body, and I felt so free, you know? Like I can control everything. Like everything answers to only me, and I get to do whatever I want."
Su Chan sighed. "That's just an illusion, the illusion of ultimate power. The moment you believe that it's real, it's all over for you. The god would've gained control over your Spirit and you'll be trapped inside that illusion forever."
Li Yundong didn't know what to say. When she put it that way, it sounded like a really close call. When he was flying around inside his Spirit Space, it did feel real. So real, in fact, that he had entertained thoughts about staying there forever.
"How did you get out?" Su Chan was staring at him intently. "If you're back, then something must have convinced you that it wasn't real."
Li Yundong recalled the exact moment he realized that something didn't quite add up.
"There was a voice calling me." Li Yundong paused and then looked up at Su Chan. "Was it you?"
Su Chan shook her head. "I didn't dare make a sound. You were in a deep meditative state. There's a good chance you would go into Zouhuo Rumo state if I disturbed you… " Su Chan studied him curiously for a moment. "That voice… What did it say to you?"
Li Yundong shook his head. "It kept calling my name but that's it. It didn't say anything else. I kept trying to locate the source of the voice, but I just couldn't find it. It was like the voice came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. That's when I realized that the experience wasn't real. I knew right away that I wasn't omnipotent, that it was all just an illusion. I mean, if I was truly omnipotent, then why couldn't I find the source of the voice?"
Su Chan sighed in relief. "Then after that you came back?"
Li Yundong nodded. "Yeah. The moment I started to doubt the reality of the experience, everything inside my Spirit Space became darker and darker. The god's form dimmed out as well. A while later, I woke up and heard you crying."
"Thank God..." Su Chan said, patting her chest. Then she stopped and suddenly looked up at him. "Yundong... What did the god look like?"
Li Yundong studied her face for a brief moment, then smirked. "You tell me yours, and I'll tell you mine."
Su Chan made a face at him. "I asked you first!"
Li Yundong chuckled and raised his palms in surrender. "Alright, alright."
"So? What did it look like?"
"It was some strange creature with three heads and six arms." Li Yundong glanced at Su Chan. "It had my face though. Well, three versions of my face to be exact. Each with a different emotion."
Suddenly, Su Chan leaped up and grabbed his shoulders. Her eyes were wide. "Three heads and six arms?" she said breathlessly.
Li Yundong frowned. "Uh... Yeah? Something wrong with that?"
"Tell me everything. Everything you can recall."
Li Yundong told her about the strange faces and the object each arm was carrying. When he was done talking, Su Chan sat down limply on the floor. She looked like she'd just seen a ghost.
Minutes later, when Su Chan didn't snap out of her daze, Li Yundong nudged her. "What's the matter?"
Why was she looking at him like he was some kind weird creature?
The vacant expression remained on Su Chan's face. Li Yundong waved his hand in front of her face and nudged her again. "Hello? What's the matter?"
Su Chan gasped, then shook her head. "N- nothing!"
Nope. Not buying it for a second. Li Yundong narrowed his eyes. "You were looking at me strangely. I don't think that's nothing."
Su Chan clung to his arm. "Hehehe... I was just relieved that you made it, beloved."
Li Yundong pulled back slightly and stared at her. "Really? You were relieved? That's all?"
Su Chan bobbed her head up and down. "Mmm! You've passed the Ningshen phase! I'm so happy!"
Li Yundong smiled. "Which means I'm now ready for the Zhuji phase. Alright then, what are we waiting for? Let's begin! Chop, chop!"
Su Chan giggled. "Such a pervert. You're doing it for the wrong reason!"
"I am not!" He totally was.
"Liar, liar, liar." Su Chan poked his cheek, then made a face at him.
Li Yundong caught her hand and trapped it against his cheek. "Do not doubt my reasons, princess," he said with a straight face. "I want to become stronger. That's my reason." Just not the only reason.
Su Chan gave him a sidelong glance, a smirk playing on her beautiful lips. It was a little hard to believe that this was the same girl who had been devastated by his supposed failure just minutes ago.
"You cannot pass the Zhuji phase yet," she said out of nowhere.
Su Chan looked at him as though he had a single-digit IQ. "Because you have to go to school in a few hours?" She pointed at the clock behind him.
"What the—" Li Yundong turned around to look at the clock. "4.15AM??" His gaze snapped back to hers. "It took me that long?" Then, something else occurred to him. "Shit… You watched over me for the whole night, didn't you… Are you tired?"
Su Chan yawned as if on cue. "Of course I'm tired! Ugh... I just want to sleep..."
Li Yundong pulled Su Chan into his lap, then tapped her nose playfully. Su Chan snuggled against his chest.
"Why don't you stay home today? I'll attend class on my own."
The front of Li Yundong's shirt bunched up when Su Chan fisted it. "No, no, no... Don't abandon me... You promised!"
Seriously? This again? Li Yundong chuckled. How many times did he have to tell her that he would never abandon her? "Fine," he said. "Why don't you take a short nap first? I'll wake you up when it's time to leave for class."
Su Chan nodded. "Okay..."
Li Yundong smiled and hoisted her up. He carried her into her bedroom, then lay her down on the bed.
"Stay with me?" she said after he had pulled the blanket over her.
Li Yundong's eyes went wide. "What?"
"Stay. Until I fall asleep."
Li Yundong stared at her in disbelief. She has no idea the effect she has on me, does she? Li Yundong dropped his head with a sigh. Dear God. "Okay... Fine..." He sat down on the floor beside the bed and watched her.
Seconds later, Su Chan still hadn't closed her eyes. She was staring at him. "What is it? Go to sleep now," he said.
Su Chan adjusted her head on the pillow, then patted the space beside her. Oh c'mon… Surely you're joking, princess… Li Yundong's throat went dry. He gulped. "Uhh... I don't think that's a good idea, princess..."
"Mmmm..." Su Chan whined, then gave him a pleading look. "Please?"
Li Yundong suppressed a groan. Good God, woman... "Alright, alright..." He climbed up the bed and got settled beside her. Su Chan's scent assaulted his nostrils. The air. The sheets. The pillow. Everything smelled like her. God give me strength...
Su Chan snuggled against his side, then rubbed her face against his arm. "Hehehe... Much better."
Li Yundong chuckled and patted her head. "Alright. Go to sleep now."
Li Yundong lay there for God knows how long. When going through basketball stats didn't work, he began picturing Director Qian and his ever-present comb-over.
A while later, when he noticed that Su Chan's breathing had evened out, he tried to slowly free his arm from her grasp. He needed to get the hell out of the room before his sanity abandoned him for good. However...
"Mmmm… Why are you leaving?" Su Chan's watery eyes were on him before he could free his arm. "I'm not asleep yet."
Li Yundong raised his hands in resignation, then sighed. "Sorry. I thought you were asleep. I won't leave."
Li Yundong smiled and stroked her hair. "Promise."
Su Chan held out her pinkie and stared at him. Li Yundong laughed. So she still remembers... He hooked his own pinkie to hers, then pressed their thumbs together. "There," he said. "Now go to sleep."
An hour later, Li Yundong was still there, watching her sleep, entranced by her beauty.
Li Yundong shook her gently nearly three hours later. "Wake up, princess. Time to go to class."
Su Chan rolled away from him. "Mmm... So shleebee..." she mumbled.
"Look. Just stay at home and sleep, okay?" Li Yundong said in a gentle tone. "I'll go to class on my own. You don't have to come with me. I'll be home as soon as class finishes."
Su Chan sat bolt upright, her arms flailing until they snaked around his waist. "No... You promeeeshht." Her eyes weren't even open.
Li Yundong didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "How can you go anywhere in this state?"
Su Chan rubbed her eyes. "Piggy, piggy..."
Li Yundong laughed. "What?"
"Piggy, piggy!" she grumbled, sounding totally annoyed.
Li Yundong smiled. "You want me to give you a piggyback ride?"
Su Chan nodded, still rubbing her eyes.
Li Yundong's brows rose to his hairline. "All the way to campus?"
Li Yundong stared up at the ceiling. What had he gotten himself into this time?
All eyes were on them the moment Li Yundong stepped into the lecture hall. He ignored the stares and kept walking down the aisle towards the last row. Nothing to see here, folks. Just a guy treating his girl right. Maybe those dudes could take a page out of his book.
Li Yundong lowered Su Chan onto the seat, which she promptly used as a bed by curling herself like a shrimp and going back to sleep. Li Yundong sat down beside her and began stroking her hair.
"Yo, yo, yo... Would you look at that... PDA bright and early in the morning?"
Li Yundong turned his head and saw Feng Na and Cheng Cheng approaching him from the opposite end of the last row. Li Yundong smiled at his two seniors. "Morning."
The two girls stopped beside him, but neither of them sat down. Feng Na was just stared at him strangely whereas Cheng Cheng greeted him with a quick wave. Suddenly, Feng Na pointed at Su Chan. "Why's she so tired?" Feng Na smirked. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. What have you two been up to last night, hmm?"
Li Yundong's face flamed. "Nothing. What are you two doing here anyway? Ah. Don't tell me you failed some of your papers and have to redo your second year?"
"Nonsense!" Feng Na yelled.
Su Chan stirred slightly and rolled over. "Noisshh..."
Feng Na had the decency to look embarrassed. She lowered her voice. "I need to discuss something with you."
"What is it?" Li Yundong whispered.
Feng Na stared at him for a moment.
Li Yundong raised his brows. "Well?"
Feng Na cleared her throat, then sighed. "We need a new president for the Taekwondo Club."
Li Yundong stared at her blankly until the implication of her words hit him. Li Yundong snorted. "No thanks. I won't take over as the club's president."
Feng Na's expression shifted from hopeful to panic. "Why not? Zhao Yujian's gone, and you have the teachers' and students' support. You're the perfect choice."
"First of all, I've indirectly caused Zhao Yujian's death—"
Feng Na opened her mouth to protest, but Li Yundong silenced her with a raise of his hand. "I'm the one who put him in the hospital in the first place," he said. "He wouldn't have planned the assault if he had the chance to perform and show off his skills during the student exchange event. So having me, the person who's partially responsible for his death, replace him as the club's president will be inappropriate, don't you think? Secondly, I'm not a Taekwondo practitioner. I wasn't even formally trained in Taekwondo. Heck, I don't even have belts. I'm not qualified to lead the club."
Feng Na shook her head. "That's inconsequential. The belts aren't a big issue. You just have to take the exams to get them."
Li Yundong took a deep breath, then exhaled. "And thirdly..." He gave Feng Na a pointed look. "I'm just not interested in running the club."
Feng Na's face flushed instantly. "Not interested? Then why'd you enroll in the first place?" she challenged.
Li Yundong sighed. "Well I was interested before." He held Feng Na's gaze. "But not anymore."
Feng Na frowned. "Why not? You're so good at it!"
Li Yundong looked away briefly before returning his gaze to Feng Na. "Too many bad memories, I guess? Besides, I'm too busy these days."
Feng Na rolled her eyes and snorted. "Yeah. Too busy making babies with your beautiful girlfriend, I bet."
Li Yundong gaped at Feng Na.
Redness crept up Feng Na's neck into her cheeks. She raised her chin defiantly. "What? You're going to deny it?"
"Of course I'm denying it. Su Chan and I... We haven't..." Li Yundong cleared his throat, then shrugged.
Feng Na and Cheng Cheng exchanged a few glances.
Then, Feng Na chuckled. "Yeah, right."
Li Yundong frowned.
Feng Na gave him a funny look. "No offense, buddy. But you don't seem like the sex-before-marriage type."
Li Yundong buried his head in his palms. Could this day get any worse?