Everything was perfect until Su Chan started sobbing into his chest again. Just like that, Li Yundong went from mushy, heart-and-flowers romantic mode to a full-blown panic mode.
"Hey, hey. What's wrong, princess?"
Su Chan shook her head. "I'm just so happy and..." Suddenly, Su Chan looked up at him tentatively. "Aren't you afraid of me?"
Li Yundong sighed inwardly, then smiled. Looks like it's gonna take a long, long time to convince her that I don't really care. "Nope. I'm not afraid. And I don't get scared that easily."
"But I'm a fox spirit. People see my kind as demons."
Li Yundong shrugged. "So?"
"So—" Su Chan gaped, looking adorably baffled. "You do know what a demon means, right? Oh, you know, those vile and evil creatures that—"
"But you don't kill people at random," Li Yundong said in a firm tone. "In fact, it's the opposite. You even helped save lives. Look, let me make something clear. Labels don't mean shit." Li Yundong shook his head lightly. "I assure you that there are some who are labelled as humans but are pure evil."
People like He Shao, he added silently.
"Labels don't mean anything, Su Chan. Only your thoughts and actions count…"
"But most people hate me!"
"Well I'm not most people," Li Yundong said pointedly. "And I happen to love you, so..."
Su Chan's lips trembled slightly, after which she let out another sob.
Li Yundong patted her head. "Come on, stop crying already. It's gonna be alright, I promise."
Su Chan bobbed her head. "Mmm!"
Suddenly, Li Yundong lips curved into a smile. "Hey... I also have a secret to tell you."
Su Chan raised her gaze and blinked those huge, watery eyes at him. "Hmm?"
Li Yundong's heart might have just melted a little. He cleared his throat. "Come closer and I'll tell you."
Su Chan brought her face closer like an obedient little girl.
"You have snot all over your face..." he whispered into her ear.
"Kya!! Really? Oh my god!"
The next thing that happened took him by complete surprise. Su Chan yanked the front of his shirt and then used it as some kind of face towel. Li Yundong struggled not to laugh. A moment later, Su Chan released his shirt and started patting her face violently.
"Is it still there..." She glanced around frantically as though she was looking for something.
"Umm… You've actually made it worse..." Li Yundong said with a straight face.
However, when Li Yundong saw the horrified look on Su Chan's face, he couldn't hold back his laughter anymore. "I was messing with you, geez!"
Su Chan gaped at him for a moment. "Meanie, meanie, meanie!" She slapped his chest. "I thought I looked ugly and terrible and—"
Li Yundong trapped her hand against his chest and smiled. "You don't look ugly, princess. You look perfect."
Su Chan blushed and tried to look away, but Li Yundong held her chin and prevented her from turning away. "Now I've got some questions."
Suddenly, Su Chan's eyes turned wary. "W- What?"
Li Yundong gave her a reassuring smile. "There's nothing for you to worry about, okay? I won't abandon you... Ever."
Su Chan sighed. "Okay..."
"What happened back at the motel?"
Su Chan hesitated for a few seconds, then said, "I'll tell you everything. But not here. Let's head back to the motel first."
Li Yundong slapped his forehead. "Oh, shit..."
Li Yundong ran a hand through his hair. "I didn't tell the driver to wait for me after I paid the cab fare. The guy left already. It's pretty hard to find a cab here." Li Yundong paused in thought. "We'll have to walk out to the main road, and who knows we might get lucky and see one driving by."
"No. We don't have to do that, silly," Su Chan smiled brightly. "I can fly."
Li Yundong looked up sharply. "But you'll be carrying me and I'm kinda heavy... Um... Will that be a problem?"
Wow. Okay. He was going to fly. Not by mechanical means, but by magical means. Holy frigging wow.
"Come on," Su Chan said, tugging Li Yundong's arms.
Li Yundong frowned in confusion. "Where are we going? I thought we're flying."
Su Chan led him away from the Space Shuttle towards the amusement park's gates. "It's too open here. People might see us."
Li Yundong glanced around. The place was pretty much empty at the moment, but Su Chan was right to practice precaution. They'd had too many close calls lately.
Su Chan led him into a dark alley beside the park.
"Put your arms around me," Su Chan ordered once they were standing in the alley. "Hug me from behind."
Li Yundong quickly did as he was told. A moment later, Su Chan turned her head around to look at him.
"Whatever you do, don't let go of me," she said. "I don't know what I'd do if you fall off..."
Li Yundong chuckled. "Of course I won't let go. I'm not that stupid, you know..."
Su Chan pouted and turned away from him. "Okay... Ready?"
"Here we go..."
Li Yundong gasped and closed his eyes instinctively when a burst of green light exploded around them. The wind howled beside his ear, blustering against his face. When he opened his eyes slowly a few seconds later, he saw nothing but darkness in front of him. But then when he glanced lower, he saw tiny dots of light flying past them. Holy shit... They were God knows how many feet above the city.
"Hang on! We're almost there!" Su Chan voice sounded amidst the wind. A second later, he felt a sharp dip, like they were taking a deep plunge. Li Yundong hugged Su Chan's body tighter. Green light blinded his vision. A moment later, the wind stopped blowing. When he opened his eyes, they were hovering above the balcony of their motel room.
"We're here," Su Chan said.
Slowly, they descended onto the balcony until their feet touch the floor.
Li Yundong unwrapped his arms around Su Chan's waist and stared at Su Chan for several seconds. "You have got to teach me that."
"So. Ready to tell me what happened?" Li Yundong asked once they got settled on the bed.
"I had to remove my Vital Orb from my body," Su Chan said.
"Vital Orb? Wait, is that the thing that caused the room to glow?"
Su Chan nodded. "I had no choice. That was the quickest way to remove the Divine Aura from my body. I knew I wouldn't survive if the Divine Aura stayed in my body for too long."
Li Yundong sighed and drew her into a hug. "I'm glad you're okay." He went quiet for a few seconds, pondering his next question. "Is that why you changed into…" He cleared his throat. "I mean is that why your tail came out?"
"It takes a lot of magical power to maintain my human form. And the Vital Orb is like a reservoir inside the body that stores magical powers. So if I take it out…"
"Your body will eventually run out of magical powers?"
Su Chan nodded. "I tried to work as quickly as possible before my magical powers are depleted. But I was too late. I couldn't..." Su Chan stole a tentative glance at him. "I couldn't maintain my... my human form."
Li Yundong rubbed her back gently. "For what it's worth, it wasn't so bad. I mean, other than your fluffy tail—which looked super cute by the way—you looked pretty much the same."
Su Chan suddenly withdrew from their hug. She slid away to the edge of the bed, then hugged her knees. She looked like a frightened child.
"That wasn't my true form... Not even close."
"Okay... So you're saying you can actually transform into a fox?"
Su Chan hugged her knees tighter and nodded weakly. "D- Do you feel disgusted now?"
Li Yundong yanked Su Chan back into his arms. "No, silly. I told you already that I don't care about that. And besides..." Li Yundong caressed her shapely butt. "I kinda like your human form."
Su Chan moaned at his touch. "No... Stop touching me there, Yundong..." she said breathily. "I- I can't..." She moaned again.
Li Yundong jerked his hand away. "S- Sorry..." He cleared his throat. "You forgot again."
Su Chan looked thoroughly puzzled. "About what?"
"I told you to... you know... kick me in the nuts if I try to touch you again."
There was a moment of silence. Then, Su Chan burst into giggles.
Li Yundong pinched her nose. "Stop laughing," he growled playfully. "You have no idea how hard it is not to touch you."
Su Chan removed his hand from her nose, then laced their fingers together. "I really don't mind giving myself to you, beloved. But not until you've passed the Zhuji phase."
Li Yundong smiled and lifted their joined hands. "I know," he said, dropping a light kiss onto the back of her hand.
Su Chan sighed and snuggled into his chest, causing their thighs to rub against each other.
Dang. This no-touching policy was a lot harder than he thought.
Li Yundong cleared his throat harshly.
"So… Um… Where's your tail now?"
"After I flew off, I hid myself away." Su Chan scratched the fabric of his shirt. "Once I recovered enough of my magical powers, I transformed into my human form again."
"I see..." There was a pause, then a curious thought hit him. "Is that why you ran? Because I saw your tail?"
"Even after I reabsorbed my Vital Orb, I didn't have enough magical powers to maintain my human form. My tail appeared and… and I didn't know what else might appear, so... so I left..."
Li Yundong sighed. "Don't do that again, okay? I was trying to tell you that I didn't mind. But then you just flew off..."
"S- Sorry... I panicked."
Li Yundong smiled. "It's okay. Just know that I really don't mind."
The relief on Su Chan's face was palpable. She nodded. "Mmm..."
Li Yundong chuckled. "Seriously though..." He gave Su Chan a sidelong glance. "I do find your tail cute. It's so fluffy and bushy..."
Li Yundong laughed out loud when he saw the look on Su Chan's face, which was as red as a tomato.
"S- Shut up..." Su Chan mumbled. "And... And..."
Li Yundong laughed again. "What?"
"It isn't... It isn't my only tail!"
Li Yundong nearly fell off the bed. "What? You mean you have more than one tail?!"
Su Chan's tentative expression made her look like a frightened puppy. She nodded slowly.
Li Yundong glanced down at her curvaceous booty. "Um... How many?"
Su Chan held up three fingers.
"Three tails..." Li Yundong leaned back and tried to picture it in his head. Nope. He couldn't come up with a good picture. "Wait... How many tails do fox spirits have?"
"Well... In our strongest physical form, we have nine tails..."
"You mean the stronger you are, the more tails you have?"
Su Chan nodded. "In humans, having large muscles is a sign of physical strength. But in fox spirits, physical strength depends on the number of tails we have. Nine is the most number of tails we can get."
Another thought occurred to Li Yundong. "So if you consumed the Renyuan Jindan... You would get nine tails?"
Su Chan shook her head. "Six. But it's also possible to enhance our physical form through Cultivation..."
A pang of guilt speared through Li Yundong. "I'm sorry, Su Chan." He sighed. "If I didn't end up with the Jindan, you would've been a six-tailed fox spirit by now..."
Su Chan snuggled up to him. "Yundong... I don't care about that anymore. Even though I'm a lowly three-tailed fox spirit, I know I can be happy."
Li Yundong frowned. "Are you sure?"
"Mmm!" Su Chan nodded enthusiastically.
"But how can you be sure? I mean you went through so much trouble to steal it. You even told me you nearly died in the process—"
"Because I have you."
Li Yundong stopped talking and stared at her.
Certainty filled Su Chan's eyes when she nodded. "I'm sure because I know you'll always be there by my side. Power doesn't make me happy, Yundong. You do."
Something wet slid down Li Yundong's cheek. It took him a second to realize that it was his own tears. Su Chan's face became a blur, and he had to bit his lip to stop himself from sobbing. He drew Su Chan tightly against him, pressing his chin on the top of her head. More tears fell, but he forced himself to speak anyways. "Thank you, Su Chan. You're the best thing that happened to me. Never forget that."
"A- And... I'll w- work hard to become stronger." Li Yundong's voice cracked a little. "W- We can help make each other stronger. You can help me become a Cultivator while I help you become a nine-tailed fox. How about that, huh?" Li Yundong cleared his throat.
There was a moment of silence.
"S- Su Chan?"
"I heard you..." Su Chan sighed. "I don't think it's possible for me to reach a nine-tailed fox form through Cultivation alone. I don't think I have the talent..."
Li Yundong sniffed loudly. "What? That's ridiculous! Have you seen the stuff you did? You're a total badass! I mean just look at the way you—"
"There are only two known fox spirits who had achieved the nine-tailed fox form. The founder of the Fox Zen School, and also the Mystical Silver Fox."
"So what? You'll get there one there." Li Yundong wiped his cheeks with his sleeve.
"I doubt it, Yundong." The dejection he heard in Su Chan's voice brought a sharp pang to his chest. Then, her tone turned cheery again. "But it's okay, hehehe! Nobody will dare bully me once they know that I'm the great Li Yundong's lover!"
Li Yundong chuckled a few times before his expression turned somber. He patted Su Chan's shoulder and turned her around so that they were looking into each other's eyes. "I promise you I'll work hard, Su Chan. And then we can become stronger together," Li Yundong stated firmly. "Nobody's leaving anybody behind, okay? We're both in this together. Am I clear?"
Su Chan smiled, then bobbed her head up and down. "Mmm!"
"I think it's time, Su Chan" Li Yundong took a deep breath and looked straight into her eyes. "Help me pass the Zhuji phase."