Li Yundong's heart grew heavier. "Even more dangerous?"
Su Chan nodded. "Because this time, you'll be spending a much longer time inside your Spirit Space."
Li Yundong pondered Su Chan's words for a moment.
"Because the Vital Orb takes a while to form?"
"Mmm. And you'll achieve and sustain Ishvara through the whole time."
Li Yundong released a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. "Which means..."
"Which means it's the final dan of the Ningshen phase all over again. Just that you have to sustain it for a much longer period of time."
"But I did it before, right?" Li Yundong said in a hopeful tone.
"It'll be different this time," Su Chan said with a shake of her head. "Like I said, you not only have to achieve Ishvara, but also sustain that state throughout the entire process." Su Chan glanced at him. "Do you still remember what happened the other day when you passed the Ningshen phase?"
Li Yundong stared at the ceiling and sifted through his memory. "I got trapped for a while, but then something pulled me out and I woke up."
"That's right. That day, you woke up from your meditative state as soon as you conquered your personal god and achieved Ishvara. But this time, you have to stay inside your Spirit Space and remain in control of your personal god until the formation of your Vital Orb is complete." Su Chan sighed. "And there'll be temptations."
Su Chan sighed. "Temptations, tricks, illusions, whatever you want to call it. Their sole purpose is to make you lose track of reality. And if you do, your personal god will regain control over your Spirit."
"But..." Li Yundong frowned. "Can't I just take back control?"
"No." Su Chan shook her head firmly. "The moment your personal god reclaims control, your Ishvara would be broken. And if that happens before the formation of your Vital Orb is complete, you would not only fail to pass the Zhuji phase, but you'd also be trapped inside your Spirit Space and lose your soul."
Silence permeated the room. Li Yundong replayed Su Chan's words over and over again.
"No room for error…" he whispered. Could he do it? Could he overcome the challenge?
A touch on his chest brought him out of his thoughts. When he looked up, Su Chan was kneeling in front of him with her palm over his heart.
"I- I'm sorry, Yundong..." Su Chan lowered her gaze. "I didn't mean to scare you. I just... I…"
Li Yundong pulled her forward until her face fit snugly against his chest. When he felt her hair tickling the underside of his jaw, he breathed in deep and inhaled a lungful of her scent.
"It's alright, princess. I'm gonna be fine."
Su Chan said nothing for a while, though Li Yundong could tell that her mind was occupied.
Li Yundong rubbed her back gently. "You're still worried, aren't you?"
Su Chan pulled back and looked at him. "Aren't you?"
Li Yundong sighed. "A little bit, I guess?" He smiled. "But I feel safe knowing that you'll be watching my back."
Su Chan's lips quivered. A moment later, she threw her arms around him. "I'll watch over you! I promise! I won't let anything happen to you!"
Li Yundong smiled. "Thanks, princess. That's all I need."
Su Chan pulled back, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand. "Sit properly."
Li Yundong obeyed and got into a meditative posture. Once Li Yundong got settled, Su Chan climbed towards him and kneeled in front of him. Then, she started patting his face with her palms.
"What are you doing?"
Su Chan rubbed his temples with his palm with a circular motion. "Improving your chances of success," she answered in a heartbeat.
Minutes later, Su Chan shifted her position.
"Now close your eyes," she said.
Li Yundong obeyed without question. Seconds later, he felt Su Chan's hands pressing into his ear. There was also a light pressure—was it her index fingers? Or maybe her middle fingers?—onto the back of his head. Suddenly, he heard a subtle pounding inside his ears, as though someone was playing drums inside his head.
"This technique is called the Heavenly Drum." Su Chan's voice sounded amidst the pounding.
Li Yundong smiled. I guess the name fits…
A while later, the pounding inside his ears stopped. "Keep your eyes closed," Su Chan said.
Li Yundong could feel Su Chan shifting about on the bed.
Something warm touched his eye lids. Golden light filled his vision even though his eyes were shut. "Umm... What's going on?"
"Relax..." Su Chan said. "This is another massage technique called the Channeling Vision."
Li Yundong sighed. "Whatever it is, it feels good."
Su Chan kept working on his eyes. "Try opening your mouth and then clack your teeth together. Gently, not too hard. Do it 36 times. It will help wake up your Kidney's Qi."
Li Yundong did as he was told and clacked his teeth together once every second.
"Done?" Li Yundong asked when Su Chan removed her hands from his eyes.
"Not yet," Su Chan said.
Li Yundong groaned when Su Chan's fingers slid down from the bridge of his nose along the two sides of his nose.
"God..." Li Yundong sighed. "And what's this one for?"
Su Chan kept applying pressure along the two sides of his nose. "This one is to activate the Qi of your Lung."
The sensation on the sides of his nose ended all too soon. When Su Chan's hair tickled the back of his neck, Li Yundong realized that she had shifted once again and taken up spot behind him. Next thing he knew, Su Chan was pushing her knuckles into the two sides of his lower back.
"How does that feel?"
"Good," Li Yundong groaned.
"You should experience a warm sensation around your waist. It will feel like some kind of force is pushing out from waist, like your waist is swollen."
"Yeah, well, my waist isn't the only thing that's hot and swollen..." Li Yundong muttered under his breath.
Su Chan kept working instead of answering. Either she hadn't heard him or she'd chosen to ignore his remark.
A while later, Su Chan's arms snaked along his waist to the front of his body. Li Yundong glanced down to see what she was trying to do. Her fingers were interlocked with her left hand lying on top of the right. She adjusted the position of her hands until her right palm was pressing against his sternum, then she began to massage his sternum in a circular motion. After about ten times or so, she switched hands and did the same thing.
"Now give me your foot," Su Chan said.
Li Yundong opened his eyes and saw that Su Chan had gotten off the bed and was now kneeling beside the bed.
Li Yundong complied and stretched his right foot towards her. Su Chan took his foot and massaged a spot on the arch of his foot.
"And the other one also," Su Chan said after a while.
"Okay..." Li Yundong said, shifting his position on the bed before stretching his left leg out.
The massage ended after a while. Su Chan stood up and rubbed her hands together. "Okay," she said, staring deep into his eyes. "Now you're ready for the Zhuji phase."