Li Yundong ended his ministration on the fan's surface. "Misogynistic? What on earth gave you that idea?"
Try as he might, Li Yundong couldn't hide the surprise in his voice. He took a step back and studied the tessen like it was an odd specimen. How could this thing by misogynistic? It wasn't like the fan had a will of its own... Or did it?
"That's because only a man can wield its full power," Zi Yuan said casually.
Li Yundong frowned. "But why? Why does it matter?" Li Yundong paused in thought. "Well, it is a little heavy, I suppose."
"No," Zi Yuan said with a shake of her head. "This has nothing to do with its weight or size."
Li Yundong gave her a puzzled look. "Okay?"
"Have you heard of the Diamond Sutra?"
"Err… It's a Buddhist scripture if I'm not mistaken."
Zi Yuan nodded. "According to the Diamond Sutra, Gautama Buddha himself said that there are seven treasures inside a man's body and five leaks—or punctures—inside a woman's body." Zi Yuan paused and ran her palm over the fan's surface. "Take a look at these inscriptions. What do you make of them?"
Li Yundong brought his face closer to the fan and studied the strange engravings on its surface. "Well… They're Sanskrit." He looked towards Zi Yuan for confirmation. "Right?"
Zi Yuan nodded. "As a matter of fact… You're staring at the Diamond Sutra."
Li Yundong gave Zi Yuan a look of surprise. "Wait, what? You mean the whole scripture is…" Li Yundong's gaze drifted towards the fan once more.
Zi Yuan smirked, then nodded. "Yes. These inscriptions contain all the verses from the Diamond Sutra."
Li Yundong chuckled. "No wonder it's so... big."
"Before he became a Shenxian, the fox elder Pan Shi created this fan and then inscribed the entire Diamond Sutra onto its surface in honor of the great dharma heir and Zen master, Baizhang Huaihai."
Li Yundong looked towards Zi Yuan. Baizhang who?
It didn't seem like Zi Yuan had noticed of his confusion. Zi Yuan looked almost pensive as she stood there stroking the fan's surface. She also had a faraway look in her eyes, like she was revisiting old memories.
Li Yundong didn't want to interrupt her thoughts, so he kept watching her, waiting for her to continue.
Seconds later, she did. "After that, Pan Shi performed an adhisthana on the fan." Zi Yuan looked towards Li Yundong briefly. "Adhisthana is like a blessing ceremony that grants an object or a person magical powers. Anyway, Pan Shi blessed this fan with Vajra magic, which can only be wielded by someone with a body of seven treasures. In other words, only a man can wield its magic."
Li Yundong nodded. "No wonder Su Chan said that none of her sisters in the Fox Zen School are able to use it..." he mumbled to himself.
Both Li Yundong and Zi Yuan looked towards the couch where Ruan Hongling sat with a dark scowl on her face.
"A lot of spells and magic can only be mastered by men, not women," Ruan Hongling grumbled.
Li Yundong stole a glance at Zi Yuan who appeared to be engrossed in her own thoughts. Perhaps this was one thing that Zi Yuan couldn't correct Ruan Hongling on.
"I mean, just take a look at the long history of Cultivation," Ruan Hongling ranted. "The number of female Shenxians are far too little compared to the number male Shenxians." Ruan Hongling snorted. "Oh, and let's not forget what happened to the Mystical Silver—"
"Hongling..." Zi Yuan said in a warning tone.
"What, Elder Sister!" Ruan Hongling snapped. "It's history! It really happened."
Li Yundong's eyes bounced back and forth between Ruan Hongling and Zi Yuan. Clearly, these two were talking about something he knew absolutely nothing about. Moments later, Zi Yuan's shoulder sagged slightly and she sighed.
"Um... guys...? Do you mind explaining to me what you guys were talking about? I mean I am trying to become a Cultivator, so... maybe some background knowledge would… you know…" Li Yundong finished lamely.
Ruan Hongling crossed her arms and regarded him for a moment. "Does the name The Mystical Silver Fox ring any bells? Did your girlfriend ever mention that name to you?" Ruan Hongling asked without taking her eyes off him.
Li Yundong shook his head.
Ruan Hongling huffed out a breath. "Well, she was the fourth head of the Fox Zen School. Anyway, she sneaked into Mount Wutai one time to research on Buddhist magic. And guess what? She tried to master a Vajra spell and went into Zouhuo Rumo state. She only survived because a monk sacrificed his life to save her."
The living room fell silent. Li Yundong didn't know what to make of what he'd just heard. Who was this Mystical Silver Fox? From what he'd heard so far, she sounded like a controversial figure. Why hadn't Su Chan told him any of this?
"The Fox Zen School has produced quite a few prodigies over the years," Ruan Hongling said. "The Mystical Silver Fox is probably the greatest among them. Her magical powers were phenomenal back then." Ruan Hongling snorted. "Not anymore though. Now she is weak. Then again, the Fox Zen School has Ao Wushuang now. Too bad—"
"Enough, Hongling. It is disrespectful to discuss the affairs of other schools."
"Enough..." Zi Yuan said sternly.
The two women glared at each other across the room.
Li Yundong cleared his throat and raised his palms.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, guys, guys... Why don't we all just... chill?"
After a while, Ruan Hongling looked away with a loud huff. Li Yundong turned towards Zi Yuan. "Um… Can you explain to me how to use this thing properly?" Li Yundong tapped the Fan of Seven Treasures with his knuckles.
Zi Yuan looked away from Ruan Hongling. "There are two ways to use it. You can either use it as a physical weapon, or you can use its magical properties."
Li Yundong chuckled. "A physical weapon? You mean like smashing someone's head with it? But it's so heavy and bulky."
Zi Yuan smiled. "I can show it to you," she said, then paused to look at him. "Only if you don't mind, of course."
Li Yundong shrugged. "Sure." He lifted the fan off the floor and handed it over to Zi Yuan.
Despite her slender frame, Zi Yuan lifted the bulky fan with ease and carried it towards the living room. Even Ruan Hongling had stopped sulking and was now following Zi Yuan's movements curiously. The girl's face still looked a bit sullen, but Li Yundong suspected that it was her natural look. He kept that thought to himself lest he start another bickering match.
Zi Yuan stopped at the center of the living room. She glanced around the apartment a few times, then shook her head. A second later, her eyes were on Li Yundong. "There's not enough room here. Come with me." Zi Yuan jerked her chin towards the sliding door. "I'll show you how it can be used as a physical weapon."
Then, without waiting for Li Yundong's response, Zi Yuan strode towards the sliding door and stepped outside onto the balcony. Ruan Hongling rose from the couch a moment later and followed Zi Yuan to the balcony.
Li Yundong sighed and shook his head. "It's like they own the damn place," he grumbled.
By the time Li Yundong stepped through the sliding door, Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling were nowhere to be seen. No doubt those two had flown off again.
Li Yundong sighed inwardly. Great. Now where the hell am I supposed to go?
Li Yundong leaned over the top of the railing and looked up and down.
"Uh... Hello?!!" he yelled into the night. "You two geniuses seem to have forgotten something very, very important! You see, guys. I can't fly—Whoa! Shit!" Li Yundong reached for the railing when his legs suddenly levitated off the floor.
He grabbed the railing tighter.
"Let go of the railing, doofus!"
Li Yundong looked up and saw Ruan Hongling staring down at him.
Li Yundong let go of the railing and allowed his body to float upwards until he was level with Ruan Hongling.
Li Yundong glared at Ruan Hongling. "How about a little warning next time, huh?"
Ruan Hongling rolled her eyes. "Too scared to fly? Tsk, tsk, tsk. What a sissy. So much for being the Jindan's Heir."
"Hey! Who says I'm scared? I was just startled—" Li Yundong yelped when his body suddenly shot into the air.
At least he managed not to squeak. Barely.
Seconds later, he landed on the rooftop of his apartment block. Zi Yuan was already there, waiting for him.
"What took you so long?" Zi Yuan asked the moment his feet touched the floor.
"Maybe because he got scared and started crying like a baby!"
"Hey! I told you I wasn't scared!" He glared at Ruan Hongling, who was lowering herself to the roof. He turned away from Ruan Hongling to face Zi Yuan. "I wasn't scared. I swear."
A smirk tugged at Zi Yuan's lips. Then, she waved her hand a few times. "Back away a few steps."
Li Yundong did as he was told.
Zi Yuan swung the fan in a wide arc and then let it rest on her right shoulder. "Now watch," she said, giving Li Yundong a pointed look. "This is how you use it as a physical weapon."
SWISH! CLACK! The fan spread open after a flick of Zi Yuan's wrist. What! How the heck did she…? Li Yundong had to use his Qi to even spread the fan, yet she did it so effortlessly. Wait… What was that?
Something strange was happening to the fan's leaves. They weren't stationary at all; they were rotating about the ribs like a bunch of spinning blades.
SNAP! The fan closed again with Zi Yuan holding it like a Bo staff. Zi Yuan moved into a fighting stance, and then started dancing around the rooftop. SNAP! The fan opened again.
"I see..." Li Yundong whispered. The fan could be wielded as a Bo staff, and then opened to increase its striking range. He had no doubt that those spinning blades would tear anything to shreds upon contact.
Zi Yuan's demonstration lasted for quite a while. Hell, Li Yundong almost didn't want it to end. It was the most impressive weapons demonstration that he'd ever seen.
"Amazing..." he said when Zi Yuan placed the fan back into his arms.
"That's actually nothing," Zi Yuan said with a smile. She didn't even look like she broke a sweat.
"Hah! Elder Sister Zi Yuan is capable of things that are far more impressive things than that!" Ruan Hongling said.
Li Yundong nodded. "I'm sure that's true."
Ruan Hongling beamed with pride.
"What about spells?" Li Yundong ran his hand over the fan's surface. "How do you use spells with this thing?"
Zi Yuan smiled wryly. "Unfortunately, I can't show you that because... well, for obvious reasons." She gestured at her own body.
"Right. Because you're not a man."
Zi Yuan nodded. "Only someone with the body of seven treasures can unlock the fan's weapon." Zi Yuan held his gaze steadily. "I guess you'll find out once you pass the Zhuji phase and reach the Shentong phase."
Li Yundong stared down at the weapon inside his arms. So close yet so far.
Zi Yuan landed on the balcony of Hongling's apartment, which was right across Li Yundong's apartment block.
The sliding door opened, and Hongling poked her head out.
"Come on in, Elder Sister Zi Yuan."
Zi Yuan turned, and gave the rooftop of the opposite block a final glance. Li Yundong was still up there having fun with the Fan of Seven Treasures.
Zi Yuan tore her gaze away from the rooftop and found Hongling staring at her quizzically. Instead of entering the apartment, Zi Yuan turned around and stared out into the night sky.
The sliding door closed behind her. Hongling was standing beside her seconds later.
"What's on your mind, Elder Sister?"
Zi Yuan sighed. "Nothing… It's just…"
"You're thinking about the Jindan's Heir again, aren't you?"
Zi Yuan didn't answer. Why bother when the answer was already so obvious?
"Are you just going to keep helping him, Elder Sister Zi Yuan?"
"Is that a problem?"
Hongling was silent for a while.
"To be honest, I don't see the point," Hongling said.
Zi Yuan looked at her young protégé.
Hongling held her palms up defensively as though she was expecting to be reprimanded. "Don't get me wrong, Elder Sister. I think he's smart and talented. But he lacks experience." Hongling held Zi Yuan's gaze. "I'm not sure he'll be able to survive the Heavenly Thunder."
For once, Zi Yuan couldn't come up with a counterargument against Hongling. "I…" Zi Yuan sighed. "I don't know, Hongling. I don't know…"
Silence spread between them.
"Are you thinking about Master's prophecy?" Hongling asked.
"What if this is the ultimate test?" Zi Yuan said.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean what if Li Yundong's divine punishment is the ultimate test of whether Master's prophecy is true?"
"It makes sense, doesn't it?" Zi Yuan said. "If Li Yundong failed to survive, then Master's prophecy is clearly wrong. But if he did…" Zi Yuan trailed off.
"If he did?" Hongling asked after a while.
"Then I don't know… Maybe we'll become allies…"
Zi Yuan smiled. "What is it with you two, Hongling?"
"He just… rubs me the wrong way, I guess."
Or maybe you're just jealous of his talents…
"Regardless," Zi Yuan said in a stern voice. "We'll keep teaching him for now. So I want you two to start getting along."
"Great. Now I have to tolerate his obnoxious attitude for God knows how long," Hongling grumbled.
Zi Yuan chuckled. "You might not have to worry about that, Hongling."
"Yeah right. You just told me that we're going to stick around him."
"Nope," Zi Yuan said. "You won't be seeing him in a few days."
"Seriously?" Hongling sounded surprise.
"Yes, seriously." Zi Yuan smiled. "I'm taking him to that place. And you'll be going back to the mountains to take care of those souls."
"What! You're taking him there?!" Hongling shouted. "B- But… He's going to die before he even tries to pass the Zhuji phase!"
"Well. There is a risk of that." Zi Yuan sighed. "But if he couldn't even survive that place, then he definitely wouldn't be able to survive the divine punishment…"