Ruan Hongling stormed out of her kitchen and went into her living room. "Ooh, Hongling, please go check on him and make sure he eats," Ruan Hongling mumbled, mimicking Elder Sister Zi Yuan's cold voice.
She opened the sliding door and stepped onto her balcony, where the morning air and sunrise greeted her. The whole view would've been pleasant if she wasn't feeling this grumpy.
"What am I, his caretaker?" Ruan Hongling grumbled, closing the sliding door behind her. She stood in front of the railing and looked towards the opposite block. Li Yundong's balcony was empty.
Still asleep, probably.
Ruan Hongling snorted. What a slacker. He should be up by now, practicing Qi control. The human body's Yang Qi thrives during hour of the Dragon (the time between 7 AM to 9 AM).
Ruan Hongling leaped off her balcony and vanished in a burst of green light. Flying at high speeds during the day was crucial to avoid drawing attention. A second later, she landed on Li Yundong's balcony with a soft thud and then sat on the railing for a moment.
The sliding door was open, just the way she had left it last night. Ruan Hongling frowned. Why didn't he close it when he came back last night? Ruan Hongling pushed herself off the railing, then stepped into the apartment. The living room was empty, so were the kitchen and the dining room. She checked the bedrooms last, and found that Li Yundong wasn't in either bedrooms.
Wait... Don't tell me he's been practicing on the rooftop all night...
Ruan Hongling ran out to the balcony and channeled her Qi into her Shenting. Leaning against the railing, she listened carefully to the surrounding noises with Eryue. Eventually, she heard the unmistakable swinging of the metal fan and Li Yundong's grunting.
Ruan Hongling snorted. The idiot probably thought he could master how to wield the fan in just one night.
She leaped off Li Yundong's balcony and flew all the way up to the rooftop. However, Ruan Hongling got the surprise of her life the moment she landed on the rooftop.
Li Yundong wasn't just practicing how to use the fan properly; he was wielding it like a master.
For one, he wasn't even touching the fan; the fan was just dancing around his body as though he was controlling it with some kind of telekinetic ability.
Oh, yes. She'd heard of this property of the Fan of the Seven Treasures. Elder Sister Zi Yuan had told her about it a long time ago. Apparently, the fan would acknowledge a man as worthy of wielding it and then form some sort of telepathic bond with the wielder. That way, the wielder could control the fan with his mind. The fan would also develop some kind of protective instinct towards the wielder and come to his rescue the moment he feels threatened.
White steam rose from the top of Li Yundong's head. The crown of three flowers... Not bad for someone who barely had any experience in Qi-control training. Please. Two months wouldn't be considered as "experience" at all. Not by a long shot.
All of a sudden, Li Yundong's hand shot out and grabbed the fan—at its rivet—from the air. The fan stopped spinning and then—SNAP! The fan folded itself into a stick. Li Yundong spun the fan around his waist like a Bo staff and then hoisted it above his head. SNAP! The fan spread open once again when Li Yundong tossed it forward.
The fan spun around the rooftop like a huge chakram. It took Ruan Hongling a few seconds, but she eventually realized that the spinning fan was following the movements of Li Yundong's eyes—he was controlling the fan mentally.
Li Yundong's hand shot out again. The fan stopped in its flight path and did a complete one-eighty. It was now flying back to Li Yundong's hand. SNAP! The fan closed moments before it reached Li Yundong's hand. Li Yundong caught the fan's rivet and then—SNAP!—spread it open again. He leaped into the air, then swung the open fan in a wide arc. A strong gust of wind swirled around the rooftop.
Ruan Hongling doubted Li Yundong had used his full strength in that swing. If he used his Qi and the Jindan's Aura, he could probably generate a mini hurricane.
Li Yundong landed on the floor with a heavy thud. SNAP! The fan closed up.
Then Ruan Hongling saw this look in his eyes: the intensity; the sharp focus. It was like nothing else existed in his world at that moment. He was looking at something intensely, some imaginary opponent that only he could see. He cocked his arm—the one carrying the fan—backwards and then launched the fan forward like a spear. SNAP! The fan spread open and spun forward in a straight line. Li Yundong charged forward as though he was chasing after the fan. Suddenly, he ducked and got into a low crouch, from which he launched an upward kick. SWISH! ZING! The spinning fan streak over the top of Li Yundong's body moments after he launched the upward kick.
Ruan Hongling soon realized that none of these movements were random—they formed a combo. The upward kick was no doubt a follow-up strike to the first attack—the fan toss. If his opponent ducked the fan toss, the upward kick from below would've sent his opponent into the air. Nobody can duck a projectile while in the air (unless they can fly), so he reversed the spinning fan's motion, getting it to fly backwards and then slice his opponent's body in half. It was genius.
Something else was happening.
Whoa... What kind of move is that?
Ruan Hongling stepped forward to take a closer look.
Li Yundong was now holding the fan by its rivet. The fan snapped close. Then, he swung the fan above his head with both hands, like a Bo staff. And then…
Ruan Hongling nearly laughed.
What is he even doing?
Li Yundong turned around and leaped into the air.
That idiot was leaving his back wide open for attack—
Li Yundong twisted his upper body around, and then thrusted the fan backwards in a downward stab. The fan spread open the instant his arm was fully extended.
SNAP! The fan closed when Li Yundong's feet slammed into the floor.
Ruan Hongling was stunned. Li Yundong had just applied one of the most brilliant strategies expounded in Sun Tzu's Art of War—retreat, get your opponent to chase after you, and then attack when your opponent least expects it. The same strategy was adopted in martial arts technique such as the retreating horse stab and the art of the dragging knife. By deliberately exposing his back, Li Yundong could lure the enemy to attack his back, and then take his enemy off-guard by parrying and striking with the fan at the same time.
Ruan Hongling shook her head in amazement. She honestly had no idea what to make of the guy. He was a genius. No, he was a freak of nature. Nobody could be that good, especially not someone who, just two months ago, knew close to nothing about Cultivation and martial arts.
Li Yundong was now doing a series of fancy moves, spinning the fan around before tossing it into the air.
Ruan Hongling snorted and looked away. Now he's just showing off and playing around—
A loud yelp drew Ruan Hongling's attention back to Li Yundong, who was now fumbling around trying to catch the fan from the air. He swiped at the fan. "Argh! Shit!"
He missed, and the fan ended up bouncing off the top of his head. The fan crashed into the floor with a loud clatter.
"PFFT! HAHAHA..." Ruan Hongling burst into laughter, then quickly slapped her hands over her mouth.
Too late. Li Yundong was now glaring daggers at her.
"What are you doing here?" Li Yundong asked in a not-so-friendly tone.
Ruan Hongling ignored his question and approached him slowly. "When did you become so good with it?" She nodded at the fan.
Li Yundong shrugged and picked up the fan from the floor.
"Did Elder Sister Zi Yuan teach you some new moves after I left?" She'd returned back to her apartment last night after she got bored watching Elder Sister Zi Yuan teach Li Yundong how to use the fan.
"Nope," Li Yundong said, shaking his head.
Ruan Hongling could feel her own eyes growing wide. "Then where did you learn all those moves?"
Li Yundong looked at her strangely. "All that stuff? Well. I was playing around with the fan after Zi Yuan left, so I figured why not come up with a few moves of my own."
"Y- You came up with those moves?!"
Was he bragging? Hah! He must be. How could he possibly come up with his own moves in just a day? Nobody was that good.
Unless he is a genius... or a freak of nature, a small voice inside her mind added.
Green light filled the rooftop. Ruan Hongling glanced to her right and saw Elder Sister Zi Yuan standing near the rooftop's ledge. Ruan Hongling ran towards Elder Sister Zi Yuan and grabbed her arm. "Elder Sister Zi Yuan..." Ruan Hongling pointed at Li Yundong. "Just now... h- he... he..."
He what? What was she even trying to tell Elder Sister Zi Yuan? That Li Yundong had just come up with a few new moves? That Li Yundong was going to surpass Ruan Hongling and soon replace her as Elder Sister Zi Yuan's protégé?
"What on earth is the matter with you, Hongling?" Zi Yuan looked at her strangely. "And what took you so long?"
Ruan Hongling pouted and crossed her arms. "It's nothing. Why don't you ask him?" She pointed at Li Yundong again.
Damn it! I'm going to train harder! I can't let him be better than me!
"What's going on here, Li Yundong?" Elder Sister Zi Yuan asked.
"Oh. It's nothing," Li Yundong said. "I was just playing around with the fan, that's all."
Ruan Hongling rolled her eyes. You call that playing around?
"Haven't I told you to obey the natural order," Elder Sister Zi Yuan said in a reprimanding tone. "Sleep when it's time to sleep. Following the natural order is an important part of Cultivation."
Li Yundong chuckled wryly. "Ah. But you forgot something very important last night."
Ruan Hongling stole a glance at Elder Sister Zi Yuan and noted the frown on her Elder Sister's face.
"What do you mean?" Elder Sister Zi Yuan asked.
Li Yundong sighed and lowered the Fan of the Seven Treasures to the floor. "You forgot to think like a normal human being."
Annoyance flared through Ruan Hongling. "What are you even talking about?" she snapped. How dare he insult Elder Sister Zi Yuan after all the trouble she'd gone through to teach him? That insolent bastard!
Li Yundong gave her a look. "Seriously?"
Ruan Hongling growled. "What—"
"I can't fly, remember? Neither of you thought to come back and take me back to my apartment?" Li Yundong rolled his eyes, then pointed at the door at the rooftop. "The door is locked. So I couldn't walk down. And even if it wasn't locked, it wasn't like I could drag this bulky thing"—He pointed at the fan—"all the way down the stairs."
Oh... Ruan Hongling glanced sideways and found Elder Sister Zi Yuan staring back at her as well.
Good God... Elder Sister Zi Yuan actually looked sheepish. Ruan Hongling had never seen that look on her mentor before.
"So yeah, geniuses... I was left here for the whole night with the Fan of Seven Treasures. So I did what I could to make the best use of my time. Practice."
"Pffft!!! Hahaha!" Ruan Hongling cracked up.
This was probably the silliest thing Elder Sister Zi Yuan had ever done in years. Seconds later, Elder Sister Zi Yuan turned away from her. Ruan Hongling could've sworn she saw Elder Sister Zi Yuan's shoulder trembling.
"Oh, yeah. Keep laughing, eh? You're not the ones who got trapped up here all night," Li Yundong grumbled.
A while later, Elder Sister Zi Yuan cleared her throat. "Let's get you back to your apartment, then. You must be tired. Besides, I have a few things to discuss with you."
Ruan Hongling stared at Elder Sister for a moment. So she's going to tell him about bringing him to place already? Ruan Hongling looked towards Li Yundong. Yeah. Good luck surviving that, pal... You're gonna need it.
"Face the east side," Zi Yuan said once they were inside Li Yundong's apartment.
Li Yundong paused on his way to the bedroom. "What?"
"Sit down and face the east. It's the hour of the Dragon now. Your body's Yang Qi should be thriving. You'll feel refreshed after a few minutes of Qi-control training."
Li Yundong nodded and padded back to the center of the living room. He sat down with his legs crossed and angled his body eastward. Once Li Yundong's eyes slid shut, Zi Yuan gave Hongling an eye signal. Hongling nodded, and they both slipped quietly to the balcony and left the apartment.
Zi Yuan and Hongling returned to Li Yundong's apartment around noon. Li Yundong was still in the same pose with his eyes closed when they entered the living room, so they sat down on the couch and waited for him to rouse.
Twenty minutes later, Li Yundong stirred.
"Oh. Hey, you guys are here," he said.
Zi Yuan sneaked a glance at her protégé, who seemed rather sullen ever since she asked her to check on Li Yundong this morning. She wondered what was that about. Did those two get into a quarrel again?
"What's wrong?" Li Yundong asked again.
Zi Yuan gave him a smile. "It's nothing."
"You're both staring at me like I did something strange..."
"You are blessed with a rare form of Adolescent Yang Qi," Zi Yuan remarked. "And you also have the Jindan's Aura inside you." Zi Yuan regarded him steadily. "You should make treasure them and put them to good use. These traits are hard to come by."
"Oh, thanks—" Li Yundong paused mid-sentence. He was looking at something. Zi Yuan followed his gaze and saw what he was staring at: the plastic bag containing Li Yundong's lunch that Hongling had left on the coffee table earlier. Li Yundong rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "Damn. You guys brought my lunch again? I'm sorry to always trouble you guys..."
Zi Yuan smiled. "Don't mention it."
"Thank you," Li Yundong said earnestly. "I really appreciate it."
Hongling snorted. "Wait what? I think I might have misheard you. Did you just express your appreciation?"
Zi Yuan sighed inwardly. What was it with Hongling and Li Yundong. Honestly.
However, Li Yundong didn't argue back this time. Instead, he began removing the containers from the plastic bag. Zi Yuan had a feeling that things had changed ever since Li Yundong returned the damask to them. Li Yundong had begun treating her and Hongling with less hostility. Sometimes, Zi Yuan even felt as though Li Yundong revered and respected her.
"Hey, by the way, have you guys eaten?"
Li Yundong's voice brought Zi Yuan out of her thoughts. Li Yundong was staring back at her, his chopsticks hovering inches away from his mouth.
"So now you're worried about us." Hongling snorted. "And we're starving by the way.
Zi Yuan shot Hongling a reprimanding look. "Don't listen to her," Zi Yuan said without taking her eyes off Hongling. "We ate this morning."
"But it's already past noon now," Li Yundong said with a sigh, then set down his chopsticks. "You guys must be hungry already." Suddenly, Li Yundong stood up. "You guys stay here. I'm going out for a moment. I'll be back soon." He turned around and walked towards the door. When he reached the doorway, he paused and turned back around. "By the way, do you mind using the door when you come here next time? Please stop flying in and out of my apartment through the balcony." Li Yundong's face scrunched up. "It makes you two look like a bunch of..." He did some weird gesture with his hands. "... I don't know... Flying thieves."
After that, he turned around and left the apartment.
"Did you hear that, Elder Sister Zi Yuan?!" Hongling growled. "He just insulted us! Thieves! He called us flying thieves!"
Zi Yuan chuckled. "I don't think he meant it quite literally, Hongling."
Hongling huffed. "Where do you reckon he's going anyway?"
Zi Yuan smiled at Hongling. "Why ask me when you already know the answer?"
Hongling grinned and then opened her mouth to speak, but her mouth clicked shut when a loud ringtone sounded.
"Oh, hey, it's his phone." Hongling picked up Li Yundong's phone from the coffee table.
When Hongling turned the phone around and showed Zi Yuan the screen, Zi Yuan caught a glimpse of the caller ID: Princess