Five minutes into his training, Li Yundong noticed the first sign of progress. The movement had been subtle and slight (just a tiny jolt), but it was there and he saw it with his own eyes.
Indeed, if the whole thing had taken place before Su Chan came into his life, he would've assumed that his eyes were playing tricks on him. Or, at the very least, he would've ducked under the table for cover because he thought an earthquake had hit Tiannan City.
Now it just filled his heart with joy.
Li Yundong shot a glance at Zi Yuan, wondering if she had noticed the fan's subtle movement as well. Her eyes were still closed, and she still had that serene expression on her face. Clearly, she hadn't noticed it. Or if she did, she had dismissed it as something trivial and totally unworthy of her attention.
Li Yundong closed his eyes and touched his hand to the fan's surface once more. Then, he channeled more Zhenqi into the fan, holding nothing back this time. While he worked, he kept track of the fan's reaction.
The fan didn't move again after that, but he knew he was making progress because the resistance against his Zhenqi was gradually weakening.
He kept working and working until the fan started to move again. However, this time it wasn't just a simple jolt, but a strong and persistent vibration. He opened his eyes and released a long breath; a jet of white gas shot out from between his lips when he exhaled.
The Fan of Seven Treasures was shaking like crazy.
Li Yundong flinched when it suddenly spread open to reveal its leaves. But before he even blink, the fan closed up and took the shape of a Bo staff once more.
For minutes on end, Li Yundong just sat there and watched the fan's movements. The fan slid and thrashed violently against the floor, opening and closing on its own once every few seconds or so. The whole display gave him the impression of some kind of giant bug having a seizure on the floor.
It was creepy as hell.
Li Yundong stole a glance at the clock. About an hour had passed since he began channeling his Zhenqi into the fan.
He looked back down at the fan, which was still twitching around.
He hadn't expected to make this much progress in just an hour's time. Well. It seemed like the process might not take long after all.
"No breaks." Zi Yuan's stern voice pulled him out of his thoughts. "Keep going until it acknowledges you."
Li Yundong looked up from the fan. Much to his surprise, Zi Yuan's eyes were still closed.
"Right now it's at its weakest," Zi Yuan continued. "This is the best time to subdue it and secure its allegiance. Don't waste the opportunity."
Li Yundong nodded even though he knew that Zi Yuan couldn't see him with her eyes closed—or maybe she could, who knows.
He took a deep breath and returned his focus to his Vital Orb, where his Zhenqi swirled around with unparalleled vigor. It still amazed him sometimes how far he'd come.
After a while, he was interrupted by Zi Yuan's voice. "Open your eyes and take a look at what's happening."
The fan was no longer moving about; instead, it lay completely still on the floor. If it weren't for the golden glow on the fan's surface, he would've thought that his attempt had failed. Then, upon a closer look, he realized that the golden glow on the fan's surface wasn't uniform at all: it seemed to be following the path of his Zhenqi as it moved around inside the fan.
He shot a questioning glance at Zi Yuan.
"Focus," Zi Yuan snapped. "Eyes on the fan. You're almost there now—"
The Fan of Seven Treasures shot into the air and then spread open like a peacock's tail.
Li Yundong stared at the wonderful sight before him, unable to say a word.
"Come on. Give it more Zhenqi," Zi Yuan said without taking her eyes off the fan. "This is a good sign."
Li Yundong pushed wave after wave of his Zhenqi into the fan. As he did, the golden glow began to spread across its leaves. One thing about the fan did jump out at him: the inscriptions of the Diamond Sutra were glowing the brightest.
Suddenly, the fan emitted a bright flash of golden light. Li Yundong grunted and raised his arms to shield his eyes. Moments later, he heard a strange buzzing sound, which was coming from the fan as well.
Amidst the buzzing, he also heard the shuffling of feet.
Zi Yuan's voice came from somewhere beside him.
Li Yundong lowered his arms and let his eyes adjust to the brightness. The whole living room was now bathed in a golden luminescence, yet nothing he saw could compare to the sight of the Fan of Seven Treasures, which was now hovering slightly below the ceiling.
The word glorious couldn't even do it justice.
The inscriptions of the Diamond Sutra were like glowing embers, outshining the golden light that formed its background.
Li Yundong felt as though his feet were moving on their own when he took a few steps forward. As he got closer to the fan, he eventually realized the cause of that buzzing sound he heard earlier: the leaves of the fan were vibrating at a high frequency.
Once again, Li Yundong's eyes were drawn towards the glowing inscriptions of the Diamond Sutra. Even though he didn't understand any of those symbols, he could still feel the sheer power each of them was emanating. The words drew him in, enticing him, beckoning him forward.
It was like some kind of spell.
He wondered if this was what it felt like to be in the presence of Gautama Buddha.
Li Yundong stopped walking when the Fan of Seven Treasures began to move. It floated down towards the floor, towards him. Then, it spun a few times along its rivet and drifted across the room as though it was inspecting each corner of the apartment. Li Yundong stood there and watched, utterly fascinated.
"The awakening..." Zi Yuan remarked.
Li Yundong had heard her, but he didn't acknowledge her words; he couldn't take his eyes off the fan.
The fan flew into the kitchen, then into the bedroom. A minute later, it returned to the living room and flew circles around Li Yundong.
Suddenly, the fan stopped short and turned sharply towards Zi Yuan. Another burst of golden light filled the room; the fan snapped shut, then spread open again.
The inscriptions on the leaves weren't just glowing now: they were burning.
Flames rose from the surface of the leaves (from the inscriptions) like small tentacles of fire. Those fiery tendrils drifted towards Zi Yuan like they were about to engulf her in flames.
"H- Hey... What's going on?" Li Yundong stammered as horror filled his chest. The Fan of Seven Treasures seemed hostile towards Zi Yuan.
Zi Yuan just stared at the flames, completely unperturbed.
"Oh. It's nothing to worry about," Zi Yuan said. "It's just part of the process."
It was beyond Li Yundong how Zi Yuan could still sound so casual in the face of such threatening presence.
"Remember what I said about the awakening?" Zi Yuan said. "Well. This is it. Right now, it's trying to identify its owner based on the spiritual signature left inside it. While doing so, it will reject and act hostile towards those whose Qis don't match the signature."
"Amazing..." he whispered.
The fan retreated from Zi Yuan and drifted back towards him. Li Yundong reached out with a hand to touch it, but then held back at the last second. He turned his head to look at Zi Yuan. "Um... How do I use it?"
"When a magical object first acknowledges its owner, it will protect its owner on its own," Zi Yuan said without taking her eyes off the fan. "You don't have to try to control it for now."
"What? That doesn't even make sense."
How was he supposed to wield it without having the ability to control its powers?
"The magical object has its own spiritual energy," Zi Yuan explained. "Right now, the fan's spiritual energy is more powerful than yours. You can only start controlling it when your spiritual energy exceed the magical object's spiritual energy in terms of strength."
"But that night on the rooftop, I could—"
"That doesn't count." Zi Yuan glanced at him. "You had the Jindan's help that time."
"Okay. So I just have to keep growing my spiritual energy until I can wield the fan?"
"Yes," Zi Yuan said. "Well, as your spiritual energy grows, you can do more than just wield it. You can even reform or transmute it."
"So what should I do now?" Try as he might, he couldn't keep the excitement out of his voice.
Zi Yuan chuckled. "Isn't it obvious?"
Li Yundong stared at Zi Yuan. "Er... Not to me?"
Zi Yuan smiled at him. "You greet it, of course!"
Li Yundong chuckled. "Geez. You make it sound like I'm meeting a pet for the first time."
Zi Yuan's expression sobered. "There are two things I want you to remember."
"From now on, you need to keep the fan with you at all times, do you understand?"
Li Yundong nodded.
"Good. Now, for the second thing. Do not use the fan lightly, especially when you're facing an opponent whose spiritual energy is more powerful than yours."
Understanding dawned upon him. "Otherwise the fan might choose them as its new owner…"
Zi Yuan nodded. "What you did to Hongling's damask, someone else could do to you." She nodded at the Fan of Seven Treasures. "A Cultivator can easily remove your spiritual signature if their spiritual energy is more powerful than yours." Zi Yuan gave him a pointed look. "When that happens, the fan will abandon you and acknowledge them as their new owner."
Such fickle creatures…
"Understood," Li Yundong said with a grave nod. "I'll watch out."
"Alright then!" Zi Yuan grinned. "Time for you to get acquainted with your first magical object."
Li Yundong turned away from Zi Yuan to face the Fan of Seven Treasures.
The fan snapped shut at the slightest touch of his hand and once again took the form of a Bo staff. Even the golden glow on its surface had vanished. Li Yundong withdrew his hand and glanced sideways at Zi Yuan.
Zi Yuan gave him an encouraging nod.
Li Yundong took a deep breath and stepped forward. The dark Bo staff reoriented itself until it was hovering in the air horizontally. Then, it floated downwards until it was hovering right in front of his chest.
Li Yundong stroke along the fan's rivet, leaving a trail of golden glow on the fan's surface. The glow disappeared once again when he removed his hand. Li Yundong reached out and wrapped both arms around the fan's body. Surprisingly, he could feel the full weight of the fan the moment it fell into his arms—the fan was no longer hovering.
Li Yundong gripped the fan tighter and turned around to face Zi Yuan.
Zi Yuan's eyes had glazed over slightly, and there was an uncharacteristic gentleness in them. She was technically looking at him (or right through him), but he doubted that it was his image that she saw—it was like she was living inside a different world, a world of old memories.
"Congratulations, Li Yundong," Zi Yuan said gently. "You're now the owner of the Fan of Seven Treasures and a true Cultivator. Welcome to the Cultivation world."