Not even the loud din permeating the canteen, it seemed, could impede Feng Na's voice from making its presence known. Li Yundong turned his head and saw Feng Na walking up to him from the end of the queue.
Li Yundong smiled. "Yes, senior?"
"Hey!" Feng Na stopped beside him. "Look, this morning I forgot to inform you that—"
"It's your turn now, buddy," said the guy behind him in the queue.
Li Yundong glanced at the counter, which was now unoccupied. The guy in front of him was walking away with his tray.
Li Yundong smiled at Feng Na. "Let's grab some food first, then we'll talk."
Ten minutes later, they found a table and sat down with their trays.
"So. What did you forget to inform me?"
"Oh, right. Um.., you see, the thing is—"
Feng Na suddenly stopped talking and stared at him strangely.
Li Yundong lowered his spoon from his mouth. "What?"
Feng Na exhaled sharply.
"Okay. Seriously. What is up with you?" Feng Na asked, waving her hand over his tray.
Li Yundong glanced down at his tray and studied it for a moment. He didn't see anything weird there; it was just food.
"I don't understand."
Feng Na frowned. "You just... You're... I don't know. It's like you’ve become a different person. Even the way you eat is completely different." Feng Na waved her hand about. "You used to just gobble down everything. But now, you're eating like you're some sophisticated princess from a noble bloodline."
Li Yundong laughed at Feng Na's description, then stopped laughing when he saw that Feng Na wasn't laughing with him. She wasn't even smiling.
He cleared his throat. "Come on. It's not that big of a deal." He shrugged. "It's just a healthier way to eat, that's all."
"Seriously, pal. What on earth happened to you during the summer break?" Feng Na said. "First, your appearance changed. Then you started carrying this strange object around in your bag. And now even the way you're eating is different?"
Suddenly, Feng Na's eyes went wide. "Did…" She paused to give him a tentative glance. "Did something happened between you and Su Chan?"
Li Yundong could feel his brows rising to his hairline, though he said nothing.
Feng Na cleared her throat. "I- I mean, you guys were usually seen together whenever you were on campus. But she hasn't been around since the start of this semester. And then you were suddenly this changed man…"
"So what are you saying?" Li Yundong smiled. "That Su Chan and I broke up, and then in order to nurse my broken heart, I started walking around campus with a bulky object on my back?"
"Okay. It does sound a bit ridiculous when you put it that way…"
Li Yundong chuckled. "Su Chan and I are fine."
Granted, they hadn't been seeing much of each other of late, but this was probably how this long-distance thingy worked.
"Oh. That's good…" Feng Na cleared her throat. "I mean, that's good to know."
"As for these changes in me…" Li Yundong lowered his spoon and chopsticks onto his tray, then smiled. "It's no big deal. I've just decided to pick up a few new habits, that's all."
Such as maximizing bonding time with a magical weapon that could probably tear down this entire building in seconds…
"New habits…" Feng Na eyed him skeptically. "Right."
"Ever wondered why we should all eat slowly?" Li Yundong asked, steering the conversation away.
"Better for digestion, I guess?" Feng Na said.
"True," Li Yundong said with a nod. "But why is it better for digestion if we slow down when we eat?" He shrugged. "After all, the food still ends up in the stomach."
Feng Na chuckled. "Who do you think I am? A kid?" She rolled her eyes. "It's easier for food to be absorbed if it's chewed into smaller pieces."
"That explanation is correct. But…" Li Yundong raised a finger. "It's incomplete."
Feng Na frowned in confusion.
"Your explanation only touched on one of the key points," Li Yundong clarified. "There are other important points too."
Feng Na's frown deepened. "What other points are there?"
Li Yundong smiled and lowered his finger. "Here. Let me ask you a few more questions. How do you think the stomach carries out its digestive functions? And what about the intestines? How do they work?"
"What? That's it? Those are your questions?" Feng Na snorted, then shot him an incredulous look. "But the questions are so simple!"
Li Yundong raised his brows. "Then by all means. Please share your insights on how the human digestive system works."
"When food enters the stomach," Feng Na said as though she knew the answer by heart, "food will be churned and broken down into smaller pieces via the contraction of the gastric muscles. And then the stomach lining will start secreting enzymes and stomach acid to help the digestion process. After that, everything will be mixed together."
"Okay." Li Yundong nodded approvingly. "And what about the small intestines?"
Feng Na looked a bit offended at the question. "That's where the absorption of nutrients will take place, of course."
Li Yundong smiled. "Then do you know what allows the gastric muscles to contract?"
A puzzled look formed on Feng Na's face. "Huh? You mean like some kind of secret ingredient?"
Li Yundong chuckled. "Well, sort of."
Feng Na went silent in thought. Moments later, a teasing grin spread across her face. "Wei Dongli." (T/N: Wei Dongli is a brand of some kind of yogurt drink; the author is using this as an idea of a joke because Wei means stomach, and Dongli means impetus, motivation, or driving force, which fits the context because they were talking about what drives the stomach muscles to work; like I said, the author's intent is to use it as a joke)
Li Yundong chuckled. "Did you want to work in a TV station so badly that you spent time studying product advertisements?"
Feng Na laughed. "Okay. Fine. I give up. What's this supposed secret ingredient..." Feng Na's eyes went wide. "Oh! Blood!" She looked towards Li Yundong, her eyes gleaming with excitement. "It's blood, right?"
"Bingo," Li Yundong said with a nod. "And do you know what drives blood movement?"
"Who do you take me for? A three-year-old?" Feng Na glared at Li Yundong. "The pumping of the heart of course!"
"Okay, okay…" Li Yundong raised his palms defensively. "I guess I should've worded that question differently." He lowered his hands and cleared his throat. "What I meant to ask is what improves blood flow and circulation?"
Feng Na stared at him blankly.
"Okay fine. I'll just tell you," Li Yundong said. "So. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, that's one of the functions of our Qi."
Feng Na gave him a skeptical look. "Uh-huh. Qi. Right. So what does that have to do with the way we eat?"
Li Yundong smiled. "Okay. Let's try an experiment."
Apparently, that managed to pique Feng Na's interest as she suddenly leaned forward and stared at him expectantly.
"Try this." Li Yundong pulled in a deep breath, sucking in as much air as he could.
Feng Na frowned in confusion. "What? You mean take a breath?"
Li Yundong released his breath and nodded. "Yes. Take one big gulp of air, as much as you can."
Feng Na mimicked his earlier actions, then exhaled after a few seconds.
"Well, that's it..." Feng Na said. "What's the point you're trying to make?"
"Patience, patience..." Li Yundong said with a smile.
Feng Na narrowed her eyes. "You're just messing me, aren't you?"
"No, I'm not." Li Yundong chuckled. "So. Breathing is important for life, correct?"
"But there is only a limited volume of air you can breathe in every time, right?"
Feng Na nodded, though she still looked confused.
Li Yundong smiled. "You were right when you said that chewing your food into smaller pieces helps digestion. But let's take the explanation one step further. Let us explain—from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view—how chewing your food into smaller pieces can help digestion."
Feng Na stared at him quietly, hanging on his every word.
"Okay. So we all agree that breathing is necessary for life, and that there is a limit to the total volume of air we can breathe into our system each day. And now, let's apply that analogy to Qi." Li Yundong paused for a moment. "Qi is absolutely vital to life, but there is also a limited amount of Qi we can produce each day. Having said that, it should be obvious that there is also a limited amount of Qi available to us in our lifetime." Li Yundong raised a finger. "But how does this relate to digestion, then? Well, the thing is, you see... Every time your stomach muscles work to break down food, your body will expend a small amount of Qi and blood for the task. But what happens when you don't chew your food properly? Well. Your stomach's gonna have to work harder to do the job, which means more Qi will have to be expended. And if too much Qi is expended for digestion, there won't be enough for other bodily functions." Li Yundong chuckled when a funny imagery came to mind. "It's a bit like trying to fix a leak on a castle's brick wall when you've already run out of bricks or any other substitute materials for the job." He laughed again. "Imagine tearing down the wall on the castle's east side to fix a broken wall on the castle's west side. It's silly." Li Yundong waved his hand. "Anyway. I digressed. Where was I... Ah. Over-expenditure of Qi for digestion. Right. This is exactly why those who gobble down their food when they are young tend to experience health problems during their later years. The way they eat leads to Qi insufficiency. You see? Everything in the human body is interconnected— What?"
Feng Na was staring at him with wide eyes.
Li Yundong smiled. "What's the matter? You look like you've just seen a ghost."
"Nothing, it's just..." Feng Na shook her head. Then, she smiled and pressed her palms together. "You sound like a legit practitioner of TCM, you know? Or some kind of Taoist priest."
Li Yundong chuckled at the Taoist priest remark.
"I gotta be honest, Zhenren Li..."
Li Yundong raised a brow at the Zhenren title.
"I was quite skeptical back then…"
"I mean when they claimed that Su Chan had gotten all her medical knowledge from you."
Li Yundong stared at her for a moment. "And where did you hear that from?"
Feng Na waved her hand casually. "Some thread on the forum mentioned something about Su Chan scolding a bunch of guys in front of a crowd and then giving out free diagnoses afterwards."
Li Yundong laughed. Funny how he'd just run into one of the "fortunate" recipients of Su Chan's diagnoses.
"But now, after hearing that little lecture yours, I think I'm starting to believe it."
Li Yundong just smiled and said nothing. That wasn't true back then, when Su Chan was giving those diagnoses. But at least it was true now after he'd read all those ancient texts.
Suddenly, Feng Na shoved her palm in front of his face.
"Well, Zhenren Li! How about you give me a free diagnosis?"
Li Yundong leaned away from her palm and said, "You're not even sick. What do you need a diagnosis for?" He chuckled. "And besides, why are you showing me your palm? That's palm reading, not pulse reading."
Feng Na grinned. "A palm reading sounds great too!"
"Seriously? You believe in all that fortune-telling stuff?" Li Yundong pushed Feng Na's palm away and smiled. "You better be careful or you'll get swindled."
Feng Na raised a brow challengingly. "You saying you're a conman, then?"
Li Yundong schooled his features and feigned a dignified look. "Of course not," he said. "I'm a true seer, a legitimate oracle. Now. Tell me which aspect of your life do you wish me to envision?" Li Yundong raised a brow. "Does it perhaps have something to do with your career? Or marriage?"
Feng Na laughed. "Why not just tell me both?"
"Alright then." Li Yundong cleared his throat and closed his eyes. After a few seconds of silence, he opened one eye and sneaked a peek: Feng Na was staring at him expectantly, apparently very eager to have her fortune told.
Li Yundong laughed. "I was kidding! Geez. What, do you expect me to bring out a crystal ball or something?"
Feng Na's face fell, then she curled her lips. "Fake Zhenren," she mumbled.
"Alright, alright. Enough," Li Yundong said, picking up his spoon. "I know you're just stalling. You wanted to talk to me about something just now. Wait, let me guess." He raised his brows. "You need a favor from me."
Feng Na smacked her own forehead. "Oh, right! I actually forgot..."
"You forgot? Wow. Such great memory you have." Li Yundong ate a spoonful of rice.
"It's all your fault." Feng Na snorted. "I wouldn't have forgotten if you didn't fool around with me just now."
Li Yundong choked on his rice.
"Tsk! Stop saying..." He glanced around and lowered his voice into a hiss. "Will you please just watch what you say in public?"
A blush spread across Feng Na's cheeks. "Y- You're the only one whose mind went to the gutter!"
Li Yundong glanced around and saw a few girls hiding their blushes. Apparently, Feng Na had noticed it too, as her own blush deepened further.
Li Yundong cleared his throat. "What did you want to inform me?"
Feng Na suddenly looked sheepish. "Um... You know the welcoming dinner party for the freshmen is in a few days, right?"
"Well... I need you to come to the rehearsal." Feng Na finished the last part of her sentence in a rush.
"Nope," Li Yundong said in a heartbeat. "Ain't gonna happen."
Feng Na's face fell. "Why?"
Li Yundong rolled his eyes. "I said I'd only agree to do a performance if you get elected as the student council president." He glared at her from across the table. "The polling hasn't even started yet!"
Feng Na gave him a sly grin. "Don't worry about that. I'm pretty confident about my chances."
Li Yundong narrowed his eyes.
Feng Na cleared her throat. "Like I said, I'll definitely win. Which means you'll have to perform eventually." Feng Na pointed a finger at his face, then grinned smugly. "Because a promise is a promise."
Li Yundong narrowed his eyes even further.
"And since your performance is inevitable," Feng Na continued, clearly ignoring Li Yundong's scowl, "it's prudent that you rehearse the performance at least once."
"Nope. Not buying it." Li Yundong smirked. "You have to win the elections first, sorry."
Feng Na pressed her palms together and shot him a pleading look. "Please...?"
"Please... Please help me out?" she begged. "This is important to me."
"Uh-huh… Why is it so important?"
"Because they expect us, the seniors, to put on a good show this year!" Feng Na said in a desperate tone.
"Then give them a good show," Li Yundong said. "Why does it have to involve me?"
Feng Na gave him a look that clearly said: are you seriously asking me that?
Li Yundong rolled his eyes. Goddamn forums.
"At least tell me what the performance is about," he gritted out, then massaged his temples.
Feng Na beamed at him. "We'll be doing a stage play!"
"What kind of stage play?"
If she say rock-smashing, then I swear God…
Feng Na raised her finger and held it there.
What was she waiting for? Drumrolls?
Li Yundong gave her an eye roll instead.
"The onstage adaptation of Chinese Paladin!" Feng Na announced with a triumphant grin. "Directed by me, of course!"
Li Yundong leaned back in surprise. "But... Chinese Paladin is a big too long, isn't it?"
Feng Na chuckled. "Of course we won't be acting out the whole thing, silly. We'll just pick one of the scenes."
Feng Na grinned again. "That scene where the master swordsman took Zhao Ling'er away."
"Wait a minute..." Li Yundong narrowed his eyes. "Don't tell me…" Li Yundong glared at her. "You want me to play Li Xiaoyao!"
Feng Na burst into giggles. "Why not? I mean you share the same surname, right?"
"No. If it's Li Xiaoyao, then I refuse."
Feng Na frowned. "Why?"
"Coz it's embarrassing!" Li Yundong said. "And his story is too tragic. I'll probably have to cry onstage, which is something that I won't do."
Feng Na laughed. "Fair enough. Well, in that case you don't have to worry. Someone else is playing that role."
Li Yundong sighed in relief.
Feng Na rolled her eyes. "As if there was any doubt which role you'll be playing."
"The master swordsman," Li Yundong said.
"Duh... You're the person most suited for the role considering how good you are in martial arts."
"But I'm not even in the Drama Club…"
Feng Na waved him off. "Doesn't matter."
"So I'm like a guest star."
"If this turns out to be another one of your pranks…" Li Yundong raised a brow warningly.
Feng Na shook her head desperately. "No, no, no... I swear this isn't a prank."
Li Yundong stroked his own chin, then mimicked the voice of an old man: "Should I start growing my beard, then?"
Feng Na burst into laughter. "You see? I knew you're the perfect person for the role—"
Li Yundong turned around in his seat at the voice. He groaned inwardly when he saw the person standing near their table.
It was Feng Ji, and he definitely didn't look like he was here to have lunch.
Li Yundong studied the hunk of a man before him. The guy's fists were clenched and resting beside his thighs, and his knees were slightly bent like he was ready to pounce. And those eyes... They looked blood-thirsty, like they belong to someone who is hungry for a fight.
Li Yundong schooled his features. "How can I help you?"
Feng Ji performed a Bao Quan Li. "I heard you know a fair amount of Kung Fu," he said. "I would like a chance to spar with you."
And I would like a chance to have my lunch in peace for once.
Li Yundong kept that thought to himself and gave the man a friendly smile instead.
"What you heard are just rumors I'm afraid," Li Yundong said with a laugh. "And most of them are probably just exaggerated. Besides, I never learned Kung Fu."
That wasn't a lie. Li Yundong never did learn Kung Fu. What he learned, though, was the art of Cultivation. Not that he could reveal that information to Feng Ji.
An awkward silence ensued as Feng Ji stared at Li Yundong with a guarded expression.
Li Yundong smiled, hoping to diffuse the awkwardness and the tension surrounding their table.
"I'm sure you can find a lot of good fighters out there who are worthy of your skills," Li Yundong said, then turned back around to face Feng Na. "So. Where were we, senior?"
Li Yundong heard Feng Ji's sneer from behind him.
"Forgive me for doing this then," said Feng Ji.
A second later, Feng Na screamed. "Ahhh!!! Look out!!!"