The fact that Zi Yuan had written his name at the end of the poem made Li Yundong realize something: the prophecy didn't just involve him; it was about him.
There were hints everywhere in the poem, specific keywords that had already manifested themselves in his life. Jindan. Fate. Thunder. Sword. All these things had turned up at some point after Su Chan came into his life.
The Jindan's coming ordains thine fate.
That verse was pretty much self-explanatory at this point. It meant that the Jindan's emergence would alter the course of his life, which it already did. His life had completely changed after he swallowed the Jindan by accident.
The second verse, however, eluded him still. The sound of the first thunder shall complete thine soul. What the hell did that mean? Well, thunder most likely referred to the Heavenly Thunder. But there were (or would be) quite a few instances of the Heavenly Thunder's appearance in his life. So which instance was it referring to? Was it his divine punishment? Or the time he killed He Shao with the Five Thunders Spell? The latter seemed more likely, since the verse mentioned the first thunder? Perhaps it was referring to the first occurrence of the Heavenly Thunder? And what did "completing his soul" mean? Could it be referring to his success in passing the Zhuji phase? Perhaps "soul" was a metaphoric representation of his Vital Orb and the "completion of his soul" was referring to the formation of his Vital Orb?
The sound of the first thunder shall complete thine soul...
A plausible interpretation was that Li Yundong had to kill He Shao with the Heavenly Thunder in order to complete his Vital Orb, which would fit the facts; he probably wouldn't have gone to Tibet if he hadn't used the spell on He Shao. Even so, the interpretation was too vague and far less definitive than what Li Yundong had hoped.
The verse about the mirror made absolutely no sense to him, though the one about the sword did.
"Sword" probably referred to Liuhe?
And clouds? What did that even mean? Was it referring to his Spirit Space, which he knew consisted of an ocean of clouds? Or was it referring to his name? The Yun character in his name means cloud.
The rest of the poem made no sense to him. Another keyword did ring a bell—Obelisk. That must be the obelisk that Ruan Hongling and Zi Yuan had mentioned a few times in the past, though he hadn't a clue what it meant.
Dark blots of ink appeared on the paper about an inch from his name.
He zoomed out and realized that Zi Yuan was still holding the brush over the paper, though she wasn't writing anything. She was just staring blankly at the paper. Her eyes looked glassy, like she was holding back tears.
This was probably the third time Li Yundong got to witness Zi Yuan lose her composure. The first time happened during his first flight lesson; she'd all but bitten his head off right after he lost control of his Zhenqi (and ended up blasting himself off the building and into the sky). The second time was when he first told her about Zhou Qin's condition. They had launched into a discussion about the virtues and shortcomings of love, and she had gotten pretty riled up when he challenged her master's philosophy about love.
Zi Yuan laid the brush across the ink stone. A second later, her face crumpled, and he caught a glimpse of her grief-stricken expression before she buried her face into her hands. Then, her shoulders started trembling.
Li Yundong sighed and turned away from the glass. He walked over to the railing and leaned against it. He stared out into the night, wondering if he should just forget about this meeting and head back to his own dark, gloomy apartment. He knew he had just stumbled upon a very private moment, a moment of mourning where Zi Yuan grieved over the loss of someone dear to her.
His mind drifted to that name he saw on the calligraphy paper.
Neither Ruan Hongling nor Zi Yuan had told him much about their master, but from the way they had both been acting, Li Yundong knew that Wang Yuanshan was gone.
Li Yundong sighed into the night.
Life and death. Happiness and sadness. Joy and sorrow. Pleasure and pain. Yin and Yang. Sometimes, he wished that this balance never existed, that life could be without death, sadness, sorrow, and pain. No matter how naive and impractical that notion was, he still preferred it over a universe plagued by a seemingly inexhaustible amount of pain and suffering.
Li Yundong whirled around and saw Zi Yuan's head sticking out between the sliding doors, which were now half-opened. Gone was the look of sorrow on her face; she looked like a dignified goddess once again.
"Hi," she said.
"What are you doing here?"
Li Yundong smiled. "I came over to ask you a few things. But then you were busy when I arrived." He shrugged. "I didn't want to bother you."
"Busy?" Zi Yuan seemed a bit uncomfortable all of a sudden.
"You were writing." Li Yundong cleared his throat. "I mean, the...um..." He pointed into the apartment. "The calligraphy."
Something flickered inside Zi Yuan's eyes: a hint of sadness, or perhaps relief.
For a few seconds, neither of them spoke.
"Do you wanna come in?" Zi Yuan asked.
Li Yundong stared at her for a moment. "Only if I'm not imposing."
Zi Yuan smiled. "I don't mind." She let out a soft sigh. "I could use some company right now to be honest."
Li Yundong nodded and pushed himself away from the railing.
Zi Yuan stepped to the side to let him through.
Li Yundong strode into the living room, pausing beside the calligraphy table. The paper containing the prophecy was nowhere to be seen, so Zi Yuan must have put it away. The brush had been cleaned and was now hanging on a brush holder alongside several brushes of various sizes and lengths. Li Yundong moved away from the table and headed towards the couch where Zi Yuan was already seated, waiting for him to join her. As he walked, he slowly took in the apartment. This was his first time here, so he thought he'd check out the place a little. Just as he was about to step around the couch, he came to a halt. There was a trash can beside the coffee table, and inside the trash can was a balled-up piece of calligraphy sheet.
Li Yundong's gaze snapped to hers. "Isn't that what you were writing?" He pointed at the trash can.
Zi Yuan shrugged. "I ruined it," she said casually. "It wasn't good work."
Li Yundong nodded and decided to let the subject drop. He moved towards the armchair across from the couch and sat down.
"So," Zi Yuan began, "what did you want to ask me about?"
Li Yundong leaned his backpack against the armchair. "The sword."
"Liuhe?" Zi Yuan asked, sounding mildly surprised. "What about it?"
"During the attack, it absorbed some of my blood," he said, staring at Zi Yuan intently. "And I wanna understand why."
Zi Yuan's eyes widened in alarm. "You were hurt?"
Li Yundong waved off her concerns. "Nothing serious. Just a small nick. A few drops of my blood got onto the blade during the attack, but the sword absorbed them." He stopped talking, frowning as he stared at his hands. "It didn't look like the blood had evaporated from the blade's surface or anything... The drops were literally absorbed into the metal." Li Yundong glanced at Zi Yuan briefly. "It was... weird."
"That's merely the effect of the Yin-Yang Principle," Zi Yuan said.
Li Yundong's looked up from his hands and frowned. "I don't understand."
"Your blood is Yang-based," Zi Yuan said as though the answer was obvious.
Li Yundong stared at her blankly.
"During the attack, Liuhe still contained my shibo's Yin-based spiritual energy," Zi Yuan added. "And as you already know, the Yin-Yang principle dictates that all things tend towards balance and harmony. Yin and Yang neutralizes each other to create a state of balance." Zi Yuan paused to look at him. "You've no doubt noticed that it became much easier to wield the sword afterwards?"
Li Yundong replayed the battle in his head. He and Zi Yuan had been standing with their backs to each other at the time, and the hairpin had attacked him before Zi Yuan came up with a strategy. He hadn't really noticed it back then, but now that he thought about it, the sword felt super light in his hand when he tried to fence with it. And then afterwards when that grotesque face appeared and he channeled his Zhenqi into the sword, it didn't resist him at all. That was probably because he had erased Yan-zhenren's spiritual signature from the sword, but his blood most likely played a role too. After all, his blood would've already gotten onto the blade the instant it nicked his neck.
"Yeah," he said. "I think you're right."
Zi Yuan nodded. "With your blood and your powerful Spirit, you managed to erase my shibo's spiritual signature in less than a minute." Zi Yuan looked towards him. "Which is impressive, by the way."
Li Yundong shrugged. "But the opposite is also true, isn't it?"
"Yin-based blood could also subdue and weaken Yang-based Zhenqi, right?"
Zi Yuan stared at him for a moment. Then, a proud smile spread across her features. "Ah. I see what this is about. You're worried that..." She glanced pointedly at his backpack.
Li Yundong's cheeks heated a little. "Well, yeah."
Zi Yuan had a satisfied look on her face when she nodded at him. "Well... That is a theoretical possibility, yes. But in real life, it's not that simple."
Li Yundong leaned forward in the armchair. This definitely sounded important, and he wanted to absorb everything he could. "What do you mean?"
"Here." Zi Yuan cleared her throat. "Let's try an experiment, shall we?"
Zi Yuan rotated her wrist once and, to Li Yundong's amazement, a purple ribbon slithered out from under her sleeve. The ribbon was long and was approximately three-fingers wide.
Li Yundong took the ribbon carefully when Zi Yuan offered it to him.
"This is my magical weapon," she said with a smile. "Now. Why don't you try to claim it like you did with Liuhe?"
Li Yundong's eyes bugged out.
"What? No!" he protested. "It's yours. I can't do that."
"Why not?" Zi Yuan shrugged casually. "My Zhenqi is Yin-based, and yours is Yang-based. It should be easy, right?"
But that's exactly why I shouldn't even try! he shouted inwardly. It will be too easy to claim it!
His internal turmoil was interrupted by Zi Yuan's sigh.
"Look, just do as I say, okay?" she said. "Trust me."
Li Yundong sighed. "Fine."
He closed his eyes and channeled his Zhenqi into the silky object in his hands. Five minutes later, he opened his eyes, thoroughly stunned. "It... It didn't work..."
Zi Yuan smiled and took the ribbon from his hands. "I told you it isn't that simple."
"I… Well, your Zhenqi is soft and gentle, but I couldn't even reach it." Li Yundong frowned and shook his head. "There was a different kind of resistance protecting it. Something..." Li Yundong gestured with his hand and tried to find the right word. "Something sharp, I guess?" He looked towards Zi Yuan and held her gaze. "The resistance isn't very powerful, but it kept distracting me whenever I tried to reach your signature."
"See?" Zi Yuan smirked. "Not that easy after all."
Li Yundong wiped his brows; he was sweating profusely. When the heck did that even happen? "What's going on here?" He glanced at the ribbon in Zi Yuan's hands. "Where did that extra resistance come from?"
Zi Yuan smiled and swiped her fingers along the ribbon's surface. "Come take a look."
Li Yundong leaned forward in the armchair. "Holy sh..." His mouth clicked shut. Golden light emerged from the surface of the ribbon, forming a cluster of symbols that he'd never seen before.
"What on earth are those?"
"Runes," Zi Yuan said, tracing the glowing symbols with her finger.
Li Yundong glanced at the woman. "Did they come with the weapon?"
Zi Yuan shook her head.
"My master inscribed these runes onto the ribbon with golden sand," she said wistfully. "Runes are symbols with magical powers. Inscribing them onto weapons will give the weapon magical properties on top of their existing ones. The exact properties would depend on the specific runes, of course. But for these runes…" Zi Yuan caressed the glowing symbols reverently. "Their sole purpose is to help prevent others from erasing my signature."
"Makes sense," Li Yundong said with a nod. "You're covering all bases and addressing potential weaknesses that others can exploit."
Zi Yuan smirked. "Exactly. Every magical weapon has what we call elemental attributes. In general, there are 7 elemental attributes that each magical object can possess. Wood, Fire, Metal, Earth, Water, Yin, and Yang."
Realization washed over Li Yundong, and he chuckled.
"Yet another application of the Yin Yang Principle and the Five Elements Theory... Dang. Should've realized it sooner."
Zi Yuan nodded. "Thanks to these runes, this ribbon isn't solely a Yin-based weapon. It is Metal-based as well. Without the runes, someone with a powerful enough Yang-based Zhenqi could easily claim it." Zi Yuan folded the ribbon together. "But with this extra layer of defense, it is very difficult if not impossible for anyone to take it from me." Zi Yuan smirked. "As you can see, not even someone with Zhenqi as powerful as yours could claim this."
Li Yundong laughed. "Su Chan was right about you."
"Oh?" Zi Yuan's brows rose just a tad. "And what, may I ask, did she say about me?"
Li Yundong smiled. "She thinks you're a total badass."
Zi Yuan snorted. "You flatter me."
"No, it's true," he said. "In fact, her exact words were: the most powerful Cultivator of the younger generation. That's your code name in the Cultivation world, isn't it?"
Zi Yuan rolled her eyes. "You say that now, but in a few years, you will have surpassed me immensely." She suddenly smiled at him. "In fact, I think it's time for me to relinquish that title to you."
Li Yundong snorted. "What kind of joke is that? I got my ass kicked tonight, remember? I would've died if you hadn't saved my ass back there."
Zi Yuan shook her head. "You underestimate your own potential." One of her brows arched high. "Reaching the Shentong phase in less than 6 months? Even in the long history of Cultivation, something like that is completely unheard of." Zi Yuan stared at him intently. "And what else? Let's see... Ah. Mastering the techniques in the Mahamudra Tantra in, what, hours? And then there are smaller things, like your prowess in Qi control and martial arts." Zi Yuan smiled. "You didn't think I'd notice you studying all those books on martial arts?"
"Let's not dwell on this matter," Li Yundong said, waving his hand. "It's not all that important anyway. No matter how good you are, there's always someone out there who's better."
Zi Yuan smiled. "If you say so."
Li Yundong chuckled. "It's the truth."
"Well. Do you have any other questions?"
Li Yundong grinned. "As a matter of fact, I do. About flying."
A stern expression formed on Zi Yuan's face. "You shouldn't start flying around before—"
"Before I survive the divine punishment, yes I know that," Li Yundong said, then chuckled. "But I was just curious about flying speed that's all." He glanced at Zi Yuan. "You guys can fly way faster than me. I was just wondering why. And also, I noticed that there was always this flash of green light whenever you, Hongling, and Su Chan flew. Why is that?"
"Oh. That. Well, you'll be able to do it too once you reached the sixth phase of Cultivation where you obtain your Yin Spirit."
Excitement coursed through Li Yundong. "Yin Spirit?"
Well, this is new…
Zi Yuan nodded. "Do you remember what I told you about the eighth dan of the Sutai phase?"
Li Yundong spent a few seconds searching his memory for the conversation. "Ah. The Wandering Soul, right?" He paused. "It's that green thing that flew out of Lyu Fengping's body the other day."
"Technically, that's Lyu Fengping's Yin Spirit," Zi Yuan said. "The Wandering Soul is a prerequisite skill that gives you control over your Yin Spirit." Zi Yuan glanced at him. "But you have to possess a Yin Spirit first before you can do anything useful with that skill."
"Huh..." Li Yundong gave her a blank stare. "Very interesting..."
Zi Yuan broke into a grin.
"Oh it is, isn't it?" Zi Yuan said in a pleased tone. "Only those who possess the curiosity and drive to explore can fully comprehend the true depths of Cultivation Theo—"
"But I'm afraid you've lost me at Yin Spirit," Li Yundong said with a straight face.
Zi Yuan's face fell.
Li Yundong laughed. "Sorry. You seemed pretty excited, so I didn't want to ruin your fun with my ignorance."
Zi Yuan's expression shifted into a haughty glare. "How insolent," she huffed. "And here I thought you were following my train of thought closely."
Li Yundong stopped laughing and mimed a zipping motion. Then, he gestured with his hand for her to continue.
Zi Yuan leaned back in the couch and sat there in complete silence, her brows furrowed in concentration.
As he sat there in the quiet living room, bereft of the thrill of discussion, Li Yundong was suddenly hit by a pang of longing. Two months ago, it was Su Chan who had sat beside him, explaining to him the nuances of Cultivation Theory. He realized now more than ever just how much he missed those nights with Su Chan. Not that present company was unpleasant, of course; it was just... different. These discussions with Zi Yuan were highly educational and informative, but they lacked the kind of intimacy and emotional connection that he could only experience with his princess.
"The Wandering Soul is a skill that gives a Cultivator the ability to step outside their body," Zi Yuan said, pulling him out of his thoughts.
He took a deep breath and stole a glance at Zi Yuan, hoping that she hadn't noticed his maudlin behavior.
In fact, Zi Yuan was in full Professor-Cultivator mode now.
"When you perform the Wandering Soul, your consciousness leaves your body, and you'll be able to perceive things in the vicinity of your body from a third-person perspective."
He supposed this was similar to those paranormal out-of-body experiences that people often talked about on TV.
"The Yin Spirit is an entity that your Vital Orb generates once you go beyond the Shentong phase. And since it originates from your Vital Orb, it carries a portion, or in some cases, all, of your spiritual energy. The Yin Spirit also contains your soul as well as your Spirit and consciousness." Zi Yuan raised her brows. "You can even get your Yin Spirit to leave your body. And once you do that, you can fly your Yin Spirit around simply by performing a prerequisite skill..."
Something clicked inside his mind. "The Wandering Soul..."
Zi Yuan smiled. "Correct." A second later, her smile disappeared and her expression turned serious once again. "The Wandering Soul is a tremendously useful skill. However, its true capacity can only be attained through the Yin Spirit. Without the Yin Spirit, the effects of your Wandering Soul will be highly limited. For instance..." Zi Yuan waved a hand across the room. "If I were to perform the Wandering Soul right now without involving my Yin Spirit, then my unconscious physical body will be the only thing you see."
Li Yundong considered Zi Yuan's words for a moment. Then, he raised his finger. "But if you perform it with the Yin Spirit, I'll be able to see your Yin Spirit floating around, right?"
"Precisely. Simply put, the Wandering Soul is the skill that allows you to maneuver your Yin Spirit through space once it leaves your body."
Li Yundong frowned. "Then isn't it better to perform the Wandering Soul without the Yin Spirit?" He looked towards Zi Yuan. "I mean, nobody can tell what you're doing if they can't even see you."
Zi Yuan smirked. "Well, there is another limitation if you perform the Wandering Soul in the absence of your Yin Spirit."
"The range will be limited," Zi Yuan said, then paused to let her words sink in. "Without the Yin Spirit, your consciousness can only remain in the vicinity of your physical body." She paused in thought. "I suppose you can think of it as stretching, or extending, your consciousness beyond your physical body as opposed to detaching it from your body completely. Anyway..." Zi Yuan waved a hand. "That limitation will be completely removed once the Yin Spirit is involved. This is because—"
"Because the Yin Spirit contains a portion of the Spirit and consciousness," he said, snapping his fingers. "So you'll no longer be stretching your consciousness beyond your physical body. Instead, you'll be placing your consciousness inside the Yin Spirit, using it as some kind of container that can be flown around in space." Li Yundong paused for a moment. "The Wandering Soul is like the skill required to pilot a plane, and the Yin Spirit is the plane, right?"
Zi Yuan smiled. "Good. You've caught on."
Li Yundong sat there in silence for a moment, thinking back to all his previous encounters with green apparitions: when Ruan Hongling attacked Su Chan in their apartment; during the final few moments of his battle with Lyu Fengping.
Those had to be their Yin Spirits wandering outside their bodies.
Li Yundong chuckled. "So the Yin Spirit"—He looked towards Zi Yuan—"is a poltergeist... essentially."
Zi Yuan stared at him for a second, then chuckled into her hand.
"What's so funny?"
Zi Yuan cleared her throat. "Nothing. It's just that poltergeist isn't exactly the most accurate analogy for the Yin Spirit."
Zi Yuan shook her head. "Calling it a poltergeist implies that it can touch or move physical objects."
Li Yundong did a double take. "It can't?" And here he thought he'd just found an alternative to Qi Kinesis.
Zi Yuan smiled. "No. You can't touch physical objects with your Yin Spirit. Not until it reaches its most advanced form, the Yang Spirit."
Li Yundong gave her a blank stare.
Zi Yuan chuckled. "Relax... It'll come to you when you passed the Shentong phase. Just focus on surviving your divine punishment first."
Li Yundong cleared his throat sheepishly. "Oops. Sorry." Suddenly, another thought hit him. "Wait, is the Yin Spirit the thing that causes the green flashes when you fly?"
Zi Yuan nodded. "The green light you see is when you overlay your physical body with your Yin Spirit." She paused to look at him. "But of course there is a practical purpose for doing that. It's not just for show."
Li Yundong clapped his hands together. "Speed, right?"
Zi Yuan smiled. "Yes. You Yin Spirit contains spiritual energy that can be readily used to aid flying."
"So that's why y'all can fly so damn fast..." he mumbled.
"You'll get there soon enough," Zi Yuan said.
"The sixth phase, huh," he said.
"If you're a human, then yes."
Li Yundong did another double take. "What does that mean?"
"Some beings possess Yin Spirits by nature." Zi Yuan gave him a look. "Beings... like fox spirits."
Su Chan had once told him that fox spirits have a special affinity with stealth. With their natural possessions of Yin Spirits, he could now imagine why.
Li Yundong stretched his arms above his head. "What an enlightening evening," he said, leaning back against the couch with a loud sigh.
Zi Yuan smiled. "Do you have any other questions?"
"Just one more."
"How do I add extra elemental attributes to the Fan of Seven Treasures?"