Project Beat the Heavens: Day 4, 10:30AM; Apartment 20A, New Hongsheng District, Tiannan City.
A long silence befell the living room after Li Yundong's bold and, admittedly, borderline insane declaration. Zi Yuan seemed pensive, hesitant even, like she didn't know what to make of his new idea.
His heart sank into a sea of disappointment.
Did she not think it would work?
Li Yundong glanced down at the paper in his hand. Zi Yuan had made several other annotations that would allow him to come up with a solid design and put his idea into practice. One in particular was written beside the circle overlapping the stick figure's midsection.
Striking target: Vital Orb
Another one was written beside the stick figure's head.
If on ground (standing vertical) strikes Baihui.
No. This had to be it. He was convinced that this was the answer. Zi Yuan had said it herself that exposure to the Heavenly Thunder would strengthen the Vital Orb. But isn't the Vital Orb just Zhenqi held together by the Essence inside the lower Dantian? The Zhenqi is the stuff that the Vital Orb is made up of. In other words, the Zhenqi is the substance that will absorb the Heavens' spiritual energy; and the strengthening of the Vital Orb is merely a consequence of that.
Now, if he could extrapolate that principle and then apply it to his Qi Probe...
"I'm not saying that it won't work..."
Li Yundong raised his gaze from the paper. Finally, Zi Yuan had spoken. Finally.
"But? I sense a but coming."
His stomach twisted into a tight knot as soon as those words left his mouth.
"I'm just..." Zi Yuan shook her head. "I'm just wondering how we can make the idea work." Her sharp gaze zeroed in on his face. "First of all, there's no guarantee that the absorption would occur at one-hundred percent efficiency. In fact, I don't think it's even possible to achieve that level of efficiency."
"No." Li Yundong held her gaze firmly. "It doesn't have to be one-hundred percent efficient. I just have to—"
"What? What do you mean it doesn't have to be one-hundred percent efficient?" Zi Yuan frowned. She didn't sound impressed at all. "Of course the absorption has to be perfect! That's a must!" Zi Yuan took a deep breath, then exhaled. "Alright, look. In principle, you'll have to utilize at least 50% of the Heavenly Thunder's power to be able to push back or cancel out the remaining half. But that's not going to happen if a portion of the spiritual energy is lost during the absorption."
Li Yundong opened his mouth to speak but was quickly silenced by Zi Yuan's raised palm.
"Trying to absorb more than 50% would be a terrible idea." Zi Yuan gave him a hard stare. "The process would take too long if you absorb more than 50%. You'll be struck down before you could even repel it with Qi Kinesis!" There was a pause. "50% is the upper limit. Any more than that is suicide." Zi Yuan sighed. "Unfortunately, it is impossible to absorb even that much. A portion of spiritual energy will be lost due to inefficient absorption."
"What if I turn it into speed, instead?"
Zi Yuan froze, blinking several times. Silence spread between them.
"Instead of trying to repel the Heavenly Thunder with the borrowed spiritual energy, what if I use it to increase my speed?" Li Yundong could barely contain the thrill coursing through his veins right then. "Heck, I weigh less than 80 kilos! I bet I only need to absorb, like, 1% from each bolt and that's already gonna increase my movement speed by a significant amount."
Despite her blank look on her face, Zi Yuan's eyes now held a glimmer of hope. Li Yundong took a step forward and grabbed Zi Yuan's arms.
"Advanced Qi Kinesis, Zi Yuan," Li Yundong said excitedly. "That's one of the first things you taught me when I was learning how to fly."
"Converting spiritual energy into kinetic energy," Zi Yuan said.
"Exactly." Li Yundong smirked and released Zi Yuan's arms. "I can apply the same principle here. The only difference is that I'll be converting the spiritual energy borrowed from the Heavenly Thunder instead of my own."
Zi Yuan hooked a stand of hair behind her ear and walked over to the couch. She dropped the apron onto the coffee table, then lowered herself onto the couch.
"Okay…" Zi Yuan said slowly. "So right now, we still have the extended time window for you to react." Zi Yuan glanced up at him. "You can still feel the strike in advance because your Zhenqi will be up there in the sky."
Li Yundong nodded.
"But on top of that," Zi Yuan continued, "you now have the speed boost from the Jindan's Aura, and also the speed boost from Heavenly Thunder itself."
"Yes," Li Yundong said. "Basically, I'm combining all of our previous ideas into one solution."
Zi Yuan nodded, then suddenly paused in thought.
Li Yundong decided right then that he didn't like the frown on her face.
"What is it?"
"I just thought of another issue that we need to address," Zi Yuan said, bending down and picking up another sheet of paper from the floor.
Li Yundong stepped forward until he was standing beside the coffee table.
Zi Yuan waved the paper a few times. "Remember this experiment yesterday?"
Li Yundong nodded. It was one of his failed ideas where he had tried to use Qi Kinesis to slow down (since deflecting it was impossible) the Heavenly Thunder.
"Right." Zi Yuan placed the paper onto the table and pointed at something he'd sketched on the paper. "The problem with this method is that it requires too much mental focus. In the end, you were so distracted with Qi Kinesis that you couldn't even dodge in time." She looked up from the paper. "You might run into the same problem with this new idea." She gave him a hopeful look. "Do you have a workaround for that problem?"
Li Yundong smiled and raised a finger. "I've thought about that actually. And I think I've figured why that method didn't work. Here... Let me just..." He glanced around the living room until he spotted the pencil on the floor. He picked up the pencil and then kneeled down beside the coffee table.
"Thanks," he said when Zi Yuan pushed the sketch towards him. He flipped the paper on its back. "The reason why it didn't work..." Li Yundong drew another stick figure near the bottom edge of the paper. "…is because..." Li Yundong added a long ellipse which stretched from the stick figure's feet towards the top edge of the paper. "...of this." He tapped the pencil on the interior portion of the ellipse.
Zi Yuan stared at the paper for a moment. "I see…" She returned her gaze to Li Yundong's face. "The volume was too big. There was too much Zhenqi for you to handle, that's why you lost focus."
Li Yundong smiled. "Exactly. I recruited a large amount of Zhenqi to form that ellipsoid yesterday because it was necessary."
"Mm," Zi Yuan said. "The more Zhenqi you use, the more likely it'd be able to slow the Heavenly Thunder down."
Li Yundong nodded. "But..." He raised a finger. "Right now we're not trying to slow it down anymore." He paused for a beat. "We're no longer trying to fight force with force."
Zi Yuan eyes slid shut as she exhaled lengthily. "And this is where your Qi Probe comes in..."
Li Yundong smiled and added a tapering rod-like structure inside the ellipse.
"A concentrated beam, like a detector," he said, finishing the sketch. "Which occupies much less volume."
"Hence will require a lot less mental focus to use," Zi Yuan said, completing his train of thought.
"Voila." The pencil rolled away after Li Yundong dropped it onto the table.
There was a long pause.
"Li Yundong," Zi Yuan said, reaching over to pat his shoulder. "You, my friend, are an absolute genius."
Li Yundong chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well. We still don't know if it'll work."
"Only one way to find out." Zi Yuan glanced over at the jade plate.
Li Yundong followed her gaze.
So this was it, then. Make or break.
Project Beat the Heavens: Day 4, 11:05AM; Apartment 20A, New Hongsheng District, Tiannan City.
Zi Yuan nearly laughed when the Heir all but yelped the moment he saw her appearing beside him inside the simulation.
"H-Hey! Y- You're here!"
"Great observational skills," Zi Yuan said dryly, then arched her brow. "You do know that I own the jade plate, right?"
"Oh." The Heir blinked a few times. "It's just... You never appeared during the previous simulations."
"No, I didn't." Zi Yuan smirked. "But this time, I want to see the simulation for myself."
The Heir chuckled. "Now you're making me nervous." Then, he stopped laughing as though he'd just thought of something. He shot her a worried glance. "Hey... Wouldn't you be struck too if you're here?"
Zi Yuan shook her head in amusement. You're both so alike, Master. Always worrying about other people before yourselves...
"Don't worry." Zi Yuan smiled reassuringly. "I'm controlling the whole thing." She gestured at their surroundings with a twirl of her finger. "Besides, I'm not part of the simulation, so you don't have to worry about me."
Li Yundong nodded. "Right." He glanced around a few times, then back at her. "Show time?"
Zi Yuan nodded. "I'll be watching from a distance. That way I can pick up on things that would help you refine the idea."
Li Yundong nodded. "Thanks. I appreciate that."
"Stay put," Zi Yuan said as she did a hand sign.
Seconds later, she was teleported to a "hill" that would give her a vantage point of the Heir.
"Ready when you are," Zi Yuan said.
A moment later, the Jindan's Aura came alive, and the Heir's body began glowing brightly.
The Heir raised his arm to give her a thumbs up.
Alright. Here we go...
"In three... two... one... Begin!"
Zi Yuan performed another hand sign, lowered her hand, and then held her breath. The Heir's eyes were glued to the sky, but Zi Yuan knew that his Zhenqi was already up there, ready to detect the first energy spike.
The air was charged with tension as seconds went by in total silence. Zi Yuan bit her lip and balled her fists. Please let it work... Please...
There was a bright flash. Here it comes! A thundering crackle ensued.
Cold dread coursed through Zi Yuan.
Wait, what? Where is he? Where is...
Zi Yuan spotted a charred hole on the ground.
The Heir wasn't there.
Dread instantly turned into joy. It worked! He dodged it!
The scream came from above.
Zi Yuan looked up and burst into giggles when she saw the Heir cartwheeling through the air.
The Heir smashed into a huge boulder far away from the spot where the first bolt had struck.
There was another flash, which was quickly followed by another crackle. The Heir screamed, but this time, it was a scream of agony. Zi Yuan flew closer and watched the Heir's body being engulfed by lighting before disappearing in a bright flash.
Zi Yuan's lips curved into a smile as she performed another hand sign.
The Heir was writhing and groaning on the floor when Zi Yuan appeared inside the apartment a moment later.
As though sensing her presence, the Heir stopped rolling and sat up.
"Well... That hurt like a bitch..."
Zi Yuan chuckled. "But you dodged the first bolt."
The Heir's eyes lit up in joy. "Yeah!" A second later, his shoulders sagged. "But now we have another problem. I gotta figure out a way to get the dodging motion under control." He gave her a wry look. "You saw what happened just now, right?"
Zi Yuan suppressed a giggle and gave him a smirk instead. "Let's just say it was one of the worst acrobatic stunts I've ever seen."
Li Yundong chuckled. "I'll have to fix that." He paused in thought. "Maybe change the geometry of the Qi Probe."
"Well? What are we waiting for?" Zi Yuan began walking towards the living room. "Let's get to work."
Project Beat the Heavens: Day 4, 11:30AM; Dongwu City.
Lunch time! But before that, Su Chan had a major conundrum to solve: Mac Doo Nurls, or that cute little shop beside the train station which sold the most delicious dumplings ever.
Ugh. It was always such a pain whenever she was forced to choose between two goodies. It was like asking her to choose between Yundong and Master, the mere thought of which brought a bad taste to Su Chan's mouth.
Maybe she should just get both...
Su Chan counted the cash she was holding in her hands.
Nope. Definitely not getting both.
Su Chan wanted to cry.
"Hmph... If only I have Hello Keedee with me," Su Chan mumbled to herself, but then quickly clamped up when the old man sitting beside her on the bench started giving her strange looks.
Right. Probably shouldn't be talking to yourself, Chan'er.
Those men with sticks would probably try to kick her out if they thought she was some loony with ten loose screws. Not that she couldn't kick all of their asses. She just, you know, didn't want to draw attention to herself.
Su Chan sighed and counted the cash again. She glanced at Mac Doo Nurls, which was located just opposite of the bench she was sitting on.
Pro: Nearer; more filling.
Cons: More expensive; longer queue.
In the end, Su Chan went with the dumpling shop. It was probably a good idea to save as much money as possible since she didn't have Hello Keedee with her.
Half an hour later, Su Chan returned to the same bench carrying a large box of Chinese dumplings. The old man had already left, so she now had the bench all to herself. Which meant she could eat in peace. Yay.
Moments later, Su Chan sat down on the bench to munch on her dumplings. While she ate, Su Chan mentally went through everything she had learned from her stake-out this morning.
First of all... Ruan Hongling! What was that girl doing here? Shouldn't she be in Tiannan City helping Yundong prepare for his divine punishment?
After spotting Ruan Hongling at the train station, Su Chan had followed the girl around with one of her clones. As it turned out, Ruan Hongling wasn't in Dongwu City to stay; Su Chan saw the girl boarding a train to leave Dongwu City shortly after she began following her. The destination of Ruan Hongling's train was, unsurprisingly, Tiannan City. Well, that was that.
Maybe Ruan Hongling was here to run an errand?
About half an hour after Su Chan saw Ruan Hongling board the train, she encountered yet another shocker: she saw Ding Nan get off a train from Tiannan City!
Ding Nan? In Dongwu City? What a puzzling sequence of events indeed.
Like, what in Tao's name was going on? Why were the people she knew (not that she really knew Ding Nan) suddenly popping up in Dongwu City?
She wouldn't mind it if Yundong suddenly popped up in Dongwu City though…
Lost in her own thoughts, Su Chan didn't realize that she had just finished the last of her dumplings until her chopsticks touched the bottom of the box. She stared at the empty box for a moment, then glanced longingly at the Mac Doo Nurls outlet opposite the bench.
Her traitorous stomach rumbled loudly.
Nope. Not gonna happen.
Su Chan tore her gaze away from Mac Doo Nurls and rose from the bench to dispose of the empty box. Master didn't have a lot of money stashed at the corn-door. The last thing Su Chan needed was ending up having to beg on the streets for food.
Right then. Lunch time was over. Time to get back to work.
Her stomach protested with another loud rumble.
It was going to be a long, long day.
Project Beat the Heavens: Day 4, 2:43PM; Apartment 20A, New Hongsheng District, Tiannan City.
Zi Yuan studied the sketch detailing the new design of the Heir's Qi Probe. The thin, rod-like structure (the main body of the probe) was retained. The only thing different now was the geometric structure of the Qi Probe below the head. In the old design, the thin rod was connected to a glob-like structure that enveloped the whole body; but in the new one, the rod was linked to some kind of ring-like structure around the waist.
Zi Yuan traced her finger across the sketch. "The position of this ring..." She looked up from the paper towards the Heir.
"Slightly below the navel," the Heir answered quickly, almost as though he'd been anticipating the question. "That's the center of mass of the human body in a standing position."
Zi Yuan smiled and gave him a nod. I figured as much...
She circled her finger around the ring structure. "A ring, huh?" She looked up from the paper again. "This is to counterbalance the push, isn't it?"
"Newton's Second Law." The Heir grinned, then nodded. "That way I won't be blasted to kingdom come like just now."
"I see." Zi Yuan chuckled. "And you achieve that by generating a second propulsion force in the direction opposite of the first push."
"Yep." The Heir laughed. "Guess I should send my high-school physics teacher some flowers after this… Or maybe build Newton a shrine."
That remark drew another chuckle from Zi Yuan.
"Anyway," said the Heir. "The first propulsion will get me out of the line of fire. And then the second one, which will be generated a split second after the first one, will stop my body's motion so that I can be ready to dodge the next bolt."
"And the ring shape makes it possible because it is symmetrical in all directions..." Zi Yuan shook her head in amazement. "Which means you'll always be able to generate an opposing propulsion no matter which direction the initial push is acting in..."
Zi Yuan looked up from the paper. "And you wrapped the ring directly over the center of mass to eliminate rotational motion..."
The Heir nodded. "It prevents my body from toppling over after I make the dodge."
"Brilliant..." Zi Yuan whispered. And it was. It truly was.
The solution was absolutely brilliant.
A swell of pride filled Zi Yuan's chest right then. Perhaps this was why Master had deemed him worthy. Perhaps she'd been right all along. Maybe there really was a greater purpose behind the Heir's emergence.
All of a sudden, the words of Acalanatha echoed inside Zi Yuan's mind.
Those who heed my teachings shall obtain ultimate Wisdom.
The Immovable Wisdom King. Could he really...
"So? Think it's worth a try?"
Zi Yuan's raised her gaze at the Heir's voice. The Heir was staring back at her expectantly.
"Come." Zi Yuan rose from the couch and strode towards the jade plate. "Let's get this over with."
(T/N: Recommended soundtrack begins here; available on Google Drive; see track label 247_t1)
"Ready when you are!" Zi Yuan shouted from her position on the hill.
The Heir was standing at the center of the plains with his eyes closed and his figure bathed in the golden glow of the Jindan Aura. Earlier, Zi Yuan had suggested that he should keep his eyes closed throughout the whole thing. That way he could focus more on maintaining control of his Zhenqi rather than be distracted by what he saw. After all, he didn't have to rely on his eyesight to make a successful dodge; his Zhenqi had already gotten the sensory part covered.
From the hill, Zi Yuan saw the Heir getting into his stance.
Seconds later, one of the Heir's arms rose to give her an OK sign.
"In three... two... one... Begin!"
Zi Yuan did a hand sign and activated the simulation.
The first bolt struck precisely two seconds later. The Heir's body blurred as it shifted on the ground.
The Heir now stood a few feet to the side of a charred hole on the ground.
"Steady... steady..." Zi Yuan whispered as the Heir adjusted his stance to stop his body from wobbling.
The second bolt streaked down from the sky. Zi Yuan's breath caught in her throat for a moment before it left her mouth in a sigh.
The Heir's glowing body stood tall beside a second hole. He even managed to get rid of the wobbling.
A loud rumble sounded above.
Another successful dodge.
Zi Yuan lifted her gaze and saw more storm clouds amassing above the field. Two quick flashes blinded Zi Yuan's eyes temporarily, causing her to flinch. As soon as she reopened her eyes, Zi Yuan immediately scanned the field for the Heir.
The Heir's glowing figure stood roughly twenty feet to the left of his original position, which had been reduced to a large crater. Despite their large area of impact, the Heir still managed to dodge the two previous bolts.
Zi Yuan smirked. So he's worked out how to adjust the magnitude of the propulsion force based on the magnitude of the energy spikes in the sky.
What a quick study.
The Heir moved in a golden blur to avoid another bolt.
Zi Yuan looked towards the grassland, focusing her gaze on the Heir's posture. The design relied heavily on the positioning of the ring-like structure of the Heir's Zhenqi relative to his body's center of mass. The solution would break down if, at any moment, the Heir's center of mass shifted. In other words, the Heir had to be in the same stance and posture throughout the entire ordeal to keep his center of mass in the same position.
Another golden blur brought the Heir towards the right side of the field. It made sense to move there; the left side of the field was pretty much covered in holes and craters.
It was only when the Heir was dodging the 20th bolt that another idea occurred to Zi Yuan. What if he wasn't standing on the ground while dodging? What if he was levitating slightly above the ground the whole time? Wouldn't that make his movements much more efficient? Because then friction would be eliminated from the equation. Zi Yuan made a mental note to add that into the Heir's design later.
CRACK! CRACK! WHAM!
Zi Yuan's looked towards the grassland at the sound of the Heir's scream of agony. The grassland was now covered with charred craters. The Heir was lying on the grass, writhing in pain as the Heavenly Thunder's power swallowed his body whole.
A second later, the Heir disappeared in a flash.
Holding her breath, Zi Yuan did a hand sign; a counter appeared in front of her face.
Zi Yuan's lips curved into a smile as she switched to another hand sign.
The Heir was sitting on the floor when she reappeared inside the apartment.
He sprang to his feet the moment he saw her.
"How many?" he asked anxiously.
Zi Yuan smirked. "Thirty-two."
A pindrop silence ensued after her announcement.
Zi Yuan stood there, studying the changes flitting across the Heir's expression: the slow parting of his lips; the rounding of his eyes; the way his jaw moved, yet no sound came out; and then...
"Thirty-two!!!!" The Heir leaped into the air and pumped his fist. "Yes!!!! Woo-hoo!!! Yes!!! Yes!!!" When he landed on the floor, he started laughing his head off. "Thirty-two! Zi Yuan!! Thirty-two!!!" Soon, the Heir was lying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. "Chan'er!!! I love you!!! Wait for me, Chan'er!!! I'm coming to fetch you soon!"
Then he went back to laughing.
A slow smile spread across Zi Yuan's features as she watched the whole scene quietly.
At long last.
The beacons of hope were lit.