Delight and surprise washed over Li Yundong when he heard Su Chan's offer. Alas, those pleasant feelings were shortlived.
"Is... is that even okay?" he asked awkwardly.
Su Chan bobbed her head up and down.
"It is! It is!"
Li Yundong turned around and studied Su Chan's expression. Really studied it. That was when he noticed the flushed state of Su Chan's face as well as the sweat dotting the tip of her nose and forehead. Damn... She looks exhausted... A pang of guilt speared his heart, but then it was quickly soothed by feelings of gratefulness.
"Nah, it's okay. You don’t have to do that," Li Yundong said, feeling touched by the lengths that Su Chan had gone through for his sake. "Look at you, all covered in sweat."
"Huh?" Su Chan looked confused for a moment. Then, she reached up to wipe her forehead with the back of her hand. She smiled at him when she noticed the sweat on her hand.
"Oh, the sweat isn't because of physical exhaustion," she said cheerfully. "It's due to the circulation of Qi inside my body! I'm not tired at all! See!"
Su Chan got up and jumped around a few times, then sat back down again. She knew very well that the Butterfly Flower Gathering technique was beneficial to both parties involved.
"The circulation of Qi?" Li Yundong asked, looking utterly baffled. He then remembered the BAMF way she had taken out Er Lu in front of the campus earlier.
Li Yundong studied Su Chan’s features for a moment, then asked, "Su Chan, how do you know all these things? Did your master teach you all of this?"
Su Chan nodded.
"Of course!" she said, beaming with pride. "My master is the best!"
"So... let me get this straight," Li Yundong said, tilting his head slightly. "All that Traditional Chinese Medicine stuff and the massage techniques... They were all taught to you by your master?"
Su Chan pondered Li Yundong's question for a moment. Hmm... Technically, master only taught me the art of Cultivation... But then... the principles of the healing arts are based on the Tao... and the art of healing is one of the many manifestations of the Tao... So, if he wants to put it that way, it isn't wrong.
Moments later, Su Chan nodded.
"Yup! She did!"
Li Yundong looked at Su Chan in awe. "Damn... Your master must be a living legend."
At that moment, the radiance on Su Chan's face rivaled that of a thousand suns.
"She is! And she is sooooo beautiful!"
"Wait, are you saying that your master is even more beautiful than you are?" Li Yundong asked curiously.
Su Chan's grin was so wide that even her eyes had become slits. "My master is a hundred times more beautiful than I am!"
Li Yundong burst into laughter.
"A hundred times? I call bullshit! A woman who is a hundred times more beautiful than you can't possibly exist in this world. I don't buy it!"
Su Chan glared at him.
"But it's true!" she shot back.
Li Yundong pinched Su Chan's nose and gazed at her face with nothing but adoration.
"To me, you're the most beautiful woman in the world. There isn't anyone who can come close, you hear me?"
Su Chan blushed and looked down.
"That's not true at all... I'm actually ugly..."
"Who said that!" Li Yundong said, feigning anger.
A pout formed on Su Chan's lips.
"My master said it..."
Li Yundong froze, then laughed out loud a second later.
"No shit?" he said. "Hah! I bet she's just jealous of you! That was why she said you're ugly!"
Su Chan had been Cultivating in the mountains since she was born. Before she ran into Li Yundong, she could count on one hand the number of people she had actually met! Having lived in seclusion for so many years, how could she possibly be informed about the beauty standards of the mortal world?
She had never been praised for her looks before. Never. In fact, it was the other way around! Her master had constantly criticized Su Chan's looks while warning her about the dangers of flaunting one's looks in the outside world. Years of such mental conditioning had drilled the idea into Su Chan's mind that she wasn't beautiful, which also happened to be the reason for Su Chan's constant worries that Li Yundong would abandon her because of her "ugliness."
Still, Su Chan was nothing if not loyal to her master; her hackles were raised the moment she heard Li Yundong speaking ill of her master.
"Nonsense!" Su Chan snapped. "My master would never treat me like that! She's the best and the nicest person in the world!"
Li Yundong feigned a stern look.
"What about me?"
Su Chan suddenly looked sheepish.
"Y- you are the... the second best," she said, twiddling her fingers.
Li Yundong's face fell.
"Only second best, huh?"
Su Chan looked up suddenly and stuck out her tongue. Then, she leaned in closer to Li Yundong and whispered, "Hey... I'm gonna tell you a secret about my master, okay?"
One would think that her master was actually in the room with the way she was acting.
Li Yundong smiled in amusement, but decided to play along.
"What?" he whispered back.
"My master is actually very strict with me," she whispered. "And she was constantly yelling at me. But I know she did it for my own good... So... if you work harder, maybe you can replace my master and become the best and nicest person in the world."
Li Yundong burst into laughter, then stood up, pulling Su Chan to her feet as well. After that, he practically dragged her into the bathroom and positioned her in front of the mirror.
"Look," Li Yundong said, pointing at Su Chan's reflection in the mirror. "Look at yourself."
Su Chan blinked a few times, then turned away from the mirror to look at him.
"I see myself... so?" she asked, confused.
She'd been using this mirror every day since she began staying here. Of course she'd seen herself before. Why was he asking her to look at herself? What was the point he was trying to make?
Li Yundong cupped Su Chan's face with his hand and smiled at her tenderly.
"So? You're beautiful," Li Yundong said. "Here, let me show you." Li Yundong turned Su Chan's face back to the mirror, then began tracing the contours of her reflection's face with his other hand. "The shape of your face is what we call the melon-seed face. If you look closely, it's like an inverted melon-seed. So cute, right?" Then, his finger moved towards the eyes of her reflection. "Your eyes are beautiful too. They're large, bright, clear, and so full of life... Here, look at your lashes, they're so long. Then your lips... so red and full." Li Yundong suddenly cleared his throat. "Of course, we can't forget your skin. Your skin looks very fair and healthy. You know, most women can only dream to have your looks. Even if they spend trillions on plastic surgery they might not look as good as you. Not even those movie stars and celebrities we see on TV could compare to you."
Su Chan blushed heavily and stared at her own reflection with a dazed look. Maybe... I'm a little bit pretty?
"Am I really as beautiful as you said?" Su Chan mumbled.
Li Yundong held Su Chan's gaze intently.
"Of course you are," he said with conviction. "That's why I said I don't believe there's a woman who's a hundred times more beautiful than you. Your master is definitely just jealous of your looks."
Su Chan still didn't like it when Li Yundong spoke ill of her master.
"No, that's not it at all," she said with a pout. "My master really is a beautiful woman. You'll know when you see her in the future."
Li Yundong smiled without commenting.
So I'm actually pretty... I never knew— Su Chan gasped all of a sudden. Is... is that why master... she...
The revelation came in an instant, like a flick of a switch that lit up a million light bulbs in her mind. At that moment, the words that her master had repeatedly told her back in the mountains echoed in her mind: "Chan'er, if you end up in the mortal world one day, remember to never ever flaunt your looks."
For the first time in her life, the true intentions behind her master's words dawned on her. A woman's beauty is often the root cause of trouble; Su Chan knew this saying like the back of her hand, yet this was the first time she realized that her master had been saying the same thing all along! Flaunting one's beauty in the mortal world would draw the attention of: people who would try to use one's beauty for their own evil agendas; wanton and lustful people. Her master had told her never to flaunt her looks so that she wouldn't run into these kinds of trouble!
Tears stung Su Chan's eyes.
Oh, master... Chan’er never knew…
Poor Li Yundong, who was clueless about the real reason behind her tears, went into panic mode instantly.
"Hey, hey," Li Yundong said, gripping Su Chan's shoulders. "Why are you crying all of a sudden? D- did I say something?"
Su Chan looked up at Li Yundong, her teary eyes pulling at Li Yundong's heartstring relentlessly.
"It’s just… I miss my master..." she said.
Li Yundong's body stiffened. For a long while, he stared into Su Chan's eyes deeply, not saying a single word. A range of emotions battled in his eyes, fighting for control. Eventually, selflessness triumphed, so he decided to put his own needs aside and do what he thought was best for Su Chan. He clenched his jaw and exhaled.
"Then... Why don't you go back to her?" he said, trying everything in his power to keep his voice neutral.
Su Chan jumped in shock, then quickly seized Li Yundong's arms.
"Are you abandoning me?"
Li Yundong looked at her strangely.
"You were the one who said you wanted to leave..."
Su Chan dried her tears.
"Who's leaving!" she snapped.
I haven't even performed Yang Feeding on you yet! Hmph!
Li Yundong sadness dissipated and was replaced with joy and relief.
"But didn't you say you miss your master?" he said with a smile.
Su Chan made a face at him.
"I was only saying, that's all!" she said angrily.
God, look at her... Happy or angry... she's beautiful either way... I think I'm in love, Li Yundong thought. Then, all of a sudden, a depressing thought hit him like a truck, and he sighed. "Now do you know how beautiful you truly are?"
Su Chan's anger was like the sky during April; it could change from being overcast to being sunny in a blink of an eye.
"Hehehe... If you say so!" she said.
Slightly dazed, Li Yundong stared at Su Chan's face with sad eyes. Then, he let out a heavy sigh.
"A beautiful girl like you?" Li Yundong said, then released a sad chuckle. "I bet there'll be a lot of guys lining up to be with you... So, if…" Li Yundong cleared his throat. "I'm saying if, okay? If you grow tired of me one day..." He cleared his throat again. "You must tell me first!"
Su Chan looked at Li Yundong as though he'd grown twenty heads. "Why would I grow tired of you?"
Li Yundong let out a self-deprecating chuckle.
"I bet I can give you, like, a hundred reasons..." he said. "I'm not handsome. I'm poor. I don't have rich parents..."
Su Chan's face scrunched up in puzzlement.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
Li Yundong's smile went from sad to pained.
"Isn't that how girls are these days?"
"That's because they are blind! To me, you're the best person in the world!" Su Chan declared with unwavering conviction.
Was that tears in his eyes? F*ck. He swallowed the lump in his throat and cleared his throat harshly. Then, he forced himself to smile.
"Me? The best? Wow, so I managed to surpass your master that quickly?" he said in a faux cheery tone.
Su Chan stuck out her tongue sheepishly.
"Your cooking tastes better than hers..." she said.
Li Yundong burst into laughter, but then quickly stopped laughing. Deep down, he was still worried. This couldn't be happening. There couldn't possibly be a girl this good... could there?
"You... you really won't grow tired of me?" he asked, gazing into Su Chan's eyes.
The eyes. The window to the soul.
Su Chan stared right back at him. A moment later she grinned and looked away.
"I was actually the one worrying that you might grow tired of me," she said. "Can't believe you were worried about the same thing too."
Now it was Li Yundong’s turn to look at her as though she had suddenly grown twenty heads.
"Why on earth would I grow tired of you?"
Su Chan sighed, then looked at him timidly.
"I've caused you so much trouble... and I'm scared..." she said. "So scared that... that you'll become sick of a troublemaker like me. Then, you'll toss me aside."
Li Yundong laughed a few times. When his laughter subsided, he patted Su Chan's head with a sigh.
"God, do you even know what you're saying?" Li Yundong said. "A girl like you..." Li Yundong chuckled. "Nobody would have the heart to blame you even if you ripped a hole in the sky."
Su Chan giggled.
"Then... you're saying that... you'll never blame me?"
Li Yundong laughed.
Su Chan grabbed Li Yundong's arm and swayed it from side to side.
"See? I knew you're the best!" she said smilingly.
At that moment, Li Yundong felt as though there was a frigging furnace inside his chest. The longer he looked at Su Chan, the warmer and cozier his chest felt. And it was then that he knew — he was in love with this girl.
Damn, there isn't another girl like her in this world, I'm sure of it. Li Yundong! Get your f*cking act together and treat her the way that she deserves to be treated! Or else you'll be struck by the Five Thunders of Heaven! (T/N: Being struck by the Five Thunders of Heaven is a Chinese saying which conveys the idea that heavenly judgement will eventually befall those who conduct evil deeds)
If a man loves a woman, he would fight for her, and work hard for her!
At that moment, Li Yundong made a decision — he wouldn't waste his life anymore. He would work hard and earn a good living. He would become a man of value, for Su Chan, and more importantly, for himself.
Su Chan, I swear I'll never let you down! I'll become a person worthy of your choice! Just watch me!
Even if Li Yundong was completely in the dark about the true purpose Su Chan wanted to be with him, even if his resolve was built on the basis of a beautiful delusion, the effect was the same: he found as aspiration.
Once a person finds aspiration, their Essence, Qi, and Spirit will be transformed.
At that moment, Su Chan could feel the aura of greatness emanating from Li Yundong's body. The sharp and faraway look in his eyes bespoke of a great man in the making. Those eyes held the flames of ambition, and Su Chan had only seen those kinds of eyes in one other person before — her master's brother. Those were the eyes of greatness, the eyes of a person who was convinced that they could triumph over anything or anyone who stood in their way!
Most Cultivators fear nature. They knew how destructive and powerful nature could be. However, that fear was a disadvantage where Cultivation was concerned.
Cultivators often spoke of "changing one's fate and reforming one's destiny."
Another Cultivator named Ge Hong, from the Danding school of Cultivation once said: “The will of a human triumphs over their destiny."
Regardless, both sayings purported the same idea: those who aspire to triumph over everything, even fate and destiny, have the ideal mindset for Cultivation!
At that moment, Li Yundong had this exact mindset.
The moment a person finds their aspiration, the Qi inside their body would be mobilized involuntarily. As such, the aura that the person exuded on their external environment would be exceptional!
As Su Chan stared blankly at Li Yundong, she was suddenly struck by another thought. With his present mindset and the Renyuan Jindan's enhancements, he had the potential to become a legendary Cultivator! If he was willing to start his training, that is...
That thought instantly put a halt to Su Chan's musings. She quickly backtracked and began chanting: No. No. No. No. Then my Renyuan Jindan would've gone to waste...
And that was when she realized something strange.
It's true that he has my Renyuan Jindan, but... why doesn't it feel as bad as before...
At that moment, Su Chan knew that something inside her heart had changed, and that change threw her into a dilemma.