Shen You was still in the living room when Su Chan exited the bedroom with Yundong. The annoying man was arguing with the landlady about something. Su Chan had no idea what the argument was about (nor did she care), but she thought she had heard a bunch of death threats being tossed around while she was still packing her things inside the bathroom. There were also repeated mentions of the name Shen Wanchai, which she assumed was Shen You's bigshot father. So somebody, somebody had a name now. Not that she cared.
The argument stopped as soon as Shen You noticed both of their presences.
"Good day to you, Ma'am," Yundong said, smiling at the landlady.
The landlady acknowledged Yundong with a nod while Shen You just ignored Yundong. At least one of them was polite.
Su Chan could feel Shen You's eyes on her, but she ignored him as well.
How about a taste of your own medicine, you pest?
"Hey, pretty girl!" Shen You's annoying voice rang out behind them when they were about to leave the corn-door. "Are you sure you don't want to stay here? You can stay here completely for free, you know? Just say the—"
Su Chan shut the door in his face, then smiled sweetly at Yundong.
"Shall we go, beloved?"
Yundong returned her smile. "I thought you'd never ask."
"What?!" Su Chan all but screamed into Yundong's ear. "Y- You're the one who injured Zi Yuan jiějie?"
They were now somewhere in the middle of Mount Tianlong, travelling along the path towards the Fox Zen School—it was a bad idea to fly around in broad daylight unless someone had invented an invisibility spell. When they were at the foot of Mount Tianlong, Yundong had offered to give her another piggy-piggy, which she had gladly accepted.
Her statement must have surprised Yundong because he had suddenly stopped walking. His back felt tensed and rigid under her, and he was busy scanning their surroundings.
"Beloved?" she asked as wariness crept into her psyche. "What is it?"
Their cheeks brushed against each other when Yundong turned his head slightly to look at her. "There's actually a story behind Zi Yuan's injury," he whispered. "But I'm not sure if it's safe to talk about it here."
They looked at each other for a moment before an idea struck Su Chan.
"Ooh! I know!" Su Chan patted Yundong's shoulders repeatedly.
Yundong looked a little puzzled. "What?"
"Put me down for a sec, beloved."
Yundong removed his hands from the back of her thighs at the same time Su Chan loosened her arms around his neck. The front of her body slid down Yundong's back until her feet touched the ground.
"What is it, Chan'er?"
"Gimme a sec…" Su Chan began rummaging through the plastic bag she'd brought away from Master's corn-door earlier. "Ta-da!" She pulled out one of the talismans she had found inside Master's drawer.
Yundong's eyes lit up in interest. "What does it do?"
"Hehe…" Su Chan flapped the talisman a few times. "I'll show you!"
Yundong stared at her for a moment. "Um… Do I need to step away, or…?"
Su Chan shook her head. "No, no. Just stay where you are." She performed a hand sign and then let the talisman go. The talisman released a red glow and floated upwards until it was hovering above their heads.
Suddenly, the air in their surroundings began to shift as water vapor swirled and condensed. Soon, they were both enclosed within a barely-noticeable bubble.
"Wow…" Yundong's finger paused near the bubble's surface. He looked towards her. "Can I touch it?"
Su Chan bobbed her head up and down.
Ripples formed on the bubble's surface when Yundong's finger came into contact with it.
Yundong lowered his hand and stared at her. "What spell is this?"
Su Chan beamed at him. "It's called the Sound Barrier. It's a spell from the Water Element."
"A sound barrier, huh?" A thoughtful look spread across Yundong's face. "Is it two-way or…?" He shot her a questioning look. "I mean… We can still hear the things outside the bubble, right?"
"Mm-hmm!" Su Chan bobbed her head again. "But people can't hear anything from the outside!"
"Wow." Yundong chuckled and pinched her cheek lightly. "That's a pretty awesome spell you've got there. Well done, princess."
Grinning, Su Chan took Yundong's hand and pulled him along the path. The bubble floated along as they walked.
"It was an act," Yundong said after a while. "The outcome of our fight was planned."
Su Chan stopped walking and stared up at Yundong. She didn't have a codename for herself yet, but she was starting to have several ideas: Su Chan, the Inquisitive Zhenren; Su Chan, the Zhenren of Puzzlement; Su Chan, the Puzzled Zhenren.
"Yundong… I don't understand… If you were pulling your punches, then how come Zi Yuan jiějie still got injured?"
"It was…" Yundong sighed. "We agreed that Zi Yuan would pretend to lose. But then she also wanted me to hurt her for real."
Su Chan kept staring at Yundong.
Yundong looked away. "Apparently, Zhang Tianhé wanted to test Zi Yuan and…" Yundong shook his head as he trailed off.
"The Linggong Sect is in trouble, isn't it?"
Yundong sighed. "I think so."
"Should we…" Su Chan bit her lip, then stole a glance at Yundong. "Should we do something to help them?"
A thoughtful look formed on Yundong's face. "I want to." He shook his head again. "But I'm not sure how we can help without making things worse for them."
Yundong took her hand and they started to move again.
The conversation between them had lulled, so Su Chan allowed herself to sink into her own thoughts. Would it be entirely absurd if she suddenly walked up to Zi Yuan jiějie and then asked her to dissolve the Linggong Sect? With her abilities, Zi Yuan jiějie could totally start her own sect. Maybe Yundong and Zi Yuan jiějie could form a sect together? Wouldn't that be nice? Ooh! They could call it the Purple Cloud Zen Sect! The "Purple" would stand for Zi, and the "Cloud" would stand for Yun. Zen would, of course, come from the Fox Zen School.
"How did it feel to fight Zi Yuan jiějie for real?"
Su Chan knew that Zi Yuan jiějie was powerful; she just didn't know to what extent. It was rare for Master to acknowledge anyone, and yet she had acknowledged Zi Yuan jiějie readily.
"Like I was about to get my ass kicked?" Yundong chuckled.
Su Chan hummed.
"She's amazingly good with spells," Yundong said, then paused. "During the battle, my plan was to turn it into a close-quarter fight so that I didn't have to deal with her spells, but then she was damned good at hand-to-hand combat too."
Su Chan turned her head sideways.
Yundong seemed thoughtful. "Based on her style, I'm guessing she's a master in the Eight Trigram Palms."
"Oh." Su Chan stopped walking, causing Yundong to stop as well. "So she's fast and fluid."
Yundong nodded and smiled. "Do you practice the Eight Trigram Palms too?"
Master had taught her the basics of the Eight Trigram Palms because it complements her stealth spells like the Shadow Mist and would add to her offensive arsenal.
"Did Zi Yuan zhenren use a lot of spells on you?" Su Chan asked as they continued along the trail. No piggy-piggy this time. Bummer.
"Well…" Li Yundong stepped over a bunch of roots whereas Su Chan just floated over them. "As far as I can tell, she used spells from three elements. Earth, Fire, and Metal."
Su Chan guided her body forward and then did a twirl so that she was floating directly in front of Yundong. "Were you hurt by any of those spells?"
Yundong reached up and ruffled her head. "Nah. I managed to avoid getting hit."
"How?" Su Chan tilted her head slightly. "With the Fan of Seven Treasures?"
Yundong smiled. "The fan was a great help. So were the mudras."
Su Chan did a double take. Mudras? What mudras?
Yundong's eyes suddenly went wide. "Oh, yeah. I don't think I've told you about the mudras yet." Yundong scratched his chin. "When I was in Tibet, I came across this awesome book called the Mahamudra Tantra and—"
Su Chan lost control of her spiritual energy flow and dropped to the ground, where her feet got tangled up with some vines and she fell flat on her butt.
Yundong crouched down beside her in an instant. "You okay?"
Su Chan rubbed her backside a few times. Yundong grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet.
"But that's the Esoteric Sect's secret!" Su Chan exclaimed when she finally got her jaw to function again. "I can't believe you mastered it!"
Yundong patted the dust and dirt off her clothes and smiled down at her. "Long story short? I saved a Tibetan lama's life and he gave me the book as a gift."
Su Chan gaped. This was unreal.
"D- Do you still…"
"You mean do I still have the book?"
Su Chan bobbed her head excitedly.
Yundong laughed. "No. I returned it to the temple's Guardian Sentinel." Yundong draped his arm across her shoulders and guided her forward. "I've memorized its contents anyway."
Su Chan turned around so quickly that she nearly stumbled. "Really?"
Yundong smiled. "Mm-hmm."
Su Chan threw her arms around his neck. "Heavens, Yundong! That's great!"
Although she couldn't see his face, she knew that Yundong was smiling as well.
"Thanks," Yundong said.
Su Chan removed her arms around his neck and stared up at him. "Will you show them to me some day?"
Yundong's eyes lit up with amusement. "Why, I can show you now if you want?"
Yundong nodded. "Not all of them though. Just the non-destructive ones."
Su Chan glanced around a few times. "Um… Should I…"
Yundong smiled. "It's fine. You don't have to move."
Yundong raised a brow. "Ready?"
Su Chan bobbed her head up and down. "Mm-hmm! Mm-hmm!"
Yundong smiled and raised both hands. Su Chan watched with bated breath as he curled his fingers into his palms, leaving only his index and middle fingers extended. After that, he touched his middle fingers together, and then gave the index finger of his right hand a slight bent. And then… nothing.
Su Chan shot a furtive glance at Yundong's face. Yundong's eyes were closed and his head was glowing in ever-changing colors. Seconds later, the glowing stopped.
The Convergence of Five Qis…
But still, nothing had happened yet.
"Namah samanta vajranam ham…"
Yundong opened his eyes and slowly lowered his hands.
Excitement coursed through Su Chan. She grabbed Yundong's hands. "Yundong! Not all hope is lost!" Then, she raised her fist and shook it a few times. "We'll definitely be able to save Master!"
Heavens, yes. She felt like she could take on ten Yan Fangs right now. Bring it on!
Su Chan raised her fist higher. "You know what? Why don't we—"
Su Chan stopped talking the moment she saw Yundong's smirk.
Yundong reached over and pinched her cheek. "Feels great, doesn't it?"
Su Chan frowned. Wait, what? What was going on?
Su Chan lowered her fist and stared at her own hands. "Um… What happened?"
"You were under the effects of Acalanatha's 11th Mudra: The Dharma Shankha."
Su Chan looked up from her hands.
Yundong smiled. "It gives anyone in the user's vicinity a morale boost."
Su Chan looked at her hands as she tried to search for that intense feeling of courage she experienced earlier. "How long will the effects last?"
"According to the Mahamudra Tantra, the range and duration will depend on the user's own willpower, so there isn't a fixed time. It depends on the user and the user's state of mind when the technique is performed."
"There's another one."
Su Chan's head shot up.
"I can show you another one if you like?"
Su Chan bobbed her head again.
Yundong smiled. "Alright. But… you might want to step aside for this." Yundong glanced up. "Oh. And you might also want to remove the barrier."
The talisman stopped glowing and fluttered down to Su Chan's hand after she performed a quick hand sign.
"Okay. Here goes." Yundong clasped his hands together like he was praying. "Namah samanta vajranam ham."
Su Chan flinched when a semi-transparent golden sheet appeared in front of Yundong. Whoa… Is that a shield?
"Try touching it," Yundong said. He didn't let his hand drop this time.
Su Chan stared at the barrier in wonder.
"Go on," Yundong prompted. "Touch it."
Su Chan looked through the barrier and saw Yundong's encouraging smile. Then she focused her attention back at the shield. "W- Will it hurt?"
"No." Yundong chuckled. "Of course it won't hurt. I wouldn't have asked you to touch it if it does."
"Go ahead. Touch it and see what happens."
Su Chan lifted her index finger and brought it to the shield. "Whoa…" Her finger stopped moving as soon as its tip touched the golden sheet. No matter how hard she pushed, her finger just wouldn't penetrate the shield.
"Um… Beloved?" Su Chan pulled her finger back. "Can you keep it the shield up for a while longer?"
Piqued, Su Chan bent down and picked up a twig from the ground. Then, she started poking the golden sheet with the twig until the twig snapped in half.
Su Chan tossed the broken twig aside and gaped at the barrier. "That's so cool…"
"Can I try something else, Yundong?" Su Chan asked tentatively.
Yundong smiled, then gave her an encouraging nod.
When she drove herself into the barrier, her mist form spread out along the barrier's surface rather than penetrate it. After a few failed attempts, Su Chan switched off her mist form and stared at the barrier in awe. "I- It's impenetrable!"
"It's a very useful tool." The golden sheet vanished when Yundong lowered his hands. "Saved my life many, many times."
"What's it called?"
"Acalanatha's 2nd Mudra: The Immovable Mountain of Treasure."
The immovable mountain… of treasure?
"Can the barrier take any shape?" Su Chan asked, still puzzling over the meaning behind the name.
Su Chan looked towards Yundong. Hmm…
"The shape will be decided at the exact moment I finish chanting the mantra. And it will stay the same," Yundong continued. "Once the barrier is up, I can't shape it again. If I want one with a new shape, I'll have to release the barrier and then form it again."
Yundong could always just shape the barrier into a dome, or a mountain. And since the barrier was gold in color, it would look like a mountain of treasure wouldn't it?
Ooh. So the name made sense after all.
"And it's impenetrable," Su Chan mumbled. It really was. Shadow Mist could slip through pretty much anything, yet it was shown to be ineffectual against the mudra.
"It prevents any physical object from crossing its surface as long as I have the spiritual energy to maintain the barrier."
Su Chan turned her head and stared at Yundong.
Yundong smiled. "So far, I only see two problems with the technique."
Su Chan tilted her head to one side. "What are they?"
Yundong sighed. "It becomes difficult to keep the barrier up if the physical force exerted on it was too great." Yundong smiled wryly. "The first time I used it was after I passed the Zhuji phase."
Piqued, Su Chan righted her head and stared at Yundong intently.
Yundong chuckled. "I used it to hold back a ton of snow."
Snow? Oh yeah. He went to Tibet, right?
"Wait…" Su Chan's eyes narrowed. "You were caught in an avalanche?"
Yundong chucked her under the chin. "Clever guess, princess." He lowered his hand and sighed. "It was my first time using it, so it was kinda tough. And there was just so much snow and… Anyway." Yundong shook his head slightly. "I could barely keep maintain the form of the mudra with my hands."
Hmm. Made sense. Yundong had just passed the Zhuji phase back then, right? He was only at the beginning of the Shentong phase. He probably hadn't even completed his first Qi Transmutation Cycle yet.
"What about the second problem, beloved?"
"The barrier doesn't extend underground." Yundong's expression turned serious. "Someone could bypass the barrier by reaching up from under the ground with an Earth spell."
Or a Wood spell, Su Chan added internally.
"Ooh! I know!"
"You already know how to fly, right?" Excitement coursed through Su Chan's veins. "Why not just levitate a bit off the ground and then form a spherical barrier!" Su Chan wrinkled her nose. "But then it would have to be called the Floating Ball of Treasure… Eugh.... That doesn't even—"
Yundong burst into laughter.
Su Chan blushed. "W- What?"
Yundong wipe away a stray tear from the corner of his eyes. "God, Chan'er..." He ruffled her head a few more times. "You are just so… you."
Su Chan thought she might have just invented a Fire spell of her own—the Flaming Cheeks spell.
Master would be proud.
"Yes." Yundong nodded. "Actually, I did think of that. But there will be times where I need to protect someone other than myself. And not everyone can fly."
Su Chan pursed her lips in thought. "How about…" Su Chan stole a tentative glance at Yundong. "Lift them up with Qi Kinesis?"
Yundong did a double take, then pinched her cheek. "My, my. You're full of clever ideas today aren't you, princess?"
Su Chan pouted. "What? It works."
"Yes, it does." Yundong chuckled and took her hand in his. "Thank you so much for the suggestion, my dear little princess chipmunk."
"I'm not a cheap monk!"
"Sure, you're not."
Su Chan kept sneaking glances at Yundong as they walked side by side. He wasn't actually agreeing with her, was he? It couldn't be. He always called her a cheap monk.
"I'm not a cheap monk," she mumbled after a while.
Yundong laughed. "Alright, enough of that already."
Su Chan pouted.
"Hey, you wanna hear a funny story?"
Su Chan shot him a curious glance. "Is it funnier than those soap shows?"
"Hmm… I don't know. Maybe?"
"Okay! I wanna hear it."
"Alright." Yundong chuckled. "Well, you see… When I first learned how to levitate, I fell down from the ceiling and landed on my..."