At midnight, Li Yundong made a shocking discovery.
He found that he didn't feel tired at all. Not one bit.
He'd been running low on sleep for the whole day thanks to his "bolster duties" last night, not to mention he'd spent pretty much the whole day being an active participant in their little home-hunting adventure, which may or may not have led to the demise of a building. The fact that he could even remain on his feet now was a miracle in and of itself.
Yet here he was, standing tall and strong in the balcony of his new home with the entire Tiannan City beneath his feet. Su Chan was sitting beside him, and together, they were like an emperor and his wife, admiring their kingdom after his coronation ceremony.
But how could this be? How could there be this gushing, roiling, and spinning ball of energy inside his body when he really should be conking out due to over-exertion? Why did he feel as though he was invincible, like he could go a few rounds with the Hulk and still walk away with his limbs intact?
And what about that motivation and drive which had been brewing in his chest ever since the encouraging nod he got from the old man the night he left his old apartment? He'd never felt a drive so strong before, yet he had no idea what to channel all that drive into.
An emperor conquers, he was aware of that. Well, he knew that he should be conquering something, but he just didn't know what.
No. He was no emperor. Not yet, anyway. He was an emperor's newborn son, destined to succeed the throne, yet clueless about the kind of epic accomplishments that awaited him in the future.
Li Yundong released a wistful sigh into the night, then sat down on the floor of the balcony beside Su Chan. Beneath them, Tiannan City's nightlife thrived with colorful city lights twinkling everywhere like the constellations in the galaxy.
"Su Chan..." Li Yundong said, staring up into the sky where trillions of stars blinked at them.
"What do you..." Li Yundong trailed off, suddenly feeling hesitant, like he was afraid of Su Chan's answer. What if the stuff she said about him being a hero was just a heat-of-the-moment thing? What if she really saw no potential in him at all? "What do you think I can accomplish in the future?"
Beside him, Su Chan shifted, drawing her legs to her chest then hugging her knees. A second later, he felt the weight of Su Chan's head on his shoulder. "In the future..." she said, staring up into the sky as well. "You could do anything. But whatever it is that you do, I know that you'll be awesome!"
That comment made Li Yundong smile. "But how do you know that?" he said, then sighed. "The other day when we were kicked out by the landlady, I made a vow to myself. I told myself that I'm going to work hard and become a great man one day to prove those people wrong." The balcony fell silent as Li Yundong considered his words. "But after things had calmed down a bit, I realized that there's nothing that I'm really good at..."
Another spell of silence was cast upon them.
Li Yundong let out a sad chuckle. "Pathetic, right?" he said. "All those years of schooling, heck, even the one year I've spent in the university so far... They all amount to nothing..."
Li Yundong trailed off, staring into the sky as though he thought the answers he sought were written in the stars.
Su Chan nearly laughed at how utterly ridiculous Li Yundong's statement sounded. She raised her head from his shoulder, then looked up at him with blinking eyes.
All of a sudden, she felt an impulse to just tell him everything. Tell him that the strength of his Qi had already surpassed that of most Cultivators in the mortal world despite his total lack of formal Cultivation training, that his body was now the vessel of the holy grail of the Cultivation world. Maybe she should tell him just how much power his two hands currently held. That way, he would stop questioning his own future. After all, what else could be better than becoming an immortal Shenxian whose future stretches far beyond the finite and into the infinite?
However, something held her back. He probably wouldn't believe her if she told him now. How would she even go about proving to him that the Renyuan Jindan existed to begin with? The only way she could convince him was by showing him that there were powers and forces in the universe beyond his current mortal experience, things that he would undoubtedly deem as "supernatural."
But how? By transforming herself back into her fox form right in front of him? Was she ready for that? Would he even want to keep her around after she revealed her true identity? More importantly, when would it be the right time to tell him?
Definitely after he has passed the Zhuji phase.
Su Chan felt a shift in Li Yundong's posture, then realized that he was no longer looking at the stars but was smiling at her instead. "Meh! Don't listen to me," he said. "I was just rambling, that's all. Don't read too much into it, okay? I promise you this, Su Chan. For you, I'll give it my best shot! I'll work really hard to become someone worthy of you!"
Warmth seeped into Su Chan's heart, and she tried to ignore the stinging sensation in her eyes. She smiled at Li Yundong, then turned away to look at the time. Seeing that it was just slightly past midnight, she stood up and walked around to stand behind Li Yundong. "Yundong, do you want me to give you a massage?"
After all the time they had spent together, Li Yundong had already arrived at the conclusion that Su Chan was no ordinary girl. Not that it was rocket science, since the evidence of her uniqueness was everywhere: the strange terms she'd been using in her speech; the old-fashioned dress that she'd worn when they first met; her innocence; her profound lack of knowledge about the modern world; even her badass fighting skills that had allowed her to knock out a guy twice her size! Even without considering those things, her legendary massage skills alone would've made her stand out. If she ever decided to start a company providing massage services, he was pretty sure it would make it into the Fortune 500 in months, hell, weeks!
Did he want a massage?
Hell, frigging yeah.
Besides, he trusted Su Chan; he knew that she would never do anything to harm him. His life and his body had been substantially transformed ever since Su Chan's appearance, true. However, he saw those as positive changes, changes that he enjoyed. Now, he could look at himself in the mirror and see a better man. Gone was the fat, lazy ass whose only purposes in life were to get fat and win the Guinness World record for "the greatest number of rejected love confessions in a lifetime." In his place was a man with a desire to achieve greatness.
"Yeah, okay," he said. "A massage sounds nice."
Su Chan nodded excitedly and led Li Yundong into the bedroom.
"Sit down on the floor," Su Chan said, then ran off to draw the curtains open. Li Yundong complied and sat down.
"No, no, no. Face that way," Su Chan said, pointing in the direction of the balcony.
Li Yundong chuckled and shifted on the floor until he was looking out into the night sky again. "Like this?" he asked.
"Yep!" Su Chan yelled while opening all the windows in the bedroom.
A moment later, Su Chan's intoxicating scent wafted into Li Yundong's nostrils, and he felt Su Chan's body heat behind his back.
"Don't sit like that!" Su Chan said, smacking his shoulder. "Sit with your legs crossed!"
Li Yundong turned around and gave Su Chan a quizzical look. "Hey, Su Chan, how come you always ask me to sit cross-legged on the floor whenever you give me a massage? Can't I just... I don't know, lie down on the bed or something?" Then, he chuckled. "Every time we do this, I feel like I'm practicing Qigong or something!"
"That's exactly what you're doing," Su Chan said as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "It's all about Qi movement. Remember how you went into Zouhuo Rumo the other day in class?"
Li Yundong nodded and said, "Yeah. I still don't know how it happened. I just know that someone tapped me on the shoulder and then..." Li Yundong shuddered at the memory.
"That's right. You were interrupted in the middle of your Qi-control practice," Su Chan said. "When you lost concentration, your Qi ran wild inside your body."
"Oh, wow," Li Yundong said, a smile adorning his lips. "I can't believe that a pretty girl like you knows so much about Qigong! I thought you'd never been in a fight in your life!" Li Yundong chuckled, then shrugged. "Guess I was wrong..."
All of sudden, Li Yundong turned around. There was a curious glint in his eyes. "Come to think of it... Why do people usually sit cross-legged when they practice Qi control? Can't they do it standing up?"
Su Chan bent over his shoulder slightly and gestured back and forth along his leg. "The legs usually account for more than half of a person's height. The longer the legs are, the harder it is for Qi to reach the acupoint at the sole of the foot known as Yongquan," Su Chan explained.
"And that's a bad thing?" he asked.
"Of course," Su Chan said. "The Yongquan is an important acupoint on the Foot's Minor Yin Kidney Meridian and Major Yang Urinary Bladder Meridian. It would be impossible to go through Da Zhoutian if Qi can't reach that acupoint."
Li Yundong went silent in thought. "But how does sitting cross-legged help?"
"The meridians in the body would be stretched in that posture. That stretch helps stimulate blood and Qi flow in the meridians. Also, this posture would help shorten the distance between your Dantians and your legs."
"Mmhm!" Su Chan said. "There are three Dantians in the body. The Lower Dantian in your lower abdomen, the Middle Dantian near your heart, and the Upper Dantian in your brain."
"Oh, right!" Li Yundong said. "So if I sit cross-legged on the floor, all three Dantians would be closer to the legs because my legs would be folded horizontally instead of stretched out in their full length..."
"Yup! And it also helps keep a person's Qi inside their body."
"Oh, wow..." Li Yundong said in awe. "Previously, I thought people make a habit of it because it's comfortable... Ah, I tried it once." He chuckled. "Ended up with sore calves and numb thighs. Never tried it again after that."
Li Yundong suddenly turned around and looked up at Su Chan in admiration. "Su Chan," he said. "You're really great, you know. You're blessed with good looks, and you're so knowledgeable..."
When Su Chan beamed at him, Li Yundong thought he was falling in love all over again. He hadn't thought it possible before, but somehow, the ambience of the night amplified her beauty. Their gazes met with him looking up and her looking down. When he caught a glimpse of the emotions inside her eyes, he was transfixed. He couldn't look away. It was as though she was telling him something with her eyes, but he didn't know what. Except for the heat pooling rapidly in his lower abdomen, he wasn't sure what else he was feeling.
The spell was broken when he felt the firm pressure of Su Chan's palm against the top of his head.
"Close your eyes, then press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Empty your mind. Don't think about anything else!" Su Chan said.
Well, here goes... Li Yundong thought, closing his eyes.
With one hand, Su Chan gently massaged Li Yundong's acupoints. After a while, she pressed both palms on the two spots slightly above his hips, then studied Li Yundong's expression.
Li Yundong's face was completely relaxed, which told Su Chan that she had done everything right, not that she doubted her own skills. At this point, Su Chan knew that Li Yundong was practically unconscious. If Su Chan were to venture a guess, she would say that Li Yundong probably felt as though he was immersed in a hot spring; the flow of Qi inside his body would produce a sensation similar to that of having his body rinsed with warm water during a cold night in winter.
Su Chan was once again reminded of the benefits of having a trusted training partner. With a trusted partner watching over them while they train, Cultivators could safely allow themselves to go into a semi-conscious state without having to worry about being ambushed or the risks of entering the Zouhuo Rumo state. Only in training sessions like this could the Cultivator fully experience the flow of their own Qi and allow their body's natural instincts to take over. Something amazing would happen if Qi control was practiced when the body was in its most natural state — the Qi mobilized as a result of the training session would be in its purest form. This type of Qi is, in fact, comparable in purity to one's prenatal Qi.
Seeing nothing wrong with Li Yundong's facial expression, Su Chan turned her attention to the top of his head. When she saw the subtle wisps of white steam rising from the top of his head, Su Chan knew that the moment she'd been waiting for had arrived — bridging the gap between Xiao Zhoutian and Da Zhoutian!
This morning, at the motel, they'd been interrupted by someone knocking on their door. This time, however, there would be no interruptions. She hoped anyway.
The white steam continued to rise from Li Yundong's head, and Su Chan knew it was time — the Jindan's Qi had fully gathered at his Baihui.
Here goes... Su Chan took in a deep breath, then exhaled. A stream of white Qi shot out from between her lips like an arrow. All of a sudden, there was a pale green glow on her right palm, as though there was a thin cloud of glowing gaslike substance coating the skin of her palm. Su Chan raised her palm, then slammed it down onto Li Yundong's Baihui.
Li Yundong's body trembled the moment Su Chan's palm connected with his Baihui. A flush crept from his neck up to his face in an instant. All of a sudden, bulges appeared everywhere on his body as his meridians expanded and pushed out against his skin. A white, steam-like substance gushed out of the top of his head, permeating the bedroom in a matter of seconds.
Please work, please work, please work... Su Chan thought, watching Li Yundong nervously.
The emission of white steam from the top of the head was the indication that a Cultivator was wearing the crown of three flowers. This was it, the gateway into Da Zhoutian. Li Yundong's Qi was about to gush into all the meridians in his body and hopefully activate his 12 standard meridians and his 6 other extraordinary meridians (the Ren and Du meridians were activated during Xiao Zhoutian) in the process. Well, it should work, since the Jindan's Qi was so powerful. That was her plan all along, to use the Jindan's powerful Qi to activate Li Yundong's meridians.
The white steam continued rising from Li Yundong's head for about a minute or so. Then, all of a sudden, a series of violent convulsions ripped through Li Yundong's body. His four limbs shook violently, as though he was about to stand up and start dancing.
If my plan works, the process will be completed tonight and—
Su Chan gasped in fright when Li Yundong sprang to his feet.
In another part of New Hongsheng District, Ruan Hongling jolted awake, then blinked a few times to clear her head. She could still hear that voice, which sounded like the rumbling of thunder, or the roar of a tiger deep inside the mountains. Ruan Hongling snorted. Show off, she thought. That voice obviously belonged to some obnoxious Cultivator looking to announce to the whole world that he'd made some progress in his training.
However, a while later, Ruan Hongling's dismissive attitude turned into shock. His voice... How come it's not weakening? It's been, what, a minute?
No. The voice was definitely not getting softer. In fact, it was getting louder and louder by the second!
At the five-minute mark, Ruan Hongling leaped out of her bed and ran out into the balcony, then looked towards the direction of the voice. "Impressive..." she said. "Which Cultivation school is he from?"
At the ten-minute mark, Ruan Hongling felt a tingle in her scalp. Chills ran down her spine, causing her skin to break out in goosebumps. A roar that could last more than ten minutes without any signs of growing weaker! How in the name of the Tao was that even possible!
Not even Xiansheng Wang Yangming's roar could pass the six-minute mark! Yet this guy could howl for more than ten minutes, and it was still going strong with no signs of stopping! Ten! How! How could any Cultivator have a Qi that powerful? Could it be a reclusive master? Like a hermit? Maybe the head of a Cultivation school was hiding and training in the mortal world? (T/N: Xiansheng is a title that Chinese use to refer to a powerful or influential historical teacher/figure)
Seconds trickled past the ten-minute mark, yet the roar blared on. It was as though the apartment building in New Hongsheng District had turned into a powerful sound beacon, sending shockwaves into the night. Ruan Hongling stood on the balcony of her bedroom, engulfed in the shockwaves which, she was sure, would one day shake the entire world of Cultivation.