Su Chan clamped her hands over her ears. "Why are you shouting?"
Crap? What crap? After all the explanations she'd given him, the only thing he could come up with was "crap?" And shouldn't he be happy that he'd made progress in his training? What in Tao's name was the matter with him?
Li Yundong laughed, then suddenly put his palms together.
"Namaste, Namaste..." he said with his eyes closed.
Su Chan failed to stifle her giggles. "Why are you talking to me like I'm a Buddhist monk?"
Li Yundong opened his eyes and grinned. "Isn't that who you are?" he said. "I mean, the other day at the hospital you gave us a lecture on karma, didn't you? You seem to know a lot about all that stuff."
Hmm... Master did cross paths with the great Buddha...
Most of the magical spells taught in the Fox Zen School had Buddhist origins. The same goes for their magical items. But no... Master isn't technically a Buddhist, nor is she a Taoist.
"Well? Aren't you?"
Su Chan raised her eyes and noticed Li Yundong staring at her, no doubt waiting for her to answer.
"Nope," Su Chan said, shaking her head.
Li Yundong seemed genuinely surprised. "Um... Oh! Then... Then you must be a Taoist priestess!"
Li Yundong closed his eyes again. This time, he even gave her a little bow. "Peace in the Tao... Peace in the Tao."
Su Chan burst into laughter.
"You idiot!" Su Chan said. "I'm not a Taoist priestess either!"
"Oh, thank God... So you're neither a Buddhist monk nor a Taoist priestess, which means I still have a chance to marry you..."
Su Chan's cheeks grew warm.
"Eww! Who would want to marry you? Hmph! Hmph!"
Su Chan turned away to hide her blush.
Moments later, she heard a laugh then a shuffling sound. A pair of arms snaked around her waist; she could feel Li Yundong's breath tickling her neck.
A deep, masculine voice sounded beside her ear. "Who do you want to be?"
She shuddered and leaned backwards until their bodies were touching. The warmth from his chest seeped through her clothes, causing a tingle to shoot down her spine. She chuckled and said, "Chan'er wants... ah... Chan'er wants to be... to be her beloved's... beloved's woman..." Was that really her voice? Why did it sound so husky?
Li Yundong's arms rose to her shoulders. A moment later, they were facing each other and staring into each other's eyes.
"How about a kiss?" he said, tapping his cheek with his finger.
Su Chan held his gaze for a moment. I suppose one kiss wouldn't hurt. She leaned in and planted a quick one on his cheek, then pulled away to look at him.
Li Yundong eyes held a teasing glint. "Here too," he said, pointing at his lips, then smirked. "I mean, preferential treatment is a terrible offence."
Heat pooled inside Su Chan's lower belly. All of a sudden, she found it very difficult to breathe. Her body felt warm despite the cool night breeze gushing in from all sides of their new home. Stop this, Chan'er. This couldn't happen, not until he had gotten past the Zhuji phase. He would die if they made love now. Su Chan placed her palms on his chest and pushed him away gently. He looked at her with a frown. (T/N: Zhuji is the fourth phase of Cultivation)
"Aww, beloved," she said. "Just do as I say for now, okay? I'll give you a reward later if you're a good boy..."
"A reward, huh?" Li Yundong sat back, seemingly considering his options. But at least he was no longer frowning. The thought of making him unhappy left a bad taste in her mouth.
Seconds later, he laughed. "Alright, my dear little princess! Your wish is my command," he said. "What are your orders then, your Highness?"
Su Chan giggled, then rose to her feet. "Sit properly," she commanded.
Li Yundong obeyed and shifted himself back into a meditative posture.
"Now close your eyes and perform Neiguan again," Su Chan said. (T/N: Neiguan is a Cultivation skill that a one has to master in order to reach the 7th dan of the Lianqi phase; it involves using one's Qi to observe the state of one's internal organs.)
"You mean like what I did just now, right?" Li Yundong said. "Mobilize my Qi and then..."
"And then use it to examine the state of your internal organs, yes," Su Chan said. "Never mind. You'll know what to do once you go into meditative state."
"Alright, here we go," Li Yundong said, closing his eyes.
A while later, it didn't seem like Li Yundong was anywhere close to being in a meditative state. Su Chan frowned, but she waited patiently for a few more minutes. That was when she saw the blush on Li Yundong's cheeks. Wait a minute... Is he... Oh my God! He is! He's having fantasies about the two of us...
Su Chan felt her own cheeks heating up.
Well, that explained it. Nobody can go into a meditative state when their mind is riddled with sexual thoughts. Su Chan sighed inwardly. Guess I'll have to do something about it... Otherwise, we'll be going nowhere with this.
Su Chan walked around until she was standing behind Li Yundong's back. Then she bent down and groped around his spine with her fingers.
"Um... Su Chan? What are you doing?"
"Shh!" Su Chan kept groping. "Stay focused and keep doing what you were doing."
Ah, there it is.
The Lingtai, an acupoint on the human spine which lies between the shoulder blades.
Her master had once told her that the Lingtai is one of the most vital acupoints on the human body. Massaging —or sometimes striking— the Lingtai can have a calming effect. Massaging the Lingtai can help alleviate negative and tumultuous emotions, which makes it a good remedy for symptoms like irritability, sadness, depression, a constant urge to cry, etc. Sometimes it can even be used to cure insomnia.
Su Chan pressed her palms together and held them out in front of her chest. Held in this manner, her hands formed a structure similar to that of a chicken's beak — the triangular outline of her index, middle, and ring fingers looked like a beak. Then, she struck Li Yundong's Lingtai with her middle fingers.
Li Yundong's spine instantly stiffened. A second later, she heard a long sigh, and Li Yundong's body slowly relaxed.
She'd learned that trick from one of the thick volumes she found in her master's library.
Su Chan got to her knees, then crawled around so that she was facing Li Yundong. His eyes were closed, and his brows were no longer knitted together. Most importantly, his breathing was deep and even. Those were signs that he had entered a meditative state. Now we're getting somewhere…
Su Chan waited for another minute or so. Okay, he should be performing Neiguan by now. Time for the next step.
"You should be seeing those colors again," Su Chan said in a soothing voice. "Which means that the Qi inside your meridians is interacting with your internal organs' Qi. Okay. Here's the next thing I want you to do. Draw out the Qi from your five organs into your meridians. After that, guide them along your meridians until they reach your head. Go on, give it a try."
Su Chan waited for a while until she saw Li Yundong's frown. "Don't try to draw out the Qi through the force of will alone. It doesn't work that way. Remember that you're trying to push the Qi from five organs into your meridians simultaneously. That's too much for the mind to handle alone."
Li Yundong exhaled and slowly opened his eyes. "But I don't know any other way to do it."
Su Chan felt a sudden urge to smooth out the frown in his brows with her fingers, but she knew it was a terrible idea. At this stage, too much physical intimacy between them would be dangerous. Breathe, Chan'er. "In Traditional Chinese Medicine, any organ inside the human body is either a Zang, or a Fu. Zangs are organs that are Yin in nature, whereas Fus are organs that are Yang in nature. Are you with me so far?"
"Right. Two types of organs. Zangs and Fus. Zangs are Yin, Fus are Yang. Got it."
"Good. Now. There are a total of five Zangs in the human body, the Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lung, and Kidney. The rest are all Fus. As you can see, we're only dealing with the five Zangs in this exercise. Even so, that's a lot of Qi to mobilize, not to mention everything must be done simultaneously. At your current level, you won't be able to do it through your conscious will alone."
"Right. It's kinda like extreme multitasking, right? The mind can only handle so many tasks at once?"
"Yep," Su Chan said with a nod. "The best approach is to draw out the Qi from your five Zangs using your Yuanyang. And in case you're wondering, Yuanyang is the most essential component of the body's Yang Qi. Anyway, this approach is just textbook application of the Yin-Yang principle. Like I mentioned earlier, Zangs are organs that are Yin in nature. So Yuanyang works in this case—"
"Because Yin and Yang attract each other," Li Yundong said, snapping his fingers.
He picks up really fast. Su Chan's lips curved into a tiny smile. He would become a legendary Cultivator one day. She was sure of it.
"So the first step is to mobilize my Yuanyang?"
Instead of replying, Su Chan patted the floor a few times and waited until Li Yundong got into a meditative posture. "Like everything else involved in Qi control, you start at the lower Dantian. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your lower Dantian. Try to generate your Yuanyang from there," Su Chan said, then gave him a few seconds to do as she said.
"Done?" she asked.
"Very good," Su Chan said. "Now, again, like I mentioned earlier, everything you do in Qi control begins at the lower Dantian. So once you start moving your Qi, always, always, remember to complete the path of your Qi at the lower Dantian before you do anything else like speaking, standing up or whatever. Okay. Now move your Yuanyang towards the five Zangs. Get it to slowly circle around each of the five Zangs. Do not push your Yuanyang into the organ itself. Remember that our goal is to use your Yuanyang to draw out the Qi of your five Zangs, which means that your Yuanyang needs to be outside the organs not inside. And ince the five Qis are drawn out, move your Yuanyang towards your head. The five Qis will automatically follow the path of your Yuanyang."
Li Yundong had gone silent.
Su Chan took that as a sign that he was trying out the tips that she'd given him. She sat back and watched him closely.
Minutes later, a beautiful glow enshrouded Li Yundong's countenance. It was as though his head was covered in some kind of iridescent soap bubble with a mixture of colors — white, red, black, green, and yellow.
Su Chan broke into a wide grin. Yayyyyy!!!! He's done it!! He's really done it!!!
What a productive night indeed. First, she had taught him how to perform Neiguan, and now he was experiencing the Convergence of Five Qis for the very first time! This was tremendous progress!
I'm really doing it, aren’t I? I'm helping this man in his path towards greatness... Aren't you proud of Chan'er, Master?
With a dreamy smile, Su Chan sat back and studied Li Yundong's features. The colors on his face continued to morph — red, black, green, then yellow— and she couldn't help but marvel at how far he had come. Cultivators had long since learned that each organ (five Zangs and six Fus) inside the human body can store and generate a large amount of Qi. In fact, the Qis stored within the five Zangs are far more powerful than the Qi coursing through the meridians. Her master had once given her an analogy to illustrate the sheer difference in scale between these two types of Qis: if the Qi flowing through the meridians is a river, then together, the Qis stored in the five Zangs form an ocean.
Su Chan's smile widened into a grin. If she was in her fox form, her tail would be wagging so hard that she was pretty sure she would start elevating off the floor. The fact that his face was glowing with changing colors was a sign that the Qis of his five Zangs had gathered in his upper Dantian (the head), a physical state known as the Convergence of Five Qis. By coming together as one, the five Qis can strengthen and augment each other. And the best part about it is that this strengthening effect would be carried over to the five organs, because the five Qis would eventually separate and return to the organs.
Now I just have to wait and see if he can successfully separate the five Qis and guide them back into his organs.
Su Chan rubbed her hands excitedly.
If he could do that, he would be able to achieve physical transcendence. In other words, his body would surpass human limitations.
He would become, as the mortals called it, superhuman.
Seven cycles already, Su Chan thought. The color changes occurred in a consistent cycle: white, red, black, green, yellow, then repeated. The five Qis should start moving back towards his organs at the ninth cycle. Can he do it? Su Chan was suddenly hit by a wave of anxiety. While wiping her sweaty palms on her shirt, she kept her eyes on Li Yundong's face. Eighth cycle.
Come on, Yundong... I believe in you...
When the glow on Li Yundong's face started to fade, Su Chan burst into action and began tracing Li Yundong's Yuanyang. Relief and joy coursed through her when Li Yundong's Yuanyang slowly guided the five Qis back to their respective organs.
On to the next step!
Su Chan shifted her position quietly to avoid jarring him. "Good work, Yundong..." she said in a soothing voice. "Now I'll explain your next task, okay? You don't have to answer me, just listen to my voice. What you're about to do next is called Guanxiang. And if you succeed, you'll reach the 8th dan of the Lianqi phase. First, I need you to feel the presence of your Qi. Don't think about anything. Just feel your Qi and hold it in your awareness." Su Chan paused and gave him a few seconds. "The key to Guanxiang lies in visualization. Right now, you're aware of your Qi's presence. You know it's there inside your body, but you don't know what shape or form it takes. And that's how it should be, because right now your Qi is indeed formless. It is up to you to visualize a form for your Qi, and this is precisely what is required for you to perform Guanxiang."
A wave of nerves and tension hit Su Chan. She exhaled slowly.
"Go on ahead if you're ready," Su Chan said, her voice miraculously steady. "Open your mind and allow your imagination to fill it."
Su Chan pulled away, then kneeled down beside him. She didn't want to take her eyes off him for even a second. Just like the Zhuji phase (T/N: 4th phase of Cultivation), this was a pivotal moment in any Cultivator's training. When performing Guanxiang, a Cultivator has to visualize the shape and form of their Qi. In essence, Guanxiang tests a Cultivator's ability to manipulate their Qi according to their will or Spirit. A gifted sculptor can turn a shapeless pile of clay into a complex object. As such, the complexity of the visualized shape is indicative of a person's aptitude in Cultivation — the higher the complexity, the greater the aptitude.
Back in the mountains, her master had repeatedly emphasized on the importance of Guanxiang (8th dan of the Lianqi phase) and the Zhuji phase. The Zhuji phase is what separates a true Cultivator from mortals and trainee Cultivators. Guanxiang, on the other hand, places all Cultivators into three distinct categories — the gifted, the mediocre, and the inept.
Minutes went by.
Not once did Su Chan's eyes leave Li Yundong's face, nor did she try to blink. Suddenly, a deep crease formed between Li Yundong's brows. Beads of sweat peppered his forehead, then his lips began to tremble. His expression seemed genuinely fearful and confused.
Ah… he must be inside his Spirit Space now…
"Shh... It's okay, Yundong. Don't be afraid," she said. "You’re now inside what Cultivators called as the Spirit Space. It is a space where your Qi interacts with your Spirit and vice versa. Whatever you visualize during Guanxiang will appear inside that space. It’s going to feel very strange at first. You'll feel like you're floating above layers of clouds. It'll be bright everywhere you look. And if you try to look at your body, you'll see nothing. It'll feel like your body doesn't exist. All of that is normal, so don't worry about those things. Now, visualize. If you can give your Qi a form, what is it going to be?"
The trembling of Li Yundong's lips stopped.
It was all up to him now. The Renyuan Jindan's enhancements applied only to the strength and vitality of his Qi, not his natural ability to shape his Qi. The outcome of a Cultivator's Guanxiang depended solely on his or her own aptitude.
I wonder what the final shape will be... Su Chan thought. Please don't be something like a ball or a sphere...
Su Chan bit down on her bottom lip and watched him anxiously.