Yundong peered at Su Chan over the coffee table . "What do you mean you don't know the spell?"
Su Chan blushed . "I- I never learned it!"
Yundong chuckled . "But you sounded like you knew what you were talking about!" Yundong raised his voice an octave higher . "Ooh, you have to master Internal and External Alchemy first . . . Ooh . . . your Spirit has to be in harmony with Heaven and Earth—"
Su Chan kicked him the table, then giggled when Yundong suddenly tickled her foot .
"So you really don't know?"
Su Chan pulled back her feet and pouted . "Of course not, dummy . It's a very difficult spell to master…"
"Oh? So you got me so worked up for nothing, huh?" Yundong climbed over the coffee table . "Payback time!"
"Kyaa!!!" Su Chan tried to dive away, but it was too late . Her back hit the floor as Yundong's body pressed down on her .
Su Chan giggled and tried to free herself by twisting her body around . "It's . . . hahaha . . . It's not for nothing! I know someone who can teach you, okay?" The tickling stopped instantly . When Su Chan sat up from the floor, Yundong was staring at her expectantly . Once or twice, she caught Yundong's eyes drifting down to her legs . When Su Chan glanced down, she felt her cheeks heat up . She cleared her throat and quickly pulled down her skirt, which had ridden up to mid-thigh some time during their tussle . "My master knows," she said, willing her heart to stop racing . "T-The spell, I mean . . . "
Yundong stared at her, his brows raised in surprise . "So not only does she know medicine and all those massage techniques, but she also knows the most powerful spell in all of Cultivation?"
Su Chan's heart swelled with pride . "Of course! My master is the best! In the Fo— Ahem! I mean, where I came from, she was hailed as a genius! She knows pretty much every spell in existence!"
"Every spell?" Yundong stared at her in awe . "Damn… Is there anything that your master can't do?"
Cooking, apparently . She'd pick Yundong's duck beer dish over Master's cooking any day . Forgive Chan'er, Master . You taught me to always be honest . . . Su Chan suppressed a snort . Says the one who's keeping her origins a secret from Yundong . . .
Yundong cleared his throat . "Is that the plan? You're gonna ask your master to teach me the spell?"
Su Chan clung to Yundong's arm . "Yep! Which means . . . " Su Chan leaned her head against his shoulder . "I'm going to be your senior!"
Yundong's face twisted in disgust . "What! No! I'm your boyfriend, not some . . . " He gestured wildly with his hand . "Some dude who bows to you at hallways!"
Su Chan giggled . He clearly had no idea how fellow students act around each other in Cultivation schools . "Well, you don't have a choice . I'm your senior because I became my master's disciple first!"
Su Chan moaned when Yundong suddenly bit down on her earlobe . Her eyes fluttered close as her back hit the floor once again . Warm breath caressed her neck, and she felt a firm weight pressing down against her breasts . She moaned again . "Yundong . . . Please . . . "
"So you were a disciple first, huh?"
"I- It's true . . . " Su Chan arched her back .
"Can't you make an exception for me, hmm?"
Su Chan's eyes lashes fluttered as she tried to open her eyes . "Th- That's the rule . . . I c-can't change th- the… rules…"
"Rule? I bet none of your other juniors are allowed to do this…"
Su Chan gasped when Yundong sucked at a sensitive spot on her neck .
"Yundong . . . no—" The rest of her words were muffled by the press of Yundong's lips against her mouth . Strong arms gripped her shoulders and hoisted her body upwards . Yundong kept nibbling her lips as he shifted into a new position . Seconds later, her back hit the floor once again . Some strange object was pressing up against her lower back, like an uneven surface on the floor . Eventually, she realized that it was the pen she had discarded earlier . Yundong shifted their positions again . Su Chan's body slid lower, causing the pen to roll upwards along her spine . Su Chan felt a powerful jolt when the pen pressed against a spot between her shoulder blades—her Lingtai .
Her eyes shot open . She shoved Yundong away and sat up . They stared at each other for a moment, both gasping for air . Su Chan reached up and cupped Yundong's face on both sides . "We can't, beloved . Not yet . We have to wait until you've passed the Zhuji phase first . "
Yundong stared at her for a moment, and then nodded . "Okay . I respect that . "
Su Chan sighed and let her hands slide away from his cheeks . "Thank you . "
Yundong caught her hands and trapped them against his cheeks . His gaze sought out her eyes . "Can I know why? Why do we have to wait until I've passed the Zhuji phase?"
Su Chan held his gaze intently . "The Essence, Qi, and Spirit, also known as the Three Treasures, are the three most vital components of life . One of the things that the Zhuji phase does is that it allows you to secure those three components inside your body and prevent someone from stealing them from the outside . If . . . If we . . . " Su Chan blushed and looked down . "If we make love now, you'll die because I will end up consuming the three vital components of your life in the process . "
Silence fell . Then, Yundong chuckled . "Ah . Now I see . So you're actually a succubus, you little devil!"
Su Chan flinched at that remark . Her gaze snapped up, and she studied his face . Sure, he had used a joking tone when making that comment, but it still raised a dozen of alarm bells inside Su Chan's head . Had he figured out her identity already? Does he know, or at least suspect, that I'm a fox spirit? Su Chan's heart drummed against her ribcage . Yundong was still smiling at her, so maybe he didn't know yet . Su Chan sighed inwardly .
Suddenly, Yundong chuckled and hook a finger under her chin . There was a twinkle in his eyes . "Even if I die, it'll be totally worth it . " He leaned down and kissed her again .
Su Chan pushed him away . "Tsk! This isn't a joke!" she said, raising her voice, though it was more because of anxiety than anger . Yundong flinched back in surprise .
Su Chan took a deep calming breath . "You'll really die if we do it now, okay? Not even . . . " Su Chan looked at him pointedly until she was sure he understood that she was referring to the Renyuan Jindan . "Not even that thing can protect you . "
Silence spread between them . Yundong stared at her with a guarded expression . A while later, Su Chan couldn't stand the silence anymore . She wrapped her arms around his neck and snuggled against his chest . "Yundong . . . Just listen to me, please? Once you passed the Zhuji phase . . . I'll let you do whatever you want . "
Yundong pulled back from their embrace and stared down at her . There was a look of amusement on his face . That familiar twinkle in his eyes was there as well . "Whatever I want?" he said with a quirk of his brows .
Heat shot through Su Chan's core until it reached her cheeks . She bit her lip and nodded . "Yes . . . Whatever you want . " If you still want me, that is . . .
Yundong sighed and patted her head . "Fine . I promise I won't try to touch you again before I pass the Zhuji phase . " Yundong pumped his fist in the air . "Abstinence, here I come!"
Su Chan burst into giggles . "Tell that to your body . . . " She pointed at the bulge in Yundong's pants .
Yundong winked . "Well . Dude hasn't gotten the memo yet," he said with a straight face . "Give him a little time . I'm sure he'll come around . "
Su Chan giggled harder, relieved that they'd finally come to an understanding . At least he wouldn't get the wrong idea about the reason she kept rejecting his advances .
Yundong pinched her cheeks . "Hey . Stop laughing . "
Su Chan cleared her throat and schooled her features .
"Teach me," Yundong said . "Teach me how to pass the Zhuji phase . "
Su Chan stared at him . After a moment or two, she burst into laughter once again . "Pfft! Hahaha . You pervert!" Su Chan poked Yundong's cheek repeatedly . "You just want to quickly pass the Zhuji phase so that you can touch me! Hahaha!"
Yundong pulled back with a gasp, and then gave her a look of mock horror . "I said no such thing . " He pressed both palms against his chest .
Su Chan kept poking his cheek . "Then why are you in such a hurry to pass the Zhuji phase, hmm, my dear beloved?"
Yundong snorted . "Why, I was merely thinking of the little guy of course!" Yundong glanced down at the bulge in his pants . "Tsk, tsk . Must be tough being all stiff and bulked up for so long . I thought I could spare him some pain . "
Su Chan burst into laughter again . "You're a pervert!"
Yundong suddenly pinch her cheek . "Hey, hey . Stop laughing already . Time to get serious . " Yundong's eyes were serious when he looked at her next . "I need to be ready," he said . "If I couldn't even hold my own against Lin Youfa, I doubt I stand a chance against the people after us . I need to become stronger so that I can protect you and our friends, okay?"
The sudden heaviness in the mood threw Su Chan off a little . Seconds later, she found herself nodding .
"Okay . The Zhuji phase . Let's start now . Teach me . "
Su Chan held up a finger and cleared her throat . "The first step is . . . "
Li Yundong found himself inching closer towards Su Chan . Suddenly, Su Chan's face broke into a grin .
"To call me your master!"
Li Yundong stared at Su Chan for a moment . "Why you little!" He pounced .
Li Yundong started tickling her . "I was being serious! And you were messing with me!"
Su Chan's giggles turned into gasps for air . "Okay, okay! I'm sorry!"
Li Yundong stopped tickling her and pulled her into a sitting position . "Quit messing around and tell me already, alright?"
Su Chan cleared her throat . "Well, there's nothing to tell because you aren't ready for the Zhuji phase yet . "
Li Yundong frowned . "What? Why?"
"Because you haven't even passed the Ningshen phase yet, dummy . "
Oh . Guess he got a little overexcited there . "Okay . Fair enough . How about this . Why don't you explain all these phases to me? I honestly still don't have a clue what each phase does or mean . "
Su Chan shifted on the floor until she was sitting cross-legged . "There are nine phases in Cultivation . The Sutai phase, the Lianqi phase, the Ningshen phase, the Zhuji phase, the Shentong phase, the Huaying phase, the Jinsheng phase, the Lightning Retribution phase, and finally, the Transcendental phase! Each of these phases has nine dans—or stages—of their own . "
Li Yundong narrowed his eyes . "Hmm . . . So I'm at the third phase now . " Li Yundong looked at Su Chan . "How far am I from completing the Ningshen phase . "
"You've probably completed the sixth dan of the Ningshen phase already . . . And to complete the 7th dan, you need to master something called Yinling and then—"
"Wait . Hold on a second . " Li Yundong held up his hand . Su Chan looked at him quizzically . Li Yundong shook his head . "I think I need to understand the previous phases first . I know I've completed the Lianqi phase . But I don't remember completing the Sutai phase . " Li Yundong's eyes widened . "Wait… Is it because . . . ?"
Su Chan nodded, then reached for the pad: Jindan helped . You completed Sutai in three days .
"You mean the whole time I was sleeping, I was actually . . . ?"
"Yes," Su Chan said . Then, she wrote something on the pad: Sutai usually takes decades to complete . The reformation of your body and character = what Sutai phase is about . Make you stronger, have greater sense of justice, more charismatic . Things like that .
"Holy shit . . . " Li Yundong looked at her in shock . Dumb luck sounded a lot like an understatement now . Li Yundong shook himself out of his stupor moments later . "Sorry . Go on . "
"I've told you before that there are three vital components that constitute life . "
Li Yundong nodded . "The Three Treasures . The Essence, Qi, and Spirit . "
"Mmm . So the first three phases build each of those components separately . The Sutai phase builds the Essence . The Lianqi phase builds the Qi . And the Ningshen phase builds the Spirit . Remember that Cultivation is a step-by-step process . Meaning, each step is dependent on its predecessors . "
Li Yundong sat there in silence as he tried to put the pieces together . "You said the Sutai phase builds the Essence . And then at the beginning of the Lianqi phase, you taught me how to convert my Essence into my Qi at the lower Dantian . " Li Yundong looked towards Su Chan for confirmation . When he received a nod, he continued, "Then, near the end of the Lianqi phase—the other night when you taught me how to perform Guanxiang—I converted my Qi into Spirit . Which makes sense, because that's a pre-requisite to enter the Ningshen phase, because in the Ningshen phase, I'm supposed to build my Spirit . So basically, each step uses the results of the previous step and builds on them . "
Su Chan started clapping her hands . "Correct . "
Li Yundong nodded . "Okay . So far so good…" Then, he gave Su Chan a look . "I suppose there is a point in building up our Essence, Qi, and Spirit, right? Perhaps they are required in later phases?"
The look of pride on Su Chan's face warmed Li Yundong's heart . Focus, Li Yundong! Now isn't the time to feel good about yourself .
"By the time you complete the Ningshen phase," Su Chan said, "your Essence, Qi, and Spirit will have reached their full potential . The next step will be to learn how to secure the core components of your Essence, Qi, and Spirit inside your body . Meaning that you can seal your Essence, Qi, and Spirit inside your body when somebody tries to steal them . You'll learn that during the Zhuji phase . "
"Right . Because the three components are vital to life . Losing them will lead to death," Li Yundong said .
"That's right . And after the Zhuji phase comes the Shentong phase, where you'll be able to use your Essence, Qi, and Spirit in tandem . When you can do that, you'll gain magical powers . Once you have magical powers, you'll be able to perform spells . "
Li Yundong nodded . "Okay . So that means I need to get to the Shentong phase first before I can learn the Five Thunders Spells . . . "
"That's right . . . " Su Chan took his hand . "You're getting there, Yundong . I'll help you get there . "
"Thanks, princess . "
Su Chan smiled . "Just three more dans and you'll pass the Ningshen phase . "
"So the Ningshen phase builds my Spirit . . . "
Su Chan nodded . "Did you notice something in common between Mingmu, Eryue, and Xianjue?"
Something in common? Apart from the fact that those skills are frigging badass, you mean? Then, it hit him . "Oh!" He snapped his fingers . "They all respond to my conscious will . My Spirit!"
"Exactly . Notice that your mind and Spirit have to be focused in order to use those skills . Once you lose focus, they fail . " Su Chan reached for the pad on the floor and toyed with a page . "In general, the Ningshen phase is about training your Spirit until it reaches a point where it can process all the stimuli available to you through your senses . Stimuli are basically raw information available to us through our senses . The information is already there, but to use that information, our mind—or rather, our Spirit—has to be able to tap into it, to process it and convert it into something useful . But the problem is that the untrained Spirit can only process a small portion of the information . "
Li Yundong nodded . "And the whole point of the Ningshen phase is to push our Spirit past human limitations . "
"Indeed . In the first dan of the Ningshen phase, you train your Spirit to process all the visual stimuli available to you . " Su Chan paused to look at Li Yundong . "That's basically how you got your Mingmu . "
"Right . And the second dan applies to auditory stimuli . " Li Yundong gestured at his ears . "With the buzzing and all that . " Li Yundong sat up straighter . "Wait, what about Xianjue?"
Su Chan smiled as though she had been expecting that question . "Mingmu and Eryue merely allow you to process all the visual and auditory stimuli available to you . But Xianjue takes things to a whole new level . " Su Chan stared intently at him . "It utilizes the information obtained from all stimuli—sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste—to make predictions . "
"Wow…" Li Yundong whispered .
"It's about interpreting all the sensory information available to the Cultivator and then make predictions based on it," Su Chan continued . "Remember I told you that when you use Xianjue to predict the effects of someone's actions, those actions have to be somehow related to you?"
Yeah . She told him that when he was climbing his way up to the rooftop . Back then, he wanted to use Xianjue to predict where Ding Nan would fall, but he couldn't get his Xianjue to work . "Yeah, I remember . " That shooting incident was pretty much impossible to forget .
"Well… actually, that was only the layman explanation . " Su Chan stuck out her tongue sheepishly . "When I said, actions must be directed or related to you, I meant you must be there to experience them . "
Understanding dawned on Li Yundong . "Right . Because Xianjue works when the Spirit has access to all sensory information related to the target . Otherwise, the Spirit has no information to base its predictions on . "
"Exactly . Well… I can't fully explain how it works . " Su Chan paused for a moment . "The mind is a fascinating thing, after all . But your Xianjue is definitely superior compared to that of other Cultivators . " Then, Su Chan raised the pad: Because of Jindan .
"In what way?"
Su Chan thought for a moment . "Range . Duration of prediction . And I suspect . . . " Su Chan wrote something down: Predict speech too?
Li Yundong thought back to the time during the shooting incident on campus . He was able to predict Ding Nan's exact words before she even said them . Li Yundong tapped on the pad and nodded .
Su Chan smiled and then shrugged . "As I suspected . " Then, she wrote something down again: Stronger Spirit = Stronger Xianjue .
"But you said it only works against people with lower Cultivation Quotient . Why's that?" That question had been bugging him ever since his Xianjue failed against Lin Youfa . It would feel a little demotivating if he tried to use Xianjue against an opponent and found that it wouldn't work; it implied that his opponent was a stronger Cultivator .
Su Chan shook her head . "That's only the rule of thumb, not the whole story . It actually depends on the relative strength between the Spirits of the user and the target . The wider the gap in strength, the greater your Xianjue's effect will be . "
"Hey . . . Come to think of it . . . " Li Yundong rubbed his forehead . "I wasn't able to predict Lin Youfa's speech at all! I mean, before Lin Youfa used Shenda, my Xianjue still worked . But even then, I could only read his movements, not his speech . But with Zhao Yujian and Ding Nan, I could read everything . "
"Mmm . Like I said, it's the relative strength in Spirits that matters . In this case, Lin Youfa is a Cultivator, so of course his Spirit is stronger . This is also why that rule of thumb exists, by the way . Usually, Cultivators with higher Cultivation Quotient have stronger Spirits . But obviously, your case is special . "
"What is the Shenting's role in the Ningshen phase? Eryue, Mingmu, and Xianjue is only activated when a small part of our Qi is gathered at the Shenting . Why is that?"
Again, Su Chan beamed with pride as though she'd been expecting the question . "Why don't I give you a clue, and you try to guess it?"
Li Yundong looked at her strangely . He'd noticed this a long time ago—Su Chan liked to test him when it came to Cultivation stuff . He wondered why . Or maybe she's just a really good teacher? Li Yundong smiled . "Sure, princess . What's the hint?"
"The clue lies in the name of that acupoint," Su Chan said sagely, then looked at him pointedly . "There's a reason why it's called the Shenting . "
Li Yundong lay down on the floor and stared up at the ceiling . Shenting . . . Well, obviously, the first step was to break down the term into its two Chinese characters: shen; and ting . Shen wasn't too tough to decipher, since it meant Spirit . But what did Ting represent in this context? Courtyard? Front yard? None of them seemed relevant other than the notion of "front . " Then again, the Shenting is located on the forehead—the front of the head . Hmm . . .
Suddenly, Li Yundong sat bolt upright . He looked at Su Chan, who was smiling back at him . Home . . . Ting means home . . .
"Figured it out already, beloved?"
"Home of the Spirit . . . " Li Yundong whispered .
Su Chan beamed and threw her arms in the air . "Yayy!"
Li Yundong chuckled . "Okay . Okay . Settle down . I still wanna hear your explanation . "
"Stimulation of the Shenting with your Qi allows your Spirit to function in its full capacity . "
"So!" Li Yundong clapped and rubbed his hands together . "What's next? Let's get this Ningshen phase over with!"
Su Chan giggled behind her hands . "Pervert . . . "
Li Yundong shot her a glare . "Still making fun of me, eh? Want to be tickled again?" Li Yundong wiggled his fingers .
"Okay . . . To complete the Ningshen phase, you have three more tasks to perform . Yinling, which will get you through the 7th dan . Juxian, which will get you through the 8th dan . And finally, to complete the Ningshen phase, you have to achieve a state known as the Ishvara . "
It honestly sounded like a bunch of gobbledygook to him, but okay . It sucked to be an amateur . But hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right?
"Are they difficult?"
"Not for you . . . "
"Then what are we waiting for—"
"But…" Su Chan said, holding up a hand . "There's something you should know first . When performing either of those three tasks, there's a chance that your soul will be lost in the process . "
Li Yundong frowned . "What does that mean?"
"It means your soul has no way of returning into your body . When that happens, your body lives on, but it becomes soulless . "
Su Chan nodded . "You'll lose all sensory perception . You won't be able to see, smell, taste, and hear . You won't even have a conscious will . "
"Shit . . . That's like being in a vegetative state!"
Su Chan sighed . "The reward of Cultivation is high, true . But the price and risks that come with it is high too . "
Li Yundong smiled . "I see . Bring it on, then!"
Su Chan looked at him in shock . "Aren't you scared at all?"
"I've been a nobody all my life, princess . I was lazy, and I didn't have any goals . And I'm tired of being powerless and helpless . " Li Yundong rose to his feet . "This is my chance to be someone of value . So, no . I'm not scared . "