"Aren't we supposed to leave the windows and curtains open?" Li Yundong asked . Su Chan had been bustling about their motel room, closing windows and drawing the curtains shut . "I mean, that's what we did when we were training at home, right?"
"Not this time," Su Chan answered distractedly . She was now floating in the air a few feet above the floor, checking the ventilator for God knows what . "This time you really can't afford any outside interruptions . " Su Chan's body floated towards another corner of the room . "Each person only has two attempts to complete the Zhuji phase . "
A sinking feeling formed inside his stomach . "What? Only two?"
Su Chan seemed to have detected the undertone of distress in his voice . She paused what she was doing and floated back to him . "Yeah . That's why I need to do everything I can to increase your chances of success . "
Two attempts . Which means he'd never become a true Cultivator if he screwed up both attempts . Damn .
Li Yundong took a deep breath, then nodded resolutely . "Two attempts . Alright . Got it . Tell me what I have to do . "
Su Chan opened her mouth, but then closed it a moment later . Before he could ask her what was wrong, she turned around and ran towards the door .
A wave of fear coursed through Li Yundong .
"Hey! Where are you goin—"
Li Yundong was cut off by the sound of the door opening . Li Yundong leaned over the edge of the bed and glanced towards the doorway .
Su Chan was hanging the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door knob .
Li Yundong sighed in relief . Okay . She wasn't running again . Thank f*ck .
Su Chan shut the door and walked back towards him . Outside the bathroom, she suddenly came to a halt, her eyes wide as though she'd just remembered something important . She turned around and went into the bathroom .
Minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom with a wooden stool, which she placed in his hands .
Li Yundong gave her a strange look . "Umm . . . What's this for?"
Su Chan was busy looking for something in their luggage . "Help me break off one of its legs . "
Li Yundong stared down at the stool . "Seriously?"
"Just do it," Su Chan said, zipping up the luggage . In her hand was a booklet whose cover was filled with strange drawings and patterns .
Li Yundong wrapped his fingers around one of the legs of the stool, then gave it a sharp bend, wincing at the loud snap that followed . There goes another few hundred yuan from his miserable—and negative—bank account .
Su Chan took the broken leg from him and then glanced around the room . "Yundong . . . Did you see the— Oh, there it is . "
Following Su Chan's line of sight, Li Yundong realized that she was looking at the nightstand .
"What?" he asked .
Instead of answering, Su Chan padded over to the nightstand and grabbed the ashtray . She then placed the ashtray on the floor and lowered herself into a crouch . After that, she held out her hand with her palm facing the ceiling .
Li Yundong watched with curiosity and awe as Su Chan began muttering a strange incantation under her breath . By the time she was done, the air on top of her palm combusted—holy f*cking shit!—into a tiny ball of flame .
Su Chan brought the wooden piece over the flame . The wood caught fire instantly and, after a minute or so, burned to ashes .
Su Chan collected the ashes and soot in the ashtray and rose to her feet . She then carried the ashtray towards the window and set it down on the ledge . She opened her booklet and flipped through a couple of pages before setting it down on the ledge beside the ashtray . Then, she dipped her index finger into the ashtray and began to draw a bunch of weird symbols on the window pane .
Li Yundong frowned in confusion . "What are you doing?"
"Casting a spell," Su Chan said, moving away from the window towards the door .
"Yeah well, obviously you're casting a spell," he muttered under his breath . What he wanted to know was what the spell was for .
Su Chan opened the door and, again, drew a bunch of symbols on it . After a while, Su Chan closed the door and then placed the ashtray back onto the nightstand . She walked back towards the center of the room where she stood with her eyes closed .
Her lips started to move . Seconds later, there was a blinding flash of green light followed by a deafening silence, which permeated the entire motel room . The sounds from the city . . . and the rowdy crowd at the bar downstairs… they were all gone . It was as though a mute button had been pressed .
"What in the world…?" Li Yundong whispered in awe .
"That's an isolation spell," Su Chan said . "An invisible barrier that connects the symbols I've just drawn . No sound from outside the barrier can reach the space within the barrier and vice versa . "
Li Yundong stared at Su Chan for a few moments, then started to laugh .
"What?" Su Chan asked .
Li Yundong shook his head in amusement . "You know you could've done this a long time ago, right? We didn't even have to use the pen and pad to talk about the Jindan, for God's sake . "
A cute blush bloomed on Su Chan's cheeks . "You weren't exposed to magic back then . So I . . . I didn't want to scare you off . "
"How many spells do you know anyway?" Li Yundong said in awe . "Like, you know how to fly, generate fire, form protective spells, and now this thing?" He gestured around the room . "That's a lot of spells . "
"Hehehe . . . Well . . . That's the thing about us from the Fox Zen School . Most of us know a lot of spells, but only a few of us are true experts in the spells we know . "
"The Fox Zen School, huh?" Li Yundong chuckled a few times, then shot Su Chan a playful glare . "The first time you told me about your school, you told me it's called the Zen School . "
Su Chan's blush took a deeper shade of red . "S- S- Sorry . . . "
Li Yundong laughed . "It's okay . So . I'm guessing your master is one of the few who are experts in a lot of spells?"
"Hmm . . . Well, yeah . . . I guess you could say that?"
Li Yundong gave her a look of amusement . "You don't sound sure at all . "
"My master is a seven-tailed fox spirit who knows 18 types of major spells and 36 types of minor spells . Although she is considered an expert in all the spells she knows, she often complained to me that she wasn't a true master in all those spells . . . " Su Chan trailed off with a vacant look on her face . Moments later, the cloud in her eyes cleared and she suddenly gave him a hopeful look . "Yundong . . . Maybe the Fox Zen School will thrive again under your leadership . "
Li Yundong chuckled . "How am I supposed to lead the Fox Zen School if I'm not even a fox spirit? I don't think your people will accept a mere human as their leader . "
Su Chan deflated . "Hmm . . . I guess that's true . . . " She poked her chin with a finger and thought for a moment . "Maybe you should start your own school . . . "
Li Yundong smiled and held up his hand . "O . . . kay . I think we're getting way ahead of ourselves here . I haven't even passed the Zhuji phase yet . " He sighed . "Besides, I don't think it's that easy to start my own school . "
"Hehehe!" Su Chan threw her arms around his neck . "But I have faith in you!"
Li Yundong wrapped his arms around her waist and studied her face . There, within the depth of his eyes, he saw her conviction behind her words . He nodded . "What do I need to do?"
Li Yundong knew right then and there that this would be the first—of many—pivotal moments in his life . He held Su Chan's gaze as though it was his lifeline . He knew that whatever Su Chan was about to tell him was important, and he didn't want to miss a single word of it .
"The Zhuji phase isn't like the early phases of Cultivation . In the early phases, you can go through each dan separately," Su Chan said .
Li Yundong leaned forward slightly . "Okay?"
Su Chan nodded . "But to pass the Zhuji phase, you need to go through all the stages successively until you complete the final stage . And all that has to be done in a single meditative session without any breaks or interruptions . " Su Chan gave him a pointed look . "Everyone is given only two attempts in their lifetime to pass the Zhuji phase . "
The room fell silent as they stared at each other . For the first time since his Cultivation journey began, Li Yundong could feel a huge weight resting on his shoulders . He took a deep breath and then released it . "Got it, princess . "
"Okay . Now let's go through the theory behind the Zhuji phase . " Su Chan got comfortable on the bed . "The whole idea behind the Zhuji phase is to use your body's Essence, Qi, and Spirit to form your Vital Orb . "
"The Vital Orb… That's the thing you took out from your body just now, right? The one that made the whole room glow?"
"Yes," Su Chan said with a faraway look in her eyes . "Anyone who passed the Zhuji phase has a Vital Orb . " Su Chan's eyes snapped to his . "The Vital Orb is important for two reasons . One, it is the source of your magical power . And two, it helps keep your Qi secured inside your body and prevent other people from stealing it . "
Li Yundong nodded a few times . "Okay . Understood . "
"Good . Now let me walk you through the steps . "
Li Yundong found himself sitting up straighter .
"The first step, obviously, is to go into a meditative state . " Su Chan paused for a moment . "Oh, wait . Before you even begin, you need to know a special breathing technique . "
There was a moment of pause, as though Su Chan was checking to see if she had Li Yundong's full attention . "Always breath through your nose," Su Chan continued . "And when you breathe, remember this tip . Blind the eyes, deafen the ears, empty the mind, and be one with your breath . "
"Be one with my breath?"
Su Chan nodded . "You need to reach a point where you let your breath take its own course . In other words, you have to be breathing through your nose subconsciously . And, obviously, this breathing technique has to be sustained throughout the entire session . Anyway, once you can perform the breathing technique subconsciously, your Yuanyang will start moving automatically and then flow into your upper Dantian . " Su Chan gave him a pointed look . "If you think about it, this is just the—"
"The Convergence of Five Qis," Li Yundong cut in, nodding . "Because the Yuanyang is moving, it draws out the Qis of the five Zangs . "
Su Chan smiled . "Yes . And don't forget what happens when your Qi reaches the top of your head—the Baihui . "
"I'll be wearing the crown of three flowers . " Li Yundong shot a glance at Su Chan . "Just like during the massage you gave me . "
Su Chan's smile widened . "Exactly . The Zhuji phase involves a lot of things . One, all types of Qis in your body, including those of your five Zangs . Two, your Spirit . And three, your Essence . Which is why you need to converge the Five Qis and wear the crown of three flowers simultaneously and sustain it throughout the process . "
"Okay . So what's next?"
"You just have to sustain the whole process until your Vital Orb forms . "
"Just like that?"
"But . . . " Li Yundong laughed in disbelief . "But it sounds so easy . It's like I'll just sleeping and waiting for the process to complete . "
Su Chan held up her palm . "No beloved . You won't be sleeping during the process . " She gave him a pointed look . "You'll be inside your Spirit Space the whole time until your Vital Orb is fully formed . "
"So I have to perform Guanxiang again?"
Su Chan gave him a serious look . "You'll have to meet your personal god again . "
"You mean the one with three faces and six arms?" Li Yundong frowned slightly . "But I nearly let it consume me last time . "
Su Chan nodded grimly . "Yeah . And it's going to be even more dangerous this time . . . "