"So I just punch it here?" Li Yundong tapped the smooth surface of the marble block .
Zi Yuan nodded . "Yes . "
Okay then… Li Yundong raised his fist and—
"On second thought, no . "
Li Yundong lowered his fist and shot Zi Yuan a questioning glance .
Zi Yuan waved her hand at him . "Take three steps backwards," she said . "And use your Qi . "
Li Yundong frowned and looked towards the marble block again . But it's just a marble block… He could definitely crack it without getting his Qi involved .
"Don't worry," Zi Yuan said . "At your current level of Qi control? I doubt you'll even be able to cause a crack . "
Li Yundong whipped his head around so quickly that he nearly cricked his neck . He didn't like Zi Yuan's disparaging tone any more than he liked the smug look on her face .
I'll show you . . .
Li Yundong gritted his teeth and backed away three steps . Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and lowered his stance . When he felt the familiar ball of heat at his lower Dantian, he moved his Qi to his right palm, and then curled his fingers to form a fist .
The marble block trembled as marble chips scattered across the floor . Li Yundong yanked his fist out of the hole he'd just created on the marble surface .
"How about that?" Li Yundong asked, turning around to face the two women . Seconds later, he decided that he liked Ruan Hongling's reaction better . The girl was practically gaping as she inspected the damage he'd done on the marble slab . Not a crack my ass . He hadn't even used the Qi of his five Zangs yet .
Zi Yuan, on the other hand, looked amused, like she was studying a child's drawing while trying to come up with something nice to say .
"Hongling," Zi Yuan said after a while . "Flip it over . "
Ruan Hongling rose to her feet and flipped the thick marble over and set it back down .
Zi Yuan gave Li Yundong a pointed look, then took a step forward . "Now watch . "
Zi Yuan raised her right palm and lightly tapped the marble block's smooth surface . There was a muffled thud, after which the marble block trembled and—
"Holy shit…" Li Yundong whispered, stepping towards the marble block to take a closer look .
Zi Yuan's palm had sunk right into the block's surface without even cracking it, almost like she was pressing down on a fluffy pillow . And when Zi Yuan pulled out her palm, there was perfect palm print right at the center of the block . Li Yundong lifted the block and inspected the palm print . Indeed, there wasn't a single crack surrounding the palm print . And when he ran a finger through the indentation of the palm print, it felt smooth, as though the palm print was carved out .
Li Yundong set the marble block back down . "How on earth did you do that?"
Zi Yuan smiled . "Come . Let's talk inside . " She turned and walked back into the apartment .
Li Yundong picked up the marble block and studied the palm print again . He couldn't deny it . This was some pretty amazing shit .
"Yeah . Keep staring at it . Maybe you'll be able to improve your skills if you stare at it for twenty years . "
Li Yundong glared at Ruan Hongling, who was standing in front of the sliding door, smirking at him . The girl looked way too smug for his liking . Li Yundong dropped the marble block and stormed past Ruan Hongling into the living room .
When he entered, Zi Yuan was already sitting on the couch, waiting for him .
Li Yundong took a seat on the floor . "How?" Li Yundong pointed towards the balcony . "How did you do it?"
Ruan Hongling had stepped into the apartment as well and was now closing the sliding door .
"Qi is in a lot of ways similar to water," Zi Yuan said, looking at Li Yundong . "Water is one of the most powerful forces of nature . I'm sure you know what water is capable of . "
Images of strong waves and tsunamis came to mind .
"Water is a versatile substance, you see," Zi Yuan said . "It can slip through cracks . It can take any form or any shape . It can nourish and heal . But, it can also be highly destructive . Even so, there are two ways in which water can be destructive, as illustrated by what you and I both did to the marble block just now . "
Zi Yuan paused, probably to make sure that she had Li Yundong's full attention . Li Yundong sat up straighter and looked into her eyes .
"The key difference lies in how our Qis behaved when we struck the marble block," Zi Yuan continued . "Yours is like a tidal wave, smashing through things and causing mass destruction . Mine, on the other hand, is like a concentrated but powerful jet capable of causing localized damage . " Zi Yuan raised a brow . "But of course, the destructive nature of your Qi is partly due to the Jindan's effect . Like I said earlier, the Jindan has enhanced the strength of your Qi to tremendous levels . In a way, it also made the destructive nature of your Qi more pronounced . However . . . " Zi Yuan paused again . "With the right training, you can alter the behavior of your Qi easily . "
Li Yundong couldn't shake the feeling that he was still missing an important piece of the puzzle . He frowned, "There has to be some way to explain . . . " He gestured with his hands . "I mean some kind of . . . of . . . concept behind how Qi behaves . "
Zi Yuan chuckled . "Very inquisitive . I like that . "
"You mentioned something about the strength of Qi," Li Yundong said, stroking his chin . "I suppose that's a property of Qi, but I doubt that's the answer I'm looking for . "
"Your Qi's strength does play a role, yes," Zi Yuan said . "But you're right, its role is rather minor in this case . The key here is lies in the concentration of your Qi . "
Li Yundong looked towards Zi Yuan . "Concentration as in . . . "
"As in the amount of Qi occupying per unit volume of space inside your meridians . "
"Hmm . . . Interesting . "
"Think back to the water analogy . Like I said, your Qi behaves like a tidal wave . And I'm sure you know what a tidal wave does . It crashes and sweeps away anything in its path . Very destructive . But, don't forget that it also occupies a lot of space . "
Understanding washed over Li Yundong . "But if I can take the same amount of water and change its form . . . Like a steady stream of water . . . A beam . . . "
"Exactly . The behavior of your Qi—whether it crashes or flows—will influence the overall effect it produces . " Zi Yuan smirked . "Before you punch the marble block just now . I deliberately provoked you . " Her smirk grew wider . "I got a rise out of you with that remark about you being unable to smash the block . And it worked . Your Qi responded to the state of your emotions by being turbulent instead of concentrated . "
Li Yundong snorted . "Sneaky, I'll give you that . "
Ruan Hongling sniggered . "Heh! So gullible!"
Li Yundong opened his mouth to argue, but Zi Yuan beat him to it .
"Oh? Is the pot calling the kettle black now?" Zi Yuan said with a raised brow .
Ruan Hongling blushed to the tip of her ears and quickly looked away .
Li Yundong smirked, then looked towards Zi Yuan again . "Why is the concentration of Qi so important? I mean why bother if I can already do a huge amount of damage to my opponent with my Qi . "
"For two reasons," Zi Yuan said . "One . Versatility . "
Li Yundong stared at Zi Yuan for a moment, then sighed . "Well, I guess that makes sense in the grand scheme of things . "
"It isn't hard to see that being versatile is advantageous no matter what situation you're in . After all, why would it be bad if you're able to do more things with your Qi? Don't get me wrong, though . I'm not asking you to change your style . " Zi Yuan looked at him pointedly . "Ultimately, you can use your Qi however you want . What I'm asking is for you to learn other ways to use your Qi . That way, you can control the behavior of your Qi and adapt to any situation . If the situation calls for mass destruction, then by all means, make your Qi as turbulent and destructive as possible . But in a situation where finesse—like during a covert operation, for example—is required, knowing how to alter the behavior of your Qi will certainly help you . "
Li Yundong nodded . "Fair enough . "
"And now the second reason," Zi Yuan said . "Which is far more important than the first . "
There was a pregnant pause . Anticipation filled Li Yundong's heart as he waited for Zi Yuan to continue .
"The ability to concentrate your Qi plays a crucial role in the Zhuji phase . "
Li Yundong sat up straighter . "How so?"
"It affects the formation of your Vital Orb, you see . In particular, it affects the pureness and structural integrity of your Vital Orb . If your Qi isn't concentrated enough when you try to pass the Zhuji phase, you'll just end up with a Vital Orb that is weak and impure even if you do manage to pass the Zhuji phase . There's actually a term for such Vital Orbs . It's called—"
"Pseudo Vital Orbs," Li Yundong said .
Zi Yuan seemed taken aback . "You know?"
Li Yundong shrugged . Did it count as knowing if the knowledge was only a few hours old? He'd only heard of the term when Su Chan was relaying Ao Wushuang's words to him .
"What do I have to do?" Li Yundong looked at Zi Yuan steadily . "How do I improve my Qi's concentration?"
"You'll have to start from the beginning, of course . " Zi Yuan smiled at him .
"From the beginning as in . . . "
Zi Yuan smirked . "From the ground up . You'll have to learn basic Cultivation Theory . "
Theory? Good God . This was like studying for finals all over again . Li Yundong shuddered .
"Why? You scared?" Ruan Hongling taunted .
"No," Li Yundong growled, glaring at Ruan Hongling . Then, he turned to Zi Yuan . "Just wondering if it's really necessary to start from the beginning . "
"Unfortunately yes," Zi Yuan said . "The concepts in Cultivation are interrelated . One builds upon the other . "
Right . Su Chan had mentioned that too .
"First, I need you to know how everything works . But that’s only possible if you have some basic understanding of Cultivation Theory . After that we can start conditioning your Dantians to perform more advanced Qi-control training . And yes . " Zi Yuan looked towards Li Yundong . "Learning how to increase the concentration of your Qi is the highest level of Qi control training, in case you're wondering . "
"Right . "
"Before this, you've no doubt only learned how to mobilize your Qi . In other words, you've only learned how to control the movement of your Qi, but not its behavior . "
Li Yundong nodded . "Okay . Sounds good . " He slapped his thigh and stood up . "When can we start?"
Zi Yuan rose from the couch and, much to his surprise, began walking towards the balcony . "Tomorrow," she said, pausing at the sliding door .
Ruan Hongling brushed past him and stepped onto the balcony .
"Tomorrow?" Li Yundong snorted . "I can start right now . "
Zi Yuan turned around to face him . "No . You need to rest tonight . "
Li Yundong opened his mouth to ask why, but his mouth clicked shut when he saw Zi Yuan's arched brow .
Right . Because he'd just performed one of the most powerful spells in existence and could barely stand up afterwards . How had he forgotten about that so soon? Oops .
Li Yundong sighed . "Fine . But what will we be doing tomorrow?"
Zi Yuan smiled . "We'll be visiting a bookstore . "
Li Yundong gaped at her . "A bookstore?"
"Yes, Xin Hua Bookstore," Zi Yuan answered coolly . "How are you supposed to learn Cultivation Theory if you don't have the right book?"
"A book?" Li Yundong chuckled in disbelief . "And Xin Hua Bookstore? Seriously? I can't believe the secrets to Cultivation can be found in a place we buy crappy comic books!"
Ruan Hongling giggled but then quickly masked her laughter with a cough . Li Yundong shot the girl an amused look and found that she was blushing .
"Why's that so surprising?" Zi Yuan smiled at Li Yundong . "In fact, it's sold everywhere . "
Li Yundong felt as though he had to pick up his jaw from the floor . "Okay . Which book are you even talking about?"
If Kama Sutra was part of the book list, then this whole learning-Cultivation-Theory thing might not be as bad as he thought .
Zi Yuan smirked . "You'll know tomorrow . Rest well . " Zi Yuan opened the sliding door and stepped onto the balcony . Ruan Hongling followed, and soon, the two women disappeared in two flashes of green light .
Li Yundong stared at the empty balcony and sighed . So it was back to square one, huh? Well, if he was being completely honest, square one was looking an awful lot like square zero at this point .