Li Yundong stormed into apartment . Seconds later, he stopped in front of the dining table and crossed his arms in front of his chest .
"You picked up my phone, didn't you?" Li Yundong said, glaring at Ruan Hongling .
Ruan Hongling slapped the table defiantly . "Fine! Yes! It was me! So what?"
Li Yundong gave Ruan Hongling an incredulous look . "My phone is private! You have no right to go through it!"
A loud clack sounded when Ruan Hongling stood up from her chair abruptly . "I did it for your own good!"
"For my own—" Li Yundong's mouth snapped shut . Shaking his head, he stared down at Ruan Hongling in incredulity . For his own good? How could any person be this self-righteous?
"Yeah! That's right! For your own good!" Ruan Hongling yelled, gesturing wildly with her arms . "I didn't want you to be associated with those degenerate fox spirits and—"
"Shut up!" Li Yundong roared, then took a deep, calming breath . Li Yundong pointed a finger at Ruan Hongling's face, which had a stunned expression . "You have no right to call her that . And whom I choose to be with is none of your goddamn business . It's my love life . Mine! So stay out of it!"
"Fine! You think I care!" Ruan Hongling screamed . "I wouldn't even be here helping you out if Elder Sister Zi Yuan hadn't asked me . " Then, Ruan Hongling pushed away from the stable and stormed off . Seconds later, he heard the loud slam of the sliding door . The balcony lit up in green, and Ruan Hongling was gone .
Zi Yuan sighed . "I really don't understand this air of hostility between you two . I honestly thought that things would be better once you returned the damask . Looks like I was wrong . "
"I've been tolerant with her," Li Yundong growled . "Forget that she nearly killed Su Chan . Now she's going through my stuff?" He shook his head in disgust . "Who does she think she is? Didn't her parents teach her any manners at all?"
"Hongling's parents died when she was very young . " Zi Yuan sighed . "I'm the one who raised her . So you can blame me if you want . "
Li Yundong glanced at Zi Yuan and noted the sad look on the woman's face . He sighed and decided to let it drop . "Earlier, you said you had something to discuss," he said . "What is it?"
Zi Yuan looked up from the table and stared at him .
Li Yundong raised his brows . "Well?"
Zi Yuan averted her gaze . "Pack your things . You'll be going on a trip . "
Li Yundong frowned . "A trip? Where to?"
Zi Yuan looked straight into his eyes . "Tibet . "
This was perhaps the most ridiculous thing Li Yundong had ever heard . Which was saying something considering he'd spent—what, a few months?—with Su Chan, who had basically turned "saying random, silly stuff" into an art form .
"Tibet?! What the heck am I supposed to do all the way up at Tibet?"
"To train, what else," Zi Yuan said sternly .
"Can't I do that here?" Li Yundong spread his arms wide . "I was doing fine, wasn't I?"
Perhaps he should show Zi Yuan all those fancy moves he came up with one more time . Surely that counted as progress?
"Cultivators usually prefer to be on a mountain when attempting to pass the Zhuji phase," Zi Yuan said . "Do you know why?"
Li Yundong give Zi Yuan a helpless shrug .
Duh . Would he have reacted this way if he knew?
"The mountain air is fresh and unpolluted," Zi Yuan explained . "Besides, the mountains are where Nature's Qi is most concentrated . You'll be able to feel Nature's power when you're on a mountain . The higher the mountain the better, of course . "
"Would that . . . " Li Yundong shot Zi Yuan a wary look . "Would that help increase my chances of success?"
Zi Yuan nodded . "Of course . That's the whole point . " She sighed . "The world has changed . Human activities have damaged and contaminated a lot of the world's mountains and forests . Fortunately, the mountains in Tibet are still very well-preserved . So I think it's best if you train there . "
Li Yundong pondered Zi Yuan's words for a moment . Well, if there was a way to improve his chances, he didn't see why not .
Then reality hit him . He suddenly remembered something that would put a damper on this let's-pack-up-and-go-to-Tibet plan .
Li Yundong sighed . "Look, this sounds like a good plan and all . But we have a huge problem . "
Zi Yuan arched a brow . "Which is?"
Li Yundong gave her a helpless look . "I'm broke . I can't afford a trip to Tibet . "
Zi Yuan stared at him for a moment . "Are you serious right now?"
Li Yundong sighed and lowered his gaze . "Unfortunately, yes . " Then, he looked up sharply . "Unless you're planning to sponsor my trip . " He deflated and let his head drop . "Which would put me in your debt again . . . "
"Who says you need to pay for anything at all?" Zi Yuan asked .
Li Yundong's head snapped back up . "Wait . You're really sponsoring for the trip? Oh, wow! Thank you! Look, I really can't thank you enough for everything you've done . Rest assured that once all of this is over, I'll—"
Zi Yuan raised her palm . "Hold your horses," she said . "I never said I'll pay for the trip . "
Li Yundong frowned . "What? Then how?"
Zi Yuan gave him a cryptic smile . "Nobody has to pay a single cent . "
Li Yundong stared at Zi Yuan for a moment . "Oh!" He slapped his forehead . "Right! Of course! You can fly me there with your powers! Silly me!"
"Nope . You're going to Tibet on your own . Without having to pay a single cent . "
Li Yundong snorted . "What do you want me to do, run all the way there?"
Silence spread between them . Li Yundong waited for Zi Yuan to say something, but other than that cryptic smile on her face, he got nothing else .
Horror and disbelief spread through him .
"You're shitting me . . . " Li Yundong whispered . "This is a joke . "
Zi Yuan said nothing .
Seconds later, Li Yundong chuckled . "Of course it's a joke . What am I even asking? Nobody can run from Tiannan City all the way to Tibet . I mean, that's nuts, right?" Li Yundong's smile faltered . "Right?"
After what felt like forever, Zi Yuan's smile broadened and she broke her silence . "You know what? I think you should bring the Fan of the Seven Treasures along . The extra weight can definitely make your training much more effective . "
Forget about what he said earlier . This, was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard .
Running all the way to Tibet . Was this chick nuts?!
"Running is a great way to improve the concentration of your Qi," Zi Yuan continued . "Which, as I recall, is something that you're lacking . I see this as killing three birds with one stone . One, you can travel cost-free . Two, you can increase your Qi's concentration . And three, you'll be going to one of the best places to pass the Zhuji phase . See? Solving three problems at once . "
Li Yundong gaped at Zi Yuan . Nuts . This chick was definitely nuts .
Zi Yuan sighed . "What, do you think Cultivation is an easy art to master? Well, it's not . To go against the natural order, you have to first live it . You have to experience and endure a lot of nature's tests . " Zi Yuan gave him a pointed look . "At some point, if you feel like you can no longer carry on, I want you to think of Su Chan . Think of the promise you've made to each other . "
Li Yundong nodded resolutely . "I understand . " He looked into Zi Yuan's eyes . "Where should I go once I reach Tibet?"
Zi Yuan smirked . "To the highest place in Tibet, of course . "
Li Yundong stared at Zi Yuan for a moment . Great . This chick wanted him to climb the Himalayas . No . Scratch that . She wanted him to conquer frigging Mount Everest . Right after he ran from Tiannan City to frigging Tibet .
Li Yundong smiled wryly . "You sure I won't freeze to death before I even get to the summit?"
Zi Yuan shook her head . "You don't really have to reach the summit . When you climb to a certain point, your body will tell you when it's time to make your attempt to pass the Zhuji phase . "
"What do you mean?"
"Your body will react . You'll start feeling something, and you'll know . " Zi Yuan raised her palm . "Don't ask me what kind of sensation you'll be feeling . I can't tell you that . All I can say is that you'll know when the time comes . "
Li Yundong took a deep breath before releasing it . "I got it . When do I leave?"
"Tomorrow," Zi Yuan said . "So you better start packing now . "
Li Yundong stared at the contents of his backpack: a few bottles of water; a thermos; two sets of travel clothes (Zi Yuan had insisted on a more minimalist's approach to packing); some toiletries; towels; his phone and its charger; the Fan of the Seven Treasures; and some cash .
Li Yundong's eyes lingered on the cash . Worry gnawed his insides . Several hundred yuan was far from enough to sustain the journey .
"Worried about money?"
Li Yundong turned around in surprise . Zi Yuan was floating into his room from the balcony .
He sighed . "Geez . You really need to learn how to use the door . And yes, of course I'm worried about money . I'm broke, in case you haven't noticed . "
Zi Yuan landed beside his backpack and studied its contents for a moment . "Hmm . That's good enough . You have nothing to worry about . "
Li Yundong stared at the bundle of cash . "Seriously? There's only like, a couple hundred yuan…"
"What, you're not thinking about buying food on the journey or sleeping in an inn, are you?"
Li Yundong's eyes nearly bugged out . "Are you saying that I shouldn't be?"
Again, there was that cryptic smile . This time, it looked more like a smirk .
"Okay, hold on a second now . This is taking things too far! Where am I supposed to sleep? What am I supposed to eat?"
Zi Yuan smirked . "Do you know how it was for me when I first began my training?"
Li Yundong shook his head .
"I had to travel for two thousand miles on foot . And I didn't have any food or money with me . "
"What! That's—But how did you even survive!"
Zi Yuan shrugged casually . "I pretty much left it to chance, fate, or whatever you wanna call it . When I was hungry, I either asked for food, or looked for food in the mountains . When I was thirsty, I drank from the rivers and streams . " Zi Yuan smiled as though she was recalling a pleasant memory . "It took me thirty-five days to reach my destination . "
"Wow . . . That's tough . . . "
Zi Yuan raised a brow . "You call that tough? The Tibetan Buddhists had it worse, I'm telling you . They have this pilgrimage journey every year, travelling long distances on foot to reach the mountains . And guess what? Unlike you and I, these people are mortal . They are normal humans without powers or any physical enhancements . If they can do it, then so can you . " Zi Yuan gave him a pointed look . "You are the Jindan's Heir . " She looked away . "If you can't even survive this little journey? You'll never be able to survive the Heavenly Thunder . "
Li Yundong pondered Zi Yuan's words in silence .
"Like I said, Cultivation is not easy," Zi Yuan said . "It's not just about gaining magical powers . It's about building a strong will too . Mark my words, Li Yundong . A lot of times, the outcome of a battle is decided by the strength of the combatants' will . "
Li Yundong nodded and hoisted his backpack off the floor . "I understand now . "
He moved towards the door .
"Wait," Zi Yuan said, making Li Yundong pause .
Li Yundong smiled . "What, you got some more tips for me?"
Zi Yuan pointed at the fan's rivet sticking out from the top of his backpack . "You should keep the Fan of Seven Treasures out of sight at all times," she said sternly . "That's one of the most valuable magical weapons that exists, do you understand? Other Cultivators will try to take it from you if you're not careful . "
Li Yundong lowered his backpack to the floor and stared at it . After a while, he ran into his bedroom and pulled out several old blankets . Then, he pulled out the fan and wrapped the blanket around it before stuffing it back into the backpack . "There," he said .
Zi Yuan nodded . "This is important . Keep it out of sight at all times . "
"Got it . "
"Alright, then . Let me send you off to the gates . "
Fifteen minutes later, Li Yundong and Zi Yuan stood inside the gazebo near New Hongsheng District's gates . The backpack sat idly on the stone table—the one with Zi Yuan's palm print—as Li Yundong ran through his minimalist travel checklist for the nth time .
"All set?" Zi Yuan asked .
Li Yundong looked up from the backpack and smiled . "I guess so . . . " He cleared his throat . "Well, you got any more tips for me?" He sounded nervous . Hell, who was he kidding . He was about to run all the way to frigging Tibet . Of course he was nervous .
Zi Yuan seemed to be deep in thought . Was she having second thoughts too? If she was, then, well, join the club .
"Two things," Zi Yuan said all of a sudden .
Li Yundong squared his shoulders . "I'm listening…"
"First, make sure you mind your own business throughout the journey," Zi Yuan paused for a moment . "Especially after you cross Tibetan borders . Keep to yourself and minimize human contact . More importantly . . . " Zi Yuan gave him a pointed look . "Do not get into unnecessary fights and arguments . Your top priority is to pass the Zhuji phase . So just focus on that . "
Li Yundong nodded . "Right . "
"Two . Once you start running, do not stop . "
Li Yundong did a double take . "What? You mean like… I can't even stop to take a break?"
Not even to take a leak? What the heck? Should he pack a few diapers?
"No . No stops . Just keep running until your legs can't move anymore . "
Why did he get the feeling that his shoes were going to fall off at some point during the journey? You know what? Scratch that . His legs were probably going to fall off . Then again, who was he to argue with the most powerful Cultivator of the younger generation?
Li Yundong sighed . "Right . No stops . Got it . "
Zi Yuan nodded . "Good . I'll look for you after you pass the Zhuji phase . "
Li Yundong nodded and lifted his backpack off the stone table . "Well . . . I'll be off then . "
Zi Yuan nodded regally . "Good luck . "
Li Yundong walked out of the gazebo, then paused after a few steps . He turned around . "Um… Thank you . . . For everything you've done . "
Zi Yuan smiled . "You don't have to thank me . I'm doing this for my own Cultivation training . "
Li Yundong frowned . What was that supposed to mean? Before he could ask further, Zi Yuan vanished in a flash of green light . Li Yundong sighed and walked out of the gazebo .
The sun emerged from the eastern horizon, breaking the dawn . The birds soared across the sky, singing to welcome the morning . A new day . A new journey . A new Li Yundong .
Tibet, here I come . . .