When Li Yundong opened his eyes again, the smooth, fair skin of Zi Yuan's cheeks was the first thing he saw . Her eyes were closed, and she had a serene expression on her face . And judging from her posture and the way she was sitting, she was meditating .
He raised his hands above his head and stretched . Zi Yuan's blinked open as soon as he moved .
"Oh . You're up . "
Li Yundong released a long sigh . "What time is it?"
"It's been nearly three hours since you began your first Qi Transmutation cycle . "
Three hours? Time sure flies .
"How do you feel?"
Li Yundong chuckled and lowered his arms back down . "Not too bad I suppose . But . . . I don't feel extra powerful or anything . Um . . . Actually, I feel just the same . No difference . "
The whole thing honestly felt like a long nap .
Zi Yuan was looking past his shoulders . He turned his head and saw the Fan of the Seven Treasures that he'd leaned against the side of the couch when he walked in earlier .
"Why don't you try channeling your Zhenqi into the Fan of Seven Treasures and see what happens?"
Li Yundong swiveled his head around and found Zi Yuan smirking at him .
Indeed, the significance of what Zi Yuan was asking him to do wasn't lost on him at all . All this while, his usage of the Fan of Seven Treasures didn't involve any magic or spiritual energy . Even then, the Fan had proven itself to be capable of terrifying feats of power .
What would happen if he juiced it up with magic?
Li Yundong reached behind him and pulled the Fan of Seven Treasure from the couch towards him . He lay the bulky object down on the floor in front of him, then stared at it warily .
So help him God if he ended up destroying the whole apartment after this training session . . .
"Go on . " Zi Yuan's voice jolted him out of his musings . "What are you waiting for?"
Li Yundong stole a fearful glance at Zi Yuan . Suddenly, this whole thing felt like a terrible idea . Shouldn't they take this somewhere outside the apartment?
"O- Okay . " He cleared his throat and sat up straighter . Then, he took a deep breath and ran his fingers along the fan's metallic surface .
He should probably start with just a little bit of Zhenqi .
Baby steps, right?
"Just use the same Qi control techniques, right?" he asked tentatively . "Like the ones I practiced during the Lianqi phase?"
"Mm-hmm . "
Alright then . . . He focused his mind on the Zhenqi circling around the surface layer of his Vital Orb .
Here we go…
He mobilized a small portion of Zhenqi and guided it along the Hand's Major Yin Lung Meridian . A moment later, he felt his Zhenqi leave the surface of his palm .
Shit . . . What's with this weird—
His Zhenqi was met with a resistance the moment it entered the fan, almost as though the fan had some kind of inner defense mechanism . The resistance grew stronger as it tried to push his Zhenqi back into his body . He kept pushing back against the resistance and, with some effort, managed to keep his Zhenqi inside the fan . Seconds later, he felt something else: his Zhenqi had lost some of its vitality; like the fan had extracted something from his Zhenqi .
He slowly guided his Zhenqi back into his body . When he felt the last of his Zhenqi entering his meridian, he cracked open an eye to take a peek at the fan .
Nothing . Absolutely nothing .
The fan lay as still as a dead fish .
He opened both eyes and looked towards Zi Yuan . "Um . . . "
Amusement shone through Zi Yuan's eyes as she studied him . Somehow, she managed to make him feel about as helpless as a three-year-old kid trying to drive a truck .
"Well? What did I do wrong?"
Zi Yuan smiled . "Technically, you didn't do anything wrong . "
"But . . . " Li Yundong's eyes went to the fan again . "It didn't even react . It's like nothing happened . "
"Nothing? Are you sure about that?"
Li Yundong's gaze went from the fan to Zi Yuan's face . One of her brows was arched .
Then, he spent a while recalling every sensation he'd felt during the process .
"My Zhenqi was met with some kind of resistance," he said .
"Uh-huh… What else?"
"After that it was like . . . like something was drawn out of my Zhenqi?" Li Yundong paused to take a look at Zi Yuan . Something clicked inside his mind . "It was my spiritual energy, wasn't it? The fan consumed my spiritual energy . "
"Precisely . "
"Okay . . . " Li Yundong frowned . "So did it even work?" He gestured at the fan . "It didn't react at all . "
He didn't expect the fan to suddenly explode or anything, but he figured it would at least glow .
Zi Yuan shook her head like she would at a child who'd just told her something utterly nonsensical .
"What?" he asked .
"Suppose that an item costs a million yuan," she said with a quirk of a brow . "Do you expect to buy it for ten yuan?"
Oh . So he had to channel more spiritual energy into the fan was what she was saying .
Right . Stupid . He cleared his throat, suddenly feeling as though his cheeks were on fire .
"More spiritual energy . Got it . "
"If this were a thousand years ago, the fan wouldn't respond to you even if you spend the next two years channeling your Zhenqi into it . "
Li Yundong stared at Zi Yuan for a moment, unable to believe what he'd just heard . "T-Two years?"
"At your current level, yes . " Zi Yuan's eyes darted to his face . "Not even a single budge after two years . "
Two frigging years . You've gotta be shitting me .
"Hold on . You said a thousand years ago . How is the fan different now compared to a thousand years ago?"
"Grandmaster Pan Shi was still wielding it at that time," Zi Yuan answered . "Unlike now, the Great Fox Elder's spiritual signature inside the fan was still thriving . . . "
"A spiritual signature is exactly as its name implies . It is a mark indicative of the presence of spiritual energy . "
That sounded a bit similar to DNA…
"Remember . . . " Zi Yuan's expression turned serious . "The magical object chooses its master . " She pointed at the Fan of Seven Treasures . "And that is exactly what you need to do in order to pass the second dan of the Shentong phase . You need to get the Fan of Seven Treasures to choose you as its new master . " Zi Yuan placed her hand back onto her lap . "The most basic way to use your spiritual energy isn't to cast spells, but to use it to gain the allegiance of a magical object . " Zi Yuan's expression softened . "That resistance you felt earlier is due to the spiritual energy of its current owner trying to expel yours . " Zi Yuan shot him a pointed look . "And yes, until you can get the fan to recognize you, Grandmaster Pan Shi is still its owner . "
Li Yundong stared wordlessly at the Fan of Seven Treasures .
Suddenly, Zi Yuan chuckled . "It's amazing how Grandmaster Pan Shi's spiritual signature remains inside the fan even after a thousand years . "
Zi Yuan shook her head in awe . "It proves just how powerful his spiritual energy was when he was at his prime . "
"Spiritual signatures weaken with time?"
"Without constant exposure to the owners' Qi, then yes, they do . "
Li Yundong nodded and stared at the fan again . That must be why Zi Yuan had asked him to keep it beside him at all times .
After a while, Li Yundong chuckled and shook his head .
"What's so funny?" Zi Yuan asked .
"How does it even work?" he asked, glancing over at Zi Yuan .
"It's not that complicated . Just keep channeling your Zhenqi into the fan and try to fight against its resistance," Zi Yuan explained . "Your spiritual energy will do the rest by slowly erasing Grandmaster Pan Shi's spiritual signature from the fan . " There was a pause . "The task might take a while, but it should be possible even for someone at your level . It's been a thousand years since Grandmaster Pan Shi last wielded it after all . . . "
Li Yundong wanted to ask how long "a while" was, but he held his tongue in the end . He figured it wouldn't be as long as that trip to Tibet . At least that was what he hoped .
"Okay . What actually happens when the fan acknowledges me as its owner?"
Would it involve some kind of ritual?
"Several things," Zi Yuan said . "At the exact moment a magical object acknowledges you as its owner, a connection will be formed between your Spirit and the magical object's Spirit . "
Li Yundong glanced down at the fan, then looked back up at Zi Yuan . "Magical objects have Spirits?"
"Of course . " Zi Yuan smiled, then nodded at the Fan of Seven Treasures . "You'll soon see that it has a will of its own . "
"Now pay attention . This is very important," Zi Yuan said sternly . "That connection between your Spirit and the object's Spirit is a sign of ownership . You understand?" There was a pause . "Do you know how you managed to take the damask from Hongling back then?"
Li Yundong shook his head . He just remembered telling himself to do everything in his power to stop that f*cking thing from hurting Su Chan . He didn't recall doing anything special .
"Your Spirit severed the connection between Hongling's Spirit and the damask's Spirit . That's how you took it from her," Zi Yuan said wryly . "The damask no longer recognized Hongling as its owner after you grabbed it from thin air . "
Li Yundong could feel his own eyes going wide . "Wait . You mean I became the owner of the damask after I took it?"
Zi Yuan shook her head . "I don't think so . " She quirked a brow . "You didn't even have a Vital Orb back then . There was no way you could've claimed ownership without exposing it to your Zhenqi . "
Hold on . Something didn't add up .
"Then how did I steal it in the first place?" Li Yundong frowned . "You said it yourself . I didn't even have a Vital Orb . . . " He glanced down at the Fan of Seven Treasures on the floor . "And I had to send my Zhenqi into the damask for it to recognize me, right? Like I'm trying to do with the fan?"
Zi Yuan shook her head . "You couldn't establish ownership, that's true . But that doesn't mean you couldn't break the existing connection between the object and its current wielder . " Zi Yuan raised a finger . "And you're forgetting something else . "
Li Yundong sat there and waited for her to carry on her explanation .
"Again, what is Zhenqi?" Zi Yuan prompted . "We discussed this earlier . "
"A condensed form of Qi that's been fortified by the Spirit . "
"Precisely . The Jindan's Aura is itself a highly condensed form of Qi, you see? And during the battle, your Spirit must've been strong enough to fortify the Aura to convert it into a powerful form of Zhenqi . . . " She paused and studied him for a moment or two . "Did you feel any resistance when you grabbed the damask back then?"
Li Yundong nodded .
"Describe it . "
"Er… There was some kind of red aura pushing back against my hand . "
Zi Yuan nodded . "That was Hongling trying to fight back . But her Spirit is weaker than yours . " Zi Yuan chuckled wryly . "Her spiritual signature got erased by the Jindan's Aura the moment your hand touched the damask's surface . "
Li Yundong cleared his throat . "Will she still be able to use it after this?"
"Of course . " Zi Yuan shrugged . "She just has to do what you're trying to do now . " Zi Yuan nodded at the Fan of Seven Treasures . "She has to expend her spiritual energy to regain ownership of the damask . "
"Look…" Li Yundong raised his hands defensively . "I had no choice, okay? She tried to kill—"
Zi Yuan silenced him with a palm . "I'm not blaming you . I already told the girl not to act rashly, but she didn't listen . So she paid the price . . . " Zi Yuan shook her head slightly . "Anyway . We've digressed . Where were we . . . ? Ah . Right . Like I said, the formation of Spiritual connection will be the first thing that happens during the recognition . After that comes the awakening . "
"The moment the magical object… comes to life, so to speak . " Zi Yuan flicked a glance at him . "This is when you'll see the magical object act as though it has its own free will . "
"Wait… You mean it'll start moving around on its own?"
"It'll do more than that, actually . " Zi Yuan chuckled . "It'll use its owner's spiritual signature as a guide and start seeking out the owner's Zhenqi . "
Li Yundong glanced at the fan again . She made it sound as though magical objects could act like pets .
"Try again . "
Li Yundong looked up to find Zi Yuan giving him an encouraging nod . "Work on it until you succeed . "
Li Yundong took a deep breath and sat up straighter . "How long do you think it'll take?"
"It doesn't matter how long it takes," Zi Yuan said in a tone of finality . "You'll keep trying until the fan recognizes you as its true owner . "
With that, Zi Yuan closed her eyes and went back to her meditation .