Chapter 46 The Height of Cultivation
Inside the gazebo, the girl stared at the man’s departing form in shock until she felt a presence behind her. The girl turned around and beamed at the woman. "Elder Sister Zi Yuan!"
Zi Yuan was about an inch taller than the girl in the pink dress. She was a stunning woman, like a goddess who wasn't from the mortal world. As she moved across the gazebo, her dark purple dress flowed around her legs like waves. She hardly looked like she was walking at all. More like floating.
Zi Yuan stopped beside the girl in the pink dress.
"What were you staring at just now, Hongling?" Zi Yuan said, her voice flat and cold as her eyes scanned the vicinity of the gazebo.
Zi Yuan's eyes weren't sharp and penetrating like Ruan Hongling's. Instead, her eyes seemed pretty dull, as though they were covered with a thin layer of muslin. Those eyes were inscrutable and enigmatic, like two tiny crystal balls filled with mist.
Ruan Hongling glanced towards the gates and allowed her gaze to linger for several seconds. The man with piercing eyes she'd seen earlier was no longer there. "I think I saw a Cultivator just now," Ruan Hongling said, turning back to Zi Yuan.
"Cultivators are all over the mortal world, Hongling," Zi Yuan replied cooly. "Running into one or two waimen disciples of our school is hardly surprising." (T/N: There are three types of discipleship in the world of Cultivation or Chinese martial arts — waimen, neishi, and zhenchuan; waimen disciples, unlike neishi disciples, rely on self-exploration and do not receive direct guidance from the master; zhenchuan disciples will learn everything that the master knows)
Ruan Hongling shook her head. "No, elder sister. He doesn't look like a waimen disciple at all. I think... I think he's a neishi disciple. Well, at least he looked like a neishi disciple..."
Those eyes held too much power, too much force.
A silence stretched between the two women. Ruan Hongling turned and saw Zi Yuan looking back at her with a questioning brow raised.
"We were at least fifty meters apart when I saw him," Ruan Hongling clarified. "Yet when our gazes met, it felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. Kinda like... being hit by a heavy, fast-moving object. His eyes were... penetrating. It was like he could see through the deepest part of my soul or something. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I don't think I could maintain eye contact with him for more than two seconds!"
Something flickered across Zi Yuan's usually unflappable expression. "Is that so?" Zi Yuan said.
Seconds passed in silence.
"You're rash. Careless," Zi Yuan said. "And you often act without thinking things through. However..." Zi Yuan gave Ruan Hongling a sidelong glance. "You've been training with Master since a very young age, so you have a decent CQ. Relatively speaking, of course. It's a bit surprising to find another Cultivator in this small city that matches your CQ." (T/N: CQ stands for Cultivation Quotient, which is a measure of a Cultivator's skill level, just like a person's IQ is a measure of their intelligence; if a Cultivator has a CQ of 52, it means that he or she has reached the 5th phase of Cultivation and 2nd dan, which is a higher level of Cultivation than say a CQ of 12; the larger the CQ, the higher the level)
Ruan Hongling pouted. "You're horrible, Elder Sister Zi Yuan!" she said sulkily. "Why do you have to put me down every chance you get!"
Zi Yuan studied Ruan Hongling's face, a subtle smile adorning her lips. Subtle though Zi Yuan's smile might be, the adoration and fondness it conveyed was plain as day. "Listen, Hongling. I'm returning to where Master is shortly. I want you to stay in the mortal world and continue your training," Zi Yuan said, then paused in thought. "But I must admit that I have deep concerns about leaving you here on your own. That temper of yours is trouble in the making."
Ruan Hongling's pout grew larger. "Come on... You know that's not true, Elder Sister Zi Yuan..." Ruan Hongling whined, clinging to Zi Yuan's side affectionately. "I'm not a child anymore. I can handle myself!"
Zi Yuan's only response was a slight curve of her lips. Once again, silence filled the gazebo, where the two goddess-like women stood. After a while, Ruan Hongling broke the silence. "Elder Sister Zi Yuan, shall I accompany you on your journey back?"
"No need," Zi Yuan said. "I'm leaving now anyway." Zi Yuan looked at Ruan Hongling sternly. "Remember not to disrupt the lives of the mortals. This is a commandment that every Cultivator must obey. Have I made myself clear?"
Ruan Hongling groaned. "Alright, alright, geez. You've told me that a thousand times already!"
Zi Yuan shook her head silently.
Ruan Hongling had always found Elder Sister Zi Yuan intimidating. Needless to say, Zi Yuan's sudden reticence unnerved her. She stole a glance at Zi Yuan from the corner of her eyes and noticed Zi Yuan's pensive expression. "Elder Sister Zi Yuan..." Hongling said tentatively. "Is there something on your mind?"
"It's nothing," Zi Yuan said. "Just wondering about the Jindan's current whereabouts."
"Still thinking about that verse in Master's poem, Elder Sister Zi Yuan?" Ruan Hongling said.
A slow smile took over Ruan Hongling's expression. "Ooh... Has a man finally awakened your inner desires, my dearest elder sister?" she said, wiggling her brows. "Hah! That's so rare!"
Zi Yuan's expression remained pensive despite Ruan Hongling's teasing. It was as though she hadn't even heard her.
Zi Yuan's gaze drifted away, off into the horizon. "Where?" she mumbled. "Where could the Renyuan Jindan be?"
Li Yundong and Su Chan moved into their new apartment the very same day.
"Oh, Yundong! Look! It's so wide and spacious!" Su Chan stood in the center of the living room and spun around a few times.
Li Yundong laughed. "I'm glad you like it," he said.
After that, Li Yundong followed Su Chan into the master bedroom.
Li Yundong chuckled when Su Chan dove onto the Simmons mattress and bounced on it. After a few rolls on the fluffy mattress, she leaped up from the bed and ran out to the bedroom's balcony. Well, at least she seems happy, Li Yundong thought. He was happy too; he was happy that she was happy.
Li Yundong glanced towards the balcony and nearly jumped out of his skin at what he saw. Su Chan was bent about 90 degrees at the waist; her entire torso had extended over the balcony's railing and—
Pretty sure that shout would've made Zheng Youming's sh*t building collapse as well.
"Hey! Hey! Be careful! You're gonna fall off!" Li Yundong ran to the balcony, then yanked Su Chan's body back inside the railing.
Su Chan burst into giggles, then turned around to face him. Before Li Yundong could chastise her again for being careless, he felt one of her hands grab his arm. With her other hand, she pointed at something beyond the railing.
"Yundong, Yundong! Look! Look! Look faaaarrrr away!" Su Chan yelled, her brows elevated in excitement. For a moment there, Li Yundong almost thought her brows would fly off her head.
Li Yundong chuckled, then tapped the tip of her nose several times.
When Li Yundong looked beyond the balcony, he felt that same sensation again, one that he'd been experiencing a lot ever since Su Chan appeared in his life: that ball of heat, energy, or... something, which surged from his somewhere below his navel straight to the top of his head. There probably weren't enough superlatives in the world to fully capture how frigging awesome that sensation was.
Intellectually, he felt as though his horizons had been substantially expanded, like he'd just uncovered an arcane secret of the vast universe. Emotionally, he felt happiness, and also the same boldness that had led to the pendant light's demise. Physically, he felt an urge to roar like a beast.
Li Yundong took a deep breath and opened his mouth.
Back in the mountains, Su Chan's master had imparted an important lesson to Su Chan.
Humans are born with an instinct to roar. This instinct is closely associated with the state of one's Qi; the urge to roar is stronger when one's Qi is energized. As such, anything that can interact with or influence a person's Qi can trigger that instinct. According to Su Chan's master, such triggers can be classified into three types.
The first type involves Mother Nature's Qi, whose vastness and boundlessness is capable of energizing and invigorating the Qi of anyone who experiences it directly. This typically occurs when a person is granted a panoramic view of a scenery, during which Mother Nature's Qi interacts with the viewer's Qi.
The second type has to do with negative emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, pain, anguish, agony, stress, and etc. In such cases, roaring becomes a means of emotional release.
The third type is the most obvious — the direct stimulation of one's Qi via Cultivation. When triggered this way, the resulting roar would be unusually loud. Superhumanly loud, in fact. A notable example in history is an incident that occurred one night during the Zhengde period of the Ming Dynasty. That night, Wang Yangming, a great Confucian scholar, was Cultivating in his military camp. He ended up releasing a roar loud enough to be heard over several miles! Everyone in the camp thought that a Shenxian had arrived.
Admittedly, Su Chan had forgotten about this important lesson due to her excitement. Otherwise, she wouldn't have asked Li Yundong to check out the view.
However, when Su Chan saw Li Yundong take a deep breath, her master's lesson came back to her in a flash. She knew that Li Yundong was about to roar, and that the trigger was a combination of two types of triggers: the first and the third. The rush of Qi Li Yundong had felt occurred after she had stupidly told him to check out the beautiful scenery, hence the first type. It was also the third type because the Jindan had clearly energized Li Yundong's Qi.
Su Chan struck Li Yundong's Huagai on his chest the moment he opened his mouth.
Li Yundong flinched slightly, then rubbed his chest with a frown.
Su Chan sighed inwardly. That was close. Really close.
There were a lot of Cultivators living among mortals. Most of them had covered their tracks so well that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to tell them apart from a mortal. Su Chan had no doubt that if she hadn't been in time to stop Li Yundong's roar just now, it would've been heard across the entire city, especially when considering the highly energized state of his Qi due to the Jindan.
Most mortals might've ignored the roar, but the Cultivators certainly wouldn't have; because they knew that no mortal could possibly generate a roar that loud. Eventually, the Cultivators hiding in the city would trace the source of the roar to their new home. Since she came from the Fox Zen School, Su Chan was adept in the stealth arts such as infiltration and the art of concealment. She could even shield her Qi from other Cultivators. However, Li Yundong knew nothing about Cultivation! He wouldn't be able to conceal the Jindan's powerful Qi inside his body if those Cultivators came knocking on their door!
The Jindan was the holy grail in the world of Cultivation. Most Cultivators would do anything to get their hands on it, including kill. If it came down to a fight, Li Yundong wouldn't stand a chance even though he had the Jindan.
"Hey, why'd you poke me?" Li Yundong's question pulled Su Chan out of her thoughts.
"Why don't I give you a massage!" Su Chan said, seeing this as an opportunity to get him to do some Cultivation, albeit indirectly.
Li Yundong flashed her a smile. "Nah, it's okay," he said. "We've been running around town for the whole day. I bet you're exhausted."
Su Chan gazed beyond the balcony towards the evening sky. Streaks of red stretched across the sky towards the horizon where a golden tinge still remained. The Yang had dwindled, and the time of the Yin had come.
I guess there's no point... Su Chan thought. He wouldn't experience the full benefits even if he trains now. Might as well wait until midnight...
Su Chan's eyes gleamed as another idea hit her. "Why don't I help you with some chores!" she said. "Is there anything I can do? Boil water? Cook rice?"
Li Yundong shuddered, then raised his palm. "Nope! No thanks, my dear little princess. I'll handle everything on my own, thank you very much!" Then, he lowered his palm and looked at Su Chan. "Tell me what dishes you feel like eating tonight. I'll make them for you!"
"But..." Su Chan twiddled her fingers. "I feel so bad... You always do all the work. I never help."
"You can help me by not doing anything," Li Yundong said with a straight face.
Su Chan pouted, then smacked Li Yundong's arm.
"Meanie!" Su Chan said. With that she turned around and ran towards the bedroom, leaving Li Yundong's laughter in her wake.
Dinner was served a little past six. Li Yundong had whipped up four dishes using the groceries they had bought in the supermarket downstairs. The pair sat in the spacious and well-lit dining hall, smiling warmly at each other.
Here he was, sitting across from a young and beautiful woman, surrounded by the posh decor of his new apartment, which was spacious enough to fit perhaps two of his old place.
Life was pretty good.
"So this is what it feels like to be home, huh?" Li Yundong sighed. "Too bad this place isn't ours. When I earn enough money in the future, I wanna buy a place like this too!"
Across from Li Yundong, Su Chan nodded with zest. "You'll become even more awesome in the future! A house is nothing!"
Li Yundong laughed, then pushed a huge bowl towards Su Chan.
Behold, Chef Li Yundong's signature dish: Stewed Duck in Beer!
Admittedly, Li Yundong felt a swell of pride with his work. It didn't just taste great, it looked pretty sleek as well. Chef Li Yundong had paid close attention to every little detail of the food presentation this time.
Li Yundong smirked when he saw the way Su Chan was staring at the bowl as though she hadn't eaten in centuries. However...
Su Chan picked up a tiny piece of duck meat with her chopsticks, then placed it in her bowl.
Okay... what? Li Yundong thought.
Li Yundong cleared his throat twice, then said, "Go on! Have some more! Don't be shy now!"
Su Chan blushed and placed another small piece into her bowl.
Li Yundong frowned. Huh? Why is she acting like some elegant princess all of a sudden? She usually just gobbles down everything...
"What's the matter you? Don't tell me you're worried about getting fat..." Li Yundong said, giving Su Chan's figure a subtle once-over.
Nope... Definitely no problems on that front...
"Come on, have some more," Li Yundong prodded, then frowned. "Did I mess up the dish? That's not possible. I'm positive that I—"
"Hey!!!" Li Yundong yelled, then gaped at the small bowl that Su Chan had pushed towards him, the same one that contained the two miserable pieces of duck meat that Su Chan had picked earlier.
Guess where the entire frigging bowl of stewed beer duck was?
"I'm so sorry! But thanks a lot!" Su Chan said with a blush, hugging the huge bowl to her chest.
"Why you little..." Li Yundong pounced.
"Kyaa!!! Hahaha." Su Chan shifted the bowl away before Li Yundong could reach it.
"Holy shit... You're actually serious about this, aren't you? You ingrateful..." Li Yundong pounced again, and failed. "Hand it over! Hand. It. Over!" Li Yundong growled.
Su Chan wrapped her arms around the bowl protectively. "No! No! No! I won't let you have it!"
She turned around and ate a few mouthfuls straight from the bowl.
Li Yundong burst into laughter. "Hey! Slow down, okay? It's hot! Don't burn your tongue!"
Su Chan turned around, then stuck out her tongue at him. "I don't care if I burn my tongue! And I won't let you have it! It's your own fault for making such good food!"
Giggles and yells resonated throughout the apartment. Through the window, streams of moonlight trickled in — the tears of a jealous moon.