Chapter 106 Ishvara!
Li Yundong sat back down and got into a meditative posture. Then, he grinned at Su Chan. "Awaiting your instructions, milady."
Su Chan held up a hand. "Wait. Before you begin, I need to explain a few concepts to you."
Li Yundong nodded. "I'm all ears, princess."
Su Chan set the pad and pen on the coffee table and sat down next to him. "According to the Canon of the Yellow Thearch, there is a god living inside each and everyone one of us."
Su Chan pointed at his chest. "Yes. And the god's spirit is split into five fragments, and each fragment is stored inside one of your five Zangs."
Li Yundong stared at Su Chan blankly. There is a god living inside everyone. A god. Inside the human body. Wow. That makes... so much sense. So much. Moments later, he shook his head. "You mean there is a god living inside us, and somehow we can't feel its existence at all?"
"Remember the Spirit Space?" Su Chan asked.
Li Yundong looked up sharply. "Yeah. That's the weird place with all the clouds."
Su Chan nodded. "You can only see and interact with the god inside your own Spirit Space."
Li Yundong frowned. Something didn't add up. "Then how come I didn't see it when I was performing Guanxiang the other night? I was inside my Spirit Space too."
"You weren't ready back then. There are steps you have to follow before you can see it."
Li Yundong stroked his chin. "Well, obviously I need to perform Guanxiang first." He looked towards Su Chan. "Coz that's the only way I can be inside my Spirit Space."
Su Chan shook her head. "No. The Convergence of Five Qis has to happen first." One of Su Chan's eyebrows quirked. "Still remember what that is?"
Li Yundong thought back to the night when he first saw those colorful blobs. "Yeah. It’s a physical state where the Qis of the five Zangs are gathered at the upper Dantian."
Su Chan nodded. "Still remember how to do that?"
Li Yundong answered in a heartbeat. "The five Zangs are all Yin in nature, and Yang attracts Yin according to the Yin-Yang Principle. So I need to first get my Yuanyang to circle just outside of the five Zangs. Once I do that, the Qis of the five Zangs will be drawn out and follow my Yuanyang wherever it goes. Basically, I control the Qis of my five Zangs using my Yuanyang. After that, all I have to do is guide my Yuanyang towards my upper Dantian—the five Qis will follow it automatically." So Li Yundong wanted to impress his girl a little. Sue him.
"Excellent, Yundong. Excellent." Su Chan seemed more excited than impressed though. She inched closer to him. "Now I want you to think carefully, Yundong. What did you see last time when you were inside your Spirit Space?"
"Um… I was floating in some kind weird space. And there were a bunch of clouds."
"What color were they? The clouds."
"Before I try to shape them, they were white."
"And after you shaped them?"
"The clouds transformed into the object I visualized. So the colors changed according to the object I visualized." Suddenly, Li Yundong shot her a worried look. "Is that not supposed to happen?"
Su Chan waved off his concerns. "That's normal. But before you shaped them, the clouds were white. Why do you think that's the case?"
Li Yundong stared at Su Chan with narrowed eyes. "You really enjoy testing me, don't you? You know, this will go much quicker if you just tell me the answer."
Su Chan merely shrugged.
Li Yundong chuckled. "Ah, I see what you're planning here. You just want to see me act like a clueless idiot, don't you?" He started poking her in the ribs.
Su Chan twisted her body away. When she looked at him, her face was completely serious. "Comprehension is more important than knowledge, Yundong. Cultivation is a difficult art. Without in-depth understanding of its core principles and concepts, you'll never be able to master it." Su Chan sighed. "Besides, it's going to be a bit different this time, because I won't be able to speak to you and give you direct guidance. You'll have to do everything on your own."
"Well. For two reasons. One, I'll be too busy casting a protective spell around you to do anything else. Two, you need to be in total focus during the task, which means no outside interruptions, not even from me."
"A protective spell?"
Su Chan shrugged. "Better safe than sorry. We don't want you under attack during the session. Like I said, no interruptions. Alright. So. Back to the clouds. Why do you think they were white?"
Li Yundong leaned back against the edge of the couch and mulled over the question. Su Chan was right. This wasn't some stupid exam where he could just memorize a bunch of facts and then unload them onto an exam sheet. In this regard, the art of Cultivation is a bit similar to martial arts; it's about understanding the core principles first, and then applying and adapting them to different situations. Su Chan kept asking him why the clouds were white, so obviously the colors mattered in some way. And those clouds represented his Qi, so... Whoa. Hold on a second... Li Yundong turned sharply to face Su Chan. "The other night, you taught me how to perform Neiguan..." Li Yundong began slowly. "That was the first time I saw all those blobs with colors."
"And you told me what the colors mean. Those blobs represent the state of my five Zangs, and the colors correspond to the each Zang's Qi." Li Yundong glanced at Su Chan. "You asked me why the clouds in my Spirit Space were white. I'm guessing it's because those clouds didn't represent the Qis of my five Zangs? If they did, they would have the same colors as my Zangs' Qis, right?"
"Well, that's correct," Su Chan said with a nod. "But you still haven't answered the question. Why? Why are they white?"
Li Yundong frowned. "I thought I just did? Because the clouds didn't represent the Qis of my five Zangs."
Su Chan seemed a bit frustrated. "Yeah. But why? Why didn't the clouds represent the Qis of your five Zangs?"
"Because..." Li Yundong paused. "Huh. Interesting." Seconds passed in silence.
"Want a hint?" Su Chan prompted.
Li Yundong shook his head. "Just gimme a sec..."
"Take your time. It's important that you understand."
Cultivation is a step by step process... Each step depends on its predecessors... Li Yundong squeezed his eyes shut and held his forehead. At the beginning of the Lianqi phase, he generated his Qi from his Essence, which is stored at the lower Dantian. That's why all Qi pathways begin and end at the lower Dantian, because that's where Qi is generated and, therefore, where the Qi must return to. Once he got his Qi, he was taught to control it with his Spirit—generating the Spirit from Qi. And that is what mastering Da Zhoutian is all about. Da Zhoutian allows him to move his Qi around his body in a circuit starting from the lower Dantian. And since Da Zhoutian involves all the meridians inside the body, the rationale behind Da Zhoutian was pretty obvious—training the Cultivator to have the ability to mobilize their Qi to any acupoint in the body, hence any part of their body. And then what? What was the next step? Ah. Neiguan, and then Guanxiang. In Neiguan, Su Chan introduced him to the Qis of his five Zangs, which was different from the Qi generated from his Essence. Then, Guanxiang is about getting his Qi to interact with his Spirit inside the Spirit Space...
Wait a minute. The Shenting. The home of the Spirit... Li Yundong let his hand drop from his forehead and stared at Su Chan for a moment. "The upper Dantian is located in the head, isn't it?"
A tiny smile played on Su Chan's lips. "That's right."
But that's also where the Shenting is... Understanding dawned on him in an instant. The Shenting marks the position of the upper Dantian. Simply put, the upper Dantian is the home of the Spirit; the upper Dantian must be where the Spirit is stored. "Only the Qi gathered at the upper Dantian will appear inside my Spirit Space." Li Yundong stared at Su Chan intently. "That's why the clouds were white. Because the Qis of my five Zangs weren't gathered at the upper Dantian when I entered my Spirit Space that night."
"Bingo!" Su Chan clapped a few times. "That night, I asked you to return the five Qis to your Zangs before you attempted Guanxiang because you weren't ready to handle the five Qis yet. The Qis of the five Zangs are much more powerful than the Qi generated from your Essence. They are much more difficult to shape."
"But now I'm ready?"
"Well, it's exactly what you'll be doing for Yinling."
"But what does that have to do with seeing the god living inside me?" Li Yundong gave her a puzzled look. "Didn't you say that Yinling is about getting the god to show itself?"
"Each of the five Zangs holds a fragment of the god's spirit, remember?"
Li Yundong thought for a moment, then closed his eyes when the pieces finally clicked into place. "I see... So that's why you said—" Li Yundong's eyes shot open, and their gazes locked. "You want me to perform Guanxiang on the Qis of the five Zangs. That's why you said the Convergence of Five Qis must occur first before I enter my Spirit Space. Because for me to be able to see the five Qis inside my Spirit Space, I must first gather all of them at my upper Dantian."
Su Chan's smile was a sight for sore eyes. "Yes. In other words, Yinling is just the Convergence of Five Qis and Guanxiang performed in tandem."
"And once I perform Guanxiang on the five Qis, this god will appear?"
"Not in its full form," Su Chan said. "Completing Yinling will only give you a vague form of the god. An outline. Which is why in the next task, Juxian, you'll work on refining the image until the god fully appears in front of you."
"What do you think it'll look like? The god, I mean."
Su Chan shook her head. "It depends on the individual, so it's impossible for me to tell." Su Chan grimaced and then cleared her throat a few times.
Li Yundong stood up. "Sit tight," he said, then went into the kitchen.
A minute later, Li Yundong placed a glass of water on the coffee table. Su Chan took the glass gratefully and finished the water in a few gulps.
"So what does the god's appearance say about me, then?"
"A lot of things," Su Chan said. "For example, you can tell from the god's color which one of your Zang has the strongest Qi. If, in its full form, the god is green, then it means the Qi of your Liver dominates. Your Liver's Qi is green."
"Right. That's based on the color coding of the five Zangs." Li Yundong rubbed his hands together. "Okay. So there's one more task after Juxian, right?"
A worried look flashed across Su Chan's face. "Yes... And… this is the part where it's easy for you to lose your soul and Spirit." She sighed. "You'll have to achieve a spiritual state called Ishvara."
Li Yundong wanted to pull her into his arms if only to make the frown on her face go away. "Ishvara..."
"In Sanskrit, Ishvara means the possessor of power. And in Hinduism, the term refers to the Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self." Su Chan looked him in the eye. "Completing Juxian allows you to see the god living inside you. But to achieve Ishvara, you need to become one with it."
Li Yundong frowned. "Wait. I don't follow. I thought I'm already one with it. I mean, it's already living inside me, right?"
Su Chan shook her head. "Be one with it spiritually."
"As in... how?"
Su Chan took his hand. "By the time you complete Juxian, each fragment of the god's spirit will have joined together—the god's spirit will be whole again. When that happens, the god's spirit will try to take over your Spirit."
"Okay... So what am I supposed to do?"
"Your Spirit has to gain control instead of letting itself be controlled. Gain command over the god's spirit. Get it to answer to your Spirit. In other words, become one with the god's spirit. Consume it instead of letting it consume you. That's when you'll achieve Ishvara."
Silence fell. Li Yundong stared at the floor for a moment. "What happens if I fail?"
Su Chan released his hand. "Then you'll forever be trapped inside your Spirit Space. Your Spirit will become a slave to the god's spirit."
"But my body still lives?"
"So I'll be in a vegetative state then," Li Yundong whispered.
Su Chan grabbed his shoulders and shook him a few times. "This is a battle of strength, Yundong. It's the ultimate test of your Spirit's strength. Are you sure you're ready for this?"
"You don't think I am?" Li Yundong asked warily.
Su Chan let go of his shoulders and reached for the pad. "It all depends on your own strength." She held his gaze for a moment, then wrote something down: Jindan won't give you much advantage. Jindan made your Spirit strong. But also made the five Zangs strong = god's spirit also strong.
Su Chan tossed the pad aside. "I'm a bit worried."
Li Yundong stared at the pad in silence. Was he ready for this? He turned the thought over in his head for a while.
"I want to try," Li Yundong said minutes later.
Su Chan's eyes snapped to his. She said nothing, as though waiting for him to change his mind. Li Yundong held her gaze unwaveringly.
Their staring match lasted for a while until Su Chan finally relented. "Okay..." Then, she rose to her feet and walked away.
"Where are you going?" Li Yundong asked, staring after her.
"We need to open all the windows," she yelled from inside her room. "And the sliding doors too."
Li Yundong burst into action. Minutes later, they returned to the living room, the entire apartment now bright and airy.
"Sit facing the east," Su Chan ordered.
Li Yundong complied and got into a meditative posture. "Okay, shall I begin now?"
"Wait," Su Chan said. "Repeat all the steps."
Li Yundong opened his eyes. "What?"
"Repeat everything we've discussed. I need to be sure that you know exactly what you're doing."
"Okay, then." Li Yundong cleared his throat. "First, the Convergence of Five Qis. After that, I'll enter my Spirit Space and try to perform Guanxiang on the five Qis. That's the first task, Yinling. And then, I have to refine the image until the god's complete form appears. And then finally, I have to gain command over the god's spirit and become one with it."
Su Chan nodded. "Good."
"Um... any tips for the last one?"
Su Chan stared at him intently. "Do not lose track of reality. Do not be blinded by the experience of omnipotence. It isn't real."
Li Yundong nodded. "Okay, got it, princess."
Su Chan sat down a few feet behind him. "Ready when you are, Yundong."
Li Yundong closed his eyes and exhaled. Guess it's show time, then... The last thing he heard before he went into a meditative state were the incantations for Su Chan's protective spell.
Five clouds—each with their own color—hovered inside Li Yundong's Spirit Space. Su Chan wasn't kidding when she told him that the five Qis are much powerful than the Qi generated from his Essence. Each of the five clouds appeared so much bigger than the white clouds he saw the other night. Not only that, but the five clouds also seemed much more dynamic and energized—constantly vibrating and spinning. Time to get started then... Li Yundong spent a while studying the five clouds until he realized what his first challenge was: Should he shape each cloud separately, or merge them together first and then shape them all at once?
After a moment of thought, Li Yundong decided to go with the latter. Su Chan did mention something about each of the five Zangs containing a fragment of the god's spirit, so it made sense to combine the fragments to form a whole first before attempting to shape them. Having made his decision, Li Yundong immediately got to work and willed the clouds to move. It took him several attempts, but eventually, the five clouds combined to form a large clump. Then, Li Yundong waited. When the clouds didn't disintegrate or fly apart after a while, Li Yundong decided to move on to the next task: shaping the combined cloud.
Which, he soon found to be hopelessly difficult. After his thirtieth failed attempt, Li Yundong gave up and studied the huge cloud before him. The five colors were interspersed now, making the cloud look like a huge cotton candy with colorful spots. Still, he couldn't shape the cloud at all. Why? What was different? Well, the obvious difference was that the clouds represent the Qis of his five Zangs.
Hey... Hold on a sec. Something weird was going on here. When he first merged the five clouds together, the colors on the combined cloud weren't interspersed at all. Each color stayed in its own region in the cloud. But now it's like the colors have rearranged themselves... hmm... It was like the colors had their own will. Yes! That's it! Each of the five Zang holds a fragment of the god's spirit. That must be why the colors could move on their own in the huge cloud: they were responding to the will of the god's—fragmented—spirit.
The solution seemed obvious now. Li Yundong didn't even have to do anything. He just had to allow the cloud to shape itself. That was it, wasn't it?
However, after what felt like hours, or maybe days, Li Yundong discovered another problem with his solution. The process was taking too frigging long.
He stared at the large cloud in front of him. Although the colors seemed more homogeneous now, the cloud's was still shaped like a, well, cloud. Definitely not what a god would look like.
No. Something wasn't right. For one, he wasn't even doing anything here. He was literally just waiting for the god's outline to appear. Which, in hindsight, didn't make sense. Su Chan mentioned that this task involved Guanxiang. But as far as he could tell, he hadn't done much Guanxiang at all. Okay, well, he did, but none of his attempts worked. Was there something wrong with the way he performed Guanxiang? Well, the key to Guanxiang was imagination and visualization—
Good God, he'd been such an idiot! He'd been going about it the wrong way and he didn't even realize it. Of course his attempts at "visualizing" the god's shape wouldn't work. Of course. How could he visualize something that he'd never even seen before in his life? That was why all his Guanxiangs didn't work—he'd never seen the god before, so he had nothing to base his visualizations on!
Well, at least now he knew what to do. He had to use his imagination in a different way. Instead of trying to imagine the cloud morphing into some shape, Li Yundong imagined speeding up the cloud's self-shaping process, as though he was fast-forwarding a video playback.
It worked. Eventually, the cloud transformed itself into a human-shaped object. Like Su Chan said, the object had no detailed features, only a vague outline. He knew right then that he'd just completed Yinling.
On to the next task, Juxian.
Li Yundong studied the human-shaped cloud for a moment. The head seemed disproportionately big, and the figure seemed to have more than two arms. Were those even arms? He supposed he wouldn't know until he found a way to make the form clearer. But how? How could he get the figure to reveal its form in full detail?
After a moment of thought, the answer seemed obvious to him. He just had to do the same thing he'd done to get the outline in the first place.
Once again, Li Yundong allowed cloud to shape itself but imagined the process speeding up. This time the process took a very long time, but eventually, the cloud transformed into an iridescent figure with three heads and six arms.
The three heads were honestly the weirdest things Li Yundong had ever seen, yet they were so fascinating that he couldn't help but stare. Each head had its own face: the first one had an angry face and a glowing third eye on its forehead; the second one had an arrogant expression with its eyes slightly narrowed; the last one looked extremely amiable and approachable, as though its very existence revolved around world peace.
Upon closer look, Li Yundong realized that all three faces resembled his own. Is this... Is this the god living inside me? He supposed it was. It honestly felt creepy as hell, looking at three version of his own face on the same body. He turned his attention to the six arms. Three pairs of arms. One pair for each head, I guess? He studied the arms for a moment and found that those arms were indeed paired, with each pair positioned slightly below the three heads. The whole sight was the very definition of grotesque.
Li Yundong studied the two arms under the first head, the one with the angry face. One of the arms was holding a black, metallic war fan—a Tessen. A red, glowing, halo-like structure circled the middle of the fan. Just outside the red halo was yet another ring-like structure. The outer ring was composed of strange symbols, like those found in Buddhist scriptures. The second arm wielded a sword that was three-foot long. The sword was broader near the hilt but tapered to a sharp point near its tip, almost like a narrow and elongated triangle.
The second head, the one with the arrogant face, carried huge tripod cauldron on one hand and a Bagua mirror on the other. The cauldron was black in color and its body was covered in what appeared to be carvings of ancient hieroglyphs and drawings. A red, mist-like substance rose from the center of the cauldron. In the Bagua mirror, he saw the life and reincarnation of a man replayed over and over again. Even though it wasn't clear who the man in the mirror was, it was still creepy as hell.
The head with the peaceful face was carrying a thick—as thick as a human thumb—calligraphy brush in one hand and some kind of glass bowl in another. The color of the glass bowl seemed a bit unnatural. It was mostly green, but with a little bit of grey mixed into it, sort of like a piece of jade that had just been removed from a pile of ash.
Before Li Yundong could peer into the glass bowl to see what it contained, the figure pounced on him. No. Not on him, more like into him. In an instant, he felt an insurmountable surge of power from within, as though he could alter the universe with just a snap of his fingers. At that moment, there was only one word he could use to describe that feeling.
3.20PM (Ten minutes into training session)
The protective spell was done. Su Chan crawled forward until she was sitting right in front of Yundong. Yundong had a peaceful look on his face, a sign that he was already in a meditative state.
Yundong's head was glowing like an iridescent soap bubble. The Convergence of Five Qis had occurred. Right now, Yundong was probably inside his Spirit Space, attempting Guanxiang on the five Qis. Su Chan hadn't told him the trick to shaping the five Qis. It wouldn't be fair if she had. An insightful Cultivator is a strong Cultivator, so Yundong had to learn to figure things out on his own and solve his own problems.
Yundong's face continued to glow and change colors. Su Chan found herself incapable of looking away from his face. The changing colors were strangely soothing.
Nothing had changed. Yundong's head was still glowing like an iridescent soap bubble. Clearly, he hadn't figured out the trick to complete Juxian yet. According to Master, it had taken Su Chan days to figure it out the trick. How long would Yundong take?
Su Chan's forehead thunked against the floor. Ugh… Still nothing. Hours ago, the changing colors on Yundong's face had a soothing effect. But now it was like a burr up her ass. Her very, very sore ass, which had been pressing against the hard floor for hours. What did you expect, Chan'er? That it'll only take Yundong minutes to figure it out? Please. You yourself had taken days to complete the task. Su Chan sighed. She rose to her feet to give her poor derriere a much needed break. Then she started pacing around, checking the integrity of her protective spell as she did. The spell's effect were slowly fading, so she would have to recast it soon. She stopped pacing and stared down at Yundong's face. C'mon, Yundong… You can do it. Just think outside the box… I'm rooting for you…
With a huff, Su Chan plopped down on the floor to watch another cycle of "red, black, green, yellow, repeat."
Paper Yundong had a new hairstyle. And this time, it didn't look like an onion. Woohoo! Su Chan studied the two paper dolls on the floor. Paper Su Chan looked decidedly worse for wear; the scissors were too far away, and she had to stay within range to keep the protective spell alive. At least Paper Yundong looked fairly decent, but that was probably because she had spent at least fifteen agonizing minutes tearing him out from the notepad's page.
Su Chan picked up Paper Yundong and studied it up close. She had stopped watching Yundong's face a long time ago, opting instead to check on Yundong once every few minutes to see how he was doing. Not because she was lazy or anything, but because the morphing colors would lull her to sleep if she kept staring at them. She supposed it gave the term "soothing" a whole new meaning now.
Su Chan shook Paper Yundong a little. "Think you can figure it out, beloved?" Paper Yundong didn't answer. Nor did Real Yundong.
Su Chan's stomach answered with a loud growl.
Why? Why didn't she eat something before they began the session? Stupid, stupid, Chan'er. Hungry, hungry Chan'er.
Su Chan's stomach growled again as if to mock her and her own silliness. Paper Yundong stared up at her from the floor. Maybe she should add a worried look on Paper Yundong's face with the pen. She would probably feel better knowing that at least somebody was concerned about her well-being, even if said somebody led a two-dimensional existence.
The living room was dark except for the colorful glow at its center—red, black, green, yellow…
When would it end?
Good morning, world! And finally some progress! The color changes had finally stopped, and the bubble around Yundong's head had turned murky.
Yundong had just completed Juxian, and Su Chan was still hungry.
The murkiness had cleared slightly. Soon, Yundong would come face to face with the god living inside him. She wondered what form Yundong's god would take. Hers was a nine-tailed fox.
She was no longer hungry. In fact, her stomach was now in knots. She tried not to think about the consequences following Yundong's possible failure in achieving Ishvara. She would lose everything: Yundong's soul; the love of her life; her happiness; her partner in Cultivation; the Renyuan Jindan; and possibly her own will to live.
Too much was at stake. Too much.
The murkiness had cleared completely. Now, Yundong's face was radiating white light; Yundong's god had revealed itself to him. The final task had begun.
Su Chan rose to her feet to recast the protective spell. The area had to be completely secure to prevent any possible interruptions or disturbances. She didn't want to take any chances. Yundong's Spirit had to be fully focused and ready to conquer the spirit of the god.
Su Chan completed the incantation and took a seat in front of Yundong. The radiance of his face seemed to have grown in magnitude. She pleaded and prayed, to whom she knew not. Please let him get through this… Please… Please… I don't want to lose him… I can't lose him… I can't… White light burst from Yundong's face, dazzling her.
And so it began.
Horror filled Su Chan's heart. The sight in front of her made her blood run cold. Yundong's expression had lost its meditative tranquility. Yundong was smiling, grinning blissfully as if he was experiencing some kind of euphoria.
Tears spilled from Su Chan's eyes. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed. What had she done? What had she led him into?
Please, Yundong… Not like this... Not like this…