“I am sorry if the question is presumptuous, but how do I go about earning knowledge of the successor to the Argent Soul cultivation art?” Ling Qi asked with her head bowed. She had considered how to word this question all day, nervous that it would be viewed rude. Although it was easier for her to approach Elder Su - the woman was not nearly as intimidating as Elder Zhou - she still worried.
The medicinal energy surging in her veins, nerves, and channels didn’t help. She had gone all out with medicines, even going to far as to use one of her precious Sable Light Pills. Her fingers and toes tingled almost painfully, and her skin sang with sensation at the brush of even the slightest breeze. It was incredibly hard to stand still like this without fidgeting when she felt as if her bones were trying to vibrate their way free of her flesh. Even her thoughts were filled with a low, irritating buzz as her dantian stormed and churned, making her feel uncomfortably stretched.
Elder Su regarded her with a slight smile. She didn’t seem perturbed by the question. If anything, there was a hint of amusement in the older woman’s eyes. Ling Qi flinched when she felt the Elder’s soft, cool hand on her forehead.
“I am surprised you managed to concentrate as well as you did in my lecture. You are burning up, young lady.”
Ling Qi couldn’t help but fidget uncomfortably as Elder Su removed her hand from her forehead and then pressed two of her fingers to Ling Qi’s throat. It was useless to be nervous. If Elder Su wanted to do something to her, she would, and there was nothing Ling Qi could do to stop her.
“I think it is important that I learn all I can about formations while I have the opportunity to do so,” Ling Qi replied, swallowing anxiously as Elder Su hummed softly and cupped her chin. Elder Su raised Ling Qi’s head so that she could look directly into her eyes.
“... Is something wrong?” Ling Qi asked, unable to hold back the question. None of the pills she had purchased from the market had any warnings to them…
“I am always glad to have a student with a passion for what I am teaching,” Elder Su replied, withdrawing her hand. “I had not taken you for the type to focus on that sort of thing to be honest.” Ling Qi squirmed under Elder Su’s gaze, glancing to the side. She just wanted to make sure she was ready for the end of the truce period.
“Do not worry,” Elder Su continued, ceasing her examination. “I was merely confirming a suspicion. You truly did have good fortune during Elder Zhou’s exam to have acquired such a pill. It is no wonder you can barely hold still.”
Ling Qi stiffened, hoping there was no one in earshot. Which of course there were; others had questions for the Elder too.
“I… won’t deny that,” she admitted carefully.
“No one will overhear you, child,” Elder Su replied kindly. “To expand your qi as much as you have since arriving while rising so quickly in other areas as well? It is rather obvious to one with knowledge of such things. That friend of yours, the Bai girl, would likely consider herself lucky to have such a pill. Do be careful should you have any left.”
Ling Qi swallowed, her mouth feeling dry. The Sable Light Pill was that valuable? She knew it had helped her greatly, but…
“Thank you, Elder Su,” Ling Qi said. She still hadn’t gotten her answer though. “About the successor art…”
“More advanced arts are typically on the second floor of the archive. Like the first, it can be accessed with sufficient Sect Points or an Elder’s pass.”
“Sect Points?” Ling Qi asked. She thought she had seen something like that on the paper slips stuck to the notice board in the building’s main hall.
“The pay for performing duties for the Sect,” Elder Su explained. “The system will be explained at the end of the week, but to put it simply, disciples may perform tasks for the Sect. In turn, they will be rewarded with points, which may be traded for various privileges or simply for spirit stones. I will leave the more detailed explanation to Elder Jiao.”
Ling Qi nodded in understanding. She wouldn’t bother Elder Su about that if it was going to be explained soon anyway.
“So I just have to do some work then,” Ling Qi murmured under her breath. That was simpler than she expected.
“The Argent Genesis cultivation art, the successor art to Argent Soul, is only provided to those who are chosen to become disciples of the inner peaks,” Elder Su continued. “That selection will not occur until the end of the year, so do not worry about it over much for the moment.
“Now, run along, young lady. You look to be dearly in need of a bit of cultivation.”
Ling Qi hastily nodded and stepped aside, ducking her head again and murmuring a thanks. Elder Su was right; she really needed to burn off some of this energy.
By the afternoon of the next day, she felt significantly better even if she found herself jittering and fidgeting whenever she was still. She could feel the pool of her qi expanding again, the foundation formed by her practice of the Argent Soul stretching and warping to contain the deep, calm lake that her qi was beginning to form. She had chosen to focus on her arts this week, diligently practicing with her knives in Elder Zhou’s training while playing the soothing notes of the Forgotten Vale Melody at the vent with her friends.
Actual solid improvement of either yet eluded her. The next measure of the Melody was more complex than anything she had ever attempted to play, and she could not quite understand the full meaning and feeling in the words that went along with it.
Ling Qi faced a more physical challenge with Zephyr’s Breath. She simply couldn’t manage the flow of the wind well enough to master the spiralling motion necessary for its final technique, Gale Shield - at least not well enough to do more than to kick up dust and send everyone’s clothes fluttering.
Everyone was preparing for the end of truce in their own way... Gu Xiulan intended to break through to Yellow. Su Ling had taken her poor reception at the joint training session in stride, focusing hard on practicing with her new weapon, the sword. She also cultivated physically, occasionally prodding Ling Qi for advice or pestering her to spar.
Bai Meizhen was inscrutable, simply sitting in absolute stillness by the vent. She intended to complete the Argent Soul technique this week. Li Suyin, though, for all that she had broken through to Late Red Soul and Mid Gold Physique, seemed to have withdrawn again. As they strolled to the lecture hall from the vent, Ling Qi breached the subject.
“I’m sorry I pushed you into that training session last week,” Ling Qi began awkwardly. “I didn’t think Gu Xiulan would be like that.”
Gu Xiulan had always been pushy and domineering, but the disdain for Li Suyin had been unexpected.
“Please don’t apologize. Even if it was a little hard, I benefited from it,” Li Suyin replied before murmuring, “After all, she wasn’t wrong.”
Ling Qi looked worriedly at her friend. “She was. It’s not like you’re taking advantage of me. We’re helping each other.”
“It doesn’t feel like that,” Li Suyin said glumly. “I’m… I am not a strong person. I don’t want to be a burden on my friends.”
“You’re not,” Ling Qi said stubbornly. “You’ve helped me just as much as I helped you. You’re keeping up just fine.”
Li Suyin looked like she wanted to protest more, but in the end, she smiled weakly. “Of course. Thank you, Ling Qi,” she said softly.
“It’s no problem,” Ling Qi huffed. Worry about the truce’s end clouded her thoughts. She had only a few days left to prepare herself, but she could not help but wonder, how well would Li Suyin weather the mess that was coming?