Han Lingyun turned around to come face to face with Wang Yimo. Her chestnut hair was gently swaying under the light breeze. She gave Han Lingyun a radically different impression after having cut her long hair to shoulder length for combat. Han Lingyun took a short barely noticeable moment to digest his surprise.
"Um sure miss Yimo. But don't you feel more confident in joining the group of sword maidens though? I mean, they are all girls."
As Han Lingyun felt Wang Yimo's strength from up close, he noted she was definitely at the 3rd step of body strengthening!
Wang Yimo shook her head. "They form a very cohesive bunch and know each other since a long time ago, and… I don't think I would fit. You guys seem easier to talk to."
Shen Lin didn't leave time for Han Lingyun to raise another objection. "Come here miss Yimo, we are blessed with your presence and wouldn't dare to refuse it."
Wang Yimo reddened a little and sat down with the three. "Hum don't mind me; I will just cultivate. I-I just felt a bit weird being the only one alone when everyone had a group to talk to."
Han Lingyun laughed. "Haha it seems the unapproachable miss Yimo has another side as well. By the way miss Yimo, every time I saw you today, you appeared very familiar with the wilderness, have you already camped like this before?"
Wang Yimo began to toy with her hair. "Yes, my clan was very harsh and imposed young children to survive alone for some time in a forest. But life wasn't too bad most of the time, and they wouldn't display naked hanging by the feet the disappointing children, it wasn't really in our traditions."
The three boys reddened and laughed awkwardly at the remark. "Haha, let's hope the Wang clan doesn't catch wind of these disturbing ideas then."
The group continued to chat for a while before finally beginning to cultivate under the stars and the faint moonlight that shone between the branches.
Han Lingyun waited for a little longer as he wanted to observe how Wang Yimo's cultivation resonated with the moon or something. He wasn't quite sure what the exact phenomenon was that helped her to cultivate.
At first, nothing seemed to be special about Wang Yimo. However, Han Lingyun began to realize that a faint moonlight was illuminating Wang Yimo a bit more than the others. As the light fluctuated from time to time, Wang Yimo herself seemed to be twinkling in his eyes. When Han Lingyun tried to sense the qi around Wang Yimo, he noticed that it felt colder and more brilliant than usual.
All this was very faint and someone not closely observing the scene wouldn't notice anything. Well, Wang Yimo herself was quite captivating under the dim moonlights. This was the closest Han Lingyun had ever been to seeing a fairy.
As his curiosity and admiration diminished as the phenomenon didn't show any changes, Han Lingyun closed his eyes and entered into deep meditation too.
When Han Lingyun opened his eyes again, the first thing he saw was Wang Yimo looking at him. His two friends had laid on their backs and were sleeping. It was still deep into the night.
She whispered. "Were you examining how I cultivate?"
Han Lingyun stress level immediately shot up. He mentally reprimanded himself at his own reaction.
'Come on, why am I reacting like this when facing a child?'
He shook himself up and responded truthfully. "Yes, I was quite curious about the qi surrounding you."
Wang Yimo nodded. "I am very close with the Yin concept. It helps me absorb qi with greater efficiency when I picture myself in a Yin environment and shift qi from neutral to Yin.
Han Lingyun tried to understand Wang Yimo's explanation. "It seems you are cultivating as if you are practicing a martial art. Coloring qi with a concept."
She smiled. "It's indeed quite similar, but I don't need precise instructions and I can only do this with Yin. I'm not sure if it's because of my body or my grade 5 talent or what."
Han Lingyun was very curious about that subject. "Did you find this trick on your own?"
Wang Yimo shook her head. "The Elder assigned to me taught me."
She had just confirmed another piece of information to Han Lingyun. The big three most likely all had an elder helping them every day.
'So, did the sect want to grow their best disciples or not? They have elders to help them grow but not the best resources available? It all sounds rather confusing.' Han Lingyun's thoughts started to drift away.
"What are you thinking about again?" Wang Yimo eyed him curiously.
Han Lingyun eyes refocused. "Have you noticed how the sect could provide you with much better resources? They don't want for you to grow too fast but still help you. Do you know why?" Han Lingyun used his opportunity to perhaps glean more information.
"My teacher explained to me but you shouldn't reveal it to everyone okay?"
Han Lingyun nodded like a wood pecker.
"Hihi, you're funny. At 16, there is a continent-wide competition for disciples. The best will be recruited by a very powerful sect, the true overlords of this world."
Han Lingyun nearly jumped. Was there such a thing?
Wang Yimo continued to instruct him. "Having disciples in that sect is a great pride but that sect remains quite distant from the affairs of the continent. The White Tiger Sect still has a limited number of resources so they mostly keep those for their inner disciples and elders. Still, I have a friendly agreement with my master. She would help me make some progress and if I ever become a disciple of that sect, I would one day return the favor to her. She cannot just shower me with insane resources though, as everything she provides me would only come from her pocket and not from the sect. That's how it works in the sect. You could say that I have a bond first with my master, and then with the sect."
Han Lingyun suddenly understood a lot. "I might have entered such a relationship with an elder without realizing it."
Wang Yimo smiled. "I am not very surprised, sometimes an elder will groom a disciple he finds promising and trustworthy. When that disciple becomes someone important, that elder's position will naturally rise as well. However, don't boast about that relationship to others. There are also some internal conflicts between elders and you don't want to be mixed in those."
Han Lingyun looked into Wang Yimo's eyes. "Thank you miss Yimo, for what you revealed me tonight. I owe you a favor."
She reddened very slightly and lay down. The trees had been removed so the sky was clearly visible but Europa was back tonight so the stars appeared less numerous.
"Hihi, then I'll use my favor now. Tell me what you were looking at last time."
Han Lingyun was momentarily dazed. This was a very unexpected request, but not an unwelcomed one. Han Lingyun loved to share his passions and promptly laid down next to Wang Yimo.
"Have you tried observing the stars? I find myself thinking about the universe quite often."
Wang Yimo left a pause. "Not really, there doesn't seem to be anything interesting. Isn't it always more or less the same view?"
"I see. Then, I'll do my best to introduce it to you. Try to follow me in this little voyage of imagination. I'll ask you to pay close attention. First you implied that it doesn't change much? If you look closely for a couple of minutes, you should be able to notice that the sky has shifted slightly. That's because our planet is turning on itself. In addition, our planet is circling around the sun that provides us heat and energy.
Now imagine that every star, every little dot out there is just like our sun, but very, very far away. Then every star could also be surrounded by planets and some planets should be habitable like this one, with all sorts of cultivators on them."
Wang Yimo's mouth was agape. She was taken aback by what Han Lingyun was spouting but at the same time it didn't sound like total nonsense. "W-what, how can this be possible? Could they really be thousands of other cultivations planets?"
"It's incredible and terrifying right? What binds all this is a law called gravity: all the objects attract each other. Two objects exercise the same attraction on each other. But when one object is way heavier than the other, the lighter one will rotate around the heavier one. That's why Europa and Calypso are rotating around us, and we are circling the sun.
But it doesn't end here, because all the stars also attract each other to some degree. Stars are grouped together into galaxies. I don't know if you can notice because of the brightness of Europa, but see how this part of the sky forms a band with a lot more stars."
"A yes, I see it, what is that?"
"This should be a branch of our galaxy. Look."
Han Lingyun sketched on the ground a drawing of a galaxy with its branches.
"Our sun should be one of the stars somewhere in one of those branches. A galaxy could be composed of hundreds of billions of stars. Don't even try to imagine this number. But then, what about other galaxies, because there shouldn't be only one galaxy in the universe. Just how vast is our universe. And then what's even beyond that?"
Wang Yimo didn't answer. There was no answer. "I-I didn't know, there was such… I didn't know you could imagine all this." She trembled a bit.
"There's no need to trouble yourself with my ideas too deeply, all these are so far away after all." Han Lingyun pointed at some stars. "We could also play some fun little games withs stars. Here what form do you see?"
Wang Yimo thought for a bit. "Hum, it looks like a sword."
"A sword, wait where are you looking at?"
"Here those stars."
"A that's true, it hadn't registered to me like that. And see those, I like to call them the scorpion. That's the tail, the head, and the legs."
She covered her mouth. "Pff it doesn't resemble a scorpion at all. Look over there that's a pavilion."
"I wouldn't want to live in this wobbly building." Han Lingyun struck back.
Before the pair realized, the night sky shifted from black to dark blue and they could see less and less stars as the darkness receded.
As the sun raised his head over the horizon, the group of hundreds of disciples packed up and readied for another day of trekking.
Wang Yimo discreetly thanked Han Lingyun for presenting the night sky to her. It was a true eye opener and she had gained much food for thought.
After the group had long departed. An old man silently arrived to the place where the disciples had rested. If Elder Wen was present, he would surely have recognized that old man that had the air of an ordinary mortal.
The old man looked at the ground and gently wiped the galaxy's sketch with his feet.
'What extraordinary vision and thoughts. Even more surprisingly, I checked his background thoroughly and he is of ordinary birth.'
The old man raised his head to the blue sky, now dominated by the glaring sun: 'Will this little fellow be my ticket out of here?'