Halfway to the summit, something caught Li Yundong's attention. A group of pilgrims and tourists were gathered into a crowd about fifty meters ahead.
Li Yundong stopped climbing and glanced towards the crowd, which consisted of approximately twenty people.
Li Yundong took another step, then hesitated.
Should he wait until the crowd dispersed before he keep climbing? Or should he just say screw it and get on with his journey. He took out his map from his pocket and studied it for a moment. There was only one trail leading to the summit. He folded the map and sighed.
I should hang back for now.
It was best to avoid drawing too much attention to himself.
Maybe the crowd would move on if he waited for a—
A loud, high-pitched wail drew his gaze towards the crowd.
Li Yundong frowned. What the heck is going on over there? Is there trouble? Was this the universe's way of saying: Hey! Get your lazy ass over to Mount Everest now!
Li Yundong channeled his Qi to his Shenting, then activated his telescopic vision. He saw the monks first. The monks looked like they were standing around something... or someone? A few monks were spinning some kind of strange cylindrical objects on spindles. Wait a minute. He recognized those things! Those were prayer wheels.
Is this some kind of ritual?
The monks were surrounded by a bunch of tourists. The tourists appeared to be far less stoic than the monks. They were gesturing at something that Li Yundong couldn't see because it was hidden from his view by the monks' bodies.
Noises filled his ears the moment he activated Eryue.
The monks were chanting some kind of mantra. Amidst the chanting, Li Yundong heard the sobbing of a girl. The girl stopped sobbing once ever few seconds to utter something in a foreign language, which, if he were to venture a guess, was probably Lhasa Tibetan.
The girl's voice sounded like a plea.
What the hell?
Li Yundong scanned the crowd with his eyes. He didn't see any crying girl.
It hit him then that the girl must be hidden from view by the monks.
"Make way! Make way!" a dark-haired Chinese woman with a large backpack yelled. The tourists moved about, and the Chinese woman squeezed her way through the crowd. When she reached the monks, the Chinese woman gently tapped the shoulder of one of the monks, then whispered something in Tibetan. Seconds later, all the monks stepped aside to allow the Chinese woman to go through.
Li Yundong saw the source of the commotion right then.
A teenage girl dressed in traditional Tibetan costume was sitting on the ground, sniveling weakly. Cradled in her arms was an unconscious old man dressed in a red and yellow robe.
Li Yundong zoomed in closer on the old man's face, which was deeply wrinkled. The man's forehead was covered in dark callouses. Strange.
When he scanned the rest of the old man's body, Li Yundong noticed that he, like the pilgrims he'd seen earlier, was wearing gloves. Scratches and dry scabs covered the man's knees and chest.
This old man, it seemed, was a pilgrim. Even though he appeared to be in his eighties. For a moment there, Li Yundong was stunned by the old man's devotion.
But still. What on earth happened? Did the old man pass out during his pilgrimage? And why wasn't anyone trying to help the man?
A horrifying thought hit him. Was the old man dead?
The dark-haired Chinese woman crouched down and touched the sobbing teenager's shoulder. The woman muttered something in Tibetan to the girl.
To Li Yundong's surprised, the girl answered the woman in perfect Mandarin. "Changbagela collapsed during his pilgrimage! Oh, he's leaving me isn't he! He's leaving me to go to Buddha!"
The teenager buried her face into the old man's robe and continued sobbing.
The Chinese woman seemed taken aback by the girl's outburst. But she quickly recovered and touched the girl's shoulder again. "What is your name, young girl?"
"Okay, Meiduo," said the woman gently. "Is he Changbagela?" She pointed at the old man in the girl's arms.
The girl nodded.
The woman shook the girl's shoulder. "Alright listen, Meiduo. You see those two men over there?" The woman pointed towards two Caucasian men in sunglasses standing among the group of tourists.
Meiduo nodded feebly. "W- Who are they?"
The woman gave Meiduo a compassionate smile. "They are experienced mountain climbers and hikers. And I'm their tour guide and translator."
Meiduo glanced over at the two men warily. The two men removed their sunglasses and waved back at the girl. Meiduo turned and gave Miss Tour Guide a hopeful look. "Can they help Changbagela?"
Miss Tour Guide smiled. "Like I said, they are experienced mountain climbers. So they know a great deal about first aid. Do you want them to take a look at Changbagela?"
Meiduo nodded fervently.
Miss Tour Guide turned and waved at the two Caucasians, who hurried towards the woman seconds later. The tour guide said a few things to the foreigners who nodded grimly. One of the men walked over towards Meiduo, then bent down to say something to her in English.
"He said not to worry. He'll try his best to help your friend."
The Caucasian man, a buff-looking dude with dark brown hair, rose to his feet and crouched down beside the unconscious old man, then began to take the old man's pulse. A grim look formed on the foreigner's face, but he didn't seem like he was giving up yet. Li Yundong spent the next few minutes watching the man perform CPR on the old man. Eventually, foreigner stood up and shook his head at the tour guide.
The tour guide crouched down and patted the Meiduo's shoulder.
"I'm very sorry, Meiduo. Your friend has passed. There is nothing we can do."
Meiduo's high-pitched wails grew so loud that Li Yundong had to deactivate his super hearing to avoid going deaf.
Li Yundong's eyes never left the crowd. The monks closed in again after the tour guide and her two foreign companions moved away from Meiduo.
Something gnawed at Li Yundong's insides. Should he go over there and help the man? It wasn't the first time he'd revived a person with his Qi. He did it for John and President Cao. Shouldn't he at least try to help the old man?
Zi Yuan's warning echoed inside his head: keep to yourself... minimize human contact...
Li Yundong looked towards the crowd again. Some of the tourists had already left the crowd. Meiduo was still down on the ground, crying her hearts out. Meiduo reminded so much of Su Chan right now. The way she was crying over the loss of someone dear to her…
Li Yundong lowered his backpack and pulled out a dark towel. Stealth be damned. He would not stand by and watch someone die without doing something to help. If he walked away right now, he'd be no different than all those hypocritical Cultivators whom he loathed.
Li Yundong lifted the towel and wrapped it around his neck like a bandana mask. Once he was sure that his face was covered below his eyes, he stood up and sprinted towards the crowd.
Smelling like shit definitely had its perks. One of it was that people would make way for him without him having to say anything. The crowd parted to two sides the moment he got close. The remaining tourists covered their noses and gave him wary looks. It was like he had the bubonic plague or something. Li Yundong ignored the looks and whispers and walked on.
The monks paused their chanting and turned around to regard him. Kudos to these monks because they didn't even flinch when they saw him.
Li Yundong stopped in front of the monks and gestured with his hand: make way please, I'm trying to save a guy's life here.
The monks stepped aside without question, much to his relief. Li Yundong stepped past the monks and walked towards Meiduo and the fallen old man slowly.
Shouts erupted around Li Yundong as he approached Meiduo. The people were shouting in Lhasa Tibetan, so he couldn't understand a single word they were saying. But judging from their tone, these people were probably cursing at him. Meiduo turned around abruptly before he even got close. Maybe it was his smell.
Wariness shone through Meiduo's eyes as she regarded him. Ignoring the shouts and looks of disdain cast his way, Li Yundong moved past Meiduo and crouched down beside the old man.
"Hey!! What are you doing?!" Meiduo shouted in Mandarin. "Don't touch Changbagela! His spirit has gone to see the Buddha. You're not allowed to touch his body!"
Li Yundong looked up Meiduo, who had already stopped crying and was now scowling at him. He smiled even though he knew the girl couldn't possibly see his smile behind the towel covering his face.
"B- Back away from Changbagela!" Meiduo yelled, glaring at him.
The Tibetans began to shout again.
Li Yundong gave the girl a reassuring look. At least he hoped it looked reassuring. He reached out with his hand and touched the top of the old man's head—the Baihui.
The shouts and yells grew louder, but Li Yundong ignored them. Instead, he focused on channeling his Qi into the old man's body. Once a portion of his Qi was inside the old man's body, Li Yundong closed his eyes and performed a skill he'd learned when he passed the 7th dan of the Lianqi phase—Neiguan.
Blobs of colors appeared in his mind's eye. The blobs were dim and faint, but still present. The old man still had Qi in his five Zangs. There was still hope for this old man yet. Li Yundong smirked and opened his eyes. It seemed like the Buddha wasn't planning on claiming this man's soul just yet.
Meiduo looked like she wanted to skin him alive. The Tibetan folks and tourists were still shouting and chewing his ass. Only the monks remained calm and stoic. A few of them were studying him curiously; others were sharing knowing looks with each other.
Li Yundong looked at the old man on the ground. He was confident that he could save this man, but he didn't want to risk the crowd seeing anything weird and start spreading rumors. God knows he started glowing later, and the next thing he knew, every Cultivator in the area was on his ass.
Li Yundong looked towards the monks, then jerked his chin towards the crowd. The monks stared at him, clearly not understanding what he meant. He pointed towards the crowd, then did a "go away" gesture. A moment later, Li Yundong pointed at the crowd again, then covered his eyes a few times. One of the monks, an older fellow, slapped his hands together. Then, the monk whispered something to his companions. Seconds later, the monks nodded at Li Yundong, then began making their way towards the crowd. The older monk walked towards Meiduo and pulled her away. When Meiduo protested, the monk whispered something to her. Meiduo calmed down instantly.
Li Yundong waited until the monks had ushered Meiduo and the crowd away before he got to work. He closed his eyes and gathered his Qi at his right palm. When he was about to touch the old man's Baihui again, Li Yundong hesitated. The patient was probably in his eighties. His body was weak and frail. Li Yundong closed his eyes again and increased the concentration of the Qi gathered at his palm. Moments later, he covered the old man's Baihui with his right palm and channeled his Qi into the old man's body.
Meiduo freed herself from the old monk's grasp and charged towards Changbagela, who was still lying on the ground. How dare that slovenly young man touch his body! How dare he! Where was he anyway? Meiduo kneeled down beside Changbagela and scanned the area with her eyes. She followed the mountain trail ahead until she located the young man, who was continuing his climb as though nothing happened. Anger surged in Meiduo. What a disrespectful and vile—
There was the loud gasp. Meiduo tore her gaze away from the young man was nearly overwhelmed with joy when she saw Changbagela's chest moving.
"Changbagela!! Wake up! Please... Wake up!"
The crowd was around them in an instant, yelling and screaming for Changbagela to wake up.
Seconds later, Changbagela released a long sigh and opened his eyes.
A scream of joy tore out of Meiduo lips. "Changbagela!" She threw herself into Changbagela's arms. "I thought you were gone! You scared me!"
Changbagela pushed himself into a sitting position. "W- Why am I here? I thought..." Changbagela shook his head like he was confused. "I thought just now I..."
"What?" Meiduo asked.
"I..." Changbagela stared into Meiduo's eyes. "I saw a living Buddha. The Buddha was about to enlighten me and take me to Sukhavati, the Western Paradise. But all of a sudden... I'm back here."
A ruckus erupted among the crowd.
"Changbagela! You saw Buddha?"
"What did he look like?"
"How was the Buddha planning to enlighten you?"
Changbagela nodded. "Yes. I saw a living Buddha!"