With Meiduo's help, it didn't take long before Li Yundong memorized every hand sign in the third scroll as well as the mantra associated with each sign. Once he was done, Meiduo put the book away, and they spent some time chatting with each other while the rest of the pilgrims roused. Meiduo kept asking him questions about what Tiannan City was like and what campus life back at Tiannan University was like. Despite Li Yundong's many attempts to dissuade Meiduo from wasting her talents at Tiannan University, the girl didn't seem deterred.
It was like she had already made up her mind to enroll herself at Tiannan University, which confirmed his suspicion that Meiduo had developed feelings for him that were beyond platonic. He knew he had to talk to her at some point before he parted ways with the pilgrims before he hurt the girl even more.
At one point, Meiduo steered their conversation towards dangerous territory. She began asking him questions about his personal life: his parents; his hobbies; his likes and dislikes; etc.
Li Yundong deflected her attempts by steering the conversation back into safer territory: Buddhism; her relationship with Changbagela; etc.
Then, just when the women were about to start prepping breakfast, there was a commotion. A group of men were rushing towards Changbagela as though they had some urgent business to report to him.
Meiduo craned her neck. "What's going on over there?"
Li Yundong activated Eryue and listened to the whispered words between Changbagela and the men.
"…The same foreigners who tried to save your life, Changbagela…"
"It doesn't matter. As Buddhists, we should mustn't be selective in the kindness we give others. Enlightenment will elude you otherwise."
Changbagela turned and motioned to a few other men behind him.
Li Yundong deactivated Eryue. "There's trouble. I think we should go check…"
Meiduo was already leaping down from the wagon and running towards Changbagela.
Li Yundong sighed and climbed down from the wagon. Then, he walked over towards Changbagela and Meiduo. Along the way, he passed by curious and bewildered pilgrims, who kept sneaking glances at him.
Changbagela noticed his approach and gave him a smile.
"Good morning, kind sir!"
"Good morning." Li Yundong nodded before stopping in front of Changbagela. Then, he jerked his chin towards a group of men who appeared to be hurrying in the direction downhill.
"Oh. Some tourists' car got stuck in a mud hole." Changbagela smiled. "I've sent some of my men down to help."
Ten minutes later, one of the men returned.
Mud covered the man's legs up to his shins. The man didn't seem all that happy, judging from the scowl on his face.
"Where are the other boys? We should get moving soon," Changbagela asked in Mandarin, much to Li Yundong's surprised. Perhaps Changbagela did that for Li Yundong's benefit.
The man stopped beside Li Yundong and gave Li Yundong a nod before turning to Changbagela. "They're still with the tourists, Changbagela. We… um…" The man gave Changbagela a sheepish look. "The jeep is still stuck."
Changbagela raised his brows. "What have you guys tried so far?"
The man looked down at his dirtied feet. "Some of us climbed into the mud and pushed, while others pulled from the front." The man shook his head. "Didn't work."
"Did you try removing stuff from the vehicle to lighten the load?" Li Yundong remarked.
The man gave Li Yundong a glance. "The tourists didn't carry much."
Changbagela frowned, then turned around. "Maybe we should ask the rest of the boys to help out too…"
"Um… Brother Li? Maybe you can lend a hand—" Meiduo yelped when Changbagela elbowed her. Meiduo muttered a quick apology, then rubbed her ribs.
"I think that's a good suggestion," Li Yundong said. "You should call back your men, Changbagela. They need to reserve their energy for the rest of the trip. I'll handle this."
Changbagela opened his mouth to protest, but Li Yundong silenced him with a hand.
"It's not a problem, Changbagela. I'll just go down there and take a quick look," Li Yundong said. "Who knows? It might save us some time." Then, he turned to the man. "Lead the way."
The man nodded. "Follow me, then."
Li Yundong followed the man under the curious stares by the other pilgrims. Meiduo and Changbagela followed closely behind him.
Upon their arrival on the scene, Li Yundong saw three of the pilgrims in the mud, pushing the jeep from behind. The two foreign man were on each side of the jeep, pushing at the jeep's center pillars. The Chinese lady, whom Li Yundong recognized as the foreigners' tour guide, was in the driver's seat.
Li Yundong crouched down beside the jeep to examine the mud hole, which appeared to have formed when a large area of the trail's surface caved inwards. Cracks spread out from the edge of the hole, which he estimated to be at least several feet deep. Both of the jeep's rear wheels had sunk into the muddy hole.
Wait a minute…
Li Yundong rapped his knuckles at jeep and turned towards Miss Liu Xia, the tour guide.
"Step on the gas," he said.
The rear wheels spun a second later. Li Yundong tilted his head away just in time to avoid a piece of mud flying towards his face.
More grunts were heard as the men tried to push the jeep out of the hole. Li Yundong rose to his feet and chuckled. Now he knew what the problem was. The jeep was a two-wheel drive, so stepping on the gas wouldn't help at all since the rear wheels had no surface to generate any traction.
The rear wheels kept spinning, sending more mud into the air.
Li Yundong tapped the roof of the jeep. "Kill the engines."
"How are we supposed to free the car then?"
Li Yundong gave the lady a look. "Right now, you're just wasting fuel." He pointed at the rear wheels. "The engines aren't doing any work because your wheels are free spinning."
Miss Liu Xia killed the engines immediately.
Li Yundong positioned himself beside the jeep once again and crouched down. Then, he activated his telescopic vision and zoomed in at the layer of mud that the rear wheels were resting on. The mud lacked firmness, so turning the wheels with the engine would just send more mud into the air. The solution was pretty clear. He had to lift the rear end of the jeep high enough to clear the depth of the hole.
One of the two foreigners said something to Miss Liu Xia in English.
Miss Liu Xia turned towards Li Yundong. "He asked if you have a solution."
Li Yundong suppressed a smirk. If you call raw strength a solution, then sure.
Li Yundong turned towards Meiduo, then waved at the men who were knee-deep in the mud. "Ask the guys to step aside."
Meiduo relayed his words to the men in Tibetan. At first, the man just looked at each other. But then they complied with his request moments later. Once the men were out of the mud, Li Yundong stood beside the jeep and tried to come up with a plan.
How should he do this? Well. He was afraid that there was really no way to do this without staining his feet with mud…
Or maybe there was.
He just had to do the same thing he did that night at Shengyuan Hotel, where he shaped a body of water into a sphere using his Qi. Li Yundong stared at the deep mud hole. Okay. The mud was pretty much fluid, so this would work.
On second thought…
There was a much better way, one that wouldn't appear as flashy, which was precisely what he wanted.
"Miss Liu, step out of the vehicle please," he said without taking his eyes off the mud hole.
The jeep swayed a little when the door slammed shut seconds later.
Li Yundong closed his eyes and mobilized his Qi to his legs—below knee level. The idea was simple. He just had to use his "Qi shoes" again, but this time turn it into a pair of "Qi boots" which covered up to his knees. He removed the shoes that Meiduo gave him and set it aside.
After that, he stepped into the pool of mud and then positioned himself behind the jeep as quickly as possible, just in case some sharp-eyed dude noticed that something freaky was going on below his knees.
Thankfully, everyone's gazes were fixated on the jeep, not him.
Reaching down, Li Yundong grabbed the bottom of the jeep's rear bumper.
His surroundings had suddenly gone eerily quiet. He didn't even need Xianjue to know that everyone's eyes were now on him.
He glanced down at his feet and shins, making sure that his Qi formed a thin film on the surface.
Well, it didn't feel heavy at all. The jeep's springs creaked when Li Yundong hefted its rear end upwards. Then, with a couple of pushes, the jeep was out. Li Yundong lowered the bumper until the rear wheels touched the ground, then pretended to clean his feet at a patch of grass nearby.
When he was done, he turned around and walked back towards the mud hole to grab his shoes. However, his movements stilled the moment he turned around. His jaw went slack at what he saw. Except for the two foreigners and Miss Liu Xia, everyone—including Meiduo and Changbagela—had prostrated themselves until their foreheads were touching the ground.
"Guys!" Li Yundong exclaimed. "What the hell do you think you are you doing?! Get up! Now!"
Meiduo raised her head from the ground, but made no moves to get up. Admiration and reverence filled her eyes as she looked at him now.
"Come on, get up already," Li Yundong said. "None of this is necessary!"
"Of course it's necessary! This is a show of respect!"
"Respe—" Li Yundong could feel his brows knitting together. "What?"
"You're the living incarnation of Mahakala, Brother Li!"