The scorching sensation never came. A thin film of golden light enveloped his body, making him glow from head to toe. The light was repelling the flames, pushing them away they moment they got too close. Li Yundong sighed. The Jindan's Aura had saved his ass once again.
"Die, you punk!" Wu Hao yelled.
The flames pounced on Li Yundong with such ferocity that he actually had a split second's doubt with regards to the Jindan's Aura's ability to protect him. He raised his arms and flinched back in fear.
Again, the scorching sensation never came; the flames were repelled.
A modicum of confidence returned to Li Yundong's psyche. He lowered his arms from his head and watched the flames' movements carefully. The flames circled and danced around him as though they had a life of their own, enclosing him in a fiery sphere.
He had to fight back. This situation would just drag on forever if he kept allowing himself to be on the defensive.
The flames. He had to do something about the flames.
Maybe I can create an opening by repelling it with the Jindan's Aura...
Li Yundong stretched out his arms and pushed them out to both sides, like he was trying to open a curtain. The flames parted slightly. Yes! Li Yundong pushed his feet off the ground and tried to charge through the opening.
Too late. The gap vanished before he could slip through it. After that, he tried punching the flames, swiping his arms at them to chase them away. None of his attempts worked. Although the Jindan's Aura could repel the flames upon close contact, it couldn't disrupt the flames' continuity in structure. No matter how Li Yundong struck the flames, he couldn't create a gap that would last long enough for him to slip through. There was a kind of fluidity in the flames' movements. Whenever one part of the flames was repelled, the remaining part would move in to fill the gap created by the repulsion. It was almost as though the flames were some kind of fluid.
"It's a pointless struggle, Zhenren... " Wu Hao's smug voice sounded amidst the constant crackling of the flames. "The Beads of Gore will not only reduce your body into nothing but blood and gore, but it will also devour your entire soul! There is no escape! Today is the day you meet your maker!" Wu Hao's derisive laughter sounded next.
The flames flowed through the air with a smoothness uncharacteristic of fire. They danced around Li Yundong like rhythmic waves as if responding to the cadence of Wu Hao's laughter. Seconds later, Lyu Fengping started laughing as well.
In spite of the chaotic situation, Su Chan's face suddenly popped up in Li Yundong's mind. Something tugged inside his chest. The love of his life was still waiting for him. He couldn't just die here. Not like this.
Who do you think you are! Ao Wushuang's taunt echoed inside his mind. You think you can play the hero just because you're the Jindan's Heir? Hah! The truth is that you're nothing but an amateur! A weakling!
Li Yundong clenched his jaw and squared his shoulders. Calmness suffused him the moment his Qi reached his Lingtai. All his life, he'd been a nobody. A weakling.
Enough was enough.
He was tired of being weak, sick of being helpless.
I am the Jindan's Heir... I will not be beaten. Not today!
There had to be a way out of this mess, and he was going to find it.
Li Yundong placed his left index finger in front of his chest, pointing its tip at the sky. He then wrapped the middle finger, ring finger, and pinky of his right hand around his left index finger. Finally, he touched the tips of his index fingers together to complete Mahavairocana's first mudra—the Intelligent Fist. However, when he was about to chant Mahavairocana's mantra, something made him hesitate.
He lowered his backpack to the ground and studied it.
It wasn't burning. His backpack hadn't caught fire at all. When he opened it, he immediately understood why. The Fan of Seven Treasures was emitting an aura of its own. Li Yundong pulled the huge tessen from inside the backpack, then snapped it open with a quick flick of his wrist. The air swirled around him, pushing the flames outwards, causing the fiery sphere surrounding him to expand thus giving him more room to move around.
Lyu Fengping's shrill voice erupted amidst the roaring wind and crackling flames. Li Yundong didn't give a damn. He just wanted to get the hell out of there.
He swung the tessen above his head in a large circle.
More air currents were formed, which surged upwards, bringing all the flames with them. When the sphere broke apart and the flames lifted, Wu Hao's frightened face was the first thing he saw.
Li Yundong growled and charged forward, causing Wu Hao to scream and scramble back in fear. The lashing of a whip sounded on his left. He ducked low and narrowly avoided the giant cobra that had shot out from Lyu Fengping's hand. Li Yundong stopped running when he felt some kind of resistance pulling against the Fan of Seven Treasures. The cobra had changed back into a whip after it latched onto the tessen.
Li Yundong flicked his wrist. The fan rose abruptly, pulling the whip upwards. There was a loud snap, and the whip unlatched itself from the fan's surface. Lyu Fengping's body was thrown into the air as a result.
Li Yundong followed the trajectory of Lyu Fengping's body until it crashed into the ground two seconds later.
Li Yundong charged towards the fallen woman. The tessen snapped shut and once again took the form of a long Bo staff.
I have to knock her out while she's down...
Two sets of footsteps sounded behind him, though Li Yundong kept his eyes focused on Lyu Fengping, who was still lying on the ground in a daze.
"No!!! Stop!!!" Wu Hao screamed.
Li Yundong raised the tessen, and then swung down with just enough force to knock someone out.
The tessen stopped moving when it was inches away from Lyu Fengping's head. Li Yundong stared in shock at the thick, muscular arm that had reached out from behind him to stop the tessen's movement.
"Namo Amitabha... You would desecrate these sacred lands by spilling civilian blood here? Do you not fear Buddha's wrath?"
The tessen fell sideways after a strong push from the arm. Li Yundong steadied the tessen and whirled around to face the newcomer. It was a lama, a tall and buff-looking lama who looked like he could casually lift elephants above his head. It was like staring at the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson clad in a red and orange kasaya. From the corner of his eyes, Li Yundong saw Lyu Fengping crawling away from the stand-off between him and the lama.
Suddenly, Wu Hao appeared out of nowhere and fell to his knees. Then, he grabbed the ends of the lama's kasaya and started sobbing.
"H- Help us, kind monk!" Wu Hao whimpered. "You have arrived just in time!" Wu Hao pointed a shaky finger at Li Yundong. "S- Save us from t- that vile monster!"
"Hey!!" Li Yundong protested. Is this guy for real?
"Oh?" The lama raised his brow. "Was there trouble before I got here?"
"W- We're tourists, you see? But when we drove up here, this evil man tried to rob us!" Wu Hao pointed at Li Yundong again.
Anger rose inside Li Yundong. "That's a lie! You guys are the ones who—"
"H- He tried to steal our car and all our belongings!" Wu Hao sobbed. "A- And then he even tried to rape my w- wife... I tried to stop him... but look what he did to me!" Wu Hao showed the lama his broken nose and bleeding eyes. "And look at my wife!"
Lyu Fengping whimpered like a hurt kitten. "Thank you for saving us, kind lama! H- He tried to rape me. My husband and I are Cultivators, so we fought back. But we were no match for him. He would've killed me if you hadn't arrived in time just now."
Li Yundong gaped at the scene before him. Seriously? Is this shit really happening right now? These f*cking scoundrels!
"Is that so?" The lama's steely eyes zeroed in on Li Yundong.
"That's bullshit!" Li Yundong growled. "They're both lying!"
"No! We're not lying!" Lyu Fengping screamed and showed the lama her battered face, which was covered in scrapes and bruises. "Just look!! He beat us up! Please believe us!"
Son of a bitch!
The lama's expression turned even stonier.
"Indeed, I'm not surprised at all that a man like him is capable of such atrocious deeds..."
Li Yundong frowned at the lama's words. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
"He did steal a sacred text from Kathok Monastery after all..."
Li Yundong could feel his own eyes growing wide at the accusation. "Hey! I didn't steal anything! It was a gift—"
"Silence!" The lama flicked his robe and revealed his muscular arms. "As the guardian sentinel of Kathok Monastery and one of the Eighteen Sentinels of the Holy Mountain, I cannot tolerate this." The lama pressed his palms together. "Namo Amitabha. By the orders of the head of Kathok Monastery, I shall put an end to your evil ways and then reclaim the Mahamudra Tantra from your cold, dead hands."
Li Yundong raised the tessen in front of him and started backing away from the tall lama. He cursed inwardly when he noticed that the Jindan's Aura had disappeared.
"Look… This is a misunderstanding," Li Yundong stated calmly as he backed a few steps away. "I never robbed those people, and I didn't rape the lady. And for God's sake, I never stole the sacred text from the temple. It was a gift! Changbagela gave it to me as a gift! Why don't you just ask him! You know Changbagela, don't you?"
The lama kept advancing towards him.
Li Yundong didn't know why, but the man's stoic expression somehow made him seem even more menacing.
"I am well-acquainted with Changbagela. But that has nothing to do with what I'm doing here. I have a duty to fulfill. Bhante Danba wanted me to retrieve the sacred text without killing you. But now…. Now it seems like I don't have to hold back at all."
Li Yundong kept backing away. "Listen man... I don't want to fight you..." When he looked past the lama's broad shoulders, he saw Wu Hao and Lyu Fengping whispering at each other. "Look. You want the Mahamudra Tantra back? Fine. You can have it back. There's no need for violence."
The lama smirked. "Oh? You think you're off the hook that easily? As a guardian sentinel, it is also my sworn duty to make you answer for all the horrible things you did to those poor folks." The lama jerked his chin towards the Wu Hao and Lyu Fengping. Those two were still whispering to each other. What the hell are those two up to?
"Besides... I'm sure that the Mahamudra Tantra isn't the only sacred artifact that you've stolen..."
"I never stole anything," Li Yundong stated calmly. Except maybe for the Renyuan Jindan, which technically didn't count as theft.
"Oh... I beg to differ." The lama chuckled. "That object you are carrying in your hand... I saw inscriptions of the Diamond Sutra on it, so it's most likely some valuable Buddhist artifact too."
Oh, for f*ck's sake! Couldn't a guy catch a f*cking break after he'd run all the way from Tiannan City to Tibet?
Li Yundong snorted. "You're just saying that," he said coldly. "I bet you just want it for yourself."
Wu Hao was climbing to his feet. Lyu Fengping was trying to pull him back down. They looked like they were arguing about something.
Li Yundong channeled his Qi to his Shenting.
Lyu Fengping's voice sounded amidst the mild buzzing.
"I think we should just leave, Ah Hao... That guy is so strong… I don't think we should mess with him."
"Bullshit. I got careless that's all. I can take him if I use all four beads at the same time. I know I can."
The lama pressed his palms together. "Regardless. I shall return the tessen to its rightful owner as soon as I find out who it is."
"Well. The owner gave it to me."
Li Yundong didn't mention Ao Wushuang's name. When Ao Wushuang first made her appearance, both Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling were shocked because they both thought that she was dead. Clearly, Ao Wushuang had spent all this time in hiding, and Li Yundong wasn't about to jeopardize her secret by mentioning her name.
"Are you out of your mind, Ah Hao? You're gonna use up all four beads? God! Do you even know how difficult it is to make even one of those beads?"
"Tsk. Just think for a second, Fengping, would you? Think. What are four beads compared to the Fan of Seven Treasures?"
"Still… I don't think that's a good idea, Ah Hao. I've got a bad feeling about this…"
"You're overthinking this... Look. I'll just use all four beads at once. That's more than enough to take care of the bastard and that lama as well."
"Are you nuts?!" Lyu Fengping hissed. "He's a guardian sentinel. The Esoteric Sect will hunt us down!"
"Are you an idiot?" Wu Hao hissed back. "We'll be in bigger trouble if word gets out that we have the Fan of Seven Treasures! We can't allow any loose ends!"
Those treacherous f*ckers.
Li Yundong looked towards the lama. It didn't seem like the lama had heard those words, which made sense since those treacherous swines had been whispering the entire time. Li Yundong could only hear them because of Eryue.
"You know... For a lama, you're a really lousy judge of character," Li Yundong said wryly.
"The only thing that matters to me is duty and honor."
Li Yundong snorted derisively. "You call it honor, but I call it becoming someone else's pawn."
"A thief and a robber has no right to talk about honor."
"You're making a huge mistaken, lama." Li Yundong felt his back touching something cold and slippery. He tightened his grip on the tessen. This lama was going to try and take the fan from him too. It was best if he refrained from using it lest it get taken away.
Ao Wushuang would skin him alive if he lost the fan to any one of these—
Li Yundong dove sideways when a blast of hot gas—the shape of a large human palm—came flying towards him. There was a muffle thud when the gas slammed into the rock whose surface Li Yundong had been leaning his back against. Water dripped down from the rock as the snow covering the rock's surface melted. Steam rose from the palm imprint on the rock.
Li Yundong recognized that technique; there was a passage in the Mahamudra Tantra that described it. This must be one of those combative mudras that Changbagela had told him about.
"Shouldn't you seek proof and verification first before you deemed me as guilty?" Li Yundong dodged several more bursts of palm-shaped hot air.
"I've already seen the proof of your evil. The battered appearance of that poor couple tells me all I need to know!"
The lama leaped into the air and cocked his hands back.
Damn it! Li Yundong quickly performed Mahavairocana's first hand sign—the Intelligent Fist Mudra. He didn't miss the look of shock on the lama's face when he did that. Two palm-shaped blasts of hot air came flying towards him.
"Om mani padme hum!" Li Yundong bridged his Three Gates with a small portion of his Qi. A golden apparition of the Intelligent Fist mudra flew out of his hands and repelled those blasts.
The lama landed on the ground a few feet away. "T- That's impossible! How can someone like you perform that technique..."
God. That sounded so condescending.
"What's that supposed to—" Li Yundong suddenly stopped talking and leaped forward. "Watch out!!!"
Flying towards them were all four of those deadly beads and the giant head of a cobra.