"Hey!" Li Yundong snapped. "How much longer till we get there?"
Lin Youfa stopped short and slowly turned around to face him. Li Yundong glared at the old man. They had been following the trail for nearly half an hour now, yet the entrance to this so-called vault was still nowhere in sight.
Lin Youfa raised his brows. "Patience really isn't your shtick, is it?"
Patience? Li Yundong snorted. Patience won't save my Chan'er's life.
"How much longer?" Li Yundong gritted out.
Lin Youfa sighed. "We're almost there." Lin Youfa looked towards the trail. "Fifteen minutes give or take."
"Yeah? How about you just tell me where the vault is." Li Yundong paused to send Lin Youfa a scathing look. "We've been following this trail for nearly half an hour now."
Thirty invaluable minutes that could've been spent on rescuing Su Chan.
"There's a side trail branching off this path that will lead us straight to the vault."
Li Yundong studied at Lin Youfa wrinkled face for a moment. Deep down, he was itching to use Acalanatha's 6th mudra (the Heart of Virtue) on Lin Youfa to know once and for all if the guy was lying to him. The only problem with that method was that Lin Youfa would end up debilitated, or worse, dead if it turned out that he was lying. And Lin Youfa was no use to him debilitated.
Li Yundong jerked his chin forward. "This is the main trail?"
Lin Youfa nodded.
"Where does it lead to?"
"Straight to the summit. But you'll pass by the Fox Zen School's main entrance along the way," Lin Youfa said, then paused to give him a look of wry amusement. "Just forget it, Li Zhenren."
Li Yundong frowned. "What?"
Lin Youfa let out a dark chuckle. "You were thinking about following the main trail to the entrance, weren't you?" Lin Youfa shook his head. "It's pointless, I'm telling you. The Great Six has guards stationed everywhere near the entrance. You'll get caught before you can even sneak in. If you can even find that entrance, that is. The entrance is probably concealed by a spell."
"And where is this side trail you mentioned?" Li Yundong asked, ignoring Lin Youfa's advice.
Lin Youfa smirked. "Just keep following me and you'll see."
"This is the Fox Zen School's territory." Li Yundong narrowed his eyes. "How come you know so much about it?"
The guy wasn't even from around here; he was based in Kowloon, Hong Kong. How come he knew so much about the ins and outs of Mount Tianlong?
Lin Youfa cackled, though his voice made him sound like he was choking. "Research, of course."
"Research," Li Yundong said in a skeptical tone.
Lin Youfa shrugged. "I had a lot of free time after our duel that night."
Lin Youfa gave him a sad look. "What else could I do? I couldn't train, spar, or do anything else that I usually do." Lin Youfa let out a wry chuckle. "Broke my arm after you tossed me off the building."
"Yeah. You broke an arm after falling off the 20th floor. You deserve so much pity right there."
Lin Youfa shrugged. "Well, it hurt." Lin Youfa waved a hand. "Anyway. I started reading a lot of scrolls while I was recovering. Wanted to find ways to become stronger. Maybe obtain a magical weapon or two..."
Li Yundong frowned. So this guy has had his eyes on the Fox Zen School's treasures for months now.
Lin Youfa cleared his throat. "Then I came across this old text, you see." Lin Youfa laughed. "It didn't spark my interest at first, since it was about the history of the Fox Zen School. But then I saw this map among the pages, and it got me curious." Lin Youfa glanced at Li Yundong. "I studied the map carefully. That's how I learned about the vault and the secret passage." Lin Youfa chuckled. "Took me months, though."
Li Yundong pondered Lin Youfa's words carefully. So this guy managed to crack the Fox Zen School's secret by reading some book?
Something's not right here…
"Wouldn't we be walking straight into an ambush?" Li Yundong raised a brow. "The Great Six knows about the vault." Li Yundong gave Lin Youfa a pointed look. "Those people you killed mentioned it just now."
Lin Youfa laughed. "The Great Six? Oh, I have no doubt that some of them know." Lin Youfa's eyes darted to his face. "But only a selected few, I'll wager."
"A selected few," Li Yundong said, completely unconvinced.
Lin Youfa snickered. "The top dogs, most likely."
Li Yundong stared at Lin Youfa but said nothing.
"Think about it." Lin Youfa smirked. "Why would they let a bunch of cannon fodders be privy to that knowledge if their goal is to secure the vault's contents for themselves?"
Li Yundong nodded.
If the Great Six stationed guards or patrol units around or inside the vault, chances were that their lackeys would try to steal those treasures for themselves.
Lin Youfa snorted. "I bet you wouldn't reveal the location to anyone too if you knew."
Li Yundong glared at the old man. "I'm not interested in the treasure."
Lin Youfa stared at Li Yundong, his eyes calculating and skeptical.
"Whatever," Li Yundong growled. "Let's just go."
The side trail didn't even look like a side trail, at least not in the normal sense.
It was a rock.
Yes, a rock, albeit one that split apart to reveal a hidden path once a series of steps were performed in the right sequence: remove the loose pebble from the side of the rock; place said pebble this groove on the ground; press down and twist the pebble until the rock splits; then, as the rock opened and closed, some hidden mechanism would convey the pebble back to its original compartment on the side of the rock.
"How the hell did you figure all that out using just a map?" Li Yundong asked once they had both passed through the rock.
The rock clicked shut behind them.
Li Yundong realized that the exact same mechanism was on this side of the rock as well.
Lin Youfa laughed. "I didn't learn that from the map, Li Zhenren. The map only showed me the location of the side trail, not how to reveal it."
"So, what? You used your Shenda and borrowed some much-needed wisdom from Zhu Bajie to figure it all out?"
Didn't know Zhu Bajie was that bright, to be honest.
Lin Youfa guffawed. "Of course not." He cleared his throat. "There was a poem inside the text. One of my disciples cracked it."
Li Yundong studied Lin Youfa's back. Admittedly, Li Yundong had been trying to test Lin Youfa throughout their trek by asking him various questions. So far the guy had been pretty forthcoming.
Trust no one...
"Ah. I think we're here." Lin Youfa stopped walking and pointed at something ahead.
Li Yundong raised his gaze and looked past Lin Youfa's shoulder.
A large stone lay ahead, half-obscured by the tall weeds surrounding it.
Lin Youfa was already moving forward, wading his way through the sea of weeds. Not wanting to be left behind, Li Yundong hurried after the old man.
As he walked, Li Yundong scanned his surroundings for signs of a building, cave, or a cellar—basically, anything that resembled a vault.
There were none.
The only thing he saw was a huge, rectangular stone block lying amidst a sea of weeds. The whole place looked more like a forsaken tomb rather than the entrance to an arcane vault.
Then again, maybe that was the whole point. After all, nobody would pay attention to a weedy, squalid place like this.
Lin Youfa stood in front of the stone block and began to examine it.
"So?" Li Yundong stopped beside the old man. "What's next?" He studied the stone block for a moment. Clearly, the vault was located somewhere underground.
Li Yundong glanced sideways when Lin Youfa didn't answer.
Lin Youfa was still staring at the block, looking completely stumped.
"What? No more fancy tricks?" Li Yundong asked.
Lin Youfa shook his head. "This isn't what I expected."
"Well what did you expect?" Li Yundong asked in a tone of annoyance.
Lin Youfa shrugged. "Like an actual door?"
Li Yundong glared at the old man. "So what you're saying is that you have no idea how to open this thing."
Lin Youfa shot him a helpless look. "The map only showed me the location of the vault, Li Zhenren."
Li Yundong studied the stone block again. "Try pushing the block aside."
Lin Youfa's head shot up. "Why do I have to do all the work? Why can't you do it?"
Li Yundong rolled his eyes. "I'm not the one who can borrow strength from a deity."
Lin Youfa kept staring at him with narrowed eyes.
Li Yundong sighed. "Do you want to enter the vault or not?"
"Fine," Lin Youfa said gruffly before pulling out a needle from his pocket.
Li Yundong stepped away and let the man work.
"Maoshan Jida Zhen Shengong. Bada Yuanshuai Xian Shentong! Hearken to me, O Heavenly Marshal of the North! Come to me! Lend me your power! I offer you my body as a vessel..."
The transformation could only be described as grotesque no matter how Li Yundong looked at it. Li Yundong didn't even realized he'd been staring until Mr. Hulk over there suddenly started laughing.
"Curious about my Shenda, Li Zhenren?" Lin Youfa said. "Wanna know its secrets?"
Lin Youfa's face fell.
Li Yundong still didn't give a shit.
"Well, I wanna know yours," Lin Youfa said, pausing briefly. "How'd you gain so much power in such a short amount of time?"
"Hard work," Li Yundong gritted out. That wasn't a lie. He had worked his ass off for the past few months. Going to Tibet on foot? Dodging lightning? Come on. Those were grueling, thank you very much.
"So you're not telling, huh?" Lin Youfa chuckled. "What if I offer to pay good money for your secrets?"
Lin Youfa let out a huff of frustration. "Come on, Li Zhenren. What's your secret?"
"There are no secrets," Li Yundong growled. "Now shut up and get to work." He pointed at the block.
Lin Youfa raised both hands in a gesture of surrender before he bent down to start pushing the block.
Not that the block was willing to be pushed.
"Gah! What the hell?!" Lin Youfa shouted. "It wouldn't even budge!"
Lin Youfa had tried pushing the block in different directions and from angles. He had even tried lifting it at one point. Admittedly, it was starting to look like they would have much better luck turning the moon blue, or freezing hell.
"Just smash it apart," Li Yundong said after he'd had enough of Lin Youfa's ineffectual pushes.
Lin Youfa raised his fists and slammed them onto the block's top surface. When that didn't work, Lin Youfa leaped into the air and stomped on the block with both feet.
Nothing. Not even a single crack.
"The f*ck?!" Lin Youfa exclaimed. "What the heck is this thing made of?"
Li Yundong gave the man a sidelong glance. "I don't suppose you know a more powerful god..."
Lin Youfa shot him a withering look.
I'll take that as a no.
Li Yundong looked up at the sky. It was starting to get dark, so they had better hurry up. He had better hurry up, since it would be even more difficult to conduct the search during sundown.
Li Yundong sighed and began pacing around the stone block, examining the block from different angles. There had to be some kind of trick to opening it. After all, it was the same for the side trail.
Li Yundong stopped pacing and looked towards Lin Youfa, who was in the middle of transforming back to his original form. Li Yundong dropped into a crouch and studied the bottom edge of the stone block.
Maybe the block had some kind of hidden mechanism?
Li Yundong pushed aside a bunch of weeds and studied the surface of the block.
He moved to another corner of the block and did the same thing.
Li Yundong leaned down to take a closer look.
There were symbols engraved near the bottom edge of the block. Sanskrit symbols, to be exact.
Not just any Sanskrit symbols. These symbols formed one of the verses from the Diamond Sutra. He recognized them because he'd seen the same verse on the Fan of Seven Treasures.
Okay. So there was a Diamond Sutra verses engraved on a seemingly abandoned stone block. What now? What did that even mean?
Perhaps verses had to be chanted for the door to open?
Li Yundong's hand froze.
He'd just found more engravings on the left of the Sanskrit symbols.
Piqued, Li Yundong yanked out a handful of weeds which were obstructing his view of the engravings. The new engravings weren't Sanskrit symbols; they were Chinese characters:
The door opens to the rightful heir.
Li Yundong frowned.
The rightful heir? The rightful heir to what? The Jindan? Was it referring to him as the Jindan's Heir?
As he pulled out more weeds, Li Yundong received yet another surprise: the cryptic line of Chinese characters were enclosed in a circle; it would appear that they were at the center of some kind of exotic, circular diagram.
Also engraved on the circle were seven dots, which were evenly spaced along the circumference.
Each of the seven dots was labelled.
Li Yundong traced his fingers along the circle and examined each label carefully.
Sraddha... Sila... Hri... Dharma... Dana... Apatrapya... and Prajna?
From his pathetically limited understanding of Sanskrit, Li Yundong knew that: sraddha means faith; sila means virtue; and prajna means wisdom.
Li Yundong froze.
"Faith, virtue, wisdom..." he whispered, then looked towards the circular engraving again.
And there were seven dots. Seven.
Li Yundong rose to his feet, suddenly feeling thankful for all the time he'd spent studying all those texts on Buddhism.
Faith, virtue, and wisdom. Each of them constitutes the Seven Treasures of the Noble Ones.
The seven treasures...
Li Yundong chuckled. Now he knew what that cryptic line meant.
The door opens to the rightful heir.
The rightful heir to the Fan of Seven Treasures, not the Jindan. In other words, only the true owner of the Fan of Seven Treasures could open the door.
"What's so funny, Li Zhenren?" Lin Youfa said breathlessly.
Li Yundong looked towards the old man, who was sitting on the ground, struggling to recover from his use of Shenda.
"I know how to open this thing."
Lin Youfa's eyes grew wide. "How?"
"I will open it," Li Yundong said sternly. "But you can't be here." No way in hell he was going to let this sneaky old man know about the Fan of Seven Treasures.
Lin Youfa released a sound of protest. "What the heck is that supposed to mean?"
"I don't want you anywhere near this area when I try to open the door." Li Yundong stared at the man. "Head back to the start of the side trail and wait for my signal."
"Bullshit!" Lin Youfa growled. "You're just gonna enter the vault without me!"
"Hello, genius? I still need you inside the vault to show me where the secret passage is, remember?" Li Yundong fired back.
"Why do I have to leave?" Lin Youfa challenged. "Why can't I just wait here?"
Coz' I don't trust you, you despicable old man.
Li Yundong decided to take the soft approach. "Look man. If you want to enter the vault, then do as I say." He gave Lin Youfa a hard stare. "Right now, you're wasting both of our times."
Lin Youfa stared back at Li Yundong, his eyes filled with distrust.
Li Yundong sighed. "Just go and don't argue with me. I'll let you know when the door's open. You have my word. After that you can go in and loot whatever the hell you want."
Lin Youfa's eyes narrowed. "What if you enter first and then take all the good stuff away before I can get them?"
Something inside Li Yundong snapped: his patience, most likely.
"Ten minutes," Li Yundong growled. "You come back after ten minutes. That's not a lot of time for me to steal anything."
This damn well better work. Otherwise, he was going to have to knock the old man out and then wake him after the door was open.
"Fine," Lin Youfa said gruffly. "And make it quick."
Li Yundong waited until Lin Youfa was no longer in sight before he returned his attention to the stone block.
How? How could he use the Fan of Seven Treasures to open this thing?
Maybe the fan had to be inserted somewhere to trigger the mechanism? But the stone block's surface was smooth; there weren't any grooves, slots, or compartment for him to place the Fan of Seven Treasures.
Maybe the mechanism could only be activated magically?
Li Yundong lowered his backpack and pulled out the Fan of Seven Treasures. Without ado, he accessed the telepathic connection he shared with the fan.
Hey buddy. Think you can activate the door for me?
He stared at the fan for a few seconds, waiting for it to react.
Moments later, it did.
The fan snapped open on its own, and a particular verse on the fan's body started glowing brightly. Unsurprisingly, the glowing verse corresponded to the verse engraved on the stone block.
Something freakish was happening to the stone block: a portion of its smooth surface sunk down to form a complex pattern of grooves and indentations.
Li Yundong leaped onto the stone block to get a better look of those grooves. He noted first the contour of the grooves, which resembled the shape of the Fan of Seven Treasures when fully open. The inner region of the outline contained smaller grooves which were arranged in a neat structure. When Li Yundong counted the number of smaller grooves, he found that there were forty-nine of them.
The Fan of Seven Treasures had seven leaves in total, and there were seven blades on each leaf.
Forty-nine blades in total.
One groove for each blade.
Come here, buddy, Li Yundong ordered the Fan of Seven Treasures telepathically.
The fan floated towards him obediently.
Li Yundong stared at the fan, then back at those grooves.
Lie down on the block.
The fan flipped itself over until its body was parallel to the stone block's surface, then slowly lowered itself onto the block.
It was a perfect fit.
A loud click sounded as soon as the Fan of Seven Treasures started to glow. The next thing he knew, the stone block was shifting under his feet as it slid to the side to reveal a rectangular hole.
Voila. Open sesame.