"What makes you think that I've mastered it?" Li Yundong shot Lin Youfa a glare. "For all you know, I could be just as clueless as you are!"
"Clueless? A man of your talents?" Lin Youfa laughed snidely. "Who are you trying to fool, Li Zhenren?"
Li Yundong kept glaring at Lin Youfa instead of answering.
The old man shrugged. "You were inside this cellar the whole time I was gone." He smirked and gestured at their surroundings. "You would've left a long time ago if you couldn't figure out what those inscriptions mean."
Li Yundong pointed at the wall. "It's all written there. Just read it yourself." He lowered his finger. "Why do you need me to teach you?"
"Oh, I could read the words just fine," Lin Youfa said coolly. "I just don't know what they mean, that's all."
Li Yundong snorted and looked away.
"How about it? A fair trade," Lin Youfa said. "You get what you want. And I get what I've always desired."
Li Yundong looked towards Lin Youfa again. The smug look on the old man's face rubbed him the wrong way.
"And what is it that you've always desired?"
Li Yundong was pretty sure he knew the answer already.
Lin Youfa shrugged. "Power, of course." The old man smirked. "Just imagine what I can do if I'm the sole master of the Nine Elixirs Method. I can finally make a name for myself in the Cultivation world."
Lin Youfa began roaring with laughter.
Disgust welled up inside Li Yundong. "Power," he muttered, shaking his head slowly.
Lin Youfa's laughter subsided.
"That's right," Lin Youfa sneered. "Power." Lin Youfa paused, his greedy eyes scanning Li Yundong's face. "Something that you seem to possess in spades, Li Zhenren. Though I confess I don't know how."
Li Yundong regarded the old man carefully. The damn old man must've hidden the map somewhere. How do I outwit the bastard and find out where the map is?
After a while, Li Yundong released a dark laugh. "You know what? I'm done with your games." He schooled his features and took a step forward. "I'm going to kill you now."
The smugness vanished from Lin Youfa's face as he took a step back. "W- What?"
Li Yundong took another step forward. "I said I'm going to kill you now."
"B- But w- what about the map?" Lin Youfa's back hit the wall, his eyes darting briefly towards the staircase. "D- Don't you want to know the way to the F- Fox Z- Zen School?"
Li Yundong shrugged and kept advancing towards the wall. "I'll just search your corpse for the map after I killed you."
"Y- You can't!" Lin Youfa screamed. "Y- You w- won't be able to f-find it!"
Li Yundong smirked. "Says who?"
Lin Youfa skittered sideways along the wall. "You think I'm stupid enough to walk in here with the real map?" Lin Youfa laughed. "I've hidden the map, of course!"
Now that's more like it…
"Oh?" Li Yundong stopped advancing and raised his brows. "Where?"
Lin Youfa seemed to have regained a modicum of his bravado by then. "I'll tell you where the map is after you help me master this." Lin Youfa rapped his knuckles against the wall where the Mystical Silver Fox's words had been carved.
Li Yundong snorted. "Well. That's too much of a hassle, sorry." Li Yundong began walking towards the wall again. "I'm in a hurry, you see. So I'd rather just kill you and be done with it." Li Yundong shot the old man a cold look. "You're a dead man, Lin Youfa."
"C- Come on, Li Zhenren!" Lin Youfa yelled. "Just teach me the method and you'll have the map! Isn't that much quicker?"
Li Yundong stopped and gave Lin Youfa a threatening look.
"I-I mean, you're in a hurry, right?" Lin Youfa laughed shakily. "I'd resist if you resort to torture. You'd just end up wasting time."
Like you haven't been doing so for the past two hours.
"A- And y-you can't kill me either! Otherwise you won't be able to find out where the map is!"
Li Yundong studied Lin Youfa's face for a moment. It would appear that his scare tactics had worked; at least he was now certain that Lin Youfa had hidden the map somewhere.
"Come on, Li Zhenren," Lin Youfa pleaded. "It doesn’t have to be difficult, you know?"
"Which part do you need me to explain?" Li Yundong said without taking his eyes off Lin Youfa.
Lin Youfa glanced at the wall briefly. "Everything."
Li Yundong raised a brow.
Lin Youfa shrugged. "Internal Alchemy isn't the Divine Fist School's main focus."
"You don't say," Li Yundong said flatly.
A look of anger flashed across Lin Youfa's face before it vanished. Lin Youfa cleared his throat. "Let's begin." Lin Youfa stole a glance at Li Yundong. "You're in a hurry, right? I'll show you where the map is after I've mastered the technique."
Li Yundong jerked his chin towards the wall. "It says here that those who attempt to learn the technique through external guidance will end up in Zouhuo Rumo state." Li Yundong paused to give the man a pointed look. "You sure you still want to go through with this?"
"What does it even matter how you learn it?" Lin Youfa snorted. "That's bullshit."
"I'm just telling you what the wall says," Li Yundong said casually.
Lin Youfa waved his hands dismissively. "It's probably written there to scare people away. Maybe the author's trying to dissuade other people from learning the method." Lin Youfa snorted. "It doesn't scare me at all."
Yeah, but I won't know where the map is if you die!
Li Yundong sighed. "Fine. I'll explain the meaning of each line, and then you tell me where the map is." He paused to glare at Lin Youfa. "Just don't do anything stupid."
Lin Youfa rolled his eyes. "Just hurry up."
Li Yundong spent the next five minutes explaining to Lin Youfa what he'd been able to figure out about the elixirs. The process wasn't all bad, he supposed. He even managed to gain new insights on the Nine Elixirs Method while explaining it to Lin Youfa. For instance, he now had a pretty good idea of what each elixir does when activated.
"Where's the map?" Li Yundong said once he'd wrapped up his explanation. "A deal's a deal." Li Yundong crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I decoded it for you. So you tell me where the map is."
Lin Youfa raised a palm. "Not so fast, Li Zhenren."
"What else do you want?" Li Yundong growled.
"Show you what?"
Lin Youfa gave him an exasperated look.
Li Yundong answered with an exasperated look of his own. "Why the hell do I have to show you anything?" Li Yundong pointed at the wall. "I just explained the steps to you! You can try out the method yourself once I'm outta here."
Go on. Go into Zouhuo Rumo for all I care. I just want the map.
Lin Youfa smirked. The smugness on the old man's face was rivalled only by the greed in his eyes. "Just hearing your explanation isn't enough, I'm afraid. You could be lying to me for all I know." He paused for a moment. "You have to demonstrate." He pointed at a spot on the floor. "Prove to me that the stuff you told me actually works. Only then I'll tell you where the map is."
Li Yundong's eyes narrowed. "You want me to demonstrate? Are you sure about that? Didn't you say that you want to be the only per—"
Realization washed over Li Yundong like a tidal wave.
Not five minutes ago, Lin Youfa was going on about wanting to be the only person on this earth to master the Nine Elixirs Method; and now the guy was asking him to learn the method right in front of him?
Li Yundong chuckled darkly. This guy takes me for a fool.
"What's so funny, Li Zhenren?" Lin Youfa smiled. "Come now. You're wasting time. The sooner you show me, the sooner you can be on your way."
Li Yundong glared at Lin Youfa. You mean the sooner you can try to kill me?
Li Yundong shook his head in disgust. Demo, my ass. More like leaving himself completely vulnerable once he was in a meditative state!
Li Yundong turned his head and studied Lin Youfa's expression.
The guy wanted the Nine Elixirs Method for himself; that's why he was trying to take Li Yundong out. And he knew he wouldn't stand a chance unless he played dirty.
Slimy old man.
The familiar hiss made Li Yundong snap to attention.
"What?" Li Yundong asked.
"What do you mean, what?" Lin Youfa frowned. "Didn't you hear what I said? I asked you to show me."
Li Yundong's eyes snapped to Lin Youfa's face where they lingered for a brief moment. So he'd been right before. Lin Youfa really couldn't hear the voice.
The voice was inside his head.
"You… are… running… out… of… time…"
The sharp, reverberating hiss made Li Yundong wince. The word "time" kept ringing inside his ears seconds after it was uttered.
Something flashed inside Li Yundong's mind; it was those flames again.
Li Yundong massaged his forehead and sighed.
"What's the matter? Don't tell me you're all talk and no show?"
Li Yundong ignored Lin Youfa's taunt and focused on rubbing his temples. The flames were gone.
"You… have… found… the… Truth…"
Li Yundong grimaced.
"Now… master… it…" There was a pause. "Make… it… yours…"
Li Yundong shook his head. What, you mean like right now?
"Yes…" the voice hissed sharply.
Okay. You know what? To hell with blasphemy. Are you shitting me right now? You want me to leave myself completely vulnerable around that sneaky old man?
Technically, he wouldn't be completely vulnerable. After all, he still had the Fan of Seven Treasures watching his back, and he could perform the Wandering Soul to watch his own back.
There was only one problem: he wouldn't be able to find out where the map was if the Fan of Seven Treasures accidentally killed Lin Youfa.
Li Yundong winced when the voice hissed again.
"Do not… be afraid…" The last syllable echoed in his ears for a few seconds. "I… will… protect you…"
Right. That sounded so reassuring right there.
"Master… the Truth…" Another pause. "You… will… need… its power…"
Li Yundong sighed. Fine.
Li Yundong burst forward and hoisted Lin Youfa up by his neck.
Lin Youfa gagged.
"No more games after this, you sick old man," Li Yundong growled. "You tell me where the map is after I show you. Are we clear?"
Lin Youfa made another choking sound and then nodded.
Those flames flashed inside Li Yundong's mind again. Li Yundong winced and dropped Lin Youfa to the ground.
"Make… haste…" the voice hissed. "Time… is… running… out…"
The flames disappeared again. Okay, okay. I got it.
Li Yundong moved towards the wall and lowered himself to the floor. Once he got into a meditative posture, he sent a telepathic message to the Fan of Seven Treasures: Will you watch over me, buddy?
He'd expected the fan to give him some sort of response, but it didn't.
Li Yundong closed his eyes with a sigh, deciding to just trust the voice—it hadn't led him astray so far.
But just to be completely safe, he performed the Wandering Soul the moment he entered meditative state; a small portion of his Spirit detached from his body, and soon he was watching himself meditating on the floor.
This wasn't ideal, but it would have to do.
Lin Youfa was watching him carefully as well. After a while, he saw Lin Youfa smirking to himself. Lin Youfa got up from the floor and began pacing the room like he was looking for something.
Li Yundong followed Lin Youfa around with his Wandering Soul. Moments later, Lin Youfa stopped. He bent down and picked up the blank piece of paper that Li Yundong had angrily tossed to the floor after deeming it as a fake map.
The paper unfolded in Lin Youfa's palm. What happened next took Li Yundong by surprise: the paper began to move in a wavelike pattern, and with each undulation, its surface area doubled.
Seconds later, the paper stopped moving.
Lin Youfa flapped the paper in the air, and then lay it down flat on the floor. The paper was now as large as Chan'er's favorite quilt.
Lin Youfa kneeled on the floor and then ran his palm across the paper's surface. Seconds later, dark ink appeared on the paper's surface.
Son of a bitch!
That was the map all along!
"Calm…" the voice hissed again.
Li Yundong maneuvered his Wandering Soul so that he was looking down at Lin Youfa from above. Lin Youfa swiped his palm across the map a second time.
Something else appeared on the map: a red line tracing out a path on the map.
Lin Youfa stood up with a smirk
"Stand… your ground…" the voice hissed warningly.
Any thoughts of grabbing the map and just leave were dispelled right then.
Li Yundong followed Lin Youfa from above; the old man was now moving away from the map.
"Steel… your mind…" the voice hissed again.
While Lin Youfa was pacing around the room doing God knows what, Li Yundong performed a quick Neiguan and discovered a white orb-like structure lodged within his Vital Orb.
The creation of the Elixir of Formation had completed. He was probably halfway through the Elixir of Structure now.
Lin Youfa stopped in front of Li Yundong's body. "Too bad, Li Zhenren. Too bad…" he mumbled. "A man of your talents, tsk, tsk, tsk." A sad smile formed on Lin Youfa's face. "I am sorry, Li Zhenren. I was planning to help you. But…"
Lin Youfa glanced at the wall behind Li Yundong's body.
"You have discovered something that is too important," Lin Youfa said with sigh. "And I'm afraid I cannot share."
"Do not… fear…" the voice hissed. "I… will… protect you…"
"…With the Nine Elixirs Method, I can restore the Divine Fist School to its former glory…" Lin Youfa raised his palm. "Farewell, Li Zhenren."
Lin Youfa's scream echoed in the circular room. Li Yundong watched, with an odd sense of satisfaction, as the old man's severed hand fell to the floor with a plop.
The Fan of Seven Treasures, in all its glory, did a quick twist in the air before it hovered in front of Li Yundong protectively.
Blood continued to spurt out from Lin Youfa's amputated forearm, but the man himself had stopped screaming.
A second later, Li Yundong knew why.
A golden apparition was slowly taking shape in front of the Fan of Seven Treasures.
A golden apparition with six arms and three heads.
"Na mo siddhi siddhi susiddhi siddhi ghara rajaya kuyan sama masti ajama siddhi svaha…"
Through the eyes of his Wandering Soul, Li Yundong noticed the slackening of Lin Youfa's jaw.
"Na mo siddhi siddhi susiddhi siddhi ghara rajaya kuyan sama masti ajama siddhi svaha… Na mo siddhi siddhi susiddhi siddhi ghara rajaya kuyan sama masti ajama siddhi svaha…"
Li Yundong knew this mantra. It was Acalanatha's Rite of Exorcism.
The voice hissed again, "Exterminate…"
There was a whimper. The Fan of Seven Treasures charged straight at Lin Youfa's sprawled form. The old man screamed and scrambled away in fear.
More blood spilled onto the floor as the fan's rotating blade shredded Lin Youfa's skin. Lin Youfa's body slammed to the ground, bloody and lifeless.
Strings of runes on the fan's body started to glow in red. Those runes were the ones that were added to the fan after it had absorbed the Beads of Gore.
Green tendrils rose from Lin Youfa's body as though they were being drawn out. The tendrils drifted in the air towards the Fan of Seven Treasures before they were absorbed completely.
White light flashed, then it was all over.
The Fan of Seven Treasures snapped shut and fell into the floor with a loud thump.
As he guided his Wandering Soul back into his body, Li Yundong's mind was filled with only one thought: you had it coming.