Li Yundong dragged out the final syllable of the mantra, all the while keeping his three Dantians linked with his Zhenqi. The air in front of his hands, where Amoghasiddhi's Mudra was still on full display, continued to warp and bend. The resulting shockwaves swept across the terrain, blasting their way through the Great Six's formation.
Behind him, the fox spirits screamed in fear, though he didn't turn around this time; he was confident that the Fan of Seven Treasures could keep them safe.
A moment later, Li Yundong ended the mantra and released the mudra. As his hands fell to his sides, his Zhenqi left his Dantians and returned to his Vital Orb. Almost the entirety of the Great Six's legion was down. Some were out cold, while others were groaning and writhing on the ground.
Zhang Tianhé was one of few who were still standing.
The Sword of Seven Stars' golden aura had formed some kind of spherical shield around Zhang Tianhé and two other Cultivators: a curvaceous lady dressed in a Daopao; and a plump man sporting a long, black beard.
There was a buzzing sound, like the sound emitted by a spinning propeller. At first, Li Yundong thought it came from the Fan of Seven Treasures, but then the sound didn't come from behind; it came from the enemy lines, somewhere to the left of Zhang Tianhé.
Once the dust cleared, Li Yundong saw a man spinning a long staff with one hand. The staff had somehow protected the man from the blast wave he had unleashed. After a while, a short, bald man poked his head out from behind the staff-wielding man. Li Yundong recognized the second man as the fire-breathing guy.
"Phew! Guess I really owe you this time, eh, Du Fei zhenren?" said fire-breathing man. "That Jingu staff of yours really do come in handy at times."
The spinning came to a stop. The staff shortened when its wielder swung it to the side.
Du Fei chuckled. "Well. They don't call me the Golden Monkey for nothing, Dang Qiang zhenren."
Dang Qiang laughed. "Still. Nice save, Du zhenren." Dang Qiang shifted his gaze towards Li Yundong.
"Don't mention it, Dang zhenren," Du Fei said. "The Penglai Sect is like the Quanzhen Dragon Sect's extended family anyway."
Dang Qiang smirked. "You bet."
A cracking noise drew Li Yundong's attention away from the odd pair. Li Yundong quickly scanned his surroundings for the source of the noise.
He found it seconds later. It was a wilting tree, which appeared to have grown out from the ground some time during the blast wave.
Li Yundong narrowed his eyes slightly.
Must be a spell…
There was no way a normal tree could survive that kind of blast wave.
The tree continued to wilt and wither until its trunk crumbled to reveal two men inside. The first of the pair was tall and lanky. Nothing about the man was notable except for the strange hat (like one of those ancient Chinese hats) on his head and the wooden sword he was wielding in his right hand. The man lowered the wooden sword and said, "Your wood style is impeccable as always, Chen Anji zhenren."
The second man snorted and released the hand sign he'd been performing. "There wouldn't be any members left of your pitiful Fangzhen Sect if I didn't step in and save your ass just now, Zhao Wuji zhenren."
Another tall man emerged from the ground just as Zhao Wuji was about to say something.
"Dang! That was close!" The tall man glanced around a few times. "Whoa… Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Would you look at that. Almost the entire assault force was wiped out." The man's gaze lingered at the back of the Great Six's formation.
Li Yundong followed the man's gaze and saw a group of men fleeing into the forest.
The tall man chuckled snidely. "Some of us have even decided to abandon ship."
There was a snigger, though this time it came from Chen Anji. "Sounds rich coming from you, Zhang Hongcheng."
"Hey!" The tall man glared at Chen Anji, who merely shrugged.
Zhang Hongcheng turned away. "Say, Du zhenren..."
"Huh?" Du Fei placed his staff over his shoulders.
Zhang Hongcheng's eyes slid towards Li Yundong. "It's been a while since we encountered an opponent this strong, wouldn't you say, Du Fei?" Zhang Hongcheng smirked. "Aren't you itching for a good battle?"
Du Fei laughed, holding his staff vertically beside him. "What do you even know, Zhang Hongcheng? You're from the Jinshan Sect. Running away from fights is your specialty!"
Zhang Hongcheng seemed mildly annoyed at the remark. "There are more to Earth spells than just their effectiveness as escape mechanisms, Du zhenren. There are combat applications as well."
"I hardly see the threat in a bunch of ground-digging moles," Chen Anji quipped.
Zhang Hongcheng smirked. "Guess we'll just have to see about that Chen zhenren." Zhang Hongcheng suddenly looked towards Zhang Tianhé. "Zhang zhenren, you don't mind if the five of us have some fun, do you?"
Zhang Tianhé didn't even spare the man a single glance; those cold, calculating eyes remained on Li Yundong, analyzing him, sizing him up.
Li Yundong made a note to watch out for Zhang Tianhé; that guy was definitely up to something.
Seconds later, it was the lady beside Zhang Tianhé who answered the question. "Be my guest, Zhang Hongcheng zhenren." The lady gave Zhang Tianhé a brief glance. "I'm sure my shīdì won't mind."
Zhang Hongcheng smiled. "Very well then, Zou Ping zhenren!" The man vanished into the ground as soon as he stopped speaking. A second later, his tall figure reappeared slightly in front of the line Li Yundong had carved on the ground. Footsteps sounded behind Zhang Hongcheng. Li Yundong stole a quick glance past Zhang Hongcheng's shoulder and saw the other four men stepping forward.
Li Yundong heard Zi Yuan's voice right then. "A little warning next time, Li Yundong?" She sounded a little annoyed.
"Ow… Stupid Li Yundong! I think my ears are still ringing a little, Zi Yuan jiějie."
Li Yundong winced internally. Sorry guys…
"Tsk! Hongling!" Zi Yuan hissed. "Shush! Do you want them to hear us?"
"I'm pretty sure half of them are deaf by now," Ruan Hongling mumbled.
The other four men flanked Zhang Hongcheng on both sides.
"At least have the decency to tell us your name, young man," Du Fei, the one with the staff, said.
Chen Anji smirked. "So it's Li zhenren, then."
"Which school or sect are you from?" Dang Qian asked, stroking his shiny bald head.
Li Yundong stared at his five opponents without answering.
"The Esoteric Sect, no doubt," said Zhao Wuji, the man with the wooden sword.
Li Yundong smirked and raised his right hand. Gasps of surprise sounded behind him when the Fan of Seven Treasures flew to his hand.
"I'm not part of any sect." Li Yundong rested the fan on his shoulder. "I'm Li Yundong. The guardian of the Fox Zen School."
"The guardian of the Fox Zen School?" Ruan Hongling giggled. "What kind of lame title is that?"
"Hongling," Zi Yuan hissed. "Be quiet if you have nothing useful to say."
Li Yundong smirked.
"Very well, guardian of the Fox Zen School," Zhang Hongcheng said. "Shall we begin?"
Li Yundong lifted the palm of his free hand and curled his fingers twice. "Come."
A slow smirk spread across Zhang Hongcheng's face.
That smirk the last thing Li Yundong saw of Zhang Hongcheng before the guy vanished into thin air.
Li Yundong twisted his body just in time to avoid being struck in the head by Du Fei's staff, which had grown substantially in length. The thing was over 10 meters long now.
"You're all too slow!" Li Yundong growled and stomped his foot on Zhang Hongcheng's hand, thwarting the man's attempt to grab his ankle.
Xianjue flashed again.
Li Yundong ducked low and avoided a roundhouse swing from Du Fei's long staff. While in a crouching position, Li Yundong grabbed Zhang Hongcheng's arm with one hand and yanked the rest of his body out from the ground. "Like I said!" Li Yundong turned around. "Too slow!" Li Yundong hurled Zhang Hongcheng's body straight into the path of the fireball which he had already seen coming.
"Earth Element: Earth Armor!"
Zhang Hongcheng's body turned brown just before he crashed into the fireball.
Li Yundong rolled sideways to avoid the remaining flames.
"Watch it, baldy!" Zhang Hongcheng yelled as pieces of thick ash fell off his body. "You nearly burned me alive!"
"Hey, it ain't my fault that you got tossed into the line of fire," said Dang Qiang smugly. "Literally."
Li Yundong parried a flurry of rapid strikes from the Du Fei's staff. What surprised Li Yundong about Du Fei was the man's agility; despite the staff's length, Du Fei was still able to wield it nimbly.
Li Yundong swung the Fan of Seven Treasures diagonally and parried yet another blow from the staff.
"Fire Element: Great Fireball!"
The Fan of Seven Treasures spread open upon Li Yundong's command. At the same time, Du Fei's staff came at him from the opposite side of the massive fireball.
Li Yundong swung the fan in a wide arc to parry Du Fei's staff while stirring the surrounding air at the same time. The wind blew the fireball apart even though the fireball was about as big as a bus.
Du Fei started swinging at Li Yundong again.
Pretty clever strategy, Li Yundong thought as he avoided a series of quick thrusts from the staff. Du Fei would engage Li Yundong in mid-range combat with his staff while the others would launch long-range spells at him whenever he was distracted.
"You're pretty nimble for your size, Li zhenren!" Du Fei swung the staff at Li Yundong's feet.
Li Yundong leaped into the air and landed a few feet away.
"I think it's your turn now, Zhang Hongcheng zhenren…"
Li Yundong looked towards Dang Qiang when he heard the bald man's smug tone.
"Earth Element: Earth Ripple!"
The ground underneath Li Yundong's feet began to shift. It was as though the earth beneath the ground had turned into some kind of fluid. The undulating motion caused the Fan of Seven Treasures to slip out of Li Yundong's grip.
The ground surged upwards, tossing Li Yundong into the air. Li Yundong balanced himself in midair with Qi-Kinetic flight and ended up levitating above the ground.
A bright flash lit up his peripheral vision. He turned and saw another fireball hurtling towards him. Something shot up from the ground before Li Yundong could even move.
The Fan of Seven Treasures spread open and started corralling the flames away from Li Yundong.
"Goddammit, Dang Qiang!" Zhang Hongcheng yelled as he dove sideways to avoid the fireball.
Li Yundong raised his hand. The Fan of Seven Treasures flew back towards—
Du Fei's staff managed to block the Fan of Seven Treasures path.
Li Yundong glanced down at Du Fei, who was smirking at him.
"Zhao Wuji zhenren," Du Fei said without taking his eyes off Li Yundong. "If you would be so kind?"
"Of course, Du zhenren."
A thin object shot into the air to assist Du Fei's staff in its duel against the Fan of Seven Treasures.
It was the wooden sword.
"That's the Sword of Nine Yin," Zi Yuan whispered. "It has the ability to absorb spiritual energy. They're trying to counter the Fan of Seven Treasure's Yang elemental attribute with the sword's Yin attribute."
No, you don't!
Li Yundong bridged his Three Gates and sent a shockwave towards the lanky man who was clearly controlling the wooden sword.
A bunch of thick roots sprouted out from the ground and took the brunt of the shockwave.
"I trust you to take care of my body, Chen Anji zhenren?" Zhao Wuji said as he got into a meditative posture on the ground.
"Of course, Zhao zhenren."
More roots sprouted from the ground, slithering around Zhao Wuji like snakes.
Li Yundong formed a mudra with his hands.
Mahavairocana's 1st Mudra: Intelligent Fist!
Something came at him from the right.
"I'm your opponent, Li zhenren!"
Li Yundong avoided Du Fei's roundhouse kick to his head.
Du Fei leaped away and got into a fighting stance. Li Yundong didn't like the smug look on the guy's face.
"Get ready, Zhang Hongcheng zhenren," Du Fei said.
"Shut up, you monkey," Zhang Hongcheng fired back from somewhere.
Li Yundong's scalped tingled. Get ready? Get ready for what?
Du Fei charged at him again.
"A sword," Li Yundong said, leaping backwards to avoid the slash. "Well-played."
"Consider this a sign of respect," Du Fei said, letting go of the hilt of his sword. The sword floated into the air and hovered above Du Fei. "I don't really use this sword unless I'm up against a powerful opponent."
Li Yundong narrowed his eyes at the man.
"Dang Qiang zhenren…" Du Fei smirked. "Showtime."
Two fireballs hurtled towards Li Yundong from both sides. Li Yundong's Zhenqi surged to his upper Dantian, bridging his Three Gates. The fireballs disintegrated when the shockwaves blasted through them.
"Fire Element: The Great Flare!"
The remnants of the fireballs transformed into an orange blaze, dazzling Li Yundong's eyes momentarily.
Li Yundong twisted around and avoided the bald man's headbutt to his groin.
Li Yundong forced his eyes open and kicked the bald man away.
Dang Qiang somersaulted in midair before landing in a crouch.
"Oh, this guy is good, Du Fei," Dang Qiang said with a chuckle. "He's damn good."
"What, too much for you to handle?" Du Fei taunted.
Dang Qiang smirked. "Not a chance!" The bald man flew at Li Yundong like a cannon ball.
SWISH! SWISH! SWISH!
Dang Qiang had clearly decided to use his own short stature to his full advantage seeing as he kept going for low targets: the legs; the groin; the stomach; the liver.
As Li Yundong fend off the strikes, he caught a glimpse of the Fan of Seven Treasures in the sky.
The fan wasn't doing well at all.
The fan was almost engulfed by the dozens of dark wraiths surrounding it.
"Get him out of there, Chen zhenren!" Du Fei yelled.
Li Yundong glanced down and saw Dang Qiang's smirk. A split second later, the bald man was yanked away by a bunch of vines.
"Li Yundong!" Zi Yuan hissed. "Above!"
Li Yundong looked up and felt his blood run cold. The sky was filled with swords, hundreds of them. The swords circled around in their formation before they stopped moving entirely.
ZING! The swords reoriented themselves until their tips were all pointing downwards at Li Yundong.
"Behold, Li zhenren," Du Fei said. "The Rain of a Thousand Swords!"