Li Yundong followed the two lamas until he eventually arrived at—unsurprisingly—a temple. Technically, he wasn't inside the temple; rather, he was standing on a huge parking lot beside the temple. Some kind of ticket booth was set up at the corner of the parking lot. There was a long queue at the ticket booth, and the two lamas were having a conversation with another lama near the booth.
When Li Yundong first arrived at the parking lot, he saw a group of tourists hanging around the booth as well. He had decided to blend in with the group, hiding in plain sight while he kept a close eye on the lamas. The tourists were clearly waiting for someone; though if Li Yundong were to venture a guess, they were probably waiting for their tour guide who was queueing up at the booth to purchase their tickets.
Li Yundong took a deep breath and tamped down a wave of frustration.
The conversation between the lamas was taking far too long. Ten minutes and counting. His original game plan was to follow the two lamas around until they eventually led him to the location where this supposed demon witch was incarcerated. It did seem like a good idea at the time, since those two lamas were part of whatever ritual required to exterminate the demon witch. At least that was what he understood from the conversation he'd overheard back at the noodle shop.
Alas, it would appear that a change of plans was necessary.
Damn it. He really thought that those two lama would lead him straight to Su Chan. But now they were just standing there, chatting with each other like they didn't have a care in the world.
What the heck happened to "it's best if we get there as quickly as possible?"
Weren't those two supposed to be in a hurry?
Li Yundong sighed. Plan B, then…
This wasn't ideal, but he would probably have to sneak into Xiyuan Temple on his own. Assuming that Su Chan was even inside the temple. From the looks of it, Xiyuan Temple was open to tourist and local visitors. Which means there would be a lot of prying eyes. Wouldn't it be better to "exterminate" Su Chan elsewhere? How was Li Yundong even supposed to find out where Su Chan was being kept without the two lamas to lead him to the place?
Five minutes, he told himself. I'll wait for five more minu—
The lamas were leaving.
Li Yundong pushed away from the throng of tourists and hurried after the lamas. The pair had just left the parking lot and was now walking towards Xiyuan temple.
Hah! So she was inside the temple after all—
Li Yundong's shoulder rammed into something soft; a woman shrieked.
"Sorry, miss! I'm sorry!" Li Yundong crouched down to check on the young lady he'd just knocked to the ground. "Are you okay?"
"Geez! Dude, watch where you're going!" the lady glared at him as she scrambled around to pick up the dozens of entrance tickets strewn all over the ground.
Li Yundong looked towards the temple. The lamas were gone.
Li Yundong sprang to his feet and began sprinting towards the temple.
"I'm sorry, miss! I truly am!" he yelled over his shoulder.
"Hey!" the lady yelled. "Where do you think you're goin—Get back here! You're not allowed to enter the temple without buying a ticket first!"
Li Yundong ignored the lady and kept running.
"Hey!!" the lady yelled again.
"Good Lord, Lanlan… What on earth is the matter?" said another woman.
Li Yundong did a quick scan of his surroundings as he ran. Damn it. Where the heck did those two go? Were they inside the temple already?
Li Yundong stopped in front of the temple's main entrance. A portion of his Zhenqi rose from his Vital Orb and gathered at his Shenting.
The lady was still yelling. "…I swear! The guy bumped into me and then started sprinting towards the temple. And I don't think he has a ticket."
"Are you sure?"
"Just ask them!"
The tourists voiced out their agreement.
"She's right, Miss Liu. I saw."
"Yeah, me too. He bumped into her and then just up and left."
"Didn't even help her pick up our tickets."
"What a rude young man."
Li Yundong tuned out the voices and sprinted away from the entrance to distance himself from the parking lot.
C'mon, c'mon, c'mon… Where are they?
He'd already committed the lamas' voices to memory. He just have to isolate them and pinpoint their location.
Li Yundong pulled up short: Eryue had picked up something.
"…shīshū is waiting for us."
"Of course he is! You're the one who got carried away just now."
Relief coursed through Li Yundong. Neither of the lamas were inside the temple yet. He followed their voices and realized that the lamas were moving to the side of the temple.
Where the heck are they going? Are they leaving the temple?
The two lamas circled around the side of the temple and kept on walking. From the looks of it, they were heading towards Xiyuan Temple's back entrance.
Li Yundong followed the lamas stealthily, making sure to stay at least ten meters away from them. The back of the temple was an isolated area, so he had to be even more careful lest the lamas notice his presence. Right now, Li Yundong and the lamas were the only ones around in the area.
The lamas stopped in front of a large wooden door.
Li Yundong hid behind the trunk of a large tree and watched the pair from afar.
Li Yundong zoomed in and saw one of the lama reaching for the bronze door knocker.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
The wooden door creaked open five seconds later. A middle-aged lama stood at the door.
"Ah, there you are."
The lama who knocked pressed his palms together. "Greetings, shīshū."
The other lama copied his gestured. "Shīshū."
"Come on in," said the middle-aged lama. "Everyone's waiting for you two."
Li Yundong's body grew taut. That did not sound good. It definitely sounded like those lamas were about to begin some kind of ritual.
Damn it. He had to get to Chan'er before those guys did.
The two lamas entered the temple.
The double doors were closing. However, the doors stopped moving just before they were fully closed. A second later, they creaked open again. Li Yundong zoomed in and saw the sharp eyes of the middle-aged lama looking in his direction.
The blown-up view of the tree bark flashed in his mind the moment Li Yundong pull his head away from the edge of the trunk. He zoomed out, but kept his Eryue activated. He would move in after he heard the door close.
Crap. He didn't see me, did he?
He waited behind the tree until he heard the unmistakable click of a lock. After that, he poked his head out again and zoomed in. The doors were closed, and there were no signs of the middle-aged lama.
But just to be safe…
Li Yundong levitated from the ground and floated towards the top of the tree. He landed on a branch and surveyed the area from his new vantage point. He stood on the branch for about a minute, scanning the area for threats.
The coast was clear.
He moved quietly towards the door.
Disappointment crept into Li Yundong as he approached the double doors. Two talismans were attached to the double doors, one on each door. He couldn't see the talismans just now because the lamas' bodies were blocking them from his view.
Li Yundong crouched down in front of the doors and studied the talismans. The talismans appeared to be identical, and they were about the same size as his palm. The drawings on the talismans were totally different from the one that Su Chan had given him. These ones contained not Taoist symbols but Sanskrit symbols. Behind the Sanskrit symbols were the drawings of several menacing arhats.
The symbols on the talismans started to glow when Li Yundong reached for the door. The golden glow waned the moment Li Yundong withdrew his hand slightly. He sighed and let his hand dropped to his side. He probably shouldn't take any chances since he had no idea what those talismans were capable of.
He straightened himself and stared at the double doors as he figured out his next move.
Simple. Just fly over the wall.
Li Yundong moved away from the door and took a right turn—no need to stay too close to the talismans. He kept walking until he arrived at a dimly lit corner beside the temple. The ambience was dark due to the presence of a huge tree whose foliage had blocked out most of the light from the surrounding street lamps. He stopped under the tree and glanced around a few times. He didn't need anyone to start freaking out when they saw him levitating off the ground.
Okay. Here goes…
Alas, as his body rose, his heart sank.
Talismans were attached all over the top surface of the wall. Li Yundong landed on the ground with a loud huff.
He picked up a pebble from the ground and hurled it towards the top of the wall. The pebble sailed over the wall without encountering any resistance.
Okay. So it wasn't a barrier.
Maybe it was some kind of alarm, in which case it would be an even bigger pain in the ass—those guys inside the temple would know right away that there was an intruder the moment one of the alarms was triggered.
No. He had to find another way in.
There had to be some place around this huge temple that wasn't sealed off with a bunch of talismans. He just had to find it.
Another thought hit him, and he froze.
Why not just enter from the temple's main entrance? He quickly dismissed the idea; it was too illogical. This place was clearly a restricted area. It was probably inaccessible from anywhere inside the temple that was open to the public. What if some random tourist wandered into the place while "looking for the bathroom?"
Fine. Not the main entrance then.
What if he infiltrated from the sky? Maybe hover in the sky, and then stealthily lower himself into the middle of the compound. He pondered that idea for a moment. Would that work? Would there be traps in the sky?
Zi Yuan had mentioned something similar in her letter summoning him to the Fox Zen School.
Li Yundong ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
Don't give up. Just keep on looking.
After fumbling around for a few more minutes, he ended up standing in front of those double doors again. Nothing had changed. The symbols on the talismans still glowed whenever his hands neared the door's surface and dimmed whenever he pulled away. What did those things detect anyway? Physical proximity?
If that's the case, then…
Li Yundong turned around and looked towards the large tree he'd been hiding behind when he was spying on the two lamas earlier. Argh, whatever. Might as well give it a try.
He flew towards the tree and stood on the branch again.
God, he really hoped that there weren't any security cameras around here. He hadn't seen any so far, so there was that. Then again, who needs security cams when you have these awesome talismans lying around to keep intruders away?
Talismans, he might add, that he was about to disarm.
Li Yundong crouched down on the branch and raised his hand, aiming his palm at the double doors.
His Zhenqi shot out from his palm and began stretching towards the double doors. If the talismans worked by detecting someone's physical presence, then he might be able to disarm them from afar. He was hoping that he could literally peel the talismans off the door using Qi Kinesis.
Which, apparently, was too much to ask for.
Thanks a lot, Universe.
Li Yundong groaned and withdrew his Zhenqi from the talismans when they started glowing again.
Great. Now what?
Voices drifted to his ears.
"…the right place, Lanlan? I don't even see him!"
"Just keep looking." A pause. "I'm positive that he came this way."
The second voice belonged to the lady he ran into earlier.
Crap, crap, crap…
The voices sounded rather faint, so he knew that the two women weren't close-by. Not yet anyway. But still, the fact that they were both looking for him set off a dozen of alarm bells in his head.
Li Yundong cursed under his breath and flew towards the doors again. He just had one last thing to try. And if this didn't work, he would try sneaking in from the temple's main entrance—who knows he might be able to access the restricted area by breaking few walls.
He hadn't tried to use this mudra because he wasn't certain about the effects it would have on the talismans. Would the talismans burst into flames like the wall inside the Fox Zen School's secret vault? Well, it would be okay if one or two talismans caught fire. But what if all of them (he didn't even know how many there were hidden all over the temple) burst into flames simultaneously? Wouldn't that alert the lamas inside the temple?
Or maybe nothing would happen.
The True Flames of Samadhi can remove any obstacle from the path of truth.
Would rescuing a girlfriend count as "the path of truth?"
Guess he was about to find out.
Li Yundong formed Acalanatha's 5th Mudra, the Mouth of Samadhi and bridged his Three Gates.
May the Mouth of Samadhi breathes the True Flames of Samadhi…
"Namah sarva tathagatebhyah sarva mukhebhyah, sarvatha trat canda maha rosana kham khahi khahi sarva vighnam hum trat ham mam…"
Colorful flames engulfed the two talismans on the double doors. In just a matter of seconds, the talismans were reduced to ashes.
Li Yundong stopped chanting and held his breath. There would no doubt be some kind of commotion or uproar inside the temple if he was discovered.
There was only silence.
Note to self: Next time, don't be afraid to follow my instincts.
He sighed, released the mudra, and then stared at the double doors.
Hang on, Chan'er…