It was one thing to go up against an army of greedy Cultivators, but another thing altogether to go up against an entire legion of indestructible arhats. And to make matters worse, he was running out of time. According to the lama, the ritual had been going on for quite some time now.
Chan'er would die if he didn't hurry.
Li Yundong soared higher above the ground, moving his hands at the same time.
Aim for the pagoda.
He didn't really have to fight the arhats; he just had to land a hit on the pagoda to disrupt the ritual.
"Om mani padme hum!"
The Intelligent Fist Mudra flew out from his hands.
Come on, come on, hit!
The arhats' shifted into a new formation; those guarding the pagoda's lower floors suddenly moved upwards while the one floating near the top floors moved aside to make space for the incoming arhats.
The arhats were closing ranks around the sixth floor.
The mudra rammed into the arhats' new formation, sending dazzling rays everywhere. Li Yundong himself was thrown away slightly by the impact. By the time he regained his balance and opened his eyes, he saw the arhats pushing back against the mudra. A few arhats in the frontline eventually disintegrated, but those behind them quickly moved forward to fill in the gap.
The arhats were literally throwing themselves in front of the mudra.
The mudra waned before it could reach the sixth floor.
The arhats suddenly went into offensive mode, their snarling faces flying towards him at full speed.
Li Yundong slipped sideways and narrowly avoided being head-butted by an angry arhat. Another group of arhats flocked above his head, but instead of attacking, they were just hovering above him. He realized then what these arhats were trying to do: forcing him to the ground where the giant arhat awaited him.
Inference: the giant arhat couldn't fly.
Li Yundong avoided another flurry of attacks, dodging from side to side. The Fan of Seven Treasures remained close to him, covering his six, tearing to shreds any arhat who got too close. A small group of arhats were guarding the pagoda while the rest of them attacked him, trying to force him to the ground.
At one point, it was all he could do to just defend himself; he couldn't even fight back against the arhats.
There were just too many of them.
Every time he tried to form a mudra, the attacking arhats would crowd him from all sides, forcing him to defend himself. If he sacrificed defense in favor of chanting the mantra (required to use the mudras), he would either get punched in the face or have his hands forced apart by those arhats. The Fan of Seven Treasures was there to defend him, of course, but they were still severely outnumbered.
An arhat rammed into his shoulder from behind. He spiraled around a few times before he managed to regain his balance. Two more were coming at him from both sides. He avoided the one on the left, but the other one got him in the leg. The blow sent him tumbling to God knows where.
Even the small guys pack a punch, he thought as he righted himself with Qi control.
More arhats flocked towards him from above.
A dozen of palm-shaped auras rained down upon him, forcing him to zip around to avoid them. At one point he slipped up and actually got hit by one of those auras. The blow nearly made him drop out of the sky.
Great. These arhats could use mudras as well.
He had to take out those talismans. When he was dodging around earlier, he saw a number of arhats absorbing golden strings from those talismans to regenerate the parts on their body that had been hacked off by the Fan of Seven Treasures.
Li Yundong made a series of maneuvers from left to right, feinting and dodging. Eventually, he saw an opening and broke free from the throng of arhats crowding him.
He reoriented himself so that he was facing the metal wires.
Another squadron of arhats had cut off his path. The arhats were now swooping down at him from above. Li Yundong was forced to double back.
Damn… So many of them…
He grunted when an arhat (or maybe two, he couldn't even tell) struck him on the back. He swerved to his right, bending at his waist to avoid several mudras aimed at his face. There was a loud crack, like a heavy object being smashed into the ground. Something was obviously happening on the ground, but he honestly didn't have enough mental resources to figure out what it was. At one point he did steal a glance at the ground, but all he saw were arhats flying around.
Something crashed into his left hip. He cartwheeled in the air. The surrounding arhats used his momentary distraction and landed more blows on him. Out of sheer desperation, he raised his arms to guard his face while using Qi Kinesis to defend against any rear attacks.
A gust of wind blew in from his left. He lowered his arms and saw the Fan of Seven Treasures fighting off a large group of arhats on his left. More arhats were flying in, but the fan's arrival had disrupted the arhat's formation enough for him to form a mudra without being attacked.
"Namah samanta vajranam ham!"
The repulsive force blew the surrounding arhats away. Without the arhats blocking his view, he realized that he'd been forced away from the pagoda. Now he would have to fight through a sea of arhats to get close to the pagoda again.
No. He needed something long-range, preferably something big. That way he could attack the pagoda even from afar.
The arhats had regrouped and were now charging at him again. The Fan of Seven Treasures snapped open, ready for the next bout.
"Namah samanta vajranam ham!"
The arhats were blown away.
Li Yundong switched to another mudra.
Amoghasiddhi's Mudra: The Heavenly Drum!
"Namah samanta buddhanam ham hah svaha!"
Ripples formed in the air. The arhats closest to Li Yundong suddenly closed ranks, planting their bodies in the path of the shockwaves.
The shockwaves tore through the arhats' defense and crashed into the pagoda.
Li Yundong stared at the pagoda in shock. The shockwaves were gone; the pagoda had just absorbed them like they were nothing.
But how? He was certain that the pagoda was constructed of wood. So how could it withstand shockwaves of such magnitude?
Was it another spell?
Was the pagoda immune to physical attacks?
The arhats were closing in again.
Li Yundong growled. "Namah samanta vajranam ham!" The repulsive force blew away a large group of arhat, giving him a good view of the ground. He scanned the ground for signs of the lama.
Take out the spell caster, and the spell ends. Makes sense.
Hey buddy, he told the Fan of Seven Treasures telepathically while his eyes continued to scan the ground. Help me look for the lama.
Arhats, arhats, arhats. These things were everywhere.
"Namah samanta vajranam ham!"
Another batch of arhats were flung away.
The Fan of Seven Treasures suddenly shot down in a particular direction.
You found him? he asked the fan. The fan didn't respond, so he took off after it.
There you are…
He saw the lama spinning his prayer beads near the edge of the forest.
The Fan of Seven Treasures swatted away a bunch of arhats who were trying to get in its way. As they began to close in on the lama, Li Yundong thought he saw a smirk on the lama's lips.
Take him out, buddy.
The Fan of Seven Treasures swooped down.
More arhats rose from the ground. A few of them flew upwards to cut off the fan's path; the remaining ones formed a circle around the lama.
No you don't!
Li Yundong quickly formed a mudra. "Om mani—" The rest of the mantra turned into a scream when he felt a hard object ram into his stomach. His body spun around in the air until he eventually lost control of his Zhenqi and crashed into the ground.
He rolled to his side and groaned. What the heck was that? That felt totally different from the arhats' usual attacks.
He blinked his eyes opened and felt his stomach drop.
The big arhat looked even bigger now, so much bigger than he remembered. And it was wielding some kind of long, metal pole. No. It wasn't a pole. It was a staff. A long, golden staff, which may or may not be capable of spells.
The arhats from the pagoda swooped down from the sky, dozens and dozens of them. The golden staff suddenly extended and struck him in the chest. The blow sent him flying. When his back crashed into a tree seconds later, he realized that he'd just been forced back into the forest. Li Yundong flew out of the forest to rejoin the battle, but a mob of smaller arhats were waiting for him near the edge of the forest.
Something struck him in the head, and he fell. The pain from the blow was so great that he didn't even feel the impact when his body crashed into the ground. He coughed and forced his eyes open. He realized then that he was lying on his stomach, and the ground directly under his face was covered in blood. His blood.
Suddenly, his hands were yanked to the sides and then pinned to the ground.
He looked up and saw the large, staff-wielding arhat walking towards him. Behind it stood a legion of smaller arhats with menacing scowls. The Fan of Seven Treasures was putting up a good fight against a large squadron somewhere near the lama, but its efforts appeared as fruitless as his own—the arhats' bodies kept regenerating after the fan tore them to shreds.
He shut his eyes and tried to search his mind for Acalanatha's voice.
Was Acalanatha watching him right now? He must be. He himself had told him so.
Acalanatha was watching, but he wasn't speaking.
Li Yundong opened his eyes, resigned to the fact that he was on his own this time.