Su Chan knew something was wrong the moment she saw Yundong flinch. What happened? What in Tao's name happened? Su Chan zoomed in with her eyes. Yundong's face was twisted in pain, and he kept blinking his eyes. Grr! That pesky old man must have done something to Yundong's eyes!
Yundong's knees hit the ground.
The old man was now moving, though he appeared to be limping.
Yundong was still kneeling on the ground, doing nothing to defend himself.
Xianjue, Yundong! Xianjue!
With Xianjue, it was still possible for Yundong to dodge the old man's attacks even though he couldn't see. But why wasn't Yundong standing up to defend himself? Staying in a kneeling position would impair his mobility and compromise his defense.
Argh! No use worrying about this now. I have to go help him!
Su Chan sprang to her feet. But then she stopped. She turned back around. Zhou Qin was staring back at her grimly.
"Go," Zhou Qin said with a nod. "Go help him, I'll be okay. I'll call the cops and go check on the others." Zhou Qin jerked her chin towards the students who were cowering in fear near the long vehicle.
Su Chan nodded and returned her gaze to the old man. Footsteps sounded behind her; Zhou Qin was already running towards the car. Su Chan wasn't sure who these "cops" were supposed to be, but she didn't care.
Maybe they were the same men who wore those strange badges.
The old man stopped moving. He crouched down. Blood spilled from the old man's mouth, and he broke into a coughing fit.
For a moment there, Su Chan thought the old man had given up. But then the coughing stopped, and the old man rose to his feet again. Determination flashed inside his eyes as he wiped the blood off the corner of his mouth with the sleeve of his robe.
Then, the old man started limping towards Yundong again.
"Yundong!!!!" Su Chan yelled. She tried to switch on her Xianjue's clairvoyant mode, but cursed when she realized that the old man was out of her range. Only Yundong's Xianjue had that kind of insane range.
Su Chan's legs moved, propelling her towards Yundong.
She had barely taken two steps before something made her stop.
Wait a minute… Is he…
Yundong had let his hands drop limply to his sides. Su Chan zoomed in with her eyes, focusing on Yundong's face. He was no longer blinking. His eyes were closed, and there was a tranquil look on his face.
The penny dropped when Su Chan noticed the state of Yundong's hair, which was standing upright.
Oh, clever, clever Yundong…
Su Chan zoomed out, her eyes darting around as she searched desperately for Zhou Qin's whereabouts.
Yundong was bridging the Three Gates just like she'd taught him last time. He knew that a frontal attack was coming, so he was trying to create distance. Forcing his opponent away to keep himself outside of his opponent's striking range. That way he wouldn't have to dodge or parry at all.
Great combat instincts.
She found Zhou Qin seconds later.
Zhou Qin was beside the long vehicle, helping two girls to their feet.
But that's in the direct line of—
Su Chan's gaze snapped towards Yundong.
Yundong was now on his feet.
She zoomed in.
White steam rose from the top of his head
Su Chan sprinted towards the car as fast as her legs could carry her. "Back away from the car!!!" Su Chan yelled at the top of her lungs.
Zhou Qin, along with several other students near the car, froze.
"Get away!!!" Su Chan waved her arms wildly.
Su Chan reached the car in record time. She dove for Zhou Qin and grabbed her arm.
Then, Su Chan scurried away from the car, dragging Zhou Qin with her. As they moved, Su Chan swiveled her head and looked towards Yundong. The old man had finally reached Yundong and was about to launch another Shadowless kick.
Yundong cocked his fist back.
"Down!" Su Chan yelled, pulling Zhou Qin to the ground.
The moment they both hit the ground, the air in front of Yundong exploded in a soundless clap. The old man did some weird acrobatic move at the last second—he twisted his body sideways while jumping backwards.
A powerful shockwave blasted a straight path from Yundong towards the long car, hurling the old man away like a rag doll. A loud, metallic crunch sounded followed by the sound of glass shattering. The car skidded sideways, producing an ear-piercing screech which lasted for seconds on end.
Then it was over. Silence fell.
The smell of burnt rubber assaulted Su Chan's nose. She glanced towards the ruined car. All of its windows were shattered, and the dent in the middle of its body was so great that the car appeared slightly bent lengthwise. Several dark lines marked the pavement, no doubt left behind by the car's rubber wheels when they were sliding across the concrete.
"Stay down," Su Chan whispered to Zhou Qin.
Su Chan climbed to her feet and sprinted towards Yundong.
To her surprise, the old man was still standing even though he had been blown away by the shockwave earlier. His dark robe, however, was now torn apart with pieces of it still floating in the air.
Su Chan's footsteps echoed as she ran. The moment she got close, Yundong stiffened and started backing away from her.
"Who's there!" he said and got into a fighting stance.
He still can't see…
Su Chan immediately stopped running. "It's me, beloved. It's me."
Yundong's posture relaxed. "S- Su Chan?"
Su Chan closed the remaining distance between them. "Yes, I'm here now, beloved. Let me see your eyes."
Yundong lowered himself to the floor with a loud groan.
Su Chan crouched down and flipped open one of his eyelids.
"The bastard went for my eyes..." Yundong grumbled. "I dunno what he did. But it hurt like hell. I think it's that robe of his."
"Rock dust. Sand," Su Chan said, lowering his eyelids. She made a sound of disapproval in her throat. "Must have sent it to your eyes with those air currents. Now hold still. Keep your eyes closed."
Su Chan adjusted her posture so that her hands were hidden behind Yundong's body, away from the crowd's view.
Yundong tried to rub his eyes with his hands.
"Tsk! Don't rub your eyes," Su Chan said, slapping his hand. "Hands off!"
Yundong let his hands drop.
Su Chan shut her eyes and muttered an incantation for an extraction spell.
"What? I didn't catch that. You were whispering something," Yundong said.
A green glow appeared in Su Chan's hand.
''Nothing," Su Chan said. "Just hold still."
Su Chan held her hand in front of Yundong's eyes.
Yundong sighed. "Much better…"
Seconds later, Su Chan withdrew her hand.
"Okay, you can open your eyes now."
Yundong's lashes fluttered.
"Why didn't you use Xianjue?" Su Chan asked.
"Couldn't get it to work," Yundong said, blinking a few times. "Eyes hurt too much."
"Can you see now?"
"Yeah." Yundong wiped a stray tear with his sleeve.
"Are you hurt anywhere else?"
"No. Just the eyes. But the pain is gone…" Yundong stared at her. "What did you do?"
The sound of maniacal laughter stilled Su Chan's words. Slowly, she rose to her feet. "Up, Yundong. Quickly!" Su Chan held out her hand.
Yundong slid his hand into hers and she pulled him up.
"Damn it. I thought I had him for sure," Yundong said. "How the hell did I miss?"
Uh… Hello? Maybe because you couldn't see?
Su Chan bit back the snarky remark. Sheesh. All this stress must be getting to her.
Su Chan cleared her throat. "He was thrown away by the shockwave, but he dodged at the last second, so he didn't take the full brunt of it."
The old man started clapping his hands.
"Wow... Wow!" the old man said, removing the rest of his tattered robe from his body. "I haven't had so much fun in years. Years! Hahahaha! Oh… This is going to be interesting!"
"Hahahahaha! Can you imagine? After spending so many years engaging in boring duels with hacks who claimed to be masters… And now, finally! Finally I found a worthy opponent!"
"Crazy son of a… Hey… Why is he ripping his shirt off? What the hell is he up to?" Yundong said.
The old man was now naked from the waist up. The way his ribcage was pushing out against his skin made him look like someone who hadn't eaten in weeks.
Su Chan narrowed her eyes. "I don't know..."
Su Chan scanned the area for the crowd.
Zhou Qin had done a superb job getting the injured students away from the damaged car.
Most of the students had already fled the scene while the old man was busy exchanging blows with Yundong. Those who remained were either unconscious or incapacitated somehow.
"Holy shit... Is the old bastard still planning to fight in his condition?" Yundong said.
Su Chan zoomed in on the old man's face.
The old man was still laughing like a loony. He looked like he was enjoying himself.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa... What's that thing in his hand?" Yundong whispered. "Did you see that?"
Su Chan zoomed out of the old man's face and focused on his hands instead. She managed to catch a glimpse of a flat, yellow object (a cloth? a piece of paper?) before the old man hid his hand behind his back. His other hand slid into the pocket of his pants as though to look for something.
"I knew there's something special about you, boy! I knew it!" The old man unleashed another round of laughter. "Looks like that kid wasn't lying when he told me that an expert Cultivator lives in this city!"
"Did he just… Shit! Su Chan!" Yundong hissed. "He mentioned Cultivator. He knows about us!"
Su Chan narrowed her eyes. Kid? Which kid told him about Yundong?
Was it Ruan Hongling?
The timeline fit.
Just yesterday, Ruan Hongling was at their door, speaking with Yundong. And one day later, this old man appeared out of nowhere to have a dust-up with Yundong?
But this man couldn't possibly be a Cultivator from the Zhengyi School. The Zhengyi School would never act so overtly, especially in a place crawling with mortals. Well, there was only one way to find out for sure. They had to get this old man to talk—
Hey... what's that smell?
Su Chan closed her eyes and sniffed the air a few times. Burning. Something was burning.
"Umm...Su Chan? He just threw something away..." Yundong said. "It's a lighter... And he's holding some kind of yellow paper in his hand... "
Su Chan's eyes shot open. A talisman!
He's casting a spell!
But what spell?
"And… the paper's gone. Burnt into ashes. What kind of sick game is this lunatic playing?"
"Hyaahhhhhh!!!!" The old man slapped his chest.
"Yundong... Move your Qi to your legs," Su Chan said. "Prepare to run."
"What! Run? Did you forget his threat earlier? He's gonna kill..."
Su Chan didn't hear the rest of Yundong's sentence. She was already tuning her Eryue to focus on the sounds coming from the old man's lips. Incantations... If it's a spell... It probably involves some kind of incantation... Come on, come on... Here we go!
"...Maoshan Jida Zhen Shengong. Bada Yuanshuai Xian Shentong! Hearken to me, O Great Celestial Lord of the Three Realms! Come to me! Show me your power! I offer you my body as a vessel..."
Su Chan's blood ran cold. No… No… It can't be…
She took Yundong's hand and gave it a sharp tug.
"Yundong, we have to go. Now!"
Yundong didn't budge.
"Yundong, come on!! We've gotta move!"
Yundong pointed a shaky finger at something in front of them.
Su Chan lifted her gaze.
The old man's body was now twitching and convulsing violently. The convulsions were accompanied by a series of crunching sound, like the cracking of knuckles, only ten times louder. His skin bulged and contorted as though his muscles were expanding from within. His face began to warp and shift as though a bunch of creatures were trying to crawl out from within his skull but was held back by the elastic layer of his skin. Spit and some kind of unknown fluid dripped to the ground. The old man's contorted mouth dropped open as he gurgled. More fluid spilled to the ground. Su Chan thought the fluid looked a lot like the contents of a person's stomach. A putrid smell filled the air a split second later. The old man's mouth gaped wider as his teeth shifted and rearranged themselves inside his oral cavity. His jaw engorged and shrunk in an erratic rhythm.
All of a sudden, the old man hunched over.
The crunching stopped.
When he rose to full height seconds later, he was no longer an old man. Instead, standing before them was a six-foot-tall man with the build of a tough warrior.