Covered in the most luxurious coat of gold, a forehead marked with a half-moon and a torso as large as a small mound, the Golden-Mooned Wolf stood between Ling Xian and freedom.
The vast majority of the slaughtered beasts had been its subjects. Even though it didn't particularly cared for their fates, seeing the twisted corpses of so many of his clan tugged tightly at its heartstrings. With the number of followers reduced by this much, even if it did survive the day, it would be isolated by the other three with bigger followings.
The wolf could not let that happen. It had to act.
Ling Xian eyed the wolf with a look of contempt. His lips curled, "Just you?"
"Human, I admit you are indeed strong. But against me, you are lacking." The wolf glared at him through its magnified pupils.
"Just as I said before, let's see you try." Ling Xian threw the creature a condescending look.
This was the last straw. The Golden-Mooned Wolf roared in anger, lifted a paw and smashed it onto the earth.
Instantly, a giant paw-shaped cloud came crashing down with the force of a scriptural earthquake, aimed directly at Ling Xian's head.
Ling Xian frowned and powered his wings. With a gentle flap of the wings, a soft feather fell from the frame and floated patiently towards the descending paw. The objects met.
Dust spiraled into a sandstorm. The entire realm trembled in fear.
Ling Xian propelled himself high into the sky, looking down at the Golden-Mooned Wolf, he shouted, "Stop testing my powers. If you've got something, let it all out now or I'm leaving!"
The wolf returned him a condescending laugh and said, "Human, I got a good read on your true powers from that last test. Even though I don't know how you're able to withstand my attack, but one thing is for certain, you have yet to break through to the foundational level."
"So what?" Ling Xian frowned, puzzled.
"So what? Ha ha ha…" The Golden-Mooned Wolf roared in laughter. When it finally found its breath again, it continued, "You're a nobody until you've reached the foundational level. A nobody is a nobody, and a nobody can never stir up waves in the ocean."
Ling Xian responded coldly, "Before I began my journey of cultivation, I was most commonly referred to as useless. Now, it seems that I've been upgraded to a nobody. I can't wait because that means if I defeat you, you're less than a nobody!"
"You have a sharp tongue, but I have no time for that." The Golden-Mooned Wolf calmed down, its tone less proud but no less condescending.
The last exchange proved to the wolf that Ling Xian had yet to reach the foundational period. The creature feared no more.
The beast was nonetheless one of the four supreme rulers of the Hidden Territory. A young cultivator couldn't possibly threaten it.
"Then let's cut the pleasantries and get on with it!" Ling Xian eyed his gate to freedom, so near yet so far. Inside his head, he was desperately searching for an exit plan.
Even though Ling Xian had reached the Perfect Realm, he was still half a step away from crossing that major boundary. He couldn't defeat this powerful beast, but the beast couldn't hurt him either.
It would be difficult to get rid of the wolf, especially with the other three watching.
"Even though you just slaughtered many of my subjects, I do admire your skills. So I give you the option to surrender. If not, you die!" The Golden-Mooned Wolf took a leap forward.
"I choose the third option, you die." As his pupils turned black and white, a bloodstained sword appeared in his hands.
"My advice to you, do not harm yourself, come join me, be my subject. That is your best choice." The wolf demanded sternly.
"In your dreams!"
His sword came down before the echo of his voice vanished.
The Sword of Extinction displayed its newly sharpened blade. The bloodstains became more real as the sword rushed in closer.
Ling Xian did not wish to keep up this exchange of insults. It was time to carve out a path to freedom with his sword. The appearance of this ancient sword rendered the wolf and his companions dumbstruck.
They knew their powers were no match for the sword. They trembled at the mere sight of it.
The wolf's eyes sparkled. The creature knew it was hopeless against the sword. In an act of desperation, it summoned its most powerful spell.
The wolf's body began to glisten and shimmer and magnificent rays of gold created a blinding aura around it. The half-mooned mark on its forehead detached and floated up into the air. The mark expanded rapidly and became a golden full moon.
This was the ultimate power that gave the Wolf its identity. This was the weapon it had used to defeat great opponents and helped seal his status as one of the four supreme rulers. Ling Xian's doom had been spelled.
The blinding rays shot out of the beast's body and crashed into the bloodstained sword.
"Hommmm, Hommmmmmm, Hommmmmmmmm……"
The sound of heaven and earth shattering pierced through the ears of every living being inside the Secret Territory. Sword against light, Ling Xian was not yet powerful enough to resist the onslaught. Under the endless dulling of the lights, his sword broke into long, thin strands of air and escaped back into his body through his pores.
Two opponents, one from the meditational period, the other foundational, but the result of the first round was a draw!
Every beast, including the three rulers of the realm, who had witnessed the event of the last round, took a deep gulp of air. This violates the laws of cultivation. How was this possible?
Ling Xian frowned and muttered to himself in disappointment, "The tenth realm is still ways away from the foundational level."
Of course, no one else heard his complaint. If they did, they wouldn't be so quick to show him sympathy. A mere cultivator of the meditational period, taking on a beast of the foundational period, forcing it to showcase its most powerful skill and drawing the match!
"What an evil sword!"
The Golden-Mooned Wolf was stunned and instantly withdrew his bias and contempt. Its' young opponent was suddenly an equal.
Drawing on his most powerful spell! What else does he have?
However, the battle had begun. There was no turning back.
"Human, you are indeed a gem. But unfortunately, you will die here today!" The Wolf howled. His body morphed into a thin, golden strand of hair which headed directly towards Ling Xian. Before anyone, or beast, could react to what was happening, the giant paw came crashing down.
Ling Xian did not falter. Gathering the Flame of Purity inside his right hand, he lifted his fist to meet the descending paw.
The Golden-Mooned Wolf let out an agonizing scream of terror, its paw charred by the flame. The creature did not withdraw. Instead, it kept its paw against Ling Xian's fist and summoned the last spell again.
The wolf was one of the four supreme leaders of the realm. Aside from its obvious powers, the creature understood strategy and war. A paw for a life, this seemed a fair trade.
The beast was confident that attacking with its most powerful skill in such close proximity would ensure its victory.
Unfortunately, its confidence was misplaced.
Ling Xian had just spent a century inside the Fantasy. His level of experience in both life and battle was unrivaled. He saw straight through the wolf's plan the moment it struck.
Ling Xian watched as the golden full moon expanded once more. He showed no signs of panic. Instead, he extended his pair of magnificent wings and gently flapped them up and down, loosening their features which fell around him to form a protective cocoon.
Yet another deafening roar shook the earth.
Ling Xian was fundamentally unharmed. But his wings had been disintegrated. This moment of calm following the explosion was all the time he needed to redirect his powers to his left fist and take a swing at the wolf's face.
The full power of a tenth realm cultivator was unleashed onto the wolf. The beast stumbled backward in pain.
"Dammit, I shall kill you!"
The Golden-Mooned Wolf had been truly enraged. At this point, it had wanted nothing more than having this human dead. However, its powers alone were not enough. The wolf hollered at its comrades, "Don't just stand there, come help! Don't you want him dead?"
At his command, the other three rulers of the realm came rushing to the wolf's aid.
The Snow Tiger unleashed the Roar of the Forest.
The invisible mass extended much farther this time. Every living creature of the realm fell to the earth, covering their ears and quivering in fear.
The giant Basilisk stuck out is slithering tongue and hissed, unleashing a cloud of black, toxic smoke. Where the smoke touched, every flower, every plant wasted away.
The Bare Winged Crane opened its beak and let out an earsplitting screech. The moment the bird extended its flaming red wings, the features turned into broadswords and rained down indiscriminately onto the earth.
Three supreme rulers letting out all of their most cherished spells all at once. This was not a sight for the faint-hearted.
Ling Xian had his strength. But theoretically, he hadn't yet broken through to the foundational level. Confronted with the joint attack from such powerful beasts, he stood no chance. However, his expression showed no fear. Instead, he curled his lips, shot them a mysterious smile and said, "What an incredible sight! Too bad, none of you can defeat me."
As the echoes of his voice trailed off, a splendid, ethereal figure emerged from behind him.
It was the shadowy figure of the one that truly ruled heaven and earth, the all-powerful form of a legend, a myth that lived through the ages.
In an instant, real fear descended on the battlefield.
All the spells that were still flying through the air vanished. An earthquake began to shake the entire Territory. Giant crevasses appeared in the earth. Every living beast, including the four supreme leaders and the Spirit of the realm fell to their knees in one swift and uncontrollable motion.
A voice trailed off. A figure descended. All creatures kneeled.
Such was the stunning entrance of the Untainted.
She needed not speak a word. Even in her current fleshless, weakened state, 200,000 years of glory radiated through her mere presence. Such was the charisma of the Keeper of Land and Sea.
The four beasts were paralyzed with fear. Confined by the power of her presence, they stood like trees rooted to the earth and observed the mythical figure of immortality with confusion, astonishment, but mostly shock.
Shocked by the sudden appearance of such a terrifying killer; confused about how humanity can amass such strength inside a Hidden Territory.
The Untainted threw an indifferent glance towards the cowering crowd. Then, with a soft wave of her hand, split the wall behind them to create a tiny gap.
Ling Xian nodded gently. Without uttering a word, he exited the Territory through the gap.
Just before his figure exited the gap and disappeared behind the wall, a soft laughter could be heard echoing back from the other side.
The laughter was soft but insolent.
The smile was lovely but disturbing.
The four supreme leaders of the realm watched him leave with indescribable rage. But such was life. There was nothing to be done. Ling Xian had the last laugh.