The will of an individual was nothing when facing real power.
Zhang Juan and his men came here with an old mindset and wanted to do things the old way. With a show of good cop/bad cop and twenty guns to back them up, they never considered the possibility of a failure.
This man, however, had put it plainly. "I don't want to give it to you!"
With that, the atmosphere immediately grew extremely tense.
The evening sky was slowly dimming and powdery snow started drifting down from the gloomy, gray clouds. The black tiles and bricks, cracked stone stairs, the haystack in one corner of the yard, and the pile of corns… everything was soon covered by a thin layer of snow.
Zhang Juan was also taken by surprise, but a mocking smile then crept up his face as if he was witnessing a naughty kid brandishing his slingshot in front of an adult and thought that was enough to support his confidence.
Ignorant and stupid!
"Haha, just listen to that arrogant tone! I've seen plenty people like you before. They all thought they could challenge the order of the state just because they had their petty tricks. It never occurred to them that in our eyes, you're nothing but clowns. It almost make me laugh." Zhang Juan shook his head, his tone filled with pity. "You are helpful to our country and we'd like to consider you a talented man. Too bad your head is not straight. Such a pity."
"Wait a minute, Old Zhang, don't go there yet." Mu Kun tried to mediate. "Mr. Gu, let's talk. I'm sure it's negotiable."
"I'm done talking to you. Fight me or leave now." Gu Yu remained calm-faced and genial.
Zhang Juan could not be bothered to respond. "Old Mu, did you hear him? Negotiation is out of question. Don't tell me I'm not following the orders."
With that, he paid no more attention to Gu Yu and gestured with his hand.
The dozen men on the low wall and the four special force members in the yard, as well as the sniper lying in waiting somewhere, were instantly ready to open fire. All angles were covered, including the area in front of the house, the rooftop, all corners, as well as the space between the deputies and Gu Yu.
"Junior Brother, what now?"
The five priests watched this nervously. Shi Yunlai's lips quivered from using a whispering technique, which prevented one's speech from being overheard.
"Back away. Let's see how things proceed first," Lu Yuanqing replied using the same technique. Leading the other four, he fell back for a couple of steps, keeping away from the firing range.
Mu Kun was still trying to talk Gu Yu out of it. He was genuinely impressed by Phoenix Mountain, but could only act as commanded. He sighed inward.
Gu Yu neither moved nor responded to the various reactions, as if giving them time to set into place. It was some time before he spoke again, "Hm, interesting. The ignorant never have the self-awareness and the fools are always proud of themselves. Such a pity…"
A chuckle escaped his lips, half sighing and half mocking. It was not loud, but everyone heard it clearly.
"Let's see how much longer you can smile for!"
Zhang Juan was enraged and bellowed his order, "Open—"
The "fire" had not left the tip of his tongue when his voice was drowned by a series of popping sounds.
The space of the courtyard contorted as little dots of red light emerged out of the thin air. The temperature rose, melting the light snow. They looked like little floating lanterns.
The red dots seemed to have lives of their own. They each found their own target and scattered, dragging a radiant tail behind.
One of the rifle-holding fellows was about to pull the trigger when he saw a flash and a red dot disappeared in front of his eyes. The next moment, before he had time to think, something happened in that split second when his body had yet to react.
Something penetrated his right arm in an instant and flame burst out ferociously. An unbearable pain drilled deep into his body like a virus. He felt as though his soul was burning together with it.
He let out a scream, fell down from the low wall in a thump, and rolled around frantically in the snow. The next second, he fainted.
"What is that thing?"
"Aaaaah! Help! Help!"
Momentarily, fireworks filled the courtyard, so bright and resplendent that they stung the eyes. Behind all the splendid appearances, however, was a living hell.
The red dots punched through the dozen or so men on the low wall, turning them into giant fireballs. Some fell down into the courtyard, smashing pots and jars, while some others set the firewood stack on fire and with a "Boosh!", the flame erupted higher still.
Zhang Juan was halfway scared to death by now. Among his fear, there was also the bewilderment: that was a dozen elite special force police officers and a dozen top-of-the-line weapons! All had gone to ashes in half a blink right in front of his eyes.
His body felt lead-ridden as his muscles turned rigid and dead; even his heart seemed to have stopped thumping.
Just then, a long-expected gunshot shattered the cold air. The sniper who had been lying in wait in the tree finally pulled the trigger.
"Did, did it get him?"
Zhang Juan shuddered, the stiff spell broken by the great expectation. With much difficulty, he turned to check, but froze on the spot right away.
Where was he?
Where was the man?
The place were Gu Yu stood a second ago was empty.
Having missed his mark on the first shot, the sniper hunched over the tree trunk, panting while searching the ground through the telescopic sight.
The next second, he felt a breeze brushing against his face, splashing snow flakes into every direction, which swirled casually in the wind and gathered into a fluffy snowball. It crash landed on his face.
His vision went dark and the sniper fell headfirst down the tree, the rifle tumbling a long way on the snow.
Wind breezed in again. The little flakes of snow slowly drifted onto the ground, turning into a tall, lean figure.
Gu Yu glanced at the sniper; he could not help but nod to himself. It was his first time using the Shadow-switching Technique in real combat. The application was a little shaky and the duration was on the short side, but the little distance from inside the courtyard to out here posed no problem.
Zhang Juan pointed at Gu Yu, his teeth clattering. The idea of running away had completely escaped him; he was overwhelmed by fear.
Mu Kun was no better. He knew Phoenix Mountain was powerful, but never thought they were that powerful! Moreover, the young man here was almost a different person from the one they dealt with before.
"Pursuing private ends with your flagrant excuses—it's time for you to change the way of your thinking."
Gu Yu turned around and strolled back for the yard, walking directly towards Zhang Juan.
Lu Yuanqing, who had been watching on the side the entire time, suddenly commanded in his cold voice as he drew a horsetail whisk from behind his back.
The whisk had a red handle and white tassels. The handle was made from the wood in Emei node and the tassels braided from the hair of some mutated animal, which were a combination of hardness and softness. It was a formidable weapon.
4888 streaks of tassels smashed down at Gu Yu with a violent ripping sound like 4888 steel maces.
Shi Yunlai also drew his weapon, a spiritual sword, and charged right away with the killing move of Longmen Sword Skill.
The sword swept across the air, drawing out a circle of moon-like bright light in front of Gu Yu. The chilly, shining blade then reached for Gu Yu's chest with its tip.
The top two cultivators of the monastery struck out together, instantly blocking all Gu Yu's routes of retreat. Seeing the striking performance, Zhang Juan grew a little hopeful again. His confidence was nearly extinguished after the crushing defeat a minute ago.
Two innate state men against one, and there were three more as their backup. They should be able to take him down…
An identical comment as before suddenly rang out among the fierce sword movements.
Then, Zhang Juan saw the man's sleeves swelled up and his palms met.
Lu Yuanqing felt a tremendous wave of energy running up along his whisk. He dashed backwards right away with a few heavy stomps before he shook his whisk and barely managed to counterbalance that force.
Shi Yunlai got it worse. The bones of his hand crackled as he flew backwards with his back arched. The spiritual sword was dropped to the ground with a clank.
He fought back the blood rushing up his throat and was utterly petrified. There was no technique or Taoist skill in that strike, but the sheer force of the innate state energy alone. Did he just got defeated with one strike?
How contented and enthusiastic he had been from his recent breakthrough into the innate state! But he was defeated!
His eyes flickered and finally set on that calm, indifferent face. How profound the man's spiritual energy had to be to draw out such a huge gap between their capabilities?
Just then, Lu Yuanqing's warning reached him. Shi Yunlai jolted. Zhang Juan and Mu Kun were too high-ranked to allow any negligence. Since they were all in it together, the priests had to give all they had to keep the two men safe. Had anything happened to them, the entire monastery wouldn't be enough to pay the cost.
With that realization in mind, he picked up the sword in his left hand and inserted his spiritual energy. With a popping sound, the blade abruptly grew 10 cm longer, cutting into the ground without making a sound.
Lu Yuanqing also waved his whisk, a white beam of light 30-cm-long extending out from it.
Both uttering an evil-expelling sound, they charged forward together. The sword shone coldly like the moon and the whisk as fierce as the wind summoned from the upper atmosphere.
"Black Emperor of the north, Defenders of the Supreme Court, and Blood-eating soldiers with red scales, go!"
Beside them, Chao Kongtu waved his right hand and the talisman between his fingers self-combusted, giving out a strange dim glow.
He chanted the spell. The dim glow expanded, growing into a grotesque weapon resembling a saber, which then hacked at Gu Yu, emanating a bloody, ferocious aura.
"Xuanming of Taiyi, spirit of Bing Ding… drink long from ten thousand li away and receive this talisman. Obey at once!"
At the same time, Zhong Lingyu also chanted his spell. The talisman between his fingers flickered alive with purple arcs of lightning, emanating a hint of the power of Nature itself. It was the specialty of the Qingwei Sect, a downgraded version of the Flying Thunder Talisman.
Zhang Shouyang was even fiercer. Golden light radiated from behind him as clouds and fog rolled up in the air. With an angry growl, a giant figure leapt out.
It was as tall as two meters, clad in golden armor from head to toe, and held a pair of maces in its hands. Its face, however, was behind a curtain of light and one could not make out what it looked like. Just by standing there, it was giving off a pressure of crushing mountains and holding up the sky.
It was the Golden-armored Divine Soldier Talisman of the Way of the Celestial Masters.
The sword, the whisk, the Black Killing, the Flying Thunder, and the Divine Soldier struck out all at once. Their joint attack was powerful enough to ripple and contort the air.
The five priests each occupied a spot and charged from different direction, covering all angles from the front and the back, the left and the right, the above and below, leaving Gu Yu no room to escape.
"Sigh, without breaking to the innate state, your moves are but for show."
Trapped in the middle, Gu Yu looked at the three men of Zhengyi as a hint of approval and pity flickered in his eyes. With a wave of his right hand, the Flaming Could Needles wooshed back to him, which then linked end to end together, resembling a long scarlet whip.
He lashed it at Lu Yuanqing and Shi Yunlai. With a short and violent explosive sound, the cold air boiled at the scorching heat. White vapor erupted, surging frantically two either side.
In the middle was a void as if the space had been torn open.
The light of the blade died down and the tassels of the whisk scattered. Neither man could withstand the attack and both fell to the ground, spitting mouthful of blood.
Immediately after that, Gu Yu rolled the whip.
The flaming dragon wound around the black killing beam, the purple lightning arc, and the golden-armored soldiers, then the giant mouth opened and swallowed.
"Thud! Thud! Thud!"
All three men flew backwards. Zhang Shouyang smashed onto the ground and Zhong Lingyu crushed into a thick old tree before sliding down along the tree trunk like a piece of dead meat.
Chao Kongtu was the most miserable one. He flew right into the low wall, cracking the gray bricks. The impact created a dent on the wall and his entire body got stuck into it.
Voice quavering, Zhang Juan could not even finish a sentence. The self-styled hardliner almost collapsed to the ground as excrement ran down his trousers.
"Mr. Gu, what you did was, was…" Mu Kun's face ashened as his said with a shaking voice, "You killed all these men. Are you going to war with the government on a full scale?"
"Don't worry, I'm not you. None of them are dead."
Gu Yu moved closer and stared at Zhang Juan. "Mr… well, what was your name again?"
"Zhang, Zhang Juan," Mu Kun offered the answer.
"You've troubled yourself to come all the way out here, I think it was to show me some muscles? So, what now?"
"I, we have failed to recognize a great man. It was a misunderstand! Just a misunderstanding!" This Zhang Juan was an amazement in his own way.
"Ha, that came out really fast. I have to talk to you. Come on in."
Gu Yu tucked his hands away into his sleeves again, just the way they first saw him earlier.
180 km north of Songjiang River, Huang Village.
Huang Village was a small township located in a mountainous region. It was poorly populated and very inaccessible. It was under the jurisdiction of a county-level city, from where a couple of bus routes ran. To get to a bigger city from here, one had to change their ride several times.
Xiaozhai had no time to bother with changing buses. She took out a wad of bills and hired a car. Seeing she was all by herself and had both the money and the looks, the driver even made his own little plan.
Well, we all know how the story would end for him.
"Sister, this is Huang Village. The farmers' market is just here. This is the busiest area."
Xiaozhai hopped off the car and gave him the money, which he dared not take.
She could not be bothered to argue and walked away, then called Long Qiu. In a few minutes, the two found each other.
Long Qiu was visibly worn out. The moment she saw Xiaojin, tears welled up her eyes. "Sob… sorry, I failed Jin Jin."
"That's OK. It wasn't your fault." Xiaozhai wiped away Long Qiu's tears. "Take me to where the train broke down. Let's see if we can find anything there."
The two girls were very efficient and got to the side of the rail in no time.
"Golden Silkworm found the scent here, then we went up the hill following this trail."
Long Qiu pointed out her route.
Xiaozhai walked around shortly before her eyes fixed upon something. Squatting down, she jabbed her long fingers into the ground.
The top layer was crusty, but down below, the dirt was soft and loose as if something had turned it over.
She then walked to a pit and examined it, then confirmed, "One of them was using Underground Escaping Technique, a very plain escaping method of the Five Elements. The person should be very short. The soil was turned around as the person traveled underground, so that person was not very capable. This one could not have got Jin Jin alone… did you say Golden Silkworm smelled a poisonous bug?"
"Yes. It used to eat poisonous bugs, but it hated the smell this time. I don't understand it, either," said Long Qiu.
Xiaozhai pondered over it for a moment. She did not explain, but only said, "There might be two to three of them, one of which is good with poison. Let's go up the hill and take a look.
With that, they passed through the withered trees, ascended the low hill, and stopped.
"This is how far I got that day. The scent disappeared beyond here. Something seemed to have covered it." Long Qiu was taken by guilt again. "I stayed here for a whole day. One train stopped at the station, but I checked, no one got on board. I also kept an eye on the bus station. No one seemed out of place, either. Jin Jin is a living person and is not that easy to transport. I only fear them taking her away in some car and travelling on some small road I don't know about."
Xiaozhai was genuinely surprised. So it was true when they said hardship made the best teacher. Her girl was learning so fast.
"Don't worry. You did a good job. That girl is not stupid and she must have left some marks behind. Let's give it a good search," she comforted Xiao Qiu. Despite the harmless look on her face, her eyes were cold enough to kill.