At those words, before anyone else could react, Mu Kun's face darkened.
As the government representative here, he needed the foreign branch to realize how special a treatment they had been given so far. The authorities could turn a blind eye to the fact that they had just killed a man in broad daylight, but a wild talk like that? Did this foreigner have any respect towards him at all?
"Priest Zhang, that was inappropriate. Of the ninety or so years since this country was established, men like me have aspired to ensure the people could live a prosperous and contented life in a peaceful world. There is a boundary to everything; we would prefer if we don't hear such words from you again."
Arrogant as he was, Zhang Ziliang was no fool. He immediately cupped his hands in reply, "It came out in the heat of the moment. I do apologize."
While that was settled, the rest of the members on the platform were reacting to the result of the first round. Wu Songbai cried out in a low voice, "That was Jianshan Walnut Spell!"
He offered the explanation before his companions asked. "It blocks one's anus with a walnut, which causes an unbearable pain. Ordinary people would die from the pain itself. As for cultivators, because the walnut blocks an orifice, a great amount of energy is gathered inside one's body in a very short time, which results in an explosion from inside. This spell has been lost for many years. I never expected it had ended up with Zhang Ziliang!"
"Is there no way to break it?" asked Zhong Lingyu.
"There is no way, unless your capability significantly surpasses the spell-caster." Wu Songbai stared at the gloating Aan and said, "The spell is vicious and strange. With his demeanor, that man is deliberately humiliating our Celestial Master Temple."
With his explanation, the rest of the priests realized they were indeed inferior in their skills in this round. They could do nothing but sigh at the miserable death of Chen Muzi.
The people had lived in peace for many years, and so had the Taoist community. Longhu Mountain had been cultivating in seclusion all these years with little strife or competition to talk about. The foreign branch, on the other hand, had to balance among the interests of many parties in a foreign land and was handling problems of the dignitaries of the Southeast. Hence, they were much more flexible in a situation like this.
Zhang Shouyang had to accept what had happened. Darting a look at Aan, he carried Chen Muzi's body back to their side and began to plan for the young man's funeral. Another junior brother of his could not stand it and jumped out, shouting, "You wicked, shameless priest! You cheated!"
"How was that cheating?"
"The rule we've agreed upon beforehand was you each cast a spell. My junior brother created an ocean with a spilled cup of tea and you came out without a piece of tea leaf on you. That was what real spell should look like. What kind of spell was yours by hoaxing him to swallow a walnut? Do we have to swallow anything you take out even it is a poisonous pill?"
"Haha! Just listen to yourself!" With a contemptuous look on his face, Aan let out a grim laughter. "We were talking about breaking a spell. If nothing happens in a spell, what is there to break from? I was trapped in your junior brother's trick and everybody saw it. Only, I was better in the skill and broke out successfully. How come that when it was your turn to be trapped, you wouldn't stop nagging about it and are coming up with all sorts of lame excuses?"
He turned to face the audience and took out another small walnut. "Let everyone here be my witness. My spell is right in this walnut. If you swallow it safely, I will admit my defeat right away! How are you going to break any spell if you don't swallow it? This thing breaks with a little pinch…"
With that, his two fingers squeezed and crackle! The walnut was crushed into crumbs.
He then said in a mocking tone, "Or, are you saying that Longhu Mountain can't afford losing?"
The junior brother was infuriated. He was about to argue back when a voice came from behind. "Lechi, come back here!"
He dared not disobey his senior brother and fell back to the edge of the ring. Zhang Shouyang slowly walked into the inner ring with an expressionless face. "We've lost the first round. Shall we continue?"
Zhang Ziliang waved his hand. Aan returned to their side and another disciple walked out. This one was fair-skinned, had thin, upturned eyes and a feminine quality to his look. He was actually a Chinese descendant.
"I'm Du Xingyan. I wonder which priest do I have the pleasure to get acquainted with in this round?" He was much more polite then Aan; even his voice was soft and gentle.
"Senior Brother, let me take avenge for Muzi!"
Short-tempered as he was, Lechi was about to rush out when Zhang Shouyang stopped him. "Jingduan, you go."
"Yes!" A rather tall young man walked out and cupped his hand. "I'm Shen Jingduan. Pleasure to be your opponent." Before Du Xingyan could reply, he went on, "Competing with spells in turn is tedious. How about we make it a duel?"
Du Xingyan was a man of few words. Lowering his eyes, he took out a small seal and a small, long, and thin flag.
It was not a turn-based game in which one could only fight back after the other side struck anymore. Since a duel was set, Shen Jingduan jumped back for two meters and took out his talisman.
"Golden-armored Giants with countless transformations, the holy decree is here and obey immediately! Aum ming leon nei kuei dou zaa gat ho se!"
The talisman burst into flame itself and turned into a dazzling mass of golden light.
Immediately after that, there was a mighty exclamation, then the golden ring around the sun spurted out resplendent rays of light, and iron armor emerged to dim the light of the moon. A giant warrior over 30 m tall and with a blurry face leapt out of the golden light, holding a mace in either hand.
God-summoning or god-inviting spells of Zhengyi were inherited from ancient times. Among those "gods", giants were of the lowest rank. It was a term adopted by both Taoism and Buddhism; the earliest Taoist record of the name was from the Way of the Great Peace at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Legend had it that a giant had a strength of nine bulls and two tigers combined.
With the huge maces in its hands, this (downsized) golden-armored giant smashed down with a whooshing sound at Du Xingyan like Mount Tai itself crushing down.
Du Xingyan picked up his blue seal unhurriedly and stamped it on the long and thin flag, then tossed the latter into the wind, shouting, "Go!"
A wind came out of nowhere suddenly blew across the platform and as it swept past, fog rose out of the floor and filled the stage. Everyone up on the stage became a blur and the audience could not tell one from the next.
"Ssss, it's so cold!"
"Why is it so cold suddenly? I'm getting the creeps."
The crowd huddled together for warmth as a strange gloominess spread out. Even the sunny sky dimmed a little at this.
The maces landed and smashed onto something. The fog dissipated briefly before regathering and pouncing at the giant again. It seemed to have the effect of tainting spiritual equipment; in a few moments, the golden light of the giant began to wane.
"Teehee, come here!"
"Little priest, you have such a cute face. Why don't you come and have some fun with us?"
"You abominable priest! You wronged me and I'm now dead! You're going down with me!"
Shen Jingduan stood there dazed with his eyes wide open. The world he saw now was filled with succubi, demons, malevolent spirits, and monsters. They floated in the air and circled around him, disturbing his mind.
What was worse, a female ghost had landed on his shoulder, stuck her soft red lips to his neck, and sucked. His heart lurched, as if all his souls were escaping him.
Zhang Shouyang had sent him out for the task because he was prudent, level-headed, and resolute when necessary. Right now, the enemy had hidden himself in the fog and he himself was trapped deep inside. He could not hold on like this for much longer.
Once his mind settled back down, he took out a talisman in his left hand, bit the tip of his tongue to spit out some spiritual blood, and moved his right hand across the talisman to write a forbidden character.
It had "rain" on the top, "fire" on the lower left half, and "good" on the lower right. The character mean "spiritual official".
Upon finishing the character, Shen Jingduan put both hands together in a Zi-Wu hand gesture. This was the most powerful spell he had learned so far; he was ready to give his life for this to succeed. He moved into action without any hesitation.
He made a step forward, his sole hammering on the wooden floor, making a muffling sound. He chanted, "Heaven and earth work together in cleaning away the filth and eliminating the trespassers. On the flag is the treasured name that spreads endless benevolence. When this chanting finishes and the flag lands, everything is recovered!"
The talisman changed shape. A streak of blue light emanated from his palm, rapidly raising a large section of the fog. Where the blue light had shone on, there was a big hole in the fog, and the wandering ghosts and monsters were screaming.
"The Spell of Falling Flag of Netherworld!"
Du Xingyan was petrified. His flag had been refined by collecting Yin energy and wandering souls, which could confuse one's mind and steal one's soul. He had never expected his opponent to have just the spell to restrain his own.
He also spat out a mouthful of spiritual blood, which splashed all over his flag. The next moment, fog rolled up again, spreading out incessantly.
"Refine all nine ways until the true, original form is retrieved. Wandering souls of the nether world, you shall not hide from the all-seeing flame!"
Shen Jingduan moved another step forward. The muffled sound of his footstep had now turned intimidatingly clear. Holding onto his firm belief in the Great Dao, he marched with awe-inspiring righteousness. He himself now looked like a golden-armored divine warrior, striding out to subdue the demon.
With his determination of fighting with his life and his readiness to sacrifice himself for the spell, the balance was tilting towards his side.
"I hereby offer this soul and body to the immortals above, at whose name the ghosts fled with terror… obey my order!"
At the last syllable of his words, the blue light shone brightly, dispersing all the fog.
Du Xingyan came to himself from the fluster and saw that Shen Jingduan was standing right in front of him. Despite the unusual spell he was able to cast, close quarters combat was not his strong point. Smitten with fear, Du Xingyan turned to flee.
"You are not going anywhere!"
Shen Jingduan reached him in one stride and with the last bit of his strength, he whipped down a streak of golden light. Clack! It smashed right onto the top of Shen Xingyan's crown.
Zhang Ziliang bolted to his feet, but could only watch as his pupil took the strike and sank down. There was then a series of rumbling noises.
The wooden platform had finally given up under the pressure and crumbled into pieces. Wooden boards and shards splintered everywhere and the crowd covered their heads and cried out as the pieces showered down onto them.
A while later when the dust finally settled down, the crowd looked up and saw that the dozen-meter-long platform had completely collapsed and was now a ruin. Du Xingyan lay right on top of the pile of wood, his face looking up and his limbs dangling. He was not going to survive this.
Shen Jingduan did not look much better. He spat out another mouthful of blood; leaning against Lechi's shoulder, he was barely breathing.
"Fine! Fine!" Zhang Ziliang carried his pupil's dead body back to his side with bloodshot eyes and snapped, "You won the second round. As long as we live under the same sky, I will avenge my pupil! Zhang Shouyang, come here for your death!"
Zhang Shouyang naturally would not be intimidated by his words. He leapt out and landed right in front of Zhang Ziliang. It was a tense moment.
"Wait!" Mu Kun stepped out at this moment and watched the two with a frown. "The stage has collapsed and there are so many people here. You're both masters with great abilities. For the safety of the audience, please hold off your contest until tomorrow after we reset the stage!"
He was simply stating a fact, not asking for opinions.
Zhang Shouyang looked around at the pile of ruins in the middle and all the ordinary people around, realizing it was indeed no suitable place for their fight. Zhang Ziliang made it even simpler. "Today, tomorrow, it won't change anything. You've just earned yourself one extra day of your life. Let's go!"
With that, he leapt out of the Eastern Yard, followed by his disciples.
The audience felt they had just gone through an emotional roller coaster. Although most of the second round was hidden by the fog, the ending could not be clearer. Holy Jesus! That was not something they got to see on a daily basis!
Since when did death become so easy? Two men were killed before they had time to digest it!
They were so overly stimulated by all that had happened that a strange hush fell over the yard. Quietly, they left the place in lines.
"We should leave too. We'll come back tomorrow." The Nippon band climbed down the tree with a fake awkwardness and disappeared into the crowd.
Tony spat with boredom. "I thought I could finally see a big show. These oriental people are so fussy!"
"Move it! We have other business!" the short-haired man reminded him, and they both jumped off the roof.
Gu Yu looked at the direction where the monastery members were and sent them a buff of "morale support" across the air. He then left, secretly shadowing Tony.