Afternoon, Longhu Mountain.
It took nearly three hours for all of the audience to leave the temple in order. Some hurried home right away, utterly freaked out by what they had seen; some were immensely interested in the final round tomorrow; some were so attracted by Taoist skills that they planned to take residence here in Yingtan and couldn't wait to find a master and start learning.
Everyone was talking about the contest and nothing else. The great tourist destination Longhu Mountain itself ended up being ignored.
Right now, two men were going up the mountain following the stairs. They were none other than Tony and the short-haired man.
"From the two rounds of contest you saw, how much chance do you think we have if we were to run into them one day?" asked the short-haired man.
"The oriental Taoist skills are indeed strange and mystical. We had very little contact with them before and may be easily trapped if confronted." Tony was no longer smirking and analyzed the situation seriously. "From what I observed in the second round, the fluctuation of their energy was completely different from our own system. I really can't say what would happen if we were to fight them head on."
"However, judging by the level of destruction—all of those and they only took a platform apart—I don't think they'll be too big a threat. In our order alone, there are quite a few members that can achieve that level of damage," said the short-haired man.
The two chatted as they climbed on, soon arriving at Zhengyi Temple halfway up the mountain. The temple was deserted as usual, surrounded by tall, wild-looking grass.
Tony scanned the outside of the temple and wondered, "I heard that furnace is right at the back mountain. Why is this place not guarded?"
"Probably they're certain that no one can take it." The short-haired man also checked the terrain.
The two did not want to raise any alert, so they carefully walked around Zhengyi Temple and climbed on along a path in the back mountain. Before long, they reached the water curtain cave where the furnace was stored.
After the Dan-refining activities of Phoenix Mountain and Tianzhu Mountain, this place had become a little more inhabitable. A crude campsite had been set up outside the cave, together with three wooden cottages.
The two halted their steps in surprise as soon as they walked into the opening, for someone else was there before them.
Four odd-looking men had knocked out the young priests on guard and were ready to enter the cave. Hearing the footsteps, they turned around and looked right into the two Britannian men's eyes—there were sparkles in the air. The four were none other than the stealthy Nippon team.
No one spoke for a moment; the atmosphere was tense and awkward. Both sides knew perfectly well who the other party was. The team of four had dressed up as ordinary tourists with outdoor outfits. As for the two from Britannia, their disguise was even more remarkable. Despite their Caucasian faces, with some magical cover-up, they looked exactly like any Chinese men.
A moment later, Tony pointed at one of the four and said, "Why, aren't you the one bumping into us outside that bar? No wonder you were able to track us down. You've got a talent, I'll give you that."
The team of four exchanged a look and the leader stepped forward, asking, "Are you two here to examine the furnace as well?"
"What if we are? What if we're not?" Tony chuckled.
"If you are, we won't be in your way. Please take your time."
The leader handled the situation following the convention of his country towards western leading powers—that was, acting perfectly polite and keeping the foul curses to themselves. Harmless as they presented themselves to be, you might not want to know what they were calling you in their heads.
"Oh? You're as polite as the word on the street is. Like the saying of this country goes, it is better to accept deferentially than to decline courteously."
Both parties were spies, yet all six were communicating in perfect Mandarin and could even use the common sayings of the country correctly.
"Sure! We'll be on our way!"
The leader nodded a goodbye and was going to take his men down the mountain. However, the short-haired man stepped out, blocking their way, while Tony strolled casually towards them and lifted his chin. "Did I say you can leave?"
One of the Nippon guys clenched his fists and shouted angrily, but was stopped by their leader, who asked resentfully, "If we may have an explanation for this, please?"
"Since we have ran into each other, we might as well take the opportunity to know each other a bit more. I'm very interested in your Onmyodo. Any secret you care to share with us?"
That was outright provocation. Anger flashed past the leader's face as he lowered his pitch to a warning tone. "You have pushed it too far. Just because we're polite doesn't mean we're afraid of you!"
Tony laughed loudly and when he spoke again, his voice was full of a sense of superiority and contempt. "The world is going through a great change and the ancient magic revives. It is there for the capable ones to take. Our Britannia is without a doubt the leader of this new world order. Your tiny island country must be having an illusion if you think you'll have a share of that. You're biting off more than you can chew!"
"You are but words. Am I to assume that— fall back!"
The leader was caught by surprise and only had time to shout out the warning before he jumped backwards. His companions also moved swiftly and dodged in time.
The moment their feet left the ground, the dry and even sandy ground where they stood suddenly twisted. The stone and soil dissolved and foul smelling black water oozed out… in the blink of an eye, the ground several square meters in area had become a small swamp.
Needless to say, anyone unfortunately trapped in it would end up being devoured.
Now that the other side had made their move, the Nippon leader knew that it would not end peacefully for them today. Moving his hands together, he began to rapidly making a series of hand seals as he called out, "Barrier, guard!"
A halo lit up in front of him, giving off a dull blue glow. It then expanded and circled around them, seemingly turning into a big glowing sphere.
The short-haired man turned his wrist and produced a handful of red powder. He then said some words in a ancient language. " þæt gewunigen 1 !"
He sprinkled the powder out, which filled the whole sky like a red downpour. The "raindrops", however, were a solid substance, which bombarded the unfinished barrier repeatedly like hard bullets.
The barrier was severely damaged and flickered in and out of sight to the point of disintegration. Two of the Nippon team perceived the danger and began to make hand seals as well, shouting, "General Dog, come out!"
"Frog god, come out!"
Poof! Poof! With two puffs of white smoke, a huge golden-fur dog half the height of an adult and a dark green toad covered by bumps appeared out of the blue.
Squinting, Tony suddenly took out a delicate 15 cm long wooden staff and pointed at the two animals in turn.
Two beam arrows shot out from the tip of the staff like green lightning. The huge dog and the toad were not quick enough to dodge and slacked as the light hit them. The energy was gone from them and they stood there confused, unable to move.
The Nippon team had been losing ground ever since this fight started and they were unable to organize any form of effective counterattack.
Although no casualty was inflicted upon them so far, the leader had lost his will to fight. He ordered in a resolute voice, "Cover me!"
They followed an extremely rigid hierarchy, and the subordinates were prepared to die for their superiors at any time without hesitation. While the other three stood side by side to block the way, the leader turned to the opposite direction, faced himself flat against a big tree, and began to turn transparent—he was trying to escape hiding among the plants.
"Swæse gesiþas, selfa bæd!"
The short-haired man chanted a longer sentence in the ancient language, squatted down, and smacked the ground with his right hand.
With a violent fluctuation, a giant hexagram suddenly emerged out of the ground, covering all four members of the Nippon team inside. Dark beams surged like powerful waves of air, billowing frantically.
The leader was forced back to his original visible form. The next second, he realized he was becoming rigid and could not move his legs.
Looking down, he was petrified—his legs had turned into blackish gray stone columns. He could even vividly sense that an earth-attributed element was invading his skin, flesh, tendons, and bones at a maddening speed.
He tried to activate his energy, but to no avail. He watched as the petrifaction creeping up his body from his thighs to his chest, neck, then to the top of his head.
In half a heartbeat, the four living people had turned into four stone statues.
Their facial expressions and postures remained as they were the moment before their death as the four pillars of men stood lifeless in this deserted mountain.
"So much so for the Onmyodo."
Tony kicked at one of the statues, which crumbled and fell all over the ground.
Thump! Thump! Thump! He finished the other three with three more kicks, then turned his eyes on the two unconscious young priests. A savage look flickered in his eyes and he strolled towards them.
"Why, so that was what magic looked like?"
All of a sudden, a sound seemed to ring out from over the cloud. The two swerved around and stared at a direction.
They were looking at a slope, behind which someone was coming towards them along an unmarked winding path. They first saw the black hair, then a mild face, and finally his slender body.
They couldn't help but wonder at how ordinary this person looked when they could see his entire person. He was just plain. They sensed no strange fluctuation, and adding to that face, the man could almost be considered a weakling.
Tony secretly let out a breath of relief, deeming that this guy had snuck upon them because he was distracted by the fight earlier.
"Another one seeking his doom. It's not your lucky day!"
He had always been the cruel and merciless one. Without another word, he pointed with his magical staff again, shooting out another beam of light.
The green light moved at a lightning speed and reached the man instantly. The next second, it was Tony's turn to open his eyes widely, his face frozen with disbelief. The man snatched it with one hand easily.
He caught the beam in his hand… he caught it… caught… it…
WTF! Tony felt something had just shattered in his head.
It was called a Weakening Ray, which originated from the curses of the Western European witchcraft. After some modification, it was improved and made into a more convenient and combat-friendly magic, which weakened the enemy's body and emptied their mind so as to win the fight without actually fighting.
It was an intangible thing and essentially an energy fluctuation. However, it was now held by a hand as if it was a mere magic trick.
Watching the green light hopping around in his palm, Gu Yu realized he couldn't tell the components of its energy. He was greatly intrigued and asked, "What's it called?"
A million ideas were rushing through the two men's heads and they dared not answer Gu Yu. This man was no NPC; he was clearly the gate-guarding Boss of a hell-mode dungeon!
"Oh, it must be one of your secret inheritances. I can see why you don't want to answer that." Gu Yu waited a moment. Seeing that he was getting no reply, he nodded and went on, "All right, then I'll ask something else. Who are you people?"
"This gentleman…" The short-haired man cupped his hand—as per the local customs—and said, "We're professionals of Britannia on a special task and have come here to watch the contest. There was a little misunderstanding with another party, but it has been solved. Sorry for the intrusion. We'll be on our way."
With that, he tugged at Tony and was ready to leave.
"Did I say you can leave?" It was what they'd said earlier—word for word—and Gu Yu threw it back at them. He made a pressing gesture with his left hand, indicating them to stop. "You were killing at will and took a woman's soul. Do you think you can leave just like that?"
At those words, they realized their deed at the bar was discovered.
The short-haired man gave Tony a bone-chilling look and tried to justify them. "That was just an ordinary woman—she was nothing like you and us. Of course, it was inappropriate for us to act so rashly. Please accept our apology."
"Just an ordinary person? Ordinary people, cultivators, they're all citizens of this country." Gu Yu suddenly raised his voice and his words hammered down. "You murdered people in another country, yet you think you can get away with it just like that? On what planet did you get that idea?"
After those words, his entire demeanor changed.
The short-haired man stumbled backward several steps and felt his skin prickled. There was an unbearable sensation he could not describe; he was on tenterhooks and petrified. Such pressure was something he had not experienced before, even when facing those grandpas of the Elders.
It was not a visible imposing manner. It had come from inside out, from his bones to his soul, affected his sense and reaction, and was an instinctive fear that a lower life form had when facing a higher form of existence.
Old as those grandpas were, he knew they were human, and the pressure they gave were human as well. This one, however, was something else. What he was emanating seemed boundless and came from Nature itself!
Tony was no longer smirking. He felt wind was gushing into his body from all his pores, which then circled around his internal organs, chilling him to the bone marrow.
Damn it, who the hell was this guy? Weren't all masters of this country up there on the stage? Even Lu Yuanqing, the most powerful one, was far from this intimidating.
Like Tolstoy once said (not): Karma, such a bi*ch.
In a matter of minutes, they had experienced what the Nippon team must have felt struggling hopelessly for their lives just then.
The two had partnered up for years and made a good team. Seeing Gu Yu's attitude, they decided to make the first move.
The short-haired man held nothing back. With all his magical power, he uttered imprecations and a round pattern suddenly appeared in front of him, in the middle of which was a half-naked woman hanging upside down.
Her long hair fell on the ground, her soft and fair breasts heaved, and her lower half was wrapped in a piece of cloth. The woman seemed to be tortured yet enjoying it at the same time. She was a mixture of the purest and the most bewitching creature.
As soon as the pattern took shape, it emitted what seemed like ten thousand dark beams with a mysterious cursing power. Like countless black snakes opening their mouths widley, they were threatening to swallow the enemy whole.
Tony also waved his staff in the air, creating a hexagram and activating his most powerful move.
"Ha, that looked pretty…"
Gu Yu waved his left hand to move the two young priests behind him first, then with his right hand, he copied his girlfriend's move, calling out an order.
An unsophisticated-looking sword flew towards him at his beckoning—don't ask why he hid it in the woods to begin with…
The Sword Seed spun inside him, emanating the sword energy. Red flame gushed out of the meter-long blade, and he swiped it across the air.
'I have a sword and it is unparalleled in smashing devils!'
The surrounding air contorted at the scorching heat, so much so that it blurred the vision and everything was obscured.
A Red Sun golden flame erupted, the area covered by the sword energy a little larger than before—it was now over 50 m long and 5 m wide. The flame moved across the air with its awe-inspiring integrity and magnificence, stopped by nothing.
The dark beams and the hexagram did not slow down the sword energy by even a second. They were effortlessly crushed, along with whatever female species that was on that pattern.
Tony and the short-haired man's pupils contracted as they saw a golden flaming dragon, whose reflection grew bigger in their eyes, rushing towards them. They were vaporized right away. The golden flame did not stop there, but ran all the way into the woods and slowly dissipated after another ten meters or so.
Moments later, everything was settled again and there was now a wide chasm lying across the mountain and running deep into the woods, where stretches of trees and grass had turned into ashes as if fire had been raging there.
Not a crumb of those two were left.
"That seemed a little overdone. I'd better save it for special circumstances only." Shaking his head, Gu Yu put the sword back to the box. His eyes then landed on something. "Hm?"
He was looking at something unscratched in that chasm with scorched, charred soil. Picking it up, he saw that it was a hexagram plate made from some unknown substance. The front side was golden in color and inscribed with a line of letters that could be a name or a code name.
The back was pitch black and a strange symbol was carved into it: A∴A∴.
Gu Yu looked at it closely and found the symbol familiar. He searched his memory, and his face lit up. In the information pack the authorities had given him on the western mystical powers, there was a short paragraph on this symbol.
"∴" was the therefore sign in maths, but when put together with "A", it became the symbol of a mysterious organization of Britannia known as A∴A∴, or AA for short.
It was a sorceral association, but a branch only. Itself was part of a much larger, more rigorous, and influential organization: the Thelema Magick Order!ED/N: As far as I can tell, either Old Norse or Old English (they were pretty similar btw; OE is much different from Modern English). Could be a related language as well.