They continued their hike after their brief interlude where Yundong had shown her a couple of those cool mudras . They still had quite some distance to travel before reaching the school, but Su Chan didn't find the journey boring at all . Mostly because Yundong had been regaling her with interesting stories about the things he had experienced during their time apart . But still, she didn't think anything else he told her could top that story about how he had fallen on his gonads . That story was hilarious .
Su Chan giggled again .
Yundong paused in his story about his battle against some bald man who could breathe fire .
A second later, Su Chan felt a light pinch on her waist .
"You were laughing about that again, weren't you?"
Su Chan blinked up at him innocently . "About what?"
Yundong narrowed his eyes at her . "You know what . "
"Hehehe…" Su Chan beamed at him . "Did you check if your…" Su Chan let her eyes wander lower before looking back up at his face . "…you know, is okay?"
Yundong shrugged . "Why should I check?" Then, he smirked . "Isn't that your job?"
Blushing, Su Chan gaped at him for a few seconds . "Perv!" She smacked his arm gently . Yundong chuckled and draped his arm around her shoulders before guiding them forward once again .
When Su Chan saw a huge rock perched on the side of the path, she tugged Yundong's sleeve and pulled him to a stop .
"Yundong…" Su Chan pointed at the rock . "Do you know that that rock leads to—"
"The secret vault of the Fox Zen School . "
Su Chan whipped her head to the side and gaped at him . Once again, her beloved had surprised her—he had been doing that a lot lately .
Yundong was smiling down at her . "That's actually how I got into the school . "
"B- But how did you…" Su Chan placed a finger on her chin . "Did Zi Yuan jiějie tell you?"
"Nah… I don't think she knew about the vault . "
Su Chan frowned . "Then how?"
Surely, it couldn't have been dumb luck? Or could it?
Su Chan stole a glance at Yundong .
Yundong chuckled . "You probably won't believe this, but it was actually Lin Youfa who told me about it . "
"Lin You—" Su Chan gaped at Yundong . But how on earth could Lin Youfa possibly know about the side trail?
"Hard to believe, I know . " A wistful look formed on Yundong's face . "But it's true . " He sighed . "He had some kind of map . " Yundong shot Su Chan a look . "No idea where he got it from though . "
In hindsight, she wasn't surprised that there was a map .
"A lot of people have tried to get into the vault . Some of them might've figured out how to unlock the side trail . " Not that it mattered . It was impossible for any of them to enter the vault from the outside unless the Fan of Seven Treasures did it for them .
They moved past the rock and took the main trail .
"He came to steal the treasures from the vault, didn't he?" Su Chan said flatly .
It made sense . He had a map .
"Yeah . "
"Did he… succeed?" Su Chan glanced sideways at Yundong . "Did he manage to steal anything?"
"No . " Yundong's voice sounded a little strange .
"Where is he now? Is he still here?"
"Yes . " Yundong glanced at her briefly . "But he's dead . "
Su Chan fell behind a step . A second later, she caught up to Yundong again . "What happened?"
Yundong stepped over the trunk of a fallen tree . Su Chan floated over it and stared down at Yundong, awaiting his explanation . She could tell that there was a story there .
"He tried to attack me . " Yundong gave her a wry smile . "So the Fan of Seven Treasures took care of him . "
Speaking of which…
"Where is the Fan of Seven Treasures?" Su Chan gave him a quick once-over . "Shouldn't you be carrying it around at all times?"
Smiling, Yundong reached into his pocket and pulled out a colorful pouch, which she recognized as a spirit pouch . "It's in here . "
Yundong shoved the pouch back into his pocket .
"Did Grandmaster Liu gave that to you?" Su Chan asked, suddenly remembering the kind old man who gave her the paper crane .
"No . " Yundong smiled . "Cao Yi did . She—" Yundong suddenly stopped talking, his eyes sharp and alert .
Yundong pointed at something behind Su Chan .
Su Chan twisted her body in midair and followed Yundong's gaze: dead bodies .
Su Chan floated towards the corpses and then hovered above them . Something about those battered faces seemed familiar .
Then it hit her .
"The harpies," she mumbled .
"Do you know these women?" Yundong's voice sounded behind her .
Su Chan nodded . "They were Gu-shībó's disciples . "
"I see," Yundong said in knowing tone . "The runaways . "
Confused, Su Chan turned her head to face Yundong . "Runaways?"
Yundong gestured at the dead bodies . "They were the runaways . " He lowered his hand, then held Su Chan's gaze . "Cao Yi told me that your Gu shībó's disciples fled the school before the assault began . "
Su Chan turned her gaze to the dead bodies . "Must not have run far then . "
Yundong hummed .
Su Chan lowered herself to the ground, then bent down to examine the corpse closest to her . These women were practically half-naked—their robes had been ripped apart . Splattered across their bodies were various physical wounds—cuts, bruises, and the like . The corpse Su Chan was examining looked to be in worse shape compared to the others . The poor woman's chest was completely bashed in . It was like her upper torso was flattened by some kind of round object . Su Chan sent a silent prayer to Buddha and straightened herself . She stepped around the corpse and moved towards another corpse, which was lying face down . She crouched down and flipped the corpse over .
"Beloved, look at this . "
Yundong shuffled over and crouched down beside her . "What is it?"
"Look at this pattern . " Su Chan pointed at the stripes plastered all over woman's torso . "I think it came from a melon hammer . "
Yundong suddenly tensed up beside her . After that, she heard a low growl .
She turned her head and immediately noticed the scowl on Yundong's face . "Beloved?"
"Kuang Tianping," he said coldly .
Su Chan frowned . Kuang who?
"The Golden Hammer of the Donghai Sect," Yundong added, disdain coloring his tone .
They shared a brief glance before Yundong continued, "One of the Great Six's Cultivators . " There was a pause . "He was there when I was defending the school . He was also the only one I saw wielding a pair of melon hammers . " Yundong shook his head . "This is most likely his doing . "
"He will pay," Su Chan said without taking her eyes off the corpses .
"He already did . "
Su Chan lifted her gaze from the corpses and glanced at Yundong .
"I killed him," Yundong said emotionlessly . "But his Yin Spirit got away before I could destroy it . "
Su Chan sighed . Hopefully his Yin Spirit would die out before he managed to possess someone else's body .
Su Chan rose to her feet . "We should bury them . " Even though these harpies were rude and crass when alive, even though they had disrespected Master, they still deserved a proper burial . Lives were still lives .
"I agree," Yundong said, rising to his feet as well .
They worked silently together, Yundong digging the earth with Qi Kinesis while Su Chan did the same using a talisman she'd found in Master's drawer . It was a clever Earth spell of Master's invention that would allow its user to carve out a hole on the ground . The shape of the hole could be anything of the caster's choosing . There were five corpses in total, but Su Chan only had one talisman; so she buried one while Yundong took care of the other four .
After saying a few prayers, and adding a few makeshift gravestones, they continued their journey along the main trail .
"Chan'er . "
"I've been meaning to ask…" Yundong shot her a brief glance . "How do talismans work?"
Su Chan stopped floating and stared at him in surprise . "Zi Yuan jiějie hasn't taught you spellcasting yet?"
Yundong shook his head . "There wasn't enough time . " He paused and held her gaze for a moment . "I started preparing for my divine punishment as soon as the Fan of Seven Treasures acknowledged me as its owner . "
"The Reckoning," Su Chan whispered . All of a sudden, images of a glowing Fan of Treasures dancing around Yundong came to mind .
"Yeah . "
That must've been a sight to behold . Too bad she couldn't be there to see it for herself .
"And you came straight here after you survived your divine punishment . "
"Yeah . "
"Hmm…" Su Chan floated around in circles . Seconds later, she lowered herself to the ground . "What's your current understanding of spellcasting, beloved?"
A thoughtful look formed on Yundong's face . "Well… I know it's different from the mudras . Buddhist magic is different, right?" Yundong raised his brows .
Su Chan affirmed with several quick nods .
The thoughtful look returned to Yundong's face again . "I think it's got something to do with the flow of spiritual energy . "
"Also, I've noticed that some Cultivators have to form a series of hand signs in order to cast spells . " Yundong paused to look at her . "That's pretty much all I know . "
"Your first hunch is correct, beloved . " Su Chan smiled at him . "The key to spellcasting lies in the flow of spiritual energy . " Su Chan turned away to face the front, knowing that she was about to repeat the exact words Master had told her all those years ago . "Different flow patterns of spiritual energy will result in different spells . There are other factors involved as well, such as the amount of spiritual energy expended . Even the timing of spiritual energy release matters . " Su Chan glanced at Yundong . "That's why there are so many spells out there . "
Yundong nodded . "Because these parameters can all be altered to produce variations . "
Su Chan bobbed her head up and down . "Mm!"
"Wow . I see . "
"Talismans are usually created for complicated spells where a lot of hand signs are required . "
"Like the Five Thunders Spell . "
Su Chan bobbed her head . "The drawings on talismans basically do the same thing as hand signs . "
"They guide the flow of spiritual energy," Yundong said .
"Makes sense . " Yundong paused in thought . "A spell can be cast much faster through the use of talismans because the hand signs can be omitted . "
Su Chan shook her head . "Some talismans require hand signs too . "
Yundong stared at her .
"Some talismans can be activated with Qi alone . " Su Chan smiled at Yundong . "Like the one I gave you last time . "
Yundong nodded . "The Five Thunders Spell . "
"Yep! Those are called Qi-Activated talismans . "
"So they are a special kind of talisman then?"
"Yup . And they are very rare too . " A sudden tightness formed in Su Chan's chest . She lowered her gaze and stared at the ground for a moment . "Master told me that Qi-Activated talismans are very difficult to draw…" She could feel Yundong's concerned gaze on her right then, so she turned her head and forced out a smile . "Anyway . Like I said, those talismans are special . Normal talismans can only be activated by expending a small amount of the user's spiritual energy and then performing one or two hand signs . "
"I see . " Recognition shone in Yundong's eyes . "The activation of talismans is itself a spell . That's why it needs its own hand signs . "
"So, with talismans, you can replace the long sequence of hand signs needed for the actual spell with one or two simple ones . " Yundong chuckled . "Smart . "
Su Chan beamed . "First, you take out the talisman . Then, you perform the right hand signs . After that, all you need to do is channel your Zhenqi into the talisman and tda! A spell!" Su Chan wiggled her fingers a few times .
Yundong laughed and ruffled her hair .
"Talismans aren't perfect though . " Su Chan lowered her hand . "They can only be used once . And obviously, you have to draw them beforehand . " Su Chan wrinkled her nose . "Drawing them is no easy task . Even the common ones require a lot of skill to draw . " Su Chan shook her head . "One wrong symbol…"
"And the spell wouldn't work . "
Su Chan nodded . "Master is very good at it . " Su Chan glanced at Yundong . "Talisman Lore . "
Yundong smiled . "I don't find that surprising at all . She's a genius after all . "
"Mm . " Su Chan lowered her gaze to the ground .
"Hey . " Yundong nudged her . "We're gonna get her back, okay?"
Su Chan lifted her gaze and gave him a weak smile .
"We're not alone in this . " Yundong patted her head . "Zi Yuan and Ruan Hongling are on our side . " Yundong smiled . "And we've still got Cao Yi and your other shībó's, haven't we?"
Su Chan's heart lightened a bit .
"Oh, hey . Why don't you tell me more about your mist spell?" Yundong's tone sounded curious . "It's called Shadow Mist, right?"
Su Chan smiled . "Yep!"
"How does it work?"
"It's actually a spell from the Water Element . We first manipulate the water vapor in the air with our spiritual energy to form the mist, and then we integrate our physical bodies into the mist . Our Yin Spirit then can control and shape the mist however we want . "
"Yundong, do you know that fox spirits—"
"Are born with Yin Spirits? Yeah, I know . "
Su Chan did a double take . Wait, he knew about that . Hmm . Zi Yuan jiějie must have told him that .
"Oh . "
They walked for a while in silence until Yundong broke the silence with a long, contented sigh . Piqued, Su Chan looked towards Yundong .
Yundong was smiling . "I've missed this, you know?"
"I mean what we're doing right now . " Yundong's smile widened . "I've really missed this . "
"Oh . "
"Yeah . It reminds me of the time when you first taught me about Cultivation . "
"There isn't much I can teach you now, Yundong . " Su Chan smiled . "Honestly, you can learn so much more from Zi Yuan jiějie or…"
Or Master .
Yundong patted her head . "Even so, I couldn't have gotten here without your early guidance, Chan'er . "
There was a grateful smile on Yundong's face when she turned to look at him .
"So, thank you . "
Su Chan smiled and—
She stopped walking and pointed at the temple in front of them .
"Well . " Yundong stopped beside her . "Looks like we're here . "
Su Chan lowered her hand and sighed . Hopefully, she would receive a warmer welcome this time .