Chapter 30: Two Masters Duel
Man and snow crashed onto the valley floor.
"Kill!" The roar was deafening; the Daoists's hearts sank, their heads swelling, their eardrums about to burst.
The echo reverberated through the valley. Mountain Demon Shan Tang flashed out of sight and magically appeared among the Daoists. He roared like a dragon, drew his sword, and with a flash like lightning two Daoists were cut down at the waist.
The third Daoist didn't know what had happened, but Mountain Demon's sword had pierced his chest. He screamed and dropped.
The Daoists were in a state of panic; they shouted and attacked. The surprise attack had left them terror-stricken. Mountain Demon was too fast, his sword merciless. Not even Seven Spells could stop him in time, really frightening.
Mountain Demon became like a whirlwind, light circling as he charged from left to right, a man dropping wherever his sword hit, thrusting, hitting, ruthless.
Screams rose and fell. If they weren't beheaded then they were pierced through the heart, eight Daoists' blood staining his sword in the blink of an eye. The clang of colliding swords frayed their nerves. Mountain Demon's attack was hard and direct and merciless. He seemed to have gone mad.
Seven Spells roared and drew his frosty sword and urgently stepped in. "Shan, you're really shameless."
Priest Celestial Void was rent with grief at the sight of his dead companions. He howled and attacked from the other side.
Mountain Demon Shan Tang didn't square off against Seven Spells but spun to Priest Celestial Void and laughed maniacally. "First I'll clip your wings so you all can't fly away. Die!"
As he roared, Seven Spells closed in from behind.
Two Daoists were blocking in front of Mountain Demon, their swords coming at him.
Mountain Demon howled and knocked their swords away and darted in between them, striking twice with backhand slashes as he passed, not looking back. Blood spurted where the sword flashed. He had reached Priest Celestial Void.
The two Daoists screamed, their backs split open. In their death throes they staggered as if struck by lightning, dropped their swords, and stumbled two or three steps before falling to the snow, obstructing Seven Spells.
"Clear out, friends, you're all in the way," Seven Spells fumed with rage. He soared over the corpses and flung himself at Mountain Demon's back.
Priest Celestial Void was only a first-rate master, how could he take on one of the consummate Thirteen Greats of the Martial Fraternity? Mountain Demon's dull green eyes and body rushing at him made his stomach drop. But Mountain Demon had the Autumn Mountain Mist painting, so he was not willing to give up. The word "greed" was about to send him to the netherworld to nurse his grievances.
A flash of light shot at him, a silver star pointing at him. It was aimed at his midsection, but it was nothing to fear. He clenched his teeth and raised the point of his sword and knocked the point of the oncoming sword away, then took the lead and stepped in suddenly with an angry roar. He felt Mountain Demon wasn't anything special; the internal force put into his sword was not fierce, and his own sword had not been knocked away, so what was there to fear? He stepped in with his sword, thrusting with all his might.
Success. His sword scraped against the other with a loud screech, his sword halfway there, the tip about to hit his foe's inner right shoulder. He was going to make it.
But change can be unpredictable. His sword suddenly felt an enormous vibration, the crook of his thumb nearly splitting open from the jolt which went up his right shoulder and made it painful and numb before penetrating to his internal organs. His true qi fluctuated and he lost all power in his right arm.
"Give up!" Mountain Demon shouted coldly. He shook and twisted his wrist.
With a clang Priest Celestial Void's sword was sent flying thirty feet.
Then two more flashes of light.
Priest Celestial Void wailed and fell back ten feet. He covered his face with his hand, blood seeping between his fingers. A slanted 十 had been cut across his face, right on the tip of his nose, which was now nowhere to be seen. His cheeks had also been slashed at the cheekbone, the pain penetrating to the bone. He knew he was finished as his back was hit with a sword.
Mountain Demon advanced relentlessly, darting around behind Priest Celestial Void and slashing him from his left collarbone to the small of his back, opening up a huge gash on the Daoist's back that split muscle and dug into bone.
Seven Spells arrived, but Priest Celestial Void was in the way.
Priest Celestial Void didn't fall, but he was unsteady on his feet, tottering.
Seven Spells came around from the right. "Take this, old devil!"
Mountain Demon Shan Tang came around from the other side, each revolving around Priest Celestial Void. Mountain Demon cackled as he turned. "Priest Celestial Void, Lone Wanderer Bai, you will die slowly. In a short while your blood will freeze and you will ascend to heaven."
They circled twice, but Priest Celestial Void couldn't see anything. He staggered, unable to stay on his feet, and said weakly, "My… My Autumn… Mountain… Mist… painting…"
Two other Daoists took this opportunity to attack, their swords aimed at Mountain Demon's back.
Mountain Demon had eyes in the back of his head. He whirled around and slashed, then took up his original position.
Two clangs and two swords flew through the air.
The Daoists grunted. One's head had been split in half, the other's chest had been opened up. Their momentum carried them forward.
Seven Spells was really amazing; he swung his sword in a brilliant arc, blocking.
Mountain Demon laughed maniacally and brandished his sword ferociously.
They were both at about the same level of skill and power, their swordsmanship equal, so it was likely their ability to analyze and breakdown moves was no different from ordinary people, just their sword's whistled more powerfully when they struck.
Their swords crossed in a shower of sparks. Mountain Demon's sword was not as strong and durable as Seven Spells, so the edge of his blade was damaged as they slid away from each other.
Bad luck. The two Daoists' bodies just happened to crash into Mountain Demon. Priest Celestial Void's belly had also been slashed when the tip of Mountain Demon's sword swept across after clashing with Seven Spells'. His guts spilled out and he too crashed into Mountain Demon on the left, the four of them colliding together.
Seven Spells turned back at that moment, his sword slashing.
Mountain Demon was in a dangerous spot. He flinched. There was no way to block the sword coming at him. He grabbed Priest Celestial Void's body with his left hand and shoved him to the right, blocking Seven Spells. He thought Seven Spells wouldn't cut his way through, but he was wrong.
Seven Spells was no saint; whether Priest Celestial Void lived or died didn't matter, but when a golden opportunity presented itself how could he withdraw?
The sword sweeped and a head fell. Priest Celestial Void died savagely.
The tip of the sword mercilessly slashed Mountain Demon's belly, ripping his robe and cutting through his belt. Not even a miracle could have stopped Seven Spells' sword. He was wounded, blood running down his legs.
The Autumn Mountain Mist painting was cut in half and dropped onto the bloodstained snow.
"Damn sorcerer!" Mountain Demon cried. "You ruthless son of a bitch." He was talking about Seven Spells cutting down Priest Celestial Void.
Seven Spells' sword answered for him, brashly striking eight times in succession, forcing Mountain Demon back thirty feet. "Old devil, you ought to slit your own throat, otherwise it will be a hard death for you."
Mountain Demon Shan Tang waved his sword in defense, withdrawing step by step. He hmphed. "Don't be so sure. You're nothing more than a plaything."
"I know you've already reached a sublime state of cultivation. But are you not afraid of my confusion spell, or scared of my dementia knockout gas…"
"I'm not afraid of your will-o'-the-wisp poison, either," Mountain Demon interjected. "That sorcery can only be used to hoodwink commoners." He dodged three strikes and returned one.
Seven Spells struck with five more urgent thrusts. "You can't hold out for long. I'm going to use my true skill to capture you and expose you to the jianghu. Your flesh and blood will increase my standing. Haha! Today is your day. Priest Celestial Void will have died content. Take this! And this!"
A dragon-like roar rose suddenly and a strong wind erupted as they battled it out ruthlessly.
Miss Black, watching from a distance, had exceptional eyesight. She shot to her feet. "Come on! Our chance has arrived."
Wenchang got up, puzzled. "Miss, you want to…"
"I, too, came for the Autumn Mountain Mist painting. Let's go!"
Regardless whether Wenchang wanted to or not, she grabbed her cape and pulled on his right hand and flew down.
Wenchang went involuntarily, feeling the strength of Miss Black's grip was really astonishing. This was the first time he had come in contact with a woman. Her hand was soft as soap, warm and smooth. An odd jolt of electricity coursed through his body, and an indescribable feeling made his heart hammer like a drum. Although her small hand was soft and supple, her internal force was astounding; he couldn't resist her grip, didn't have the strength to. There was nothing he could do but go with her.
Miss Black led the way down the path Wenchang had come when he entered the valley.
Three Daoists stood trembling among their five fallen companions while two others cautiously and nervously approached Priest Celestial Void's body. They saw the cut-in-half painting at the same time they saw Priest Celestial Void was dead. Both ends of the scroll painting had been tied so neither piece had unfurled.
They didn't come to get him, instead coincidentally both going for the scroll painting, each grabbing one piece.
Miss Black let Wenchang go and whispered, "Wait here, don't show yourself."
Before her voice had faded she was already fifty or sixty feet away.
The two Daoists had only just stood back up when a black figure suddenly appeared and called out coldly, "Put down the scrolls."
One of the Daoists was sharp. He shouted and threw his piece of the scroll over where the fight was raging, then turned and ran.
The other Daoist was loathe to part with his scroll. He roared angrily and brandished his sword.
The woman in black hmphed and reared back and kicked the hand holding the sword, breaking his hand at the wrist and sending the sword flying. He cried, turned and ran madly, but he only made it three steps before he felt a strong force in the middle of his back and he fell to the ground. The scroll painting was snatched from him as he lost consciousness.
The two freaks fighting heard the commotion and looked out of the corner of their eyes. Seven Spells backed off suddenly and reached out to grab the scroll sailing through the air.
Mountain Demon was a step late. He grabbed a handful of snow and threw it, hitting Seven Spells before he seized the scroll, the snowball exploding, sending the scroll flying back the way it had come.
The woman in black tucked her pilfered section of the painting into her robe and shot after the other section.
Seven Spells got there. "It's you, you temptress…" he said in surprise.
He raised his left hand and whisked his big sleeve. A strong wind burst up and a strange light-red mist that was colder than the snow billowed out and blew toward the woman in black. At the same time, he thrust with his sword.
The woman in black knew what it was. She didn't dare go for the scroll painting. She shot to the left and drew her sword with one hand as she took off her cape with the other, sending a strong wind billowing forcefully forward where it flowed against the strange light-red mist.
"Take this and this and this!" she shouted coldly as three rays of pale grey shot out one after another.
Seven Spells lurched to the side, narrowly avoiding the three grey streaks. He once again charged ferociously. "Damn temptress, you really used your soul-snatching shuttles against me. I'll have your life."
As he raged, he shot his left hand out and several green luminous stars sprayed out of a copper tube, shooting out ten feet in all directions in a blast of hot air.