Chapter 153 Retribution
The asphalt cracked under Li Yundong's feet when he landed in the middle of the road like a golden meteorite. They had just reached the suburban area, and Li Yundong was finally gaining on the BMW.
Don't let him get away… Don't let him get away…
Images filled Li Yundong's head. Images of He Shao's terrible deeds, the people he had killed: Deng Yu and Deng Jiao's ruined faces; Er Lu, with three bullets lodged in his chest; Er Lu's mother, with her upper body completely squashed; and God knew how many more in the past.
Anger surged inside Li Yundong. He roared into the night, and then leaped into the air once more. His body shot into the air like a projectile. Two seconds later, he landed 15 meters away from where he leaped. Up ahead, the BMW's taillights flashed provocatively as it sped away.
"Come on!" Li Yundong leaped again, covering yet another 15 meters of horizontal distance. "You evil son of a bitch!!!" Li Yundong leaped again and again, propelling himself closer and closer to the BMW. The way he was moving made him feel like the Incredible Hulk (except that he was golden instead of green): angry, turbulent, and with a profound need to smash anything in sight.
Suddenly, the BMW skidded sideways, and then...
"Leave me alone!!!!" BANG! BANG! BANG!
The bullets ricocheted off the golden aura surrounding Li Yundong's body.
Heat shot out from the top of Li Yundong's head. "Not a chance!!!" He charged forward. He Shao's screams of horror were like coals fueling his wrath.
That's right. Know the meaning of terror... Fear me... Fear justice!
Li Yundong's feet slammed into the asphalt when he landed on the road. He looked ahead. The car was now 50 meters away. Li Yundong palmed a piece of rock in his hand, and then leaped into the air once more. When he landed, Li Yundong hurled the piece of rock at the car, and then leaped into the air again. SMASH! One of the BMW's taillights shattered.
Li Yundong landed on the ground to see the BMW swerving back and forth between lanes.
He Shao's screams pierced through the night, fueling Li Yundong's anger further.
Scream… Scream all you want… Nothing can save you this time. Not your money. Not your status!
THUD! THUD! Li Yundong made two more leaps.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
The bullets bounced uselessly off the golden aura.
"I won't let you kill anyone else!" Li Yundong sprang forward. And I will give you a taste of hell.
Li Yundong's hands shot out at the same time he landed on the ground; his fingers touched the car's surface. The BMW swerved to the left lane, and his fingers slipped off before he could get a firm grip.
"God damn it!" The ground cracked when Li Yundong's fist smashed into it. With a feral growl, he leaped again.
THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD!
Come on… come on… come on!!!!
The BMW's tires screeched when it made a sharp right turn at a junction ahead.
"Damn you!!!" Li Yundong made a desperate leap and landed somewhere near the junction. After a few steps, he rounded the corner and noticed the BMW hurtling along the road leading to the city limits. Li Yundong broke off into a sprint and then, using the forward momentum he'd gained, made a giant leap into the air. THUD! His hands missed the car by inches. F*ck!
Just then, something caught his attention. An open, grassy plain stretched out on the left side of the road. Glaring at the BMW in front, Li Yundong bridged his Three Gates.
Time to end this.
Li Yundong punched the air in front of him. The shockwave tore through the air and struck the BMW's rear end from the side. A loud screech sounded as the BMW's body pivoted around its front wheels.
Then, everything fell silent.
When Li Yundong lowered his fist, the BMW's headlights shone in his eyes. The car had done a complete one-eighty while it was skidding around just now. The head of the car was now pointed straight at him.
Growling, Li Yundong moved his feet and strode towards the car. The windshield had shattered, so Li Yundong could see He Shao's pale face staring right at him. How many people had stared at that vile face as they died? How many times had that face struck fear in the hearts of good people? How many dreams and futures had this foul creature crushed with his money and status? Karma had punished Zhao Yujian. Why hadn't it punished He Shao?
Then it hit him. A simple yet powerful truth.
This was the working of karma.
I am He Shao's karma…
The BMW's engine rumbled.
A moment later, the car surged forward, but Li Yundong kept walking towards it without fear. As the BMW picked up speed, the trembling muzzle of a handgun rose in front of He Shao's face.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Li Yundong walked on as though nothing happened, smirking when he saw He Shao tossing the gun aside to grip the steering wheel with both hands.
The BMW's loud vroom tore through the night.
"Die, dammit!!! Die!!!!" He Shao yelled. "Why won't you just die and leave me alone!!!"
Li Yundong slammed his palms onto the BMW's hood while his feet slid back a few meters. The metal hood groaned under Li Yundong's palms. Then, the car stopped moving.
"It's over, He Shao!!!"
Sparks danced around Li Yundong's face when he brought his palms together and crushed the BMW's engine bay. The rumbling of the engine stopped.
He Shao released his hands from the wheel and fumbled around to unbuckle his seatbelt.
"Give it up! You're not getting away!!" Li Yundong grabbed the bottom of the car's chassis and then flung the car to his left side. The vehicle tumbled over the road's guard rail and rolled onto the grassy plain below the road. Seconds later, the car stopped rolling and lay on its roof amidst strips of tall weeds. Li Yundong leaped over the guard rail. The grass felt soft and fluffy beneath his feet, so unlike what he was about to do in the next few minutes.
Li Yundong looked towards the wreckage. The door of the driver's seat flung open, and He Shao crawled out of the car.
Li Yundong released a low growl.
"Now, you're finished."
Zi Yuan hovered in the night sky hundreds of meters above Tiannan University. She had traced the Jindan's Aura to somewhere around this area. Zi Yuan scanned the grounds below her. The Jindan's Heir had followed the culprit here, Zi Yuan was sure of it.
But why here? Why did the culprit come this way?
A green flash beside her announced Hongling's arrival.
"Elder Sister! Where is he? Is he here?" Hongling said, sounding a little out of breath.
"I can feel the Jindan's Aura, so he's got to be here somewhere." Zi Yuan gave Hongling a pointed look. "Scout out the area."
"Right away, Elder Sister!" Hongling disappeared in another green flash.
The night breeze caressed Zi Yuan's face. She sighed into the night. What on earth is happening, Master? Do these events mean anything at all? What were you trying to tell me?
Zi Yuan could've gone after the Jindan's Heir and He Shao much earlier if Su Chan hadn't passed out in front of the gates just now. Zi Yuan didn't have the heart to leave Su Chan lying there, so she asked the girl who came in the Audi—Zhou Qin was her name—to book a room for Su Chan at the hotel's reception. Zhou Qin complied, and by the time Zi Yuan and Hongling carried Su Chan to the room, the police had already arrived at the hotel.
After that, Zi Yuan decided to go after the Jindan's Heir, leaving Zhou Qin to deal with the police. Before Zi Yuan left the hotel, she ordered Hongling to cast a healing spell on Su Chan. In any case, Su Chan would be up and awake in no time.
Zi Yuan shook her head wryly at the thought of Su Chan. That impulsive girl would've died if Zi Yuan hadn't stepped in earlier and shielded her from the Jindan's Aura. Even so, Zi Yuan had to admire the girl's selflessness. Su Chan clearly valued Li Yundong's life more than her own.
Doubt niggled at Zi Yuan's mind.
Was it possible after all? Was it really possible for genuine love to exist between humans and fox spirits? Was the entire Cultivation world wrong about fox spirits? But the Mystical Silver Fox...
A green flash announced Hongling's returned. "Found something, Elder Sister Zi Yuan!"
Zi Yuan turned around and saw Hongling's grim expression.
Something terrible had happened.
Zi Yuan sighed. "How many?"
Hongling's lips trembled. "Two." Hongling hesitated for a moment. "I think it's best if I show you, Elder Sister."
Zi Yuan stared at the two dead bodies in front of her, aghast at the cruelty behind those deaths. The man had died from three GSWs to the chest. But the woman...
Bile rose to Zi Yuan's throat. The poor woman's torso was completely crushed. Flattened, no doubt by the weight of a car.
Hongling's scream of anger tore through the night. "How can anyone be capable of such terrible acts?!"
"Hongling..." Zi Yuan said.
"Argh! Li Yundong is right, Elder Sister! That man needs to be exterminated!" Hongling yelled. "And if Li Yundong doesn't do it, then I will!"
"Stop it, Hongling!" Zi Yuan said sharply. "Have you forgotten about the commandment?"
A red flush crept up Hongling's face. She looked like she was holding back tears.
Zi Yuan took in their surroundings once again. The place was eerily quiet and deserted. No doubt there weren't any eyewitnesses around when this horror took place. Zi Yuan had already figured out why He Shao had driven all the way here. It was obvious to her now that He Shao was trying to flee the city. In that case...
All she had to do was to follow this road and then catch up to Li Yundong before he brought disaster upon himself by breaking one of the biggest commandments in the Cultivation world.
A Cultivator should never take the life of a mortal with their skills. The violation of that sacred commandment would bring instant death to the Cultivator—he or she would be struck by the Heavenly Thunder.
Granted, they might have to let He Shao go for the time being, but it shouldn't be too difficult for Zi Yuan to track him down afterwards. Although the Zhengyi School forbade its members to involve themselves in worldly matters, Zi Yuan agreed that an evil man like He Shao had to be stopped.
Zi Yuan didn't have to do much, of course. She could just give a little tip to the police once she tracked down He Shao's location, and the police would handle the rest. Then, she would pull some strings and use the Zhengyi School's influence in the upper echelon of the government to ensure that He Shao stay in jail for the rest of his life.
"Come, Hongling," Zi Yuan said as she floated away from the crime scene.
Hongling complied wordlessly and floated towards Zi Yuan.
"Let's follow this road," Zi Yuan said.
A minute later, Zi Yuan and Hongling were floating fifty meters above the road. Zi Yuan could feel the Jindan's Aura growing stronger, so they must be getting closer to Li Yundong. Along the way, they'd passed by a series of dents on the pavement, each approximately 15 to 20 meters apart. There could be no doubt how those dents came about.
There was a loud screech. Zi Yuan paused midflight and looked towards Hongling. Hongling was staring back at her with wide eyes.
"Up!" Zi Yuan ordered. "Tell me what you see!"
Hongling nodded and shot higher into the air. Zi Yuan flew after her protégé.
"There!" Hongling pointed to her ten o'clock.
Before Zi Yuan could speak, a series of gunshots rang out.
"Move in!" Zi Yuan said, then flew towards the location.
"My God, Elder Sister!" Hongling screamed. "Look!"
Li Yundong had just flipped the entire BMW over the guard rail. Good God, such tremendous strength...
"Left," Zi Yuan ordered. "To the field. Quickly!"
Ten seconds later, Zi Yuan and Hongling hovered above a wide field with no vegetation other than grass and weeds.
"Wait!" Zi Yuan's hand shot out, preventing Hongling from flying straight down.
Li Yundong was now crossing the field towards the wrecked car, where He Shao was crawling out on all fours.
"This could get messy," Zi Yuan said without taking her eyes off the scene below. "The seal I placed isn't foolproof. I might've underestimated the Jindan's Aura after all..."
Hongling's arm trembled slightly. "Then... Then what do we do?"
Zi Yuan went over their options silently. The wind howled around them as though reminding them that a storm was coming.
"I'll talk to him," Zi Yuan said, after a few moments.
"What about me?" Hongling asked.
"Call Zhou Qin," Zi Yuan said, finally looking at Hongling. "Give her our location. Ask her to bring Su Chan here as soon as possible."
Hongling's face scrunched up in confusion. "What? Su Chan? Why—"
Zi Yuan silenced Hongling with a shake of her head. "I don't think the Jindan's Heir will listen to anything we have to say. But he might listen to her." Zi Yuan gave Hongling a pointed look. "Did you use the healing spell on her?"
Hongling nodded. "Of course."
Zi Yuan sighed inwardly, glad that Hongling had carried out her order. Good. At least Hongling had gotten over some of her dislike towards Su Chan. "Then she should be awake by now. Ask Zhou Qin to bring Su Chan here as soon as possible."
As Hongling got to work, Zi Yuan lowered herself to the field.
Time to confront the Jindan's Heir.
Zi Yuan planted herself between Li Yundong and the overturned car. "That's enough, Li Yundong."
Li Yundong stopped walking and stared into Zi Yuan's eyes. The intensity behind those eyes took Zi Yuan by surprise. Never in Zi Yuan's life had she encountered someone who could stare her down without feeling even the slightest hint of reverence.
At that moment, Li Yundong's eyes were the very definition of determination and fearlessness. Zi Yuan's eyes darted towards He Shao, who was sitting on the ground with his back leaning against the overturned car. The man appeared to be in a daze, but seemed unharmed other than a few scratches on his face.
Zi Yuan returned her gaze to Li Yundong. A golden radiance coated the surface of his skin courtesy of the Jindan's Aura. This was the most primitive form of the Jindan's Aura, much to Zi Yuan's relief. In its more advanced form, the Jindan's Aura draws out the user's Qi to form a powerful protective barrier around him or her. The radius of the barrier would depend on the amount of Qi the user possesses.
Looks like the seal is still intact...
Zi Yuan sighed inwardly.
"Are you here to stop me as well?" said Li Yundong in a steely tone.
Hongling descended from the sky and landed somewhere behind Li Yundong. Zi Yuan met Li Yundong's gaze. "What do you think you're doing, Li Yundong?"
Something flashed inside Li Yundong's eyes. "Something that should've been done a long time ago," he growled, taking a huge step towards Zi Yuan.
"Calm yourself," Zi Yuan said, holding up her palm. "You've done enough. Now leave the rest to the law."
"The law?" Li Yundong scoffed. "You think the law is enough to make this lowlife pay for everything he's done?"
"Yes," Zi Yuan said. "But only if you let it."
Li Yundong bared his teeth and pointed at He Shao angrily. "Then why is he out on the streets in the first place! Why isn't he rotting in jail already?! Why hasn't he been executed and sent straight to hell where he f*cking belongs!!!"
Zi Yuan was stunned into silence. Somewhere beside them, He Shao whimpered.
A golden blaze dazzled Zi Yuan's eyes for a moment. A strong gust of wind hit her square in the face.
Zi Yuan forced her eyes open, blinking a few times.
"And what is your grand plan? Beat the guy to death?" Zi Yuan raised her brow. "If you do that, then you're just like him." Zi Yuan jerked her chin towards He Shao. "A murderer."
Come on... come on... bite... bite.
Silence fell between them.
Li Yundong stared at Zi Yuan, his expression unreadable.
All of a sudden, Li Yundong laughed.
"Beat him to death? Oh, no, no... You're way off the mark. I'm not going to beat him to death. That would be going easy on him." Li Yundong glared at He Shao. "What I'm planning is much, much, worse."
Chills travelled down Zi Yuan's spine. "I don't suppose you mean tossing him into jail..."
"How many times do I have to tell you—" Li Yundong suddenly turned around to look at something over his shoulder. "You try anything funny and I won't show you any mercy this time!"
Zi Yuan's eyes shot up just in time to see Hongling stilling her movements behind Li Yundong. Fear coursed through Zi Yuan. Not for herself, but for Hongling.
"Stand down, Hongling! Haven't you learned your lesson last time?"
Foolish girl. Even when untrained, the Jindan's Heir was a force to be reckoned with. Hongling was no match for him, not with the Jindan's Aura activated.
"Look," Zi Yuan said with a gentle tone. "I understand the rage you're feeling—"
"You don't understand a thing!!!"
Golden light flashed, dazzling Zi Yuan's eyes. She raised a hand to shield her eyes from the glare.
"Do you know that he's killed two more people tonight?! Do you?!" Li Yundong shouted, pointing a trembling finger at He Shao on the ground. "He put three rounds in a man's chest and then drove his f*cking car over the man's mother! His mother!!!"
Something shifted on the ground. From the corner of her eyes, Zi Yuan saw He Shao pushing himself away from the car.
"T- They asked for it! I gave them a chance to move!"
"Shut your filthy mouth!!!" The air in front of Li Yundong exploded. The shockwave slammed into the side of the overturned car, sending it tumbling into the air.
The car landed with a loud crash further out into the field.
Zi Yuan looked towards the car, then back at Li Yundong again. Barely two months had passed since the Jindan was stolen, so the Jindan's Heir couldn't have been exposed to the art of Cultivation for more than a month. Yet look at all the stuff he was doing. Even for a talented Cultivator, it would take years to learn how to bridge the Three Gates properly.
After everything she had witnessed so far, Zi Yuan knew one thing for sure: this guy had an insane amount of aptitude for Cultivation.
Zi Yuan detected more movement from the corner of her eyes. Behind Li Yundong, her protégé was slowly backing away from Li Yundong.
Oh, so now she's afraid...
Zi Yuan looked away from Hongling when Li Yundong took another step towards He Shao.
"A chance? Are you seriously talking about giving chances right now, you piece of shit? You gave them a chance!" Li Yundong laughed snidely. "Give me a f*cking break!" Li Yundong stopped laughing. His expression suddenly became harsh and stony. "And what about those two girls? Did you give them a chance before you raped them and drove them to their deaths?"
He Shao whimpered.
"That's right, He Shao," Li Yundong growled. "You killed them all. So you've got no right! No f*cking right to talk about giving chances!!!"
Another shockwave blasted through the field, sending pieces of weed flying into the air.
"Li Yundong..." Zi Yuan tried again. "Calm yourself..."
"You killed them, you f*cking piece of shit... You murdered all of them in cold blood..." Li Yundong's voice trembled. "You're a f*cking monster... And I'll give you a taste of living hell before I end your worthless life!"
"Li Yundong!" Zi Yuan snapped. This was getting out of hand. The Jindan had blown his innate sense of justice out of proportion. Before he learned how to control the Jindan's power with his Spirit, there was no way for him to overpower this drive to deliver justice by any means necessary. It was like a primal need, an obsession. At this point, Su Chan was probably their only hope of getting through to him.
Nevertheless, Zi Yuan had to try. As a Cultivator, it was her duty to uphold the sacred commandments of the Cultivation world, one of which Li Yundong was no doubt about to breach.
"Come on, Li Yundong... Please, listen to me," Zi Yuan said steadily. "You are the Jindan's Heir. You'll be doing great things in the future. You're destined for greatness. " Zi Yuan stopped talking and pointed at the ground, where He Shao lay. "Don't throw it all away because of that worthless man..."
Li Yundong's eyes were as hard as steel when they met Zi Yuan's seconds later. "Great things?" He chuckled.
Zi Yuan's scalp tingled, and she frowned. "What's so funny?"
Li Yundong stopped laughing and gave her a pointed look. "Why do I have to wait until the future to do great things when I can start now?"
Zi Yuan's frown deepened. "What?"
"Let this be the first great thing I do!" Li Yundong broke their eye contact and glared at He Shao on the ground. "Ridding the world of that evil scumbag!!"
He Shao's scream echoed through the night.
Zi Yuan's lips began to move when she saw Li Yundong charging towards He Shao. Seconds later, she raised her palm, and Li Yundong's body levitated off the ground when he was a few feet away from He Shao.
That was close…
Li Yundong turned his head and glared at Zi Yuan. "What the hell did you do!" he snarled, flailing his arms and legs. "If you're not trying to help, then stop getting in my way!"
Zi Yuan moved her palm slightly. Li Yundong's body moved through the air until he was hovering in front of her.
"Beating him to death won't solve anything," Zi Yuan said calmly.
"You're wrong!" Li Yundong growled dangerously, then turned his head sharply towards He Shao. "I never said I was going to beat him to death... In fact, I'm going to end his pathetic life without even touching him. And when I'm done, there won't be anything left of him!"
The implications of Li Yundong's words echoed inside her mind. What? Chills travelled down Zi Yuan's spine. What was he talking about? Was he planning to use a spell?
"You're bluffing," Zi Yuan said coldly. "You need to reach the Shentong phase before you can use spells. You haven't even passed the Zhuji phase yet."
All of a sudden, Li Yundong's arms stopped flailing. Then, Zi Yuan heard a loud gasp. Zi Yuan glanced towards the source of the voice.
Hongling stared back at her with wide, fearful eyes.
"Hongling..." Zi Yuan narrowed her eyes. "What do you know that you didn't tell me?"
Li Yundong laughed darkly. "I think she's referring to this."
Li Yundong pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. The paper was brown in color, and there were four words printed on it.
Shock coursed through Zi Yuan.
There was no mistaking those words: Heavenly Thunder Slays Evil.
The Jindan's coming ordains thine fate. The sound of the first thunder shalt complete thine soul…
The sound of the first thunder. Was this what Master's prophecy was referring to? The Five Thunders Spell?
Li Yundong gave the talisman a quick flick.
Not a chance! Zi Yuan raised her free hand, and the talisman shot out of Li Yundong's grasp.
"No!!! Give it back!" Li Yundong swung his arms like a maniac.
The talisman fluttered in the air a few times before it landed in Zi Yuan's palm seconds later. Zi Yuan studied the talisman briefly. This talisman required Qi activation. And it was protected by some kind of spell against physical damage, so it was impossible to destroy it.
After a while, Li Yundong stopped moving.
"Fine!" Li Yundong said, pointing a finger at Zi Yuan. "Since you're so against me using the spell, why don't you do it then? Cast the spell and send that son of a bitch to hell!"
"No," Zi Yuan said coldly.
Li Yundong lowered his finger and gaped at Zi Yuan for a moment.
"What do you mean, no?"
"Cultivators are aren't allowed to harm mortals with spells. That has been our commandment for thousands of years."
"That's bullshit!" Li Yundong snapped, then jabbed his finger at He Shao. "Use it! Cast the spell!"
"I refuse," Zi Yuan said.
Li Yundong sneered. "Fine! Give me the talisman then!" Li Yundong held out his hand. "Since you're too much of a coward to do it, then I'll do it for you! Give it to me!"
"You don't understand! We're stopping you for your own good!" Hongling spoke for the first time since she landed on the ground. "Any Cultivator who takes a mortal's life with a spell will suffer divine punishment! Don't you get it? You'll be struck by Heavenly Thunder if you go through with this! Your soul will be destroyed!"
Li Yundong's eyes flashed in anger. "Then it is destroyed!"
"Wha-" Hongling's mouth dropped open. "Y- You're joking..."
Li Yundong huffed out a breath. "If I die, then I die. At least I'd die knowing that nobody else would suffer at the hands of that piece of trash!"
Hongling opened her mouth to argue.
"Don't try to convince me! It's pointless!" Li Yundong snarled. "My mind's already made up."
"Then think again!" Zi Yuan said sharply. "Reconsider!"
"Give. Me. The. Talisman!"
"Why, so you can use it to desecrate our one of our most sacred commandments? I will not tolerate such sacrilege!"
"I said give it to me!" Li Yundong paddled his arms and legs as though he was swimming in mid-air.
"What are you trying to prove? That you're above the traditions upheld by Cultivators for millennia?"
"I'm not trying to prove anything, you hypocritical fools!"
Anger rose in Zi Yuan. "You—" She closed her eyes and forced herself to take a deep breath. When she spoke again, her voice was much calmer. "Those commandments exist for a reason, Li Yundong."
"What reason?!" Li Yundong snarled. "To allow scums like He Shao to live freely, to murder innocent people, to oppress and trample over the poor and less fortunate?! Is that the so-called reason for your bullshit traditions?"
"No!" Li Yundong barked. "I will not in good conscience allow someone that evil to walk away unpunished. I will not!"
"He will receive his punishment in due time." Zi Yuan said patiently. "You just have to let nature take its course. The Heavens shall decide that man's final punishment—"
Li Yundong's eyes flashed. "And what if this…" Li Yundong spread out his arms. "All of this, is the will of the Heavens! What if I'm meant to do this! Have you considered that possibility?" Li Yundong let his arms drop limply to his sides. "Hasn't that man caused enough death and suffering to incur the wrath of the Heavens—"
"Enough!" Zi Yuan yelled. "Who do you think you are! You think you have the right to act on behalf of the Heavens just because you're the Jindan's Heir? That's hubris!"
"Hubris…" Li Yundong said weakly, then lowered his gaze to the ground.
Zi Yuan shared a glance with Hongling. Had they done it? Had they finally convinced him?
Zi Yuan looked towards Li Yundong again. "You have to look at the bigger picture here," she said carefully. "There will be grave consequences if you use that spell on him. Not just to you, but to the entire world of Cultivation as well. That sacred commandment is the thing that's been keeping the Cultivation world and the mortal world in a state of balance for generations! Mortals and Cultivators can co-exist as long as one side doesn't interfere with the affairs of the other. Just think for a second what would happen if even one Cultivator breaks that commandment. Other Cultivators would be tempted to do the same. Cultivation schools would start wars with other schools or even start terrorizing the mortal world! The entire Cultivation world would fall into chaos."
"Cultivation schools…" A dark chuckle escaped Li Yundong's lips. "Now I see what this is all about." Li Yundong raised his head sharply. "Self-preservation. This is all about self-preservation!"
Zi Yuan felt all the air leave her lungs the moment their gazes locked. It was like those eyes had pierced through her soul.
Li Yundong pointed an accusatory finger at Zi Yuan. "You don't give a damn about what goes on in the mortal world, do you? All you care about is preserving the good name of your school…" Li Yundong laughed mockingly. "And yet you parade among mortals, acting all high and mighty like you're all a bunch of saints who embody everything virtuous and wise." Li Yundong shook his head. "But the truth is that you people don't even understand the simple notion that magic, like everything else in the world, is just a tool!
"What, you think a few rules are enough to prevent Cultivators from abusing their powers if they want to?" Li Yundong sneered. "How stupid can you people get?"
Zi Yuan clenched her jaw, but she didn't stop Li Yundong's tirade.
"So you have a bunch of commandments in place. So f*cking what! Have there never been schools or sects in the past who tried to start wars? Have there never been any acts of rebellion in the Cultivation world? Please. Don't kid yourself. How much blood was spilled over the Renyuan Jindan? How many Cultivators, or even mortals, have lost their lives to obtain it? You think a few rules can prevent Cultivators from going rogue when they see something they want? If you truly think that, then y'all just a bunch of blind and deluded fools!"
Zi Yuan was stunned, struck by the truth behind Li Yundong's words. None of the commandments had prevented the Mystical Silver Fox from wreaking havoc in the Cultivation world back then. And everything he said about the Renyuan Jindan was on point.
"You call yourselves Cultivators, but what have you people spent thousands of years inside the mountains cultivating?" Li Yundong bared his teeth. "Bigotry? Cowardice? Selfishness? Hubris?"
"You live and walk among mortals, thinking that you're above them, that you're morally superior to them, but the truth is that there isn't a single ounce of virtue in you! Justice? The greater good?" Li Yundong laughed snidely. "You don't give a shit about the greater good… All you care about is yourself and the reputation of your school!"
A pause ensued with the only audible sound being Li Yundong's heavy breathing.
"You people could've used your powers to save lives! You could've used your powers to help the weak or those in need, and to punish those who deserves punishment! And you wanna know something else? I've seen mere mortals with kinder hearts and greater selflessness than you so-called Cultivators! The firemen! The doctors and nurses! The police officers! These are people without any powers who risk their lives on a daily basis for people they don't even know! And you!" Li Yundong pointed at Zi Yuan. "You people! What good have you ever done for the world, huh! How many lives have you saved? None! You people have done nothing despite having all these powers! Hell, you're even willing to turn a blind eye to evil deeds that are happening right under your noses! And all for what? To observe a bunch of dumbass traditions! Shame on you! Shame on all of you!!!"
Zi Yuan recovered her composure and cleared her throat. "Who says we're turning a blind eye? There are just other ways to—"
"Don't you get it yet?!"
A flash of golden light radiated from Li Yundong's body. Zi Yuan shielded her eyes with her hand once again.
"The law isn't enough to stop that bastard from killing! With enough money, power, and human resources at his disposal, that son of a bitch can kill even from inside a prison cell!"
Again, Zi Yuan was stunned into silence.
"No… A prison cell won't cut it…" Li Yundong's voice had suddenly turned eerily calm. When Zi Yuan lowered her hand from her eyes, she saw Li Yundong pointing at He Shao on the ground. "This man has to be exterminated for good!"
He Shao started screaming in fear at that point, but Li Yundong kept talking as though he didn't hear anything.
"Can you imagine how many more he will kill if you let him walk away alive tonight? How many more bloodshed will you allow before you're finally willing to bring justice on him?!" Li Yundong laughed. "Let nature take its course, you say? Let the Heavens decide, you say?" Li Yundong slashed his hand through the air, then spread his arms out wide. "Fine! Why don't I let the Heavens decide right now what to do with that scum!"
Li Yundong tilted his head skyward, then pointed one finger at He Shao.
"Punish that evil man!" Li Yundong shouted at the sky. "Prove to me that you aren't blind to everything that's been happening on earth! Strike him with your Heavenly Thunder and give him the punishment he deserves! Rid humanity of that scumbag and all his evil deeds!"
Li Yundong's voice dissolved into distant echoes before silence fell. Behind Li Yundong, Hongling glanced up at the sky. When she lowered her gaze seconds later, Zi Yuan could see the look of utter defeat in her protégé's eyes.
Li Yundong's words echoed inside Zi Yuan's mind, making her stomach churn. What was the point of Cultivation? Was there no other purpose in Cultivation other than to become a Shenxian?
In light of Li Yundong's words, the term Cultivation suddenly seemed so… shallow, like it was no different than what those power-hungry mortals were doing—just that instead of money, status, and power, Cultivators sought after immortality and magic.
But what about virtue? What about compassion? What about the drive to do good? To save lives? To make the world a better place? Shouldn't these things also be part of Cultivation?
For thousands of years, the orthodox views of the Cultivation world had never been questioned. Every Cultivator in every school had abided by those commandments. Until the Jindan's Heir came along to challenge it. And Zi Yuan had to agree that he'd made some pretty solid points.
Were the tenets of the Zhengyi School—and all the other Cultivation schools, for that matter—incomplete at best and outright wrong at worst? How had Zi Yuan not seen it earlier?
"Is this your answer?!"
Li Yundong's voice jolted Zi Yuan out of her thoughts. Li Yundong was still staring at the sky. Zi Yuan followed Li Yundong's gaze and noted the darkness above them. Clouds drifted past, but the sky appeared calm. It didn't seem like there would be any thunder tonight.
"Are you going let this man live and subject innocent lives to all his evil deeds?" Li Yundong screamed at the sky. "Or are you just too pompous to care about the lives of the good people on earth, the good people that you're supposed to be watching over!"
Zi Yuan lowered her gaze from the sky. She couldn't watch this anymore. She couldn't stand the silence, the serenity of the night sky. The implication of that silence was too profound to even fathom.
Li Yundong chuckled, causing Zi Yuan to look up sharply once more. When their gazes locked, Zi Yuan felt another chill down her spine.
"Do you see that, Zhenren Zi? The Heavens are blind…" Li Yundong said, closing his eyes and letting his arms drop limply to his sides. Zi Yuan waited silently for Li Yundong to continue.
Then, Li Yundong's eyes shot open. "But I am not!"
Something strange was happening. Zi Yuan could feel it in her bones.
She stared at Li Yundong warily. "What did you do…?"
"I might not be well-trained in the art of Cultivation, but I still know a thing or two about resourcefulness."
"You underestimated me!!!"
Zi Yuan gasped when the talisman in her hand began to glow.
Zi Yuan was thrown away by a powerful blast before she could even finish her sentence; the field was now bathed in a blinding gold light. Cursing, Zi Yuan released the Levitation Spell she'd cast on Li Yundong and muttered the incantation for the Qi-repelling spell.
Green light radiated from her right palm as she landed gracefully on both feet.
"Hongling!" Zi Yuan yelled. "Hongling! Where are you!!"
Zi Yuan waited for a response. Up ahead, the Jindan's Aura had fused with Li Yundong's vast Yang Qi to form a homogeneous, sphere-like structure with a radius of approximately 10 meters. Once again, it struck Zi Yuan how vast Li Yundong's Qi reserve was.
Tiny talismans fluttered around Zi Yuan's wrist.
Zi Yuan raised her palm higher.
"I'm over here, Elder Sister Zi Yuan!" Hongling's voice sounded amidst the roaring of the Jindan's Aura.
Zi Yuan looked up into the sky to see Hongling floating down towards her. Green light spread out from Hongling's palm like a shield.
Zi Yuan sighed in relief.
"Are you alright?" Zi Yuan asked when Hongling landed beside her.
"I'm fine, Elder Sister. What about you?" Hongling asked worriedly. "You were nearer to the blast."
Zi Yuan waved off Hongling's concern with her free hand, then looked towards Jindan's Heir. "He broke the seal."
Hongling nodded fearfully.
"Look at his head," Zi Yuan said. "Do you know what's happening?"
"Yeah… That's the Convergence of Five Qis and the Crown of Three Flowers happening simultaneously… I can't believe I'm seeing this on someone who hadn't undergone Qi-control training for more than a few months…"
The Jindan's Heir. Just how much talent did this man possess?
"Take a look at the Qi surrounding him," Zi Yuan said without taking her eyes off Li Yundong.
Hongling was silent for a few seconds before she spoke, "It's like his Qi is forming a barrier around him…"
"That's the advanced form of the Jindan's Aura," Zi Yuan explained. "Right now it's completely out of control."
"Any woman who gets too close would be drained of her Yin Qi unless she has a way to secure her Qi inside their body."
The sound of tires screeching interrupted them.
Zi Yuan turned and saw a white Audi A6 pulling up by the roadside above the field. Too little too late…
"Stay back!" Zi Yuan yelled.
Su Chan and Zhou Qin came to a halt beside the guard rail.
Zi Yuan turned to Hongling. "Let's go to them."
Seconds later, Zi Yuan and Hongling regrouped with Su Chan and Zhou Qin.
"What took you so long?" Zi Yuan snapped, glaring at Su Chan. "You could've just flown here."
Somehow, Zhou Qin didn't look surprise at all when Zi Yuan mentioned flying. Perhaps the girl had been hanging around Li Yundong for too long.
"I didn't have enough magic…" Su Chan said weakly.
"My God… What is going on over there?" Zhou Qin asked, staring down at the field.
Zi Yuan ignored the question and kept glaring at Su Chan.
"Was it you?" Zi Yuan asked with a sharp tone. "Did you give him the talisman?"
Su Chan didn't answer. Instead, she white-knuckled the guard rail and gazed at the field.
Suddenly, Su Chan leaped over the railing and ran towards the field.
"No!" Zi Yuan moved in a flash and stood in front of Su Chan to block her path.
"I have to go help him…" Tears streaked down Su Chan's cheeks. "He'll listen to me and stop the spell!"
"You'll die before you even get close!" Zi Yuan snapped, raising her right palm to protect them both. "You'll be useless to him dead. So stand back!"
"But…" Su Chan glanced longingly towards the Jindan's Heir. "We have to do something…"
"Yeah, we have to do something alright…" Zi Yuan mumbled.
"Elder Sister Zi Yuan!"
Zi Yuan looked up to see Hongling and Zhou Qin approaching them.
"What should we do, Elder Sister?" Hongling asked. "Should we… Should we contact the sect and request for backup?"
"No…" Zi Yuan said. "The Zhengyi School won't like this. It would be foolish to involve them."
"But this is getting out of hand…" Hongling argued weakly.
Zi Yuan looked towards the golden blaze in the middle of the field.
"I know," Zi Yuan said with a sigh. "But this needs to be handled with tact. Discretion is of the utmost importance." Zi Yuan gave everyone a pointed look, pausing for an extra second when her gaze landed on Zhou Qin. "Nobody except the people here can know about this, you hear me?"
"Good," Zi Yuan said when she received collective nods from the other women. Then, Zi Yuan turned to Zhou Qin. "You have considerable influence in Tiannan City, I presume?"
Zhou Qin snapped to attention. "Yes."
Zi Yuan nodded. "Then now might be a good time to put them to good use."
Zhou Qin opened her mouth to speak, but Zi Yuan raised a palm to silence her.
"Don't do it for me," Zi Yuan said. "Do it for him." Zi Yuan jerked her chin towards the field where the Jindan's Aura was still blazing. "I assure you that a lot of people would want him dead if word of what happened here ever gets out."
Zhou Qin took a deep breath. "Tell me what I can do."
"I need you to pull some strings and get this entire area sealed off," Zi Yuan said. "Block all the roads leading here. We don't need any onlookers wandering into the area and recording the whole thing on their phones."
"For how long?" Zhou Qin asked.
"Until I give the OK."
Zhou Qin nodded. "Anything else?"
Zi Yuan thought for a moment. "That's all for now. But I might need you to handle the police once all of this is over. Now go. We don't have much time to lose."
Zhou Qin's phone was already pressed to her ears by the time she was walking towards her car.
Zi Yuan turned to Su Chan. "Has he been taught how to perform spells?"
Su Chan wiped her cheeks and shook her head.
Zi Yuan cursed inwardly. This was bad. The Five Thunders Spell was perhaps the most difficult spell to master and control. One wrong move and the spell would turn on the caster.
"Y- Yundong can do it!" Su Chan said all of a sudden. "H- He's a genius!"
Zi Yuan regarded Su Chan steadily. "Let's just hope you're right."
"What!" Hongling yelled. "A- Are we seriously going to let him perform the spell?"
"It's too late to stop him now," Zi Yuan said. "And I doubt anyone can stop him." Zi Yuan glanced at Su Chan. "Yes, not even you."
Hongling frowned. "But I thought that was the whole point of bringing her here!" Hongling pointed at Su Chan. "You said it yourself that she can persuade him!"
Zi Yuan turned away from Hongling and looked towards the field where the Jindan's Aura continued its rampage.
"Perhaps I was mistaken," Zi Yuan whispered. "Perhaps this is all meant to happen."
"The prophecy, Hongling," Zi Yuan said. "The prophecy…"
A powerful gale blew past them, rustling the weeds in the field. Zi Yuan looked up into the night sky, where storm clouds had begun to gather directly above the field.
"Here it comes…" Zi Yuan said.
So it begins…
The Jindan's coming ordains thine fate. The sound of the first thunder shalt complete thine soul.
Li Yundong picked up the glowing talisman from the ground. The talisman glowed brighter the moment it came into contact with his hand. It was as though the talisman was responding to his touch.
Li Yundong gathered his Qi at his palm, then watched the glow of the talisman change its color from white to green. Seconds later, the talisman burst into flames, releasing a string of tiny symbols into the air.
Glowing like embers, the symbols spiraled outwards until it formed a full sphere with Li Yundong at its center. Directly above the field, storm clouds began to gather.
Moments later, more clouds drifted in from all directions as though they were being summoned by a mysterious force. The wind howled amidst the distant rumbling of thunder.
A storm was coming.
All of a sudden, the air grew thick and heavy as though there was a spike in air pressure. Sparks materialized in the air at random, and soon, the golden aura engulfing Li Yundong was crackling with electricity. The symbols surrounding Li Yundong spiraled quicker and quicker as steam began to rise from the top of his head.
Something strange was happening to his body.
He soon realized that he wasn't just emitting golden light from the surface of his skin. The color of his skin had actually changed into gold, like he was wearing a shiny golden armor.
Li Yundong angled his head skywards and released a loud roar. Above the field, the storm clouds tumbled and spun around as though answering his battle cry. Random flashes lit up the clouds as they moved in the air.
Li Yundong stopped roaring and raised him arms above his head. He held that position for a few seconds, then slowly brought his palms closer together—like he was squeezing an invisible object above his head.
The storm clouds shifted inwards and slowly condensed into a thick clump.
Be in harmony with Heaven and Earth… Su Chan's words echoed inside Li Yundong's mind.
Li Yundong's arms dropped to his sides.
He glanced around until he saw He Shao's head peeking out from between a bunch of tall weeds.
He Shao's eyes widened in fear the moment their gazes locked. A second later, He Shao sprang to his feet and started running towards the edge of the field.
"You're not going anywhere!" Li Yundong slashed his hand across the air. A thin shockwave sliced across the field like a blade and grazed He Shao's left thigh.
He Shao's body spun into the air like a rag doll before it landed further out into the field.
Li Yundong's feet began to move. Each step he took would bring him one step closer towards He Shao's death, towards justice.
He Shao struggled to push himself up, but failed every time he tried.
"You will pay… You will pay for everything…" Li Yundong growled dangerously. "You will suffer for every crime you've committed… and every person you've murdered in cold blood!" Li Yundong stopped about two feet away from where He Shao lay. "No amount of money, status, and power can save you now…"
"P- Please... s-s-s-spare me!" He Shao screamed. "Spare me! I-I-I'll give you anything you want! Anything!"
"You'll give me anything?" Li Yundong laughed darkly. "Well this is what I want! I want you gone from this earth!"
He Shao started bawling and weeping.
"P-P-Please… I'll repent! I-I-I'll change!! I w- won't kill again! I swear!"
"Too late!" Li Yundong yanked He Shao up by the throat, then slammed him down onto the ground. "Your death shall be an example to the world that the Heavens aren't blind to humanity's evil deeds! That the Heavenly Thunder will slay the vile and the wicked!"
Li Yundong crouched down and grabbed He Shao's left arm.
"Arrrgghhh! No! No! I'll give you money! Status! Please! Just don't kill me…" He Shao wailed.
"This is for Deng Yu!!!"
CRACK! He Shao screamed when Li Yundong broke his left forearm. CRACK! Another scream when Li Yundong snapped He Shao's left wrist.
He Shao's left arm fell uselessly to the ground when Li Yundong dropped it. Li Yundong shifted on the grass and grabbed He Shao's right arm next.
"Argh! No! No—"
"This is for Deng Jiao!!!"
CRACK! The bones in He Shao's forearm shattered under Li Yundong's crushing grip.
He Shao screamed and screamed until his voice became hoarse.
Li Yundong rose to his feet and stared down at He Shao on the ground.
"This is for all the women you've raped and violated!!!" Li Yundong raised his leg and then slammed his foot into He Shao's groin.
"Arrrggghhhh!" He Shao's body curled up like a shrimp.
With a growl, Li Yundong bent down and forcefully uncurled He Shao's body.
"Lie still!" Li Yundong yelled. "I'm not done with you yet!"
He Shao whimpered weakly. "P- Please…"
Li Yundong picked up a piece of rock and then crushed it with his bare grip. Pieces of rubble fell to the ground when he uncurled his fingers. He bent down and picked up three tiny pebbles from the rubble.
"This is for Er Lu!!!!" Li Yundong slammed each of the three pebbles into He Shao's chest until they were partially buried in his skin.
"This is for Er Lu's mother!!! The woman whose chest you crushed with your car!" Li Yundong slammed his foot down onto He Shao's chest until he heard the sound of ribs snapping.
"This is for all the vicious and disrespectful things you've said!" He Shao's lips ruptured the moment Li Yundong's fist slammed into it.
"This is for all the cruel and dishonest orders that you've given out." Li Yundong slammed his fist into He Shao's lips again. "And for all the assassinations that you've ordered!" CRACK! A few of He Shao's teeth fell to the grass.
Blood spilled from He Shao's busted lips as he lay on the ground, wheezing and coughing.
Li Yundong rose to his feet and walked around until he was standing beside He Shao's feet. Bending down, Li Yundong raised He Shao's leg.
"This is for all the people you have trampled over and oppressed with your status and power!"
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! He Shao's leg fell back to the ground, where it lay as limp as a piece of cooked spaghetti. The ankle and knee joints were both crushed beyond recognition.
Then, Li Yundong started backing away from He Shao.
After about four or five steps, Li Yundong stopped walking.
"And this…" Li Yundong raised his fist into the air. The storm clouds swirled above the field like a maelstrom. White and blue flashes lit up the storm clouds' surface.
"…is for justice!!!" Li Yundong pointed his right index finger at He Shao.
A white flash illuminated the entire field as a huge bolt of lightning descended from the storm clouds and engulfed He Shao's body. A loud explosion sounded above. It was as though a bomb had detonated in the sky.
The air sizzled and crackled around Li Yundong as he struggled to remain upright. It was as though his body had become a vessel for some kind of boundless power, the power to alter the state of the universe with a mere flick of a hand.
Li Yundong screamed in pain as his body threatened to rip apart from the inside. Be in harmony with the Heaven and Earth… Su Chan's soothing voice rang out inside his mind once again. Be in harmony with the Heaven and Earth…
Be at peace.
Li Yundong thought back to all the times he had shared with Su Chan, all the happy memories, the moments of joy and sadness.
My little chipmunk…
For the first time since he witnessed the twins' deaths, Li Yundong felt the need to smile.
I guess this is goodbye then…
Li Yundong's body sway from side to side.
By the time his body hit the soft ground, the white flash had already disappeared. So soft… Just like the bed my room…
Pieces of weed tickled his cheeks when a gentle breeze blew across the field. The scent of charred flesh wafted to his nostrils and lingered there briefly. Li Yundong turned his head slightly and saw the dark hole on the ground. Specks of black ashes rose from the hole. Dark fumes drifted into the air, tilting sideways in the direction of the breeze. There were no signs of He Shao.
Li Yundong's eyelids grew heavy. He gave the dark hole on the ground one last glance before allowing his eyes to draw shut.
His work was done.
The Heavenly Thunder had struck.
Evil had been slain.