In the rapidly dimming sunlight, Li Luo's and Wang Hejiu's light columns moved rapidly towards each other before finally halting.
They met at a long, narrow gorge between two enormous mountains, the singular passage through.
Waterfalls roared down the geographical marvel, spitting froth and water over greenery that bloomed in the humidity.
"Nice place. Hopefully, its beauty takes the sting out of your first defeat."
Wang Hejiu remarked to Li Luo and Bai Mengmeng as he looked around at the water-coated boulders. Xin Fu was already well-concealed.
"Normally," Li Luo said brightly, "once the villain says something like that, they lose."
Wang Hejiu chuckled. "Do you think you're a hero?"
"His looks are very noble," Bai Mengmeng squeaked.
Wang Hejiu was taken aback. Were all these girls equally shallow? What did it matter if a guy was handsome? Was his nose not equally fragile before a fist?
"Enough," Duze Beixuan snapped. "Time for payback for the Choosing."
He stepped forward, and his resonant power surged forth, a tremendous force that made Li Luo's eyes widen.
"Pattern Genesis Tier?"
That was unexpected. He had thought that Duze Beixuan would need a little more time to get there. Seemed like his pure spite and fury after the Choosing had spurred him on really hard.
"That was too obvious. I told you to conceal it and lure him in," Wang Hejiu said tiredly to Duze Beixuan, his own poisonous, green power seeping forth. That had the toxic strength of a Pattern Genesis Tier cultivator too.
"Li Luo, we have two First Pattern cultivators here. Your strongest is the Upper Flowering Xin Fu. And you are a Lower Flowering..."
He smiled wide as a Cheshire cat. "Please tell me. What gives you confidence to fight this?
"Don't waste our time. Hand over your badges quietly. Wouldn't that be better?"
His response was a quick unsheathing of Li Luo's shortswords, twin aqueous weapons of death gleaming with the keen, watery silver of Water Edge.
"Back off, Mengmeng," he said with an uncommon gravity. Taking on two Pattern Genesis Tier opponents wasn't going to be easy.
Xin Fu could only wait for his chance. He could not reveal himself casually, and even less so Bai Mengmeng, who would instantly be done in by the deadly pair.
Li Luo stood alone, the first and final bastion of his team.
That was his determined role.
"Leader, be careful!" Bai Mengmeng called out, her voice thick with worry. She knew how crucial he was. Perhaps no other Upper Flowering cultivator would be brave enough to stand against these two formidable opponents.
Li Luo nodded wordlessly. He shot forth with suddenness, spraying gravel behind him that skipped and hissed over the shallow waters.
Neither Wang Hejiu nor Duze Beixuan held any grand illusions of single combat. Both moved as one.
The three figures collided with incredible power on both sides, shaking the gorge walls with their impact.
The nearby creek was shaken so hard that it slopped, sending pearly droplets of water spraying upwards.
Wang Hejiu and Duze Beixuan were left unmoving, while Li Luo was sent flying backwards, skidding across the watery surface.
He had been outclassed in this first clash.
Expected. He might have dual resonances, but he was facing two resonances as well, wielded by superior cultivators. This would be an uphill struggle.
Neither Wang Hejiu nor Duze Beixuan slowed. They pressed their advantage, closing in on Li Luo with their attacks.
He used his Dancing Pisces move, concentrating on defending against their furious onslaught. The battle was white-hot in intensity.
The clear peal of ringing steel rang out.
Li Luo's blade turned Duze Beixuan's spear aside, redirecting the power into a nearby wall that shuddered and groaned. Another seaweed-green blast of power hissed out at him, its foul, acrid stench sharp in his nose.
Vicious and calculated.
But just at this moment, a shadow loomed behind Wang Hejiu. A slash of saturnine light on a dagger blurred from its speed struck out towards the back of his skull.
Wang Hejiu frowned but dealt with it matter-of-factly. After all, both he and Duze Beixuan had been on guard against the lurking Xin Fu this whole time.
His fan snapped open, flipping behind him to block the menacing dirk.
Toxic, green energy hissed and ate away at the shadow resonant power, finally even leaping for Xin Fu himself.
Xin Fu twisted. There was a dark implosion of energy, then he disengaged, vanishing again.
Wang Hejiu clicked his tongue irritatedly. Xin Fu might not pose too big a threat, but he was keeping them on their toes, unable to let their guard down. He was also a constant disruption to their planned attacks.
Wang Hejiu did not linger on the retreating Xin Fu, instantly turning back to attack Li Luo in concert with Duze Beixuan.
All the heat was on Li Luo now. As long as they could take him down, the battle was as good as over.
While the battle raged on, Qi Luozi summoned her own dark-green power. She clapped her hands together, funneling her resonant power into the gravel shores. Vines started to sprout rapidly.
Suddenly, a fey light made her vision blur and whirl. The battlefield was swimming in her eyes, vague shadows in the distance that she could not focus on, no matter how hard she tried.
She frowned. Bai Mengmeng stood close by, a slim rapier pointed at her.
"Leader's under enough pressure," she said quietly.
Qi Luozi snorted. "You think you can stop me? You're just an Upper Clear cultivator. I'm a Lower Flowering."
Bai Mengmeng suddenly gave her a pure, winsome smile. "It doesn't matter. If you hurt me, my sister will beat you black and blue."
Qi Luozi only stared silently.
Then she sighed. Her eyes went flat, and the gravel under Bai Mengmeng was suddenly writhing with green vines that bound her legs.
"I'll just have to test that out, then."
Her words echoed emptily around her as the vines passed through thin air. The illusion wavered, then faded.
"An illusion?" Qi Luozi frowned.
"I might not be able to beat you, but I can keep you occupied. That's enough."
Bai Mengmeng's voice came at her from all directions.
"A competition to see who falls first? You or Li Luo." Qi Luozi sneered.
"Leader says his best trait is endurance."
Qi Luozi snarled about her and cursed again.
"Li Luo, you wretch!" she shouted, looking around at the many illusions of Bai Mengmeng with uncertainty.Previous Chapter Next Chapter