“Stop right there!”
Yang Qi had relied on the skills he had mastered when gaining enlightenment of the dao of the quick strike. He struck a massive blow that shoved Lei Tao backward, and forced him to use his Grand Thunderclap Swordplay to defend himself. Then, he took that opportunity to snatch the bottle gourd of life force springwater.
Of course, he immediately threw the bottle into his Heart of the Sea thumb-ring.
After all, the thing was as heavy as a mountain, and could possibly have crushed him to death. Also, the powerful life force aura it emitted would have made it very simple to track him down. And it went without saying that he had no interest in sticking around to have a big fight with Lei Tao. If he had started a fight, and killed them, it could cause a catastrophe for him in the institute. And if he fought them but didn't kill them, it would have been much easier for them to deduce his identity.
After all, it would lead to profound irritation on their part if they didn’t accomplish the mission the Crown Prince had assigned them.
That bottle gourd full of life force springwater could provoke heaven-shaking, earth-toppling transformations in Yang Qi. In fact, he didn’t even need to open it to sense the powerful life force aura inside of it prodding at the particles within him, pushing them toward waking up.
This holy water was like the source of any and all life.
“Have a death wish?!” Lei Tao shouted, seemingly about to explode from frustration and anger at the sight of his life force springwater being stolen right in front of his own nose. Not only was it a big personal loss, it also meant that he couldn't accomplish the Crown Prince’s mission, which would lose him a lot of face in the Crown Prince Society.
This was fury. Uncontrollable rage.
In fact, nothing like this had ever happened to him before.
“Transformation of the Thunderclap. Bring a myriad of lightning bolts to life to slay all opponents!” Sword light erupted out, accompanied by the rumble of thunder. Ten thousand fiery lightning bolts smashed into the bloody sludge, followed by Lei Tao himself. From how much effort he was putting into this, it seemed he would chase Yang Qi to the ends of the earth if he had to.
Almost as soon as Yang Qi burrowed into the sludge, a powerful lightning bolt slammed into the ground behind him, blasting away the nefarious energy and rapidly spreading out to form an impassable barrier.
His spear slammed into the sword light, and the resulting shock wave sent bloody sludge spraying high into the air.
Then, Yang Qi burst out into the open.
Lei Tao shot out behind him, sword energy swirling around him, which caused thunderous rumbling sounds to echo out.
Each beam of sword energy that he unleashed was like a thunderbolt that could crush any sort of weapon or armor that got in its path.
At first, Lei Tao just stared at Yang Qi in his platinum armor. At the same time, his two teammates spread out to form a triangular formation around Yang Qi.
“Hey there, friend,” Lei Tao said, glaring at him viciously. “We’re conclave students from the Demi-Immortal Institute. I'm Lei Tao, and these are my fellow students Qu Ling and Qin Hui. People call us Heaven, Earth, and Man, the Three Heroes. As a top expert yourself, you must have heard of us before. And you surely realize what will happen if you steal food from the tiger's mouth. Now, I’ll give you one chance to give that life force springwater back to me. If you do, we can forget that this little incident ever happened.”
From the look in Lei Tao’s eyes, it seemed he was ready to unleash a full-power attack if Yang Qi so much as twitched.
Yang Qi had never heard of any of these people before, and had definitely never heard of “Heaven, Earth, and Man, the Three Heroes”. However, that was because he had only been a member of the institute for a short time. If Li He or his other friends were here, they would be trembling in astonishment.
They were fabled individuals among the students in the institute, and had been through countless adventures to reach their current level.
If they hadn’t, then they wouldn’t have earned their unique moniker.
“Elder Brother Lei, why waste words on this fool?” Qu Ling said. She clearly had the most violent temper of them all. In fact, it looked like she had already decided to launch an attack. “We have him surrounded. Let’s just use our Heaven, Earth, and Man combined attack. Kill him and reduce him to dust. At least then we’ll see why he thinks he qualifies to steal things from us.”
“Jabber all you want,” Yang Qi said, keeping his voice low and gravely so that they wouldn’t be able to identify him. “I'm not giving it back. You want a fight? Fine, let’s fight. Let’s see if Heaven, Earth, and Man, the so-called Three Heroes are worth leaving alive.”
With that, he brandished his spear, its tip pointing skyward, and the length of the spear flickering with partially-translucent platinum fire.
Considering that these three had cornered him, it seemed that he would have no choice other than to fight.
However, thanks to his recent progress, he wasn’t the least bit afraid.
“A real ingrate, huh,” Lei Tao said. “Fine, don't blame me when you end up dead.” With that he swung his sword out in front of him; as it turned out, he had been using the short dialogue as a way to buy time and build up some energy.
“Lightning Tramples all Creation!” Having built up enough energy, he unleashed a deadly attack. The swipe of his sword caused thunderclouds to fill the sky, and a fiery rain of lightning to descend. It was almost as if he were in control of all of the power of heaven and earth.
Unfortunately for him, Yang Qi was even stronger. As he sprang into motion, a sound like the trumpeting of megamammoths erupted out, and he stabbed forward with his spear. Countless spear projections appeared, accompanied by the energy of hell itself, all of which shot forward to meet the lightning sword strike.
The two weapons collided with a huge boom.
“Wrath of the Lightning God!” Lei Tao shouted, his voice thrumming with such power that it could render lesser beasts unconscious or even dead from the mere vibrations.
This sword stance was even more powerful than the last; lightning swirled around him, gathering atop his head in the form of a strange being with the head of a bird and the body of a human, surrounded by snake-like bolts of lightning. It was a god of lightning who held a drum cradled in one arm that it began to beat.
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom! Boom!! BOOM!!!
With each bang of the drum, the lightning grew brighter and brighter, until everyone present felt their hearts beating to the same rhythm.
Sword light shot out furiously to surround Yang Qi, moving so quickly that it was completely impossible to dodge.
And yet, Yang Qi had no intention of dodging it. Instead, he would meet it head on with his spear.
As he stabbed out, the trumpeting of megamammoths could be heard, and a whole herd of them appeared behind him, causing the ground to tremble. This was the ultimate level of the Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth that he was capable of unleashing, the power of eighty-one megamammoths, all combined together.
As for his Infernal Deity Spear, it was now able to project some of the God Legion Paradise, making it seem partially real and partially illusory.
There was now little suspense as to what would happen when the Infernal Deity Spear hit the Grand Thunderclap Sword.
CRASH! An overwhelmingly loud boom echoed out as the sword shattered into pieces, and the god of thunder behind it collapsed.
Lei Tao was clearly in the inferior position when dealing with power levels like this.
The Grand Thunderclap Swordplay was a royal-class energy art, and the Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth was godly-class. How could the two even be compared to each other?
Lei Tao staggered backward, his face completely falling. However, as he fell back, Qu Ling and Qin Hui took action. Qu Ling attacked with a deadly Qimen Wheel. As soon as that wheel spun forth, tens of thousands of moons and suns appeared to surround Yang Qi. 
“Wind Forest Volcano!”
This was another deadly, top-rate energy art.
As for Qin Hui, he narrowed his eyes and pulled out a razor-sharp pike. “Driftflame Meteor!”
The two of them picked up exactly where Lei Tao had left off. Clearly, they didn't want to give Yang Qi any breathing room, and were dead set on defeating him.
They joined forces in a way that they hoped would wear out the enemy. After all, it didn’t matter if someone was even an Octonary or Nonary Lifeseizer, once they ran out of true energy, they would be in big trouble.
Unfortunately for them, they didn’t understand Yang Qi.
He just looked coldly at the incoming attacks and said, “Perfect.”
He stabbed his spear out again, unwavering and filled with power that far surpassed that of his two opponents.
“Power of Heaven and Earth!” he growled. As he did, it seemed as if all of the power of heaven and earth in the area were sucked into the spear, making it resplendent to the highest degree.
It was as if he were in control of all creation.
True energy rumbled as the power of the lands seemed prepared to overturn anything in its path. It was a level of power that would weigh on the soul, making it seem like Yang Qi was the sovereign lord of all heaven and earth.
This was the power of a godly-class energy art.
What was a god? All-knowing. All-capable. Omnipotent. Eternal. That was a god.
When a god cultivated an energy art, of course it would reflect the spirit of the gods.
When a god said the world should be bathed in light, then all creation would fill with brightness. When a god said that the world should be destroyed, it would descend into ruin. The world was created by gods, as were all the living beings that inhabited it, and thus, it only made sense that godly-class energy arts would be so spectacular.
Although Yang Qi hadn’t truly become like a sovereign lord of all heaven and earth, he was already starting to surpass mortal humans, and become something separate from the world around him.
His attack immediately formed a resonance with heaven and earth, causing the clouds to spin in the sky as the wheel of blades was defeated. Qu Ling’s face went pale, and she staggered backward a few steps before coughing up a mouthful of blood.
Yang Qi didn't follow through with the attack. Spinning, he faced Qin Hui’s Driftflame Meteor.
Yet again, his spear completely dominated the competition. Qin Hui was a famous conclave student, and yet he was completely vanquished by Yang Qi’s true energy. In fact, his eyes shone with terror. Even in his wildest dreams, he would never have imagined that someone could possibly be this strong, or have true energy like this.
“You three are too weak. Demi-Immortal Institute? Crown Prince Society? I think only your Crown Prince could possibly qualify to fight me. Clearly, you don’t.” Yang Qi’s spear vanished, and then he disappeared.
And his three opponents had no desire to give chase.
1. This Qimen is a reference to Qimen Dunjia, a form of divination common throughout Chinese history and still practiced nowadays. Click here for more info.