Fist You to Death
Blazing-red monkeys, dark-blue reptiles, colossal bearworms; a multitude of mighty beasts poured out of the myriad of dark portals permeating the atmosphere—all aiming for Xia Hu. Dozens of rank three beasts led the charge, each dropping with startling auras that'd send most inner disciples scrambling out of the way.
Traditionally speaking, Formation Masters set their arrays in two ways: with or without human catalysts. As the latter option put a greater emphasis on the Formation Master's Soul Force and cultivation base, the former became the most reliable set in all but the most unusual of cases. Xinzi didn't need Dong Ling to lay out his murderous trap. But by combining her superior cultivation base with the sacrifice of his right arm, his Evil Summoning Array reached the perfect limit—only a step away from turning into a disaster that Xinzi himself couldn't control.
Alarmed by this catastrophic turn of events, Xia Hu ignored Xinzi to drive his blade in an upward slash. Nine energy swords took shape—uniting in a dazzling white beam that slammed right into the incoming beasts. A single Pyretic Monkey withstood Xia Hu's strike, not only coming out unscratched but also angrier than he ever was. That anger met Xia Hu in a dropping pair of hammer strikes. The abysmal temperature that gave the Frigid Grave half its name rose to match a summer drought as the three-meters tall monkey's fists crashed upon Xia Hu!
Not giving the beast time to build momentum, Xia Hu soared into the sky, meeting the berserk blow with a frontal sword thrust. A blare of shockwaves followed the collision. The ground cracked, the ice melted, but as Xia Hu's aura regressed under a single rank three beast's offensive, 4,500 Spiritual Drops became 5,000, his momentum soared and, with a leftward deflection, he sent the Pyretic Monkey rolling towards the ground.
The beast landed on its feet. Twelve of its peers surrounded Xia Hu, forcing the young swordmaster to realize that no matter what trick he put forth…this battle would end in his tragic defeat. Not letting go of the pretty boy, the Pyretic Monkey beat his chest, becoming a ball of dark-red flames that slammed into Xia Hu. Other rank three beasts made their move, and following a brief struggle, Xia Hu found himself slammed from one beast to another—tossed around like a stinky raccoon.
'So with 5,000 Spiritual Drops, you can emulate early Pulse Condensation experts? Odd. Isn't 3,600 the human limit? How did he cultivate that many?' Our monk thought.
At the center of the Evil Summoning Array, Xinzi stood by Dong Ling's side, controlling the beast tide with a radiant smile. By now, Dong Ling had recovered from her initial stupor and stared at Xinzi with mixed feelings.
A human-form mysterious beast, Dong Ling didn't have the same perception of demons and beasts as the average Dongli cultivator. Better, Xinzi didn't practice demonism, but rather produced demonic effects through a masterful combination of orthodox formations. The deeds were fine, but the smile, a smile that seemed to revel in a situation that'd likely end with corpses on all sides, bothered her.
"Xinzi...you'll get us all killed!" Xia Hu's squealing voice came in between two beast slams—broadening Xinzi's smile.
"With the Heavens and Earth as the witnesses, the four of us pledged to live as one fist and die on the same day. Brother Xia, this scenario fulfills our pledge. Why are you not thanking me?" Xinzi's jesting words made Xia Hu turn livid. Closing her eyes, Chun Xu analyzed the situation.
As far as the eyes could see, Xinzi's Evil Summoning Array held sway, but Chun Xu, who unlike Xia Hu possessed a deep knowledge of formations, realized that the Reversed Potential—true cause of this catastrophe—still operated underneath. Worse...
'You have to hand it to him. That freak is on another level. Master's formation skills have long-reached the earth grade, but even she couldn't accomplish such a magnificent feat.' Following a brief observation, Chun Xu noticed that Xinzi's Reversed Potential Formation operated differently from others'. Not only could he reverse a formation's properties, but he could also twist them to produce superior effects. This ability to transcend the limits of the formations he mastered was what truly set Xinzi apart from all other Formation Masters.
'Three minutes. No matter what tricks he used to achieve this, he can't possibly control beasts of this level for over three minutes. Afterward, they will attack us all indiscriminately. I need to find a way to grab Xia Hu, then teleport out of this…' Xinzi's next move cut Chun Xu's thoughts short. Tapping his storage ring, the monk summoned four talismans and hurled them at the ceiling. The talismans landed in four corners, bright-blue chains sprouted out, not only connecting the talismans but forming an invisible web that banned teleportation talismans from operating.
"Damn your ancestors!"
Dong Ling, Chun Xu and Xia Hu all gawked at the Anti-Teleportation Array set up by Xinzi—then one after another, gave their appraisal. Dong Ling didn't doubt that both Xia Hu and Chun Xu would aim for teleportation talismans and were likely thinking of ways to escape the beasts' encirclement first. But instead of blocking teleportations from the get-go, Xinzi gave them enough time to consider the option before dashing their hopes with a radiant smile.
Had the world ever seen a better show of pettiness? Dong Ling didn't think so. Thus charmed by this splendid act of mind-fuckery, she pursed her lips and gave Xinzi a thumbs-up.
Not one to abandon her fate to the whims of others, Chun Xu vanished, reappeared beside Xinzi, and raked her sword at his neck. Xinzi didn't spare the sword a glance. A rank three Twin-Headed Snake intervened, launching its ever-extending tail at Chun Xu's chest.
Fifteen-hundred Spiritual Drops erupted from the Sword Fairy. Arcs of dark-blue lightning flashed, and again she vanished to appear several meters away. Not letting her go, Dong Ling summoned her Lesser Spirit Snake Sword and aimed at Chun Xu. A White Boa formed around the blade, coiling and expanding as it rose into the air, then lunged at Chun Xu.
Undisturbed, the Sword Fairy raised her sword. Seven pillars of crackling lightning took shape, raced upward and slammed into Dong Ling's boa. The grating sounds of cracking thunder and hissing snakes filled the blood-stained atmosphere, but while Chun Xu didn't move an inch, Dong Ling's chest tightened and she spurted a mouthful of blood.
"Careful. On cultivation alone, Chun Xu would not lose to a peak Foundation Building expert. On top of that, the Extreme Lightning Sword Art your mother taught her perfectly matches her Heaven's Wrath attribute—adding to her battle-power. Even with your sword, you are not her match," Xinzi said, reminding Dong Ling of the unhealthy relationship she shared with her mother. Gritting her teeth, the purple-haired lass closed her eyes and wiped off the trickling blood.
"I understand. The weight of an exceptional parent putting unrealistic expectations on your shoulders and forever pitting you against those they should not can be...frustrating, to say the least. Never mind. Fight her if you want to. This might be an opportunity to deepen your battle skills. If you choose to use it and use it well, you have something that can tip the scales in your favor. I will butt in if things get out of hand." Xinzi gave Dong Ling his okay.
Again, she faced him with mixed feelings. It was almost as if he could read her like an open book—the thought created a blend of uncomfortable and alluring emotions that the lass didn't know how to cope with. By now, Dong Ling didn't doubt that, in one way or another, Xinzi would keep control of the situation. Acknowledging his words with a nod, she spun towards Chun Xu—who'd found herself surrounded by rank two Furnace Salamanders.
"Xia Hu, you should be more careful of who you curse. My ancestors are petty folks, and could very well show up to obliterate you in body and soul. That said, I have no intention of dying with you—or anyone else, for that matter," Xinzi said and tapped his bronze pot. Boundless suction force wrapped the scene, indiscriminately sucking over 700 rank one and two beasts into the bronze pot. Magma-like fluid geysered upward, releasing an amalgam of berserk energies as Xinzi extracted what he came for.
At the same time, Xinzi's left and only remaining arm beckoned, and to Xia Hu's delight, the rank three beasts beating him black and blue retreated—regrouping around Xinzi. The Evil Summoning Array's properties changed, and instead of bringing forth new beasts, it forced the domineering rank three monsters to meld into a mass of grotesque flesh, scales and fur. Under Xinzi's manipulations, the mass twisted, wriggled, expanded and contracted as its wild, sulfurous scent assailed all fighters' nostrils.
"What the…" Xia Hu, Dong Ling and Chun Xu's eyes narrowed at the abomination, which shrank and morphed into a human-sized, red and blue arm with long claws sprouting from its fingertips and small, jagged mouths all across its scaled skin. The monstrous, mutant arm slammed into Xinzi's right shoulder, tearing off the mangled remains that stood in its way to combine with Xinzi's body and replace his lost arm. Monstrous energies erupted from the mutant arm—sending shivers down Xia Hu's spine. As if that wasn't enough, a heart-shaped stone rose from Xinzi's bronze pot. Also half-red and half-blue, the stone flew into Xinzi's chest to fuse with his Void Spiritual Root—adding the Frigid-Flame attribute that Xinzi came for.
"Xia Hu, for a while now you've been desperate to taste my fist. As your good and dutiful friend, I have no other choice but to fulfill your wish and...fist you to death. Haha, no homo.." Xinzi made a lousy joke and threw a casual punch. Explosive waves of Spiritual Qi gushed forth, ramming into Xia Hu like a 10,000 kg-heavy war chariot!