I groaned into my hands, remembering what happened just two days ago as the sunlight bore down on my head.
"Cheer up little Jin," said Tang San. "It was only your filial piety that made you act as such." He was rubbing my back.
We were walking our way from Nuoding to Suotuo city to enroll into this so-called Shrek academy on uncle Xiaogang's orders. The journey was going faster than I expected. Three spirit masters walking nonstop apparently made good time without having to mind night or day—thanks to my Domain.
Xiao Wu laughed like an airy bell. "Who knew the little master was so affectionate towards his grandpas?"
I looked at her with a flat stare. "They're my family," I said. "Of course, I won't agree to just leave them, but school is a natural part of life, and if they'd just explained it to me in the first place then all that wouldn't have had to happen." I threw my arms up to the sky for emphasis, then brought them back down to hide my burning cheeks.
"If you'd like," said Tang San with a laugh, "you could call me big brother to lessen the loneliness?"
I shrugged and said, "I see no harm in it."
Xiao Wu stepped ahead of us and puffed up her cheeks at Tang San. "But wasn't I your little sister?" she said.
He smiled back, waving his hands in front of him to placate Nuoding academy's boss Wu, then said, "I never asked him to be my little brother. He's already my cousin so he's family regardless, but you I chose to make a part of mine."
I wanted to say something about the implication of doing that but decided against it. Jokes about marriage and sex were most likely out of bounds for a ten-year-old.
Xiao Wu crossed her arms and walked ahead, saying, "Such a frivolous person, asking people left and right to be their siblings."
But just then a… person—because I'd gotten into the habit of always wearing my Crown—appeared from the bushes and rushed Xiao Wu with a knife.
I only said rushed because he was running, but to a spirit master it was more a brisk walk's pace.
Xiao Wu frowned at the man aiming for her—then kicked him down to the ground, as ten white swords thrust upwards from the ground, all dripping with a bluish-purple fluid and stabbing into that man.
"Guagh?" went the man's throes as lines of red dripped down those white blades.
Xiao Wu returned to our side with a swift leap as she released her spirit, two yellow rings floating about her.
Tang San and I followed suit, him with his one yellow and two purple, and me with my half-purple and purple, blue and gold lights joined the vibrant pink.
"You dare attack my sister?" said Tang San, his voice an octave lower than normal, but the man was now spasming and smoking from the potent poison.
I then expanded my Domain over the poor soul and Shocked the guy into unconsciousness—letting Devour destroy the poison energy corroding him. Constantly sparring and getting poisoned by Tang San eventually inured me of his Machineel's poison, which he did as well for Xiao Wu though in a less invasive manner. It was to help us build a resistance to other lesser poisons, he said.
"You'll end up killing him if I let the poison advance any further," I said. Granted his anger was within reason.
Tang San stared at me as if bewildered but otherwise said nothing. He then turned to the bushes that person came from and said, "I know there are three more of you there, come out and we won't kill your friend."
From the bush came a frantic rustling as three other men rushed out and knelt with their heads on the ground before us.
"Please be lenient on us old fools!" said the ratty man. "We did not mean to offend the young masters."
Everyone knew of spirit masters, more so the differences between their spirit's strengths, as well as the strengths of their rings. On top of this, the importance of the ideal configuration of rings was just as widely known.
"We were only forced into banditry because of the misfortune in our lives!" said the other guy in rags. "We ask for forgiveness!"
"We old fools were wrong in offending you," said the one with the beard.
Then all together, the still conscious three knocked their heads on the ground three times.
"No harm done," I said with a smile. "But if we let you go, you might try to steal from others instead, yes? And who's to say you won't do them harm? It won't be our problem then, but then, we'd be at fault if ever. So, I hope you understand if my brother and sister here decide" —I widened my eyes and smile— "something permanent."
Those three men's eyes glazed over as their bodies shook, all turning to Tang San.
He met my eyes and nodded, then turned to Xiao Wu, the hardness in his gaze softening, but when he turned to the men, something sinister replaced the gentle light. He clenched his jaw and said, "Kindness to one's enemy is cruelty to one's self."
Then with a flash of his third ring, four white swords stabbed into those men's heads, killing all of them.
Bile shot up my throat and the burning acid licked my cheeks, tongue, and teeth. I emptied out whatever was left of breakfast there and then while Xiao Wu stood stock still, eyes not leaving those men's lifeless bodies. I turned to Tang San and saw his complexion pale, eyes steeled and unflinching.
"Why'd you kill them?" I said, stopping another flow of acid—but a morbid curiosity danced at the back of my head.
"Your judgement was correct little Jin," said Tang San, and spat at the ground, wiping his mouth after.
"I was implying to scare them witless!" Holy shit. "And those were just ordinary people! Not spirit masters." I had my suspicion on what spirit abilities could do to normal people, but I didn't want to find out like this.
"We don't have the time or authority to reform others who choose to do wrong to live," said Tang San with a leveled voice. "And neither are there any guards here along the highways, instead, we did the people a favor by cleaning up this kind of trash."
I shook my head, what's done was already done, but to do something like that with such resolve was… unnerving. "And what if they really were suffering from poverty?"
Tang San's eyes lost their sharp light. "Then they should've been resolved to face the consequence of living by the law of the strong," he said.
"Brother," said Xiao Wu, her cheeks still void of color. "Thank you for protecting me."
I sighed and buried my face in my hands. Having the power to kill and choosing to do so were things I never thought I'd have to deal with. Everyone I'd ever faced could take what I could dish out, but… just a slight misstep and I could cause a massacre.
"What we did was not wrong," said Tang San. He then put on a sad smile. "And you are kind, little Jin, much kinder than I am."
Xiao Wu pressed herself onto Tang San, and said, "And so are you brother, you only did what you did to honor your promise."
"And the bodies?" I said.
"What about the bodies?" Tang San said.
"These could cause disease should they rot." Their blood was already starting to pool on the ground.
Xiao Wu looked between the two of us. "I am not in favor of burying them," she said.
I stopped another shot of bile, and willed my first ability on, my gold light enveloping the corpses. "Another man's trash is another man's treasure," I said under my breath.
I Devoured whatever was left of their bodies, flesh and bones and all, and just like that time with the rabbit all those years ago, a hot red light flowed into me, washing into the well that was my Crown. Xiao Wu looked on in horror, while Tang San's eyes kept still—only observing. When I finished, not even bones remained as everything disintegrated into dust.
I breathed out, feeling that still pulsing crimson within the realm of my Crown. "We can burn the clothes after to remove all traces of what happened."
"Why did you do that, little Jin?" asked Tang San, his brows in a knot.
"I'd resolved long ago to only kill what I would eat," I said, as more memories of that night returned, and the seeming screams of those dying plants as they gave their life to feed my own. "And I was responsible for the deaths of these men, hence, my duty to fulfill."
We spoke no words the rest of that night, instead walking well until morning under the light of my spirit. Had there been any other bands then, we saw none, and—it was for the best.
The following morning at just after daybreak, we arrived at our destination: Suotuo city. We then went to the first inn we saw and I volunteered to scout out where Shrek academy was to get my thoughts straightened out, as for Tang San, he'd most likely get dragged around by Xiao Wu to shop and whatnot—like always.
I was walking along the stone lined road, minding my business when I happened upon a shop that seemed to make my spirit tingle. I'd learned over the years that my Crown reacted to other items that contained spirit power, be they exceptional plants or ores or even spirit tools.
I went in and saw knickknacks and doodads of all shapes and sizes, and I could already foresee the pain it'd cause my wallet. I walked over to where I assumed the counter would be and instead found a bespectacled old man on a rocking chair sleeping on the job.
"Good day sir," I said. "I'd like to inquire about a few of your goods?"
A grey eye peeked out of a sluggish eyelid and he just waved a hand in reply.
"Is that a yes, you may just look around as you wish?"
He grunted, and it was as good a confirmation as I could get. I went off to a corner of the store away from view and summoned my Crown into my hands. Using my Domain only needed my spirit manifested, but to benefit from the expansion in awareness, I'd need to wear it. With my spirit in hand, I got about to touching everything I could with my Domain on.
There were some items that warmed or cooled to my spirit power's touch but none reacted in a grandiose way. Disappointed, I went back to the old man and told him I found nothing I wanted and saw Tang San and Xiao Wu on my out.
"Hello little Jin," said Tang San.
"Hello," echoed Xiao Wu beside him.
Me and Xiao Wu had been a bit off since what happened yesterday.
"It's a spirit tool shop," I said, "but I didn't find anything I wanted, still, it's worth trying your hand."
We said our goodbyes and I asked around the market for directions, then eventually got them from a nice man selling sausages—though the townspeople seemed to avoid him like the plague.
I followed the path to find a long line of parents together with their children all in front of an old man massaging the children's hands.
I walked up to one such set of parent and child and asked if this was Shrek academy and got an affirmative. My mission done, I then turned to leave when…
"Little Jin!" said a girl.
I turned and saw said girl whose then up to her waist pink hair when I last saw her was now cut short to only up to her ears. Ah shit.
"Rongrong!" I said, "what the hell are you doing here?"
She stopped in front of me, cheeks flushed and her simple white sundress swaying in the small breeze, bringing with it the scent of mountain flowers—like aunt Yuehua's perfume. "I could say the same for you," she said with a smile.
"What about your grandpa Sword or grandpa Bone?" I looked around, and had there not been any witnesses, would've extended my Domain as well to detect for the two scary old-timers. Good lord, old people were real fierce in this world.
"They don't know I'm here," she said with a proud and triumphant smile, hands akimbo. Her fair skin and soothing voice created a gap with the scene, but cuteness was justice, and I felt like an old creep for feeling my cheeks warm to a kid.
"If they find you here with me," I said, "they'll roast me alive!"
She raised a hand to stop me from talking and said, "Nonsense! My word is law in the sect." She nodded before continuing, "So what are you doing here?"
I wanted to run away from here, but if I did I'd never hear the end of it from grandpa Shan, and it'd be worse if they found out Rongrong was the cause. "With hope, not the same purpose as you. I'm supposed to enroll into this Shrek academy with my cousin…s."
Xiao Wu was unofficially adopted by Tang San, and as the technical head of his household—since uncle Hao was in hiding, then yeah, he sort of had authority to do so.
Rongrong glared at me, and said, "As rude as ever I see." Then she smiled something fierce. "Maybe I should tell grandpa Sword you were the one who told me to come here?"
I pursed my lips and said, "And indirectly confirm with your family that somehow you and I are involved?" I made sure to emphasize the last word.
She widened her eyes, with hope realizing what I said. "Such an assuming junior," she said, her tone agitated. "As if big sister here would look at someone younger than her." Rongrong crossed her arms and looked away.
Then it hit me that if anything bad happened to her then I was screwed given I knew she was here. Well fuck-a-doodle-doo then. I sighed and said, "Do you already have a place to stay? As your friend, I'm morally obliged" —under threat of death— "to keep you safe."
A bright pink iris peeked from silk white eyelid, then she said, "Who knew junior could be courteous as well?"
I returned to the inn with Rongrong to wait for Tang San and Xiao Wu.
As my cousin, and also involved with the Clear Sky sect—and Xiao Wu also involved by proxy, I told the two of my circumstance with the Seven Treasure school's little princess after that play date I had to take her to. It was all auntie's idea, and uncle Fengzhi had no qualms about it though that grandpa Sword of hers glared all throughout that trip down Merchant Lane and the light lunch we had in the Millennium Court. And to have a Titled Douluo constantly focus on you with his sharp aura was an experience I wasn't too fond of repeating.
The two arrived about an hour later to find me tinkering with some vials of saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur, and Rongrong playing with a zither and humming to herself. Rongrong stared at the newcomers, then turned to me with a silent question, 'who.'"
"Why's your girlfriend here?" said Xiao Wu with a light dancing in her eyes. I sounded like she was over what happened yesterday already.
Rongrong yelped, ears going pink and the zither playing turned a wrong chord.
"She's not my girlfriend," I said, then turned to Rongrong, "this is my cousin Tang San, and his sister Xiao Wu."
"P-pleased to meet you," she said.
Whatever happened to that domineering attitude? "She's here to enroll into Shrek too, and I already know the way," I said. Rongrong cleared her throat. I wanted to groan but didn't. "She knows too."
Rongrong nodded with a smile. "Little Jin's told me all about you then?" she said to Xiao Wu.
Xiao Wu raised an eyebrow. "Yes, he has."
The two girls chuckled, and I mouthed 'save me' to Tang San but he just shook his head at me, lips pressed thin.
After that we all agreed to go to Shrek academy together, with me and Tang San walking behind the two girls happily chatting.
"She's a good person," Tang San said, "and this is the only time I've ever seen you so docile."
"Her grandfather is a Titled Douluo with a sword spirit, his focus alone feels like I'm being cut in half."
"Ah," said Tang San. "She's pretty though."
"I'm ten, brother," I said, "and she's twelve. Those matters are still so far ahead of me." I didn't say I wasn't even sure I'd live long enough to see that day given the dangers of this world. Hell, if normal people could become bandits, then what was stopping spirit masters from doing so? Just imagining a Titled Douluo mugging people was enough to make me want to ask for a karmic refund.
Tang San nodded to that.
"And besides," I said, "what about you and Xiao Wu?"
He coughed hard, and composed himself before saying, "She's my sister."
That clueless look in his eyes made me want to electrocute him just for the heck of it. I didn't know why, but the way Xiao Wu looked at him wasn't a way I'd ever associate a twelve-year-old to be capable of doing. The few times I'd caught her tugged at my heartstrings enough to make a grown-ass man like me wonder: how?
By the archway made of chopped wood and a badly painted signboard and drawing of a green monster, the words Shrek Academy were written, and we waited in line for our turn to get examined. The same ratty old man from this morning still sat in front, turning kids away for being too old or too weak, and next to him was a blonde teen with a fierce look in his eyes: one glaring red and one cool blue pupil sweeping back and forth and intimidating those parents who wanted to come back and complain.
Finally, when enough parents were crowding around the table, the old man stood up from his seat and shouted, "Shrek Academy only accepts monsters, if anyone here has spirit rank over twenty-five and is or below twelve years of age, step forward and I'll fast track you to the next exam."
The crowd of people all spoke up, some saying this was only a load of horse crap, or some saying this Shrek Academy was a scam, some even still were saying the old man was just looking for an excuse not to refund them their money. After all, ten gold spirit coins was still a lot of money.
"Come on," said Rongrong to the rest of us. "What are we waiting for?"
We walked up against the crowd with Rongrong leading the way, pushing away everyone else in front of us. Surprising though was no one seemed to mind, beautiful people sure had it easy.
But the crowd kept up their rousing, and the old man in front then glowed with a sinister grey—six rings emanating from his body: one white, one yellow, three purple, and one black. The man was apparently a Spirit Emperor despite looking like a farmer, and after that, no one else dared to speak.
We reached the end of the front, and that blonde teen stood from his seat and said, "Stop."
The old man turned to us, "Where are you four's parents?"
"We were told by our teacher to come here," said Tang San for us.
"Teacher?" the old man said. "No matter, what are your ranks and paths?"
The people there all looked at us, while that blond teen looked Rongrong up and down in a way I knew well. I frowned and stepped up in front of her.
That blonde teen glared at me and smirked, and I kept my face impassive—better practice caution until all hands were dealt.
Rongrong didn't protest and instead spoke up, "Rank twenty-sixth auxiliary system."
The old man stepped up to us and massaged her hand. "Alright, you pass little miss." He then looked at the rest of us.
"I'm next," I said, extending my hand to him, "almost twenty-seventh rank, uhh… control system, I think."
"You think?" said the old man. He then massaged my hand and his eyes widened and he had to take a step back before saying, "A little monster indeed."
Xiao Wu stepped up next and said, "Battle system, twenty-ninth rank."
She also passed, much to the ire of those waiting around us as murmurs and whispers started acting up.
Tang San's gaze swept across those people, and he released his spirit, the three rings floating behind him, one yellow and two purple. The pressure exuded from him again silenced those around us, and the old man as well shook his head at the sight. "Thirty-third rank… battle system."
"I don't even care what age," he said to Tang San. "You pass."
And just to add something extra, I also released mine, one half-purple and purple, and waved to the people we left behind with the sweetest smile I could manage, and the old man laughed as he faded from view.
On our way, we noticed another girl was now walking with us, but where Rongrong was like a breath of spring air, and Xiao Wu like the first day of summer, this girl was like the full moon against a backdrop of stars. She was surprisingly voluptuous for her age of at most twelve, which was probably related to her spirit. And as we walked, the blond teen next to us kept looking at her now instead of Rongrong. It didn't take a genius to figure out the girl's ire, so I also slowed my pace a bit to get in the way of the lecher's line of sight.
Again, the teen glared at me, while Rongrong raised an eyebrow before pinching my ear.
"What was that for?" I said.
She just stuck out her tongue.
"Tsk tsk," said Xiao Wu. "Little master shouldn't play with fire."
"Where'd you even learn about that kind of imagery," I retorted.
The teen brought us to a clearing where other kids were already waiting—and the old man I asked for directions was here, selling sausages of all things.
"Careful with those," said the blond.
The old man peddling sausages pushed his cart up to us as a heavy barbecue scent wafted in. "Get your Sausage Uncle Sausages here!"
Not one to shy away from a quick snack, Xiao Wu already bought one before the blond could stop her. He then shook the old man down.
"Little Ao, why don't you show these examinees how those are made?" The blond's smile would make milk curdle, and the Sausage Uncle just froze.
"Little?" I said. That either meant this uncle guy was actually young, or this blondie was real damn rude.
"He just grows his beard really fast," said blondie. Ah, okay, young then.
This little Ao then brought his hands together and moved them up and down in a very very familiar hand gesture and said, "I your father, has a big sausage." As light formed from within the ring his thumb and forefinger made, creating the same sausage he was now grilling.
The snack in Xiao Wu's hand fell to the ground, her mouth opening and closing as a red tinge travelled up her neck to her ears.
I laughed out loud and Tang San's glare stopped me cold, while Rongrong pinched my ear again and Xiao Wu kicked me in the shin. As I writhed in pain, blondie shook his head at little Ao and we then left him to his sausages, heh. Rongrong pinched my ear again.
Blondie led us ahead of the line, and those kids likewise complained but were again silenced by Tang San's and my rings.
"True to the word, little monsters indeed," said blondie with a smile.
Tang San walked next to him and said, "I'm finding these last few tests too easy, is it really alright for us to just pass like this?"
Blondie stared flat at him. "We just weeded out everyone else below the twenty-fifth rank and above twelve years of age, for you to find this easy just means you five qualify as you should."
"Logic checks out, brother," I said, nodding to blondie's statement.
Tang San smiled wryly at that.
"I don't believe we've been introduced yet," I said to the girl in black.
"Zhu Zhuqing," she said and just kept walking.
"Fair enough," I said, then pointed at each person, saying, "Tang Jin, Tang San, Xiao Wu, Ning Rongrong."
Then blondie said, pointing at himself, "Dai Mubai."
But none of the girls paid him any attention.
The last test was in another clearing and here, was only a robust man with streaks of white appearing every now and then in his long hair, sitting in a chair.
"Teacher Zhao, we actually have a fourth test this year," Dai Mubai said. "And they were all fast tracked from the very first exam."
Zhao stood up and flexed his neck, load cracks sounding out. "We actually scored five little monsters?"
Dai Mubai then gestured at me and Tang San. "You should see what these two's spirits look like," he said.
Tang San and I shared a look and I shrugged, releasing my Crown and rings, and he did too.
"T-this is possible?" teacher Zhao said. "How?"
Tang San stared hard at him and said, "With difficulty."
I shuddered, remembering the shit I had to go through to get those damned rings. "So… much… goo…"
"What's with him?" said teacher Zhao.
Tang San snorted, and so did Xiao Wu, then he said, "I'm sorry teacher Zhao, but it's not my story to tell."
Zhao shrugged, not seeming to care. "Fine. I'm Zhao Wuji and I'll be your last examiner. Now then, what are your ranks and spirits?"
Rongrong was again the first to speak, "Twenty-sixth rank, Seven Treasure Glazed Tile Pagoda, auxiliary system."
"A direct disciple eh?" said Zhao, stroking his chin. "Excellent."
Tang San looked at me and I shook my head, and he nodded back. "Also, twenty-sixth rank, Amber Crown, control system."
"I've never heard of this spirit before," Zhao said.
Dai Mubai knit his brows at me and glared. "Neither have I."
I shrugged and said, "It's a variation."
"Of what?" Zhao Wuji said.
I willed my Hammer into my hands, black light surging forth. "Of the Clear Sky Hammer," I said.
Dai Mubai and Zhao Wuji's eyes went wide, and that big man said, "You're of the Clear Sky sect with twin spirits?"
I smiled back and said, "The one and only."
"So that's why," Rongrong muttered.
Zhao Wuji and Dai Mubai then turned to Tang San who said, "Oh, I'm an outer sect disciple. I'm thirty-third ranked Blue Silver Grass."
"What?" Zhao Wuji said, "Are you trying to joke with me?"
Tang San summoned a tuft of grass and showed it to the two with bewildered eyes, and likewise Rongrong was mesmerized too.
"And you?" Zhao Wuji said, turning to Xiao Wu.
"I'm nothing like those two," she said, "but I won't lose, twenty-ninth rank, Soft-boned Rabbit."
"And last?" said Dai Mubai—though why he was the one to do so was already weird enough.
Zhuqing shot a glare back at Mubai and said, "Twenty-seventh rank, Hell Civet."
Zhao crossed his arms and nodded. "Little Mu, are you sure you can take on either little San or little Jin?"
Dai Mubai smiled something fierce, "I'm confident of either one, but both would be asking for a bit much."
Zhao Wuji hummed in agreement, "Good, good, then let's do it like this, why don't you five try resisting my attacks for one stick of incense?" He wasn't smiling, and instead had on a serious expression. "I don't think Mubai alone will be enough to test you, and like this, as long as even one of you is left standing, then you all pass?"
I raised my hand, "I personally have no issues with this, and this way, Rongrong won't have to fight exactly either."
Zhao Wuji nodded hard. "A real man then. And the others?"
Xiao Wu and Tang San shared a look, and Tang San said, "Us two are also alright."
Zhuqing shrugged and said, "Fine."
"Such good little monsters," he said. He then lit a stick of incense, "You have this much time to strategize and plan, and I'll only use up to my fourth ring to attack to make it fair. Mubai, feel free to tell them everything."
The six of us huddled together, with Mubai making sure he stood next to Zhuqing—she was rather peeved but it was just for a few minutes.
"Alright, best lay down all your abilities now," said Mubai. "You'll need as much team work as you can muster to win against teacher Zhao. He is a seventy-sixth ranked spirit sage whose spirit is the Vigorous Vajra Bear, and it excels in both attack and defense. His first four abilities are in order: a reinforcement ability, a ranged attack ability, an ability for increasing gravity, and another for orienting himself to a target's position."
Tang San spoke first, "I can perform poisoned ranged attacks and bind for control using grass."
Xiao Wu went next, "My abilities are for close combat and I have a charm ability for distractions."
Rongrong spoke next, "I am able to boost up to thirty percent both attack power and speed."
I went next and said, "My Crown has a domain and it can both eat a target's spirit power and impede movement with electricity while my Hammer has a ranged attack and an empowered strike."
Dai Mubai shook his head. "And with two thousand year rings as well…"
"Eh, nah, the other one's just around nine-hundred something."
"Close enough," Rongrong said.
"Jin will lead the attack," said Tang San, "and Xiao Wu and Zhuqing will be at his flanks and launch attacks at any opportunity they get, while I will be behind Jin and launching ranged attacks with Rongrong far behind me."
"I agree with this formation," I said. "Any other suggestions?"
No one raised any other suggestions, so we proceeded to arrange our formation to face Zhao Wuji: three attackers in front, one mid-ranger and short-stop, and one last for support.
"You already finished preparing?" said Zhao Wuji, taking out another stick of incense. Judging from the size of that, it was gonna burn for a good three minutes.
"As ready as we'll ever be," I said, bringing out both my Hammer and Crown, black and gold lights twining around me.
Xiao Wu released her spirit, and her ears and legs elongated, while Zhuqing grew claws and ears and her outline seemed to blur. I turned back and saw Rongrong with a jeweled tower like thing floating on her hands, as a rainbow's worth of colors shone from her body, while the grass around Tang San started swing left and right, looking like flickering blue flames.
Zhao Wuji threw his incense at a three and it embedded itself there, already burning. He then released his spirit, his body growing a solid two inches and all his muscles enlarging, as seven rings appeared in order: two yellow, two purple, three black.
"Begin," he said, as a yellow ring shone and his body expanded further muscles all seeming like they'd burst and him growing another three to four inches.
I immediately shone Devour and Shock at him, and his expression seemed to change. After getting my next ring, Devour's rate also increased, and now, it was enough to make uncle Zhi feel something significant. Then some foreign power entered me and the warm trickle of spirit power from me ignited into a blaze, as the gold light of my Domain became more vibrant.
"Come at me old man," I shouted, as my blood started to boil. I charged towards him, and he charged in kind, a feral smile plastered all over his face.
"Don't disappoint me now, Clear Sky boy," he said, laughing.
"Seven days of creation, first festival," said Rongrong's bell-like voice. "Strength."
I pushed Devour and Shock as hard as I could, consuming spirit power almost as fast as I could replenish it as Zhao Wuji appeared in front of me Zhuqing and Xiao Wu stepped forward diagonally to get his flanks. I erupted with Disorder Splitting Wind's first swing, reinforcing it with Thunder Heart Strike as a layer of electricity covered my Hammer.
Zhao Wuji's palm struck out—but a white flash met his open palm as two black shadows aimed straight for his eyes.
The Spirit Sage's attack deviated for a moment as he had to dodge those sinister needles, and I collided with that tree trunk of an arm. It felt like I'd struck a cliff's broad side but the enhanced burst power from Thunder Heart Strike and Rongrong's boost lashed out and pushed back Zhao Wuji's arm somewhat, so I recovered into the second swing, but the weight of the world suddenly pulled me down and I lost my trail of momentum as the Hammer's path was thrown off balance.
A blue strand then pulled me away from the crashing meteor, but a flurry of sharp black wisps attacked Zhao Wuji's flank, making him turn just in time for me to clear away—then a blast of pink light hit him—Xiao Wu's Charm ability—and he seemed to stumble.
I then regained my balance and the strand of blue now tied itself to Zhao Wuji's legs, and I rode the increased gravity to spin my Hammer once before lashing out with another thunder strike to Zhao's knees. He was leagues stronger than me anyway, he can take that much.
Zhao Wuji moved his leg just in time despite the binding, and my Hammer crashed into the ground and sent a shockwave upwards, sending him completely off balance. The gravity returned to normal, and he extended a hand down that was met half-way up by a white sword—that finally drew blood. Like Tang San said, kindness to one's enemy was cruelty to one's self, so I got back up and again erupted with the first swing.
Zhao Wuji broke the white sword with sheer spirit power density and pushed off the ground but had his knee clipped by a rushing black lance and he had to block a third Thunder Heart Strike in an off position.
I contacted his arms, and pushed him completely into the ground to a bed of white swords as black needles flew in from everywhere imaginable, even going around me only to change trajectory again to strike at him. Like a majestic salmon amidst a river of black I struck out with the second swing—a fourth Thunder Heart Strike as my spirit power dwindled close to half. Each use of my Hammer's second skill consumed a solid twelve percent relative to my total.
Just as I was about to make contact, another flurry of shadows approached towards Zhao Wuji's head as the same blast of pink appeared from the side.
Then… his black ring shone.
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