Book 6 Chapter 45: Physical contest

As Wan Li used the enemies’ internal unrest to remove troops without a battle, Si Ma Nan entered the tower step by step.

He couldn’t tolerate it! When he saw the red stone in Ruan Zhan’s hand, his eyes had gone red as well.

He already had his own dreams and goals as a youth. After working for so many years, he still had yet to achieve them. Once he met Ah Bai, he realized the means to do so had arrived. The thing that could help him was precisely that mysterious stone.

Yet despite all his scheming, he failed to find its hiding place. Who would have thought Ah Bai would actually give it to Ruan Zhan? Why was this? That was something he longed for. Why had it been taken by Ruan Zhan? Ah Bai belonged to him. Why would she help someone else?

All this made him lose his reason!

“Damn brat, it’s no use even if you hide in a rathole!” He didn’t see Ruan Zhan but heard footsteps going up the stairs. Si Ma Nan knew he must have hidden away in the room on the top floor and pursued relentlessly.

As expected, when he reached the top he happened to see Ruan Zhan’s figure vanish behind the door.

“To think you majored in psychology.” Si Ma Nan laughed coldly. “People think the higher up they go the safer they are, yet fail to realize the higher up the more dangerous it is. Are you unable to discern even this?” Yet despite saying so, he didn’t barge rashly into the room.

Si Ma Nan had calmed down a little. He had followed Ruan Zhan into the tower unthinkingly due to his anger earlier. Now, he suddenly realized there might be a trap in here. Ruan Zhan had been hiding in here previously and the situation inside was hidden. He wasn’t able to tell Ruan Zhan’s condition at all, and the room’s door was tightly shut. It was isolated from the world apart from the narrow crack of a window. If Ruan Zhan had really set up a trap, he would be in trouble.

However, he couldn’t allow the red stone to fall into Ruan Zhan’s hands, and he couldn’t tolerate Ah Bai treating Ruan Zhan differently. Therefore, he couldn’t wait.

He gritted his teeth and used his left hand to conjure up a barrier in front of him. He swung his right hand in the air and a formless spell immediately shot towards the sturdy wooden door.

With a bang, the wooden door toppled inwards. Si Ma Nan followed it up with a flaming handprint.

He was very cautious. Since he didn’t know the situation inside the dark room, he sent the flaming handprint at the doorframe. Once it ignited, he would use it as a source of light. The flames instantly lit up the whole ninth floor.

Ruan Zhan stood inside the room like he was waiting for a visitor. He was calm and composed. Despite being covered in blood, he showed no fear, only pride. This made Si Ma Nan a little hesitant…why was he so confident? This young man was extremely versatile. Could he have something up his sleeves again? Or had Ah Bai helped him in some way once more?

“What? Don’t dare to enter?” Ruan Zhan’s mouth quirked upwards in a provocative smile.

“I have no need to enter!” Si Ma Nan retorted. A wave of his hand sent out a formless spell once again.

Ruan Zhan swiftly erected a barrier in front of himself. There was a clang, like the clashing of two metal plates. Si Ma Nan’s formless spell was deflected, striking the wall and blowing off an entire layer.

Si Ma Nan couldn’t help but make a sound of surprise, feeling a little lacking in confidence.

He understood his own strength. He had carefully timed the moment of his appearance. Although the resentful spirits and Ruan Zhan hadn’t battled to mutual destruction as he had hoped, and were suppressed into the tower once again, Ruan Zhan had still been exhausted. Under such conditions, this tough young man had still forcibly gone several rounds with him, and used his wit to cause him minor injuries.

He had believed this was already Ruan Zhan’s limit, and that he wouldn’t be able to fend off his formless attack. Yet the situation in front of his eyes proved that not only had Ruan Zhan blocked his strike, he had even dissolved its power. The reflected strike had merely struck off a layer of the wall. Although it looked impressive, Si Ma Nan himself knew that despite the carefree casting, he had used most of his strength in this attack.

Had the young man’s abilities risen again? Had he received some sort of help? Or…had his own powers decreased?

Thinking of this, Si Ma Nan frowned and shot out another formless spell.

This time, he used all of his power as he aimed at where he sensed the weakest part of the barrier was. He fully expected it to shatter. However, the situation completely defied his expectations. Not only did the barrier not shatter, it didn’t even tremble as before during the first strike. The reflected blow didn’t even strike the wall, merely bouncing off the invisible barrier and swiftly vanishing.

Si Ma Nan turned pale.

He had clearly seen this time that Ruan Zhan hadn’t gotten stronger. There were only the two of them in the tower so no one had helped him either. His own powers had weakened for some reason! What was going on? Had Ruan Zhan used some spell he didn’t understand? Or had he unknowingly fallen into a trap? He scanned his body but didn’t sense anything wrong. He then examined Ruan Zhan’s aura. It wasn’t that strong, and was even a little frail due to his injuries. Everyone possessed an aura. Normal people couldn’t see them, but his Daoist arts allowed him to see them clearly. There was definitely no mistake. So where was the problem?

Si Ma Nan gritted his teeth and prepared a third attack. This time it wasn’t for the sake of striking Ruan Zhan, but merely to confirm his own body’s condition. Yet he had just stretched his hand out when he felt a large portion of his power vanish. He wasn’t able to cast the formless spell at all!

Startled, he looked towards Ruan Zhan. Ruan Zhan stared proudly at him, his unweakened aura forming a stark contrast.

“What kind of Doaist art is this?” Si Ma Nan spoke while surreptitiously shrinking towards the staircase, moving his right hand behind his back.

Ruan Zhan didn’t move, merely dispelling the barrier in front of him as if knowing Si Ma Nan was currently unable to attack. “What? Feeling your powers vanish? Fine, I can tell you. It isn’t any Daoist art. It’s because of this tower.”

“The tower?”

“That’s right.” Ruan Zhan saw Si Ma Nan’s confused expression and slowly said, “A case of guilty conscience. When you first entered the tower to release those resentful spirits, you didn’t linger for too long. Therefore, you didn’t know that apart from suppressing the resentful spirits, the tower’s grand fengshui formation could also suck away supernatural energy. The further up you climb, the greater this suction becomes. This is the top floor. Therefore, while you hesitated over entering the room to kill me, a large portion of your powers had already been drained!”

“So that was why you lured me into the tower.” Si Ma Nan was rather smart, and immediately understood Ruan Zhan’s intentions. “You think that due to my age I’m not as strong as you, that I am bound to lose in a physical contest. You don’t wish to compete in exceptional Daoist arts, but rather to end things in the most barbaric and primitive way.”

“There’s nothing bad about being primitive.” Ruan Zhan laughed coldly. “The most primitive traps have always been able to capture the largest beasts. Not understanding this basic concept is why you have lost. You insist on using complicated plans for everything, while also leaving a path of escape for yourself. The reason you didn’t destroy this tower back then, wasn’t it to leave yourself the means to control the resentful spirits in the future? Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been presented with this opportunity today.”

Si Ma Nan once again took a surreptitious step back, slowly drawing something with his right hand behind his back. He was afraid Ruan Zhan would notice and didn’t dare make his movements too large or hurried. He merely moved his finger.

“No matter how you put it, using brute force is always the basest of methods. A waste of your innate talent, and also a waste of your father’s hard work in raising you.” He continued speaking with Ruan Zhan, trying to distract him. “I don’t need to discuss strategy with you. However, you should know that the mind is foremost in the Dao. Then comes cultivation of the body, followed by use of magical objects, and finally directly casting spells.  Yet you directly rely on your physical strength. How is that any different from a brawling farmer?!”

Ruan Zhan didn’t speak and merely stared at Si Ma Nan, making him feel uneasy. He couldn’t help but quicken his right hand’s movements.

His powers were more profound than Ruan Zhan and he didn’t need to draw symbols so clearly. His hand working in the confined area behind his back was sufficient for him to warp space and return outside where he had the advantage. After learning from Ruan Zhan about the tower’s absorbing properties, he felt some regret at his initial carelessness. Yet after sensing carefully, he also felt the tower wasn’t too tyrannical. After returning outside, his powers should recover.

At that time, he would still have the advantage. He relied on his skills, whereas Ruan Zhan relied on desperation and wits.

He swiftly completed the spell behind his back. Feeling the slight breeze from space warping, he laughed disdainfully at Ruan Zhan, “We should still let our skills do the talking, kid!”

Yet at that moment, there was a swishing sound, as if an arrow was shooting over at him. He instinctively dodged. The cold stream of air passed by his ribs and struck the spatial tunnel.

In that short time, he wasn’t able to react right away and still stepped out. However, he didn’t relocate outside the tower as he expected. Instead, he collided against an invisible wall, making him stagger and almost fall.

This kid had actually used a lightning palm to scatter the spatial tunnel!

Si Ma Nan was both shocked and angry. He caught the railing by the stairs to avoid falling, and heard Ruan Zhan say, “You’re a deceitful old man with profound powers. There’s no way I would fail to notice your right hand.”

He had noticed his right hand and yet pretended not to know? Wasn’t he messing with him?

This thought infuriated Si Ma Nan even more. He was about to explode when he suddenly realized something. “Why aren’t you being suppressed by the tower?” He blurted.

“This tower is effective against all supernatural powers. However, I placed a seal around my spirit powers prior to entering, essentially adding an outer layer of shackles.” Ruan Zhan spoke while slowly walking forwards. He waved his hand and a gust of cold wind extinguished the burning doorframe. “It first has to dissolve my seal before it can do so to my powers. This means that my powers will last several minutes longer compared to yours. Yet a few minutes is enough for me!”

“Was this why my seals on you were so quickly dealt with?” Si Ma Nan edged towards the stairs.

He wasn’t able to warp space again, but he still had to occupy more advantageous terrain. He needed to use the last of his strength to protect himself as he tried to get out. He felt a little alarmed, but also let out a breath in relief.

When he found out that Ruan Zhan had suppressed the resentful spirits again, his feelings had been indescribable. He had thought Ruan Zhan’s powers had hugely increased, and it made him apprehensive towards this battle. Now he found out Ruan Zhan had relied on this tower to undo his seal. He felt his chances of victory had sharply increased!

Ruan Zhan wasn’t a talkative person, but he hadn’t immediately attacked the moment Si Ma Nan approached the door. This meant the seal he placed on himself also needed some time to be fully removed. Therefore, he had to use this opportunity to escape. He had no time to worry about his demeanor. Winning was the most important!

Thinking of this, he immediately turned and fled. Yet he felt a wave of heat behind his back and hurriedly dropped, narrowly avoiding a flaming handprint.

“How unfortunate, my calculations were very precise. My seal has been completely dispelled.” Ruan Zhan said coldly.

Si Ma Nan knew this without needing him to say so. The flaming handprint passed over him and struck the wall before extinguishing automatically. It would only hurt him and not the tower. This proved that Ruan Zhan was currently in peak condition and completely able to control his strength. Si Ma Nan was furious. Having Ruan Zhan turn the tables on him after seizing the advantage was something he couldn’t accept. He didn’t speak, gritting his teeth and rolling towards the stairs. He used the few seconds he was out of sight to touch seven points on his body: his arms and elbows, legs and knees, both palms and between his brows.

As his fingers passed over, the seven spots seemed to have been penetrated as fresh blood suddenly spurted out. The moment blood appeared, Si Ma Nan immediately rolled and sat up, chanting while forming strange seals with both hands. However, he didn’t make to attack, and instead continued running down the tower.

Seeing this, Ruan Zhan stepped out and used the space-warping spell to appear at the foot of the stairs, blocking Si Ma Nan inside.

“Using the last of your strength to set up a blood barrier?” His gaze was as cold as a blade. “Want to protect yourself? It’s useless!”

Without waiting for Si Ma Nan to respond, he shot a lightning palm towards his head, forcing him to once again drop wretchedly to the floor.

“That was for those resentful spirits who suffered a huge injustice. You used them for your own selfish ends!” As he spoke, Ruan Zhan sent out another palm. “This one is for the Chinese citizens that became casualties when you lured those Japanese yinyang masters over!”

“This is for the pitiful women you lured with stone people!”

“This is for those who died from Gu. You caused their parents to suffer twice!”

“This is for the owners of the bodies you occupied!”

“This is for al those you sacrificed, for those lives you treated as meaningless, those who you used as stepping stones for your own goals!”

With every sentence, Ruan Zhan shot out another palm, alternating between lightning palms and flaming handprints. Although none of them managed to strike Si Ma Nan directly since the blood barrier blocked the majority of their power, every blow caused a bloody glow to appear while Si Ma Nan still suffered some blowback. Not only did he fall over and over, various wounds also appeared on his body. The seven spots also started bleeding more, staining his snow white robes red!

He kept trying to flee from the tower, yet wasn’t able to avoid Ruan Zhan’s attacks which were coming from all different directions. His blood barrier was unable to hold on much longer. From their previous exchanges, he knew Ruan Zhan was unfeeling in battle. He had no path of survival at this rate. Even if Ruan Zhan’s powers were dissolved by the tower, Si Ma Nan was completely no match for him in a physical battle. He had to think of something!

There was a cracking sound. Ruan Zhan’s lightning palm had weakened, but the blood barrier had shattered at the same time. Si Ma Nan was struck heavily on his waist and slammed against the wall like a broken puppet before falling to the floor.

At the same time, two items fell from his pockets: a palm sized mirror and a small puppet!

He had actually forgotten about these during the many twists of their battle! This was something that would allow him to turn the tables!

Si Ma Nan lay prone on the floor. Although he couldn’t get up from the pain, he started laughing sinisterly…

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