“She’s not Liu Meng!” Zeng Qian stared excitedly at the girl who was floating in the air. “The phoenix… it’s finally here.”
“Liu Meng!” Li Yiming did not mind her and called out her name with all of his strength.
“She’s been possessed by the phoenix. The information is right, the phoenix is already wounded…” Xiao Hei placed himself in front of Zeng Qian, shook his right hand and his mechanical arm resurfaced from beneath his skin.
Fang Shui’er took a step back and a bow with elegant curves appeared as she threw a hesitant look at Liu Meng.
Tatat… Tatat… The sound of gunshots resounded. Zhi Wen and Zhi Wu, quick-thinking as they were, started shooting right away. Liu Meng’s figure faded into a form made of red smoke before materializing in front of Zhi Wei the next instant.
“Ha!” Zhi Wen quickly threw his gun away and pulled out a sword as big as a door with a pitch-black blade. He swung the weapon down onto Liu Meng with all of his strength.
“Liu Meng!” Li Yiming cried out in shock.
The dark blade traced a huge arc in front of Zhi Wen and came crashing down towards Liu Meng. However, the blade came to a halt three inches away from Liu Meng’s body as she had extended two pale fingers from her hand and pinched the blade.
“Killed my people… slaughtered my village… You… punished by a hundred deaths…” The airy voice was heard again. A red glow spurted out of Liu Meng’s fingertips, transforming itself into a dancing flame as it ran down towards the hilt.
‘Shit!’ Zhi Wen threw his weapon away and rolled backward. An instant later, the sword was liquefied in an outburst of flames. A sizzling sound was heard as the melted metal dripped onto the ground
“Zhi Wen!” Xiao Hei yelled out. Zhi Wen had yet to stand up again when the phantom-like silhouette appeared behind him and pushed her hand down onto his head. He knelt down and parried the blow with his right hand. However, instead of the full blow he had expected, Liu Meng barely grazed his arm with her fingers. A red spark and fire lit up on Zhi Wen’s arm. After an initial moment of panic, Zhi Wen quickly rolled to the side, and, with a fierce look, pulled on his right arm with his left one. He tore his own limb off, and it proved to be the right decision: his arm combusted before it could even touch the ground.
“NOO!” Zhi Wu, upon seeing that his brother had lost his arm, roared in anger and leaped at Liu Meng. A screeching sound was heard as he cut through the air at an unimaginable speed and a huge shield, on the surface of which runic glyphs appeared and disappeared following the tides of a colorful luster, appeared in front of him. His intervention forced Liu Meng to abandon her attack on Zhi Wen. She raised her hand once again and pushed forward steadily as another flare germinated in her palm.
Bang! A deafening noise was heard as a visible shockwave rippled through the air. Zhi Wu flew backward, landed with one knee touching the ground and planted his shield into the earth in front of him. Liu Meng’s figure disappeared once again and reappeared a little farther away. She looked at her shaking right hand and furrowed her brows slightly.
Zhi Wu stood up with his shield once again and stared coldly at Liu Meng. His brother, who had just lost an arm, took out a bottle of red potion and gulped it down. Then, without minding his bleeding wound, he pulled out a dagger and readied himself for the next attack. Li Yiming, who had been thrown away to the side from the blast earlier, stared at Liu Meng with widened eyes.
“Kill her!” Zeng Qian cried with a hoarse voice. Her flesh clumped and squirmed, and a green slime slowly seeped out from beneath her skin, making her appear more repulsive than ever.
With a sudden flaming outburst from his jetpack, Xiao Hei launched himself into the air. As he completed his ascent, his right arm transformed into a hollow cylinder inside of which white light was quickly gathering intensity. As he charged his attack, his partners launched themselves toward Liu Meng. Liu Meng raised her head and looked at Xiao Hei gravely, and, with a swing of her arm, a small flaming bird suddenly burst out of her own body and flew toward Zhi Wu. Zhi Wu seemed terrified by the sight of the small, delicate apparition. He placed his giant shield in front of him and crouched down in order to shield himself from the attack.
The bird flew towards Zhi Wu, but as it was about to collide against the shield, it suddenly changed its trajectory with a flap of its wings, skirted past the obstacle and made for Zhi Wen instead, who was behind his brother. Zhi Wen let out a cry of surprise and evaded to the side, but with another flap, the bird reoriented itself once again, as if it had planned to do so all along, and hit Zhi Wen while he was still in midair.
A small crack was heard, and Zhi Wen combusted into a human torch. A charred form emerged out of the smoke of the explosion, only to disintegrate completely before it could reach the ground.
“Zhi Wen—!” Xiao Hei roared in agony. “Mana Cannon!” A sudden flash and a white orb of light shot out of his right arm toward Liu Meng, carrying with it a terrible destructive power.
Red flame gathered around Liu Meng and her hair lengthened, its color changing into a vivid scarlet as she dove away to dodge the attack. Zhi Wu, however, did not allow her to get away scot-free after killing his brother. He jumped toward her with bloodshot eyes and blocked her escape with a bash of his shield. Liu Meng raised her hands to counter Zhi Wu’s blow, but this delayed her long enough for Xiao Hei’s strike to arrive. The moment Liu Meng made contact with the white orb, the fire around her body suddenly transformed into a red glow that shot upward toward the sky.
A deafening explosion and a blinding flash of light. Li Yiming was once again thrown away by the blast.
Zhi Wu suffered the same fate, only that he was still able to protect himself with his shield and kept his eyes resolutely fixated on the center of the explosion. The glow on his shield, by now, had dimmed to an almost indistinguishable degree. Xiao Hei stayed in the air and looked at the carnage below. The entire village was nearly wiped out; trees uprooted, buildings reduced to nothing but desolate ruins, and a giant crater of more than fifty meters in diameter that formed right at the center of the impact. However, as soon as the light dimmed out and the smoke dissipated, Xiao Hei noticed the presence of a sphere of flame in the center of the crater.
Xiao Hei cast down a grave look and pulled out a small metallic bead that he kneaded tightly. Zhi Wu slowly stood up and moved his shield towards the front. Li Yiming, lying prone, sighed in relief.
The sphere split into two halves that each extended to the side, forming a pair of wings. Liu Meng appeared from behind the veil of flame with a sliver of irritation in her vacant eyes. With one light flap, the flame resumed its dance within her irises, and Liu Meng’s hair fluttered in an almost satanic way. However, there was also an odd purity and holiness to the way the flame burned and cleansed everything around her. The sight of this, despite the waves of heat that could be felt, chilled the hearts of all watching her.
“Shui’er!” Xiao Hei cried out. He merged the metallic bead with his right arm and the metallic layer transformed once again, this time covering his entire body; Xiao Hei was looking more like a robot than a human now.
“Zhi Wen’s dead—” Zhi Wu threw a bitter look at Fang Shui’er. He raised his left hand and brought it down to his own heart. A syringe appeared as he thrust his palm down, and a blue liquid was injected into his body. Zhi Wu’s body convulsed as his expanding muscles and veins tore apart his shirt, and his body grew to more than two meters in height. Even his shield had become bigger.
Fang Shui’er looked at her companions hesitantly. The longbow in her hand shook violently as her emotional turmoil had reached a climax.
Zeng Qian underwent a transformation even more terrible than the others. A thick liquid oozed out from her pores and, as it dripped down, small, squiggling worms, were seen crawling within the fluid. As soon as they made contact with the ground, black smoke carrying a putrid smell rose and the vegetation around them burned with a putrid smell.
Liu Meng looked at her and seemed evidently disgusted. She extended her arms, and suddenly three more flaming birds appeared from behind her and made for Zeng Qian. The latter stared at the dangerous on-comers and emitted a dry screech. The bugs which crept on her body suddenly burst into a tornado of emerald-winged flies. The bugs that flew around her grew more and more in numbers and they gathered into a thick cloud that became large enough to occupy half of the horizon.
As the birds entered the darkness, their flaming bodies boiled and sparked. Countless bugs were burnt into ashes, but the smoke that was emitted from their combustion made the cloud even thicker, and it corroded the invaders gradually. After a short-lived flight, the three birds dimmed, extinguished, and disappeared.
Zhi Wu, now plunged into a furious frenzy, pounced on Liu Meng once again, leaving a trail of dust and earth behind him. Each step he took produced a small crater, and the glyphs on his shield brightened as he approached his target. Xiao Hei, who was still flying, transformed once more, and this time, four cannon tubes emerged from his back, each charging a blow destined for Liu Meng. The black mist around Zeng Qian billowed and suddenly shot toward Liu Meng with a buzzing noise, intent on swallowing her full.
Zhi Wu was the first to reach Liu Meng. His charge had produced a gust that caused Liu Meng’s hair to fly in the opposite direction before he even touched her. Liu Meng spun around and blocked Zhi Wu’s charge with a diagonal slash of her giant wings. She then waved her arm and another flaming bird took flight toward Xiao Hei. This one was much brighter than the previous ones, and Xiao Hei had to interrupt his attack in order to evade it. The apparition grazed past his left arm and left a burning mark on its passage. Finally, Liu Meng dove in Zeng Qian’s direction, as she completed her spin. Burnt flies fell down like rain as Liu Meng extended her arm and reached for Zeng Qian’s head.
“AHHH—!” Zeng Qian emitted a terrible screech. She suddenly clasped her hands together in front of her chest, and her insects, following her motion, had gathered into two giant smoke fists that aimed to crush Liu Meng. However, even they could not stop Liu Meng. As the black smoke thickened and the glow on Liu Meng’s wings dimmed, she came closer and closer to Zeng Qian.
Zhi Wu, with a distressed expression, jumped to Zeng Qian’s rescue by bringing his shield over his head and swinging it down, but he was too late. Xiao Hei, who had just managed to recover from Liu Meng’s attack, also turned around and channeled as much energy into his cannons as he could with bloodshot eyes.
Suddenly, Liu Meng halted and wrapped her wings around her body. A beam of light, as colorful as a fragment from a shattered rainbow, streaked toward Liu Meng. It pushed her back nearly twenty meters and bought enough time for Zhi Wu to interpose himself between Liu Meng and Zeng Qian. As Liu Meng’s retreat came to a slow halt, she extended her wings once more, and nailed onto her left wing was an arrow that seemed to be made of painted glass.
“Starfall Arrow?” Liu Meng looked at the figure that blended into the shadows in the distance and uttered in her flimsy voice.
Fang Shui’er was standing there, wrapped in a set of translucent armor. She seemed like a goddess of war with the ribbons of lights that wrapped around her armor. Her lavishly decorated bow had become almost as tall as she was, and, as she gently pulled back the bowstring with her left hand, the glittering light around her bow gathered and solidified into a translucent shaft that reflected a cold beam of light toward Liu Meng.
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