Shi Mu shook his wrist to ease the pain from the exertion of drawing continuously. After a momentary pause, he picked up the brush again, ready to draw for a third time! The sight left Zhao Ping speechless for some time. Eventually, he came to himself and asked diffidently,“Brother Shi, you don’t plan to overlay a third formula, do you?” His voice quavering, his shock was profound.
However, a heavy silence was the only reply he got from Shi Mu, who was absorbed completely in drawing the characters and patterns, his hands moving stably as well as fluently at a speed even faster than before. This third formula only took half of the time he spent in drawing the previous two copies. Shi Mu seemed somewhat exhausted, nevertheless, he kept moving his brush and started on a fourth copy!
The heat of the black blade faded bit by bit, and the hot red color gradually darkened. Eventually, Shi Mu’s wrist was forced to a stop after adding his last stroke hard on the blade’s surface, which had hardened greatly, making the etching an even more strenuous task. The blade lay still on the forging table, its hardness resuming its control. After a few seconds, the Great Fire Formula, with four identical copies overlaid, gleamed red against the naked dark surface of the blade! For some time, the gleam lit up the stifling room, before it dimmed and disappeared. So the fifth etching had been completed before the hardness of the material denied any more strokes.
But it was not time for Shi Mu to unwind himself yet. There was another delicate task for him. On the blade’s surface, a red line stretched from the Great Fire Formulas right to the handle. Shi Mu took the bottle and dripped a few drops of the lizard’s poison at the end of the red line. The poison ate at the handle, giving off a hissing sound like a silkworm nibbling greedily. In two seconds, a small pit was formed. Shi Mu quickly fished up a fire stone and placed it in the pit. With neat moves, he finished etching some patterns around the stone on the blade’s handle. Immediately, the stone gave a buzzing noise, shining glaringly, and the red line linking the formulas and the stone seemed to become a vein through which heavenly energy flowed endlessly into the overlaid twelve magical characters. The blade was as though awakened, emitting a dull red, but soon the ray faded and the formulas once again fell into a deep slumber.
Shi Mu’s face finally relaxed. Assured that his effort had yielded a good result, his hand that had been holding the brush eased up, and the thought of officially owning a magical weapon made his heart beat fast. The fire stone he embedded in the sword’s handle was the source of heavenly energies that would enhance the Great Fire Formulas; though with his current skills he could manage to activate the five overlaid formulas, the heavenly stone would assist him greatly.
As a matter fact, magical weapons were not used by many Houtian warriors, because they lacked the strength to activate the formula on such a weapon. Their real qi was like an ant before an elephant. That’s why they needed to borrow energy from heavenly stones, which were not the cheap. Hence, few would have the money to enter a shop and waltz out with a bag bulging with all kinds of heavenly stones. Only those who were born with great wealth or high social positions could manage that. For those who were of a less fortunate birth, they could only wait till they made it to the level of Xiantian Saint, where their real qi would be largely enhanced and thus enable them to activate a formula on a magical weapon by turning their real qi into magical power.
Now, what about Zhao Ping? He was utterly astounded at what he had seen, that Shi Mu finished drawing five formulas on the blade without a break! Even recalling the whole event sent chills through his spine. His eyes stared the formulas on the blade, who seemed to be waiting quietly to be aroused into a bloody fight, unable to look away. Only after a long while did he finally come to himself, cheering at the top of his voice, “You made it! Who would believe it? Five formulas! I’ve long heard that brother Shi is skilled in formulas, but had never seen it with my own eyes before! What perfection!”
Shi Mu turned to face Zhao Ping with a polite smile, his eyes had returned to normal, “you flatter me, brother Zhao. It’s really no big deal.”
“As far as I know, among all the Adepts, including some majoring in making magical weapons, only a small number of them can etch the same formula twice on a weapon, if luck is with them. Few have ever made it three. I’ve never seen one like you, accomplishing five copies in one sitting!” Zhao Ping’s tone was tinged with an affected sweetness; apparently he was trying to fawn on Shi Mu. Meanwhile, his eyes kept being drawn back to the black blade, which was still cooling down.
Shi Mu returned Zhao Ping a shy smile, trying to dissemble his embarrassment. How could he tell him that his achievement was dependent on his supernatural eyesight mutation? Would Zhao Ping believe him or would he call him a monster? His eyesight was the key to his success, and if given more time, he had the assurance of overlaying a few more copies on the previous ones to make his weapon stronger. Since a magical weapon’s might was directly influenced by the formula(s) etched on it, and the Great Fire Formula, though challenging enough, was only a low-level one. Even with five formulas the blade would lose to an average blade etched with a single high-level formula. Nevertheless, it still sufficed for a Houtian warrior.
A quarter of an hour later, the meteoric iron had cooled off completely. The twelve scarlet characters on its surface gleamed with a menacing coldness, the patterns of the formula seemed like nature itself. It looked as if blood were circulating in the grains of the blade. Shi Mu’s eyes also gleamed, with relief and joy. He grasped the handle and studied the blade closely.
“What a high-quality weapon! The meteoric iron’s weight, plus the explosive power of the five formulas... Brother Shi, I bet you will be uncontested against anyone else at your level!” Zhao Ping gazed at the blade unblinkingly, not without a pang of envy. The blade’s value must increase dramatically, without a doubt. But Zhao Ping’s righteousness prevented him from going further than a natural envy at a friend’s success. He soon recovered from the pain and suggested, “Brother Shi, do you want to give the blade a try?”
“Yes! “ Shi Mu raised his eyebrows and answered resolutely. He was very interested in trying out the power of the Great Fire Formula.
“Hehe, follow me, brother Shi. We have a practice field for customers to try their weapons.” Zhao Ping grinned and led Shi Mu out of the forging room to an open area, where many wooden human figures clad with iron sheet were displayed alongside some boulders the size of a millstone. The boulders all had numerous marks - though varying in depth - left by knives and swords. Shi Mu could not wait any longer; roaring with excitement, he stomped, bent low against the ground, then galloped to the practice field in a flash. He wielded the blade wildly, stirring up strong gusts of wind, and a burning sensation in his chest, as he practiced the Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade Art. The heavy meteoric iron seemed to weigh nothing in his hand, and, as it shifted in the air, the sun gleamed on its naked surface, the shadows it left all blurring into streaks of cold light. Each move saw the blade’s speed increase until the blade turned into a black shadow circling around him like a vicious bird. After a brief lapse of time, Shi Mu felt his mind clarified, and the blade seemed to have taken over, moving as if by itself, following the Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade Art’s pattern correctly. The very art had been seared into his subconsciousness and was directing the blade without Shi Mu’s involvement. He felt a stream of warmth welling up in his heart and flowing into his limbs, then his mind.
“Ha!” He yelled, violently, and the blade thrust forward with a sharp shake before thirteen shadows rolled in all directions like tempestuous waves; the blade caught light and glittered, with a sharpness that made Zhao Ping sweat in fear. He stepped backward by reflex, awe-stricken by Shi Mu’s thirteen cuts in one breath! Shi Mu himself did not expect this either, that his Wind-Blowing Blade Art had finally reached the consummate stage! He only managed it once, with the assistance of Body-Lifting Charm, and never thought he could accomplish the art all by himself.
Suddenly, tumultuous noises thundered out, and it turned out that a green boulder the size of a hill was chopped by the blade, and, with a dull sound, it collapsed into over ten pieces, which flew in all directions from the force of the blade.
Swish! A piece of the boulder as big as a millstone was flying towards Shi Mu’s head! His face was calm as he tightened his grip on the blade, instilling his real qi into it. Instantly the Great Fire Formulas shone, and a layer of red light emerged, shrouding the entire blade. Shi Mu let out a low shout, swung his arm, and the blade left a red shadow in the air as it split the stone. A booming sound rang out as the stone exploded into myriad pebbles that scattered in all directions before they fell down like a shower. Shi Mu jumped back several steps like a bird, dodging the pebbles. Without making a sound he took back his blade and returned it to the sheath.
“Bravo! Brother Shi’s blade art is just brilliant, and the power of the Great Fire Formula is really amazing. But I guess brother Shi didn’t use all your strength at the last strike.” Zhao Ping smiled, clapping his hands.
Shi Mu nodded. It was understandable that he would not use all his strength when testing out the blade. Only the first layer of the five formulas was activated.
“That really is a nice blade.” A hoarse voice came abruptly from outside the practice field.