As the flat, unemotional voice fell, a lanky man slowly walked up to the smithy. He had a face pitted with acne, but this did not seem to lower his self-esteem, judging from the way he looked down on Shi Mu. However, as he looked at the black blade in Shi Mu’s hand, his gaze became filled with lust.
Shi Mu felt quite uneasy about having his precious possession eyed by an unknown man of dubious background, especially since this man was licking his lips, like a hungry beast. Shi Mu snorted his contempt, his eyebrows tightly knit, and returned his blade to the scabbard. The lanky man shot Shi Mu a cold look, his eyes running him over unkindly.
“Brother Zuo! Welcome! What has brought you to my humble smithy?” Zhao Ping quickly sensed the tension in the air, and quickly greeted the man with a forced smile, in order to lighten the atmosphere. However, ‘brother’ Zuo did not answer, but, again, greedily looked at Shi Mu’s sheathed blade.
Zhao Ping felt his heart in his mouth. He racked his brains and then spoke in a light and pleasing tone, aware of the lanky man’s temper, “Brother Zuo, it is an honor to be graced with your presence! Let’s talk inside. Please, follow me to the main hall. By chance, I have recently acquired some exquisite tea from the Misty Mountain. Would brother Zuo do me the honor of coming in and having a taste?”
“I came to your place for a new weapon, since the competition is around the corner, and was told that you were here, in this courtyard. So here I am. Why? Does my being here upset you?” The lanky man was apparently angered, his voice cold and arrogant, despite its hoarseness.
“Of course not! You do me a great honor by simply visiting my humble shop.” Zhao Ping smiled ingratiatingly, creases forming near the corners of his eyes.
“I’ve seen all the weapons in your shop, and none of them pleased me, but I am sure I can make do with that one. Is it your latest work?” Pointing his finger at Shi Mu’s hand, the lanky man cut off Zhao Ping’s words, demanding an answer. Being mentioned in his face, Shi Mu squinted. Judging from his air, the lanky man must be an older disciple, but, with no uniform on, Shi Mu could not guess which grade he was in.
Zhao Ping was slightly flustered and hurriedly explained, “Brother Zhao, you misunderstand. That’s brother Shi’s private property, how could my small smithy ever make such a good weapon?”
The lanky man frowned at the apparent lie. Shi Mu averted his eyes from the ominous guest, and addressed Zhao Ping before he left, “Many thanks for today, brother Zhao. I’ll send you the pay and some extra money to cover the two stones. I’m going to leave now.” This said, he strode to the gate and prepared to depart.
“Hold on.” Before he could leave the scene, the lanky man flashed to the gate and blocked his path.
“What’s your business with me, brother… Sorry, I forgot your surname.” Shi Mu raised his eyebrows and asked with an expressionless face, but his tone was filled with the scorn he felt at the man’s presence.
“I haven’t asked brother’s name.” The lanky man leered, a grim smile playing around his lips.
“Shi Mu.” The cold answer was all he got.
“Well, brother Shi. You look quite young, so I assume you are a new disciple.” The lanky man’s eyes sharpened. The name rang a bell but, for the moment, he could not think of where he had heard of it.
“Yes. What of it?” Aware that this man was coveting his blade, Shi Mu felt himself losing all his good manners.
“You have a nice blade, but mind you, do keep our sect’s rules in mind. As your kind senior, I’d like to give you a piece of advice. If the other old disciples ever get to know about it, I worry for your future. You’ll get yourself in trouble, be robbed of your property, or possibly even lose your life. How sad!” The lanky man clicked his tongue, shaking his head, hinting at something with a meaningful look.
“I hate to waste my time. If you have any questions, just ask them already.” Shi Mu interrupted, precluding the man’s further affected shows.
“Well, well, what a straightforward lad! Tell you what, that blade has captured my fancy. To save you from the sad misfortune of being robbed by heartless guys, I’ll pay you thirty thousand silver for that beloved blade of yours. What a great bargain for you.“ The lanky man spoke with a cunning smile.
The nearby Zhao Ping almost fell to the ground at the lanky man’s “suggestion”. The blade, before it was upgraded, already cost a city. Now that it had become a magical weapon, the price must have, at the very least, doubled or tripled. The lanky man’s offer only signaled his intention to bully. But, considering the man’s special status, even Zhao Ping, a member of the Li Fire Group, would flinch from having any animosity with him. Therefore, however friendly he had been with Shi Mu, he could only stand by as this all unfolded.
“Wow, you’ve got really an intelligent mind. Your offer is quite generous, but I have to say no to this kind offer, since I have no intentions to sell it. Please do not bother yourself anymore with my blade.” Shi Mu snorted in his heart and, again, gave a blunt answer.
“You ungrateful chap! Do you know who you are speaking to?” The man’s mask fell, revealing his true face - a truly savage visage.
“I’m sorry, but this ungrateful chap has a very limited knowledge about our sect.“ Shi Mu responded with a sneer, which drove the man crazy. He shouted viciously, “You are asking for death!” Then his body flashed forward. The next second he was, seemingly, floating in front of Shi Mu’s face, like a ghost. His arms swayed, one of his fists rushed forward, with a thunderous noise, while his other hand reached to try and grab the blade in Shi Mu’s hand. Before the fist hit him, Shi Mu felt a gust of wind cutting at his face, like a sharp sickle. The speed of the lanky man had exceeded his expectations, and the fist neared his face in the blink of an eye.
Shi Mu jumped back, then let out a low shout, and threw one of his fists forward, which clashed with the opponent’s incoming fist. His other hand pulled the blade from its sheath and stabbed at the palm that was reaching out to grab his weapon.
Two dull sounds reverberated in the practice field. The two clashed, then separated in a moment, both drawing back one step.
“It seems you have some skill! No wonder you act so arrogantly! I’ve given you a good offer, then you rudely declined! I’ve remembered your name, and I’ll take good care of you. Believe me, I can do whatever I want to fix you. Just taking your blade is far from cooling my anger. I think I’ll take one of your arms as well.” The lanky man’s eyes burned, his voice quavering in a fit of rage. One of his hands was bleeding, a wound incurred when Shi Mu stabbed his palm. The pain of the cut, or rather, the humiliation of getting cut, made his stomach churn. He fumbled at his waist, and a silver sword emerged out of nowhere, reflecting cold light. The sword was much longer and narrower than average, and the light it gave off registered an unworldly coldness, especially the blue characters imprinted on its edge. The air was chilled around those characters. Undoubtedly, this was a magical weapon, too.
Shi Mu’s countenance changed, knowing that a magical weapon’s power was never to be underestimated. Before he could back up, the cold sword was prepared to strike.
“Brother Zuo, brother Shi, why not calm down and have a good talk?“ Seeing that the two were gearing up for a real fight, the poor Zhao Ping stepped forward and tried to persuade them to stop.
Without warning, an ear-piercingly shrill cry rang out, cutting off Zhao Pin’s words. The lanky man flicked his wrist and the sword, giving off an extremely murderous aura, turned into a long silver streak that quickly made its way toward Shi Mu’s chest. The shrill noise was the sound of the sword moving through the air extremely fast, and it dulled Shi Mu’s mind the moment it wound into his ears. He immediately fell into a trance.
Before he knew it, the sword had reached his chest, and the murderous aura made him shiver.
EliteCreature: Is it just me, or are we in the age of cliffhangers right now?
Read the original.