Three days later.
Shi Mu was sitting, cross-legged, inside his stone house. He was surrounded by sixteen curved daggers, each about ten centimeters in length. The daggers were rather thin and was shaped like a crescent, with a silver luster that resembled the cold gleam of moonlight on a quiet river. Elegant was the perfect word to describe them.
Shi Mu curled up his lips in satisfaction as his eyes caught the beautiful gleam of the deadly weapons. This kind of dagger was a peculiar weapon recorded in the Secret Art of the Zhong Clan and had an odd name quite befitting it: the moonlight sea chestnut. However, this poetic name somehow belied the insidious trick of it - the dagger was actually a hidden weapon of the first rank. Named after a special kind of sea chestnut discovered in the seas of Qi the Heavenly Country, the dagger is, in every way, the incarnation of the sea chestnut. It has this most alluring body, like a piece of white jade, or a bright crescent moon, but it harbors one of the deadliest poisons in its bones, which, once touched, will sprout poisonous thorns in all directions until some of the thorns find residence in a victim’s body. Most likely, anyone who gets stabbed will die a quick, excruciating death.
Forged of a special mixture of silver, iron, and zinc, it is extremely thin and fragile, and will break into pieces once knocked against. According to the Zhong’s record, the dagger can be accompanied with a virulent poison on its edge, this way, in a fight where life and death are on the line, whenever the enemy tries to repel the strike of the dagger with his own weapon, the dagger will break and stab the enemy with the poison on it. However strong the enemy might be, within such a small distance, it is hardly possible to dodge a shower of metal pieces.
The difficulty of making this kind of weapon goes with its high performance, and the most difficult part does not lie in the obtaining of the metal, but in the making of the special poison. Shi Mu had never heard of such a poison, but that would not bother him. He was going to modify the design of the dagger in his own way. Pondering over his next plan, he carefully stored all of the daggers but one and sat down by his desk. Turning his right palm up, he produced a red magical brush out of nowhere.
The next moment, his pupils became golden, and he quickly plunged into drawing magical characters on the curved dagger. He performed with great ease, his wrist flying briskly over the desk, and in a short while, magical characters emerged in succession on the dagger, composing the formula which was none other than the Great Fire Formula he had imprinted on his black blade! The only difference was that due to the texture of this dagger’s metal, the lizard’s poison was no longer indispensable, not to mention softening the dagger in a stove. Therefore, he planned to overlay ten formulas on each of the daggers. According to ancient books, even a low-level formula would produce an unexpected power once it was repeated ten times!
All went well, and it only took him half an hour to draw six formulas on the dagger without a break. Shi Mu let out a soft sigh, relaxed his wrist, and started on the first stroke of the seventh formula. However, this time, before he had even finished the first magical character, Shi Mu’s countenance changed as he drew back his brush in a haste. A violent fluctuation of spirit power was erupting from the dagger! The next second, with a clear sound, the dagger became engulfed by a ball of red flames. But just as it had come without warning, the flame ball died in a flash, leaving only sparks scattered in midair. The curved dagger, which had broken into myriad bits, was now lying scattered on the floor.
Shi Mu frowned. He spent a short moment mourning over the dagger’s end, then fetched another one and started the same process all over again. However, the second try ended up almost exactly the same, his spirit power broke down before he had finished the seventh formula, the dagger breaking again. Shi Mu’s face fell. However, as he racked his brains he could not find where things had gone wrong. Who could be more familiar with the Great Fire Formula than himself? Who had better eyesight? Who was able to draw seven identical designs?
His spirits were fully dampened. After pacing around his room for some time, he returned to his bed with a heavy heart, shut his eyes tight and sank deep in meditation.
After what seemed an eternity, his eyes sparkled, and, springing from his bed, Shi Mu strode to the desk. On another dagger, he began the whole process again. After finishing the second formula, he closed his eyes and stopped writing. Meanwhile, he practiced the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power in his heart and gradually lost himself in a wonderful feeling, as if all his spirit power had left his body, floating in the air around him. The world around him grew more tangible and clear. Bit by bit, he got a tense sensation of energy waves undulating on the dagger’s surface, the kind of energy wave that would elude one’s eyes if he had not entered this tranquil state of mind. Having discerned this, Shi Mu opened his eyes and continued to draw the third formula, but at an incredibly low speed this time, since he had just now detected the origin of the previous failures: though he had this perfect ability to copy things, he had overlooked some minute subtleties that would lead to a tiny disorder between each two formulas that were overlaid. As he went on with more formulas, the disorder grew, and the spirit power in the formulas went loose until to the last minute of the ultimate breakdown of all formulas. So, this time, he took his time, keeping an eye on the energy waves to make sure that the strokes combine in the firmest way that each character was just like a brick for the entire substantial building of the formulas.
An hour passed, and he had finally completed the seventh formula. Letting out a long sigh, he continued to draw the eighth formula. But after having tightened his nerves for such a long time, he could not help but feel tired, and the moment he relaxed the dagger in front of him exploded.
Shi Mu’s eyes were as still as an undisturbed pond. Without hesitation, he chose another dagger and immersed himself in drawing again.
Eventually, after a good two hours, the room was radiating with a purplish red light. A silver curved dagger, imprinted with twelve magical characters, lay still before Shi Mu’s eyes. The first successful work, the sixth dagger he had worked on. Shi Mu had finally made a variation of Moonlight Sea Chestnut overlaid with ten Great Fire formulas. Stroking this dangerous, fragile piece of art, his eyes were filled with excitement. But the next minute, he felt something pop in his head and a stinging pain flashed across his mind, and he could not help but fall limp. If he had not propped himself against the desk, he would have fallen hard onto the floor. It was then that he found his spirit power already drained to the last bit. He hurriedly sat on the bed and worked up the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power, calming his mind. He was not in a hurry anymore. Bit by bit, spirit power returned to his body.
He spent the following three days working in the same fashion. Resting his mind and body, making the weapon, repeat. Such an intensive consumption of spirit power had exhausted him, and there was little color left in his cheeks. But good things come to him who puts in a great deal of effort. By the third day, he had successfully made three magical weapons out of the sixteen daggers.
He spent a whole day lying in bed, recovering from the exhaustion, though a full day of doing nothing was more like a torture to him than a rest. Finally, he thought he had regained enough strength and could not wait any longer to sneak to his secret spot - the clearing in the valley - in the middle of the night to have a try of his new weapon. When he reached the clearing, he scanned the environment and chose a black boulder over ten meters in height. He moved his fingers to his waist, and, in the next moment, a silver gleaming dagger was in his hand. Its surface was covered with purple characters that were radiating with a threatening light.
The cold light reflected in Shi Mu’s eyes, and suddenly spirit power erupted from his body, and the purple characters responded by shining even more intensely. The next moment saw the dagger shrouded by a layer of purplish red light, and the thin body of the dagger quivering violently with a shrill hum, caused by the full awakening of the ten formulas.
“Ha!” Shi Mu flung the dagger with his real qi, and a crescent moon shot toward the black boulder at a phenomenal speed. The distance of over thirty meters was covered in the time it takes one to blink! As soon as the dagger knocked against the huge stone, the layer of purple light exploded, emitting a the glaring light that would make anyone believe a small sun was rising from the earth. The black boulder was totally swallowed by the flooding light, and after a few booming noises, vapor balls of great heat shot in all directions, accompanied by countless black pebbles.