Shi Mu was shocked, drawing his black blade by reflex.
“Ah!” The grey ape howled in distress, then hurled itself on Shi Mu with the speed of a striking snake, nearly forming a grey shadow in the air. In no time, it had neared Shi Mu. It thrust its two hairy claws out, one at Shi Mu’s abdomen, and the other at his throat. The claws were like sickles, stretching and then contracting - it demonstrated an amazing level of control over its claws.
The golden light in Shi Mu’s eyes flashed and he twisted his wrist, thrusting the black blade forward. Two cuts were thrown out, like two black shadows suddenly emerging in the air, and they clashed with the claws.
The clash of metal resounded, sparks sputtering in all directions. The two cuts seemed to have hit on iron columns, rather than the claws, but the grey ape was, again, struck backwards into the air.
Shi Mu’s face was filled with surprise when he saw the grey ape ward off his black blade with just its claws.
He stepped on the ground and jumped forward, catching up with the grey ape. In no time, the black blade created thirteen blade shadows, covering the grey ape. It seemed that the next moment the ape’s body would burst asunder amid the blade shadows.
But Shi Mu suddenly had a surprised look come over his face, and gave his blade a sudden wrench, hewing the ape on its back instead. A loud noise came when the grey ape flew backwards, like a falling leaf, felling several big trees before finally falling to the ground.
The monster’s face contorted in agony as it struggled to get up. But a foot suddenly trampled on its back, pinning it on the ground. Shi Mu looked at the struggling grey ape coldly, and then his eyes returned to his black blade. During the past two years, the black blade had gained more and more weight. Now it was more than three hundred kilograms. Otherwise, he would not have beat the grey ape so quickly.
Shi Mu waved his right arm and the black blade passed narrowly by the grey ape’s shoulder. A piece of grey fur was cut down, revealing blue clothes underneath.
“So it is…” Shi Mu trampled on the palm of the ape with his foot and a black steel glove, with its fingers uncovered, could be faintly seen.
Suddenly, the grey ape stopped struggling and shrieking. Shi Mu was very astonished. The grey ape trembled and the grey hair gradually started receding into its body, exposing the worn-out clothes beneath. Its sharp claws also receded, changing into a human hand.
After taking several breaths, the grey ape turned into a man, panting as he lay on his stomach. There was an unexpected dark red totem pattern on his back, similar to that of an ape, which was wriggling, as if alive.
Shi Mu frowned and turned the man over with his foot, but he soon got shocked.
The man that had turned from a grey ape was unexpectedly Feng Li.
By that time, the red hue faded from his eyes quickly, replaced by a pair of clear pupils.
Shi Mu’s pupils shrank for one second, and his arm jerked, his black blade returning to Feng Li’s neck.
After a while, Feng Li’s eyes came back to life, and he finally recovered his consciousness, his muscles stirring involuntarily.
”Stay still, or I will kill you, no matter who you are.”Shi Mu held his blade to Feng Li’s neck.
Feng Li’s eyes bulged and he felt as if there was a mountain crushing his shoulder, his bones creaking in great pain. But, when he finally made out that it was Shi Mu who was trampling on his back, his face paled, and he pleaded earnestly, ”Brother Shi, please…”
“Please?” Shi Mu was expressionless and he put his blade down again.
“Ahhh” Feng Li screamed again.
“Brother Feng, I did not expect that you were a spy of the barbarians. Do you have anything to say in your defence?”
“You can believe me brother Shi, I swear…Do you really think a spy of the barbarians would come out at midnight to do such things….” Feng Li gasped sharply, scared stiff of the cold blade held closely to his throat.
Hearing these words, Shi Mu halted in hesitation, but the blade in his hand did not even budge a centimeter.
“I do have a totem on my body and am something different from ordinary humans… but I can explain all of this.” Feng Li saw a glimpse of hope as the frost in Shi Mu’s eyes began to melt, so he hurriedly tried to explain.
“OK, you have a chance. So, who...or what are you?” Shi Mu frowned and raised his blade slightly.
Feng Li appeared to be in a great mental agony, struggling in his mind. Only after a while he opened his mouth and said slowly:” I am a person of mixed race. My mother is a human and my father is a barbarian.”
Shi Mu had guessed this far so he did not seem very amazed. Over the next few minutes, Feng Li told him about his life slowly, though still a little reluctant and ashamed. His mother was an ordinary human being of the Heavenly Qi Kingdom, and she was captured by the barbarians in an invasion and thus became a slave of his father.
Mostly humans would not live long in barbarian camps, but Feng Li’s mother was pregnant, so she survived. She gave birth to Feng Li who was half barbarian, but they were treated unfairly wherever they went.
After a few years, they finally succeeded in fleeing from the tribe, and managed to return to the Heavenly Qi Kingdom after having experienced all kinds of hardships and perils. But his mother was in low spirits all the time, and she eventually died.
Feng Li seemed to be honest when he was talking about his experience with a painful face. The hatred in his eyes was intense and sincere. No one could fake such a look full of agony and rancor.
Shi Mu relented at such a heart-rending story, which evoked his early memories that bore some resemblance to Feng Li’s experience, though the latter was evidently much more tragic than his own. He could not help but sympathize with him.
“So you can only be counted as half-human. What do you want from the Black Tortoise Sect?” Shi Mu thought for a while and asked seriously.
“I need strength! I have to be stronger! The barbarians owe my mother too much and I will get them back for what they have done!” Feng Li’s face flushed with bitterness, and he even shouted the words.
“But what was that earlier, when you were changed into another creature?” Shi Mu did not remark on his statement, but, instead, asked another question.
“You have seen the totem on my body, brother Shi. It was planted on me by a barbarian shaman when I was a child and I don’t know what it is. I never had an issue with it before, but two years ago strange things started happening, and ever since then, the mutation happens every several months. I would then become this ape monster, and my mind go unchecked, becoming fierce, and only fresh blood can calm it down.” Feng Li said painfully, his teeth clenched. His face was creased in deep sorrow.
Shi Mu looked at Feng Li silently, sorting out the thoughts in his mind. After a while he suddenly put back his foot and withdrew his black blade.
Feng Li felt relieved, and sat up to look at Shi Mu nervously.
“How can I believe you, even if your words are true?” Shi Mu asked, containing the deep sympathy roused in his heart.
Feng Li was at first stunned, then lost in deep thought. After a moment of painful hesitation, he seemed to have made a final decision. He stamped his foot and took off a strange-looking necklace that was around his neck, giving it to Shi Mu. In a subdued tone, he said,” It was a magic weapon given to me by my mother at her deathbed. She said it was important to the totem on my body. She warned me to keep it safe, or I would die if it is broken. I had not taken it seriously until two years ago... At that time, I started treating it as if it was my life. I know you won’t believe me for just words, so I give it to you to show my innocence.”
Shi Mu was quite moved by his words, and received the necklace from Feng Li to examine it carefully. The necklace seemed to be made from some kind of soft jade and should be quite antique judging from its weather-beaten expression. There was a monster like an ape curved on it, which was similar to the totem pattern on Feng Li’s back!
But when Shi Mu’s spirit was trying to get into it, there was a shield obstructing him out. And when his spirit touched it again, he could feel something fierce and angry inside, struggling to get free. More surprisingly, when he was trying to inspect it with his spirit, Feng Li screamed and fell down on the ground with his hand holding his head, his eyes again filled with brutality. Shi Mu was quite shocked, and he soon took his spirit back from the necklace.
Only then dd Feng Li come back to himself and climbed up with a forced smile.
“Well, now that brother Feng gives this to me, I can place my trust in you.” Shi Mu thought for a while and frowned when he took his black blade back to his sheath.
“Thank you brother Shi.” Feng Li staggered to his feet, and Shi Mu helped support him as he stood up. He bowed to Shi Mu to show his gratitude.
“You don’t need to thank me. But I will keep an eye on you, and if you go astray I will not let you go. But I will not intervene in your other business. Just remember to control your barbarian blood, then I won’t bother you, whatever you decide to pursue.” Shi Mu cast a sorrowful look at the breaking sky, and spoke in a mild, but determined, tone, then he turned around calmly and walked back towards the stronghold.
Feng Li sighed, watching Shi Mu’s back. Then he ran to catch up with Shi Mu. The two of them headed for the stronghold in the pale morning rays.
Time flew by and three months quickly passed.
The war between the two sides was still in a stalemate, with serious battles bursting out ever now and then. Yet neither side could be said to have the upper hand.
The Rat Nest was far from the battlefront, and thus did not suffer much from the war, except for receiving more missions to draw charms. So life was quite calm.
The pain from the Blood-and-Marrow Cleansing was greatly reduced by the Soul-Comforting Spell, so, without much difficulty, he made it all the way to the fifth level in the Art of Strong Ape.
By that time, Shi Mu was inconceivably strong, and his strength had doubled. He was able to lift more than three thousand kilograms. Now he could easily snap a stick of steel, and his Stone-breaking Fist could break huge boulders to pieces. Also, his body had become much more solid than before, and ordinary weapons, without real Qi, could never injure him.
And since Shi Mu had accrued more Devil Qi as he practiced the Art of the Strong Ape, the Yin Qi in his body had also accumulated accordingly, reaching a fairly high level.
Shi Mu was very cheerful about this, but now he needed the blood of a monster ape, not ordinary ape, so he had to suspend the practice for a while.
However, just as Shi Mu was happy with his practice, a peril was silently approaching.chaptererror();