The girl in the jacket sensed the imminent danger behind her, knowing that it was futile to persist with the attempt to escape. Determined, she pulled at the reins and dismounted the horse abruptly.
When she turned to face the pursuer, there was a golden token already in her left hand; it shined with thickly dotted magical characters. She worked her real qi and a thin layer of golden light began to emerge on the token’s surface.
In a short while, the tinier green snake had drawn near, with an interval of less than three meters between them. The girl remained unmoved and activated the token with all of her real qi. Indistinctly, a Chinese character “Qiu” - meaning to captivate - emerged floating above the token.
The green snake's eyes flashed. It was just about to worm its way into the girl's bosom until a green light suddenly shined in front of the girl's breasts. It turned out that the green jade ornament she had been wearing around her neck, had bursted apart and formed a shimmering green light cover that wrapped around her. A deep woody scent soon pervaded the air.
Boom! The snake knocked against the light cover. As a result, the cover’s shimmer dimmed, and the snake was further reduced in size - now only as small as a thumb. Even while injured, the green snake did not slack in its duty the slightest; it continued biting at the girl with its forked tongues while hissing menacingly.
The result was out of the girl’s expectation - she had presumed that the impact would kill the beast. There was a gleam of fluster in her eyes, but still she reacted swiftly; her right hand fumbled at her waist. Amid a white flash, a sword shot up to meet the incoming snake. When the two clashed, the white flash of the sword suddenly surged and produced countless snowflakes that floated in the air.
The snake’s body was soon covered with sharp frost. The sword pursued, chopping through the air.After the clang of the sword, the snake bursted into countless ice pieces and vanished. An oddly powerful real qi surged into the girl’s body through the sword, turning her stomach upside down. The pain bore down on her unbearably, causing her to open her mouth and spit out blood. Her face became pale as a piece of paper.
However, the Chinese character “Qiu” had grown fully intelligible on the surface of the golden token.
At the same time, above the lake.
The masked man seemed somewhat surprised by the youth named Leng’s self-sacrifice as well as the girl’s strength to resist one of his blows. However, he soon regained his composure and with a sneer, he once again lifted the green whip in his hand.
Meanwhile, General Zhang destroyed the snake that targeted him at the cost of one arm and his long-handled axe. The axe had exploded. Just as he was to take a quick breather, he saw the rising whip in the masked man’s hand. Fury smoldered in General Zhang’s eyes and he shouted desperately, “You’re courting death!”
Instantly, the air around General Zhang rippled visibly; it was his real qi being irradiated. In a flash, he covered a long distance of about thirty meters and pounced on the masked man. Simultaneously, a giant blood-red fist formed by his real qi punched out heavily.
The masked man did not even spare a look at General Zhang. He flipped the whip, winding it around the general in mid-air like a strong viper. The whip tightened up and with a dull sound, the general’s body burst, causing blood flowers to blossom in the air. He did not even have the chance to scream.
After the death of General Zhang, the real qi fist that contained all his might, dispersed sadly with a loud boom.
The masked man turned his sharp eyes to the princess nearby. He then raised one hand, pointed towards her, and shot out a dot of golden light.
However, at this time, he felt an ill-premonition. Before he knew it, the air around him rippled violently, and thousands of golden threads emerged out of thin air that weaved into a golden cage that imprisoned him. The masked man only felt his eyes being blinded by glaring golden lights before he found himself losing all connections to the outside world.
Infuriated, he spread out his green light cover, trying to burst the golden cage. Boom! A thunderous sound rang out. The magical characters all over the cage glittered and the cage quaked violently. However, there were no signs of damage.
The masked man went into a tantrum and forcibly flipped his whip. In a short while, a dozen of green snakes appeared again, knocking against the cage from inside. This failed, but then the snakes began to merge into the cage, each one producing a loud boom. Bit by bit, the golden cage eventually lost its luster. After a full half an hour passed and all of the green snakes had disappeared, the cage finally burst open with a loud crash, leaving dots of crystal lights floating in mid air.
Thus, the masked man freed himself of the cage. However, he was not in a happy mood because the girl in the jacket had long ago disappeared with her horse. What irritated him more was that, she must have applied a secret magic to cover her tracks.
In the bleak desert, the sun was as always baking the land, producing a searing temperature that would surely cause raw meat to sizzle on the sandy earth. The air also rippled due to scorching heat.
A tall man who had covered himself entirely in a grey cloak, was riding on Four Odd while advancing in a certain direction. Despite its hefty look, Four Odd can make a long stride of three meters each time it plunged its hoofs into the sand. Therefore, they advanced at a high speed, causing the scenery on the way to be constantly retiring from their sight quickly - that is, if there was any change of the scenery.
Suddenly, the man on Four Odd straightened his back and pulled on the reins. The animal soon came to a stop, raising its intelligent head to look at its master while meowing lovably.
The man uncovered his cape, revealing a young and handsome face. This was surely Shi Mu.
He squinted slightly, turned his pupils gold to inspect the ground, and then looked up into the distance.
After some thought, he gave the reins a jerk and said, “To the Southeast.”
Four Odd seemed to have understood its master’s words, and turned towards the right direction.
An hour later, a medium-sized oasis with verdant trees appeared before them. Some trees even bore a rich number of delicious-looking fruits. The oasis had a fairly large pool; the surface being as smooth as a mirror.
Shi Mu, being very delighted, nodded his head.
“Meow, meow!” Four Odd also cheered up upon seeing the oasis and the pool, meowing happily while quickening its pace. Shortly, they arrived by the lake. The blissful creature stooped to drink itself to its heart’s content; its tail swishing briskly.
Shi Mu also crouched down by the lake, scooping up the lukewarm water to drink with his hands. Then he took out his canteen and filled it.
Quite some time passed before he stood up and looked blankly at the tranquil lake.
It had been a month since he left the people of the Black Raven Tribe. During this period, he would practice during the daytime and travelled during the night. Thanks to the to the wine that Sand Sun had made earlier, with the yellow snake’s gallbladder, he made a smooth breakthrough in his training of the Heavenly Elephant Art, reaching the sixth level without much difficulty. As a result, his physical body was toughened to a further extent. Once he could make it all the way to the seventh level, he would officially enter the late stage of Houtian level.
The current pressing matter, was to find the Firing Snake Tribe as soon as possible so he could learn their Totem art. Judging from the frequency in which the snake tattoo attacked his chest, Shi Mu realized that the power of the unicorn viper’s blood must have waned. This is why he had hurried toward the Firing Snake Tribe without stop for the past couple days, almost without any rest during the night, for the single purpose of reaching his destination as soon as possible. He would leave the follow-up issues - like, how to deal with the tribesmen and coerce them to teach him the secret Totem art - for when he had at least arrived at the tribe.
However, his face suddenly changed, and his ears stirred vigilantly.
There came a chain of faint clangs in front of the oasis, sounding like a fierce battle was going on.
Shi Mu concentrated on the sounds, dexterously withdrawing the black blade and the Air-Piercing Bow from Four Odd’s back. Stealthily, he slipped towards the battlefield.
The noises grew increasingly louder as he got closer. He heard angry shouts and the bitter cries of barbarians.
After going through the forestry, a large clearing came into view. He concealed himself behind a shrub and peered through the cracks.
There were some seven or eight barbarians fighting fiercely with a girl in a jacket. The clang of swords and knives had traveled from here. Shi Mu turned his pupils gold to observe the condition of the battle. Suddenly, he jolted in surprise. The girl in the jacket had intentionally disguised herself as a barbarian! Her delicate sword art and many nuanced details in her movements, all suggested that she was a one hundred percent human girl.
Shi Mu had to admit that her camouflage was nearly perfect and he wouldn’t have noticed if it weren’t for his superhuman eyesight.
The girl was wielding a shining white sword as long as ten meters that was giving off puffs of cold air. Dancing elegantly in the air, it left traces of silver shadows that gradually constituted a circle that protected the girl. The seven or eight barbarians were Houtian Totem warriors, roughly at their middle stages. They were using long green knives that glittered and flashed as they moved up and down nimbly like leopard cats in the air. Notwithstanding, the circle would always keep them out no matter how hard they launched the attacks.
By now, the girl in the jacket had a lot of blood on her clothes, and her face was like ash. Apparently, she was fighting with serious wounds. Three dead bodies of the barbarians laid on the ground at her side; each one only had a single cut on their throat, indicating that they were killed with one blow. The girl in the jacket was undoubtedly skilled in the sword art, but her physical strength was nearing her limits.
The barbarians had noticed this and adopted a delay policy. They besieged her, making random attacks that aimed to deplete her strength bit by bit.
Seeing this, Shi Mu unhesitatingly felt for his Air-Piercing Bow on his back.
On the clearing, the girl’s eyes shimmered weakly and her face suddenly flushed. She coughed violently and the sword in her hand also wavered, causing her smooth movements to be delayed. The circle of the sword shadows also opened a crack.
This delighted the barbarians exceedingly. A tall barbarian hurriedly broke through the circle from the opening, chopping at the girl’s neck. Apparently, he wanted her head.
The girl’s eyes suddenly glinted with life and the silver sword quivered in the air, throwing out a shadow that fell on the barbarian’s knife.
With a clear sound, the girl’s shining sword cut the knife in half without difficulty. Next, she flicked her wrist, and with a lightning speed, she thrust out her sword. The sword moved so fast that it left no visible trail in the air save for a few cold glints.
The big barbarian lifted his arm skyward to duck, but that arm was cut cleanly off his shoulder. At the same time, a thin red line emerged around his neck while he staggered back with his hands covering the wound. After some sad cries, he flopped onto the ground with his face up.
“Brother Meng!” His fellow barbarians called out simultaneously, but they flinched from the girl’s devilish sword. They could only wield their knives and press on with more fiercer, intense attacks.
On the other side, after killing the big barbarian, the girl seemed to have overexerted herself; a wound inside her body was torn open. Her eyes spoke of intense pain and her mouth spat blood. The sword slowed down in her hands.
The barbarians, though spotting the chance, did not step forward rashly this time. They continued to wield their knives at the periphery of the circle. Clearly, they intended to tire her to death.
Edited by: Bobby and Sietse