By the time Feng Li had helped Gao Yuan back to his feet, Shi Mu had already picked up the cotton bag and unclasped it to glance inside. Seeing the contents, he showed an expression of obvious satisfaction.
“Second Brother, it’s all thanks to your timely help, that my brothers didn’t all suffer further at Wang Tianhao’s hands.” Feng Li gave Shi Mu a bitter smile, his face contorted in pain.
“That’s right, we were lucky to have Second Leader in time.”
“That proud bastard Wang Tianhao could not even stand our Second Leader’s two strikes before he begged for mercy.”
“Yeah, our Second Leader should have that title of top practitioner in Feng City.”
All the other Black Fox members, now fully back to their feet, were so anxious to offer their flattery that they ignored their aching bodies. Every one of them was immersed in an atmosphere of celebration as if their spirits were twice heightened. After all, they heard clearly that their mysterious second leader had just defeat the so-called top practitioner in Feng City, which naturally meant that as long as no accomplished warriors were involved their Black Fox gang could rule over all the small gangs.
“Well, I’ve got other things to do, so let’s call it a day then.” Unmoved by the rapturous crowd Shi Mu took his leave with a wave, not forgetting to stuff the bag into his shirt.
“Hold on, Second Brother, Third Brother and I still want to have a word with you.“ Upset by his sudden leaving, Feng Li called to him in a hurry.
“You have more to talk about? Well, then I’ll stay a little longer.“ Tilting his head and giving it some thought, Shi Mu promised readily.
This made Feng Li quite happy, thus turned to tell his subordinates, “Go and deal with your wounds now.”
The Black Foxes were not dense and realized that their three leaders were about to have an important discussion, so they all retired one after another. Judging from their excited looks, surely the scene where Shi Mu defeat Tian Wanghao was deeply printed on their minds and would soon be circulating among their fellow members.
“You two were really unkind this time, the opponent had such powerful strength, but you didn’t even inform me of that! Or you thought that if I knew I wouldn’t come?” Shi Mu questioned them angrily.
“Brother Shi, please forgive us this time! It’s definitely our fault, we won’t let you go without being compensated.” An embarrassed expression came onto Feng Li’s face at Shi Mu’s bluntness.
“But please do believe us Brother Shi, this time we did have difficulties informing you of the details: on the one hand, we had no idea the challenger was Wang Tianhao and were only guessing that some proud guy of Jin Gang club was asking for trouble; on the other, Wang Tianhao caught us completely unprepared, leaving us no time to do some investigations on our opponent.” Gao Yuan lost no time providing a convincing reason.
“If so, then it is excusable. Otherwise, I would really consider not working with your Black Foxes anymore. Well, what did you two want to tell me?” Hearing the explanation, Shi Mu nodded, the tensions between the two party easing a little.
“Thank you for your understanding! Brother Shi, do we have the chance to have you as our real leader?“ Feng Li first signed with relief, then asked with a solemn face.
The question did not come as a surprise to Shi Mu; on the contrary, he asked lightly, “So you want me to take the position of the actual ‘Fierce Fist’, the second leader of the Black Fox?”
“Not the second, but the first, the real boss! Give me a nod and I’ll call all the guys together to hand over the top seat to you. “ Feng Li gave a ready answer to Shi Mu.
“Big Brother Feng, that’s not what we’d decided!” Gao Yuan was taken aback at such a rash promise.
“Third Brother, haven’t you seen that Black Foxes will still exist without the two of us while without Brother Shi’s help it will be vanquished within a month by other Feng city gangs. The Black Foxes territory has grown nearly four times its original size, do you still think we have the ability to manage such a big gang?” Feng Li gave a forced smile while telling the truth, which rendered Gao Yuan mute, only able to resist in his heart.
“I’ll only say sorry one time; I’ve got no intentions of getting involved in gangs and I can only promise you my limited cooperation. Brother Feng, you should clearly know about my ambition. I’ve devoted myself to the path of martial arts, other things will only be a waste of time.” Shi Mu refused after thinking about it quietly.
“Brother Shi, are you sure you don’t need more time to ponder over the offer? I know your great ambition, but there will be much more difficulty on the road of a martial artist than you have imagined. However, at this moment, your one nod will bring hundreds of fellows at your service, don’t you think this is a bargain?” Although in despair Feng Li still decided to try his luck a second time, in a more compelling tone.
“That won’t tempt me so you should just drop the idea. Also, the cooperation between us will end as soon as I manage to acquire qi-sensing.“ Shaking his head resolutely, Shi Mu turned and left, leaving Feng Li and Gao Yuan in a dead silence, their hope gone.
On the other hand, Shi Mu did not immediately return home but instead went to Liu Feng Martial Arts club directly after packing up his disguise. He did not leave the club until after he went through another repetition of the devastating exercise - the striking of iron sticks at acupuncture points all over his body - after which he left for his city residence with a contorted face and bruised body, bearing insufferable pains.
As he limped past a certain flashy restaurant, he was quite unaware he was being pointed at by two young girls on the third story.
“Yu Huan, is that one your elder step brother? Why he looks like a wretched cripple! Can it be that he was bullied by some strong guys in a club?” An attractive girl in a yellow blouse made this observation, sitting opposite her, was a glamorously dressed girl the same age.
“Step-brother? He’s my father’s natural son, so he’s my blood brother!” The glamorously dressed girl was exactly Shi Mu’s younger sister ‘Shi Yu Huan’, whom he had met only once but who now defended him from condemnation. Yu Huan was obviously irritated by her companion’s remarks and retorted with a solemn face after moving her eyes from Shi Mu passing form.
“I’m telling the truth! Apart from Auntie Seven and you, nobody accepts him in our family. See his tattered looks, he hasn’t got the makings of a warrior, has he? If so, it’s a shame to give him our only Qi Ling pill!” The girl in yellow blouse made a reply full of haughtiness.
“Humph, I know there’s some plot or why should you be so nice to invite me here for dinner? Seems someone’s been bought by Uncle Five to be a persuader.” Shi Yu Huan responded with a sardonic snort, perceiving her companion’s purpose.
“Cousin Yu Huan, you are wrong this time. It’s not Uncle Five that asked me here, but his son Jin Tian. Jin Tian was sure that so long as you persuade Shi Mu to give up the pill then your mother wouldn’t say no. Also, Shi Mu will get a lot of compensation for it.“ The girl in yellow blouse laughed at the missed guess pridefully.
“Though I’ve only met Shi Mu once, I can sense that he is not someone to be persuaded, plus my mother feels sorry for his mother, so she won’t let the Jins bully him without taking any action. Go and tell Jin Tian to give up his plotting!” Shi Yu Huan answered bluntly.
“Well, all right, I’m only doing what I was paid to do. I’ll deliver your words to Jin Tian,” the girl in yellow blouse was unexpectedly easy to handle; she waved off the topic and did not mention it again.
“Judging from your temper, you won’t do it unless paid a huge sum.“ Shi Yu Huan curled her lips, apparently losing her interest in the various delicious dishes on the table.
“That’s for sure, or who could he turn to except me? I’m the closest to you in our family! By the way, see my new jade hairpin? What do you think of it?” Jin Yuzhen did not care about the aborted persuasion at all; she just turned to the new topic in high spirits, producing an extremely exquisite jade hairpin from her sleeve.
Seeing the jade hairpin, it was Shi Yu Huan’s turn to be surprised.
“That’s quite strange! If my memory doesn’t fail me, you rarely buy jewelry, always proud of the beauty you were born with.“
“What’s so strange about it? Isn’t there a saying, ‘A girl will doll herself up for him who loves her’!” Jin Yuzhen replied with a thin smile.
“For him who loves her? You don’t mean Wu Hua, do you?” Shi Yu Huan was stunned, her eyes wide open.
“Wu Hua, that good-for-nothing stalker? How is that possible? I mean Wang Tianhao of the Jin Gang club, the son of the Wangs who have bloodline warriors!” Jin Yuzhen answered without thinking.
“Wang Tianhao, the one at level ten in body tempering, and the top practitioner of Feng city, known for his accomplished art of the Blazing Spear? Is he going to visit our Jin Family?” Shi Yu Huan’s eyes were alight with expectancy after hearing the name.
“Mind you, Shi Yu Huan, this Wang Tianhao’s my target, don’t you think about competing with me!” Seeing her companion’s excitement, Jin Yuzhen became somewhat depressed, lacking in self-confidence.
“Nonsense, I only look forward to seeing with my own eyes if the legendary Blazing Spear deserves its reputation! His title only remains because we experts from the big clans do not pick a fight with him, or how could he get that title of top practitioner so easily?” Shi Yu Huan gave her companion a disapproving stare.
“You tomboy! Well, whatever you say, Wang Tianhao is brilliant enough, plus his blood is of the Wang Family. This time, our grandfather invited him to our manor personally, so he must be thinking of a marriage. So please don’t compete with me when he visits. By the way, are you sure you want to take your brother’s side this time, no matter what happens? I’m afraid Jin Tian won’t give up the pill so easily.” Speaking of the coming marriage, Jin Yuzhen cracked a hearty smile, her face lit up with happiness.
“Go and send Jin Tian a word, even if Shi Mu sucks in skills he’s still my brother by blood. It’s all right if Jin Tian tries some upright ways. but if ever he harbours any evil plans I’ll break his legs right before the enrollment test to Kai Yuan Martial Arts School.” At her company’s question, Shi Yu Huan’s delicate face turned as cold as ice and frost.
Jin Yuzhen pursed her lips seeing Shi Yu Huan’s stern face while defending her brother’s honour to such an extent.
Shi Mu was quite unaware that his blood sister view of him had lessoned. Once he returned to his residence, he immediately immersed himself in the boiling water of his medicine bath.
Covering his face with a hot towel and leaning against the basin’s edge, Shi Mu closed his eyes tightly, his mind experiencing upheavals while he rehearsed his long-harboured plan thoroughly again.
“The golden hamster.”
Breaking the silence, suddenly he murmured to himself.