“Your Highness, the Great Shaman is busily engaged at the moment so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait. I suggest that you rest for a few days before everything is settled. Please follow me to the Palace of Blue Teeth, if you will.” Ulan turned back to face the princess, and then gently made the invitation.
“Thank you, Master Ulan. I’ll do as you said then.” The princess returned a charming smile.
Ulan slipped the white jade token into his sleeve and turned to lead the way, after which Shi Mu and the princess followed closely behind. Soon, their figures melted away into the depth of the camp.
Later, the three came to a wide pathway made purely of white rocks. It was spacious enough for Shi Mu and the princess to ride in a more leisurely mood. Even though she was on a horse, the princess still looked much shorter than Ulan. During the short trip, Shi Mu kept a short distance between himself and the princess, riding on the Four Odds while constantly keeping an eye on the landscape.
“We owe everything to Master Ulan today, or I daren’t think of the consequences.” The princess cupped her hands to express her genuine gratitude to Ulan.
“You’re welcome, your Highness. I just did as ordered.” Ulan waved his hand indifferently.
“Could I ask from whom you received the order?” The princess asked, feigning the same attitude as Ulan.
“Hehe, of course from Master Yanya[A], the shaman of my tribe, Blue Teeth.” Ulan laughed as if tickled by the princess’ innocence. The prince however, did not show a surprised look in response. As known to all, the barbarians differ in their attitudes toward warfare; naturally, the peaceful tribes do not see eye to eye with the military ones. Earlier, when they were besieged by Ahguna’s men, the necklace of blue teeth dangling around Ulan’s neck gave the princess a hint that this man was probably on the peaceful side.
After another twenty minutes or so, the small ambassador group was led to a clearing halfway up the mountain, where a blue palace of medium size was erected. After dismounting their horses, Ulan ushered his guests into the palace, leaving the tired animals to be looked after by servants.
In the great hall of the palace, a gaunt elderly man was sitting solemnly in the main seat in his blue frock. The moment they entered the place, Shi Mu and the princess felt as though they were seized by a strong current rolling to the depth of a deep sea; the inexorable magnetic power came from just the sitting old man. This indescribable power held them in awe and suspense.
“Shaman Yanya, thank you very much for helping us out of the predicament today. I am Huo Wu, the Fire Dancing Princess of Qi the Heavenly Country, at your service.” Once entering the hall, the princess immediately made a step forward to salute the shaman with a hand folded at her bosom. Shi Mu also bowed deep to the shaman after the barbarian fashion. Ulan waited patiently for the two ambassadors to present themselves, and then submitted the princess’s identity token to Yanya the Shaman. This done, Ulan stood reverently behind the elder man.
“Welcome, princess. Please take your seats.” The elder man gestured to the two seats reserved for them. He then went on to dismiss the white jade token in Ulan’s hand, smiling amiably, “I did this because the last thing I want to see, is to let the war nuts - I mean, my aggressive kin - and sea-dwellers have their way.”
“Sea-dwellers?” The princess raised her delicate eyebrows in surprise.
“I presume that news has not reached you yet, princess Huo Wu. Seven days ago, the Saint Girl of the sea-dwellers, Pearl by the name, who has recently risen to fame, led an ambassador group to the White Horse Mountain. She asked my tribe to join them in the war against you humans, in the name of Sea-Dwellers. Therefore, shamans of the eight great barbarian tribes were called together to the sacred mountain a few days ago. That’s why I’m here now.” Shaman Yanya once again shocked the two young ambassadors by breaking the latest news.
The princess’s countenance changed visibly. By any chance the sea dwellers and the barbarians should join forces, the human species’ situation would be greatly jeopardized.
“Master Yanya, considering the relationship between your honored tribe and the sea-dwellers, I guess you’d probably say no to the proposal.” The princess regained her calm quickly, and then asked the elder man with bright eyes blinking.
“Hehe, you surprised me with your broad knowledge, little princess. That’s correct. My tribe, the Blue Teeth, is one of the four big peaceful tribes, and we hold the same attitude as the other three peaceful tribes toward the sea-dwellers. From generation to generation, we live near the East Sea; there are always feuds with the sea guys. To join hands with them is out of the question.” Shaman Yanya shot the princess an admiring look and spilled out his true feelings slowly.
“Could I ask, Master shaman, what is your opinion of the proposal put forth by the sea- dwellers?” After giving the question much thought, the princess ventured to ask.
“The aggressive tribes are quite enthusiastic about the idea, but we four peaceful tribes are against it. As for the Great Shaman, he is still wavering. Hehe, so your appearance was timely.” Yanya laughed heartily.
“Thanks very much for shaman’s instruction. I shall definitely try my best.” Hearing the encouraging words, the princess was extremely delighted as she hurriedly bowed to express her heartfelt thanks.
At this moment, Yanya seemed suddenly to take notice of Shi Mu. A thought dawned on him and he asked in confusion, “Princess, are there only the two of you in this ambassador group?”
“Certainly not. This is a long story. I shall begin with the events after we left the capital of Qi...” In the following hours, the princess told Yanya every detail about the massacre of her fellow companions, holding back no information, especially about the killers that included an Earth Grade saint of the sea species.
The ambassador group’s misfortune sent the shaman into a moody silence. After a long while, he spoke out, “Princess, the Earth Grade saint you told about sounded familiar to me. It reminded me of the No.1 warrior Zakku of the Firing Snake Tribe. That man uses a whip called the Dark Snake Whip, and his fighting image[B] is a green sea serpent.”
Shi Mu and the princess shared a tacit look, both feeling chills down their spines. Recalling the scenario at the entrance of the camp, they shuddered with a panic of fear.
“By the way, I can sense a small dint of the Dark Green real qi[C] left in your body. Though you have suppressed it, it can be a real latent danger over long-term. I’ve got a Yin-Dispelling Pill[D], you can take it to drive away that dangerous qi.” Shaman Yanya took out a wooden case and passed it to the princess.
“Many thanks to Master Shaman!” The princess stood up to take the case in a great excitement. After having a few more words with the shaman, the princess left the hall with Shi Mu. A servant led them to two neighboring stone flats outside the hall as their temporary residence.
Shi Mu took a stroll in the his abode and found himself in a three-roomed big flat that was exquisitely decorated. This should be the place for VIP guests.
Then someone knocked gently on the door. Shi Mu pulled the door open and saw Huo Wu outside.
“Princess, please come in.” Shi Mu smiled kindly and invited her in.
“How many times have I told you! Just call me Huo Wu, no princess thing, ok?” Huo Wu gave him a reproaching stare and complained.
Shi Mu closed the door with a dry smile, but did not answer.
The two sat in the drawing room in a sour mood. For a time, no one broke the silence.
Eventually, the princess let out a weary sigh with downcast eyelashes that clouded her bright eyes. “I’d never thought that the sea dwellers would have forestalled us! Seems the conference won’t be as easy as we thought.”
The sea dwellers had entered this deep into the barbarian wasteland seven days earlier than herself, proving a heavy blow to the princess. The vision of a large group of fierce-looking enemies led by the Saint Girl Pearl also vitiated her self-confidence. Who does she have to turn to? Only one poor warrior, Shi Mu. What team should be smaller and more pathetic than theirs? No matter what the Great Shaman should decide, the enemy has gained a numerical advantage before the actual war begins.
“From what shaman Yanya said, the barbarians have not reached a conclusion yet. That means we still have a chance.” Shi Mu look at her comfortingly and said.
“Hope so.” Huo Wu nodded as her face slightly brightened. Then, suddenly thinking of something, the princess’s beautiful eyes became eclipsed with a cloud of regret, “Brother Shi, now that the situation has gone intricate, I’m afraid we’ll have to defer asking the Great Shaman about the totem art of the Firing Snake Tribe.” After an embarrassing pause, she added affirmatively, “But I shall definitely bring this matter up at the right moment. Please don’t worry.”
“I’m already grateful that princess has kept this in mind. I can wait until we have a good result in the conference.” Shi Mu smiled, trying to take the burden off the princess’s mind.
“Please rest assured, brother Shi. I have made promises that I can’t keep.” The princess heaved a sigh of relief.
“Then I’ll thank the princess in advance.” Shi Mu nodded.
Huo Wu did not linger in Shi Mu’s place after the conversation. She bid goodbye and left in a nervous spirit.
After seeing Huo Wu off, Shi Mu returned to his bedroom and sat by the desk. Temporarily, he is known as Huo Wu’s personal guard, and has no say in the conference. Plus, the Firing Snake Tribe has its men up there in the sacred mountain, so he did not dare to walk around freely.
Shi Mu took off his shirt, revealing the tattoo of that big viper that was now veiled by a pale blue ring. The tattoo itself seemed as normal as before.
Seeing this, he was much assured. Judging from the previous happenings, the men from the Firing Snake Tribe had not sensed this curse on him yet. Seems that the unicorn viper’s blood is working quite efficiently.
Shi Mu put on his shirt again with a solemn look that was not relieved in the slightest.
During the following days, Huo Wu acted in a rather mystical way, being out of her abode most of the days. She met with important people of the peaceful tribes frequently, and rarely visited Shi Mu. The latter however, hardly ever ventured out. Apart from a few servants who attended to him, Shi Mu barely saw anyone else. For three days, the sacred mountain was serene and eventless, causing Shi Mu’s guard to drop down.
One day, he walked out of his flat and ambled in the mountain. Neither the great hall or Huo Wu’s flat was guarded. Everywhere seemed empty and deserted.
Soon Shi Mu came to the entrance to the hall and was about to take a look inside.
“Are you Warrior Mu of the human ambassador group?” A young voice resounded from his left shoulder.
Shi Mu tilted his head and looked for the source of the voice. A barbarian youth in a green shaman frock was coming to the hall, making a rustling sound. He was beaming all the way to Shi Mu.
“Yes, this is Shi Mu. Could I ask who is your highness?” Shi Mu asked with raised brows.
“Hehe, my name is Minh Tu. I am a primary shaman of the Blue Teeth Tribe. Master Yanya is informed that warrior Mu is walking around in the sacred area, so he sent me to be your guide. Many places in the sacred mountain is forbidden from extraneous visitors, and some places are even sealed by black magic. It would be dangerous to enter those places by force.” Minh Tu admonished in a serious tone.
Shi Mu was mildly shocked to know that his whereabouts were being monitored constantly, and was more shocked by his own ignorance of it.
“I see. It will be so kind of you as to show me around. I’ve long heard of the beautiful scenery of the sacred mount, and have been tempted to see it with my own eyes.” Shi Mu managed to keep a cool expression, smiling lightly. Meanwhile, his eyes glittered, and a hint of golden glimmer flashed. He looked around with a jerk, then had a quick glimpse into one corner of the palace’s roof above his head. There was a black crystal stone inlaid in the wall exuding a pale light whence he could sense a hint of magic power with his superhuman eyesight.
“So this should be the monitor...” Ironically Shi Mu felt rather relieved seeing the stone.
“It’s my honor.” Minh Tu’s eyes slightly shined as he heard Shi Mu’s reply. Then he immediately started leading the way. It seemed that he had grown an interest in Shi Mu; he was rather friendly when showing him around, and his attitude could be even said enthusiastic.
The sacred Mount abounded in religious building, temples, palaces that featured the barbarian’s bold and unconstrained character. Though poles apart in their aesthetic preference, the barbarian buildings, when compared with human counterparts, have their own flavor not short of artistic value.
While leading Shi Mu the way to various scenic spots, Minh Tu kept pouring out the anecdotes and historical events of the buildings, even taking the time to mention details about each wall painting. He was equally curious of human’s history, conventions, etc., asking Shi Mu information now and then. Shi Mu returned the same hospitality and answered each question with earnest readiness, increasing the warm feelings Minh Tu had in his heart towards Shi Mu.
[B ] Fighting Image: Fighting image is usually an animal that created by the inner power of a warrior during a battle, so that the warrior can manipulate the animal to fight for him/her.
[D] Yin-Dispelling Pill: This is a kind of medicine pill that can drive away the yin qi in one’s body. Yin stands opposed to yang in Chinese culture, meaning darkness, coldness, etc. Yin qi can be harnessed to strengthen a warrior’s body, to attack an enemy, and can cause harm to the enemy’s body (in this case Huo Wu is injured by the yin qi left by Zakku in her body). Therefore, sometimes readers may come across a warrior absorbing yin qi, like Shi Mu, to strengthen his body, while in other cases Yin-Dispelling pill is needed to drive away the yin qi left by an enemy.
Translated by: HJ
Translated by XianXiaWorld