However, he was greeted by a shocking scenario.
The three-headed python’s hundred feet long body hung on the mountain-wall in front of the cave; it was dead. It seemed to have been destroyed; even its dead body had shriveled up. Its left and right heads were missing, and its middle head was mutilated. Shi Mu was greeted by a whiff of nauseous smell of blood as a result.
Shi Mu felt a burst of intense dizziness. He shook his head to dispel it. He then felt a little relaxed.
His consciousness gradually became active. He felt a slight chill in his heart as he recalled his mortal injuries and approaching death.
He recalled that he had been incarnated into a white ape in the way that was similar to his dreams. He also recalled how he had slaughtered the three-headed python after a long and fierce battle.
But, the ape also seemed to have received a few serious injuries.
Shi Mu hastily got-up from the ground as he recalled this. He examined his body. He was surprised to notice that his body didn’t seem to be harmed in any way. There wasn’t even the slightest sign of any injury. However, his body felt flabby and powerless; as if he had just recovered from a serious illness.
Shi Mu was even more confused as he sensed his real Qi. There was a huge amount of real Qi in his lower abdomen and meridians. Shi Mu had a feeling of fullness… as if numerous ants and insects were creeping inside his body. He also had a feeling of discomfort.
He felt a fiery-hot sensation in his stomach; as if his real Qi was steadily rushing forth through his arteries towards his limbs and bones.
Shi Mu was startled. He guessed that these changes had something to do with his transformation into the white ape. Moreover, he thought that the fervent fire in his body must be because of the python’s essence and blood which he had swallowed in the dream.
Shi Mu thought of the dreamland, and the battle between the gigantic white ape and the three-headed python. The memory of devouring the python’s flesh and blood made his heart tremble.
What he regretted the most was that he couldn’t see the contents of the ancient book of ‘Nine Revolutions Mysterious Art’ even though he had seen its cover.
Suddenly, a thought crossed his mind. He sat down cross-legged and closed his eyes.
He opened his eyes after a while and frowned.
The bean-sized moonlight crystal grain that he had stored for a long time had disappeared from his head.
"Is it possible that this moonlight crystal grain has something to do with my transformation into the white ape?" Shi Mu thought. But, he wasn’t sure about this. So, he decided to push this thought out of his mind for the time being.
Whatever happened… the fact was that he had turned his defeat into victory. Moreover, his spiritual power had increased owing to the white ape. Shi Mu had mixed feelings in his heart as a result.
He felt delighted as he recalled that his strength had surged-up at an alarming rate in the form of the white ape; so much so that he had slaughtered a Xian Tian middle-stage fierce beast with his bare hands. However, he was also a little worried. He couldn’t control his own body after this transformation… as if his own body didn’t belong to him.
"Oh… where is Yan Luo?"
Suddenly, Shi Mu recalled that Yan Luo had appeared in front of him at the last moment, and had received a fatal blow in order to save him.
Shi Mu was sure that he hadn’t issued such an order to Yan Luo; he was unlikely to rely on a Hou Tian primary-stage human skeleton to rescue him in such a critical situation.
But, Yan Luo had protected Shi Mu on its own. Shi Mu was deeply touched by this. Moreover, a trace of worry grew in his heart for Yan Luo’s safety.
Fortunately, the spiritual contract between him and Yan Luo still existed. However, it seemed to him that it wasn’t a crucial matter at this juncture. He thought that Yan Luo would’ve returned to the Dead Spirit World.
However, Shi Mu was still puzzled about Yan Luo’s attempt to protect its master. He wanted to summon it and clarify his doubts. But, a burst of numbness and discomfort raided his body; it made him unable to concentrate on his spirit.
"Oh… I almost forgot my main business."
Shi Mu patted his forehead and jumped-up.
He had gone through untold hardships in order to enter into the forbidden area of the portal. Moreover, he had taken the risk of hunting an extremely aggressive three-headed python so that he could obtain its beast-soul and break his curse.
He vaguely remembered that the white ape had extracted the python’s soul and swallowed it down.
Shi Mu felt anxious as he thought about this. He closed his eyes once again.
He sensed a group of warm air mass creeping amid the group of fervent fire inside his stomach. He could also feel a faint aura of the python inside his stomach.
Shi Mu finally felt happy. He decided to open the beast soul-bag so that he could store the beast’s souls inside it.
But, he realized that his upper body was bare. Moreover, there wasn’t any trace of the beast soul bag around his waist.
He looked around and saw that his black blade lay on the ground. He also noticed that everything he had brought was scattered on the ground around him. In addition, a blood-red leather bag lay on the ground in the nearby bushes.
It was the beast-soul bag…
Shi Mu was delighted. He picked-up the bag, and poured his spiritual power into it. Suddenly, his complexion turned unsightly, and his brows puckered into a frown.
He remembered that there were more than ten beast-souls of Hou Tian late and consummate-stage beasts in the bag. Moreover, there were countless souls of the primary and middle-stage beasts.
However, he shook his head and discarded these thoughts. He was most concerned about the soul of the three-headed python.
However, his real Qi felt a strange shock as he brought the beast soul-bag closer to his mouth. Suddenly, the bag lit-up and produced a suction.
Then, a black ball of light wrapped in silver light flew out of his body. A faint miniature of the three-headed python was wringing inside it.
Shi Mu forcibly increased the flow of his real Qi. The bag glittered-up with a magnificent red light; its suction also increased. Then, the black ball wrapped in silver light flashed and submerged into the beast bag. After that, it disappeared.
Shi Mu heaved a sigh of relief. A cheerful look appeared on his face. He then fastened the beast-soul bag on his waist carefully.
After that, he picked-up his packet from the ground, and took out a set of clothes. He then picked-up the black blade and examined it.
He remembered that his blade had issued a snapping sound when the python had bit it.
He found a couple of tiny fissures on its back. But, it wouldn’t have any adverse effect on it. He thought that he’d ask Zhao Ping to forge another blade for him once he returns to his Sect.
Shi Mu looked at the python’s corpse stuck in the mountain-wall. He walked over to its corpse and stripped down the python’s skin – from where its scales were intact – with the help of his blade. After that, he rolled it up and wrapped it in a piece of cloth. He then threw it on his back, and started to walk towards the python’s cave.
He soon reached the open space in the python’s cave. He sat down cross-legged, and kept his black blade aside.
He then closed his eyes and became prepared to practice the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants. He took out a Bone Tempering Pill, and swallowed it. After that, he exhibited a meditative posture and began his practice. He soon made a breakthrough to the seventh layer of the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants.
His meridians and arteries had been so overloaded by his real Qi that they had started to bulge out. Moreover, a fervent group of fire had been creeping inside his abdomen. This had forced him to practice. This was the reason he had become impatient, and had started to practice as soon as he had entered the cave.
Shi Mu was ecstatic as he realized that he had reached the seventh stage of the art without any bottleneck — he had made a direct breakthrough!
However, his astonishment didn’t end there. This breakthrough was followed by the attainment of the eighth stage of this art. The arteries and the tendons inside his meridians were so abundant with his real Qi that he had attained another stage at one fell swoop.
Shi Mu then swallowed a Green Frost Fruit, and continued to practice for the entire day. He finally stopped once the python’s blood in his abdomen had transformed into his real Qi. Moreover, he had broken through the ninth stage of the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants by that time.
The Bone Tempering Pills had also been consumed by this time.
Shi Mu had progressed from the Hou Tian middle-stage to Hou Tian advanced stage in a short span of two days. His rate of his growth was so alarming that it could shock anyone.
Shi Mu had succeeded in increasing his strength by that of three elephants’. His strength would further increase if he could also make a breakthrough in the Art of Breeding the Strong Evil Ape. Then, his strength would get closer to ten thousand pounds – which was far more than that of a Xian Tian primary-stage warrior.
Shi Mu could also attain the remaining two layers of the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants as long as he had time in his hands. This would lead him to progress to the Hou Tian consummate-stage.
It was extremely difficult for Shi Mu to advance to the Xian Tian realm owing to his blood. But, he still believed that he was capable of giving it a try if he could find an appropriate Xian Tian technique, and supplement it by consuming the three Green Frost Fruits that remained.
After two days… in the depth of the python’s cave…
Shi Mu sat cross-legged on the ground. His eyes were closed, and he was controlling his breathing. Suddenly, a burst of red light glistened around his waist.
He opened his eyes and drew out a jade charm from his bosom. It was emitting a bright-red light. It was a forbidden charm that had been given to everyone along with the beast-soul bag before they had set foot in the portal.
"It’s finally over!"
Shi Mu felt relieved. He then picked up his black blade, and threw the snake-skin on his back; it was wrapped in a piece of cloth.
He then poured his real Qi into the jade charm.
The bright-red light formed a five-feet-thick red circle around Shi Mu’s body.
Then, the red light flashed, and Shi Mu vanished into thin air.
Meanwhile, in the mountain valley behind the Holy Mountain…
Eight priests stood before the black altar in two groups near the massive ring-shaped stone array. They had an anxious expression on their faces. They kept looking in the direction of the stone array.
Suddenly, the magical characters engraved on the huge rectangular rocks glittered. Then, a massive red light spread, and shrouded the entire stone array.
The High Priest stood on the black altar before the crowd. He had a senile look on his face. He then said something, and waved the withered stick in his hand.
A red light sparked on top of the stick; it then flashed to the center of the giant stone array.
The red light flickered violently. Then, people’s shadows started to appear; it seemed as if red lights were being poured out in torrents.
All kinds of tall, short, strong and thin people were faintly visible through the red light. A few people looked terrible; it seemed as if they had bathed in blood. A few of them held weapons in their hand. Some others were panting...
These people weren’t strangers. They were the warriors who had entered into the portal a few days ago.
The red light continued to shine for a while. Then, it slowly disappeared as everyone appeared.
Several tribal people stood at different places on the altar. Some of them looked happy, but a few of them had an unsightly expressions on their faces.
The eight tribes had sent a total of one-hundred people to enter the forbidden area. However, only fifty to sixty people could be seen standing on the altar. It meant that almost fifty percent of these people would remain buried inside the portal forever.
These people were the elites of their tribes. Therefore, each person's disappearance was a great loss to their respective tribes.
These warriors weren’t prohibited from getting into a life and death battle in the portal. But, the vicious and peaceful barbarian had reached an understanding that they wouldn’t snatch any beast souls from each other. Therefore, no homicide was possible.
Moreover, every tribe was familiar with the situation inside the Portal of Brave Warriors. So, any life-threatening danger was unlikely – as long as there wasn’t any desire for any early achievement. In fact, the death-rate had been around twenty percent during the previous trials.