The Crow Horn Tribe had joined hands with the Fierce Snake Tribe in order to get rid of their common enemy – Shi Mu. Therefore, Shi Mu didn’t care if this matter came into the light. In fact, he wanted to see who would be more frightened once this matter was exposed.
Shi Mu then tried and found his David’s Deer outside the camp. He tore-off the shattered cloth, and tied up the boulder on its body with it. He then hugged its neck, and caressed it a few times.
The David’s Deer seemed to have understood Shi Mu’s unsaid words. It issued a "moo… moo" sound a few times. It then rubbed its furry head against Shi Mu’s body. It looked as if it was reluctant to part with him.
Shi Mu had bumped into the David’s deer shortly after he had entered the barbarian land. It had accompanied Shi Mu everywhere since then. So, it had developed a little attachment and affection for Shi Mu.
But, it wasn’t appropriate for Shi Mu to let it accompany him everywhere. After all, this animal was a savage.
Shi Mu chose a route after careful observation; it directed him in the opposite direction. He then slapped the David’s deer on its buttocks with a huge force.
The David’s Deer issued a painful screech. Then, it galloped in a certain direction – like an arrow. It was so fast that it looked as if it was flying in the air. It arrived close to a short slope in a blink of an eye. Then, it stopped, turned around, and glanced at Shi Mu.
Shi Mu looked towards the David’s Deer, and waved his hand to bid his farewell.
The David’s Deer raised its head, and issued a loud "moo" sound. After that, it turned around, and disappeared into the night.
Then, Shi Mu started to examine the horses of the Crow Horn Tribe. He chose one of them, and stuffed the rest of them with a tattered piece clothing that was smeared with his Qi. After that, he tied-up a boulder on each one of them, and dispersed them in all directions.
Shi Mu had wrapped-up the matters at the camp very soon. Then, he pulled his bulging bundle of leather up to his back. He strode over, and mounted his chosen barbarian horse. Then, he started follow his map, and advanced in a certain direction.
One day later…
A man appeared in front of the Crow Horn Tribe’s campfire’s ruins. He was a middle-aged bald man. A long and twisted braid hung on the back of his head. Moreover, a green whip was wrapped around his right arm.
His eyes blazed with fury as he stared at the writing on the megalith in front of him. The long whip in his hand started to emit a radiance. Suddenly, his green whip rolled out like a green snake as he flicked his arm.
His whip was about to strike the megalith. But then, it rolled backwards at a lightning speed, and got twined around the man’s arm once again.
The middle-aged man’s eyes had resumed their normal state by now. Moreover, a trace of hesitation could be seen flickering in his eyes.
He had inspected the entire camp a moment ago. The cavalry soldiers of the Crow Horn Tribe had been massacred by someone. Moreover, General Wu Ge – a Xian Tian primary-stage barbarian warrior – had been slaughtered ruthlessly. His corpse was in an extremely terrible shape. But, he judged the means and Cultivation Arts used to execute this massacre, and realized that it didn’t seem to be the same piece of information he had received before.
Suddenly, a green light flashed on his chest. Then, green scales started to sprout over his body. His eyes became bloodshot as a spurt of blood gushed into his eyes.
He looked at the ground with rapt attention. Then, he continued to move within the camp. The wings of his nose opened and closed at the same time. It seemed as if he was trying to sniff something.
The furious look on his face had faded away after half-an-hour. In fact, there was a smile on his face as he muttered something to himself.
One month later... in a small and remote fishing village in Kai Yuan Prefecture of the Da Qi Kingdom…
The sun had appeared on the eastern horizon. A layer of sea smog could be seen extending into the distance. The air was calm; the wind hadn’t started to whistle yet. Several small boats could be seen on the sea; they were motionless. They appeared like twinkling stars in the vast sky. They were swaying along with the undulating waves of the sea.
The farmland around the village bristled with several old men and women who seemed to be the early risers. They bent as they bustled about in their vegetable fields.
The fishing village was dependent upon the sea. The entire land of the village was infertile since the salinity of the land peripheral to the sea was extremely high. Therefore, the fishermen planted only those fruits and vegetables that were suitable for such an infertile land.
Most of the villagers were busy with drying fishing nets or fish around their houses. Some of them could be seen quietly sitting at their entrances. They were basking in the sun, and repairing their fishing nets.
Lots of children with bare bottoms were bustling around the village. They seemed to be in high spirits; they were laughing, playing, and making noises. They were occupied with various kinds of never-ending games. They were very mischievous. They foraged while chasing behind chickens and ducks.
A light-brown dog in the village lay prone on the ground in a lazy manner. It was bathing in the first glimmer of dawn.
The dog’s relaxed pose and wrinkled skin suggested that it was extremely old; so much so that it didn’t wish to budge an inch.
Suddenly, the old dog’s nose picked a smell. It sniffed a few times as if it had found something. It then stretched-open its droopy eyelids. After that, it started to bark with teary eyes. It was looking at the entrance of the village.
The entire village resounded with its incessant barking.
Then, a tall youth appeared at the entrance of the village. He was clad in black clothes. There was a huge bundle of leather on his back. He stood still, and deeply breathed the fishy air of the sea. A hint of excitement glittered in his eyes.
It was none other than Shi Mu. He had returned from the barbarians’ wasteland. This place was his birthplace – the fishing village from his childhood.
Shi Mu had disguised himself as a barbarian man in order to reduce the trouble after he had left the Crow Horn Tribe’s encampment. After that, he had headed towards the seashore, and had entered the territory that fell under the influence of Priest Yan Ya.
The token that he had received from Priest Yan Ya had proved to be quite useful to him. He had come across several checkpoint-forts that couldn’t have been avoided. Moreover, several barbarian cavalry soldiers could be seen patrolling the area. But, everyone allowed him to pass once they saw this token. So, the token had saved him a lot of trouble.
Shi Mu had sketched out a plan in advance. He had also planned to forge ahead with his journey during daytime, and had remained in hiding during the nights. He had encountered only a small number of ominous beasts on his way owing to his coordinated efforts. His overall journey had been very smooth.
He had reached the edge of the East China Sea half-a-month later. Then, he had headed towards the village of human race along the seashore. After that, he had entered into the territory of the Da Qi Kingdom by passing through the Huang Kingdom.
He had continued to travel throughout day and night across several prefectures and counties. He had finally entered into the territory of Quan Prefecture in the Da Qi Kingdom after two days.
This place was Shi Mu’s hometown; he had spent his early childhood in this small fishing village.
Five or six years had passed since he had followed-after Butler Cheng, and had left this village. After that, he had never gotten the opportunity to go back to his village owing to various reasons.
He had finally seized the opportunity with great difficulty this time. So, he felt a bit restless to get back home.
After all, he didn’t know whether or not he would be able to come back here once he returned to the Black Demon Sect in the Yan Kingdom.
Shi Mu was lost in such thoughts. Suddenly, the old dog in the village stopped barking. It dashed towards Shi Mu, and sniffed the smell of his body. After that, it started to circle around him happily.
Shi Mu couldn’t help but smile. He bent down and touched the yellow dog's head. The dog then started to lick his fingers.
This old dog belonged to Shi Mu’s next-door-neighbor – Black Yu. Shi Mu had been quite familiar with this dog in those days. This dog had reached the prime of its life when Shi Mu had left the village.
Shi Mu patted the old dog's head. He then got-up, and walked towards the village with great speed; so much so that it seemed as if he was flying.
The old dog followed him for some time while wagging its tail. But then, it started to gasp for breath. It opened its mouth, and extended its tongue out. After that, it ran back to the village’s entrance.
Shi Mu looked around, and realized that the fishing village hadn’t changed even after so many years. The things that he saw around him were exactly the same as he remembered.
Several men could be seen in the village. It seemed that it wasn’t the appropriate season for them to go out to the sea for fishing. Therefore, most of the men hadn’t gone to the sea. Otherwise, they would’ve already been at the sea by now in usual times.
Several villagers were looking at Shi Mu. But, no one dared to go near him owing to his strange appearance. His clothes looked quite expensive. Moreover, there was a huge and valiant-looking black blade hung on his back.
"Is this little Mu?" a man sitting by a door said. He was weaving a fishing net. There were ditches all across his face. He was an old man with turbid eyes.
"Yes, it’s me. Uncle Jiu, I’ve come back to see my mother." A feeling of warmth surged-up in Shi Mu’s heart. He looked towards the old man and replied with a smile.
Shi Mu’s mother had faced several hardships in order to survive when he was young. Most of the villagers had held an indifferent attitude towards them back then. This uncle was one of the very few good people who had supported them financially in their difficult times.
"It’s good that you’re back… it’s good that you’re back," the old man seemed to recall something as he muttered to himself.
The surrounding men and women revealed various kinds of expressions on their faces as they heard their conversation. They formed several groups of two or three people, and started to discuss among themselves.
"What?! He’s Shi Mu! He has changed greatly!"
"Look at his appearance; he looks very rich."
"Hey, look at the blade on his back. It looks so formidable. Did he really become a martial warrior? Did he?"
"What martial arts?! Didn’t he kill someone in those days… from that Wu family..."
"Hush! Speak slowly!"
Shi Mu was indifferent to the villagers’ words. Some of them gazed towards Shi Mu in a strange manner.
Shi Mu didn’t need to guess the reason behind their gazes. He knew that the Jin and the Wu families would’ve dispatched people to the fishing village when he had killed their people. Moreover, they would’ve announced attractive rewards in order to grab Shi Mu. Perhaps, some people amongst these surrounding villagers might’ve already thought about leaking the information of his return to the village to them.
Shi Mu couldn’t haggle with these villagers. Moreover, he didn’t have to care about the Jin and Wu families owing to his current strength.
Shi Mu squatted down in front of Uncle Jiu, and had a casual conversation with him for some time. Then, he gave him the cloth in which he had wrapped the gold leaves. He asked him to open it inside his room. After that, he stood-up and left.
He soon arrived in front of a dilapidated wooden house. This was his and his mother's home.
His face revealed a perplexed look as he looked at the house. He noticed some leakages upon the roof.
He recovered after a long while. He then gently pushed open the door and walked in.
Everything inside the house was same as before. But, everything was covered in a thick layer of dust.
The memories of his past began to bubble-up in his mind. A smile hung at the corners of his mouth. He quietly stood in the room for some time.
He was woken-up after an unknown passage of time by the sound of footsteps; they seemed to be getting closer to him.
"Mu, you're back!" a muffled sound of a man was heard.
Then, a thirty-year-old man walked inside the house. He was a dark-skinned man.
"Yes, I’m back. Long time no see, Elder Brother Black Yu." Shi Mu turned around, and looked at the man with a smile on his face. The man was dressed-up as a fisherman.
Black Yu was Shi Mu’s neighbor. Everyone used to call him Black Yu as his complexion was very dark. He had grown-up together with Shi Mu. In fact, Shi Mu’s family was most closely related to Black Yu’s family in the entire village.
"Mu, a lot of strangers showed-up here… once you left the village. Their prime goal was to catch you. They inquired about your whereabouts from door-to-door. They claimed to be the people of Jin and Wu families of Feng city. They even made a declaration that they would offer a reward of ten-thousand silvers in exchange for any information about you. I’m afraid that someone from the village must’ve already passed the information of your presence in the village by now," Black Yu’s eyes brimmed with deep concern as he looked at Shi Mu and said.
"Don’t worry. I’ll be careful, Elder Brother Black Yu…" Shi Mu had a warm feeling inside his heart as he replied.
There was still someone in the world who sincerely cared about him. Shi Mu hadn’t experienced this kind of a warm feeling since a long time.