"Sometimes a fit of an irresistible cough takes over her… and she starts to gasp for breath. But, she seems to be in a good mood today. She has gone to the seashore along with the children to wash shelled shrimps." Black Yu was startled for a moment. He then forced a smile, and spoke while scratching his head.
"This is for you, Elder Brother Black Yu. You should take sister-in-law to a good doctor for a proper treatment," Shi Mu pulled out three golden leaves from his clothes, and handed them over to him as he spoke.
Black Yu gazed at the golden leaves in his hand; they were emitting a golden radiance. He was dumbfounded for a moment. He had never seen such a big amount of money even in his dreams.
"Mu... Mu… I... I can’t accept this… this is..." Black Yu remained motionless. Then, his face turned red, and he stammered in a low voice.
Shi Mu smiled and pushed the money into his hand. Black Yu wanted to refuse it. But, he couldn’t budge due to an irresistible force.
Black Yu declined the golden leaves over and over again. But, he eventually had to receive them.
His wife was afflicted with a lung disease. But, they didn’t have enough money to go to the big county and visit a good doctor. They had been dragged down by this. But now, he had unexpectedly received such a big gift from Shi Mu; he would remain grateful to him forever. He couldn’t bring himself to speak anything for a while.
Shi Mu smiled and broke the ice by talking about old things. Black Yu’s mood was lifted, and his awkwardness gradually subsided. Soon, an intermittent burst of laughter of the two men was heard from time-to-time… as if they had returned in the old times.
After an hour…
There was a nameless mound somewhere inside the fishing village. Shi Mu knelt down in front of his mother’s grave with deep veneration. He then tossed the bundle of leather to one side of the bushes.
"Mother, your undutiful son Mu has come to see you.
"Your dear Mu has officially joined a Sect. He has now become a genuine martial warrior. I’m still far from the pledge that I made to you… but you rest assured that I’ll definitely succeed.
"Oh, that’s right, your son Mu has taken a fancy to a girl. He fell in love with her at first sight. You once told me that if I ever bump into a girl who would make me fall for her… then I must express my feelings to her immediately. So, Mu has already told his feelings to her. She promised me that I can go to look for her if I step into the Xian Tian before turning thirty-year-old...
"Mu would surely bring her here to meet you once he marries her…"
Shi Mu continued to kneel for an hour or more. He blurted out the things that he had concealed in his heart all these years in front of his mother’s grave. He then felt comfortable in his heart.
He knocked his head thrice on the ground. He then stood-up, and drew his black blade from his back. After that, he started to wield it rapidly.
A shrill air-piercing sound rang out. The black blade shadows started to whirl around his entire body at the same time. A cold and crude black whirlwind rolled out on the flat surface of the land along with the movements of his feet.
Shi Mu’s magic power rushed towards his black blade with full force as he issued a loud shout. Then, a spurt of blazing flames emerged on his blade’s surface; they were one foot high.
The momentum of his blade gradually grew faster. The shadows swirling around him gradually transformed into a fiery dragon, and started to sway around his body in an erratic manner. Then, his blade attained its maximum speed.
Shi Mu hacked his blade downwards toward a vacant piece of land with his full strength.
‘Boom!’ A loud sound was heard.
Suddenly, a burst of blazing flames exploded in the place where his blade had just hacked. This explosion blew up the surrounding things in all directions. A big pit was blasted open in the ground at the same time; it was almost five feet deep.
Shi Mu nodded in satisfaction. Then, his right hand moved, and slipped the black blade back into its scabbard.
Shi Mu’s stature flashed. Then, he started to bombard his fists in the air.
A pair of translucent fists appeared in the air – like a crystal jade; as if he was fighting with someone. He continued to shot his fists at various angles without any pause. Shi Mu’s mighty force caused a little vibration every time he shot his fists into the air. ‘Ping! Ping!’ A muffled sound of fists continued to resound for some more time.
Shi Mu’s stature continued to flash forward and backwards in a brisk manner. He continued to change his direction. His statured flashed from one place to another – like a bolt of lightning. The area within the scope of ten feet was completely shrouded by numerous densely-packed shadows of his white fists.
Shi Mu finally sprang-up from the ground after some time, and pounded his fists towards a nearby tree; it was as thick as a bucket.
‘Boom!’ A loud rumbling sound rang out.
The tree trembled, and collapsed to the ground.
Shi Mu stood motionless. His face revealed a hint of recollection. He still remembered the day when he had struck a tree as thick as a bowl with all his strength before leaving the village. But, his punch had only left a one-and-a-half inch deep fist-trace on the tree.
A hint of smile bloomed across his face. He turned around and went straight to his mother's grave. He knelt down before her grave once again, and heavily knocked his head thrice on the ground. After that, he got-up, picked-up the bundle of leather and departed.
Shi Mu’s heart moved after he had taken a few steps. It seemed as if something had crossed his mind.
He turned around, and scudded down the mountain in a certain direction.
He arrived at the seashore bristling with rocky reefs after a quarter-of-an-hour. He looked for a covert crevice, and hid his leather bundle inside it.
He then walked towards the sea. Then, he vanished into the sea.
Shi Mu swam deeper towards the seabed – like a long fish. A string of air bubbles continued to burst out of his mouth throughout the way.
He was born in a fishing village. So, his swimming ability was exceptionally good. Moreover, he had been able to breathe in the water because of the bitter experience that he had gone through in his early years. He had reached into the depths of the sea in no time.
The place before his eyes was pitch-dark; so much so that he couldn’t even see his fingers.
Shi Mu stood firm on the seabed. Suddenly, an idea crossed his mind. Then, his eyes turned into a pair of golden pupils, and the seabed became crystal-clear before his eyes.
He estimated his current position in his mind. After that, he started to advance towards a certain direction.
He stopped at the bottom of the water after a short while, and stood on the supple sand in a steady manner.
"It should be somewhere here."
Shi Mu looked around, and soon found the thing that he was looking for – a piece of seventy or eighty feet long reef of stone. It stood upright a dozen or more meters away, and was shrouded by seaweed.
Shi Mu’s eyes lit-up brightly. He then slowly walked over.
This reef of stone was the same one that had the big clam suppressed underneath it a few years back. That big clam was now in the possession of Xiang Zhu – the Saintess of the East China Sea.
It could also be considered as a turning point in Shi Mu’s life.
Suddenly, a golden gleam glittered in his eyes.
There was a tiny angle at the bottom of this gigantic reef, which revealed a hint of dark color. That color was different from the dark-gray surface of the reef.
Shi Mu’s heart moved. He pushed the seabed with his feet, and accelerated his speed. He then started to swim, and soon arrived in front of the reef.
He squatted down, and carefully observed the reef for a moment. He found that its color was indeed different. It seemed that there was something at the bottom of the reef.
He moved two steps forward in order to stand-up. He then grabbed the prominent and protruded part of the reef with his hands. The Real Qi within his body surged up violently. After that, he pushed the reef forward with his full strength.
‘Bang!’ A series of loud rumbling sounds rang out.
The current of water at the bottom of sea rushed forth violently. Then, the huge reef crashed down – like a huge tree – with a loud sound.
Shi Mu’s vision hovered around. Then, it fell on a black stone; it was as big a watermelon. It was embedded in the bottom of the reef.
The surface of the stone was pitch-black in color. It seemed quite ordinary at the first glance. But, a flow of black light could be faintly seen on its surface if someone glued his eyes on it for some time. It was apparently a precious treasure; it was far from being ordinary.
Shi Mu continued to gaze at the stone for some time; a strange feeling sprouted in his heart. This stone seemed familiar to him; as if he had seen it somewhere before.
Suddenly, his right hand flashed and drew his black blade from his back. Then, he moved it closer to the black stone.
The texture of both the things was exactly the same.
Shi Mu’s heart blazed with ecstasy. The material of this stone was the same meteoric iron that had been used to forge his black blade. No wonder this boulder was exceptionally heavy.
Shi Mu wielded his right hand with all his strength. Three or four black blade lights fled from his blade, and rushed towards the left and right sides. It left a precise and slanted cut at the place where the black stone and the reef were touching each other. He did so in order to dig out the black meteoric iron from the reef.
‘Whoosh!’ The black stone got separated, and fell down from the reef with a whooshing sound.
Shi Mu then used his black blade to brush the gravels away from the surface of the black stone. An irregular ball-shaped black meteoric iron appeared in front of him; it was as big as a watermelon.
Shi Mu turned his hand, and drilled his black blade back into the scabbard – like a quick snake. He then bent down, and clasped the meteoric iron with both his hands.
His heart fluttered with a fit of excitement. This piece of meteoric iron was a lot heavier than his black blade. His strength had seen an exponential increase. Moreover, his black blade had received some damages during the fight with the three-headed python. So, he would use this stone to re-build his blade.
It could be said that Shi Mu had found an unexpected delight!
The water on the shore started to sway up and down after a while. Moreover, a string of air bubbles started to emerge on the surface of the water.
Then, the upper body of a man emerged out of the surface of the water with a splash. He proceeded towards the shore with a watermelon-sized black stone in his hand.
It was Shi Mu.
Shi Mu showed-up at Black Yu’s house with a huge bundle of leather on his back and a black meteoric iron in his hand half-an-hour later. He then directly entered into his house.
He returned to his broken wooden house after dinner. He then tidied-up the old bed. After that, he sat down cross-legged on the bed, and let his tired eyes rest a little.
Black Yu delivered a twenty feet long iron chain early in the next morning.
Shi Mu returned to his house and picked-up the chain once Black Yu departed. Then, he narrowed his eyes in order to examine it.
The iron chain was as thick as an adult human’s arm. But, the quality of its material was very ordinary. Shi Mu had requested Black Yu to go to the village, and look for a blacksmith who could make this chain over the night.
He then carried the black meteoric iron, and started to tie it up with the chain. The blade took the form a meteoric hammer after a moment.
Shi Mu held the chain with his left hand, and lifted it up conveniently. He finally nodded in satisfaction once he had tested it from all sides.
At the noon of the same day… at the entrance of the village…
Shi Mu sat inside a horse-drawn black carriage.
His gaze slowly swept towards the village that was tranquil as always. He then anxiously looked at the old dog that stood at the entrance of the village; it was looking towards Shi Mu. A trace of perplexed look flickered across Shi Mu’s eyes.
His eyes finally congealed, and his face revealed a firm and resolute expression after a long while.
Two healthy horses issued a neighing sound, and sped away toward the distance as Shi Mu pulled their reins.
There was a huge gate at the entrance to Feng city in Quan Zhou Prefecture. Pedestrians were constantly passing through this gate – like an endless stream. It seemed to be much livelier and prosperous than before.
A burst of hurried sounds of horses’ hoof was heard from the distance. The sound was coming from a black carriage that was being drawn by horses. The carriage quickly arrived in front of the city gate.
A pair of magnificent dark horses were pulling this cart. Both the horses were sweating profusely. They were breathing heavily; as if they had been pulling an exceptionally heavy thing.
A grey-robed young man could be seen sitting in the carriage.
He had big eyes and bushy eyebrows. His facial features were distinct. It was none other than Shi Mu. He had travelled from the Quan Zhou Prefecture to this place.
A trace of reminiscent look glittered across Shi Mu’s face as he looked at the city gate in front of him.
He then flicked the reins, and the carriage slowly trod into the gate. It advanced towards the city in a certain direction.
Shi Mu had arrived at Feng City in order to see Aunt Zhen and Sister Shi Yu Huan. He knew that they had got trapped into a difficult situation because of him. So, Shi Mu was a little concerned about them.
The carriage slowly moved along the main street of the Feng City. Shi Mu continued to look around. He couldn’t help but let out a sigh deep in his heart.
Shi Mu was just an ordinary martial warrior who had barely gained insight into Qi-sensing when he and Zhong Xiu had been forced out of Feng City by the Jin Family.
The time had gradually passed. The surrounding scenery illustrated that this city hadn’t undergone any change. However, Shi Mu had undergone a drastic transformation. He was no longer a young boy who was at the initial phase of the martial arts.