The blue soul-flames in Yan Luo’s eyes flickered, and then stabilized. Its soul-flames seemed to have gained some strength. Moreover, their color had turned into sky-blue.
A layer of faint radiance emerged on the surface of the bone-spear in Yan Luo’s hand. The spear-head was glistening with a dazzling yet cold luminescence; as if it had grown more incisive than before. In addition, a few charm characters were carved on its surface; they looked like earthworms.
Shi Mu couldn’t comprehend the situation clearly. Yan Luo was a human-skeleton whom he had always neglected. He couldn’t even comprehend when Yan Luo had made such a wonderful attainment, and had advanced to the Xian Tian realm. It had even surpassed Shi Mu in terms of its cultivation-level. Now, Yan Luo had swallowed-up a number of beast-souls. And, it didn’t seem to be far from breaking through the middle-stage of the Xian Tian realm.
The beast-souls from Shi Mu’s bag had disappeared at the time when he had woken up in front of the three-headed python cave’s entrance. And, Shi Mu had now come to realize that Yan Luo must’ve consumed the beast-souls he had gathered back then.
The soul-flames in Yan Luo’s eyes had become tranquil by this time. It took a step forward, and walked to Shi Mu’s side. After that, it hung the beast soul bag back on his waist. However, it continued to fumble with Shi Mu’s waist; as if it wanted to find something else.
"There’s nothing else. All the beast-souls have already been consumed by you," Shi Mu said in a dumbfounded tone as he prevented Yan Luo from further exploration. He didn’t seem to know if he should laugh or cry.
Shi Mu even pushed Yan Luo a few times. Yan Luo finally gave-up. It shook its wandering head, and then stood to one side.
Shi Mu had kept these beast-souls in order to make progress in the secret totem technique. He needed to refine these beast-souls and transform them into his own energy so that they could easily be absorbed by his sealed totem.
He had planned to wait until his cultivation had got promoted as required. After that, he had to enhance the strength of the three-headed python totem with the help of those beast-souls. Unfortunately, all the beast-souls had been devoured by Yan Luo.
Shi Mu sighed. Suddenly, his flickering gaze gleamed with a pleasantly surprised look.
Yan Luo had forged its way into the Xian Tian realm. This signified that it had become a formidable support for Shi Mu. After all, the strength of the contract still existed.
It seemed that Yan Luo could enhance its strength at an alarming rate through the absorption of beast-souls. Moreover, it didn’t require to refine the beast-souls into energy.
Therefore, Shi Mu could hunt more ominous beast-souls, and collect their souls for Yan Luo’s rapid growth. Then, he could help Yan Luo to quickly escalate its strength by absorbing the collected beast-souls.
Shi Mu arrived in front of Yan Luo, and established a communication with it through his mind.
Yan Luo had already attained the strength of a Xian Tian primary-stage warrior. But, its intelligence didn’t seem to have made a progress. Its intelligence was still at the level of a six or a seven-year-old kid. However, Shi Mu succeeded in pulling out some fragmented information from Yan Luo’s mind. He put those scattered pieces together, and perceived the way through which Yan Luo had stepped into the Xian Tian realm. It was now clear to Shi Mu that Yan Luo had achieved this feat mostly through the consumption of souls.
Shi Mu interacted with Yan Luo through his mind. But, he became exhausted after some time. He then sat down cross-legged, and instructed Yan Luo to keep a watch on his magic weapons. After that, he began to practice.
Now, Shi Mu didn’t have to worry about anything since he had Yan Luo – a Xian Tian warrior – by his side.
The night passed away quickly.
Shi Mu opened his eyes as the color of the sky resumed its brightness. His eyes were emitting two cold lights.
He then adjusted his breathing as he had been sitting in meditation for the entire night. His body supplemented the black Qi that had eroded due to over-extraction. His cultivation had also made a little progress.
Yan Luo still stood calmly to one side while holding the spear in its hand.
Shi Mu was about to stand-up, but he felt slightly giddy; as if a spell of dizziness had been cast upon his consciousness.
He smiled wryly at the thought that Yan Luo had become a Xian Tian warrior. So, summoning it to this world required an enormous consumption of Shi Mu’s spiritual power. Moreover, his spiritual power wouldn’t be able to endure if he still tried to hold Yan Luo here for a few hours.
He waved his hand to make Yan Luo return to the Dead Spirit World. After that, he remained seated with his legs crossed for some more time. Then, he forged ahead towards the Wonderful Sound Sect.
After half-a-month… in the Chen Prefecture of the Da Qi Kingdom… in the depths of Lingshang Mountains…
Shi Mu looked towards the two purple mountain peaks in front of him; they were shrouded in a layer of purple mist. He felt a fit of fluctuation in his heart.
He retracted his vision after a moment. He then strode in the direction of the left purple peak.
The mountain-road was narrow and very difficult to tread on. Therefore, Shi Mu abandoned his horse-cart before he entered the depths of the purple Lingshang Mountains. He carried the bundle of leather on his back, and tied-up the meteoric iron to his left arm.
He finally arrived at the foot of the mountain after some time. He looked-up only to see the cloud of purple mist everywhere. There was a ten-feet-wide bluestone mountain-road that meandered all the way to the top of the mountain.
There was a wooden pavilion on the roadside. Two green silhouettes could be seen sitting in the pavilion. But, it was hard to see them clearly as the entire area was shrouded in a cloud of mist.
Shi Mu kept walking. He proceeded towards them along the mountain-road. The two green silhouettes sprang-up as Shi Mu arrived closer to the pavilion. Their statures rose and fell a few times before they arrived in front of him, and blocked his way.
The two silhouettes turned out to be two girls who were dressed in the Heavenly Sound Sect’s uniform. One of them was a fifteen or sixteen-year-old girl; she looked extremely beautiful. The other one was a tall girl. She was also pretty, but her lips were slightly thinner.
The aura around these two maidens didn’t seem formidable. They were probably at the primary-stage of the Hou Tian realm.
"Stop right there. This is the entrance to the Heavenly Sound Sect. Everyone isn’t allowed to climb-up the mountain," the beautiful girl stretched out her left hand, and shouted at Shi Mu in a commanding tone.
"I’m Shi Mu – a disciple of the Black Demon Sect. I’ve come here to look for a female disciple. Her name is Zhong Xiu. I would request the two of you to let me pass," Shi Mu stopped and replied with a faint smile.
"Taking Lady Zhong's name is a taboo. How can you speak her name so casually? Moreover, not everyone can meet her," the girl with thin lips retorted before the beautiful girl could speak anything.
Shi Mu was dumbstruck as he heard the words – "Lady Zhong". Suddenly, he remembered the matter pertaining to her entry in the sect. Ye Hong Yao had once mentioned this matter before him. So, he felt relieved in his heart.
"This is the order-token of the Seven Sect’s Union. It’s very important for me to meet her. So, you must look for your Lady Zhong," Shi Mu pulled out a seven-angled purplish-golden token from his bosom, and said lightly.
"So, Brother Shi is the Union’s messenger. In that case… please come along with me to the mountains," the girl with thin lips twitched the tips of her eyebrows and said. The eyes of the beautiful girl brightened-up; she quickly shot a meaningful glance at the thin-lipped girl.
The beautiful girl pulled the other girl close to her, and whispered a few words in her ear. She then turned around, and flashed a faint smile towards Shi Mu. After that, she took the lead and proceeded to climb-up the mountain.
The girl with thin lips looked towards Shi Mu in an awkward manner and smiled. After that, she returned to the pavilion.
But, Shi Mu remained expressionless. He quietly received the order-token, and put it in his bosom. After that, he followed after the beautiful girl, and started to climb-up the mountain.
An antique welcome-pavilion appeared on the roadside after a short while.
"Brother Shi Mu, I admit that I didn’t act sensibly… and neglected you. Anyways, you take some rest here. As you know Lady Zhong commands a very honorable position. So, let this little girl go and inform her first." The girl led Shi Mu towards the welcome-pavilion. She then turned around, and spoke in an apologetic tone.
"No problem," Shi Mu replied with a faint smile.
Both of them had arrived at the pavilion whilst talking. The girl smiled at Shi Mu, and then departed.
Shi Mu sat down in the pavilion in a calm and comfortable manner. He leisurely swept his vision towards the mountains. He could faintly see the summit of the purple palace and numerous lofty flying bridges.
A green silhouette hurriedly swept down the mountain’s top after a while, and proceeded towards the direction of the pavilion.
Then, an exceptionally pretty maiden appeared outside the pavilion. Her skin was snowy-white in color. She looked at Shi Mu with a happy expression on her face.
The maiden had long and dark hair that was gracefully floating in the wind. The black-shade of her elegant eyebrows looked natural on her face. A pair of beautiful eyes – looking as bright as limpid autumn water – had the power to even arouse the soul of a dead. Her jade-like refined nose stood erect on her pretty face. Her pure-white oval face seemed extremely delicate and graceful – like a piece of snow. Moreover, her perfectly sketched and slender figure – looking like a willow tree – bore a resemblance to a heavenly fairy.
"You’re... Zhong Xiu? Where’s the birthmark on your forehead?" Shi Mu was dumbfounded. He asked subconsciously.
The space between her eyebrows resembled that of Zhong Xiu’s. Otherwise, Shi Mu wouldn’t have believed that this incomparably pretty girl was the shy and feeble little girl from his past.
"Brother Shi, I’m Zhong Xiu. I’ve learnt the ‘Art of Thousand Jade Sound-waves’ from my Master. The birthmark gradually disappeared from my forehead as I started to practice it. What’s the matter? Do I look ugly?" A hint of happiness flashed across her pupils as she saw Shi Mu’s expression. She took three or four steps forward, and entered the pavilion. She then sat down beside Shi Mu, and replied with a playful smile.
"It’s nothing like that. Sister Zhong looked very gorgeous back then. Now, she looks even more beautiful – like an angel. I almost didn’t recognize you. I had never expected that you would make your way to the Hou Tian consummate-stage within a few years. You should now let your Brother catch up with you, ah!" Shi Mu quickly resumed his composure. He sensed that this girl’s cultivation had already advanced to the Hou Tian consummate-stage. So, he touched his nose and spoke.
"Hehe… My Elder brother Shi is already too fierce to deal with. I heard that you had been to the barbarians’ forbidden area in order to help Princess Huo Wu to form an alliance with the barbarians. You helped in resolving such a big crisis of our race. You’ve indeed made a remarkable contribution. You’ve now become a celebrity within the Seven Big Sects!" Zhong Xiu giggled while gazing at the extraordinary splendor in Shi Mu’s eyes.
"Hehe… That was just a lucky move… that I made in desperation," Shi Mu smiled bitterly, and replied while shaking his head.
Zhong Xiu was surprised. She wanted to ask more to get a better clarity. But, she didn’t dig into the details as she noticed Shi Mu’s reluctance to recount this incident. Suddenly, her eyes fell on something. She stretched out her hand to pick-up the fallen leaf from Shi Mu’s shoulder.
Shi Mu subconsciously flicked his body backwards to avoid the touch. The fallen leaf floated in the air, and fell on the ground. Zhong Xiu's hand stopped in midair.
Suddenly, an air of awkwardness pervaded the Pavilion.
"Lady Zhong, I..."
"Oh, by the way, Brother Shi, I once went to the Black Turtle Sect to look for you. But, I came to know that a group of disciples had been kidnapped by the Black Demon Sect of the neighboring country on that day..." Zhong Xiu calmly retracted her hand, and said with a faint smile.
Shi Mu was moved as he heard these words. Then, a string of past events began to flow in their conversation. There was an awkwardness between them as they had met each other after a long time. But, that wall of awkwardness soon melted away. Then, intermittent bursts of laughter and giggles began to resound in the Pavilion.
"... Brother Shi, both of us have now joined a Sect… and have officially become the part of the martial arts world. But, the happiest moments of my life were when we lived together in the Jin’s mansion... By the way, what’s your next plan? " Zhong Xiu’s beautiful eyes turned as she said in a spooky manner.
"To be honest… there’s a girl whom I admire a lot. I don’t know her name yet. But, she once said that I can go to look for her once I break through the Xian Tian realm before turning thirty-years-old. So, I’ll return to my Sect… and devote more time to practice, "Shi Mu replied while scratching his head.
"So… that's how it is... then I would like to give Brother Shi my best wishes to step into the Xian Tian realm… and then happily embrace the beauty he admires. I too have to attack the bottleneck of the Xian Tian realm soon. So, I don’t know when we’ll meet again." Zhong Xiu’s elegant eyes revealed a trace of gloominess. She then said with a smile on her face.
"Oh, that’s right. This matter has almost slipped my mind. Lady Zhong, this is for you. This would help you in breaking through the bottleneck of the Xian Tian realm." Shi Mu tapped his head. Then, he pulled out a fist-sized fruit from his bosom, and passed it to her.
"Brother Shi, this… don’t tell me that it’s the Green Frost Fruit? It’s such a precious thing. You should keep it for your practice. I really don’t need it." Zhong Xiu was startled. She then said.
"Lady Zhong, you can accept it. I have one more with me." Shi Mu flashed a smile and fished out another Green Frost Fruit from his clothes.
"This… Brother Shi, thank you so much." A hint of redness bloomed across Zhong Xiu’s charming face as she saw another fruit.
Shi Mu felt relieved. Zhong Xiu was doing a lot better than what he had expected. Shi Mu conversed with her for some more time. He then bid her farewell, and set out on his journey.
Lady Zhong Xiu remained seated in the Pavilion for some time. She pressed the Green Frost Fruit against her chest. And, her beautiful pupils became hazy as she looked at Shi Mu’s departing figure.