A carriage was parked in the vicinity of a small brook. A bonfire was ignited beside the brook. A young man sat cross-legged in front of the bonfire. He held his hands in a strange pose.
The blazing flame flickered and illuminated the resolute facial features of the young man.
The young man was none other than Shi Mu.
The silver rays of moonlight were converging and integrating into Shi Mu’s body.
Shi Mu’s body quivered after a while. He then opened his eyes; his face revealed a hint of gladness.
He was on his way to the Black Demon Sect. He would forge ahead with his journey during the daytime, and would devote his nights to the practice of the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants. However, he practiced the Moon Swallowing Art on the moonlit nights.
Shi Mu hadn’t wasted even a moment during the entire journey.
However, he couldn’t figure out the strange thing that had happened to him during his last incarnation into the white ape in the restricted area. Now, he could absorb the silver luster of the moonlight while practicing the Moon Swallowing Art with a faster speed than before.
He had left from the Holy Snow Palace a few months back. He had since condensed a broad bean-sized crystal grain in his mind.
He felt soothed by the wisp of cold energy emitted by the crystal grain.
Shi Mu had also reached the fourth stage of the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power. He now intended to continue to absorb the essence of the moonlight for some more time. After that, he would attempt to break through the bottleneck of the fifth layer of this Art. But, this wasn’t the right time to execute that.
Shi Mu stopped practicing the Moon-Swallowing Art. He then took out a Bone-Tempering Pill and a Blood-Strengthening Pill from his clothes. After that, he started to practice the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants in order to refine the efficacy of these pills.
Shi Mu had reached the bottleneck of the tenth stage of the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants. Now, his breakthrough seemed to be close at hand since he had the pills to support his practice.
A little time passed. The trace of a white-ish color had suffused the horizon of the morning sky. Shi Mu opened his eyes, and sprang-up to go.
The flow of Real Qi within his body was similar to water droplets that had nearly overflowed their container. Suddenly, a wave of valiant forces burst forth from his body. He felt a tingling sensation in his bones. It became difficult for him to bear with this feeling of uneasiness; he wanted to shout out in agony.
He issued a loud shout. His meteoric hammer lay on one side. He grabbed it, and brandished it towards the river bank.
The huge meteoric hammer started to dance around his body in a violent manner – like a black dragon. The hammer seemed like a turbulent storm as it burst out and swept across a hundred feet in range.
The gust of howling wind started to roll-up the dust from the ground. The incredible might of wind also stirred-up the river-water, and set-off several waves.
A loud rumbling sound was heard.
The meteoric hammer struck a piece of a boulder by the river back, and smashed it. The boulder was as big as a millstone.
Suddenly, Shi Mu stopped moving. He seemed to be bored of his solo and monotonous practice.
Suddenly, the figure of Yan Luo flashed across his mind. His eyes brightened, and he began to read a magic spell aloud.
A cloud of black smoke emerged out of thin air after a while. A skeleton’s silhouette flashed amid it. Then, Yan Luo’s stature appeared into the sight.
"Yan Luo, accompany me in practicing the martial arts," Shi Mu commanded Yan Luo. Then, he waved his arm, and the meteoric hammer flung towards Yan Luo’s chest; as if a black dragon had darted out of its den. The hammer swept towards Yan Luo, and it carried a strong gust of wind along with it.
"… Right!" Suddenly, an indistinct thought popped-up in Shi Mu’s mind.
His complexion changed. He pulled back the meteoric hammer in order to stop its pace. The hammer’s head stopped a foot away from Yan Luo’s body.
"You can... speak now?" He looked at the skeleton in front of him in astonishment.
Shi Mu eyes flashed as he noticed that the color of Yan Luo’s soul-flames looked different. They had turned into sky-blue in color. Moreover, they bore a ray of light that looked relatively quick-witted than before.
"Yes…" Yan Luo’s indistinct voice was heard. Then, its soul-flames flickered as it shot a glance towards the beast soul bag that hung around Shi Mu’s waist.
"There’s no beast soul inside it," Shi Mu said with a wry smile.
Yan Luo’s soul-flames turned a bit gloomy. It seemed as if it had become disappointed.
"As expected!" Shi Mu muttered to himself secretly.
Yan Luo had never exhibited such a quick response in the past. It seemed as if its intelligence had evolved along with its strength.
However, this discovery didn’t come as a surprise to Shi Mu since he had already expected this. Shi Mu didn’t look at Yan Luo’s intelligence and quick response as a misdemeanor.
Shi Mu shrugged-off all these thoughts from his mind. He then flicked his arm.
Then, the meteoric hammer galloped forward towards Yan Luo – like a dragon.
Shi Mu hadn’t yet practiced any martial art that could improvise the efficacy of his hammer. But, he gradually started to try and explore a few techniques to use his hammer in a more efficient manner.
The hammer fluttered, and spun all around in an erratic manner. It seemed as if it was drifting from place-to-place.
Yan Luo’s stature flashed, and shifted to one side. It moved ten feet away in a flash, and avoided the hammer’s attack.
Shi Mu’s face revealed a trace of a smile. He then flicked his arm, and the hammer transformed into several shadows. The shadows swept towards Yan Luo from different directions.
The hammer-shadows arrived in front of Yan Luo before it could steady itself. Shi Mu had expected Yan Luo to dodge this blow as well.
The soul-flames in Yan Luo’s eyes flashed, and the bone-spear in its hand transformed into several white spear shadows. These shadows rushed from several directions to launch a converging attack.
‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ a series of loud metal clanging sounds rang out in the air.
Shi Mu’s hammer was extremely heavy. Yan Luo's bone-spear was almost ten times lighter than this meteoric hammer.
Therefore, the spear’s formation was crushed into several small pieces. However, his spear struck a few hammer shadows that had raided from different directions. A few hammer shadows shook as a result of this, and dispersed. In the meantime, Yan Luo’s stature flashed, and dodged a few hammer-shadows by a hair’s breadth. Then, it flew to escape the remaining hammer-shadows.
Shi Mu’s eyebrows snapped into a frown. He had unleashed two powerful attacks back-to-back. They were quite simple, but Shi Mu had poured-out the entirety of his strength in those attacks. Surprisingly, Yan Luo had evaded both of his attacks in a very convenient fashion.
Shi Mu’s complexion sank. The Real Qi within his body started to bubble-up. The violent dance of his hammer almost ascended to its extreme peak. Then, a number of hammer-shadows emerged in the air in a criss-cross pattern. After that, an increased number of hammer-shadows were shot. Almost a dozen or more black shadows floated in the air, and stormed towards Yan Luo – like a howling wind. They carried an overwhelming momentum and a majestic imposing aura that seemed to have the ability to even set-off an avalanche.
Suddenly, something strange happened. It left Shi Mu dumbstruck.
All of Shi Mu’s attacks had been dodged by Yan Luo; no matter how violent and ferocious they were. Intermittent bursts of wind were set-off by the hammer; this left the trees in the vicinity shaking for a while. Various kinds of dead and colorful leaves fell to the ground – like drizzle.
The sky was filled with swirling leaves and hammer-shadows. Yan Luo shuttled back-and-forth in the sky amidst them to evade the never-ending attacks. Its silhouette continued to move in a nimble manner.
Yan Luo would bow its head, and bend its waist. It would occasionally stretch the crook of its elbow. Each and every of his movement seemed agile and graceful; it seemed as if the wind was blowing and brushing against a willow tree. The flame of the bonfire hadn’t extinguished as yet. The white bones of Yan Luo’s body were shining like gems against the background of the blazing flames.
It could be stated that Yan Luo was dancing instead of dodging the attacks. This scene seemed similar to that of a man flying amid the wind… or a swimming dragon that had been painted by a scholar.
The forest, the river-bank, the blazing bonfire, the swirling dead leaves, a man with a dancing hammer, and a scuttling skeleton… this sketched out a strange yet a conspicuous and spectacular scene to behold.
‘Clang!’ A dull thumping sound was heard.
Yan Luo pounded its bone-spear on the hammer’s iron chain. It forced the hammer’s head to turn towards another side. The hammer slightly deviated from its original path, and brushed past Yan Luo’s body.
Shi Mu’s vision flashed, and he pounced forward. He pulled the black blade out of its sheath at the same time.
Thirteen black blade-light swept towards Yan Luo with a flash.
The bone-spear in Yan Luo’s hand trembled, and a white light appeared. It darted forward while streaking across an arc in the air, and stabbed the thirteen blade-lights.
A loud metal clanging sound was heard.
The thirteen blade-lights were routed and dispersed in an instant. Moreover, a wisp of massive force travelled through the black blade, and rushed towards Shi Mu. Shi Mu draw a step backwards in a reluctant manner.
Yan Luo’s body flew ten feet backwards – like a cotton wad drifting in the gentle wind. Then, its feet gracefully landed on the ground.
Shi Mu’s complexion changed a few times. He then dropped the plan to launch any more attacks on Yan Luo.
Yan Luo’s offensive and defensive moves had vividly demonstrated that its strength had far surpassed Shi Mu’s present strength.
This practice-match was enough to judge that Yan Luo hadn’t even displayed half of its strength. In fact, Shi Mu might fail to defeat Yan Luo even if he activated the strength of his totem.
"Haha…!" Suddenly, Shi Mu burst into a loud laughter.
Yan Luo tilted its head, and gazed at Shi Mu. It seemed as if it had some doubts.
Shi Mu’s heart brimmed with excitement as he realized that Yan Luo’s strength had even surpassed his own. The more formidable Yan Luo was… the more advantageous it would be for Shi Mu. Such a formidable Xian Tian Master as Shi Mu’s training partner would greatly benefit him in his martial arts promotion.
Shi Mu turned his head and looked around. The sky had regained its apparent white luster by now.
Shi Mu was currently at the common border of the Da Qi and the Yan Kingdom. This place was in a wilderness, but it wasn’t desolate and uninhabited.
Shi Mu waved his hand, and sent Yan Luo back to its strange world. Then, he packed-up his luggage to depart.
Shi Mu waited until the sky was smeared with clear brightness. After that, he drove the cart, and forged ahead in the direction of the Black Demon Sect.
Six months later…
The bright moon sprinkled its soft and soothing luster across the earth. There were bushes alongside the main road. A horse-drawn carriage was parked therein. A pair of yellow horses stood beside the carriage. They occasionally swung their tails from side-to-side. They were leisurely gnawing at green grasses in the moonlit night.
Shi Mu sat cross-legged in the open land nearby his carriage.
The moonlight crystal grain in his mind had eventually grown to a bigger size after six months of unceasing and painstaking practice; it was now almost the size of a Soapberry.
Shi Mu glanced at the full moon in the sky. He then closed his eyes, and slipped into his dreamland.
The white ape stood on a silver boulder; its hands were held-up, and it exhibited the pose of the Moon-Swallowing Art. The milky-white creamy whirlpool in its mind was unceasingly gobbling-up the stream of moonlight essence that was seeping into its body.
The thing that seemed a little strange to Shi Mu was the duration of the practice. It was unusually longer this time; so much so that Shi Mu was almost bored to tears. Therefore, he forced himself to calm his mind, and pleased his eyes with the mesmerizing scenery of the mountain.
An indefinite period of time passed, and Shi Mu suddenly felt that something wasn’t right.
He was left surprised as he perceived something. The crystal grain in the white ape’s mind had grown to a considerably bigger size – it was almost as big as a duck’s egg.
Shi Mu had a premonition that something bad was about to happen.
Then, he realized something.
He noticed that the moonlight essence was streaming into the milky white liquid whirlpool in a continuous manner. However, this didn’t cause any change in the size of the crystal grain. In fact, the liquid whirlpool continued to grow denser and murkier.
A streak of white light appeared in the center of the pool as the radiance of creamy whirlpool grew brighter. After that, the light beam fled from the top of the head of the white ape; it was dozens of feet high.
Then, the big crystal grain slowly rose from the white light beam. It passed through the acupuncture point that was at top of the head of the white ape, and stayed at the peak of the light beam.
Then, the crystal grain started to rotate with a fast speed. It was exuding a misty white beam of light in the air. Soon, a large number of white luminous balls permeated the sky; as if a tide of crystal grains had surged-up in the air.
The white radiance of the crystal grain became even brighter with the passage of time. Moreover, its vigor and imposing aura seemed more awe-inspiring; there wasn’t the slightest sign of instability in it.
Suddenly, the white ape raised its head, and issued a loud roar. Then, the sky turned dark.
Shi Mu opened his eyes the next moment.
The first thought that crossed Shi Mu’s mind was that it seemed to be an incomplete dream.
His creased his eyebrows, and carefully recalled his dream. He then vaguely realized something.
Shi Mu then closed his eyes once again, and entered the dreamland.
He woke up after half-an-hour. His heart was throbbing a little. He then shook his head.
Shi Mu repeated this process several times. A strange ray of light flashed across his eyes as he woke-up from his dream the eleventh time. It seemed as if he had grabbed the essence of the story.
He then slipped into the dreamland once again. He finally saw everything clearly… everything that had happened when the sky had turned gloomy in his dream. The majority of the radiance of the moonlight had been absorbed by the white ape right after it had roared!