Shi Mu showed no interest in the glittering shells as he swam straight to the boulder. He lifted one arm and knocked on it. The boulder release a puff of blood colored fog from the bottom. The fog, as if alive, swirled around the youth swiftly for some time, before it finally seeped into the youth’s body soundlessly. Shi Mu’s spirits began to be roused violently. After exhaling a long breath into the sea, he shockingly became able to breathe freely like a fish.
Then he quickly turned back to the rock where he dug out a rusty iron awl and chisel that he had hidden in the sand, then begun to cut a hole at the bottom of the rock.
The white glittering light made it possible to see a sea clam the size of a water tank had been trapped beneath the rock! The whole clam was as white as jade, and its surface casted out a color purer than moonlight. But it was crushed by the rock and was unable to move.
A hole had almost been completely chiseled out at one side of the rock’s bottom, which was slightly shaking consistent in tempo with the ocean's flow.
An hour passed as Shi Mu painstaking continued to expand the hole. Somewhat exhausted, he held his breath again and stopped his work as he turned and knocked on the rock again three times. This sent a signal to the huge clam, whose silver lustre began to glow brighter at each knock, after which a slit was forced open in the clam! Immediately a puff of blood fog rushed out of the slit to once again enshroud Shi Mu before being absorbed into his body and allowing him to breathe freely once again.
He then grabbed his tools and continued to toil away.
Shi Mu had discovered this huge white clam beneath the immense rock two years ago. It was exactly here at the bottom of the sea that he inhaled a coincidental puff of the blood fog for the first time, he found himself able to breathe freely in water for short amounts of time. Surprised, he knew that this was no ordinary clam, so he fetched a chisel and awl from home to chisel the bottom of the rock, intending to free the clam from confinement.
The clam seemed rather intelligent, as if it was aware of Shi Mu’s intention. Every time he felt it was began to be hard to breathe, a puff of blood fog would be ejected to help him breathe freely for another period. But the rock was too immense to conquer in a day. Moreover, even though he had no problem breathing in water, the sea limited the amount of strength he could exert. Coupled with the sheer density, size, and weight of the stone, the formidable task had only neared completion after two whole years.
During this period, Shi Mu gradually found that the blood fog of the clam was unexpectedly mysterious! The more fog he inhaled, the more time he could breathe freely in the sea. At first the effect of one puff only persisted for a short while, but now it had lengthened to a whole hour. Meanwhile, Shi Mu had made another discovery: the blood fog was not only helpful in breathing underwater, but also strengthened his body! He had been stuck at a bottleneck in practicing Body Tempering at the time due to his lack of herbs, but now he had reached level seven all the way up from level four! Furthermore, he slowly was being enlightened in the troubling things that used to puzzle him, which indicated that the fog was beneficial not only to his body but also to his mind. With this encounter, he began to grow even more mature than his peers. Or how could have this teenage boy have faced the blue-robed elder with such composure and to be able to rebuff his demands?
However this time he toiled until late at night, returning to his home in the village with an exhausted body. Usually he would rest for days between his sea journeys, but now that there was a pressing deadline to meet, he had to quicken his pace.
On the second day he jumped into the sea to continue his task. Then again on the third day, he again went to the deep sea!
Boom! With a shower of small lumps of stone, the boulder began to shake violently as it began to crack under its own weight and tipped over the to side which had been painstakingly chiseled out. The clam that was pressed underneath the boulder began to struggle out as its lustre grew stronger and wider.
Shi Mu was overjoyed at the sight and flailed his body and arms to move to the other side of the rock to avoid the falling rocks.
The creaks and cracks went on uninterruptedly. The boulder had nearly half collapsed as the clam struggled mightily to escape. But just then an undercurrent came from nowhere, rushing toward the direction where the boulder was breaking apart. After letting out loud explosions in rapid succession the boulder stopped collapsing upon itself and resumed its place! The half escaping clam was to be trapped again!
“No!!” Seeing this, Shi Mu shouted and lowered his body into the sand without thinking. His feet sunk half an inch deep as he worked his fist technique and pounded twice in quick succession on the rock. Meanwhile two dull sounds were heard. The youth’s fists had struck rock mightily, stirring the nearby sea water. Consequently, the boulder slowed its movement allowing the clam some more time before it fully crushed. So it seized the moment and escaped with a quick wiggle and disappeared into the sea in a glitter of white light, before the youth had even enough time to see it clearly.
Shi Mu stepped backward from the spot and felt his fists in great pain, his hands badly mutilated. He fell into shock and spat out a cloud of blood before falling into a coma. Just then the water nearby stirred, and the immense clam reappeared in a shower of white lights, its shell slowly opening, revealing a little girl with a blood pearl in her arms. The little girl looked age six or seven, was only three inches tall, and wore a gauze bellyband. She had fair skin, with eyes that glittered like the stars and a small, delicate face which had an expression of great gratitude after seeing the unconscious youth and his bleeding hands. She moved her beautiful lean arms to lift the blood pearl, whose silver lustre rapidly dispersed in all directions in ripples of light.
The next moment, shrill sounds were heard from the bottom of the sea as shells of all sizes flowed like an unstoppable wave to the youth’s body to lift him slowly up and out of the sea to the surface surface. After a while, the water parted and the youth finally was seen. The myriad shells then dispersed in an uproar, plummeting back into the sea.
The immense clam reappeared with a silver light. Its two shells were wide open; the little girl was once again visible. Seeing that the youth was still unconscious, she hesitated, looking at the blood pearl in her hand, then furrowed her brow as she set her mind on some decision before pushing the pearl towards the youth. The pearl swirled above the youth before releasing a big puff of blood fog!
Several days later, the little girl appeared at a sea some ten thousand miles away. Her height had grown into of an ordinary child this time, and was accompanied by a beautiful middle-aged woman in a blue court robe. The two were standing on a huge turtle the size of a house rushing at lightening speed into the deep sea, their flanks full of stirred waves.
The beautiful woman was holding the girl’s hand, her eyes full of tender affection for the girl. She kept saying, “My girl, if you had not run into me first I’m afraid you wouldn’t have been so lucky. Alas, you are the Heavenly Girl of the Celestial Clam, a born Water Adept! Even throughout the history of the East Sea this happens only once in ten thousand years. It seems that our East Sea Clan is destined to prosper! By the way, what’s your name, little girl? Where’s your heavenly pearl? They say that all Heavenly Girls of the Celestial Clam, must carry with them a Heavenly Pearl of Life, which is the best material to make an amulet...”
The girl babbled, her little hand kept making gestures at the woman.
“Oh, your name is Xiang Zhu. You sent the pearl to someone who saved your life? Well, it’s good to show your gratitude...Wait, your life-saver is a human? And he is a human male?! Remember my girl the male humans are the least reliable, next time you see them, smite them dead directly. Come, let’s take back the pearl...What? The Heavenly Pearl was contaminated by some strange blood long ago at the sea bottom and lost its power? Well, then, leave it to that human boy, he’s got a big bargain indeed. But from now on you are forbidden to see that man again......”
The woman’s voice grew increasingly inaudible as the two were carried far away by the huge turtle, their figures shrinking smaller and smaller until they were seen no more.
While unconsciousness, Shi Mu felt an overwhelming fever boiling his blood. His mouth was parched and tongue scorched and. With a sudden shout he sat up abruptly. Only then did he realize he was back at the silent, empty beach. He was stunned for a moment, and after a glance at his hands he was extremely taken aback. The back of his two hands should have been bleeding and mutilated, but now there were no scars at all. Instead they were smooth like a baby's' butt and intact.
Shi Mu turned his hands over to ascertain his situation, there came a strange feeling of the unusual flow in his blood. He could not help but feel as if his body has been changed. After thinking for a while a thought crossed his mind and he began to fumble with his clothes where he found a crystal-clear ball the size of his thumb near his chest.
“What is this?....”
He suspected, but was sure he had never carried such a thing before.
Of course Shi Mu was not aware that the blood fog puffed out of the clam belonged to the strange blood which had been contained within the girl’s Heavenly Pearl. Only one tenth of the blood had had been inhaled by Shi Mu, while the rest was forced out by the girl in order to heal his wounds completely. As to the heavenly pearl, it lost its heavenly power when the girl stopped suppressing the strange blood. Now it could only be considered as a rare luminous pearl, or the girl would not have left it to Shi Mu.
Shi Mu observed the pearl in his hand for a while. Feeling it’s rare softness and by the size of it, he knew it would be worth at least more than a couple cities could afford, so he hid it well in his clothes. During the rest of the night he jumped into the sea again, fumbling around the collapsed boulder to make sure that the clam had really escaped. Only when he was assured that it was gone did he slowly leave for his home in the village with a disappointed heart.
Three days later, in the morning, the blue-robed old man came back to the fishing village and after a while a black carriage, guarded by the black riders, galloped out of the village in the direction of Feng City.
 Xiang Zhu: The name means fragrant pearls.
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