"Look at the scale of this sandstorm. I’m afraid that it might not stop today. Everyone, prepare to take a break this evening. We’ll continue with our journey tomorrow," Jin Xiao Chai looked towards the entrance of the cave and said.
The other people complied. Each of them found a place, and sat down.
Shi Mu looked towards the cave’s entrance. He noticed some traces on the surface of the cave’s walls. It seemed that it was a man-made cave. It was dark inside the cave; so much so that nothing was visible. Moreover, it was uncertain where this cave was leading to.
Shi Mu seemed to be surprised. This place seemed to be a mining cave.
However, this cave wasn’t the only mining-cave in that place. They had already come across a number of similar mining-caves along their way; all of them had been in the periphery of the Black Rock Mountains. Moreover, the marks on these caves made it seem that they were ancient mines dating back several years. In fact, they had probably been abandoned hundreds of years ago.
The other people also sized-up the cave’s environment with a curious look in their eyes.
"This is an abandoned Spirit Stone mine. You people must’ve caught sight of several other similar mines on the way; they were the same." Jin Xiao Chai noticed everyone's facial expressions. She then said.
"Spirit Stones mine!" Shi Mu was left dumbfounded.
Shi Mu had gone through some of the ancient books of the barbarian race when he was in the Holy Snow Palace. So, he knew that the barbarian Wasteland was blessed with various kinds of metallic natural resources. But, he had never heard that the Wasteland was also blessed with rich Spirit Stones.
How could this place be in such a barren state if the barbarian race was so rich in Spirit Stones?
"These things really exist?" Mo Ning and the other three people looked flabbergasted.
"All this had been written down in some of the records of the Sect’s hidden history. Only the elders have access to them. You haven’t seen them. Those records don’t have anything particular that could make them standout in the crowd," Jin Xiao Chai explained.
"The barbarian Wasteland was a fertile land thousands of years ago as per the Sect’s secret historical records. And, it was blessed with spirit stones of the five elements in plentiful quantities. So, all the major Sects of the Central Mainland began to dispatch their people to these sites in order to extract resources. The land gradually lost its vitality due to the incessant excavation of resources, and turned into a bleak and desolate land that you see now, "Jin Xiao Chai continued to speak.
Shi Mu and the others nodded thoughtfully as they heard these words.
Shi Mu thought what would happen if a barbarian warrior would see this record in the Sect. He couldn’t help but sigh in his heart.
The barbarian Wasteland was reckoned as a restricted area thousands of years ago. It used to be laden with luxuriant vegetation and a beautiful green landscape back in those days. But, thousands of years had passed since that time.
These people were successful practitioners. So, they could live for much longer than an average human could. Some could even live for a hundred years or more. However, this time period was nothing more than a blip in the eyes of the planet.
The sandstorm was howling outside the cave in a continuous manner. So, everyone looked low-spirited.
The wild-goose is lamenting,
The long road seems never-ending.
My anger is soaring because of this weather,
I feel too weak and exhausted to get away from the Wasteland.
Courage and power have already exhausted,
Finally, the strength can’t rise again.
The body has already died, and the soul has departed.
Now the soul turns to ghost.
How many sorrows rise from the desolate earth,
I no longer return to my hometown. And, the attic-storied building is left all empty.
Bai Shui Xiu sat on one side. Suddenly, a soft humming voice resounded in the cave. The song was gentle. But, it revealed a feeling of impermanence of life. The song had a merciless feel to it.
Everyone seemed to be influenced by the song. So, they chimed-in one after another.
Only Jin Xian Chai’s eyes were still gazing outside the cave. It couldn’t be understood what she was thinking about.
A few people smiled as Bai Shui Xiu finally stopped singing. The gloomy atmosphere of the cave had become pleasant and lively by now.
"Hehe… Sister Bai is a prodigy in magic arts. But, I never thought that her voice would be extremely melodious and pleasant. This is the first time that I’ve heard Sister Bai sing," Qian Xiong smiled, and said in an appreciating tone.
"Brother Qian is making fun of me. This is a folk song from my hometown. So, it’s very close to my heart. It reminds me of some beautiful memories. I only hummed a few words unconsciously," Bai Shui Xiu replied with a smile.
"I still don’t know where Sister Bai’s hometown is," Qian Xiong went a bit closer to Bai Shui Xiu and asked.
Then, the two of them began to talk in soft voices. Qian Xiong looked a little dense and crazy. But, he was extremely talkative. His sparkling words soon started to tickle Bai Shui Xiu, and made her burst into a giggle. Consequently, her delicate laughter began to resound in the cave.
A gloomy expression flashed in Mo Ning’s eyes as he saw them talking blissfully. He then turned his head to the other side.
A trace of smile bloomed on Shi Mu’s face as he looked into the eyes of these three people. He then got-up, and walked into the depths of the mine. He sat down cross-legged once he was at a considerable distance from the other people.
Cai perched on his shoulder, and narrowed its eyes. It seemed as if it had fallen asleep.
The sky outside the cave was soon covered with a curtain of darkness. Qian Xiong and Bai Shui Xiu had stopped talking by now. And, each of them had started to look for a place to take rest.
Time passed slowly. Peace prevailed inside the cave at this time. Only soft breathing sounds could be heard inside the cave.
Shi Mu still sat cross-legged. Suddenly, he opened his eyes. Then, a scene emerged in his mind.
There was a huge underground cave. A blazing and fiery-red river of magma was slowly flowing inside it. Several fervent waves and air-bubbles were ascending from the magma in a frequent manner.
Surprisingly, a few fiery-red fishes could be seen swimming in this scorching river of magma.
"Shi Tou, hurry-up and come over here. There are some good things in the depths of the mine," the voice of the parrot rang in Shi Mu’s mind.
Shi Mu’s brows twitched as his vision swept towards the other people in the cave.
It was dark inside the cave; so much so that one couldn’t even see their own fingers. But, this darkness couldn’t have the slightest impact on Shi Mu.
Jin Xiao Chai, Mo Ning and others were either asleep or sitting in meditation.
Shi Mu got-up, and quietly walked into the depths of the mine.
Shi Mu’s silhouette soon disappeared. Jin Xiao Chai was sitting with her back rested against the stone-wall. Suddenly, she opened her eyes, and looked in the direction where Shi Mu was headed. A trace of astonishment streaked across her beautiful eyes. Then, she stood-up, and started to follow after him in stealth mode.
Shi Mu accelerated his pace once there was a considerable distance between him and the other people.
The depth of this cave had far surpassed Shi Mu’s expectation. He continued to walk forward for a quarter-of-an-hour. But, there was still no sign of an end to the cave.
The cave’s path gradually stretched downwards. The path had seven or eight twists and turns. But, there was only one road. So, there was no fear of taking the wrong path.
The temperature inside the cave started to rise as he continued to walk downwards.
The cave led him to an underground magma-river.
Shi Mu continued to walk downwards for seven or eight more minutes. Then, a passageway appeared before him. It was blocked by a huge block of rock. But, a few small holes could be seen on the surface of the big rock. Those holes revealed a red luminescence on the other side of the rock. It seemed that Shi Mu would have to pass through this place in order to reach the magma-river.
These rocks obviously couldn’t block his path. Shi Mu gently pressed his hands against that huge block of rock, and pushed it aside. He then quickly entered into the space.
He arrived at the underground cave. A scorching air-wave hit his face as soon as he entered the underground area. The air-wave was so hot that it could make anyone crazy.
It seemed as if the air within Shi Mu’s body was boiling hot every time he breathed in.
"Shi Tou, why did you come here?" Cai flew over, and landed on Shi Mu’s shoulder. Then, it shouted in an impatient manner.
But, Shi Mu remained silent. He felt extremely hot and difficult to stand at that place even with his extremely strong physique.
Suddenly, an idea crossed his mind. He then started to operate the Art of the Flaming Red Ape. After that, he inhaled a puff of scalding air-wave into his body. Suddenly, the sense of scalding-hot feeling disappeared without a trace.
Shi Mu’s face beamed with happiness. He inhaled a puff of scorching air of the magma once again. He felt a little stimulation in the Qi embryo inside his lower abdomen.
"Quack! Quack! It’s extremely hot here. Cai can’t stand it anymore. You suck away this scorching heat. Then, it would become much cooler," Cai shouted while flapping its wings.
"Cai, what are the good things that you were talking about?" Shi Mu asked without paying any attention to Cai’s words.
"You have no vision. You’re lucky that you became a top disciple of the Black Demon Sect," the parrot said while gazing at Shi Mu with squinted eyes.
Shi Mu shot a glaring look at the parrot.
"Well… well… I admit that whatever I said wasn’t good. Fine. Can you see fishes swimming in the magma? They’re the spirit beings that came into being due to the accumulation of fire-essence and underground evil spirits in this magma over a period of thousands of years," the parrot shrunk its neck, and said in a complacent tone.
"The fire-essence..." Shi Mu’s eyebrows twitched, and his eyes brightened-up.
As far as Shi Mu knew, fire-essence was a rare and valuable treasure for a fire-style magician that could support his fire-style Cultivation arts. So, they always yearned for this. Moreover, only the top-grade or higher fire-attribute spirit stones might contain the pure essence of fire.
"Don’t talk so much. Shi Tou, grab me a fiery-fish first," the parrot said in an anxious manner.
"You can also absorb the pure essence of fire?" Shi Mu was surprised.
"Of course! And, don’t look at me like this. Cai is also a fire-attribute spirit beast. There isn’t much difference between me and the Fire Phoenix..." the parrot said in a boastful manner.
Shi Mu didn’t pay attention to the parrot’s words. Instead, he started to read an incantation. Then, he gently waved his arm, and a white chain darted from his hand. He had done this by using the ‘Qi ring pile’ magic technique.
The white chain pierced the magma with a lightning speed. Then, a white light flashed. The white chain rolled-up a chopstick-like long fish, and flew backwards.
The parrot issued a cheerful sound. It was about to open its mouth in order to nip the flesh of the fish.
Suddenly, a layer of red radiance bubbled-up on the surface of Shi Mu’s hand, and he caught the fish in his hand.
Shi Mu didn’t care about the parrot’s discontented screeches. His eyebrows snapped into a frown as he examined the fish in his hand.
The surface of the fish’s body was translucent and red in color. It felt as light as a bird’s feather in Shi Mu’s hand.
He glanced at the fish. Then, he waved his hand, and tossed it towards the parrot.
Cai opened its mouth, and caught the fish. Then, it raised its neck a few times, and swallowed it down. Suddenly, a burst of faint-red radiance emerged on the surface of its body. The color of its feathers seemed to have turned into a fiery-red one.
Shi Mu caught another fiery fish once he had flung the previous one to the parrot.
After that, he started to operate the Art of the Flaming Red Ape. The layer of red radiance grew even brighter on his hand. Then, he grabbed another fish.
The fish continued to struggle. But, it couldn’t break itself free from his hand. The body of the fish shattered into pieces with a ‘pop’ sound after a moment. The shattered fragments transformed into a wisp of scorching-hot Red Qi. It was then sucked-in by Shi Mu.
Shi Mu’s eyes brightened-up. He stimulated the operation of the Art of the Flaming Red Ape as the Qi seeped into his body. Then, the wisp of Red Qi got integrated into his Qi embryo in the lower abdomen.
The Qi embryo in his lower abdomen surged, and its volume grew-up a little. Even its color became a lot deeper than before.
Shi Mu’s heart was overwhelmed with happiness. He had never thought that such a trivial amount of fire-essence of this fiery-fish would turn out to be so nutritious for him. It could be said that it was almost equivalent to his fifteen days of pain-staking practice.
"Shi Tou, don’t reap all the profits by yourself. I’ve discovered this place and these fiery-fishes. So, catch a few fishes for me first."
Shi Mu shot a glance at Cai. Then, a white chain was shot from his hand. It rolled out a few fishes, and threw them towards the parrot.
The white chain continued to grab fishes out of the magma for a while.
There were a large number of fiery-fishes in the magma. Moreover, Shi Mu’s actions were very light and skillful; so much so that he didn’t even startle the other fishes.
Shi Mu sat down cross-legged on the ground, and started to operate the Art of the Flaming Red Ape in order to refine the fishes.
A wisp of fiery-red Qi flew, and submerged into Shi Mu’s body. Then, it integrated into the Qi embryo in his lower abdomen.
The Qi embryo grew even bigger and stronger than before. Then, its shape became round from its previous oval. And, it now looked like a fireball as it slowly rolled within his lower abdomen. It didn’t feel like a burst or two of magical power either…