"Her name is Ximen Xue. Don’t call her the Demon Witch of Tian Yin again. It was a name given to her by outsiders arbitrarily," the elegant brows of Jin Xiao Chai slightly creased as she said.
"Ximen Xue..." Shi Mu’s eyes brightened-up.
This name seemed quite befitting to the Demon Witch of Tian Yin’s appearance and disposition. Her snow-like elegant white dress added the aura of a Heavenly fairy to her graceful appearance.
"What is this Ascension to Immortality Ceremony? And, Demon Witch... what relation does it have with Ximen Xue?" Shi Mu asked.
"The Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult is considered to be the number one Sect of the Lu Shan Kingdom. This grand ceremony is held by it once in every thirty years. Those who have already become Xian Tian warriors before the age of thirty, or a Star-grade Magician… are qualified to participate in this ceremony under the recommendation of their respective Sects," Jin Xiao Chai explained.
Shi Mu felt a powerful jolt in his heart as he heard these words. He felt that the conditions for enrollment in this ceremony were extremely harsh.
But, it could be said this Ceremony was extraordinary owing to these harsh conditions.
"The ceremony selects three men and three women. Those six people are then sent to a place called the Immortal Palace of seclusion. Then, the Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult supplies a large amount of resources to provide a proper training to these people. This helps them in rapidly promoting their cultivation to the Earth Grade. But, those who enter the Immortal Palace of Seclusion don’t appear in this world again. It’s said that they ascend to the immortal domain, and become an angel," Jin Xiao Chai continued to speak.
"Can it be that..." Shi Mu felt a gripping sensation in his heart as he heard these words. He had a premonition of something unpleasant.
"Right, she has already taken a firm decision to participate in the Ascension to Immortality Ceremony," Jin Xiao Chai said in a single breath.
A premonition had already sprouted in Shi Mu’s heart a moment ago. But, an inexplicable feeling bubbled-up in his heart as he received the confirmation from Jin Xiao Chai.
"Miss Xue was determined to seek this path since her early childhood. Moreover, this is her master’s expectation from her. She’s considered to be exceedingly rare in the Central mainland owing to her innate qualities and strength. So, the possibility that she might get selected if she participates in the ceremony is on the higher side. She’ll be separated from us once she gets selected. Then, you’ll never get to see her again, "Jin Xiao Chai spoke as she looked at Shi Mu.
"That’s it. I’ll have to practice rigorously so that I can also become an immortal. Then, I can go to find her." Shi Mu clenched his hands.
"What’s so good about ascending to the rank of Immortal? This is a ruthless natural law. The road to immortality is nothing but vast and indistinct. You’ll be separated from the world once you become an immortal. This is a road of no return. You really think that you two can be together once you achieve the immortality?" Jin Xiao Chai sneered, and said in a casual manner.
Shi Mu was left speechless for a while.
"Come along with me to look for her if you truly like her. Miss Xue has a strong personality and an extremely opinionated temperament. So, she’s unlikely to change her decision because of an outsider once she has made-up her mind. But, she seems a little different when it comes to you. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have made that agreement with you in the first place," Jin Xiao Chai let out a soft sigh as she said.
"I see. This is what you wanted me to promise you at that time. Well, I don’t know what your true intentions are… but, it seems that both of us have a common goal – to persuade her to not to participate in this ceremony," Shi Mu nodded as he said.
"I’m afraid that Miss Xue would’ve already departed to the Lu Shan Kingdom through the Teleportation Magic Spell. So, there would be no use left to return to the Wan Long Mountains now. Moreover, the Ascension to Immortality Ceremony and our Heavenly Demon Sect’s Demon Yang Ceremony will be held almost at the same time. We should first rush to the Heavenly Yu City – the Capital City of Lu Shan kingdom – to find Miss Xue. Then, we might return to the Heavenly Demon Sect on time. As far as I know, the relationship between our Heavenly Demon Sect and Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult is sensitive. A lot of trouble will be caused if our identities are revealed. Would you still dare to go there?" Jin Xiao Chai said while looking at Shi Mu.
"Certainly!" Shi Mu nodded without any hesitation.
"Good!" Jin Xiao Chai nodded, and turned towards the exit of the underground cave.
Shi Mu raised his head, and looked at the ceiling of the cave. His eyes flickered. It seemed as if he was thinking about something.
Cai seemed to have noticed Shi Mu’s mental state. Therefore, it didn’t enter into the clamorous mode that could disturb him. Instead, it stayed to one side, and started to comb its feathers with its beak.
Next day at the crack of dawn…
The sandstorm outside the cave was still as fierce as before.
Shi Mu sat in meditation with his legs crossed in the corner of the cave.
"Brother Shi, bring me a bucket of water," Jin Xiao Chai turned her head, and said while looking towards Shi Mu.
"Elder Sister Jin, this is the last bucket of water," Shi Mu flashed a bitter smile as he said.
"Haven’t you carried enough water?" Jin Xiao Chai’s delicate pupils glared at him as she said.
"You continued to take baths frequently throughout this journey. So, it was only natural that we would run out of the water soon," Shi Mu curled-up his lips as he replied.
"This dilapidated place is full of ash. Elder Sister Jin is so beautiful. She obviously needs to bathe to keep herself clean," the parrot beside Shi Mu looked at Jin Xiao Chai in a flattering manner, and shouted out.
Jin Xiao Chai smiled. She then took out a round green kernel from her storage ring, and tossed it towards the parrot.
She had ‘robbed’ these fruit’s kernels from Shi Mu’s space.
A complacent look flashed through the parrot’s eyes. It bit the fruit’s kernels, and swallowed it down after chewing it a few times.
"We should wait until we find a water source since it’s the last bucket of water left with us," Jin Xiao Chai said.
"There’s a water source not far from here as per the map. There’s no specific location for that place. But, I don’t think that finding it should be a big problem," Shi Mu said.
The conversation between Shi Mu and Jin Xiao Chai left Mo Ning and others in the cave startled. And, they all looked towards Shi Mu in unison.
Mo Ning’s complexion changed, and his eyes revealed a trace of amazement. An unfathomable aura still loomed around Shi Mu's body. But, it seemed to have undergone a subtle change. The wisp of a strong and dignified aura of a Xian Tian powerhouse could be felt around him.
Qian Xiong and Bai Shui Xiu looked dumbfounded.
"Young Master Shi, congratulations for successfully establishing the Qi Palace, and stepping into the Xian Tian realm." Bai Shui Xiu was the first one to speak out. She got-up, and expressed her greetings.
"Congratulations, Young Master Shi." Mo Ning recovered from his awestruck state. He then got-up, and congratulated Shi Mu along with Qian Xiong.
"You people don’t have to be over-courteous." Shi Mu beckoned with his hand.
Mo Ning and others sat down on the ground. But, they adjusted their positions so that Shi Mu and Jin Xiao Chai could receive considerably large and independent spaces for themselves.
The sandstorm finally receded later in the noon.
Shi Mu and his team-members set out on their journey once again. Shi Mu took the lead, and walked in the front. He relied on the experience that he had gained during his stay in the Flying Raven Tribe. They finally arrived in a mountain-valley after an hour. There was a small pool in front of them; the perimeter of this pool was nearly fifty or sixty feet.
The water surface looked limpid. The surrounding area was also clean as far as the eye could see.
Jin Xiao Chai and others’ eyes lit-up. They took large strides to walk towards the pool.
Shi Mu’s brows creased. He then reached out to prevent Jin Xiao Chai from approaching the pool.
"What's the matter?" Jin Xiao Chai asked in a puzzled tone.
"Cai, you go and take a look around carefully." Shi Mu didn’t reply to her. Instead, he ordered the parrot that sat on his shoulder.
"Shi Tou, Cai is thirsty..." Cai was about to mumble something. Suddenly, it noticed that it was being stared at by Shi Mu. It immediately flapped its wings, and flew away.
A quarter-of-an-hour later…
Shi Mu stood motionless. He hadn’t uttered a single word this entire time.
"It seems that there’s nothing suspicious around the pool. Hurry-up, and top-up the water. We have to continue with our journey," Jin Xiao Chai looked at Shi Mu. She felt relieved in her heart. She then said while beckoning with her hand.
Mo Ning and others were exhilarated. All of them quickly took out their water bags, and walked in the direction of the pool.
Cai also came back at the same time. It excitedly skimmed over the water-surface. It then stretched out its claws, and started to splash water with them.
Jin Xiao Chai also walked towards the pool. She wanted to wash and clean her body properly. The dry weather of the Wasteland rendered an uncomfortable feeling to her skin.
Shi Mu didn’t say anything. He closely followed after them. However, his eyes were overly attentive, and were hovering in all directions. He still had a vague feeling that they had surely missed out something crucial.
Jin Xiao Chai quickly arrived at the pool-side. The ring on her left middle finger emanated a bright-silver radiance, and a big wooden water barrel appeared in her hands.
She had lowered the bucket to dip it into the water when her hair stood on their ends. She then caught a glimpse of a thick and white skeleton at the bottom of the pool.
Then, something strange happened.
A beam of yellow light gleamed behind her body. It was accompanied by a black-striped gigantic tiger that sprang out from there. It ferociously pounced towards her while carrying a strong gust of wind with it.
The tiger brandished its incisive claws while it was in mid-air. Nearly ten-feet-long yellow light-blade blotted out the sky as it plummeted down towards Jin Xiao Chai’s back.
"Be careful!" Shi Mu shouted.
He pinched the fingers of his right hand, and stimulated a magic art as he warned her. Consequently, a mass of white Qi fled from his hand, and quickly elongated into a ten-feet-long white Qi chain. It then rushed towards the giant tiger in order to fetter it.
However, Jin Xiao Chai’s timing was truly amazing. She tossed the barrel off her hand, and whirled around. A black leather whip had already appeared in her hand by this time.
She flicked her hand, and the whip started to dance around her body in a fierce manner. It quickly took the shape of a black light-shield which was ten feet in perimeter. The black shield was well-prepared to receive the yellow light-blade.
‘Boom! Boom! Boom!’ A series of muffled sounds rang out in the air.
The yellow light exploded a number of times in the air. Then, the black light-shield experienced a fit of violent tremors. After that, it was routed and dispersed.
The remaining half of the yellow light-blade struck her body.
Suddenly, a layer of golden light emerged and shrouded her body. The yellow light-blades gradually fell on her body. But, it felt like it was trying to cut at the smooth surface of an ice-ball. It changed its direction as it glided away from her skin, and diverted to the other side. However, the golden shield also dimmed-down at an incredibly fast pace in this process.
The tiger’s claws trembled, and a few-inches-long claw light flashed out. The throbbing claw light looked like undulating waves of light. It had arrived extremely close to Jin Xiao Chai’s neck in a flash.
Suddenly, a White Qi chain pounced towards the tiger, and fastened it firmly on the spot.
An earth-shattering roar of the tiger rang out in the air, and the Qi chain was broken into pieces. Those fragments then turned into tiny crystal lights.
Jin Xiao Chai seized this opportunity. Her stature flashed a few times, and she fled almost ten feet away from the tiger.
The tiger broke free from the shackles, and landed on the ground between Shi Mu and Jin Xiao Chai. The trace of ominous glint flashed across its eyes.
Shi Mu discovered that this tiger had four eyes. Moreover, an unusual magic character was engraved between its eyebrows. Its gigantic body was emanating an extremely tyrannical aura. It was either a Xian Tian advanced stage or a consummate stage ominous beast.
It would seem like a considerable amount of time had passed ever since the gigantic tiger had appeared, launched its attack on Jin Xiao Chai, and was interrupted by Shi Mu. But, all this had happened in a couple of seconds. Mo Ning and others – who were filling their water bags – responded, and moved into action at this time.
Bai Shui Xiu mumbled something, and a layer of blue water quickly shrouded her entire body.
She then jumped, and gracefully stood on the water surface. After that, she began to walk on the waves until she reached the center of the pool. She waved the wand she held in her right hand, and a several-feet-high stream of water galloped from within the pool. It then soared to the sky while carrying her on top of it.
It couldn’t be said when a sword had also appeared in Mo Ning’s hand. In addition, several blue Sword Qi had emerged on the surface of his body – in the manner in which a peacock spread its tail. Suddenly, the blue sword Qi exploded, and transformed into a several feet wide cloud of hoarfrost. Then, Mo Ning disappeared amid it.
Qian Xiong held an iron mace in each of his hands. He moved a few steps backwards.
Suddenly, the magic character between the tiger’s eyebrows exuded a beam of yellow light. Then, a layer of earth-yellow light wrapped its entire body. It moved, and drilled into the ground. After that, it disappeared from sight without a trace.