"I came across a few fortuitous encounters en route from the Wasteland to the west. So, I turned out lucky in coagulating my Qi. By the way Lady Zhong, it seems like you have also broken the bottleneck quite smoothly," Shi Mu smiled.
"I would like to thank Brother Shi for presenting me the Green Frost fruit. Oh… by the way, why did Brother Shi come to the Heavenly Yu City? The Black Demon Sect is the branch of Heavenly Demon Sect as far as I know. I admit that Brother Shi is strong now. But, you shouldn’t be able to attend the Ascension to Immortality Ceremony, right?" Zhong Xiu nodded at first. But, something crossed her mind and she asked again.
"I have come here to find a certain someone," Shi Mu replied after a momentary hesitation.
The glittering smile on Zhong Xiu’s face froze slightly. She was also a quick-witted and clear-sighted person after all…
"That’s right… Brother Shi has reached the consummation stage of the agreement. So, you must be looking for Tian Yin Sect’s Ximen Xue, right?" she asked.
Shi Mu hesitated for a moment. Then, he gave her a nod.
"Senior Sister Ximen Xue and I don’t belong to the same Sect. But, you may call it a propitious encounter that I got to see her once… roughly seven or eight days back." Zhong Xiu took a deep breath. Then, she looked into Shi Mu's eyes and said.
"Really?! Where is she now?" Shi Mu was startled. He stood up and asked while involuntarily holding Zhong Xiu's hands.
Zhong Xiu’s cheeks turned red as soon as her hands were held by him.
But, she didn’t care about it the least. And, she simply looked at him without speaking anything.
"Ah, I'm sorry… I got a little excited," Shi Mu immediately regained his calm and loosened his grip from Zhong Xiu’s hands.
"It’s all right," Zhong Xiu lowered her head and replied in a murmuring tone.
"I have seen Senior Sister Ximen Xue just once that particular day. She’s very different from me. She seems to have received great importance from the people of Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult. She might have been selected for seclusion training in the Seclusion Branch of the Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult that was set-up in the Heavenly Yu City. It is said that they’ve set high standards for the selection of deserving candidates this time," She stopped for a moment. Then, she continued.
Shi Mu’s facial expression looked somewhat dejected as he heard these words.
He had arrived in the Heavenly Yu City only a few days ago. But, he had more-or-less figured the situation that prevailed here.
The Heavenly Yu City was the capital of the Lu Shan Kingdom. However, not every branch of the Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult was set-up here. In fact, there was only one in this city. And, the Ascension to Immortality Ceremony was conducted in this branch.
The time of the Grand Ceremony was approaching. So, many great personalities of the Immortal Cult had begun to arrive in the city… including its leader. And, those disciples who were called by the Seclusion Branch for Seclusion practice were greatly valued by the Immortal Cult.
Ximen Xue possessed extraordinary innate talent. So, it seemed that Zhong Xiu’s said words were perhaps right.
Shi Mu shook his head. But, his facial expression looked even more firm.
He wanted to see Ximen Xue once before the Grand Ceremony would start.
And, things would become much easier since he was aware of Ximen Xue’s location now.
"Lady Zhong, thank you for telling me about this matter," Shi Mu said.
"Is Brother Shi is thinking of going to that Seclusion Branch to find her? Please forgive me for being blunt… but, I’m afraid that it won’t be possible," Zhong Xiu spoke while shaking her head.
"Why is it so?" Shi Mu asked.
"The Welcome Ceremony for the Immortals is scheduled to be held after three days. So, the Seclusion Branch would be under tight security. Outsiders can’t get close to it. I am afraid that you will have to wait until the completion of this Welcome Ceremony if you want to see Senior Sister Ximen Xue," Zhong Xiu explained.
"Welcome Ceremony for the Immortals?" Shi Mu was dumbfounded.
"Brother Shi hasn’t heard about it? Two immortals of the Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult are supposed to arrive after three days. They’ve already ascended to the realm of the Immortals. So, Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult is specially holding this Welcome Ceremony in order to welcome these two Immortals," Zhong Xiu explained further.
"Immortals are arriving?!" Shi Mu was left startled as he heard these words.
The rumors about the World of the Immortals had always been vague and illusory. It was said that the previous outstanding disciples who had been elected by the successive Ascension to Immortality Ceremony had already soared to the Immortal Realm. However, no one had witnessed them before. So, Shi Mu had never thought that he would get to see Immortals descend to this world.
"Brother Shi’s appearance makes it seem that he must be interested in this Welcome Ceremony, right? Wouldn’t it be good if you tag along with me to visit this Ceremony? It is said that the Immortals are arriving for the first time after many years. Most of the dignitaries of the city receive an invitation to participate in this conference. But, they can only stay in the periphery to observe and emulate. Moreover, a person is also needed to pay a considerable quantity of spirit stones to enter. But, the disciples who are attending the Ascension to Immortality Ceremony can enter the inner area to watch," Zhong Xiu said in an inviting manner.
"Great! I would like to put you in trouble in that case, Lady Zhong," Shi Mu considered for a moment. Then, he agreed.
Zhong Xiu smiled in a sweet manner on hearing his reply. Her unparalleled mesmerizing appearance made Shi Mu’s heart unable to bear but skip a beat.
"Oh… by the way, thank you so much for sending me the meteoric iron," Shi Mu coughed and hastily shifted the thread of discussion.
"I had randomly won that piece of strange metal in my Sect. But, it was futile to keep it idle with me. Then, I vaguely remembered that the material of your black blade was apparently similar to this metal; I had noticed this thing that very day you came looking for me. Therefore, I sent someone to deliver you this thing. You liked it, right?" Zhong Xiu’s long eyelashes moved as she said.
Shi Mu’s heart overwhelmed with emotions as he heard these words.
Zhong Xiu’s eyes glistened magnificently. It seemed as if a layer of water had appeared in her eyes.
Shi Mu’s heart skipped a beat. And, he moved aside to avoid Zhong Xiu's gaze.
Suddenly, a "Crash-Bang" sound mixed with a wing-flapping sound was heard. Cai had flown out to another room that was beside this living room. He stopped there on a wooden shelf that was not far from these two people.
Shi Mu and Zhong Xiu didn’t even notice when he had flown to the inside of the room.
"Cai, what are you doing there in Lady Zhong’s room?" Shi Mu’s eyes turned, and he said in a reprimanding manner.
He had vaguely seen furniture and other basic amenities when he passed through the door. And, he had reckoned that the-said room must’ve been Zhong Xiu’s bedroom.
"I came here to find something to eat. I have been starving to death ever since I’ve followed you. I haven’t had a proper and delicious meal since ages. I finally got to see a few nuts in that restaurant with great difficulty. But, I again ended up eating only a few pieces of them before I was drawn by you," Cai shot a pitiful gaze at Shi Mu as he said.
"So, this is Brother Shi's spirit pet? You can even speak! You are very smart and adorable," Zhong Xiu looked at Cai, and the corners of her mouth curled into a smile as she spoke-up.
"The Elder Sister looks like she has just walked out of a painting! You are very gorgeous!" Cai’s feet moved a few times toward Zhong Xiu as he replied in a flattering manner.
"Little parrot, you are called Cai…? I have some fresh fruits here. I’ll bring them for you to taste," Zhong Xiu’s cheeks flushed. She got up and walked into the inside room with gentle footsteps. She then walked out holding a small package after some time.
She took a few red nuts from the package, and placed them on the table.
Cai’s eyes brightened-up. He fluttered its wings and flew over. He held a nut in his mouth. Then, he raised his neck, and swallowed it down.
"Delicious!" Cai’s eyes sparkled with excitement. He pecked in a fierce manner, and acclaimed aloud while keeping his head lowered.
"This stupid bird is very talkative and gluttonous," Shi Mu smiled as he spoke-up in a somewhat helpless manner.
"It’s not like that. Brother Shi thinks a lot. This little parrot is very lovable," Zhong Xiu replied with a smile.
Shi Mu was about to say something again. However, the corners of his eyes suddenly caught a strange sight and his complexion changed.
Cai had finished those red fruits after he had eaten a few mouthful of them. He had then turned around and rummaged through the package brought by Zhong Xiu. Then, a fiery-red spirit stone had rolled out from it.
Cai’s eyes fell on that spirit stone. And, he grabbed it with his mouth. Then, he opened its mouth and swallowed it down.
"Cai, what are you eating?" Shi Mu took notice of Cai’s action. But, he had been too late to stop Cai since that Spirit stone had already been eaten-up by him.
Zhong Xiu also noticed this scene. And, an astounded look appeared on her charming face.
She had never heard of a spirit pet that could eat a spirit stone.
Cai fluttered its wings, and a burst of red light emerged on the surface of his body. But, the red light dimmed after a short while. Afterwards, many strands of imperceptible red color appeared on his feathers.
"I’m stuffed..." Cai released a satisfied burp and called out in a cheerful manner. After that, he flew to Shi Mu’s shoulder and squatted down.
"Cai, you..." Shi Mu concealed the flabbergasted look in his eyes as he asked.
"I’ve only eaten a spirit stone. There’s nothing to fuss about," Cai announced in a casual manner.
Shi Mu’s brows creased into a frown as he thought of the underground cave in the Blackrock Mountains. Cai had swallowed several fire-attributes fishes at that time. And, those fishes were the concentrated form of fire essence. So, it seemed like it wasn’t a big issue for him after all. Shi Mu felt a little relieved in his heart at this realization.
He glanced at Cai, and felt that this boisterous parrot had many secrets that he had concealed from Shi Mu.
"Lady Zhong, this parrot is very voracious. Please forgive me," Shi Mu drew out a low-ranked fire-attribute spirit stone from his Vast Dust Ring and placed it on the table.
"Brother Shi, you are very polite," Zhong Xiu waved her hand in a graceful manner. She then gazed into Cai’s eyes, and her eyes filled with a look of curiosity.
"Lady Zhong, I’ll take my leave now. I’ll come to look for you after three days," Shi Mu stood up and bid farewell to her.
A trace of unwillingness flashed through her eyes. It seemed as if she was reluctant to part with Shi Mu. But, she still came out to see him go.
"Oh… that’s right… Brother Shi, where do you reside now? I can pass the necessary information to you if I get to know anything related to Senior Sister Ximen Xue…" Zhong Xiu thought of something and asked.
Shi Mu’s vision moved, and he shared the location of his inn with her.
"Pretty Elder Sister, you chill. I’ll fix my attention on Shi Tou, and make him come over after three days," Cai shouted in assurance.
"Very talkative…" Shi Mu gently tapped the parrot. Then, he greeted Zhong Xiu from afar and walked away.
Zhong Xiu looked at the receding silhouette of Shi Mu as it gradually disappeared into the distance. Then, she closed the front door, and returned to her house. Her face revealed an exhilarated look.
Suddenly, her eyes turned and fell on the table. She walked over and picked up the low-ranked fire-attribute spirit stone that Shi Mu had handed over to her. She caressed it a few times. After that, she clasped her hands close to her chest, and closed her eyes.
"Master, your disciple may fail to live up to your expectations. However, I’ll strive to attain a good position in this ceremony. Moreover, I’ll try my best to earn a good reward for my Sect," Zhong Xiu murmured after a long while.
After three days…
Shi Mu walked out of his inn at daybreak. Then, he began to walk in the direction of Zhong Xiu’s post house.
The stream of people on the street seemed significantly lesser at this time.
The news of the Welcome Ceremony for the Immortals seemed to have spread. In fact, it had spread in the entire Heavenly Yu City over these past few days. Therefore, almost everyone wanted to see the overbearing demeanor of the legendary Immortals. So, people were walking towards the western part of the city in groups of three or four. They were obviously heading to the Seclusion Branch of the Transcending Heaven Immortal Cult.
"Shi Tou, you can grab a good seat if you walk a bit faster," Cai spoke-up in an argumentative tone.
"Are you also interested in the Immortals?" Shi Mu continued to walk at a moderate pace.
Shi Mu’s heart was fully occupied with Ximen Xue’s matter. So, he was only a little curious about this Welcome Ceremony.