Shi Mu’s chest rose and fell and his face was somewhat pale, due to exertion. He checked his body and found no harm done at all, except that his palms had some minor bruises and red spots. He walked up to the broken stone, and grasped a handful of chunks. His eyes shone and a faint smile flashed across his lips.
It surprised him that the combination of Real Qi and his immense strength could produce such an overwhelming power! Before sensing Real Qi, he could also break a huge stone with one punch, but the difference lied in the fact he used Qi - he was now a Houtian warrior! Recalling the fight with the Jin Family’s fifth master, he now felt some regret. If he had this power back then, he would not have been defeated by the fifth master. In the face of his current strength, the fifth master’s Blood Palm was something he could stand up to. It would have been an nearly equal contest of strength with the fifth master.
Exhaling a breath in deep regret, he closed his eyes for a minute, releasing the chunks of the blue stone from his hand. He knew that his attack on that stone had cost him almost all of his Real Qi. To re-gather his Real Qi, he now needed to sit in a meditative manner for a while. Moreover, if he really wanted to confront an intermediate Houtian Warrior, he must carry on his training for a long time, to gather as much Real Qi as possible.
Shi Mu returned to his rock-hard stone bed, sat cross-legged, and sank deep into thought. Now that he was a Houtian Warrior, he must make plans concerning his training. The urgent issue was to continue practicing the Art of the Heavenly Elephant so as to reach the basic level required for learning the Art of the Strong Ape. As for techniques, he was temporarily short of Black Fire tokens, so it would be wise to work on his Wind-Blowing Blade Art and Stone-Breaking Fist Art, raising the two techniques to a higher degree of proficiency. He had reached the advanced stage, only one stage lower than consummation, in both of the techniques, enough to deal with the current situation now that he had the assistance of his Real Qi.
This in mind, he picked up the red jade slip and put it against his forehead to memorize the art of the Strong Ape. Though he was not able to practice it yet, he had to memorize the contents before the three day deadline.
At noon on the third day, two successive cracks startled Shi Mu awake from a nap. Opening his eyes, he saw two small piles of fine sands, one white and one red. His eyes twitched involuntarily at the sight. So Auntie Dream’s words were right: once time was up the jade slips, copies of special techniques, would destroy themselves. Fortunately he had followed Auntie Dream’s warning carefully and memorized all the contents.
Just then, footsteps were heard from outside his yard. Soon someone was knocking on the door.
Shii Mu raised his eyebrows, rose to his feet and opened the door, only to find Stone Bai and Xiao Ming standing outside.
“Brother Shi, we haven’t seen you for three days! Are you hibernating? Or practicing? There is no reason to rush your practice. Come, let us walk around the mountains and get to know our sect better. Are you coming with us?” Stone Bai invited Shi Mu to join them, with a bright smile.
Shi Mu’s mind worked quickly to weigh the idea. After some thought, he smiled and replied, “Sure, I’m feeling really bored these days. Let’s go for a walk.” Deep in his mind, he knew clearly that, under the brutal rules of the Black Demon Sect, disciples had formed small groups to compete with each other, which they had seen on the first day’s confrontation with Qu Kun’s gang. Now the newcomers must be looking for their comrades too, especially after fighting Qu Kun, and groups would probably be formed around the strongest of the candidates. Bai Shi and Xiao Ming must have sensed Shi Mu’s power and hence made their invitation. Shi Mu considered it a good chance to learn about the sect, including where he could buy pills. He still did not know where he could acquire the Bone-Tempering Pills needed for practicing the Art of the Heavenly Elephant.
Hearing Shi Mu’s quick response, Stone Bai and Xiao Ming exchanged a pleased look, “Haha, wonderful! Let’s move, quickly!” Stone Bai urged.
“Well, why not inviting some other disciples to join us?” Xiao Ming suggested in a seemingly random tone.
“Hmm, I thought the girl with all the bells was pretty strong, and she happens to live over there...” Stone Bai nodded his approval immediately and pointed to a stone house.
So the three walked over to the girl’s house, chatting casually.
Night descended. Shi Mu lied in his bed, breathing in and out, soft and slow. His bed was against the window where bright moonlight flowed, like a small clear stream, pouring onto his chest.
A steep mountain with towering cliffs rose into the sky, it had a dark blueish tone, and was bald, barely covered by trees. Though surrounded by endless mountains, it was clearly the tallest. Standing out lonely as the moon, it overlooked the thousands of hilltops that clustered around it.
At the top of the lonely mountain was a clearing, wide and plain. Verdant grasses grew rampant on the earth. Now various wild animals - tigers, leopards, lions, bears, birds, foxes, hares, etc. - were swarming in the grassland. They either crouched, stood, or laid prone; tigers lay close to rabbits while bears held foxes in their arms. It was a strangely peaceful scene. The birds and beasts that should be hunting each other were now meek, clustering around a white jade stone, on which an elderly man with white lengthy beard was sitting cross-legged. His white eyebrows grew downward to his waist. The man was holding a wooden ruler, his eyes, looking at the animals, were gentle and caring, his lips moved, speaking something like instructions to the animals. The chill night wind swept by, sending clear ripples through the tall grass, which slowly flowed to the edges of the plain. But the animals were not disturbed at all. Fixing their eyes on the elderly man, they listened to him with rapt attention, not moving a muscle. The huge mountain was altogether quiet, all that was resounding in the night air was the man’s faint voice.
Meanwhile, a white ape was also among the animals, but his face was full of anxiety, his fingers scratching his cheeks restlessly. The elder’s voice rang out by his ears, but however hard he listened, the words did not make any sense to him. Seeing the animals around him in concentration, he grew even more agitated, and finally could not help but depressed sound.
The noise attracted the man’s attention. His eyebrows swaying slightly, he rose to his feet and slowly walked to the white ape.
The animals around the ape stood up, one by one, to make way for the elderly man, and the looks they cast at the white ape grew increasingly unfriendly.
The white ape bent his head before the elder, his eyes imploring. Scratching his cheek, he groaned softly at the elder, who smiled amiably and shook the wooden ruler in his hand, patting the white ape’s head three times. The white ape’s body trembled violently at the strikes, as if three loud crashes of thunder exploded in his head.
Next, the ape’s eyes immediately turned clear, something flashing across his mind. Suddenly he saw everything with an unprecedented clarity, and the words the the elder said previously suddenly grew meaningful to him: He perceived everything in a second.
The white ape again scratched his cheeks, but in great elation this time. Among the hostile and envious looks of the other animals, he knelt before the elder, then made a bow with hands folded in front of him.
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