As the spirit power in his body wound its way to a vessel in his head, Shi Mu felt an irresistible force begin to form in his mind. This was followed by the vibration of the crystal capsule he had condensed earlier when practicing the Moon-Swallowing Art. Suddenly, the capsule gave a tangible shake, emitting a slight attractive force that absorbed a wisp of spirit power, from the stream, into the capsule. The absorption brought about a thunderous boom, and, in the next moment, the capsule was split into pieces by the spirit power. Then it reformed into the shape of a tiny, white crescent.
The crescent soon began to enhance, growing in brightness with a layer of silver light gliding on its surface. The next phase saw one tip of the crescent dissipate into a wisp of spirit power with supreme purity, which then joined the earlier thick stream of spirit power that had been circulating in Shi Mu’s veins.
An indescribable sensation made Shi Mu sweat with discomfort. His veins seemed to swell, as if they had been filled with some great force. Meanwhile, the crescent kept dissipating into refined spirit power, which split off and joined the main stream. The circulating stream went wild, forming into a rampant flood, outside of Shi Mu’s control. This unexpected turn of events caught Shi Mu unguarded and his face paled. Still, suppressing his great discomfort, Shi Mu hurriedly worked up the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power, attempting to direct this current into the right channel.
Fortunately, though turbulent, this current of spirit power was still tameable, under the guidance of this art. With its aid, the flow of the current was gradually corrected, flowing into his dantian, where energy should be stored.
After a while, Shi Mu felt a soft crack in his mind, as the last part of the crescent was turned into pure spirit power. He soon led it to his dantian, to join the energy he had collected. Where the capsule had been was now empty.
After a short while, Shi Mu slowly opened his eyes and exhaled a long breath. His face was now filled with excitement. For some unknown reason, it surprised him that he had by now finished the training required to reach the first stage of the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power [A], moreover, the storage of spirit power, in his dantian, was large enough to continue. Some minutes later, he discovered that even his eyesight and ability to concentrate had been greatly enhanced, an inexpressible sense of comfort and clarity pervaded his mind.
“What happened? Why did that crystal capsule disappear? “ His initial excitement receding, Shi Mu knit his eyebrows and began pondering over this puzzle. After a long time, something crossed his mind that made him decide to proceed his practice of the ASP art.
However, his next few minutes’ training proved to be unexpectedly disappointing. He had not foreseen that, without the white crescent that came from the crystal capsule, he could only absorb heavenly energy from his environment through the fixed process taught by the ASP art. The accumulation speed of spirit power became way too slow.
“So the capsule...is from the Moon-Swallowing Art!” Shi Mu’s eyes flickered with enlightenment. If he was right, this art must be a remarkable auxiliary skill that helped with the practicing of magical arts! But he still needed solid evidence to convince himself.
Several days later, the sky was clear and the moon was full, filling the world with its effulgent light.
Shi Mu followed his familiar path to the grassland in the valley, and, after a close survey of his surroundings, he lost no time getting into the posture, that he had adopted many times before, to enter his peculiar dream.
Soon, he turned to the white ape again, appearing on the silver boulder at the top of the towering mountain. He fixed his eyes on the bright round moon high up in the sky, and, instantly, thousands of white dots gathered in the sky, flooding toward the ape’s golden pupils as if drawn by a mysterious gravitational force.
The nameless sense of clarity came again, refreshing his spirits, followed by the white vortex of energy swirling in his mind. All had been repeated so many times that Shi Mu did not notice one difference today. For some time, he was lost in a dream about how this Moon-Swallowing Art would lead him to the top.
Finally, he came out of his reverie with a start, finding that the white vortex had grown largely in size! For a moment, his mind was a total blank. But he soon recovered his poise by discovering that the speed of moonlight flowing into his eyes had been raised, though not so obviously so that it eluded him at first.
When he finally woke up from his dream, the sky was as dark as when he had come, but dawn would soon sweep the darkness away. He concentrated and checked his storage of spirit power again, but the result was bitterly disappointing: the accumulated spirit power was no longer there! All had been consumed! He threw himself into the grass, lost in deep thought.
During the following month, Shi Mu visited the Hall of Wealth twice, taking some tasks to earn the money he needed for some more pills. The rest of his time was mainly spent in practicing the Art of Heavenly Elephant and the Wind-Blowing Blade Art. Whenever there was moonlight he would enter the dream to carry on his practice of the Moon-Swallowing Art. When the month drew near its end, his assiduous training and perseverance finally paid off: a crystal capsule, much bigger than the former one, was formed in his brain.
And when he exercised the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power again, the capsule dissolved into much more spirit power than expected, refilling his storage to a great extent. Now he was not far from reaching the second stage!
With the aid of this Moon-Swallowing Art, his learning speed for ASP had been enormously increased, which made Shi Mu both happy and scared at the same time. Would there be something dangerous lurking due to this alarmingly quick training? Shi Mu spent a whole day practicing ASP from the very beginning, searching for any problems. But the fact he found nothing, confounded him even more, making him toss in bed with worry.
Then, all of a sudden, he lept from his bed, grabbed the blade lying beside his table, and began to practice from the first movement the Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade. Bit by bit, the tumult in his mind began to subside as he abandoned himself in the world of the blade, merging his mind with the blade in his hand, which now seemed to come into life. The blade caught light, emitting a succession of reflections that looked like a lotus flower in constant blossom. The sword light filled the entire room, not leaving a single shadow.
Gradually the movements of the blade became increasingly fast, yet not lacking in accuracy. Shi Mu was amazed to find that his sensing ability had enhanced the extent to which he was able to use the art. Plus, his speed of thrusting his blade had neared its maximum.
“Ha!” He shouted loudly and, with another flick of his wrist, sent the blade up into the air, producing a glaring shield of blade shadows that formed a huge umbrella, covering all the spaces it could reach.
He had just done twelve cuts in one breath.
A trace of joy flashed across his face as he realized he had just upgraded in his Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade. Now he was only one level short of the consummation stage.
When Shi Mu stopped his movements and put away his blade, he noticed he had sweated profusely, but all he could feel was a restoring energy circulating through his body. He did some stretching to relax his muscles, and, after his Qi and blood had calmed, sat by his bed and, again, sank into deep thought.
He should have been practicing the Art of Heavenly Elephant at this time, but he had run out of the Blood-Strengthening pills and Bone-Tempering pills, which made him unable to proceed. Fumbling in his pocket, the emptiness was disheartening. He needed money. So it was high time that he took some more tasks from the Hall of Wealth. But, considering his conditions, ordinary tasks for warriors were unworthy of his time, with their unsatisfying pay. Now that he had reached the second state in the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power, he dared to consider himself an official Adept scholar, who could further educate himself on an art of a formula Adept, which he could get in the General Sutra House, by exchanging the Black Fire tokens he had just received.
As he had made up his mind, he immediately left for the General Sutra House with all of his Black Fire tokens.
[A] - From here on out, if you see the acronym, ASP, it is the (Art of) Accumulating Spirit Power.