Having successfully made another copy of the Body-Lifting Charm, Shi Mu was overjoyed. He paused, to celebrate the moment in his heart, then refocused his mind on making charms. Spreading another piece of magic paper on the desk, he felt more confident of his chances of success, since the characters, patterns, and every minute detail of a stroke had been etched into his memory. With the previous copy as an example, he only needed to reproduce the picture, and naturally, he could go much faster.
As night approached, he had finished three more copies, but, pitifully, not a single one succeeded. The heavenly stone was now just an ordinary pebble.
Shi Mu gazed at the two successful copies, lost deep in thought. So it turned out that, with the difficulty of charms increasing, even his phenomenal eyesight would not help that much. But he was already quite satisfied with his current achievement, after all, average Scholars were just blind men, groping in the dark before such a challenging charm.
Now that he had reached the third stage in both the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power and the Art of the Heavenly Elephant and this Body-Lifting Charm, getting a good rank in the annual competition would not be as demanding of a task. After all, the awards for this full-scale, yearly contest were far more tempting than those from small matches. But before marching onto the ring like a thrilled child, Shi Mu’s knew that he should equip himself with a powerful weapon, one tailored to him, like a tight-fitting suit. When he exercised the Thirteen Series of Gale-Force Blade Art just then, he felt that he needed a better blade, for his old one had been groaning under the might of his Heavenly Elephant Qi, and nearly shattered when he threw out his Thirteen Cuts in One Breath.
After making up his mind to ditch his old blade and get a new one, Shi Mu returned to his bed, crossed his legs, and began to practice the Art of the Heavenly Elephant.
Shi Mu left his place the first thing in the next morning, following the, now familiar, path back to the blacksmith that belonged to the Li Fire Group.
“Haha, brother Shi, what has brought you, the rising star of both fighting and charm making, here to my humble abode? Are you in need of a new weapon?” Spotting Shi Mu from a distance, Zhao Ping immediately came and greeted him in a cheerful manner.
“Haha, you flatter me senior Zhao! It’s only that the competition is around the corner, I’d like to have a good weapon to save me from coming the last.” Shi Mu managed an embarrassed smile. Anyway, he disliked the thought of displaying his ability to the full extent in front others, except in matches, of course.
For the past six months, he had formed a habit of visiting Zhao Ping whenever he went pill-shopping. If there was a reason for his frequent visits, apart from a budding friendship between the two, that would definitely be Shi Mu’s secret wish to get updated on the latest weapons, and even immersing himself in the aura emitted by all kinds of sharp-edged weapons made Shi Mu feel content. Also, he never once forgot the tools and gadgets recorded in the Secret Arts of the Zhong Clan, for which he had been saving money to ask Zhao Ping to make copies for him. This past half a year had seen his wealth growing at an alarming speed, so he had treated himself to some of the tricks and tools in the ancient book, and requested for Zhao Ping to make them for him, and Zhao Ping had successfully fulfilled the tasks. That’s why the two had grown close.
“Oh, I see. Please come in brother Shi,” Zhao Ping laughed boisterously and invited Shi Mu in. There were barely any clients in, not even the servant disciples who helped out in the blacksmith. The roomed seemed quite lonely in the morning sunlight. All the deadly weapons displayed on shelves in the front yard made the atmosphere cold and heavy, but not to Shi Mu’s eyes. He was now totally lost in the world of weapons. There were even some queer members of the weapon family in the shop, like the Heaven and Earth Ring (TL: ? I don’t know what’s this either, haha, seems like a dangerous hula hoop), and the Yuan Yang axes. Though he had seen them many times, his love for them did not abate, it was only that he did not consider them suitable for his own usage.
“I’m wondering what kind of weapon brother Shi wants? The ones out there are just my average pieces. The reeeeeally good ones are inside. Follow me.” Zhao Ping threw him a mysterious smile and quickly lead him inside. There was a compartment behind the hall, half the size of the yard, and inside there were around thirty weapons. Without a doubt, these pieces were way more expensive than those displayed outside.
“I’m comfortable with most knives and blades. I will believe in whatever brother Zhao recommends,” Shi Mu gave the room a quick scan and spoke.
Zhao Ping nodded knowingly and grabbed hold of a silver blade, two feet long. Passing it to Shi Mu, he introduced proudly, “This blade is made of the Cold Crystal Iron, collected from the sea floor. It’s not only hard, it’s really sharp - believe me, line up a strand of hair with the blade, and you will have two halves of a hair - Also, it feels as cold as ice. Try it.”
Shi Mu took the blade and weighed it in his hand. He frowned, disappointed to feel the long blade weighed nothing to him. “It’s a good blade, by all means, but I’d like a heavier one if that’s possible.” Shi Mu returned the “feather” to Zhao Ping, who was surprised to hear such a comment. This material, the Cold Crystal Iron, weighed at least 25 kilograms, strong enough to support and hold Qi, and could definitely suffice for any ordinary Houtian warrior. But he soon recalled the superhuman force Shi Mu displayed when forging iron for him when they first met, so he accepted the fact with some reluctance.
After some thought, he stooped and lifted another long bronze blade for Shi Mu to try out, this time with more strength. “Try this one, it’s made of Red Bronze Stone. It weighs almost 70 kilograms.”
Shi Mu gripped the handle and flicked his wrist. Piecing sounds resounded through the room, with a series of blade shadows flashing before their eyes, exuding an aura of chill and threat. Zhao Ping was slightly astonished this time, when he found himself, an intermediate Houtian warrior, confounded by the way Shi Mu threw the cuts. The shadows lifted, and, with Shi Mu shaking his head, Zhao Ping knew he was not satisfied, and wanted a heavier one.
A heavier one? This blade already had an enormous weight...Zhao Ping gave a wry smile, and said gloomily, “the heaviest one in my shop is the one in your hand now...As for an even heavier piece...” He paused as he followed his train of thought here.
“What?” Shi Mu detected Zhao Ping’s changed countenance, asking with an interested tone.
“I do have a heavier piece, a real treasure. But it has a story behind it...” Zhao Ping’s voice revealed some hesitance.
“A story? I’d like to hear about it.” Shi Mu’s face lit up, his interest fully aroused now.
“Let me get it first. Wait a sec.” Zhao Ping soon disappeared into a back room and did not come back for some ten minutes, a narrow, old wooden case in his arms. Judging from his veins protruding from his muscles and the strenuous steps he took, this case must be extremely heavy.
Zhao Ping dropped the case onto the desk, a dull thud reverberating through the room. Shi Mu could not wait and opened the lid immediately, and as his eyes met the content, they sparkled with life. A thin, long blade was lying silently in the case, like a forgotten soul. It was not much to look at, its body a dull black. But Shi Mu knew, intuitively, that this was not your average blade. It looked like a thing that did not belong to this world. Seen closely, the surface glowed with a rich blackness.
Shi Mu had never been so thrilled. He snatched the handle and lift the blade without much effort. Even so his color changed. The ordinary-looking blade was exceedingly heavy, at least 250 kilograms. The material of it was not to his knowledge so far.
“Marvelous.” Shi Mu murmured. His finger slowly stroked the weapon’s body, and, as he touched its hilt he felt a yearning to kill. He lifted his arm, and a black shadow flashed past, the black piece cutting across a stone used for testing weapons.
Crack! The stone, made of refined iron, was cut into halves, the cut clean and smooth.
Shi Mu gazed at the black blade in amazement: He did not feel any resistance when cutting the stone? It reminded him of cutting a piece of tofu.
“Brother Shi was really born with great strength! The blade was made from a piece of foreign stone that fell on the earth. I discovered it and god knows how I spent all my energies forging it. Three complete months. Sharper than anything I’ve ever seen. I’d say I have never made a better weapon in my life.” Zhao Ping was spellbound by Shi Mu’s clean movement, the heavy thing like a tamed beast in his hand. He held up his thumb in approval, not forgetting to introduce it with much pride.
Shi Mu returned the blade to its case after looking at it more closely, nodding with rapture, “I knew it! I’ll...”
“Wait, wait. Brother Shi, you’d better give this some thought. I’ve not told you the whole story yet.” Zhao Ping interrupted Shi Mu’s announcement, waving his hand anxiously. The story shall be told.