Shi Mu’s eyes fell on the stove, where magical characters had formed a red, shining circle that was the source of heat ripples in the air.
Detecting Shi Mu’s amazement, Zhao Ping explained proudly, “This is a formula I specially asked an Adept to make for me. It’s called the All-yang formula,and it is able to increase the stove’s heat.”
Shi Mu nodded with satisfaction. His chances for success were even higher now.
“To be honest, I’ve been thinking about improving this blade ever since I made it, and have even come up with a plan. The reasons I didn’t do it were simple. First, given its weight, who could possibly use it even if I could make it? Second, I didn’t have the lizard’s poison at that time. Now that the two problems have been solved - you can use the blade and we have the poison - we can begin our task. I’m sure brother Shi knows as much as I do about weapons, so we can discuss the details together. I look forward to learning from brother Shi. “ Zhao Ping fished a brochure out of his shirt and passed it to Shi Mu.
There was an embarrassed flash in Shi Mu’s eyes. He took the brochure and smiled, “You flatter me, brother Zhao. I knew nothing about making weapons, so I’ve been consulting books and ancient records these days. I’d like to hear your advice.” Then, without delay, he opened the brochure to have a close reading, and would seek Zhao Ping’s opinions whenever an idea dawned on him. Though Shi Mu was not an expert on making weapons, he did have a much better understanding of magical characters. The two did not arrive at a final plan until an hour later.
Suddenly Zhao Ping thought of the key issue in this project. He asked curiously, “I almost forgot to ask, what formula does brother Shi want to imprint on the blade?”
Shi Mu answered without hesitation, “The Great Fire Formula.”
“The Great Fire? As far as I know that’s the most difficult and powerful one among all the basic formulas! It consists of twelve characters!” Zhao Ping gaped in astonishment at the answer, marveling at and suspicious of Shi Mu’s current ability.
“That’s correct.“ Shi Mu only returned a faint smile. He had been giving it deliberate thought, so this was a decision seriously made. This was his highest achievement to date - mastering the powerful Great Fire Formula. In his mind, he had rehearsed the formula’s characters a hundred times, on paper tens of times, and in practice, today would be his first and last chance. Considering the black blade’s material - the exceedingly heavy meteoric iron - it would definitely have a most formidable attack value once the Great Fire Formula was successfully planted on it.
“Since brother Shi has made up his mind, I believe he has confidence in his ability. Then let’s begin.” Zhao Ping nodded, seeing that Shi Mu’s face was quite determined. Without further ado, he turned up the stove. Shi Mu fished out the black blade and passed it to Zhao Ping without the slightest indecisiveness. He stood there watching Zhao Ping’s every move, waiting for him to do the preparation work before he took over to draw the formula.
The fire grew fiercer under Zhao Ping’s control, and so did the room’s heat. When the flames burnt so brightly that they seemed to be spouted from a dragon’s mouth, Zhao Ping gripped the black blade with a pair of tongs and placed it in the roaring flames which soon licked the meteoric iron, crackling energetically. Zhao Ping fished out two red crystal stones of brilliant luster, which were none other than two low-level heavenly stones of the fire element that Zhao Ping had bought for an exorbitant price, and placed them, not without a bit of heartache, in the two indentations on the stove.
The magical characters in the All-yang formula instantly responded by giving off glaring light that made Shi Mu narrow his eyes. The flames reduced in size but grew doubly stronger in heat. The flames looked more refined now, and the room could barely stand the increased heat, seeming to want to melt into a fluid. Zhao Ping’s shirt was plastered against his back, his entire body dripping with sweat, but he just focused on the black blade lying firm in the flames, rapt in his work, his eyes brimming with radiating vigor, and his hands busy stirring the fire.
An hour had passed amid the burning heat. The black luster of the blade gradually came to be a dull red. Shi Mu wiped the sweat beading down his cheeks and flashed Zhao Ping a knowing smile. He did not expect that the All-yang formula could make the stove heat up the black iron to the point of changing in color. Zhao Ping did not relax, however, his eyes fixed on the blade, not letting go of any minute change. A while later, his body tensed, and his hand gripped the red-hot iron blade with the tongs, removing it from the stove to the forging table.
“Pass me the lizard poison!” He demanded, stretching out his hand.
Shi Mu hurriedly passed him the bottle containing the asked liquid.
Zhao Ping took the bottle and shouted again. A faint layer of red light emerged around his body, and his hands seemed to be enveloped by two red balls. An unknown flash of energy began to spread all over the room, swirling around him like a whirlwind. Shi Mu was filled with amazement at the sight. Judging from Zhao Ping’s air, the art he was practicing - which also belonged to the element of fire - could definitely overpower All-yang Art.
Zhao Ping carefully opened the lid and slightly slant the bottleneck. Thick yellow liquid streamed down, falling on the red-hot blade. Zhao Ping let out a muffled sound, and a ball of red light suddenly rose before their eyes, and before Shi Mu knew it, the light engulfed the blade like a flame.
The “light-flame” crackled, and the yellow fluid at the hands of Zhao Ping soon developed into a thin film that completely enveloped the blade. At this time, Zhao Ping’s face paled, which was likely due to the exertion, and the red light also dispersed in a flash. He stepped back, fatigued, and shouted anxiously, “Quick! The surface of the blade has been softened by the heat and the poison! It will recover its hardness once the heat fades. Brother Shi, seize the moment, draw the formula!”
Shi Mu had been long waiting for the moment. Holding his breath, with the red magical brush in his hand, he began to imprint the characters on the blade’s surface. The brush was specially made for writing on weapons, its hair unusually hard. Shi Mu took a deep breath, and, with each character vividly present in his mind, his wrist moved steadily and nimbly, the brush dancing briskly on the blade. If Zhao Ping had been able to see Shi Mu’s face, he would have seen that Shi Mu’s eyes were now gleaming gold. Zhao Ping could only see Shi Mu’s wrist move in a way that exhibited both prudence and proficiency.
Meanwhile, Shi Mu kept his breath slow and shallow, while the characters emerged on the blade one after another. After some thirty or forty minutes, twelve magical characters had all found their way to their appropriate positions, and an effective Great Fire Formula was completed. At the last stroke, the entire formula gleamed red, sending out a power ripple peculiar to the fire element.
“You made it!” Zhao Ping cried in a great elation, his voice quavering as he gained a vicarious pleasure from Shi Mu’s success. But the next view dazzled his eyes: Shi Mu showed no sign of stop. His wrist flicked, and the red brush flew to the place where the first character was drawn like a tireless bee - most incredibly, Shi Mu began to repeat the whole process.
“Brother Shi… certainly you don’t mean to overlay the formula with a second one?!” Zhao Ping’s voice seemed to have lost its substance, floating in the air feebly, while its owner stood astounded. Shi Mu remained fully concentrated on his job as if Zhao Ping’s words did not reach his ears. Zhao Ping took a deep breath to calm his nerves, a light of awe coming into his eyes. To overlay formulas is undoubtedly the best way to empower a magical weapon, but it is definitely not an easy job. The formulas must be overlaid strictly, and the tiniest difference will destroy all the formulas, including the weapon itself! To imprint formula on a weapon is already beyond average Adepts’ reach, not to mention overlay a second formula on the previous one! Even a practiced Adept will usually choose to abandon the thought. After all, who can be sure to draw two identical formulas! The difficulty is almost insurmountable, considering the catastrophic consequences.
However, the gold light in Shi Mu’s eyes glowed unflinchingly. Without any hesitation, he continued the drawing and finished the second formula in a short while.
The blade shone. The red luster flowed through the blade, as though just having just been nourished by a feast. The formulas were much brighter than before.
Zhao Ping released a long sigh of relief; he felt like a survivor after a terrible hurricane. But just as he was to utter something, what he saw made him freeze.