Chapter 119 - The Arrow of Fire
"That's all I can do for now. I'm afraid I can't stay here long. I'll leave him to you girls." The Devil Witch rose to her bare feet, titling her head for some last words.
"Yes, Saint." The girl named Qi answered obediently, but Ke Er stirred with surprise at the Devil Witch's sudden withdrawl.
"Your stronghold is no more, smashed by the barbarians in the Great Purge. There's no need to go back," the leaving Devil Witch paused, thinking for a moment and then fished out a jade slip to pass them, "Here. The map can help you know the terrain of this area. Go and find the union's stronghold fifty miles away from this mountain. Wait till he fully recovers before you check in there."
The two girls nodded briskly. However, just as the girl named Qi was about to take the slip, the Devil Witch suddenly twisted her stretched hand's direction, passing it to Ke Er instead. Gravely she suggested to the former, "Xuan Er, you are the only student Lan Yun[A] ever had. Why not return to our sect with me? The old guys of the union won't stop you if you are with me. They dare not."
"Thank you, Saint, for doing so much for me." The girl named Qi lowered her head, her eyes holding a small bit of sorrow as the memories of her deceased master were evoked once again. She sank into a brief silence, then shook her head, going on in a determined tone, "But our sect's disciples never breach the union's orders, so I'm not in the position to leave them in battlefield. Moreover, master once said that real fighting and danger are the only thing that could help one break through."
The girl's resolute voice reached her heart, and the Devil Witch sighed softly without persisting. "Then do take good care of yourself. Don't make me worry if next time I can't pull you out of danger," added the Devil Witch. This said, she turned to have a last glance at the blood-red cocoon, halting momentarily, then took her leave with another sigh. A cloud floated her out of the cave and into the far distance, disappearing from the girls' sight. Meanwhile Ke Er watched the receding figure, seeing it half-covered by wisps of clear clouds and her bright eyes were filled with melancholy. There was a feeling of loss in her heart, mixed with a grain of envy.
Two days had passed since the Devil Witch left. Shi Mu was still in a recuperative rest, his eyes closed, unaware of the outside events, nor the passage of time. The wounds all over his body had been cured and the broken bones and sinews had miraculously been restored. His appearance changed little, except that the color of his skin had deepened. As he was working the Art of the Heavenly Elephant in his mind, the two girls sat by him, watching quietly. Shi Mu could feel his real qi surging like tidal waves inside his body, his muscles protruding at the force so evidently that his clothes were bulging, and nigh-invisibly small whirlwinds circled around him.
After what seemed an eternity, he breathed out, opened his eyes, and his face radiated with contentment. By now, the heavenly energy of the Black Blood Pill had completely been absorbed, and he had not only a full recovery, but also gained a much strengthened supply of real qi, preparing him for upgrading to the fifth level of the Art of the Heavenly Elephant afterwards.
But the absence of the Devil Witch left his heart aching and empty. He sniffed the cold air for some time, as if making a decision, or just allowing himself one minute to get lost in the remnants of the Devil Witch's scent. At last he shook his head and stood up, clasping his hands solemnly to the two girls and said, "Shi Mu is really grateful for your company. Now Let's get out of here." His words met no disagreement, and the three of them left the cave shortly afterwards.
One month later, deep in thick woods.
With the black blade in hand, Shi Mu was confronting a barbarian of similar height to himself, his eyes snapping coldly. The opponent was, without doubt, on the smaller side among his kin, but on his bare chest was a tattoo of a blue wolf howling under the full moon, its neck strained skyward. Not far at his back stood another Totem warrior, stooping over them like a giant, and the golden earrings he wore glittered now and then. The two barbarians thus constituted a position ready for a converging attack.
Actually, half a day before, Shi Mu slipped into a barbarian camp on the border of Fu Zhou City, and the mission went smoothly until the last minute, when he was about to leave. These two Totem warriors approached without warning, blocking Shi Mu's way. The camp lay just next to this forest, which meant that the longer Shi Mu was delayed by these two enemies, the more perilous his situation would be.
Coming to the conclusion, Shi Mu's eyes flared, and his figure flashed forward a distance of several meters, getting closer to the smaller barbarian. A black light bolted over the enemy's shoulder in no time.
"Go!" Shi Mu shouted, and the black blade vibrated violently in midair, throwing out thirteen shadows that cascaded down toward the enemy's head, blowing chills through his bones. Suddenly, the wolf on the barbarian's chest howled loudly, and blue light glowed on his chest. In the light, both of his arms transformed into wolves arms, covered with dense fur, and the nails grew sharp-edged, gleaming blue. His eyes glistened in the cold light, and his two wolf talons swung wildly before his chest, producing interwoven blue images that clashed with the black blade.
Some ear-deafening noises resounded, and after that the black shadows and images of blue talons collapsed in disorder. But almost without a respite, another ten blue images swished toward Shi Mu's face, backed by a forcible wind toppling him from behind.
Shi Mu snorted, and instead of stepping back from the talons, he rushed forward with the black blade humming with magic power. The magical characters on the blade's surface were lit up. Flames leaped up, devouring the blue talons hungrily.
The flames exploded with a loud noise, and the overwhelming heat swept the talons away. The small barbarian was not expecting this, and his body was knocked back by the scorching air billows, thrown into the air like a sack. Still in the air, he saw a small white cloud shoot towards himself at an alarming speed, and the ominous sight made his hair stand on end. This was the Air Billows Art.
Shi Mu took a sudden turn, thrusting his fist toward a black ox's hoof, the size of a human head, that had neared him stealthily. His fist clanged at the impact, and a great force pushed him back. All he knew was that he felt like he had been thumped by a gigantic wild ox with the force of a landslide and the power of a tidal wave, and that his chest was almost ripped open. The heavy after-sensation pressed upon his body, and he staggered like a helpless infant.
The sneak attack was launched by the big barbarian with the golden earrings. He himself was tossed into air by the clashing force, and before hitting the ground he heard a dull sound behind him. It turned out that the small barbarian, in his desperation, had tried to resist the air billows with his arms folded in front of his head, but the arms were torn to pieces, and his chest badly mutilated. Hardly had he thudded onto the ground when a figure flew to his side. Then, in the next moment, a shrill cry resounded, rending the air. Dark blood gushed skyward, and the small barbarian had his head cut in half.
Immediately, Shi Mu heard footsteps of someone scuttling away. He turned around to find the giant barbarian fleeing in a frantic state, having made it as far as some thirty meters in the time since he witnessed his companion's ghastly death. However, the sight of a barbarian Totem warrior running for his life was quite comical, to the extent that Shi Mu could not help but laugh. He laughed scornfully, thinking of how these barbarians had once slaughtered his people. Gritting his teeth, he clenched the blade in his right hand, and it traced an arc of burning flame in the air before it got out of its owner's hand, flying toward the gigantic barbarian at lightning speed.
The running barbarian had been secretly taking pride in his speed before a strange shrill sound came from his back. Before he knew it, his chest stung, and a blood-stained blade tip protruded under his eyes, after having penetrated his body.
A ball of flames shot from the dead man, licking every inch of his skin and turned him into ashes in a split-second. By now, Shi Mu had picked up his blade and streaked away, disappearing into the woods.
Several months later, in the suburbs of Rui Zhou City.
In a dilapidated hut surrounded by the ruins of a village, Shi Mu was sitting cross-legged, his chest rising and falling rhythmically. He seemed to be at rest, accumulating strength. Laying by him was the Purple Steel Bow.
Soon the silence was disrupted, as from the distance came a hubbub of noises. Shi Mu sprang up, like a vigilant cat, holding the bow with one hand, and sneaked out of the hut to move eastward of the village.
A moment later, he was lying on his stomach on a roof of a hut half burned, straining his ears to listen to the sounds. Several hundred meters away, it seemed that at least two hundred barbarians were fighting a human army made up of similar number. They were engaged in a fierce battle, and shouting and crying almost shook the earth.
Though better equipped, challenged by opponents whose physical strength far prevailed over themselves, the human soldiers were evidently losing. Even so, this human army still reacted with discipline and order, fighting back while gradually moving closer to the village, in hope of seeking cover. The barbarians would, naturally, not let them have their way, swooping down on them one by one. Thus the battle grew more pitched, and casualties increased on both sides, though with different speed. All in all, the humans were definitely going to lose.
Shi Mu turned his eyes toward the center of the human army. A leader dressed in full armor caught his eyes, and, judging by his uniform, he did not belong to any sect but to the Qi country's official military force. The leader was wielding a silver spear and was involved in a straight up fight with a Totem warrior whose weapons were a pair of axes. The clashing sounds of metal echoed through the woods.
Shi Mu knew clearly that unless this human army could kill the Totem warrior to make the barbarians headless, it would, undoubtedly, be wiped out in time. However, the human leader had quite a bit of strength that, for the time being, the fighting would not come to an end.
Suddenly, something about the human leader struck Shi Mu as overwhelmingly familiar. But his mask prevented Shi Mu from having a clearer view. Curiosity grew in his heart, as well as the desire to save his kin from being annihilated by their foe. Though he had completed his mission and was taking a rest, he would not simply stand by.
After a close survey of the terrain, he climbed down from the roof soundlessly and approached the battlefield like an experienced hunter. It took him half an hour to reach a ditch behind the barbarians, and during this short period of time, another twenty human soldiers had already lost their lives. The barbarians were in a triumphant mood, and the human army was at an important juncture.
Shi Mu's eyes gleamed gold as he drew out a peculiar arrow from his back. The arrowhead was red, and a formula of extremely small size could be seen faintly on it. This was a magical arrow named the Arrow of Fire, on which the Great Fire Formula was thrice overlaid.
The number three is quite small compared with that of the formulas on Shi Mu's black blade. But it's not that he did not want to overlay more. Due to the tiny size of the arrowhead, it was extremely hard to draw formulas on it, even harder than when he drew formulas on the Moonlight Sea Chestnut Daggers. Three was the limit.
The Arrow of Fire has an average power, only one tenth of the Moonlight Sea Chestnut Dagger's, but once it penetrated the human body and exploded within, the sight would be frightful to behold. After fetching his Purple Steel Arrow, Shi Mu took great pains in making ten of these Arrows of Fire. The rest of the arrows in his bag were all ordinary arrows without magical power.
And today, on this occasion, he would like very much to try this arrow's power.
This decided, he nocked the arrow on the bow, accumulating his strength for a full power shot.
[A]Lan Yun: The Devil Witch's best girl friend.
TL: Dear readers, don't expect more of Ke Er's part in the following chapters! She won't reappear! It's not that Shi Mu has forgotten her, it's the author! (Alright, finally, I'm pleading for Shi Mu..Can't believe this myself...)
ED: I think I shall call this chapter the timeskip chapter! (cause we time skipped 2x...)