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 Chapter 126 - Catch up with an Old Friend

"Congratulations, brother Shi! You surprised me with your skills! Any chance you would be willing to give me some pointers? " Feng Li accosted Shi Mu suddenly, full of ingratiating smiles.

"You flatter me, brother Feng. Sure, let's learn from each other." Shi Mu replied with due politeness. Then, after exchanging some pleasantries, the two parted, a friendly atmosphere between them.

"Brother Shi, please follow me. I'll show you to the Kun room, where there are some other things I think I'd better let you know about." Mountain Green returned his gaze to Shi Mu after everyone else had left. Then, with Shi Mu's agreement, the two left the hall and traveled to the Kun room.

The two pushed the door open and got a look at the interior space, which amounted to approximately thirty square meters. It had a stone bed in the corner, and all kinds of tools and equipment, for making charms, set up and ready. There was also a giant formula covering the four walls, each carved with numerous magical characters - this was the Reincarnation Formula, which Mountain Green had mentioned before.Mountain Green fished around in his shirt and then took out a white jade ornament, passing it to Shi Mu, "This is the token of this stronghold, Rat Nest. Do store it carefully. Also, you need this to activate the Reincarnation Formula."

Shi Mu nodded without saying a word, and received the token. Instilling some spirit power into it, he lifted it into the air and gave it a gentle shake. The magic characters on the walls soon shone brightly and the air inside the room felt cooler, like streams of a burbling autumn stream. He soon felt like a soft breeze was brushing across his cheeks. Slowly, the whiff of fresh air seeped into his skin and quickly ran through his body. As a result, his spirit felt refreshed, and both his spirit power and physical strength began to restore at a speed one third faster than usual. Quite satisfied, Shi Mu nodded to Mountain Green to show his fondness for this room.

"Good. Brother Shi has trudged a long way to our stronghold and just finished an intensive competition. So please have a good rest today. Leave work for tomorrow." Mountain Green said warmly, and then sensibly excused himself. Shi Mu did not stay in the room long either. After a careful, curious inspection, he pushed the door open and strode forward. He'd spend the rest of the day exploring the stronghold.

......

Night fell. Shi Mu returned to his room and sat quietly on his bed. It was high time for him to practice the Art of the Heavenly Elephant, especially now that he was in this formula-blessed room. He did not reopen his eyes for a long time.

During the daytime, he had travelled to almost every nook and cranny of this Rat Nest, acquainting himself with the stronghold and its people. The underground citadel was well built, with paths leading in every direction, and an entrance at each of the four major directions: East, West, North, and South. No wonder it was named Rat Nest, mimicking the way rats would build their own homes. As for the people here, most Adepts would be assigned tasks of making charms by Master Fang each day, and could act freely as long as one finished the charms on time. In their spare time, some would take on extra tasks from the jade wall in the hall for more feat points - that is, under the condition that these extra tasks would not account for much of their training time. Also, the Rat Nest was not far from Lan City, which was another big stronghold of the union where a large supply of daily essentials and training materials could be exchanged for with feat points. All in all, at the moment, this was the perfect place for Shi Mu. Right now he had reached the fourth level in the Art of the Heavenly Elephant, a bottleneck that he was having trouble breaking through. Hence, the most urgent requirement for him now was a steady period of time, in safety, where he had a comfortable environment fit for self-training.

However....

Shi Mu knitted his eyebrows, and a beautiful figure floated before his eyes. Jin Xiaochai. What was she up to? The very thought of her unfathomable eyes sent chills down his spine. He could not help but believe that the whole situation had some dark side to it. What on earth that could attract a Xiantian saint's attention to him? But he felt relief when he heard that Jin Xiaochai was not a regular elder in the Rat Nest.

Just as he was combing through these strange thoughts, a knock at his door broke his concentration. He stood up to open the door and the blue costume of the guest standing outside attracted his eyes - it was Feng Li.

"Brother Feng, what a wonderful surprise! Please, come in." Shi Mu did not let his facial expression betray his inner turmoil. With an inviting smile, he made room for Feng Li to come in.

"I came without an invitation. I hope I haven't interrupted brother Shi," Feng Li said apologetically.

"What? No, As a newcomer, I've got loads of things to ask brother Feng. You've come at the right time."

After making some small talk, the two sat down by the desk, in a pleasant mood.

"Alas, I never thought that we, the once-practitioners, could meet again in this stronghold. By the way, you killed Jin Tian of the Jin Clan, and offended the Wu Clan. The two families offered a generous reward for your death, and news said that they had sent Houtian warriors to kill you...And now! You have not only fled successfully, but also joined the Black Demon Sect." Feng Li exclaimed, a sense of nostalgia filling the room.

"It's all by chance that I've become what I am today." Shi Mu also signed wistfully, an image of a pretty girl appearing in his mind. As a matter of fact, due to all sorts of accidental mishaps, Zhong Xiu had a lot to do with his joining the Black Demon Sect. According to Ke Er, after being brought back to the sect by Red Herb, Zhong Xiu was greatly valued by the elders, due to her rare bloodline, and, thus, was offered the best training. She was not required to come to the battlefield either. Because of this, there was no need for Shi Mu to worry about her, but the sad thing was that the two of them would not meet during this time of war.

Having these thoughts tumbling in his mind, Shi Mu chatted with Feng Li casually, giving him a rough recount of how he joined the sect. Feng Li also told him some of his own experiences, including how the Black Fox Gang was eradicated by another gang after Shi Mu left the Feng City, and how he himself fled from the confused fighting while most lost their lives. After his chance survival, Feng Li joined up with a gang of bandits in the mountains, and later succeeded the leader's position, due to his outstanding performance. Once, they robbed a group of bodyguards halfway to the city, and from a young man amongst them, Feng Li got the token to join the Black Tortoise Sect. Thus, he became a sect disciple in a very odd way.

However, Shi Mu was not completely convinced by this story, especially the part of him joining the Black Tortoise Sect. But he decided to remain silent and respect his friend's privacy.

"Brother Shi has really changed a lot. I barely recognized you at first." Feng Li smiled heartily.

"So have you, brother Feng! No wonder the Black Tortoise is one of the seven big sects! Their arts are so magical that you are looking younger than you were back in Feng City!" Shi Mu threw out the question in a casual way, indicating that he was not trying to pry.

"Hehe, this is an art I've been practicing called the Rising Sun Art. It's only effect is to remain youthful! I mean, it's really useful in helping you keep a good appearance." Feng Li gave a bitter smile.

"Wow, I've never heard of such an art. By the way, does brother Feng know how my Auntie Zhen and half-sister are doing? I did ruined everything back then, and I worry if I got them involved." Shi Mu nodded, and, after a hesitating for a moment, he ventured the question that concerned him the most. Auntie Zhen was the only one that treated him like a motherly figure in Feng City, and Shi Yuhuan was the only one related to him by blood, so, naturally, his heart was always thinking of them.

"Brother Shi killed Jin Tian that year, which was a sensational news in Feng City. Even the patriarch of the Jin Clan was appalled. So your Auntie could not go unpunished, but she was not severely punished - she was only confined. As for Shi Yuhuan, I heard she was enrolled into the KaiYuan Martial Arts School, but I have no idea how she is doing now." Feng Li answered, after giving the question some thought.

Shi Mu heaved a sigh of relief after hearing this. The two talked a bit more before Feng Li stood up and bid him a goodnight.

......

It was in the dead of the night, and the entire world was enveloped by a complete silence. The moon hung high up in the night sky, flooding the earth with its bright light.

Just then, a figure sneaked out of the west exit of the Rat Nest, quickly moving through bushes and under trees. The figure stopped after traveling through the mountains for an hour. He sat down, cross-legged, in a flat open area. This figure was none other than Shi Mu. The moon shed its cool, soft light on his body, and soon Shi Mu entered his dreamland again.

......

In the Space of Death.

A majestic mountain tower dominated the area around it, making the ragged land at its base look shabby in comparison. Several meters away from the foot of the mountain there lay a small, muddy pond, and beside it, the ground was littered with broken bones, which came in many different sizes, but, judging from the amount of bones, they could make up, at least, six complete human skeletons. The pond would spout a bubble every now and then, and, apart from its water quality and the blood-red color, there was nothing special about this pond.

Silk was now lying inside this pond, her mouth repeatedly opening and closing, as if absorbing the blood water and then spitting it back out. Each time, the color of the water would deepen to some extent. But after what seemed an eternity, the pond cleared, the water transparent again.

Splash! The gleams in Silk's eye sockets glittered as she suddenly stood up to her full height.

[TL: Alright, I prefer "she" because Silk would be a really beautiful girl later. :) ]

[ED: HELL YEAH! {XD} (But I am keeping it gender neutral JUST IN CASE) Forget that. I am changing it all back to feminine. Gender neutral possessiveness sucks. I'm going to be upset if this turns out to be a dude. -_-;]

Two years had past since the day she had formed a contract with Shi Mu. She did not look that much different to how she looked two years ago. The only difference was that her bones seemed strengthened, and her eye sockets gleamed more brightly. Also, she now had a bone sword hanging from her waist, and a crude bone armor covering her arms and waist.

Silk bent her head, looking at the pond's surface. Right now, the twelve blood-red moons were casting their reflections on it. The water, which had been made transparent, was returning to its former redness, but at a tremendously slow rate. It passes anyone's knowledge to foretell how long it would take to regain a full redness.

Silk returned her gaze to the distance, and, turning around, she marched forward, lonely but determined.

......

Day was breaking.

On a mountain near the Rat Nest, Shi Mu awakened from his ape dream with a jolt.

......

One month later, in the Kun room.

Shi Mu sat on his bed, a white jade bottle in hand. His eyes were glinting thoughtfully.

During this period, he had gained the approval of all the Adepts in this stronghold, as well as Master Fang, as a result of his outstanding skills. He had helped the stronghold with many urgent tasks. Under Master Fang's permission, like the other two Spirit Grade Adepts, he could visit the stronghold's storehouse freely to fetch materials needed for making charms. If the material was for his own use, he'd need to exchange for it with his feat points - a rather fair deal. Several days ago, he broke a record while finishing a very urgent task, and the union broke a rule to award him a Wall-Breaking Pill.

As designated by its name, the Wall-Breaking Pill helps one break through a bottleneck in a warrior's training, and holds special effects for Houtian warriors. Due to the difficulty of its production, it is, usually,not sold in any markets.

With this pill, the prospect of breaking the fourth level of the Art of the Heavenly Elephant became quite promising.

Having made up his mind, Shi Mu put the white jade bottle at his hand's reach, and began to adjust his breathing.

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