Chapter 152 - The Multiple-headed Viper
"Brother Minh has an expansive knowledge of human culture. How erudite you are! " Shi Mu exclaimed with genuine admiration.
"You flattered me, brother Shi. I am just a humble shaman that stays all year round in the Sacred Snow Palace. I have never really been in the outside world; all I have is large amounts of time that is used to read ancient books." Minh Tu smiled shyly.
"Oh, do you mean there is sort of a library in the Sacred Snow Palace? Can I go there?" Shi Mu's eyes lighted up at the mention of books.
This request embarrassed Minh Tu as his smile froze apologetically, "I'm afraid not. The library is not allowed for even the kinsmen of the eight big tribes to enter without permission. This rule is set by the first Great Shaman and is followed strictly thereafter. Though warrior Mu is an important guest to the sacred mountain, this rule cannot be broken."
Shi Mu was rather disappointed hearing the words, but he could only nod his head.
"But...warrior Mu can ask me whatever question you want to know about. Basically, I have leafed through all the books in the library." Seeing that Shi Mu accepted his explanation resignedly, Minh Tu relaxed; consequently, he could not help but feel sorry for Shi Mu, so he hurriedly proposed to help him through his good memory.
"Well...not that I have any questions in mind...It's only that ever since I came to the wasteland the curiosity for your barbarian culture has been growing in my heart..." Shi Mu stuttered, as if embarrassed by Minh Tu's kind offer. He kept walking with Minh Tu while casually mentioning various conventions he had seen in the barbarian tribes en route.
The topics Shi Mu brought up were all but innocuous common customs, which made Minh Tu relax his vigilance. He soon adopted a sprightly manner to give explanation to Shi Mu's doubts. The two were actively engaged in this conversation about barbarian conventions when Shi Mu led the topic bit by bit to totem arts in a roundabout way. Totem arts was a confidential matter so Minh Tu immediately became guarded in his speech. To figure out Shi Mu's intention, he also began asking about human martial arts. But to his surprise, Shi Mu seemed completely unguarded, answering every question frankly in a way that baffled Minh Tu, and compelled him to answer Shi Mu's questions out of reciprocal respect.
Once his vigilant tongue was unsealed, Minh Tu forgot the scruples that had prevented him from talking freely. The two walked even slower, lost in conversation. Eventually, they simply stopped by a concealed place and concentrated in discussing about the barbarian totem magic and human martial arts.
The ensuing cultural interflow between the two youths proved extremely beneficial to both parties. Especially for Minh Tu, who had always harbored a great interest in human charm magic. He seized this hard-won opportunity to delve into the subject, asking Shi Mu numerous questions about charms.
Shi Mu behaved rather generously by not only displaying a few low-level magical arts, but also gave two low-level charms to Minh Tu for his further study. Actually, as a primary shaman, Minh Tu ranked roughly as a human Adept scholar, so the questions he asked were all but elementary. No secrets at all.
"Since brother Mu is so generous, even telling me about the secrets of charm magic, I'll tell everything I know to you. Please ask whatever concerns you." Retreating his rapt eyes from the charms in his hands, Minh Tu suddenly fell silent for a moment. Then he returned the charms to Shi Mu and said straight-forwardly, as if he had just made a resolve.
Shi Mu smiled faintly, taking the charms. After a brief silent, he answered, "I do have something to ask you, brother Minh."
"Just speak out what is in your mind. I won't conceal anything I known." Minh Tu answered with a serious face.
"Have you heard about the Eternal Doom Curse, brother Minh?" Shi Mu did not beat about the bush this time, but asked frankly.
Minh Tu raised his eyebrows, rather astonished at the mention of the curse.
"Seeing brother Minh's expression, probably you know about it." Shi Mu's heart leaped up excitedly, but his face was the usual coolness.
"As far as I know, this curse belongs to one of the eight tribes, the Fiery Snake Tribe. Technically it's not a secret at all. The eight tribes all have some similar curses, but in my tribe, the Blue Teeth, this sort of black magic is strictly forbidden. I only read some in the library. What does brother Shi want to know about this curse?" Minh Tu nodded after a thoughtful moment.
"I'd like to know the cure to this curse. Please enlighten me, brother Minh." Shi Mu stated solemnly.
"Is there any chance that...brother Shi somehow is suffering from the curse?" Minh Tu was really astonished this time by Shi Mu's serious attitude.
Shi Mu gave a bitter smile, and then out poured his story unequivocally. He related the whole process in which he got the curse with only a few embellishments to avoid embarrassment, because after all, Minh Tu belonged to the barbarian tribes. From their earlier conversation, he had figured out Minh Tu's life story through ways of devious questioning, knowing that the youth had always stayed in the Sacred Snow Palace ever since childhood, causing him to have a candid and pure personality. Otherwise, it would be unsafe to tell him about this experience.
After hearing Shi Mu's relation, Minh Tu thought for a while with a grave face, and then spoke up slowly, "As far as I know, to break this curse one has only two ways. One is to have an Earth Grade saint impose an even higher seal on the curse..."
"I've known about the two approaches. As for the first one, I know it's impossible for me. That's why I escorted the princess to the sacred mountain - to seek the second method." Shi Mu sighed softly and said.
Minh Tu did not answer immediately. It was only after a while that he resumed, "Apart from the secret totem art of the Fiery Snake Tribe, you've got to hunt a strong snake beast to get its spirit."
"I know. This is risky, but my life is also all I have to risk for." Shi Mu sighed again.
"I'm sorry I can't help you more. But shall I first have a look at the tattoo on your body so that I can see what kind of beast is sealed inside you?" Minh Tu nodded, stood up and asked with an echoing sigh.
This was all Shi Mu had been secretly asking for.
The two went back to Shi Mu's flat by the way they had come. There Shi Mu took off his clothes and revealed the horrible tattoo on his chest. The pattern certainly shocked Minh Tu, with its vibrant red color and the life-like fierceness of the snake. After a close look at the tattoo, Minh Tu's face only grew more clouded, and the way he looked at Shi Mu took on a note of unaffected sympathy.
Shi Mu caught all these minute details through his eyes, and his heart sank hopelessly. After some time he said, "Please just speak the truth, brother Minh. No need to worry."
"To be frank, the tattoo on your chest is the infamous fierce beast of our wasteland: the multiple-headed viper. Though this one is only a low-level viper with one head, its strength at least ranks among the late stage of Houtian level. To suppress the curse, you must hunt an even stronger multiple-headed viper. But even a two-headed one is stronger than a Xiantian saint of primary stage. So..." Minh Tu shook his head, sighing.
"Even so, I still have to risk it. May I ask where can I find a multiple-headed viper in the wasteland?" To Minh Tu's surprise, Shi Mu was not the least frightened as he asked in an unhurried voice.
"The multiple-headed viper was extinct several hundred years ago in the wasteland. Even if brother Shi has Xiantian saints to help you, I'm afraid there's no such viper for you to hunt." Minh Tu spoke up only after a long while, as if did not have the heart to break this sad news.
Shi Mu was finally showed traces of panic.
"Actually, there's only one place where this beast might still exist. Inside the portal of the brave warriors. The Fiery Snake tribesman who brother Shi killed may have got this beast's spirit there. But the portal is a forbidden place in our tribe. Even when it is officially opened, a non-barbarian warrior is not allowed to enter, let alone when it is closed." Minh Tu let Shi Mu into the secret after a long time of hesitation.
This added the last touch to Shi Mu's desperation. For a moment his eyes were mournful, and the usually persevering young man finally was defeated by the harsh reality. Minh Tu did not bear to look at such a woeful countenance, so he excused himself after a few more words.
The dark clouds swirled like a tempest in the sky; the stiff wind howled more and more loudly. The earth and heaven was a uniform depressing darkness.
Under the gloomy sky, there was a small basin surrounded by several grey hills where dust was blown by the wind into midair. From the heavy smoke dust came grating noises of weapons striking.
In the basin, fragmented bones and skeletons were scattered all over the ground. Meanwhile, some ten skeletons were still engaged in confused fighting.
Among the skeletons, some were wielding bone knives and axes while others used bone spears and hammers. The rest were fighting empty-handed. However, all of them had green spirit fires gleaming in their eye sockets. Every one of them seemed to have sunk into a frenzied condition, totally blind to their ramshackle bodies. As long as they could still move, they would keep attacking each other.
A broad-shouldered skeleton had just successfully ducked an incoming bone spear shot by the skeleton opposite it. Immediately it stepped forward, waved its bone knife, and cut its enemy into halves from the waist.
However, by the next breath, its left hand had already been fiercely hit by a weapon made from some animal's leg bone. With a clear snap, the broad-shouldered skeleton lost its left arm. Without delay, it turned about, and chopped the attacker's hand off. The attacker would not show weakness easily; surprisingly, it took off one of its ribs without hesitation, and then once again plunged into the fight with the broad-shouldered skeleton.
Such insane and monotonous battle was enacted time and time again among the ten-odd skeletons. Soon, five or six of them soon became fragmented.
Not far from the center of this battlefield, a skeleton with a bone blade was fighting fiercely with a giant skeleton using a spear. The blade skeleton warrior was none other than Silk. The one who gained the upper hand was the giant skeleton.
Pu!!! Something pierced the air. The bone spear was thrust forward by the giant skeleton to Silk, aiming at its throat. The spear flew at lightning speed, far surpassing any normal skeleton's ability to take reaction. Along with the weird attacking angle, there was little possibility Silk could dodge it.
However, Silk twisted its body even more quickly, leaving a series of afterimages behind. Narrowly it escaped.
The next moment, one of the afterimages stopped by the giant skeleton as Silk emerged from the vague images. Its blade was already hacking at the giant skeleton.
However, the enemy reacted almost simultaneously, and with a flick of its arm, the spear collided with Silk's blade. Instantly, an irresistible force rushed to Silk, pushing it back several steps.
Before Silk could regain its balance, the green fires in the giant skeleton's eyes flashed, and the spear once again was shot into the air coming Silk's way, dancing like a white ghost.