Chapter 160 - Pearl the Holy Girl
The sea guy glowered at the princess, his fierce eyes glinting with the trident propped before his chest. He looked just like a demon from hell.
"Su Gu, get out of the way!" The blue-dressed girl's metallic voice rang out, precluding the sea guy from taking any impetuous actions. The guy shot the holy girl an uncomprehending look, but still withdrew his weapon resignedly.
The princess peered through the attacking foxes at the cave, swinging about to repel those at her back. In the next moment, her body twisted nimbly, darting into the cave like a bird.
Once the princess was in, the sea guy once again blocked the opening, and dispatched the three pursuing foxes in a blink of an eye. Three were slashed open while the other two, though comparatively stronger, were struck out of the cave.
Shi Mu nodded appreciatively at the blue-dressed girl, and then had a quick look at the princess to inspect her body for wounds and injuries. Fortunately, aside from some bruises, the princess wasn't severely injured, causing Shi Mu to be relieved. On the other hand, her survival from the blood fog proved that she must have been carrying some treasure given by her sect.
The princess exchanged a look with Shi Mu, also sweeping the holy girl and the black-armoured sea guy with her keen eyes. With a suspecting look, she seated herself cross-legged against the stone wall in a corner.
Just as Shi Mu was about to say something, an ear-splitting howl penetrated the opening of cave. The three of them simultaneously tensed up while looking out of the cave. As it turned out, the odor of dead bodies mixed with fishy blood outside the cave were drawing more of the beasts here.
Peeping out from the opening, grey foxes scattered everywhere over the mountain and among them, stood a good number of porcupines. Now and then some of them would raise their heads and let out howls that were echoed by their companions.
"Princess, please rest yourself here and we shall talk after the tide's over." Shi Mu said in great haste. Before the princess had a chance to answer, he had rushed to the opening of the cave with his black blade. He and the sea guy once more supported each other at either side of the entrance. The holy girl also entered into combat readiness, activating the coral in her hand. The coral soon weaved between Shi Mu and the sea guy, creating a light screen surrounding them that ready to seek the opportune chance to kill the porcupines.
Seeing this, the princess swallowed down a pill and began adjusting her breaths with her eyes closed. Her right hand did not slacken the grip on her sword.
This time, the beasts had come in a much stronger wave than any of the ones before. Large groups of grey beats launched unceasing attacks one after another, accompanied by the heavy rains of sharp quills that would not let go of any opportunities. Owing to previous experiences, the three operated in good coordination that enabled them to pull through.
Eventually, after two good hours, when the sky outside the cave had dimmed, the porcupines were almost all eradicated. Though the foxes still flowed to the cave in unceasing amount, their momentum was lost without the porcupine's assistance. The odds were clearly against them.
Anticipating their success, the three, though still panting for breaths, heaved a sigh of relief. Inside the cave, the princess had accumulated some strength during this break. Therefore, Shi Mu suggested them have a brief rest alternately. First the holy girl, then Shi Mu, replaced by the princess and the holy girl, each turn taking an hour. This way, the four of them managed to resist the tide of beasts while maintaining coordination.
The long night finally passed, and the first rays of the morning shone on the countless corpses piling all over the mountain with the blood streaming between the bodies. Then, after another hour's combat, the blood fog began to recede bit by bit, and the wild beats regained their sanity accordingly. At length, the grey tide of foxes began to ebb down the mountain.
At this moment, it was the princess and the holy girl's turn to rest inside the cave. Seeing that the foxes were leaving, Shi Mu and the black-armoured sea guy both relaxed. Shi Mu smiled self-mockingly to himself; he could never had anticipated this cooperation with the sea-dwellers, one that protected both sides from destruction. The two men looked into each other's eyes searchingly, and then simultaneously darted out of the cave. By tacit agreement, they kept a distance between them and began to collect the beasts' souls.
After a short time, both gave up resignedly after obtaining thirtyish souls of primary or intermediate Houtian level respectively. They had killed more than a thousand beasts during the night, but the long hours also saw most of the souls vanishing into the air.
When the two men returned to the caved, the princess and the holy girl sitting at two opposite corners also had wound up their rest, each on the lookout for the other. The atmosphere inside the cave felt subtly awkward.
Fully aware of this change of attitude, Shi Mu smiled bitterly ease the tension. Just as he was then to say something, he caught sight of a black shadow at the corner of his eye!
In reflex he knew the worst had come. Immediately he swung his black blade, throwing overlaid black shadows towards the black shadow heavily.
Weapons clanged, and through the blade, a rolling wave of real qi traveled to Shi Mu. He stepped back involuntarily at the great shock, but the black shadow of the figure seemed to also be inflicted by Shi Mu's beastly might which was only resolved by two steps backwards.
Forestalling Shi Mu's further actions, the black figure bolted to the entrance of the cave and blocked it with his sturdy body like a firm wall. This was undoubtedly the black-armoured sea guy, who was now staring at Shi Mu and the princess like a tiger at its prey, full of grim smiles.
The princess did not show much surprise. With the tide of beasts ebbing, there existed no reason for the perpetuation of their temporary friendship. Shi Mu had his eyes riveted on the holy girl. Judging from their previous coordination, this girl was a master in water magic, the last one he wanted to have a fight with. Also, the black-armoured sea guy was no less strong: a warrior in his consummate Houtian stage. A combat between the two sides should be a fierce one whose result was hard to predict.
"Back off, Su Gu!" The blue-dressed girl's face fell, and her voice was tremoring with anger.
"Holy Girl, the alarm was over, why should we...." The black-armoured sea guy halted in great dissatisfaction.
"Are you going to act against my order?" The girl dropped her voice and asked authoritatively.
"Never!" The sea guy startled, hurrying off and giving the way but still cautiously remaining a short distance from the entrance of the cave.
Shi Mu and the princess exchanged a suspecting look; their vigilance for the holy girl increasing instead.
"Gongzi[A], so we met, finally! Two years ago, I went to the village but you weren't there. I thought you must have ran away and that I would never meet you again." The holy girl turned to Shi Mu, exclaiming excitedly.
"Could I ask who..."Shi Mu was quite shocked hearing this.
"Shi Gongzi, don't you remember this?" The holy girl puckered her face in a smile, then raised a slender finger to point at Shi Mu gently.
All of a sudden, something in Shi Mu's shirt burned with unbearable heat, and he furrowed his face, stretching his hand to get grab of it.
"So you are that white clam years ago at the bottom of the sea near my village?"
The girl giggled. "So you do remember me, don't you? Anyway, after I left that sea I met my master, I became the holy girl of the East Sea Area." Seeing Shi Mu's surprised look, the girl smiled. A charming smile indeed. Simultaneously, white light began to shine behind her back, and soon, a pair of giant and pure white clam shells emerged and floated in the air like two wings.
Shi Mu stood frozen in the spot, unable to divert his eyes from those jade-like shells free of the slightest flaws. Long buried memories began to pop out, flitting across his mind in a single moment.
To be frank, the reason he could be what he was at the moment was mostly because of the help he had got from this stunning girl standing in front of him.
Both the sea guy and the princess stared in amazement. Who could ever have known that not only does Shi Mu and the holy girl of the sea species know each other, but that they share a memory and a close relationship as well? From now on, the princess looked at Shi Mu with a feel of suspicion.
"By the way, I've got a name now. My people call me Pearl the Holy Girl, but you can just call me Pearl! Gonzi, I haven't asked your name yet. Where have you been all these years?" The blue-dressed girl gave him a warm smile, the clam shells behind her fluttering archly. The memory of the village boy saving her life stayed with her all the years, unfaded by time.
"My name is Shi Mu." With some embarrassed reluctance, Shi Mu uttered his name slowly. Though he cherished the warm friendship between them when they were still young boys and girls, he understood perfectly the change of situations and hence their stances. Thus, he told her his name but not his experiences hitherto.
Pearl seemed finally to have taken notice of the awkwardness between them. Her beautiful face puckered in doubt and the genuine and warm smile faded away. The white clam shells also withdrew in low spirits.
A hesitating silence hovered between them. After a long time, Shi Mu took out a crystal pearl from his shirt and handed it to Pearl, "Holy Girl, this should be yours. Please take it."
"No need. Keep it, Shi Gongzi."Seeing that Shi Mu had been carrying the pearl all the time, her eyes kindled with delight once more. But the next moment, after hearing his words, she raised her hand, causing countless blue magic characters to instantly emerge, floating up from her palm. Next, all characters merged into three blue light balls which flashed into the pearl in Shi Mu's hand.
Shi Mu was rather surprised.
"Shi Gongzi, see you later. Su Gu, let's go!" The holy girl turned to walk out of the cave without giving Shi Mu a chance to say anything. The black-armored sea guy threw Shi Mu a hard stare, then twisted his fishtail, following the holy girl closely out of the cave, leaving a contemptuous snort behind.
Shi Mu gazed at the two figures until they receded into the dark mountain forest, then looked back at the pearl in his hand. Shaking his head uncomprehendingly, he store the pearl away in his shirt again.
"Good. Now you can talk about your relationship with the Holy Girl." The princess' cold voice rang out in the dark cave.
"You've heard all that I can tell. If ever you have any doubt, please just leave me alone." Shi Mu answered matter-of-factly. He preferred to have all those experiences all to himself. Besides, he would not easily let anyone into the secret of the strange blood that had contributed to his body mutation.
"How dare you!" The princess was raged by Shi Mu's defying manner, but she quickly thought of something and calmed herself down.
"Humph! Alright, do as you like. I'm not interested in your personal experiences. Let's go!" This said, the princess left the cave first with her white sword in hand, walking in the opposite direction of the two sea dwellers. With many thoughts tumbling in his mind, Shi Mu followed her without a word.