Chapter 161 - The River of the Brave
After leaving the cave, Shi Mu and the princess joined in a northbound travel thereafter. Considering their strength, the journey would not be a dangerous one unless they met beasts above Xiantian level or large herds of animals. After a strenuous trudge that took them two days, the two reached a broad river. The water surged across the land for more than thirty meters in width as it rattled by, loud as thunderclap.
"This should be the well-renowned 'River of the Brave' in this forbidden space. After crossing it, we should be in the Middle Area." Shi Mu exclaimed, his eyes glinting as they marveled at the broadness of the river. He knew clearly that his destination was near at hand: exactly across the river. However, the river gave off a deterrent mana, as it were. The bubbling water foreboded a tough time ahead.
"That's it. Shaman Yanya has mentioned that in ancient times, a barbarian saint had set a seal on this river that prevents beasts above Xiantian level from crossing it." The princess echoed matter-of-factly, her eyes alight on the river as well.
Suddenly, something caught Shi Mu's attention, and his eyes narrowed instantly, turning golden. On his left sight, some five or six figures were making their way quickly here. The princess' beautiful face puckered in vigilance; her one hand pressed to her sword hilt while the other fumbled inside her sleeve.
"It's all right. Those are the peaceful guys." Shi Mu pacified the princess as the golden ring in his eyes fading away.
The princess was quite surprised, wondering how the youth beside her could see through such a long distance, which was absolutely beyond her capability. After all, she had been trained in aspects of eyesight-enhancement. She took a deep and meaningful look at Shi Mu. Ever since they met the Holy Girl in the cave, she had felt something rather mysterious about this youth, something like a veil that kept her from seeing him through.
It did not take the barbarians much time to approach the river. Once the distance between them were quite near, the princess relaxed, convinced that they were indeed peaceful tribes. One of the leading two was wearing the tribal clothes of the Green Teeth Tribe, around the age of thirty, while the other had his clothes stripped to his waist, and had a crest made of golden feathers on his head. This was the costume of the Golden Feather tribe. This group of barbarians comprises men from the four peaceful tribes.
The two leaders emitted a strong real qi that suggested their consummate Xiantian level. The others may appear less powerful next to those two, but they definitely far surpassed Shi Mu who was merely at the middle stage of Haitian level.
"Such a coincidence to meet you guys here, guests of the human race." The saint from the Blue Teeth tribe greeted Shi Mu and the princess with a big smile.
"Brother Molang. " The princess requited his hospitality with a genuine smile. Shi Mu also grinned, a step behind the princess. The two of them had stayed with the Blue Teeth tribe ever since they arrived in the sacred mountain, thus they felt more familiar and at ease with the Blue Teeth tribesmen. Shi Mu had also met Molang once.
"Let me introduce brother Jin Huang from the Golden Feather Tribe to you." Molang burst into laughter, pointing to the feather-crested young barbarian standing beside him. The youth appeared to have a taciturn and nonchalant disposition, only nodding slightly to Shi Mu and the princess without further exchange of pleasantries.
"Nice to meet you, brother Jin!" The princess beamed, as if not discerning the youth's coldness. Shi Mu tipped his head to have a quick glance at the shining golden object behind Jin Huang's back; it was a gigantic golden wheel with jagged periphery, reflecting the sunlight coldly that sent chills down Shi Mu's spine. He studied the black magic characters faintly visible on its surface. Being secretly astonished, he was sure that it must be a mighty weapon of devastating effect.
Just as Shi Mu was lost in marveling at the great wheel, Jin Huang sensed the intent eyes and looked back. The two youths' eyes caught each other. Shi Mu was momentarily and slightly shocked, but his expression was as cool as usual. He gave Jin Huang a smile, nodded his head, then diverted his eyes. Jin Huang raised his eyebrows in suspicion, his eyes lingering on Shi Mu for a few more moments.
Molang then engaged in a brief introduction of the rest of their team members. Two of them belonged to Naro Tribe, and the other two the Wu Jiao tribe. Though the members all had different experiences and origins, their common interests bound their closely together, enabling a congenial atmosphere.
"Brother Molang, could I ask for the reason that you have come to the River for?" After a few innocuous greetings, the princess hit directly at the question that concerned her.
"To be frank, as you can see, we have a little group here. However, this group was not founded until the other day when we joined force to kill two strong beasts nearby. Now, we are searching for other target animals. If you will, what about joining us in hunting for more beasts?" Molang invited amiably.
"Good idea. The forbidden place is not very safe. More people means the higher chances of surviving." The princess nodded her approval after exchanging a look with Shi Mu.
"Good! Good!" Molang cracked into a hearty smile, clapping hands. He had calculated that the princess must a good team member to be counted on, considering both her actual strength and her identity. She must be carrying a good number of treasures and weapons. Given this, it would not be a big trouble to travel with a weak guy like Shi Mu, who was disappointingly a mere Houtian warrior at his middle stage.
"So where are you going now? Do you have a plan?" The princess asked.
"Not yet. I've thought of killing more beasts along the River. Better those below Xiantian level." Molang answered without hesitation,.
"Real beasts, huh? Then I guess we should cross the River." The princess' large and bright eyes glittered as she mentioned the other side of the river.
Hearing this, everyone directed their eyes to the speaker in astonishment.
"You mean it?" After a tacit exchange of look with Jin Huang, Molang asked with a hint of smile.
"That's right." The princess answered dispassionately. During the past four days in the forbidden space, she had gradually felt the strength gap between the peaceful side and the aggressive side. She must venture to kill more advanced beasts if she still hoped for their triumph in this match.
"Little girl, has nobody told you that the other side has countless beasts above Xiantian level, have they? You'll surely die considering your strength!" A barbarian shouted in protest. He was from the Wu Jiao tribe. The other two Naro men also shook their heads in disapproval. The Middle Area was the last place they wanted to leave their footprints in.
The princess knitted her brows, quite dissatisfied at their lack of courage. She then tilted her head to look at Shi Mu with searching eyes. To her surprise, Shi Mu answered without the least hesitation.
"I shall go wherever you go, even if it means the other side of the River."
The four Wu Jiao and Naro barbarians shot a contemptuous look at Shi Mu who was the sole warrior still at the middle stage of Houtian level among all that had entered the portal. It was already a miracle, his survival hitherto. In the barbarians' eyes, Shi Mu was having grandiose delusion concerning himself, and his marching into the Middle Area would only end up with his miserable death.
"What do you think, brother Molang and Jin Huang?" Ignoring the protest of the Naro and Wu Jiao barbarians, the princess directed her eyes to the two leaders.
"You have spoken my mind. I've been planning a trip there!" Molang laughed heartily, bringing the other barbarians into quite a sudden shock. Discerning his team members' doubts and misgivings, Molang explained patiently in a low and thick voice.
"Everyone, we've been into this forbidden space for more than four days. Half of the alotted time has already passed. Nobody knows better about our achievement than ourselves. The aggressive guys are way stronger than us. No risk, no chance. "
This proclamation proved to be a bitter reminder. All sank into a hesitant silence, weighing the odds.
Sometime later, the taller one of Wu Jiao tribe broke the silence, shaking his head, "Brother Molang, please forgive me that I could not go to the Middle Area with you. I know that this match is important, but it is not more important than our lives. If you insist on going in there, I'm afraid I'd have to call it an end to our cooperation."
"Of course. I won't force you guys." Molang nodded with a pained expression.
Thus the two Wu Jiao guys cupped their hands and then walked away with resolute steps.
"Brother Molang...The Middle Area is too dangerous for us. I'm so sorry that we cannot follow you either..." The two Naro guys also made up their decision, mincing their words with a dry smile.
"Don't be silly. Of course you can choose your own way. Don't worry." Molang put his hands on their shoulders and answered with a touch of sadness.
Therefore, the two tribesmen also cupped their hands and left on a separate track from the Wu Jiao guys.
In a moment, Shi Mu and the others were the only ones left on the spot. For some time, nobody had the heart to say anything.
"Now it's only the four of us. I daresay that it's a big group, but that makes it easier to move." Molang finally managed a laughter to dispel the embarrassing atmosphere.
"Now that we've decided to cross the river, we'd better think of a safer way. The river does not look inviting. It may deplete a lot of our energy." Shi Mu took up the topic in a seemingly casual way.
"That's correct. You may not have been informed, but a species of some carnivorous fish inhabits this river; they are great in number and fierce in nature. Anything alive that falls into the river will meet their wild attack. Even Xiantian saints will find it a hard time dealing with such creatures." Molang said with a set face.
"Carnivorous fish? I can't see any fish at the moment." The princess asked in surprise.
At this moment, Jin Huang, who had been silently listening, suddenly fished out a piece of meat still smudged with blood; This should be newly cut from some beast's carcass. Without a word, he threw the meat into the river.
Instantly, after four or five breaths at most, countless fine silver lights emerged floating up from the depth of the river and with lightning speed, sprang up to bite at the meat.
Shi Mu stood watching the horrible scene with profound shock. Those silver lights turned out to be a great number of silver fish whose body was as sharp as sword. By no way could they be counted large animals; or more precisely, they were quite small in size. Each one was as long as fifteen centimeters. Only their extended mouth that was as sharp as blade, added a sense of brutality to that small body.
In the next moment, water around the meat suddenly began rolling and foaming. The silver blades surrounded the meat, forming a massive silver ball that made the water tumbling violently.
After a few breaths, the silver ball disappeared without trace into the deep river. The small piece of meat had also vanished like it had never existed in the first place.