Chapter 162 - The Dark-Force Fruit
Her eyes riveted on the rippling water as the princess sighed with knitted brows. Beside her, Shi Mu was in deep contemplation. The two shared a mute and pensive moment.
Could it be that this river, being infested with dangerous fishes, was the reason that the beasts living in the Middle Area did not dare to enlarge their territory and push it across the river? Shi Mu was lost in thought, letting his eyes wandering above the water.
"Since you two have already known of this kind of fish, I bet you must have thought of a plan." The princess suddenly asked curiously as her eyes continued to blink.
"Sure! A pretty easy way, I'd say. All we need is a raft of logs. The sturdier, the better. The raft will take us to the other side of the river." Molang revealed the secret with a confident smile.
The answer caught Shi Mu and the princess quite unprepared; both of them were amazed at its simpleness.
"So it is?" The princess asked apprehensively.
Shi Mu echoed readily, "The fish's teeth are far too sharp. I daresay that the logs may not withstand their bite." The voice was steady but with a hint of worry, too. After all, if ever the worst happened - the raft being sabotaged by the diabolical fish - even Xiantian saints would find it a challenge to survive intact.
"Rest assured, brother Shi. Our people have tried this method for generations and never once has it failed. Brother Shi can make the raft as strong as possible." Molang placated the two newcomers in a easy and encouraging tone of voice.
Discerning something, the princess puckered her face in a smiled and asked, "Brother Molang's self-assurance seems to be telling me that he must have tried this method last time he visited this space, and with a good result, mhmm?"
Molang blushed in embarrassment; his eyes evaded the interrogating ones of the smart princess'. After a hesitating moment, he nodded with much reluctance. This spontaneously aroused Shi Mu's suspicion, but he did not change his expression at all.
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's make the raft." The princess snickered half mockingly, and then turned to the woods with Shi Mu to fetch for logs.
The whole process proved without much difficulty once the four joined force. Within four hours, a raft about ten meters in width and fifteen meters in length was made. Shi Mu had built it with three layers of logs to ensure safety. Upon completion, Molang took out a broad hide and put it up to serve as a sail.
Thus, the four of them boarded the raft as Molang fished out a blue charm. After a few incantations, the charm caught fire immediately and sent out beams of blue light amid a wild gust of wind. The sail was pushed forward, aiming at the opposite bank at high speed.
Standing on the raft guardedly, Shi Mu grasped his black blade with one hand while secretly clutching a black hide charm with the other in his sleeve. This black magic charm was exactly one of two he had got from Bare Head, the one from the Fiery Snake Tribe. The other copy of this charm he had tried the other day, and the result was not unsatisfactory. The charm had a magic power similar to that of a low-level charm of the wind element, able to generate a strong wind that allowed the user to be able to fly across a length of distance. This Wind-Wing Art rang a bell in his memory, but he could not remember when and where he had learned of it.
On the other end of the raft, the princess was actively looking around, in a quite casual manner as if she was enjoying the scenery. However, both of her hands had coiled back into her sleeves, obviously holding some secret charms. By contrast, with the previous successful experience, Molang and Jin Huang appeared much more at home.
Fortunately, this seemingly crude approach worked out; the voyage wound up safe and smooth. The river was as if it was just like any other river in the world.
When the raft finally pulled in, Shi Mu leaped onto the bank excitedly; the feeling of standing on the land gave him much comfort. After storing away the charm in his sleeve carefully and inconspicuously, he began scanning the environment like a curious boy. He found that the tense spirit had kept him from observing the scenery closely, and there was a huge difference on this side of the river. The varieties of plants and trees were much the same, but the size of them almost doubled on this side.
"You two must be quite familiar with the Middle Area, so where should we go next?" The princess' clear voice rang out.
"Please wait a second, princess. It's your turn then, brother Jin." Molang turned at Jin Huang and said.
However, his interlocutor did not answer, but only took out a yellowed map drawn on a patch of hide wordlessly.
"Is that the map of the Middle Area?" The princess asked in a pleasant surprise.
Jin Huang nodded, then checked the environment by the map. Soon he found out their location on the map.
Shi Mu had a quick glimpse at Jin Huang's map, then minced back two steps and took out a smaller map which had much fewer marks on it. A simplified version which Minh Tu had copied for him from the books and memoirs kept in the library of the sacred mountain. The marks on it signified where the multiple-headed viper may appear. Shi Mu had a quick comparison between his and the one in Jin Huang's hand, and then his eyes flashed.
"Let's walk in this direction," Jin Huang pointed his arm to a certain place and said after a silent moment.
He meant that they should enter the depth of the area directly!
"It's too risky! March into the hinterland directly? We're not in the periphery areas!" The princess protested roundly.
"Princess, if I remember it right, it was you who first suggested we cross the river to hunt for beasts. Are you regretting it, now that we have made it here?" Jin Huang complained with a sullen face.
"Be that as it may, us two are not Xiantian saints like you. We can help deal with consummated Houtian beasts, but what if we stumble across a Xiantian beast? Will you two help us run away? Who'll cover up for us?" The princess' voice hardened to an even greater degree.
"All right, calm down, princess. The four of us share the same goal - that is, hunt as many beasts as possible during the remaining days - so what are we arguing for? Let's be friends, shall we?" Seeing that atmosphere between the princess and Jin Huang tensed up, Molang quickly began to appease the two sides.
"All right, let's be frank. Don't sneak around anymore, you guys are plotting something, aren't you? You aren't here simply for beasts, anyone can see that." Shi Mu suddenly intervened.
"What are you hinting at?" Molang raised his brow, displeased.
"Friends shall not hide anything from each other, that's the tradition in my country that's among my people. So if you two won't tell us your true purpose then we'll part with you here and now." Shi Mu continued, undeterred and in a cold voice.
Hearing this, Molang exchanged a look with Jin Huang. After a moment, he let out a dry smile and cupped his hands apologetically, "I'm sorry, truly. We did hide information from you, but without any bad intentions. It's all because that the place we're aiming at is quite dangerous, so we thought it'd be better if we let it out later..."
Shi Mu grinned as the princess' heart thumped. But both remained silent, waiting for further explanation.
"Indeed, we have a purpose coming here. By any chance, have you heard of the Dark-Force Fruit?" Molang went on.
The Dark-Force Fruit? Shi Mu started searching his memory, but in vain.
"Don't you mean the fruit is here?!" The princess exploded.
"Yes, princess. How knowledgeable you are! Indeed, the fruit exists in this forbidden space, right at the place we were going to." Molang nodded his head eagerly, his eyes burning with desire.
The princess' expression froze in utter amazement as her breath paused for a moment. Then her eyes were also kindled passionately.
However, Shi Mu found himself totally in the dark. He was sure this was the first time he had heard of this kind of fruit. He then asked what it was and why it was so valuable.
"The Dark-Force Fruit only grow in places of extreme coldness, nurtured by yin qi. The tree will only bear fruit every hundred years. So its value is self-evident. The fruit is a rare medicine, able to wash your veins and enhance your marrows. Also, it helps tremendously in breaking the bottleneck to Xiantian level." The princess made a brief explanation quickly as her eyes glinted even more fervently.
Shi Mu was profoundly astounded. Xiantian level! Now he understood his fellow travelers' perfervid yearning.
"If we traveled about thirty miles in this direction, we would arrive at a snow-capped mountain. At its foot was a cave in a covert place, and inside the cave the tree grows, full of the fruits. It's even enough for the four of us to share." Molang narrowed his eyes and spoke in a hushed voice, detecting the change of countenance of the princess and Shi Mu's.
The princess was now burning with eagerness. However, Shi Mu was even more unperturbed. He pursued his questions, "If the cave is concealed, how did you two first discover it?"
"Last time we entered the portal, we two chased after a demon beast and by pure chance found that cave." Molang answered with unwavering voice.
"Such precious fruit must be guarded by heavenly animals. Why didn't you take the fruit last time? Could it be for the guarding animal?" Shi Mu furrowed.
"Exactly. There was a consummated Houtian beast in that cave, an Ice Scorpion. With topographical advantage, the beast equaled a primary Xiantian saint in power and strength! Plus, we were not as strong as we are now, so we could only manage to escape empty-handed." Molang let out a resigned sigh.
"But after all the years that we've been doing research on the beast, we have come up with a plan to deal with it. The plan requires four people. As long as you two join us, we'll kill the beast and share the fruits equally." Molang promised in all sincerity and seriousness.
"But why specifically four people?" The princess was not convinced by the plan, raising her doubt.
"The plan centered on a black magic formula which needs three people to activate and one more person to entice the beast. This way, we can trap the Ice Scorpion for at least half an hour, during which we'd have finished picking the fruits." Jin Huang took up the topic.
Pleased with the answer, the princess' face lighted up. Consequently, both Jin Huang and Molang were heartened. However, Shi Mu did not offer his share of exultation, leaving the three in a gladdened atmosphere by themselves. For Shi Mu, however plausible the plan sounded, the Ice Scorpion would not be that easy to bring under control, considering that it was the guard of the Dark-Force Tree. Also, he had come to the forbidden space simply for multiple-headed vipers. The fruit could not beat the viper in significance by any means. After all, the latter decided whether he was able to maintain his life! Otherwise, what is the use of the Dark-Force Fruit?