Chapter 6: The Mutation
Translator: Novel Saga Editor: - -
"This is a little easy. I know I can do better."
Shi Mu thought to himself as he prepared for another lift. He raised his hand and threw away the stone lock on the ground with a loud thud, shaking the entire square lightly.
Shi Mu raised his hand to study his fingers closely. He observed that the lean and long fingers were sturdy, but did not look like they had the immense strength required to lift 500 kg.
After a moment's thought, Shi Mu walked to a wooden shelf to take down a long saber. The saber's movement created a succession of flashing shadows that began exploding above the square, and the overwhelming energy sent sand and stones flying.
Whiz! A white whip rolled in, and struck a wooden target.
Pa! Pa! In a moment, the target crashed to the ground with seven cuts, after a few bold sounds.
One movement, seven cuts. Seven cuts in one movement! This was exactly what Li Cang Hai had showed him, and he had surpassed his instructor's record within one night's time by managing seven cuts.
In the evening, the shadows disappeared, leaving Shi Mu in the same spot. Saber in hand, he seemed to be deep in thought.
Then the night came.
The heavy wooden door to the room was closed. The room was large and austere, and did not have any decorations.
Shi Mu with his eyes closed lay on the bed in the centre of the room.
His skin had a tinge of red to it, and he was sweating heavily. He was curled up in a half conscious state, and kept twitching and murmuring.
His groans eventually died down after an indefinite amount of time had passed, and he began to stretch his body slowly. He opened his tired eyes as his skin returned to its normal colour.
Shi Mu took a few deep breaths before getting off the bed to exercise. He clutched the edge of the bed in a sudden move, flexing his fingers.
The solid wooden edge was crushed with a clean sound.
"My strength has increased, but not as much as the last time. Even after an interval of one month, the effect lasts less than a quarter of an hour. It seems that I won't make a lot of progress next time," Shi Mu murmured.
That amazing change had begun as soon as he had moved into the manor, and had taken place on more than one occasion. All the strength that he had displayed earlier in the day had come from this change and it had sharpened his practice of the saber art.
The first mutation had occurred within the first month of his arrival, and had tormented his body for an entire night.
However, he found that the pain had disappeared by the next day, leaving his body with more strength and elasticity.
The second mutation took place two nights later.
This pattern continued for about ten mutations' time, and each time the benefits of the reward were accompanied by an intense amount of pain.
He then began to notice that the duration of each mutation was decreasing, the intervals were becoming longer, and his strength was starting to stagnate.
The growth this time was negligible when compared to the first few mutations. The achievements, however, were still quite extraordinary.
But this time, Shi Mu's body responded quicker than other people's, and he was able to lift more than 500 kg.
He was quick to figure out that the mutations must have had something to do with that huge clam he had saved from the seabed.
The process of mutations always stirred up spasms of pain, similar to what he had felt that day on the beach. He had been cured by the clam girl while he was in his coma, and he had awakened due to a feeling of his blood boiling inside him. The one difference that he felt now was that the pain of mutation was ten times as sharp as the pain he had felt then.
Secretly, though, Shi Mu was extremely happy at his boost of strength. He had envied others when they had told him about the many fortuitous events that had befallen them.
But now a fortunate event had occurred in his favour. This filled him with a new kind of confidence and yearning for the fierce competition that he was to meet at the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School's enrolment test.
Shi Mu had learnt from Li Cang Hai that acquiring Qi sensing would not be enough, and the competition could still be difficult for him.
After all, considering the limited resources of the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School, only a few candidates would pass the enrolment test out of the innumerable aspirants. Moreover, it was evident from the past that the number of aspirants from each prefecture was at least a few multiples of what the School eventually enrols.
Shi Mu was well aware of his mediocrity. He would not have a great chance at Qi sensing despite the aid of the Qi Ling pill.
However, Li Cang Hai told him that once one crossed the Ninth level in Body Tempering, one would have a much better shot at succeeding in Qi-sensing. If one was to cross level ten, even a person with low comprehension would be successful one out of three times. It would come as a surprise if he failed Qi sensing after accomplishing all the thirteen levels of Body Tempering.
This was why some of the inferior Martial Disciples were still able to sense Qi in their thirties, or even forties. But only the rich could afford such a wonder, as very few had the time and money needed for such investment.
Furthermore, to not acquire Qi-sensing until middle age left little time for further studies. With the prime of a warrior already wasted, the difficulty of becoming an intermediate Hou Tian Warrior would be tripled, and becoming an advanced one would then be out of the question.
But some aristocrats collected rare herbs to help with their Qi-sensing, which costed way more than the Qi Ling pill.
In fact, even Li Cang Hai had failed in reaching the Hou Tian stage before the age of fifteen.
Later, in his twenties, Instructor Li Cang Hai finally managed to reach the twelfth level in Body Tempering. He had to take a Qi Ling pill twice before he finally managed to become a Hou Tian Warrior.
But for Shi Mu, collecting rare herbs was out of the question. Therefore, the only way to succeed was through Body Tempering.
But for each level after the ninth, the time taken to advance increased exponentially. This time exceeded the amount commoners could afford to spend on training by a large margin. It was impossible for common people to reach level twelve. Only those who were born with a great amount of talent were able to achieve this stage. In the entire history of Da Qi, these geniuses could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
However, the fortunate event that had befallen Shi Mu had allowed him to reach as high a level as nine. With the pain and sweat that each mutation gave him, he was inevitably inching closer to level ten.
Common judgment would argue that he could reach level ten within a year, but reaching level eleven was hard to imagine. Besides, Shi Mu did not want to gamble a Qi Ling pill with a mere one-third chance of succeeding. So naturally he had not been able to feel relieved truly.
So it seemed to him that he could only resort to an insane approach that Li Cang Hai had earlier told him about.
According to Li Cang Hai, a martial art expert had passed down a special method of Body Tempering. It was simple and crude, yet it yielded amazing results. The catch was that the process was very dangerous, and was full of suffering. The reason why it had rarely ever been imparted to Martial Disciples was because it opened one to the chance of a premature death. Li hinted that he would teach Shi Mu everything he knew, if a large tuition amount was paid.
Danger? What threat of danger could possibly scare him, now that he had taken an oath to be the strongest ever warrior in front of his mother's tomb?
His immediate goal, however, was to master the 'Stone-Breaking' fist art, before he could concentrate completely on Body Tempering. Shi Mu was lost in thought, when an idea dawned upon him.
Seven days later, a three feet high blue tank filled densely with yellow soybeans stood in the centre of the manor square.
Shi Mu stood shirtless before the tank, in a pair of over-sized black trousers and a pair of thick silver gloves on his hands. Pa! Pa! He started punching the soybeans in the tank.
"Listen, although your body strength is the basis of power for the Stone-Breaking Fist, the key to fully master this art is by toughening your fists. Otherwise, the strength you use would only rebound from the stone, resulting in a self-mutilation of your own fists.
"Since you are only a beginner the toughness of your fist can only battle wood at the moment. These gloves are made of layers of fish skin, which will train your ligaments, tendons, and flesh, and also prevent your fists from any grave injury. When you manage to punch through the tank and break it, I'll replace the beans with stones, and also take away one layer of fish skin from your gloves. When you can do the same with the stones, you will advance to real iron sand. After that, real rock.
"Left hand! Don't wave it so far! Elbow! Keep it tucked! Good! Good!" Li Cang Hai explained with a poker face, his arms folded.
Shi Mu answered as he continued moving his arms, each punch sinking a half-inch deep into the tank. His upper body was sweating profusely, with each muscle trembling incessantly, as if he was engaged in a strange fanaticism.
A quarter of an hour later, Shi Mu gave out a sudden shout and punched the tank loudly. His punch went at least one inch deep, resulting in burying nearly half of his arm into the beans.
"Stop! Didn't I ask you to restrain your strength? Let me inspect your fists, for they might be injured!" Li Cang Hai's expression changed drastically at the sight. He was anxious as he scolded the young boy, handing him a medicine bottle from his pocket immediately.
"Master Li, I'm alright, really," Shi Mu grinned, pulling out his half buried arm from the beans.
"Humph. Let me be the judge of that. Take off your glove." Li Cang Hai snorted thoughtlessly.
Shi Mu swung his arm obediently, taking off the layers of the glove. He then wiggled his reddish fingers leisurely in front of Li Cang Hai.
"Hmmm, that is quite strange. Your hands are perfectly okay! I've been a teacher for years; I was expecting your fingers to be bleeding. Here, do this. Come over here and pound this wooden target with your fists, and this time, don't hold back," Instructor Li said after some thought, pointing to a thick stock that lay nearby; he had been left quite amazed after studying Shi Mu's fist closely.
"Yes," Shi Mu said, taking a deep breath. He then walked to the stock and began measuring it in circles.
Shi Mu stretched his arms effortlessly, following which his gaze sharpened in intensity.
He then delivered a sudden punch which smashed the thick wooden target in two. The upper part went whizzing impressively across the square, colliding with the outer wall of a house, making it quiver mightily.
His fist, however, remained safe and sound.