Chapter 10: The Wu Family
Translator: Novel Saga Editor: Maggie
Shi Mu exclaimed as he stared at what seemed to be a black iron plate decorated with delicate patterns. The patterns looked like characters, but Shi Mu couldn't recognise even one out of the many.
"Miss Zhong, have you seen this thing before?" he curiously picked it up, tossed and turned it over and over, and read it several times, but could not help his curiosity and asked Zhong Xiu.
"I am seeing it for the first time. It must have belonged to the zombie. As zombies were also once human, it is not strange for them to carry certain human objects," the girl said as she came up to look at the object, making an effort to suppress the nausea caused by the decaying corpse.
Shi Mu nodded and, after some hesitation, stored the iron piece away. He then carried the leaf-covered body out of the hall.
Soon after that, they were on their way to the city.
Shi Mu could not resist asking Zhong Xiu about the shriek that had made the zombie recoil.
Shi Mu did not persist once he realised that Zhong Xiu was equally baffled by it.
Since it was late in the day and the west gate of the city had already been closed, Shi Mu took the girl back to his suburban manor.
In the evening, Shi Mu found himself resting in his room, observing the iron piece in his hand.
At first glance, the piece seemed as if it were made out of common black iron. A closer study, however, revealed that it was heavier than expected and was particularly cold to touch. Moreover, upon further examination, the delicate decorations seemed to portray a kind of primitive simplicity, creating a sense of mystery and fascination.
Shi Mu could tell that it was not an ordinary object. But after studying it for a long time, he carefully put it away, for he was still unsure of its origin. Then he took out the wooden case that Uncle Zhong had given him right before his death.
It seemed that the Zhongs were no ordinary family, which meant that their heirloom would be something special as well.
Shi Mu opened the case and found a thick book inside, its pages already yellowed by time. On its cover, four characters in red were written as such: "Zhong Gong Mi Dian" - The Secret Arts of the Zhong Clan. A little surprised, Shi Mu pulled the book out to get a better look.
There were a total of three hundred pages in the book. Tiny black characters were printed on all of them, some of which were vividly illustrated. A brief glance at the first few pages brought a wave of shock to Shi Mu's face. He sucked in a cold breath, and sank into silence because of the book's contents.
The book was divided into two parts. The first part narrated a great number of methods that could be used to make rare weapons, while the second part gave instructions on how to produce delicate tools and poisons. Both parts were way beyond Shi Mu's imagination, considering their obscurity and mystery.
Shi Mu found a weapon called "The Black Stone Poison Sword", which was ordinary in shape but was empty from inside. This enabled one to infuse the sword with a large amount of poison. When used in combat, after 3 or 5 moves, the sword would splinter, splattering poison on the enemy.
Another weapon, which was a small crossbow named "Crossbow Arrow" was even nastier to use. This hidden weapon was to be worn on the back. In order to use it, one had to bow before the person they intended to kill, and then slightly pull on a strap hidden inside their cuff. Three arrows would then shoot out from the crossbow towards the target, killing them before they could even get a chance to be aware of the attack.
The different kinds of poisons in the book ranged from those which could knock people unconscious, to those whose deadly effects matured with time. There were, therefore, a variety of poisons in the book.
"I really wonder what it was the Zhongs did that required them to develop such foul things. The worn out condition of the book suggests that it must have been passed down from the earliest of ancestors," Shi Mu thought to himself.
This book was a real eye opener for Shi Mu. If he could manage to memorise its contents, it would be of great help to him. It would especially benefit him when he had to deal with people with similar skills. His attention was also drawn to some other things that were recorded in the book.
He turned the pages quickly to find an illustration of two weapons - a large and a small one, placed one above the other. The larger one was a slightly arched single-edged knife, with a long enough handle to be held with both hands. A black string was seen faintly resting around the handle. The smaller one was a tiny, yet incredibly sharp looking dagger. Shi Mu Gazed at the illustration, lost in deep thought.
The next morning, Shi Mu arrived at a certain street in Feng City along with a swollen eyed Zhong Xiu. There was a spectacularly huge manor on one side of the street, covering more than half a square kilometre in area.
Shi Mu walked up to knock on the blue door, which had a golden doorplate with a huge 'Wu' engraved on it.
"Who's knocking at the door at such an early hour! Even the sun has not risen yet!" said a man impatiently, as he finally opened the door. He looked like he was a servant, and he stepped out to look at the two visitors.
"This girl is your relative. Would you please tell the others that she has arrived?" Shi Mu passed a jade plate to the servant as he said this.
"Our relative? Wait a moment," the man said, half-convinced. He then took the jade plate and closed the door.
The door was opened again soon thereafter. This time, two men emerged from within. The man who led the way was a long-bearded old man, while the one behind him was a boy of Shi Mu's age. The boy resembled the old man in appearance, but he had an air of arrogance and pride about him.
"It really is my niece! That's perfect! I've been waiting for you for a long time, ever since I got your letter. But where is my brother Zhong? And who might this be...?" the pale old man smiled at the sight of Zhong Xiu, but seemed rather surprised at Shi Mu's presence.
The eyes of the boy behind the old man, flashed in disgust as he looked at Zhong Xiu, noticing the blue birthmark on the girl's forehead.
"This is young master Shi. I... I lost my father on the way. It's only because of young master Shi that I have managed to reach here," Zhong Xiu said as she greeted the old man in a polite and graceful manner, her eyes shining with tears.
"What? Has some misfortune befallen Brother Zhong? Wait. This is not the place to talk about things such as this. Would you please follow me inside?" he said, apparently astonished by the news. He was quick to comfort the girl and lead her inside.
The girl nodded.
"Oh, I nearly forgot about this young boy. Thank you for bringing my niece here. Here is a reward for you," the old man said, frowning. He took another glance at Shi Mu and passed him a silver coin.
"Thank you, but I don't need it. As Zhong Xiu has reached her destination, my work here is finished," Shi Mu said and left, declining the offer.
"What a proud bastard! I've seen many guys like him. They act as if they are too good for our money, but in their hearts, they want it just as much," the young man snorted.
"Brother Shi is definitely not one of them," Zhong Xiu said in a low voice.
The pale old man only smiled as he led the two inside.
After he had left Zhong Xiu at the Wu residence, Shi Mu crossed a few streets before he finally reached a building with a sign that read "Liu Feng Martial Arts Club". He walked through the gate and saw that approximately ten teenage boys were practising with weapons.
"Brother Shi Mu is here!" two boys immediately walked up to greet him, as he walked inside the building. One of the boys seemed as if he was twenty years old, and the other one looked to be around sixteen.
"Brother Feng, Brother Gao, you are here as well?" Shi Mu greeted them happily, though he had not expected them to be present.
"We are here to see the newly obtained medicines for Body Tempering. We were wondering if they might be of use to us since we heard that they were quite cheap. But Brother Shi has no need for them, for he must have finished his Body Tempering by now," said the older boy, who looked rather elegant.
"I heard instructor Li say that you will reach level ten very soon. Is that true?" the younger one asked with a flicker of doubt in his eyes; a deep knife cut had left a scar on his left eyebrow.
Shi Mu had gotten to know the boys after his first visit to the club. The elder boy's name was Feng Li, and the younger was called Gao Yuan.
"It's true, I'm nearing level ten. I am not here for the medicine. I have to ask instructor Li about some problems I have been facing," Shi Mu answered with a smile.
"So the rumour is true! It sure seems like Brother Shi will be able to acquire Qi sensing at such an early age. Instructor Li is right to call you a real talent. Hey, we should get a drink sometime soon at your restaurant to celebrate!" Feng Li sighed, surprised. Gao Yuan also seemed to be admiring Shi Mu.
"That sounds like a great idea," Shi Mu said, agreeing. He left after exchanging some pleasantries. But as he was leaving, Feng Li gave him a meaningful look. Shi Mu observed the look with a quiet understanding, his expression only changing for a moment.
He then walked to a yard behind the practice ground. He found Li Cang Hai resting in a wooden armchair. His eyes were half closed, as if he were deep in thought. As Li saw Shi Mu come in, he smiled and rose from his chair.
"Master Li, are we going to ask those senior Martial Disciples for help this time?" Shi Mu asked after bowing.
"There is no need. Only I can help, as it is a crucial time for you before you reach the eleventh level. You haven't told anyone else about your real level, right?" Li Cang Hai asked, his voice and manner relaxed.
"Of course not. I've been following master's instructions. Everyone believes that I'm only at the intermediate stage of level nine," Shi Mu answered with a smile.
"Good. Good. Then they will definitely be surprised at the competition in half a month. Our Feng Liu Club will far outshine the rest of the three clubs," Li Cang Hai said, giving a pleased smile.