Chapter 18: Climbing to the Next Level
Translator: Novel Saga Editor: Maggie
This was the exact same Qi Ling pill that he had seen innumerable times in collections of martial arts illustrations!
Even then, he couldn't believe his own eyes and continued to gape at it. He examined the pill thoroughly and then smelled it, causing a pungent smell to penetrate his nose immediately.
It really was a Qi Ling pill!
It was said that the market price of one pill was as high as 10000 liang of silver. However, someone had offered to pay 30000 liang for the pill in a black market trade, but was unable to find a source to buy from.
This indeed proved the generosity of the barefoot girl.
Naturally, overjoyed at the unexpected fortune, Shi Mu became more curious about the girl's identity. He could now see that his oath of marrying her must have seemed delirious to the girl, like when a lazy toad wishes to eat swan meat.
The condition of reaching the level of Hou Tian Warrior before the age of thirty weighed heavily on his mind, as it would prove to be an exciting feat.
He knew that it would be next to impossible for him to become a Hou Tian Warrior before the age of thirty.
However, the girl made him throb with passion for the first time in his life. Moreover, his unchanging will would never let him back down from the formidable challenge.
Hence, it seemed that he could only proceed with small steps by abandoning unnecessary thoughts.
His present goal was to acquire Qi sensing before aiming to reach the level of a Hou Tian Warrior.
Shi Mu let out a sigh, finally purging himself of the disturbing thoughts. He then focussed his attention on the pill in his hand.
Coupled with the other Qi Ling pill promised by Aunt Zhen, this pill instilled him with quite a bit of confidence of being able to acquire Qi sensing.
Several days later, striking sounds roared like torrential rain in the closed room of Feng Liu Club's backyard.
Shi Mu's upper body was bare while he was doing a martial art squat, and Li Cang Hai was striking him with a stick in his hand. However, this time his skin was not becoming red or swollen like it used to. Instead, his skin looked overly pale. Each strike on his body made a strange droning sound, as if the stick had struck wood rather than a human body.
Shi Mu's body had been struck countless number of times, but his face was surprisingly not contorted with pain. Instead, his features displayed an irresistible excitement. His mouth was open, and he was echoing the strikes with low shouts of his own.
Li Cang Hai had also taken his jacket off. He stood wearing only a short sleeved shirt, exposing the hard muscles all over his body. Sweat was dripping down his body as he continuously waved his stick, but refused to pause even for a brief second to wipe himself. His eyes were fixed on Shi Mu in a feverish excitement.
A thunderous sound was heard as a strike fell on a particular acupuncture point on Shi Mu's chest.
Shi Mu's face flushed, as if a great deal of energy had been instilled in him by the strike. Everything returned to normal the next moment, but his face soon turned red again. This process was repeated another ten times or so, before crisp firecracker-like sounds began coming out from Shi Mu's body. Simultaneously, the muscles on the surface of his body began to bulge and move like mice.
"Haha! That's it! I'd never thought that someone could really manage to go through a half year's torture to reach the eleventh level in Body Tempering," Li Cang Hai burst out into laughter at the sight and threw away his stick.
"The credit goes to Instructor Li's painstaking training!" Shi Mu answered with a deep breath, overjoyed at his achievement. The cracking sounds from his body stopped abruptly, and his muscles also instantly returned to their normal state.
He had finally reached the eleventh level in Body Tempering.
"Don't thank me. I'm only doing what you have paid me for. But this has only worked out for you because you are a sturdy guy. Others would never be able to withstand the punishment," Li Cang Hai waved off Shi Mu's flattery.
"Anyway, I'm still thankful for your kind instruction. You have helped me reach the eleventh stage," Shi Mu answered, smiling. He tried to move his arms and legs in order feel the change inside him.
"Well, if you really want to thank me, then win the championship taking place in a few days," Li Cang Hai said in a straight forward tone.
"Ha ha, that should be easy. I'll do my best," Shi Mu said, smiling confidently.
*Seven days later, at the gate of Tian Lu Club - the largest club in Feng City.*
The leader of the club was Feng Leng Chan, and he resembled a black bear in stature. He was happily greeting his guests along with one of the instructors from his club. Among the guests were Li Cang Hai and some other Feng Liu members.
Shi Mu and two other Martial Disciples were closely following Li Cang Hai, and a bulky fellow with a reddish face.
"Ha ha. Elder Brother Li and Brother Min, you've grown more energetic within months."
"Well well, it seems that Leader Feng has also grown more robust in a very short time."
"Haha. Brother Li, I guess you mean I've put on a lot of weight."
"How dare I? Brother Feng is the actual leader among our four clubs. The other three leaders like me are only nominal, and are rarely seen on ordinary occasions. Right, has that fox Tian of Fei Hong Club and Old Wang of Jin Gang Club arrived yet?"
"Ha ha, Brother Tian will hit the roof if he hears that. Sure, the two have already arrived and are waiting at the competition venue. These are your three candidates?" Leng Feng Chan laughed like the Maitreya Buddha. Then his eyes focussed on Shi Mu and the two other Martial Disciples who he had seen performing quite well at their club before.
"However skilled they may be, they can still never compete with Nephew Feng. My guess is that this time either we, or Fei Hong will come last in the competition," Li Cang Hai smiled faintly.
The big fellow with the reddish face only smiled briefly in reply, seeming like a man of few words.
"Brother Li, I'm afraid you are quite mistaken. It would be difficult for Fei Hong to come last even if they wanted to," Leng Feng Chan said, smiling bitterly.
"Huh? What do you mean?" Li Cang Hai was really surprised, as was the reddish faced man.
"Brother Li, you should get better ways of obtaining more information in the future. Haven't you heard of the newcomer in Fei Hong Club? He has the Body of 'Solid Earth'," Feng Leng Chan said, his face becoming serious.
"The Body of 'Solid Earth'?" The red-faced man of Liu Feng Club could not help but open his mouth to ask in surprise.
"It seems that Fei Hong Club is ready for a desperate fight this time, and it is quite likely that they will win the tournament. That will make things difficult for us," Li Cang Hai murmured to himself, silently estimating the odds of Shi Mu's Stone-Breaking Fist defeating the Body of 'Solid Earth'.
Meanwhile, Shi Mu was curiously studying the other two Martial Disciples at the gate of Tian Lu Club. The gate was way more imposing than the one at their club. It was covered with golden nails and flanked by a giant stone lion on either side. Leng Feng Chan invited them in after some small talk, and Shi Mu also followed them in through the gate.
After entering through the gate, a huge practice ground could be seen. A pre arranged ring made entirely out of thick round logs was placed in the middle of the ground for the martial art tournament. It was over a one-third of a meter in height and three meter in both length and width.
The entire practice ground was empty except for where about ten Martial Disciples were standing in three groups beside the ring. It was obvious that they were from the other three clubs.
"The three of you have to go and wait there. Instructor Tian and I will be with you in a while," Li Cang Hai said briefly and then followed Feng Leng Chan to the wing-room behind the practice ground, along with the red-faced man.
"Shi Mu, Sun Jun, let's go and steal a look at their skills," suggested the eldest one among the three young men as soon as Li Cang Hai left. He smiled, and one could see that his body was quite athletic.
"We have already arrived for the tournament. It won't be of any use to know their strengths now. This time, Brother Li and I have already reached the intermediate level in several Martial Disciple level skills, well in time before the tournament, so it makes sense for us to be here as candidates. But you are a new comer. Even if you have managed to reach the tenth level in Body Tempering, I've still never seen you perform your skills at our club. So how can I be sure that you'll perform well in the tournament? I wonder why Instructor Li had to make up the number by adding you," said the lanky man out of the three young men. He had obviously been nursing a grievance, which he now vented to Shi Mu.
"Ha ha. I did not want to take part in this myself. But I could not refuse when Instructor Li asked me to," Shi Mu answered with ease, with a tinge of lethargy in his mannerism. He did not seem even a tiny bit angry at the reproach.
"Sun Jun, do you want to make a fool of yourself in front of guys from the other clubs?" interrupted the young man whose family name was Li. He seemed rather displeased, and he decisively stopped the lanky fellow from saying more.
It seemed that the young Li held authority over Sun Jun, who snorted and stopped the attack at Shi Mu.
Then the three walked to the ring, looking at the others who stood nearby up and down.
After he had glanced at the groups of candidates who stood there, Shi Mu recognised a few faces. They belonged to the ones he had fought while playing the role of 'Fierce Fists'. However, only two young men caught his attention. One of them was a tall young man surrounded by several Tian Lu youngsters. The other young man was wearing white clothes and was sitting cross legged on the ground by himself, scrubbing a dark black spear.
"Feng Jun, Wang Tian Hao!"
It only took a glance for Shi Mu to be able to tell who they were. The former had taken his fist three strikes with incredible endurance, while the latter had quit the fight after showing off his amazing spear skills. Both had left him with a lasting impression, but neither would be able to recognize Shi Mu because of his true appearance at the moment. They only cast a cursory glance at him as the three young men walked past them.
A young man with a pockmarked face wearing Fei Hong Club's uniform came to greet the three young men.
"Li Yun Feng! So you Liu Feng fellows have finally arrived. Then it seems that it won't be long before the tournament begins. I can't wait to encounter your 'Python-Bones' Fist again!"
"Ha ha. Gu Zhong, I will definitely fight with all my strength if you are my opponent in the tournament. But I just heard from some instructors that you have a newcomer claiming to have the Body of 'Solid Earth'. Is that true?" the young Li asked briefly, his eyes involuntarily scanning the other two Fei Hong Martial Disciples. One of them seemed like he was as old as Gu Zhong and had a puffy face, while the other looked like he was fourteen or fifteen. The second one seemed thin and weak, and had dark skin. He looked extremely inconspicuous with his ears sticking out and his chin like an ape's.
"Ha ha. This is younger brother Jia. Since you met him in the last tournament, there is no need to introduce him. This one is younger brother Tie Dong, and he just joined us a month ago," Gu Zhong paused at the question for a moment, then carried on with his introductions with a smile.
"Brother Li," the puffy-faced young man greeted them with clenched fists. However, the boy named Tie Dong only rolled his eyes, acting completely indifferent to them.
Li Yun Feng's face showed a bit of embarrassment at Tie Dong's behaviour.
"Ah. Brother Li, younger brother Tie didn't mean to offend you. He has grown up on an isolated island and is therefore quite a silent boy. Well, you should now introduce the two younger brothers behind you," Gu Zhong smiled annoyingly, trying to ease the situation. He was talking to Li, but his attention was focussed on Shi Mu and Sun Jun, who were standing behind Li.