Chapter 70 - An Invitation from the Li Fire Group
Ignoring the murderous looks cast from those angry young men, Shi Mu began to wield his large hammer with ease, forging an iron piece, which was now bright red, under his repetitive strikes. Each strike would produce an ear-deafening noise that would make the angry group's eyes more and more murderous. But Shi Mu's eyes were so focused on the iron that he didn't even notice the angry looks. His hammer fell on the iron lump like heavy raindrops pounding the ground.
The angry young men stood watching this hammer demon, equally marveling and cursing at his demonic strength that made a 100kg hammer look like a feather in his hand. Even more astounding was that blue veins were protruded from his arms, which meant that he was hammering purely by his physical strength. He was not using any of his real Qi.
Finally, after over one hundred strikes, the iron piece was now refined, with the impure matter burned out. The piece had shrunk by ten percent. The red color had faded from its surface, revealing a dark black sheen.
Seeing this, the large shirtless man, standing nearby, swallowed his saliva and stepped up to the working table, awe-stricken. He was a helper at the blacksmith, and after this iron piece was done, he removed it from the working table with a pair of tongs, putting it behind him.
Shi Mu gestured to another large shirtless man and, after hesitating for a second, the man grabbed another piece of iron, with a pair of tongs, and set it in front of him. Shi Mu carried on with his forging.
Seeing that Shi Mu had forged one piece in so short a time, the angry group could only gape at each other with restless expression. However, the boss, Zhao, could not be more satisfied. He watched Shi Mu's movements with a full smile on his face.
When Shi Mu had forged four pieces and went on to the fifth, without any traces of fatigue in his bearing, the angry young men were already tired and sweating like raindrops. They had each finished a piece, and their bodies were crying for rest, but they ignored their muscles, only glowering at Shi Mu and gritting their teeth to continue the work, with the help of their real Qi.
When the three could not hold on any longer, and thus went to rest, Shi Mu was still forging. Now he was on his twelfth piece. He grinned to himself, happy that he had earned nearly one thousand silver in less than an hour. But the three competitors, having turned pale and started to gasp for breath, were now staring at Shi Mu, who was still forging like a tireless machine. The three finally lost their confidence in this hopeless competition. But the large shirtless men - Boss Zhao's employees - were excited to have such a strong person as their helper, and were even gambling on how many more pieces Shi Mu could forge before he took a rest. Someone guessed ten pieces, someone fifteen, and the boldest one even guessed thirty.
Sometime in the past, Boss Zhao had moved several meters closer to the forging platform, staring at Shi Mu's movements with a serious look.
But Shi Mu had not noticed what was happening around, only focusing his attention on the red iron in front of him. Forging iron was no easy work, and it also required skills. Only by focusing one's attention and keep a proper pace could one carry on the work with efficiency.
When his 102nd piece was finished, Shi Mu found the smithy had already been closed, all the required pieces had been completed.
Shi Mu raised his head, only to find the three youths sitting paralyzed in a corner, staring at him blankly. And the large shirtless men of the blacksmith were also staring at him, in the way one would stare at a monster.
He did not know why they were looking at him like that, but he was glad to see the boss of the blacksmith around, who was now wearing a terribly excited look. Immediately he stepped towards Shi Mu with the world's happiest smile. Shi Mu felt awkward at the attention, stroking his head, "Brother Zhao, it seems the mission has been completed, so what is about the pay...."
"Oh, Brother Shi, you have really helped a lot today! This is your nine-thousand two-hundred silver notes." Boss Zhao quickly took out nine notes of one thousand silver and two notes of one hundred silver which he had already prepared beforehand.
Shi Mu hurriedly fumbled in his pocket for the change, and boss Zhao eagerly gestured to make him stop, "Forget about the change, you keep it!"
"This one thanks Brother Zhao!" Shi Mu was a little amazed and his eyes blinked, then he received the silver notes without further declining words.
"Though it's the first time we've met, I feel quite at ease with you. I have seen that you forged more than one hundred pieces of refined iron without using your real Qi, which is much more than what ordinary disciples can do. Maybe you are quite talented and strong in blood and body! May I invite you to join our Li Fire Group? There are many people in our group practicing body-strengthening arts, and many free pills are provided every month. Besides, we share several arts of Houtian level, which will definitely help you achieve great fame in next year's competition." Seeing that Shi Mu was leaving, boss Zhao spoke a lot in a short time to draw him back.
"So brother Zhao is a member of the Li Fire group?" Shi Mu was slightly surprised.
"That's right. And we Li Fire Group was quite strict with prospective members compared with the Holy Spirit and the Blood Dragon guys. Plus, we provide more resources. Would Brother Shi please think about it. You know, one can not progress quickly on his own in our sect. It is almost impossible." Boss Zhao spoke to Shi Mu fervently, using all of his ability to try to persuade him to join the Li Fire group.
The three youth's eyes were almost burning with envy, and their bodies were itching with desire when they heard such words. As they saw Shi Mu stand there, with an indifferent face, they almost wished to make the decision for Shi Mu.
The Li Fire Group was the like sacred ground of disciples, like themselves, who aspired for body-strengthening arts as well as the support of a powerful group. They had been here with the aim of earning money, as well as getting close to Zhao Ping when they knew that the blacksmith belonged to him, intending to try and get the chance to join the Li Fire Group.
Shi Mu, however, did not take up the offer as they had believed he would. Unexpectedly, he sank deep into thought. The offer was something he was actually interested in as the body-strengthening arts of the Houtian level would increase his chances of winning in next year's competition.
As he had chosen two arts for cultivation, Shi Mu was desperately looking for some techniques of Houtian level, to strengthen himself. And the desire for techniques had been burning in him after seeing the match between Stone Bai and Blue Phoenix. The competition, that would occur in one year, was very significant in deciding if he would gain a foothold in this sect. He could not afford to lose it.
"Brother Zhao you flatter me! All I have is a strong body and I practice arts that strengthen my body, so it seems that I am stronger than others. But, actually, I'm really a nobody, and I don't deserve your earnest invitation. I'm afraid I have to let you down, brother Zhao." Shi Mu kept silent for a while before he finally smiled apologetically and declined the offer gently.
Though Shi Mu was really tempted by Zhao Ping's invitation, he knew, clearly, that there was no such thing as a free lunch, and the advice of Huo Mao had also warned him of the dangers of joining groups in the sect, so he finally refused after some internal struggles.
The three youth could not believe their ears, all looking at him with eyes wide open, wondering if Shi Mu was sane. But, at least, their anger was appeased now.
Zhao Ping intended to speak more, but he dropped the idea as he saw the firm look on Shi Mu's face. Shaking his head, with sadness, he said no more.
Though Shi Mu regretted refusing Zhao Ping, he did not hesitate to walk out of the smithy. For now, the only thing he wanted to do was to hurry back to his small stone house and take a bath. Sweat had made his shirt plaster to his skin, which was quite uncomfortable. So he bid goodbye to Zhao Ping and went on his way, with a pocket full of money.