Chapter 87 - The Art of Air Explosion
[Translator's Notes] Dear Readers, thank you for waiting patiently for the update of our story. As of today, all the delay is caused by me and me alone. I hope you can continue to like this story and our cute hero Shi Mu despite my fault. Actually there is a reason that I hope some of you would be so kind as to understand. My dearest cat died one month ago, falling from my balcony. I searched for her for a whole night, only to find her lying amid newly sprouted grass leaves quietly the next morning, as beautiful as she had ever been. She was so little when I found her deserted at a subway station, tied by a rope to a bar where a board said, "Bu Yao Le", in English it means "the cat is no longer needed by us." I took her home, all the way she clang to my chest with those trusting eyes, and I named her "Flower". Flower accompanied me every day since then, following me everywhere in my flat. She would sit by the fishbowl for hours staring at the swimming little creatures, and tried to get them with her cute paws. She would welcome me, meowing, whenever I came back from outside. Sitting on the floor, looking up at me, she seemed to say "where have you been all this time?" She never complained in bad times when I could only offer her dry cat food. She rubbed my legs when I was sad. So I wept and wept and spent almost a month recovering from this irretrievable loss. Before I knew it, my world was drained of color. Yesterday I finished reading Ci'Xin Liu's Three Body Problem and Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart, somehow the absolute loneliness of the universe struck me as a comfort. I wonder if you have experienced such a feeling. In the end of Murakami's book, the hero questioned the world where we exist, "why do people have to be this lonely? What's the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the Earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?" The questions got me. For some time I cannot give an answer, but I know there must be a way out. Like now, writing to you, whom I barely know and most probably would not have the chance to see, I feel connected. I feel a giant hand connecting us, and thinking that hundreds of you are waiting for me to relate the story, I feel somewhat consoled.I know I will never see my Flower again. But I know somewhere we're living together as before. The universe is far greater than we have known. Sorry to have wasted your time writing such things. Anyway, I've been trying to make up the chapters that I have failed to update, and I hope you could give me some support, and forgive me if I have disappointed you by the previous slow update. May God bless us all.
For a period of time, Shi Mu's small yard rang with the clashes of metal on metal. Of course, the sounds did not reach Shi Mu's ears. Bright Jin floated in mid-air, both feet wrapped in a thin layer of golden fog formed by his Qi. By their looks, his feet seemed to be made of refined iron, solid and impenetrable, bumping against Qu Kun's sword without getting wounded. The two collided for at least a dozen times in as short as three breaths, but both were moving really fast that the details eluded everyone's eyes.
Just then, Bright Jin shouted, like an exasperated animal aiming for its final blow, his feet simultaneously stood on the sword. The next moment, he bounced skyward, flipped in midair, then swooped down in Qu Kun's direction, one finger pointed toward Qu Kun's heart.
This was a rather weird movement - pointing out a finger, like an Adept would do when performing some dark magic - though not performed with a fast speed, the action made gave his attack an eerie feeling. Qu Kun was reminded of the Powerful Leg Art that Jin Huan had displayed before, but, before he had more time to think about this mysterious skill, the finger had broken through his shield of sword shadows, all the way to Qu Kun's cheek. Before he knew it, blood was gushing out from a wound on his face. Profoundly shocked, he stumbled back several steps.
Meanwhile, Jin Huan had landed steadily and lightly like a bird alighting on a twig.
"Well done, brother Qu!" Bright Jin regained his nonchalant air, his face curved in a sarcastic smile.
Qu Kun, on the other hand, was filled with anger and humiliation. He slipped his sword into its sheath. "Humph!" He snorted, turning his back and walking away. The other Blood Dragon members followed their leader.
The surrounding disciples burst into a fit of passion, that had been suppressed the entire time, and showered Bright Jin with praises. The fight fascinated the audience, who had not been exposed to such a thrilling scene in a long time. Stone Bai smiled as he walked up to Bright Jin, "Senior Jin has really reached the Consummate stage in his Forceful Leg Art and Mysterious Finger Art!"
"Eh, not yet, I've only reached the Advanced stage, not the Consummate. I still have a lot to practice." Bright Jin shook his head, for someone who was being showered with eager praises and great reverence, he did not seem to be in good spirits. Actually, his two arts, especially his Mysterious Finger Art, are the fruit of several painful years of training. He had planned to give the two dazzling skills a much more official debut in the annual competition, but now that the "bride" had come out of her room before her "wedding", the effects would be much less surprising. Will the 'bride' still able to mesmerize her 'groom'? Stone Bai sensed the strange despondency in Bright Jin, so he did not pursue the question.
The four of them waited for another hour before a figure, of large stature, finally made its presence, walking along the mountain road in their direction. The newcomer was none other than Shi Mu. The excited crowd seemed to have caught him unprepared. With knit brows he threw them questioning looks that said, why are you here? Am I important enough to have a guard of honor welcoming me home?
Bright Jin immediately walked up and gave him a broad smile, which deepened his doubt even more, "Brother Shi, we've been waiting for you for a long time..."
"Sorry to have kept you waiting! I had some errands I had to run." Shi Mu smiled, quite embarrassed.
"Haha, don't worry about it. An able man is always busy, unlike us. I had nothing important to do today, so spending some wonderful time in your cozy yard is quite an enjoyable matter." Bright Jin replied, his tone clear and honeyed. Shi Mu nodded briefly to Stone Bai, Xiao Ming, and Huo Mao.
After exchanging some pleasantries, Shi Mu finally figured out their purpose of visiting. "Has senior Jin come to ask for some charms?" He asked.
"That's correct, brother Shi. I am in urgent need of a few dozen charms, and no one I know can finish this exacting task, except you? As for the pay, we won't let you down, brother Shi." Bright Jin's tone became more serious.
"What charms? And how many?" Shi Mu gave it some thought and asked.
Bright Jin was much relaxed hearing Shi Mu's question. He knew he would accept the job. Quickly he whispered some words into Shi Mu's ear.
Shi Mu paused to give the offer some thought, then answered briskly, "No problem. Come for the charms five days later."
"Wonderful! I'll rely on brother Shi then!" Overjoyed, Bright Jin waved to a fellow disciple who immediately offered Shi Mu a parcel bulging with silver notes. After a brief check, Shi Mu nodded and, without further words, directed the conversation to another subject. After exchanging small talk, they parted and Shi Mu went into his room, alone.
Bright Jin spent some time gazing at Shi Mu's tightly shut door as if this were the door to a treasure room. Releasing a sigh, he left with a heavy heart. Aware that there would not be anything worth seeing, the onlookers all dispersed, like birds returning to their nests at dusk. Soon the yard regained its usual quietness.
Inside his room, Shi Mu set the heavy parcel down on his desk for a short rest. Collecting his thoughts, he once again convinced himself that he had taken a good offer. Large though the number of the requested charms was, the charms themselves were just some basic ones that would not take him much time, three days at most. After some thought, he took out a brown bottle and opened its lid. Soon a weird smell exuded, and inside lay a bright yellow pill emitting mild gleam. He had gone out today especially for this pill. For the past half year, though he had steeped himself in magician arts, he did not slack in martial arts either. Making paper charms for other disciples had made enough money for him to buy pills, with which he had accomplished the seconds stage of the Heavenly Elephant Art. Moreover, the third stage would only be a stretch away now that he had got this Heavenly Spirit Pill. But now he should prioritize the making of the charms.
Having decided his tight schedule, Shi Mu let out a soft sigh, calmed himself down, and carefully stored the bottle in a safe place. Taking out a piece of magic paper and laying it on the desk, Shi Mu began his work.
Several days later.
In his stone flat, Shi Mu sat, cross-legged, on the floor, his upper body bare, his eyes closed. Steam rose from his scalp and his sweat poured down, washing his skin, which seemed to have numerous mice squirming beneath. Some unknown amount of time passed and red flush, with increasing intensity, crept over his face. Without warning, he opened his eyes widely and let out a loud shout.
A thunderous noise reverberated through his room, a giant force came from his body and rippled out in all directions. The stone stool near him slammed into the wall as if flung by an invisible giant hand. Soon, Shi Mu's skin had recovered, the "mice" had disappeared. Shi Mu adjusted his breath, then slowly rose to his full height, his eyes brimming with delight. He had broken through to the third stage of the Heavenly Elephant Art!
Shi Mu felt a restless force inside his body, eager for action. Cocking his head slightly, he caught sight of the steel knife hung on the wall. He stretched out an arm and grabbed the knife, then stretched two fingers of his other hand to pinch the edge of the knife. By working up his real qi and increasing his strength of the pinch, a dent was created on the surface of the knife, leaving an imprint of his fingertips! Shi Mu raised his eyebrows in a triumphant mood. Soon a second idea hit him, bringing him to a halt. He thought for a short while, then held up one of his fingers, flicked his wrist, and muttered an incantation he had not tried before. The spirit power inside his body soon began to circulate, and, when he felt he was ready, Shi Mu suddenly cracked opened his mouth, shooting out a ball of white vapor onto the stone stool! Boom! The heavy stone stool was hit by the vapor ball, and immediately exploded, splinters of stones flying to every corner of the room. Some found their way to fly directly into Shi Mu's face, but he just lifted his hand and waved the small bits and pieces off, with an expressionless face.
Such an astounding power! Outshining Xiao Ming's fireball in every way! This was the Art of Air-Explosion, recorded in the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power, of which Shi Mu had already reached the third stage. But Shi Mu was careful not to reveal any of his magician arts. So naturally, in the half a year that had passed, people all assumed that Shi Mu was still a beginner in the area of magic, only doing better in making paper charms. Now that, with the newly acquired Air-Explosion Art, Shi Mu had a new trump card. Though it took some time to release the air ball in a real fight, it would still be able to catch an opponent off guard.