Chapter 163 - The Ice Scorpion
"Brother Shi, what do you say about that?" Puzzled by Shi Mu's indeterminate expression, the princess asked in a voice indicative of her eagerness for the plan.
"I won't go against your decision. So I'm all yours." Shi Mu nodded. He had thought about turning down the offer, but second thought brought him around. After all, the cave and the suspected habitat of the multiple-headed viper located in the same direction. Roundabout journey he would have declined, but now it was a matter of coincidence that he would like to see it to the end. On the other hand, it would be easier to have two consummated Houtian warriors lead the way before he got acquainted with the environment. The Dark-Force Fruit would be most welcome if by any chance they could obtain some.
"Then let's try our luck." The princess announced definitively.
"Good. There's no time to be lost. Let's set out as soon as possible." Molang was overjoyed hearing the princess' decision.
The four-men group thus went on their journey without delay. And out of Shi Mu's expectation, the Middle Area, though complex in terrain, was not the worst place in the world. They barely met any large beasts en route. According to Molang, this is because that though Xiantian beasts are at the top of the power ladder among all creatures in the Middle Area, there are not many of them. Moreover, most Xiantian beasts prefer staying in their own territory, and will not be a bother or hazard as long as they are not provoked. As for the weaker creatures, they do not pose threat to the their small group at all.
After half a day, the group reached the foot of a mountain. Staring at the cave in front of him Shi Mu was as calm as usual. But somehow his eyes glittered resolute and solemn.
The cave was about three meters in width, its depth unfathomable, though. The sun was scorching in the outside, but cold air kept pushing out of the cave.
"That's it. Let's go." Molang claimed, then without turning his head back marched into the cave, followed by a mute Jin Huang. Shi Mu and the princess exchanged a look and also stepped inside.
The instant he went into the cave, Shi Mu could not help but shiver all over with cold. At the opening of the cave they could still withstand the cold air, but now inside it the coldness deepened radically, and the slump in temperature made them feel like sealed in an ice-house, with biting air seeping into their very marrows from all directions.
Trembling, Shi Mu resorted to his real qi to ward off the cold. However, before he activated his real qi, a sudden pulse of his lower abdomen brought a stream of yin qi upward, which then circulated all around his veins. Immediately the exterior coldness was driven out of his body, and he felt snugly warm.
Shi Mu was confounded for a moment, but soon realized that he should thank the yin qi accumulated during his training of the Strong Ape Art. He relaxed, then swept the environment with his keen eyes, discovering a think layer of ice on the walls. Illuminated by their torches the walls glistened with crystal light, stretching into the heart of the cave.
Led by Molang and Jin Huang the small group wound their way inside the cave, had many turns, then finally arrived at a vast space that looked just like the main hall of a crystal palace. The "hall" was at least three hundred meters in length and width, comprising purely ice. Scattered all around the floor were countless ice cakes of all shapes and sizes.
At the center of the hall was a tall, silver fruit tree encased by a huge ice plank, standing there exceedingly eye-catching. Next to the tree was a pond of cold water about ten meters in diameter. The water had frozen on the surface.
The silver tree had not a single leaf on it, its barren branches hung pitifully in the cold air. Five fist-size fruits dangled sparsely on it, sparkling with heavenly light. A glance can tell that the fruit was by no means ordinary. Even Shi Mu felt his heart beating faster under the brilliance of the fruit. However, the dead water in pond drew his eyes compellingly from the tree. He could not help narrowing his eyes at the dazzling light emitted by the frozen surface of the pond.
The other three also stopped their feet in concert. Watching the tree fervently, Molang and Jin Huang did not care the least to conceal their thirst, while the princess was relatively more reserve in showing her avidity.
"I'll go have a look." Molang withdrew his covetous eyes and mumbled in a low voice. Taking out a green axe from his back he edged forward vigilantly. Though extremely tall and sturdy, the man managed an unusual light step that made little noise at all. He would take a few steps, then pause to have a careful look around. Everything fine, he would then advance at a low pace.
The hall reverberated with a deadly silence. But for Molang and Jin Huang's assertion Shi Mu would have doubted the existence of the ice scorpion here.
Another ten minutes passed, and Molang was almost under the tree. He hid behind a giant ice boulder, and took the vintage point to have a last round of inspection, then after a brief pause raised his arm seriously.
The three that had been waiting then got the signal and began making their way stealthily to the boulder. They gathered with Molang, then all fished out a black, triangle flag made of beats' hide. The flag had a lively white spider embroidered at the center which looked extremely ferocious.
"The ice scorpion should be in the pond. I'll entice it out, then you three try your best trap it. After I get the fruits we'll retreat by the road we'd come." Molang instructed in a low voice.
Thus Shi Mu, the princess and Jin Huang made for the pond noiselessly, then each hid behind a boulder respectively, constructing a siege of the pond. Next, they bit the tip of their tongues to spit blood onto the flag, dying the white spider red. Immediately, the black magic characters in the flag shone with red light, squirming like resurrected worms.
The three instilled some real qi into the flag, and the three spiders instantly spun a giant transparent net over the pond. After a few flashes the net disappeared into thin air.
Molang nodded his head satisfactorily, then a sudden green light covered his body. In a few strides he had reached the tree, and sprang up, climbing unto it like an ape. In a few breaths he had approached a thick branch where a glistening fruit was within his hand's reach.
Molang had a last glimpse at the pond, took a deep breath, edged a few steps forward on the branch, then gingerly reached out for the fruit. It only took a gentle pull to tug it from the branch.
All of them felt almost breathless at this moment.
The next moment, crash!
Just behind the silver tree, a most ordinary-looking ice boulder burst open without a warning. Next a crystal light glared among the showering ice pieces, hitting at Molang. The light traveled extremely fast, and until it had approached Molang, the other three could only made out that it was a giant, crystal-clear tail of a scorpion!
Molang narrowed his eyes. No time for ducking. His right arm swung the axe almost reflexively, and a large patch of green light rolled directly towards the stinger.
A loud clang rang out, and the axe was struck flying backwards into the air with Molang, who was shocked profoundly, his face full of fear and fright.
Just then, at where the giant boulder had been, a glistening white fog emerged floating up, and amid that crystal light was a huge scorpion about twenty meters in length. Its entire body was made of translucent ice - just like an ice engraving!
The Ice Scorpion!
The minute it showed up, the beast leaped up and blew out a a puff of cold white air.
Before Molang even finished his words, his body was completely submerged by the cold air, and the just raising arm slowed down, with the green light around his body faded hopelessly. A layer of frost had taken on where the light had been.
The overtaking coldness froze his body almost in a blink of an eye. The next moment, his stiffened body thudded down to the floor.
The ice scorpion dashed to the body, and shook its tail. With a clear sound Molang's corpse was struck into pieces. The fruit he had picked was still firmly grabbed by that dismembered hand which coincidentally fell a few steps in front of Jin Huang.
All this happened as if in a twinkling, and the consummated Houtian totem warrior, Molang, was dead on the spot.
The three were electrified, madly terrified. The ice scorpion, during its incubation inside the ice, had reached Xiantian level. Assisted by the coldness inside the cave, it almost counted a Xiantian beast in its middle stage!
Just as they stood numb marveling at the mighty power of the scorpion, the beast had again jumped up and made a turnabout in midair. An even deepened coldness immediately spread all over the place, and countless ice balls the size of a fist shoot up in all directions. The walls would split open once hit by the ice balls.
The next moment, three forms almost jumped out simultaneously - the boulders behind which they had been hiding were struck asunder by the ice balls.
Exposed to the immediate threat, Shi Mu and the princess ran wildly in the direction of the opening of the cave without a word, but Jin Huang remained, a hint of hesitation flashing across his eyes. Resolved, he warded off the attacking ice balls with his weapon, and surprisingly marched forward to where Molong was lying. He bent over and grabbed the fruit.
Just then, a great number of ice balls plummeted down to his head amid an angry howl. Jin Huang was given no time to escape, thus could only face the attack head-on. His face flushed, and gritting his teeth he pointed at the feather cap he was wearing, chanting an incantation.
Pu!!! The feathers glared golden, splintered into myriad pieces like stars. The light soon shielded him, and giant golden bird's image emerged in midair, bringing Jin Huang towards the opening of the cave at lightning speed.
In a flash Jin Huang had passed Shi Mu and the princess over their heads!
"Bastard!" The princess glared hate at the receding golden light. They both realized that Jin Huang had employed a secret art to carry him out of danger, leaving themselves as his scapegoat. And with the fruit in hand.
Shi Mu and the princess were running side by side at the moment, not far from the opening. After seeing the golden light that flitted past their heads, his face hardened too. After a moment, he grabbed the princess' tender waist without a word. The princess startled, by before saying anything the charm in Shi Mu's hand exploded, and a pair of giant black wings unfolded behind their backs. The wings took them fly to the opening no less quickly than Jin Huang's golden light.
Almost simultaneously, an ear-splitting sound rang out with an army of ice arrows flashed past them, almost scraping their arms. A succession of noises like raindrops beating leaves echoed in the cave. And glance back shocked the princess: the place where they were a moment ago was now havocked by ice arrows as thick as huckleberries. If they had remained on the floor, there would have been no chance for them to survive!