Chapter 16 - The Golden Hamster
Three days later, early in the morning.
With a huge parcel, half the height of an average man, Shi Mu trotted by himself to the rolling mountains where he had hunted wild animals before. After climbing over seven or eight hilltops without taking a rest, he eventually reached the fringes of a bamboo forest, which was verdant in an unusual way, shining with an emerald green lustre.
It took him a full hour to fully investigate the bamboo forest, whose area amounted to a hundred mu[A]. He found the traces left by his target. Only then did he lay down his huge parcel, fumbling to take out a rather small shovel to dig a pit in the nearby ground.
But strangely enough, his movements seemed excessively cautious, as if he was afraid of attracting attention. In this way, the pit, several zhang in depth[B], was not finished until noon.
This done, Shi Mu then produced some bottles and jars from his parcel, and dropped some unknown powder and fluids into the pit, then covered it fully with twigs. He added many bamboo leaves to the surface before finally finishing his arrangement by scattering some mud onto the pit.
In this way, a delicate trap was finished.
Observing his arrangement from every angle, Shi Mu seemed quite satisfied and content, a trace of a smile flashing across his face.
The arrangement of the trap was learned from Zhong Gong Mi Dian - the secret arts of the Zhong clan - along with the making of the power and the fluids; without them, even if he could produce seven cuts in one movement, his confidence of obtaining his target would definitely be reduced.
After looking up to the sun high up in the sky, he gauged the time and fumbled out a paper ball without hesitation, which, when opened, revealed a golden colored dough. He then poured all the fluids contained in a small bottle onto the mysterious dough. Immediately, an overpowering smell, with an indescribable fragrance, wafted through the air.
"Hopefully this secret bait recipe from the old hunter in the city is useful, or the money I paid for the material, as much as thirty liang[C] of silver, will have been wasted, " Shi Mu murmured to himself as he shook his wrist, sending the golden dough down into the center of the trap.
All done, he took out a nigh-black wooden knife and an immensely large cloak of emerald green and covered himself and then threw his parcel behind a huge rock. Going back to his trap, he lowered his body to the ground and lay prone beside the trap, being as still as he could be.
Seen from afar, there was complete flat ground where the trap was made, nothing abnormal could be seen.
Lying still on the ground, Shi Mu held his breath, the warm air puffed out of his nostrils so thin as to be invisible. Staring hard at the bamboo wood, he barely blinked his eyes while the information he had obtained flashed through his mind again.
The golden hamster, also known as the medicine-hunting hamster, was a unique animal found only in Quan Zhou, and was a variation of the common piebald mountain mouse which would bite its brood siblings to death as soon as it was born; in its third month, golden fur begins to appear on its back, after which it has the ability to find and take some herbs needed to advance to a higher level[D]. One year later, when the golden hamster reaches its mature age, its talent would be awakened, allowing it to find without difficulty some rare herbs. Hence, possessing a tamed golden hamster equaled living with a born master of herbs who could find rare medicine. However, though worth an enormous sum, the hamster was rarely seen in the market: few would sell their medicine-hunting masters even if they did have one. Shi Mu only found one accidentally when he chased after a wild fox all the way to the verge of the bamboo forest and was overjoyed by finding one of these hugely famous animals in Quan Zhou.
But he was too cautious to take immediate action at that time. Though the golden hamster did not belong to the rank of holy animals, it did deceive many by dashing at a lightning speed to seemingly vanish into thin air, its shadows invisible. Owing to its inherent vigilance, if not caught in one strike, it would be nearly impossible to catch it with a second attempt.
Therefore, during this period, every time Shi Mu came to the hilltop for practice, he would always come out of his way to observe this gold hamster's routine. Now he had progressed to the point of being able to do seven cuts in one movement with his Thirteen Series of Gale Force Knife Art, plus with the trap learned from Zhong Gong Mi Dian as well as the bait-making method, he finally set his mind to putting his plan into practice today.
Exactly when Shi Mu had finished his trap to hunt for the golden hamster, inside the hall of Jin Gang martial arts club in Feng City, a sandy-haired elder was angrily reproaching Wang Tianhao who stood in front of him,
"What tricks are you playing this time? I asked you to find a girl to marry of the Jin Family, not to pick a fight with the Juniors of the Jin Family, as well as beat them!"
"Uncle Xu, how could you blame me for beating them? It was exactly the juniors who asked me instruct their arts; it's only that I somewhat lost control of myself. But speaking of the Jins' skills, apart from Shi Yu Huan, not a single one of them was able to take my first strike. A pack of good-for-nothing idlers, wasting half of my day!" Wang Tianhao stretched himself with a yawn, displaying an air of complete carelessness.
"You bastard, the Jin Family is our Wang Families ally in Quan Zhou, who told you to strike them instead of looking at the girls? Well, well, now I've got to clear up your messy situation myself, by going to their manor to apologize to their head . From now on, you just stay here, practising your Blazing Spear. Before accomplishing the next stance of the Blazing Spear Art, you are confined to the club!" Staring at Wang Tianhao with his eyes wide open, the Elder Xu ordered him, feeling it was rather difficult to handle his nephew.
"I don't care about being confined at all. After all, the day of competition only half a month away, so I just need time to save my energy. " Wang Tianhao answered in a cheerful and excited manner.
"Humph, so long as you act inattentive, I have no hope in you at all. " Uncle Xu snorted.
"Why? You mean there are other powerful people in the other clubs?" Wang Tianhao sensed some overtones from his uncle's reprimand, his spirits instead immensely elated.
"You crazy kid! Guess you'd lose sleep if I don't tell you." His nephew's respond made him rather at a loss at whether to cry or laugh.
"Hehe, Uncle Xu knows me so well." Wang Tianhao spoke demurely, his looks now compliant and sweet.
"As far as I know, this time the Fei Hong club has asked some genius to help them change their misfortune of always coming in last place. They say that, though the guy is not a blood warrior, he has an inborn body of 'solid earth'". Uncle Xu answered, now with a solemn face.
"The body of 'solid earth'? Is is the legendary body well-known for its defense force, immune to bodily harm?" Now Wang Tianhao was surprised indeed.
"Hehe, as you know, it's rather difficult to handle. Judging from your current skills, I don't think you would be able to break his defense with your Blazing Spear. " Uncle Xu replied with a sneer.
"Maybe I really can't break the defense of a 'solid earth' body, but I know a practitioner in our city who can definitely do that. If he takes part in this competition then that will be something worthwhile to see. " Wang Tianhao paused for a brief thought, then laughed heartily as something came to his mind.
"Oh? You mean the 'Fierce Fist' you mentioned the other day?" Uncle Xu's eyes now were alight with excitement.
"Exactly, I've seen his skills with my own eyes. His strength can reach at least a thousand jin[E], or he wouldn't have snapped the iron spear with his bare hands." Wang Tianhao answered without hesitation.
"Well, it seems true according to what you said. This Fierce Fist could really confront the 'solid earth' body to some extent. But it's a shame competitors are only practitioners under the age of eighteen. If 'Fierce Fist' is already the leader of a small gang, he must be over the eighteen then." Uncle Xu was quite sure of his reasoning.
"That's true, but if he's my age then I'll definitely fight him with all my strength, if only for the title of the city's top practitioner." Nodding his head, Wang Tianhao said in a proud tone.
Hearing such an ambitious proclamation, Uncle Xu was speechless; he was proud of his nephew in every way, except his arrogance; he always readily showed off.
Seven black knife shadows rolled and vanished; after smashing several invisible shadows of light yellow, the knife finally returned to its owner in the shadows.
A little golden animal, the size of a fist, fell from mid air, after letting out some squeaks, right into the huge pit waiting below. The trap was already half revealed.
Seeing his sudden sneak attack hit the target, Shi Mu was too overjoyed to hold his wooden knife. Throwing it into mid air and grabbing it with one hand, a huge silk net was thrown out to cover the surface of the pit.
As the little golden animal tried to dash out of the pit, it bumped against the silk net and could only drop down into the bottom again. After some ten odd attempts, the golden animal's jump grew powerless, then no sound came out of the pit again.
Only then did Shi Mu approach the pit with great caution, stealing a quick glance into it: the little golden animal, now weak, was no longer able to move it body as it was glued to the colorful fluids at the bottom.
At the sight, Shi Mu finally set his mind at rest. He turned around to a large nearby rock, fumbling in his package for a iron wire cage, and rushed toward the pit with it excitedly. But as he turned, he blanched at what he saw.
Beside the pit, which should be known to no one, was a blue-robed man with a sword over his shoulder, and the little golden animal was already in his hand struggling fiercely, the man, observing it from every angle, rocking his head back and forth: the little one should definitely be the golden hamster previously glued unconscious to the bottom of the pit.
"Elder warrior, I believe the golden hamster should be mine!" Seeing the golden hamster in his hand, Shi Mu's heart leaped to his throat, but he still managed to contain his anxiety with a deep breath, asking politely.
"Well, young boy, do you consider me a thief grabbing your prey?" The blue-robed man turned his body, said in a cold voice.
Shi Mu could make out that, though apparently in his thirties, and a Taoist priest, his eyebrows had grown all the way to his temples, and his eyes were as sharp as a knife, showing a fierce countenance, murderous and brutal.
"I can tell in a glance that senior must be an outstanding warrior, but this golden hamster...it was caught by me with all my effort..." Scarcely had Shi Mu braced himself to persuade when he felt an unusual sense of strange coldness rushing unto his face; immediately he was frozen, as though in ice, his whole body cold and numb.
This enigmatic blue-robed man had resorted to violent treachery in no time.
"Why, the notorious Cold Sword, intending to kill a mere practitioner for his treasure, I wonder who would believe in this story if I made it public..."
Just as Shi Mu was frozen to stillness, nearly falling unconscious, a heavenly, melodious voice came to his ears.
[A] - this is about ⅔ of a 1/10 of a km (0.066666 km) [not very big, but it takes him an hour because he is thoroughly searching it]
[B] - I'm going to guess this pit is about 10 meters deep (a zhang is ~3.333.... meters)
[C] - this is apparently equivalent to 50 grams. (which doesn't seem like a lot, but we are talking about pure silver... *shrugs*)
[D] - This hamster apparently has the ability to advance to the level of Holy Beast after eating a certain amount of rare herbs...? [I'm not quite clear on this, there is more in the next chapters about this, but not what exactly it has to do with the herbs]
[E] - This is around 500 kg.