Chapter 104: The Three Fortress-Prefectures
Translator: Novel Saga Editor: Novel Saga
Everything gradually calmed down. Shi Mu was startled as his eyes fell on something.
The huge boulder couldn't be seen anywhere. The surrounding air was filled with an undulating wave of heat that had been caused by the fire-element spell.
Shi Mu was surprised to see a huge pit; it was several feet in radius. It had appeared in the place of the boulder that had got crumbled by Shi Mu's dagger. The pit seemed to be burnt from inside. Moreover, there were signs of melting on the ground near it.
Shi Mu was overwhelmed with joy as he saw this.
He knew that even a Xian Tian level warrior's strike couldn't yield such an astonishing result.
He left his residence quite early the next morning. He hurriedly walked towards the plaza in the valley.
The Sun was high in the sky when he returned from the plaza. He had a package in his hand. It was bulging with various objects that he had purchased. The contents of the package included two finger rings forged from refined iron. It contained two sheaths apart from that. One of them was an exceptionally magnificent silver sheath, and other one was an unadorned black sheath. Shi Mu had also purchased two transparent strings of spirit silk.
It was believed that the spirit silkworms were raised in an extremely cold place. Therefore, the silk produced from them was extremely tenacious in texture. Moreover, the silk was almost transparent; so much so that a naked eye might fail to see it.
Shi Mu took the refined-iron rings and the spirit silk out of the package. Then, he used the spirit silk to tightly fasten the rings to two of his curved daggers. After that, he slipped both the daggers into the silver sheath, and put his black blade into the black sheath.
He then found two sturdy straps of leather. He used them to tie the silver and the black sheaths behind his back.
Shi Mu's personality transformed as soon as the two sheaths were hung behind his back. He started to emit the overpowering aura of a gallant warrior.
He stretched-out his right hand backwards, and pulled out the black blade from its sheath with a flash of the black light.
Then, he stimulated his Real Qi, and it started to surge-up within his body. After that, he shot out thirteen black blade-shadows in the air. Those shadows rolled-out from his blade like a misty whirlwind.
The shrill 'whistling' sound of the blade hadn't yet receded when the black light flashed once again. Then, the black blade was returned to its sheath.
The entire process had taken place without a single sloppy movement.
Shi Mu started to accumulate his Real Qi in his left hand. Suddenly, the ring in his left index finger moved. This was followed by a sudden flash of cold light. Then, a streak of silver light shot-up into the sky from the silver sheath that hung on Shi Mu's back.
This was the Knife Throwing Art that he had learned from Li Cang Hai.
'Swish' a rustling sound was heard.
The silver dagger was connected to his right index finger with the help of the transparent spirit silk. So, the dagger changed its direction as soon as Shi Mu's Real Qi surged through the spirit silk. This had happened under the stimulation of his Real Qi that had flowed through the silk. Then, the dagger started to whirl and flutter around him - like a silver bird hovering in the air.
It started to produce a strange 'humming' sound that resounded through the surroundings.
Shi Mu's finger would move and infuse his Real Qi into the dagger every time it was about to fall. Therefore, the dagger didn't fall even once. It regained its vigor every single time.
The spirit silk continued to transfer his Real Qi into the dagger. So, the Knife Throwing Art was able to throw and receive the dagger according to his wishes.
However, Shi Mu didn't make any progress in the following days. Therefore, he stayed locked up in his room. He continued to practice the Gale Force Blade Art and the Knife Throwing Art in order to achieve a perfect coordination between the two.
Seven days passed.
The blade-shadows howled around in Shi Mu's stone house; the black and silver shadows flashed endlessly in a crisscross pattern.
Shi Mu wielded his black blade, and it changed into numerous blade-shadows. These black shadows shielded his entire body. The silver light of the dagger also started to sway within the crowd of the black blade-shadows. It fluttered in the air and circled around his body in an erratic manner.
Shi Mu's left index finger continued to move slightly throughout the process.
Suddenly, the light of the silver dagger shot towards the stone table like a sharp arrow.
It was about to collide with the table when the silver dagger made a strange twist. It made a strange arc the in the air, and arrived at the right side of the table.
Suddenly, the black shadows that were shielding Shi Mu's body vanished. The silver dagger shot back at the same time - like a tired bird yearning for its nest. Then, the black blade and the silver dagger returned to their respective sheaths.
Shi Mu let out a soft sigh. There was a trace of satisfaction on his face.
He now had the strength to protect himself from the greedy old disciples since he had this trump card up his sleeve. He knew that the old disciples were likely to covet his precious blade in the annual competition.
He stood motionless for a while. Then, he gently slipped the refined-iron ring off his finger, and started to fiddle with it unconsciously. There was a thoughtful expression in his eyes.
His fight with Zuo Yan had given him the idea of the general strength of the old primary disciples.
Zuo Yan had been ranked among the top hundred old primary disciples. Therefore, Shi Mu had to exert a great deal of energy in order to confront him. He would've suffered a serious injury if he had made even the slightest mistake during that fight. He knew that he wouldn't be able to grab a decent place in the annual competition if he wasn't been able to use the Art of Throwing Knife skillfully under such circumstances. So, he needed to make preparations in order to achieve his goal.
Shi Mu's eyes sparkled as this thought flashed across his mind.
Suddenly, he recalled the book named 'The Comprehensive Introduction to Formula Arts'. He had come across an earth-style defense formula in that book. It was called 'The Golden Armor Charm'.
This magic charm was similar to the Body Lifting Charm. Both these charms had the same number of charm characters - twelve. However, the complexity of drawing each individual character in the Golden Armor Charm was a lot more challenging than the characters of the Body Lifting Charm. But, the Golden Armor Charm rendered a relatively stronger shield. It could even withstand a heavy strike from an advanced Hou Tian warrior.
Shi Mu's chances of success in the annual competition would be on the higher side with this defense charm in his arsenal.
He pondered over this matter for a while. Then, he decided to give it a try.
However, he needed to obtain some earth-attribute spirit stones for that. After all, he didn't possess the earth-sensing ability.
The next day, he went to the Hall of Wealth. He published a notice asking for some low-grade earth-attribute spirit stones. He also notified that he would pay some low-grade magic charms as a reward to the opposite party.
Several disciples needed to refine paper charms for themselves due to the approaching annual competition. Therefore, several disciples of the Flaming Beast Group and the Holy Spirit Association came looking for him as soon as he put-up the notice.
Shi Mu purposely doubled the price in order to stay out of this bilateral conflict. But, both the sides nodded their heads happily. So, Shi Mu ended up accepting the request of both the parties.
He completed a group of low-grade paper charms for both the parties within ten days. Therefore, he obtained two low-grade spirit stones of earth-attribute. In addition, he earned more than one-hundred-thousand silvers. This amount was much more than the amount that he had published.
However, he couldn't repeat this process. He knew that the annual competition was around the corner. So, he couldn't afford to spare too much time to fulfill such requests. Moreover, he presumed that the demand for the low-grade paper charms would reduce in future if a huge number of these charms surfaced in the market.
Ten days later.... in Shi Mu's stone house...
Shi Mu held a brown spirit stone in one hand, and a magic brush in the other. The brush moved and left green marks on a charm paper. Everything was going smoothly. But, a yellow luminescence sparked on the charm paper as the eleventh character was about to be completed. Suddenly, the entire magic charm burnt to ashes as the infused magic power flared-up.
Shi Mu sighed. A hint of regret flashed across his eyes.
He had drawn the Golden Armor Charm for the first time. It had ended-up burning even though he had drawn it properly. Shi Mu noticed that the spiritual power of the first spirit stone was about to get exhausted. This stirred-up a feeling of helplessness in his heart.
He knew that the charm characters of a magic charm weren't independent of each other. In fact, there was a subtle connection between them. The connection between the characters of a magic charm was as complex as the magic charm itself. Therefore, even a minute mistake could lead to a complete failure of the magic charm. This magic charm was similar to the magic charm that he had overlaid on his weapon. So, his success depended on his destiny.
He finally succeeded in making a Golden Armor Charm after three days. Both his spirit stones had been completely used-up during the process.
Shi Mu was worried since he couldn't put this magic charm to test. Therefore, he wasn't confident about its result. He felt disturbed by this.
The most reliable thing in a combat was the enhancement of one's strength. So, he decided to focus on the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants and the Art of Accumulating Spirit Power in the following days. He hoped to make a breakthrough before the annual competition.
On one side, Shi Mu had immersed himself in the preparation of the approaching annual competition. While on the other side, a crucial incident had taken place thousands of miles away - in the Da Qi Kingdom. This incident had shaken the various Sects of the three great kingdoms.
Wu, Fu, and Rui were the three fortress-prefectures among the thirty-six prefectures of the Da Qi kingdom. They were situated in the western region of the kingdom.
They were the neighboring prefectures of the Barbarian race's Wasteland. These three prefectures were directly under the jurisdiction of the Yan Qing's county's government.
The Barbarians race's Wasteland was very impoverished. Therefore, they often suffered from a huge scarcity of natural resources. Their tribesmen were forced to live in precarious conditions during the winter season. So, they began to covet the three neighboring prefectures of the human race. They often dispatched troops to encroach and plunder resources. They'd even bring human-captives to keep them as slaves.
Therefore, these three prefectures - situated on the border of the Da Qi Kingdom - had fallen fell prey to the barbarians. They had become the key destination for the barbarian's invasion. The smoke of war had continued to rise over the successive years. Therefore, the human race suffered a severe disaster.
The Da Qi Kingdom's royal government couldn't sit back and do nothing. So, they started to send their troops to guard the border and quell the barbarians.
However, the barbarians had inherited the blood of an ancient giant tribe. Therefore, they were taller and stronger than normal human beings. Most of them bore a tyrannical and ferocious disposition. Moreover, they weren't afraid of death.
The barbarian race had a few Totem Barbarian Warriors. These warriors relied on the totem engraved on their bodies. The souls of various fierce beasts were sealed inside their totems in order to enhance their strength. Therefore, the totem warriors were even more flagitious than the ordinary barbarians. Their hearts blazed with the desire for fresh blood until they were satiated.
However, the totem warriors were similar to the military men of the human race. They were very few in number.
The human armies had always been at a serious disadvantage in the war with the barbarians. They had often paid a heavy price for this.
The National Guardian of the Da Qi Kingdom - Yue Tai - came to the forefront a hundred years ago. The situation improved under his leadership.
The Da Qi Kingdom's army had turned out to be successful in their endeavors under his amazing leadership. Therefore, the barbarians had been driven out of the three prefectures.
Yue Tai's popularity had soared-up to the sky. He had been given the title of 'The Guardians who Garrisons the Barbarians' for his illustrious war exploits. Moreover, he had become one of the few National Guardians who weren't Royalty by birth.
One day... very late at night... in Xing He City of Wu prefecture...
The Xing He City was extended over several thousand square feet. Its winding walls looked like a giant dragon crouching on the land from afar. It formed a square-shaped pattern that enclosed the entire city. It lay at the common border of Wu Prefecture and the barbarian's wilderness. It guarded the most important frontier-fortress town of the Da Qi kingdom in a firm manner.
The geographical location of Xing He city was quite favorable; there were mountains on one side, and a river on the other.
There was a green mountain range outside the northern city walls. It wasn't a lofty mountain range. However, it stretched over several thousand kilometers. This so-called 'Gateway to Wu Prefecture' was called the Qi mountain range.
There was an extensive river called the Lu Mian River outside the southern city walls. It flowed at an incredibly high speed. This river was known for the endless winds and waves that occurred here throughout the year. Moreover, there were countless submerged reefs inside it. Therefore, even a veteran fisherman didn't dare to go to the middle of the river. And, the barbarians weren't good at swimming.
In addition, a hundred-thousand elite soldiers were stationed in the city at all times. These factors had made the Xing He City an extremely powerful fortress. So, it was quite difficult to attack it. Therefore, several barbarians had been harboring a grudge against this city for more than a hundred years.
The Wu Prefecture lay in the middle of the three fortress-prefectures. So, the Da Qi military forces could easily provide support to the other two prefectures - Fu and Rui as long as the Wu Prefecture was safe. So, the barbarians never dared to infiltrate deep even if they forced their way into the cities of Fu or Rui prefectures.
The Xing He City had become the most important place for the Da Qi Kingdom. Therefore, it had become an eye-sore for the barbarians.
Yue Tai - 'The Guardians who Garrisons the Barbarians' - had chosen the Xing He City to set-up the state government offices and armed forces.
He had also adopted the curfew system at night in the city. Therefore, all the streets were quiet at this critical time - except for a few rounds of patrolling teams.
However, something strange happened in the darkness of the night. A back door of an ordinary inn creaked open. Ten oddly looking figures - dressed in black clothes - walked out of the inn one-by-one. They turned and moved towards the western part of the city in silence. They seemed to be familiar with the roads. They were walking in the least visited alleys.
A patrolling team passed by a shop in a certain area of the city at the same time. Then, the gate of the shop was quietly pushed open. After that, several people's figures walked outside the shop and disappeared into a small nearby alley.
The door of an ordinary citizen's courtyard was pushed open in the other part of the city at the same time. Then, seven or eight people's silhouettes emerged and vanished into the dark night.