Chapter 112: A Mission in Red Characters
Translator: Novel Saga Editor: Novel Saga
Ke was extremely beautiful and elegant. She had just come out of the water; the moisture on her skin had added an unusual appeal to her heavenly gracefulness. She looked extremely charming.
"Sister Ke, it wasn't my intention to peek at you while you were bathing. The fact is that I heard a sound... and assumed that there was an enemy roaming-about in the woods. So, I came here to have a look..." Shi Mu replied in an embarrassed tone.
"I've been hiding in the stronghold for some time now... and I haven't had a bath for a long time. So, I decided to come here and take a bath before the sun came out." Ke's pretty face turned red. She hurriedly explained with a bashful expression on her face.
Then, she waved her hand, and the black vine cane got buried into the ground.
A thoughtful expression flashed across Shi Mu's eyes as he looked at the disappearing vine cane.
He and Ke exchanged a look. They didn't speak anything for a while. The atmosphere around them had become awkward.
"Ahm... it'll be daybreak soon. Let's hurry back." Shi Mu coughed as he returned his blade into its sheath. Then, he spoke in an attempt to break the ice.
Ke blushed. But, she didn't oppose his idea. She arranged her hair, and started to walk in the direction of the stronghold with Shi Mu.
The trees had a warm aura around them in the early morning. Soft and warm rays of sun beamed through the tall trees, and sprinkled a luster across the forest. A boy and a girl walked in silence in this mesmerizing atmosphere. They maintained a respectful distance between them.
The youth was tall and stalwart; his arms swung like the wind. The young girl had a petite and exquisite figure. She looked timid, and had delicate facial features.
"Brother Shi, you're outside at this time of the day. Does it mean that you came out to practice last night?" Ke's eyes blinked as she sped-up to catch-up with Shi Mu. She then asked.
"Yes..." Shi Mu nodded in reply.
"Brother Shi is so hard-working. No wonder you're such a strong martial warrior and a proficient charm magician. It seems that this little girl will never reach such a level of proficiency. As I far as I know... there's no one in the younger generation of our Tian Yin Sect who can be placed on par with Brother Shi," Ke's gaze softened as she spoke in a gentle tone.
"Sister Ke flatters me. Your wood-style magic art is quite splendid. The vine cane that you just summoned... it wasn't an ordinary magic art... right?" Shi Mu asked in a casual tone.
"That was an ordinary wood-style magic art. It can't be compared with Brother Shi's magic skills. Oh... speaking of which... I'm running out of paper charms. So, I would like to request Brother Shi to spare some time to refine some Fire Ball Magic Charms for me... I don't know if Brother Shi has some free time to spare for me..." Ke changed the topic of conversation and asked.
"It shouldn't be an issue if Sister Ke provides me with the required material," Shi Mu answered in a promising tone.
The equation between them became cordial as they chatted. Soon, they arrived at the entrance of the stronghold - under the cliff near the huge tree.
'Crash!' suddenly, a rustling sound was heard as a man walked out of the nearby bushes.
Ke was startled. But then, she noticed that it was Bai Yu Xiu. So, she felt relieved.
Shi Mu frowned.
Bai Yu Xiu sized them up from top-to-bottom. His complexion darkened; he shot a fierce look at Shi Mu.
Shi Mu turned his head and looked at Ke. Then, he looked at his own body. Suddenly, he was struck by a realization.
Ke's wet hair was still trailing over her shoulder. Water droplets could be seen on her body; it seemed as if she had just taken a bath. Shi Mu's body also looked wet. He had stayed outside the entire night. So, his entire body was covered in dew. It seemed that he too had just come out of a bath.
Both of them seemed to be in a similar condition. So, it was obvious that they were misunderstood.
The same thought crossed Ke's mind. She was suddenly reminded that Shi Mu had seen her body bare. So, her face became hot and red.
Bai Yu Xiu got extremely jealous as he saw her bashful expression.
"Brother Bai, is there any matter? If there's nothing... then I would like to take my leave," Shi Mu spoke in a low voice. Then, he started to walk in the direction of the huge tree.
He knew that it would be futile to explain the situation to him. Moreover, he didn't wish to explain anything to him.
Ke also bowed to Bai Yu Xiu. She then walked past him, and followed Shi Mu.
Bai Yu Xiu gazed painfully at their receding figures. A virulent expression flashed across his eyes.
Shi Mu returned to his room. He then sat down and started to ponder over the situation.
Bai Yu Xiu had always been hostile to him. He had caused a lot of troubles for him in the past few months. However, he had never dared to overstep his limits. It was because of Shi Mu's position as the sole Charm Magician in the stronghold.
However, a misleading incident had occurred in the morning. Bai Yu Xiu would've been raging with fury. Therefore, Shi Mu decided to be extra-vigilant from now on. He must keep his guards on at all times.
Shi Mu was accustomed to concealing most of his strength in front of the other disciples in the stronghold. Moreover, he had various kinds of Magic Charms up his sleeve. So, he was confident of surviving any attack or plot that Bai Yu Xiu might design to hurt him.
Shi Mu wouldn't sit back and watch if Bai Yu Xiu resorted to any evil plan against him; he wouldn't be lenient.
Shi Mu sat down cross-legged. He fumbled in his shirt, and took out a piece of black bone. The Art of Breeding a Strong Evil Ape was recorded on it.
There was a hint of regret on Shi Mu's face.
He still couldn't practice this great art.
Shi Mu had exchanged his 'feat' points for a bottle of Demon Qi and some blood of the Heavenly apes after he had reached the fourth stage of the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants. He had exchanged his 'feat' points from the base camp of the union. Then, he had tried to practice the Art of Breeding a Strong Evil Ape multiple times with the help of these things. But, his accumulated Real Qi had turned out to be too weak to withstand the attack of the Demon Qi.
He had planned to wait till he entered the fifth stage of the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants. After that, he might be able to begin the practice of the Art of Breeding a Strong Evil Ape.
Shi Mu sighed and kept the bone slip aside. Then, he started to practice the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants.
According to the convention - he could rest for several days after the completion a mission assigned by the stronghold.
Two days passed in a flash.
Shi Mu continued to practice the Art of Breeding Heavenly Elephants during the daytime, and the Moon-Swallowing Art during the night. However, Bai Yu Xiu didn't pick a quarrel with him even once.
On the third day, Shi Mu returned to the tunnel relatively early in the morning after practicing the Moon-Swallowing Art. His expression changed as soon as he entered the tunnel.
A dozen or more disciples had gathered around the table. They sat silently with solemn faces.
"Brother Shi, we've been waiting for you. Hurry-up and sit down," the young Taoist warrior stood-up and greeted him. He was the same person who had asked Shi Mu to refine a Golden Armor Charm for him a few days back.
"What happened? Why have you people gathered here?" Shi Mu asked.
Suddenly, Ke smiled and pointed towards a stone stool for him to sit.
Shi Mu thought for a while. Then, he walked over and sat down.
An evil look flashed across Bai Yu Xiu's eyes. But, he didn't say anything. However, a blue vein stuck out of his neck.
"Now that all of us are here... I'll come to the main point. Everyone... take a look at this first," he took a deep breath and looked away from Shi Mu and Ke. He then moved his hand and took out the white plate. Suddenly, a white light shot-up from its surface, and got condensed into a layer of white light-screen in the air. Then, a row of deep-red characters appeared on it.
Shi Mu's countenance changed as he saw this.
The union used different colors for the purpose of distributing missions to the disciples. They had set-up certain standards for this purpose. Ordinary missions appeared in white color, while the special ones appeared in black. However, the exceptionally vital missions appeared in deep-red characters.
The other disciples were also taken aback as their eyes fell on the red text.
"I've received this mission from the union this morning. They want us to launch a sneak-attack on one of the barbarian strongholds. The stronghold is thirty kilometers away from the mountain range. The barbarians store their rations and fodder there. So, we've been ordered to burn their army provisions," Bai Yu Xiu looked around and spoke in a grave tone.
"A stronghold near the mountain... where the ration and fodder are stored... Don't tell me it's the same stronghold which is in the vicinity of the Eagle Gully!" a disciple of the Wind and Fire Sect asked in a surprised tone.
"Yes, it's the same," Bai Yu Xiu nodded with an expressionless face.
"How can it be possible? I've investigated that stronghold. Its terrain is extremely dangerous. Hundreds of barbarians guard the stronghold. Moreover, several Totem Warriors are stationed there. I don't think that only a dozen of us can deal with them," the disciple of the Wind and Fire Sect spoke in an anxious manner.
"The union has sent this mission in deep-red characters. So, it would obviously be highly dangerous. We have no other choice but to carry it out," Bai Yu Xiu shot a glance at him and said.
The surrounding disciples' hearts sank as they heard these words. But, no one said anything.
The disciples who dared to refuse the union's order were given severe punishments. Even the smallest punishment included sealing one's cultivation skills. Then, that disciple was dispatched to other places to do hard labor. The toughest punishment included an order to completely erase one's cultivation skills. Then, that particular disciple was reduced to the janitor level, and was imprisoned in the sect for his or her entire life.
"This mission is extremely difficult. But, the feat points for the completion of this mission would be substantial - eight-hundred points at one fell swoop. And, this number would be decided on the basis of your contribution," Bai Yu Xiu swept his vision over the disciples as he explained.
The expressions of the disciples loosened as they heard this news.
"Since nobody has any objection... let's move on to the concrete plan." Bai Yu Xiu took out a piece of paper from his bosom and spread it on the table. Then, he began to draw the topographic map of the valley on it.
"I once went to the Eagle Gully. That was originally a mountain stronghold of a gang of robbers. The position of their stronghold was hard to find. The robbers abandoned it and ran away after the invasion of the barbarians. Then, the barbarians took hold of it... and used it to store their rations and other materials. I remember their terrain roughly. So, I have drawn it for your reference," he said. Then, he showed the map to others.
Shi Mu also took a look at it. Bai Yu Xiu had drawn a detailed map of the Eagle Gully. All the places around that valley had also been clearly marked on the map.
Some buildings had been outlined in the bottle gourd-shaped mountain valley. It looked like a stronghold in a city. The stronghold was divided into two parts - the inner layer and the outer layer.
Shi Mu looked at the map, and gazed at the disciple of the Wind and Fire Sect who had been to the Eagle Gully before. He felt assured as he saw that the disciple didn't have any objection to the map.
It seemed that its terrain was the major problem.
"As brother Zheng just said... the people guarding the Eagle Gully are massive in numbers... They are also very strong. So, we shouldn't make a frontal attack since there are only a dozen of us," Bai Yu Xiu spoke with a solemn expression on his face.
"Has Brother Bai already thought of a brilliant plan?" Ke asked in a crisp voice with a smile.
"Hehe... it's not a very brilliant plan. I've discussed this with some of my fellow brothers. We've taken a unanimous decision that we should divide ourselves into two groups. One group of people would feign an attack outside their stronghold... to tempt and draw the attention of the guarding people. The other team would seize this opportunity and sneak into their stronghold. Then, they would wait for an opportunity to burn down all the stuff stored inside," he smiled to Ke and explained.
Everyone around the stone table sank into a deep silence as they heard the plan.
Some of them wrinkled their brows, while some other revealed a thoughtful expression.
This indeed wasn't a brilliant plan. But, it was fine and acceptable. Their chances of successfully completing this mission were high as long as they didn't bump into any mishap.
Everyone contemplated for a while. Finally, no one opposed it.
"Since everyone agrees... let's discuss the allocation plan." Bai Yu Xiu smiled as he saw that his plan had been accepted.