Chapter 93 - The Eye of the Formula
A short while later, Shi Mu found himself meditating in his bed, his eyes gazing at the black blade he had just invested copious amounts of money in. Knitting his brows, his face was showing his inner turmoil. He was racking his brains trying to weigh the risks that may be brought by Uncle Ju's offer. So much had been paid to procure this blade of meteoric iron. It would be a waste if he did not make it into a magic weapon. Furthermore, though it was risky to have implicit trust in Uncle Ju's skills, Shi Mu was mesmerized by the thought of visiting another realm, one that should be quite different from his own. He had an even bigger interest in strange animals, like the gold-eroding lizard, and would very much like to find one for himself. It would not be completely impossible for him to get an animal from another realm if he agreed to Uncle Ju's offer. After all, Uncle Ju had the experience, as he had beckoned two animals from other realms - Vibrant and his foe, the lizard, so he could be counted a veteran. Therefore, danger to his life should be out of the question. From all the time when the two had dealt with each other, Shi Mu knew Uncle Ju to be a person of extreme prudence, though with a horrible lack of modesty. Thinking this way, Uncle Ju would be the last person to act without full confidence. But even with the good chances of success, Shi Mu did not feel at ease with the slightest possibility of bad results until after several days of deep contemplation.
Four days later, Shi Mu paid another visit to the General Sutra House to bring Uncle Ju the good news of his agreement to their co-operation, which made the fat man's face crease into a smile. The two to begin the ceremony noon three days later, and the place would be Uncle Ju's abode, whose address was then imprinted on a white jade slip tossed to Shi Mu by the fat Adept. Shi Mu carefully slipped it into his sleeve, then seized the chance to ask some more questions about the communication ceremony and the space they would soon be visiting. All done, Shi Mu left with an expectant heart.
Three days later, noon.
Shi Mu had found his way to the foot of a black mountain, the scorching sun making sweat flow down his face. He looked up to the top and was somewhat disappointed by the barrenness of this mountain. It was jagged, rocky, and a dead silent, due to a lack of vegetation and frolicking animals. A few sickly bushes and some miscellaneous grasses were all that the mountain had to offer a traveler. Of course, Shi Mu was the only traveler now and was probably the only one it had seen in a long time. Apart from some stone buildings scattered over the mountain, there were no other traces of humans. Infertility, bleakness, and remoteness - these are all that Shi Mu can think of in relation to this mountain, the thirteenth mountain of the Black Demon Sect. Thought he had been living in the valley adjacent to it, Shi Mu had not really visited it before.
There was only one path that lead from the foot of the mountain all the way up to the top, narrow branches grew now and then, leading to some scattered stone houses that shared the same crudeness. Some detached two or three-storey houses stood out, also built of stone. According to the jade slip, uncle Ju lives in a remote stone house near the top, not easily found by those not previously aware of its location. It took Shi Mu almost two hours - a tortuous journey indeed - to find the stone house, which opened before Shi Mu had the chance to knock.
"Come on in! What took you so long?" The fat man's voice came from the inner room, bringing with it the impatience that had obviously been simmering for a while.
"My apology Uncle Ju! I was practicing when I had a sudden insight, which made me forget the time!" Shi Mu saw the flesh mountain waiting in the hall with an expressionless face as soon as he entered the room, and hurriedly apologized.
"Huh, an insight, very important... Alright, I'll forgive you this time...All is set, come in so we can begin." The fat man's brows relaxed, knowing that it is quite common to forget about the time when one gets a flash of insight.
It took a while for Shi Mu's eyes to get adjusted to the dimness of the room, and when they did he discovered an odd-looking lizard that was almost three meters long. The monster has only one head, but three pairs of legs, its entire body covered by blackish green shells. Its eyes are long and narrow, stripped by green and yellow colors, and they were staring at Shi Mu viciously. But from the way it was frozen to the floor, Uncle Ju seemed to have sealed its movements.
"Is there any chance that this is the legendary lizard?" Shi Mu's eyes glistened as he pointed to the animal and asked.
"That's right. It's poisonous, but you can count on it to melt gold." Uncle Ju nodded. He hurriedly to moved to a wall at the end of the aisle. He stretched out his plump hand and pressed on the wall gently.
Boom! It thundered and the wall separated to two sides and formed a door that opened to the inside! A dark passageway showed itself on the other side of the door.
"The ceremony is to be held in the secret room below. Come with me." The fat man tilted his head and asked Shi Mu to follow up. Without delay, he walked to the passageway.
The two of them, after walking for some time down on the spiral stairs, finally arrived in a room the length of it about 15 meters, and the width 10 meters. Encircled by touches of oxen fat, the two found themselves in a brightly illuminated space. The room was made of stone, just like the house, and, except for a huge circular formula that almost covered the entire floor, there were no more decorations to be found.
There was some resemblance between this formula and the one Shi Mu once saw in the General Sutra House. The biggest difference is that there are fixed indentations, the size of an egg, distributed evenly around the circle, and one as big as a human head situated right in the center, where heavenly patterns and magical characters convene.
Shi Mu's countenance changed when he saw this delicate formula. He recalled, from slips he had read, that when huge formulas, like this one, activated, they demanded a considerable consumption of heavenly power, which must be offered continuously by heavenly stones. Some even bigger formulas would need several batches of stones to fully activate. Undoubtedly, those five smaller indentations should be where the heavenly stones are placed, the bigger one in the center would be "the eye of the formula".
However, the hint of excitement in Shi Mu's eyes soon got lost when he realized what an infant he was before such a vast sea of knowledge. The slips he had at hand, at best, spoke of the basics and did not mention more complex formulas. Now that he got the chance of seeing one with his own eyes, he wished he could sear the whole formula into his memory, and replay every detail as slowly as possible once he returned to his own place. With a faked casual air, Shi Mu stole a glance of uncle Ju to find him fully engaged in the work of checking the formula for the last time, having no chance to pay attention to Shi Mu at all. Thus assured, Shi Mu dilated his pupils to turn his eyes into a pair of magnifiers, under which each magical character was enlarged tenfold, able to escape Shi Mu's eyes. He found with some relief that some of the seemingly convoluted characters were actually the combination of several simple characters of the five elements, linked by some heavenly patterns that he did not recognize.
While he was lost in reading the characters, Uncle Ju had finished his check. Seeing that he had risen to his full height, Shi Mu made his eyes return to normal.
"This formula's name is The Soaring Star, one of the spatial formulas. We have to use it to perform the ceremony. But it's far too difficult for you at present. I'd suggest you not try to bite off more than you can chew." Detecting Shi Mu's great interest in the formula on the floor, the fat man cautioned him.