Chapter 6: The Mutation
Translator: Novel_Saga Editor: Novel_Saga
“This is easy. I know I can do better.”
Shi Mu thought to himself as he prepared to lift another stone. He then raised his hand, and threw away the stone-lock on the ground with a loud thud. The entire square shook lightly with its impact.
Shi Mu raised his hand to study his fingers closely. His lean and long fingers were sturdy. But, they didn’t look as if they had the strength to lift a weight of five-hundred kilograms.
Shi Mu thought for a moment. He then walked to a wooden shelf in order to take out a long saber. The saber’s movement created a succession of flashing shadows. They began to explode above the square. The overwhelming energy sent sand and stones flying in all directions.
‘Whiz!’ A white whip rolled and struck a wooden target.
‘Pa! Pa!’ A series of sounds were heard as the target crashed to the ground with seven cuts.
One movement — seven cuts. Seven cuts in one movement! This was exactly one greater than what Li Cang Hai had showed him. He had surpassed his instructor’s record within a night’s time by managing seven cuts.
The shadows made by the sun disappeared as the evening arrived. Shi Mu stood at the same spot with the saber in hand. He seemed to be lost in thoughts.
Soon, it was night.
The heavy wooden door of the room was closed. The room was large and austere, but didn’t have any decorations.
Shi Mu lay on the bed in the centre of the room; his eyes were closed.
His skin had a tinge of red to it; he was sweating heavily. He was curled-up in a half-conscious state. He continued to twitch and murmur.
His groans died down after an indefinite amount of time. He then began to stretch his body slowly. He opened his tired eyes as his skin returned to its normal color.
Shi Mu took a few deep breaths. Then, he got-off the bed in order to exercise. He flexed his fingers, and clutched the edge of the bed.
The solid wooden edge was crushed with a clean sound.
“My strength has increased… but not as much as the last time. The effect lasts less than a quarter-of-an-hour… even after an interval of one month. It seems that I won’t make a lot of progress next time,” Shi Mu murmured.
The amazing change had started taking place as soon as he had moved into the manor; it had taken place on more than one occasion. The strength that he had displayed earlier in the day had come from this change. Moreover, it had sharpened his practice of the saber art.
The first mutation had occurred within the first month of his arrival. It had tormented his body for an entire night.
However, the pain had disappeared by the next day. But, his body had been left with more strength and elasticity.
The second mutation had taken place two nights later.
This pattern took place a total of ten times. But, the benefits of the reward were accompanied by an intense amount of pain.
Shi Mu had begun to notice that the duration of each mutation was decreasing. The intervals were becoming longer, and his strength was starting to stagnate.
The growth this time was negligible in comparison to the first few mutations. However, the achievements were still quite extraordinary.
But, Shi Mu’s body had responded quicker than other people’s. So, he had been able to lift a weight of more than five-hundred kilograms.
He was quick to figure out that these mutations had something to do with the huge clam that he had saved from the seabed.
The process of mutations always stirred-up spasms of pain in his body; they were similar to what he had felt that day on the beach. He had been cured by the clam girl while he was in coma. He had awakened due to a feeling of blood boiling inside him. The one difference that he felt now was that the pain of mutation was ten times as sharp as the pain he had felt back then.
However, Shi Mu was secretly happy due to this boost in his strength. He had been envious of others when they told him about the fortuitous events that had befallen them.
But now, a fortunate event had occurred in his favor. This filled him with a new kind of confidence and yearning for the fierce competition he was supposed face at the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School’s enrolment test.
Shi Mu had learnt from Li Cang Hai that acquiring Qi-sensing wouldn’t be enough, and that the competition could still be difficult for him.
After all, there were limited resources at the Kai Yuan Martial Arts School. So, only a few candidates could pass the enrolment test out of the innumerable aspirants. Moreover, it was evident from the past competitions that the number of aspirants from each prefecture was at least a few multiples of what the School eventually enrolled.
Shi Mu was aware of his mediocrity. He knew that he wouldn’t have a great chance at Qi-sensing despite the aid of the Qi Ling pill.
However, Li Cang Hai had told him that one had a better shot at succeeding in Qi-sensing once one crossed the ninth level in Body Tempering. In fact, even a person with low comprehension would be successful one out of three times if one crossed the tenth level. It would come as a surprise if Shi Mu failed to acquire Qi-sensing after accomplishing all the thirteen levels of Body Tempering.
Therefore, some of the inferior Martial Disciples were able to sense Qi in their thirties or even forties. But, only the rich could afford such a wonder as very few had the time and money for such an investment.
Moreover, there would be little time left for further studies if one didn’t acquire Qi-sensing until middle age. Then, the difficulty of becoming an intermediate Hou Tian Warrior would be tripled as the prime of a warrior would already be wasted. In that case, becoming an advanced Hou Tian Warrior would be out of the question.
But, some aristocrats collected rare herbs to help with their Qi-sensing. However, its cost was much more than that of the Qi Ling pill.
In fact, even Li Cang Hai had failed in reaching the Hou Tian stage before the age of fifteen.
He had finally managed to reach the twelfth level in Body Tempering in his twenties. He had to take a Qi Ling pill twice before he finally managed to become a Hou Tian Warrior.
But, it was impossible for Shi Mu to collect rare herbs. Therefore, the only way for him to succeed was through Body Tempering.
However, the time needed to advance to the next level increased exponentially after the ninth level. In fact, the required time exceeded the amount that the common people could afford to spend on training. So, it was impossible for common people to reach the twelfth level. Only the people born with a great amount of talent could achieve this stage. But, the total number of such geniuses in the entire history of Da Qi could be counted on the fingers.
However, the fortunate event that had befallen Shi Mu had allowed him to reach the ninth level. He was inching closer to the tenth level owing to the pain and sweat of each mutation.
It could be argued that he could reach the tenth level within a year. But, it was hard to imagine that he would reach the eleventh level. Moreover, Shi Mu didn’t wish to gamble a Qi Ling pill with a mere one-third chance of succeeding. So, he hadn’t been able to feel relieved.
He felt that he had no other choice but to resort to an insane approach that Li Cang Hai had told him about.
According to Li Cang Hai, a martial art expert had passed down a special method of Body Tempering. It was simple and crude, but it yielded amazing results. However, the process was extremely dangerous and full of suffering. It was rarely ever imparted to Martial Disciples as there was a chance of a premature death during its practice. Instructor Li had hinted that he would teach everything he knew to Shi Mu, but only in exchange for a large tuition fee.
Danger? What threat of danger could possibly scare Shi Mu? He had taken an oath to be the strongest warrior in front of his mother’s tomb!
However, his immediate goal was to master the ‘Stone-Breaking Fist’ art before he could concentrate on Body Tempering. Shi Mu was lost in thoughts. Suddenly, an idea dawned upon him.
Seven days later…
A three-feet-high blue tank filled densely with yellow soybeans stood in the centre of the manor square.
Shi Mu stood shirtless before the tank; he wore a pair of over-sized black trousers and a pair of thick silver gloves. ‘Pa! Pa!’ He started to punch the soybeans in the tank.
“Listen! Your physical strength is the basis of power for the Stone-Breaking Fist… But, the key to master this art is by toughening your fists. Otherwise, the strength that you use would only rebound from the stone. It’ll result in a self-mutilation of your fists.
“You’re only a beginner. So, the toughness of your fist can only battle wood at the moment. These gloves are made of layers of fish-skin. They’ll train your ligaments, tendons and flesh… and will prevent your fists from any grave injury. I’ll replace the beans with stones… and will take away one layer of fish-skin from your gloves once you manage to punch through this tank and break it. You’ll advance to the iron-pellet sand once you manage to do the same with the stones. After that… real rock…
“Left hand! Don’t wave it so far! Elbow! Keep it tucked! Good! Good!” Li Cang Hai explained with a poker face; his arms were folded.
Shi Mu answered as he continued to move his arms. Each of his punches sunk half-an-inch deep into the tank. His upper body was sweating profusely. Each of his muscles trembled incessantly; as if he was engaged in a strange fanaticism.
Shi Mu let out a shout after a quarter-of-an-hour. He then punched the tank. His punch went at least one inch deep, and buried nearly half of his arm into the beans.
“Stop! Didn’t I ask you to restrain your strength? Let me inspect your fists… They might be injured!” Li Cang Hai’s expression changed. He was anxious as he scolded the young boy, and handed him a medicine bottle from his pocket.
“Master Li, I’m alright.” Shi Mu grinned and pulled out his half-buried arm from the beans.
“Humph! Let me be the judge of that. Take off your glove,” Li Cang Hai snorted.
Shi Mu swung his arm, and took off the layers of the glove. He then wiggled his reddish fingers in front of Li Cang Hai.
“Hmmm… That’s quite strange. Your hand look perfectly fine. I’ve been a teacher for years; I was expecting your fingers to be bleeding. Now, do this. Come over here… and pound this wooden target with your fists. Don’t hold back this time.” Instructor Li thought for some time. He then pointed towards a nearby thick stock and said. He seemed amazed after studying Shi Mu’s fist.
“Yes,” Shi Mu said, and took a deep breath. He then walked to the stock, and began to measure it in circles.
After that, he stretched his arms. Then, his gaze sharpened in intensity.
He then delivered a punch; it smashed the thick wooden target into two parts. The upper part went whizzing across the square, and collided with the outer wall of a house. The house quivered mightily with the impact.
However, Shi Mu’s fist had remained safe and sound.