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Chapter 284: Begins Ahead of Time

    Chapter 284: Begins Ahead of Time

    Translator: Novel Saga  Editor: Novel Saga

    One hour later... in the branch stronghold of the Dark Moon Cult.

    Shi Mu sat by the side of a wooden table. He looked at the black blade and the short stick in his hands, and a wry smile loomed on his face.

    The fact was that he had gone a few rounds of trials, but he had found that the golden lizard's venom didn't respond to his present meteoric-iron black blade and stick.

    It couldn't be denied that these two weapons had become very formidable after refinement... so much so that they could destroy the hardest of defenses. However, their strength had reduced since they didn't allow the inscription of magic spells on them.

    Shi Mu was trying to decide whether he should go ahead and purchase the two high-ranked hilted weapons when a puff of black smoke had suddenly appeared in front of him along with Yan Luo's silhouette. Then, a girl's melodious voice had resounded in his mind.

    "Lend me your stick."

    "This... there's some issue with this stick." Shi Mu hesitated for a moment. Then, he replied.

    The purple soul flame in Yan Luo's eyes flashed as if it didn't understand the meaning of Shi Mu's words.

    "The magic formula that was engraved on the surface of this stick is gone. So, it's no longer a magic tool." Shi Mu explained.

    "It doesn't matter! Just give me the stick."

    "Yan Luo, are you..." Shi Mu's heart skipped a beat and he asked.

    Shi Mu couldn't help but recall the first time Yan Luo had appeared to borrow this meteoric-iron black stick.

    However, a gust of wind swept over and the black stick disappeared from Shi Mu's hand before he could finish his sentence.

    Shi Mu raised his head... only to find that Yan Luo was holding the black stick before its eyes, and was examining it.

    Shi Mu hadn't seen Yan Luo making any action, but a layer of crow-like black radiance had appeared on the surface of the black stick in Yan Luo's hand. The black light then permeated the air, and made the void look as if it was twisting and distorting.

    Then, the black light disappeared and everything returned to normal... as if everything had only been an illusion.

    Shi Mu stared at the black stick; he had been dumbfounded. The fact was that he had clearly sensed the presence of a strong aura when the black light had appeared a moment ago. Also, that aura's strength was far beyond the strength of his-own golden sword.

    "And, the spirit stones?" The soul flame in Yan Luo's eyes flickered. Apparently, it was satisfied with the black stick in its hand. It then said again.

    Shi Mu seemed to have expected this. So, he drew out a bag containing one-thousand spirit stones from the Vast Earth Ring, and threw it to Yan Luo.

    "More!"

    "...how many?"

    "Four more bags."

    The corner of Shi Mu's eyes twitched as he heard its reply. The bag he had thrown had contained one-thousand spirit stones. So, five such bags would be equivalent to five-thousand spirit stones. Shi Mu thus thought that Yan Luo must've asked in a casual manner.

    "You are giving it or not?"

    "Okay, I'll give them to you, but on one condition. You'll have to tell me a few things first. Do you know this kind of meteoric iron material? Also, how did you consume the spiritual energy of this stick... almost to the extent of its exhaustion?" Shi Mu asked two questions in one breath.

    "This... I don't know. I only know that this touch is very familiar to me," The soul flame in Yan Luo's eyes throbbed as it replied while rubbing the black stick with its hand.

    Shi Mu hesitated a bit when he heard its reply. But, he still kept his promise. He took out four bags of spirit stones, and tossed them toward Yan Luo.

    Yan Luo stretched out its hands, and received the bags. After that, a mass of black smoke welled up on the surface of its body. And, Yan Luo disappeared into the void the next moment.

    Shi Mu stared at the black blade in his hand in blank dismay after Yan Luo's departure. A trace of gloomy and uncertain expression clouded his face.

    It seemed from Yan Luo's words that Yan Luo must've unified its ability to absorb the spiritual aura of the stick to increase its performance. The quality of this kind of meteoric iron should be rather extraordinary. Otherwise, why would Yan Luo show up here to borrow this stick even though the extent of its present strength was uncertain?

    A hint of excitement sprouted in Shi Mu's heart as this thought crossed his mind. And, he felt a sudden urge to restart his research. So, he held up the black blade to examine it all over again.

    He spent the entire day on it, and tried many methods. But, none of them fetched any fruitful result.

    Consequently, Shi Mu had no option but to give up for the time being. However, a seed of curiosity had been planted in his heart when it came to this black blade. Moreover, the thought of going out to buy a magic tool had been dispelled in light of this.

    Shi Mu continued to lock himself in the room for the next two days. He kept on drawing magic charms with an intention of exchanging them for spirit stones. He wanted to take advantage of the upsurge before the competition to sell his magic charms at a higher price.

    But then, the Main Altar of the Dark Moon Cult issued a notice in the evening of the second day. As per the notice... the competition had been scheduled to be conducted ahead of time. Also, it would mark its official commencement in the morning of the second day from today.

    ... ...

    On the second day... Shi Mu and the other people gathered at the crack of dawn. Then, they left the stronghold under the leadership of one of the Cult's Deacons.

    Hou Sai Lei also rushed over early in the morning, and then followed Shi Mu. He had done so since he had received a message from Shi Mu yesterday.

    Nobody was wandering in the city at this point of time. The Dark Moon Cult had shifted the date of competition to an earlier date, but it seemed that they hadn't made any public announcements in this regard so far.

    Shi Mu and the other people gradually converged with other teams while walking along the streets.

    It didn't take long before the participating disciples had converged into a mighty stream of people. Then, they advanced towards the western region of the city in a silent manner under the guidance of their respective Deacons.

    The venue of the competition didn't seem to be spread in the city as it had been the last time. And, the crowd was taken to a very large area in the west of Quyang City after a while. This place looked like a venue of an athletics tournament.

    This venue was exceptionally large. There was a huge open-air arena in the middle. It was surrounded by seats for the audience. But, it looked a bit shabby... as if it hadn't been renovated in a long time.

    A person taking a broad view of the site would notice that this arena seemed to be several miles in scope. The ten-thousand or more winners from the first round of competition stood in the arena at this moment. However, the arena still didn't appear crowded by any means.

    Shi Mu stood in a corner of the arena, and looked toward the sky.

    The sky looked as cloudy as always.

    Shi Mu's brows slightly creased. He didn't know why he was feeling uneasy since the morning.

    Hou Sai Lei also stood beside him in a silent manner. However, there was no sign of Cai in the vicinity.

    "Brother Mu," a voice was heard. Then, Yu Yi walked over with a smiling face.

    Two more people could be seen behind him. One of them was a young man with date-like red complexion. And, the other was a young woman. She was clad in a long pale-green gown. She had a tall stature, but her appearance looked ordinary.

    Shi Mu's eyes swept over these two people as he waved his hand to greet Yu Yi.

    "Brother Mu, it seems that you haven't left your room in the last few days. Could it be that you were absorbed in drawing magic charms behind the doors?" Yu Yi asked with a smile. His mannerism was even more enthusiastic than before. Moreover, it was also suffused with a hint of implied flattery.

    Shi Mu had bumped into Yu Yi when he had gone to sell the magic charms. And, Yu Yi had become all the more enthusiastic toward Shi Mu when he had found out that Shi Mu was a Charm Magician.

    "He he, I had been running short of money. So, it was a necessity to earn some spirit stones," Shi Mu replied with a soft chuckle.

    Yu Yi smiled back. Then, his eyes drew toward Hou Sai Lei who stood aside.

    "This fellow friend looks somewhat unfamiliar to me. May I know who he is?"

    "This is my friend, Hou Sai Lei. And, this is my dear friend, Yu Yi." Shi Mu introduced them to each other.

    "So, you are friend Yu Yi. I'm pleased to meet you," Hou Sai Lei cupped his hands and greeted him.

    Yu Yi also cupped his hands, and exchanged pleasantries. After that, he introduced the two people beside him to Shi Mu.

    Both of them were magicians. The red-faced young man's surname was Luo, and his cultivation was at the initial stage of the Star-ranked magician's realm. And, the surname of the green-dressed young woman was Yi. She was at the peak of the Spirit-ranked magician's realm. Shi Mu and Hou Sai Lei greeted them in a brief manner.

    Neither of them seemed overly interested in Shi Mu since he had deliberately suppressed his aura to the Spirit rank. Therefore, the two only greeted Shi Mu and Hou Sai Lei in a customary manner.

    "Brother Yu, you are well-informed. Do you know any details about today's competition?" Shi Mu asked.

    "I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't heard any useful news until now even though I have inquired about this matter in every possible way. It seems that our Cult has become very strict in this regard," Yu Yi shook his head as he replied.

    "Then, let's wait and watch." Shi Mu nodded while sweeping his gaze around.

    There wasn't a single person in the central auditorium near the venue. Only a few disciples of the Dark Moon Cult stood in front of a certain dome-shaped building.

    In that dome-shaped building...

    Liu An stood with his hands crossed behind his back. There was a dignified look on his face. His junior female apprentice - the red-dressed girl - also stood beside him.

    "Big Brother, how is it possible that Demon King Luo Tian is lying severely injured in the Cult's altar?" the red-dressed girl asked.

    "This incident seems somewhat strange. According to the information that I've received... a fellow whose whole body was covered with a white-armor has inflicted this injury to him. And, it's the same fellow who had mounted a sneak attack on Palace Lord Tang's spirit pet - that crystal skeleton. The Demon King Luo Tian's strength hasn't recovered yet. The Demon King would have died instead of getting severely injured if not for Palace Lord Tang's vengeance that had driven him to block the attack aimed at the Demon King," Liu An replied in a calm manner.

    "The war seems to be on the verge of erupting, and Palace Lord Tang has died untimely. Indeed, misfortune never comes alone." The red-dressed girl let out a soft sigh.

    Suddenly, the door got pushed-open, and the red-browed Di Feng walked in.

    "How's the situation?" Liu An asked.

    "The situation is far from good. The attacks of the Heavenly Demon Sect and the Transcending Heaven Immortal Sect have become increasingly ferocious. They have already infiltrated deep into the central region of our Xixia country. I am afraid their soldiers will reach Quyang City in no time if this continues," Di Feng's red eyebrows furrowed as he gave an explanation.

    "Where are the Right Wing Minister and the other people?" Liu An asked.

    "Respected Senior has told you to not get distracted. Everything will be carried out according to the original plan. He has personally taken the charge of guarding the Main altar. And, Huo Qing and the others have proceeded to the west coast," Di Feng replied.

    "Brother Di, you will make arrangements for a while. The people who win in this round will be forthwith escorted to the seacoast. They will then board the ship in proper sequence. And, the ship will embark on a journey as soon as it gets filled to its maximum limit," Liu An thought for a second before he said.

    "And, what about the people who will get defeated?" Di Feng asked after a momentary hesitation.

    "Some of them will be brought back to the Main altar, while some will be left in Quyang City. Let them buy some time for the people who are going to set out on this sea-trip." Liu An replied in a calm manner, but there was a cold and detached look in his eyes.

    Di Feng looked into Liu An's eyes, and felt a slight chill in his heart. He then nodded in response.

    Di Feng then turned his head, and glanced at the people outside the venue. The corners of his mouth slightly moved... as if he wanted to say something. But, he couldn't bring himself to speak his mind.

    "It's almost time. So, let's get started," Liu An stated and took a step to walk toward the hall's exit door.

    Di Feng and the red-dressed girl complied with a sound, and followed him closely.

    The three people walked over to a stage. The people below the stage quieted down, and cast their gaze at the three silhouettes on the stage.

    Shi Mu was also among this crowd. His eyes flickered as he saw Liu An on the stage.

    Shi Mu had gathered some basic information about Liu An's identity during the past few days. Therefore, he wasn't surprised to see him here today.

    "People of our Cult, we will conduct the second round of the competition here today," Liu An made an announcement in a crisp and sonorous voice.

    His words had barely faded when the droning sound of people's discussion started to ring in the venue. They had an excited look on their faces.

    "The matches will begin shortly. But, allow me to announce a matter first. Those people among you who have broken through the middle stage of Star Rank or have reached the middle-stage of Xian Tian realm don't need to participate in this round of matches. They can go directly to the third round of the competition after they've gotten their cultivation examined by the specialist," Liu An continued.

    The audience broke into clamor as soon as this statement was made.

    "This..." Hou Sai Lei's eyes went wide open, and his face revealed a stunned look.

    Yu Yi and the other three people also revealed a look of disbelief on their faces. Shi Mu looked at Liu An and the other people on the stage, and his eyebrows wrinkled.

    There were some people in the crowd at the moment that fulfilled this condition. So, they got overwhelmed with excitement. Simultaneously, they started to rush out of the crowd, and moved away from the ring one after another. Then, they were led to a building near Liu An by the Dark Moon Cult's people.

    Hou Sai Lei looked at Shi Mu since he knew that Shi Mu's martial arts' cultivation had already reached the middle-stage of Xian Tian realm.

    There was a calm and unperturbed look on Shi Mu's face. Suddenly, a thought streaked across Shi Mu's mind, and his body stopped abruptly even though it was in motion.
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