Fortunately, it was just a false alarm.
Li Mu’s mother did recover some of her vision and could see things indistinctively. But it would take her a while for a full recovery.
Plus, she had not seen Li Mu for eight years. And when the real Li Mu had run away from home, he was just a kid. After eight whole years, the boy’s appearance had certainly changed a lot, so Li Mu’s mother could not detect anything odd about the present Li Mu.
Feng Yuanxing had already arranged a great welcoming feast.
Since he knew Li Mu detested showy and extravagant ceremonies, he merely prepared a small-scaled private dinner. The guests were all close friends, such as Ma Junwu and Zhen Meng, as well as several officials in the county government who had worked hard and fulfilled their duties those days. So, to reward the officials for their dedication, Feng Yuanxing decided to invite them to the feast and introduce them to their big boss Li Mu.
At the feast, Shangguan Yuting had also turned up and took a seat at Li Mu’s right side.
Feng Yuanxing and the others immediately guessed who she was. They knew that the girl as aloof and gorgeous as a fairy on the moon was probably the wife-to-be of the county magistrate. Li Mu was already fifteen in that year. According to the law of the Western Qin Empire, he was completely allowed to get married.
On the Divine Land, the population was a crucial measure indicator of national power.
In the martial arts world, the contest of empire strength still adopted a system similar to the feudal society of ancient China on Earth, where strength was in numbers. Hence, not only the Western Qin Empire but also the Northern Song, the Southern Chu and those barbaric tribes had established laws to guarantee the population growth. In the Western Qin Empire, there was only one specific law which succinctly regulated that if a man did not get married by the age of sixteen, his parents would be held liable, and if a woman did not get married by the age of fifteen, her parents would be held liable.
Thus, in the perspectives of Feng Yuanxing and the others, given that the situation in the county had been stabilized, the wedding of the county magistrate should be put on the agenda.
Li Mu was surely a golden bachelor in the Taibai County. A great number of wealthy merchants and noble families were eyeing him. They all wanted their daughters to marry the county magistrate. Even if their daughters could not be the official wife, it was good enough for them to be one of his concubines.
But since the county magistrate brought a group of otherworldly girls back from Chang’an, it currently appeared that those pretty girls of those wealthy merchants and noble families would quiet down.
It had been months since Li Mu had last been in the Taibai County.
Occupying the seat of honor, Li Mu ran his eyes over all the guests and felt a surge of emotions.
Over half a year had passed in the blink of an eye since he arrived in that world. He had met many people, learned many things, and the greatest pride he had was that his cultivation and strength had upgraded at a speed even faster than he had ever imagined. In particular, after he did a closed-door training for half a month in Chang’an, his strength had grown by leaps and bounds. Eighty percent of his internal qi had been transformed into Natural qi, and the improvement of his combat ability and power was already immeasurable.
He had also taken a peek into the fanciest secret of the power in the martial arts world.
That definitely had blazed a path for his pursuit of martial arts.
Those at the feast were the first group of friends he had in that world.
Ma Junwu’s wound had healed. It was just that he could no longer shoot an arrow because he had lost an arm. That result was indubitably cruel for a man who was determined to become a top archer and join the Marvelous Archer Force of the Guanshan Pasture. Those days, Li Mu had been musing on how to compensate him. By then, he already come to a conclusion.
He lifted a hand and a blue-covered manual flew to Ma Junwu.
“Your Honor?” Ma Junwu let loose a yell of surprise.
Li Mu began, “This is a secret manual I got only for you after a long search. Men with a single arm can also practice the art in it… It was said that when the practitioner enters the Sage Realm, a new arm will sprout out from the stump of the one lost. That means you will have new bones and new flesh grow out of your shoulder. So, Junwu, don’t give up on yourself. People always say adversity is the nurse of greatness. Perhaps the lost arm will later be an opportunity for you and help you become an accomplished martial arts practitioner. Well, you never know.”
At that remark, Ma Junwu took the manual, almost unable to curb the ecstasy within.
He had believed that he was already a useless man after losing the arm and a large portion of his strength. He thought he was no longer able to work for the county magistrate and would be kicked out of the core of the Taibai County Government sooner or later. But to his great surprise, the county magistrate was such a loyal friend that he even looked for a secret martial arts manual for his sake…
“Thank you so much, Your Honor.” Ma Junwu got on his knees and shed tears of gratitude.
Li Mu, though he felt rather uncomfortable about the kneeling etiquette, had to adapt himself to the customs of the place and allowed Ma Junwu to kneel before him.
Then, he granted Feng Yuanxing, Zhen Meng, and the other subordinates other cultivation methods.
He had prepared those gifts beforehand.
The subordinates all rejoiced at the gifts.
The cultivation methods Li Mu granted them were all very advanced secret martial arts beyond their wildest dreams.
It was kind of a way Li Mu tried to appeal to the people. Anyway, given the current situation, he knew he still had tons of work that needed them to do. The higher their cultivation was, the greater their ability was, so the larger the help they could provide Li Mu would be.
After the battle in Chang’an, Li Mu had come to realize one thing—a single tree could hardly make a forest. As he hoped to get out of that planet in twenty years, it was positively impossible to manage that all by himself, even if he had mastered the Cultivation Method of the immortals.
Because practicing martial arts had never been an individual task.
For example, Li Gang and the second prince both had exceptional talent, high standing, and prestigious status, and they certainly progressed more rapidly than those deprived rogue cultivators, for they had countless resources at their disposal and numerous people running errands for them. That was how they had climbed to the top of the pyramid.
Li Mu registered that it was time to foster his own force.
When he was in Chang’an, he would be in a passive position like a blind man had it not been for Zheng Cunjian’s tips. But he could not rely on Zheng Cunjian all the time. The Heartless Scholar was the man of the mean Chang’an magistrate after all.
And what kind of man was Li Gang?
Li Mu did not believe he was a good man with a sense of justice, even though he had turned up when Mrs. Tang and the others were cornered and killed the head of the Ghost Sect. That was just a coincidence. He was there to kill his adversary, saving those people while he was at it, not vice versa. Although it might sound strange, there was indeed a huge difference between the former and the latter, which was as pronounced as the difference between the motive and the end.
Killing the head of the Ghost Sect would satisfy the end of weakening the second prince’s forces.
So, if it were not for that end, Li Gang would not step forward even if Mrs. Tang and those from the Xiongfeng Martial Arts Club were all killed by the head of the Ghost Sect.
That conclusion was drawn on the fact that Li Gang did not show any signs of trying to protect the hall in front of the main altar and let the people in the hall run their own course when the fierce fight among him, Xu Sheng, and the second prince, who were all Celestial Beings at the peak, produced horrible repercussions that would kill all the creatures shrouded by the evil scarlet film. If Li Mu had not struck when he did, perhaps those from the Xiongfeng Martial Arts Club, the Tang family, Princess Qin Zhen and the others would have been reduced to dust by the repercussions of the Celestial Beings’ fight, like that poor future leader of the Heaven Sword Sect, Chu Nantian.
For his own benefits, Li Gang not only showed a lack of care for the lives of Mrs. Tang and the others but did not even try to save the princess. It followed the same track as the discarding of his first wife and Li Mu in order to consolidate his status.
Come to think of it, the Secular Sword Whiz had been practicing the Secular Sword Skill.
It was an art requiring the practitioner to stay away from the secular world and to distance himself from all attachments.
Li Gang had surely mastered the essence of the sword skill.
For all those reasons, Li Mu had always been on his guard when dealing with such a man.
When they had no irreconcilable conflict, Li Gang might have always turned a blind eye when Zheng Cunjian furnished Li Mu all kinds of information and intelligence. But once the subtle cooperation broke down, Zheng Cunjian would not dare disobey Li Gang despite the Life-and-Death Spell planted in him. When that day came, Li Mu would suddenly become as helpless as a blind and deaf man.
Thus, it was wise to count on oneself instead of others.
Lately, he had thought it over in his spare time after he finished practicing.
He ought to build up his force.
Feng Yuanxing and those subordinates were basically his most trusted men.
He would start with those people.
The manuals on secret martial arts he gifted were, anyway, from the “mail-delivery” he had received. So, why not display his generosity at the expense of others?
The atmosphere of the feast came alive as Li Mu distributed all the generous gifts.
Every official who was qualified to be presented at the feast was awarded.
The guests were all satisfied.
After an hour, the feast drew to an end.
The guests departed.
Li Mu and Qing Feng, the little attendant, strolled back to the old county government mansion together.
Li Mu’s mother had asked a maid to fetch some hot water, to help Li Mu take a bath and change into clean clothes.
After putting on the clothes handmade by Li Mu’s mother, Li Mu went to the study to have a private talk with Qing Feng, the little attendant.
If Feng Yuanxing, Ma Junwu, and those officials could be said to be the first team of his trusted men, then, Qing Feng was the most trusted one among them. His reliability definitely overtook that of the other officials.
Since the legs of the little attendant had been disabled, the boy had to move around in a specially-made wheelchair. But he was in fairly high spirits and his face was florid. At the sight of Li Mu, he at once opened his mouth to report everything that recently happened in the county. Yet, Li Mu waved him down, because he had no interest in the county’s government affairs.
“I still have no news from Ming Yue,” said Li Mu with a hint of guilt.
On the other day, he gave ready credence to the old beggar and that yellow dog. As a result, Ming Yue, the guileless attendant with greedy guts was taken away by the beggar and disappeared for months. By then, they had not heard from her. That made Li Mu quite embarrassed when talking to Qing Feng, for the two little attendants were as close as if they were his real brother and sister, though the two tended to complain about and bicker with one another.
“We’ll find her,” Qing Feng said unyieldingly.
Li Mu nodded. Then, he extracted several booklets from a storage space and said, “These are the secret manuals I obtained on setting gears, refining weapons, alchemy, making poisons and potions, which may intrigue you. Take those and start reading. Here is another one, the Introduction of Taoist Magic Arts, First Grade. This is the most precious one. Keep it with utmost care and never ever lose it. It can be the foundation of your main study in the future…”
The Introduction of Taoist Magic Arts, First Grade was, of course, a work of Li Mu. He had combed through the elementary Taoist magic arts on the five elements the old faker had mentioned to him and recorded them in the booklet. Since the little attendant had already practiced the simplified Xiantian Skill, he was ready to tap in the Taoist magic arts systematically.
In Li Mu’s view, the knowledge Qing Feng was interested in was evidently just supplementary.
Nevertheless, the old faker had also told him that among those forces that dominated the vast universe, deployment designers, galaxy alchemists, elixir-makers, gear-setters, and so on enjoyed a very distinguished status that was superior to that of the martial arts practitioners in the same realm once their cultivation reached a certain level.
Thus, Li Mu could not say that Qing Feng had chosen the wrong path. He had just picked a fairly challenging one.
The rest was up to his Karma.
After the private talk, Qing Feng rolled the wheels out of the room.
In the next couple of days, Li Mu led a life of retreatment. Aside from doing closed-door training, he spent the rest of his time modifying and upgrading the Earth Evil Polaris Formation.
Ten days later, an express letter was delivered to him from Qin City.