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The Portal Of Wonderland - Chapter 123


Chapter 123 - An Order of Transfer

One day, when Shi Mu was absorbed in drawing charms in his stone room when he heard someone knocking at his door. He raised his eyebrows and stood up to open it. He had expected another disciple coming for charms, but it was Jin Chen's tall figure standing at his door, which surprised him a little.

’’What has brought Brother Jin here?’’ Shi Mu led him in and asked, some doubt in his voice.

Jin Chen did not answer immediately, but scanned the room and then rested his eyes on the table. There was some magic paper lying disorderly on it alongside a bottle of ink and a writing brush. Several charms had already been finished.

’’Brother Shi is so hard-working. Why not take some time and rest? You've just come back from a mission.’’ Jin Chen laughed uneasily and did not mention his reason for coming.

’’Senior, you are joking. I just feel dull doing nothing, so drawing charms serves to kill time.’’ Shi Mu smiled.

Jin Chen picked up the charms Shi Mu had just finished and studied them for a while.

’’Brother Shi is really smart - I think I'd even call him a genius - your strokes are smooth, and the charms are full of spirit power. Moreover, you've got quite the knack for it. I can tell from the charms themselves. I've seen other Adepts drawing charms, including some Adepts of the Spirit Rank, but even they cannot beat you in your success rate. The more I think of your skills, the more I felt it a pity that our stronghold can't enjoy your presence any longer.’’ Jin Chen sighed genuinely and spoke in a regretful tone.

’’What does Brother Jin mean? Why can't I stay here?’’ Shi Mu was taken unprepared, asking with a wary expression on his face.

’’Well, I have just received an order of transfer from the union, saying that Brother Shi should be transferred to the Northeast stronghold. I've got nothing in hand today, so I thought, 'why not pay Shi Mu a visit'. And now I'm here.’’ Jin Chen uttered another laugh and fished out a jade slip from his shirt, passing it to Shi Mu.

Shi Mu was dazed by this sudden news, and, with a blank look, he received the jade slip and read it. It turned out that this was really an order of transfer signed by the union. It says that he should come and report for duty in a secret stronghold in the Xuan Ling Mountains within ten days. The location was noted in a map that indicated the surrounding terrain of the stronghold.

Shi Mu was quite delighted to see the order. As the map showed, the indicated stronghold was quite far from battlefront, and it must be much safer than here. Though the jade slip did not specify the reason why he was transferred, it is never a bad thing to be transferred to the rear.

’’Sorry for giving senior Jin so much trouble. I will follow the order of the union and set out immediately.’’ Shi Mu put away the jade slip and cupped his hands to Jin Chen.

’’May I ask brother Shi for a favor before you leave?’’ Jin Chen ventured the words in an embarrassed voice, after having hesitated for a short while.

’’Just speak, brother Jin. I'll do everything I can to help you.’’ Shi Mu answered without thinking.

’’Thank you very much, brother Shi. On behalf of all the disciples in this stronghold, I express my genuine gratitude to you. You know the war is rough and the consumption of charms is always more than we can supply. I hope brother Shi can draw some charms for us before he leaves. To be frank, when you came back I intended to ask you after you had fully recovered, but now that this order has come... It'd be too late if I didn't ask you now. I have listed the materials and the required charms here, and the reward of feat points for these charms will be fifty percent more than usual.’’ Jin Chen cupped his hands and then took out a jade slip, along with a pile of magic papers, from his sleeves, putting them on the table, then carefully handing Shi Mu several heavenly stones.

’’Rest assured, brother Jin, I will finish the task on time.’’ Shi Mu smiled and promised with an easy heart. He had quite a good opinion of the commander of this stronghold, who was always peaceful and fair to his fellow disciples. This task, though urgent, could bring him more feat points, as well as the opportunity of practicing charms, so he would not decline the offer.

Seeing Shi Mu's radiating face, Jin Chen let out a sigh of relief, and happily thanked him for another minute before he left Shi Mu to his business.


Ten days later, deep in the Xuan Ling Mountains. At the foot of the mountain which soared thousands of meters skyward, a young man, strongly built, and clad in a black short jacket, was standing on a huge stone, scanning his environment. The space between his eyebrows contorted slightly. He was none other than Shi Mu, who had made his way here as told by the map, but strangely, no one came out to welcome hims after he had wandered around the area for a while.

’’The door must have been covered by a formula. Maybe they expect me to find it myself?’’ Shi Mu wondered in doubt. He was still new to formula arts, so it was not easy for him to see through a formula set by others. [TL: Does our author really mean this? I think Shi Mu is quite skilful in formulas, isn't he?] But, still, he had his own ways.

Shi Mu jumped down from the huge stone and narrowed his eyes, his pupils becoming golden, then he observed the ground closely. After a while, he squatted down near a patch of grass where a blurred footprint could be distinctly seen. The footprint was either not fresh or had been washed by the rain, which made it indiscernible to ordinary eyes. However, Shi Mu smiled with a hint of pride. Though quite shallow, the footprint could not elude his eyes, under which it looked like a mark left by a huge prehistoric elephant trampling the grass.

Shi Mu stood up to follow the direction of the footprints. Ahead of it, many traces followed, though some were left on raw stones or solid ground and thus were very swallow and hard to be recognized. He still found the right direction to track along. The marks grew clearer as he went ahead, all leading in the same direction, which boosted Shi Mu's confidence even more.

After a while, he arrived at the front of a cliff where all the traces converged and disappeared. The golden light in his eyes faded, and he stared at the cliff closely before gently rested his hand the surface, feeling for its texture. Suddenly, the stone felt softened, and before he knew it his hand sank into the cliff, as if it was made of some liquid.

’’That's it...’’ Shi Mu nodded and took back his arm.

Just then the cliff shined and cracked a slit, where a man in green was standing with an inscrutable smile.

’’You must be Shi Mu from the Black Demon Sect. Welcome to the Rat's Nest, I am called Mountain Green, from the Ethereal Phoenix Sect.’’ The man ran his sharp eyes over Shi Mu and said with the same smile.

’’Yes, this is Shi Mu. Thank you for welcoming me, Brother Green.’’ Shi Mu took out the identity token of the union and the jade slip containing the order of transfer.

’’Come in!’’ Mountain Green did not receive the stuff but stepped aside to invite Shi Mu in.

Shi Mu did not change his countenance, carefully storing his token and jade slip before he stepped in. The next moment, his eyes closed by reflex as a glaring light flashed, and when he reopened his eyes, he found himself in a spacious paved alley that lead deeper underground. The man in green was standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

Shi Mu looked vacantly ahead but the pitch-black darkness of the alley played tricks on his eyes, which made him be unable to judge the distance. He also didn't know how long the path would be. Suddenly, as he groped ahead, a sonorous male voice resonated in the underground, ’’Brother Shi really is a genius, to be able to find your way here all by yourself. You definitely deserve the recommendation from Master Jin.’’ Mountain Green let out a clear laugh and said this.

’’Recommended? Me? By Master Jin?’’ Shi Mu was amazed, freezing halfway. By then, his eyes had adjusted to the darkness and he could vaguely make out the outlines of Mountain Green's body and face. The latter saw Shi Mu's surprised expression and stopped his steps as well, asking in confusion,

’’What? Doesn't Brother Shi know about this place?’’

’’No, I just received the order of the union to be transferred here. As for other things, like what we do here and what this place is like, I have absolute no idea.’’ Shi Mu replied honestly, a little embarrassed as he could not offer Mountain Green a satisfactory answer.

’’So it seems. Well, I will explain this place to you. Our place is not an ordinary stronghold but one for drawing Charms for the union.’’ Mountain Green studied Shi Mu's face in surprise and said slowly after a while, convinced by Shi Mu's honest eyes that kept blinking innocently.

’’Drawing charms?’’The answer was quite unexpected.

’’Now the prospect on the battlefield is gloomy, so the union gathered the elite Charm Adepts to deal with the large demand of low-level charms on the battlefront. Your talent in charms has been noted by some masters, and Master Jin, of your sect, has strongly recommended you to the union, so... That's why you are here now.’’ Mountain Green continued to lead Shi Mu in as he explained briefly, however doubtful he was.

But Shi Mu was not excited by the news, nor by the recognition of his skills by the union's masters. It baffled him that Jin Xiaochai, whom he had only met once, at the time he joined the sect, would recommend him. After all, after he had met her on his trip here, the two of them never met again. How come a Xiantian saint like her could notice a fresh disciple? He frowned, lost in contemplation, and his intuition told him to beware this Jin Xiaochai. Blessings often come in disguise, and vice versa. Various hypothesis swarmed tumultuously through his mind as he followed Mountain Green silently down the path.

The two of them walked for nearly eight minutes before they arrived at the end of the path, where there stood a stone door. Without a word, Mountain Green took out a white jade peice, the size of a palm, on which a few formulas were carved, and, as he shook it gently, a beam of white light shot up and sank into the stone door.

The door then split down the middle, opening to both sides, and revealing the interior scenes. A huge hall of about three hundred square meters appeared in front of them, while hundreds of people walked to and fro amid heavenly lights that illuminated this underground hall. The hall had a great deal of stove-like furnaces that spouted raging flames, each tended to by several disciples, who kept putting many kinds of materials (even including furs and the bones of beasts) into the stoves. Shi Mu knew that the stoves were not for making pills, but for making charm paper. A burly man was standing guard beside one of the stoves, dumping some green stringy liquid into square molds. The liquid cooled down soon and formed a piece of green charm paper, which was carefully put away by another man standing nearby.

There were more than forty such stoves in the hall, with were creating all kinds of charm paper without stopping.

’’Let's keep moving.’’ Mountain Green detected Shi Mu's curiosity, and patiently waited at the side, for a few moments, as Shi Mu gaped at the bustling scene, before urging him to the other side of the hall.

All the workers (some low-level disciples gathered from all sects) using the stoves to make charm paper seemed quite respectful to Mountain Green. They bowed to him in succession and cast curious looks toward Shi Mu, who followed behind him. However, Mountain Green did not care in the least about these men. Without looking at them for a second, he led Shi Mu through the hall into another long pathway, and there were some closely shut stone doors spaces at regular intervals down the sides of the path, whose use Shi Mu could not figure out. [TL: Shi Mu's reaction to the new place reminds me of Lin Daiyu's entering the Jia Mansion for the first time. (A classic chapter of the Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber) Haha!]

[ED: Yet another thing that I have not read. ^.^;{Added to ’’To Read’’ list}]

After a while, they arrived at a stately stone door again.

’’The hall you just saw is where the workers make charm paper, and here is the place for the elite Charm Adepts to draw charms. You are new here, so don't hesitate to ask others for advice whenever you feel the need.’’ Mountain Green said this amiably - showing a very different attitude than the one he had shown the workers earlier - He pulled out the white jade again, and, again, opened a large stone door.

There was another huge hall inside the door. The ceiling was shaped like an arch vault, dotted with white chandeliers every ten meters, which illuminated the entire space. There were many stone desks laid in a very orderly manner throughout the hall, and all the nations' blank charm papers, magic brushes, and ink seemed to have convened. There were almost thirty of these desks, each occupied by men who were either sitting there thinking, engaged in drawing formulas, or discussing having soft, yet serious, discussions with their neighbors.

There were some other individual rooms around the desks, all of which were tightly shut, except the one nearest to the exit.

On the other side of the hall towered a huge jade wall, and lines of characters were glittering on it, looking like missions distributed to the Adepts.

Most of the people inside saw them come in, but they only gave a quick glance before they bent their heads again to focus on their tasks. Only a few nodded to Mountain Green briefly before going back to their own business.


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