Chapter 6 - Understanding The Mysteries Of The Ring
Lin Mu looked around, but all he could see was darkness. He could not see his arms or legs either. This differed from when he went to the other dark place where the altar existed. At least there he could see his body and even the sky had silver and grey streaks of light moving around, but here nothing existed; only emptiness.
"Looks like Ill just have to wait till I wake up, same as yesterday."
Lin Mu decided to just sit down and wait. While sitting, he felt the ground. It was a plain flat surface, possessing no bumps or grooves. Having no idea whether minutes went by or hours, Lin Mu eventually woke up. Somehow feeling well rested, he stretched and heard a grumble coming from his stomach. Knowing it must have been quite late in the morning, he stood up.
Walking out of the shack, he looked up at the sun glaring at the top of his head. He had indeed been late waking up, since it was already noon. Deciding to check on the snare traps he set yesterday, he walked towards the forest. Following the same animal trails as before, he found his traps. Out of the six that he set, two were never triggered, three were broken - probably by a bigger beast -, and the last one was the only one which was successful.
Lin Mu found a black horned rabbit hanging upside down from the snare. Pulling on the snare, he found the rabbit to be still alive and moving. With familiarity he twisted the black-horned rabbits neck, careful not to cut himself on the horn, and ended its life. Before going back to the hunting shack, he reset the snares so that he could catch some more beasts till evening if hes lucky.
"Now that I have caught a black-horned rabbit, how am I going to skin it I dont have a knife or blade with me. Ill need to figure something out quickly or the meat will spoil fast if I dont drain the blood."
While walking back to the hunting shack he picked up a fallen branch and broke it from one end so that there was a sharp edge left. Deciding to drain the blood near the stream and also pick up some apples, he instead changed directions and walked towards the stream.
Reaching the stream, he knelt down at the edge of the water and used the sharp edge of the broken branch to stab the neck of the now dead black horned rabbit, letting the blood drain in the water; careful not to stain the fur with blood.
After no more blood came out from the neck of the rabbit, he pushed his fingers inside the hole and used both his hands to pull it apart. Slowly applying force he ripped away the pelt, turning it inside out in the process. In the end, he was left with a full pelt, leaving behind some fur on the rabbits head and the bloodied, but hairless, body.
Washing the pelt in the water, he left it aside to dry out while he gutted and cleaned the insides of the rabbit. Lin Mu walked to the apple tree and plucked some more apples, then picked up the skinned rabbit and its pelt and walked back to the hunting shack.
He hung the pelt outside the shack from a nail and walked inside. Feeling a pang of his growing hunger, he lit the stove and skewered the raw rabbit over it with the same sharp branch he used before to roast it; then sat down to wait for it to cook.
He looked at the ring on his right hand and thought about all the events that happened yesterday and wondered whether they occurred because of the ring.
"Seems like the idiom misfortune accompanies fortune is indeed true. I was able to break through, but I also experienced the scary rift and almost got my hand severed... probably."
Then he thought about the object he caught in his hand while it was in the rift, and how it disappeared when he pulled it out. As soon as he thought about that object, suddenly, a wooden slip appeared in his hand. Surprised about where the wooden slip came from, he got a similar texture feeling to that of the object in the rift and determined that it was most likely the same.
"Is this the object I felt in the rift How did it suddenly appear in my hand The only way it would be possible is if this ring is a spatial storage ring."
Lin Mu tried to understand how the ring worked. He thought of putting the wooden slip inside the ring and it once again disappeared. Now wanting to bring it back to his hand, he thought of it appearing in his hand and it did.
"Yes! Its indeed a spatial storage ring. Can I store other things in it I should try."
Lin Mu tried storing various objects and then withdrawing them and found that he could do it effortlessly. Experimenting with the ring as if he had found a new toy, time passed quickly until the rabbit was finally cooked. Putting a stop to playing with the ring he started to eat the rabbit, feeling a much greater appetite than ever before. He finished the whole rabbit only leaving behind bones.
With his hunger sated, he withdrew the wooden slip from before and opened it to take a look. But when he opened it, he found it to be blank with nothing written on it. Confused with this discovery, he flipped around the wooden slip but found nothing there either. Feeling the texture of the wooden slip, he found it to be of an exquisite quality, like the ones used by high officials and imperial scholars.
Having satisfied most of his curiosity about the wooden slip, he stored it back in the ring. Now that there were only bones left of the rabbit, Lin Mu was able to easily break off the black horn from the skull of the rabbit. He stored it in the ring, intending to sell it in the town along with the pelt. He would not get much for it, probably 40 or 50 copper coins, but he would be able to save up enough to buy a small knife or dagger so that he can hunt bigger beasts.
It had been about four hours since he set up the snare traps. It would take him an hour to walk there and another to come back, but it should still leave him enough time to come back before becoming completely dark. Walking out of the shack, he stored the black-horned rabbits pelt in the ring and made his way towards the traps.
Halfway to the traps, he felt a buzzing coming from the ring and had a grim feeling of what was about to come. Cursing his luck that he was right, he felt his hand being dragged.
"Not again... Nooooooo..."
This time he was not dragged far, only a couple of feet before the fabric of space tore and a pitch dark rift appeared. As his hand was sucked inside, he braced his legs ready for whatever was to come. This time he got a significantly different feeling than before. Where before it felt like his hand entered still water, this time it felt like he had dipped it in a fast-flowing river. His hand felt the strong force, yet it stayed steady and did not move.
"I dont know how long Ill have to struggle before I will be able to pull my hand out, heck I dont even know if Ill be able to pull it out in the first place."
But before Lin Mu could start pulling his hand, he felt a rectangular object slam into it. As soon as he felt the object, it got loose and he was able to easily pull it out. It had not even been a minute, and he could pull his hand so quick out this time.
Thinking of the object that slammed his hand, a rectangular box, slightly larger than the size of his palm, appeared in his hand.
"As I thought, whenever I touch or hold something in the rift, it is stored in the ring. But it wasnt exactly the same with the wooden slip."
"I wonder why... I guess Ill figure it out eventually. Still, my understanding of the ring is better than before."
Lin Mu looked at the closing rift and decided to test something. He picked a stone and a stick off the ground. He threw the stone inside the rift with the finesse of a toddler and held half of the stick inside the rift, and half outside. After a few seconds the rift closed, but right before it completely closed the stick that he was holding was pushed out.
"So if Im holding something, it would not be harmed. I guess that solves one of my fears. At least I wont have my hand severed if its pulled into another rift."
He looked around to see if the stone was anywhere but could not find it, convincing Lin Mu that it was lost in the rift. Now finally done with all that, he put his attention on the rectangular box he pulled out. It was made of brown wood and had a faint fragrance. There were three cauldrons and a peony carved on the lid of the box. He didnt know what kind of wood it was, but any fragrant wood was usually expensive. He thought he had seen the symbol of cauldrons and a peony before but could not remember where.
"I can sell this box during next weeks market when the traders come. It should sell for a good amount. If Im lucky, I may even be able to buy a sword or axe with the coins I get."
Content with his thoughts, Lin Mu opened the lid of the box and found a small glass bottle placed in the box. He opened the glass bottle and smelled a powerful aroma of herbs wafting out of it. Tilting the bottle on his palm, three yellow pills fell out. The pills had swirls of different shades of yellow on its surface.
Lin Mus pupils went wide for he knew what he held in his hand.
"These... These are alchemical pills!!! Arent these used by qi cultivators, how did they end up in that rift!"
A new question popped in Lin Mus mind: how did these things end up in the spatial rift, and how was the mysterious ring able to open them. Putting the pills back in the bottle, he stored it in the ring along with the wooden box.
"I dont know what these pills do, if I can find out Ill be able to use them for my own cultivation."
"I absolutely cannot reveal these to people. There will always be people who will be greedy and will want to snatch them from me. I must find out what these pills do without alerting others or exposing them."
Feeling both excited and slightly worried about his prospects now, Lin Mu walked towards the traps to check for any prey that may have been caught.