Way of the Devil

 
 

Way of the Devil Chapter 13


"Just as a reminder to young master, these three inner force skills are merely life force skills that focus on improving one's life force. After mastering them, they won't add much to your fighting strength. They're suitable for passing down in the family to improve life force, and not suited for battling. Also, the highest they go is Level 2."

Duanmu Wan reminded.

"Life force skills… and only two levels… don't you have any of those legitimate inner force skills from the pugilistic world?" Lu Sheng frowned slightly.

"I do… But those kinds of inner force skills are mostly the property of sects and factions… even if I gave them to young master, would young master dare to cultivate them?"

Duanmu Wan's beautiful eyes stared at Lu Sheng, a hint of a laugh within them.

Lu Sheng fell into silence, then laughed as well.

"Indeed. I don't dare to cultivate those inner force skills. Leaking the inner force skills of those sects leads to a never-ending vendetta."

"It's best that Young Master understands. Of course, I've also got some low-end inner force skill manuals, but in comparison with these three, those manuals are extremely time-consuming and don't seem very powerful. So, these three are better."

With respect to Lu Sheng's immediate admission, Duanmu Wan was rather impressed. Before a beauty like her, almost all men would more or less subconsciously put on a strong and competitive front and try to project their heroic side.

Yet Lu Sheng could unflinchingly say the three words - "I don't dare". It wasn't something that an average man would be able to do.

"These three inner force skills don't match my requirements very well," Lu Sheng replied in a deep voice.

"Young Master Lu, don't be so quick to reject them. You've got to know that inner force skill manuals aren't cabbages. You can't expect them to come on demand," Duanmu Wan said with a wide smile. [1]

"It's also by coincidence that I happen to have these manuals with me now. In a while, I may not…"

Lu Sheng didn't understand what she meant.

"Can't you just make copies of these manuals and sell them again and again?"

"That may be so, but those that I sell are all sole copies. The original copies," Duanmu Wan declared confidently.

"Are you serious?" Lu Sheng was starting to get interested.

"Of course I'm serious. As for that Black Fury Skill, Young Master Lu had better not cultivate it. Not only is it incomplete, it's passed down from hundreds of years ago. The possibility of finding the rest of the manual is virtually nil," Duanmu Wan advised.

Lu Sheng fell deep in thought for a moment.

"Does Miss Wan'er have other secret manuals with her? I don't need the originals, just copies will do. How about one hundred talents for each manual?"

Duanmu Wan's face remained impassive except for a faint smile.

"Is Young Master Lu that crazy about martial arts?"

"Yeah, I'm basically nuts about martial arts," Lu Sheng replied earnestly.

Duanmu Wan looked at him with interest. The two of them stared at each other like that for a while before she suddenly laughed out.

"In that case, money for the goods."

"And goods for the money. I want the Jade Crane Skill."

Lu Sheng picked one at random. He took out the silver notes from his chest pocket. It was the last of his savings and he was now left without a penny.

Duanmu Wan received the notes and stuffed them into her sleeves without even a look before she placed the Jade Crane Skill down.

"Then I wish Young Master achieves full mastery of the martial art soon."

"Thanks for your well-wishes," Lu Sheng rose to see her out.

Only after walking Duanmu Wan to the gate and watching her board the carriage and leave did Lu Sheng finally heave a sigh of relief.

For some unknown reason, he always found himself on his guard whenever he faced Duanmu Wan.

She was clearly just a weak woman who knew no martial arts. But something about her felt off to him.

He watched as the horse carriage lumbered on until it disappeared from sight at the end of the street. Only then did Lu Sheng turn back in.

Holding the Jade Crane Skill manual in his hand, Lu Sheng hesitated. In the end, he decided to take a look at this inner force martial art first before doing anything else.

***

In the Nine Links City Prefect's yamen.

The rectangular yamen courtyard faced the courtroom, its surface covered in white stone bricks which reflected the blinding light coming from the sunrays.

In the courtyard, over ten red pillars supported a red rooftop. That was the courtroom.

Two rows of Pride-Killing Cudgel, painted red, lined the sides of the courtyard. [2]

The Old Master Prefect, Song Duanchi, sat atop the courtroom, his brows locked together in a knot. Behind him was a massive picture of an immortal crane soaring in the blue skies and a white sun.

Two men stood on each side beneath him. A total of four men stood before him.

They were the family heads of the Zhao, Li, Lu and Zheng families respectively.

These four families' power was more than half of the power held by various industries and businesses in all of Nine Links City.

Lu family's Lu Quanan was one of the four.

Wearing a mandarin robe with golden coin and talent motifs sewn onto it and donning a squire's hat, he was at the moment incessantly pinching the beard on his chin, staring at the Old Master Prefect who sat above them.

All five of them were silent, the Prefect included.

The head of the Zhao family, Zhao Shide, was a muscular and fit bald old man. His Zhao family commanded all of Nine Links City's restaurants, brothels, entertainment plazas and casinos. Among the four of them, he had the highest standing.

Presently, seeing that no one spoke, he ventured in a thick-skinned manner.

"Old Master Song, you asked us to search for that person and that thing. And we did send out men to look for it. It was supposed to be a small matter at first. But now, over ten of our men have gone missing one after another. We're talking about a matter of life and death here. If you still intend to keep the truth from us under such circumstances, then forgive us for not helping you anymore."

Lu Quanan made up his mind to keep his mouth shut. The other two seemed to share the same intention.

Prefect Song Duanchi's brows tightened further as he heaved a long sigh.

"Those are orders from above. Even I can't do anything about it. Moreover, strange things keep popping up one after another these few days, both in and out of the city. I've gotten the abbot of Red Lotus Temple to perform rites, but it didn't help.

Also, none of the wandering experts of the pugilistic world whom I've engaged have returned. Who knows if they've run away, or… The Wang Villa case from outside the city also remains unresolved till today. I've gathered the four of you here to see if you've got any good ideas. After all, this is our Nine Links City."

The trio, including Lu Quanan, kept silent. However, Zhao Shide chuckled coldly.

"Let's put aside the matter of searching for that person. We'll just leave it on hold. As for the other matter, since Old Master is out of methods, I've actually engaged a highly skilled expert to assist in the investigation. As for the compensation, it's not fair for it to all come from my family, isn't it?"

"Since it's a highly skilled expert, if he or she can really crack the case, I'll give him or her the full reward," the Prefect confirmed first.

"My family will contribute a thousand talents."

"Mine as well,"Lu Quanan added hurriedly.

"Mine too," the last family head jumped onto the bandwagon.

"Alright. Looks like the Xu family case is taken care of for now. But as for the Wang Villa case…" the Prefect was troubled again.

"Wang Villa… is it the case in which the concubine jumped into the well? Why not just deal with it according to Song laws?" The Li family head asked in a flat voice.

"If only it were that simple. The problem is that we can't even find that concubine's corpse. There isn't even a drop of blood at the bottom of the well, and yet numerous people in the villa swear that they saw the concubine jumping into it with their own eyes. And we did indeed find many footprints beside the well…"

The Prefect shook his head.

'What an eventful autumn…' Lu Quanan exclaimed in his heart at the situation.

Recalling the look of terror on the face of his old friend, the deceased Xu family head, his heart was wrenched in pain.

***

Lu Manor.

In the sleeping quarters.

Lu Sheng sat cross-legged on his bed, focusing his thoughts and senses. Following the method in the Jade Crane Skill manual, he began imagining an immortal crane spreading its wings, attempting to soar, in his chest. The crane flapped both its wings without stopping, building up strength and momentum, but just could not fly up.

After mustering his Qi for a while with his eyes shut, he gradually opened his eyes, retrieved the Jade Crane Skill manual from his chest, opened it and read.

On the first page was a hand-drawn sketch of an immortal crane, soaring above the skies with its wings wide open. Its posture, on the verge of shooting up into the skies, radiated a faint oppressive aura.

Lu Sheng concentrated momentarily on the sketch, then immediately shut his eyes and continued imagining the immortal crane in his chest.

He repeated this thrice.

The light streaming in from the window gradually grew dim. Little Qiao had come to call him to dinner several times, but Lu Sheng rejected each time, keeping his door shut tight and remaining seated on his bed.

The immortal crane conjured up by his imagination was becoming more and more realistic, coming closer and closer to life.

At the moment when dusk descended and the skies turned dark, Lu Sheng's eyes suddenly opened wide.

"Hoo…"

He forced out a breath of murky air.

Taking a deep breath, he clearly felt a slim line in his chest, as wide as an ant, slowly circle in his chest as it formed a simple oval.

This oval spun clockwise at a turtle's pace - so slow that it was undetectable unless one felt for it carefully.

Lu Sheng relaxed in his fatigue, calling out in his mind without further ado.

'Deep Blue.'

Immediately, the Modifier screen floated before his eyes.

In the dark blue square frame of the Modifier beneath Black Tiger Saber Technique was now added a line of small words.

"Jade Crane Skill: Uninitiated."

'I gotta hurry.'

Lu Sheng hurriedly focused his mind and clicked on the Modify button lest the thread of Qi he sensed disappeared.

As the button was pressed, the entire Deep Blue Modifier flashed once.

Lu Sheng quickly gathered all his focus on the Jade Crane Skill.

'Upgrade one level!' He thought.

The status display of the Jade Crane Skill jumped all of a sudden.

From Uninitiated to Initiated in one second.

Lu Sheng paused, and felt a small stream appearing in his body, flowing slowly from his chest down to his abdomen.

It formed an oval loop between his chest and abdomen, threads of cooling Qi flowing unbroken between them.

'I'm initiated now… looks like it didn't cause much of a burden to my body.'

Lu Sheng thought. Then focusing his concentration again, he imagined the Jade Crane Skill upgrading yet another level.

"Cough, cough!"

Suddenly, he felt a dry itch in his throat and began coughing loudly.

An irritating sensation of heat rose from his abdomen and gushed into his heart. Lu Sheng's throat immediately turned dry with thirst.

'Crap, my body's weakened! The Jade Crane Skill rose too rapidly and hurt my body too. Just, it was not as bad as during the time with Black Tiger Saber Technique.'

Lu Sheng relaxed his mind and let the Modifier grow faint and disappear.

'So this is inner force?'

He stretched out both his legs and got off his bed slowly.

Carefully sensing the Jade Crane Skill's inner Qi flowing cyclically without stopping between his chest and abdomen, Lu Sheng could not help but feel astonished.

'It feels as if I've got a new line in my body.'

Lu Sheng attempted to control the line and discovered that it didn't seem capable of being channeled elsewhere; it could only remain fixed cycling between his chest and abdomen.

As this line of inner Qi flowed in the cycle, he could plainly feel his breathing become much easier and his spirits lift and strengthen.

'Initiated in inner force, let me see…' Lu Sheng flipped open the manual and looked at the records in it.

Translator's Thoughts

Deep Blue Deep Blue

[1] ED/N: An idiom that veteran readers of CN novels may be familiar with. If something is like "cabbages", it means that there's a lot of it and it's easy to get one.

[2] TL/N: 杀威棒, Pride-Killing Cudgels, were cudgels often used in the courtroom to punish convicted criminals before their imprisonment or exile to beat them into submission. Figuratively, it killed off their arrogance or pride, deterring them from resisting.