Way of the Devil Chapter 14
Written clearly on the booklet were the words:
"This skill effectively extends longevity, improves blood circulation and nourishes the five viscera to smoothen one's Qi; effective for recuperating from internal injuries. The more advanced one's cultivation, the more effective the results."
'Recuperating from internal injuries?'
Lu Sheng's heart skipped a beat.
"Young Master? It's time to eat. It's already the height of the Zi hour…"
Little Qiao's voice drifted in from outside.
Lu Sheng warmed up his arms and shoulders. Pushing the door open, he saw Little Qiao sitting alone on a small stool outside the door. Who knew how long she had been waiting for him there.
The height of the Zi hour, in other words, the latter half of the Zi hour.
According to how they kept time in the Song Dynasty, the timekeepers divided the day into twelve two-hour periods. Each period was split into the beginning and the height portions.
Which means, it was currently between 24:00 and 1:00 in the morning..
"It's already so late?" Lu Sheng gazed towards other courtyards. The usual hustle and bustle these courtyards emitted during the day were now completely quiet.
Faint sounds of the gong rang out in the night wind as the night watchman made his rounds outside.
"Is there still something to eat now?" Lu Sheng walked towards the kitchen.
The Lu Manor's kitchen was built between the front of the manor and the backyard; to get there, one needed to walk out of the backyard.
"I've asked the kitchen to leave some food for you, Young Master; there's a bit of each dish, we just have to heat it up," Little Qiao said softly as she hurried to Lu Sheng's side.
The two of them walked along the winding corridor, exiting the backyard and taking a left turn into the small kitchen yard.
A few tables and chairs were placed in disarray in the kitchen yard, left there especially for the chefs and servants to dine at.
Just as the two entered the small yard, they saw a person sitting at the edge of a table, wolfing down Lu Sheng's dinner.
"Big Bro, how come you're still up so late?" The person eating his dinner lifted her head to reveal a plain yet pretty and innocent face.
"Qingqing?" Lu Sheng stared in surprise. "When did you come back?"
Sitting down opposite her, he sized Lu Qingqing up as she ate with relish.
She was his younger sister - the daughter of his Second Mother. They were thus of the same father but different mothers. However, Second Mother had very often treated him even better than her own biological daughter; to her, he was like her own son.
In the original Lu Sheng's memory, his feelings towards Second Mother and Lu Qingqing far surpassed those he felt towards his other siblings.
"Oh, I just got back. I was really hungry so I rushed here! I found a feast laid out on the table, so I thought it was prepared for me."
With a sword on her back, Lu Qingqing dressed in blue overalls and clearly bound her bosom. If not for her pretty face, it was impossible to tell she was a woman.
"You shouldn't have come back…" Lu Sheng sighed.
"Why?" Lu Qingqing lowered her bowl, her expression abruptly turning somber. "Brother Xu died from some unknown cause… just what trouble did Uncle Xu's family get themselves into? Demons, devils, ghosts and monsters… what a mess! I just don't believe in those!"
"What do you mean?" Lu Sheng stared at her.
"The reason why I returned earlier is to look into the real cause of Brother Xu's death, and to bring the murderer to justice!" Lu Qingqing spoke earnestly, a thread of killing intent flashing in her eyes.
Lu Sheng kept silent for a long while as he looked at his Second Sis. A hint of anger rose up on Lu Qingqing's face.
"Big Bro, Brother Xu is dead. Don't you want to find out the real killer at all?!"
"I've looked into it, but there weren't any leads…" Lu Sheng shook his head. "There were no clues regarding the killer, no trace at all. All the people of the Xu Family, over ten of them in total, died tragically in the middle of the night. Yet there was no wind of it at all."
"I don't believe it!" Lu Qingqing stood up. "I'm full. I'll begin investigating tomorrow. Big Bro, I'm going to rest first," she said, and walked off in big strides to leave the yard.
"Little Qiao, want to come over to my place?" Along the way, she called out to Little Qiao.
Her face gloomy, Little Qiao shook her head. Clearly, talking about the incident of Brother Xu caused her spirits to be dampened.
Xu Daoran was gentle and courteous, and had always been kind to them. How could she have even imagined that such a kind-hearted person would perish in an instant?
After Lu Qingqing left, Lu Sheng sat down. Once Little Qiao heated up the leftovers, he continued to eat.
'It's been five years since Qingqing left to train in martial arts under Priest Tie Sang, the famed swordsman near Zi Hua City. However, it seems that she has not cultivated inner force.'
According to the records in the Jade Crane Skill manual, a special trait of all those who cultivated inner force was a pair of eyes scintillating with charm.
The more advanced one's inner force was, the more spirit and vigor one's eyes shone with.
However, Second Sis' eyes were dark and gloomy, no different from an average person. Clearly, she was not an inner force cultivator.
'Of course. How can inner force cultivators be as common as cabbages on market? But, that really goes to show just how complicated that Duanmu Wan is…'
Lu Sheng muttered to himself irresolutely while immersed in his thoughts. Finally, he collected his thoughts, and then began to eat his dinner.
The next morning.
Early in the morning, Lu Sheng followed Uncle Zhao and headed towards Chief Constable Zhang Xun's house.
"Although Chief Constable Zhang's Heart-Shattering Palm does not belong to any faction, it has been rumored that it can hold its own against the renowned Iron Sand Palm. Its focus is on penetrative force that can pass through an object and hit a target on its other side. In combat, it can target and hit the enemy's internal organs directly. It's extremely powerful."
Uncle Zhao and Lu Sheng each rode a horse as they made their way to Zhang Xun's house. It was located in the Blacksmiths' District, the area of Nine Links City nearest to the city walls.
Mainly the poor and people like craftsmen, blacksmiths and carpenters resided here.
Along the way, Lu Sheng saw poor people everywhere, sickly in appearance and with emaciated bodies. Most of the passers-by were also dressed in patched-up clothing.
"I've occasionally heard of the prowess of the Heart-Shattering Palm since I was young. Just how did Chief Constable Zhang end up in such dire straits? As a yamen military official, he definitely should have more than enough connections and experience to live in a better area, Lu Sheng asked casually.
Uncle Zhao shook his head. "How? It's all because of the tragedy that year. He exacted vengeance by killing his enemy with his own hands, but ended up with internal injuries that frequently act up. Just the purchase of all sorts of nourishing medicines was enough for him to end up here."
As they chatted, the two of them soon arrived in front of a small, worn out courtyard.
Uncle Zhao got off his horse and knocked onto the door.
"Who's there? Soon, a skinny and weak youth opened the door. Noticing Zhao Dahu, he welcomed them in a surprised tone. "Uncle Zhao? Quick, come in, come in!"
Lu Sheng followed in through the doors. He immediately saw a white-haired elder, sitting in the yard and basking in the sun.
"Is that Young Master Lu?"
The elderly got straight to the point as he asked loudly.
"That's me," Lu Sheng cupped his fists.
"This old man has received the silver you sent here previously. I can pass down the Heart-Shattering Palm technique to you straightaway, no problem. However, this old man does have a difficult favor to request of you."
The elder was none other than Chief Constable Zhang Xun, he who once killed without batting an eyelid.
"Please speak, Master Zhang," Lu Sheng's expression remained the same.
"This old man hopes that Young Master Lu can learn this skill and pass it on to a few more people. This way, my life's achievements will not be lost," Zhang Xun's voice was full of vigor and full of dignity despite his age.
"Don't worry, Master Zhang! Junior will do so!" Lu Sheng said resolutely.
"Good! Be it training with our swords or fists, it is this bold courage to strive forward that we need, come what may! Without this spirit, even the most powerful stroke is but weak and hollow!" Zhang Xun's voice was unexpectedly severe.
"My Heart-Shattering Palm and saberplay share some common points. Be it the palm or the saber, you need to be decisive, and imagine yourself in a do-or-die situation. Only then will you be able to explode with the most immense strength and speed! If your heart hesitates, then your strength abates!"
Lu Sheng's mind shook as if he suddenly comprehended something.
"Essence, Qi and spirit; heart, mind and strength - combine them and, once they all fit together, focus them on one point. This is the secret to success in both saberplay as well as my Heart-Shattering Palm!" Zhang Xun said sternly.
Lu Sheng closed his eyes as he stood there, looking as if he had just gained enlightenment. His hand grasped onto his long-hilted saber on his waist.
He had just arrived at the courtyard, and had already taken the first lesson from this former Number One expert of the Nine Links City!
'If your heart hesitates, then your strength abates!'
These words resounded like thunder in his mind, constantly surging throughout it.
It was precisely because he tended to think too much that caused his saber moves to carry a sliver of hesitation.
Now that he thought of it, it should be because his resolve was lacking!
His level was clearly higher than Uncle Zhao's; yet, when they actually fought each other, he was less confident than the other. Initially, he had attributed that to his lack of experience.
But now, from the looks of it, it was rather his resolve that was lacking, both in mind and heart!
A long while later.
Lu Sheng cupped his hands into fists as he saluted Zhang Xun.
"Many thanks, Master Zhang!"
"No problem. Now, everyone else, get out! I'm going to pass on the key formula of the Heart-Shattering Palm to you!" Zhang Xun's voice rang out clearly.
Uncle Zhao and the youth both gave a small wry smile before leaving the courtyard.
An entire day passed.
Lu Sheng stayed at Zhang Xun's house the whole time, memorizing the key formula and practicing moves of the Heart-Shattering Palm. Zhang Xun also readily shared with him his battle experience; he held nothing back.
Having been initiated in his inner force skill, Lu Sheng was exuberant in spirit and teeming with strength. He diligently learnt and practiced unceasingly all throughout the day, resting only twice during the whole day.
In the evening, he had committed to memory and familiarized himself with the essential aspects of the Heart-Shattering Palm. Only then did he bid Zhang Xun farewell and left.
He went to his sleeping quarters the minute he got home and sat down cross-legged.
'Deep Blue!' He commanded wordlessly in his head, causing the screen of the Modifier to once again surface in his mind.
After pressing the Modify button, the entire screen flashed violently.
Lu Sheng focused his concentration onto the Jade Crane Skill from before.
'There shouldn't be any problems this time round.'
Modifying skills by a single stage ensured that it was not too overwhelming and lessened the burden on his body.
'Upgrade one level!'
Lu Sheng stared intently at the Jade Crane Skill. Soon, the state of the Jade Crane Skill jumped directly from Initiated to Level One.
Lu Sheng instantly felt as if all his five viscera and six bowels were on fire; his mouth and tongue felt parched and his face flushed red. 
He had read in the secret manual that such sensation would occur when one's inner force was too abundant, causing one's heart to overheat.
He rose hastily to the table, where he had Jadeite Dendrobium tea ready just in case, and began to drink it slowly. 
The Dendrobium was also known as the Yin Nourishing Fairy Grass, which had extremely potent nourishing effects. The other variant, the Metallic Dendrobium, was the one which was the most often used on earth; here, it was the Jadeite Dendrobium that was most commonly used instead.
It was a highly expensive tonic imported from the Central Plains. It just so happened that there was some stock in the family's pharmacy that he was able to use.
Only after drinking three cups of rich Dendrobium tea was Lu Sheng able to feel some warmth ebbing out from his chest.
'If it is as recorded in the secret manual, there are only two levels of the Jade Crane Skill, and I was indeed able to sense Qi in just one day. However, it requires a hundred days just to get initiated, and that is for the more gifted ones. To cultivate the first level would require about two to three years. As for the second level, that would require five to ten years.'
He placed the teapot back onto the table, retrieving the Dendrobium left on the bottom and stuffing it into his mouth to eat it.
'What I just did, is equivalent to two to three years' worth of hard work. Not bad.'
He could distinctly feel the Qi in his chest was slowly becoming easier to sense than previously.
If it had been of a hair's breadth before, then it was now as thick as a single chopstick.
Lu Sheng then looked at the other martial art, Heart-Shattering Palm.
Currently, this martial art was displayed as Uninitiated, with different sections for the outer and inner force skills. As long as he remembered the moves and the heart formula, then it would be displayed onto the menu of the Modifier screen.
As for inner force, he must first be able to sense Qi before he'd able to modify it.
Lu Sheng intended to quickly upgrade his Jade Crane Skill to improve his essence, Qi and spirit before modifying the other outer force skills. In this way, the load on his body would be greatly reduced.
 ED/N: Things like five viscera and six bowels refer to things like major human organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
 TL/N: 玉斗石斛 and 铁皮石斛 are different varieties belonging to the Dendrobium family (more widely known as orchids), which are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. While the author used their scientific names, they are translated more literally in this version to adhere more to the genre.