Way of the Devil

 
 

Way of the Devil Chapter 24


Practically each morning after he woke up, Lu Sheng felt his muscles grow sturdier and stronger, and his body increasingly mightier.

But the price he had to pay for this was an increased appetite, which had grown to at least twice of what it had been, the effects felt during each meal. Moreover, his meals all consisted of lavish portions of fish and meat as well as expensive medicinal tea each day.

Just the expenditure on his meals alone would be enough to bankrupt an average family.

Lu Sheng did not dilly-dally along the way. Once he entered the city, he traced back the familiar road to the Lu Manor entrance.

Seeing him approach, the doorman standing guard at the entrance immediately greeted him in welcome.

"Young Master is back!"

"Mm," Lu Sheng gave a cursory reply before striding into the Manor.

There was a rather strange atmosphere within the Manor, but when the servants and helpers saw that he had returned, they all scurried around to greet him.

"Young Master is back!" Someone shouted.

"Young Master! Young Master is back!"

"Oh, it's Young Master!"

One of the servant-maids ran over in a hurry. A faint look of surprise mixed with joy could be seen on her face, akin to someone out of her wits who suddenly chanced upon a life-saving antidote.

"Where's Dad?"

"The Family Head asks you to come over now," another servant-maid ran over and hastily replied.

"Mm."

Lu Sheng lowered his saber and placed it behind his back.

He rushed straight towards the inner yard.

The inner yard was a picture of quiet, to the extent that the silence was somewhat eerie, even cold.

He saw there several servant girls, each one more gloomy than the other. Those near him spoke out in greeting, but those further away didn't notice him and remained engrossed in their chitchat. Sounds of their conversation drifted from afar along with the wind.

"Yesterday night, there was the sound of a woman crying in Sister Yu's room again."

"I heard about that too, it seemed to come from somewhere far away. Some of the guards walked past, but saw no one inside the room, not even a shadow."

"Oh please, let's not talk about it anymore, it's so scary."

"Could it be a female ghost?"

"Don't spout nonsense! Be careful or you'll get a beating."

With his saber behind him, Lu Sheng crossed the stone bridge and caught wind of the casual talk between the servant girls.

From what these people were saying, Sister Yu's Lily Flower Room at the back yard had since become the biggest restricted zone within Lu Manor.

No one needed any reminders to stay away; none of them dared to go near.

His mood fell. Putting the conversations together with the contents of the letter, his mood instantly turned dour.

Finally, what he had feared this whole time had happened!

This world was already plagued with danger and malice all over. For an ordinary man, there was zero chance of resistance against any such strange occurrences.

What he was worried about was that all that befell the Xu Family would one day suddenly strike the Lu Manor as well.

When that happened, what could he use to resist it…? What could he use to save himself?

What could he use to save his family in this life?

'Female ghost? Well, I want to see which female ghost can defend against MY saber!' A fierce glint shone deep in his eyes, viciousness rising in his heart as he strode towards the Main Hall in the inner yard.

Wasn't all he had accumulated thus far for the sole purpose of countering that which was happening before his eyes?

Entering the Main Hall within the inner yard, Lu Sheng's gaze immediately fell upon the haggard Lu Quanan, who was sitting at the host's seat. Next to him, Second Mother, Third Mother and the rest hurried over.

All his siblings and cousins from both maternal and paternal side were present.

Other than during festivals or special occasions, this was the first time all family members had gathered together.

All of them turned to see Lu Sheng, burly and strapping as he strode in with saber on his back.

A hint of joy appeared on Lu Quanan's face, but turned into worry in an instant.

"Little Sheng, you… ai. You shouldn't have come back."

"Dad, just say it. What happened? Sister Yu died?" Lu Sheng wasted no time as he asked straightforwardly.

Recently, he had been practicing saber strokes everyday. On top of that, Black Fury Qi constantly flowed through him. All this lent a sliver of fierce, murderous air to him.

Seeing this, those present then remembered that Brother Sheng had actually killed two thoroughly fiendish and cruel fugitives. He was a ferocious character who could kill even murderers.

At that thought, their originally frightened and anxious hearts were somewhat soothed for the moment.

"Let me tell you what happened instead," Second Mother Liu Cuiyu sighed and said.

Lu Sheng found a seat to the right. "Please go ahead, Second Mother."

Liu Cuiyu pondered for a moment as she organized her thoughts.

"This matter begins with Sister Yu's sudden death a while back."

She sighed again.

"That day, someone from Sister Yu's family came over to ask me if Sister Yu had gone back, to which I replied that she had already left way before he came to inquire.

That man then said that her family had waited for a long time to no avail, and thus he came to the Manor to look for her.

I also had my suspicions, and was just about to send someone out in search when we received news from the yamen that Sister Yu had died in an alley. It had been a few days, and her corpse was already frigid.

Afterwards, I forked out some silver to count towards Sister Yu's funeral expenses. But only two days after that incident, another person from the Manor went missing as well. I sent some people out to search, they found the corpse in a river beyond the city."

Liu Cuiyu's face was awash with sorrow as she recounted till here.

"From that day onwards, one person from the Manor would go missing everyday. We haven't been able to find out anything! It's already the fifth day today.

And every night, faintly discernible sounds of a woman's wails would drift out from the Lily Flower Room where Sister Yu used to stay. We went in to investigate, but there was no one inside.

There used to be five people who stayed in that room. Now, of the five, three have already gone missing…"

Hearing that, Lu Sheng's face was already the picture of gloom.

"What did the people at the yamen say?"

"What can they say? They know absolutely zilch! They gave some random excuse to shirk their responsibility and left," Lu Chenxin couldn't help but interrupt, his voice laced with fury.

"I got your Eldest Uncle to send some men to keep watch during the night, but that wasn't too helpful either. When there are many people around, that sound doesn't appear; we can only hear it when there are few people around," Lu Quanan shook his head and said.

"Where's Qingqing?" Lu Sheng suddenly realized that Lu Qingqing was actually missing from the crowd.

"She ran off on her own to the Zheng Family. Something has also cropped up there," Lu Quanan said helplessly.

"Something has also cropped up at the Zheng Family?" Lu Sheng's heart constricted.

"But it's not like our problem, rather, they met with some bandits who attacked their merchant groups on the road. I don't know where that lass Qingqing managed to find a lead, but she now suspects that the bandits are related to the Xu Family incident. She went out yesterday to investigate and has not been back since," Second Mother Liu Cuiyu remarked.

Lu Sheng gave a cold snort. "This lass is getting more and more out of hand. On the other hand, for the matter within the Manor, even if it's not a female ghost, a highly skilled expert in qinggong will also be able to do such a thing! What about Uncle Zhao? What does he think?" [1]

"Your Uncle Zhao and a few of the other uncles have all been conscripted to the yamen to support the forces somewhere outside the city. Come to think of it, they still have not returned yet," Lu Quanan replied.

"Which is to say, that person took advantage of their absence and that's why he dares to come to the Manor to pretend to be a ghost?"

Lu Sheng's first words deemed this matter to be the work of man rather than the work of demons, devils, ghosts or monsters.

Regardless of whether this was the work of the supernatural or not, it could only be declared the work of man on the surface!

Otherwise, the mighty and illustrious Lu Family might just fall apart.

Lu Quanan also immediately understood this principle and nodded in reply.

"Now that you say it, it really does seem like the work of man…"

"There's someone crying in Sister Yu's Lily Flower Room at night, right? I'll go stay there tonight. Let's see if anyone else goes missing," Lu Sheng decided.

"But, Little Sheng…" Lu Quanan wanted to add something else, but Lu Sheng raised his hand to stop him.

"Don't worry Dad, I know what I'm doing," Lu Sheng said calmly.

No matter whether the other party was a man or a ghost, since it was afraid of crowds, then there would definitely be a viable solution to this.

If this small obstacle before them proved insurmountable, then if they met with a vicious character like the one that suddenly wiped out the whole Xu Family, wouldn't they be relegated to being helpless lambs facing a butcher?

"Little Sheng… you must be careful…"

Liu Cuiyu was worried.

The rest of the people, on the other hand, looked as if a huge burden had been lifted off their shoulders.

Since Brother Sheng, who had even killed fugitives before, said that it was the work of man, then it very likely could be true.

With Brother Sheng around, surely that thug would very soon be captured.

Once the meeting ended, Lu Chenxin, Lu Tianxiang, Lu Yingying and the rest went out to spread this piece of news at the first possible moment.

Soon, near evening time, each and every person within the Lu Manor knew that Young Master Lu Sheng had returned, and even assessed that this spate of events was the work of man!

Moreover, he had decided to keep watch during the night in Lily Flower Room!

When this news spread, the entire Manor from the top to the bottom immediately heaved a great sigh of relief.

These few days, the Lu Manor's denizens' tension had pent up to an extremely high level. Just like a string instrument—if its strings were to be wound too tightly, they would break. Their nerves were not far from reaching that point.

Momentarily, everyone felt a lot more at ease.

Although the threat had not been averted, the atmosphere of fear and panic from before had relaxed quite a bit.

Young Master was personally staying in the Lily Flower Room and could deal with the wailing, come what may. Even if something cropped up, Young Master would definitely be there to be the first one to deal with it.

After enquiring into the entire incident from A to Z, Lu Sheng immediately sent someone to tidy up the Lily Flower Room and prepare some mattress and the like. He would stay there by himself tonight.

Others tried to persuade him otherwise, but seeing that he had a steely resolve, they could only give up.

Lu Sheng got Little Qiao to return to his original sleeping quarters. A saber in one hand and a pitcher of medicinal tea in another, he walked into the Lily Flower Room by himself.

Lily Flower Room, Lily Leaf Room and Lotus Room were the three areas in the Manor designated as the servant girls' quarters. They were all packed closely together.

Of them, Lily Flower Room was situated in the middle.

Lu Sheng came before the Lily Flower Room with his saber in hand. Not a soul could be seen in the neighboring two yards; clearly, they were all frightened away by the wails during the night.

He pushed open the door to find the place tidied up spotless and a bed arranged there nicely. A meal box was placed on the stone table in the little yard.

Other than that, the whole place was deserted.

Atop the greyish white stone table were still some traces of pink, which appeared to be the remnants spilt from the cosmetic powders women used.

Lu Sheng eyed the sleeping quarters.

The sleeping quarters and the little yard combined seemed to form a square box. The sleeping quarters were split into five individual units which were lined up together, the doorway acting as the corridor. He followed down the corridor and exited into the little yard, where he saw a well and a set of stone table and stools next to it.

Lu Sheng sat next to the well like a big shot, all-imposing. He opened the dark-red meal box, taking out plates upon plates of side dishes and placing them all onto the stone table.

There were three side dishes and one soup, coupled with steaming hot white rice.

Picking up his chopsticks, Lu Sheng began to eat with relish.

He took almost an hour to finish this one meal, cleaning up every last bit of that extravagant spread. Only then did he burp and come to a stop. [2]

The sky gradually dimmed into the night. Lu Sheng lit some candles and lanterns by himself, casting the little yard and Sister Yu's sleeping quarters into bright light.

The five sleeping quarters were arranged in a line, with Sister Yu's the furthest one in. The light that traveled within was limited, and sounds from outside that trailed in would also be reduced to a mere whisper.

Lu Sheng finished his meal, walked down the corridor with a saber in hand, and entered the room.

Inside the room there were a black wooden bed, a square table and three chairs. Besides those, there was a cupboard and a dressing table.

Behind the dressing table was a window. Currently, the wooden window was half open, revealing the pitch-black alley outside.

Candlelight on the study table just to the right of the entrance lit up half of the room, which instead contrasted with and emphasized the pitch black of the half open wooden window.

Lu Sheng walked over and stuck his head outside the window to take a look.

The alley beyond the window just happened to face one of the side doors to the Lu Manor.

Looking out from the window, one could distinctly see that the straight alley led right up to a desolate-looking, white side door.

[1] TL/ND: Qinggong (轻功) refers to a type of movement skill that allows one to run at fast speeds, leap over great heights and even fly over short distances.

[2] ED/N: While it is offensive in some countries (mainly in the West, including my own country), the Chinese apparently consider such "natural" sounds made by the body normal and don't consider them offensive or something requiring an apology… or so I've heard.