Way of the Devil

 
 

Way of the Devil Chapter 27


The group of people carried Lu Sheng into his bedroom and had the Lu Manor's physician-in-residence examine him.

The physician entered the room and came out soon after.

"No major issues. He's just physically spent and also suffered a heavy blow to his abdomen. Young Master is strong and sturdy; as long as there are no internal injuries, it's nothing to worry about."

Only then did Lu Quanan sigh in relief.

It was really too rash for Lu Sheng to have personally intervened this time. He was the Young Master of the Lu Family. If some mishap had happened to him, who would they rely on in the future?

"Quanan, this was our only resort," Eldest Uncle sighed. "I intend to skip the Prefect and personally report what happened here to the court. As the parent official of an entire city, that Song Duanchi had previously already promised to report this matter to the court, but until now, he still… as the Deputy Commander, I had on several occasions requested Commander Yang Duanrui to file a report, but he always came back with excuses."

"Could there be more to this than meets the eye?" Lu Quanan asked softly.

"Not sure… and we've still not heard from that lass Qingqing as well as those who went missing," Eldest Uncle shook his head.

Both of them stood outside the door, feeling that they should do something, yet without a clue what they could do.

The gravity of this incident had far surpassed their imagination.

Although they had previously heard of such incidents happening in other places, when it fell on their own house, they were at a loss of what to do.

"How about…" Lu Quanan hesitated, "we offer a reward to hire people trained to deal with this sort of supernatural things?"

"Courage is born under the incentive of gold. This may work. Anyway, these incidents are now the talk of the city. There's no way we can cover them up," Eldest Uncle nodded.

After discussing in detail, both of them settled on the decision.

Not long after, Lu Manor servants each carried a stack of red paper and pasted it outside the Lu Manor's main doors as well as the public noticeboard nearby.

Rapidly, the sheets of red paper appeared in several important locations with high traffic volume, attracting more than a few stares.

***

Several days later, the city gate.

On the busy main path covered with commuting travelers and carriages, a team of merchants pulling along grey cargo came to a slow halt as they reached the city gate. The leader of the merchant team began supervising the unloading of the goods.

This merchant team was merely passing by Nine Links City and so only a fraction of the goods were being unloaded.

As the leader supervised, two figures jumped down from a carriage—one tall and the other short.

Both wore Taoist robes. The taller between them was a middle-aged man with a red, square face. A sword was strapped to his back and he wore white cloth shoes with black soles.

The other, a lady, was also dressed in a Taoist robe but looked pretty. Despite a trace of fatigue on her face, her demeanor remained characteristic of the well-educated. In these times, only one born in a wealthy family would appear as such.

"Brother Yan, this in Nine Links City."

The lady's voice was clear, like that of an eleven or twelve-year-old girl whose voice had only just broken.

"Mm. Should be the Nine Links City that he spoke of. It's been tough on you this whole journey, Rongrong," the Taoist nodded and surveyed the surroundings.

Quickly, he noticed a red paper announcement pasted on the city gate.

The announcement had drawn a large crowd of onlookers. Even the two sentry guards had approached to chat with the people there.

Everybody wore looks of envy and surprise.

"It's not tough at all to be travelling with Brother Yan Kai! That announcement looks like an offer of reward. Let's go take a look. Maybe somebody has already encountered trouble and posted a request for help."

Rongrong had followed Yan Kai on many adventures and was rather experienced with such situations.

In the previous few cases they had handled, they had gotten in contact with the people in trouble through the posted notices too.

Yan Kai nodded. "Let's go. We'll take a look."

The two of them neared the city gate and squeezed their way towards the notice.

"…So it's the Lu Manor… it's really been eventful lately in the city. Even the Lu Family is now in trouble."

"Lu Family… just a while back, some of theirs fled. I caught a glance. I think it was the Lu Family's ex-guard commander. The entire manor is in panic."

"It's been a few days since I last saw Sister Yu out on errands. Could something really have happened?"

The crowd exchanged comments and continued chatting here and there.

Listening carefully, Yan Kai looked at the notice pasted on the gate.

It read:

"Reward of five hundred gold for people with special skills and talent for hire.

Lately, too many strange incidents have been occurring in the city, with people often going missing.

Earlier, there were also the Xu Family tragic case, the Wang villa well incident and now my Lu Manor's midnight woman's wail.

For the sake of peace in the family, we hereby offer five hundred talents of gold, worth approximately five thousand talents in silver, in return for thoroughly investigating the matter and locating the missing persons."

The notice was simple, its meaning clear and to the point.

A second poster was also pasted underneath it, detailing from beginning to end the process of how the Lu Manor had encountered the midnight wail.

It thoroughly recounted the cases of missing persons that had occurred in the Lu Manor.

Yan Kai read in detail and his brows were locked in a furrow.

"That's it. We're going to the Lu Family."

Rongrong had just finished reading the contents of the notice too.

"It just so happens that we're looking for ghosts. And we can also earn some quick money along the way."

"We do not practice our arts for the sake of money," Yan Kai remarked solemnly.

"Yes, yes, yes," Rongrong stuck out her tongue and shut her mouth hurriedly. She knew that Brother Yan Kai could not tolerate those who helped others with the expectation of getting something in return.

Without a further word, Yan Kai stepped forward to tear the notice down.

The Lu Manor houseman on duty beside it came to life immediately.

"Sir and Ma'am, this way please!"

Yan Kai nodded.

Bringing Rongrong with him, he followed the houseman towards the Lu Manor.

The crowd of onlookers immediately went "ooh" and "ahh", with more than a few busybodies even following them for a stretch to see if they were truly going to the Lu Family.

It seemed like this couple dressed in Taoist robes really had some tricks up their sleeves.

Not caring a hoot about whether or not people followed them, Yan Kai walked on without the slightest change in expression. Clearly, he had long since been used to being watched by spectators.

In the meantime, Rongrong actively struck up a conversation with the houseman, inquiring about the Lu Manor's recent situation.

Not long after, both of them boarded a horse carriage, which turned left and right before coming to a halt.

Once the two of them alighted, someone was already present to lead them in. They walked into a gigantic manor, decorated with artificial mountains and flowing rivers, small bridges and gardens… and so on. With birds chirping and the fragrance of flowers wafting in the air, the setup of the manor was extremely intricate and luxurious.

Yan Kai walked on with Rongrong in tow without so much as a glance. Quickly, they arrived in the Guest Hall.

"Welcome, welcome."

A middle-aged man, looking troubled and slightly pale, was sitting in the Guest Hall.

The man looked plump and was dressed in a silver-bordered light blue robe embroidered with coin motifs. The long beard hanging off his chin was neat and clean.

It was none other than Lu Quanan, who had just come from meeting with Lu Sheng.

"Are both of you the ones who tore down the notice on the city gate?" Lu Quanan sized up the two standing before him.

Both were Taoists. The man's face was red and well-nourished. His forehead was prominent, eyes sober and back straight. If he was wearing a set of scholar's robes, he would likely possess the air of a noble gentleman.

The lady was pretty and slightly wide-eyed, appearing somewhat innocent. Her bright eyes stole glances in all directions, making her look as if she was a little miss who had run out of a prominent family and disguised herself.

"That's right. Just a lowly Taoist, Yan Kai. Yan as in 'colour' (颜); Kai as in 'open' (开). My Taoist name is Huanyang-Zi," Yan Kai introduced himself. "This is my junior sister Duan Rongrong. Both of us are here because of the missing persons case."

"Please take a seat, please sit," Lu Quanan gestured.

Both of them sat and servant-maids swiftly served tea and snacks.

"I've written about the incident in detail on the notice. If Taoist Huanyang-Zi would like to receive this reward, you'll have to meet my son Lu Sheng. He's the one in charge of assessing the candidates for my Lu Family's reward this time," Lu Quanan said softly. "Of course, if Taoist truly has the skills, then regardless of the outcome of this matter, we'll offer up a hundred talents of silver after this."

Both Yan Kai and Duan Rongrong were in agreement with this.

Lu Quanan enquired further regarding their backgrounds—where they were from, their age, where they currently resided, etc.

Yan Kai answered each question in turn.

After a short rest, the Guest Hall was filled with a few others who had torn the notices down as well.

Among those who came subsequently, two of them were monks from the Red Lotus Temple. There was also a Taoist like Yan Kai.

The last of them was a travelling adventurer. A pair of twin sabers hung by his waist, both short sabers. His facial features were pretty and if one looked closely, one would realize that "he" was actually a "she" in disguise.

After waiting for a while longer, it seemed to Lu Quanan that all who would come had come. Without further ado, he led the party to the side yard where Lu Sheng was.

The Lu Manor comprised of many side yards, occupying a large plot of land. A portion of the manor even stretched towards the city wall, occupying a whole third of Nine Links City's most prosperous sector. That went to show how well endowed they were.

It wasn't surprising—among the five great families of the city, the Lu Family was the wealthiest.

The party followed Lu Quanan towards the Yellow Crane Courtyard.

Along the way, guards and housemen armed with sabers and swords were in full view, stationed everywhere between the courtyards.

Each of the guards and housemen was well-built and muscular, standing with impeccable bearing. A single glance revealed that they had undergone military training.

As Yan Kai looked on, his face grew solemn. "This Lu Family is not to be trifled with…"

Duan Rongrong was puzzled by his words.

"Aren't they just rich? Pretty much similar to the families we encountered previously. What's the big deal about them?"

Yan Kai shook his head.

"Not just that. The Lu Family probably has a military background. Otherwise, the housemen and guards here would not possess such an aura. The military has strict rules. Only those who went through regular military training can maintain such spirit and vigil. They're not like old retired soldiers."

"Military background! And to think that even such a family would need to request for help. Looks like they're really in big trouble," Duan Rongrong clicked her tongue.

The party walked over a hundred steps and quickly entered the Yellow Crane Courtyard.

The Yellow Crane Courtyard was right beside the arena. They could even hear the commands and shouts coming from the arena on which the guards were presently training.

The Young Master of the Lu Family—Lu Sheng—was sitting on a reclining chair in a half-sitting position. His face was pale and body wrapped in a thick fur blanket. Strong medicinal smell wafted in the air. He didn't seem to be in high spirits.

Yan Kai carefully sized up Lu Sheng. One glance told him that the Qi and vigor in his eyes were dim and faint, like that of a patient who had yet to recover.

"Greetings to you, brave men," Lu Sheng coughed twice as he clasped his hands together at the party. "As is evident to all of you, my physical condition is unwell. I've yet to recover from my injuries so please forgive me for not rising to welcome all of you."

"Young Master Sheng is too polite."

One of the monks from Red Lotus Temple, named Master True Depths, stepped forward and spoke.

"Lu Family has always been one of the devout patrons of my Red Lotus Temple. Now that you're in trouble, the abbot has instructed us to make a trip here to see if we can lend a helping hand."

"Many thanks, Master. Please thank the Red Lotus Abbot on my behalf as well," Lu Sheng replied with a smile.

The other Taoist began to inquire about the case.

Lu Sheng answered each of his questions.

While listening carefully on the side, Yan Kai was also carefully examining Lu Sheng.

"He's injured because his body was invaded by Yin Qi. And that also just recently," Yan Kai deducted from his careful observation of this Young Master Lu.