Way of the Devil Chapter 35
"If that's the case, then all those who hurried over, including Taoist-sir's three, were here all because of that emerging treasure?" Lu Sheng grasped the main point in Yan Kai's narration.
"You can say that," Yan Kai nodded. "Well, with demons and devils roaming this world, we exorcists have also come to protect the peace."
Lu Sheng smiled. He had no idea how much of what he heard he could trust.
After deliberating for a while, he asked, "In other words, has this incident ended just like that? Will Nine Links City be safe from now on?
There won't be any more Demonic Ghosts? No more accidents, no more people dying for no apparent reason?"
Yan Kai did not understand the meaning behind Lu Sheng's questions. But thinking for a moment, he replied earnestly, "That seems to be so. The treasure has been taken far away from Nine Links City. This humble Taoist also needs to follow after it to see if I can be of any use. As for the deaths… without the interference of external forces, I believe Nine Links City will return to its original state."
To his side, Duan Rongrong could not help butting in, "That thing's now already on its way to the Central Plains. Everybody is in hot pursuit, who would want to stay in this small city?"
Yan Kai tugged at Duan Rongrong to shut her up before clasping his hands together towards Lu Sheng.
"Young Master Sheng, seeing as we didn't really manage to help much during this trip, we won't take the money. If we're destined, we'll meet again in the future."
"How can that be? Will Taoist-sir make me a man going back on his words?" Lu Sheng pulled a long face and said seriously.
With a gesture of his hand, he commanded, "Men, bring out the silver notes!"
Immediately, some servant-maids on standby outside swiftly carried in an intricately designed wooden chest.
Receiving the chest, Lu Sheng placed it on the table before them and opened it. A thick stack of silver notes lay inside.
"This is the remuneration for the three of you. Although no accidents happened this time round, Taoist-sir and Miss Zhuan Feng's presence did enable my Lu Family to recover our missing persons. Just that alone is credit enough to receive this sum of money," Lu Sheng declared sincerely.
"Then we won't stand on ceremony!" Before Yan Kai could decline, Duan Rongrong quickly reached out to grab the silver notes and stuff them into her pocket. "We'll pass Sis Zhuan Feng her share outside in a while!"
An expression of helplessness appeared on Zhuan Feng's face. Clearly, the three of them had gotten familiar with one another.
Seeing the situation, Yan Kai could only clasp his hands together with a helpless smile.
"If Young Master Sheng really intends to discover methods to deal with ghosts, you can head to the Central Plans," he added after some hesitation. "But do permit a reminder from this humble Taoist. Young Master Sheng killed a Demonic Ghost previously. Its scent remains on you and could possibly lead to trouble. Should the Mortal-Sweeping Manor notice Young Master, they may dispatch Demonic Ghosts to come after you. Young Master can take the fresh blood of a virgin male goat and apply it all over your body. That way, the Demonic Ghosts may take you for someone already dead and leave you alone. This method works only on ordinary Demonic Ghosts, though."
Lu Sheng clasped his hands together and exclaimed, "Thank you for your advice, Taoist-sir!"
"Not at all, not at all. In that case, I'll take my leave," Yan Kai rose to return Lu Sheng's salutation.
"Take care, Taoist-sir!" Lu Sheng made no attempt to make him stay.
The trio turned around and exited the Guest Hall, heading outside Lu Manor with Yan Kai taking the lead.
Standing behind and gazing at the backs of the trio, Lu Sheng felt inexplicably crestfallen. It was as if a certain world that he had wished to make contact with was presently falling out of his grasp.
Even after the trio including Yan Kai had left for an hour, he remained rooted in the Guest Hall, unmoving.
"Young Master?" Little Qiao walked in and called him timidly. "It's meal time."
"Oh!" Lu Sheng was woken from his daydream and raised his head to look at the skies outside.
Tidying his robes, he headed towards the Dining Hall with Little Qiao.
The Dining Hall was already packed.
Lu Quanan was seated on the main seat. The one seated beside him happened to be Uncle Zhao who was previously away. Lu Sheng's gaze swept across the hall and saw that the few martial arts experts who had left together with Uncle Zhao were now back as well.
"Your Eldest Uncle sent a message. The lockdown on Nine Links City has been called off and entry and exit are now fully permitted," Lu Quanan said softly. This good news did not bring him much joy, however. In an empty space on the side, Lu Qingqing was currently seated and fed by Second Mother Liu Cuiyu by the mouthful, like an obedient child. Every now and then, saliva would drip from the corner of her mouth. She was completely devoid of any semblance of a normal person.
The rest of them largely had no mood to eat. After all, who among them had not seen the ruckus and chaos earlier, with that huge explosion and throngs of armed pugilists passing by the manor?
Right now, all of them were a bundle of nerves.
"The food's getting cold. Let's eat, let's eat," seeing that none had the mood to eat, Lu Quanan first picked up his chopsticks. "Uncle Zhao's back too. Our family's safe. All of us…" the words got choked in his throat as grief overwhelmed his heart. Helpless, he sighed.
Seeing the scene, Uncle Zhao too was filled with helplessness and guilt. He had been receiving so many years' worth of salary from the Lu Family. Yet, at the critical moment, he was absent. Although he had been officially deployed away by the yamen, he and the rest ended up being dispatched to the mountains near the northern frozen ocean. They had swept the mountain and returned without encountering anything—not a single incident had happened.
What on earth was going on?
"Since the lockdown has been called off, this means that everything's ended," Lu Sheng said. "Despite its abruptness, this ending means that we've got to carry on with our lives. From now on, let the guards remain vigilant and do more patrols. That'll do."
"Brother Sheng is right on point. Let's hurry and eat, the food won't be tasty when it gets cold…" Lu Yingying assented softly on her seat.
"What Brother Sheng, Brother Sheng? You must call him Big Brother! Eat, eat, eat… that's all you know!" Fifth Mother was about to slap her, but recalling that she was at the dining table, she restrained herself.
Lu Yingying's head shrank into her shoulders and she no longer dared to make a sound.
Only then did the family begin to eat silently.
After the meal, none of them had anything to say to each other. Lu Sheng went back to continue cultivating inner Qi.
Seated on his bed, he rested for an hour before finally attaining peak condition of his Qi and blood.
'Deep Blue!' He called out in his mind.
The Modifier screen immediately floated into existence before him.
Lu Sheng looked at the top row in detail and saw that the Black Fury Skill row on the Modifier already read "Level Two". He just needed to upgrade it by one level to attain the highest level there was—Level Three.
Based on what he had read in the skill manual, that was the highest level he could attain. Despite there being two more levels after that, forming a total of five levels, Lu Sheng had seen those two levels and felt that they were not perfectly integrated with the preceding section. Very likely, someone else had added them in afterwards. That kind of skill was not authentic and he did not dare to cultivate them.
Presently, he was staring at the status display of Black Fury Skill on Deep Blue. Composing himself, he clicked on the "Modify" button at the bottom of the screen. Instantly, the entire Modifier flashed once.
'Upgrade Black Fury Skill by one level!' Lu Sheng called out in his mind.
As the sound faded, he saw the Black Fury Skill status display blurring. When it came into focus again, it was already saying "Level Three".
'So, this is Level Three?' Lu Sheng waited for a while but his body didn't seem to be experiencing any changes.
He began carefully examining the Black Fury Qi in his body. Then, he discovered that it was gradually growing thicker and thicker.
If it was akin to a black fog before the upgrade, it was now turning into drops of black liquid.
'Doesn't seem to have consumed much of my energy,' Lu Sheng's eyes opened in puzzlement. 'Is it because I'm now-'
Violently, he spat out a mouthful of fresh red blood, dyeing his chest red. A raw, bloody stench instantly permeated the entire room.
Lu Sheng felt his whole body on fire. He broke out into a helpless smile.
'And here I was thinking that there really wasn't any reaction this time. Who would have thought…'
He shook his head and began carefully sensing the changes taking place inside his body.
Upgrading Black Fury Skill to Level Three confined Lu Sheng at home for an entire month. Only then was he barely able to move about as before. During this period, Jade Crane Skill played a vital role, accelerating Lu Sheng's recovery.
From that day onwards, there were indeed no more supernatural incidents occurring in Nine Links City. After Yan Kai and company departed, Nine Links City was restored to its former buzz and banality. All that had happened felt like a distant dream.
That is, all except for the retarded Lu Qing Qing.
Taking advantage of the present peace, Lu Quanan again brought up with Lu Sheng his intention to send him to Mountain Edge City.
"I've made the arrangements. Over in Mountain Edge City, there's a house owned by our Lu Family. You can go over and live in it first. Coincidentally, the Annual Examinations are about to begin. Little Sheng, since you're passionate about martial arts, you should try to earn a martial degree. That'll help greatly when you seek an official appointment in the future," Lu Quanan advised.
"Of course, an academic degree would be even better. But even if you don't want to do anything over there, that's fine too. It's up to you. Our Lu Family owns a shop over there. You can manage it. All its earnings will go to you for your personal expenditure," Lu Quanan had clearly made every arrangement conceivable.
"Nine Links City is too small after all. I've registered you for enrollment in the Eastern Mountain Institution. Whether you try for an academic or martial degree when you're there, it's all up to you," Lu Quanan sighed involuntarily after he concluded. All that had happened in Nine Links City had disillusioned him. Regardless of how wealthy he was, when push came to shove, he could only count on his own family.
"Eastern Mountain Institution…" Lu Sheng could roughly guess at his Old Dad's intentions. This way of sending your children to seek studies was really just a form of sending your kids abroad for further education. Only wealthy families had the means to do so.
"Zheng Xiangui and his sister are going too. From our family, it'll be you and Yingying. Yiyi and Chenxin will go to another institution together," Lu Quanan continued.
Lu Sheng thought for a moment and then nodded in agreement.
Nine Links City was indeed getting too cramped for him. In fact, it was so limited that he couldn't even find any stronger skills and was consigned to third-grade saber techniques like Black Tiger Saber Technique. Mountain Edge City, however, was a different story, as there were stronger pugilists residing there. Moreover, if the Crimson Whale Sect truly was the strongest sect in the region, they would undoubtedly have a base in Mountain Edge City.
"When do I leave then?" He asked.
Lu Quanan thought for a moment and replied, "I guess I'll let you decide on your own when to leave. I'll have your Eldest Uncle send someone to escort you."
"…I'll take a look around the city first," Lu Sheng sighed.
He had more than a few teachers in the city who had taught him martial arts. Now that he was about to leave, it was only proper for him to visit them and bid them goodbye out of respect.
Lu Quanan nodded, giving his permission, and left the rest up to Lu Sheng.
Early in the morning on the second day, Lu Sheng dragged his body, which had not yet fully recovered from upgrading his inner Qi, out of the manor and rode around Nine Links City on a horse.