Way of the Devil Chapter 41
Lu Sheng was instantly stunned.
Mountain-Edge City and Nine Links City were incomparably different. A restaurant in Mountain-Edge City was worth at least ten restaurants in Nine Links City!
And there were actually FIFTEEN such restaurants here! This way exceeded the typical extravagance! Even if his entire Lu Family's assets were sold off, it might not even be enough to purchase them.
This was because, apart from the money required on the surface, to be able to establish a restaurant in such a place, there were too many other dealings to be made under the table that would require vast resources. All in all, this would incur at least over a million taels' worth of silver notes. This was already more than half of what the Lu Family had.
THIS was what tyranny looked like!
In this precise moment, Lu Sheng understood what was meant by "money means power" and "money makes the world go round"! And, what it meant to be a man-pet…
Money aside, just the sheer power of Old Master Chen's network and connections was impressive. As long as he went along with it, it would be a great deal easier to get his hands on all sorts of martial arts. Not to mention the supply of nourishing tonics and medicine…
There was no way to compare Mountain-Edge City and Nine Links city. This place was considered a strategic, centrally-located town; a stronghold guarding the narrow divide between the Northern lands and the Central Plains. The head of the city had direct access to the highest levels of the Court.
Being able to gain a foothold here and be among the wealthiest, Old Master Chen enjoyed influence and benefits beyond what Lu Sheng could fathom. He was definitely not as mediocre as the Young Master from the day before made him out to be.
Now, Chen Yunxi had confessed her feelings for him. Lu Sheng knew that although women were bolder and more straightforward in this age, it still required great courage for them to confess. Yet, it was exactly what Chen Yunxi had done.
He inhaled deeply as he looked at the girl before him, almost within his reach.
"You keep these first."
Hearing that, Chen Yunxi took a careful look at Lu Sheng, then glanced towards the merchant deeds in her hands. Lightly biting onto her lips, she kept the merchant deeds.
"Brother Lu, you…"
"It's not that I don't have feelings towards you… for others, they see your legs as a defect, a deformity given by the gods. However, from my perspective, your legs are instead the most beautiful part about you," Lu Sheng could not help but blurt out these words. He had to get them off his chest!
As Chen Yunxi listened to him, she thought that Lu Sheng was trying to console her. Yet when she looked carefully into Lu Sheng's eyes, she could see his sincerity.
"But," Lu Sheng's tone took a turn, "Chen Yunxi, are you sure you really know me? Do you really know the kind of person I am? We've only known each other for a few months. The side of me that you see is just the side of me when I'm in school. You don't truly know who I am, and there are parts of you that I don't really know about. I don't want my future other half to regret her decision when she sees the other sides of me."
Actually, he had said what he just did mostly in the hopes of not dragging Chen Yunxi into his life.
His life was a whole different story from the normalcy of the average John's. He had the Modifier, and even encountered Demonic Ghosts and other supernatural entities.
He had to strengthen himself! He wasn't satisfied to lead a cavalier and ignorant life as a mere mortal, depending on luck and other people for his survival. He wanted to be the master of his own fate in this dark and dangerous world!
This was what he wanted. Yet, such a life and pursuit were fraught with danger. Getting married too early was but a weakness in his eyes, which would make him vulnerable.
After hearing what he had to say, Chen Yunxi was unexpectedly not disappointed. Instead, both her eyes shone brightly.
'Brother Lu doesn't give a damn about money. Yunxi just knew it wasn't a wrong choice!' Her beautiful eyes sparkled radiantly. She stared unflinchingly at Lu Sheng through those big and watery eyes.
"Since Brother Lu is not willing to agree for now, Yunxi will listen to you. I'll do my best to get to know you better in the future, to know everything about you, and to accept everything about you!" Once she finished speaking, she bade a soft 'ciao' before spinning around and running off, her reddened face buried in both her hands.
Lu Sheng gazed upon her disappearing back, speechless.
'I guess that was counter-productive?'
Shaking his head, he returned to the study hall for the rest of the day's lessons.
The day passed by unknowingly. However, there was still no trace of Wang Ziquan. Song Zhenguo took some time to visit the rental house where he was staying temporarily but saw no one. Worried, he and Lu Sheng arranged to search for Wang Ziquan the next day if he still hadn't appeared.
The night passed and it was the next day. As per normal, Lu Sheng stepped into the study hall in the nick of time. When Elder Lu had begun his lesson, Wang Ziquan was still not there.
Elder Lu took attendance and again asked after him.
"My rental house is near Wang Ziquan's. Yesterday night, there was no light lit in his room. Seems like he went out," a somewhat frail-looking student rose and replied.
"Did he return to his hometown?" Elder Lu frowned. "Even if he did, he should have applied for leave from the school! Ridiculous! He doesn't care for the Annual Examinations recommendation anymore, is that it?"
To participate in the Annual Examinations, it required the joint recommendation of the Institution, which would submit a list of names. Otherwise, it would not possible to take the examinations. If the student's performance in the Institution was lackluster, then he would not be recommended and would lose all qualifications to enter the Annual Examinations.
"The Annual Examinations are around the corner, there's no way Wang Ziquan would be this reckless," Song Zhenguo muttered under his breath. He hastily stood up, "Elder Lu, perhaps Wang Ziquan met with some urgent matters. I know his cousin in the city, let me ask him about it later."
"Mm, go ahead. It is only right for fellow schoolmates to help each other out," a glimmer of praise flickered in Elder Lu's eyes.
The incident passed and the lesson continued.
Lu Sheng looked at Song Zhenguo. Brows furrowed, he seemed to be worrying about Wang Ziquan. He focused himself and also thought back to the pleasure boat he visited late the other night.
Perhaps asking Song Zhenguo about it will provide some clues.
They endured all the way till the end of the school day. For Lu Sheng, the lectures didn't pose any difficulty. With his qualifications as a research student in his past life, dealing with all these was a piece of cake. 
However, it was very difficult for Song Zhenguo to learn once he was distracted. Even after the lesson ended, he was still bent over his desk, trying to organize all the contents of Elder Lu's lecture before recording them down.
"Brother Zhenguo," Lu Sheng whispered as he walked over, "I feel there's something amiss. Ordinarily, Wang Ziquan is extremely prudent and careful. Among all of us, he is the most conscientious when it comes to schoolwork. How could he have missed lessons for two consecutive days?"
Song Zhenguo kept his ink and brush. Similarly, he wore a doubtful expression. "I've just been thinking about that too, so I've decided to go find out."
"Let's go together. I'm also quite worried," Lu Sheng said grimly.
Song Zhenguo cast a surprised look at Lu Sheng. Actually, between lessons, he had approached some students he regularly hung out with. Not one of these people, who usually seemed very close on the surface, was willing to go to the trouble of asking around. Once they heard of the matter, each one promptly found an excuse to shirk any responsibility. This allowed him to see the true colors of such 'friends', causing him to feel despondent.
Little did he expect that Lu Sheng would take the initiative to approach him and ask to go along.
"That's good. Wait a while for me Brother Lu, let me pack my things."
After Song Zhenguo tidied up his belongings, both of them hurried out of the Institution. They boarded the horse carriage they had booked in advance and sped straight for the city.
All throughout the journey, both of them were somewhat troubled. Given Wang Ziquan's character, he placed the greatest importance on the Institution's Annual Examinations above everything else. How could he have suddenly disappeared without a trace?
At a cosmetic powder stall along Gold Origins Street in Mountain-Edge City, they both soon found Chen Hong, Wang Ziquan's younger cousin. Despite his tender age, he was already managing his own business as the boss of the stall.
"Elder Cousin Ziquan? No… if he wanted to go back home, he would usually come here to ask me if I have anything for him to bring back--books, clothes, and the like… speaking of which, I haven't seen him around these couple of days. Didn't Elder Cousin hang out with Brother Song you guys previously?" Wang Ziquan's younger cousin, Chen Hong, puzzled over the matter.
Song Zhenguo's face darkened in worry. He looked at Lu Sheng as they exchanged glances.
"Yea, previously we did hang out together. It's just that… we haven't seen him these two days, so we came to ask you."
"Oh… come to think of it, Elder Cousin did drop by my place the night before yesterday, and asked me for a couple of high-grade fragrances and cosmetic powders," Chen Hong smiled, "I think, eight out of ten chances he is in love! Hehe, the fragrances and cosmetic powders were even the type that young girls like, tsk tsk tsk…"
"The night before? What time?" Lu Sheng abruptly asked, an odd expression on his face.
"Around the Chou hour… anyway, it was very late, and I was already asleep. Elder Cousin knocked on the door and woke me up, insisting that I come down to get the things for him. Ai… because he woke me up at such wee hours, the incident is still etched in my memory," Chen Hong stroked his chin and said, "Speaking of which, to take fragrances and cosmetic powders so late into the night… tsk tsk…" a smile universally understood by all men appeared on his face. [ED/N: 1-3 A.M.]
Song Zhenguo was stunned, his brows knit tightly together. There was something he couldn't figure out.
As for Lu Sheng, he could already make some guesses. His heart sank.
Seeing Lu Sheng's expression, Song Zhenguo could tell that Lu Sheng had some ideas about what happened. He thus bid a hasty farewell to Chen Hong.
Outside of the stall, he pulled Lu Sheng into a corner of the street.
"Yue Sheng, quick, share with me! Have you thought of any leads?! Wang Ziquan didn't even tell his own younger cousin. It was the night before yesterday that he came here… but wasn't he drinking with us at the pleasure boat that night?" His expression was grave.
Lu Sheng stared at Song Zhenguo in all seriousness. "Zhenguo, actually, I made a trip back to the pleasure boat the other night after we left."
Song Zhenguo was shocked, "Yue Sheng, why did you head back? It was already very late, the pleasure boats should have already been closed for the night, right?"
"Yes, they were closed," Lu Sheng's tone was solemn. "It's only 'cos I left my money pouch back on the boat that I went back to search for it. Little did I expect…"
"Little did you expect what?" Affected by Lu Sheng's tone and mood, Song Zhenguo's expression also turned solemn.
"Little did I expect that there wasn't a single soul left on board the pleasure boat. Instead, red lanterns hung all over the place," Lu Sheng's eyes narrowed as he continued, "I quickly went into the room we were at. Two huge additional lanterns hung inside, yet there was no one to be seen. Not even any of the cleaners were in sight. Then, I found my money pouch and rushed to leave."
"Not a single soul… could it be…" suddenly, Song Zhenguo seemed to recall something. "Could it be that Wang Ziquan came to find his younger cousin in the wee hours of the night, just to buy
cosmetic powders and fragrances for the ladies at the pleasure boats? But since you also went back, then why…"
"Absolutely possible!" Lu Sheng shared his thought. "There's no use guessing, let's head straight to the pleasure boat to ask."
Hearing that, Song Zhenguo nodded.
Speaking no more, the two of them once again hailed a horse carriage and sped in the direction of Cypress Pine Lake. Dusk was just breaking, which was the ideal time for merry-making and drinking.
With great familiarity, Song Zhenguo led Lu Sheng to find the pleasure boat that they patronized previously. It was called Ying Ying Pleasure Boat. 
 ED/N: The term "research student" here may also refer to a graduate or postgraduate student.
 ED/N: If you're curious wtf Ying Ying means, it seems to mean "oriole oriole" :3