Way of the Devil

 
 

Way of the Devil Chapter 44


‘Then I guess it’s those official martial arts dojos that take in disciples. The second option is the famed expert from Central Plains--Li Ran, the Soul-Slaying Palm,’ Lu Sheng had done his homework on this man. His meridians had been injured by his foe in the Central Plains. As a last resort, he brought his wife and children here to Mountain-Edge City to live as a hermit, away from trouble.

‘Despite being wounded, he’s still made a name for himself in Mountain-Edge City. He must have a trick or two up his sleeves. And his palm technique is pretty similar to mine. He’s worth checking out.

Additionally, as for hard body skills, there’re two to check out--Chen Jia, the Tumbler, and Yang Furui, the Bronze Pillar.’

Lu Sheng had personally visited the martial arts dojos opened by the two of them. The Tumbler was in his seventies and the craft he imparted was merely very ordinary skills. Bronze Pillar Yang Furui, on the other hand, was much more open-handed. As long as you paid the fee, you could learn the foundational hard body skill--Tempered Steel Skill. After that, depending on your performance, you would have the chance to be selected as his personal disciple and have him impart you the Bronze Pillar Skill. [1]

‘Enrolling in a martial arts dojo as a student is too slow for me. I only need the manuals. As long as I can get inside and obtain the manual…’ He gave it some thought and decided to first check out the auction in the city. Perhaps he would be able to find some powerful skill like Black Fury Skill.

Thinking of the auction, he suddenly felt in his waist pouch for the few thin pieces of silver notes and golden leaves. He sighed.

'I’ve got to find a way to earn some money.'

If not for the Wang Ziquan incident… if not for his encounter with the pleasure boat Scarlet Decks, he wouldn’t be in such a hurry to upgrade his strength.

Having packed his luggage, Lu Sheng ran along the main path leading back into Mountain-Edge City. He had made up his mind to go check out the famed expert from the Central Plains--Soul-Slaying Palm Li Ran.

Hailing a horse carriage, Lu Sheng allowed himself to be carried all over within the city. After the time several times longer than the what it took to brew a pot of tea, he reached his goal.

At the end of the street was a historic, vintage manor, embellished with many peach tree wooden signboards. That was the renowned Greenwood Dao Court--the martial arts dojo opened by Li Ran, the Soul-Slaying Palm.

It just so happened that the main door was open. It was the time of the day when the Dao Court was open for public visiting.

Lu Sheng joined the cacophonous throng, following it into the manor. Inside was a massive square arena, supported by red pillars.

On the arena, a middle-aged man with a white beard was executing a continuous series of palm strikes, his posture as imposing as a fierce tiger. Every now and then, his palms would roar as they struck into the air.

"Bravo!"

He had just reached an exciting point in the set of palm movements. The throng below was thrown into ecstasy and called out in exclamations and praises.

Lu Sheng fixed his eyes on the arena.

‘That’s the standard of a famed expert from the Central Plains?’

He didn’t dare to believe his eyes. To be fair, this man’s palm technique wasn’t too shabby; he had good control of his speed and precision. But there was a thread of hesitation at the moment between moves. Moreover, his strikes were clearly wanting in strength and were weak in force. Even the roaring sounds were a hoax produced by technique to make up for his lack in strength.

What really left Lu Sheng speechless was when he heard someone beside him exclaim, "Yesterday, Grandmaster Li issued a challenge to all pugilists in Mountain-Edge City to duel him on the arena. Even the Second Commander of the Winged Honor Guard was alerted and came to duel with Grandmaster Li. If only you guys had seen it! Within thirty moves, the Second Commander was struck squarely on his chest by the palm, retreated several steps and clasped his hands to admit defeat!"

"Impressive! He truly lives up to his name as a famed expert of the Central Plains! Out of this world!"

"What does that count as? Previously, Grandmaster Li had even continuously defeated the Dojo Masters of Bronze Pillar Dao Court, Mad Lion Dao Court, Misty Cloud Dao Court, Nine Tunes Heaven and Earth Dao Court…" another boasted. "I’ve seen it all myself. Not one among them could last fifty moves with Grandmaster Li!"

Immediately, the crowd burst forth in a series of exclamations.

Lu Sheng could tell that they weren’t being patronizing; they were truly impressed from the heart.

He looked closely again at Li Ran, who was demonstrating his palm technique on the arena. Somebody had taken up his challenge and stepped onto the arena. Perhaps "taking up his challenge" was a stretch--it was more of "giving it a try".

The lad on the arena was fit and muscular, yet remained highly respectful towards Li Ran and only asked that Grandmaster Li would show him a few pointers.

The two of them quickly got into an intense and lively duel.

In just a few glances, Lu Sheng understood why Li Ran was so admired.

‘So it turns out that Li Ran’s strength and speed is already a level to be reckoned with among ordinary men…’ Lu Sheng realized only after seeing the lad’s moves. Previously, having neither a point of reference nor the opportunity to duel with other experts, Lu Sheng actually had no idea what level his own strength had arrived at. All along, he had hidden his strength well and cultivated all by himself; thus, he had only been able to guess at how strong he was.

‘Now it seems… this Li Ran… I can defeat him in three moves,’ Lu Sheng shook his head, turned around and walked out of the throng without watching any further.

‘His Soul-Slaying Palm is only barely more forceful than my Heart-Shattering Palm. Without me activating any inner force, perhaps he can be my match. But once I use inner force…’ Lu Sheng thought about it further. Perhaps "three moves" was overestimating him.

One move. That’s all it would take to finish him off.

When he used his inner force, his might was several times that of when he did not.

‘What I need aren’t such supposed "experts",’ Lu Sheng left the Greenwood Dao Court. He had intended to visit the Bronze Pillar Dao Court; but since it was getting late, he decided to go back to rest first.

The next day, Lu Sheng went to the Bronze Pillar Dao Court as well as a few other Dao Courts.

He watched the hard body skill performance as planned. The legendary Bronze Pillar Skill would train one to bend a spear against one’s throat. It seemed pretty impressive indeed. But Lu Sheng had seen such hard body skills before in the past--they were merely a form of hard inner force. The practice method was very basic--you just needed to endure pain and persist in it.

Furthermore, cultivating the hard body skill, Bronze Pillar Skill, required copious amounts of medicinal herbs to temper one’s body. Otherwise, it would leave many latent aftereffects on the body. These hard body skill Dao Courts were generous with their skill techniques; they released them to the public directly. But not a single word of the recipe for their medicinal solution was revealed.

Lu Sheng did some digging around and learned that only members of the Dao Courts got to enjoy the use of the body-tempering medicinal solutions.

This left him disappointed. Without the recipe, even if he successfully practiced the skill, he would land up with a body full of wounds. Although the Modifier may work differently from usual training, he did not want to waste time experimenting. Just the breakthrough in Black Fury Skill to Level Three alone kept him on his bed for half a year. If it happened again, wouldn’t he be left handicapped for a good few years?

By the time he left the Dao Court, half a day had passed.

Lu Sheng didn’t have much to show for his half a day of labor. Disappointed, he came to the famed Ghost Market at the First Street in Mountain-Edge City.

The Ghost Market in Mountain-Edge City was a place that specialized in dealing in all sorts of burial items, black market items, stolen items and other items of suspicious backgrounds.

Lu Sheng sorted out his entire wealth; he was left with silver notes and golden leaves worth about two thousand taels in total. The stationery store under his name earned him less than a hundred taels each month; that kind of money wasn’t good for anything to him.

‘Let me take a look around and see if I can pick out any gems,’ he had come here because he had heard from Zheng Xiangui that many of the good things that they had auctioned off had been discovered in the Ghost Market.

From then on, he often came to hang around and try his luck in Mountain-Edge City’s Ghost Market.

Not many people frequented the Ghost Market. It comprised of merely over ten stalls cramped into a narrow alley.

Lu Sheng walked along the alley, stooping every now and then to touch something that was on display in the stall.

After shopping for a while, he still found no gains and was about to head back to cultivate inner Qi. Suddenly, a hesitant male voice rang out from the opposite end of the alley.

"You’re… Lu Sheng… Lu Yue Sheng?"

Lu Sheng raised his head and looked. It was a young master with a tall and straight posture, dressed in yellow garment with a piece of yellow jade on his waist. Though Lu Sheng did not know him, he recognized the identity of this person in a single glance.

"You’re… Chen Yunxi’s elder brother? Chen Jiaorong?"

Chen Jiaorong was surprised, then smiled. "Brother Lu’s eyes are sharp indeed."

"It’s nothing to do with my eyes. You and your sister just resemble each other too much…" Lu Sheng shook his head.

Compared with Chen Yunxi, Chen Jiaorong’s facial features were just slightly more masculine. Both of them truly looked as if they were made of the same mold.

"Since I’ve bumped into Brother Lu here, why don't we go get a drink? Zhenguo often mentions you to me," Chen Jiaorong laughed as he suggested.

Lu Sheng agreed with a nod of his head.

The two of them exited the Ghost Market, found a winery nearby and sat down for a few drinks.

The hall was filled with people milling about. The waiters yelled as they served wine and the customers incessantly broke out in laughter. But neither of them were disturbed. They sat in silence for a while.

"I’ve heard from Yunxi that Brother Lu is a man of admirable character. I’ve underestimated Brother Lu previously," Chen Jiaorong broke the silence first. Pausing, he added, "The authorities have stepped in to handle Wang Ziquan’s matter. It wasn’t Brother Zhenguo who filed the case, but rather, his cousin and family members."

Lu Sheng held the wine cup and sipped lightly, allowing the refreshing and piquant wine to flow slowly into his mouth. "Let’s put aside Yunxi’s matter for the time being. What do the yamen authorities say?"

Chen Jiaorong shook his head, "Zhenguo has also asked me to inquire into it. The verdict is that he slipped and fell into the water. That’s also the conclusion of the Senior Constable who’s been investigating the case. Supposedly, someone even saw him fall into Cypress Pine Lake. We have both testimonial and material evidence."

Lu Sheng kept silent. He drank to the bottom of his cup in a tilt of his head. "So that’s it?"

"Yea… what else can we do?" Chen Jiaorong said helplessly. "To be honest, there’s always been many cases of people going missing at Cypress Pine Lake every year. People like Wang Ziquan are many. That’s how the authorities have always been handling such cases. And they don’t even allow us to publicize such incidents, or else we’ll get arrested and thrown into jail."

Now Lu Sheng suddenly realized how Mountain-Edge City earned its reputation of good security.

"My sister says the reason you turned her down was that both of you don’t know each other well enough yet," Chen Jiaorong changed the topic.

"So we’re just leaving it as that for Wang Ziquan’s matter?" Lu Sheng persisted.

"Yes, we’re leaving it as that," Chen Jiaorong replied. "Cypress Pine Lake is huge. Don’t tell me that you expect people to dive in one by one to find a corpse that, in all likelihood, has already been eaten by fish?"

Lu Sheng sighed and straightened his body. He was feeling rather upset. Whether in Nine Links City or Mountain-Edge City, the deliberate callousness and apathy of the authorities left him extremely frustrated.

"Then what’s the use of the authorities?" An exclamation burst out from his lips.

Stunned, Chen Jiaorong subconsciously pressed on the piece of yellow jade on his waist.

"Yea… what on earth is the use of the authorities?"

In that moment, both of their moods turned sour as different things came to each of their minds.

Silence.

Unbeknownst to himself, Lu Sheng’s gaze had fallen on the yellow jade in Chen Jiaorong’s hand. His eyelids twitched.

"Brother Chen, can you let me take a look at that piece of jade?"

Chen Jiaorong nodded and passed the jade over to Lu Sheng. "It’s a gift from one of my closest friends a while back. It’s high quality Nine Plains Jade."

At the moment when the jade fell into Lu Sheng’s hand, he felt a piercing coldness shooting into his body from within the jade.

That coldness was exactly the same one he felt when he absorbed the powder previously.

'What thick Yin Qi!' Lu Sheng’s heart skipped a beat. He had termed such a form of Qi as Yin Qi. Presently, the density of the Yin Qi within this jade was many times that of what he had gotten out of the powder, to the extent that he could absorb much of it just by direct skin contact alone, without shedding a drop of blood.