Way of the Devil Chapter 5
"Practising martial arts?" Lu Quanan furrowed his brows.
"Why are you starting to practice martial arts again?" He was about to chide him further, but he promptly thought of other young masters who chased pleasures and indulged in them. In comparison, this child Lu Sheng's actions indeed showed much more ambition than the others' actions. As the chiding words appeared at the tip of his tongue, they turned into a sigh instead.
"If you want to practice martial arts, then you'd better find your Uncle Zhao and learn from him rather than practice blindly by yourself; it can easily lead to mishaps," he shook his head and turned to walk out of the door. Halfway there, he paused and added,
"If you need any medicine from the pharmacy, just go ahead. I'll give you two thousand talents each month for your monthly allowance…" He left in big strides after he had finished speaking.
Second mother Liu Cuiyu reached out and lightly wiped Lu Sheng's perspiration off with a towel.
"Your father's quite soft-hearted," she gave a long sigh.
"The Xu family's Old Master and he were sworn brothers… Now that this has happened, he's feeling very miserable. It's good for you to practice martial arts. It's just that, most who do so begin from a young age to establish a solid foundation. At this age now, it is rather late…"
She prattled on and on about other things, but Lu Sheng was entirely unable to hear what she said.
His attention was wholly focused on the Black Tiger Saber Technique that he had newly acquired.
'It's really incredible…'
Lu Sheng narrowed his eyes a little. On the surface, it seemed like he was listening to his second mother, but in reality he was assessing the state of his body.
He flexed his biceps.
'The muscles on my arms are the same as they were. Yet, there's this feeling of familiarity, a strong sense of muscle memory as if I've undergone many years' practice. It's simply…'
He again tried to flex his muscles, this time on his legs.
Clearly, the muscles on his legs could exert strength much more easily than previously.
He could distinctly feel his strength from both his legs quickly coursing upwards, all the way to his waist and then to both his arms.
This fluidity in the flow of strength was described in great detail in the Black Tiger saber Technique.
This was called Strength Proficiency.
'If it is as the saber Technique says, most people who practice martial arts would have a method to circulate a huge amount of the body's strength. One is already considered an expert if he is able to mobilize 50% of his total physical strength. To be able to mobilize 80% of one's strength means to enter the so-called Strength Proficiency realm.'
Lu Sheng considered those things in his mind while taking into account the memories originally present in his current body as well as what he had once heard from Uncle Zhao and in conversations with other martial experts regarding the matter.
The Strength Proficiency realm was reckoned to be more or less one of the very highest levels achieved by those within Nine Links City.
Even for a normal person, to be able to consolidate their strength and focus it into one strike would result in a terrifying speed and strength far surpassing the limits of an ordinary person.
'Uncle Zhao is exactly in that Strength Proficiency realm…' Lu Sheng sighed inwardly. The effects of the Modifier were not compromised in the slightest. This thoroughly removed the worry weighing down on his heart.
"It's a pity that the Modifier seems to expend a combination of one's mental energy, Qi and the sort. Just modifying an ordinary saber technique once has actually almost caused me to lose both qi and blood to the point of being bedridden… and it's not even one of those legendary inner force or Qi skills."
Lu Sheng was gradually coming to understand the essential nature of the Modifier.
It was basically just like an adjustment device that was able to imprint one's body with experience, memories, instincts and martial arts.
However, this sort of adjustment required energy consumption, which apparently occurred at the expense of his mental energy and Qi.
Moreover, there was no guarantee of instant success when adjusting one's body and mind.
'The body is like a pile of materials. The Modifier seems to make use of these materials, and establishes a new foundation upon the original base. But it cannot just increase the muscle strength or bone strength from nothing.' Lu Sheng obtained hypothesized.
In the following few days, the changes to his body also confirmed his hypothesis.
It began to slowly recover since Day One. At the same time, sturdy muscles gradually formed on his arms, legs, chest and back.
Moreover, Lu Sheng felt an obvious change as the pain in his body turned to numbness. On his palms, a thick horny layer steadily appeared. 
His appetite also grew larger and larger.
In order to hide these sudden changes, he would sneak out by himself each day to have extra meals outside.
Four meals within the house: three basic meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) plus a midnight snack.
Outside, he would still eat the same portions as he did at home.
This carried on for seven days. After that, Lu Sheng's whole body became slightly sturdier, and his stature was no longer as thin and weak as it used to be in the past.
As for the saber technique manual, he had long since returned it intact to Uncle Zhao.
Having heard how he was ill and bedridden, Uncle Zhao didn't say anything much. When he received the manual, he merely shook his head and sighed without raising the matter of the saber practice.
Lu Sheng guessed that Uncle Zhao probably thought that he had recklessly tried to practice and hurt himself as a result.
Indeed, Uncle Zhao's thoughts were just like that.
Initially, he had wanted to wait till Lu Sheng faced difficulties in saber practice before helping him clarify his doubts and clear up any confusion. Who knew that, in the blink of an eye, he would hear that Young Master Lu Sheng would be bedridden from injuries. And then, he had even come to return the secret manual, without mentioning the matter of the Black Tiger Saber Technique again.
Thus, he concluded that Lu Sheng was no longer interested and had given up.
Regarding this, Uncle Zhao could only sigh and say nothing.
Everything returned to as it had been in the past days.
The Xu family's demise seemingly did not have a big influence on life in the Lu Manor.
The younger generation continued with their hikes, drank their flower wine, listened to tunes, went horse riding, attended poetry shows and flower exhibitions. Although Nine Links City was not huge, it was not small either; there were plenty of these entertainment establishments.
As for the older generation, they occasionally attended this and that gathering and went to the city to participate in yamen's meetings.
Lu Quanan also buried his head in devoting all of his energy to business dealings.
It seemed that everyone had already forgotten about the Xu Family's tragedy. They once again lived the same lives as before.
That is, with the exception of two people.
One of them was Lu Yiyi. Having lost her fiancé, her sweetheart, her face was continually bathed in tears. She looked more and more haggard.
The other was Lu Sheng. He now liked to venture out a lot more.
He didn't go to enjoy himself by listening to music and dancing, but rather went outside the city to find a clear patch in the small forest nearby.
There, he minded his own business and started to attempt practicing the Black Tiger Saber Technique.
Black winds blew among the mountain ridges located along the southwest region of Nine Links City.
The sound of wind whistled in the dark night.
Lu Sheng was hurrying in their direction, carrying a long-hilted saber he had bought at a blacksmith's shop.
He did not intend to reach Black Winds Ridge; he merely wanted to find an opportunity to test his saber skills.
He had obtained the Black Tiger Saber Technique through the Modifier, which he did not intend to divulge. This would be his ultimate trump card.
To outsiders, everyone believed him to be an ordinary young master of a wealthy family, too weak to even truss a chicken.
Using their prejudice, he could rely on this skill of his to turn the tables on his opponent should he find himself in a dangerous situation.
Of course, all this was dependent on the actual usefulness of the Black Tiger Saber Technique in combat.
Lu Sheng wasn't sure where Black Winds Ridge exactly was, or how far it was from Nine Links City.
There was no night curfew in Nine Links City; its city gates were open even at night. He changed into a simple and plain clothing and then used ladies' cosmetic powder to slightly alter his appearance. Alone, he dressed in thick clothes and lowered his head to cover his face.
And so, he became just a random tourist whom nobody knew.
Borrowing the dark of the night, Lu Sheng left the city, his eyes gazing into the distance.
The pitch-black wilderness of the mountains seemed like a huge, hibernating beast, concealed in the silence under the moon.
His heart was beating quickly.
However, he had to hide himself if he wanted to test out the true power of the Black Tiger Saber Technique.
Standing in front of the city gate, he plucked up his courage and walked in the direction of Black Winds Ridge.
"Ding, Ding, Ding…"
A caravan returning in the night was just entering the city from the main road.
The wind chimes that hung on the carriages rang out as they swung about in the wind, their sound carrying far into the distance of the night.
Lu Sheng exited the city from the side doors.
The city gates of Nine Links City were very strange. Not only were they kept open through the night, there was quite a number of them as well. The walls seemed tall and sturdy, but the truth was that there were many cracks in the walls, air seeping through them. It was hardly useful for defense at all.
"Returning late at night again today?"
"Precisely… it's pitch-dark at night, and the carriage wheels were twisted while rushing back. What bad luck!"
The leader of the caravan and the city guards talked on the main road at the central city gates; the sound of their conversation floated over.
Lu Sheng stood on a small road facing southwest. In comparison to the main road, this one was a lot narrower.
Only two torches on the city walls lit the black side doors. Dim light emanated from them, lighting up a mere half a meter or so of the way ahead.
"This is indeed the ancient times…" Lu Sheng heaved a sigh in his heart.
Looking out, it was pitch-black in all of the three directions ahead. Only Nine Links City at the back offered some light.
"No flashlights or street lights. The wilderness of the ancient times is simply a paradise for the wild predators."
He hesitated for a slight moment, but experience from the Black Tiger Saber Technique that surged through his body caused his fear to diminish.
This was because the Black Tiger Saber Mantra provided a method to deal with such a pitch-black environment.
Or rather, the Black Tiger itself was an excellent hunter that could see well in pitch-darkness. The Black Tiger Saber Technique demanded one to be sensitive to the sounds of the wind to determine one's surroundings, and thus its users did not fear such an environment.
Tightening his belt, Lu Sheng grasped the long-hilted saber tightly, walking onto the narrow road towards Black Winds Ridges with haste.
About a hundred meters along the narrow road, he withdrew two flints from his waist pouch, and lowered a small torch from his back that he had prepared earlier.
With a flint at the head of the torch, he exerted all his might to rub another against it.
Sparks sputtered out from the head of the torch.
The red sparks appeared in a small number, but then spread to the whole head of the torch.
There was finally some light in the pitch-darkness.
Lu Sheng turned and gazed backwards. The lights from Nine Links City were already very faint.
He lifted the torch and proceeded forward slowly.
'According to what the hunter said, a wild wolf often roams this stretch of road at night. Well, we'll see how good my luck is.'
He did not dare to really go to Black Winds Ridge. Having learnt that there was a high likelihood that things like ghosts and monsters existed in this world, he naturally did not dare to venture too far away from the city.
If it weren't for the fact that he was still unable to test out the true ability of his skills even after devising various methods while inside the city, he would not have come out here alone to try his luck.
After continuing onwards for another stretch of distance, he soon noticed tracks on the ground.
Just as the old hunter had said, these were the tracks of a wild wolf.
There were also a few pieces of white, clayish egg-shaped feces.
Lu Sheng picked up a stone to poke the feces. It was already dried and hardened by the wind. As it broke apart from the poking, something like fingernail parts was revealed from the inside.
'It should be this place… This lump of feces should be from a few days ago. According to the words of the old hunter, he just saw that old wolf here yesterday. It should be somewhere around here.'
Lu Sheng held the torch in one hand, while the other unhurriedly drew the long-hilted saber from behind his waist.
The long-hilted saber was a type of a saber derived from a combination of a weapon and a farming tool. It had a very long hilt.
The hilt and the blade of Lu Sheng's saber were roughly of the same length. When the blade was removed, it could be used as a pole for farming. It was somewhat similar to a small glaive.
It took him quite some strength to wield it with one hand. He might as well stick the torch into the crack of a stone that lay at the side.
He was surrounded by messy heaps of stones in weird shapes and sizes. There weren't any trees around, and thus there was no fear of anything catching fire.
Lu Sheng stuck the torch in between the rocks and carefully retrieved a paper bag from his waist pouch. Inside it, there was a slab of fresh pork he had carved out earlier this afternoon.
He slowly unfolded the grease paper and lay it onto the ground.
There were still traces of blood on the surface of the meat slab. A raw smell of blood soon wafted in the wind, spreading around the area.
Lu Sheng lifted his saber and hid himself a short distance away, hunched behind a big rock, waiting.
The wind was rather cold.
Lu Sheng tilted his body, sticking to the white rock that was slightly taller than a person, and gazed in the direction of the meat slab.
Time passed by slowly.
Soon, the wind brought with it a faint sound, similar to the wind yet reminiscent of the whimpering of some animal.
Suddenly, a black shadow flashed from the side. The light from the torch reflected in and revealed a pair of lush green eyes.
The black shadow moved with extreme speed. In a moment, it pounced on the meat slab, held the meat in its mouth, and sped away.
Lu Sheng rejoiced, and was about to move.
Suddenly, his back tightened as a gust of cold wind blew against it.
Lu Sheng's eyes went wide. Lifting the long-hilted saber, he turned around and swung it, delivering a horizontal slash.
 ED/N: "Horny" as in hard and rough. What did you expect? :3 TL/N: Or rather, "stratum corneum", the scientific term for the outermost layer of the epidermis. "Horny layer" is the established layman's term for it.