Way of the Devil Chapter 17
Lu Sheng put down his bowl and sunk in thought.
He had a feeling that his old dad Lu Quanan seemed to be worrying about something and so wanted to send him somewhere distant where he would be safe.
But it was also true that if Duanmu Wan wouldn't appear again, then he had really exhausted Nine Links City's potential for his growth. Travelling to Mountain Edge City, which was far more prosperous than Nine Links City, wasn't such a bad idea for him either.
"Might as well. I'll go and come back quickly. If I really can learn something from those famed experts, I'll send someone back with a letter instead," Lu Sheng thought for a moment and agreed.
Mountain Edge City was a great distance away from Nine Links City; it was twice as far as Zi Hua City.
Even with horses running at full pelt, it would still take two days and one night to reach it, not to mention travelling on a carriage.
After Lu Sheng gave his assent, he spent several days hiding at home to practice martial arts and build up his energy reserves.
Meanwhile, Lu Qingqing continued to venture out every day as per usual. News of her capturing so-and-so would spread every now and then.
Lu Sheng couldn't keep a leash on her. Neither could anyone else in the Manor. Second Mother, too, could not help but give up after her words fell on deaf ears.
After resting for several days, Lu Sheng prepared to upgrade the few martial arts he had acquired lately.
Given his strong foundations in Black Tiger Saber Technique and Jade Crane Skill, he quickly used the Modifier to master Heart-Shattering Palm, modifying it to Level 3 and achieving full mastery of it.
He left the rest of the skills untouched, intending to modify them after he thoroughly recovered from his loss of blood and Qi.
As for Eighty-Four Swallows Pursuing the Wind Blade, he intended to practice it slowly on his own as a point of comparison with the other skills.
This cycle repeated itself almost till the date of his setting off when another strange event occurred in the city.
A few hunters who lived in the vicinity of the city had mysteriously vanished on Wan Qing Festival.
Just a few days ago, some people had seen them bring fox fur and other wildlife products into the city to peddle. Then, all traces of them were wiped off the surface of the earth.
They had vanished within Nine Links City, but the incident was noticed only after their families reported them missing to the authorities.
What was crucial, one of the hunters was the cousin of a senior constable in the yamen. That's what prevented the case from being handled like other similar cases.
It seemed like a simple case on the surface, but the moment investigation began, something fishy cropped up.
Those hunters had taken only one route from beginning to end, disappearing on the street near the Goldfish Restaurant.
Not a single soul had seen them along the way.
So, the constables hurried to investigate along the street near the Goldfish Restaurant.
But that place had just been on fire and was now empty. Why would these hunters who came peddling head in that direction?
As Lu Sheng puzzled over this, Little Qiao ran over in panic and told him that Lu Qingqing had headed towards the street near Goldfish Restaurant all by herself at midnight.
It was now bright as day but she was still nowhere to be seen!
Lu Sheng's heart skipped a beat. He knew that something had happened to her.
"When exactly did Qingqing head there?" He quickly asked.
"Not sure, but it should be during the Chou hour  after midnight. Usually Second Young Miss would return before dawn. But this time, she did not, and her servant Little Red told me that Young Miss had instructed her to prepare hot water in her room for her to bathe in.
In the end, she waited for a long time but there was no sight of Young Miss, so she panicked!" Little Qiao swiftly replied.
Lu Sheng was just taking a stroll and resting in the garden. It was his method of relaxation before practicing saberplay.
Who would have expected such a thing to happen at this time?
"Go at once to inform Uncle Zhao and the family head, I'll head over there first to take a look!"
"Little Eight had already led some men there to check out the situation. He was the one who sent news of Young Miss' disappearance!" Little Qiao hurriedly added.
"Little Eight…" Lu Sheng's eyes narrowed. He remembered he was the manor guard. "Got it."
Swiftly, he put on an outer coat, equipped himself with the standard-issue long saber from the house, led a horse out from the stable and then rushed towards Goldfish Restaurant without further ado.
The entire Lu Manor, from top to bottom, was alarmed. Lu Quanan immediately gave the order for Uncle Zhao to lead his men towards the Goldfish Restaurant. Simultaneously, he sent men to report the case to the authorities at the prefectural yamen.
A massive network of manpower and connections rapidly extended itself.
The first task on hand was to determine if Lu Qingqing had really gone missing instead of merely falling out of the radar for a short time.
Lu Sheng rode the horse hard, flying along the cold morning streets that were relatively empty at this hour of the day, allowing him to rush forward at great speed.
If this was at any other time, even he could not avoid blame for riding so furiously on the busy streets.
But this was no ordinary situation.
Little Eight's message that Lu Qingqing had gone missing was but a fuse that ignited Lu Sheng's nervousness. What really caused his grave concern were the strange happenings that he had run into along the street near the Goldfish Restaurant previously.
The Yellow Speckled Horse soon arrived at the entrance to the Goldfish Restaurant. 
The restaurant's doors were locked tight. The sky had just barely lit up and it was not yet daylight-bright.
The street on the side of the restaurant was a patch of soot and mess.
The few wooden houses which were being demolished were torn down only halfway due to the fire. The remaining half now mixed with the collapsed rubble, appearing more desolate than usual.
Lu Sheng jumped down from the horse and walked onto the charred street.
A crisp sound came from something which he stepped on with his leather shoes.
Lu Sheng reached out to grab onto his saber hilt. Thanks to the two real-life combat situations he experienced, he was now much more composed than before.
Light scintillated in his eyes as he surveyed the surroundings. Before long, he noticed something out of sorts.
A deep sword mark was carved into a wooden beam in front of the wooden houses in the middle section of the charred street.
Messy footprints were on the ground, and fresh black soil could even be seen in them.
Lu Sheng reached out to touch the sword marks on the wooden beam. The wooden beam, charred and black on the outside, was pale-yellow on the inside - it was not thoroughly burnt.
The sword mark had just hacked open the charred surface, revealing the pale wood texture within.
"Should be nearby."
He slowly unsheathed his saber and carried it into the house, blade pointing downwards.
The ceiling of the wooden house had been thoroughly consumed by the fire. As Lu Sheng walked through the door, he was greeted with a mess of charred furniture, bundles of burnt cloth and some melted god-knows-what.
Barely a few steps into the house, Lu Sheng discovered another sword mark.
A charred wooden table was collapsed on its side. Two deep sword marks were carved into its edge and even some steel shards were left on it.
"What great strength."
Lu Sheng pinched one of the shards between his fingers, surmising it to have come from the steel longsword carried by his second sister Lu Qingqing.
He bowed his head to look at the footprints, then hastened towards the backyard of the house.
Stepping through the house, he entered the backyard.
In a gap in the backyard wall, a one-eyed muscular man with messy hair wearing a brown leather armor and carrying a thick-backed broad saber was presently cursing and mumbling to himself as he went on sticking something to the wall.
He immediately sensed Lu Sheng as he entered the backyard and stared at him ferociously.
"Who's there? I want to ask you, who the hell are you?"
Lu Sheng sized him up in an instant.
The man was almost 1.9 meters tall, and muscles bulged like rats all over his body. Coupled with the silver thick-backed broad saber, still stained with traces of blood, a savage and beastly aura emanated off him.
"Me?" The man chuckled and tossed away the paper in his hand.
"Looks like you're that brat girl's family? That brat actually dared to kill two of my disciples. So, big bro and I captured her. Too bad you're too late. That brat girl has been sent back to the stronghold by my big bro for his enjoyment."
"Brat girl?" Lu Sheng's eyes grew dark. "Seeing your mannerism, I'm sure you're not just a nobody. I bet you've heard of my Lu family's name in Nine Links City too. Why don't you name a price? Let's talk it out!"
"Talk your ass! Are you the only one here, brat from the Lu family?" The man laughed coldly as he stared at Lu Sheng.
"My men are behind," Lu Sheng didn't bother to hide that fact. He was facing a seasoned opponent and lying to him was probably futile. So, he might as well speak the truth.
"You're all alone and yet dared to come all the way here... you've got guts!" The man chuckled.
"Number Two, Number Three, take him down. Let the Lu family pay a ransom for his life!"
Right after his voice fell, two men jumped inside through another gap in the wall, both in brown leather armor. One of them carried a long-hilted axe while the other a Qi Mei Staff. 
"Just one little brat, I can handle him alone. Godpa, why did you call both of us out?" One of them complained. 
"Whoever arrests him first will get the credit!" The man laughed aloud.
Hearing that, both of them smiled and stared at Lu Sheng as if he were their prey.
"Heheheh, what a handsome little boy. He'll make a nice pair together with that brat girl. It's not a bad idea to take turns playing with both of them," Number Two stared lustfully at Lu Sheng's lower body.
"Play my ass! If anybody's gonna play with him, it's godpa first!" Number Three spat into his palms.
"Break both his legs, but don't draw too much blood. Otherwise it looks ugly and spoils the mood. That previous one… you hacked off his right arm with your axe and blood splurted everywhere… his body came apart when we did him!"
"That's none of my business! Didn't you whack that guy on his back with your staff? When it was our turn, he was almost dead!" Number Two argued in defense.
These two were twin brothers who were blessed with muscular constitution. Once, by chance, they fell under the tutelage of Lin brothers—Phantom Head Blade and Severed Head Blade of Nine Links City and Black Winds Ridge.
Severed Head Blade Lin Hongshui happened to be none other than the man carrying the thick-backed broad saber.
Phantom Head Blade—Lin Shuanghuo—and Severed Head Blade—Lin Hongshui—were fugitives who had committed murder in Nine Links City over a decade ago. At that time, both of them had slaughtered two merchant troupes in one night and fled with copious amounts of silver and jewelry.
The secret arts that both of them possessed were two sets of Wind-Rippling Saber Techniques, savage in might. Both wielded astonishingly heavy broad sabers.
The older among them, Phantom Head Blade Lin Shuanghuo, had set the record of cleaving a live person into two clean halves with one saber stroke during pursuit by constables.
This was the first time Lu Sheng faced off squarely with others. Three others at the same time, in fact.
He lifted his long saber and looked towards the approaching Number Two and Number Three.
'Let me test the waters first with a stroke. I'm outnumbered… if it doesn't work, I'll retreat first.'
He was a little worried. After all, he had no clear idea of how strong he was right now since he lacked any basis for comparison.
Hence, he was rather careful.
Lu Sheng used neither Black Tiger Saber Technique nor Heart-Shattering Palm.
Rather, he used Eighty-Four Swallows Pursuing the Wind Blade, which he had been routinely practicing by himself. He certainly couldn't reveal all his cards right from the start.
Grasping the saber hilt a trifle loosely, he gazed towards Number Two.
"Come!" Number Two's mouth formed a grin as he waved his axe and pointed at his own head.
"Little brat's even got the looks of an expert. Hack here! Here! Your grandpa here will stay still and let you…"
A silver light flashed across in that moment.
The long saber in Lu Sheng's hands had turned into an agile swallow, leaping across the distance of several meters in a second and slashing horizontally above Number Two's body in one stroke.
A human head instantly flew up in the air.
Blood splattered all over.
And, the entire yard fell into a deathly silence.
 TL/N: The Chou hour (丑时) refers to the time between 1 and 3am.
 TL/N: A cry for the horse to pick up speed. ED/N: As in, the rider shouts that. Like 'gee up' in English, but sometimes repeated twice.
 TL/N: 黄骠马, Yellow Speckled Horse was a famous horse breed in China, considered to be one of the finest breeds of horses. It was distinguished by its yellow fur and white spots.
 TL/N: 齐眉棍, Qi Mei Staff (literally: Eyebrow-Equal Staff) was a famed cudgel used in Shaolin martial arts. When held upright, its height was supposed to reach the height of one's eyebrows.
 ED/N: Nope, not a deity; just a diminutive form of godfather.