Way of the Devil Chapter 9
"Next up is an inner force secret manual that we're all familiar with through the legends. Of course, with regards to its authenticity, we remain unsure despite our examination. After all, stuff like inner force takes a long time to practice and evaluate. We can't tell if it's genuine or fake in the short term. But, from our examination of the book's material, we can confirm that the fabric used has exceeded one hundred years in age!"
The host chuckled twice as he saw that he had succeeded in rousing the audience. All lines of sight zoomed in on him.
Then he continued slowly. "This secret manual's name is Black Fury Skill."
Lifting a yellow-bronze plate, the two dwarves slowly sauntered up the stage. On the plate, there was a pitch-black booklet made of silk cloth.
"This Black Fury Skill has thirty-two levels in total. According to the records in it, every rise in level will be accompanied with a tempering of one's body. The manual here contains levels one to five."
"Tsk, turns out it's incomplete," someone among the audience immediately voiced their dissatisfaction.
"Inner Qi is already tough enough to train in to begin with... it's so iffy and nebulous. And now, your secret manual isn't even complete? Who would dare to use it? If somebody had modified any parts of it, to practice it would mean to court death!" Another mocked.
"Well, you don't have to buy it," yet another scorned.
"Everyone, please be silent," the host said with a smile, lowering both his arms. "This Black Fury Skill manual was actually deposited with us for auction by a client. Actually, this client had also verified with us the authenticity of a portion of it. Let's not talk about the rest. At least the first three levels can definitely be practiced."
He thought that those words would certainly impress and rouse the audience. However, nobody changed their attitude.
Lu Sheng shook his head slightly; he understood why this was so. Zheng Xiangui, however, was puzzled.
"Brother Sheng, what happened? There's something wrong with this response, isn't there?"
"Nothing's wrong, this is very normal," Lu Sheng replied flatly. "Inner force manuals take years to practice… It's really too long. Regardless of whether or not there's somebody to demonstrate it, no one dares to put his or her stakes on it."
"Moreover, I've heard Uncle Zhao mention that inner force isn't as powerful as the legends have it. Unless one practices it to the pinnacle level, its force sometimes even loses to that of a strike by an outer force expert at full strength."
"Why's that so?" Zheng Xiangui was even more puzzled now.
"Perhaps Young Master isn't well acquainted with this area," spoke a captain of the guard standing behind them at that moment.
His name was Chen Dewu, one of the Zheng family's guard's two strongest captains. This trip to the Black Meeting was too important, so he was sent here to maintain order.
Like Uncle Zhao, he was also one of the few outer force martial arts masters of the Strength Proficiency level venerated in the city.
Chen Dewu glanced at Lu Sheng, then continued, "Be it inner force or outer force, they're all training in strength. The route of outer force training emphasizes increasing one's physical muscular strength by training with external strikes and forcibly stimulating one's own body. Such a method surely takes its toll on the body, but increases strength very rapidly.
The route of inner force training focuses on cultivating and tempering the internal organs and nourishing Qi and blood. Although this method takes much longer as it raises one's strength at a slower pace, it doesn't damage the body and can increase one's lifespan.
That's the difference between inner and outer force. Actually, pinnacle outer force experts can hold their own against inner force cultivators. The really powerful ones are those who practice both inner force and outer force..."
"I see…" Zheng Xiangui remarked in realization.
Lu Sheng nodded as well. "I've heard Uncle Zhao say the same before as well."
"Then why's everyone still so mad about inner force training? Both are on par in terms of raising one's strength anyway," Zheng Xiangui raised a doubt.
"For longevity, of course… strong as they may be, outer force experts are past their prime the moment they're past thirty. But once you have inner force, you can extend your prime into your fifties or even sixties. The two are entirely incomparable," Chen Dewu replied with longing.
Presently, Lu Sheng's attention was focused on the secret manual on the stage, for which the bidding was about to start.
The host pointed at the black cloth manual in the tray.
"Bidding begins now. The starting price is a hundred talents!"
"A hundred and thirty talents."
"A hundred and fifty!"
"Three hundred thirty talents!"
One by one, the bidders increased the price. Even some of those who'd made sarcastic comments earlier were participating.
That went to show that while everyone had reservations about the manual, they were still rather confident in the Black Meeting's reputation and examination standards.
"Somebody's purposely jacking up the price," Fatso mumbled.
Lu Sheng's narrowed eyes were staring at the stage.
"Five hundred talents!" He raised his arm and shouted.
The entire meeting fell into silence momentarily at the sudden increment of a hundred talents.
In this age, the purchasing power of five hundred talents was equivalent to five hundred thousand Chinese dollars.
All for a manual whose authenticity wasn't proven and might contain mistakes or omissions.
"Five hundred and fifty talents," a voice rang out again.
Lu Sheng looked over. It was a yellow-skinned man with drooping eyes.
His masked face also appeared dry and skinny, as if without much meat or skin. His eyes, however, looked savage. One look revealed that he was no kind-hearted soul.
Lu Sheng had expected such a situation. How could something like an inner force secret manual not be fought over?
Not taking it to heart, he continued raising his arm.
"Six hundred talents."
"Seven hundred talents!"
It was him again. Lu Sheng had only just raised a bid and he immediately followed.
"Eight hundred talents!" Lu Sheng said calmly. His dad Lu Quanan had given him two thousand talents for his monthly allowance. Even if it cost him all of it, he would use them all to win this manual.
Anyway, with the Modifier, all it took was some possibility of being initiated in a martial art for him to find its name on the Modifier and modify it directly to its extreme.
"Nine hundred talents!"
That man's savage eyes glared towards Lu Sheng.
"A thousand talents," Lu Sheng said composedly.
"… One thousand and one hundred talents!" The other party's voice now sounded slightly forced. "Friend, I'm of the Zhang family of the White Jade. Give me some face."
'Zhang family of the White Jade?' Lu Sheng's face twitched.
This Zhang family wasn't from the Nine Links City; rather, it was the top family in the nearby Zi Hua City - the family of the Zi Hua Prefect Zhang Song.
"Oh, the Zhang family of the White Jade. To think that they'd come over to our Nine Links City to hunt for stuff…" Beside him, Zheng Xiangui's voice was overflowing with surprise.
His Zheng family was in charge of the Black Meeting and was concerned only with the auction. They didn't care about where the guests had come from.
"One thousand two hundred talents!"
Lu Sheng raised his arm again.
Anger smoldered in the eyes of the man from Zhang family. In the region near Nine Links and Zi Hua City, he had never encountered anyone who stepped on the Zhang family's face like this thus far.
The Zhang family did not merely possess the Prefect Zhang Song. They were also proud to have within their ranks the number one expert of Zi Hua City - Zhang Songxi.
They had spread their influence in both the government and the underside of the society - that was their greatest assurance when they did as they pleased outside.
"Just ignore him. Items auctioned at a Black Meeting go to the person with the highest bid. Even the Zhang family doesn't dare to break this rule lightly. Or else who would still work with them in their jade business?" Zheng Xiangui gloated in his misfortune.
The man from Zhang family was named Zhang Jundong - a specialist who had come to Nine Links City to gather any and all secret inner force manuals that may appear.
Actually, the Zhang family had eyes on every secret inner force manual on the market and would intercept them before they were retrieved and placed on auction.
Only this one fell through a gap in their net in Nine Links City as it was deposited at a Black Meeting for auction by a client who had arrived abruptly. Since it didn't go through the regular route, it escaped their interception.
"One thousand three hundred talents!" Zhang Jundong gritted his teeth and raised his arm again.
"One thousand four hundred!" Lu Sheng refused to yield in the slightest.
Presently, only the two of them were competing against each other; none of the rest intended to take part in it.
"One thousand five hundred talents!" Zhang Jundong glared at Lu Sheng unflinchingly. "Friend, when you're out on the roads, it's better to have more friends. Let me have this manual today and the Zhang family will remember this favor."
Lu Sheng's face did not change.
"One thousand six hundred talents."
He raised his arm and bid again.
Zhang Jundong was thoroughly incensed. He had come primarily for this Black Fury Skill, expecting to acquire it within an estimate of a thousand talents and pocketing the rest of the fund. Little did he expect that an ill-mannered weirdo would jump out of nowhere and compete with him so stubbornly.
"One thousand, seven hundred and fifty talents!" He rose to his feet without warning, placing all of his money onto his bid at one go.
"One thousand eight hundred!"
Lu Sheng's face was impassive.
Zhang Jundong turned his head and glared at Lu Sheng with murderous intent.
"Well done! Very good," he declined to say a word more and gauged Lu Sheng from top to toe with his eyes instead, as if trying to commit every detail about him to his memory.
With a wave of his arm, Zhang Jundong rose in anger and stormed out.
"Congratulations to this mister," the host smiled from ear to ear. For an inner force manual whose authenticity and accuracy was uncertain to fetch such a high price... he was bound to earn a commission several times higher than usual.
Receiving the secret manual, Lu Sheng handed over the silver notes.
Then, he left on his own after telling Zheng Xiangui that he's going to leave first. He didn't even stay to look at the last item on auction.
He got his goods and was out of money.
Chen Wude followed him all the way out and even brought along two guards, fearing Lu Sheng may suffer a mishap.
Following the route from which he had come, he left the karst cave. Lu Sheng looked at the skies outside; it was already deep into the night.
The Zheng family's horse carriage was already waiting outside.
Chen Wude could not go far and so let a few guards leave with Lu Sheng. He himself returned to stay by Young Master Zheng Xiangui's side.
Bringing three guards along with him, Lu Sheng exited the stone house and was about to board the carriage.
All of a sudden, a gust of wind blew over from the surroundings of the village.
A guard went on the alert and surveyed the surroundings but found nothing wrong.
With the soft sound of friction, a black shadow flew past a guard without warning, penetrating the small circle of guards and rushing straight for Lu Sheng who was right at its center.
The black shadow moved extremely fast. The guards' formation was completely bypassed before they could even react.
"DANG, DANG, DANG!"
Three sharp clangs rang out. A short blade in the black shadow's hand had swiftly left cuts on the arms of the three guards.
The three grunted in pain and quickly retreated, clutching their wrists.
They were merely mercenaries employed by the Zheng family as guards, not die-hard loyalists. Naturally, they weren't going to put their lives on the line for the Zheng family.
Seeing that the black shadow could not be stopped, they might as well focus on their own safety. After all, they already had wounds on their wrists to show for their efforts.
Harboring such thoughts, their formation of three instantly broke apart, completely exposing Lu Sheng within it.
"Die!" A deep, raspy voice came out of the black figure's mouth.
He lifted his short blade and slashed towards Lu Sheng's chest violently.
Despite his speed and strength decreasing considerably after wounding the three men, it was still a piece of cake for him to deal with an ordinary rich young master.
Moreover, even if the other party was a martial arts practitioner, it wouldn't make a difference. Apart from a few in Nine Links City that could be counted on one hand, none of the fighters in this region were his match.
Before striking, Zhang Jundong had carefully observed that the other party was not among their ranks.
While he introduced himself a member of the Zhang family at the auction, he simultaneously harbored another identity.
He was none other but one of the notorious bandit chiefs outside Zi Hua City!
Since he was outbid at the auction and failed to secure the manual, then he might as well take it by force. It wouldn't be his first time doing so after all. And, no one at the Black Meeting would guarantee the safety of its bidders anyway.
After killing the other party and securing the manual, he could even save over a thousand talents out of nothing for his own expenditure. So, why not?