"Take me where these strange incidents occurred so that I can have a look," Lu Sheng cut to the chase. These supernatural beings were continuing to wreak havoc despite how tumultuous the situation already was.
If the Scarlet District had been behind it, there was no way itd be something limited to such a small-scale incident, involving the disappearances of merely a few mortal men. That was utterly insignificant to the Zhen Family, and could even incur the royal familys displeasurethe losses would be disproportionately greater than any potential gain.
"Its just by the harbor outside the city," Ning San complied.
The two of them mounted horses and sped off. Xu Chui, upon hearing the news, also followed swiftly with some other men.
Travelling at full speed, they made their way around Mountain-Edge City for about an hour. Only then did Ning San stop by a small harbor by a patch of wilderness and flipped himself off his horse.
Following suit, Lu Sheng alighted as well. His gaze swept around his surroundings.
The surface of the lake was still, with some faint white ripples floating along its surface in the distance. The sun shone brightly, its rays reflecting off the surface of the crystal clear water from time to time.
A few long fishing boats floated leisurely along the surface of the lake as some of the fishermen aboard threw out their nets and angled for a catch.
It was presently noontime and the air was slightly warm. Some coolies were working in the harbor, moving their goods with their sleeves rolled all the way up. A few merchant groups waited by the side as they watched the goods being constantly transported onto ships.
"Where did the incidents occur?" Lu Sheng asked in a frown. A scene like this just didn't seem like a place those cases would have occurred at.
"Its just to the right of this harbor. There have been frequent sightings of someone lifting a sedan chair and crossing over the bridge without making a single sound," Ning San replied.
The two of them headed to the right side of the shore as they talked.
Lu Sheng couldn't detect a single trace of Yin Qi all along the way. Without a single clue to go on, there was no way for him to identify the problem.
"Well wait here tonight. I want to see for myself just whats up with this sedan chair," his eyes narrowed as he spoke.
Even in a period of intense fighting between Scarlet District and Zhen Family, there was still someone bold enough to meddle with a powerhouse like Crimson Whale Sect in Mountain-Edge City. Regardless of who it was, it was an unequivocal provocation against Zhen Family and Crimson Whale Sect.
Lu Sheng said no more as he looked towards the bustling scene in the harbor. He stood by the shore, silent.
Since he didn't move, Ning San didn't dare move an inch either. Very soon, Xu Chui and the over ten men whom he brought along arrived. Under Lu Shengs instruction, they surveyed the terrain around the harbor and met the yamen constable Zheng Xinzhong, who was still keeping watch over the area.
Lu Sheng found somewhere to rest in the nearby fishing village. On the way, he also met with that Constable Zheng from the yamen.
"Jade Lotus?" Constable Zheng stood before Lu Sheng respectfully. Upon hearing the question, he looked somewhat puzzled.
"A couple of days ago, he did venture out with our yamens Constable Wang to investigate into this midnight ghost-sedan case. He probably hasn't returned since," he replied promptly.
Because there were no quick means to contact those who had ventured out, it wasn't a big deal for the people here to fall off the grid for three to five days at a time.
"So from the time theyve left to now, has that sedan reappeared?" Lu Sheng continued to ask.
"It was here again last night" Constable Zheng replied with a bitter smile.
"So it was useless?"
"No, at least it feels much shorter in duration now," Constable Zheng replied hurriedly.
"Much shorter in duration now" Lu Sheng remained in thought as he dismissed the constable. He summoned a subordinate to fetch some writing materials and personally penned down a letter. After sealing it with wax, he instructed someone to send it to the sect master at the Crimson Whale.
He wanted to enquire if the Zhen Family had given any sort of response regarding this particular case. Granted, there wasn't any conflict in the past. Now that there was a conflict with Scarlet District, logically speaking, there was no way the Zhen Family would tolerate such unbridled strife in a place as important as this, next to the city.
Then, he went with Ning San into the nearby village and found a place to lay their heads after some light tipping. Lu Sheng only left behind the two of themNing San and Xu Chuiwhile the rest of them returned.
The three of them waited by the lake all the way till nighttime, but no sedan appeared in sight. Instead, they saw Jade Lotus returning by the lake, fatigued.
Lu Sheng led the others to stand guard at the shore. From there, they could see Jade Lotus scanning his surroundings in the dark, as if he was looking for something.
"Come, lets go take a look," taking the lead, he went forward.
Xu Chui and Ning San glanced at each other before hurrying to follow.
Only when the three of them approached closer did they notice that Jade Lotus looked exhausted and downcast.
"External Head Lu!? Why have you come?" Jade Lotus also noticed the approaching Lu Sheng and the other two.
"How was it? Is the matter settled?" Lu Sheng asked as he neared.
"Its a real headache. Constable Wang and I have been separated from each other, and I havent been able to find him. External Head, the situation seems rather suspicious lately," Jade Lotus replied somberly.
"Situation is suspicious?" Lu Sheng was startled, "How so?"
"Ill be frank," Jade Lotus replied softly. "When Constable Wang and I caught up with them, we saw that there was someone else even quicker than us who had given chase earlier."
"Someone else? Did you manage to get a good look at them?" Lu Shengs brows knotted together. The average people would have cowered in fear and avoided a situation such as this at all costs. Yet, someone had taken the initiative to go off in pursuit, and was even swifter than Jade Lotus, whose martial arts skill was pretty decent. This was rather curious.
"Thats not all. Recently, theres been less strange occurrences in Mountain-Edge City. Because of the recent series of events, its been the norm for supernatural cases to surface every now and then, especially in such a massive city and its surrounding land area, which have such a large population.
Yet now, this is the first incident to surface in almost half a month. Moreover, your subordinate suspects that after today, that ghost sedan would most certainly not surface again," Jade Lotus said lowly.
"Oh? Why do you say that?" Lu Sheng responded with a question.
"Although your subordinate wasn't able to catch up to them, halfway through the journey, I heard some miserable shrieks sounding out from before me, as if an exchange of blows took place. Yet when I approached, there wasn't the slightest trace left behind," Jade Lotus answered solemnly. "Therefore, it is highly likely that there was someone who had arrived before us and settled the matter."
Lu Sheng didn't say anything for a while.
Indeed, this was out of the ordinary. He had rushed over earnestly, hoping to solve a few cases for the sect to earn some contribution points. Little did he expect that the situation would take such a turn.
"Why didn't you tell me earlier when this thing happened?"
"Your subordinate saw that all was smooth-sailing, and thus didn't inform External Head," Jade Lotus smiled bitterly.
"Lets go, well talk again when we get back," Lu Sheng looked around at the surroundings. Cold wind blew in from the lake, making the whole area very humid and chilly. It wasn't the best place to talk.
The bunch of them left the shore of the lake and rode back through the night towards the Golden Jade Greenhouse.
It was a gloomy night. Along the journey, Lu Sheng felt an increasing sense of being suppressed, akin to ominous black clouds bearing the weight of a heavy downpour.
He had no idea where the problem lay. However, there was bound to be a problem for him to feel this way.
"External Head the way ahead is too dark, why don't we head back tomorrow? Shall we rest for the night in the fishing village?" Jade Lotus was a bit puzzled.
Riding atop their horses, the four of them traveled along the main path. Only the faint rays of the moon provided some light, which was hardly enough for them to see clearly. The horses would veer off the track carelessly from time to time, which forced the men to direct them back. It was very tedious.
"I naturally have my reasons," Lu Sheng replied in a low voice. He couldn't say that he felt something was off, could he? "Right, other than us, have any strange incidences happened to the other sects lately?"
Jade Lotus was in fact rather in the know about this.
"No strange incidences, though the She Lin Society declared their closure. Its been underway for a while now.
Also, the upper echelons of Transformation Clan have gone off to tour the Central Plains together. Other than these, nothing significant has happened."
"Is that so" Lu Sheng didn't know how to make sense of his premonition. He had never felt this way before in the past. Still, it was better for him to pay heed to this apprehension rather than to ignore it and pay the price later.
After riding for a while, Lu Sheng suddenly called his horse to a stop. He stared ahead.
In the distance, flames rose up and licked at the night sky. It seemed to be by the foot of the Eastern Mountain, in a patch of forest beyond the city.
"That place has caught fire. Do you know where that is?" Lu Sheng asked.
Unexpectedly, there was no response from behind him. Turning around, he saw an ashen-faced Jade Lotus, who seemed dazed by the fire.
"There theres nothing other than Wanqing Tower, headquarters of Transformation Clan, in that direction! That fire its not a disaster its Wanqing Towers beacon fire requesting for help!" A slight tremor could be detected in his voice.
"A signal asking for help? Is the situation very serious? And whats it got to do with us Crimson Whale Sect?" Lu Sheng didn't really get why Jade Lotus was so frightened. Ordinarily, he was a rather calm person; he wasnt one to be spooked by something that occurred in another Sect.
Yet, given his present expression, there was bound to be a deeper reason.
Indeed, all color drained from Jade Lotus face as his eyes locked onto the raging flames. He said slowly,
"External Head, the beacon fire will be lit only when Transformation Clan is facing a disaster so great that it threatens to exterminate them. The last time it was lit was during the great war of the sects, when the Transformation Clan headquarters was nearly annihilated. They lit it only to summon all its branches for reinforcement."
"That has nothing to do with us as well, right?" Ning San, similarly, couldn't understand why Jade Lotus was frightened to such an extent.
"No thats not true" Jade Lotus clenched his teeth. "Actually" he went to Lu Shengs side and lightly whispered one sentence into his ear.
"The Chief of Transformation Clan... is none other than the old Sect Masters eldest sonHong Xingrong. The entire Transformation Clan is actually one of old Sect Masters strongest hidden forces.
Transformation Clan IS the Crimson Whale Sect."
With that, Lu Sheng understood the situation crystal clear. He had always found it odd that he had never encountered any of senior apprentice brothers sons. Little did he expect that this secret was hidden so well.
Transformation Clan was being exterminated wouldn't that imply that senior brothers eldest son Hong Xingrong
His face turned severe as he instantly understood the gravity of the situation.
"Lets go! To the Headquarters!"
The few of them picked up speed and rode at full pelt towards the Crimson Whale.
Enduring the humps and bumps, they rode through the night without stopping. Finally, they arrived at the Crimson Whale after an arduous journey just as dawn was breaking.
The entire Crimson Whale was brilliantly lit and formed a picture of busyness. Innumerable carts and carriages came in and out of it.
Buckets of water were poured into the tanks on the carts and swiftly pulled towards the direction of Transformation Clan. Thankfully, it wasnt far from the Crimson Whale and hence the carts would soon reach it.
Lu Sheng striking appearance had long since been etched in the disciples memories. As soon as he led the men to dismount, someone immediately came forward in greeting and fetched their horses.
"Wheres the Sect Master?" His voice was urgent.
"External Head, hes resting in the garden," came the respectful reply from those who welcomed them.
Without further ado, Lu Sheng brought Jade Lotus along while the others waited somewhere else, and strode hastily straight in the direction of the little garden.
His face was grim. The guard who had initially intended to stop him and inform him that the Sect Master was resting didn't even dare to approach him.
Lu Sheng was the third-in-command in the Sect, with terrifyingly powerful abilities and a ferocious temper to match it. He had previously dared to beat the Deputy Sect Masters daughter to death in front of everyone, which had caused his fearsome reputation to spread far and wide.
Pushing open the metal gate that led to the little garden hurriedly, Lu Sheng immediately laid his eyes on Hong Mingzi, who was standing beneath some yellow lanterns.
Presently, the Sect Master of Crimson Whale Sect, and also the Chief of the Crimson Sun Sect, turned around and stared at him with a pair of dazed eyes. He seemed to have aged a great deal.
The first words out of his mouth drained all color from Lu Shengs face.
"Junior Apprentice Brother, Zhen Family has fled"