One might call him the Number One Expert of the Mortal World, but with Shangyang Jiuli stationed here and the unknown depths of the two smiling tigers before him, he would be a complete fool to think of himself as the Number One Expert of all the Northern Lands.
"Lets talk somewhere else," Xiao Hongye suggested.
The three of them quickly changed to another room. Nobody mentioned the matter of Ling Fengs death anymore. Once the three of them left the room, the corpse crumbled into a heap of black ashes in the blink of an eye.
Ling Feng was at least at Double-Vein Level. When Lu Sheng struck at him, he felt an extremely slippery scale-like layer against his palm. Then, he channeled Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill directly into Ling Fengs body and activated both the Tremor effect and Blood Web to pin him down on the spot.
In other words, the moment most experts are caught in his grip, with the activation of both major special effects, there was no escape.
That was what had happened to Ling Feng. Lu Sheng seized the opportunity and killed him in one palm strike before he had any chance to utilize any of his powers.
On the surface, it seemed as if he died because his head had been smashed into pulp. In actual fact, his body had actually been filled internally with a massive volume of Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skills Blood Web. One could not kill a being of the Bind realm purely by brute strength alone, not without the use of inner Qi. Only with a mix of both, and with inner Qi of Yang-attribute, could one damage and kill a being of Bind realm.
The new room that the three of them now entered seemed like a storeroom. Assorted sculptures of flowers, birds, worms, and fish were displayed all over the room. They were all wood sculptures of weird and strange shapes, but incredibly life-like.
"Hohoho collecting is my only hobby. Please dont laugh at me," Xiao Hongye chuckled, covering his mouth with his fan.
"Of course not, Squire Xiao has a really unique interest. I didnt know you were a wood sculpture expert," Lu Sheng complimented. One could see Xiao Hongyes peculiar style from his wood sculptures. Moreover, from the details of the sculptures, one could tell that they were only recently carved with the same technique. It wasnt hard to guess that Xiao Hongye himself had carved them.
"Sect Master Lus too kind," Xiao Hongye grinned from eye to eye. He dismissed the servants with a wave of his hand and waited till they had all gone out before shutting the windows and gesturing for his two guests to sit.
"To tell the truth, Ive invited both of you here today to discuss the upcoming Ritual Offering," he began with his typical Cheshire grin.
"Ritual Offering?" Taoist Bai Feng frowned. "So soon? Isnt it once every decade?"
"Thats why Im discussing it in advance, am I not?" Xiao Hongye smiled, then looked at Lu Sheng. "Sect Master Lu, this matter relies on your full cooperation. Youre the first preparation we must make. Do you have any arrangements in mind?"
Lu Sheng kept up his poker face despite his complete ignorance. He was entirely oblivious as to what on earth the Ritual Offering, which seemed common knowledge to Noblemen, was. Moreover, based on their tone, it seemed to be the most common of the common knowledge that all Noblemen possessed.
"What arrangements could I have? It all depends on what both of you have in mind, doesnt it?" The gears in his mind whirled as he gave an ambiguous and vague reply.
"Therere still six months before Ashoka Manors Ritual Offering, so were in no rush. We lost too much in the earlier Blood Offering of the Scarlet Dragon Tribulation, and my Family Head has exposed too much of himself. So weve got to depend on both of you for this matter. It must not draw attention," Xiao Hongye grinned. "We, Ashoka Manor, will offer a hundred Artificial Silver Pills as the total compensation this time."
"Artificial Silver Pills!" Taoist Bai Feng was astonished. "Thats a huge offer. The Manor Lord of Ashoka Manor is generous indeed."
Lu Sheng had no idea at all what an Artificial Silver Pill was, but that did not stop him from acting surprised.
Apparently satisfied by the reactions from the two of them, Xiao Hongye smiled, "This time, we need at least ten people born without any whites in their fingernailsall ages permissibleas well as a hundred ordinary living creatures. Most important of all, it must be done discreetly."
"Thats the standard quantity. This Taoist has no problems with it," Bai Fengs attitude meant that the official court was agreeable with the proposal.
Xiao Hongyes gaze shifted to Lu Sheng.
Lu Sheng has already made some guesses, but still decided to ask an apparently irrelevant question after consideration.
"What do you mean by all ages permissible?"
Xiao Hongye smiled.
"Oh, by that I mean that both elderly and children are acceptable. We just need a drop of their heart essence blood, so it doesnt matter what's their age."
Realization dawned on Lu Sheng.
Ashoka Manor was basically asking for living sacrifices! Thats essentially mass murder! Heart essence blood, heart essence blood how else to extract the essence blood from their hearts apart from killing them?
He studied Xiao Hongye and Taoist Bai Fengs faces only to see that they acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world, as if they were discussing what was for lunch, or as if the human lives they were talking about were not humans, but merely some livestock awaiting slaughter.
Xiao Hongye continued, "Previously, I also captured a hundred people from Yun Province. But they were intercepted by some worms, or else I wouldnt have to search for them here.
Hence, weve got to trouble Sect Master Lu for this matter, Im afraid"
"Will inmates on death roll and serious criminal offenders do?" Lu Sheng tested.
"Of course! Those are the best because they dont draw attention. But people without whites in their fingernails arent easy to find," Taoist Bai Feng smiled.
"Alright, Sect Master Lu, please answer explicitly. Youre the one doing the heavy lifting, so hows seventy Artificial Silver Pills?" Xiao Hongye hurried.
Lu Sheng sighed. Although he had never been a kind person with soft spots, he could not bring himself to take human lives without just cause simply for an apparent Ritual Offering.
No matter what, however, his rejection would mean offending Ashoka Manor. And judging from Bai Fengs attitude, this seemed to be a very normal occurrence among Noble Families. There was no avoiding it in the end.
Just then, he noticed a trace of suspicion and perplexity flashing across Xiao Hongye and Bai Fengs faces. Knowing that he had hesitated for too long and aroused their suspicions, he said, "In that case, while I cannot guarantee that theyll all be people without any whites in their fingernails, I can provide up to the full hundred-person quota." He intended to make up the numbers with criminals in prison, or serious offenders like rapists. Surely, he could gather a hundred people from such big group.
"That works too," Xiao Hongye finally shifted his gaze away from Lu Sheng. "So well follow this arrangement every decade from now on?"
"This Taoist has no opinions against it, as long as Ashoka Manor doesnt forget its compensation," Bai Feng chuckled.
Lu Sheng smiled too,
"Yes. But the price may not be fixed at the same rate."
"Thats for sure," Xiao Hongye laughed. "May I know how much time Sect Master Lu needs? My Manor needs to conduct the Ritual Offering in two months."
"Ill try to make it as fast as possible," Lu Sheng replied. "Squire Xiao needs only to prepare the Artificial Silver Pills."
"Dont worry, dont worry."
After coming to an agreement, the three of them chatted further; most of the time, Xiao Hongye and Bai Feng were the ones talking while Lu Sheng listened on. He spoke only occasionally when he was asked for his opinion.
As the chat went on, he gradually understood what the Ritual Offering was.
Simply put, it was an offering that Noble Families must perform once every decade. It involved sacrificing human lives as an offering to the Divine Weapon consecrated by the Family. Failure to deliver the offering would reduce the strength and power of Noblemen in the Family.
With some probing, Lu Sheng also found out that every single Noble Family which has consecrated a Divine Weapon or Devils Blade must perform the Ritual Offering without exception.
Hence, regardless of Noble Family or demonic factions, they would do their best to maintain the prosperity of the place under their command. This was because population growth made it convenient for them to gather sufficient people for the Ritual Offerings.
After all, the required conditions for the Ritual Offering were susceptible to change too.
After learning of this, Lu Sheng finally had a complete and clear picture of the world.
Noble Families were essentially demons and devils in human skin. They regarded ordinary mortals no differently from livestock. At best, perhaps only slightly better than livestock.
The three of them chatted for a while more before Taoist Bai Feng made his leave, leaving behind Lu Sheng with Xiao Hongye.
Xiao Hongye called for the accompaniment of beautiful women. Seated beside Lu Sheng in the hall and watching dancing artistes, his hand reached into the dress of one of them.
The music was gentle and provocative. Lu Sheng could not identify what instrument it was produced by, but it sounded to him like the moaning of a young girlthe moaning produced while making love.
A well-endowed curvaceous lady leaned on Lu Sheng. Despite the erotic environment, he was in no mood at all for pleasure-seeking. Rather, he was detached and cold.
"Brother Lu, all of the beautiful servant ladies here have been treated by me. If you take a liking to any of them, youre free to take your pick," Xiao Hongye waved his hand generously.
"Youre joking with me now, Brother. Im not interested in these. My lifelong pursuit is the Dao of martial arts. Everything else is ephemeral to me," Lu Sheng said impassively.
Although he had no idea what was meant by the word "treated", he arrived at a rough guess from the sparkling eyes and puppet-like obedience of the ladies here.
"In our day and age, simple men like you are a rare find, Brother. No wonder you could step into Three-Vein Level at such a young age," Xiao Hongye sighed. He lifted a cup of wine in toast.
"Youre too kind," Lu Sheng lifted his own cup in return.
"To tell the truth, Ive asked you to stay behind because theres an important matter that I must communicate with you," Xiao Hongye said somberly.
"Please speak your mind," Lu Sheng had guessed that Xiao Hongye should have unfinished business.
Xiao Hongye dismissed the guards around them with a wave of his hand. Only the dancing women and the lady beside him remained.
"You may not know this, Brother, but a rogue wanted by Ashoka Manor has recently escaped to the Northern Lands. He has joined forces with some wanted fugitives from Yun Province and even seems to be doing quite well now."
"Oh? Despite the strength of your Manor, are you still unable to resolve the matter?" Lu Sheng smiled.
"That rogue is too cunning. He never fights us openly. Scuttling here and there, hes really a thorn in the flesh. So, your brother here is asking a favor of you, Brother Lu. Please be on the lookout for him. Once you detect any leads, please inform your brother here at the first available opportunity," Xiao Hongye said sincerely. "When the matter is settled, well give you an Ashoka Flower from my Ashoka Manor as reward."
"Ashoka Flower?" Lu Sheng had no idea what it was. But clearly, it must be good.
"As long as your body is not damaged by more than fifty percent, consuming one would give you full recovery. You havent eaten one before, have you?" Xiao Hongye smiled. "We only produce limited quantities of this stuff each year, so we dont give it to others. But Brother, youre definitely different from the rest. You and I see eye to eye with each other. This is just a small thing not worth mentioning."
"Many thanks to Brother in that case," Lu Sheng clasped his hands together.
He recalled how he had once witnessed Zhen Yi survive despite his head being cleaved into two. Not only did he survive, he even recovered instantly. Then he remembered the umbrella girl and Ling Feng.
Among opponents of Bind realm, he had fought only these three. The first two were nearly indestructible. Ling Feng, on the other hand, was destroyed by him in one move. This had perplexed him.