"Hes nice to everyone. Hes the Mr. Nice Guy in the Manor," the elderly Officiator put down the thigh bone in his hand. "Hows progress with the missing dogs case in the Manor that I tasked you with?"
Upon hearing the question, Bai Jings lips curved up in a smile.
"Ive found out that the wild dogs pursued Li Shunxi into a restaurant in Mountain-Edge City. They never came out after that."
"Oh? A restaurant?"
"Indeed. Its a restaurant called Pine Blue. Unfortunately, the restaurant belongs to the largest sect in the underworld of the Northern LandsCrimson Whale Sect," Bai Jings smile extended into a grin.
"Oh?" the Officiators interest was aroused. "Continue."
Bai Jing paced several steps and sat down on a chair.
"Your subordinate has not worked out the remaining details. But one thing is without questionCrimson Whale Sect definitely had a hand in this."
"A mere mortal faction. How would they dare to defy our Ashoka Manor?" the Officiator was puzzled.
"Perhaps they think theyve kept it under wraps? Or perhaps the Shangyang Family behind them is involved? Who knows for sure?" Bai Jing smiled.
"Youll continue investigating this till youre certain who the mastermind is. If we are to strike, it must be quick as lightning. We must seize the evidence, or else others will have a handle on us," the Officiator instructed.
"Rest assured, My Lord. I will not fail you," Bai Jing clasped his hands together. "The Crimson Whale Sect's Sect Master Lu Sheng is the greatest suspect."
On his way back, Lu Sheng cleared several more ghosts and cracked a few troublesome cases, collecting about three units of Yin Qi and taking about a dozen days before he reached Mountain-Edge City.
Back in the city, he spent another two days beginning to prepare the living sacrifices for the Ashoka Manors Ritual Offering.
On the eve of his departure, he had tasked Jade Lotus with selecting the sacrifices. As for where he was to find the hundred mortals, he was to approach Taoist Bai Feng to access the prison and look for prisoners on death row as well as to hunt down bandits outside the city.
In his spare time, Lu Sheng worked hard in cultivating Aquarius Qi, seeking to restore his Yin and Yang to equilibrium.
Then, one day, someone unexpected came knocking on his door, seeking an alliance.
"Brother Lu! Its been a while. How have you been?"
Lu Sheng met two mysterious men, cloaked in black capes and covered under black veil hats, in his study in Crimson Whale.
One of them gently unveiled himself, revealing a familiar face.
"Brother Li?!" Lu Sheng was caught by surprise. "Why have you come?"
One of his visitors was the long-missing Li Shunxi.
Presently, he looked like one who had lived through great changes and was much more stable. The person behind him seemed to be a lady who had no intention of unveiling herself. Yet, judging by her bearing and steps, she should be no less than an expert at the peak of Strength Proficiency.
"To tell the truth, Brother Lu, this visit is made out of no choice," Li Shunxi smiled bitterly.
Lu Sheng gestured for the guards to shut the doors tight lest their conversation leaked out. The guards beside him were fanatics who idolized him. Lu Sheng had handpicked each of them because they were bold and loyal, with no family ties to worry about. Hence, he did not worry about their loyalty.
"Brother Li, youve come to see me in these times. What could make it worth your risk to come back?" Lu Sheng frowned, offering seats to both of them.
Looking at his increasingly powerful old friend, Li Shunxi sighed helplessly in his heart.
In the blink of an eye, Lu Sheng had turned from a mere leader in the sect to the Number One Expert of the Northern Lands. He was now even the sect master of Crimson Whale Sect, with plenty of forces at his beck and call.
Yet, despite Lu Shengs power, his matter was too grave; he would not seek the help of this friend, who had already once helped him, unless he had no choice.
However, because this matter would affect the lives of many friends around him, he had to come. Hence, as compensation to Lu Sheng, he would fight for the greatest returns for him.
Li Shunxi sat down slowly, tidied his mind, and began, "Brother Lu, do you have ample grain and vegetable oil? To tell the truth, some of my friends who live in seclusion among the mountains have discovered that theyre unable to buy grain and oil anymore. The days are getting tougher and thats why I"
"Some of your friends?" Lu Shengs brow furrowed. "Dont tell me that youve joined a gang of mountain bandits?"
"How dare you!!!" at his words, the masked lady behind Li Shunxi flew into a rage and began pulling out her sword to cut Lu Sheng down.
"Hmm?" without budging an inch, Lu Sheng glared at the lady. These days, his eyes took on an increasingly strong look of authority and power. Just one glare at the lady made her pause in her tracks. She no longer dared to continue pulling out her half-drawn sword from its scabbard.
Beads of cold sweat broke out on her fair forehead and her face turned scarlet red. Even through the face veil, one could see her shock and rage.
The lady trembled, rooted to the ground.
"Qing Mei, dont be rash. Brother Lus just making a casual remark. He doesnt know. Theres no need to break the peace over such a small thing," Li Shunxi quickly stood up and pulled the lady back.
Her face saved, the lady humphed, kept her sword, and returned to stand behind Li Shunxi.
"Thats the attitude you use to seek help?" Lu Shengs eyes narrowed, a mocking look on his face.
"You!!" the lady named Qing Mei erupted in anger again and was about to draw her sword once more when she was pulled back forcefully by Li Shunxi.
"Alright, thats enough! Qing Mei, go outside first. Im fine on my own. Brother Lu, Im begging you, dont say anything else," Li Shunxi placated both of them.
The lady muttered something under her breath unwillingly as she was pushed past the doors by Li Shunxi.
Only the two of them sat in the study now; the atmosphere improved greatly.
"To be honest, Brother Lu, Im representing others and have come to purchase a batch of rations from you. And, I mean at least more than two thousand catties."
"Two thousand catties" Lu Shengs eyebrows arched. "Thats not a big deal. But, Brother Li, its not that Im not giving you face. This is truly a critical period. Huge plots of land are left unfarmed. Im sure youve seen the prices of grain out on the streets in the city. Even I and my brothers in the sect have to resort to fishing every day to make up for the deficit. I dont even dare to eat much.
And youve come to buy grain on behalf of your friends in this critical period. Im guessing youre prepared to pay for it?"
Li Shunxi nodded earnestly, "Indeed. Gold, silver, jewelery, medicine, even weapons you name it."
"Oh?" Lu Shengs heart jumped. He began guessing at the identities of those whom Li Shunxi was representing.
"Brother Li. Tell me the truth. Who are you representing on this visit?"
Li Shunxi fell into thought momentarily. Then, he smiled helplessly, "Brother Lu, its not that I dont trust you. But, Ive given my word to them that I wouldnt divulge their identities.
However, the one thing I can tell you is that theyre not short of gold or silver, nor are they short of medicine, weapons, and martial arts."
"Oh?" Lu Sheng was moved. The fact that he dared to describe his backer in such terms before the sect master of the Number One Sect in all the Northern Lands hinted at the wealth and resources of his backer.
"Alright then. Several thousand catties of grain arent much. I can sell them. But what do you intend to exchange for it?" Lu Sheng tested.
"Anything you want, except for the real top-of-the-range Spirit Focus martial arts. But as for the price" Li Shunxis voice trailed off.
"Oh? Even martial arts will do!? How about Intent Proficiency ones?" Lu Sheng was filled with surprise and excitement. This was truly great wealth.
One must understand that an Intent Proficiency martial arts manual, if accompanied with detailed instructions, was a family heirloom-level treasure. It was sufficient to bring a family to prosperity.
Such precious manuals were impossible to buy even at auctions; no one would want to sell them.
"Intent Proficiency ones we have them too! But, theyre naturally worth far more than normal ones. Brother Lu must be mentally prepared," Li Shunxi nodded and voice dropped to a whisper. "I dare not say that therere many of them, but three to five of them is a piece of cake."
Lu Sheng sucked in a cold breath of air.
Even when Zhen Family lorded over the Northern Lands, the most they provided them with were Strength Proficiency martial arts manuals. The Intent Proficiency martial arts manuals were contributed by members of the sects upper echelon themselves. Without their approval, these manuals were prohibited from circulation.
For example, Ultimate Crimson Mantra was also an Intent Proficiency manual. Although it had been in the sect for a long time, no one was allowed to practice it unless one was also a member of Crimson Sun Sect.
And yet, Li Shunxis backer was now offering Intent Proficiency martial arts in exchange for grain.
It was as shocking as hearing someone buy garbage with gold.
"So it seems that youve still chosen to take the risk to buy grain from me despite possessing such great capital" Li Sheng did not complete his sentence, but his point was obvious. In other words, Li Shunxis backer certainly existed and operated outside of the law. Otherwise, with such wealth, they could easily have gone to some merchant or auction.
Li Shunxi nodded helplessly.
"If its Intent Proficiency manuals you want, I can make the decision to exchange one Intent Proficiency manual for every five thousand catties of grain," he perceived that Lu Sheng was interested in nothing other than martial arts.
"Do I get to choose?" Lu Sheng asked softly.
"Well fix a time and place, and Ill get him to bring along the original copies of the manuals. Theyll come complete with meditation diagrams, so forgery is impossible. If any alteration has been made, itll show up clearly," Lu Shunxi continued.
"Even if there were alterations made, as long as its mostly genuine, its already quite something," Lu Sheng remarked seriously. "Five thousand catties for one manual its simply" he couldnt carry on. It was way too cheap.
Li Shunxi smiled bitterly.
"Theyve guessed that youd want martial arts manuals, so theyve made me bring along a list. These listings are all the martial arts you may choose from."
He took out a booklet from his chest. The booklet cover was light blue in color and was totally clean, without a single word. Clearly, it had only just been copied.
Lu Sheng flipped open the first page. A fearsome aura emanated from the lines of inky black words that greeted him.
"Fine calligraphy!" he complimented and continued reading.
The list was classified according to three main categoriesOrdinary, Strength Proficiency, and Intent Proficiency. Lu Shengs gaze zoomed in straight on the Intent Proficiency martial arts.
The listings in this category all fell on the last few pages of the booklet.
"Intent Proficiency: Thousand Trees Burning Heart Palm, Deer Heart Mantra, Clone Shadow Skill, Eight Zen Still Mind Saber."
A total of four skills. Beneath each of them were some basic introductions.
Lu Sheng speed-read through them. Quickly, his line of sight fell on Thousand Trees Burning Heart Palm. Only this out of the four skills was a hard body skill designed for the tempering of the body. Judging by its introduction, it was another extremely powerful skill.
This palm technique was the skill that had brought the Divine Prime expert Lu Wuxiang, who had once roamed unchallenged across the entire Central Plains, to fame. But because Lu Wuxiang once ate a blade of Fire Grass by chance in his childhood, his physical constitution became extremely suited for cultivating this hard body skill. Hence, he was able to break through Strength and Intent Proficiency with this skill, attaining Spirit Focus. Eventually, he entered the realm of Divine Prime and then vanished into seclusion.
But if this skill was cultivated by the average person, it was considered a feat if one could cultivate it to Spirit Focus after several decades of work.
After all, once a mortal expert attained Divine Prime, he would already possess the capabilities to keep himself alive even if he was still no match for ghosts and Anomalies of the Bind realm. At least, his fate wouldnt be in the hands of others.
"Its just a few thousand catties of grain anyway. Im taking this Thousand Trees Burning Heart Palm. It should be compatible with my Ultimate Crimson Mantra," Lu Sheng returned the booklet to Li Shunxi.
"Actually, therere other martial arts we can provide you with. But these are the cheapest to cultivate. Many of the rest require stringent conditions to cultivate," Li Shunxi replied. "Since thats settled, lets arrange a time and place for the exchange."
"Yes!" Lu Sheng nodded.