After sending Li Shunxi off, Lu Sheng had just turned around to head to the Pharmacy when he saw his senior apprentice brother, Hong Mingzi, leading an unfamiliar middle-aged man in the direction of the sect masters study.
The two men walked side by side. That middle-aged man stood tall and straight, and did not seem old. However, upon closer inspection, one could see that the roots of his hair had turned white, with the vicissitudes of life showing in his eyes. He was definitely older than thirty or forty years in age.
Lu Sheng took the initiative to approach in welcome.
"Senior Apprentice Brother, what brings you here? This is?" he looked at that middle-aged man.
As soon as that person approached, he examined Lu Sheng with a peculiar glint in his eye, as if he were laying his eyes on some rare, precious treasure.
"This is none other than Nine-Strokes Sword and Palm Wang Yuanshan, whos also Elder Wangs elder brother, whom he mentioned previously. The original, complete version of Heart-Shattering Palm that you learnt is Brother Wangs family heirloom martial arts skill," Hong Mingzi introduced.
"Wang Yuanshan?" Lu Sheng could indeed recall the name. "Come in, come in, lets talk inside."
He welcomed the duo in the study, shut its doors, then sent someone to fetch some tea.
After the three sat down, Wang Yuanshan said bluntly, "Sect Master Lu, you indeed live up to your great name. Sect Master Lu is an expert in both the inner and outer force, and armed with both hard body skills and inner Qi. Youve epitomized the very essence of martial arts! In comparison, this old man" he was straightforward in speech. Though seemingly flowery in his vocabulary, his choice of words were rather basic, altogether striking an uncanny impression.
"Senior Wang, you're too polite. May I know why Senior has come this day?" Lu Sheng smiled.
Lately, some of his hair had begun to grow out slowly and he was no longer bald and shiny like before. Although his muscles were still extremely tough, he had at least regained some of the appearance of a young master.
"Junior Apprentice Brother," Wang Yuanshan didn't speak; instead, it was Hong Mingzi who spoke first.
He glanced at his surroundings.
Lu Sheng got his drift and dismissed those by the side with a wave of his hand. They shut the doors and stood guard outside the study.
Seeing that the attendants were dismissed, Hong Mingzi lifted up the teacup by his side. His expression gradually turned solemn.
"I made this trip to ask Junior Apprentice Brother regarding a matter. I ask that you reply me truthfully."
Lu Sheng startled, before smiling, "Senior Apprentice Brother, please speak your mind."
Hong Mingzi took a sip of his tea, before gently lowering his teacup. His finger caressed the edge of the teacup absentmindedly.
"May I be so bold to ask Junior Apprentice Brother, just which Noble Family did your mothers ancestors descend from?"
Lu Shengs eyes widened almost imperceptibly. He didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. These two fellas assumed that he had descended from an offshoot branch of some Noble Family lineage.
Before he had the time to respond, Hong Mingzi continued,
"Honestly speaking, I didn't have the opportunity to ask you previously with all the urgent matters we had to settle. However, ever since witnessing junior apprentice brothers battle to fend off the Scarlet District ghost, I began to hazard a guess," Hong Mingzi said seriously. "The ordinary sect members may perhaps be unaware of these secrets, and presume that all ghosts are the same and cannot be defeated. However, for those of us who have interacted with Noble Families, we do understand the difference.
The difference between ghosts and Anomalies is like the difference between the heavens and the earth. For Junior Apprentice Brother to be able to force Scarlet Districts Deputy District Mistress into retreat, there is no longer any doubt about your true power."
"Most importantly, this sort of power even if we were to survey the entire Northern Lands, we wont be able to find another like you. Not even the Central Plains" Nine-Strokes Sword and Palm Wang Yuanshan interrupted and added grimly.
Lu Sheng instantly understood why the duo had come. No wonder that previously, the upper echelon of the sectincluding Chen Yinghad been increasingly deferential towards him. Come to think of it, it was actually because they had mistaken him to be someone of Nobleman bloodline.
Someone like that swordsman whom Xiao Hongye had arranged to test him out. A remnant member of a declining Noble Family, wandering about outside, was rare but not non-existent.
Lu Sheng deliberated for a moment before raising his head.
"Actually, the answer that Senior Apprentice Brother seeks is not important. Whats important, is whether or not I am able to lead Crimson Whale Sect and Crimson Sun Sect onto a better path ahead."
His reply neither confirmed nor denied their assumptions directly.
Hong Mingzi and Wang Yuanshan exchanged glances, a look of comprehension dawning on their faces, as if they had learnt something.
Lu Sheng was clueless about what they had just understood or verified.
"That works too. Well skip this matter. Its really my blessing to have someone like Junior Apprentice Brother lead our Crimson Sun Sect. However, theres also that other question, regarding how to expand the strength of the sects disciples," Hong Mingzi asked again.
Only now did Lu Sheng recall Song Zhenguo, whom he had abandoned in the city like a forsaken sheep. He had given him some martial arts instruction, as well as the initiation mantra for Green Pine One-Thought Formula. After that, he had not paid him any attention. How far the latter had progressed was a mystery to Lu Sheng.
"The key to a strong sect lies in taking in disciples and making public our mantras," after thinking it over, Lu Sheng replied grimly.
"Make public our mantras!? NO WAY!" Hong Mingzi got the fright of his life and rose in objection vehemently.
"Senior Apprentice Brother, hear me out first. When I say to make public the mantras, I don't mean to reveal all of them. Its just to make public some of the most basic ones, in order to filter out the geniuses and talents who show aptitude in cultivating martial arts. Only this way can we sieve out the gold from the sand, and find the best disciples," Lu Sheng already had this in mind from way back.
Anyway, even if he were to throw out all the original versions of the martial arts skills he cultivated, no one could possibly surpass him. Therefore, he wasn't too bothered about the skills being leaked out.
As long as he had Yin Qi, then he could advance many times faster than others, and achieve full-mastery in the skill in an instant.
"That won't do either! These martial arts skills are the blood, sweat, and tears of our sects pioneers, who had to pay a hefty price to carve out this legacy. To leak them out so flippantly is a huge dishonor to our founders. Junior Apprentice Brother, think of another way out," Hong Mingzi refused to budge an inch on this matter.
Lu Sheng said more, but was still unable to convince him, and could only let the matter rest. The original process of enlisting disciplesfirst observe their character and personality, then test out their aptitudewas too inefficient. That was no way for Crimson Sun Sect to grow in strength.
The duo including Hong Mingzi got the answer they sought. Before long, they rose and left in disappointment. Since they now knew that Lu Sheng was of Nobleman lineage, then the reason why he could fight the Scarlet Districts Deputy District Mistress, who was in the realm of Bind, was because he must have had countered the black membrane of the Anomaly with the power of Bind in his own bloodline. It was the only way he could stand his own in that battle.
This disappointed Hong Mingzi and Wang Yuanshan, who had come with hope, greatly. Although they were used to disappointment, they saw significantly larger hope and possibility in Lu Sheng. Unfortunately, it was still
Lu Sheng sent the two men off and also sighed inwardly.
The less people know that I am an ordinary mortal, the better. Otherwise, theres no telling how the Noble Families might react
After resting a short while, he left the study for the Pharmacy to collect some Golden Fragrance Cream.
He had just entered the Pharmacy when he saw his senior apprentice brothers two disciples, Lin Honglian and Yuan Zhong, chatting among themselves outside the Pharmacy.
"Master Uncle!" as soon as the two of them caught sight of Lu Sheng, they bowed hurriedly in greeting, their faces full of reverence.
Lu Sheng nodded mildly.
"Youre here to get medicine too?"
"Yes. Were retrieving the Heavy Talisman Pill for Master," Lin Honglian replied.
"Heavy Talisman Pill?" Lu Sheng was surprised. This was a pill to treat the most grievous internal wounds. Although Hong Mingzis body was in a bad shape, he hadnt fought with anybody. Why would he suddenly need to take this pill?
Then, he abruptly remembered Wang Yuanshan, whom he had just seen earlier, and had an idea of what was going on.
"Alright, you guys go ahead," he waved his hand and strode into the Pharmacy.
The duo including Lin Honglian behind him heaved a sigh in relief before scurrying away.
After entering the Pharmacy and getting the Golden Fragrance Cream, Lu Sheng also instructed the Pharmacist to retrieve some pills suitable for helping him cultivate inner Qi. Then, he soon received word from Jade Lotus in a letter to inform him that the preparations for the Officiator were nearly completed, and that the name list had arrived.
Lu Sheng immediately ordered a small sect meeting and made the necessary arrangements. Then, he sent Duan Mengan to send the name list to Xiao Manor.
After that, he returned to his room to cultivate Aquarius Qi.
However, in less than four hours, one of Duan Mengans subordinates in the sect came running back in a hurry to relay the news that Duan Mengan had died.
Lu Shengs eyes widened the moment it reached him. A thread of inner Qi leaked out from his body suddenly, sizzling and burning the mattress cover by his side to a yellow crisp.
"Just what happened!?" his face was dark. Although Duan Mengan was timid and easily afraid, he had always been conscientious and hardworking. Lu Sheng had also purposely given him some menial, simple tasks; this time round, he was only to send a letter, how did he suddenly die?
Thus far, he had come into power in Crimson Whale Sect only for a short period of time, and Duan Mengan was his trusted aide. Out on missions, he represented Lu Shengs face. Now that he died for no rhyme or reason, it was akin to a smack on Lu Shengs face. If he didn't handle it properly, then who would be willing to be his trusted aide in the future? Who would sincerely and wholeheartedly work for him?
"In response to Sect Master Elder Duan has gone over to handle the situation. He says hes unable to call the shots and requests that you go in person" the sect member who had come to relay the news stood outside the door and replied clearly.
Lu Shengs face was grim as he stood and dressed himself, before opening the door.
"Men! Prepare my horse. Get Elder Chen and Elder Duan to come with me."
The guards on duty outside scrambled to inform the two elders. These two men were the Intent Proficiency experts that Lu Sheng had recently chosen from among the sect. One of them was highly skilled in stealth weapons, while the other was skilled in the double hammers. Both of them werent too old, and were experts who dared to go all out.
Armed with two huge choppers and clothed in the metal armor that he had ordered, Lu Sheng flipped himself onto a horse. Bringing with him the two elders, as well as more than ten of the sect masters personal bodyguards, he made a dash for Mountain-Edge City.
He made no stops along the way as he headed straight for Xiao Manor.
The streets within the city were sparse and bare, with much fewer people on the streets. It was a far cry from the once bustling scene.
When they had arrived at the Manor, a crowd had already gathered outside the Manor doors and entirely surrounded it.
As the local turf leader, Crimson Whale Sects power and men in the entire Mountain-Edge City were naturally unparalleled when compared to Xiao Manor.
Not far away in the distance, there were even sounds of the city guards, Crimson Whale Sect members stationed locally, who were leading their teams in approach. Although they werent the Winged Honor Guards, these city guards formed the military team in charge of the city gates defenses and were naturally exceptional in their might and armed with all sorts of weapons like crossbows. After all, Mountain-Edge City was a large city.
In the evening, Xiao Manor was surrounded by a huge, impenetrable crowd.
Elder Duan stood by the doors with a magistrates pen in his hands. His expression was extremely ugly. Upon seeing Lu Sheng arrive, he hurried forward in greeting with an appalled look on his face.
"Sect Master! Earlier, brother Duan Mengan had gone inside to deliver the letter, when not long after, a miserable shriek rang out. After we arrived, we wanted to barge in but were instead stopped in our tracks."
"Oh?" Lu Sheng looked in the direction of Xiao Manors large doors.
Barely a crack was opened in the large doors to reveal a hunchbacked, single-eyed elderly man standing behind it.
Even when up against the fierce commotion outside, the elderly man didn't bat a single eyelid as he continued to stand there, unruffled.
There were even a few highly skilled men from the sect who stood outside, clutching onto their arms as if they had suffered some injury. Despite being armed with sabers, they didn't dare to approach.
"Step aside, let ME!" Lu Shengs eyes were icy cold as he walked over to the main doors in large strides.
The many sect members immediately stepped aside to give him a way in.
Lu Shengs right palm was tucked behind his back; the center of his palm was beginning to glow crimson. He made a beeline for the elderly man.
"Oh? The present-day Crimson Whale Sect Sect Master has personally come forth," that hunchbacked old man seemed to sense something as his eyes finally betrayed a hint of emotion. He stared straight at Lu Sheng.
"Ive long since heard of Sect Master Lus unrivaled might and accomplishments in martial arts skills. The supposed Number One Expert in the Northern Lands. Id like to see for myself today."
"After I beat you to death, then you wont want to see for yourself anymore," Lu Shengs arm inflated swiftly. Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill inner Qi activated his Heart-Shattering Palm, instantly sizzling and burning the air around him with threads of scorching hot inner Qi.