A line of ox carriages lumbered along into the darkness. Dull thuds rang out like pelting rain as oxen hooves struck the ground.
Lu Sheng rode at the front of the team on a horse.
Cold gusts of wind howled in the night sky, causing some sect members within the team to shiver from cold. Coughs rang out every now and then from among them.
Since leaving the Crimson Whale, the carriage team has continued on in the direction of Windless Valley, escorted by more than fifty men.
After traversing a sandy stretch, they entered a dense forest on a mountain path. Because they travelled in big company, no beasts assaulted them along the way.
Riding right at the fore of the company, Lu Sheng was dressed in a silk robe embroidered with black and red flower motifs. Every gesture and move he made was filled with gravitas, and he increasingly looked the part of the sect master of a giant sect.
While traversing the dense forest, Lu Sheng instructed the sect disciples to hoist up lit torches distributed all throughout the company to disperse all beasts that may appear.
Together with three elders, he kept a lookout for possible ghosts and supernatural beings that may pop up.
Approximately an hour later, the faint glow of what looked like torches appeared within view in the distance.
Lu Sheng sped up after signalling the team to remain halted in the forest. Alone, he galloped out of the forest and caught sight of Li Shunxis company, who had come to perform the transaction, on a patch of sandy hill opposite him.
In the darkness of the night, Li Shunxi also quickly spotted Lu Sheng on his horse. Stepping forward, he clasped his hands together in greeting,
Lu Sheng returned the greeting.
"Brother Li, have you brought what I need?"
Li Shunxi smiled. Beside him, Guan Nian stepped forward and hoisted a metal box high up in his hand.
At the same time, Guan Nian, Zhong Yunxiu, and the accompanying Zhang Wuya were all sizing up this man who lorded over the Number One Sect of all Northern Lands, the Crimson Whale SectSect Master Lu Sheng.
What entered their view was a man with handsome facial features and skin that was fair and refined. A square hat, embossed with red jade, sat neatly on his head. Dressed in a long-sleeved silk robe, this Sect Master Lu Sheng looked more like a rich young master of a wealthy family rather than a sect master. While he looked muscular and fit, he also carried in his bearing the composed air of a refined gentleman.
Lu Sheng, too, was sizing up Li Shunxis company. A few among them had an aura that struck Lu Sheng as familiarthe toxic nature of the realm of Bind. They did not seem like mortals and were most likely the experts of the faction that Li Shunxi had joined.
"The ox carriages carrying grain are behind. Consider the ox carriages themselves a gift. Have you brought enough men?" Lu Sheng asked loudly.
"Enough, enough!" Guan Nian walked forward and leapt atop the branch on a tree. Gazing into the distance, his eyes lit up when he saw more than ten ox carriages. The valley was now short on grain. To him, it was a steal to exchange for so much supplies with some meaningless martial arts manuals.
Afraid that Lu Sheng would change his mind, he quickly made old man Zhang Wuya dispatch some men to take over the carriages.
Unbothered, Lu Sheng simply headed back to the team and commanded his subordinates to stand down. He watched as they were relieved by men from the other party.
As the subordinates from both parties busied themselves, Lu Sheng and the other partys leaders walked off into the distance to discuss other matters.
"Were grateful that Sect Master has been very supportive. Since Sect Master has been so credible, were willing to offer another martial art as payment. Also of Intent Proficiency," Zhang Wuya, who was standing behind Li Shunxi, suddenly stepped forward and declared as they walked towards a different section of the woods.
"Oh?" Lu Shengs eyes lit up as he looked at the old man. "Are you serious?"
Zhang Wuya stared intently into Lu Shengs eyes, ignoring Guan Nian and Zhong Yunxius tugs at him.
"Im just a plain old fool, but I do still have several Intent Proficiency martial arts in my collection. Consider them a personal gift from me. However, I just have a question for Sect Master Lu. Will Sect Master please enlighten me?"
"Question? As long as it doesnt involve certain sensitive matters, I wont hide anything," Lu Sheng smiled.
Zhang Wuya smiled back and was about to continue.
Just then, unsettled growls rang out from several oxen in the darkness of the woods. Despite the sect disciples attempts at calming them, the oxen growls grew louder and louder.
"Whats going on?!" Lu Sheng frowned in the direction of the sounds.
"Boom! Boom! Boom!!"
Without warning, three red balls of light exploded in the sky above the woods like fireworks, lighting up everyone instantly.
Suddenly, one of the men standing behind Guan Nian slashed at his teammate right beside him with his sword. In the very next second, his teammates head rolled off his head and landed on the ground.
"Zhang Peng, you!!??" by the time Guan Nian came to his senses, the man had already leapt up into the air in a fit of eccentric laughter and dashed more than ten meters into the distance.
Alarmed and enraged, Guan Nian was about to race in pursuit when a familiar silhouette appeared in the woods.
"Its been a long time, Guan Nian. This time, youre not getting away" a vivacious and beautiful lady in a revealing black skirt strolled out from the darkness and stared at the company from Martial League, fondling her black hair in her hand.
"Bai Jing!" Guan Nians face turned ugly.
"Zhong Yunxiu, Guan Nian not bad, not bad. Were in pretty good luck to be able to get rid of two big rats from Martial League today," a fair-faced scholar strolled out from the darkness on the opposite end of the group.
The scholar carried a smirk on his face and a pink paper fan, with the painting of a beauty playing with flowers on it, in his hand. His face seemed to have been coated in a layer of cosmetic powder which emanated a thick fragrance.
"Quan Huan!" Guan Nians face turned as foul as it could ever get.
If Bai Jing had come alone, then he and Zhong Yunxiu might stand a chance to defeat her with a sneak attack together. But now, Quan Huan had to be added into the equation. He was no Three-Vein Level rookie like Bai Jing. Since twenty years ago, Quan Huans name had already entered the ears of many Noblemen because of his skills and brains. Time after time, he had been able to escape unscathed despite being cornered by experts stronger than himself.
"This is troublesome" Guan Nians body wound up like a spring. He exchanged a glance with Zhong Yunxiu, getting ready to flee at any moment. As long as they fled, they would draw away Bai Jing and Quan Huan, giving mortals like old man Zhang Wuya a chance of survival.
But just then, two figures emerged from two other directions, instantly plunging Guan Nian and Zhong Yunxius hearts into the icy depths of despair.
Their hopes shattered. Despair was scrawled all over the faces of some in their company.
After so many dealings with Ashoka Manor, most of them recognized the several Emissaries in Ashoka Manor. Each of them, like Xiao Hongye, was a highly skilled expert who watched over a region of their own. Who would expect they would bump into four of them here!?
Lu Sheng gazed at Li Shunxis company from afar on his horse. Similarly, his face fell.
"Brother Li, looks like the news was leaked from your side."
Li Shunxis face turned as pale as paper as he realized that there was no escaping this tribulation. He smiled bitterly at Lu Sheng, "Brother Lu"
He was momentarily at a loss for words.
Lu Sheng surveyed the four directions, glancing from Bai Jing to her other three allies. His eyes turned cold and aloof.
"Our transaction cannot be divulged. Looks like these four cannot be left alive."
The four including Bai Jing were stunned. The one nearest to Lu Sheng, a muscular hunk with skin that shone like copper, stared at Lu Sheng as if he was a fool.
"Lad, are you" his expression changed as he continued staring at Lu Sheng, his eyes widening like two saucers and his lips forming the shape of an O.
"You you you you you!?"
"Dont blame me. If you have to blame someone, blame yourselves for knowing too much!" Lu Sheng unsheathed the twin sabers strapped on his back. Like inflated balloons, the muscles on his entire body began to distort and swell. In the span of several breaths, he had expanded from a mortal less than two meters tall to a muscular titan near three meters tall!!
The most terrifying thing about him were the transparent streams of scorching hot Qi flowing around and encircling him. Though the muscular hunk with bronze skin stood over ten meters away from him, he could feel his skin hurting from a burning sensation.
"Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Divine Might!!!"
The horse under Lu Sheng neighed pitifully as it collapsed to the ground, all four of its limbs breaking at the same time.
Lu Sheng had stepped on its back, launching himself into the air. His lumbering frame was now falling heavily towards the ground like a giant boulder.
The spot underneath him was where the muscular hunk was standing!
The muscular hunks pupils shrank and he quickly lifted both his arms to block the incoming slam. One of his legs stepped backwards to support him against the ground, and a black membrane covered and flowed around his entire body.
With a frenzied roar, a red glint sparkled in both his pupils as he activated his secret art. White serpentine scales emerged all over his body.
Lu Shengs twin sabers smashed violently against the muscular hunks arms like two gigantic boulders slamming into each other.
The stalemate lasted only for a split second before a crisp crack rang in everyones ears. The muscular hunks arms broke and the sabers cleaved into his chest before he could react in time.
With the sound of chopping meat, the hunks body had been cleaved into two halves from the top of his head to his waist.
"You!!" the hunk collapsed on the ground and forced out a word.
Before he could continue, Lu Sheng stepped down on his head, instantly squashing it into pulp.
The scorching inner Qi which had coated Lu Shengs saber blades instantly razed the muscular hunks body into a heap of black ash.
Lu Sheng lifted both his twin sabers and turned to look at the trio including Bai Jing.
"Three left," the corner of his lips curled upwards into a savage grin.
A deathly silence descended on the entire forest.
"Gr-Great Demon!!!" cold sweat broke out on the tip of Guan Nians nose. He trembled from top to toe as he stared at the transformed Lu Sheng.
No matter how he looked at that nearly three-meter tall grayish black body, it did not seem like a human body. Rather, it looked more like one of the shapeshifting Demons in Ashoka Manor.
Demons of that level could cleave an Ashoka Manor Emissary to death in one strike as if their black membrane did not exist.
If they had truly run into a Great Demon, then all of them really had to die.
"No its not a Great Demon" unlike him, Zhang Wuya was filled with excitement, staring at Lu Sheng with a crazed fanatic gaze in his eyes.
"Hard body skill this is hard body skill!!! Multiple skills of full-mastery accumulated together, forming the strongest outer force ever! Once, during one of our gatherings, we postulated that this is precisely what the strongest hard body skill mode would look like in theory! Unbelievable! Indescribable!! To think that such a being truly exists! Simply unbelievable!!" he exclaimed profusely, staring intently at every spot of inhuman transformation on Lu Shengs body.
"Are you saying that this man is relying on martial arts?! He cleaved an Emissary to death with martial arts??!" Zhong Yunxiu asked, incredulous.
"This mans a prodigy! An unprecedented, unparalleled, unmatched genius!! To think that such a person exists on earth who can extrapolate so many hard body skills to full-mastery??!! HAHAHAHA!! Theres hope for the way of martial arts! Theres hope for the way of martial arts!!" Zhang Wuya was almost dancing, uncontrollably excited.