In a single night, snow silently covered half of the entire Northern Lands.
Lu Sheng walked out of his private sanctuary and was greeted with a scene of white. The chilly morning wind blew the snow off the pine tree in the courtyard.
He breathed out some warm air. From afar, a childs cry could be heard, along with a dogs barking and a cocks crow.
Several Crimson Whale Sect guards stood guard outside the door. A thin layer of snow had covered them, yet they did not budge.
"Its been hard on you guys." Feeling bright, Lu Sheng complimented them.
"Its not hard to do our duty for Sect Master!!" all of them shouted in reply excitedly, as if they were on steroids.
Simply from the fanatic devotion he saw in their eyes, Lu Sheng roughly understood the stature he commanded in the hearts and minds of Crimson Whale Sect.
His Senior Apprentice Brother Hong Mingzi had totally stepped out of everyones view. Every day, he would only travel from his house to the pharmacy and dispensary, working on god-knows-what with his friend.
Deputy Sect Master Chen Ying had been injured and was still recovering. The upper echelon of the sect was left with some newly promoted Internal and External Affairs Emissaries.
Looks like my men can be counted on Now that both his Yin and Yang Extremes were in balance, Lu Sheng increasingly took on a paradigm of moderation; he was in total control of the situation.
Yin Extreme Modes Yin Crane Web still had the ability to transfer Qi. This bizarre ability to sow a seed in others had yet to display its effects, but once its effects were demonstrated on Song Zhenguo, he was ready to select a death squad from within the sect and develop them using the same method.
"Wheres Jade Lotus now?" Lu Sheng asked again. "And Shang Qinglong, ask him to come along as well."
"Your subordinate will go notify them immediately." A disciple bowed and retreated, then quickly sprinted into the distance.
Lu Sheng walked out of the courtyard and strolled into the small garden on the upper deck.
By the time he was at the entrance of the garden, Jade Lotus had reached him. But the moment he saw Lu Sheng, he was stumped.
Others might not have noticed much changes in Lu Sheng because they were not familiar enough with him. But as the person in charge of all sorts of affairs Lu Sheng was involved in, he would definitely not forget the detailed characteristics of how his Sect Master looked. Moreover, he had a strong memory.
Hence, right when he first lay eyes on Lu Sheng, he faltered.
"Sect Master you?"
Lu Sheng smiled. "Ive recently made some small gain on the path of martial arts. Nothing to rave about. Oh and this isnt a wig." He tugged at the hair on his head and laughed.
Jade Lotus nodded awkwardly, staring at Lu Shengs long hair curiously. Since Sect Master insisted it was genuine, then he would pretend it was genuine.
"May I know what Sect Master has summoned Your subordinate for?"
"Two things. The locations of the precious herbs Ive tasked you to verify earlierpass me the confirmed map." Lu Sheng raised a finger.
"No problem with that." Jade Lotus nodded.
"The second thing. Previously, I tasked you with taking in orphans. How many have you taken in?" Lu Sheng looked at him.
"Erm theres already more than a hundred of them. Its a harsh world; theres many orphans out there. As long as you offer them food, its easy to gather a large batch of them. Weve chosen these hundred or so orphans after rigorous selection. After all, were short on food, so its a huge burden to the sect to feed too many mouths," Jade Lotus replied.
"Has the famine begun?" Lu Shengs heart lurched.
"Erm Mountain-Edge City hasnt been too badly hit. But some cities nearby are suffering from hyperinflation. Because nobody dared to sow on the fields previously, many of them are now having to sell their sons and daughters for food" Jade Lotus said rather helplessly. "Many Elders in the sect have organized porridge rationing, but its uselessitll only attract more refugees.
If Sect Master really wants to develop an elite death squad or something like that, Im afraid you may have to reconsider given the situation in the sect right now. Building up a death squad will definitely take up much grain, oil, meat and vegetables."
"I understand" Lu Sheng was put in a spot. He was the boss of the number one sect in the Northern Lands. Hence, the famine was a problem he had to contend with; after all, there were many mouths to feed in Crimson Whale Sect.
"How about our major fishing industry?" Lu Sheng asked as the thought came to his mind.
"Its now near the fishing ban. In this cold weather, many of the fishing boats cannot even set out," Jade Lotus replied. "During this period, the fishing folk have also been fishing in the lake like crazy. Now you cant find much fish in there."
Lu Sheng fell into contemplation, then asked again, "The pharmacy can select a herb with a very fast growth cycle. Pick one with a large diameter like yam. Perhaps that can stave off the hunger a little."
"Sect Master, youre unaware. Things like that have long since all been eaten up by the famine refugees. Now the only things left uneaten are mud and stones," Jade Lotus replied softly.
"Forget it. Bring me what I asked for. On top of that, do one more thing for me. Im making a trip." Lu Sheng frowned helplessly.
Central Plains, Rong Xin Customs.
As the customs on the only path leading to the Northern Lands, Rong Xin Customs was large and high-walled. It contained a large population and over ten thousand troops were garrisoned there.
Sentry watchtowers were distributed all around it, forming a larger web that caught all who headed towards the Northern Lands.
Ye Moling sat on the carriage in the merchant team as if he were an ordinary squire. In the crowd, he lifted his head and gazed at the tall greenish-gray city walls.
"Old Master, weve got to go through this place and exit through the doors on the opposite side to be on Fish North Road," an old man who was experienced in making trips to the Northern Lands whispered beside Ye Moling.
"How much distance left do you reckon there is?" Ye Moling asked softly. As they began queuing to enter the city, he surveyed his surroundings.
"In reply to Old Master, well reach Mountain-Edge City in five days or so. Its, after all, a big city near Central Plains. But I hear that theres been a famine there. Im afraid the checks at the Customs will be stricter than usual. Our merchant team may find getting past it troublesome." The old man was unsure of his masters status and identity and therefore worried.
"Its alright Ive got the official documents from the authorities. Getting past the Customs for just our company wont be an issue." Gazing at Rong Xin Customs, Ye Moling recalled how he had fled from the Northern Lands pitifully.
Back then, as the Manor Lord of Mortal Sweeping Manor, he had to watch his subordinates fall in battle before him one by one, until he was besieged by many.
At the thought of that humiliating past, fury churned in him.
"Five more days before we reach huh I wonder what it looks like now there?"
The old man replied with a smile, "Old Master is returning in glory, youre sure to prosper. Let those dogs who despised you see how very well youre doing now! Isnt that one of the finest things in life?" He was a rather perceptive man.
Ye Molings eyes narrowed into a slit in his grin.
"Youre right. Let those who stepped on my toes bewareI, Ye Moling, am coming back."
"Old Master, have you got foes in the Northern Lands?" the old man asked carefully.
"Its nothing, its nothing just a few friends in my past who were blinded," Ye Moling laughed. He laughed like Xiao Hongye did. Very meek and gentle, but with daggers behind his laughs.
"Thats good, thats good" The old man felt somehow that there was something queer about his Old Master that he could not quite explain.
Common sense dictated that one who returned home in glory and riches should be feeling spirited, proud and uplifted.
But why did Old Master Yes expression look so strange?
Naturally, Ye Moling would not chat at length with a mortal. He went back into his carriage to rest for a while.
A red-haired muscular man with his hair tied in many small braids was also in the carriage. His facial features and demeanor were uncouth and crude. Presently, he was chewing on a large pig trotter in his hand.
"Elder Brother, how did it go? Has that old fogey sent you here with an agenda!?"
The "old fogey" in his words referred to none other than Duke Ashoka. When Mortal Sweeping Manor had been destroyed, only the two of them escaped alive into the Central Plains. There, they were taken in by Ashoka Manor but were not treated fairly. Although they had contributed much, they were still
This man was one of Ye Molings key assistantsRed-Haired Ghost, Zhou He. With a cultivation at the peak of Seven-Vein Level, he had formerly been the Deputy Manor Lord of Mortal Sweeping Manor. He was the only one left from the Manor who still followed Ye Moling.
"No other intentions. Ashoka Manor is now also a ball of mess, like ants on a stove. Duke Ashoka is nearing the end of his lifespan and is getting increasingly anxious. He no longer cares if we are sincere in our loyalty to him," Ye Moling replied.
"And yet here we are, investigating the disappearance of the Officiator for him?" Red-Haired Ghost Zhou He vented. "Eldest Brother, youre of the same league as he is, what gives him the right to command you? Does he really think youre his subordinate, to summon at his beck and call without any incentives?"
"Beware what you speak." Ye Molings eyes narrowed. "Duke Ashoka isnt in any ordinary league."
"Dont tell me hes broken through the limits and stepped into a new realm? Come on, hes already at the peak, isnt he?" Red-Haired Ghost said.
"How can that be done so easily but even in his declining strength, Ive still no guarantee that Ill succeed." Ye Moling was impassive. "All you need to know is to be careful with your speech. Hes now almost going mad."
The muscular man scorned.
"Wait till I break through to Black Snake. When the time comes, with us brothers joining forces, well put up a good show for him!"
Ye Moling laughed. "Lets put that matter aside. This time, well establish contact with Scarlet District once we get to the Northern Lands. Well decide on our next move after figuring out the situation.
Were in the dark about whether or not therere any remnant effects of Scarlet Dragon Tribulation. If the situation allows it, you can reassemble our former subordinates.
Now that weve got new identities, the Noble Families will think twice before acting against us.
As long as we resolve this matter involving the Officiator, we can exploit the opportunity to win more resources for ourselves. That will be the time to regroup and reestablish our forces."
"Allying with Scarlet District, eh? Got it, Brother!" Red-Haired Ghost Zhou He ripped a large chunk of meat off the pig trotter.
"Shangyang Family, Zhen Family tsk tsk especially that brat Shangyang Jiuli, shes in Mountain-Edge City as well. I really want to eat her up and see how Shangyang Family reacts," Ye Moling sneered.
Now that the Noble Families have retreated from the Northern Lands and left a vacuum behind, he was simply unstoppable in the Northern Lands with his strength.
Wasnt now the best opportunity to rebuild the Mortal Sweeping Manor?
As long as he resolved this case beautifully, Duke Ashoka would have no excuses to deny his request to guard the Northern Lands. Then obtaining resources would be a given.