"Rumble... rumble... rumble"
A loud rumbling rang out from within Lu Sheng's body incessantly.
His stomach was like a bottomless pit. Copious amounts of vegetables and braised meat mixed with rice were stuffed in his mouth and swallowed after a few chews.
Lu Sheng sat alone in the dining hall, with a group of guards standing by him. But at the sight of how he ate, everyone gulped hard. Just watching him eat made one feel bloated.
"News! The Head of Transformation Clan is here!" a guard outside the door shouted.
Lu Sheng put down the large bowl in his hands and wiped his mouth.
"Bring him over."
In this era in which Crimson Whale Sect lorded over all the sects in Northern Lands, his words were like the royal edict in the Northern Landsnobody dared defy him.
It was late autumn. Pale rays of sunlight fell into the dining hall through the doors. While it was insufficient to warm up the place, it alleviated the cold.
But not for Transformation Clan's Head, who had just entered through the doors. No amount of sunlight could alleviate the cold shivers running down his spine now.
Transformation Clan Head, Kong Yi. He was the new Head who had just come into power for less than three months. His predecessor had died of illness at home suddenly. Since he was the Deputy Clan Head then, he had to hurriedly succeed the position.
Having started off as a pickpocket, Kong Yi was lanky and skinny. He might have donned a loose-fitting velvet robe, yet he looked like a monkey in human clothing.
"Kong Yi greets Sect Master Lu." He stood in the center of the dining hall and cupped his fists together at Lu Seng.
Lu Sheng picked up a pig's trotter and dipped it in soy sauce unhurriedly.
Without warning, his mouth opened up and expanded till twice its original size. Razor-sharp teeth bit through the pig's trotter, bone included.
Shivers went down Kong Yi's spine. 'How could a man's mouth open so wide? And look at his teeth! How can human teeth be so sharp?
Could it be that this Sect Master Lu isn't human at all? Could he be a demon!?
"Clan Head Kong. You've worked hard to safeguard the peace in my Northern Lands all these while. I've been paying attention," Lu Sheng said blandly.
Clueless about where this was leading, all Kong Yi could do was smile and agree.
"Yes, yes, yes... all's due to Sect Master Lu's wise guidance."
Lu Sheng glanced at him. Although one could not see anything extraordinary about him on the surface, he had pretty decent inner Qi cultivation.
Just moments ago, he had received the tip-off that Scarlet District Mistress had paid a visit to Lu Manor. Although he knew that umbrella girl would definitely try to stop her, the fact that his family could be plunged in danger at any moment finally caused him to firm up the resolve in his heart.
It was time for all sects and factions to come under one rule in the Northern Lands.
Hence, he immediately gave orders for all sects nearby to meet him, one at a time. As the Sect Master of the Number One Sect in the Northern Lands, and given that Lu Sheng's present power and reputation exceeded even that of Hong Mingzi, naturally nobody dared to refuse.
Kong Yi was the first such leader to meet him. Transformation Clan was an organization that mostly consisted of worthless swindlers, thieves, craftsmen, fortune-tellers... and the like. They did not possess much in the way of actual fighting power. So, it was within expectation that they would be the first to obey Lu Sheng's summons.
"I've called you here to gift you with an opportunity," Lu Sheng spoke as he attacked the dishes before him, without even bothering to look at him.
"Sect Master Lu...this... may I know... what this opportunity is?" Apprehension crept into Kong Yi's heart by instinct.
"An opportunity to improve your cultivation base vastly..." Lu Sheng put down the pig trotter in his hand, stood up and walked slowly to Kong Yi.
"Sect Master Lu... this... Kong Yi does not deserve such fortune. I think you may... you may want to..."
An alarm wailed in Kong Yi's mind by instinct. Before he could finish his words, however, his eyes rolled back and his body trembled. Slowly, he bowed his head and stared at a fair palm pressed on his chest.
"Szzzz" A cold stream of Yin Qi gushed into his body at top speed. Kong Yi's body shook and trembled intensely.
Moments later, the doors to the dining hall opened and Kong Yi exited through them calmly. Under the escort of several subordinates, he departed slowly.
Lu Sheng sat on the same spot without a budge and continued eating. He did not absorb Kong Yi's inner Qi. Although his thirty years' worth of cultivation in Dark Cloud Skill was pretty decent, earning him a spot among Spirit Focus experts, that was not his purpose.
He needed more manpower, more subordinates, stronger experts... to protect what he wished to protect.
Thus, all he did was to implant a Yin Crane Web in Kong Yi.
Yin Crane Web effectively created a brand-new network of meridians in Kong Yi which had no bottlenecks. From this point forward, there would cease to be any limits to the growth of his inner Qi. As long as his fleshly body could cope with it, he could increase his inner Qi without limit.
The growth of inner Qi was an extremely slow and gradual process, but the emergence of an Yin Crane Web in Kong Yi sped up this process several times for him and could even enable him to break through the bottlenecks in his meridians. One could foresee that Kong Yi's inner force would really take off in the days to come. If supplemented with large amounts of medicine and herbs, he might even achieve hundred years' worth of cultivation in the next ten years!
"Next set of dishes." Lu Sheng put down the tub of rice in his hands and wiped his mouth.
It was time to wait for the next chief, head, or leader.
After sucking all the inner force experts of their inner Qi in the dungeon, just his Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi cultivation alone had stunningly attained seven drops of liquefied Qi.
If converted into years, that was a whopping seven hundred years' worth of inner force! And this was excluding the three hundred years' worth of cultivation in Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill.
Altogether, he now had a millenniums worth of inner force!
The process of Yin Yang conversion takes time. It takes several days to convert Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi into Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill. If I balance them out, then my Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill would attain five hundred years' worth of inner force as well.
Lu Sheng calculated in detail whether or not five hundred years' worth of inner force was sufficient to fight Ye Moling.
The answer was: practically impossible...
The pressure I'm getting from Ye Moling is at least many, many times that of what I felt from the Six-Vein Level Bai Jiang.
Five hundred years' worth of Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies inner force is not adequate to fight against him... I need more and stronger inner force
He had no idea how strong exactly the realm of Snake was. But based on Li Shunxi's description previously, no number of Bind realm opponents could take down one Snake realm expert.
The realm of Snake possessed fighting power that was on an entirely different league. Only the likes of Manor Lords and Family Heads could attain it.
"You're worried? Afraid?" Just as his subordinates and servant maids came with new dishes and a few refilled tubs of rice, Lu Sheng heard that sharp shrill voice again.
"Wandering Heart Society?" His heart skipped a beat.
"Scarlet District Mistress is getting anxious. She's getting scared... and we're about to make our move." The voice turned a pitch lower suddenly.
Lu Sheng's eyes narrowed.
"Leave, all of you," he instructed.
Immediately, all his subordinates, guards, servants, and maids quickly retreated out of the room.
Before long, Lu Sheng was the only person left in the dining hall.
"Speak, what's your agenda?" Lu Sheng whispered calmly. Given the other party's capabilities, he believed that they could hear him.
"This is proof of our sincerity."
As the voice rang out, a small white round box appeared before Lu Sheng's eyes.
He had no idea at all how they had delivered it. In the blink of an eye, the box had appeared in his peripheral vision.
This made Lu Sheng even warier of them. Initially, with his recent stride forward in strength, the pressing urgency and threat that he had felt was dissipating.
But now, this encounter with Wandering Heart Society jolted him awake. The danger and bizarre nature of this world far exceeded what he had thought.
"Can I trade it for the kind of pill you gave me previously? I happen to lack materials for grooming my subordinates." Lu Sheng did not need to open the box to know that this was the precious material that could enable black membrane to break through into the next level, which they had promised previously.
Since he had no black membrane at all, this thing was pretty useless to him. He might as well trade it for the pill.
"Trade it for the pill?" The voice sounded stunned, as if it had never expected this request from Lu Sheng. "Well, you can. But that pill can only be consumed thrice by any person. After which, it loses all effect. It's value cannot be compared to this at all... Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. Of course, if you've got better pills that promote inner Qi growth, they'd be even better," Lu Sheng smiled.
"That's already the best. It's also the pill that produces the most effect among all the aged but infrequently used herbs."
The white box faded from his view.
In its place, a new black rectangular box appeared before Lu Sheng's eyes.
He stared intently at the box as it disappeared and as it appeared again. Again, he was clueless how it had been taken away and brought here.
With a light flip of his finger, the box lid popped open, revealing two pearl-like pills in the box.
It was the Cloud Snake Rolling Heart Pillthe same as before.
"Tell me what you've got planned. I don't accept unmerited favors," Lu Sheng asked cautiously as he closed the box.
The other party was a powerful and mysterious faction that could even hunt Scarlet District Mistress. He had no choice but to be on his guard. Even with Shangyang Family as his backing, he could not be certain whether or not the other party had a malicious agenda up their sleeves.
"Hehehehe... straightforward indeed!" The voice chuckled. "Our Deputy Society Head, Chao Hu, has set off in person. Within half a month, he will arrive here.
We know you've got a mole close by Scarlet District Mistress. And it's her most trusted confidante. So, we hope that you can get that person to put this on secretly."
A black jade pendant appeared on Lu Sheng's desk.
Most jade pendants were ring-shaped, with a gap used for hanging them on clothes. That gap was usually fashioned into all sorts of motifs. But the gap of this jade pendant was different.
Lu Sheng picked up the jade pendant. The gap in it was fashioned into the giant mouth of some ferocious wild beast.
"She just needs to keep this object within thirty-three meters of Scarlet District Mistress. It can poison her and diminish her strength without her knowing," the voice explained.
Lu Sheng fondled the black jade pendant. He was unable to discern what material it had been made of and did not seem to him like it possessed any special abilities.
"Fine. Can you tell me when you're planning on striking?" he asked seriously after some consideration.
The voice instantly broke out in laughter.
"Why? Even you wish to admire the ferocity and might of our Society Head? Alright, there's no harm in telling you. The day our Society Head strikes is the day that the Nine Beauty Flower blooms, half a month later!"
"The day that the Nine Beauty Flower blooms?" Lu Sheng repeated.
The voice fell silent.
Lu Sheng pinched and toyed with the black jade pendant, then looked at the two Cloud Snake Rolling Heart Pills again.
Danger is closing in. At such a pressing time, why is Scarlet District Mistress still searching for the one who destroyed Scarlet District instead of going into solitary confinement in preparation to face her enemy? This doesn't make sense. He frowned.
Could it be that she's not looking for a person at all? Rather, under the cover of looking for someone, she's actually looking for some other object?
Or perhaps something vital was missing in Scarlet District after I destroyed it, and that's why she's been looking everywhere?