Lu Sheng thought hard. Suddenly, he recalled how he had first learned of Scarlet District when Song Zhenguo had almost become their victim while they sent out ghosts to search for people born in the Yin hour in the Yin month in the Yin year.
Could it be that Scarlet District Mistress agenda is Lu Shengs eyes narrowed to slits.
He recalled every action made by Scarlet District Mistress after she had returned. Because of umbrella girl, Lu Sheng was aware of her every move.
Ever since she returned, she had immediately begun rebuilding Scarlet Districts headquarters.
After that, she made a beeline for Martial League and began slaughtering at will. She did not seem like she was looking for people to interrogate.
Followed by that, she went to Mountain-Edge City. While she might not have made any bold moves there yet, she sure had a reason for going there.
Looks like Ive got to pay another visit to Scarlet Districts headquarters. Perhaps something extraordinary was hidden in the headquarters I destroyed. Faintly, his mind sketched a possibility.
With that complete analysis, Lu Sheng could tell that Scarlet District Mistress was trying to distract others with a red herring. In actual fact, she was preparing to face Wandering Heart Society.
This preparation required her to rebuild Scarlet District and needed massive amounts of human lives and not just mortal ones at that. Otherwise, she could simply massacre the villages outside the city instead of finding an excuse to attack Martial League.
The fact that she needed an excuse showed that she did not wish for others to discovery her true intent. Presently, no one in the Northern Lands could stop her from doing what she wanted. Despite that, however, the fact that she still needed an excuse was proof that her worry was not caused by any force in Northern Lands, but Wandering Heart Society.
This deduction may not be perfect, but I bet its pretty close to the truth, Lu Sheng thought. Unless Im mistaken, Scarlet District Mistress would certainly find another excuse to whip up a storm in the city.
"News!!" As that thought flashed in his mind, a guard rushed to the door. "Reporting to Sect Master, Mountain-Edge City branch sends an urgent memo!"
"Bring it up!" Lu Shengs heart lurched.
The guard immediately entered through the doors and placed the letter with a wax seal on Lu Shengs desk carefully. Then, he knelt on a single knee and waited for Lu Shengs instructions.
Lu Sheng rapidly tore open the letter and swept through it with his eyes.
Mountain-Edge City, Eastern Mountain Society assaulted. Twenty-eight members of the upper echelon massacred by Scarlet District Mistress in a row. Eastern Mountain Society exists only in name; all experts wiped out.
As expected! Lu Shengs heart sank. Scarlet District Mistress has been preparing to face Wandering Heart Society indeed. And here I was wondering why a Manor Lord-level character like Scarlet District Mistress would be so unyielding over destroyed headquarters turns out she was just finding a cover to mask her intention.
But fortunately, Ive got Shangyang Family as my backer. As long as Im not discovered as the true culprit beyond the shadow of doubt, Im safe. I just need to wait for half a month more, then watch the fight from a safe distance.
Having understood Scarlet District Mistress true intentions, Lu Sheng heaved a sigh of relief. After all, her greatest enemy was Wandering Heart Society.
The one truly after him was probably Ye Moling alone.
But presently, with the battle between Scarlet District Mistress and Wandering Heart Societys Deputy Leader at hand, Ye Moling would probably refrain from striking haphazardly lest he affects the situation.
Likewise, Scarlet District Mistress would not pick a fight now. One Wandering Heart Society was a handful enough for her. That meant that Lu Sheng was safe... for now.
Whatever. I just need to upgrade my strength as much as I can. Ill absorb inner Qi and eat precious herbs at the same time. Lets see what heights I can reach with my inner Qi! Ive got to arrive at the point where I have enough strength for self-preservation. Lu Sheng lightly pressed the jade pendant on his desk.
He made quick work of the remaining dishes, then left the dining hall for the Crimson Whales pill room.
Hong Mingzi happened to be seated with two Pharmacists, arguing over something. Lu Sheng did not greet them. He was in full control of Crimson Whale Sect now; Hong Mingzi had retired.
After taking some Golden Fragrance Ointment, Li Sheng walked to a window in the pill room, opened it, then took out a fine small bone flute from his sleeve. He blew hard into the flute.
No sound came out of it.
Standing in a corner in Hong Mingzi and the other two pharmacists blind spot, Lu Sheng continued blowing the flute for several breaths before putting it down slowly.
Before long, a white homing pigeon with pitch black eyes came flying towards him from the distance, flapping its wings. Gently, it landed on the windowsill.
Lu Sheng took out a charcoal pencil and a piece of paper from the cupboard beside the window, scribbled some simple words on it, then rolled up the paper and tied it on to the pigeons leg together with the black jade pendant.
He tossed the pigeon into the air and watched as it shot off toward the horizon like a released arrow. Only then did he return to the study where the sect master handled sect affairs.
When he stepped into the study, Jade Lotus had been waiting for him there.
"Sect Master, all the namelists are ready. Given our Crimson Whale Sects intelligence network, its entirely possible to form a ranking of all the experts in the Northern Lands like you described." Jade Lotus sounded excited.
All throughout history, only number one had ever been remembered. Everyone knew that Crimson Whale Sects Sect Master was the Number One expert of the Northern Lands. But who was second? Or third? No one knew.
But anyone with some skills to show would wish to know his or her own rank relative to those around them.
Lu Sheng exploited the fame-seeking nature of mortals and tasked Jade Lotus with compiling a list of famed experts in the Northern Lands.
All in order to form the Northern Lands experts ranking.
But his true agenda was to search for targets from which he could suck inner Qi.
"Well done. Have you sorted out the experts above Spirit Focus?" Lu Sheng asked in satisfaction.
"Yes, theyre all sorted out. The actual figures need to be verified upon closer investigation, but the rankings should be settled." Jade Lotus felt as if he was participating in a historic, momentous task in the pugilistic worldcreating the ranking of the most powerful pugilists in the Northern Lands. He could already feel the passion and fervor boiling in him.
"Let me see," Lu Sheng ordered.
Jade Lotus quickly handed over the namelist he had prepared.
Lu Sheng received it and glanced at it. Immediately, his gaze fell straight on the list of Spirit Focus experts and he quickly memorized the names of those at the top of the list, including their addresses, identities and expertise.
"Alright. Next, we need to dispatch experts to test them out. So, for now lay low. Go take a rest." Lu Sheng put down the namelist.
"Yes, sir." Jade Lotus nodded and retreated.
After staring at the namelist in the study for a while, Lu Sheng had committed to memory the experts near him.
"Sect Master." Xu Chui appeared outside the door in a flash. Bowing his head, he said respectfully, "Weve nabbed them."
"All of them?"
"All of them!" Xu Chui confirmed without a trace of hesitation.
"Lets go take a look." Lu Sheng put down the namelist and headed for the water dungeon with Xu Chui in tow.
The water dungeon was in a fortress on shore, not on the ship.
When Lu Sheng arrived, a cacophony of noise greeted him on the third story of the dungeon.
The wardens monitoring them were hiding at the door with balls of cotton stuffed in their ears to block out the noise.
"Whats going on?" Lu Sheng and Xu Chui frowned once they stepped on the third story. They noise was too deafening, like the sound of a gong reverberating and trapped in a small room.
"The prisoners just locked up keep hitting the iron doors. Weve got no way of stopping them" a warden complained helplessly.
These wardens were merely Strength Proficiency experts. Against these Intent Proficiency prisoners, they were out of their depths.
"Mountain Tiger Clans experts are all trained in hard body skills. Theyve all got thick skin and muscles," Xu Chui explained to Lu Sheng.
Lu Sheng nodded and strode into the third story corridor.
The rows of prison cells many who were smashing against the iron doors incessantly, their faces filled with rage. There was a middle-aged man dressed in blood-stained hunters clothes among them. Every now and then, Lu Sheng even caught sight of a few middle-aged women, though they were very few in number.
"Sect Master Lu, Lu Sheng!?"
A white-haired old man who looked ancient but had a voice full of vigor was standing in one of the cells. Upon sight of Lu Sheng, he walked towards him and pressed himself against the iron bars.
"It is I indeed. So its the former Mountain Tiger Clan Chief, Old Mister Yang," Lu Sheng said politely as he walked to his door.
This Senior Yang was called Yang Sunlong. He was the undisputed number one expert in Tiger Mountain Clan, which comprised mainly hunters.
It was a pity that Yang Sunlong was covered in blood and gravely wounded now. Clearly, Xu Chui did not hold back when arresting him and thus gravely wounded him.
"Sect Master Lu, what on earth are you doing!? You assaulted my Mountain Tiger Clan out of the blue for no rhyme or reason! I concede that your Crimson Whale Sect is mighty indeed. We cant afford to offend you, but thats why we went into hiding! Our strength is in hunting and gathering herbs in the mountain forests. If you needed our services, all you had to do was ask. There was no need to strike!"
Lu Sheng shook his head.
"Youve been going against my Mountain-Edge City branch from behind the scenes all this while. Much intelligence about my experts was divulged by you. Did you really think that I was in the dark?"
The old mans face fell.
Lu Sheng paid no further attention to him. Instructing a prison guard to open the iron door, he strode in.
The rest of the Mountain Tiger Clan began to quiet down. They stared hard at Lu Sheng. The old man was their top expert. Presently, as he negotiated with Lu Sheng face to face, he represented all their interests.
"Sect Master Lu!" The old man Yang Sunlong fell back two paces, staring cautiously at Lu Sheng who had just stepped into the cell.
"Let Mountain Tiger Clan rest in this dungeon for a period of time, shall we?" Lu Sheng grinned at him. Then, lightning quick, his palm lashed out.
Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi spun in his palm and imprinted itself on the old mans forehead.
Traces of Aquarius Qi were injected into the old mans body and rapidly formed an Yin Crane Web.
"Old Clan Chief!!"
Enraged bellows came one after another from other cells, but all in vain. Lu Shengs hand continued to press on the old mans chest, unmoving like a mountain.
Xu Chui had the prison guard pass him the keys and sent everyone else out of the third story.
Very soon, they were the only two people left on the third story with the prisoners.
More than a dozen breaths after Lu Sheng's palm landed on the old man's body...
...the old man fell over backwards, his face pale as paper. He looked completely spent of all life force.
Lu Sheng released a trace of inner Qi back into the old man's body. It was a trace of inner Qi filtered by Yin Crane Web; its life force nourishing effects far outstripped the old man's own inner Qi cultivation.
The skill he practiced was merely an Intent Proficiency manual called Multi-Colored Black Feathers Hand. After the absorption and conversion by Lu Sheng, all his fifty years' worth of diligent cultivation amounted to merely thirty years of Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi.
"Keep him alive and fill with food and drinks. He'll recover in no time, don't worry," Lu Sheng ordered and went straight to the next cell.
The second cell contained another old man in long white robes. A wine gourd hung from his waist and one of his arms hung limply by his side. Clearly, it had been broken.
"Sect Master Lu, let's talk! I'm Li Chong, Chief of Mountain Tiger Clan. Whatever you want, you just have to say the word. I, Li Chong, will offer it up with both hands without a single question! I'll cooperate fully!" Clearly, he had been scared out of his wits by what Lu Sheng did to the old man before him.
Although the cells here were independent of each other, they were not spaced far apart from each other; the prisoners could hear sounds from other cells.
"What I want is for you to stand still." Lu Sheng grinned at him. Feeling the thirty years' worth of Aquarius Qi which he had just absorbed, Lu Sheng was feeling magnificent. Given the strength of his fleshly body, there were no qualms at all with him absorbing all the inner Qi he wanted in the world to upgrade his power.
Compared to sitting still and meditating hard, such unlabored gains were much more gratifying.
"Sect Master Lu...!" The old man's face lurched. Before he could speak any further...
A lightning quick shadow appeared by his side and a palm struck him at the center of his back.
Large amounts of Aquarius Qi gushed into him and built an Yin Crane Web, then began sucking his inner Qi cultivation.
All was proceeding in order.