"Why? What's the problem with this mirror?" Lu Sheng was stumped by Hongfang Bai's reaction.
"A big problem. I've heard of an organization fully consisting of Anomalies. They're extremely well-hidden and go by the name of Three Sacred Gates," Hongfang Bai whispered. "They're an organization shrouded in mystery and are not to be trifled with. If you see them, it's best to avoid them. I don't want to be implicated by you."
"Even you are afraid of this Three Sacred Gates despite your strength?" Lu Sheng asked curiously.
"They're a pain to deal with. You've no idea because you've never had any contact with them. Their methods are extremely bizarre. To begin with, Anomalies exist in all shapes and color; there's no way to keep track of how many different kinds of Anomalies there are. You'll understand when you meet them," Hongfang Bai said simply.
Lu Sheng recalled his first encounter with the mirror. Indeed, he had been pulled into the mirror. Moreover, the Anomaly possessed three modes and fought with its life without negotiations. It was indeed a pain in the neck.
"Forget it. You won't believe me even if I say more. What you encountered previously was probably a Collector in their organizationa rookie soldier with the job of collecting and gathering life force. If you ever encounter those white stained-glass mirrors, beware." Hongfang Bai jumped down the table. "Alright, I'm going to take a shower. I've said what I should. You decide."
Lu Sheng did not stop her. He watched as she left the room and fell into deep thought.
'Aside from the Noble Families, it looks like many factions exist even among demons and ghosts. Wandering Heart Society is one. Then there's Ashoka Manor. And now a Three Sacred Gates pops up... and it's also an Anomaly-based faction.'
He sat in silence for a moment.
'I've still got more than fifty units of Yin Qi unused. Perhaps I can upgrade Yang Extreme Dao once more. Deep Blue.'
The Modifier screen emerged.
He glanced at his present status.
'Yang Extreme Dao: Grade Three. Special Effect(s): Amplified Strength Level Thirteen; Anti-Tremor Level Ten; Reinforced Defense Level Ten; Scorch Level Six...'
'Yang Extreme Dao is formed by the full mastery of all hard body skills and is an outer force skill through and through. It decides the strength of my fleshly body and physical abilities.
Previously I upgraded to Grade Three at one go. By integrating Yin and Yang inner Qi, I can enter the Destroyer mode. But now... it looks like I'm short on Yin Qi'
He was disappointed to see no 'Extrapolate' button behind Yang Extreme Dao. Then, he looked at his inner force skills.
'Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill: Level Nine. Special Effect(s): Inner Qi Detonation, Strengthened Blood Web.'
'Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi: Level Nine. Special Effect(s): Yin Crane Web, Yin Extreme Mode.'
Although his skills were listed separately from each other in the Modifier, Lu Sheng could distinctly feel that the inner Qi in his body was integrated into one, with Yang on the outside and Yin on the inside.
On the outside, Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill was the main foundation of his power. On the inside, he relied on Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi to stabilize his body and protect himself from being scorched by the overly explosive Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill.
Without Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi, Lu Sheng would be unable to tolerate and control such a powerful Yang-attribute inner force skill.
'In other words, if I wish to upgrade my inner force now, I need to upgrade both Yin and Yang inner force skills together as far as possible.' Having realized that, his thoughts traveled further. 'Now, I'm left with slightly more than fifty units of Yin Qi. At the very most, I can upgrade either one of them... But if I break the current equilibrium, I may suffer from side effects. I might as well keep that Yin Qi first and upgrade them at the same time when I've saved up enough Yin Qi.'
He rose to his feet and placed the book back on the shelf slowly.
A guard pushed the door open, entered and knelt on the ground on one knee.
"Prepare the carriage for a trip to Tea Town. Relay my orders: Xu Chui is to accompany me with one squad," Lu Sheng ordered. These guards who waited on him close by possessed extremely high clearance. Each one of them was an elite picked from the sect, ready to lay down their lives at any time. They all worshipped Lu Sheng fanatically and were 'equipped' with Yin Crane Web. Hence, their loyalty to him was without question.
"Yes, sir!" The guard received the Sect Master's command medallion and retreated.
Lu Sheng had intended to conceal his identity on the trip. But on second thought, he decided that it was better to bring a team over in broad daylight. There were advantages to having more men in his company.
After giving out his orders, he stood alone in the study, gazing at the sky outside the study. Wisps of clouds flew by the horizon, blocking the late autumn sun.
After standing there with a dazed gaze for a moment, he sighed, pushed open the door slowly and walked out of the study.
Three days later, in Tea Town.
Beside a giant wine urn in the winery in town, a Taoist in green robes fished out some copper coins from his pocket slowly and counted.
He glanced at the extraordinarily lively scene before him in the winery. Solemnly, he pinched his fingers together and calculated.
The Taoist looked handsome and square-faced. With the serious look on his face, he looked every bit the part of a wise Taoist. A neat black goatie was on his chin.
After some calculations, his originally solemn face turned every graver.
"I've run out of money..."
The owner of the winery had long since noticed this man standing beside the wine urn. Initially, he paid him no attention. But seeing his facial expression turn graver and graver, the owner began to feel nervous. His mind went to the strange incident that had recently happened in town and quickly finished his instructions to the waiters and strolled over.
"Excuse me, Taoist. May I know if there's anything wrong with my winery? Why have you been standing at the door with such a solemn expression...?"
At the sound of that, the Taoist sucked in a deep breath of air.
"This humble Taoist's Taoist name is Wan Hezi. I chanced upon your store accidentally and felt a sudden urge to calculate. But immediately I found something amiss..."
"May I know what's wrong?" The owner of the winery was a believer and immediately began to get the jitters. Hurriedly, he waved a waiter over to bring him into the winery.
Half-declining and half-acquiescing, Wan Hezi was invited into the winery. He sat down and was about to explain, when...
"Senior Apprentice Brother Wan Hezi?" A customer slowly stood up and stared at the Taoist in shock.
At the sound of that, Wan Hezi turned around and was shocked too.
"Junior Apprentice Brother Yan!?" His eyeballs spun and quickly plastered on a smile and shuffled over. "So Junior Apprentice Brother Yan is here too! What a coincidence!"
The man who had stood up was the travelling Yan Kai. Ruddy and square-faced, Yan Kai looked even more righteous than Wan Hezi.
Yan Kai looked at Wan Hezi helplessly, wondering whether to cry or to laugh. He was all too aware of his senior apprentice brother's character flawhe had no real abilities and loved to play the holy man to swindle others out of food and drink. Here he was, with a look of holiness and righteousness on his face; clearly he was about to con the owner for some wine.
"Come, come, come. Senior Apprentice Brother, sit here. We haven't met in such a long time. Sit down and let's chat. Where have you been all these years? Where's Master? Why couldn't I find anyone on the mountain?"
Seeing that a treat was waiting for him, Wan Hezi immediately ignored the winery owner, patronizing him with a few words, then quickly squeezed his way over to sit with Yan Kai.
Duan Rongrong, who had been sitting beside Yan Kai, was shoved aside by Wan Hezi and immediately pouted in irritation.
"Oh, Rongrong's here too! Come, let senior apprentice brother hug you!" At the sight of Duan Rongrong, Wan Hezi's eyes lit up and he immediately leaned over to take advantage of her.
"Aren't you afraid I'll tell Sis Bingyuan, Senior Apprentice Brother Wan Hezi?" Duan Rongrong folded her arms and humphed.
"Er..." Wan Hezi's excitement instantly turned into awkwardness. He retracted his hands with a sense of pity.
"And the fact that Brother Yan Kai is your junior apprentice brother doesn't automatically make me your junior apprentice sister. No wonder Sis Binyuan doesn't want you... tsk tsk tsk..." Duan Rongrong moves further away from Wan Hezi with a look of disgust.
"Ai... don't do this. Senior apprentice brother has reasons..." Wan Hezi was helpless.
"Oh yea, Senior Apprentice Brother, did you come because you heard the legend about this town too?" Yan Kai spoke via secret channelling.
Secret channelling was a secret of their tradition. Only those who shared their bloodline could use it.
At the sound of that, Wan Hezi nodded. Solemn once more, he replied via secret channelling as well, "To be precise, I've come in pursuit of an extremely powerful big shot. Have you heard of Wandering Heart Society's Chao Long?"
"Chao Long? Wandering Heart Society?" Yan Kai asked in puzzlement. "No, I haven't. Will Senior Apprentice Brother clarify?"
Wan Hezi sighed.
"This Chao Long is a powerful person with a terrifying reputation in the archipelago in the sea to the east of the Song Nation, his name used to quiet crying babies. You have no idea how mighty he is. Each move he makes affects the demon tribes of the east.
But for some reason, he suddenly went westwards to the Northern Lands. Who knows what he's after?"
Yan Kai had no idea how powerful exactly this Chao Long was. But he had a different purpose for his trip.
"No matter what he's after, it's irrelevant to us. I've come to investigate the rumored legend of the Unlaughing Master in Tea Town."
"Unlaughing Master?" Wan Hezi frowned. "Do you mean the man who keeps making people tell him jokes in a stone house deep in the mountains?"
"That's right..." Before Yan Kai could finish, a series of hoof beats rang out outside the winery.
A large team of men in black athletic robes escorted an imposing carriage team, moving along slowly on the streets. All the hawkers and townsfolk hurriedly moved to the two sides of the street, making way for the team.
In the middle of the carriage team was a posh black sedan with red borders, carried on the shoulders by eight strong men.
Most astonishingly, the carriage team was escorted by the Winged Honor Guard and soldiers!
"What a grand team!" Wan Hezi exclaimed as he gazed at them.
Yan Kai, on the other hand, paid attention to the flags on the carriage team.
"It's Crimson Whale Sect! Why have they come?"
"And it's the Sect Master himself to boot!" Duan Rongrong recognized the flag as well. They had spent some time in the Northern Lands and had several contacts with Crimson Whale Sect.
This was the undisputed Number One Sect of the Northern Lands. Their Sect Master was even someone whom they knewtheir erstwhile acquaintance, Lu Family's Young Master Lu Sheng.
"It's Lu Family's eldest young master..." Duan Rongrong whispered. Before she could finish the sentence however, Yan Kai interrupted.
"No.. it should be the King of Sabers in the Northern LandsLu Sheng," Yan Kai said.
"King of Sabers in the Northern Lands? What an imposing titleisn't he afraid of being crushed under its weight?" Wan Hezi was unconvinced. "If the Serpent of the Eastern Seas, Chao Long, hears of it, I'm afraid this King of Sabers in the Northern Lands will be in for trouble."
"We don't know that for certain." Yan Kai shook his head. "This Sect Master Lu Sheng rose at such speed that it could only be described as a miracle. His power is unparalleled in all of the Northern Lands. Moreover, he's vicious and shrewd and has deep connections. With such strength and might, he's certainly no ordinary human. If they were to fight, it remains a question who'll come out on top."
"No...you don't understand what's so scary about the Serpent of the Eastern Seas, Chao Long." Wan Hezi shook his head. "Wait till you see him strike. Then you'll understand why he can lord over the archipelago in the east, and why so many experts live under his shadow." His thoughts went to memories of that scene in the past. A sliver of fear flashed across his eyes.
Yan Kai did not bother to refute him. He could tell that his senior apprentice brother had been scared out of his wits by Chao Long. But he had seen Lu Sheng himself and knew that this man was a wolf who acted without fear or restraint and with undisguised cruelty. Add to that the fact that they were in the Northern Lands now... Anybody who messed with Sect Master Lu here on his turf had only tragedy waiting for him.
If the two were truly to fight, he did not think that Lu Sheng would lose.
"No matter what, neither of them are people we can trifle with. We just need to stay out of their way," Yan Kai whispered.