Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi possessed extremely potent self-healing abilities. But that was towards Lu Sheng himself; he had never healed another person through Qi Transfer before.
'But now it seems pretty effective,' Lu Sheng evaluated inwardly, watching the color return to Dong Qi's cheeks.
In just the span of a joss stick, Dong Qi's breathing gradually stabilised.
Lu Sheng retracted his hand. He sensed that Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi had formed a web in Dong Qi's body at some unknown point in time. As long as she continued cultivating inner force diligently after this, she was bound to improve by leaps and bounds.
But the extremely small amount of Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi was insufficient to trigger a mutation in her; she thus remained as before.
Hearing that the commotion had died off, Xu Chui and the rest hurried over and knelt on one knee. At the sight of the holes and pits that covered the ground, they were alarmed by the intensity of the battle earlier. How must Sect Master have fought Unlaughing Master to have caused such damage?
"Clean up the site. Unlaughing Master has been dealt with. On top of that, take Dong Qi to rest," Lu Sheng gave his instructions. "We need to make a trip to that village too."
"That village?" Ning San and the rest were puzzled.
"Hasn't that village been dealt with already, Sect Master?" Xu Chui asked softly.
"Dealt with? Of course not. What we dispatched was merely an Anomaly, the Unlaughing Master. But the true source still lies there, unmoved." Lu Sheng revealed the hint of a smile. He recalled the contents on the stone sign. Part of it hinted at the true origin of Unlaughing Master, while at the same time hinting at the destination which the passageway led to.
They made quick work of the scene. In actual fact, not much remained for them to clean up. Unlaughing Master had turned to dust and Chao Long had dispersed into the wind. All they could clean up was some bone ashes. Apart from that and the large quantities of broken stone and ruins around them, Dong Qi and Lu Sheng were the only living beings left.
After that, all that was left was rebuilding the destroyed Tea Sect building. Given their wealth, however, that wasn't a problem at all.
After some simple instructions, Lu Sheng brought Xu Chui and the rest towards the village directly, without any stops along the way. By the time they arrived, it was dawn.
The village was a picture of emptiness and serenity, without half a living soul in sight.
Lu Sheng stood at the mouth of the village, his eyes narrowed as he swept the interior of the village with his gaze. Even with his senses, he could not detect any abnormality here.
Ning San walked to the front of a stone house, squatted down, grabbed a pinch of soil, held it up to his nose and sniffed.
"Some people have been here. The numbers three of them. They passed by this spot separately."
"Can you track the direction they were heading in?" Lu Sheng whispered.
"No if Elder Chen was here, then perhaps he could. But all I could do was pick up a few tricks from him" Ning San had a voracious appetite for learning. Hence, although he had never attended an Institution, he had picked up numerous abilities on his own.
Elder Chen had once assisted Lu Sheng in tracking down the traitor in Martial League. He had a great part to play in Lu Sheng's killing of the Officiator Bai Jiang. His tracking abilities were par excellence. After learning of that, Ning San took the initiative to take lessons from him on this ability.
'Three people' Lu Sheng pondered. 'Could it be the trio including Yan Kai?'
"Go in and search." He waved his hand.
The company of Crimson Whale Sect disciples received his order and dashed into the village. The village was only seven or eight stone houses large and so it took only a short while for it to be searched thoroughly.
"In reply to Sect Master, not a single person could be found within," a guard said loudly.
"There's really nobody?" Lu Sheng's brow arched.
"There's nobody indeed," the guard replied.
Lu Sheng glanced at the stone house lying on the slope. Subtly, he discerned that there was something amiss about it. But that feeling was faint and he could not quite make a firm judgment.
"Three Sacred Mirror Zhao Jiaojiao and the rest remain missing till now. Could Three Sacred Gates be behind it?" His eyes narrowed to slits.
"Leave men behind to garrison in Tea Town. Lockdown this place: nobody in and nobody out," Lu Sheng ordered.
"Yes, sir!" Xu Chui acknowledged.
"Come on, let's go back." Lu Sheng glanced at the color of the sky. He knew that he was out of leads. Without any exceptional methods, he had no means of locating the Three Sacred Mirror. High likely, Zhao Jiaojiao and the rest had been pulled into the space inside the mirror.
He recalled how he, too, had been sucked into that harvested hay field back then.
Although he couldn't find Zhao Jiaojiao right now, Lu Sheng could sense that she was still alive through the Yin Crane Web.
After a period of futile searching, Crimson Whale Sect could only leave men behind and build a temporary base here with the help of Tea Sect.
Lu Sheng, on the other hand, returned to the headquarters with his men without any stops along the way. He still held that pearl and could feel something within it dissipating with time.
Upon reaching the Crimson Whale, he immediately went into solitary confinement in his sanctuary.
A ball of colorless flame gradually lit to life in Lu Sheng's palm. Slowly, Lu Sheng put it under the black pearl, scorching it with high temperature.
The fog within the pearl began following intensely. The sense of something dissipating within it intensified.
Time passed by quickly.
In the blink of an eye, Lu Sheng had sat on the ground in sanctuary for two days without a single budge, staring at that pearl with great focus.
In the past two days, he had been sensing the changes within the pearl carefully. To be precise, he was sensing the aura that was emanating off the pearl.
And these two days since returning from Tea Sect had allowed him to grasp a certain pattern.
"At the Zi hour of every night soon it's almost time" Lu Sheng calculated silently.
At Zi hour, a miraculous transformation would happen to the pearl, which would be intensified if heated up by scorching inner Qi at that time. This was Lu Sheng's observation.
And now, it was time for him to verify it.
Time ticked by and the moonlight from outside the sanctuary was growing colder.
Lu Sheng stared at the pearl without budging, as if he had become a statue.
Out of nowhere, a gust of wind suddenly blew past him.
Lu Sheng was surprised. He looked to his left and right, but failed to detect the direction from which the wind had blown. Narrowing his eyes, he continued searching everywhere. Very quickly, he found the cause of the change in air flow.
It was that pearl.
The pearl was presently expanding under the burning of inner Qi.
From the size of an egg, it gradually levitated in the air and became larger and larger till it was the height of a man.
The passageway within the pearl expanded till it appeared in full view before Lu Sheng.
"Szz szzz" The sound of travelling air gushed out from the pearlthat was the source of the gust of wind that Lu Sheng had felt. It was the flow of air through the passageway within the pearl.
"This is incredible" Lu Sheng reached out to touch the pearl.
With a splat, his hand penetrated the inside of the pearl naturally like through a layer of soap bubble.
'Should I enter? This is the passageway that Chao Long was looking for,' Lu Sheng asked himself.
He scrutinized the passageway in the pearl. It was enshrouded in fog, extending into the unseen depths which seemed to stretch endlessly forward.
Making up his mind, Lu Sheng took a step forward.
He disappeared into the pearl entirely and stood at the start of the passageway, mired in fog.
He looked behind him.
It was still the sanctuary, but it was as if behind a layer of glass.
In front of him, on the other hand, stood two stone signs on both sides of the passageway, one on the left and one on the right. They were previously obscured by fog, but now appeared in plain sight to Lu Sheng.
The stone signs were made of ordinary grayish white stone, with some words carved into them.
On the left was 'Troubles, Sorrow, Loneliness, Heartache, Pain.'
On the right was 'Grief, Jealousy, Emptiness, Rage, Calamity.'
The words carved on the stone signs were from ancient Song script. One could not tell their age by looking at them, and the carvings on them looked untidy.
Lu Sheng stood before the stone signs and peered ahead into the passageway through the fog, then glanced at the sanctuary behind him again.
The sanctuary was now like a doora door back to reality. The passageway, on the other hand, was a road that led to an unknown world.
Lu Sheng hesitated.
He was itching to explore. But judging by Chao Long of Wandering Heart Society's determination to secure the passageway, he could tell that the place which it led to was absolutely no ordinary place. If he were truly a demon or a Nobleman, he would enter and explore no matter what.
But he was not. He was purely a human being.
Things that were beneficial to demons and ghosts might be harmful to him. Moreover, simply by standing in front of the passageway, he felt an inexplicable, bizarre aura.
The aura was like the moisture and dampness carried by a waterfall crashing down; it was sticky and kept trying to adhere on to him, as if it was alive.
His instincts warned him that the place which this passageway led to had nothing good in store for him.
Standing in front of the stone signs, Lu Sheng deliberated for a long while. Eventually, he stepped back slowly until he reached the exit to the sanctuary.
'Since Three Sacred Gates possesses a passageway like this, I'll surely have another chance in the future. I can't enter impudently like this, without knowledge of anything within. That's a recipe for disaster.' He never fought any battles without a guarantee of success. Apart from his first fight in which had little choice, nearly all the times he made a move after that were times when he had occupied the advantage.
That was his principle. His cardinal rule.
Looking back at the mysterious passageway a last time, Lu Sheng grit his teeth, turned back and stepped out of the pearl into the sanctuary.
In the moment he stepped out of the pearl, the black structure, together with the passageway, began distorting like a mirage suddenly. In the short span of a few breaths, it shrank rapidly, paled, then faded completely.
In a sharp crack, the black pearl disappeared completely. No bit of it remained in the sanctuary.
Lu Sheng stood still, recalling the sensations he had felt earlier. That sense of mystery, the unknown and danger was etched indelibly in his mind.
'I'm not ready yet. I'm not yet the strongest I can be. And who knows how long I'll spend in this passageway. If I enter rashly, given the longevity of these demons and ghosts, I may land up spending several decades in it before coming out again. Then all my work in the Northern Lands would have come to naught Moreover, some unknown danger is hidden in it. I can't take the risk.'
Lu Sheng did not regret his decision.
Many things still needed his attention in the Northern Lands. He wished to create a nest with absolute security, a powerful family, a base where he could hide and recover when he suffered grievous wounds.
But building something like that in this chaotic world would undoubtedly require massive power and considerable forces.
'Next time, perhaps. Wait till I figure out what this Three Sacred Gates is about. My chance to enter will come again.' Lu Sheng stared at the empty sanctuary in silence.
Hi everyone! In light of the 2-weeks break before this, I've decided to cancel the Tuesday break this week. So here is a chapter on what's usually the weekly break! Enjoy!