It was not the case that Lu Sheng did not think of taking the book back to read at his own pace. But each time before he reached the exit with the book in his hand, he felt an inexplicable premonition of danger, as if some hidden threat was about to be activated. That was why he gave up the idea.
After exiting the library, he leapt across the bridge as usual and went back to rest.
Unless it was a sunny summer day, it was hard to tell night from day in the cave. Most of the time, the cave was shrouded in darkness or red glow. Their food and drinks were left outside their caves by servants who spoke little. The diet consisted of either mushrooms or moss. Occasionally there would be meat as well, but it would be earthworms and beetles and the like.
Lu Sheng had no complaints; after all, he came to learn about the Noble Families and the nature of Divine Weapons and Devil Blades safely, not for comforts.
Time passed, day by day.
With extreme speed, he had flipped through all the books in the library on Divine Weapons.
But apart from understanding the heights of the Weapon Master, he gained no knowledge of their origins.
On the other hand, he quickly achieved progress with Three Yin Technique. The supposed lighting up of three balls of Yin Flames was essentially forming three spots of high activity in his body.
Through meditation and muscle training, he could cultivate these three spots to produce extreme strength in a short amount of time. That was the Three Yin Technique, which formed the basic foundation for subsequent skills.
Lu Sheng spent five days to attain initiation in Three Yin Technique.
But in these mere five days, some bad news from outside the sect seemed to have spread. The fellow disciples who showed up for morning lessons decreased again.
Grand Elder acted as if he had not noticed and continued to explain the important points in cultivation.
After he checked on Lu Sheng's progress, he imparted a new foundational skill to Lu Sheng: Karmaless Skill.
Karmaless Skill was another skill that pitted the body's muscles against itself through meditation, but it was much more difficult than Three Yin Technique as it involved many internal organs and minor muscles.
Lu Sheng did not use the Modifier. Rather, after realizing that it was not difficult for him to master such foundational skills given his present martial arts accomplishments, he proceeded step by step via the regular method.
Moreover, this skill could not be cultivated on his own. Towards the middle and later stages, it required aid in the form of external stimulation provided by the Devil's Pool.
Since he was in no rush, Lu Sheng slowly progressed along according to the step by step instructions on the manual.
In the blink of an eye, half a month passed.
Every day, Lu Sheng would spend some time cultivating the foundational skills, then spend the bulk of his time reading in the library. By now, he had devoured several shelves of books.
All on the topic of Divine Weapons and Devil Blades.
As a result, he gained a clear understanding of what kind of existence the Weapon Masters were in the eyes of the major factions in Song Dynasty.
All the efforts of the various Noble Families in seizing and collecting Divine Weapons was for no other purpose than to produce a stronger Weapon Master.
Weapon Masters possessed unfathomably powerful bodies. Their fleshly bodies were similar to the material of Divine Weapons and Devil Blades. Their power was so profound that only those in the same league were qualified to challenge one another.
They were the apex of the power of their bloodlinesthe genesis of the Noble Families.
Mastering and wielding titanic Divine Weapons and Devil Blades, they fought and clashed against each other. As long as the Divine Weapon lasted, they were immortal. They were the true force that determined the longevity of a kingdom.
"According to the books, the complete form of a Divine Weapon is at least several dozen meters. With their massive size, it's little wonder that no one apart from Weapon Masters is qualified to wield them." Lu Sheng continued flipping through the book.
"False Divine Weapons?" He came to a sudden halt and stared at the term that had popped up in the book.
'Noble Families may possess Divine Weapons, but these Divine Weapons will eventually break apart and shatter. The Noblemen of Noble Families with shattered Divine Weapons were discontent to see their power go into decline. Thus, they formed various assorted sects, attempting to create their own Divine Weapon to preserve their strength. This was the earliest beginnings of the sects.
The Divine Weapons built by them are called False Divine Weapons. Their strength is less than one percent of the might of genuine Divine Weapons.'
The more Lu Sheng read on, the stranger he felt it was.
'Why does this sound like an armored suit? Divine Weapons and Devil Blades are basically armored suits. The Weapon Masters are the pilots. The strength of an armored suit and that of a man is of entirely different leagues.
No matter how strong a man trains himself to be, even if he was a top-notch martial arts combat master, he cannot take even a single punch from a several-thousand-tons heavy armored suit.'
He put down the book.
"In that case, what's the False Divine Weapon here?"
"Junior Apprentice Brother, you're here indeed! What False Divine Weapon?" He Xiangzi walked in through the door; she seemed as though she were looking for him.
"Senior Apprentice Sister He Xiang? Why are you here?" Lu Sheng stood up.
"Master wants me to lead you to find a Devil's Pool. What's this 'False Divine Weapon' you're studying? We call it 'Holy Weapon'. Our sect has some shards of that too. But it's very dangerous. Best to stay away from it." Having interacted with Lu Sheng more, He Xiangzi was now on familiar terms with Lu Sheng and the manner in which she spoke to him reflected that.
"I'm just a little curious." Lu Sheng smiled. "As you know, Senior Apprentice Sister, I've come from the Northern Lands, not the Central Plains. I haven't seen much, so I'm curious about everything."
"Speaking of that... it's a pity that we haven't got a complete Holy Weapon. Otherwise we wouldn't come to this state." He Xianzi sighed, a look of longing in her eyes.
"Did we use to have a Holy Weapon??" Lu Sheng's interest was piqued.
"Naturally. Ninety-nine percent of the Hundred Lineages do," He Xiangzi explained. "According to the records, our sect did possess a Holy Weapon. But during a grave calamity, we lost it and suffered heavy casualties. The Holy Weapon shattered, leaving behind only shards, which have been passed down the ages."
"Oh, I see." Lu Sheng nodded. "Doesn't that mean that our sect is at the bottom in the Hundred Lineages?"
"AH??!..." He Xiangzi's eyes widened as she realized her slip of the tongue and immediately covered her mouth. "Actually... actually it doesn't matter. We've still got our Grand Elder... He's inherited the Prime Devil Secret Art, which is the key pillar that holds up our sect..." She stammered, trying to salvage the situation.
In reality, however, not even she herself believed her own words, and her voice sounded hollow.
Lu Sheng was speechless.
Now he finally understood what sort of situation Prime Devil Sect was in.
The Holy Weapon that defended the sect had been destroyed. It had already taken the Grand Elder's all to keep the sect going for so long. But that did not prevent the sect from going into decline and its disciples from dispersing.
How could a man go against the power of a Holy Weapon? Even a False Divine Weapon's might would probably surpass the realm of Snake. After all, the Snake realm merely barely qualified one to touch a Divine Weapon.
According to a certain book, even the upper three grades of Snake realm could barely wield a Divine Weapon. It would be like a mortal attempting to roll a giant boulder. The slightest misstep would decimate him, causing himself to be polluted and assimilated by the Divine Weapon.
"Let's go, Senior Apprentice Sister. Haven't you come to teach me how to pick a Devil's Pool?" Lu Sheng reminded.
"Oh, that's right! That's right!!" He Xiangzi snapped back to the present.
The two of them swiftly left the library. Instead of crossing the bridge, however, they turned left and flew deeper into the darkness.
After a few kilometers ahead, caves of uneven size began appearing on the sides of the cavern.
A bronze basin was placed outside each cave, with incense sticks burning in the basins. Wisps of smoke encircled the incense sticks, dispersing into the air. Yet, no scent could be detected.
"Most of the Devil's Pools are concentrated here. The surface of the bronze basins are carved with words and patterns. Remember: the more incense sticks you find in the basin, the thicker and denser the Devil's Pool within. Now, you can only use those that're three incense sticks and below. Be cautious. Don't overstay your limit in them.
And of course, if there're no incense stick lit, don't enter the Devil's Pool. It's either empty or it's density has exceeded what can be calculated," He Xiangzi explained in detail as she led Lu Sheng along.
"On top of that, you'll find Devil's Pools everywhere. But they're more concentrated here. Don't be surprised or alarmed if you find Devil's Pools elsewhere."
"Remember: don't faint inside," He Xiangzi reminded once again at last. "I've got things to attend to, so I'm leaving. If you've got any questions, you can find me in the third cave in row two."
Quickly she came, quickly she left.
Lu Sheng was left alone here, surrounded by caves on his left and right.
"Holy Weapon..." His thoughts remained submerged in the contents of his reading earlier. "Without their Holy Weapon, Prime Devil Sect is at best a small martial arts center in the Hundred Lineages: expendable. No wonder nobody has spoken up for them even though it's under pressure.
It's meaningless for the Grand Elder to barely hold things together. As for this foundational skill..." Even after cultivating it for so long, Lu Sheng felt that it was not even as powerful as his own Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill. In order to keep up his cover identity, however, he had no choice but to keep on cultivating it.
"In the eyes of the Weapon Masters, an ordinary Nobleman is like a mortal in the eyes of a Bind realm expert. The radical difference is too wide a chasmthey're not in the same scale at all."
A question suddenly popped up in Lu Sheng's mind.
"However strong a Holy Weapon is, it's pathetically weak compared to a genuine Divine Weapon or Devil Blade. If that's already the trump card of the Hundred Lineages, how can they stand against the Nine Great Families of the Central Plains?
Or perhaps... the Noble Families actually have a hand in the Hundred Lineages in the first place..."
Realization dawned on Lu Sheng.
Slowly, he walked to a cave and examined the bronze basin before it.
A word was carved on its surface:
Three incense sticks were inserted into the basin. Wisps of smoke floated up from them.
Lu Sheng noticed that the incense sticks were burning very slowly. They seemed to have been made of some unique material. Standing at the mouth of the cave, he peered into it. It was a scene of pitch black; nothing was in it.
He walked on, continuing to look for caves. This time, he easily found one with two incense sticks.
At the sight of the black shadows rolling and churning within, Lu Sheng frowned. He activated Karmaless Skill, causing the muscles in his body to harden like steel, and accelerated the circulation of his Qi and blood. Then, he strode into the cave.
In that instant, he felt as if he had dropped into a pot of boiling water. A bone-piercing and intense scorching pain stabbed into every inch of his body.
Lu Sheng had merely taken a few steps into the cave, but stood frozen, rooted to the ground.
A sea of black smoke encircled him, tunnelling into him madly through his pores as if it was alive.
"This is...!!?" The excruciating pain quickly spread to his internal organs. Lu Sheng felt as if he was on fire; both his skin and flesh within his body were burning vigorously.
His flesh and blood were being corroded. Under the corrosion of the black smoke, the muscles and organs all over his body gradually broke down.
"Is this the kind of training that these disciples with weak bloodlines undergo?"
Doubt flashed across Lu Sheng's mind as the stabbing pain churned in him. Still, he managed to keep his mind sober and awake.
"No... it shouldn't be. This should simply be because of a mismatch between natures. Nobleman bloodlines are more optimally suited to poison. In the first place, their bloodlines produce black membranes, which are closer in nature to this black smoke. So the stimulation they're subjected to is far less intense than mine!"
Without any other recourse, Lu Sheng had no choice but to activate Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi swiftly, healing his corroded physical body frenziedly.