In another Devil's Pool cave
Fei Huangzi sat cross-legged with his eyes shut in a Six-Incense Sticks Level cave which was so narrow that it could only contain one person.
A large volume of solid-looking black smoke was gushing madly into the area between his brows.
This poisonous smoke was extremely toxic. Even a Four-Vein Level expert like him would not dare to absorb it without restraint. He needed to control the speed of absorption.
Like a twister, the sea of black smoke was rapidly entering an area on Fei Huangzi's skin about the size of a fingernail, between his brows.
"There's nothing good at all in this god-forsaken Sect. This is the only good thing left With the Devil's Pool to supplement secret arts cultivation, the speed is significantly increased."
He sighed. "Even if its power after cultivation is very weak."
Prime Devil Sect's secret arts were known to be weak. At Three-Vein Level, it was only equivalent to the Double-Vein Level of other sects. At Five-Vein Level, it was merely a Three-Vein Level elsewhere.
But their merit was their simplicity. They were easy to cultivate and it was fast to upgrade. Moreover, it was suited for a wide range of bloodlines.
Sensing that the thickness in the cave was wearing thin, Fei Huangzi sucked in a deep breath of air, then performed the hand seals that would attract more Devil Qi.
Lightning-quick, his hands moved in front of his chest. One after another, he formed many hand seals in quick succession, like flowers that bloomed momentarily and then quickly wilted.
After the twelfth consecutive hand seal, his eyes focused as he cried out, "Seven Circles Nine Attractions, Devil Qi Conjuration!"
"Swish!" A black thread shot out of Fei Huangzi's mouth, then vanished in a flash in midair, leaving no trace of itself behind.
Then, he shut his eyes and waited.
He waited for a long time, but there was no change at all to the Devil Qi in the cave. It was still thinning.
"Seven Circles Nine Attractions, Devil Qi Conjuration!!" Again, he performed the hand seals and another black thread shot out from his mouth.
Still, there was no reaction. In fact, the Devil Qi in the Devil's Pool was still shrinking in volume.
"It can't be??" Fei Huangzi's eyes widened. "Isn't there still time before the low tide in the River of Poisoned Fog?" But the Devil Qi before his eyes was visibly shrinking, seemingly at a faster rate than before.
"I don't believe it!!" He grit his teeth. As long as it was not low tide, he refused to believe that his secret art and mantra could not even attract an ounce of Devil Qi!
"Devil Qi Conjuration!"
"Devil Qi Conjuration!"
"DEVIL QI CONJURATION!!!"
"Bloody hell! Why's there so much!!!'
Lu Sheng stared dumbstruck at the inky black toxic fog in his cave, so dense that it was nearly solid. Massive volumes of poisonous fog gushed at him from the walls of the cave in a frenzy, like a swarm of famished locusts or a horde of wild beasts. They were nearly liquefied.
The present amount of black fog was more than ten times thicker than when he had just entered the cave!
The sea of toxic fumes rushed madly into his skin and facial orifices without restraint. Lu Sheng was now numb to the pain. The pain he felt had already exceeded the limits of his nerves, and overwhelmed his senses.
Fortunately, after many years of combat and training, Lu Sheng had experienced such intense pain in the past when he had upgraded his skills faster than was good for him. So, he could still take the pain now.
He stood pencil-straight in the cave, immersed in a sea of fog so thick that it looked like viscous liquid, which was gushing in to him at top speed.
Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi circulated at top speed, healing his body and fighting the corrosive effects of the poisonous fog. At the same time, under such conditions, his Karmaless Skill was rapidly being stimulated and strengthened.
The most stable and reliable among the foundational secret arts, Karmaless Skill comprised a total of nine levels.
Right now, Lu Sheng did not use the Modifier to upgrade it. His current status was 'Initiated'. But after absorbing all that poisonous fog, he was marching towards Level One.
His mere two hours in the Devil's Pool was equivalent to other disciples' several months'even several years'worth of cultivation.
The poisonous fog he was absorbing was simply too thick and viscous. More crucially, that method by which he absorbed it was rather different from how other disciples did it.
"Crap! I forgot to tell Junior Apprentice Brother Lu that he can only absorb Devil Qi using the center of his brows!!" He Xiangzi hurriedly returned and looked from left to right and vice versa, trying to guess where Lu Sheng had gone to.
All around her were Devil's Pools, packed densely together.
"Eh, where's he?" She went up and down a few rounds to no avail. There were simply too many Devil's Pools for her to even begin searching.
"Perhaps he's gone back. Forget it, I'll tell him next time. Anyway, at his current level, he can't attract much Devil Qi. Shouldn't be a problem..."
After searching to no avail, He Xiangzi could only give up and return.
Like a tidal wave, Devil Qi flooded and gushed into Lu Sheng's body.
Time gradually passed by, till Lu Sheng felt that his body could not take it much longer. Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi had been expended past his tolerable limit. Only then did he step backwards and retreated out of the Devil's Pool.
He dashed out of the cave and went past the bronze basin. He was already drenched and soaked through. Checking the progress of his Karmaless Skill, however, he realized that he already completely mastered Level One.
"Not bad, not bad!" He was rather satisfied. "If I can come here more often, I'll fully master the entire Karmaless Skill before long. I wonder what sort of changes would occur to a body without black membrane like mine."
He lifted up his hand and looked at his skin. It was white, like it had been soaked in water for a long time.
"Alright. Now that I've been exposed to sufficient external stimuli, next is the meditation stage. When I need Devil Qi again while training for the next level, I'll come back again."
Lu Sheng flexed and stretched his muscles happily, turned round the corner and dashed off into the darkness.
Shortly after he had left, two disciples stepped out of two nearby Devil's Pools.
"Why's the Devil Qi in the Devil's Pool so thin today?" The first man looked baffled.
"Indeed. So you thought so too? Could the low tide have come ahead of schedule?" The other person looked similarly troubled.
"That shouldn't be. According to the schedule, only half the time has passed since the last low tide in the River of Poisoned Fog."
"That's truly bizarre then...."
"I haven't even completed my cultivation today. And now I'm lacking pills too. If this goes on, when will things ever change?"
The two of them left, shaking their heads gloomily.
After a little while later, a man with hair that reached his shoulders walked out of another Devil's Pool, a green robe draped over him. A small black gourd was hung on his waist. The expression on his face was as ugly as those two's before him.
"Logically speaking, these Devil's Pools are interconnected, linked to the River of Poisoned Fog. Even if Devil's Qi is thin here, it should attract and channel Devil's Qi from other caves. It shouldn't become so thin." That man was Fei Huangzi, whose secret art had failed to attract more Devil's Qi.
The strange behavior of the River of Poisoned Fog perplexed him. Although the toxicity of the fog was extremely potent, he did not need much. Each time he absorbed it with the area between his brows till it was full, he would take half a month to digest and convert it.
But this sudden, unexpected reduction slowed the pace of his cultivation several times.
Baffled, Fei Huangzi had no choice but to rush back to his cave silently to continue the cultivation routine for today. Since he had no pills to supplement his cultivation, he could only spend more time and effort to make up for the difference.
In between trips to the Devil's Pool, the library, and the cave in which he lived, Lu Sheng's Karmaless Skill quickly improved and broke through Level One.
The key to this secret art lay in forming the shape of a human face with Yin Flame, manipulating it through meditation.
Building on the foundation of Three Yin Technique, Lu Sheng was already able to manipulate the form and shape of Yin Flame at will. Then it was now a matter of arranging the Yin Flame in sequence according to a fixed order to form the shape of a human facethat is, his own face.
At the same time while he was doing that, he had to pit his muscles against each other by getting in various fixed positions.
In Lu Sheng's eyes, this skill was more like some cultic ritual rather than a martial art. Especially the positions, many of which were very strange.
The most normal among them was to sit cross-legged. But other positions got stranger and stranger, not to mention increasingly difficult. Some of them required him to pose like those Buddha or arhat statues in the temples.
He first had to maintain those poses for a fixed duration of time, tempering his muscles and internal organs. Only then could he enter the Devil's Pool and be subjected to external stimulation.
But at the mention of the Devil's Pool, Lu Sheng really had to take his hat off to the disciples of Prime Devil Sect. After his first experience with that excruciating pain, he no longer wished to have a second experience. Yet these disciples could train in this manner for year after year, day after day.
Time passed in an unending cycle of routine. Slowly, more than a month passed.
"Boom boom boom!!"
After three consecutive kicks, a male disciple spun round and finished with a roundhouse kick, his long leg shooting out like a viper and hitting the longsword out of the opponent's hand, then pausing precisely in front of the female disciple's throat.
"Thanks for letting me win." The male disciple retracted his leg, looking at the sword-wielding female disciple in front of him. Her expression looked ugly.
"Many thanks to Senior Apprentice Brother for the lesson." Having lost the match, the female disciple cupped her fist together and stepped backwards.
In the middle of an open space, all the disciples were gathered around the Grand Elder, sitting cross-legged on the praying mats.
"With Level Five Karmaless Skill as foundation, black membrane attained is roughly around Single-Vein Level... complemented with impressive martial arts and in close quarters... indeed, it's too much of a handful for Lin'er, who uses the sword, to handle. Next," Grand Elder commented placidly.
The next disciple walked into the middle.
Lu Sheng sat on the side with He Xiangzi beside him, watching the match silently.
Every now and then, the Grand Elder would routinely hold a test to assess his disciples' progress. But today...
With his peripheral vision, Lu Sheng glanced at everyone who was present. There were only eight disciples leftnine including himself. Another several disciples had run off during this period of time, causing the entire sect to be in a gloomy, anxious mood. Even for an important test like this, everyone was distracted.
The disciple who went up next was again defeated quickly by the man already in the middle.
"It's my turn." Fei Huangzi rose to his feet slowly. He looked at the Grand Elder with eyes of confidence.
Now that the number of disciples remaining in the sect was decreasing, as long as he performed well, winning the Grand Elder's trust was not difficult. Then, the chances of him getting the Prime Devil Secret Art would increase as well.
"Since it's Senior Apprentice Brother Fei Huangzi, this junior admits defeat. I'm no match." Seeing that Fei Huangzi had stood up, the man quicky bowed and conceded defeat.
He might have been skilled, but there was still a big gap between him and Fei Huangzi.
"Fine then." Fei Huangzi's gaze swept across everyone present. Finally, his gaze landed on He Xiangzithe only person in the sect who posed a threat to him.
"Teacher, how about just letting He Xiangzi and me have a match directly. The rest aren't a match for me anyway," he suggested.
"Alright." Grand Elder nodded.
He Xiangzi, who was seated beside Lu Sheng, did not refuse, either. Slowly, she stood up and walked to the middle.
"Jiaoxin, have you passed Level Four?" Grand Elder turned and asked a female disciple.
Lu Sheng clearly saw a trace of disappointment flash across the Grand Elder's eyes. Jiaoxin was the only member of the sect with a bloodline which was only slightly inferior to Fei Huangzi's.