'After breaking through so many levels at one go, my body's struggling to keep up. It needs to rest and settle down.' Lu Sheng was beginning to feel that his body, which had originally been firmly under his command, was slipping out of his control in the continuous upgrades. He knew that this was a result of Karmaless Skill's strengthening effect on the muscles on his body.
If the path of martial arts enabled the body's main muscle groups to increase and expand rapidly, then the cultivation of secret arts focused on tempering the smaller muscles and internal organs.
They complemented one another like bread and cheese.
Presently, he could feel that his body was becoming more and more complete.
'The human body has its limits. Any living being in the world has its limits. The number of times a cell can divide is limited. Although one can destroy the old cells and produce new, stronger cells through training, the limited number of times a cell can divide determined that this process could not go on indefinitely.'
Lu Sheng well understood that even he had his limits. After all, his was merely a mortal body at the end of the day.
Once he reached the state of full completion, it meant that he would have reached the pinnacle of the human body. There was no further advancement he could make.
'Noblemen were once mortals as well. Why is it that they can attain a higher realm?' Suddenly, a question came to his mind.
'The light of Divine Weapons and Devil Blades is like some sort of radiation... perhaps that's what triggers a mutation in the cells, removing the limit on the number of times they can divide, granting the person terrifying self-recuperative abilities. But why aren't they immortal, then?
Forget it. Let's not think too much. The next step is to begin cultivating Ghost Face Mantra once my body has acclimatized to the change.' Lu Sheng began to run through the contents of Ghost Face Mantra in his mind. Slowly, he rose to his feet and deactivated Yin Extreme Mode. Instantly, Karmaless Skill came over his entire body like ripples, swiftly producing a layer of black membrane on the surface of his body which blocked and kept out the poisoned fog around him.
Without any force drawing them together, the sea of Devil Qi quickly dispersed and scattered away.
'It's getting late, time to get back.' Lu Sheng glanced at the forest of stones outside the cave. Stepping hard against the ground, he leapt and shot out of the cave. Tapping on the stone pillars several times, he skipped across the river beneath him and landed on the spot where he had stood on earlier.
Just then, the dull toll of the bell spread to his ears through the walls.
Lu Sheng was mildly surprised. 'The bell can be heard even here?' He glanced from left to right. The thick stone walls were smooth and flat. Green luminescent algae covered some parts of the wall and no man-made marks could be seen on them, which indicated that this spot was a great distance away from the main zone of activity in the sect's grounds.
'This bell...' he pondered. Without further ado, he dashed towards the direction in which he had come.
"HAHAHAH! Liu Shanzi! It's been a long time, how've you been, eh?" Outside Prime Devil Sect's secret arts hall, a stocky dark-faced senior leading several middle-aged men and women in plain yellow robes greeted Liu Shanzi even though he was still a distance away.
"So it's the Sect Master of Nine Bells Sect himself. My bad, my bad." Grand Elder's face was emotionless. Now, the Prime Devil Sect no longer even had sentries, such that he had no idea at all that outsiders had entered the sect and even arrived outside the secret arts hall.
"But this old man does not seem to remember having invited Sect Master Hong over, have I?"
The Sect Master of Nine Bells Sect was named Hong Qing. Ever since he had taken the helm in his sect, he had set his mind towards grand ambitions and begun accumulating strength, resorting to any means necessary. Within a short span of several years, Nine Bells Sect had expanded and increased in strength.
With its current scale today, the Nine Bells Sect's original lower three grades territory was no longer sufficient or fitting for it.
That was why they needed larger, better grounds for cultivation. They were discontent with being stuck in a small manor when they possessed the strength of a middle three grades sect.
Hence, Hong Qing began selecting his target. Being in steep decline, the Prime Devil Sect's base naturally entered his view and quickly became the most desired territory the Nine Bells Sect wished to seize.
"Indeed, I've come uninvited. But it was simply because I had time to kill and happened to pass by the area. So I thought I'd come and pay a visit to Brother Liu Shanzi and have a look at how you're doing." Hong Qing guffawed in laughter. "But it seems like... Brother Liu Shan, your situation doesn't look too good, eh?"
"I won't trouble Sect Master Hong to worry about my sect," Liu Shanzi responded placidly.
"To be honest, Brother Liu Shan, don't you find it tough? Such a huge Prime Devil Sect for such a small group of people... and yet you've got to take care of such a large base. I'm really worried for you..." Hong Qing sneered.
"What do you mean, Sect Master Hong?" Grand Elder's face fell.
"What I mean is actually very simple. As long as Brother Liu Shan decides to offer up the Prime Devil Sect's grounds to our Nine Bells Sect, we'll help the Prime Devil Sect ensure that its lineage is not broken in the upcoming Hundred Lineages Meeting." Hong Qing finally revealed his agenda.
Of course, it was impossible that he sincerely wished to protect the Prime Devil Sect's lineage. After all, the one who had been secretly trying to steal from Prime Devil Sect had been precisely himHong Qing.
As long as Liu Shanzi agreed, he could seize the Prime Devil Sect's base legitimately. After that, he would put in some effort to help protect their inheritance or whatever... but hey, what could he do if the Prime Devil Sect's disciples decided to join his Nine Bells Sect of their own accord?
Whatever went on in his mind was clear as day to Liu Shanzi as well. Both of them knew without a doubt who had been playing tricks behind the scenes.
"Brother Liu Shan. Right now, there's only three of you left in the Prime Devil Sectyourself included. How can you expect merely two disciples to guard and manage such a large territory? You're not grooming them, you're harming them..." Hong Qing's words took a turn.
"Moreover, he who has the ability deserves the treasure. Now that the Prime Devil Sect has lost its ability, it should offer up its grounds so that my Nine Bells Sect can develop here, and not hog the place and waste its resources. That way, perhaps you can even receive some benefits as a compensation... much better than not getting anything in return in the end... don't you think so?"
'This is a threat!'
Flames of anger roared into life in Liu Shanzi's heart. But at the thought of the Prime Devil Sect's current dire circumstances, he was doused with cold water.
"Think about it carefully, Brother Liu Shan. This is a warning from my Nine Bells Sect." Grinning from ear to ear, Hong Qing led his disciples away.
Then, Hong Qing suddenly turned around and asked, "Oh right, I hope you don't mind me showing my disciples around your place?"
"I mind it very much," Grand Elder said flatly.
Hong Qing was unbothered.
"Very well then. We'll have plenty of time to do it soon anyway." Smugly, he chuckled and led his disciples out towards the mouth of the cave.
Grand Elder stood rooted to the ground, speechless.
Ever since Hong Qing had taken charge of the Nine Bells Sect, the two of them had been at loggerheads. Back then, the two sects had been evenly matched and neither party could do anything about the other.
He was not so naive to think that they would really obtain the Nine Bells Sect's protection should they offer up their headquarters.
Was not the Nine Bells Sect the reason for the Prime Devil Sect's current predicament? Was it not they who had been acting behind the scenes? Otherwise, it would take many more years for the Prime Devil Sect to fall to this state naturally.
Grand Elder understood clearly that Hong Qing had come today to deliver a threat. If they did not offer up their headquarters, he would wipe them all out.
'But... wouldn't you do the same anyway even if I did?' Coldness flashed across Grand Elder's eyes. He understood Hong Qing too well.
In a corner nearby, Lu Sheng stood silently, gazing at Grand Elder.
"Oh, Little Sheng... you've come?" Liu Shanzi caught sight of Lu Sheng as well.
"Teacher, who were those who came?" Lu Sheng asked, puzzled.
"Oh, they're from the Nine Bells Sect. They're just here to take a tour around our base. Don't think too much. Just focus on your cultivation," Liu Shanzi replied mildly.
"It's a good timing that you're here, actually. Let Teacher take you to see our secret arts hall, which had once been where our Prime Devil Sect's secret arts were passed down." Grand Elder smiled.
"I can go in? I heard from Senior Apprentice Sister He Xiangzi that" Lu Sheng was interrupted by Liu Shanzi before he could finish.
"You can. It's just a little dangerous for all of you. There're many Forbidding Puppets roaming freely within, which have been occupied by the evil intents of the sect's ancestors whose cultivation had gone out of control." Grand Elder tidied his thoughts as he faced the only disciple he had chosen to impart the sect's secret arts to. The more he spent time with him, the more he liked this lad.
Lu Sheng had a sharp and keen mind. With most things, it took only a little bit of teaching before Lu Sheng mastered them. He showed great promise in terms of talent as well. It brought him great consolation to find a disciple who had such insight, experience, and character at only slightly more than twenty years old. At the same time, however, it filled him with a sense of pity.
He was consoled because he had managed to find an heir at the very last moment, after all. He felt a sense of pity because he wished that he had met Lu Sheng a few years ago. But now, it was truly too late...
But no matter what, the more they interacted, the more Grand Elder liked Lu Sheng. No matter what he taught him, Lu Sheng could easily understand it. Even in his many years helming the Prime Devil Sect, it was extremely rare for him to see a student who caused the teacher no worry at all like Lu Sheng.
"I'll have to trouble you then, Teacher," Lu Sheng said respectfully.
Lu Sheng felt that it was right of himself to honor Grand Elder, who had imparted him with skills, by addressing him as "teacher".
"No problem. Let's go." Liu Shanzi led Lu Sheng towards the enormous secret arts hall.
With its massive size, secret arts hall was a giant palace in the dark cavern.
It comprised a main hall in the middle and two side halls, one on each side. The main hall was much lower in height than the side halls. But it was also much wider and larger.
Lu Sheng's gaze swept across the compound. The entire secret arts hall was covered with countless small windows, which were completely dark within.
Grand Elder led him through the entrance in the high wall surrounding the hall, and into a desolate courtyard.
Crooked metal spikes rose from the ground in all directions in the courtyard. Each spike looked like a giant's weapon stabbed crookedly into the ground; the shortest among them was five or six meters tall, while the taller ones were seven to eight meters tall.
Many dark-red chains were entangled around the spikes, red light pulsating off them. Clearly, they were no ordinary chains.
"This is the Courtyard of Punishment. In the past, it was the execution field used to punish thieves who tried to steal secret arts," Grand Elder introduced casually. "But now, they're just for show. It's been a long, long time since anyone found any secret arts in the secret arts hall."
"Yes." Lu Sheng nodded.
"Come on. Since I've led you here today, I might as well show you the genesis of the Prime Devil Sect," Grand Elder said calmly.
"Genesis?" Lu Sheng was taken aback. Immediately, he was shaken.
"That's right. I'm going to take you to see what our Prime Devil Sect has always been studyingthe Devil." Solemnness washed over Grand Elder's eyes.
Lu Sheng nodded seriously.
Grand Elder spoke no further. He walked on ahead of Lu Sheng, passing through the Courtyard of Punishment to the main doors of the secret arts hall.
Pressing both palms against the doors, he shoved lightly.
The heavy stone doors were pushed back slightly, revealing a gap that was just enough for two to enter.
"Come on in. From this point onwards, do not make any sound. Just watch," Grand Elder whispered.
"Yes." Lu Sheng nodded.
Ever since he had stepped foot into the compound, Lu Sheng had sensed an aura of hidden danger suffusing the air.
This moved him inwardly. One had to understand that even in his weakest form todayYin Extreme Modehe still possessed power at the Six-Vein Level. And it was not the supposed "Six-Vein Level" of the Prime Devil Sect, but rather the solid, powerful Six-Vein Level in the system of the Noble Families.
Compared to other sects, each level of the Prime Devil Sect's Bind realm was effectively two levels lower in actual combat. Not to mention when matched against Noblemen.
Because the light of Divine Weapons and Devil Blades shone on them, Noblemen possessed extremely powerful bloodlines. In their hands, the exact same secret art was much stronger than when executed by a disciple of a sect in the Hundred Lineages.
Hence, Lu Sheng's Six-Vein Level power was equivalent to the pinnacle of the Seven-Vein Level in the sect.
And yet, even at his current level, he felt threatened and endangered by the aura in the secret arts hall. Needless to say, something big was kept hidden in this secret arts hall.
Grand Elder led Lu Sheng through the doors.
A large, spacious, but dark hall was behind the doors. It was a hall like a palace.
Torches lit with blue flames hung on the walls on both sides of the hall, dyeing the entire hall in an eerie shade of blue.
Instead of entering the main hall, however, Grand Elder turned left into a small corridor leading into the side. He walked into the corridor by the windows.
Lu Sheng followed close behind him without making a sound.
After some unknown length of time, a series of heavy, dull footsteps could be heard coming from ahead of them. The footsteps sounded strange, like the sound of metal slamming heavily into the ground.
Grand Elder did not speak, and Lu Sheng did not feel that it was his place to ask. Since he had instructed him to remain silent beforehand, there must have been a reason behind it.
The two of them walked through the corridor by the window till they finally arrived in a side hall.