The saber used to seal up the Devil posed no attraction to Lu Sheng at all. Although there was some Yin Qi on it, it was very, very littleat most a few units' worth of Yin Qi. He had already absorbed them fully when he pulled out the saber.
As for the so-called Divine Weapon or Devil Blade, he had no interest in them at all. Such stuff needed their wielder to serve them with utmost dedication and even perform Ritual Offerings with blood at every fixed interval. It was simply a wicked, evil system.
Lu Sheng retraced his steps on the way back in double time. In just half the amount of time he had taken to get to the room, he was back outside the courtyard, standing in front of Grand Elder.
"Very good." Grand Elder stared at Lu Sheng in satisfaction. In actual fact, this was not merely a test of Lu Sheng's guts, but also his level of trust in his teacher's words. That was the true test.
And the result satisfied Grand Elder.
"Let's go." Grand Elder tossed the mask to Lu Sheng. "This item can help speed up your cultivation. Take good care of it. Don't lose it."
"Yes!" Lu Sheng nodded.
The two of them left the secret arts hall.
Back at their caves, Lu Sheng bade goodbye to Grand Elder and returned to his room alone. Right after shutting his door, he immediately began absorbing the astonishing mass of Yin Qi on the mask.
Seated cross-legged in the room, Lu Sheng scrutinized the red mask in his hands. The human face carved onto it was emotionless. A complicated triangular symbol was embossed on its forehead.
"What a great amount of Yin Qi..." Lu Sheng exclaimed. Even the mysterious copper piece he had found earlier did not contain as much Yin Qi as this mask.
'There's two conditions to be met for Yin Qi to be formed.
Firstly, the owner must fix his or her mental energies on the item over a long time. Secondly, the item must accompany the owner till his death, and the owner has got to cast all his mental energy and spirit on it. In that case, it's no longer apt to call it Yin Qi...'
Lu Sheng lightly caressed the mask. 'Let's call it Mental Energy.
The nature of Mental Energy should be the remnant of some sort of mental focus and spirit mixed together. Apart from this, there's another sort of energy that can be absorbed by the Modifier.'
Lu Sheng recalled how he had first picked up the stone that belonged to the water ghost right at the beginning.
'Once a ghost is slain, there's a certain probability that it would leave behind some item with Mental Energy stored in it. For example, its remains or some unique artifacts. In other words, Mental Energy may include all forms of highly concentrated thought and mental focus.
As long as the mental activity is highly focused and condensed, it can be absorbed as energy by the Modifier.' Lu Sheng suddenly figured out the crux of the matter.
'Could it be that most ghosts would leave behind Mental Energy if not for the fact that there's no suitable item to store the Mental Energy?!'
Lu Sheng fell deep in thought for a while. If this was true, then he had a great idea for collecting Mental Energy at the highest rate of efficiency possible.
'Let's not think so much first. I'll first absorb the Mental Energy in this mask.' Tidying up his thoughts, he pressed his palm against the mask, then opened the pores on the skin of his palm.
Like a whale gulping down water, a sea of Mental Energy gushed into his arm and into his torso. Finally, it was consumed by the Modifier.
In a mere dozen breaths' span, all the Mental Energy on the mask had been emptied into him. At a visible rate, the mask lost its luster, as if it had aged significantly compared to before.
'A rough estimate puts it at about a hundred and twenty-odd units of Mental Energy...'
Joy was written all over Lu Sheng's face. This was the first time he had seen so much Yin Qi. It went to show how deep a history and background this mask had. Lu Sheng thought of Grand Elder's face as he held on to the mask and guessed that Grand Elder must have treasured this item at some point in the past too.
'I had twenty-odd units of Mental Energy left to begin with. And now I've obtained so much more. Looks like I've got enough to upgrade secret arts.'
Putting the mask aside, Lu Sheng focused on the Modifier screen before him.
'Ghost Face Mantrathe next skill in progression from Karmaless Skill. It's a mid-tier mantra. The cultivation method is in the contents that Grand Elder made memorize. The meditation diagram too... Since it's the next level up from Karmaless Skill, perhaps I can upgrade it directly from Karmaless Skill.'
At that thought, he recalled the contents of Ghost Face Mantra and clicked on the 'Modify' button on the screen.
The Modifier shook and entered the Modifiable status.
'Let's upgrade Karmaless Skill by one level and see how it changes first.'
He looked at Karmaless Skill's row and, as expected, found an 'Extrapolate' button.
Lu Sheng focused his mind and pressed hard on it.
The screen blurred all of a sudden, as if a screen of fog had covered it. The fog persisted for twenty breaths before the screen became clear again.
The skill had completely changed into another secret art mantra.
'Karmaless Ghost Face Mantra: Level One (Advanced Karmaless Skill Secret Art). Special Effect(s): Extreme Body Strengthening Level One, Devil Will Level One.'
'Extreme Body Strengthening? Devil Will?' Lu Sheng stared at these two special effects. Unlike inner force skills, secret arts cultivation granted wildly different special effects at different levels.
Previously, the Body Strengthening effect at Level Nine boosted his originally already powerful body. Now, this Extreme Body Strengthening effect should be even more potent.
'Apart from by body growing warmer, I don't seem to have changed at all.' Lu Sheng sensed the situation in his body. It seemed exactly the same as before.
'But except for this Devil Will...' With a command in his mind, a transparent face-shaped air current emerged beside him out of thin air.
The face-shaped air current encircled Lu Sheng, swimming about as it howled. The bizarre howl it emitted sounded wicked and seemed to carry some sort of effect on others.
Lu Sheng could not control or manipulate it at all. He could only release and keep it.
'Nothing very different from previously.' He examined the Devil Will closely. Apart from it being bigger than previously, there also seemed to be more of that bizarre mumbling and chanting sound being emitted from it.
'According to the description on the secret art, the Devil Will manifests all the cultivator's desires and lusts that for some reason cannot be satiated. These desires would cause any who makes eye contact with them to fall into temptation and commit acts compatible with the nature of the desire.
For example, a cultivator who hungers for vengeance would produce Devil Will that stimulates others' desire for revenge.
If so, then what's my desire?'
Lu Sheng was suddenly curious. But there was no way he could simply test it out on those around him. Best option was for him to find some enemies to test it on.
'But now's not the time. I need to continue upgrading the secret art.' He refocused his mind on the newly appeared Karmaless Ghost Face Mantra.
'It's an integrated upgrade indeed. Then, let's continue upgrading.' He pressed hard on the button behind the row with his mind again.
The screen blurred again. When it came into clarity again, Karmaless Ghost Face Mantra had indeed been upgraded to Level Two.
'Karmaless Ghost Face Mantra: Level Two. Special Effect(s): Extreme Body Strengthening Level Two, Devil Will Level Two.'
This time, the burning sensation on Lu Sheng's body was more palpable, as if the moisture in his body was evaporating.
"Argh... My body. It feels like it's burning..." He lifted up his arm. His skin was red like cooked shrimp. Wisps of steam was rising off his arm.
"No, it doesn't feel like it's burning. It IS burning!"
He saw his skin gradually turning translucent. In his blood vessels and muscles, Yin Flame was spreading in a web gradually. The jadeite Yin Flame raged all over following his muscles and blood vessels. Unbeknownst to him, it was already everywhere in his body.
Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi activated at top speed in a frenzy, urgently healing the body tissues damaged by the Yin Flame.
This was the danger of upgrading with the Modifier.
A skill that originally required five years to cultivate could be mastered in the span of a few breaths under the Modifier's compression.
It was akin to compressing a slow treatment for a disease into the most potent medicine ever. Possibly, it might worsen the condition because of the burden it caused to the body.
That was precisely what was going on in Lu Sheng's body at this moment.
He had upgraded too fast for his body to adjust to the changes. Consequently, an unexpected trouble was breaking out in his body.
Large amounts of Yin Flame continually burnt Lu Sheng's body into a red and green hue. The black membrane that had been produced when Lu Sheng attained Level Nine in Karmaless Skill was emerging too. As if it had been lit up by fire, it was being dyed green as well.
This bizarre scorching burn lasted for two whole hours before it finally ceased gradually.
Lu Sheng was exhaustedmore so than he would be had he fought someone at full strength for several days and nights. Clumps of black mud-like dirt had seeped out of his pores and caked on the surface of his skin.
Lu Sheng hurriedly retrieved some water and wiped his body with a towel. But the more he wiped, the dirtier he got. Without any recourse, he had no choice but to leave his cave and get to the back of the Prime Devil Sect's rock wall to bathe in the river.
Although fatigue had washed all over him, he did not feel that his body had transformed qualitatively. But Lu Sheng perceptibly felt that many parts of his body were now much lighter than before.
'This is a sort of tempering!' he guessed.
The Nine Bells Sect, Enlightenment Manor.
Pale yellow petals and leaves floated down in the air, twisting and turning in the air.
In the square courtyard, Hong Qing gazed at the shut bedroom door in anticipation. It was the room of his most favorite disciplehis son Hong Yuanruiwhere he was in solitary confinement.
Hong Yuanrui had been in solitary confinement for more than five days without coming out. Even standing outside of the room, Hong Qing could sense the powerful aura rippling out from the room. And that aura was growing stronger and stronger by the minute. The longer he stood outside the room, the more powerful the aura grew.
'Rui'er has astonishing talent. This time, he's bound to achieve a breakthrough and step into a new realm. It's just a matter of what level he achieves in the new realm.' Hong Qing calculated in his mind as he continued waiting persistently.
The day passed. Dawn quickly turned to noon.
Without warning, the doors were blasted apart by a powerful stream of air and fell onto the ground. A yellow silhouette shot out from the room and landed lightly and steadily on the ground.
"Rui'er...!" Hong Qing hurried over.
"Daddy! I'm glad I didn't disappoint you!" It was a tall and slender middle-aged man. Presently, his upper body was unclothed. Various assorted secret art symbols were tattooed all over his bronze muscles.
Clearly, some unknown technique had been used during the process of his breakthrough.
"With this, Rui'er, you're close to stepping into the topmost league of your generation." Hong Qing patted his son's shoulder in satisfaction.
Hong Yuanrui nodded. Self-confidence was written all over his face.
"Even the first seat of an upper three grades sect is but at the Seven-Vein Level. I'm now already in Six-Vein Level. It's only a matter of time before I step into that circle."
"HAHAHA. You're my son indeed! Good ambition!" Hong Qing laughed proudly. "To have broken through to Six Veins at such a young age, your talent has already far surpassed your peers. Those supposed talented first seats merely have better resources and encounters than you. That's all.
And now with your breakthrough, Rui'er, our Nine Bells Sect is sure to seize a place among the middle-three grades. After we acquire the headquarters of the Prime Devil Sect on top of that, our sect is headed for bright prosperous days!"
"You're absolutely right, Dad!"
"Sect Master." Suddenly, a disciple jogged to the entrance of the courtyard. "That lord is almost here."
"Oh?" Hong Qing paused. Then, he whispered to Hong Yuanrui, "I've got something to attend to now."
"Go ahead, Dad. I still need to consolidate my gains," Hong Yuanrui replied.
Hong Qing nodded, then turned and left the courtyard in big steps.
Passing through the courtyard, he entered the garden adjacent to it and walked through several arches in the garden till he came to a narrow corner boxed up by bushes.
At that spot, he paused and waited.
Very soon, a pale-faced middle-aged scholar in plain white robes walked slowly into the corner.