Perhaps due to fear that he would snatch all the credit, or perhaps due to fear of the black-robed man himself, he had been assigned to deal with a young lady. The main mission had been snatched away by those two of them.
But it mattered little to him; he had not intended to fight for any credit in the first place.
Suddenly, a heart-wrenching cry rang out in the distance.
The black-robed man paused in his steps, lifted his head, and peered into the distance.
"Are they done? Looks like it's time to go back." He turned around and began heading back towards the path which He Xiangzi had been on.
All of a sudden, he froze and black membrane emerged all around him without warning.
He spun back urgently and lifted his arms.
A blinding flash of red light spun through the air, roaring and howling madly before it smashed into his arms.
The deafening collision resulted in a transparent air current which was compressed tightly before bursting out in all directions.
The red light carried such great force that the robes on the black-robed man's arms had been ripped apart. His black membrane distorted and ripped apart madly like a bubble blown out of shape in the wind.
With his arms crossed in front of him, the black-robed man pushed out a leg behind him to support himself against the ground. Still, however, his entire body was being pushed backwards by the astonishing force.
One by one, rocks that obstructed his path were shattered. Every inch of the black-robed man's body was under terrifying stress.
"Divine Bell, OPEN!" The blurred shape of a giant black bell emerged behind the black-robed man.
Without warning, the black bell exploded, releasing strands of transparent lines like tentacles which attached to his back.
The black-robed man's strength seemed to increase drastically instantly. Finally, he managed to stabilize himself.
The spinning red light finally decelerated and he grasped it tight in his hands
Feeling the firmness of the object in his hands, the black-robed man fixed his gaze on it. It was the weapon of one of the two companionsCrimson Long Halberd!
Black smoke emitted from his boiling hands. Likewise, the long halberd was glowing red and bent out of shape from the intense friction and collision.
"This...!" The black-robed man sucked in a breath of cold air. He lifted his head and gazed in the direction from which the halberd had flown towards him. Without even looking, he knew that the pair had probably come to an unfortunate end.
"RETREAT!" he suddenly shouted sternly.
Near him, three men had reduced He Xiangzi to a bloodied state. Barely hanging onto her breath, she was near the point of irrecoverable damage. It was at such a juncture near success when they suddenly heard their master's order to retreat.
The three of them glanced at He Xiangzi reluctantly. But they had no option to disobey their master's order to retreat immediately.
"This Prime Devil Sect" The black-robed man gazed meaningfully in the direction from which the halberd had flown. He knew that this was a warning. From the difference between the moment when he had heard the sound of the halberd and the moment when the halberd collided with his arms, he could roughly estimate the distance from which the halberd had been thrown.
'Such a great distance, yet such massive force. This is a warning, isn't it?' Without any further thought, the black-robed man led his three disciples in hasty retreat towards the mouth of the cavern.
He Xiangzi knelt on the ground, her sweat mixing with her blood and falling to the ground.
"Finally it's over." She had never felt this tired before.
Even when she had fallen out with teacher and been out by herself at her husband's place, she had never felt so tired.
During the fight earlier, all it took was mere seconds' delay for her to fall into dire straits. It forced her to exploit every ounce of potential and energy in her every single second to handle every move.
He Xiangzi understood that she would have been killed in the first few moves had it not been for the fact that the three of them had been toying with her right from the beginning.
And that final shriek in the air and deafening boom. Perhaps the reason why those three had left was related to that boom.
"Senior Apprentice Sister, are you alright?" Suddenly, a familiar voice rang out beside her ears.
With all her might, He Xiangzi forced her eyes open, only to see the blurry image of Lu Sheng. Lu Sheng, who was supposed to have left a long time ago, was presently standing before her.
"Junior Apprentice Brother Lu? No, hasn't Junior Apprentice Brother Lu left? Don't try to mislead me with illusions!!" He Xiangzi shouted as she struggled to get up.
"I haven't lost!!" Although her face was so swollen that all that was left of her eyes were two thin slits, Lu Sheng could see the unwavering will in her eyes.
Lu Sheng stared at He Xiangzi. He felt an inexplicable respect for her.
"No matter who, regardless of their strength and status, if they can truly put their lives on the line for a decision they've made, that person deserves respect.
Because every person's life happens only once." Lu Sheng walked over and gently held He Xiangzi in his arms and comforted her.
In actual fact, He Xiangzi was no longer able to see clearly.
She had lost too much blood and her wounds were too severe. She had long since lost her sense of sight. But sensing by instinct someone approaching, she had forced her eyes open by her will. Her legs, however, were truly no longer capable of supporting her, leaving her in a half-kneeling position on the floor.
"Alright, Senior Apprentice Sister, it's me, it's me." Lu Sheng's voice rang out, carrying a profoundly reassuring tone within it. "Everything's fine now. It's really fine now."
As Lu Sheng's voice continued, He Xiangzi's tightly wound body finally softened.
Lu Sheng comforted her for a long while before she understood that she was not experiencing an illusion.
"It's really you, Junior Apprentice Brother why did you come back? Where's teacher?? Is teacher alright?!" He Xiangzi asked anxiously.
"Teacher's fine too," Lu Sheng said gently. "I encountered enemies too. After dispatching them, I got worried and so came back to take a look."
"You met enemies too??" He Xiangzi immediately wound up in anxiety again. "Don't blame teacher! I'm the one, I'm the bait! They shouldn't have known the position of the secret passageway. Oh yes, it must have been Fei Huangzi!" She gnashed her teeth. "That traitor. He might have known the existence of the passageway!"
"Alright, alright. Rest well now" Under Lu Sheng's reassuring words, fatigue and exhaustion finally washed over He Xiangzi, who slowly fell asleep in his embrace.
Lu Sheng lifted her up and swiftly returned to the stone wall and placed her back in her own cave. After that, he went back to look at his fainted teacher.
Grand Elder was covered from head to toe in wounds. He lay on the bed without so much as a twitch; it was unclear how long it would take before he woke up.
Only now did Song Zi'an appear. He floated into view and strode up to Lu Sheng.
"What happened exactly? How did teacher become like this?" he asked with an ugly expression on his face. "I heard the sounds while in the cemetery. But it wasn't time yet and without teacher's boost, I couldn't come out at all."
"Senior Apprentice Brother Song Zi'an. Where were Senior Apprentice Sister White Face and the others when such a thing happened in the sect? Why didn't she come out?" Lu Sheng asked without even turning his head.
"Don't you know about Senior Apprentice Sister White Face?" Song Zi'an sighed and sat on the ground. "She's not a living person at all. She's a deceased soul who turned into an Anomaly a long time ago. There's no way to interact with her at all. Although she's still handling many sect duties everyday, they're all fixed routines established when she was alive. Like the void, her body's unable to appear in the normal zone. You can't meet her unless you enter their designated Anomaly zones.
It's just like the small caves on the side of the walls when you first entered the cavern. When you saw Senior Apprentice Sister White Face that time, she was moving about only in that small zone."
"Anomaly?" Lu Sheng had not expected such an explanation.
"We can only appear after it turns dark. The toll of the bell is the marker that divides our domain of activity. Well, I'm an exceptionI can maintain my consciousness. But Senior Apprentice Sister White Face" Song Zi'an's face turned ugly. "Even if it was teacher who entered her area, she would not be able to differentiate between him and the enemy."
"Is it dark now? Oh, why didn't the bell toll today?" Lu Sheng asked all of a sudden.
Song Zi'an was caught by surprise too. "Oh, yea why didn't we hear anything today?"
Lu Sheng stood up all of a sudden and peered through the window.
Under the stone wall and beside the stone pillar, a woman with her head covered entirely in white cloth stood carrying an axe in her hand. Spots of blood covered her body.
Lu Sheng frowned at the sight of her. On the surface, she looked clearly composed. But inexplicably, he sensed rage bellowing within her.
Despite the distance between them, he sensed that suppressed rage clear as day.
"Oh, she's here indeed." Song Zi'an came up beside Lu Sheng. "Perhaps senior apprentice sister recalled certain memories about some important people. That's probably why she did not ring the bell today."
"What's she trying to do?" Lu Sheng did not believe that an Anomaly who had lost control of itself could recall any emotions. Was it not like that for the little girl from Song Manor previously? She had almost killed her own biological brother and put her whole family in harm.
"No idea. Right now, even I don't dare to go near her." Song Zi'an shook his head. "But how did we avert the disaster this time? When those intruders passed by the cemetery, I could sense the terrifying power on them even from a distance. They had black membrane as powerful as teacher's."
"I'm not sure. Things were the way they were by the time I got back. Teacher in a coma and senior apprentice sister almost dead." Lu Sheng shook his head in feigned ignorance.
He naturally knew that Song Zi'an had not been present. Given his acute senses today, it was extremely difficult for people to hide their presence around him.
Even that Snake realm black-robed man who had just left did not detect his position. Lu Sheng was the one who had first sensed him. That was the result of Noblemen's neglect of their physical body, relying wholly on secret arts and the power of their bloodlines mutated from the radiation of Divine Weapons and Devil Blades.
In actual fact, when the body attained a certain level of strength, its five senses could become incredibly developed.
"What do we do next then?" Song Zi'an looked at Lu Sheng. Although this disciple had entered the sect for only a short period of time, he made others feel safe.
"I'm guessing that some mysterious man must have saved us. Since he's not willing to leave his name behind, there's no need for us to make wild guesses. When the time for us to know comes, I'm sure we will know," Lu Sheng said seriously. "Right now, our priority is to help teacher and senior apprentice sister recover from their wounds.
Those black-robed men were forced into retreat today. They'll surely be more way of us. Before they figure out who's helping us, I don't think they'll come back easily."
"That makes sense!" Song Zi'an nodded. "It's a pity I can come out only at night and can't be of much help. But among the sects that teacher's on good terms with, you can write to the sect mistress of the Fine Garden Sect and ask for their help."
"The Fine Garden Sect?"
"Mm. When they were young, their sect mistressMadam Qing Kongand teacher were ahem, ahem, ahem." Song Zi'an pretended to cough instead of finishing his sentence.
Lu Sheng turned around only to see Grand Elder glaring at Song Zi'an, his face black.
"Big-mouth!" Grand Elder chided.
"Teacher! You're awake?" Lu Sheng and Song Zi'an hurriedly walked to the side of the bed.
"I'm awake. Let me handle the rest. You've worked hard, Little Sheng, Zi'an," Grand Elder breathed out.
Chapter 225 - Limit & Law (1)
"I fell unconscious. When I woke up, everything was over. What happened exactly?" Grand Elder asked while looking at Song Zi'an and Lu Sheng. "Zi'an, did you discover anything?"
Song Zi'an was a Yin Soul and thus had a very weak sense of presence. Unless one intentionally searched for him, it was very difficult for the average person to notice him. Hence, he often was able to obtain some important intelligence.
This time, however, he disappointed Grand Elder. Song Zi'an shook his head silently.
Then Liu Shanzi's gaze turned to Lu Sheng.
Lu Sheng replied, "Your student is in the dark too. By the time I got here, everything was over."
Grand Elder was at a loss for words. Quickly, he asked them about some other details, like why Lu Sheng would come back suddenly.
Lu Sheng had long since crafted his explanation. All he had to was to perfect his excuse and fill in some invented details. By the end of the round of questioning, although Grand Elder still had his doubts, Lu Sheng's excuse was passable.
And the matter came to an unresolved end. Everyone went back to rest and cultivate.
Because Grand Elder needed to heal and recover yet the Prime Devil Sect was no longer safe, the Fine Garden Sect was invited over under Song Zi'an's suggestion.
In the few days after that, Lu Sheng could see the Fine Garden Sect disciples walking about in the sect in their red bottoms and white tops.
Grand Elder seemed to have relaxed as well. He no longer forced Lu Sheng and He Xiangzi to memorize secret art techniques every day like a madman. Instead, he moved about actively every day, working with the Fine Garden Sect's disciples to make certain arrangements in the sect.
Lu Sheng understood that while he might have neutralized the threat in the short term, this was not a long-term solution. In order to resolve the threat once for all, they needed to accept the assessment of other sects and prove themselves at the Hundred Lineages Meeting. Only then could they stand firm on their own feet and begin openly recruiting again.
Because of the weakness of their sect, however, they would surely be vulnerable to more challenges by those who were interested in making the Prime Devil Sect's resources their own.
Lu Sheng did not fear those challenges. What he worried about more was that the faction that had sent those black-robed men would strike again.
Hence, right after he settled down, he immediately plunged into the Prime Devil Sect's library.
"Brother Lu." A young man in yellow robes, with a face easy on the eyes, cupped his fists at Lu Sheng. "Teacher wants me to bring her some books on the Scarlet Black Jade."
The young man was surnamed Zhan, named Kongning. He was the personal disciple of the Fine Garden Sect's Madam Qingkong, who had led a team in person to help the Prime Devil Sect tide through this difficult period of time. That was a true mark of friendship.
Zhan Kongning had come with his teacher. His secret art cultivation was much stronger than even Fei Huangzi. Additionally, he possessed a thick bloodline and gave Lu Sheng the sense that he could break through Seven-Vein Level at any time.
The difference between Seven-Vein Level and the realm of Snake was a natural barrier which stopped many Noblemen from the Noble Families. In the Hundred Lineages, their Seven-Vein Level might be much weaker than that of those in the Noble Families, but it was no less difficult for them to break through to the realm of Snake.
What Zhan Kongning had going for him was his youth. He was under thirty years old this year. For one to attain the pinnacle of Six-Vein Level at such a young age was considered impressive among sects of the lower three grades.
"Brother Zhan. I guess I won't have to show you around. Please help yourselves." Lu Sheng was sitting at a table flipping through books as well. He was not surprised to see Zhan Kongning.
During this period of time, Zhan Kongning had been coming to the library in search of books for Madam Qingkong almost every day.
"Many thanks." Zhan Kongning strode towards the shelf from which he had been retrieving books from.
After he passed by, a small head popped up outside the door. It was a cute and pretty young lady.
Zhan Hongsheng glanced at Lu Sheng, who sat without a budge at his table, in dissatisfaction.
'What's he so arrogant for? We've come all the way here to help don't tell me it's for the sake of these ill-mannered people?"
She was Zhan Kongning's sister. She had accompanied her elder brother here to retrieve books several times. Each time she came here, however, she would see Lu Sheng's placid, blank face. It was heaven and earth from He Xiangzi's look of immense gratitude and thankfulness.
The difference between the two upset Zhan Hongsheng.
"Had it not been for us hurrying over to help, the Prime Devil Sect would probably had been turned upside down by now. What's he so arrogant for?" she mumbled to herself.
Several days had passed since the assault on the Prime Devil Sect previously. Since then, the sect had enjoyed uneventful peace. Furthermore, the Fine Garden Sect's men began patrolling around the sect's grounds, alleviating the cold desolation of the Prime Devil Sect. But in terms of maintaining security, these people did not do much in actual fact.
Zhan Hongsheng kept her comments to a whisper, assuming that Lu Sheng would not be able to hear them. But Lu Sheng's physical body was unparalleled and his five senses were extremely acute. How would he not have heard her? He merely ignored her.
Most of the disciples from the Fine Garden Sect had the same mentality.
When they had first arrived, they got nervous at the sight of the marks left behind by the battle with the black-robed men. But as time passed and the sect remained peaceful, these men naturally assumed that it was their presence that deterred the intruders. Understandably, their ego grew inflated.
In fact, not only them, but even He Xiangzi and Grand Elder began to believe that it was the Fine Garden Sect's presence that had prevented a repeat attack by the black-robed men.
Only Lu Sheng was clear that the Fine Garden Sect's men had nothing to do with the lack of a second attack by the black-robed men.
In actual fact, they had come in secret several times since the last attack. Each time, they had lurked around the secret arts hall and the library, testing the waters. But each time, they had all been eliminated by Lu Sheng. It was simply that nobody else knew about it.
That was the good thing about the Ultimate Crimson Nine Furies Skill. Those killed by it would basically have their corpses burnt to ashes. It was really convenient for getting rid of bodies.
After losing several spies, those men finally stopped.
Lu Sheng snapped out of his reverie and glance at Zhan Hongsheng. This lass was born pretty and adorable, blessed with a thin waist and long legs. Most remarkably, her chest was very well developed even though she was below twenty years old. As she walked, they would bob up and down like two large papayas.
The Fine Garden Sect's uniform for female disciples was designed with spare room at the chest area to begin with. But they were mainly for aesthetic purposes and to make the uniform more breathable.
But when it was on her, that spare room was stuffed full to it seams.
Females in this age did not have the practice of wearing inner wear like lingerie. This caused the shape Zhan Hongsheng's two large grapes to pop out obviously through her uniform on her chest.
"Greetings to Senior Apprentice Brother Lu." Despite her complaints in private, Zhan Hongsheng still displayed the courtesies she ought to, greeting Lu Sheng outwardly.
"Mm. Help yourself," Lu Sheng responded casually and continued burying his head in his book.
Zhan Hongsheng was annoyed again. Her nose wrinkled with her pent-up irritation. Hurriedly, she went to join her brother, afraid that she would get sick from anger if she stayed around Lu Sheng for a moment longer.
The young lady skipped and hopped away. Peace and quiet returned to Lu Sheng's world.
Lu Sheng continued devouring the book in his hand about Divine Weapon Masters.
More than two hours passed by unnoticed. Zhan Kongning soon found the books he needed and had his sister take them to their teacher.
He himself intended to sit down and read a book. Among the Hundred Lineages, the Prime Devil Sect was considered the sect with the largest collection of books. Much of the contents of this library were new to him and it was a good opportunity for him to learn new knowledge.
Picking a book on the history of secret arts, Zhan Kongning began looking for a seat.
As he passed by Lu Sheng's table, he unintentionally caught a glimpse of the title of the book in Lu Sheng's hand.
"Brother Lu, you're looking for information about Divine Weapon Masters?" he asked in curiosity.
"Yeah." Lu Sheng put down the second book in his hand and nodded.
"Information about Divine Weapon Masters have always been kept top secret. If Brother Lu wants to know about them, I'm afraid you'll have to ask Senior Liu Shanzi," Zhan Kongning suggested.
"I do intend to do so." Lu Sheng picked up the third book on the subject.
"I'm not sure if Brother Zhan knows, but what conditions must we meet in order to preserve the Prime Devil Sect at this upcoming Hundred Lineages Meeting?" Lu Sheng suddenly asked after some thought.
Zhan Kongning was caught by surprise, not having expected such a question from Lu Sheng. He thought for a moment, then said, "Whoever wants to eliminate the Prime Devil Sect from the Hundred Lineages will have to test the strength of the Prime Devil Sect's first seat. And no outside help is allowedthe Prime Devil Sect's own secret arts system must be used. You'll need to prove that the system and inheritance of the Prime Devil Sect's secret arts still exist and are valuable enough to continue being passed down. That's what it takes to preserve the Prime Devil Sect's headquarters."
"You mean you need outsiders to decide if we can keep our own sect's base? What bullshit rule is that?" Lu Sheng frowned.
"It may be infuriating, but this is indeed the agreement that all sects committed to when the Hundred Lineages were first established. In order to ensure the long-term survival and flourishing of the Hundred Lineages, if any sect is unable to make good use of its resources, it needs to turn them over to other sects unconditionally," Zhan Kongning whispered. "That's in theory. The truth is, it's an eccentric agreement made under pressure from the Nine Great Families of the Central Plains."
"What exactly is the relationship between the sects and the Noble Families? Brother Zhan, can you please explain in detail?" Lu Sheng frowned.
"There's nothing secret about that." Zhan Kongning shook his head. "There're two perspectives among the sects. One perspective is that the powerful Noble Families stand behind the sects in the upper three grades. Without the unspoken permission of the Nine Great Families of the Central Plains, the Hundred Lineages would never have been possible."
"Another perspective is that the sects are actually independent. Although a small number of them have been infiltrated by the Noble Families, the sects in the upper three grades still retain their independence in resistance against the pressure from the Noble Families."
"So which of these perspectives is correct?" Lu Sheng's eyes narrowed.
"Well, we've got to begin by talking about the Leaf bloc and the Blood bloc." Zhan Kongning chuckled bitterly. "To be honest, if it weren't for the fact that I've got a friend who's an actual core disciple of one of the Nine Great Families of the Central Plains, I'd also be one of those who support the first perspective. In actual fact, the second perspective is the right one."
"Which means to say that the sects do indeed have the power to resist the Noble Families?" Lu Sheng asked.
"No. The sects' research and study can't even enter the eyes of the Nine Great Families of the Central Plains." Zhan Kongning chuckled helplessly. "Each of the Nine Great Families possesses terrifying power. I heard that you've come from the Northern Lands, Brother Lu. So let me use the Northern Lands as an analogy."
"Please enlighten me." Lu Sheng turned serious. He had always been lukewarm towards Zhan Kongning. But yet the latter was willing to explain such things to him at such length without getting impatient. He was probably the Mr. Nice Guy in the Fine Garden Sect.
Zhan Kongning paused and tidied his thoughts. Then, he began, "Let's talk about the weakest among the Nine Great Familiesthe Su Family. Their power includes the thirty-six member strong God-Breaking Army. Each and every single one of these thirty-six individuals stand guard over a city. They're terrifying experts who have once slaughtered tens of thousands of Devils in a Devil Disaster in the past. Legend has it that every single one of them can match a sect master of a sect in the upper three grades. They're all in the middle, or even upper, three grades of the realm of Snake.
And that's not to mention that above God Breaking Army, the Su Family's also got the Three Absolutes. These Three Absolutes are the three most powerful experts in the Su Family, respectively in charge of punishments, warfare, and inheritance.
Hi guys! As you've noticed, two chapters have been merged into a single post because of an issue with Inkstone (the online platform QI translators use)... basically Chapter 224 is missing from the system somehow so I had to merge 224 with 225 into a double post. This problem's also why the releases these few days have been delayed! I seek your understanding!
Also, a super-exciting piece of news QI has just assigned a new translator to work together with Kurisu and me to translate WoD! Woohoo, hurray! Very soon, all you readers will have your dream about WoD fulfilled you'll enjoy not only stable releases every day, but even increased number of chapters released per day! :D But do allow our new translator some time to ease himself into work! He'll introduce himself soon!