Ten days passed in a flash.
White Bell City.
The crowded street meandered from the city gate all the way into the heart of the city.
On both sides of the street, red lanterns hung from the shopfronts in celebration of the harvest and reunion.
"Give coins, give me five coins. Granny, I want it~~"
A little boy with a standing ponytail tugged at an old woman. The two of them were standing in front of a sweets vendor, with the boy refusing to budge.
The old woman seemed helpless and reluctant to buy, but her grandson would not let her leave.
"Five coins for a stick of candy Ten coins make a silver and ten silver make a tael." Chen Quansong retracted his gaze from within a restaurant on the side and shook his head slightly. "Prices are going higher and higher nowadays. Back then, we used only two coins."
Lu Sheng sat opposite him. He had received instruction from the Shangyang Family shortly after returning from the Hundred Lineages Meeting to meet Chen Quansong, the person in charge of White Bell City.
Lu Sheng understood that his performance at the Meeting had clearly shocked Shangyang Jiuli.
As the person in charge of White Bell City, Chen Quansong was very satisfied with Lu Sheng. Ever since Lu Sheng had come to the city, he had never been interested in fighting for power with him. He was completely on his own, interested only in cultivation.
This made him very amicable towards Lu Sheng. As long as there were no conflict of interests, it was the instinct of people like him to befriend people of promise.
"Does Brother Chen have any idea why Lord Jiuli has summoned me?" Lu Sheng asked.
"Nothing very important, to be honest. But it would be wrong to say it's unimportant at the same time. It concerns Brother Lu's future development, so Lord Jiuli has asked me to prepare you mentally lest you find it hard to accept when the time comes, Brother Lu."
"Oh?" Lu Sheng faintly sensed somebody looking at him secretly from the shadows. But he thought about how this was Chen Quansong's territory. Perhaps it was his guard he shrugged it off his mind.
"What is it exactly? Will Brother Chen please advise?"
"As for what it is, I can't tell you that yet, because it hasn't been confirmed. But I'm certain that there won't be any problems given your credentials, Brother Lu." Chen Quansong was all smiles.
"You flatter me, Brother Chen." Lu Sheng was a little sick of riddles like these, and so decided to ignore it and change the topic. "Does Brother Chen know about the ambush that occurred after the Hundred Lineages Meeting?"
"This it's the act of the Lin Family. Although most people aren't in the know, as one of the Nine Great Families, we the Shangyang Family have our own intelligence network. That much we're clear on. As Long as Brother Lu doesn't spread it" Chen Quansong sighed. "Recently, Lord Fei and Lord Jiuli have been moving about a lot about this. The Lin Family has been engaging in too much activity and nearly crossed the Hundred Lineages' limit These sects their backers aren't to be trifled with" He stopped at that.
Lu Sheng wanted to ask further, but Chen Quansong quickly changed the subject.
"Oh yes, I've recently opened a relay station near White Bell City. Would Brother Lu be interested to have a share in it?" Chen Quansong smiled.
"Relay station? Of course." Lu Sheng smiled. "It just so happens that I've got some roots in the Northern Lands. Things can move fast along the route to the North." Right now, relay stations were the most profitable trade in this chaotic world. With demons, devils, and monsters roaming at large, the only means of travel for the average man was to find a reliable relay station and carriage company that was powerful enough then pick a route that has been well-established. Otherwise, if one were to walk out into the wilds unprepared, one would meet with all sorts of treacherous fate before making much headway.
"That's what I thought." Chen Quansong laughed out loud. "Speaking of which"
"Dong dong dong."
A series of hurried knocks on the door interrupted him.
"My Lord, we've made headway about Young Master Quanyi. The yamen would like you to hurry over," a guard outside said hurriedly. He seemed anxious.
Chen Quansong's smile immediately vanished. "I'll be right there." He forced a smile on his face and said to Lu Sheng, "My apologies, Brother Lu. My younger brother got into some trouble and I'm in the midst of fixing that. It's a pity we can't drink the night away. Looks like that'll have to wait."
"It doesn't matter. Your own matter is more important. Don't worry about it, Brother Chen." Lu Sheng could not wish more fervently that he would leave now and stop wasting his previous cultivation time.
"Many apologies." Helplessly, Chen Quansong rose to his feet and cupped his fists at Lu Sheng. Only then did he hurriedly exit.
Lu Sheng sat down on his seat. Soon, he looked downwards and saw Chen Quansong board a horse carriage and leave.
'Looks like being the main person in charge of White Bell City brings with it many troubles to handle' he mused. 'Shangyang Family's strong enough, isn't it? It's one of the Nine Great Families of The Central Plains. The entire Song Dynasty is practically ruled by the Nine Families. Among them, the Huang Family is in actual fact the royal family.
But even such a powerful family has to deal with many troublesome matters. After all, there are nine families, not one.'
Lifting up his cup, Lu Sheng drained it down to its dregs.
"Waiter, the bill."
The waiter, who had been standing by outside, quickly entered.
"Sir, that lord has already settled the bill. On top of that, he asked me to pass on a message to you: 'Sorry about that. Next time, I'll buy you wine as apology.'"
"Sorry?" Lu Sheng was perplexed. Did Chen Quansong not apologize already? Why was he doing it again?
In terms of revealed strength, he was merely slightly more powerful than Chen Quansong. Of course, after the Hundred Lineages Meeting, he was even slightly stronger, but it was far from the point where Chen Quansong had to treat him with such reverence.
After all, in terms of status, both of them were equal right-hand men under Shangyang Jiuli's command.
One was in charge of White Bell City, the other in charge of the Northern Lands. They were on par with each other in status and speaking rights. Chen Quansong needed not behave so humbly before him.
After trying to think of a reason to no avail, Lu Sheng dropped the matter.
'Forget it. Let's go back I've got Mental Energy waiting for me to absorb. If the ones who ambushed the carriage team were from the Lin Family, then the so-called Wandering God from earlier should be from the Lin Family as well.' He felt a sense of urgency come upon him.
In actual fact, the Shangyang Family was slightly weaker than the Lin Family. In terms of overall strength, the Huang Family ranked number one, but lacked promising successors. Second was the Lin Family, followed by the Shangyang Family.
That was Lu Sheng's summary of the situation after collecting many pieces of intelligence so far.
Moreover, if it was truly the Lin Family who had been behind the ambush, they would certainly be angered into raising the stakes after losing so many experts this time.
And Shangyang Family would never fall apart with the Lin Family for the sake of an ordinary subordinate like him. At the very most, they would cut him loose after bargaining for some other benefit in return.
Hence, Lu Sheng was clear that should he ever be exposed, he could rely only on himself.
'Earlier, when I tried controlling Zhan Hongsheng with Yin Crane Web, the results seemed pretty effective. The extent of control was deeper. Once set to destroy, the mixture of inner Qi with Devil Qi makes it even more powerful than before. As long as the other party's strength does not exceed mine, it's safe to be used on anyone with Nobleman bloodline. Most importantly, it's discreet enough. I don't have to worry about it for now. But eventually, I've got to come up with a safer, more bulletproof plan.' Lu Sheng considered the feasibility of using Yin Crane Web to plant moles as he walked out of the restaurant.
But after much thought, he was unable to avoid the eventual scenario that Yin Crane Web would be detected by higher-level experts.
After leaving the city, Lu Sheng's steps hastened. A light step cracked the ground like a spiderweb, throwing up large amounts of dust and dirt. In the blink of an eye, he was over a hundred meters away, faster than a horse galloping at full pelt.
Before long, he arrived at Prime Devil Sect's headquartersthe huge cavern on the cliff.
Two more guards now stood outside the cave. They were young men dressed in black athletic robes.
Upon sight of Lu Sheng, they hurried forward in greeting.
"Greetings, Second Apprentice Brother."
"You've worked hard." Lu Sheng nodded and strode into the cavern.
Because of the rise in their ranking in the Hundred Lineages Meeting, Prime Devil Sect attracted many young men to join its ranks again. Many Noblemen from ruined Noble Families joined it, causing Prime Devil Sect's numbers to swell significantly.
From two to a dozen and more.
Liu Shanzi started arranging for them to guard the cave entrance to host visitors and be tested at the same time.
After entering the cavern, Lu Sheng headed straight to the stone forest in the depths of the River of Poisoned Fog where he had often cultivated instead of his teacher's cave.
With great familiarity, Lu Sheng came to the side of the stone forest. The small cave set into the wall of the cavern still contained traces of his cultivation which he had left behind previously.
This was the deepest part of Prime Devil Sect's cavern. Apart from the sound of flowing water coming from the River of Poisoned Fog, there were no other sounds.
Lu Sheng breathed out slowly. Then he took out a jade box from his chest and put it on the ground.
He had come here this time because another one of his Devil Will hearts was about to hatch. In the past few days, he had hatched three hearts. Adding that to the three from previously, he had hatched six out of nine hearts in total. He was three hearts away from hatching them all.
"Soon soon When my Devil Heart Dao is fully mastered, I wonder what level my physical body can attain. Can it resist the power of Law" He stared at the jade box as if staring at some sort of primordial beast.
The jade box contained the remnant traces of a Holy Weaponthe white powder which he had collected previously. The jade box itself could effectively reduce the dissipation of power from the white powder, although it could not stop it completely.
He placed the jade box on a table on the side. The table had been carved out of stone by Lu Sheng personally with his hand.
Then Lu Sheng took out the ring he had obtained from the python demon he had killed.
It was a pale-blue ring with an oval-shaped sapphire stone set in silver. Snake motifs were carved on the metal, and the ring was cast as a female ring.
At one glance, there was nothing unique about it. But Lu Sheng gently picked it up and held it close. A strand of Devil Qi from him landed on the ring.
A ring of intricate patterns immediately emerged on the sapphire. Like a wreath, the patterns rotated and glowed on it.
The light blue glow cast Lu Sheng' face in a hue of blue.
'Let's absorb the Mental Energy on it first.' Lu Sheng pinched the sapphire hard.
Immediately, a thick wave of Mental Energy gushed madly into him through his fingers, as cold as ice.
Presently, he no longer needed to cut himself and bleed in order to suck Mental Energy. He just needed to focus and make physical contact to do so. But if the quantity was high, some unique phenomena would follow.
Just like now. Wisps of black smoke encircled Lu Sheng's hand as blue sparks flickered faintly within.
The phenomenon lasted for several breaths before gradually fading.
"Sixty-odd units." Opening his eyes, Lu Sheng released the stone. The sapphire ring, which might had carried some unique ability within it, now looked old and rusty.
Keeping the ring, Lu Sheng sat down cross-legged and began inspecting the Devil Will hearts in him.
The six previously awakened Devil Will hearts were:
The Snake of Jealousy, with the ability to confuse the mind.
The Lion of Rage, with the ability to conjure toxic flames and assist in close-quarters combat.
The Shadow of Insanity, with the ability to accelerate the body's healing abilities.
The Deer of Anxiety, with the ability to increase speed of movement and teleport between short distances.
The Hound of Panic, with the ability to intensify the sense of smell and slightly amplify the rest of the five senses.
The Ram of Solitude, with the ability to increase the body's absorption and poison-resistance (like speeding up the rate of absorbing the River of Poisoned Fog or building up resistance against any toxic substances).
Although the abilities produced by the hatching of these six Devil Will hearts were not very powerful, they nonetheless brought Lu Sheng a significant upgrade.
Especially in adjusting to combat in all sorts of environments and combat stamina. There were obvious improvements in these areas.
Among them, toxic flames and confusion improved his ability to fight with multiple opponents; healing, movement/teleportation and body absorption/poison-resistance improved his combat stamina; sense of smell and raising the sensitivity of the five senses improved his ability to track down and kill enemies.
While these abilities did not directly raise Lu Sheng's strength, they made him more well-rounded.