'But the Phantom Listening Devil Body doesn't raise the strength of the user very significantly. I've invested so much Mental Energy into it, it doesn't seem too worth it... No wonder the Prime Devil Sect has remained in decline... I guess they mainly rely on developing the latent power within their bloodlines. These other abilities are mainly supplementary... In other words, my current Phantom Listening Devil Body is in actual fact auxiliary in nature?' Lu Sheng frowned.
He had a Nobleman bloodline within him as well. But it was very, very weak. Its only ability was to burn. And now that he had achieved full mastery of the Phantom Listening Devil Body, all that his bloodline power could do was to light up a piece of paper.
'Instead of that, I might as well go treasure-digging in the depths of the Prime Devil Sect. Maybe I can even find some Mental Energy items left behind by the sect's ancestors.' Lu Sheng planned.
'But not today. It's too late. I'll come back tomorrow.'
He quickly shrunk back to his normal body size and walked out of the cave. The bell had already tolled.
Unbeknownst to him, night had fallen. After having been in the Prime Devil Sect for so long, he had never come out at night before.
Typically, he would return to his cave immediately after the bell tolled. This time, however, he had stayed out later than he should because his secret art cultivation had taken longer than expected.
Lu Sheng hastened his steps, going back along the way he had come. White fog shrouded the path back. In the distance, amidst the fog, he could make out many distorted humanoid silhouettes appearing every now and then.
'Lone wandering ghosts? They carry a hint of Devil Qi on them?' Lu Sheng scrutinized these silhouettes. They carried the thick aura of ghosts on them and most of them had Devil Qi mixed in them.
If it were him in the beginning, perhaps he might not be able to take another step forward and all the ghosts around him might pounce on him. But now...
"Scram! Don't be an eyesore in front of me!" With a single palm, he slapped at them.
A large ball of Devil Qi toxic flames erupted in that instant. Immediately, a chorus of tragic cries burst out from within the white fog as many wandering ghosts scrambled and fled in all directions.
Lu Sheng strode forward and continued on his journey.
As he was near the residential stone wall, however, a series of rhythmic, deafening, and heavy knocks rang out ahead of him.
Lu Sheng sped forward till he finally made out the cause of the sound.
It was a gigantic humanoid monster about two stories tall.
Its limbs were swollen and hide green. A grayish white horn grew out of its head and sharp fangs hung out of its jaws. A small tuft of green hair covered its head.
The very image of a mythical evil ghost.
This evil ghost was gripping onto a black cudgel that was over a dozen meters long and several meters wide. Again and again, it smashed the stone pillar before it with the cudgel.
Shockingly, the stone pillar it was smashing was the stone pillar filled with blood red symbols that stood in front of the caves in which Lu Sheng and the rest lived!
Now Lu Sheng understood why nobody had investigated the commotion he had caused back there. It turned out that the commotion here was even greater.
"What's this? An evil ghost?" Gingerly, he bypassed the monster and shot back to the wall of caves from a neglected corner.
Unexpectedly, a black-haired lady with an umbrella stood at the entrance to the steps leading to the caves.
The lady's face was covered entirely by her black hair, revealing only a pale chin. Around her, mist encircled and shrouded her. Lu Sheng could only make out that she was wearing pitch-black robes and pants.
Lu Sheng approached and asked softly, "Can you talk?"
No reaction came from the other party at all.
Lu Sheng did not wish to make a move. At his current position, he was already very close to his teacher and the rest. Once he made a move, it was highly possible he would be exposed. All he wished to do was to return to his own cave silently.
Seeing that no reaction came from her, he carefully treaded around her and started up the steps.
But right when he walked past her...
A pale-white swollen hand reeking of a foul stench grabbed Lu Sheng's elbow suddenly.
The lady raised her head, revealing her face under the curtain of black hair. It was a white face, as if copious white powder had been smeared on it. Some parts of the face were decomposed, with maggots crawling over it and a thick stench emanating off it.
Lu Sheng looked at her, then at the hand grabbing his elbow.
Suddenly, something grabbed the lady's other elbow as well.
A similar shrieking laughter rang out from within the mist.
The lady's face turned blank for a moment. Before she could react, her entire body was pulled into the mist in the blink of an eye.
A blood-curdling scream rang out as a group of inky black entities surrounded the lady and feasted on her.
Soon, the scream faded into silence.
Lu Sheng sighed.
He had released his Yin Devils so that they could pull her away. Little did he expect that they would feast on her in a frenzy as if she was some rare delicacy.
This was outside of his control. Once released, Yin Devils acted independently of his will.
'I guess I understand better now why the Prime Devil Sect chose to set their headquarters here even though they know clearly that they'd encounter so many ghosts here at night. Yin Devils feed on ghosts. This place's a natural granary.'
He lifted up his foot and started up the steps. In a series of swishes, balls of black smoke swooped in behind him and entered him. They were the Eagle of Disgust and other Yin Devils. He had only planned to release one but five of them had shot out.
'It's a good thing I didn't cause much commotion. Everything's drowned out by the evil ghost smashing the stone pillar.' Step by step, he climbed up the stairs.
This time, he got to his cave smoothly. Clearly, there were some ghosts still hiding in the mist around him. But because of the aura of the Yin Devils from earlier, none dared to harass him.
Lu Sheng glanced to his left and right. After ensuring that there were no other troubles, he opened the lock and entered his cave.
At night, the Prime Devil Sect belonged to the ghosts.
Back in Prime Devil Sect's prime, perhaps this was nothing. These ghosts were merely fodder for the sect's disciples. But it was a different story now. Against these ghosts, this sect which was so weak that its inheritance had nearly been broken was no match for them.
And so the guests had now turned into hosts. Once night fell, this place would turn into the world of ghosts.
An uneventful night passed...
Early next day, Lu Sheng had only just woken up when he heard a series of shouts outside his cave.
He climbed out of his bed, walked over to the window, and gazed downward. Some disciples who had just joined the sect were standing on the square below him in various poses. These poses looked like some sort of martial arts, but were extremely light and relaxing. Many of them looked like they were used in some sort of ritual offerings.
Lu Sheng pushed his door open and walked out. Teacher Liu Shanzi was standing on a platform on the side, watching the disciples practicing below.
The one leading them in practice was He Xiangzi.
"Oh, Little Sheng, you're up?" Liu Shanzi turned around. "Come and take a look. What do you think of these Prime Aura Hunt movements?"
"Prime Aura Hunt?" Lu Sheng stared blankly. "What's that, Teacher?"
Liu Shanzi smiled. "Earlier, the sect experienced great tremors which drastically reduced the amount of Devil Qi. So I've been thinking, how can our disciples continue cultivating secret arts with reduced levels of Devil Qi? Then I found this from our past records. Can you sense the threads of Devil Qi encircling them? Those are produced by themselves, not absorbed into their bodies from outside."
"Produced by themselves?" Lu Sheng was surprised. "Don't they have to reach Karmaless Skill before they absorb Devil Qi? How can this Prime Aura Hunt produce Devil Qi?"
"Well, that's true. But what Prime Aura Hunt does is to enable the human body to mimic the movement of essence and Qi in the Devil body. It's normal that this generates threads of Devil Qi. But this thread of Devil Qi is extremely thin, and is only good for helping the physical body acclimatize to absorbing Devil Qi. It can't do much else and takes a long time of hard work to see effect. That's why I didn't teach it to you back then," Liu Shanzi explained.
"Alright." Lu Sheng nodded.
"Where's your secret art cultivation at now? I heard from He Xiangzi that you were quite the star at the Hundred Lineages Meeting and scored a few consecutive wins. What level is your Karmaless Skill at now?" Liu Shanzi smiled.
Lu Sheng thought for a moment. He decided to report a slightly higher level of cultivation. If it was too low, it would be too fake.
"I've attained full mastery of Karmaless Skill," he told the truth.
"Full mastery of Karmaless Skill isn't much... HUH? FULL MASTERY??!!" Liu Shangzi stared dumbstruck at Lu Sheng with eyes opened as wide as saucers, his mouth gaping.
"I did so only in the past few days," Lu Sheng hurriedly tried to cover up. He had not expected such a big reaction from his teacher.
Liu Shanzi stared dazedly at Lu Sheng for a good long while, speechless.
"Teacher, do you think it's time for me to start cultivating Ghost Face Mantra now?" Lu Sheng hurriedly asked.
"Cultivating Ghost Face Mantra... cultivating Ghost Face Mantra..." Liu Shanzi repeated absentmindedly. Then he finally registered Lu Sheng's question.
"Can... you can..." he quickly replied. He had already known that Lu Sheng was very talented and would cultivate very quickly. But never in his wildest dreams did he imagine such a speed.
"No wonder that at the Meeting..." Realization dawned on Liu Shanzi. "Since you've already realized what the mantras I imparted you were, then just follow the sequence: Karmaless Skill, Ghost Face Mantra, Phantom Path Mantra, then Devil Heart Dao. If you've got questions, you can ask me anytime."
"Yes!" Lu Sheng nodded.
"Alright, run along now." Liu Shanzi sighed. "Let me have some quiet..." He supported himself against the wall, feeling a sense of disillusionment in him.
He went back in his memories. Back when he had cultivated Karmaless Skill, he had spent three whole years to fully master it. But now, how long had it been since Lu Sheng joined the Prime Devil Sect?
Fortunately, he was his student. Otherwise, god knows how many sects would go to war to snatch him.
As Lu Sheng dismissed himself, Liu Shanzi suddenly thought of grooming Lu Sheng as the next heir of the Prime Devil Sect.
He had committed many secret manuals to memory in his mind back then. Perhaps now it was time to begin imparting them to Lu Sheng...
After all, Prime Devil Secret Art's Phantom Listening Skill had been imparted to Lu Sheng. Till now, he had exhibited no strange behavior.
After breakfast, Lu Sheng was about to head to the deep recesses of the Prime Devil Sect to continue his exploration when a disciple delivered a letter to him.
"First seat. This is a letter just delivered to us. It's meant specifically for you. The one who delivered it to us was from the Shangyang Family."
With great reverence, the disciple passed the letter gingerly to Lu Sheng.
"Alright, many thanks. Just leave it here." Lu Sheng put down the soup basin in his hand. Ever since he had gifted the sect with a mine, the sect's food had been improving greatly.
At least he was now guaranteed three tubs of rice, nine catties of vegetables, ten chickens, and one pig each day.
Sitting in the dining hall, Lu Sheng waited till the disciple was gone before he picked up the letter and opened it.
It was a letter from Shangyang Jiuli herself, instructing him to meet her in the restaurant in White Bell City.