The air was crisp and refreshing at the height of autumn. The sun's rays shone brilliantly.
On Qing Su Lake near White Bell City, pink lotus flowers packed the entire bank of the lake.
Lu Sheng rode on a tall horse, followed by Ning San, Xu Chui and the rest from Crimson Whale Sect who also rode on horses. Behind them were ox carts carrying cargo.
There were four of those carts, headed in Prime Devil Sect's direction at a medium pace.
Lu Sheng turned his head towards the lake. His gaze fell on those hikers who were touring the area and admiring paintings.
"How long has it been since I last met Yunxi?" He had come to Central Plains for nearly a year. This time, he had come out of the Prime Devil Sect to prepare some materials he needed for his cultivation as well as to handle some matters like having his family brought over from the Northern Lands.
"Don't worry, Sect Master. In the Northern Lands, old Sect Master and the Deputy Sect Masters are there running things. The Crimson Sun Sect is also growing by the day. But..." Ning San hesitated.
"But what?" Lu Sheng asked.
"But... Old Master Lu seems reluctant to move over. They say that they're used to the Northern Lands and do not wish to have to move again," Ning San replied softly.
Lu Sheng was not surprised.
"Alright then. Let the Lu Family continue to be the dragon head in the Northern Lands. It's better than being a mediocre player in the Central Plains."
"My Lord is wise. That's what Old Master Lu said too," Ning San said respectfully.
"What about Yunxi?" Lu Sheng asked again. "Has she set off?"
"Erm..." At this point, Ning San hesitated. "Madam Yunxi... she is willing to come over. But..."
"Stop humming and hawing. Speak your mind!" Lu Sheng was getting impatient.
"Yes. Madam Yunxi's father has contracted a grave illness... he's now in critical condition and she can't leave..." Ning San was helpless to have encountered such unexpected developments.
His boss had sent him to fetch his family over. In the end, he brought not a single person back.
"So you came back without bringing anyone with you?" Beside him, Xu Chui could not help but remark.
"Of course not!" At this point, Ning San hurriedly shook his head in defense. "How can this subordinate not do his best when Sect Master has issued his command? Although I did not manage to take Old Master and Old Madam here with me, or even Madam Yunxi, I did at least bring with me the Sect Master's younger sister!"
"?? Younger sister? Do you mean Lu Yingying or Yiyi?" Lu Sheng's cousins all flashed across his mind. It was unlikely to be Lu Qingqing. So these two were the only remaining possibility.
"Erm... no... it's Zhang Xiuxiu..." Ningsan looked down sheepishly.
Zhang Xiuxiu was Lu Sheng's cousin, and a distant one at that. Rumor even had it that she was involved in some suspicious relationship with the younger generation in Lu Family like Lu Tianyang and others. Lu Sheng had not expected that she would have the guts to come over.
Despite his surprise, when Lu Sheng thought about the impression Zhang Xiuxiu gave him, it made sense to him.
She was practically an opportunist. Whomever she thought held the most promise, she would do everything within her means to get closer to him. This time, nobody save for her dared to make the long trip to the Central Plains. Moreover, she had left everything behind to follow him here.
While her private life was in a mess, her courage was commendable.
"Where is Zhang Xiuxiu now?" Lu Sheng asked casually.
"She said she'll wait for you in White Bell City, and is currently living in White Swallow Inn. You can look for her there anytime. Erm... we've supplied her with enough food, drinks and supplies. No need to worry about that." Ning San was afraid that Lu Sheng would be dissatisfied. After all, for her to have been able to leave everything behind and come all the way here to follow Lu Sheng, this Zhang Xiuxiu must have had a good relationship with Lu Sheng. She needed to be well taken care of.
"Since she's here, let her settle down. Put her in an Institution to study. If she has no results to show, she needn't come back and disgrace the face of our Lu Family." Lu Sheng decided Zhang Xiuxiu's fate in a few sentences.
Back in the Northern Lands, he had already been clear what sort of character this distant cousin had. She was simply the sort who would look for a golden backer and leech off him for the rest of her life. But he had not thought that this Zhang Xiuxiu would be so decisive.
"Alright. Your subordinate understands." Ning San nodded. He roughly understood what kind of attitude Lu Sheng had towards this distant cousin.
They continued silently till the team had passed Qing Su River. They also traversed flat pains and arrived at a great canyon filled with yellow soil.
They followed the canyon downwards on a dangerous mountain path right beside a steep and sharp cliff face. Everyone walked with their hearts in their mouths.
Before long, they arrived at Prime Devil Sect's doors. The two disciples guarding the entrance hurriedly stepped forward to assist them.
Lu Sheng had his two juniors unload all the cargo into the sect's warehouse and promised that the two of them could come to him for advice the next morning. This would save them from much unnecessary effort in their cultivation. Overjoyed, the two of them put their backs into the work.
Lu Sheng led Ning San and Xu Chui into the Prime Devil Sect.
In the end, Prime Devil Sect's disciples were still too few in number. There was basically no one whom he could use.
It took time to observe the character of all the newly recruited disciples. Instead of that, why not enable Xu Chui and Ning San, who had always been loyal to him, to break through first? Upgrading their strength would empower them to do more things for him.
Along the way, even though the sect disciples saw that the two men whom Lu Sheng had brought in with him looked like ordinary mortals who had no aura of black membrane about them, no one dared to be impolite towards them. Because they were brought in personally by Lu Sheng, everyone took the initiative to greet and welcome them.
Lu Sheng took the two of them straight into the vicinity of the cave where he spent most of his time cultivating secret arts.
At a spot where Devil Qi was weaker, they stopped.
Previously, some changes had occurred to Yin Crane Web. Now it was a great time to upgrade the Yin Crane Webs within the two of them since he could not deplete all his Prime Devil Qi even if he was to release them at full strength for three whole days and nights now. He could convert Prime Devil Qi into Aquarius Qi to upgrade the strengths of these two men.
Soon, they found a discreet place where Devil Qi was thinner. It was also a great distance away from the places in the Prime Devil Sect where people frequented.
Lu Sheng casually dug a cave in the wall and led Xu Chui and Ning San into it.
The method of upgrading Yin Crane Web was extremely simple. It was just a matter in injecting Aquarius Qi into them directly.
Contaminated by Devil Qi, Aquarius Qi was now colder than before. It now also carried within it traces of poison and could unearth even deeper potential in the body.
After the process, Ning San's inner Qi arrived at the pinnacle of Intent Proficiency. Xi Chui, on the other hand, chose to surrender completely to the transformation in his body caused by Aquarius Qi, not resisting it in the slightest.
The transformed Xu Chui shocked both Lu Sheng and Ning San.
"I feel really good right now, my Lord." Xu Chui swung his thick left arm which was now covered in dark-red scale armor, a relaxed smile on his face. His palm had become a claw just like Lu Sheng's. Many spikes grew out of his shoulders on his back.
"This power... as long as I will it, it can strengthen my arm to maximum effect at any time."
Lu Sheng stared at his mutated left arm, puzzled. Why did such an exaggerated change not occur to Ning San, but only to Xu Chui?
Why would the mutation on both of them look different? The power in both of them had come from him and ought to have produced the same changes.
"Strike my palm at full strength. Let me see what level you've attained," Lu Sheng said casually.
Xu Chui nodded respectfully.
He bowed his head, then pulled out his sword.
In that instant, a silver gleam flashed across the air like a bolt of lightning, piercing towards the center of Lu Sheng's right palm with high precision.
No sound was produced when the strike landed, because Lu Sheng had grabbed the tip of the sword with his palm leisurely. A great force channelled into Lu Sheng's body in a frenzy before it was neutralized by an ever greater force in him.
"Not bad." Lu Sheng was very satisfied by this evolution. Although Xu Chui's strength was still in the realm of mortals, but with his full strength hidden as a trump card, he would have no problems at all walking in the wild by himself.
Although his power could not pose any threat to mid to high levels in the realm of Bind, when he activated his full strength, no one of Double-Vein Level and below was Xu Chui's match. Moreover, since it was Lu Sheng's power he was using, the sword itself was not the fearsome part of his strength. Rather, it was Lu Sheng's Aquarius Qi which flowed in Xi Chui. Its needle piercing effect could cut through the hardest steel. Add to that the twisted contamination effect and it made an expert like Xu Chui who could kill in one strike even more fearsome.
Relatively speaking, Ning San was much weaker. His inner Qi cultivation had been upgraded under Lu Sheng's Devil Qi contamination and now carried poison attributes in it. His overall strength was slightly higher. But that was all.
And that was with the absence of any storage limits in Yin Crane Web. Ning San had been accumulating his inner Qi for a long time and was due for a breakthrough anyway.
'In other words, my skills impartation is much more useful to Xu Chui than to Ning San,' Lu Sheng mused.
Thousands of miles away...
In the Cave of Ten Thousand Caverns...
Deserted grayish white caves dotted the deepest sections of Mt Wan, located near Four Corners City, like a silent beehive.
A total of seventy-two underground caves were connected to the previous headquarters of Cave of Ten Thousand Caverns, in which the Seven Star Wall was located.
"Caw caw, caw caw..."
A swarm of white crows flew across, landing on the trees nearby. Their blood red eyes stared at the caves before them.
A black-robed man stood there silently. It was a tall figure cloaked entirely under a black coat.
"It's become so desolate..." The black robed man sighed, seemingly recalling the glory that once existed in this place.
A thousand years ago, Cave of Ten Thousand Caverns was one of the top sects in the upper three grades of the Hundred Lineages, unmatched in power. But now... The Sect Master of Cave of Ten Thousand Caverns had even ordered all disciples to move out of this place, abandoning the ancient headquarters passed down to them by their ancestors.
The black robed man stood still for a moment, then took a step forward.
Abruptly, his entire person transformed into black smoke, shooting straight into one of the caves.
The wisp of black smoke shot forward and tunneled into one of the caves, passing through an inky black pond, a mushroom forest flowing with blue luminescent light, and finally entering a ruined stone hall filled with ancient carvings.
The black smoke pounced at the largest stone wall in the stone hall. Quickly, it squeezed its way through the gaps in the carvings on the wall.
Behind the stone wall was another spacious hall. It was triangular in shape and was in a great mess, with green marks all over it.
No entrance or exit could be seen here. Apart from the gaps, there was no other way into this hall.
White stone statues stood erect in the hall. Each statue was the likeness of one of the most powerful and famous ancestors in the history of Cave of Ten Thousand Caves.
A white glow seemed to light up all of their eyes. The statues seemed to possess some sort of effect or spell.
These white statues were arrayed in two rows, forming a path that led into the deepest part of the hall.
The black smoke quickly descended and materialized into the black robed man from previously.
He lifted his head and gazed at the end of the path, where a long spear stood bottom up, with its head stabbed into the ground. It was a extremely ordinary-looking but ancient black spear.
"After all these years... to think that it's still effective..." The black robed man paused, then began walking slowly towards that spear.