All over the city, there were women, children and the elderly who were weeping uncontrollably. White cloth was hung in many places. The poor families who could not afford to buy the correct type of white silk randomly tore a strip of white material to hang as a sign of mourning.
Numerous potholes appeared on the street's surface. It was unclear what object had smashed into the ground to cause their appearance.
Lu Sheng looked at the entire scene. After experiencing this battle, half of Nine Links City had been destroyed.
After he surveyed the city, he paid a visit to each of the teachers under whom he had trained. Thankfully, these teachers were vigilant folk, well able to protect themselves, and thus did not meet with tragedy. After he had visited them, he sent a generous amount of silver notes to each of them. Then, he continued on his way to the Zheng Family.
Zheng Xiangui struck his hands together hard.
"Brother Sheng, let me go with you! Yuer and I will follow your familys entourage and make our way together, how about that? Dammit, this is the kind of armed escort enjoyed only by prefecture-level officials!"
Lu Sheng was speechless. He looked around at the blackened and dirtied Zheng Family house; clearly, they had been through a lot of trouble, too.
"Just you and Yuer?" He asked casually.
"Yep, just like your family, we split into several groups, the rest will go to other cities. My old man was able to tell that this time round, this Nine Links City is really a land fraught with troubles. Even if all goes well in the future, if something like that occurs again, we wont be so lucky so as to be able to escape unscathed. If this time round we didn't have Brother Sheng to introduce Taoist Huanyang-Zi to us, then we, the Zheng Family, would also have suffered heavy losses."
He paused for a moment and sighed, "Its just a pity that younger sis Qingqing"
Lu Sheng didn't reply. After a moments silence, he said, "Hearing what youre saying, nothing happened at your house?"
Zheng Xiangui was surprised at the question. Glancing shiftily to the left and right, he lowered his voice and whispered, "My Big Bro is gone"
"Alright this is really good news for you," Lu Sheng was struck dumb. "Well, since you want to come along with me, I intend to leave tomorrow morning. After this, hurry and make the preparations, and also inform Yuer."
"Yes!" Zheng Xiangui nodded. Actually, after what happened at Nine Links City this time round, both of them understood deep in their hearts that their families had plans to relocate. If it had been another, greater city, those pugilists would not have dared to storm the place. As for the big fire, it would also not have taken place that brazenly.
As he left the Zheng Family, Lu Sheng instructed Little Qiao to pack his belongings. The Eastern Mountain Institution where he was going to further his studies was an exceptionally renowned institution within Mountain-Edge City and the neighboring cities. The school rules were strict and none of the students were allowed to bring along their servant-maids and girls. Thus, for this trip, Little Qiao could only temporarily remain in Nine Links City.
After hastily making the preparations, Lu Quanan stuffed ten thousand tael of gold notes in Lu Sheng's hands. Then, he let Lu Sheng and the escort guards who had been prepared to be on their way out of the city.
However, as Lu Sheng was leaving, he faintly overheard that Prefect Song Duanchi of Nine Links City seemed to have suddenly fallen gravely ill a few days back. He had been unable to recover and was currently taking his last breaths.
Thinking of the huge explosion at the Pearl Manor, Lu Sheng could guess that he had most likely suffered in this incident.
Actually, this Prefect Song was also a pitiable man
The entourage left early in the morning, when the sky was barely lit.
Lu Sheng stood in the middle of the group, his face pale. A thick white fox fur coat hung across his body, looking as if the fur of an entire white fox wrapped snugly his whole person. It was the picture of warmth and luxury. Just this fox fur coat alone cost more than a thousand taels of silver.
He silently gazed upon Nine Links City behind him--he would perhaps never return to this place. His Old Dad Lu Quanan had plainly told him before he left that he wanted the whole family to relocate to a big city.
"Brother Sheng, whats wrong?" Zheng Xiangui was standing to the side, with the red-faced Zheng Yuer in tow.
"Nothing, just some thoughts cough, cough" Lu Sheng was starting to cough again. He had trained vigorously in the Black Fury Skill this time round and hurt the Yang energy of his lungs. Moreover, he had consumed too much cooling medication that nourished his Yin energy, and thus was unable to bear it.
"You should return to the horse carriage, Brother Sheng. Were about to begin our journey," the guard in charge of the official escorts, Old Cow, came over and said.
Lu Sheng nodded. Taking one last look at Nine Links City, he turned around and was the first to board one of the horse carriages.
"Lets go, lets go! Everyone, LETS GO!" Zheng Xiangui promptly shouted; he had long since grown impatient of waiting.
Mountain-Edge City. February
In the height of Spring, the huge forest outside Nine Links City was awash with a burning cloud-like red. Numerous little red flowers withered as they bore fruit, and each then again blossomed as they grew, painting the ground and the trees the color of red.
Next to a river in the southern part of the city, a few neatly and smartly dressed scholars from the institution currently sat in a white octagonal pavilion.
Every one of these scholars wore grayish-white long coats, their long hair tied up with a black scarf. In each of their hands could be seen a folding fan of the same make and model.
"Brother Lu? Brother Lu???"
A somewhat enthusiastic voice pulled Lu Sheng out of his daze.
He turned around, sweeping his gaze back across the sprawling scenery on the vast plains before him, then looked around at the others beside him in the pavilion.
The one who had called out to him was Song Zhenguo, who had traveled from the Northern cities to pursue his studies like him. This guys family was famous and affluent, and he had been a master in eating, drinking and being merry since he was small. At the same time, his appearance was rather charming and attractive, and he would often gather with other like-minded people to go on outings.
Song Zhenguo was introduced to Lu Sheng by Zheng Xiangui, and was from the same hometown as most of the others who were seated there. As most of these scholars from the institution came from the eastern cities, they naturally huddled together for this excursion.
"Brother Song, forgive me, forgive me. My mind wandered off for a moment," Lu Sheng said smilingly.
It had already been half a year since sending Yan Kai and co away.
In this half a year, he had made his way to Mountain-Edge City from Nine Links City, and even stayed there for a couple of months, all without seeing anything out of the ordinary happening.
Security at Mountain-Edge City was excellent, with the Winged Honor Guard making their rounds within the radius of over ten miles in shifts throughout the day. It was sufficiently safe for one to leave their doors unlocked at night. As compared to Nine Links City, the difference was really like that of heaven and earth.
There were no disasters here, nor were there any demonic ghosts. Even murder cases here were few and far between. Both within and outside of the city ordinary folk on the streets was almost completely clothed, much unlike Nine Links City where many poverty-stricken people were in patched-up clothing.
He hadnt been here for long before he, together with Zheng Xiangui and his sister, found the Eastern Mountain Institution where they handled the school entrance formalities. It had been three months since they been admitted into the school.
In these three months, it was with much difficulty that Lu Sheng was barely able to make up for the injuries he suffered from upgrading the Black Fury Skill and fully recover.
Coming back to his senses, Lu Sheng looked at the others inside the pavilion.
These scholars from the institution were currently playing a game somewhat similar to Feast on the River.
First fill up a wine cup to the brim, then let a servant release it into a part of the stream by the pavilion as all the scholars wait inside as the wine cup gently flows downstream. Whomever the wine cup comes to a rest in front of, that person will have to down the entire cup of wine and answer a personal question that everyone had agreed upon in advance.
Other than Song Zhenguo, there were five or six other scholars within the pavilion, all children of merchants. Besides them, there were also two women dressed in white and blue skirts--they sat by the side as they watched the rest play. From time to time, they covered their mouths and giggled when the conversations got interesting.
One of the two women was also from the same hometown as the others, and was quite beautiful.
The other was a young maiden who had cherry lips and looked like the pretty daughter of a humble family. Her name was Chen Yunxi, and she was native to Mountain-Edge City.
Chen Yunxis appearance could be considered pleasant; although she did not have a beautiful face like many of the other maidens in the institution, her skin was fair, her figure remarkable and her long legs and slender waist particularly eye-catching.
Attributes such as these could only be considered average to the people in this world. Yet from Lu Shengs perspective, Chen Yunxi was the epitome of beauty. Especially her endlessly long legs were delightfully proportionate, giving her a perfectly exceptional silhouette.
A pity that people here didn't like long legs but rather preferred the more petite and dainty type who did not have legs that were too long.
Therefore, the women like Chen Yunxi whom Lu Sheng viewed as a great beauty were seen by the people here to be average or below-average in terms of looks.
Thinking of that, Lu Sheng noticed that Chen Yunxis gaze had once again unwittingly fallen onto himself. Inwardly, he could not help but chuckle bitterly.
He had but casually chitchatted with her for a couple of times, and even that was under the urging of Song Zhenguo. Who knew that as they chatted, he and this girl surprisingly hit it off like kindred spirits, with endless topics of conversation. Thus, they soon became good friends, albeit of a different gender. Sadly, good things don't last forever, and he was unaware how it came to be that Chen Yunxi gradually began to look at him differently, with a hint of something fishy in her eyes.
Chen Yunxis gaze constantly fell upon Lu Sheng. Anyone would be able to see the brilliant sparks within her eyes.
"Ahh, Brother Lu, Yunxis eyes are really set on you," one of the scholars by the side teased.
"A beautiful woman has looked upon you with favor. Everyone, don't you think we should punish him with a cup of wine?" Another made fun of him.
"Miss Yunxi is beautiful both inside and out, and comes from a wealthy family. Her father is a tycoon in Mountain-Edge City, and even in the ten over neighboring cities! Brother Lu, if you don't make the most of this chance, you may just miss this golden opportunity!" Song Zhenguo lightly whispered in Lu Shengs ear.
Lu Sheng shook his head. Under everyones jesting, he retrieved a wine cup from the stream and drained it in one gulp.
After drinking, he flashed the bottom of the cup for all to see.
He conducted himself confidently and with ease. His appearance was not lacking in any way and was different from the rest of the scholars' because of his robust and proportionate frame. Because he was highly skilled in martial arts, cultivating both inner and outer force, there was even a mysterious glow within his eyes. One look would leave others with a lasting impression.
So even though he was from one of those border cities, Nine Links City, and his family background could not compare to the vast wealth of many of those seated there, his elegance and spirit was actually the most eye-catching amongst them.
Under the cajoling of those present as well as Song Zhenguo who added fuel to the fire, Lu Sheng was very soon arranged to sit together with Chen Yunxi. Most of the women of this world were very open-minded. As long as they didn't reveal too much like Duanmu Wan, people would not look at them any differently.
Chen Yunxi had just sat there for a short while chatting softly with a close female friend before the crowd promptly egged her on and chased her and Lu Sheng outside of the pavilion.
The two of them took a slow stroll on the nearby lawn and had some space alone.
It was morning. The sounds of birds chirping and the fragrance of flowers filled the air. Spring flowers on the rolling hills and vast plains painted the mountain ridges a magnificent cloud of red.
"They always like to fool around," Chen Yunxis pair of big eyes looked at Lu Sheng, without trying to conceal herself in the least. It was already not the first time that they had been chased out in such a manner.
Both of them strolled on the crisp green lawn and crossed over a low hill. They were now out of sight of the rest, whose furtive glances visited them from time to time.
Lu Sheng looked at Chen Yunxi next to him. She was wearing a long, uniformly white dress that covered only her thighs, revealing her knees. A pair of long shoes concealed her calves that would have otherwise been exposed by the dress. She had a lithe waist, full bosom, slender legs and long hair that fell to her waist at one glance, it caused Lu Sheng to call to mind terms such as flawless, fair, and pure.
"They have good intentions," Lu Sheng smiled. He wasn't one to put on false pretenses, nor was he puritanical. A beautiful woman was taking the initiative to pursue him and he himself was unmarried. He was not feeling conflicted; rather, he intended to simply go with the flow.
Particularly, it was apparent that the best part about the woman before him was her pair of lengthy legs. Yet, in others eyes, that was instead seen as her worst part. Thinking of that, he felt that it was a bit of a pity.