"That I understand. Theres no free meal in this world," Lu Sheng nodded. The reason why he wanted to join Crimson Whale Sect via the standard procedure was precisely so that he could establish a foundation in Mountain-Edge City for his family while also earning some income. Moreover, he could also secure some protection and build up connections. Naturally, his eventual goal was to obtain combat inner force skills with damage greater than Black Fury Skill's.
Zhao Jie gave a basic introduction of Crimson Whale Sects rules. It was very simple, there were only three rules--no disloyalty to the sect; no divulging of the sect secrets; obey orders at all times.
"As long as you keep to these three rules and have not been kicked out of the sect, then you will receive a fixed monthly allowance and enjoy discounts in most stores in the city. On top of that, when you run into trouble, the sect will be your greatest backing," Zhao Jie smiled warmly.
"Just a few days ago, our External Affairs Emissary had just exchanged opinions with the citys Deputy Commander, Official Jiang, regarding the handling of Mountain-Edge Citys refugees. Just our External Affairs Emissary alone already possesses the authority to negotiate with the citys top authorities. Not to mention that therere many elders of equal rank as him, as well as the Deputy Sect Masters and Sect Master above him."
Patiently, he revealed some of Crimson Whale Sects organizational hierarchy to Lu Sheng. After all, Lu Sheng was dressed prestigiously and carried with him an extraordinary bearing. Not to mention that he was a student of the Institution to boot. Very likely, he would attain a prominent position in the sect in the future. Building a relationship with him now was an investment that might reap benefits in the future.
Lu Sheng understood as well that, these years, literate ones like himself who joined sects were usually high-class intellectuals and management talents. Even if he knew no martial arts, he would be able to hold his own in the sect and at least earn his keep easily. Hence, he understood Zhao Jies friendly attitude towards him.
Entering a side room, Lu Sheng registered. He was not asked if he had any criminal record or what was his family background. All they looked at was his name, age and expertise; everything else was unnecessary. In the blink of an eye, Lu Sheng had become an ordinary One-Fish sect member of Crimson Whale Sect.
After a person joined Crimson Whale Sect as a sect member, he needed to perform services for the sect to earn contribution merit records. Ordinary sect members could go on patrol duties, collect protection fees, catch thieves, assist the authorities in investigating human traffickers and the like to gain contribution records. There was also an agency headed by Internal Affairs Emissaries which would confirm and verify the sect members services rendered and award them with the corresponding contribution grade.
After familiarizing himself with Crimson Whale Sects systems, Lu Sheng was rather surprised that such a sect was under such detailed and strict management. Moreover, looking at the missions to be performed, Crimson Whale Sect wasnt really a mafia. Strictly speaking, it should be considered a civil organization in the gray area with extremely close links with the yamen authorities.
After the registration was completed, Zhao Jie led him out of the casino through a backdoor, his face all smiles as if he was hoping to establish some connections with Lu Sheng. They entered a small courtyard surrounded by white walls.
"Here lives Old Master Xiao whos in charge of the premises. Hes the one who assesses the enlisting sect members and determines the level of their skills. After going through this procedure, youll be given a position depending on the level of your skills."
Lu Sheng nodded with a smile.
"I was just getting eager to experience the skills of the sects experts."
"Has Brother Lu practiced any martial arts before?" Zhao Jie asked as he walked along.
"Ive practiced some martial arts imparted by the martial arts teachers back at home; but none of them are really strong," Lu Sheng shook his head with a smile.
"Old Master Xiaos Sword of Wind and Thunder can be ranked among the top thirty-six skills in the sect! Our Crimson Whale Sect is more than ten thousand members strong. To be able to rank among the top thirty-six among so many experts, hes truly head and shoulders above the rest. Brother Lu, youre in for an eye-opener!" Zhao Jie opened the courtyard gate, bragging with all his might.
Right after entering through the gate, an old mans voice from within rang out, "Didnt I just finish assessing a batch? Whyre you here again?"
Zhao Jie explained with a smile, "This time, Brother Lus different from the rest. I personally made another trip, and weve got to trouble elder Xiao to perform one more assessment."
"Different from the rest?" The old man voiced his doubts in a booming voice.
Lu Sheng entered the courtyard and saw a ruddy-faced elderly man clothed in gray, his white hair covering his shoulders. The elderly man stood under a peach tree, a cup of tea in his hand as he stared at him.
"Greetings to elder Xiao. May I know when the assessment begins?" Lu Sheng clasped his hands together.
"Simple. Young lad, all you need to do is perform the skill youre well-versed in before this old man," seeing Lu Shengs unusual bearing, elder Xiao spoke politely.
"What Im well versed in are palm techniques" Lu Sheng thought for a while, then extended both his palms level before him. "I wish to join Crimson Whale Sect in order to learn from its experts and acquire more powerful skills. I hope elder Xiao will not disappoint me"
Despite the smile on Lu Shengs face as he spoke, the previously harmonious mood in the air changed in an instant.
An air of vicious killing intent emanated within the courtyard.
Elder Xiaos face turned solemn as he sensed something amiss. The lads words were too bold.
He looked again at Lu Shengs current pose--packed with power yet unreleased; energy gathering and accumulating within him, forming an unending cycle; stable and controlled.
Astonishment flooded his face immediately. "Strength Proficiency expert?!"
"Strength Proficiency?" To the side, Zhao Jie was stunned too. 'How old is this Young Master? How can he already be a Strength Proficiency expert?'
Even a top-notch sect like Crimson Whale Sect couldnt boast of many Strength Proficiency experts. Finding a hundred of them out of ten thousand members was already a very good number.
Such experts usually constituted central pillars of the fighting forces stationed in some small cities. Even in the Mountain-Edge City headquarters, they were considered cream of the crop.
Lu Sheng smiled. His pushed his right palm forward slowly.
A raw, bloody aura rose in the entire courtyard, as if an extremely ferocious and lethal beast had been let loose.
Goosebumps appeared all over Zhao Jie and elder Xiao. Their hearts were shaken to the core.
"Thats Intent Proficiency!!!" The teacup in elder Xiaos hand dropped on the ground with a clang as he stared dumbfounded at Lu Sheng.
"You, you, you how old are you?! Oh my goodness"
He choked on his words, speechless. With a face flushed red, he paced on the spot in disbelief.
Zhao Jie came to his senses and hurried over to pat elder Xiao on his back. Only after a good few seconds did he catch his breath.
"May I know how my skills fare among the sects standards?" Lu Sheng enquired smilingly.
In actuality, his strength had far surpassed Intent Proficiency. In fact, he was confident that he would not lose even to the famed Spirit Focus experts who were a cut above the Intent Proficiency level.
But there was no need for him to reveal too many of his cards here. Just the Intent Proficiency level alone was sufficient for him to gain the recognition he desired; any more would have been an overkill and would put himself under too much exposure for his comfort.
Even then, however, elder Xiao looked as if he had aged significantly in a heartbeat. A look of haggardness came upon him as he stared at Lu Sheng with envy.
"I, old Xiao entered Strength Proficiency after thirty years of hard work and then arrived at pinnacle of Strength Proficiency only after forty years only to find that" unable to carry on, he sighed. "Ill inform the headquarters immediately. Regarding Young Brother Lus position, its simply above my pay grade."
Swiftly, he entered the house. Not long later, a black pigeon flew out and shot towards the distance.
Now, Zhao Jie no longer looked at Lu Sheng with friendliness. Rather, he carried a hint of reverence in his eyes.
He ran into the house and brought out a chair for Lu Sheng to sit on. Then, hurriedly, he served him tea and accompanied him by his side.
After elder Xiao came out, he glanced at Lu Sheng once more, only to find his own heart sinking further.
'A twenty year-old Intent Proficiency expert. Such talent its completely' he felt as if he would lose a year from his lifespan with every second he remained in Lu Shengs presence.
Compared to him, he was an old fogy who had wasted his whole life, hardly even able to enter Intent Proficiency.
He sat dazed for a moment. Fortunately, Zhao Jie was present to chit-chat with Lu Sheng and answer his occasional questions.
Very soon, people arrived outside the courtyard. The commotion of a large gang could be heard. All of them were dressed in the sects black athletic robes and were led by two leaders.
One of them was a white-haired old man with a longsword strapped to his back. The other was a beautiful but rotund middle-aged woman with two curved scimitars hanging by her waist. A white whale symbol was embroidered on both their robes.
Upon entering, the old man began yelling, "Who! Whos the Intent Proficiency expert!? After seeing the memo, Your Father here has been roused from his sleep! A twenty year-old Intent Proficiency practitioner!!! Your fathers heavens! This jokes getting out of hand!"
"Internal Affairs Emissary Elder Wang! Elder Ouyang!?" Zhao Jie was flabbergasted at the sight of the two figures. Trembling, he and elder Xiao hurried up to salute them.
"Dispense with the ceremonies," the pretty woman Elder Ouyang said gently, her gaze falling on Lu Sheng, who was the only one still wearing a smile.
"A dragon among men indeed. You must be brother Lu?"
Lu Sheng clasped his hands together to return the greeting. "Im Lu Sheng. I guess I should be the Intent Proficiency expert that you mentioned."
"Intent Proficiency? Are you the real deal or a phony!? Let Your Father here test you out!!!"
As his words still echoed in the air, the old man leapt into the air, and suddenly, an ear-piercing eagles cry resounded in the courtyard.
"Very nice!" Lu Shengs eyes lit up. This was his first time meeting an Intent Proficiency expert who could, like himself, bring to life the essence and true intent of his martial arts.
Without the support of Qi, Lu Sheng faced him head on with his Heart-Shattering Palm.
Even without utilizing Qi, his moves naturally generated tiger roars because he had mastered the true intent of Black Tiger Saber Technique after attaining Intent Proficiency. The tiger roar shook the peach trees in the courtyard violently, causing their leaves to fall all over like rain.
Lu Shengs palms were dyed red. A pattern of faint blood-red veins surfaced on the area between his eyes. His body shot forward like an arrow, colliding against the old man without warning.
"BOOM! Boom boom boom boom boom!!!"
Both of them were jolted backwards in the first collision of palms. In the very next breath, they traded five quick palms with each other at lightning speed, then parted.
"Hahahahahah! Damn fine!!!" A sense of release and exhilaration flooded Lu Shengs heart. Apart from when he fought against ghosts, this was the first time he experienced such ecstasy when he fought a human. The fact that someone was capable of receiving his blows under full force, albeit without him using inner Qi, overwhelmed him with joy, as if he had finally discovered a kindred spirit.
"Again!" Lu Sheng lifted up his palm, which was a patch of blood red, about to charge forward again
only to see a big mouthful of blood spurting out of the old mans mouth, then him falling backwards like a log.
A sea of dazed silence descended on everyone.
"Lord Wang!!! Save him, quick!!!" Being the first to react, Zhao Jie hurriedly pounced over to lift the old man up.
With a solemn face, the middle-aged woman quickly walked up and took out a small vial from her sleeve. Pulling out the stopper, she emptied out a small white pill the size of a soy bean and rapidly fed it to the old man.
After that, she massaged his acupoints to aid his blood circulation.
The group entered a flurry of activity while Lu Sheng stood aside. Elder Xiao walked over to console him; but before the old man Wang was resuscitated, all words were in vain.
He stared at Lu Sheng as if looking at a monster. Finally, he shook his head in a sigh and patted Lu Sheng on his shoulder without a word.
Lu Sheng was speechless. The frenzy that had only just been sparked in him had now died out.
At that moment, he finally realized what level of strength he had achieved.
It wasnt the level of the famed experts as what he had guessed; perhaps he was even stronger than that