At the very least, Lu Sheng had never heard of any famed expert almost killing an Intent Proficiency master in one palm strike--all without the use of inner force. After all, an Intent Proficiency expert could concentrate all the bodys strength together and also increase the circulation speed of Qi and blood in a very short time to result in an explosive power that vastly increased ones force and speed.
An Intent Proficiency expert's might was roughly equivalent to the combined power of two experts at the peak of Strength Proficiency!
After all, inner Qi could only be used to increase ones strength and speed. Therefore, although famed experts who trained in both the inner and outer forces were perhaps slightly stronger than Intent Proficiency experts, that difference wouldn't be very significant.
After much effort, that old fogy, Elder Wang, was finally resuscitated. He vomited a mouthful of murky blood again as he gradually came to his senses. Under the eyes of all present, he propped himself upright with much effort and looked at Lu Sheng.
"Bloody hell! Wasnt that Heart-Shattering Palm!? Which freak taught you this version of Heart-Shattering Palm!? Tell your father here and I promise not to beat him to death!"
Lu Sheng was stunned.
"Heart-Shattering Palm could it be the Heart-Shattering Palm passed down in Elder Wangs family???" The crowd was instantly shocked into a daze.
"This old man has lost all his face today!!!" Elder Wang hollered. Struggling free of the surrounding people who were supporting him, he stood up. "Where did you learn this Heart-Shattering Palm? Its riddled with errors and filled with mistakes! Force was applied wrongly too! But thats not the worst the worst thing is that you actually still managed to injure this old man so grievously in one strike! Bloody hell! Unbelievable!!!"
He was frustrated and dejected at the same time. However, his eyes which were fixed on Lu Sheng grew brighter and brighter.
Lu Sheng was rather speechless. The world was truly such a small place. He had learned Heart-Shattering Palm from Senior Constable Zhang Xun, but little did he imagine that it was actually this old fogys family heirloom martial arts skill. From the expressions of those around, it seemed like this old fogy had long since made a name for this Heart-Shattering Palm with his own hands. It didn't seem fake.
"Youre stronger than me! By leaps and bounds!" Elder Wang said in all seriousness as he pushed Zhao Jie, who was trying to support him, aside. "I cant teach you, but my Big Bro definitely can! My Big Bro, he he definitely can! With your innate talent and Big Bros strength added together! Perhaps there will be a way, a hope!"
Lu Sheng could not make head nor tail of what he had just heard.
The surrounding crowd also seemed lost and could not understand what they were hearing. Only that middle-aged womans eyes flashed as she seemed to understand the meaning of Elder Wangs words.
"Junior Brother, are you willing to be a member of my Crimson Whale Sect?" Elder Wang asked as he neared Lu Sheng. Abruptly, he smacked his own forehead. "Ah thats right, I forgot. You were here to join the Sect!"
"Elder Wang you should head back to rest, leave the matters here to me," the pretty woman said gently.
"Thats good too. Ningzhi, I shall hand this fella into your hands for now," Elder Wang himself knew that he couldnt delay treating his injuries for long and needed to head back to cultivate and recuperate his body.
All this while, Lu Sheng had not had the chance to speak. Before he could do anything else, a group of people hastily escorted Elder Wang away. Elder Ouyang and another group of people remained.
Each of the people in this group looked at him in the same obscure manner as Zhao Jie and elder Xiao, all trying to size him up.
"Junior Brother Lu, why don't we head into the house to sit and chat?" elder Xiao suggested.
"Okay," only now did Lu Sheng heave a sigh of relief.
He wasn't afraid of offending anybody, but he feared accidentally killing an old man whom he had no grudge or grievance against. If he had made an enemy of Crimson Whale Sect because of that, that would have been a great blunder.
Seeing that Lu Sheng was in agreement, elder Xiao also went to the middle-aged woman for her instructions. After receiving permission, he led the two of them into the house. Only the three of them went in; people like Zhao Jie were not qualified to be in the know.
As the three of them entered the house, both Elder Ouyang and Lu Sheng sat down, while elder Xiao stood by the side and listened on.
Ouyang Ningzhi looked youthful, as if she was in her thirties. In reality, however, she was already past fifty years old. Her long legs were smooth and round, and she crossed and slightly tilted them to the side. Her chest was plump and full and as she sat on the seat, her waist and back upright. Her fine figure was graceful and she was modestly attractive. There was a certain dignified and elegant air about her.
"From what I've seen, Brother Lus prowess is indeed extraordinary. The most suitable position for you within the Sect should be the position of External Affairs Emissary. However, it is not within my power to appoint someone to such a role; I can only report to the Sect Master and wait for all the Elders to convene and discuss the matter before we can confirm it."
"Thats alright," Lu Sheng smiled. "The reason I joined Crimson Whale Sect is to learn and exchange for even more powerful martial arts. The position itself doesn't matter."
"When it comes to powerful martial arts, our Sect is second to none in the entire Nothern area. The Sect Master is also widely known as the number one swordsman in the North. If you want to seek the most powerful martial arts, then our Crimson Whale Sect is happy to oblige. Even the authorities and the yamen cannot hold a candle to us," Ouyang Ningzhi was all smiles as she continued.
Elder Xiao, who was standing by the side, also chipped in to explain, "Our Sect Masters reputation is unparalleled in all of the North. Even the Chief Army Commander of the Mountain-Edge City would have to call himself a junior before our Sect Master."
"Oh?" Lu Sheng was somewhat astounded at that piece of information. Although the governments yamen was rather useless, it had after all established itself in this world for such an extended period. Surely, it must have had its merits. For the chief of a sect to be on equal footing with a head official clearly implied that Crimson Whale Sects background was definitely not that simple.
"Presently, supernatural ghosts are causing all sorts of problems and the ordinary folk have no means of getting by. Many of our Sects Elders have gone out to assist the government in managing the issues in the districts, so the position of an External Affairs Emissary may not be approved anytime soon. For now, I will raise junior brother Lus rank to that of Nine-Fish; I hope you will understand, young man," Ouyang Ningzhi said smilingly.
"No problem. As long as the benefits remain the same, thats fine," Lu Sheng laughed. Then, he asked again, "I wonder what sorts of contributions will earn me the right to enter the Sects Martial Proclamation Library?"
"Theres a section that contains ordinary level martial arts within Martial Proclamation Library that is accessible to all, and free for those of Five-Fish level and above. As for those of Nine-Fish status, all martial arts of the Strength Proficiency level are available to browse freely. Anyone who has entered the Strength Proficiency realm can access everything, be it inner or outer force, for free," Ouyang Ningzhi replied seriously.
"Even Strength Proficiency levels?" Lu Shengs eyes lit up.
The Strength Proficiency level was what he had achieved with the Black Tiger Saber Technique. Actually, when training Black Tiger Saber according to the secret manual, the highest level one could attain is Strength Proficiency. Achieving any Intent Proficiency that followed in that technique would have to depend on ones own enlightenment.
Lu Sheng was a case in point. After receiving advice from Zhang Xun, he was able to arrive at his own understanding.
In reality, on top of Strength Proficiency, there were also Intent Proficiency secret manuals. These were extremely rare and precious manuals that detailed the specific steps and instructions for achieving Intent Proficiency.
"As for the higher levels, including seeking advice from Sect experts, that would cost you contribution points," Ouyang Ningzhi smiled as she added.
After that, she and elder Xiao shared with Lu Sheng some general knowledge regarding the Crimson Whale Sect.
For example, the logos on the sect members clothing. Ordinary sect members, be they small or big leaders, were all denoted in rank by the number of fish depicted on their clothing. It ranged from one to nine, Nine-Fish being the highest.
After that were the white whale logos, which were used by the elders and the Inner and Outer Affairs Emissaries. Even higher up was the double white whale, which was the exclusive logo for the Deputy Sect Masters.
Lastly, the crimson whale represented the Sect Master.
After chatting for a while more, it was late afternoon and evening was fast approaching. Ouyang Ningzhi was the first to take her leave.
Then, elder Xiao and Zhao Jie invited Lu Sheng to a nearby restaurant, where they held a massive banquet to celebrate his joining the Sect.
After a merry drinking session, elder Xiao sat on his seat and let out a long sigh. "Honestly speaking, this world is fraught with dangers at every corner. Even within our Sect, the number of casualties is sky-high--thats why experts are in great demand."
"Number of casualties is sky-high? What does elder Xiao mean by that?" Lu Sheng asked, puzzled. Although he could hazard some guesses, he did not voice them.
Elder Xiao smiled bitterly, "Perhaps Junior Brother Lu is not in the know... although this Mountain-Edge City seems peaceful and prosperous on the surface, countless dangers, threats and menaces are being defused and neutralized each day in the shadows. We, the Crimson Whale Sect, are but one of the powers handling these affairs. Or perhaps, the chief power.
Otherwise, why do you think the government has been tolerating the existence of so many sects?"
Lu Sheng narrowed his eyes, somewhat taken aback by the other partys frankness. "Dangers? What dangers could Mountain-Edge City have?"
Zhao Jie, who was sitting at the side, could hold it in no longer. Interrupting, he said, "Brother Lu, forgive me for overreaching myself--do you mind if I call you brother?"
"Why not?" Lu Sheng waved his hand and smiled.
Zhao Jie continued with a helpless face, "You don't know how dangerous it is in this world. Each day, more than ten people pass through my hands to join the sect. Over ten people a day, which makes up three to four thousand people in the three hundred plus days that make a year! With so many people, how is it there there are only tens of thousands of people in the sect after so many years?
Where did the rest of the people go? Some are dead, the others are crippled!"
"About the situation Zhao Jie is talking about we Crimson Whale Sect are already considered to be faring pretty well. At the very least, if you are unable to work, you can still enjoy welfare benefits. The other sects and clans have it much worse" elder Xiao sighed.
The light swayed gently inside the room. In that moment, none of them spoke.
Lu Sheng kept silent for a period before slowly asking, "As for these dangers, theyre referring to?"
"Nothing taboo," elder Xiao waved his hand. "What we manage are largely human affairs, including catching criminals such as murderers, arsonists, robbers and rapists. Then there are also those who fight with us over territories and resources, as well as our long-standing adversaries. All these are considered human affairs.
Occasionally, we would encounter Black Calamities as well, which are some eccentric or strange occurrences. For example, a while ago, the second daughter of Squire Wang disappeared without a trace in the middle of night. When she was finally found, she was lying down next to a willow tree along the Cypress Pine Lake outside of the city, with black hair growing all over her skin. If I didn't witness this with my own eyes, I wouldn't believe it even if it came from my own mouth."
"This is this real?" Zhao Jie was shocked.
"Yes, as real as it gets. I saw that girl with my own eyes; about only eleven or twelve years of age, she was covered in long hair all over her body. Even her clothes couldn't cover them. Subsequently, Squire Wang came to our sect. It was the External Affairs Emissary Lord Li who personally killed the girl. Apparently, the night he did it, loud booms resounded in the entire courtyard like wild thunder," elder Xiao said ruefully.
"Black Calamities do these things happen often?" Lu Shengs eyes narrowed as he understood that this was how the Crimson Whale Sect referred to all matters concerning the supernatural.
"Not many. But it occurs once every few months, and sometimes more frequently. Basically, if we don't pay it any heed, it would disappear by itself. As for those that do not disappear, they wont spread beyond one area--these will stay confined to the small area where they first appeared. As long as we avoid such an area, its safe," elder Xiao explained.
Lu Sheng nodded as he understood how the ordinary folk dealt with supernatural matters.
"Speaking of which, a curious incident happened in the vicinity recently, has Brother Lu heard of it?" Zhao Jie interrupted.
"What curious incident?" Lu Sheng asked.
His brows furrowing ever so slightly, Zhao Jie whispered, "Previously, a scholar who lived nearby by the name of Wang Ziquan or something seemed to have mysteriously disappeared after he made a trip to the pleasure boat in the middle of the night. He never came back. It was quite a sensational matter when it happened."
"I heard of this incident too. I even asked the higher-ups if theyd like this matter handled, since it attracted quite a bit of attention and caused too much panic. The higher-ups, however, plainly replied that we neednt pay this matter any heed and that the displeasure would quell after some time," elder Xiao added.
Lu Shengs eyes narrowed. Deep in his heart, he had a faint idea of what was going on.
There may be a bit of confusion over the use of 'elder' vs 'Elder' in this chapter... 'Elder' with a capital 'E' refers to someone of that position within the sect, while 'elder' with a small 'e' is a basic term of address (e.g. junior/elder). However, when the address 'elder' appears as the first word in the sentence, the 'e' will be capitalised too... Hope this clarifies! Enjoy the read!