Previously, Lu Sheng did not catch sight of anyone because his line of sight had been partially blocked by the door. But now that the carriage had shifted forwards, the angle changed and another corner of the courtyard entered his view.
The stone bridge and the scholar were in that corner.
The scholar stood in that spot, stiff as a statue, staring at the passing horse carriage.
Lu Sheng, too, examined that scholar in detail. His clothes were tattered and torn. They were filthy and worn, as if they had not been washed for many days. It was also riddled with holes. Moreover, his hair fell all over his shoulders in a mess. Presently, he was standing still on the stone bridge like a pillar, without so much as a budge.
"No one has entered or exited the manor for many days. I dont think theres anybody staying in it anymore. After all, without anyone entering or exiting the manor, what would anyone staying inside eat?" Duan Mengan explained, not having seen the scholar from his angle.
"But there is someone indeed, as a matter of fact. Isnt he one?" Lu Sheng wagged his chin towards the manor.
Duan Mengan quickly glanced in the direction.
Yet, curiously, when he glanced over, the scholar had vanished into thin air in the blink of an eye.
Lu Shengs eyes narrowed to a slit. It was just a single moment of distraction as he spoke to Duan Mengan, yet he had actually failed to notice the moment when the scholar had disappeared.
"Where? Young Master, please dont frighten me," Duan Mengan was starting to have the shivers because of Lu Sheng. He peered through the gap between the doors carefully again but saw no sight of any figure.
Lu Shengs eyes focused.
"It's nothing. Perhaps it was my imagination."
The horse carriage slowly pulled away from the manor. All the way, Lu Sheng kept recalling the scholars looks. Somehow, he had a peculiar intuition that something was off about the man.
Soon, the team arrived at Iron Mine Village.
The village was silent and deathly still, just like a cemetery. Wooden houses, some with doors left ajar and others shut, stood one after the other. The wooden doors swung and creaked in the wind.
Each of the men in the team, despite their original strength and vigor, could not help but feel deeply unsettled as they walked between the houses.
Dusk began to fall. Lu Sheng and Duan Mengan alighted from the carriage and entered a relatively intact wooden house.
Some of these houses had leaking roofs and were ill-suited to housing people once it rained. The gang of men each found wooden huts to stay the night. They made do with the water skins and dry rations they had brought.
Lu Sheng settled into a wooden house that was larger than the rest. He had men move his tent and blankets down from the carriage. After starting a fire in the house, the men then boiled a pot of water drawn from a nearby brook. With some dried meat and mushrooms thrown in and after waiting for it to stew, it turned into a pot of delicious mushroom and sliced meat soup.
The gang squeezed into the cramped quarters, each with a bowl of mushroom and sliced meat soup, eaten together with the dry rations. It made for a rather enjoyable meal.
Lu Sheng, however, was not in the mood to share a meal with the gang. He exited the wooden house and stared in the direction of the manor from the day.
Moonlight spilled down like a white sash. Under the moonlight, the manor was a faint ball of gray shadow in the distance, a short journey away from the village of wooden houses.
Lu Sheng clutched onto his cloak tightly. His brows locked together in a furrow as he gazed at the manor.
Duan Mengan staggered out with a hint of drunkenness.
"Young Master, why arent you coming and joining the brothers for a drink?"
Lu Sheng shook his head lightly, "Have sentries been arranged?"
"Dont worry, Young Master. Its been arranged. Three men keep watch in three directions separately. After some food later, well go replace them," Duan Mengan was one of Wu Sans key personnel in the past, after all. He was an old hand at dealing with such matters.
"Tomorrow, well check out the mine first. Then, we will proceed to the manor," Lu Sheng retracted his gaze and said calmly.
"Yes, sir. The mine is just nearby. If not for the fact that we havent managed to hire any miners so far, wed be producing a lot of iron ore each day," Duan Mengan said with pity.
"Oh, that's right, what skill do you practice in the sect?" Lu Sheng asked casually.
"Its the Bear-Wrestling Arm from the Martial Proclamation Library, a secret manual on the third level" Duan Mengan chuckled.
"Bear-Wrestling Arm? Sounds like its a strength-related skill?" Lu Shengs interest was piqued whenever a conversation's topic turned to martial arts.
"Thats right. I, Old Duan, havent got any other advantages, except for above-average strength that I was born with. Thats why I chose this as my main skill."
Seeing as he had nothing better to do, Lu Sheng began inquiring with Duan Mengan on other matters that had to do with martial arts.
Duan Mengan was an experienced member of the sect and Lu Sheng was pleasantly surprised with the results of his inquiry. He'd obtained a general impression and overall idea of the skills of the sects few top leaders from Duan Mengan.
As for the skills belonging to the rest, they fell by and large within his expectations. Hearing a description of them, Lu Sheng surmised that they largely paled in comparison to the might of his own Blood Fury Skill.
That was, of course, with exception of the Sect Master and Deputy Sect Masters. According to Duan Mengan, each time these three showed their hand, they would settle the score instantly and resolve any problem within a short time. Hence, none had actually truly witnessed them go all out.
"Young Master is now qualified to enter the Martial Proclamation Library and browse through the free manuals too! My Bear-Wrestling Arm isnt much to brag about within the Strength Proficiency tier; its just very well suited to me," Duan Mengan smiled.
"Well, I must say youre a smart one. You understand that the best skill is the one that suits you best," Lu Sheng smiled too. "Bear-Wrestling Arm is one of the sects free manuals, I know but Ive never seen it. Is it a hard body skill?"
"Thats right. Its a hard body skill that specializes in training strength. And no medicinal potions are needed. Very simple," Duan Mengan scratched his head.
"Oh? Do you mind performing a demonstration for me?" Lu Shengs eyes lit up. He had long since desired to practice a hard body skill, but almost all of them required medicinal potions and so didnt work out. He hadnt expected that Duan Mengan was practicing a hard body skill that didnt require any medicinal potions at all.
Duan Mengan didnt mind in the slightest. In the first place, the skill was free for all sect disciples. Moreover, the one asking him for a demonstration was his own boss whose skills far surpassed his own. There and then, he found a withered tree and performed Bear-Wrestling Arms technique on it.
Lu Sheng questioned him in detail and, before long, thoroughly mastered Bear-Wrestling Arm.
This skill had only one level and was very easy to cultivate. One merely needed to calibrate ones own breathing and posture according to the mantra formula, then imagine oneself as a bear and slam at a tree with a particular rhythm and sequence.
Its cultivation method was that simple. Lu Sheng, too, stepped forward and tried it himself. No inner Qi was required. Neither was any excessive force. Only plain old slamming until the point where ones skin hurt.
After practicing for a while according to the mantra, his skin itched and ached perceptibly.
"Young Masters amazing indeed. It took me many days to grasp the technique. But Young Master got it in one go," Duan Mengan complimented with a smile.
"This skill is simple indeed. And the results arent too shabby. The only challenge is persistence. To achieve full-mastery, it takes at least twenty years of hard work," Lu Sheng felt that this hard body skill was likely a segment of a larger skill; it didnt feel complete, since it focused exclusively on tempering strength and the hardness of ones skin.
"However, if you follow the mantra carefully, this is how you should do it"
Having cultivated several skills to full-mastery, Lu Shengs depth of insight and experience was leagues above Duan Mengans. After he had comprehended this skill, he quickly discerned its essence. Thus, he could even correct some of Duan Mengans mistakes. Just a few pointers from Lu Sheng led Duan Mengan to enlightenment and left him truly in awe of Lu Sheng.
Right there and then, he immediately experimented with corrections advised by Lu Sheng. As expected, he achieved significantly better results than usually. His admiration for Lu Sheng grew even deeper.
Very quickly, the pair exchanging martial arts pointers outside attracted the rest of the men eating and resting in the wooden house. These men had all practiced the skill that even the most ordinary sect members knew--Crimson Whale Saber Technique.
Crimson Whale Saber Technique was the sects basic foundational saber technique. On top of saber fundamentals, it included some improvements and moves more oriented towards combat and killing. As a result, it was pretty powerful.
Once again, Lu Sheng turned around to teach them the essence behind Crimson Whale Saber Technique after having learnt it once through.
After a whole night of learning, all men retired and went to sleep.
Lu Sheng, however, remained standing outside the wooden house. He watched his men as sentries changed. Light flickered incessantly from the lanterns they carried.
He slowly adjusted and regulated the inner Qi within him.
The Modifier screen immediately emerged before him. Small boxes listed all the skills he had cultivated up till this day.
Black Tiger Saber Technique: Level Four.
Blood Fury Skill: Level Four. Special Effect(s): Fire Poison, Incendiary.
Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill: Level Three. Special Effect(s): Rapid Homeostasis. Physical Restoration. Tigers Roar and Cranes Call.
Yin Yang Attraction: Level Three.
Ninety-Nine Strokes Eighty-Four Swallows Pursuing the Wind Blade: Level Three.
Eight Precious Steps: Level Three.
Double-Horned Blade: Level Three.
Heart-Shattering Palm: Level Three.
A column of martial arts exhaustively detailed all of Lu Shengs craft. All skills had been cultivated to the maximum level.
And now, two additional skills appeared beneath these martial arts:
Bear-Wrestling Arm: Initiated.
Crimson Whale Saber Technique: Initiated.
Lu Sheng clicked on the Begin Modification button, then focused his attention on Bear-Wrestling Arm.
Upgrade Bear-Wrestling Arm to full-mastery.
On the Modifier screen, the column that bore Bear-Wrestling Arm grew fuzzy, then turned clear again in an instant.
In just the blink of an eye, Bear-Wrestling Arm had turned from Initiated to Full-Mastery.
Lu Sheng could plainly sense the Black Tiger Jade Crane inner Qi rapidly depleting within him. The fast rate of depletion caught him off guard.
This is clearly a low-grade hard body skill, pretty much on the same tier as Pursuing the Wind Blade. Why does it cost so much? He sensed the inner Qi getting madly absorbed by the body. Within the span of a few breaths, the volume of inner Qi within him had dropped from one hundred percent to fifty percent; then to thirty percent twenty percent ten percent.
At the same time, his skin was turning harder and stronger. The muscles on his arms and waist thickened and bulged instantly.
Lu Sheng clearly sensed that his strength had gone through a drastic change.
Its just a hard body skill he was astonished. He stood still until the transformation was complete.
A joss sticks duration later, he breathed out at length.
Looks like the transformation of the body induced by hard body skills is far greater than that caused by other skills. Perhaps thats why it cost way more than other skills.
Lu Sheng stretched out his hand and clenched his fist. A sense of inflation gushed out from deep within him, like a rubber balloon being inflated. Even his organs began to heat up.
Closing his eyes and sensing the changes in his body, Lu Sheng saw the Yin Yang Attraction inner Qi being consumed rapidly. Simultaneously, the Black Tiger Jade Crane inner Qi that had just earlier been depleted began replenishing rapidly.
From ten percent, it was restored to the hundred percent of his peak in the span of a few breaths. And the exhaustion of Yin Yang Attraction inner Qi up till then was merely about half the total volume.
So thats the real function of Yin Yang Attraction, Lu Sheng was first surprised, then overjoyed. My strength rose by approximately twenty percent. My skin has also gotten tougher.
He drew out his saber from the sheath on his back and slashed across the back of his hand. He didnt use much strength; it was about the amount of strength normal people used to cut meat.
A red mark appeared on his skin. However, his skin did not break.
Just one hard body skill alone reaped such amazing effects! And this is a new saber I recently bought, Lu Sheng nodded in satisfaction. When this case is over, Ive gotta search hard in the Martial Proclamation Library perhaps I can find many other free martial arts helpful to me, his anticipation towards Crimson Whale Sects Martial Proclamation Library deepened.
Raising his head, Lu Sheng gazed in the direction of the manor again. Faintly, he could perceive that the manor was hiding a certain something.
He set his mind to remain here for a good few days and investigate it thoroughly.