He actually really was not afraid of Gongsun Zhanglan. Although he was likewise a Spirit Focus expert who cultivated both inner and outer forces, there were also differences in strength among experts of the same level.
They may have been of the same realm, but he boasted three powerful inner forces, the equivalent of the average persons hundred years of cultivation. If others got wind of this, it would be terribly shocking and no one would have believed him in the least.
There was no need to even mention other aspects of Lu Shengs strength. Just competing in terms of inner force alone was enough to pull any opponent to his grave.
Ever since he interacted with Li Shunxi, Lu Sheng had a deeper understanding of the power of his inner force skills cultivation.
Although Black Fury Skill was strong, it wasn't as powerful as he had imagined. However, the modification enabled by his Modifier had bolstered the skill with tremendous energy, giving him profound inner strength that was equivalent to decades of hard work by others. Add to it the unbridled squandering of his inner strength and it was no wonder that Lu Sheng was capable of dealing so much damage.
Moreover, he recalled that he had first successfully mastered Jade Crane Skill before beginning to cultivate Black Fury Skill. By then, he had accumulated an amount of inner Qi that would have taken ordinary men ten years to achieve. As a result, he had Jade Crane Skill serving as support whenever he executed Black Fury Skill.
Armed with two formidable inner force skills, Lu Sheng had Jade Crane Skill providing Black Fury Skill with unparalleled power to restore Qi and an immense amount of inner strength. That was why the might of his strikes way surpassed ordinary levels to begin with.
Therefore, he seemed completely formidable.
If even drips of water could tunnel through stone over time, what more an inner force skill like Black Fury Skill?
"Gongsun Zhanglans Prime Mystic Palm is packed with power; Brother Lu, don't underestimate him," the old Sect Master was somewhat stumped; he had also begun to find Lu Sheng somewhat arrogant.
"No problem. May I know what skill the old Sect Master cultivates? I have heard often that Sect Masters cultivation base is deeply profound. Your name resounds across the whole Northern lands, and you are reputed as the Number One Expert in the North. I wonder if you could offer me a few tips?" Lu Sheng suggested earnestly.
He genuinely wanted to see where he stood compared to this Number One Expert in the North, and who among them was the stronger. Up till now, he had always been exchanging blows with ghosts and the like, and most of the pugilistic experts could not compare at all to him. He had no way to discern clearly where his ability placed him.
Therefore, he wanted to find out just which level in the pugilistic world he ranked at.
The old Sect Master smiled a little.
"I wont presume to offer any tips. This old man has lived but a few years more than Brother Lu. As for my cultivation, its just that little bit deeper."
He slowly turned around to face Lu Sheng.
"Since Brother Lu is obsessed with martial arts, then let us exchange just a few friendly tips, without hurting our relationship."
"Many thanks to Sect Master for obliging!" Lu Sheng was resolute. Finally, he could clearly place where he stood in terms of his power.
He and the old Sect Master stood firmly facing each other, many meters apart.
"The so-called cultivation of both inner and outer forces refers to the union of external strength and internal essence. After Spirit Focus is the level of Divine Prime--to be as boundless as the divine sky, its vastness integrated into ones body."
The old Sect Master Hong Mingzi smiled gently as he pointed his fingers forward like a sword, extending it straight towards Lu Shengs chest, moving at times slowly and at times quickly.
Lu Sheng could see his fingers very clearly. At the same time, however, something about their movement eluded and confused Lu Shengs senses. His heart was pent up with frustration, and he felt the urge to vomit.
"TIGER ROAR!" Lu Sheng stretched his palm flat like a saber, slashing straight ahead with explosive killing power.
Thick inner Qi accompanied his explosive outer force, surging out and propelling the might of the palm strike, turning Lu Shengs palm blood-red. The slash was followed closely by a faint gust of hot wind.
What impressive inner force!
Hong Mingzis expression remained unchanged, but he was secretly thoroughly astonished. Likewise, he swiftly mustered his inner Qi. Initially, he activated only ten percent of his Ultimate Crimson Mantra inner force. But halfway through his move, he realized that he had underestimated the force contained within Lu Shengs strike.
Swiftly, Hong Mingzi activated fifty percent of his inner strength.
With more than eighty years of laborious cultivation behind his inner strength, even fifty percent of it already resulted in an intensely vigorous and overwhelming force. His right hand channeled the four-fold tremor ability which was the unique trademark of Ultimate Crimson Mantra and pointed precisely at Lu Shengs palm-saber.
The palm-saber and finger-sword collided, sounding remarkably like the impact of two heavy objects smashing against each other.
Although he didn't show it, Hong Mingzi was so shocked that his heart lurched violently.
Such robust inner strength that can even hold its own against fifty percent of my power??! Absolutely unbelievable!
One had to understand his finger-swords contact surface area was much smaller than that of Lu Shengs palm-saber. Given equal inner force, he would have had the upper hand.
Moreover, Ultimate Crimson Mantra was extremely powerful; it far surpassed the average mantras.
Even then however
"BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!"
Both of them continued to trade several blows. Lu Sheng fell back two steps, a flash of red coloring his face for a second before dissipating. From his opponents finger-sword, he felt a mighty force that rivaled his own. Moreover, each thrust was followed closely by yet another.
Caught off guard, he was hit several times in a row and had even suffered damage to his meridians.
"Sect Masters inner force is as powerful as the legends have it! This junior is deeply impressed by your unabating might!" Lu Sheng was genuinely shocked to his core this time.
Among ordinary mortals, the old Sect Master was the very first person who could force him back in a fair and open fight. With his strength, he indisputably deserved his reputation as the Number One Sword Expert of the Northern Lands. Lu Sheng had fallen to a disadvantage even in a head-on fight against him.
One had to understand that he had a cultivation that comprised of three major inner force skills. His gross total inner force volume exceeded that of the old Sect Master without a doubt. Although neither of them used any killing moves, the Sect Master had already demonstrated extraordinary power in being able to push back such a deep, given his age, cultivation.
"Ive gotten old, Ive gotten old" Hong Mingzi stared at Lu Sheng with eyes of admiration and solemnness. Now he finally understood why Lu Sheng was so highly regarded by Elder Wang, to the extent that the latter had written to his Eldest Brother to come and take him in as disciple.
Nine-Strokes Sword & Palm Wang Yuanshan hehehe, Hong Mingzi had not seen him for a number of years. Rumor has it that he had made quite a name for himself in the Central Plains. Back then, they had been evenly matched. But now he wondered.
"Brother Lu," a thought came to Hong Mingzis mind. "Your inner force is incredibly thick and your cultivation base extraordinarily deep. If Im not wrong, you mustve had met with some strange encounter when you were young and obtained some rare object that resulted in the growth of your inner force?"
Stunned, Lu Sheng quickly nodded, "Sect Master has discerned correctly. When I was young, I once ate a scarlet-red fruit. Ever since then, my inner Qi has climbed steadily each day with cultivation," he had been deliberating over how to conceal the true reason for the unnatural growth of his inner force. Little did he expect the old Sect Master to ask at this moment and so he quickly spun a cover story.
"Ah, I see. As I expected indeed," Hong Mingzi exclaimed. "That is an incredible destiny! Its just that despite the depth of your inner force, rivaling even that of this old man, your inner force mantra seriously puts you at a disadvantage"
"My mantra puts me at a disadvantage?" Lu Sheng stared at old Sect Masters fingers. Not a single trace of burn wounds remained from the earlier battle. He was unscathed from Blood Fury Skills fire poison and incendiary effects.
"No need to look any longer. Your mantra should be a fire poison Yang-attribute inner force that has evolved from a poison skill. But this sort of inner skill places too much emphasis on poison and is lacking in other effects.
As for why this old man isnt affected by fire poison--its because my Ultimate Crimson Mantra is also a Yang-attribute inner force. It has a total of seven levels, and this old man has cultivated it to the sixth level. My inner force is as hot as the heat waves in a furnace, impermeable to all fire poison.
The strange thing is there seems to be some element that mediates and balances the Yin and Yang in your inner skill. It doesnt look like an inner force mantra purely based on Yang attribute and fire poison," old Sect Master paused and looked at Lu Sheng with a peculiar expression.
Lu Sheng was filled with awe. This was indeed the Number One Expert of the Northern Lands! With his depth of experience and insight, he detected Lu Shengs other inner skills nearly at one glance.
"Truth be told, Sect Master, the inner skill that this junior cultivates is a skill acquired from an auction--Black Fury Skill."
"Black Fury Skill?" The old Sect Master was surprised. "That body tempering inner force skill that supposedly has thirty-two levels?"
"Old Sect Master, youve heard of this skill?" Lu Sheng hoped to get some information on Black Fury Skill from this old Sect Master. The manual on this skill was too badly damaged; if he could find a complete volume and train all way till Level Thirty-Two, then its power would be unimaginable.
He was only at the fourth level right now, and already had such robust inner strength. It was almost unfathomable how mighty Level Thirty-Two would be.
Hong Mingzis brows tightened into a knot.
"Although they say that there are thirty-two levels in this Black Fury Skill, the mantra itself is basically theoretical. Apparently, even the creator of the skill had only trained to the sixth level. The rest of the levels are but his theoretical extrapolations."
"Why did the creator himself only train to Level Six?" Lu Sheng asked, curious.
"Because when he reached the sixth level, fire poison attacked his heart and his inner force burnt him alive," Hong Mingzi said plainly.
In that moment, Lu Shengs heart sank.
It seems like this Black Fury Skill is just the product of an arm-chair theoretician? Just like the Grand Diversion of Heaven & Earth in Jin Yongs wuxia novel? The subsequent levels are all theory?
"Therefore, I advise that you switch to another skill to cultivate as your main skill; it's for your own good. I suspect that the person who released the mantra was up to no good, and probably had intended to make others his lab-rats," the old Sect Master said solemnly.
"Do you know why the rest of Black Fury Skill is so badly damaged? Actually, its not that its damaged, but that it was deliberately discarded because it cannot possibly be cultivated. Thats why only five levels are being circulated on the market nowadays," he explained.
"Then havent I wasted my time on this inner force skill for nothing?" Lu Sheng was stunned.
"Not necessarily. It will be very easy to change from cultivating Black Fury Skill to a similar Yang inner skill. Thats if it doesn't clash with the meridians, of course," the old Sect Master stroked his mustache as he smilingly added.
"Old Sect Master, you mean?" Lu Sheng was somewhat stirred.
"The inner force skill mantras that you seek can be found within Martial Proclamation Library. Other than the Ultimate Crimson Mantra, you can choose from three other skills of Yang-attribute. You can try them out. Of course, only the first level is available for free. If you want to access other, higher levels, then youll need to have sufficient contributions to the Sect," Hong Mingzi smiled. "However, with your extraordinary innate talent, Brother Lu is a dragon among men. Adopting such a method wastes far too much time. This old man has a way to circumvent sect rules and impart you with an exceptionally strong Yang inner force skill directly."
"Oh?" Lu Sheng was no fool. Naturally, he could deduce the meaning of Sect Masters painfully obvious hints. "May I be so bold to ask what Sect Master means...?"
Hong Mingzi laughed heartily.
"This old mans Master, Mo Fei, was a hero of his generation in the pugilistic world. His Ultimate Crimson Mantra boasts impressive power that is optimally suited to Brother Lu, considering youre looking to switch to a skill of similar nature. It surpasses Black Fury Skill by leaps and bounds! If Brother Lu is willing, this old man is willing to accept you as my Junior Brother on behalf of my Master!"
"Junior Brother?!" Lu Sheng had actually thought that Sect Master intended to accept him as a disciple. Little did he expect that he was actually taking in a disciple on behalf of his Master!
Actually, Hong Mingzi himself had indeed considered accepting Lu Sheng as his disciple. However, after exchanging blows with him, he sensed that their cultivation bases were not that far apart. He then realized that, given his abilities, it'd be a stretch for him to be Lu Shengs Master after all.
However, looking at this rare, fine gem of a man, he was worried that Lu Sheng would leave Crimson Whale Sect to seek other martial arts in the future.
If Lu Sheng could join Crimson Whale Sect to learn martial arts, then once he encountered even stronger skills, theres no guarantee that he wont leave for greener pastures.
Therefore, after deliberating back and forth, he came up with this tactic.