Lu Sheng took just a short while to figure out the old Sect Masters intentions.
"And where is the Sect Masters esteemed Master now?" He was somewhat moved. An expert that was the Sect Masters master was surely of a realm even higher than Spirit Focus. It wasn't a bad thing for him to be his Master.
"My Master has already left this world for more than ten years," the old Sect Master replied somberly.
Lu Sheng was speechless. It seems like the Sect Master was trying really hard to tie him to the same boat as Crimson Whale Sect.
One must understand that in this world, once he formally entered the tutelage of a Master, his reputation would go down the drain if he ever rebelled one day in the future. This was akin to repaying kindness with enmity, or to do wrong by ones benefactor--something frowned upon by all.
Therefore, the moment he joined the school of the Crimson Whale Sect Master, there would be no room for him to switch allegiance in the future.
"Sect Master, please allow me some time to consider this," unable to make up his mind on the spot, Lu Sheng could only delay the matter momentarily.
"Whats there more to consider? Its not like this old man is asking you to be a slave," shaking his head, the old Sect Master said laughingly. "Moreover, my Masters school isnt of the same league as Crimson Whale Sect. Youll fully find out about it if you enter my Masters school--theres plenty youll gain from it."
Lu Sheng hesitated a little, but after giving the matter careful thought, he made his decision. Although he might encounter even stronger martial arts skills in the future, right now was the period of his exponential growth. The present him was still too weak and insignificant, armed with merely a few skills to barely defend himself. If he were to meet the really powerful supernatural beings, then he would really be in the soup.
"In that case, junior apprentice brother pays respects to Senior Apprentice Brother!"
Once Lu Shengs mind was made up, he knelt and went on all fours to kowtow to the old Sect Master.
"Don't worry, you wont regret your decision," the old Sect Master laughed heartily. "Come, come, follow me."
Now that their relation was confirmed, Hong Mingzi was overjoyed. He brought Lu Sheng out of the little garden and descended two flights of stairs into the Crimson Whale ship, entering a concealed area that resembled an ancestral hall.
Within the ancestral hall hung rows and rows of paintings, which were portraits of all sorts of old people, men and women alike.
The old Sect Master pointed at a portrait that hung smack in the middle and said softly,
"This is the previous Sect Chief of our Crimson Sun Sect and your Master, Hand of the Scorching Sun--Mo Fei. Come, pay your respects before the portrait."
Lu Sheng didn't mind. Since he had joined the other partys sect, then he naturally should perform the necessary ceremonies to pay respect.
He knelt on the praying mat in front of Mo Feis portrait and kowtowed nine times. This was the Nine Kowtow Grand Ceremony; once he entered his Masters tutelage, it was like forming a father and son relationship that would last a for lifetime. It wasn't just for fun.
Be it the Master or the disciple, one was bound by obligations and responsibilities. If the Master did not put in effort to teach the disciple, his reputation would be utterly tarnished. His name would be trampled upon and others would curse him vehemently.
And if the disciple were to dishonor the Master, he would similarly be the object of utmost ridicule if word were to ever get out about it.
He bowed, offered tea and joss-sticks, burnt some notes and recited the Sects rules.
After performing the whole set of rituals, Lu Sheng developed a rough understanding of this Crimson Sun Sect.
This Crimson Sun Sect was both a righteous and an evil sect. Moreover, its members have always been few. Recruitment was both difficult and mysterious; even in its most prosperous times, there were no more than four members in the sect. Crimson Wale Sect was but an extension of its power that was subordinate to the Crimson Sun Sect.
After finishing the entire trip, dusk had fallen.
Lu Sheng accompanied the old Sect Master onto the deck for a stroll to clear his mind. The deck of the Crimson Whale ship was enormous, with a copious number of buildings and courtyards on the higher floors. At one glance, it looked like an entire city district.
Under the protection of many guards, the two of them strolled along the ships railings, enjoying the breeze from the river.
"Junior Apprentice Brother from now on, we are family. Ive also added your name onto the Sects register, and relayed the news to a few Sects were on good terms with. From today onwards, you are also considered part of the core personnel of Crimson Whale. Its time for you to know some matters," coughing a little, Hong Mingzi said in hushed tones.
"Is it regarding the Noble Families?" Lu Sheng asked plainly.
"So you've heard," Hong Mingzi nodded. "The Noble Families are way above us; its a position thats been innately determined, so we don't have another choice about it. We can only adapt and get used to it, because only they are able to oppose Devils and Aberrations.
However, the Noble Families almost never poke their noses into worldly matters. Normally, they only send us a piece of information or an order every decade or so. You dont need to bother about them if theres nothing of concern.
Your senior apprentice brother here just wants you to have some background. This world is fraught with dangers--other than Demonic Ghosts, there are Devils and Anomalies. Naturally, we are not alone in this fight."
Lu Sheng frowned but said nothing. He thought back to Duanmu Wans attitude from before. That feeling like she viewed everyone else as hapless and powerless tiny ants kept replaying itself in Lu Shengs mind.
"No need to mull over it. Noblemen number few and far between. Whats more, they are spread out over the entire Song nation, making their numbers even smaller. We would be really lucky if we could meet one every decade or so," Hong Mingzi smiled.
"That rare?" Lu Sheng was stunned. He had met with Duanmu Wan twice consecutively, and with Yan Kai later, thus he had assumed that the Noblemen were everywhere.
"Very rare," Hong Mingzi replied with a smile. "Just take the Lord of our Northern lands, the Zhen Family, for example. In their entire direct bloodline, there are but over ten people. Moreover, most of them roam from place to place without settling down. Some even conceal their identities, enjoying the game of life. In the vast Northern lands with over hundreds of mighty cities and tens of millions of people, locating them is like trying to find a needle in a haystack."
Lu Sheng understood the situation better now.
"The Noble Families are high and mighty, but their numbers are extremely small. That's why those truly in control are still the government and us sects," Hong Mingzi continued. "Therefore, in reality, our Crimson Whale Sect is in charge of a large territory that includes Mountain-Edge City, Green Maple City, as well as a few other large cities and more than ten smaller cities all these are under our charge. We have many people deployed and stationed in those cities who will send information and resources back regularly.
In reality, because of the long distance between us, there are branches of the Sect in each of those cities which are smaller, independent Crimson Whale Sects. Most of the time, these sects are left to their own devices."
"Senior Apprentice Brother, you mean...?" Lu Sheng didn't know what Hong Mingzi was trying to convey by telling him all these.
"After saying so much, what I mean is that your senior apprentice brother's health is deteriorating and not like before. In many matters, Ill probably need Junior Apprentice Brothers ready assistance to help," Hong Mingzi reached into his chest to retrieve an intricate metallic-gray piece of cloth, which he passed to Lu Sheng.
"This is the entire Ultimate Crimson Mantra, complete with Levels One to Seven. Youll need to take the Crimson Yang Pill to cultivate it together. Its power is unrivaled. Junior Apprentice Brother, you must take good care of this and make sure it doesn't fall into the hands of an outsider," Hong Mingzi instructed in all seriousness.
Lu Shengs eyes shone and hastily received the cloth. Gently, he opened it up a little. His eyes were instantly greeted by the tiny words packed tightly into that top corner.
"But Senior Apprentice Brother, why is it that our Crimson Sun Sect members have always been so few? Isnt it better to openly recruit members?" Lu Sheng suddenly asked.
"Its not that were unwilling, but that the inner force mantra is really too precious. Once, there was an internal rebellion that almost led to the loss of the mantra to outsiders.
Moreover, our Ultimate Crimson Mantra requires the accompaniment of the specially concocted Crimson Yang Pill to cultivate. Otherwise, itll lead to an excessive flourishing of Yang fire, which would hurt ones longevity and maim the body. As for the production of the Crimson Yang Pill, its very expensive" by now, Hong Mingzi had already expressed his meaning as clear as day.
The vital aspect of the whole issue was the Crimson Yang Pill, which was too expensive to concoct. It would be hard to sustain if there were more members.
Lu Sheng understood that instantly. He looked on as Hong Mingzi once again retrieved from his chest a small, crimson vial that he handed to Lu Sheng.
"Inside this are Crimson Yang Pills sufficient to last you for a month. Junior Apprentice Brother, use them as you please. Come, let senior apprentice brother teach you the first level of Ultimate Crimson Mantra to initiate you into it," coughing again, Hong Mingzi gently suggested.
"Sorry to trouble you, Senior Apprentice Brother," Lu Sheng cupped his fists in reply.
"As long as you bring glory to our Crimson Sun Sect in the days ahead. The rival sects near us are mainly White Sands Sect, Green Star Sect and Plum Blossom Sect. The former two have been wrestling with us for control over the trade market in Jie Long City, while Plum Blossom Sect has some conflict with us over medicinal herbs. Theres been many disputes over several vital medicinal valleys and forests between us. Although our Crimson Whale Sect is the Number One Sect in the North, the other sects are also not to be trifled with," Hong Mingzi explained. "As External Affairs Emissary, Im afraid Junior Apprentice Brother will have to handle all sorts of different trouble very soon. The Mountain-Edge City that youre in charge of is definitely not some benevolent ground."
Lu Sheng understood.
Upon leaving the Crimson Whale ship, Lu Sheng felt somewhat surprised at the turn of events. Unexpectedly, it took so little effort for him to lay his hands on the Ultimate Crimson Mantra inner force skill which was even more formidable than Black Fury Skill.
Even though the skill came with the condition of him being a Crimson Sun Sect disciple, with his senior apprentice brother being the present-day Chief of the Sect, he didn't mind all these too much. None of these really affected him.
If he really had to accumulate contributions to the sect slowly and wait before he could exchange them for inner force skills comparable to Ultimate Crimson Mantra, god knows how long that would have taken him.
Besides, there was no way that inner force skills of the same caliber as Ultimate Crimson Mantra would even be displayed in the Martial Proclamation Library.
The sky was already dark by the time he alighted in the harbor. Lu Sheng flipped himself up on a horse. Following closely behind him were Duan Mengan, Ning San, and a few other sect members who were all intending to head back to Mountain-Edge City.
"External Affairs Emissary Lu, you seem so full of mettle. The matter is unresolved, and yet you've reaped quite a lot of benefits from it, havent you?" Just then, a menacing female voice drifted from the side of the harbor.
Lu Shengs gaze lifted as he looked over. A few burly, strapping men were escorting a weak and gentle-looking woman with a long and narrow face. They were making their way over.
This woman was dressed in red. Although she clearly had the perfect oval face shape, as both her cheeks were deeply sunk in, it gave others the impression that she was sickly and had shady and hostile intentions. Therefore, even though she had a curvaceous figure, she provoked no lust or desire in anyone.
"Who are you? Why are you blocking my way?" Lu Sheng frowned.
"Im Gongsun Jing," the lady in red-robes answered coldly. "Ive heard much of External Emissary Lus esteemed name from my uncle."
"Gongsun Jing? Gongsun Zhanglans niece?" Lu Sheng asked casually.
"That's right," came Gongsun Jings cold reply.
"And whats the meaning of you appearing before me right now?" Lu Sheng looked at her with a queer expression, "Has your uncle agreed to duel with me at last?"
"What?" Gongsun Jing was startled, as if she hadnt understood what that was supposed to mean.
"Isnt that so? Your uncle purposely sent you over for me to give you a beating. Then, hell finally have an excuse to officially duel with me. Isn't that what always happens in novels?" Lu Sheng looked even more quizzical as he added.
"YOU!!!" Gongsun Jing was riled up. Pointing at Lu Sheng, she was just about to berate him.
"Seems that isnt the case" Lu Sheng was rather disappointed. He began to flex his fists, "Then
Ill kill you first, then wait for your uncle to come to me to avenge your death!!!"
In a split second, he stepped with one foot onto the wooden plank on the ground. The thick and sturdy plank was crushed into bits in an ear-splitting boom.
Lu Sheng abruptly erupted, his physique resembling that of a ferocious tiger. Loud, thunderous tiger roars suddenly sounded out in the air.
Lu Shengs palm traveled more than the distance of ten steps to land squarely on Gongsun Jings chest.
Gongsun Jings head was thrown back as a mouthful of dark blood spewed out from her mouth. Her body was flung backwards, crashing into the burly men behind her. Only after sliding more than ten meters backwards on the ground did she finally come to a slow stop.
Her miserable shriek hadnt even left her mouth before she was strewn onto the floor, gasping for her last breath. She lay there on the ground, blood flowing out from her mouth profusely.
Lu Sheng remained standing where he was, staring at the two burly men by Gongsun Jings side. Presently, these few men were scared out of their wits. Lowering their heads, they quickly scampered to the side.
"That old man Gongsun Zhanglan keeps avoiding me. Now, lets see what excuses he can spin to get out of a fight with me!"
After a fit of hysterical laughter, Lu Sheng led Duan Mengan, Ning San and the rest up their horses and left.
Many thanks to the recent readers who have left a wave of glowing reviews for Way of the Devil! Because of you guys, our rating has risen & more people are now aware of this amazing novel! So do keep them coming! :D I'm also motivated to continue providing quality translations (of course, many thanks to Kurisu too for his careful editing)!