Lu Sheng searched around for a bit before finally laying his eyes on one of the boxes.
Nine Lakes Steel Chains Skill.
Looking at this hard body skill, it was clear from its name that it had been created by an expert who had lived on the seas. 
Committing the name to memory, Lu Sheng walked directly to the overseeing counter on the second floor.
"Im External Affairs Emissary Lu Sheng. I want to withdraw the Nine Lakes Steel Chains Skill for perusal," he passed his command medallion over to the white-haired elder behind the counter.
The elder looked at him with narrowed eyes. A faintly discernible sense of inner force Qi could be detected on his body before it instantly vanished; he was actually also an expert.
He held the command medallion in his hands and looked at it.
"Nine Lakes Steel Chains Skill is a manual of the Strength Proficiency Realm. External Affairs Emissaries are only entitled to peruse one manual beneath the level of Spirit Focus for free each year--youre sure that this will be it?"
Lu Sheng replied unflinchingly.
"Okay," the elder turned to search around on the row of locked cupboards behind him before quickly locating a pale-blue-colored stitched manual from a mahogany drawer. "Keep it well. Remember, don't leak it to outsiders, or Sect rules will be enforced."
"Naturally," Lu Sheng nodded. Receiving the small manual, he flipped through it to find tiny rows of words detailing the skill packed tightly on the page. However, it was clearly a copy of the original version. Among the Strength Proficiency manuals, some of them did not require an intent diagram. These skills without the requisite intent diagrams were also the type most easily spread; after all, just copying the words would suffice.
Manual in hand, Lu Sheng left Martial Proclamation Court. He had used up his entitlement to freebies for the year, and any martial arts skills hed like to look into henceforth would have to be exchanged for Sect contribution points. Moreover, he had not resolved the Song Manor incident previously; thus, his contributions were still a dismal zero. It was really by the old Sect Masters grace that he still retained his position.
Now, its time for me to head back and restore my physical and emotional state. Hopefully, Blood Fury Skills transformation to Ultimate Crimson Mantra can be completed before the duel," Lu Sheng left the Crimson Whale ship with the manual and hurriedly returned to his place in Mountain-Edge City to rest and quiet his mind.
Three days passed by in a flash.
At the Long Rift Gorge deep in the eastern mountains.
A strip of emerald green, like a ribbon, snaked through the Eastern Mountains into Long Rift Gorge, which was situated in the middle of the deep woods, then crashed down the gorge, forming a waterfall with foam as white as snow.
The waterfall smashed down into the river in an arc, resulting in a veil of mist-like water vapor splashing up from it.
On the semi-circle shore formed by the riverbank across the waterfall, Gongsun Zhanglan stood with his hands behind his back, dressed in green robes. Shallow water circled around his feet as he stared silently at the water vapor rising up from the waterfall.
He had brought two people with him--his sworn brother, Mountain-Edge hero Fang Zhidong, as well as his sister-in-law, Zhang Huishu, who was also Gongsun Jings mother.
The three of them stood silently on the beach, awaiting Lu Shengs arrival to duel.
To their sides, in a corner of the river, the old Sect Master Hong Mingzi and Elder Wang were presently sitting on a bamboo raft, looking onto the scene silently.
They had secretly heard of Lu Sheng and Gongsun Zhanglans death match, and had quietly come forth to observe.
"Junior apprentice brothers strength is a mystery. Although this old man had tried to test him out with a few strokes, I could clearly feel that he held back.
As for Zhanglan, the power of his Prime Mystic Palm is shockingly powerful. Whoevers at the mercy of that strike would die from immediate destruction of meridians, without exception. This palm strike is able to flow along the meridians to hurt the inner viscera. Thats the result of fifty over years of tenacious cultivation. I fear its not something easily handled," the old Sect Master Hong Mingzi said somberly.
"Old Sect Master, whats there to fear when youre here? When it comes to a head, you can step in to save brother Lus life," Elder Wang didn't seem bothered in the least.
"Its not that simple. Chen Ying is away to settle some matters, and coincidentally, Zhanglan has chosen this time to challenge junior apprentice brother to a duel, and has also invited Fang Zhidong along. His purpose is to pin me down--even for a short moment--so that hed be able to do as he pleases," a hint of sorrow could be seen in the old Sect Masters eyes. "Pity if only there was more time. With Chen Ying around, thered have been nothing to fear now."
"Huh? Sect Master isn't too optimistic about brother Lu's victory?" Elder Wang asked, puzzled.
"Just somewhat worried," Hong Mingzi shook his head. "In my view, his power is also impressive, but still, he is just too young. Any hint of hesitation during the battle and he could be struck and injured."
Now, Elder Wang was also beginning to worry.
"Sadly, my Big Bro is still only on his way. Old Sect Master, you really moved too quickly. Brother Lus skill is our familys heirloom Heart Shattering Palm. If he could become my Big Bros disciple er" at this point, even he sensed the mismatch--if Lu Sheng truly was an expert on par with Gongsun Zhanglan, then even his Big Bro would find it a stretch to be his Master.
The sun's rays shone mercilessly at noontime.
Lu Sheng sat at the boats bow, silently looking ahead onto the absolutely still, crystal clear surface of the river.
He was dressed head to toe in scholars white robes, which were reflecting light somewhat under the harsh sun. It was extremely striking.
Ning San wasn't very sturdily built; a sack of black clothes was enough to cover himself up decently. Standing to Lu Shengs side, he resembled a young student.
Other than the two of them, a crowd of young masters and young ladies was also headed for Long Rift Gorge to admire the scenery.
They sat at the back, chit-chatting merrily and incessantly like a pack of sparrows.
This was a private boat headed in the same direction as Lu Sheng and Ning San, so the two of them had hitched a ride on it to save themselves the trouble of going all the way on foot. Therefore, no matter how noisy the rest of them on the boat was, it was the boat masters private business.
"Brother, theres an extraordinary air about you. Why do you always sit at the bow alone? Why not join us to admire the scenery?" A somewhat tipsy handsome young master walked over shakily from the deck and asked brightly.
He was the same man who had taken the initiative to invite Lu Sheng and Ning San on board when he had seen the duo asking about heading to Long Rift Gorge, Bian Su.
"Theres no need. I shouldnt interrupt your gathering with your buddies. Its good enough that we were able to hitch a ride," Lu Sheng smiled as he replied. They were originally supposed to have arranged one of the Sects boats, but because the whole thing was done in secret, and also because he had only just remembered that they could travel by water, it was too late for them to source out another boat and they had no choice but to take Bian Su up on his offer.
Although this Bian Su had an imposing personality, his figure was slender and his skin supple. With a glance, Lu Sheng could tell that he was actually a she in disguise.
It seemed as if this boat of hers was for the sole purpose of going out on excursions. As for the others on the boat, Lu Sheng could immediately feel when he boarded that they had ill intentions, and often cast derisive looks in his direction. It was as if they hoped he wasn't on board.
Because of his acute senses, he had been able to overhear the conversations between Bian Su and the rest throughout the journey. From what he overheard, he was roughly able to discern the situation that this young master Bian was in.
This fellow was actually a young miss that had run away from home. As for the others on the boat, they were accompanying her on the excursion in name, but in reality, they were scheming and had other motives in mind. On a few occasions, Bian Su had wanted to send a message back home, but these people had manipulated her to change her mind one way or another. It seemed like they wanted to take advantage of her somehow.
In short, this young miss who had run away from home had landed herself into some bad company who harbored ill intentions. And from what he could hear, the Bian family still had no idea of her whereabouts.
After tactfully declining Bian Su, Lu Sheng watched as she shakily sauntered back to the deck of the boat. His eyes once again fell on the surface of the river.
"Young Master, those people by young master Bians side somehow seem unhappy about us hitching the ride," Ning San whispered at his side.
"I know," Lu Sheng answered casually.
"Then, Young Master, why do you?" Ning San was speechless.
"Werent we unable to find a boat at short notice?" Lu Sheng answered somewhat absentmindedly.
"But they don't even welcome us" Ning San added helplessly.
"So long as theres a boat for us. Its their business whether they welcome us, and our business whether we take the boat," Lu Sheng replied levelly.
"But what if they don't let us board the boat?" Ning San could not help but ask. Even though he knew that he shouldn't be so persistent to find out, he couldn't bear not knowing.
"Then well make them get off the boat," Lu Shengs few words spoke volumes.
"..." Ning San almost choked on his saliva. He was really stumped by his own Boss line of reasoning. After being in Crimson Whale Sect for so long, he had never heard of anyone else as overbearing--not even the legendary old Sect Master when he was younger.
"Were men in a world of chaos, and should not bother with such trivialities. Were made for bigger things," Lu Sheng stretched out to pat Ning San on his shoulders; the latter didn't know whether to laugh or to cry at that.
Of course, Lu Sheng was joking. By nature, he wasn't such an overbearing tyrant. Its just that he could tell that the boat master Bian Su had genuinely wanted to help them along their journey. As for the rest, they were not the 'boat master', and thus, he naturally didn't need to bother.
The boat picked up speed and headed for Long Rift Gorge.
Bird calls and monkey shrieks rang out from the thick forests on both shores every now and then. Once, a meter-long black bird even soared past the sky right above the ship, rousing cries and exclamations from the passengers on board.
Bian Su was presently in the company of a few men and women. She was clearly getting drunk but was still exchanging cups with those around her.
Without warning, the ship lurched and shook. It seems to have ran into reefs.
"Whats going on?"
"What on earth is happening?"
A wave of curses and scolding erupted aboard the ship.
The ship captain and its crew hurried out to explain; none of them knew what went wrong today, however. Usually there were no reefs in this area. Strangely enough, they seemed to have popped up overnight.
Bian Su rubbed her throbbing temples and stood up. Feeling that she should drink no more, she refused a few cups offered to her and strolled to the ships side to have some cool air.
"Grand Uncle, to which family do you think I should entrust that thing?"
She seemed to be mumbling to herself; no one else stood around her.
"Its all up to Young Miss. Now that Old Masters no longer around, this stuff is just a harbinger of calamities. It doesnt matter who we leave it with. As long as it stays in our hands, its trouble," an ancient and raspy voice rang out beside her.
Bian Su fell into silence. She could not bear to part with that object--no matter whom she gave it to. After all, it was their family heirloom, passed down for so many generations. She understood, however, that she had no ability to keep it.
"Ive come here to the Northern Lands all the way from the Central Plains yet theyve still tracked us down," she heaved a long sigh, the drunkenness on her vanishing into thin air in an instant.
"Hey, whats the man hitching a ride on our ship doing?" Suddenly, out of her peripheral vision, she caught sight of the baldy on the bow rising and walking to the tip of the bow. He seemed about to do something.
"He" Grand Uncle appeared beside Bian Su, staring at the bow, confused.
Just then, the entire ship trembled. From bow to stern, the ship shook and rocked violently, its whole body tipping forward as if a heavy object had just been smashed into its deck.
Lu Sheng stepped hard on the deck with his right foot. An incredibly massive force pushed outwards behind him, with him at its epicenter. A wave of force seemed to ripple across the solid deck.
Then, like a cannonball, his entire body launched into the air, shooting forward into the air towards the shore ahead. Excitement sparked in his eyes.
On the shore, Gongsun Zhanglan drew his palms together, his hair and beard flying in the air around him. Faint pops rang out all over the muscles in his body as incredibly thick inner force gathered on his palms.
Gazing at Lu Sheng who was shooting towards him, icy cold murderous intent sparkled in his eyes.
 ED/N: Did you think that someone living on the seas can't make a skill with "lakes" in name? Well, now you know it's possible :3 at least in the raws.