"Boss, BOSS!!!" Suddenly, a few Sect members came running from afar outside the arena. They waved a large piece of vermilion sheepskin parchment that seemed like a notice of sorts.
Lu Sheng stared speechless as these people drew close before he raised his palm to violently smack them across their faces.
"BAM BAM BAM."
Their heads swung backwards from the impact, instantly realizing in alarm that they had addressed him wrongly. Quickly, they corrected themselves.
"Young Master! External Head! High Highest Honor!" The one with the piece of red parchment in his hand was none other than Ning San. He held in his hands the results of the Annual Examinations, which had finally been released. Although delayed for longer than usual, it was finally out.
"Highest Honor?" Lu Sheng snatched over the piece of parchment and unfurled it to read.
His name was nowhere to be found in the first row. Lu Shengs eyes narrowed into a slit as he glared fiercely at Ning San.
"Not even among the top three, Highest Honor my ass!" His hand extended as he was once again about to give this chap a tight slap. At the end of the day, Ning San was uncivilized. Ordinarily, he was fine, but when it came to academic matters, he was thoroughly dimwitted.
Ning San immediately cowered in fear to dodge, not daring to answer back. He smiled apologetically, "Your subordinate heard others shouting that, and thought it sounded rather celebratory"
Lu Sheng had no words. Scanning the document, he found his name in the thirty-fifth position. "Mm, its Honors alright, not bad. When you return, withdraw ten taels of silver for your tip, and for everyone else too! Five taels of tips for each person!"
Instantly, the faces of those around him brightened.
"Oh right, Bos err... Young Master, those who put up the results also informed that you have to attend the ceremony in person," Ning San continued.
"At the height of the Wu hour (one oclock in the afternoon), the day after."
Lu Sheng nodded. "Its been a long time since Ive been to the Institution. Its just about time to head back and visit some old friends."
"Speaking of which, what a coincidence. That Young Master Bian Su has dropped by twice today to see Young Master," Ning San continued, "Probably with a favor to ask."
"Bian Su bring her here to see me then. Act fast," Lu Sheng instructed.
"Yes, Young Master," Ning San turned and ran away from the arena.
In the afternoon, Lu Sheng reapplied another layer of medicinal oil and hammered all over his body for a short while. Then, he met once again with Young Master Bian Su.
Presently, Bian Su was alone. She wore a haggard expression and seemed especially fatigued.
Lu Sheng changed into a set of fresh clothes before bringing her to sit in one of the common rooms by the greenhouse.
"Young Master Bian, what do you need? Feel free to ask. If Im able to, Ill definitely do my best to help," Lu Sheng offered generously in all earnestness, causing a hint of gratitude to surface on Bian Sus face.
"To be honest, I really do have a favor to ask during this visit," Bian Su replied solemnly.
"Please, speak," Lu Sheng signaled for her to continue.
Bian Su inhaled deeply, before heaving a sigh. "I wonder if Young Master Lu has heard of the Blood Tree Flower."
"Blood Tree Flower?" Lu Sheng asked, intrigued, "Is it a flower species?"
"More specifically, its a precious medicinal herb that blooms and then withers in many decades," Bian Su explained. "A hundred-year flower has tremendous Qi-replenishing properties and can effectively nourish Yin and soothe heatiness. And in my Bian Family, we were once able to lay our hands on a seven-hundred-year-old Blood Flower Tree. Its Qi-replenishing quality is even more effective than a thousand-year-old mountain ginseng by manifold."
"Oh? How powerful!" Lu Sheng was excited. To him, a precious medicinal herb that can tremendously replenish Qi and nourish Yin is good stuff that could speedily upgrade his inner Qi cultivation.
"Yea, very powerful," Bian Su nodded. "If Young Master Lu is interested, then Im thinking of making a trade with you for this seven-hundred-year-old Blood Tree Flower."
"What sort of trade?" Lu Sheng was well aware how invaluable such an herb was. If the purported usefulness of this Blood Tree Flower was real, then in the current circumstances where even thousand-year-old mountain ginseng was a hot property, this precious herb would be able to sell for at least a high price of ten thousand taels. And even so, one might not be able to get ones hands on it.
Bian Su hesitated for a moment before asking solemnly, "I want to request Young Master Lu to send someone to escort me back to the Central Plains."
"Your Bian Family is an established family in the medicinal trade, isnt that so?" Lu Sheng had long since looked into Bian Sus family background. Now that he learned of the Blood Tree Flower, his interest was immediately aroused.
"Yes, my family has engaged in the herbs business for over two centuries, and we have many medicinal fields and mountains. Our farmers and merchants number at least in the thousands," Bian Su said rather proudly. Before coming, she had naturally also enquired into Lu Shengs identity.
However, even in front of some big shot of the number one Sect in the North, she remained proud of the past glory her family enjoyed.
"At the height of my familys prosperity, we enjoyed great popularity and wealth."
"In that case my Crimson Whale Sect also deals in the herbs business, though not on a large scale. Moreover, there are some herbs that are only available in the Central Plains. If Young Master Bian is able to gain control over internal household matters and do business with me after you return, then not only can I send you back, I can even lend you a helping hand," Lu Sheng said seriously.
"Is Young Master Lu serious!?" Bian Sus eyes lit up in joy.
"Serious. However, this helping hand will naturally come at a cost. I also have a large number of men under me, who count on me for a living. After all, its not an easy feat managing such a vast territory," Lu Sheng heaved a long sigh.
"I understand," Bian Su thought for a moment, before adding, "if Young Master Lu is able to help me seize back control of my household, then my Bian Family is willing to fork out thirty percent of our annual profits to offer as compensation to Young Master Lu," she paused. Then, she added, "Even in turbulent times, our Bian Familys herb business amounts to more than a million taels in profits. We have many small branches littered across many big provinces in the Central Plains."
At least three hundred thousand taels per annum?
Lu Sheng instantly understood the other partys intentions; she wanted to inextricably tie him to the interests of the Bian Family. However, he was indeed in a monetary fix right now. Although the Sect did distribute a salary, for a martial arts fanatic like him who consumed copious amounts of nourishing herbs, that sum was simply too inadequate.
From the looks of it, this Bian Family was probably more successful than his own Lu Family, but that was about it. Although more than a million taels sounded like an enormous sum, in reality, Chen Yunxis Chen Family had offered more than a million as dowry previously.
So the so-called many small branches littered across many big provinces was actually nothing more than Bian Su tooting her own horn. It was but a small family herb business in the Central Plains.
"I want fifty percent. Thirty percent is peanuts," Lu Sheng replied flippantly.
"Fifty percent!" Bian Sus face distorted. In fact, portions of the family profits were also distributed to the territorial heads as protection money. After giving Lu Sheng fifty percent, and then subtracting the protection money, the family would be left with a mere thirty percent.
This little bit of income was really too little. Yet, she thought of the situation back home. After all, the business was in the hands of an outsider and not in hers.
Bian Su clenched her teeth. "Fine! Fifty percent it is. Young Master Lu, when will you send someone to escort me back?"
"When do you want to leave?" Lu Sheng asked.
"As soon as possible," Bian Su replied.
Lu Sheng nodded. Immediately, he clapped his hands to call someone to summon an expert from the Soaring Eagle Squad. "A moment please, Young Master Bian."
The two of them waited for a short moment before an experienced-looking man sporting a crew cut and dressed head to toe in black walked. He cupped his hands in greeting to Lu Sheng. "Bronze Eagle greets External Head!"
All thirteen Soaring Eagles communicated with outsiders using their aliases.
"After settling the Eastern Mountain Society affair, you and Silver Eagle bring this Young Master Bian back to the Central Plains and help him manage his household affairs. Bring along fifty good men with you from the Sect," Lu Sheng instructed.
"Yes!" Bronze Eagle was expressionless as he agreed straightforwardly. Ever since the Soaring Eagle Squad pledged its allegiance, it naturally was in no position to bargain. Even though he was unwilling to travel the long distance to the Central Plains, this was an order from Lu Sheng that he had no choice but to obey.
Waving his hand to indicate to Bronze Eagle and Bian Su to discuss the details of their travel in their own time, Lu Sheng rose to return home.
By the time he got back home, it was already nighttime. In this period, he had been returning late almost every single day. Occasionally, he didn't even return.
This time round, seeing that he was home, Qiaoer took the chance to mention the happy news that he was on the honor roll. Then, she even brought out a letter from home.
"Relocate?" Lu Sheng was mildly surprised as he stared onto the contents of the letter. "Do we have to relocate now?"
"Supposedly, everythings been prepared, and even the contact for the journey has been arranged. Over ten large carriages were rented," Qiaoer explained softly. She had already received a letter from a dear sister back home and thus was in the know of some things.
"Mm after all, theyve been preparing for a long while. Even with the horses running at full pelt, itll take at least two days journey to get from Nine Links City to Mountain-Edge City. Moreover, with the many bulky items theyll be carrying for the relocation, I fear itll take even longer. Itll probably take four or five days just on the road itself," Lu Sheng estimated. "Alright, I got it."
"Also, Young Master, that Young Miss Chen Yunxi has been around many times recently to look for you. Each time, you were away. Qiaoer could see that she was really disappointed," Qiaoer mentioned this matter with the utmost caution.
"Chen Yunxi" Lu Sheng could feel a headache coming on the moment this matter was broached. What kind of life did he lead? One moment, hes battling someone to the death; another, and hes head to head with ghosts. It really wasn't the time to get married.
"Lets not talk about that for now. Anyone else came to look for me?"
"Young Master Song Zhenguo did as well, he came here many times. He wanted Qiaoer to ask on his behalf when you intend to give him the test," Qiaoer continued.
Only now did Lu Sheng remember that there was still the matter of Song Zhenguo wanting to learn martial arts. Before, he had forgotten about it and concentrated on settling other issues.
"This is nothing urgent either. When Im at the Institution the day after, I will arrange for someone to begin to look into this," from what he understood of his old man Lu Quanan, although he was not a risk taker, he was extremely safe and reliable when making decisions. He must have long since laid eyes on Mountain-Edge City as a suitable place for the family to settle down at, and might have even already purchased the land. Because Lu Sheng had been fully occupied with his martial arts training and consolidating his newly-attained power, he hadnt had the time to pay any attention to family matters.
"Also, theres Lu Yingying. That lass came with me to Mountain-Edge City, yet after being at Eastern Mountain Institution for so long, Ive actually not even seen a trace of this younger sister of mine. God-knows-where shes been roaming."
Lu Yingying was a good for nothing, self-absorbed vainpot who gallivanted all day with her so-called sisters back in Nine Links City. They would at times go on hikes, at times attend poetry recitals, at times go to admire flowers they even chased after Nine Links Citys popular pretty boy, Wei Xing, like crazy teenage fangirls, vying for his affection. In short, she was not one to keep still. Yet, she had actually maintained a low profile here in Mountain-Edge City, which caused Lu Sheng to be rather surprised.
"Qiaoer did hear of Fifth Young Miss matters" Qiaoer said somewhat hesitatingly.
"How is she now? If I don't remember wrongly, our family arranged a bookstore for her to cover her expenses, isnt that so?" Lu Sheng asked.
"Yes when Qiaoer went to buy spices a while back, I even chanced upon Fifth Young Miss on the street along the old Tang garden," Qiaoers voice lowered to a whisper, "Then, I saw that she was with a young master, a scholar "