Lu Sheng first stared at him in shock, then felt speechless.
I had to spend four whole hours before I could sense Qi back when I was cultivating it. Those born in the Yin hour, Yin month, Yin year are truly different from the rest of us.
Lu Sheng refocused and quickly explained, "Thats the Initiation Qi sense. You need to spend at least four hours every day nurturing and stabilizing this thread of Qi. Otherwise, if you leave it be, it will dissipate within days. Its been formed by the energy and essence of the food you eat. If you do not stabilize it with your heart and mind, your body will automatically convert it into other forms of energy and absorb it."
"In that case, Teacher Lu, how long does this stabilization period take?" Song Zhenguo opened his eyes, joy writ large over his face. He had not expected that it would come so easily for him.
"Youve got pretty good innate talent. But this inner force skill is of a high quality so it takes slightly more time to cultivate it. You just need three years to stabilize the Initiation Qi sense. After that, you can choose to cultivate the Level One mantra," Lu Sheng estimated based on the duration described on the manual.
"THREE YEARS!!!???" Song Zhenguo croaked, his smile frozen on his face.
Seeing that Lu Sheng possessed a deep cultivation and shocking accomplishments in martial arts at such a young age, he had assumed that martial arts could be trained in a short period of time as long as one had the gift for it. Little did he expect that just a mere Initiation into an inner force skill would take three years to stabilize.
"Well, youre already considered gifted. Others might need four to five years," Lu Sheng continued. "This is the reason why its far harder to become an inner force expert than an outer force expert. The time it takes is too long. And the gains are not necessarily commensurate with the time it takes. Many inner force experts have labored for decades only to die under the hands of others because they did not know combat skills. Its a pity."
During this period, he had learned of many stories from the pugilistic world while he consulted old Sect Master about Ultimate Crimson Mantra. Finally, he was no longer a blank slate like in the beginning. Now, his words made much more sense.
"In that case, I can supplement myself with outer force skills?" Song Zhenguo asked again.
"Youve decided to join my Crimson Sun Sect then?" Lu Sheng countered.
"Ive decided!" Song Zhenguo was a face of earnestness.
"You do understand that once you step into the sect, you must never betray or leave the sect. Otherwise, you will be hunted by our own; your life would be for the taking," Lu Sheng asked again solemnly.
"Im certain!" Song Zhenguo nodded vigorously. "May Master Lu please teach me!" Clasping his hands together, he fell to his knees before Lu Sheng and began kowtowing to him.
Lu Sheng made no effort to stop him. This was the rule. They may have been friends, but this was a different story. There was no free meal in this world, neither would anyone give something for free.
Moreover, he had once saved Song Zhenguos life. It wasnt unreasonable now for him to receive Song Zhenguos kowtow.
One kowtowed while the other sat still. After a series of nine consecutive kowtows, Lu Sheng pulled Song Zhenguo up.
"For the time being, I wont tell you much about our Crimson Sun Sect. You must first train hard. When the time comes in the future, Ill let you in on more."
"Yes!" Blood covered Song Zhenguos forehead, demonstrating his passion and fervor.
For an ordinary scholar to have faced the ghost ship Red Decks without fear, he had guts beyond ordinary men.
"Remember this formula. The name of this skill is Green Pine One Thought Formula. First, stabilize your Initiation Qi sense. Next, Ill see what martial arts are suitable for you," having received the nine kowtows from Song Zhenguo, Lu Shengs attitude towards him was now different.
He stood and performed a few simple movements. They were special movements required by several outer force skills.
Song Zhenguo rose and did his best to copy them. But by the third movement, he was no longer able to keep up. His bodys joints were too stiff and fixed. That was the consequence of missing out on martial arts training during childhood.
Roughly estimating the range of Song Zhenguos joints, Lu Sheng shook his head. This fella had pretty good talents, but was destined to be ill-suited for outer force skills. Much of his body was too stiff and fixed in shape.
He pondered and said, "Your body is too rigid and stiff you can only practice some simple basic outer force skills. Ill impart you with a movement."
He thought about a novel he had read in the past. There was a character named Ah Fei who drilled himself hard in a particular sword thrust. Because he had focused all his energy on practicing just one sword move, it became incredibly powerful.
Lu Sheng wanted to try if this method could work since Song Zhenguos bones and joints were fixed anyway.
"Legend has it that when one trains a move over a thousand times, even ten thousand times, hundred thousand times, a million times... that move will become frighteningly powerful. I dont buy it. Naturally, this method would result in incredible force; but it would also come with many hidden injuries beyond the limit of what ordinary men can take. Perhaps before achieving that frighteningly powerful force, ones body would first be crippled.
But no doubt this is the idea for a shortcut. A way to develop some combat capabilities far faster than the average expert," Lu Sheng looked at Song Zhenguo, whose eyes shone with a glint as he listened on.
"So it works for me?" Song Zhenguo asked eagerly.
Lu Sheng nodded.
"You can try it. I will custom-design a movement suitable for you. Practice it every day and it might develop into something powerful enough." By designing a movement that avoids the stiff joints on Song Zhenguos body, and accompanying it with a life force inner Qi skill, any hidden injuries that came with this method should be reduced to a minimum.
Song Zhenguos eyes shone even brighter.
Time ticked by.
By the time both of them exited the forest, it was noon. Song Zhenguo was extremely high-spirited and excited as he bade farewell to Lu Sheng, rushing back to train his newly-learned inner and outer force skills.
'At first, its all novel to you. But when you train hard every day with no apparent progress, youll know how tough it is. Being a double inner-outer force cultivator, it doesnt matter how talented you are; without at least five years of work, you wont even be considered a third-class expert,' Lu Sheng shook his head lightly as he glanced at the title deed in his hand.
This was Song Zhenguos donation to the Sect after being imparted those skills. Basically, it was his gift for his Master.
It was a cosmetic store in the second most prosperous strip in Mountain-Edge City. Every plot of land there was worth its weight in gold. The store itself was easily worth ten thousand taels--a sum that was considered hefty even for Song Zhenguo.
Keeping the title deed, Lu Sheng clapped his hands.
Soon, a few sect disciples on guard nearby came sprinting over.
"Go investigate: which man has my sister Lu Yingying been sticking around with recently?" Lu Sheng ordered.
"Yes, sir," the sect disciples acknowledged respectfully and swiftly left to relay the order.
Having settled Song Zhenguos matter, Lu Sheng arranged for men to keep watch over the city gates and wait for news about the Lu Familys migration.
Because of the distance, it was inconvenient for him to arrange for an escort for them. Moreover, his family did not know that he had joined Crimson Whale Sect and become a big shot yet. He intended to give them a surprise when his old Dad arrived.
The next day, Lu Sheng headed to Eastern Mountain Institution to attend the ceremony.
Lu Sheng saw Chen Yunxi, whom he had not met for a long time, again. This Young Miss looked more thin and pallid than before. But when Lu Sheng entered her view, her spirits visibly lifted and a look of joy flashed across her face.
The ceremony was very boring. Simply put, it was a ceremonial officer reciting some long traditional poem atop a round stone stage surrounded by four drums.
The crowd beneath the stage stirred drowsily.
Lu Sheng and Song Zhenguo stood among those on the stage. They were decked in white-based, red-bordered long robes and wore tall, pointy black hats.
Chen Yunxi did not make it to the roll of honor. Among those of them that used to hang out together, only Song Zhenguo and Lu Sheng did. One of them ranked number sixteen and the other thirty-odd. The rest of them stared in envy at those on the stage.
Lu Sheng looked at the crowd beneath him. Beside his ears, Song Zhenguos whisper rang out, "Next year, well be eligible to take the Governmental Examinations in the province. Master Lu, will you be going?"
"Governmental Examinations " Lu Shengs face remained impassive. He sucked in a breath of air. With his present status as External Affairs Emissary of Crimson Whale Sect, commanding great authority and overseeing the security and stability of the entire underworld in Mountain-Edge City, was there still any point in him sitting for the examinations?
Even if he did pass the Governmental Examination and became an Academic Nominee, what then? After that he could become a Tribute Scholar, and then afterwards an Advanced Scholar. But what use was that in the current world he lived in?
Lu Sheng sighed, his eyes staring blankly ahead.
"Lets wait and see," he was already uninterested in taking the next level of examinations.
"Why not Master Lu take a martial degree?" Song Zhenguo suggested. "Given Master Lus skills, a martial degree is simply for the taking."
"So what if I become an official?" Lu Sheng asked.
"If you become an official if you become an official..." Song Zhenguo hesitated. He wanted to defend himself. But the more he thought, the more disillusioned he became. "Yea so what if you become an official" he slumped.
"Pay respects to the Holy Man!" The ceremonial officials loud voice rang out, interrupting their dialogue.
All who were chosen on the roll of honor bowed respectively to the bronze stature of the Holy Man on the elevated stage.
The Holy Man Zhao Mu--honored by people as Master Zhao--was the pioneer founder of the Confucian imperial examination policy. After his death, he was conferred the title of "Holy Man". At the end of the day, he was just an ordinary mortal who had made great contributions to society.
Lu Sheng gazed at the bronze statue of the old man silently, his face expressionless as he bowed together with the rest.
'In the days to come, am I going to be like this--having to bow to my superiors, the Emperor and all those above me?' A thought flashed across his mind.
A thread of resolve was formed in his mind as he bowed.
Where on earth has there ever been this rule: that the strong must bow to the weak? Listening to the ceremonial officials long-winded lines, his heart settled down.
Becoming an official? Forget it.
In a deserted mountain filled with lush greenery between Nine Links City and Mountain-Edge City, a big band of carriages marched on slowly along a dusty road like a merchant group.
Tall flags rose up from the carriages--black flags with a "Lu" character embroidered on them.
There were over ten horses and oxen, several huge carts, about forty men and women, as well as over a dozen soldiers escorting them. The rest of them were either direct descendants of the Lu Family or their relatives. Thick gray cloth was draped over the horse and ox carriages. Lu Quanan rode on his horse at the front of the line. Beside him were Uncle Zhao and the few martial arts experts hired by the family.
Dusk gradually descended. Uncle Zhao squinted his eyes at his surroundings.
"Were in the middle of nowhere. We should have rested for the night in Jia Rong Town earlier."
Lu Quanan shook his head, "Theres no point. Were right in the middle of the journey. Our speeds too slow. Even with an additional day, we wouldnt make it."
He turned around to look an ox carriage behind him. Its wheel showed signs of recent repairs.
"Ai we wouldnt be so slow if the car hadnt fallen into the pit earlier and damaged its wheel. Its been four days and were only halfway there. I wonder how Shenger and Yingying are doing in Mountain-Edge."
"Relax, old Master. Young Master Sheng is well-trained and wont fall into a disadvantage," Uncle Zhao smiled. At the mention of Lu Sheng, he was filled with admiration. He believed that even in Mountain-Edge City, it was extremely rare for someone to become an Intent Proficiency expert at such a young age like Lu Sheng.
"Im just afraid hell get into trouble" Lu Quanan sighed.
Get into trouble?
Uncle Zhao did not know how to reply.
"Since your mind is unsettled, why did you allow Young Master Sheng to go to Mountain-Edge City alone?"
"Because I dont want to limit him. Shenger belongs to a different world from us. Hes still young and theres no telling just what he will be capable of in the future," Lu Quanan shook his head.
Uncle Zhao understood him and fell speechless. Soon, he changed the topic.
"Its getting late, we better find a place for the night. Otherwise, its no joke to stay out through the freezing night in the deserted wilderness."
"Mm. Uncle Zhao, is that a village there?" Lu Quanan suddenly pointed at the area in front to the right.
Uncle Zhaos line of sight followed along Lu Quanans finger. Beside the main path between two moss green cliffs, a few houses built of mud-walls formed a village. But it looked extremely dilapidated and run-down.
"Lets go take a look and see if we can buy a nights stay."