"For real!" Elder Duan replied stiffly, provoked into losing his temper.
Lu Sheng chuckled and swung the butcher knives casually in the air. Instantly, the air howled with the sound of friction.
Since Elder Duan dared to make such a wager even after knowing that he had mastered the Ultimate Crimson Mantra, Elder Duan clearly had done some mental estimation of Lu Shengs might.
After some calculation, Lu Sheng decided that he might as well use go ahead to use Level Five of Ultimate Crimson Mantra. Such a level of power was not out of character for him based on his known strength.
Both great sabers slashed towards the wooden puppet continuously.
As if striking the surface of extremely elastic rubber, Lu Sheng instantly felt a powerful force bouncing back against him in the saber hilts in his hands. In the blink of an eye, both sabers in his hands were bounced back towards him.
"Again!!!" Before Elder Duan could mock him, veins bulged on Lu Shengs face as the twin sabers hacked at the wooden puppet once more. Looking like two signboards, the twin sabers howled as they cut through the air.
Again, the twin sabers rebounded back at him.
"One more time!" Lu Sheng was getting mad. The two sabers hacked at the wooden puppet for the third time.
"HOO HOO HOO HOO"
The twin sabers whipped up a whirlwind, blasting at Elder Duans beard and robes.
He opened his mouth as if he was trying to say something, only to see Qi gushing all over Lu Sheng as the twin sabers slashed continuously at the wooden puppet violently. Herculean strength slammed onto the wooden puppet again and again, causing the entire testing room to tremble. Beneath his feet, the stone floor vibrated, numbing his legs.
"BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM!!!"
Deep and dull hacking sounds reverberated without end. Lu Sheng seemed to take great pleasure in the powerful rebounds, the corner of his mouth curving up into an eccentric smirk. Without a word, he continued slashing at the puppets neck.
The saber blades slashed and cut across the puppets surface intensely, carving out streaks of wounds into it like a saw. Most of them were concentrated around its neck, and were growing deeper and wider by the second.
Another slash hacked on the wooden puppets neck with earth-splitting force. The entire room trembled violently.
Elder Duans eyelids twitched in a frenzy as he watched Lu Sheng pull his blade out from the puppet. The sharp blade had left a deep cut into the poor puppets neck.
"Not bad it really cant be hacked through" Lu Sheng turned to look at him, his mouth cracking open into a grin.
Elder Duan looked at the wooden puppet. That poor things head was barely left hanging on its neck by a thin margin. The rest of it, its limbs and torso, was covered in scars of various shapes, some horizontal and some vertical. It was too painful a sight.
This newly bought wooden puppet had been in use for no more than a few days. And now, it turned into a state no different from the its predecessor which had just been decommissioned after several decades of use.
He felt like crying. This hardwood puppet was extremely expensive and boasted a rare hardness and toughness. Each one could last many years after purchase. But just one visit by Lu Sheng had turned it into a piece of scrap wood. Its true that it wasnt hacked through thoroughly yet, but what was left was no longer fit for use anymore
"Forget it, forget it. Consider me unlucky. External Head Lu, you better leave now. Hand the money over to the accounts room outside. This old man wont see you to the door," Elder Duan clasped his hands together, averting his eyes from Lu Sheng to stop the bleeding in his heart.
Lu Sheng was not bothered. The whole thing had been on purpose to begin with. Taking his leave from Elder Duan, he left the weapons section and rode back to his quarters.
Now, he possessed his own fine weapon. This pair of twin sabers should be good for some time. Next, he had to concentrate and focus on upgrading his inner skill.
However, he was already at Level Seven of Ultimate Crimson Mantrathe highest level of the skill. Any higher and he would have to extrapolate it with Yin Qi. As for Nine Lakes Steel Chain Skill, it was merely a Strength Proficiency skill that raised his defense rather than one of his core skills. So, Ultimate Crimson Mantra was his priority.
Five days later, Ash Smoke Town.
Dark, ominous clouds covered the sky. Fine rain fell unrelentingly like silk threads.
The town was a scene of desolation. Occasionally, some passers-by would run across, seeking shelter and quickly vanishing from the streets and alleys.
Under the roof of Hu Manor, a young master holding a black paper umbrella was gazing at the sky, his head lifted up towards it.
Peering at the sky through the protruding roof carvings, a patch of dark gloom filled his vision. The fine rain showed no signs of abating, as if it would go on forever without end.
The young master was standing outside the entrance of Hu Manor, on the left of the stone lion guardian, borrowing shelter from the extended roof.
He glanced at the empty streets. Dark shadows loomed under the roofs of the houses that lined the street. Not a living soul could be seen, casting the entire street in a deathly silence.
Only dark gloominess filled the wide street. Not a single light could be seen through the windows of the houses lining both sides of the street, as if the entire street was uninhabited. The whole place was dark and depressing.
Light was dimming.
The young master frowned. He looked down at the black robes on him. Near his feet, his robes had been soaked wet by the rain. Water dripped from them onto his red embroidered shoes.
"I hate rain," he sighed.
His voice was not loud; yet on this deserted rainy street, it seemed uncannily abrupt.
Because no one else could be seen on the entire street apart from him.
"Each time it rains, my mood sours," the young master continued.
There was no reply.
The rain landed on the roof like needles, dripping down along its edge to land beside the Young Masters feet, splashing onto the robes near his feet.
"This places quite a distance from Donglin Manor. I didnt think that youd be able to catch up with me," the young master said to seemingly no one in particular, as if somebody was really listening nearby.
Hu Manors main door suddenly opened gradually, revealing an empty interior. Wild grass grew unfettered within. Nobody visible had opened the door; it seemed to have opened by its own.
Then, a lady in a scarlet dress, holding a scarlet paper umbrella, strolled out.
The paper umbrella covered her facial features, but could not cover her svelte figure.
"Zhen Yi if I were to kill you even Zhen Xun would be sad" the ladys voice started and stopped, as if she was trying to speak and hold her breath at the same time. It was both shrill and eccentric.
The young masters face remained impassive as he placed his umbrella leaning against the wall casually and looked at the lady at the entrance of Hu Manor.
"To think that even you came in person. Looks like the Scarlet District isnt worried that its old nest would be invaded."
"Theres no use... in that Big Sis is there even if Zhen Xun were to go itd be pointless, heheh," the lady treaded slowly towards Zhen Yi, a weird giggle escaping her lips.
Zhen Yi sighed. Their war with Scarlet District had finally escalated to its most intense stage. Today, whether it was him or the umbrella lady who would die here, the resulting developments would be nothing short of catastrophic.
He was perplexed, however, at why Scarlet District would put all its eggs into one basket by dispatching such a key figure like the umbrella lady in person.
Yet, since the situation has already developed this far, there was no turning back.
Staring at the umbrella lady in the scarlet dress walking towards him, Zhen Yi sighed again. Silently and stealthily, a silver-white dagger slid out from his sleeve. He walked towards her.
The fine rain continued to fall. Lu Sheng sat on his seat, munching on a sweet melon. The melon had yellow flesh and tasted like watermelon in texture. It was just the thing to hydrate himself after training in such weather.
Currently, the greenhouse had been thoroughly transformed into a training ground that belonged exclusively to his men. Apart from Lu Sheng himself, many of his subordinates would come early every morning to train and temper their bodies.
After gulping down a few slices of melon, Lu Sheng caressed his head. His mood was a little depressed for his hair had not yet grown out. Ever since it was burnt in the fire, the hair on his body showed no signs of growth, consigning him to an extremely peculiar outward appearance.
Originally, while I wasnt very handsome, at least I looked better than this. Sigh he sighed as his gaze swept across the grounds around him. Many of his subordinates were training skills. They were merely practicing strokes or their lower body foundations, and thus were unafraid that their mantras would be stolen by others.
Eh? His line of sight was suddenly attracted to two petite figures in the corner. He was caught by surprise to see the Liu Qin sisters training as well. They hid in the corner, practicing a series of forward dashing and pouncing movements repeatedly.
Seems like a dagger assassination technique. Not bad, Lu Sheng had recently been exposed to many martial arts after a few trips to the Martial Proclamation Library in which he perused countless foundational martial arts for free. One look at their movements and posture told him what weapon they were training in.
His eyes narrowed to a slit. He had decided to take in the two sisters on the spur of the moment because he'd sensed Yin Qi on them. As for his subsequent talks about compassion etc., they were merely a front. Although he wasnt an evil man, neither was he a philanthropist. Why would he shower kindness and help on others for no reason?
He was merely using the two sisters as a magnet for ghosts. Little did he expect to overhear their secret.
Now, he was still deliberating over whether to continue keeping them or send them away.
After all, he had no idea how powerful the faction which hunted them was, or how important they viewed the sisters. At the thought, Lu Sheng rose and strolled towards the sisters.
Liu Caiyun missed a step, losing her balance and almost tripped.
"Its not straight," her sister's, Liu Qins voice rang out. "Caiyun, I think that when we step forward, we should land on the sole of our feet, not the heel. And when we twist our bodies, its best not to lean to one side."
"But when I spin around, my feet hurts. And how do I see whats behind me if I dont lean to a side?" Liu Caiyun was baffled.
"Must you see? Cant you just imagine?" Liu Qin asked.
"I cant" Liu Caiyun shook her head.
Just as the two of them were arguing, Lu Sheng walked up to them.
Seeing their crude and rudimentary combat skills, doubts arose in Lu Shengs heart. If the two of them were truly related to the Noble Families and were, perhaps, a branch family of one of those Noble Families which could fight ghosts, then how could they not know even such basic techniques? Their movements were clearly amateurish imitations by ordinary people.
"Are you practicing dagger assignation strokes?" Lu Sheng asked.
"Young Master Lu," Liu Qin curtsied at him with the standard curtsey of Young Ladies in wealthy families, which included a slight bend of the knee and a bow of the head.
"Weve never learnt the dagger. Were just copying some movements that we saw others practicing" she replied helplessly.
"The stroke youre practicing isnt too shabby. But this stroke should be just one movement out of a series of consecutive movements. You must understand that each stroke contains many transformations to deal with many different situations. What youve copied is merely one such transformation, suitable only for certain particular situations," Lu Sheng smiled as he explained.
"Oh I see." realization dawned on the sisters. All along, they felt that there was something wrong with the stroke they were practicing, but could not put a finger to it. Now, hearing Lu Shengs explanation, they immediately realized where the problem lay.