Way of the Devil - Chapter 43
Chapter 43: Shadow of Beauty (1)
Translator: Deep_Blue Editor: Kurisu
Closing the door, Song Zhenguo walked towards the window ledge and happened to see a black pigeon with a pair of powdery white eyes. It was stooping on the window frame and brushing its feathers, minding its own business.
Seeing that, he was suddenly jolted and rushed to grab ahold of the pigeon. Lightly, he retrieved from its leg a small rolled note.
Opening up the rolled note, he could clearly see a row of graceful words written on it:
‘Brother Song, regarding the matter of Young Master Wang, Jun’er will ask around for you.
Another matter–the Scented Satin Festival is around the corner. Brother Song, can you promise Jun’er that, no matter what, you won’t visit the pleasure boat at that time? No matter what!’
Song Zhenguo was surprised. He continued reading.
‘On that day, the boat mistress will make use of the ladies to come up with gimmicks and scams. There are even some arrangements to Brother Song’s disadvantage. Promise me! Jun’er will make sure to settle everything. Once this Scented Satin Festival is over, Jun’er promises to go home with Brother Song…’
After Song Zhenguo finished reading the contents of the rolled note, his face broke into a wide grin.
“Brother Song promises you! I definitely won’t give them a chance!” He had some misgivings about the matter, especially considering the rather implausible explanation presented. However, because he trusted Jun’er, he didn’t have any suspicions.
Hastily, Song Zhenguo found some paper on which he wrote his reply. Then, rolling it up into the shape of a cylinder, he tied it to the leg of the black pigeon. With both hands, he held up the black pigeon and threw it outwards. Immediately, the pigeon took flight and flew off with a flutter.
Soaring, the pigeon dashed out of the Song Family’s main yard, nimbly flitting over crimson roof tiles. Then, it swooped down above various small streets, navigated across the undulating black roofs of buildings, and soon reached Cypress Pine Lake. From there, it headed towards a red pleasure boat where it landed.
At the window of one of the chambers on the pleasure boat, the black pigeon came to a stop with a flop. A fair and delicate hand gently reached out to cradle it.
Jun’er quickly removed the rolled note tied to the black pigeon’s leg. Then, glancing around furtively, she promptly let it fly off.
“Go, return to your nest,” she lightly instructed.
The black pigeon shook its wings and flew away. Soon, it vanished from the window’s edge.
Jun’er closed the window. Gently, she unrolled the note, whereupon a look of tenderness instantly appeared on her face. Then, she swiftly lifted the note to the candle flame to burn.
Holding it in her hand, she waited for the paper to burn till nothing but a small corner was left. Only then did she open the window a crack to throw it outside, leaving it to float freely on Cypress Pine Lake.
Suddenly, the door of the room opened of its own accord, as if someone was pushing on it from outside. Jun’er was stunned. She spun around all of a sudden, her nerves a wreck as she pressed onto her wildly thumping chest. She glared intently at the door.
When she was more settled, she walked over. She looked to the left and right, but did not see a single soul. Then, she stuck her head out into the corridor and took a look.
This place was the make-up room beneath the hold of the ship. Because of Song Zhenguo, she now enjoyed a make-up room all by herself. There weren’t any others around; the other ladies had all gone upstairs to entertain guests.
Not a single soul could be seen along the deserted corridor.
Heaving a soft sigh in relief, Jun’er returned to her room. She locked her door and even added a horizontal beam across it.
She went to the dressing table, where she began to gently comb her hair. Whenever her emotions were in chaos, combing her hair would always gradually calm her down.
Yet, as she picked up the comb, her expression distorted.
Shockingly, there was a line of words written in black eyebrow pencil on the surface of wooden table.
‘You have to act during Scented Satin Festival. Don’t forget who you are.’
Biting her lips, a conflicted look rose in Jun’er’s eyes. After a moment’s hesitation, she used an eyebrow pencil to write ‘Yes’. Then, she reached out to rub away any trace of the words, leaving behind only a blotch of black.
Raising her head, she looked into the copper mirror and saw her own fuzzy reflection. In that moment, she fell into a daze.
She knew that it was a warning: a warning for her not to do anything other than what she was supposed to do. Still, it was a relief that the contents of the rolled note had not been discovered.
‘Pity… I can’t be with Brother Song anymore…’ A trace of regret and resoluteness flashed through her captivating eyes.
Master wanted to gather those who were born at a Yin hour–those born in a Yin year, Yin month and Yin hour. Song Zhenguo was precisely one such target. In order to capture him, all preparations had been made. The only thing left was for her to invite him over for Scented Satin Festival. 
Yet, unknowingly, she had fallen for the gentlemanly and upright Song Zhenguo. She worshiped him, admired him, and wished to rely and depend on him…
‘Brother Song… Jun’er is really tired… really tired…’ Jun’er lightly caressed her cheeks. A tear flowed down soundlessly from the corner of her eye.
In a little valley outside the city.
Spinning around, Lu Sheng landed a palm strike. With a loud bang, the thick boulder behind him broke and shattered into small pieces. An arm’s width of rock was crushed into four, five pieces, now scattered on the ground.
“Bang, bang, bang!”
Then, Lu Sheng swung around violently. One by one, he smashed the other rocks nearby into bits.
Grayish white stone powder flew into the sky, which made it somewhat irritable to breathe in.
Unhurriedly, Lu Sheng called it a day. Clasping both palms together, he sank his dantian and stood still. 
‘I have more than enough saber and palm skills, what I lack is qinggong movement skills, I also need to develop long-distance covert attacks. Otherwise, it’ll be problematic if I fight over a long distance with opponents who specialize in ranged attacks,’ Lu Sheng took his time to stabilize his inner force, all the while inwardly deliberating over the matter.
‘Besides, after absorbing the force generation technique of Black Tiger Saber, the upgrade quality for Jade Crane Skill has changed. But, this type of upgrade depends on that powder left behind by the ghost.
As for the integration process and all its details, it would require far too much experience and fumbling if I were to do it all by myself. This is as difficult as creating a martial art, which is impossible for one man to easily accomplish.’
All this while, he had been trying to experience a breakthrough in his other inner and outer force skills by himself. Yet, it was still regrettably unsuccessful, ending with him suffering injuries to his meridians each time. Moreover, as he tried time and again, the resultant effect of each attempt was completely beyond what he predicted.
‘Without sufficient martial arts experience, looks like it’s impossible for me to break through the skills’ limits by my own efforts alone,’ Lu Sheng understood that well and clear. ‘On the surface, it seems simple for Jade Crane Skill to absorb the force generation technique of Black Tiger Saber and change itself fundamentally. In reality, it is probably the best result eventually attained from countless rounds of simulations made beforehand. If I want to continue to upgrade martial arts, then I need to find much more of that stuff left behind by ghosts.’
After wrapping things up, Lu Sheng walked to a large tree nearby, where he had hung his outer coat, towel and the like on a branch. He used the towel to wipe off his perspiration.
‘I should test out the strength of the third level of Black Fury Skill.’ All this while, he had not gone all-out to test exactly how powerful the third level of Black Fury Skill was. Now that his body was fully restored, it was just the right time to give it a try.
Looking at the big tree in front of him, Lu Sheng was roused. Agitating his inner Qi at full force, it flooded into his right hand, which he lashed out in a brutal strike.
The sound produced was somewhat like the previous ones. The force of the strength did not increase much. After all, explosive strength was not the primary area of amplification for Black Fury Skill.
Lu Sheng gently withdrew his hand. Smack in the middle of the tree trunk, he could see the distinct print of a palm, as black as ink.
The palm print was more than ten millimeters deep. The entire thing gave off a pungent stench that was an assault on one’s olfactory sense.
Reaching out his hand, Lu Sheng carefully touched the edges of the blackened hand print. A big piece of tree bark immediately fell to the ground. Within the tree bark, massive amounts of black veined patterns could be seen, akin to wrinkles.
‘This seems almost like it’s been scalded by fire. Seems like Black Fury Skill should be in the top tier among those inner force skills of the Yang nature. Pity that there are only these few incomplete levels… if Black Fury Skill can be extrapolated and strengthened, perhaps future upgrades and progress will be tremendous!’
He currently possessed profound skills equivalent to the average person’s forty or fifty years’ cultivation. This was not even considering the time spent on training Black Tiger Saber Technique and other martial arts.
‘Next, I should cultivate a specialized movement skill. Be it Black Tiger Saber or the other martial arts, they only have movement skills that are compatible with attacking. But I don’t have any complete system of movement skills dedicated purely to giving chase, fleeing, or hastening on the journey.’
Lu Sheng began to browse through the movement skills in his collection. Up to now, he had only gathered one such skill, which was Precious Eight Steps he had acquired back in Nine Links City. However, it was mainly for the purpose of dodging and evading during a battle.
‘Deep Blue,’ he called out silently in his mind.
The square frame of the Modifier surfaced and floated before his eyes.
Lu Sheng recalled Precious Eight Steps from what he had previously committed to memory. The quality of this movement skill was on a lower tier than even Pursuing the Wind Blade. It did not even have a diagram for mediation. Thus, he had simply memorized it in its entirety.
Thinking back in detail to each of the steps, Lu Sheng unhurriedly extended his left feet. Then, he rotated his calf muscles to the left and exerted strength. With his right leg pointing at one of the side tree branches, he borrowed strength to suddenly propel his entire person forward. This was the first step of Precious Eight Steps, which comprised a total of eight steps across three levels.
Apparently, it was modeled after the once-renowned Cricket-Catching in Eight Steps of Central Plains.
Given his original foundation in movement skills, after analyzing it for a moment, Lu Sheng was soon very familiar with the actions and force required. He looked at the Precious Eight Steps selection within the Modifier.
He promptly ceased all activity and, with a thought, pressed onto the ‘Modify’ button.
In that moment, the entire Modifier frame flashed violently.
‘Upgrade Precious Eight Steps by one level,’ Lu Sheng continued.
Within the Modifier selection, the state of Precious Eight Steps progressed from ‘Uninitiated’ to ‘Initiated’ in the blink of an eye.
Lu Sheng felt out the state of his body. Other than a mild sensation of numbing itch in both his legs and a slight reduction in the Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill inner Qi, there wasn’t any other effect.
‘Unbeknownst to myself, I have already accumulated Qi to such an extent… such low-end pugilistic martial arts aren’t a burden on my body anymore,’ Lu Sheng exclaimed as he continued to gaze at the Modifier frame.
‘Precious Eight Steps: Initiated.’
‘Upgrade Precious Eight Steps to the highest–third–level,’ Lu Sheng commanded resolutely in his mind.
Precious Eight Steps flashed brilliantly for a moment, changing from ‘Initiated’ to ‘Level One’. Lu Sheng didn’t seem to feel a thing.
In this second level, Lu Sheng felt an even stronger itch in his legs.
In the last swoosh, Precious Eight Steps jumped straight to the third level, consuming four-fifths of the amount of Black Tiger Jade Crane inner Qi he had available. It would require at least two days to replenish such an amount.
However, Lu Sheng could sense in his mind the absolute mastery and comprehensive study of the entire movement skill’s experience, step moves and methods. Both his legs were also evidently stronger and more nimble than before.
‘Let’s try it out!’
Lu Sheng could detect a sparrow within his line of sight in front. It was flying up from the ground with a flutter and just about to shoot off into the distance.
Exerting strength beneath his feet, he charged forward in a flash.
He pursued urgently in eight consecutive strides. That little bird was barely able to make a turn to escape before Lu Sheng caught it in a single grab.
‘I have great explosive might. Both Black Fury Skill inner Qi and Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill have increased my explosive power and also strengthened my body. Unleashing Precious Eight Steps with such a foundation has produced quite an impressive result. This should be about the speed of Cricket-Catching in Eight Steps?’ Satisfied, Lu Sheng loosened his grip. Inside was the little sparrow he had crushed to a pulp of bloodied flesh.
It wasn’t long before he felt helpless again.
‘Now that the issue of movement skill is solved, it’s time to find some hard skills to try out,’ Lu Sheng considered the matter. In these few months he had been in Mountain-Edge City, he had also secretly enquired about the situation within the city.
There weren’t many experts in Mountain Edge City. Because the government authorities held strong sway over the place, there were many regulations in place for pugilists. Therefore, many of the experts turned out to be government officials or military commanders.
Among them, the most illustrious was Lu Chengzhong, the One-Qi Green Peak Sword–all the others paled in comparison. However, Lu Chengzhong was already eighty-seven years old, with three sons who were all high-ranking officials within the city. Consequently, he was very hard to get to for advice.
He was the first whom Lu Sheng eliminated.