Way of the Devil - Chapter 57
Chapter 57: Song Manor (1)
Translator: Deep_Blue Editor: Kurisu
It was deathly still in the main hall. Other than the five experts, there were also eight others by the sides. These were the various Elders and Internal Affairs Emissaries of the Crimson Whale Sect. Presently, none of them spoke as the battle of gazes went on.
The scintillating gaze that shone off from Lu Sheng’s eyes earlier had already clearly demonstrated that he was likewise a cultivator of both the inner and outer forces. It wasn’t clear whether he was of Spirit Focus; however, even if he were just an Intent Proficiency expert, no one was willing to offend him, nor did they find it necessary to do so as they had no bone to pick with him.
“Since there aren’t any objections, then it’s decided. Brother Lu Sheng will be appointed as the Sixth External Affairs Emissary of the Crimson Whale Sect and take over the men and territory which were under Wu San. Everyone agrees, yes?” Sect Master Hong Mingzi said smilingly.
“That’s not very appropriate, is it?” Deputy Sect Master Gongsun Zhanglan’s brows furrowed as he muttered.
“What’s not appropriate about that?” Chen Ying looked at him. He knew that the other party had intended to let his own niece, Gongsun Jing, take over Wu San’s men and territory. It was thus within expectations that he would voice his dissent now.
Gongsun Zhanglan was a gloomy-looking middle-aged man. He wore black overall robes with both his hands tucked into his sleeves.
He glanced at Chen Ying. Plastering a phony smile onto his face that did not reach his eyes, he said, “Although Brother Lu Sheng’s strength is exceptional, that only represents his personal strength. But if we’re talking about management skills, you need more than just spunk for that.
Although Wu San has passed away, there were plenty of men and assets under his command. How will the rest of the elders feel about just handing all these over on a silver platter to some newbie who has just joined the Sect? This is too generous a gift for someone who has yet to offer the slightest contribution. That’s not the standard practice.”
“We all know how Wu San died. Now, there are those who want to acquire his men and assets, yet no one dares to take up that most dangerous matter. There’s no free lunch in this world; you can’t just want the benefits but not accept the risk. Sect Master Gongsun, your niece Gongsun Jing may be exceptionally brilliant and among the cream of the crop in terms of intellect. However, if she wants the position left behind by Wu San, why don’t we have her take up that case as well?” Chen Ying chuckled coldly as he asked.
“I didn’t say anything about Little Jing. I was just speaking up for the Elders in the Sect as a Deputy Sect Master in charge of law enforcement. Don’t tell me that many Elders who have toiled selflessly for the sect cannot even compare to a newly-joined sect member?” Gongsun Zhanglan spoke calmly.
Chen Ying laughed coldly, “Well then, what do you mean? Even if you didn’t have that in mind, to suddenly jump out at this juncture would give others that impression.”
“I don’t care whether others will misunderstand. As Deputy Sect Master in charge of managing law and order in the sect, it is my prerogative to point it out if I see anything that violates the rules,” Gongsun Zhanglan was composed as he replied.
The two of them sparred back and forth, neither convinced by the other’s arguments. However, Lu Sheng was growing impatient as he looked on from the side.
“What’s there to quarrel about? Whoever’s not convinced can just duel with me,” smacking his lips, he rose and spoke.
His gaze ran across a few of the strongest people present.
“We’re pugilists in the pugilistic world. Whoever’s fist is stronger shall have the right to speak!” Lu Sheng began to warm up his fists.
Gongsun Zhanglan was stunned. He looked at Lu Sheng, whose eyes bore into his, sending a chill down his spine. He composed himself.
“We’re all brothers of the same sect, how can we go about killing each other flippantly? If word of this got out…”
“This is but an internal exchange. Come, don’t stand on ceremony. I’m just standing right here; whoever’s not convinced, let’s exchange some moves,” Lu Sheng could feel his blood boiling and growing wild inside him.
He had rather taken a fancy to fighting recently. The time when he had fought the ghost on the pleasure boat to the death had filled him with an intense sensation of his own existence.
That feeling had caused his Qi and blood to surge and his spirits to lift. Added to the thrill of a near-death experience, it caused him to be somewhat entranced.
“Brother Lu, you might have misunderstood. It’s not that I’m against you taking over Wu San’s responsibilities…” Gongsun Zhanglan’s face twitched.
“No problem. Come on, just one match,” Lu Sheng stared fixedly at him, his eyes sparkling. He believed that this guy would surely put up a good fight.
“Brother Lu, you really are…”
“Come on, come on, just one match.”
Gongsun Zhanglan felt the arteries in his forehead constricting. He cleared his throat. Inside him, his blood was boiling in anger. However, under the watchful eyes of so many present, he could only suppress his fury and reply with subtle threats.
“Internal fighting violates the Sect rules. Moreover, there is a huge chasm between your skills and mine. I cultivate the Prime Mystic Palm, unrivaled in its force. One strike will either kill you, or at the very least maim you. If I hurt you in any way by a slip of the hand, things will turn ugly…”
“Hurt me? Either kill or maim me???” Lu Sheng’s eyes seemed to be slowly turning blood-red. The corners of his mouth twisted up into a strange smile. “Isn’t that just splendid then? If we hold back like a pussy whenever we make a move, that’s just playing house!”
His gaze fixed unflinchingly on Gongsun Zhanglan.
“Come on, just one match. If I die, I deserve it!”
Thick murderous intent slowly emanated from his body.
Gongsun Zhanglan looked back at him, falling into silence.
He felt that he had underestimated the extent of this new sect member’s ostentation. The other party seemed to totally disregard whomever he might offend; instead, he was completely unbridled and did as he pleased.
“Looks like Junior Brother Lu really wants a match with me…” finally, faint killing intent surfaced in Gongsun Zhanglan’s eyes. He was now considering striking out to kill this newbie on the spot.
However, he knew that with old Sect Master as well as Chen Ying present, it would be difficult for him to succeed even if he wanted to make a move.
“Alright, alright,” as expected, the old Sect Master cut in. Cheerfully, he added, “This matter is settled; what Zhanglan said makes sense. Without any contributions to the Sect, it is truly problematic to have him manage such vast resources and power. Instead, he can first take over a portion of it. If he can solve the case, then everything will be handed over to him completely.
Junior Brother Lu, what do you think about this arrangement?”
Instantly, the gazes of all those present converged on Lu Sheng in anticipation of his reply.
“Isn’t there some sort of trouble in Wu San’s territory? Can you tell me what sort of trouble that is?” Seeing that the fight was not happening, Lu Sheng’s Qi and blood began to gradually calm down. Although he was rather disappointed, he was not anxious. With so many experts here, he could easily find an opponent any time he wished to battle.
“Wu San was the previous External Affairs Emissary. In the territory under his control, there is an iron mine that’s crucial to the Sect. Some trouble occurred in the mine, so he went down to investigate, but mysteriously went missing. When he was discovered, he was found already dead in a patch of forest outside the mine,” Chen Ying replied.
Lu Sheng thought carefully about the matter before asking, “How’s Wu San’s cultivation and skills?”
“An Intent Proficiency expert who’s a hair’s breadth away from the realm of Spirit Focus. His Flying Willow Blade is elusive and unpredictable,” Chen Ying answered somberly. “If he were to fight it out, he would rank among the top ten within the Sect.”
“Top ten?” Lu Sheng narrowed his eyes. Looking across at all the experts present, he could see from the Qi and spirit within their eyes which of them were on par with him.
From what he had sensed earlier, six of those present were Intent Proficiency inner-outer-force double-cultivators. To rank among the top ten meant that Wu San was qualified to be one of the four strongest Intent Proficiency experts among the crowd present.
“So, what about it? Any confidence to take it up?” Gongsun Zhanglan began to smile faintly.
Lu Sheng was growing annoyed. This person was constantly at odds with him, to the extent that it didn’t even seem to make any sense. From beginning till now, this person had incessantly picked faults with Lu Sheng and stood in his way, trying all ways and means to prevent him from taking over Wu San’s troops, assets and influence. Perhaps he had some ulterior motives?
Lu Sheng had always been a bold yet careful person.
For example, when he was on Scarlet Decks previously, he appeared to be carefree and feasting on wine and meat with his bosom buddies on the surface. In actuality, however, he had always been on his guard. Even when he was eating, he waited and watched to see if the other two were fine after taking the food to ensure that it wasn’t poisoned before he himself tucked in. 
If he had not been on his guard, then he wouldn’t have brought his saber along. How many people would bring along a saber even when they were merry-making?
If he hadn’t encountered the creepy pleasure boat before, then Lu Sheng would also not have been that overly careful. In the end, the situation had indeed panned out the way he had expected.
This time round, he would also not blindly take up a troublesome matter that had resulted in an Intent Proficiency expert’s death. Instead, he enquired in detail exactly how powerful Third Wu had been.
“Whether I have any confidence or not–what’s that got to do with you?” Since the other party sought to pick a bone with him, then Lu Sheng would also not show him any face.
Gongsun Zhanglan was dumbstruck and his face instantly turned sour. However, he soon regained his composure and merely smiled coldly at Lu Sheng, not speaking another word.
Those within the main hall had already begun to whisper among themselves. The Elders also drew closer to speak; although their voices were low, one could still faintly discern what they were talking about.
Ouyang Ningzhi and another middle-aged woman conversed in low tones for a short while. Their brows were furrowed as their eyes looked in the direction of elder Wang.
Elder Wang was an Internal Affairs Emissary who looked very highly upon Lu Sheng. Seeing that Sect Master Gongsun Zhanglan had made things difficult for him, Elder Wang’s face was swollen red. He had wanted to speak out on a few occasions, but was held back firmly by his long-time friends around him.
“Elder Wang’s heirloom martial art–the Heart-Shattering palm–has been cultivated by an outsider to even more terrifying levels despite using a wrong technique. Clearly, this goes to show that Lu Sheng’s aptitude is incredible and extremely rare. Elder Wang must have sent a letter by pigeon as soon as he could have to inform his elder brother to head here. That Gongsun Zhanglan thinks that he has backing and is unconcerned about causing offense. However, if Wang Yuanshan gets here, things will turn nasty,” Ouyang Ningzhi whispered.
“Wang Yuanshan?” The middle-aged female Daoist by the side was shocked as she said, “Do you mean one they call the ‘Nine-Strokes Sword and Palm–Wang Yuanshan’?”
“That’s him. He’s an extraordinary one indeed… if he actually came here,” Ouyang Ningzhi found it hard to continue. She suspected that the reason why the other External Affairs Emissaries were unwilling to offend Lu Sheng was also precisely for this reason. Given elder Wang’s personality as Big-Mouthed Wang, he had probably already spread word of Lu Sheng across the entire upper echelons of the sect.
Presently, in the main hall, Lu Sheng had also asked some general questions regarding Wu San’s matters and gotten a rough picture of the ins and outs of the situation.
The story was very simple.
A Manor that stood next to the Sect’s most important iron mine had met with trouble.
That wasn’t a big deal. However, of all places, it was positioned on the road towards the iron ore mine. Thus, one had to pass by that Manor to arrive at the mine.
After a slew of disappearances of miners who vanished while on their way to the mine, it attracted the attention of the higher ranks within the Sect. Some people were dispatched to investigate into the matter; yet, these people who had gone forth to investigate also ended up missing themselves.
Only then did the Sect swiftly classify the matter as a Black Calamity to be handled by the External Affairs Emissaries.
As for these External Affairs Emissaries, they were all willing to head down to handle this Black Calamity purely because of the promise of astronomical remunerations and benefits.
Even the Sect Master himself could not compare in terms of the welfare and benefits enjoyed by these External Affairs Emissaries. The position itself was also largely based on rotation and was not a long-term responsibility of a sole person. It changed every year.
Most of them at the high levels took turns to assume the role of an External Affairs Emissary for a term. That was the case for Wu San as well–he had only just been appointed there on rotation when he learned of the Black Calamity. Taking every possible precaution, he had led an entire team of five Strength Proficiency experts to check the matter out.
In the end, Wu San had vanished. As for the people he had brought along, they all disappeared too. Subsequently, their corpses had been discovered in that small patch of forest.