Way of the Devil - Chapter 58
Chapter 58: Song Manor (2)
Translator: Deep_Blue Editor: Kurisu
After listening to Chen Ying’s briefing, Lu Sheng’s brows were knit together in a tight lock. The case reminded him of the massacre of Brother Xu Daoran’s family in Nine Links City. Even till today, the culprit had not been identified.
Under the stares of all present, he shut his eyes and fell deep in thought. Then, slowly, he opened them again.
“Alright, I’ll take on this case. But I can’t guarantee that I’ll crack it. If I can’t, then I will return this position within one year.”
A trace of helplessness surfaced in Chen Ying’s eyes. Even the two Deputy Sect Masters had no confidence to take over Wu San’s case, yet this lad was actually daring to do so?
“That’s settled then,” Sect Master Hong Mingzi laughed heartily. “The newborn calf is unafraid of the tiger. Brother Lu, although you’ve accepted the position, if this thing goes south, then let go of it early. Losing another Wu San is the last thing we want to see.”
Lu Sheng nodded.
After some discussion, the scope of power and estate that would fall under Lu Sheng’s command was settled as well.
This included roughly three hundred-odd experts that formed a saber squad, numerous stores in Mountain-Edge City, over ten farming villas outside the city, several oil refineries and, most important of all, blacksmith and craftsmanship stores. There were more than ten of each of them, set apart to forge weapons and tools for sect disciples.
Hence, while Wu San’s properties could not be considered many, they were extremely vital to the sect. That was also the key reason why even Deputy Sect Master Gongsun Zhanglan was so eager to interfere in the division.
Of course, Lu Sheng was still unable to command these assets for the time being. He could only deploy a portion of them to work on cracking the iron mine case. Only after solving the iron mine case could he be considered a legitimate External Affairs Emissary.
They dispersed after the discussion. Internal Affairs Emissary Elder Wang took the initiative to approach Lu Sheng and took him up aboard his own carriage towards Mountain-Edge City.
On the carriage, Elder Wang formally introduced to Lu Sheng his family’s connection to the Heart-Shattering Palm.
“The iron mine case is a real pain in the neck. Brother Lu, you’ve definitely got to look before you leap; don’t be impulsive. Anyway, about Heart-Shattering Palm… this old man would like to ask: did you learn your version of Heart-Shattering Palm from a man called Zhang Xun in Nine Links City?”
Lu Sheng nodded, “Indeed, it was imparted to me by Senior Constable Zhang Xun.”
“No wonder. Zhang Xun used to be one of my disciples. But because he didn’t show much promise or talent, I’ve never really noticed him. But now he’s practiced it to Strength Proficiency… unbelievable…” Elder Wang exclaimed. “This old man hasn’t taken in more than a few disciples in my whole life. But it’s a pity that not a single one among those whom I’ve pinned high hopes on ever made a name for themselves. On the contrary, it was someone whom I didn’t expect much of who achieved something in the end.”
“Elder Brother Wang has done precisely what the proverb says–‘a randomly planted willow has become shade’,” Lu Sheng laughed.
“I guess,” Elder Wang shook his head. “Brother Lu, I came looking for you to ask–are you interested in learning the Wang Family’s genuine orthodox Heart-Shattering Palm?”
“What does Elder Wang mean?” Lu Sheng’s brow raised. He knew that the orthodox Heart-Shattering Palm was elder Wang’s heirloom martial arts. If he said yes, it’d probably come with a long list of conditions. There was no free lunch in the world.
“My elder brother has a daughter; she’s young, pretty and well-figured…” once elder Wang spoke, Lu Sheng’s face turned into a face of awkwardness.
“Hold it, Elder Wang, hold it,” Lu Sheng waved his hand continuously. “I’m still young and don’t want to think about marriage. Wait till the day I’ve achieved some accomplishments in the martial arts world in the future. When that day comes, it’s not too late for me to consider this issue.”
A look of disappointment instantly appeared on Elder Wang’s face. Staring at Lu Sheng, he knew that he meant it and so laid the notion to rest. After all, Wu San’s case wasn’t cracked yet. This case was truly a hornet’s nest even among Black Calamities. Given the slightest carelessness, this young lad, Brother Lu, may not even live through it. He sighed with pity inwardly. If only Brother Lu had not taken up the case, then things could still change with his older brother’s intervention. But now that he’s taken it up…
The two of them started chatting about martial arts after that. Elder Wang gained quite a bit of inspiration from Lu Sheng and his admiration for him grew even deeper.
Lu Sheng, too, gained a much deeper understanding of the present situation in the pugilistic world. For example, he gained general knowledge about the different existing sects and factions, how to handle different sorts of situations, what were hot button issues to avoid… etc.
Finally, Lu Sheng arrived back at his apartment in Mountain-Edge City. After some meditation, Lu Sheng retired for the night.
Early in the morning, a man named Duan Meng’an, one of Wu San’s direct subordinates, showed up at his door with some men.
Lu Sheng opened the door to see two neat rows of men before him–each of them muscular men who were sturdily built and tanned.
The day had yet to dawn when the two rows of men bowed respectfully towards Lu Sheng in unison.
“We pay our respects, Boss!” 
Their shout reverberated into the house, causing even the beams to vibrate.
Standing in the doorway and looking at the gang of gray-robed men who had been waiting energetically for him and even addressed him “boss”, Lu Sheng felt as if he had turned into a mafia boss in a second.
“In the future, call me… erm… what did you use to call Wu San?”
One of the men standing in front who sported a crew cut replied, “In reply to your question, Boss, we called him Boss Wu!” 
Lu Sheng’s face twitched. He imagined a group of people calling him “Boss Lu” the moment they saw him… it was excruciating…
“In the future, just call me either Young Master or Lord.”
Duan Meng’an, their leader, scratched his head, “In that case we better call you Young Master. ‘Lord’ is reserved for those old court officials.”
“Works for me,” Lu Sheng nodded. “Let’s go down. Tell me about the forces I can deploy now along the way.”
The group descended the stairs and swiftly arrived on the street. Some of them rode on horses, some of them walked. Lu Sheng and Duan Meng’an, however, boarded a horse carriage.
“Within the forces Young Master has authority to deploy now, there’re four Strength Proficiency expert–including myself, thirty-two ordinary experts, and the rest are just average sect disciples.
Our forces had already suffered heavy casualties. And after Boss Wu was gone, much of his assets were cut out for other Internal Affairs Emissaries. Only the iron mines and some related assets remain. Now, we’re a little hard-pressed… we beg for your understanding, Young Master.”
“By how do I deploy them? A code? A command token? Or some other way?” Lu Sheng asked.
“This is your command token, which serves as your seal as well. Our branch is the 6th Black Soil Division. All of our brothers in the Black Soil Division must take orders from you as long as they see your command token, Young Master,” Duan Meng’an explained as he took out a bronze command token.
Lu Sheng received it and scrutinized it. It was a palm-sized plate in the shape of a fish, of intricate craftsmanship and carved with pine trees and rice ear motifs.
As Duan Meng’an continued his briefing, the horse carriage exited Mountain-Edge City. Under the escort of two rows of men who bore the flag of Crimson Whale Sect, it headed in the direction of the iron mine mountain.
The sky gradually turned bright, though it looked overcast and gloomy as thick, heavy clouds loomed overhead.
After about an hour spent traveling outside the city, the horse carriage arrived on a stretch of blackish yellow soil. Beside the path, stone pits would appear every now and then.
One after another, these stone pits looked like pits caused by grenade explosions. They lay here and there. Large ones were over ten meters wide; even the small ones were at least several meters wide.
Lu Sheng narrowed his eyes at the scenery outside the carriage window, his spirits rather low.
“Why’re there so many pits here?” He sniffed at the air. A hint of decay was in the wind, like the stench emanated by rotting meat.
Duan Meng’an glanced at the pits outside and replied, “Young Master, these used to be quarries from which stones were extracted for building houses in Mountain-Edge City. After that, for some unknown reason, this place was abandoned, leaving behind all these different-sized pits.”
Lu Sheng nodded. “How far are we away from the iron mine mountain?”
“Approximately half of the distance.”
“No hurry then. Cue me when we arrive,” Lu Sheng replied casually.
“Yes,” Duan Meng’an leaned towards the window earnestly, taking note of the path outside.
The carriage passed through the stone pit-filled region and quickly entered a hilly area covered in small white flowers. In contrast to the stone pits, the grassy hills here looked much more refreshing, teeming with life.
The team continued forward past the hills. It was near noon when they finally arrived at the region in which Crimson Whale Sect’s iron mountain was located.
Crimson Whale Sect had built a batch of small wooden huts here to house the supervisors, miners and sect disciples dispatched here. Previously, these huts had formed a mini-village, handily named Iron Mine Village.
This village was also the team’s destination.
The wheels turned round and round. Lu Sheng sat by the window and rested for a moment. Then suddenly, he was gently awoken by Duan Meng’an.
“Young Master, we’re pulling into Iron Mine Village now.”
Lu Sheng opened his eyes and craned his neck out of the window.
The carriage was passing by a manor enclosed by a high wall. Blotches on the manor’s grayish white perimeter wall made it look old and ill-repaired. No one was in its vicinity, lending the place a cold stillness.
The carriage had to go around the manor to continue the journey in another direction.
As the carriage went around the manor, Lu Sheng gazed at the manor. A sea of silence and desolation was within those walls, as if not a single living soul lived in it.
“This is the Song Manor,” Duan Meng’an’s face looked drained of color as he uttered the manor’s name. The stark contrast formed between the big-sized, muscular stature of this man and the expression of fear on his face left a deep impression on Lu Sheng’s mind.
“Oh, Song Manor… the one that met with mishap?” He asked.
“Yes, Young Master. It was precisely to investigate the incident in the manor that Boss Wu entered inside. But after that, he vanished into thin air. Only later, in the forest out there…” Duan Meng’an bowed his head, not daring to look at the manor outside the window. “The brothers here with us this time round are all newbies who haven’t joined us for long. So, they’re not clear about this incident. Within this team, I’m the only one who knows that this was the manor that met with mishap. So, please don’t divulge it, Young Master.”
Lu Sheng’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the manor passing by outside the window.
Very quickly, the carriage had arrived by the manor’s front entrance.
The red-painted giant doors that should have been shut tight were presently left ajar, leaving a gap between them.
Lu Sheng peered through the gap and laid eyes on a section of the scenery in the manor through it.
In the run-down courtyard were dried and rotten garden plants, fallen leaves which had covered the ground like a carpet and barren tree forks.
The manor was desolate, without a single soul in sight.
“This Song Manor has been deserted, hasn’t it?” Lu Sheng inquired softly.
“There were people living in it previously–the eldest son of the couple in the manor, a scholar, lived here. And his younger sister, too, lived here. After the incident… I’ve no idea about now,” Duan Meng’an replied quietly.
“There doesn’t seem to be anyone,” Lu Sheng carefully peered through the gap again. As the carriage moved, he was also getting a better view of the scene in the courtyard from different angles.
A barren, rotten tree.
Windows covered in dust.
A white lantern that swayed in the wind.
House pillars covered in scars and marks.
And… a gray-robed scholar, standing on a stone bridge. His hair was disheveled, his eyes staring dead straight at the passing horse carriage.
Lu Sheng’s eyes sprung wide open. With his powers of sight, he could clearly see that the scholar’s face was devoid of any emotion, his eyes bloodshot and face as pale as paper. Standing in that spot, he seemed completely like a corpse–save for the blinking of his eyes.