Way of the Devil - Chapter 71
Chapter 71: Challenge to Duel (1)
Translator: Deep_Blue Editor: Kurisu
‘This… is needle-prick Qi?’
Lu Sheng walked beside a flowering tree and gently pressed his palm onto its trunk. Instantly, a large quantity of pinholes surfaced in its bark, packed densely together.
‘Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill is actually a needle-prick Qi force?!’ He was somewhat shocked.
This inner force was, from the beginning, an inner force mantra that circulated wholly within him. This was just as he had expected. Yet now, it had turned into an inner force that could directly impact external objects, just like the stuff of legends in wuxia novels. How long had it merely been?
‘No, that’s not right; I may have such a result, but others may not necessarily be able to do so as well. This strike of mine… without decades of hard work, others simply have no way of achieving something like that. Most likely, because my inner Qi is far too robust, its essence has radically mutated and thus resulted in such a unique effect,” Lu Sheng quickly formed an understanding regarding this matter.
Withdrawing his hand, he stretched out his palm for a closer look. There was nothing out of the ordinary about his palm, unlike the Blood Fury Skill that resulted in dark-red, blood-colored palms. This Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill was much more powerful in concealing itself.
‘If I were to suddenly and simultaneously strike with Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill when I activate Blood Fury Skill…’
Lu Sheng’s heart stirred. Blood Fury Skill in his left hand and Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill in his right, he struck out both palms in the same moment.
An ear-splitting screech abruptly erupted within the greenhouse.
The tree that stood in front of Lu Sheng, thick as a bowl, was jointly struck on both its left and right. With a loud ‘KA-CHA’, it split into smithereens. The upper half of the branches collapsed to the ground with a thud; it was thoroughly charred in where it broke off, with pinhole injuries tightly packed together that resembled a beehive.
Without hesitating for even a second, Lu Sheng spun around and ferociously attacked the ground with both palms.
In a loud ‘KA-CHA’, two dissimilar palm-prints could be seen on the stone tiles on the floor.
He straightened himself and looked down at them.
The right Blood Fury Skill palm-print was as deep as a finger and charred through.
The left Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill palm-print was more than two fingers’ length deep. Numerous small holes bore into the ground, forming a palm with jagged edges.
‘With equal exertion on both sides, the killing power of Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill far surpasses that of Blood Fury Skill,’ Lu Sheng instantly understood.
‘Can this still be considered a life-force skill?’ He was somewhat stumped. ‘However, Blood Fury Skill is now being converted by Ultimate Crimson Mantra. When the conversion is complete, the power of Ultimate Crimson Qi should be significantly greater and it should be able to catch up. But for now, Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill has become my number one trump card.’
Lu Sheng hadn’t expected that, after undergoing integration, Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill would have that much power. It was almost twice the might of Blood Fury Skill. When he used it on an unsuspecting opponent, it could alter the course of the battle in a split-second.
He shut his eyes and regulated his breathing for a while more in the greenhouse before making his way out unhurriedly. He walked to a little house by the side to rest and eat.
The small house was a grayish-brown single-story building that was constructed from a special type of black mud, pressed and dried into bricks. This was the usual place where the gardeners and guards came to have their meals. Now that Lu Sheng was here, it was specially marked off for him.
The meal was something that Lu Sheng had arranged for someone from a branch of the Sect in the city to deliver: stewed beef with potatoes, mushrooms braised with chicken, cold noodle rolls and a tub of aged mountain ginseng soup boiled with tiger’s bones.
The dishes were all nourishing, quality ingredients enjoyed only by someone of Lu Sheng’s rank. An ordinary family couldn’t afford meat like beef and chicken.
“This treatment is indeed different from the young masters of ordinarily wealthy families,” looking at the delicacies before him, Lu Sheng was somewhat moved.
“Precisely. Young Master, you may not be aware of this, but each year, there are many of our own Crimson Whale Sect people who specially rear cowherds, and others who personally hunt in the woods for aged mountain ginseng and tiger bones. All these can be exchanged for contribution points to the Sect. Although this bit of contributions doesn’t amount to much to the ordinary sect members, when accumulated together, they can exchange for better martial arts skill manuals,” Ning San, who had been standing to the side, said respectfully.
Ever since the Song Manor incident, Lu Sheng had kept him by his side. It wasn’t for any special reason other than the fact that this Ning San had slept with a large group of ghosts and yet was able to escape unscathed; this had piqued Lu Sheng’s curiosity.
Moreover, this person had a rather tenacious character, a good understanding of etiquette, a sense of propriety, and a clear grasp of the ways of the world. Gradually, Lu Sheng had gotten used to having him stick around.
“The taste is not bad, though it could be spicier,” Lu Sheng tucked into the cold noodle rolls with his chopsticks. The vinegar within gave it a sour taste, which made him frown.
“I’ll inform the main chef later,” Ning San said without delay.
“Mm,” Lu Sheng nodded. He lifted the wooden tub of soup, as big as one’s head, and began to gulp it down in big mouthfuls.
In one breath, he finished a third of the tiger bone soup. Sweeping across the inside with his chopsticks, he fished out the bones and ginseng from within and chewed on them with relish. The bones had already been stewed to tender perfection. Fused with the delicious soup and the faint sweetness of the ginseng, it was thoroughly enjoyable.
Lu Sheng devoured the meal rapidly and was halfway through it when the sound of a horse running at full pelt could suddenly be heard from outside.
“Young Master! Bad news! BAD NEWS!!!” His body drenched in perspiration, Duan Meng’an hurriedly scrambled into the house, a look of terror on his face.
“What happened? Sit down and speak,” Lu Sheng spoke neither hurriedly nor slowly. Lifting the rice tub, he scooped a huge mouthful of rice into his mouth and swallowed after chewing a few times. Then, taking his sweet time, he raised his head and looked at Duan Meng’an.
This thickly set man was presently ashen-faced and drowned in perspiration. In his hands was a white piece of paper that resembled some invitation.
“Young Master! Terrible news! The Deputy Sect Master Gongsun Zhanglan has personally issued you a challenge to duel! And it’s a deathmatch!!!” Anxiously, he presented the note in his hands before Lu Sheng.
“A deathmatch?” Lu Sheng’s brows arched. “Seems like his niece is on the brink of death; only now does this old turtle finally decide to show his hands, huh.”
Although he wasn’t sure of Gongsun Zhanglan’s ability, but how could he be even stronger than the old Sect Master? Even if he were comparable to the latter, with Lu Sheng’s fierce and robust inner Qi, need he fear that he wouldn’t be able to drag the other to his grave?
“Young Master! That’s the Deputy Sect Master Gongsun Zhanglan we’re talking about! When he was younger, he had single-handedly shaken up the entire Wan Feng Mountain Stronghold, and consecutively slain thirteen wanted murderers. He’s an extraordinarily formidable foe whose power is able to terrify over a thousand bandits into dispersing!” Duan Meng’an had his tail between his legs. Although he was born with a hulky physique, he was utterly cowardly. This was totally unlike Ning San who, while not physically imposing, was exceptionally tenacious.
“So what? The rumors are exaggerated out of proportion. Moreover, our Young Master is not one to be afraid of such matters. When he had beaten up that Gongsun Jing earlier, had he not already predicted that something like this would happen?” Although Ning San was also frightened, causing his heart to thump wildly in his chest, he presently put on a calm front and replied impassively. He had bet all his stakes on Lu Sheng.
Unlike the dim-witted Duan Meng’an, Ning San had long since seen through Lu Sheng and knew that he had deliberately injured Gongsun Jing and attempted to provoke Gongsun Zhanglan into a direct confrontation with him. Since Young Master Lu Sheng had initiated the provocation, then he likely had the confidence to win. If Ning San wanted to rise meteorically in the Sect and become External Affairs Emissary Lu’s right-hand man, then he couldn’t let this opportunity slip him by.
“Since that old foggy has shown his hand, then I accept this challenge to duel,” picking it up, Lu Sheng lightly flipped it open to read the one sentence that was written within:
Three days later at the Long Rift Gorge, before sunrise; a death match. – Gongsun Zhanglan.
“Interesting. Where’s Long Rift Gorge?” Lu Sheng asked causally.
“In response to Young Master, legend has it that deep in the eastern mountains, there’s a gorge overrun with black tigers,” Ning San replied.
“Do you know the way?” Lu Sheng asked.
As soon as the words left his mouth, Ning San was stupefied and in that moment, countless thoughts raced through his mind. The meaning of Lu Sheng’s words was crystal clear; if he knew the way, then very likely, he would have to accompany him on the journey. As for the risks that came along with it, it was inconceivable to those not in the know.
If Lu Sheng lost, then his life would also be at the mercy of Gongsun Zhanglan’s rage.
Overwhelmed with the flood of these thoughts, Ning San calmed himself down.
Lu Sheng looked at him deeply. Smiling, he said, “Great, then you lead the way and we’ll go in together.”
This wasn’t an officially sanctioned death match, but one that arose over some personal feud. Thus, neither side could overtly prepare for it.
After his meal, Lu Sheng didn’t return to Mountain-Edge City but instead made a beeline for the Crimson Whale ship. He headed straight for where the most important manuals were held–Martial Proclamation Library.
Martial Proclamation Library was located smack in the middle of the body of the Crimson Whale ship. Heavily guarded on all sides, it was an independent small tower that had been built into the interior of the ship’s body.
The small tower stood silently on the ship, its exterior painted in pitch black. On each of its four sides stood thickly set outer force experts, on high alert and ready to defend the area.
Lu Sheng retrieved his command medallion and passed through many inspection checkpoints, soon arriving at the first floor of Martial Proclamation Library.
The first floor housed the most basic martial arts skills of all kinds. Most of them were ordinary techniques that were even more commonplace than Chasing the Wind Blade and Bear-Wrestling Arm. Not a single trace of inner force skills and the like could be seen. As for Crimson Whale Saber Technique, it was free.
Here, Lu Sheng could even see some of the skills that he had learnt in the past, such as Precious Eight Steps. He had modified this skill to its pinnacle and thus it was unrecognizable compared to its humble beginnings. Yet nonetheless, it was but a third-grade martial arts skill that was of a very low value.
After casually scanning through the entire place, Lu Sheng found that the martial arts skills on this first floor were all run-of-the-mill skills that couldn’t even achieve Strength Proficiency. Moreover, many people came and went in this place, flipping through the materials.
He decided he might as well not waste any more time and headed for the second floor.
There were far fewer people to be seen on the second floor, with only about a handful of ten or so people. All of them were quietly perusing the manuals for the martial arts skills they were interested in.
As for those martial arts skills that required contribution points in exchange, only a name and short description were available. The actual book itself was not displayed on the shelves.
Lu Sheng scanned row after row of shelves and soon found where the hard body skill, Bear-Wrestling Arm, was located. Indeed, it was a free hard body skill.
Nearby, there were also a few other hard body skills. However, only their names and short descriptions were to be seen.
“Golden Veil Skill, Soul Smashing Fist, Jewel Pillar Skill, Dusk Dantian Inflating Skill…”
Each of the hard body skills was lined up against the other. The conditions required for cultivating each were also clearly detailed in fine print.
Lu Sheng was also very interested in hard body skills. After all, they were effective for self-defense. If he could cultivate a few of them, then he wouldn’t be so hard-pressed during crucial moments in battle.
In that moment, however, he suddenly thought of a problem.
‘I’m learning more and more skills, making it more and more messy. I’m also expending a tremendous amount of energy and physical Qi and spirit, but because my focus is too diffused, my actual battle upgrades are not as significant as I had imagined.
Perhaps I should select one particular martial arts skill as the main skill for cultivation, and constantly extrapolate and upgrade it, propelling it to an unimaginable level. Otherwise, even if I cultivate more martial arts skills, I’ll be a mere jack of all trades, but master of none.’
He fell into deep thought while standing in front of the bookshelf.
A moment later, Lu Sheng gradually regained his senses.
‘Ultimate Crimson Mantra is deep and profound, with as many as seven levels. That’s sufficient for me to cultivate for a long time. I’ll use this as my main skill. As for Yin-Yang Jade Crane Skill, it’s impressively powerful, and can even be reserved for use when upgrading martial arts skills. This can be my second main skill, or even my trump card that will come in handy in a moment of life and death.’
Having thought out the arrangements, Lu Sheng had a clearer idea now as he looked again at the skills before him.
‘First, choose an even stronger hard body skill for self-defense. Together with Ultimate Crimson Mantra, it’ll definitely produce a shockingly terrifying strike.’
His gaze scanned across the hard body skills displayed on the bookshelves. About ninety percent of these hard body skills required the aid of specially concocted medicinal tonics and pills. Without the requisite technical skill in that area, Lu Sheng dared not hand over the key to his own cultivation and life to an outsider. He had even inquired physicians regarding the ingredients of Ultimate Crimson Pill and fed one to a rabbit as a test.
Therefore, he immediately eliminated all the hard body skills that required the consumption of medicinal herbs.
There were only two shelves of hard body skills, totaling fifteen manuals. This was thus the entire accumulated collection that was in Crimson Whale Sect’s possession, ranging from Strength Proficiency to Intent Proficiency, but none of the level of Spirit Focus and above.