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"Perhaps," Lu Sheng smiled and shook his head imperceptibly.
"Sometimes, knowing too much makes you tired and frightened instead," Duanmu Wan whispered.
"Even so, I’d rather know more. At least I’d see a glimmer of hope to control my own destiny," Lu Sheng said calmly.
"Maybe," it was Duanmu Wan’s turn to sigh this time.
To be honest, their meeting was truly a coincidence.
But when she caught sight of Lu Sheng, Duanmu Wan was subconsciously reminded of that person. The one whom she had admired but never had the opportunity to get close to.
From the time he appeared on the scene, blossomed, climbed to the pinnacle, and then fell to his demise… from beginning to end, all she could do was to gaze at him from afar, without even the courage to express her feelings.
When she saw Lu Sheng, she just couldn’t help but see that person’s shadow on him. That’s why she agreed to have tea with him.
Looking at Lu Sheng seated across her, Duanmu Wan laughed bitterly in her heart. If those people knew that she was having such a leisurely cup of tea with an ordinary mortal right now under such pressing circumstances, who knew what kind of mocking and ridicule would come her way?
But then again, so what?
She was the Autumn Princess! The vicious-hearted beauty feared by the masses. A poisonous snake and a scorpion. So what if they mocked and ridiculed? She wasn’t bothered in the least.
She did what she wanted to. Nobody could say a word to her.
"A word of reminder to you--if you meet any Noblemen, get away as fast as you can. Especially if they’re of direct lineage. Alright, let’s change the topic. Drink up!" Duanmu Wan lifted her teacup, emptying it in one gulp as if it were wine. Then, without caring about her image anymore, she reached out to grab some cakes.
Lu Sheng spoke no further and simply accompanied her. He could tell that Duanmu Wan spirits hit rock bottom.
Her world was an alien, unknown one to him. It was still too distant to the present him. But that did not prevent him from recognizing what it was that Duanmu Wan needed right now.
What she needed now was simply to have someone to rest with her for a moment.
Hence, despite all his burning questions and doubts, he refrained from saying even a single word, suppressing the itch to ask those questions. All he did was accompany Duanmu Wan in silent drinking.
It wasn’t until dusk had fallen and the streets began to be lined with mobile stalls selling grilled food that Duanmu Wan rose and departed.
Quickly she came; quickly she left. As always, she remained an enigma.
Lu Sheng exited the teahouse. The fragrant aroma of grilled meat skewers wafted on the streets. Oil lanterns hung from wooden poles and banners rose up from the ground, each bearing the names of all sorts of hawker stalls. A dense throng of people flowed between the stalls. People moved and stopped from time to time, chatting and laughing with one another.
Lu Sheng wasn’t sure how far away he was from Duanmu Wan’s world. But that didn’t matter to him. All he desired was the power to master his own fate in this turbulent world. That’s all.
On the second day after meeting Duanmu Wan, Lu Sheng once again came to the little valley where he usually trained.
It was early in the morning. Rain had just fallen in the forest, which teemed with life. Dew drops hung and dripped from grass blades and leaves.
After hanging up his outer robes, Lu Sheng stood in a clearing and quieted himself. Then, once again, he activated Black Fury Skill and Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill simultaneously, pouring inner Qi into both arms at the same time.
As expected, a massive strength began to accumulate and vibrate intensely on both his arms, exactly like that night.
Lu Sheng expended a great amount of effort, working hard to control this power and suppress its impulse to explode outwards.
He meticulously examined the skin on both arms. Threads of blackish red veins covered the skin on his arms, like bloodstains caused by some lines entangled around them. Round and round they went, covering the whole stretch from his wrist to forearm.
He stood still, stabilizing and bringing the inner Qi under control. It was approximately twenty percent of his total inner Qi volume; any more and it would induce a transformation of his physical body. This was a special state gradually formed after he had broken through Level Three of Black Fury Skill.
When his control of inner Qi was stable, Lu Sheng struck out before him.
A ball of white Qi shot out in the air before him. Although it lasted the duration of only a blink, it also meant that his speed and explosive strength in that split second had achieved an incredibly powerful level.
‘This move is extremely powerful. But my body can’t bear the burden of using it more than a few times,’ Lu Sheng estimated based on the weakness and numbness he felt in his arms after he stopped. ‘I can use it three times consecutively within a short period of time--that'd be the limit. After that, I’d need to rest or I’d injure my muscles and bones.’
On the second attempt, Lu Sheng changed his saber-wielding arm and held his saber straight. Then, he activated Black Fury Skill and Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill simultaneously once again.
In the midst of a tiger roar and a crane call, the large tree which Lu Sheng was testing his strike on was hacked into two halves in one slash.
‘Ten percent strength. Tsk tsk… compared to Black Fury Skill alone, the explosive might, strength and speed of this strike is significantly higher,’ he hesitated and decided to give it a better name. ‘Let’s just call it Tiger Roar & Crane Song Saber. It’ll be my final trump card. Raising my power by a whole stretch in one instant will definitely catch my opponents off-guard and seize victory in one move. But this stuff’s good only for a short while. Three strikes and my body wouldn’t be able to take it
anymore while my inner Qi would run out,’ Lu Sheng sensed that the inner Qi in him was exhausted by up to sixty percent. Clearly, this was indeed an incredibly powerful move.
Having tested Tiger Roar & Crane Song Saber’s power and energy consumption level, Lu Sheng began to study the jade hairpin he had gotten from Scarlet Decks again.
Taking the jade hairpin out from his waist pouch and holding it in his hands, Lu Sheng immediately felt threads of Yin Qi emanating from the hairpin.
The hairpin was a purplish black, with a translucent body. On one end, it was carved with intricate plum blossom motifs while the pointed end was an entirely transparent segment.
‘This jade hairpin… its craftsmanship is fine indeed. But too bad the Yin Qi on it is too thick. Otherwise, it’d make a decent gift. Purple jade hairpins are usually extremely costly,’ Lu Sheng held onto the jade hairpin, bit the index finger on his other hand, squeezed out a drop of blood and let it drip onto the surface of the hairpin.
In the instant when the drop of blood fell onto the hairpin, a layer of hazy smog immediately rose out of it.
Lu Sheng held it further away from himself and blew the smog away. Instantly, thick, dense and cold Qi gushed into his palm without stopping, then coursed through his arm into his body, vanishing the instant it entered his torso.
‘Deep Blue!’ Lu Sheng rapidly summoned his Modifier.
Without a pause, a blue frame appeared before him.
A dialogue box sprang out from the Modifier: ‘Begin martial arts extrapolation?’
‘Yes,’ Lu Sheng selected.
The frame flashed. This time, a ‘modify’ button actually appeared behind all his martial arts.
‘As I expected! This time the amount of Yin Qi is sufficient to extrapolate all martial arts!’ Lu Sheng was overjoyed. Quickly, he looked at Black Fury Skill. ‘All my strength depends largely on Black Fury Skill. I’ve got to upgrade and perfect Black Fury Skill first. And that side-effect which messes with my psychological state has got to go as well.’
His gaze fell on Black Fury Skill’s row.
‘...I wonder whether or not I can extrapolate successive levels of Black Fury Skill with my accumulated knowledge now.’
Mustering his intent, he was about to click on the button for extrapolation behind Black Fury Skill when something cropped up in his mind. Abruptly, he paused and examined the description on the side.
Black Fury Skill: Level Three. Special Effect(s): Fire Poison.
‘Now there’s an added special effects description… also, I can’t be too hasty. I can’t rush to upgrade Black Fury Skill now. The last time I upgraded to Level Three, it took me half a year to recover. This means that my present body is already unable to handle the massive accumulation required to upgrade Black Fury Skill.
To attain the level which would normally require others decades to achieve in one breath… this requires a vast build-up to satisfy the minimum requirements. I shouldn’t be too hasty now…’ Lu Sheng calculated in his mind, and closed the Deep Blue Modifier after all.
Standing in the clearing, he once again mentally reviewed the two inner force skills he had previously memorized--Yin Yang Attraction and Green Pine One-Thought Formula.
‘Green Pine One-Thought Formula seems to clash with the inner force, inner Qi, in my body. I’m unable to sense Qi with it… or even reach the Initiation level. But Yin Yang Attraction, on the other hand, is worth a shot.’
Excitedly, he sat cross-legged and began quieting his mind and Qi according to the mantra of Yin Yang Attraction. He began to guide his will and intent to condense Qi in his body.
Yin Yang Attraction was all about guiding the two forms of Qi that already existed in the body--Yin Qi and Yang Qi--by tempering them and bringing them into balance. This way, the body was immune to all sickness and longevity was extended. Judging from the language of the booklet, its creator should have been a physician.
Rather than labelling it an inner Qi skill, it might be more precise to call it a life-force skill. This was because the inner Qi it generated wasn’t its focus. It was merely the natural result of balancing the Yin and the Yang in one’s body and the body’s consequent strengthening. But this inner Qi was not the main purpose of this inner skill.
The challenge of this skill lay in guiding two cycles simultaneously with one’s mind in order to separate and control Yin Qi and Yang Qi.
Previously, Lu Sheng had never practiced this. But presently, with the experience of simultaneously activating Black Fury Skill and Black Tiger Jade Crane skill, he very quickly entered a state of concentrated zen.
In fact, the supposed Yin Qi and Yang Qi couldn't be detected by mind and will. It was merely a way of describing and labelling it. Yin Qi and Yang Qi actually represented two types of opposing yet mutually dependent forces.
As the human body continued to generate Yin Qi, it was also producing Yang Qi. The two balanced each other out, maintaining an equilibrium.
Lu Sheng meticulously recalled the theory written in the booklet, gradually entering a deeper and deeper level of meditative zen.
He sat cross-legged in the clearing; occasionally, a rabbit or squirrel would hop by, but all stayed clear of him by a ten-meter radius, as if a lethal snake or a ferocious beast lay on that spot.
Ever since Lu Sheng had broken through to Level Three of Black Fury Skill, such a sight occurred often. This increasingly showed Lu Sheng the extraordinariness of Black Fury Skill.
After an immeasurably long period of time, a faint trace of Qi slowly pulsed in Lu Sheng’s abdomen, then crawled upwards towards his kidneys and heart.
‘It’s there!’ Lu Sheng’s heart shook with excitement. Knowing that this strand of inner Qi may be fleeting and could vanish in the next second, Lu Sheng immediately called out, ‘Deep Blue!’
The Modifier screen emerged, still under the same state after absorbing the Yin Qi just now. A button for extrapolation remained following each skill.
Lu Sheng glossed over other martial arts, his gaze zooming in on Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill.
‘Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill: Level Three Pinnacle. Special Effect(s): Rapid hemostasis.’
Underneath it was the newly-appeared Yin Yang Attraction.
‘Yin Yang Attraction: Uninitiated.’