A series of drums rang out across Martial League. It was the intruder alarm! Huge numbers of personnel dashed all over the League.
Scarlet District Mistress licked her lips.
"Mortals just love putting up pointless resistance."
The bodies of the few Martial League sentries who had just managed to flee split apart abruptly, as if their chest had been cleaved diagonally in halves. Before they could make much distance, they had fallen to the ground.
"Demon! The Demon’s here!!"
"Quick! Get the League Master!"
The crowd dispersed in all directions. Like a group of frightened sparrows, the entire Martial League collapsed, without a single person who tried to fight.
Scarlet District Mistress pouted, her mood spoiled. She walked out to the pit and straight towards the central tower.
Just then, several elders pounced at her from the air and struck towards her back in an attempt to catch her off guard.
In a burst of blood and light, the figures who had pounced at her exploded by themselves and were sent flying backwards. Streaks of frightening saber marks were left across their bodies. All along, Scarlet District Mistress had done nothing but continue walking forward silently.
Balls of blood blossomed and burst open like fireworks all around her.
Unhurried and self-assured, Scarlet District Mistress walked into the middle of Martial League. Based on her experience, all buildings built by mankind had their most important core right at their center.
"Hurry, run!!" Over a dozen men rushed at her again with all sorts of heavy weapons like hammers, sickles, axes… etc.
Their expressions were grim and filled with courage and valor as they attempted to stall for time and give their friends cover to flee.
But it was all in vain.
Those figures burst apart around her and were sent flying into the distance once again. Large saber wounds were etched into their bodies.
"Splat splat splat splat!!"
All around her, countless corpses fell. Some of them were even sent slamming into and breaking wooden doors and stone pillars. Blood splattered everywhere.
Scarlet District Mistress headed for the center of the complex, step by step. Nobody could stop her in the entire Northern Lands.
Not Shangyang Family. Not Ashoka Manor!
Right here, she was invincible!
"Hang on!" Suddenly, a black shadow appeared before her in a flash.
In that instant, the afterimage of a saber flashed across the air in a blur, and the black shadow was sent flying into the distance as if it had been struck by lightning. Hitting the ground, it was thrown back by the force of the strike, its legs digging and leaving a long trail in the ground.
Blood gushed out of the black shadow’s mouth as it clutched its chest with its arm.
"Scarlet District Mistress!" Ye Moling stabilized his body, exasperated that she had struck him for no good reason and made a clown out of him. Apart from his burning cheeks, however, he was also shocked by her power as he sensed the Qi and blood churning in him.
"… It’s you," Scarlet District Mistress was impassive. "Move aside, or I’ll kill you as well."
"You’re just slaughtering everyone like this. How does this help our investigation!?" Ye Moling was speechless.
"Why does that matter? It’ll be even easier to investigate after they all turn into ghosts," Scarlet District Mistress said blandly. Then, her eyes turned cold. "Besides, do I need you to teach me what to do?"
Ye Moling felt a cold shiver and dared not speak a further word. Scarlet District Mistress’ strength had truly exceeded his expectations. Even if his expertise lay in indirect attacks, it was really too embarrassing for him to be sent flying by a single stroke from her, who was supposed to be in the same league as he was.
"I dare not. But I just want to remind District Mistress that you may end up with nothing if you hit the grass and scare the snake," he said in a low voice as he suppressed his anger.
Scarlet District Mistress paused in her steps.
Seeing that his words had some influence on her, Ye Moling continued. "Moreover, District Mistress’ moves are too loud. Even if you manage to secure some leads now, the culprit would surely notice and go into hiding. It’d be even harder to investigate when that happens"
"Then you tell me what I should be doing now." Scarlet District Mistress’ gaze grew more intimidating.
"After investigating this place, we go find the Intelligence Agency of the Northern Lands. We borrow all the help and forces we can," Ye Moling swiftly replied.
He knew that Scarlet District Mistress had emerged from the fight for the Scarlet Dragon Tribulation. The fact that she had been able to seize a shard from the hands of so many factions jousting for it elbow to elbow was telling of how strong she was. There was certainly more than met the eye to her.
As for this place, my Ashoka Manor has inserted moles as well," Ye Moling revealed solemnly. "I’ve received a rather decent lead from them… I’m afraid Shangyang Family has a hand in this matter too."
"Shangyang Family…" Scarlet District Mistress’ gaze turned solemn.
Under the cover of night and atop his horse, Lu Sheng flipped through a manual that Zhang Wuya had gifted him with.
This was a Strength Proficiency martial art. Although it was too simple for the current him, there was bound to be something in its pages worth taking a leaf out of.
He was attempting to gather and read a large amount of martial arts manuals to see if it might hasten the incubation phase that his body was presently in.
The appearance of Scarlet District Mistress and Ye Moling brought him significant pressure. He sensed that he was already barely a match for Ye Moling, not to mention the even stronger Scarlet District Mistress…
If his transformation was not hastened, then even Shangyang Jiuli would not be able to protect him if he was ever exposed.
‘But this bottleneck cannot be broken through using normal methods…’ Lu Sheng pondered. While his body was still in incubation, he would have to rely on his inner Qi after all to resist either Scarlet District Mistress or Ye Moling.
‘My greatest hope is Yin Crane Web. As for Yin Qi…’ His Yin Qi had been completely depleted. But Yin Crane Web could absorb inner Qi from martial arts experts who were his opponents.
Lu Sheng’s brows were locked in a tight furrow.
‘If none of these methods work, then the only way left to increase my strength in the short term…’ He suddenly recalled the map of treasured herbs that Li Shunxi had left him.
‘After settling these people down, I’ve got to start accelerating the collection of these precious herbs.’ Scarlet District Mistress’ investigation may not proceed so quickly, but he was not left with much time either.
Frustration and anxiety crept up in his heart.
"Flap flap flap flap."
After a series of birds’ flapping sounds, Xu Chui rushed up from behind and caught up with him.
"Sect Master, a letter for you." He held out a rolled up red memo. One look at it told Lu Sheng that it must have been tied to the leg of the pigeon.
Lu Sheng took and unfurled it. After a quick read, he crunched it up and lit it ablaze. In a matter of seconds, it thoroughly disintegrated into black ash.
It was a memo from umbrella girl. Scarlet District Mistress had reached Martial League.
"Speed up!" Lu Sheng hurried.
Zhong Yunxiu caught up with him with a puzzled look.
"Sect Master, did something happen?"
Lu Sheng nodded solemnly.
"Martial League came under heavy assault. The experts of Scarlet District and Ashoka Manor have killed their way in. By now, I’m afraid that…"
Zhong Yunxiu’s pretty face was seized with shock. It took her a few seconds to react to the news. She clenched her fists tightly.
She did not think that Lu Sheng had drawn Ashoka Manor there. In actual fact, ever since the mole was found in Martial League, their base had already been compromised.
Zhang Wuya and the rest quickly leaned in.
"The League’s under assault?!" They were all people with acute senses. Since Lu Sheng did not bother to conceal the news, they naturally heard it as well.
"Why’re you so scared! We’re out with our men anyway. The rest left behind are either spies or stubborn people. Let them die. Martial League should not exist in this state anyway. I, Guan Nian, have had enough of these days of hiding!" Guan Nian slammed the water bag in his hand on the ground in a fit of rage.
"You wouldn’t understand… you wouldn’t understand…" Zhang Wuya looked dazed. He turned aside with the support of a few other Divine Prime elders who apologized on his behalf.
Zhong Yunxiu’s face had turned pale. She fell into a silence, then asked, "Sect Master Lu, what’s the specific situation in Martial League now? What’s the extent of the losses…?"
Lu Sheng smiled bitterly and shook his head.
"Ashoka Manor’s Deputy Manor Lord Ye Moling And Scarlet District Mistress launched the attack in person…" He did not complete the sentence, but what he implied was clear.
Zhong Yunxiu turned away and went back to the ox cart almost in a blank daze.
Guan Nian alone remained, sending his brothers back to digest the trauma of the news in quiet.
"We’ve used this base for more than a decade. And now it’s all in hot soup just like that." Guan Nian laughed coldly. "Those old fogeys who have always accused us and cursed us… good for them now, isn’t it? Aren’t they happy now?"
He paused. Then, lifting his head, he took a close look at Lu Sheng.
"Sect Master Lu, I understand that you’re not helping us out of charity. It’s true that we didn’t handle Li Shunxi’s case well. But now Martial League is on the edge of collapse. After clearing up the misunderstanding from Zhong Yunxiu, I heard her mention that you’ve got a way to determine if there’re any spies among us?"
"Yes, I do." Lu Sheng nodded. "But the other party must deactivate his or her black membrane."
"Deactivate black membrane…" Guan Nian’s face lurched. Black membrane was their greatest reliance for survival. To deactivate it by choice was to put themselves in grave danger, entirely putting their lives in the other person’s hands.
"I… let me consider it a while further."
Lu Sheng did not impose his will on him. He merely continued to maintain his gentle expression as he watched Guan Nian turn back slowly to his ox cart. The break was ending and it was time to continue on the journey.
The next day, the team finally made it to a new valley.
A massive white waterfall thundered down on one side of the valley. Across the waterfall was a broad and vast stretch of rivers, forests, and rocky shores.
The valley was enmeshed between the rocky shores and the forest, surrounded by a ring of tall, giant, ancient trees.
Lu Sheng had long since dispatched his men to build some simple wooden huts here. After rushing the Martial League company here, he had his men retrieve the grain, meat, and vegetables hidden in the caves nearby. Then, he handed all duties and affairs over to Zhang Wuya.
After conversing with Zhang Wuya’s team at length along the journey, despite being unable to persuade all the Divine Prime experts to fall to his side, he had at least been able to sway three of them who were hesitating.
The three of them were peace-loving people who had researched martial arts and alchemy. They did not like to fight.
And that was the type of talent that Lu Sheng needed right now.
After settling the Martial League company down, Lu Sheng was no longer in a hurry. Martial League depended entirely on him and Crimson Whale Sect for all aspects of their daily lives now. It was merely a matter of time before Lu Sheng fished out all the good stuff they had from them.
The pressing concern now was to shorten his incubation phase. And the only thing that Lu Sheng could think of that would do the trick was pills.
In other words, it was using powerful pills that could accelerate the body’s functions like metabolism rate to hasten the incubation process. Although such pills often had side-effects, Lu Sheng was not worried about them. Having attained Yin Yang Jade Crane Aquarius Qi by accumulating multiple life force skills, he now sensed that he would live much longer than the average human being.
After returning to the sect, Lu Sheng quickly got back to his study and took Li Shunxi’s precious herbs map out from the secret drawer behind the bookshelves.