Translator: Deep_Blue Editor: Kurisu
A new inner force skill brought about more than just an internal breakthrough for Lu Sheng. Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill and Black Fury Skill per se were not in a conflict with each other. Now that it had been strengthened, Lu Sheng could feel his energy flooding out unceasingly. The essence, Qi and spirit in his entire person grew much sturdier than before.
He rose. Using his hand in place of a saber, he stepped forward and executed Tiger Kill.
The sound of a tiger’s roar was faintly discernible. Instantly, the air grew scorching hot.
This effect was but the result of Lu Sheng exerting merely a quarter of his strength. If he wanted to achieve this with his previous skill level, it would have required the explosive power of at least half of his inner Qi.
‘The effectiveness of inner Qi has increased by at least one-fold!’ Lu Sheng was very excited. He thought back to what Uncle Zhao had once explained to him about the experts in the pugilistic world.
‘In the pugilistic world, it is rumored that in the Central Plains, Strength Proficiency level experts are only considered a dime a dozen. Above that are two large levels: Intent Proficiency and Spirit Focus. The renowned masters are mostly at the level of Spirit Focus. These masters cultivate both inner and outer force; their spirit and intent become reality. Each and every move manifests the quintessence and Dao of their martial arts. Because of this, their inner Qi flows and abounds unceasingly, and their battle prowess rises radically. I wonder… which level have I attained?’
Lu Sheng reckoned inwardly.
‘I’ve already unintentionally attained Strength Proficiency in Nine Links City; Black Tiger Saber is thus my one and only Strength Proficiency martial art. However, even if I haven’t attained Spirit Focus yet, the sturdiness of my inner Qi has far surpassed that of the ordinary Strength Proficiency experts.
If I really went up against a Spirit Focus opponent, I can’t say for sure whether I’d win or lose. Thus, I can be kinda considered a Spirit Focus expert now, and am comparable in strength to the illustrious names of Central Plains.’
He was confident that the inner force of Black Fury Skill and Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill had both reached the pinnacle of the third realm. If an average person were to cultivate these, such a result would be unimaginable without forty, fifty years of training. Moreover, this was given the prerequisite that the person must possess exceptional aptitude and an endless supply of nourishing tonics and ingredients for medicinal baths.
‘I’m only nineteen years old, and I already have such a robust foundation for cultivation. If there weren’t any supernatural beings, this world would be my oyster! A pity…’ Lu Sheng’s heart filled with regret as he remembered the incidents with the Demonic Ghost.
Just as he was thinking about this, the cry of a rooster suddenly sounded out from beyond the window.
Lu Sheng gazed outside the window; it was now the crack of dawn. The whole night had actually slipped by.
He got off the bed and hastily exited to fetch some water to wash his face and rinse his mouth. He dressed in his robes and strode out of his room.
He first went to the restaurant nearby for breakfast, where he had his usual fare of meat buns, small-grain porridge and an additional dish of fried vegetables. Though they were simple dishes, their sheer quantity caused the other customers who were likewise dining there to click their tongues in astonishment.
Lu Sheng gulped down whole meat buns by the mouthful. Each had thin skin and generous fillings, and was as large as a palm. He also didn’t care that they were scalding hot–ever since he trained in Black Fury Skill, his tolerance for heat had increased by leaps and bounds. Even roasting his hands on top of a burning candle would be bearable for five or six breaths’ of time before he’d find it hot.
Each bamboo basket had six buns. Lu Sheng ate five bamboo baskets’ worth in one seating, totaling thirty meat buns. The plate of vegetables came last to relieve the aftertaste, which he lifted to pour straight into his mouth before casually chewing a little and swallowing.
It was just like how the ordinary person drank a mouthful of water after finishing a sumptuous meal…
The small-grain porridge lay by the side in a bucket as tall as a forearm and as wide as a face basin. The portion within was sufficient for five or six people. Lu Sheng picked it up and took three big mouthfuls from it.
He put down the bucket. There was no more porridge inside.
The surrounding diners looking on instantly exclaimed in surprise. For these people who led an unexciting and banal existence, such an eccentric incident would have them spinning exaggerated tales for the next three days.
Lu Sheng’s expression remained the same as ever. After finishing his meal, he elegantly wiped the corners of his mouth with a silk handkerchief before rising to take his leave. The immense contrast between before and after left the surrounding customers and waiters wide-eyed and speechless.
Inner Qi was formed through tempering one’s essence and converting it into Qi. And where did that essence come from? From food.
Lu Sheng bore two major inner force skills, Black Fury Skill and Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill. The origins of Black Fury Skill were extraordinary, and though it was incomplete, its effectiveness was remarkable–it could even injure the supernatural. As for the new life-force skill, Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill, which Lu Sheng had extrapolated to its extreme, it was a skill that mainly recuperated the body to begin with.
Both of them together caused Lu Sheng’s appetite to grow quite voracious.
After his breakfast, Lu Sheng flagged down a horse carriage to head straight towards Eastern Mountain Institute. Upon arrival, he made it just in time as the morning bells sounded.
Lu Sheng alighted and sped into the Institution, hurrying towards the study hall where he was supposed to be.
Eastern Mountain Institute stood on a large plot of land, situated at the foot of Eastern Mountain located just outside Mountain-Edge City. Although in close proximity to the city, it was not under the city’s jurisdiction but rather had their private soldiers and governance system. The Dean was addressed as the Cavern Chief, a no-nonsense high-grade official from the Court whose appointment was also decided by the said Court. It was an entirely different system from Mountain-Edge City.
Legend has it that the Institution was founded by an important Confucian official, who returned to his hometown after his appointment to an office. Subsequently, it gradually expanded and grew to become the Eastern Mountain Institution many years later.
Lu Sheng rushed towards his study hall with great familiarity. The one teaching them was Lu Rao, Elder Lu, a provincial imperial examination graduate who had passed the Scholar Examination. 
Elder Lu was already standing at the front by the rostrum, currently about to flip open the class register to take attendance.
Lu Sheng and a few other students tip-toeing in gingerly gave slight bows in his direction before hurrying to their seats.
The study hall was a rectangular room within which sat ten over students, scattered in their various seats. These were all the students Elder Lu was responsible for.
Lu Sheng’s seat was right next to Song Zhenguo. As he got seated, he tidied his robes and sat upright, preparing for the lesson by retrieving his humanities books from the bookcase.
Each of the students would have appointed someone to prepare the required books for the day’s lessons and leave them in the bookcase in advance. The bookcase also acted as the study desk, albeit a shorter version since everyone was sitting down cross-legged.
Elder Lu’s face was impassive as he read of the names one by one. It was soon Lu Sheng’s turn.
“Wang Ziquan. Wang Ziquan…?”
Elder Lu’s eye twitched as his stern gaze swept across the students seated before him. Naturally, he had already long since committed to memory the ten over students’ names and facial features. Now, with this one glance, he wanted to confirm if Wang Ziquan was indeed absent.
“Wang Ziquan’s not here?” He asked again.
Song Zhenguo cast a strange look at Wang Ziquan’s seat; indeed, it was empty.
“Perhaps something urgent cropped up at home, and he’s returned to his hometown?” He whispered under his breath.
Lu Sheng looked over. Wang Ziquan was indeed absent. Somehow, he suddenly recalled the bizarre pleasure boat from last night.
“Maybe he’s overslept?”
As he said that, Song Zhenguo was instantly astonished. He seemed to remember something and an odd smile appeared on his face.
The two spoke no further. Seeing that the student was indeed absent, Elder Lu gave a harrumph as he lifted a charcoal pen to strike out Wang Ziquan’s name.
“We’ll now begin the day’s lesson. Previously, we talked about…” Elder Lu began to focus on explaining the contents of the book without further ado.
Lu Sheng listened for a bit before looking over to Wang Ziquan’s seat again. He could not shake off the feeling that Wang Ziquan’s absence was perhaps related to that pleasure boat.
Roughly two hours later, the lesson ended. Elder Lu carried his books and promptly left.
Lu Sheng and Song Zhenguo rose to their feet.
“Looks like Young Master Sheng is confident of doing well in the Annual Examinations!” Song Zhenguo teased Lu Sheng mischievously, grinning as he did so. “I saw that Young Master wasn’t the least bit sluggish or confused throughout the lesson. Clearly, you’ve long since understood the profound mysteries of these principles! The day you top the examinations is just round the corner!”
“Stop it, Brother Zhenguo,” Lu Sheng chuckled. He rather admired Song Zhenguo–straightforward and generous, he did not put on airs around classmates whose backgrounds paled in comparison to his wealthy family. Most importantly, he was extremely loyal. When friends turned to him to help, he would agree without hesitation as long as it was something within his power.
“Chen Yunxi is here. Yesterday, you stood up the pretty lady, and now it seems that her heart is dead set on you. Run along!” Song Zhenguo looked over at the study hall entrance and winked enthusiastically at Lu Sheng.
Lu Sheng turned around and saw Chen Yunxi standing at the entrance, the picture of grace. She wore a pure white, long dress of gauze material from head to toe. White cotton fluffy sleeves hung down her hands, partially covering something she was holding.
Her long hair was tied up in a small bun at the top of her head, secured in place by a white jade hairpin. Only a lock of black tresses rested at the side of her chest. She had lengthy legs, a slender waist, skin like jade, tall lithe body, and a full bosom.
She looked elegant and pure like a fairy. In that instant, Lu Sheng’s heart was somewhat moved.
“Who’s that girl? Such long legs! Simply hideous!” A scholar by the side whispered, immediately ruining the atmosphere.
“That’s right… her legs are so long that it hurts the eyes. If that weren’t the case, this Young Master would have pursued this lady way earlier.”
“Ah… it’s Chen Yunxi. If her legs weren’t that ugly, given her family’s illustrious wealth in Mountain-Edge City, there would have been a long line of suitors. What a pity…”
“Super hideous legs!”
“Yea that’s right!”
“Enough with it, you guys. It’s not her fault that she looks like that; our physical traits are all passed down to us by our parents. Who would want to look so deficient from birth? We are all fellow students. Don’t you think it’s disrespectful to criticize another student’s appearance so much?” One of the female students had had enough and advised.
The group of students dispersed in a commotion.
Lu Sheng looked at Chen Yunxi’s beautiful legs, which he considered dazzling in his eyes. He then looked at the other students, who all averted their gazes as if they couldn’t bear to look. He was dumbfounded.
“Go quickly, Chen Yunxi has dressed up specially for you,” Song Zhenguo knew a bit of what was going on between Lu Sheng and Chen Yunxi, and gave Lu Sheng a few shoves.
Lu Sheng hurried over. He grasped onto Chen Yunxi’s hand with a flourish and led her out of the study hall in the direction of the Institution’s lecture theater.
The lecture theater was where the Institution would hold special lectures by renowned individuals from time to time. Ordinarily, few people visited the area, making it the place where students would go to bill and coo.
In this world, both men and women had the right to education, as well as the right to take up an official post. While men and women weren’t completely equal in status, it was somewhat similar to the Tang Dynasty of ancient China that Lu Sheng had in mind.
Both of them jogged the entire way towards a patch of forest next to the lecture theater. The forest was near the wall of the mountain, where it was dim and rather cool.
Only then did Lu Sheng stop in his tracks and turned around to face Chen Yunxi.
“What made you come over? As for what happened yesterday, are you alright?”
Chen Yunxi smiled a little and stretched out a hand from her sleeves. Surprisingly, there was a stalk of delicate red peony between her fingers, plump and glistening.
“This is for you.”
Lu Sheng stared blankly as he received the flower. Although women in this age were bolder and more open-minded, there were still very few who would take as much initiative as Chen Yunxi did.
Chen Yunxi smiled as she said, “Previously, my family wanted to arrange a marriage with that guy from yesterday. My brother went over to try all sorts of ways to curry favor with them to get them to agree, but in the end, it still didn’t go through. They didn’t even fancy me as a concubine.”
There was a faint anguish in her smile.
“I know that I don’t look good, my legs are too long… it’s very understandable that others don’t fancy me. It pains me each time to hear others criticizing my long legs… I can’t help but lower my head, unable to hear any more of it.”
The corner of Lu Sheng’s mouth twitched. No matter how he looked at it, her words seemed strange to him. A strong sense of contradiction arose in his heart that he was unable to shake off.
“But I’ve got no choice. Who’s to blame for the fact that I was born with long legs?” Chen Yunxi lifted her head and looked at him with a pained expression. “I know you probably don’t fancy me, but I really like you very much…”
She gritted her teeth as she retrieved a stack of copper-sealed papers from her waist pouch, which she gently unfolded.
“My father has said that since Elder Brother Lu’s family wishes to relocate to a bigger city, why don’t you just move over here. As long as you are willing, these merchant deeds of fifteen restaurants in Mountain-Edge City are yours. It should be enough for the Lu Family to find its footing.”
 TL/N: The family names of Lu (路) Sheng and Lu (卢) Rao refer to different Chinese characters, despite both sharing the same sound ‘Lu’. They can be best understood as homophones which in English share the same pronunciation but are spelled differently. ED/N: Actually, there’s a slight difference in pronunciation (4th tone vs 2nd tone), but it is so slight that a non-Chinese speaker wouldn’t even notice it, and apparently Chinese themselves are troubled by it sometimes, hence Blue didn’t mention it.
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