Translator: Deep_Blue Editor: Kurisu
“Not sure about that. Yesterday, Old Master called all heads of the businesses here, both minor and major, for a meeting. As they were leaving, I heard them say that everyone will have to help find it together. I wonder what it is, to go so far as to call all those big shots to help,” Little Eight smiled as he thought about the matter.
Lu Sheng said nothing in response. However, he put on a rather gloomy expression. He walked past the main door to enter inside. As he walked, he asked him another question. “Has anything strange happened lately?”
“Er… Young Master, although Little Eight is considered well-informed, how can strange things happen everyday?” Little Eight shrugged his shoulders helplessly. 
“Although… I heard that there was a big fire that broke out last night at the Goldfish Restaurant that you frequent. Half the side street was burnt away! Even though we servants were a long way off, we could still see the flames very distinctly from far away.”
“A big fire…”
Lu Sheng’s heart sank. He had a faint guess.
“Are you talking about that street that often sells cosmetic powders during the day?”
“Precisely, just that!” Little Eight nodded vigorously, “I hear that quite a number of people died. Some of them were entire families, including the young and the old. It’s really awful… I wonder which heartless creature set the fire!”
‘A big fire…’
Lu Sheng said nothing more. He suppressed the matter deep within his heart and stopped thinking about it.
The Black Meeting was arranged to be at night in three days’ time, in a cellar outside the city.
In these three days, Lu Sheng rested and ate each day as usual. He could clearly feel his body growing sturdier, as if the Black Tiger Saber altered by the Modifier had also improved his physical state itself.
In those three days, he paid the street near Goldfish Restaurant a visit yet again. Sure enough, it was all charred and burnt. Quite a few people could be even seen being busy at rebuilding new houses.
Lu Sheng walked back along the road that he had gone before. It was exactly the same as he had seen the other day.
Even that dead end of a back alley was just as it had been.
He now had a few guesses in mind, but did not feel fearful or anxious.
Since there were water ghosts in this world, then naturally, other things could also exist.
He had initially intended to get initiated in that Jade Force on the ripped manual which he had bought during these three days, and then to modify it. However, as he thought of the Black Meeting, he decided to hold back for now. If he injured himself badly and spat out blood after modification again, he would lose this opportunity.
Time passed by quickly. In the blink of an eye, it was the day of the appointment.
It was around seven or eight at night.
Lu Sheng changed into a set of black robes and put on the mask of a tiger. It was a toy for children that he had casually bought off the streets, and was very crudely made.
In front of the Lu Manor entrance, the Zheng Family’s horse carriage was already waiting.
He hurriedly boarded the horse carriage. Zheng Xiangui was currently sitting inside, biting off big chunks of meat from the braised chicken thigh he held in both his hands.
This fatso also wore a set of black robes. However, it didn’t really matter – anyone could tell from his exaggerated physique that this guy was the Young Master of the faction hosting the Black Meeting.
“Good, you’re here, we’re just waiting for you. Brother Sheng, hurry, get on the carriage.”
Both men sat down and the horse carriage slowly began to move.
Zheng Xiangui advised Lu Sheng throughout the journey on the dos and don’ts after entry, a whole host of messy details to pay attention to. Still, Lu Sheng committed each of them to his memory.
Soon, they left the city. They travelled along a main road, from which they took a twist into a side road, then meandered along for quite a distance before heading directly into the outskirts.
After travelling along the outskirts for a while, the horse carriage approached a little village tucked away in an overgrown wilderness area. It stopped in front of a stone house in the middle of the village.
“This is it,” Zheng Xiangui jumped off the carriage. A black-robed man standing guard at the door of the stone house came forward and greeted him.
“Everybody’s present. The first auction item is already being displayed.”
Zheng Xiangui nodded, anxiously urging, “Let’s hurry inside, it’s already started.”
He pulled Lu Sheng into the stone house. He opened a wooden door on the floor in the middle of the stone house, revealing a flight of stairs that led underground.
Lu Sheng followed behind Zheng Xiangui and two other guards down the stairs. At the bottom was a karst cave with a rather large surface area.
The karst cave was even prepared rather decently.
There was a big hall in the middle. In the surrounding stone walls was a circle of side rooms, each of them looking like little packets hanging on the walls.
A few people were seated sparsely in the big hall. No firelight came from the surrounding little packets; clearly, they were not in use.
“Wow, this place has a rather huge layout,” Lu Sheng exclaimed.
“Hehe, we discovered this place accidentally,” the fatso said laughingly. He brought Lu Sheng in from the back of the big hall, and headed for the seats in the front row.
Only a little more than ten people in total attended the Black Meeting this time. They all sat scattered around the first row.
A tall, skinny man whose face was veiled was standing on the stage. Currently, he was introducing the details of the item being auctioned in a loud voice.
Next to him stood two dwarves. Both of them wore bright garish floral garments and held a bronze plate in their hands between them. There was a dagger on the plate, brown and spotty from rust.
“An ancient dagger passed down from Ju Rong Nation, most likely forged by Duan Fengzi of the olden days! There are some words carved on it in the national language of Ju Rong Nation, even if… aye! Guest No. Four bids one thousand talents! Any higher bids? Any higher bids!?” The man on the stage yelled loudly with an extremely animated expression.
Lu Sheng and Zheng Xiangui sat on the seats to the left.
The rows of seats here all seemed to be carved out of white stone. It was extremely cold to the touch, emitting completely no warmth.
Fatso sat right next to him. He cocked his head and whispered, “What you want is the fifth item, the second to last one.”
Lu Sheng nodded his head wordlessly.
Clearly, the dagger on the stage had just been dug up from the ground not too long ago. It was perhaps found by a grave robber.
There were still quite a few people competing for it below. In just a short while, the bid for the dagger had risen to one thousand eight hundred talents.
Lu Sheng’s heart beat quickly as he listened to the proceedings. This was already twice the equivalent of his monthly allowance!
He did not watch the bidding competition on stage any longer. Instead, he diverted his attention to focus on the guests who were near him.
Most of the guests to the Black Meeting carried with them weapons, ranging from short to long in size. Moreover, most of them were dressed in black and disguised, though there were also exceptions.
Of the more than ten guests who were present, there were three who did not conceal their identity.
One of them was a man with red hair who wore a fitting yellow leather armor and carried a broadsword on his back.
Another was a very short, skinny and seemingly weak youth who had a beak-like mouth and sunken cheeks. Tied to his waist were two bulging black leather pouches that carried god-knew-what.
The third one was the most eye-catching.
Or rather, it was a pair. A man and a woman.
The man’s clothes and a sword he carried on his waist conveyed a sense of strength; he seemed to be a bodyguard. He held an indifferent look that only softened for a bit when he gazed upon the woman.
The woman wore a black dress that was not one of the typical long dresses that women in ancient times wore. It was a tight dress whose hem and its surroundings looked like a body-hugging miniskirt that one would see on Earth.
From head to toe, there was only that one piece body-hugging dress which barely covered her rear. Just a slightly bigger movement of lifting her legs would clearly reveal the space between her two legs.
This woman dressed sexily. She had long legs and a slender waist; a pair of white weapons at her chest threatened to tear the dress apart, looking as if at any moment the dress would burst at the seams near the chest area.
Lu Sheng could not help but look at the woman’s face.
She had a very high nose bridge and a pair of charming and glittering eyes that seemed to always be smiling. Her long black hair fell on her shoulders, so smooth and shining that they seemed to reflect a bit of light.
‘This is so much more effective than any so-called Photoshop makeup technique,’ Lu Sheng praised in his heart.
One could tell that this woman was someone influential with a mere glance. Only one who was absolutely confident in one’s strength would dare to show such a beautiful face so freely at the Black Meeting.
“That’s Duan Muwan,” seeing Lu Sheng’s attention had been attracted by the woman, Fatso promptly leaned in to whisper the introduction. “But I don’t recommend you trying to pick her up. This woman is beyond fierce!”
“Fierce? How so?”
Lu Sheng was mildly curious, but he did not have any designs on her. It was just that the woman was simply too eye-catching, so he was sizing her up.
Fatty smiled a little and looked towards the stage, at the second auction item that had already appeared.
“Duan Muwan came to Nine Links City about two months ago. I heard that she came along with a merchant group. The two of them, master and servant, joined the group by themselves. To walk such a long distance in itself is already not easy.”
“Indeed, it’s no easy feat,” Lu Sheng nodded.
“Moreover, because of her natural beauty, this woman has been very promiscuous since coming to Nine Links City. Quite a number of handsome young masters have been seduced by her and then, guess what happened?” Fatso shook his head and sighed.
“What?” Lu Sheng asked, his curiosity now piqued.
“All the young masters were infatuated beyond reason, resulting in a massive melee, which resulted in quite a number of injured and even quite a few killed,” fatso said as he clicked his tongue.
“Even so, those who were seriously injured and handicapped remain devoted to this woman. But she’s already forgotten them in the blink of an eye!”
Lu Sheng narrowed his eyes, a shiver in his heart. He had heard of these incidents, but never imagined that this woman was the cause of them all. For them to pine for her even after they were handicapped… this was not something that could be explained by her beauty.
In that moment, he labeled Duan Muwan as extremely dangerous in his mind. For her to be able to twist so many people around her little finger, she either had extremely high EQ or employed some unusual methods. It was best to stay as far away as possible from such characters.
He refocused his attention on the auction on the stage.
It was already the fourth auction item’s turn now: a yellow-bronze half-body leather armor.
“This leather armor is the Ice Wolf Armor, made of the combined, tanned hide of nineteen white wolves of the Ice White Grasslands. Nineteen layers of wolf hide are now as thin as a copper coin after tanning. Its resistance against both blunt tools and swords far exceeds that of a normal leather armor. It’s almost the same as wearing another layer of chainmail armor!” The black-robed man exclaimed loudly to introduce this piece of leather armor.
“Starting bid price is two hundred talents!”
Silence. No one moved.
The host didn’t seem to mind it very much. He got one of the dwarves to hold the leather armor before personally taking out a dagger and violently piercing into its side.
A muffled sound rang out as the dagger slid off. Surprisingly, only a small scratch remained on the leather armor.
“Three hundred talents!” Seeing that, someone immediately placed a bid.
“Four hundred talents!”
“Six hundred talents!”
The bids continued to rise higher and higher. Lu Sheng himself was rather moved when he saw it. This sort of leather armor was both lightweight and nimble, and was more convenient and flexible than the metal armor as it did not affect one’s movements. If its defense was really as strong as stated, then it indeed was a valuable item.
He wanted to state a price, but seeing that the bids arrived at almost one thousand talents in the blink of an eye, he could only restrain himself and give it up. His true goal was still the next item: the manual.
He could not lose sight of the big picture for this small item.
In the end, the leather armor was bought by the red-haired man with the broadsword on his back. Shortly afterwards, the second last item was up.
The inner force secret manual.
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