‘Upgrade Yin Yang Attraction to Level One,’ Lu Sheng called out silently.
Instantly, the Modifier trembled slightly. The Yin Yang Attraction's column blurred for a moment, first changing from Uninitiated to Initiated, then transforming again to Level One.
In that moment, Lu Sheng could feel that the thread of inner Qi within his abdomen grew much more distinct. Besides that, he did not experience any change in his body. He called out again, "Upgrade Yin Yang Attraction to the highest level, Level Two!"
The Modifier flashed imperceptibly, after which the selection for Yin Yang Attraction once again changed. It directly jumped from Level One to the highest level, Level Two.
In the instant Lu Sheng’s state underwent transformation, he could feel the Black Tiger Jade Crane inner Qi within him depleting by an entire half in a matter of seconds.
Then, a strand of calm and soothing sensation began to circulate within his body, slowly flowing through him along a third path.
Three types of inner force skills and three paths of inner Qi intertwined within him, forming a somewhat spherical shape. Each travelling at their own speeds, they flowed ceaselessly within him. Once Yin Yang Attraction was successfully attained, Lu Sheng could feel an obvious difference in the state of his body compared to the one before.
The parched sensation that usually bothered his throat had disappeared without a trace. The slight heatiness he used to feel in his chest had also completely vanished.
His whole person felt an increased sense of equilibrium and wholeness.
‘Looks like Yin Yang Attraction is able to nullify the negative aftereffects of Black Fury Skill. This inner force skill is indeed of a very high caliber…’ narrowing his eyes, Lu Sheng considered the matter silently. ‘Perhaps Yin Yang Attraction can be used as the main skill for further extrapolation, and Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill to supplement it.’
After having thought that, he immediately set to action. He calmed himself down quickly to take advantage of the fact that he now had sufficient Yin Qi. Moreover, upgrading Yin Yang Attraction did not seem to put too much load on his body.
‘Extrapolate the next level of Yin Yang Attraction,’ he commanded in his head.
In that instant, the entire world within the Modifier flashed violently, growing into a blur.
Very soon, after no more than a few breaths of time, the world grew more distinct. As for the Yin Yang Attraction selection, it changed from the second level to display Level Three.
Once Yin Yang Attraction had entered Level Three, Lu Sheng could even feel that the speed of Black Fury Skill flowing within him had gradually slowed down. The streak of scorching hot inner Qi from before now began to lower in temperature, and also grew more unhurried in its movement. It was now neither rushed nor sluggish.
Lu Sheng exhaled lightly. His eyes finally came to rest on Black Fury Skill.
‘With the inner Qi of Black Tiger Jade Crane Skill and Yin Yang Attraction as the foundation, next time, I should extrapolate Black Fury Skill…’
His gaze fell on the selection behind Black Fury Skill when suddenly, he jolted in surprise. The button for extrapolation was actually still there!
Lu Sheng thought about the matter for a moment before soon gaining some clarity on what was going on.
‘Most likely, the Yin Qi contained in the jade hairpin far surpassed the amount in the powder, so there is still some left after extrapolating an ordinary, low-level martial arts skill. This is enough to extrapolate a second martial arts skill. Yes, that should be the case!’
After thinking it through, Lu Sheng was in high spirits. Although he had suffered heavy losses after this incident, having all his hair burnt and losing his money pouch, these could not compare to the gains he had received.
‘Begin extrapolating Black Fury Skill!’
He pressed lightly onto the button behind Black Fury Skill in his mind.
The Modifier flashed yet again and turned fuzzy.
After about ten breaths’ of time, the Modifier’s display slowly changed. The status of Black Fury Skill also transformed from Level Three directly to Level Four. The description also changed to: ‘Unknown Fire Poison Skill: Level Four’.
A streak of fire exploded out from Lu Sheng’s perineum and rushed upwards along his chest and neck, then flooded into his head. After it entered his brains, it abruptly erupted into countless streams of warmth. Like the rejuvenating spring wind, it diffused throughout his entire head.
Lu Sheng felt so comfortable he couldn't help but let out a sound.
He gently pulled aside his clothes and looked down at the skin on his chest. On its surface there was actually a vein, crimson-red like blood, which seemed to divide his body into two halves. It was extremely eye-catching.
"This… could this be the special effect of the fourth level of Black Fury Skill?"
He carefully sensed the skill movement routes of Black Fury Skill Level Four.
‘It feels somewhat like Yin Yang Attraction, yet also has the techniques of Heart-Shattering Palm… This is probably not the original version of the skill anymore. It has absorbed the essences of other inner force skills to fuse into one entity, creating a whole new realm of inner force. It shouldn't be called Black Fury Skill, I should change its name…’
Looking at the vertical, blood-red line streaking down his body, Lu Sheng had an idea.
‘This color is crimson red, like blood. Since it’s extrapolated with Black Fury Skill as the main entity, I shall call it Blood Fury Skill then.’
The moment he made that decision, the Black Fury Skill selection within the Modifier swiftly transformed into one that read "Blood Fury Skill".
Lu Sheng glanced over the remaining martial arts skills to see whether they could be extrapolated. However, there weren’t any buttons indicating so; clearly, all the Yin Qi from before had been depleted.
‘Let’s test out its power.’
Lu Sheng raised his hand to circulate the Qi. The inner Qi of Blood Fury Skill speedily shot through his body to flow into his right palm, which lightly slapped into the tree branch on his right.
Instantly, gusts of white smoke rose up from the tree bark, followed by cackling sounds and the stench of something charred that drifted in the air. Lu Sheng’s strike had so thoroughly charred the tree bark that a black palm print had been deeply imprinted on it!
He himself was also taken aback by the sheer might of his single palm strike.
‘This probably no longer falls within the realm of martial arts, does it?!’ Lu Sheng was shocked, ‘No matter how strong one is, wouldn’t he be scorched anyway simply just by coming into contact with a palm of such might? What difference is there between this hand and an iron brand?!'
He gathered back his inner Qi and studied the palm print on the tree branch in detail. It seemed that the charred black palm print was the result of not just high temperature, but also largely due to some sort of poison which corroded and burnt the tree, leaving behind such an effect.
Yet even if that were so, it remained very impressive.
‘I wonder how my current skill level compares to the famed experts,’ Lu Sheng was quietly satisfied, but did not have a concrete basis of comparison or any measure to know exactly how powerful he was.
‘Besides, there isn’t much money left at home. I’d just asked them for quite a sum, and the family is now in the midst of relocating. I can’t add to Old Dad’s worries, I’ve got to figure this out on my own.’
Lu Sheng thought for a moment. After reviewing his current circumstances, he was indeed able to come up with a swell idea. However, this idea could only be carried out after the Annual Examinations.
The Annual Examinations were just three days away.
'Three days. After the Annual Examinations, I’ll begin to carry out my earlier plan. Otherwise, without any money at home, there’s no guarantee that I can even lay my hands on any nourishments and medications,’ Lu Sheng felt that, lately, the nourishing medications had been somewhat insufficient. Although he had reserves of life-force inner Qi, it had taken noticeably longer for it to recuperate his body. If he delayed any longer, it might adversely affect his martial arts training.
‘And there’s also the issue of Yin Qi… don't tell me I have to go through some trouble before I’m able to get my hands on them?’ Lu Sheng suddenly recalled the piece of jade that Chen Jiaorong carried on his body, and began to formulate some plans in his head.
‘Forget it, I’ll head back to revise first and think about it after the Annual Examinations. Although I don't care much about becoming an official, my old man and Second Mother have pinned their hopes on me after all.’
Three days later, the Eastern Mountain Institution.
The sky was the color of marble white; different groups of scholars stood at the entrance of the Institution.
An overwhelming number of scholars dressed in grayish-white, white or green long robes gathered in front of the entrance to the Institution. A buzz of conversations arose as they discussed what might potentially appear in the Examinations.
Quite a number of horse carriages was parked sparsely among the crowd. Some stopped by the roads, others in the corners. The curtains of the horse carriages were pulled apart, revealing the young and old faces within.
Some of them were family members who were waiting for the students. However, most were sons of wealthy and illustrious families who felt it beneath them to stand outside, alongside the ordinary scholars of poorer backgrounds. Thus, they sat waiting within the carriages to rest and revise.
Lu Sheng was dressed in moon-white long robes with a tall black hat perched atop his head, which reminded one of the Brocade Guards. It covered his entire scalp, such that one could only vaguely make out that he was bald if one looked from the side of his temples.
Alone, he stood by the side of the Institution entrance. Borrowing the shade, he spoke not a word as he closed his eyes to rest and quietly await the beginning of the Examinations.
Very soon, another white horse carriage slowly made its way over. There were two people aboard; one was a potbellied fatso in yellow clothing, while the other was a pretty lass with a lithe figure.
When the two of them alighted, they scanned the surroundings to seek out familiar faces.
That fatso glanced around before his eyes fell onto Lu Sheng standing in a corner. His eyes lit up.
"Brother Sheng!!!" Fatso raised his hands and hollered, scrambling over excitedly.
"Zheng Xiangui…" Lu Sheng opened his eyes helplessly and looked at the fatso hurrying over. "Can you lower your voice a little, we are in a very public place. Let’s preserve some face."
"Face my ass! I, Master Fatso, was born with this temper. Whoever can’t take it can just go screw themselves!" Zheng Xiangui couldn't care less. In the period that they had not met, he had begun to call himself Master Fatso.
"How is it? Are you confident about it?" Lu Sheng asked casually.
"Not bad, not bad…" upon hearing that, Zheng Xiangui immediately laughed dryly. He came nearer, glanced furtively, and added in a hushed, conscience-stricken tone, "It all depends on my younger sis this time round. Master Fatso… won’t be able to make it…"
"Hi, Brother Sheng," Zheng Xiangui’s sister, Zheng Yu’er, walked over and greeted obediently. She was dressed in a long women’s blouse and appeared to be elegant with a slight scholarly air.
"Of the three subjects--Confucian classics argumentation, Strategy and Military Arts--which one are you most confident of?" Lu Sheng asked, dumbfounded.
"I remembered a bit when I was a kid, but now… hehe, I’ve long since forgotten them cleanly…" Fatso said as he laughed dryly.
Lu Sheng was speechless. In his view, all he needed to do was to memorize all the important materials once to understand them, then add a bit of his own viewpoints. It was basically not a problem at all to attain such a standard, although it was difficult to be among the top ranks.
However, all he intended to do was just to figure his way through and pass in order to placate his family.
"Seems like Brother Sheng is full of confidence," Zheng Yu’er said with a smile. "Why don't you tutor my brother; from the looks of it, there’s no way he’ll pass."
"Oh, don’t say that. It’s just that there’s nothing to distract me. This time round, it just so happens that Eastern Mountain Institute has been chosen as the test venue, and we don't even need to leave our homes to take the test. All we need to do is to wait for it to begin at the Institution itself. How convenient," Lu Sheng said happily.
"Brother Lu, long time no see," Chen Jiaorong alighted from a luxurious horse carriage. Seeing the rest of them around, he strode over to greet them.
"It was really to your credit that I managed to escape unscathed previously," a pained smile appeared on his face.
"It’s only what I should have done, there’s no need to dwell on it," Lu Sheng waved his hand. "Speaking of which, why haven’t I seen Brother Zhenguo around this Annual Examinations?"
"Oh, him," Chen Jiaorong shook his head. "He was selected for the candidates’ inspection and entered way earlier. I wonder what happened recently. That dude seems to have suffered some sort of agitation and had been enlightened. He’s growing more and more skilled in Confucian classics and strategy; likely, he’ll be chosen."
"Oh? Is that so?" Lu Sheng was somewhat surprised. He had thought that, after Jun’er’s incident, Song Zhenguo would be in extremely low spirits. Unexpectedly, he had picked himself up after all.