Chapter 125 - Interesting Runes
Jing Chu felt so ashamed that he wished the earth would open and swallow him up.
These books had been here in the shop from the day he arrived. He had been reading these books since he was young, and yet he could only remember the first two runes and ended up losing to Lu Mingshu, who only stepped into this shop for the first time today.
The first segment gave the host rune carver an unfair advantage and yet he still lost. That showed that he wasn't good enough.
The chief nodded, "Okay, the winner of the first round is Miss Lu!"
"Wow! Miss Lu, you're amazing!" one of the spectators shouted out. She was so amazed by Lu Mingshu that she actually forgot about Jing Chu's presence for a moment. After realizing, she smiled awkwardly at Jing Chu, "Chu, it's not that you're bad, it's just…"
Watching how Miss Lu competed, she could feel the difficulty and was amazed by her.
Jing Chu plastered a smile on his face, "It's alright, Aunty Zheng."
He then turned to Lu Mingshu, "Miss Lu, let's start the second round, shall we?"
Lu Mingshu nodded in agreement, "Uncle Hai, could you please pass each of the spectators a piece of paper for them to write down their request? Me and Gentleman Jing will rest in the meanwhile. Call us when you have collected all the requests and chosen one."
"Okay. Please, Miss Lu."
Both of them took a seat in the hall and rested for a while. Soon, the child came over and told them that the request had been chosen.
Both of them made their way to the rooftop.
"Miss Lu, look…." Uncle Hai showed her the pile of papers in his hand.
Lu Mingshu nodded, "Announce the request after Gentleman Jing and I are ready."
Both of them took their place in front of the table. Upon hearing the chief's "Start!", they took up the brush and started working on a piece of white paper.
This round brought out Jing Chu's strengths. He could start drawing without much hesitation as soon as he read the request.
On the other hand, Lu Mingshu seemed to hesitate a while after reading the request before she started.
For example, that Auntie Zheng mentioned that, when the weather was warm, not many people would want to buy her dimsum, so she wanted a rune talisman that could help cool down the weather. Lu Mingshu read quite a number of books in the Heavenly Wheel, and she did know what all the runes did. However, she didn't actually practice drawing them, so it was hard for her to avoid having some difficulties here and there while drawing.
On the other hand, it was a different story for Jing Chu. He had been here for ages, and everyone on this street knew him. He had been drawing rune talismans for them regularly, and, once in a blue moon, he would carve runes on some weapons. Proper rune-carving was a rare business that brought them a lot of money, but one couldn't expect people to constantly come get runes carved into their weapons, so they also made money with other jobs like making rune talismans.
Both parties were engrossed in drawing their talisman. Time flew by quickly - in the blink of an eye, Jing Chu put down his pen, "Done."
Lu Mingshu paused for a while after hearing Jing Chu. She quickly started working again and focused on drawing the talisman, and soon, she was done too.
"Okay, let's check the answer now."
After the first round, the rune carvers in the shop all rushed up to see how well Lu Mingshu did.
"This is good. Smart to combine two runes."
"This is also okay. It has great effects, but it requires more mystic force than a usual one."
"I've not seen such a talisman before. Chief, have you seen this before?"
The rune-carvers were in a heated discussion about the two talismans drawn by Lu Mingshu and Jing Chu.
"Well, nothing's wrong!"
"Mm-hmm. But hers is different from our style. It's way more complicated, so it's not as feasible to draw. Nonetheless, the requirements are met."
"Miss Lu's style is the one they used in the olden days!"
"All correct," the rune carvers said after they unified their opinions.
The chief nodded and took both drawings in his hands to compare.
"Jing Chu's doesn't look as elegant as Miss Lu's."
"But he met the requirements."
"It's way simpler."
"Of course, it would be sold at a cheaper price too."
All the rune carvers knew Jing Chu's standard by heart. He had spent years with them. In unison, they announced Jing Chu correct without second thought, "Chief, it's all correct."
The chief stroked his beard continuously as he went into deep thought. After a lot of thinking, he started, "Well, even though Chu's is correct, Miss Lu wins on the aesthetic side, so-"
"Chief," Lu Mingshu cut him off, "since we already made the rules clear before starting, shouldn't we follow them? I don't believe that aesthetics was a requirement in drawing a talisman, right?"
"Miss, what do you…?" the chief was taken aback.
"Today, I'm here as a competitor. I know that you're biased toward me because I'm new, but rules are rules. Rules aren't something that should be mixed with emotions. Once emotions are involved, fairness is gone, and when that happens, we lose all meaning in competing at all."
Her words startled the chief, who then bowed and apologized to her, "Miss here is right."
He then stood up straight and announced the winner, "The winner for this round is Jing Chu!"
"Yay for Chu!"
"Good job, Chu!"
"Chu, come over to my house to get some lamb skewers later!"
This sent Jing Chu into laughter, "Auntie Wang, why are you bringing out your lamb skewers?"
Auntie Wang replied in a forceful tone, "Well, I heard that, at other places, their spectators would reward the winner with something, so I'm rewarding you!"
This sent all the spectators into a roar of laughter, "Yo~! People reward with treasure. Lamb skewers must be a rare treasure too!"
"What's wrong with my lamb skewers? Don't say it as if you all don't often eat them in big portions! Or do you all not want my delicacy anymore?"
"Then let me thank Auntie Wang for the reward!" Jing Chu smiled and bowed.
Seeing Jing Chu's response, Auntie Wang smiled in satisfaction, "See, look at Chu with his positive outlook. He will be successful one day for sure!"
"Yes, of course Chu will be. What a pity you have no granddaughter to marry him."
With the spectators joking, the competitors entered the third round.
For the third round, the chief wasn't sure about how the competition would go, "Miss Lu, you talked about battling with runes. How do we do so?"
"Do you know how to carve runes?"
The chief nodded, "Of course." Bullshit - that was one of their biggest sources of income! Even though the rune-carving industry was declining, people did still carve runes into their weapon to achieve a certain effect.
"You are also aware that carved runes can be triggered and used to attack, right?"
"That's it; just trigger the rune and use it to attack."
"Chief, let's do it!" Jing Chu jumped up and down from excitement. Why can't runes just work by themselves? That question had been bugging him for ages, then he heard what Lu Mingshu had said; "Martial arts arenas have fights, the weapon industry can fight… why can't runes?"
"Fine. Let the spectators watch from the first floor to prevent any accidental injuries," the chief pointed out.
They moved everything away from the rooftop, leaving only Jing Chu and Lu Mingshu.
"Chu, if you win, I'll reward you with a plate of mala!"
"Just mala? Not enough! Chu, uncle will buy you beer if you win!"
"Yeah! Do our rune-carving shop proud!"
"Miss Lu, if you win, I'll give you lamb skewers too!"
"Your lamb skewers again… is it that you can't sell them?"
The scene of his neighbors joking happily as well as seeing the number of spectators increasing as time passed moved Jing Chu deeply; "Thank you, Miss Lu. Thank you very much."
"Why thank me?" Lu Mingshu tidied the paper and brush on her table while looking at him in confusion.
Jing Chu muttered, "The rune-carving industry has almost died out. Nobody wants to watch or compete at our arena, and we always blamed that on the fact that there aren't many rune carvers. Our neighbors only came because of the chief, but thanks to you, they're enjoying it now even though they know nothing about runes or talismans. I just realized how narrow-minded we are."
Lu Mingshu gave a smile in response.
"I believe that our industry is useful, it's just too small. If our arena can get people to become interested in runes and learn more about them, we would soon have more rune carvers, and one day, our industry will rise again! If that day ever comes, it'll be all because of you, Miss. I'm thankful."
Chapter 126 - Another Method
"Let the third round begin!"
Lu Mingshu and Jing Chu just stood there. Fighting with a rune talisman is something that no one had ever done before, so there wasn't any reference for them on how to fight, leaving both of them not knowing how to start.
"Miss Lu, how are we supposed to do this?"
Lu Mingshu bit her lips, "Three moves to determine the winner; how about that?" she answered after some consideration.
Both of them went back to their tables. They took up their pens and started drawing.
Lu Mingshu pondered while playing with the pen. Soon, she recalled a suitable rune and got to work.
On the other hand, Jing Chu didn't have to think much before he started drawing.
Both of them stood in silence, each taking up a corner of the wide rooftop.
The tension between them had unintentionally attracted some passersby who were idling around the street.
"Hey, what's going on over there?"
One of the neighbors replied enthusiastically, "The rune-carving shop's arena is having a competition!"
"Rune-carving shop's arena? What's there to see? It's just drawing a rune and deciding the winner, there's nothing to see," the passerby rolled his eyes.
"No, it's different today - they're having a rune fight!" the neighbor smiled widely.
"Rune fight? What's that?" the passerby asked curiously. "Runes can be used to fight?"
"Erm… I'm not really sure either," the neighbor scratched his head awkwardly. How would I know? I'm not a rune carver, and I know nothing about that industry.
However, it still evoked the passerby's interest, "Wow! I didn't know about that, I'm gonna take a look!"
After Lu Mingshu finished drawing the three runes, she put her pen down.
Jing Chu did the same too.
When he looked up, he saw that Lu Mingshu was done too; "Miss Lu, you're done?"
Lu Mingshu nodded as she took the rune talismans and walked to the center.
Jing Chu saw that she had stepped out and immediately followed as well.
"Shall we start now?"
Lu Mingshu nodded, "Please."
After the first two rounds, Jing Chu was aware that Lu Mingshu's ability was no worse than his; thus, he did away with the modesty.
"I apologize for the offense."
Jing Chu wedged a rune talisman in between his fingers. Mystic force rushed to his fingertips and started to flow into the talisman.
The mystic force flowed through the talisman and outlined the pattern of the rune, causing the rune to slowly light up.
"Talismans can be activated like that?" the passerby who came to watch out of curiosity said in awe.
This passerby, who knew nothing about runes or talismans, was in awe. However, the chief, who knew them by heart, had a face that was as white as a sheet of paper.
Anything in this industry that could be used to attack was considered to be a rune, which could also be carved on weapons and be activated automatically, giving the weapon a certain ability. For rune talismans, activation was possible as well. Being a rune carver for many years, of course the chief had tried it, but upon activation, the talismans tended to exhibit unstable effects, so they couldn't truly be used to fight.
As for the talisman in Jing Chu's hand now… it was steady, and it looked more like magic.
This child… he must've been practicing it secretly for a long time.
The chief sighed.
The talisman shone brightly as it turned into a ray of light and dashed toward Lu Mingshu.
Lu Mingshu remained at her spot without dodging. She snapped her fingers, and a talisman shot up into the sky.
The talisman was similar to Jing Chu's as it also shone brightly with mystic light. With a loud bang, the talisman turned into a ball of mystic light and dashed toward Jing Chu.
The light that Jing Chu's talisman gave off was already blinding, but Lu Mingshu's was much greater!
In no time, the mystic lights met.
The mystic lights crashed and dissolved into smoke.
Jing Chu never expected to win with one strike, but he was still unhappy that his talisman was broken in one strike. He bit his lip as he wrangled another talisman in between his fingers and got ready to attack again.
This time around, the ray of light was even more steady.
Lu Mingshu did the same thing as well; she only snapped her fingers, and the talisman did its job.
Both rays of light crashed and turned into smoke once again.
Jing Chu failed again. He gripped the last talisman and paced himself. This was his last chance. Even after all his experimenting and all the remaining flaws, it was still worth the try.
The last talisman lit up, and it was even brighter than the first two. A ball of mystic light shot up into the sky. It became bigger and turned into a light blade before flying toward Lu Mingshu like lightning.
The previous mystic lights were all just rays of light, but this one had an actual form.
The chief stood rooted to the ground. This kid… he's been secretly practicing until he's this good? It's no different from magic!
The chief quickly calmed himself down. No, he's a martial artist; this much is easy. But in order to activate that talisman, Jing Chu had to waste a lot of his mystic force, so it's still quite difficult for him. The only way to make this method useful is to improve the efficiency of the mystic force.
It was Lu Mingshu's turn to attack, and she still used the same strategy.
When the mystic light clashed with the mystic blade, it was broken in no time.
She lost! Such a pity. It's obvious that her way of battling with talismans is way better than Jing Chu. It's such a pity that she underestimated him… wait! What's happening?
Everyone could see that Lu Mingshu suddenly raised her hand and used her fingertip to touch the mystic light lightly. She moved her fingers with great speed as if she was writing something, or rather… drawing a rune?
Slowly, rays of mystic light started to form, and a rune could be seen floating in the middle of the air. After the last stroke, she lightly snapped her fingers.
The rune made out of mystic light suddenly shot up into the air and combined with the mystic light that had been broken by the mystic blade.
The mystic light rose up slowly, and it became bigger and bigger. In the blink of an eye, it was wrapped around the mystic blade.
A loud sound could be heard as the mystic blade was crushed into ashes by the mystic force.
Silence took over.
After a moment:
"Is that a talisman?"
"How can someone draw a talisman in the air?"
"That's magic, isn't it? That's disobeying the rules!"
"How could you use magic here? This is a rune talisman fight!"
Jing Chu was struck dumb like a wooden chicken.
It wasn't because he lost. He knew what his talisman's flaws were; it required a bunch of energy and it didn't last very long.
What did Lu Mingshu do? Is that a talisman? Aren't talismans supposed to be on a paper and drawn with ink? Such a method also works?
"This is a talisman," Lu Mingshu turned around to look at the rune carver who accused her of using magic, "It's not a requirement that talismans be drawn on paper."
He muttered, "So, what's the difference between that and magic?"
"What is a talisman then?"
The rune carver answered, "A talisman is a route drawn out for the mystic force to pass through. By following the route, it creates a cycle of energy that allows the rune to activate."
"So, what's the difference between what I did and a talisman? I only took away the paper."
The rune carver was speechless.
"That is a talisman!" the chief announced and went up to the rooftop. "Starting with the base, polarities, consecration of the elements… no steps were left out."
The chief went in front of Lu Mingshu and bowed, "Thanks, Miss Lu. We concede defeat."
As if he just woke up from a dream, Jing Chu rushed over to Lu Mingshu and asked, "Miss Lu, how did you do it? Without paper, how can the talisman stay for so long and not crumble?"
"Chu!" the chief shouted. "How disrespectful. How can you ask for her secret…?"
"Whatever," Lu Mingshu cut the chief off, "It's not a secret. It's just an old method that people in the past used. You can just make the air your base. It's more unstable without paper, but you just need to add more mystic force to the outline of your talisman to ensure that the energy stays and you're good."
"Outline? But mystic light…" suddenly, an idea popped up in Jing Chu's head. "Ah, I get it!" he burst with excitement.
Jumping in joy, he ran back into the shop. Before entering, he turned back to Lu Mingshu and shouted, "Thanks a ton! I will repay you soon!"
Chapter 127 - Keeper
Not being able to find Lu Mingshu, Kou Wei and the rest left the pharmacy and started to wander around the street.
Disappointed that they were unable to find her, Qi Sheng kept pestering Shao Zhengyang, "Where did she go? Brother Shao, was she in the hotel when you came out?"
"No," Shao Zhengyang sighed in his heart. He lost count of how many times he had answered Qi Sheng. "If Brother Qi doesn't trust me, we can go back to the hotel right now to have a look."
"Brother Shao, just ignore him," Kou Wei added, "He's like that. If he wants something, he will keep thinking about it until he gets it."
"How foolish, eh?" Yue Lingyin added on.
Shao Zhengyang and the rest burst into laughter.
Qi Sheng pouted, "I refused to believe that none of you are curious about her."
"I am!" Kou Wei pointed his fan at the street, "Aren't we looking for her right now?"
Qi Sheng rolled his eyes at Kou Wei, "Are you teasing me again? Tianyun City is huge; how are we supposed to find someone just by loitering around here?"
Kou Wei was about to retort when Yue Lingyin suddenly pointed at something, "Eh? It's so crowded; perhaps something interesting is going on?"
Their group squeezed into the crowd, only to realize that people were crowding in front of a rune-carving shop.
Kou Wei looked around and tapped on a spectator, "Mister, may I know what's going on?"
"Oh, they held a competition at their arena just now."
"What's there to see? It's just rune carving," Qi Sheng continued pouting.
"You're wrong, Mister," the guy looked at him seriously. "I had the same mindset as you, but just now, something weird happened…"
The guy told the group what happened earlier on, and all of them were taken aback.
"Drawing a talisman in the air?" Yue Lingyin muttered in awe as she turned to a girl, "Yun, have you learned that before?"
The girl who was called out shook her head, "Nope. Maybe I wasn't paying attention?"
"Drawing a talisman in midair!" Kou Wei fanned himself. "Hmm… this is significant. If the rune-carving industry goes this way, rune-carvers would become very powerful…" he muttered.
This bunch of people were all the best of their sects, and they had exceedingly good foresight. If what Kou Wei said came true, rune-carvers would become a necessity in the world.
"Mister, may I ask…" Shao Zhengyang suddenly commented, "did you say that the girl was called Miss Lu? Was she wearing clothes that are similar to mine?"
The guy scanned Shao Zhengyang and exclaimed in excitement, "Ah, yeah! Do you happen to know her? What sect are you from, anyway? Tianyun City is so crowded nowadays, so it's hard to recognize…"
After hearing that response, the group of people stared at each other in silence, faces turning pale.
After a moment, Qi Sheng cut the silence. Softly, he asked, "Brother Shao, is it your Junior Lu again?"
Shao Zhengyang sighed and nodded, "Among all the Harmonization Realm disciples in Tianyun City, she suits the description most."
Shao Zhengyang was currently having mixed feelings. Previously, when he first knew that Lu Mingshu went to the arena at the Hall of Immortals to compete, he was taken aback by the fact that she even knew about that industry. Now, she was here competing at a rune-carving shop, and he wasn't sure how to feel. How many more pleasant surprises would this junior of his, who had stayed in Green Jade Valley for eight years, bring him? Or should he say… shock?
"Since she's called Miss Lu, she should be your junior," Kou Wei said in awe. "This Miss Lu is really unpredictable, huh?"
"Hey, which arena do you think she'll visit tomorrow?" Yue Lingyin pointed out.
"Hah, interesting question right there," Kou Wei laughed. "Let's come back here tomorrow and see."
Lu Mingshu had just returned to the hotel and was preparing to feed Little Daze when somebody knocked on her door.
"Is Senior Sister Lu in?"
Lu Mingshu opened the door to see an Inner Breath Realm disciple standing outside.
The disciple heaved a sigh of relief upon seeing her, "Senior Sister Lu, you're finally back! Elder Yin is looking for you. She's been asking for you."
"Elder Yin?" Lu Mingshu furrowed her eyebrows. Yin Hong? Why would she ask for me? I have nothing to do with the line of Fluffy Clouds.
"Yeah! Please hurry, Senior Sister!"
Lu Mingshu nodded, "Thank you so much. I'll make my way there now."
No matter what Yin Hong wanted, she was an Elder and one of the chaperons. Since she asked for Lu Mingshu, she had to go.
As soon as she reached the place where the chaperons stayed, Yin Hong and one other person walked out.
"I'm so sorry that you had to wait for such a long time…."
"It's fine. My duties…"
Lu Mingshu went toward her, "Elder Yin."
As soon as Yin Hong saw her, she looked more than pleased, but she pressed her lips tight immediately, "Where did you go? It's so late, and you're a girl! Aren't you worried for your own safety?"
Lu Mingshu found what she said strange. Lu Mingshu wasn't an ordinary girl who couldn't protect herself, why would she be worried about her safety? However, Yin Hong was an Elder, and it would be disrespectful for Lu Mingshu to fight back, so she remained silent and listened to Yin Hong tell her off.
After a while, Yin Hong regained her regular tone as she slowly explained, "It's not like I enjoy telling you off, but Madame has informed me to take good care of you."
Lu Mingshu gave her a stiff smile.
Yin Hong turned to the guest next to her, "Sorry to act like a laughing stock in front of Keeper Guo. This is our sect master's daughter. Our sect master wasn't at ease letting her come so far, and he repeatedly nagged at me to take care of her."
The guest was a woman in a blue gown and full of smiles. Upon hearing Yin Hong, she giggled and nodded, "Ah, parents are always full of worries when their child is bound for a long journey away from home."
Yin Hong introduced her to Lu Mingshu, "This is Keeper Guo, greet her."
Lu Mingshu bowed, "Nice to meet you, Keeper Guo."
"Save the politeness," Keeper Guo put her hand up. She looked at Lu Mingshu gently, but in an instant, she had scanned her from head to toe, then nodded with satisfaction, "This Miss was born with an appearance as if it was God's creation, and she's so talented. I'm sure she has a bright future ahead."
"Thank you for your praises and well-wishes, Keeper," Yin Hong giggled before making eye contact with Keeper Guo, "She will still need your care after all."
"No, it's all her own effort if she succeeds."
"You're too polite. Please enlighten her with your knowledge and experience, I think it would be a great help."
Keeper Guo shook her head, "I only work for Emissary Xiahou, I'm not that capable."
"You're too humble. Who doesn't know that you're Emissary Xiahou's most valued right-hand woman?"
Keeper Guo was only in the Spirit Realm, and Yin Hong was way more powerful than her, but when Yin Hong spoke to her, she was full of respect.
Lu Mingshu had a small smile on her face as she listened to their conversation.
"…Miss Lu is a rare talent. I think that Emissary Xiahou may like to meet her."
Yin Hong smiled widely after getting that vague promise from Keeper Guo.
"Thank you for all the praises."
"It's fine. Anyway, I still have to report back, so I'll take my leave now," she said, then gave Lu Mingshu a smile, "Goodbye, Miss Lu."
Lu Mingshu bowed again, "Have a safe journey."
Looking at Yin Hong sending Keeper Guo out of the hotel, Lu Mingshu smiled slyly.
Examining the goods? Keeper Guo; Xiahou Shan's assistant… looks like my stepmother found a great buyer for me! But… doesn't she find it awkward to be so polite?
She sneered and shook her head, then took her leave before Yin Hong came back.
She has done her job, so there shouldn't be anything else for now.