Chapter 345 – The Heavenly Maiden Scatters the Blossoms
In a dim painting studio, a streak of light poured in from the skylight. Dust floated through the air, and one could vaguely make out the floor to be covered in paintings.
The paintings depicted various forms and images of evil spirits and fiends. A single glance at it was enough to overwhelm a person with vileness.
However, none of these images were complete, as if the painter had lost interest in them after painting them half-way.
Chu Danqing lay on the paintings with his limbs spread out. His face was pale, and he seemed to have grown thinner. His eyes were wide open, still stricken with fear.
“Danqing, are you ready?” An old voice rang out. It came from Chu Shidao.
“Yes, master,” Chu Danqing said feebly and supported himself back to his feet, arriving before the painting; this was the only clean space of the entire room. All the painting strokes had been washed away, and all the colours were placed neatly.
The water he used to wash the brushes reeked of blood.
A painting was placed in the centre.
Chu Danqing shifted his gaze downwards, doing his best to avoid looking at the painting. He rolled up the mounted painting bit by bit, and only then did he let out a sigh of relief.
He behaved as if this was not a painting he had painted himself, but a vicious beast that could bite.
The door parted and dazzling sunlight poured in.
Chu Danqing used his hand to shield his eyes. He gradually made out a figure and bowed in a hurry. “Master.”
Chu Shidao also felt pained as he looked at his disciple’s shape. The Jade Blood of Vermillion and Black had granted him unbelievable talent, allowing him to produce works beyond his cultivation level, but it came at an extremely great cost. It truly took painstaking effort, or blood in other words.
“To where?” Chu Danqing was rather lost. Submerged in the world of painting, he had almost forgotten about the battle.
Chu Danqiong suddenly jerked to his senses, and he remembered how Li Qingshan had gotten him drunk a few months ago. He could not help but redden slightly.
It was exactly after that day that he began to seclude himself from the world to paint. He had not left this studio for almost six months now.
His horrible behaviour after falling drunk must have been spread through the academy already. They were enemies after all, so this would be unavoidable. He just regretted that he had been too careless. As he gripped the painting firmly, he poured all of his humiliation and pent-up emotions into there. He had to teach Li Qingshan a vicious lesson.
Ah, how embarrassing! I hope everyone has already forgotten about this after so long. Li Qingshan, I’ll never spare you!
Uneasy, Chu Danqing followed Chu Shidao to Cloudwisp island. They discovered a large part of the bamboo forest had been cut down, transformed into fields or orchards. A few agriculture disciples were currently tending to them.
“What wasteful misuse.” Chu Danqiong snorted coldly. The serene, refined environment was originally very suited for painting. Unfortunately, it had fallen into the hands of a vulgar man like Liu Chuanfeng.
Passing through the bamboo forest on the path, they arrived before the bamboo loft. Liu Zhangqing sat on the porch, drinking tea. He raised his cup and nodded with a smile. Liu Chuanfeng and Sun Fubai were currently seated beside him.
However, none of these people managed to capture Chu Danqing’s attention, as the wretched Li Qingshan had strode over. A sunny, confident smile was plastered across his face as he greeted them with composure, “Master Chu, fellow Chu, you’re finally here.”
Chu Shidao nodded. He said to Liu Zhangqing, “Fellow Liu, here isn’t a place to battle, so why did you call us here?” This was about to become his school of Painting’s island. He did not wish to see it destroyed.
Liu Zhangqing said, “You’ll be fighting in the school of the Military’s Main Martial Arts stadium. The school of Novels has some objections to this gamble, which is why I’ve invited you both here to discuss it.”
Chu Danqing shot a glance at Li Qingshan. “What, you want to run away now?”
“Of course not.” Li Qingshan smiled and glanced back at Liu Chuanfeng. Only after obtaining a nod from this school leader who was technically in charge of the school of Novels did he say, “I just feel that this battle is very unfair!”
Chu Danqing said, “You personally agreed to it back then. What’s unfair about it?”
Li Qingshan said fervently, “Cloudwisp island is the foundation of our school of Novels. If we lose, we’ll obviously be left with absolutely nothing, and even if we win, we’ll just be keeping something that’s ours anyway. Master Chu, do you find that fair?”
“We only agreed to this in the first place because we had no other choice. If the school of Painting cannot produce a wager of equivalent value, then please cancel this battle, school leader Liu.”
“You can’t just cancel it because you want to now. What wager do you want? Mind if you tell me?” Chu Shidao stared at Li Qingshan as his eyes flickered.
It was true. He had never thought about a wager at all. He believed there was no chance for the school of Novels to win. There was absolutely no need for him to wager anything.
Right now, the kid clearly knew he was going to lose, so he put on a bravado to get out of this gamble. If he insisted for this to go forward, Liu Zhangqing obviously would not cancel it for him. However, he was afraid that the kid would refuse to participate and label the school of Painting as ones who were abusing their greater strength.
Since you want a wager, I’ll give you a wager. So what?
Li Qingshan said, “I don’t know either if there’s anything that can rival the value of Cloudwisp island, so why don’t you tell me instead, master Chu?”
“I’m just a poor painter. I don’t have anything of value, just a few measly paintings. This painting was my final work before retirement. If you think it’s appropriate, then I’ll wager that. If you don’t, then just forfeit!” Chu Danqing casually pulled out a painting as he spoke proudly.
Liu Zhangqing blurted out, “Is it the Heavenly Maiden Scatters the Blossoms!?”
Throughout Chu Shidao’s life, he was best at painting beauties. Not only were the beauties he painted absolutely life-like, but their expressions and emotions were no different from actual people, and they lacked the various flaws of actual people too. The beauty within his paintings had already surpassed the beauties the world could offer.
As a result, the saying of “Even three thousand beautiful women are unable to rival a painting from Shidao” appeared. Across all nine prefectures of the Ruyi commandery, he was renowned.
The Heavenly Maiden Scatters the Blossoms was his final work before retirement. It was rumored that before he had painted it, his hair was grizzled, but it all turned grey over a single night after completing it.
When the Marquis of Ruyi saw it, he became utterly attached to it. He was willing to pay a tremendous sum for it, but Chu Shidao said, “This is my disciple’s wife. I can’t just give it away to someone.”
If a bystander had heard that, they would have probably treated it as an excuse, but Chu Shidao had spent his entire life married to a painting. Even Chu Danqing had to call the beauty who emerged from the painting mistress whenever he saw her.
This Heavenly Maiden Scatters the Blossoms was a heavenly maiden of fate he had left for Chu Danqing.
When the Marquis of Ruyi heard that, he could only give up on it. He said he had to respect that.
The painting was unfurled, and all the men present became stunned. The painting was rolled up once more.
They could not even recall the face of the heavenly maiden. All they remembered were her drifting clothes, the falling flowers, and their beautiful fragrance. The small of the flowers still lingered clearly in their nose. The appearance of the heavenly maiden gradually consolidated, but it was the most beautiful appearance in their minds.
Liu Zhangqing’s thoughts returned to several decades ago all of a sudden. Back then, he was still studying, and it was the season for falling flowers. A young girl swung around on a swing, letting out laughter no different from silver chimes; she was the youngest daughter of his teacher.
Afterwards, they went their own ways. He had seen plenty of beauties before, even supporting countless beautiful consorts. Her appearance was not even beautiful, but the impression she left could not be replaced by any beauty, not even herself.
Time slipped by before he knew it, and the feeling from back then had already blurred. Now that he saw this painting, it suddenly cleared up once more; it was like it was yesterday, like it was this very moment. A glance back and a smile from her might not have been enough to lead kingdoms or cities to ruin, but it was enough to steal his heart. Even if it came at a price of thousands or tens of thousands of spiritual stones, it would be worth it.
Li Qingshan returned to his senses and checked on Liu Chuanfeng and Sun Fubai. They were no different, thrown back into the past by a single glance of the painting.
Only Chu Danqing stood there in a stupid daze. His master had already said he would save this painting for him as a wife, but to shield him from distractions, he had never seen it in person. He held extremely great hopes for it originally. Now that he saw it, he did not even find it as enchanting as the beauties his master had painted in the past. Yet, everyone who saw the painting would all praise how great it was, which left him in a bewildered daze.
Chu Shidao was secretly complacent. This painting was the amalgamation of all his efforts throughout his life. It had completely defied his original painting style. In the past, he painted expectations. When cultivators offered him spiritual stones, he would paint the most beautiful woman to them.
This painting, however, was memories. It could easily breach the sturdy lines of defence in a cultivator’s mind and touch their softest spot, rousing their most beautiful memory. Expectations might have changed with varying identities and statuses, but memories would never fade away. They were like a jar of aged alcohol, growing more delicious the older it was.
What truly touched you would always be yourself.
Only when he noticed his disciple’s expression did Chu Shidao realise he had miscalculated.
Eleven years ago, Chu Danqing was just a little beggar. The only thing he thought about was eating steamed buns. Even eating meat seemed too extravagant to him. And right now, although he could understand the concept of love, this just seemed like a piece of blank paper to him. He had no memories whatsoever.
If Chu Shidao devoted the same amount of effort into painting a plate of hot, steaming huge buns instead, he definitely would have been able to rouse him to a point where he drooled.
“Alright, I agree,” said Li Qingshan, but he did not do this under the urgings of lust or memories. Instead, the aura the painting gave off had completely exceeded the level of spiritual artifacts, but it was not exactly an arcane artifact either. Perhaps it was not an artifact at all, but a powerful creature sealed within the painting.
If he were supposed to fight the heavenly maiden in the painting, there was no chance for him to win even if he personally got involved and did not rely on his abilities as a novelist. Anyhow, it was definitely something good.
And, all Li Qingshan wanted to do was maximise his benefits. If Chu Shidao really offered nothing at all, he still would not have given up on the battle. He was already satisfied with this result.
Liu Zhangqing said, “Alright, then let’s complete the deal. No one is allowed to change their minds anymore!”
The rising and falling platforms around the Main Martial Arts island on Great War island were already jostling with people. When they saw a group arrive, discussions immediately arose.
“Qingshan.” Han Qiongzhi rushed over to receive him, having waited for quite some time already. She wanted to hug him, but looking around, she bit her lip and was unable to bring herself to do so due to embarrassment.
Li Qingshan’s eyes lit up. Today, she was wearing a large, red, imperial dress. The corners of her dress were embroidered with magnificent peonies. If any other woman wore this, they would probably seem a little too gaudy. Only she could pull it off with her confident, loud personality and her enchanting elegance. She seemed like a ball of scorching fire, speechlessly beautiful.
Her elegant, noble demeanour originally hidden beneath her boldness gradually revealed itself. It was absolutely captivating. She seemed to have become better at dressing herself ever since the date. Her shoulder-length hair had already begun to flow down her back before they knew it.