Chapter 290: A Draw?
Translator: StarveCleric Editor: GaiaNove
With a gentle shake from Zhang Xuan, the ink on the xuan paper flowed down. The many footsteps left behind by the savage beast were linked together by a dark stroke, forming a painting of haughty and unyielding plum blossoms.
The portion where the ink flowed through formed a black dry tree bark, on which, plum blossoms bloomed sporadically. Looking rather desolate from afar, one could feel bone-chilling intent from the painting, as if the bitter winter had struck.
The location where the savage beast fell formed two glaring boulders, and the marks left behind by its fur formed ridges of differing depths on the surface of the boulder.
Plum blossoms grew from the crevices within the boulders, standing proudly in the frigid weather. Ji Mo gongzi made use of a field of flowers to accentuate the nobility of the peony. On the other hand, these plum blossoms didnâ€™t have any other flowers to compare to, but one couldnâ€™t help but sense its haughtiness, with nothing that dared to vie with it, that there was no one that did not fear to stand beside it.
Even without the intention to vie for supremacy, it was able to surpass the radiance of all other flowers.
Upon seeing this flower, one could almost see the painter standing lonelily by the edge of the world. So what if they disregard me? So what if they donâ€™t understand me? All I desire is to stand proud and remain true to my conscience!
"Iâ€¦ Why am I crying?"
"I feel as though I saw a man uncomprehended by the world, but even so, he continued to step forward bravely, without the slightest intention to retreat!"
"Is thisâ€¦ the third level of painting, Infused Intentions?"
"That must be it! Otherwise, it is impossible for our emotions to resonate with it with just a single glanceâ€¦"
The surroundings fell silent.
In that moment, many peopleâ€™s emotions were influenced by the desolate mood in the painting, and their eyes reddened in agitation.
A painting with high artistic conception is able to influence the state of mind in its viewers. Clearly, this painting is one such masterpiece.
"A painting that was drawn by a savage beastâ€¦ has reached the third level, Infused Intentions?"
Seeing the crowd being influenced by the desolate beauty of the winter plum blossoms, Vice Guild Leader Cheng Fengâ€™s mouth quivered, and his body trembled.
Since others were able to tell the level of the painting, naturally, he did so quickly. With just a shake of the painting, the other party was able to turn a nothing into a masterpiece. Not only was the spirit of the painting overwhelming, its artistic conception shone through in an instant.
Even they, as 2-star painters, would need a long period of preparation before they can create a painting of such level.
Yet, for a savage beast to create such a painting by walking a few steps, rolling about, followed by a mere shakeâ€¦
Even though it happened right before their eyes, they nevertheless couldnâ€™t help but suspect that it was a dream.
It was inconceivable.
"The crux to the painting is that final shake!"
Vice Guild Leader Wu contemplated for a moment before saying, "How much ink is left on the xuan paper, how one should shake it, and how much force should one use, one has to take all of these into account to determine the flow of the ink to form the tree branch to finish the paintingâ€¦ One has to imprint and remember all of these details perfectly into mind before one can create this painting. Even the slightest error could spell failure!"
"Indeed. It may seem simple, but it is actually a profound movement. With different ink and paper, the effects would be different. To be able to reach such a state with a mere shake, his eye of discernment and mastery of paintingâ€¦ Even I would be unable to do itâ€¦"
Even though he was reluctant to admit it, Vice Guild Leader Cheng Feng nodded in agreement.
Previously, it was the savage beast who was in charge of painting; the youngster didnâ€™t do anything at all. However, the most important part of the painting was the final shake. It was just like adding the eyes to a painted dragon; with the slightest error, the result would be completely different. If not for Zhang Xuanâ€™s perfect control over the final shake, this painting of the third level would be nothing at all.
And for him to find the ideal strength and method to shake off the ink on the paintingâ€¦
This meant that he had absolute control over the painting! He knew what the product would be, and what level it would reachâ€¦
This required a profound understanding of painting! For one to picture what the complete painting would be like down to the minor detailsâ€¦ Even their guild leader, a 3-star painter, would be incapable of such a feat!
Upon witnessing the stalk of plum blossoms appear with the shake, Ji Mo gongzi, who was gleefully waiting for Zhang Xuan to make a fool of himself, staggered backward in shock. His face paled and looked as if he were going insane.
The other party had just randomly dipped a savage beast into a pool of ink and threw it on a xuan paper, and it became a painting of the third levelâ€¦
When did a painting of the third level become so easy to create?
He had worked so hard, to the point that he almost vomited blood, just so that he could refine his painting to reach this level. Yet, the other party easilyâ€¦
It canâ€™t be that my talents are inferior to a savage beast?
The green-robed attendant who had brought Zhang Xuan in was also yanking at his ears. If not for the inappropriate occasion, he would have gone on a rampage by now.
As an attendant of the Painter Guild, he earned a mere several thousand gold coins a month, and even at best, his wages would only reach ten thousand. Yet, the other party was able to create a painting which was worth several million just by throwing a savage beast on a paperâ€¦.
Why was he working so hard then! If he were to capture the savage beast to draw for him, wouldnâ€™t he have long become a millionaire?
The numerous apprentices who carried the tables before also felt tears welling up in their eyes.
Of them, there were those who had spent more than a decade on painting, but even so, their painting could only reach the level of Reality Depiction at best. Spiritual Canvas and Infused Intentions were way out of their reach, and they didnâ€™t dare to think about it.
Seeing a savage beast produce a better painting that they could, in that instant, they felt that all of their hard work in the past few years had beenâ€¦ completely useless.
It was already a miracle that they didnâ€™t break down on the spot.
"The two vice guild leaders, may I know whether it is my victory or my loss with this painting?" Seeing the painting take the shape as he had planned, Zhang Xuan turned to the two elders with a smile.
It was just as the two vice guild leaders thought, the crux to the painting was his final shake.
Even if he was able to control the savage beast perfectly, how could this create a painting of the third level?
In order to turn the ink-filled paper into a complete painting with his final shake, he had to make use of the ability of the Library of Heavenâ€™s Path to avoid all mistakes.
Since there were no mistakes in his movements, it had to be correct.
The timing, the strength, the shaking method, grasping the paperâ€¦ All of these had to be paid attention to. A single error would cause the entire painting to fall apart.
It was fortunate that he succeeded.
The two vice guild leaders glanced at one another.
"Your Winter Plum Blossoms Painting and Painter Jiâ€™s Peony Painting have both reached the third level. Even though the two paintings are of completely different style, they are both on the same level. Thus, I announce thatâ€¦" Hesitating for a moment, Vice Guild Leader Cheng Feng declared, "â€¦ it is a draw!"
Zhang Xuan shook his head, although he had expected such a situation.
In terms of quality, his painting was clearly of a much higher standard than Ji Mo gongziâ€™s Peony Painting. However, as their competition had a wager at stake, and the latter would be a future elite of the Painter Guild if he were declared to be the loser, wouldnâ€™t that mean that he has to kneel down, apologize, and leave the guild for good?
If that really happened, they would have to lose a valuable talent.
Declaring that it was a draw could avoid offending any of the two parties. In a sense, it was the perfect conclusion.
Of course, this Ji Mo gongzi wouldnâ€™t appear as dashing as he was before. Even though it was a draw, it was with a savage beast. In other words, he was no different from a beastâ€¦ No matter where he went, people would definitely be gossiping about him.
Even so, Zhang Xuan was indifferent to his plight. The other party had it coming.
"A draw? To think that it would be a draw!"
"This is for the bestâ€¦"
"Thatâ€™s right, itâ€™s best not to sully the harmonious spirit among fellow paintersâ€¦"
Hearing the verdict, the crowd broke into a commotion.
"Thatâ€™s good. The two of you are genius painters, so you both should try to get alongâ€¦"
After the declaration, Vice Guild Leader Cheng Feng smiled in an attempt to mediate the conflict. However, Ji Mo gongzi took a deep breath and stepped forward. "Vice guild leaders, hold it for a moment!"
The crowd immediately turned to look at him.
"Everyone has seen the painting just now. The crux of the painting lies in his final shake. If not for that, it wouldnâ€™t even reach Reality Depiction, needless to say, Infused Intentions!"
Ji Mo gongzi turned to look at Zhang Xuan and sneered coldly, "Thatâ€™s to say, his drawing was completed with the effort of a human and a beast. It was only with a combined effort from them that they were able to match up to my standard, so how can he be worthy of becoming my equal?"
Everyone was taken aback.
It was obvious that having a savage beast in a painting process would only drag one down. To be capable of creating a painting of Infused Intentions under such circumstances bore testimony to the incredible painting mastery that the other party possessed.
This fact couldnâ€™t be any clearer on everyoneâ€™s mind, yet he dared to spout such words. He has truly thrown away his dignity for this competition.
But even so, there was a sliver of truth to his words. It was indeed a collaboration between Zhang Xuan and the savage beast!
Since this was a competition between Zhang Xuan and Ji Mo, there should just be a single person painting. No one else should be allowed to touch the painting; even a single word of guidance cannot be accepted.
The plum blossoms by the savage beastâ€™s footsteps and the tree bark from Zhang Xuanâ€™s shakeâ€¦ These two were essential to forming this art piece, and without any of them, it would have been incomplete.
Given that this was a collaboration work against an individual, it was indeedâ€¦ an infringement of fairness.
"Oh, so you mean thatâ€¦"
Seeing how shameless the other party was, Zhang Xuan didnâ€™t get angry. Instead, he turned to gaze at the person squarely.
"Simple, Iâ€™ve won this competition. Since you have only managed to reach my standard through a collaboration, your skills can only be said to be inferior to mine!" Ji Mo gongzi smiled coldly.
"Painter Ji, a draw isnâ€™t a bad conclusion eitherâ€¦"
Not expecting the other party to be so lacking in sportsmanship, Vice Guild Leader Wu felt rather displeased.
Can a savage beast really know how to paint?
It is clearly that it was through the sole efforts of the painter that a painting of such quality could be created.
Even though it could be said to be a collaboration by a human and a beast, it was due to the incredible painting mastery of this youngster that this painting could reach such a level. We are already giving you leeway to back down by declaring a draw, yet you donâ€™t know how to be contented?
Vice Guild Leader Cheng Feng was also incensed by the other partyâ€™s actions. Just as he was about to speak up, Zhang Xuan shook his hands casually and looked over with a faint smile, "Ji gongziâ€™s words make sense. Since you believe that this is a collaboration between me and the savage beast, weâ€™ll take it as that. However, since you donâ€™t consider this a draw, I would like to askâ€¦ under what kind of circumstances will you be willing to admit defeat?"
"Want me to admit defeat?"
Ji Mo gongzi sneered coldly, "I am a fair person, so I will not use your collaboration as a reason to proclaim my victory. If your painting had reached the fourth level of Breathtaking Verisimilitude, I would have admitted my defeat immediately. However, itâ€™s a pityâ€¦ that it isnâ€™t! Given that your collaboration has barely reached my level, how can I consider this a draw?"
"Your words are logical, I canâ€™t find any words to refute them!" Zhang Xuan didnâ€™t seem to be vexed by the other partyâ€™s words. Instead, he shook his head with a smile.
"Since youâ€™ve nothing to say, just admit defeatâ€¦"
Ji Mo gongziâ€™s eyes shone brightly. Just as he was about to continue speaking, the edges of the lips of the youngster before him curled up, and he looked at him pitifully, "Are you that certain thatâ€¦ this painting has only reached the third level?"
"What do you mean?"
Ji Mo gongzi glanced at the xuan paper on the table. As it was just a moment ago that the painting had been completed, the ink on it had yet to dry. The painting was outstanding, but it was clear that it had only reached the third level. Thus, he sneered coldly, "Stop putting on an act here. If you wish to admit defeat, hurry up. Even if you were to argue about it the entire day, itâ€™s impossible for the painting to reach the fourth levelâ€¦"
"That might not necessarily be the caseâ€¦"
Zhang Xuan calmly turned around and said, "Vice Guild Leader Wu, Iâ€™ve something which I need to trouble you with!"
"Feel free to speak!" Vice Guild Leader Wu nodded.
"May I know if there are any fire torches in the guild? May I borrow one?" Zhang Xuan asked.
The Painter Guild used Night Illumination Pearls as the source of light for its interiors. Its radiance was gentle as bright as the morning sky.
But despite the brightness, it didnâ€™t provide any warmth. Furthermore, it was in the middle of the autumn, and the room was slightly cold. As everyone present was a cultivator, they didnâ€™t pay the matter any heed.
Vice Guild Leader Wu glanced at the youngster doubtfully for a moment before waving his hands. An apprentice stepped out from the room, and soon, returned with a fire torch in his hands.
"Bring it to the painting to warm it!" Instead of receiving the fire torch, Zhang Xuan instructed the apprentice.
The apprentice glanced at Vice Guild Leader Wu, and upon seeing him nod, walked to the Winter Plum Blossoms Painting.
Under the heat of the fire, the wet ink began to coagulate.
Under the warmth of the torch, a change occurred in the ink, inducing a vastly different sensation in the painting from before.
A slight trace of white appeared in the four corners of the inky black flower buds, as though the flower was beginning to bloom. For a moment, the crowd could smell the aroma of plum blossoms in the air.
Wu wu wu!
A few butterflies flew into the room from nowhere and landed on the painting, as if they were attracted by the aroma of flowers, then lingering on the surface for an extremely long time.
"Is thisâ€¦ Breathtaking Verisimilitude?"
"How is this possible?"
Everyoneâ€™s body shuddered. They felt that they were about to go insane.
Before the ink dried, it was clearly only at the level of Infused Intentions. Yet, the moment it dried, it became a fourth level painting. How did this situation happen?
However, if the painting hadnâ€™t reached the level of Breathtaking Verisimilitude, how could those butterflies be attracted to it? And how could they catch the faint aroma of plum blossoms in the air?
Deng deng deng deng!
Ji Mo gongzi staggered backward with a pale face.
He had just claimed that he would admit defeat if the other partyâ€™s painting reached the fourth level, and never in his dreams did he expect that it would become one the moment it was dried with a burning torchâ€¦
Are you for real?
He has examined the painting multiple times to ascertain that it was only at Infused Intentions. How could the heat from a fire torch raise, so easily, the level of the painting?
"This canâ€™t be trueâ€¦ You must have cheated!"
Shaking his head vehemently, he was unable to believe the sight before him. He howled in a frenzy.
Zhang Xuan shook his head. His gaze swept through the surroundings and finally, fell on Vice Guild Leader Cheng Feng. "Vice guild leader, are you able to tell the reason?"
"I can roughly see a thing or two, but Iâ€™m unsure whether my judgment is correct!"
With a grim face, Vice Guild Leader Cheng Feng spoke of his conjecture, "The savage beast which did the painting just now is known as the Verdant Alacrity Beast, and it likes to build its nest in the mud. On the other hand, our ink originates from the Black Inkstone and mud carries substances that neutralize the Black Inkstone. Thatâ€™s why, upon the heat of the fire torch, the color of the ink became lighter."
"The Verdant Alacrity Beast that was brought here is likely to have just been caught, so there are traces of mud still on its body. The mud is mixed into the ink ground from the Black Inkstone, and after some heating, the effects were displayed immediately, creating the sight of the flowers blooming, thusâ€¦ inducing a rise in the level of the painting!"
"To be able to do this requires a profound understanding of beast taming, as well as the properties of the various materials. Youâ€¦"
At this point, Vice Guild Leader Cheng Feng stared at Zhang Xuan with eyes filled with disbelief.
The sight before seemed magical; a painting of the third level was brought up by an entire level just using the heat from a torch. However, it was actually a fusion of numerous knowledge to create that exact outcome.
In fact, even without the heat of the torch, this painting would automatically rise to the level of Breathtaking Verisimilitude in a dayâ€™s time.
And to do this, one has to have a deep understanding of beast taming, the properties of the substances involvedâ€¦ And numerous other matters. Everything must be fully within grasp, and this youngster who hasnâ€™t even reached twenty yet has managed to achieve thisâ€¦
Is it the world thatâ€™s mad, or have I gone mad?