“The iron armored spider can activate a defensive shield to protect the owner. It likes to eat leaf flies and scythe mantis. Easy to raise, has a strong resistance to normal beast-suppression talismans…”
“White-striped deer has innate healing abilities, likes to eat lingzhi grass, easy to raise, high vigilance, difficult to bond with…”
“Cyclops bat can attack enemies with sound waves. They like to eat mortal rats and are easy to raise. They are scarce in number and difficult to suppress…”
For a long while, just like that, Jing Yue immersed himself in the research of all kinds of spiritual beasts applicable to the talisman orders received. After working himself to the bone for half a month, he finally completed the orders. He set a suitable price based on the difficulty of each talisman and handed it over to Wang Xiaoli for further arrangements.
Two days later, a few students of the academy walked through Bliss City with their heads held high and attracted many people’s awed attention.
“Wow, is that an iron armored spirit spider? Ahhhh, that's a white-striped spirit deer!”
“So the white-striped deer actually looks like this. It’s the first time I’d seen one. It’s very cute.”
At this time, a bat flew to the shoulder of a man carrying a gourd, and a little girl among the passersby yelled in fear. The elder leading her said, “Don't be afraid, it is also a spirit beast, called a cyclops bat… Wait, a cyclops bat? Are my eyes playing tricks on me?”
“Isn’t that the cyclops bat that is ranked the third most difficult beasts to conquer, and hasn’t successfully formed a bond in the past ten years in the beast fortress?”
“Yes, yes, I also remember that the white-striped deer is ranked fifth. It can’t be right… All those spirit beasts are extremely difficult to bond with, so why are they so close to them?”
“As expected of the students from Nine Heaven Academy, their methods are extraordinary.”
Listening to the praise from passers-by, the students puffed their chests higher and only felt that the academy tokens deliberately displayed on their waists were also more dazzling.
They just returned from the beast fortress, used the beast-suppression talisman refined by Jing Yue, and they all succeeded in one fell swoop.
When they returned to Nine Heaven Academy, the sensation they caused was to be expected. In short, Wang Xiaoli’s arms almost broke under the weight of spirit stones, some from the people who paid for the talismans, and some from the people rushing to pay a deposit for later.
At the same time, Wang Xiaoli also brought a message to Jing Yue, saying that the beast fort had contacted Frostcloud Sect's shop several times and wanted more wood sparrow charms.
But Jing Yue couldn’t be bothered with all these now. He threw himself wholeheartedly into recognizing the swords. Fortunately, since he woke Ku Sheng up, he seemed to have a better affinity with swords, and his ability to recognize them became even better. He could now communicate with hundreds of swords a day, otherwise, the task assigned by Qin Yanzhi would never be fulfilled.
In a blink of an eye, it was the day of the annual exam.
Early in the morning, the rosy hue in the sky had not faded, and all the students majoring in sword Dao had gathered at the entrance of the sword pavilion.
Everyone’s expression was different. Some were confident, some calm, and some uneasy. Jing Yue… was the fourth type who was obviously uneasy but still pretended to be calm.
Next to him, a few cultivators speculated about the assessment method, and others shared various gossips they inquired about, but Jing Yue was a little absent-minded. Although he knew all the swords in the sword pavilion, he had the feeling that the assessment was not going to be easy, and there might be some unexpected obstacles.
As he pondered, Qin Yanzhi arrived. He wore a rare purple robe today and the morning light accentuated his outline—the high bridge of his nose, the sharply defined eyebrows, the pale red thin lips, which looked a bit unfeeling.
Jing Yue thought in a daze, Qin-zhenjun owned so many robes. He had seen the other party so many times and it seemed that the color or style was not the same every time…
While he was distracted, Qin Yanzhi already broached the subject, “In today's assessment, no one is allowed to use the divine consciousness. Among the five senses, only hearing is allowed. I will select a sword at random and you need to tell me which sword it is from the shrill of the sword, including the name, size, material, and suitable technique! If you got it wrong, you will continue to stay in the sword pavilion for another year.”
There was a silence in the field. Many students suspected that Qin-zhenjun wanted to embarrass them deliberately. Even those who were originally full of confidence were now worried.
For Jing Yue, this worry was even more pronounced, because Qin Yanzhi's eyes fell on him.
Jing Yue, “…”
Unfeeling indeed! Even if he refused to give any leeway, he could at least let him observe for a bit!
As the patriarch of Frostcloud Sect, if he failed the test, the news would most likely spread throughout Nine Heaven Academy in less than half a day and circulate to the entire cultivation world in less than a month!
Although his heart was overwhelmed, on the surface, he calmly stepped forward and slowly closed his eyes in front of Qin Yanzhi, switching off his four senses.
His world went into darkness. There was no light, no smell, and he couldn't even feel the morning temperature, but his hearing seemed to be sharper.
Outside of the darkness, Qin Yanzhi waved his hand, and a certain sword box in the sword pavilion was summoned in a rush and stopped steadily in front of him. Qin Yanzhi took out the long sword cautiously, flicked the blade with two fingers, and a dull sound was transmitted into everyone's ears.
At that moment, Jing Yue settled down miraculously, and a picture gradually formed in his consciousness.
In the beginning, the picture was outlined by strokes, simple yet meticulous. Gradually, the painting was dyed with colors, and the people and scenes on the painting came to life.
The lush green hills set off the clouds on the horizon, and the rising sun gilded the edges of the clouds. The flying trajectory of a bird cut through the clouds and mist, like a fish jumping out of the sea. Finally, it landed on an old tree in a small village.
There was a blacksmith's shop not far away. The shirtless man was wielding a giant hammer and beating the sword nucleus in his hand. The sweat rolled off his bronze skin as if he was caught in a rainstorm.
A little boy with horned braids squatted beside him and said, “Daddy, Gou-dan wants to play too.”
The man laughed heartily and said, “Daddy is not playing. Daddy is forging a good sword for the customer.”
Gou-dan, “Then Gou-dan wants to forge a good sword too.”
The man laughed endlessly. “Okay, our Gou-dan is very ambitious!”
Early the next morning, Gou-dan found a bench in the yard, and a hard cyan stone was fixed on one end of the bench.
He looked at the big man with questioning eyes and the other party smiled and rubbed his head. “Gou-dan is still little and can’t swing a hammer. Dad found a sharpening stone for you. Go to the woods and find a stone that you can move. If you can sharpen it, you can produce a good sword, but you can't give up halfway.”
Gou-dan was very excited and skipped to the woods. A woman came out of the house and groaned to the big man, “You can’t be serious, teasing Gou-dan again. How can a stone become a sword?”
The big man touched his head with a foolish smirk and said, “I just want to find something for Gou-dan to do. He doesn't have a martial spirit so he can only be a mortal in this lifetime. Might as well let him exercise his arm strength and patience since young. When he grows up, he can inherit his father's career.”
The woman's expression darkened and she sighed forlornly.
At noon, Gou-dan returned with a stone half his height. The stone was very heavy and Gou-dan had to stop for a rest after every few steps. He was panting and his face was red, like an apple.
Although the big man was secretly surprised, he kept laughing and had no intentions to step forward to help.
When Gou-dan finally carried the stone on the sharpening stone, the big man taught him how to sharpen the sword, before returning to his work in full concentration.
From this day on, Gou-dan began to sharpen his sword day after day.
He sat on the bench early in the morning and sharpened, all the way until going to rest at night, never seeming to feel bored. Although no changes to the stone could be seen, he was not discouraged. He believed in his father’s words—sharpened more and a good sword could be forged.
When he found out that his father had lied to him, and that the stone could not be sharpened into a sword, he had already formed a habit.
Gou-dan’s parents vaguely felt that this was not good but couldn’t point out the harm. Seeing that Gou-dan’s body was indeed stronger after the training and he was hardly sick since he was a child, they let him be.
In this way, Gou-dan grew to be 18 years old, to the age when he could get married.
Gou-dan hired a matchmaker to propose marriage. He had taken a fancy to a girl in the next village. But when the other party heard that Gou-dan would only sharpen the sword with the stone, and hadn't learned the least of the blacksmith’s skills, she declined.
After that, they proposed several marriages. Although the targets were different, the ending was the same. Until Gou-dan was in his early 20s, no girl was willing to marry him.
Gou-dan's parents persuaded him countless times, hoping he would put the stone down and learn the art of blacksmithing, but Gou-dan was like the stone he sharpened, so stubborn that they were helpless.
In the village, there were rumors that Gou-dan was a fool, rejecting a wife for a stone.
When Gou-dan was 26, his mother couldn't bear it any longer and asked the blacksmith to throw away the stone at night.
Gou-dan was silent for a long time after discovering it, and said, “The stone is already a little smaller. It can be made into a sword. This is the first sword I made. It must not be abandoned halfway.”
He seemed to have a connection to the stone and found it among all the rocks in the mountains. But a torrential rain hit as he was returning home, and Gou-dan unfortunately rolled down from the mountain.
When the villagers found him, he was unconscious, but he still held his stone tightly in his arms.
When Gou-dan woke, his leg was already broken. Even if he was cured, he would remain a cripple. His mother almost went blind from crying and was so regretful that she wanted to kill herself. The blacksmith also sighed and aged ten years overnight.
But Gou-dan didn't seem to care. When he was able to walk on crutches, he returned to work.
This time no one spoke about him again. It seemed that he was a child again and his parents always smiled when they saw him grinding the stone. But now, there was an unresolved sorrow in that smile.
As spring passed and autumn came, the old tree in front of the house had withered and sprouted several times. Gou-dan’s parents became old and passed away one after another.
On her deathbed, Gou-dan’s mother asked, “Why are you so stubborn?”
Gou-dan embraced the stone that was already half the original size and still saying, “This is the first sword I made. I must not give it up halfway.”
The light in his mother's eyes gradually dimmed and Gou-dan held the stone in his arms tightly.
Finally, only Gou-dan was left in the smithy. The fire in the furnace never ignited again, and the copper and iron in the storage room went rusty and covered with dust.
Year after year, the wildflowers in the mountains bloomed and withered. People of Gou-dan’s age already had great-grandchildren and he still sharpened his stone.
The villagers were accustomed to Gou-dan’s behavior and had long lost interest in talking about him. Only occasionally when communicating with people from other villages, they would mention this weird person.
One night, the mountain shook suddenly, and the villagers hurriedly escaped from their homes. They looked in the direction of the blacksmith's shop and a dazzling white light cut through the mist and shot directly towards the dark moon!
In the radiance, an old man holding a big sword rose higher and higher until he disappeared.
At the same time, all the magic weapons in this small realm roared simultaneously, and the martial arts masters trembled. They sensed the birth of a divine artifact!
When the magical light gradually disappeared, the villagers found that the blacksmith shop had disappeared without a trace, leaving only a bottomless crack on the ground. With the old tree as the boundary, the village was divided into two halves.
Soon, a martial arts expert came here, saw the cracks on the ground, and listened to the stories of the villagers. He bowed deeply at the rift and sighed, “Grinding the sword with stone, strengthening the heart with the sword. It turns out that a mortal without a martial soul can also find the path and ascend…”
This was the 16,812th sword Jing Yue recognized. He said, “This sword is called Shi Xin. It’s about eight inches long and one inch wide. The sword is made of common stone and suitable for all techniques of earth attribute.”
(TN: Shi Xin石心 = stone heart)
As soon as his voice fell, another sword shrill sounded in his ears.
The sound was not as heavy as before and the scene in Jing Yue's consciousness also changed—he saw a young girl.
The young girl practiced with swords since she was a child and went out into the world at 16, chivalrous and upright. At the age of 26, she was already a well-known swordsman.
There was also a soft side to her. She once made a wish to the starry sky to marry a virtuous gentleman in the future.
But her life was full of misfortunes. The people she loved and the people who loved her always turned against her, always drifting away.
Until she was 46, the middle-aged female swordsman could not find a gentleman she looked up to. Thus, she chose an auspicious day and organized a wedding banquet. The person marrying her was not any gentleman, but her sword.
After that, this sword was given a new name—Junzi Sword.
(TN: Junzi君子 = gentleman)
“This sword is called Junzi sword, about twelve inches long and one inch wide. The sword is made of fine iron and is suitable for all attributes.”
After Jing Yue finished speaking, he heard yet another sound.
The corners of his mouth curled slightly and he said, “This sword is about 15 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. The sword is made of tin and copper. It is also suitable for all the techniques of earth attributes. Its name is… Zhu Sha.”
“Well done. You passed.”
A clear voice replaced the sword shrill. Jing Yue secretly breathed a sigh of relief. He opened his eyes and instantly connected with Qin Yanzhi’s gaze.
It might be his illusion, but he felt that in the dark pools of the other party’s eyes, there was a hint of warmth.
(TN: Qin Yanzhi in purple robes: sudden WOH WKX flashback ¬‿¬ )