Chapter 9: Leave me alone
The man lowered his head, turned back towards the wood and focused on chopping the woods.
He wasn't the least bit concerned about leaving Lu Mingshu to deal with her luggage.
As she watched the steward lead Hui Niang and Ah Sheng further and further away, the only choice she had was to take the initiative to speak, "...Master?"
The man stood up when he heard her, then squinted his eyes to observe the thickness of the wood he'd cut, which had been cut into long strips. "My name is Liu Jizhen. I'm a fifteenth-generation disciple of the Nine Jade Palace and am currently the Courtyard Leader of the Heavenly Ascension Pavilion. Since you've been placed under my name, you should be a sixteenth-generation disciple. I don't care what you do in the future, just don't bother me."
Lu Mingshu was stunned. Her grandfather had once told her that, to a martial practitioner, having a master for a day was akin to finding a father for a lifetime. Paying respects to a master held the same amount of honour as having a father, while a master and disciple relationship could be said to be even more important than the relationship between a father and his son. Before they'd come, Hui Niang had told her that once she had a Master, it would mean that she'd gained an honourable elder. However what sort of elder would say ‘don't bother me' to their disciple?
"Master, where do I live?" She timidly asked.
Liu Jizhen placed a piece of wood down in front of him, then swapped his saw for a plane*.
"Since I oversee the Heavenly Ascension Pavilion, you'll naturally live with me at the Heavenly Ascension Pavilion."
Lu Mingshu glanced left and right, but only saw two crooked huts. "This...is this the Heavenly Ascension Pavilion?"
Liu Jizhen immediately stopped what he was doing and squinted at her. "Didn't you say that you were literate?"
Lu Mingshu quickly grew flustered beneath his glare, and hurriedly turned around, only to find three words engraved atop the cave behind her. She recognized the first word as ‘Heavenly', while the latter two words appeared to be ‘Ascension' and ‘Pavilion'.
"There'll be a row of stone houses to your left when you enter. The first house is mine, so you can pick from the rest." After he said this, Liu Jizhen returned to his previous state of ignorance and lowered his head as he began to shave the wood.
Lu Mingshu's only choice was to pick up her luggage and slowly walk into the cave.
With how wide and broad the cave appeared on the outside, it naturally wasn't small on the inside.
Even though it was completely dark deeper in, rays of sunlight lit up the cave's entrance. A slight chill permeated her bones like threads of silk as she entered, however, she was too scared to take another look towards the deeper part of the cave. She quickly turned around and found the row of stone houses Liu Jizhen had mentioned.
The row of stone houses was situated near the left wall of the cave. Old, plain, cotton clothing hung from the first house's door, while the second house was empty and full of dust.
Lu Mingshu dragged her luggage into the second house.
The stone house was spacious, and it was fully furnished even though it shouldn't have been; it had a table, an accompanying set of chairs, a bed, and a cabinet.
Lu Minshu walked out of the cave, then noticed a broom, mop, and cloths outside of her hut. She asked, "Master, can I use these?"
Liu Jizhen didn't lift his head at her question. He simply waved his hand towards Lu Mingshu.
Lu Mingshu casually took the broom, mop, and cloths, filled up one of the buckets with water, then took them to her room.
She'd never done chores before at home, hence, she could only think back to how Hui Niang had done the chores and changed the bed sheets when she'd cleaned their house.
The sky had already turned dark by the time she'd finished arranging her luggage.
When the sound of shaving wood finally stopped, Lu Mingshu noticed that Liu Jizhen was peacefully sitting atop a rock outside of his house, and was quietly watching the sunset. When she went out to take a look, she inexplicably felt a sense of loneliness when she saw his bearded face.
The afterglow of the sunset hadn't yet dispersed when Liu Jizhen's eyes undulated slightly, and he asked, "Is there something that you want to say?"
Lu Mingshu mustered up her courage, then said, "Master, what're we having for dinner?"
Liu Jizhen furrowed his eyebrows as if his patience was wearing thin. He endured however, and replied, "There's a kitchen to the right. Take a look by yourself."
Does he want me to cook? Lu Mingshu thought before she walked back into the cave.
There was a row of stone houses to the right of the cave's entrance as well, and the first one happened to be the kitchen.
There was rice, noodles, and fruit in the kitchen, just poorer in quality than what she was used to. Since no one was there to care for the food, it was piled up and looked messy—almost as if it wasn't meant for consumption. Especially the fruits, where some had a few withered leaves, and a few others were rotten.
Even though Lu Mingshu hadn't ever cooked before, she copied what Hui Niang usually did; she rinsed the rice, then lit a fire.
Torches lit up the cave as the sky began to turn completely dark.
Lu Mingshu carefully observed Liu Jizhen's facial expression from beside the dining table as she placed food on it.
She placed a plate of stir-fried vegetables, a bowl of pumpkin soup, and two bowls of rice bowls on the table.
The stir-fried vegetables were half-burnt and half-cooked; they were blackened to the point that it was questionable if they were really edible. The boiled pumpkin soup had instead been cooked too cleanly, to the point that it had essentially become a bowl of plain soup.
Liu Jizhen scooped up a few bites of rice, then stuffed a few of the vegetables into his mouth using a pair of chopsticks.
His face remained expressionless as he ate; neither a trace of happiness nor anger could be seen.
Lu Mingshu let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding in, then picked up her chopsticks.
She scooped up a few mouthfuls of rice, but her facial expression immediately changed the moment she tasted it. "Wa," she opened her mouth to spit it out.
What's this? It's like I'm eating a huge mouthful of sand! Is the rice not cooked?
Liu Jizhen turned a blind eye to her actions as he continued to eat his rice and vegetables as normal…
Lu Mingshu spent a long time in a daze when she saw the way that Liu Jizhen was acting. A while later, she tried to eat some of the vegetables, but immediately spit them out again.
She stared at Liu Jizhen for a while, before she couldn't help but ask, "Master, don't you find the food unpalatable?"
However, Liu Jizhen didn't answer her. As soon as he'd finished the last mouthful of rice, he set his bowl down and left.
Lu Mingshu stood dazed for a while, before she silently finished the last of the pumpkin soup, then packed the cooking utensils up.
When she returned home, she heard the sounds of her master shaving wood again as she passed by his house.
The Light filtered through the window and reflected Liu Jizhen's concentrated figure.
He stopped from time to time, but with the contrast from the lighting, Lu Mingshu could only imagine what his current concentrating expression looked like.
To Lu Mingshu, it seems like he isn't concerned with anything; he's not concerned about his clothing and food, he's not concerned about his housing… He's not even concerned about his disciple. He only seems to show concern towards his wood work.
Why does he only do wood work? Why doesn't he practice martial arts? Are all geniuses this eccentric? What kind of person… is Master, exactly?
Lu Mingshu lowered her gaze and quietly returned to her room.
When she entered her room, the lit torches illuminated the room full of coldness, which left only the shadows on the stone wall as her company.
She opened her closet and took out two memorial tablets, then arranged them side-by-side on the stone table. She put her palms together and murmured, "Grandfather, mother, I've paid respects to a master. Master is incredible; he's the previous generation's best disciple, and is known as a genius! Master is also very good to me, as he didn't scold me even when I burnt my stir-fried vegetables and only half-cooked the rice. I will practice martial arts diligently in future. As such, please don't worry about me, just take care of yourselves in Heaven."
She then bowed twice towards the tablets, but when she attempted to smile, tears unexpectedly began to roll down from her eyes, while her lip trembled slightly.
Lu Mingshu quickly wiped away the tears she'd shed. "I just miss you guys so much. This isn't because I'm sad, don't be upset. I…" However, she couldn't seem to stem her overflowing tears. She shook her head and sobbed, "Let me cry just this once, just act like you didn't see it, okay? I won't cry anymore in the future once I finish crying this time…"
1She covered her face as her tears continuously and unceasingly fell to the floor.
Only when her sleeves have been soaked with tears, and when her voice had gone hoarse, did she slowly stop crying.
Lu Mingshu wiped the last of her tears from her face, then looked at the memorial tablet in front of her with red, puffy eyes. She choked down her last sobs as she said, "Look, I kept my word and have stopped crying."
She bowed a few times afterwards, then said, "Grandfather, mother, I'm going to bed. I still have to wake up early tomorrow morning, as I'm not sure what Master will teach me tomorrow. You guys should sleep early too!"