Chapter 11: Two options
After sending Hui Niang and the others off, Lu Mingshu went back to the pond to continue doing the laundry.
Liu Jizhen walked over and stood by the side, watching her silently.
Lu Mingshu lifted her head. "Master?"
Liu Jizhen nodded. "Come here."
Liu Jizhen sat down, looking at Lu Mingshu before him.
On the day she had just arrived, as he recalled it, she still had had the semblance of a very delicate young lady. But today, with an old apron tied around her waist and her hands red from soaking in the cold water, she had already lost that delicate touch to her demeanour.
"Master?" Lu Mingshu felt nervous under his gaze.
Liu Jizhen moved his line of sight away, speaking with a flat tone, "I already know of your birth status."
Lu Mingshu lifted her head at once. She knew her birth status was awkward in Nine Jade Palace, which was the issue that worried her most when she had to acknowledge a Master. Now that Liu Jizhen suddenly brought this up, did he not want her under his tutelage anymore?
While riddled with anxiety, she listened as Liu Jizhen continued, "Do you know what kind of a person I am?"
The topic changed so fast it stunned Lu Mingshu. She answered, "I know, Master is Nine Jade Palace's previous generation's Eldest Senior Brother. Famed as a rare talent only seen every hundred years, started practising martial arts at age eight, entered the Inner Breath Realm at age ten, Fusion Realm at age fifteen, and the Spirit Realm at age twenty-four." She paused in thought before adding another line, "In Xichuan, there haven't been more than ten people entering the Spirit Realm before the age of twenty-five in a millennium!"
These words had been memorized in her heart, repeated many times over.
Liu Jizhen smiled slightly. "What you said is not incorrect, but those are all things of the past."
Lu Mingshu was stunned.
Liu Jizhen looked down at his hands, his usually cold voice sounding a little different, "I am now just a handicapped person."
Lu Mingshu froze for a moment, speaking out in confusion, "Master?"
Liu Jizhen lightly said, "Eight years ago when I entered the Spirit Realm, I went out and travelled in search of challenging experts. But when I travelled to Beiming, I was defeated and even had my Meridians crippled in that challenge. I barely got back my life but had become a cripple."
He looked at Lu Mingshu. "I believe you have a rough gauge of what kind of place Heavenly Ascension Pavilion is by now. Although this place is counted as one of the courtyards, it has in actual fact already been given up on. Being thrown in here means I am only just waiting for my death."
Lu Mingshu looked at him in a daze, her eyes not in focus for a long while.
Which was to say, that father of hers was not truthful to her. He had indeed found a genius Master for her, but the man was a cripple…
Lu Mingshu found herself not at all surprised, but instead with a tranquil calm. It was probably because she unconsciously knew that this was exactly what her father was more than capable of doing.
"When you first came, I didn't want to accept you, for I knew you would be no different than a half-cripple if you were to follow a cripple like me. But that steward reminded me that if I didn't want you, he still had to find another suitable place for you that might not necessarily be better than this place."
Lu Mingshu lowered her head and kept silent.
"But I didn't expect your birth status to be as such. A cripple like me doesn't want to be involved in the grudges of the sect." Liu Jizhen rubbed his chin ironically. "Hence, I give you two options."
He looked at this child and spoke in a calm voice, "One, to stay here and live like an exile. The advantage is that no one will bother you, as Green Jade Valley has long been forsaken. Two, I still have some connections from my former years and can send you to the lower house to practice martial arts along with the lower house disciples. But you must know, being a lower house disciple will be tougher compared to being a disciple with a Master."
"Consider it slowly, there's no hurry for an answer. Let me know once you have decided." Liu Jizhen stood up and walked into the cave.
Lu Mingshu stood unmoving under the sunlight for a long while.
On the evening of that day, in the bamboo-fenced small courtyard on Blue Jade Peak, Yu Wen Shi listened to Shao Zhengyang's report while meditating on a bamboo platform.
Shao Zhengyang felt puzzled. "Master, disciple does not understand."
Shao Zhengyang passed the tea cup over with a knowing glance when Yu Wen Shi opened his eyes and came down from the bamboo platform, stretching his muscles and bones.
Leisurely sipping his tea, Yu Wen Shi spoke, "You don't understand why Master did what I did?"
"Yes." Shao Zhengyang furrowed his brow. "Master is very clear on Senior Uncle Liu's current situation. By informing him of that girl's birth status, he would on the contrary not want to get involved…."
Yu Wen Shi smiled, "What I want is this result."
Shao Zhengyang was startled, "Master?
"Think about it, what would be the result of leaving that girl in Green Jade Valley?"
Shao Zhengyang thought out loud, "With Senior Uncle Liu being disheartened nowadays, even if he were to be forced to accept a disciple according to sect rules, he would definitely not be dedicated in teaching. With a few years wasted, no matter how talented she is, she would still be delayed in her progress."
"Not bad." Yu Wen Shi tapped his fingers on the table. "That's the reason why Zhou Yinru proposed this. With such an arrangement, this idle chess piece will forever be idle."
Although it was now an idle chess piece, it would not be worth it for him to use if there was no prospect for development whatsoever. How could he let her succeed in trying to cripple this piece?
"But, now that Senior Uncle Liu knows of her birth status, all the more he would refuse to teach her!"
"You don't understand him." Yu Wen Shi sighed, "Senior Brother Liu may look cold, but his heart is in fact really soft. Now that he has learned the truth, even if he doesn't teach her himself, he will most likely arrange a way out for her."
Shao Zhengyang thought for a long time, only to then shake his head, "Master, please forgive this slow-witted disciple, but where can that girl go? Her birth status is so awkward – isn't it more than likely that no one would want to take her in?"
Yu Wen Shi smiled. "That's right, it is indeed difficult to send her to someone else. But, it is very easy to send her to the lower house."
Shao Zhengyang was shocked. "Lower house? What use is there? Isn't it just giving the Zhou family an easier opportunity to strike?"
Yu Wen Shi glanced over at him. "I told you to figure out the relationships in the sect, but you didn't do so did you? Jiulü Province lower house's Courtyard Leader Zhang Kun is also from the line of a Grandmaster. In seniority, he is Senior Uncle Liu's direct senior uncle. He only volunteered to teach the disciples at the lower house as he had hurt his foundation in his early years. If Senior Brother Liu were to ask for a favour, Senior Uncle Zhang would not refuse. Heh, no matter how long the Zhou family's hand is, they will not be able to stretch into the lower house with Senior Uncle Zhang standing guard there."
"So it's like that…" Shao Zhengyang understood now, but he was still puzzled. "What use is there to go to the lower house? How many of the disciples in the lower house end up becoming a genius?"
1The Nine Jade Palace's lower house was used to appease the elderly. There were some elderly in the sect who had contributed a lot to the sect but did not have outstanding successors, causing them to be unable to enter the sect. Hence, they opened up the lower house in Jiulu Province, to teach their successors. It was not that there were not any geniuses there; they were just sparse in numbers.
"Do you expect her to become an absolute top expert?" Yu Wen Shi broke out into laughter. "No matter how Fu Shangqing behaves, there is no doubt about his talent. I only need this child to grow a backbone and be able to occupy a place in the sect, as she might be usable in the future."
He thought for a while, before continuing, "This girl has good willpower. It's possible to mould her into a genius."
Shao Zhengyang pouted, "How come I couldn't see it…."
Yu Wen Shi laughed, "Kid, what are you trying to compete with a little maiden for? How petty!"
2As the saying went, a master and a disciple were just like father and son. Shao Zhengyang was Yu Wen Shi's first disciple, taught step by step personally from the very beginning of his martial journey, which made their feelings run deep. He was fond of putting on airs in front of others, but he was somewhat childish in front of his master.
As he spoke, he thought of another matter, "Master, say, is Senior Uncle Liu crippled without hope?"
"His Meridians are crippled, what do you think?" Yu Wen Shi knocked on the table and then sighed. "If it was not because Senior Brother Liu had had an accident, why would a small fry like Fu Shangqing accomplish his ambitions? If he were fine, the position of sect leader would already have been in my hands."
Although Liu Jizhen was the Eldest Senior Brother back then, he wholehearted pursuit of the highest realm of martial arts made him hold no desire for the sect leader's position. The previous generation of elders then settled their gaze on the smooth and slick Yu Wen Shi. But who knew, Liu Jizhen would come back as a cripple after his travels. Following that, the previous sect leader brought back Fu Shangqing. With Yu Wen Shi having an ambition differing from the Zhou family's, why would they allow Yu Wen Shi to become the sect leader when they had Fu Shangqing, the son-in-law? Thus, they gathered all their power to make Fu Shangqing the sect leader.
Had Liu Jizhen still been around, Fu Shangqing's strength would have paled in comparison to his; and with his foundation being eclipsed by Yu Wen Shi's, they would certainly not have had a chance of pulling it off.
What a pity –but maybe this is what destiny is. Liu Jizhen, unfortunately, became a cripple, causing Yu Wen Shi's stable position as the next sect leader, to be so easily stolen.