Chapter 30: Spring hunt
The Jade West Mountain Forest referred to that large tract of mountain forest to the west of Nine Jade Mountains.
In this world teeming with countless vicious and ferocious beasts, humans developed Martial Arts as well as a way to exploit everything under the heavens in order to defend themselves against these existential threats. For example, the spirit herbs and the very ferocious beasts that sought to devour them had become mere resources to enhance their strength.
This was the place where the Nine Jade Palace had been established, the Jade West Mountain Forest. A place abundant with ferocious beasts lurking in its depths, but it was also the node from which the disciples of Nine Jade Palace acquired their cultivation resources through hunting.
The Body Tempering Realm laid the foundation. Once a disciple steps into the Inner Breath Realm, it was mandatory for them to test their endurance in the mountains to the west.
Practitioners of the martial way progressed and grew through combat, after all.
Gao Xiang opened up his closed aperture not long after Lu Mingshu stepped into the Inner Breath Realm.
Afterwards, his martial grandfather, Zhuo Jiangui, announced that the two of them were to participate in the hunt at the west of the mountains together.
The hunt at the Jade West was an activity held twice a year in Nine Jade Palace where everyone – from disciples in the Inner Breath Realm to sect elders in the Spirit Realm – would participate. Once in late spring and once in late autumn. The harvest from the hunt also became the largest source of cultivation resources for the disciples. Although the scale of the hunt was smaller, it was mainly to let the younger disciples learn through experience.
With the spring hunt being held in late March and early April, there were still two months to go. Lu Mingshu took advantage of this to do some step-by-step preparation before the spring hunt commenced. That involved familiarizing herself with the terrain and understanding the traits of the local ferocious beasts.
Close to the end of February, Hui Niang brought news to her. About how the entirety of the Nine Jade Palace had fallen into an uproar at the news of the sect leader's eldest son breaking through to Inner Breath Realm successfully a few days ago.
That's right, he was the one they referred to as Young Master. Fu Shangqing's son, Fu Mingtang.
When Fu Shangqing remarried back then, the Elder Miss Zhou took less than two years to give birth to a pair of twins. By estimate, they were roughly a year younger than Lu Mingshu.
Since Lu Mingshu was currently eleven, the twins should be ten years old. But having been born in the second half of the year, they were only counted to be nine and a half years old.
When the Zhou family announced this news, the entire Nine Jade Palace broke out into a joyful mood.
Reaching the Inner Breath Realm before ten years of age was an accomplishment surpassing even Liu Jizhen's record.
Lu Mingshu kept her calm as she listened to the news. These three years of hard work had taught her to be indifferent to such matters. Emotions like jealousy and indignation before she possessed true strength would only serve to obstruct the path to her advancement.
Having said that, Fu Shangqing truly possessed excellent hereditary traits. Lu Mingshu's aptitude could be considered top grade, while Fu Mingtang could breakthrough into the Inner Breath Realm before the age of ten. Naturally, it would be considered a heaven-warping gift. In addition, it was said that his twin sister, Fu Mingxi, was also close to her breakthrough.
Shortly after the announcement, the sect spread the word of something in the works. This time, all participating disciples would receive incentives, while the three Inner Breath Disciples with the best performance would receive additional prizes.
Speaking of this matter, Gao Xiang began a tirade of ridicule, "How shameless. Who wouldn't know they are deliberately placing the limelight on the sect leader's son?"
"Let them." Lu Mingshu glanced over. "Wait, are you scared?"
Gao Xiang raised his chin. "Of course not!"
The two broke out in laughter.
Gao Xiang possessed an air of chivalry. Even before they knew each other, he had willingly stood up against the sect's injustice towards her. In other words, he was someone who could not tolerate sand in his eyes*. The behaviour of the Zhou family had effectively caused him to feel disgusted.
Because of this, the two of them treated their preparations even more seriously.
In the remaining time, Lu Mingshu spent her days either practising her techniques or soaking in the Heavenly Wheel. Searching for data on the ferocious beasts, skills for the expedition, as well as trading for some useful small gadgets ...
For example, one of the items she had traded for was called a compass. It could point out the cardinal directions even on rainy days.
A lively youth was the one with whom she had traded to procure this item in the Heavenly Wheel. He was born in a strange world, a place with a society that was completely different from any Lu Mingshu had ever heard of previously. This society did not have Cultivation, but it had a civilization of science, technology, and art that was simply unimaginable to her. Perhaps, even the Magic worlds would fall short of that enormous yet precise system built upon knowledge. He referred to his world as a Magic-less World.
1Lu Mingshu also traded for plenty of books from this youth. It was also through him that she came to know of mathematics. Once she applies the mathematical system to the calculations she was already adept at, surely her calculations were bound to become even more precise.
Time continued to tick away, and the day of the spring hunt was drawing near.
Lu Mingshu put on her hunting outfit, tied her gaiters and handguards, took inventory of her belongings, and lastly put on a curtained hat to shield her from the sun. Lu Mingshu picked up her luggage before turning around, only to discover Liu Jizhen standing in the doorway to her bedroom.
Liu Jizhen walked in. "Change your sword to this."
Lu Mingshu was stunned when she saw the sword he passed over.
A black scabbard and a smooth blade; this was definitely a good sword, of a grade manifold superior to the one she was given initially. Moreover, tailored to fit her in height, the blade of the sword had been reduced in length.
Liu Jizhen shifted his gaze, feeling awkward under her stare. "Focus on getting used to it for your first spring hunt, and don't be too eager to stand out. You still have a long road ahead of you, so there's no need to strive for a moment of glory."
Lu Mingshu received the sword with mixed feelings. "Thank you, Master."
She could hear Gao Xiang as soon as she opened her mouth to speak, "Lu Mingshu, Lu Mingshu, are you done yet?"
She hastily stated, "I'll be leaving then, Master!"
Liu Jizhen nagged once more, "Remember my words. Safety first."
"Un, I understand."
She left Heavenly Ascension Pavilion and ran over to seat herself behind Gao Xiang on the wolf he was riding.
"We will be leaving now, Senior Uncle Liu!" Gao Xiang waved to Liu Jizhen before patting the wolf's head to signal it to go.
Gao Xiang was extremely excited for today, as he had had few opportunities to leave Willow Woods in the last three years. It seemed like his martial grandfather had not let him leave since that time he went to the Great Dao Hall with Lu Mingshu. He had to either practice with his martial grandfather or make Lu Mingshu come over to spar with him if he wanted a training partner. Thus, Gao Xiang was extremely excited about finally being allowed to participate in the spring hunt by his martial grandfather. He was itching to test his skills – just where exactly did he stand among his peers?
Speaking of it, he felt greatly depressed. Every time he thought he had made great progress, he would realize he was not as good as Lu Mingshu every time she came over … On one hand, Gao Xiang thought he was impressive enough to have stepped into the Inner Breath Realm in a short three years. But on the other hand, he didn't seem to be even one whit impressive in comparison to Lu Mingshu.
He could finally compare himself to others now. For example, the sect's Young Master.
Given the speed at which the wolf ran, they reached the Main Palace in less than half an hour.
The two dismounted and found a spot to stand in the square.
Around a hundred people were gathered in the square. This was a major event that was held only twice a year. For the autumn hunt, almost half of the Nine Jade Palace would be mobilized for the expedition. Whereas the spring hunt was of a smaller scale and at least two hundred people would be dispatched for it.
A short moment later, the sect elders and teachers all arrived.
The spring hunt was overall led by two Spirit Realm elders, with four hall heads responsible for four respective routes. The remaining people were to form small groups of ten to fifteen people led by the teachers.
The hall heads and teachers were all of the Harmonization Realm, and of the smaller groups, a majority were in the Harmonization realm, while the minority was in the Inner Breath Realm.
The elders split the two hundred people into four groups and then split them into smaller groups from a list of names that had been prepared a month before.
Lu Mingshu and Gao Xiang were naturally in the same group. To Grand Elder Zhuo Jiangui, a single word was all it took to settle such a piddling matter.
After the grouping concluded, the teachers began informing them of things to take note of in the spring hunt. Gao Xiang poked Lu Mingshu. "Look over there."