Chapter 72: The Heavenly Door Competition
A pair of fair hands held onto a basket full of grass and placed it into the fenced off area of the animal's home.
"Little Daze, you've grown even chubbier." The owner of the hand patted the youngster.
The young horse, with its body of snow white fur, lifted up its head and called out xiliuliu before rubbing its head again her hand affectionately.
The fifteen-year-old young girl finally had curves as her facial features gradually became defined, giving her a lucid and delicate appearance. However, her nose bridge that was a little too high as well as her still expression, made her a icy beauty.
As for Little Daze who was once a cub that was once pitiful, it had now grown up into a plump youngster, a complete one-eighty from when it was first found.
It resembled a roe deer less and less each day, and now it looked more like a young horse. It had snow white brows, clear eyes, and four jet-black hooves that were exceptionally pretty. Two buns appeared on its forehead as if horns would grow out in the future.
Lu Mingshu felt she might have accidentally picked up something incredible as she looked at Little Daze ...
"Miss." Hui Niang walked over with a cheerful smile. "Shall we make bamboo shoot buns with these newly dug up bamboo shoots?"
"Yeah!" Lu Mingshu said, "Master likes them so we should make more. Then let's pair it with a pot of mushroom soup!"
For years, she thought about the mushroom soup that Yan Wugui made back in the Jade West Mountain Forest. It was a pity that she could not copy his recipe no matter how hard she tried ...
Hui Niang asked, "Should we chop some meat filling with the leftover lamb meat that Young Master Gao sent over?"
"Mhmm." Lu Mingshu thought awhile before continuing, "Let's call him over too, otherwise he's going to nag again about how we didn't invite him when there's good food."
"Then I'll call Ah Sheng to catch a few more fish."
Once they were done discussing the plan for dinner, Little Daze was also finished with its meal, so Lu Mingshu brought it out for a stroll. Because Little Daze ate five meals a day, if she didn't bring it out for a stroll, it would definitely be rendered immobile by its weight.
Hui Niang glanced at Lu Minghsu's slowly disappearing figure and sighed.
After they reunited from four years of separation, Hui Niang felt that her miss' personality had become very different. Her miss rarely smiled now, and even when she was happy, she only gave a faint smile. Besides practicing and cultivating, she showed no interest in any other things.
Hui Niang hoped that her young miss could be happier instead of forcing herself to become stronger. She hoped that like other girls, Lu Mingshu would worry about the clothes she was going to wear and the flower she would pin in her hair. However, Hui Niang knew that this wish was just that — a wish. They were no longer living in the same world, and the goals that Martial Practitioners pursued would be unthinkable for her.
Hence, she could only do her utmost best to take care of her miss' daily needs so Lu Mingshu could firmly set her mind on her goals.
"Come, let's run one round." After brushing Little Daze's fur, Lu Mingshu patted its head before pulling herself up and saddling on.
Although Little Daze was still a young horse, it particularly possessed strength and a sturdy body. Gao Xiang, who prided himself on his strength, loved to challenge Little Daze in a competition of strength of which he lost every time. With Little Daze's strength, it wouldn't even pose a problem if there were ten of her riding.
Once she had stably settled herself, Little Daze started galloping off. The trees on both sides left their line of sight quickly as the wind howled past their ears. The two breezed past their surroundings lightheartedly.
They ran from the base of the valley to the valley entrance. Returning back from the valley entrance, Lu Mingshu brought Little Daze to the stream to wash up.
By the time they returned, Gao Xiang had arrived.
In the span of these four years, Gao Xiang had grown at a rapid rate and was now as tall as an adult. His voice had also turned deeper and soft hairs started growing at the sides of his mouth.
All youngsters at this age probably had a common problem of rebellion. They felt all grown up and did not want to be lectured. Unfortunately, An Tongchen was a severely strict master, hence every time Gao Xiang left Willow Woods, it would be as if he had been released from a birdcage and would cause trouble each time. Like now ...
"Aiyo, Little Daze has grown fatter again!" Gao Xiang came over to try to grip its fur.
However, Little Daze turned its body away to avoid his grasp and walked over to another side.
"Why are you running off for?! Let's play together!"
Lu Mingshu hit him. "Don't disturb him. The last time you pulled out its fur, it refused to eat a meal because it was sad about its bald spot."
"Just one meal? It's fat enough that it should eat two meals less every day!"
Little Daze looked up and neighed to express its objection.
Hui Niang's voice travelled over, "Young Master Gao, Miss, the buns are done!"
"Let's go and have buns." In order to prevent another tragedy, Lu Mingshu quickly ushered Gao Xiang over to have buns.
The fresh and crispy bamboo shoots, the fragrant lamb meat, and tender fresh fish … All sorts of flavours were served to satisfy different palates. Once Liu Jizhen arrived, everyone gathered around the dining table to enjoy their meal.
"This bamboo shoot bun is really delicious!" Gao Xiang, whose mouth was stuffed with food, carelessly said, "Hui Niang, make some more for me to take back."
"Okay," Hui Niang answered while smiling with joy. "There are two baskets of buns left, Young Master Gao can bring them back. Just heat them up when you want to have them. Don't store them overnight otherwise they won't taste good anymore."
"I'll be able to finish it all tonight!"
Liu Jizhen slowly finished his bun before asking, "Xiang'er, does your master intend to let you attend the Heavenly Door competition this year?"
Since his question was too abrupt, Gao Xiang choked on the buns in his mouth. He quickly drank water before calling out in surprise, "Senior Uncle Liu, how did you know that Master wants me to enter the Heavenly Door competition?"
"I counted the days, so you should be having a breakthrough soon."
"Senior Uncle Liu, you're truly a fortune teller! My master just informed me today."
"The Heavenly Door competition?" Lu Mingshu looked at their expressions and could not help but ask.
"You don't know? Oh, I bet you haven't heard of it since you don't ever go out." Gao Xiang explained to her, "The Heavenly Door competition is also known as the disciple ranking competition. You know the Nine Jade Palace disciples are divided into ranks, right?"
Lu Mingshu nodded. The disciples of Nine Jade Palace were mainly divided into three groups, while all those below Harmonization Realm would only be considered third-rate disciples regardless of their backgrounds. Once they reached the Harmonization Realm and graduated from their apprenticeship would they then be considered a second-rate disciple. A second-rate disciple could be promoted to a first-rate disciple based on their contribution to the sect.
Only first-rate disciples were qualified to hold higher authoritative positions, such as teachers and those in charge at the Nine Jade Palace. The sect divided the ranks of disciples clearly; first-rates would be able to lead second-rates, while second-rates could lead third-rates. The rank of a disciple also determined the number of resources a disciple would receive from the sect.
Besides these, there were also genuine successor disciples whose status would only be second to elders and courtyard leaders. Their rank was higher than a first-rate disciple. A genuine successor disciple would at the least be able to receive the title of a courtyard leader, and their status would be higher than courtyard leaders that were not genuine successors.
For example, Zhou Yinru held the title of the genuine successor.
"The Heavenly Door competition is held once every three years and it will be a competition for the title of genuine successor. Every disciple that has reached the Harmonization Realm would be eligible to participate. Regardless of their previous rank, they can be promoted to a genuine successor as long as they are in the top ten. In other words, this is an opportunity for instant success."
Lu Mingshu asked, "Those that have not graduated from their apprenticeship can participate too?"
"Of course! According to normal procedures, we would have to first graduate from our apprenticeship once we reach Harmonization Realm, then become a second-rate disciple before we can be promoted to a first-rate disciple. But, if we join the Heavenly Door competition, we won't be limited by this restriction."
"Then will genuine successors from previous years attend too?"
"They will. If they do not place in the top ten after three consecutive Heavenly Door competitions, they will be kicked out of the list of genuine successors."
Gao Xiang seemed to have guessed what she wanted she ask. "Zhou Yinru did not attend the previous two Heavenly Door competitions."