Chapter 1165: The Proud Zhang Jiuxiao
Translator: StarveCleric Editor: Millman97

Without taking a closer look at the painting, it would appear as if one was watching the scenery through one's windows, a little distant but nevertheless clear. Through the Eye of Insight, Zhang Xuan was able to perceive the details of the painting with greater clarity, and to his shock, he found that he was able to even perceive the veins of every single leaf in the painting.

It's almost as if it's real! Zhang Xuan was astonished.

Even to him, the painting was extremely lifelike. That was truly fearsome. If one were to hang it on a wall, those who passed by it would never think that it was a painting. Instead, they would view it as a real window.

Zhang Xuan examined the painting from the top to the bottom, and a deep frown surfaced on his forehead. But… it doesn't seem like there's any seal on this painting?

The copper-masked figure had said earlier that there was a seal on the painting, but even with the Eye of Insight was activated, he was still unable to see what was amiss about the painting.

It seems like my cultivation is still too low. I am still able to see through paintings of the seventh level with my current skills, but paintings of the eighth level are still a little beyond me! Zhang Xuan shook his head.

Even though his Eye of Insight had been upgraded after undergoing the fourth acknowledgement of the Celestial Master Teacher, it was a pity that his cultivation was still simply too low, being at only Saint 2-dan.

A painting of the eighth level was produced with the might of a Leaving Aperture realm expert. As such, even with the Eye of Insight, it was not surprising that Zhang Xuan could not see through anything at all.

"Is there a seal on the painting?"

"Such a lifelike painting, it is apparent that it is infused with the essence of Evocative Vividness. If there's truly a seal on it… what could it possibly be sealing?"

"I have no idea either. However, since the other party was willing to bring out such a valuable painting to have it appraised in public, he must have noticed something peculiar about it!"

Zhang Xuan was not able to notice what was wrong with the painting, and the others in the room also had confused frowns on their foreheads. With hushed voices, they discussed the matter among themselves, unable to figure out what was wrong.

At this moment, the perplexed Guild Leader Mu stood up and asked, "May I take a closer look?"

"Feel free!" the copper-masked figure said nonchalantly.

"Thank you."

Guild Leader Mu walked up to the painting before whipping out a magnifying crystal ball. After which, he began examining the painting bit by bit carefully.

As he was the most capable appraiser in the room, the others waited with bated breaths for his conclusion, fearing that they would interrupt his work.

A moment later…

Guild Leader Mu turned a doubtful gaze toward the copper-masked figure and asked, "Friend, can you tell us where exactly the seal is located or what form it takes? This way, we can be spared from making blind guesses here and there and focus our attention on deciphering it instead."

Upon hearing those words, the copper-masked figure replied with a hint of disappointment in his voice, "Guild Leader Mu isn't able to tell?"

If the other party could not even discern the seal, how could he possibly be able to decipher it?

"Allow me to take a look!"

The head of the Painter Guild also stood up and walked toward the painting in order to assess it more closely.

The method by which a painter examined a painting was very different from that of an appraiser. Instead of taking out a crystal ball to scan the details of the painting, the head of the Painter Guild took out a brush instead and began drawing in midair.

Noting the look of confusion in Zhang Xuan's eyes, Wu shi explained telepathically, "He's trying to comprehend the intentions of the painter through retracing his painting process."

"I see." Zhang Xuan nodded.

In a sense, this was similar to backtracking.

By backtracking on the painting process, one would be able to better analyze the focus of the painter when they was working on it, and through so, one could deduce their intentions and discern the location of the seal, assuming that it existed in the first place.

As the head of the Painter Guild analyzed the painting process, the frown on his forehead seemed to gradually tighten. A while later, he turned around to explain his findings. "The painting flows fluidly, and there is not a single inconsistency to be found in the painting. To put it simply, the painting was completed in a single seating and is wholesome. A seal on a painting would have introduced some incongruous factors to it, affecting its overall impression, but that isn't the case with this painting over here."

Hearing the evaluation of the head of the Painter Guild, the copper-masked figure flung his hands furiously and harrumphed in displeasure. "If there was no seal on the painting, do you think that I would go through so much effort to invite all of you here? Do you think that I am doing this just because I have too much time on my hands?"

He had thought that with all of the top figures of Qingyuan City gathered together, they should be able to discern the anomaly in the painting in a single look. However, from the looks of it, it seemed like he had overestimated their capabilities.

It seemed like an eighth level painting had truly exceeded the caliber of the Qingyuan Empire.

"Allow me." Wu shi stood up and walked over.

Not too long later, he shook his head and returned to his seat.

With his eye of discernment, he could tell that there was something extraordinary with the painting, but he could not discern where the supposed seal was at all.

Very soon, everyone within the room had already taken a look at the painting, but they shook their heads helplessly.

Seeing that the crowd was gradually becoming impatient, Guild Leader Mu waved his hand and said, "Alright, friend, we won't get anywhere at this rate. We might be unable to tell where the seal is, but with the wisdom of the masses, we should still be able to offer some useful input on the matter and possibly unravel the seal that you speak of. You should just tell us where the seal is."

From the looks of it, it seemed like the seal was very exquisitely hidden, and it would require careful examination over long periods of time in order to discern where it was. Instead of wasting their time on this, it would be more efficient for the other party to just reveal where it was so that they could begin working on deciphering the seal.

"Alright then." Seeing that no one was able to discern where the seal was located, the hint of disappointment in the eyes of the copper-masked figure deepened. Perhaps it was because he had no better solution than this, he sighed deeply and nodded before pointing to the clouds at the bottom of the mountain.

"The seal is hidden amid the clouds! If I'm not mistaken, there's a painting that lies beneath the clouds, and there is some kind of secret concealed within it. However, I am unable to figure out how the clouds can be removed from the painting," the copper-masked figure said.

"The clouds?"

The crowd swiftly turned their gazes back to the painting.

The painting depicted a mountain range with towering peaks that shot beyond the clouds. The middle portion of the mountains were mostly concealed amid bundles of drifting, wispy clouds. They had thought that it was just a detail of the painting, but it was actually the seal?

Intrigued, Zhang Xuan also examined the clouds with his Eye of Insight, but he was unable to discern anything peculiar about them.

After examining the painting for a moment, the head of the Painter Guild couldn't help but ask, "How can you be certain that the clouds are the seal?"

The crowd also swiftly turned their gazes over.

Shaking his head, the copper-masked figure instructed, "Bring me a torch."

An appraiser standing by the entrance of the hall backed out of the room, and a moment later, he returned with a torch.

The copper-masked figure took the torch and lightly placed it against the painting. Under the searing flames of the torch, the mountain range was dyed in an orange glow, and the lush greenery was swiftly reduced to ashes. Only the clouds remained as they were.


The head of the Painter Guild narrowed his eyes in astonishment. "For only the clouds to remain unaffected by the flames of the torch… that means that the clouds were not part of the original painting. Judging from the effect, I deduce that there was an interval of at least thirty years between the completion of the painting and the addition of the clouds. How could I have failed to notice it?"

Under normal circumstances, if the painting was truly wholesome, any change to the painting should have affected its entirety. Yet, for only the clouds to remain unaffected by the flames of the torch, it meant that the clouds had been added a significant period after the completion of the rest of the painting. If that was the case, it was understandable why the copper-masked figure would view it to be a seal.

" The brush strokes for the painting of the clouds must have been slightly more forceful in order to allow it to blend in better with the rest of the painting, thus making it harder to notice 1 . However, considering how wholesome the painting remained even after the addition of the clouds, it stands to reason that they were added in by the original painter himself," Guild Leader Mu interjected.

The crowd nodded.

Only the original painter could possibly add clouds into the painting without introducing any incongruous factors into the painting.

"But… even if we know that the clouds are the seal, there is no way we can 'remove' them."

The crowd fell silent once more.

Even if they knew that the clouds were added after the completion of the painting and that they were likely a seal, they had no way of separating the two. After all, the clouds had already fused with the rest of the painting.

Seeing that the crowd was still helpless after he revealed the position of the seal, the copper-masked figure shook his head. "It seems like I have overestimated the Qingyuan Empire…"

Sighing, he was just about to put away the painting when someone suddenly spoke up.

"Can you allow me to take a look at it?"

The copper-masked figure raised his gaze and saw a young man walking toward him.

The young man was none other than Zhang Xuan.

He was also a little intrigued by the painting, and since the others were unable to discern anything peculiar about it, he wanted to take a closer look to see what was going on.

However, before Zhang Xuan could reach the painting, another voice sounded behind him. "You are only a 5-star appraiser, what can you possibly see from the painting? Allow me to do it instead!"

After which, Zhang Jiuxiao stood up and walked proudly toward the painting.

He brushed his finger lightly across the painting and pondered for a moment before saying, "I have seen such eighth level painting before, and I also know how the seal works."

Seeing how confident Zhang Jiuxiao was, the copper-masked figure clasped his fist and earnestly requested, "You know how the seal works? If that's truly the case, I humbly request you to remove the seal on the painting. I'm willing to reward you generously for this favor!"

"This seal is known as the Sealing Cloud Pin. It utilizes a unique method to conceal the layer beneath it without harming the foundation of the painting. If I'm not mistaken, the seal has been imbued with an individual spirit, or else the clouds would have surely fused together with the rest of the painting with sufficient time!" Zhang Jiuxiao analyzed confidently.

"Sealing Cloud Pin?"

The copper-masked figure and the crowd turned to look at Zhang Jiuxiao in bewilderment. They had never heard of such a skill before.

Zhang Jiuxiao placed his hands behind his back and spoke proudly. "I once witnessed a person undoing this seal back in my clan, so I know how it can be deciphered."

"Your clan?"

"You don't know? The number one genius of Qingyuan City is actually an offspring of a Sage Clan, the Zhang Clan!"

"An offspring of the Zhang Clan?"

"That explains a lot! With a background like his, even if he's just from the side family, he's bound to have seen things that we can hardly imagine ourselves."

Hearing that Zhang Jiuxiao had a way to decipher the painting, an excited commotion broke out amid the crowd, and many looks of admiration were centered on him.

Upon hearing that the other party was from the Zhang Clan, the copper-masked figure froze for a brief moment before clasping his fist to ask, "So, how should the Sealing Cloud Pin that you spoke of be deciphered?"

"Simple. In order to resolve the seal, we have to find an individual who specializes in soul arts. Using his soul as a medium, we will draw out the spirit harnessed within the clouds."

"An individual who specializes in soul arts?" the copper-masked figure asked doubtfully.

"Indeed. Once the spirit harnessed within the seal is drawn out, we'll be able to remove the seal easily," Zhang Jiuxiao said.

The copper-masked figure hesitated for a brief moment before asking, "May I know how skilled the individual must be in soul arts?"

"That individual must have fine control over their soul, and their soul must not be too strong. Otherwise, that might cause severe damage to the painting, turning the eighth level painting into a piece of scrap paper. More importantly, that individual must know where the spirit is concealed, so he must have a deep understanding of painting."

"This…" The copper-masked figure was stunned. "Where in the world can we find a person like that?"

It was easy to find individuals to satisfy a single one of the conditions, but to find one that satisfied all three conditions… Was there even such a person in Qingyuan City?

Zhang Jiuxiao chuckled. "There's no need to look any further."

Standing upright, he emanated a lofty but valiant air, reminiscent of a true hero. "I happen to fit the criteria!"



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