The flowing water continued to swirl as Linley sat cross legged next to it. In his hands, he held a straight chisel and a rock the size of his palm.
“Begin with the basics. I’ll start with this little rock as I begin my training…”
Linley sat there alone in the mountains behind the Ernst Institute. Under the tutelage of Doehring Cowart, he began to study the art of stonesculpting. As he began to understand more and more about this art, Linley also began to understand why in the later stages, the Straight Chisel School could assist in improving one’s spiritual essence.
When others carved, they needed to use a large pile of tools.
They had to spend a huge amount of time and mental energy just considering what tools to use where. Naturally, this would be exhausting. Every single work of art represented their blood and painstaking effort.
But the Straight Chisel School was different.
The only tool used was a straight chisel, so there was no need to consider what tool should be used for what. Naturally, the difficulty level was greatly heightened due to the use of just one tool. For example, using the straight chisel to carve out the parts normally reserved for the jade bowl knife required an extremely perfect understanding and grasp of the basic form of a stone.
In addition, great strength was needed.
If one tried to use just a straight chisel on some larger pieces which normally would require a saw to cut through, one would need sufficient strength.
One could use an earth-style magus’ unique connection to the earth to understand a stone’s essence. But wrist strength had to be trained. As a magus of the second rank, Linley’s wrist strength was not bad, but it was only enough to carve some smaller pieces. If he wanted to carve anything large, his wrist strength would not be enough.
Right now, Linley was just working on the basics.
When the school year came to an end, Linley returned to Wushan township.
After the New Year, little Wharton and his older brother, Linley, had only a few days to spent in each other’s company. And then, under the auspices of Housekeeper Hiri, Wharton headed towards the O’Brien Empire. Linley had no choice but to wistfully watch little Wharton depart. Crying nonstop, six year old Wharton parted from ten year old Linley and headed off.
Linley continued to be a solitary figure at the Ernst Institute. The vast majority of his time each day was spend in arduous training at the back mountains.
Entering a young adult’s growth period, Linley’s appetite increased enormously, and he began to grow taller as well. Naturally, his physical strength and musculature also improved rapidly. In the art of stonesculpting, with Doehring Cowart’s guidance and his own hard work, Linley continued to make progress.
Spring went, autumn came. Flowers blossomed, flowers withered. In the blink of an eye, three years passed.
At a waterfall in the mountains behind the Ernst Institute.
“Roar, roar.” Like a solid sheet of water, the waterfall poured down in torrents, smashing into the deep pool of water.
Linley was right next to the waterfall, wielding a thirty-centimeter straight chisel in his hand as he constantly chipped away at a man-sized block of stone. The straight chisel in his hands danced in an almost illusionary fashion. Every place the straight chisel passed saw scraps of stone detach and fall down. An embryo of a statue was beginning to take shape from the stone.
He continued from morning until evening, and the statue’s form began to grow clearer and clearer.
Linley’s gaze was totally fixed upon the stone. At this moment, his entire being was focused on the stone and permeated it, as his heart had become one with the inside of the stone. This marvelous feeling caused Linley not to even notice the passage of time. This sensation of being totally one with nature actually caused Linley’s spiritual energy to begin to regenerate, and even grow organically.
But Linley himself did not notice this, as he continued to wield the straight chisel and unceasingly work on the statue.
Pieces of excess stone continued to fall down, causing each detail of the statue to grow more pronounced. By the time the sun had set, the straight chisel in Linley’s hands finally came to a halt.
Linley let out a soft breath and brushed away some small pieces of excess stone still remaining. The entire statue had taken shape. A half-meter long lively-looking mouse stood in front of Linley. At a glance, one might mistake it for a real mouse. This caused the little Shadowmouse, Bebe, to begin squeaking wildly.
From start to finish, this was done at one go!
“What an amazing feeling.” Only now did Linley realize that his spiritual essence had improved dramatically.
A white-robed Doehring Cowart smiled at him cheerily from the side. “Linley, starting today, you can just barely be considered to have mastered the basics. Have you felt that special feeling yet? But your work can only be considered to be a superficial pseudo-artwork. It’s only worthy of being placed in the standard hall at the Proulx Institute. If you show it off there, I would be humiliated. Destroy it.”
“Yes, Grandpa Doehring.”
The straight chisel in Linley’s hand flashed many times, and the statue suddenly became divided into more than ten pieces. This year, Linley finally had mastered the basics of stonesculpting!
And this year, Linley was thirteen years old!
Day after day, year after year.
After mastering the basics of stonesculpting, Linley’s spiritual essence began to improve at a much more rapid pace. Specifically, when Linley was nine and a half, he had become a magus of the second rank, and when he was eleven, he had become a magus of the third rank. And when he was thirteen, he had become a magus of the fourth rank!
Magi found it harder and harder to advance in ranks as they grew more powerful. Logically speaking, from the fourth to the fifth rank, it should have taken Linley at least three years.
But in reality…
In year 9996 of the Yulan calendar, when Linley was fourteen and a half, he reached the rank of a magus of the fifth rank. From the fourth rank to the fifth rank, he only spent a year and a half. It was even faster than when he advanced from the third to the fourth rank.
This was the benefit of entering the Straight Chisel School!
Year 9997 of the Yulan calendar was the seventh year Linley had spent at the Ernst Institute. This year, Linley was fifteen years old.
Wearing a sky-blue robe, Linley was walking on a road within the Ernst Institute. On Linley’s shoulders, the little Shadowmouse ‘Bebe’ continued to stand. Although six or seven years had passed, Bebe’s body hadn’t changed in the slightest.
By now, Linley was 1.8 meters tall and gave off a very steady, stable air. Earth and wind elemental essences had continuously nourished his body. Combined with Linley’s nonstop training, and the advantages provided by his Dragonblood Warrior heritage, Linley had already become a warrior of the fourth rank.
He could easily lift boulders which weighed hundreds of pounds, and shatter rocks with his punches.
His study of the Straight Chisel School of stonesculpting had also caused Linley’s spiritual essence to constantly improve ever since he was thirteen.
At the start of year 9997 of the Yulan calendar, Linley entered the fifth grade class at the Ernst Institute, the same grade as the Ernst Institute’s number one genius, Dixie. It had taken Dixie three years to advance from the fourth rank to the fifth rank, but up until now, he still had not been able to advance from the fifth rank to the sixth.
Fifteen years old. A magus of the fifth rank!
Linley and Dixie both could definitely be considered freaks of nature. But in the hearts of the vast majority, Linley was even more of a freak, because since the day he took the ability assessment for the fourth rank, he had spent only a year and a half before attaining the fifth rank.
Linley’s astonishing rate of improvement had shocked everyone.
Now, Linley was ranked along with Dixie as being the publicly acknowledged ‘Two Ultimate Geniuses’ of the Ernst Institute.
“Look, it is Linley. Two years ago, he became a magus of the fourth rank, and just last year, he became a magus of the fifth rank in just one year! Too amazing. I predict that Linley will become a magus of the sixth rank before Dixie does.”
“Linley spends every day training in the back mountains. I hear that recently, Dixie has also begun to train hard at the rear mountains. Most likely, he’s being influenced by Linley.”
“Very possible. Given Linley’s astonishing rate of improvement, very possibly he will supplant Dixie and become the number one genius of the Ernst Institute.”
On the street, there were many people who, upon seeing Linley, began to discuss him amongst themselves. As the acknowledged genius of the Ernst Institute, no matter where he went, people would discuss him. But although Linley’s strength continued to increase, he still refused to participate in the yearly tournaments.
“Genius?” Linley mocked himself.
Linley had never considered himself a genius. His strength came from intensive training every single day. For six years, he had been as steadfast as he was the first day. And that, combined with guidance from Grandpa Doehring, was what gave him his current accomplishments.
“But right now, my strength is actually less than that of Bebe’s.” Linley glanced at Bebe on his shoulders. “Bebe, what rank of power have you reached?”
“Squeak squeak.” Bebe smirked at Linley, then said to him mentally, “I don’t know either, since I’ve never competed against any other magical beasts. But you definitely aren’t a match for me, hehe.” Bebe was extremely self-satisfied.
Totally ignoring the worshipful gazes aimed at him by bystanders, Linley calmly left the Ernst Institute by the back gate and entered the mountains, once more beginning his solitary training. Those six years which went by like one day were the reason for his success.
Linley quickly and casually floated through the forests, while the little Shadowmouse ‘Bebe’ continued to chat with him nonstop through their mental link. “Boss, when are we gonna go to the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts to test our strength? You are already a magus of the fifth rank. You can begin to test yourself. And I, Bebe, will finally be able to show my awesome abilities.”
“No rush.” Linley’s reply was very short.
“You are breaking my heart, man. I’m a magical beast, but I haven’t gone to the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts a single time. What a tragedy!” After six years, Bebe’s abilities at self-expression had improved dramatically.
“Quiet. If you keep on making a fuss, then today I won’t help you cook meat.” As soon as Linley spoke these words, Bebe immediately shut his mouth and didn’t make a sound.
After entering the mountains, Doehring Cowart appeared by his side. Watching Linley, Doehring Cowart felt extremely gratified in his heart.
“Linley.” Doehring Cowart suddenly said.
Linley turned his head and smiled at Doehring Cowart as he engaged in mental conversation. “Grandpa Doehring, is something the matter?”
Doehring Cowart smiled. “Based on your last few works of art, I can formally inform you that your abilities in stonesculpting have met the threshold.”
Linley’s eyes involuntarily shone.
His Grandpa Doehring had an eccentric temperament. Any works of art which didn’t reach his exacting standards had to be destroyed immediately. Per his words, “If these works of art were to appear in the world, they would lose face for my Straight Chisel School, and lose face for me, an honorable Saint-level Grand Magus.”
Thus, Linley had been forced to destroy every single sculpture he had made, even though they could have been sold for some money.
“Met the threshold? Grandpa Doehring, do you mean?…” Linley stared at Doehring Cowart in amazement.
Doehring Cowart happily nodded. “Right. Starting today, after you finish a stone sculpture, you don’t need to destroy it. They are worthy of remaining in this world. Naturally, if you wish, you can deliver your sculptures to the Proulx Gallery to sell them and thus begin to build up a reputation for our Straight Chisel School. At the same time, you can make a bit of gold for yourself.”