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AIP - Chapter 37: Root Carving

Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr

The little sprite was very curious about her new home. For her, the human world had many new and interesting things, so she touched everything she could.

An inkstone drew her attention. She walked over, crawled on top of the inkstone, and looked around. She accidentally fell into the ink, so when she came out again, she was all black.

Tang Jie burst out in laughter. The sprite was rather incensed and shook her head, splattering the entire room in ink.

"Alright, vicious creature!" Tang Jie was rendered speechless by the black dots now sprinkling his room. He pulled the sprite off the inkstone and prepared to give her a bath, but then he saw the little one wave her hands, upon which all the ink dissipated on its own, leaving only that cute little face, happily smiling at Tang Jie.

"Though you're lacking in strength, it seems like you have a lot of tricks," Tang Jie said as he patted her head. "Since you go 'yiyi yaya' all the time, why don't I call you 'Yiyi' from now on?"

The sprite was so excited at having a name that she did a somersault and then repeatedly nodded her head.

"Good. Then stay here like a good girl," Tang Jie said as he took his leave.

"Yiyiyaya!" Yiyi frantically shouted upon seeing that Tang Jie was going to leave.

Tang Jie laughed. "Don't worry. I'm not leaving. I'm just going to make you a nest. I'm guessing that you don't plan to obediently stay in that flower pot."

A few moments later, Tang Jie came inside with a large block of wood.

He hollowed out the block of wood, stuffed the inside with cotton, and then sewed a little pillow and blanket from a piece of cloth. He then hung a curtain over the hole, thus creating a little wooden house.

Patting the blanket, Tang Jie said, "Alright, starting from today, this is your nest. In the future, if everything is fine, you can sleep here. When I'm not around, you can play around inside the room, but you can't go outside. If somebody comes, you have to be a flower in the pot. You can't let other people discover you. Do you understand?"

The little sprite nodded, and then she turned into a little white flower and quietly stood in the pot.

"Just like that!" Tang Jie smiled.

A moment later, she turned back into humanoid form, lunged into Tang Jie's chest, and began to nuzzle against him.

After playing for a while, the sprite grew tired and fell asleep in Tang Jie's hand. Tang Jie carefully placed the green rose sprite in her little house and covered her with the blanket.

He then sat on his bed and began to think about what had transpired.

On his first meeting with the green rose, Tang Jie had only been thinking about how to get her on his side. It was only after he had obtained her that he realized that the appearance of the little sprite might bring him many problems.

As he carefully considered all the potential problems he might encounter, Tang Jie gradually developed a plan on how to proceed. Seeing that it was getting late, Tang Jie looked at the sleeping sprite, softly said, "Good night," then went to bed.

The next morning, Tang Jie got up early. After tending to the garden, Tang Jie found a few old tree roots and began to carve them with a knife. After cutting away the leaves, Tang Jie began to carve images into the roots.

A curious boy servant asked what he was doing. Tang Jie replied that he was doing some root carving.

He had been relying on landscaping art to draw attention for too long, and Wei Tianchong was no longer as interested. Thus, Tang Jie planned to use root carving to again grab Wei Tianchong's attention.

But most importantly, in the name of root carving, Tang Jie could move large amounts of wood into his room in the future, thus concealing the little sprite's nest and making it less obvious. Although Tang Jie rarely had guests in his room, it was best to guard against any mishaps. And this would also be helpful once he entered school.

At the academy, Tang Jie could no longer work as a gardener, which would mean that he would lose his position of expertise. Tang Jie had to find a new path for himself.

Root carving was a decent choice. This sort of hobby could be done anywhere one could get a few blocks of wood to serve as materials.

If he did well, he could sell them to buy household goods, and if he was mediocre, he could give them as gifts. Someone with a specialized skill would always be more welcomed than someone without. 

Besides that, root carving was also useful for cultivation. In cultivation, there was a field called 'puppetry'. By combining puppets with refining formations, one could create a mechanical person capable of battle. In this, one had to use carving.

In truth, art always had a practical value in the cultivation world, whether it was calligraphy, painting, music, or carving. One would always be able to find a place where these skills could show their worth.

For example, Xu Muyang had needed just a few strokes of his brush to draw a horse, and a spell art had brought it to life, an embodiment of his exquisite artistry.

If the drawing were done poorly, intending to draw a horse and creating a camel, even if it were brought to life, it would just be a joke.

As for calligraphy, it was a basic requirement for drawing talismans. If someone were trying to write the word 'law' (律) but were so terrible at writing that they ended up writing 'kill' (杀), before the effects could even activate, everyone else would have probably laughed so hard their teeth would have fallen out.

Thus, in the academies set up by the major sects, the zither, chess, calligraphy, and painting were taught alongside Immortal arts, and they all had practical uses. There were all kinds of characters in the cultivation world, but there were no illiterates.

Tang Jie had spent more than a year in the Wei Estate, and besides formations, he also practiced calligraphy and drawing when he had the time. He didn't seek astounding accomplishment, only to meet the standard. It was said that there were some students in the academies who ultimately failed to graduate precisely because they performed so awfully in their culture studies.

Tang Jie had no desire to be unable to graduate just because his writing was bad.

As for root carving, Tang Jie was considering going into puppetry in the future, integrating his knowledge of formations into it.

The Dao of Formations was a very broad field. Besides military and protective formations, pill refining, weapon crafting, and puppets all required formations, but the direction and properties were all different.

Xu Muyang specialized primarily in worldly formations, and he wasn't too good at other kinds of formations. But as they shared the same underlying principles, Tang Jie was completely capable of studying and researching them.

Tang Jie had no interest in puppetry, but the carving ability associated with it was the only field that had any relationship to landscaping. The other fields, like calligraphy and painting, had nothing to do with gardening. If he did such things at work, he would receive no praise from the Wei Clan for his ambition.

Besides that, puppetry was somewhat closer in form to the technology of the era of his previous life. For Tang Jie, this meant that he had more room to develop in this field.

Though he still didn't know much about root carving, there were still two years until he entered the academy. Two years was enough time for him to gain a basic grasp of this art.

Sure enough, this new trick really did draw Wei Tianchong's attention. The Rosecloud Domain had stone statues, but root carving was extremely rare.

As he watched Tang Jie fiddling around with the tree roots and producing all sorts of shapes, Wei Tianchong grew interested and took up an old tree root so that he could also learn.

Tang Jie proceeded to teach him how exactly to handle these tree roots.

Root carving had higher demands on the material than stone carving. The carver had to cleverly use the natural form of the material, and the principle emphasized was “30% artificial, 70% natural”. Besides that, true root carving sought the rare and bizarre when it came to form. Trees that grew on the plains had sufficient nutrients, so they grew quickly, and the wood tended to be soft, so it was difficult to form into strange shapes. Trees that grew in tough environments, like those that grew in the shade, in the cracks of mountains, or in crevices of rock, or those trees that had lived despite being struck by lightning, burned by fire, eaten by insects, crushed by stones, trampled by humans, or cut at by blades, would often begin to deform, driven by the lack of water, poor soil, and little light. In addition, before carving, one needed to perform several preparations on the material.

However, what Tang Jie sought was not artistry, but practicality. Thus, he cared little about these conditions. In his eyes, root carving was '70% artificial, 30% natural'."

Artistry emphasized bizarre shapes and abundant imagination, but puppetry emphasized emulation of reality, and one also needed to leave space for the refining formation. The two looked similar but were fundamentally different.

But regardless of the kind, the work wasn't simple.

Carving was an art that was a synthesis of many other kinds of art. Not only did the artist require the ability to carve, they also needed the ability to appraise and to draw.

Tang Jie's art cells were clearly limited, and he met none of the above requirements. He took out a block of wood and looked at it all day without seeing anything special about it. Ultimately, after carving for a while, he managed to make a little wooden doll, the head taking up a third of the wood, two roots forming little legs. It was an ugly thing. If a refining formation were attached to it and activated, allowing it to walk, it would probably be a hunchback and would probably fall over every two steps.

Tang Jie could only helplessly sigh, soothing himself by saying that he was beloved by the Dao of Formations and that he couldn't hope that all the Daos of the world would love him. But it seemed like his plan would fail. Sure enough, no matter how well some plans were designed, they were no good if one lacked the ability to execute them.

Looking to the side, he saw Wei Tianchong swiftly moving around the knife as he carved away at a plate-shaped tree root. It wasn't long before a little turtle had appeared in his hand. While the turtle had a lot of flaws, it had all the proper parts and didn't seem too deformed.

Tang Jie was stunned. "Have you learned this before?"

He was so shocked that he even forgot to say 'young master'.

"Not at all. This is my first time. It's rather interesting," Wei Tianchong said as he looked admiringly at his work.

"A genius…" Tang Jie helplessly moaned.

Not even in his dreams could he have imagined that Wei Tianchong would be talented in this field.

From this day forward, Wei Tianchong carved tree roots together with Tang Jie.

Unlike Tang Jie, who was "loved by the Dao of Formations", the young master sincerely loved carving, completely matching Xu Muyang's line that loving something would bring talent in it.

At first, Wei Tianchong worried that his mother would find out and scold him for focusing too much on trifling concerns, but when he heard that this was also one of the foundations of cultivation, he threw himself without reservation into root carving.

As expected, when the lady heard of this, she questioned Spirit Master Lu. When she learned that this was true, she simply said, "Don't let it interfere with his other lessons," before dropping the matter.

For her, it was not important what path her son took in cultivation. What was important was that he finally had something to pursue and that he was willing to work for this pursuit. For this, she admired Tang Jie even more.

Anyone who could have her child progress was a good person!

But Tang Jie grew more and more sullen as time went on.

As he spent more time carving, Wei Tianchong's carving skill grew by leaps and bounds. At the start, he was only carving little wooden dolls, but in a few months, Wei Tianchong could take an entire tree trunk and carve it into a statue as tall as an adult.

After several months, Wei Tianchong completed his first large wooden sculpture: a giant tiger rendered in vivid detail.

Tang Jie had no doubt that if it were fitted with a suitable refining formation, it would truly become a man-eating tiger.

As he watched Wei Tianchong put up his first giant statue in the flowerbed so that it could be proudly displayed, Tang Jie silently crushed the big-headed doll in his hand.

Even its heart was crushed.

Hypersheep325's Notes:

Just because you're the protagonist doesn't mean you can be good at everything! But still, it must be a little "disheartening" to be so outshone when you were the one who introduced the hobby to them!

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Written by Yuanfen 0 缘分0. Translated by Hypersheep325. Edited by Michyrr.