"Apologize? That's impossible." Zhang Xuan shook his head. "I have never lost in a challenge before. If you wish to challenge me, hurry up and get along with it. I still have much more important things to handle, so I don't have much time to spare you."
"You… Fine!" Zhang Ziqing took in a deep breath and suppressed her emotions before looking at Zhang Xuan once more. "Just like how it's impossible to objectively determine which martial art is superior, it's also extremely difficult to discern between the quality of paintings of the same level. After all, everyone's preferences are shaped by their experiences and personality, so naturally, what appeals to each person can be vastly different. In order to ensure the fairness of our challenge, I have an artifact here known as the 'Wu Dao Mirror', and it's able to accurately determine the superiority and inferiority of a painting without the slightest discrepancy!"
As she said those words, she whipped out a round copper mirror, and it immediately floated quietly in the air.
"Wu Dao Mirror?" Zhang Xuan was perplexed.
"Indeed. This is an artifact created by the founder of the Painter Guild, Founder Wu Dao. It's capable of discerning the true level of a painting accurately. Even though the artifact I have over here is just an imitation, it's still more than enough to discern paintings of our level!" Seeing how the young man did not know this at all, Zhang Ziqing's displeasure and scorn visibly deepened.
The Wu Dao Mirror was an artifact that had been created by the founder of the Painter Guild, and it was capable of discerning the level of any painting in the world. Of course, the original artifact was stored within the guild, so the one in Zhang Ziqing's possession was just an imitation created by an expert. Nevertheless, it was still more than capable of impeccably discerning paintings of the eighth level.
"Can you allow me to take a closer look at the artifact?" Zhang Xuan asked.
"Here you go!" Knowing that the other party would surely have to check the artifact in order to ensure the fairness of the assessment, Zhang Ziqing flicked her wrist, and the Wu Dao Mirror flew over.
Zhang Xuan placed his finger on the mirror momentarily before pushing it back to Zhang Ziqing, saying, "Alright, I'm done checking on it. Can we begin now?"
A book materialized in the Library of Heaven's Path, and a swift glance through it allowed him to confirm the capability of the artifact in assessing the level of a painting.
"You're already done examining the mirror?" Zhang Ziqing was taken aback.
It was just a moment ago that they young man did not even know what the Wu Dao Mirror was, and yet, after the briefest contact with the mirror, he had already pushed the mirror back to her, saying that he was done checking on it.
Are you kidding with me?
"This Wu Dao Mirror you have over there was created by 9-star Painter Zhi Yang three hundred years ago. It was forged out of the Golden Pearl Ore, and there are thirty-seven formation marks harnessing the power of painting conceptualization inscribed on the mirror. The spirit infused into the mirror embodies Elder Zhi Yang's deep comprehension of paintings, so it will indeed be fair to use this artifact as the judge for this competition!" Zhang Xuan nodded.
"Y-you… How did you know?" Zhang Ziqing was astonished.
This Wu Dao Mirror had been stored in the Painter Guild ever since it was forged, and only upon hearing that the Zhang Clan's Clan Conference was coming up and that there would be challengers did she apply with her teacher to take it out.
It had taken her great effort in order to assimilate the artifact before she was able to learn this information, and yet, with just a single glance, the other party was already able to recite it with ease.
Not even her teacher was capable of this!
"Oh. I happen to be an appraiser too, so I was able to recognize it with just a look," Zhang Xuan replied with a casual wave of his hand.
"Appraiser?" Zhang Ziqing was even more bewildered upon hearing this.
Given that the other party had not even heard of the Wu Dao Mirror before, it was a ridiculous notion for him to be able to identify the background of the Wu Dao Mirror in her possession.
This isn't an ability that appraisers possess! Who do you think you are trying to fool?
Then again, Zhang Ziqing knew that this was not the time to dwell on such matters. Thus, she flicked her wrist, and a piece of white paper appeared on her table.
Different from the xuan paper that painters usually used, this white paper had a glossy surface that seemed as if ink would be unable to soak through it.
"This is known as the 'Legacy Paper'. It's made out of the fresh blood of saint beasts and tempered using the Legacy Rock. Paintings that are made on it are able to easily last a dozen millenniums without the slightest loss in color. For this reason, every single sheet of Legacy Paper is worth a huge fortune," Zhang Ziqing said.
At the back of the crowd, Zhang Wuchen nodded.
Paper to a painter was rather similar to a sword to a sword practitioner. The higher the grade of paper was, the more the conceptualization in their artwork would be able to be brought out.
The Legacy Paper was considered a prized possession to all painters in the world. Due to its low production, even 9-star master teachers would only choose to use them on important occasions. The fact that Zhang Ziqing was willing to take it out for this challenge reflected how seriously she took the matter.
A thought flashed across Zhang Wuchen's mind, and the truth suddenly dawned on him.
Most likely, the news of the formation collapsing has reached her ears, and it just happened that the other party criticized her painting at this moment. Thus, she decided to take this opportunity to teach the other party a lesson!
The news that the Defense Formation of the Zhang Clan had been destroyed by Zhang Xuan four hours ago had already spread far and wide across the entire Zhang Clan. Those of the younger generation should have already heard of the matter by now.
As a person who took pride in her identity as a member of the Zhang Clan, Zhang Ziqing surely felt angered by Zhang Xuan humiliating the Zhang Clan. As such, she decided to use this matter to teach that young man that there were just some people in the world whom he could not afford to offend!
Otherwise, considering that this was the guest area, how could she, as one of the top geniuses of the Zhang Clan, possibly come here? Not to mention, to so 'coincidentally' get into a fight with Zhang Xuan at that?
Coming to realize this, Zhang Wuchen immediately did a quick scan around the room, and a moment later, he shook his head.
Noting Zhang Wuchen's actions, Elder Wuzhen could tell what he was thinking, and he sent a telepathic message over. "With all of them here, it seems like Zhang Xuan will be in for some misfortune."
"This is fine, too." Zhang Wuchen harrumphed. "It's about time for that fellow to learn that the members of our Zhang Clan are no pushovers so that he will learn to tone down that haughtiness of his."
Most of the top figures of the younger generations had come over to watch the show, so it seemed like the First Elder's plan was working as expected.
Given that Zhang Xuan was here to challenge the Zhang Clan in the first case, it was perfectly fair for the younger generation of the Zhang Clan to challenge him back!
While the both of them were secretly talking to one another, Zhang Ziqing flicked her wrist, and a brush materialized in her hand.
"That's the 'Empyrean Saint Fox Brush', made using the tail of the Empyrean Saint Fox! In terms of value, it far exceeds that of the Legacy Paper!"
"To take out two invaluable treasures, one after another… it seems like the fellow whom Zhang Ziqing is facing is going to be utterly humiliated!"
"That might not necessarily be the case. Considering how he chose to accept Zhang Ziqing's challenge despite having seen her mastery in painting, it's likely that he has some skills in painting as well. Perhaps, he might have artifacts that are even more formidable than that!"
"Well, that's true too…"
Upon seeing the brush that Zhang Ziqing had taken out, a huge commotion immediately broke out amid the crowd.
Those who had been invited there by the Zhang Clan were all the top talents in their fields. While they might not necessarily have been painters, they would still have heard of some of the more renowned artifacts in painting.
The Empyrean Saint Fox Brush happened to be one such artifact. Even when looking across the entire Master Teacher Continent, there were very few brushes that could compete with it.
"The time limit is when this incense finally burns out. If you fail to complete your painting by then, it will be considered as your loss," Zhang Ziqing said casually as she took out an ink slab.
As she dabbed her brush in the ink slab, she lightly flicked her finger, and the incense stick at the center of the courtyard immediately lit up, emanating a slight fragrance.
Since this was a challenge between the two of them, it was a given that there should be a time limit. Otherwise, one party would be able to postpone the challenge indefinitely under the pretext that they had not finished their painting yet.
"Very well," Zhang Xuan replied.
Judging from the rate at which the incense was burning, it appeared that they had less than an hour to finish their painting. And to be honest, it was no easy task to create a satisfactory painting within an hour's time.
"Let's begin then." Seeing that the young man had agreed to it, Zhang Ziqing lightly tapped her brush on the Legacy Paper, and a beautiful stroke of ink flowed out from the tip.