Translated by: Taffy
Edited by: Bigredcomrade
Quiz 23: The Office Amidst the Overgrown Wilderness
Two months had passed without any rain, and this was the first sign of rain since the start of school. It was a light drizzle that permeated throughout the blistering hot city and gave a kind of refreshing feeling.
“Why must we wander so far down this winding path…where exactly are we going?”
Huang Qiao Yi was currently driving a car down one of the district’s roads, while Duan He sitting in shotgun was currently giving her driving instructions through the drizzle.
Meng Ming was sitting alone in the back, complaining in boredom. ─He had been dragged by Duan He today to go meet an uncle. Duan He had said that dozens of years ago, this uncle had been an exam-cheating expert; he had even given her advice before. This time, Duan He had decided to bring Meng Ming to go looking for him, as she thought that this uncle would definitely offer some help to a beginning cheating student like Meng Ming.
“Is that uncle really so formidable…”
“Of course, he’s a very experienced veteran.” Duan He introduced the uncle as ‘Carron’, an English name.
Huang Qiao Yi found the non-Chinese name to be very strange, “Why does a foreigner need to cheat?”
Duan He explained, “He’s not a foreigner, he’s a Chinese male. He is very formidable; he’s a sculptor. Carron is probably just his pen name or alias.”
“He’s just a sculptor…” Meng Ming was still in a bad mood. “Why do we need to look for him?”
“Isn’t it because of you…” Duan He turned around and rolled her eyes at Meng Ming. “You insist on dueling against Zhou Lun Yu on the midterm exam. How could you possibly be his opponent in your current state! Uncle Carron is very skilled at cheating. If he gives you advice, maybe you’ll make a breakthrough. However….”
“I haven’t met Carron in over a year. I only know that his personality is a bit strange…” Duan He paused and thought to herself: Well, actually I should say Carron is a bit of a nutjob… She then continued, “He’s married multiple times, and even has nine kids.”
“Nine, nine kids?!”
Duan He nodded and said, “Yea. It’s a pity that not a single one of his wives or children stayed by his side. Basically, Uncle Carron welcomes C-types to go and visit him! But, if he doesn’t have a good impression of you, he won’t casually teach you anything!”
“Then why are we looking for him!!!”
Neither Meng Ming nor Huang Qiao Yi had expected that their destination would be an old, abandoned district. There were absolutely no signs of cars in any direction. They parked the car on the roadside, and then followed Duan He, weaving back and forth through the rain. Finally, they reached a relatively deep alley. This place was both shabby and messy, and it was extremely difficult to find a path that people could pass through.
Meng Ming just couldn’t understand why the uncle would live in such a run-down place…it seemed he had already have lost all interest in this matter.
Duan He, who had visited before, said, “Nobody knows why he lives here, but it seems to be related to one of his wives. I heard that the neighboring areas are abandoned business districts. They could even be called ruins…apparently there’s even a tomb nearby.”
“Tomb…no way, why would he choose such a creepy place to live!”
They passed through quite a few piles of junk, then went up a rusty metal staircase. Finally, they stopped in front of a run-down door on the second floor. No matter how much they looked around, there were no signs of human habituation, giving it a strong feeling of an overgrown wilderness.
Duan He knocked on the door, and it was opened soon afterwards. A bald uncle wearing sunglasses stood before them. His physique was clearly sturdy, and he was also sporting a small beard.
This uncle is Carron? And I thought that an artist would have messy hair… When Meng Ming saw Carron, he was surprised that a sculptor’s head could be so shiny and clean.
“Mr. Carron, it’s been a while!” Duan He greeted him. She hadn’t thought that they’d be able to find him so easily today.
When Carron saw Duan He, he quickly pushed the door open wider, then approached them to look a bit closer. Afterwards…
“Waaaaa!” Carron shouted, “So it’s Miss Duan He how kind of you to visit I’m really sorry I can’t offer you much hospitality although the office has no other occupants it’s really too messy I didn’t get the chance to clean it but if you don’t mind then please come in and sit!”
Meng Ming’s eyes went wide. This old baldie spoke so much in single breath, isn’t it tiring…!
“Oh? Who’s this cute little boy?” Carron asked in slight disdain, as he stood in a posture that seemed to be looking down at Meng Ming.
Cu-cute?! Meng Ming felt extremely disgruntled. That damn old baldie…how the heck do I look cute?
“We came to request for Mr. Carron to teach us some things.” Duan He introduced as she followed Carron into the room. Huang Qiao Yi had also entered; only Meng Ming stood outside in a daze, his expressionless face not showing any indication of what thoughts were running through his head.
“Meng Ming, hurry up and come in!” Duan He pulled Meng Ming into the small, messy office, then turned around and said Carron, “This is Zhuge Meng Ming, C-type, a new one. I specially brought him here to request for Mr. Carron to coach him a bit.”
This office didn’t have any tea reserves or anything to entertain guests. Carron didn’t directly take care of them either, and just nonchalantly told them to sit on some wooden chairs. He then buried himself in a dark corner of the office, fiddling with some messy and incomplete wooden carvings. He picked up one, then another, and muttered to himself─
“You want me to coach him…that’s out of the question…”
He began to write calligraphy as he fiddled around with random things, completely preoccupied.
“Come, come!! You guys, look at this, it’s my newest work,” Carron suddenly stood with a medium-sized wooden carving in his hand, holding it up for everyone to see. The wooden carving was of a female and a cow. “How about it?! It’s a work made from my heart’s blood, and it’s called—<Lies>!”
Why is it called that…
Are a woman and a cow somehow related to lies?
The three people stared blankly at the carving without showing any reactions…
“It looks like you guys were all intimidated!” Carron conceitedly raised his head up high, “Hahahaha! My outstanding creativity produced this fine carving!” He crazily laughed with his creation in his hand.
“Mr. Carron…we came here for a certain matter…” Duan He interrupted him.
“Ah? Aaaahh? ─Oh, oh!” Carron seemed to respond slightly, then pretended to be super earnest. He placed his hands in front of his chest and lowered his head, as if pondering something, “Oh, cough cough, oh…what matter did you come to discuss about with me?”
Meng Ming’s expression had already become extremely twisted. Is this guy really a cheating expert…
After Duan He explained in detail, Carron finally understood. He pointed to Meng Ming and asked, “Oh? You’re saying that this boy is a newbie? Oh, you want me to teach him a bit huh…oh…oh…”
As Carron said this, he slowly turned around and sat down to play with his wooden carvings once again.
Duan He could only secretly whisper to Huang Qiao Yi and Meng Ming, “There’s nothing we can do…Uncle Carron’s mind is just like that. When he’s contemplating something, he doesn’t really listen to others. However, he’s really very formidable, so as long as we’re patient, it’ll be fine.”
Then why exactly must I learn from him specifically… [Meng Ming]
“Um…” Duan He patiently said to Carron, reminding him from time to time, “Mr. Carron, how about it?”
“Oh…oh…?” Carron just kept saying ‘oh’.
“Oh~, this place needs to be deeper…”
Just by sitting there, Meng Ming and Huang Qiao Yi were already feeling incomparably awkward.
“That being said…” Huang Qiao Yi seemed to make a discovery. This whole time, she’d felt that this place was different from a normal office, as if it wasn’t very coordinated. Only now did she finally realize the problem. She asked Duan He, “Isn’t Mr. Carron a sculptor? Why haven’t we seen any sculpting tools?”
Meng Ming was thinking that perhaps he hadn’t taken them out.
Duan He turned around to tell them, “Mr. Carron doesn’t use any tools, he uses his fingers and nails to carve the wood.”
What?! Meng Ming was internally shocked.
“He’s that powerful? Mr. Carron’s fingernails must be very strong.”
“That’s not necessarily true.” Duan He glanced at Carron, who was still fiddling with an item. After thinking back for a while, she continued, “As long as one understands the grains and texture of the wooden materials adequately enough, one can use their finger to skillfully to carve it with ease. However, there are also times that carving does require a tool. But the only one that Carron uses…” Duan He pointed to Carron’s left hand, and looked more closely.
But to her surprise, Carron’s left hand was bare.
“Hm? Weird, where did his ‘Ravine Apparition’…go?” Duan He was puzzled.
“Mr. Carron? Can you teach him a bit?” Duan He said extremely patiently to Carron, who was still playing with wood.
“Oh, I can.” Carron said.
They weren’t sure if he had replied after careful deliberation, or if Carron had just replied randomly, but at least he finally said he would.
Ah! What, what’s wrong with him…
Weird, he just agreed…?
“That, eh…” The abrupt reply left Duan He at a loss on how to respond afterwards.
“What’s wrong with you guys?” Carron said, “I was pondering the matter as I flipped through things just now!”
REALLY─?!” The three of them gaped at him in complete disbelief.
Carron cast aside his wood and slightly turned around to face them, “It’s just some advice, isn’t it? Of course I can. However….”
When the three of them heard ‘however’, they finally let out a breath.
“Why are you guys…” Carron thought the students were strange, “I say ‘I can’ and you guys are scared. I said ‘however’ and you guys let out a breath of relief…you, what exactly is wrong with you guys?”
“We were just thinking, that, that…”
“Anyways Mr. Carron, however what?”
Carron rubbed his sunglasses, “However…if it’s asking for me to coach him, mm, it’s best to just forget it.”
“Why forget it?!”
“Because coaching him wouldn’t be beneficial to me at all,” Carron said. “Why would I instruct him?”
That was true.
Seeing that was the case, Meng Ming just stood up, “Then let’s leave.”
“Brother Meng Ming, we’re just leaving?!”
“Wait, wait a minute!”
But Meng Ming had already made his decision. He felt that if he stayed here any longer, it might give rise to some other strange matter.
“Meng Ming, let’s just wait a bit more…”
“Stop pulling at me, let’s just leave!”
The three of them pushed and pulled at each other, eventually reaching the office door. At that moment, Carron seemed to come to a sudden realization and said, “Ah, I suddenly realized that coaching him actually is beneficial to me!”
“Did you hear that!” Duan He hurriedly pulled Meng Ming back in.
“But, but…” Meng Ming already clearly knew what was going on: this uncle was just playing with them.
After waiting for everyone to sit down once more, Carron clapped his hands, “Basically, it’s fine if you want me to coach you. However, I only teach people who have high aptitudes. Otherwise, it’s very hard to communicate. Hmph,” he pointed at Meng Ming. “Does this little student have what it takes?”
“Mr. Carron, if you say it that way, aptitude…” Duan He thought a bit, then made some calculations and said brightly, “Zhuge Meng Ming is definitely good enough!”
She didn’t care about what kind of benefits Carron had come up with after all his deliberations, and just thought it’d be better to take advantage of the situation and persuade Carron first.
Carron looked at Meng Ming, “He looks all clean, anyone would think he’s too well-behaved to be skilled in the art of cheating….”
“Oi…can you not judge people by their appearances,” Meng Ming objected, then pointed his thumb at himself. “This has absolutely no relation with appearance. Cheating is something I’ve received training in since I was young!”
“Oh~?” Having been shouted at, Carron felt quite shocked.
The other girls used their hands to cover Meng Ming’s mouth, silencing him.
“Oh, heh…?” Carron feigned a mysterious expression, then lowered his head to flip through a pile of junk. At the same time, he said with slight contempt, “Is that right…you’ve received training. Then that’s fine. You…sharpen this pencil for me to see.” He pulled out a few pencils from the pile and tossed one at Meng Ming.
Duan He had once heard Carron say: If one wanted to see a person’s basic cheating skills, one first had to watch the person sharpen a pencil.
Thus, Meng Ming caught the pencil. The two girls also turned to look at the pencil in hiss hands.
It was a very old pencil, and was also quite dirty. However, its outer appearance was extremely normal; it was one of the types sold on the streets..
Sharpen a pencil…without any tools? Piece of cake. Meng Ming thought. He had long since become an expert at sharpening pencils.
Meng Ming picked up the pencil without any hesitation, and activated the Zhuge Style Cheating Technique unique skill─Igniting Flames! The pencil fiercely brushed across the side of the chair, and immediately burst into flames. Afterwards, Meng Ming rotated the pencil constantly to control the flames, then eventually blew them out. By that time, everyone could see that the pencil had been burned to reveal a beautiful point tip.
How about it, convinced? Meng Ming looked at the beautiful work created by his own flames and arrogantly lifted it up.
“Oh~~~!” Carron only glanced at it, then began to flip through the pile of junk again. “In terms of aptitude, hm, you really aren’t lacking…oh, but the training of one’s finger skills is endless…” Carron pulled out another pencil from the pile. After inspecting it from various angles, he slowly turned around and held up the writing end of it to face everyone.
What’s the old baldie going to do? [Meng Ming]
Could it be that he’s going to display a skill even more amazing than Brother Meng Ming’s? [Huang Qiao Yi]
Carron’s left hand brushed over the pencil. It was as if he was holding a lighter——he had four fingers wrapped around the pencil’s body, while his thumbnail dug into the pencil shaft. He lightly exerted force, and then flicked his thumb. With a ‘pop’ sound, the pencil burst out like a bottle of champagne, wooden shavings flying out like a cork, revealing only a sharp point!
What, he sharpened it….so simply?! They were all dazed.
“Alright.” Carron stretched out his left hand and handed the pencil over to Meng Ming.
Meng Ming accepted it and closely examined the pencil over and over. Isn’t this pencil…already sharpened? What else does he want me to look at?
Huang Qiao Yi didn’t understand what Carron was doing either. Only Duan He’s expression remained indifferent, as if she had long since guessed what was happening.
“What…?” Meng Ming asked. He was actually extremely shocked at Carron’s skill just now. When Meng Ming’s hand relaxed, the pencil tilted. In that moment, the pencil quickly split into 6 sections, each one displaying a beautiful tip! Fwoosh, six beautifully sharpened, short pencils fell to the ground, one after another.
They were all completely stunned.
These pencil tips had all been made by Carron’s thumb just now?! When he looked closer at all the tips that Carron had made, Meng Ming realized that their angles were actually the exact same as the tip that he himself had burned out.
Only Duan He had seen this skill of Carron’s before. This carving method not only requires one to be familiar with every single grain on the wood and its level of hardness, but the user must also be able to master extreme precision with their finger strength…I had seen it only once before, and hadn’t imagined I’d be able to witness it a second time…”
Carron put away the pencils and said to Meng Ming, “Your basics aren’t bad, but you can definitely do better. Oh, then, do you have any interest in accepting my suggestions?”
“Not rea—” Before Meng Ming had finished speaking, Duan He and Huang Qiao Yi covered his mouth again.
What are you guys doing! [Meng Ming]
“No interest? That means that you aren’t interested because you’re afraid it’ll be too difficult…” Carron turned around, prepared to continue fiddling with the wooden carving again. At the same time, he said, “Indeed, some matters are just very difficult to understand. That’s why, I think it’s better if you just forget it.” They hadn’t been together for long, but Carron seemed to have already understood Meng Ming’s character quite well.
“Oi!” Meng Ming hurriedly pulled the hands blocking his mouth away, firstly to overtrump the girls, and secondly because he was irritated at Carron’s words. “Alright, just hurry up and tell me any suggestions then! …Difficult to understand? I’m not afraid of that at all!
“Oh, so you mean that you’re interested?” Carron snickered to himself in a corner.
“I’m not interes—-no, but, no matter what kind of proposal you give to me, it won’t be a problem!” Meng Ming seemed to have been pressured by the two girls behind him, and thus hurriedly changed his words mid-sentence.
“It’s very hard you know~” [Carron]
“Hard? No matter how hard it is, it won’t be an issue.” Meng Ming said fearlessly, “Didn’t you say it’s difficult to understand? I’ll just show you how intelligent I actually am!”
“Fine,” Carron turned around and pointed at Meng Ming. “Then, go and retrieve my ‘Ravine Apparition’.”