The large man was left speechless. What kind of situation was this?
Wouldn’t most people be highly interested in finding out the identity of the mysterious entity they had become acquainted with?
Left with no other choice, he could only ask.
“Movie jades? But… this is… it’s-”
This time, it was the cat who interrupted him.
“Sometimes it is better not to say anything, don’t you think?”
Hearing this, the man’s eyes opened wide.
“It’s you? What are you doing here?”
“What, you didn’t recognise me?”
“Hahaha. How could I? You all look the same.”
“I’ll have you know, I’m a cut above the rest. Don’t judge me with your unskilled eyes.”
“Hahaha. Sure, sure. It was this lowly one who was unable to recognise Mount Tai.”
The man clearly wasn’t taking the cat’s words very seriously.
“Isn’t that fellow you’re with also a human?”
The man decided to move on.
“So, anyway. What are you doing here?”
The cat turned its head and look to the ground.
“Taking a stroll.”
“Hahaha. Running away from the missus?”
“Tch. Why did you have to bring that up?”
Hei didn’t appreciate these two having a random conversation, wasting his time, but this particular topic was slightly interesting to him.
“Oh? So, you really have a wife and kids?”
The cat had been mentioning having a wife and kids, but when Hei asked about it, it denied it.
Now that this merchant seemed to know something about it, he decided to ask again.
Before the cat could respond, the merchant reacted.
“Pft. Wife and kids? Is that what you told him?”
Then his eyes opened wide as he turned to Hei.
“You speak Beast Language?”
This was quite shocking. He had assumed his conversation with the cat had been private. Who would have thought this young man knew Beast Language?
Hei nodded his head.
The merchant laughed.
“Hahaha. Heroes really do come from the young.”
Having seen a lot of the world, there wasn’t much that could surprise this merchant. But seeing a young boy able to speak Beast Language was shocking, to say the least.
Especially in the lower continent.
After having gotten a good amount of amusement out of this little surprise, the merchant turned back to the cat.
“So, what brought you here then?”
Seeing that his question was about to go unanswered, Hei stepped back in.
“Do you really have a w-?”
The cat answered before Hei could finish his words.
“No, I don’t!”
“Hahaha. That’s because you’re a deadbeat.”
The cat turned to the merchant with an angry expression, its fur raised.
“Deadbeat? How can that term be applicable, huh?”
“… Because you ran away from your wife… Doesn’t that about do it?”
“What wife? Keep speaking your nonsense and this cat will get your tongue.”
At this point, the cat was emitting an intense aura and its claws were extended.
The man exaggeratedly waved his hands.
“Oh, I’m shaking in my boots.”
“I may not dare to oppose you elsewhere, but don’t forget where we are right now.”
“Tch. Go lose some weight!”
“Hahaha. Grow a pair.”
“So… About your movie jades…”
Hei had had about enough of this useless conversation. He wanted to get back to the point.
Hearing Hei’s words, the merchant couldn’t help but be surprised once more.
“You actually came for the movie jades?”
“Why else would I be here?”
“… Knowing this fellow, I was sure he was using you as a pair of legs. So, you actually came for the movie jades… this is… how do I say it?”
The merchant paused and Hei waited for him to continue.
“Movie jades… Hmmm… Let’s see what we have here.”
He started rummaging through a box.
Hei couldn’t help but look at the rows and rows of jades lining the store’s walls. Why did it look like the man was having trouble finding a movie jade?
Noticing that Hei was looking around, the man explained.
“Well, you see, I don’t really get a lot of customers. All of these are just for show. They don’t really contain anything.”
The place became silent for a while.
“But I have some old classics here. These are from back when movie jades were brand-new.”
After rummaging through the box, he had gathered a few jades.
“Look at this bad boy. This right here is vintage test footage, my boy. You won’t find anything like this nowadays. I tell you, they really don’t make them like they used to.”
The man shamelessly held out some decrepit looking movie jades.
Hei ignored this.
He pointed to the shelves.
“Are these also movie jades?”
“Well, yes. But like I said before, they’re empty.”
“I’ll take one.”
The merchant wasn’t sure if this was an insult or if he was being serious.
Was this boy saying that the movies he had presented were so bad that he would rather watch nothing? Or was it that he really wanted empty movie jades?
He then had a realisation.
“Are you trying to make home movies?”
Home movies had become quite a popular pastime for the youth of some of the sect around here.
He didn’t expect that this boy, who came with this cat, was also interested in making home movies.
“Something like that.”
“Home movies… Then you’ll need more than just the movie jades. Do you have a method to record the visual information?”
“I was also hoping to find one of those.”
“Hahaha. Well, you’re in luck. While my stock of movies may not be bursting at the seams, I do have quite a bit of information on the behind-the-scenes stuff.”
“Ah. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I have to warn you. These things aren’t cheap.”
“Money isn’t an issue.”
“Oh? Which wealthy young master have I stumbled into?”
The merchant was quite pleased to hear this. He had always heard his peers talking about how they ran into fat sheep, who would clear out their entire stocks, just to impress the young ladies.
Why had he never had such an encounter?
Wasn’t he also doing his best? His wares were of the highest quality. And he had never had a customer complaint.
But then again, he also hadn’t had a customer yet, so…
It seemed people didn’t like his sales strategy.
The merchant led the way further into the store.
After passing through the door, Hei could see that the store had a much larger space in the back than at the front. It was very similar to the bakery.
The back room was filled with all sorts of scrolls and books. Scattered all over the place, were a few jades and formations.
The merchant spoke.
“When it comes to making movies, you won’t find a merchant more knowledgeable than me.”
He picked up one of the scrolls that were laying on a table.
“These are actually some of the methods I’ve developed myself over the years.”
“Why would you need to develop your own methods?”
“True artists require precision. There are just some things you can’t do with the standard issue formations. Every moviemaker reaches the point where they are limited, not by their imagination, but by the tools they have at their disposal. That’s where I come in.”
“Mm. Business seems to be going well.”
“Ah. Well, that’s… This is more of a passion project than a business venture.”
The merchant could tell that Hei was being sarcastic. Anyone could tell that he had no customers today, and it wouldn’t be hard to guess that he didn’t have customers any other day either.
Just the state of this backroom wasn’t something a respectable business owner would show their customers.
The cat was smiling at this. It quite enjoyed seeing this guy get his comeuppance.
“Yep. And the empty jades out there are clearly to inspire others to create rather than to consume, am I right?”
The merchant turned to the cat with a not-so-friendly smile.
“Go chase a mouse.”
“Go on a diet.”
Sparks were forming between the merchant and the cat.
Hei decided to interrupt.
“Cough. Excuse me. Now, where was I? Ah! That’s right, the formations.”
The merchant turned his attention back to the scroll in his hand.
“Now, while it’s easy to purchase movie jades, the formations behind them are not so easy to acquire.”
“Why is that?”
“The Merchant Association.”
“Well, the Merchant Association has had a monopoly over, both the production process and the formations that go into making movie jades. That means they also control which formations can be used to record movies.”
This was the case, at least in the lower continent.
The Merchant Association was the largest trade organisation in the lower continent.
If a merchant were not part of the Merchant Association, while they could achieve a small amount of success, trying to become anything significant would prove extremely challenging.
That was especially so for those who didn’t have a strong backing. They would quickly find themselves run out of business, often through a series of ‘unfortunate fluctuations in the market’.
The reason the Merchant Association was able to do this, was because they were rooted in the upper continent, where they were also one of the major players when it came to trade.
Local businesses just couldn’t match up to the quality, nor the low prices of the Merchant Association, who were able to gather their resources where they grew more abundantly.
The merchant continued in his explanation.
“But of course, there are always inventive people, such as myself, who take it upon themselves to try something new. While we may not be able to profit off of it, it’s still something worth pursuing.”
The man seemed to be thinking about something as he walked over to pick up a few scrolls and a few movie jades.
“This is your general starter kit here. With this, you’ll be able to practice making movies. Who knows, maybe you’ll be a famous cinematographer one day.”
The merchant seemed to have misunderstood Hei’s intentions, but he had no interest in clearing it up.
“Ah, don’t worry about. It’s on the house.”
The merchant was happy to have his first customer, so he decided not to charge Hei. Besides, these things were just laying around collecting dust.
But Hei had other thoughts.
His mother had taught him not to accept things for free. If he was to receive something from someone else, he was to pay an appropriate price or exchange something of equivalent value.
“Sigh. You won’t take them?”
After purchasing the scrolls and jades, Hei wanted to see if the merchant was willing to sell more than this.
He decided to try speaking the merchant’s language.
“I want to do something different.”
“Who said movie jades could only store the past?”
The merchant wasn’t quite sure what Hei was getting at, but he was intrigued.
“You’ve heard of communication jades, yes?”
“The communication jades I’ve heard of, only allow the transmission of audio.”
The merchant started to understand what Hei was saying. His eyes opened wide in disbelief.
“What if someone were to combine the properties of movie jades and communication jades?”
“The Life-Style Movie!”
The merchant was shocked to hear Hei speak the very same thoughts he had explored over the past few years.
“Mm. To create a movie out of life. An experience that can only be viewed once, just as many experiences occur only once. I’ve also…”
Truth be told, Hei wasn’t the first one to come up with this idea, but the implementation was extremely difficult.
The merchant had given up after many failed attempts.
But seeing a youth who was going to carry on the flame, he couldn’t help his excitement.
“These are some of the production methods and formations that I used when I started dabbling in this kind of thing. With these, you’ll be able to see where I went wrong.”
Hei was surprised by the merchant shoving all of these materials in his arms.
Before he could say anything, the merchant had brought even more materials.
“And these are some of the partner jades I’ve created. You can use them for inspiration. And here are the formations that let them work.”
The cat couldn’t help laughing.
It spoke with a mocking tone.
“I haven’t seen you jiggle like this in a while.”
“Tch. How’s the ball and chain?”
Hei couldn't help sigh at this.
‘I just wanted some movie jades...’