Chapter 5 - Li Canghai
Three months later in the suburban manor's square.
Shi Mu was seen practicing with a long blue blade, three chi in length, which left its traces glittering in a circumference of several zhang as he waved it to and fro, under a hot blazing sun.
Unlike three months ago, there were eye catching strawmen strewn around the square. There were even some heavy stone locks and a row of wooden shelves holding some commonly used weapons such as knives and spears.
A man's voice thundered, sounding rather rude and abrupt.
Shi Mu paused and pulled back his blade held in one hand.
"That's fair enough. You've finally started to get the hang of the Thirteen Series Gale Force Blade Art. But that level is still quite basic and doesn't count much in a real fight. You're still far from being good." The speaking man stood at one side of the square, his arms folded, his eyes rather sharp despite his bony stature. His bronze skin gave off strong sense of being capable and well-experienced.
"It's all due to master Li's personal instruction, or how could I have gone this far in understanding such an mysterious art in mere three months?" Shi Mu answered with great respect.
This bony man was none other than the well-known instructor Li Canghai in Liu Feng martial arts club, a Intermediate Houtian Warrior. Three months ago, instructor Li Canghai's brief display of a single movement filled Shi Mu with amazement, and he immediately saluted and asked for instruction. Thereafter Shi Mu had been practicing martial arts for four hours every day under Li's instruction.
"This series of blade art seems quite rudimentary, doesn't it? It's mostly used by warriors of the Practitioner level. But don't take it lightly, because some of the higher level techniques can be used in real fights too, even after you become an Houtian Warrior. Its key is to make use wind, making each strike swifter than each preceding strike, a quite simple yet profound art indeed. I once used it to kill two warriors who were of the same level as I, in a fight within the time of a burning incense stick. At your Practitioner level, the most complex art available should be the Lesser Heavenly Sword Art, altogether 306 movements, and very few warriors can truly understand all of them within their lifetime. " Li Canghai explained slowly.
After giving his words some thought Shi Mu asked, "Master once said, there are two components in martial art, techniques and cultivation. Techniques deal with the methods to kill, while cultivation is the art of Qi-sensing and body tempering. The two work in harmony and one cannot be used without the other. But if weighed strictly which one of the two do you think is more important?"
"Hey, you smart little kid are really thinking too much. But this is a frequently asked question even from ancient times that each experienced warrior may have his own understanding. For me if you have only learned techniques then you would limit yourself greatly, it would be like having a head of lead and legs made of jelly, you wouldn't be able to stand at all. On the other hand, if you learn cultivation only, even a beginner could kill you, no matter how much Real Qi you have, like a having a cow to plow the field but no yoke to harness the power. But a Xiantian Saint can protect his body merely by his Real Qi, even if he just stands there without moving a muscle, ordinary weapons would never be able to damage him at all. Moreover, he can just shake weak guys to death merely by using his Real Qi. Last but not least, ordinary people can live at most a hundred years, but an Xiantian Saint's life expectancy is doubled." Cang Lihai first snickered, then continued to explain.
"So master thinks cultivation is more important, " Shi Mu answered, smiling.
"Many difficult arts contain both cultivation and techniques at the same time. When you reach a certain level, your cultivation will be coordinated by following certain techniques; the two are inseparable as yin and yang. To compare them separately doesn't make any sense. But for you Practitioners the first task should to be to train your cultivation to strengthen your general abilities and your body. If not, even when you have the chance to learn a rare martial art, you won't make never be able to grasp its intricacies without Qi-sensing. Moreover, each arts have a cultivation requirement, especially so for high levels. If you'd like to learn an art surpassing your current level, the consequences would be quite disastrous: either you would damage your own cultivation causing you to never be able to cultivate ever again or you get killed by your own Qi rebounding in your own body. " Li Canghai said disapprovingly.
"I see, but can I see you display your Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade Art again?" Shi Mu nodded and then asked for the favour.
"It takes a lot of energy to display the movements, and I still want to teach you Stone-Breaking Fist today in the remaining time, so I will only show you once more . " Li Canghai frowned, grudging his agreement after some thought of how Shi Mu was full of obedience.
The next moment, Li Canghai went to the middle of the square, took the blade from Shi Mu and began the swift movements after a shout which was powerful noise that seemed no louder than a whisper. In just a second, multiple slicing sounds were heard one after another another in the square. The movements of his silver blade left an illusionary blur like a long white whip. He started slowly but each movement exceeding the preceding in swiftness until in a blink, everything blurred into a silver light accompanied by the pressure of a slight wind.
Shi Mu watched the scene with the utmost concentration.
After a while, the cold silver light moved slowly to a wooden target on one side of the square. With a loud shout, the light swirled toward the stock, its coldness followed by strong wind. Then, all of a sudden, the wind stopped along with the cold light which melted into the daylight.
Pa! Pa! With several clear thuds the target was seen cut into seven parts right from the middle. The broken parts rolled down to the ground.
The ordinary-looking movement contained six cuts in seemingly one cut!
"Six cuts in one movement without using his Real Qi, master's practice of this blade art has really attained perfection." Shi Mu could not help but utter a long sigh of admiration, clapping his hands.
"I could have done nine if I used my Real Qi, and if one is fully accomplished he could do thirteen. It's a pity I am far from perfection. There's a rumour about this blade art that it actually belongs to the Xiantian level, only that it was divided into thirteen serieses so it dropped to the level of Practitioners and its power was reduced immensely. Of course it's only a rumour, if it's really an Xiantian art it wouldn't have been leaked out. Millions would have restored it. " Li Canghai smiled lightly.
"Thirteen cuts in a movement, who can resist before such a high level of technique!" Shi Mu was astonished at such words.
"If you could truly achieve thirteen cuts, you would surely surpass all the Houtian Warriors, and maybe even some Xiantian Saints. Well for now, these things can wait. Now let me show you the key to this Feng Chi blade art one last time, and then we'll move on to the Stone-Breaking Fist. It may seem that this art consists of thirteen parts, but once practised and if actually followed successively by movements, and one will realize to use the power of the wind to quicken each one of your cuts, building on each one, before finally reaching the top speed which nothing can resist."
Li Canghai imparted earnestly, while Shi Mu listened with full concentration, memorizing everything by heart.
"Well, that's all of the Thirteen Series of Gale Force Blade Art. Let's move on to the Stone-Breaking Fist. This fist art is different from Feng Chi blade art in that it is an art simply requiring strength, and its movements are quite easy; you only need to induce power with your fists. As shown by its name, once you fully grasp this technique you can undoubtedly break any stone with your bare fist." Saying thus, Li Canghai went to a stone the size of a basin, took a deep breath and then kicked crazily at the stone.
"Peng!" a thunderous sound sounded out.
Despite his bony stature, his kick sent the huge stone lock into the air!
He let out a shout and then pounded suddenly into the air, his bony body seemed three times as strong now and looked as imposing as a tiger.
A thunderous boom was heard. The falling boulder exploded with a shower of broken stone flying in all directions.
Shi Mu's eyes were glittering wide in amazement.
"Listen, no matter whether you practice the blade or the sword in the future, it's possible that you will run into situations when you have no weapons with you. The only thing you can rely on then is your fists. This fist art, though simple, is sufficient for any Practitioner. If you could really be fully grasp this art, it shall lay a strong foundation for other fist and kicking techniques. Although it is well known for its power, few Practitioners have set their minds to learn it because of the suffering it takes to reinforce your fists. This art relies much on one's strength, so for someone born with great strength, it will yield twice the result for half the effort. Similar to before, I did not use my Real Qi at all in that pound. " Li Canghai said, expressionless.
"I wonder how much strength master has now?" Shi Mu could not help but blurt out the question.
"Me? I can easily lift a stone boulder of five hundred jin, without using Qi."
He went to the second largest stone lock half the size of a man which looked extremely heavy...
Again, with a shout he lowered his body and grasped with both his arms. Exerting himself, he suddenly lifted the stone over his head.
Shi Mu hurled his praises at his instructor, at which the bony man showed an expression of some pride. Indeed, with pure body strength few Houtian Warriors could have lifted a stone boulder as heavy as instructor Li had lifted, even throughout Feng City...
An hour later Li Canghai left the manor, leaving Shi Mu standing on the square alone, a medicine bottle the size of his thumb and a white book in hand.
This medicine was made by Li Canghai particularly to aid in practising the fist art and the book told the secret of the art. Shi Mu only glanced at the bottle, opened the lid and smelled it, then put it away before sitting directly on the grass and beginning to peruse the book.
Speaking of reading, as Shi Mu was a poor orphan, he would not have known a single character had not an old scholar living near the fishing village taught him the characters for several years for free.
Shi Mu browsed through the whole book and then looked down at the bottle in the other hand, a surprised look on his face.
"The greater strength the better?" The youth murmured, putting away his book and turned to look at the nearby stone locks. He then walked to the largest one which was the size of a table, nearly twice as large as the one Li had lifted. It weighed at least a thousand jin.
He lowered his body and moving his right arm, tried to lift the stone with only one hand. Astonishingly a large boom thudded as Shi Mu lifted the huge monster of a boulder with one hand over his head, as if it weighed no more than a feather.
 Chi: a unit of length (= 1/3 metre).
 Xiu Cai: one who passed the imperial examination at the county level in the Ming and Qing dynasties.
 Jin: a unit of weight (=1/2 kilogram).