Chapter 117: Sanon
Stepping on the air and having wind flow past his face, Sila's body freely shot forward and the qi within his body was continuously circulating. He believed he could finally tell what the difference was between real-life qi and in-game qi.
For in-game qi, you can activate or deactivate the circulation with just a thought. The qi would circulate on its own without needing your control. As for Tiger Dragon Qi, Sila needed to always be aware of it and control the circulation constantly. Although it was harder and more troublesome, Sila believed that it was worthwhile.
Thinking about this caused Sila to wonder about the intentions of Monster Soul's creator.
Usually, online games tend to be designed to keep consumers playing as long as possible to make a profit. However, Sila believed that the reason why Monster Soul was created should be something deeper than simple profit. The game only ranked among the top ten without reaching the top three and the money from ads also seemed negligible. Moreover, there were many methods for them to earn money, like the cash shop, but they weren't implemented.
Stepping on the air for the last time, Sila landed himself on the ground in front of Madmen's Valley and looked at the Chinese characters which he still couldn't read.
"They are read as 'Xian Shan', meaning 'Valley of Immortals'." The voice of a middle-aged man could be heard from behind. Sila was startled and turned his back.
He couldn't detect the presence of this man at all.
The man standing behind Sila was probably in his early-to-mid 40s. His neat black hair was peppered with greyish white specks. His facial expression seemed kind under a pair of plain-looking glasses.
"It seems you use the same appearance as your real body, right, Sila?"
Sila was surprised that the man knew about him. Normally, people who knew him in the game always turned out to be enemies but this man didn't seem to harbor evil intention. Thus, Sila politely asked:
"Excuse me, sir, who are you?"
"I'm Sanon." This reply of the man caused Sila to realize that the man was the person who he needed to meet.
"Hello, Mister Sanon. I'm Sila. It's nice to see you."
Sanon nodded. "We should continue talking inside. Please come in. Crow should be waiting for us."
Sila agreed and walked alongside Sanon through the entrance of the valley. During their short journey, Sanon started a conversation.
"It seems you were able to arrive at this Valley of Immortals without many difficulties."
"I got lucky, sir. By the way, why is this place called the Valley of Immortals?"
"Have you heard about Independent NPCs?"
As Sila nodded, Sanon continued:
"This place is the location where most of Independent NPCs used to live. The name of this place was given by the game creator. Each NPC had hidden quests for players to do but they were too hard, so in the end, they came to call this place Madmen's Valley instead."
Sila had a hard time swallowing his saliva. The reason why it was called that way was surely because those NPCs gave close-to-impossible quests. He started to worry about the difficulty of the hidden quest that he would attempt soon.
"I don't see any other NPCs in Mad... Ahem, the Valley of Immortals except for Mister Crow, though."
"During these years, no one had arrived to take the quests so most NPCs were allowed to leave. Crow has to stay here because he lost when we drew lots. Fufu."
At last, the two men arrived at the inner part of Madmen's Valley. Upon seeing the two, Crow welcomed them.
"Sanon. Oh? Have you already met Sila?"
"We happened to meet each other at the entrance."
"Have you finished your attending to that matter?" asked Crow.
Sanon nodded. "Done. He will be here in a few days."
Crow didn't particularly care as he turned his attention to Sila. "You're able to practice it within three days? That's impressive."
"I got a lot of help, sir. I wouldn't have been able to pull it off if I was alone."
Sanon secretly evaluated Sila's personality and could tell that Sila was modest and wasn't arrogant.
Inviting everyone to enter his wooden home, Crow led the way and prepared a seat for them.
"Sila, the hidden quest for you will be available at midnight tomorrow. For now, you can take a look around the valley, or practice in a faraway backyard. Just follow the route and you will see it."
"Thank you, Mister Crow."
Listening to the conversation, Sanon politely cut in. "Why don't you use this time to practice Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws?"
Sila was troubled. "About that, I think two days won't be enough for it. Can I practice it once I am done with the quest, sir?"
"For Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, if you're good at remembering, two days are enough for performing its martial moves. But if you plan to master it, even a year wouldn't be enough."
Sila immediately understood what Sanon was trying to tell him. Even for Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps that Sila had learned from Wu Ming, witnessing the difference of skill between himself and Sangdao, not to mention compared to Wu Ming's level of skill, he wouldn't dare say that he had mastered it.
"Among the three arts, this art seems to have the lowest compatibility with you so I suggest you learn about its foundation first and study the rest later by yourself."
"Learn by myself?" Sila frowned.
He had to spend weeks practicing Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps under Wu Ming's personal guidance for him to be able to use it in actual combats. However, Sanon suggested that he learn Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, which seemed to be equally complex, by himself?
Sanon nodded. "My teaching method is letting my disciples learn by themselves and giving pointers after that. Just ask me if you stumble on anything."
Giving it a thought, Sila indeed wanted to know more about Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws. Based off of what he heard from Wu Ming, Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps, Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, and Nine Sun-Melting-Fists are all about martial moves that require experience for using them well, unlike Tiger Dragon Qi which was a pure qi art without any martial moves.
A profound art that is built around martial moves is easy to practice but is not enough to become truly powerful. The profound practitioners will have to master martial moves and then the inner force will naturally build up as they grow older. Most profound practitioners start with this method, including Independent NPCs. Aside from having a visible result as soon as they have attained some mastery over the martial arts, they can develop martial moves further using their own experience.
On the contrary, some profound practitioners start by building up their inner force first. Kiryu's Tiger Dragon Qi and Poluk's Genesis Punch fall in this category. For these profound arts, they are hard to practice but you will easily become powerful once you master it. For profound practitioners to practice this way, they will have to become aware of the existence of their inner force and build it up by letting it flow throughout their body. Once a sufficient amount of inner force was built up, just a straight punch strengthened with qi would be enough to compensate for the lack of martial moves.[T/N: Think of them as practicing real-life traditional martial arts (Judo, Karate, Boxing, etc.) versus building up real-life inner force. The former gives a visible result (at least your ability in self-defense gets stronger) while the latter isn't guaranteed to succeed (but if you were to succeed, you will have a physique similar to that of a character from a wuxia novel).]
Well, the latter method wasn't chosen very often because practitioners rarely had the determination to spend ten years without any visible results like Poluk and Kiryu.
Since profound arts were being discussed, Crow asked, "Anyway, how is the qi of Single-Horned Dragons?"
Sila replied, "It's very good, sir. It suits me well."
"That's good." Crow nodded. Sanon also didn't ask about it further.
What Crow and Sanon had yet to realize and Sila planned to keep a secret was that Tiger Dragon Qi wasn't just an in-game qi, it was also a qi art that could be practiced in real life.
Many would think that they don't have that much of a difference, but they did.
If it was an in-game qi, it would only exist in the game. This kind of qi can be obtained by anyone. However, for personal, real-life qi arts like Tiger Dragon Qi, there will be detailed learning methods. You can use your brain and mind to understand them and practice it in real life to be able to succeed at building up inner force in a short time.
The reason why Sila decided to keep this a secret wasn't because he had some kind of ulterior motive. It was only because he had learned from Sangdao and Wu Ming that experts always keep some secrets to themselves. Even Sangdao had her secrets, so Sila would like to have some of his own as well.
Tiger Dragon Qi was a no-name qi. Even if someone were to witness Sila using it, they would only think that it was one of the qi that was available in the game. Thus, only Sila, who had read the message left behind by Kiryu, and the game creator would know about this secret.
"First things first, I think you better get some rest, Sila. You can come find me in the backyard whenever you're ready." Finishing the sentence, Sanon left the house.
Crow also stood up and followed Sanon. Before he left, he turned his head to talk to Sila.
"You can make yourself at home here, young lad. I will leave to prepare the quest and will come back before midnight tomorrow."
Then, Crow left, leaving Sila to be alone in the house.
Although he wasn't that tired, the experience he gained from learning Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps taught Sila to prepare himself for the worst.
Sila took the Tiger Dragon Qi book out and read its contents before putting it back into his system window. The details in the book instructed him that he should use his most natural posture for performing qi circulation.
He walked inside the bedroom and sat cross-legged on the bed. Placing a hand on each of his laps, he closed his eyes and controlled his breathing.
Frankly, basic qi circulation was enough for releasing fatigue. However, the book said that the specific qi circulation of Tiger Dragon Qi could allow him to build up inner force as well as releasing fatigue. So, even though it would take more time, Sila decided to do it as he wanted to become familiar with Tiger Dragon Qi quickly.
For the last three days that he had practiced qi, his mastery over Tiger Dragon Qi stayed at Level 1 without going up. Nevertheless, Sila was aware that it was a different case from what happened with Shapeless Qi. The reason the level of Shapeless Qi didn't increase was because it couldn't. Whereas, the level of Tiger Dragon Qi actually reflects Sila's mastery over it. If it reached Level 100, that would mean Sila could use it as perfectly as Kiryu intended.
This fact was described in the book written by Kiryu. Although Tiger Dragon Qi wasn't an in-game skill, the system was responsible for helping the player determine their mastery over the skill. So, the increase of skill level doesn't mean its power gets stronger but rather reflects user's comprehension towards the skill. It is shown in numerical value so the user would get a clear picture of how much he or she is lacking.
The reason why Sila's Tiger Dragon Qi stayed at Level 1 was because he had yet to circulate it again after his first try. That's right, he had been depending on Rex's transmitted qi for the last three to four days. That was the case until almost all of his qi was depleted with the match against Rex in the morning. Rex knew about this as well so he had deliberately forced Sila to spend all the transmitted qi in his body.
From now on, the Tiger Dragon Qi that Sila was going to use would come from his own circulations.
This also meant the qi Sila used to fight with Rex in the morning was not his own. Sila was a little worried that his own developed qi might not be able to compare to the qi he received from Rex.
Sila's awareness of qi started at his underbelly before letting it flow slowly to several parts of his body. Even though Sila had experienced circulating it, he felt it was completely different from the qi he received from Rex.
Drops of water accumulated and became a flow of water. The flow of water became a river. Then, a river became a great river. The tiny amount of qi within Sila's body was building up and Sila could clearly feel it.
He let it circulate all over his body once, then let it circulate all over his body in reverse once he was done with the former.
Finished, he let it flow normally once again.
Sila was circulating his qi, alternating between flowing in sequence and flowing in reverse for ten times. Each time, the speed of the circulation increased.
His fatigue disappeared. Sila felt like he had rested for a whole day after he reopened his eyes. He tried to move his body and found that warm power ran through his system. The world seemed to be more colorful, the smells in the air and tree leaves were easier to pick up, and the sounds of the forest from afar could be heard. All in all, his five senses seemed to have been improved slightly.
Sila got off the bed and waited for the system, which was currently processing how high his comprehension of Tiger Dragon Qi was, to announce the result. He opened both palms and created hardened qi before pushing them together. Then, he could feel the unseen wall that prevented both of his palms from touching each other.
Afterward, Sila circulated qi in reverse according to the softness attribute and the unseen wall became soft and flexible like a rubber ball, allowing his palms to tap on each other, yet sensing a soft texture in between.
Smiling at his own achievement, Sila felt that Tiger Dragon Qi was very fun and amazing. He was confident that he would undoubtedly become much stronger once he had succeeded in using Tiger Dragon Qi as his base qi and performing the martial moves of Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps, Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, and Nine Sun-Melting-Fists.
While he was imagining his future self, the system declaration that Sila had been waiting for went off.
You have achieved a certain condition. The level of Tiger Dragon Qi has risen to 29.
You have achieved a certain condition. The level of Shapeless Qi has risen to 29.
"Twenty-nine? Is it considered high or low?"
In fact, the number should be lower than this since all Sila had learned was qi circulation. For Tiger Dragon Qi, the art is detailed to the point where each movement requires a slightly different qi circulation in each organ. Nevertheless, Sila had understood Formless Soldier quite well, enabling him to use both hardening and softening attributes from the beginning, so the system evaluated that his mastery was around this level.
Sila exited the house and followed a narrow road which led him to the inner part of the valley. Sanon was waiting for him at the end of the road.
"Are you ready?" Sanon said to Sila.
"Yes, sir. I'm ready. You can start anytime."
Sanon fell silent for a moment. "Before that, there is something I need to tell you. It's something that you need to know prior to studying under my guidance."
Since Sanon might try to tell him some tips regarding martial arts, Sila kept quiet and attentively waited for Sanon to continue.
Sanon remained silent for another short while before steeling himself and speaking.
"I'm Montra's teacher."