Chapter 122: Nine Sun-Melting-Fists
Sila sat down on the stone floor of the backyard that was deep within Madmen's Valley, located between the village zone and the Cave of Immortals. In his hand was the Nine Sun-Melting-Fists book. He divided its contents into two parts; the first was basic understanding and the latter was full of illustrations without any explanations.
Nine Sun-Melting-Fists is an offensive art. Every part of the user can be used as a weapon. Every movement needs to be able to grant victory or at least open up a chance for the user to continue attacking. The concept of this art is 'fast beats slow'. The most simple attack can bring out the most effective result. Every action needs to be decisive, powerful, fast, and able to snatch every chance of victory from the opponents. What awaits them is only defeat.
After reading the introduction of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists in detail, Sila found that he could understand it better than Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws. His teacher always told him that chances are something we need to create ourselves, so the art that aims to wait for an opportunity to counterattack like Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws was hard for him. In the end, he adapted Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws to use semi-offensively instead of completely defensively like it should be.
'Sun-Melting' means your attacks are more powerful than the sun itself. Every action is intense, violent, and aggressive like you can melt even the sun with your moves. Number nine means nine significant changes. The martial move starts at nine basic moves, then every move can be changed in nine possible ways, totaling ninety moves.
Sila flipped through the book and found that it had exactly one hundred pages. After he had read through them, he noticed that the martial move shown in the first page of every ten pages would be the basic, followed by similar movements for the next nine pages, then continued with the same pattern.
As for the last page, it contained only a single sentence of his teacher's handwriting.
"Understand the box to think outside the box. The arts are unchanging while humans are living."
Sila's lips curled into a smile. As expected from his teacher. From the start, the person who taught him not to heavily rely on specific movements was none other than Mora.
Based on his experience with Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, Sila discovered the placements of feet was as important as the martial moves themselves since they say a lot about the art. Be it the attack range, the flow of inner force, or how to correctly pose.
Thus, if he could properly know where to place his feet and what footwork to perform according to the art, the rest of the art's movements will come easily.
In the illustrations, there were only the images of footprints scattered around on many pages without numbers indicating where to start.
It even seemed that some movements required lifting up the foot so some footprints almost didn't make sense to him. Luckily, the movements of Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps were far more complex, otherwise, he wouldn't understand a thing.
"For Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps, although there are numerous possibilities for how to move, the beginning and the end always connect to each other. In that case, I need to hypothesize that each footstep of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists connects to each other. It doesn't matter where I start, but I have to end my movement where I start."
Sila started from the seemingly most simple footprint and tried guessing which footprint seemed reasonable to take next. However, after he had tried for almost three hours, he realized that it was much harder than he had anticipated.
Sila was tired so he took a rest by circulating qi. He chose to go with the dragon attribute as it was more compatible with Nine Sun-Melting-Fists.
"Well, I better increase my understanding of the principle of the art first. I will postpone studying the footwork for later."
Sila flipped the pages back, planning to use his learning method that worked when studying Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws. Nevertheless, the important factor that had enabled him to understand Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws was the fact that he had faced off against Kawin. As for Nine Sun-Melting-Fists, he had no example to follow at all.
Disappointingly, he couldn't find anything useful in the rest of the book. There were only repeating remarks explaining the grandness of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists which was of no use to Sila.
He leaned on a rock while keeping his eyes on the contents of the book. Six hours had passed but Sila's understanding toward Nine Sun-Melting-Fists still had no progress.
"Didn't Teacher Wu Ming say that Nine Sun-Melting-Fists is the most suitable to me? The progress is even less than Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws when that was supposed to be the most difficult."
As he was at his wits' end, Sila's thoughts wandered to this morning when he could utilize Tiger Dragon Qi with Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws.
He bent his fingers as claws according to Kiryu's principle of using the flow of qi to lead the movements.
He was doing this for a while until the spark of an idea came to his mind. He immediately jumped up.
"I see! I was so stupid. It is the same principle."
Sila flipped the pages between the contents about martial moves and about placements of feet. He discovered that his idea was spot on as he could understand almost all of the footwork.
"Even though it's true that the placement of the feet indicates attack range, the flow of inner force, and how to move, at the same time, the martial moves also reflect how the user should move their feet. So, if I compare them to each other, I can see which placements are suitable for which martial moves," Sila said delightfully.
As there was progress, his motivation to learn the art intensified. Sila still didn't focus on martial moves but used them as references to increase his understanding of the footwork.
He had practiced all of the footwork for three hours straight. Now, Sila could replicate all of the footwork in the book, though the speed was still lacking as he had yet to memorize the contents. Being slow is fatal for a user of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists, so he decided to close the book and began to practice the footwork again without relying on it.
Finally, after another three hours had passed, his body could remember all of the ways the user's feet should move. Although he wouldn't call it perfect, he believed that he had mastered about seventy percent of it.
The torches around the area automatically lit up. Sila looked at his system window and found that he had already spent more than half of his time yet he was still hadn't started any of the martial moves.
Thus, he sat down on the ground and started circulating qi using the basic method. Although circulating qi using Tiger Dragon Qi's specific circulation was better, it was more complex. He needed more time to practice so he decided to lessen the time spent circulating qi.
As he wasn't injured anywhere or running low on qi, Sila only needed five minutes to feel refreshed again. It seemed that Shapeless Qi could increase the effectiveness of basic qi circulation as well.
Sila started learning the nine basic moves of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists. As they were simply meant for the user to follow the motions, he could learn them relatively easily.
The art became harder when each basic move branched out to nine more moves. Aside from the difference in the motions of each move, Sila couldn't tell what they were supposed to be used for.
There were only the illustrations of a practitioner in the book; there were no illustrations of an opponent.
The more he practiced, the more Sila felt that the art became easier.
Once he practiced the footwork together with the martial moves, the progress went smoothly. There were even some moves that Sila could successfully perform on the first go.
Nine more hours passed as Sila had been switching between practicing and resting. Finally, he believed he had mastered about seventy percent of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists.
It was different from Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws which he only understood the technique of. For Nine Sun-Melting-Fists, he could understand most of its martial moves.
Sila reviewed the art in his head and finally understood why Nine Sun-Melting-Fists didn't have pages about its practical use.
He was curious because he was aware that the martial moves during practice and during actual combat can have different uses.
It came to him that the phrase 'Understand the box to think outside the box. The arts are unchanging while humans are living' was, in fact, the entirety of the practical content for Nine Sun-Melting-Fists.
Since it was a martial art that focused on speed, Sila only needed fifteen minutes to repeat what he had learned once. He continued to repeat all of the movements, significantly lowering the time that he had to take.
Now, the flow of Tiger Dragon Qi in Sila's body circulated on its own.
The martial move was strong, while the qi strengthened it further. As a result, his fist slammed into the air, but this time there was an impact.
The sound of an explosion in the air caused Sila to feel surprised. He stopped what he was doing and looked blankly at his own fist.
Sila could barely believe his own eyes. He dismissed any thoughts about Nine Sun-Melting-Fists for a while and hurriedly opened the part about Dragon's Fist in the Tiger Dragon Qi book to read thoroughly.
"The dragon shows its head without showing its tail, its roar rumbles the heaven, and its majestic power can completely annihilate its enemies."
As he read the explanation, he was sure that the fist he threw just now was really Dragon's Fist of Tiger Dragon Qi. The fist that could roar like a dragon and its power was mighty.
What made him curious was that he had never practiced Dragon's Fist, so how could he unleash its power?
Sila tried throwing his punch again, hoping to see the air in front of him explode. However, there was only silence and the flicker of flames on torches.
"Eh? Why was I able to do it the first time, then?" Sila was skeptical as he tried again many more times, though the result was always failure.
While the flow of qi can lead the body's movement, the movement of the body itself can bring forth the power of inner force. Despite being different methods, different paths, both methods aim for the same destination.
Sila was simultaneously studying two methods altogether. Once the day where these paths crossed and became one arrived, he would surpass his old self and join the ranks of top-tier experts.
At first, Sila planned to continued studying Dragon's Fist for a bit longer. However, as he realized that the appointed time with his teacher had come near, he turned his attention back to studying Nine Sun-Melting-Fists, though he still had some hope up for witnessing Dragon's Fist again.
Sadly, it seemed he was too conscious of it so he was unable to show the power of Dragon's Fist again that night.
The sun was rising. Sila started to completely get a hang of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists, especially its footwork which he had already mastered.
He could tell the differences in footwork techniques between the three arts.
Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps' footwork focused on agility, enabling the user to move freely on a battlefield. Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws' focused on redirecting the incoming attack using the user as the core of the sphere. As for Nine Sun-Melting-Fists, as expected from an offensive art, each of its footwork techniques focused on putting the user into a more favorable position for attacking. There were more techniques regarding stepping forward than stepping backward.
Sila stood up and circulated qi for the last time before the appointed time arrived.
The nameless elder was correct to guess that Nine Sun-Melting-Fists was the most suitable for Sila. Just studying allowed Sila to come up with many more ideas and movements not being described in the book.
If he had more time, he would've liked to adapt those ideas he had into the art.
As he finished practicing, he believed he had come to understand more about his teacher, Mora.
Everything Mora had taught Sila, it was laying down the basics so that he could improve when the time came for him to learn the art.
Quick wit, body balance, adaptive thinking, outside the box ideas, the ability to gauge distances, and a suitable physique for learning martial arts. All of them were basics for practicing Nine Sun-Melting-Fists.
His teacher, Mora, arrived at the appointed time.
Sila put his palms together to greet his teacher.
"Hello, teacher." Sila was smiling. Although he hadn't completely mastered the art, he believed that his current mastery of it could let his teacher feel proud of him.
"No need to waste time. Follow me," said Mora as he led the way.
Sila was confused while following his teacher. He was feeling both sad and slighted as he asked,
"Could it be that it was like what you told me, Teacher? Being good at the art or not doesn't matter and Teacher only wants me to be able to use it?"
Mora stopped walking and turned his head to Sila. His eyes were gentle, which was a rare sight for Sila.
"In addition of being your teacher, I'm more like your father. I'm aware of what you are capable of. The reason why you have come to show me the art means you're confident in your success. I gave you only one night because I knew you could do it."
Sila was listening intently. Despite the fact that his teacher had raised him as if he was his own son, with his main disciple status, there was not even once that his teacher had called himself father or called Sila his son.
"Listen well. The other Elders only want you to obstruct Montra's plan, but I know you can do more than that. I don't need to expect anything from you because I know you can surely do it."
"You also don't need to make me feel proud of you. Remember this. I am and always will be proud of you."
As he finished his sentence, Mora started walking again. "Now, follow me."
Sila smiled and quickly followed. It was a well-known fact that his teacher was the type of person who wasn't good at expressing his feelings. All the things his teacher said just now caused Sila's heart to feel warm.
The teacher and disciple pair walked along the stone floor and arrived at the wooden table where Crow had sat and enjoyed sake last night.
Now, there were three more people around the table, which were Sanon, Wu Ming, and Sangdao.
Both of them approached the table and took their seats. Mora came to sit near Sanon and Wu Ming at one side of the table. As for the other side, there were Crow and Sangdao, so Sila chose to sit next to Crow, who was situated between him and Sangdao.
Sangdao showed a dry smile as she knew the meaning behind Sila's action. She nodded to greet Sila, to which Sila greeted her back expressionlessly.
"Crow, this conversation is about the association. Could you please step out?" Mora asked honestly.
"Oho. You guys come to talk in my house and you still want to chase the owner of the house away?" Crow grumbled.
"Sorry, Crow. Please," said Sanon.
"Fine, fine. I will go shopping outside for an hour before coming back." Crow pulled out a ticket and teleported away.
"Now, Sila. The three of us are the Elders of the Wulin Masters Association. You are currently chosen as the reserve successor. In the case that the current successor fails to carry out his mission, you will get the position of successor immediately." Sanon suddenly cut to the chase.
Sila knew this from Mora so he wasn't that surprised. However, he felt sorry for Montra who was suddenly dismissed from his position.
No matter what, today, he would stop at nothing to acquire the reason for that. Although it was an order from the three Elders, including his teacher, he still needed to know all about this. He wouldn't be able to fight if he was still uncertain of who was in the wrong.
Sanon continued, "Your mission is to do whatever it takes to prevent Montra from obtaining victory in the upcoming war event."
Sila frowned. "Do you mean... all I have to do is prevent Montra from being the victor of the war event?"
"That's right," curtly replied Sanon.
Sila had a feeling that these people didn't think he had any chance of winning against Montra. Does the phrase 'do whatever it takes' imply that he is allowed to use any dirty tricks as long as they make Montra fall?
Hearing this, he wasn't pleased with the Elders at all.
"There is something I have to ask first," said Sila.
Everyone stopped. Wu Ming didn't show any particular reactions. He hadn't even greeted Sila. As for Mora, he just sat there without saying a word.
Thus, Sanon seemed to act like a representative of all the Elders present.
He nodded at Sila as he said, "Say it."
"What was the reason for Montra's dismissal from the successor position?"
This was a key question that Sila wanted the answer for the most. Despite how Montra was his enemy, if the answer he heard implied that Montra was being mistreated, he would do his best to object and not accept the Elders' order.