Seven days had passed . . . To be more accurate, Sila thought that seven days had passed .
The flow of time in the Desert of Death was distorted and confusing . Sometimes the day continued for more than forty hours and other times the sun was only out for an hour .
The time displayed in his system window seemed to be malfunctioning as the numbers were jumping around non-stop . He has stopped relying on that and instead drew a streak on a canvas each time he thought it had been twenty-four hours .
“Is today the seventh day? Or is it the eighth?”
Sila talked to himself while taking a look at the blazing sun hanging exactly above his head, though the moon had been in its place just an hour ago .
“Let it be . It’s no use counting anymore . ” Sila eventually decided to toss away the brush . He approached Lookhin, who was using its talon to play with sand like a hen .
“You have to transform today, okay, Lookhin? The Affection Level is at sixty-five percent now . ”
Sebastian exited his tent and joined Sila . In his hand was a wooden pole the same length as his old scythe . He raised his head to look at the sun, similar to what Sila had done a moment before .
“If memory serves me right, I believe it was night time an hour ago, wasn’t it, sir?”
“I quit trying to track the days . How goes practice, Sebastian?” asked Sila .
“I have memorised all of the contents, sir, but I will need to try them out to know how much I have mastered . ”
“We can start our sparring session a bit earlier, then . I have accumulated enough inner force, so this may be our last . From tomorrow onward, I will be busy training my qi, which will take time . I will have to bother you with taking care of Lookhin in my place . ”
Sebastian looked at Lookhin . All it had done recently was eating and boringly playing with sand . The food he and Sila prepared for three months had been reduced by one third even though he didn’t eat any and Sila only ate a meal per day .
“I’m more worried about the food, sir . If Lookhin continues to eat at this speed, we will have a difficult time staying here . ”
“That’s why I want Lookhin to transform as soon as possible . At the very least, if it learns Qi Circulation, it will require less food . ”
Sebastian raised his head to look at the green ball made of Lookhin’s magic power . The more time passed, the bigger it became . Its current radius was now a whopping hundred meters . Other than providing a way to block the sunlight, the spell didn’t show any notable results, making Sebastian worry that it might have failed . Thankfully, its size continued to increase, indicating that the spell was working .
“It is taking a while . Hopefully, it won’t take a month . We will have to find another solution otherwise,” said Sebastian .
Sila walked to the area where he and Sebastian sparred every other day (or at least Sila thought it was every other day) . He recalled his martial art’s concept and relaxed his muscles .
“It’s pointless to feel worried . Let’s spar . Rather than only using martial moves like we did previously, you can use magic power reinforcement today, Sebastian . Oh, and don’t hold back . ”
Sebastian stood in his place, three meters away from Sila . He firmly held the wooden pole in his hand, pointing its tip at Sila . It was Subjugating Halberd’s pre-battle stance .
“Are you sure that’s a good idea, sir? Your qi is only at the level of Basic Qi . I’m afraid that our spar will mess up your cultivation plan if things go wrong . ”
“I have my way of doing things . You don’t need to hold back, Sebastian . I can’t practice my martial art otherwise . ”
“Then, let’s start, sir . ”
Sila nodded . Lookhin stopped playing with sand and watched the fight .
Black magic particles intensely covered Sebastian . Although he had lost the spells, Sebastian’s magic power capacity stayed the same . By using it directly through magic power reinforcement, his stats increased greatly, albeit temporarily .
Sila was calm like he was a pebble within a fierce storm . He was utilizing qi internally . His eyes showed no emotion, and his breathing was stable .
Both Profound Qi Circulation Art and Heaven’s Decree Sword Art were created with the concept of ‘use less to win more . ’ As Sila started anew with them in his mind, he was confident that he could still win even if his stats were lower than Sebastian’s .
Sebastian kicked a pile of sand toward Sila’s face . Subjugating Halberd was an art designed to be used in a chaotic battlefield, so it wasn’t above using dirty tricks in order to win . Each grain of sand was imbued with magic power reinforcement, and thousands of them flew at Sila as if they were needles .
Sila’s eyes glowed and flashed golden . Sebastian immediately knew what action Sila would take . He enveloped himself with black magic particles and leaped forward to get out of Sila’s line of sight .
Evil God’s Essence — Transcendent Hidden Weapon Mastery .
Sila waved his hand once, and all of the sand was collected on his palm miraculously . This was the result of the Hidden Weapon Mastery skill at the transcendent rank, enabling him to marvelously collect small objects .
Even though Sila couldn’t see Sebastian, he was confident that the butler was in his blind spot . Although Sebastian’s action was a decent one, it wasn’t different than blatantly giving away his position .
Sila fired the hidden weapons in his hand . The grains of sand were clad with his qi reinforcement and flew behind him as if they were alive, aiming at Sebastian . Each of the grains moved extremely delicately, as if Sila fired them one by one .
Sebastian was well aware that he couldn’t dodge the hidden weapons, so he abandoned his defense . He spun the pole in his hand and counterattacked by smashing it on the back of Sila’s head .
The grains of sand flew past the pole and consecutively struck Sebastian’s body while the pole’s tip was about to hit Sila’s head .
Sila ducked . His head was pointing downward while his feet shot toward the sky . He used his feet to parry Sebastian’s pole and used his qi to form a knife of sand . He flung it at Sebastian, and it pierced the butler’s head .
Sila rolled once and stood like usual, calmly watching Sebastian who retreated a few steps away .
“Sir, you just used Evil God’s Essence . How could I cope with that? Didn’t you tell me you would rely only on your martial art?” Sebastian asked while pulling the sand knife out of his head . The knife ran out of power and lost its form, slipping through Sebastian’s fingers .
“I’m really sorry . I admit that I wasn’t confident in blocking your previous move, so I accidentally activated Evil God’s Essence . That means you have become stronger, Sebastian . I wouldn’t fear if I had to fight the past you in a close-range battle . ”
“You overpraise me, sir . Evil God’s Essence has a duration of five seconds per day . Now that you have used it, I’m more at ease going on the offensive . ”
“You are right . I will have to come up with another way to cope with your attack, then . ”
Sebastian dashed at Sila, quickly narrowing the gap between them . He brandished the pole in his hand violently . It was a fighting style that no one would have witnessed from the past Sebastian, who focused on using spells while keeping his distance .
Sila raised his hands slowly, tranquilly parrying the constant attacks . The reason he wasn’t injured despite his qi capacity being low was mainly thanks to Lookhin’s involuntarily help .
In the beginning, Sila often activated Formless Soldier when he defended against big attacks . However, Lookhin could tactfully conceal its power and always perch on a part of his body, digging its talons into his skin . As a result, Sila learned to use Formless Soldier subconsciously . Soon, Sila came to a certain realization .
Poluk had taught him to use qi reinforcement at the moment of contact . It seemed the same teaching also applied to Formless Soldier . Both qi reinforcement and Formless Soldier were Genesis Punch’s foundations . Poluk had long since given Sila the answer and taught him how to utilize them to the best of their abilities .
The answer was always right in front of him, yet it took Sila a long time before he comprehended it and applied it in actual battles .
Sila’s body was as strong as weapons and armor . In the instant when Sebastian’s pole hit him, Sila would activate Formless Soldier almost subconsciously . By repetitively using it numerous times against Lookhin’s talons, using Formless Soldier had become a part of his usual behavior, like breathing, and as such his body always performed it automatically when it connected with anything .
Sebastian tried to strike Sila’s face, but Sila easily blocked it by raising his elbow up . Honestly speaking, the main reason why Sebastian’s pole couldn’t easily harm Sila was that it was just a common wooden pole designed for sparring . If it was a real weapon, it was highly likely that Sila wouldn’t be able to block it with his current power .
Sila noticed that the pressure from the pole became lighter . It turned out that Sebastian quit using the pole . The way he shifted his hand was ominous . Here came the moment when Bone Claws would bear its fang against its original master .
Nevertheless, Bone Claws was Sila’s art, so he knew all about it . Sebastian had only been practicing the art for a short time, so he had yet to fully adapt to it . From the butler’s standing position, Sila could limit where Sebastian could strike him .
Sila waved his hands . It would be a pointless action in bystanders’ eyes, but it greatly obstructed how Sebastian could perform Bone Claws . His hand’s movement froze for a brief moment as he didn’t know what to do, and an instant was lethal in a heated battle .
Sila promptly raised his foot . He stabbed Sebastian’s shoulder using his finger to numb the butler’s movement . Then, the kick arrived at Sebastian’s chest, stomping like a metal hammer, sending him away . Blood dripped from the corner of his mouth .
“What was that just now, sir? Why couldn’t I sense your kick at all?” Sebastian asked while drinking a health potion .
“I still haven’t come up with the name of the move, but that just now was a part of my martial move . Actually, if Sebastian successfully landed even a single hit on me, I would definitely die . ”
“Did you mean you didn’t use qi at all in the previous fight?” Sebastian asked with a shocked expression .
“That’s not it . I depended on my movements to guide the flow of qi, which is the heart of learning a martial art . You can say I used qi, though without forcefully circulating it but letting it flowed naturally . ”
“You are really skilled, sir . Do you even need to practice your martial art further?”
“Mn . This is not yet the level I hope my martial art will reach . Kiryu stated that using the flow of qi to guide the martial move is the zenith while Sanon stated that using martial moves to guide the flow of qi is the pinnacle . Both of them had their own points, though some people think differently . ”
Sila smiled . “That would be my teacher, Mora, and my father . They developed both qi arts and martial arts simultaneously . They said that using martial moves to guide the flow of qi is the Earth Way: firm, sturdy, and certain . Meanwhile, using the flow of qi to guide the martial move is the Heaven Way: sublime, mystic, and complex . However, the profound art’s ultimate way is neither the Heaven nor the Earth . The profound practitioner is a human, so the ultimate way is naturally the Human Way . Once both Heaven and Earth coexist in the human body, the martial moves guiding the flow of qi and the flow of qi guiding the martial move, supporting each other, the profound practitioner will reach the state of infinite duality, which is the ultimate realm of the profound way .
“It sounds quite obvious, sir . In conclusion, you need to practice both the qi art and martial art to their limits, right?”
Sila shook his head . “That’s not it . Each qi art and each martial art has its unique characteristics . Only by the two of them establishing a sense of harmony can I draw out their maximized potential . Otherwise, they will conflict with each other and their strengths will decline . ”
Sebastian asked with concern . “And? Can you accomplish that, Mister Sila?”
“I may be an idiot when it comes to most topics, but I’m confident in my ability regarding practising arts . I’m positive I have the way to achieve that . My new martial art is half complete . As for my new qi art, since I still need to accumulate a bit more inner force, I will start practicing it after Lookhin succeeds in human transformation . ”
“May I ask what the arts you are coming up with are like? If you don’t mind, I would like to hear about them so that I will have a shot at winning against you in the future . ”
“Haha, sure . Help me find their weaknesses . I think they are peerless, but maybe that’s only my wishful thinking . It’s better if I can get an outsider’s opinion . Where should I start? Which do you want to hear about first? Qi art or a martial art?”
“The martial art, I suppose, sir, since I just lost against it . ”
Sila nodded . “Formerly, I had a lot of martial arts, though I hadn’t mastered any of them . Then, I came up with Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art, but I realized later that the art severely has no concept; it’s just an art that shallowly combined other people’s arts together . In the end, I started concentrating and thinking hard on where my strength really lies and what kind of concept I want my martial art to be . Finally, I got it . It is ‘Formless,’ the concept of my solely unique style, Martial Formless . Therefore, I am pressing on this concept and creating martial moves with it as the core . ”
“What do you mean by ‘Formless’, sir?”
“Formless is the tenet of my Flaming Cloud dojo . I was also raised this way so I can easily comprehend it . To put it simply, it means an unconventional martial art . The most natural movement used without being chained to any customary thinking, that’s ‘Formless’ . The more my opponent is skilled at reading people’s movements, the harder it becomes for them to cope with my martial art . ”
“That sounds great and all, sir . However, what’s the difference about it from untrained boxing if it is unconventional?”
“It’s quite hard to explain . Let’s . . . ”
Suddenly, Sila’s fist was in front of Sebastian’s face, without giving the butler any time to react .
“How about this? What is the difference between this punch and a normal punch?” Sila asked as he put his hand down .
“Well . . . in the previous punch, you didn’t show any signs of movement indicating that you were about to throw a fist, sir . Normally, for someone to throw a fist, there will be some sign like a muscle contraction, allowing me to predict the punch . However, just now, it was as if Mister Sila’s fist suddenly appeared in front of me . ”
“Actually, there was still a muscle contraction, though I did my best to conceal it . Sometimes I will use a different set of muscles to perform the same task, and sometimes I will contract unrelated muscles to confuse opponents . This is what I have learned throughout my ten years of actual fighting . The only way for me, the one without any martial arts, to win against practitioners from other dojo was to rely on little gimmicks like these . ”
“They’re terrifying little gimmicks, sir . I guess that no one could stand a chance against you . ”
“That’s not it . In the past, I relied on these techniques but my attack was too weak to do any real damage . From other people’s perspectives, my successful attack would only look like an untrained lucky punch . As a result, even though I was the dojo’s main disciple, I wasn’t given much respect from other disciples . Only Teacher Mora praised me and told me to continue practicing this way of fighting . ” Sila showed a dejected expression .
Sebastian didn’t know about the problems in Sila’s past . He quickly changed the topic . “What about your qi art, sir?”
Recalling the time when he was looked down upon by other disciples from the same dojo, Sila was melancholic . Everybody had talked behind his back, saying that he wasn’t worthy of the main disciple position, and the only reason he was selected was because he was his teacher’s adopted child .
Thus, his desire to stop Montra was Sila’s small opposition . He wanted to declare to everyone that he was suitable and worthy to be the Flaming Cloud dojo’s main disciple .
“What did you just say?” Sila just noticed that Sebastian had asked him something .
“Your new qi art, sir . What kind of qi art do you intend to practice?”
“Ah, about qi, I was inspired by the Five Elements Book . It said that five elements of qi flow through all beings, and all beings usually have an affinity with a single element . To be honest, I have yet to comprehend it . However, ultimately, I hope to create a qi art that can bring out the power of all five elements . ”
Sila’s explanation regarding his qi art was noticeably shorter than his martial art . Sebastian thought he had tapped into Sila’s past, causing Sila to feel down, so he didn’t insist on asking . Instead, he looked at Lookhin and changed the subject .
“How about trying to order Lookhin to transform again, sir? I think it has become obedient enough . ”
Sila approached Lookhin, who got bored again and was drawing a doodle in the sand with its talons . None of the grandeur belonging to the great hawk, lord of the sky, could be seen at all .
“Lookhin, can you please transform?” Sila asked it without having much hope since this was already his thirtieth or so attempt .
“ . . . ” Lookhin took a glance at its master’s dispirited face . It lightly nodded and its body was soon enveloped with a green glow .