Sila inhaled a breath of fresh air in the Single-Horned Dragon Forest . In the real world, there existed several natural forests well protected and preserved, but he had never gone there even once . The closest experience would be his visits to a public park .
This forest was soon added into his most favorite locations in Monster Soul, with the others being the Desert of Death, the Cave of Immortals, and Joshua’s meadow .
In any case, there was something that existed only in the Single-Horned Dragon Forest which the three other places lacked, and that was the presence of life .
He could hear the sounds of bugs and the dragons, feel the damp earth beneath him along with the trees that had soft bark, smell the many scents that one could only find in a forest, and see all sorts of life anywhere in the forest
Sila took a moment and let the presence of life sink in pleasantly . His head even went blank for a minute .
Meanwhile, Kiryu was sitting cross-legged under a giant tree . He looked at Sila with eyes showing satisfaction . It was rare for someone to be able to indulge in nature as soon as they were told to do so . Well, to be fair, Kiryu wasn’t the first person to tell Sila to soak himself in nature . Sangdao had once taught him during their stay in the Misty Valley .
“Having you as the inheritor of Tiger Dragon Qi, I can now die in peace,” remarked Kiryu .
Sila turned back and replied, “No, sir . I’m afraid I’m not capable . There are many things I have to learn from you, Mister Kiryu . ”
“I have nothing to teach you though . ”
“Do you mean I have already mastered Tiger Dragon Qi?”
Kiryu shook his head . “No . Having followed everything I wrote doesn’t mean you have mastered it . The reason why I have nothing left to teach you is that I, too, am still studying this art . If your ‘mastering the art’ means ‘completing it,’ there will be no day when you and I have mastered this art . ”
“Is this art still not completed, sir?” Sila was doubtful . He thought Tiger Dragon Qi was already a superb qi art as it is .
“When is an art ever complete, Sila? Everything has a beginning point, but there has never been an end . We practice the profound way for eternally learning profound arts . Completion means you have reached the end, but an end doesn’t exist . ”
Sila listened and absorbed Kiryu’s words as they stimulated his thinking . While Tiger Dragon Qi was indeed a complex profound art, it was still new in the martial world . Compared to other profound arts, it was no different than an infant . There was still much room for improvement .
Sila couldn’t help but be ashamed . He used to think that Tiger Dragon Qi was inferior to Flaming Cloud Qi (though he had once thought that Flaming Cloud Qi was inferior to Tiger Dragon Qi when he had only learned the Fundamental Part of Flaming Cloud Qi) . However, the fact was Flaming Cloud Qi had a long history . It had been invented, studied, polished, and developed for several generations before it could show the current might . On the other hand, Tiger Dragon Qi was still new . Even though it was currently weaker, its potential was in no way inferior . For all Sila knew, Tiger Dragon Qi might be even more famous than Flaming Cloud Qi after several decades .
“What do you plan on teaching me today, then, Mister Kiryu?” asked Sila .
“I can’t be someone’s teacher . Anyway, if you ask me questions, I may be able to help . Although I’m not knowledgeable, I do have some life experiences . ”
Thinking for a while, Sila inquired, “Tomorrow I have to fight Shueria who is using Mister Crow’s art . As someone you have known, what are the notable characteristics of Mister Crow’s profound art in your opinion, sir?”
Kiryu drew his hand and waved it through the air . His qi materialized on it and moved like a living being .
“Dignified Palm Blade . Sharp, light, and fast . It’s an extension of the body, possessing the power to cleave a steel plate neatly with only inner force . The blade is formed by psychic power and supported by qi inside . It has two layers, like this . . . ”
An actual blade seemed to form itself on Kiryu’s hand . Tiger Dragon Qi has soft and hard attributes . It could actually materialize tangible matters out of thin air . Sila couldn’t help but be amazed that Kiryu could do it easily .
“Oh, actually, my new version of Weapon Subduing Fist is also based on Tiger Dragon Qi and the method of utilizing psychic power I saw Mister Crow wield when we had a spar . ”
Sila showed his hand and materialized a spear, a saber, a sword, a hidden weapon, and a whip on each of his fingers respectively . Kiryu took a look at them once before giving him a nod . He followed Sila’s movements and could perform the same exact moves the young man had shown .
“Wow . You can mimic them after seeing it only once?”
Kiryu canceled his power . “No, they just looked similar . That wasn’t your Weapon Subduing Fist . ”
Sila frowned . No matter how he looked at it, the moves Kiryu showed just now were none other than those of Weapon Subduing Fist .
“Is that so?”
“Mn . It seems you developed your arts by watching many experts . Learning is a good thing, but don’t be overly attached to what you have learned . Every art you’ve seen and every art you’ll see will have sides that you don’t know about . If mimicking was enough, everyone would already be supreme experts . What I did just now was mimicking the exposure of your art . It didn’t mean I was using your art . ”
Understanding the meaning of Kiryu’s words, Sila nodded . His new Weapon Subduing Fist had Flaming Cloud Qi as a composition . Every time he used it, a small amount of qi would invade his opponents’ veins and damage them . It also shared the concept of Genesis Punch, as his qi would ignite within opponents’ bodies to weaken their inner force and restrain their movements . On the other hand, what Kiryu showed just now only shared the appearance of his power .
“What I want to say is that Crow’s art also has many things that I’m unaware of . I only know what I saw . ”
“In that case, what should I do to win tomorrow, sir?”
“Practicing qi isn’t something that will make you become strong overnight, Sila . You can only use what you already have . ”
Sila scratched his head . “You mean . . . We won’t do anything until tomorrow morning?”
His next opponent was not only highly skilled but also owned several high-grade items . Sila didn’t know what kind of ability the part of the Sealed One in Shueria’s possession was . However, given his experience, he guessed it must be extraordinarily powerful .
Kiryu stared at Sila . “You’re wrong . I’ll make you experience the border between life and death . Even though there won’t be a quantitative change in your power, you will become a new person by the next day . ”
Sila felt alert as he sensed danger . Every pore on his skin responded to the qi pressure . Kiryu’s figure obviously stayed the same size, but the old man somehow looked bigger in his eyes . Sila released Flaming Cloud Qi unconsciously .
Kiryu’s qi changed its form into a Chinese dragon and a great tiger . They both approached Sila, their incredibly oppressive auras giving off the feeling that they were real . They were clearly not illusions, but tangible beasts that could actually harm him . The earth subtly vibrated with each step that the great tiger took, while the sky was twisted and distorted by the dragon squirming in mid-air .
Sila tried to move, but he found himself unable to . His body froze as if he was a frog being glared at by a viper . Even his lips trembled as if he was under a silence spell, unable to activate an active skill . Only Flaming Cloud Qi was circulating non-stop . He relied on it to create a barrier to protect him .
The Chinese dragon rolled its body and slammed into the barrier he created while the great tiger pounced on it . The impact shattered his barrier in an instant . The invisible power soon crashed down upon Sila, bringing him pain .
Kiryu slowly explained, “For psychic power users, just their belief can make their power become stronger . However, their mind also has to possess sufficient resolution . You saw my power as realistic and scary, and your mind shook, so your psychic power became weakened as a result . ”
‘I see . . . ’ Sila thought . He used to think that Dark Psychic Corrosion held bottomless strength as it could grow stronger limitlessly, depending on his creativity and willpower . However, what about his mind? Can his mind keep up with the rate at which his psychic power grows? This was the meaning in Kiryu’s words—the weakness of psychic type .
Actually, Kiryu’s previous display of power was at the level where Sila could hold his ground if he really willed it . However, Kiryu deliberately formed his power into the shapes of monsters with overbearing appearances, demoralizing Sila . Since Sila was convinced that his power might not be able to block Kiryu’s, it then weakened accordingly .
Honestly speaking, Sila had once experienced something similar from Moon Reflecting Mirror . During the early days when he had just acquired the skill, he used to think that it couldn’t reflect anything aside from weapons . He wasn’t confident in its defensive ability . As a result, it could do nothing except reflecting normal attacks .
Nevertheless, does that mean all he has to do is believe in himself? Will things be that easy? Logically speaking, there was no way just believing that his psychic power is peerless would make it truly peerless . Thoughts and beliefs are easily contaminated . Be it speech, emotions, situations, or atmosphere—all of them can easily affect a mind .
“This is the reason why psychic power is normally weak against qi . Unlike psychic power, qi is stable . It never fluctuates in strength . It is the power that the wielder can control according to their proficiency . Fear can interrupt your thoughts on how to use qi, but it won’t weaken it in the slightest . Your power is a mix of the three . Not only did it inherit the strong points from the three energy types, but it also inherited their weaknesses . ”
After mastering the Flame Part which melted down his previous power’s impurities and merged them together, his current power, Flaming Cloud Qi, was a mixture of his past core power—Five-Attributed Cloud Qi, Dark Psychic Corrosion, and Yin Yang Energy . It could also be enhanced with magic power from Element-Changing Nightmare Magical Qi . It was undoubtedly strong and versatile . Despite this, Sila was now aware that it came with risks and downsides .
Circulating his qi, Sila regained his strength and mustered a barrier again, this time relying on the qi part more than the psychic power counterpart . He tried to mimic Kiryu by recreating a dragon and a tiger to counter, but they were blown to bits in an instant by Kiryu’s tangible qi .
“This won’t do . Qi is different than psychic power . Just a thought won’t make it become stronger . What you did was no different than making balloons in the shape of a dragon and a tiger, using qi instead of air . Proficiency is the key . Your qi has to materialize matter with extreme precision as if you shape it by weaving it thread by thread, yet you have to do it fast enough that your imagination turns real with just your thoughts . This process requires time to practice . However, your power is a mixture of the three energies . You should rely on their strong points . ”
Sila tried and tried again, but he couldn’t do it . In the end, he collapsed and lost consciousness after an hour had passed . Kiryu canceled the pressure and transmitted a small portion of his qi into Sila, just barely enough to help him regain consciousness . Waking up, Sila quickly circulated qi to replenish his stamina and energy .
He admitted that he could achieve nothing despite having spent every last ounce of his power . Fortunately, he was just tired, not injured, so it only took him half an hour to regain his usual vitality .
“Now, rest and indulge yourself in nature for ten minutes . We will resume after that,” said Kiryu .
Sila sat cross-legged . He put his palms on his lap as he said to Kiryu, “Mister Kiryu, you are remarkably strong . Even though you didn’t move from your spot at all, you could still do all that . ”
“What are you saying? It’s your strength that is more remarkable . You know, I have neither movement arts nor decent martial arts . I’m most skilled at fighting without moving . I actually forced you to resist my pressure when the situation clearly favors me . If you could move, you could choose to either step in, run away, or redirect my attacks using your movement arts . On the other hand, in a battle where neither of us moves, you have no choice but to directly take my inner force by using yours . I’m more experienced in this regard . Even if my power is inferior, I still have a way to win . ”
“Ah… I see . ”
“There is no such battle where both sides are truly equal . Forcing your opponent into an unfavorable position and creating the situation where you can maximize your odds are also battles in themselves . ”
Sila was about to stand up . “In that case, please allow me to move . . . ”
Yet his body was pressured by Kiryu’s qi once more, returning him to a sitting position . “Denied . You’re not allowed . This is also a part of your training . ”
Sila obediently sat down . “What kind of training is it, sir?”
“I don’t know myself as I have never tried it before . Since your power is the mixture of three energies, it may develop in a desperate situation like psychic power . Hence, I plan to force you to exhaust all of your power . Something might happen if you do . ”
“Erm . . . Is it okay for us to follow such a random training program?” Sila was finally aware that Kiryu had never had a disciple or trained someone before . It was to be expected that his teaching method would be unorthodox .
“Is there any change in your power, then?”
Sila slowed down his qi circulation speed . He closely observed the flow of power running through his veins . Then, he frowned as he felt something was off, though the sensation was extremely subtle . Overall, nothing apparent had changed .
“Probably? I’m not sure . My power circulates as usual, but something feels different . ”
“Feelings are important . Most of the time, experts reach enlightenment or surpass their limits due to what they feel . ”
Sila was deep in thought . It would be great if he could understand his power more . He closed his eyes, attempting it again .
Formless Martial God — Serene Circulation .
Sila felt like his skin became semi-transparent . His acupuncture points throughout his body gave off a faint glow amidst his profound veins as if they were stars in an ocean . His power flew without problems . Still, he was unable to tell where the feelings came from .
“Umm . . . It may not work, but can I use in-game skill to help?”
Kiryu replied, “We’re in the game . What’s the problem with using in-game skills? We, Independent NPCs, entered the game with objectives different from players . We rarely depend on in-game skills as we want to test ourselves . However, Sila, you’re just a player, aren’t you? Why limit yourself? I don’t understand what you’re concerned about . ”
‘Well . . . I guess so . Montra also used in-game spells but no one ever reprimanded him for that . Am I the only one being too serious about it?’ thought Sila .
Sila’s eyes emitted a powerful golden glow . The center of his body let off a golden flash of light .
Evil God’s Essence — Transcendent Qi Circulation .
His power surged and flew throughout his veins at incredible speed . However, Sila’s consciousness could perfectly catch up to its circulation speed and went along .
Sila followed a droplet of qi flowing in his body . It traveled from one organ to another, from one acupuncture point to the next, drawing a complex line by connecting the dots . At this point, something peculiar happened . A fraction of the droplet flew in reverse . It was an extremely small amount, and the event happened in a split of a split second . Given the amount and the time it took, this subtle situation completely didn’t affect the overall qi circulation .
Five seconds later, Sila reopened his eyes . Witnessing so, Kiryu asked, “How about it?”
Sila furrowed his brows and scratched his head before speaking, “It may sound weird, but it’s like my power is trying to create a new path between two existing acupuncture points . It’s still a dead end now, but it is trying to build a connection . ”
“What did you say?!” Kiryu widened his eyes . “For real?”
“I’m not confident, sir . According to what I have studied from the Book of Five Elements, the number of acupuncture points and veins in the human body is fixed . The differences between each qi art are the circulation method, circulation speed, and the attribute of inner force . Some qi arts may not require all points and veins to function . Nevertheless, the maximum number of them are already decided . It shouldn’t be possible for an additional vein to exist in my body . ”
Kiryu broke into hearty laughter . “Hahaha! Silly boy . Books are written by humans . Just because it hasn’t happened before doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen . There is an endless amount of knowledge in this world, and learning is a lifelong journey . ”
“Do you mean it’s possible, sir?”
“I, too, don’t know that . ” Kiryu released a sigh . One part of him felt happy for Sila to have a chance to develop in a never-before-seen manner, yet another part of him felt regret that such an experience didn’t happen in his own body .
Nevertheless, learning a profound way and practicing martial arts are like traveling in the dark with nothing but hope that you’ll reach a destination . Will you follow the path created by others? How can you outrun the ones leading you, then? Even worse, how do you know that such a path will lead to the destination suitable for you? Does that mean paving a new path is always the correct choice? Who knows? It could end up being a hopeless path leading to complete failure . What if you see others making rapid progress on another path in the middle of your journey? Will you abandon the path you are currently on and swap to that path instead?
The answer to the last question is no, at least for Kiryu . He had already traveled so far . If he had restarted every time he saw someone doing better, that would have been a truly hopeless journey with no destination . What he ought to do is to believe firmly in the path he had chosen and continue his journey without stopping .
Most people would fail before reaching their destinations . However, can’t the journey itself be more important than the goal? As of now, Kiryu could only do one thing for Sila, and that was to assist the young man in his efforts to become stronger, in order for him to overcome the challenges waiting for him on the path he walked .
“Now, Sila . Before sunrise, you have to at least move me from my seat with only your power alone, no movement . Remember that you are already on the right track . Don’t give up . ”
Sila nodded . The weird training program between two people, who—in Lookhin’s eyes—did nothing but stare at each other, resumed once again . She yawned next to them as she was bored . It took her only a few minutes until she fell asleep .