Chapter 64: Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps
"Could you repeat that, Teacher?" Sila couldn't listen to their names properly.
"I'm telling you that you need to learn three martial arts. The arts are called Nine Sun-Melting-Fists, Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, and Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps. As long as you are proficient in these three arts, even if you don't win against Montra, it'll at least be a close fight."
"Just a 'close fight'?"
"That would depend on you. These three martial arts are superb, but to completely comprehend them, you will need effort, experience, talent, and time," The old man said, "There's also a hidden weapon art. I've heard that you have revealed your hidden weapon publicly, correct?"
Sila bent his head down in shame. He was in the wrong. His teacher even explicitly instructed him to not use hidden weapons until he had reached a level where could fire them tracelessly.
"Don't feel down. I didn't expect you to master it in a short time anyway. You've just started practicing hidden weapon art recently. You're doing well enough, having reached your current level."
"But now that everyone knows that I can use hidden weapons, they will become wary of it."
The old man nodded. "Have you heard the phrase 'True Is False, False Is True?'"
Sila shook his head in denial. The old man sighed and said, "I'll show you then. Prepare yourself for a hidden weapon!"
Sila panicked and jumped back several meters. However, nothing happened. "What's that? There is no hidden weapon, Teacher."
"Correct. There is none. When it's time for using a hidden weapon, you can use it or simply ignore the chance to use it just to confuse opponents. Even better, you should flick your wrist sometimes. This is 'True Is False, False Is True'."
The old man's explanation reminded Sila of Viola's trial. She had done that to him too. At the time, Sila was amazed, but he eventually forgot it as time passed. Sila inwardly promised himself to give more attention to the lessons he learned from others.
"Thank you for your guidance, Teacher," Sila expressed his thanks.
"Well, I'm going to impart my martial art to you now. Do you have any business to take care of? This should take several days for you to learn."
"No, Teacher. I have already taken care of everything."
"Good. Then, let's start. Firstly, I ask you to forget every martial art you have learned so far. From now on, do not interrupt my teaching, no matter what."
"Wait, Teacher, I don't understand."
"Have you passed Way of Slime's ordeal yet?"
Sila nodded. "I have."
"Did Divine not teach you about being calm-hearted?"
Sila thought for a moment. "I don't think he did, teacher."
"He didn't teach or you didn't care to learn? Teaching doesn't mean directly telling you. If you don't try to think for yourself what you have gained from lessons, there would be no way for you to surpass your teachers. When will you be able to grow if you always take a lesson at face value? Don't you want to invent your own martial art?"
"Invent my own martial art? There's no way I can do that, Teacher."
"Fufu. Giving up already? Do you know what? Your own martial art might surpass even the one I'm about to teach you. It is invented by you and used by you. What kind of martial art could be more suitable for you than that?"
Sila imagined a day he performed his own martial art. It was a very blurred and faraway dream for him.
"Stop daydreaming for now. This matter may even take ten years to do. Only you yourself can know how long it will take."
"Good. What I want you to do is emptying your mind like an empty glass so that water can fill it. If you have prejudice or close your mind, it would reduce the effectiveness of the learning process. Are you sure that Divine didn't teach you this?"
Sila recalled one of Divine's statement. "A calm mind is the strongest psychic?" He exclaimed.
"See? He has already taught you. It is the same thing. Being calm means you don't think about winning or losing. You are one with yourself. This way, you can be well aware of all the changes."
Sila bent his head down again. Viola had taught him 'True Is False, False is True.' As for Divine, he explicitly informed Sila that a calm mind is the strongest psychic. However, due to his own negligence, he hadn't kept their lessons in his mind at all.
"We shall start now. What I'm teaching you is Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps."
"Is it a movement skill? I thought I would get to learn offensive martial art first."
"Interrupting me from the start, aren't you? The principle of a battle is to attack without being attack. So, as a martial artist, you need to learn how to defend yourself first before learning to attack others. Well, I shouldn't blame you. It must be due to your previous teacher's teaching that you are what you are."
Upon hearing the old man mention Sila's original teacher, it reminded Sila about the training he had received from a young age. Teacher Mora believed that offense was the best defense. Hence, Sila's main moves were offensive ones. He only depended on his intuition for evading incoming attacks.
"Let me continue. Among these three martial arts, the art that suits you the most must be Nine Sun-Melting-Fists. Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps would come in second. The hardest one for you will be Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws. By the way, I will only impart Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps to you."
"Does Teacher know about all three arts?" Sila asked, to which the old man nodded, "Then why don't you teach me all of the arts?"
"I know them but that doesn't mean I understand them. I'm not allowed to impart to you all of the arts. One person can only impart one art."
"Then, can you please teach me an offensive art instead?"
"No can do. Although Nine Sun-Melting-Fists is really suitable for you, I'm not the one who will teach you this art."
"Then who will teach me this art?" Sila inquired.
"Chi!! I told you to not interrupt me. Do you want to train or not?"
With this, Sila had no choice but to stop asking. "I want to train, Teacher."
"Good. I'll start explaining. The name of these martial arts can already tell you what they're about. Nine Sun-Melting-Fists is an intensely offensive art. The word sun melting refers to the fact that it is a powerful art as if the suns are melted into the fist. Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws is a defensive art that is slow and complex. It is an art that required effort to learn. The word moon grabbing is referred to it being able to catch even the moon hanging into the night sky. As for Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps, it is both movement and kicking art. It is an art about several changes in a way of stepping the foot on the ground. As several as the stars in the sky. Thus, the name celestial traveling."
At the end of the sentence, the old man used a tree branch to draw a big circle on the ground. He then divided the circle into twelve parts and walked into the center of the circle.
"Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps contains only twelve steps, but these twelves steps contain hidden changes within them. Each step can freely be a step on the same spot, a step forward, or a step backward. Thus, there are unlimited ways to step. Now, I will show you all the twelve steps. Remember them well."
The old man reinforced qi into his feet and slowly started walking. The ground sank around one-inch deep below his feet for each step he took. Upon completing stepping twelve times, he returned back to the original spot. There was exactly one footmark on each part of the circle, totaling in twelve footmarks.
Sila furrowed his brows. Each step of the old man was sometimes far, sometimes short, sometimes stepping forward, something stepping backward. The more he looked, the more confused he got.
"Come and stand here." The old man pointed his finger at the center of the circle.
Sila went to stand there obediently. Two of his foot was on the footmarks that were left behind. Sila's feet were smaller than his teacher's so he could stand comfortably.
"Now, follow my example and start walking. You can do it slowly."
Sila followed the footmark. He could remember the movement because of the left footprints. If he were to do this without the footmarks, he wouldn't do it further than three steps.
The first three steps were comfortable, but the next three steps were confusing. That was because there was a need for him to twist his body. The following three steps were more problematic as they were too far apart for him to reach. Sila had to put qi into his foot to jump to the next footmark. As for the last three steps, they seemed to require the unreasonable movements to complete. He needed to step awkwardly to finish them.
Sila wiped the sweat away from his forehead. The stepping was many times harder than what he had thought when he saw the old man did it.
"Barely acceptable. One comment though, no, actually, there are several comments for you. First, you put your qi into your movement. This art is a real-life, martial movement skill which doesn't require inner force to do. Second, you always looked at your feet. Will you look at your feet when you're fighting? Next, your steps are way too slow. You must step with confidence. Do not hesitate."
"One more time. No inner force, no looking at the feet. Step quicker too."
Sila tried again, but he failed. He couldn't even step as well as the first try. He had to perform over fifty tries until his teacher said, "Acceptable."
Sila sat down on the floor, panting. The feat of performing confusing movement was more exhausting than engaging in an actual battle. Real battles usually end after a short period of time. That's why people need to train harder for that short but deciding moment.
Training might be a boring action for many people, but Sila's original teacher had always been strict on him since he was young so Sila was used to it.
"Did I say you could rest?" The old man asked.
"I'm sorry, Teacher." Sila stood up.
"Good. Return to the circle and continue walking until I tell you to stop."
Sila kept walking until he lost the sense of time. The sun was setting. The light of the sunset dyed the sky into orange.
"Enough. Come and eat your dinner," The old man called Sila.
Sila went to collapse at the hut. The old man handed a green greasy soup to him. Sila was currently very tired and hungry. He wasn't interested in its identity. He quickly swallowed all of it. He didn't get to aware of its taste.
"After you have finished eating, prepare yourself to train the hidden weapon art."
"Train the hidden weapon art? Shouldn't I finish Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps first before doing that?"
"Fufu. If I wait until you master Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps, a year would have passed. My most proficient art is still the hidden weapon art. Since you are my main disciple, it would bring shame to me if you showed your terrible skill to the world."
"I'm sorry, Teacher."
"Use your apologizing time to train yourself. The main use of hidden weapons is only firing and collecting. These two alone are hard like climbing a mountain. Let's start immediately. Right now, you can only fire hidden weapons in straight line, correct? I will teach you techniques that will allow your weapons to travel in an arc, scatter mid-flight, or return to you after firing. All of the techniques are dependent on the type of hidden weapon you're using though. Nevertheless, if you reach the advanced state, whatever you fire would give no different results."
The old man placed many types of hidden weapon on the floor. There was a needle, a short dagger, a short spear, a shuriken, a metal ball and many others. He then taught Sila to fire each of them differently.
A long time had passed. Sila was getting sleepy.
The old man saw Sila yawning. He asked, "You have obtained Primary Qi already, correct?"
Sila nodded. His Basic Qi had developed to Primary Qi already.
"That's good. Until you can proficiently use Primary Qi, I forbid you to use Shapeless Qi no matter what happens."
"Why, Teacher?" Sila asked.
"Because your proficiency of Primary Qi is low. That's why you can't control Shapeless Qi. I plan to fix you from the basics. We'll have you start from the beginning. This will be more beneficial to you in the future."
"Thank you, Teacher."
"It may be a little hard, but you'll surely get stronger. Will you be able to endure the hardship?"
Sila grinned. If it would make him to become stronger, no matter how hard it was, he would gladly endure it.
"No matter how hard it is, I can endure it."
"I'm relieved to hear it. From now on, each day, you will train your stepping for twelve hours, your hidden weapons art for four hours, your qi for four hours, your Qi Concealment and Soundless skill for three hours, and spar with me for an hour."
Sila put his fingers to calculate. One day consists of 24 hours. 12+4+4+3+1 equated to exactly 24 hours.
"What about eating, resting and sleeping time, Teacher?" Sila was curious.
"You have already attained Primary Qi. The food that you just ate should be enough for you to survive a week. If you feel tired, circulate Primary Qi during training. If you feel exhausted, circulate Immortal Qi. This will help you to familiar yourself with circulating qi while moving. Oh, when you circulate qi, you have to train your Qi Concealment too."
Sila's jaw dropped. This was several times harder than he had ever anticipated.
"Training that hardcore... what if I die?"
"No need to worry. That is the reason why martial artists tend to train themselves in Monster Soul. You can come back to train again even if you die. This is not the real world."
No words came out of Sila's mouth. He finally became aware of the frightfulness of the Monster Soul today.