"It’s fine if you want to hide your true powers. It’s impressive that you reached such a level at your age, and it is probably better for you if fewer people know what you are capable of. It will seem more reasonable if you revealed your skills after several years of training," Fei Baiyun said, patting Garen’s shoulders.
"Okay, let’s go to the training floor. Today, I will teach you the White Cloud Combat Arts. These skills are not only used in combat, but also used in killing your opponents," he continued.
"Yes! Master!" Garen was excited.
Several minutes later.
On the second floor of the Martial Arts Hall.
Fei Baiyun and Garen stood across from each other. The evening sun made the carpet shine scarlet.
"Your fundamentals are good, so I will teach you the entry level stances first."
Fei Baiyun stepped forward and raised his right palm, slanting it upwards. He also put his left fist by his waist.
"This is the basic stance of White Cloud Combat Arts. Take a closer look," Fei Baiyun said with a clear voice. He saw Joshua coming from the first floor and nodded his head. Joshua looked at him and closed off the stairway with a cover.
"There are four basic skills in the White Cloud Combat Arts: Swing, Rush, Stomp, and Strike. These skills will help you in attacking, dodging, defending, and assassinating during fights. You can use them in whatever order you want. I will show you the Stomp first," Fei Baiyun continued.
After finishing the sentence, Fei Baiyun stomped forward with a single foot. His body leaned forward and it looked like he put all his body weight on that foot.
The floor shook and the noise it made echoed in the hall.
"And the Rear Stomp!" Fei Baiyun kicked his other foot backward and it sounded like his foot slashed apart the air. Wearing an ordinary pair of flats, his extreme burst of speed and strength made each of his movements look flawless. Garen couldn’t even imagine what would happen to someone if they were standing behind Fei Baiyun.
"There are two different types of Stomps, one is more about speed,, and the other about strength. You need to combine them with the Explosive Fist Arts skill and use them on your feet. In order to do it properly, you need to harden your blood vessels and your muscles before applying the force to your feet. When you use the Stomp skill, your Qi and blood will be drawn to your bottom half. This will not only hurt your enemies, but will also surround yourself with Qi. You need to carefully manage your breathing and your heart rate while using it," Fei Baiyun said and demonstrated the Stomp several more times. He asked Garen to try it after the demonstration and whispered Garen the secret techniques before letting Garen start.
It was fine if Garen’s stance was wrong, but if Fei Baiyun found that Garen was not matching his breathing with his heart rate, he would slap or kick Garen. The kicks and slaps actually helped Garen perform the actions properly.
"There is one universal rule in the White Cloud Gate, and that is Stability. Whatever you do, you do it with stability. You need to make sure your Qi and blood are stable, then apply them onto the skills you use. You will be able to modify your skills and make them explosive this way," Fei Baiyun said.
"If you turn on the water faucet and block the water with your finger, the water will burst out when you let your finger go for even a bit," he continued
Step by step, Garen started to focus on practicing the Stomp and tried to make sure his breath matched his heart rate, following everything Fei Baiyun said.
He was still thinking about the Stomp when he got back home. The White Cloud Secret Arts would bring him incredible power when the skills were combined with the Stomp.
The White Cloud Secret Arts technique was like an engine, and the higher the level he reached, the bigger the burst of powe
r he would have. Every skill in the White Cloud Combat Arts aimed to increase one’s strength.
Garen kept practicing the skills he learnt over the next several days as Fei Baiyun taught him all four forms.
The Swing was all about swinging the feet and arms like a whip. The Rush used the Mammoth Strike to counterattack. The Strike could help Garen reach his peak for a short duration, allowing him to use his arms like knives to stab into the enemy’s eyes.
There were many possible combinations when using the four forms and different combinations were designed to be used against different opponents. Garen found some useful books in the tiny library room and there was a lot of information written by previous Masters of the White Cloud Gate. Garen found the standard combinations and applications of the four forms and also created some combinations by himself.
Garen learned the four forms in a hurry and he made sure he could at least reach the standard level. One month had passed since the final exams and he began to think about his attribute points. He finished the exams with no problems, but he was not expecting a high grade. He only wanted to focus on practicing martial arts.
He could increase the level of the White Cloud Secret Arts as long as he had the requisite medicinal herbs, though it would take some time. The Explosive Fist Arts, however, required tempering the body by beating it with wooden clubs in addition to some special potions. Advancing to the next level of Explosive Fist Arts was not a simple matter of using Attribute points.
The noon of November the 2nd.
In the White Cloud Dojo.
Garen was topless; he had recently started training under the sunlight. There was sweat all over his tanned skin.
He stood in the middle of the training room as two apprentices hit him in the back, chest, and the arms with two arm-sized wooden bars.
Garen closed his eyes as he tried to move his Qi and blood to the places getting hit in order to recover faster.
[It’s been a month since I started practicing the White Cloud Secret Arts and the Explosive Fist Arts, but nothing is leveling up. It’d be much easier if I could just apply points to the skills,]’ Garen thought and shook his head. He could still see his attribute bar and his skill bar after closing his eyes.
There were some changes to his attributes, but on the skill bar he could only see that the Basic Combat Techniques was replaced with the White Cloud Combat Arts. The two skill sets were combined and they were set back to the first level.
On the attribute bar, Garen could see his Strength and Stamina had both increased by 0.1. His current attributes were Strength: 1.78, Agility: 1.10, Stamina: 1.04, Intelligence: 1.20, Potential: 377%.
[There’s barely any potential left on the Bronze Cross. One month passed, and I only got about 10%. I need to find some new antiques,] Garen thought, as he raised his hand to ask the two apprentices to stop.
The two stopped hitting Garen with the bars and were sweating heavily. They put down the bars and sat aside to rest.
"Garen, you are so strong. My arms are sore and you’re not even hurt!" one of the apprentices said admiringly.
"Keep training and one day you will be just like me. You will be able to learn the Explosive Fist Arts after you become a Formal Disciple," Garen said while he started to think about the distribution of his attribute points.
[I don’t need to apply points to the White Cloud Combat Arts since it will level up just from practicing. I thought I could just simply apply points to the White Cloud Secret Arts and Explosive Fist Arts, but it seems that it won’t work. These skills that need external help won’t be leveled up so easily,] Garen thought. He tried to apply points to the two skills many times, but it would not work. The only thing he could do was apply the points to his attributes.
He still remembered the night he met Grace, how he felt helpless against the pistol, and how fast the poison could travel through his body. Garen made up his mind as he stared at the Strength and Stamina attributes.
[Stamina increases my resistance, recovery speed, and will also increase my general defense. During the tests, I thought my organs were much stronger than before. The dojo’s arts did not make my organs stronger and I never specifically trained my organs. The effect probably came from the point I applied to the Stamina attribute,] Garen thought. He sat and took a rest, then finally decided to apply all his points to Strength and Stamina.
He stared at the Stamina attribute for three seconds as it changed from 1.04 to 1.34. Adding one attribute point increased the Stamina by 0.3. Garen could feel heat rush through his whole body; this sensation lasted for about ten seconds.
When he opened his eyes again, he felt he could see things clearer and that his hearing was enhanced as well. He looked at his right arm and his skin looked denser. Garen touched his skin; it felt silky smooth.
"You two can leave now, I’ll stay here for a while and will clean everything up after," Garen told the two apprentices. The two were used to situations like this and they knew Garen would stay late to train more, so they smiled and left.
Garen closed his eyes again, and he stared at the Strength attribute. He applied one point to it and it increased from 1.78 to 2.08. Garen could feel his body getting stronger and the 0.3 increase to Strength raised his total force by 60 pounds, which was a third of a normal adult male’s peak strength. This meant that 0.1 Strength equaled 20 pounds.
[One more point,] Garen thought, as he was about to apply it to Stamina. Suddenly, something from the skills bar caught his attention. A word changed as he was preparing to apply the point to Stamina.
"White Cloud Secret Arts: Advanced."
[What is this… Applying points to my Stamina can allow me to increase the level of White Cloud Secret Arts?!] Garen wondered excitedly.
[Can I apply points to it now?] Garen speculated. He stared at the White Cloud Secret Arts for three seconds and the status changed again. "Advanced" was no longer there and he saw "Completed" instead.
There should only be three levels of the White Cloud Secret Arts and the attribute point made it advance to the last level.
Garen was elated with the result, but he suddenly felt pain when he tried to stand up. His skin, muscle, and bones started to ache. He could feel heat cycling around his chest and it slowly spread to his four limbs. When the heat was almost gone, he started to feel a chill from the center of his chest travel through his body chasing after the vanishing heat.