"Are you sleepy? You can go to bed if you want," Garen said. He wanted to go sleep, but his sister was not tired at all. Garen rarely saw Ying Er under the weather, so he decided to stay with her.
"I am not sleepy at all, I will go to bed later. Are you sleepy?" Ying Er said. She sat beside Garen and put her head on Garen’s shoulder. She could feel Garen’s muscles against her arm, and she felt safe staying beside him.
"Do you have other plans if you are not going tomorrow?" Garen asked. It was rare for them to sit beside each other and talk for so long.
"Can’t I just stay at home?" Ying Er said. After thinking for a moment, she then asked, "Or take me to your dojo, I want to watch you guys practicing the skills! Am I welcome there?"
"Nope." Garen answered without thinking.
"You…!" Ying Er looked irritated again.
"Don’t! It’s not my rule, and you know I can’t show you the Secret Arts." Garen explained quickly, and he did not want Ying Er to get angry again.
"That’s true, but how about after the practice? I went to the dojo once and I heard there was a pretty lady driving you there every day. Is that true?" Ying Er asked, and she had a forced smile on her face.
"Well…" Garen did not expect to go to the White Cloud Dojo alone, and she even asked someone there about him. It looked like she already knew about Grace, and it gave him a bit of headache. He knew Ying Er liked him, but it wasn’t due to them being siblings; it was because of something else.
"Fine. I am tired now. I’m going to sleep." Ying Er stood up and walked towards her bedroom.
Garen was not sure how to best explain this, because his relationship with Grace was all about underground business. He did not want Ying Er to get involved and wanted his sister to live a normal life.
Ying Er stood by the door of her bedroom, turned back around, and said, "You are old enough to make decisions by yourself. I think I put too many restrictions on you."
She did not wait for Garen to respond and just slammed the door shut. Garen shook his head and felt a bit speechless. He decided he would go to bed after brushing his teeth.
"Straighten your fists! If your stance is wrong, you will lose your balance. If you keep going without correcting your stance, your knees won’t be able to handle all the pressure, and they could be damaged permanently," Farak said.
Senior Brother Farak was standing beside Garen in the Martial Colosseum, and he was correcting Garen’s basic stances. The two looked like an adult and a kid standing beside each other.
Garen grew taller and stronger recently, but he still looked small comparing to Farak.
Farak was half-naked, his skin was tanned by the sun, and his muscles were hard like rock. Garen could see the veins on Farak’s skin, with a white tiger tattoo just like the one Senior Sister had, but around his chest where Senior Sister’s was around her back and arms.
"Besides all the basic attack and defense techniques in Martial Arts, there are also basic training techniques. I’ve told you that these training techniques were developed by the masters, and with these training techniques, you will learn how to use your force without hurting your muscles or bones, how to maximize the potential of your skills, and how to minimize the damage you take. Countless senior members improved the training techniques based on their own experiences, and those techniques are the secret of building your body." Farak’s gray hair was all over his shoulders, and he looked wild but gentle with his white pants.
"Garen, remember, you must perfect this form. You should make sure your center and your stance are stable. Don’t make any mistakes. You need to be steady, and solid, like a mountain!" Farak patted Garen’s back as Garen was practicing the forms of White Cloud Combat Arts.
"If your form is not perfect, your knees and shoulders
will be damaged by the stress." Farak added.
"Yes! Senior Brother!" Garen nodded.
"Some beginners focus too much on the core theories thought they would be able to create their own skills. They thought that their own creations were much better than the traditional techniques, some even said the skills the beginners created were not effective at all without the fundamentals, but that's only half-correct." Farak watched Garen practicing the form, and Garen looked like an elephant that had lifted its feet.
"In a real fight, the free-style combat is actually very effective, but using those skills will damage their bodies. If you want to hurt others with those skills, you will have to hurt yourself first. Martial Artists like these won’t live long, though they are good at fighting others," Farak said, and he started to practice the Elephant Form as well.
"Forms will change with the development of Martial Arts. The forms from the Mammoth Secret Technique and Behemoth Gate you are practicing are new. The Master already improved them, and you need to find the most comfortable stance by yourself while not making any mistakes. You should not let others break your stance easily."
Farak crossed his arms, and raised them in front of his chest. He leaned forward a bit and bent his knees a little. One of his feet was out in front, and the other was places behind. Farak’s stance looked unbreakable.
"Human bodies are different from one another, and you need to figure out what suits you the most, then you will have your own perfect stance," Farak said. Garen nodded, and his eyes were half closed. He imagined himself as a mammoth lifting its forefeet in the air, but he realized he was still not steady enough.
"Keep making minor corrections. Don’t just imitate others. Their stances are developed for themselves, and you still need to find the stance that suits your own body." Garen heard Farak’s voice again.
"Understood!" Garen started to adjust his stance again.
"Gates with long histories all have their own stances," Farak said, and he moved to the front of Garen.
"Besides building your body and helping you reach your optimum state, the stances also have another central role: to fight and to kill." Farak said.
"Fight and kill?" Garen asked.
"Yes. All the stances were created for the same purpose. To help you use your combat techniques faster and easier."
"Every Gate has their own combat techniques, and that’s the reason why the stances are different from one Gate to another. With proper stancing, you will be able to use your skills easier, and your opponent will have a harder time trying to figure out your combos, so you need a stance that can help you unleash skill combos that will fit into any combat situation.
"Alright," Farak said as he patted Garen’s shoulders, "let’s give the stance a test."
"Your Four Forms are pretty good already, and you should be able to use them well. Come here," Farak said. Garen nodded and opened his eyes. He then followed Farak to a wider space.
Using his Mammoth Stance, he said with a light tone, "Attack me. Use any skill you want."
"Sure." Garen did some preparation and stared at Farak calmly.
"Ha!" Garen yelled, and he used an overhand punch.
Farak waved his left hand, and redirected Garen’s attack towards the side. Garen was going for Farak’s waist, but missed his punch after it was deflected.
Garen did not give up. He kicked out towards the front and used a third of his strength, aiming at the gap between Farak’s arms. He suddenly felt his ankle ache, and his right leg was caught by Farak’s arms.
"Yoink!" Farak imitated the sound of bone breaking, and he moved his arms a bit. He sounded a little cruel.
"There goes your right foot. It will be broken in half," Farak said and released Garen’s leg. He returned to the Mammoth Stance again.
"With this stance, I will be able to defend attacks from most of the angles, the only problem is attacks from the rear, but most Martial Artists have this problem. Remember, never show your enemies your back!
"A good Martial Artist will never show his back to the enemy no matter what happens!" he added.
"Understood." Garen nodded. He knew Farak was speaking from his own experience.
Farak stood straight, smiled, and said, "Most of the time, you have to try it yourself after you know the theory. If you don’t try it yourself, you won't be able to understand it well, and you won't be able to use in real fights. I suggest you try it when it’s safe, and help your body memorize it."
"Senior Brother, what do you mean ‘try it’?" Garen asked.
"Go to the Stage Exam. You will see many different styles in the Amateur Stage Exam, and you can practice what you learned there." Farak blinked his eyes and asked, "Your Explosive Fist Arts is good enough for defending, right?"
"You… know about that?" Garen was surprised and asked.
"Yeah. You don’t need to hide it. We all know, otherwise the Master wouldn't have let you do whatever you want. Your talent is the best among us, and we wonder how strong you will become in the future." Farak smiled and patted Garen’s shoulders.
Farak, Senior Sister, and Junior Brother all knew Garen was extremely talented, and they were willing to see him improve. They never hid anything from him, and they tried to teach all the things they knew to Garen.
The stronger Garen was, the stronger the Mammoth Gate would be. Though Farak did not really like Senior Sister, they were in a competing relationship and they sometimes argued. However, they would never engage in a real fight. They learned from the same Master so there was no point in them fighting each other. They all wanted the Mammoth Gate to be better, and they would never show weaknesses to the true enemies.