"Come quickly, he's awake. Little Shiba's awake!"
Little Shiba had just regained consciousness. While he was still a little dazed, the loud voice of Wang Tianlei started to ring beside his ears. Later, he heard a "Bang!" noise and then the sound of a door opening before his mother burst into tears and wrapped her arms around him.
"You little bastard, you could have frightened your mother to death! Oh, my!"
So hopeless, so dispiriting, and so unlucky.
It was really very simple. After waking in the morning and discovering that Little Shiba was gone, the Zhou family flew into turmoil searching all over for him. Finally, in a thicket behind the wall of their courtyard, they found him lying unconsciously on the ground. They then hurriedly carried him home, just in time to catch the physician as he was preparing his luggage to leave. After a brief flurry of activity, things were finally settled. However, Little Shiba's mother fainted because she was so worried and shocked.
Just as she was carried out, the yell of Wang Tianlei was heard throughout the house, telling everyone that Little Shiba had regained consciousness. She awoke from her coma with a quiver, and then burst into the room, leading to the scene described above.
But this moving scene did not last for long.
After seeing that Little Shiba had come to himself with no big problems, everyone started to calm down. But, just as soon as they had settled down, Little Shiba got into trouble.
Perhaps the so-called "to revenge sooner or later" is a vivid depiction of now.
With an air of resignation, Little Shiba lay down on a pile of dry wood, with his hands clasped behind his head. With an embittered smile upon his face, he stared up at the mess of dusty old cobwebs drifting in the breeze above him and listened to the sound made by his stomach.
Only a day had passed since his regaining consciousness when Old Zhou, his father in this life, had shut him away into the woodshed and forbidden him from eating for three days.
Old Zhou was a true, born and bred mountain villager. He was an expert at hunting in the mountains, but as for raising children, that was not his strong point.
He believed in a dictum from Little Shiba's previous life: "Spare the rod and spoil the child". This was indeed a crude and direct style of education. Little Shiba had always been obedient and thus, until now, had given Old Zhou no reason to take action against him. He had never been shut into the woodshed like this before. Normally, it was Boxer.
But how times had changed. Now, it was Little Shiba who was really in trouble. Just after he had regained consciousness, Old Zhou had decided that he would not tolerate him running about, causing trouble. So he sent him to the woodshed, the same way he used to punish Spikey, Houndie, and Boxer, starving him for three days.
Over the next few days, Old Zhou was most satisfied with his actions, because after three days of being locked away, the well-behaved and obedient Little Shiba of old was back, and he did not give Old Zhou any further reason to worry.
How time flew!
Four years had passed before anyone knew it and Little Shiba was already eight years old.
Most people see the time between ages four and eight as a rather muddle-headed and simple period, yet also a time of purity and innocence. But to Little Shiba, these four years were the most enriched, so that he wanted to shout out "Hallelujah!".
Thanks to Wang Tianlei and the old blind man's combined efforts, in those four years all the younger villagers had learned how to read and write well. Perhaps they were not well-educated, but at least they were literate, and when sending letters to distant relatives they would no longer have to try hard to get someone else to write for them. Of course, it was unavoidable that their writing would still be littered with minor errors here and there.
But overall, this was a remarkable achievement.
Little Shiba was not especially interested in this achievement, however, it meant that he no longer needed to painstakingly hide his illiteracy from others. The children of his age in the village could basically all recognize a few characters, and there were even one or two "prodigies" who could already recite ream after ream of classical poetry and even entire essays of the sages. Parents of these "prodigies", with great impetus, would always push them to go and take part in the preliminary rounds of the imperial examinations.
He was not a child prodigy and was not very interested in the cultural system of this world, which so strikingly resembled that of ancient China. So long as others knew he was literate, that was enough.
His practice of the Ignis Skill had gone smoothly, and his eyes began to mutate. After mastering the method of the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword, he had overcome the most difficult part of the Ignis Skill. He had been able to absorb Fire Attributes from the essence of the world, and by undertaking special mental cultivation methods of Internal Strength, he had transformed the energy of Fire Attributes into a unified Internal Qi and contained it entirely within his body.
This was the most fundamental principle of most of the Internal Strength throughout this world. Of course, it was not easy to do this at all. Between heaven and earth, there was not only one type of Fire Attribute but countless types. For example, the Fire Attribute pneuma emitted by the sun above our head had hundreds of variations, among which the most well-known was the sun's fire. Even just a little of this kind of fire was enough to melt steel, so with the exception of characters of legend, there were few that could handle the sun's fire. Of course, the Ignis Skill was only the most basic mental cultivation method of Internal Strength with a Fire Attribute. Little Shiba did not yet know this, and with his current level of sensitivity to the essence of the world, he was also not able to sense much.
Due to vigorous training, Little Shiba was able to completely transform Unusual Strength Qigong into Ignis Internal Qi and was able to wield its power. He had merged its force with the Thousand Killing Punching Skill. Aside from this skill's own inherent power, it was now combined with the power of the burning fist. When fully unleashed, it could have a destructive force many times stronger than the regular Thousand Killing Punching Skill.
Just then, he realized after his Internal Qi had been slowly transformed into the Ignis Internal Qi by Unusual Strength Qigong, there also seemed to be a strange effect on the inside of his body—his muscles, bones, tendons, and meridians seemed to be solidified and strengthened. Wang Tianlei had once told him that the "from internal to external" method was correct. Appropriate internal vigor could be beneficial to the strengthening of the body. Internal Strength and External Strength were both parts of the same reciprocating process.
In a sense, Little Shiba's punching skill could be said to be at a Basic level. Within the last three years, he was not able to make much progress. If he wanted to forcefully upgrade his abilities, he would have to destroy his own body. It could be said that his Internal and External Strength had already reached the limits of his present age.
He had just turned eight years old, and the body of an eight-year-old lad was not yet fully grown. It had not even reached puberty yet. His skeleton, Qi, and blood were all too weak. If he forced himself to upgrade now, no matter if he was successful or not, his future achievements may end there. He feared that if he forced to upgrade his strength in his present physical condition, then it could lead him to be stuck in the body of an eight-year-old for his entire life. That would really be a humiliation.
So for the last three months, he had instead put all of his energy into the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword.
The Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword was an astonishing martial art skill. However, within Li Haoran's memory, he still did not know that this skill was regarded as a special technique.
As was said before, the standard cultivation method of martial arts skills was to channel the essence of the world into the body, and transform it into a source of Internal Qi through the mental cultivation method of one's Inner Strength. And then, this Internal Qi flowed along its own course, providing moisture for and carefully nourishing the body's tendons, meridians, Qi, and blood. This process was known as "from the internal, to the external".
The Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword was a unique martial art skill, one that Little Shiba had never imagined before, and he even thought of it as a martial arts system entirely outside of his knowledge. Of course, this was also a reflection of the fact that his martial arts knowledge was not so extensive, and still merely lingered around Wuxia novels and cartoons.
If one wanted to practice the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword, he should directly take in Evil Qi, make use of a secret method similar to that of the mental cultivation method of one's Internal Strength, and then smelt the absorbed Evil Qi until it was distilled into Sword Qi without parallel. Finally, stored all of the Sword Qi within his body.
It sounded as though this was not very different from the art of inhaling and exhaling Internal Qi, but in essence, the difference was really huge.
He who practiced Internal Strength needed to absorb the essence of the world, and indeed there were countless types of world essences, possessing all kinds of properties. These innumerable types of pneuma could be divided into two main categories; one type was Spiritual Qi, and the other was Evil Qi. The type of Qi that could be absorbed and transformed into internal power was very rare, and this type of easily absorbed and transformed Qi was called Spiritual Qi. Its typical property was mild, and even the essence that could be absorbed and transformed into the pneuma of Fire Attribute through the Ignis Skill was rather mild. However, the essence which could be taken into the body as though drinking water was mostly Spiritual Qi. Evil Qi was that kind of world essence which could not be transformed into Internal Qi. Evil Qi was just like seething hot boiling water which would burn you if you just touched it, not to mention drank it.
Evil Qi had fierce properties, but at the same time, its power could not be compared to the kind of world essence which was mild; the pneuma of Fire Attribute that Little Shiba absorbed and transformed through Ignis Skill was just one of the common sort. The difference between the power of this pneuma and the sun's fire was enormous.
Thus, in order to utilize this fierce essence of the world, a special technique was needed.
The special technique passed down since antiquity integrated every method and every martial arts skill of each type of Internal Qi. It combined all the traits of Evil Qi to create a kind of secret skill which could transform the fierce Evil Qi that fighters could not safely absorb into a fixed form and contain it within their bodies, tendons, and meridians.
Because the pneuma that this special technique transformed into was of unparalleled ferocity, it was an almost impossible task to hold it inside one's body for one's own use like Internal Qi. But through this special technique, it was possible to solve this annoyance and made it stay in a fixed form within one's body. For example, the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword was made by distilling Evil Qi into a peerless Blade Qi, and after being distilled into Blade Qi, the ferocious properties of the Evil Qi were stabilized and transformed into the lethal force of this Blade Qi. However, it was not just any type of Evil Qi that could be refined into the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword. No matter what kind of special technique, its requirements of Evil Qi were extremely high. For instance, the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword required simultaneously smelting two types of Evil Qi with diametrically opposed characteristics; one extremely yang and the other extremely yin. And even if it was smelted successfully through this secret skill, it could still not be stored in the body to be at your command like true Internal Qi. It could only be fixed into a particular form. As for keeping it contained within one's tendons and meridians, the key point was that storing Blade Qi within oneself required one's muscles and vessels to have a far greater degree of tolerance and resistance than ordinary muscles and vessels had.
Little Shiba had just turned eight, and his bones, muscles, tendons, and meridians were not yet fully developed. So, even if he could find two types of Evil Qi with diametrically opposed characteristics, he still could not store them within his body as his tendons and meridians would not be able to withstand it.
Such a pity. I thought that I had gotten a life-saving skill!
Thinking about that point, Little Shiba felt that he was quite laughable. He was an eight-year-old child, growing up in a remote village, but the thoughts in his mind were the same as those adventurers on the outside who wanted to have life-saving skills in their possession at all times. He did not know what kind of mentality that was. Was it because he had read too many Martial arts novels?
Of course, in four years, he had grasped clearly the nature of the Ignis Skill and the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword. In those four years, as far as Little Shiba was concerned, the most useful thing was deciphering the Ignis Skill, and the most interesting thing was practicing the Yin and Yang Heavenly Sword. But what made those four years a real bumper harvest was his two fantastic eyes.
After four years of training, he could already keep his eyes in their singular state for about half an hour without seriously weakening himself. Or at least, not weakening himself so much that he would be unable to flee from danger. Naturally, maintaining that state was still a big burden on his health, but after entering that state, his reflexes, vision, control over his body and Internal Qi, as well as his speed and strength all improved by leaps and bounds. His strength was improved by a factor of at least five or six. But the only disappointment was that these, after all, were not the skill-copying eyes, and he did not have the ability to copy other people's martial arts techniques.
He had always envied the bow and arrow skills of Wu Qinglong's family. He still had not studied to their level, although through careful observation he had noted every detail of how Wu Qinglong primed the bow and loaded the arrow, and had benefited considerably from it. So his skill in archery had also seen great improvement, although he still had not really trained to the level of the Wu family.
I've already spent seven years practicing Tai Chi Quan, so I suppose I've learned a few profound points, Haha! When practicing my Unusual Strength Qigong, I found that Tai Chi can strengthen it. Now I can totally transform Unusual Strength Qigong into Ignis Internal Qi. I had never thought it could be strengthened; not only in this way, but the strengthening effect of Tai Chi Quan on my body is greater and greater. It's a type of upgraded super punching skill. How strange, why had I never had this feeling in my previous life?
After practicing Tai Chi Quan, Little Shiba's entire body was dripping with sweat. He felt that his body from top to bottom was bathed as if it were being cleansed by the heat of his Internal Qi. It was an indescribable feeling of comfort.
Recently my father keeps worrying, it seems like I'm about to become an apprentice. Ha, going out is a good idea, at least much better than being holed up in this remote and desolate place. Although I shall not think about how many achievements I'll reach in this world, I have a chance to look at this wondrous world. Staying in this place, there might not be many opportunities remaining!
This was a true depiction of Little Shiba's thoughts. Although this mountain village was peaceful and quiet, and had already been made by Wang Tianlei into a place suitable for retirement, the eight-year-old Little Shiba did not want to live here any longer. He would not like to go into retirement so early. So, he was very much looking forward to going to Qingyang Market to become an apprentice. Of course, he was not yet to know exactly what kind of opportunity that his uncle had arranged for him.