Shi Mu picked up the rose-colored jade slip, on which the Art of the Strong Ape was recorded,closed his eyes, and put the slip against his forehead.
Time passed, as he studied the ar,t and after more than an hour, Shi Mu suddenly frowned and opened his eyes, his face pale and his brows knitted.
He had scanned the introduction of this art when he was in the Bloodline Sutras House, but as he studied the nine stages of the art., he found it to be less complex than he had thought before. Actually, it was surprisingly easy to understand. However, he was still missing something he needed in order to practice it. the Art of the Strong Ape requires its practitioners to have the bloodline of a monkey or ape, along with some Real Qi of a Demon which, as described in the jade slip, originates in some dark and evil places, though the Qi itself is relatively safe for humans. It is obviously different from Heavenly Spirit Power.
The art made use of this Demon Qi to temper one’s body and strengthen their nerves and bones. As a result, the art would cause unbearable pain to its users. In fact, it was impossible for Practitioners, like Shi Mu, who had not learned any Houtian arts and thus lacked Real Qi to protect their nerves. Therefore, the impact of the Demon Qi on his body would be devastating. A casual mistake would, at the minimum, wreck his nerves and disable his body. He might even die from exploding his Real Qi. Though the introduction did not specify it, it was obvious you could only practice the art after awakening and strengthening your Real Qi. Otherwise, it would be an act of suicide.
Shi Mu fell into deep thought after he had read the slip. Now, since he could not practice the Art of Strong Ape at his current stage, he would not have to practice two arts together. He might as well focus on practicing the Art of the Heavenly Elephant before practicing the other. Thinking this, he put down the red jade slip and picked up the white one in front of him.
Shi Mu put the white slip against his forehead and sat down quietly with his legs crossed. This time, he spent more than two hours in that position before he opened his eyes. There was a look of guarded excitement on his face, as he put down the slip.
He had memorized all eleven stages of the Art of the Heavenly Elephant, and the art was as easy as the introduction described.
He took a deep breath and got to his feet to stretch his limbs. Then he sat down on his bed again. He repeated the mnemonic rhymes of the art in his mind, with his arms on his knees as he set himself in a posture which was called “Five Hearts Towards Heaven”.
Houtian arts differed from the Practitioner arts in that one had to sense the spirit power in his environment and absorb the power into their body to transform it into Real Qi which could be controlled. The talent of the cultivator, the art they was learning, and the environment they stayed in, were all relevant elements in this process. The more talented someone was, the more easily they could obtain Qi Sensing, likewise, the more powerful the art they were learning, the more easily one could absorb the spirit power in their environment. Last, but not least, environments differed in the amount of spirit power they contained. Good selection of a practicing environment also very important.
Shi Mu sat quietly, trying, with all effort, to control his mind, leading it to the right channel. All prepared, he started to direct his thoughts as the art requested. After a while, a bitter smile emerged at the corner of his mouth. He had long since sensed his Real Qi, and had felt the spirit power in his environment as the art said, but his nerves and blood would not cooperate. They were flowing sluggishly, refusing to take in the spirit power from outside his body. In the same way, Shi Mu refused to give up. He struggled to tame his agitated mind again and again, before he finally got a clearer sense of the environment’s spirit power: a holy Qi he had never sensed before. However, every time he tried to lead it into his nerves and vessels, there was some mysterious force pushing the holy Qi away. He suddenly recalled what Li Canghai had said, that the Bloodline of Stone Monkey would block nerves and vessels so that the gathering speed of Real Qi would be quite a bit lower than average. Shi Mu sighed to himself, but he did not get discouraged. He knew that the Bloodline of the Stone Monkey had not totally blocked his way to becoming a Houtian Warrior. Despite his slower speed in gathering Real Qi, he could make up by hard work. As long as he was strong enough, it would be no problem for him to get more resources in a sect like the Black Demon Sect, thus his accomplishment might not be smaller than others’ in the future. Eventually, when it was totally dark outside and Shi Mu had failed numerous times, he successfully caught one tiny wisp of the holy Qi. He carefully, oh so carefully, led it into his vessels.
The next moment, it began to circulate, slowly. Shi Mu dared not to slack for even a minute, but his eyes betrayed him, because they were radiating with excitement. Now he realized that he had finally got a foothold on the path to pursuing martial arts.
As time went on, day came and light flooded into his room and then night came again and the world descended into darkness. However, all this time, Shi Mu kept sitting with his legs crossed, motionless.
Suddenly, his body quivered before he opened his eyes. He put his hands on the bed and turned to jump on the ground. He didn’t even feel tired after having practiced for a whole day; on the contrary, he found himself full of spirit and inexhaustible strength.
Shi Mu raised his arms and punched twice, breaking the air and making sounds like the explosion of two firecrackers. He looked down at his hands in excitement. He had not gained more strength, but his punch was now, undoubtedly, more powerful. Besides, he could feel a slight fluctuation of Qi flowing slowly in his veins and vessels, and, as he concentrated on it, the Qi moved even faster and melded together in his lower abdomen, forming a slim wisp of Real Qi.
It was the achievement of a whole, long, hard day of work - he had finally gathered his first wisp of Real Qi. Though his Qi was as slim as a piece of silk, Shi Mu could now be counted as a real Houtian Warrior. The reason his punches were stronger was his Real Qi.
Shi Mu could not resist his excitement any more, so, after thinking for a second, he tried to focus his Qi on his left hand. Immediately, his hand suddenly grew hot and swelled a little, with a white light shimmering around the rim of it, just like the Blood Palm of the fifth master of the Jin Family.
To test this new discovery, he walked out to the yard and looked around. Then he saw a large blue stone in a corner.
Shi Mu shouted and pounced forward, like a cheetah, swinging his Qi strengthened hand and slapping the stone with great force.
After one strike of his palm, he moved back to where he originally stood. The whole process took place in a single breath. The pounce and the hit were so fast and abrupt that people without sharp eyesight could not make out the movements.
There was a clear palm print on the stone along with numerous cracks in the stone face around it, extending in all directions.
In a few seconds, the stone broke into pieces and scattered all over the ground.