Martial King’s Retired Life – Vol. 5 Ch. 71



The World’s Dazzling Talent – Celestial Silk

Silk was a weapon that was never a part of The Eighteen Arms or The Eighteen Unique Arms. Some in the pugilistic world relied on their clan’s unique weapons to win. Some used popular weapons in the pugilistic world. Some used weapons passed down by their ancestors. The wealthy spent hefty sums to hire a blacksmith for custom weapons. Some also bought weapons outright. Only a very, very small number of people chose silk as their weapon. The popularity of using silk as a weapon in the martial world was the last thing one needed to be worried about. Understanding the unique properties of silk itself would make it clear as to why it wasn’t even considered a unique weapon.

Silk was extremely fine, lacked an edge and tip on top of being soft. Trying to wield it with brute force would require double the expenditure for half the results. In short, it was giving oneself trouble. Trying to wield it gently would under-deliver in the lethal department. Using a soft object gently was by logic absurd.  Silk as a front-on combat weapon lacked offensive power. As a defensive tool, it wouldn’t offer much resistance.

Whips, fly-whisks, ropes and so forth might’ve been found in abundance in the martial world. However, silk wasn’t the same at the end of the day.

Let us use fly-whisks to put this into perspective. A fly-whisk was made from thousands of strands of some thread and soft as could be. The key was that the strands were closely collected, thereby increasing the potential output it offered unlike a single strand of silk. If you were to pluck one strand and ask a fly-whisk master to use it, he’d say, “You are too kind… You think this is funny?” He’d beat you so silly you’d mix up a monk with a priest.

There were some in the martial world who could use iron wires to restrain their foes. Those with profound internal strength or were phenomenally skilled could rely on their superior internal strength and energy to wield the wire as a whip. But that would be a case of superior proficiency compared to their enemy, not silk being lethal. If those same skilled individuals were to encounter someone who could rival them, then they’d revert back to using their actual style’s weapon. Very few schools in the martial world used wire – or silk in this case – as a weapon. So accordingly, it was understandable that rarely did anyone ever hear of somebody using silk as their main weapon.

Back then, when I was outgoing and aggressive, I heard about celestial spiders eating people. I enthusiastically packed my gear and went to save a bunch of people I didn’t know. Despite my qinggong proficiency, I still ended up searching Heavenly Mountain for over two months… After the long journey, I returned to their village. I searched the entire mountain again. Eventually, I found the celestial spider’s nest. I fought my way into its den without any hesitation, only to find… nobody. All I found was a group of snow spirit spiders that were bigger than dogs, and the celestial spider that had lived for over a millennium.

As soon as I stepped inside, snow spirit spiders immediately swarmed me while another group sealed the cave behind me. The celestial spider’s reaction was very surprising. It swiftly spat out ice silk. The force generated from its spit was potentially more lethal than an arrow off a bowstring and was sharper as a metal edge. It struck so fast that I was almost injured.

If I tried to flee, then their massive numbers and the old celestial spider would devour me whole. As I had to risk it all, I ended up fighting with them for an entire month. After spending my days eating spiders and drinking melted ice, I finally slew the old bugger. At the time, I didn’t even know how rare celestial spider silk was. I was only aware that snow spirit spider silk was worth a lot of money. That was why I took everything I could.

When I finally found out how much it was worth, the silk clung to me as if it was a ghost that died unjustly. I had no idea what to do with it. Soon enough, I found myself racking my brains to figure out what to do.

Though spirit spider silk was a very precious smithing material, I wasn’t a weapon user. To make a sharp blade, I only needed one strand. Even if I made The Eighteen Arms – so, a sword, broadsword, spear, halberd, axe, great axe, hook, trident… then made a trident, hook, great axe, axe, halberd, spear, broadsword and sword – I’d still have a tonne of leftover silk. I wasn’t going to war, and neither was I going to be able to use so many weapons.

Here comes more. Celestial spider silk was significantly rarer and sturdier compared to snow spirit spider silk. The former was also a lot harder to use in smithing.

Snow spirit spider silk contained Cold Venom. A weapon with snow spirit spider silk as an ingredient would, therefore, contain Cold Venom, which was a very unique trait. Now, celestial spider silk was an issue, because its Cold Venom property was over a hundred folds more venomous. One would be poisoned upon contact, not to mention that it would spread to the rest of their body rapidly. If one was to accidentally breathe in the cold qi, the Cold Venom would virtually spread to their organs in an instant, and turn them into a human block of ice.

I once set fire to celestial spider silk to see how tough it was, only to end up find out how vicious its Cold Venom was. Instead of the flame burning the silk, the silk thread put the fire out. If I wanted to do something with it, I’d say that I needed the best blacksmith among the best blacksmiths in the pugilistic world.

The homes to the world’s best blacksmiths were called “The Big Four”, which consisted of Beihai’s Clear Mirror Palace, Demon Realm Sky Palace, Jiangnan’s Luo Sword Manor and Tang Clan.

Each faction among The Big Four had their pros and cons. They all had some people who were easy to get along with, and others who had foul tempers. They all had one thing in common, nevertheless, which was they never did business with strangers.

I once kidnapped a blacksmith from Tang Clan after so much planning, only for him to tell me he could only make me a container using the snow spirit spider silk I had. He said he surrendered when it came to celestial spider silk. In all fairness, celestial spider silk’s toughness exceeded what the majority of blacksmiths thought possible. If you couldn’t use it, it couldn’t exactly be labelled as a material. As a result, dealing with celestial spider silk was put on the back burner again.

Sell it? That would be harder than forging a weapon out of it. Snow spirit spider silk alone costed a fortune. As for celestial spider silk, not even I could think of how much to ask for. I couldn’t think of anyone who could even afford that much. What? Was I supposed to sell it to the Emperor or something…?

In the end, I couldn’t come up with anything, so I just hung onto it all. I stored half of it in the snow spirit container and stored it at Night Fortress’ treasure warehouse as though it was one of the treasures Night Fortress kept. In addition, if Shifu asked me to store something in Vast Sea Submerged Pearl Hall, then I had something to put in there.

I kept the other half on me. The plan was to sell it for money if I ever went broke. Years later, I met a genius who gave me a spark of inspiration. In turn, that led to me changing how I thought about celestial spider silk.

The person I met claimed he was from overseas. Apparently he came from a country by the name of Fusang. It was a small country overseas, yet was home to many geniuses. The place was comparable to the northern border’s Korea. They had little land, but every once in a while, some amazing figures would join the Central Plain’s martial world. I heard that coming to the Central Plan’s was a journey that had to complete in their martial arts journey.

Anyhow, the genius’ weapon was a roll of iron wire that he controlled with his hands in similar fashion to a spider web. He used it to perform assassinations without the enemy ever detecting him. It was also fabulous in the dark. He classified it as stringsmanship. His internal energy and technical skill could give the top-tier adepts in the Central Plain a run for their money. He was also always able to win while being the weaker one. Those he defeated were an entire level above him, and he did it using his threads. I once sparred with him in order to get a more in-depth view of his unique style.

Celestial spider silk was tougher than metal, yet soft as ordinary spider thread. It wasn’t as easy to use as metal wires, but I presumed that as long as I could control it, then I could learn to wield it the way he did. That was when I came to the conclusion that celestial spider silk couldn’t be used as smithing material and would serve much better as a weapon. The only issue at the time was that I had so many jobs requiring my attention at the time. I, therefore, had no time to research its usage. I kept the idea in mind and tossed it around, but I never acted on it.

When I was twenty six, I decided to live in seclusion. Thus, I found a quiet bamboo house at the outskirts of Nanjing and lived there on my own. Besides delegating time for reading The Black and White Reflection, looking into how the people of the nation were doing, major incidents in the world and issues of beauties for research, I spent my days there trying to invent my own style.

Grandmaster left Mount Daluo’s Five Divine Styles for Mount Daluo’s disciples and his signature swordplay. My shifu left behind Heavenly Net Sacred Records. He also had a style only he could utilise. All of those styles would be added to Mount Daluo’s historical records to then pass down to future generations.

I didn’t want to be patriarch. I swore to shake that duty off sooner or later. In saying that, as a member of Mount Daluo who was lied to, bullied, abused and, ahem, I meant taken care of for twenty-plus years, if I didn’t leave behind my unique style at Stirring Dreams Rainy Peak, then I’d most probably never hear the end of it from the old assh-. I would’ve wasted my shifu’s teachings! You didn’t see that!

While I was bored out of my mind, I recalled celestial spider silk. During my two years of seclusion in the bamboo forest, I didn’t come up with any internal style cultivation. Instead, I researched how to employ celestial spider web as a weapon. It was a new taolu that barely anybody knew of in the pugilistic world. There was no other style I could cross-reference. That was why it took a lot of time. That was the only reason I was willing to dedicate so much effort into research. Once I could finish it, it’d be my style and mine only. There would never be another style similar to it in the pugilistic world.

The adept from Fusang used some sort of special hand techniques to control his string. I thought he used a number of mechanical components, as well. I, however, couldn’t do what he did with his hands nor could I figure out how I was supposed to install a mechanism and everything that came after as part of the parcel. That being the case, I had to do it Ming Feizhen style.

I… used my internal style true qi to control the silk. And you know what? My idea sent me to hell and back! Way to go inspiration.

Ever since I attained a solid command of internal strength, I stopped having any issues with learning martial arts. The only one that gave me grief was when I researched how to create a practical style with the silk. I ran into dead end after dead end after dead end.

Combining true qi and string was difficult in the first place. For the record, imbuing normal weapons with true qi wasn’t difficult. If one possessed advanced internal strength and energy, then it was even simpler, because ordinary weapons were relatively large! Bigger than the human body’s passages where vital energy circulated through, at the very least!

Normal true qi focused mainly on cultivating one’s principal meridians. They were the twelve standard meridians in Chinese medicine, which were divided into Yin and Yang groups. Specifically, you had the two groups of three Yin and Yang meridians on the hands and feet. Hence, there were a total of six Yin and six Yang meridians, totalling twelve in total.

Once one’s internal energy was formed, internal energy would be discharged from those twelve meridians. The reason for the meridians being located on the human body’s hands and feet was because it was always easier to activate internal energy from one’s hands and feet.

When tapping into true qi, the qi would always travel between the large and small meridians. To put its size into visual perspective, true qi was about two fingers together. Since practically every weapon was larger than that size, imbuing weapons with true qi was never an issue. So accordingly, trying to control the thread as if I was controlling my fingers with my arms required me to “thin” my true qi out to the same dimensions.

Usually, people wanted to increase the size of their true qi, as true qi with greater dimensions meant superior mastery. I, on the other hand, tried to do the reverse. People often described true qi as something as thin as a thread. Nevertheless, that was just a description people came up with. The reality was it was unbelievably difficult to achieve.

It took me two months just to have so much control over my true qi that I could get it as thin as a needle at will. The next step, which was manipulating the threads, was excruciatingly painful. Trying to control a thread with true qi as an extension of my body was akin to using two Heavenly Warrior’s Halberds to try and catch an ant by its leg. It took me three months to get it down pact. I eventually succeeded when I could control celestial spider thread precisely through a needle hole roughly thirty metres away from me.

Over the next year and beyond, I kept researching various ways to manipulate celestial spider silk, including using it to clean my teeth, eat, write, as a hammock and more. One year later, I could barely believe it, but I succeeded! The unlined garment I wore nowadays was made from the celestial spider silk.

Since we grew up on Mount Daluo, my martial siblings’ families sent them their clothes. I was the only one who had to find himself clothes to adorn himself with. For the most part, I had to ask Shiniang to teach me how to sew so that I could make my own. Over time, I got the hang of it. I applied those skills to turn celestial spider silk into clothing. It was warm in winter and cool in summer. Thanks to its Cold Venom, it was perfect for summer.

While me being able to sew was praiseworthy and all, more importantly was the speed at which I sewed clothing. Manipulating celestial spider silk using my true qi revolutionised the sewing game all together. In the past, I had to spend all night sewing. After I mastered my new style, though, I could finish clothes before tea could boil. I could also use it to make different styles, boots and even helmets and armour. I, as a matter of fact, used it to wipe my ass when I forgot to grab paper. I doubt the old celestial spider could use his own silk as proficiently as I could if he came back to life.

They say shut-ins create miracles. In my opinion, the greats such as Jiang Ziya, Lu Ban and Zhuge Liang weren’t even on my level!

This time, I manipulated my unlined garment, which was the celestial spider silk, back into its original form rapidly.

Having no idea what I was doing, Tang Ye pinched his eyebrows together: “Big Brother, the thread on your clothing has come undone.”

“… Shut up.”

I moulded a bit of qi. I looked to the ten-thousand swords vibrating and eager to attack.

“I’ll let you watch, but you have to keep a lid on it. This is not a skill shared with anyone.”

I flicked the air. A thread in my hand twirled around Tang Ye. Once I infused my true qi into the thread, the illusion he saw instantly vanished.

At the time, Tang Ye was in the middle of a quick evasion manoeuvre. He was planning to leap back, but suddenly felt a cold sensation on his body that was covered by a warm sensation. Seeing the illusion suddenly vanished, he asked, “Wh-What was that…?”

“I twirled celestial spider silk around you, and then injected my mental plane’s view into you so that you can see the exact things I see. Celestial spider silk’s cold energy has a barrier now. You should be able to see them now, right?”

“What in th-!” Tang Ye didn’t listen to what I said. When he had a glimpse of what was up above, he asked, “What is this? Ar-Are all those swords what you see, Big Brother?’

In that moment, Tang Ye apparently realised when I said, “If there are ten thousand words…”wasn’t just me making a casual remark. Unfortunately, his timing wasn’t the best, since the swords were about to make their move.

Glossary

*The Eighteen Arms – are the eighteen main weapons in Chinese martial arts/wushu. The list’s origins aren’t too clear. I’ve had the list told to me with some variation.

**The Eighteen Unique Arms – This only exists in wuxia fiction. We don’t actually use the term in real life martial arts settings/schools.

***Taolu – set of techniques and movements. In most cases you can use “style”. The challenge comes when we are referring to the techniques and movements of the style.  A style can encompass more than physical techniques; it could also encompass mental cultivation. The latter isn’t an actual movement. Accordingly, there needs to be a distinction this time, because, as per Ming Feizhen’s words, he created combat techniques, not a complete style.

Adding this term to the glossary page as I should’ve done long ago.

****The meridians discussed in this chapter are actual concepts practiced in Chinese medicine. I have expanded on it slightly in the text for your understanding.

*****Heavenly Warrior’s Halberd – I’m coining it as so, since there’s no official English translation. Yes, it was given a name. The halberd was Lu Bu’s weapon during the Three Kingdoms era. For those who know more, it was the Halberd he hit with an arrow.

The halberd was so large that it was deemed impractical for most people in battle. The halberd was three metres in length. That’s why Ming Feizhen used it as the big and heavy tool to compare with his true qi.

The name of it translated literally is Comparable to Heaven Painting Halberd. There have been countless arguments as to what its actual name should be in Chinese, but the name has remained unchanged.

‘方天’ Archaic for “Comparable to Heaven”. This is derived from the two crescent moon shaped blades on it.

‘画戟’ Literally Painting Halberd.

Instead of keeping it in that nonsensical English translation, I’ve taken the meaning of ‘comparable to’, which is a reference to its appearance, and called it ‘Heavenly’, since I’m arguing they’re the same thing if they’re comparable but more on this in a moment.

Then, the ‘painting’ character references the extravagant decorations added to the length of the handle.  I dropped the character, though. See, one of its alternative names is 方天戟, meaning, “Comparable to Heaven Halberd”.  Another name for it is画杆方天戟, meaning “Extravagant Handle Comparable to Heaven Halberd”. See how the ‘painting’ character isn’t attached to the halberd itself but more so the handle? I, therefore, think it’s reasonably acceptable to forego the word in translation.

The addition of ‘Warrior’ explained:

If you look deeper into its history, you’ll find that the historical figures who wielded the halberd were all considered the mightiest warriors of their times. It begs the question: was the name describing the weapon as being amazing, or was it praising its wielder for their fearsome might? Given that the weapon was intended more for ceremonial occasions than combat due to its ridiculous weight and size, I would hazard a guess that the latter is more probable.

This is why ‘Comparable to Heaven’ is not saying that the halberd is comparable to heaven. It’s the wielder who possesses might that compares to gods. By that logic, it deserves to be mentioned that it’s the wielders who were compared.

‘Halberd’ is self-explanatory.

*Jiang Ziya, Lu Ban and Zhuge Liang – Mentioned the first and last too many times now. Lu Ban was a Chinese carpenter, engineer and inventor, who was active during the Zhou Dynasty.

 

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