Wudang’s Huan Xinglai (Part 2)
That’s the first time I ever heard him lose his composure, I thought in my half-conscious state.
The elder was similar to my shifu in character and always stuck to his signature appearance: coarse cloth clothing caked in dust and a daoist hair bun. Nevertheless, he was always jovial. Even though I met him in the past already, my shifu never introduced him, so I kept calling him Ol’ Daoist, cracking him up. The daoist always told me my future was immeasurable – whatever that was supposed to imply. I think it took two years before we were properly introduced. I just remember him resembling a monk clinging to my leg and telling me I have the wisdom to discern all truths.
“Where did he get such immense strength from? If he hadn’t learnt Yijin Jing to convert the energy, he’d be smithereens after absorbing that energy. Nonetheless, the energy is so overwhelming that his skin is splitting and bones are growing. Even though his organs aren’t damaged, it’s going to kill him within two weeks.”
I could hear every word he said, but I didn’t have the faintest idea what he was on about.
The man sighed: “If you can’t treat a condition, how can this old one treat it? Even if this old one mobilised his true qi throughout his body, it would only extend his life by a hundred days. You’re innovative enough as it is. If he’s lucky, he might be able to use his mastery of Yijin Jing to use the power for himself. It’s merely a question of who will win the tug of war. If he’s lucky, he’ll preserve his life. Having said that, it’s still going to be a tall order for any human being to control the energy. The potent true qi will render him a vegetable as long as it occupies his body.”
“I need to loan something from you.” Yes, that was my shifu speaking; however, I questioned if it was him because of how different he was to his usual self. “… Incomplete Tai Chi.”
Even after spending all these years piecing my fragmented memories of the conversation together, I still only have an overall picture. After the conversation, I felt true qi coursing through my body similarly to a fountain spraying straight into my body, reducing my pain until I passed out. Upon coming to, I couldn’t lift a finger.
My shifu, who was the first person I saw upon opening my eyes, appeared as exhausted as a man who just scrapped, yet he made fun of me as he always did. He then chucked me a book and told me to train. I immediately started training to catch up on lost time.
Shifu told me my nigh immobile condition was due to me making a mistake during my training, thereby breaking my own arms and legs, but I’d recover once I was advanced enough. For that reason, I trained in my room during those days.
The daoist helped clarify any mistakes or struggles for me during his frequent visits, so my days spent there weren’t too bad. As the difficulty ramped up as I advanced, though, I needed to endure correspondingly more pain to the point that I considered committing suicide. The most severe event was when the true qi I couldn’t control sent me through walls and, well, my shishu became impotent… Luckily, I managed to return from the gates of hell each time I thought I was a goner and would see my shifu first thing upon waking.
After a year of training, Shifu sent me to a desolate mountain – desolate unless you count the stone monument there with an incomplete carving of Tai Chi. Though I had no clue what it was, my eyes were glued to it once I saw it.
Shifu never visited me again. Instead, the daoist would bring me three meals a day and share stories in the pugilistic world with me. One day, he suddenly told me, “Even though you have an ailment, you can’t just spend all day sleeping. You have to keep active when you’re young. I have a style that can keep you fit and healthy. Spend some time training it.”
I had never seen any style so ugly that stressed the importance of going slow. Nevertheless, it suited me due to my difficulty with moving. And so, I practiced day and night as I stared at the Tai Chi diagram – minus eating, drinking and sleeping.
Two years later, when I fully recovered, I discovered I had the mental cultivation of the internal style Shifu gave me down pat. I was able to control my energy as I willed it. As for Tai Chi, I only realised it was Wudang’s exclusive Tai Chi later on.
“Watch closely. If you miss this opportunity, you may never see it again,” Elder Shou sternly stressed to his disciples.
“But he is not even one of us. What is there to see?”
Everyone would agree Wudang’s elder generation were and are still heroes of the martial world. A large number of those in their thirties and forties were also considered heroes. When it came to the younger generation, in contrast, even Elder Shou wouldn’t be able to crack a smile.
Nobody in the three current generations of Wudang understood the essence of Tai Chi. Only five disciples had what it took to learn Cosmic Primordial Empyrean Style and Yin Yang Primordial Style. At the current rate, Wudang was going to lose its place in the martial world.
“Do you know how your Brother Yun picked up some of Tai Chi’s essence?” Elder Shou derisively pointed to Ming Feizhen. “He was the inspiration.”
“He is not one of us, though. Regardless of how skilled he may be, there is nothing we can learn from him. Plus, Moyan Xiuluo and Venerable Mianhua are both stronger than him.”
“There are only two people who can be said to have mastered Tai Chi. One of them is our patriarch, and the other one is that punk. Both of them are prodigies at martial arts. I won’t say anymore. Focus. Don’t blink or… you will miss the moment.”
Only Hong Jiu and Boss Shen knew about me standing in for Wudang. Luo Ming wasn’t going to identify me since I had no intention of expending much internal energy.
I gestured for my opponents to come.
Mianhua and Moyan Xiuluo regarded each other prior to double teaming me in a pincer formation. I sunk my shoulders as I waited for their attacks to approach. When they expected to finish me, Moyan Xiuluo’s horizontal slash slammed into Mianhua’s palm, but they were able to control the recoil this time thanks to their previous experience.
Smiling, I circled my hands around their arms and redirected Moyan Xiuluo’s momentum heading to Mianhua’s dome and Mianhua’s hand to Moyan Xiuluo’s chest. At the last opportunity to escape, the two sent an aerial each to get to safety. The two blocked upon landing to launch themselves back at me, this time without the testing part.
“There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it.”
What resembled a casual, thoughtless wag of my arms was all it took to slide their attacks straight past me. Their attacks didn’t stop, nor could they stop them. As my added force accelerated them to exceed the limits they could control, their unbridled speed terminated their offence. Leveraging their momentum, I whipped one on the back and one on the shoulder, sending them left and right.
Though Moyan Xiuluo rolled back up to his feet, the residue force brought him back down. “What is this voodoo crap?! This is not martial arts! You didn’t even use any strength, so why d-”
“It’s technique over power,” Mianhua answered in an equally fraught state. “Do you happen to be using the style Wudang hasn’t shown in a long time – Tai Chi?”
I took out a hair accessory to put my hair in a ponytail, then dangled a strand of green bristlegrass from my mouth: “Any opinions?”
Mianhua placed his palms together: “It is said that nobody has inherited Tai Chi, so it is a surprise to witness it today. This one cannot see himself winning and hereby concedes.”
Moyan Xiuluo just hopped off the ring.
“Miss Shen, why do you look like you’re choking?” Hong Jiu queried.
Shen Yiren placed her face down onto her hand and, in a monotone voice, replied, “I’ve seen him use that style before, but I couldn’t understand if it was profound or if he was just egregious. As long as he has that style at his disposal, it’ll be hard to hurt him even if his internal energy is inadequate. Perhaps it’s I who needs to clean the slate and try to get to know him again.”
“That level of proficiency in Tai Chi deserves acclaim. Could he be Wudang’s hidden ace? Daoist Shenfa, you are more calculative than you let on. Who among the youths throughout the martial world could hold a candle to him?”
Hearing Luo Ming’s mumbling, I spun his way and held out a supinated hand: “This one is Wudang’s Huan Xinglai. Please go easy on him.”
Yes, yes, I like that reaction. Let the anger flow through you.
Aerial – Refer to the basic moves syllabus video on the ToC page.
Block – Landing with your feet in a position that blocks momentum travelling in one direction in order to travel in another direction. In this example (https://www.instagram.com/p/CHO60aVpUoF/), my last step onto my left foot is blocking forward momentum to transfer it into upward travel.