“Shaolin’s Yijin Jing consists of ten layers.”
“… Your point being?”
Whilst performing visual recon on Ming Feizhen’s reaction, Luo Ming answered, “Yijin Jing is Shaolin’s treasure. One of their eminent monks once said, ‘You cannot exchange the seventy-two arts of shaolin for Yijin Jing.’ That goes to show just how cherished Yijin Jing is…
“Yijin Jing’s ten layers are more difficult to learn than anything. Once one masters the fifth layer, they enter a realm called Mountains and Oceans Realm for their brute strength is compared to ocean waves and crashing mountains. The reason for choosing ‘mountains’ and ‘oceans’ as descriptive analogies is due to their religion associating the two entities as almighty things.
“After the fifth layer, each layer is harder to master than the last. Every time you progress to the next layer, you gain the might of two more mountains and two more oceans. Once you master the ninth layer, your internal energy is in a league of its own, one that cannot be described with words, so they simply label it as being the equivalent of ‘nine mountains and nine oceans’. If someone could produce that much force in each strike, mayhap only mythical beings could match them.
“In Shaolin’s thousand-year history, there have only been eighty-three eminent monks who mastered up to Yijin Jing’s fifth layer, each of whom have gone down in history for their incredible skills. Twenty-four people mastered up to the seventh layer. Fifteen people have mastered the eighth layer. Only four people have mastered the ninth layer since Shaolin was established.
“Shaolin’s current abbot is lauded as an incarnation of Buddha for he has mastered the ninth layer. Despite the commendable attributes of Divine Realm martial artists, Abbot Kongxu still takes the top spot for internal energy. As expected, Abels suffered injuries that he struggled to recover after challenging Abbot Kongxu, yet the latter did not suffer any harm.”
“If Brother Bodhi hears that, he’s going to flip out. Anyway, you’ve spouted a lot of drivel. How about you stop beating around the bush?”
Luo Ming drew his discharged energy back, believing his question would trigger the next exchange: “What’s your father’s name?”
“… I’m an orphan. My shifu raised me. How should I know what my father’s name is?”
“Where… did you learn Yijin Jing from, then, to know it so well?”
“… Why don’t you take a guess?”
Luo Ming cautiously dropped his guard and then held his hands behind his back, peering into the heavens whilst alternating between musing and shaking his head. “… You may be strong, but you’re not invincible.”
“Show me in a fight. Or, let’s hear it.”
Luo Ming shook his head: “I have two stories to share with you.”
“You seem to be in a jovial mood, huh? It’s almost as if you’re unaware I’m here for a fight.”
Luo Ming just smiled back.
“Share your stories, but I can’t promise I won’t pulverise you.”
“The first story took place thirty-three years ago.”
Ming Feizhen paused his preparation to attack, informing Luo Ming that he hit the nail on the head.
“I was Luo Sword Manor’s representative, charged with defending the capital in the war between the Nine Provinces and Youtu back then, so I’m not privy to what took place on the frontlines. Nonetheless, the war eventually reached an end.”
Youtu, a land of snow, was further north of Beijiang. Rumours claim that, instead of humans residing there, fiends, monsters and demons were buried beneath the cold darkness. If anyone were to witness their soldiers in battle, they would understand how the myths came to be.
Tiezhen Kingdom had yet to recover from the Youtu’s invasion back then. Abels’ exile from the royal family was also a product of Youtu’s quest for supremacy.
“The previous Emperor was a wilful one and for the worst. During his reign, he failed in his three attempts to capture Beijiang, forcing him to retreat to the capital of Nanjing. On his third attempt, he encountered Youtu’s forces while they were at the border. As soon as he saw them assaulting Beiping, he wanted to open the city doors to flee for his life.
“As always, war is an opportunity for heroes to be made. One of the two men who rose to fame was born to be a star on the battled. He refused to abandon his city and surrender despite being a mere rank seven commander. One of the deeds he will always be remembered for is killing the brownnosing state proctor for diffusing false rumours.
“The commander recruited soldiers in the city and rode out with three thousand equestrians against Youtu’s army of forty thousand. Over the length of one month, he slew thirteen generals and drove the enemy back to Beijiang’s borders. If Youtu’s horses weren’t faster than his forces’, they would have had to lay down their lives in foreign lands. Nonetheless, he rode alone into the enemy camp to slay their commander, Mogong Luohou.
“When he returned victorious to the capital, there was an ocean of people by the city doors to welcome him, cheering, ‘Flying General’. He is the hero among the heroes I have seen in my life. In one year’s time, he rose up twelve ranks to become a general. He didn’t just have a long list of accomplishments to his name; the mere mention of his name in the north would stop infants crying.
“Later on, he joined hands with the other hero, who was equally praised, to accomplish many feats still spoken of positively today, including conquering Nanjiang, forming an alliance with the Western Regions seven states and sowing discord in Beijiang. If the two of them were still alive… the imperial court probably wouldn’t need to worry about the Seven Champion White Princes or the four unorthodox factions.
“It’s sad that good times don’t last. After the previous Emperor passed on, his sons waged war on each other. To prevent a full-scale war from breaking out, Flying General quelled riot after riot, adding to his ever-growing list of accomplishments. He is the one who helped Yuansheng establish the foundations for thirty years of peace. Alas, he upset a highly authoritative individual, resulting in him being framed for colluding with another nation and killing members of the imperial family.
“Those who wanted to get rid of him started bringing up old issues. The most ridiculous one was someone defended the state preceptor and tried to retell the story in a completely different light. Flying General was not even buried in the end. After he passed away, ‘Flying General’ became an illegal phrase to mention; those who mentioned the name would be executed on grounds of treason. If they were lucky, they would only have their entire family executed. Every record pertaining to Flying General was erased from history. It’s tragic to think it’s unlikely anyone will remember him in a few more decades from now.”
“Sounds like quite the man,” Ming Feizhen lamented.
“Indeed. His martial prowess is even greater. His stellar skills in battle earned him the title ‘God of Battle’. Even fifty years later, people still firmly believe nobody fifty years before or after him can be called his equal. He is skilled enough to rival this nation’s patriarch and Hero Shenzhou. Even though I consider myself decent, I do not deserve to be placed beside him. If we were to fight fair and square, I can’t imagine lasting more than a few exchanges.”
“… And the second story?” Ming Feizhen didn’t sound interested in God of Battle’s skills.
“The second story is also related to him. His style was Shaolin Temple’s Yijin Jing. As I previously mentioned, Yijin Jing is a guarded treasure of Shaolin. The only time they lost it was over thirty years ago to a female thief. Shaolin still doesn’t want to talk about her being able to steal it from under their nose. The gorgeous thief’s name was Tianfeng Yu, the only woman to be ranked among Supreme Ten Saints.
“Tianfeng Yu later met Flying General and married him. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say they had people green with envy. It’s safe to assume that’s also how he obtained Yijin Jing. The only way for Yijin Jing to have been passed down to someone outside of Shaolin is through his family.
“Subsequent to Flying General’s execution, his family was executed. Of course, that included Tianfeng Yu. The story goes that she resisted until the imperial court dispatched The Ultimate Three to finish her. For the two of them to meet their ends like that really is unfair.”
“Of course not.” Luo Ming studied Ming Feizhen from head to toe. “I do believe they had a son, and I do not recall hearing anything regarding his death after his family’s execution. If” – Luo Ming slowed his pace to have more time to monitor Ming Feizhen’s reaction – “their son is still alive… he should be around your age.”
Luo Ming wasn’t disappointed for that was also a type of reaction, one that satisfied him: “Tianfeng Yu was one of your shifu’s bosom friends. I have not interacted with Ming Huayu much. That being said, there is no man who does not know of his exploits. Nobody would believe he is a human being if they heard the things people say about him. The most famous rumour regarding him is that he is willing to do anything for women. There aren’t many people in the world who can shelter a criminal’s descendant, are there?
“… Allow me to make a bold conjecture. Let’s hypothesise that Tianfeng Yu asked Ming Huayu to take care of her son prior to her end, and Ming Huayu raised her son as his disciple. It clicks, does it not? Is it not reasonable for a boy to learn his parents’ martial arts? I should not be surprised to meet a young man who carries the Ming surname and know Yijin Jing, should I?”
Luo Ming cracked a smile at Ming Feizhen’s silence: “You are not invincible. Your mind has swayed. Your expression is the proof.”
If wrath had an incarnation after the story, its human form would be called Ming Feizhen.
1) Shaolin’s 72 arts – Some people divide the 72 styles into 36 external styles and 36 internal styles (not to be mistaken as ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ styles), making up the foundation of Shaolin’s styles. That being said, it’s not all that they have to offer. It’s more of a religious thing; you might have noticed this from their choice of numbers, such as “Eighteen Luohan Hands”.
They aren’t all fighting styles, and some people take the names far too literally. If you were to find an equivalent in today’s more popular system, they would be something like leg training, shoulder training, foot training, stretching, anal mobility drills and so forth. Put all your physical preparation and skill work together until you get 72 things to train. That’s basically how it works.
2) “Where… did you learn Yijin Jing from, then, to know it so well?” – Luo Ming is pointing out that Ming Feizhen’s version isn’t diluted; diluted here means that it hasn’t been altered. The first example that comes to mind is Yip Man learning from his uncle but never completing his training, though the latter also did practice “accidental” negligence in his coaching. Yip Man then learnt from Leung Bik, further compounding the existing problems with his wing chun (compare Yip Man’s to Sum Nang and Yuen Kay Shan’s), thereby diluting it twice. Jim Fung then diluted the already-broken wing chun of Yip Man into a more broken version with his misunderstandings, so broken that it’s nonsense. Ming Feizhen, therefore, learnt what he was supposed to learn instead of mistakes resulting from dilution.
3) Flying General – This is also the title given to Lyu Bu (translated as Lu Bu in Koei’s Warrior franchise), a general during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China.