The Eight Realms (Part 2)
There were innumerable martial arts disciplines out there, with the variations being difficult to generalise. Taking into account different methodologies and different learning methods of the same discipline would be impossible to encompass in one conversation. Yet, there was one common denominator between all them. Whether they meditated, performed plyometric exercises, read mountains of books or whatever else, they were all different means to the same end – harnessing qi and storing it.
The wise would be able to imitate the flow of nature inside their body, realising what would be considered only theory – this applied to internal energy training.
Internal energy was amplification of the “ordinary” man’s qi tens to hundreds of folds in order to perform superhuman feats, such as leaping from roof to roof or crushing boulders with one’s bare hands. How this “internal energy” came into existence and who first discovered it were topics that couldn’t be answered. At the end of the day, how power was used was more intriguing to man than its source.
In the current paradigm, martial arts chiefly taught practitioners how to refine their internal energy and how to deploy it in combat. The more potent one’s internal energy is, the faster they could learn. The sharper they would be. The more technical they could be, and the bigger their advantage in combat. These conclusions were drawn from the deaths of countless men, manuals and have stood the test of time.
In contrast to the practical side, the theory side developed slower. Describing internal energy as “an energy source for manifesting immense might” wasn’t wrong, but it failed to account for the different shapes and sources that it derived from. While they all fell under the umbrella term “internal energy”, the educated were privy that the energy sources didn’t share the same origin.
Some people gained incredible brute strength from their internal energy; some people gained the ability to produce heat with their internal energy; some people could part flowing water with their bare hands; some people would be able to split rocks in one slash despite their frail appearance.
After a passage of millennia, martial artists gradually created classifications for internal energy, splitting them into eight realms based on eight words: yin, yang, hard, soft, edge, heart, orthodox and unorthodox.
Piggy backing off Ye Luo’s lecture, Luo Mingzhu elaborated, “The eight realms cover all disciplines that comprise of an internal energy system. There are only two groups of people who don’t know about the eight classifications. The first group are those from Nanjiang and Western Regions. They’re unfamiliar with the system as they follow different thought systems. Their understanding and usage of internal energy is totally different to how we teach it in the Central Plain.
“The second group are people still new to martial arts or too weak to know of the concept. People in backwater villages calling themselves martial artists after learning a move or two are the kind you’re thinking of.”
While the young girl was already snoring, Su Xiao earnestly listened in to the education session.
“No wonder why I’ve never heard about the system. Big Brother Ming is too weak to know about them.”
“Ming Feizhen taught you the skills?” Ye Luo blurted.
“No, no.” Su Xiao waved his hands frantically. “He only taught me how to train, stressed the importance of breathing and so on. Since he never told me about the eight realms and whatever, he must not know about them.”
While Luo Mingzhu raced Ye Luo to praise Su Xiao first, Ye Luo couldn’t find it in her to smile.
Ye Luo: I’m not convinced he doesn’t know about them. I have a strong suspicion he’s playing the idiot. Even if Ming Feizhen doesn’t have a knack for martial arts, he already proved his extensive knowledge when he nursed Brother Tie’s wounds. I’m not convinced he doesn’t know the basics of internal styles.
Subsequent to the long lesson, Ye Luo returned to discussing it in the context they started on: “The eight realms are not a ranking system to determine superiority; they’re merely different types. For instance, my Tiezhen Divine Archery belongs to Soft Realm disciplines. The key principle of the discipline is ‘condense’. Condense your qi into a qi arrow. Every realm’s internal energy’s classification hinges on the discipline.”
“Is there any discipline that fits into two realms?” Su Xiao queried.
“You’re a genius, Young Master Su.” Beaming, Luo Mingzhu enlightened, “They do exist. However, the maximum they can overlap is three realms – Hard, Edge and Soft Realms.” She got up to wipe his sweat, then resumed. “Among the eight realms, yin, yang and orthodox are categorised as pure internal styles. The majority of their training is centred around meditation, breathing and so forth. Putting it nicely, the skills they cultivate are described as unique. Putting it bluntly, the skills they cultivate are rubbish because the majority of their skills don’t have any technical application. For that reason, they’re called lame disciplines.
“Hard, Edge and Soft Realms are called good disciplines as they develop visual and physical traits in addition to teaching how to manipulate energy. The various forms of fighting you see are culminations of external style techniques. That’s why the three realms make up over 80% of the disciplines utilised today. Ow!”
“Ow” because Luo Mingzhu went to sit back down, but her chair happened to not be there to catch her. Luckily, she was skilled enough to pull herself back up before she hit the ground to go bring her chair back. She then glared daggers at the one who moved her chair and was feigning ignorance.
Ye Luo disputed, “Your explanation is erroneous. Although Hard, Edge and Soft Realms are considered good, it doesn’t make them superior to yin, yang and orthodox. That’s the same as arguing disciplines determine the outcome of fights. What are you doing on the ground?”
Martial artists were only interested in Yin, Yang, Orthodox, Hard, Edge and Soft Realms, with the first three being perceived as profound and, by extension, difficult to learn and use.
Tang Ye’s Yang Blood True Qi was one of the top Yang Realm disciplines. For that reason, it took a lot for him to learn. Among the numerous disciplines he had in his repertoire, they primarily belonged to Hard, Edge and Soft Realms, but he always fell back onto Yang Blood True Qi when he was under pressure, then combined it with other techniques.
Tang Ye was an “exception to the rule” since most people wouldn’t ever master a single “lame discipline” by the end of their lifespan. Learning disciplines under Yin, Yang and Orthodox Realms were always harder than disciplines under Hard, Edge and Soft Realms, for, not only did they require the physical traits, innate talent and personality but also other variables that couldn’t be controlled.
While disciplines that fell under the arbitrary “good” banner deserved respect, they weren’t as physically demanding. As long as they were healthy, even a waiter could be elite in one of the disciplines. Consequently, the number of practitioners in the three realms grew rapidly.
The problem those who practiced styles from the “good” realms had was that, despite all the variety they had, they ended up losing to people training “lame disciplines”. The reason for that was that those in the latter focused less on variety, polishing just one skill that could conquer the jack-of-all-trades style. That’s not to say that there’s no value in learning those skills; it was just that there are large scores of amateurs compared to those learning “lame disciplines”.
This was why sects and schools were important. If people weren’t constantly inheriting, learning and improving from generation to generation, how do they expect to keep up with others?
Luo Mingzhu extended a finger and continued, “Hence, if you learn lame disciplines and excel, it’s easy to make a name for yourself. Well, it’ll also mean you’re more prone to being viewed as dangerous. At least you won’t be an embarrassment. As for your question, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Prodigies are those who are able to combine disciplines from Hard, Edge and Soft Realms to innovate new skills.”
Ye Luo added, “If a discipline belongs to two realms, then it’s a considered a great discipline. Hard and Edge Realms produce might. Soft and Edge produce coldness. Either one of them are to be feared. Anything that can combine Hard and Soft Realms is considered a divine discipline. Wutong Jin Yuxuan’s Solid Jade Snow is one competitor in the divine discipline category. Divine disciplines are not to be confused with Divine Realm. Great disciplines, divine disciplines are merely adjectives for grading the number of realms a discipline overlaps. As of current, I haven’t heard of any discipline that combines Hard, Edge and Soft Realms. I don’t think there is a discipline that combines three realms yet. Do you seriously not know which realm your internal energy belongs to, Xiao?”
“I don’t. Big Brother Ming never told me anything. Tang Ye is, well… Sister Shen is busy.”
“In that case, let’s test it out. Let’s go.” Ye Luo giddily pulled Su Xiao up.
Luo Mingzhu, who lagged behind by a beat, had to wake up the sleeping girl before going after Su Xiao and Ye Luo. If it weren’t for Su Xiao, Luo Mingzhu probably would’ve kicked the girl awake. The qinggong of the trio were closely matched, so it was hard to catch up to the two laughing as they chatted. As she walked, Luo Mingzhu kept searching for a horse to buy.
Although both maidens were from influential clans, Luo Mingzhu couldn’t stop her desire to feel pampered and didn’t like being out in the sun. In contrast, Ye Luo enjoyed physical exploration and loved the outdoors. Luo Mingzhu would prefer to sit at a tea party, while Ye Luo didn’t like sitting around for so long.
Trees are ubiquitous in Nanjiang, and that included the spacious outskirts of Xiuyu.
“Use the same technique you used against the thugs on Luo Mingzhu and I.”
Luo Mingzhu yanked the young girl off the horse as if they were in a wrestling match.
You’ve stolen all the good moments, and now you want me to take a hit?!
Su Xiao tentatively said, “But I’ve grown quite a bit stronger recently. If I hurt y-”
“Hahaha, if you can hurt me, I’ll treat you to a meal.” Ye Luo assumed a defensive stance.
Switch flipped, Luo Mingzhu hurried into position: “Count me in!”
Su Xiao still wasn’t familiar with utilising his internal energy and would never be able to hit Ye Luo with everything he had. He intended to only give it 50% of his full power. Nevertheless, after inhaling, he had a strong urge to fire off all the energy built up in his body.
“Here I come.”
Su Xiao bound toward Ye Luo, then rammed his fist into her palm. Ye Luo was sure she had caught the punch, yet she felt waves of energy shunting her back. Luo Mingzhu could say the same when she caught his right fist. Only when Ye Luo steadied herself to some degree did she notice Su Xiao punched at them simultaneously.
Ye Luo and Luo Mingzhu were roughly three metres apart, yet they were now only as far apart as his shoulders were. In other words, the qi waves’ target was Luo Mingzhu, and the qi waves locked her in place, forcing her to catch the punch.
When Su Xiao recoiled his arms, the two maidens felt deprived of energy to the point that they almost face planted into the ground. They weren’t hurt; it was just a sense of extreme fatigue.
Despite being the one who attacked, Su Xiao was much better off than the two who took his punches.
“Do you know what realm my discipline belongs to now?”
“There’s no mistake about it.” Luo Mingzhu gave Ye Luo a nod. “Young Master Su, where did you learn the Orthodox Realm divine discipline?”
“I don’t know. Is it Orthodox Realm? I don’t even know what that is.”
“Remember the eight realms we mentioned?”
“Yin, Yang, Hard, Soft, Edge, Heart, Unorthodox and Orthodox Realms.”
“Correct. Among the eight, do you know which realm is held in the highest regard?”
Su Xiao shook his head.
Ye Luo took out a folding bow that Luo Clan crafted out of premium, shiny metals from her belt. “We told you… overlapping two realms produces incredible power, just like,” Ye Luo pulled her bowstring back all the way using a different method to usual, “this.”
Ye Luo’s qi arrow blasted straight through the other side of a tree stump.
“That is the result of combining Soft Realm and Edge Realm internal energy. This is what makes Tiezhen Divine Archery formidable. The force I can shoot with far exceeds that which I can produce with a physical arrow. That is what we call the frost of Soft and Edge Realms’ internal energy.”
Rummaging through all the information and analysing it, Su Xiao inquired, “How come we can combine Hard and Soft Realms’ internal energy, yet we can’t combine Yin and Yang Realms’ internal energy?”
“You’re really sharp. I was getting to that. Orthodox Realm is the most unique of the eight. There are disciplines that combine Yin and Yang Realms’ internal energy, and you know it.”
“Orthodox Realm internal energy is the culmination of Yin and Yang Realms’ internal energy combined.” Ye Luo clarified, “Orthodox Realm is as authentic and pure as you get. Orthodox Realm internal energy can be used to expel poison, dissolve yin and yang qis, enhance one’s six senses, clear one’s mind to improve thinking or negative emotions in addition to boosting growth. Orthodox Realm is considered the greatest of the eight realms, and disciplines that cultivate Orthodox Realm internal energy are considered the best disciplines.”