Xiaolou Listens to the Tune of Spring Rain
“Four years?” Su Xiao smacked his lips. “Given it’s so difficult, is there a big gap between Void Piercer and Perfection?”
Ye Luo replied, “There’s a massive difference. The biggest difference between the two levels is that your internal energy is harmless once it leaves your body regardless of how potent it is. To put it into perspective, your internal energy is probably a tad inferior to mine at the moment, but you won’t last many exchanges against me because I’ve also reached Void Piercer Three.
“If you have reached Void Piercer Beginner, even if it was just a moment ago, the gap between us would’ve closed markedly. To quantify it, your chances of tagging me would go from zero up to 40%. The difference between two people of the same level is an indicator of strength or experience, not your potential. Never underestimate someone on the same level as you.
“At the end of the day, though, one’s grade is just that – a grade. By no means is it the ultimate judge of a fight’s outcome. There are more factors involved in real combat than one’s ability to fight. For instance, and this isn’t an exhaustive list, one’s state of mind, styles, the location, the environment, the people around, the atmosphere and time can all have a role to play in a match’s outcome. They’re all things you can make utilise, but the grading system has no means of accounting for any of those variables. Use the grading system in your analysis of your opponent, but don’t be dogmatic.”
“You mentioned there are sixteen levels across the four realms. Every realm has five levels, which is only fifteen. What about the last level?”
“Haha, that’s Divine Realm obviously. They’re in another league of their own. There’s no point in assigning levels to Divine Realm when there aren’t many martial artists who’ve reached Divine Realm to begin with.”
“My father said there are levels in Divine Realm,” Luo Mingzhu asserted. “It might be that only they know what those levels are. Only they can tell who the better or worse man is. If we were to evaluate them, it’d be no different to ignorantly talking about something we don’t have the foggiest idea about. Plus, their grades are meaningless to us beyond the realm of gossip.”
“Xiao, show us your broadswordplay.”
“You have decent internal energy, but your technique is unpolished. We might be able to give you some pointers. Just show us what you can do. What’s your specialty?”
The question reminded Su Xiao of the technique Ming Feizhen taught him. Since the technique was up to the wielder to decide, it was nothing more than shadowboxing training if he was practicing on his own.
“I’ve learnt some swordplay from Liu Shan Men’s syllabus, but my specialty is still my family’s broadswordplay.”
“That’s fine. Let’s see it.”
Unable to deter Ye Luo, Su Xiao found some space to perform his family’s taolu.
Ye Luo started to feel anxious whilst watching as she was no expert at broadswords or swords, and she certainly wouldn’t consider herself an advanced martial artist. If she couldn’t offer anything helpful, Luo Mingzhu would steal the limelight.
Watching Su Xiao pull his weapon behind him and then lash out at the air, Luo Mingzhu blasted coconut juice from her mouth, yet Ye Luo didn’t mind being sprayed for Su Xiao had stolen her attention with his amazingly… lousy performance.
Full of flaws? That would be putting it mildly. If Su Xiao could kill anyone with his techniques, the credit would belong to his sharp blade, not him. Every move was sluggish and riddled with unnecessary superfluous movements. One of his techniques looked as if he was defending the enemy slash with his head. Rather than spending his time training, he would be better off slitting his own throat. At least he’d get to die on his terms.
As reluctant as they were, Ye Luo and Luo Mingzhu couldn’t stop their genuine concern and disappointment after watching Su Xiao go through thirty-six sections. Luo Mingzhu, as a short weapons expert, knew better than Ye Luo that killing a chicken might be harder than killing Su Xiao.
“Give it your best!” The only one who cheered Su Xiao on was the young girl he saved.
Ye Luo and Luo Mingzhu: Shut up, vixen! He’s already done!
Su Xiao started swinging again, seemingly continuing, but his execution, from his wrists, feet and method of exerting force were different to before, and no move was repeated a second time. Once done with the thirty-six moves, he sheathed his broadsword, only to perform another three different moves. The only consistency was that his swings were weak. He still had flaws from head to toe with every technique. While his execution was abysmal, the cold qi from his weapon gradually expanded its radius, forming frost under his feet.
Cold internal energy belonged to Yang Realm internal energy. Since Su Xiao possessed Orthodox Realm internal energy, his weapon must’ve been the one emitting the cold energy.
After the third round, Su Xiao went for a fourth.
How many times are you going to insult my skills?!
“Why do you finish and then keep going? And why is it different every time you go through it?”
“Is it… not good?”
“Good?” Ye Luo was fuming. “Good for making your opponent laugh to death.”
“Y-Young Master Su, if you use those techniques in a fight, you will die each time you take a swing.”
“Wh-who taught you that?”
Su Xiao turned himself into a pufferfish and turned his head away: “Hmph!”
Ye Luo and Luo Mingzhu pulled Su Xiao over.
“That’s how my family’s style is. My ancestors passed it down, and then my father personally imparted it to me. You’re the ones who told me to perform, and you’re also the ones having a dig at me.”
“A human really came up with it? Why can’t I stop suspecting that a kid came up with it?”
“Of course it wasn’t a kid! It took my ancestors several generations to design Almighty Soul Retriever.”
Luo Mingzhu: “Why did you repetitively perform it?”
“Because I wasn’t done. My family’s style has thirty-six moves per section.”
“Six moves per six sections is typical for taolus.”
“My family’s style consists of thirty-six sections, which equates to one thousand two hundred and ninety-six moves.”
“How bored must your dad have been?!” Ye Luo pressed a hand on Su Xiao’s shoulder. “Xiao, never use the style in combat.”
Luo Mingzhu leaned in close to sobbing Su Xiao. “And dreadfully.”
Su Xiao attempted to run off crying, but the two dragged him back, forcing him to promise that he’d only use Liu Shan Men’s skills if he ran into an enemy alone, lest someone laughed to death and he died along with them.
The young girl clapped with fervour: “Your style is pretty.”
Ye Luo and Luo Mingzhu: I’ll go blind if I have to see another section!
“Your style doesn’t have any repetition; it’s like a dance. Can you teach me so that I can use it for exercise?”
“I thought my style was totally useless. I’m glad to know it has entertainment value. Thanks.”
Luo Mingzhu had every intention of ridiculing the girl, but she had an epiphany. As she was watching Su Xiao’s performance, she had a feeling that a surface-level analysis wouldn’t do it justice for many reasons – not in a derisive sense.
Training… Dance… What if I don’t consider it a fighting style but a training tool? Now that I think about it, although the movements are ridiculous, it’s those awkward movements that expose your muscles to different stimuli that you wouldn’t otherwise give them, and there’s no repetition of movements… Yes, it goes against the grain of combat practice, so perhaps looking at it as a fighting style is wrong.
The three returned to Xiuyu since the sun was going to rest. They picked up the girl’s father and helped the two settle down at an inn. Of course, they also showed the pair escape paths and a means of contacting them in case they needed help.
As he followed Ye Luo and Luo Ming from behind, Su Xiao told them to go on ahead because he forgot to do something.
“Are you here for me?” the girl brightly greeted when Su Xiao knocked.
“Um, I… Miss, I forgot to ask for you name.”
“You finally asked, hehehe. I thought you’d just keep calling me ‘Miss’, dork.”
“Ahaha, I’m sorry.” Su Xiao scrubbed the back of his head.
“Hahaha, well, please do remember my name and me.”
“I will. I promise.”
“My name is Ming Xiaolou.”
Sections – This refers a set of movements and techniques. In modern taolus, this refers to the sections performed the four corners of the mat (1 section per corner) as a part of standardisation. In solo muay boran forms (muay thai forms), this would be the four directions (north, east, south and west), each direction being one set.
Short weapons standard – By wushu standards, swords and broadswords are considered short weapons. Spears, cudgels and so forth are considered long weapons.
Su Xiao’s style being like a dance and training tool – Same principle as judging taolus as combat in real life; they’re training routines, not fighting manuals.
Taolus serve multiple purposes are to serve as tools to practice coordination, balance, rhythm, speed, mobility, flexibility, explosiveness. Therefore, the big movements, the varying stances, the varying rhythms, the leaps, the difficult movements, the movements forcing you into end ranges for joints and muscles.
In the modern day, we have pylometrics. I wonder why taolus have a lot of explosive movements… Modern day mobility drills of going to end ranges and learning to own the ranges, with movements that mimic the stances in taolus. A correlation? Hmm…
If you want to stretch, do active mobility routines, pylometrics and then do your sparring, then it’s the same as people who want to replace all the first three with taolus and do their sparring.
The only people replicating film stances in real fights are those who want to sell horse feathers, are frauds or have watched too many Chinese martial arts flicks for their own good.