Yizhen Company (Part 4)
The reason Mount Daluo’s martial arts, save for a mental cultivation method their ancestors bequeathed, were in bits and pieces was due to practitioners of different disciplines coming together to form the sect. In addition, their patriarch and direct disciples were the only ones permitted to learn the contents in Vast Sea Submerged Pearl Hall, while everyone else had to make do with basics, resulting in them inventing nonsense and jokes. In this generation, Ming Feizhen’s Night Net Book took the cake for that category.
Hero Shenzhou was the first patriarch of Mount Daluo to modify their system. Using his own skills as the foundation, he compiled his lifetime of knowledge and Mount Daluo’s into a series – Daluo’s Five Divine Styles Manual – that finally systemised Mount Daluo’s disciplines. Disciples no longer had to figure everything out for themselves since a roadmap was available.
Hero Shenzhou wasn’t revered only in the pugilistic world. He was held in higher regard than Mount Daluo’s patriarch for his skills, involvement in the sect and contribution to systemising their disciplines.
Among the five in Daluo’s Five Divine Styles Manual, Ming Huayu mastered Shadow Steps, Divine Palms and Ultimate Swordplay for one reason – because they were cool. Imagine travelling the world attired in a white robe, cutting down evil with your sword or executing them with your bare hands. As for the remaining two disciplines, he just touched on them for the sake of it.
If Hero Shenzhou was the same age as Tianfeng Xuanyuan, the latter’s mastery over Golden Deity Manual would leave the former in the dirt as Tianfeng Xuanyuan’s usage of supplements allowed him to take it to heights others couldn’t without access to the same resources. Unsurprisingly, Tianfeng Xuanyuan was the most advanced practitioner of the discipline.
Even though Daluo’s Five Divine Styles Manual was considered a treasure among treasures, orthodox sects didn’t welcome a style designed for murder. Accordingly, orthodox sects would spite Savage Slay Manual.
Savage Slay Manual integrated underhanded disciplines, interrogation techniques and other methods of inflicting physical harm. The reason it was named “Savage Slay” was to remind its practitioner to have self-awareness of the fact that they were learning to harm others and themselves.
When he was young, Ming Huayu marginalised Savage Slay Manual, only taking the dust-caked book out from under the bed when it was time to teach his daughter. He learnt the various methods of severing meridians, destroying bodies, sabotaging qi flow and amalgamated the remainder into a finger discipline before passing it on to his daughter.
Although Xia’er had Savage Slayer Manual to learn, she didn’t show much promise, which was all the more reason for Ming Huayu to be shocked when she gave Tianfeng Xuanyuan a one-sided beating at thirteen years of age. She managed to fight Hong Jiu to draws and even climbed onto his head on multiple occasions to declare her victory. As a result, she became the strongest member among the young – excluding Ming Feizhen and Ming Suwen. While people heaped praise onto her, even calling her matriarch material, Ming Huayu derided them for poor judgement.
Covering seven realms of internal energy, Daluo’s Five Divine Styles Manual was the most complete discipline. The only things that it could be criticised for were its complex contents and the time investment required; it took a lifetime to master only one to two disciplines within.
Because Ming Huayu chose to only teach his daughter the best stuff in Savage Slay – removing all the morally questionable content – Xia’er didn’t even learn a tenth of the discipline. Given she only had to learn a small volume of content, she naturally learnt faster than the others. Moreover, he personally coached her instead of throwing her into the deep end of the pool and telling her to survive – what he did to his other disciples. As a result, she reached Void Piercer Fallen when she was only fifteen and was only a step away from Manifestation. Alas, that was her undoing.
One afternoon, Ming Huayu told his daughter, “Xia’er, I imparted you with the style so that people can’t pick on you when you leave the mountain. It’s not the proper way to learn, nevertheless. Though there are shortcuts to learning martial arts, it’s discipline dependant. Unlike my Heavenly Net Sacred Treasures, there’s no shortcut to mastering your grandmaster’s Daluo’s Five Divine Styles Manual.”
When asked about her compared to her fellow disciples, Ming Huayu revealed a doting smile and answered, “They followed your grandmaster’s footsteps; they didn’t take any shortcuts or cheat. Have you ever seen me hold their hands to teach them? All of them staked their lives to attain their skills. Only when you learn like that will the skills truly be yours. While you progressed exceptionally fast, you’ve hit your ceiling. In the first three years of training, you’ll be miles ahead of them. Within five years, however, I wouldn’t be so sure who wins. After that, they’ll surpass you. If you want to improve, you have to restart.”
Xia’er didn’t cry. Instead, she reacted baffled. “Why would I do that? Do I have to be super elite?”
She had Ming Huayu for her father, Ming Feizhen for her brother. Only a man with a death wish would provoke her. Hence, plateauing was not a problem from her perspective.
“Of course not,” Ming Huayu gently patted Xia’er on the head with his hand that was as warm as the sun that day, “if you weren’t my daughter.”
Xia’er’s match against Shen Yiren dragged out her memories of the conversation with her father three years ago. As her father said, once she peaked at Void Piercer Fallen, her blazing-fast progress felt comparable to a dream. At first, she didn’t feel it was a big deal to plateau, but her father was right again. As Ming Huayu’s daughter, her competitive nature was stronger than the average person’s.
Though Shen Yiren’s swordplay covered all the bases, her skill wasn’t remotely close to Lian Zhuiyue’s, let alone Ming Huayu’s. Her style wasn’t exactly dangerous, either. Since she was a year older than Xia’er, it was fair to assume Shen Yiren’s internal energy was a notch superior purely because she had a year on Xia’er. Both of them had enough power to hurt the other, but all the power in the world was worthless if one couldn’t find their target.
Despite not possessing outstanding combat abilities, Shen Yiren had Xia’er playing a defensive game. Shen Yiren packed the violence of a raging inferno and had the speed to amplify it just as a wind spreads a fire. Her fighting style was akin to that of a beast that smelt a weakness and would relentlessly aggress its prey. Whenever Xia’er showed any intention of making a move, Shen Yiren would throw something, even if it wouldn’t serve any purpose besides inspiring a painting, to force Xia’er back into defence.
Capitalising on Shen Yiren’s not-so-impressive swordplay, Xia’er finally disengaged when Shen Yiren struck four different spots successively.
The upward curve at Shen Yiren’s lips enlightened Xia’er as to why her father told her about her stunted growth back then. There were plenty of swordsmen superior to Shen Yiren, but she knew what she was doing and where she was going. Hence, she wouldn’t stop improving. As much as it peeved her, Xia’er had to acknowledge that part of Shen Yiren resembled her brother.
“Hey, question for you.”
Shen Yiren replied, “Ask away. Whether or not I answer is my decision, though.”
“Why… are you fixated on growing stronger?”
“Beat me, and I’ll tell you.”
“I’ll be waiting.” A level of focus unseen before surfaced in Xia’er’s eyes. “Three years ago, my father told me I had reached my limit and wouldn’t improve unless I started over. I knew I couldn’t do it, not because I’m stupid but because I’ve seen how much suffering those who started over went through and how hard they had to work. I didn’t see any reason to subject myself to that until I almost lost the person most important to me forever. Never did I loathe myself so much for being weak. After that, I erased everything I learnt to restart, even learning what I didn’t want to. Now…”
The wind sped up, levitating dead leaves. When they descended, they descended systemically.
“Manifestation Beginner? It seems you’ve busted through your plateau.”
“I knew my brother would’ve told you. Since you know, you sure you want to keep going?”
Shen Yiren got into her stance: “People often criticise me for disrespecting swords, describing my style as no different to throwing fists. They counted me out as a swordswoman, yet I’ve insisted on pursuing swordsmanship because my father was a swordsman. Why do I want to grow stronger, you ask? I’ll tell you now. I have my ambitions… as well as a past I can’t cast off.”
Shen Yiren slowly lowered her sword down to her side: “That being said, things have changed recently. I witnessed a vaunted swordsman discard his dignity and conscience to chase a vengeance. He faced challenge after challenge. He bore with the anguish of his conscience and vengeance’s tug of war, trusting it all to his sword. In the end, he lost. That was when I first heard a sword speak. His sword howled at the unfair cards handed to him. That was also the first time I saw what a true swordsman’s swordplay ought to be like.”
The leaves still in the air riveted for a second.
Sword Spirit Realm swordsmen’s only enemies were Manifestation martial artists. At the very least, the martial arts community had always believed they were the opposite side of the same coin.
“Your swordplay is without form. I never imagined you’d reach Sword Spirit Realm.”
“Just as I never expected you to be able to retrain after erasing your skills.”
“Let’s settle this in the next exchange, then.”
“That’s what I like to hear.”
The wind settled down. The leaves stopped moving.
Whenever Xia’er showed any intention of making a move, Shen Yiren would throw something, even if it wouldn’t serve any purpose besides inspiring a painting, to force Xia’er back into defence. – Example: air jabs. All you’re doing is throwing some bait to keep the opponent at bay and buy yourself time. This affords you an opportunity to, see what the opponent is doing, buy time on the clock, and gives you time to decide on a course of action. Ever watched Canelo throw air jabs into the air?