Transformation (Part 1)
The days kept rolling by, and the last three were quite eventful. Mu Anan accepted the request to tackle the calligraphy event, forming an official team with Shi Weiliang and Wang Zi. While Mu Anan’s unique poetry set her apart, her handwriting was universally praised.
Zhou Datong was assigned the arithmetic event. Shi Weiliang started practicing her instrument and brushing up on music theory. Wang Zi went straight to training at Ye Luo’s house after classes. Su Xiao sent Zhou Teng to Jin Zhaoying’s place for lessons on rites, only for his stomach to act up due to the stress of making the deadline. Nevertheless, we shall not go into the details; just know that he addressed it and made sure to practice.
Although Su Xiao continued staying at Flower Plucking Palace for the three days, he stopped practicing under Jin Zhaoying’s watch. Instead, he trained alone when his teammates went to their practices. Considering Su Xiao’s shallow knowledge in martial arts and the sophistication of Yijin Jing, expecting him to achieve mastery in three days was just being unreasonable. As he himself was aware of this – plus his mentality towards martial arts training was never to rush – he was never stressed about failure or distracted by success. That was until now.
Su Xiao mastered the first layer of Yijin Jing in Nanjiang without realising it, empowering him with the ability to passively collect internal qi around the clock. While he wouldn’t be collecting barrels of qi, the fact that he collected small amounts minimised inherent risks. As they say, little strokes fall great oaks. At this point in time, thanks to Ming Feizhen’s tuition and his own efforts, weak internal energy was no longer valid criticism.
Su Xiao, having sat crossed legged for a long time, exhaled nice and slow each breath whilst his true qi circulated ceaselessly. For the privileged scion to reach this point, where they could meditate in another world of their own, it’d take a decade. Usually, people’s body temperature would rise when they were improving their usage of qi, which was why it was common to see white smoke whisking from their domes. Su Xiao, however, looked as if he was just meditating to collect his thoughts because there were no special phenomena.
One might’ve expected Yijin Jing to be Shaolin’s close-kept secret given it had been respected for over a millennium. Howbeit, the converse was actually true. Plenty of Shaolin disciples practiced it; just very few ever went very far in their mastery of it. If one were to follow Shaolin’s learning method, they’d be a solid beginner within a year, reach the third layer in two years and, if there was enough rain, the plants on their tomb would be taller than the average man. Learning Yijin Jing carried a serious risk.
The pain of altering meridians through Yijin Jing was no laughing matter, and not everyone was built to endure it. Very few throughout history managed to stand the pain of developing their bones, joints and meridians in the third layer, and it only got harder with each successive layer. The faster one pursued progress in the discipline, the faster they perished. So, while there was no stipulation forbidding Shaolin disciples from learning it, the discipline chose very few disciples.
Ming Feizhen’s method of learning Yijin Jing was his own design. When he applied Night Steps’ breathing method to practice Yijin Jing, he inadvertently developed his bones and meridians, and this method reduced the risk of mastering Yijin Jing’s first three layers to virtually zero. On top of that, he could continue going about his daily life instead of needing to sequester to train, all without any compromise in progression rate. Ming Huayu could argue his disciple lacked aptitude for martial arts, but he couldn’t deny his disciple had a knack for innovating unexpected ideas. Not sacrificing progression rate, however, didn’t equate to “expedited progress”.
Even accounting for Su Xiao’s talent and Ming Feizhen’s support, it would take Su Xiao five to six years, at the very least, to master Yijin Jing’s third layer. As a matter of fact, it would be borderline unthinkable. In saying that, none of the successful monks learnt Yijin Jing using Ming Feizhen’s method.
Su Xiao couldn’t afford five or six years, and watching how motivated his new friends were only made his sense of urgency intensify. Unfortunately, he hit a wall. The wall was actually there from day one. Despite breathing being the cornerstone of Ming Feizhen’s method, moving about was better than sitting still when employing his method, yet Su Xiao sat still just as Shaolin taught. Although it still worked, it meant that he was only harvesting a portion of the seeds he planted. To compound the problem, he was hasty.
All advanced Buddhist-based disciplines demanded that practitioners not let impulses and emotions rule them. It was an easy concept to understand but challenging to execute. Successful practitioners of internal disciplines tended to be those who started from childhood as they had been raised to have less emotional attachments. Su Xiao previously progressed quickly thanks to how pure he was. Now that he started to harbour an emotional attachment to fast progress, it became his undoing.
On the first two days, Su Xiao tried to overcome the hurdle with sheer will, resulting in him regressing. As a result, his concern grew, adding another complication. On the third day, it finally went wrong.
“Ah.” Su Xiao snapped out of his meditation with red eyes – a definitive portent of qi deviation.
Su Xiao knew his current training method wouldn’t catapult him to the next level in a short time frame. Hence, he tried to master the second layer via the Shaolin method. Due to having followed Ming Feizhen’s method thus far, though, he already collected enough internal energy. In other words, he already fulfilled his physical requirements. Consequently, his true qi was constantly circulating inside him to start developing his meridians. The problem started when he needed to be motivated by a pure desire to get better. Plus, he wasn’t as fearless of death as young Ming Feizhen, wasn’t fearless of a catastrophic death and wasn’t afraid of dying for something not worth it. If he was going to learn qi deviation, he needed to do it Ming Huayu style – throwing caution to the wind.
Su Xiao couldn’t avoid the inherent risk. When the pain comparable to feeling his veins burst set in, it only took seconds for his sweat to soak his clothing. His skin resembled a big map as he tensed up to resist the anguish, making his veins more visible than usual. Instead of passing out, however, he felt full of energy, not that it stopped pain and fear from entering his body every inhalation. His vision became indistinct blurs to that point that he didn’t know how to move. Blood started to trickle past his crimson lips until it became vomiting blood.
Ming Feizhen made the same mistake back then, resulting in Daoist Wushan losing his ability to erect a proud pillar for eternity. The difference was that Ming Feizhen understood internal disciplines to an extent and was more advanced than Su Xiao right now. In addition, he had experts around to help him out. In contrast, Su Xiao still didn’t know how to protect himself using his internal energy, so he could only deploy true qi for harming others. Moreover, there were no experts around to come to his aid.