Unknowingly, half a month had already passed since Yan Liqiang had first come to the Weaponsmiths Quarter.
During this period of time, Yan Liqiang immersed himself in diligent training every single day. In accordance with the ‘Performing Muscle Tendon Changing and Marrow Cleansing Internal Cultivation Manual’, he had reached the point where he had memorized its contents by heart; this allowed his skills to slowly mature.
Today, from the moment he woke up, Yan Liqiang had been getting a feeling that his body was rapidly changing while he was training. This was especially noticeable when he was practicing the Triple Burner Attaining Virtue Fourteenth Stance, one of the forms in the Sitting Body Diagrams. Yan Liqiang could clearly feel that a hole of sorts seemed to have opened on top of his head, feeling like he was in a trance, he also sensed that numerous amounts of bright, multicolored energy, as well as spiritual Qi, present among the Heavens and Earth, all of which were surging towards him, entering his body from the top of his head. The five viscera and six bowels within his body behaved like a piece of dry sponge meeting water for the first time as they madly absorbed and devoured the energy and spiritual Qi that entered into his body. While his own heart, spleen, liver, lungs, and kidney were absorbing those energies, he was also overwhelmed with euphoria to the point where he wanted nothing more than to burst out loudly into song.
The Fourteenth Stance of the Sitting Body Diagrams’ Triple Burner Attaining Virtue was the same as the Fourteen Stance of the Upright Body Diagrams’ Three Forces Qi Channeling and also the Half Body Diagrams’ Folding Joints on Horse’s Fourteenth Stance. The only difference was that training of the Fourteenth Stance of the Upright Body Diagrams was done while standing, whereas the Fourteenth Stance of the Half Body Diagrams was practiced in a half-squatting posture similar to the Horse Stance, while training of the Fourteenth Stance of the Sitting Body Diagrams was done while sitting down in a cross-legged position. According to the given explanation in the ‘Performing Muscle Tendon Changing and Marrow Cleansing Internal Cultivation Manual’, ‘...the first part of the process was done in attempt to circulate the Qi, while the second part is done to circulate the Qi to a focal point and the last step was done to circulate the Qi towards its original point. The exercise is divided into three parts and it should be accomplished in the order stated above from start to finish. To those who have trained to this extent, they would be able to manipulate their Qi up and down to do as they see fit, allowing them to transcend into the realm of wonders.’
Once one had practiced the ‘Performing Muscle Tendon Changing and Marrow Cleansing Internal Cultivation Manual’ to this degree, only then would one truly be considered to have "transcended into the realm of wonders."
In the morning, after having completed a single round of training, Yan Liqiang felt his entire body become light and agile, as though he was floating on air. In particular, his kidneys, that is to say, his waist area, were feeling like they were being enclosed with two bags of warm water. It was a feeling of extreme coziness as well as a sense of comfort which he found himself unable to put into words.
After having his fill of breakfast and lunch, Yan Liqiang continued to cultivate. Every time he did so, his inner organs would absorb and devour a large amount of bright and multicolored energy and spiritual Qi of Heaven and Earth. For every time he cultivated, he would receive corresponding gains. Cultivating for five rounds every day before dinnertime, Yan Liqiang felt like the entirety of his body seemed to have immersed itself in a completely different state of being. He could feel that his body was bursting with energy while his sight and hearing perception had been raised to a more advanced level. His eyesight was becoming keener, while his hearing had also been elevated and now could notice even the most minute amounts of noise. After he finished his afternoon training on the mountain, Yan Liqiang could sense that the scenery in his surroundings had unexpectedly turned more vivid and lively.
During this dinnertime, Yan Liqiang once again crossed paths with Qian Su. During the entirety of yesterday and the day before that, Qian Su couldn’t be found within the Weaponsmiths Quarter, and nobody knew just where he had gone to get drunk and release his amorous desires.
After they’d both finished their respective dinners, Qian Su’s call halted Yan Liqiang right in his tracks, before bringing him back to his residential courtyard.
"Liqiang, you’re looking much better these days. Is the medicine I gave you still useful?" Upon seeing Yan Liqiang’s complexion, Qian Su nodded in satisfaction. After having stayed in the Weaponsmiths Quarter for half a month, Yan Liqiang’s complexion was growing better by the day. Upon looking at his now much healthier complexion, Qian Su also felt his heart was put at ease.
"Thank you very much, Uncle Qian. The medicine you gave me is really useful. I’ve already felt my injuries getting much better since a few days ago!" Yan Liqiang laughed. Had it not been for the medicine that Qian Su gave him, he really would’ve at a loss to explain his miraculous healing speed. "After all, Hong Tao’s Iron Palm was still in the beginning stages of training when he hit me with it, so the power wasn’t that great. I’ve recognized that the abundant spiritual Qi in the mountains is nourishing for the body, so for these past few days, I’ve been running up and down the mountains several times a day. Whenever I’m free, I either train my fists or take a nap so that my body can grow to feel more comfortable and relaxed. When I was running up the mountain two days ago, I even coughed up some blood clots. After that, the uncomfortable feeling in my chest area is almost all gone. During these few days, I feel like my own body almost back to normal and in a good enough condition to practice the Horse Stance again, so I did just that..."
"Good!! That’s great! That’s great..." After hearing what Yan Liqiang had said, the expression on Qian Su’s face became nothing but smiles. "Yesterday, your father requested someone to send news over. He told us that everything is fine and that you don’t have to worry about home. You just need to stay here to recuperate in peace. I’m sure that your father would be ecstatic if he knew just how fast your body has been healing!"
"I still have Uncle Qiang to thank for this!"
"How is any of this my effort? It’s because you’re still so young, brimming with so much vigor that you’re recovering so fast. Oh, speaking of which, apart from the basics in spear arts, are you practicing any other form of martial arts?"
Yan Liqiang scratched his head. "Apart from spear arts, I’m also practicing the basic fist technique, Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist, to build up my foundation. As for the other forms of martial arts, I’m not practicing any!"
"Hmm, you’re going about this in the right way. Before setting your foundation, it’s inadvisable to spend too much time on training external martial arts. However, Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist is still popular to the point where practically everyone knows how to use it. So, unless if you have a unique insight that will help you practice this fist technique, or you are able to train this fist technique to perfection, you shouldn’t be relying on it to win against an enemy. Otherwise in your current state without a foundation, trying to use this fist technique to win especially when facing an adversary such as Hong Tao, would be near impossible. So, apart from this fist technique, it’s best for you if you were to learn another martial art to increase your self-defense. Only then would you have a higher chance of victory when facing the enemy..." As Qian Su spoke on, he took out a book from his bosom and passed it to Yan Liqiang. "This was a secret footwork manual I came across back in my younger days. When compared to other valuable secret manuals, you’ll find that this manual isn’t really that powerful. The highest you can cultivate until is only a realm of the sixth layer, but despite so, this manual is still rarely seen. Not only that but if you can train yourself well enough in this art, then you can use it to either attack or defend in battle, while also maintaining the ability to advance or retreat at will. You can also use it in conjunction with other martial arts. Even if you were to build your foundation, you can still train in it and put it to good use when in a confrontation with your enemy!"
The moment when he heard that there was a realm of six layers within the secret manual in Qian Su’s hand was when Yan Liqiang’s mind flooded with excitement. Within this world, one has to know that the simplest and most direct method in grading the heights of martial arts and techniques was by observing the number of layers within a realm that a martial art could possess while using said martial arts or techniques. The higher the number of layers one could possess within a realm for the martial arts and techniques would imply that they could attain higher levels, thus becoming more formidable. Naturally, it would be more valuable as well. The layers of the realm for these techniques were of course not determined by people. Instead, every layer would be divided by the different forms of techniques’ Dharmic projections and phenomena.
For instance, the Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist he’d been practicing would serve as a good example. The pinnacle of this ever-so-popular martial art was only up to a realm of the fifth layer. As for the secret manual that Qian Su had given him, although the highest limit for it was only at a realm of the sixth layer, the fact that it was only one layer higher than the Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist didn’t make it look much more valuable. But in reality, more than ninety percent of the commoners in this world would perhaps never be presented with the chance in their lifetime to see a manual containing a realm of the sixth layer. Even the Iron Palm that Hong Tao was cultivating peaked at a realm of the sixth layer. However, the difference between the two was that secret manuals that touched upon the art of footwork and body stances of martial arts were more valuable. The value of this secret footwork manual containing the realm of the sixth layer was more than sufficient enough to be equal or even rival other techniques of the seventh layer realm.
Within the world of cultivation, there was another saying that says that a ship rises with the tides. If a person can cultivate a low-level secret manual to its highest realm, then when that same person begins to cultivate a more advanced secret manual of similar type in the future, it would be easier for them to master it. Furthermore, they would also be able to advance to a higher layer at a faster rate, therefore every fundamental technique was significant. For example, if Yan Liqiang could train the Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist to it’s highest fifth layer and if he happened to be able to gain access to a fist technique manual of the highest tenth layer, then there was a very distinct possibility that he would be able to break through those previous layers in the manual in a shorter than normal time frame.
Being prompted by his now highly piqued curiosity, Yan Liqiang respectfully accepted the secret manual given to him by Qian Su. Holding it before him, he could see that there were only words that read ‘Nine Palace Wind Shadow Steps’ on the manual’s green cover.
The secret manual was very thin with only a dozen or so pages. But while he was holding it, Yan Liqiang could feel the secret manual emanating an immense amount of pressure, the light-looking manual had instead felt that it had a weight of a thousand jin. It felt very heavy.
"Uncle Qian, may I know what layer have you cultivated the ‘Nine Palace Wind Shadow Steps’ until?"
Yan Liqiang’s question made Qian Su’s aged face slightly flush. "Cough, cough! Your Uncle Qian, me, don’t even have the foundation and furthermore, I never even passed the Horse Stance level. My legs are weak, thus, I only barely managed to cultivate the ‘Nine Palace Wind Shadow Steps’ up to the second layer with great trouble, and no more after that as it was too difficult for me to continue. To prevent your father from troubling me in the future, you can keep this footwork manual with you. But, wait until you pass the Horse Stance before cultivating..."
"I really don’t know how to repay Uncle Qian for giving me this!"
Qian Su’s gaze fell on Yan Liqiang’s face before suddenly sighing, "For you to live a long and meaningful life, that’s the greatest gift you can give to me!"
Upon leaving Qian Su’s courtyard, Yan Liqiang tucked the ‘Nine Palace Wind Shadow Steps’ secret manual into his clothes and went back to his own place. After closing the doors to his courtyard, this place turned into his private little world.
It wasn’t permitted to light a fire in this courtyard, so items such as lamps and candles were not available. Thus, Yan Liqiang opened the manual at the stone table in the courtyard and studied it attentively.
The moonlit skies were clear on this night, with no clouds in sight and the moonlight shone like silver. Even without a lamp in the courtyard, Yan Liqiang still could clearly read through the entire manual with the aid of the brilliant illumination.
Having only read through it once, Yan Liqiang was able to completely memorize every word and diagram in the manual.
To have such a photographic memory ability in his brain was really absurd. To Yan Liqiang, the book he read before, felt like a picture that had been permanently captured and stored inside his brain-- as long as he had even glanced at it once, he could completely remember every detail. Yan Liqiang never had such an ability before, but ever since he had that dream where he recalled the entire contents of the ‘Performing Muscle Tendon Changing and Marrow Cleansing Internal Cultivation Manual’, Yan Liqiang realized that he had somehow inexplicably gained this gift.
Of course, not a soul other than his own knew about this fact.
After reading through the ‘Nine Palace Wind Shadow Steps’ manual, Yan Liqiang shut his eyes and waited until his mood had completely calmed down before returning the manual back within his bosom. Following that, he went to the tree in the courtyard where he once more assumed the Horse Stance.
The Horse Stance was the foundation of all known martial arts. Without this foundation, martial arts would be no different from duckweed on water. This was particularly so when it came to the ‘Nine Palace Wind Shadow Steps’ and such similar footwork manuals, as the area of foundation it tested were the techniques of the lower body and legs. If the foundation of the Horse Stance wasn’t built up, then even if one had a better manual, it would turn out to be a complete waste.
Moreover, today was when Yan Liqiang felt that the condition of his body was superb. He was full to the brim with energy which made this the perfect moment to strengthen the foundation of his Horse Stance.
The instant that Yan Liqiang began to perform the Horse Stance, the entire courtyard fell into a state of absolute silence. The only exception to this silence were the sounds made by insects and frogs that could only be heard sounding from outside the courtyard.
In the moonlight, Yan Liqiang shut his eyes, balancing his body in the Horse Stance posture. His legs stood firm like two pillars while his entire body seemed to be as sturdy as a boulder. Without any reasonable explanation, he appeared to be more imposing than ever.
As his body remained in this position for a whole hour, from his side, a blurry red light had slowly begun to form, enveloping him. Within that blurry light, a silhouette of a rhinodrake steed began to slowly form, spreading a majestic aura throughout the courtyard.
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