Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Zhang Xiaohua put down his book and recounted the events that had occurred to him recently to Zhang Xiaohu. Zhang Xiaohu was naturally still concerned about his right hand; Having no choice, Zhang Xiaohua raised up his right hand and curled all his fingers into a fist. Zhang Xiaohu felt relieved when he saw his younger brother regained function in all five fingers in his left hand which had turned slightly skinnier.
After chatting for some while, Zhang Xiaohua finally asked the question which was on his mind, “Second brother, how has your inner energy training been going?”
When he heard Zhang Xiaohua’s question, Zhang Xiaohu’s eyes brightened with excitement and he asked, “Guess?”
Seeing his second brother’s response, Zhang Xiaohua could naturally understand the situation and he said in surprise, “Second brother, you’ve succeeded?”
Zhang Xiaohu said, “That’s right, I successfully sensed inner energy a few days after I visited you.”
Zhang Xiaohua asked, “In that case, second brother, does that mean that you have successfully mastered the inner energy cultivation method?”
Zhang Xiaohu shook his head and replied, “It’s still too early, sensing inner energy is only the first step, and there is a long road further ahead. Being able to sense qi means that I can cultivate inner energy and can accumulate qi in my dantian thereby setting up a foundation for me to circulate qi through my meridians and activate it in the future. If I could not sense any inner energy, it would mean that you cannot train in that inner energy cultivation method.”
These words were like cold mist surrounding Zhang Xiaohua’s head, even though he had read many books including several wuxia novels, he did not have much contact with anything relating to inner energy so the terms that Zhang Xiaohu used were all foreign to him.
Hence, he asked, “Second brother, can you explain what sensing qi is, what is dantian, and what is circulate and activate qi?”
Seeing Zhang Xiaohua’s response, Zhang Xiaohu pondered before getting up and looking outside the room, he then closed the door and said to Zhang Xiaohua, “Actually, these terms are common words that anyone who would cultivate in inner energy would know so it would not count as a secret. Even though third master Qu said that I cannot share the inner energy cultivation method to anyone, I guess these terms should not count as part of it.”
Upon listening, Zhang Xiaohua said, “Second brother, I can go back and ask squad leader He if you are really not allowed to explain them.”
Zhang Xiaohu smiled and said, “I won’t tell them to you if I am really not allowed to, how can I let you ask someone else if I am the person who introduced these terms to you?”
Zhang Xiaohua jumped in excitement and said, “I know that second brother treats me the best, quickly explain them to me.”
Zhang Xiaohu organized his thoughts and explained carefully from the beginning, “When talking about inner energy, I must first explain the concept of meridians. Meridians are paths in our body where qi can travel in order to reach every part of our body. When we perform stances while sending qi to the body parts that we activate, our stances will be complemented by inner energy. Xiaohua, do you understand up till this part?”
Zhang Xiaohua nodded and said, “I understand. Normal people will only send out physical force when they punch, but if their meridians have qi, their punch will also be complemented by inner energy, isn’t that right?”
Zhang Xiaohu nodded and continued, “That is correct. Hence, cultivating inner energy is a process of accumulating and activating qi, and accumulating qi is a process of creating something out of nothing. Ordinary people cannot sense qi, so once someone is able to, they can be said to possess “qi sense”. With this ability to sense qi, they have reached the first stage of cultivating qi. Qi is usually stored in a place called dantian which is located in our lower abdomen and flow from this place through the meridians to all parts of our body when we activated it. In general terms, the process of training qi is to accumulate it in your dantian so when you need to activate it, there will be more for you to use and consequently, greater inner energy.”
Zhang Xiaohua pondered and said, “The purple sand fist thing that Yu Deyi used the previous time contains inner energy, does that mean that he activated qi from his dantian to his palms in order to generate such a powerful force?”
Zhang Xiaohu nodded and said, “That’s right, activating qi is an important process and has to follow a certain path in order for the stance to be effective. If there is any disruption in the flow of qi, the path will deviate and run to elsewhere causing the body to lose control and even leading to loss of life, this is what it means to go astray in one’s training. Actually, we do not use inner energy in our normal fist martial arts training so we cannot possibly go astray. Hehe.”
Zhang Xiaohua finally understood what it meant to go astray in his training.
He continued to ask, “How is qi produced? Does it come from the toes or leave from the fingers?”
Zhang Xiaohua was deeply curious about the warm to chilly sensation that he felt circulate around his body when he trained, it did not seem to be the qi that his brother was explaining about. Instead, the sensation that was produced while he trained in his sword martial art seemed to be more like qi but it appeared from his shoulder and not from his dantian.
Zhang Xiaohu pondered and said, “About this question, I do not know if all inner energy cultivation methods are the same or not. While I am practicing with my palms facing up, nose pointed to my mouth, mouth pointing to my heart and tongue under my upper mouth, I would feel qi flowing in from my forehead and mixing with my saliva before being swallowed into my body and reaching my dantian. This process is extremely important in cultivating inner energy, and I have been practicing to do this all these while before succeeding only recently.”
Zhang Xiaohua was surprised, this process was extremely different from his own but he refused to concede and pressed further, “Second brother, must qi always be stored in the dantian, can it enter the body from one place and exit from another?”
Zhang Xiaohu was surprised, he wrinkled his brow and said, “About this, I am not the best person to ask. However, I have heard from third master Qu that the dantian is the control centre of qi so there is no way to train inner energy without it. Furthermore, the people in Jianghu who are considered crippled usually refer to those whose dantians were broken, so I think that it is not possible to use inner energy without it. Furthermore, qi must flow from the dantian if you use it, if it flows from somewhere else, how will you be able to use it? Will it still be considered as qi then?”
He continued to ask, “Xiaohua, why are you asking so many incredulous questions?”
Zhang Xiaohua opened his mouth but he could not say anything; he wanted to tell the truth but when his second brother mentioned about the consequences of going astray, he was afraid of affecting his second brother’s cultivation and causing the latter to worry, thus decided to keep it from him for the time being since it was not an urgent matter.
Having made up his mind, Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “Isn’t that because I am curious, and now that I found someone who knows about it, I would want to ask more questions to satisfy my curiosity.”
Zhang Xiaohu thumped on his chest and said in a concerned manner, “Third master Qu also said this cultivation of qi is extremely dangerous and one should practice under an experienced master’s guidance to avoid going astray, so you must not try and emulate me anyhow.”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and replied, “I understand, second brother. I do want to train as well but where will I find an inner energy cultivation method.”
Zhang Xiaohu smiled and said, “That’s true.”
Zhang Xiaohu continued to ask about Zhang Xiaohua’s progress on the sixth fist stance, and was tongue-tied when he heard that Zhang Xiaohua only remembered seven stances so he could not even comfort the latter.
However, he did not say anything much when he saw Zhang Xiaohua’s pleased manner at himself. Zhang Xiaohu actually wanted to ask Zhang Xiaohua on his progress on other fist martial arts but he was worried that the latter had met with more obstacles and inquiring further would add salt onto his wounds so he bit his tongue instead.
The two brothers caught up with each other’s lives and time flew past as they chatted. Half a day went by quickly and the sky turned dark soon enough. Zhang Xiaohua bid his second brother farewell and returned to Huanxi mountain villa.
When he reached Huanxi mountain villa, the sky was already pitch black. Zhang Xiaohua was walking on the small path which led back to his room while carrying the small collection of books on herbs, it was funny when he thought about it, Li Jinfeng actually took his joke for real, how could he be so … that wasn’t right, Zhang Xiaohua immediately understood his intentions when he recalled Li Jinfeng’s behaviour during his previous visit. This gentleman Li was quite meticulous, but when he thought of how well elder sister Qiu Tong treated himself, coupled with Li Jinfeng’s sincere and honest pursuit, Zhang Xiaohua felt inclined to doing something for them even though he was not sure what he could do, perhaps he would think of something later.
When he entered the courtyard and passed by He Tianshu’s room, he noticed that the interior was lit up. Zhang Xiaohua could guess that He Tianshu was probably reading in his room so he walked towards the door. He Tianshu’s hoarse voice sounded from inside before he could knock on the door, “Who is it, just come in.”
Zhang Xiaohua was surprised as he pushed open the door, he entered and asked in a curious tone, “Squad leader He, how did you know that someone was coming even before I knocked?”
When He Tianshu saw that it was Zhang Xiaohua who entered, he smiled and said, “About this, you will naturally find out once you can train in inner energy. As long as you send your inner energy to your ear, you will be able to hear any movement within several zhang of your surroundings.”
Zhang Xiaohua asked in an amazed tone, “Ah! How can it be so mysterious?”
He Tianshu replied, “This depends on the profoundness of one’s inner energy, some people can even pick up sounds of ten plus zhang around them.”
Zhang Xiaohua’s eyes turned into many little stars.
However, he thought back to how he would also be able to sense when there was someone outside walking, although it was only a feeling.
He Tianshu asked, “You went over to Lotus escort right, how is your second brother?”
Zhang Xiaohua happily replied, “That’s right, squad leader He, I have not seen my second brother for a while so I went to visit him. He is doing well and training in inner energy method now.”
“Ah…” He Tianshu was slightly surprised and asked, “He had the qi sense so soon?”
Zhang Xiaohua said proudly, “Yes, didn’t I say that my second brother is a genius?”
He Tianshu replied, “I did not expect your second brother to develop the qi sense that soon but I didn’t say that he was a genius. This thing called qi sense is very complicated and not everyone can develop it. However, your brother cannot be considered a genius as a normal Piaomiao sect disciple would be able to have qi sense within three days of training.”
“Oh, so it’s like that.” Zhang Xiaohua’s mouth was gaped wide open, he initially thought that his second brother was worthy of being his idol but now, hadn’t all Piaomiao sect disciples superseded his personal idol?
His idol was still too weak.
Zhang Xiaohua looked at He Tianshu and asked again, “How long did squad leader He obtain his qi sense?”
He Tianshu scratched his head as though he was trying hard to remember and replied, “I think I took four days, my own aptitude isn’t too good so I was arranged to be put in the pharmacy hall.”
“Sigh,” Zhang Xiaohua sighed and lowered his head, “I guess I will be sent to the food preparation room then.”
“You dream; how can it be so easy to enter Piaomiao sect?” He Tianshu did not bother to be considerate and said honestly.
Zhang Xiaohua’s expression was naturally hurt after his dignity was attacked.
Unexpectedly, He Tianshu continued to say, “If you entered Piaomiao sect in your youth, you will probably be sent to the weapons hall.”
Zhang Xiaohua’s expression turned into one of joy as he said, “Weapons hall? It sounds quite cool, what does it do?”
He Tianshu said, “Piaomiao sect’s armoury, your superhuman strength will be highly valued over there.”
“Ah….so it’s like that.” Zhang Xiaohua understood that the other party did not put much worth to his own aptitude. However, it was strange to think about it, his strength was pretty normal when he was young so why did it grow so strong now?
Could it be the spring water?
Just as he was pondering, He Tianshu asked, “Oh right, why did you come here?”
Zhang Xiaohua then recalled his purpose and asked, “Squad leader He, I have seen you frowning quite often recently and according to little second Nie, it is due to the herbs which are not sprouting.”
“Mm, that’s right, it has almost been a year so I am quite frustrated.” He Tianshu sighed and did not hesitate to confide to Zhang Xiaohua, “These herbs were sown in the beginning of the year but they refused to sprout for some unknown reason. Honestly, I am quite helpless about it right now, and it would affect the other plans of our sect as many things would require the use of these herbs, that…”
After speaking up to here, He Tianshu suddenly stopped as though he had revealed too much and said sheepishly, “In short, I am feeling quite guilty.”
Zhang Xiaohua brought out the collection of books in his hands and said, “Oh, gentleman Li Jinfeng passed me some books on herbs when I went down to visit my second brother, I thought of bringing them to you to see if they are of any help.”
Upon hearing his reply, He Tianshu smiled as he patted Zhang Xiaohua’s shoulders and said, “Zhang Xiaohua, thank you, you are quite considerate for doing this.”
“However,” when He Tianshu received the books and took a quick glance at all of them, he said apologetically, “Even though I can read, most of the books I read are related to martial arts, I don’t quite understand these type of books. Furthermore, the pharmacy hall has been investigating this matter every day and they should be quite well-read, so I am sure that they would have known all the things written in these books.”
Zhang Xiaohua did not agree with the other party’s sentiments and he said, “These books are written by a person, and everyone would have different experiences when researching the same thing. As the saying goes, many thoughts go far, so I am sure they can be of help.”
He Tianshu was wordless, he did not have the experience of creating the “dipper heavenly fist” though combining ordinary fist martial arts so he naturally snorted at the idea. However, his head turned slightly and he said, “How about this, Zhang Xiaohua, you are the most gifted among us few so this task will be borne by you. Go take a look at these books, and if they are still not enough, I can bring over some more from the pharmacy hall, what do you think?”
Zhang Xiaohua was surprised, how did it come to this? He was only offering an alternative out of goodwill but the other party actually pushed the burden onto himself, how would he dare to speak up in the future? If the reply would always be “Good idea, I’ll leave it to you”, then who would dare to offer any suggestions? Such a bureaucratic way of doing things.
However, Zhang Xiaohua was still unable to reject He Tianshu’s orders so he nodded his head in compliance. Seeing Zhang Xiaohua’s helpless response, He Tianshu felt equally helpless; he had thrown half of such a heavy burden onto the boy not because he wanted to dampen his spirits and treat a dead horse like a live one, but he thought it would be good for the boy to try and even if he failed, there was no further implications apart from Zhang Xiaohua reading a few more books. As for the person who was in charge of the overall result, it was still He Tianshu who had to bear all responsibility of failure anyway.
Zhang Xiaohua scratched his head and carried the books back into his own room, lit the lamp and did not hurry to start slipping through the pages. Instead, he picked up the lantern and went to the forest to begin his daily routine of practicing the fist and sword martial art.
Sword arts are used to protect one’s life so there would only be benefits if one becomes more familiar in them. After so many days of practice, the time it took for the warm feeling to flow from his right shoulder to his fingertips had hastened quite a bit while the speed of his hand when executing the movements had also increased. The angle of the direction had also changed slightly, Zhang Xiaohua felt strange about the way his left hand sword martial arts were progressing, could the sword martial art be improving with him at the same time?
His right hand was still its old self, it did not change like the left hand sword martial art but he could feel his right fingers becoming more nimble and the injury heading toward recovery.
The thing that led Zhang Xiaohua to be most excited was still the self-created dipper heavenly fist, the hundred and eight stances did not change like the left hand sword martial art. Even though it was not martial arts learnt from elsewhere, the movements had already stabilized and the flowing sensation would reappear every ninth cycle as usual, and the only change was that the flow seemed to be slightly stronger.
However, Zhang Xiaohua felt slightly dejected, how good would it be if the sensation stayed in his body instead? The feeling would flow into his body and leave right after he finished the movement, but what good was that? Was it vacationing in his body? It was such a mystery.
After he finished his routine practice, Zhang Xiaohua returned to his room, found the book which he read halfway in the afternoon and continued to read it with relish. Since he had finished the books in his room and had no other places to get more. Now that Zhang Xiaohua had cultivated the habit of reading regularly, these professional books were much better reading materials than the over-read books in his room.
Thus, apart from his morning, afternoon and evening martial arts practice each day, Zhang Xiaohua’s life had a new “lesson” to attend, and apart from working in the herb fields, Zhang Xiaohua could be seen carrying a book wherever he went.
Zhang Xiaohua was not just reading, he would many times make changes to his own work as he tried to combine the theoretical with practical, but He Tianshu and the others only took care of a small area with lesser variety of herbs, of which most were not found in the books, so Zhang Xiaohua would go to Tian Zhongxi and the others’ fields to try out his experiments.
Tian Zhongxi was not concerned much, as the manager of the fields, he was happy that Zhang Xiaohua was taking his job and studies so seriously but Ma Jing and the others did not think the same way. Perhaps they were jealous of Zhang Xiaohua’s better meal plan, or envious that he could read, so they would continuously make scathing remarks, but how would Zhang Xiaohua listen to them? He only treated their words like the bark of dogs.
Hence, the days went by in this environment of barking dogs and littered chicken feathers.