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Chapter 250: Flaming Cloud Qi

 

Sila almost dropped the book once he heard the risk associated with the art. What Mora mentioned was another form of qi deviation, an event that happens when something has gone wrong in cultivation. For standard arts, the users would end up with some form of internal injury. However, Flaming Cloud Qi was like a purgatory flame. If the user couldn’t reign over it, it would ignite and burn them to ashes.

“Actually, an art is just a tool. How to use it—in a good or a bad way—all depends on the user. Still, since it is an art that can harm the user, I don’t want you to learn it if possible.”

“What do you mean by harming the user, Teacher?”

“Inner force is a part of every martial artist, similar to their flesh and blood. Therefore, the art that burns your life essence to obtain a greater power is similar to drinking your own blood to alleviate your thirst. Both the Cloud Part and the Flame Part have learning methods that require only a short period of time to show visible results. Nevertheless, if something goes wrong, you will face lethal consequences.”

Mora pointed his finger at a picture on the page Sila had left the book open at. It was an illustration of a giant snake coiling its body, making itself into an infinity symbol. Its head, with its mouth wide open, reached its own tail—implying that it was about to devour a part of its body.

“This picture represents the Nirvana Part, which is the most dangerous one.”

Sila stared at the picture and tried to flip to the next page, yet he found that it was already the last. He was confused. The last part of the dark art turned out to be explained using a single illustration.

Mora understood Sila’s bafflement. “For learning the Nirvana Part, you will have to master the Cloud Part and the Flame Part first, or you won’t be able to comprehend it otherwise. ‘Thinking outside the box’ is our Flaming Cloud Dojo’s core teaching. Even the art is open to different interpretations. Thus, even though it’s a single art, the main disciples in each generation have had different styles of comprehension and achievements.”

Sila flipped back to the first page regarding the Cloud Part, which was next to the Foundation Part that Mora had originally sent him. The contents of this part only contained a few illustrations and explanations, yet hidden in them was a teaching that was as profound and vast as the sky.

“The Cloud Part is about organizing the arts you have and adapting them to suit your own style without showing any conflict. It improves your comprehensive ability rather than your strength. For example, I had learned several martial arts in the past—Eight Trigrams Palms, Muay Thai, Metal Fist, Three Fingers Yizhichan, and more. Only after I was selected as the main disciple and got to cultivate Flaming Cloud Qi could I finally merge the arts into Nine Sun-Melting-Fists and become stronger than the other disciples.”

Sila was listening to Mora but his eyes were fixed on the illustrations and texts as if he was charmed by them. As his brain recognized the contents, his body automatically tried to circulate inner force accordingly. Suddenly, Mora extended his hand and shut the book, which prompted Sila to raise his head and look at his teacher.

Mora was staring at his wristwatch. “Wait a few more minutes. Your body is not yet ready.”

Sila was about to argue that he was perfectly fine, but he suddenly felt dizzy and nauseated. He eventually vomited a mouthful of blood. “W-What happened?”

“As you have already successfully completed the Foundation Part, practicing Flaming Cloud Qi will not be difficult. Actually, you can even start practicing it today. However, by no means should you act rashly. To cultivate the Cloud Part, you will have to empty your mind before attempting it. If your mind is full of thoughts, how will you be able to accept new ideas? If you can’t empty your mind, you will experience qi deviation. If you make a mistake during this process, in the worst-case scenario, you will end up becoming a lunatic or a disabled person.”

Hearing the risk that came with it, Sila no longer attempted to practice it. He had a hard time swallowing his saliva. Indeed, a dark art was a shortcut to becoming stronger in a short period of time, yet it came with great risk.

For Flaming Cloud Qi, if the user practiced and mastered it, they would become a martial expert no matter their age. However, if something went wrong, they would become a cripple, or worse... a dead person.

“In fact, between the Cloud Part and the Flame Part, you are free to choose which one you want to start with. However, I recommend you start with the Cloud Part before the Flame Part. When you have mastered it, the art will enhance your mental capabilities and bestow you with the ability to fully control your body and mind. You must be able to control yourself first before attempting to control fire. For the Flame Part, the degree of danger is much greater. If something goes wrong during this step, your skin will burn, or worse... the flame of qi will burn you to death.”

Mora rolled up his sleeve and showed Sila his arm, which was covered in burn scars. “By the way, how are you progressing with your own arts?”

Sila could finally show his smile. “Everything is going well, Teacher. My martial art is called Formless Martial God while my qi art is Five-Attributed Cloud Qi. Would you like a demonstration?”

“Certainly. I want to see how much you have grown. You still shouldn’t circulate inner force, so let’s start with the martial art.”

The two of them stood up from their chairs. Sila later found that the white outfit he was wearing was strangely comfortable and allowed him to perform any kind of movement. He slowly demonstrated each martial move of Formless Martial God without the help of inner force and only stopped when he had shown them all.

Mora clapped before commenting. “The name is Formless Martial God? It seems the concept is ‘Formless,’ correct? You have concealed both true and false within each of your moves, making your opponent confused as to whether your attack is real or fake. I take it that you plan to be a balanced fighter. It’s a decent idea. This type relies on technique more than power. You can become stronger faster this way.”

“The idea is a set of moves that are difficult to read, Teacher, by relying on several martial arts I have learned thus far, but keeping with the concept of ‘True is False, False is True.’”

“Still, it seems to lack flexibility. Even though the concept of every move is the same, they lack harmony. They are like a ball of yarn. True, yarn can make many different formless shapes, but it’s easy to snap. Another note, if you truly aim to be the balanced type, you should possess a similar number of defensive moves too. From what I have seen, most of your moves are offensive with few defensive ones.”

“Really? I have never noticed that.” Sila went over his available martial moves once more.

“Honestly speaking, your achievement is already above my expectations. Martial arts are the accumulation of fighting experiences. No art can be perfect from birth. You will have to keep using your art and constantly making changes. I believe it will be a great art that shakes the martial world in ten years.”

“Ten years? Will it really take that long?” Sila was shocked at the long period of time.

“It will happen sooner if you master the Cloud Part—which will help you understand and comprehend the true essence of the arts you possess. Well, my advice, for now, is that you are currently not relying on your strongest point. I have trained your fingers’ muscular strength since you were just a child but you don’t seem to use them that much.”

Mora’s words instantly inspired Sila, and his mind was filling with ideas. Sila smirked as he saluted his teacher. “I see. Thank you very much for your guidance, Teacher.”

“It’s naturally a teacher’s duty to guide their disciple, As it is the disciple’s duty to keep on developing their own skills. Don’t be afraid to make some mistakes. As your teacher, I will always push you back onto the right path.”

Mora checked the time once more, and decided that it had been long enough. “Try circulating your inner force.”

Sila sat down on the floor in the position that was the most comfortable for him. He then performed inner force circulation according to the knowledge of Profound Qi Circulation Art. The result was visibly different from the last time he did it in real life. He could clearly feel his growing inner force in his body. He suspected this was the result of using the special brain-scanning capsule.

Sila was extremely elated as his body was full of vigor. He circulated Five-Attributed Cloud Qi for one lap before standing up.

“I see. You are using the circulation technique of the Profound Qi Circulation Art yet with the knowledge found in the Five Elements Book. Contrary to my Nine Sun-Melting-Fists which focuses on harming and weakening the opponent’s attributes of the five elements, you instead rely on the same knowledge to strengthen your own attributes.”

“Yes, Teacher. Each human has an affinity for a certain element, so we can exploit the opponent’s elemental affinity if we can always change our own element to be the advantageous one. I got this idea from Heaven’s Decree Sword Art.”

“But, that will be...” Mora became immersed in thought before continuing, “Umm... Firstly, try demonstrating them.”

Sila nodded and began to show each of the twenty-five moves of the Single Attribute. As for the Dual Attributes, he had to take a break after demonstrating each move. He didn’t even try displaying the Triple Attribute move, as his amount of inner force wasn’t enough. He stopped his movements once he had finished them all and waited for his teacher’s comments.

“Excellent. This is such a bizarre yet magnificent qi art.” Mora complimented the art, yet his expression suggested that he was contemplating something. In the end, he opened his mouth to say, “...Still, this art has lethal weaknesses. Your art will show its profound, shocking might when you use it for the first time. However, against someone you have fought previously or those who are skilled, they will probably see these weaknesses and drive you into a corner.”

Listening to Mora, Sila recalled his last kick against Kawin. It felt rather ineffective despite having correctly utilized the right element.

“You will get it easier with a demonstration... Prepare yourself!”

The air felt hotter than usual. Mora exerted the power of Yizichan by thrusting his finger toward Sila. Witnessing the fire element imbued in Mora’s fingertip, Sila unleashed the power of the water element.

Attribute of Water — Drizzle Stomp.

Sila didn’t hold back in his kick as he was confident that his teacher was competent enough to handle it. The inner force in his kick spread over and rained down like raindrops. If Mora didn’t dodge this kick, he would surely be injured.

Yet Mora didn’t stop moving. He simply changed the course of his right hand, showing the other one that he had hidden behind the first.

Mora used Yizichan through his left hand. His index finger stabbed at Sila’s ankle, negating the inner force within the kick. At the same time, his right hand pointed at Sila’s forehead. The hot power inside it had already vanished, though it clearly expressed that he had won this sparring match.

As the fight had ended, Mora pulled back his hands and explained what had happened to the dumbfounded Sila.

“Your move seemed stronger at first glance because you put your all into it. True, your qi circulation speed and your qi control are marvelous. However, if your opponent is skilled, they will be able to trick you into making the wrong move. Don’t forget that when you are heightening your affinity with a certain element, the other elements in your body will become weaker according to the concept of duality. Another weakness is that your inner force capacity is still low. You have been focusing on polishing your control over your inner force so far, but you haven’t pushed yourself to exceed your limits. This way, if you encounter an opponent possessing strength far greater than yours, you will have a hard time even if you exploit the right element against them.”

Sila recalled the time when he fought Montra. They were evenly matched at first, yet he could no longer take Montra’s attacks head-on as soon as Montra unleashed more power through his spear. Dark Self came out in the latter part of the battle and mostly relied on psychic power, so he missed the chance to be aware of this weakness.

“There is still another weakness... Let’s try again.”

Mora circulated Flaming Cloud Qi and his body became as hot as fire. He slowly swung his right palm at Sila’s face while aiming Yizichan through his left hand at Sila’s waist, both hands moving at the same speed.

Nevertheless, Sila could discern that the left index finger would arrive first. It was of the wood element, so Sila counterattacked it with the metal attribute. This time, though, he didn’t forget to be mindful of Mora’s other hand.

Attribute of Metal — Unhindered Fist.

Sila clenched his fist, ready to punch Mora’s finger. However, Mora changed his approach. He pulled back his left hand while accelerating his right palm. Seeing that, Sila also had to change his approach. He quickly recirculated his qi to use another move.

Attribute of Fire — God-Slaying Spear.

Sila aimed his elbow to clash against Mora’s strengthened palm. However, like pressing replay when a film ended, Mora suddenly stopped his right hand again and raised his knee to strike his disciple.

Sila had to change his move again, this time with very little space.

Attribute of Earth — Instant Stomp.

Finally, Sila’s attack connected. His kick hit Mora’s knee, though the latter skillfully stepped back at the moment of impact.

The two of them kept their distance from each other and didn’t make any further movements. Sila felt greatly uncomfortable. In the end, he couldn’t maintain his stance and coughed up blood due to qi deviation.

“The final and most serious weakness of your art is the fact that you can’t abruptly change your moves during their course. For you to change your move, you have to start anew from the beginning. You have to adjust your breathing every time you make a move. All I did was force you to keep inhaling without leaving you time to exhale, and your Five-Attributed Cloud Qi itself would harm you.

“Usually, for a martial artist to change their move, they would lose only an insignificant portion of their inner force. On the other hand, the prominent point of your moves is the attribute within it. As such, you can’t simply adjust your move but have to adjust from the root—your qi circulation—to exert a different attribute. Actually, this is the exact reason you can’t use Triple Attributes yet. It’s like your lungs simply don’t have enough capacity for you to inhale so much air.”

While circulating inner force to heal his internal injury, Sila asked, “Is there a way to fix these weaknesses, Teacher?”

“Every problem naturally has a solution, Sila. Just don’t overly rely on the attribute-changing part. Try using Formless Martial God to create an opening and only using Five-Attributed Cloud Qi when you have spotted it. You will eventually overcome these problems once your inner force capacity has been increased. On that note, your inner force will certainly increase if you can master the Flame Part of Flaming Cloud Qi.”

Mora tapped his finger on Sila’s chest to transmit inner force and help his disciple recover. Sila soon felt his body grow warm as his vitality returned to him. He bowed at his teacher to express his gratitude for all the advice.

“There is another thing I must warn you about, Sila. When you meet Kimon, just flee if you still haven’t mastered the Flame Part. Even if you have mastered it, you still can’t fight the disciple of Heaven’s Heiress using Flaming Cloud Qi.”

“Hm? Why is that, Teacher?” asked Sila.

For the record, the Cloud Part would sublimate the user’s comprehensive ability, making them understand the arts they have learned and adapt them further. However, the amount of inner force the user holds would be unaffected, meaning the Cloud Part doesn’t benefit prolonged battles.

The Flame Part would increase the user’s inner force and sublimate its quality.

Lastly, the last Nirvana Part was the part about breaking the limits of humanity. Flaming Cloud Qi portrayed this part based on the Buddhism’s cycle of Samsara—the endless cycle of birth, a mundane existence, and dying—meaning the user would die and then be reborn into a stronger version of themselves.

Theoretically, the Cloud Part would bestow wisdom and the Flame Part would bestow power. Together, they should be enough to overcome any adversity. Sila didn’t understand why Mora explicitly warned him about using it against Himeko.

“It’s due to the nature of the four dark arts. Flaming Cloud Qi is weak against Goddess’ Resonance. There exists a counterbalance between Kimon’s Four Island Masters. The four dark arts represent the four core elements: Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire. Each one is strong against one another in a reverse manner.

“Vajra Qi represents the strongest Earth, but it is helpless against Sage of the Six Disasters which represents the shapeless Water. The mightiness of Vajra Qi can’t be used and the user will have to rely only on their martial moves. At the same time, Sage of the Six Disasters is ineffective against Flaming Cloud Qi, which represents the wild Fire. If they try to control the flame, and they will only burn themselves. As for Goddess’ Resonance, it’s like the blowing Wind. A mere gust can fuel the flame and make it go out of control, burning the user of Flaming Cloud Qi without touching. The same power can’t be used on the user of Vajra Qi, though, as their body and veins are abnormal.”

Listening to the explanation, Sila nodded. It seemed he would need to rely on in-game skills against Himeko if they were to fight.

“You should start the Cloud Part now. I will give you my support. I guess you will master it in three hours. As for the Flame Part and the Nirvana Part, they are too dangerous. You should just remember it and try practicing them later in Monster Soul.”

“E-Eh? Only three hours is required?”

“Yes. That’s why it is called a dark art. Well, it’s not normally this fast. It’s all thanks to you having already learned the Foundation Part of Flaming Cloud Qi and possessing the strong defensive power of Tiger Dragon Qi. Moreover, when I transmitted my inner force to you just now, I discovered that you have another kind of pure energy core protecting your dantian. It’s a power that even I don’t know the origin of. Even though it’s strong, it doesn’t seem to be harmful to your body. On the contrary, it is gradually and steadily helping you by washing your marrows and purifying your arteries.”

Sila frowned. He tried circulating inner force throughout his body to detect said energy core, but his search yielded no results. No matter what it was, it meant even Profound Qi Circulation Art, which had helped Sila gain full control over his inner force, still couldn’t detect it. It was an energy that masterfully concealed itself within his body to the degree where even the host couldn’t detect it.

Seeing his disciple’s worried expression, Mora calmed Sila down. “Since it’s not causing any harm, just leave it alone. No matter what kind of energy it is, once you have mastered the Flame Part, it will have no choice but to surface.”

Sila nodded at his teacher’s words and started to completely focus on Flaming Cloud Qi. In any case, he was glad and relieved that his teacher was right beside him, prepared to help him learn the next stage.

After he had read the contents a dozen times and recited the words three times to ensure that he remembered every word in the book, he returned it to Mora. He closed his eyes to cultivate the Cloud Part according to his understanding.

Once Sila entered Monster Soul again, the world would have already changed in a way that he didn’t expect. However, Sila himself would also have changed so much in a way that the world of Monster Soul didn’t expect.

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