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"STOP, Wang Yimo wins!"

 

"Are you hurt?" Wang Yimo demanded as she offered a hand, here demeaner metamorphosing in a breath's time.

Han Lingyun gladly took it and dusted himself off. "I'm alright, that last attack of yours was a bit heavy handed though."

They laughed.

Elder Zhang joined the pair for the debrief.

"Both of you have used your strengths and your opponent's weaknesses way better than 3 months ago. That was an appreciable improvement. However, don't get too satisfied by that yet as you were mostly able to do this because you already knew each other's characteristics to a large extent. Now you should also focus more on the glaring weaknesses that this fight revealed. Han Lingyun, could you describe greatest weakness right now to see if we are on the same page?"

 

Han Lingyun realized it well. "I didn't have time to learn other martial arts making my attack a bit lackluster and my defense inextant."

 

Elder Zhang nodded. "That's why 2nd years are allowed to pick 2 new martial arts, most of your peers have already done that. Now, your martial art is a bit special, am I right? It isn't one sided and could function on its own. Movement, attack and stealth. In fact, your qi blades attack would be more powerful if you were using your sword the right way. You mostly lack some defense."

Han Lingyun felt a bit awkward now. "Elder Zhang, could you please show me how to correctly use my sword then?"

She smiled as she took the sword from his hands and created an ample movement that slashed the air once.

She then repeated the same movement, this time by mimicking the blackbird art so that Han Lingyun could imitate it better. Tree after tree was cut in two diagonals as the invisible blade wouldn't stop.

"There you go, I hope you understood. Your sword is discreet but prideful. However, you treat it like a random knife. It needs a large movement to show its hidden might.

This could have caused a serious threat to Wang Yimo.

Now for the defense issue. You have two choices: learning the defensive martial art that suits your needs best, or purchasing a defensive treasure. The second possibility won't help you in the ranking competitions though as you know that treasures are not allowed."

Han Lingyun appreciated all the advice. "Thank you, Elder Zhang, for teaching me."

She nodded. "It's only natural if you wish to keep up with my protégé.

Now Wang Yimo, your defense is all over the place. Will you be keeping your qi shield on at all times when you leave the sect? Of course not! You used it like you would use a defensive treasure, and that's exactly what you need.

Your defense martial art is meant to react against an unavoidable attack, or to trick your opponent into thinking you are willing to be injured in order to attack him while your invisible shield is in fact blocking the attack.

It's definitely not to reassure yourself against an invisible enemy either. If you hadn't found that cliff, what would you have done? And that trick of yours wouldn't have worked in the real world, where a cultivator could just ambush from above, but you already know that.

No, this defensive martial art is only meant to be used during intense combat.

Another glaring weakness is that you are too predictable, we should perhaps look into unconventional treasures, like Han Lingyun. This could provide a lot more opportunities. Have you understood?"

Wang Yimo bowed. "Yes master, I need a defensive treasure against surprise attacks and a trump card."

 

Elder Zhang was satisfied with her disciple. She had also netted her a Starlight formation in the process. "All right that were the main points. Now for the bets, here is your Calypso's blessing pill, disciple Yimo. As for your side of the bargain, I will be waiting for the Starlight formation's disc made by your mentor, disciple Lingyun. Just pass it to Wang Yimo."

Han Lingyun lowered his head. "It will be done." Sadly, he had to face his master's disappointment now.

 

Back at the Array Pavilion at market road, a thunderous life broke its usual calmness.

"Hahaha look at your face. It's just a formation disc, do you think that troubles me? I can make a dozen a day!" Thankfully, Elder Wen was very far from taking the loss badly.

A formation disc was in fact, quite valuable. One just had to install it down with some qi crystals for the corresponding formation to activate. This formation disc had a radius of 30 cm. It was basically a portable array!

"And I already gained a 200-year-old blue Fountain grass last time round. In my eyes, it's still a nice profit." Elder Wen continued.

The reassured Han Lingyun went on to describe the fight in great lengths and elder Wen listened with rapt attention. He also mentioned Elder Zhang's advice.

Regarding the defensive issue, Han Lingyun had decided straight away to settle on a defensive treasure for now. He didn't have time to learn an additional defensive martial art for now. As for his potential weakness during the ranking tournament? It wasn't on his priority list.

 

"A defensive treasure you say? I think I have just what you are looking for."

To Han Lingyun's surprise, Elder Wen left the tea room and came back 5 minutes later with a small oval shaped plate, around 10 cm long and 2 cm in width. Strings of runes were embedded on the plate in a dozen concentric ovals. There was a hole at its center.

"This was a little project I shared with Elder Heng at the 3rd Weapon's Hall. It's a bit of a mix between a formation disc and a defensive weapon.

There are two ways to use the plaque. The first one is to pass your qi through the hole, it will absorb part of the rotating qi to activate a formation that will be reflecting attacks under the foundation establishment realm.

The second way is to place a mid-grade crystal on the hole, just like this. The mid-grade crystal will thus remain stuck in place and the formation will be in a semi active mode, slowly consuming the mid ranked crystal in a month.

In that state, the plaque creates a detection formation of 1 meter radius around you. The plaque switches to active state when the detection formation detects a qi attack from someone else than you. In that case, the medium grade crystal will be expended in 1 minute."

 

Han Lingyun was mind blown by the extraordinary characteristics of that treasure. "Why isn't this more widespread throughout the sect?"

Elder Zhang sighed. "It was a failure. The results don't justify the materials and details required. In the beginning, we wanted to create a high-end defensive treasure suitable for inner disciples at the foundation establishment stage, but we failed to miniaturize the array enough while keeping a reasonable budget. Not to mention the fact that the plaque can't survive long when facing common foundation establishment attacks, there are more effective alternatives.

In the end, we abandoned the project and I was left with a couple prototypes. At least, with you it would find some use. Here, there is a strap to attach it to your back. Do you like it?"

 

Han Lingyun couldn't believe his luck. What where the odds? "It's absolutely perfect! Wait, do you, perhaps have other unused prototypes like this beauty?"

Elder Wen laughed. "Hahaha, I have dozens if not hundreds. Most are array ideas that I couldn't completely finish or some formation discs though. I don't generally work on treasures."

Han Lingyun smiled brightly. "Remember that your disciple will never refuse another prototype."

"Haha all right. Now that we have cleared the boring stuff, let's talk runes and formations. What was your progress this week?"

 

Han Lingyun and Elder Wen went on to discuss their usual subject. The young one had already expressed his views on science and runes.

Elder Wen argued that it was always easier to work the other way round: understand the laws of nature through the runes and perhaps deduce such laws.

Han Lingyun wasn't convinced and would slowly present physics concepts to his mentor, and they would often discuss what it meant in terms of runes and their underlying laws.

In that way, Han Lingyun had even managed to slightly shift Elder Wen's perspective who now saw some merits in his disciple's approach. He still felt that this was a roundabout way to gain an understanding of runes though. Nothing could beat rune manipulation and mental calculations according to him.

Every week or so, Han Lingyun would also complete rune exercises Elder Wen had prepared for him. His very rapid progress had already stunned Elder Wen on several occasions now. In fact, the Elder didn't tell his pupil but he already was solving problems meant for disciples at the peak of qi condensation or even that entered foundation establishment.

"I think it's time for you to get your hands dirty, disciple Lingyun. I know that you prefer the theory but if you want to become a true formation master, you have to be making your own arrays. Of course, when I'm saying making arrays, I'm not talking about those ready made one's where you throw 10 flags round in a pattern and the formation premade by someone else just appears.

I'll provide you with some materials to try out, if you will play along."

 

"I will be up for the task, Elder Wen."

 

"Good, you can demand the usual starting packs to my assistant. I expect for you to complete your first array one week after you come back from your little mission with your friend. In theory, you shouldn't find this too hard but let's progress step by step."

"Then I will make sure to not disappoint you, Elder. I am deeply indebted to your benevolence and your precious teachings."

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