Chapter 7 The Path of a Martial Warrior
After dinner, Mother Wu put away the dishes. Zhou Tiezhu usually lived atop the workshop, but had returned to the blacksmith workshop in order to watch over the furnace and tools. Yan Dechang had announced that he needed to leave for a while. Without speaking, he changed his clothes and immediately entered the backyard, placed a saddle on the rhinodrake steed, mounted it, and departed. Thus, Yan Liqiang was the only one left at home with nothing else to do.
In the past, he never had any free time. During the time between his dinner and bedtime, apart from leaving time for his food to digest, he would simply cultivate in the backyard of his home. Yan Dechang would stand by the side and personally supervise Yan Liqiang. He couldn’t slack even for a day.
Yan Liqiang’s modest reputation amongst the youths of Liuhe Town was gained with every drop of his sweat over these few years. It wasn’t a fluke in the slightest.
The front of Yan Liqiang’s house faced the side of the Willow River. There was also a water hammer that was powered by water within the blacksmith workshop. The backyard and front yard of Yan Liqiang’s house were polar opposites, behind the backyard was an extremely secluded bamboo forest.
The stable and fodder storage room were located below the two tile-roofed houses in the backyard. There was also a peach tree in the backyard with a weapon rack underneath it. There were four types of weapons sitting on the rack: a sabre, a spear, a sword, and a staff. The staff was known as ‘The Grandfather of Weapons’, the sword was known as the ‘The Gentleman of Weapons’, the sabre was known as the ‘The General of Weapons’, while the spear was known as the ‘The King of Weapons’. These were the four main types of weapons which were often used for optimal proficiency in killing. Over 90% of martial arts practitioners would choose one of these four weapon types as their primary weapon. However, it was uncommon for staffs to be chosen due to the fact that it possessed inferior killing power. Hence, the majority of people would opt for the sabre, spear, or sword as their primary weapon.
The saying of ‘a month to master the staff, a year to master the sabre but a lifetime to master the spear’ implied that the spear was the most difficult weapon to master amongst these four weapon types. Subsequently, the number of people trained in spear techniques were relatively fewer in comparison to those who trained in sabres and swords techniques.
Nonetheless, Yan Liqiang’s primary weapon was the spear.
He hadn’t determined this on his own, but rather because Yan Dechang had already chosen it for him when he had begun his training. He hadn’t the slightest clue as to why Yan Dechang, who was not knowledgeable in martial arts, would select such a difficult route for him. Over these past few years, Yan Liqiang had been training with the spear, as well as learning its fundamentals.
There was another rack not far from that weapon rack. Under one of the shelves on that rack, there was a row of iron beads, each about the size of a chicken egg, tied together with a string. This was the prop that Yan Liqiang used in his spear practice. That string of iron beads was smeared with a layer of fluorescence powder. Although not visible during the daytime, the string of iron beads glowed lush green under the moonlight at night. They were very eye catching and could be used for training.
The basic techniques when using a spear revolved around three words— outward, inward, and stab. Outward spear parry, inward spear parry and stabbing spear. Outward parrying was for defense, inward parrying utilized one’s strength, while stabbing of course referred to offense!
Although Yan Liqiang had been training in these three simple words and three basic movements for a period of eight years, he had yet to be even considered proficient.
Yan Liqiang was still cultivating due to the fact that he had yet to set a foundation and wasn’t considered a true Martial Warrior. He was only able to cultivate its stance and method, but without a foundation, he wouldn’t be able to become a Martial Warrior in this era. No matter how hard he tried, he wouldn’t be able to fully grasp any martial arts.
When he was knocked off from the arena by Hong Tao with the Iron Palm technique, he hadn’t expected that Hong Tao had already begun cultivating it. That was due to the fact that Hong Tao was just like him, both of them had no fundamentals and weren’t Martial Warriors yet. The Iron Palm technique required a lot of time to cultivate. It wasn’t very wise to waste a huge amount of time on these kinds of external skills. There was a saying: ‘Train the skills first, then train the fists. The skills come before the fists. If one were to cultivate martials art without any skill, they will achieve nothing in the end.’ The fists were considered external whereas the skills were considered internal. If one wished to train their skills, they would first need to build their foundation. Otherwise, even though their external skills may appear to be impressive, it wouldn’t support them for long. This was due to the fact that, in this end, they were nothing but the reflection of a flower in the mirror or of the moon in the water, so fleetingly beautiful but impossible to grasp.
There was a time limit for one to set their foundation as God didn’t allow too much time for one to squander. Essentially, if one had yet to set their foundation before the age of twenty five, then their hope in setting their foundation within that lifetime would be extremely slim. That also meant that impossible for them to advance as a Martial Warrior. Yan Dechang’s disciple, Zhou Tiezhu, was still far from setting his foundation after the age of twenty five and subsequently lost his chance to establish it. It was only then, that he came to Yan Dechang to learn a trade for his livelihood.
The reality was that warriors were virtually everywhere in his previous world. After casually training in any fighting skill for a period of a few years, one would possess a slightly robust body. They would then carry blades and slaughter without hesitation before proclaiming themselves as warriors. However, these warriors would be considered trash compared to the standards of this world.
In this world, one’s foundation was a vital standard for becoming a Martial Warrior. In order to establish one’s foundation, one would have to pass three stages. Each of these stages being harder than the last and had a specific objective to determine whether one had passed. Only those who made it through these three stages and had established their foundation had the right to proclaim themselves as a Martial Warrior. Only these Martial Warriors were able to truly cultivate all kinds of skills and battle techniques to a profound level.
Yan Liqiang had been cultivating since he was young until now, drenched in sweat every day in this small yard. Yet he had not even made it through the first of the three stages.
The first of the three stages was the Horse Stance. This was a necessity that any martial practitioners would need to have.
The Horse Stance might seem simple to anyone at first glance, but in actuality, there was a high chance that not even a single person out of a hundred could make it past this stage.
How would one be considered to have passed the Horse Stance? They had to achieve the unity of waist and horse whilst exerting all the strength in their body through their feet. One could only be considered to have passed if they could perform the stance as if they were on a horse. When one has passed this stage, they would be able to fight against ten with just their fist and leg techniques, being able to throw most of them far away.
Yan Dechang had spent a fortune on a rhinodrake steed for the sake of helping Yan Liqiang pass this stage. The rhidodrake steed was kept at home in order to help Yan Liqiang learn horsemanship and also to allow him to comprehend the enormous power that stemmed from the unity between a man and a steed when one struck out with his fist or spear while the rhinodrake steed charged forward.
A fist strike from a person who had a true grasp of the horse stance would seem as though he was mounted on a horse. The energy from his soles, his thigh, waist, and back could be transmitted to his fists. This kind of fist attack would easily crush an ordinary person. There’s a saying that goes: ‘the arm is no match for the thigh’.
If an ordinary person were to swing their fist at someone, they would use the strength from their arms. Those slightly more trained could utilize the power of their pectoral muscles as well as their back. Professional boxers on Earth could partially utilize their waist power. To be able to use even the power of your toes was a sign of success in the Horse Stance. This was the reason as to why all practitioners considered the Horse Stance a necessity. Succeeding in Horse Stance was akin to gaining an additional power of a horse. Even when standing on the ground, it would be as if they were riding on a horse, moving yet staying in place.
Yan Liqiang would never have understood this principle on Earth but in this world, everyone seemed to understand this.
However, understanding didn’t mean that one could achieve it. For instance, back on Earth, every high school student knew that atomic bombs originated from Albert Einstein’s mass-energy equation. However, this didn’t mean that just anyone could create an atomic bomb even if they understood the mass-energy equivalence.
Apart from willpower, temperament and hard work, some other unknown method might be needed to succeed in the Horse Stance. As an ordinary blacksmith, Yan Dechang could only do his best to help Yan Liqiang make it past this stage. Due to fact that he could not comprehend the profoundness and the fact that he couldn’t afford to hire a teacher for Yan Liqiang, Yan Dechang could only act like those parents who have great hopes for their child and followed the experiences that were passed down by the others. He purchased a rhinodrake steed for Yan Liqiang so that he could comprehend the profoundness of the Horse Stance after mastering horsemanship.
In this world, true abilities, profound secret techniques, as well as the understanding of skills and martial techniques were extremely valuable. These understandings and abilities were akin to highly valuable patents in a commercial world. They were not owned by any average person, but instead they were exclusive to only a minority. Only the truly rich and powerful clans had the resources and assets to hire famous masters. Not to mention others, even the Hong Clan of the Liuhe Town did not have enough of either to hire famous masters.
All the truly famous masters possessed a cultivation of at least Martial Warrior level. They possessed abilities as well as secret techniques and were also willing to impart them to others.
Yang Liqiang knew that although there were no such people Qinghe County, there were two in the Pingxi Prefecture. One of them, with the surname Song, lived in the capital city of the Pingxi Prefecture and taught the Horse Stance. Nearly one third of those who had acknowledged him as master were able to make it past the Horse Stance stage foundation after a decade of hardship in cultivation.
It went without saying that Yan Liqiang’s father wished to send Yan Liqiang to learn from him, but he couldn’t provide the honorarium to pay the master. At least a hundred taels of gold were needed in order to become a disciple of the man with the surname of Song, and it was absolutely non-negotiable. The entire property of Yan Clan, including the blacksmith workshop, was only worth twenty taels of gold.
Without an abundance of wealth, how would it be possible to learn any true abilities?
The scenario in which one would be apprenticed to a master simply by carrying a basket of chicken eggs, some slices of pork, and two bottles of wine would only be possible in films back on Earth. As for the scenarios in films where the master would take care of you, teach you the secret techniques of martial arts for free, allow you to freeload in his home, focus on the growth of your cultivation, and even have his wife give birth to a beautiful junior martial sister for you to flirt with were basically impossible, even in your dreams. If Yue Buqun from Jin Yong’s novel were to be born in the Silver Continent, he would practically be worshipped as an influential figure like Lei Feng.
This Martial Arts County Trial was vital because those who excelled in the County Trial would have a chance to join a first-rate martial arts academy to gain skills. Having the right to become a disciple of a first-rate martial arts academy meant that even ordinary people would be able to develop some abilities. Thus, it was the only way to advance as a Martial Warrior and the reason as to why money was involved.
Martial Warrior wasn’t just a mere title. In this world, everyone strived to succeed in creating a foundation in order to achieve this title. High social classes were a step ahead ahead of the commoners in terms of privilege. Thus becoming a Martial Warrior signified that one had become a member of a higher social class. With the combination of hope and the stepping stones to one’s meteoric success, they would be the best of the best no matter where they went.
In Ancient China, there was an old saying that went: ‘The worth of other pursuits is small, the study of books excels them all!’ However in this current world, it was ‘The worth of other pursuits is small, the study of martial arts surpasses all!’
The only reason behind the grandeur of Liuhe Town’s Hong Clan was Hong Tao’s great-grandfather. In the past, he was the only Martial Warrior in the entire Liuhe Town. Because of this, Hong Tao’s great-grandfather was able to acquire a vast amount of property for the Hong Clan in Liuhe Town. Tens of stores, several oil and rice mills, and also a few thousand mu of fertile agricultural lands of Liuhe Town all belonged to the Hong Clan. The efforts of a single person had blessed the sons of three generations...
As he thought up to this point, Yan Liqiang was struck with realization. He understood immediately; he completely understood the situation of the Hong Clan.
The Hong Clan hadn’t had a single Martial Warrior for three generations now. The was a saying that went, ‘The influence of a Martial Warrior is terminated in the third generation’. Although the Hong Clan currently seemed to be well-off, the Hong Clan’s head, Hong Tao’s grandfather, was probably already filled with a sense of crisis since long ago. Hong Tao was the only person among the younger generation of the Hong Clan that had any hopes of becoming a potential Martial Warrior. Hence, the Hong Clan was anxiously making an all-out effort during this County Trial.
It went without saying that Hong Tao becoming a Martial Warrior would be the most ideal outcome for the Hong Clan. However, as long as no one else among the current generation became a Martial Warrior in Liuhe Town, the position of the Hong Clan in Liuhe Town would still be secure even if Hong Tao couldn’t become a Martial Warrior. From then onwards, the Hong Clan would still be able to live in a glorious manner and linger at death’s door while entrusting their hopes to the future.
Therefore, making Hong Tao a Martial Warrior was the Hong Clan’s main objective and their utmost concern, whereas preventing Yan Liqiang from becoming a Martial Warrior was their secondary objective.
Recalling his bitter experience on the arena today, the ice ant, and Qi Donglai’s nervous expression when he saw him, Yan Liqiang came to a realisation.
Qing Donglai was also from an ordinary clan in Liuhe Town.
Yan Liqiang’s experiences in his past life had allowed him to understand a truth since long ago– escaping from a problem was simply impossible. The problems you face are destined to be encountered by you. Even running or shrinking away from these problems will prove to be of no use. These problems will continue to attack you under different guises, and in the end, you will have less and less room to maneuver. Eventually, you will be left without room to retreat.
When faced with a problem, your only choices are to defeat it or let it defeat you. There is never a third option.
Even if this principle were to be disregarded. God had allowed him a second life and arranged for him to be reincarnated in such a magical world. Moreover, God had also chose such a path for him. Because of this, Yan Liqiang believed that he might as well live his life in a vigorous manner and head down this path with determination in order to view the differences in the scenery on this path and find out where his final destination would be.
He had managed to see through the Hong Clan’s plan. As he remembered his injury, boundless will to fight suddenly welled up in Yan Liqiang’s heart, completely merging his entire being into his current self.
‘If a man doesn’t struggle, how different is he from a salted fish?’
Under the moonlight, Yan Liqiang murmured to himself while he watched over the quiet backyard as a smile appeared on his face....