Chapter 302: Wisdom and The Way
They got faster and faster as time stretched on. Some of the students were having a hard time following.
Were they really not using their Disciplines? This was a question in the minds of every spectator. If they were so strong and frightening without Disciplines, how much of a terror where they with them?
Bang! Lan Jue’s body was cast away, with a footprint displayed prominently on his chest. He soared twenty meters and hit the ground with a grunt.
“There has been progress,” the green masked man said.
Lan Jue’s eyes narrowed. He rose to his feet, but remained stationary instead of racing forward to re-engage. He lifted his arms, trailing them gently through the air in a smooth arc. A gentle sensation began to radiate from him, and the surrounding students and soldiers felt the energy modulating their temperament. The hard and implacable became gentle and calm. There was an almost indescribable elegance to it, an ethereal quality that was difficult to pin down.
The pain in Tan Lingyun’s stomach where she’d been struck eased almost immediately. Her eyes lit up when she saw the man she knew as Lei Feng undergo the transformation. “The old way?”
The green masked man took a step forward, knees in, hands up. One arm was held in front of him with the palm pointed toward his chest. His other hand was raised above his head with palm pointed to heaven.
It was the strangers’ turn to attack. He launched off of his back foot, and floated like a leaf on the wind straight toward Lan Jue. He reached out with a palm strike.
The advance looked slow and easy. Even reaching out for a hit as he was, he seemed gentle. But Tan Lingyun could clearly see that his hand had grown, swelled almost, and a green light was radiating out around it. She could sense, even just by looking, that the man’s hand could probably chop right through a boulder.
Lan Jue lifted his arms to block the strike. When the two connected, the drillmaster flowed like water under the attack. The man and his powerful lunge were negated, and cast aside.
The green masked man came at him with strike after strike from his palms, both of which were surrounded in a dazzling golden light. Each wave of those hands looked easy, almost lazy. But there was a startling power behind them. Lan Jue moved as well, and with both of his hands spread, he extended his legs out wide in a single coordinated movement. Every attack he received was diffused or redirected. Every strike was met at just the right point to render them useless. However the deafening blasts were gone, and their exchange was much slower than they had been. Now, again, the onlookers could see clearly. From what they could see, this part of their fight was much more frightening than what had come before, even without the gusts of wind and bursts of thunder. The slightest mistake, on either side, meant obliteration when using attacks this strong.
The green masked man’s palm strikes became more oppressive as time passed. But still he retained that strange sense of calm harmony.
Lan Jue, meanwhile, gave the impression he was one with everything around him – an integral piece of the natural way. Even the air around him was like a part of him, and his movements were as smooth as clouds through a calm sky. But underneath the gentle display, was the potential for explosive power. He would show it from time to time, and the green masked man would retreat and reevaluate.
Tan Lingyun’s own Discipline was mastery of the Supernatural, so she could feel the powers clearly. It was fascinating, for even she couldn’t achieve that level of symbiosis with nature without using her Discipline.
The gathered students and soldiers watched with rapt disbelief as their two instructors duked it out. Mika and Xiuxiu forced them back and out of harm’s way.
Gao Lei continued to watch, shock in his eyes. This is martial arts, he thought, the ancient styles of kung fu!
The martial arts were skills developed in the ancient days. But they were more than skills, they were a way of life – with a culture all their own. These particular styles came from China of the former era, with roots tens of thousands of years old on the mother planet.
Unfortunately as time passed and man progressed, more and more of these combat styles were lost to history. Gao Lei could faintly remember hearing that the masters of these styles passed their knowledge through word of mouth, as family secrets. True masters of the craft were said to have powers to match Adepts. Of course, they didn’t have the sphere of influence a Discipline afforded.
He’d always been told that an Adept who could learn and develop with a martial arts style that suited their natural abilities would undoubtedly grow strong. So it was that many of the highest order of Adepts would seek out and learn a style. Of course, finding a master of an ancient fighting tradition was much easier said than done.
He knew that Tan Lingyun had used martial arts in her fight, but he’d never imagined this Lei Feng or his own master would be such powerhouses.
Just then, the situation changed on the battlefield. Without warning, the green masked man threw himself in to a vaulted back flip. He pressed his palms to his chest and, amid a dazzling display, was enshrouded by a golden aura. The scent of sandalwood filled the air, and then his aura silently burst in to bloom, expanding to fall over Lan Jue.
“Mantra of Spirit.” The green masked man’s deep voice hummed the words. Even the tone seemed infused with magical essence, and as his body doubled in size no one could look away.
The golden light and aura of profundity seemed to cover the whole world.
Lan Jue planted his feet, stretched out his arms, and drew a slow circle in the air before him. A dull, peaceful white light sprang up, and like a vortex drew the encroaching wave of energy in to itself. They clashed and tangled, and Lan Jue was slid back a few paces. However he never lost poise, and his ethereal link with the supernatural never wavered.
The green masked man landed. Then, striking forward, he pushed his pressed hands outward.
“Mantra of Clarity!”
The sweeping force of golden energy retracted, and was drawn in to the man’s outstretched palms. Two beams of pure light exploded from them.
Lan Jue drew back his arms, folding his arms like holding a ball. The white light that had surrounded him condensed between his cupped hands, and then it too was launched out.
Once again the white and gold lights met.
A wild whipping gust of wind tore across the field. Lan Jue was pushed back, one step after another for ten paces. Deep grooves were left where he’d stood.
A nimbus of golden rays protruded from behind the green masked man. He retracted his hands, clenching them in to fists.
Lan Jue was breathing heavily as he regained his footing. His chest rose and fell with the effort. He didn’t move, remaining still, with his eyes closed. The green masked man was also at rest, waiting with his fists crossed at the small of his back.
A moment later, Lan Jue opened his eyes. He offered a nod to the other man. “Thank you for the instruction.”
“You’ve improved,” the masked man replied. He said nothing further, and left without acknowledging anyone.
Lan Jue turned back to the students. “Have you seen enough? If so, we’ve got more training to do.”
The esteem in Gao Lei and his soldiers’ eyes was evident. Although they had no idea what rank or Discipline this Lei Feng Drillmaster really possessed, but from what he’d revealed just now he was certainly awe inspiring.
The exercises continued, but Lan Jue stood back a ways. He was silent, choke full of emotion – at last he’d been able to face down the mantra of clarity! He could still remember years ago, the best he could do was the mantra of spirit. Each time he had to face clarity, though, he’d lose. This time he’d almost compelled him to resort to his final attack.
He went over the fight in his mind, the details clear and fresh. He pondered, and digested.
It is said the top pilots were always the ones who were able to join themselves with their suits. But in the world of mecha piloting, that isn’t enough. Training in a martial art is very important.
Until now no one had learned how to fully incorporate all three aspects. A suit capable of doing so would be prohibitively difficult to construct. The rarest of metals would be needed for the alloy, the most powerful power gems, and it would need to be perfectly customized. Every martial master’s requirements are different, not to mention the need for their martial art and Discipline to combine. If they didn’t, both would be made weaker as a result.
This has been an important watermark for pilots in the East, even though they rarely had the opportunity to use it. There had yet to be built a specialized martial mecha suit, and that where the pilots met their hard ceiling.
Lan Jue had actually used some of his most fundamentally understood martial moves with his mecha during the god team battles. After years of improvements and upgrades, and years of practice in DreamNet, he was able to perform some very basic moves.
It was during his battle with the Driver, known to him then as Thunderclap. He’d managed after a fashion to join the art with his Discipline, and it was that that had allowed him to combine the yin of Thunderclap’s power with the yang of his own. The result was the terrifying powerful beam attack, that turned the tables.
“A-Jue. Your Discipline is a manifestation of the firm, and the positive. It is the accumulation of the earth’s true energy. When you follow the right path, your Discipline will be strong; but if you lose your way, your Discipline will weaken. Remember to keep yourself on the path of righteousness, do not permit exogenous evils to persuade you. Stand tall through bright days and stormy nights. What is hard can easily break, so today I shall begin to teach you the secrets of Tai chi. Therein you will learn flexibility in the face of hardships. Firm, and pliable; Yin, and Yang. A man of military and social responsibility.”
“A-Qing. Quick, clear, controllable. For you, the mantras of freedom, so that you might keep an even temperment. They will sooth the tempestuous winds within you, and also give them freedom. This will be a grand achievement. Turn the cool breeze to a raging hurricane, and the world will bend the knee. But unbridled freedom has no root. It is easy to grow deficient without a source of sustenance. To you, I will teach the Hannya. Wisdom. And with it, just as you control the winds of storms, you will also command the Vajra. Your power will be fearsome!”
“Bro, you’re art is too much for me. How am I supposed to block it without my Discipline?! Tai chi is as soft as water. It’s useless in blocking your attacks.”
“You heard the teacher. If your Tai chi can one day block my three mantras, then you’ll have perfected it. Get up! If the teacher says you can do it, then you can do it!”
The NEU students’ solid foundation carried them through the remaining exercises, pushing the limits of the training. As the day wore on the ten trainers they ere allotted became fifty, and each student had a sparring partner. Lan Jue’s fifty-first student trained with Gao Lei directly. Tang Xiao had won that honor.