Whoever said size didn't matter obviously never got to feel the glory of swinging a hammer twice as large as them. And with such a large weapon, the stance naturally had to change as well, and what better stance to use than Monster Hunter's absurd but more or less passable idea of martial arts.
Well, okay, no, it didn't pass at all since it threw the weight off wrong but it was a good enough base to start from.
Besides the exercises my grandpas taught me, I also made a point to learn how to fight with a larger hammer. My spirit rings would only continue to increase in number from here on out, and with it came the possibility to more easily shift in size between those unlocked by our rings.
The point of Growth was to further increase the size of the Hammer beyond its limits, and it was best used between ranks thirty to sixty. Any rank above that and the Clear Sky Hammer was already able to attain the size of a small house or a small building depending on how much spirit power someone had, and if grandpa Shan was to be believed, at Titled Douluo level, it was even possible to grow our hammer so large as to smash a goddamn mountain with it. That was apparently how grandpa Huang got his title of Mountain Breaker Douluo.
Gee, whoever could've figured that out.
Normally, an absurdly large hammer would be impossible to swing, much less hold but to us wielders of the Clear Sky Hammer, it felt lighter than it actually was, and that was important since the average weight of a Hammer without spirit rings was already at about forty jin or approximately twenty kilograms. And to a five to six year old child, at least how I remember it, it was a bit like swinging around a big ass rock on a stick, heavy but not impossible. And now that I had three rings on it, I wasn't so sure anymore since my sense of scale has already been messed up by my strength.
At most, I could say this probably weighed around the same as, oh I don't know, maybe a sink attached to a stick? Really, weight just feels off with otherworldly spirit power infused musculature.
My grandpas left us yesterday and after the morning spars we'd all split up to do our own things. I was doing much better now on my own thanks to unlocking the full might of my spirit rings, though making sure no one got hurt was a lot harder when fighting my fellow students. Teacher Zhao though, he could take it—but the guy had a tendency to hit back at times when I got him good. He at least takes care not to injure, but it can be surprising how much damage a spirit master's body could take before really getting hurt.
And I don't know about the others, but all these constant beatings from that bear of a man was either getting me inured to the pain or more resilient to the damage. Spirit power also helped to heal injuries, and as a spirit master, almost everything that didn't kill us made us stronger one way or another, some physically, some spiritually, and some even more mysteriously than others.
The world of spirits, spirit beasts, and cultivation was so much bigger than any of us understood.
That same mystery was what made unravelling its secrets that much more satisfying. Perhaps there was a way to cheese the system somehow? No doubt my and Tang San's, alleged, reincarnation were examples of those, but I was sure there were other more available means out there. Maybe some plants or fruits or animals that could be eaten to boost one's cultivation, or even some ritual to perform to get an obtainable external power, hell, even divine blessings or what have you.
Anything was possible.
I lifted my Hammer that was as tall as me now with its head equivalent to my torso. I took a golf stance and aimed right by the water's edge—taking care to gauge the distance to the bucket just a few paces away from me.
I lightened it as a reared back, now as if swinging a baseball bat made of aluminum instead of one made of lead. Yeah, weight just didn't translate well anymore for me.
I begin the swing with an explosion of spirit power into my arms before I passed it all into my Hammer and the thing grew heavier and heavier as I guided it into a graceful swing that would've turned a person into mush.
The head made contact with the water and a sizeable splash jumped out as a I lightened the hammer again before finishing my follow-through. All that spirit power flowed seamlessly but my energy channels were already burning by the time I finished that one swing. That was the main problem with performing Flow. The more spirit power passed through a channel in some short time frame, the more strain it received. It was basically a more esoteric version of Ohm's law and it made sense on some visceral level.
Titled Douluos like my grandpas had a shit ton of spirit power, and their abilties naturally output more power at any given time than anything I could ever come up with with my measly thirty-seventh rank spirit power. So how was it that those guys didn't go up in flames every time they used any of their spirit abilties, or at least suffered damage from their own powers.
Easy, it's that more spirit rings nourished the body.
I'd already felt it before, with how I grew taller with every ring I got as well as with how each ring facilitated the ability to gather more spirit power. So with an analog such as Ohm's law, I figured there were probably other ways to get around my current issue of having too weak energy channels.
If I remember correctly, voltage was equal to current times resistance. And going with this logic, how much spirit power I could push out was the current, and the voltage would be the actual output of spirit power. The resistance then was something I can assume to be constant. Meaning I only needed to push more spirit power out to be able to output more powerful techniques—but, this ran into the problem of causing me damage.
To reduce then the resistance was something I needed to achieve in order to output more power for less effort.
Which brings me back then to the crux of my problem: how the hell was I going to reduce the resistance in my energy channels?
Again, the easiest answer would be to get another spirit ring, and barring that, there was practice. Practice to get my energy channels more used to dealing with more spirit power, and assuming there really was no better way to do that then at least some way to get around the limitations of my resistance.
Even after two days of practicing this exercise, I still wasn't getting any good results. Though by good here I was hoping for something like being able to fill the goddamn bucket in one swing. But the very physics of water denied that, and to make use of Undertow to guide the water first meant I needed to be direct the Clear Sky Hammer's aura to be inside the bucket.
Neither of those were achievable unless I cheated myself, and that would defeat the point of doing the exercise in the first place.
I sat down and circulated spirit power to nourish my still burning channels. Figuring out how to make my Hammer grow fast in the span of a second was easy enough, but doing any more than that made it painful to keep going. I couldn't properly use any of my abilities or retract the infused spirit power as fast, and to dispel my hammer when it was so saturated would end up wasting the stored power.
Good thing I was at least able to show my grandpas that pain problem though since otherwise I might've caused myself some permanent damage had I kept going and ignored the warning signs.
The cycling of spirit power eased the pain in my arms as I slowly allowed the energy to pass back and forth to soothe the burning. It was a little strange to have spirit power repair the same areas it damaged, so I guess there must be a difference between spirit power used this way.
And now that I got to think about it, how was it exactly that spirit power could originate anyway? Usually it'd come from any of the chakras for me, the easiest to use being the sacral chakra that sits at the base of the navel—it was also where the energy would settle using the cultivation method grandpa Shan showed me before, and the same one as well that Tang San did for my raging spirit power. Although his traced a different path through my body.
Grandpa Shan's method was a clockwise sort of rotation of energy that, for lack of a better term, washed over my insides like the hands of a clock. Tang San's on the other hand, traced paths that radiated outward from the dantian or sacral chakra towards the limbs, and in some way I guess the advantage to that was it was more focused using a more natural path.
My method, on the other hand, completely focused on rotating the energies through just the chakras. Energy was absorbed from outside the body through the skin as well as in the breath and from there I'd pull it all into the first chakra and cycle it through all seven before storing in my spirit.
I've already changed over to the same pathways Tang San used before, but every now and then I'd still switch over to my own method since it wasn't something wrong per se. And had they not asked me to stop my cultivation to stabilize my foundations for five years, I had no doubt I would've been at a much higher rank than even Tang San.
But, I knew now that had I continued using my own way, then I might be such a glass cannon that I wouldn't even be able to bear the backlash of burning my own energy channels.
It was a chilling thought, but all still speculation.
The burning finally stopped. I stood up and took my position once more. This was probably going to take all night again.
"Little Jin," Rongrong said, "why do you look like a mess?" She was half-smiling and half-worried over her bowl of porridge and boiled eggs.
I wanted to just bury my face in the food but that would've been a horrible waste. "I was up all night trying to master one of our clan's techniques." I didn't bother with the spoon anymore and straight up downed the soup and porridge.
Hongjun probably gained some sort of insight from that because he followed what I did and asked for seconds right after. Oscar next to him was nursing a beard but was more or less eating his food in peace. More or less because he kept flailing a sausage in front of boss Dai who wasn't having any of his shit.
What's surprising though was Zhuqing was sitting next to me and Rongrong and as far away as possible from Mubai—who looked like he was about to tear off Oscar's head.
"Tang San is still holed up in his forge?" I cycled spirit power to aid my digestion, and doing this same thing worked wonders for anything bad I was feeling. Headache from whatever? Cycle some spirit power. Loose bowel movement? Even more spirit power. Social guilt over having more than platonic feelings for a kid despite having a mental age of over thirty?
Well, nothing could fix that, but cultivating sure as hell distracted me from it.
"Yes," Rongrong said with a sigh. "Those hidden weapons he made for us before were already so good, I'm so excited now to find out what he's making that it sometimes makes it hard to sleep."
I shrugged. "Knowing him, there's a possibility we won't get to use those weapons—and if possible I'd prefer he never use them on me either."
Rongrong laughed like a tinkling silver bell. "I think I'd like to see that."
I groaned. "There was no end to those annoying things when we were younger, every day it'd be these kinds of knives or those kinds of needles. It wasn't fun one bit to get pelted by those sharp things."
And still she kept laughing. Zhuqing started chuckling next to her.
"You used to be Tang San's pin cushion?" Oscar asked with a snicker.
"I sometimes still am," I said. "More spirit power means I can better resist his weapons, and my Honored Any Mantle is something Tang San has had the pleasure of enjoying far too many times to count within these last few weeks." It was the reason why I could use it as well as I did in the short time I've had it. Tang San just loved throwing pointy shit at stuff, and having a—mostly—willing target was somethng he'd never pass off on.
And it's not like I didn't gain any benefits either, since it did help me train my reflexes and resistance to getting stabbed. Though it really only worked on non spirit related origins of said stabbing.
Xiao Wu entered the little hut with a satisfied smile on her face.
"Speaking of Tang San," I said. "Any signs of him finishing soon, big sis?"
The girl shook her head. "He hasn't said anything, and I'm a little worried, but he doesn't seem to be in ill health."
"Are all the men in the Clear Sky sect that stubborn?" Mubai said.
"I'm not stubborn!"
Everyone there glared at me.
"Wait, I am?" But I was like the epitome of flexibility and acceptance! "That can't be right."
"You can be very very pushy," Rongrong said.
"Spirit bone?" Zhuqing said.
"And don't forget when he's out stealing the poor livelihood of those unsuspecting merchants," added Hongjun.
"I don't think I've ever seen someone barter gold for rice in such a highhanded manner," Oscar said with a sigh.
"If I didn't know you I might've mistaken you for the child of our dean with how much of a miser you are," Hongjun offered.
"Who was a miser?"
We all looked behind us and saw the dean with the other teachers and uncle. "Looks like my cute disciple needs some more pointers then?"
Breakfast finished, and fatty almost learned how to fly, but he was still too heavy to make any leeway with that so the dean settled for the next best thing: juggling the poor schmuck in mid-air. It was almost pitiful really, but I was sure the ancestors of past chickens could fly, so maybe he'd have unlocked some sort of genetic memory or something and have gained the ability, but he didn't have such good luck.
Rongrong and I were to face off with boss Dai and Oscar this time around, and as someone who's learned his lesson from last time, I knew better now how to best leverage my abilities. Or at least try something else that could work.
"Begin," uncle said from the side.
With that I immediately swept Rongrong off her feet and made a mad dash for the woods while extending my spirit power behind me to envelop Oscar and boss Dai.
"Running away like a coward!" boss Dai said with indignation as he chased after us together with Oscar running using his spider legs.
"Nobody ever said escaping from the ring was against the rules!"
Rongrong sighed but didn't resist my taking her away.
"Teacher! Little Jin is trying to elope with Rongrong!" Hongjun shouted out with a sleazy grin as he chased after us as well.
Uncle on the other hand, rode San Pao to keep up. "You're not wrong little Jin, but know that this little tactic of yours will not be allowed next time."
Rongrong boosted me with all three of her support abilties and her spirit bone, as I activated all three of my Crown's abilities on our opponents.
"This is way too cheap even for you!" boss Dai said. Light Waves flew after us one after another but under the combined boost of Rongrong's abilties and spirit bone and my own power, none of them even reached.
"Using my hammer's too hard right now," I said as I hopped between trees and always further away from the two.
Running free in a forest was one of the few joys I had in this new world, and with the addition of spirit power and some balls, learning how to run among the treetops wasn't too hard or dangerous. I felt like a fucking ninja running away with the princess as the bad guys chased after us.
The fight then—if it could even be called that—was whether my and Rongrong's combined abilities could drain the two of them faster than Oscar could sustain him and boss Dai and outlast us. His sausages would always keep replenishing boss Dai, and his eight-links were what made me eat a few Light Waves to the butt.
And still on the chase went, going for a full ten or so minutes before boss Dai finally ran out of spirit power and our paired buff and debuff strategy won in a very satisfying way.
"Unconventional," uncle said.
San Pao was carrying boss Dai's sorry ass back to the village next to us while I carried Oscar on my back.
Rongrong pinched my side. "Embarrassing."
"Annoying," Oscar concluded with a groan.
Like that, the rest of the month would pass without me making any significant progress with figuring out how to better manage my spirit power. I tried consulting with uncle whether he knew of any methods to better improve energy circulation but it was something he'd never had any good luck with figuring out either. At most, he could only offer the same path I'd already considered before, which was basically to train until I got used to the level of power I wanted to be able to output.
I wasn't looking for a shortcut per se, but it was a smarter way of tackling a problem as opposed to the usual blockheaded way of pushing through with force. If one way didn't work, then most likely there was a more elegant solution to the problem. What made it difficult to do my own tests though was the lack of knowledge on the matter, not the dean, or uncle, or even our sect knew of any ways to improve the body save for the absorption of spirit rings.
To experiment then would mean to completely tackle the unknown, and save for a few widely known ones like Snow Lotus fruits and Dragon Zoysia leaves which I'd already gotten my hands on, the few still out there were usually obtainable only in small quantities for absurd prices and wouldn't do much for cultivation above the twentieth rank.
And as an avid gamer myself in my previous life, I knew for a fact that this shouldn't be true. Or at least, I hoped it wasn't. Because really, even in my old life, there existed materials that the people of before only assumed existed in myths. Things like aerogels and space age alloys, even polymers that could be used for undersea vessels.
All of it was basically magic to the alchemists and druids and priests who didn't know any better.
It was just my luck then how I didn't have the knowledge to identify and craft materials using crazy stuff like diamonds or whatever, but its not like I could cram all the intricacies of the collective knowledge of the world into my head. I was just one guy and even if I read up on a lot of topics about all sorts of crap for my writing, one person still wasn't enough to bring forth a golden age of technology.
Water Golf and sparring. These two things would fill up the rest of the month until one fine morning during breakfast…
"Ge," Xiao Wu said, "you be sure to eat as much as you need to alright?"
I found Tang San eating breakfast with Xiao Wu, his body a lot more chiseled than I last remembered. His limbs were like coiled springs, the sinews beneath all ready to erupt at a moment's notice, and I couldn't help but compare my noodle arms to his.
"Hey cousin," I greeted. "Glad to have you back." I nodded as well to Xiao Wu and took the further table.
Tang San wouldn't have minded me joining them, but I knew well enough how to read the mood. Xiao Wu needed her couple time. And yeah, it was pretty weird to be saying that but I guess the two of them were probably both old enough to know about those things.
Xiao Wu gave me a thumbs up from behind.
People trickled in, boss Dai, Zhuqing, Oscar, Hongjun, and Rongrong, then the teachers and breakfast was a bit more normal now compared to the rowdier ones when Tang San wasn't here. Everyone could more or less read the mood between the two, and no one wanted to intrude on that little corner of happiness.
Rongrong settled next to me with her plate of food. "Should we ask him now about his last project?"
"Eh," I said, "we've already waited two months for whatever he had to show, another day or two wouldn't hurt."
Turned out we never got to see them in action since Tang San said they were too precious to use on a demonstration. All that metal I gave him, about two carriages worth of goods, all turned into these twelve pairs of matte black metal balls he called Cluster Soul Chasing Balls. He also had this thing that looked like an all metal flashlight he called a Big Dipper Crushing Lance which he held with an almost hallowed reverence.
Not one to rain on his parade, I just assumed it was some deadly shit.
And hopefully the kind of deadly shit I'd only get to see and not feel the effecots for first hand.
That morning went by quick and the announcement to move to Heaven Dou empire couldn't have come sooner. Flender originally wanted to sell the land back to the village, but I offered him a bigger sum instead to move the ownership to me. Another hideout was always nice to have, and since I'd already begun processing the farmlands here, I figured might as well go all the way with it.
My grandpas ought to figure out what they needed to do with this place soon enough.
With that matter settled, we all broke into a run straight for the capital. As spirit masters and ones who had but up enough strength over the years or had come from good backgrounds, we all more or less had our own spirit tools so packing away was as simple as cleaning up.
We all packed light anyway, as people who were constantly in conflict—at least I wish I didn't turn out that way—we all knew better than to have too many material attachments.
The dean lead our group onwards, with uncle riding San Pao, and everyone else running on their own. Going by foot was much faster and cheaper, and since it was Flender leading the way, of course he wouldn't even consider hiring a carriage.
By my estimate, we'd reach the capital in as little as over a week with a relaxed pace, and as little as five days if we didn't bother with stopping over any major areas. We weren't in a rush, but we weren't looking to sightsee around either.
The journey—to everyone's surprise—didn't involve any horrible encounters along the way.
I was expecting at least some bandits attacking us or maybe some villages asking for help or something, but since we avoided any major population centers and didn't stick to any of the roads, we practically cut a straight line from our outskirts village and blazed a trail straight for the capital.
Flight was such a powerful ability whether in combat or not, and coupled with Flender's bird spirit's good eyesight, we were able to avoid any issues along the way. Not that anything could get in our way in the first place, but I wasn't willing to tempt fate with that.
Only idiots willingly raised their own death flags.
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