Deep within the Ghost Maw woods, Kairos found himself blocked by a weird old man. A few hours ago, they had detected the enemy troops entering this forest after them. Judging by the speed of their progress, they should still be mounted.
The guys bleakly noticed that no matter how they twist or turn, the distance between them only shortened. At that point, they could only suspect that their opponents could somehow manage to trace them regardless of the way they conceal their tracks. And if that is truly so, then choosing to run into this forest was a terrible choice that will only cause them to be caught.
But just as they believed it hopeless and their position would be exposed, their enemies suddenly changed directions and ran off, deeper into the forest.
At first, the guys had thought that somehow they managed to lose their enemies, but things had gone so smoothly without effort, that an inkling of doubt remained on their minds.
Their anxiety, however, were soon answered, with a laughter that seemed to echo throughout the forest yet when the boys scanned with their soul perception only to realise that it is constrained to only their immediate surroundings.
The guys fanned out into a circle, drawing their weapons.
The laughter repeated exactly as before.
As the laughter sounded the third time, suddenly, an old man with twigs in his great long beard and flowers in his silvery white hair appeared out of a leaf pile from the ground between them.
“AHH!!” Jim screamed at the head next to his feet and he jumped backwards instinctively. His speed and agility could be seen as he bounced off tree trunks and neatly landed on the branches somewhere above them in a blink of an eye.
Kairos’ entire group immediately leaped backwards at the same time, more surprised by Jim’s over-reaction than by sudden appearance of the old man.
After recovering from their initial shock, Edward trained his bow on the ‘head’ as he calmed his breath.
“Who are you” Kairos said, as he stepped out from behind the old man, using the long reach of his weapon to keep a distance. He could feel an odd sensation coming from the person, like that of an immortal but somehow ‘lacking’.
The old man continued laughing at a hilarious joke that no one but him could hear.
“Let’s go” Kairos declared, ignoring the guy, and the group moved off once again. But just after a few steps, the old man popped out once again, and this time from a hole in a tree.
“WAAAAA!!!” Jim called out. The head has appeared next to him like before, and he leaped backwards at once but this time before he could escape, Vouno grabbed the boy by his shirt and halted him.
“Just who are you?” Vouno asked, still holding the struggling boy.
“How, how how? How, could you and you train to this level? Hmmmm?” The old man disappeared and reappeared next to Vouno, then with a flash, leaped to Kairos’ shoulders and sat down like a great ape.
“How could you cultivate? Why?” *HAHAHAHAA*
“Was it you that had hidden us?” Kairos asked the old man on his shoulders.
“Yes? Yes! …. Yes yes yes yes yes!! I’ve hidden you so well! No one shall see, no one!” He clapped his hands gleeful, but his feet continued to grip tightly.
“Thank you old sir, whoever you are”
“Who am I? WHO? I do not know? Who am I? Do you know who I am?”, the old man twisted his head to the sides, left then right -- thinking hard -- then scratched it and repeated his question.
“Umm.. no I don’t?” Kairos replied with a sigh.
The others are standing further away uneasy about the whole situation but they did not sense any hostility from this odd fellow. Vouno looked at him and gestured with a hand, indicating they had a nut job among them.
“You don’t? I don’t either. HAHAHAHAHAA!!!” The old man laughed, making himself comfortable, sitting on Kairos.
“What about your name?” They asked him out of curiosity.
“My name? I’m called…hmm… who are you?! Why are you asking my name?”
“Uh, it’s okay. Forget I asked” Kairos sighed for the second time.
Giving up on communication, he instead sent a trace of soul perception into the old man through his feet, in an attempt to search for information himself. The quick inspection caused the boy to shudder, nearly shaking the old man off.
“Stand still young fellow. Young people now a days have such weak legs, maybe Enki should teach you how to properly stand? Hmm? You’ll love that? That’s good. Very enthusiastic! Good good! Let’s start now you say? Okay! Let’s begin!” He said cheerfully, though no one replied him throughout.
Vouno walked forward, seeing his son in distress, “Boy, what’s wrong?”
“He... he’s dying father” Kairos whispered.
But before he could continue with another word, the old man on his shoulders silenced him with a simple tap to his head and he found himself no longer able to speak. Kairos immediately became still of movement, and then like a puppet moved to will of the old man called Enki, he began walking forward in the direction of his friends.
Then everyone, including Kairos himself, widened their eyes in shock because after seconds of walking, Kairos’ position actually went further away from them.
“WAHAHAHAA!! Surprised? Good good! This is how you walk backwards while walking forward. Enki invented this! You learn fast, so we will go to the next!”
With another tap on his head, Kairos began to dance. It was a series of movement unlike anything they had seen before. He continually tapped the ground with his feet, and with every tap he appears as if floating on air. He hovered about the place disappearing from one place and appearing in another. It was simply enchanting to look, similar to how lightning flashes across the sky.
“Good good! This is the Lightning flicker body. Enki invented this! You learn fast, so we will go to the next!”
They began to forget about the oddness in this situation and start studying the movements Kairos is doing, and repeating it in their minds.
With another tap on his head, he found Enki’s energy entering him and rushing to his Dantian.
In a panic, he tried to fight it off, but even with the dragonlings’ help within him the energy was unstoppable. The power of the old man course through him like a fast river, and entered his Ki centre. From there, it began diffusing towards all parts of his body, and the new energy started guiding the Ki within himself to start glowing. In his mind, he heard an unfamiliar chant of a martial art. A martial incantation.
As he repeated it mentally, the power infused by the old man showed him on how to move his Ki and the glow of Ki coming out within him began to turn from a pure white, into a full spectrum of colors. Then suddenly the glow seemed to disappear.
Involuntarily, Kairos started walking once again. Then without warning, he appeared right behind Jim, giving the boy a third scare.
“GAHHH!!!!!” The young saboteur rolled forward in alarm, and pulled out the daggers he had just kept.
“Oh man, you scared me. I hate ghostly-like things like this. Wait.. that’s odd, why couldn’t I detect Kairos with my soul perception? I thought he is still….” He turned his eyes back to where Kairos was walking towards them and saw another Kairos still walking towards them.
The boy’s face instantly paled. There are two Kairos! Meaning, that one of them is a ghost?!
“It’s a movement mirage that could throw even our soul perception off” Jones explained while rolling his eyes. His understanding came more from instincts and his immense talent more than actual knowledge, then he continued, “I think he created an double of himself using light”
“Good good! You seemed to learn it already! More? Did I hear you ask for more? Okay! Enki will give you the best moves. Hmm how about a defensive one? You’re so weak you couldn’t stand properly… yes? You’ll love that? That’s good. Very enthusiastic! Good good! Let’s start now you say? Okay! Let’s begin!” He said, much more enthusiastic than anyone.
Before Kairos could react mentally, he felt his skin crawl as a new form of energy entered him through the crown of his head. This time, the energy is so powerful that it made the previous infusion seem like a droplet of water in comparison.
Along with the power, new information appeared in his mind, including the whisper of a cryptic martial incantation and its training methods. Then Enki’s energy started rushing towards his Dantian like before, to take control of his Ki and activate the new skill forcefully taught to him. When all of the energy disappeared into his Ki centre, he noticed that there is a new seal that had formed within him. An unknown thing that was left by Enki. But before he could study it, the unreasonable energy came out of his Dantian and flooded him to the brink of exploding.
Though immobile, he looked downwards using only his eyes and saw runic tattoos that he could not recognise began appearing underneath his skin. Those runes immediately triggered the physical cultivation runes that Kairos already has, and the two sets of tattoos started to fight against each other fiercely.
“Odd, Odd, Oddity! Peculiar, unique and strange!
Boy you have funny runes on you already! Die die you’re going to die soon. HAHAHAHAHA” He laughed and then started looking around into air.
The two martial arts within Kairos continued to clash, and each set of runes began to draw strength from him in order to fight off the other. He could feel that though crazy, the old man is correct, because if this carries on he will soon die from losing all his energy.
He immediately felt the puppet-ting effects from Enki disappearing, as the old man seem deflated of interest after declaring his fate. Taking the chance of this moment, he activated his formless style. The heart to this technique is the spirit of each martial art, without being set in the form, and he wished to use this to save himself.
“Though all martial arts are unique, they are also the same. Nothing ever leaves the source” He whispered, seemingly trying to encourage himself, and he closed his eyes in concentration.
The mad old man mumbled so quickly that his words seemed to be strung together, but all of them could hear him clearly nevertheless, “All martial arts…. Unique? Truly truly so!! But how are they the same? How how how? How could you cultivate with a talentless body like yours? How?... Nothing leeaaaaavvveeeees the source? What is that?! Source. ..SOOoooourCE… I get it! You are talking about the destination of Dao aren’t you? That is the source. All martial arts brings you towards the source, all martial arts cannot leave the source.. I get it I get it!”
“I don’t get it” Vouno said, shaking his head.
“Don’t look at me guys. Kairos’ the smart one, ask him” Jones groaned a reply, his head hurts just from hearing this new absurd concept.
Upon Kairos’ shoulders, the man suddenly stood up and roared a question towards the sky, “Is this Dao? THIS IS DAO?”
When he spoke the last 3 words, he suddenly appears to have understood the meaning behind Kairos’ words, and the ground seemed to shake as the heavens quiver.
Amid the quaking, Edward suddenly seemed to remember something from the word ‘Dao’ and he spoke, “I remember Kairos saying something similar like this back in the training grounds. Something like… there is no correct or wrong martial arts, only complete and incomplete ones…?”
“And also, all skills* are cultivation. All cultivations are Dao. And all Dao are one” Kairos suddenly reopened his eyes and said. His skin is now glowing with the combination of Enki’s runes and his own.
“Oh great, you learned it? Hmmm no? You’re still only a hatchling…” A dagger magically appeared on Enki’s hand, and he slashed downwards at Kairos without hesitation. The cut was so incredibly fast that no one could react, and even Kairos found no time to register it in his mind, much less defend himself.
When the edge slid past, his sleeve is immediately sliced off, revealing a red line on his arm but otherwise there were not even a drop of blood. However, behind his arm, a deep cut appeared within the forest ground. Without any explosion, flash of light or even raising dust. Just a cut like someone thrusted his weapon deep into the earth.
“Great! The titan skin technique… Enki is the best. Enki invented this!” The old man danced on Kairos’ shoulders gleefully with perfect balance.
At this time, in another part of the forest, a soldier removed his helmet and threw it angrily on the floor.
His pale blue eyes, crazed with anger, scanned the woods that he had already traversed many times but to no result.
“Kairos... where are you?” Syriong growled.
*- The word ‘skill’ here is its general term, and it not only covers martial arts but also other things like dancing, singing or even calligraphy. Cultivation is supposed to be a process of ‘enlightenment’ which could occur to someone during any form of skill, dependant on the person.
In XianXia genre, a song could destroy the souls of all who listened. A dance could turn mountains into dust. A single written word could damage one’s mind or make another instantly increase in rank (Cultivation improvement).
The requirement is that one must be able to find meaning within that skill / art / technique.