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34 Shadow Approach

    On their way back home, Nilo approached Daniel quietly, and said "Thanks.."

    Daniel didn't looked back at him, and instead, he said "No idea what you're talking about.."

    "You know, for preventing Finn from doing.." He paused for a little bit, then added "..something stupid."

    At first, Nilo wasn't sure why Daniel had told them to stay back, but when he saw a mask covering his face, he understood immediately.

    Daniel knew that, if someone could afford to behave like that group did, they would probably belong to a vicious and powerful group. And therefore, letting Nilo, Finn or the two sisters act, might have formed a grudge between their powers and the School of Everlasting Fury.

    That didn't mean that, if Daniel hadn't told them to stay put, they would have acted. The only person Daniel was convinced would have acted, was Finn. Nilo looked at things in an objective way, and Daniel wasn't sure that he would have chosen to put his friends and school in danger, just to save a little girl and her mother.

    That might sounds a bit cynical, but in a world dominated by power, betting the future of the people who took care of you just to play hero, was a dangerous thing.

    Finn was much more of a reckless person, but even him, after all that had happened, and after he had managed to calm himself down, realized of how much he would have risked if Daniel hadn't stopped him from acting.

    Maybe he would have jumped in, and killed one or more of those martial artist.. Causing their backing power to retaliate against his sect, by killing every disciple or members of their families.

    That was the reason why, many young talents that came from powerful schools, sects and families, decided to unconsciously shut down sympathy, and assume arrogant and elitist behaviours instead.

    An example of these types of people, was Miri.

    She wasn't a bad person, but because of the cynical views she was forced to adapt to in order to survive in this world, she had no choice but separate herself, from a world of needy people which she couldn't afford to help.

    A view that most young cultivator had to agree to, at some point in their life, was that 'It is much easier to act as a bad person, than suffer the consequences of being a good one.'

    Naturally, Daniel didn't have a clear picture of the characters of his sister's new friends. The reason why he told them to stay back, was because he didn't want to implicate his sister. That's why he had left the scene alone, and had worn a mask the whole time.

    Saving the others some trouble, was simply a consequence. Although, he now had a better opinion of the few of them. After all, in a world where acting had drastic consequences, intentions had a whole different meaning.

    The second, and probably just as important reason for preventing them to act, was the fact that he remembered the name of the school from which those martial artists came from.

    He had recognized it the very moment he read the optional reward for exterminating them. Which was gaining a bad reputation with the School of Everlasting Fury.. That was the same school whose master had accused Mea's father of treason, and caused her entire family to be wiped out.

    After changing his clothes, Daniel and the rest of the group went back to the old man's building.

    The little episode had granted Daniel with a few more, very much needed, karma points. With them, he had decided to finish his training within the next day, and attempt to breakthrough to the fourth rank that night.

    Unfortunately, when the next morning Daniel went to the training grounds, he didn't find the old master-at-arms waiting for him.

    He decided to head over to the old man's room, to see if he was there.

    -----

    *knock knock*

    Daniel knocked on the door twice, then heard a familiar voice coming from the other side "Come in." He then entered.

    What he found inside the large room, were at least forty young men and women. They were all quietly standing right next to the table where the old man, along with the old alchemist, were sitting.

    These forty young cultivators were divided into a dozen of smaller groups. Each of these groups had a different attires. Some groups wore heavy armors, and had halberds, swords and even shields strapped to their backs or by their waists, some others wore lighter armors and carried bows and arrows, short swords, and daggers, and a few carried no weapons at all.

    All of these small groups of cultivators belonged to a major school of martial arts, sect or family within the Karalis Kingdom.

    Daniel immediately recognized three of these people. On their back, a red fist surrounded by a bright yellow sun was neatly sewn. They were the three better dress members of the School of Everlasting Fury. The young man with the dirtied clothes, the girl he had talked to, and the third who had thrown the healing pill at him.

    "Oh, Daniel. Come here." Said the old master-at-arms while waving his hand at Daniel.

    Daniel walked past the large groups of young masters and mistresses, and approached the old man.

    The old man looked at him and said "I have to welcome these young masters and mistresses today, I won't be able to teach you personally. Here is the complete manual of 'Shadow Approach'.. Practice it by yourself and show me the results later today."

    The moment the words 'Shadow Approach' left the old man's mouth, everyone present which carried a bow, daggers or short swords looked at Daniel with eyes filled with greed. Each of these small groups belonged to powers which had tasked them to inherit specific arts from the old master-at-arms. And for the parties which practiced assassination, 'Shadow Approach' was one of those.

    The power which created 'Shadow Approach' was a sect called Quiet Steps Sect, and it specialized in assassination techniques. This sect was said to have found its demise due to the assassination of the descendent of an unknown powerful cultivator.

    And while this rumor hadn't been confirmed, the entire sect had been wiped out in the middle of the night. The only survivor was an elder, which due to his luck, was far from the sect's territory at the time.

    This elder had escaped to the capital, and after meeting with the king, unsure of his chances of survival, he decided to pass down his sect's arts to the Master-at-arms of the time. Master Kye's predecessor, which then passed down the arts to Master Kye himself. That had been the right decision, as the surviving elder of the Quiet Steps Sect disappeared just weeks after reaching the capital.

    The old man noticed the greedy looks on the faces of the present, and after turning to face Daniel once more, he added "..After you memorize the art.. Burn the book."

    A similar recommendation had been expected by the crowd of cultivators, whose greedy looks disappeared, and got replaced by their usual apparent calm state.

    Daniel walked towards the door, bus as he was about to leave, the voice of the old alchemist resounded in the room. It said "I'll be seeing you later this evening."

    The various boys and girls present started to wonder who the hell this brat was, and why was he being tutored by two of the most known teachers within the Karalis kingdom.

    One had to know that the two of them, weren't amongst the most powerful cultivators of the kingdom, as their cultivation strength was only at the seventh rank. The real reason why they were so deeply known and respected, was the vast knowledge they possessed.

    That was also why many powerful groups sent their young martial artists and mages to learn under the two men's wings. They would then come back, and become powerful cultivators under their power's arts and guidances.

    The Karalis kingdom had just came out from a devastating war, which had killed many of their powerful cultivators. The strongest cultivators within the kingdom, were no more than five rank 9 cultivators, and less than twenty who had reached the eight rank.

    All small groups inside the old man's private room, belonged to a major family, school of martial arts or sect. And each of these powers had at least a rank 8 amongst their members.

    For example, the School of Everlasting Fury not only had a master who was close to reaching the eight rank, but also had a living ancestor who had already reached that level, and had acted as the previous master before his retirement.

    Daniel nodded at the old alchemist and left the room.

    He went back to the training ground, sat on a stone bench, and started to quietly read the manual of 'Shadow Approach'.

    'Shadow Approach' was essentially the opposite of 'Ki Rush'. Its main purpose was to deaden one's steps through an equal and opposite exertion of ki. The difficult part was to calculate the right amount of ki needed to cushion every single step, as every small difference within one's weight would change the pressure exerted by their movements, and consequently, change the amount of ki required to dampen the noise completely.

    This, was much easier said than done. In fact, this skill was considered hard to learn even for martial cultivators at the Full Control sub-rank, which were completely aware of their bodies, along with any variations in the weight they carried.

    Once completely mastered, 'Shadow Approach' allowed one to cushion the pressure exerted by their steps to a point, where they would be able to step over the tip of a blade of grass without flattening it under their weight.

    Contrary from what many believed, the art's name hadn't been given thanks to a correlation with shadows or darkness. Instead, it was given by the fact that, once mastered, one would be able to approach their enemies as quietly as their own shadows did.

    This was, by far, the most difficult of the martial arts Daniel had ever practiced. After five full hours of practice, he had only managed to halve the noise he made when walking.

    Daniel didn't know, but that "small progress" was beyond anyone had ever managed. The elder who had passed down the skill to Master Kye's predecessor, had taken at least a year to reach the point Daniel had reached in just 5 hours.

    He still hadn't reached the minor stage, but he wasn't far from it.

    What Daniel didn't expect, was for the small task the old man had given him, to uncover a new way to use his system's powers. And that was, to memorize.

    Daniel was very intelligent, but not enough to memorize the entire manual of an advanced martial art in just a few minutes. Since the beginning, he had thought that it would have been better to just burn the book, and ask another copy the next day.

    But when he tried to memorize just enough to keep practicing for the rest of the day, the lengthy process of memorizing was shortened.

    The feeling Daniel felt was completely different from when he tried to learn a skill, as that was a matter of correcting his mistakes. He hadn't become smarter, nor had his memory been enhanced. It simply felt like, after a simple read, he had went through the words over and over again for various hours.

    In the end, Daniel managed to completely memorize the manual in just fifteen minutes, and after that, he created a ball of fire and burned the book into ashes.

    With the training method of each of the martial arts the old man had teached him in mind, Daniel had finished his martial training. All he needed to do before deciding which path to take, was to learn the third spiritual art from the old alchemist, and then make his choice.

    Before learning spells, Daniel had never considered becoming a spiritual cultivator. But after he had defeated the bandit mage, and learned control over elements and summoning spells, his mind had changed.

    Martial cultivation was his father's choice, and as much as he liked it, he was still thorn between the two paths.
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