Hardcore: Qi Worlds

Chapter 61

Benzhi was sweating profusely, he wasn't running around himself either, he was sending two qi streams out and manipulating one with Reyas and another with Anastasia at the same time.

He sat, in a meditative posse, it was all he could manage, while he layered qi on their eyes for qi sight and then shunpo'd and tree-run for both. Not only could they feel what was happening in their own bodies, they could witness each other as well.

It was hard work, in fact, all three were training, by assisting the pair Benzhi was expanding his manipulation and concentration capability. To think, Mother did three hundred actions at once, Benzhi could not comprehend conducting four streams let alone three hundred. It was also taxing his qi core, and like any muscle or skill, it improved with use.

Benzhi watched Reyas, she was layering qi on the soles of her feet after spectating for a couple of hours, she was able to sense and move her qi, now she just had to complete one more task. She had to shape the qi correctly, if she could do this, she would be able to Shunpo and Tree-run. It would also mean, she was not bound by her heredity qi techniques, she could learn new ones.

Reyas, was extremely talented and she was finding this difficult, Benzhi saw little point spreading the training further, at this stage, if it was indeed successful.

Anastasia and Reyas were now competing against one another, who could run up the tree first. They tried to hide the fact they were competing, but they could not help it. Anastasia had a head start, but Reyas was determined if anything. Benzhi's insight to manipulate his qi through her, allowing her to tree-run and shunpo had helped her confidence and belief that she could do it.

Because she had done it, just with Benzhi's aid. But that did not matter, her belief that it was possible was established because her body had completed the task.

Gisael looked on whilst practising her forms with two blades, trying to push qi out the second. She would stop for minutes in between each form and watch, before meditating and visualising the qi manipulation and form before beginning again. Benzhi was confident Gisael would crack dual qi blades before the end of the week. She was already sending tiny, unfocussed streams down her blade.

He recalled how difficult it was initially, to push qi out of your body. It did not want to leave, it lived within. Benzhi heard a crack, cry and laugh. He looked up. Reyas was lying flat on her back, laughing in triumph. She hopped to her feet, looking at Benzhi.

"Did you see that?" She called.

"Um, no," Benzhi looked sheepish.

"Dammit!" Reyas exclaimed, "I ran up the tree!"

"Great!" Benzhi said, "do it again," and he smirked at her.

Reyas growled at Benzhi, it a cute way. She turned and ran at the tree, running up ten, eleven, twelve strides and then fell backwards slamming into the ground again, the height was not insignificant.

"Ouch," she cooed, "my butt hurts."

"Why are you falling?" Benzhi asked, "once you have tree-run, keep it on. Let me watch." He dropped the connection to both Anastasia and Reyas.

Reyas ran at the tree again, Benzhi walked closer wanting to see what was happening. As she ran higher, they layer of qi discs on her feet reduced until they weren't enough to stick her to the tree. She fell again, this time she was higher, she ran twenty strides up the tree. 'Was she mad?' Benzhi thought and he tried to catch her, or at least break her fall.

Reyas landed in a heap on top of him. Benzhi had engaged qi body strength to lessen the blow, he figured stoneskin would just injure Reyas the same as hitting the ground.

"Oops, sorry," Reyas apologised, smiling like a Cheshire cat. She was jubilant. She had done it.

Benzhi gave Reyas a hug, grin and a pat on the back, "well done, but....this is dangerous, you will hurt yourself badly if you don't improve your control," Benzhi scolded her as he brushed himself off. "The qi discs are disappearing as you climb, you need to focus, perhaps practice on something not so dangerous or run up and down a few meters at a time," Benzhi advised.

Reyas nodded. Anastasia looked more determined than ever before, before the end of the day, she too was tree-running, however to her credit she was able to maintain the shape and level of qi discs required to not fall on her arse.

"No falling behind now," Benzhi beamed at Reyas, she couldn't be happier.

"I noticed the left-hand qi blade is improving Gisael," Benzhi stated simply looking at her as they walked back to the stronghold.

She nodded and in agreement and then contradicted herself, "I am not satisfied," Gisael was a hard person to please, her standards were high, especially for herself.

"It's been a big day, I don't know about you but I need rest," Benzhi said. He was exhausted both mentally and his qi core had been hammered from all the assistance he had given.

Kindeag grabbed Benzhi in the great hall, "we are going back after eating, we will work double shifts until we hit the motherload," he said in his thick accent.

"Motherload?" Benzhi asked.

"Aye, there be a mass of white silver I be aiming for, it won't be long if we work double shifts," Kindeag said.

"There is no emergency," Benzhi said, "we are happy to train for as long as needed. We have a long way to go too."

Kindeag shook his head, "Nay, I cannae sleep knowing its there now!"

 Each day the trio trained, improving their skills in leaps and bounds. Of the four Benzhi made the least progress, however, his manipulation, control and core had improved. But he was mainly acting as a teacher and conduit to enable the improvement of the three talented women.

 Reyas had gained an adept level of mastery over tree-running, shunpo and qi strike with a shield. She had learned how to charge the shield, eking small amounts of qi into it consistently. Although a qi strike with the shield bash was not strictly a manipulation skill to be learned like shunpo, it still required the user to push qi into the shield and activate a strike upon impact.

Anastasia had started to train with a normal two-handed sword and she had determined she wanted to use a bow. This took Reyas and especially Gisael aback, but much to Benzhi's surprise Gisael was actually happy to train her. Anastasia was still a novice with sword and bow. However where she shined was qi manipulation. She was better at tree-run and shunpo than Reyas, closing on an adept level. Anastasia had also learned to enhance her strength with qi body technique to a novice level. She had only begun training qi arrow and could not bring out the effect yet. She also relied on training from Gisael for this skill, Benzhi had never even attempted using a wood elf bow.

Benzhi was happy that Anastasia would learn the bow, it gave the group a better balance.  Two bows, two spears, one dual wield sword and one two-handed sword.

Gisael had shown great progress with qi blade, she had mastered it in her right and was at an adept level in her left hand. Benzhi was impressed she could affect both at once, he knew it required focus to complete two qi tasks at once and three was extremely difficult unless two of them were instinctive.

Gisael had begun to work on shunpo and was at a novice level, she was completing qi body speed at the same time, which was also at a novice level. The qi body techniques were more difficult than any others except healing, in fact, they had a lot in common with healing. Shunpo was merely manipulating qi on the soles of your feet, where qi body strength, qi body speed and all the qi body techniques were manipulating qi throughout the body.

Benzhi had progressed to being able to maintain qi body strength, speed and shunpo all at the same time, throughout his whole body. This was a significant improvement for him as previously he could only do speed or strength, never both, and had switched from one to another during a fight.

This training went on for almost two weeks while the dwarven masters crafted the requested weapons.

The group were requested to wait in the great hall before dinner was to be served. All the dwarves filed in, no one was going to miss the presentation. The community and especially the crafters were proud of their work and while they did not partake in the glory of the battlefield, the presentation of the newly crafted masterwork weapons was their version of a victorious battle.

"All be seated and quiet," called Bhar, she had taken on the role of the speaker on this occasion. The dwarves were capable of change, it just took longer.

"Tonight we present our Vanguard," said Bhar she indicated the four. Benzhi looked at Gisael, Anastasia had not been officially accepted yet. Gisael merely sat statuesquely, showing no concern, 'sometimes she looked like an angel,' Benzhi thought.

"With the weapons crafted by our Master Crafters," she paused to cheers all around. "This be a special night, cos these weapons be mithril." Which attracted oos and murmurs from the crowd.

Benzhi looked confused, no one said anything about Mithril, they said white silver and vanadium.

"I will be explaining, for those who are not dwarves may not understand," Bhar smiled at the Vanguard, "Mithril be the combining of the white silver and vanadium into the perfect mixture. It is an art only a few forges can attain and fortunately for you, our master forger Bruden be one of them." More uproarious cheering from the dwarves they were proud of Master Bruden, he was a senior amongst them talented and knowledgeable to boot.

Standing Barrin began to speak, "the Master Crafters who assisted making these fine weapons will bring them in to present when called. As Barrin called the master they walked into the hall carrying the masterwork weapon.

"First, we have a spear for Benzhi," Barrin boomed to more cheering which stopped when the dwarves saw the spear being carried in. "We had studied Benzhi fighting from when the Vanguard led our exodus. This weapon is designed to enhance his fighting style."

Barrin lifted the weapon to explain, "In the centre of the spear is a handle, as you can see it has a long grip which will allow it to be wielded one-handed and spun, thrust or sliced. When thrusting, you use the pointy end," Barrin joked and the dwarves duly laughed, "which will be done one-handed using centre or rear grip. When slicing the outer edge of the point is used and will not be as effective as a blade, but it will cut, it will use the centre grip and spun to effect a small cut. The spear is balanced for all grips with enhancement from the runes. That brings us to the most important part. The runic design."

Barrin took a deep breath, you could hear a pin drop, "as aforementioned, there has been a rune to balance the spear, to assist in one-handed use. The bladed edge has an incisor pattern which will assist the cutting and the spearhead has a rotating drill runic design. It will penetrate the strongest armour or hide, no matter what it be. It will also be easy to pull out, as the drill can reverse, with a reverse of the qi flow."

"Lastly we have enhanced the strength of the weapon. It will not break or wear, it will never need sharpening. In my humble opinion, It is the perfect spear for Benzhi. I could not have made better," Barrin finished and the dwarves roared their approval.

Benzhi stood, tears in his eyes and accepted the spear. It was truly a masterpiece. "I have no words, all I can think of is thank you," Benzhi said.

A second dwarf walked in with a staff with a spearhead at one end and a blade at the other.

Barrin held Reyas' staff aloft, "this spear is different to Benzhi's because it is not a spear!" Barrin liked to entertain the crowd when presenting his masterpieces, events like this did not happen often enough it seemed. "It is a staff with spearhead at one end and a blade on the other. It is a two-handed weapon. It is also longer, The runic patterns are the similar, drill, balance, incisor, strength, grip and durability."

Another Dwarf walked in with a large two-handed sword.

"And we have the two-handed sword for Anastasia," Barrin announced, "this is a fine blade, it is designed for thrust, slice and cleave. The weight and power of the cleave have been enhanced to cut through the thickest of limbs, the user will need to master the qi body strength technique in order for this rune to reach its full potential. It has a total of six runic magics embedded into the blade, the three offensive runes as well as strength, balance and durability. It is the first blade I have ever made with six runes."

There was applause for Barrin again, from everyone including Benzhi's group, he had no idea of the difficulty of constructing six runes into a blade, but it sounded like it was rare and required the greatest of skill. There was not the same commotion for the spears which had six runes also.

"Lastly, we have a surprise," Barrin spoke. "The armourer, Master Gromnock, could not be left out from working with the mithril and we had enough to craft two picks and these." Gromnock walked in holding two curved plates, with straps on the back.

"These are shinguards for Benzhi to wear, over leather armour when it is ready. They are designed not for defence but for offence. We have noticed," he paused and smiled, "Benzhi likes to bash with his shield," Barrin received another round of laughter, "and it occurred to Gromnock that while he was spinning and whirling there may be a missed opportunity to kick or sidekick an enemy. As Benzhi cannot wear boots or anything on his feet, we designed these. They will qi strike on impact and effect a stun, they have runes for stoneskin, strength, strike and stun."

It felt like Christmas. There were congratulations, hugs, toasts, cheers and tears all round.

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