The meeting went on for a little while longer, with some basic details explained about the organization of the Thorned Lotuses—now subsumed by the Benevolent Durians. After that, Uswah returned with documents for the two techniques that Arthur was particularly interested in, warning him not to lose the copies. Without photocopying machines and the like, the documents had to be handwritten, leaving them with only a few precious copies.
“I got it, I got it. No losing them,” Arthur said. “Not as though I’m going anywhere.”
Uswah just glared at him until he bobbed his head in an agreeable indication before she left, allowing the next group to arrive. In this case, more members of the Lotuses. Thankfully, they had all been briefed about asking further questions, though Arthur made sure to reiterate his rules and watch for any rebelliousness.
No surprise that his first rule garnered minor indicators of dislike. Yet, no one protested. All he could do, Arthur knew, was prove himself. Coming into an existing organization was never easy and it would take time for them to know him, to trust him. And for him to earn their true loyalty.
He just hoped he didn’t have to bleed and die with them for that to happen. He was a little tired of constantly being in life-and-death situations.
“Alright, that’s the fifth batch. Exactly how many more do you guys have?” Arthur asked, eyeing the notification in the corner of his gaze.
Clan Members: 88
“Just over two dozen more, but they’re all out of the building right now. We’ll sort them out tonight,” Mel said.
Amah had disappeared, heading off to speak with their former allies to smooth matters out. Arthur had asked if he should go but had been turned down. Initially, she muttered that she wanted to feel them out. More formal meetings would happen later, when expectations had been worked out.
As always, taking time to discuss matters slowly and privately, in advance of any public meetings, would help prevent the clan from collapsing in on itself, A risk even Arthur had to admit was quite possible.
“Now what?” Arthur said.
Mel shook her head. “Jan’s looking for the beggars. And Yao Jing hasn’t returned yet. So I think we’re good.” She pointed to his books. “Maybe read those? Or cultivate? You’re still a little . . .”
“Bare? A lousy brood mare?” Arthur said, grimacing as he touched his chest. “I’d say you’re right but I’m not sure I’ll stay uninterrupted long enough. So I’ll read.”
“I’ll leave you to it. I’ll be outside. Call if you need anything.”
Waving goodbye idly, Arthur was already reaching for the contents of the library. He hoped he could find something useful, something that could spark further refinement of his abilities. Or hell, teach him how to protect himself better.
He was getting tired of being beaten up, even if that process had helped him gain his most powerful skill thus far: Grade III of Accelerated Healing. Then again, that was life, wasn’t it? Everything had two sides, if you looked at it properly.
Just a question if you were willing to look at it in the right way.
Though, thinking of Uswah, he could not help but wonder what kind of silver lining losing an arm might have.
The Bark Skin technique recorded by the Thorned Lotuses came in a series of manuals, with repeatedly crossed out words, sections taken apart and disputed by other scholars of the technique. It was a real mess, and after attempting to read through the first few pages as a study guide, Arthur switched tactics. He proceeded to skim the entire document, searching for an overall understanding of the technique rather than studying it in detail.
Perhaps then the various passages would make more sense.
Once he had finished reading through the documents twice, skimming once and closely reading once, Arthur could not help but sit back to contemplate the technique. That is, after the latest interruption, a question about the treasury which was, well, something to be dealt with.
In theory, Bark Skin was simple enough to enact.
Like all other Skin techniques, this was about reinforcing the outermost layer of protection in an individual. There was a whole section in the notes talking about the multiple layers of “skin” a human body had, and how this particular technique seemed to only reinforce the outer layer. The notes included speculation that other methods both improved the kind of reinforcement and the number of layers.
Arthur had found the idea intriguing and potentially even correct, but since it was all speculation, had dismissed it. Really, outside of the speculative elements and discussions and arguments about the right way to make the technique work, basics on how to perform the actual technique could have been summarized in a few pages.
Upon that realization, Arthur made his way to the door and requested pen and paper. It took nearly a quarter of an hour for the simple request to arrive, along with some tea. A testament to the degree of disorganization in his supposed organization.
Thankfully, when Arthur poked his head out again later, he noticed that Mel was seated outside, literally with a desk in place and barking orders at people. It seemed that some form of organization was being put in place.
Along with her playing his bodyguard, he assumed.
Over tea, he read over the cultivation exercise again and organized his thoughts. Then jotted down his own streamlined notes for the Bark Skin technique.
The entire process took him over an hour, but he had to admit that it was worth the effort. As any good student could tell you, writing the technique down helped embed the information in his mind even further.
In the end, when Arthur stood up, cracked his back, and was ready to actually start practicing the technique, he was certain he understood the rules quite well. Even more than the Focused Strike technique he had studied as his very first technique.
Which was, of course, when he was interrupted.