"I've caused danger to my master and the other disciples by letting them stay at the secret villa that Grace prepared. Someone needs to take responsibility for everything."
For a while, Garen still had slightly complicated feelings. After all, Grace was someone who had followed him for so long. The feeling of killing someone he was familiar with was different from killing a complete stranger.
Using his empty hand to search Grace's body for a while, he found a set of keys, a black leather wallet, a silver handgun and some documents.
Grace's figure was so curvaceous that even Garen could not help but grope her large breasts a few times, just to feel even more disappointed. He thought it was a waste that he had to kill such a capable and beautiful woman.
Fortunately, he was not some sort of perverted noble. Otherwise, he might first rape Grace before killing her, or even keep and train Grace as a sex slave after capturing her.
He carried her corpse to the dumpster on the opposite side and stuffed it inside. Taking out a lighter from his pants, he lit it up and threw it into a huge bag of shredded paper that was inside the dumpster.
The dumpster quickly caught on fire that slowly grew larger as white smoke gradually drifted into the air. Then the red flames lit up Grace's clothes and completely enveloped her corpse within the fire. The fair and delicate skin of her corpse started to turn yellow as oil seeped out from her skin, then her corpse turned black and completely turned into coke.
The air was filled with a strong smell of burnt meat.
Garen silently watched as Grace's beautiful face was completely burned beyond recognition before he slowly walked out of the alleyway.
There were several vagrants lying in the alleyway and were all knocked out using small stones. With the current strength of Garen's Vibration that came along with the Mammoth Secret Technique, it was an easy matter to completely knock all of them unconscious.
The smoke in the alleyway was getting bigger as Garen left. He quickly returned to Circling Dance Gate using the same route he came from.
He only spent half an hour to go there and back.
A young girl was holding a broom and cleaning the yard when Garen returned. After politely greeting her, he went back to the room that was arranged for him and sat down at the table with the precious Secret Martial Arts manuals.
For now, he had to put aside the situation in Huaishan City. Since Grace was a traitor, Celestial Circle Gate definitely knew where he was. He had no intentions of fleeing either. With so many people from the Southern Twelve Gates gathered here, it might be the best location to confront the Celestial Circle Gate and that mysterious organization. If he were to flee to another location, he might jeopardize his master and fellow disciples in Huaishan City. This upcoming war was inevitable.
The current situation was very simple. As long as he could block Andrela and protect White Cloud Gate, everything would be fine. The other factions would not behave like rats leaving a sinking ship. However, once he—the final hope of White Cloud Gate—was defeated, then they would be a sitting duck for other factions.
Putting aside Grace's matter, he moved the cooled coffee to one side and started to carefully open the secret manual of the Boulder Martial Art.
At the same, the Boulder Martial Art selection gradually appeared within the Skill Pane in his field of vision.
"Boulder Martial Art: Uninitiated (Three levels in total), Learning Requirement: At least 1.00 in Vitality, Strength, and Agility."
This particular Secret Martial needed at least fifteen years to complete each level. It took a lot of time and the initial learning requirement was high. It was also the main reason why low grade Secret Martial Arts were disfavored.
On the other hand, the main problem for Boulder Martial Art was that the learning requirement needed Vitality, Strength, and Agility to be at least 1.00, and that was the average for an adult male.
This meant that only the body of an adult could satisfy the basic requirement for learning this Secret Martial Art.
The fact that every level needed fifteen years to complete was another important reason. If a Secret Martial Art needed fifteen years to get to the initiated stage and was only an inferior martial art, nobody would be stupid enough to practice it.
Garen took another look at the description of the result after mastering the Boulder Martial Art.
"When the Boulder Martial Art has been mastered, the body of the practitioner will be as hard as a boulder. Qi and blood will continuously circulate throughout the body, putting the body in the strongest defensive state all the time. Body speed will uniformly experience a significant growth. This Secret Martial Art was derived from the indestructibility of boulders in mountain ranges. After mastering the Boulder Martial Art, Qi and blood will blend together and become abnormally hard, while tranquilizing the mind. It will have a positive effect on irritable practitioners as well."
Garen suddenly remembered Jaimea Lilliette. Her cold appearance might have been caused by practicing this Secret Martial Art. He guessed that it might not be entirely from it but could have learned from it.
"Could this really aid growth in body speed?" Garen was feeling slightly expectant.
Garen immediately stood up and took a pose according to the first diagram. At the same time, he followed the breathing instructions and the method to adjust his Qi and blood. His mind gradually entered the calm state mentioned by the secret manual.
However, ten minutes later, Garen suddenly felt a slight itchiness in his chest and abdomen, as if his organs were itching. Soon after more than ten seconds later, his skin and muscles were starting to slightly itch as well.
It was not really itchy, but was just a slight feeling.
The situation was similar to what was described in the secret manual. The Secret Martial Art would only consider to be initiated when the itchiness appeared, grew stronger, and finally subsided.
However, the current itchiness was very weak. Garen came to conclusion that he was practicing at the wrong time. There must be a reason that the secret manual stated that the Boulder Martial Art must be practiced in the middle of the night.
Dinah City railway station
In the dead of the night, a white, luxurious train gradually stopped at the empty railway station.
The middle door of the carriage opened and a series of passengers wearing various kinds of casual clothes got off the train. Some of them looked like students, while others looked like tourists and there were even workers and intellectuals among them. There were all kinds of attires, but all of them had one thing in common, and that was they were all wearing a silver cross star symbol on their chest.
After most of the passengers got off, but three men and two women slowly alighted.
Among the five of them, only one man was an elderly in his sixties, while the other four were young.
A long-haired young man was leading the other three as they quietly and slowly got off the train.
"We've finally reached Dinah City. If we didn't receive the news that Garen came over here, we wouldn't have to switch to another train halfway through." The long-haired man was slightly shaking his head in frustration. His left eye was covered by a black eyepatch while his right pupil was a rare dark golden. He had waist length hair, wore a black coat and had a mysterious aura.
"How is it? Andrela, Dinah City is the territory of Seven Moon Gate. Are you confident?" The old man raised his head and looked at the sign—that displayed the station name—hanging above them within the train station.
"I'm fine." Andrela smiled and lightly touched the slender sword hanging at his waist that was hidden by his coat.
"Speaking of which, you've been at the Grandmaster of Combat level for quite a while. This time, you might be able to find an opportunity to advance." The old man was feeling slightly emotional and expectant.
Andrela only smiled. "Grandmasters of Combat are far more superior than normal people and are no longer afraid of guns and bullets. It's even classified as a non-human realm. There are even some Grandmasters of Combat that believe that they're no longer mortal and view normal people as ants. Even though that kind of path was powerful, it is not the path I want to walk. That's why I've stopped progressing for so long."
The old man was slightly surprised. This was his first time hearing this head disciple of Celestial Circle Gate voice out his opinion. "Then what kind of a path are you trying to walk?"
"Grandmasters of Combat are classified into Righteous and Immoral, and the difference lies in the fighting styles. A Righteous style doesn't hide its moves and uses momentum to pressure opponents. An Immoral style uses endless amounts of secret techniques. They each have their own merits. I have not figured out my third path. However, I feel that it's close… Grade D… is not the end..." Andrela's eyes were flashing with an indescribable gaze. "Martial arts should be endless."
"That's our hope as well." The old man patted Andrela's shoulder with a hint of gratification in his eyes. "To be unburdened by unnecessary emotions, as expected of my disciple!"
Andrela slowly shook his head. "Master, there are some people and things that were only buried in history. I am not the first Grandmaster of Combat that has walked on this path."
"I know." The old man nodded. "Let's go, bring along the glory of Celestial Circle Gate. Nobody will be able to stop you in this war of unification!"
"That's what I thought as well." Andrela smiled as he strode out. The other three followed after him, as if they were bodyguards protecting him.
Late at night
Circling Dance Gate
Garen was sitting cross-legged in the center of the cold dojo.
The muscles in his entire body were slowly wriggling around, as if there were countless earthworms crawling all over his body.
"Even though I've become a Grandmaster of Combat, I still don't understand true meaning of it." He was constantly adjusting the Qi and blood within his body and also his condition by following the method provided by the Boulder Martial Art.
"Su Lin once said that a Grandmaster of Combat is a Martial Adept that has reached the limits of the human body in a certain aspect. Their skills have been thoroughly tempered and they no longer have any fatal flaws.
"However, is it really true that the limits of the human body were just this low? Even though I can withstand a bullet, I am helpless against bombs and artillery shells." Both of Garen's hands were slowly raised above his head.
With a low roar, all of the muscles in his body suddenly expanded. It was not the expansion of the Mammoth Secret Technique, but a very little amount of muscle expansion instead.
"A Martial Adept that has reached the limits of the human body and is also the number one expert of the younger generation, Andrela." Garen's eyes were faintly filled with a trace of expectation. It was a kind of a true expectation toward an opponent of the same level.
Suddenly, within the Skill Pane in his field of vision, the Boulder Martial Art selection slowly changed.
"Boulder Martial Art: Rudimentary Level (Three levels in total)"
Suddenly, he thought of something.
Garen slowly stood and slowly performed the Four Major Forms of White Cloud Combat Arts. He was entirely immersed within the limit state of the Mammoth Secret Technique. However, he was not using the special breathing technique of Mammoth Secret Technique, but the breathing technique of Boulder Martial Art.
It was as if the Boulder Martial Art and Mammoth Secret Technique were reacting to each other. Garen was entirely immersed within the casual execution of the chain combination of the Four Major Forms.
The Boulder Martial Art selection, that was just displaying Rudimentary Level, immediately started to slowly disappear.
The strange part was that the Mammoth Secret Technique was slowly disappearing as well. They were replaced by an entirely new Secret Martial Art and a symbol slowly appeared behind it.
"Mammoth Variant Secret Technique: Explosive Level."
Garen looked toward the symbol behind it.
"First level of stabilization of Qi and blood: The integration of Qi and blood within the body can reflect damage back to the opponents. Originated from Boulder Martial Art. Can advance to higher levels through training Boulder Martial Art."
Reading the meaning of the symbol, he was slightly surprised. "The main effect of Boulder Martial Art is the powerful defense. I didn't think that its effects could actually stack with the Mammoth Secret Technique. However, the text behind states that it can advance to a higher level through training Boulder Martial Art. However, why isn't there any reaction from Iron Body? It should be combinable as well!"
He slowly recovered his posture and focused his attention on the Iron Body selection.
He suddenly thought of something and slowly performed the Iron Body as he executed the Four Major Forms.
After a few minutes, Iron Body slowly disappeared as well.
Then, the symbol behind Mammoth Variation Secret Technique slightly changed. It changed into two: one of them was stabilization of Qi and blood, the other was hardening of the epidermis.
"First level of stabilization of Qi and blood: The integration of Qi and blood within the body can reflect damage to opponents. Originated from Boulder Martial Art. Can advance to higher levels through training Boulder Martial Art."
"First level of hardening of the epidermis: Hardness of the skin rises and is capable of resisting injuries from highly sharp weapons. Originated from Iron Body. Can advance to higher levels through training Iron Body."
All of his Secret Martial Arts that were Body Hardening Techniques were fused together and he was only left with a variant Secret Martial Art.