"Alright. Let's go see that adorable chubby Bovini first. I haven't seen him for a while, I quite miss him," Garen couldn't help but laugh.
"Miss his money, you mean?"
Cynthia looked contemptuous.
Garen didn't mind. Both of them walked out of the stairwell one after the other. The students around them stared at them in awe as they exited the main dojo and stepped into a white horse carriage.
"Oh yeah, how is Master now?"
"Very well. His body is well maintained. But for some reason, he just hasn't woken up all this while." Cynthia had now become Garen's full-time secretary, replacing Grace's original role. This was the initial purpose for which the corporation sent her. Ironically, it wasn't achieved then, but achieved now after she has left the corporation.
"He hasn't woken up all this while?" Garen frowned. He suddenly thought of the illusory tactics that Sylphalan previously used. "Could it be them?"
"What did you say?"
"Nothing, let's go," Garen snapped out of his daze and said calmly.
Ever since defeating Andrela, his mind possessed a kind of fearless and strong confidence, as if there was nothing to fear in the world, and in the face of everything his body would be able to adapt seamlessly and he could confront it head on.
This was the characteristic of his strong Qi and blood, to the extent that it was at a non-human level. He wasn't sure if other Grandmasters of Combat felt this way, but it was apparent for him.
The horse carriage moved slowly, and the street on both sides gradually moved backwards.
It was now early spring. On the streets of Huaishan, some farmers carried baskets of fresh vegetables for sale.
The surface of the streets was wet; it was obvious that it had rained yesterday.
Soon, their white horse carriage stopped in front of a black marble building.
The chubby Bovini was smiling ear to ear, standing at the entrance with some people. There were bruises all over his face and body. A piece of white gauze was stuck to his forehead, and one of his eyes was so swollen it couldn't open.
"Welcome, welcome Mr Garen. The directors and I have been waiting for you for a long time."
The rest of the people around him started guffawing. Every one of them was like him, bruised all over; they looked extremely awkward.
Garen calmly said from the carriage, "You have to understand, some things are not yours to keep. Hand it over obligingly and leave Huaishan. In view of our previous friendship, I'll decide on behalf of my master: I won't pursue this matter further."
After he finished speaking, his gaze turned to Cynthia who was sitting by his side.
The latter nodded, held her handbag and stepped out of the carriage.
"Leave it to me over here. You get going. I will properly handle all the transfer documents," Cynthia said assuredly.
"Just transfer it all back under Master's name." Garen didn't need these properties. With his current status, if he wanted to make money right now, it would be a walk in the park.
"I'll make a move first then. Uncle is still waiting for me."
The horse carriage slowly started moving again, taking Garen to the other side where Pennington Street was.
His uncle's family on his wife's side had already been dissatisfied about inheritance matters for quite some time now.
Now that he's heard about Garen's return, his uncle immediately sent for him to meet the elders from that side of the family.
Compared to his uncle Anjer, the likes of Bovini were simply feeble nobodies.
Anjer's company footprint spanned the whole of Galantia. Even in the province they were considered a large infamous criminal group. There were even rumors that they took over an assassin-and-bodyguard type of business.
It was equivalent to the magnified version of Manleyton Corporation. Smuggling, drugs, gambling, arms, Anjer's company would do whatever generated a profit. Of course, they have cleaned up a lot over the years. Technically speaking, the fact that White Cloud Gate could achieve their previous status in Huaishan was merely because Anjer didn't try to control it. It was a power he chose to give up on the consideration of cleaning up.
Compared to all these industries, selling antiques was just a negligible source of income, a way to distribute some excess wealth to other local companies.
This time even Garen's uncle knew that he was coming back. It could be said that, after Bovini and the rest were humiliated by Golden Hoop, the fact that there wasn't any revenge or life-and-death battle, was partly to his uncle's credit.
So Garen attending this gathering was also a show of gratitude on behalf of White Cloud Gate.
On the matter of the competition for the industries under the control of Anjer's company, this problem was slightly more troublesome.
The other party was not to be underestimated. Anjer's company was a group that spanned a dozen cities, more than half of the province. Their immense power and influence was comparable to that of Seven Moon Gate.
Of course, this was simply referring to low and middling strengths. The comparison would be less clear if it were higher-end martial art practitioners. But to be able to survive until now is definitely not an easy feat.
Garen analyzed his uncle Anjer's situation along the journey.
Since his childhood, Anjer Group seemed to have always been stable and unusually peaceful; there didn't seem to be any major complications in its development. This was obviously the embodiment of substantial power.
It was obvious that his uncle was not as simple as he seemed. What could be certain was that behind his uncle was a strong power belonging to him, shielding the entire group at all times.
And based on his uncle's lack of understanding and exposure towards the martial arts world, it didn't seem like the power of martial art practitioners.
Garen recalled his past. His uncle had always expressed disdain at martial arts, but he did have a martial arts expert friend over as a guest.
Inviting Garen over this time, it was apparent that he wanted him to gain recognition from his wife's side. Obviously the other party still had influence over the group. Even though it wasn't enough to affect his uncle's decisions, but if something went wrong there, there would still be a certain negative impact.
Sitting in the carriage, Garen fully considered all the factors, then slowly closed his eyes to rest.
Ten or so minutes later, the carriage slowed to a stop at the end of Pennington Street, coincidentally not far across from where Dolphin Antiques used to be.
There was a garden-style private bungalow which was uninhabited all year round. He didn't expect it to be his uncle's property.
The white bungalow was surrounded by a green garden and pink Chinese roses, fenced in by a wall with white vine motifs on it.
On both sides of the white pebble trail leading to the bungalow were large patches of green grass, where two children were playing chase.
To the left of the three-storey white main building, a black patio umbrella was erected in the garden. Below it was a round table and four chairs. The three fair ladies in long dresses sat there chatting and drinking coffee. They had on black or white round hats with different colored feathers and were chatting casually; the whole affair seemed composed and elegant.
Looking into the main building from its open main door, he could vaguely make out some men wearing elegant suits talking to each other in clusters of twos and threes. Some were holding red wine, some were smoking, and there were even some who were taking notes with pen and paper.
Garen could hear some music from afar. It was piano and violin music.
At the main door, the two bodyguards clad in black standing guard at the door stepped forward and bowed respectfully to Garen.
"Young Master Garen, the director is waiting for you inside. Please come in." Someone behind immediately led the carriage to park elsewhere. The white carriage was not dreadful, but compared to the luxury cars parked around the bungalow, it seemed shabby and insignificant.
Garen frowned. He looked at the black jeans and black t-shirt he had on, although they matched well, the workmanship and material seemed ordinary, and didn't go well with such occasions.
"It's okay. The director has prepared an attire," one of the bodyguards said in a hushed tone. Garen could tell that he wasn't someone in charge of standing guard at the entrance, but someone who had purposely came out to wait for him. "Please follow me."
Garen followed the bodyguard and changed into a black slim suit, with a dark red tie around his neck. His indigo short hair had been tidied up. Coupled with his beautiful cool red eyes, he exuded an indifferent and elegant charm. Only the glow that occasionally flashed across his dark red eyes—when he was watching others—would convey a vague sense of vastness.
It was a temperament created by his strong martial arts power resulting in mental and physical sublimation, a sense of standing on a higher level overlooking ordinary people.
Garen evaluated his look in the mirror. When he saw the immense Momentum in his eyes, he furrowed his brow.
Facing the mirror, he made some adjustments and restrained his inner state.
It was only then that the indifference in his eyes gradually faded away.
"No matter how powerful a martial arts practitioner is, they are vulnerable in the face of firearms. It was now the era of firearms, and the era of ordinary people. Being overly affected by this Momentum would only make one more and more arrogant. One has to be vigilant," he reminded himself. Although bullets weren't a threat to him now, but explosives and artillery shells were a different matter. Even if he could withstand the blast, the immense impact would still cause instability in his Qi and blood.
Even though he had never experienced it, he vaguely felt the danger of it.
Momentum was one of the byproducts of Bravery, generated from the absolute confidence in oneself. Different from Bravery, the existence or non-existence of Momentum wouldn't affect much. Moreover, Momentum with a poor foundation would lead to self-aggrandizement, which made one vulnerable.
Bravery was not the same; it was the basis of Momentum. Astute Grandmasters of Combat had to cultivate their Bravery, something akin in nature to a force field. It wasn't merely linked to martial arts strength; it was also related to one's spiritual cultivation. It was the amalgamation of strength, Qi and spirit.
Bravery was something all Grandmasters of Combat had. If one's Bravery was suppressed by their opponent before combat, Qi and blood wouldn't be affected, but the spirit would be affected by negative emotions like shock, hesitation, panic and so on.
Once the spirit is unstable, moves will not be as intense and reactions will be slower. In critical moments, one would fall into temporary hesitation, leading to a delay in response and entering a vicious cycle of reduced pace. Eventually, one would lose the upper hand and regret bitterly.
Whereas once one manages to crush their opponent's Bravery, they can attack their opponent in a complete state with strength, Qi and spirit as one, and completely quash their opponent physically and mentally. In the end, their opponent's defeat would be the only result. An opponent defeated in this way would not even have the intention to make a comeback: it was a complete collapse of one's soul and self-esteem.
This was the fundamental power that a strong Grandmaster of Combat with remarkable Bravery had.
A truly superior Grandmaster of Combat had to have remarkable Bravery.
Apart from the boost that his special ability and Attributes gave him, the factor that really gave Garen an edge over other talented practitioners, was that his actual age was more than 17 years old, as well as the experience from his past life.
In his past life on Earth, he had lived to more than 20 years old. Environment and level decides the experiences to which one is exposed, and ultimately determines a person's maturity. These extra 20 years of experience coincidentally made up for the shortfall in his level of spiritual accomplishment to become a Grandmaster of Combat.