Garen was slightly stunned, and suddenly felt a strange sense of uneasiness. The sentence reminded him of the life he used to live on Earth.
The gloomy Momentum around him gradually dispersed too because he was distracted.
He straightened himself up and looked down at the boy in front of him.
"Why not find someone else? Why did you specifically find me?"
The boy finally started to relax after the Momentum dispersed, and he stopped trembling. He looked up at Garen.
"Because I feel you're…the most powerful!"
Garen's mood inexplicably lifted.
"You have a good willpower," he deliberated, "if you can pass my test, I'll consider accepting you."
He raised his right arm and swung it backwards.
The sound of cloth being torn could be heard.
"Do this action a thousand times every day, use all your might. Seven days later, if you think you've achieved it, come to this address." He whispered the address of Su Lin's manor.
The boy saw it only once; the action was fairly simple. It was mainly about perseverance.
In actuality, Garen just set a random test. He took a last look at the dazed boy.
He was mumbling the address repeatedly while starting to practice the action he had just learnt.
Soon, Su Lin walked out of the shop. He looked at Garen confusedly, and then looked at the dazed boy.
"Come on, let's head back."
Garen didn't bother to explain either; he just followed him and walked out of the alley.
That action was a simple use of the Swinging Form. If the boy could really stick to it, one week later his right arm would swell and itch due to a congestion of blood, and the joints in his arm would be damaged.
This would depend on whether he was obedient enough to practice this action with all his might.
Because this action wasn't beneficial to him in any way and was merely part of the test, when the time comes, if the injury to his arm wasn't serious, it would prove that he didn't do as instructed.
Of course, if it was indeed as Garen expected, he would treat his arm and temporarily receive him as a disciple.
Without further delays, Garen and Su Lin took the car directly back to the estate.
The subtle sound of tea being poured into a white jade cup could be heard.
Magenta flower petals would pour out with the tea from time to time, emitting the fragrance of clivias. Underscored by pure flawless white jade, the magenta seemed unusually pure.
"Please, have some tea."
A purple-haired girl put the teapot down and gestured at the piping hot tea.
Garen and Su Lin were sitting side by side on a bench. The purple-haired girl sitting across from them was Su Lin's sister, Aris.
The girl inherited the good genes of Su Lin's family. She was pretty, and had a serene and vintage aura about her.
Her long purple hair was combed into bangs towards the right, and tied into a ponytail at the back. It was neatly done up, without a single frizz in sight. She wore a black dress with purple motifs on it. Her figure was slender and proportionate; sitting in the chair with her legs together and angled sideways, she was a typical aristocratic young lady.
When she raised her teacup to drink, her actions were delicate: she merely took a sip as the teacup touched her lips.
"I'm truly surprised that my brother has such a proper friend like you, Mr Garen," Aris said with a smile.
"Uhh…" Garen didn't know how to reply. It was obvious that in his sister's impression, Su Lin was extremely shallow.
Su Lin sitting by the side could only smile awkwardly.
"You don't have to mind." Aris smiled. "Alright Su Lin, I'm assuming this visit isn't just to introduce me to Mr Garen?"
"Of course not…" Su Lin chuckled. "It's mainly to see how you've been. After not seeing you for such a long time, even I would miss my beautiful sister."
"Don't go out and about for no good reason," Aris said in a hushed tone. "Settle yourself at home for the time being."
"Actually…" Su Lin paused, "haven't you always wanted to learn authentic combat martial arts? Garen is the martial arts coach I've hired for you."
"Martial arts coach?" Aris was slightly surprised. "You've hired a… At this time…?" She seemed to have figured something out, but stopped short of saying anything, and started to scrutinize Garen.
But when Garen wasn't applying the Body Hardening Technique, his body merely seemed well-built, and wouldn't exhibit any distinctiveness. He had long curbed his Momentum; this would help conceal it from Duskdune Shura in their encounter.
Aris was an ordinary person who had never trained in martial arts before, so she couldn't tell.
She frowned, but didn't reject.
"Mr Garen, where do you work?"
"Oh it's nowhere special. I'm just a trainer at a dojo in a small town," Garen replied casually.
Su Lin sitting to a side cut in by replying, "Garen is a good friend of mine, someone I really trust. I would worry if anyone other than him were to be your coach!"
Aris wanted to decline, but Su Lin's burst of interruption and debate made it seem as though she would be disowning him as a brother if she didn't accept Garen as her coach; the consequences were severe.
All she could do was agree to let Garen teach her martial arts.
Garen observed from the side. He felt that the relationship between this pair of siblings was reversed. Aris was playing the role of an elder sister instead: she was mature, courteous and graceful. She handled things decisively without drawing it out.
Su Lin disappeared after he left Garen with his sister, probably out fooling off.
Garen and Aris were left sitting face-to-face in the tearoom. A maid refilled their tea for them.
"So… Master Garen, I'm over 18 this year. To start training in marital arts at such an age, would there be any problems?" Aris began asking the most basic questions.
She truly took Garen as her martial arts coach. In their casual conversation, the martial arts knowledge that Garen presented was passable.
"In doing fundamental training, age doesn't matter," Garen replied. "Even though you're starting out late, but you're still young; you still have the potential to develop. Don't worry too much."
"I've always wanted to learn authentic martial arts. Where should I start? To tell you the truth, we have quite a number of dojos locally, but I've been hesitant all along," Aris sighed. "Martial arts can improve physical fitness and exercise the body and mind. My body has always been weak. Please see if you can devise a suitable training plan for me."
"No problem," Garen nodded. "Since I'm your martial arts teacher, this is part of my duty."
"I'll trouble you to do it then. How about a salary of 5000 dollars per week?"
"That's very high."
Garen understood that to mean he was not welcome, so he stood up, bid her goodbye and left the room under the directions of the maid.
Aris lifted her teacup and blew at the rising vapor. She glanced at the motifs etched on the side of the table.
"Colonel Moen, is there news on Duskdune Shura? What made you come over personally?"
In a dark corner of the room, a military officer in black appeared from behind a bookshelf. The faint sound of a trapdoor automatically closing came from behind him.
"Duskdune Shura has made a move. The latest information from the intelligence bureau is that he's sent 20 men, split into two groups, directly headed to the estate. It's unknown what method he's employing. Our men failed to trace their whereabouts." A silver scythe hung from the military officer's waist: it was long, with the breadth of a longsword, and there was no sheath. This lent a cold and piercing air to him.
"How soon are they expected to arrive?" Aris rubbed her temples to ease her headache.
"Within this week," Officer Moen replied in a hushed tone.
"So father has sent you to protect me for the week?"
"Yes." Moen nodded.
"And about father and brother…"
"You needn't worry. There is a separate arrangement for Commander."
"As one of the three strongest special agents in the Southern Military, even you have come over. I'm assuming there are sufficiently strong guards protecting my father and brothers?"
"Yes. Colonel Turnery and Colonel Von Eckardt have arrived. Also, the Commissioner, Major General Wellington, is having tea with the Commander," Officer Moen calmly replied.
"Even the Commissioner of the Special Agent Bureau is involved? That's right, father is the Deputy Commissioner. If something were to happen to him, it would be a huge embarrassment."
"What a grand setting… Of the individual military elites within the entire Southern Military, more than half have gathered here." Aris started to relax a little. "It seems that everything is ready. Alright, I'm fine here, you can busy yourself elsewhere."
"Please take care." Moen bent over slightly and gave an elegant bow, then turned around and left silently through the secret passageway.
"Miss?" the only maid in charge of serving tea replied.
"The one I'm worried about most at the estate is my brother, Su Lin. You stay with him for this period. If he wants to go out, stop him and don't let him out."
"Yes, Miss," the maid nodded in agreement.
"I can't believe he still remembers that I like martial arts, and actually hired me a trainer. I merely mentioned it casually back then, but he actually took it to heart." Aris smiled, and her gaze softened.
"Oh yeah. What do you think of that Mr Garen?"
The maid deliberated and said, "He has solid foundational skills, but we are trained in military combat arts, so I am unclear about traditional schools of martial arts. I can only tell that he's not a fraudster. From his temperament and age, he seems to be a core disciple who has inherited proper training. But Miss, why don't you train in military combat arts with us? These are the practical combat skills actually adapted to fight and kill."
"Traditional martial arts has its advantages. My purpose for training in martial arts is not to fight and kill, it's to condition my body. Even though the practicality of traditional martial arts isn't strong, it's very good for training the body. That is something military combat skills lack. Forget it. You may go down now. Also, have Annie and the others focus on protecting Mr Garen. I'm guessing he's trained in typical traditional martial arts and would perform poorly in actual combat. Make sure you protect him well, it would be bad if something happened to brother's guest."
One standing and the other sitting, Su Lin and Garen were skipping pebbles by the lake.
"What is the current situation? When we were heading back, I noticed that security has been increased," Garen inquired in a hushed tone.
Su Lin flung a pebble out: it skipped nine times on the surface of the lake. He smiled in satisfaction.
"All my dad's old partners are here. The four most powerful people in the Southern Military; Commissioner of the Special Agent Bureau, Wellington; and the strongest three selected from hundreds of thousands in the military, three special Colonels. It seems that, in order to deal with this trouble, dad has made countless promises."
"The four most powerful people in the Southern Military? How powerful?" Garen was somewhat sensitive towards such claims.