The new skill finally appeared clearly.
'Unnamed - Mutation Firestream Fist: Level One (of Four), Firestream Fist skills blended with Dark Iron Palm, eliminating impurities and toxins by applying heat from the inside and out, while enhancing Vitality and heat resistance. Attacks on enemy will produce heat poisoning. Training is conducted by alternating both skills to advance.'
"So it's based mainly on Firestream Fist, blended with Dark Iron Palm?"
Garen was deep in thought. Previously, it was the same for Mammoth Secret Technique, with Mammoth as the basis blended with other Secret Martial Arts. It seems that the current situation is similar.
"Nomenclature-wise, since it's a combination of Dark Iron Palm and Firestream Fist, then the name should consist of half of each. I'll call it Dark Crimson Technique then."
As the thought flashed across his mind, the new skill on the Skills Pane quickly changed from 'unnamed' to 'Dark Crimson Technique'.
His special ability let flow a continuous refreshing stream of Qi into his hands. Garen could clearly feel his hands were being fortified at an alarming rate; it was obviously the effect of Dark Crimson Technique Level One.
He immersed his hands simultaneously into boiling hot iron sand, and didn't bother removing them.
The hot iron sand pressed on the skin of his hands; his palms felt a numbing sensation.
The part of his forearms above his palms was gradually reddening, with blue veins popping up. Qi and blood kept coursing through his palms at a high speed.
After 10 full minutes.
Garen suddenly took his hands out and laid a backhand on the wall behind him.
A gust of white smoke instantly effused from the wall. The wall covered in green moss was imprinted with a black handprint, and there was an unpleasant burnt smell in the air.
"Dark Crimson Technique… Level One can withstand temperatures of about a hundred over degrees. Such a high temperature can be achieved by transferring Qi and blood to the palm, amazing!" Garen was secretly impressed. "This is merely Level One. If I can raise it to higher levels, combined with my mutation Mammoth Secret Technique and Body Hardening Technique peak, then I'll be able to kill and injure at will!"
He retracted his hands, walked to a basin of water on the left of the fire basin, and put his hands in it.
The clear water in the cool basin slowly emitted a sizzling sound, and a waft of water vapor drifted upwards. Garen's fists gradually returned to its normal pale tone.
He removed his hand and used a little bit of force. Blood flowed through his palms as it regained its temperature, and once again emanated a scalding heat. Both palms instantly turned from white to a pale red.
From afar, his hands merely looked like they were filled with blood in the veins, and nothing seemed abnormal; it could very easily be concealed.
"This tactic could only increase deadliness in close combat, effective only when I am able to have physical contact with the enemy. Unfortunately, the biggest disadvantage of low-level Secret Martial Arts is that there is no corresponding combat skill to match with them."
Garen recalled the scene of confrontation with Duskdune Shura. "If I had mastered Dark Crimson Technique then, I could have caused additional damage to him in the direct confrontation, and deterred anyone else from having direct confrontations with me."
At that time his hand-knife strike collided with Duskdune Shura directly. If he could have used Dark Crimson Technique then, he could have injured him by surprise.
"Dark Crimson Technique shall be my concealed skill, just to increase deadliness by dealing a surprise strike."
He relaxed the Qi and blood in his palms, and they were gradually restored to his original pale skin tone.
He tugged on a coat and put it on then walked to the entrance of the courtyard, opened the door, and exited. On the riverbank were the short and tall figures of Erudas and Celine; the former seemed to be telling the latter about something.
When both saw Garen come out, Erudas immediately scuttled over.
"Master! When can I learn your martial arts?"
"Don't call me Master. You're not my disciple yet." Garen was clad in white casual clothing. His long hair was messy and loose, with a hint of red visible between the strands. Coupled with his tall and muscular physique, merely by standing in front of the both of them, he exuded an immense sense of oppression.
He glanced at Erudas's shoulders; it seemed to have completely recovered. Obviously, it was related to the help from Celine throughout this time.
"Looks like you have almost recovered?"
"Yes, Master!" Erudas replied loudly. His small body stood straight. He had cleaned himself up too; he looked much better than at their first meeting. He had defined features, and his short copper-brown hair paired with his delicate white skin showing a tinge of a blush, made him seem like a doll.
"Today, I'll first teach you about something fundamental," Garen said calmly. He put his hands, one after another, on his chest. One hand grasped tightly while the other held on loosely; his legs were in the bow stance.
This was the combat stance that he had revised from White Cloud Combat Arts of White Cloud Gate and perfected.
"This is the initial hand pose inherited from my original sect. It is able to handle attacks from all sides except the back in the shortest amount of time. Let me tell you something important in advance. Martial arts practitioners absolutely should not allow themselves to have their backs facing their enemies. Apart from certain special combat techniques, common martial arts from general sects adhere to this taboo."
"Grandma Virgin told me that before too," Erudas replied innocently. "I'll be powerful as long as I start out with this pose?"
"Because you've saved some time needed to raise your hands to attack. Just like…this!"
With a spin, Garen's right arm axed horizontally like a butcher's knife in a Swing Form strike directed at Celine, who was standing with her body facing sideways.
His arm was like a blade, creating a hissing sound as it cut through air.
A section of wooden log was broken in two, and the pieces fell to the ground.
Celine flipped backwards, and evaded the strike with grace. She landed steadily on top of a large white rock nearby; she looked fazed.
"What are you doing?! Don't you know that you should respect your elders and love your young?!"
"Erudas, watch carefully."
Garen disregarded care and quickened his pace forward, his stance instantly converting into Shot Form. His slapped his right palm forward.
"This is Shot Form!"
The rock cracked at his palm strike, and bits of rubble flew in all directions. Celine barely managed to evade with a jump, and was shouting in anger.
Garen curved his right arm, and let his right hand swing outwards swiftly like a whip.
"This is Swing Form!"
A small tree in the woods by the lake, with a trunk as thick as an arm, crashed to the ground.
Celine was scampering about as she was chased by Garen.
"You bastard! You only know how to bully underage girls! Ahhh!" Almost hit by the falling tree, Celine's face was flush with anger as she ran off into the distance, cursing all the way.
Garen reverted to a normal pose, turned around, and gently exhaled. Those few strikes were all made in one breath, but it was over before he had time to exhale.
"Stances are the postures that make it easiest to attack and defend. If you were to casually stand straight, then the distance it takes for your arm to be raised is much larger than if you were already adopting a stance. Don't belittle this minute amount of time saved. In a real fight, it may come down to this little bit of distance."
"Yes, Master!" Erudas replied loudly even though he didn't fully comprehend what he heard. After seeing Garen's powerful and tough attacks earlier, his eyes gleamed in admiration.
"From today onwards, stand in this stance every day, until you can't hold it any longer, until your knees tremble!" Garen said calmly.
Garen nodded. This kid had some decent talent, was resilient, willing to endure hardship, and even obedient—he would do whatever he was told—this was the ideal disciple. Even if Garen didn't have any intention of receiving a disciple at the moment, he couldn't help but give him a few pointers now and then.
When he saw Erudas begin to create the stance on his own, Garen corrected his mistakes then directly walked towards Celine standing in the distance.
"Come with me."
Celine stared at him fiercely, hesitated, but still followed.
The two of them walked to a set of stone table and stools in the woods, where Garen sat down naturally.
"The descendant of Neptune Fist, it is said that your Neptune Gate was a crucial great sect in the North. In ancient times you almost separated to declare your own duchy. I'm sure you must be privy to a lot of secrets?" he took the lead to speak first.
Celine jumped onto a stone stool and crouched on it.
"What do you want to know? Let me be clear upfront, I don't know much either."
"I want to know about Duskdune Shura. He defeated me using a type of martial arts called Dragon Gate. What is that?" Garen asked his first question.
"Dragon Gate?" Celine's petite face wrinkled. "You're sure it's Dragon Gate?" Her expression started to turn serious.
"I'm sure. The names that he exclaimed were 'the first Dragon Gate' and so on, from first to fourth. Every strike that hit me completely paralyzed my body, it was strange." Garen was fixated on this point. His Body Hardening Technique was based on the principle of flowing Qi and blood, yet his opponent's Dragon Gate could actually paralyze the body and control Qi and blood—it was like the bane of the Body Hardening Technique.
Celine became silent, seemingly recalling a memory.
The night breeze made the leaves in the woods rustle, and brought with it a slight chill. The rays of sunset shone through the leaves at an angle on the ground, tree trunks, the stone table and chairs, and the two of them. There was a vague sense of beauty like a painting of maple woodlands.
Celine stretched her fingers out to gently brush away the fallen leaves from the white stone table. A yellow beetle gently climbed her index finger.
"Seven Dragon Gate is rumored to be an ancient martial art that is a unique general sect martial art. I do not know the specific methods of training in it, but it is very powerful."
She paused, then continued, "The unique characteristic of Seven Dragon Gate is that it continuously increases in power."
"Starting from the first Dragon Gate, the second, then the third. If a person was continuously hit by all of it, the power of each fist will continue to increase. At the same time, it is capable of obstructing the flow of Qi and blood. The further it progresses, the more it is capable of slowing down the movement of the opponent, to the point of complete paralysis. This is an extremely terrifying consecutive-strike martial art. I can't believe Duskdune Shura has actually mastered it."
Garen's brow twitched. "We're equally Grandmasters of Combat, but he is so much stronger than me!"
"'Grandmasters of Combat' is merely a collective description of a select few martial art practitioners who have reached the human limit. Naturally there would be stronger and weaker categories within. It's only normal," Celine said matter-of-factly. "Now there are these so-called Grade E and Grade D categorizations. Those are the levels used to categorize the strength of firearms. In actuality, almost all Grandmasters of Combat are Grade D, including you. One level higher would be Grade C, which is currently the category for special unit weapons, such as special gunpowder and powerful weapons made from special materials. These are incapable of being defended by Grandmasters of Combat. Perhaps only a very small number of Grandmasters of Combat can achieve this level. Duskdune Shura might be one of them."
"Then do you know about the existence of people with supernatural abilities?" Garen asked in a low voice.
"Supernatural abilities? You mean telekinesis?" Celine was shocked. "You've encountered such people?"
"In my years of wandering, I've encountered them multiple times too. Those people are very mysterious. They have developed strange abilities through telekinesis, and view themselves as beings transcending mortals. But in actuality, they are merely poor souls from failed experiments, detesting the world because of a tragic incident," Celine said softly.