Stars filled the infinite sky, Garen had never felt more at awe looking up.
"Ever since that battle, you’ve seem to have gained an interest in looking at the stars, what’s so special?"
The Eighth Hoop donned a black cloak as he emerged from a corner of the courtyard. His face was the usual pale and aged, but the way he looked at Garen was complex.
"Specialty?" Garen smiled,"it just makes me feel minute that’s all."
The two of them were standing in a rural courtyard, it had beautiful plants and flowers growing all over it, the mixed colours making it extremely eye catching.
"Minute... Since the fight the other day, you’ve been recognised as the number one fighter of the Southern Secret Martial Arts world. You’re only second to Palosha now, and yet you still think you’re minute? What should other people think of themselves then?," The Eighth Hoop sighed.
"Any plans after this?"
"How’re the few leftover men?" Garen asked back.
"Still alright, just a little shocked, I got a few psychiatrists to check on them, the psychiatrists all agree that they went through too much stress and are shell shocked. Oh also, they would like to meet you."
"Meet me?" Garen smiled, ever since the day that he unlocked a new dimension of observation, he’s been able to clearly see and feel the flow and control of energy along his body, it’s as if he was now fully in control, and able to maximise his agility to a unprecedented level of accuracy and efficiency.
Just like right now, he can even sense the heartbeat of The Eighth Hoop who was standing a few meters away from him, he could hear every beat of his heart.
If a mere mortal were to focus all of his energy, he would conjure what would then be known as ‘focus’, but he would only be able to focus on one point at one time. In fact a mortal would feel tired very quickly after focusing for a while. Only after recouping his blood flow, would he be able to resume.
As for Garen now, his conscience, Qi, and spirit were all one now, energy flowed endlessly from his body, and his breaths were steady and strong. His ability to observe and focus on his surroundings was as if a mortal was focusing all of its attention on one thing, except that for him it was for many things.
Everything within a five metre radius of him was in total clarity.
"Why do they want to see me?"
Thinking back on that day, these were the people who surrendered and let Garen take them away without any resistance.
Rosetta, Behemoth Gate’s Angela, and the Black Mark Association’s King of Fist Leo, then there were some leftover members of both sects, totalling 54 individuals.
Over half of them had undergone too much shock, mostly by Garen’s aura, had seem to develop hallucinations and PTSD, and were being sent to a nearby mental hospital. The remainders quietly stayed in jail, their mental defenses completely crumbled since that day.
"I don’t know, they seem to have been both physically and mentally destroyed by you. No matter what it is, once they hear that you’re involved, they’ll play along and abide by it. In other words, you have completely defeated them," the Eighth Hoop said,"looks like it was right when I recommended you to join the Golden Hoop."
"Black Mark Association and the Behemoth Gate should still be active right?" Garen asked softly.
"Of course, but on the grand scale of national security, they aren’t much of a threat. Black Mark and Behemoth Gate’s strength lies in individual operatives, their macro influence on the Confederation is nowhere close to us at the Golden Hoop. What the Golden Hoop lacks are independent operatives. Now that we have you, we are complete!" The Eighth Loop laughed,"we don’t need to give a damn about them anymore."
Garen understood this as the Eighth Loop expressing his alliance with him, they too were interested in the total annihilation of the Black Mark Association and Behemoth’s Gate.
These two sects were not a force to be easily reckoned with, it was obvious that the Golden Hoop was placing a lot of faith in Garen.
"Oh right, what about Clark?" Garen suddenly remembered the palm technique he had landed on that Grandmaster from the Crimson Sand Sword sect.
"We just found his corpse, we came over to inform you about that. Would you like to go take a look?"
Garen followed the Eighth Hoop into the house, and onwards into a study room on the side. In the floor of the study room was a basement entrance.
The both of them walked inside in a single file, the walls were filled with bright electric lights.
Every short distance there would be two black uniformed soldiers on guard.
Each time the both of them passed a pair of guards, they would be greeted with formal salutes.
Garen quietly followed the Eighth Loop further downwards. The corridor seemed to be endless.
Very soon the both turned into a white room.
There were already two coroners inside the room who greeted them with salutes as soon as they entered.
"How's it going?"
One of the female coroners took off her blue gloves, pulled back a strand of hair and said,
"Before the individual died, his metabolism entered into an overstimulation of sorts. Not sure how or why, but sir you should see for yourself."
The Eighth Hoop walked closer to the cadaver.
Clark lied flat face up on a white high table. His lower body was covered by a white cloth, only his upper body was exposed. From his chest down to his lower abdomen there was a Y shaped cut.
The Eighth Hoop put on gloves, lifted the white cloth and took a quick sweeping look, then lifted his head to gesture Garen to come over.
"Come see for yourself."
Garen took the gloves from the coroner and walked over.
Clark’s body laid silently on the table, his whole body wasn't a pale white like a typical corpse, but somehow was glowing red like it had been cooked well done.
Garen touched Clark’s forehead softly, his eyebrows scrunched up.
"He was hit by my Red Jade Palm’s Hot Poison, his entire body overheated, this condition of death is normal, except..."
"Someone tried to save him, in fact that someone was a skilled fighter."
The Eighth Hoop was suddenly intrigued, "what level of a fighter?"
"Quite strong, but it doesn't matter, the moment Clark left that courtyard his fate was sealed," Garen’s face was an unusual peaceful.
"Red Jade Palm, pfft, you've practically boiled his blood and cooked him," the Eighth Hoop was incredibly impressed.
The two coroners stood in disbelief like they had just heard some crazy mystic talk.
"Sir you believe that there are methods to control someone's internal hormones and body temperature? This is absolutely illogical!" The female coroner looked at the both of them shocked, like she was staring at aliens.
"This person was obviously cooked by some high temperature weapon. My suggestion is that we collect samples from his body and cells to understand further. We must break this down from a scientific point of view!"
The Eighth Hoop and Garen did not know how to explain to someone who wasn't a member of the martial arts community.
Secret Martial Arts like this, is practically godspeak to laymen.
"This bastard’s belongings had all been stolen somehow. If we were able to get to that we might've been able to find some useful intelligence," the Eighth Hoop said disappointingly.
"Let's go, to where Third Brother is," Garen turned around and headed outwards. Joshuahad come with him earlier, except that before the action happened he refused to let him participate, in fact he deliberately kept him out of intelligence briefings so he wouldn't be informed until everything was over.
Of course Joshua was pissed off about it, but he understood that Garen did so for his own good. As soon as he caught up, he had been here looking after Rosetta and gang.
Leaving the morgue, the both of them washed their hands and headed further down the corridor.
Not long after, they came by the prison cells.
On both sides of were several prison cells, some empty and some with mortals locked inside.
The walls were filled with burn marks, and the ground was quite dirty, one could even find small traces of blood stains here and there. The prison guards each holstered a pistol while holding a baton in their hands as they patrolled the perimeter.
The corridor along the prison was very long, the both of them went straight for the end, as the warden quickly tried to catch up to them while explaining the situation here.
"Most of the inmates here came in the last few days. The ones that you specially ordered to give attention to, we’ve pierced their scapulae and put on the strongest chains we have on them. They won't be a problem!"
He said as he ran, his hands fumbling a huge chain of keys, standing by to open any door for the two leaders. As a small leader in the Golden Hoop, he had an eye for small details. Especially since this time the leader Eighth Hoop had brought this young man who didn't wear any golden loops to signify his position, and yet every time he passed a prison cell filled with mobsters and loud troublemakers, they would all shut up in his presence. For sure this young man was a big shot!
"We arrange the inmates by their abilities and how much of a great they pose to society. The deeper they're placed, the more dangerous they are," the warden explained carefully.
"We want to go to the deepest part of your supermax," the Eighth Hoop said plainly.
"Yes yes yes!"
The warden quickly bent over a door near them and took out his keys to point and instruct the prison guards to open the multiple metal gates before them.
Garen followed the group and entered the end of the prison.
The stench of blood was now stronger than ever, as more metal gates opened, the space in the prison widened, as well as the thickness of the metal bars.
Within the cells in this area, some inmates hid in a corner. One of them had bloodshot eyes and looked ridiculously skinny, but emitted an aura of death and violence about him.
Now and then a whistle would echo through the cells.
"Little Jack? Did you bring us fresh meat to sell butt again? Man it isn't easy at all~~," a man with long messy hair in a cell on the left laughed sinisterly.
"Wow you brought us some really fresh meat this time. This little one looks like he just turned twenty," a big bearded inmate stood up and took off his pants facing the visitors, ready to pee right there.
Garen’s shit an angry glare, he turned and grabbed one of the thicker-than-an-arm metal bars with his python like left hand.
The metal bar broke and flew into the cell, hitting the inmate on the chest, stabbing him through the chest and sending him pinned to the wall behind.
The inmate couldn't even make another sound, and died instantly.
Everyone shut up at sight of that. Like terrified animals they all retreated into the shadow of their cells. Even some of the commotion from cells further down also silenced immediately.
Garen pulled his left hand back, just now that cell’s metal bar had been vibrated till it broke by him earlier, causing the entire metal door for this isolation cell to come loose too.
"Yes...yes yes," the warden unknowingly distanced himself from Garen, and walked closer to the Eighth Hoop instead. After seeing what had happened, he could feel goosebumps and cold sweat all over.
"That's too insane, too insane!" He chanted to himself as he continued leading the way. Occasionally he would steal a look at Garen to study his expressions, in case he did anything to cross him.