A year ago, Palosa sealed himself away as he fell into his demonic tendencies.
Garen suddenly understood the correlation.
The reason why Sylphalan showed up coincidentally in Galantia and Eliza Province, was because he was motivated by some other objective. Perhaps that objective was to seek Palosa out for battle.
Since the White Bird now said that the both of them sustained heavy injuries from the fight, that means Sylphalan should still be recovering from his injuries, unless he has some sort of special recovery method.
Whereas for Palosa, his injuries were mostly mental, especially since he would later fall into his demonic form. Sylphalan must have sustained some bad injuries as well.
On the way out from the big waterfall, Garen kept thinking of that possibility.
As the four of them walked back, nobody spoke.
Garen’s body was covered from head to toe in the black cloak, nobody, not even the other three could tell how injured he was.
"Gate Master Garen, are you alright?" King of Fist Leo frowned and aksed.
"Not too good not too bad either, I’ll be fine," Garen looked at him briefly, and answered.
"That’s good," Leo’s face relaxed,"Since we’ve achieved our objective in this journey, what shall we do next?"
Garen stopped in his steps,"We’ll talk about that once we get back to Galantia. This fight with Palosa made me realize some very important things, but first I need to recover. The rest of the things just play by ear, if you hear anything about Black Mark Association you are to inform me immediately."
As Cynthia and Jack heard Garen say that his injuries weren’t too serious, they were relieved. Now their fates were tied to Garen’s, if Garen fell, they wouldn’t be spared from the ensuing consequences either.
"I’ve arranged a carriage near the city, I’ll lead the way once we’re out of here," Cynthia said.
Garen didn’t want to say anything else, so he just agreed.
While he might have told the others that he wasn’t badly injured, but he knew himself that his status right now was not your average injury.
When fighting with Palosa, the true killing force isn’t sheer strength or overwhelming force. Instead, it is the small but potent beak attacks. Where the beak bit Garen, he could not heal completely, the only reason why they stopped bleeding was because of his muscle expansions covering the wounds.
Aside from this, the beak attacks were unlike any other pierces. The moment the dark energy pierced his skin, a large part around it went numb, and he couldn’t even feel if he was bleeding.
"3 spots on my abdomen, 12 on my back, 8 on my limbs….out of those 5 are bleeding internally, 3 are just surface cuts, the rest are completely numb."
Garen checked his own body as he walked. Under his Attribute Pane, his vitality had dropped a staggering 5 points. Obviously due to the overwhelming injury, even his Body Hardening Technique’s efficiency was lowered.
"And then there’s my innards, all major organs seemed to have moved in different directions, my heart is slightly cracked, which means my recovery abilities are suppressed as well. I wonder what secret techniques Palosa used to do that."
Garen looked at his palm under the cloak, it was pale, terrifyingly pale.
"Let’s try and see if there’s any effect if I use the attribute points,"
He tried to expense his unused potential points into the vitality section.
Disappointingly to no effect. His vitality went blur for a second, then it returned to the original amount, his body didn’t change the slightest.
"Looks like this time I will have to slowly recover," he frowned,"an injury like this has surpressed my recovery abilities, even if it doesn’t get worst I will still need a whole month to fully recover."
His issue with Behemoth’s Gate wasn’t even settled yet, but for now he could only return home to recover.
Garen’s fought a lot of opponents before, and has always won right out with everyone. He thought that once he reached this level, he would never end up in a horrible condition like so anymore, but little did he expect himself to be reduced to this after a simple exchange with Palosa.
Sylphalan, Palosa, even though he was still slighter weaker than them, but on the bright side it meant that he had stepped into the highest level of fighters.
Now whenever someone were to bring him up in a conversation, they would compare him to the two of them as equals, sometimes even as superior.
As he recalled Palosa’s fighting style, Garen continued to shake slightly, as he tried to fix his internal injuries.
Ten days later…
The fight between White Cloud Gate’s Gate Master and White Bird Fist’s Palosa, ended without anyone knowing about it.
But after a few days, news of it had spread throughout the entire southern martial arts world.
The fact that the both of them ended it in a draw was beyond everyone’s wildest expectations. Garen, as a new age Master of Combat, was able to actually fight the great Fist Master to a draw, was unbelievable for most. Overnight, the news spread via telegram to every corner of the martial arts world.
Garen’s position as a regional leader was also cemented by this battle’s outcome. White Cloud Gate’s Territory of Galantia became a place of attention for every sect.
As for White Cloud Gate’s ranking, it rose up to stand equal with the Southern Holy Fist Gate and the Celestial Circle Gate.
As for the Black Mark Association and Crimson Sand Sword Gate:
Black Mark association was discussing surrender and possible merger of elements with White Cloud Gate, especially since amongst their three King of Fists, one betrayed the sect, one was heavily injured and the remaining one was no longer able to hold the entire organisation up by himself. Black Mark association was alive by name, but dead in reality.
Crimson Sand Sword Gate disappeared into the shadows since the day the Hunter Killer Squad fought Garen. In an instance they disappeared from public eye and sold most of their assets to nearby sects like White Cloud Gate or the Celestial Circle Gate.
The entire southside of the Confederation was now split between three major sects.
Namely they were: Southern Sky Holy Fist Gate, Celestial Circle Gate and White Cloud Gate. Amongst the three, White Cloud Gate was the weakest, they had zero plans to expand beyond Galantia. All they were interested in was to continue consolidating their power in Galantia and they even turned away ex-members of the Black Mark Association trying to join them.
Southern Sky Holy Fist Gate expanded aggressively, they absorbed many small sects and formed their own alliance.
Celestial Circle Gate also started to consolidate their power after Garen fought Palosa, rumors even tell of a possibility that Andrela had left self-confinement.
Galantia, Hubo City.
In a white manor surrounded by various maple trees.
Outside the manor, in the maplewood forest.
Two young men sat by a stone table playing Go.
Maple leaves would occasionally fall on the stone table, along with what looked like dandelion seeds, both of which would be expertly flung away by the duo each time they fell.
One of the men was buff and tall, his body wrapped all over with black bandage. The other one was handsome, with black hair that fell on his shoulders, and an eye patch that covered one of his eyes.
The setup on the table was filled with black pieces. Instead of white and black to distinguish the factions, they were differentiated by squared and circular ones. The stronger buffer man’s was playing the squared pieces while the one-eyed man was playing the circular pieces.
"I heard you challenged Palosa, I came as soon as I left my self-confinement. Who knew that even someone with your abilities would end up in a state like this," the one-eyed man was Andrela who had just rushed from Celestial Circle Gate. He donned a long sleeve and long pants with a black robe that had constellations etched in beautiful silver thread on the end of the sleeves.
"If you don’t believe it then you’re always welcomed to go try," Garen was covered in black bandage, wearing only black long pants and boots. He sat on the stool with his back straight and his eyes slightly squinting, still looking intimidating in this state. His hair was short now, and his right arm was still being supported by a wooden board.
"I can’t even defeat you, if I go wouldn’t I just be asking for death?" Andrela laughed,"But Palosa has always been someone I wish to overtake one day. Now there’s you too. What if I kill you now with my sword? Would that earn me the title of Number One Combat Master in the Southern World?"
"Looks like this self-confinement session of yours was really rewarding," Garen couldn’t help but laugh, as he lifted up his hand and placed a piece onto the playing field,"sadly, I’ve killed you already."
The game was set, Andrela’s circular pieces were all surrounded by Garen’s square pieces, he only had one piece left to place, and one spot for him to do so. Once he does, he would seal his own fate.
"The medicine you gave me was really good," Garen moved his body about,"I can already feel the effects, the spots where the pus infected have also stopped worsening. Thank you so much."
Ever since the day he got back, his body’s only been getting worst. Every spot that was hit by Palosa’s Unrivalled Skyfall ability was infected by pus. Had it not been for the rare medicine, he wouldn’t have been able to stop it at all.
But that’s as much progress as he was able to make, he simply couldn’t recover.
In over ten days, he only recovered some parts of his organs, but his energy and abilities were still deterred.
"Pair it up with edible medication, you should be able to completely rid yourself of the infections." Andrela unwillingly let go of the chesspiece on his hand,"consider that I’ve lost. Looks like other than being good at martial arts, you’re a monster even at Go."
He stood up and revealed a small red medicine bottle from his sleeve, then he threw it at Garen,"this is a special medicine prepared for me by Celestial Circle Gate members, it should have some effect. You seem to have a guest, I shall go practice my swordsmanship, if you need anything you can find me at our usual spot."
With the sound of loud wind, Andrela disappeared from where he stood, only a few maple leaves were left in his wake.
Garen sat on the bench, this rock bench had obvious eastern influences, as it was custom made by a skilled craftsman based on Garen’s memory. It was perhaps a small memento to remind him of his origins from Earth.
He kept the pieces back into the box one by one, and left the box on the table. He picked up the red medicine bottle, gave it a curious look and put it straight into his pocket.
The maplewood forest was a bright red everywhere, even the floors were filled with red leaves like a carpet.
As he watched Andrela leave, Garen felt a sense of gratefulness.
Andrela had grown stronger again, not just a small bit, but by a large margin compared to the first time they met. No wonder he was so confident and wanted to challenge Garen. What used to be a big feat like Blink was now being casted by him like an everyday trick.
Garen took a wild guess, and estimated that Andrela’s abilities were now very close to Crimson Sand Sword Gate’s evil genius Lord Clark, but what other secret techniques he hid under that sleeve, nobody knew.
Beyond the maplewood forest, light footsteps could be heard.
"Gate Master, I’ve brought the guest," Jack’s voice could be heard as well.
"Come over then," Garen replied peacefully.