Garen walked to the side helplessly; he knew that his performance definitely did not qualify. There was a huge difference between half a minute and ten seconds. Previously, he was confident that he would become a high-class disciple after he learned the Explosive Fist Arts, but he didn’t expect that an examiner would be this strong. He thought to himself,
[Even if I fully unleash my power and fought without holding anything back, I still wouldn’t be able to defeat him.]
The opponent’s attacking speed was too fast, his strength was high, and the attack carried some kind of paralyzing effect. If someone was struck twice in the same location like Garen, then the result would already be determined at that point.
Like Garen expected, the brawny man who went up next did not make it past the thirty second mark either. The man clutched his shoulder and got off of the stage.
The man with the mustache was at ease; he didn’t even sweat. He relaxed his fists and lightly said to the three people, "Ok, the test is over. Your scores are far from qualifying. You guys still need to work hard. You are now dismissed."
At this point, Garen realized that the examiner didn’t even use his full strength; fighting the three applicants was like a walk in the park for him. Garen tried to estimate the man with the mustache’s level and strength.
[He’s probably reached the maximum adult physical strength limit just like me, but he is way faster. His Explosive Fist Arts can’t be at the elementary level, it must be at the intermediate level or above. From his status, it seems like his White Cloud Secret Arts is also at the intermediate level or above. He is also very, very skillful in terms of fighting techniques.]
After comparing himself with the mustache man, Garen felt a little bit better.
The black-haired girl on the side stepped up when she saw the test was over.
"Teacher, can you tell us what level of fighter you are right now?"
"What level?" The man with the mustache smiled as he smoothed his wrinkled clothes. "Do you know how fighters are ranked?" he asked.
The black-haired girl nodded and said, "I only know the Grandmaster of Combat rankings that the Confederation uses."
"That doesn’t count. That’s only the ranking for fake exhibition matches," the examiner said. He became a bit excited and continued, "I will tell you guys the ranking system that we have in our circle."
He pointed out three fingers.
"The first level are ordinary people who know a little fighting technique, or people who are interested in learning. This level also includes special forces from the military who are able to easily take care of one or two hooligans. We call this level Amateur.
"These amateurs are probably our dojo’s primary source of income, right?" The brawny applicant continued where the man with the mustache left off.
"That’s right. Because these hobbyists are excited to train, they are willing to spend money, just like how you guys got started. Also, the masters in our industry would sometimes be invited to teach at an influential or powerful amateur’s home, which is how the network in the industry originated. When a master is looking for a disciple, potential and physical requirements are only part of the equation; family background is also very important.
"That makes sense," Garen nodded. "It’s impossible for a master to teach people for free and also offer free food and accommodations. After all, masters are people too and still need money to live."
"I know some of it." The black-haired girl continued, "Our White Cloud Dojo operates like this and our Dojo Master is a wealthy merchant who runs a huge corporation.
"You are all formal disciples and you guys might teach other people martial arts in the future. Therefore, I’ll give you guys some hints." The man with mustache nodded as he said, "There are two types of disciples you should
He pointed out his index finger.
"One is the disciple who has a robust background with either money or influence. These type of disciples are there for the purpose of coverage and increased influence in the industry. They don’t have to be strong, but they have to be beneficial for the master’s brand."
Then he pointed out the second finger.
"Next, there are the real inheriting disciples. The key traits to look for are potential and the fundamentals. They should be taught with all care since they would need to step up in the future when the master gets old and weak and can’t fight anymore. They need to be strong to maintain the reputation and the status of the dojo brand in the industry, so the brand doesn’t become a stepping stone for other people.
"The selection process for heritage disciples is very rigorous; it's very different from teaching other disciples. Many heritage disciples came from bad family backgrounds, so the master needed to be there to cultivate them. This kind of master-disciple relationship would be the most solid; it would be very close to a parent-child relationship. Eventually, the strongest heritage disciple would inherit everything that the master had. The other disciples would become the backbone of the brand.
"Therefore, you guys have to pay attention to these criteria when you’re looking for a disciple. If you want to cultivate disciples properly, you have to have money and resources."
After he said that, the man with mustache fell silent for a moment and seemed like he was recalling something.
"Right. We were talking about the ranking for the fighters, how did we end up here?" He quickly snapped out of it. He smiled and said, "Let’s focus on the rankings. Amateurs can be considered at the bottom. One level higher would be the professionals; the professional fighters who were trained from a young age. This becomes more complicated and ranges from people who are able to fight off three to five hooligans to people who are not afraid when faced with a dozen people to a few dozen people. As long as firearms are not involved, fighters in this rank can handle it. No one knows how strong someone is in this rank unless they fight them first hand. Most people can only estimate someone’s strength by using their fame and influence. Oh, the Confederation’s five ranks from A to E also applies here. For example, I’m considered an E rank. The letter ranks represent the degree of ability."
"The smaller ranks within the amateur level are ranked from 1 to 9. Letter ranks are only used when someone is at a higher rank than amateur.
"Above the professionals, there are the Dojo Masters. People rarely achieve this rank in the industry. You are not a Dojo Master if you simply open up a Dojo; it’s more complicated than that. Dojo Master represents a completely different level.
"Are people in this rank the same people who are able to break a gigantic green boulder with one punch?" The brawny man’s eyes shined.
"Hehe… that is the story of Dojo Master Rizal who has the nickname of Belligerent Fist. You are roughly correct. At this level, they have reached the peak of human potential and are at an unimaginable level. Dojo Master Rizal can’t block a bullet with his body, yet his defense is considered one of the best in the industry." The man with the mustache laughed, "You could never reach that level, but it’s because of these fascinating stories that we are motivated to train and practice our skills, is it not?"
"My goal is to become someone like Dojo Master Rizal and stand at the very peak!"
"So could someone on the Dojo Master level beat one hundred people alone?" The black-haired girl asked another question.
"If the hundred people are just thugs, then Dojo Master could beat them easily one after another. Dojo Masters could probably also beat them if they all come at the same time. Top ranked masters don’t have any obvious shortcoming in terms of speed or endurance. The people with obvious shortcomings have already died in real fights." The man with mustache shook his head as he sighed.
"Alright, you guys can go now. Come back after you guys practice more." He waved his hand and said, "Just soak the part of your body that got punched with hot water and the numbness will go away."
"Ok!" The three of them replied individually. Although they didn’t pass the test, they were a bit excited after learning a lot of industry secrets that outsiders did not know.
It was Garen’s first time hearing this information about the Martial Arts world, but he felt it was very similar to the Martial Arts world on Earth. He pretended to be excited by this knowledge as he thought about his current situation and started to walk away.
[Looks like I have to become one of the two types of disciple this man talked about in order to get the core teachings. I have no hope of becoming the first type, but the second type is possible; the difficulty level is just a bit high.] Garen thought to himself.
"Hey, young man named Garen, wait a second!"
He heard the examiner shout.
Garen was surprised, but he turned around instantly.
"What do you need?" he asked the man with the mustache, who was walking towards him, perplexedly.
"You passed, why are you walking away?" The man with the mustache was also confused.
"My scored passed?"
Garen was shocked.
"Yeah, you are only sixteen, your requirements are different compared to theirs. Couldn’t you tell that they are adults?" The man with mustache smiled and said, "You are the only disciple who passed the test these past few years. Which branch are you from? Who is your instructor?"
When Garen quickly realized what was going on, he was delighted.
"I’m from the Shengying Academy branch, my instructors are Sharmilla and Luo Ya."
"Your body is quite strong." The man with mustache squeezed Garen’s shoulders. "After some training, you are already about rank 4 or 5. You are fine even after taking two punches from me, especially the second punch. Yet you have fully recovered already. From the data that I read, you were still thin last month, but you grew a lot."
Garen on the other hand just smiled, he didn’t know how to explain everything.
"Ok! Kid, you have a good foundation. Let’s go, come with me and meet your senior brothers and sisters. I didn’t expect that I would accept another disciple in my fifties." The man rubbed his mustache and said with a smile.
"Accepting disciple?" Garen was surprised. "Are you the Dojo Master Fei Baiyun?!!" He thought the man was only a regular examiner.
"Why? I don’t look like him?" the man with mustache said with a semi-smile on his face.
"No, no… You just look too young. You look like you are in your forties and I heard that the Dojo Master is in his fifties," Garen quickly spilled out the truth of what he was thinking.
"You little punk…" Dojo Master Fei Baiyun rubbed Garen’s hair and felt speechless. "I have nothing to do at this age, so I decided to come to the Dojo and test disciples with the hope to find some disciples with high potential. Surprisingly, I actually found a few in the last dozen years; they are your senior brothers and sisters.
"Also, you were trying to hide your full strength earlier. There is no need to hide your tiny amount of strength. You are not at that level yet. When you meet your senior brothers and sisters, don’t do that or it would only make them laugh, especially your senior sister. For the purpose of practice, she has beaten a dozen full grown white bears to death."
The mustached man laughed.
"White bear…!!" Garen was defeated by this information. He had only read about this creature in books. A white bear was about a man’s height when it stood up and its rough skin was very thick. This skin could not even be penetrated by a bullet from afar and could only be pierced at close range. It had about a ton, or 2,000 pounds, of strength. The senior sister that he hadn’t met yet was able to beat a dozen white bears to death? It was unimaginable!
"Of course it’s not like what you think. They didn’t attack her at the same time. She only fought one bear at a time. The white bear isn’t very fast, so if you could dodge its attack, you could win easily by counterattacking. However, none of your dodges can fail or else you could be killed. Only under this life-threatening pressure is your senior sister able to improve quickly," the man with the mustache said with deep feelings.
"Let’s go. I will introduce you to them. I know about your family background as well. You don’t have to host a fancy ceremony or anything. I will invite some of my friends in the industry to come as witnesses for a simple acceptance ceremony. The Dojo will pay for all your training related expenses so your family doesn’t have to worry about the cost. After your parents witness the ceremony, you will officially become my formal disciple.
"Ok, master!" Garen nodded seriously. Although he knew that he could reach this formal disciple level, he didn’t expect it to happen so fast.
Life in the true Martial Arts World of this era was about to slowly unfold for him.