Morning of October 1st.
White Cloud Martial Colosseum.
Bright light beamed in from the wooden window, landing on the carpet. Faintly visible dust floated in the air.
While Garen respectfully stood in the middle of the colosseum, Master Fei Baiyun sat in his high chair with Senior Sister and 2nd Senior Brother standing beside him.
Third Senior Brother stood to the right, holding a square wooden plate covered in red cloth.
Both sides of the colosseum had a row of chairs and a dozen men sat scattered in these seats, divided into two groups. They were all wearing white robes with sharp and fiery gazes. Leading them were two elderly men between the age of fifty to sixty.
"Since you were directly chosen by me as a disciple, the extra etiquette will be unnecessary. Today we are honored to have Master Hurley and Master Hester here as our witnesses. Let’s begin."
Fei Baiyun nodded towards Joshua, his third disciple.
"Begin the ceremony!" Joshua shouted. As flippant as he usually was, he did not dare to be glib at events like this.
Two young girls wearing white robes walked up. One of them held a red envelope, the other held a maroon wooden cup. Each held a wooden plate.
"Read the code of conduct," Joshua proclaimed.
Garen straightened his body and picked up the red envelope. He opened the seal and recited the code of conduct inside.
"Do not disrespect your master; do not be ungrateful! Do not flaunt and show off; do not be arrogant! Do not commit crimes; do not take what is not yours! Do not be conceited or complacent, do not be lazy or procrastinate!"
"Disciple Garen Lombard promises to follow these rules and make our dojo proud!"
"Memorize these rules. Do you have anything else to say?" Fei Baiyun looked at him with a smile.
Garen closed the envelope, then kneeled on the floor.
After three kowtows, he lifted the wooden cup from the plate and presented it to Fei Baiyun with both hands.
Fei Baiyun accepted the cup and drank a sip of black tea from it. He then took a feathered pen from Joshua and swiftly wrote down his name on the envelope. He presented the envelope to the two witnesses.
"Will the witnesses please sign their names!" Joshua shouted again.
The two elders both smiled and each signed their names on the envelope.
The bald elder to the left said with a salute, "I didn't expect Master Fei to have another disciple at his age. He has great talent and a calm mind. Congratulations!"
Fei Baiyun let out a satisfied smile. "I’m getting old too, Garen will be my last disciple. I will not have the energy for another one. My hopes and the White Cloud Gate’s hope depends on the four of them from now on."
The past few days Master Fei had been investigating Garen’s background, his personality, and the way he treats people. Fei Baiyun was extremely satisfied with the results.
Most importantly, Garen’s talent might not be the greatest, but it was worthy of the gate’s martial arts inheritance. At the very least, the Mammoth Secret Technique would continue. Currently, only his second disciple Frank practiced this move and fighters like him were prone to danger every day, leaving his Secret Technique at risk of being lost forever.
"Brother Fei, what are you talking about? If you are old, what about us? We are about the same age, but I still want to live for few more years and have a few more disciples of my own." The red-haired elder said while nodding his head.
Fei Baiyun stood up. Behind him on the rosewood table were a few memorial tablets. Words from an unknown language were written all over them.
"With the sixth generation of our White Cloud Gate under my leadership, let us kowtow to honor our former masters and ancestors."
Garen kowtowed respectfully toward the tablets. Fei Baiyun watched the obedient Garen and nodded in approval.
"It is unfortunate that your parents ar
e out of town today. The two masters are always busy, so we had to rush the ceremony. Since the ceremony is finished, you will henceforth be my last inheriting disciple. You will take the Gate’s pride as your own."
"Yes, Master!" Garen nodded with a solemn and respectful expression.
"Very well, now you may rise."
Garen slowly stood up as the ceremony concluded.
The colosseum was on the second floor of the White Cloud Gate and a crowd of mostly Formal Disciples from the dojo had already gathered at the staircase entrance. The dojo had three types of students: regular, formal, and core disciples.
Garen had become a core disciple in such a short time, in part due to his talent and young age.
Fei Baiyun’s White Cloud Gate was different from the other Gates with regards to the process of accepting students because of its status in the city.
From reading the code of conduct earlier, Garen noticed that the White Cloud Gate was a sect of both good and evil since the code of conduct did not mention anything about morality and ethics.
Basically, as long as one did not betray the gate and did not do anything that would harm the gate’s reputation, one could do whatever he or she pleased.
After the ceremony, Fei Baiyun and the other two masters stayed behind to chat, while the other disciples and students left to get ready for lunch.
Garen followed his Senior Sister and Senior Brother downstairs. Walking behind them, he saw Rosetta’s white tiger tattoo on her naked back. The tiger looked ferocious and the tattoo moved with Rosetta’s movements, emitting a blood scented vigor.
The tattoo spanned from her back to her chest and across her shoulder. The back of the tiger had a clearly visible blood red spine.
Upon closer inspection, Garen realized that there was actually a blood red scar on her shoulder. She had tattooed the tiger on the scar, and used it as the tiger’s spine.
Second Disciple Frank was tall and sturdy, he was speaking with Master Hurley’s disciple enthusiastically. That man was also a bruiser, the two seemed to be just each other’s type. They were also old acquaintances.
Senior Sister Rosetta was speaking with one of Master Hester’s disciples. The guy seemed to be interested in her and was making a move on her.
Garen sat next to Joshua as he listened to the boring conversations from both sides.
The two junior disciples were both the type of people who were unable to sit still for a second.
"Senior Brother, is it true that Formal Disciples can only get to the intermediate level of the White Cloud Secret Arts?" Garen asked.
"It’s true because the later levels require some rare medicines and other conditions. Only the core disciples can obtain these medicines from the dojo. Why do you ask? You’ve only learned the beginner level of the Secret Arts and are still far from the intermediate so what’s the hurry?" Joshua was puzzled. "Well, since we aren’t doing anything and you have now completed the ceremony, I suppose it won’t hurt to explain the later stages to you."
"I’m just curious," Garen laughed. "Any man who is in martial arts would want to know the future direction of his training."
"You sound pretty mature." Joshua nodded, "From my own experience, the intermediate level of the White Cloud Secret Arts can increase your strength by half. The expert level, which only our Master, Senior Sister, and Senior Brother have achieved, can actually double one’s strength. Our Senior Sister’s strength grew by 100 pounds, and our Senior Brother grew by 150 pounds. The expert level of the White Cloud Secret Arts is the highest level achieved by people from our dojo. The master level was only achieved by the founder who created our gate. I hear that combined with the Mammoth Secret Technique, his strength could really match that of a mammoth!"
"Force of a mammoth! That would be over two thousand pounds!" Garen was astonished.
"Nobody has tested it before, but it is indeed very powerful," Joshua said, stroking his chin with great anticipation.
After some chatting, the Gate provided lunch for everyone, then the two masters left with their disciples. Some other guests showed up at the dojo to congratulate them on the ceremony.
These distinguished guests included the mayor and the governor.
With the addition of these other guests, the ceremony was enough to influence all of Huaishan City.
After the reception, it was already late afternoon. The food eaten at lunch had already been digested and expended as energy.
After dinner, Fei Baiyun called Garen in front of a small, narrow room.
A bald and half-naked elder sat cross-legged on the ground in front of the room. His body was full of muscle, his veins were like dark snakes coiling on his body, and his long white beard descended onto his chest. Bowing down and showing great respect, Fei Baiyun went up and whispered a few words to the old man.
The bald elder nodded, opened his eyes, and looked at Garen, seemingly trying to memorize his face. Then, he closed his eyes again without saying a word.
Fei Baiyun nodded to Garen and pushed open the door.
The door opened to a room shrouded in complete darkness. Fei Baiyun lit up an oil lamp on the wall and the dim light filled the cramped room.
In the room there were some notebooks scattered between many bookshelves.
"These are martial arts practice notebooks from our ancestors. You can go through them as you wish. But never mind that for now. Follow me inside."
Fei Baiyun stopped Garen from opening up one of the notebooks and strode past the bookshelves.
"This place is safely guarded by uncle Bai, who has remembered your scent. As long as you don’t bring others, you can come here on your own from now on. This is one of the privileges of being my disciple."
"Yes Master, I understand."
Fei Baiyun nodded as they approached the last row of shelves. On the last shelf was a red teapot-shaped container.
Fei Baiyun took down the teacup and emptied into his hand. A small red pill rolled out of the spout.
He handed the pill to Garen. "Eat it!"
Garen took the pill, put it into his mouth, and he swallowed it without any hesitation.
"Master, what was that pill?"
"Body Enhancement Pill. Your White Cloud Secret Arts is intermediate level already, right?"
Fei Baiyun looked at Garen with a faint smile. Garen was shocked and didn’t know how to reply.
"Don’t worry, the beginner level of the White Cloud Secret Arts is the easiest to surpass. In addition to my special herbal medicine incense, advancing in a short time isn’t that rare. Some of our former masters in the gate reached the second level even faster because they had great talent and potential. However, once you reach this level, you cannot advance to the next without specially made medicine."
He put the red teacup back on the shelf.
"Remember to come here and take a pill once per day and you’ll be able to improve your White Cloud Secret Arts. This technique cannot be mastered with just practice, but practice is also crucial of course."
"Yes, Master." Garen held his surprise and replied. He felt like Fei Baiyun’s eyes were like a pair of searchlights and he couldn’t hide anything from them.
"Don’t try to hide your skills. You are only at the elementary level of the Explosive Fist Arts, which is not that big of a deal. I’ve seen a lot of people like you and in the real martial arts community this is quite average."
Fei Baiyun spit out all of Garen’s secrets at once. Watching his new disciple’s face of embarrassment, he felt a sense of gleeful satisfaction. If he hadn’t found out this disciple’s secrets, he would not be in such a rush to take him as a disciple.
As for the "real martial arts community" he mentioned, if there were really that many students easily learning the Explosive Fist Arts, the White Cloud Gate would have taken over the province already. He only said this to make sure Garen wouldn’t be too full of himself.
Someone with talents like Garen had only appeared once in the history of the White Cloud Gate. He was born a White Cloud disciple, his body perfectly fit with the White Cloud Gate’s techniques, and he had great talent.
Garen knew his secrets were exposed, so he didn’t say anything else, but laughed it up.
[ And here I was, afraid I was too exceptional…]