This coordination was already a hard limit; anything further would just be a slight enhancement. He had understood that—the Explosive Fist Arts, White Cloud Secret Method, and White Cloud Combat Technique—were all fundamental parts, like a mammoths limbs. Training in these martial art techniques was like honing the mammoth's limbs: the stronger they were, the better the foundation, and the stronger the integrated effect of the Secret Mammoth Technique.
The purpose of the Secret Mammoth Technique was to integrate all these together, to form a real large mammoth. Different people formed different Mammoth characteristics: this was dependent on physical quality, and the level of Explosive Fist Arts or White Cloud Secret Method they have trained up till.
Garen's own White Cloud Secret Method had reached an unprecedented level; his Explosive Fist Arts had reached an intermediate level, a minor achievement; his White Cloud Combat Technique was intermediate too. Coupled with the strong physical quality that he was most proud of—a physical quality that was beyond the physical limits of an average person—everything combined, the Secret Martial Art helped Garen attain a terrifyingly phenomenal level.
This was just a third-rate Secret Martial Art technique, but had been practiced by him to an unfathomable level with his mysterious special ability.
Other practitioners from White Cloud Gate would not practice Secret Martial Arts on such solid foundation. Basically they would start practicing it once they had a good foundation of the rest. After all, Explosive Fist Arts and the White Cloud Secret Method were time-consuming martial art techniques. If they only started practicing Secret Martial Arts after attaining a certain achievement in those, it would probably not happen even when the practitioner reached 40 years old. Even the best talents would only be able to attain intermediate levels in Explosive Fist Arts and the White Cloud Secret Method. With their White Cloud Secret Method limited to intermediate level, not even attaining advanced level, there would be too big a difference with Garen's unparalleled achieved level.
No one knew the changes that an achieved White Cloud Secret Method integrated into Secret Mammoth Technique would bring about. The role of White Cloud Secret Method in Secret Martial Arts was like the heart of the mammoth, consolidating the power and explosive force of the entire body.
Garen wasn't even sure what stage he was at. He just knew that he was stronger than before, stronger than when he went to the Golden Hoop meet!
He rushed towards the previous tournament venue along the way he came from.
"Where is Master now?" he asked as he walked.
"After the next round is the final round to determine the top ten, Master should be here to watch," Collin explained simply. "He should be with the masters of other dojos and sects now."
Garen nodded and didn't say more. The incident with the note still weighed heavy on him; he didn't know who passed him the note, but…
A trace of coldness flashed across his face. Garen sped up. All along the corridor, every disciple from the Southern Twelve Gates would give way to him out of respect.
"I heard that Senior Brother Garen has been rated as the first person below the previous top ten! And it was Senior Brother Andrela who had personally evaluated this!"
"Senior Brother Garen, together with Senior Brother Tenstar Ni, have been regarded as the Senior Brothers with the most potential to enter top ten."
"The next round is the finals. Let's go get a place, quick!"
The whispers of trainees would reach their ears from time to time. Garen turned a deaf ear to all of it, but the faces of the other three gradually shone with a trace a pride.
White Cloud Gate had never been bestowed such an honor. As a small, third-rate sect, its martial art methods were limited; even extremely talented disciples have never managed to reach such a level. Every disciple could only participate for three times consecutively, not to mention there was an age limit. Eldest Senior Sister and Second Senior Brother had passed the age limit long ago, and even they were far from attaining this degree of evaluation when they participated.
Now that Garen had achieved it, the three of them walked with their heads held high, no longer the same as before.
After he passed through a few corridors, Garen strode into his initial tournament venue. In the packed room, someone was already waiting for him in the white ring.
A proportionately muscular youth with a tall flattop haircut resembling a broom, he had white hand wraps on both his hands, and a rebellious look on his face. His upper body was bare, and he was wearing white shorts. He had a shoe only on his right foot; it looked very odd.
Garen subconsciously looked at his feet.
When the youth shifted his right foot, Garen realized that the he wasn't actually wearing a shoe, but instead there was a black shoe-like motif painted onto his foot: both his feet were bare.
"Senior Brother Garen, please step into the ring," the referee shouted.
The tournament venue quieted down almost immediately. The crowd gave way to Garen and the other three. Most of them looked expectantly at him, only a few stared rudely.
Garen strode to the side of the ring, somersaulted into it then stood up.
"Order of the Iron Fist, Carlos." The youth had a hand in front of his body, and another clenched, resting at his waist: he adopted the horse stance, and put on a solemn posture.
"Garen of White Cloud Gate." Garen glanced at his opponent, not even bothering to adopt a stance. He looked sideways at the referee and asked, "Can we begin?"
"Begin!" The referee rung the bell definitively, then somersaulted out of the ring. This wasn't child's play: duels at this level were considered to be between experts. A referee like him could be accidentally injured if he didn't take care.
As the referee's voice faded, Carlos threw a fierce punch which arced to hit the right side of Garen's face.
The few-meter gap between the both of them was closed by him in one stride. His fist pierced the right side of Garen's face like a sickle. Due to the extreme speed, only a trace of a shadow could be seen, like the sharp, curved shadow of a sickle blade.
"How fast!" Garen was stunned. He barely managed to lift his elbow; he could feel a gust from the force of the punch ripple the skin of his face.
The two were interlocked in a fist fight. Garen blocked with his right arm and threw his left arm out towards his opponent's face. His arm flung out like a spring; he was using a standard Shot Form. The explosive force of the punch made a whoosh sound.
Another crisp sound could be heard. All their attacks were blocked by the other.
Within less than half a meter from each other, Carlos' spike-like elbow attacked Garen like a storm. Garen blocked his crucial body parts; the rest of the attacks hit his muscles and caused them to quiver violently but the effect soon passed. His skin merely reddened slightly.
A very frequent 'tap tap tap' sound like raindrops could be heard.
Carlos looked grimmer. Even his Vibration couldn't penetrate the toughness of Garen's Body Hardening Technique. It merely caused a reddening of the skin; this was something he didn't expect.
But to be able to reach this stage in the tournament, his opponent would naturally not be a weakling. He was already mentally prepared.
"Abrupt Kick!" Carlos roared. His right leg shot up and headed straight for Garen's chin. Its swiftness transformed it into a grey shadow.
Garen didn't manage to react in time, and got hit squarely by the kick; his head jerked backwards from the impact. But with a sly grin, he threw caution to the wind and took the opportunity to grab his opponent's shoulder with his right arm, and tripped Carlos with a foot.
There was a muffled thud, and Carlos was held down by him in the ring.
Garen didn't hesitate as he followed through with a downward elbow smash.
There was a loud crash; a small dent appeared on the ring.
Carlos rolled over and dodged the attack. He rolled a few meters away from Garen and stood up again. He looked fearfully at the dent on the ground. These rings were made from high strength, special grade cement. Apart from a high base cost, this brought with it an extremely tough rigidity, almost ten times that of average cement. Now it had been easily damaged under Garen's strength.
"If I didn’t dodge that second move…" He let out a low cough. Phlegm surged up his throat, and he felt bursts of piercing pain in his back.
He turned sideways to spit out the phlegm: it was blood sputum. The blood red goop stuck onto the floor of the ring with a flop.
"Good fight!" When he got excited, Carlos' accent immediately turned into a rhotic tone; Garen couldn't make out the origin of the accent.
"You're not too bad either." Garen gave a soft laugh, and temporarily put aside all his worries. "Again!"
He stomped his foot, angled his elbow forward and dashed towards his opponent like a drill.
His left elbow complemented the Dash Form. Coupled with the impact of the Step Form, the integrated use of the Four Major Forms was his true transformation after receiving the Secret Martial Art.
This was the same maneuver he used to defeat the stout youth earlier.
When he rushed to the front of Carlos, the latter gave a cunning smile then suddenly crouched down and kicked Garen's lower body.
Carlos caught Garen squarely in the calf, but his expression immediately changed as he attempted to roll over and dodge, but it was too late.
His opponent's calf was anchored like an iron wall. This was the result of a marked difference in strength. Moreover, his straight kick did not actually do his opponent any harm, not even a scratch.
Was this a bad joke? Usually the power of this kick was enough to rupture two sandbags arranged successively!
He saw Garen draw his hands to his chest and do an elbow drop, collapsing on him like a mountain.
It was too late.
Carlos did not hesitate; he made a ruthless decision.
Both his legs suddenly kicked upwards. The tips of his feet were like sharp spikes and stabbed Garen's chest and abdomen one after the other.
The two collided hard into each other; the whole ring quaked from the impact.
The entire tournament ground suddenly fell into complete silence.
Garen slowly got up and looked at Carlos who was coughing up blood.
"No matter how fast you are, how fast your rhythm, I just need to hit you once."
It was only then that the referee rushed into the ring to strike the bell.
"The winner is Garen of White Cloud Gate!"
The audience burst into a loud cheer; the whole tournament venue instantly became rowdy. Most of the disciples from Southern Twelve Gates were over the moon.
Garen shook his head as he watched the medical team carry the injured Carlos away. He looked down at his own chest: two red spots were clearly visible, and his skin was slightly swollen.
"He was indeed an expert who has mastered Vibration, much more lethal than an average person. Any stronger and he would have broken my defense."
"The next venue is the finals tournament ground, that is the open tournament ground outside. It starts tomorrow morning," the referee on the side cautiously announced. "Today's preliminaries have ended. Tomorrow will be the finals to determine the top ten."
"That is to say, I can go back and rest now?" Garen asked.
Garen leaped out of the ring. His white clothing was torn and ragged: Carlos' kicks earlier had shredded his clothes at his chest. He simply pulled off his top and walked out of the room baring his upper body.
"Eldest Senior Brother, you're finally in the finals!" Collin, Carrie and the rest were elated.
"At such a critical moment, where could Rimridor have gone?" Simon moaned softly.
"That guy isn't here yet?" Garen frowned, "It's fine, forget him. You guys head straight back to rest. I'll take a shower first."
"Yes, Senior Brother!" the three of them replied respectfully at once. Their impression of Garen now was higher and more authoritative than ever.
Garen nodded, and walked towards the left side of the corridor alone. Every now and then there would be some disciples from Southern Twelve Gates looking at him in admiration, and give way to him.
He had defeated Carlos from the Order of the Iron Fist. His reputation immediately reached a prominent height. The Order of the Iron Fist ranked ninth, but Carlos was indeed a top ten contender the last time. Now that he had been defeated, this meant that Garen could benefit from his detriment to advance further.