The Journey of Lightning Dragon (雷龍出道)
I seriously prepared for martial-arts contest (比武) with Two Sects Four Clans (雙門四家) from the next day. First, I checked their locations with the information I had heard about from the waiter, and also took notes on the names of their renowned leaders.
When the waiter received some money from me, he managed to release the information like a martial artist who has been in Murim (武林) for ten years.
“How do you know so well?”
He chuckled when I asked him a strange question.
“Well, it’s always interesting to talk about the people in Murim. Two Sects Four Clans have a good reputation, so lots of people living in Luoyang (洛阳: an old capital from pre-Han times) admire their experts (高手). I’m also interested in them, so I visit there from time to time.”
“Is Gaibang (丐幇: beggars’ group) here, too?”
He waved his hand.
“Oh my god. Is there a place where people live without Gaibang? If you walk past Changhaem street, there are beggars walking around under a remote underpass. They are the experts of Gaibang. On top of that, they’re just walking around the back alley at times.”
I worried for a moment. I paid money to the waiter and got a rough information, but I thought it would be better to visit Gaibang and buy more information from them. But the information would go around, and if I took advantage of Gaibang, I would end up getting caught and annoyed later on.
‘Let’s put off Gaibang for now. It will be better to give a first try to Two Sects Four Clans and find only the information I need.’
I ordered a meal and came out into the city. I then looked around the city for a weapon store. The streets were divided into the commercial districts in which bars, adult entertainment areas, and every kind of stores were arranged according to their types. The weapon store I was looking for was about one kilometers from the street of the inns.
When I entered a weapon store, I noticed quite a few bright decorations inside. At first glance, it seemed too much for the poor to come in. Of course, as the weapon price looked high, I tried to slide back out, but the shop owner grabbed a hold of my dress.
“Sir, take a look.”
“… ha ha, I don’t have much money.”
“Things we sell here are often bought by the government office. You won’t be sorry.”
When I heard it, I looked at the weapons on display with the intention of just watching them. Luoyang had many warriors and martial arts sects, and because there were many unsafe places for security, even common people could carry arms if they got permission from the government office. So, it seemed that these weapons stores, which were originally not allowed, were also flourishing.
‘Hmm … There must be one spear with me. Now that my long sword is out of date, and I have to go for a change.’
But when I ordered a weapon as I thought, the arms shop owner said with a big smile.
“That way, it will be about thirty silver coins.”
“If you take a little off, you will pay twenty-five silver coins.”
The owner quickly added his words, but I never dared to buy. At this price, it was clear that if a guard collected money all year round, it would be difficult to buy it. Although good weapons must be expensive, I also hated the idea that the owner of the weapon store was cutting the price roughly. I left the weapon store without any hesitation to wander about, but they were all alike.
‘Damn it. These guys are price-fixing. Prices are similar everywhere.’
I grimaced. As the weapon stores were concentrated in the small areas doing business in the same industry, they would all go belly up together, in
the moment of the price competition. The weapon shop owners seemed to have plotted and price-fixing on a suitable line to avoid it. That price, of course, must have been inflated enough to eat up the martial artists.
But I felt a little awkward. While traveling continuously, I always carried a long spear, a sword, and a dagger as basic weapons. But after three years of studying under Wangliang’s roof, the grip of the long spear decayed, and I carried around a shabby wooden spear of Jinrang valley as a makeshift. It was a wooden, lousy spear made roughly by a blacksmith in Jinrang valley. When a gate guard looked at it, he passed me easily because he thought there would be no unusual event with the spear.
‘If I use it a few more times, it’ll be probably broken.’
Furthermore, the sword blade that had been used frequently was missing. If I put the power of my Neigong on it, it would be surely broken. With such unstable weapons, I could not fight against the leaders of Two Sects Four Clans and other prestigious sects.
‘Hmm … Hell … I can’t help it. I’ll just rent a weapon while I’m challenging them.’
In fact, this idea is not itself worth to a martial artist. It is a basic manner to cherish one’s weapon as if it is one’s life, and to ask for a weapon in the enemy territory is enough to be ridiculed. Furthermore, I do not know what criticism I will face from the major sects with such a long history as Two Sects Four Clans.
However, at the risk of a slight disgrace, it is necessary to save the pocket money. If it doesn’t work, I will earn money by working as a guard in the courier company in Luoyang, but I feel it is more disadvantageous to leave as many traces as possible.
I walked around the neighborhood that day to check if the information I heard from the waiter was correct. When I saw Iron Blood Sect (鐵血門) and Tai Sword Sect (太劍門), I was a little shaken. I thought that no matter how big it was, it would be only one sect, but its huge manor stood on the basis of a large piece of land.
On the contrary, Four Clans had a house, and it was not very large. It could support dozens of people and it’s just like another Murim Clans.
But when I got near Iron Blood Sect, I found that there were hundreds of low class disciples hanging around, and it was like a marketplace to be buzzing around. Tai Sword Sect was not very different. They owned hundreds of pieces of land and would be considered the leading group among the wealthy people in Luoyang.
‘I can understand why Huashan Faction (華山派) and Zhongnan Faction (鐘南派) can’t subdue them in Luoyang.’
It was not hard to guess why Iron Blood Sect and Tai Sword Sect were so prosperous. Four Clans were made of blood relatives as another Murim Clans. So, it was difficult to have a disciple from outside. Although they could accept them, it would be impossible to increase the size of the clan. If they revealed their secret martial arts handed down in a clan, the betrayal would be a great damage to them.
However, since Iron Blood Sect or Tai Sword Sect was a sect led by a leader to increase their influence, it was able to enlarge without any restriction. Like Blue Dragon Martial Hall, they were also fishing on a large scale by using the bait of low class martial arts saying, “We will teach you the advanced martial arts.” Moreover, it was obvious that the talented of Luoyang flocked into them like bees as they were dominating Luoyang.
‘How high is the ability of those who dominate in such a big sect? They
They are leading hundreds of disciples without any difficulties and they are strong enough to resist interference from Nine Factions & Gaibang (九派一幇). At least I know that there are plenty of experts who can easily deal with me in the sects.’
But I shook my head.
‘Let’s not think too negatively. I don’t have to knock down the leader of Iron Blood Sect or Tai Sword Sect. I’m just trying to get a chance to fight with a martial artist of Murim on the similar level, and to cut and polish my abilities such as precious stones.
When I came back from that day’s search, I quietly operated Lightning Dragon One Qigong in the room of the inn. I became a little bit nervous when I performed the Big Circulatory Cycle (大周天) properly at high tide. In the meantime, I repeated only Small Circulatory Cycle (小周天), which was capable of maintaining the vitality of the inside and did not require deep concentration.
Unlike Small Circulatory Cycle, Big Circulatory Cycle made it possible to expand the absolute strength of the Neigong and spread the real Qi (眞氣) over the veins. I usually went into a deep state during Big Circulatory Cycle. So, if I were attacked at that moment, I would suffer fatal injuries regardless of the class of martial arts. That’s why I did not practice it thoughtlessly.
I felt as if my Low Dantian (下丹田: point two inches below the navel where one’s Qi resides) was infested. As I once lifted the energy up to the top of my head according to Big Circulatory Cycle and took it down, the energy was pitching around the heart as if to draw my skin. I concentrated on the middle of the forehead to take control of the massive energy for a long time, and after a while, the energy suddenly fell back to my Low Dantian like lightning.
A dull shock came over my whole body. But there was no pain, and lots of parts were opened in the blood vessels, blocked so far.
‘What level is my Neigong now?’
Wangliang said, “From my perspective, your Neigong would be on par with the Lord of Nine Factions & Gaibang.” He also said, “I cannot measure your level exactly as I am an ordinary person who has not trained in the extraordinary martial arts.”
‘After all, to measure my level of how much I am capable of, I have to fight with the martial artist on the similar level.’
I thought with my eyes closed.
‘My first martial-arts contest (比武) is not with Four Clans but Two Sects.’
The reasons were rather complicated.
If I win the big four, they are so sensitive to fame that they may use the dark means to bury it. Besides, if a person fights with me is a clan figure anyway, there will be grudge. Also, since the number of the experts is few, it is highly likely that an Extreme (絕頂) martial artist who I cannot deal with suddenly pops out.
But Two Sects are different. The level will be evenly distributed in large numbers, and it is somewhat neutral as the association is a combination of disciples for profit. This side is also sensitive to honor, but if someone loses, the person will be considered a loser. Though Two Sects are not easy to think about, I want to compete with them first.
I calmed down all distracting thoughts and started to operate Lightning Dragon One Qigong again. I had begun to walk the path of the sword, and my desire to win the race was burning.
The next day, I got up at dawn and made up my mind. I then went to the signpost of Iron Blood Sect, a traditional one that has produced a great deal of military officers. As I visited before dawn, two disciples with a half-sleepy eye were guarding in front of
front of the signpost.
“Who are you?”
I answered in a casual tone.
“I am Baek Woong. I came to do the martial-arts contest with the Iron Blood Sect.”
The two disciples looked at each other’s faces, and became dumbfounded. Then, one of the two grinned.
“I’ve seen lots of people like you, but you seem to have made a ridiculous choice. Do you know how many challengers were crippled in the contest with the Iron Blood Sect?”
“Is it up to you to decide whether to accept martial-arts contest?”
His face stiffened a little when I snapped back furiously.
“Okay. Wait a minute. I’ll report in accordance with the procedure.”
One of the disciples laughed at me in a sullen tone when he heard my answer.
“Don’t be pretended strong. You’ll be beaten to death.”
I thought it might be true. Now I stood here being lifted much higher than usual. As it was the first time in my life to mount a serious martial-arts contest with the opponents, it made me nervous. I let my face loose and laughed at the thought that I wouldn’t be able to perform properly if I stayed so firm.
“Are you crazy?”
I laughed whether he was upset or not. Laughing like that, I became more relaxed. When I came back to my usual sense, my Neigong boiled up like the Great River and made my fist heavier.
A few moments later, one of the disciples came out and said,
“Hey, come on in. I’ll guide you to the martial-arts contest hall.”
I followed him toward the martial-arts contest hall. Indeed, the size of the sect was huge as seen from the outside. The dormitory was occupied by hundreds of disciples, as well as the training hall. Even more astonishing was the appearance of a drill hall arranged like a military drill. Maybe it was the place where the trainers exercised to prepare for the martial exam.
After a while, I was led to a large indoor martial-arts contest hall scented with incense from the bottom of the tree. Though I had come before dawn, the junior disciples were already there to see the martial-arts contest as well as the expert who would deal with me.
Suddenly, the disciples raised their voices. It was meant to kill my spirit, not sound, but shouts. The wood echoed in the room, and the sound was really loud. A reasonable martialist would be overwhelmed by the spirit if his training was shallow.
‘These sons of bitches…’
But I didn’t want to be lost in the enemy territory. So, I shouted at the other side with my Neigong on.
Ah ah ah …!
Suddenly, the wooden floor was broken and a few of the screaming stressors collapsed on the spot, throwing up blood. The whole building shook and burst open. Then, the white guy sitting across shouted at me.
Then my shouts silenced the noisy room again. He looked around the disciples who had collapsed with a bad look and became angry with them.
“Don’t be so stupid … take the men with the inner injuries back to the medicine department. And just send the rest back to the dormitory except above fourth stages!”
“And call the Lord and the elders here. Understand?”
I could see the senior disciples bustling about. As the injured were carried away and the junior disciples disappeared from the room, it became quiet inside. The absence made this place look like a very large training hall.
The man in white said with a sour face as it calmed down.
“I’m sorry. My disciples have showed rudeness to you. Please understand, Baek Woong.”
“It happens a lot. Am I going to compete against you?”
“Yes. My name is Gyojun.”
He slowly stepped onto the hall, and soon took the basic position. I also stood up and took the sword by the middle position.
I was not sure what position Gyojun was in, but I could feel that he was quite a was quite a considerable expert. Not only had he cancelled my lion roaring from the Neigong of Millennium Snow Ginseng, but he also controlled his emotion calmly. The capacity of the martialist seemed to be very high.
He glanced at me with a good look, then said.
“Amazing … I’ve never heard of a man like you before in my life. What kind of faction are you from?”
“I studied on my own. I don’t have a teacher or a faction.”
He might know about the martial arts of Blue Dragon Martial Hall, but I pushed ahead with it, saying, “I don’t have one.” I pretended to be “no” rather than admitting it from the beginning.
Then, Gyojun murmured with a sword in his hand.
“Hmm … I’m not sure I can beat you. But I don’t mean to discredit the honor of the sect. So, could you wait a moment?”
“What are you talking about?”
“If you give me a moment, the experts who can deal with you will arrive. You have to fight with an expert who is right for you.”
What is this?
I was so nervous since I thought I would fight with Gyojun, but he was wagging his tail over there. His words were not hollow and I realized that Gyojun had a strong misunderstanding. He ordered the disciples to bring in the Lord and the elders, because he thought he would lose if he faced me.
‘What? I haven’t yet fused my class into my Neigong…’
But I didn’t accept Gyojun’s request. Instead, I expressed cold smile and said.
“Are you talking two different words in one mouth? Don’t say a word, but take my sword.”
Somehow, I was in a hurry and decided to push ahead with the martial-arts contest by force.
“What, what …?”
“I’ll start the martial-arts contest now.”
At the next moment, my body made a great dash and attacked him. He was at a loss as he did not think whether I would come up with no further conversation, and he reacted with his swordsmanship in a hurry. I tried to cut him quickly operating Lightning Spirit Swordsmanship (雷靈劍法) with the nearly damaged sword.
His swordsmanship was precise and cheerful. I knew that he was at least a First-class swordsman since his posture was so stable. I thought it would not be over in a short time, so I attacked him whenever it came along first.
Swish swish swish!
As soon as I hit his weapon with my sword, he suddenly threw up blood and was flown three meters away. Then he struggled to get up, but his legs became weak and got down on his knees again.
“I lost …”
I only played five moves. I looked at my sword with astonishment, but it was still not ready to break. On the other hand, Gyojun’s sword was half broken and the blade was stuck in the wall. It was the evidence that my Neigong overwhelmed him. The disciple standing next to him shouted in horror.
“What a monster…!”
What happened to this?
I didn’t know what happened, so I was standing there flurriedly.
A calm voice rang out in my ears at the entrance to the martial-arts contest hall.
“He is a real challenger for martial-arts contest. Is this the first person in ten years?”
I turned my back and looked at the entrance. And I saw a middle-aged man dressed in fur, wrapped around his mettle, and six martialists guiding him along. The middle-aged man’s energy was visible with a form in my eyes, and six martialists were also emitting significant energy, though not so much. And they were followed by the people wearing the sword that hang embroidery thread like Gyojun’s.
As they appeared, the disciples everywhere shouted.
“Here come the Lord and the elders of the sect!”
“All the captains of each department are here, too!”
I frowned in my displeasure.
All the leaders, who were dominating Luoyang, were present at this martial-arts contest hall!