Millennium Snow Ginseng (千年雪参)
The next day I ate breakfast and went to Jin So Chung. He sat me down and started to explain.
"There are three major categories of martial arts that are handed down by Blue Dragon Martial Academy (青龍武館). They are Weapon Art (武器術), Breathing Method (心法), and Fast-moving Art (經身術). Do you realize what they are?"
"Weapon Art is in the way of using weapons, Breathing Method is the way to build up Neigong (內功:internal energy), and Fast-moving Art is the way to make the body agile and light, including footwork".
I nodded and he continued to talk.
“What is the most important one of the three?”
“It's Breathing Method.”
“I can learn Weapon Art in real fighting, but it is hard to gather Breathing Method, even if I have enough money.”
“You know that well.”
The head teacher said with a hint of admiration.
Although, it doesn't seem like a big deal since it is a matter of perception after decades as a guard, it is difficult for young children to realize it. In the eyes of children, Weapon Art and Fast-moving Art take more attention than Breathing Method.
“Yeah. Since Breathing Method is the most important and profound secret, we teach it at the end. If Breathing Method goes wrong during the procedure, a person is likely to suffer from internal injuries that cannot be reversed. That's why you are supposed to pass Breathing Method at least a year after you've become a first-line disciple."
Then, he put his hand on my shoulder.
“But I've decided to teach you Breathing Method first.”
“Now is the right time to spread Neigong of Three Talents Breathing Method (三才心法) to the whole bloodline of your body.”
It was just not understandable. When I tilted my head as if in doubt, he chuckled with genuine delight.
“You are a child, but you have an incredible amount of Neigong of Three Talents Breathing Method. But it is piled up firmly and condensed only in your Dantian (丹田:hypogastrium – the spot of four and a half centimeters down from navel), so it is slow to convey Neigong throughout your whole body. Because of that, when you fight with other people, you're always be one beat late. That is why Three Talents Breathing Method is not a very good one to learn.”
It’s too slow!
I was appalled at the fatal disadvantage of Three Talents Breathing Method, only hearing this for the first time in my life. When I was a guard, I never studied my Neigong, and I never thought about it because I was busy making ends meet every day. However, Three Talents Breathing Method was found out to have such slow transfer speed.
“Fortunately, your body is still in the state of a child and it is easy to change the nature of your own Neigong, because the inner heat does not penetrate that deeply yet. From today, you will start learning the secret Breathing Method of Blue Dragon Martial Academy, Thunder Dragon One Qigong (雷龍一气功), then your condensed Neigong will start to melt, and you will be able to accomplish a very rapid Neigong achievement.”
“What do you mean by extremely fast forward delivery?”
“Hmm… If you succeed in melting it all, you will have at least twenty years' Neigong before long."
It's an accomplishment which is very hard to obtain even for the successors of well-known factions.
Thunder Dragon One Qigong will melt Neigong of Three Talents Breathing Method! If it melts completely, it will guarantee twenty years' Neigong, and the level will be the same with the successors of the well-known factions.
I was thrilled to find myself aesthetic for just a moment when fully realizing I had been given a great opportunity, and I was a little excited about the possibility that the deep anguish of a third-grade guard might finally be released.
Jin So Chung said in a quiet voice.
“Today I will teach you three ways of training. I will train you to repeat the three training methods for a month.”
“The first is Sit Qigong (坐功), which is the most effective method to build up Neigong through the meditation in the sit position. The second is Moving Qigong (行功), which is carried out in the body by making light movements during everyday life.”
He said with folded arms.
"The last one is Duel."
I was taken aback by the sudden remark. I didn’t think I would have to move a lot because I was told he would teach me Breathing Method first, but Duelling! If I had a duel with him, it would be like facing an insurmountable wall like a dog, so I felt a little trepidation.
However, he continued calmly.
"Your Six Harmonies Swordsmanship (六合劍法) involves a murderous spirit. There is a keen sense of wisdom that has been refined and polished in real fighting. But it also includes a dog-fighting and frenetic characteristic. It becomes a fatal disadvantage as you become a master.”
The truth is, although he said it in a plausible way, it made my face glow red because I knew what he was pointing at.
The swordsmanship that I trained in as a guard was eventually used to fight bandits and to stab the enemies to death.
If third-grade guards and bandits brutally tangled up while brandishing swords, they would inevitably swing and kick at each other. In the meantime, if there are any gaps, they subtly throw soil or sand to cover the eyes of the opponent and quickly stab him with a knife. After playing such games which are played anywhere else for decades, it has become difficult to maintain a proper decorum with other players.
He said sternly.
“Do you know why a man becomes a master? A true master fights correctly…"
They could not even permit a crack within the sewage to seep into their core any more than they would with their movements, but rather distribute a close bond as they gradually increase the levels.
"I’ve decided to guide you personally because I want you to stick to it.”
“But don’t forget. I will be in touch with you for a month to try to break the habit, but if it doesn’t work…”
With a gulp.
When I swallowed, his intimidating eyes glittered sharply.
"I will take back Thunder Dragon One Qigong from you and kick you out. It is too precious to give a person who cannot become a high-grade martial artist.”
Only then did I realize that he isn’t at all that easy.
He accepted me only on the basis of a strict requirement! When he realized that I had Neigong of Three Talents Breathing Method, he planned to nurture me into the levels of a young successor of Murim (武林:the world of martial artists).
However, the bad habits of using Six Harmonies Swordsmanship now prevented the way, and if I would fail to fix it as much as possible, he would be going to drive away Neigong without leaving it and kick me out of the Martial Academy.
The secret of Breathing Method is like the life blood of a faction.
But I asked it because I wasn’t convinced.
"Even if I could not stand the position, Could I remain a student?"
I think it’s too much to drive me out. Besides, other students, including Bang Il, are also learning Thunder Dragon One Qigong!”
“It is not Thunder Dragon One Qigong that they are learning.”
"Blue Cloud Breathing Method (青雲心法)!"
It is the basic one of Thunder Dragon One Qigong. The children are taught the fundamental martial arts including Blue Cloud Breathing Method until they become disciples of 'third-line,' and only a few of them with outstanding qualities are taught Thunder Dragon One Qigong."
I recognized I was under some false illusions.
"Thunder Dragon One Qigong is really the best one in this Martial Academy. There are only four people who learned it: the master, a head teacher, and two other teachers. They gather their students for extension of power and income, but teach them only Blue Cloud Breathing Method, which is a sub-compatible one, instead of handing it over to hasty subjects."
However, there would be a life of valor, no better than a guard, though practiced for decades in Blue Dragon Martial Academy.
I arranged the situation in my head and said it calmly.
“The reason why you pass on Thunder Dragon One Qigong rather than Blue Cloud Breathing Method is because it is easier to melt Neigong of Three Talents Breathing Method.”
“Yes. Students who have learned Blue Cloud Breathing Method go through similar procedures. However, it is much easier to melt your Neigong with Thunder Dragon One Qigong, although Blue Cloud Breathing Method has the similar circulatory cycle."
"But you gave me just a month… Why are you in a hurry? I could improve better if I trained by the year, not by the month.”
His face changed strangely when I protested strongly. Then he burst into laughter.
“Hahaha! You’re a funny guy. Talking to you makes it seem like talking to a sly old man who has been around for decades rather than being a kid.”
“That means, if you had to conduct duels with me for a hundred or even ten hundred times, you would eventually improve, however, you would need be talented from the very beginning.”
If I were not talented, he would not teach me. It meant that he was treating me with thorough various calculations.
Jin So Chung seemed to have no more words to say and began to turn around and prepared for training. After a while, I could understand what he meant.
For about four hours, he taught me Thunder Dragon One Qigong and Fast-moving Art, and began duelling. But, it's not actually a duel. When I performed Six Harmonies Swordsmanship, he approached the parts where I left openings and hit me enough to break my legs.
I felt giddy when I was hit hard on my thighs. Severe pain like being beaten up for a few hours burst forth from the lower part of my body, just from a simple hit. As I staggered, I heard his stern voice.
“Aren’t you awake yet? Where did you learn such vulgar moves? If you started a short fight, you might be lucky to have stabbed a knife in your opponent’s neck?”
I was kicked over by Jin So Chung and flew three meters along the ground. I felt like I had something broken across my chest and was breathing heavily. What was so overwhelming was that I was barely conscious even when I was hit so hard, not because of my mental strength, but because of his precise power control. He was beating my head off as badly as he could do with a wooden sword.
“Don’t belittle martial arts. Real men will never tolerate such a clumsy error! There can be no such thing as a lucky victory in a game of death. Never!”
I was beaten to the point of confusion. I had counted next to a hundred, but I couldn’t tell how many of them were right after that. I was all over the place in such a mess, but I laughed falsely at it.
Despite the beating, no internal bleeding took place and no major blood holes were found.
He was a shrewd man who is used to hitting people well.
He smiled, putting a wooden sword over his shoulder.
“But you have a lot of nerve. I’ll try my best to break your habit. Tomorrow will also include more duels, after you train Thunder Dragon One Qigong for four hours.”
That day, I was beaten and struggled back to my room.
A hand came out from between the buildings and caught me by the collar. It was a narrow alley where three boys stood waiting.
'Students of the second line?'
I could see the two stem watersheds engraved on their uniforms. One of the steel-cheeked pupils said with a curl of the chin.
“Is that you? Private lessons by the head teacher?”
One of the boys said disgustedly when he saw blood on my lips.
“Eu… look at him. He was beaten up.”
“He beat you up?”
When they saw me beaten up, they laughed.
I guess they were waiting to count on me, but I’ve come in such a mess. I said, being grabbed by my collar and staring straight at them.
“Hey guys, I don’t have time for this. I have to go eat and rest.”
“Can’t you see what’s going on with you?”
“What kind of atmosphere?”
“The atmosphere you’re going to be hit…”
The fists flew in quickly. Maybe it was because he had practiced for at least two years, but it was much faster than expected. But even with my swollen eyes hit by a wooden sword from Jin So Chung, the attack was obviously clear.
So I lightly avoided and stuck my knee in the rib of a guy’s stomach.
After I hit one, I leapt at the other two. As I counterattacked, they started kicking and punching with the power of Neigong, spitting nausea. Surely it was hard to avoid both fists and kicks in such a narrow alley.
But when I put my head down, there was no big impact. They became confused when I tried to block them from fighting with my forearm. I literally pulled their lapels hard, staggering them, and furiously punched them in the face. When properly stomped, they went blank and sank. Two collapsed at the same time. I peeked and muttered to the 'seniors'.
“You idiots, do you think I’m a sweet little bastard?”
As a servant, I was rolling around at the bottom of the guard, and fighting with bandits constantly. I was used to fighting on the back streets, killing each other, and to marching in rivers, swamps, and woods, or catching them in ambushes. It was not easy to survive as a guard.
“Well, I guess that’s how I feel about being kicked into shape, but …”
I felt bitter.
Anyway, I thought I would continue to see these little fools coming at me, but as long as I don’t fight back with ten of them in one go, I won’t lose to them. I decided to change my bad habits as Jin So Chung wanted, while I would use these fools to train Thunder Dragon One Qigong for the remaining month.
I ate at the restaurant even after the recent bout of fighting, some of the pupils grew wary of me and moved away.
About three days after that, I felt a little better. To be exact, it felt like the unconscious habits of the body were beginning to heal reflexively. I was constantly beaten by the head teacher but at the same time I tried to earnestly change myself.
“You idiots, can you kill me? Hahaha!”
I laughed my head off, knocking one guy down with a front kick, standing in the front alley beside the house.
I continued to fight with the pupils. Bang Il pretended not to be able to see me when I was fighting blood with the other pupils in the back alleys. Of course, I’ve never lost a battle.
A month after…
I sat face to face in the training room during the morning.
Jin So Chung spoke after a long time.
“Yes. I think you’ve fixed your bad habits enough now.”
Although I was beaten every time, I laughed with a swollen face.
“Good for me.”
"From tomorrow onwards, we will begin training in a different way. Go home early today to treat your injuries and rest.”
'Now, it is just one step up.'
Unusually, no one fought with me while returning to my room and even during eating at the restaurant that day. It was a little awkward, but I lay quietly and went to sleep to recuperate.
'Starting tomorrow, I will be receiving the best possible martial arts in earnest.'
At that time, Jin So Chung went to Waryong Hall, the deepest building within Blue Dragon Martial Academy. At the exhibition, there was Lee Kwang who is called Three Absolute (三絶). No one was allowed to enter as it was a private residence, but only Jin So Chung was an exception. This is because he is a direct disciple of Lee Kwang and has been raised like his own child.
“Master, I have arrived."
As Jin So Chung entered the room, the master was touching a cup of tea on the table, with a calm and handsome face. Although he wasn’t old enough to look like a scholar, he was actually considered one of the five best men in Guanzhong.
Lee Kwang said as soon as he saw his favorite disciple, Jin So Chung.
“How did you test that kid, Baek Woong?”
“To be honest with you, his martial talent is not that good. It is so commonplace that I wonder how he built up Neigong."
Lee Kwang asked in wonder.
“Did you then cripple his Neigong?”
“No. He broke his bad habits. I have yet to decide.”
"Hmm… His understanding is low, but he is full of murderous spirit. The child has a character of an evil faction.”
Lee Kwang mumbled indignantly.
The case of Baek Woong is not that unusual. Although he was not very talented in martial arts, he had a type of character that would eventually grow, catching up with his natural venom. Many of Devil Eight Factions (魔道八門) were mostly self-made in that way. However, as Lee Kwang, a former head teacher of the imperial army, was a master of United Righteous Factions (正派), it was uncomfortable to develop such talent as Baek Woong.
Jin So Chung said.
“But with the appropriate training, he can reach the levels of the successors from Nine Factions and One Gaibang (九派一幇). It is still possible enough by dissolving his entire Neigong.”
Lee Kwang nodded.
“Yes, if you say so. Let’s try to raise the boy well.”
“And don’t make anymore children clumsy.”
Jin So Chung gave a perplexed look.
"After all, he is poisonous and does not give up on most things. If you try to test his mettle for no reason, he could end up biting you like a snake.”
“I’ll listen carefully.”
“Then go away.”
Jin So Chung had a complicated look on his face as he stepped outside.
"Am I wrong?"
In fact, it was no accident that Baek Woong fought with his pupils after finishing his training. He secretly ordered several third-line students to start a fight. In his opinion, Baek Woong could focus more on training by encouraging this venom.
In other words, Lee Kwang, the master, is above Jin So Chung, and understands the essence of Baek Woong.
Jin So Chung also found that his master had a higher opinion of Baek Woong. He smiled because he became curious.
“Okay, Baek Woong. I will watch how long you’ll be able to learn from Blue Dragon Martial Academy.”
Editors: T0ngan, Calvis