Millennium Snow Ginseng (千年雪蔘)
I have continued to receive personal tutoring by Jin So Chung since that day. Unlike what I thought would be done in a month, it seemed to me that he was intending to teach me enthusiastically. Of course, I did not believe that it was the ties between a teacher and a disciple because there was also a hidden secret.
Two months have passed by.
The skin throughout my whole-body aches. I felt like a pellet of piled-up pills in my Dantian (丹田:hypogastrium – the spot of four and a half centimeters down from navel) was churning and melting. The sweat flowed out from my forehead and back, and the place where I sat was covered with sticky moisture. Soon I awoke when I completely melted my Neigong (內功:internal energy).
Then Jin asked, while smiling and laughing.
“Has it only just been two months?”
“Yes. I trained hard for two months on how to master operating Thunder Dragon One Qigong (雷龍一气功).”
All I have learned in the past two months was how to drive Thunder Dragon One Qigong. I have learned neither Weapon Art (武器術) nor Fast-moving Art (經身術).
The head teacher no longer insisted on duelling, but instead saved me time only to eat and let me work my way through Thunder Dragon One Qigong. The reason is that the quicker Three Talents Breathing Method (三才心法) melts, the better it will be. That’s why I made frantic attempts at Sit Qigong (坐功) and Moving Qigong (行功) for fourteen hours a day.
I felt a strong force spreading through the veins of my entire body as Neigong melted. If I had been pattering on a weak mule so far, it would be felt like I were walking on a fast galloping horse's back. Moreover, Thunder Dragon One Qigong was one of the most outstanding ones, so there was a lot of Neigong accumulated during this period.
Suddenly, Jin So Chung waved his sword in his hand and held it before my eyes. It was so fast that the wind brushed against the tip of my nose. As I stared at the sword play, he said.
“How do you like it? Can’t you see a little of my sword?”
I answered frankly.
“Yes. It’s more clearer than ever.”
It was not a lie, it was true. In the past, when he swung a sword, only a bit of a shadow was visible, now it is a little, but the outline and direction of the sword can now been seen. I hope I could avoid it if I moved well.
“As the level of Neigong rises, the power of the vision increases spontaneously. The power of sight is very important in martial arts."
I felt an overall increase in strength and resilience, including my body’s vision. I smiled sweetly.
“From today, I will have to teach you weapon arts… but I should teach the spear first.”
I have learned the swordsmanship for decades. Since it was the first martial arts I learned as a guard, I have made my own moves in using a blade. But now I have to hold the spear all of a sudden!
Jin So Chung said.
“Of course, the spear is stronger.”
“What are you talking about?”
He said with confidence.
"Most martial artists use a sword or a blade, and only a few use spears. Why do you think that is?”
Of course, the spear is a very powerful weapon. He who has mastered the spear will not be able to be beaten by anyone.
The martial artists of government are also reluctant to carry around spears, so they have no choice but to choose a sword or a blade as the next best option, but a spear is fundamentally the basic and ultimate weapon of all.
I seemed to know why.
No matter how powerless villagers were, they could never be underestimated lightly when they moved around in dozens of groups wielding bamboo spears or iron bars. I have seen a second-grade martial artist being beaten up by such peasant soldiers. Although they were an individual versus a large group, the spear was evidence that it was a powerful weapon enough to easily reduce the gap between the two.
“But now you are using the sword as well.”
"My level of swordsmanship is very low. It’s with a spear that I can’t help but make a music out of.”
As he said, Jin So Chung threw the sword with a light stroke, and it flew into the sword house exactly five meters away. It was hard for an average man to imitate such an action, but the fact that he was a peak-grade martial artist could be clearly explained by his work.
“Do not be disappointed, I will teach you the sword after you have learned Thunder Speed Eight Spearmanship (雷靈八式).”
“Thunder Speed Eight Spearmanship?
“It is the name of the spearmanship that I will teach you.”
He gave me a wooden training spear. I knew how to hold a spear, so I tried to do it.
“Baek Woong, I know you don't have much talent. But if you have the strength and the effort for spearmanship, you can reach the summit unconditionally! I'll bring your potential to the limits.”
When I looked at him blankly, he said suspiciously.
“No, it’s… I was wondering if you had any particular reason to invest in me this much.”
I haven’t eaten Millennium Snow Ginseng yet. I haven’t taken any elixir. However, I now know that this situation being guided on a one-to-one basis by the head teacher is itself a lucky chance. Most wealthy people will not be able to afford such luxury despite their financial contributions. So I wondered what he was thinking about.
“You’re really being honest.”
“I am not like you or your master, and you do not have a reason to stick with it.”
I picked it up and pointed out because I felt confident I was on the same boat as Jin So Chung. He taught me not only Thunder Dragon One Qigong but also Thunder Speed Eight Spearmanship, which meant he completely accepted me as a real disciple. Therefore, I thought that even if I asked him to get to the point at once, he would not be able to dismiss me immediately.
He smiled bitterly.
“That’s why… I’ll let you know when you’re done as a complete person. You cannot even run, but you are a cheeky guy already trying to fly.”
“Baek Woong, shut up and focus.”
The following words became a proverbial thought for my whole life.
“It is not too late to think about it after we become stronger.”
Time has passed along.
One year passed by quickly.
Because there was no place to go, this place was used as a home and the days of intense training were repetitive.
On the second year, I felt a little lonely.
I felt like my puberty was approaching because my body was growing taller.
By the third year, I was able to hold the flow of combat for twenty seconds in duel with Jin So Chung. My iron sword flickered out loudly. He scolded me by lightly recovering the wooden sword.
“When will I ever have a chance to try a spear against you?”
“It will not be in my lifetime.”
I sat down in dismay.
It has already been three years since I was taught as a direct disciple of Blue Dragon Martial Academy (青龍武館), and I have not yet pulled out the true skills of Jin So Chung. He still used his sword only when dealing with me, and never used a real spear.
I grew up pretty well leaving behind the confines of a child’s body and became taller. However, it was still not enough for Jin’s ability. When I felt depressed and querulous, stated Jin So Chung.
"You have learned Thunder Speed Eight Spearmanship (雷靈八式), Thunder Speed Swordsmanship (雷靈劍法), and Thunder Speed Footwork (雷靈步法). What's your complaint? If you’ve mastered them all, you could beat me.”
“I’m not a genius.”
Perhaps it is impossible to keep up with him until I die.
Now I’ve learned enough to master all the secret martial arts of Blue Dragon Martial Academy for three years. In particular, Thunder Speed Swordsmanship was suitable for my aptitude, so I reached the fifth stage of it. On top of that, I continuously digested Thunder Dragon One Qigong, and was never inferior to the successors of my age in Murim (武林:the world of martial artists).
But in three years he has grown stronger than I have grown. I didn’t even see his limitations, so I was speechless.
'Indeed, he is one of ten best masters in the future and a number-one spearman in the central continent…!'
Jin So Chung said, scratching his belly with a sword on his shoulder.
“Has it been three years since you came to our academy?”
“Visit your home once and come back.”
I was jittery and trembled at the abrupt suggestion of Jin So Chung.
“Yes, you should visit your village and inform them if you are still alive and not dead.”
Should I call that place home?
The place where I slept in the barn while I was working on the cow soup.
The place where everyone in town looked down on me and I was sometimes beaten by old men.
There was no one on my side, so I had to leave as if I had finally escaped to the courier company.
I could not bring myself to look for a good memory.
“I can imagine why you don’t think of posting a letter, but your hometown is your hometown. I think you should visit there and come back once you make up your mind. I’m sure you’ll be busier from now on.”
It made sense.
Although there is no love or care left in the village, I agree with the fact that I have to have my affairs organized. Of course, that would be my own way.
I laughed purely.
“Well then I will return.”
“I talked to the master, and I will allow you the time of three months with travel money. In the meantime, soak in as much air as you want.”
How does it feel like?
The obvious thing is that I will never let that air out.
I packed up the next morning and went out from Blue Dragon Martial Academy. As I stayed inside for three years, trapping myself in purely training, even the downtown looked like it was renewed. I thought I would ride on horseback in the middle of the road, but I quit because I didn’t have enough money to pay.
“What's the reason I have to make up my mind? Do they want me to be in Silk Cloth Agency (錦衣位)?"
Silk Cloth Agency!
It is the armed group for the current imperial family with a host of prominent martial artists.
At times, when I met with Lee Kwang and drank tea, he showed a strong attachment to Silk Cloth Agency. Lee Kwang, who was a head teacher and a master of United Righteous Factions (正派), seemed to miss the time more when he was working at Jinyiwei.
In fact, Jin So Chung also often talked about Silk Cloth Agency. Their intentions were bound to be on it.
But what is good for them being so involved with Silk Cloth Agency, who are well-fed and well-bred while running Blue Dragon Martial Academy? Silk Cloth Agency neither honored the former agents nor reflected well on those involved in the organization's confidential records.
Anyway, judging by the amount of talking, it was clear that he would soon use me to do something.
'Or I could run away…'
If there would be a conspiracy, then I would rather not be related to it.
I followed the route for two days and repeatedly went to rest when there was an inn or private house on the way. Unlike when I first came to Blue Dragon Martial Academy, I was traveling comfortably and feeling somewhat relaxed.
It was then…
“Hahaha! Where are you going off to?”
Five mountain bandits slipped out of the bushes. I checked their clothes, and it seemed like they were also the regular bandits of Green Forest (綠林). Their basic martial arts will be decent, so they are pesky enemies.
I calmly looked at them and innocently said.
“I don’t have money. I’ll give you all I’ve got. Please let me go.”
“Why? No money?”
A revolting looking bandit, who was standing at the front, laughed and shouted with a pitiless voice.
“Then you’ll have to cut off your belly!”
Two bandits ran without hesitation and sliced at me with their swords. I did not sustain any injuries while I quickly escaped utilizing Thunder Speed Footwork. Three years ago, it would have been difficult to avoid, but now it was not such a problem to avoid it effortlessly.
‘They were the type of robbers who killed first and then took the possessions.’
There were two types of bandits.
The ones who just rob you of all your belongings, or the other ones who just kill you and still take it all afterwards.
However, if a number of people were to be killed in such a manner and the notorious name of the bandits grew, the government would send troops out to subjugate them. So, most bandits within Green Forest in general just take their wealth. The courier companies would pay the ‘sum of money’ for a contract of such an unspoken rule to the major bandits.
But it seemed like these minor robbers belonged to no such affiliation and I had to encounter them now. They were the paupers, who killed and took everything, while randomly wandering from place to place. They were considered to be very inferior and therefore were kept out of the major groups of bandits.
If I had met these people three years ago, this would have been my grave. But I smiled with a cold intent.
'Even though I don’t win against Jin So Chung…'
As soon as I unsheathed my sword from its sheath, I quickly slashed off the necks of two bandits using the form of Thunder Shadow One Pierce (雷影一纖). Before the rest of the bandits could even react, I twisted and slapped another man across the chest. Without a sound nor fuss, the bandit sat down with his big burly chest caved in and puked out blood. He could not survive for long because I just broke his chest bones.
“That boy is a child of Murim…”
Seeing how things quickly turned sour, the two remaining bandits hurriedly turned around to try flee from the scene, but I chased after them and severed their heads in turn. Then I wiped away the blood out of the sword with a cotton cloth I was carrying, and muttered.
“Now a little bit further, the village should only be ahead.”
My eyes were a little brighter.
Editors: T0ngan, Calvis