Only after a long four days did I learn the basics of the Hundred-step Ghost Fist. The basics. Literally, I had learnt the part which was the foundation. Although its destructive power may be weak for now, since I had grasped the theory to Hundred-step Ghost Fist, the rest could be worked on gradually. At the same time, the jeering of the Yaksha stopped. Though I hadn’t minded it in the first place, silence arrived abruptly.
“Did I just see wrongly?”
“You must have. If a white monkey got hit by a proper Hundred-step Ghost Fist, its body should have entirely exploded.”
“Looked to be a simple force discharge.”
But soon various different opinions arose. The fundamental of Hundred-step Ghost Fist lay in force discharge under the category of force penetration, so their words weren’t completely wrong.
Force discharge was the extension of instantaneous force which stems from the leg, transfers to the hips and from there to the hands. Force penetration was the name of an advanced technique above force discharge which impacted the internals only. But no one acknowledged that I had executed force penetration, because the subtleties of force penetration was counted among the most difficult throughout the entirety of all martial studies. If not for the theory of circulation and the helical mana, not even I would have succeeded in 400 days, much less 4.
‘I’m struggling in actual practise.’
If it was a proper Hundred-step Ghost Fist, indeed as they said, the body of the white monkey tumbling about the ground should have exploded. This meant that though I had succeeded in delivering a one-point strike, the concentration of mana was insufficient to agitate the internals and explode the opponent to death.
I felt like I was wholly drained of mana with one execution of the move, as if I had failed to display even a quarter of my magic power out of a total of 64. But the sense of accomplishment was much greater than my disappointment.
Those geniuses that I couldn’t catch up to…they were naturally endowed with the talent to perform these kinds of theory-based techniques. When they saw one thing, they would understand ten things, and when they understood ten things, they would open up a whole new level of understanding.
Now, I had managed to stand shoulder to shoulder with those people. At the very least, I could proudly say that I possessed a foundation. All that remained was practise. Practise, in the form of unrestrained battle.
“It’s only natural to be capable of force discharge if you’re a Yaksha.”
“He was lucky. If only the white monkey wasn’t careless, it wouldn’t have been hit by the likes of that blind fist.”
“If it were me, I would have dodged it with my eyes closed.”
Even as they slandered me, there were no Yaksha straightforwardly trying to approach me. I had a gist of the reason.
‘The Black Yaksha’s seal.’
You’ll be cursed if you get involved, or so I hear. It is said that long ago in nearly ancient times, there was an incident where a Yaksha ,who had the Black Yaksha’s seal, killed one Rakshasa and slaughtered a huge number of Yaksha.
Moreover, Yaksha had an extremely strong sense of pride. What this meant was that they wouldn’t deign to throw a punch at someone who appeared weak at a glance. Only those deemed as a ‘worthy opponent’ would the Yaksha choose to fight.
That’s how it was here in Rakshasa Citadale, at least. All those here were warriors, and they were proud to be regarded as ‘Yaksha’. If I had appeared even vaguely strong, then there would have been many Yaksha requesting for a spar, but any thoughts of doing so had been extinguished upon seeing me being toyed by a rank 3 white monkey from the outset. Only, I think that I had become the main target of slander as their ‘expectations’, borne from myself having passed the Ritual of Ascension, collapsed. That was about it of course. They must think it would be an embarrassment even if they were to fight me and win.
‘It’s all too convenient for me.’
I didn’t even have enough time to polish my techniques. Rather than pointlessly being swept into their antics and wasting time, it was easier for me to be perceived as a ‘bottom-feeder’.
‘There’s no need to form a group, nor to join one.’
The Stigma Tournament. The Yaksha were making plans to emerge victorious in that battle. They were in the midst of creation factions, and fighting a cold war. During this time I had gained an understanding of five factions. There were four groups centered around the powerful Yaksha titled the Five Dragons with the exclusion of Dark Dragon Yuseol, and one group of ‘neutral’ disposition which was formed to oppose them. The rest comprised of Yaksha who either failed to join a group, or had no intention to do so. All in all they numbered 1,500, more or else.
‘The individual martial prowess among Yaksha widely varied. Moreover, when comparing their potential with humans, theirs on an average were much higher.’
The average potential of an awakened human was 250. For Yaksha it was 350. But this was only as far as average was concerned. The variations between Yaksha were especially dramatic. Of course, even the weakest Yaksha was at a similar level to me when looking at pure stats, while the Five Dragons they spoke of were literally ‘monsters’.
‘I may end up like a curled shrimp on the floor if I get involved in vain.’
Thus, there was no need to go too far. I would benefit much more to take away everything in the library. If I could have it my way, I would hole myself up in the library without even participating in that ‘tournament’. There wouldn’t be any Yaksha wanting to have me in the same group anyhow. There was no chance of a Yaksha joining me either, even if I were to invite them. Therefore…I can conclude that it would be much more beneficial to grind and polish my own techniques in that time. I wasn’t a Yaksha in the first place, after all.
‘Next up is Vajra Body.’
Since I had learnt the basics of Hundred-step Ghost Fist, the next thing to learn was Vajra Body.
Vajra Body. It was an external art which served to make the body hard like diamond, referring to the combination of the diamond body impervious to blades and swords, and the undying body impervious to water and fire. It is said that a properly achieved Vajra Body is able to nullify any kind of physical attack. I knew of one person who had possessed a similar skill to this.
‘Steel King. He as well had ended up dying.’
The skill he had learnt was the A-rank ‘Steel Scales’, and he had even reached Lv9 in it. He was crushed to death in his last moments, however. He was squashed to death beneath the massive body of a crystal golem, evident proof that simply hardening the skin doesn’t give you immunity to all attacks.
‘Will a Vajra Body really be any different?’
But at the very least, the description of Vajra Body was amazing in comparison to ‘Steel Scales’. If the words written about the Vajra Body were true and I attain mastery in it, then I wouldn’t be crushed to death no matter how much a crystal golem stomped on me. Indeed, worthy of being called the best when it came to external arts.
I beckoned with my finger toward the rank 2 white monkey who was sitting down and idling. Although I taunted it obviously, I had no thoughts of winning from the start. To apply mana and become familiar to pain…this was the first method to achieving the basics of the Vajra Body.
I was swollen and bruised all over. I would have been straight-up beaten to death if not for the treatment room. There wasn’t a place without a bloodied bruise on my body, and for the first time in a while I had seen stars covering my vision. It was a madman’s antics, no matter how one thought of it. Cultivating resistance to pain by being beaten to the edge of death wasn’t a method that could originate from a sane mind.
‘I can understand why the other Yaksha don’t learn Vajra Body.’
The library is basically open to all. Any Yaksha can enter and read books. They also knew that the Hundred-step Ghost Fist and Vajra Body were good things, yet why didn’t they learn it? Because they were that much difficult.
For Hundred-step Ghost Fist, it was hard to even begin learning it with little understanding of circulation and knowledge of infinity. One may be able to barely scrape by the basics with the application of chakra, namely mana, but it meant that an in-depth progress into the study wouldn’t be possible. On the other hand…what about Vajra Body…
‘This is a martial art that can only be learnt by dying.’
For starters, getting beaten up was a must, and the application of mana mustn’t stop during the process as well. Getting beaten to the verge of death, over and over, thereby gradually increasing tolerance. Common sense dictated this was nonsense. Only people altogether lacking sensation in their body could be capable of this. Thus I had considered acquiring medicine which removed the senses, but it was in vain. There was an interaction between the application of mana and the senses. Like how when bone breaks it grows stronger as it mends back, the body needed to be enhanced by injecting mana on a cellular level.
That’s why it felt like I was dying. Perhaps only after I really did die could I learn it. But I had no thoughts of giving up. I headed toward the sparring hall the next day, and the day after as well. After I grew a little more familiar with it, I practised the Hundred-step Ghost Fist together as well.
“That guy’s truly a freak.”
“He must enjoy getting pummelled.”
“He’s got guts I’ll give him that. Did he pass the ‘Ritual of Ascension’ with that spirit as well?”
Rank 2 white monkeys were much faster than rank 3 white monkeys. They appeared to use movement arts. They knew how to include mana in their attacks, and how to parry my attacks as well. And it seemed that they also knew well which spot to strike to cause pain.
After a long while of getting pummeled, I received a blow to my solar plexus. Oof, I groaned, and between that interval my chin was sent swiveling, and at the same time I saw huge stars spinning above my head.
“Fainted and carried off again.”
“Don’t know whether he’s stupid, or thoughtless.”
“They say the body suffers when the head is spoiled. Well if that isn’t a fine example.”
The routine repeated over like a running treadmill. To the library in the morning, sparring hall at lunch, and to the room at night. Even in my room I continued to train the Hundred-step Ghost Fist with Etaqua or studied the Ascendant’s Cape.
Normally my body should have collapsed long ago, but the ‘dirt of purification’ raised my recovery rate to a surprising extent. Owing to that, I could receive a beating every single day.
As time went by, it felt like I was gradually becoming resistant to the pain. I felt it was lacking while getting pummeled by a rank 2 white monkey, so I then launched myself at a rank 1 white monkey.
Truly, I was almost sent to meet my maker. A single fist blew my body away and collapsed the wall. But when I got back up like a self-righting-doll, the white monkeys and Yaksha even stared at me, astonished.
‘Now it feels like this is home.’
Today was the same as any other day. I opened my eyes in the treatment room. Roughly fifteen days had passed since entering the Rakshasa Citadale, but I got the feeling that since this was the first place I woke up in, I’ll be leaving through this place as well.
At that moment, I heard the sound of someone getting up at the side. Although I regularly visited the treatment room, I almost never saw anyone else receiving treatment here. For that reason I turned my head and saw a rather familiar face.
Of the Five Dragons, the Dark Dragon. She wore a thin white fabric over her body, and she was also staring at me blankly.
‘Did she get injured fighting the monkey king?’
Yuseol wasn’t capable of besting the monkey king 100% of the time as well. Although she had a 80% chance of winning, there definitely were times when the monkey king won by the skin of his teeth as well. But I had heard that she had a treatment room for her exclusive use; a specially made treatment room specially prepared by the Heaven Bound clan. Meaning, there was no particular need for her to come here.
“…Relax the tension in your shoulders more.”
Her back turned, Yuseol left behind that one line before exiting the treatment room.
‘What was that?’
I couldn’t help but space out for a moment there. Those words just now, were they meant for me? There was no one else in the treatment room, however. Relax the tension in the shoulders she said.
‘Advice, is it?’
She was a pugilist, who was second to none where it concerned fighting with fists. But it was my first time hearing her talk, though the image of her I had in my head was of an aloof and mysterious wolf. Her voice was quiet, but remained clearly in my memory.
‘Shoulders. The shoulders, is it.’
I stroked my chin thoughtfully. Now that I thought of it, it seemed that I had a slight tendency to shrink back at the thought of having to receive a beating. Hundred-step Ghost Fist wasn’t being performed properly because of tension going into my shoulders.
‘In any case, I’m grateful.’
Only after hearing it did I realize. I stared at the door which Yuseol left through. I didn’t know why she advised me, but thanks to her I could realize what I lacked.
‘Finishing a training session isn’t everything. I have to review the details of the battle. Only then can I prevent mistakes like this from happening.’
If a wrong habit had caught on, I would have wasted time fixing it. That’s why retrospection is important. If I had properly reviewed the details of those battles, I would have come to a realization even if she hadn’t told me.
Ruminate, and thus advance. Taking a step back doesn’t mean to stop advancing. I must have been harboring thoughts of, ‘this much should be enough’, even when I knew the importance of that fact. It was an obvious mistake.
At once, my body burned with spirit. Late at night, I made my way to the sparring hall alone. There wasn’t a single white monkey in sight, not to mention Yaksha, but I began to move. I pushed myself unforgivingly, whipping my self who was growing feeble-minded, my self who tried compromising through self-justification. As time passed…
[‘Hundred-step Ghost Fist(Lv1)’ has been learned.]
[‘Vajra Body(Lv1)’ has been learned.]
A change occurred. It had happened because I understood, realized, and put it all into action. It had become completely ‘mine’, beneath the lonely full moon. As I thought to myself, ‘truly, everything depends on attitude, I didn’t pause in my momentum.