Chapter 33

(Please note, not edited/checked/PR-ed. You may run into a questionable grammar or two. If you spot them, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!!)

Damien’s eyes widened in surprise and quickly turned his gaze towards the direction where Jonas had run off to, but thanks to the darkness, not a thing could be seen anymore.

What the hell?! Did I make a mistake? That man shouldn’t even be here of all places. I thought he might have gotten himself a cushy post with that haul of the Aerinite.

Damien stood there, feeling rather confused about the unexpected encounter. The more he collected his thoughts, the surer he became about the identity of the disheveled man.

He felt something weird was going on here, something that might prove troublesome later on down the line. But if he could help it, Damien did not want to get involved. He had no time to spare on whatever trouble that Jonas got himself into. To be more precise, there was absolutely no obligation to help out anyways.

“You comin’ in or what?”

Only allowed on

A voice called out from within the joint. Damien saw that it was from one of the bouncers hired to keep the place more or less orderly. Which he found quite ironical, seeing that there was a chaotic situation only moments ago and this guy didn’t seem to do much.

Saying nothing, he simply nodded and entered, heading straight to the dingy and lowly-lit bar. Sitting on one of the unoccupied stool, he ordered a drink while silently shedding a tear for his depleting pool of coin. And while he was at it, Damien couldn’t help but ask the barkeep.

“You know what was that all about?”

The barkeep shrugged his shoulders. “The bum said he was waiting for someone. Then those guys showed up, there was a tussle, and now, they are all gone. Beyond that….”

The barkeep shook his head and eyed Damien for a second. Usually, in an exchange like this, the one asking the question would pull out a fresh coin or two to loosen the lips and stimulate the memory of the barkeep.

Unfortunately for him, Damien was short of coins, and he wasn’t really interested, so his silent goading went ignored completely.

Reading the flow, the barkeep shrugged his shoulders as if he wanted to say he understood, and went away to attend to other customers which there weren’t many to begin with. All the other watering holes Damien had gone through today in search of Ged’s man, had suffered the same problem – a lack of bums occupying the seats.

The whole thing was not much of a mystery, though. As he figured, the Barbarian threat and the subsequent lockdown of the city by Dukakis had played a major role in it.

A lot of the capable, highly ranked Adventurers were already roped into the subjugation force Donatella was leading. The term used there was conscription, but the way he heard it, there was generous enough compensation offered, so in the end, it was still a job nonetheless.

In the meantime, lesser experienced and lower ranked Adventurers took to guarding the important parts of the city from the potential surprise attacks by the pockets of the Barbarian instigators still hidden within the shadows.

Those who couldn’t really clear the issue of identity and trust were kindly asked to vacate the city for a period of time or stay indoors and remain inactive for a duration until the problem was sorted. Those who disagreed with this suggestion was promptly shown the insides of the city dungeon for a lengthy paid-for vacation. Euphemisms, of course.

That’s what Damien was able to glean from eavesdropping in the various bars. There were also a few other tidbits he picked up on but wasn’t sure whether they were of any value to him as of yet.

While reorganizing his thoughts, Damien took a sip of the warm liquor. It tasted surprisingly good for a drink served up in a spotty joint like this. Nursing it gently, he casually swept his glance over the dimly-lit interior of the bar, sussing out the place, searching and listening, wondering if he could finally get a break.

And just like that, Damien found him. The guy Ged was looking for.

He was sitting with three others, huddled together, whispering and minding the eyes around them.

That took a while. Damien thought to himself, as he continued to sip the warm liquor.

However, he found himself grimacing a little as he observed the group for a bit longer. Damien could tell these men were not in the trade of helping people out for giggles and smiles. If anything, the air they exuded was more like that of bandits or maybe even that of thieves, robbing others at night and hurting others for profit.

The clues were there for him to pick up on: the equipment, the way they carried themselves, the way their eyes fleeted back and forth, always watching the surroundings. Those eyes also had that weary and alert shine, diligently searching for the next mark to pilfer and pillage.

What the hell. Ged, what exactly did you get yourself involved into?!

Damien took another deep swig of the liquor to calm his surprised mind and studied the man. He was short but slim. The equipment on him was great, their quality shining through even though they were on the dirty side. No doubt that was done to disguise the class of his items, Damien mused.

He wasn’t too sure but if he was a betting man, and he sometimes was, those items on the man could have been the handiwork of Ged. Just how on earth did they end up with those good quality items, Damien could only speculate.

The short man and his three pals continuously chatted among themselves in hushed tones, mindful of ears and eyes around him but not discovering that they were being observed. Naturally, Damien couldn’t hear the contents of the conversation but he could easily infer that it would not be about kisses and hugs.

Damien was confused. How did that short man find work under a merchant? Did he infiltrate the business in order to act as an inside man? That sure sounded possible. But the way the other employees reacted to Damien when he asked around was strange – it was as if they didn’t really want to get involved with whatever trouble he got into.

Was he a known quantity within that place? If so, then the short man did a poor job of infiltrating.

Whatever it was, a seemingly simple request had ballooned into something troublesome. Damien suddenly felt like he’d been suckered into doing something unnecessary, blinded by his own greed of the shiny new prosthetic arm.

Now, how should I handle this, I wonder?

The rest of the group, besides the short man, were all equipped with pretty nice items as well, leading Damien to believe that the business was actually good for these guys.

Either that or they were pretty handy with their arms and were capable of robbing even the most well-protected targets.

Regardless of what, Damien couldn’t take them on lightly. These folks of the Northern Territories were a hardy bunch. They were tough bastards to begin with, so underestimating them was probably not very good for one’s health.

The truly troublesome part was on how to carry out what Damien had in mind – that of not only getting what this man owed Ged, but to find out more about the merchant, Westbrooks.

Damien could do this the hard way – beat the living daylights out of them, and then ask away. Or he could pay them for information. Since he had little money left, there wasn’t even a choice here, really. The hard way, it was.

As he was resolving himself, another figure entered the bar, the thick coat pulled right up to his chin and a woolen cap pulled low, obscuring the face.

Damien noticed this entry. There weren’t too many patrons in the bar to begin with, and this new guy didn’t seem like he was looking to wet his throat here.

He looked around for a second or two, hesitated, then approached the barkeep. Leaning over, he whispered while pulling out a Big Bronze coin.

“Was there a man that looked like a bum in here before? Has he left already?”

Pretending to not notice the coin, the barkeep stealthily reached out to it with a washcloth and like a pro, took the money offered. Not even looking at the suspicious person, the barkeep simply informed him of what happened earlier on.

Grimacing, the suspicious man straightened up and tried to take a leave, only for his eyes and Damien’s to cross each other’s. The man had recognized Damien. It was written so clearly in his shocked eyes.

Damien recognized this man, too. It was the adjutant. Dukakis’s adjutant, to be precise. The one who informed Damien that his brother was out, back in the mansion when he went there to speak to his father.

Panicking slightly, the adjutant hurriedly hid his face and left the bar.

As for Damien, he sat there on the stool, utterly stunned by this new development.

An immense headache rushed in, and he felt like ordering one more of this liquor to wash it all down.

Oh, boy. Trouble just has the way of finding me, doesn’t she?

As Damien sat there, ruing his rotten luck with a big gulp of the remaining alcoholic beverage, the group of thieves finished whatever they were talking about and stood to leave.

Of course, he sobered up immediately and followed them out, albeit a beat slower to avoid detection. Whatever the problem Jonas and the adjutant were going to put him in, he’d take care of that later. He’d solve this quandary first and then find some free time to worry about whatever it could all be.

Carefully, he maintained some distance while tailing the group through the darkened backstreets of Marlborough. This activity brought a sense of nostalgia to Damien, who used to tail quite a few people back in the day when he was still working for Marquis Phillips.

Good old days, or so he mused silently to himself.

Damien paid a closer attention to the one Ged wanted money from. The rest, he hoped for them to go on their own way. Sooner the better.

As if the heavens were listening to him, the short man separated from his comrades, going to another direction altogether.

Even though this was what he wanted, Damien thought it was all a bit… too convenient a timing.

It was likely that he was discovered, and the quartet decided to deal with him by luring Damien into a deserted corner of the city.

Alright, well, it’s not like I’ll fall into your little trap….

Avoiding the patrolling soldiers the two of them walked, one leading the other, and lo and behold, Damien did indeed find himself in an area dotted with many uninhabited houses where there were no lit street lamps nearby.

“Why are you following me, mister?”

And there it was, the expected question from the short man’s mouth. Damien half chuckled at that.

“I’m here to collect on a due.”

“What due? What the hell are you talking about?” The short man spat out, clearly irritated.

“Look, long story short, pardon the choice of the word, Ged sent me.”

“Ged? That…. old man sent you after me?!” The short man looked startled. But then, his eyes turned icy. “Looky here, man. I don’t give a flying rat’s ass. Beat it, or we’ll beat you up. Now, choose.”

As soon as those words left the short man’s mouth, the trio who left to go the other way emerged from behind Damien’s position a stone’s throw away.

The four of them slowly advanced towards Damien’s position, emanating a threatening air.

Damien simply sighed and shook his head. Even though he resolved himself not to underestimate them, a small smirk still found its way to his lips as he slowly reached to the hilt of Frostbane tied to his hip.


There was a polite knock on the door to the bedroom Kain was using in the Tetamus fort. The crisp noise woke him slowly from the deep slumber.

The morning had come once more like a clockwork, signaling yet another day of training.

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Before anyone had noticed, Kain’s life in the forgotten city of Tetamus became a comfortable one, where everything became…. normal.

There was a roof over his head, a bed to sleep on, and food to eat three times a day. Most importantly, though – he was safe from the bodily harm caused by the bloodthirsty Fiends occupying the forest.

What’s more, when he left his clothes on the bedroom floor, the vine-man would swoop in and wash them for him. It was kind of super service that most five-star hotels could learn a thing from.

If it weren’t for the nonsensical training regime, his life could be described as idyllic. But hell, even that became a sort of routine as well. Day after day, continuously doing the very same thing, and sooner or later, no matter the difficulty, a routine of sorts formed. And following a routine like an automated doll was a comfortable thing, indeed.

The knocking continued as Kain sorted out his drowsy thoughts. “Yes, yes. I’m up now. Please stop….”

Kain dragged his feet and put on the freshly-pressed clothes. It was a size too big and hung on him a bit loosely. At least he didn’t have to worry about ventilation which was nice.

He wasn’t too happy with wearing a hand-me-down from a dead child, though. For some reason, the vine-man had a stock of clothing for children his age all ready for an immediate usage. Remembering the Old Man’s words about all the past residents kicking the bucket, it sure felt a bit morbid to wear something like this.

So today, for the first time, Kain offered a silent prayer for the dead. Not that he believed in a religion or stuff like that, but seeing that gods and monsters were real in this world, he saw no reason not to pray. It wasn’t like he’d lose something by doing it. And it’d nice if his actions alleviated the weight of the misplaced guilt taking root in his heart.

After quickly washing up, he ran out of the room. He didn’t want to be late, otherwise the Old Man would chew him out good for being tardy. That was not the kind of stress one needed so early on in the morning.

Utilizing the nameless Body Enhancement Invocation spell to strengthen his legs, he jogged at a speed that was as quick as a certain Jamaican multiple Olympic Gold medal-winning sprinter and arrived at the dining hall in a proverbial blink of an eye.

The Old Man was already there, sitting cross-legged and meditating. Kain noticed that whenever there was an opportunity, he’d be meditating as if it was the only thing that kept him alive.

At that rate, you might even turn into a bloody statue of Buddha….

Kain snickered inwardly before sitting down on his spot. Seeing the Old Man’s current status, it’d be a while before he’d be ready to yell at him for no good reason.

Especially so, when there were three gigantic, illusory blooming white lotus flowers slowly revolving around him.

Kain couldn’t hep but admire the scene. The Old Man called this ‘Three Heavenly Lotus Meditation’ technique, which was par for the course, really. After all, this was a world where a giant tree grew underground, a undisturbed forest size of a small country and a hidden, forgotten city existed for who knows how long. So, why not a bunch of flowers sprouting from out of nowhere? At least they were pretty to look at.

When a martial artist entered a deep enough meditative state where the flow of the world’s ch’i was at one’s beck and call, such illusions formed around the said martial artist. It was a sign of being an ultimate being, according to the Old Man’s assertion.

Kain wasn’t 100% sure of such a sweeping statement, but nonetheless, the whole show was quite amazing to look at. And to think, the Old Man was teaching the boy to achieve something similar to this.


Kain could not sense anything in those lotus blooms. There definitely wasn’t any Aeterna flowing in them. Through his ever-so-slightly awakened ability to sense a bit of ch’i, he did detect some but his level was far too shallow to decipher how this technique worked. He’d need more practice, in other words.

Not that he had no confidence in himself, but it was just that the whole thing seemed like an impossible puzzle at the moment. He understood that he needed to practice kicks and punches if he wanted to be good at, uh, kicking and punching, which was what martial art basically was after all.

But how could something so primal like learning to punch a face correctly help him to create a bunch of fakey white lotus blooms out of thin air? No matter what, it all sounded too fishy to be true.

As he sat there pondering, the lotus blooms slowly ceased their rotation and began closing up. The accumulated ch’i stirred and swirled, entering the Old Man and settling inside him.

Shortly after, he opened his eyes and spoke. “So you’ve come. Then, let’s eat.”

The vine-man brought out those meat buns that wasn’t a meat bun and the two began to dig in silently. This was the usual occurrence until now.

Today was slightly different, however.

“Listen, boy. For a few weeks, I shall be stepping out of the forest. I’ll ask Embouchre to take care of you during my absence.”

The Old Man spoke briskly as he wiped his lips clean with a cloth.

“You going somewhere?” Kain nearly rose from his stool, even forgetting to chew for a moment when he heard the new declaration. “Can you take me with you?!”

“Are you stupid? Of course not. You stay here and train.”

“Can’t blame me for trying, though…. Anyway, how long are you planning to go away for?”

“It’ll depend on the matter at hand.”

The Old Man curtly replied, although there was a trace of unease in his voice, something Kain failed to notice as it was well disguised.

“Nevertheless, do not slack on your training. Every day is a precious resource that can not be taken back. Use it to its fullest.”

“What, you mean that kicking and punching stuff?! Or that sitting down and doing nothing AKA meditation? I can do both of those with my eyes closed, you know.”

The Old Man scoffed disdainfully. “Hah!! Such unfounded confidence!! Such arrogance!! Youth is a time of folly, indeed!! Fine. Why don’t we make a small bet? Hmm? By the time when I get back, if you haven’t mastered the ultimate level of this so-called kicking and punching stuff, I get to spank you til you turn black and blue!!”

“Are you out of your mind?! Hell no.” Kaina vigorously shook his head. “I am not some fighting prodigy from a manga or something. I ain’t gonna take a losing bet like that.”

“A wise, but cowardly choice,” the Old Man gruntled, apparently dissatisfied by something Kain have said. “Hmph, where did your bravado disappear so suddenly? Didn’t you say it’s so easy, you can do it with eyes closed?”

“Oh, alright, please just give it a rest, will you. I get it. I get it already…”

Kain, thoroughly defeated, raised both of his hands in surrender. However, that only got the Old Man going even more.

“What’s this? Why are you giving up so quickly, huh? What, you think you can give me slip by playing a coward? It’s true that you’re a coward, yes, but at the same time, you are also an over-confident fool. You wouldn’t give up this quickly if you believe you can win. So, what is with this weak disposition, all of a sudden?!”

Kain grimaced and plugged his ears with his fingers, desperately trying to block out the loud voice of the Old Man.

“Look, fine. It’s like this – you say I can become strong, but what can mastering punching and kicking do? I mean, if I can become an MMA fighter, that’s cool and all, but that’s not exactly what you’ve said, right?”

When Kain finished speaking his doubt, the Old Man’s eyes narrowed to a slit, fully understanding the boy’s behavior now.

“Hoh, so that’s your problem. You’re skeptical of what I’m teaching you, is that it? Bah, what a fool. Didn’t I say your current body is too weak? It has to grow first.”

The Old Man flicked his sleeves rather theatrically and stood from his stool, walking to a clearing in the dining hall. Here, he stood with his legs slightly apart and once more waved his hand in a showy, Sentai hero kind of way.

“First, you gain enlightenment regarding the ways of qi gong, the art of gaining subconscious and conscious control of ch’i. The universal life force, the truth behind all wushu,

As the Old Man’s hands traveled in the air slowly, it left behind afterimages of themselves, like how Bruce Lee did in one of his movies. Except, there was no special effect applied here.

“Second, you remold and strengthen your frail flesh via combination of potent medicines and basic martial art forms. This shall lay the foundation down for the higher tier, the natural next step in your journey towards becoming a master. When you can do this, with your eyes closed. Hmph!!”

The Old Man’s hands coiled into tightly held fists which tucked neatly into his sides. Then he swept one leg out forward, the other bending low.

With a snort, he punched out, his body unmoving. It looked simple, innocuous, even.

Yet, when the fist flung out, it caused a sharp, explosive sound to wring out, and a cold blast of air slapped Kain square in the face.

That wasn’t the end.

The Old Man continuously punched out. Each of the fists caused a minor explosion every time he struck out, causing the entire dining hall, the fort and perhaps even the entire forest to tremble in shock and awe, including Kain.

“When you arrive at the Pinnacle, then I shall pass on the knowledge of Heavenly Northern God technique. By mastering this school of martial arts, you shall attain the godhood that will let you survive the onslaught of the false gods in the future.”

He stopped punching and instead, began to form a series of elaborate stances in a seemingly languid manner. But each of his movements were punctuated with decisiveness so sharp, it could cleave the air clean without even trying.

The city’s trembling seemed to increase as if it was busy applauding the Old Man. Even Kain’s hearts palpitated uncontrollably, as he sensed the ch’i writhing and coiling around the Old Man, in him, in the surroundings, in everything he could sense and see and hear and feel and taste.

He couldn’t see it like Aeterna’s flow, but still, he was moved by the experience.

Somehow, by seeing this demonstration, he thought he could recall a tiny bit of the moment when he was enveloped in that incredible surge of power. He could almost recall what it was like, totally at one with the almighty power that could sever the very fabric of reality with a wave of a hand.

Salivating, Kain nodded eagerly. “Alright. I’ll do my best. No, I’ll exceed that. I’ll surprise you, Old Man. You just wait and see.”

The Old Man nodded and stood straight up. As he did so, the ch’i scattered and dissipated, leaving behind a void of sorts. As if to mend it, Aeterna swirled around like bits of paint on a painter’s mixing board, the faint colors bending and shifting. It was pretty as hell.

As Kain was lost in thought, the Old Man walked closer and smacked the boy in the head.

“Ouch!! Hey, what was that for?!”

Kain rubbed his head, nearly crying from the stinging pain.

“Didn’t I tell you to call me shifu? What the frack is this Old Man crap?!”

Oops, that slipped out, huh, Kain grinned wryly. Turning around, he made up some excuse on the spot. “Well, as you say, I’m a fool. So, uh, I forgot. Besides, you never told me your name, you know.”

“Just call me shifu. Simple. Names are unimportant to me.”

Tch, fine. Kain grumbled inwardly. His head still stung from the blow, so rubbed it for a bit longer.

The Old Man hovered behind Kain, as if he was studying a new specimen or some such. He oohed and aahed, raising his eyebrow once in a while too. All in all, it was rather disconcerting.

“What are you doing now?!” Kain complained loudly.

“Be still. I’m studying your meridians and the flow of ch’i in your body. So, silence.”

Kain pouted but remained still as told. It took a few more minutes before the Old Man was finished with his examination.

“Hmm. It’s better than before, but still, there are ways to go. Tell me boy, how much ch’i can you sense, for example, in me? Or in the air?”

Kain tilted his head, his brows furrowed. “Uhm, I guess…. not much?”

The Old Man nodded. “Well, it’s to be expected. This rate of growth is actually commendable. Hmm. Judging by the amount of ch’i accumulated in your three dan tians, Shang in the middle of your forehead, Zhong, near your heart, and Xia, in your lower abdomen, I can perhaps teach you this bit before I go.”

More Chinese gibberish, huh. Kain scratched his head in confusion. He had virtually no idea what the Old Man was talking about. What was a dan tian? What was that Sanbao? These things called Zhongs and Xias – if he didn’t know better, he’d assume they were the names of some second-class Power Rangers villains.

Seeing the confusion shining brightly in Kain’s eyes, the Old Man sighed dejectedly. “Are you worried about all these technical terms? Don’t be. It really doesn’t matter to you at this stage anyway. Just remember the words, the locations of the dan tians, and that is all.”

“What is a dan tian anyway? I’ve never heard of it before, not even in a kung fu movie.”

“A dan tian is a meditative focal point within a person’s body. Simply put, those three places are where you store and begin the circulation of ch’i. There aren’t any physical organs or anything like that, but…. oh, right. You can wield Aeterna, no? That means you possess an Aeterna Pool. Yes, think of a dan tian as something similar to that.”

Kain nodded, feeling like he had understood just a bit from all that.

The Old Man continued in the meantime.

“A fully developed Shang will help you with your faculties – quicker thinking, clearer minds, easy to memorize and recall. A fully developed Zhong will ensure you’ll control ch’i in the most efficient or explosive manner, as your heart desires. Also, your control will become finer and smoother. Finally, with a fully developed Xia, you will be able to store a heck of a lot of ch’i. Enough to move mountains, if you are so inclined.”

Kain nodded again, this time slightly more impressed than before.

“Developing all three of them at the similar rate is going to be a real challenge. But in order to remold you into a false god-slaying being, it is a necessary hardship to endure.”

The Old Man slapped the back of Kain as he said so. It was a rare display of friendliness from him, taking the boy a bit to recover from the shock.

Before he could say a thing, the Old Man was already heading towards the exit of the dining hall. “Hurry up, brat. We haven’t got all day.”

Kain chuckled to himself at that. The friendly gesture was probably done unconsciously, and was likely never to be repeated again. So, it was not worth mulling over, after all.

Once the two of them came out to the front yard of the fort, the Old Man rolled up his sleeves and beckoned Kain.

“Watch closely, and try to use your senses to decipher the flow of ch’i. Understand?”

The Old Man then punched out again. But this time, it was slow, as if he was throwing it under water. There was no destructive shockwave generated from the punch either.

However, when his arm was fully outstretched, there was a loud boom. The air in front of where the fist struck, exploded like a small bomb.

“Huh?!” Kain exclaimed in surprise. It was only for a short moment, but he thought he saw how ch’i moved in that moment before the air exploded.

“Again,” said the Old Man as he threw another slow punch. Which was again, accompanied by that explosion.

After repeating that couple more times, then he kicked forward. Each of his outstretched kicks caused the exact same explosions of air.

Kain’s eyes gleamed from a sliver of understanding he had acquired from watching the movements.

“Wow. That is pretty cool,” Kain beamed and praised the technique shown by the Old Man. “What is that move called, uh, shifu?”

“It’s named the Soul Crusher. This technique is at the pinnacle of controlling ch’i to its most minute amount. When you master it, then performing it via various parts of your body becomes possible, turning you into an invincible warrior.”

Soul Crusher?! Kain couldn’t help but make a weird face after hearing the name. Being able to fire it off however he wanted to sounded nice, but it was proving difficult to get past that rather lame name for some reason.

“A Soul Crusher is not only meant to injure your opponents, but to actually crush their fighting spirits as well by demonstrating your fierce willpower. Putting a dent in their confidence, in other words.”

The Old Man threw a single, super-fast punch, and the air boomed loudly. It wasn’t as scintillating as the time he demonstrated his abilities just a few minutes ago, but Kain felt like this was something he could actually do with a bit of training.

The Old Man then picked up a debris the size of an adult’s head. He lightly chucked it up in the air, and as it descended he struck it with a Soul Crusher.

Suffice to say, the rock disintegrated into fine powder.

“The trick is to know how much ch’i you need to expand with each strike. Too little, then it’s a waste of time. Too much, and you might end up hurting yourself more than you hurt your opponents.” The Old Man dusted his robe nonchalantly as he spoke. “Now, meditate what you’ve learned. Ingrain it in your heart. More than anything else, continue to practice the meditation technique diligently as that will help you to control ch’i flow within your body.”

Kain tilted his head slightly. “What do you mean, getting hurt by ch’i? Is there a backlash if I’m not careful? Like when failing to perform an Invocation spell?”

The Old Man flicked the last bit of dust off of him and turned to look at Kain with serious eyes. “Your body is a container for ch’i. However, that does not mean your body is indestructible from it. If you overexert yourself, push past your limits carelessly, then as a consequence, your body will suffer damage. Yes, a backlash, as you have put it. It can even cripple you if your body, the container of ch’i, is weak. No need to even mention how important the control of ch’i is, either.”

Kain wasn’t convinced by the Old Man’s explanation. Sure, he was the expert so what he said was most likely correct, but in his mind, he was wondering why this was so. Wouldn’t one’s ch’i, uh, cultivation, run parallel to one’s physical growth? Like, as one piled up more awesome muscles, the more ch’i one gets to accumulate? Kinda like how it was with the characters from that Japanese anime series about seven amber crystal balls with stars inside….

He got the point on the need for an exacting control over ch’i usage, as that was not too dissimilar to the idea of wielding Aeterna. But as for the body….

Hmm, maybe it’s exactly like that. An Invoker, a top class one at that, is usually really buff. Like that Ahres dude. Even mom is like that, really fit and strong. And never mind uncle Derrick – he’s a fitness freak, that guy. So, following that logic, I can’t wield a lot of ch’i if I’m not physically fit enough, is that right?

Kain nodded with a flash of understanding. He was gaining little bits of so-called enlightenment, however small they were.

He looked at his right fist for a moment, imagining sending a bit of ch’i to it from his lowest dan tian, Xia.

He kind of felt ch’i circulating in his fist. It tickled a bit, like as if there was a mosquito sitting on his skin.

He then mindlessly punched out with the fist, simulating what the Old Man did. Of course, there was a deep frown on the Old Man’s face. He immediately tried to stop Kain, but it was too late.

There was a soft sound of Peng, followed by the pained cry from Kain’s mouth.

His hand was mangled, blood spurting out of torn skin. The meat underneath was shredded as if he had stuck his hand in a blender. It looked rather horrible.

“You fool!! What the frack are you trying to do? To cripple yourself?! Damn it all!!”

The Old Man hurriedly wrapped the boy’s damaged hand and began injecting some of his own ch’i into the messed up flesh which could stem the flow of blood to a degree. He had to be careful, though – lest he end up sealing the wound by mistake and leaving Kain with a damaged hand for life.

By the look of it, it’d need a good few months of intense healing to avoid it becoming completely unrecoverable. This was a bad news.

The Old Man originally was planning to leave the Tetamus forest for two reasons – one was to locate his old treasures, now scattered around the continent due to one event or the other, as well as to find rare medicinal herbs to aid Kain’s development.

The second was to investigate the disturbance of the fabric of this Realm he sensed a few hours ago. It felt like something that didn’t belong to this world had invaded here. The presence didn’t seem too large or all that powerful, but if it came to find this boy, then it paid to be cautious.

But now, with this idiot injuring his hand this badly, he had to delay things. As it was said before, this was a bad news.

The Old Man grimly looked up, and sent out a tiny ripple of Yi Hai out. He could still sense that disturbance towards the city of Lafayette, circling around like a bird of prey.

Hmph, so it is what I suspected. Well, the One Tree’s influence will mask our activities for the time being, but I need to act quickly.

He looked back down at Kain, whose face was turning pale real quick due to the loss of large quantity of blood. He was barely holding on, terrified but now gaining more understanding of how things worked when it came to the ch’i-related business.

Clicking his tongue, the Old Man called out to his Familiar, Orion, via Yi Hai.

“Bring me the first aid kit, and call Embouchre. She’ll know the necessary medicinal herbs to treat this kind of injury.”

Then he sent a bit more of his ch’i into Kain’s meridians. Chuckling wryly, he softly whispered.

“Idiot disciple of mine. Hopefully, from this mistake you have learned to listen to this old man.”

His words didn’t reach Kain’s brain. He was far too busy fighting off the crazy amount of pain as well as the fear of losing his hand. He saw how desperate Damien was after he lost his arm. That was something Kain definitely wanted to avoid at all cost.

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