Chapter 57: Traveling Companions (4)

 

The Three Origins Meditation Technique was the characteristic chi cultivation technique of the Blue Ocean Sword Sect, one of the many small-to-medium sized Taoist sects located in Mount Heng, Shanxi Province.
The martial arts of the Blue Ocean Sword Sect were known for being balanced and powerful, but even compared to other Taoist martial arts, where it was already difficult to achieve a high level of mastery, the chi cultivation rate of the Three Origins Meditation Technique was abnormally slow.

The slow training rate was the main reason the Blue Ocean Sword Sect had steadily fallen into decline over the years, as more and more young people lacked patience and chose not to enter the sect.

However, the Three Origins Meditation Technique did possess several advantages that few people knew of.
For one, it was a very simple martial art, so simple that even relatively dimwitted people could easily learn it.
The requirement for practicing this martial art was not intelligence, but patience and determination.

As long as one was patient, they would eventually be able to master the Three Origins Meditation Technique.
However, most intelligent people would rather spend more effort learning a more complicated martial art with a faster cultivation speed.

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The second advantage of the Three Origins Meditation Technique was its stability, like a pavilion built on solid rock instead of soft soil.
As long the practitioner persevered until they reached a certain level, their chi would suddenly start accumulating at a much faster rate.
In addition, their chi would be extremely dense, resulting in increased physical strength compared to other chi cultivation techniques.
This meant that practitioners of this martial art were well-suited to using heavy weapons such as greatswords (重劍).

The third advantage was that the Three Origins Meditation Technique had the ability to resist and counter demonic energy.
That was because practitioners of this Martial Art tended to possess a strong mental resilience that allowed them to resist demonic and evil arts that targeted the mind.

All in all, it was these three advantages that had given rise to the name of the technique, Three Origins.
Unfortunately, because these advantages were not obvious or well-known compared to its disadvantages, the Three Origins Meditation Technique and the Blue Ocean Sword Sect had faded into obscurity.

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With the decline of the Blue Ocean Sword Sect, the Three Origins Meditation Technique was donated to the Northern Army.
However, no one in the Northern Army wanted to learn it, as they were fighting a war and there was no meaning practicing a late bloomer martial art when they might not live to see the next sunrise.

Therefore, for a long time, the Three Origins Meditation Technique sat forgotten in a corner of the Grand Library, collecting dust.
It was only when Jin Mu-Won’s father, Jin Kwan-Ho, went searching for a martial art that suited Hwang Cheol that it was rediscovered.
Before teaching it to Hwang Cheol, Jin Kwan-Ho had even done his best to improve it, enhancing its strengths and reducing its weaknesses.

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In return for Jin Kwan-Ho’s kindness, Hwang Cheol put his heart and soul into practicing the Three Origins Meditation Technique.
Even if his progress was slow, he never blamed Jin Kwan-Ho for choosing it.
Instead, he thanked the former Lord of the Northern Army every time he overcame a hurdle in his training.

Jin Mu-Won recalled Hwang Cheol saying, “The Three Origins Meditation Technique is not meant to be learned by geniuses.
It’s a martial art for idiots, and is there anyone in this world stupider than I am? Hahaha!”

With Jin Kwan-Ho’s death, Hwang Cheol was now the only person in the world who knew the Three Origins Meditation Technique.
The technique was so basic, even Hwang Cheol was embarrassed to teach it to others.
However, if he ever chose to teach it, it would definitely be to someone very much like himself; someone who was lacking in talent, but with unyielding resolve and patience.

Did Uncle Hwang see himself in this child? Is that why he…

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Jin Mu-Won immediately understood how Hwang Cheol felt toward this child.
Kwak Moon-Jung was like a younger version of Hwang Cheol, so Hwang Cheol couldn’t help but shower him with care and attention.

“Haa…” he sighed, looking at the boy who was deeply engrossed in meditation in front of the campfire.

Practicing the Three Origins Meditation Technique is like traveling a thousand miles at a snail’s pace.
It’s such a daunting task that few would dare tread on this path.
And yet, this is the path that this boy, Kwak Moon-Jung, has chosen.

Jin Mu-Won muttered softly, “As long as you never give up, I believe you will surely become the martial arts master of your dreams.”

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I pray that you never admit defeat and call it quits, because I know that’s what Uncle Hwang would expect of you.

Jin Mu-Won watched Kwak Moon-Jung train for a very long time, taking it upon himself to act as the boy’s personal guardian.

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The next morning, everyone packed their luggage and left the campsite.
When they left, the only traces that someone had camped there was the burnt ground where the campfires had been.

Although everyone had spent the night outdoors, no one looked tired.
This was only the beginning of their long journey, and all of them were martial artists who practiced inner energy techniques.
All they had to do to ease their weariness was meditate for a short while.

It was the same for Jin Mu-Won.
He hadn’t had spent the last seven years in a remote mountain for nothing.
Rather, to him, the hardest part of the journey was enduring the boredom from driving the wagon all day long.
The other escorts were in charge of keeping watch, so his one and only task was to follow the wagon in front of him.

Well, his situation was still a little better than the other escorts who were driving the wagons.
He at least had the All-Encompassing Cognizance, which allowed him to immerse himself in the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows and train while unconsciously driving the wagon.
The other drivers were so bored that they would sometimes nod off and break the caravan formation.

Whenever this happened, Gong Jin-Sung would step forward and restore order.
If the wagons in the caravan went out of formation, it was easy for the situation to fall into chaos when something untoward happened.

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Jin Mu-Won looked at this whole situation with interest.
“Armed escort” was not a job for an ordinary warrior.
Usually, only large sects or companies would hire armed escorts to protect important people or possessions, as their lives were much more valuable than random warriors.
Thus, many looked down on escorts as disposable tools.

Old and powerful factions like the large sects and Five Great Clans had strong economic foundations and did not need to worry about finances, but the truth was, most people in the murim struggled to make ends meet.
Even the small and medium-sized sects often dabbled in businesses in order to fund their activities and expand their influence.

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However, how many people in the gangho belonged to a rich sect or clan? It was only a very small portion of the whole.
Most people had no choice but to find employment of some sort, and for a freelance warrior, there was no better paying job than being a guard or armed escort.
Not only was the pay stable and regular, they’d have access to additional benefits that they otherwise would not be able to obtain.

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These people wielded their weapons for neither honor nor fame, only for the people and treasures they were paid to protect.
They weren’t defenders of justice; they were simply people who fought for a living.

Looking at these people made Jin Mu-Won reflect on his own situation. What should I do from here on? Right now, all my efforts are focused on finding Uncle Hwang and Ha-Seol, but after that, what exactly is it that I want to do?

Whatever anyone says, I belong to the Northern Army.
That’s where my roots are, and it’s something that I can never forget or abandon.
Even now, every time I think about how the Northern Army defended the Central Plains against the forces of the Silent Night despite being at a complete disadvantage, I feel proud to call myself a descendent of such heroes.

That’s why, I can’t help but wonder: Should I take revenge against Heaven’s Summit, or should I just live my life peacefully as a total nobody?

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To Jin Mu-Won, this was an important question that he had to find an answer for, because that would dictate the way he would live for the rest of his life.

My father wanted me to live a life away from the political machinations and schemes of the gangho.
He chose to disband the Northern Army and commit suicide, so that Heaven’s Summit would not have any justification to kill me due to my ties with the Army.
That way, I’d have a chance at becoming a free wanderer who could live as I pleased.

However, is that kind of life what I really wish for? The anger and hatred in my heart just won’t fade away!

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Jin Mu-Won’s heart was racing.
He did not try this hard to survive just for the sake of living.
Something deep down in his heart was constantly egging him on, driving him forward.

He raised his head and looked at the road ahead of him.
The grassy plains stretched on endlessly, and the river a short distance away flowed without pause.
Far in the distance, he could see the hazy silhouette of a mountain range.
Above him, fluffy clouds drifted across the azure sky, carried by the wind.

I don’t know if I can live the way Father wished me to, but I will try my best.
Even if I can’t do that, I swear that I will live my life with integrity, and never dishonor the pride of the Northern Army.

Suddenly, Jin Mu-Won sensed the wagon in front of him slowing down and adjusted the speed of his own wagon accordingly.

Are we slowing down because of the river crossing?

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The last time he checked, the river was still quite a distance ahead, but while he was lost in thought, it seemed that they were already nearing the river.
At the river bank, he could see a small village and pier where they’d be able to hire boats.

Just as Jin Mu-Won predicted, the caravan stopped at the pier, where Gong Jin-Sung stepped forward, saying, “The boat that can carry horses will return to port four hours from now.
Until then, we will split ourselves into two groups and take turns resting.
One group will go grab a meal in the village, while the other guards the wagons.
When the first group has finished eating, they will immediately switch shifts with the second group.”

“Yes, Sir!”

Gong Jin-Sung then proceeded to split the escorts into two groups, and both Jin Mu-Won and Kwak Moon-Jung ended up in Group 1.

The two young men entered a nearby inn and sat down.
The inn had a grand sounding name, the “South Sea Inn”, but it was very small and run-down.
Thus, a few of the escorts chose not to eat there and went someplace else.

“Welcome!” greeted an energetic young waitress, as they entered the inn.
The girl looked a year or two younger than Kwak Moon-Jung, but had a very friendly attitude, suggesting that she might be the daughter of the owner.

“Are there any seats next to the window?”

“Of course, right this way please.
You’ll be able to see the pier and the river from the window.”

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“Thank you.” The two young men smiled, thanked the waitress and sat down.

“What will you be having today?”

“Just something simple and filling, please.”

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“Then how about some fried pork? We just received a delivery of really good meat.”

“That sounds great!”

The young waitress smiled refreshingly and giggled, “Heehee! In that case, please wait while we prepare the food.” She then turned around and ran toward the kitchen.

Jin Mu-Won noticed Kwak Moon-Jung staring blankly at the young girl’s back as she walked away.
He grinned mischievously and asked, “You like her?”

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“What!? N-No!” Kwak Moon-Jung exclaimed, shaking his head desperately.

Just then, someone opened the inn door and entered followed by a group of people.
Jin Mu-Won recognized some of the people who entered.

“We meet again,” Jong-Ri Mu-Hwan said, smiling at Jin Mu-Won.
It seemed that he, Chae Yak-Ran, and the other members of the Iron Brigade had also decided to eat at the inn.
They quickly chose a table and sat down.

Right behind the mercenaries, another group of people also entered and sat down at another table.

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