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TL: FoodieMonster007; ED: TheGreatT20 If you see this, you are at the wrong site!


Jin Mu-Won channeled his concentration into the hand holding his wooden sword. He did his best to remember the weight, feel, and balance of the sword.

The sword is an extension of my arm. I need to become one with it, just like I am one with my arm and my breathing.

But unlike my limbs, the sword isn’t attached to my body, so how can I make it a part of my body?

The limbs of a living being must have bones supporting its structure, muscles providing it power, and blood circulating within its veins. All of these are then connected to the brain via the nervous system. If any of these components are missing, it can’t be called a complete limb.

Jin Mu-Won tried to think about the problem from another perspective.

A sword is not merely a weapon for killing. It is a part of me, a part of my arm. Therefore, I must explore different ways of observing and understanding it.

These weren’t random ideas that Jin Mu-Won had made up. Rather, they were his father, Jin Kwan-Ho’s opinions.

Jin Kwan-Ho hadn’t taught his son any martial arts. Instead, he worked the boy to the bone just studying.

From the proper way to grip a sword to analyzing an enemy’s possible angles of attack, he had memorized it all. Therefore, even though Jin Mu-Won hadn’t actually practiced any martial art, his brain was filled with knowledge about martial arts and philosophy.

Among all the different types of martial arts, the ones that interested him the most were sword techniques.

The sword is the king of weapons.

There are many different types of weapons, but the sword is indisputably the best one of them all.

In terms of wounding the enemy, it is inferior to the dao. In terms of effectiveness on the battlefield, it is inferior to the spear. In terms of flexibility, it is inferior to the whip. In terms of sheer power, it is inferior to the axe.

Even so, everyone calls the sword the king of weapons.

Why?

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I think it’s because the sword is a symbol of dominance.

Since times long past, kings would use a sword as a symbol of their right to rule, and not just as a weapon for killing. They would use it in ceremonies as a way to communicate with the heavens and the earth. Their swords were not simply weapons, they were holy objects that contained the will and desires of the rulers.

At least, that was how Jin Mu-Won viewed it, and the reason why he was more attracted to the sword than any other weapon.

If I take the Three Foundations of Swordsmanship as an example, everyone knows that the three basic moves are the thrust, the slash, and the parry. But how many would realize that their individual understandings of the natural and human world would affect the way they executed those moves?

The heavens lie above man’s head and the earth beneath man’s feet. The Three Foundations of Swordsmanship tells the story of heaven, earth, and man.

To conclude, if I wish to correctly grasp the essence of swordsmanship, I have to learn to understand humans. Humans might be complicated beings, but if I can so much as discern the relationship between a man and his weapon, I will be able to use that knowledge against him.

Originally, Jin Mu-Won hadn’t planned on learning swordsmanship until much later. His first priority was to create a shadow qi center using the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows. Ideally, he would then use this shadow qi center as a basis for his swordsmanship. However, he changed his mind and decided to do things the other way round when he ran into a major hurdle while learning the Art. He would practice the fundamentals of swordsmanship first, and then see if he could use it to solve the problems he encountered while learning the Art.

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Jin Mu-Won swung his sword repeatedly, trying to perfect his stance, as described in the Three Foundations of Swordsmanship.

I need to precisely control my breathing, muscles, and blood circulation. I need to feel the tip of my sword with my nerves. Even though something like that is physically impossible, I must always consciously think about doing it until it becomes as natural as breathing.

Because that’s what it means to be “one with my sword”. I am the sword, and the sword is me.

Jin Mu-Won knew that even experienced martial artists rarely attained this realm of mastery, but right now, he was attempting to reach it.

He swung his blade once, twice, thrice… but it wasn’t long until his entire body was soaked in sweat. As time passed, his breathing became labored, and his posture got worse.

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Jin Mu-Won stumbled. He put down his sword, sat down cross-legged on the ground where he stood, and began to think.

My body can’t keep up with my mind. There’s a large gap between how I want to swing my sword and how I actually swing it.

Jin Mu-Won felt that he had to intensify his physical training. He had already been doing some mild training regularly while learning the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows, but clearly, that amount of training wasn’t quite enough to learn swordsmanship.

The problem then would be avoiding Jang Pae-San and his men. They were much less wary of him now compared to a year ago, but if he showed the slightest sign of seriously practicing martial arts, they would definitely report it to Heaven’s Summit immediately.

The Tower of Shadows was the only place he could practice martial arts while remaining hidden from sight. However, it was too cramped and he couldn’t move around freely.

“I need to do something about this.”

There was a long road ahead of him, and a lot of obstructions.

But Jin Mu-Won hadn’t given up despite everything he had gone through, and he wasn’t about to start backing down now.

“First, I have to start with the things that I can do right now.”

Once he had decided on a plan, all he had to do was follow it. The most important thing was the determination to never call it quits.

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My current; most urgent task is to make my body more suited to learning swordsmanship. I need to get rid of the muscles that I don’t need and train those that I do need.

Jin Mu-Won imagined the ideal image of himself that he aimed to create. Now that he had decided on a goal, he needed to act upon it.

He uncrossed his legs and stood up.

When he went out, the sun had already set. It turned out that he had spent half a day in the Tower of Shadows.

Jin Mu-Won analyzed the mistakes he had made and how to fix them as he walked.

“Hmm? This place is?”

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He found himself in his room, which was currently on loan to Eun Han-Seol. He had unconsciously walked back to this place while lost in thought.

It’s frightening how we sometimes do things without even realizing it. Jin Mu-Won looked around, but did not see Eun Han-Seol.

Did she go outside?

Jin Mu-Won thought about the scene that he had witnessed yesterday. The lightning reflexes and calm decision-making that Eun Han-Seol had displayed as she subdued Jang Pae-San were the hallmarks of someone who mastered martial arts. It was clear that she was a disciple from a famous school.

He speculated about her true identity for a while longer, then left.

The instant Jin Mu-Won walked out of the room, there was a distortion in the space at the corner of the room and a person suddenly appeared there. It was Eun Han-Seol, the girl whose black hair shone with a pale blue light.

She had been in the room all along, even if Jin Mu-Won hadn’t realized it. Scattered in the area around here were several black and white-colored rocks.

The Formless Crystal Formation (異形琉璃陣).

It was a type of illusory formation, as well as one of the most basic ones. But even though it was basic, that did not mean it was easy to set up.

Eun Han-Seol had set up the formation so that she could concentrate on healing herself in peace without having to worry about sudden intruders. The Formless Crystal Formation might have been basic, but those who weren’t familiar with formations wouldn’t be able to see through it, much less break it.

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She planned to always use this formation whenever she was focused on healing. She needed her strength to recover to a certain extent so that she could use more complex martial arts. That was because the stronger she was, the safer she would be.

She looked at the door Jin Mu-Won had left from with a strange expression on her face. Then, she vanished back into the formation.

sep

It was snowing again. Due to the thickness of the snow that could completely bury a man, the Northern Army Fortress had become separated from the rest of the world. The temperature had gotten so low that even wearing multiple layers of clothes, one would still shiver uncontrollably.

No one had bothered clearing up the snow, so it had piled up all over the fortress. The only way to traverse the fortress now was to dig a tunnel across it like a rabbit.

This was the main reason why Jang Pae-San and his men had chosen to spend most of their time either inside the barracks where they lived or at the Lofty Sky Manor, which they were busy renovating.

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Eun Han-Seol had hidden her presence to the point where it was like she wasn’t there at all, but Jin Mu-Won knew that she was still inside the Northern Army Fortress because the food and resources kept decreasing.

One thing he was sure of, though, was that it was impossible for him to find her unless she showed herself willingly. Thus, Jin Mu-Won decided to stop thinking about her and focus on his own problems.

He was currently in the lowest basement of the Tower of Shadows. The twelve-story tower had been built right on top of bedrock, so the building was extremely sturdy. Jin Mu-Won held his sword and focused on the bedrock wall in front of him.

He swung the sword at the wall.

THWACK! THWACK!

The sound of wood hitting stone echoed around the basement room.

Jin Mu-Won’s face immediately twitched from pain.

The recoil force from hitting the wall had spread to his arms, waist, and back through his sword.

“HAH!”

Jin Mu-Won swung his sword a few more times, then quickly left without turning back. The skin on his hands had torn and was bleeding profusely. He grit his teeth in pain.

After waiting a while for the pain to subside, he tore a piece of cloth from the hem of his robes. He wrapped it around his hand and wiggled his fingers, then picked up his sword once again.

“URYAAAH!”

He took a deep breath and continued hitting the wall.

“I need to protect my body, but at the same time, I need to maximize the force with which I strike the wall.”

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In order to reduce the impact on his body, Jin Mu-Won tried all sorts of ways of holding his sword. At first, he would grip the sword as tightly as he could. Then, he would slowly lower the strength of his grip until he found the perfect stance. 

SNAP!

Suddenly, not long after he resumed training, the wooden sword shattered. Wood splinters were sent flying in every direction, some cutting Jin Mu-Won’s face and drawing blood.

Furious, Jin Mu-Won glared at the broken sword and the wall. Unfortunately for him, the sword hadn’t left even the slightest scratch on the wall.

On one hand, he was mad at himself for being such a useless person.

On another hand, he doubted the validity of the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows. He had already spent three years studying the thing but still didn’t have any idea how it could be used to cultivate qi, much less incorporate it into various techniques.

All I have is myself, my pride as a fallen noble, and this abandoned ruin. Under these circumstances, how could I ever dream of soaring through the skies?

Jin Mu-Won hurled the remains of his wooden sword on the ground.

“ARGHHHHHH!” he screamed, staring at the stone wall once more. His voice bounced off the stone, resulting in a loud echo that resounded around the room.

He kept screaming for what seemed like a day, then punched the wall with his fist. Tired, he slid down and lay on the ground.

The dark ceiling filled his vision.

BA-DUMP, BA-DUMP.

His racing heartbeat began to slow, and his agitation gradually subsided.

Exhausted, Jin Mu-Won stared blankly at the ceiling for a very long time. He then suddenly had a thought.

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It’s a long winter, and there are many more trees I can cut down and make wooden swords out of. That’s right. I’m not in a hurry. My life has only just begun.

As Jin Mu-Won made peace with himself, his pain slowly began to fade and his boiling anger vanished. Not long after, his sword arm stopped hurting completely and his anxiety went away.

Just then, the fog which had been clouding his mind began to lift.

Both frustration and rage are feelings that stem from the heart.

That’s right, the core of the problem is my own heart. My body only does what my heart wills it to.

Jin Mu-Won shuddered like he had been struck by lightning.

A strong heart should suffice (我健心足).

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“Is it not enough to simply have a heart?”

A bright light pierced through the fog in his mind and showed him the path forward. His vision cleared, and something that he had been suppressing for a long time seemed to stir.

I embrace the shadow (我存一影).

“I need to accept the shadows hidden within my heart.”

Shadows are immaterial, but they still exist. They appear alongside the light but are different from pure darkness. They have existed since time immemorial, residing within the reflection of the world.

Shadows enveloped Jin Mu-Won’s qi center.

At that very instant, this young man took his very first step in the mastery of the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows.

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