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


Without the sniveling brats, the normally noisy training ground was as silent as a grave. The only thing I could hear was the sound of my own breathing.

Dad had left to sell the tiger carcass, and wouldn’t be back for a few days.

“Hoo…”

I took several deep breaths and did a light warm-up, then slowly started to move my body according to the Sixth Strike of the Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw.

“Kuhahaha! Did you just say that you wanted to learn my martial art?”

Every time I had asked him to teach me his martial arts, Maeng Ho-Ak would thump his chest proudly and declare:

“Did you know? I created this martial art myself!”

“You call that a new martial art? All you did was put together a bunch of random techniques! As I thought, you’re shameless!”

“Shut your trap, Crazy Demon! The instant I get out of here, you’ll be the first one I beat to death!”

“Hmph, that’s my line.”

“For some reason, I can’t recall a single memory where those two sirs weren’t fighting…”

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Maeng Ho-Ak, the Bandit King, and Hyon-Won Hu, the Crazy Demon, were like oil and water.1

Before being captured by the Blood Cult, they had never met before (surprise surprise), but the instant they saw each other in prison, they decided that they couldn’t get along with each other.

At first, they only had minor arguments resulting from personality clashes and their differing opinions about the ultimate goal of martial arts, however, as time passed, they’d argue with each other for the sake of arguing.

“You’re a brainless vagrant who’s only scratched the surface of martial arts!”

“Bark bark bark! All I hear is a noisy dog!”

Most of their arguments were like this, but because they were locked up in different rooms (their rooms were right next to each other though, so they could happily argue all day), they never actually got to fight and compare their martial arts.

I’ve always wondered who was the stronger among those two…

…Unfortunately, in the end, the match between the two never took place.

Right after escaping from the underground prison, we fought our way through the Blood Cult’s warriors. At that time, these two men who did nothing but fight verbally all day long worked together so well that anyone would think they were the best of friends.

Perhaps it’s as they say, that sometimes your enemies know you better than your friends…

Well, anyway, back to the main point.

The Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw that Master Maeng created was a combination of the many martial arts that were passed down within bandit society, which stretches back hundreds, even thousands, of years.

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However, unlike the orthodox (and even unorthodox) sects, no one recognized their long history. The martial artists of the murim saw bandits as nothing more than regular criminals and easy fighting experience for their young warriors.

“You orthodox dogs always treat us like insects you can stomp on any time you want. Who becomes a bandit because they wanted to become a bandit?”

“Hmph! If you didn’t like being treated that way, why didn’t you go become a farmer? You just didn’t want to work hard and chose the easy way out.”

…Fuck, are you seriously saying that?

One day, Maeng Ho-Ak and Hyon-Won Hu were quarrelling as usual, when suddenly, Hyon-Won Hu’s words hit a nerve in Maeng Ho-Ak.

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That was the first time I saw Maeng Ho-Ak’s cold, merciless side.

“If you’ve ever tried farming, you wouldn’t be saying that. You were born with a silver spoon in your mouth and lived a life of luxury. How would you know how a farmer feels, working day and night only to have the fruits of all their efforts taken away by corrupt officials? Also, did you know? That if a farmer tried to avoid paying their taxes, the men would be beaten up by the constables and the women raped. In the years where crop yields are poor, their entire harvest would still be taken away as taxes while the farmers starve to death. Do you honestly think that everyone could have a better life as long as they worked hard?”

As Maeng Ho-Ak gasped for breath after his sudden outburst, Hyon-Won Hu hesitated for a long time, and did not make his usual snappy remarks.

“Is that your life story?”

“No, I made it all up. Kahahahaha!”

“You fucking lunatic. You actually came up with a better excuse than usual.”

In the end, it didn’t matter if Maeng Ho-Ak’s story was fake or not.

Only people at the very bottom of society, with nowhere else to go, became bandits. However, instead of offering help to them before it was too late, both the government and the orthodox murim treated them as naturally evil beings who must be exterminated.

For survival, the bandits had no choice but to create their own martial arts that were easy to learn yet practical.

“We never had the luxury of quietly meditating and accumulating qi, since we always had more pressing matters to tend to like housing and food. That’s why, the way of the bandits is to start by swinging our fists!”

The internal arts required one to spend months, even years, slowly accumulating qi. On the other hand, the results from training one’s body and learning external arts was immediate. Thus, the bandits focused on developing and improving the external arts.

The one bad thing about the external arts was that it was heavily talent-dependent. If one did not have a large, muscular build, one would naturally be at a huge disadvantage. It was for this reason that the bandit’s martial arts were considered shallow and barbaric.

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However, Master Maeng told me that that was just nonsense from people who didn’t want to train their bodies to the limits. That many masters of internal arts were simply too lazy to do physical conditioning, and felt that as long as their techniques contained qi, that was more than enough. He told me that if I just thought about it, wasn’t sitting cross-legged all day meditating actually really bad for one’s knees and back?

Even then, as much as he valued the external arts, Maeng Ho-Ak did not look down on the internal arts. He had indeed trained his qi, although not quite to the same extent as the other three masters.

“Listen up, the external arts are in no way inferior to the internal arts! They may seem like polar opposites, but the fact is that they work in harmony! If you wish to reach the peak of martial arts, you have to master both!”

When things escalated to that point, I had no choice but to interject.

“But Master Maeng, didn’t you often eat herbs and medicines to get stronger?”

Out of the four masters, Master Maeng was the one who loved popping pills the most. Perhaps it was because he never got to eat the good stuff while he was growing up?

He’d talk about how he bought and ate as many medicinal products as he could, including the body parts of snakes, centipedes, tigers, turtles, frogs etc.

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Hyon-Won Hu narrowed his eyes and stared at the giant in his neighboring cell.

“Did you think that everything you eat is converted into energy? Herbs and medicines are not things you can just eat without thinking!”

“Huhuhu, that’s right! In theory, everything we eat is converted into energy, right? Just you wait and see, I’ll create the strongest external art in the world that eliminates the need for meditation!”

After making that declaration, Maeng Ho-Ak promptly began reimagining and refining his Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw. The other three masters also often improved upon their martial arts to while away the time, but Master Maeng was by far the most dedicated one among them.

In the end, it was only successful in theory. We never got to test it.

Although not even Master Maeng had fully mastered his newly refined martial art, he never forgot to remind me again and again:

“Kiddo, I’ll leave it to you to prove it to the world. Show those pompous bastards how strong my martial art is! Hahaha! When you get out of here, go teach those fucking assholes that even if one falls to the lowest depths of society, they can still become the world’s best using only external arts!”

…I’m sorry, Master Maeng, but I ended up teaching your martial art to the guy with the biggest build.

Back then, I didn’t have any choice but to obey the Demon Strategist when he asked me to hand over the four masters’ martial arts.

In addition, although Maeng Ho-Ak claimed that his martial arts could be learned by anyone, it was an immutable truth that having a naturally muscular frame was highly advantageous when it came to learning external arts.

Anyway…I never imagined that I’d end up practicing his martial art because of a reason like this.

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Maeng Ho-Ak’s Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw was a martial art that ANYONE could learn. Even me with my weak body.

“Hoo…”

I paused my training and steadied my breathing. I looked like I had taken a shower in sweat, but I felt refreshed.

“Wow, time really flies!”

I started training first thing in the morning, but when I came to, the sun was already setting.

In my mind, I could hear Master Maeng’s brazen laughter.

“The Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw is divided into three stages: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Each stage contains six of the Strikes.

“When you master the Beginner stage, your body will be overflowing with energy, while your joints will be as flexible as a cat’s.

“After you master the Intermediate stage, your body will be as hard as iron and as strong as a bull.

“And when you master the Advanced stage, your body will be invulnerable to the elements, impenetrable by weapons, and will never age.”

…To tell the truth, I don’t believe that guy’s bullshit about not aging.

The part about the aging was only Master Maeng’s theory, after all. It was never proven.

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Also, even with all the improvements, if I had to compare the four masters’ martial arts…then the Bandit King’s Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw was definitely the lousiest one.

However, there was one thing I could say for sure.

Not only was the Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw by far the best external art in the world, it was also the strongest unarmed martial art.

“Graaaaargh! I’m gonna pummel you all to death!”

That was what Maeng Ho-Ak had shouted as we escaped from the prison. He enthusiastically charged ahead of the rest of us and tore the Blood Cult warriors in our way to shreds with his bare hands like a violent god of death.

In the end, the Blood Cult had to sacrifice hundreds of experts just to stop that human avalanche from destroying everything.

“If Master Maeng had been born in a martial arts family, or was scouted by a large sect at a young age, then he might have…”

I immediately shook my head at the thought. The Bandit King was indeed talented, but the Crazy Demon, the Ice Moon Goddess, and the Sword Saint were by no means inferior to him.

I think I have the right to say that, since I learned all four of their martial arts.

“Hoo…Hoo…”

I continued training in the Beginner Stage of the Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw until the stars twinkled in the night sky, only taking a short break for dinner in between.

According to my estimations, as long as I trained slowly and gently, my body would be able to keep going for a long period of time.

Nevertheless, when my arms trembled and my legs wobbled, I nearly wanted to give up and lie down on the ground. At those times, I told myself, Just a little bit more. I can still continue.

I forced my shaking arms to move.

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I gathered my strength in my legs.

Although I’m only practicing the Beginner Stage for now, it won’t be long before I can begin learning the Intermediate Stage. Unlike Maeng Ho-Ak, I have the time and luxury to dream of mastering the Advanced Stage and surpassing him.

However, am I satisfied with just that?

In addition to the Heaven Defying Divine Art, I also know the martial arts of the Crazy Demon, the Ice Moon Goddess, and the Sword Saint.

If I mastered all of these martial arts, just how strong would I become?

Perhaps I was just being overly optimistic. All of these martial arts were so deep and complex that it would take a miracle for me to master just one of them, much less all of them.

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I also didn’t know how many hidden masters there were in the gangho.

Even so, the possibility wasn’t zero.

I could be the World’s Strongest.

My imagination was running wild, but my body never stopped moving.

I forgot about the passing of time and let my muscle memory do the work.

BAM!

The gates of the Baek Academy were thrown open. Dad strode in, drunk with happiness.

“Son! Daddy’s home! Hahaha! Do you know how much that tiger skin was sold for? Your jaw will drop to the floor…”

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“…Huff. You’re already back? That was quick.”

“Wait, what are you doing? Why do you look like that? Did you pull an all-nighter?”

“No, I uh…I was overdosed on medicine and needed to release the extra energy…”

I panicked and immediately tried to explain what had happened, but it backfired.

“Overdosed on medicine? No way… Did you eat the tuber fleeceflowers? By yourself? Didn’t I tell you to wait until I returned because it was dangerous!?”

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“Ah, no, about that…”

Dad looked around the training ground for a moment before finally deciding upon his punishment weapon of choice: the broomstick.

“You little punk…Get your ass over here!”

“W-Wait! Let’s talk this out! No violence!”

For the next two hours, I played a game of tag with my broomstick waving Dad.

…Judging by the fact that I lasted that long, it seems that my stamina had indeed improved.

sep

My life went back to normal right away the day after I swallowed the tuber fleeceflowers.

In the mornings, I’d train in the Heaven Defying Divine Art, gathering the contaminated chi in my body into the inner pill inside my dantian.

In the afternoons, I’d train in the Eighteen Strikes of the Outlaw to improve my physical condition and joint flexibility.

About a month later, the thing I was waiting for finally arrived.

Go Ju-Yeol sent me a letter informing me that the Azure Dragon Academy was now hiring new instructors.


Translator’s Note: I actually translated this chapter of the manhwa (C9) because the usual TL was busy, but damn if I don’t prefer the novel version! Also, work has been rather busy lately (I’m aiming for a pay raise), so I can only guarantee 1 chapter per series a week for now.

Proofreader’s Note: Pray that translator-nim gets that pay raise. 🙏


Footnotes:

  1. Like oil and water: Actually a Korean idiom, “like dogs and monkeys”. 

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