“What was the trigger?”
“Well, the trigger…”
Seol-Hwi’s question prompted Jin Mu to look back in time.
Where had it all gone wrong?
There was a force, its direction unknown, referred to as the third ability.
Before he acquired it, he was loyal, a disciple devoted to Wudang.
Now, having taken in the third ability about which he knew nothing, he was a man who would die if told to do so for Wudang.
How had that come to be?
In response to the straightforward question, Jin Mu began to search within himself.
The thirst for power, the lack of abilities, and the reality that the Wudang path did not lead to enlightenment.
At the root of it all was the thought, “I need to become stronger.” There was a deep wound from the past at the very foundation of the belief that he needed to grow stronger.
“Demonic Sect… the one called End Demon.”
At those words, Seol-Hwi was shocked. There was a connection with that man, a bad relationship he had not considered. And it dated back around 20 years.
The End Demon had become the disciple of the Heavenly Demon. To make his mark as the strongest warrior, he killed the former sect leader of Wudang, Elder Hae Seong.
“He was my master. He tried to teach that guy and was beheaded right in front of the Wudang gate.”
Seol-Hwi found himself at a loss for words.
This man’s master, whom he had regarded as a father, was murdered in front of him. Seol-Hwi could not begin to fathom the shock and shame Jin Mu must have felt.
It was something he likely did not want to recall.
“The incident shook every sect, but… I don’t know. It was as if the heavens had abandoned me. It felt like a lifetime.”
“Haha. It’s not wrong to say that my perspective is narrow.”
“…Why would I say that?”
Power without justice was mere violence.
And justice without power was equally futile.
Jin Mu had come to realize that after the incident.
After witnessing the murder of their best warrior at the gate by a member of the Demonic Sect, the leader of the Wudang Sect did not speak of revenge. Instead, he reduced Wudang’s external activities.
“Of course, he didn’t give up on his quest for revenge, our sect leader.”
Eventually, the Murim Alliance began to learn the martial arts of Wudang.
People from Kangho assumed that Hae Woo, given his position, was gathering Wudang’s elite and sharpening the sword for their cause. There were Wudang Sect spars in Kangho, and the sect leader undoubtedly knew about them.
“But… that didn’t help me. I confronted him, asking if he was content with just killing a few, if the blood of Wudang could be so easily washed away.”
No matter how dedicated one was to the Wudang path, they must still adhere to the rules, even if it was the sect leader.
It was not easy to forget everything, especially when the person involved was like a master or a blood relative. Was it not a normal human emotion to feel sadness and suffering over the death of a loved one?
“I understand your situation. But the problem isn’t what has happened so far; it’s what we do moving forward, right?”
“Right… so, do you have any ideas?”
“Why not try something like this? A spar to represent Wudang.”
“What… spar? Against you?”
Jin Mu was speechless at the suggestion. From his perspective, it was preposterous.
In the Wudang Sect, Seol-Hwi was known as Jin Hwi.
And Hae’s disciples were those who surpassed them; they were acknowledged as great disciples.
So, what did all this signify?
“What do you mean? You and I will spar to see what the results will be?”
Even though they held the same rank, Jin Hwi had been recently brought in and could not be on par with those around Jin Mu.
So, if the outcome was predetermined, why bother sparring in front of others?
“If the leader sees it that way, then the others will too.”
“When you break that idea, that’s when everyone is shaken. We can have a serious discussion then. It’s about which is stronger: the sudden appearance of a third ability or the pure martial arts of Wudang.”
Leader Jin Mu had not understood Seol-Hwi’s words yet. The premise itself was wrong.
“No way, you… think you have a chance against me?”
Jin Mu looked unsure of that.
“Don’t I have foresight? I think if I spar with leader Jin Mu, I have a fair chance.”
Was that not the reason he was suggesting this? It was probably impossible for the person in front of him to beat him in the first place, but the suggestion itself felt absurd.
Honestly, from his perspective, the martial arts of Wudang were… He thought he could not defeat the third ability.
“Anyway, isn’t this the only way? Only by competing with and defeating the third ability, especially the ability that you have, who is at the top, can we show that the power of Wudang’s tradition is stronger.”
That was also true.
The third ability. It was impossible to know how many different forms of it had spread in Wudang.
So, they had to know it all.
The fourth-rank Jin Mu himself used the third ability and not Taiji. Then it will be a comfort to all.
He said he was not the only one who had touched this ability. In that situation, what if a Wudang person emerges who can overcome it?
They will be shocked and try to change it.
“Confident about it?”
But there had to be one premise.
The skill of the person who defeated the third ability needed to be amazing, and has to be the best so that no one in Wudang can deny their own roots.
But in the eyes of Jin Mu, he did not see that in Seol-Hwi.
“It is a good offer, but you cannot beat me. If you think about a trustworthy warrior… there is just the sect leader of Wudang.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter. But give me some teachings before we spar with each other.”
“The spirit of the origin of Wudang, and what it means to you. Please tell me those things.”
Actually, it was odd to anyone who saw it. In a way, this man had learned about the third ability just a couple of days back, and now he wanted to spar with a higher-ranking disciple.
“Right. If there is a chance that you can find the answer through… I will help you with all my might. But I also have a suggestion.”
There might be many reasons why a warrior like Jin Mu was drawn to the third ability, but the reason why the Absolute intervened with Wudang was clear.
Fear. A clear hint of fighting back.
In a way, he seemed convinced that Wudang would produce a skilled warrior. If not, there was no need for such disgusting intervention.
And so, Seol-Hwi wanted to learn the spirit of Wudang through Jin Mu.
Instead of relying on the third ability, it seemed possible that he could reach the realm of Wudang first with their own martial arts.
Of course, that required guidance from an experienced warrior who represented Wudang. And so, he sought Jin Mu’s help.
Should he say this was really fun?
It was a situation where everything was conflicting.
The elders finding out about the third ability, and he, at Wudang, who had been a lifelong member of the Demonic Sect, went on to prove his martial arts skills as a Wudang member.
In the current situation, it was impossible to say whether something was right or wrong. He had to show the results.
The third ability. The strongest in the natural world was lightning. In a way, a Wudang warrior could counter that power, which could only be used after ascending to Profound Demon.
It was a big task for Seol-Hwi.
“About a month later. At that time, there will be a meeting held in the Pavilion of the sect leaders and elders.”
Jin Mu put his hands together and came up with a plan with Seol-Hwi.
They decided to make the third ability public to find the answers.
There was the gamble of risking not just his own safety but also that of the sect. If he was not careful, Wudang might collapse.
Since the Demonic Sect was still on the rise, they could fall into the swamp of self-destruction. Therefore, it was a situation where all directions had to be considered with as much effort and detail as possible.
“What do you want to learn?”
Jin Mu asked Seol-Hwi, who was seated cross-legged.
Unlike when he first brought up this subject, after discussing it a couple of times, his thoughts had changed. The theory held by the young man in front of him, the last sage of Myung disciples, had all the scope in it.
At this level, he did think Seol-Hwi could solve the problem which he could not.
A prophet who predicted the future and a person who knew of the third ability that spread among Wudang. Above all, he was a person whose abilities far exceeded his expectations, and who had reached the perfection realm.
It brought some hope.
“It is a bit vague, honestly. These past few days have been the best. I have been asking myself about what I need.”
Seol-Hwi, who had dark circles under his eyes, washed his face.
He had stayed up all night thinking. The answer he got at the end was just a rough conclusion.
“I felt like I knew less about what I was lacking than what I needed.”
“…Nice. It is a good starting point.”
Jin Mu nodded at those words.
It was easy to learn what one did not know. It was also not impossible to fill in what was lacking. The most difficult thing was to know how much one was lacking and to understand the reason why.
So, the youngest one’s words of “I don’t know what I don’t know” meant that he was able to see something, and that something was directed toward the theory he was teaching.
“Honestly, you are better than me.”
At first, Jin Mu thought he could understand not just the Wudang teachings but also the martial arts of the justice factions.
However, it was only later that he realized he had always encountered a wall blocking his way.
That nothing he knew was right.
Rather than training and accepting what was needed, it would have been wiser to make up for what was lacking.
“What are your thoughts on Taiji?”
Jin Mu asked.
Seol-Hwi had to think for a moment.
As with Clear Wind in the Qingcheng sect, the saying that Taiji was synonymous with Wudang was widespread.
A combination of Yin and Yang, Taiji was the spirit, the entire body, and the core of Wudang.
It was about understanding the most basic meaning.
“Taiji is the source of all things in this universe and the flow that creates all things.”
“Right, Taiji is the source of all things. Any flow is within Taiji, and any force moves within it.”
Jin Mu slowly shaped his hands into a circle.
“The source of energy. When heaven and earth were born, one energy moved. Black and white mixed together, and the presence and absence of it were revealed slowly. The source of heaven and earth was split through that one energy, and then it turned into Yin and Yang, which turned into the word Taiji.”
Taiji meant moving within the great flow of nature.
“…And did you see that flow?”
At those words, Jin Mu’s expression stiffened.
“I saw. I did, but… I couldn’t.”
That odd feeling.
While he was speaking and preaching the greatness of Taiji, at the same time, he was probably making sure it resonated within him.
The guilt of possessing the third ability in the face of such great nature must have overtaken him.
“I felt like this huge wave hit me and realized that I couldn’t possess it. The bold and lofty look of Taiji only gave me this sense of helplessness.”
“Isn’t it possible that they wanted to have Taiji in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been possible if they just turned into one and joined the flow?”
“There were times when I did. But when I tried to assess it, it all felt the same.”
Jin Mu sighed.
“I held on for a long time, but the result was always the same. On the other hand, the third energy, the lightning, was different. It unleashed a strength I had never come across before.”
To some extent, Seol-Hwi understood why he chose lightning. Just as there was a gap between Supreme and Profound Demon, there was a difference between Supreme and Profound Master.
Taiji cannot be solved by going after enlightenment. Was this not a level where one has to go beyond just understanding nature? It was easy to say with words, but difficult to embody.
“I only received teachings from one person. If Qingcheng looks from top to bottom, then Wudang looks from bottom to top.”
Seol-Hwi recalled his old master’s advice and teachings.
“I understood it this way: the wind blowing in Qingcheng doesn’t prove anything, but it shows how harmonious it can be.”
“Doesn’t the Taiji martial arts of Wudang have something to say? It is frustrating because it comes to fruition later than the person and is slow…”
Seol-Hwi looked at Jin Mu and said,
“In the end, it is there where one looks.”
Jin Mu clenched his fist.
Seol-Hwi spoke slowly and clearly to the man who was getting excited.
“Taiji may already be where you want it to be. It just appears slowly to the eyes. But isn’t Wudang always ahead of the person?”
“It isn’t too late. No, it doesn’t matter if you’re late either. Third ability or whatever… you can come back anytime.”
Seol-Hwi said, touching his neck.
“Turn around to become Taiji. Wudang will always wait, definitely to prove it.”
From Jin Mu’s mouth came the sound of clenching teeth, and his eyes turned red.
It was a time of regret and sadness, for he had deviated from his path.
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