Jeokpa’s training went from dawn til dusk.
Slash, thirty thousand times. Stab, thirty thousand times.
60,000 movements was nigh impossible. It wouldn’t be so bad if all he had to do was swing his sword, but only perfect repetitions counted. If he didn’t control his strength just right, or his gaze or posture was slightly off, it was a wasted effort.
- You can’t even do that much?!
The day ended with Jeokpa shouting at him.
Seol-Hwi made up his mind.
His eyes were on the counter from the moment he entered the training hall. He swung his sword without pause.
About half a day passed, and before he knew it, he was being bombarded by curses.
“Damn! How am I supposed to do this in one day!”
In the end, he was up deep into the night, and he passed out as soon as he was in his room.
Unlike the other options, time didn’t pass quickly. Rather, every swing seemed to stretch time longer than usual.
He figured that if he gave up on eating and shitting, he might be able to get it done. He finished about 70% and he was pretty satisfied.
But there was still a long way to go.
Seol-Hwi wasn’t certain if it was just his mood, but he was so tired.
The numbers were finally going up with every swing.
Actions were important, but so were his eyes. A fight meant killing the enemy. He had to be tenacious enough to face anyone.
These things seemed to be embodied in his countless swings.
Fuck. Why would anyone want to stab downward?
He abandoned his thoughts. Shitting took up too much time, so he ate less as well.
If he took too long, he’d have to train more.
Die! If you try to stab me, I’ll kill you!
He did it. 60,000 perfect repetitions.
He wanted to cuss out Jeokpa so bad. Now he had to do 90,000 swings instead of 60,000
Come to think of it, 30,000 extra reps might be achievable. He struggled with form, but once he figured it out it wasn’t so bad.
He managed 80,000 with all his heart. 10,000 more wasn’t impossible. If he pulled it off, he’d be an expert, right?
Just do it.
Don’t think about why.
If he didn’t die, he’d succeeded.
He couldn’t manage the last 100.
Yeah… he ran out of time because he had to shit, so he decided to finish it tomorrow.
He did it. He finally—
What? What did it just say?
He got back to his room around midnight, and waited for his hard-earned reward.
Bang! Bang! Bang! He slammed his head against the floor.
He lost his mind.
Another month of crazy training went by, but Seol-Hwi didn’t stop. He tried again and again to fill the numbers; even after two months he was only halfway through.
He found a way to save time. If he combined the swings into a continuous motion—stab, slash, slash, for instance—it would be much faster.
By that point, he’d been at it for four months.
When all the counters were finally filled…
But Seol-Hwi didn’t follow the forms. Not because the practice was more difficult than he could deal with, but because he was haunted by a question.
Why can’t I replicate it?
When he was taking a bath, when he was swinging his sword, when he was eating—even while lying in bed, he couldn’t stop pondering.
He lost interest in training.
Even people on the streets could know the basic techniques, but the way they were used could change them.
The intense training aimed for a perfect execution—but the criteria for “perfect” was messing with Seol-Hwi’s head.
“How about doing it a little more?”
Maybe he needed a different approach; if 10,000 wasn’t enough, what about another 10,000?
Seol-Hwi didn’t know if that was the right answer, but it was better than doing nothing.
One day, Seol-Hwi was moving his sword through another repetition.
His hands were blistered and calloused. His body moved only to swing his sword.
Months had passed; he kept swinging.
Numbers meant nothing.
He just kept going, all day long.
Early in the morning, Jeokpa was sat in a chair reading a report. A white-haired official—Baek Ryong—stood in front of him.
“...As you can see, it’s outstanding. I dare say, in a few years he might be one of the Super Masters.”
“Good results for all.”
The report contained evaluations of several people. Age, origin, and history; martial arts, special skills, and interests.
Jeokpa took a few pages and set them to the side.
“Yorim, Jeok Song, and Yong Jin are well known. Still, it’s unexpected for them to stand out like this.”
“It was a surprise. It’s said that they could deceive people’s eyes—that’s how they passed through the military test.”
Jeokpa nodded. “Indeed, the Earth Demon has great insight.”
The reports concerned four geniuses the Earth Demon had selected. They weren’t just strong in martial arts, they also had specialized talents. The squad’s missions would go well with such excellent members.
“But… is the vice-leader still in meditation?”
“He doesn’t seem to be doing any training, yes?”
“Hmm.” Jeokpa stroked his chin.
Once the sword techniques were learned, it was only natural to train them to the next level. Yet this man had stopped. Recently, there had been reports that he spent all day meditating.
“It’s just my personal thoughts,” Baek Ryong ventured, “but was it really correct to have him as the vice-leader?”
“Has he not been repeating the same basic movements for a month? After quickly mastering the body techniques, shouldn’t he be doing more movement training? Isn’t that what you have been teaching him?”
“Is that what you think?”
“Was there something I missed?”
“What…?” Baek Ryong squinted at him.
Jeokpa stroked his chin again and looked Baek Ryong in the eyes.
“Firstly, the number of repetitions. That boy isn’t just repeating the movements. I heard this from someone else, but he said he’s doing more than just swinging.”
“Well, even then—”
“Second!” Jeokpa cut him off. “He is using internal energy in each movement.”
“Huh?” Baek Ryong’s eyes widened.
Cycling internal energy—circulating the power in the sword in and out of your body—adds force to the tip of the sword, more than what mere velocity could achieve.
Fast movements had to be stopped if you wanted to do another movement.
“He’s been doing that all this time?”
“I don’t know.” Jeokpa got up from his seat and pursed his lips.
If Seol-Hwi went above and beyond what he was asked to do, and then stopped, he must have realized something. Jeokpa needed to go check it out himself.
“I will go and find out what he’s thinking.”
Jeokpa found Seol-Hwi sitting in the training hall with his eyes closed.
“You’re here?” Seol-Hwi didn’t open his eyes.
“Are you done with the second assignment?”
“I was just… trying to make sense of it.”
“Hmm…” If it were anyone else, Jeokpa would have lashed out at them for giving him a silly answer. “And what did you think?”
“I was wondering if there is a perfect movement.”
Jeokpa’s eyes lit up.
“So… did you find the answer?”
“Oh? Can I hear it?”
“The answer is…” Seol-Hwi opened his eyes. “It’s impossible.”
That was a very poor answer. Nevertheless, Jeokpa did not seem disappointed.
“Then why did you say you found the answer?”
“Because I was thinking about how to make the impossible possible?”
“Make the impossible possible?”
“Yes.” Seol-Hwi looked up at Jeokpa with serious eyes. “Nothing is perfect from the start—but if we think about it broadly, it isn’t wrong either. In the end, perfection depends on what we think it is.”
“You…” Jeokpa could feel his hair rising.
He wasn’t certain if Seol-Hwi realized it yet, but this was a state of mind. Paradoxically, the closer you got to perfection, the further away you were. That was a realization all warriors would have when they reach a new realm.
That was the way to a higher level.
Jeokpa had made a plan to lead Seol-Hwi to perfection over three years, but it seemed the man had accomplished it on his own.
“Sit back and watch!”
Seol-Hwi cocked his head at Jeokpa, but, seeing his serious expression, didn’t push his leg.
Seol-Hwi obediently tucked his legs in.
“Repeat the motions in your head.”
Seol-Hwi followed those instructions as well.
He saw Jeokpa standing with his hands to Seol-Hwi’s back, and he realized—
—Jeokpa’s clothes were cut.
Seol-Hwi was about to lose it. This reward was very different from what he expected.
It didn’t stop there—the system window kept dancing.
It felt like a joke.
It didn’t matter. He’d been rolling around like a dog for months.
Wasn’t this his just desserts?
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