Go Yeom-hak’s body was laying down in the infirmary.
He couldn’t help but feel his anger and arrogance dissolve into shock. His cervical spine1 was damaged, and the joints of his knee were broken, so it would take two months for him to recover his body and use martial arts, according to the physician.
‘Mumu, you jerk!’
His teeth were also broken. When someone asked to be hit, who would have guessed that the hit would be like that?
Surprisingly, he tried to hold out, but to no avail. Such incredible power.
‘… he isn’t a master warrior.’
The power which suppressed him was the super master level warrior. He thought that the man would be worthless without the item being used.
But just a normal knock was enough to shatter his joints and spine.
‘I can’t forgive him!’
He vowed to take revenge on Mumu irrespective of the orders. As he was thinking, he heard someone’s voice.
“Did I expect too much?”
Go Yeom-hak startled, tried to get up from the bed, but with the splint on the neck and the broken bones he couldn’t.
There was no point.
Master Heo was standing leaning in the shade next to the window. He looked at Go Yeom-hak. Three of the kids of the Eight Evil family were taken down by one person. And the one who did it was Mumu.
It was bizarre.
To say that three were taken down by a kid who hadn’t learned any martial arts. Although Go Yeom-hak couldn’t be compared to the fully fledged members of the Eight Evil families who were superior to the kids, they were still well trained kids.
‘The plan has been disrupted.’
One of the three was dead, the other was in isolation and Go Yeom-hak was in bed. What they prepared for seventeen years was disrupted by one person.
Master Heo opened his mouth with sharp eyes.
“Have you confirmed the power of that item?”
“… did you check it or not?”
Seeing Master Heo in the shadows who seemed a bit angry, Go Yeom-hak turned flustered.
“M-master Heo. He has full control of the muscles without that item.”
“Control over muscles?”
“It was temporary, but he doubled the strength by compressing and releasing his muscles. Of course, I was careless, but if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be like…”
“I don’t want excuses.”
Go Yeom-hak went silent. And Master Heo stroked his chin.
Muscles were a part of the body and depending on training they could be handled.
But this child could compress them?
‘Is that possible?’
He didn’t know much about muscles and never heard about compressing and releasing them to create stronger force.
‘… no, I am thinking wrong.’
Master Heo thought he was complicating things. The situation was weird. He thought that Mumu was increasing his strength by manipulating the item on his hand because of the information he got.
‘The power of an item which helps the muscles grow, it could be that the power of that item is always displayed in him.’
And this assumption made everything fit.
Perhaps the current state was the lowest state of the item.
‘Is it a way to control the muscles so that the body can properly use the power?’
If this was right then that item was amazing. He had seen so many items but never seen a piece which makes a person who didn’t even know internal energy so strong. Master Heo, who wanted to dispose of the child, now changed his mind.
Great powers only come at a cost. Of course, the cost of this could be huge, maybe even difficult to compare with a thousand gold.
‘I need to get it.’
And it seemed like everything had to change. Considering the power of the item, he decided to not entrust this task to the descendants of the Eight Evil families.
Mumu, Jin-hyuk and Mo Il-hwa were moving to another place to attend the next lecture. Since the academy was huge, there were dozens of buildings inside the campus and each with different facilities.
And while they were walking, something caught their eyes. A spectacle of nice people in two groups wearing blue and orange clothes in a space which seemed like a training ground.
It was round, and it was funny to see people in the two groups kick a ball.
“What is that?”
Mo Il-hwa was shocked when she heard Mumu’s question.
“You don’t know that? What kind of man… ah. You were in the mountains.”
“Il-hwa do you know what that is?”
Jin-hyuk answered for her,
It was a kind of game played with a ball kicking into a net. There were several kinds of Cujus, and the one most popular these days was to score points by kicking it into a place between two poles and a net.
“Right, it is a ball game and the way to score points is by putting the ball into the other team’s net.”
“Oh. Sounds fun.”
Mumu seemed interested in it,
“Jin-hyuk, have you played it?”
Jin-hyuk had never played before. This systemized Cuju game was mostly popular among common people. However, there were a few things that were different about this Cuju.
‘Are they using the Body Lightening method?’
Most of the people who played it here were using the Body Lightening Method to kick the ball. For some reason, this game seemed like high level play.
While holding the ball and using that technique, and then trying to steal it from others, it was complicated.
‘Is that an iron ball?’
Normal balls were made out of a pig’s bladder. But this one looked solid like it was made from black iron and was still being kicked. As a result, looking at this, this Cuju sport was different from a normal game.
“Oh. Looks like they are already practicing.”
And as they were watching, someone came over, Hae-ryang.
“Are you also going to the lecture now?”
“Ah. We have the same class.”
“Yes. Finally we get to be in the same class. Such an honor. Miss Mo.”
“Honor? But what were you saying before this? Practicing already?”
Looking at Mo Il-hwa who seemed curious, Hae-ryang smiled and pointed to the people playing.
“It is said that one of the things the Heavenly Martial Academy is proud of is their Cuju team.”
“But it’s just a game.”
“It isn’t just a game, doesn’t it look pretty high level? If you look over there, don’t you see the seniors in the orange dress doing their best?”
As Hae-ryang said, the orange colored ones were indeed doing their best and seemed quite used to receiving and giving the ball.
“Even though it is just a game, it requires a lot of cooperation and a lot of tactics to run the game efficiently.”
“Is that why they are practicing like that?”
“Yes. If the competition is won, they get prizes as well as scholarships and additional points.”
At that, Mo Il-hwa was shocked.
“Extra points? That is amazing!”
“Yes. And I know that they profit a lot because high clans and even the Imperial family comes and visits the tournaments. Do you see the writing on the back of the blue dress over there?”
Mumu narrowed his eyes.
“Huh? Isn’t that one of the five merchant divisions?”
It was based in the province of Guizhou. Originally, it was a store that mainly sold tea in the region, but it was now so large that no one hadn’t heard of them.
“It is a kind of advertisement. The merchant is the sponsor for that group. It is a game which interests both the clans and the imperial palace, so merchants use the teams to advertise on the clothes of the players.”
“Uh. So for money.”
“Miss Mo is so smart.”
As Hae-ryang had said, this was one way for the academy to earn money. The funds obtained through it are sent to the Imperial palace as taxes and cover for operating expenses of the academy. Because of this, Cuju was able to establish itself as a popular contest here.
At Mumu’s words, Hae-ryang smiled and said,
“Even if it looks like that, it is quite difficult.”
“Even that ball is made of black iron which is known to weigh a lot.”
Mo Il-hwa clicked her tongue at those words.
“No. Why is the ball so heavy? Isn’t it supposed to be a ball made of a pig’s bladder with air blown into it?”
“This is a game happening between those who learned martial arts, and if we do it the old way, the ball won’t withstand the power of the players and there is a risk of it breaking right away, and the game might be too boring.”
“Can it be kicked?”
“Aren’t they doing it? I heard that one would have to practice for quite some time before they have such a control over it.”
“… I can imagine.”
Jin-hyuk nodded his head. Somehow, he thought it was strange that the seniors were wearing thick shoes. And now he knew that they did it to protect their feet.
No matter how used to it they are, if they lose their concentration for even a second, they could have their feet injured.
Clicking her tongue, Mo Il-hwa replied,
“The body won’t do so great playing that.”
“Quite a few people get injured. Even so, there are a lot of people who watch and play a lot. Just look over there.”
Hae-ryang pointed to someone who was passing the ball. He raised the leg up and then kicked it.
When the heel hit the iron ball, the heavy ball quickly moved. Jin-hyuk frowned. The kick seemed low, but the ball moved up, which made him think that it was a mistake.
The ball which jumped up then bent mid air and flew to the goal post at a higher speed.
An exclamation flowed from Mo Il-hwa’s mouth. This kick seemed like some kind of technique.
“It can’t be stopped.”
They wondered if that could be stopped, but the boy guarding the goal lowered his waist and gently kept drawing a circle with his hands.
Surprised Jin-hyuk said,
“Wudang clan’s Tai Chi Palm!”
When the ball which came in had touched the boy who was guarding the goal, the ball turned gently to the touch. It was almost as if the ball bent into the will of the boy. At that, Jin-hyuk was shocked.
‘Shift Flower and Connect Trees!’
Known to be one of the most arduous techniques. It could be said that the essence of the Tai Chi martial arts lies within it. Even Jin-hyuk’s teachers couldn’t do this.
The ball was stopped in the boy’s palm. The sight was amazing to watch.
“Wow! As expected from the 7th ranked in the 2nd year!”
Jin-hyuk’s eyes widened at Hae-ryang’s cheers.
As expected the people from Wudang were known to be skilled.
Of the Nine Great martial Sects, they were still ranked in the top places with the Shaolin sect and Mount Hua. The one who blocked the ball was Jong Seung who shouted with a happy face.
“Senior Young Jo’s technique is great, but the force you use can be handled by softness. You will never be able to break through the Tai Chi Palm!”
It seemed arrogant, but no one fought. That was how great the technique was.
At that, a boy moved in and kicked the ball spinning in Jong Seung’s hand.
“It’s of no use. Uh!”
The ball in the hand which was hit, bounced high.
And that ball which had bounced like that, unexpectedly fell in front of Mumu and his party.
The ball was so heavy that the ball was half dug into the ground. Mo Il-hwa saw this and bit her lip.
“Kicking and blocking”
She thought this was amazing. As she was lost, Jong Seung waved his hand and shouted.
“Juniors, sorry but could you bring the ball over here?”
Mumu thinking it was fun said,
“Can I kick all the way there?”
And that made the people in the Cuju ground laugh, and Jong Seung frowned and spoke.
“Juniors. The ball is hard and heavy so you will end up hurting your feet so bring with your han..”
Before he could even speak. Mumu rolled the pants up his ankles and the swollen calf muscles appeared.
And the muscles began to compress. People at the stadium didn’t know what was happening because of the distance and waved their hands to dissuade Mumu.
“Stop! You will get hurt.”
“Hey! You seem like his friends so stop him.”
It was then, the compressed muscles were released and he hit the ball.
The ball kicked by Mumu flew at a great speed. So fast that the sound of air being slashed could be heard.
Everyone was wide eyed, even including Jong Seung.
Naturally, he thought that the kid would fail, but the fall flew towards him with a tremendous speed and he immediately unfolded the Tai Chi Palm technique.
The ball flying across instilled fear. Jong Seung gulped and gently rotated his arms to create the best form of technique and initiated the movement.
The speed was too much, so he rushed through and blocked the ball with both hands.
The body of Jong Seung who was holding the ball was pushed so much that he went through the goal. And the once noisy place was colored in silence.
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