Chapter 5 - I'm Not Who I Used To Be

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A man, whose name I can't recall, approaches me with a spiteful look on his face and spits out.

"Don't even think about making a move on Chae Hyang. It'll make me feel disgusted, too. If word gets out you did something to Chae Hyang, she'll have to retire. Do you understand me? Fucking Zaha."

I tilt my head.

"What was your name again? I can't remember."

He had been so unmemorable in the past that I can't even recall his name.

"What?"

My hand flew out and made contact with his puzzled face. With a thud, he falls backward.

'Did I use too much force?'

I look at my hand and think about the unexpected sensation of the punch.

I should have no internal cultivation at this point, yet the power behind the punch is strong.

Come to think of it, my Dantian feels strange. I haven't even started using a Qi breathing technique, yet my Dantain was already formed. I'll check that later; as for now...

The man, who I had punched, scrambles up and swears at me as he rushes in.

"You little rascal!"

An opening will become too big if you curse while making an attack.

As I dodge his sloppy fist, I hit him in the back of the head.

Smack!

This time, he falls forward instead.

"The guy from the linen shop, what is his name again?"

I kick him in the face as he tries to get up, forcing him to roll sideways.

'Jeez, he's gonna die at this rate. I should stop.'

I could do more to mock him. It must have felt mortifying to be beaten by an errand boy, but he still didn't speak up.

"Feeling mortified? You should be if you got beaten up by a mere errand boy."

But, so what...

He should feel lucky not to die by my hands today.

I grab and pull the man's hair and look him in the eye.

"Hey."

After returning to the past, did my years of intense training in Kangho remain in my gaze, or is it just an errand boy's plain, innocent eyes?

There's emotion in his eyes.

He flinches slightly as I look at him while momentarily considering crushing his face completely.

I ask again.

"What's your name?"

"Why my name all of a sudden?"

"Just answer the question."

My hand swung up, and only then did I get an answer.

"It's Myung-gon."

"Oh, I remember. Damn, Myung-gon. Why do you put 'fuck' in front of my name? Why did you do that? Say it again."

"Zaha."

"Again."

"Zaha."

Only then did I let go of his hair.

"Just say my name properly. Don't stick a curse word in front of it if you don't want to die."

If his eyes and tone became soft with just a light beating, then he's not a man from Ilyang Prefecture.

Myung-gon stands up with spite still in his eyes and lets out a long breath.

"Haa..."

I give Myung-gon another chance.

"If you feel wronged, then come at me again."

Myung-gon nods and immediately rushes toward me.

'As expected of a guy from Ilyang Prefecture.'

But this time, my fist is also swinging.

I didn't feel anything.

Because I am from Ilyang Prefecture as well.

Myung-gon would rather get knocked out than get beaten up by an errand boy. His feelings will change once he wakes up. He would have fainted first if he realized he could have died.

A brawl with no rules or dignity.

Punch!

I punch Myung-gon again as he rushed in, and he falls back and faints.

I shake him a bit and ask.

"Myung-gon?"

"..."

There is no answer, but he is breathing; I walk away after watching his chest heave up and down steadily.

"Just sleep."

Heading back to the inn, I think.

'Just because I've returned to the past, doesn't mean my personality will go back to the days of an errand boy.'

As I walk back into the inn, I mutter, 'I'm not who I used to be.'

Also, my Dantian is definitely in a strange state.

Feeling something might happen, I organize the inn's chairs and tables, push them inside, and put up a 'Closed' sign at the entrance.

In this situation, it's best not to be open for business.


In my days as an errand boy, I had no internal cultivation.

But now, I can feel a large amount of underlying Yang energy in my Dantian.

The energy isn't in the state of an active soldier who is entering the battlefield but that of a trainee soldier waiting in the main camp. It feels similar to taking supplements. Only by using a Qi breathing technique can you accumulate the supplement's effects as internal cultivation.

In fact, there is a lot of Yang energy floating in my Dantian.

Why is that?

When I return to the small room of Zaha Inn, I sit down cross-legged and contemplate this problem.

The method to check my internal cultivation is simple.

All I have to do is re-learn the Strolling Golden Turtle Cultivation Technique.

The Strolling Golden Turtle Technique is a unique and rare martial art in Kangho.

Starting from its name, it has the crazy meaning of a steel turtle reaching an impenetrable (刀劍不侵) state, allowing it to stride around as it pleases.

The first stage is similar to a beginner's martial arts, allowing me to reach it quickly.

Halfway through, it is similar to a long-established sect's martial arts technique, so the process becomes slower.

Ultimately, the pursuit of the indestructible (金剛不壞) state becomes extremely difficult.

To master its final level requires the realization of the impossible.

Moments after starting, the internal energies floating calmly inside my Dantian begins to move through my veins.

Internal Energy generally takes on two main paths. Internal Energy that starts from the perineum, ascends the spine to the crown of the head, and arrives at the lips is called the Governing Vessel. Internal Energy that starts from the lips, passes through the chest, stomach, and belly button, and arrives back at the perineum is called the Conception Vessel.

Just as methods of ascension vary, every sect has a different way of mastering this path.

This is why each sect has its own internal cultivation methods.

The common point between them is that once a sect's cultivation method begins, it is very difficult to stop in the middle. Forcefully stopping this process is akin to stopping food from going down the esophagus and can lead to a state of Qi Deviation.

Fortunately for me, very few customers visit my inn, so no one bothers to come when the closed sign is up.

Food digested incorrectly would only lead to indigestion, but if the flow of Internal Energy is managed incorrectly, it can severely damage the body. Something that I had experienced before.

Even before I can solve the problem of the inner energy located in my Dantian, I open my eyes after I finish cultivating the first stage of the Strolling Golden Turtle Technique, the Wooden Chicken (木鷄), perfectly in one attempt.

I don't know how much time had passed, but I am now the 'monkey' who sat down without eating and ignoring the call of nature.

I felt very strange and peculiar. However, as soon as I realize that there are no side effects, I feel a pleasant shiver run down my back.

I summarize my current situation as follows:

First, before falling off the cliff, the Heavenly Pearl had greatly improved my internal cultivation.

Second, when my internal cultivation improved, I clearly felt that the Yin and Yang energy was divided in my Dantian.

Third, I was brought back to the past by the mysterious man.

Fourth, the souls in the Heavenly Pearl that were attached to me would have either ascended or returned to their original bodies because I returned to the past.

However, my final conclusion is that the unknown spirits contained in the Heavenly Pearl also came back with me.

The cult leader wouldn't have eaten the Heavenly Pearl for spirits. Martial artists only make these things to improve their cultivation.

Then what's the conclusion?

I ingested the Heavenly Pearl, and the side effects of the souls were removed when I returned to the past.

Even though I'm back in the past, I still have both my memories and the unknown spirits of the Heavenly Pearl.

Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to break through the first stage of the Strolling Golden Turtle Technique in one attempt.

Of course, not all of my questions have been answered.

I have a groundless hunch that the energy wasn't purely just for inner cultivation.

Suddenly, I remember the man's words.

「This is the best choice I can give and the best gift you will ever receive.」

Then...

The best choice was to return to the past.

The best gift was the Heavenly Pearl.

This current situation only makes sense if I interpret it that way. However, there are still questions I need to answer.

About half of the potential energy did not respond to Strolling Golden Turtle Technique.

Propping my hands on my chin, I become lost in thought.

'Why in the world is the other half not reacting?'

After much consideration, I come to a simple conclusion.

This is clearly the power left by the Heavenly Pearl, so the "potential" is also divided into Yin and Yang.

The Strolling Golden Turtle Technique was initially a martial art that purely utilizes Yang energy. So it is natural that the extreme Yin energy would not react.

If so, I would have to look for a technique that uses extreme Yin energy in the future.

In other words, I have something exciting ahead of me.

I'm already halfway through finding martial arts that could utilize extreme Yang and Yin energies. It's not in my character to think about my problems for too long, so I conclude my thinking session here.

I sit there in an excellent mood. So good, in fact, that I had almost forgotten that I was insane before. People seem to feel satisfied only after certain conditions are met.

"Hehehe..."

In fact, martial arts is not wholly about internal cultivation.

Skills, mind games, wisdom, fighting instincts, and luck determine the results of fights between great masters.

Yet the most critical factor from start to finish is internal cultivation. I have returned with full possession of the other aspects of martial arts, experience becoming my potential. I also have a trait in my body that I would not trade for all the gold in the world.

Even with just the first level of the Strolling Golden Turtle Technique, no one in my hometown can hope to match me.

Honestly, I feel full even though I have not eaten, but the body's hunger can't be denied...

My stomach rumbles...

I can't starve to death.

Besides, a good meal is necessary before I go and beat up the bastards at the Plum Blossom Pavilion.


Cold rice, side dishes, and seasoning are put in a large pot in the inn's kitchen and mixed together well.

As I mix it around, the bibimbap is complete.

Although it looks similar to dog food, it tastes good.

I didn't want to throw away the side dishes, so I added them to complete my meal.

The bibimbap made with leftover side dishes of the inn is a true delicacy after such a long time.

I grin as I savor the nostalgic taste.

I live by myself, so I thought it would be difficult to live sanely.

But this is bearable.

I used to be crazy, so I was very accustomed to being alone.

Instead, it was much more important that the foes I fight in the future be completely insane.

In the middle of eating the bibimbap, I recall the powerful masters of my time.

My background is poor when you compare me to the Murim martial artists of the central district. There were so many great masters that it was common for even skilled fighters to choose to run.

Therefore, I developed movement skills before martial arts for survival.

My jaw constantly tightens as I chew rice when I think back to those times.

After eating bibimbap, I drink the alcohol that should have been sold to customers with abandon.

"Burp... how nice."

Excess is always thrilling.

It is a wonderful evening.

I grab the alcohol and pour it into a gourd-shaped bottle, then I shove a sickle for cutting grass into my clothes and leave the inn.

Since I am full, I am confident that I can beat everyone to death even if all the men in Ilyang Prefecture came for me at the same time.

I am going to a place where a joke changed into a truth and will spit out a truth that is certain to sound like a joke.

I keep drinking as I walk towards the Plum Blossom Pavilion.


The eyes of the man guarding the Plum Blossom Pavilion's entrance widens as soon as he sees my face.

"Hey, you crazy bastard. What are you doing here? Don't make any trouble and leave."

"Is this how you talk to your customers?"

"You crazy bastard!"

Suddenly, he raises his arms.

I grab the man's hand with my left hand and hit him in the face with the bottle.

Punch!

Then I grab him by the collar and throw him to the ground. I knock him out with a kick to the face and look at the Plum Blossom Pavilion.

"Their customer service is a mess. Are they insane?"

Still, it is a noisy place with the sound of pouring and drinking, so they did not notice the commotion at the entrance.

Laughter is heard from here and there.

"What are you guys so happy about? Why do you always have fun without me?"

The gatekeeper is out cold, so I open the door with my own hands and go in. As I enter, I shout out my intent.

"Come serve your guest!"

You dimwits!


As the drunk Zaha Inn errand boy appears, the expressions of the Plum Blossom Pavilion employees serving the guests becomes stiff..

"Isn't that the Zaha Inn bastard?"

"Where does he think this is?"

Hearing all the murmurs, I reply.

"What do you mean where? Isn't it a place where you can drink? Did I come to the wrong place?"

"Hahaha."

Looking at me from the railing on the second floor, Cha Sung-tae (車成太) laughs loudly.

"You're right. It's a place to drink."

His subordinates then ask.

"Shall I get rid of him?"

Cha Sung-tae, who is smiling, waves at me.

"No, send him up. By the way, what's with your eye? Did someone hit you?

"I didn't hit him."

Rumored to be the most cunning man in Ilyang Prefecture, Cha Sung-tae smiles as he looks at me.

"We can't turn away customers. Welcome."

Being sly is one thing, but if a fight breaks out, there are not many people who can beat Cha Sung-tae except for the three Cho brothers in the southern part of Ilyang Prefecture. Similar to Cha Sung-tae, two other managers play the role of Family Lead (領家, a manager in concept) in the other pavilions.

To be precise, I had been beaten up by Cha Sung-tae's men. For that reason, I am thinking about bullying Cha Sung-tae for not being able to manage his subordinates. Unless he does something atrocious before I leave Ilyang Prefecture, I have no reason to kill him.

As I climb the stairs, Cha Sung-tae says from the second floor.

"Get the Zaha Inn errand boy a nice table and some drinks. When will he ever come to a place like this again? Let's all serve him sincerely. A customer is a customer."

"Yes sir."

As I go up to the second floor, I am guided further in.

"This way."

I follow the hallway and am led to an empty room.

It is a strangely structured room.

There is a drinking table in the center, and the bottom was shaped so that you could place your feet under it. It is a secret room where about six people could sit around and drink alcohol with places where music performers (藝妓, musically trained Gisaeng) would usually sit.

The guide asks in an almost rude tone.

"What kind of drinks do you want?"

"I don't know much about alcohol. So just get me anything expensive."

The staff suddenly stares at me and asks in a different tone.

"But why are you speaking informally..."

I answer as I sit down on the seat.

"I'm sorry to drop the honorifics. You son of a bitch, fetch me a drink."

The staff glares at me with fierce eyes, looking like he might try to kill me right away.

'Is he crazy?'

However, he closes the door without saying a word because he knows why the higher-ups received the errand boy as a guest.

I like that look.

Anger and hatred, murderous and bloodlust-filled eyes.

It's not a big deal once you know.

Once they get beaten up, their eyes become mournful and beg for mercy.

I wait with folded arms for a drink and touch my eyes again.

'My patience is wearing thin.'

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