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"This will be the first time that I can actually enter the real martial arts circle!"
Garen was excited. After all, he loved martial arts when he was on Earth, but didn’t have the opportunity to train and learn when he was young. Now, with this opportunity as the beginning, his lifelong most cherished dream was about to be realized.
"The only thing a bit strange is that some people have names similar to Chinese names, like the name Fei Baiyun. It sounds like a Chinese name. He even seems like a grandmaster of combat who went to western countries to teach martial arts."
Garen followed Fei Baiyun as they walked under the eaves of the roof. Garen couldn’t hold the thoughts in his mind any longer, so he asked, "Master, you’re not of the Confederation, right?"
Fei Baiyun nodded as he smiled. "You can tell? Yeah, my name is pretty different from the names here at Yalu Confederation. I wasn’t born in the Yalu Confederation, I’m from a huge empire at the east."
"East? Like from Republic of the Tulip?" Garen asked.
"No, it’s a place very far away, very far that not even planes can get there. Only huge ships can…" The smile on Fei Baiyun’s face slowly disappeared, only to be replaced with a tinge of sorrow. "We were only able to reach this place because we were very lucky. I can’t even return now. Enough of this, we’re almost there. Be careful not to get hazed by your senior brothers and sisters," he said.
"Oh…ok…" Garen answered. However, he was still thinking of the modern China back on Earth. The two of them walked into the lounge and started heading up the side stairs to the second floor. Garen saw the two disciples who had participated in the test with him in the lounge talking with a blond man. The black-haired girl turned around and looked at Garen, traces of envy apparent on her eyes.
The other strapping man shrugged his shoulders and said, "Don’t feel envious. If you have time to envy someone, you are better off training more and then fighting for your entrance qualifications next time."
"We are all getting older… There’s no chance." The girl shook her head and said, "This is the last time that I’ll be here. My parents are sending me abroad to Cisilyn to study Business Management. The only time I can come to the Dojo would be during long breaks. This little kid must have passed the test. What’s his name again?"
"I just saw it moments ago. I think he wrote Garen on the data sheet." The strapping man also turned around to look at Garen.
"Alright, alright. People like us can never devote 100% of our time and energy into training. We are still able to live how we want to live at present, but when we get older, we’ll have to accept the arrangements from our families. Therefore, not qualifying could be considered as something good. We won’t regret this after all." A helpless expression popped on the blond man’s face as he said, "I’m really envious of senior sister Rosetta…"
The three of them fell into silence for a moment as they heard the name Rosetta.
Garen vaguely heard their conversation and looked at them. He just saw the black-haired girl raising her fist at him, cheering him on.
He nodded back as he smiled and gestured an "OK" sign back. He then quickly followed Fei Baiyun to the second floor.
The second floor was a wide, open hall. A layer of dark brown carpet was laid on the ground, and a huge grey circle was drawn at the center of hall.
On the four corners were a couple of red wooden cylinders that supported the roof.
What was strange was that there wasn't a column at the center of the room to support the roof. The ceiling of the hall looked like two slanted flat boards leaning against each other such that it looked firm and aesthetically pleasing.
There was a huge black and white oil painting at the end of the hall. Garen saw it clearly as he was walking up the stairs. The painting was of a huge white ship sailing across the waves and tides in the ocean.
Under the oil painting were a few tables and chairs made of redwood. Two people in black uniforms were chatting there; one of them was standing while the other was sitting on a chair.
The one standing was a girl that looked in her twenties. Her dark brown hair was tied into a ponytail, which was draped over her shoulder. She was wearing a pair of tight black shorts and a camisole under a vest, her fair-skinned, slender arms and thighs fully exposed. What was intriguing was her big chest under the camisole. Its size made it seem as though the zipper of her vest would break anytime.
The girl leaned against the wall. From afar, Garen could see her facial features that made her look very valiant. Her lips most especially, the way she spoke was concise and persuasive. She was definitely someone who was straightforward and powerful.
The one who was standing was a white-haired man. He was also in his twenties, but he looked ordinary and had a fatigued countenance. He was the kind of person whom you couldn’t easily recognize on the street. However, his arms were quite lengthy to the extent that when he was seated, his hands could effortlessly touch the ground. It gave people an feeling of incongruence.
Both of them stood straight and walked toward the stairs as they saw Fei Baiyun taking someone up here.
"Master, you found someone after the test today?" The brown-haired girl was surprised, her curiosity evident as she observed Garen carefully up and down.
"I finally found someone with high potential. His foundation and work ethics are both above average. I will stop taking disciples after this last one." Fei Baiyun laughed as he sat down on a chair. "His name is Garen. He will be your junior brother from now on."
"Last one? Hehe! Finally someone who is younger than me!" The white-haired man said with a villainous smile on his face, "I’ve been waiting for this day for so long. All the senior brothers and sisters had been bullying me whenever they got bored, and I wasn’t even allowed to fight back! Now it’s finally my turn."
"Look at you! Do you think you are getting bullied just because you are the youngest?" The brown-haired girl knocked him on the head half-angrily.
"Alright, alright. Introduce yourselves. All four of you will be helping and relying on each other from now on. I won’t be taking any more disciples in the future after all." Fei Baiyun smiled and said with his eyes half-squinted.
The brown-haired girl nodded and said, "I will go first."
She looked at Garen who was standing obediently at the side and said: "My name is Rosetta, the first disciple of the master. I will be your senior sister from now on."
The white-haired man put away his ridiculous smile and said, "I’m your second brother Joshua…"
"Second brother? Screw you!"
A tough, gigantic, towering man quickly rushed up the stairs. His voice was as deep as thunder, and he had a white tiger tattooed on his upper body.
"Hey, little Josh, since when did you become the second brother here? Why haven’t I heard of it?"
"Eh… Isn’t this our strong, handsome, invincible and charming second brother Farak?" Joshua shivered as he hid behind his senior sister.
"I said third brother. You must have misheard it! Misheard… Hehe." A timid expression appeared on Joshua’s face, as if he was a mouse who had just met a cat.
The towering Farak ignored Joshua. He walked up to Fei Baiyun and clenched his fists to salute. "Master, I heard that you just took in a junior brother; I came here just to meet and welcome him."
"Come, let’s all sit down."
Fei Baiyun was most proud of his second disciple Farak. Farak was only in his twenties, and yet he was already at level 3 in terms of the White Cloud Secret Arts. His Explosive Fist Arts were also at level 2. With the herculean strength that he was born with, his combat ability was off the charts. Farak, at this point, wasn’t weaker than Fei Baiyun when he was at this age. Although Farak still couldn't beat his disciple Rosetta, Farak’s strong physique and his direct fist-to-fist combat style was the most compatible with everything that White Cloud Dojo was teaching, and it was the style that Fei Baiyun really favored.
"Your junior brother just became my disciple, so he hasn’t learnt anything yet. You guys should bully him less." Fei Baiyun stretched his neck as he said with a smile, "After a year or two, he will be in a much better shape."
"Nothing wrong with that. Junior brother, just come and ask me if you don’t understand anything! I have a lot of experience in evasive maneuvers." Rosetta smiled with her arms crossed in front of her chest.
"I specialize in heavy punches. You can come and ask me if you don’t understand anything in terms of explosive strength." Farak patted Garen’s shoulder.
"And me, your third brother. If you need any help, just come and find me at Huaishan. But if you are at any other place, then I can’t do anything about it… Hehe."
"Now, we are all brothers and sisters, so there will be more opportunities to get to know each other in the future. How about we go and celebrate now?"
The conversations were very intimate. Although Garen was the weakest of them, none of his senior brothers or sister looked down on him. All of them were the disciples of the master and were so intimate that they looked like a family.
Bam! Bam! Garen got patted by the powerful palms. He was fortunate enough to have achieved the elementary level on the Explosive Fist Arts. Otherwise, his body might not be able to take the full brunt of these pats on the shoulders.
"Let’s go to Worcester Restaurant; they have some great seafood. The dishes there all taste amazing." Rosetta suggested.
"I will pass this time. You young people are able to have more fun together without me." Fei Baiyun smiled as he shook his head. "I have some other plans already. I have to meet up with an old friend."
"Okay then. We will just hang out with ourselves tonight. We’ll treat Master some other time!" Rosetta waved her hand as she said with the temperament of a senior sister, "Let’s go test Junior Brother’s foundation!!"
"I like it!" The third brother Joshua said as he peeked at Garen with "malicious intent".
"Don’t bully the junior brother!" the towering Farak smacked his palm on Joshua’s head and rubbed his hair. "He just became master’s disciple! He is not there yet!"
Garen stood on the side and watched his senior brothers and sister messing around until Fei Baiyun stopped them; he was smiling the whole time.
"Okay, who is first? Make sure you don’t use your full strength."
"I will go first." Joshua was excited. Although he was in his twenties, he was still acting like a kid.
He stretched his black uniform and walked to the center of the hall. He then lowered his right palm and gestured Garen to come.
Although Garen wasn’t too sure what it meant, he knew that this was some kind of test to reveal his full strength, or it could be to see where he ranked among the four of them. The most important reason of all, however, was probably to show him how strong his senior brothers and sister were, so as to properly establish their positions as his Seniors.
In a dojo, Seniority was established by fighting, not talking.
Garen walked up to the center of the hall and faced third brother Joshua.
He put on a simple boxing defense pose. He didn’t know anything about proper combat, so he could only use this most basic boxing stance which could help him exert his full power.
Joshua smiled, letting Garen see all of his white teeth. "Be careful, I’m attacking!"
As soon as Joshua finished the sentence, he leapt forward and aimed his right palm at Garen’s right elbow. This attack was so fast that it created a ‘Whoosh!" sound.
This strike was average in terms of speed and power in an outsider’s view; it looked like a simple greeting that friends would give each other.
But it was different in Garen’s eyes.
Although this palm strike from Joshua wasn’t fast, it gave him a flexible and agile feeling. Garen’s instinct told him that if he tried to dodge this strike, this strike would quickly change trajectories and follow his body tightly.
From the wind that this palm strike generated, Garen felt that the strength in this strike wasn’t weak at all.
Many thoughts went through Garen’s mind, but he didn’t overthink the situation. He took this strike head-on, but he also suppressed a part of his strength just like what he did during the test with Fei Baiyun. He only exerted about 140 pounds of force.
At the same time, he swung his arm from the side and slapped at Joshua’s approaching palm.
"Eh? Junior Brother’s reaction is very quick!" Senior Sister Rosetta was surprised as she suddenly stood up from her chair. "Although Joshua’s speed isn’t that fast, most people in our White Cloud Dojo couldn’t really spot his attacks clearly. I didn’t expect Junior Brother to react this fast and block the attack before it reached him. His vision and body reaction are far superior than average disciples."
"Of course," Master Fei Baiyun laughed proudly. "This is where his talent lies, and he is sly enough to hide some of his strength. White Cloud Secret Arts is the technique that we practice at White Cloud Dojo. Although it could result in a substantial strength increase, speed and reaction times would be negatively affected. Therefore, the key reason why I took your junior brother in is because of his talent and potential in speed and reaction time. This way, his natural abilities will cover up the shortcomings of White Cloud Secret Arts."
"Master, you are right. Disciples from our White Cloud Dojo have always lost in speed compared with other Dojos." Rosetta calmed down and agreed with Fei Baiyun.
In combat, after Garen blocked the first palm strike, he kept on consciously trying to block and parry the palm strikes coming from all angles. These strikes struck his body and made continuous hard slapping sounds.
Every time a palm landed on Garen’s body, he would feel a numbing sensation of weakness dispersing into his body.