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    “The fragrance emanating from his sword technique originates from the undesired, bizarre realm of sword fragrance. So, if we surpass that realm of sword fragrance, it should work. Then, all the problems will be easily resolved.”

    However, no matter how much they pondered and deliberated, it was by no means a simple task. How could transcending one realm and entering a new one be as effortless as it sounded? Countless individuals in the Gangho had dedicated their entire lives to overcome such barriers. Could they really downgrade this difficult and arduous undertaking, which might require a lifetime of devotion, to the level of child’s play?

    “Does that even make sense?”

    Even the idea of human modification seemed more feasible at this point.

    “Of course it makes sense. That realm of sword fragrance, although it may appear impressive, logically speaking, the emanation of fragrance is a form of qi dissipation, or in other words, a waste of qi. Unless the fragrance is poisonous, it’s of little use in enhancing the power of the sword technique. So, based on my exceptional intellect, I speculate that the realm of sword fragrance is likely a transitional stage just before the completion of the Plum Blossom Sword Technique. The qi is not yet fully controlled. Moreover, there’s the realm of Contradictory Returning Truth, where surpassing a certain realm makes one appear ordinary, as commonly known in martial arts. Therefore, if we transcend the realm of sword fragrance, the plum blossom fragrance will likely cease to emanate. Then, all the problems will be solved. The sword technique will become stronger, and the fragrance will disappear. Isn’t it a win-win solution? What do you think?”

    Bi Ryu-yeon looked at the three of them with a triumphant expression. However, they appeared extremely serious, contemplating whether they should agree with Bi Ryu-yeon’s absurd idea.

    The realm of sword fragrance alone was considered the pinnacle in the Huashan Sect, with few successful cases. And now, the absolute sword realm that transcended the realm of sword fragrance! It was an incredibly difficult and virtually impossible feat. However, even if the feasibility was slimmer than half a grain of millet, Bi Ryu-yeon’s words weren’t logically incorrect. Of course, it was as impossible as counting all the stars in the night sky. Hyo-ryong forcibly calmed his uncontrollable bewilderment and cautiously spoke.

    “How does one ascend to that realm? When one can’t even properly execute the sword technique?”

    “Does cultivation necessarily require physically wielding a sword? No, it doesn’t. Once you reach a certain level, virtual sword technique training and meditation can yield even greater effects. You know this well, so why are you acting like this? Let’s find a solution in that direction.”

    Honestly, it wasn’t entirely wrong. Once martial artists reached a certain level, they could create a foundation for higher realms through insights gained from meditation rather than rigorous physical training. Beyond a specific level, one was no longer constrained by the state of physical refinement. Failure to attain enlightenment would result in stagnation, like a pool of water in a swamp, left to rot miserably.

    “It’s not entirely wrong, but it sounds like a truly impossible story to my ears as well…”

    Hyo-ryong still couldn’t shake off his skeptical reaction. Judging by Jang-hong’s silent nods beside him, he seemed to share the same sentiment.

    “Just trust me. Why are you so afraid of merely advancing the stages of a sword technique? Don’t worry, it’s not even worth a cup of tea after a meal.”

    Despite Bi Ryu-yeon’s confident boasts, it wasn’t something that could be achieved with mere words. Hyo-ryong, who had been restlessly observing the seated Yoon Junho, opened his mouth as if to summarize the current situation. His tone was filled with doubt and hesitation. There’s a saying that a good tree is known by its fruit from the beginning. But in this case, rather than the fruit, they had to question the integrity of the seed itself.

    “That’s something that will take too much time. The chances of success are slim… Above all, his willpower is very weak.”

    It was still a skeptical response, but Bi Ryu-yeon’s determination couldn’t be shaken by mere words.

    “Throw the impossibility to a passing dog. If some impudent mutt refuses to eat it, beat it until it’s barely alive and force-feed it.”

    Bi Ryu-yeon spoke like a teacher instructing students.

    “What does that even mean?”

    “It’s our sect’s motto. Don’t worry, turning the impossible into possible is my specialty. Our sect members have a lot of talent and know-how in that area. Look forward to it, hehehe…”

    Hearing Bi Ryu-yeon’s bizarre laughter, Yoon Junho couldn’t shake off the ominous feeling that he was like prey being chased by a tiger. Bi Ryu-yeon’s laughter had an inexplicable power that made him uneasy. Moreover, anxiety and fear enveloped his entire body, as if his future was as dark as a moonless night, unable to see even an inch ahead. The future would prove that this ominous feeling was not just a mere concern…

    It seemed that this matter required a gradual, step-by-step approach, taking some time. Therefore, Jang-hong decided not to be impatient and maintain a relaxed mindset. He judged that it would be much more helpful for Yoon Junho as well.

    However, if a solution couldn’t be found as soon as possible—regardless of the method—before Yoon Junho’s skills overwhelmed Jong Ri-hak and Chu Ga-yeon, forcing them to drink the bitter cup of defeat and pushing them into the abyss of despair, he might be shattered by Bi Ryu-yeon’s hands.

    Whether Bi Ryu-yeon’s plate would be soaked in blood first, or Yoon Junho would ascend to a new sword realm first, or his body would be modified in some way first, or Jang-hong’s surrender would come first, remained to be seen.

    Yoon Junho, known by numerous infamous titles such as the Huashan loser, the Huashan underachiever, the Huashan idiot, and subjected to all sorts of contempt and ridicule from those around him. Due to this environment and his timid and fragile heart, he had completely lost all confidence in himself.

    He had fallen into self-loathing, destroying his own mind, and thanks to the enthusiastic contributions of those around him, his inferiority complex and self-torment had reached a severe level. That inferiority complex had become a shackle preventing him from fully demonstrating even half of his abilities. Of course, the most fatal aspect was his plum blossom hypersensitivity…

    In fact, Bi Ryu-yeon possessed sufficient ability to execute his plan to torment Jong Ri-hak and Chu Ga-yeon the very next day if he set his mind to it, despite his unparalleled rudeness and lack of decency. However, he considered it too simple, boring, and uninteresting, which was the catalyst for today’s events.

    Moreover, although he didn’t express it, Bi Ryu-yeon could instantly recognize Yoon Junho’s hidden true skills, potential, and gem-like talent. Although he was still a rough, unpolished stone, he had the potential to develop into a treasure of immense value, depending on how he was refined and polished. Perhaps Bi Ryu-yeon was the first person after Elder Plum Blossom to acknowledge his hidden, latent inner realm.

    Furthermore, Bi Ryu-yeon found the situation Yoon Junho was in to be intriguing and interesting, suddenly piquing his curiosity. His behavioral philosophy, which was not only free-spirited but also excessive, was largely influenced by momentary changes in mood and interests.

    This time as well, he was gleaming with joy like a child who had received a new toy. However, it was a well-known fact that his amusement and irresponsible actions often brought benefits and joy to himself while inflicting massive losses and sorrow—bordering on despair—to others. In any case, now that Bi Ryu-yeon had taken an interest in him, Yoon Junho’s future could no longer be described as smooth.

    The road to Yoon Junho’s destiny was still rough and arduous, left unfinished due to the laziness of the gods and the goddess of fate. However, the goddess of fate in charge of him seemed to have no plans to resume the road construction anytime soon. To make matters worse, the encounter with Bi Ryu-yeon might be the epitome of shoddy construction on the road of destiny. If that were the case, Yoon Junho would have to spend his entire life cursing the goddess of fate.

    Having established at least a small set of guidelines and directions for their future actions, they decided to conclude their exchange of opinions for devising a solution. And they agreed to retire to bed early.

    The next day was an important day for martial arts lecture registration, which would determine their six-month training life at the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy, so they had a mountain of tasks to accomplish. Depending on which elder’s lecture in which field they chose to attend tomorrow, numerous changes could occur.

    Therefore, they decided to go to bed early to accumulate energy. Jang-hong had advised them that the day of registration would be extremely exhausting for some reason. However, Jang-hong avoided mentioning the specific reason behind it.

    He believed that once tomorrow arrived, everyone would find out to the point of being sick of it anyway.

    ***

    Course Registration is War

    “What on earth is this?”

    Bi Ryu-yeon looked at the book distributed by the institute to each individual with a sick expression. A thick volume that was daunting to even flip through! However, unfortunately, this book was definitely not a secret manual containing ultimate martial arts techniques. If it were a secret manual, it would have been somewhat of a relief.

    However, the true purpose of this book, bearing the lengthy title “Heavenly Martial Arts Academy’s Reference Handbook for Martial Arts Students’ Course Registration,” lay elsewhere.

    “It’s a course registration handbook,” Jang-hong, who was beside Bi Ryu-yeon, remarked knowingly. Bi Ryu-yeon’s eyes naturally turned towards him. He had yet to grasp the true nature of this book.

    “I’m asking just in case, but if this book has any other use besides serving as a pillow or a weapon, please do enlighten me,” Bi Ryu-yeon asked with a tone of genuine curiosity. Jang-hong obliged his expectations.

    “Well, it’s sometimes used as a substitute for sleeping pills,” Jang-hong said, as if it were true.

    “Really? It’s very convenient, with multiple functions included.”

    “Of course. It’s harmless to the human body, but its effectiveness is top-notch. I guarantee it.”

    “Is there anything else?”

    “Oh, do you really not know?”

    Jang-hong’s eyes widened. In fact, he had played along with the earlier remark, assuming it was just a passing light joke, but that wasn’t the case.

    “It’s a reference book for the upcoming martial arts lecture course registration. The martial arts taught at the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy are so diverse and wide-ranging that they are divided into several similar related fields, with experts in each field giving lectures and instructions. As such, the variety and number of courses are immense. It’s so vast that even if an individual dedicates their entire life to it, they wouldn’t be able to master everything. That’s why the range of choices is mercilessly broad, and there are dizzying numbers of options, making course registration quite challenging. This book has been thoughtfully created by the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy to serve as a reference for students when registering for their desired martial arts fields.”

    Jang-hong had surprisingly detailed knowledge about the “Heavenly Martial Arts Academy’s Reference Handbook for Martial Arts Students’ Course Registration,” which was ridiculously thick and had a sickeningly long title.

    “But why is it so thick? The title is also extremely long. Are we supposed to learn everything in it at once? Each page contains at least 2 lectures along with reference annotations.”

    The course registration handbook had at least 2 subjects per chapter, with the name of the elder in charge of each subject, the purpose and overview of the lecture, and the schedule clearly written for easy understanding. The diversity and vastness of the subjects were enough to make people’s tongues drop.

    “Of course, how could anyone learn everything in there? You just pick a few based on the schedule. Moreover, this place not only offers martial arts but also an immense range and amount of teachings on all fields of study, including the ‘Four Books and Three Classics,’ ‘The Great Learning,’ ‘Doctrine of the Mean,’ ‘I Ching,’ ‘Tao Te Ching,’ ‘Lao-Zhuang Thought,’ ‘Medicine,’ ‘Pharmacology,’ ‘Toxicology,’ and even the arts of tea ceremony, etiquette, dance, and calligraphy. Of course, few martial artists pay attention to academics, but to prevent an excessive bias towards martial arts, it is mandatory to take a certain number of designated credits. If I were to verbally list everything contained in this book, my mouth would be worn out like a rag. It would be a truly dreadful experience.”

    “Ugh.”

    Bi Ryu-yeon clutched his head as if it were splitting apart. The process of simply learning martial arts was too complicated. The course registration handbook, thick enough to be used as a pillow, clearly demonstrated the vastness of the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy’s teachings, but Bi Ryu-yeon was not grateful at all. After all, the purpose of learning martial arts was to become a master. But he couldn’t understand why the procedure to become a master was so complicated.

    “No way, look at this. I’m really lucky to have the opportunity to learn from the Supreme Sword Master Na Hwan-cheon,” Yoon Junho, who had accompanied them and was a former plum blossom hypersensitivity patient from the Huashan Sect, exclaimed in admiration and was immersed in happiness as he flipped through the registration handbook, oblivious to Bi Ryu-yeon’s complex thoughts. Supreme Sword Master Na Hwan-cheon was a lay disciple of the Wudang Sect, one of the Nine Great Sects, and a sword master whose match was hard to find even in the Wudang Mountain, the sect’s headquarters.

    According to rumors circulating, his true skills were not only on par with the elder-level members of the Wudang Sect but also comparable to the Five Great Sword Masters of the Heavenly Realm. While Yoon Junho was touching the foot of Mount Tai, he had already ascended above the clouds and was gazing at the peak of Mount Tai. It was only natural for Yoon Junho to be moved by the fact that he could freely receive teachings from such a person.

    “Lo-look at this. Ho-how can this be? I can attend the sword theory lectures of my Huashan’s senior’s master Flying Heavenly Hawk Mun Il-gi, a legendary figure in our Huashan Sect… I’m really, really…”

    He was now on the verge of shedding tears of emotion. Bi Ryu-yeon, who absolutely wanted to decline, quickly changed the subject, sensing the crisis. He didn’t have the bad taste to watch someone idolize a person he had never heard of, get emotional, and cry alone. It was something he absolutely wanted to avoid.

    “But this is too much. Are these all really related to martial arts? Doesn’t martial arts eventually converge into one as you learn?”

    The two most prominent features of the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy were the diversity and specialization of its teachings. For example, if one were to open the chapter on poisons in the course registration handbook, it wasn’t just a single course on poison techniques. There were 25 different subjects, including “Understanding Poisons,” “Manufacturing Poisons,” “Commonly Used Poisons in the Gangho and Their Emergency Treatments,” and the number of instructors alone was 10. Ten instructors were assigned to teach 25 types of courses solely focused on poisons and related fields.

    Not only was the number of classes dizzying, but each class aimed to impart very detailed and specialized knowledge in a specific field related to poisons. All of this was the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy’s meticulous consideration to help elevate the students’ realms.

    First, one must know, even if it is to be forgotten later. True abandonment comes from knowing and then discarding. One cannot enter a higher realm in a state of ignorance. That’s why one learns first and then figures out how to forget it. This part is extremely difficult, almost impossible, which is why true absolute masters can be counted on one hand over such a long period.

    The insights gained during this process were left to each individual. The enlightenment to enter a new realm must be realized by oneself. It is not a place where someone can kindly hold your hand and take you there.

    Just as a butterfly sheds its cocoon to become an adult, one can only ascend to a new realm through their own efforts. The Heavenly Martial Arts Academy merely provided the silk and nutrients to create the cocoon; it could not shed the cocoon on behalf of the students.

    It could only provide small and insignificant assistance for reaching a higher realm than the present. For this meager and trivial help, the course registration handbook as thick as a pillow, hundreds of martial arts subjects, and dozens of elders existed.

    As Bi Ryu-yeon halfheartedly flipped through the pillow substitute, he suddenly felt a question rising in his mind.

    “It’s all good, but is there any effect in learning such a hodgepodge? It’s hard to achieve mastery in a single field, let alone with such a mishmash…”

    Bi Ryu-yeon’s dissatisfaction was natural. Knowledge could be power, but sometimes it could also be poison or disease.

    Jack of all trades, master of none!

    The saying sounded fancy, but if one wasn’t careful, there was a high probability of ending up in an ambiguous and mediocre state, neither here nor there. As such, the acquisition of scattered knowledge without any systematic approach could pose a serious obstacle to enlightenment. If you can’t make either rice or porridge, you’ll end up licking a spoon and starving, won’t you?

    “Think of it as diversity, if you will. Of course, I don’t expect you to excel at everything. There’s an old saying that if you want to succeed, dig only one well. Aside from your major, the rest are merely for reference. And most of them are composed of survival methods for living in the Gangho. It’s a sad reality, but too many talented individuals lose their lives at a young age, entangled in the dark schemes of the Gangho. One must survive to even have a chance to encounter a new realm, don’t you think?”

    “Tsk, is that so…?”

    However, Bi Ryu-yeon still seemed unconvinced and clicked his tongue.

    “If it’s troublesome for you to register, I’ll do it on your behalf. Just pick the fields you want to take, excluding the mandatory first-year courses.”

    That was exactly what Bi Ryu-yeon had hoped for. But…

    “Mandatory courses?”

    “The Heavenly Martial Arts Academy has a rule that designates a few fields deemed essential in the Gangho for each grade level and makes it mandatory to take them.”

    “Really?”

    It was a new fact that he had been completely unaware of until now.

    “You really don’t know anything.”

    “I’ve never felt the need to know about such trivial matters throughout my life.”

    “It’s a miracle that you, who are nearly ignorant about the Heavenly Martial Arts Academy, have survived unscathed until now.”

    “I believe in performing miracles when necessary. I truly know nothing. And…”

    Bi Ryu-yeon paused for a moment to catch his breath before continuing.

    “Even at this very moment, I don’t feel much importance in it.”

    “I really can’t believe it!”

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