Chapter 3. Can’t even go crazy! (2)
Scrt scrt scrt.
A saw-like blade moved at a constant pace on top of the heat stone. The sword may have been damaged to the point of no return, but grinding away at the blade in such a manner allowed it to retain a rather sharp edge.
“Man, it’s been a while since I’ve done this, hasn’t it?”
It really has been a while since the last time he sharpened his sword.
He had no recollection of sharpening his sword for such a long period of time even before coming into the cave. It wasn’t like he hadn’t maintain the blade at all, but it was rather hard to find the time to sharpen his blade in the outside world.
He used a tool meant to slice humans to build a wall, and used that tool used to build the wall to dig away at the ground. At the end of the day, a soldier didn’t get much time at all to take care of their tools.
He could only make do with what little time he could spare.
Today, he decided that for the first time, he would try to repair what remained of his poor weapon. Doing this, he got sidetracked by his own thoughts, unaware of the time passing away.
“This is pretty nice, innit?”
Muwui’s mouth formed a massive grin looking at the sword. A small amount of entertainment had appeared in his boring life. He brought out all of his other tools, and sharpened those as well.
Afterwards, he grabbed a fistful of moss from the floor and began his meal. He seemed to be rather proud of his shiny handiwork, seeing as how he would give it a glance every few seconds.
“Come to think of it, it was when I was fourteen or so, wasn’t it…?”
Looking at the sword reminded him of his first experience in killing. He had seen corpses more than several times before then, but that was far different from extinguishing a life with his own hands.
The feeling he got when his dull, edgeless spear burrowed itself deep into a person’s body. The eyes of the man who flailed about, then gasped for air whilst staring at Muwui with pure hatred.
“Funny man, he was.”
The man had come at Muwui with full intent to kill, but stared at Muwui with hate when he became the one to be killed instead.
At the time, he thought he was going to go crazy from that man’s eyes.
Now, it was just another memory from his childhood…
He wallowed in his thoughts before slowly gripping onto the hilt of his sword.
The heaviness felt in his hands was almost a foreign feeling to him.
That was how long he had gone without holding his weapon.
The weapon he never let go of for twenty long years.
After gripping his sword more firmly, Muwui tried swinging the sword.
A straight vertical cut. Then, a horizontal one.
A sound of the blade cutting through the air resounded throughout the cave.
At the same time, his right foot slid out and stomped hard on the ground.
With that, the sword slid out into a stab!
Continuing from this, Muwui swung his blade a few more times, and even tackled at the floor. He quickly jumped back, and even threw some of the dust he grabbed from the floor at the air. He then charged in again to attack.
Every one of his moves seemed to have a purpose behind it.
Each move was the simplest action taken to secure a kill.
They weren’t long. They were, in fact, extremely short. Because moves that took a long time to execute were not usable in the battlefield.
Drops of sweat flew everywhere.
Not a single one of his moves seemed amateur. After a few more minutes of practicing, he stopped to gather his breath.
He inhaled deeply.
Then, he exhaled slowly.
His exhales were longer than his inhales. Even when his lungs were practically empty, he would still try to further exhale some more. He repeated this action a few more times, and his rough breath disappeared completely.
Muwui’s eyes brightened.
He trembled as if he had found a new discovery.
“This is pretty fun?”
Was it because he actually had a purpose when using his blade this time?
In any case, he had just found a new way to pass his time.
“Haiyaaaaah! Come at me, Sword God!”
He was playing martial arts by himself.
It was fun.
It was really, really fun, depressingly enough.
* * *
At first, it was nothing but playtime, but after a while it turned into training.
After swinging his sword for some time, Muwui collected his breath.
“Martial arts, huh.”
Muwui looked at the heat stone as he wiped the sweat off his face. To be more accurate, he was looking at the words inscribed on the stone.
Muwui slowly walked towards the heat stone.
“Damn this mysterious encounter stuff.”
The first words that came out of his mouth when he saw the letters was a curse.
He didn’t know how much time he spent in this place. It did feel like about three years, though.
Several months were spent being depressed, and another portion of it was spent playing around.
A few months were spent developing up to five hundred recipes involving moss.
Not that any of those recipes tasted any different.
A few months more were spent doodling people on the rocks, and living with them.
After that, he spent the time in a daze, forgetting about the passage of time.
He ate when he got hungry. He slept when he was sleepy. He drank when he was thirsty. He pissed when his bladder got full.
Thankfully, there was a hole made for him to excrete.
Of course, he tried exploring that hole before he actually pooped in it, but he didn’t find anything inside. In fact, he got trapped in it and almost died as a result.
He couldn’t actually die, though, and he couldn’t go insane either.
He thought of the time before he got trapped in the cave. The time he spent in the battlefield really wasn’t anything special.
Fight, eat, walk.
Kill, eat, run…
He couldn’t remember anything from the time he lived like a beast.
Well, no. He did remember one thing. An insignificant bit of his past.
‘Martial arts? It’s nothing special. It’s only purpose is to help you kill people faster.’
He could remember a man he met on the battlefield.
He looked like a bear, but his name was that of a mythical bird for some odd reason.
He probably had named himself that so that he could be like a giant mythical bird. Just like the name Muwui.
Muwui grew familiar with the man because he thought the man could help him survive.
Of course, the price of survival was a massive amount of alcohol he had to buy for the man, but the things he learned from that man allowed him to survive to this day as a result.
“Maybe using all that money was for naught?”
Muwui wondered if he would have been better off dead than in his current situation.
The reason why he thought of that man was because of martial arts.
He had only known about mysterious encounters and martial arts and whatnot thanks to that man.
Of course, in the beginning he was simply curious.
But watching a Dapeng whisk through all the enemy soldiers and take the head of the general caused his curiosity to turn into desire.
After that, he spent all his time trying to form a connection with Dapeng. He even bought all the alcohol the man wanted out of his own allowance. Though they were in the battlefield, it was still common for them to find merchants who sold alcohol there.
Though it was quite a bit expensive.
After the alcohol went into Dapeng’s mouth, the stories that slid out of his mouth were that of a world entirely different from the world of the battlefield.
This sparked a great bit of wonderment in Muwui’s mind, who had always killed for no particular reason.
It was like he was a child listening to an old man telling him a story.
Of course, all these stories only ended up sparking his curiosity. Accomplishing no more than just that.
What made him even more surprised than the stories, though, were the facts behind the strength of Dapeng.
He’d never seen any other martial artists before Dapeng, but Muwui could feel that the man was powerful. But according to Dapeng, the man himself was only a second-rate martial artist. Not a great one, at that.
After some time, Muwui started to learn some martial arts from Dapeng. This was after Dapeng gave him the offer to travel with him after the war.
At the time, Muwui had some form of reverement to the world that Dapeng came from, and was on great terms with Dapeng as well.
And since the only thing he knew was thievery as well, Muwui had no other emotions to express other than happiness after receiving this offer. Even though he still had years left to go as a soldier.
The first thing he learned was a breathing technique.
‘Listen here, little brother Zhang. Breathing techniques are the roots of all other cultivation techniques. No matter how great a cultivation technique is, the basics of all martial arts come from this breathing technique itself!’
Muwui smirked after thinking of this.
“Hah, well, he wasn’t wrong.”
The basics of a breathing technique was, well, breathing. This breathing that any animal could do was the basics to all cultivation techniques.
He later learned that this breathing technique was ranked the lowest of all other cultivation techniques, but he didn’t feel any anger at Dapeng when he learned this.
It wasn’t like the man was wrong.
All martial arts techniques required some amount of qi, and the easiest way to gain this energy was through breathing.
The efficiency of the breathing technique compared to other cultivation techniques was horrendous, though.
And really, the only thing that Dapeng taught him was the breathing technique and a cultivation technique based off of it.
After learning those two techniques, he learned a movement technique, and a footwork that he could use in battle.
Since he was already proficient in using weapons, Dapeng only taught him a few strange moves in that aspect. But the other techniques were different.
The movement technique allowed him to retreat faster than any other soldier. The footwork prevented him from being surrounded by enemies.
And the basics of handling a sword that Dapeng had taught him gave him new advancements as well.
His efficient, simple sword strokes of the past had found new improvement.
His swings that only seeked to kill, now knew that each different swing carried a different purpose behind it.
He even learned boxing techniques as well.
He could make use of it in the case his sword broke.
Of course, this was pretty much all Dapeng had to teach Muwui.
One day, the brother and teacher that was Dapeng lost his head from a single swing of the enemy martial artist’s sword.
He couldn’t even dream of revenge.
Why? Because of the word that was being mouthed out as the head of Dapeng flew through the air:
“I forgot about him, huh.”
Muwui’s nose reddened when he thought of Dapeng’s end.
He immediately grabbed some moss and made a makeshift ceremonial table out of it. He thought of Dapeng’s face once again, and bowed.
“Thanks to you, brother, I was able to survive many times. In battle, and in here as well.”
Muwui really wouldn’t have been able to live if he didn’t even have martial arts to play with.
Because martial arts could be played with by oneself, Muwui was able to last this long.
Dapeng probably would have keeled over in heaven if he saw what Muwui was using martial arts for, though…
“I’ll use this martial arts for good in the future as well, brother.”
Muwui… was a true master at playing alone.