Possessing Nothing - Chapter 84
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Time flew by and he soon turned twenty.
He grew tall, and his body became healthy. He was worried that his body would be much weaker than the one he had in his previous life since he used to have a lot of irregular meals while living in Mush’s mountain; but life in the temple had actually made Lee Sung-min’s body stronger than his previous life.
Lee Sung-min had spent one and a half years in the Shaolin Temple so far.
Around three years were left before the events that lead to Baek Sogo’s death began. If possible, he wanted to go to Drimoor to meet Denir, the god of time. But Lee Sung-min didn’t want to leave the Shaolin temple yet. His daily life there was monotonous but peaceful. The time spent in Shaolin didn’t make Lee Sung-min move forward.
But it made him realize what he had forgotten. What he hadn’t done. He awakened the senses that were accustomed to being unused. He got used to wielding his spear smoothly with Qi, which he knew he couldn’t do earlier because of his lack of experience. He improvised his techniques, combining his movements with the Qi flowing in his body.
“Aren’t you bothered by me?”
One fine day, Lee Sung-min asked Jihak, sweat rolling off his face.
It was when the usual spar was over and they were taking a breather. Lee Sung-nim was no longer treated as a child by Jihak. Of course, that didn’t mean that he could beat Jihak.
“Why do you think I would be bothered by you?”
“I’m… weak. And Jihak… you’re strong. Practising with me won’t be very helpful to you.”
Jihak’s words from that time were engraved in Lee Sung-min’s mind.
“When I practice against you, I’m also revising what I’ve learned in the past. I’m practising my basics at the same time as you.”
“Is that necessary for a master like you?”
“The techniques of the Shaolin are difficult and deep. I’ve learned seventy such techniques so far, but I still need to learn more and devote myself to practice. There is no end to the path of martial arts. I want to go further.”
That sentence again.
“The world is a vast place. The other-worlders who were summoned randomly from different places, have made the world of Eria too wide. And it will continue to expand. As long as talent like that exists, it will broaden even more. It’s the same with martial arts.”
Jihak’s eyes gleamed as he spoke. He resembled a young, dreamy man dressed in the saffron-colored robes.
“I am grateful for this. Thank you for not being foolish enough to lament the narrowness of the world. There are many people who are better than me in this wide world. We only have one life. I’m just wondering how far I can go in the world. What kind of height can I reach?”
Lee Sung-min listened to it all blankly. In his eyes, Jihak was strong enough. He had a talent and courage that was incomparable to Lee Sung-min’s. Such a person also said the world was wide and that he was small.
“Do you have a dream?”
How small ‘I’ was.
He felt that his sense of inferiority was hilarious. He felt his frustration was hilarious too. He was being stumped by an inferiority complex, frustrated to the point of collapsing. He, who had said that he was used to getting back up whenever he fell down, was now thinking that it wasn’t easy at all.
It was no joke.
He had been living under a delusion. He wasn’t not talented. His starting point was different. He was given another chance. A chance to live a different life than before. Indeed, such an opportunity was given. But did he live a different life? You can say that he was alive… But was he any better?
Lee Sung-min couldn’t answer the question. Six years had passed since he was summoned. In those six years, how hard had he tried? How enthusiastic had he been about it?
Had he tried harder than those countless ‘geniuses’ out there? Was he more focused? More hardworking?
Was he more devoted?
He had no choice but to be that way. He lost to Namgong Hee-won, the Sword Dragon. He was defeated by Shaolin’s Jihak. The sense of defeat he felt when he was defeated by them was overwhelming. Frustration clouded his mind. A sense of shame was engraved in his mind for being weak. It wasn’t just them. Even when he was overpowered by Prescan in the dungeon, he had been trembling, his emotions constraining him.
He wasn’t completely committed to martial arts.
Jihak, who had lived in Shaolin since he was young, was an unmistakable genius. He had consumed all kinds of spiritual medicine and was educated by the powerful Masters of the Shaolin Temple. But Jihak wasn’t arrogant. He never got conceited about his strength, talent, and resources. Ji-hak was more devoted, hardworking, absorbed, and desperate than Lee Sung-min.
It was the same for Namgong Hee-won. Namgung Hee-won, who was born in Namgong Household, lived in a more meaningful way than Lee Sung-min. This was true for Prescan as well, who looked crazy. His desire for the ultimate life had rendered him crazy, but his life as Prescan, after abandoning his body to become a lich and committing taboos, was more purposeful.
Their starting point was clearly different.
He didn’t have the same talent they had.
He couldn’t master or learn their martial arts.
He couldn’t take cultivation pills.
It was all just an excuse. A lame excuse. Lee Sung-min knew that better than anyone else.
He had finally returned to the past. He couldn’t give that excuse anymore.
He had mastered different martial arts. He had taken some medicinal pills. He’d been running away for too long.
It had been too long.
“What is your dream?”
The Grandmaster, who didn’t have a habit of leaving the cave, had been coming out of the cave recently. Lee Sung-min, who was watching the twilight sky, stared blankly at him and opened his mouth.
“I don’t know.”
If it had been a year ago, there would have been something to answer.
‘I want to catch up with Wijihyeon. I want to see the end to the path of martial arts.’
But not now.
“A year ago you answered that you wanted to dream. You said you wanted to fly, and that you’ve learned to crawl. Have you learned how to walk?”
He gave a short laugh, “Aha, you’ve only taken the steps you needed to take. Do you get it now? Did you try to fly?”
‘Did you try to fly?’
Lee Sung-min shook his head at the sudden question.
“… Grandmaster. You… Do you know about my body’s contradiction?”
“Is it anything great to admit that I know about your abnormal condition?”
The Grandmaster laughed loudly.
“Ah, I don’t know all about you. This weird body with mystical powers. It’s impossible to understand the whole thing unless you’ve seen something like this before. But I saw your skills. Through that, I knew what kind of weakness you had.”
Lee Sung-min listened blankly. Lee Sung-min’s inferiority complex and rotten feelings were clearly too obvious.
“That’s right. You gave up learning skills, after learning the next best spear style. Your gaps were filled in by the uncommon basic skills from your previous teachers, although they all turned a blind eye to the most excellent spear style for you. It was like most of the techniques you’ve mastered. That’s why I told Jihak to guide you.”
“…why didn’t you tell me first? If only I had known…”
“How long are you going to rely on others?”
Grandmaster asked. Lee Sung-min flinched at his words.
“You are loved by the God of ghosts. This mysterious love is very advantageous. Most humans would find you favourable. Did you know that?”
Lee Sung-min listened to the Grandmaster with his mouth half open. The Grandmaster continued, glancing at his face.
“Their goodwill is quite ambiguous. It may not work for everyone, but most humans will hold good feelings towards you. But me and Jihak, who have mastered the invincible techniques, are not misled by your grace.”
This surprised Lee Sung-min.
“You could easily get closer to others and win their hearts through that. That would make you arrogant. You would start to expect others to do it instead of doing it on your own.”
“Why didn’t I tell you that? Tell me, what does it change? Would you have tried to change?”
Lee Sung-min couldn’t answer. Seeing him hesitate, the Grandmaster again asked.
“You knew you were inferior compared to Jihak. And I tried to drive that jealousy out. Not all humans can change just because they want to change, but it is important to drive it deep into your heart that you want to change. And you are trying to change. I’ll ask you again. What is your dream?”
“…I want to see the end to the path of martial arts.”
“That’s just a pleasant lie you keep telling to yourself. What is your dream?”
“By Wijihyeon… I want to be recognized by Wijihyeon.”
“That’s a lie too. It’s just a plausible goal that you hurriedly put together. What is your dream?”
“…to change. To change.”
“To change myself.”
As he answered that, his eyes lit up and a smile began to dawn on his face.
“It’s a difficult dream. More than wanting to see the true end of martial arts, even more than wanting to be recognized by Wijihyeon. It will be extremely difficult to change yourself.”
After having said what he had to say, the Grandmaster turned towards the dark sky. Moments later, the Grandmaster said, “If you want, I can get rid of some of the aura that surrounds your body.”
(T/N: He means the aura that makes him get favoured by others, the one that god of ghosts granted him.)
Lee Sung-min flinched at his words.
“The choice is yours,” said the Grand Master.
“Ah-ha-ha. The protection by itself will do you no harm. If you let it go, you may not be favoured by many people.” The Grand Master chuckled deeply as he spoke.
Lee Sung-min bowed his head to the Grand Master. If he could get rid of it, he wanted to get rid of it. He was sincere. From Baek Sogo, he had learned about the importance of people meeting and making relationships. He also learned about grace and payback. However, this unknown aura of his forcibly broke down the wall between others and him.
Lee Sung-min hated it. Were his hard won relationships ones that were built through false pretenses? The idea continued to linger in his mind.
“Oh, come on.”
The Grand Master smiled and nodded his head.
The next morning, Lee Sung-min sat face to face with the Grand Master. It didn’t take much time, but when the Grand Master said, “It’s over,” he suddenly looked very tired. It was the first time that the always laughing, villain-like Grand Master had looked so tired, so Lee Sung-min had to show his concern.
“Are you all right?”
“Do you have good eyes? I would have died the moment I touched you if it had been anything lethal. It wasn’t so deeply engraved that it was impossible to just erase it.”
Despite saying that, the Grandmaster coughed heavily. The Grandmaster, who had been coughing for a long time, laid down on his back and began heaving.
“It’s too late to regret. You can’t recover this ability of yours.”
“…There’s no sense of change.”
“I’m sure there is. Because your protection used to work on others.”
The Grandmaster kicked out Lee Sung-min, saying he was tired. Coming out of the cave, Lee Sung-min saw his spear and armour placed near the entrance. The spear and armour had turned dirty after a year and a half of neglect.
Lee Sung-min looked at it for a moment before approaching the old spear he had thrown on the floor.
He was going to practice the Nine Heavenly Spear Techniques until Jihak arrived.
This translation belongs to Centinni.
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