《Circulation of Ki》
Every warrior was hurt during the battle with the hark. Some had serious injuries like bones broken or organs messed up, so they had to act quickly to treat them. Fortunately, YeongHeung village’s warriors had effective medication for such situations.
It took half an hour to treat all the warriors. It was fortunate that no one was penetrated by the hark’s claws. Treating broken bones or missing chunk of flesh wasn’t too bad.
The problem was those who had their organs messed up from powerful impacts, there was no good way to treat them other than letting them rest while lying down. At least the medicine they had would help them.
“Why is he not coming back?”
Nain was not tearing her eyes away from the point in the horizon where Haroon had disappeared.
“My question exactly. It’s suicide to face it alone,” said Haeran.
“Should I try to go out and look for him?”
Seran was restless, as she wasn’t that exhausted. But she couldn’t really go out and look for him. She wasn’t really a pathfinder, and there was no way she could chase them alone.
Nain suddenly screamed. People gathered around her, becoming nervous not knowing what was going on.
“Wha-what is it?” Haeran grabbed Nain’s arms and asked.
“The mask! The clothes!”
“What about the mask and the clothes?”
“That man, Haroon…….”
Haeran’s face went pale as soon as she realized what Nain meant.
“Oh no. He’s chasing the hark with only his armor on.”
Exposing bare skin to such strong sunlight causes acute skin cancer. Moreover, breathing the atmosphere contaminated by radioactivity for more than 30 minutes damages the respiratory system and the circulatory system, starting from the lungs. Those workers whose lives were saved by Haroon, and those who fought the hark with Haroon found this agonizing. It had already been 30 minutes.
“He shouldn’t have chased it.”
“No, he shouldn’t have.”
“Man, I’m frustrated that I can’t do anything!”
Time flew by mercilessly. An hour flew by after Haroon left, then two, even still he wasn’t returning. It was long past the time limit humans could last without any equipment.
“Could he be dead?”
A worker whispered to his friend.
“Don’t say such awful things. Do you think a warrior who was able to stab the eyes of a hark would die that easily? You know Hosang¹, right?”
“Hosang? You mean that orphan runt who followed you on the journey to Fiery Furnace?
“Yeah. The first time that stupid runt came out of the barrier, he forgot our warning and was not wearing his mask for an hour.”
“Did he? Don’t tell me he ended up dying.”
“Nope, he didn’t die. He was sick for two days or so then he was all good after. Just saying not all humans are the same. Maybe Haroon is healthy like Hosang.”
“Huh, interesting. Well, I hope that’s the case for our saviour”
“Of course, it is. He fought a hark, you know…….”
Listening to the workers talking, people found a ray of hope in the middle of despair. They were saying some people survived even if they were exposed to the climate for an excessive amount of time. Also, Haroon was the warrior who fought the hark one-on-one and managed to cripple its eyes, when nobody could fight it alone. So they still had a glimmer of hope.
At times like this, people would normally abandon the person that left the group, but Varan, the leader of the group, and even Rosu, weren’t planning to make a move. They were badly hurt, of course, but if they wanted to move they would have forced their legs to with their strong willpower.
Finally, there was news when their anxiety had reached its peak. The warrior who wasn’t hurt and had volunteered for lookout shouted to the group from a distance.
Tension spread over their faces. The hark might have lost its vision, but people knew it was vengeful, and they knew it would be coming back with its superior sense of smell.
“It’s Haroon! Haroon’s coming!”
On the lookout’s shout, people who were comparably fine ran toward the direction the lookout was looking. They could see Haroon walking toward them under the scorching sunlight. He was a bit slow, but it seemed that he wasn’t hurt too much.
“Haroon!” Haeran weakly shouted, relieved from seeing him safe. Seran was smiling too, running toward him.
“What a relief. What a relief,” said Nain, soon collapsing to her knees. She, too, was very worried about Haroon and was relieved to see him coming back.
Haroon was walking toward the group proudly (though he staggered occasionally), carrying something in one hand and dragging something on the ground with another.
People scanned Haroon’s exposed skin with their eyes when he was close enough.
“He’s alright! He’s got no blisters or burns!”
He was exposed to such strong sunlight for more than 2 hours, but apart from him having visible redness, there wasn’t much change to his skin.
‘Then was he passing through forests, instead of the wasteland this whole time?’ they thought. Haroon seemed as fine as before the battle, so fine that it even made some think that it was meaningless to worry about him.
Anyways, people were glad to see him back.
“What are those?” Haeran asked,
“The hark’s head, and its leather.”
“Really? So you really chased it down and killed it?”
Haroon nodded, putting down the sack. Haeran, Nain, and the warriors checked the things he brought. It was definitely hark leather, having short, thin, dense furs that seemed like smooth skin from a distance.
“You really killed it! How?! And how did you skin it?” said Haeran.
Her dropped jaw refuse to close. Even if it was blind, they could not tell how Haroon managed to chase it down, or how he skinned it.
Everyone looked at Haroon allusively asking for an explanation, but Haroon just put down the hark head in front of Nain, also skinned.
“It’s my present!”
Saying that, Haroon walked off a short distance and sat down, closing his eyes. He seemed quite tired. No one dared to bother Haroon anymore.
To them, Haroon was a man with few words and a rare expression on his face. Anyone could tell that Haroon was considerably exhausted, though he didn’t speak of it.
“…… Dad,” Nain began crying, kneeling in front of the hark head. Behind her, Rosu and other warriors were fiercely gazing at it.
After a while, Nain took out her sharp dagger and stabbed the hark’s head twice. It seemed like a revenging ceremony. The warriors did the same ceremony.
Haeran, Seran, and the workers tried to come up with their own ideas of how the warriors might be feeling, but they never could confidently say that they came up with the right one.
Chasing the hark in such harsh weather, Haroon was barely able to hunt it. Only after shoving his sword into its mouth, taking advantage of its blindness was he able to kill it. He’d been through some life threatening moments within the process, but all things considered it went well as he fortunately figured out its strengths and weaknesses good enough during the first battle.
Under the scorching sunlight he butchered the dead hark, and came back, forcing his body with messenger walking, accepting and circulating ki while dragging its head and leather, but he really felt like he could die.
Battling the desire to just let his body rest on the desert for good with his strong willpower, he made it back. He wanted to sleep so he shut his eyes, but after such event he couldn’t. As his body finally felt it could rest, every part of his body started aching, then the pain grew stronger and stronger. Haroon clenched his teeth to suppress the groans.
‘Ugh, I’m dying. It hurts so much I just want to die.’
Haroon tried to endure the pain, but his skin that absorbed heat started burning as if he was put into a fire; his bones, muscles, and organs started screaming at him with pain.
‘Am I really going to die like this?’
He suddenly got scared.
He tried to think of something else to forget such anxiety and pain, but he couldn’t focus. In game or in real life, he’d never been so tired or be in such pain.
‘I won’t lose. Not anymore…….’ He thought to himself.
He tried to focus his will to the mana ocean, which would be his dantian in the terms of ki.
He could see his ki was boiling like live volcano. It wasn’t in its solid form, but melted into a boiling liquid form.
‘Even my ki is unstable! This can’t be good.’
Something wasn’t right with it. It felt like it would blow up at any moment, tearing his body to pieces.
Haroon started pouring his willpower into his ki, strongly sensing the threat of death. He didn’t know if it would work, but he only knew one way of cooling it down before it heated up further. It was circulating ki. He knew circulating ki calms it down based on his limited experience.
His lower lip got cut by his teeth and blood trailed down his chin.
While not being able to tear her eyes away from the straight-siting Haroon, Haeran jumped to her feet.
“What the… What’s the matter?” her voice cracked.
She nervously held her hands together and rubbed them, not knowing how to react. People gathered around Haroon. Haeran approached Haroon without thinking. Nain was doing the same too.
“No!” Rosu stopped them.
Haeran and Nain looked quizzically at him, but he only shook his head.
“He seems to be in a risky state, so let him be.”
“But why?” Nain questioned.
“That pal, Haroon, he is a warrior with some power that we don’t know. He must have his own way. Unless he is unconscious, we must not disturb him while dealing with whatever problem he has,” he explained confidently.
“He’s got a point! He does have something. We should let him be, like Rosu said,” Varan agreed.
No one dared to move a step closer to Haroon. They were worried about him, but the only thing they could do was pray for him.
Not knowing what was going on around him, Haroon’s consciousness was still deep within his inner self.
‘Please, move! Please!’
He begged, asked, and persuaded, but his ki refused to move and instead boiled even more intensely. By instinct he knew it would blow up at any second. He wasn’t recognizing pain anymore because he was so focused on trying to move his Ki.
Then at some point, he gave up trying to move it and observed how it was boiling. It was a very fascinating scene. Suddenly he’d forgot why he was trying to move it.
Soon, his consciousness sunk into his ki. Once his consciousness was mixed with ki, he was able to feel it.
‘Oh, it’s not hot.’
It was boiling as if it would blow up at any moment, but it wasn’t hot.
‘Then why is it boiling?’
As soon as he thought this, he was able to figure out that heat was flowing into his dantian from somewhere. He couldn’t tell where it was coming from as it was too subtle, but it was strong enough to boil his ki.
The next moment, he saw a passage open at the bottom of his dantian. The passage itself wasn’t that large, but it was wide open. When he thought maybe his ki didn’t know this small opening and got stuck he moved his consciousness toward the opening, ki quickly moved toward the passage in no time.
Haroon’s consciousness was rapidly sucked into the passage.
‘This is near my genitals.’
He was at a meridian point near his genitals. The ki that held an extreme amount of energy poured towards his back as it passed near the tailbone.
The ki stopped there for a moment, and followed an open passage upwards. As it accumulated potential energy as kinetic energy when it dropped, it easily rose upwards. Also, this passage was familiar to it.
Soon the ki reached the top of his head, passing by the spine, back of the neck, and then back of the head. It resonated with external energy for a moment, flew past his forehead, philtrum, the root of his tongue, his neck, and then rested at the pit of the stomach. It resonated with external energy once again.
Soon, it returned to daintian.
‘This is the path I found before.’
The ki merged with his consciousness followed the circulation path it was now familiar with. It became calmer after circulating around the body along the path, but endless heat energy kept heating it up.
He couldn’t tell if it was his own will or the ki’s will. But it willingly followed the order, and started circulating in a more stable manner.
The circulation didn’t seem to end.
The vacuum created at the tail end of the ki drew the heat energy in and followed the circulation. The ki accepted the heat energy and merged it into itself and calmed it down as it circulated.
This circulationi continued until no heat energy remained.
Even forgetting the concept of time and space, Haroon finally stopped the circulation as he felt that his ki was now completely stable. It was remarkable how it once refused to follow his will but now began to willing follow his intentions.
He thought it existed in his body but was not part of it, but he was wrong. He now began to feel his ki as a part of his body similar to his arms or legs. Even the form of his Ki had changed. It was more solid before, but now it was more like slimy liquid. The calm movement wasn’t showing any signs of boiling.
Now that his ki was calm, he drew his consciousness back to the exterior world.
He opened his eyes.
He saw people looking at him. Some had worry in their eyes, and some had surprise in their eyes.
‘Huh, it doesn’t hurt anymore.’
He wasn’t feeling any pain. His skin that was burning with heat was back to normal as well.
He stood up and stretched his body to check the status of his body. His body was as flexible as usual. There was no pain, and he had no problems moving his body.
His body was fully refreshed, almost as if he’d had a good sleep.
‘Don’t tell me I’ve been like this for a day.’
He secretly scanned everyone’s surprised faces, and was relieved as it didn’t seem like to much time had passed. It didn’t seem that the journey was delayed because of him.
‘Are you really an inner? Were you saying the truth when you said you hadn’t left the barrier before? You returned to normal in less than 30 minutes when it seemed you would die any second. What the hell are you, Haroon?’ Haeran thought.
She was so surprised seeing him returning back to normal just by resting for a short period of time that she even forgot she was glad to see him back after chasing the hark.
There was someone who didn’t forget it though. Nain jumped into Haroon’s arms not even bothering that his armor was dirty with wet blood and dust.
“AHHHH! Thank you, THANK YOU! For everything, and coming back alive!” she burst into tears.
He patted her back without a word. At that moment he thought she needed soothing.
Rosu came by. He struggled to walk toward him while his face was pale from the pain of his internal injuries.
“You have my sincere appreciation,” said Rosu. “That monster you have slain was a sworn enemy of Nain and I. 12 great warriors of my village and Nain’s father, the chief warrior had fallen under its claws. On a returning escort for a group of merchants, they were ambushed by the hark. They fought bravely even though they were no match for it, to earn some time for the merchants to escape and at the end of the battle…….” He sighed. “Well, they got eaten by it, and it left no corpses.”
Haroon calmly replied, and hugged Nain crying in his arms.
“To be honest with you, Nain and I were going to invite you to our village to hunt it down. That unfortunate incident happened before we, the next generation of warriors learned enough, so we weren’t confident enough to hunt it by ourselves,” he added.
That explained what Nain was going to ask Haroon. She wanted him to join her group to help take revenge for her father and the warriors.
“We owe you our sincerest thanks for this, as well as for the many lives you helped save before.”
“I was just lucky. If you warriors hadn’t fought it and kept it busy, and if Nain hadn’t stopped its movement with her ability, my mere gambling attack wouldn’t have been much use. I only finished it, and I think it’s you warriors who achieved your revenge.”
Rosu and the warriors just showed their thumbs up, smiling without adding any more words to Haroon’s. They actually knew no such word as humble, but Haroon’s word boosted the warriors honor and egos that were once deflated by injuries from the battle.
“Just give us the word, and we’ll risk our lives to fight for you. We’ve barely started our proper training, but soon we’ll be born again as brave warriors.”
“I hope i’ll never need to, but I will if I need your help brothers”
Rosu and the warriors were happy to hear him calling them his brothers. That word made Haroon more special than someone whom they owe.
“Hahaha! Right, we fought with our lives, so what is it if we are not brothers? Hahaha! Here. Take my necklace. Show this to my village people and they will treat you as if they were treating me.”
Haroon didn’t hesitate and received Rosu’s necklace. Haroon felt like being with broad-minded warriors was making him more broad-minded..
“Thanks. Call Varan whenever you need me. I will to help wherever.”
Haroon didn’t know if he would come out from the barrier again. But he was caught up in the moment; he didn’t want to refuse their sincerity and he wanted to return some.
“Well, that’s upsetting. You weren’t the only ones who fought in the battle.”
It was Varan, who somewhen joined the crowd. His face was just as pale as Rosu’s because of his internal injuries, but his eyes were still intense. He had the same impression that Rosu had. He would have be a warrior if he wasn’t born into a smithing family.
“Good! Let’s be brothers!”
Varan and Rosu manly hugged each other.
A second later they were seperated in pain. They were not considering their bodies as they declared their friendship. The crowd burst into laughter.
Translated by Channy_
Edited by Kmatt
¹호상 – Just wanted to share that the name 호상 here sounds quite funny to me. It’s a normal name, don’t get me wrong, and it shouldn’t sound like this, but one of the meanings that 호상 has is ‘a good death of a long-lived one/someone who had a good life.’ So this word being here is kind of a red herring as it gives an impression that Haroon died.