Chapter 1 Prologue: Hyun-Kyeong and Talma
Martial arts can be broadly divided into two categories: the Righteous and the Demonic. At some point, the origin of martial arts split into these two, leading to a cycle of revenge and conflict so intense that the initial cause of their feud became unclear. Both factions viewed each other as enemies, resorting to any means necessary to kill their opponents.
The Righteous faction’s martial arts grew based on the two scriptures of Yi Jin and Xi Sui, disseminated by Damo in the Central Plains. Most of these martial arts belonged to the Buddhist or Taoist lineages. The so-called Five Great Sects also originated from the outstanding disciples among the Nine Sects and One Gang. As outstanding individuals from these sects established new ones, the lineage became so blurred in recent times that it was hard to trace.
Ancient martial arts began by imitating and mimicking the movements of wild animals. The famous Shaolin Five Fists were based on the movements of the tiger, leopard, snake, monkey, and crane. Sword techniques passed down from Taoism also started by imitating animals. These martial arts, including sword techniques, knife techniques, spear techniques, stick techniques, boxing techniques, and palm techniques, are collectively referred to as external martial arts.
On the other hand, internal martial arts originated from the practice of Dantian breathing and the technique of exhaling and inhaling, known as Tuna. From a young age, if one repeatedly practices Tuna over a long period, an invisible form of strength, known as internal strength, acc*mulates in the body. The martial arts that channel this internal strength into fists, palms, or swords are called internal martial arts. Once a certain level of internal strength is acc*mulated, it circulates within the body, amplifying its power and increasing the rate of acc*mulation. Various techniques of Qi circulation emerged depending on the order and the meridians to which this power is sent.
When the Righteous faction cultivates internal strength, the power acc*mulates slowly. Therefore, unless one acquires the true internal strength of others or takes a spiritual elixir, even if one practices day and night, it usually takes over 40 years to reach the peak, and over 60 years to become a top-notch master. Of course, there are those who use external strength due to their innate divine power, but without the support of internal strength, it is difficult to join the ranks of peak masters. There are various ways to cultivate martial arts within the Righteous faction, but they do not resort to drastic measures like the Demonic faction to acc*mulate internal strength quickly.
There are many sects in the Righteous faction that are called prestigious. Most of them belong to the Taoist or Buddhist lineages and have produced many outstanding masters, hence they were given the title of prestigious sects. Although the disciples of these prestigious sects tend to look down upon the numerous minor sects, referring to them as heretical, the real power of the Righteous faction lies in these numerous minor sects. In most cases, these minor sects teach and learn external martial arts rather than internal martial arts. Unlike the prestigious sects, they lack excellent internal strength cultivation methods, so they resort to teaching and learning external martial arts.
In prestigious clans, successors are taught the True Inner Power or given spiritual elixirs to rapidly acc*mulate inner power. They are educated in the orthodox martial arts of their respective sects and are called suitable disciples. Disciples who are not suitable have considerably weaker inner power, so even if they use the same techniques, the power difference is said to be at least tenfold.
When transmitting True Inner Power to another, the giver endures immense pain, so even blood relatives are reluctant to transmit it. Receiving True Inner Power also carries a risk. If the True Inner Power comes from someone who underwent the same training, it’s safe to receive. However, if it comes from a different type of training, unless one has not learned any martial arts, the newly acquired True Inner Power will not merge with one’s own but will clash, leading to adverse effects.
Inner power can also be infused into others for healing or attacking purposes. This power is not True Inner Power, so after a certain time, the foreign power will dissipate within the recipient, and the giver can recover their power.
People refer to masters who have honed their inner power to an exceptional level as masters of the Three Realms. Once one becomes a supreme master, the level of inner power and martial arts skills are almost proportional, making it difficult to find an equal opponent.
The First Realm is the Creation Realm, also known as the Transformation Realm. This refers to masters who have achieved the Three Transformations of Heaven, Earth, and Man, and the Five Energies of Water, Wood, Metal, Fire, and Earth within their bodies. At this level, one undergoes a transformation that optimizes the body for martial arts, experiencing rejuvenation. They can kill with a sound or topple a small mountain with a finger. There are eight existing masters in the Transformation Realm, referred to as the Three Emperors and Five Sovereigns. Their martial arts levels are similar, but the distinction between the Emperors and Sovereigns is due to age differences and slightly superior martial arts of the Emperors.
The Second Realm is the Mysterious Realm, which can be considered the entrance to divinity. Upon reaching this realm, one transforms into a superior physical form, becoming immune to all poisons and not emitting any vital energy, a state known as Returning to True Nature. They can kill with the energy emitted from their bodies. Only one person, the founder of the world’s number one sect, the Divine Sword Hero, has reached this realm.
The Third Realm is the Life and Death Realm, the true divine realm of immortality. It transcends human life and death and sees the laws of the universe at a glance. However, no one has even approached this realm, making it a complete unknown. Some even argue that this realm is a fabrication.
If the martial arts of the orthodox sects are as described above, the martial arts of the unorthodox sects take a completely different path. They choose different methods from the orthodox sects in their native martial arts. The majority of the unorthodox sects, which consist of bandits and small factions with short histories, develop techniques to break down the opponent’s martial arts or bizarre techniques to compensate for their inferior inner power. Therefore, external martial arts that excel in techniques are mainstream in the unorthodox sects. With a bit of skill and proficiency, one can become a considerable master in a short time.
However, there is a faction that takes a different path from the general unorthodox sects, the Demon Sect. They have developed various systematic native martial arts based on their long history and tradition. They chose the Reverse Blood Qi Gong, which can achieve the fastest progress among the techniques to acc*mulate inner power. After discovering that circulating inner power in the opposite direction during Qi Gong practice leads to rapid acc*mulation of inner power, the Demon Sect has produced many masters through this technique. Over time, various techniques of Reverse Blood Qi Gong have been developed, and many demonic martial arts have been developed accordingly, cutting off the breath of the orthodox martial artists.
The Demon Sect also has realms that they aspire to achieve. The first is the Extreme Demon, the pinnacle of a Demon Person. Like the orthodox sects, they experience a transformation that optimizes the body for martial arts and rejuvenation. The second problem is the risk of Dispersing Power, where the inner power acc*mulated so far disappears in an instant with tremendous pain. The duration of the pain varies depending on how much inner power has been acc*mulated, and the more advanced the master, the longer the pain lasts. However, this is not a big problem in the Demon Sect because Dispersing Power usually occurs just before death due to old age or illness. The last problem is that after acc*mulating a certain level of martial arts, one cannot progress further, as if hitting a wall. The Demon Sect’s masters call this the ‘invisible wall’, and if they break through this wall, they can enter the realm of the Extreme Demon, the pinnacle of the Demon.
In the world of martial arts, prestigious families pass on their internal strength, known as Zhen Shen Nei Gong, to their successors or use spiritual medicine to accelerate their cultivation. These successors are trained in the orthodox martial arts of their respective sects and are referred to as suitable disciples. Non-suitable disciples, due to their weaker internal strength, exhibit significantly less power when using the same techniques.
Transferring Zhen Shen Nei Gong to another person is a painful process for the giver, and is rarely done even among blood relatives. Moreover, receiving Zhen Shen Nei Gong from another cultivator carries risks. If the internal strength comes from a cultivator with a different training method, it can clash with the recipient’s own Zhen Shen Nei Gong, leading to disastrous results, unless the recipient has not yet begun their martial arts training.
Internal strength can also be infused into others for healing or attacking purposes. This infused strength, which is not Zhen Shen Nei Gong, dissipates over time within the recipient’s body. The person who infused the strength can also recover their energy quickly.
Martial artists who have honed their internal strength to an exceptional level are referred to as masters of the Three Realms. Once a cultivator reaches the pinnacle, their martial arts skills and internal strength are almost proportional, making it difficult to find a worthy opponent.
The first realm, known as the Creation Realm or Hua Jing, is achieved when a cultivator harmonizes the three transformations of Heaven, Earth, and Man, and the five energies of Water, Wood, Metal, Fire, and Earth within their body. At this level, the cultivator undergoes a transformation, rejuvenating their body to an optimal state for martial arts. They can kill with a sound or topple a small mountain with a flick of their finger. There are currently eight masters in the Hua Jing, known as the Three Emperors and Five Sovereigns. Their martial arts skills are almost equal, but the Three Emperors are slightly superior. The Righteous Sects also refer to the four most outstanding masters produced by the Demonic Sects as the Four Heavenly Kings, reflecting their subtle pride.
The second realm, known as the Mysterious Realm or Xuan Jing, is akin to entering the realm of the gods. Upon reaching this realm, the cultivator’s body transforms further, becoming immune to all poisons and emitting no visible energy, a state known as Fan Bo Gui Zhen. They regain their youth, with their hair turning black and their teeth regrowing. They can kill with the energy emanating from their body. Only one person, Gu Hui, the God Sword Hero who founded the world’s number one sect thousands of years ago, has reached this realm.
The third and final realm is the Life and Death Realm or Sheng Si Jing, the true realm of the gods where one transcends life and death and comprehends the laws of the universe. Masters of the Demonic Sects who have reached the pinnacle can gather demonic energy within their bodies, causing people to shudder. This energy can kill those with weak internal strength or even ordinary people. They can also perfectly conceal this energy within their bodies.
The pinnacle of the Demonic Sects, where one can kill people with their emitted energy or topple a small mountain with a finger, is almost equivalent to the Hua Jing of the Righteous Sects. There are currently four masters in this realm, known as the Four Demon Emperors or Four Heavenly Kings, who are feared by all. They usually conceal their demonic energy, but when they are in a bad mood, they unknowingly emit a murderous energy that terrifies their subordinates.
The second stage is the Demon Shedding Realm, the highest realm that demons can reach. Upon reaching this realm, one becomes immune to all poisons. No one has yet reached this realm, but it is speculated to be similar to the Xuan Jing of the Righteous Sects, based on the similarities between the pinnacle of the Demonic Sects and the Hua Jing. The reason this realm is called Demon Shedding is that it is believed to be a level where one does not have to go through the dreaded tribulation feared by all demons. In any case, it can be considered the highest realm of the demons.
There is no realm above this, but some demons, based on the similarities between the pinnacle of the Demonic Sects and the Hua Jing, cautiously speculate that the realm above the Demon Shedding Realm might be similar to the Sheng Si Jing of the Righteous Sects. They argue that although the beginnings of martial arts are different, they all end in the same place. However, since no one has reached the Demon Shedding Realm yet, this speculation is dismissed by the Righteous Sects as mere delusion of some demons.