Chapter 264. Becoming One
Around the time when both Eshnunna and Hawa were setting up their new goals and resolutions, Chi-Woo was experiencing endless pain in eternity. One objective hour in the image representation space was 100 hours for Chi-Woo, and Chi-Woo had spent four days and four hours in that space.
It might have been fine if time only flowed differently from this space and reality, but this difference in time flow applied to his surroundings as well. Though this was a condition that Chi-Woo chose for himself, he felt frustrated that he couldn’t strike a target that disappeared in 0.01 seconds. His original plan was to increase his reaction speed by expanding the rate at which targets disappeared by a hundred or thousand times and get his body used to it, but as expected, things didn’t go according to his plan.
What Chi-Woo needed to do was to control his body however he wanted in any situation. Only then would he achieve maximum efficiency in movements as he planned. But this wasn’t something he could accomplish simply by spending a lot of time practicing, and even as his S rank Golden Ratio ability was activated, he showed no progress. Chi-Woo couldn’t even grasp where to begin yet. Thus, eventually, Chi-Woo felt beyond frustration and soon became enveloped in strong feelings of despair and regret.
How many times did he repeat this crazy act? A total of two weeks in real time passed, which meant Chi-Woo had experienced 1,400 days like this. Of course, he hadn’t slowed time by 100 times for every practice, but simple calculations told him that he had essentially gone through about four years. Chi-Woo had been at a standstill for those four years, and upon realizing this, he understood why his brother said speed was talent. He wasn’t only talking about the speed at which people learned things.
What Chi-Woo was trying to learn completely depended on one’s talent. It was something a person without talent shouldn’t attempt at all, a task that a person couldn’t accomplish with hard work alone. It was as meaningless as stepping on the pedal of a car that ran at 0 mph. And though his Golden Ratio helped him in things that were necessary, it didn’t activate when it came to things he couldn’t do in the first place. In other words, it couldn’t create talents he didn’t have. Thinking this made Chi-Woo burst into humorless laughter.
‘…I should just quit…’ There were things that couldn’t be done no matter how much time he spent on them. His master also told him that he should quit early if he thought he couldn’t do it. Chi-Woo thought he should’ve realized this earlier; if he had, he wouldn’t have suffered and wasted so much time.
‘No more…’ This was the end. Chi-Woo thought he should die first to end this practice session. Then he would tell his master that he couldn’t continue this training anymore. He would quit trying and give up. As soon as he thought this, the concentration that Chi-Woo had been forcefully maintaining on a thin thread broke. He stopped controlling his body and lost his strength. He also stopped paying attention to his surroundings.
‘Ah…’ A smile formed on Chi-Woo’s face after a long time. How should he put it? He felt calm now, or should he say free? He felt at peace after giving up. There was only one thing left to do now. Chi-Woo was about to revert the flow of time to normal when suddenly…what his mentor told him in the past flashed through his mind.
[You became one with the water.]
A long time ago, when he used to live with his mentor, Chi-Woo had stayed in a Buddhist temple. That day, Chi-Woo woke up earlier than usual and got out to sit on the edge of the back porch. Recalling it now, there was nothing really impressive about that day. It was just that the twilight the sky reflected looked especially beautiful. Entranced, Chi-Woo raised his head and stared into the sky. His mentor then spotted Chi-Woo and said that he had become one with the water.
Chi-Woo was startled by his mentor’s words. Not only had his mentor spoken to him suddenly, but he noticed that the sun was already at the center of the sky. He hadn’t realized that so much time had passed. His mentor laughed and said that it was what usually happened when a person became one with the water. Chi-Woo didn’t understand what his mentor meant, so his mentor explained:
[Confucius' doctrines state that the sky and humans are one entity.]
The sky and humans were one. It was an idea integral to Confucius’ school of thought.
[But do you know why I mentioned the sky before humans when saying that they were one entity? After all, I could have said human and sky are one entity.]
Chi-Woo replied that it must have just been what the speaker felt like saying at that moment. But his mentor disagreed.
[Western philosophy has a tendency to focus on oneself and the individual rather than exterior forces.]
[Like how they believe humans to be most central to their natural existence and essence, they prioritize the master of the house rather than the guests.]
[Thus, perhaps, the West might have placed humans before the sky in this idea, but that’s not the case in the East. Eastern philosophy defines humans to be finite, while the universe is infinite.]
[It is stated in Laozi’s Tao Te Ching that there are four great laws in the universe. Humanity follows the earth. The earth follows the sky. The sky follows the Tao, and the Tao follows only itself.]
The Tao in this context meant nature, all things, and the universe.
[In short, humans are just a part of the universe in the end.]
Humans depended on nature to live. Thanks to nature, humans could eat, wear clothes, and even breathe. They gained everything they needed to survive from nature. After existing in it, they reached the end of their lives and returned to earth in the form of ashes. In this sense, humans, nature, all things, and the universe were one. At that time, Chi-Woo couldn’t understand his mentor’s impromptu teaching and simply stared at the sky.
[Of course, I didn’t expect you to understand everything I said at once.]
Then his mentor continued.
[Why don’t you try one more time? Stare into the sky again.]
Hearing this, Chi-Woo looked back up at the sky. The sky was blue, and he tried to focus on the floating clouds. But what was happening? No matter how hard he tried to concentrate, he couldn’t focus as he had done before. Rather than forgetting the flow of time, he felt it so well that he was getting bored.
[See? You can’t do it right?]
And his mentor nodded and murmured that a guy like Chi-Woo needed to experience things first-hand at least once rather than being told the same thing a hundred times. Chi-Woo tilted his head. Why couldn’t he do it? What was different about what he was doing now? Was it just the difference in my level of concentration? he asked.
[That’s both correct and incorrect.]
[You need to focus, but not dwell on it.]
[Think about the time when you first looked up at the sky. Did you have the intention to stare at the sky without a sense of time beforehand and purposefully acted upon it?]
Chi-Woo blankly shook his head.
[See? You didn’t. You have to lose yourself like that time. You can’t be aware of what you are doing. If you forcefully try to focus on what you’re doing, you are already differentiating yourself from everything else.]
Chi-Woo was not to differentiate or put any boundary between him and all things. He was not to divide the inside from the outside. He needed to naturally mix with nature in harmony.
[It is the same for body and soul. The mind and body are basically one. They aren’t separate, but connected. They function organically together so that…]
‘…Yes.’ Chi-Woo remembered it now. He didn’t understand it well at that time, but he thought he got it now.
‘Turn…’ He turned again and again.
At that moment, Chi-Woo regained his senses and looked in front of him. And soon, he saw his surroundings moving faster bit by bit.
‘…Huh?’ Though he hadn’t returned the flow of time to normal, he saw the almost stand-still thorn wolf get closer. It was as if time became faster from a slowdown rate of 1/100 to 1/75. Then it became 1/50, then 1/25, until time finally returned to its original speed. But that wasn’t all.
1.5 times, 2 times, 2.5 times…! The flow of time began to speed up like he was watching a time-lapse video. What was happening? The thorn wolf which once moved at 0.01 times the speed from normal began to move 3 to 4 times faster. Chi-Woo didn’t act out, but remained baffled.
‘Why…?’ His surroundings were moving much faster than normal; thus, it seemed only natural that he wouldn’t even be able to consider things like posture and reacting, but—
It felt so slow. The attacks that came 3 or 4 times faster felt so very slow. To the point that Chi-Woo wondered why he had even gotten hit by such attacks. His senses changed. Though his eyes saw that the attacks had sped up, his senses paradoxically felt that everything was slow. And Chi-Woo overflowed with ease. Ting!
As a result, sharp claws sliced through the air. They couldn’t reach Chi-Woo and grazed past Chi-Woo’s chest. While it barely missed, Chi-Woo hardly felt threatened. It was because he didn’t avoid the attack through sheer luck. He made it happen. And following that movement, Chi-Woo passed the energy he had expended on ducking to his arms. He threw an uppercut at the thorn wolves who passed by him after failing their attacks. With just that, the thorn wolves’ waists twisted in half, and they flew into the air. Though he hadn’t exerted much strength, Chi-Woo felt his fist break through their bones. And that wasn’t all. One wolf rushed at him from behind, but Chi-Woo bent down and simultaneously kicked his leg backward and up. The thorn wolf spun around from the kick and rolled onto the ground. Chi-Woo was facing forward, but he also saw behind him. It was a phenomenon that he couldn’t understand at all; somehow, he could see all around him, and he felt himself take in his entire surroundings.
Something seemed to have changed, but Chi-Woo couldn’t put his finger on it.
[Do you think when you blink?]
[A brain is an organ that gives out orders, and all the physical parts below it follow them. But I’m telling you to transcend this system now.]
He recalled what Byeok had told him and then what his mentor had said.
[The mind and body are basically one.]
[If you forcefully try to focus on what you’re doing, you are already differentiating yourself from everything else. Of course, that won’t work.]
And the moment he connected Byeok’s and his mentor’s teachings, Chi-Woo realized what had changed. He moved before he thought. He didn’t try on purpose nor dwelled on it. He let his body move like the way water flowed, naturally and confidently.𝒊𝐧𝑛r𝑒𝗮𝐝. 𝐜𝑜𝑚
‘I see.’ There was no need for him to differentiate them in the first place.
‘That was it. That was it…!’ He just needed to tie them together and ensure maximum efficiency. The moment Chi-Woo realized this, he didn’t feel any danger from the golem’s attacks nor its relentless punches. He deftly evaded the golem’s punches with a few simple side steps, and he no longer feared the tremors of the ground caused by the misses. Before, he might have thought these factors would distract him from maintaining his posture, but that was no longer his concern.
There was no need for him to think of the internal and the external separately. As it did from his inside, energy was also generated from the outside. And he simply needed to accept this instead of resisting. He would now go in the direction he desired, and the feeling Chi-Woo had once felt for a brief moment lingered further. It was much fiercer now, and Chi-Woo felt as if he could do anything. This feeling seeped into every part of his body like he would never forget it again. It was truly ironic. The moment he decided to give up everything, what he desired most came to him. His vision brightened, and Chi-Woo smiled. He wanted to burst into laughter if he could. Why didn’t he realize it earlier? It was so easy, and when he felt what had once been difficult for him became easy, all his fear evaporated simultaneously. Now, he was confident that he could do whatever he wanted. It felt as if…he was one with the world.
Meanwhile, Philip was watching the scene play out from the yard. His eyes were clenched shut, and when he opened them again, they looked emotional seeing Chi-Woo’s movements.
[Sometimes it’s strong as a storm; other times, gentle as a breeze. But it swings too much to the extremes for his attacks to be versatile.]
[You know how a storm doesn’t have only wind? Like how it can combine with lightning or rain, he can also use other factors.]
That was what Philip had said about Ru Amuh. It was a standard of movement that the past Chi-Woo couldn’t even dream of reaching or understanding, yet it appeared Chi-Woo had now reached the standard to allow discussion of such a level to take place. The way Chi-Woo was moving contained the profundity of nature; it was as if the universe was inside him.
“…Good!” Byeok responded similarly. “Very good.” She looked very satisfied by the extraordinary change Chi-Woo managed to accomplish.
“I’m becoming grateful to that guy. To think he would change his constitution to this extent…” Byeok snickered and realized that there was another audience besides Philip. It was the blonde man.
‘Oh, that guy…’ She didn’t know when he arrived, but he was staring at Chi-Woo in a daze. Byeok murmured to herself, ‘Yeah, I’m sure it looks beautiful.’
Byeok knew that Ru Amuh was no ordinary man either. The fact that he looked so astonished seeing Chi-Woo’s movements alone showed that he was a rare talent.
‘Let me see. He must know how to treat his sword like a part of his body…no, maybe beyond that. But it doesn’t seem complete.’ Knowing how to use a sword as one’s body part alone would’ve allowed a fighter to reach a considerable standing. However, that would limit their expertise to when wielding a sword. They wouldn’t be able to exert the same power if they had to use another weapon. That was not the case for Chi-Woo. He was becoming one with all things, and Ru Amuh sensed this; this was the reason for his great shock.
He was in awe and shock from seeing something greater. And he became certain that although this was an ability that didn’t manifest in one’s user information, Chi-Woo had gained a great weapon that could be used in all situations only the very few possessed.
Byeok took a deep breath and arched her shoulders slightly. Her body shook in unfulfilled expectations. What would happen if she unleashed the bindings limiting Chi-Woo in this state? What change would occur to the abilities he already had then? She was so curious that she was having a physical reaction.
But she couldn’t do that yet. She couldn’t be satisfied with just this. Since she had decided to do things properly, she needed to take more time to help mature him. After all, the riper a fruit, the tastier it was.
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