I. Casual Encounter
The scorching sun roasted the ground; this was even more true for bustling town. The cage in the middle of town was like a steamer basket, so much so that you could almost see the steam rising up from it.
The streets of the town were almost deserted, just a few people here and there fanning themselves in the shade. It didn't seem to do any good however, and even someone as robust as me felt sluggish in the crushing, almost hellish heat.
I walked steadily along the shade cast by the buildings along the street, my own stubbornness and tenacity pulling me forwards. All of a sudden I heard the sound of people arguing. "Don't you know the rules? You think you can just pass right through?" "You want a piece of me asshole?"
"Someone's being picked on in broad daylight? No way, not while I'm around!" Thinking this, I steeled my nerves and followed the voices.
I expected to turn the corner and find myself in the middle of a fight, so my heart began to beat fasted. But when I turned the corner the first thing I saw was something flying in a beautiful arc.
Then the falling arc came crashing to me.
THUMP----------- The noise was so loud it my head spin.
The next thing I knew an unconscious person was lying on top of me, so for the moment I couldn't budge. I tried to life my head, but even though the person was facing the piercing sunlight, I couldn't quite make out their face. They were slender, hair like cold silver, and their crimson clothing billowed like a burning flame.
"Ah, what refreshing weather!" I heard those words, but I had hit my head harder than I realized and soon lost consciousness myself.
What! I shouldn't have gotten involved at all, there are so many powerful people in the world.
When I regained consciousness, I wasn't sure where I was, but cool refreshing night had Fallen Angel. Despite this, I felt a sense of defeat more than anything else.
I had left the place where I always lived, traveling from a distant land to this corner of the world. In order to fund the true quality that would make me stronger.
However, even after all this time I didn't know where to start. Even after fighting so many people, I still fell after a single hit.
"Are you awake?" The door was gently pushed open. A man in black walked into the room.
"Who are you?" "My name is Torto." "Huh? I was just in the street." "This is an inn, the innkeeper's an old acquaintance. You rest here for a bit." "Did you rescue me?" "Not really. I just brought you here." "in that case, you're my hero!" I bowed to Torto as I said this. "What can I do to repay your kindness?"
"Uh..." Torto's express didn't change much, but the furrowed brow made his serious face look a bit frightening. "Nothing."
"I just picked some lemons, eat some!" I laid the fresh-picked lemons down in front of him, but he wouldn't take any.
"Could you stop following me?" Torto asked coldly; even in a sweltering summer, he could fill his voice with ice.
"I always repay my debts, so I'm going to follow you until the debt I owe you is repaid." I told Torto as I happily munched on a lemon, but all it elicited from him was a sigh.
The green trees on the mountain provided shade, and the light shining through the leaves stained even the mountain road green.
However, the rugged mountain road consumed a lot more of my strength than I'd imagined, and the cruel summer heat also exacerbated the consumption of my spiritual energy.
Breathing gradually grew harder, and the figure ahead of me got further and further away.
Originally, it was simply intuition, but after a short of period of time I am becoming more and more certain that the Food Soul named Torto is really strong.
I struggled to maintain a clear head, but the darkness in my eyes closed over my mind. I felt a lightness, and then the next thing I knew I was lying on a large black rock.
"No, it can't be over, I still haven't become stronger..." I encouraged myself in a daze.
"Sigh-------One, two, what a giant pain you are." I t was still the same old familiar sigh, but after the end of the sentence I would never hear that voice again."
Did I get tossed aside just like that? Dreadful. I hadn't even done anything ans it was over! I wanted to become stronger for my Master Attendant! I haven;t changed at all from who I used to be. Hurry up and wake up! Hurry up and wake me up!
"Ah--------" I woke with a shout.
"What's wrong? Did you have a nightmare?" His voice was still cold and still lacked scrap of concern, but somehow it was a still a relief."
"Why are you grinning like an idiot?" "Oh? No, it's just, you didn't abandon me, that's really great..." "Actually, I didn't think of that." Torto suddenly interrupted me. "Anyway, rest up tonight, and then tomorrow you're out of here."
"No! You need to live by you word, I need to repay you." I said firmly, thumping my chest. "If I don't do this then I can't become stronger."
"Become stronger? Why?" "To protect my mistress of course!" "If your mistress is still alive then you should go back." Torto was preparing to leave as he said this.
Torto, be my Shifu!" I blurted the words out. This was no joking matter however, I really did think Torto had the strength I was lacking.
"I refuse." His tone was heavy with the frustration he felt towards, then he closed the door and strolled away.
III. Competition Arrangement
However, I was not discouraged at all. As long as I stayed here I could try to make him my Shifu.
Power does not come overnight, you have be determined to persevere if you want to become powerful.
This inn seemed to be called Forget-Your-Worries; it was located on top of a mountain, and very few people came there. I still hadn't seen the proprietor.
Every day I trained with Torto in the courtyard. His schedule is very regular. Every day he sweeps up the leaves in the courtyard, he trims the flowers and weeds, and he cleans every room. Even the floor is kept spotless. Besides this, sometimes he goes out into the forest to gather herbs, then dries the herbs to make medicine he sells to others.
Could this really be the live of someone powerful? I had never seen a life that was so quiet yet busy.
A forested mountain. Torto was in the middle of gathering herbs, so I followed along. "Are you planning to stay here?" "No, I came to train." "I have nothing for you to train with here." "Let's just try it! Using fists is the most direct way!" As I spoke I was full of energy.
"You really are a strange Food Soul, I just can't figure out what you're thinking." "I'm not thinking anything, I believe you're very strong, and I want to become strong, so this." I stated matter-of-factly.
Torto shook his head, sighed for what seemed like a year, then lowered his head and started gathering herbs." Seeing that Torto was indifferent to my suggestion, I began to chat with him. "Why are you here?" "No reason, I just want to live like this." "What's your Master Attendant like?" "A pretty ordinary person."
An ordinary person...Is my mistress an ordinary person? If we hadn't been attacked by the Fallen Angel, my mistress would still be living the same old happy life. Ah! No no no! I was working to become strong so my mistress could return to her happy life!
"Yes! I have to keep finding stronger people, then when I defeat them I'll become stronger!" My habitual words of self-motivation escaped my mouth.
"You keep saying you want to become stronger, why are you so determined?" "I want to protect my mistress." "What do you think power is?" "It's the strength to defeat anybody of course." "In that case, I will agree to test you." "Really? That's great!" "However, you have to make it back to Forget-Your-Worries before I do." "Huh?!" This time it was me who was confused.
IV. Truly Robust
"I'm going to let you know in advance, I know a shortcut." Tossing out this sentence, Torto disappeared before my eyes.
He was so quick, there was no way I could chase him. Added to the fact that he had a shortcut, I couldn't win. However, in the last few days at Forget-Your-Worries I had discovered a steep cliff behind the inn. As far as shortcuts go, this suited me just fine.
Being a man meant rising to the challenge. I looked up at the cliff; it looked even steeper from the bottom. Without any hesitation I began climbing up.
With the blazing sun overhead the wind brought no relief. When I had climbed halfway up the mountain, I noticed that the rock arrangements were more dangerous than I had realized. Soon I reached a spot where it was just as difficult to go on as it would have been to turn back. However, there was nowhere for me to rest on the cliff wall; even if I stopped I would just be wasting my strength in vain.
I was already drenched in sweat, rivulets dripping off my body. My body was also getting heavier. I wiped the sweat away, then looked up at the peak; it was just as far away as ever. It was then that I noticed a fish-shaped cloud drifting overhead like it was watching me.
No, not a cloud, it really was a fish. A swinging tail and a round head with long black eyebrows. It was clearly watching me. Was I really so tired that I was hallucinating things?
I used all my strength to reach for a rock sticking out above me. However, what I didn't know was, that rock I worked so hard to get a hold of was loose. I thought I was going to fall, but a black boulder suddenly appeared in front of me and lifted me gently to the top of the mountain.
"You're just lucky Wanton Spirit was watching you." There seemed to actually be a hint of concern in the familiar voice. "You've rescued me again." As I said this, I looked at Torto in front of me; it was probably just because of the sweat in my eyes, but both my heart and my eyes felt sour.
In the end I still didn't have any way to become stronger.
"You still don't understand?" "Huh?" "Every time you put yourself in danger trying to be powerful, in the end you only end up hurting yourself." Torto's tone returned to being ice cold. "You can't even protect yourself, much less anybody else."
I was momentarily speechless. I've always believed that being strong meant defeating others. That way I could protect my mistress and the land where she lives.
"If all you want is to protect your mistress, shouldn't you be by her side?" The familiar tone kept bringing up old memories.
The sunlight was beautiful, just like it was the day I left my mistress. My mistress was the Princess of a lost kingdom; it had been a small kingdom, but peaceful. I couldn't stop the Fallen Angel from destroying everything, so I decided I had to become strong. I believed that only by being stronger than everyone else could I take back everything we had lost. Had I been wrong? Was becoming strong not the only way?
"Human life is so short; if you want to protect your mistress, you need to go back." Torto turned his back to me. "Senseless fighting will only increase the damage, and you won't be able to protect your mistress. After all, real strength is what you protect, not what you harm."
Even now, when I think back to his words I can't help but sigh.
V. Tom Yum
This was a small, weak country; it's population was only a few thousand people. Tom's mistress, Princess of this kingdom, had been spoiled ever since she was a child. Because of this she was wild and headstrong.
Tom's birth been long awaited by this incredibly spoiled Princess.
"You're a Food Soul?" This was the first time the Princess had seen such thing as a Food Soul.
"That's right Mistress! My name is Tom." He told the Princess excitedly.
"Tom? What!? That sounds like the name of a commoner." Her eyes narrowed and she looked at Tom suspiciously. "So there's no difference at all! That's very disappointing."
"Can you fly?" "Uh...No, but I can protect you."
When the Princess heard this she looked at him disdainfully and said: "Protect? Lots of people can protect me." "My...Mistress?" Tom didn't react outwardly, but on the inside he had been hurt by his mistress's expression of disdain.
"Ah! That reminds me, don't call me "mistress" or anything like that; I am the Princess of this kingdom, you shall address me as "Your Highness"!" "Yes, Your Highness." This was Tom's first meeting with the Princess.
Their first meeting wasn't very friendly, and she generally maintained this cold and indifferent attitude towards him. For some reason, the Princess changed; normally she loved receiving gifts, but all o a sudden she became extremely picky about them. She would shout "I DON'T WANT THESE!" and then command they all be brought to Tom.
The kingdom was extraordinarily peaceful, and its people lived happy lives. Until the big bell on the top of the castle began to ring, people had no idea that the fiends known as the Fallen Angel had already invaded their peaceful kingdom.
The arrival of the Fallen Angel stained their once blue sky blood red. In a flash the quiet little kingdom had been transformed into hell on earth, filled with sorrow, crying and shouting. Tom stood on top of the castle, watching people run around in their panic.
The Fallen Angel had no awareness, they just kept smashing buildings until they had reached the castle. Beneath the castle wall were amassed soldiers, clutching swords in their hands. Although these Fallen Angel weren't full-grown, human beings were insignificant in the face of their frenzied strength.
Tom understood very clearly that even if could manage to protect the castle where his mistress was hiding, there was no way he could escape. All through the night panicked people fled the city. Even the soldiers soon abandoned their armor so they could surrender and run away from the city.
In a single night, the small, weak country had been reduced to an empty city of ruins. Only the castle with the King and the Princess still remained.
However, without subjects he could no longer call himself the King. The Princess also lost the happy existence she had once enjoyed.
"Why is no one bringing me my favorite soup?!" The Princess held onto her willful temperament; she even kept up her habit of throwing things when she was unhappy.
She couldn't comprehend that this paradise built for her had been reduced to a broken husk. Tom couldn't help thinking as he looked at the red glove on his hand. This was his favorite of the gifts the Princess had given him.
Even though the first time he wore it she looked at him and said: "I don't care for those at all." But Tom still remembered the smile on her face as she turned away after saying those words. Thinking back to that moment, his hand automatically clenched.
"My...mistress..." Tom started to ask, worried, as he walked over to her.
"Impudent cur! How dare you approach without permission!" The Princess stubbornly shoved him back because he had gotten too close.
"I'm sorry You Highness, I couldn't protect your kingdom." He obediently stepped back, lowering his head.
"I know that! The kingdom is gone, the people are gone, but I'm still a Princess! I'm..still a Princess!" For the first time, the willful princess looked like she wanted to weep.
At that moment Tom made a silent oath. He would become strong, so that next time he wouldn't simply protect the castle; he would become strong enough his mistress's entire kingdom.