After the events of that day, Jang Pae-San and the other men of the Third Company avoided Jin Mu-Won like the plague. Nothing good would come out of associating with the boy, so they treated him like he didn’t exist.
This was good news for Jin Mu-Won. At the very least, he wouldn’t be tortured anymore. Still, he had to be wary of the extremely petty Jang Pae-San, who wouldn’t forget the humiliation he’d received that day for a very long time.
“Hah…” sighed Jin Mu-Won, looking down at the ruins of the Northern Army Fortress. He was currently sitting on the roof of the Tower of Shadows, the tallest building in the fortress.
Although the twelve-story building was mostly intact, it wouldn’t be weird if it collapsed anytime and most people avoided ascending the building. However, after what happened last time with the kidnapping incident, Jin Mu-Won dared not go outside anymore. He instead started climbing to the top of the Tower of Shadows.
Jin Mu-Won lay down, awake, on the roof tiles all night long.
Seo Mu-Sang watched him from afar, even though he knew that doing so was meaningless. He was only observing Jin Mu-Won now out of pure curiosity. For some reason, he just couldn’t take his eyes off the boy.
“You’re really brave despite not knowing any martial arts.”
Jin Mu-Won’s sheer courage and audacity shocked Seo Mu-Sang. He knew that Jin Mu-Won had lied; his claims and reasoning were riddled with flaws. Anyone who thought carefully about what he had said would have realized that.
“The Four Pillars all rank among the strongest martial artists in the world. For people like them to lose control of their followers, is that even possible?”
Jang Pae-San had been too intimidated by the mention of the Northern Army and Heaven’s Summit, and had not noticed this fact. That was not the case for Seo Mu-Sang. He had immediately seen through Jin Mu-Won’s lies; he just didn’t feel like informing Jang Pae-San.
True, he had been tempted by the mention of ‘treasure’ and ‘martial arts manuals’, but he hadn’t wanted to torture a child to obtain these things. Furthermore, he had already personally searched the fortress and confirmed that there was indeed nothing of value in this place.
He was upset that he had to waste away for three years, but he didn’t want to take it out on Jin Mu-Won.
Truth be told, he actually admired Jin Mu-Won. A boy who could remain calm and manipulate people while being tortured despite not knowing martial arts, was nothing if not admirable.
It’s a pity. If only he had learnt the martial arts of the Northern Army, he would have definitely become a great man and a world leader.
Jin Mu-Won’s daring was not something that could be taught. He was born a tiger cub, but unfortunately for this tiger cub, his father passed away before he could grow up.
Even baby tigers needed their parents’ protection to grow up safely. Seo Mu-Sang could only lament that Jin Mu-Won’s path to greatness had been blocked by his misfortune.
He watched Jin Mu-Won for a little while longer, then left. Jin Mu-Won had been a major disappointment, but it had nothing to do with him so there was nothing for him to regret. In the eyes of Heaven’s Summit, the boy had already reached his limits.
Seo Mu-Sang suddenly lost interest in Jin Mu-Won. The boy wasn’t a threat. Without a sound, he vanished into the darkness.
When Seo Mu-Sang had gone, Jin Mu-Won did not get up. He didn’t know what he should do next. He simply lay down and fell asleep, waking up only at the break of dawn. When he saw the reddish rays of the rising sun, he stood up.
“Fuck!” he screamed as he accidentally grazed his nailless finger against the roof. It had already been three days since the kidnapping and a scab had formed on the wound, but the pain was still tormenting him constantly.
“This is a small price to pay for getting rid of their suspicions,” he told himself. When he treated what had happened as a necessary ritual that would guarantee his survival for the next three years, he felt much better.
Jin Mu-Won looked toward the east. The light from the rising sun shone upon the ruins of the Northern Army Fortress, bathing the fortress, which had been shrouded in darkness, in golden light.
As the darkness was swept away, shadows appeared. Rays of light penetrated through cracks in the walls and buildings, creating mysterious patterns from the contrast between light and shadow.
Jin Mu-Won’s eyes lit up. The shadows created by sunlight shining upon the carvings on the walls, turned the seemingly meaningless designs into something resembling words.
He focused his attention on the walls. As the sun rose, the angles of light and shadow changed, until finally the text could be read.
From within One birthed the shadow.
Weave the Two for the unity of all.
In a world of light, I embrace the shadow.
In the beginning, there was only pure energy, and then it split into light and shadow.
Light and shadow can mix in different ways, but in the end, all of creation is unified by their harmony.
The world is filled with the lights of many souls, but I embrace the shadows. Becoming the darkness of the night sky that is lit up by a sea of stars.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Jin Mu-Won stared unblinking at the phenomenon created by the interaction of light and shadow.
The greatest secret of the Northern Army revealed itself to him.
As the sun moved across the sky and the shadows shifted, words would appear and disappear. These words came together to form one martial arts manual after another. This mysterious sight could only be observed from the roof of the Tower of Shadows.
These words were written in the language of the Moon River Kingdom (月河國), a kingdom that was destroyed a long time ago in a war. Jin Kwan-Ho hadn’t taught his son martial arts, but he had taught him how to read the language of the Moon River Kingdom.
Thus, Jin Mu-Won was now the only living person who could read this language. In the eyes of others, these words were no more than random glyphs.
Thousands of people had been to the Northern Army Fortress, but Jin Mu-Won was now the only person left who knew of this secret. Not even the Four Pillars were told about it.
People simply called it the Wall of Ten Thousand Shadows (萬影壁). They had no idea that the legacy of every Lord of the Northern Army was carved on that very wall.
It wasn’t always martial arts. Sometimes when one of the previous Lords had an idea, they would organize their thoughts on the fortress wall. After many years, the wall eventually became the current Wall of Ten Thousand Shadows.
All of the Lords starting from the first-generation Buk Jin-Hu, to the fourth-generation Jin Kwan-Ho, had left their writings behind on the wall. Because the wall was merely a medium for them to write down their thoughts, the writings ended up being spread out all over the place.
Some of the writings had more depth, while others had more breadth. Some discussed the theory of martial arts (武理), while others discussed their understanding of foot techniques (步法). Two types of writings were of particular interest to Jin Mu-Won. The first was sword techniques (劍法), and the second was the chi cultivation idea (心功) left behind by Buk Jin-Hu.
At a glance, one could see that after the lines of the chi cultivation idea that was written like a poem, Buk Jin-Hu and every one of his successors had left their own explanations and interpretations of the text, all coming together to form the complete Art of Ten Thousand Shadows (萬影訣).
As the notes about the Art accumulated over the years, the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows had taken up more and more space on the walls, extending to even the deepest parts of the fortress. The ten thousand words felt more like a thought process rather than a simple conclusion. Because of its sheer length, the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows could also be called the Ten Thousand Word Martial Art (萬字神功).
Although the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows had been refined over several generations, it was still merely a theory. No one had ever mastered it before.
Buk Jin-Hu, the first Lord of the Northern Army and the one who came up with the initial idea, was from Nanjing. He wasn’t a disciple of any famous martial art schools, so his foundations weren’t particularly solid. He belonged to the type of martial artist who had gotten strong through actual combat experience.
As he hadn’t been indoctrinated about common sense in martial arts since childhood, the techniques and ideas that he developed tended to be very unconventional. In addition, he was a genius with an imagination far surpassing any other.
The Art of Ten Thousand Shadows was the culmination of his wild imagination.
One birthed Two, meaning the origin of everything in the world was split into two. Yin and Yang, positive and negative, light and shadow. The names are different but they all mean the same thing, and the two are always in balance. That is the law of nature. Then what about chi?
Chi should follow the same law, right?
Although chi can take on thousands of different forms depending on the individual’s body type or cultivation technique, all the possible forms can be classified into Yin or Yang. From there, the chi types can be further split into categories based on the five elements.
I feel that this is just a method of classification, chi cannot really be sorted into two types.
Chi is just chi, but according to the law of nature, there must be something that acts as a counterbalance to chi.
An anti-chi that is equal and opposite to chi, the force of nature.
I think that, existing alongside the chi that humans use is an energy that will fill the emptiness left behind, and that this energy shouldn’t be any weaker than chi. In fact, it’s probably even stronger.
I’m going to name this energy Shadow Chi for convenience’s sake.
Most of Buk Jin-Hu’s life had been spent on the battlefield fighting against the Silent Night, and he had very little free time to ponder the details of Shadow Chi. Therefore, that was all the information about Shadow Chi that he had left behind when he died.
A few dozen years after Buk Jin-Hu’s death, the second Lord of the Northern Army, Nam Un-San, decided to continue working on Buk Jin-Hu’s idea. At that time, the Northern Army was doing very badly in the war against the Silent Night.
The martial arts of the Silent Night were self-destructive to the practitioner, but they possessed incredible offensive power far beyond the martial arts of the Central Plains. Thus, Nam Un-San concluded that new martial arts needed to be developed to fight against the Silent Night and began to refine Buk Jin-Hu’s Shadow Chi idea.
However, the one who truly turned the Shadow Chi from an idea into a real cultivation technique was the third Lord, Yoo Kwang-Yeon. Yoo Kwang-Yeon had had his chi center destroyed in a fierce battle with the “Black-Winged Divine Spear (黑翼神槍)”, one of the Four Great Demon Generals (四大魔將). Instead of resigning himself to an inevitable death, Yoo Kwang-Yeon chose to study the Shadow Chi and turn it into reality.
He created an imaginary chi center to replace his destroyed one and filled it with a completely different type of energy from chi. This was the energy that Buk Jin-Hu had named “Shadow Chi”.
Like an actual shadow, “Shadow Chi” was immaterial and only those who practised it could feel its energy. Its presence pulled Yoo Kwang-Yeon back from the brink of death and gave him a new reason to live.
Yoo Kwang-Yeon then immersed himself in perfecting the Shadow Chi for the rest of his life.
The darkness of the night sky filled with stars seems empty, but is actually filled to the brim with undetectable dark energy.
This means that both chi and shadow chi can always exist in harmony, without interfering with each other.
Yoo Kwang-Yeon felt that if he managed to master Shadow Chi, he would be able to revamp the entire chi cultivation system. However, before he could complete his work, he succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
He had realized the importance of Shadow Chi when it was already too late, and the little time he had left was far from enough to perfect it. Before his death, the technique was passed down to his successor, the fourth Lord and Jin Mu-Won’s father, Jin Kwan-Ho.
Jin Kwan-Ho had inherited his predecessor’s will to perfect the technique, but he died young and never managed to study Shadow Chi or work on improving the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows.
Although Jin Mu-Won knew that Art of Ten Thousand Shadows was incomplete, he still chose to learn it. It was something he would have never even considered if not for his situation. The Four Pillars had taken away every other martial arts manual, and Heaven’s Summit monitored his every move. He had no choice but to learn a martial art that was completely undetectable by others, even if the search for a path to perfecting the Art made him feel completely lost, like he was fumbling around on a small raft in the open seas at night with no guiding light and no idea where the destination was.
The end of his road could be a sea of despair, but it could also be a new world shining with hope. He didn’t know. He could only move forward, one step at a time, one day at a time.
Suddenly, Jin Mu-Won smiled.
“At least I have something to hope for. I’ve still got something I can do.”
It was worth the gamble. Jin Mu-Won was satisfied by the mere thought that whether he succeeded or not, at least he wouldn’t have wasted his time not even trying.
He closed his eyes and continued contemplating the Art of Ten Thousand Shadows.
Just like that, his morning quickly came to an end.
 This is obviously gibberish meant to sound sophisticated by quoting stuff from the “Dao De Jing”, the “I Ching”, and…modern physics. I tried my best to make sense of it but nonsense is nonsense. I bet the manhwa translator took a glance at this and was like ╮(╯▽╰)╭ too. The last line “Becoming the darkness of the night sky that is lit up by a sea of stars” is from the manhwa only but it helps clarify the gibberish so I included it.
 Moon River Kingdom (月河國): Literal translation – Moon River Country. Translated as Lower Moon Kingdom in the manhwa. Fun fact- The Moon River Kingdom is likely a kingdom in the Indian subcontinent as the manhwa shows the writing on the walls to be in the Devanagari script which is the script used by a lot of Indian languages like Hindi, Sanskrit, Marathi, etc.
 Wall of Ten Thousand Shadows (萬影壁): Literal translation – Wall of Ten Thousand Shadows.
 Art of Ten Thousand Shadows (萬影訣): Literal translation – Art of Ten Thousand Shadows. Translated as Gathering of Ten Thousand Shadows in the manhwa.
 Chi center (Danjeon in Korean): Also known as Dantian, or chi cultivation center.
 Black-Winged Divine Spear (黑翼神槍): Literal translation – Black Wings Divine Spear. Translated as “Spear of the Black Wings” in the manhwa.
 Four Great Demon Generals (四大魔將): Literal translation – Four Great Demon Generals. Translated as “Four Demonic Lords” in the manhwa.