When Soran finished packing up their stuff, the mysterious mistress was already returning to her carriage. Soran glanced at her, then knelt and asked, "Vivian. What did she say?"
Vivian answered truthfully, "She just asked me how old am I and if I know how to read. It's okay, I didn't tell her about my magic."
Soran felt relieved after hearing so. Since Vivian was still a young girl, it was best not to let others know she was an innate sorcerer. He did not dislike the mistress of the merchant squad, but that did not mean he completely trusted her either. Wizards and witches were all weird and abnormal fellows, and the grudges between rogues and wizards went way back. Furthermore, none of the native wizards and witches were simple people; they all had complicated backgrounds and circumstances.
Anyway, the merchant squad continued travelling toward the city of Whiterun after everyone was ready.
Perhaps because of the short chat with the mistress, Vivian had the urge to learn new words out of the blue. Soran thought the same; it was about time for her to learn the commonly used languages in this world. Unlike dragons, which could awaken to all sorts of knowledge including languages, sorcerers could only awaken to new spells. Vivian only knew around several hundred words right now, but since she was a smart girl, she could most likely learn new things even faster than Soran.
The problem was that Vivian preferred doing things which she liked—after learning new vocabulary for a while, she would start yawning non-stop.
Unlike yesterday, the merchant squad was travelling at a slower pace today.
Vivian did not seem to be all that interested in learning vocabulary after all; she got drowsy after Soran taught her several tens of new words. She grumbled a bit, told Soran that they should continue next time, then began to fiddle with a plaything which was given to her by one of the merchants. In just a single day, Vivian was liked by most, if not all, members of the merchant squad and received some gifts and toys. The merchants gave her various things to play with, while the mysterious mistress gave her something which did not seem to fit her age: a deck of tarot cards with delicate designs. Vivian liked it nonetheless as she liked the fancy designs.
Just like that, half a day passed. The squad encountered groups of gnolls and goblins on the way, but none of them dared to attack as there were so many armed personnel in the squad. It was only when another commotion broke out that the squad finally stopped. Wanting to gain more Slaughter EXP, Soran walked toward the guards in front but was disappointed in the end.
The merchant squad had encountered a person: a solo adventurer who roamed the wilderness on his own.
He was a normal-looking middle-aged man with thick brows, short hair, and a square face. The solo adventurer wore a simple shirt made of grey cloth, with his arms wrapped in bandages while his legs were equipped with military leg straps. His equipment implied that he might have practiced in special combat styles or techniques such as Warcry, a skill which was similar to Lion Roar of the Shaolin martial art style. It was a skill which dealt damage to enemies through the shockwaves of one's shout.
When Soran saw the man from afar, the merchant guards were talking with him. Three dead gnolls laid nearby, all having fatal wounds which were clearly done with bare fists.
"A fist master?" Soran was rather shocked after seeing the man up close. Soran immediately put his hands together and lowered his head. "Is Master travelling alone?"
The middle-aged man returned Soran's respectful greeting in the same manner, lowering his head humbly. Noticing Soran's actions, the merchant guards loosened up a bit.
The head guard asked Soran in a small voice, "Who is this man? Our men witnessed him defeating three gnolls with his bare fists, and the rest of the gnolls fled."
Soran nodded, then explained, "He should be a fist master and an ascetic monk. These people tend to travel alone in the wilderness in order to train their bodies and wills."
After learning that the man was an ascetic monk, the head guard felt less tense, as most ascetic monks were not evil people.
Fist Master was an advanced profession for monks. Those who pursued this path abandoned the use of weapons completely and turned to using attacks which utilized their bodies. The powerful skill One-inch Punch was only available to the professions Fist Master and Divine Monk.
Monks were usually the type of people who preferred travelling alone in the wild because they had to toughen up their minds by going through difficult situations. Furthermore, they could feel the power of spiritual freedom, quiescence, and the origins of the world when travelling alone in tough conditions.
Monks who chose the path of becoming an ascetic monk also had to undergo the ritual of donating their properties to the poor. They believed donating most of their own riches and living a poor life could strengthen their willpower.
This was one of the professions which was heavily reliant on one's will; ascetic monks were immune to most charm and mind-affecting magic, and their willpower was top notch as they had given up materialistic desires.
Only a few would pursue the path of becoming an ascetic monk. They had to make a sacred oath, and they would suffer severe backlash if they went against that oath. If that happened, their combat prowess would drop significantly, and their willpower would be heavily damaged.
One out of ten monks would choose to become an ascetic, and only one out of ten ascetics could advance to the profession Ascetic Monk. Since ascetic monks discarded all items and money they come across, they could become fist masters and learn the greatest skill for all martial artists—Legendary One-inch Punch! .
Without the need for any weapon or protective gear, they fought with their bare hands and instincts. They also had extremely high magic defense, not to mention some very unique abilities and skills which could directly interfere with the elemental energies in the world. Those were all obtained through enduring hellish situations with their willpower.
Many ascetics gave up midway and became ordinary monks; not everyone could endure the temptations of the world. Once they gave up, it would be very unlikely that they would ever make another attempt.
Just like that, there was an additional member travelling along with the merchant squad. The monk was a taciturn person who seldom spoke and never actively engaged in conversation. It was nothing out of the ordinary though, as many ascetics would pretend to be mute and not talk for years.
At noon, the monk asked the merchant squad for food, and everyone was willing to provide some. Nonetheless, he rejected the meat and only ate rough black bread. It was not like they could not eat meat, but ascetics tended to eat the most basic meals after going on their journey to train themselves unless there were special circumstances.
Their journey of cultivation may last for years, and their strength would grow considerably every time they completed a journey. Many players had tried to do the same at first, but players were simply unable to endure the punishing process and would rather slay monsters for EXP to level up.
Monks were not rare in this world. Their method of cultivation was accepted by more and more people nowadays, and some even merged their style with that of sword saint and created a new profession: Weaponmaster.
The only difference between the two was that monks abandoned weapons and honed their bodies, while weaponmasters focused on the use of weapons and, as implied by the name, mastering them. They all had strong willpower, which even caused some priests to imitate their method of cultivation to reinforce their faith.
The monk was a rather inconspicuous person and did not talk with anyone along the way. He silently walked along with the merchant squad, rejecting the offers to give him a ride on horseback or a cart. Nonetheless, he was able to keep up with their pace and did not feel tired, most likely due to his exceptional stamina.
When the merchant squad stopped for the night in the evening, he did not request a tent and did not start a fire; all he did was sit down with his legs crossed and stay still.
The second day of their journey had passed peacefully. Apart from encountering the fist master, nothing worth mentioning occurred.
When Soran woke up the next day, the monk was still sitting on the rock. Some merchant guards were muttering among themselves while pointing at the monk, showing awed and surprised expressions. Even though they had all undergone harsh training to become warriors, their training was nothing as extreme as this. Only the head guard could sympathize with the monk, as he had gone through something similar as a Northern barbarian; he had to soak in freezing water in order to suppress the savage power of the skill Rage, and that training left him half dead every time.
As he had gone without moving a single bit throughout the night, the monk was covered in dew, and there was frost on his eyelashes and brows. Everyone present finally understood why Soran greatly respected the monk; this was obviously something only a handful could endure.
In fact, typical monks were very similar to warriors. It was just that ascetics took things to extremes and trained especially hard, forcing the latent potential within them to surface through hardships.
As a reference, a demon lord known as the Queen of Succubi resided in the Abyss. Many deities could not resist her charm magic, but Legendary Monks could brush it off like dust—this just went to show how strong their willpower was.
The fist master parted ways with the merchant squad at noon that day. Since the squad was closing in on a small town, they were already within range of Whiterun and were roughly two days from reaching their destination. During their journey, ascetics avoided crowded or populated places and preferred to roam in the wilderness, as it was void of human activity.
The monk planned to go to the gigantic falls in the Northwest and cultivate his strength there for a year. His aim was to awaken to the skill Empty Body and search for the trigger and opportunity to become a Legendary Monk, learning the skill which all monks yearned for—Perfect Self.
He barely conversed with others, and no one knew his name even after they parted ways. However, for some reason, he gave Vivian a thin book.
It was nothing like a book which instantly granted someone secret martial arts skills; nothing of the sort existed in this world in the first place. The book he gave Vivian was titled <<Bare-Handed Proficiency and Learning One-Inch Punch>>. Similar to <<Advanced Slashing Techniques and Searching for Weaknesses>> for warriors, <<Strengthening and Using Evocation Spells Flexibly>> for wizards, <<Effects of Faith on Divine Magic>> for priests, and <<The Holy Powers of Faith>> for paladins, it was a book which recorded the author's experiences. By following the training methods mentioned in this type of book, one could obtain additional abilities.
For example, a rogue could improve his Pick Lock ability after reading the book <<Special Lock Picking Techniques>> and might even learn the special ability Master Lock Picker if they were lucky.
The book the monk gave to Vivian recorded training methods which allowed one to gain the ability Bare-handed Combat Proficiency if they met the training requirements. By proceeding to the next stage in the book, the person could become a monk and even try and learn the skill One-inch Punch.
However, how could Soran let Vivian become a monk? The training was simply too harsh, which was why he immediately tossed the book into his multi-dimensional bag.
Vivian had the talent to become a sorcerer, so she should just become a sorcerer and live a comfortable life instead of becoming a monk. Soran would be extremely worried about Vivian if she stayed alone in the wilderness, and more importantly, he simply could not stand the idea of making Vivian suffer from such hardships.
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