16 Introductions

"Excellent! EXCELLENT!" the madman roared as patted Lex on the shoulders with gusto, shaking him to his very core. Marlo's cultivation was definitely very high. "I love it when a masochist joins the class! They have so much energy, so much vigor!"

"I'm not a masochist!" Lex quickly defended himself, but Marlo didn't seem to be paying attention.

"You can stop for today, I have other appointments to keep so I have to close down for now. The next class is on Saturday, I hope I'll see you there. That's when the fun really begins. Oh, and all faction and organization members are welcome to join my class except Ultimate Fighting Fortress." His expression suddenly darkened, and for a moment he seemed lost in thought, but quickly recovered. "So if you are planning on joining someone you should not be worried that coming to me might be a conflict of interest. My class has quite the reputation. In fact, if you pass my class before joining the army you can get recruited directly at the rank of Captain. It's quite beneficial."

"I don't plan on joining anyone at the moment," Lex said, rubbing his aching shoulders. "And I do plan on continuing your classes. I am very attached to my life, you know, I'd like to keep it if I can."

Marlo burst into a roaring laughter at Lex's comment, and gave Lex another pat on the back that sent him flying off the stage.

"That's the spirit! See you Saturday then. The full self-defense course costs $1.7 million, you can pay upfront or sign a working clause since you won't be having an organization sponsor you." Marlo walked away, still laughing , the floor trembling at his footsteps, with a line of minions following him.

Lex left, ignoring the fact that he had once again ripped his sneakers and tracksuit, thinking of ways he could recruit Marlo as a valet without revealing his identity. He seemed like a very straight forward man, but Lex would have to spend more time with him to figure out his personality completely. It was currently Thursday morning, so the next class was two days away. It was enough time for him to plan how to try and get closer to the excitable giant.

He returned home and went directly into the shower. It occurred to him that he wasn't hurt at all, and he was only sore where Marlo had patted him, whereas everyone else who had left the session looked considerably harmed. He smiled. Regal Embrace was already impressive, and it would only get better as he raised his cultivation.

The next two days went by quickly. Bastet and Falak still had not made an appearance and no one had used his golden key, so there was no progress there. He had however spent a lot of time planning on what he would take with him when he traveled to the other world for the first time. He didn't want to be too conspicuous so he had prepared a backpack with a first aid kit, a swiss army knife, a flashlight, some rations and a firestarter. He would add more things as he thought of them, and currently he was too poor or unqualified for Spirit Tech that might be useful. He had also spent more time trying to get used to his strength. He exercised for strength control and played video games for delicate control, trying to avoid breaking his controller (that's totally the only reason he pulled an all nighter playing games).

Finally Saturday morning he went back to Marlo's follow up class and surprisingly only two other people from the previous 15 showed up, a young woman Lex hadn't really talked with and surprisingly Larry. Larry was one of those who had been beaten till he passed out, and judging from his behavior before class Lex hadn't expected him to be so dedicated as to come back for another class. But here he was, bruised but smiling and trying to flirt with the woman.

"Lex my good man, good to see you again! I knew you were a tough one when I saw you, unlike all the others who ran away. Come come, let me introduce you. This is Matilda, she cleared her training last time pretty quickly."

"Hello," Matilda said, her tone very formal, as she looked at Lex. It was clear that although Larry had been trying to get closer to her, she didn't want to become too familiar. Matilda was a fair bit shorter than the two of them, and healthier too, but she had a handsome face.

"Is it just us or will more people come?" Lex asked after greeting Matilda, but Larry shook his head.

"I expect more won't join. Honestly, Marlo has a bit of a reputation. His training gets only tougher as it progresses and if you don't have a strong mentality you can't really get through. Most people just want to pass his class because you get better perks from your organization if you do, but passing it is not easy."

"Is that why you're here?" Lex asked. He was slightly curious about Larry now, and it wasn't a bad idea to try and develop a few connections of his own. A potential future army captain wasn't a bad person to know.

"Me? I guess you could just say I'm trying to make the most of my time..." Larry's usually chipper was laced with a tinge of defeat and exhaustion as he said so, but he quickly recovered as if nothing happened. "What about you, my talented fellow? When I left you were still taking quite the beating, I didn't think I'd see you again."

"I just want to learn how to defend myself. I don't know much about the cultivation world, but everything I've heard and seen makes me think it's a very dangerous place."

"INDEED!" came a roaring voice from behind them, followed by the hulking Marlo with his trademark grin. "Life is hard and living is harder. A man must know how to defend himself. A woman more so!"

Compared to last time, when Marlo was dressed casually, this time he came wearing a suit. His hair was properly kempt and he had a clean shave. Though his eyes were still filled with madness, he looked much more civilized.

"Once again I would like to welcome you to Marlo's Self Defense for new cultivators. Just by being here today, you have proven yourself worthy of the title of cultivators. Just by being here today, you have earned the right to tell me your names. Just by being here today you have earned the right to hear my self-introduction."

Marlo paused and took a look at his three future students, carefully studying each one of their faces as if he was etching them into his memory forever.

"You may have done your own research about me before joining this class, but nonetheless I will tell you a little bit about myself so you know whose hands you will be in in the future." He paused for a moment, looking at his small audience, before continuing with a hint of solemnity in his voice.

"My name is Hanson Marlo Bravi III. The III comes not from my family having predecessors with the same name, but is something I added myself for each time I faced death and emerged victorious. For each time I emerged a new, stronger man.

"The first time was when I was eight years old, and my village was attacked by a pack of jackals that had gone through spiritual awakening. For hours I escaped through the wilderness, sometimes running, sometimes tumbling, carrying a newborn child with me until I eventually ran into an army unit conducting training in the wild. I led them back to my village, only to discover nothing left. Only the child and I survived." He paused once again, his grin completely gone from his face this time as looked his three students in their eyes. He studied their expressions in silence, then he continued.

"The second time was when I was 28 years old, during the Australian Beast tide of 1981. A new Beast Alpha was expanding its territory and many other Alphas were using that opportunity to expand their own territories. I was a member of the Nosso private military at the time, and we were stationed near where the Beast Tide originated. Four days," Marlo paused again, to give emphasis to his words. "When the Beast Tide emerged our base was overwhelmed and for four days I was stuck in what was a red zone, surrounded by enraged beasts with no knowledge of what was going on as we had lost communication. Out of the entire army base, I was the only survivor. When the UN response team found me, I was hiding in the carcass of an Inner Core level beast that I had killed. At the time I had only just entered the Foundation Realm."

Larry visibly trembled when he heard Marlo and Matilda's complexion visibly paled. Lex was also quite shocked; an Inner Core level beast was equivalent to a Golden Core cultivator.

"The third time was during the war of 99 between Navo Corp. and the Pelican Sect in Western Europe. Navo Corp had provoked quite a few people here in the US as well, and I was acting as an escort for a diplomatic mission to France to see if we could potentially ally to put pressure on them, but were ambushed en route. 36 Golden Core experts against a team of 9. That incident later came to be known as The Day of the Red Dawn. Every time a Golden Core expert dies the sky is covered in a red hue by the spirit energy released from the body, and that day the sun rose to a red sky.

"Every time I've been closest to death, it was during something unforeseen. It was during something no one could have predicted, but that didn't change the fact that any of those incidents could have killed me. That is why a man must know how to defend himself, and how to survive. The world is a tough place and dying in it is the easiest thing to do, it's surviving and living on that's hard."

Next chapter