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Refinement Nº 1 - Strength and Striking

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Living amongst the nomads, I found the focus I needed to turn my indignant rage into something more beneficial. What I required, above all else, was power. To make the morally right choice, a man needed the capacity to back up his bluffs, to hold spare cards in the event that negotiations failed. Before, as the Knave, if I were ever confronted with a superhumanly durable foe, there was little I could do save for retreat. After my awakening in Asia, however, that changed.

What was more essential to breaking through natural barriers before me was the belief that I was able. I stopped quantifying my surroundings, stopped telling myself what I was attempting could not be done. This was no martial art; it was a frame of mind. To surrender to the impossible, to harness it, and make it my weapon.

... trial the nomad gave me was to transport a massive boulder up a hill. I asked him how much it weighed, and he simply replied "heavy."

He smiled and left me to my work, likely chuckling on the inside as I began to inspect the rock. The man had specified that I transport the boulder intact, so shattering it to carry the pieces to the peak of the plateau was out of the question. I began by getting a grip underneath, straining desperately to shift it...all to no avail. Ten minutes of attempting to find a handhold, only for the obstacle not to budge.

I repeated the attempt, this time using the back of my hand as a lever of sorts. Again, failure. Constant attempts to find new solutions resulted only in pain and approached frustration. Yet, determined as I was to prove to the nomadic monk that I could move the boulder, I realized that such external motivations would result only in failure. I took the task before me, prescribed as it was, and made it my own. I would not move the boulder for his sake, or to impress anyone; I would do it for myself. Thus, I believed I could move the boulder. I owed myself that.

After the nomad discovered the boulder resting atop the mountain, he congratulated me for my efforts. The test was meant to teach students that there were some tasks they simply could not accomplish, to the end that they would learn humility. He shrugged.

"I suppose the test demands a bigger rock," he told me, unflappable as always. "Perhaps we'll have the next student try to move the mountain."


...just as the strength to hoist the boulder came from internal focus, so did my capacity to shatter solid objects using my palms. I recalled the innateness of the universe around me, the intrinsic connections my body felt to the world I stood upon. Illusory or not, I felt the power to envision the structural composition of objects in my immediate vicinity, the arrangement of matter composing my world laid bare before my young blue eyes.

My task was to shatter stone. I did so calmly, for days on end. The stone grew harder, as did my hands. What time passed I could not say, though I estimate it was anywhere between a week and a month. The repetitiveness of the trial was dulled by introspection, my mind retreating from my body back into a fortress of my own construction. Immune from exhaustion, I simply conducted myself among the stones, lifting some far over my head to bring them down on the ground, or simply slashing at them with the sides of my hands.

By the time I'd returned, collapsing a "brick" metahuman's ribcage with a palm strike was a casual matter...