Chapter 70 Awakening Haki with Dracule Mihawk

When Rayleigh asked the Force about the castle's occupant, the answer he got gave him pause. The Force didn't actually talk, but it did assist in arranging certain concepts already within Rayleigh's head to arrive at a certain conclusion.

For example, Hawkeye Mihawk's full Name was Dracule Mihawk. For a name that sounded very much like Dracula in an anime, he definitely had to live in a dark and spooky castle. Something that somehow perfectly matched the castle in front of him.

Rayleigh started reciting his Force Code and a few moments later, the Empty Sword was in hand and he was reduced to the state of Zetsu with his Force completely cut off. Why? Because if he was going to cross swords with Mihawk, he would not use any skill but sword skill and the physique he had dedicated years to train and hone.

Rayleigh slid the Empty Sword into a makeshift leather sword holder at his side. He could keep one hand on the pommel to maintain his Training Enhanced State without looking like he was carrying the sword at all times. Rayleigh also got out the newspaper with his picture on the front and a 30 Million Berry Bottle of Wine he bought from St Poplar using the bounty he got from turning in the Six Claw Pirates. This was renowned as the best wine St Poplar offered and he had to use a Jedi Mind Trick and an additional 10 Million Berries to get the bottle since the store's current stock had a several year waiting list of reservations.

If he was going to ask a stranger for something, it would be rude beyond measure not to bring a gift. It wasn't like the scenario he purchased meant that Mihawk would teach him no matter what. Such scenarios still implied that Rayleigh had enough common sense to make it work.

However, when Rayleigh approached the door, the wild cry of a massive beast sounded from the air as a horde of creatures jumped at Rayleigh from one of the hills. Second Level Zetsu was not the same as Force Stealth. It just made him look like someone without any supernatural abilities to the supernatural sight of others. It did not make him less noticeable, and the wild beasts surrounding this castle certainly noticed him.

Without the Force to warn him, these creatures had gotten dangerously close. He honestly hadn't expected a mass of violent animals to be near what he assumed to be Mihawk's house. In the second stage of Zetsu he could not use the Force to push them away or aura to block or intimidate them. One hand was holding one of the most expensive wines in the sea wrapped in a newspaper and the other was on the pommel of an indestructible sword that would break if it drew blood.

Still, he'd been in worse positions. Some of those Tavern Missions were truly insane.

In a single smooth motion, Rayleigh flicked the Empty Sword from its holder, grabbed it, and swung it at the first creature descending at him. It seemed to be a mandrill of some kind, but about ten times larger, and for some reason, it wore armor that fit quite well and had a battle axe in hand.

Like a professional baseball player, Rayleigh swatted the mandrill into the sky using the flat of his blade. This was another advantage of conjuring a physical sword instead of using his old Nensaber.

A shift of a few steps and a jump allowed Rayleigh to dodge the next mandrill and two clean cuts sliced off the straps of the armor it wore. The kick to its unarmored gut that followed dropped the mandrill to its knees as several more jumped at him with an assortment of weapons.

Rayleigh cut the armor and weapons the mandrills used to pieces and then kicked or swatted them with the side of his blade. Their numbers seemed to increase, going from ten to thirty. Rayleigh didn't even notice the smile that appeared on his face. Still, without wearing his usual Nen-Enhanced weight set, this level of activity was too easy. If Mihawk made him fight these guys in the future, Rayleigh would have to put on an appropriate level of weight to ensure he gained something from them.

Most of the mandrills he swatted ran back into the fight since he really couldn't launch them that far with just his physical strength, but his kicks and the thrusts of his sword's pommel into the mandrill's guts sent them down and kept them down. From the many discolored hairs on these animals, Rayleigh could tell that they could survive blade wounds pretty easily, but penetrating wounds that made your organs hurt required a day for normal people to recover from and at least an hour for physically superior beasts to recover from. This was something he learned as a Hunter.

A few minutes later, about forty or so mandrills lay groaning on the ground. None were dead or even bleeding, just in a lot of pain. With such a scene as a backdrop, Rayleigh slid the Empty Sword back into its holster and walked the remaining distance to the castle door's path before knocking three times.

Coincidentally, or not due to the BS that is Force GPS, Rayleigh had caught one of the very few times a year when Mihawk was actually home. The smacking of Rayleigh's sword against the armor of the humandrills was loud enough to catch the number one swordman's attention and most of the fight had been witnessed through the castle's window.

A few moments later, the world's number one swordsman, opened the door wearing a somewhat frilly nobleman's shirt while holding a glass of wine.

The first thing that anyone would notice upon meeting the man was his piercing yellow eyes. His eyebrows and mustache were almost swords unto themselves and even without a sword in hand, Rayleigh could feel the pressure of the man's strength just from meeting his gaze.

Rayleigh politely spoke up, "Eleven years ago I asked if you would teach me the sword. You refused, saying you would not teach a no name who knows nothing of the sword and to find you again when that had changed. Since then, I have learned everything I can about the sword and I am no longer a no name."

Rayleigh then presented Mihawk with the wine bottle and the newspaper it was wrapped in. It was only for an instant, but Rayleigh recognized the extremely slight dilating of Mihawk's pupils when he saw the bottle's top. The cork of the bottle was sealed using a very unusual wax that would not melt again after solidifying. It was also a unique color that could not be imitated. This acted as a security seal to ensure that others could not use the empty bottle to fake this product, and any wine expert would recognize this wine from the color of the wax on the bottle alone.

Mihawk looked at Rayleigh, then at the bottle, then at Rayleigh, then at the bottle again. Mihawk then took a step outside and looked over the groaning humandrills once more. While outside, he tossed the wine glass away and swiftly grabbed the bottle and newspaper from Rayleigh while re-entering his castle, leaving the door open for Rayleigh to follow.

Without saying a word, Mihawk pointed toward a waiting area for Rayleigh to sit while he went to his kitchen to get a fresh glass.

Mihawk returned a few moments later and set the paper on the waiting area's table before he set the wine bottle and a single glass down and reached into his shirt, pulling out a cross. He pulled out the long end of the cross which turned out to be the sheathe of a small dagger. He used it as a wine opener to pop the bottle's cork. Doing so caused all the wax around the cork to shatter like shards of crystal. Mihawk then poured himself a glass and picked up the paper to silently read.

Rayleigh was tentatively positive so far. Mihawk had not said anything yet, but he hadn't refused either. Rayleigh figured Mihawk was deciding if he was going to kill him or not, but the wine wasn't a fake and the story was of him using a sword on the Grand Line Newspaper's first page.

After taking a moment to let the wine breathe, he took a drink and let out a content sigh. He then took his time reading the paper before setting it down and stated, "I remember you now. You have grown much, but your eyes are the same. Tell me, why is it that you wish to learn from me?"

Rayleigh answered honestly, "Because I wish to become stronger than you."

Mihawk asked with feigned amusement, "Oh? You desire my title for yourself?"

Rayleigh shook his head. "That is not my goal. Even if, one day I surpass you, I will not stop training. I'm not simply looking for the title of the world's number one swordsman. My goal is to become the strongest, using the sword."

A pressure emerged from Mihawk that quickly got stronger, stronger, and stronger still. Rayleigh had essentially insulted him. Rayleigh implied that even if Mihawk was the strongest swordsman, Mihawk was not the strongest. He implied that the titles of the Strongest and the Strongest Swordsman were different, and Mihawk only possessed the latter while Rayleigh aimed for the former.

With a towering amount of pressure that dwarfed what Wild King had tried on him, Rayleigh felt as if a Godzilla-sized titan with burning eyes had all its attention on him, demanding that he submit or be crushed with a force that he could not possibly think to win against.

Mihawk spoke again, every word sending another wave of pressure, "Do you think yourself worthy of such a goal?" Mihawk had never stopped training either. He was always looking for opponents, but had been stymied by a lack of supply within his reach.

Rayleigh's eighteen Wills stood completely firm. He met the number one swordsman's gaze and firmly stated, "I know I am."

The pressure lessened and vanished. Mihawk took another sip of wine and asked, "Why have you not learned Haki?" For a man of such willpower, it should not have been difficult for someone like this to use Haki. He had seen many of Rayleigh's generation use Haki and figured that Rayleigh was another one of those geniuses.

"Because I wanted to learn it from you. Although I learned the theory, I have not practiced it because what I learned was not from you."

Mihawk smirked for a moment before stating, "Interesting. What have you heard about Haki?"

Reciting what he heard from Dragon Chef, Rayleigh repeated, "Mind over Matter taken to the extreme. There are three kinds of Haki. Observation Haki comes from understanding death and enhances your perception. Armament Haki comes from understanding life and enhances your body by overlapping your sense of self with your body to grant your body greater defense or offense. And Conqueror's Haki comes from understanding loss and allows you to infuse your desire to win into your battle."

Mihawk twirled the wine in his glass for a moment before setting it down and stating. "Very well. Your attainment in the sword is adequate, so I will give you a few lessons when I have the time. Whoever told you about Haki did not deceive you, but they only possess a very shallow insight into its depths, so this will be your first lesson. Haki does not have three types. All Haki is the same Haki, but few use it fully. Haki is the power of the world and all that it contains."

Mihawk pondered over his next words before continuing, "What most people call Observation Haki is simply a mind that has opened itself up to the senses of the world and can interpret those senses in some small way to grant insight beyond the physical senses. What most people call Armament Haki is simply a body that has opened itself up to the flow of the world and can channel that flow through their body in some small way to grant greater physical capabilities. Conqueror's Haki is a combination of the two and allows its users to sense, control, and command the world around them, but doing so requires bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders, something that only a King can do. That is why it is referred to as Conqueror's Haki. Haki has three levels. Awareness, Low Level, and High Level. Some say there is a Master stage above that, but I believe anyone who thinks that they have mastered the world is a fool."

After checking to make sure that Rayleigh was following, Mihawk continued, "Next I will discuss swordsmanship. In order to qualify as a true swordsman, you must have complete control over every muscle of your body, also called the stage of Minute Subtlety. This is the stage you have reached and where most swordsmen stay for the rest of their lives. Above the Swordsman stage is the Great Swordsman stage. A Great Swordsman can imbue the flow of the world within their sword to strengthen their cuts and send flying slashes. More than ninety percent of those who rise beyond the Swordsman stage never reach past the Great Swordsman stage. And finally, above the Great Swordsman is the Swordmaster. A Swordmaster can interpret the breath of all things in the world and intrinsically understand how to imbue the flow of the world into their body and sword to allow them to cut through anything. Of course, this is only where the true road of swordsmanship starts and I do not believe it has an end."

After Mihawk finished his glass, he seemed to consider refilling it, but he resisted the temptation and put the cork back. Even without the wax, it was still a mostly airtight seal and would be fine to drink slowly over the course of the next several weeks.

Mihawk finished his explanation, "Many think Swordsmanship and Haki are two different things, but mastering swordsmanship requires mastering Haki. They are one in the same."

Rayleigh pointed out, "I noticed that there are hardly any Swordmasters in the Marines besides Captain Bogard."

Mihawk nodded absently, "Yes, it is deliberate. If they understood the truth about Swordsmanship and Haki, many Vice Admirals may have reached the level of a Swordmaster. The World Government has taken measures over the centuries to ensure this misunderstanding is propagated. Only those trained to be Royal Guards from birth are taught the truth. Every Royal Guard in training either becomes a swordmaster or dies."

He continued, "Those who learn Haki from the disseminated propaganda will have difficulties overcoming their preconceived notions, even if they discern the truth later on. Outside the World Government, only those who have awakened it themselves, free of the false scriptures, have any chance of reaching the apex of the world."

Rayleigh asked, "What about you? Did you awaken it on your own or learn the other way and figure out the truth later."

Mihawk did not answer, but the silence spoke volumes of its own. No matter how many new things you learn about something, the first impression will never quite fade. Perhaps there was a reason that Mihawk had not been able to get stronger on his own for a while.

Mihawk picked up the wine bottle and took it to a wine cabinet to place inside before motioning for Rayleigh to follow him into another room. There, Mihawk took out his famous blade, Yoru.

Mihawk stated, "Your first exercise is to awaken your Haki by opening up your mind to the senses of the world. This is Yoru. I will advise you not to pick it up. Do so and you will die."

Rayleigh asked, "You kill anyone who touches your sword?"

Mihawk shook his head. "No. I have spent many years using Conqueror's Haki to pour the power of the world into this blade. It was not originally black. Any blade can become a black blade once it becomes saturated with the power of the world. The black color comes from the blade's innate nature to reject the world due to this saturation, a trait that can only be obtained when it has retained enough of the world's power even when not in use. If you try and hold it, the power of the world within it will likely try to kill you. This is a common occurrence when black blades are used by those other than the original wielder who blackened them."

Rayleigh asked, "Okay, so what do you want me to do with it?"

Mihawk answered, "Simply being in the same room as this sword will cause its pressure to affect you. If you meditate on this pressure, you should be able to use it as a key to unlock your awareness of the senses of the world. Make sure to forget about the misconceptions told to you by others. If you have any expectations on what you will awaken, it may limit you. The world is without limit and so is its power. Do not make the same mistake that has pre-emptively ended the journey of so many before you. Your next lesson will be after you have awakened your Haki."

With that, Mihawk left the room. Since he did not show Rayleigh where he could sleep, Ray guessed that Mihawk intended for him to stay here until he unlocked his Haki.

Before sitting down and meditating, Rayleigh opened up his backpack to take something else out, a certain rust-colored metal head. "Did you get all that HK?"

[Analysis. Very little of the sword using meatbag's statements made any logical sense.]

"So you got nothing then?"

[Extrapolation. I did not say that Master. For the content of the meatbag's words to compute, then this Haki may be a watered-down version of the Force. It is weaker in some senses, but in others, it is much, much stronger. The Force contains echoes of those who use it and those who have died. Haki does not. The echoes within the Force limit what you can easily do with it, Haki does not possess the same limit. Much of the power of the Force is wasted when used, while Haki seems quite efficient in its usage.]

"So do you have any advice for awakening it?"

[Recommendation. If awakening it with a limited mindset limits its usage, then you should abandon the limited concept of 'World.' If it is similar to the Force, then the power of Haki is not limited to this small, excessively wet, sphere of rock. Rather than being limited to just the power of a single world, perhaps you are able to use the power of the galaxy, the universe, the multiverse, or even the omniverse.]

Rayleigh replied, "Ambitious. But don't you think that's a bit much?"

[Statement. Only if you are lacking the willpower to pull it off.]

A slow smile spread to Rayleigh's lips at the blatant provocation. In either case, HK-47 had a point. He had no way of knowing if there was an over-arching limit to the concept of the World, so it was better to assume that there was not. Would it make a difference? Maybe. Would he risk it and settle for the weaker, lesser definition and potentially limit his future? Nope.

Mihawk's first lesson was already valuable enough to justify the effort to come here. Had he really tried to awaken Haki using what he learned from Dragon Chef, it may have had consequences further down the road. It wasn't his fault though. He was thirteen at the time and didn't know any better.

Rayleigh did wonder if just the wine alone was enough for a lesson and everything had been a waste and he was conned by the Tavern, but such negative thoughts would not grant him any benefits, so it was better to concentrate on the current assignment.

According to the Players, you could easily awaken your Haki just by getting attacked with Haki over and over again. The pressure of this sword could be equated to a Haki attack. Rayleigh was tempted to use Psychometry on it, Black Blade or not, but the fact that Mihawk may have ventured too long down the wrong path gave him pause. In the end, he decided to set the foundation of his own swordsmanship first, and then pile on the styles of others.

Yoru itself was a beautiful two meter long cutlass with gems encrusted into the hilt, and Mihawk's explanation of its black origin made it slightly terrifying. There were many different Sci-Fi ways to split matter. Monomolecular edge, creating a force barrier that can slide between atoms, using space to displace molecular arrangements, and having an edge that existed in another dimension before entering this dimension between the atoms to split them to cause the cut to appear after the slice were all possible choices. Mihawk's sword was an entirely different monster.

According to Mihawk, a Black Blade rejected the world. That essentially meant that when this blade was swung, the world would give way around it. This wasn't a scientific explanation, in fact, it made no sense at all. If matter was a massive, fully packed crowd of normal people, then Yoru was a giant scar covered soldier openly carrying hundreds of weapons that got everyone's attention. When he walked through the crowd, the crowd would move to the side on their own to avoid getting in his way.

Rayleigh rubbed the pommel of the Empty Sword and got a good feeling about being able to make a Black Blade of his own.

Out of curiosity, Rayleigh swung his Empty Sword at Yoru's edge. It bounced off. If one truly looked with a microscope, one would have seen that the bounce occurred before the swords made contact.

The reason was that the Conjured Sword had a continuous rule of not breaking as long as Rayleigh stayed in his Second Stage Zetsu, stayed in physical contact with the sword, and the sword did not draw blood. Even if Yoru's presence made anything move around it, Rayleigh's Empty Sword ignored that presence due to the rule, so the rejection affected the entirety of the sword, causing it to bounce away instead of getting sliced.

The problem was that the indestructibility condition of the Empty Sword could not be passed to the Sword of Babylon. A Hatsu could not simply do anything you wanted it to, there had to be a balance between the effect and the cost. The Empty Sword's inability to be destroyed came at the cost of making it unable to destroy others (who had blood) and making it easier for Rayleigh to be destroyed (but also easier for him to train). This was common to all Hatsus that had an indestructible condition, it could not be used to hurt others. Disadvantage others, yes. Protect themselves, of course. But harm? Nope.

Thankfully, even if he could not make his Sword of Babylon indestructible, there should be no problem with warding off the power of the world using the power of the world. Moreover, his Sword of Babylon was an Enhancement Hatsu disguised as a Materialization Hatsu. He already figured out how to use the sword to enhance his Force abilities, so he should be able to do the same with his Haki abilities.

With all this in mind, Rayleigh crossed his legs, placed the empty sword on his knees with a hand over the guard, and began to meditate.

In the second stage of Zetsu, Rayleigh could not feel even the tiniest bit of the Force, but his actual physical senses were enhanced. Very much like Gon was able to dodge numerous Aura-saturated tops while in a state of zetsu, having no form of energy come from you would make it easier to feel other forms of energy around you.

In this state, Ray could distinctively feel the uncomfortable pressure of the sword. He could feel his five senses try to make sense of the pressure that did not match any feeling he could assign a name to.

While trying to feel out this pressure, he visualized the world around him. Then he visualized the stars and space around the world. Then the galaxy around those and the multitude of galaxies around them. He imagined planes of overlapping Universes and then he imagined groups of these overlapping Universes inside marbles that were separated from each other. He tried to imagine that all of it was contained within his senses, all of it was within his reach.

Rayleigh used this image to dive into the Ten of Point state from Nen of Flame, allowing him to focus his entire being into this image, this concept.

Rayleigh's stomach interrupted him from his zenned-out state, but he didn't know how much time had passed. What he did notice though, was his expanded senses.

The first word that came to mind was synesthesia. Synesthesia is a condition where one sense is affected by another, like seeing certain colors in the air when hearing certain sounds or tasting something specific when seeing a certain color. Except, instead of one sense affecting another, it was like all the senses were being affected by a previously unknown sixth sense.

It was possible to ignore it. It didn't reduce the quality of his existing senses, but seemed to allow them to give him more information than he had previously obtained using them.

In this new state of awareness, Yoru seemed to be burning. Just being near it made him feel like he was being burnt, but not actually hot. Looking at it made him feel like it was covered in raging flames, but it did not glow. Well, he could just as accurately say that it felt like he was freezing and it looked really cold. He didn't have an adjective in mind to use to describe what it felt like. It was simply, more. Compared to everything else, it just seemed like it was more. Everything else looked plain, boring, practically in black and white compared to Yoru.

Was this what a saturation of the power of the world looked like? No wonder everything got out of its way. Rather than a scary-looking weapon-covered soldier, it was more like a movie star that people recognized and moved out of the way of due to a feeling of inferiority.

Rayleigh felt/heard/saw something that made him turn to the door a moment before it opened. Mihawk was staring at him, his piercing gaze giving another measurement of him. Over his white shirt, Mihawk now wore a long black coat and hat with a hawk's feather. He walked past Rayleigh and picked up his sword before stating, "Your next lesson awaits."

Predictably, Mihawk escorted him outside and said, "The Humandrills will make fine opponents for you to practice understanding your new senses." He passed over a long strip of black cloth and from what Rayleigh heard the Players explain, he knew that his next training session would be done blind folded, using only his newly acquired synesthesia to avoid the attacks of those giant weapon wielding monkeys.

Mihawk continued, "If you cannot avoid all of their attacks, then you may run. Find your own food in the forest. I do not cook for others. Once you can predict their attacks without looking at them, you can return for the next lesson."

"Can I ask what those humandrill things are?"

"Hmm. Humandrills are the species that imitate humans most easily. If they live in an area filled with peaceful humans, they themselves become peaceful. This island was once home to a nation that tore itself apart in a series of pointless wars. The humandrills of this island have observed the battles of these wars and learned how to use weapons and wage war themselves. Using the skill of a human and the strength of a beast, they are competent sparring partners that become more skilled as they witness stronger fights."

Rayleigh nodded before heading off. He wasn't looking for the humandrills, but for food. He'd likely find the former while looking for the latter anyways.

Instead of putting on a blindfold, Rayleigh took off his shoes, socks, and shirt before closing his eyes. Memories of Typhon came flooding back. Rayleigh had learned the secrets of the Force from the Temples of Tython, but he had trained those secrets using the wilds of Typhon. He felt like he was returning to his roots.

Eyes closed, Rayleigh stepped forward, one step at a time into the forest. He never used shoes on Typhon, only using the Force Skill: Temperature Control to avoid burns or frostbite. The climate here was muggy and damp, but neither cold nor hot, so he wouldn't need the same precautions here. He just had to keep his feet dry when he was resting and the rest would take care of itself.

Although Rayleigh wasn't an Earthbender like Toph, the synesthesia of the ground on his feet and the wind against his torso added all kinds of effects to his senses that he tried to organize and label.

His skin felt something that sounded like the thrumming of a drum on his chest that got louder and louder. Rayleigh jumped to the side as a heavy thump was both heard and felt from whatever had just tried to jump him. The humandrill noticed Rayleigh's eyes were closed and roared madly. An inaudible sound like nails on a chalkboard was accompanied by a whip-like sensation across Rayleigh's chest causing him to sidestep the swing of the humandrill's axe. Since Rayleigh was no longer without a free hand, he stepped forward with a heavy stomp and thrust a palm at the giant monkey's armored torso. Even if it weighed ten times what Rayleigh did, the strike was enough to eject the sword-wielding ape to a nearby tree where it crashed partially through, causing the tree to fall on top of it.

Rayleigh nodded with satisfaction. This was like a new language. As someone who trained for years in communicating with the Force, learning new languages, especially ones like this, was already hard-wired into his brain. He just needed to figure out what each new sense implied, and then further break it down into more information. This was pure computation and since he had been severed from his constant connection to the Force, his brain was practically starving for input and his Wills jumped at the chance to meticulously analyze every sensation, every feeling, and every subtle instinct.

With his experience using the Force as a basis, his instinct on the general meaning of each new sense was fairly on point. Another learning this language would have little choice but to rely on trial and error, figuring out what each new sense meant and then remembering it for the next time it was felt.

His body heard warnings, his ears felt danger, his balance tasted the surroundings, and his nose saw the world in colors he could not hope to describe. It was very psychedelic.

Some of his wills pitied the Jedi Players who wanted to learn Haki. Rayleigh's ability to cut himself off completely from the Force may not have been unique, but it was not a skill any Sith or Jedi would ever teach or learn. With the constant background noise of the Force deafening the senses, gaining the awareness of a new sense would be far more difficult. It would be like having a dozen stereos on blast and then a single stereo at the minimum volume and then ask someone to write down the lyrics of the song from that nearly silent one.

Pirate Players may encounter the same issue learning the Force if they do not form a Master Apprentice Bond with someone in the Jedi Galaxy or with another Player.

After a few dozen more humandrills were left groaning in his wake, Rayleigh found a stream and stepped inside to get a feel of the water on his feet and determine how to use this new sense to fish for dinner.

It was not to be though as a humandrill ten times larger than the previous ones standing four stories in height even when slouched over walked out of the forest. Had Rayleigh's eyes been open, he would have seen that this king of beasts carried an imitation of Mihawk's Yoru, though it was somehow twenty meters in length and thankfully not dyed black.

Without opening his eyes, Rayleigh lifted his head up to face the monkey king's direction. He couldn't help but smile.