Martial Arts Master Chapter 11-20

Chapter 11: The Current Top Three

Filled with aim and desire, Lou Cheng was not only brimming with anticipation for the next day's martial arts special training, but he also became extremely hard working in class. It was like he was making up for the time wasted, trying to gain as much knowledge as possible. His abnormal behavior set Cai Zongming's tongue wagging. He started to batter Lou Cheng's efforts relentlessly. Cai Zongming mocked that Lou Cheng was doing all these just to woo a girl. He referred to Lou Cheng as the perfect example of how the male gender operated
- with natural instinct, controlled by hormones, constantly saying that Lou Cheng had betrayed their revolutionary principles, leaving himself to stand for them alone.

Once the evening session of "Introduction to Calculator" ended, Lou Cheng returned to his bedroom and logged into the school administration website. Just as he had expected, his class schedule was adjusted - completely free in the mornings, totally packed in the afternoons and evenings, except for Thursdays, when he could probably get some rest in the evening.

"Just another Senior Year in high school!" he mumbled under his breath, clenching his fists with determination. Since he had already taken a shower after martial arts class, using water from the thermos flask, he wiped his face briefly, soaked his feet, brushed his teeth, rejected Cai Zongming's and Tang Wen's invitation to an online game, and finally crawled into bed early to prepare for tomorrow.

Lou Cheng's day did not start at 8 a.m., the time for special training, but at 7 a.m., a time that he had set for himself, just like his high school days. He was not satisfied with the Yin- Yang Stance practice today. He hardly got a kick out of it before Geezer Shi asked them to stop. According to Geezer Shi, most beginners wouldn't be able to handle longer sessions. Since the session on the following day would probably be the same, Lou Cheng decided to start practicing 40 minutes earlier.

Lying in bed before falling asleep, out of habit he remained glued to his mobile phone for a while, logging onto QQ and chatting, continually refreshing the forum page of "Longhu Club".

On the forum page, a post decorated with special highlights carried a title that read:

"Dong Baxian: I, one of today's top three!" "Bullcrap, such arrogance..." Lou Cheng mocked at the title and clicked to read the post. It was an interview with Dong Baxian, chief master of Yanzhao League.

Dong Baxian, a First Pin, had been a powerful force for many years. Before the rise of the Legendary Twins, he received four titles, among which there were two championships. Hence, people called him the "Warrior King." He was infamous for his proud and overbearing character, but because he possessed the abilities that gave him the right to be, the people could not help but had a love-hate relationship with him. They either liked him to the stage of idolization or just disliked him to the core.

In the interview, he haughtily said: "Except the Masters of Restriction, I am among current world's top three!"

Here, at the Longhu Club's forum, the majority were the "Dragon King" Qitao's fans. So, what about the comments that would follow such a post? Lou Cheng could already predict.

As expected, "Pig-Riding Knight", the forum moderator, started the ball rolling, "Yao Ming and I are somewhat 1.9 m on average. Although I dislike Gentleman Qian, I have to say that, after the Master of Restriction, he and Dragon King can be considered to be of the same rank. What Dong Baxian is saying is the same as stealing their positions."

"Sun" sent a laugh-till-drop expression and wrote: "Actually Dong Baxian is not wrong to say that he is top three. Taking away Dragon King and 'fake' Gentleman Qian, even if we add those foreign experts, he does have a chance at being number one. So from this logical angle, he is right about being top three. The only thing is that it's just too funny sounding LOL."

This was coming from a girl with great influence on the forum who was a hugely popular figure and would upload selfies from time to time. Even if it was a half-face photo, there would be almost 100 responses, more than on the posts of the forum moderator, "Pig-Riding Knight".

"Outspoken", the one who recommended that Lou Cheng started jogging to improve his fitness level, commented. "Pfft! Just take a look at yourself in the mirror. From Dragon King's first title till now, how many have Dong Baxian got? Just one! There is only one 'Master' title! And that was only because Dragon King and 'fake' Gentleman had fought so hard, that both sides could no longer fight. He got it easy!" "No Hooligans" commented, "Dong Baxian - one can never expect him to be humble, never in this life. He is not that much of a master and can only maintain his current position through shameless boasting."

For a response with such character, Lou Cheng sniggered and replied, "Talent with words!"

"Do not do rogue" and "Okamoto's Fan" were both old hands, always plowing around with dirty jokes. Recently they had been busy teasing another high profile member with a feminine sounding ID - "Beautiful World."

"No Hooligans" replied to Lou Cheng almost instantly. "Haha, I am not talented, but "Quit Gambling Bar" and the other old Bros are. These are the words of their spiritual leader, Qie Guevara. I only borrowed them."

"Quit Gambling Bar?" Lou Cheng asked, clueless about what he was referring to. "No Hooligans" commented, "You haven't seen that video? A thief was caught and when he was interviewed he said: Never expect me to work and do cheap jobs, never in this life. If you asked me why not start a business, I don't know how to run one either. Only with stealing can I maintain my life like that. Going into the lockups is like returning home to me... His reply was so amusing and it went viral. Because it sounded like the revolutionist Che Guevara, so they called him Qie[1] Guevara , and the 'Quit Gambling Bar' old Bros regarded him as their spiritual leader."

"Okamoto's Fan" added on, "Quit Gambling Bar is a place for people to quit gambling, but once a bunch of gambling addicts comes together, the topic will be how to win money. They call themselves old Bros, even when they are in hundreds in debt, they can still be like a sloth at home, posting comments on such forms. When we say hundreds, we mean hundreds of thousands. Even when they are running from creditors, they can still be fooling around, and then, we can only say: Bro, such swag! I often visit that bar, because they are simply too witty, too entertaining."

"I Love Feng Xiaomang" chimed in, "Don't lead Schrodinger’s Tiger astray! He is only a college freshman. Anyway, I adore the Bros in Quit Gambling Bar, their most quote-worthy line is: Since I managed to borrow money with my ability, why should I return it?"

Lou Cheng could not hold back. "Totally reasonable, I cannot argue."

Then, "Dumplings for Sale", a girl, asked Lou Cheng. "How was your first class at the Martial Arts Club, Little Tiger?"

"The new coach was superb. He went straight into teaching us Thunder Sect's Yin-Yang Stance." Lou Cheng answered, somewhat flaunting his achievements. Of course, he did not mention that he successfully mastered Remain in One.

"Who knows! Perhaps, Little Tiger, you'll be our forum's first expert! (pat on the shoulder)!" "Dumplings for sale" jokingly said.

The boastful "Road to the Arena" jeered, "Here we go, a traitor you'll be!" The discussion topics were changing so rapidly with everyone chipping a little into the chaos with each post. It was rare for Lou Cheng to become the talk of the town, literally the talk of the forum. He should have an interest in the conversations but slowly, his eyelids got heavier and heavier. "Jindan" could replenish his energy and get rid of physical fatigue but it could not soothe his tired mind that had gone through a hectic day.

With great effort, Lou Cheng set his alarm and fell asleep with his fingers still tightly wrapped around his mobile phone.

The next day, at 6:40 a.m., five minutes before the start of Lou Cheng's usual high school day, he stirred awake. He switched off his alarm before it went off, saving his roommates an unnecessary early morning.

After washing up, he quietly put on a fresh set of martial arts suit and stepped out of the dormitory. He dashed past the big gates of the yard and ran to the Weishui Lake. The scent of morning dew was invigorating. "Ah, the beautiful world! Ah, the amazing morning air! " Throwing out the two poetic lines in good spirit, Lou Cheng ran into the quietness and vastness of nature. Only upon looking closely, we could see flashes of the book-devouring brainiacs in the midst of his shadows.

Upon reaching the lakeside, he looked for a quiet spot. At first, he wanted to just with the standing stance, then he looked at the waters and felt inspired. He faced the lake and bowed three times respectfully, mumbling softly.

"I do not know who was the senior who left the Jindan, but your junior, I, was lucky to receive it. This is our affinity, and I promise you, one day, when I have accomplished something in martial arts, and can cut and go through water, I will look for your remains and give you the grand burial and prayers you deserve!"

Mimicking how the characters in the novels would speak, he made a promise to the original owner of the "Jindan".

After the little ceremony to his benefactor, he positioned himself for the Yin-Yang Stance with his feet steady apart and both arms up for the concealment of spirit and qi. He started to meditate, slowly letting his body follow and absorb the changes that come with the subtle moves of gravity and his core.

As time passed by, he gradually grasped the skill of keeping these changes under control within himself. It was like he could master absolute control of his body through his mind very soon.

Endless mountains, endless waters of the lake!

Completely immersed in his surroundings, Lou Cheng did not know how much time had passed. The only thing that he was waiting for was the second alarm to ring, reminding him that special training was about to start.

Suddenly, his heart skipped a beat and his eyes flew open. In front of him, there was a face, old and wrinkly, with a pair of blurry eyes staring straight at him.

Shocked, Lou Cheng almost threw a fist out, but stopped in time. He recognized this face. "Cc-co-coach Shi, why are you here?" he asked, stammering in his speech.

Grinning widely, Geezer Shi said, "Why can't I be here? Yesterday I noticed that you entered into the state of meditation without much problem. Hehe, if it were not for your lack of muscles and weakly built, I would have thought that you had learned the highest level tactic - faking. I only learned how to soften my aggressiveness and mastered this skill at the age of 30!"

Lou Cheng could not argue, he laughed dryly and said, "I am also clueless how I managed to do it. I just put my mind to the Dantian and I could enter meditation."

The coach noticed that he managed to enter into meditation! Fortunately, he had not noticed the "Jindan" within Lou's body.

"It shows that you have a natural gift for this." Geezer Shi's suddenly darkened. "Do you want to enter the actual martial arts circle in the future? Do you want to achieve Professional Ninth Pin within one or two years?" "Everyone has their own path to take, and it is not necessarily the martial arts..." a thought flashed across Lou Cheng's mind. Then, he remembered the crowd's and Yan Zheke's excitement and admiration when Lin Que won the duel. Without any hesitation, Lou Cheng declared his determination.

"Yes!"

"Coach, do you have a way to achieve this?"

"Of course, but you have to be my disciple first." Geezer Shi proudly added. "And, you have to keep this in mind. Practicing martial arts is as good as swimming against the currents. Even if you are gifted, once you lose your momentum and become complacent, it will be impossible for you to get the Professional Ninth Pin within two years. There's no guarantee for anything. I can give you a kickstart as your master, but everything else, including success, lies with you and what you make of it."

Lou Cheng nodded. He understood these sayings very well. Recalling the formalities of the martial arts circle, he said, "Disciple pays his respect to Master!" "Alright, save those formalities. Today shall count as the first day as my disciple." Then, Geezer Shi's expression changed again. He cheekily smiled, "Don't go around telling people that I am your master."

"Huh? More secrets? Why not?" Lou Cheng blurted out without thinking.

"Also, with this we are considered master and disciple? Isn't it too informal? This doesn't feel real at all!"

"Although you are gifted, you may not succeed. It's embarrassing if people knew that I have a disciple who did not make it!" Geezer Shi cast a contemptuous glance at Lou Cheng.

"Such practicality..." Lou Cheng thought to himself but could not refute.

Like he could read Lou Cheng's mind, Geezer Shi laughed heartily. "Yes, I am such a practical person. Wait till I am satisfied with your level, then you can tell others." Lou Cheng paused to think before he said, "Master, it doesn't matter to me if I can tell others or not, but, I would still have to know your background and current situation?"

Geezer Shi answered, "There's no need to say things that happened too long ago. But for these recent years, I have been working with the military on a research project. I think you would also know that once martial arts experts enter into the physical invulnerability state, they become abnormal. They will start to possess godly abilities and there are different types. As the days go by and if the experts continue to practice, these abilities will strengthen. A certain percentage of such abilities will be passed down to the next generation and for the generations to come they will continue to possess these godly abilities. Our research was on the relationship between martial arts and godly abilities."

Recalling the purple fire and thunder lightning during the battle between the Dragon King and Warrior Sage event, Lou Cheng nodded solemnly but could not contain his curiosity and probed further.

"Master, so what were you in charge of?" Geezer Shi gave Lou Cheng a fleeting glance and almost emotionlessly, he said, "Subject of study."

Pffftt... Lou Cheng burst out laughing. In quick and large strides, Geezer Shi walked toward the Martial Arts Club arena.

Lou Cheng tried very hard to control his laughter. Then, suddenly, he stopped. He paused to think. Based on what his master had just said, the research project would need powerful experts that had attained physical invulnerability state.

In other words, his master was one of those powerful experts that had attained physical invulnerability state?

Which meant... he was one of the top three Pin experts?

...

[1] Qie - a similar sounding word that refers to theft.

Chapter 12: Just Quit It

Amidst his shock, the old and slightly wrinkled face appeared in front of Lou Cheng again.

"Master, why, why are you back again?"

Geezer Shi answered in a light tone, "I forgot to add that since you are now my disciple, from tomorrow on, you shall get up at 5:30 a.m. and be ready here at 5:50 a.m. Our training starts two hours before the special training session."

"5:30 in the morning?" Lou Cheng repeated his master's words in disbelief, thinking, "At that time the sun would not even be out yet, right? Not even the third year in high school was that demanding! If I have to get up at 5:30 a.m. every day, how many hours of sleep would I get? If I practice like that, even with Jindan (the Golden Elixir), I would probably still be so tired that I would pee blood out!"

"What's wrong? You don't want to get up early?" Geezer Shi stroked his short white beard and said, "You have already missed the optimum age to train your physique, yet you want to achieve Professional Ninth Pin in two years. If you don't suffer, but instead take it easy, how are you going to make up for all the time wasted? Only sheer hard work can save you, kid. You will only lose out if you don't listen to advice from your elders!"

Lou Cheng fell silent and thought about all the expectations of martial arts that had slowly deflated within him. Finally, he nodded. "Getting up is not the problem, but the main doors of the dormitories will only open at 6:30 a.m."

"Not an issue at all. I can get someone to pass you the key to the main door of your dormitory." Geezer Shi brushed away Lou Cheng's concerns, "5:30 a.m. is the best time to start, based on ancient practice routines. At the same time, you must get sufficient sleep too. So, it is lights off for you at 10:30 p.m. As your master, I will call you to make sure you do so."

"To be in bed by 10:30 p.m.? But the lights are only turned off at midnight..." Lou Cheng took a deep breath of the cold morning air. This meant almost zero fun time. Based on the current schedule, except for Thursdays and Saturdays, Lou Cheng had classes from 7 p.m. to 9:35 p.m. every night. By the time he returned to the dormitory and washed up, it would already be 10 p.m. Half an hour is hardly enough for QQ and forums, not to mention playing games. That would be impossible.

Does this mean that the only time to relax is between classes and during lunch break?

Skipping classes is out of the question. Lou Cheng would not be able to do it, at least not now. He could not afford to bring mediocre grades back home to his parents.

"Forget it, it's all about the survival of the fittest, isn't it? No pain no gain. I'll just try for a term and see how much I progress. Just another third year in high school!" he thought.

Lou Cheng obeyed grudgingly, "I, I mean, this disciple will go to sleep on time."

Geezer Shi tilted his head. "Also, do you smoke?" "Yes," Lou Cheng dare not hide the truth.

"Quit it!" Geezer Shi demanded. "Your body has not completed the training, so alcohol and tobacco are still harmful to it. Just look at Wu Dong of the Martial Arts Club. His body is semi-invalid because he overdosed on them. You must also stop drinking!"

"Yes." These demands were almost nothing to Lou Cheng since he was never a heavy smoker or drinker.

"How about girls? Do you have a girlfriend?" Geezer Shi continued to interrogate him.

"No..." Lou Cheng paused for a while and then he stammered softly. "What if I do have one?"

"End it too," Geezer Shi said sternly. "What? I cannot have a girlfriend?" Lou Cheng broke out in cold sweat.

Then, Geezer Shi smiled, and mischievously he said, "Alright, alright. What I meant was that, if you have a girlfriend, you will have to properly plan your schedule for martial arts, studies and dating time. Don't neglect your relationship and come to me weeping when you get dumped. That is bad for your body too. And, you need to control your 'inner fire'. I know you are a strong young man, but control sexual activity - whether you do it with your girlfriend or by yourself. OK, that is all for today. 5:50 tomorrow morning, be here on time. I will impart some stances from Shangqing Sect and 'Ice Sect'. We will do some combinations too."

Since the beginnings of martial arts, there had been countless sects and styles. The most famous one was the "Five Sects Unique Skill". Though some skills did not belong to Kung Fu of the Taoist School, they were named after the form of the Five Sects Unique Skill, like the "Ice Sect" and "Water Sect", etc.

Upon hearing his master's plans, any gripe that Lou Cheng had about the early mornings disappeared. Since his master ordered that their relationship was kept from others for now, he waited till Geezer Shi had walked away before making a detour back to the Martial Arts Club arena. By the time he reached it, he was the last to report attendance.

Compared to yesterday's martial arts class, only a handful turned up: the year four seniors, Chen Changhua and Wu Dong; year three seniors, Sun Jian, Lin Hua and Wu Meng; and year two seniors, Jiang Fusheng, Li Mao and Li Xiaowen. Half of the group was made up by the year ones, like Lin Que, Guo Qing, Yan Zheke, Xu Qiubai and Lou Cheng. One reason why there were fewer seniors was that the students on year two and three had more classes this semester, and the one on year four were already out and about, looking for jobs. Another reason was that Yan Zheke, the extinguished beauty of the Martial Arts Club, had attracted several year-one boys to sign up.

In a quick glance, Lou Cheng could see that the team was had a predominance of men. Besides Yan Zheke, there were only three other ladies, Lin Hua, Li Xiaowen, and Guo Qing. Moreover, Guo Qing could not be considered much a lady with her bushy brows, strong arms and thick thighs. Within the recruits, Guo Qing was only inferior to Lin Que and could be comparable to Cai Zongming - the other Amateur Fifth Pin. As for the graduate students, expectedly, they would be busy serving their "bosses'" needs, and would have no time to take part in the Martial Arts Club’s activities.

"You are almost late. Go, one round." Since Yan Zheke was the only one he knew, Lou Cheng took a deep breath of courage, elbowed past the rest to reach her and said hi.

Yan Zheke squeezed a tiny smile. "I thought you had given up after I was harsh to you yesterday."

"Why would I? I truly love martial arts," Lou Cheng joked with an exaggerated tone. "Since I didn't rest the whole day yesterday, last night, after washing up, I blacked out the moment I hit the bed."

Thus, that's why he didn't get to chat with Yan Zheke.

Yan Zheke smiled, her dimples dancing. "Me too. Martial Arts in the morning, Advanced Mathematics and Introduction to Philosophy in the afternoon, and English at night. By the time I was back in my bedroom, I was so tempted not to take a bath and just sleep in my filthy clothes."

"Which faculty are you in?" Lou Cheng just remembered that he had never asked what she studied.

"School of Business and Economics..." before Yan Zheke finished her sentence, Geezer Shi entered the room.

The first half of the special training session was the same as martial arts class: stance training, strength training, footwork practice. Lou Cheng was completely engrossed and was progressing extraordinarily smooth with stance training and footwork. He could feel his every step and movement improving as he practiced. Nothing feels better and motivates one more than hard work being rewarded with progress. As for strength training, Lou Cheng depended on the Jindan to replenish his energy and to continue weightlifting. Even then he could feel himself improving.

After three hours of intensive training, at 11 a.m., Geezer Shi called everyone to gather and gleefully announced. "Next up we will be practicing how to release energy and the thick-thin moves. The last half hour is for pair practice. Pair up based on your high or low martial arts level. We are odd numbered today, so, Lin Que, since your level is much higher than the rest and we will not have someone who you can pair up with and learn from, you, Sun Jian and Xu Qiubai will be one group. Work with each of them and give them pointers after practicing with them. Take this as an opportunity. You can see yourself as a coach, and from there you will also learn a thing or two."

Lin Que nodded silently without any signs of disapproval.

Geezer Shi continued to split the group into pairs. "...Guo Qing, you guide Yan Zheke. Lin Hua, you and Li Xiaowen will work together. Li Mao, you and Lou Cheng are a team..."

Li Mao was a year two senior with a square face, thick brows, broad shoulders and a bright smile. His memory of Lou Cheng was still fresh from that time where the recruits had crab. He walked straight to Lou Cheng and said with a smile. "Junior Lou, looking forward to learning from you." "That should be my line," Lou Cheng courteously returned the greetings and then attempted to divert the topic. "Senior brother Li, which Pin do you hold?"

"The Third Pin," Li Mao answered with some pride.

"Isn't that just second to Club President Chen, senior brother Wu Dong, and almost the same as senior brother Sun Jian? Oh, uh, and before Lin Que joined." Lou Cheng was only aware of Chen Changhua and Wu Dong's ranks because they were the ones who were recruiting the junior. The former was an Amateur First Pin, with hopes to achieve Professional Ninth Pin, but due to yesterday's injury, he might not be able to recover and be ready for this term's ranking event. The latter was an Amateur Second Pin, a pretty respectable rank for college students.

Just as Lou Cheng finished speaking, someone loudly sneered at his statement. Lou Cheng turned and saw senior brother Wu Dong, who was not that much tall, and the recruit that he was supposed to guide, walking off to a wider area at the side of the arena. Noticing the cold and unhappy expression of senior brother Wu Dong, Lou Cheng remained silent. After they had walked a reasonable distance away, Li Mao scoffed. "Senior brother Wu Dong, still so sickening."

"Pardon me, what did you just say?" Lou Cheng sought to comprehend what he just heard.

Li Mao checked his surroundings, then said to Lou Cheng softly. "A good half of the responsibility why the Martial Arts Club is how it is today lies with Chen Changhua and Wu Dong. They are narrow-minded and competitive. They cannot accept people who are better than them. So, regardless seniors or juniors, as long as they have a better performance or show more potential, they will join hands to ostracize the person and make it so difficult that the person no longer wants to be part of the Martial Arts Club. We had great members in years two, three and four, but since they wasted a year not getting sufficient practice and with the tighter class schedule, they will not be able to move up the ranks."

He laughed at himself and continued sharing. "If it were not because I had a good relationship with senior brother Sun Jian, I would probably already be out of here, pouring my heart into vocational studies."

"Senior brother Sun Jian has a holdover Chen Changhua and Wu Dong?" Lou Cheng was disturbed and surprised to hear that there were such dynamics and politics within the Martial Arts Club.

"Although Senior brother Sun Jian and I are Amateur Three Pin, his father is a professor in the school. Hence, naturally, Chen Changhua and Wu Dong would not dare to do anything to him. The only thing is that senior brother Sun Jian does not like to meddle too much in other people's business, so he just helps Lin Hua and I. And, yes, Lin Hua is his girlfriend." Li Mao continued to explain.

Which meant that the rest of those who remained, Wu Meng, Jiang Fusheng and Li Xiaowen, were allowed to remain because they were mediocre. Anyone could see that they were only at Amateur Fifth Pin and that obviously did not pose any threat to the positions of Chen Changhua and Wu Dong. "I see, no wonder Cai Zongming, an Amateur Fifth Pin, would be called up by the Martial Arts Club," Lou Cheng exclaimed in sudden realization. "Fortunately, we have Lin Que in our batch, directly bringing Chen Changhua to the ground."

Li Mao laughed. "That's why you all can focus on training and not have to care about Chen Changhua and Wu Dong. Alright, enough, let me teach you some moves and ways to release energy."

Even though they called them moves, but they were the basic straight punch, elbowing, and kneeing, matched with ways to release energy and strength. The most critical part of this training was how to match them. If the footwork and posture did not match, even with the simplest moves, energy could not be channeled out.

Lou Cheng paid great attention. Due to his Yin-Yang Stance, his ability to coordinate his moves, footwork, and posture was well above a usual beginner. He learned quickly and was getting more and more familiar with the moves and combinations as he practiced repeatedly. Soon, they only had half an hour left for the special training session. Li Mao asked Lou Cheng to halt his practice. He requested for Geezer Shi to come over to their team and chirped.

"Junior Lou, here, let's pitch our moves against each other.
Don't worry, I will be reasonable with my moves."

Lou Cheng's muscles tensed up. He was a little panicky, but at the same time, he was excited, because this would be his first sparring practice!

Chapter 13: This Day Just Wouldn't End!

Seeing Lou Cheng like this, Li Mao couldn't contain himself. "Junior brother Lou, there's no need to be so nervous. Getting too nervous will affect your performance and make your movements stiff and your punches inaccurate. Of course, you need to be a little nervous during a competition. There's a saying that we have in the business: with a small hit of adrenaline, the true fighters will reach the perfect level of 'tense, but not panicked'. Bah, I can't do it though. When I join any Amateur Ranking Event, I'm so nervous that my whole body shakes. Fortunately, the few opponents that I've run into are either too weak or more nervous than I am."

This was a senior brother sharing his experiences! Lou Cheng looked at Li Mao with appreciation and marked it in his mind. Afterward, he took a deep breath, calmed himself, and adopted Li Mao's fighting stance, with both his legs firmly in place and his back straight as an arrow, as if he were a wildcat waiting to pounce.

Li Mao also adopted his fighting stance and calmly said, "I'll give you some feint training." When he finished speaking, he stepped up, slammed his foot down, twisted his waist, made a fist with his right hand and attacked the front of Lou Cheng's neck. This was the simplest 'Direct Attack on Vital Part' style.

Seeing this, Lou Cheng subconsciously evaded and promptly ducked to the side. However, at that moment, his foot suddenly slipped and he lost his balance. There wasn't enough time to even use the Yin-Yang Stance to regain his balance and he fell to the ground.

He didn't know when, but Li Mao's right foot had already caught up with him and gave him a soft kick. Not a malicious kick, but just enough to cut him off in the direction that he had tried to dodge.

"During a competition, it's not that you shouldn't dodge, and it's not that you must be tough and durable, but you must pay attention to your footwork and to the opponents' movements. Falling over yourself is a classic move. A moment ago you forgot your own identity as a fighter. That seemed like an average person dodging; your footwork became sloppy, your eyes were only on my fist." Li Mao stretched out his right hand and pulled Lou Cheng up while referring to all of the things he had done wrong. "Think about all of that for a moment, and then we'll continue."

Lou Cheng pondered quietly, reflecting on the moves he had just made. Keeping in mind his shortcomings, he went on to adopt his fighting stance again.

This time, confronted by Li Mao's power and quick footwork, Lou Cheng opened his eyes wide, paying attention to his every move.

Would it be the right fist or the left?

Kick or elbow to the back of the neck?

If it were the right fist, how can I use my feet to dodge it?

If it were the left fist, will I have an opportunity to strike back? ...

An idea flashed through Lou Cheng's heart; he'd come up with a countermeasure. However, there wasn't enough time to think it through, as Li Mao was already close to him. His feet came up in a circle, yet stuck close to the front of his body, and after hitting him with an elbow, retreated two steps. Even though the hits weren't that hard, it made his stomach sink, and he felt a pain there.

In the midst of everything, he became confused and was completely at a loss. It was even worse than that from the first match, he couldn't even dodge!

How was this possible? Lou Cheng was dumbfounded.

Li Mao turned his body and said with a smile. "Although normally we can think quite fast, in just one second there can be so many thoughts, and our body is unable to keep up with our brain. During a competition, frequently it's the brain that can't keep up with the body. It overthinks and hesitates too long, unable to come to a decision, to the point where it's crippled and at a complete loss. This is the significance of training your mind, even more than training your body. To take all of your current circumstances and internalize them as instinct, you have to determine which places to observe and quickly make a decision. Junior brother Lou, there's no need to worry. All pair exercises are like this the first time around. I originally was more pitiful than you."

"Sometimes it's easy to rely too much on your imagination and think that competition is elementary." Lou Cheng laughed at himself, starting to see where his weaknesses were.

Once more, he got up and adopted a fighting stance, and Li Mao reverted to an old standby. He stepped up and threw a punch, utilizing the power all the way from his feet, past his waist, and up his back, using his backbone as a conduit.

Lou Cheng drew what he had learned from the preceding two lessons. He reached a decision and in a flash lowered his body and threw himself at Li Mao’s legs.

Suddenly, he felt a strike on his back, and Li Mao turned his fist into an open palm and pushed down. Lou Cheng’s body was already moving forward with such force that even this gentle push was enough to send him falling to the ground like a dog eating dirt.

"Not bad. You maintained your footwork and made a decision very quickly. It’s just that you lack experience, and your ability to adapt to sudden changes is insufficient." As Li Mao commended Lou Cheng, he again held out his hand and pulled him up.

Lou Cheng’s mood wasn’t sullen. He could see it was evident that improving oneself was a lifetime pursuit. It was important that he had to throw himself into training more intensely, over and over again. As long as he got rid of his earlier surface-level understanding and used the proper footwork and punching techniques, he could gradually become a true fighter.

...

"Class is about to end, one last time." Li Mao could see the electric clock hanging on the wall of the Martial Arts arena. Lou Cheng nodded, and in his mind went through everything once again, all of the previous lessons and training, seeing if there was any first strike that he could pull off.

He stood with his legs firm and focused his energy on his Jindan, half entering the Remain in One state of meditation, paying attention to his body's subtle responses while at the same time maintaining his focus on Li Mao.

Li Mao grinned at Lou Cheng's seriousness, and once again rushed forward.

Lou Cheng’s body pivoted, shifting his center of balance to the right side. Afterward, he abruptly reached out, tightening up his abdominal muscles into a tight strand, and once again quickly adjusted his center of gravity, changing directions to the left side.

Alternating his step, he dodged Li Mao’s fist. Then Li Mao's right kick headed toward his left side, which left an opening.

An opportunity! Li Mao’s right foot still had not withdrawn, and his balance wasn’t steady, this truly was an opportunity!

Lou Cheng leaned toward Li Mao, lowered his shoulder, and copying Chen Changhua from yesterday, pushed his foot forward. With the power of an ox, he shoved himself at the enemy.

Li Mao saw this and in a flurry with the help of his right foot kicked out, jumped back a step, and then using both hands in the Apparent Close Up method, blocked the move.

Bang!

Lou Cheng hit his opponent, but could only knock Li Mao back a single step. Lou Cheng was then grabbed on the shoulder by Li Mao's palm. Stretching out his left foot, Li Mao bogged Lou Cheng down and threw him to the ground.

Bam! Lou Cheng fell to the ground, but his face was filled with joy instead of pain, for he had performed the previous move perfectly.

"Hey now, this is the first time during sparring that a newbie nearly made a Senior Brother like me fall like a Shipwreck in a Ditch," Li Mao grinned, coming up and offering his hand to Lou Cheng. "It’s just that you still don’t have enough power, and couldn’t break my balance."

Lou Cheng clapped the dust off himself and said with a smile, "The main thing is that Senior Brother has used this move too much, so I was able to come up with a few ideas."

While he had started training quite a while ago, it was evident there was always room to improve, as Brother Li Mao seemingly also had not found his way to utilize the Yin-Yang Stance technique.

"Class dismissed, everyone go home. Be sure to talk to your mothers." At this time, Geezer Shi's whistled sharply and yelled out, "Remember to be on time tomorrow." "Alright, let's go hit the showers and head back." Li Mao pointed at Lin Que, who had just entered the locker room.

In a Martial Arts Club, the locker room was a hallowed place. Only if you had proper qualifications, were you permitted to enter and use the facilities. Lou Cheng would not be able to enter if he hadn't participated in the special training.

--Each kind of Martial Arts Club was set up through school funding, so regardless of whether it was the exercise area or a strength training gymnasium, they were open to all of the school's teachers and students. The locker room was the only exception, which was kept from unauthorized persons. Of course, although the exercise area and strength training gymnasium were open to the public, they also had time restrictions, and one must try not to disturb the Martial Arts Club member's physical training.

After the practice was over, Lou Cheng didn't want to stay too close to Li Mao. He turned his head toward Yan Zheke, and saw that she had gotten acquainted with Guo Qing and was heading toward the locker room amusedly. Around them, quite a few male classmates stared at them like hungry lions eyeing their prey, but didn't dare approach them. No wonder Casanova had said when he first approached her that he'd already surpassed 80% of his rivals - 80% of them didn't even dare make the first move and only stared from afar, playing out all kinds of dramas and emotions in their minds.

Giving Li Mao a hint, Lou Cheng quickened his pace and caught up with Yan Zheke and Guo Qing. Pretending to be out of breath he said, "Hey, what's up? How was the practice?"

Only ten members had come to the special training. Guo Qing had seen Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke together earlier, so she just gazed at them happily instead of feeling surprised. As for Li Mao, standing behind Lou Cheng, he shook his head and sighed at the fact that men nowadays would always put women above all else, and slowly headed toward the men's locker room not far away.

Yan Zheke pursed her lips and said with a smile. "I'm okay. You're the one who's not doing so well! We saw you being beaten that whole time."

"Ah yeah, it was my first time doing pair exercise, so I got a bit flustered." In the middle of talking, Lou Cheng suddenly frowned his eyebrows. Now that he thought about it, he could feel that his body had all kinds of aches and pains, almost certainly caused by the bumps and bruises he'd gotten during the training a moment ago.

"It certainly looks that way," Yan Zheke said with a crooked smile. "Are you sore all over?"

"Yes." Lou Cheng replied honestly.

"And you don't have any ointment for those bruises?" Yan Zheke pursed her lips and said with a smile.

"Indeed I don't." Lou Cheng nodded in honesty.

Yan Zheke lifted her chin slightly and looked around. "I just knew you men wouldn't remember to bring these kinds of things. You only remember them when you need them." "Hey, how else could we call ourselves tough guys?" Lou Cheng laughed.

Yan Zheke burst into a laugh, which highlighted her internal charm, and said, "Wait a moment, I just happen to have an extra jar of ointment, which is produced by a distinguished martial arts family. Your bruises will be gone by tomorrow."

"Okay, cool!" Lou Cheng suddenly and unexpectedly was over the moon with joy.

Watching Yan Zheke and Guo Qing enter the women's locker room, Lou Cheng had an urge to start singing. He proudly laughed and laughed...

Grinning from ear to ear, he suddenly felt something was off, as if there was a mysterious gaze staring at him in the surroundings.

Turning around, he realized they were the boys who didn't dare to strike up a conversation earlier. Hehe... only relying on cordiality would get someone so far. "In two days it might not even be worth coming to the special training..." Lou Cheng criticized them internally.

A few minutes later, Yan Zheke came out holding a dark brown glass jar and handed it to Lou Cheng. "Apply this anywhere there's a bruise, and then rub the area for about five minutes."

Taking the ointment, Lou Cheng deliberately and with an exaggerated tone said, "Thank you, thank you, I'm not worthy of classmate Yan Zheke's benevolence!"

Yan Zheke waved her hand. "No need to thank me, that'll be 30 yuan."

"Eh?" Lou Cheng suddenly stopped, his face frozen.

Yan Zheke smiled again and her eyes lit up, "Just kidding!
You're so gullible, haha!" Her smile was infectious, and Lou Cheng didn't feel awkward. After a few moments of chit-chatting, they both parted ways and went back to their respective locker rooms.

The locker room was quite big. Just inside the entrance, there were three metal benches leaning against the wall. They were meant for Martial Arts Club members to relax and chat, setting up in rows for competitions, as well as a place for discussing the competition. On the corresponding wall, there were dozens of lockers. Lin Que, Chen Changhua, and amateur rank members who were undergoing special training all had their dedicated lockers. As for Lou Cheng, he had to wait to use a shelf which no one was using at the moment.

Passing through this area, you could see individual partitions, and in between each partition, there was a row of showers, each with a small shelf where you could hang your clothes and place shampoo as well as other products. On the farthest end, there were three squat toilets installed.

As the splashing sounds of the showers carried on, Lou Cheng chose a shower stall and was about to enter, but then Lin Que came from the side, scrubbing his hair as he moved forward. Lou Cheng reflexively nodded his head to greet him. Lin Que also nodded his head slightly but said nothing.

"Lin Que doesn't seem to be that imposing..." Lou Cheng shook his head, entered the shower, removed his clothes and turned the faucet.

Not having to go to the school's washroom and line up... was great!

When he finished washing up, he took the jar of ointment and was unable to stop himself from smiling as he started to apply it.

...

In the evening, Lou Cheng finished classes and went back to the dormitory. After washing his face, he felt like relaxing a little. He added Cai Zongming, Qin Mo, Tang Wen, and Qiu Zhigao together in an online group and they played a fighting game together. As he lay on the bed, he again messaged Yan Zheke and chatted for a while he waited for his turn. The whole day had gone so perfectly!

In the midst of all this entertainment, his phone suddenly rang. As he took it out to look, he could see it was an unfamiliar number.

"Who's this?" Lou Cheng answered it hesitantly.

"Hey, Lou Cheng, you should be in bed. Get ready to go to sleep." A deep, raspy voice came through.

"Ugh... yep... it's Geezer Shi..." Lou Cheng thought to himself. "Alright, got it."

"Damn, even calling to monitor when I go to sleep!"

"This day just wouldn't end!"

Chapter 14: Little Lou Cheng's Good at Running

Hanging up the phone, Lou Cheng gnashed his teeth angrily. Only when he recalled all his ambitions for his future training did he tear himself away from the game with his willpower. Under the pretext of his computer crashing, he shouted out a few words of rage curses.

As he climbed into bed, there were still 10 minutes left until the time Geezer Shi said he had to go to bed. Lou Cheng sighed, took out his phone, opened QQ, and clicked on the dialog box with Yan Zheke. "It's been an exhausting day. I feel like a dog about to die lying on this bed."

"Woof woof woof," Yan Zheke replied with three words.

Lou Cheng couldn't help laughing. "Are you tired too?"

"I'm the one who chose to do special training, I shall finish this even if it's on my knees." Yan Zheke sent a cute emoji of a pair of hands poking someone's waist. "Of course, we shall at least be able to get through this semester," Lou Cheng didn't dare boast and instead said. "I didn't realize that you are so much different online from the one in real life. That 'woof woof woof' message really cracked me up."

As he spoke, he sent an emoji crying with laughter.

Yan Zheke sent a blushing emoji. "I don't give too much thought about idol burden."

He was having so much fun that Lou Cheng talked until 10:30 without noticing. Using every last ounce of willpower he had, he said goodnight to Yan Zheke. With his mind full of hope, he fell into a deep sleep in hope and dream.

The next day, the alarm clock went off as scheduled and Lou Cheng woke up with a start. He quickly reached out and dismissed the alarm, afraid that he would disturb his roommates. "If it weren't for the fact that the new campus was located in the middle of nowhere and there was no way to rent an apartment, he would move out in an instant. That way he wouldn't have to worry about disturbing others." This thought flashed through Lou Cheng's mind as he crawled out of bed. He first splashed his face with cold water, clearing his head, and then changed into his third pair of exercise clothes, which was also his last pair. It was late autumn and his first pair was still wet, thus it would be necessary for him to buy a new pair to meet the need.

Lou Cheng finished brushing his teeth, grabbed the keys that Geezer Shi had given him, and tiptoed out of the room and through the passageway. Under the dim light of the street lamps he opened the dormitory entrance, and through mist so silent you could hear a pin drop, slowly jogged toward the lake he had gone to yesterday.

Even though it was a few minutes before 5:50 when he arrived at the lake, Geezer Shi was already waiting there, with a parked bicycle at his side.

Master arrived even earlier than I did... Lou Cheng suddenly felt a bit of appreciation and ran toward him to give him a salute.

"Not bad, didn't have to call you and tell you to hurry up." Geezer Shi smirked. "Before teaching you any more stance training, let's do some long-distance running."

"Long-distance running?" Lou Cheng asked with suspicion. He was lost in thought, "As the Jindan helps me recover from fatigue, is there any point in doing long-distance running?"

Geezer Shi took out a cigarette and started smoking. "Even if it's during the body refining period, relying on punches, the power of the muscles themselves and footwork is enough during a competition; one important thing about Danqi that you must remember is that it's not just about your physical Qi, instead, it's about your mind as well and all of the body systems being in perfect harmonious balance. Your physical strength, willpower, and muscles must be all working as one complete and perfectly coordinated system. Respond to any agitation as Dadan (the great Dan realm). If one lacks endurance, it will be tough for him to reach this kind of realm with the human body. "Why in ordinary martial arts schools, high school Martial Arts Clubs, College Martial Arts Clubs, and normal martial arts classrooms, so few people can obtain the Danqi state, no matter how good their stance training is?" Geezer Shi made a short pause after his rhetorical question but continued, "It's for lack of knowledge. Hey, don't think that what I'm saying is too simple. One word of simple advice is more valuable than all those old wordy textbooks that go on and on."

"I understand," Lou Cheng said with a twinge of embarrassment. "But do I really have to run?"

Master's words had a lot of truth to them, but as the Jindan helped him to recover from weariness, would it be possible to improve his endurance under these circumstances?

Geezer Shi tsk-tsked and said, "You mustn't be afraid of difficulties, hardship, or strain. Every strong warrior has come through this way. Relax, Master will stand by your side and take care of you."

He added with a sly grin, "Of course, in my old age, my body has already become somewhat feeble. I don't have quite that much energy in the morning. You run, I'll ride the bicycle."

He patted the handles bars of the bike, quite pleased with himself.

"Do we have to run?" Lou Cheng hesitated and looked sincerely at Geezer Shi.

"Get going! How can someone so young be afraid of getting tired! " Geezer Shi's face twisted.

...

After some time, while Lou Cheng's face wasn't red and he wasn't out of breath as he ran ahead, Geezer Shi began to lag farther and farther behind as he pedaled his bicycle. Gasping for breath, he slammed the pedals, his lungs sucking air in and out like a bellows. "Stop you little brat! Stop! Do you want to kill your master or what?!"

Lou Cheng stopped, restrained himself from laughing, and deliberately pretended to gasp for breath as he watched Geezer Shi go through hell and high water to catch up.

"You... what'd you eaten while growing up? You should practice long-distance running instead of martial arts!" Blurting all of this out in one breath, Geezer Shi huffed and puffed.

"It's... it's just that... master, you made me run..." Lou Cheng said, his eyes filled with innocence.

However, this time the long distance running had also reaped some rewards. Compared to before, his endurance had obviously improved. It wasn't like the first day he used the Jindan, where he'd been out of breath just after jogging for a short while and needed to recharge. Today he'd run a long distance several times that of the previous run. In other words, when it came to recovering from fatigue the Jindan wouldn't influence his own body's ability to improve endurance. Not only that, but due to it's effect, his body's endurance now far exceeded what was normal!

Thinking about this, Lou Cheng could hardly contain the smile on his face.

A while later, Geezer Shi at last drew out a breath and said with a glare on his face. "You can't stop long distance running in the future, but do it yourself. Don't be lazy!"

Finishing the talk, he brought Lou Cheng to a secluded area nearby, and went over the Thunder Sect’s Lightning and Fire Stance and Ice Sect’s Condensation Stance again in detail. The former attached importance to the bodies punching speed, whereas the latter refined the senses, improved ones attention, and enhanced the body's reaction time and hand-eye coordination, which could be incorporated into the Yin-Yang Stance. In addition, he covered the power of one's punches, long distance running training, footwork exercises, thus forming a complete body refining system. According to what Geezer Shi had said, he could take the Thunder Sect's Lightning and Fire Stance and switch it for the Ice Sect's Condensation Stance. While it couldn't be said that the practice was necessarily more effective, it was at least more suitable for someone like Lou Cheng, who had already missed the optimal time to train.

Lou Cheng invested a lot of effort into stance training, and the benefits that came with it were obvious to see. He was naturally concentrated and single-minded, not at all complacent. Continuing his training he became even more hardworking, except for Thursdays, when he had no class to attend and would allow himself to relax, his mind racing and buzzing.

On Friday night, Lou Cheng got back to the dormitory, carrying his backpack over his shoulder. He hadn't yet entered the room when he heard loud talking and laughter inside.

"What could be going on that was that exciting?" He opened the door and saw Cai Zongming sitting in his place. "Did you forget? Today was our little social meetup with the girls' dormitory. Model Worker," Zhang Jingye replied with a smile.

"Ah, how did it go?" Although he didn't want to go himself, Lou Cheng was very interested and listened closely to their recap.

Cai Zongming grinned and said. "Cheng, if I set my mind on something, is it even possible to fail?"

"That's right, we all were considering giving Casanova another nickname. You should have seen it, he took total control of the atmosphere. Every time he opened his mouth, the girls just couldn't stop laughing. For this kind of person, we think that all of his best attributes are based on that mouth of his." The dormitory leader Zhao Qiang grinned from ear to ear. "Therefore, in accordance with the Battle of Kings Rank and Title Conventions, we intend to call him Talker!"

"Are you guys praising me or insulting me?" Cai Zongming seemed to be very satisfied with the nickname. "Not bad, come forth Talker and bow your head to the group of perverts," Lou Cheng teased, wiggling his eyebrows. "You all can't get away with that, I'm asking how the social meetup went?"

"Not bad!" Old Qiu hurled out these two words as if he'd been holding them in all day.

Cai Zongming grinned. "It wasn't bad, there was a beautiful girl, really beautiful girl."

"Yeah, yeah! Zhuang Xiaojun is really pretty. She's pretty if she's wearing glasses, and pretty if she's not wearing them," Zhang Jingye chimed in. "It's a shame, I've heard Guo Qing say that she already has a boyfriend."

"Not a boyfriend, just a suitor, more like suitor," Zhao Qiang retorted.

Lou Cheng faltered. "Guo Qing?" Why did this name sound so familiar?

"Yes, the same Guo Qing from the martial arts club, the one who's with you together in special training. It's quite a coincidence, even predestined!" Cai Zongming grinned. "She seems to have taken a fancy to Old Qiu."

"Bah, no way!" The stocky Qiu Zhigao quickly denied.

"I also have that feeling. She's always looking for Old Qiu to ask about this and ask about that. Her figure would go really well with yours!" Zhao Qiang said in approval.

Zhang Jingye also said. "Old Qiu, you can't deny that when we were talking with Pan Xue, she also said Guo Qing was pretty interested in you."

"Old Qiu, just strut your stuff afterward when we have the next dormitory social meetup and our two dorms will become more inseparable. There will be more opportunities for Qiang and Model Worker to get in touch with Zhuang Xiaojun as well." Cai Zongming made a joke. Zhao Qiang and Zhang Jingye roared with laughter.

Old Qiu looked toward Lou Cheng helplessly. "Cheng, they're so crazy about girls that they can't think straight, only you can redress the scales!"

Hmm... Guo Qing and Yan Zheke's relationship seemed to be progressing quite well... Lou Cheng suppressed a smile as he spoke with passion.

"Old Qiu, you're right about that!"

"Give me a break!" Old Qiu said with feigned anger as he laughed.

Careful not to overdo it, Lou Cheng turned his head and changed the subject. "Guo Qing, Zhuang Xiaojun, and there's still two other girls, right? Pan Xue?" "Yes, there's one called Pan Xue, and one called You Fangfang. You Fangfang is a bit introverted. She looks.... um... pretty plain," Cai Zongming said. "Pan Xue is really petite, pretty lively and easy to get along with, and looks really cute."

"But she has a boyfriend," Zhang Jingye interrupted, "some... some student from Southern Asia."

"Ah, in our school?" Lou Cheng asked.

"Yes, these Southern Asian students smell like hell. Every time I run into them I want to pinch my nose. I don't know what Pan Xue sees in him." Zhao Qiang sighed.

Old Qiu then said, "Guo Qing said they met each other through English Corner."

"Gah, English Corner is the kind of place that was made for that kind of stuff!" Zhao Qiang said angrily. "Just like that... our best girl, damn English Corner..." Zhang Jingye and Old Qiu chimed in.

Just then, Zhao Qiang suddenly jumped up, started flipping through his book and started to head out.

"Hey, Qiang, where are you going?" Cai Zongming and Lou Cheng asked simultaneously, with their faces showing confusion.

Zhao Qiang turned back and nodded confidently.

"There's still time. I'm going to English Corner to practice my English."

Pfft... Lou Cheng nearly did a spit take.

"Qiang, you become a rebel under cover of honest look with big eyes and bushy eyebrows!" As the laughter died down, Zhao Qiang's cheeks became red.

Just then, Lou Cheng's phone rang.

Taking it out and seeing that it was a call from Geezer Shi, Lou Cheng gloomily thought surely it wouldn't be him again urging him to sleep?

"Hello." As there were other people in the dorm, he didn't say master.

On the other end, Geezer Shi said directly, "Order yourself a train ticket to Pingjiang tomorrow night at 7 o'clock. There's only one train at that time."

"Eh?!" Lou Cheng was baffled. "Pingjiang?"

"Yes, Pingjiang City, Shanbei Province." Geezer Shi's voice was deep and foreboding. "Don't ask why. Wait for me tomorrow at the train station at 6:30 p.m."

Chapter 15: He Continues Like This

As he hung up the phone, Lou Cheng felt as if his head was foggy. How could Geezer Shi want him to go to Pingjiang even without giving him a hint?

One concerning notion after another rushed through his brain. "Human trafficking? Pyramid sellers?

Could it be that Geezer Shi has another 'part-time job'? Is it dangerous to do this?"

Cai Zongming saw Lou Cheng's worried expression and patted him on the shoulder. "Hey! Cheng, let's go have a smoke."

Thinking for a while, Lou Cheng followed him outside. Arriving at the patio, he rested his hands on the railing and looked down at the courtyard of the 7th dormitory building, where so many students were coming and going. Some of them carried thermoses or backpacks, and others held midnight snacks. Some were young couples in love, and outside the main gate under the gaze of the dormitory guard, they stared at one another longingly, hesitating to part ways.

Songcheng University's dormitory buildings formed their miniature kind of neighborhood. Four units perfectly surrounded the courtyard, which contained flower terraces, street lamps, and ping pong tables. Lou Cheng's building, Unit 2, just happened to face the main entrance directly.

"What's wrong, Cheng, something on your mind?" Cai Zongming took out a cigarette and stuck it in his mouth, but didn't light it.

Yesterday Lou Cheng had explained to his roommates that he was going to give up smoking. Cai Zongming thought this was ridiculous, but when he brought it up to his girlfriend while video chatting with her, she'd forced him also to quit smoking, saying that he should follow Lou Cheng's example.

Lou Cheng decided to reveal a little bit. "Casanova, um, forget it. Better call you Talker, so you don't reminisce too much. Remember when I signed up for the Martial Arts Club special training? Half the reason was to pursue Yan Zheke, which you know. But the other half was that while standing in the Yin-Yang Stance I discovered I was able to reach the Remain in One Meditation. Afterward, Geezer Shi noticed this and prepared to train me."

Cai Zongming smirked, "Cheng, stop boasting. You and I can still be good friends."

"Really." Lou Cheng did his best to show sincerity in his eyes.

Cai Zongming stared at him, "Really?"

"Really!" Lou Cheng's tone was full of confidence.

"Well done! Cheng, I couldn't tell!" Cai Zongming knew what kind of person Lou Cheng was and at last was convinced that it was true. He slapped Lou Cheng on his shoulder and said with a laugh, "Don't forget me when you've hit the big time. If you become the backbone of the Martial Arts Club afterward, I'm sure my status will increase twofold. It looks like some things that they say are true, even foolish people with simple minds can easily enter meditation." "Can't you say something a little more pleasant?"

Cai Zongming glanced at him. "Yes! Yes! Yes! You can't judge a book by its cover after all. I didn't realize I was in the presence of a major celebrity. Brother Lou Cheng, no, Uncle Cheng, allow me to grovel at your feet!" Cai Zongming said dramatically.

As the two boys laughed, Lou Cheng continued to say, "Just now, Geezer Shi gave me a mysterious phone call. He asked me to reserve a train ticket and go with him to Pingjiang tomorrow night."

"Pingjiang?" Cai Zongming asked unknowingly, "The capital of Shanbei province?"

"Yes, I have no idea what we're going there for, so I'm a bit uneasy." Lou Cheng sighed.

"Geezer Shi was personally invited by the headmaster, so it shouldn't be a problem. Furthermore, Cheng, you're not terribly handsome, don't have any unique talents, and certainly aren't rich. So why would he bother to trick you? Perhaps it could be a University martial arts meeting of some sort. After all, Shanbei University is in Pingjiang," Cai Zongming said caustically to Lou Cheng.

"That makes sense," Lou Cheng nodded his head.

Could it be that Geezer Shi simply wanted to observe the condition of last year's Shanbei University's Martial Arts Association champions, and he was bringing his protege along so that he could write the travel off as a public expense?

But then why did he have to pay for his own ticket...

Seeing Lou Cheng relaxing a bit, Cai Zongming changed the topic and with a dirty smile said, "I've heard there're a few perverted old geezers who go because their bodies are too old. Since they can't become young again, they're gay for little kids or young boys bodies. It's all a pretext to try and relive their youth again. What do you think, would Geezer Shi..." "Pfft!" Lou Cheng wanted to throw up at what Cai Zongming had described, but in his heart, a slight more fear and worry were aroused.

What if?

It was a one in a million chance, but who knew?

Cai Zongming convulsed with laughter and afterward said with a devilish grin, "However, you don't have to be worried, Cheng. Even if Geezer Shi is a pervert, his target should be Lin Que, me or someone else who is talented and good-looking. He wouldn't fancy you."

"Thanks for the consolation!" Lou Cheng said, gnashing his teeth in anger.

Being interrupted by Cai Zongming like this, he recovered a better mood. He used the remaining hot water in the pitcher to wash his face and soak his feet. After brushing his teeth, he headed to the bed and didn't dare open his computer, afraid that he would be enticed by Cai Zongming and wouldn't want to sleep as a result.

Lying on the bed, Lou Cheng took out his phone and clicked his QQ directly, not even lingering on the forum.

"I've got some gossip for you," Lou Cheng sent a smiling emoji to Yan Zheke.

After a dozen of seconds, Yan Zheke replied, "What gossip?
About high school?"

"No! No! When I got out of class and back to the dorm, I found out that the guys had a social meetup with the girl's dorm of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Guo Qing's dorm!" Lou Cheng spoke deliberately, obscurely indicating that he hadn't participated in the social meetup.

Yan Zheke sent a Doge emoji. "What a coincidence! How did you all meet up with Guo Qing's dorm?" "Old Qiu from our dorm saw that someone had written a phone number from a girl's dorm asking for a social meetup on top of a desk in a classroom. They were afraid it was a practical joke, so they changed the last few numbers and used the number 32 from our dorm number 302 as their lucky number to replace. It turned out to be Guo Qing's dorm across from us." Lou Cheng told the entire story from beginning to end.

"Both your dorms seem to be destined to be together. They agreed to a social meetup just like that?" Yan Zheke asked in excitement.

Lou Cheng replied with a snickering emoji. "It could be that freshmen have all just entered school. Everything seems fresh and exciting to them, and they're also interested in trying this kind of random social meetup. Once they're sophomores and become more sophisticated, it'll be more difficult."

"Maybe." Yan Zheke sent an emoji deep in contemplation, both hands resting on its chin. "If our dorm came across this, I'm pretty sure we'd also agree. It sounds fascinating and funny." "That's right. Rumor has it that Guo Qing fancies Old Qiu from our dorm!" Lou Cheng revealed the gossip.

"Oh?" Yan Zheke sent an emoji with two eyes wide open. "Really?"

"That's what they say, all the guys in our dorm feel that way. All the roommates in their dorm secretly say the same as well." Lou Cheng didn't dare confirm.

"Wow!" Yan Zheke replied with lightning speed, "What kind of guy is Old Qiu? I need to help Qing check this out!"

"He's got a big and strong build and matches well with Guo Qing's. He's also a pretty straightforward person and easy to get along with. I figure he's half brainiac..." Lou Cheng's gave his own impression of Old Qiu.

Of course, as a roommate, Old Qiu was always sharing things, which was a benefit for everyone. It was just that sometimes the things he shared weren't always to everyone's taste. Going in this way, the two of them talked happily and before they knew, it was 10:30 pm. Fighting through his own heartache, Lou Cheng reluctantly said good night to Yan Zheke, saying he was too occupied and exhausted because of the special training and class every day.

...

During pair exercise, Geezer Shi announced that today's special training and Saturday's martial arts lesson ended, and Sunday's special training would be postponed until 9 o'clock because he had business to attend to.

This news immediately drew out a cheer. The members who had joined special training exclaimed that they could finally sleep in for an extra hour.

After several days of "torment", a few freshmen students had dropped out from the special training and only two left hanging on. But from Lou Cheng's perspective, he wouldn't see them next week. Just then, he saw Yan Zheke and Guo Qing voluntarily coming toward him side by side, seemingly more acquainted with him than several days ago.

"Cheng, right? It turns out that we had joined the social meetup with your dorm." As if holding a meeting, Guo Qing got straight to the point and said bluntly, "It feels like a coincidence. That's right, why didn't you join?"

"I had stuff going on back then, so I let Little Ming... uh... Cai Zongming replace me." Lou Cheng glanced at Yan Zheke and saw that her expression was just as accusatory.

With no more questions to ask, Guo Qing started to speak, "Most of us are members of the Martial Arts Club, and also come from the dorms involved in the social meetup; it does seem to be predestined. Also, it was delightful to talk yesterday evening, so we should schedule another one. Next weekend or two weeks from now, should our two dorms go mountain hiking, then perhaps go out to have fun at the karaoke? Or maybe find a place where we could have a barbecue?" This girl was quite outspoken with quite an executive ability... Lou Cheng hesitated for a moment and didn't directly answer, trying to think of a certain excuse to get away from it.

In addition, he really should discuss this with Old Qiu, Qiang, and Model Worker, and shouldn't rush into a decision on his own. However, seeing their praise for Zhuang Xiaojun, he thought they would absolutely insist on going.

While he was hesitating, Guo Qing turned her head and looked at Yan Zheke. "Cai Zongming was there yesterday, it wouldn't be good not to invite him next time. If we add Cheng, then there would be five boys. Although it doesn't matter that the girls are fewer in number, you and Cheng are old classmates and you two are so familiar with each other, so, how about going together?"

Yan Zheke got interested and said, "Sure! It'll be my first social meetup."

"Then it's decided! Next weekend or the weekend after we'll have another social meetup!" Lou Cheng replied decisively. As for Qiang and Little Ming? Their opinions could be ignored!

Guo Qing's face showed her happiness. "Good, we can go back and check out the timetable of each one, to find out which day is most suitable."

This chat was to everyone's satisfaction.

...

When it came to asking for another social meetup between the dorms, a young male with raging hormones naturally wouldn't have any hesitations in agreeing, and Cai Zongming was also abundantly interested in any similar activities.

Saturday afternoon was the rare period in which Lou Cheng could relax. Skimming through forums, reading novels, talking with Yan Zheke and playing online games with other roommates who hadn't gone outside, he felt more relaxed and satisfied than he had in a long time. When it was 5 o'clock, he put some clean clothes in his bag and went outside to take a bus toward the city center. Afterward, he booked a car online to take him to the train station.

"Fortunately, mom gave me 800 more yuan this month. Otherwise, I definitely wouldn't have enough money..." Lou Cheng followed the tides of people, hastening his step as he got through the security check and felt for his wallet.

Arriving next to the ticket checking counter, it'd just become 6 o'clock. Lou Cheng chatted idly on QQ and forums while he waited for Geezer Shi to arrive.

At 6:40, Geezer Shi approached, wearing an old-fashioned DIY T-shirt. Impressed, he said,

"Not bad, very punctual."

In the early morning when training, Lou Cheng was very focused and hadn't asked more questions about having to go to Pingjiang. Now seeing Geezer Shi, Cai Zongming's previous talk about perverts flashed through his mind, and he involuntarily moved back a step to create some distance.

"What are you looking at?" Geezer Shi looked at him suspiciously.

"No... nothing, just curious what we're going to Pingjiang for," Lou Cheng stammered. He cursed Zongming in his mind, "Son of a bitch, it's all because of that nonsense Little Ming said, it's making me all confused!"

"When the time comes, I'll let you know." Geezer Shi didn't seem to be too concerned.

As their tickets were inspected and they got on the train to sit down, Lou Cheng was anxious and restless. He felt uneasy, and every time he asked a question, Geezer Shi would only answer with a short sentence.

Fortunately, their two tickets were not in the same carriage.
He sighed in relief. It took only one and a half hour from Songcheng to Pingjiang. Before Lou Cheng had the chance to sleep much, they arrived at the long-established provincial capital.

As they sat in the taxi, Lou Cheng realized unsurprisingly that Geezer Shi's destination was Shanbei University. He relaxed a bit, but once again braced himself as the two of them walked into a small guesthouse-type hotel.

If there were two beds in a standard room, one room... Lou Cheng could feel himself becoming more nervous.

"Two rooms." Geezer Shi took out money and his ID.

Hearing these words, Lou Cheng finally relaxed and in his mind cursed Cai Zongming for talking such rubbish before!

"Get up at the same time tomorrow." Before entering his room, Geezer Shi gave this instruction. Later that night, Lou Cheng could occasionally hear lung rattling coughs next door. The next morning he got up at 5:40 and after he finished washing up, he left the hotel together with Geezer Shi and entered the campus of Shanbei University.

Arriving in a corner of the large sports field, Geezer Shi observed for a moment and pointed to a group of boys training in the distance.

"Can you see that person?"

Lou Cheng strained his eyes. Through the darkness that still immersed Shanbei University, under an apricot tree with yellow leaves falling, he could see there was a boy in a white martial arts suit in the process of boxing training. Due to the time of day, it was quite dark, so he couldn't see his appearance clearly. But from his punches and kicks alone, he was able to perceive his high martial arts level.

"I see him," he replied in confusion.

Had they come to Pingjiang just for this guy? Geezer Shi chuckled. "He's called Peng Leyun. He entered Shanbei University last year. At that time he already had access to the Dadan and the Qi Arising from within the Body state. He's a Professional Eighth Rank. He defeated the Martial Arts Club manager and guided Shanbei University through to the semifinals, and became the champion of the National
University Martial Arts Competition.

"He's Peng Leyun?" Lou Cheng had seen this name quite a few times on online forums. He'd never thought that there'd be a day when he'd see him in person.

This man was said to be a genius amongst geniuses, among the top three most outstanding geniuses.

Geezer Shi nodded his head faintly. "He's the inheritor of the Shangqing Sect and the martial nephew of the Qian 'Warrior Sage' Donglou. Ever since his childhood, he had been prone to reflecting and often said 'Martial arts shall follow the laws of nature, and what is nature? It's Physics and Biology.' So last year he shocked everyone by entering Shanbei University's Physics Department. "As your teacher, bringing you here is just to let you have a look at this kind of true genius, at his background and identity. In martial arts, there's no room for the slightest bit of slacking off. Even if he ordinarily wants to have fun, go out to clubs, play games... every day at 5:30 he'll start on time. No matter which day you come, you'll always see him. Look, right now as we stand here planning, just as always you can see his silhouette.

"A genius like him still works that hard. Do you really think that you can surpass them without more pain and hardships?"

Lou Cheng first was astounded at Peng Leyun's background but was gradually shaken by Geezer Shi's words. If he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, if he'd been able to prepare himself mentally beforehand, this kind of scene may not have had such a strong effect on him. By devising this temporary scheme, coming to Shanbei and seeing Peng Leyun rise at 5 a.m. as he always had, pouring his blood sweat and tears into his training, giving it everything that he had, you couldn't help but have your spirit shaken.

In this comparison, there was also clarity! This was a true genius. Yet he continued like this, what did that say about himself?

"You see it, you understand it, then let's go back." Geezer Shi turned around and started to leave, his hands behind his back.

Chapter 16: Proficient in Basic Moves

After the trip to Pingjiang, Lou Cheng found himself at peace all of a sudden. It was the real inner peace. He used to struggle with his daily training and was close to giving up, were it not for his perseverance. When his effort was paid back with progress, his mind grew firmer and stronger but still he was hoping for quick success. He was doing this to reach the Professional Ninth Pin level within two years, to win Yan Zheke's heart, and to build a bright future.

Such eagerness could be the drive for his hardcore training in a short term. However, once he fell on a setback or his improvement didn't meet his expectation, dismay and gloominess would return double to wound his heart and bring unpredictable consequences.

An old saying taught the ordinary to guard against pride and haste. He had nothing to be arrogant or audacious for but his heart was filled with conceit and impetuosity.

A calm mind created peace. Lou Cheng gradually integrated training into his daily life. Gentle and composed yet determined, even his temperament became quite different. Amazed by his changes, Cai Zongming often teased. "Was Cheng played by the casting couch? How come his entire temperament is different now?"

In front of his banter, Lou Cheng calmly responded. "Come here and I'll kick your ass."

Two weeks flew by and Lou Cheng felt his Yin-Yang Stance, Thunder and Fire Stance and Condensation Stance had broken through a difficult point and entered a brand new level. The coordination of his body was smoother, his explosive force within two to three bouts was significantly greater, his concentration and calmness during combat practice were improved, and he even perfected his near-sighted eyes to feel the gaze of others.

When another Saturday morning training came close to the end at twelve o'clock, Li Mao wiped the smile off his face and spoke with solemnity.

"Cheng, one last round." Lou Cheng got ready for his senior brother in sophomore year to grant feint training after a gentle nod.

Different from the direct attack on the vital part two weeks ago, Li Mao approached Lou Cheng from the left in one smooth step. His right hand in the form of a palm blade swung at Cheng's neck at an angle.

Lou Cheng raised his left arm in a leisurely manner and blocked Li Mao's palm. Before Lou Cheng could retaliate, Li Mao took another smooth step and moved to behind him.

As soon as Li Mao's foot touched the floor, Lou Cheng suddenly plucked back with his leg as if he had been waiting for this move.

"Excellent!" Li Mao praised while taking another step to dodge this kick. he moved swiftly around Lou Cheng like a dragon and dealt a series of strikes.

At this point, Lou Cheng no longer needed studious intent to remain between the focusing on one status and equilibrium. He was watching his rival with close attention while keeping his head cool to make quick moves upon Li Mao's attacks. His body was guarded securely with ease despite Li Mao's Swimming Body Palm strikes.

After a few bouts into the match, Li Mao's footwork changed all of a sudden. He approached Lou Cheng abruptly and threw a blast punch after a stride forward. His punch went with great power as if it could break a mountain open, sending out the sound of wind.

Lou Cheng turned sideways to avoid frontal confrontation. However, Li Mao already had one foot ready to plant between Lou Cheng's legs, which could be used as the fulcrum for his throwing techniques and doubled as a restriction on Cheng's footwork. It would be difficult for Lou Cheng to pull strength without falling.

Seeing this situation, hundreds of ideas and possible counterattack moves flashed across Lou Cheng's mind but he made up his mind instantly with no hesitation. Li Mao took one step forward, and Lou Cheng fell back one step as well. As Li Mao advanced step, another one Lou Cheng drew back. One advanced while the other retreated. The distance between the pair remained pretty much the same as they moved in the form of dance.

Li Mao breathed out and quit advancing. He resumed his sliding steps to force his way up close. As forces traveled up from his feet to pull his waist and back, Li Mao punched quickly with both hands in turn.

Lou Cheng felt under a fierce storm and he could collapse at any second. He knew he could spare no effort but he didn't lose head. Fists, elbows and arms, he blocked with them in turns rhythmically while keeping his footwork under perfect control and holding his body in the status where he could comfortably exert force.

Under this kind of attack, losing control over the footwork or being unable to exert force would soon lead to defeat.

A series of blast punches were dealt with growls and roars. Lou Cheng struggled but fought on. When he lost the sense of time and felt reaching his utmost limit, the sheer pressure suddenly vanished as Li Mao drew back. He looked up with an expression of vacancy, seeing Li Mao shake his head with a soft chuckle.

"Time is up. Coach has blown the whistle. So this is a tie for the first time."

Lou Cheng breathed a sigh of relief and started to feel sore in his hands. He shook it off and gently smiled. "Thank you, brother, for your mercy."

He was not being modest but speaking the truth. That was a pair exercise so that Li Mao had been holding back and was mainly providing feint training.

"That's not the case. I wouldn't believe you were the same Lou Cheng if I hadn't practiced with you for the last two weeks and experienced your progress daily," said Li Mao with a tinge of emotion. "Two weeks ago you were a mere beginner with barely any fighting experience, slow, weak and obtuse. Look at you now. You are proficient in basic moves." "Proficient in basic moves..." Lou Cheng reflected on those words and felt joy deep in his heart.

"The comment 'proficient in basic moves', however low it sounds, is actually part of the standard for the Amateur Ninth Pin level," said Li Mao with a gentle smile.

"Brother, you mean I have reached the Amateur Ninth Pin level?" asked Lou Cheng in shock.

"It hasn't even been three weeks and I'm already at the level of Amateur Ninth Pin?"

Li Mao nodded his head. "Being proficient in basic moves means that you can use right moves in combat without messing your footwork, which is enough to help you defeat over 90% of guys who fight merely at will. So, of course, you are at the Amateur Ninth Pin level. He-heh. However, not all martial artists of Amateur Ninth Pin are proficient in basic moves. Some of them win by significant physical superiority during the Ranking Event. They take strikes without actually hurting their body but their fist can easily knock the rival out. For them, getting proficient in martial arts moves and skills seems less important.

"Here I'll have to repeat myself. If I didn't have combat practice with you these days, I would have called my girlfriend to see this miracle. Do you know how long it took me to reach the Amateur Ninth Pin? I started my martial arts training at the age of ten and I didn't pass the ranking event until 15. Well, I didn't practice every day but, hey, five years! And how long did it take you? Three weeks!"

Lou Cheng didn't revel but put on a gentle smile. "This is not the same. Most people pick up martial arts in their formative years. Their strength and physical fitness develop slowly over time and it does take them years to reach adult level. I'm already a grownup and my body has fully developed."

"That's true. But still, you are very talented. What a pity that you missed your best time to learn martial arts!" Li Mao felt sorry for Cheng. He tapped on Cheng's shoulder before making his way to the locker room. Looking at his back, Lou Cheng reflected on the joy in his heart.

"Only three weeks and I'm at the Amateur Ninth Pin level. Where will I be by the next school term? That's a bit far from now. Right now my noticeably improved abilities, such as explosive force, calmness, concentration, and body coordination, in particular, are not yet fully integrated into my moves and footwork. There seems to be a vague barrier there blocking. Once this barrier is removed and all become one, which Amateur Pin will I be?"

Going through this in his head, Lou Cheng quickly picked up his pace to catch up with Yan Zheke and Guo Qing on their way to the locker room.

"What a beautiful day! God must love us!" said Lou Cheng cheerily.

Taking into consideration everyone's schedule, the social meetup was set for this afternoon. They would gather at 1:30 p.m., spend the afternoon boating and picnicking at Zhaoshan Lake, and have a nice meal together afterward. As Lou Cheng, Yan Zheke and Guo Qing had to get up early the next morning for the special training, evening karaoke was not in their plan.

Yan Zheke wore her hair in a ponytail, cute and energetic. "I've always been pretty lucky with the sun. It never rained on my picnic day all these years. You'd better be grateful!"

Lou Cheng attempted to show his gratitude by asking her out for a meal or buying her some snacks, but Guo Qing ran out of patience and interrupted, "You will see each other soon. What's the rush? You boys are easy. Just another day out. We must get ready and have our hair washed."

Lou Cheng's face was burning a bit. He laughed awkwardly. "I'm going to shower and change. See you this afternoon, then."

"See you," Yan Zheke waved at him with a smile.

Keeping his head from turning back, Lou Cheng went straight into the locker room and sighed quietly. The relationship between Yan Zheke and him had got better through chatting, greeting, joking and the natural bond between schoolmates. She even began to call him Cheng. However, something seemed missing. Something was preventing them from taking one step further. They were too polite to each other as if a pair of good friends sharing the same study desk in a high school classroom.

What would be the next step?

Lou Cheng went back to the dorm after taking a shower and having lunch. Zhao Qiang, Zhang Jingye and Qiu Zhigao were all busy picking their finest outfit for the afternoon with Cai Zongming's help.

"Who could have guessed you are more than just a talker!" Lou Cheng teased.

Cai Zongming grinned. "It's not really my specialty but they definitely can use some help with clothing. You are the same, single boy." Lou Cheng took a glance at him and turned back to the bustle. He whispered to Cai Zongming.

"Casanova, is every man with some martial arts skills tempted to act boldly?"

"Yes, the able break rules with martial arts." Cai Zongming looked up and down, putting on a terrified look. "Cheng, don't tell me you are practicing that slogan? You will end up in jail!"

"What's wrong with your head?" Lou Cheng said with a sneer. "I mean... If I knew nothing about martial arts, I would hope for mere safety if I had a chance to go out with Yan Zheke. No illegal taxi. No rogue. No robber. In short, success without a hitch. But now, I'm kinda looking forward to running into a few bad guys, or some brainless rich kids so I can step out to save the beauty."

Instead of refuting, Cai Zongming responded calmly, "Wake up. Your beauty is more skillful than you. Old Qiu is of Amateur Sixth Pin and Guo Qing and I will always be there. It wouldn't be your turn to save the beauty, OK?" "True..." Lou Cheng's lips twitched.

Well, the classic scenario of a hero saving a beauty was not going to happen...

Chapter 17: No Flinch for the Real Man

Watching the well-dressed Zhao Qiang walk to the lavatory with hair gel, Lou Cheng suddenly had a panic attack. He could no longer remain calm and free from arrogance and rashness as he did in training.

"Casanova, what clothes should I wear?" he asked with modesty.

Cai Zongming crossed his arms in front of his chest and answered with his nose in the air. "Now you come to me! Would you dare to go in your martial arts suit!"
Before Lou Cheng reached out his hands to Cai Zongming's neck, he continued. "This afternoon we are to boat. Jeans or slacks would be good. Ordinary looking men with the average disposition like Qiang, Model Worker and Old Qiu best go for some light colors to look clean and vigorous. You used to be one of them but, whatever has happened to you in the Martial Arts Club lately, you have somehow gained a deep and mysterious temperament. You can probably handle some dark clothes. Hmm... The black leisure shirt will do just fine with your brown leather jacket. Looking sharp! Hey! Don't tuck your shirt in. And don't zip up unless you want to look old- fashioned."

Following Little Ming's instruction, Lou Cheng got changed. Checking in the mirror, he seemed quite pleased with this gentlemanly and spirited look. Zhao Qiang, Qiu Zhigao and Zhang Jingye were all styled by Cai Zongming clean and vigorous but in different ways, so they wouldn't be mistaken as wearing the same outfit for work.

Well prepared, the boys left the dorm for the meetup following Cai Zongming, feeling excited but also nervous.

"Talker, what should I do later?" Lou Cheng lowered his voice to Cai Zongming as soon as he caught up with him.

Cai Zongming smiled. "Act like a generous gallant. No flinch for the real man! Your goddess doesn't know Guo Qing's roommates much. And we are total strangers to her. In a strange new environment, by instinct, she will stay close to an acquaintance. Guo Qing's eyes will be fixed on Old Qiu, which gives you a great opportunity to stay with her and talk to her like what you guys have been doing on QQ. I can guarantee she won't give you cold shoulders. More details? It's hard to teach. Do your best and be a generous gallant!"

"Talk to her like on QQ? Damn... I can't do it without emojis..." Lou Cheng heaved a sigh.

"In that case, keep her amused whenever you don't know what to say. Humor is always a good quality for boys but do not get vulgar or dirty. Not yet before you are close enough." Cai Zongming patted Lou Cheng's shoulder. "Stay calm. Relax. I don't have high expectation for you. It doesn’t matter if you lose; just take it as a lesson."

Lou Cheng took a glance at him with contempt. His irony words did cut the tension.

The east gate of the university was selected as the meeting point. After a ten-minute wait, the boys saw five girls coming. Lou Cheng spotted Yan Zheke immediately and completely ignored the others. Instead of a dress, she wore a pair of light-colored jeans, white shoes, a simple white t-shirt decorated with glittering flowers on the chest and a light green jacket for their afternoon rowing. She left her hair down with no bangs, delicate, vivacious and pure.

"Only the true beauty dare to show her forehead," chuckled Cai Zongming.

Zhao Qiang, Qiu Zhigao and Zhang Jingye also noticed Yan Zheke first. She stood out easily whatever crowd she was in.

With their mouth slightly open, they turned to Lou Cheng in surprise. They knew a schoolmate of Lou Cheng would join this meetup but apparently, they didn't expect such a beauty.

Walking next to her, their beautiful muse Zhuang Xiaojun paled into insignificance.

"Cheng..." Zhao Qiang shouted. "Ahh?" Lou Cheng looked at him blankly.

Zhao Qiang conveyed an impression of both grief and evasion. "I get it now. The quiet dog can bite! Did you call me a traitor? You are the real one!"

His words were responded by jeers from the boys. Lou Cheng flushed.

As the five girls got close, Lou Cheng chanted silently.

"I'm a gallant. I'm generous. No flinch!"

He stepped forward to welcome Yan Zheke with a well- practiced smile. "I thought all girls would be late for their date. You are early! Thank goodness we are even earlier."

Yan Zheke appeared very comfortable and relaxed seeing an acquaintance. She pointed at Guo Qing and chuckled. "Guo Qing is known for being resolute and vigorous. She dragged us and we are here now. She even washed her hair for this meetup."

Girls laughed in their sleeve. A short girl added, "Yeah.
Washing hair means she highly values this date."

Although open and frank, Guo Qing felt shy. She quickly interrupted to introduce. "This is Zhuang Xiaojun. That little bitch is Pan Xue. And this one is You Fangfang."

Lou Cheng glanced over. Wearing glasses, Zhuang Xiaojun had delicate features, refined and cultured. Pan Xue wore a full fringe, chubby but adorable. You Fangfang had dark skin and black-framed glasses, not far from being scary.

Lou Cheng nodded and greeted before introducing his roommates to Yan Zheke.

"That man with pomaded hair and powdered face is Cai Zongming, the Talker and Casanova I mentioned to you before. This one with thick eyebrows and big eyes is Zhao Qiang, the head of our dorm. I know he looks serious but this social meetup is his idea. And this is Zhang Jingye, the Model Worker and Qiu Zhigao, the Old Qiu. Affable and honest, they are suffering a spring fever."

The brief introduction scenting the approach of a jest made girls laugh. The boys felt a bit embarrassed but more amused. The atmosphere was enlivened instantly.

Yan Zheke hid her laugh with her hand and spoke quietly to Lou Cheng. "Aren't you afraid of their revenge?"

"Don't worry. I'm upright and honest with no evidence to be blackmailed." Lou Cheng straightened his back to look upstanding. Cai Zongming gave him a thumb-up and commented with his lips, "Cheng, good work!"

The boys took turns to make fun of Lou Cheng, making the atmosphere more amicable. The jokes were proper and harmless as they knew when to stop and what would damage their image in front of the girls. Lou Cheng noticed a cute black bag on Yan Zheke's back and a white paper bag in her hand. He couldn't quite figure out what was inside.

He took a deep breath and pointed at the white bag. "Let me help you with it. I don't want to be an example of how not gentlemanly Chinese men are on the Internet."

Yan Zheke listened his frank but humorous words and put on a half-smile. "Sure, gentleman Cheng."

"Yes!" Lou Cheng cried out in his mind. He took over the white bag and continued to joke along with his eyes squinted. "Wait a minute. Nowadays, 'gentleman' is just another word for pervert. I'm so righteous..."

The girls were again entertained by his laughing at himself. Cai Zongming signaled at the other three boys to help with girls' bags. He took care of You Fangfang's.

They talked and laughed for a few more minutes before the three taxis they had booked arrived at the east gate. Cai Zongming had taught Lou Cheng how to seat the group. Lou Cheng stood on his mettle and pulled Qiu Zhigao over. "Old Qiu, share a car with me."

In the meantime, he tipped Yan Zheke with a wink.

Yan Zheke got it at once and grabbed Guo Qing's arm. "Qing, we also take that car."

Other people started to jeer, leaving Old Qiu no chance to say no. He got in the back of the car first.

Lou Cheng, remembering he was a generous gallant, took the front seat. Yan Zheke squeezed Guo Qing into the back before seating herself behind the front seat.

The engine started and the car set off. Lou Cheng didn't care how the rest of the group would seat. He looked for topics to chat for the ride while writing an SMS to Yan Zheke: "Old Qiu and Guo Qing are both big. Poor you, packed in the back." Yan Zheke felt a vibration and took her mobile out. A smile climbed on her face. She took part in the conversation while secretly replying. "Sigh. Fortunately, I'm pretty slim. I'll suck it up for Qing's happiness! Outgoing and straightforward as her, she can barely talk today. She wouldn't be in this car if I didn't give her a push."

Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke played as a team in finding topics for Qiu Zhigao and Guo Qing to chat with each other whereas talking with each other on QQ sneakily. The taste of sharing a secret made Lou Cheng believe that the distance between Yan Zheke and him had been shortened.

If only the journey could be longer. The group of ten arrived at Zhaoshan Lake in just over half an hour. They rented five two-person rowing boats with orange life jackets. The girls deposited their bags in the checkroom.

Cai Zongming took control happily to assign boats. "Since it is a social meetup, girls and boys must cooperate. Let's see which group can reach the island in the lake first. Old Qiu, you and Guo Qing are group one." "Err... We are both strong. It's not fair for you guys..." Old Qiu put up his deathbed struggle. To be fair, Guo Qing was not bad-looking, although her body was rather sturdy.

"You are a rough man who never boated before. Your strength will probably cancel off Guo Qing's effort. Besides, she's a good swimmer and can save you from drowning..." Cai Zongming made up excuses, supported by the other girls. Old Qiu finally gave in.

Cai Zongming continued. "Lou Cheng, you and Yan Zheke came from the same high school. You'll be group two. Model Worker, you are a big man from the northwest, perfect to help out our petite Pan Xue. Qiang, you scholar share a boat with Zhuang Xiaojun. You Fangfang, you and I will beat all of them!"

On this kind of meetup occasions, many couldn't make up their mind and would happily go with the flow while some had ideas but were too shy to share with others. A bold man could easily step out to assume control of the situation like Cai Zongming here. He divided the group into five teams and no one had much to complain. Cai Zongming gently patted Lou Cheng's shoulder and whispered in his ear.

"Cheng, I've done my best to help you!"

Chapter 18: Yan Zheke's Martial Arts Dream

As autumn deepened, the weather became clear and refreshing. On the Zhaoshan Lake, wavelets spread. A chill could be felt in the air.

Lou Cheng intended to give Yan Zheke a hand to help her get on the boat, but she hopped in swiftly like a deer without causing much of a wobble.

"Her martial arts skills are higher than mine... I can't save the beauty. I don't even have a chance to help the beauty..." Lou Cheng laughed at himself in his mind and stepped on the boat carefully. Sitting facing each other, they each held an oar.

"I wanted to give you a hand," Yan Zheke grinned. The lake breeze lightly blew her long black hair.

"A beauty saves a hero?" Lou Cheng pretended to be in shock as Casanova asked him to be funny if unsure what to say. As he expected, Yan Zheke chuckled. "Cheng, do you know how to boat?"

"Not really..." Lou Cheng answered honestly. He had no such chance when he was little. He had no free time in high school. Last summer holiday he went wild with all the martial arts competitions and news, get-togethers with friends, and surfing the internet. How could he have time for boating?

Yan Zheke pursed her lips and put on a serious look with her flashing eyes.

"Hah... Neither do I..."

Lou Cheng laughed loud. "Aren't you a southern girl?"

Cai Zongming and You Fangfang, and Zhao Qiang and Zhuang Xiaojun had started rowing while Qiu Zhigao and Guo Qing's boat was spinning with Zhang Jingye and Pan Xue's. "I grew up in Xiushan. Anyway, not every southern girl can swim and boat. Neither of my two elder cousins can." Yan Zheke found him brusque but amusing.

Lou Cheng wiped his mouth to not dig into Yan Zheke's family situation and beamed. "Looks like we can't generalize about anything. Well, as we are both new to this, it can be fun to learn boating together."

Yan Zheke slightly nodded and pointed at Zhao Qiang and Zhuang Xiaojun with her chin as her hands held tightly on the oar. "They are doing pretty well. Let's learn."

"Sure." Lou Cheng looked at them and tried to row like Zhao Qiang.

His oar stirred up ripples on the surface but the boat didn't move forward and moved around in a circle.

Yan Zheke joined the action, rowing the boat like a young lady on her way to pick water caltrops. However beautiful the scene was, their boat was still spinning. The pair looked into each other's eyes, helpless and amused.

Lou Cheng intended to earn some credit. He had thought about boating. In an unhurried manner, he sent all his thoughts to his Dantian while pondering on Jindan (the Golden Elixir) to achieve peace. When the surroundings quieted down, the nebula started to rotate. Every inch of his body displayed in his mind. Every movement of the boat and every wave could be sensed clearly.

Slowly, his oar rose and fell, stirring up waves. Forces came and went, presenting in Lou Cheng's mind. He accordingly adjusted direction and posture to correspond to the boat's movement.

At the same time, he noticed Yan Zheke also suddenly became very good at it. Her strokes, Lou Cheng's rowing and the waves reinforced each other perfectly.

Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke's four eyes met. "Your Yin-Yang Stance is getting there?"

"You've mastered Yin-Yang Stance?"

They said in unison with surprise and then smiled at each other as some mutual understanding developed.

As the man here, Lou Cheng took the initiative to answer, "Honestly I'm pretty gifted in meditation. During the first Yin- Yang Stance practice, I achieved Remain in One Stage. Otherwise, how could I survive the past three weeks?"

Yan Zheke looked impressed with her beautiful dark eyes filled with astonishment. "It took you only one to reach peace?"

"Yeah," Lou Cheng nodded sincerely.

Subconsciously, Yan Zheke pouted and blew a sigh. "I thought I was doing pretty well to achieve peace in ten days." "It's an exception. I have nothing else to show off in front of you. Achieving peace in ten days is very good. It took many well-known martial artists half a month to get there," Lou Cheng attempted to comfort her.

They had been talking about everything concerning the martial arts training but their personal progress.

"No need to comfort me with these kind words. I'm not that narrow-minded," chuckled Yan Zheke as her tiny despondence faded away. She heavily nodded. "From now on, you are my idol! Reaching peace in one day is rare in the entire martial arts history."

"Please don't. I don't deserve it," said Lou Cheng with modesty and pride. He quickly changed the topic. "What is your level? I kinda remember you were of no rank when we signed up for the training."

Kinda remember? He was damn sure. The couple played good teamwork and the boat slowly set off. Yan Zheke said after some thought. "I grew up studying martial arts with my uncle-in-law. By Grade Nine I had reached the level of Amateur Ninth Pin but I didn't attend any Ranking Event. I had no time to practice during high school so my progress over the past three years was minor. According to Qing, I was between the level of Amateur Seventh and Eighth Pin at our first pair exercise. Since I was introduced to Yin- Yang Stance, I have made rapid progress. Yesterday Qing told me I'm pretty much at the Amateur Sixth Pin level now." Her voice rose a bit, adorably showing how proud of herself she was.

"How brilliant! You've leveled up in merely three weeks. You are my idol!" Lou Cheng gave Yan Zheke a taste of her own words.

According to Yan Zheke's training experience, she could have been at the level of amateur fourth or fifth pin upon entering the university if she put more effort on martial arts during high school. Her progress of one level within three weeks was the result of her previous accumulation and great potential, very different from Lou Cheng's fast catching up from scratch. Upon hearing Lou Cheng's sincere compliment, Yan Zheke flushed and burst into a brighter smile which was soon replaced by a sigh and gloom when some thoughts flashed across her mind.

"What's wrong?" Lou Cheng sounded concerned.

Yan Zheke continued rowing and waited for a dozen seconds before answering, "By the old sayings, I was congenitally deficient. I would be struggling in a sickbed had I not been practicing martial arts. However, the defect of my body can never be made up for so I can never put everything together perfectly and become responsive enough to enter the Danqi stage, the entry level of real martial arts.

"Because of this, whenever I see a martial arts talent, I envy him and have high expectation of him."

Yan Zheke's sorrow and helplessness softened Lou Cheng's heart and filled it with pity and tenderness. He longed to tell her that he would achieve her martial arts dream. Actions meant more than words. Bragging would make him look frivolous.

Until this moment, he started to understand why Yan Zheke had Lin Que in such high regards, just like other girls, and what she really meant when she said that everyone had their future and it didn't have to be martial arts. She was comforting Lou Cheng as well as herself.

"Senior brother Li Mao told me I'm pretty much at the Amateur Ninth Pin level from my performance during our pair exercise," he said in a calm but firm tone, gazing into Yan Zheke's eyes.

Yan Zheke seemed stunned. "You have already reached the level of Amateur Ninth Pin?"

She knew clearly how ordinary Lou Cheng was three weeks ago. With no previous martial arts training, he became proficient in martial arts basics in three weeks? Besides his talent in meditation... What level would he achieve in three months and in one year?

"Senior brother Li Mao said so," Lou Cheng kept it short.

Yan Zheke looked at him blankly. Her dark eyes were like two bottomless ponds. She remained silent for a good while before opening her mouth again.

"You must train harder."

"Yes," Lou Cheng nodded solemnly.

The two didn't slow down their rowing while talking. Great teamwork and good boating techniques soon helped them catch up with Qiu Zhigao and Guo Qing.

As they were passing, Guo Qing suddenly scooped water with her oar at Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke, forcing them to slow down to avoid getting wet. "Qiu Zhigao, you row the boat. I'll baffle their advance!" Guo Qing shouted complacently.

Yan Zheke found her brusque but amusing. She turned to Lou Cheng. "Counterattack?"

Reading itch in her eyes, Lou Cheng answered with no hesitation.

"Yes!"

"Keep the boat steady." With joy in her eyes, Yan Zheke bit her lips and merrily splashed water with her oar.

Lou Cheng zipped up his jacket and concentrated on the changes of the boat and the waves. He rowed carefully to balance off the force from Yan Zheke's moves and keep the boat advancing smoothly. On the other side, Old Qiu couldn't keep the boat steady upon Guo Qing's big moves, which was kind of holding her back. Two Yin-Yang Stance masters of course had better control over coordination. Their superiority to others was obvious. Soon enough they passed Guo Qing and Lao Qiu and caught up with the other boats. Screams and splashes rose together with laughter and yell.

Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke took the lead and boated around the island in the lake before returning to the starting point. The pair smiled at each other and the tacit understanding further developed.

"Let's do it again. Doraemon won't lose!" Cai Zongming and You Fangfang, the second to arrive, shouted dramatically using a popular online phrase.

One lap after another, the girls had great fun but also felt exhausted. As the sun was setting, they suggested leaving for the restaurant to beat the line.

Led by Lou Cheng and Cai Zongming, the boys pitched in to cover the expenses. At the bank, the good runner Lou Cheng got off with ease and no weariness at all. He reached his hands out to Yan Zheke.

Completely worn out, would she jump out directly?

Lou Cheng's heart was beating fast. Yan Zheke didn't hesitate but grabbed his hand to get out of the boat. With all the advantages they had, still her hair got wet. Some threads stuck on her cheeks, making her a gorgeous lotus coming out of clear waters.

"What's wrong?" Yan Zheke tidied up her hair.

Lou Cheng answered delicately, "I always find girls with wet hair in those TV dramas extraordinarily beautiful."

Yan Zheke moved her eyes and flashed a glance at him.

"I'll get changed." Lou Cheng said with a sudden realization, "In that bag are your clothes?"

"Yeah, clothes can easily get wet while boating. Of course, I have prepared some to change," Yan Zheke said to him smiling. "Careless boys like you probably wouldn't think about it."

"My leather jacket is okay with water," Lou Cheng wiped water off his jacket. "Smart, right?"

Yan Zheke rolled her eyes before pacing toward the luggage storage.

Watching her figure disappear at the women's locker room, Lou Cheng's heart was full of joy. He couldn't stop pacing back and forth.

The politeness sitting between Yan Zheke and him had gone.
The frown and supercilious look of her were the best proof. Still a long way to go till they could hold hands but indeed their relationship had improved.

...

They booked taxis to take them back to the university. The group of ten then went to Old Li Restaurant, a place well known through the town for its stewed pig's trotters with white kidney bean soup. The milky clear broth full of fragrance and soft white kidney beans full of nutrition were very delicious, making the girls' mouths water.

After dinner, the group walked leisurely back to Songcheng University while talking about each other's silly moves and awkward moments from this afternoon. Laughter accompanied them all the way back to the second block of the girls' dormitory.

Yan Zheke lived in the third block, not far from the other girls. Lou Cheng walked her back to the gate. "See you tomorrow at the training," said and waved Lou Cheng with a big smile.

Yan Zheke smiled with her dimples dancing and waved back. "See you."

Watching her enter the dormitory building, Lou Cheng knew she would be busy taking a shower. He strolled to the lake instead of catching up with Cai Zongming.

What a wonderful day! How could he sleep without some good exercise?

...

In the lakeside grove, Wu Dong, a senior member of the Martial Arts Club, was drinking and smoking with two sophisticated friends. The new campus of Songcheng University was only open to the public on the weekends. Postmen were the exceptions. "Sigh, it has been terrible recently. Ever since that Lin Que came to the Martial Arts Club, no one paid much attention to me at all," Wu Dong said dispiritedly after a sip of beer.

A young man with a tattoo on his neck responded, "You and senior brother Chen together can't even knock him down?"

"We'll graduate soon. Nobody wants to get in big trouble. With a bad record, how can we find a job?" Wu Dong burnished his image.

Suddenly, he squinted his eyes and grunted.

"What's wrong?" The other young man with short hair followed Wu Dong's eyes and found Lou Cheng running toward their direction with a bright smile.

"A little rat from the Martial Arts Club," Wu Dong said irritably. The man with tattoos laughed. "What a chance! Wanna have some fun?"

"I'd rather not. If something happened, you guys could run but what could I do?" Wu Dong wanted to give vent to him but was also afraid.

"Don't worry. We know when to stop. Just give him a small lesson." The short-haired man had too much energy to use and continued to instigate. "A fight between students happens every day. Who would bring it to teachers if no major injury is caused? We will do the job. You don't have to take part."

Chapter 19: Challenge

In the last few days, Wu Dong had been feeling annoyed. Agitated by the short-haired young man, he slowly nodded after a few seconds of silence. "Okay, I'll be on the lookout."

"Deal!" The short-haired youth stood up and started to stretch his body.

The man with tattoos laid down his beer and asked with great caution. "Is he any good? Of which amateur level?

Wu Dong laughed and said, "Don't worry. He's new to martial arts, of no level. One of you would be more than enough to teach him a lesson."

The short-haired youth and the tattooed man both left school early to join a gang. Fights were nothing new to them and they had picked up some martial arts basics. To rise in the gang, they consciously kept Chen Changhua and Wu Dong in their company to learn proper martial arts moves. In the past two years, besides booze and drugs, gambling and whores, they did put a decent amount of time and effort into training and practice and had reached the level of Amateur Seventh Pin. Wu Dong seemed confident that they were superior to Lou Cheng.

"Piece of cake, then? Brother Dong, we won't disappoint you!" The short-haired youth scoffed.

The tattooed man thought for a while. "Hold on. Any of you can put on a northeastern accent? Teach me a line or two."

"Ahh?" Wu Dong and the short-haired man didn't get it.

The tattooed man went on to explain. "After all, Songcheng University is the best university in the city, with a reputation across the country. We could easily get in trouble for starting a fight here. Yeah, we will be measured, but never say never. What if some professor happens to pass by? Now it's dark, and hard to see faces. If I put on some northeastern accent, no way we can be traced in case something goes wrong. Right?"

"Right. Right!" Wu Dong was very afraid of being implicated if they got caught. The short-haired man seemed still puzzled. "What kind of professor would pass by here at this hour?"

"Isn't it the perfect hour to date a young, fresh student?" The tattooed man answered with a leer.

...

Along the lakeside trail, Lou Cheng was jogging toward his usual spot for stance training. Half of the Weishui Lake was lit by lights from the living quarters and teaching buildings, glittering like a silver sea, whereas the other half was soaked in darkness and tranquility with the reflection of a few street lamps allowing lovers to meet secretly. Lou Cheng was in the dark as well.

Observing was a common habit for all martial artists. After a period of hard training, he had integrated it into his instinct. Noticing two shadows coming out of the lakeside grove while running, he subconsciously took an extra look.

The tattooed man shouted loud, "What are you looking at?" "Nothing, my bad," replied Lou Cheng meekly as he didn't expect a quarrel from a brief gaze and wanted no trouble.

Martial arts could bolster up one's gut. He was just looking forward to saving his beauty from some rogues. However, when trouble befell, one's true personality and usual practice would still dominate. As Geezer Shi said, militancy and violence could not play the major part in this rule of law society. A martial artist should neither be a coward nor a troublemaker.

"Damn you! Watch your mouth..." These were the only two dialectal lines the tattooed youth learned. Afraid of being recognized, he signaled to the short-haired man to block Lou Cheng's advance while he moved to burn his bridge.

Lou Cheng was no fool. Their aggressive behaviors echoed in his mind and soon he came to the realization, "They are here to cause trouble!"

The way they were approaching from two sides was better than the Amateur Ninth Pin level. The ordinary people with interests in martial arts usually paid no attention to footwork. Those who could maintain their proper foot moves in a fight must be pros.

The distance between them was close enough for a fight to begin at any second. Right before the short-haired youth's palm fell on Lou Cheng's face, Lou Cheng suddenly dodged sideways and paced up towards the woods.

He ran into the woods...

He ran...

Ran...

The short-haired youth and the tattooed man looked at each other in shock. Did the guy run already?

According to their experience, a conflict was usually followed by a quarrel. When violence became obvious, the cowardly would beg for mercy while the hot-blooded would fight until a bitter defeat. But that guy ran like a rabbit after merely three words.

Damn! "Run? Where can you run!" The two recovered from the shock and started their chase after Lou Cheng. Their faces were twisted with shame.

Under a hot pursuit, Lou Cheng dared not slow down, dodging among trees in the grove that he had learned by heart. Soon he got out of the woods and arrived at a trail usually used in his regular endurance training.

The trail connected the teaching buildings and a small hill of ten meters in height, where the biggest library of the city was established. The path would circle the hill and continue onto the widespread western region under construction. Lou Cheng took a turn and ran toward the hill.

The two young men were thrilled to see Lou Cheng heading toward the hill as they came out of the woods. "The guy couldn't have picked a better route!"

If he headed toward the teaching buildings, for certain the two wouldn't approach further. However, he went for the quiet hill, a great place to give him some good kicks!

As the two traversed the grove, Wu Dong could sit still no longer. He was concerned that the enraged two would get in some serious trouble and somehow get him involved, so he quietly followed behind.

Lou Cheng ran and ran with them in pursuit behind. The distance between them grew bigger and bigger as the two loafers got worn out. Both of them started to feel like quitting the chase.

"Damn! I once could run five blocks in one breath!"

At this time, they noticed Lou Cheng's slowing down and shared a look of excitement and cruelty. "We can't run anymore, but neither can that guy!"

"Hang on there and we'll catch him and give him a good lesson!"

They threw out their last strength and made it to the wasteland of the West District on another side of the hill. The distance between them seemed shortened little by little until the short-haired youth could run no more. He stopped and panted heavily.

"Bloody hell! This... this boy... really... can run... "

The tattooed man also stopped not far ahead. He bent over with his hands on his knees for support and watched Lou Cheng's figure get smaller.

"This run... I... My hands... Soft... My legs..." Words jumped out of his mouth as his chest heaved violently. Wu Dong caught up with them, also panting and sweating. Seeing them standing still, he seemed to lose his breath and to be about to vomit.

"Forget... Forget about it... No point... A waste of time..." Cigarettes had harmed his lung, the core of endurance exercises. After such a long run, Wu Dong was close to fainting.

His voice was still in the air when he saw the dark figure of Lou Cheng running through the desolated area toward them.

"You..." The tattooed youth and the short-haired man both squeezed out a sound amidst their heavy breathing.

"How dare this guy come back?"

Fixing their eyes on Lou Cheng, they noticed how calm his face and breath was with no signs of weariness from the long run. "Damn! What kind of monster is this?" The two loafers looked terrified.

Looking at the three with a smile on his face, Lou Cheng suddenly stepped up and threw a powerful punch with strength streaming from his feet all the way up to his fist at the short-haired man's chest.

The short-haired man attempted to dodge but with no strength left in his legs he couldn't move fast enough to avoid the punch.

Bam!

The short-haired man was hit at the Danzhong point, which is close to the bottom part of the sternum. His bones ached, and his breath nearly stopped. As he took two steps back, Lou Cheng advanced closely. He grabbed his shoulders and kicked his leg before throwing him at the tattooed youth who was coming up to join the fight. His legs sank under him, dragging his body to the ground. Lou Cheng surely wouldn't miss this opportunity. He took a step forward and twisted his waist to launch a whip kick at the tattooed man's left shin bone.

"Ahh!"

The tattoo youth gave a horrible shriek. The bone was not broken but the pain was enough to keep him on the ground and out of this fight.

After taking care of them, Lou Cheng turned to Wu Dong with a slight smile.

"So Brother Wu wants to give me a lesson. Please grant instructions, then."

Malicious and gloomy, Wu Dong gasped, "I... I'm tired. Aren't you? We are about the same!

I am of the Amateur Two Pin level! Who the heck are you?" "Sorry, but I'm not tired at all..." Lou Cheng got in the Fighting Stance calmly with itch and fire in his eyes.

According to their master, although Wu Dong was an Amateur Second Pin, his body had suffered severe effects due to the abuse of booze and smoke. Besides, he was worn out and out of breath at that very moment. How could a martial arts student as Lou Cheng miss this chance to challenge him?

Chapter 20: Break Rules with Violence

Lou Cheng talked no more but lowered his body and shifted left and right to approach Wu Dong.

After three weeks of martial arts practice, he had mastered basic and simple moves and could put them into practice. Although he hadn't come to complicated techniques, he could observe and imitate, which differentiated humans from animals.

Facing Wu Dong, an opponent much stronger than himself, Lou Cheng subconsciously longed to do better. Chen Changhua's meandering footwork of a terrifying snake in the combat with Lin Que came to his mind.

Comparing to Chen Changhua at that time, Lou Cheng was new to this footwork with little control over subtle movements. However, his grasp of Yin-Yang Stance had strengthened coordination of his body and concentration of his mind. In a semi-meditation, he delicately shifted his weight with ease. When his body leaned to the left, his weight was kept slightly to the right and vice versa. Virtuality and reality could hardly be separated apart and his actual target became unclear.

The experienced martial artist Wu Dong felt cornered. Chen Changhua’s snake footwork usually had an opening for him to predict and prepare in their previous combat practice. However, he didn’t have a clue when would this martial arts beginner approach. One second he thought for sure he was going for his right but then next he felt unsure about it.

"Is he a beginner of three weeks' training?"

"Has he been playing weak to prey on us?"

Hesitation would bring destruction in combat. With rich actual combat experience from several ranking events, Wu Dong understood this principle thoroughly and had always been sticking to it until that moment, when he felt unable to respond to Lou Cheng's coming close.

If in his normal form, Wu Dong would play on his strength and move about until he saw through the snake footwork. But tired and out of breath as he was at that moment, moving about would be courting death.

Well, all he could do was to play defense!

Wu Dong got in the fighting stance, awaiting Lou Cheng's approach.

Lou Cheng seemed delighted with Wu Dong's careful play as it was exactly what he expected!

Before Wu Dong revealed himself, Lou Cheng had planned to wear those two troublemakers out with his running prowess and then kick their ass. As soon as he spotted Wu Dong, he slowed down on purpose to lure them into more running to further exhaust them. He remembered the master once mentioned that Wu Dong had wasted his body on smoke, booze and women. Suffering severe lung malfunction, he couldn't recover fast once he tired out.

In this state, Wu Dong could no longer bring out his strong points, like agility, speed, and guerrilla hit and sneak attack, and would be forced into a defensive stance.

Lou Cheng shifted his weight and took a big step forward to Wu Dong's right side. His strength sprung from his feet to his right hand through his entire body and formed a metal hammer around his fist. Lou Cheng threw a powerful punch at Wu Dong.

Phew...

The punch went forward with wind. Wu Dong failed to detect the actual target of the snake footwork and missed the best time to respond. He secured his body thoroughly and wielded both hands, one guarding and the other blocking, to receive Lou Cheng's right punch.

As their hands collided, Lou Cheng didn't feel overwhelmed at all and realized that Wu Dong was still short of breath after the run. To be fair, this martial artist of Amateur Second Pin was slightly on the downside. To push his advantage, Lou Cheng stepped his right foot forward to block Wu Dong's advance while throwing a blast punch with his left hand at Wu Dong's stomach.

Unable to dodge, Wu Dong had to take another heavy strike with his body.

Bang!

As Lou Cheng's punch hit Wu Dong, he pulled strength from his feet and turned sideways to launch an elbow hit.

Considering Wu Dong’s current situation, Lou Cheng must stick to a close melee to take advantage of his weakness at close engagement, and thus he would win this fight while Wu Dong was still short of breath.

Once the fight turned into a skirmish fight, Wu Dong would take the chance to catch his breath. Bang! Bang! Bang!

A few bouts passed but Wu Dong didn't leave Lou Cheng any good opportunity, thanks to his years of martial arts training.

He again and again warded off Lou Cheng's attacks with his hands. Finally, Lou Cheng noticed a slight lean backward of Wu Dong's body.

As if a rock finally loosened in the storm!

Wu Dong was running out of strength!

"Take his life when he's down!" Lou Cheng thought as he strengthened his waist, coordinated the tiniest parts of his body and adjusted his weight before throwing another punch.

Bang! Wu Dong collapsed and staggered backward. To kill Lou Cheng's attempt of throwing another punch, he dived down to the ground and rolled to the side.

Seeing him rolling on the ground, Lou Cheng was thrilled. He had forced Wu Dong of Amateur Second Pin to roll on the ground! A victory was one step away!

He slid closer and intended to end the fight with a whip kick like what Lin Que did.

At this very moment, Wu Dong showed a squint. He grabbed some dust with his left hand and threw it at Lou Cheng.

It was completely to Lou Cheng's surprise. He acted on instinct, closing his eyes and covering his face with his left hand. His body turned sideways.

Things happened too fast. As dust got into his eyes, Lou Cheng felt sore and couldn't keep them open. All was hurry and confusion. His head was empty and indeed at a loss. Bang!

Lou Cheng felt pain on his back from a heavy punch. He then lost his balance and staggered forward, about to fall. The familiar situation and experience made him start to meditate by instinct, subtly adjusting his body and shifting weight.

One at peace had a clear mind. During the fall, Lou Cheng resumed his ability to think. He realized how little combat experience he had and forced himself to stay calm in front of Wu Dong's series of attacks.

The Jindan (the Golden Elixir) rotated slowly and the nebula shrank and expanded. His muscles acted coordinately, and adjustments took place naturally. Lou Cheng staggered a few big steps until the balance was restored.

Meanwhile, he took steps toward different directions to get away from Wu Dong's strikes from behind.

Lou Cheng's feet finally stabilized, but his eyes still hurt badly. Tears ran down along his face as if he was crying from the fight. Surrounded by utter blackness, Lou Cheng had no idea from which direction Wu Dong would launch the next attack. Moreover, he didn't hit the vital part of the two rogues so they could maybe rejoin the fight at any second.

Calm...

Calm!

Lou Cheng quickly made up his mind. Focusing on the process of water concreting into ice, he felt his thoughts also concreting into ice and his senses became extraordinarily sharp.

Ice Sect's Condensation Stance!

Everything seemed calm and peaceful. While the Yin-Yang Stance emphasized the subtle feeling within oneself, the Condensation Stance was all about the surroundings. A gentle breeze along with a light patter of feet sounded in his ears, and a faint fragrance of alcohol prevailed in the air. In a trance, Lou Cheng’s ear sensed someone coming from the left.

While maintaining his composure, Lou Cheng lifted his hands into a defensive pose and waited patiently for his vision to recover.

A heavy breath came to his ear. His focus turned to a silver flash of lightning shooting down to a tree and starting a fierce fire.

Thunder Sect's Lightning and Fire Stance!

The emergence of fire and lightning triggered his muscles to wiggle. Lou Cheng’s tailbone was warmly numb and his body became heavy. A hot stream flew along his spine through his waist down to his left leg as if struck by a lightning bolt, blocking all his pores and preparing for a terrifying explosion.

His left leg launched a powerful kick without warning. Bang!

Lou Cheng knew his kick landed on something—probably a bone—before a horrible scream came from the ground.

"Got it..." He kept calm without lowering his guard. Lou Cheng raised one hand to rub his eyes. Tears had finally got the dust out and his vision was restored.

From blur and dim to clearness was the image of Wu Dong wallowing in dust with pain in his thigh. The short-haired youth and the tattooed man were still on the ground, gradually recovering from the earlier punches.

"Phew... Actual combat is very different from pair exercise…" Lou Cheng heaved a sigh of relief when the ache became clear on his back.

Had he not achieved inward vision through Yin-Yang Stance and Jindan, sharpened his senses and concentration through Condensation Stance or mastered the sudden intense burst of Lightning and Fire Stance, he would have been clobbered by the well experienced Wu Dong!

The keys of Yin-Yang Stance, Condensation Stance and Lightning and Fire Stance seemed simple, as if anyone could do it. However, as the basic stance training of the Thunder Sect and Ice Sect, they surely had their own difficulties—how to reach peace, how to focus and what to focus on. Without explanation and guidance on these matters, possibly only one out of a thousand students was talented enough to master them simply according to their description.

The basic of all the basics, Yin-Yang Stance was all about how to reach peace, how to focus, how to Remain in One and how to focus on one. Geezer Shi taught them this during their very first session and then spent three weeks to guide them through it and correct their mistakes. Yet, only Yan Zheke and Lou Cheng himself could achieve peace by focusing on one. Guo Qing, Li Mao and Sun Jian were not there yet, whereas Lin Que wasn't new to this.

After this thrilling and intense combat, Lou Cheng's stance training and fighting moves had reached a new level of integration and harmony. The level of his martial arts skills was unclear.

As Lou Cheng began to relax, fear came to his mind. His momentary hot blood and gallantry had pushed him into this fight but worries quickly grew once his Qi and blood calmed down. He could be punished by the University for this or even be locked away if their injuries were severe.

Fortunately, he didn't go for the two rogues' vital parts and although Lou Cheng couldn't see or control, his final kick at Wu Dong shouldn't be too bad as Wu Dong was still wallowing and rubbing his leg.

The saying "warriors break rules with violence" was so true... Lou Cheng packed away his concerns and remained placid as he turned to Wu Dong with a smile.

"Senior Brother Wu, you are in your final year, aren't you?"

Holding tight on his leg, Wu Dong looked up at Lou Cheng blankly. This freshman, calm and mature, had gone straight for his weak point without any trepidation. Recalling the swiftness of his last kick and the calmness when he lost his vision, Wu Dong no longer believed the information he had on Lou Cheng.

Under Lou Cheng's gaze, Wu Dong looked away.

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