Chapter 351: A Surprising "Pie"
In the afternoon on the 20th, Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke went to Gao Fen East Station. They got on the bullet train back to Xiushan.
After having a leisurely date, they visited the animal park and closely observed postures such as "Huxing" (tiger form tactic) and "Houxing" (monkey form tactic). Furthermore, they also watched some panda cubs basking in the sun. They took some pictures of the memorable moments they had during this trip. That afternoon, they chose to stay at home after ﬁnishing their morning exercises instead of playing outside. Sometimes they kissed each other and sometimes they leaned against each other while watching TV programs on the iPad.
At that time, it was the third day for the delegation of Bruder to visit Gao Fen. Oblak was invited to participate in the activities held by martial arts ﬁghters of Gao Fen and he was disappointed for failing to ﬁnd a ﬁghter with a superpower.
The bullet train went so fast through the mountains and across the ﬁelds. As Lou Cheng was sharing a funny post with Yan Zheke, he suddenly received a phone call from Wu Ting, a VIP student of the summer class who was still a freshman in high school. Her hair was always tied in a ponytail.
"Hello?" Lou Cheng answered the call, puzzled.
"Lou Sir, Lou Sir, when do you plan to come back to Xiushan?" Wu Ting asked in a happy tone.
"What's up? I probably won't do the part-time job in the martial arts club during this winter vacation." Lou Cheng thought that she just wanted to continue martial arts training.
This did not mean that he did not want to make money. After he returned to school, except for the allowance from his parents, he had spent a lot of money but had made none. Even though he had gone on fewer dates with Yan Zheke, his expenses on other things increased a lot. For example, after studying for a period of time, Queen of Thought and her partners had made a prescription which could be used to help people master the inner practice of the "Swordsman" Formula. Geezer Shi then passed this prescription on to him. He also got a lot of other similar things from his master. Although the Ice God Sect would provide him some materials for practicing martial arts every month, he still needed to buy more by himself. Several months later, it cost Lou Cheng almost 80,000 Yuan to buy those extra materials.
He did not get his strength as strong as a Professional Sixth Pin without any effort!
Furthermore, Lou Cheng also spent a large amount of money on the date, on presents, and on the hotel booking, so his deposit now was less than 200,000 Yuan. Since he temporarily could not ﬁnd any source of income, it was inevitable for him to think of a part-time job, such as teaching some students. However, the martial arts club would also be closed and had no winter classes during the Chinese New Year.
Hearing Lou Cheng's reply, Wu Ting was disappointed, but still maintained a happy attitude. "If I've nothing to say, then I won't be allowed to call you?"
"No, you won't," Lou Cheng said half-jokingly. "... " Wu Ting was speechless at that moment. She kept silent for 10 seconds, then laughed angrily. "I see that Lou Sir has a sharp tongue! I didn't call to ask you for a favor. It's my dad, he is looking for you."
"Why is your dad looking for me?" Lou Cheng became more confused.
Wu Ting laughed happily. "My dad has a martial arts supply company. He would like to invite you to endorse some shoes to let that brand spread out from Xing Province and be popular across the country!"
"Endorse?" Lou Cheng was shocked.
At such a low level, I can endorse products?
Shouldn't the Mighty Ones with Physical Invulnerability be the ones with these endorsement deals? Sitting next to him, Yan Zheke was attracted by their conversation, so she turned her head and winked with confusion.
"My dad said your future is bright. Um, you will not only have a bright future but also a limitless future. You will certainly come to the peak of martial arts," Wu Ting explained to him happily.
My Lou Sir is so amazing!
Lou Cheng replied consciously, "But what you said is all about the future; no one dares to promise you the future. If your dad chooses me to endorse the shoes now, he might end up losing money... "
"No, he won't. Lou Sir, you're popular now. All of us have watched the match between you and Peng Leyun! My dad said that as a favored ﬁghter of the age and a local ﬁghter in Xing Province, you can help him expand the provincial market and even get a chance to develop the regional market." Wu Ting added, "Anyway, you don't need to do any other things. You don't need to ﬁlm an advertisement. All you need to do is to wear the speciﬁc martial arts shoes we made for you in every Challenge Tournament that you participate in."
"Then they will be broken into fragments," Lou Cheng said humorously.
Wu Ting again was speechless. She laughed and, after hearing what the people next to her told her, said, "What are you afraid of? Which martial arts shoe brand won't be broken? As long as we design them to look cool and you wear them, some people, like me, who always follow the latest fashion, will buy shoes that you endorse if you can wear them for several matches."
She bluntly deprecated herself.
"This news is too sudden. Right now, I'm so surprised that I don't know how to respond. I'll reply to you after I think about it carefully." Lou Cheng did not impulsively accept her suggestion immediately. Wu Ting laughed cutely. "My dad means that after you return to Xiushan, you can go to the company when you are free to talk about this with him face to face. If you think the conditions are good enough, they will measure you there immediately so that the workers can design the most suitable martial arts shoes for you."
"OK, I'll be back in Xiushan this afternoon. When will your dad be available at the company?" Lou Cheng decided to talk about the speciﬁc terms with her dad.
"Well, my dad will have a business trip tomorrow, but he is in the company today. So, how about you go to talk to him before 6 PM?" Wu Ting asked tentatively.
"OK, send me the address. I'll tell you when I go out," Lou Cheng said with discretion.
Wu Ting chuckled and said, "Yes, Sir!"
After he hung up the phone, he looked at Yan Zheke sitting next to him. She had already ﬁgured out what was going on, so he needed not explain. She pursed her lips and laughed. "You even got an endorsement contract now!"
"Holy high, my Cheng!"
"I still have no idea what the speciﬁc conditions are, but I'm guessing they won't offer that much money." Although Lou Cheng was very happy, he remained sober.
With his current strength and his present level, he could not get a very high-paying endorsement.
But it still could be considered as a complement to me, because I am unable to earn a stable income on my own.
Yan Zheke looked up and said with great concern,
"Even if those conditions were not bad, still you shouldn't rush to sign the contract. First, you can take it back to a lawyer to have a look at it in case it's a trap. While not many would dare to cheat you, there are still some people intending to mess you. They are like pieces of sh*t. Even though they are unable to set a trap for you, they can still disappoint you."
"Sure, Coach Yan!" answered Lou Cheng gladly.
Yan Zheke pursed her lips and smiled. She suddenly sighed. "In the future, I will have no chance to buy martial arts shoes for you."
"No, you can. I just have to wear them when I'm in a match. In my personal time, I'll still think the shoes you bought for me are the best! I've only worn the ﬁrst pair of shoes you gave me a few times, so they are still new." Lou Cheng took the opportunity to ﬂatter his girlfriend.
Yan Zheke smiled and looked out the window, wearing a slightly proud expression.
It only took about an hour to travel from Gao Fen to Xiushan by bullet train, so they quickly found some familiar scenery. Yan Zheke got a phone call from Empress Dowager. The reason why they deliberately chose this bullet train was that its arrival time was exactly similar to the arrival time of one of the high-speed trains from Songcheng to Xiushan.
"Um, I'll arrive in a minute!" Yan Zheke hung up the phone and saw Lou Cheng taking down their luggage. She looked at him gently and reached her hand out to help him tidy up his clothes.
Once they have arrived back in Xiushan, they would be very busy because of the New Year. In addition to the morning exercises, they might have fewer chances to meet each other...
After stepping off of the car, they reluctantly waved goodbye to each other in the arrival hall.
Lou Cheng walked out of the station carrying the luggage.
After he replied to the girl's message, he called his mom.
"Mom, I am home!" Qi Fang seemed to be in a noisy environment, so she said loudly on the phone, "Your dad and I are busy with the renovation of the house, so we had no time to buy food. Go to the market and buy something that you like. I'll make food for you when I get back home. Ah, the new year is coming. The decoration workers are absent-minded now for they are eager to return to their homes. So I have to supervise their work and urge them to ﬁnish working on the water and electricity before
the spring festival."
"That's my mother! The moment I come back home, she begins to instruct me to complete so many tasks!" Lou Cheng found her funny but still agreed to do what she said.
After a long period of careful selection, Qi Fang ﬁnally chose a house of 130 square meters, which had three bedrooms, two living rooms, and two kitchens. This house also had two bonuses, which were the entrance and the terrace. It cost them more than 550,000 Yuan in total to buy this house, including the tax that they paid. Because they paid cash, Lou Cheng's parents also spent all of their money except for the 400,000 Yuan that Lou Cheng had given to them. Only two months later, his parents had saved enough money to start the water and electricity renovations. Because if it was not necessary, Qi Fang, who had suffered a lot because of borrowing money, did not want to try it again.
Lou Cheng got on a shaky bus and went back home. As he was walking toward his house, the uncles and aunts he encountered on the way warmly greeted him and said something like: "Oh, Cheng has become outstanding now". They also praised him for the grateful heart that he held toward his parents and for the act of providing money to buy a house for his family.
Lou Cheng felt a little proud and excited while watching the envious and thoughtful neighbors. But he still had one idea in his mind, which was, "How many people did my mother tell that I gave her money to buy a house? How much did she show it off? How many people know about it?"
When he came near the doorway, he met another acquaintance, Wang Xu's father.
"Hello, Uncle Wang." Lou Cheng greeted him politely. Wang Xu's father walked with a slight stoop and his hair had become grey. He looked like a person of 60 or 70 years old. He then looked at Lou Cheng and laughed. "Cheng, have you come back from school? You are already so successful. Your father and mother will enjoy a happy life from now on."
"Please don't say that, Uncle Wang. You can only believe half of my mother's words." Lou Cheng ridiculed his mother.
"Even if the truth is half of whatever your mother has said, it's already quite a feat." Wang Xu's dad sighed with emotion and walked out of the building. He turned to ﬁnd the group of old men who were playing chess.
Lou Cheng turned around to watch him go away. Lou Cheng then sighed and had some mixed feelings in his heart.
If a person chooses the wrong way, it will hurt not only himself but also others.
This accident was not as serious as before. If I have some time, I'll ask Uncle Xing for help and go visit Wang Xu in jail... He recovered his thoughts and emotions. When he returned home, he put his backpack down, picked up a basket, and headed to the market.
The last time he went to the market alone was when he was in the ﬁfth grade of primary school. That time, he went to the market not to buy food, but to look for his mother.
"Thinking about grocery shopping by myself, I'm suddenly a little nervous." Lou Cheng smiled as he sent the message to Yan Zheke.
Yan Zheke sent a "half covering the mouth and whispering" emoji.
"I've never been to the market before... "
"Then I'm better than you." Lou Cheng sent an emoji "laughing with its hands at its sides". "Hmph, are you able to bargain?" Yan Zheke sent an "angry face" emoji.
"No, I'm not!"
"Are you able to tell the quality of meat?"
"Probably a little?"
"Can you tell if they injected water into the meat?"
"No, I can't... "
"Can you pick out good quality vegetables?"
"No, I can't... " Her questions made Lou Cheng lack self-conﬁdence. He found that his personality as the Champion of the Youth Tournament did not work in the market.
"Can you distinguish wild animals from domestic poultry?" Yan Zheke kept asking him.
Lou Cheng's anger was mixed with amusement, so he sent her an emoji with words:
"Classmate, you're killing our conversation!"
"Haha." Yan Zheke sent a "laugh while thumping on the ground" emoji and said, "Go buy food now. I'll wait for your messages!"
After entering the market, Lou Cheng bypassed various stains with his ﬂexible footwork. He then casually stopped at a pork stall and asked the boss, who had a fat face, "How much are the ribs?" Ah, tonight I want to eat some winter-melon pork rib soup!
Even though he bargained with the boss, the price was still the same. He looked at the boss, who was helping him chop the ribs, and asked, "Can I pay for this with my mobile phone?"
"Yes, please scan my QR code." The boss pointed to a picture on the wall.
To pay by mobile phone was so convenient now. People did not have to bring any cash or change with them... Lou Cheng used the phone to sweep the code. After his phone identiﬁed the QR code, he suddenly found that the nickname of the boss was:
"The past has gone with the wind and only exists in dreams".
"What a literary name that is!" Lou Cheng looked up at the fat boss with astonishment. Looking at the ﬂashing, shiny oil on his face, he still could not believe he had such a literary name... "Well, I paid." Lou Cheng paid for the ribs.
The boss helped him pack the ribs and then wiped his hands.
He then picked up the phone and checked it.
"Okay, I received the money."
"He really has such a nickname..." The corners of Lou Cheng's mouth twitched slightly and he put the ribs in the basket. He then went to another stall.
Later, he met a ﬁshmonger called "Love You Forever" and a vegetable seller called "Abandoned Child". He found that his worldview was refreshed, so he shared these humorous names with Yan Zheke.
At 15:30, he went out again after he brought the food back home. He took a taxi to the address that Wu Ting had sent him.
Chapter 352: Contract
In the Yingjin Building of the Pingle District.
When Lou Cheng entered the lobby of the newly-built ofﬁce building, he received a lot of attention from the security guards due to his student-like appearance. He ignored them and looked around with great interest, observing the passing ofﬁce workers who wore down jacket or all kinds of overcoats instead of the typical suits and ties or formal skirts and high heels in his imagination.
The elevator he entered was not crowded as the people in the building were still at work. On his left were two men discussing business. On his right was a straight-haired girl carrying a few cups of milk tea and several slices of cake. With his keen sense of smell, Lou Cheng had to pinch his nose slightly due to the smell of perfume on her body.
"If I didn't get Jindan and didn't start practicing martial arts, perhaps this would be my daily environment... " Lou Cheng lamented internally. He exited the elevator at the tenth ﬂoor and saw the logo on the wall in front of him. It read Zaoji Martial Arts Supplies Co. Ltd.
"This is the place I am looking for!" He turned left and saw a receptionist with long beautiful hair looking down at her phone in a bored manner.
"Hello," he tentatively greeted the lady.
The receptionist suddenly raised her head and put down her phone quietly. She blurted out,
"Who are you looking for?"
As a company receptionist, she had a beautiful look and sweet smile, but also a pair of glassy eyes.
"I'm looking for Manager Wu." Lou Cheng returned her smile. "Manager Wu? Who are you referring to?" the lady asked with confusion, having calmed down.
"Manager Wu. Wu Qinggui," Lou Cheng answered calmly.
The lady looked him up and down suspiciously.
"Have you already made your appointment?"
Though she found the young man in front of her to be very cute, he also seemed younger, as if he was an undergraduate student. So what was he doing here?
Was he here to apply for an internship?
But there was no need to bother Manager Liu with such trivialities, was there?
"Yes, I have." Lou Cheng nodded with a smile. "Okay then, I will ask." She picked up the phone with uncertainty, dialing someone's number.
"Hello, Manager Wu. A guest is waiting for you... Yes, yes, he's very young... Okay, okay." As she talked on the phone, she looked at Lou Cheng with surprise.
He really had an appointment with Manager Wu!
After putting down the phone, she said with a much sweeter smile, "Manager Wu asks that you wait for a moment."
Manager Wu did not mention why he had to wait and neither did she know the reason.
"Okay." Lou Cheng put his hands in his pockets and looked around leisurely, admiring the layout and decoration of the Zaoji ofﬁce. Just then, he heard a burst of rapid footsteps closing in. He subconsciously looked in that direction and found a middle- aged man with a thin and strong ﬁgure approaching,
"M-Manager Wu!" the receptionist stood upright and shouted shyly.
Manager Wu came out to personally welcome this young man!
Who was this young man?
Wu Qinggui wore a suit and tie. He had a square face with thick eyebrows and big eyes. He approached Lou Cheng with a smile and outstretched his arms to shake hands with him passionately.
"Oh, you should have called me ﬁrst when you arrived.
Come, come. Come into my ofﬁce." "Manager Wu, you are too kind. I can ﬁnd this place myself," Lou Cheng said calmly. He followed Wu Qinggui into his ofﬁce and passed by many working quarters. He ﬁnally arrived at the ofﬁce at the end of the corridor, leaving the receptionist stunned for a long time. It took her a long time to snap out of
"... that is the general situation. I believe Tingting has told you this?" In the ofﬁce, Wu Qinggui sat on the guest sofa and repeated the conditions about the endorsement. He took a cup and took a sip of tea to moisten his throat.
Lou Cheng smiled. "Yes. I basically know what is going on. I just want to know what speciﬁc terms you have made."
Wu Qinggui requested the sample contract from the secretary and handed it to Lou Cheng.
"The main content is that we will give you one million yuan over three years. You just need to wear our martial arts shoes when you ﬁght in matches. There are additional terms of the contract made to give you money. You can ﬁrst take a look at them." "Okay." Lou Cheng began to read the contract quietly.
One million yuan over three years. This condition was much better than he had expected!
He felt embarrassed to even bring up the endorsement money again...
He thought that his current endorsement fee would only be tens of thousands of yuan. Most ﬁghters of the Dan stage did not even have the chance to get an endorsement. What was more, he would not need to attend other activities or ﬁlm any advertisements. He would earn this fee simply by wearing a pair of shoes. It was that easy!
He turned the pages very quickly, the professional terms used in the contract making him dizzy. He basically understood the contract in the end.
The additional terms that Wu Qinggui had mentioned earlier were indeed beneﬁcial to him. Generally, the terms meant that he could get extra money according to the level of matches he participated in!
For example, the group competitions of the National University Martial Arts Games would certainly attract less attention than the semi-quarter ﬁnals, the semi-ﬁnals, and the ﬁnals. Every bit of progress he made would lead him to advance in a completely different stage, meaning the martial arts shoes he endorsed would certainly be shown in a much more popular stage. Thus, the endorsement contract also set out some ranked rewards.
According to those terms, the maximum fee this contract could offer him was more than 10 million yuan within these three years. But Lou Cheng thought this was an illusion. He certainly could not make this much money, because the biggest reward he needed to get based on this contract was the title of one of the top 32 ﬁghters in the ﬁve biggest title matches.
How could he achieve this!?
The ﬁghters who advanced to the top 32 of the ﬁve biggest title matches were all masters of the physical invulnerability! With his strength and current improvment speed, he was still hopeful to earn more than 1,500,000 yuan in these three years based on this contract... Lou Cheng put down the contract in his hand.
"Manager Wu, can I bring this contract home to look it over?
I will respond in two days."
That was right. He was interested in these conditions. He would return and ﬁnd a lawyer to help him out with this contract!
He needed to ask his Senior Sister for help this time. She would introduce him to a good lawyer!
"No problem. You can write down my email address. If you have any problems with the contract terms, you can directly ask me." Wu Qinggui readily agreed. He picked up the pen and quickly wrote down an email address on a paper.
He then stood up and laughed. "I will bring you around our ofﬁce. This is the center of gravity of my recent business. Oh, by the way, I can help you measure your accurate data so we can design a speciﬁc martial arts shoes for you."
"Okay." Lou Cheng did not turn down his suggestion.
Following Wu Qinggui, he toured the design department and other places. In the end, he entered an ofﬁce decked out like a scene out of a science ﬁction ﬁlm.
"This machine collects data about your force. We can carry out the following steps with the data." Wu Qinggui ordered the professional designers to help Lou Cheng measure the length and width of his feet, pointing at the metal table mounted on the ground.
After the designers were done with the measurements, he smiled and raised his chin. "Give it a try. You only need to stand on it and exert your maximum force into your feet."
Lou Cheng hesitated. "Won't I break it?" Even he was terriﬁed of the explosive power he now had...
"How can that happen? This machine is of good quality. I have already asked a few Professional Ninth Pin ﬁghters and mighty ones of the Dan stage to test its force." Wu Qinggui smiled without any concern.
Lou Cheng was still uncertain. "There really won't be a problem?"
"No problem! If it breaks, it's on me!" Wu Qinggui laughed.
"Okay then." Lou Cheng stepped on the metal table with his socks on.
As they waited for the technicians adjusting the equipment, Wu Qinggui said, "Okay, you can start now."
Under Wu Qinggui's eager eyes, Lou Cheng took a breath to unify and balance his spirit, his blood, and his force, concentrating them into one entity.
He broke out his Danqi and abruptly exerted force into his feet.
At the entrance of the Zaoji ofﬁce, the receptionist suddenly felt dizzy and found the ground shaking.
"Earthquake!" Startled, she ran out. She also found that her colleagues were also rushing out from every ofﬁce.
Just then, the microearthquake ceased. The workers in the company looked at each other with stupeﬁed expressions.
"Go back to work. It is no big deal." The receptionist settled down and waved her hand to comfort them. That scene repeated on every ﬂoor of the Yingjin Building.
In the testing room, Lou Cheng looked at the broken metal table and raised his head innocently. "Seems like I broke it... "
It was not 'seemed like'! It was really broken! Completely broken! Wu Qinggui gaped and his eyes widened. He was truly startled, as if he was seeing the arrival of an alien.
Was this the explosion made by a Sixth Pin ﬁghter?
It was like he had caused an earthquake!
"Manager Wu, the ﬁghters you found before were of Eighth Pin in the Dan stage, right?" Lou Cheng tried to pass the buck.
"Yes, yes." Wu Qinggui broke out of his reverie and said with a wry smile, "This machine really does not work well. It's on me, on me!" The ﬁghters who were in the Inhuman rank really were inhuman now!
Lou Cheng once again looked at the table he was standing on and curiously asked, "Has it measured any data?"
"No... " The technicians answered him with tearful expressions.
Wu Qingui calmed down and smiled. "It's time to get off work. How about we have a dinner together?"
"Haha. It is my ﬁrst day back home, so I must accompany my parents. Let's eat together next time." Lou Cheng still felt a little guilty.
"Okay." Wu Qinggui did not insist on his suggestion.
… Lou Cheng ﬁrst went home and chatted with Coach Yan for a while. He then called his Senior Sister, Shi Yuejian, to discuss the endorsement. Following her instructions, he took photos of the contract and sent them to her.
When it was late, Shi Yuejian called him back. "Little Brother, the contract has no problems, but it lasts for a long period of time. Three years from now, you will graduate from university and will certainly become a ﬁghter who can participate the top professional games, so your social status will be completely different at that time. This contract will waste your value. So you should sign a contract for two years. They should give you 700,000 yuan within two years. All the uncertain terms are reserved."
"If you are too embarrassed to demand this from them, you can adopt the two-plus-one pattern. Two years from now, they have your endorsement priority, but the conditions they offer should be similar to what others are offering."
"Got it. Thanks, Senior Sister," Lou Cheng said happily. The door opened just then. Qi Fang and Lou Zhisheng had returned home wearing tired expressions.
"Cheng, what are you talking about?" Qi Fang casually asked him while changing out of her shoes.
Lou Cheng laughed. "I'm talking about a big contract."
"Big contract... " Qi Fang smiled without interest and walked into the kitchen.
What kind of big contract could one sign by only ﬁghting in some matches and winning a little bit of money?
Lou Cheng did not explain himself. He wanted to wait until he signed the contract and surprise his mother with money for their house furnishing.
Haha... "I only saw how hard your mother had it after following her around to work on the house furnishing." Lou Zhisheng sat down and leaned against the sofa in exhaustion.
Lou Cheng glanced at the kitchen. "Then let's ask Mom to stop making dinner. How about we eat out?"
The moment he ﬁnished his words, he heard Qi Fang shouting from inside the kitchen. "What kind of pork ribs did you buy?"
"Just regular pork ribs... " Lou Cheng answered in bewilderment.
Was there any difference between ribs...
Qi Fang was annoyed but also found her son ridiculous. "Can't you pick a better part of the pork? Since your teeth are good, you should gnaw on them yourself!" The champion of the Youth Tournament and ﬁghter considering a one million yuan contract, Lou Cheng, blinked innocently and felt a little sorry for himself.
How would I know which rib part to buy...
Chapter 353: Gushan Martial Arts School
"Hahaha! Though I don't know it either, I still want to laugh at you!" Listening to Lou Cheng's complains about the grievances he suffered no thanks to the ribs, Yan Zheke sent him a cry-laughing emoji.
Lou Cheng smiled and shook his head, replying her with an emoji biting a handkerchief. "I was so eager and expected to seek comfort from you, but you are just laughing at me... "
"Okay, ﬁne. Come here, let sister fondle your head. We can go and pick out pre-packaged ribs at the supermarket in the future!" Yan Zheke sent a snickering emoji.
"Why do I still feel like you are laughing at me... " Lou Cheng sent an emoji touching its chin, pointing out this fact.
"Hehe, don't pay attention to the details." Yan Zheke sent an emoji with question marks ﬂashing above its head. Lou Cheng ﬂirted with Ke through QQ messages as he chatted with his dad, Lou Zhisheng. He also helped his mother prepare ingredients for their dinner and patiently waited for it to be ready.
Around seven, Lou Cheng dipped a piece of pork rib into the sauce and bit the meat off quickly with his healthy teeth.
These were some ﬁne pork ribs! Why did his mom dislike them!?
Suddenly recalling something, Lou Zhisheng put down his chopsticks and took a sip of wine. "Cheng, you may need to go back to our hometown and worship the ancestors in a few days."
"Worship the ancestors?" Lou Cheng was stunned.
What did his dad mean? Were his great-grandparents not buried in Xiao Yueshan Cemetery north of this city? He had even visited their graves over his summer break.
Lou Zhisheng laughed heartily when he saw his son's expression. "I mean to go back to our old hometown and visit our ancestors. Well, you have never been there. It is in the nearby Qingfu County."
Lening City in Qingfu County!
"Oh, it is Grandfather's hometown... " Lou Cheng immediately understood what his dad was saying.
He had never thought that place would be his hometown, because he was born and bred in Xiushan. He had spent all his 18 years here since birth, so he regarded Xiushan as his real hometown.
Lou Cheng's family was not native to Xiushan. Lou Debang was born in the neighboring Lening City in Qingfu County. When he turned 20, he found a job at a factory in Xiushan City. He then settled down and raised his family here. In the end, he bought his parents here and lived with them.
When Lou Cheng was born, his great-grandparents were already buried in Xiushan. They gradually fell out of touch with their relatives in Qingfu. Lou Debang had visited his hometown twice in the ﬁrst few years after his retirement. Those visits ceased as he aged because he did not want to travel back and forth between the two cities.
"Yes. Your grandfather recently dreamed of his childhood and thought it was our ancestors reminding him to return to worship them. Maybe he was homesick. What's more, now you have also succeeded in your way. Of course, he wants to go back and visit them," Lou Zhisheng said, shaking his pair of chopsticks.
If he did not settle in Xiushan in the future, would he also think and dream of this place often when he becomes old? Lou Cheng considered this, touched to hear his dad's words.
The answer was deﬁnitely yes. Unless he could completely abandon his childhood and more than half of his youth, unless he could totally forget all the difﬁcult but memorable moments he spent here, he would miss this place often.
Even now, when he would study in another city for six months, he would often miss Xiushan.
"Okay. I don't really have any impression of Qingfu. I will go there with my grandparents and think of it as a trip." Lou Cheng shook his head and laughed.
He truly knew nothing about his relatives and the situation there.
His mom ate a piece of melon and laughed when she heard him. "Your dad doesn't remember that place either. He has only been there four or ﬁve times. The last time he went was when we were newlyweds."
"Yes. I only remember a river and a grave hill. When you were born, I thought I had to bring you there for a visit but completely forgot it because I was too busy." Lou Zhisheng chuckled. "I heard the family members over there are discussing remaking the family records. Every family has to chip in some money or they won't be recorded. What kind of society do we live in now? And we live in cities too. What does it matter if we are not recorded in the records? They just want to take our money!" Qi Fang complained.
"But the elders really like things like this." Lou Zhisheng was not concerned about it either.
Had he not lived well all this while even though he was not recorded in the family records?
Lou Cheng listened as if he was listening to gossip. He planned on searching the web for delicious food there or some native specialties later. He would try his best to bring them back to his fairy. If not, he would try the food ﬁrst and kidnap his fairy for a future visit.
When he thought it this way, he became quite curious about his grandfather's hometown. As he ate, Lou Cheng wondered out loud. "Is the whole family going? We have such a large family. It will be troublesome to buy everyone's tickets... " "Most likely. We can rent several cars and provide the drivers with food and accommodation," Lou Zhisheng answered him slowly.
It was obvious his family had gone over the details several times.
"Okay then." Lou Cheng felt relieved and no longer concerned himself with this. He was only a student and would only be there to accompany his parents. All he needed to do was follow his family to have good food and worship their ancestors. There was no need for him to worry about this visit.
Lou Zhisheng's phone vibrated a few times as their discussion stretched on. He picked up the phone and had a look at it. He smiled at Qi Fang and said, "Old Zhao invited us to have tea and play cards with him this weekend."
"Sounds good." Qi Fang agreed easily and looked up at Lou Cheng. "Your Uncle Zhao always invites us to play with them when we are free. Since you are on your break, do you want to join us?" "Uncle Zhao?" Lou Cheng was perplexed.
Who was he? Why did he have no memories of this person?
Lou Zhisheng took a sip of wine and smiled. "Haven't you already met him? He is my childhood friend, Zhao Zijun. His daughter has gone on a blind date with your cousin brother. The blind date didn't work out, but we have started contacting each other again."
"Oh, him... " Lou Cheng thought of the scene when he saw Mr. Zhao and Mrs. Zhao in Chief Xing's house. Not wanting to say anything else, he only smiled. "We'll see. I may need to do something that day. I am still part of the team coach of Xiushan during the preliminaries. "
"Why are you still so busy when you are on winter break?" Qi Fang nagged a little out of her heartache for her son. "Oh, Fatty Guo also invited us to dinner. Huh, I never found him this passionate before! What a drastic change since you won the Youth Tournament!" Guo Min was Lou Zhisheng's boss.
That was not true... Lou Cheng silently judged his mother's opinion.
Guo Min began to change his attitude since he recognized him.
"Hey, Cheng. Fatty Guo keeps saying he has a life-saving debt to you. What does he mean?" Lou Zhisheng asked with a frown.
"There was a fugitive who ﬂed to Xiushan back then. Thanks to my master, I have some connections with the police. So I was asked to do them a favor and guard Guo's family for one night." Lou Cheng gave them a simpliﬁed explanation.
As expected, his parents found nothing wrong with his words. They lamented how cowardly Fatty Guo was while complimenting Lou Cheng for having a wide network of friends. After dinner, Lou Cheng shared all these things with Yan Zheke. They began enthusiastically discussing the kind of specialties Qingfu had and if Lou Cheng's family ever had any great ancestors.
Unfortunately, Lou Cheng's family was common, so there was no prominent past about his family. But someone brilliant had appeared in this generation. That was the champion of Youth Tournament, Lou Cheng!
Lou Cheng suddenly received a message from Jiang Fei while chatting with Yan Zheke.
"Cheng, I need to ask you something!" Fatty Jiang added an admiring emoji.
"What's up? Aren't you coming back the day after tomorrow?" Lou Cheng replied with a nose-picking emoji.
Fatty Jiang sent a grinning emoji. "Yes, I will be back the day after tomorrow. I want to ask you what the fun places in Xiushan are. I have a few classmates coming over to play for several days."
Lou Cheng laughed as he read Jiang Fei's message. He then replied, borrowing Little Ming's tone, "Aren't you also a Xiushan native? Why are you asking me this?"
"Hehe, how would I know where the delicious food is! I usually stay home. But you are always on dates with Yan Zheke, so you know where the fun places are," Jiang Fei said unabashedly.
Lou Cheng replied with a snickering emoji. "To be honest, I do know. There is a place we usually go to."
"Where?" Jiang Fei kept asking him.
Lou Cheng replied with an emoji with an evil smile. "The library! It is the place we frequent the most when we are on dates!" Fatty Jiang was speechless. "So should I bring my friends to sightsee in the library?"
"Haha." Lou Cheng felt very happy after he succeeded in making fun of his friend. He then poked fun at him and said, "There must be some girls among those friends. Why else would you take this so seriously?"
Fatty Jiang sent an emoji scratching its head. "Yes, there is. A classmate will come here with his girlfriend and the girl will bring a female friend along. They just want to take a trip here. I didn't fall for her. I just want to get to know more girls so I will have more chances to get a girlfriend."
"Not bad. You are being very practical." Lou Cheng teased him. "Then you can take them to Xiushan Spot. You can climb the mountain and stroll around the temple. When you come back, you can use your talent to bring them to eat the delicious food."
"Is that it?" Jiang Fei could not believe it, so he tried to seek conﬁrmation from him. "What else are you going to do within two days?" Lou Cheng smiled and scolded him. "Most probably come here for the scenic spots."
"Oh, you are right." Jiang Fei ﬁnally made his decision.
The next morning, after Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke completed their morning exercises, they ate dishes they had missed for breakfast. Since Yan Zheke had family activities to attend to, Lou Cheng said goodbye to her in front of her estate.
When he went home, he found that no one was around. So his plan to accompany his mom to handle the house furnishing arrangements and play his role as a son were ruined. His dad was at work and his mom was busy supervising the furnishing of the new house.
"I have become the idlest person in the world... " Lou Cheng thought self-deprecatingly. He changed his clothes and took his house key. He then walked toward the Gushan Martial Arts School while carrying the boiled soup and other things. He wanted to borrow their Strength Training Gymnasium and arena to continue his tempering.
He also heard from Qin Rui that the Xiushan and Tiangao preliminary teams would be competing in friendly matches in the school this afternoon in preparation for the post-New Year preliminaries. He could also take a look at the matches.
There were a few people in front of the Gushan Martial Arts School. All the female receptionists were looking inside, full of anticipation.
Lou Cheng did not greet them and slowly walked into the arena. He saw that several partitions had been removed and a standard ring had been set in the middle. The disciples of the martial arts club and other spectators sat cross-legged around the ring. They watched the ﬁght as they discussed.
Lou Cheng bent down slightly and casually patted one of the students' shoulders, indicating for him to move to the side so he could sit. The student turned around and seemed bewildered at ﬁrst.
He then immediately looked surprised. "Lou... "
Lou Cheng did not know who he was, so he smiled and placed a ﬁnger on his lips as a way of telling him to curb his excitement and not make any noise.
Chapter 354: Everyone Has Made Progress
The boy wearing an excited and surprised expression immediately closed his mouth upon seeing Lou Cheng's gesture. He swallowed the last word he wanted to say and nodded fervently to show that he understood what Lou Cheng meant. He then moved to the other side and offered Lou Cheng a seat.
Smiling at him, Lou Cheng moved forward and sat down cross-legged in one smooth movement. He looked at the ring and saw Qin Rui ﬁghting a Professional Ninth Pin ﬁghter. The crisp, dull sound they made as they sparred resounded in the arena.
"Brother Lou, when did you come back?" the boy beside him asked quietly as if he was doing something secretive.
Lou Cheng turned to look at the ordinary-looking boy that he really could not remember. He let out a wry smile. "Yesterday. I thought I'd come here today to borrow the Strength Training Gymnasium, but I happened to see the ﬁght here, so I decided to watch it." He raised the bag in his hand to prove his words.
"Oh!" The boy seemed like he had completely understood the situation. Glancing at the ﬁght going on the ring, he said in an envious tone, "Ever since Senior Brother Qin mastered his meditation, his strength improved so rapidly. It hasn't been that long, but he is close to becoming a Professional Ninth Pin ﬁghter... "
"His body condition is great. As long as he overcomes his visualization shortcomings, he will naturally improve quickly." Lou Cheng smiled with gratiﬁcation.
In July, Lou Cheng started to instruct and correct Qin Rui's meditation methods. Qin Rui ﬁnally mastered it after he overcame his bitter emotions and went through a difﬁcult four-month practice. That meant he had successfully overcome an important threshold in his martial arts way.
With his physical advantage of a 1.9 meter height, thick body, and long limbs, he could easily defeat a Professional Ninth Pin ﬁghter now that he could use visualization in real combat. The boy nodded, agreeing with Lou Cheng. He smiled fawningly and said, "No matter how quickly he improves, he is still no match for you, Brother Lou... Will you work part-time at our club again? I-I want a one-on-one class with you."
Had the boy asked Lou Cheng yesterday morning, he might have agreed. Now he simply laughed and said, "I have many things planned this winter break, so I won't have time for a part-time job. If you have any questions, you can ask Qin Rui for advice. If he can't help, you can come to me if you see me free after my tempering. You can talk to me casually, no need for any formalities."
Last night, he had sent Wu Qinggui his suggestions on the contract revisions. Now all that was left was to wait for Wu Qinggui's conﬁrmation after he returns from his business trip.
"O-Okay!" The boy next to Lou Cheng nodded in delight.
He too knew it was impossible for Lou Cheng, who had already reached the Sixth Pin rank, to take on a part-time job in a martial arts club. Fighters who were born to ordinary households could not afford a one-on-one class by a master of the Sixth Pin anyway.
Inside the ring, Qin Rui gave a full demonstration of his strength and fought his bearded opponent with full concentration. The referee of this match was a grey-haired old man with deep wrinkles. He could be a famous ﬁghter who had settled down in Xiushan after his retirement.
Xiushan had beautiful scenery and good air quality. Many native ﬁghters would sometimes return and live here for a period of time when they became old.
When the audience heard a crisp sound, Qin Rui took the opportunity to use his physical advantage to beat his opponent down.
"Good!" Lou Cheng applauded and cheered for him. He did not look any different than the other martial arts disciples and students around him.
They were the so-called onlookers. Qin Rui had indeed made great progress, worthy of the applause.
Qin Rui shook his ﬁst with satisfaction and saluted his supporters. He walked to the other side and sat beside Monk Wenguang, listening to his comments on his movements in the ring and further instructions.
The next match was between Jiang Shuiyan from Tiangao and Zhou Zhengyao from Xiushan. Both were close the level of Professional Ninth Pin, so they were so well-matched that neither could gain the upper hand.
Jiang Shuiyan suddenly attacked, making several sharp and smooth strikes against Zhou Zhengyao and ﬁnally pushing him out of the marginal line to win the match.
"Good!" Lou Cheng applauded again.
With the controlling ability of body reﬁning state, she could blend the 'sharp' style with the 'smooth' style perfectly. This showed that she had mastered the basics! This time, his applause did not blend in unnoticed, unlike before. The supporters of the Xiushan team were quiet and pitiful following Zhou Zhengyao's loss. Lou Cheng's cheering contrasted starkly against the quiet atmosphere, attracting heavy attention on him.
Jiang Shuiyan looked at him, surprised the Xiushan audience would applaud and cheer for her victory.
The audience here was not made of a general audience. Those here to watch the friendly matches were either the martial arts disciples or friends and relatives of the team members. They were deﬁnitely the kind to cheer for their own people and not celebrate the opponent's victory.
She looked over and noticed a young man whose appearance was not outstanding but had a clean look. She nodded at him, appreciating his honesty and frankness.
The corners of Lou Cheng's mouth upturned and he applauded again. "You are pretty good... "
"Xiushan people are quite friendly."
"That guy is frank and honest. I like him... "
The ﬁghters of the Tiangao preliminary team glanced at him, whispering among themselves joyfully and excitedly.
The martial arts disciples and students were rather surprised. Following the sound, they looked at the man who had clapped. The moment they noticed the familiar ﬁgure, they immediately held back their scolding words.
He came back? Chairman Wei Renjie and Qin Rui were ﬁrst shocked and then overjoyed. However, their reactions were masked by the referee announcing the start of the next round.
While the ﬁghters fought, Qin Rui stood up and moved to Lou Cheng's side. After pushing past the others, he sat down beside Lou Cheng and laughed.
"Yesterday you didn't mention that you would come over."
"My mom abandoned me, so I had no choice but to come here and have fun and borrow the Strength Training Gymnasium," Lou Cheng answered casually, chuckling. "You have improved so much recently. I was a bit shocked earlier."
"It is all thanks to your advice. Master Wenguang has been amazing as well," Qin Rui said modestly, showing just a hint of pride.
Lou Cheng placed his hands on both knees and carefully watched the match. "Martial arts is ultimately all on you. You can't force a cow that doesn't want to drink. Not bad, you can try to get the Professional Ninth Pin certiﬁcation this April. Oh, right, how many friendly matches will the team be ﬁghting?"
He issued the question without much concern.
"The chairman wants us to ﬁght in about ten matches and take the opportunity to ﬁght with neighboring teams. This way, everyone can gather as much practical combat experience as possible. We are ﬁghting the Fenhu preliminary team next and then the Bat team of Lening. Well, this team is very powerful because they have a Dan stage ﬁghter. Last year, they even advanced to the second round of preliminaries. They are unfortunately still weaker than teams from provinces with strong martial arts basis, so they couldn't move further... " Qin Rui answered excitedly.
"I see," Lou Cheng answered without concern. He was treating this conversation as a casual chat.
Friendly matches meant to be learning experiences were different from the formal matches. This time, the two teams had fought for eight rounds. This way, the leading and benched ﬁghters of both teams all had the opportunity to ﬁght. The ﬁghters would exit the ring no matter the result.
The match came to an end at 10:30 AM. The Xiushan team won a good score, 5 to 3. Wei Renjie was incredibly proud of the team and talked with the coaches from the Tiangao team for a long time. In the end, he even invited them to lunch with his team.
After the ﬁghters from Tiangao City walked into the locker room to take a shower and rest, Wei Renjie and Monk Wenguang came to speak to Lou Cheng warmly. "Lou, would you like to join us for lunch this afternoon?"
"It is okay, Chairman. There are too many people and I am unfamiliar with them. There is no meaning to it." Lou Cheng frankly expressed his own opinions.
"Okay. Then I will ﬁnd time to treat you a good meal privately." Wei Renjie was not angered by his refusal. He even smiled and said, "I was planning to persuade you to help us ﬁght in several preliminaries and win some matches for our team. But you improved so much recently that I am embarrassed to ask you for this favor. It is simply bullying to have let a Professional Sixth Pin ﬁghter compete in the preliminaries!"
"Donor Wei is right. A Professional Sixth Pin ﬁghter should be a leading player in district competitions. He can even join the Carry-over Competitions as a benched player." Monk Wenguang carefully gave Lou Cheng a once-over while wearing a warm smile.
The preliminary was the fourth level professional matches in martial arts and the lowest kind. At third level, the matches were called Preparation Competitions of the northern and southern districts. In matches at this level, middle-sized clubs or teams would generally make the ﬁghter in Inhuman level and high-ranked Dan Stage the leader and the Mighty Ones of Sixth or Seventh Pin the leading players. The Carry-over Competition was the second level of professional matches. Teams belonging to this level would have one ﬁghter of physical invulnerability. They will make the ﬁghters in the Inhuman level the leading players and bench the Sixth or Seventh Pin ﬁghters. In other words, Lou Cheng need not worry that he would not have a team to join even if he graduated now.
Lou Cheng was scared by Monk Wenguang's odd gaze and smiled wryly.
"I should ﬁrst try my best to win the University Martial Arts Games."
Lou Cheng excused himself after chatting for a while longer and walked upstairs toward the Strength Training Gymnasium. Qin Rui followed him and asked in concern, "How will you settle your lunch? Why don't I order extra and bring it back to you?"
"Nah, don't mind me. I will just grab something nearby. I still have to continue my tempering later. " Lou Cheng waved his hand.
"You still have to practice in the afternoon?" Qin Rui asked in surprise. "I'm free anyway." Lou Cheng sighed and laughed softly. "It's not easy to catch up to Peng Leyun... "
"It's not easy to catch up to Peng Leyun... " Qin Rui was stunned as he watched Lou Cheng disappear into the corridor. He suddenly realized how insigniﬁcant his self-pride was.
Lou Cheng was trying to be one of the best ﬁghters of their country in his age group!
He truly belonged to a different level!
In the locker room, Jiang Shuiyan dried her hair with a towel after her shower as she used her phone.
"Sister Shuiyan, you fought really well today!" Huang Bing, a benched ﬁghter, gave her a thumbs-up. "Yes! Your performance shocked the Xiushan audience! They even applauded you!" The leading player, Tan Degao, also agreed with Huang Bing.
The other members began laughing and teasing Jiang Shuiyan, making her both happy and embarrassed. She added humbly, "The brother probably applauded because he thought the way I sparred was kind of nice and beautiful... "
She suddenly recalled something and frowned.
Hesitantly, she said, "For some reason, that brother looked familiar… "
"Familiar?" Tan Degao and Huang Bing also ransacked their memories. The more they thought, the more they felt the same. They too thought they had seen the young man who applauded somewhere.
Seconds later, Huang Bing's eyes widened. He ﬁnally realized who the young man was. He blurted out, "L-Lou Cheng!"
When the hype around a champion of a Provincial Youth Tournament died and there was no continued coverage, most of the audience who enjoyed martial arts or the games on TV would easily forget about him. They would only have a vague impression of him at most. But he was certainly a great ﬁghter that they could not ignore as fellow ﬁghters in this province!
"Lou Cheng?" Jiang Shuiyan's mind also became clear.
Surprised and delighted, she said, "Yes, it's him! Lou Cheng!"
It really was him!
He had actually come to watch such a low-level match...
Lou Cheng! Tan Degao and others glanced at each other to seek conﬁrmation and could not help falling into momentary silence. After a while, Tan Degao sighed. "Shuiyan, even Lou Cheng is applauding you. You can stop being so modest."
Jiang Shuiyan raised her head slightly and laughed.
Chapter 355: Late Night Visitors
The Tiangao team met the Xiushan team when they came out of the locker room. Jiang Shuiyan and Huang Bing could not help but carefully size them up in an attempt to ﬁnd the familiar ﬁgure. Unfortunately, they failed to do so, leaving only regret behind.
After recognizing Lou Cheng, they recalled details they had forgotten. Lou Cheng represented the Gushan Martial Arts School in the provincial Youth Tournament, and where they were currently at was precisely that school!
It was no wonder that they saw him here!
More often than not, ﬁghters would only rewatch the footage of Lou Cheng's matches. Except for those who became his fans, no one would read Apotheosis of Fighters again. The speed at which primates forgot insigniﬁcant details was incredibly alarming.
Of course, they would have noticed earlier had Xiushan just used the title "Gushan Martial Arts School" back when they were deciding their friendly matches. They would have at least associated the school with Lou Cheng. But they were only taken to the school after arriving in the urban area of the city. Some of their team members did not even see the school signboard. Those who did see it placed their focus on the upcoming matches and only blurted out, "Oh, Gushan Martial Arts School…"
Jiang Shuiyan was disappointed when Lou Cheng did not show up. When she looked around, she found Monk Wenguang poking and drawing on his smartphone with his foreﬁnger. It seemed he was doing an incredibly difﬁcult task.
For some reason, she thought a monk holding a modern technology product was a jarring sight. With a smile, she said, "Master, do you need help?"
When it came to teaching the elderly to use smartphones, she was second to none!
The moment Jiang Shuiyan turned her head, Monk Wenguang had already locked the screen of his smartphone with a ﬁnger. He laughed and said, "You are very considerate. I'm only writing an email. I'm good, thanks."
Yo! So he knew how to send emails using his phone! Jiang Shuiyan laughed at this thought quietly, praising the monk in her mind.
"Master, you are really keeping up with the times."
"Amitabha. If I do not enter hell, who will enter hell?" Monk Wenguang placed his palms together with a smile.
"Swordsman! Swordsman! Swordsman!"
Inside the Strength Training Gymnasium exclusive to disciples, a low, ancient sound reverberated constantly, as though a subtle, mysterious feeling proliferated the heavens and earth. Lou Cheng was standing and his empty thermos cup was sitting behind him. His hands were wrapped around a ball composed of mercury. He allowed the ball to drop down gently, slowly coming to a rhythmic roll, as he used external pressure and subtle perceptions to facilitate the tempering of his body and spirit.
This was the "Swordsman" Formula created by Fei Dan, the Queen of Thought, and further developed by him. Parts of the tactic were also applicable in his Dan stage practice of the Ice Sect and the Fire Sect as well as the visualization of the Frozen River Diagram, the Cold and Frozen Diagram, the Prairie Fire Diagram, and the Zhu Rong Diagram.
As he continued his practice, the semi-enclosed Strength Training Gymnasium underwent a wonderful change. On one side, the temperature had risen with underlying heat. On the other side, the breeze was blowing and the surface of the metal instruments felt colder to the touch. The two conditions intertwined to form a vortex that slowly turned until they amazingly formed a balance.
After an unknown amount of time, Lou Cheng positioned himself in the Closing Form and ended his practice. He put down the large ball and exhaled the air in his chest and abdomen. The heat and cold inside the Strength Training Gymnasium immediately fell out of balance and collided with each other. They actually transformed into a ﬂeeting burst of breeze and shallow mist.
Lou Cheng bent over to pick up his towel and wiped the sweat from his face. He looked tired, but his body felt abnormally refreshed. He picked up the rest of his things and walked out of the room to ﬁnd a place to exercise.
"Brother Lou Cheng!"
Just as he reached the stairs, he saw his cousin's, Qi Yun Fei's, boyfriend, Ding Yanbo, standing straight with his hands at his sides.
"Are you not resting in the afternoon?" Lou Cheng asked with a smile.
Suppressing his excitement and joy, Ding Yanbo answered, "We only practice in the morning." That was why he was waiting here!
"Feifei told me you received the Amateur Ninth Pin certiﬁcation," Lou Cheng mentioned casually, his hand in his pocket.
Ever since Qi Yunfei began studying in Xiushan No.1 Middle School, she was basically a husky that had broken away from its chain. She would return home once a month and spent the rest of her days either monkeying around with her friends or going on dates with her boyfriend.
Fortunately, her midterm result was a giant wake-up call and she began to take her studies seriously.
"Y-Yes. It hasn't been that long," Ding Yanbo replied cautiously, but his raised brows revealed his inner joy and satisfaction.
"Not bad. You have only dabbled in martial arts for six months and your body is not completely developed yet. You have done well to get an Amateur Ninth Pin rank. You have hopes to thrive in this ﬁeld." Lou Cheng was generous with his compliments.
"Feifei said you only took a month," Ding Yanbo said curiously, grinning.
"Basically." Lou Cheng had grown out the phase where he would show off to children. "Practice well. You will have your chance as long as you practice hard."
He was implying that if Ding Yanbo could raise his standards and general physical ﬁtness to the Amateur First Pin level, the results of his Internal Training Methods would not lie.
Since Ding Yanbo had heard Qin Rui mention something similar several times, he immediately understood what Lou Cheng meant.
"Yes! Brother Lou Cheng!" Lou Cheng nodded without saying anything else. He found another place and ﬁrst replied to Yan Zheke's messages before beginning his practice. His formidable movements made sizzling and crackling noises.
Today, he focused on practicing Snow Cover and Cold Swallow, the 13th and 19th moves of the Ice Sect respectively. The moves were tricky and hid the user's intentions well, with too many transformations unexplored. It was not a technique that he could forget about once he had learned the basics.
At 3 PM, Lou Cheng felt his energy draining and thus ended his practice. He showered and changed into clean clothes.
"I feel very productive after ﬁnishing my practice." He sent a message to Yan Zheke with a snickering emoji.
Yan Zheke was still with her family and only replied a few minutes later with an emoji with sparkly eyes. "Our Cheng works so hard that I feel ashamed!" "Hehe. It feels motivating to have a goal for you to catch up to." He responded with an emoji ﬂaunting his muscled arm. "Honestly, the desire to protect will always keep me motivated, but it is impossible for me to feel spirited and spurred into full action without anything going on."
Of course, he felt steadier and lasting this way.
"Then should I give you a sense of crisis?" Yan Zheke replied with a snickering emoji. "To be honest, I'm distressed by how tired you feel. Work hard and defeat the big devil, Peng Leyun!"
"Of course!" Lou Cheng forwent any heroic statements and only laughed. "If you keep me company more often, I will have more rest."
He visited his grandparents after leaving Gushan Martial Arts School before slowly returning home. He sprawled on his bed without caring how he looked and chatted with Yan Zheke as he read a novel. He felt relaxed as he cleared all his mental exhaustion. …
Inside a temple at the foot of Xiushan late at night.
Monk Wenguang was turning his rosary with his eyes closed when he abruptly bounced to the door without moving his waist or body. He opened the door and looked at the two people outside.
One of them was tall and imposing, with a reserved comportment. He carried a somewhat deterrent air and seemed as if he would inexplicably frighten away all snakes, pests, and rats if it was summer.
This large man laughed heartily. "Just so-so."
"Donor Dong, please come in." Monk Wenguang raised his palm. Dong Shaoyang entered the room straightforwardly. Wenguang turned to look at the other man, respectfully saying, "Predecessor Sin Flame, please come in."
The person had deep eye sockets, a straight nose, greying hair, and eyes that hid ﬁery passion. He seemed to be middle- aged. He was none other than the Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame!
The man nodded gently and entered without a word.
When Wenguang closed the door behind them, Dong Shaoyang paced a few steps before asking with great interest,
"Master, when will you make your move?"
"Namo Amitabha. Donor Dong, don't be impatient," Wenguang answered in surprise. "I am feeling quite impatient." Dong Shaoyang had a wide face and big eyes. He snickered and said, "I have been unsatisﬁed ever since he won the provincial Youth Tournament. I have been looking for a chance to ﬁght him and see who is the number one among the young ﬁghters in the Xing Province!"
"Unfortunately, I can't take action without receiving orders. Now that an opportunity has presented itself, how can I be patient, Master?"
His face was mature, his manner heroic. He looked over 30, but from his words, it seemed like he was under 26 or perhaps even simply 22 years old!
"But we still have to wait for our chance." Monk Wenguang tried to persuade him.
Just then, the silent Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame spoke in a low voice.
"Don't disturb the locals." "Predecessor Sin Flame, I know, I know," Dong Shaoyang replied with a smile. He turned to Wenguang and said, "Our target has only ever experienced a life-and-death ﬁght once? That is too little! An arena ﬁghter who has not seen much blood is innately far weaker!"
"That is why we requested you to come." Wenguang put his hands together and smiled.
Dong Shaoyang burst into laughter.
"Great! Then I will show him what it means to tread between life and death!"
When it came to the contest for supremacy, no one was exempted!
Chapter 356: Too Young
"Hmm! You sneakily went for grilled eggplant without me!"
At 9 PM outside of Old Liu Barbecue, Lou Cheng took out his mobile and saw Yan Zheke's message from a few minutes ago.
Lou Cheng's mouth curved upward into a smile unconsciously and he replied, "Qin Rui's treat for instructing him to meditate."
After yesterday's friendly match, Qin Rui's fame grew signiﬁcantly within the circle.
"I don't care! You are eating it without me unless you bring two eggplants for me!" Yan Zheke added an emoji with heart in its eyes and saliva coming from its mouth.
Lou Cheng chuckled quietly and quickly typed his reply. "I was just about to ask if you needed my exclusive delivery service (sneer). Well, as you have asked so nicely, I'll bring you some!" "Looking forward to it!" Yan Zheke sat elegantly with a bowl in front of her, waiting for her feeding time.
Noticing her delayed reply, Lou Cheng stroked his chin and asked, "Are you done shopping and dining with the Empress Dowager?"
"Mhmm! Everyone says shopping is a gift shared by all girls. Why is it not true for me? Am I not a girl (amusing)?" Yan Zheke said pitifully, "Cheng, I miss you. I miss your foot massage with the tremor force!"
"This is not the time to suggest the practice of the "Swordsman" Formula... It will ruin the romance!" Lou Cheng was typing when Qin Rui approached after paying the bill and tapped his shoulder. "Shall we?"
"You guys go ahead. I'll order something to go." Lou Cheng pointed at the grill.
"Why didn't you say so earlier?" complained Qin Rui. "Are you not considering me a friend?"
Lou Cheng answered with a smirk, "This one I have to pay myself!"
"Got it!" Qin Rui came to a sudden realization and chuckled. "We won't take more of your dating time. See you around."
"See you." Lou Cheng waved at Ding Yanbo and him and then turned to the owner. "Two eggplants to go. No spring onion, please."
It reminded him of how annoyed the owner was by his repeated request of no spring onions when he prepared several thermos lunch boxes to bring food from Xiushan to his then classmate, Ke, last Spring Festival.
"Got it," answered the owner frankly with no odd expression.
Apparently the memory didn't come to him. He could recognize the regular customer Lou Cheng, but he couldn't remember all his triﬂes.
"One day, when the owner remembers not to put spring onions himself as soon as I mention eggplants to go, I can consider myself a frequent customer." Lou Cheng's heart was warmed by these old memories and his mind moved swiftly.
"One year has passed... Time ﬂies when we are having fun...
It felt like yesterday... "
Waiting for the grilled eggplants, Lou Cheng stood there playing with his phone while he spotted a familiar ﬁgure from the corner of his eye. It was Jiang Fei in a black down jacket.
"Hey! Fatty Jiang!" greeted Lou Cheng joyfully. He saw two men and two girls behind Jiang Fei, all student-looking.
"It must be his classmates who came to visit for a few days. Old Liu Barbecue for the ﬁrst meal... What if it was too heavy for their taste buds?" thought Lou Cheng to himself. Surprised to chance upon Lou Cheng here, Jiang Fei was lost for a moment before waving at him. "I was just thinking about contacting you in the next couple of days."
He then went on to introduce, pointing at Lou Cheng,
Pointing at behind him.
He was very amused by himself. "What kind of introduction is this?"
He hurried to explain, "High school classmate and university classmates."
"Hello." Jiang Fei's university classmates greeted politely. "Welcome to Xiushan," replied Lou Cheng in a respectful manner. Paying no attention to their faces, he noticed that their clothes were more fashionable than that of Xiushan locals.
Taking a quick glance at the BBQ house, Jiang Fei said generously, "What a coincidence! Cheng, join us."
"I just ﬁnished. Waiting for some grilled eggplants for My Grace," laughed Lou Cheng.
"Your Grace... " Jiang Fei was lost for a few seconds before coming to a realization. He shook his ﬁnger with envy. "I just kindly offered you a meal and you returned the favor by showing off your love? You must make up for my mental damage!"
The conversation went long a bit longer until Jiang Fei led his four classmates into the restaurant and Lou Cheng left with grilled eggplants, about to order a taxi. Watching him with a bag of takeaway food from behind, Jiang Fei's female classmate in a Korean jacket chuckled and said in a soft voice, "Jiang Fei, your classmate is very healthy. He's barely wearing anything on such a cold night."
Xiushan was cold and humid, pretty tough for many northern men. Seeing Lou Cheng in a light jumper and a windbreaker sent a chill down her spine.
"Maybe he's just sacriﬁcing the warmth for the looks?" laughed a chubby girl with her hand held by one of Jiang Fei's male classmates. She had pretty good features, but both her face and body were a bit fat.
Jiang Fei felt a bit awkward. "He's pretty damn healthy... "
Like a monster!
"I don't believe it. All men like to play tough!" The ﬁrst girl chuckled with her hand on her mouth. Her voice was much more attractive than her looks. She changed the topic. "My cousin was like this. He didn't wear any sweaters during the winter. Only a down jacket and nothing more. His hands, feet, and ears all suffered from frostbite. How miserable!"
As the Lou Cheng topic ended all of a sudden, Jiang Fei didn't bother to explain further. He chatted along with his friends and urged the cook to hurry with their BBQ meat.
The beginning of the alley was well lit by the lamps on the main road, very different from further in.
He heard a vague shout.
Lou Cheng turned to the direction where the cry had come from and saw an abandoned six-ﬂoor building surrounded by a worn wall, weeds, and scattered bricks. On the side of the building, "To be broken down" was written. "Help!"
A female voice came out with intense fear and panic.
With zero hesitation, Lou Cheng changed his direction, hopped over the broken wall, and dashed towards the building to bring justice.
For him, an average crime was no big issue!
The voice now sounded like it was about to cry. Lou Cheng followed the direction where the voice came from and came to the ﬁrst ﬂoor where all windows were broken. He agilely jumped up and gave a push with his right hand to reach the second ﬂoor as fast as he could.
While running, a subtle, unspeakable feeling developed in his heart. All the hair on his body stood up. Without thinking, Lou Cheng stopped and gathered his qi, blood, strength, and spirit in his lower stomach.
The wall in front of him exploded, ﬁring broken bricks and rocks like bullets in all directions through the air that was now saturated with dust smog. Every single piece carried the fatal strength that could end his life. He could block and dodge a few, but not all.
The terrifying part was yet to come! A tall and sturdy ﬁgure broke out of the wall behind those shooting rocks and threw himself at Lou Cheng in an imposing manner that could bring kids and timid ones to tears. He attempted to launch a fatal blow at Lou Cheng when he was busy dealing with the striking rocks.
Lou Cheng suddenly realized it was a trap. This dangerous martial arts expert was after him! With no time to ask why or regret, he had to handle those approaching bricks.
In another room on the second ﬂoor, the Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame with deep eyes and high nose shook his head.
"A young man that grew up in peace... "
"He knows nothing about traps or tricks, so he follows his usual practices and previous experiences in peace and falls so easily!"
"Isn't this the purpose of your trip?" Monk Wenguang smiled.
Behind them, a girl in a seductive dress had fallen into a deep sleep.
… Surrounded by broken bricks and rocks, approached by a strong enemy from behind, Lou Cheng was in a dangerous situation where there seemed to be no chance of survival. He would probably have tried his best to block and duck, playing with details and hoping for the best. However, this time he sensed it one second earlier!
He ﬁred his Dan strength downwards from his feet and made a hole in the worn-down ﬂoor. He began to fall freely to the bottom ﬂoor in dust and brick pieces and conveniently avoided the shower of rocks and any following attacks.
"Interesting... " Dong Shaoyang murmured to himself.
Apparently, he was even more into this game now.
Instead of following into the hole and a potential ambush, he concentrated his force and stamped.
Bang! The ceiling was broken again and Dong Shaoyang sank behind the shield of falling bricks.
Inside Old Liu Barbecue, the chubby, round-faced girl listened carefully and muttered with a frown, "I think I heard something... "
"Normal. It's a bar street down there," answered Jiang Fei casually.
"Hmm... " The girl wiped off her frown and waited for their BBQ patiently.
Chapter 357: Intense
Bam! Broken bricks smashed into the ground, raising a cloud of dust and smog like in an action ﬁlm and raising a powerful scent of danger.
The desire to kill felt almost tangible. This man was a terrifying enemy!
Any minor mistake would cost him his life in front of this powerful enemy. It would be even worse if he had assistants.
Lou Cheng felt besieged on all sides.
His muscles tensed up and he felt goosebumps all over. A mixed feeling of fear, panic, and tension-ﬁlled his heart, culminating in an intense desire to survive.
"No... I don't want to die here!" His parents' tears of sorrow, their love even in nagging and silence, his life despite difﬁculties and hardships, and Yan Zheke's broken heart, joy and ecstasy upon his love confession, and their sweet daily life... These memories ﬂashed through his mind.
"No! I can't let this happen! I can't lose my happiness!"
Lou Cheng's spirit lifted at the silent shout from his heart. A ﬁre gathered in his eyes, igniting his feelings and holding his body up.
The takeaway box of grilled eggplants ﬂew out of the broken window, drawing a beautiful curve in the air.
Bang! The ceiling was broken again and rocks and bricks came pouring down. As soon as Lou Cheng landed, his two hands formed a spell seal and his mind visualized glittering ancient characters. He then shouted with an overwhelming will to ﬁght at the attacking ﬁgure in the air,
The atmosphere instantly turned ﬁerce, with smoke from guns rising as if hundreds of thousands of troops were gathering from all directions.
Lou Cheng believed it was the most imposing and most powerful launch of the "Army" Formula so far. When his mind and emotions perfectly corresponded to the secret discipline, a breakthrough occured.
The chilling sound echoed in Dong Shaoyang's ears. It felt like a gun was at his temple and the trigger was being pulled. He felt a sudden shiver and his body shook noticeably. Lou Cheng took two steps forward while gathering his qi and blood to throw a heavy blow to the side of his waist with his tremble force before his landing. No hesitation or mercy, he was ﬁrm, decisive, and cold-blooded
"I pity him, but who has mercy for me? There's no room for mercy in front of a life or death matter."
Dong Shaoyang's eyes suddenly became clear and grim. As someone who was well experienced on the battleﬁeld, he had tempered his heart into a rock through dangers and risks, so he effectively resisted the "Army" Formula.
"What a joke! Where were you when I led my troops into enemy territory, into extreme dangers, into the realm of death to slay the enemy general?"
"What a joke! Where were you when I fought for my life against ruthless killers and ended their lives?" "How can a young ﬁghter who has only seen blood once in the arena be able to perform the essence of the secret discipline?"
"I've gone through things you can never imagine. Using such a secret discipline on me is not a good idea!"
Dong Shaoyang's killing desire was fully exposed. He curled his body in the air to focus his qi, blood, spirit, and force in one point.
His body turned slightly, swinging his extended right arm at Lou Cheng using the strength from fall and his Dan stage explosion. Tendons and vessels were bulging on his dark ﬁst.
Right before their ﬁsts met, Dong Shaoyang completed a strange visualization, compressing the surging force at his ﬁst once again. The contraction was followed by an explosion. Wild waves ﬂooded out.
A dull sound echoed in the room of tens of square meters. Lou Cheng felt pain in his ﬁst and his arm shivered. He was forced to step back by that odd double explosion.
One step... Two steps... He couldn't stop until his body hit the wall hard!
This was a six-ﬂoor residential building that was waiting to be torn down. The structure was not very open because of the walls of the ﬂats and space was limited, making it hard for them to utilize their moves. It was like they were ﬁghting in a small living room or someone's bedroom.
Bang! Lou Cheng fell back, breaking the weight-bearing wall and falling into another ﬂat.
Knowing that he was at a disadvantage and in extreme danger, he managed to remain calm and regained his balance thanks to his recently achieved Ice Mirror. His right hand moved rapidly, ﬁring a brutal ﬁreball to stop Dong shaoyang from getting closer.
He immediately threw a left hook, sending out a cold beam along the ground towards the enemy.
The upper, middle, and lower paths were all blocked.
Outside, the box of grilled eggplant had just landed on the ground. Slightly affected by the shiver zen, Dong shaoyang swayed a bit in the air. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he strode forward to catch up with Lou Cheng, giving him no time to catch his breath.
A red glow shone in his eyes as the ﬁreball approached at high speed.
He twisted around and shifted his weight. He used his footwork to move along the ground smoothly, dodging the ice ﬁre attack.
The ﬁre exploded and cold beams sprang out in all directions. He broke through a wall and barged into Lou Cheng's room in an imposing manner.
Bam. The weight bearing wall completely collapsed, breaking into a mess of rubble. Lou Cheng had already regained his balance. Instead of withdrawing, he advanced to approach the enemy.
Courage wins in a life or death battle!
Beams of light shone in his eyes while his mind seemed to be ﬁlled with drifting snowﬂakes. His hands were raised unconsciously and his wrists quivered to perform seven attacks at Dong shaoyang's body simultaneously.
Cold beams shot out from his ﬁsts, creating a massive fog with tiny ice crystals to block Dong Shaoyang's vision. These ice crystals trembled constantly and gave off a buzzing noise which interfered with the enemy's hearing ability.
The 13th move of the Ice Sect, Snow Cover!
With strength accumulating in his hands, Lou Cheng suddenly tightened his pelvis and legs and launched a silent low kick with his right foot, aiming at the enemy's ankle. Dong Shaoyang apparently had seen this coming. He lifted his arms and contracted his thighs, launching a powerful left kick in return.
In a split second, Lou Cheng bent forward to lower his center of gravity and put his right foot down on the ground gently.
After the brief, gentle touch, he dragged his body to the side of the enemy and created an excellent opportunity before Dong Shaoyang threw a left kick.
This was the use of the 19th move of the Ice Sect, Cold Swallow!
Lou Cheng combined this move with the Snow Cover and formed a combination of two strikes.
After the defeat dealt by Peng Leyun, his hardcore training and effort were ﬁnally paying off. Master the techniques and follow the heart.
He visualized an ice-bound river and crackling thunderclouds and raised his right arm high into the air to perform a downward punch calmly.
The simpliﬁed physical invulnerability, Severe Warning!
With such a short distance between them, Dong Shaoyang faced a very dangerous situation as he had missed and lost his previous advantages.
No despair or panic could be seen. Instead, he calmly gathered all his strength and exploded the danqi in his spine.
His spine curved in the shape of a bow, ﬂinging his body back onto another weight-bearing wall. His Severe Warning had missed the target, but Lou Cheng didn't feel down. He shifted his weight with his intense desire to ﬁght and extraordinary calmness and threw himself onto the enemy who was about to fall onto the ground.
His danqi ﬁred out and he easily closed the distance between them with one dash.
Monk Wenguang lifted the sleeping girl and went somewhere else with the Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame. He muttered quietly, "Very gifted in battle... Senior, try to speak quietly. We don't want to draw any attention."
"Yeah." The Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame gently nodded.
Dong shaoyang tried to recover after crashing into the broken wall and regained balance in the air. Watching Lou Cheng approaching, all the color faded from his eyes except for a ghostly white. He visualized accordingly, shook his chest, and opened his throat to perform a loud exhalation.
The surroundings suddenly turned silent. Lou Cheng stood in an empty room in the middle of the night, listening to the knock at the door. Outside of his window was a graveyard with the biting wind blowing by.
He felt scared and nervous instantly, his body shaking out of control.
However, he was extremely determined at that moment. He quickly calmed his body and formed a seal to perform the Nine Words Formula.
"Forwarding!" His voice transformed into a sharp arrow, carrying his negative feelings towards the enemy.
Dong shaoyang looked grim and resolute. He seized this opportunity to approach Lou Cheng from the front, concentrated his force, and prepared his body to perform another double explosion.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Lou Cheng put on a series of the Dan stage explosions in response, but the double strikes pushed him backward after each exchange. More and more walls were broken, causing the entire sixth ﬂoor to shake.
Dong shaoyang didn't stick to a reckless frontal offensive. Instead, he changed his rhythm and started using his agility, leaving Lou Cheng no room to perform his simpliﬁed physical invulnerability or to dodge. Quintuple explosion, then sextuple and septuple...
Appearing to be completely at a disadvantage, Lou Cheng continued to retreat and break more walls behind him. His back hurt, but his footwork and concentration were still together. Thanks to the perception ability from the Ice Mirror, he managed to anticipate the enemy's next move and dodge again and again.
Without this martial arts style, he would have been defeated many times.
Another weight-bearing wall collapsed and the entire room was shivering. Dong shaoyang moved to Lou Cheng's left and pulled his arm once again.
However, this time he didn't concentrate his force but visualized a ﬂame aggregating, condensing, and exploding. The simpliﬁed physical invulnerability, Internal Explosion!
This strike will explode within the target's body.
His previous double strikes were not tricks. He had no intention to reduce Lou Cheng's alertness or hide this move. When it came down to life or death, no trickery was necessary. A sudden inspiration at the right time would serve the best because too many things could change.
Dong Shaoyang's arm muscles pulsed as he revealed his ﬁsts, hoping Lou Cheng would block subconsciously like earlier. Even if he could sense the difference, his rushed dodge would be a great opportunity for Dong Shaoyang to launch follow-up moves.
With his heart peaceful like an ice mirror reﬂecting everything in the surroundings, Lou Cheng noticed that Dong Shaoyang hadn't gathered his qi and blood or force.
"Damn it!" His spirit suddenly felt threatened and his hair stood up. A few ideas ﬂashed through his mind and he exerted strength from his feet to spring up without hesitation.
This move would be considered too risky. The wielder would be courting death in the ring unless they could ﬂy or was close to the physical invulnerability stage. However, in this situation, Lou Cheng wouldn't fall in a hurry or get stuck.
He reached the ceiling and his ten ﬁngers opened wide to grab the rock, keeping his body hanging in the air.
He concentrated his force and curled his back, using his ﬁngers for support to push his body back like a gymnast. His feet pushed against the ceiling to throw himself into a counterattack.
Dong Shaoyang, who was on the ﬂoor, saw all this. He knew about his forced direction change and that the Internal Explosion punch would make Lou Cheng bounce to another direction. He was waiting for him to land before landing a fatal blow to him in the air. His target was Lou Cheng, while Lou Cheng's target was the ceiling, which meant that he had nowhere to go.
With that idea ﬂashing in his mind, Dong Shaoyang tightened his lower stomach and prepared to jump in another direction in hopes of luring Lou Cheng to approaching him, thus giving Dong an opening to dodge and then launching an attack from behind with his elbow.
It was not a trick but a slow movement that would give him enough room yet cause his rival to make a mistake from his Absolute Reaction.
Lou Cheng kicked his legs and pulled with all his strength, breaking the ceiling and pouring rocks down.
He bounced back towards the window away from Dong Shaoyang as if trying to escape. "Want to run?" Dong Shaoyang's mouth curved upward, his tightened stomach loosened up, and his knees straightened. He changed his direction suddenly and jumped at the enemy from behind.
"You exposed your ﬂaw!"
By the window, Lou Cheng felt the approaching attack from behind and a ﬁerce wind blowing behind him, yet he remained calm and collected. His hands grabbed the window sill to ﬂip his body facing up and he performed a twist and kick.
His tattered shoes ﬂew out alongside ﬂames and a crystal cold beam from his feet towards the dashing Dong Shaoyang.
Dong Shaoyang let out a dull hum and exerted strength from his feet with his muscles bursting. He attempted to produce an explosive sound in the air to generate a hurricane to block the strike of ice and ﬁre so that his physical body could withstand this attack. Bang!
Before he could complete his move, the ﬁreball exploded, shooting out extreme heat that turned the cold beam into spreading fog which completely blocked his vision and blurred everything around him.
The fog exploded and a ﬁst with dark tendons and vessels appeared like a deadly weapon, punching at Dong Shaoyang's head from a higher angle.
"To withdraw to allow for a better attack!"
Lou Cheng's eyes were sharp, ﬁsts ﬁrm, ﬂesh hardened, and his entire body was taller and stronger. Everything obstructing his future happiness would be destroyed. With no time to launch another double strike, Dong Shaoyang had to concentrate his force and lifted his right arm in a hurry to block.
Since the ﬁght was at the life or death level, this was the ﬁrst time Dong Shaoyang had to withdraw.
Lou Cheng advanced further to reduce the distance between them. He completed a double explosion before his opponent could prepare for another double strike.
Triple Explosion, quadruple explosion, and quintuple explosions in a row! He included the techniques of the 24 Blizzard Strikes and met Dong Shaoyang in close quarters. He kept punching, giving Dong Shaoyang no time to perform the mysterious double strike or any unknown secret spell.
Six, seven, and eight burst explosions! Lou Cheng was increasingly wild and ﬁerce. The Dan stage explosion was thrown out as if it cost nothing at all. He realized that his rival was not as powerful as Peng Leyun and not yet at the Inhuman level. In other words, he had great physical strength, but he was no monster.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Lou Cheng was burning with his desire to battle. His sweat evaporated from his head, forming a puff of white fog.
Dong Shaoyang was ﬁnally hit by the ruthless Brutal Blizzard. He smashed into a weight-bearing wall and the six- ﬂoor building shook violently.
Rocks fell down in a shower. Lou Cheng stamped his foot and once again approached the rival who had just stabilized his body. In his mind was the scene of the great red sun and a bleak frozen river. Bang!
The great sun hit the ice on the river. When the two vanished, Lou Cheng withdrew his arm and then threw his ﬁst out.
A variation of the Severe Warning!
Dong Shaoyang showed no panic as if he had faced this many times. He had no time to jump and he knew he couldn't withstand this. He chose to fall on the ﬂoor and roll like a lazy donkey.
Lou Cheng dispersed his force and formed a hand seal while shouting out an ancient spell.
Dong Shaoyang was shocked while rolling. He felt threatened from all directions. The shock didn't last long. His powerful mind quickly overcame the impact. However, Lou Cheng seized this opportunity to slide closer and threw a right kick.
Dong Shaoyang managed to handle a few strikes until his defense was broken. He collapsed onto the wall.
This crash left the weight-bearing wall and the entire building shaking. Blood came out of his mouth.
With calmness in his eyes, Lou Cheng was about to slide forward to ﬁnish Dong Shaoyang with one ﬁnal kick to the neck.
But the shaking building had crossed the tipping point and hundreds of rock started to fall down, giving off a rumbling, terrifying roar.
Lou Cheng paused and decided to save his own life ﬁrst. He broke through the side wall with his Force Concentration and moved quickly to the open area outside the building. Dong Shaoyang was resigned, and loss and disappointment ﬁlled his eyes.
The second Lou Cheng landed on the ground, an ear-piercing sound came. Half of the six-ﬂoor building collapsed and soon the entire structure broke down, burying this strong killer.
"Should be dead this time, right?" Lou Cheng dared not stay in the dust, afraid of other enemies. He quickly snuck into another residential complex and found a place to hide. He dialed Geezer Shi's number. It was his ﬁrst time experiencing such a situation. He was seeking aid from his master without thinking.
"Hello, Master. Someone wanted me dead." Lou Cheng gushed at his master as soon as the call was connected.
"Who? Cough... who has the balls?" Geezer Shi was shocked and then furious.
"I don't know... " Lou Cheng still felt lost.
"It was too sudden... I had no idea what was going on... "
"Who did I annoy?" he thought to himself, feeling wronged and angry.
"Are you safe now? Go to Xing if you are still in danger." Geezer shi said, puzzled, as soon as he calmed down. Lou Cheng briefed him quickly, describing the enemy's moves and his own condition. He asked in the end, "Master, do you have any ideas?"
"..." Geezer Shi was silent for a moment before he opened his mouth with his teeth ground tightly together. "I got it. Don't worry. Go back and sleep. It won't happen again. Damn it. I'll tear the base apart. No apology for the Fire Sect's simpliﬁed physical invulnerability... Cough... Anyway, it won't happen again. Don't ask questions for your own sake."
"Fine..." Lou Cheng was completely lost. He chose to trust his master.
It was not a random attack...
After walking out of the safe, dark place, he looked back at the place where he just had an intense ﬁght. The building had collapsed and dust and haze were still in the air.
Something was very odd here. The loud sound of the collapsing building didn't wake up anyone in the nearby complexes.
"Very odd... " Lou Cheng frowned and thought to himself,
Lou Cheng thought for a moment before giving Yan Zheke a call.
"Cheng, you've arrived?" Yan Zheke sounded full of joy.
"Not yet... I had some problem. Could you... Could you get me a pair of pants?" Lou Cheng didn't know whether he should smile or cry when looking at his broken jeans.
It was not a match and Lou Cheng was not in martial arts suit. His tight pants had broken after the use of the Dan stage force.
"Ah?" Yan Zheke asked in bewilderment. …
After dinner, Jiang Fei led his classmates towards the end of the alley, planning on a late night cruise. The girl in the Korean style jacket suddenly burst into a scream, pointing,
"Shouldn't there be a building?"
The chubby, round-faced girl followed her hand and noticed a pile of ruins. She was so shocked that she was dazed.
"Right... I saw it earlier. It was right there before dinner.
How did it collapse?"
How did it collapse?
Chapter 358: Whose Test
Upon hearing the girls' exclamations and whispers, Jiang Fei and other two boys looked to the side and saw the collapsed walls and rubble.
"There was a building..." the tall boy with the bangs murmured blankly after a short while.
He remembered clearly that when he entered this alley with Jiang Fei and Jin Li, they had seen a building beyond this wall. As to the exact number of stories, he hadn't counted. In any case, the building was neither high nor low.
The reason why he was so impressed was that he had seen the words "To be demolished" written in red paint on the wall. He could have joked about it, but he didn't want to hurt Jiang Fei's feelings.
But now, this building had collapsed just as they were having a barbecue. Oh my God, it's haunted!
They stared at each other for a few seconds. Jin Li, the sweet girl in a Korean style coat, said with a shiver,
"Let's- let's go."
Such a sturdy building demolished without a word. Was it due to a ghost or some other paranormal activity?
Or was it an illusion? We all imagined it and the building didn't actually exist. No, no. This thought was far more terrifying!
"Right. Let's get out of here!" Guo Ning, the plump girl, said, trembling.
Something like this has never happened to me before! Seeing that the girls were scared, Li Zhiguo, the tall boy with the bangs, became less timid and more eager to show his masculinity. He looked at Jiang Fei and Guo Ning's boyfriends, saying, "It's so mysterious. Let's go and ﬁnd out what's going on over there."
I, I'm scared... Jiang Fei wanted to reply. But in front of the girls, he was too embarrassed to admit that he too was scared, so he stammered, "Come on, Guo Ning and Jin Li are afraid. They certainly don't want to stay. Let's go."
"Right, right!" Jin Li nodded her head quickly. Guo Ning also tugged on her boyfriend's hand and signaled him not to go.
"You cowards... I'll go by myself!" Li Zhiguo felt so manly as he boldly walked into the ruins.
Liu Zhenrong didn't want to be outdone in front of his girlfriend, so he took a deep breath and shouted,
"Who's a coward? There's nothing to be afraid of!" "Don't go!" Guo Ning threw her hands around him while on the verge of tears, but Liu Zhenrong waved her back, saying, "Don't worry. It's OK."
Seeing the two girls becoming more and more worried, Jiang Fei was ﬁlled with dread and made an excuse, saying,
"Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. I'm here with you!"
Jin Li and Guo Ning gave this chubby ﬁgure a grateful look. They drew nearer to him to feel more secure and looked across the ruins with curiosity and anxiety, expecting Li Zhiguo and Liu Zhenrong to ﬁnd something and at the same time hoping that he would ﬁnd nothing.
The open ﬁeld around the ruins was covered with rubble and debris. Li Zhiguo and Liu Zhenrong's legs trembled, but they walked slowly to hide their fear, looking left and right.
"..." Li Zhiguo stopped abruptly and pointed to a short distance away, saying, "Grilled eggplant!" His voice was full of surprise.
Liu Zhenrong turned his eyes at that direction and saw a broken lunchbox knocked over by large stones. He also saw golden fried peas, a roasted eggplant that still smelled delicious,and red oil that hadn't completely frozen.
This food seemed like it was made recently!
Li Zhiguo and Liu Zhenrong glanced at each other. They thought of Jiang Fei's classmate from high school who was wearing very little and the view of his back as he left with a packed grilled eggplant.
From then till after they had ﬁnished eating, the only takeaway was the grilled eggplant!
"It can't be..." Li Zhiguo and Liu Zhengrong stared blankly at the pile of rubble from the building, wondering if Jiang Fei's high school classmate was buried under them. Little Zhao swallowed his saliva with great difﬁculty, saying, "Ask him."
"Okay." Li Zhiguo took two steps forward and picked up the food-bag and walked out with the dusty grilled eggplant.
This time, Jiang Fei was busy enjoying the wonderful feeling of being surrounded and trusted by the girls. He was racking his brain, looking for a better way to comfort the girls, who were frightened of the unknown.
"Maybe it was demolished through the night?" he said.
"It's impossible. To demolish a building, one needs to blast it. We're so close, but we heard nothing." Guo Ning disagreed directly.
Jin Li also shook his head, saying, "Even if they didn't blast it, they had to use large machinery. Where are the traces? It couldn't have happened that fast!" Just a barbecue!
They were getting more afraid as they ruled out a range of possibilities. They came closer to Jiang Fei, who, while enjoying the sensation, trembled with fear.
"Jiang Fei, Jiang Fei. Look at this." Li Zhiguo and Liu Zhenrong stepped over the collapsed walls, shaking the food- bag in his hand.
"Grilled eggplant? What happened?" Jiang Fei was completely confused.
Did the grilled eggplant turn into a human?
Damn it. It is acceptable for a raw eggplant to turn into a human, but for a grilled eggplant to turn into a human didn't make sense! In his reverie, Li Zhiguo said quickly, "It was grilled recently.
Look, its oil hasn't solidiﬁed."
"What's wrong?" Jiang Fei asked, looking rather puzzled. Then he suddenly realized, "The only one who ordered the grilled eggplant was Cheng! You mean he has something to do with the collapsed building?"
"Right, right, right! Did we not hear some noises when we were eating the barbecue? Although they were not very loud, we did hear them! Your classmate must have walked here at that time, at most until the entrance of the alley!" Jin Li remembered his auditory hallucinations and the whole thing suddenly dawned on him.
Liu Zhenrong urged Jiang Fei, "Call him now. Check on him to see if he is safe. He might be buried under the building. Call the police!"
"No..." Jiang Fei couldn't ﬁgure out the reason why Lou Cheng had deviated into the building that had just been demolished, but he still took out his mobile phone and dialed the telephone. A few rings later, the line connected and his familiar voice came through. "Hello, Fatty Jiang? What happened? Why are you suddenly calling?"
Jiang Fei breathed a sigh of relief and blurted out, "I'm worried about you. After we had barbecue, we saw the building at the entrance of the alley collapse and there was a grilled eggplant there. So we were worried about you and thought that you were hurt."
Guo Ning and the others listened to their conversation. They were all glad that Jiang Fei's classmate was safe.
We were wrong...
On the other side of the line, there was a ten-second silence. Lou Cheng just smiled wryly. "Say sorry to my grilled eggplant for me."
"Really? It was really you! Are you okay? How did the building fall?" Jiang Fei was startled and Jin Li and Li Zhiguo turned their heads sharply with eyes wide open. The grilled eggplant was indeed Jiang Fei's classmate's?
What happened to him? What happened here?
"I'm good. Er, the building just collapsed. Well, I have something to do. I have to go," Lou Cheng said evasively.
The call ended, leaving Jiang Fei looking at the ruins in a daze, Lou Chen's words echoing in his head.
The building just collapsed, just collapsed, collapsed...
Does Lou Cheng have some connection with the collapsed building?
The building just collapsed... Guo Ning, Jin Li, and Li Zhiguo looked at each other in confusion. Let alone how the building collapsed, just thinking that nothing stirred when the building collapsed ﬁlled them with fear and awe.
Just like ancient myths and legends!
Jiang Fei's classmate is such a mystery!
They thought of what they saw before: the boy in a thin sweater and jacket, his clean and calm look, his retreating back with the packed grilled eggplant.
Then the memory of the building had become a dark pile of ruins.
After hanging up, Lou Cheng remained still for a while, recalling the call with his girlfriend about twenty minutes before. "Ah?" Yan Zheke froze for a moment and then asked in bewilderment, "Bring a pair of your pants?"
"I had a ﬁght with someone. My pants were torn," Lou Cheng answered brieﬂy.
As soon as he said that, he found the sentence to be full of ambiguities and he added, "Someone set a trap and attacked me. My jeans were too tight for producing force, so they ripped."
"Are you okay?" Yan Zheke burst out.
Why had someone trapped Cheng?
Due to growing up in a peaceful environment, she was completely confused.
"Not a big deal. Just some minor injuries. I think it's a test, or someone wants to help me experience more life-and-death ﬁghts. There must be someone with Physical Invulnerability watching us nearby."
Only Mighty Ones with the Physical Vulnerability could drown out the sound of a six-story building collapsing. Right?
If the opponent is a Mighty One with Physical Vulnerability, he would have killed me with one hand tied behind his back, so it can't be a malicious attack, plus my master's words. It's safe to ask Ke to come here.
Even if it's true, I'm enraged. Damn it, attacked by a killer on my way home without understanding why, anyone would be angry!
At that time, I thought I was in a life-threatening situation; I was frightened and anxious, afraid of dying in that building and never seeing mom, dad, and Ke again.
Does the man behind it have any idea how I am feeling? Even though they did it with good intentions, it's still unforgivable!
I'll give you such a "test" later!
"How can they do this? You have never asked for a test nor life-death ﬁghts to accumulate experience. They're so mean, so hateful! Who did it? I'll curse them! I'm asking my grandparents now!" Yan Zheke got really angry.
"I have told my master. He will take care of this and asked me to step aside." Lou Cheng comforted her.
"All right... Let it go now, but they have to pay a price for it later. I'm such a mean girl!" Yan Zheke was worried about Lou Cheng, so she did not inquire further and instead asked, " Cheng, are you sure you're OK?"
"Just some minor injuries." Lou Cheng's clothes were in tatters at the back, revealing somewhat torn ﬂesh and several cuts caused by sharp objects. Breaking down the wall was not that simple.
But it was much better than being hit directly by his opponent; therefore, the cell phone in his shirt pocket was neither broken nor lost.
"Where are you? I'm coming now." Yan Zheke took a breath.
Her father was a doctor, so there were lots of gauze and dressings at home.
In the temple at the foot of Xiushan, Dong Shaoyang lay ﬂat on his bed, eyes full of frustration and pain.
I have defeated many strong ﬁghters over the years, but I almost died in the hands of a competition ﬁghter, a ﬁghter at the same rank as me. If Zuihuo hadn't helped me, I would have been buried in those ruins.
It's so humiliating!
Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame stood beside him, saying in a calm tone,
"This time, it was a test. Don't look down on the competition ﬁghters..."
"Ah?" Dong Shaoyang turned his head in bewilderment.
From the very beginning, they thought he would lose to Lou Cheng?
Chapter 359: Make Preparations
When he ﬁnally realized it, Dong Shaoyang's face turned bright red and his throat rattled as if he were stuck with old phlegm, which made his scalp tingle and his teeth sour.
With a popping noise, he spat out blood, bleeding on his pillow.
With the release of Qi, he felt relief in his chest and recovered from the internal injuries caused by Lou Cheng. His head cleared instantly, and he realized that his arrogance and ego had inﬂated in the last year.
"I see..." He took a deep breath and said, eyes determined and strong, "I will ﬁnd the gap and improve myself!"
Admittedly, Lou Cheng did have a gift for ﬁghting and a quick mind. When he didn't take the advantage of a favorable environment to beat him and instead was forced to compete for endurance with his opponent, he was doomed to fail. "Good." Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame nodded slightly, saying, "Unruly commanders and soldiers were not coined by inventing or imagining them. When one has experienced life and death ﬁghts, he or she is likely to have an inﬂated ego. But they should stay alert and well-prepared for incoming ﬁghts all the time. It's a lifelong learning process."
He said so many words in a single breath and then turned to Monk Wenguang, saying, "I brought him back. Shi Jianguo might come to us soon."
Upon hearing that, Monk Wenguang froze for a moment and turned pale, stammering, "You, you didn't inform Coach Shi before?"
Testing another master's disciple without asking permission from his master?
Namo Amitabha Buddha, I almost cursed!
Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame and Shi Jianguo have physical invulnerability of the same level. Both were evenly matched, and I'm just a tiny Six Pin!
"No," the Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame said with a straight face, "Shi Jianguo is ﬁrm in speech but soft-hearted. He always tells his apprentice to just push the boat with the current and let it be. If I had told him in advance, he would have told me to respect the will of the apprentice himself and so on."
When referring to Shi Jianguo's ﬁrm-in-speech and soft- hearted manner, his stony face seldom gave a smile.
"Since Coach Shi doesn't agree, then there is no need to test Lou Cheng..." Monk Wenguang had thought that this task was a request from Shi Jianguo, or at least that he had been informed of it.
Now that he knew the truth, he nearly shed tears.
"It's true that ﬁghters who emerge from life-and-death struggles cannot look down upon those who participate in the Challenge Tournaments; however, this does not mean that the Challenge Tournaments can temper a ﬁghter to perfection. Without the kind of pressure that arises from life and death circumstances, how can we get a ﬁghter to tap into their full potential and enhance their willpower?" Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame said calmly.
But it's their own business. It's none of our business! Monk Wenguang almost failed to keep his temper.
Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame glanced at him and said curtly, "Some things must be planned ahead of time. Both the Dragon King and the Warrior Sage have a chance to go further and step into the forbidden areas, but they are only hopeful and not 100% sure. Of course, we need to sharpen and cultivate more of those who have potential and are friendly to each other. If not, who will compete with the 'apostle' and 'Pharaoh' in the future?"
Monk Wenguang's face changed and he lowered his voice immediately, saying,
"Is Elderly Mei's health failing?" Dong Shaoyang held his breath with a severe look on his face.
"Masters in the forbidden area can't have ill health. We're just planning in advance." Divine Enchanter of Sin Flame waved his hand, grabbed Dong Shaoyang, pushed open the door, and drifted away.
After checking the address, Yan Zheke took off her housecoat in a hurry and soon got changed. Then she rummaged around the other room for some medicine, gauze, and some bandages and put them into a bag.
Then she went back to her bedroom, took the other bags, and hurried downstairs, running towards the gate.
——After the talk with her mother during their afternoon and evening shopping spree, she decided to throw caution out the window and bought Lou Cheng a shirt, pants, socks, and two new outﬁts. She was going surprise her boyfriend during the morning exercises; otherwise, she'd have to sneak out dad's old pants.
After changing her shoes, Yan Zheke said loudly,
"Mom, Dad, Jingjing is looking for me. I'll be back soon!"
In the study, Yan Kai leaned out the door, saying,
"It's late. I'll drive you there."
Before he could ﬁnish speaking, he saw the door close and his daughter was already gone.
"Why is she in such a rush, what happened?" His daughter was already a Professional Ninth Pin, so he wasn't worried about her, but he said it with much affection. Ji Mingyu came closer to her husband, looking at the door suspiciously.
Hasn't your daughter always been in a rush ever since she was a high school student?
Well, only when it comes to that boy!
She arrived at the Old Liu Barbecue by taxi. Following the GPS, she walked into an old neighborhood, ﬁnding the familiar ﬁgure in a dark corner.
Seeing his pants ripped wide open, including the crotch area, she turned her head immediately and thought it a little amusing.
She bit her lip to keep from laughing, saying in a low voice,
"Very artistic." "A performance artist?" Lou Cheng said belittling himself.
Yan Zheke chuckled and thrust the bags into Lou Cheng's hands, saying, "Good. Get changed now!"
"Huh, new clothes? It doesn't look like my father-in-law's style. Are there stores still open this late?" Lou Cheng looked at the bags.
"I bought them for you today. Are you touched and happy?" Seeing that Lou Cheng looked good, Yan Zheke felt relieved and her tone also relaxed.
"Touched! Happy!" Lou Cheng looked down slightly, eyes smiling.
Did I go through such a life-threatening situation just for this moment? Does my strong will for survival and faith in dangerous situations all come from such moments in daily life?
He turned, hid behind a tree, and got changed.
At this point, Yan Zheke exclaimed suddenly, eyes wide open in astonishment,
She thought Lou Cheng's 'cuts and bruises' weren't as severe, so she hadn't urged him to treat them. As her boyfriend turned back, the ﬁrst thing she saw was the bruises from the torn ﬂesh and several deep cuts.
As Lou Cheng moved his muscles and stopped himself from bleeding, the injuries did not look as horrible.
"Not a big deal. Just some scrapes. Tie them up and I will be ﬁne after I get some rest." Lou Cheng comforted her. "You liar! These cuts are deep. How can you call them minor injuries?" Yan Zheke said, concerned and a little mad. "Sit down. I'll help you with the wounds."
She was not mad at Lou Cheng but at that bad guy who launched a surprise attack on her boyfriend!
No one would like to get involved in life and death ﬁghts! We love a peaceful and stable life!
"Okay." Lou Cheng wasn't in a hurry to change pants in case they got stained with blood.
He wanted to hide what happened from his dad and mom in case they got worried.
In the dim light of the streetlights, Yan Zheke grabbed the cotton, dipped it in alcohol with a pair of tongs, and cleaned and sterilized the wounds on his back. Lou Cheng felt a sharp sting of pain. Even a master feels pain.
Looking at the weeds, rubble, and the dull, yellow lights, he listened to the girl nagging and felt her small movements. He felt warm and the pain subdued. Even the wind wasn't blowing as hard and the cold didn't bite as much.
As Yan Zheke tied him up like a mummy, Lou Cheng hid behind the tree and got changed quickly.
"I can play Pharaoh," he said jokingly.
"Luckily I brought enough gauze and bandages," Yan Zheke moaned. "If you had just gone back like that, people would have called the police!"
"Which is why you came here rather than I go to you." Lou Cheng came from behind the tree with a smile. "Remind me to change your bandages every day. Take this bottle of pills. Take them thrice a day, two at a time. They will help you to heal faster. For now, they seem like just some cuts and abrasions, but there might be internal injuries..." Yan Zheke handed the rest of the stuff in the bag to Lou Cheng.
While hearing her continuous urging, Lou Cheng looked at her with a smile in his eyes.
Then Yan Zheke asked curiously,
"Where did you ﬁght? Did you win?"
After a tough ﬁght between two Six Pins, there must be some obvious traces left.
Lou Cheng pointed out, not far ahead, saying, "See? Over there." Yan Zheke looked up with her mouth wide open, saying in bewilderment,
"When I passed by during the day, there was a building there..."
After two days of treatment, Lou Cheng's skin scabbed over and healed gradually.
Yan Zheke was right. He did suffer some internal injuries and would take three to four days to heal, but it wouldn't prevent him from having his regular training, though he did he look pale.
At the same time, the date of honoring their ancestors was coming. After negotiations, they decided to leave on that day, not staying over at Qing Fu for it only took half an hour's drive there. If their parents wanted to stay at their relatives' home for a couple of days, he could bring them home any time.
At 9 o'clock in the morning, Lou Cheng got in a van with his dad and mom, feeling refreshed after the morning exercises. He sat in the back seat with his cousins—Lou Yuanwei and Ma Xi. At the front row were his aunt, Wang Lili, and his parents, while his uncle Lou Zhiqiang sat in the front seat.
Lou Cheng's uncle, Ma Guoqin, drove the other car with Lou Zhixian, Ma Jiale, and Lou Debang.
Outside, the air was chilly. Lou Cheng was playing with his phone when the van started and they were off to Qing Fu County of Le Ning.
It was his ancestral home, but he had no attachment to it and felt like he didn't belong here.
Chapter 360: Ancestral Hall
Many different scenes were ﬂashing by outside the car's window, but Lou Cheng was not in the mood to enjoy the view. He chatted with Yan Zheke on QQ and browsed the web forums, Weibo, and other apps while listening to the chit-chat between his parents, uncle, and aunt. Occasionally he would jump in and make a comment.
After the building-demolition ﬁght that night, Lou Cheng discovered that his ﬁghting ability was enhanced. He had better control over his Spirit and had also developed a stronger resistance to fear and stress. Even his skills and judgment during the battle were sharper.
He was still unhappy about the attack he had experienced, but he was not angry anymore.
As for the endorsement contract for the martial arts shoes, Wu Qinggui, who was on a business trip, agreed with the alterations to the terms. As soon as he returned, both parties could sign the contract and continue forward with other procedures. Once that was accomplished, Lou Cheng would receive a large amount of money, around 700,000 yuan, in endorsement fees!
Lou Yuanwei was playing games on his phone, while Ma Xi was enjoying some music. Time passed and the car turned off the high-speed road onto a small country road. After traveling through all the winding lanes and curves, they ﬁnally arrived at Liang Tian village.
"We're almost there," said Lou Zhisheng, reminding his wife, brother, and sister-in-law, who almost fell asleep.
"Really?" Lou Cheng was looking out of the window curiously. This was his so-called hometown.
Lou Yuanwei put down his phone, moved closer to the window, and gazed far into the distance. Ma Xi was entirely unaware because she was listening to music and possibly asleep.
Outside was a two-lane country road with some two or three- storied houses nearby. The house owners had built yards for themselves as well, and some of them had their cars parked within.
"They can already afford to own cars..." Lou Yuanwei mumbled to himself with complicated emotions.
Lou Cheng found it funny because he could understand his cousin's feelings. Returning to one's hometown was a great opportunity to show off their superiority. However, his cousin noticed that the villagers here owned their own cars. Even though they were ordinary cars, it was still something his family could not afford yet.
"The villagers are fairly rich ..." Lou Yuanwei's mother, Wang Lili, said in a similar tone.
Lou Cheng's father, Lou Zhisheng, laughed and said, "Times have changed. Demand for laborers has reached its peak. Here, anyone with some skills could earn far more than I do, plus they do not pay taxes. But that also means their jobs and social welfare are not secure." "Right. I have heard that an unskilled laborers could make a considerable amount of money, let alone a carpenter or bricklayer," said the driver.
"Not all of them are carpenters. How can they make so much money?" Lou Zhiqiang, Lou Cheng's uncle, spoke out his doubts directly.
"That is for sure. Think about it, when anyone builds a house or buys a car, it is not a secret from the rest of the village. No one wants to be left behind, nor to be looked down upon. The villagers made every effort to keep up with others." The driver had traveled extensively and seen similar situations elsewhere.
"I knew it!" said Lou Zhiqiang as he smiled.
"It is a common practice for villagers to want to keep up with those around them..." Lou Yuanwei tried to reassure himself, but Lou Cheng still noticed his disappointment.
His cousin was always discontent with his life. He was always thinking about starting a business and getting rich quickly. Therefore, when he was stimulated by his surroundings, he would start to feel uneasy.
——Lou Cheng neither supported nor rejected Lou Yuanwei's entrepreneurship so as to avoid his uncle or aunt's complaints.
They kept moving forward, passing by more trees on both sides of the road as well as more houses all over the place. It seemed that they had arrived at the core area of the village.
After several turns, the Lou family made it to the ancestral hall, where an old and grey-haired man was standing at the gate.
"Debang, you came so early, so you didn't encounter a trafﬁc jam." The elderly man greeted them with a smile and spoke to Lou Cheng's grandfather, Lou Debang.
Lou Debang was also excited and replied, "My brother, you need not welcome us. We had a smooth journey." Hearing the word "brother", Lou Cheng was sure he knew who the elder was. He was the cousin of Lou Cheng's grandfather, Lou Deguang, who had summoned the whole family to revise their family records and rebuild the ancestral hall.
Luckily, Lou Cheng's mother kept nagging about the donation for the family records. Otherwise, Lou Cheng would not have remembered the elder's name.
"Debang, I am so excited today. It has been such a long time since our last meeting. We should cherish our remaining years!" Lou Deguang was obviously joyful as he held Lou Debang's hand while walking into the ancestral hall, saying, "Now you should burn some joss sticks and present yourself in the hall, then we can deal with the family records. As soon as Zhilin returns, we will have lunch. This afternoon we will go to the mountains and sweep the tombs."
"Zhilin is so busy. Must he make a special trip home?" asked Lou Debang with astonishment. "You are a rare visitor here, how could he not come back? When he was a child, you doted on him and gave him pocket money every time you met." Lou Deguang was in high spirits as he continued saying, "The second son is taking care of most of his businesses, so he has lots of leisure time."
Lou Cheng followed along and listened to them quietly, as did Lou Yuanwei and Ma Xi.
Lou Cheng's mom also mentioned Zhilin's story before. Zhilin, the eldest son of Lou Deguang, recruited some of his fellow villagers into a decoration company, and then Zhilin worked on his own and became a successful and well-known businessman.
Now Zhilin had settled down in the city, but Lou Deguang did not want to live there, making the excuse that he hated to part with his old residence.
The second son, Lou Zhilin's only child, was Lou Cheng's cousin. Although Lou Cheng's mother had not mentioned his name, he was more successful than his father and had expanded the family business to the city of Lening. "The second son is still single?" asked Lou Debang.
Lou Deguang felt resentful, saying, "Yes. He is not even in a serious relationship. Let us wait and see. If he does not get married in two or three years, I will make him kneel down in the ancestral hall."
... When he heard this, Lou Cheng's lips twitched a little bit. Marriage or having a baby was purely a private matter. Lou Deguang overlooked the individual's wishes, forcing the ancestors' desires on the entire family, which reminded Lou Cheng of some awful ancient stories.
Fortunately, Lou Cheng could not care less. He only listened to sensible people and sensible advice.
They entered the ancestral hall, worshipped their ancestors represented by the memorial tablets, and then handed over their money for revising the family records. Lou Deguang found a huge piece of red paper and asked Lou Zhisheng to write down the names of their family members. It would be included in the revised family records afterwards. Later, the rest of the relatives appeared. They gathered around a square table, chatting and exchanging messages about each other's lives, such as what kind of job their spouses had and the relationship status or studies of their children ...
Lou Zhiqiang and Wang Lili felt awkward, only saying that Lou Yuanwei was in a work unit with a stable income and previously had a girlfriend but they did not work out. Meanwhile, Qi Fang, Lou Cheng's mom, was extremely excited, retelling the story of how Lou Cheng had passed the exam and got admitted to Songcheng University.
"My dear Cheng is an undergraduate at Songcheng University
... Haven't heard of it? Do you know the University of Xing Province? Well, Songcheng is way better!"
"My dear Cheng won the championship at the Youth Tournament ... Haven't heard of it? Well, the award money was nearly 100,000 yuan!"
The relatives shouted out in surprise. Even the thick-skinned Lou Cheng could not bear such a compliment after noticing that his cousins Lou Yuanwei and Ma Xi were blushing with shame. Then Lou Cheng asked Lou Debang,
"Grandpa, may I go for a walk? I will be back soon."
While talking, Lou Cheng got up. Lou Yuanwei and Ma Xi could ﬁnally breathe a little. They both followed Lou Cheng and left.
Stepping out of the hall, they loitered aimlessly and calmed down, enjoying the view of the neighborhood.
"This is my ﬁrst time in a village." Ma Xi looked at the river nearby, full of swimming ﬁsh, which made this city girl excited.
Lou Yuanwei was also excited. Everything was fresh here.
"It's cold, but the river is not frozen solid. Boring." Lou Cheng just took a picture and sent it to Yan Zheke. Lou Cheng's maternal grandparents lived in the village, so they must be familiar with such a scene.
While talking, they passed by a house. There was a middle- aged man practicing martial arts in the yard. His punches caused some noise, loud and clear, and his movements seemed overbearing.
"Let us move on. He will be offended," urged Lou Cheng, patting Lou Yuanwei and Ma Xi on their shoulders.
After a moment's silence, Lou Yuanwei lowered his voice and asked, "He was a good ﬁghter, wasn't he? Cheng, can you beat him?"
You are being so blunt, so I have nothing to hide. Lou Cheng smiled and said,
"He was obviously a Ninth Pin ﬁghter since his Qi and blood remained afﬂuent." Lou Cheng did not explicitly point out who was a better ﬁghter, but their rank spoke for him.
"Oh, you have defeated a ﬁghter of Seventh Pin, so you must be better!" Lou Yuanwei suddenly understood.
"Needless to say, my brother," Ma Xi replied.
At this time, they saw a group of kids raising toy guns, swords, and sticks, playing around. They shouted and quarrelled with excitement.
When he saw this, Lou Cheng recalled the past, saying, "I remember I had my own sword and sheath made of bamboo, and every time I drew it out, I felt like a hero. However, the sword was left in my maternal grandpa's home and has been lost for years."
"I do remember. Once, you carried the sword and made a show of it. I begged you to make one for me, but you never did." Lou Yuanwei smiled, "Look, that kid's move was quite presentable." He pointed to a sturdy boy holding a toy sword.
"He is good, isn't he? He is my son," said a man as he came closer. He was the one practicing martial arts in his yard earlier. He had a square face and rough skin.
Lou Cheng had already noticed him. He said with a smile, "Was that martial skill handed down by your family?"
"Correct. The Yue family has been huntsmen for generations. This is my youngest son. My eldest one earned the title of Ninth Pin and served as a substitute in the Bat team. Have you heard of the Bat team?" The middle-aged man told them the whole story without reservation.
"I'm sorry. No." Lou Yuanwei and Ma Xi shook their heads.
Lou Cheng had heard of the Bat team but did not feel like giving a response. Then the man changed the subject and asked, "So, are you here to join the Lou family memorial ceremony?"
"Yep." Lou Cheng nodded.
At that moment, they heard the roar of an engine. A black car was out of control, rushing from the corner and about to run into those kids.
The kids were astounded and could not move. The middle- aged man jumped to his youngest son and took him away. There was not enough time for him to save the other kids.
The man pressed down with the foot and leaped forward. When he reached his boy, the car's motor roared like thunder. The black car was already very close.
Having seen the driver's red face and eyes full of panic, the father was outraged and knew he could not make it. Damn it! The drunkard had mistook the gas for the brake!
The father was caught in a hopeless situation. Suddenly, he saw the shadow of a human ﬁgure crossing and heard the deep sound of a collision.
Lou Cheng, using and releasing his Dan force, raised the front of the car off the ground with his bare hands.
The rear wheels of the black car were still spinning against the ground, bursting with sharp noises and sparks. Nevertheless, the car was unable to move any further.
The cement ground was cracked where Lou Cheng was standing, and the black car that could no longer move was stuck in the same place.