Martial Arts Master Chapter 461-470

Chapter 461: Genius Commentary

The drawing of lots ended as the representatives returned to their respective changing rooms, starting their preparations for the first round of double-elimination matches.

A message came from Yan Zheke. "I'm so pissed! The broadcast for your match clashes with my lesson time! [Crying doggo]"

Lou Cheng sat down on the long bench in the changing room, typing on his phone with his head down.

"[Strokes head to console] Don't worry about it. You can watch the rebroadcast. It's going to be my win anyway," he replied.

"Woah, Cheng! Someone's getting better at talking big... [Shocked doggo]" she replied. "Ichiei Sakata has supernatural power and can shoot waves at you. He's basically an inferior version of Mouko Yamashita, and among those below the Inhuman stage he's definitely top 10." "If we are talking about those below the Inhuman stage, then I'm undoubtedly number one. Where's your confidence in me classmate Ke? [Hands on hips, proud]" replied Lou Cheng.

"I...I know my Cheng can morph anything he wants to, but, but, but wasn't I just trying to accumulate good karma for you? Hurry and apologize to me, how can you not understand your Big Sister's good intentions! [dumbfounded]," replied Yan Zheke.

"Sorry!" replied Lou Cheng as a smile surfaced. "I must confess, I was only running my mouth just now… [sighs with hand covering face]"

Pfft... Yan Zheke almost spit out her milk. She replied with a meme after recollecting herself—"Are you trying to inherit my debts by killing me with laughter?"

Ji Mingyu who was sitting opposite her daughter threw her a resigned glance. "Ke Ke, since you were young I have taught you not to play with your phone while you eat. You are getting worse now, typing away even when you are drinking milk," she reprimanded.

"Mother, but I didn't have a phone when I was young," objected Yan Zheke as she quickly adjusted her posture.

"..." Ji Mingyu was rendered speechless for a moment. "Focus on the main point..."

"Okayyy," answered Yan Zheke as she quickly devoured her breakfast in small and elegant bites.

Wiping her lips with a napkin, she picked up and unlocked her phone to see Lou Cheng's reply.

"I'm fairly confident that I'm stronger than Ichiei Sakata, but since I have not yet morphed, the gap between us isn't huge, therefore I ought to take him seriously and go all out, especially since I need the prize money for plane tickets to visit my little fairy! [earnest smile]" "Glad you remember~" Yan Zheke was pleased at his reply, her dimpled smile sweet and gentle. "How would you like me to cheer for you? I won't say anything too mushy though!"

"Give me a kiss! [snickering]" replied Lou Cheng, suddenly feeling a little nostalgic. "Ke Ke, it feels as if I'm back to the Warrior Sage Candidate Challenge Tournament ..."

It was a familiar situation, Ke Ke not being able to cheer for him on the spot since they were an ocean apart, idly chatting on QQ and cherishing each others' presences, her long distance cheering. The only difference was that they were merely friends at that time, but now with time their relationship had strengthened to the point where the two had promised to spend the rest of their lives together.

"Yeah." Yan Zheke bit her lips as she fell silent.

She paused, typing with tender emotions.

"Cheng, I miss you." She stared at her messages shortly, then deleted the words one by one. She did not want to affect his mood before his match.

She drew a deep breath and replied,

"It's different, at that time you earned the money for yourself, but now it's for the sake of seeing me...[blushing and smiling]"

"That's true," replied Lou Cheng, feeling motivated.

After chatting for a while, Yan Zheke began to get ready for school, tying her hair up, putting on her glasses and packing her school bag. Lou Cheng looked up to see Peng Leyun leaning against the wall with dead-fish eyes in a daydreamy state. Ann Chaoyang was rocking his body to the rhythm of the music in his headphones. Ren Li' had her phone in her hands, playing videos of her opponents' past matches, but her eyes were fixed on the floor admiring the bricks that bore a unique and exotic pattern. Bunch of losers... , this unfitting phrase popped up in Lou Cheng's mind.

He shook his head in a resigned manner and began to look through the data on Ichiei Sakata in his phone, that was when he was interrupted by two loud claps.

Zhong Ningtao was clapping to wake the "losers" up and when he had their attention, he announced,

"You are more or less representing China in this King of Youth Pro League, therefore standardized Martial Arts suits have been prepared for you. Go get yourself changed. When the match officially starts in 15 minutes, you can either stay in the changing room or head down to the grandstand. Make sure you listen to the radio announcements. Be at your respective arenas one match in advance. Don't nod blindly, Ren Li, you must follow me."

"Ah..." whimpered Ren Li. It's just a Martial Arts stadium...It's not as if I can't find the arena on my own, she thought.

Holding his laugh, Lou Cheng took the Martial Arts suits from Guide Zhong. There were two sets of the same design with differing colors meant to distinguish between opponents from the same country in matches after Top 16s.

The first set looked really cool: pure white in color except for a red stripe that went from shoulder to waist like a ribbon. The second set was more showy, red in color and embroidered with golden stars.

Lou Cheng changed into the first set in the changing room, topping it off with customized white Martial Arts shoes from Wu Qinggui's company.

When he stepped out of the changing room, he saw Peng Leyun and Ann Chaoyang in the same outfit, only Ren Li seemed to prefer the red one. Their shoes all differed since they all had different sponsors. "Want to go to the grandstand?" suggested Lou Cheng as he remembered his task of live-reporting the event with texts and photos.

"Sure!" replied Ren Li enthusiastically, before turning to look at Guide Zhong meekly.

"Let's go together. The experience is better to view from the outside," smiled Zhong Yueyun, throwing a glance at Zhong Ningtao while Ann Chaoyang nodded in agreement.

"Okay then," Zhong Ningtao turned around, pushed the changing room door open and quickly returned to Ren Li's side, not wanting to take any risks.

The planning committee had left extra seats for the fighters in order to prevent them from running into the public audience.

Lou Cheng and the others chose a spot far away from other representative teams. Some of them started to review the past matches of their opponents. Others planned their fights while Lou Chang, having done both, began snapping pictures for Yan Zheke and "Unparalleled Dragon King".

A live-streaming thread had already appeared in the Longhu Club, where "Unparalleled Dragon King" had dumped Lou Cheng's pictures and commentaries."

"Heartfelt thanks goes out to our reporter, Little Tiger, who will now bring us the live text commentary of the important matches that do not get broadcast. (Please clap.)"

"Clap clap clap! [lurking]" The first reply was from "Eternal Nightfall",Yan Xiaoling, who rarely came to that side of the forum.

"Little Tiger, Little Tiger have you seen my idol?""Brahman" was the next to reply.

"Yes..." replied Lou Cheng as he turned his head to look at Peng Leyun, only to see his own reflection in his distracted, filmy eyes. "For reals? Quick, quick, hurry up and take a picture, if you do I won't ever badmouth you again! [excited]" replied Brahman.

"I just want to see Ren Li... [drooling]" replied "Okamoto's Fan."

"Yes, get a picture of Peng Leyun and Ann Chaoyang too," replied "Unparalleled Dragon King".

This isn't easy..., thought Lou Cheng as he winced.

He looked around and got an idea. "Let's take a picture together!" he suggested.

"Sure," answered Ann Chaoyang and the others nonchalantly.

Lou Cheng smiled and passed the phone to Zhong Ningtao. "Do us a favor, Guide Zhong."

"Ha ha, taking a commemorative picture? Don't worry. With your talents and progresses, there will be many more opportunities of fighting side by side in the future," said Zhong Ningtao, camera in hand, taking a few steps back and angling his shots like a professional.

Snap, snap, snap!

After a round of flashes, he handed the phone back to Lou Cheng. "Check through the photos, if they are not good I can retake them."

"Not bad. Way better than the pictures I take at least," replied Lou Cheng happily. Then he noticed that he, Peng Leyun and Ann Chaoyang were stiff like aliens in the pictures. Ren Li, on the other hand, looked great with her faint smile and handsome figure.

He sent the photo to Ke first and received her teasing, then forwarded it to the "main characters," and lastly to the live- stream thread.

"Wait, how did you get right in front of them?""Unparalleled Dragon King" and the others immediately noticed the glaring oddity.

...I messed up... , thought Lou Cheng as he covered his face. "That's how professional I am! [smirking]"

"You the man, Little Tiger! (pats shoulder)!" replied ""Wonton Seller".

"Keep going Little Tiger! I'll call you brother,daddy,or even grandpa! [starry eyes]" replied Yan Xiaoling.

"If I become your relative, my seniority will eventually decrease... [Disdain]." replied Lou Cheng.

"I'm so jealous! I'm so jealous! [rolling on the ground throwing a tantrum]" replied "Brahman". Lou Cheng didn't give any further replies. He spent the majority of his energy focusing on the match and sharing details with Yan Zheke here and there, only taking pictures and giving commentaries for the exciting parts that did not get broadcast, occasionally exchanging opinions with the others and including their views in his commentary.

This induced many exclamations from "Unparalleled Dragon King", such as "'Little Tiger is so professional", "he can already be a commentator", and "his views sometimes are better than the actual commentators".

"I'm not fighting alone," replied Lou Cheng.

In that period, Peng Leyun and Ren Li went up successively for their own matches. Against opponents who have yet to reach the Sixth Pin, their victories were flawless, yet the viciousness and ferocity of Shengxiang boxing had left an impression on all of them.

Miluo and Nanzheng boxing were similar, except the former had flashier moves including kicks while the latter was more of an assassin's nature, malicious and underhanded. Soon, it was Ann Chaoyang's turn. He did not have a huge advantage and only managed to defeat his opponent, a mighty Nanzheng boxer, after a tough battle that lasted more than ten minutes, fully experiencing the viciousness and cruelty of Zhahe Boxing in the process.

As the first round of double-elimination matches were coming to an end, Lou Cheng excused himself in the forums, stood up and walked towards the middle arena.

His match was starting, and it was on broadcast too!

Over at the Japanese Representative side, Ichiei Sakata took a deep breath and stood up slowly, his expression was grave.

Tang Zexun and Mouko Yamashita, who had completed their individual matches, tossed their gazes towards them.

"Do not fear, do not cower," pepped the Japanese Guide, his face solemn. "Yes!" Bowed Ichiei Sakata, turning and walking towards the arena.

Chapter 462: Hadouken

"I'm so pissed! How can Little Tiger leave us hanging at this crucial moment!? [pounds table]" replied "Brahman."

"At least this match can be found online! [snickering]" replied "Unparalleled Dragon King."

"What do you guys think? What does Little Tiger have to do during the most important match? [strokes chin]" replied "Invincible Punch."

"Who knows? Maybe he has an appointment? He wouldn't have known the order of the matches before the lots were drawn. [smirks]" replied "Okamoto's Fan.""Shengxiang's red light district is pretty famous!"

"Bullshit! Little Tiger went there with his girlfriend! Maybe he just had something on, what's wrong with that?" replied "Dumpling seller." "Unparalleled Dragon King" had to remind the rest about the competition amidst the lively discussion.

"It's starting! Ichiei Sakata has skills and supernatural abilities. He's going to be a tough match for Lou Cheng, which is rare among the fighters below Inhuman stage," he replied.

Everyone quickly shifted their focus back on the match.

...

When Lou Cheng was steps away from the arena, he felt a buzz from his phone, holding it up he found a 2-seconds voice message from Yan Zheke.

He pressed the play button and held it close to his ears, out came a soft "Muack" .

"... She really sent a kiss..." Lou Cheng paused, let out a chuckle and returned a kissing emoticon. Handing his phone and wallet to the supervisor, he walked up the steps. With every step he took, joy, excitement and slight fear formed and mixed evenly inside him.

He stood in the middle of the arena, feet slightly apart in a form that presented no openings, gazing imposingly at his opponent advancing briskly.

The blond Ichiei Sakata felt something in his opponent. His steps began to dawdle, slower with each step, until it seemed as if he was walking against strong winds or sailing against turbulent tides.

His back was straight without the slightest curve as a crazed expression broke out on his face, like a soldier that is about to commit a reckless charge or Kamikaze attack.

A step, two, until Ichiei Sakata was in the arena and at his designated spot, about ten meters apart from Lou Cheng.

"Worthy of a Japanese warrior who values mental strength and spirit..." , thought Lou Cheng as he dispersed the Army Formula in his mind, withdrawing his aura and visualizing a "Godly Mountain" standing amid the blizzard, clad in thick white snow.

He was just testing his powers, using the Army Formula he familiarized with in the two months, he visualized a malicious aura to suppress Ichiei Sakata , hoping to disturb his peace of mind, shred his fighting will or at least measure his strength. But it did none of that.

In the past 2 millenniums, Japan was deeply under the influence of China, evident in how their society runs, and also in their Martial Arts . Yet, in their own culture and environment, their Martial Arts had developed its own uniqueness.

To a country that was often plagued by earthquakes and typhoons and had scarce resources, life was ephemeral and fragile. Hence, in life, they did not seek to bloom slowly like the sakura flowers. Instead, they valued kinetic ability and spirit in their Martial Arts. After the physical training stage, the Chinese would seek to control spirits with willpower and in turn control the body with spirits, this was a gradual process to achieve internal balance. The Japanese, however, directly used their strong and extreme kinetic ability to create corresponding changes, producing unique waves called Hadou, then using that to stimulate their body to allow quick bursts of terrifying strength and mind-blowing speed.

Among them, the "Extreme Hadou Sect" was a classic representative. Lou Cheng relied on his willpower and spirit to control his body, using "visualization" as a bridge to move his muscles, fascia and organs, creating special waves to complete his produce his Force and create certain effects. "Extreme Hadou Sect", on the other hand, used extreme kinetic ability to channel emotions such as rage and killing intent, allowing natural changes in their bodies and creating a corresponding wave, which they then use to stimulate their body or as an offensive attack.

That meant that they did not have the "Force Concentration" stage, and when they had internalized waves to become an "instinct" and truly mastered the "Pulse", they would be considered to be equivalent to the Inhuman stage.

Before they reach this stage, they would train intensely without any care for their body, making early deaths a common occurrence for Japanese samurais. Also, if their spirits are shattered, their power will decrease drastically. Unlike them, for Dan stage Martial Artists in China, even if they lose their motivations and have their willpower shattered, they wouldn't go back to square one since they were already at a level where every aspect of them is balanced. Their "physical" foundation would not crumble in an instant, at most it stops progressing or slightly weaken due to the lost of control.

All kinds of thoughts flashed through Lou Cheng's mind before ceasing, as Ichiei Sakata bowed to him with a solemn expression.

He returned a greeting with his clenched fist in his palm, not lacking in manners.

At this moment, the referee raised his right hand, announcing in English,

"Begin!" Since it was an international competition and language barrier existed, there was no need for "talk time".

Had Lou Cheng not observed this from the other matches and mentally prepared himself, he might have been caught off guard.

"Begin!"

As soon as he said it, white light simmered from Ichiei Sakata's body as a deep humming filled the air.

His pressed his palms against each other in reverse, lowered them to his waist, then with the swinging of his body, he thrust forward his shoulders and extended his arms, forming a "Cannon stance"!

Buzz! His palms snapped open like the jaws of a dragon, shooting out a white beam as fast as lightning at Lou Cheng.

"Extreme Hadou Sect"—Dragon Roar Hadouken!

At the same time, Lou Cheng took a step forward, arched his body and sunk his hands, with a hook and a flick, he sent out a slithering clump of pellucid white frost flame and a brutal fireball that went straight at his enemy.

Burning Ice and Flame!

Bam! The scarlet flame clashed with the white beam, neutralizing each other while sweeping up a strong gust. Ichiei Sakata seemed to have expected it, and right after the Dragon Roar Hadouken, with a fanatical expression on his face, he stomped on the ground with both feet and leaped up, instantly closing the distance between him and Lou Cheng, putting himself before Lou Cheng.

He stretched out his right hand, formed a palm knife and with his falling momentum he sliced towards his opponent's neck, leaving a pale white light trail in its path.

"Extreme Hadou Sect"— Fierce Tiger Shock Cutter!

Unhurriedly, Lou Cheng pushed with both of his legs and swung out a right uppercut to meet the opponent's slicing blow.

Bang!

The edge of the palm met the fist. Ichiei Sakata's body trembled, swung his arm slightly backwards, melting and coiling around Lou Cheng's wrist like a serpent. At the same time, he jerked his waist and whipped out his left foot, crackling as he kicked towards his opponent's waist with intense ferocity while leaving a trail of white light behind.

"Extreme Hadou Sect", "Razor" and "Flexible Wrestling", a kick and lock combination that could easily disorientate the enemy! Not only did the kungfu from this Sect have hitting techniques, it also included wrestling techniques!

Lou Cheng ignored Ichiei Sakata's armlock , immediately adjusting his muscles, fascia and organs as he visualized many rays of cold radiance that were crystal clear yet filled with loneliness and darkness.

"Ice Spirit Holy Light Diagram!"

After a period of tough training, he had made decent progress and can then barely manage its visualization, making his first advancements from "Frost Force" to "Ice Spirit Force."

Bam! The coldness condensed into a radiance that followed Lou Cheng's fist that punched out from his waist.

Bam! Ichiei Sakata's "Razor" met with the fist covered in frigid mist as his right hand found its way to Lou Cheng's wrist.

However, the skin that came into contact was as slippery as ice. With nowhere to exert his force, his hand slid off with a "shoop" .

Ice Sect, 15th move, Ice Armor!

Ichiei Sakata rapidly adjusted, channeling his fervent Hadou to stimulate his body in order to break the layer of ice armor. Suddenly he felt his an indescribable chill infiltrating from his left foot that came into contact with Lou Cheng's fist previously. In an instant, the numbness had spread throughout his whole leg as white mist condensed on his pants.

His lips turned pale , ignoring the dangers he borrowed the stimulation his body had received to forcefully twist his waists, kicking again as he switched from defense to offense.

Bam! Ichiei Sakata's right leg swept out horizontally, an extension to the "Razor" moves from before.

"Extreme Hadou Sect"— Whirlwind Kick!

Lou Cheng's body moved on its own. Withdrawing his Qi and blood he twisted his waist, allowing him to squat down and seamlessly dodge the incoming attack.

Boom! The Dan Force in his body surged, his body stretching all of a sudden as his arms bloated, his right palm shooting upwards like a cannon.

Bam! Pale white waves surfaced on Ichiei Sakata's body briefly, his right leg eerily stopping mid-air before it tensed up and hacked downwards like a battleaxe.

Bam! Fist and leg collided at high speeds, frozen in mid-air momentarily as muscles and veins became frighteningly visible.

Thump thump thump, Lou Cheng backed away three steps while Ichiei Sakata, suspended in the air with nowhere to direct the impact, flew backwards.

Snap! Lou Cheng pushed his legs to shift his gravity, pouncing forward like a ferocious beast that has locked on to its prey, in his mind he rapidly changed the image he had visualized from "Ice Spirit Holy Light that held endless darkness and no warmth" to "dark skies covered with thunderclouds".

"Severe Warning"—"Ice Spirit Force" version!

Just as Ichiei Sakata hit the ground, he saw his opponent pouncing in front of him. With a grunt he hurriedly threw out a right punch. As his fist went forward, his body began emitting dense white light.

The light formed a dragon and a tiger, instantly "igniting" Ichiei Sakata as though it was fire, turning him into a huge lump of "Hadou" as his fists punched towards Lou Cheng in the roars of Tiger and Dragon.

"Extreme Hadou Sect" Ultimate move —"Roaring Dragon Mighty Tiger Punch!"

This was initially an ultimate move exclusive to the warriors that have mastered "Pulse", but due to Ichiei Sakata's supernatural ability of a similar nature, he can forcefully use it at his current stage!

Bam!

Lou Cheng's fist, covered in pellucid ice mist, punched into the huge lump of white light. He felt the terrifying strength and power in his opponent, as if it contained scorch of flames and the force of explosion, and stepped back involuntarily, leaving a footstep and a crack with every step.

He managed to recover after a few steps, but his right arm was still trembling uncontrollably.

But no follow up attacks came from Ichiei Sakata. He stood rooted to the ground as the white light slowly seeped out of him, exposing his bare body.

His blond hair was bestrewn with ice crystals as he stood shivering, eyes ridded of focus and consciousness escaping him.

At that moment, Lou Cheng raised his hand to form a seal and visualized an ancient word.

"Attainment!" He said in a low voice as he bounded to his opponent at a speed that almost left afterimages.

In that moment, among the Japanese representative team, Takeshi Yamashita's irises shrunk.

Chapter 463: Futile Efforts

Darkness engulfed him, leaving not a hint of light to be seen nor a trace of warmth to be felt. Even the concept of "coldness" seemed to be fleeing, not to mention any sounds or colors. This was the world Ichiei Sakata was trapped in, roaming aimlessly in the endless void until his inner struggle, kinetic energy and spirit had brought him to his senses. He woke and felt the coldness biting into his skin and numbing his thoughts.

Damn!

His mind screamed of danger, light filling his eyes as he caught a glimpse of his opponent that was about to flash past him.

The competition, the honor and expectations—was he about to let it all go?

No! Struggling, he tensed and whipped out his right leg, leaving a trail of white light as he kicked upwards at Lou Cheng. In that kick, he had channeled Hadou to stimulate corresponding parts of his body , the strong momentum twisting his body, from which he borrowed strength to deliver a kick with his left leg as two legs successively delivered a flurry of kicks.

Bam bam bam!

The continuous,crackling sounds of his kicks sounded as if they combined into one, white radiance permeating the air as "Tornado Kicks" were being ushered in.

At his moment of crisis, Ichiei Sakata had a burst of amazing strength.

As Lou Cheng was closing in, at the encounter of such ferocious retaliation, he steadied himself and stopped in his tracks, visualizing the image of the "God of Flames riding a scarlet dragon under the blazing sun". His abdominal muscles expanded, stretching his fascias on both sides of his body to bring an explosive force to his shoulders as he launched a right punch. Bam! As his fist passed through the air, an invisible flame igniting around it, dancing.

Boom! (Italic)

Boom! (Italic) Scarlet flames exploded, tumbling and splashing forward, sweeping up waves of flame that held terrifying impact.

A loud bang echoed in the air as the sea of scarlet flames devoured layers of white radiance. Ichiei Sakata kicked at the flames rapidly with both of his legs, negating and nullifying its effects.

Bam! Flicking the joints in his arm and stretching his fascias, Lou Cheng fired a second punch, hitting the back of his opponent's foot at the end of his motion, stopping his combination of kicks.

His arm recoiled on contact, trembling from the impact he withdrew and released his Qi and blood, his left arm bloating and stabbing at Ichiei Sakata like a huge lance. Bam! Ichiei Sakata's right arm glowed with white light , expanding to twice its original size as he chopped down with his palm, stopping his opponent's fist in time.

With a push and a pull with his palm knives, he tried to cut through his enemy's muscles and fascia.

However, Lou Cheng retracted his fist at first touch, borrowing the force which he redirected to his lower abdomen as he delivered a low right kick.

Bam bam bam! Bang bang bang! With his first move connecting, he immediately began to suppress his enemy, dancing the "24 Blizzard Strikes" backed up by his limitless "Force Concentration" as he launched a flurry of attacks that kept increasing in ferocity and power. Ichiei Sakata could not break away even after cycling through his "Extreme Hadou Sect" Karate moves, forced to stimulate his body with Hadou and once in a while falling back a few steps as he struggled to keep up.

Throughout the whole time, he felt the coldness biting into his bones and heard the gales roaring in his ears, as if he went from the tropical Shengxiang to The Arctic or Siberia.

As he fought on, his heart skipped a beat as he realized what he felt was not an illusion but reality,frigid winds was blowing around him and snowflakes fell and melted instantly when they touched the ground.

"He's about to morph..." mused Peng Leyun who was not in his usual state of daydreaming, one hand holding his phone and the other stuck in his pockets.

In the past, Lou Cheng's supernatural ability and Dan stage explosions had a clear line in between, but in his continuous "Force Concentration" attacks, his "Frost Force" began to show, turning to instinct.

What did that mean? It meant that his root pulps was already changing from the inside and that he was about the enter the door of the Internal stage, about the begin his morphing!

"So fast," frowned Ren Li, feeling the pressure as her competitor was closing the gap between them as a strong desire of improving sprouted in her.

Ann Chaoyang gasped slightly, losing track of the music at his ears.

"It hasn't even been a few months," he mumbled.

It hasn't even been 4 months since the Nationals in April, and Lou Cheng had already improved from upper end of 6th Pin to the state where he was on the edge of making a breakthrough?

He was practically advancing at the speed of a rocket!

After his short astonishment, he remembered something as he turned to Ren Li and Peng Leyun.

"It won't be a month before Bai Xiaosheng(All-knowing Man) breaks down in tears," he jested. "It's not good to gamble," nodded Peng Leyue, logging in to his Weibo to scroll through the popular posts made by "All- knowing Man in Ganghood" in the past years, as if mourning him.

Ren Li pondered shortly and took out her phone, going to the corresponding gambling site after she made up her mind to make some quick bucks.

After about ten seconds, she gave an embarrassed smile and turned to Ann Chaoyang and Guide Zhong, she said,

"How, how do I use this?"

She had heard of it but never actually gambled before!

Among the Japanese representative team, Tang Zexun sat quietly, gazing at the arena. "If Ichiei-kun cannot make a breakthrough here, this match is not going to end up well for him," she said in a flat voice.

"Yes," agreed Takeshi-kun .

The old-fashioned, serious looking Guide glanced at him and asked in a low voice,

"Takeshi-kun, can you beat this fighter named Lou Cheng?"

The air trembled behind Takechi Yamashita, a milky white light flashed and ceased, forming a blurry image of a dragon and a tiger.

"Yes!" he replied curtly.

Even if Lou Cheng had went through the breakthrough and morphed —the way the Chinese described it, he was confident he could beat him! In the forums of Longhu Club, "Unparalleled Dragon King" who could neither see or touch the frigid winds and fluttering snow, had made a sentimental comment.

"Lou Cheng's improving so fast, even his physique is at the level of upper 6th Pin. It's not all impossible for him to make the breakthrough to Inhuman stage before the end of this year."

"Yeah, I thought a strong 6th Pin standard opponent would give him some problems, but from the start till now, Ichiei Sakata never even stood a chance," commented "Road to the Arena".

"We'll have to wait and see, none of the Martial Artists got to their current stages by luck, Lou Cheng can't afford to be careless especially when he has an advantage," commented "Pig-Riding Knight".

"Brahman" and "Eternal Nightfall" were too engrossed in the match to sing their praises. ...

Bam Bam Bam! Bang Bang Bang!

Ichiei Sakata felt the frigid gales getting stronger as his body numbed. He knew he would eventually lose if he let Lou Cheng run over him.

This can't go on!

He had to make the breakthrough right then and there!

Ichiei Sakata's heart screamed, desperately making attempts, but his decisions came too slow as Lou Cheng's advantage had spiraled out of control.

Despair grew in him as he fought on, he could see a scene where the referee raises his right hand to announce his defeat, the scorns and criticisms filling up newspapers and websites. No! He can't lose here! Not to someone at the same stage!

He thought about his father who was also from the "Extreme Hadou Sect" and his ardent hopes. He thought about his friends fawning over him. He thought about the worship in the eyes of female fans. He thought about all the privileges he enjoyed in life. He knew that if he lost that aura and fell to the ranks of "ordinary" warriors, he would lose it all and never be able to raise his head again and no matter how strong he actually was, no one will pay him attention again.

No!

Not like this!

Ichiei Sakata's brain buzzed, his eyes turning bloodshot and his long suppressed emotions erupting at once— fear, vengeance, killing intent and among which other negative emotions.

At that moment, the pale white light he emitted was stained by a slight shade of scarlet as he calmed down. "Come!" Ichiei Sakata roared, stepped forward with his left leg and threw a swift right straight.

With a loud bang, the scarlet light enveloped his body, emitting a dense killing intent that intimidated Lou Cheng's heart and spirit, disorientating him for a brief moment.

"Extreme Hadou Sect" Super Ultimate—"7 Sins Hadouken!"

His negative emotions acted as fuel for his Dragon Roar Hadouken, giving it a similar intimidating effect as the Army Formula.

Memories had caused Ichiei Sakata to explode in power and at that moment he succeeded in his breakthrough as he delivered the strongest punch in his life.

In the deep rumbling roar of dragon and tiger, the pale red "Hadou" formed a sharp "Death Scythe" that sliced at his enemy with his fist as the edge. Lou Cheng had already felt a sense of danger when Ichiei Sakata's white Hadou mutated, his hands closing to form a seal and in his mind he visualized the Forwarding Formula.

In the deep reverberating noises, he came back to his senses and jerked back wards.

He did not dodge to avoid Ichiei Sakata's "7 Sins Hadouken" since it was too fast and furious to be dodged, instead he did it just to buy some time for himself.

In his heart, he had visualized the Sun crashing onto vast expanse of "The Frozen River" .

BOOM! (ITALIC)

Ice and flame collided in his fists, spiraling into a black dot or a whirlpool. Bam! Lou Cheng firmed his steps and arched his back, drawing his right arm back before shooting it out.

Mutated version of "Severe Warning!"

Pom!

His fist collided with the pale red Hadou, knocking its color out, along with all his killing intent, fear and strength, as if the black whirlpool had absorbed them all.

Boom! (Italic)

The whirlpool disintegrated as a savage force bounced back and crashed on Ichiei Sakata's fists like huge tides, sending him into the air.

Lou Cheng's right arm gave way, sore and swelled, but before it recovered he pushed his legs and pounced towards his opponent with a crackling sound. At this moment, Ichiei Sakata launched a milky white Hadouken, scattering the dust in its path.

Just as Lou Cheng was about to return a punch, he realized he had lost track of his opponent for some strange reason.

In that instant, Ichiei Sakata's presence had vanished completely from the arena and his senses.

A mirror of ice formed in him, suddenly realizing the threat that came from behind him.

Lou Cheng twisted his waist, facing sideways and deftly kicked with his left leg.

Bang!

The heel of his foot hit Ichiei Sakata, revealing him from the shadows, shaking him, and stopping his killing technique prematurely. The technique Ichiei Sakata used was the "Ninjutsu: Backstab" he had secretly practiced in two years, yet it backfired on him.

Seeing his attack land, Lou Cheng sent another kick upwards.

Bam Bam Bam! One kick landed, followed by a second and a third, juggling his opponent in the air.

He drew a quick breath that exploded in him, rapidly turned and with a left kick he sent Ichiei Sakata into the air like a soccer ball.

Thump!

Ichiei Sakata, unable to control his balance, crashed into the ground, heard an ancient chant of "Formation!" as Lou Cheng's white martial arts hung by his ears. The referee raised his right hand, announcing in English,

"Lou Cheng wins!"

Chapter 464: The Second Round

"Lou Cheng Wins!"
The foreign words echoed in Ichiei Sakata's ears as he lay flatly on the ground, his mind blank, not remembering to even get back on his feet. He felt as if he just woke up at home in the afternoon, dazed and languid.
He had exhausted all his strength and made the breakthrough. Yet he had lost. Looking at Lou Cheng's undamaged shoes, it was as though he never exerted his full force and reserved his strength this whole time...
When Takechi-kun had overtook and surpassed him, he consoled himself by saying that those who run fast might not run fast later, and the second half of the lap was what mattered. When Takechi-kun had mastered the true "Ha" while he was running in circles, he comforted himself by saying that he was invincible, the most powerful in his league and it was only a matter of time before he could advance. But now, facing a 20 years old opponent in the same league yet losing so miserably, what can I console myself with?
Lou Cheng withdrew his suspended hand and coughed, interrupting Ichiei Sakata's thoughts. His fervent expression had faded completely, leaving eyes filled with confusion and sadness.
Lou  Cheng  did  not  know  enough  Japanese  to  hold  a conversation, therefore he simply cupped his fist in his palm and said softly,
"Well fought."
Japanese  warriors  valued  etiquette  above  all,  and  Ichiei Sakata had no intention of embarrassing his country.
He bowed habitually, turned and staggered down the arena, completely ignoring the stinging pain in his arms— He had used "Ninjutsu : Backstab" in desperation when his lower body wasn't stable and had the effects of the mutated "Severe Warning" lingering in him, therefore even though he had parried Lou Cheng's flurry of kicks, he got "juggled" into the air which almost tore, if not severed his arm.
Lou Cheng had no interest in his opponent's journey or his story, forgetting to even thank the audience, he walked down the stone steps in brisk steps and took back his phone and wallet from the match supervisor. Unlocking his phone, he sent a message to Yan Zheke.
"I won! [smirk]"
At this moment, Peng Leyun and the others who held their right hand in the air, waiting to congratulate Lou Cheng, awkwardly withdrew their arms and tried to play it off by looking around and commenting on the fights at other arenas.
Yan Zheke, as if waiting, replied in the blink of an eye.
"For the match to last three and a half minutes... Ichiei Sakata lives up to his name. [turning back with shocked expression]" "Pfft, don't flatter me too much, I'll get cocky! [smiles]" replied Lou Cheng.
What Ke meant was, any opponent that could last more than one to two minutes against him was considered the cream of the crop in the 6th Pin league.
"Heh heh, you can call me a professional Cheng flatterer! [smiles with hand covering mouth]" replied Yan Zheke.
"Alright, now I can focus on my lessons again~"
Lou Cheng kept his phone, returning to the grandstand in high spirits and high-fived Peng Leyun and the others.
Eh, what's with the expression on their faces...
"What's wrong?" Lou Cheng asked. "Nothing." Peng Leyun's eyes began to lose focus, Ann Chaoyang shifted his focus to his music while Ren Li held her head down, trying to figure out a way to make a bet.
...
In the Longhu Club forums.
"Ha ha, I'm reading the Japanese forums and damn it feels good looking at their comments!"
"Eh, eh , eh, You know Japanese? Hurry up and translate it for us, we want to read their praises! [rage laugh]" replied "Eternal Nightfall" Yan Xiaoling.
"Waiting!" replied "Brahman".
Shortly, "Unparalleled Dragon King" began translating comment by comment. "Ichiei Sakata is no more than an ordinary man now."
"Ichiei-kun outdid himself but still lost."
"He didn't even stand a chance from start till end. The part when he snapped and did "Seven Sins Kill" surprised me and gave me hope but in the end it didn't have any effects."
"Idiots! Stupid Ishihara and the Martial Arts committee, why would they give China four invitation cards?"
"That Lou Cheng guy has been famous since last year. I have been seeing his name even around here."
"Looks like a genius that might even be stronger than Takechi-kun. I heard that China has even more geniuses like him, for example the other competitors that came with him!"
"They are from an ancient country with rich history after all." "I'm putting my hopes on Kaori-chan and Takechi-kun!"
"Kaori-chan is the best!"
...
"Ha ha, looks like the Japanese are quite well mannered, no one's being a sore loser. [laughs with hands on hips]"
"Can't understand what they are saying, but still it feels so good!" replied "Eternal Nightfall" Yan Xiaoling.
Nothing tasted better than your enemy's defeat, praises, and envy!
"Little Dragon, Little Dragon, we'll leave the important task of translating such comments to you in the future! [pats shoulder]." ...
Lou Cheng felt even better after reading the contents from the live-stream post and gave no further replies. At the end of the first round of double-elimination matches, he returned to the hotel with his teammates.
Standing before the window on a high floor, he gazed down at the resplendent sea of lights that were the symbol of human civilization filled with confidence as he waited for the next round.
He held up his phone to share his feelings with his sweetheart.
"There's prize money once I reach the Top 16s!"
For a while, Lou Cheng waited for any incoming alerts, but Yan Zheke was concentrating on her classes and couldn't reply promptly. He subconsciously unlocked his lock screen to draft another text, but deleted it word by word on second thought. He didn't want to affect Yan Zheke's studies by texting too frequently.
After freshening up, Lou Cheng turned all the lights off and found his way to his bed in the dark, looking for something to do to kill time.
After  seeing  Fatty  Jiang's  post  on  "Moments"  that  was complaining about being awakened by hunger and wanting to eat supper, he kindly sent him the stolen images of Shengxiang food.
"Damn you! I'm going out to eat at Old Liu Barbecue now and I will make sure to send you the pictures later, you are welcome! [Two can play that game meme]" replied Jiang Fei.
"Pinch your fats and stroke your protruding tummy, does it not hurt your conscience? [reprimanding]" replied Lou Cheng, "Anyway I'm about to go to sleep, so I won't see anything you send. (Insert funny expression)." As he was teasing Fatty Jiang, Yan Zheke's reply came.
"I'll be waiting for you to treat me with the prize money~! Oh yes, Empress Dowager will be flying to China around the 14th of September."
"Okay!" Lou Cheng quickly switched to another App and booked a 14th of September ticket to America, sending the screenshot to Ke.
"I want to tear ten pages off my calendar right now!" replied Yan Zheke, confessing her inner thoughts in a light-hearted manner.
They chatted for a bit, but lesson time was soon to begin, and Lou Cheng also had to turn in for the night, so they exchanged goodbyes.
The following morning, he woke up on the dot, did his usual routine, and headed to the training area to continue his tough daily training. In his visualization, cold light broke out, pellucid and sparkling with dreaminess, yet bearing darkness and loneliness that knew no ends and extreme coldness that homed no warmth.
As he was getting a hold of the basics, he felt subtle changes in his Frost supernatural ability as it became more illusory and elusive, like a whirlpool that absorbed warmth.
This was the upgrade from "Frost Force" to "Ice Spirit Force". He had already learned the ropes and was beginning to strengthen his foundations.
After practicing "Ice Spirit Force" for a while, Lou Cheng took out the "Emperor Yan Diagram" that had already lost a lot of its power. He concentrated on comprehending and attempted to visualize the denseness, explosiveness and eruption in the diagram.
He was however a few steps away from it and his visualization proved to be unsuccessful. "Emperor Yan Force" seems to be a highly condensed version of "Zhu Rong Force"..., thought Lou Cheng, switching to physical exercises when he had exhausted his spirits.
An uneventful day passed as they spent their morning sparring and afternoon resting, eventually arriving at the Shengxiang stadium at night for the second round of double- elimination matches.
Since only one round had transpired, none of the fighters had been eliminated with two losses yet, therefore there was going to be 36 fighters and 18 matches again.
This time, Lou Cheng's name was picked early.
I wonder who it is... Hope it's not a Japanese warrior so I can experience different Martial Arts..., he thought.
A few seconds later, the guest picked his opponent, loudly announcing the name on it. "Miluo, Veigar!"
Veigar? Lou Cheng turned his head, stunned, and saw the cold countenance of a man donned in navy blue general uniform looking towards him impassively, silver sparks dancing in his eyes.
F*ck, meeting the No. 2 seed in the second round of double- elimination matches!
I mean, he wasn't a Japanese warrior that's for sure...

Chapter 465: The Lord of the Future

"Veigar! [thinking]" was the first reply that came to the live- stream thread in Longhu Club, made by "Unparalleled Dragon King", "Things are getting interesting!"

"Indeed. Right as Lou Cheng approaches the Inhuman stage, he's about to clash with a mighty one who's at the quasi- Inhuman stage, in the second round of double-elimination matches that is of no consequence to the both of them. This is a rare learning experience for Lou Cheng… This in itself is enough, the ending does not matter. Personally I think Lou Cheng's chance of winning is low. [funny expression]" replied "Road to the Arena".

"Who knows? Lou Cheng's physique, mastery of his moves and rhythm of battle are all at the level of upper end of 6th Pin. Factoring in his strong supernatural abilities, it's not as if he does not stand a chance against a mighty one that recently reached the Inhuman stage," replied "A Plumber Eating Mushroom."

"But the chances are very low," replied "Pig-Riding Knight,""Veigar is pretty famous in his neighboring countries. If it wasn't for his excessively powerful supernatural ability interrupting his root pulps, he might have reached quasi- Inhuman stage one or two years earlier. I feel that among the four of our fighters, only Peng Leyun has a high chance of beating him. Even Ren Li might not be at that level of attainment yet."

"I heard that the professional competition scene hasn't matured in Shengxiang, Miluo and Nanzheng. In comparison to our fighters, shouldn't their fighters have less combat experience? This must be advantageous for Lou Cheng… [Question mark popping up on head]", replied "Above the Sky."

"Ha ha, my dear sister-in-law, even though Shengxiang and Miluo's professional competition matches aren't advanced, their fighters do not lack real combat experience," replied "Unparalleled Dragon King", "Due to the political instability in their countries and the influence of neighboring war-torn zones and poor economy, there are many blood-stained underground arenas, street fights, and even wars in parts of the area. This grants them way more experience in life and death brawls as compared to Lou Cheng. Even though Veigar is the son of a warlord and a general-to-be, his favourite activity was to practice his fist fighting in the battlefield and sharpen his spirit with killings. In time, if this guy does not die, he will definitely become a lord that rules his own land!" "Waaaa, you guys are making me nervous[Wailing]!" replied "Brahman."

"Ever since the end of the Nationals, this is my first time feeling nervous emotions! [lurking]" replied "Eternal Nightfall" Yan Xiaoling.

"So you are a zombie with no emotions most of the time, silly Nightfall!" replied "Unparalleled Dragon King", who made it his habit to tease her.

"Hmph! Little Nightfall is angry now! I'll only forgive you if you post another live-stream thread in Lou Cheng Club!"

"Sure, @Schrodinger's Tiger, Little Tiger, keep up the good work today, even though this match is definitely getting on broadcast, we could do with some live photos!"replied "Unparalleled Dragon King" as he searched for the "on site reporter."

... "My opponent is Veigar..." Putting the forums aside, Lou Cheng immediately sent the results of the drawing of lots to Yan Zheke.

It was only the second round of double-elimination matches, and he had already ran into a Mighty One that was guaranteed to make it to semi-finals.

Yan Zheke was up early as promised, training in her martial arts and worrying about her hubby's competition.

"Veigar... Cheng, I realized that your luck in drawing lots is always awful when it comes to individual arena matches... [Standing in strong wind while looking at the sky]"

Lou Cheng had already eased into his usual self since he had a chance to fall back on even if he lost.

"Must have been because I have blown all my luck in this life on other aspects of life..." he replied mischievously. Pfft... Yan Zheke smiled lightly, looked towards her side and paused.

"Sweet talker! Don't worry, you have Sister Ke's luck to watch over you!"

"Cheng, I think it would be better for you to rush him down at the start of the match. [chin resting on interlocked fingers]" replied Yan Zheke.

Veigar, being the face of his country, had already been discussed and analyzed by the two, therefore they could jump right to the topic without excess explanations.

"Great couples think alike!" Lou Cheng felt a shiver from his excitement for the battle the come.

The reason why Inhumans were given their name was because every aspect of them was monstrous. The insane stamina Lou Cheng had relied on to outshine the others in his league was not merely a ticket to the level playing field against the Mighty Ones in Inhuman stage. In a prolonged fight or a battle of attrition, he did not stand any chances and might even give his opponents more opportunities to overpower him over time, using their advantage in their stages and power.

The only way to beat a powerful opponent like Veigar was to go all out from the start, forcing the opponent to a disadvantage and leveraging on the headstart to find winning opportunities. Defeat the enemy before they have the chance to utilize their advantage!

Whether it was China, Japan, Miluo, Old Europe or the new America, the essence of Martial Arts at various stages were the same. Inhuman for example, was the mutation of the root pulp as a result of training. The way to attain it was the factor that differed among countries.

For example, Miluo had combined the Martial Arts concepts of both China and Borneo and developed a unique training system under the influence of frequent wars—shaping the body and stimulating potential with sickeningly tough physical training. This awakened all the treasures in a person's body and gradually guided the root pulp to cause a mutation. Shengxiang and Nanzheng were more or less similar. Therefore in their countries, if the Martial Artist did not make it to the quasi-Inhuman stage when they were young, they would suffer a miserable life after middle age as the overexertion and wounds from their past would haunt them for the rest of their lives and plague them with sickness and pain. Most died before the age of 50.

In a safe place with a good economy, not many would choose the way of Martial Arts other than the greedy and desperate souls. However, in Shengxiang, Miluo and Nanzheng where the country was in turmoil and the economy was in ruins with sky- high unemployment rates, the poor mostly did not make it 50 years old anyway. Therefore, many people did not hesitate to take the wager in hopes to change their lives.

Lou Cheng remembered that an academic who practiced Martial Arts had done research on the situation and wrote a book called "The Influence of Geopolitical Environment on the System of Martial Arts".

As he was discussing the winning strategies against Veigar, Peng Leyun was picked and pit against the 8th seed, an upper 6th Pin with strong supernatural abilities, Li Shaokang of Nanzheng. "Seems like everyone's luck today isn't that great..." mused Peng Leyun as he played with his phone in his hands.

As he spoke, Ren Li was to fight an unknown Japanese warrior and Ann Chaoyang against a Mighty One of quasi- upper 6th Pin from Miluo.

Lou Cheng gave Peng Leyun a thoughtful look and nodded.

"No, just the two of us..."

They exchanged a smile without any feelings of upset or anger, only an eagerness to battle their opponents right then and there.

Not long after, due to being picked early, Lou Cheng's match against Veigar began.

Then, he saw "Unparalleled Dragon King's request, hesitated and turned to Peng Leyun, Ren Li and Ann Chaoyang. "Do you mind taking some pictures for me later?"

Compared to Zhong Ningtao, he trusted Peng Leyun and the others more for they were all fighters.

"Huh?" The others looked confused at first, then switching to an odd expression that seemed to say, "We didn't know you were like this, Lou Cheng... this is narcissism on a whole new level!"

Cough... Lou Cheng reddened.

"I have some friends making a live-stream thread on the King of Youth Pro League and asked me to take a few pictures for them...He doesn't know who I am so I can't just tell him I'm going up to fight. Give me a second," he explained.

"I see," smiled Peng Leyun, "I have an account I use to lurk in the forums too." The heck... "What's your user ID?" asked Lou Cheng.

"I only frequent the Shangqing Sect Club and my personal club, so I doubt any of you know me, it's "Stringed Trickster"," replied Peng Leyun, "What about you guys?"

"I just read and never comment so I don't have an account," confessed Ren Li, slightly embarrassed. "I'm afraid that I might get into a squabble."

"You? Getting into squabbles?" exclaimed Lou Cheng.

"Yes, I get super mad!" Ren Li said earnestly, but no one really believed her.

"I rarely visit the Martial Arts forums. I spend most most of my time reading, discovering music, checking reviews and writing," said Ann Chaoyang. Writing... he must be what you call a "literary giant"... I better not offend him so he doesn't pen me down as a weirdo..., thought Lou Cheng. "Mine's "Schrodinger's Tiger". Help me post some pictures in the live-stream thread later."

"Schrodinger's Tiger... Stringed Trickster...our names match," joked Peng Leyun.

Something was triggered inside him as his eyes began to lose focus and enter his daydreamy state again before Lou Cheng could give a reply.

Turning back at the arena, Lou Cheng sent a text to Yan Zheke.

"It's my turn. How are you going to cheer for me today? [snickering]"

"Good luck? [blinking in confusion]," replied Yan Zheke. Following which she sent a picture of a marriage certificate with her and Lou Cheng's names and photographs on it. "How about this, feeling the motivation yet? [smiling with hand covering mouth"]"

"Yes! [nodding vigorously]" replied Lou Cheng.

He was fighting for his family!

He unlocked his phone and switched tabs to the live-stream thread, handing it over to Peng Leyun as he inhaled, left his seat and headed towards the arena.

On the other side, the beefy Veigar sprang to his feet, rousing thundering cheers and loud chants of "Veigar" in the stadium.

As a genius fighter with a strong personality, he was extremely popular in Shengxiang as well!

Thump, thump, thump. He walked in heavy strides, majestically walking up the stone steps with a grand nobility like a man who reigned over tens of thousands of people. Lou Cheng did not give way to his pressure, exerting his own aura like a snow-clad holy mountain that had stood for tens of thousands of years, a cold gale swirling around him that hid a terrifying bloodlust.

Bam!

They stepped onto the arena at the same time, their gazes aligning as electric sparks seemingly appeared.

Standing in position, Lou Cheng closed his eyes as he recalled Veigar's characteristics.

Thunder and lightning supernatural ability… Practical and effective kungfu... adept at using wrists and knees... fast and strong... quasi-Inhuman stage...

What a terrifying opponent!

Therefore, he had to strike first to get an upper hand! Veigar pushed down his Miluo-styled general hat, shading half of his eyes, in which silver sparks shone more menacingly.

After a brief moment, the referee raised his right hand and swung it down.

"Begin!"

As soon as his voice rang against the floor, Lou Cheng lifted his hands and formed a seal, chanting in a deep voice.

"Attainment!"

Chapter 466: Suppression

"Attainment!"

Lou Cheng's deep voice echoed in the air as he darted out like a bolt of lightning, leaving what seemed to be afterimages behind as he rushed towards his opponent at an unbelievable speed.

Veigar was donning a general hat. He steadied himself, extended his left foot out while drawing his right in, then pulled his arms apart and struck a boxing pose.

Suddenly, he lowered himself and bounced up like a spring, his muscular body swishing through the air. As he descended, he bent and pointed his knees directly at Lou Cheng's chest, giving his white knee pads wrapped around his legs a murderous aura.

The Martial Art style of Miluo emphasized the basic movements— punching, elbowing, kicking and kneeing— over intricate ones. By mixing and matching them in a natural way that best suited real combat, it was capable of delivering swift and vicious attacks seamlessly. To conquer their enemies, Miluo fighters adopted special methods of training that hardened their elbows and knees like steel.

Veigar timed his leap flawlessly, allowing him to get ahead of his opponent and prevent him from setting up any killer moves. It was an impeccable attack, for if his knees were blocked, he can immediately follow up with the deadly combination of an elbow slam and a kick.

Just as Lou Cheng was about to collide into Veigar's knees, where the cunning trap awaited him, he withdrew his Qi and blood in a rapid motion, condensing his force, spirit, and momentum into his lower Dantian.

And he stopped on a dime!

Being Lin Que's long-time teammate and having guided Yan Zheke through her practices, Lou Cheng was well versed with their "Yin-yang Twist" and "Meteor Force". Through self- learning and under Yan Zheke's guidance, he slowly learned the trick to "ceasing movement at will" by utilizing the footwork of "Force Concentration" and "North Wind". Though not as amazing as the original, it was good enough for a critical moment like this one.

Screech! The piercing noise caused by friction was shrill as it cut through the air. Lou Cheng was a step away from where Veigar had predicted him to be.

That small distance caused Veigar's knee thrust to lose most of its momentum, and by the time it had reached Lou Cheng, it was nowhere near its maximum power.

Boom!

Lou Cheng's Dantian Force erupted like a volcano, his muscles ripping and expanding, physically enlarging his body as the floor beneath him split and cracked into ugly fissures.

He swung his shoulders and sent a right punch forward that seemed to weigh a ton. Bam!

His punch landed directly on Veigar's kneecaps, sweeping up gusts and sending him backwards in the air.

Snap! Pushing his legs into the ground, he sprang up like a bolt of lightning, arriving before Veigar in the blink of an eye. Forming seals with both of his hands, he visualized the ancient character that represented insurmountable fighting spirit.

"Fighting Formula!" he growled.

Eyes turning bloodshot, Lou Cheng pulled his feet together, closed his legs and relaxed his waist, directing all the strength and explosive power to his right arm.

Boom!

His Martial Arts shoes busted in sync with the flying pieces of gravel as he raised his bloating right arm in the air, blocking out light from above like a canopy. Then he let it fall, sweeping up a strong current that boomed in the air.

Nine Words Formula, Fighting Formula!

Right off the bat, Lou Cheng had gone all out and used everything in his arsenal.

Veigar braced himself for the blow, for dodging was not an option when he had just steadied

himself from the previous attack.

His hat drooped over the gleaming eyes on his icy countenance as sparks of electricity enshrouded his hands like a loose glove made from lightning.

Bam! His right arm flew into an uppercut, fist sizzling with electricity. Bang!

The clash of their fists send tremors down Veigar's right arm. With a loud crack, the arena floor below him gave way and swallowed him by a few inches.

With the Fighting Formula, Lou Cheng had completely suppressed his quasi-Inhuman opponent and nailed him on the spot.

This too was foreseen by Lou Cheng. As his right arm recoiled and his body swayed, he took a quick breath to condense it all — the numbness in his arm, the momentum from falling back, his Qi, blood, spirit and force— to his lower abdomen. He steadied himself on the spot like a ball of condensed energy.

His Dantian erupted causing his thighs to expand as he whipped out his left foot and kicked towards the side of his opponent's kneecaps. Veigar was a step too slow. Barely managing to lift his leg in time to return a weak kick, his leg collided into the heel of Lou Cheng's foot.

With a dull thud, he reeled forward and saw Lou Cheng's right cross coming towards him.

Hurriedly, Veigar gathered his strength and steadied himself, returning an uppercut of his own, a savage blow wreathed in silver sparks.

At that instant, Lou Cheng's fist paused momentarily, then slowed down in its rhythm until Veigar's heavy strike was near. That was when he smashed down with all his strength.

In between the pause and release, he found the time to visualize "Ice Spirit Holy Light" and took the opportunity to cast "Severe Warning".

A frozen picture of a lonely, frigid darkness weaved in phantom-like, dreamy pellucid frost light only to be shattered by the roaring of thunder as Yin and Yang clashed. Boom!

The deafening roars of thunder resounded as Lou Cheng's frost-clad fists smashed into his opponent's gloves of electricity.

Brzzt! Sparks flew as Veigar stood blank-faced, the bottom half of his left arm shrouded in mist and sprinkled with ice flakes. His eyes had lost their vigor, like the eyes of someone that had just walked out of a frozen slumber.

Upon the impact of the forceful punch, Lou Cheng staggered backwards, right arm swaying, but found himself an opportunity to flick his left wrist and send a pellucid white light of frost that "flared" towards his enemy. The succession of killer moves did not allow his opponent even a moment to catch his breath.

The frost light flashed before Veigar, who had regained his senses through his strong physique. In the face of an attack that could neither be blocked nor dodged, he tensed and let loose all his power, emitting a blinding light from his body as snakes of electricity sizzled and danced around him. Secret move, "Thunder explosion!"

Bam! The frost flame was struck down and melted into scattered rays of light. Lou Cheng had already steadied himself by then, and with a visualization of the dreamy and deadly "Ice Spirit Holy Light", he sprang forward again.

In his mind, he clearly knew that at his current mastery of "Internal Explosion Punch", it was not at all likely for him to deal enough internal damage to restrict his quasi-Inhuman opponent's movements in less than three moves. Therefore, in order to not get countered and lose the opportunity to activate a more Internal Explosion, the optimal move for him was to suppress his opponent with "Severe Warning."

All things in life come to an end, and "Thunder Explosion" was no exception. Lou Cheng deliberately slowed down the tempo of his assault to give enough time for the slithering silver serpent sparks to die down. Then he stepped forward, steadied his feet, and punched towards Veigar's lower abdomen. His fist shot out like an arrow, rapidly donning a raiment of white mist in its path.

Beneath his general hat, Veigar's eyes grew increasingly cruel as he lashed out another punch covered in his "electric glove".

This was the power of an Inhuman that had completed morphing. Every blow hit hard and his control over his supernatural abilities was phenomenal.

Just as Veigar's punch took off, Lou Cheng straightened his back and pulled his right arm backwards, evading the attack and connecting a low kick with his left foot.

"The coldness seeps up from the feet in a blizzard!"

Bam!

Veigar sensed the danger and dispersed the strength in his punch. He whipped out his right leg, which was least one and a half the size of Lou Cheng's, and dealt a rigid kick that cut through the air.

In that moment, Lou Cheng adjusted his center of gravity by arching forward, and with a stomp of his left foot he had circled behind Veigar. With his right arm raised, he was ready for another attack. His presence was like a gust of frigid wind that penetrated every nook and cranny.

In that moment, the image of the "Ice Spirit Holy Light" in his mind was completely shattered by the tumultuous "Thunderclouds".

Boom!

All was in place, and his downward punch was nothing less of a severe warning!

Veigar had been in a bad spot since the onset of the fight, and things hasn't been going in his favor up till this point . And now with his right leg still extended, the enemy's assault had put him into a dangerous position. He could feel his anger rising.

In the face of crisis, he had to put all his disdain and arrogance aside. With a deep breath, he was ready to reveal his trump card.

Zap!

Rings of electricity revolved around him as he sent one leg upwards and leaned backwards with a spinning motion that resembled a drill crashing into Lou Cheng's left fist.

Veigar's ultimate move - "Spark Drill!"

Thud! The strong light produced temporarily blinded most of the audience. No one was clear of what was going on inside the arena. Inside the arena, Veigar was on one knee, his eyes distracted and his general hat lying on the floor as wisps of steam rose around him. On the other side, Lou Cheng's hair was standing on its end, his body convulsing and his vision filled with those silvery serpents. He saw the chance, but the paralysis was too strong for him to even use "Force Concentration".

In the time of a breath, the two had recovered and was going at each other again.

Bam!

"Lou Cheng could actually have won there..." mused Peng Leyun in the clangour.

Their attention drawn away from the exciting battle, Ren Li and Ann Chaoyang nodded at his words.

"By the way, have you taken the pictures Lou Cheng asked for?"remembered Ann Chaoyang. Peng Leyun brooded for a moment.

"Totally forget about it," he admitted.

The three fell into a brief silence until Peng Leyun handed the phone, still unlocked, over to Ren Li.

"You are the best at photography here, you can have the honors," he prompted earnestly.

"You got it," replied Ren Li as she took the phone from his hand, brimming with her usual confidence.

Chapter 467: Inhuman Monster

Snap!

Ren Li shifted her position slightly and snapped three pictures of the arena. After browsing through them, she was content enough to upload them to the live-stream thread.

She watched the battle a little longer before refreshing the thread, curious about what other people thought of her photography prowess.

"@Schrodinger's Tiger, it's so blurry. [Sighing while covering face]" replied "Unparalleled Dragon King".

"Little Tiger, are your hands trembling from excessive hand exercises? [Funny face]" replied "Okamoto's Fan."

"I can only differentiate them by the colour of their clothes..." replied "Above The Sky." Ren Li's eyelids twitched with indignation.

"At the speed they were moving, it's already the best I could do with a phone camera!"

Though her explanation wasn't off, she made a mistake by adding the exclamation mark.

"...Little Tiger, are you in a bad mood?" replied "Wonton Seller".

"I was wrong about you overworking your hands, it's evident now that you have a lot of pent up frustration... [tears of joy]" replied "Okamoto's Fan."

"Get lost!" replied Ren Li. "Gross freak!"

No one replied for the next the ten seconds or so, until "Wonton Seller" broke the silence. "D-did Little Tiger get hacked? [shocked]"

The Little Tiger today seemed as if he wanted to pick a fight with the whole world.

Ren Li gave the phone a reflective glance then deftly signed out of the forums and locked its screen, looking out at the arena as if nothing had happened.


By putting everything in his arsenal— formulas, moves, combat experience and fighting talents— together for harmonious perfection, Lou Cheng had outdone himself and suppressed Veigar from the get go, coming close to actually defeating him. Yet, the Inhuman monster managed to tough out the fierce assault and wriggle his way out of his predicament which brought the two back to the same starting line.

However, after the round of attacks, Lou Cheng vaguely felt as though he had made a breakthrough in his journey of Martial Arts, not in terms of stages, but rather his prowess in actual combat .

Bam!

With the "glove" of electricity on his right fist, Veigar's punches struck heavily, forcing Lou Cheng to defend himself with his Dan stage explosions. He used "Force Concentration" to reduce the numbing effects of the electricity, moving around agilely while relying on borrowed strength.

Bam bam bam!

Veigar's kicks and elbows and knees and punches rained down on Lou Cheng without a pause, like waves of a tsunami crashing down, but instead if water, it was all electricity. The immense pressure gave Lou Cheng neither a chance to activate the Nine Word Formulas nor any simplified version of physical invulnerability state, and he had to take the assault head-on by triggering Dan Stage explosions with the techniques from "24 Blizzard Strikes". Bang bang bang! Their limbs kept clashing, producing gust and serpentlike sparks. Many a time, Lou Cheng came so close to turning the tides by connecting seven to eight hits in a row with borrowed strength, but each time Veigar paused his perfect timing to disrupt the attacks with "Thunder explosion" and other similar moves that were often followed by strong punches and kicks preventing any chances for Lou Cheng to set up his killer moves. With his advantage in stage and power, he was slowly marching towards victory by wearing Lou Cheng out.

Lou Cheng saw little hope in the turnabout, and the hopeless situation made him feel like he was the subject of the "boiling frog" experiment. The terrors of an Inhuman mighty one was being deeply ingrained in him.

Without a miracle, it would indubitably be his loss! The realization began to dawn on him, yet he could not find a chance or method to break free from the suppression. The enemy was too strong, and the ending seemed to have been already set in stone.

It was all or nothing! Once Lou Cheng had decided on that, his eyes grew more determined as he concentrated on his force and threw his weight into every step he made while swinging out with his bloating right arm.

Zzzzzap! Veigar lashed out with his left fist in its silvery glove, directing colliding into Lou Cheng's fist.

Bang!

With a dull thud, sparks splashed all over the place. Lou Cheng reeled back from the recoil. All of a sudden he straightened his back and deliberately flew backwards, stanceless and vulnerable.

Veigar would never let such an opportunity slip. Bouncing his strong leg muscles off the ground, he chased after Lou Cheng and instantly closed the distance between them. He was planning on closing the fight next in the next couple of moves.

The speed of an Inhuman was akin to an upper Sixth Pin with in built effects of "Attainment Formula". At that moment, instead of finding his balance and stance, Lou Cheng raised his hands and formed another seal, visualizing an ancient character that conjured images of a horrifying battlefield that reeked of thick blood.

He had flown into the face of danger for the chance to use the Nine Word Formula!

One had to throw himself into the fire if he wanted to rise from the ashes!

"Army!" chanted Lou Cheng in a deep voice.

His bloodlust seemed to have materialized into a lance that stabbed at Veigar, stirring up his inner fear and cowardice towards death.

Veigar's movements began to slow, but being an Inhuman mighty one that had sharpened his will through slaughters on the battlefield, he managed to snap out of it before getting hit by "Severe Warning". Lou Cheng's mind was clear as ice. Holding back his disappointment, he decisively gave up the opportunity to strike his opponent's stomach. He twisted and turned his waist as his muscles continued bulging, and in the blink of an eye he had slipped to the side of his opponent with the footwork of "North Wind".

Boom!

His swift movements sliced through the air, sending blades of wind towards his opponent's eyes.

"Ascension to Heaven's Stars!"

Just as Veigar squinted, Lou Cheng formed another seal, pointing his hands towards himself.

"Fighting!" he roared. His physique grew rapidly, muscles bulging and pulsating, in a ridiculous manner as if he was turning into a heavenly warrior from the tales. His right fist weighed down, ready to be unleashed.

"It really is the Fighting Formula..." mused Peng Leyun. He wasn't sure for the first time since it all happened so fast, but looking at it again he was certain.

To think of it, Lou Cheng had acquired quite a number of the Nine Word Formulas.

Among the Japanese Representatives, Takeshi Yamashita frowned.

Against the explosive Fighting Formula, Veigar dared not let his guard down. The silver in his sparks intensified as he leaned sideways and spun circles of electric serpents, rapidly drilling towards his enemy.

Ultimate move, "Spark Drill!" As if waiting for this moment, Lou Cheng straightened his back and evaded the attack, all while dragging his right fist. Veigar's Spark Drill missed and landed nearby.

That was the outcome Lou Cheng was hoping to achieve at the cost of wasting his Fighting Formula.

In his mock battles with Peng Leyun, the latter duly mimicking Veigar's battle style had given him a good idea of what the mighty one from Miluo was capable of. He knew that right after using "Spark Drill" or "Invincible Thunder Explosion", Veigar couldn't immediately attack again and had to take a moment to catch his breath.

That was his chance!

Snap! Lou Cheng shot forward like an arrow, appearing before his enemy in a snap. A thick layer of "Ice Armor" formed on his left arm. Raising it like a shield, he then formed a fist with his right hand, poised for attack. At the same time, he had once again visualized the image of "Ice Spirit Holy Light", that heatless void of darkness, and was ready to deliver a killing blow with another "Severe Warning".

Dodging was not an option, neither was he ready for more explosive moves or in the position for blocking. A hateful look flashed across Veigar's eyes, which were gleaming ever more cruelly.

Without a warning, he leapt high up into the air, slanting his legs and stepping towards Lou Cheng's skull.

Come! Lou Cheng had prepared for this. Visualizing "thunderclouds" breaking through the ice, he straightened himself and flew upwards with an uppercut headed towards his opponent who could no longer change his direction.

Rocket-like punch! Severe Warning!

Had they they clashed like that, at worst Lou Cheng would recoil downwards and stagger. Veigar, on the other hand, would be knocked out of his mind and fall heavily on the ground. It was the perfect opportunity for Lou Cheng to win!

But at that moment, Veigar twisted his shoulders and crossed his legs, forming a silvery white ball of electricity that went sizzling downwards at the speed of a bubble. It hit Lou Cheng directly and Veigar rode on the impact to adjust his position midair.

That was an experimental move he had never revealed in real combat before!

Zap! Lou Cheng, who was flying upwards in an uppercut position, felt his body turn numb. His attack missed as they met side by side in the air.

Bam!

Veigar took the opportunity to deliver an elbow to Lou Cheng's chest. Barely managing to block it with his left arm armored in ice, Lou Cheng flew backwards from the impact. From the clash, Veigar gained a downward momentum and landed first. He sprang up towards Lou Cheng, dodging a huge fireball the latter had casted at him in desperation.

Boom!

Lou Cheng's final move hit the ground of the arena, detonating a strong explosion that set off a scarlet sea of flames accompanied by strong gusts.

Bam! Right after Lou Cheng manoeuvred using the impact, Veigar was already a step ahead crashing into him in his "Spark Drill" form.

Blocking with both of his arms, Lou Cheng began seeing stars as he was immobilized on the ground.

When he had regained consciousness, a burnt smell filled his nostrils and from the corner of his eyes, he saw the silhouette of the referee with his right hand raised. "Veigar wins!"

The deep and hoarse voice echoed through the stadium, and the crowd went wild.

Chapter 468: Avoiding suspicions

In a sea of cheers, some of which he understood and others he didn't, Lou Cheng returned from his dazed state to accept the reality of his defeat as he heaved a sigh of relief and began to relax his sore arms.

He should have been happy. Proud even. Veigar had been at the quasi-Inhuman stage for more than a year, and coming close to defeating him twice was no easy feat. He had earned the right to walk off with his chest out.

Yet, he could not feel a hint of happiness within himself.
Instead, there was only disappointment and regret.

He was so close, victory was just a step away...

My strategy, predictions, and actual performance were all on point. Outstanding in fact. Yet I was a step away from seizing the winning opportunity... His logic kept telling him that it was the best outcome. Had he not used "Ice Armor" defensively, he might have been left with broken arms from the last two smites, which would have spell the end of his adventures in the King of Youth Pro League. Even so, Lou Cheng could not readily accept his defeat. Not when he was that close.

Right now, the most realistic course of action would be to speed up his progress in mastering the "Emperor Yan Force" and attain a new mastery in his "Zhurong Force", which would cause him to start morphing.

With his mind racing, Lou Cheng paid Veigar a gesture of respect, then turned and walked to the edge of the arena and down the steps towards the match supervisor.

His wallet was returned to him before he could ask for it.

But the wallet was the only thing that was given to him, and that confused Lou Cheng since he was planning on sending a text to Yan Zheke. Then it came to him; he had passed his phone to his teammates. He laughed and shook his head. After pocketing his wallet, he walked towards where Peng Leyun and the others were at. The side effects from the electrocutions were wearing off.

The beefy Veigar in the arena took a last thoughtful look at Lou Cheng's silhouette. Walking towards the center of the arena, he picked up the ragged remains of his general hat and dusted it. Without putting it back on he walked out of the arena, straight out of the stadium without turning back.

"Impressive(Sugoi)!" went the praises of the samurais who were watching the competition from the Japanese representative side.

Ichiei Sakata's face was pale as though he had taken a great hit. The day before, he knew there was a considerable gap between him and Lou Cheng, but right now the gap between them caused him despair. In the battle that just took place, Lou Cheng had displayed power close to an Inhuman, and that was something that set him apart.

How on earth did he do it? I'm sure he didn't promote yet!

With his supernatural abilities?

But I have them too...

People used to call me a "monster", but now I have to admit that the real "monsters" are still out there...

Takechi Yamashita turned towards him.

"Ichiei-kun, Lou Cheng's current level is not something beyond your reach! Don't focus too much on attaining "Hadou." Once you have reached his current level, things will become easier for you," said Takechi Yamashita with a stern face.

"Understood..." Ichiei Sakata replied, uncertain. "The Extreme Hadou Sect has no place for cowards!" warned Takechi Yamashita with a frown.

"Understood!" replied Ichiei Sakata with a solemn expression.

...

Back in the Longhu Club live-stream thread, everyone seemed to have forgotten about the little fiesta from before and were currently engaged in a lively discussion on Veigar and Lou Cheng's battle.

"Such a pity! [biting napkin with a teary expression]" replied "Wonton Seller".

"A pity indeed, I actually thought Lou Cheng might win there...[tears of joy]" replied "Unparalleled Dragon King". "There needs to be a new category in between the Inhuman and Common Dan stage, as well as the 5th Pin and 6th Pin, and that category will be called Lou Cheng!" "Damn, I almost had my world views destroyed... [spits] If his opponent was someone who had recently attained the Inhuman stage, he might have actually won!" replied "Road to the Arena."

"I think Lou Cheng is going to make the breakthrough soon..." suggested "Pig-Riding Knight".

"No way! You can't be that fast even if you ride on a rocket! [spits]" replied "A Plumber Eating Mushroom".

"Yeah! There are cardinal rules even for making breakthroughs!" agreed "Invincible Punch".

These surmises were quickly "drowned out" by other replies.

"Even though my idol performed spectacularly, I can't help but feel a little down at his loss. But looking at you guys complimenting him has lifted my spirits again! [hopping around] Keep the praises coming, I can do with more of them! @Eternal Nightfall, come look at this!" replied "Brahman". "...Already seen that, I'm busy making a new thread for all the prayers hoping that Lou Cheng does not get another Inhuman opponent in the next round!" replied "Eternal Nightfall" Yan Xiaoling.

...

Somewhere in the grandstand, Lou Cheng walked to Peng Leyun and high-fived him.

"I never liked Veigar much, especially at how he wore that "Police hat" everywhere as if he was something special. I guess those days are over for him now that he's lost his hat," quipped Peng Leyun in a kind, praising way.

Seems like the rumors were true. Other than zoning out frequently and being a battle maniac, "The Devil King" was a nice and easy going guy... Lou Cheng couldn't help but chuckle at the way Peng Leyun had put it.

Ann Chaoyang reached out to high five him too. "What a show!" commended Ann Chaoyang. "Haha, I couldn't take my eyes away from the match for a second to take any pictures."

Pictures… remembered Lou Cheng.

"I guess that means you didn't post anything?" he asked, smiling.

"Nah, we did not forget about that. Ren Li is the best at photography here, so we entrusted the task to her," replied Ann Chaoyang, unabashed at the fact that he was the one who had a digital camera.

Ren Li stepped forward at being mentioned, handed Lou Cheng's phone back, and nodded.

"Someone was bad-mouthing you on the forums just now, so I gave them a good scolding!" "Huh?" replied Lou Cheng in confusion. Once he had put two and two together, a bad feeling grew in him. He quickly unlocked his phone, went on the forums and into the live- stream thread, then began scrolling up.

Thanks a lot... His mouth was twitching at what he saw.

"...The one commenting earlier was not me! I did not get hacked either, truth is, I felt that my photography skills were not good enough, so I had someone help me, but I didn't expect her to comment in my place..."

"Her? Was it your girlfriend, Little Tiger? [I knew it expression]" replied "Wonton Seller".

"So it was a girl, that explains why she was so sensitive. [So that's how it is expression]" replied "Unparalleled Dragon King".

Girlfriend? Lou Cheng denied it in a hurry. "No, it was a friend."

"A female friend other than your girlfriend? Look at you go, Tiger, travelling with other female friends! [funny face]"replied "Okamoto's fan" in a teasing manner.

"...You read too much into it! There are other friends that came along too,"replied Lou Cheng.

"Save your explanations! All I want to know is: is she pretty? If she is, getting scolded by her just now wouldn't be half bad. [ROFL]" replied "Okamoto's Fan".

"She's alright," Lou Cheng replied hesitantly.

These conversations made him a little nervous. Not that he had anything to be nervous of, but if there's one thing his long- distance relationship had taught him, it was that when two people are oceans apart, maintaining trust and emotional security is like treading on thin ice. Repeated doubts and suspicions could be the breaking point. Therefore, to prevent the relationship from turning sour, both sides had to know how to "avoid suspicion." Even if you have nothing to be guilty of, you should consider how others might see it and proactively avoid situations that might raise doubts in your other half, which might turn into suspicions and eventually, the big fight.

A person's freedom is always relative, especially after they are attached!

Should I tell Ke about this?

If I don't, she probably wouldn't find out either, and that would be the end of it...

But if she visits the live-stream thread on a whim and finds out about this, she's definitely not going to be happy about it, even if she doesn't say it…
Shortly after weighing the options in his mind, Lou Cheng made his decision. He switched to the QQ messenger tab to first inform Yan Zheke of his loss. "I watched some parts of it just now, and I thought you were going to win… But it's alright. Once you complete morphing, you will win for sure! [hugs]" replied Yan Zheke.

That was her way of consoling her precious Cheng.

After a round of encouragements and warm exchanges, Lou Cheng decided it was a good time to bring out the topic.

"F***, Peng Leyun got me into big trouble!"

He stole a glance at Peng Leyun after hitting send.

"Comrade Leyun, this is for the greater good. You'll have to take this one for the team!"

"What did he do? [cat holding a dried fish]" replied Yan Zheke. "You remember how "Unparalleled Dragon King" asked me to host the live-stream thread by uploading pictures? Before it was my turn, I got Peng Leyun to help, but you know what he did? He threw the responsibility to Ren Li, and Ren Li ended up in a squabble with the people on the forums, and I had to clean up after their mess. [sighs]" replied Lou Cheng.

"Pfft...that's pretty unreliable of them... That prim and proper Ren Li got into a squabble? [cat dropping his dried fish in shock]" replied Yan Zheke.

Since Lou Cheng's competition was early in the morning, she had some time to spare before lesson started. She went to the forums and browsed through the live-stream thread, and hardly realizing it herself she was biting her lips lightly.

"I heard from Peng Leyun and Ann Chaoyang that Ren Li often get into arguments online..." said Lou Cheng, feeling the need to add more candidates to his list of scapegoats.

"That's something you wouldn't expect from her image... I find the contrast kind of cute. [smiles while covering mouth]" replied Yan Zheke. "What is she like normally?" Feeling pressured by the question, Lou Cheng picked his words carefully.

"She's kind of klutz but extremely confident in everything she does. The coach was with her for the most of the duration since she's horrible with directions, there wasn't much interactions between her and the rest of us."

"I see...that's not what I imagined her to be like. [thinking]" replied Yan Zheke.

She exhaled and shook her head, smiling before moving on to another topic.

Then she received another message. It was from a classmate that went abroad with her, Huang Xiwen.

"Want to chill with us tonight? There's a party at Tom's place. You'll see lots of people from our hometown. Not to mention, there will be many popular seniors from our school!" It didn't take long for Yan Zheke to turn it down.

"I'm not good with crowded occasions."

"Come on! Where's the fun in holing up at home all the time? How are you going to mix in with everyone if you don't get to know them first? If you keep on being a lone wolf, you might end up being isolated! Imagine the regret you'll have when you can't turn to anyone for help in the future. So, make yourself look pretty and have some fun with us tonight. It will be a good change of pace!" convinced Huang Xiwen.

I don't see any good in mixing in with the rest... After typing it, she thought it was too harsh, so she went on to rephrase it.

Then she thought it was too mild and undetermined, so she had to write it again.

"I have to admit that I am a boring person that isn't good at socializing. But hey, I like it this way since I can concentrate on my studies. You really don't have to invite me in the future. I'm honestly not interested." was the one she decided on. After checking through and making minor adjustments, she hit send feeling as if a burden had been lifted off of her.

To think I went out of my way to invite you!, thought Huang Xiwen, vexed at being turned down. She put her phone down.

"She's not coming. Seriously, she's a real buzzkill. Right, one of those unsmiling spinsters!"

...

Back in the Sheng Xiang Stadium, Peng Leyun saw Lou Cheng looking at him.

"What's wrong?" he asked, stroking his chin in confusion.

"Nothing," Lou Cheng replied, smiling.

Your sacrifice was not for naught, comrade Leyun! Peng Leyun frowned while shaking his head, deciding it was best to not extend the conversation with such a weirdo.

That was when a round ended and he was due next, against one of the seeds, Li Shaokang.

------------

Chapter 469: Extrapolation

Li Shaokang stood at a little above five feet, gaunt and dark skinned with the typical features of a Nanzhengese. However he looked older than his actual age (around twenty two or three), and his dark pupils were mesmerizing and demonic.

His powerful spiritual supernatural ability could hypnotize his opponent, tampering with their emotions and inviting out the negative ones, such as fear and cowardice. It had a similar effect as Army Formula and Roaring Lion Voice. Plus he could activate it without any visualization, making him a dangerous opponent—evident from his status as the eighth seed.

Ann Chaoyang took off his headphones as he watched Peng Leyun head towards the arena. He looked at Lou Cheng with great interest and asked,

"Any thoughts on what his game plan might be?"

"Spiritual supernatural abilities are a pain in the ass, and things tend to go wrong if you drag out the fight. If it were me, I would begin with a move along the lines of "Thunder from a Clear Sky. Cloudless Thunder Blade" to intimidate and damage the opponent. It comes with paralyzing effects too, heh. Unless Li Shaokang predicted it beforehand, he's not going to effectively avoid it. From there I would aggressively attack and suppress him to prevent him from activating his spiritual supernatural ability. With Peng Leyun's abilities, he might be able to close the fight within ten to twenty seconds," replied Lou Cheng after some thinking.

"That is the best approach indeed," nodded Ann Chaoyang. Then, as if reliving a past memory, he shook his head with a bitter smile. "But that wouldn't make him Peng Leyun... The Peng Leyun I know is more than happy for a chance to fully experience the combination between a strong spiritual supernatural ability and the assassin styled Miluo Martial Arts..."

Hearing that, Lou Cheng remembered the first proper fight he had with Peng Leyun.

"You are right, that is something Peng Leyun would do," he agreed wholeheartedly. Glancing towards Ann Chaoyang as he spoke, the two shared a laugh.

Once, they were both victims of the "The Devil King"!

"I doubt he'll do that..." said Ren Li with a tinge of uncertainty.

Her image of Peng Leyun was someone who would always go all out.

Lou Cheng and Ann Chaoyang exchanged a glance before answering in unison.

"You don't get it."

Even though he seemed to go all out when he fought weaker opponents, Peng Leyun always went easy on the rhythm and selection of his moves, allowing them the chance to unleash everything they had to satisfy his inner Martial Arts maniac. By then, Peng Leyun and Li Shaokang had entered the arena and were standing face to face.

The referee waited, then raised his right hand.

"Begin!"

As the words hit the ground, Peng Leyun lowered himself, then swung forward, causing the arena to tremble as he "drifted" towards his opponent, instantly closing the distance between them.

"Flash attack!"

I knew it... Lou Cheng and Ann Chaoyang exchanged looks, both equally amused and impressed.

As they expected, Peng Leyun did not begin the fight with "Thunder from a Clear Sky. Cloudless Thunder Blade" or any similar moves! A person with capabilities is bold enough to take risks!

Compared to when he was in his pre-morph state, the biggest difference in Peng Leyun's abilities then was that all of his moves were imbued with "Divine Wrath Force". His punches and kicks were enwreathed with purple lightnings, as if surrounded by dragons, sizzling and crackling along with his movements. Li Shaokang was trying his hardest to defend against it, but the paralyzing effects came crashing into him harder and harder each time, and soon he began to struggle.

In the process, he kept looking for the chances to manipulate his opponent with his spiritual supernatural ability. Each time he created the opportunity he saw hope, but it was always vanquished by a "timely" counter-attack from Peng Leyun.

As time elapsed, Li Shaokang eventually used up everything in his arsenal, and his spiritual supernatural ability was at its limits. Had the situation be any different, had his opponent been someone else, he felt as though by now his enemy should be kneeling down and begging for mercy. However, the Chinese Martial Artist standing before him handled him with ease. His opponent's true strength remained unknown to him, and no matter how hard he tried, his moves were being countered easily.

Li Shaokang grew more desperate by the minute, and began taking more risks, hoping to force his opponent to his limit.

However, his risky attempts were unsuccessful and his plans went to shambles with the final result being the referee making the announcement: "Peng Leyun wins!"

"So strong..." Mouko Yamashita heard a female voice commenting beside him.

Looking over his shoulders, he saw Tang Zexun, wearing a solemn expression over her sweet one.

What happened next was: Ren Li taking her opponent down easily, a sweeping victory for Ann Chaoyang, and the second round of double-elimination coming to its end. After the bouts that night, thirteen contestants were disqualified due to accumulating two losses, leaving the remaining twenty three of them to fight over sixteen positions. Enter top 16, or say goodbye to the prize money.

...

The next morning, Lou Cheng woke up on time, had a chat with Yan Zheke, then eagerly proceeded to begin the day of training. His goal was to comprehend the essence of the "Emperor Yan Diagram" in the shortest time and bring an enhancement to his "Zhurong Force."

Holding the diagram, he let his mind indulge it and began carefully visualizing it, but the immense gravity and erupting flames kept getting in the way of his inner peace. The flashing epiphany was so close yet so far. Compared to the previous days, there had been improvements, but something was still lacking.

He felt his impatience grow, so he retracted his thoughts and visualization, heaved a sigh, and began envisioning the mirror of ice to calm himself down. After a round of kungfu practice, his body and heart had both calmed down. He stopped, brooded, and formed a new plan- by extrapolating from other visualization experiences.

This time, he stopped looking at the "Emperor Yan Diagram", and adjusted his muscles, fascias and organs according to the "Prairie Fire Diagram". He felt the flowing flames in him getting under control as he visualized the image of the God of Flames, Zhurong, with his head of a beast and body of a man, standing barefooted on a scarlet dragon.

Since he knew that "Zhurong Force" can be enhanced to "Emperor Yan Force", he could likely find inspiration in this direction that could help his progress.

Based on his own understanding of the "Emperor Yan Diagram", Lou Cheng carefully manipulated his "Zhurong Force", weaving wisps of it together, moulding them into one solid entity in hopes that it could bring about extreme changes.

After a time, he slowly compressed the two streams of condensed "Zhurong Force" into one, causing a strong suction force to form at their cores and quickly pulling in the outer layers of flames. Liquid flame was spit out as the strong change occured.

Lou Cheng shuddered, and the image of "Flame God Zhurong" nearly collapsed. Barely keeping it in rein, he released the mutated "Flame Force" in a punch.

Boom!

Flame ignited before him, smoke expanding and spreading. Nearby, civilians ran for their lives, thinking it was a terrorist attack.

Looking at it, Lou Cheng could not hide the joy from his face. "I think I'm starting to get it..."

A few minutes later, sirens shrilled through the air, followed by a group of military police rushing towards him, as he stood there not knowing what to make out of it. Thanks to the interference of Coach Zhong and a call to the embassy, Lou Cheng was let off with a stern warning before the military police made their way off.

"Cough, try not to make such a scene during your training sessions. We need to conduct ourselves properly when we are abroad," advised Zhong Ningtao, exasperated.

He thought Ren Li was the only troublemaker, but little did he expect the most reliable and matured Lou Cheng brought about his own share of problems...

He just can't leave any of them alone, can he?

Amid the amused gazes of Peng Leyun, Ren Li and Ann Chaoyang, Lou Cheng laughed drily and gave his assents. He turned back, found a desolate place, and began to visualize the "Emperor Yan Diagram" once more, making use of what he had learned previously.

Dust gathered, swirling, then reached its limit and crumbled, "squeezing" out heat and igniting itself, erupting into liquid flames, brightening the darkness... Even with this as a guide to begin, Lou Cheng failed a couple of times before barely grasping the tricky spirit of the painting.

The flames got under control, turning into raiments and crown and forming the statue of Emperor Yan in his mind, but once again fell into shambles just when it was about to take shape.

To that, Lou Cheng, who was huffing and puffing, was happy instead of upset.

Even though he failed, it was evident that he was making progress— he had opened the door and was stepping onto the right path, all that was left was just the dull and tedious part.

This achievement was partly due to the change in method, but of course also from his hard work accumulated over time.

Huff... he was on the edge of shouting. Whipping out his phone he sent a text to his wife. "I'm starting to get the Emperor Yan Force! For that, I was almost arrested by the cops in Shengxiang..."

"Pfft, how did that happen? Did you put too much volume into your outbursts of joy that it scared the children?" replied Yan Zheke, who was in the middle of lesson breaks, delighted and pleasantly surprised at the news. "My Cheng is the best! [animated kiss, from far to close] "

"Which part are you complimenting me on? The part where I made a breakthrough in my Emperor Yan Force, or the part where I scared children? [snickering]" replied Lou Cheng joyously.

"Figure it out yourself~!" A dimpled smile appeared on Yan Zheke's face. After getting the full story from Lou Cheng, she was happy for Lou Cheng at his deepened comprehension of "Emperor Yan Diagram", and amused at his blunder that had caught the cops' attention.

The following day, Lou Cheng did not spar with Peng Leyun, Ren Li and Ann Chaoyang and told them that he was close to making the breakthrough. Then, he began studying the "Emperor Yan Diagram" with immense focus, and during his breaks he would chat with Ke to soothe himself.

At 3 P.M., sitting with his legs crossed, he finally visualized the image of a heavy, scorching and majestic "Emperor Yan Statue".

The streams of flames in his body gurgled, then condensed and gradually turned steady.

Lou Cheng opened his eyes, cracked a tired smile and picked up his phone to send a text to Yan Zheke.

"I got it!"

He found the key to the "Emperor Yan Diagram", and it wouldn't be long before he could complete the enhancing process! At that point, he began feeling drowsy, so he sent another text to his girl.

"Ke ke, I'm gonna catch a wink, and if I don't text you by the time you are awake, call me to wake me up."

He felt that he might not be able to wake up on time in his current state, and it would be a disaster if he overslept and got disqualified.

Meanwhile, it was midnight in America.

After sending the message, Lou Cheng collapsed onto his bed and fell into a deep slumber of many dreams.

What woke him up was a series of sudden knocks that went thump thump thump. He got it, struggling to break free from his strengthless state. Holding his phone, he realized it was not even six, which meant that Ke was still in her dreams. Carrying his wrinkled clothes, he lazily walked to the door and pulled it open.

Peng Leyun was standing outside, one hand in his pocket, relaxed and smiling as he spoke, "Guide Zhong sent me here to remind you that we are gathering in ten minutes."

"Okay," replied Lou Cheng, a little dazed from having just woke up.

Peng Leyun smiled. "You are beginning to morph aren't you? Hm, try making your breakthrough under the water, it works wonders."

"Thanks," replied Lou Cheng as he smiled to express his gratitude. He kept it to himself that he had already heard the piece of advice from his Master.

Watching as Peng Leyun left, he walked to the bathroom, rinsed his face with cold water and styled his hair, feeling completely refreshed as the tiredness seeped away. Cracking a smile, Lou Cheng took out his phone and sent another text to Yan Zheke.

"I'm awake now. Feeling charged up!"

As he hit send, he looked at his invigorated self in the mirror, and muttered, "Round 3, Here I come!"

Chapter 470: The Third Round

After changing his clothes, Lou Cheng was just about to get out when he suddenly heard a special notification sound from his cellphone. Picking it up and taking a look, it was from Yan Zheke.

Using the [Monkey wearing pyjamas and rubbing its eyes expression], she replied,

"I have specifically set an alarm for now. Yet you woke up by yourself…"

Lou Cheng could not help but burst into laughter. He replied honestly,

"The coach sent Peng Leyun to wake me up just now. Eh, Ke, why did you set your alarm for now?"

Shouldn't you be deep in sleep at the time I sent the message? "I woke up in the middle of a night, glanced groggily at my phone, and set the alarm at the same time..." Yan Zheke sent a [Monkey brushing teeth expression]. "Come, let me interview you for a while. Student Lou Cheng, do you have anything to say about finally being able to visualize the 'Emperor Yan
Diagram'? Are you excited? Agitated? What's the most intense
feeling you have? [Hands the microphone over]."

Lou Cheng examined his body and touched his stomach which was giving him some discomfort. He said with [tears from laughter], "The most intense feeling is hunger..."

Forgoing sleep and meals wasn't a joke. I hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch!

Sniggle... Yan Zheke laughed out loud and rolled on the bed.
She replied with [disdain],

"It's all your fault! I was still intending to catch up on an hour of sleep. Now I'm all awake from laughing!" Not waiting for Lou Cheng to reply, she sent another [pitiful expression],

"Seems like I can only start my morning training earlier now."

"Haha, that's great. You shouldn't neglect martial arts. The body is the capital for revolution!" said Lou Cheng. What he wanted to express was that when you are in good health, you are able to concentrate better, and therefore be more conducive for learning.

After over ten seconds, Yan Zheke replied,

"[knocking your head expression], ... You are so dirty- minded!"

Dirty-minded? Lou Cheng was stunned for a moment and couldn't connect to the same wavelength with Student Ke. After thinking for a while, he finally understood. Instantly, he sniggered, "Ke, what are you thinking of? What I meant was that the body is the capital for learning. Mm. However, you aren't wrong in interpreting it that way. Not wrong. Heehee."

"Laugh your head off! It's you who led me astray! That's right, you must have misdirected me to think this way!" Yan Zheke blushed as she typed on the keyboard. "Tell me what you want to eat now. I'll search for the images for you immediately!"

I'm forgiving!

"I want to eat stir-fried mixed vegetables made by my student Ke." With a change in thought, Lou Cheng's mindstate became gentle.

Yan Zheke instantly covered her small mouth and turned her gaze away. She glanced towards her side, forgot her initial thoughts and said,

"In that case, bring a cookbook when you come over in September. We can make something to eat together." "Yes yes, I will definitely complete the mission by Coach Yan!" replied Lou Cheng together with a [clenched fist expression].

The two of them continued chatting for a while. After generous compliments from Yan Zheke, Lou Cheng carried his items, left the room and arrived on time at the lobby to meet with his teammates.

Yan Zheke, who was in the United States, had also put her phone down. She left her bed quickly with light steps, opened the door and got ready to freshen up in the restroom.

Right when she switched on the lights, she suddenly felt something. She turned her head around and saw her mother Ji Mingyu standing with her hands crossed outside her room, looking quietly at her.

"Mom, why are you up so early?" said Yan Zheke subconsciously.

Ji Mingyu smiled gently and continued with her posture unchanged, "It's because of your alarm! Why did you set it an hour earlier today?"

What is Lou Cheng up to again this time? To make you have to wake up early?

Yan Zheke's eyes lit up. She raised her chin up and replied honestly, "Cheng has mastered "Emperor Yan Force" and will be undergoing morphing soon."

...

In the lobby, Lou Cheng and Ann Chaoyang, who was the earliest, didn't have to wait too long before seeing Peng Leyun walk over casually. As for Ren Li, she successfully appeared under the escort of the coach.

Zhong Ningtao was about to say something when he suddenly heard a growling sound. It seemed to be someone's stomach twitching vigorously and expressing its discontentment. Those who were around all had good hearing and sharp eyesight. Ren Li, Peng Leyun and Ann Chaoyang all turned their gazes towards Lou Cheng. Before Lou Cheng could say something and tried to control the noises, his stomach started growling again.

"I'm a little hungry..." His face had turned red as he replied.

It's over. I have a few blips in front of the four of them. I'm no longer able to establish a reliable image now!

"Haha, in that case, let's head off quickly. I found a rather good Chinese restaurant," said Zhong Ningtao with a smile.

Peng Leyun took a look at Lou Cheng, tilted his head to Ann Chaoyang and laughed,

"I just recalled a song." "Me too." Ann Chaoyang's fingers moved quickly and downloaded the music. Through his headphones, the music was played:

"I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm really hungry..."

As the music was playing, he smiled and looked towards Wang Zheng.

"Do you like it?"

"Not at all..." Lou Cheng forced a smile on his face and raised his right arm. He introduced with a serious tone and said, "Look at this fist of mine. It's already clenched tightly!"

Ann Chaoyang's personality was more inclined to be gentle. He might insult others from time to time, but for the most part, was a good example of looking different than who he really was! "Haha" Everyone burst into laughter. Through this period of time, they had been getting closer and closer with one another.

During dinner, all of them showed restraint. When Lou Cheng was half-full, they finally relaxed. Although the food of this Chinese restaurant couldn't be considered as great, they were still very satisfied after not being able to have food from their home country for several days. It was just that they were unable to enjoy themselves to the fullest as they were concerned about the competition at night and had to ensure that their bodies were in the best conditions.

Ten minutes past seven, Lou Cheng and the rest had arrived at the stadium. Along the way, they witnessed a street fight and stopped to observe for 5 minutes.

At this time, the audience had already gathered. The drawing lot ceremony for the third round will be starting in less than twenty minutes.

There were only 23 contestants left and the probability of meeting someone strong was clearly higher. Obviously, there would be some lucky guys who would get a walkover and would be able to watch the battles happily.

...

In the fans forum of Lou Cheng, "Eternal Nightfall", Yan Xiaoling was creating a wishing tower enthusiastically.

"As long as Lou Cheng doesn't draw someone at the inhuman stage, I will start waking up on time!"

He copied the content of this thread and was praying silently with "Brahman" and "All Good Names Are Taken by Dogs".

If Lou Cheng was to lose another round, he would be eliminated!

"Eh, dumb "Nightfall", why is it waking up on time and not waking up early? "Unparalleled Dragon King" observed for a while and asked curiously. Yan Xiaoling sent a [surprise expression] and said, "Waking up on time will mean that I have to wake up before twelve in the afternoon..."

"Twelve in the afternoon? Do you have to make a wish for that? You will definitely be struck by lightning. No. You are too short and the target is not obvious and so it wouldn't hit you," mocked "Unparalleled Dragon King" with a [Shock and pale expression].

"It's the summer holidays now! Do you understand the summer holidays? Uncle, you can no longer understand the state when students are having their summer holidays. Although I have set the rules of waking up before noon, you should know that I have been sleeping when the skies are almost bright and waking up at four to five o'clock." Yan Xiaoling replied with [both hands lying flat down expression].

...

"Oh damn, how decadent! [Wiping off cold sweat]" said the "Unparalleled Dragon King". Yan Xiaoling replied disappointedly,

"Yeah it's indeed decadent… but it feels darn good!"

"Little Nightfall, the way you speak is getting more and more like an old hooligan. [Sighing while covering space]" replied "Brahman".

She used to be such a cute girl in the past. Since she had this forum, it only took a year for her to act like someone who had been through a lot!

...

Lou Cheng chatted with her mum Qi Fangyu through voice call for a while. After reporting what had happened for the day, he saw Yan Zheke send a web link over. With a [ROFL expression], she said,

"Xiao Ling is really funny!" Huh? Lou Cheng clicked on the web link and was directed to his own forum. He saw the wishes from everyone and felt touched. He also couldn't help but laugh at Yan Xiaoling's "waking up on time".

Thinking back, he had also not been as decadent during the summer holidays after his examinations. The latest he would go to sleep was three in the morning and he'd wake up at twelve in the afternoon. Occasionally, he might have burned the midnight oil.

He exited the thread and switched back to the chatting page.
With a [naughty smile], he said to Yan Zheke,

"Ke, the draw is about to start. Aren't you going to make a wish and pray for me?"

Yan Zheke replied," [a little monster licking an icecream expression] I'm not worried at all. With my karma blessing, you would definitely not draw someone at the inhuman stage. Relax! [Patting shoulders reassuring expression]" "Haha, did you pick up the way they chat?" replied Lou Cheng with a light smile. He turned his head around and looked at the guest that was walking towards the ring.

Excluding Peng Leyun, Ren Li, Ann Chaoyang and himself, as well as Veigar and Sakata Ichiei that he had faced previously, there were still seventeen options. If he considered not getting a walkover, the probability of being matched with one at the inhuman stage was four out of seventeen or less than one quarter. The probability for matching with a seeded contestant was seven of seventeen or slightly more than one third. It's already close to half...

--- As he would be eliminated if he lost again, he couldn't remain calm and composed.

It wasn't very long before he heard his own name.
Subconsciously, he straightened his back.

After waiting for a few seconds, the guest had drawn his opponent: "Shengxiang, Baco!"

Baco? He is not a seeded contestant... Lou Cheng heaved a sigh of relief as the thought flashed through his mind.
Baco was one of the representatives of Shengxiang's national boxing arts. He possessed some form of evil arts that were similar to curses and had battle capabilities close to someone at the inhuman stage. With his standards, it was actually sufficient to be seeded seventh or eighth. However, due to the hidden rule that each country could only have two seeded contestants, it's a shame that he failed to be selected as Veigar and Gusai (Sixth Seed) were seeded. After overcoming various obstacles, he had finally made it to the main competition.

When the competition started, his luck wasn't very great and he had drawn the top seed Kaori Karasawa. It was also when he suffered the bitter taste of defeat. In the second round, he won easily and kept his slot. Now that he was in the same position as Lou Cheng, there's no longer any reason to hold back!

It's still alright. As long as he isn't at the inhuman stage... Lou Cheng nodded his head without arrogance or fear. He sent a message regarding the information to Yan Zheke so that she could use her "battlefield reporter" identity and share this piece of information into the live thread.

At the place where the representatives of Shengxiang were, Baco, whose hands were wrapped in blood-red coloured bandages, also nodded his head with confidence!

Just as Lou Cheng looked down at his phone, Ann Chaoyang was also drawn out. His opponent was selected quickly.

"Nanzheng, Banam!"

The fourth seed, Banam!

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