Martial Arts Master Chapter 71-80

Chapter 71: Where's the Surprise I Wanted?

The weather was gloomy and cold. The moment Lou Cheng, who was filled with excitement and joy, stepped out of the station; he could not help but shiver. The difference between the cold dry wind in Yanling and the freezing temperature in Xiushan was that the latter could chill one to the bone. It was the kind of cold that one could not withstand even with the windbreakers on, not to mention that Lou Cheng was currently weak and sick.

"Luckily, I am smart enough to put on extra clothing before alighting." Lou Cheng praised himself. He took out his cell phone and started taking photos of the nostalgic sky and the distant landmark building of Xiushan - the Tower Building. He then sent them to Yan Zheke, grinning and said, "Find them familiar?"

Yan Zheke replied with an amazed emoji. "Kind of miss my home all of a sudden... "

"Then take me as your substitute and I'll enjoy Xiushan on your behalf," said Lou Cheng as he laughed delightfully. "Bah, what rubbish are you saying? Are you as good-looking as me, Substitute Cheng!" Yan Zheke replied with a "You Know Nothing of Strength" emoji.

Meanwhile, Lou Cheng carried his luggage, declined the offers provided by a group of black cabs, and came to the bus stop, waiting for the arrival of Bus 82 to return home.

Although he had a stack in his backpack, and a few hundred in his wallet, but one must know how to be frugal!

With the initial bonus of five thousand dollars, he was planning to save the remaining money for dating. Now that he had another 10 thousand dollars as a bonus for getting into top eight, an idea struck him. He thought of getting something for his father and mother during the New Year, as a meaningful gift to his parents for the first time, to surprise them!

Bus 82 was crowded. Lou Cheng relied on the Yin-Yang Stance to balance himself well, so it did not matter whether or not he was sitting down, as he probed his head, looked around, hoping to bump into one or two classmates on the way. Unfortunately, Xiushan was a prefecture-level city and the main city already had hundreds of thousands of people. The total number of classmates he had, from the kindergarten till now, was not more than three hundred. Compared with the former, it was as if a drop in the ocean, unless one specifically visit the areas that were common among these people, else it would be difficult to meet.

The bus rocked and stopped as it arrived at the non- commercial center of the old urban area, where the surrounded buildings became shorter and less colorful. Lou Cheng alighted at the bus stop near the entrance of a small district.

He had lived here for almost ten years, where many buildings had been mottled, leaving the ruthless traces of the years. This was where the enterprise that his father first worked for fell from its glory. During its bankruptcy, it had used every last cent of its own savings and borrowed debt to purchase the property right.

Most of the residents in the small district were his father's former colleagues or workers, and the relationships between the neighbors were  fairly good.  Lou Cheng  greeted the neighbors along the way. Seeing the uncle who he knew since he was a kid, and that aunt helped change his diapers, Lou Cheng could already feel the taste of home without stepping into his house.

Of course, having such neighbors had its con as well, especially those nosy aunts who loved to gather during their free time. When things happened to one household, the news would spread throughout the whole district at a blink of an eye!

When approaching his home at No.8 building, Lou Cheng saw a young man walking out of the doorway from the unit. He smiled and greeted, "Brother Xu"

This young man named Wang Xu, was his kindergarten, primary school, and junior high school classmate, also generally known as his childhood friend. Moreover, their fathers once worked in the same technical department, and at that time, they loved meeting up for chess and bragging sessions. Thus, Lou Cheng's relationship with him was considered very good. However, during the years when the enterprise was about to bankrupt, many people started to panic and were living in straitened circumstances. Everyone had an arduous time. It was common to see someone from a family had to leave his hometown to work, while the other had to stay to take care of the family and looked after the children. Conflicts in the family that broke out from time to time had also affected the
children. Some children had lost their interest in studies and chose to work for money at a young age, while some followed the former youth workers in the old factory and now the current gangsters to become the "bludger". Gradually, organizations with features of the gangsterdom were formed.

Wang Xu was tall and well-built. Since young, he had a passion for martial arts, and under such poor environment, he had slowly embarked upon a crooked path. When he was at junior high school, he, on one hand, tried to butter up the sports teacher to teach him martial arts. On the other hand, he followed the gangsters to collect protection fees and participated in the campus gang fights.

At that time, he was relatively simple. Sometimes, he would even show off to Lou Cheng about who they had fought today, and which gang they were planning on fighting the next day. Based on Lou Cheng's today's insight, he was indeed a potential talent for martial arts, who had the capability of an Amateur Ninth Pin when he was just about 14 or 15 years old.

Just because of having such childhood friend, Lou Cheng could strive under such poor environment in his junior high school, where without any outside interference, without any bullying from gangsters, to concentrate on his studies and be admitted into Xiushan No.1 Middle School. This would allow him to be completely free from such poor environment, and to be a complete stranger with Wang Xu. From then, Lou Cheng was no longer updated with his situation, only through bumping into him from time to time did Lou Cheng know that he did not study in high school, instead he seemed to be doing well as a gangster, though his face had more shallow scars than before.

The scar on Wang Xu's left cheek remained vaguely visible. He kept a neat short hair, wore a long black leather coat which seemed very valuable, and put on a long thick golden chain that gave off a nouveau riche look. There was no tenderness between his eyebrows, nor did he look like an 18 or 19 years old youth. "Yo, the college student is back." He was quite happy when he saw Lou Cheng and he took out a packet of imported cigarettes with printed English letters from his pocket, "Come, have one. This is good stuff!"

It was under such circumstance did I started picking up smoking and drinking ... Lou Cheng thought. He waved his hand and replied, "I've quit smoking."

A look of unhappiness crossed Wang Xu's face and his attitude turned indifferent. He lighted his own cigarette and said, "College students are just not the same."

Honestly, though they had a relationship in the past, Lou Cheng was still somewhat afraid of him, but now, after his experience from Warrior Sage Challenge Tournament, he could now face Wang Xu without any fear. Lou Cheng looked directly into Wang Xu's eyes and asked with a gentle laugh, "Not only did I quit smoking, I've also quit drinking, but I did not quit barbecue and hot pot. How about a supper together when there's time?" Seeing that Lou Cheng did not deliberately distant from him, instead, was being frank and generous, the displeased feeling within Wang Xu disappeared. He returned to his friendly attitude, laughed and replied, "Great! Let's see when I have time, we shall go for some barbecue. Cheng, how can you quit smoking and drinking? What's the point of living without these? "

Lou Cheng responded with a grin, "I've joined the Martial Arts Club in college and I intend to keep myself fit. As you know, one needs to quit smoking and drinking to practice martial arts."

Upon hearing, Wang Xu laughed and said, "You actually went for martial arts practice? Wait till I am free, I'll teach you a few stunts. I guaranteed that your martial arts skills will improve tremendously during this winter break! "

I don't believe ... As if you can train me to instantly become Professional Ninth Pin? Maybe you can't even defeat me... Lou Cheng mocked silently. Without saying much, he pointed upstairs and added, "I am going home first to see my father and mother, talk to you later." "Sure, I'll bring a bottle of wine to your house later. It has been a long time since I last played chess with Uncle Lou." Wang Xu's home and Lou Cheng's home were in the same building same unit, just that the former is on the second floor, while the latter is on the fifth floor. Ever since Wang Xu graduated from junior high school, it is common for him not to return home for a week.

Lou Cheng replied with a cluck. "Your chess skill still on par?
I've long neglected it. "

Both their fathers loved to play chess, considering that both were influenced since young. It was an ability passed down from their ancestors.

Wang Xu initially smiled, followed by a sigh and said, "You know my father, his temper is as stubborn as a donkey. He was very displeased with me becoming a gangster, but you can't get out once you set foot in such path. Sigh, it is only during chess game that he gives me a better attitude and speak with me."

The way he spoke made him sound old. After some small talk, Lou Cheng entered the unit door and marched up the stairway with a sense of nostalgia, towards his home on the fifth floor. This small district was built a decade ago when apartments with elevator were not yet popular at Xiushan, hence the highest apartment here was only six floor high.

Lou Cheng's face broke into a smile upon seeing their blue- grey security door. He took out the keys. It was now past five and he was certain that his mother was at home preparing for dinner.

He had not told his mother in advance that he will be home today, in hope to give them a surprise!

Dang dang dang dang! The background music sounded in his heart as he twisted the key and opened the door. He shouted,

"Mom, I am home!"

His voice echoed. The house remained silent. Lou Cheng stared blankly, put on the slippers and walked into the kitchen. There was no one, neither was there any trace of cooking.

F*uck, where's everyone? Lou Cheng took out his phone and called his mother.

Where's the surprise I wanted?

The line got connected. Lou Cheng's mother familiar voice came through the phone, "Cheng, when are you coming home? All other kids are already on holiday break! "

"Mother, I am at home right now, where are all of you?" Lou Cheng asked, slightly sluggish.

"Why didn't you say you were coming home?" Lou Cheng's mother replied, raising her tone.

Lou Cheng twitched the corner of his mouth and commented. "I was thinking of surprising the both of you." "Surprise your head! This is more like a shock! There's a relative getting married, so your father and I am at Ningshui County attending the wedding. We're not coming back tonight, you'll settle on your own." Lou Cheng's mom scolded, with a humorous tone.

Ningshui County was a county below Xiushan.

"I came all the way home, and this is what I get?" Lou Cheng replied, not knowing whether he should cry or laugh at such situation.

Lou Cheng's mother chortled and said, "Why didn't you say in advance, else I would have let your dad come here by himself. Are you feeling surprised now?"

"Yeah, totally... " Lou Cheng was speechless.

After hanging up the phone, he looked around the empty house and sighed. I am indeed her biological son, still need to settle my own meals. Returning to his own room covered with the posters of Dragon King and other fighters, Lou Cheng placed his luggage, took out his phone, and messaged Yan Zheke, "Poor me! Everyone has gone to attend a wedding and no one is home to welcome me or cook for me! "

Yan Zheke quickly replied with a photo of a round table filled with great dishes. There were layers of dishes stacked up, which added up to about twenty different dishes. "This is my dinner tonight for you to satisfy your craving. No need to thank me!"

"Look into my eyes... " Lou Cheng sent an aggrieved emoji and added, "stay-at-home child has been brutally abandoned!"

While chatting with Yan Zheke, he began to think about his dinner and thought of gathering some friends out for a meal. He was now rich anyway!

Firstly, he left a message for Cai Zongming with a grin. "Talker, I have a secret for you." Now my secret of achieving the top eight in the Warrior Sage Challenge Tournament can finally overtake yours!

Next, he chatted with Chiang Fei on QQ. "Fatty Jiang, are you free? I am back to Xiushan, let's meet for dinner."

If Fatty Jiang is not free, I'll contact the next one then.

"Yo, you're finally willing to come back. I thought you are having such a good time that you have forgotten to come home. Where are we eating?" Jiang Fei replied with no hesitation. This is friendship!

Lou Cheng gave a thought. "Old Liu Barbecue," he replied.

Then I can send a picture to Yan Zheke and let her crave for it!

Chapter 72: Fatty Jiang

"Sure, wait for me, I'll come over to pick you." Jiang Fei replied with "laughter".

Lou Cheng went blank and then asked, "Pick me?"

"Hoho, you'll know later. Ask Old Cheng as well, see if he can join?" added Fatty Jiang as he mentioned another pal, Cheng Qili.

Lou Cheng replied him with a despised emoji, "I will call him out to beat him into a pulp, even if you didn't say!"

After saying, he started a conversation with Cheng Qili, whose nickname was "I Love Advanced Mathematics" on QQ, "Are you there, Old Cheng? I am back!"

Lou Cheng waited for a few minutes and saw no response. He then simply dialed Cheng Qili's mobile number, which was issued in other province. He was not sure if the number had changed. The "Divine wind" ringtone sounded for a while, then came a familiar yet husky voice from the other end of the phone.

"Cheng?"

"What's up, Old Cheng? Are you ill?" Lou Cheng asked with concern.

Cheng Qili chuckled and said, "No worries. Some relatives came over today and insisted that I should drink because I am an adult, considering that I am in college now. Hence, they poured me several glasses of alcohol. I ended up getting drunk and I've slept the whole afternoon. I am not even sure when I could wake up if not for your call. Eh, your voice don't seem quite right either, Cheng. It's kind of nasal. Catching a cold?"

"Yeah, but almost recovering. I am back to Xiushan, so I intend to ask Fatty Jiang out for barbecue, you joining?" Around Cheng Qili, Lou Cheng need not be formal and polite, so he asked him directly. Cheng Qili sighed and replied, "Can't get out, there's a relative gathering at home, seriously damn busy during New Year. Guess I'll find you either tomorrow or the day after?"

"Sure, let's discuss by then." Lou Cheng hung up the phone, responded to Yan Zheke's message, and swiftly tidied up the luggage. He sorted his unwashed clothing into two separate baskets and placed his laptop on the desk in his room.

By now, the sky had darkened and it looked like the night had fallen despite the clock had yet struck six. The lights in the house created a cozy and bright environment. Lou Cheng glanced around the house and felt a slight sense of unfamiliarity in a place where he had slept for almost ten years.

On his left side was a one meter long and a half meter wide bed, with a brand new four-piece bed sheet fitted on it. He guessed that it was his mother's work while counting the days, which saved him a lot of efforts. On his right-hand side were a bookcase and a wardrobe. The former was shelved with all kinds of martial arts magazines, novels, comics, as well as body refining secret books such as "Shushan Twelve Chapter Brocade" and "Tai Chi Stance Skill" which he had purchased when he was still naive. He was hoping to master them through self-taught and to shock the whole school as a No. 1 Expert in martial arts. Unfortunately, though the contents were real, because there was no guidance, and no time for commitment, thus they ultimately did not have any effect on him.

The desk was placed between the bed and the bookcase. On it, there was desk lamp, hanging calendar, pen holder and a piggy coin bank. The desk drawers on both sides were locked with his school yearbooks, as well as photographs that were taken with his primary school, junior high school and high school classmates. He once thought that it was quite a pity that there was no group photos taken at that time due to a large number of classes. If not, he could have kept a photo with Yan Zheke in it. Well, it did not matter now. A man should always seek for a higher goal!

Right after the clean-up, which had helped in reducing the slight sense of unfamiliarity around him, Jiang Fei sent a message on QQ. "Come down, Cheng. I am at the entrance of your district." "Okay," replied Lou Cheng. He took his wallet and thought for a moment before pulling out seven to eight pieces of notes from the 10-thousand-dollar stack that was hidden deep within the drawer. He rushed out of the door excitedly and came to the district entrance.

He glanced left and right, trying to look for Fatty Jiang, but he saw no familiar face on the chilly road.

Honk! Honk! A car horn suddenly sounded. Lou Cheng subconsciously looked in the direction of the sound and saw a white Ford car park at the district entrance with its window rolling down.

"Cheng!" A deep yet slightly pleased voice came from the inner of the car. It was Jiang Fei.

Lou Cheng chortled as he walked over and opened the car door near the co-driver seat. "Not bad, you can even drive now!" he remarked. It was only now he recognized that the car belonged to Fatty Jiang's father, which was neither expensive nor cheap. It was just like the situation in his family, which was worse off than some yet better off than many.
Jiang Fei was wearing a dark blue down jacket, with a black high-necked sweater inside, which was revealed as he stretched his chest. His round face grew bigger than the last time when he saw him at the end of August, with three layers of fat under his chin. His bulging belly made him looked as if he was five or six months pregnant. He grinned and replied. "Though I didn't manage to get a girlfriend this semester, I managed to get my driving license. Our school allows us to use it as credits to exempt ourselves from an elective module."

"Tsk, indeed, you can't judge a book by its cover. I thought you would shut yourself in the room for the whole semester playing games." Lou Cheng sat down, shut the door, and fastened his seat belt. Comparing to the chilly weather outside, the inner of the car was heaven.

Jiang Fei released the handbrake, shifted the gear lever and said joyfully, "Nowadays, knowing how to drive is a basic skill. It will consume too much time to take the exam after graduation from college. You should take it now if you have time."

"Provided I have the time... " said Lou Cheng as he thought of his daily training.

He took out his phone and sent Yan Zheke a snickering emoji, "Off I go, together with my classmate Fatty Jiang to Old Liu Barbecue!"

Yan Zheke replied with an "I will murder you with my eyes" emoji and added, "Seems like someone is getting more and more fearless that he even dare to provoke me now. Though you mentioned that you will never forget to repay me with your gratitude?"

"My mistake, Coach Yan! I beg for your forgiveness!" Lou Cheng replied with his face filled with happiness.

Jiang Fei took a glance at him and looked in front. While driving, he laughed and asked, "Who are you chatting with, Cheng? Look at that filthy smile on your face, is that your girlfriend? You never mention before!"

"Not yet, still working hard on it." Lou Cheng did not conceal.

Jiang Fei gasped with admiration and said, "Not bad! I never thought that you will take the initiative to pursue someone. Indeed, still waters run deep. Perhaps you will be the first to get attached among the group of us. Is that girl your schoolmate at Songcheng University?"

"Yup." Lou Cheng answered with a nod.

Not only that, she was also my high school schoolmate...

"Sigh, Songcheng University indeed has a balance in the quantity of men and women, unlike ours. Oh yes, do you know that Yan Zheke is also in Songcheng University, Cheng?" Jiang Fei suddenly added. Lou Cheng went blank, then replied, "Yes, I know, we've met."

And we are also meeting each other every day...

"I despise you. How could you not mention it to me at all?" Jiang Fei commented as he focused on his driving, eyes looking at the road ahead.

Without waiting for Lou Cheng's reply, he added, "Recall that time when class began after the freshman year military training? Many guys were spreading the news that there was a great beauty, who was prettier than a celebrity, in Class 3. We had even made a detour to the toilet near Class 3 just to take a peep. After that, we often discussed her private. Every time during the mass martial arts training, we will always think of means and ways to get closer to Class 3 students, and from time to time pretending to pass by Class 3 entrance... "

"At that time, we really did not think of pursuing anything, but simply felt delightful just by looking at her. Why, this is probably my best memory about girls in junior high school, O my youth!" Lou Cheng listened and remembered those times with emotions. That young, pure and unrequited love.

"There were many people pretending to walk pass that time and very often, we would meet familiar faces, whereas the boys at Class 3 just blatantly made fun of us," said Lou Cheng as he recalled.

At the same time, both his hands were busily typing on the phone keyboard, sending a message to the direct party, Yan Zheke, "Recalling high school memories with Fatty Jiang now. You still remember last time people often walked pass to take a peep at you during our freshman year at high school?"

Jiang Fei sighed, shook his head and laughed. "Now come to think of it, we were pretty silly. We don't even know if Yan Zheke noticed it in the first place, and how she viewed us?"

Beep, Yan Zheke replied Lou Cheng with a "Messy in the wind" emoji and added, "Yeah, I do... I felt as if I was a panda in the zoo, being consecutively visited by visitors, so I had to bend over the desk and pretended to sleep. Haha, were you one of those 'visitors'?" "Well, I doubt she'll remember passers-by like us." Lou Cheng shattered Fatty Jiang's fantasy with a factual description, then grinned and replied Yan Zheke, "Yeah, pretended to walk pass for several times! Unfortunately, I was just one of the passers- by at that time, you most probably won't remember."

Yet another ambiguous flirting sentence.

Yan Zheke sent an evil grin emoji without any elaboration.

By this time, they had arrived at the nearby Old Liu Barbecue. Jiang Fei, who seemed unfamiliar with parking, took quite a while and some efforts before the car was finally parked. As he was stopping the engine and locking the car, he said to Lou Cheng,

"You are right, how would she remember passers-by like us? Not only was she prettier than a celebrity, her studies were extremely good as well, and it was also said that she had a great character. I bet if all her pursuers were to each spit at us, we would probably drown in their saliva. But I guess a person like her will definitely has a high standard. Since there are still no rumors about her relationship, I suppose she's the kind that focus on her studies. Eh, why do you think she will go for Songcheng University? Isn't going to Capital or Huahai a better choice?"

Lou Cheng gave a serious thought before answering, "Might be due to family reason."

"Haha, stop wild guessing, I doubt it's accurate. Wait till I find out from Du Liyu, since Song Li and Yan Zheke are good friends." Jiang Fei mocked at his reply.

Nowadays, no one believes you even if you are stating the truth... Lou Cheng looked into the sky without saying a word, a sense of unknown satisfaction filled his heart.

Meanwhile, both of them entered Old Liu Barbecue. The shop had just opened, operating only in the evening and at night.

"Twenty pork belly skewers, twenty steak skewers, twenty pork ribs skewers, twenty chicken feet soft bone skewers, twenty mutton skewers, twenty chicken butt skewers, ten chicken wings skewers, ten kidney skewers, ten potato skewers, ten green beans skewers, a portion of leek, a grilled fish and four roasted eggplants." Lou Cheng was very familiar with the dishes that he could just order them without even taking a look at the menu.

As Xiushan was situated inland, the barbecue shops generally did not serve seafood.

Jiang Fei was shocked and exclaimed, "So much? You better finish them all!"

In the past, they had ordered only a third of the current amount for two people - even if the share per skewer in Xiushan was much smaller than the one in the Northern region, it was also pretty terrifying to order this much.

"Maybe we'll order much more later. I am now practicing martial arts, so I have a bigger appetite." Lou Cheng chuckled and replied. Under the light in the shop, Jiang Fei looked skeptically at Lou Cheng, "Martial arts? Then again, Cheng, you looked slightly mature now."

"This is temperament." Lou Cheng replied in a joking tone, "What do you want to drink?"

"Beer, of course! Let's have a few glasses. I'll get someone to drive us later," replied Jiang Fei as he turned to young waitress at the side, still considering the number of bottles he should order.

Lou Cheng waved his hand, smiled and said, "I've already quit drinking for the sake of martial arts. Moreover, I am having a cold now, so a bottle of mineral water will do."

It is foreseeable that he would need to repeat this sentence for numerous times, but since he chose to practice martial arts, he should preserve on. Neither can he slack down nor fear to reject such offer. Jiang Fei stared at him with a puzzled look and asked, "Seriously?"

Lou Cheng nodded and responded seriously, "Why should I lie to you?"

The tone in his voice expressed his determination.

"Well then... since no one is accompanying me to drink and I still need to drive, forget it, give me herbal tea." Jiang Fei rubbed his hand and did not push further. "Oh yes, Cheng, since you are practicing martial arts, do you know of any local martial arts club or gym?"

"Nope, why?" Lou Cheng asked, looking puzzled.

A forced smile crossed Jiang Fei's face as he replied, "I f*ucking put on weight again, so I thought of losing weight through exercise, else I am going get even fatter after the New Year. At least I thought I should maintain my weight, but New Year is around the corner, both club and gym are closed for the break. I can't even find one." Lou Cheng smiled and commented. "This kind of thing is dependent on your consciousness and determination, uh, if you really want to lose weight, you could join me for my daily morning practice. I am now determined to practise martial arts every day."

Jiang Fei took a breath and said, "It's unbelievable that you are so hardworking, Cheng! Isn't there a quote saying that 'the old having the same ambition and passion as a youth'?"

The young waitress returned with herbal tea and a bottle of mineral water, opened each of them and poured them into two separate cups, filling them to the brim.

"Are you sure you know how to use poetry quotes... " Lou Cheng shot a glance at him, and added, "So are you joining?"

Jiang Fei pondered for a moment before answering, "Okay, I'll try, what time in the morning?"

He raised his cup and gulped his herbal tea. "I'll meet you at a later time. I'll run to your house and wake you up at 6.10 a.m." Lou Cheng thought for a while before replying.

Pfft! Jiang Fei spurted the herbal tea from his mouth and Lou Cheng, being sharp and agile, immediately raised his arm to block it, which almost hit his face.

"6.10a.m.? 6.10a.m. on a winter day?" Jiang Fei wiped his mouth as he spoke.

Lou Cheng shot a despised look at him and said, "This is the time to test your will for losing weight, so if you've promised me yet don't get up, I might break your house windows. Hoho, I've been waiting for that moment for a long time, so is my slingshot!"

"Let's try it first for two days." Jiang Fei promised, with hesitation.

Chapter 73: The King in the Barbeque Business

Nights were cold in winter, the famous Old Liu Barbeque, located in a dilapidated and quiet alley, still got frequent customers. Just three allies away from here was the well- known Bar Street in Xiucheng. With bawdy music and dazzling lights, the street presented a completely different atmosphere.

When Lou Cheng was a junior in high school, sitting in front of him was a dandy, who had quitted the college entrance examination. He bragged about being a pimp there. However, Lou Cheng only came this neighborhood for barbeque and never went to one of the bars, as he thought the poor security around discos and bars would certainly get people in trouble.

Listening to the music in the air and smelling the pleasant smokiness of the grilled food, Lou Cheng was starving, as if a hand was about to reach out from his throat. Drinking mineral water only made him hungrier.

"Fatty Jiang, have you set a date for our get-together?" Lou Cheng tried to shift his attention back to their chat. After gulping down a cup of herbal tea, Jiang Fei wiped his mouth and said, "Too sweet. Same drinks in Guangnan taste differently. Eh, our gathering is on the day after tomorrow, at Spring Scenery Field Conference Villa. You can climb Xiushan and then take Nine Curves to get there."

"Spring Scenery Field Conference Villa?How fancy!" Lou was quite shocked upon hearing this gathering place.

Jiang Fei smiled at him. "Are you confused again? The price of this villa is slightly higher than that of the agritainment, as there are fewer gatherings before the New Year. 200 yuan for each is enough. We can play ping-pong, badminton, tennis, and basketball or go to the free karaoke. Mahjong room and chess-poker room are also available. If the above events are not your cup of tea, you can climb the mountain for exercise and enjoy the fresh air. You can even get a room as long as you are happy. Ah-ha, there is a spa hotel nearby. With some extra money, you can also enjoy the hot spring."

"None of these events attracts me. I'd rather chat with my old pals, recalling memories of the awkward and sharing some college experiences," Lou Cheng grabbed some tissues to wipe his noses and said. "Pooh! Stop pretending, I recall you being a big fan for karaoke. Somebody has been a mic hog several times that summer after college entrance examination." Jiang Fei ruthlessly exposed his lie.

Lou Cheng laughed embarrassedly and soon changed the subject. "How many classmates will show up?"

"All promise to come except a few who are not in Xiushan. Ha, I can't wait to find out whether those couples back then have broken up or not, and how many singles have found their dates," Jiang Fei said with excitement, obviously ignoring himself being a single for 18 years.

The amicable Fatty Jiang could take a joke easily, so Lou Cheng loved to hang out with him and dared to speak freely.
However, Fatty Jiang looked suspicious when he was absorbed in detective fictions. Lou Cheng used to take him as a cold-blooded killer, distorted by his hidden anger. Being generous or open-minded was just his mask. However, by checking his mental state on purpose, Lou Cheng found that he was merely an easy-going boy who let go of the anger quickly. Lou Cheng cleared his throat and said, "How many teachers do you invite?"

"Just Old Wu and Mr. Xin. Other teachers are either unavailable or unwelcomed. For instance, Old Li." Jiang Fei answered with a smile.

Old Li was the math teacher whom Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke had been complaining about. As the director of academic affairs office, Old Li terrified all the students. Both Old Wu and Mr. Xin had been their head teachers, one taught Chinese while the other taught chemistry.

"Ha, Old Wu is a fan of martial arts. He talked about martial arts with us every time he patrolled in class." Lou Cheng looked forward to seeing his head teacher in senior year.

At this moment, waitress brought them easily-toasted skewers that were dressed with chopped scallions.

Despite his craving for food, Lou Cheng took a photo first by his cell phone. Instead of sending it to Yan Zheke immediately, he waited for the right moment and showed to her in batches.

"Done?" Fatty Jiang asked with a smile.

"All done. Let's eat." Lou Cheng freely grabbed a streaky skewer.

Meat used in Old Liu Barbeque was seasoned beforehand in secret recipe for the best flavor. So tasty was the meat that Lou Cheng finished one skewer with two or three bites. Later, tastes left in mouth made him crave for more, especially in this middle night.

His favorite were skewers with a little fat. The fat was roasted to make the meat more gravy, but not greasy. With the sizzling oil and the delicious aroma, he could wolf down one after one without a stop.

After appeasing his hunger by eating a dozen or so, Lou Cheng finally started to talk. He had a great chat with Jiang Fei over fun stuff and gossips during high school and college. When they finished their first round, the second round came in time, which required longer cooking time, like chicken wings, wing tips, and ribs. The specialty of Old Liu Barbeque was grilled eggplant already placed in two baking trays.

Eggplant grilled by Old Liu tasted differently, and there was a world of difference between Old Liu's eggplant and grilled eggplant in Songcheng and Yanling. Instead of using mashed garlic as seasonings, Old Liu fried his special dressings and crisp peas in hot oil over high heat. Then this special-made sauce was poured on grilled eggplant to let the flavor permeate. In doing so, grilled eggplant tasted like fish, but retained their own flavor. Everybody loved Old Liu's eggplant and seemed incapable of getting over this delish snack.

In Lou Cheng's heart, grilled eggplant was the king in the barbeque business, which he preferred more than meat. Even Yan Zheke, who was currently in the southern region, missed this delicious dish.

Meanwhile, people who enjoyed a daily tipple couldn't get enough of the crisp peas in dressings. When this specialty was served, Lou Cheng adjusted the color balance of his cell and soon took a photo, which looked quite appetizing. Along with a number of photos taken before, he sent all to Yan Zheke at once.

"I am so satisfied." Lou Cheng sent the message to show off.

Yan Zheke immediately sent a throwing-dog emoji and said,

"Our friendship has ended like this dead dog!"

Lou Cheng curved his lip, revealed a smile, and quickly typed a reply.

Jiang Fei picked up some eggplant and put them into his mouth. Then he looked at Lou Cheng with a mischievous smile and said, "Cheng, look at you! You are picking up a hot chick. Once you get the girl, introduce to us. I wanna know who she is that makes you so into her." Actually, you knew her and we have talked about her just now… Lou Cheng secretly teased. He put down his cell while dipping some eggplant into the gravy and said, "Sure, if I can make it happen."

When grilled eggplant was brought to mouth by chopsticks, Lou Cheng was deeply touched by this flavor he had been longing for, meanwhile his chopsticks moved faster.

Jiang Fei picked up a cup of herbal tea and said with a smile, "Wish you a great success. If I have my dream girl one day, I might consult with you. Ah, right, does my sister-in-law have any besties, I get dibs on them. Don't forget!"

Sister-in-law, good call! Lou Cheng gave a silent praise and started to tease him after a pause,

"You have to lose weight first... "

Jiang Fei rolled his eyes so as to give him a supercilious look meanwhile asked for more details like a paparazzi. "How do you meet? Is the girl your classmate from college?" "Nope, we met in Songcheng University Martial Arts Club." Lou Cheng told no lies, yet not being entirely truthful.

It was actually you who took me to Class Three to check out beauties where I met Yan Zheke for the first time.

Lou Cheng planned not to share any information until he succeeded in dating with Yan Zheke. Otherwise, it would be too awkward since they went to the same high school and shared the same social circle.

More importantly, he believed that Yan Zheke did not like people gossip behind her back…
"Holy crap! That's why you have been arduously practicing your martial arts!" Lou Cheng suddenly came to the realization, as if solving a problem that he dared not ask. "Never judge a book by its cover, now I finally get it. Cheng, I never thought you would go great length just not to be a single!" They talked and laughed while eating eggplant and wing tips. Finally came their last dish - grilled fish. The fish was baked in a similar way to eggplant. Somehow it tasted no better than eggplant in Lou Cheng's heart.

They ordered more upon finishing the grilled fish. Jiang Fei was astonished at Lou Cheng's appetite and asked worriedly, "Cheng, will I eat so much if I start to exercise? Then how can I lose weight with such a big appetite?"

"Do you see me get fat?" Lou Cheng took out his wallet and asked for their bill.

He felt powerful and energetic again after the meal, as though he was thrown back to life, and his symptoms of coldness were relieved as well.

"Nope." Jiang took a careful look of Lou Cheng.

"Then it is all good. Don't be afraid!" Lou Cheng looked confident. When Old Liu brought their bill, Jiang Fei also took out his wallet and said, "Eh, Cheng, let me pay the check. I am the one who should treat you with a nice welcome dinner. How could I let you pay?"

"Ha, I recently participated in a martial arts competition and made some extra cash. You don't have to feel sorry for this." Lou Cheng answered with pride.

Jiang Fei looked at him, shocked. "You made some money in a martial arts competition? How long have you been practicing? I see, this competition was exclusive to pupils and you came there to bully them."

"Get lost!" Lou Cheng paid the check with a simple reply. The bill for this meal is less than 500 yuan. Despite each skewer carried less weight than that of other places, and the difference was big, it was still a good deal.

Seeing Lou Cheng being deep-pocketed for real, Jiang Fei just let him take the check. He rubbed his belly and said, "How about going for a walk in this neighborhood? It's good for digestion. Well, living in Xiushan was indeed a bargain. We could never afford so many skewers and grilled fish in Guangnan with over 400 yuan."

Lou Cheng nodded and seriously asked the boss about their opening date after the New Year – Old Liu Barbeque would close for the New Year the day after tomorrow.

Upon hearing the Barbeque reopen on the eighth day of the first lunar month, Lou Cheng looked satisfied with both hands in his pocket. He had already booked a small vacuum machine and a thermal container online, and the delivery date would be after the New Year.

Being rich was awesome!

In this cold windy night, two of them walked in the alley for better digestion and continued to chat over all kinds of stuff. They subconsciously went in the opposite direction to the Bar Street.

When they turned a corner, in front of them was the backstreet with all road lights off. They saw vaguely with weak lights from surrounding households.

"Let's turn back. Who knows what we will encounter in such darkness," Jiang Fei buttoned his down jacket and said.

Lou Cheng was about to respond, suddenly he saw several people appear in front of them. One is running desperately, the other three hold three blazing knives chasing right after him. The sound of steps got noisy in this cold and dark alley.

"Holy crap, the mobs are killing! Let's hide somewhere, don't be dragged into this mess." Jiang Fei was shivering with fear.

Lou Cheng also didn't want to get in trouble, so he drew back with Jiang Fei, standing sideways in darkness. Right at this moment, the one who has been running stepped into to a place where lights shone on his face.

Wang Xu! It was Wang Xu!

The target of these killers was Wang Xu.

Lou Cheng was of sharp observation and immediately recognized that desperate bleeding man. It was his childhood friend who he had just met before dinner in their community.

Chapter 74: The Dark Street

Figures flashed in the darkness and this backstreet reminded people of a movie set. Since Lou Cheng participated in actual combats, he developed a habit of making quick decisions. Once he recognized Wang Xu, he was ready to save him without a second thought.

In other days, he would act exactly like Jiang Fei, timid and jittery. Even the one hounded by mobs was his childhood friend who used to watch his back, he still dared not take another look. He was incapable of handling this situation, and being reckless would only cause more trouble and get his family involved in this mess. At best, he could call the police for them. However, the situation had changed now. With experience gained in the Warrior Sage Challenge Tournament, he made a tremendous progress both in martial arts and mental state. Observant and assertive, Lou Cheng had grown to be confident and calm.

How could he stay out of the affair with this power and strength? He was not gonna stand there and watch Wang Xu get killed in front of him. For a fraction of second, Lou Cheng took down his down jacket and threw it to Jiang Fei.

"Hide yourself!" said Lou Cheng in a quick and low voice.

Jiang Fei was too shocked and frightened to give any responses. Upon seeing Lou Cheng rushing out, he suddenly sensed the danger and was about to stop him. But being in a total mess, Jiang Fei was too afraid to speak out.

"How could Cheng be so reckless? In front of him was three mobs with knives!

What should I do? What should I do?"

When Jiang Fei was at a loss, Lou Cheng carefully made a plan before the confrontation. He checked out his surroundings as well as the landscape to make sure there were no cameras. Although there were dim lights coming from households on both sides of the alley, he successfully hid among the darkness by lowering his weight while approaching in zigzag snake steps. He was experienced and calm since he had encountered many accidents in the ring. For instance, when he was hung between victory and defeat or when the Jindan (the Golden Elixir) failed to work normally. He had to take the consequence into the consideration if he decided to save Wang Xu. Suppose he was caught by camera or remembered by reporters who came after, especially when he couldn't kill all to keep the secret, then it's very likely to get himself or his family in trouble.

Lou Cheng shifted his weight while moving in a weird snake footwork. With eyes fixed on the three upcoming opponents, Lou Cheng made his way with particular caution. Dispite that he had defeated a Professional Ninth Pin, he never underestimated his enemies.

In the body refining stage, there was an old saying that even a martial expert couldn't take a kitchen knife. In front of him were three mobs with knives, and he was very likely to get hurt since he had just recovered from the boomerang effect of the Jindan (the Golden Elixir), so he had to be careful.

It was no longer a challenge tournament. In the ring, referees might protect fighters from many dangers, such as explosive forces and close attacks, yet accidents still happened. In actual combats, people got hurt or killed by knives or guns for real.

If Lou Cheng stood back, none of these would be his concern. But once involved, he must try his utmost to take one down as soon as possible. In this way, the match would be easier with two versus two on each side.

The Night was dark without any moonlight or starlight, Wang Xu and other three mobs were busy running and failed to notice Lou Cheng was approaching. In the darkest part of the backstreet, Lou Cheng suddenly sped up in less than 10 meters away and came to Wang Xu from his left side in big strides, with eyes fixed on the first mob's knife.

Wang Xu was still running, but he felt a ghost running past him.

Upon seeing Lou Cheng rushing toward him, the first mob dared not take him slightly. He, with a knife in his right hand, grinned and chopped at Lou Cheng ruthlessly. At this very moment, a flash of lightning struck in his mind, starting a prairie fire in the dark. Lou Cheng transformed a downward hot flow from his spine into a burst of strength,thus pushing his speed to the ultimate level like an arrow. The mob mistakenly measured his speed and the distance. Instantly, Lou Cheng came near the first mob, warding off the attack with both hands rising to engage his knife-holding wrist.

In such a close range, the long knife was no longer helpful.

The minute Lou Cheng engaged mob's wrists; he twisted his waist and tightened leg muscles to lunch a knee kick, which was directly hit at mob's stomach.

"Bang!"

Came a dull noise, the one who got punched glared with a runny nose and watery eyes. As the mob was about to fall on the ground because of exhaustion, Lou caught him with one hand meanwhile broke his machete-holding wrist by twisting another hand. Just round one, he had already defeated one hatchet man.

Upon seeing what Lou Cheng had done, the other hatchet man nearby shrank his pupils and brandished a knife direct at him. Instead of chasing Wang Xu, the third mob changed his target as well.

In no rush, Lou Cheng straightened his back and pulled strength from hand. By pushing the guy he was holding to the second hatchet man beside him, Lou Cheng successfully got his enemy distracted. Then he slid to the left side and stood ready to hit vital parts.

To save his companions, the third hatchet man slashed at Lou Cheng without hesitation.

All of a sudden, Lou Cheng moved his spine as if a dragon breaking through all kinds of barriers. He abruptly shifted his weight and pulled his body back by adjusting muscles, then with a round footwork, he made his way to the rear side of the third hatchet man in an opposite direction. With this impressive footwork, people might mistakenly believe the rumor of ghost in this dim alley.

After changing his positions, Lou Cheng lowered his weight into a steady stance. In his mind, snow-covered mountains started to collapse and white streams rolled down formidably. By virtue of this force, he lifted his right arm and violently launched a downward attack.

"Pang!"

Lou Cheng’s fists accurately landed at the third mob’s shoulder, with a crunching noise, the mob’s right shoulder started to collapse. As painful as he cried, he threw the machete and writhed on the ground with his left hand on the right shoulder.

Mighty Mega Avalanche!

Now Lou Cheng had taken down two enemies, and the only one left was freaked out. Without looking at his opponent being tall or short, fat or thin, the third hatchet man gave up saving his buddies and decided to flee the scene while brandishing a machete crazily in the air. Smart guys know all the ins and outs!

Lou Cheng pretended to chase after the mob by making noises of footsteps, which scared the shit out of him. Like a rabbit shot by an arrow, the mob feared to look back and instantly ran to the other side of the backstreet, soon fading into the darkness.

Hearing the scream, Wang Xu stopped, looking shocked and puzzled. He turned back only to find that three mobs who had been after him were either on the ground or flee the scene. The dark alley became silent again.

"Who is that?" Wang Xu asked subconsciously, meanwhile Jiang Fei who had been hidden in a dark corner was also stunned by what he had just seen.

Did he see a superman just now?

No way, how come Cheng became a superman! The screen of his cell reflected dim light in the darkness as he was about to call the police. But now there was no need for that.

Lou Cheng returned to the place with some lights on. Two hatchet men were still humming on the ground, Lou Cheng checked at them in case of any violent counterattacks. Meanwhile, he signaled Wang Xu to stay quiet.

Wang Xu saw a vague figure walking toward him, bewildered as he was, he forgot all the cuts and pains in his back. Like being in a bizarre dream, Wang Xu thought him was being stabbed and everything was his fantasy before the deathbed.

How is it Cheng?

Lou Cheng was not one of the powerless, yet definitely a good student who dared not and would not fight. Being stronger and braver, Wang Xu always counted Lou Cheng as a nerd.

However, it was exactly Cheng who had taken care of three knife-holding hatchet men between several breaths, let alone these men were of Amateur Sixth or Seventh Pin, highly valued by their boss.

Was that a dream?

I even agreed to teach him a few moves so he could make some progress in martial arts. Wang Xu thought.

The pain soon made him stay conscious, Wang Xu, directed by Lou Cheng's hand gestures, hurried to the other alley.

Lou Cheng ran back to their original spot and dragged the already stunned Jiang Fei out of the alley immediately. The dim backstreet was silent again, with two figures curling up on the ground and groaning painfully.

Lou Cheng met Wang Xu outside two allies, and he instructed Jiang Fei to hide at a distance, as he did not want to get his innocent best buddy in high school involved in this affair. "Do you have a shelter?" Lou Cheng asked outspokenly.

Wang Xu covered his wounds with clothes inside and said in a trance, "Yep, I can go there to handle my wound."

"Go ahead, I will leave you alone and we will talk about it later," Lou Cheng said in a firm tone, making himself clear that he wanted nothing to do with these mobs or mafias. What happened before was him trying to save a friend.

Wang Xu nodded with a sigh and said, "If I could settle all the problems, I will talk to you soon."

Upon finishing the line, he stepped up his pace and disappeared into the night on the other end of the alley.

Lou Cheng shook his head behind Wang Xu with mixed feelings and left this dangerous place in a hurry. When they were back to the neighborhood where Old Liu Barbeque was located, Jiang Fei was still badly shaken, peeking at him from time to time in the car.

"I mean, feel free to check on me and stop peaking," Lou Cheng put on his down jacket and said in anger.

"You know the person who got hunted by mobs?" Jiang Fei asked in a gentle and casual way.

"Yep, he is my childhood friend." Lou Cheng kept his reply simple, without giving further information.

Of course, Jiang Fei did not care about his answer and continued to ask with eyes wide open, "Cheng, when did you become a superman? I remembered our last match and I crushed you with my weight."

For physical training, martial arts were taught in PE classes during high school, and they competed with each other for fun. "Have I already told you that I joined Songcheng University Martial Arts Club and kept my practice every single day?" Lou Cheng had his chin up and said, "Just drive, so we can go home earlier."

Jiang Fei started the car with doubtful mutterings. "I thought you went to the Martial Arts Club for girls, and how long have you been there? A couple of months?"

"When two goals are set, I aim to achieve both," Lou Cheng said causally. He felt rather low because of Wang Xu, and right now he was in no mood to brag about participating the Warrior Sage Challenge Tournament or engaging with several Professional Ninth Pin masters.

Before starting the car, Jiang Fei gave another careful look of Lou Cheng in the dim light of the car. His best friend in high school looked tired, with body growing leaner and face being more chiseled from brows to chins. He pinched his lips with an air of calmness and confidence, and his look made people unconsciously follow his arrangements. "Cheng, you seem to be more mature... " Jiang Fei failed to find the right word to describe how he felt about Lou Cheng currently. He had said this before over their barbeque, and the meaning carried in this line was completely different.

Lou Cheng smiled and said, "Wish you meant well."

Chapter 75: Two Distinctive Worlds

"Of course I mean well." Jiang Fei answered without a hesitation, and his strangeness that came with shock and fear already fading away completely. He turned the steering wheel while clicking his tongue. "You were so different since the last time I met you at the end of August. If you aren't as manshow as ever, I would have thought I met a stranger who looked almost like you!"

"We would be good friends if you could shut your mouth upon finishing your first line." Lou Cheng let out a laughing abuse. Manshow? Cheap mouth? Wuzzat?

Looking straight ahead, Jiang Fei grew more and more excited, "Cheng, how did you pull this off? It hasn't even been six months yet! How did you become so powerful all of a sudden? I saw you take out three knife wielding gangsters in just a few moves just now!"

"I was focused on schoolwork previously, and I didn't realize I had a, er, gift for meditation. Also, Songcheng Martial Arts Club hired a good coach in an attempt to restore its former glory this year. Due to these two advantages, I had made substantial progress in martial arts. However, it's only at the beginning that a tremendous improvement like this would occur. The more I practice, the harder it would be for me to improve." Lou Cheng explained in a way that was easily understood by Jiang Fei.

Jiang Fei was not a diehard martial arts fan, and he had no direct impression on amateur rankings beyond the Professional Martial Arts Competition. That was why Jiang Fei could not determine Lou Cheng's approximate level right now. He knew that Lou Cheng was very strong, but exactly how far the extent of his strength reached. Therefore, he said with a smile, "Oh, I see. I wonder why I never noticed your potential? Brother Lou, Master Cheng, you simply must help me if I get bullied one day!"

"Come on, we are friends aren't we? Just give me the signal and I would bring an army to save you!" Lou Cheng made a joke.

Jiang Fei continued to drive steadily, but his tone had gotten even more excited. "Cheng'zi, tomorrow, can you teach me some moves when we exercise tomorrow morning? Can I be cool for a bit too?" "Sure, as long as you can calm your heart and handle the stance." Lou Cheng nodded slightly.

The still stance was the true fundamental of martial arts. Then came the moving stance, also known as the so-called routine exercise. The final step would be the moves applied in actual combat, such as 24 Blizzard Strikes.

Jiang Fei excitedly said, "Don't worry, I'm a forgetful guy. I can definitely calm down."

I highly doubt it… Lou Cheng muttered to himself. Fatty Jiang was easily distracted and loves to daydream. None of these met the requirements to achieve the concealment of spirit and qi.

While chatting, the car had arrived at the destination and stopped at the entrance of the neighborhood. Lou Cheng unbuckled his seatbelt and said, "Sleep early, I'd pretend this never happened if you can't get up tomorrow morning." "Don't worry! It's not like I never woke up this early before and worked hard for success during my last year in high school!" Jiang Fei said proudly and added, "Right, Cheng, your secret is safe with me. Mm, I saw nothing just now."

Lou Cheng let out a laugh and stood outside the car door, looking down on Fatty Jiang,

"Well well, if you haven't reminded me I would have forgotten that you're a big mouth... "

He returned home, and his room was as cold and quiet as ever. Lou Cheng went through his experience of saving a life in his head and confirmed that he missed out on no details. As long as Wang Xu kept quiet about this, there was no way the other party could find him. It was only then he completely settled down. He busied himself for a moment, splitting the laundry to those that needed to be done by hand and those that needed to be thrown into the washing machine. Upon finishing all chores, he logged into his email and checked if master had sent any information or videos on Big or Small Hand Wrap. "No new emails? Then I will mainly do recovery exercises tomorrow... " lying on the couch, Lou Cheng chatted with Yan Zheke over the phone, waiting for his laundry to finish.

When the time was just over nine p.m., and he was about to hang his laundry, he heard footsteps that had been deliberately lightened coming up from the fourth floor to the fifth floor.

Lou Cheng inclined his ears and naturally entered into the Condensation Stance. He remained calm and arrived at the front door once he confirmed that the person walking over was alone.

When he confirmed that the sound of footsteps had ended in front of his door, Lou Cheng abruptly opened the door in a surprising fashion.

Outside the door was Wang Xu in an army green overcoat. His face was pale and his eyes were full of shock. He looked like he hadn't made up his mind on whether he should knock on Lou Cheng's door. "Have you treated your wounds already? How's it going?" Lou Cheng signaled him to come inside first.

Wang Xu carefully let himself in and answered while closing the door. "I've found someone to deal with it. It's no big deal. Tonight's mess could be considered settled for now."

He was carrying a bottle of hard liquor made in Ningshui County, which was an exclusive local specialty in Xiushan. Those well-to-do people all enjoyed getting some original-proof spirits from the Ningshui winery, claiming that their spirits were sufficiently mellow, spicy and tasty.

"I knew you have quitted drinking, so this bottle of authentic original-proof spirit here is for me." Wang Xu familiarly opened the cabinet where Lou Cheng's father put his wine cups and took out two wine cups.

Lou Cheng asked in surprise and amusement as he watched him washing the cups and pouring wine for himself, "You're injured, you know. Why you are still drinking?" "No drink, no talk. Just take it as me using alcohol to disinfect my wounds." Wang Xu sat down and chuckled.

"That's not how you disinfect wounds, okay!" Lou Cheng let out a laughing abuse.

Silence followed after the laughter. It seemed like no one was ready to talk first.

Wang Xu took a sip from his cup and broke this awkward silence with a sigh. "Cheng, I'm not sure how I can thank you for saving me tonight. If it wasn't for you, my parents would have no choice but to pour this bottle of wine before my grave."

"I haven't thanked you too for watching my back in the old times. Now that I have mastered some martial arts, how could I possibly watch you die in front of me?" Lou Cheng said frankly and sincerely.

"Back then... " Lou Cheng let out a soft laugh, "Honestly speaking, I was pretty simple back then. Firstly, I thought about our friendship since childhood, and secondly I did not want to see a kid from our factory get bullied by outsiders."

As memories of the past flashed through his mind, Lou Cheng took a deep breath and took the initiative,

"Brother Xu, you can't go on like this."

Wang Xu looked up and blurted out, "It was that damn Third Jian who started the trouble tonight. He hired a Professional Ninth Pin expert from the provincial capital and surprise attacked our bar. Le almost got killed. We were lucky that Brother Biao and Brother Wei who were bold and fierce enough to keep the expert busy. However, they outnumbered us so we could only escape... These mobs who came chasing after me are machetemen led by Third Jian. Every one of them is an Amateur Sixth Pin or Amateur Seventh Pin. Normally I could handle one of them, but against three I had no option but to run."

"Cheng'zi, I didn't know that you're so powerful now. I can't believe you took them out in just a few moves!" Lou Cheng shook his head and said, "I only succeeded because it was an ambush, but that's not the point I'm trying to make here. Brother Xu, ignore the fact that my skills are limited, even if I can save you once I can't save you a lifetime. Are you truly planning to walk this path to the end?"

Wang Xu fell quiet upon hearing this, and it took him a while before he finally smiled bitterly and said, "It's not like I don't understand what you're saying. I've seen plenty after hanging around in the underworld for several years. I have seen the most successful bosses white wash their history, and I've also witnessed people with few achievements fighting day after day. Even the best martial arts experts can slip up, and a single mistake could mean replacement by a new face. Some of the members of the first gang I was together with had their hands cut off, and some ended up dead on the commercial street."

"Of course I was terrified by their endings even though I'm just a rash young boy. So, I desperately went to martial arts clubs to train in martial arts while attempting to quit from the gang. I also saved up some money so I could open a small business in the future. But things don't go as you wish once you were in this circle. If my old boss summoned me for a fight, should I go or refuse? What would happen if I said no to him? I could not refuse even if I were to consider this purely from a friendship standpoint." Even when Lou Cheng was in junior high school, which was also the messiest period of his life, he never came into contact with these affairs. A stifling silence enveloped him after he listened to Wang Xu. After pondering for a moment, he opened his mouth and spoke in a steady tone, "Brother Xu, have you
ever thought about getting out of this circle?"

"Getting out?" Wang Xu looked at him in puzzlement.

Lou Cheng said with a level tone, "I went to Songcheng to study, and I've even visited Yanling on my way back home. Both places are almost completely disconnected from Xiushan. The world is big and wonderful, with so many opportunities and potential. Why should you confine yourself to Xiushan? If you find yourself incapable of breaking the bonds you made here, and that the circumstances are out of your control, why don't you give yourself a chance and increase your knowledge and experience? Give it three to five years, and come back when they've almost forgotten about you."

Wang Xu was startled by his words, and it took him a while before he took a sip and said, "Cheng, your student side hasn't completely left you yet... Now I'm just glad I haven't made it to the level of Le's confidant yet. Otherwise, suppose I get involved in some of his affairs and witness several secrets. Do you think I could just walk away as I wish? Moreover, what can I do once I get out? Labor work? I saw a few people in the neighborhood working at other provinces doing poorer than even I am. What's the point of a life like that?"

"Didn't you want to open a small business?" Lou Cheng could guess that Wang Xu's life must have been rather comfortable. According to that hedonistic son at the front table, a hatchetman gangster like Wang Xu would not need not to worry about liquor or cigarettes, women or money. When they walked on the streets, the common people would not even dare to look straight at them.

"I will think about it." Wang Xu looked down and refilled his cup.

Suddenly, Lou Cheng felt a tinge of emotion while looking at him. They had the extremely similar family background, but had led completely different lives because they made a different choice during junior high school. He had studied hard and got accepted by the No.1 middle school. Later on, he passed his exams and entered Songcheng University. His daily life normally consisted of bright and clean classrooms inside a beautiful and clean school. Students came from all over the country, and they talked about games, movies, novels, teachers, girls, school courses and future careers. While there was pressure, few of them got in touch with the bottom level of society. They were used to living in a world where lights prevailed over darkness, and hope over despair.

Meanwhile, Wang Xu lived a life of debauchery, and fear for his life every time there was a fight. He wasn't sure if he could wake up peacefully every time he drank himself to sleep. He might have good times, but his entire body of life was painted in gray dark colors. If he could not climb up to become a boss and successfully whitewash his history, sooner or later the darkness would swallow him. It was a life where despair prevailed over dawn.

Education could change one's fate, and so could martial arts... Lou Cheng felt certain about this phrase more than ever before. He changed the topic and said, "Brother Xu, you told no one about my involvement, did you?" Wang Xu took another sip of wine and said, "Don't worry, I know you are a goody two shoes student, and I won't get you in trouble. Le asked me about this earlier, and I covered it up by telling him that I ran into a friend from the martial art club and escaped death because of it. Oh right, how do you practice martial arts? How did you become so impressive all of a sudden?"

"I happen to have a gift that I didn't realize because I wasn't training in martial arts back then. Then, a former physical invulnerability Mighty One became my coach, which is why I was barely able to keep up with the pace of a normal person." Lou Cheng emphasized Geezer Shi's existence on purpose.

After witnessing Wang Xu's 'daily life', Lou Cheng dared not be careless despite being confident about their friendship. He dispelled all of Wang Xu's desires and extravagant hopes by bringing up the reputation of a physical invulnerability Mighty One.

Wang Xu obviously trembled at his words. He forced a smile to his face and said, "No wonder. You have an impressive coach... Cheng'zi, can you teach me a few moves? So I will be more prepared before quitting the gang." "The foundation of my martial arts is the still stance and meditation. Why don't you try and see if you can achieve concealment of spirit and qi." Lou Cheng walked him through the martial rhyme and outlined a few key points.

Wang Xu knew that all powerful martial arts were built upon a foundation of Solemn Silence. He voiced no questions and listened quietly until the end before saying, "I will practice what you have taught me and come back to you and ask you if I have any questions. I'll leave this bottle of wine for Uncle Lou."

As he watched him leaving the room and closing the door, Lou Cheng let out a sudden sigh. He felt as if they were in two distinctive worlds now.

He had no confidence that Wang Xu could enter into a meditative state at all. How could a person a man who indulged himself in fantasy and luxury possibly enter a meditative state?

Life truly was a pot of all sort of circumstances...

Chapter 76: The Devilish Lou Cheng

After leaving his clothes outside to air, Lou Cheng locked the door from the inside and came back to his room. Lying down on the bed with his head in a spin, he felt an impulse to pour out his feelings.

Lou Cheng took out the cell phone and sent a message to Yan Zheke.

"Something happened after the barbeque... "

Lou Cheng tried to describe in a normal tone his relations with Wang Xu, what he felt when seeing Wang Xu being chased and how his state of mind changed after a serious conversation with him.

Yan Zheke tried not to interrupt Lou Cheng and just asked some brief questions during his account. She started to express her opinion after hearing his complete story. "Cheng, I told you that everyone had their own path to take, and it was not necessarily the education at school or the martial arts... Uh... I said it to you and you managed to defeat the opponent of Professional Ninth Pin in merely four months... Well, I have no face before you now!"

She sent an emoji with one drawing circles in a corner.

Lou Cheng's mood was lightened a little bit by her joke and he chuckled. "I thought you were right and I never expected to reach professional rank so soon."

"Don't interrupt me. Don't you want to listen to me?" Yan ZheKe replied with a vicious emoji.

"Well, you are the interrupter... " Lou Cheng thought. He surely dared not say it out. "Please continue, Coach Yan!" He sent a smirk.

"Everyone has his destiny. We aren't the Almighty God or supernatural being. It's marvelous if one could change his confidants' mind. But for others, you can't make decision for them or force them to change their outlook on life. 'Do your part and leave the rest to God'" Ye Zheke answered without any emoji. Lou Cheng left a sigh. "I see it, but I still feel powerless and depressed. Good friends we were and distinct worlds we are in. I can do nothing but to watch... "

"Cheng, the overwhelming majority of people are selfish. I'm selfish too. I draw circles with myself as the center to classify people from the intimate to the estranged. In the innermost circle are my parents and close relatives, who are surely more precious to me than my close friends. Friends fall into two categories, the ones for life and the ones for some stage of your life. As for the latter, the relations between you and them are similar to that between two intersecting lines. You converge at some point and then diverge forever because of different philosophies of life, choices, characters, favorable or unfavorable turns in life. Miss rather than meet. Wang Xu is the latter." Yan Zheke sent a long message.

It was the first time that Lou Cheng saw a serious Yan Zheke elaborate on her philosophy. Her impression on him seemed to be more vivid.

"What about your future mate?" He subconsciously asked the question. Yan Zheke sent a squint. "I won't tell you. Are you listening to me carefully? Hmm!"

"Yes, I am! Please continue, Coach Yan!" Lou Cheng stifled his smile and said.

Lou Cheng's mood mended a lot after cracking gags with Yan Zheke.

"A friend for life treasures something that you also hold dear. It's quite obvious that Wang Xu isn't the one. Are you willing to give up your study and get caught in scuffles of gangs? Are you willing to cause trouble to yourself and your family?" Yan Zheke asked.

"I don't want to be disturbed by him." Lou Cheng thought it over and said.

Yan Zheke sent a nodding emoji. "As you said, you are in the distinct world now. If he continues to act willfully, the gap between you two will be wider. He is an episode in your life. It's just a matter of time for your friendship to come to an end. You have tried to help him wholeheartedly. What you should do now is to reconcile yourself to the regret for him and let it go."

"My grandparents have many disciples, who become police officers, soldiers, professional warriors, merchants... as well as evildoers in not a few number. 'Warriors break the rules with violence.' My grandpa and grandma were dejected, sleepless and enraged. Yet, they have straightened it out that it's enough for them to do their possible to stop and save them."

"Don't yearn for the acme of perfection but for a clear conscience in your life."

Lou Cheng quietly read the messages, lost in thoughts. After a long pause, he took a deep breath. "Got it. I shouldn't feel any guilt about him. As a freshman, I saved his life and reasoned him out of gangs with sincerity. I have done my possible. It's time to let it go." "Good! You are worthy to be taught!" Yan Zheke replied a proud emoji pushing up glasses. "You did very well today, saving Wang Xu without causing trouble. I used to dream of my deeds of heroism after my reaching high martial arts attainments. Yet I worried that I would break the rules with violence and ran into the following trouble. You gave me vivid instruction in how I could put my dream into practice."

Lou Cheng felt a little bit proud and pleased. He sent an evil smile. " Thanks to Coach Yan's instructions! You teach by 'Yan'[1] and deed. You are teacher 'Yan'[2] and bring up outstanding student."

"Poof! You are increasingly proficient in Chinese!" Yan Zheke sent a stunned dog emoji.

The funny chatting put Lou Cheng in a good mood. The characteristic smile unknowingly crawled on his face. They talked happily until 10 p.m. when Lou Cheng reluctantly stopped to take a shower and go to bed on time.

As Lou Cheng came back to the bed, he found that Cai Zongming had finally got home, logged in QQ and replied his messages.

"A secret? You are not a girl. I have no interest in your secret, unless it's your dark past." Cai Zongming sent a devilish emoji with a waving forefinger, indicating a 'no'.

Lou Cheng replied Yan Zheke first. He did not care about whether Cai Zongming had interest or not. "I went to Yanling on my way home and participated in the Phoenix Cup Warrior Sage Candidate Challenge Tournament. You can guess my rank of position."

"Holy crap! You went far this time! How stupid you are that you told me the name of the tournament and asked me to guess your rank. I'll know everything with a click on Google." Cai Zongming sat at his computer desk with fingers typing on the keyboard, making fun of Lou Cheng out of habit.

Lou Cheng sneered loud and murmured to himself. "That's what I want. I know you so well." My rank that you find on the Internet will surely be much more shocking than that I tell you.

Cai Zongming opened the browser, clicked into the official website and directly started to read the news.

"The final: Jiang Lan VS Wang Ye? The Professional Eighth Pin VS the Professional Ninth Pin?"

"The third-place match: Huang Zhenzhong VS Bai Song? The Professional Eighth Pin VS the Professional Ninth Pin... "

Lou Cheng shook at the mouth when reading the news. He immediately sent a message to Lou Cheng.

"Damn! You fooled a wise man! There's no way I can find a rookie's position in a ranking of names of such a high-level tournament!" "Haha, scroll further!" Lou Cheng did not say more, expecting Little Ming to find it by himself.

Cai Zongming stared at the screen with suspicion and flicked through the pages. Suddenly, he found a piece of news.

"'No. 656' Lou Cheng quit the quarter-final on account of physical exhaustion."

"The quarter-final?" He clicked on the news, suspecting it was a fighter with the same name with Lou Cheng.

"No rank... an undergraduate of the Songcheng University... defeated the fighter of the Professional Ninth Pin... " After a while, Cai Zongming read the last phrase out and called Lou Cheng with no hesitation.

"Cheng, you asked someone to make the fake website for you?" Cai Zongming blurted out once the phone was connected. Lou Cheng proudly smiled. "Holy shit! You aren't Yan Zheke. Do you think I would bother to make a fake website to cheat you? I think your IQ doesn't deserve the high-end trick."

"It's not very long since you defeated your Brother Wu of the Martial Arts Club by your specialty of long distance running... You have jumped from the Amateur Ninth Pin to the Professional Ninth Pin?" Cai Zongming said with astonishment.

Lou Cheng tried to explain in an easy tone. "Not very long? Three months, OK? I've learned 24 Blizzard Strikes, built up my strength and speed, improved my coordination, as well as done many pair exercises and watched plenty of matches of the Martial Arts Club. The first a few of opponents were relatively weak. I achieved mastery of the 24 Blizzard Strikes, the Listening Skill and the Mercurial Balance through the combats with them. I lucked out and got into top eight."

Cai Zongming remained silent for a while before responding to Lou Cheng's story. "...Cheng, are you showing off?" "Yes, I am!" Lou Cheng laughed. "Wanna beat me? Can you beat me?"

"Damn... " Cai Zongming found him brusque but amusing. "Never meet people so devilish like you Lou Cheng! Wait and see. I'm gonna join the special training of the Martial Arts Club next semester. With my talent and Geezer Shi's instruction, I'll catch up with you in no time. You show-off!"

Perfectly satisfied with Cai Zongming's response, Lou Cheng got ready to go to sleep. Before hanging up the phone, he said,

"You can find my fight videos on the official website. Watch them with reverence!"

Before Cai Zongming replied to his arrogant words, Lou Cheng hung up the phone and went to say good night to Yan Zheke on QQ.

Yan Zheke got to know Lou Cheng's training at 5:30 a.m. everyday in their chatting during the Tournament. She felt admiration for him and recognized his rapid progress. After a moment of blankness with the phone in hand, Cai Zongming found the videos and started to watch.

His mouth dropped open increasingly wider. After finishing all videos, he murmured to himself as if flapdoodle.

"Is that Cheng?"

"A dozen of me can't beat him... "

"Has he been possessed by the devil?"

"Of course, being possessed only happens in novels."

...

At 5 a.m. the next day, Lou Cheng got up on time. He put on his martial arts suit, took the phone and keys and jogged to Jiang Fei's home as the elementary warming-up exercise for martial arts training.

It was dark outside with no glimmering of light. The street lamps shed pale yellow light on the quiet road, setting off the surrounding desolation.

Lou Cheng took regular breaths and jogged in the chill of the early dawn, exhaling white puff into the air. He gave Jiang Fei a ring to confirm that he had got up.

Lou Cheng finished a moving stance, including the skills and divided movements, when he saw Jiang Fei walk out of the entrance of the Community. He was shivering with cold in his deformed martial arts suit because of his fat.

Lou Cheng kept from laughter and said, "Let's jog first to warm up."

"OK!" Jiang Fei said with excitement. He had been looking forward to today's training after yesterday's incident. "Which way, Cheng?" Lou Cheng had mapped out their directions. He pointed at the way on the left side. "We are gonna run to Sanli Pavilion and do training in People's Park."

"Sanli Pavilion? People's Park?" Jiang Fei opened his mouth widely with a pale face. "Kill me!"

It's at least ten kilometers!

[1] 'Yan', Pinyin of ⾔, equivalent to "word" in English
[2] 'Yan', Pinyin of "严",equivalent to "strict" in English

Chapter 77: The Martial Arts World in Xiushan

Jiang Fei was too fat and weak to run ten kilometers without any break for the first training. Lou Cheng had adjusted the training method for him to run the same distance.

Lou Cheng allowed Jiang Fei to take a break by walking slowly when he had reached his limit, while he himself took the opportunity to practice the Yin-Yang stance or the Condensation stance in order to train on his physical coordination and boost his mental concentration.

They ran for more than an hour with halts from time to time to reach the People's Park of Sanli Pavilion. Jiang Fei had to wipe the pouring sweat from his forehead now and then to keep his eyes from being covered. If it weren't for Lou Cheng setting an example for him to follow, he would have given up.

The training is superhuman!

It was dawn when they arrived. People were on their way to work, and the breakfast stalls near the Park were stirring. Quite a contrary scene to the dark, cold and quiet one that Lou Cheng had experienced. It was what the world should look like!

Jiang Fei was so exhausted that his eyes were bloodshot. It took a while for him to recover after gulping down the two bottles of water that he bought from a small shop nearby. He looked at Lou Cheng as if looking at a monster.

"Cheng, you don't need to catch your breath?"

I was dead tired even though we took breaks.

"This distance?" — Lou Cheng gave Jiang Fei a contemptuous gaze — "I run a maximum distance of more than twenty kilometers as morning exercise."

"Why not go for a marathon?" Jiang Fei blurted out. Lou Cheng responded in a joking tone. "I don't mean to brag, but I can make them all call me dad. My endurance talent has awakened since I started martial arts training. You can call me a freak in this regard."

"No wonder... I follow a freak example... " Jiang Fei seemed to freeze with deep regret, and he kept silent for a long while before he turned around to Lou Cheng. "Let's begin our martial arts training!"

I have to learn something as being abducted here!

Hope I can lose my weight through the training!

Hope I can learn a thing or two to attract girls!

Lou Cheng positioned his suit and pointed at the entrance of the Park. "Let's look for a quiet place for your meditation."

"OK!" Jiang Fei had instantly recovered from exhaustion. They entered the Park and saw a lively scene of people doing their morning exercise in the shade, beside the lawn or by the riverside. Elderly people with white hair were practicing tai chi, some vigorous people were doing pair exercise, and others were stretching their bodies to practice martial arts moves.

"Holy cow! There are so many people doing morning exercise in Xiushan!" Jiang Fei was shocked in the early morning sunlight. It was the first time for him to come to People's Park at 7 a.m.

"Let's go inside." Lou Cheng looked around for a quiet place.

Walking down the path along the artificial lake, they found the environment became quieter and quieter. People doing training here were obviously more professional in martial arts. Some had coaches to instruct, some were exercising with partners, and others were practicing alone. The rattle of exploding force could be heard from time to time.

"I didn't know there were so many warriors in Xiushan until we came here," Lou Cheng observed. It was just one of the parks suitable for training.

"Yes, they seem really something!" Jiang Fei craned his neck to look.

Lou Cheng patted Jiang Fei's shoulder. "Don't look at them in this way. It will start a feud if you watch the fighters' training or movement without permission in the martial arts world."

Geezer Shi had specifically warned Lou Cheng about this rule in the martial arts world to keep him from causing trouble from a young man's burning curiosity. Yet fighters would not care about a few glimpses from ordinary people just passing by.

Jiang Fei withdrew his eyes and said with a tinge of emotion. "It's said that all martial arts stadiums and gyms are closed for the break. I think their members are all coming here for exercise..."

"The training places can be closed for business, but personal practice must continue. 'The used key is always bright.'" Lou Cheng said in Geezer Shi's tone, "They must be disciples of masters from martial arts schools or clubs."

As they talked, they arrived at the other side of the artificial lake. While he was looking for a quiet place, Jiang Fei suddenly pointed at a group of people before them. "Qin Rui!"

Qin Rui? The classmate of the amateur rank at senior high school? Lou Cheng looked ahead following the direction of Jiang Fei's finger. Among the exercisers in white-edged blue suits was a young man, over 1.9 meters tall, with eyebrow slits, a high-bridged nose, and coarse hair. It was indeed Qin Rui.

Qin Riu was always sitting in the last row of the classroom because of his height. It was said that he joined the Gushan Martial Arts School as a third-year student at junior high school and gained some fame across the grade after integrating with a group of similar students from other classes. He expected nothing less than a certificate of graduation from junior high school even as his academic performance got worse and worse. Qin Rui noticed someone pointing in their direction and heard the voice of Jiang Fei. He said something to his partners and came up.

"Fatty Jiang... You're fatter!" Qin Rui was surprised for a second and then made fun of Jiang Fei in a friendly manner.

Jiang Fei sighed with his palms facing up. "That's why I'm here now. Do you remember him?"

"How can I forget him? Lou Cheng! I used to copy his homework." Qin Rui smiled at Lou Cheng. "I heard you went to Songcheng University. Well done! You look more vigorous now!"

Lou Cheng smiled. "It sounds as if I was dispirited... Never thought I would meet you here."

"I've done morning training here for over half a year. You two have come here for the first time." Qin Rui was pretty happy to see old classmates. "There is a fair chance meeting some classmates in different places..." Lou Cheng seemed to just come to a realization. "Especially in the classrooms for the returning students at No.1 senior high school!"

"For over half a year?" Lou Cheng asked without thinking.

Qin Rui casually said, "It's extra training. I do my regular training at night because I have to study during the day."

"Why do you have extra training? For the Ranking Event after the Spring Festival?" Jiang Fei asked out of curiosity.

Qin Rui seemed excited. "For the preliminaries, rather than the Ranking Event!"

"Preliminaries?" Both Lou Cheng and Jiang Fei knew what that meant.

It was the entrance to the professional martial arts world! "Yes! Preliminaries! Xiushan is well-known in the Province. Yet there are no forces or teams of professional martial arts. It puts our city in an unfavorable situation in some cases. Actually, we have professional fighters, even fighters of Danqi stage, but they have no interest in teaming up. The status quo is that the professional fighters in Xiushan are either walking into their sunset of life or joining other teams outside Xiushan." Qin Rui talked unceasingly.

For the older professional fighters not reaching physical invulnerability, they could bear to take part in matches occasionally, but not the tryouts year in year out. Apparently, it was a better choice for them to work as referees, instruct some disciples, be guests for some events, or join the police force.

Jiang Fei became interested and asked, "Someone organized it? The moneybags sponsored it?"

Qin Rui nodded his head. "Not someone. The government granted a subsidy to set up a martial arts fund, employed experts to manage and organize it, and selected excellent fighters from all martial arts clubs and family sects in Xiushan to team up for preliminaries. The government made a decade- project for the force of Xiushan to enter the third tier of the professional martial arts world. "

He laughed to himself and continued sharing. "Wherever there are human beings, there is intrigue and calculation. The insiders all want to play the leading role in advancing the project. The manager of the fund plans to let the force which does best in the first-year preliminaries exercise leadership in the following years. When the leading force is decided, the manager will invite back a local fighter of the Professional Ninth Pin or Eighth Pin to act as the chief member in order to get the lost knowledge of the martial arts rewarded for the winners of the preliminaries as soon as possible."

"You're one of the forces?" Lou Cheng smiled.

Qin Rui made a thumbs-up sign. "You got it! Gushan, Liheng and Foguang Martial Arts School are in the same boat, so are Mingwei and Shifeng Martial Arts School as well as some family sects. These are my great senior brothers and sisters!"

He pointed at the fighters in white-edged blue suits who were doing routine exercise in a slow manner. Lou Cheng had a look at them and continued chatting for a while before saying goodbye to Qin Rui and looking for a quiet place to train.

"Cheng, what do you think of their level of martial arts?" Jiang Fei asked out of curiosity when they got to a grove far away from the training fighters.

Lou Cheng smiled. "They were just exercising moving stances. How can I see their level? I don't have piercing eyes! But I guess they must have at least reached the Amateur First Pin or Second Pin since they have confidence in winning the preliminaries."

It was the entrance of the professional martial arts world. The participants' strength would not be far away from the level of the Professional Ninth Pin. Otherwise, they were just inviting humiliation.

"The Amateur First Pin or Second Pin? They're great!" Jiang Fei said. Qin Rui reached the Amateur Fourth Pin in the second half of the semester as a third-year student at senior high school. In Jiang Fei's memory, he was awe-inspiring in the martial arts circle of schools then, not to mention the fighters of the Amateur First Pin or Second Pin.

Jiang Fei looked at Lou Cheng and asked out of curiosity, "How about you, Cheng?"

"I haven't participated in the Ranking Event. My estimate is about the same as them." Lou Cheng answered with modesty, knowing he defeated the fighter of the Professional Ninth Pin by both self-strength and good luck.

"About the same?" Jiang Fei was shocked. He came to know Lou Cheng was good at martial arts yesterday, but he never expected so much of his pal. Lou Cheng had the strength to take part in the preliminaries for professional fighters on behalf of Xiushan!

You couldn't beat me half a year ago... Lou Cheng did some warming-up. "Let's start!"

Jiang Fei became excited at the thought of his superb friend. He immediately stood at attention with stomach-in and chest- out posture. "Yes!"

Lou Cheng taught Jiang Fei how to meditate and explained the essence of the concealment of spirit and qi. He then let Jiang Fei practice by himself while he exercising Yin-Yang Stance and Condensation Stance.

After finishing the Solemn Silence, Lou Cheng opened his eyes and started to practice the moving stance, including the skills and divided movements. The exercise would help him build up muscles and adapt to force launching techniques as well as improve his physical fitness.

Lou Cheng preferred exercising his muscles in the Strength Training Gymnasium of the Martial Arts Club which was equipped with professional fitness facilities. As for the skills and divided movements, he chose to focus on improving physique and force launching techniques. He looked at Jiang Fei after finishing the moving stance. He noticed his eyes move and laughed. "Can't hold on? Tired and fretful?"

"Yes... The Solemn Silence is rather boring. I can't see any progress!" Jiang Fei immediately opened his eyes.

Lou Cheng listened to him telling his feelings and shared some experience of his own. "It takes at least half a year to cross the threshold of meditation, except for the real geniuses. You don't need to be anxious. Everything is going fine."

"It just takes half a year?" Jiang Fei's focus was obviously different from Lou Cheng's.

Lou Cheng's lips twitched. "Most people lose their confidence after half a year of fruitless practice. Of course, there are people with more perseverance who can keep it up. A mighty fighter of physical invulnerability, for example, is said to spend three years grasping the meditation. Well, follow me for the moving stance." Lou Cheng taught Jiang Fei what he had just practiced. He had a better understanding when explaining the difficulties to Jiang Fei. Teaching benefits teacher and student alike.

When Jiang Fei was barely able to practice the moving stance, Lou Cheng started to exercise martial arts moves: single whip, blast punch, thump and leg attack, tearing the air and starting the wind. Jiang Fei was clearly astonished with his eyes opened wide.

Even though he did not know much about the martial arts, he could feel the violence and craziness of every move. He was unable to bear even a single attack!

Jiang Fei became more diligent in the move stance training after recovering from the shock.

At last, Lou Cheng asked Jiang Fei to attempt to meditate again while he was thinking about how to combine the Power of Blaze with martial arts. Although the flame was pretty pale, it might play a deciding role at a critical moment!

Chapter 78: The Request from Qin Rui

The grove was wreathed in the early morning mist. Lou Cheng glanced at Jiang Fei, who was practicing the standing stance with his eyes closed. He rubbed his thumb and forefinger, sparking a small orange flame flickering in the bleak breeze.

Pang!

His arm shook with tight muscles and lashed out as if a whip, rending the air and sending out the sound of wind. And then the flame died out...

The flame was blown out by the airflow!

"The flame is too tiny and weak to keep steady. I have to integrate it into the attack to take the enemy unawares." Lou Cheng confirmed a previous guess.

He named his Power of Blaze "lighter". This was not just for fun; they shared the same characteristic. A physical move was indispensable to accelerate the internal force streaming to spark the flame, just like a flicking move necessary to catch the light.

Lou Cheng usually rubbed his fingers to spark the flame, which was obviously inappropriate in actual combat. It would be helpless unless fighting conditions were very favorable for him.

After thinking for a while, Lou Cheng intended to combine the force-launching of normal attack with the sparking of flame. He made a slight adjustment, raised his right arm, and twisted his waist to launch a downward cut with fist.

The flame burnt, covering the front surface of his fist, but went out during the downward cut because of the airflow...

Lou Cheng embarrassedly scratched his head and glanced at Jiang Fei again. He breathed a sigh of relief, realizing that Jiang Fei was concentrating on his practice and did not notice the dead flame. It was a shame to show the semi-finished skill before anyone! Lou Cheng pondered over it, analyzing the causes of his failure. He noticed that the force was generally launched when the fist was ready to strike out. That is to say, the flame was sparked at the very beginning of throwing the punch. The problem was that the flame was still too weak to endure the blow of the airflow from the opposite direction for a long while.

"Launch the force when the fist is very close to the opponent. That's the abrupt explosive force? It should work to combine it with the flame... " Lou Cheng thought it over. He shook his arm and stroked it out as if a spear. It was until he launched the abrupt explosive force that he tried to speed up the streaming heat flow within his body.

Pang!

A flame burnt with a sharp crack, covering the surface of his fist to hit the target.

Although the flame wavered and then quickly died out, Lou Cheng grinned with pleasure. The goal was basically obtained! The weak flame would not do harm to the opponent or ignite his clothes. Yet, it would still hurt and rattle the opponent to burn him with it in the very nick of time. The opponent's fault was exactly the fighter's opportunity!

There was chance for him to defeat the opponents of the Professional Ninth Pin again if he could manipulate the Power of Blaze well. However, the flame should be used as a last resort, because his opponents would be alert to the technique once it gave them a beating.

Lou Cheng formed some idea about how to strengthen the Power of Blaze after pondering over it for more than one day. That was to improve his physique!

He did not have the physique for the Burn Force released from the Jindan currently, which almost killed him last time. Things would be going differently if his physique was as magnificent as that of a fighter of the Professional Ninth Pin or Danqi stage. When he was able to bear the boomerang of the Jindan, he could attempt to absorb its Ice Force and Burn Force. The process of solving the hidden trouble while improving his physique was surely dangerous. He had to be very cautious not to draw forth exceeding force. It was a matter of life and death.

Bringing himself from thoughts back to the exercise, Lou Cheng practiced the 24 Blizzard Strikes several times, attempting to integrate the Power of Blaze into the abrupt explosive force. When basically grasping the skill, he looked at Jiang Fei and smiled. "How's the practice?" he said. "Can you feel the concealment of spirit and qi?"

Jiang Fei opened his eyes and said with a devastated crying face, "Not yet!"

However, he soon pretended to be angry. "It's all your fault!
You made such noise! How can I meditate?"

"An old monk is able to meditate while the newly-wed is entering the bridal chamber next to him," Lou Cheng teased. "Let's have breakfast and then go home. You've reach your utmost limit today." Jiang Fei breathed a sigh of relief, "Will it take great perseverance for me to get up tomorrow because of sore muscles?"

Lou Cheng smiled. "You'll feel sore in a while, not tomorrow morning. It'll be fine after practicing for a few days when you adapt to the training rhythm."

When they passed by the place where the disciples of the Gushan Martial Arts School were training, Qin Rui suddenly called out loud:

"Fatty Jiang! Lou Cheng!"

They stopped, seeing Qin Rui trotting along with a big smile. "Could you do me a favor?"

"For what? What can two poor schoolboys do for you?" Jiang Fei was quick-witted, so it was impossible to make him borrow money. Qin Rui said with a gentle smile, "Not a big deal. You are helping to organize the class reunion, Fatty Jiang?"

"Yes, so?" Both Jiang Fei and Lou Cheng were confused about what exactly Qin Rui would request of them.

Qin Rui pointed at the members of the Gushan Martial Arts School.

"The disciples of the Mingwei Martial Arts School gave us a letter of challenge just now. They wanna learn from each other and gain combat experience, so as not to lose the face of Xiushan in the preliminaries. They set the time the day after tomorrow, and we set the place. I suggested the North Courtyard of the Conference Villa of the Spring Scenery Field in view of the class reunion that day. Could you ask the monitor to organize our classmates to come to cheer for us?"

Jiang Fei suddenly understood his intention. "You wanna push yourself forward before the classmates?" "A little bit..." Qin Rui smiled awkwardly. "I mainly wanna advertise our team participating in the preliminaries next year. The manager of the foundation would decide the winner according to the candidates' popularity if our scores are close. Be reassured, please. The match is in the North Courtyard. We won't disturb the reunion in the South Courtyard."

There was a martial arts stadium in the North Courtyard of the Conference Villa of the Spring Scenery Field while some recreation facilities in the South Courtyard.

Jiang Fei got a rough idea of Qin Rui's intention. He did not give his promise directly. "I'll tell the monitor about your request. But I can't guarantee she'll agree to it. Anyway, who will care about the monitor after graduation? I suggest that you invite the classmates to watch your match then. I guess there must be many willing to watch the match and cheer for you."

The monitor was Qiu Hailin, the organizer of the class reunion.

"Right! Mr. Wu will be there that day. As a crazy fan of martial arts, he will definitely want to see it. Since the head teacher takes the lead, there must be many classmates following him to cheer for you," Lou Cheng added.

Lou Cheng identified with Qin Rui's desire for the cheering and applause. He gained his desire of hearing the audience cheering his name in the Warrior Sage Challenge Tournament. Moreover, he received an extra gift—— The first "come on" from Yan Zheke won much cheering and applause!

It seemed that Qin Rui wanted to reach out to touch them, but he managed to resist the impulse and smiled. "OK, I'll come to invite our classmates to watch the match... Well, there's a mistake. I'm already in the reunion and don't need to 'come to it'. I'll be there... "

After that funny line, Qin Riu said goodbye to both Lou Cheng and Jiang Fei and trotted back to the training team.

Looking at Qin Rui's back, Jiang Fei murmured to himself, "What a narcissist..." "Not that bad. It's natural for anyone to do so," Lou Cheng said in favor of Qin Rui.

After a few of steps, Jiang Fei turned around and joked along. "Cheng, how about you jumping on the ring and beating all opponents? The one in the limelight will be you. Your strength is not weaker than theirs, right? "

"Am I crazy?" Lou Cheng said with a sneer, "Why do I meddle in their match? Their target is the preliminaries while mine is the National University Martial Arts Competitions. One does not interfere with the other's business just like the well water does not intrude into the river water."

Lou Cheng and Jiang Fei chatted and laughed walking out of the Park. They had braised pork noodles and other snacks at a breakfast stall.

"How will we get back?" Jiang Fei asked as he wiped his mouth.

Lou Cheng answered with a smirk. "We'll run back!" The face of Jiang Fei immediately turned pale. "Brother Cheng. No! Master Cheng, It'll kill me to run another ten kilometers!"

"Don't be such a coward. I’m only kidding." Lou Cheng took out of his phone and booked a car online.

Jiang Fei sighed in relief. "I have to believe what you are saying. When you told me we were running to the People's Park of Sanli Pavilion, I believed you were joking. Well , the truth was..."

...

Back home, Lou Cheng refreshed himself with a shower and felt that his cold, which was caused by the boomerang, had gone completely. He turned on the computer, logged into QQ, and checked his E-mail box to see whether Geezer Shi had sent him the videos and other materials.

Apparently, Geezer Shi did not get up early without training his disciple. Lou Cheng did not seem to care. He clicked on Yan Zheke's profile and sent a muscle emoji. "I feel powerful and energetic again after the morning exercise!"

Yan Zheke sent him a laughter emoji with its mouth covered by its hands. "You're not Lou Daiyu anymore. Disappointed!"

"By the way, Coach Yan. I wanna seek some advice from you." Lou Cheng sent a pair of piercing eyes.

"Say it! My good mood now is your chance!" Yan Zheke sent an emoji of a curling finger.

Lou Cheng replied a smirk. "You know that I got the prize of 15 thousand RMB. Apart from treating you to a nice dinner and a trip in Songcheng, I'd like to give a present to my mom and dad respectively. It's the first present I bought for them with the money earned by myself. Some advice for the present?"

Lou Cheng tried to involve Yan Zheke in his private affairs to promote their intimacy. Of course, he indeed did not have any idea of what to buy for his parents.

Yan Zheke sent a stunned dog emoji. "I never see your parents and have no idea what their hobbies are. How can I give you constructive advice? You'd better offer some choices and then I'll give you some suggestions."

Lou Cheng thought for a while. "How about clothes?"

"Not bad." Yan Zheke sent a pondering emoji with its hands crossed under its chin. "There is a problem. Do you know your parents' size? XL or XXL? their waist line?"

Lou Cheng seemed frozen and sent an ellipsis. "..."

"I do know... So, the daughter is more considerate than the son." Yan Zheke sent back an emoji sighing with its palms facing up. "Hehe, I wanna have a daughter too," Lou Cheng followed.

They chatted for a while on the topic of son and daughter before they continued to discuss the presents for Lou Cheng's parents. Lou Cheng asked, "How about asking my parents directly?"

"Um, no surprise at all! Are they at home? You can have a look at their wardrobe to see what kind of clothes they need. Of course, the presents are not necessarily very expensive, being overcoats and the like. You have to budget the use of your prize. When your martial arts level reaches the Danqi stage, you'll need to spend a small fortune on the tonic medicine." Yan Zheke advised Lou Cheng with a righteous looking emoji.

"Coach Yan is right!" Lou Cheng answered with excitement.
He came to the master bedroom and opened the wardrobe.

Um... How long has the jacket been worn by dad? I remember it was there when I was a pupil... His woolen sweater had many pills, and some parts were nearly worn out...

Mom's thermal underwear looked very old. How long had it been worn?

Lou Cheng looked at their clothes one by one, which he had never paid attention to before. He always thought that his parents' old clothes would be replaced by new ones after their living conditions got better, just like his had.

The truth was, as he saw, that they lived a very frugal existence, which involved just buying themselves a few suits of clothing for social activities. Yet, they were willing to spend every single coin on their son...

Most clothes in their wardrobe had be worn for many years. They grudgingly bought new clothes for themselves only if the old ones could not be sewn up again.

Lou Cheng took a deep breath while his eyes turned red. He settled down, feeling sorry for his mom and dad. Lou Cheng kept the size and other information in mind and came back to his room. He sent a message to Yan Zheke.

"I wanna buy my dad a woolen sweater and my mom two suits of thermal underwear..."

After receiving the information of size, Yan Zheke selected several styles for him. "I think these are good. You can make a choice and buy one in the local store. It might be a little bit more expensive than buying it online. Anyway, you're newly rich (squint action). I've to mention that the express delivery will resume work after the Spring Festival. How sad it is... "

Yan Zheke went for her martial arts training after dealing with Lou Cheng's request. Lou Cheng played an online game for a while. Suddenly, he heard the door open and heard a familiar cough.

Mom and dad came back!

Chapter 79: Father and Mother

"Cheng?" Lou Cheng's mother shouted, just as she opened the door.

Lou Cheng quickly put the mouse down and walked out. He said in a surprized and delighted tone, "You guys came back so early!"

"Early? Not really. If your father hadn't been slacking off, I would be cooking already!" Lou Cheng's mother replied while changing her shoes.

Lou Cheng's father wore glasses with gold rims, had stubborn hair that refused to be straightened out, and a face that looked pale white after shaving. He smiled bitterly, "Your mother is always in a hurry. After getting up in the morning, she was anxious to come back before we even had breakfast. I said, 'What's the point? We haven't eaten breakfast, and it's not time to make lunch yet. Why the rush?' "

"Yes, you're always right!" Lou Cheng's mother shot a glare at him and said, "So you mean that I don't need to go grocery shopping? Aren't you worried about your son?"

"Cheng is an adult now. He has hands, feet, money and a cell phone. What's there to be worried about?" Lou Cheng's father changed into his slippers and slowly walked into the living room, his hands clutching his thermos.

He wore a black overcoat, stood about one meter seventy, and was slightly shorter than Lou Cheng. His figure was thin, and his face showed signs of adversity. He didn't have many wrinkles, but his cheeks were already sagging slightly.

Seeing his parents squabble, like they always do, made Lou Cheng feel his heart reverberate with warmth. He chuckled, "I went out to exercise, and ate breakfast with Jiang Fei."

"Exercise?" Lou Cheng's mother glared at him and said in doubt. "Cheng, you used to sleep in until noon during the holiday, when have you changed?"

She wore a red, fitted, down jacket, and had even purposely coiled up her hair because she was attending a wedding. She had obvious crow's feet at the corners of her eyes, and she had put on a little weight, but she looked to be in good spirits, and her complexion was fantastic.

"What's wrong with exercise? Health is wealth!" As an intellectual, Lou Cheng's father had always felt obliged to give his opinion.

"You talk too much! I'm speaking with my son!" Lou Cheng's mother glared down at him once again.

Lou Cheng restrained his laughter and said, "Haven't I told you? I joined the university's martial arts club. I'm used to getting up early and doing exercise every day now."

"Martial arts club? You shouldn't fight with others and get yourself hurt," Lou Cheng's mother jawed. "Now I must go grocery shopping and prepare a delicious meal for you. You seem to have lost a lot of weight. Obviously, you didn't eat well in the university." Lou Cheng replied at a loss, "Not true. I have actually gained almost fifteen pounds."

"Look at your face, is there any sign of getting fat?" Lou Cheng's mother asked in disbelief.

Knowing that actions speak louder than words, Lou Cheng took out the electronic scale, took off his coat and stood on it.

"Is this scale broken? Run out of power? How did you put on fifteen pounds?" looking at the number, Lou Cheng's mother asked with surprize.

Lou Cheng laughed and pointed at his arm, "The added weight is in the muscles. Although I'm not fat, my muscles grow robust; this is due to the martial arts training. I can eat two-and-a-half times what a senior year in high school can. Mom, you'll need to prepare more food later."

He was light in weight before. But now, with his increased capacity for eating and strengthening his muscles, Lou Cheng was at the normal weight of a fighter. However, in Geezer Shi's words, he should be heavier to have enough strength for fighting.

"Robust is good," Lou Cheng's mother said with a smile. "You can go to the marketplace with me tomorrow and pick stuff up for me. New Year's is coming, we'll hoard some food. Otherwise, it will be difficult to buy it during New Year's time."

Before Lou Cheng replied, she rushed into the kitchen, and took the draggable trolley, then changed her shoes, pulled open the door, and left.

Unscrewing the thermos cup, Lou Cheng's father took a sip of strong tea and said while shaking his head, "Your mom has been an impetuous person all her life."

"That's OK," Lou Cheng walked to the couch beside his father and sat down, "she always goes on about your stubborn temperament too."

Putting the thermos cup on the tea table, Lou Cheng's father sat down and asked, "How are you doing in school?" He had already heard the answers from Lou Cheng's mother about these questions, but felt he would seem indifferent if he didn't even mention it.

Hearing his father's words, Lou Cheng laughed and said, "I was wondering whether you would ask this cliché, and you finally asked!"

Lou Cheng's father was stunned and suddenly sighed, "Cheng, you have become more cheerful after half a year in the university."

"Dad, was I austere or introverted before?" Lou Cheng asked in doubt.

Lou Cheng's father replied with a smile, "I don't mean that you were austere before. I just think you're more cheerful now. In the old days, you just answered the questions one by one. But now, look at you, you take the initiative."

Lou Cheng's father said humorously, like the actor's lines in the short play. Lou Cheng laughed and subconsciously replied, "It might be that there is a lot less pressure in school, and my roommates are all friendly and easy to get along with. So, I have become more cheerful."

More accurately, it was that he had become more talkative.
Thanks to Little Ming!

Practicing martial arts uplifted his spirit, chasing Yan Zheke exercised his speech, and squabbling with Little Ming improved his sense of humor. These were all indisputable facts; which to the others made him seem comfortable, leisurely, and dynamic.

The ancients often spoke about good teachers and helpful friends. And Lou Cheng's change must be the result of good friends, and he would benefit from this throughout his whole lifetime.

As the saying goes, "The fox changes his skin but not his habits." However, human nature became fixed through a slow process. Lou Cheng himself was just now shaping up and was still undergoing changes. Therefore, he would still be affected by his surroundings. It was lucky for him to have good friends, good masters, and to have met a nice girl. Of course, even though his nature had become fixed, he might change after going through misfortune or adversity.

"Umm, it's good for you to be the way you are now." Lou Cheng's father nodded his head and said, "But you should still devote yourself to your studies even if there isn't much pressure. The efforts you invest now will forge your ability in the future. The newly hired college students in our factory indeed know nothing... Don't listen to the bullshit that you can just relax and have fun after entering the university. Or else, you'll end up regretting it"

Before, Lou Cheng had always been impatient with these teachings. But now, not at all his usual self, he said, "That's true. I have three roommates who are enthusiastic in school. Every time I see them, I feel meek and push myself to work harder."

He found his father was gazing upon the Ningshui hard liquor, so he explained, "It's the original-proof spirits that Wang Xu brought. He drank two cups himself." "Old Wang's boy?" Lou Cheng's father muttered. "Don't get too close to him. It's a pity that, because of his son, Old Wang has to suffer in his old age after a rough life."

"Dad, I understand. I'll avoid contact with these hoodlums." Lou Cheng had come to his decision calmly through his chatting with Yan Zheke.

"It's good for you to get to this point. You know, I made friends with several well-known bosses in Xiushan. Although they look polite and friendly and speak sensibly in business, they must have employees that would kill and fight for them. Otherwise, why would anyone be polite and friendly to them? Every boss just strives to get to the top, through killing and fighting. When they have no money and no relationships, they must be incredibly cruel to keep their people in check."

Lou Cheng's father couldn't help but have these strong feelings. He had helplessly watched the transformation of young workers into hoodlums, some of which even got addicted to drugs and brought instability to the community. Lou Cheng nodded his head and said, "Anyway, I don't like to be exposed to these dark things."

Wasn't it much better for a man to live in the sunshine?

"I hope that Old Wang's boy could have a change of heart in a few years," Lou Cheng's father sighed.

As one grows older, he shouldn't dare to risk his life killing and fighting without a good reason. If he hasn't yet ascended to a higher position, he should fade out from the game gradually. Of course, that's assuming he hasn't been involved in some serious crimes and is still alive at that time.

Lou Cheng was about to reply when his father added, "Do you still remember Old Han's son?"

"Yeah, I remember. What happened to him?" Lou Cheng asked in surprise. Old Han's son was a legend of the community and the senior of Wang Xu and others. He was talented in martial arts and got close to the professional level. Leading a group of youth workers from the factory, he pioneered a world of his own among the gangs in Xiushan. But several years earlier, he killed three men fighting for a mine and the situation got violent. Displeasing so many people, he ran away and lay low for years.

Lou Cheng's father sighed, "After hiding himself for several years, he thought his case was forgotten. So he came back alone in November but was blocked on the national highway. In the police's words, he made a last-ditch fight and was shot on the spot."

"Shot on the spot..." Lou Cheng gasped.

He used to listen to the kidnapping case from Cai Zongming, and he didn't have any feelings when he heard the gangster was shot to death. But now it was different because the dead person was his acquaintance who lived next door. And he was just shot on the spot? "I hope that Wang Xu could get away from this fate... " He made a wish.

Instead of continuing this depressing topic, Lou Cheng's father turned the TV on. As he watched, he talked with Lou Cheng about his life in the University until Lou Cheng's mother got back from grocery shopping. Then he took a drink of strong tea and went into the kitchen to help with cleaning vegetables and cutting meat.

A few moments later, Lou Cheng smelled a pervasive fragrance coming from the quick-fried eel, which was his favorite. Unconsciously, he swallowed some saliva, feeling that he could eat an entire bowl of rice with just that smell.

His appetite was cultivated from childhood. No matter how delicious the food outside was, he would feel that it was no better than the food eaten at home. Surely, there must be some truth that his parents were skilled cooks, and not just cooking casually.

Lou Cheng made a clean sweep of the dishes on the eating table. His mother felt delighted that her cooking was appreciated and started to talk about family matters, like having the New Year's banquet at Grandpa's; how much lucky money to prepare for the younger kids; and the cousin who suffered setbacks managing the restaurant and went back to work.

While drinking original-proof spirits, Lou Cheng's father once in a while interjected a remark.

Under the intimate atmosphere, Lou Cheng felt content about the food, from his stomach to his heart.

He decided that he would mention the martial arts practice and competition when he gave presents to his parents!

In the afternoon, he chatted with his mother for a while first, then he made an appointment with Cheng Qili and went out to buy presents.

... "Cheng, I want to confess my love for the Monitor during this party,"

Cheng Qili dropped this bombshell message inside the water club as soon as they met each other, which left Lou Cheng in shock for a while.

"When did you fall in love with Qiu Hailin? I have never heard about it from you," Lou Cheng asked crossly.

Chapter 80: Classmates Reunion

"Don't you remember that I had once been the seatmate with her for one semester? Since then we got to know each other quite well... " Cheng Qili said with a lowering voice.

With his short hair divided in a ratio of thirty to seventy, he wore a pair of thick black rimmed glasses in half frames. There were several pimples on his head and acne at the corner of his mouth due to excessive internal heat. Though he looked very introverted (like the person of the saying "No matter how he is tortured, he won't even let out a silent fart,") he would surprise you when you got along with him for a long time. When talking about something he found interesting, he would become an incontinent talker.

Lou Cheng recovered from the shock and said in a gossiping tone, "I had been wondering why you frequently talked with the Monitor at that time. So you've had a crush on her since then? Ha, ha, how does she treat you? Or how familiar have you two become now?"

In Lou Cheng's impression, their Monitor Qiu Hailin looked dignified and was quite capable of organizing. The only thing worthy of mentioning was her old-fashioned hairstyle and glasses. As the Playboy Tao Xiaofei, who sat in front of him in high school, had said, "See through the appearance to perceive the essence. The Monitor has good facial features and skin, but she looks like the head teacher due to her aunt-type hairstyle and the middle school teacher type glass. One might mistake her for the head teacher."

Thinking of her hairstyle, Lou Cheng was unable to restrain himself from disclosing funny things about Qiu Hailin. Although he was not familiar with Qiu Hailin, he couldn't help staring at her forehead when each time he talked with her or met her. She just leisurely exposed her high lined forehead without covering it with her hair, making one feel the impulse to knock at her forehead.

After a careful thought, Cheng Qili said, "We never have awkward silence during our chats, and there's always something to talk about."

Dumbfounded, Lou Cheng replied. "So you intend to confess your feeling for her just like this?" "Why not?" Cheng Qili felt at a loss.

Feeling that Cheng Qili was muddle-headed just like he was several months ago, Lou Cheng said sincerely, "The Monitor went to university in the Capital while you were in the provincial capital. How did you two get in touch with each other in usual time?"

"QQ of course," Cheng Qili answered in a natural tone.

"How often did you chat with each other? How long was each talk?" Lou Cheng asked in an orderly manner.

Thinking for a while, Cheng Qili answered, "Every two or three days. We could chat for one or two hours when we were in full spate."

"The right answer should be chatting all day every day"... Lou Cheng couldn't help but say, with his hands covering his forehead. "Is there any sign that the Monitor shows affinity with you, or is there any romantic involvement?" "Umm... " Lost in thought, Cheng Qili answered after a long time. "That doesn't hinder me expressing my feelings for her. I do it because I like her, not vice versa."

Heaving a sigh and recalling the words of "Casanova" Cai Zongming, Lou Cheng said, "Cheng, love confession isn't just like this... "

He reorganized the teachings of Little Ming and told Cheng Qili in an understandable way. Cheng Qili was struck dumb with astonishment, as if he had entered the door to a new world.

Hearing this, Cheng Qili went absent-minded for a while and then said in a worshiping tone, "Cheng, if it weren't for you, I'd have screwed this up. It's clear to me now that one shouldn't express his feelings for a girl directly! Oh, where did you learn this? I remember that you didn't get into a relationship in high school. Have you become suddenly enlightened in university?"

He nearly stretched out his hands to hold and shake Lou Cheng. Drunk in his worshiping sight, Lou Cheng felt the delight of "being a teacher" and said with a laugh, "I'm chasing a girl, so I learn from others and have summarized my own experience."

"No wonder!" Cheng Qili said in surprize, "You didn't mention that you were chasing after a girl."

Lou Cheng replied with a hollow laugh. "I intend to leave it in suspense before I make it, for the fear that it would be awkward if I fail."

"Ha ha, introduce her to us at that time." Cheng Qili joked in the same way Jiang Fei did.

"It would surprize you when I introduce her to you." Lou Cheng got lost in daydreaming for a while and continued to chitchat with Cheng Qili. They talked freely about funny things they had encountered in school respectively. However, unlike what he did for the girl he fell in love with, he wouldn't bother to talk about all matters, whether important or trivial, to crude men like Jiang Fei and Cheng Qili! After talking and laughing to past four o'clock, Cheng Qili went back home to keep accompany with his relatives. Lou Cheng, taking his phone, came to a local business center under the instruction of Yan Zheke. He found the two physical stores and bought two lady's autumn clothes and one knitted sweater directly.

Yan Zheke murmured at his unthoughtfulness, "You nearly drive me mad! I can't believe you pay for them directly without even asking whether there is any activity, scraping-up of orders, or discounts."

Lou Cheng answered in a weak tone, "The price seems reasonable... "

Yan Zheke said with a dazing emoji, "Well, that's what Cheng would do, very manly... What a spendthrift!"

Returning back home, Lou Cheng walked through the living room with great care to avoid his mother, who was cooking. He hid the presents in his room with an expectation to surprise his parents on New Year's Eve. Just then, he received an E-mail from Geezer Shi containing videos and detailed data about Big or Small Hand Wrap. Watching them while discussing them with Yan Zheke, he reached to a theoretical grasp about the Big or Small Hand Wrap.

Frankly speaking, the Big or Small Hand Wrap was about Catch and Reverse Catch and would achieve a fantastic effect with listening skill in close battle. Compared with other fighting skills which might cause serious injuries or even deaths, the Big or Small Hand Wrap was a good choice for street fighting. Among the attached data, Lou Cheng found the illustration about joints were fascinating.

...

Before long, the day came for the get-together of high school classmates. Lou Cheng and Jiang Fei went back home respectively after exercise. They took a shower, changed their clothes, got into the taxi and headed toward the rendezvous.

"Coach Yan, I'm about to meet Du Liyu today. Do you have any suggestion on how to bully him? For he had taken your dear friend sitting behind you as his girlfriend." Sitting in the car and watching the scenery on both sides, Lou Cheng sent the message to Yan Zheke with a cheeky grin.

Yan Zheke replied with a proud emoji wearing sunglasses. "Just throw him on the ground!"

"Umm... Under the gaze of assembled company, others may misinterpret this as my unrequited love for Song Li." Lou Cheng replied with a "dumbstruck" emoji.

"Just a joke!" Yan Zheke said with a "stretching hands" emoji. "You can ask him about his love affair with Song Li by inference and pay attention to his answers. I must guard a pass for my friend. Cheng, I hereby entrust this important intelligence duty to you, and wish that you won't fail my expectation!"

"Haha, you may rest assured, and I'll finish my duty!" answered Lou Cheng with a bright smile. After he arrived at the rendezvous, he saw Fatty Jiang, as the assistant organizer of the get-together, had already got there. In Lou Cheng's eyes, Fatty Jiang could be described with the saying "He has aching waist, back, and legs, but he could climb to the fifth floor with one breath."

His weight-reducing plan hadn't had much effect yet, but Fatty Jiang looked more energetic and was talking with the Monitor Qiu Hailin and the others right now. Right beside them standing Cheng Qili, who had changed a suit of new clothes to look clean with high spirits, and broke in with few words now and then.

Unconsciously, Lou Cheng threw a glance at Qiu Hailin's forehead by force of habit. With her big forehead still exposed, Qiu Hailin looked totally different and was almost a beauty, for her hair was more fashionable, and her eyeglasses changed to invisible ones.

Smiling, he walked toward Qiu Hailin to greet her.

"Cheng, you have changed a lot, and I nearly can't recognize you." Qiu Hailin said this with a smile. Lou Cheng laughed. "Speaking of changes, I can't compare with you. Look at your deskmate, he is trembling with surprize and doesn't dare to speak."

Imitating Cai Zongming, Lou Cheng tried to connect Cheng Qili with Qiu Hailin to create the atmosphere for him.

Brother, I've done my best to help you!

Amidst the laughter of their classmates, Cheng Qili was abashed while Qiu Hailin said with her mouth covered, "Look at the imposing manner you're talking, you really have changed. By the way, do you still remember you deskmate?"

She pointed at the girl who was wearing a light blue cotton- padded jacket.

The girl was called Cao Lele, deskmate of Lou Cheng during his first year and second year in senior high school. With a small nose, small eyes, and small mouth, Cao Lele looked comely, and she was also the one Lou Cheng and Yan Zheke talked of at the topic of menstruation. Looking at Cao Lele, Lou Cheng unconsciously recalled the topic and his sudden recollection at that time, he couldn't help but laugh out. Nodding his head, he said, "How could I forget? Classmate Lele was almost half an English teacher to me."

Seeing his whimsical expression, Cao Lele said in surprize, "Lou Cheng, what's wrong with you?"

"Oh, nothing, nothing at all. I was just thinking of other things." Lou Cheng would never talk about that topic foolishly.

More and more classmates arrived. Qin Rui came to greet and discuss with Jiang Fei and Qiu Hailin in whispers. Tao Xiaofei, the dandyish classmate sitting in front of Lou Cheng also reached here, driving his BMW Seven Series. He exchanged pleasantries with Lou Cheng, larding with dirty topics.

Old Wu and Teacher Xin showed up their face. A skinny middle-aged man, Old Wu wore a pair of big glasses, which nearly covered half of his face, and showed no sign of enthusiasm for martial arts. While Teacher Xin, a delicate and exquisite lady, had become their head teacher two years later after her graduation, and handed the responsibility of a head teacher to Old Wu for her lack of experience during their third year in senior high school.

Du Liyu arrived later. Since dating a girlfriend, he became exquisite in his dressing. Wearing a black coat, he looked vigorous in short hair with his height of one meter and eighty. His eyebrow was dense and black as always, for which he was given the name "Crayon Shinchan".

Dragging Jiang Fei, Lou Cheng murmured to him, "Fatty Jiang, we shall cooperate with each other later. I want to make Du Liyu confess his love affair with Song Li."

Jiang Fei laughed and said, "Cheng, I didn't realize until now you are a bigger gossip than me. Is it necessary to go that deep? Have you got feelings for Song Li?"

"I'm doing a favor for someone else," Lou Cheng answered briefly.

"Who?" Jiang Fei asked in confusion and bewilderment. Lou Cheng laughed. "Of course, it's Song Li's bestie Yan Zheke."

"Jesus!" With his mouth widely open, Jiang Fei breathed in a northwest wind. Immersed in shock for quite a long while, he said to Lou Cheng with his thumb up, "Cheng, you surprise me. You have got Yan Zheke's number!"

At this time, almost all the classmates arrived. Fatty Jiang couldn't have said more before he organized them to board on the traveling bus.

The assembly point was over ten kilometers from the Nine Curves of Xiushan, and it was still a long way from the Nine Curves to the Conference Villa of Spring Scenery Field, which required climbing up the mountain. But actually, except for Lou Cheng who had enough physical strength, no one else would like to walk to the destination from the Nine Curves. Qiu Hailin ordered a bus to get everyone to the Conference Villa. Anyone who was fond of climbing mountain could himself climb it during their free time. The fee for the get-together, two hundred yuan each one, was collected online earlier. The overcharge would be returned while the shortage would be paid by Tao Xiaofei.

Getting on the bus, Lou Cheng sat straightforwardly beside Du Liyu, which shocked him for a while because he was not very familiar with Lou Cheng.

At that time, Qiu Hailin counted the number on the spot.
Clapping her hands, she said in the front,

"Except Tao Xiaofei and several other people who are driving to there, everyone is present. Please be quiet for a while, Qin Rui has something to tell us."

Standing beside Qiu Hailin, Qin Rui said smilingly with his hands in a salute gesture,

"I'm about to fight at a Martial Arts Competition at the North Garden of the Conference Villa today. It concerns the preliminaries after the New Year. Your appearance will be sincerely appreciated. At this moment, I wish you guys a happy New Year in advance!"

Coming by such a joyful thing was hard. The classmates got agitated with barracking first then shouts next, and expressed their willingness to watch the competition. The site became bustling with noise and excitement for a while.

Actually speaking, Lou Cheng was also very interested in it, because he was eager to know about the level of martial arts circle at his hometown.

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