Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
The people in the banquet were in a celebratory mood when they heard the picture painted by sect master Ou about his plans for their future. Everyone was excited as if chicken blood was spilled and they exchanged toasts generously with one another as though the whole Jianghu world had already belonged to the Piaomiao sect.
There were naturally people who were still clear-headed in the discussion hall. These included Ou Peng who was surrounded by people asking to exchange toasts, the other six tigers of Piaomiao, the smooth talking Ou Yan who would taste a sip from her wine cups every now and then, and a few other people. There was no lack of sharp people in Jianghu, but not many were able to direct their peers and spread their thoughts to other people. Even though these people knew that their sect master’s words were not likely to come true, the Jianghu was bathed with a red sunset everyday so why not celebrate each day as it comes with their friends and fellow peers?
Outside the discussion hall was a night full of laughter.
A few days after the banquet, Shui Yupeng rushed to Luoshui sect to regain command and reconsolidate their powers, and under his request, Ou Peng reluctantly loaned Shangguan Fengliu and a thousand elites to accompany him to help deal with the internal affairs of his sect.
After the blood pact was signed between Piaomiao sect and Luoshui sect, an insignificant wave rippled across the Jianghu and although most people did not take further notice of it, there were people in a few places who had the opposite reaction.
Within the main hall of thousand swords peak, Wan Chengjiu’s face was ashen by several shade when he heard his subordinate’s report. He gripped the armrest of his chair and said, “Now that Piaomiao sect has expanded like this, what can our thousand swords peak do about it? Does anyone have a reasonable suggestion? If not, go to the grassroots and bring a few representatives to discuss this matter with me.”
In a flower pavilion within Chuanxiang church, a heart-piercing fragrance permeated, and a pair of jade white hands picked up an exquisite piece of paper with floral designs. A melodious voice sounded out, “Sect master Ou is truly a dragon among men, my eyes have not deceived me but I did not expect that you could advance to such a level, just wait and see.”
Under the candlelight of a secluded room in Dalin temple, a pair of withered hands carried a small piece of paper. The person took a glance, used two fingers to pinch it causing the piece of paper of burst into flames and the ashes floated onto the floor. A hoarse voice rang out, “Wretchedly stupid. Such a tantalizing temptation was placed under their nose but they refused to eat it and got eaten up instead. This old man’s efforts have been entirely wasted, it seems that I have to adjust my plans. This Piaomiao sect, you think a starving camel be compared to a horse?”
In a mysterious place, a mysterious person said mysteriously, “This Piaomiao sect is still so vibrant. Piaomiao sect… Why hasn’t it been annihilated yet?”
However, all these were things that Ou Peng would never know as he and the Piaomiao sect took another firm footstep towards their goals.
The events in Piaomiao sect were not privy to Zhang Xiaohua, not to mention the consequent stirrings in the rest of Jianghu. Right at that moment, Zhang Xiaohua had reached a bottleneck in his pursuit of the fist stances in martial arts.
Although it was called a bottleneck, Zhang Xiaohua was still experiencing some improvements. After casually teaching Zhang Xiaohua the foundational fist stances, the four men from Piaomiao sect moved on to share the various random fist martial arts they had come across, such as the Liu family fist, Cai family fist, Li family fist, Mo family fist, Wu family fist, Xue family fist. However, a stranger phenomenon occurred. Like previously before, Zhang Xiaohua would forget the more he practiced, and would only retain three to four stances in his memory after the night practice session. But when it came to the next day, he would forget everything, and even if he was taught the same fist martial art again, the results would repeat themselves the next day, causing He Tianshu to scratch out the back of his ears.
In He Tianshu’s perspective, Zhang Xiaohua was considered a genius for being able to exert more than five hundred jin of strength in one arm without any prior martial art training, and even though strength was not too important to the people in Jianghu, it was heart-moving just thinking of the results after combining it with some martial arts training. Even though the boy’s age was too old to achieve greater accomplishments in the future, and he would never be on par with people like Shi Niu, it was more than possible to change the current situation of He Tianshu and the rest. However, why was this Zhang Xiaohua such an idiot? There was really nothing else to say, even though the boy did not seem to have any problem with his mental faculties, but he just simply could not pick up any martial arts. He was even unable to remember the simplest entry-level martial arts, not to mention that he still did not know any inner energy cultivation method. At least few days ago, even when Zhang Xiaohua could not pick up everything, he still managed to retain some knowledge, and perhaps became more enlightened on the way. However, now that the situation had come to this, He Tianshu was feeling thoroughly disheartened, his final opinion was, Zhang Xiaohua was like a rotten block of wood that could not be sculpted into anything useful at all.
Hence, He Tianshu said this to the boy, “Zhang Xiaohua, your martial arts has reached a bottleneck, and to break through this bottleneck would require a timely opportunity. I will not teach you any new martial arts for now, you can continue to practice on the previous ones you have learnt, and after you break through this bottleneck, I will teach you more martial arts again,” and left Zhang Xiaohua in the lurch as the latter continued to hold his horse stance and ponder about the incomplete martial arts he managed to retain.
At least Zhang Xiaohua still had diligence. He would get up the moment the sun appeared in the sky, and would not return to his room until it was late in the night, while spending most of his time at the same spot practicing his incomplete martial arts no matter rain or shine, or even when there was lightning in the sky. His determination led He Tianshu to feel touched, but when the latter reminded himself of Zhang Xiaohua’s frighteningly poor memory, he would give up any further thoughts and not place any hope of the boy anymore.
He Tianshu was not the only person who was moved by Zhang Xiaohua’s diligence, the one-armed elder Yu would watch Zhang Xiaohua almost every day so he was very clear about the latter’s situation. He would nod his head continuously, but his approval was reserved only for Zhang Xiaohua’s determination and not for his talent in martial arts at all.
On that night, the wind was cool and gentle, and He Tianshu was in a good mood. When he saw Zhang Xiaohua fumbling around the same few stances of his, his heart moved and he called out to the boy, “Zhang Xiaohua, you must have at least learnt something after training for such a long time. How about if I let you exchange some pointers with someone with some real martial practitioners?”
Zhang Xiaohua looked up towards He Tianshu and asked, “Squad leader He, do you think I can spar with my current abilities?”
He Tianshu smiled and replied, “Why not? All top martial pugilists began from somewhere, you don’t have to be afraid, I will instruct little second Nie to hold back and not take the match for real.”
After finishing his sentence, he called out to one of the Piaomiao disciples who were training at a side, “Little second Nie, come over and exchange some moves with Zhang Xiaohua. You can just play around and not take the match too seriously.”
Little second Nie stopped his training and went over, saying, “Alright, squad leader He, I understand.”
Little second Nie adjusted his legs and raised his palms to form a stance. Upon a glance, Zhang Xiaohua thought, ah, that looked familiar, was that not the Rohan fist opening stance? Even though it was his first time in a sparring match with someone else and his palms were already perspiring, he still went along and raised his fists to match little second Nie’s movements. Little second Nie shouted over, “Zhang Xiaohua, you can go first.”
Zhang Xiaohua answered, “Alright, be careful, brother Nie.”
After finishing his sentence, he raised his legs and stepped to the front, then thrusted his right arm towards little second Nie. The latter saw Zhang Xiaohua’s fist becoming bigger as he approached, and just as it was right before him, he dodged his body and used his left hand to grab onto Zhang Xiaohua’s wrist while his right arm formed a fist which headed towards Zhang Xiaohua’s nose bridge.
A normal person’s nose bridge is soft, and even though little second Nie had held back, Zhang Xiaohua still cried reflexively until his vision blurred, and he ignored the fight to use his sleeves to wipe off his tears.
When Zhang Xiaohua wiped away all his tears, he looked again at little second Nie and said with a more determined look, “Come, elder brother Nie, let’s continue.”
After finishing his sentence, the two people laid out their opening stances, and the sequences of this second round followed the previous one, except that Zhang Xiaohua’s speed was faster and little second Nie was unable to hold back in time as his fist hit squarely onto Zhang Xiaohua’s nose bridge. Zhang Xiaohua’s nose immediately began to bleed.”
Zhang Xiaohua immediately jumped out of the ring and wiped off his nosebleed, he shouted, “I am not fighting, not fighting anymore. Cheater, why did you not follow the sequence?”
Everyone was astonished, if not for the period of time they spent with Zhang Xiaohua which made them less vulnerable to surprises, his words would have made them stumble onto the ground again.
The pitiful Zhang Xiaohua had expected the spar to follow the same route as the martial arts sequences, and everyone present felt, “He really cannot be expected to be self-taught, it is still better to let him follow instructions and learn slowly step by step.”
After Zhang Xiaohua had settled down, He Tianshu went over to explain the meaning of exchanging pointers and the latter finally understood. Now that he thought about it, if everyone would display their martial arts sequence step by step, then where would there be the unpredictability and danger of a real fight?
On the third attempt, Zhang Xiaohua raised his guard and slowly matched little second Nie’s pace and stance. Although he began moving little by little, and his postures were unnatural and out-of-place, it could be seen that he had taken his first real step to spar.
The problem was that his hands, his arm, that leg were all very stiff, like a bird that just hatched out from its egg. He could not guard against his left while guarding his right, and could not guard his top when he guarded his bottom like a clumsy big bear. When he looked at little second Nie, the latter was looking amused as though he was playing a game, yet his body’s motions were extremely pretty like a butterfly fluttering around a flower. Zhang Xiaohua’s movements were unable to follow his opponents, and he had already received strikes on all parts of his body. Finally, Zhang Xiaohua became frustrated again, and when he saw little second Nie performing another stance, he felt that the Erlang fist would be a good counter and exerted all his strength to slam his fist in his opponent’s direction. The fist arrived in a “whoosh” to little second Nie’s front and it seemed to have landed onto the other party’s body. In Zhang Xiaohua’s mind, the fist should have sent little second Nie flying, after all, it had five hundred jin of force in it.
Contrary to his expectations, little second Nie met his fist calmly and changed his own fist to a palm to grab onto Zhang Xiaohua’s fist, while his other hand extended to grab Zhang Xiaohua’s shirt. With a switch of his legs, he skillfully deflected the punch and moved Zhang Xiaohua’s body to follow his momentum. Zhang Xiaohua’s little body was like an arrow that shot off the bow, his feet left the ground and he flew right onto the herb fields in front. Fortunately, the ground was soft and the herbs grown in the field were common so He Tianshu did not stop him.
Actually, this was precisely the reason why He Tianshu had lost all hope on Zhang Xiaohua. No matter how strong the boy was, if he could not use his strength effectively, he would be no different from a three year old child playing casually with a thousand jin heavy hammer. While it was interesting, he might drop it on his head and even lose his own life if he was not careful.
Even though Zhang Xiaohua’s strength was comparable to a thousand jin, he could not use any fist martial art or technique to make us of his strength. This little second Nie was only an outer disciple of Piaomiao set and he could easily take Zhang Xiaohua’s life, so what would happen if it was someone else?
Zhang Xiaohua walked back without a scratch but his clothes were stained with mud and weeds were in his hair. However, he was not downcast as He Tianshu expected, and instead, there was an expression of wonder and joy on his face as he walked to little second Nie’s front and urgently asked what type of martial art it was, and why he was not taught about it.
Little second Nie gave Zhang Xiaohua an innocent look, pointed towards He Tianshu and said, “Little brother, I think it will be better if squad leader He explain it to you.”
Zhang Xiaohua jogged over to He Tianshu to beg him to teach that sort of martial art, but He Tianshu replied in a tone which showed that he was caught in a difficult position as well. He said, “Zhang Xiaohua, I am fully supportive of you wanting to learn new martial arts, but not everything can be done as and when you like to. If your foundation is not stable, you will not be able to learn the upper level martial arts. What little second used was not a fist martial art but an application of one, if you have not even mastered the basics, how do you expect me to teach it to you? Furthermore, this deflection technique is not just about the posture, but requires knowledge on the application of force, and it contains Piaomiao sect’s unique principles. You are not a disciple of Piaomiao sect so I do not dare to teach it to you, and if you insist on learning it, then I will have to seek permission from the villa master, and only after I receive an approval will I begin to consider.”
Continuing on, He Tianshu smiled apologetically and said, “To explain further, this approval will actually require layers and layers of clearance and I would not know when it will reach back to me. The upper echelons way of doing things that can be quite debatable, so I think that it is better if you concentrate on the fist stances you have been taught, and we can make further arrangements after you break your bottleneck.”
After being rejected by He Tianshu, Zhang Xiaohua became dejected but he also knew that it was unlikely for him to receive the villa master’s grace. He was already fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to learn fist martial arts, and He Tianshu was very kind to have taught him many different fist martial arts. However, his mastery of fist stances was really poor so he did not have the qualifications to ask for more before brushing up on the ones he was already taught.
Hence, Zhang Xiaohua’s first ever martial arts sparring match ended like this. It might have been a game to little second Nie, but for Zhang Xiaohua, the latter felt as if he was initiated into a whole new world, or at least he had learnt that sparring was not simply repeating the sequences he was taught. Suddenly, a strike of inspiration hit him, wouldn’t he still be able to spar with his incomplete martial arts? So why did squad leader He wanted him to master all the fist martial arts before letting him advance to the next level?
This suspicion plagued Zhang Xiaohua’s mind for a long time but he had no answer to it.
Nevertheless, it did not withered down his passion to learn martial arts, and even after He Tianshu and the other Piaomiao members washed up and returned to their beds, Zhang Xiaohua continued to practice his pathetic and incomplete fist stances.
It had been more than a month since Zhang Xiaohua entered the Huanxi mountain villa, and his days were passed mostly on the medicinal fields hoeing the weeds and spraying water on the herbs which were not too different from what he was used to in Guo village. He would also not miss out on practicing his fist stances in the morning and evenings. Furthermore, the food provided were delicious and there was plenty of meat, so in Zhang Xiaohua’s eyes, the days he spent there were like a dream, and he had long thrown aside any nostalgia or baggage from the past, and even almost forgot that his second brother was in the nearby Pingyang city.
Huanxi mountain villa had those few days of leave where the servants could go out or rest in their rooms. If one chose to rest in his room, the procedures were naturally straightforward and hassle-free, but if one wanted to leave the villa, it would be troublesome because approval had to be granted from the supervisor and they had to go to a place to record their absence, collect a plaque and return before the appointed time was up.
On that day, Zhang Xiaohua had finished his martial art practice and he wrinkled his brow as he entered his room. To his surprise, Ma Jing was washing his feet in a copper basin, and he immediately turned around to the sky as he thought, “Has the sun gone up from the west today, why did this sloppy Ma Jing wash his feet?”
As the ideas popped into his mind, he hurriedly went forward and placed his hand onto Ma Jing’s forehead, and then onto his head, and said in concern, “Elder brother Ma, you do not have a fever.”
Ma Jing retorted, “I am naturally not sick, why would I have a fever? Today is such a good day and I get to go out and breathe in the fresh air, why would I want to fall sick?”
Zhang Xiaohua was confused and he asked, “Elder brother Ma, what do you mean? The air in the mountain villa is fresh every day, except in our room.”
Ma Jing thinned his lips and said, “You old mud hat, what do you know? No matter how fresh the air is here, it cannot compare to the fragrance in drunken fragrance house.”
Zhang Xiaohua was surprised, even though he had never gone to those places before, with a roommate like Ma Jing who would chatter about it beside his ear all day, he would naturally know what kind of place it was.
Zhang Xiaohua felt his heart moved and he asked, “Elder brother Ma, I have always heard you talking about drunken fragrance house, so are you going there today?”
Ma Jing carefully looked at his surroundings and whispered, “You little punk, you are still so young yet you know too much. Your elder brother Ma is going to patronize their services, so why? Do you want to follow?”
Zhang Xiaohua replied carefully, “Elder brother Ma, you are wrong. I was only asking, I have been in the mountain villa for only a month and not gone out before, I heard that we are allowed to leave every month so I wanted to follow elder brother Ma to Pingyang city. I will probably look around and not go to drunken fragrance house.”
Ma Jing cocked his head and pondered, he did not want Zhang Xiaohua to spoil his grand plans so he simply nodded, which could be counted as an agreement. Zhang Xiaohua was overjoyed and he thanks the other party profusely before tidying his room quickly and sat on his bed to wait for Ma Jing.
While he thought that Ma Jing would be done soon, Zhang Xiaohua was amazed to see Ma Jing packing this and tidying that, grooming himself from head to toe and changing himself from inside out. Zhang Xiaohua felt as though he had just experienced something new, where was the usual sloppy Ma Jing, the person in front of him was a suave, fair-faced gentleman.
Zhang Xiaohua looked on with his eyes wide until he noticed that the sun had passed three poles and the time was not early anymore. This Ma Jing took more time than a lady to prepare himself, he could not contain his impatience and asked, “Elder brother Ma, can you be a little faster? The day is getting late.”
Who knew that Ma Jing would maintain his composure, look at his reflection in the mirror again, and say, “There is no need to rush, the ladies in drunken fragrance house are probably still in their dreams at this hour, where can I go this early in the day?”
Zhang Xiaohua was so angry that his nose twisted and he almost fainted onto his bed. Fortunately, he had mingled long enough with Ma Jing to know better, so he went into a horse stance and stopped himself from falling down.