Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Filling the gaps
Zhang Xiaohu finally experienced at first-hand of how perverted his little brother’s memory was.
Zhang Xiaohu slowly performed the sixth fist stance for three cycles but whenever he asked Zhang Xiaohua, the latter would say that he could not recall anything, Zhang Xiaohu helplessly went on to the fourth cycle.
Just as he was about to enter the opening stance, Zhang Xiaohua stopped him and said, “Second brother, don’t start yet. Let me try it as well while you watch.”
Hence, under Zhang Xiaohu’s directions, Zhang Xiaohua managed to perform something of semblance to the six fist stance from its beginning to end. Zhang Xiaohua did not feel much, but Zhang Xiaohu was perspiring profusely when they were done as though it was ten times more tiring that performing the stance himself.
Li Jinfeng who was standing at a side was in confusion, he was well aware of Zhang Xiaohua’s aptitude towards studying, and it was precisely his perverted memory that allowed the latter to memorize the “Word explanation” within such a short period, so why did he turn out like this when it came to learning martial arts?
It was really confusing.
The thing that made Li Jinfeng spit blood from his mouth was when Zhang Xiaohu was asking Zhang Xiaohua during his rest if he managed to pick it up? Or did he need his brother to demonstrate it a second time? Zhang Xiaohu was asking in a voice full of concern.
However, Zhang Xiaohua shook his head and said, “It is alright, second brother, I only need to perform the entire stance once.”
Li Jinfeng also asked in concern, “Xiaohua, it is better to practice a few more times. Your second brother cannot come so frequently, so if you still want to learn this martial art after he leaves, you might no longer be able to.”
Zhang Xiaohua wrinkled his brows and said, “Better no, I have already learnt all I can.”
Zhang Xiaohu assumed that his brother was afraid of troubling himself so he smiled and said, “Xiaohua, it is fine, second brother is not tired. Come, I will perform it one more time for you.”
After finishing his sentence, he slowly performed the stance over again while explaining the details which he personally picked up, such as at what time or at in what direction, et cetera. Zhang Xiaohua had no choice but to nod his head as he thought secretly, “Second brother had indeed practiced this to a high level.”
However, his expression did not show that he understood, and Li Jinfeng who was watching all these shook his head continuously from his side.
After Zhang Xiaohu finished his demonstration and kept back his stance, he stood at a side and said to Zhang Xiaohua, “Xiaohua, why don’t you try it again and show it to me so I can give you some pointers again.”
Zhang Xiaohua immediately waved both hands profusely and said, “It is really alright, second brother. You also know that I have already learnt it, and I could remember all that you said earlier.”
Zhang Xiaohu was even more unconvinced and he said, “Hurry and perform it, let me see if you actually learnt it or not.”
Even up to that moment, Zhang Xiaohu was still not fully convinced about what Zhang Xiaohua had told him before.
Whatever about not being able to learn a fist martial art to completion, perhaps his instructor did not try his utmost best, but now that he was willing to explain in detail and given what Li Jinfeng said about Zhang Xiaohua’s aptitude, how would Zhang Xiaohua still not be able to learn properly?
Unfortunately, the truth struck deeply into his confidence.
Unable to win over Zhang Xiaohu in the war of words, Zhang Xiaohua had no choice but to adopt the opening stance and demonstrate the sixth fist stance slowly. The thing which made the two men’s eyes popped out was, Zhang Xiaohua forgot everything else after the sixth stance and under Zhang Xiaohu’s reminder, he continued to perform another ten stances where he stopped again, and again with Zhang Xiaohu’s reminder for five to six more times throughout the performance, Zhang Xiaohua managed to display the fist martial art in its entirety.
Looking at Zhang Xiaohua’s innocent expression, Zhang Xiaohu asked in a helpless voice, “Xiaohua, is this normally what happens when you learn martial arts?”
Seeing Zhang Xiaohua’s confident nod, Zhang Xiaohu patted his shoulders and said, “It has been hard on you, Xiaohua.”
Li Jinfeng bent over and asked, “Xiaohua, I still feel that it is strange, this sequences of movements are not so complex and even though I have not learnt martial arts before, just based on my memory of the two of you practicing it, I can already perform quite a few of the stances.”
After finishing his sentence, the scholar Li Jinfeng rolled up his long sleeves and began to demonstrate ten over stances.
He then said to Zhang Xiaohua, “Look, I am able to learn a dozen over stances even with my aptitude, so how can you only remember six stances? This is really strange.”
Zhang Xiaohua scratched his head and said, “Elder brother Li, I am not sure to be honest. My previous attempts in learning martial arts has always been like this, and I would forget a lot from each fist martial art as well.”
Li Jinfeng said as if he saw the strangest thing in the world, “This is really inconceivable, you are even able to memorize the “Words explanation” so how come you can’t even remember this?”
Zhang Xiaohua asked curiously, “Elder brother Li, what is so strange about that? The “Words explanation” is only a textbook for little children, whereas learning martial arts is something that is very difficult for the mind, so you cannot just compare them like this.”
Li Jinfeng smiled bitterly but did not say anything in response.
At that moment, Zhang Xiaohu continued to say, “What about the manuals in the escort station? They were all words as well so did you remember them?”
Zhang Xiaohu said, “I can remember that clearly.”
Zhang Xiaohu slapped his forehead and said, “This cannot do, I will borrow the sixth fist stance martial art manual and bring it over to you tomorrow.”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, “It is alright, second brother, these fist martial arts that I memorized over the previous few months have all been forgotten after I practiced them.”
“Ah……” Zhang Xiaohu and Li Jinfeng gaped.
Zhang Xiaohua continued, “No matter if I learn it from a manual or from someone else, as long as I practiced it, I would forget up to half of everything, but those that I did not forget will forever be retained in my memory. As for how many I can remember, it will be up to the next day when I will find out.”
“Ho……” Li Jinfeng bellowed as he looked at Zhang Xiaohu with a respectful gaze, he said in a stammering tone, “Could this be, is this the legendary “only skim in the surface”!?”
Only further listening to Zhang Xiaohua’s explanation and thinking back to the situation with Zhang Xiaohua did Zhang Xiaohu believed his younger brother’s words fully, but he could only flap his hands around helplessly. Like what his younger brother said, everyone had their own path which was suitable for themselves, and other people are not able to help much on their progress.
Lunch was with He Tianshu and the others in the canteen, Zhang Xiaohu and Li Jinfeng were full of praises as they ate the food. However, while they were eating, Li Jinfeng would frequently turn his gaze towards Zhang Xiaohua causing the latter to be puzzled, the scholar was usually so polite so what had caused him to lose his bearings today?
However, Li Jinfeng quickly told Zhang Xiaohua even before he could figure it out by himself.
On the way back to his room, Li Jinfeng sneakily pulled Zhang Xiaohua to aside and whispered, “Xiaohua, why did we not see lady Qiu Tong during lunch just now?”
It then dawned on Zhang Xiaohua that this scholar did not come up the mountain villa just for himself.
He smiled gleefully and said, “She is right at that corner, didn’t you notice her?”
Li Jinfeng immediately turned his head around and looked back at the canteen from afar, he said in a puzzled tone, “Why did I not see her? Strange, I did search the entire canteen just now.”
He suddenly seemed to have figured out something and said, “There were only three tables in the canteen, what corner will there be. Xiaohua, you are joking with me right?”
Zhang Xiaohua laughed and said, “It seems that elder brother Li is still head over heels, haha. Elder sister Qiu Tong probably eats together with the villa master at a different time and perhaps at another place. I am not sure of the details, but as far as I know, I have never seen elder sister Qiu Tong before while eating in this canteen.”
Seeing the lost expression on Li Jinfeng’s face, Zhang Xiaohua said, “However, I remembered ever encountering elder sister Qiu Tong on this path while returning back to my room after my meal.”
Upon hearing his words, Li Jinfeng’s eyes immediately brightened and he would turn his head around after taking a step in hopes of spotting the person he was looking for, but unfortunately, he did not notice her figure by the time he reached the little courtyard.
Even as he sat on the chair within the room, Li Jinfeng was thinking of Qiu Tong and pondering if he should ask Zhang Xiaohua to help him find her. However, he also knew that Zhang Xiaohua had a lowly status in the mountain villa who was not allowed to roam under the entire villa so how would be able to find her? Furthermore, Zhang Xiaohua said that he had not seen Qiu Tong for quite a long while himself so he dampened his desire. Nevertheless, his eyes would still wander to gaze out of the window as though he was expecting to see something.
Unfortunately, the heavens do not move according to one person’s will and it rained heavily the entire afternoon. While they were people who walked past the room, none of them had a female figure.
Upon seeing that the day had gotten late, Zhang Xiaohu and Li Jinfeng reluctantly got up; Zhang Xiaohu was naturally unwilling to part with his younger brother as he pulled the latter’s hand and reminded him this and whatnot, but what was the reason for Lin Jinfeng’s reluctance?
The security in Huanxi mountain villa were very strict, Zhang Xiaohu and Li Jinfeng had to carry waist tokens and were escorted over by the guards when they went over to Zhang Xiaohua’s place, so they naturally had to be escorted back when they left. The three men walked out of the room where it was still drizzling lightly, while Zhang Xiaohu and Li Jinfeng bid He Tianshu their farewells when they passed by the latter’s room. Zhang Xiaohu burdened He Tianshu to look after his younger brother for the following days ahead and He Tianshu coolly agreed, and after exchanging some pleasantries, the three then left the courtyard.
There was some distance from the courtyard to the back door, and the path was lined with azure stones so it was not muddy. The party of three chatted as they walked, and Li Jinfeng could not help but ask as he saw the fields they passed by, “Xiaohua, what fields are these? Some are for growing crops, I can recognize those but what about the rest? They seemed to be grass, could it be some type of vegetable?”
Zhang Xiaohu pondered and decided after a while that it was better to not tell, so he stopped the latter from asking, “Elder brother Li, our mountain villa has rules and many things cannot be shared with outsiders so you should not inquire about them.”
However, on a second thought, he said, “If you have any books on growing herbs at your side, can you lend me some to read?”
When Li Jinfeng heard his reply, the corners of his mouth turned upwards.
As they travelled the remaining distance, the sky turned dark and gloomy, and the earlier drizzle finally stopped. Frog and insect sounds could be heard from the drain on the side of the road, probably to welcome the clean air after the rain.
The surrounding scenery immediately led to two brothers to reminisce about Guo village, and Zhang Xiaohu said, “Xiaohua, do you miss home after coming out here for so long?”
Zhang Xiaohua answered obviously, “I do, of course I do. However, I have not accomplished anything worth mentioning yet, so I don’t want to say anything unnecessary to cause them to worry.”
Zhang Xiaohu sighed and said, “That’s right, I also feel this way. However, we should at least let them know that we are safe. If not, father and mother will be worrying endlessly at home.”
Li Jinfeng wrinkled his brow and said, “Brother Zhang can just find someone he knows to carry a message back to your home, wouldn’t that be fine?”
Zhang Xiaohu smiled bitterly and said, “We two brothers came here by ourselves, we have no friends or relatives in Pingyang city so how can we find someone to send a message back?”
Li Jinfeng smiled and said, “Have brother Zhang forgotten that you still have this friend here who is from the same village?”
Zhang Xiaohu replied, “I know that gentleman Li is from Lu town, but haven’t you been busy studying in the school? I remembered that gentleman is alone in his own world, so where would you find the time to help us send a message back?”
Li Jinfeng nodded and said, “You are right, but our school has vacation during autumn-winter, and even though it is not long, there is still sufficient time to go back home for a while. During this autumn, I was studying in school while teaching Zhang Xiaohua to read so I did not go back to Lu town, but I will be able to pass a message back to your families after a short period later.”
Zhang Xiaohua and Zhang Xiaohu immediately said in unison, “Really, gentleman Li, that would be great.”
Li Jinfeng waved his hands and said, “You don’t have to be so courteous to me, we are all fellows from the same place so we should help each other whenever we can. I am only doing something out of convenience, why bother to thank me so much?”
After chatting for a while, the party reached the back door and the guard who was stationed there confirmed their waist tokens while getting Zhang Xiaohua to sign in the record book before letting Zhang Xiaohu and Li Jinfeng leave.
When the three stood outside the door, Zhang Xiaohua looked at his younger brother again while the latter grabbed on to his sleeves tightly with no intention of letting him go. Even though the two were not living too far apart from each other, the next time they would meet again could be more than a month so it was unavoidable that both were unwilling to part. However, Li Jinfeng was less emotional and he said, “You two brothers will still be living in Pingyang city together. If Zhang Xiaohu is too busy practicing his martial arts to come, then I will go over more often to visit you to make up for his absence.”
Zhang Xiaohua then let go of his grip and said, “Elder brother Li, you are free to come by yourself if my second brother is too busy to visit. When I chance upon elder sister Qiu Tong again, I shall let her know that you would like to see her, alright?”
Upon hearing his words, Li Jinfeng smiled gleefully and said, “These are words that I love to hear and I would come more often to hear them. However, there is no need to emphasize on how much I miss her, just dropping a small hint would be fine.”
Zhang Xiaohua was confused, he asked, “Ah? Why so?”
Li Jinfeng explained, “You won’t be able to understand this since you are young. Wait till you get older before you will understand it yourself, so just listen to my instructions for now.”
Zhang Xiaohua nodded his head in understanding.
Thus, Zhang Xiaohu would turn around after every three steps as he followed Li Jinfeng and left Huanxi mountain villa.
The weather was clear when the next day came so Zhang Xiaohua ran over to his usual spot under the tree early in the morning.
His thoughts were full of anticipation on the results of Zhang Xiaohu’s guidance, he did not move his hands and legs immediately but slowly tried to recall the sequence to perform the sixth fist stance. As he expected, the ten over stances of the sixth fist stance were forgotten and filtered down until seven stances were left.
Zhang Xiaohua performed these seven stances until he was certain that they were carved into his memory before stopping and changing into the horse stance. His mind began the familiar action of trying to link the stances together, and this puzzle was like building blocks, it got easier at he reached closer to the end as the hundred and one stances only had seven areas where they did not fit together, so each stance only needed to try and link to these areas. Indeed, the success rate was high and the fist stance managed to link perfectly to a sequence on its fourth attempt, and Zhang Xiaohua had integrated it perfectly with the rest of the stances. The next few stances were even easier and when there was only one stance and one broken link left, Zhang Xiaohua’s excitement grew even more turbulent, he was slightly worried that the pieces would not link together.
This time, the heavens were kind to Zhang Xiaohua and he was not disappointed in the end, the stance fitted perfectly into the fist martial art. Right at that moment, the incomplete fist martial art was presently completed and it flowed to the front of his mind like a waterfall, while a small figure of Zhang Xiaohua was performing the nameless fist martial art from beginning to end.
After watching the little figure practiced the martial art for a few cycles, Zhang Xiaohua also felt motivated and he followed his thoughts and walked into the forest to perform the fist martial art.
There were a total of a hundred and eight stances in this fist martial art, and even though it was Zhang Xiaohua’s first time practicing this martial art, he had already done these stances many times in the past so apart from the recently added seven stances, all the other stances had gone through countless hours of practice. Now that Zhang Xiaohua had aggregated them together, it felt extremely smooth as he performed the martial art from beginning to end.
After Zhang Xiaohua finished his first cycle, he still could not get over his excitement and went on for another three cycles before keeping back his stance.
The Zhang Xiaohua at that moment was feeling incomparably light and comfortable, his mood had never been better before as though he was a dragon that just got released from its gold lock. The burden that had been pressing on his heart was finally thrown aside, and he was able to practice a complete set of fist martial arts like the other ordinary person.
A brilliant path was currently being laid out in front of Zhang Xiaohua.
For the rest of the day, Zhang Xiaohua would ponder about this hundred and eight stance fist martial art while he was working in the fields, he studied every stance as closely as possible. He remembered that his second brother ever said that every fist martial art had its defensive and offensive stance in order to be perfect, so how was this fist martial art which he had “forgotten” hundreds of other fist martial arts to learn?
After Zhang Xiaohua carefully examined the martial art, he realized that there were only thirty-six stances that were defensive, the other seventy-two were all offensive manoeuvres. Zhang Xiaohua could not help but feel surprised, these seventy-two stances were merciless to the ground, merciless indeed. Staunch and ferocity was the essence of its offence, but heaven and earth was harmonious so the thirty-six defensive stances were sturdy like the earth, sturdy indeed. Zhang Xiaohua thought back to several sentences from the books he read, suspicion grew in his heart and he wanted to know if his line of thoughts were correct.
During the night, the canopy of the forest made the whole place looked as dark as ink, and there was no moon that night despite the numerous stars.
Zhang Xiaohua practiced his fist martial art alone in a space in the forest, his body felt comfortable unlike ever before and he continued his practice with the sixteen variations of the sword martial art before sitting down to rest. The rain from the previous day made the ground slightly muddy and the sun did not manage to dry the ground completely yet.
Zhang Xiaohua pulled out a stalk of grass and gripped it in his mouth, his body was leaning on a tree as he thought of this question, “All those common fist martial arts have their own names, such as Rohan fist, south branch fist, and Erlang fist, so what name should he give to his martial art? Xiaohua fist? That’s not nice, it sounds too weak, patchwork fist? That sounds worse, sigh, what should I do?”
Zhang Xiaohua was feeling slightly frustrated as he placed his hands at the back of his head and laid on the slightly wet grass,
His eyes looked up at the comforting night sky and the uncountable stars that were far in the distance, Zhang Xiaohua felt as though he had not seen such stars in a long time. The last time he gazed at the stars, it was when his grandmother was still around and he was accompanying the old woman as they chatted in the courtyard within Guo village.
When he thought of his grandmother, Zhang Xiaohua felt even more hurt.
Was his grandmother still doing well up in the heavens?
Which star was home to his grandmother now?