Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Looking at the bright stars that were sparkling in the night sky, Zhang Xiaohua submerged himself in his thoughts, and at one point of time, he felt that the lights seemed familiar although he could not recall where he had seen them before.
Zhang Xiaohua felt a sort of bitter happiness, this period of time had really been strange to him. Some things would seem familiar to him but he would not recall them if he tried, but then, what kind of relationship would the faraway stars had with him in order for him to feel that way?
As he continued to stargaze, Zhang Xiaohua suddenly turned his attention to the hook-like big dipper, He recalled ever reading “Elm trees shed in February, the hook turns to the east, wheat sprout in August, the base points to the west”, “the moon disappears and grows full but the dipper stays in the sky” and other descriptions of the big dipper. Since the big dipper has thirty-six stars, didn’t it have many similarities with the thirty-six defensive stances in his self-created martial arts?
Zhang Xiaohua felt a wave of joy washed over him, his fist martial art now had a name from that moment forth: dipper fist.
As for the seventy offensive strikes that coincided with evilness, he threw it to the back of his head and no longer thought about it. That is because the name dipper fist sounded so bright, anyone who heard of it would think that it was some profound martial art, and who would be able to guess where it came from anyway? If Zhang Xiaohua did not explain its origins, no one else would be able to guess that it was an amalgamation of the various common fist martial arts even if they squeezed out their brain juices, they would probably assume that Zhang Xiaohua had long forgotten all these previous fist martial arts that he learnt before.
After finding a name for his fist martial art, Zhang Xiaohua jumped off from the ground and picked up his vigour to continue and practice this dipper fist.
Zhang Xiaohua lost track of the number of times he practiced but just as he decided to practice the fist martial art for the last time, a strange event suddenly occurred.
When Zhang Xiaohua was standing in a position and getting ready to continue the stance from the beginning, he suddenly felt an extremely faint but chilly sensation from his toes spreading slowly up from his feet to his legs. Zhang Xiaohua was frightened into stopping his practice as he tried to examine the feeling, but the chilly sensation disappeared almost immediately. Zhang Xiaohua felt strange, did he mistake the sensation?
Hence, he walked over to a drier ground and re-entered the opening position of his martial art, indeed, the moment he began to practice his martial art, the chilly sensation would reappear and spread from his toes all the way to his feet and then upwards to his legs.
Zhang Xiaohua pondered and decided to retract his stance, this mysterious occurrence which ridiculously appeared from nowhere made him wary, what should he do if his training led him astray?
Sigh, learning by oneself is indeed difficult, but Zhang Xiaohua did not think that he had not learned any inner energy cultivation method before so how would he be led astray? Perhaps he was affected after hearing many people around him said that phrase.
However, Zhang Xiaohua still could not think of a reason for the occurrence despite pondering over it for a long while, this fist martial art was finally completed after much difficulties but he could not train in it, this matter was such a cause for headache, why did such a problem surface when he had not trained for even half a day?
Why not switch to sword martial arts? When Zhang Xiaohua thought of sword martial arts, he was reminded of the warm flow in his left hand and his heart stirred; perhaps this chilly sensation was a similar kind of thing as the warm flow?
When he thought up to here, Zhang Xiaohua gained some understanding of the situation and his fear dissipated away. He made his mind and decided to investigate the matter, just what kind of situation could he push himself into!
Thus, Zhang Xiaohua’s mood recovered and he returned to the opening stance and practiced again from the beginning. Zhang Xiaohua could feel the chilly sensation changing as he performed each stance in the sequence, it appeared in toes of his left feet and went up his leg before covering his lower body and heading towards his head area. By then, Zhang Xiaohua was already forty to fifty percent into the fist martial art when it flowed back down to his lower body, and by the hundred and eighth stance, it vanished from his right toes.
After finishing the stance, Zhang Xiaohua did not feel any unusual change in his body as though there had never been any chilly sensation at all. When he thought of the chilly sensation flowing around his body, it was really nothing special in the end, and it flowed quite smoothly apart from the time it passed by his right hand where it became slightly sluggish. Zhang Xiaohua could not understand the reason, but he could also not ask anybody about his queries, after all, how do you expect him to walk up to He Tianshu and ask, “Squad leader He, why was there a chilly sensation in my toes while I was practicing my fist martial art?”
Perhaps He Tianshu would ask the boy back, “Did your shoes and socks get wet from the ground?”
Perhaps, this was inner energy? Zhang Xiaohua felt a glimmer of hope.
If it was inner energy, then that would be awesome. If his own fist martial art was able to let him cultivate inner energy, then even the name dipper fist was not good enough for such an awesome martial art, so what should he changed its name into?
Zhang Xiaohua was even in a knot because of this.
Suddenly, his eyes brightened, that’s right, let’s call it dipper heavenly fist.
Such a cool name, Zhang Xiaohua felt incredibly proud of himself.
As for whether the chilly sensation was inner energy, Zhang Xiaohua planned to ask his second brother the next time he met the latter on how he cultivated his inner energy in detail. After making his mind up, Zhang Xiaohua prepared to head back as the night was getting late and he still had work to do the next day.
However, the chilly sensation caused Zhang Xiaohua to enter his beginning stance again to perform the martial art for the very last time.
Unfortunately, as Zhang Xiaohua began his practice, the chilly sensation actually disappeared! By the time Zhang Xiaohua finished performing all hundred and eight stances, the chilly sensation had not appeared even once.
Zhang Xiaohua was like wet vegetables, he remained silent and carried his lantern as he walked back to his room. Luckily, he had not mentioned this to He Tianshu, if this feeling would come and go so unpredictably, how would he be able to explain it to the latter?
Zhang Xiaohua was pondering non-stop about this issue during his trip back, why did the feeling come and go?
Up until the night turned late and he fell asleep, Zhang Xiaohua did not find his answer.
In the morning of the next day, Zhang Xiaohua went over to the empty space in the forest very early in the morning and he began his practice by using his left hand to practice sword martial art. The warm flow would appear every single time now that Zhang Xiaohua was extremely familiar with the movement, he also felt the warm flow would be beneficial to him without any negative effects. Following which, he practiced the sword martial art with his right hand for a while, and after so many days of practice, Zhang Xiaohua imagined that his right hands had become nimbler than before. However, it was only a feeling and something he could not ascertain himself.
After he was done with the sword martial art practice, Zhang Xiaohua began to practice the dipper heavenly fist of his.
After practicing for a while, the chilly sensation did not resurface at all causing Zhang Xiaohua to feel disappointed, he knew that it was in not his imagination but that the sensation occurred but he was unable to reproduce the feeling, and had no idea on what to do in order for it to reappear.
As he looked at the changing colour of the sky, he guessed that the azure robed little hat servants were probably still fast asleep while He Tianshu and the rest should have just began their own martial arts practice. Hence, Zhang Xiaohua continued to practice the fist martial art, he only knew this martial art apart from the sword martial art, but his fingers would turn sore if he practiced the sword martial art for long, so he had no other choice but to train in it.
Just as Zhang Xiaohua was immersed in his training, the feeling reappeared again. However, it was not the chilly sensation and was slightly warm instead. Zhang Xiaohua immediately became elated again, he did each and every stance carefully to observe the sensation in case it did anything unusual to his body. The sensation was “a repeat of yesterday” as there did not seem to be any effect caused by the warm flow, and it did not re-occur when Zhang Xiaohua proceeded to do another cycle after finishing one set of the sequence.
At that moment, it dawned on Zhang Xiaohua that no matter the feeling was a warm flow or chilly sensation, it was probably related to the number of times he performed the martial art. After he finished a required number of sets, the feeling would appear again and the countdown would reset until the next cycle.
Zhang Xiaohua thought back carefully, he remembered that he had practiced the martial art for ten cycles since morning, so the feeling would appear every ninth cycle!
After he had discovered so, Zhang Xiaohua could also guess that this dipper heavenly fist would reach its highest effectiveness on the ninth repetition, but whenever he practiced the martial art in the morning or evening, the time it took to complete the hundred and eight stances was not short so he was only able to practice one set of nine cycles each time, and had no time to do a second set.
Of course, all these were only Zhang Xiaohua’s conjecture.
For the next few days, Zhang Xiaohua would hide in the forest to practice his dipper heavenly fist, and in order to make most of his time, Zhang Xiaohua would go to the forest during his lunch break. Furthermore, after several experiments, Zhang Xiaohua also discovered that when he practiced the dipper heavenly fist in the morning, the feeling was neither warm nor cold, and when it was the afternoon, the feeling would be slightly hot, and the feeling would turn chilly as he practiced in the night. The feeling was different during the three periods of the day, and Zhang Xiaohua felt strange about it.
At the beginning, Zhang Xiaohua would still have some caution towards it, after all, it appeared out of nowhere so how could he tell if it was something good or bad? However, after the passing of several days, there was nothing uncomfortable with his body despite the numerous training so Zhang Xiaohua naturally calmed down.
Ever since he taught Zhang Xiaohua the sword martial art, elder Yu would go over to visit the latter once in a while but only from afar where he would not be spotted. However, after confirming that the boy was extremely diligent in his practice, he no longer went over. During the recent few days, elder Yu noticed that Zhang Xiaohua would disappear in the afternoon as well, and his heart could not help but ache for the boy. Actually, elder Yu was quite nonchalant of the boy in the beginning, he only felt that the boy was steadfast and hardworking, and also had a strong passion for martial arts but had extremely poor aptitude towards it so he did not do anything about him. When Zhang Xiaohua’s right hand got injured and the bones in the hand shattered such that the boy effectively became crippled in one hand, he still insisted on training even without any guidance and mastery of any complete martial art. Thus, it made elder Yu thought back to his dismembered left arm and he empathized with Zhang Xiaohua, so he imparted a nameless sword martial art to the boy and even though the latter did not learn it completely, elder Yu still developed a liking towards this headstrong ‘stupid’ child.
Upon seeing that Zhang Xiaohua was still training his martial arts in the afternoon, he naturally knew that Zhang Xiaohua was trying to improve his mastery of either the sword or fist martial art. However, while elder Yu could understand the boy’s desire to grow stronger, he was afraid that the additional training would be counterproductive and hurt his body instead. Thus, while Zhang Xiaohua was practicing the sword martial art during one afternoon, elder Yu secretly went over to observe the boy.
When elder Yu went over, Zhang Xiaohua was coincidentally using his right hand and when the latter saw the unexpected visitor, he grew alarmed which turned into hoy. Zhang Xiaohua did not keep back his sword stance and used his tree branch to thrust towards elder Yu. Upon seeing the oncoming tree branch, elder Yu was also surprised and he immediately turned his body to avoid the strike. However, Zhang Xiaohua did not pause his attack and he took another step towards the elder and switched to a different sword variation to attack the elder. This sword stance was taught by elder Yu personally so the elder was naturally very familiar with the inner energy technique that complemented the martial art. When he saw Zhang Xiaohua’s attack, elder Yu felt happy and he moved his body according to the strikes without counterattacking. After Zhang Xiaohua finished demonstrating all sixteen sword variations, the tree branch did not touch anywhere on his body.
Zhang Xiaohua kept back his stance and the tree branch, and elder Yu stopped moving as well. He smiled gleefully and said, “Zhang Xiaohua, you have learnt quite well, these dozen over variations are sharp and quick, even I would have succumbed to your attacks if I was not familiar with the movements.”
He continued, “Your right hand had turned much more nimble during this period, and the sword stance variations have become more smooth and forthcoming. However, the force in your attacks are still far from sufficient and I guess that it is due to your fingers not up to par yet.”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled back and said, “That’s right, elder Yu. After this period of time, my fingers have been rehabilitated by the sword stance requirements and became more nimble. While they would get sore after two to three cycles in the past, it has gotten much better now.”
Elder Yu said, “But this is still nothing to be proud of, did you still not managed to learn the last three variations?”
Upon hearing this, Zhang Xiaohua made a frown, the other party’s words had struck the nail on its head. No matter how hard Zhang Xiaohua tried, the last three variations continued to elude him. If he tried to move his body, he was unable to thrust his tree branch and when he concentrated on the latter, his footsteps would not be able to follow up, in short, his body was unable to coordinate to replicate the movement.
Seeing Zhang Xiaohua’s response, elder Yu said, “Since you are unable to learn it, there is no need to practice as though you cannot see night or day, haven’t I told you to train within your limits? Sometimes, rest is the best form of training.”
Zhang Xiaohua felt extremely grateful, he opened his mouth but no words were able to come out.
Elder Yu asked in a pleasant tone, “How about the sword principle, how well have you memorized it?”
Zhang Xiaohua repeated the sword principle word for word, and when elder Yu heard the former say the principle without a single error, he felt relieved in his heart and patted Zhang Xiaohua’s shoulders saying, “Very good, not a single word was left out, I could tell that you have worked hard. Alright, you can practice up to here for today, rest well and not wear yourself out too much. Come, follow me back.”
Actually, Zhang Xiaohua really wanted to tell the other party, “Elder Yu, please let me off, I have yet to train my dipper heavenly fist so can’t you let me train a little longer?”
However, when he saw the concerned expression on the elder, Zhang Xiaohua scratched his head and followed the latter back.
For the following period of time, Zhang Xiaohua had gotten used to such a lifestyle; he would train thrice a day in the morning, afternoon and evening. As for the work in the herb fields, such type of work was too easy for a village youth like Zhang Xiaohua who only needed to pay slightly more attention to produce perfect work. As for He Tianshu and the other’s problem of the herbs that refused to grow, Zhang Xiaohua was helpless as he only knew that plants would grow when they are sown in the earth and given water and fertilizers, so how would he be able to offer any suggestions?
The Zhang Xiaohua of that moment could empathize with his second brother Zhang Xiaohu’s devotion towards a single martial art, he practiced the stances of the martial art until he was extremely familiar to the point where his performance was like the flowing rivers and sailing clouds, or like a dance that was accompanied by song. Along with the sounds of his forceful thrusts, Zhang Xiaohua felt as though he entered a world where he was the only person and he rather enjoyed that feeling. When it came to night, Zhang Xiaohua would read some books from his stash under the oil lamp light, and through them, he was able to connect to things he never had contact with before as though there was an entirely new world inside the books he was flipping through leisurely. Zhang Xiaohua slowly grew to love his lifestyle.
Even though Zhang Xiaohua kept on feeling that his dipper heavenly fist could produce inner energy, he had no idea what real inner energy felt like and wanted to ask He Tianshu about it. However, the latter was always frowning these days so Zhang Xiaohua did not dare to disturb him. Zhang Xiaohua also thought of asking little second Nie instead, but he wondered if he will get teased at again if it turned out to be untrue.
After brooding over it for some time, Zhang Xiaohua decided to go down to Lotus escort to hear Zhang Xiaohu’s opinion.
Zhang Xiaohua first sought He Tianshu’s permission before getting a waist token from the guards and leaving Huanxi mountain villa.
The first thing that came to his mind when he began his journey down was that “there are definitely roads in the mountains, and there will be Biaochi carriage station where there are roads”. Even though Zhang Xiaohua wanted to hire a carriage, he thought of the number of coins in his possession and his parents in the village, before he finally decided to resist the temptation. Actually, with Zhang Xiaohua’s body, it was possible for him to run all the way to the escort station but sitting on a horse carriage was a child’s dream after all.
After Zhang Xiaohua extinguished the idea, he half-ran throughout the journey and managed to reach Lotus escort fairly quickly.
The escort station was not very busy that day, and the guards at the door could recognize Zhang Xiaohua. When they saw the boy who was growing even more resemblance to his second brother, the guards greeted Zhang Xiaohua and invited him straightaway.
When Zhang Xiaohua reached his second brother’s room, he realized that Zhang Xiaohu was not inside but fortunately, the door as left unlocked so he assumed that the latter was still in the escort station as he entered to wait for him.
The room was tidy as usual, Zhang Xiaohu probably cleaned his room every day but when Zhang Xiaohua thought back to his own messy room, his face could not help but turned into a shade of red. The room was same as before, there were not much changes except for a small stack of books in the middle of the table. Zhang Xiaohua felt strange, when did his second brother learnt to read?
When he walked up to the front, Zhang Xiaohua realized that some of the books were related to growing of herbs, and there were also very thick books on history. Zhang Xiaohua understood the situation, Li Jinfeng actually took his previous words for real and collected such books over probably to look for him when he had the time, and had left the books at his second brother’s place for the moment.
As he was feeling bored, Zhang Xiaohua casually took out a book from the stack and began to read it with relish. There were many things written on the book, most mentioned how specialized herbalist would employ special methods to cultivate herbs which were quite relevant to what Zhang Xiaohua usually did. Zhang Xiaohua unexpectedly found several mistakes that he had made on a frequent basis so he began to read the book more carefully.
While Zhang Xiaohua was fully engrossed in the book, Zhang Xiaohu pushed open the door and upon seeing Zhang Xiaohua in his room, he said excitedly, “Xiaohua, when did you arrive?”
Zhang Xiaohua looked out at the sky and replied, “Quite a while ago, and since you were not in your room, I went ahead and read a book.”
Zhang Xiaohu smiled and said, “Oh, gentleman Li brought over those books for you and we were planning to bring them over to you the next time we visit. Since you came today, we can save the trouble so you can bring them back with you later.”