Learning the words
When Zhang Xiaohua took the old and tattered fist martial art manual and flipped through its pages excitedly, his mood shifted and he did not know whether to laugh or cry. What were these things in the book, those small pictures of people exchanging kicks and punches one after another, or many arrow heads around them, or the bunch of small characters written on the side? No matter how he looked at manual, he could not understand its content, so how was he going to read it?
He closed the book unhappily and only then did he notice the three words on its cover with the only word he recognized as "Er". Zhang Xiaohua asked suspiciously, "Elder brother Li, what fist martial art manual is this?"
Li Jinfeng smiled as he pointed to the three large words and said, "Isn't it written on the cover? Erlang fist."
"Oh, so it is actually Erlang fist." Zhang Xiaohua nodded his head and pondered. He had learnt this fist martial art before and could only remember two stances from it. Thus, he flipped open the fist martial art manual again and searched over and over again, but none of the stances in the book was similar to what he learnt. He felt strange, could it be that this manual was not the Erlang fist martial art manual, or the martial art he learnt was not the Erlang fist?
Zhang Xiaohu saw that Zhang Xiaohua was flipping through the book page by page non-stop as though he was looking for something so he asked curiously, "Xiaohua, why are you looking at it over and over again? Shouldn't this fist martial art manual be read page by page instead?"
Zhang Xiaohua raised his head and said, "Second brother, I have learnt this Erlang fist before, but I somehow cannot find the two stances that I remembered in this manual."
"Ah? You only remembered two stances from this martial art?" Zhang Xiaohu asked in disbelief.
"Yes, I also do not know why but I can only remember two stances, and the stances were not linked to each other." Zhang Xiaohua replied in embarrassment.
Zhang Xiaohu smiled and said. "It is alright, to have remembered something is still pretty good. Look at me, I only know one fist martial art. Here, let me take a look at it."
After finishing his sentence, he took the fist martial art manual from Zhang Xiaohua's hands and flipped through it page by page before using his hands to motion something in the air. After half a bell of time, Zhang Xiaohu said, "I understand now, Xiaohua. While I do not know if this fist martial art manual really describes the Erlang fist, I can ascertain that it is a type of martial art. Look at this first stance, the left hand forms an upright palm in front of the chest, isn't there an arrow head pointing upwards. This means that the left palm is thrusted upwards. Perhaps the stance you remembered was to thrust your palm upward from your chest, which is why it looks slightly different from the pictures."
Zhang Xiaohua pondered and said, "Second brother, that makes sense. I will try and look through it again."
Thus, Zhang Xiaohua continued to flip through the fist martial art manual, and after reaching a certain page, he suddenly shouted in excitement, "Second brother, I found it, this is the stance. Yup, there is no doubt about it, this is the stance I remembered. However, it seemed like the picture is more powerful looking, and the direction of his fist is slightly lower."
When Zhang Xiaohu leaned over to look, Zhang Xiaohua added, "However, it should still be the Erlang fist. Squad leader He told me that the stances I remembered was not entirely the same, especially in many small details."
"It's okay, as long as you can fight with it." Zhang Xiaohu naturally would not mind these small details, the physician had already said that Zhang Xiaohua would never be able to practice martial arts again, so the concern he mentioned would not matter.
When Zhang Xiaohu looked at the page of the manual, he said. "Oh, you are probably correct, let me try it out."
After finishing his sentence, Zhang Xiaohu followed the manual and entered the appropriate position before performing the stance slowly. Upon watching his demonstration, Zhang Xiaohua said, "That's correct, second brother, it is that move. Haha, so this manual is actually something so great."
"However, what does it say over there?" Zhang Xiaohu asked Li Jinfeng as he pointed to the string of words at the side.
Li Jinfeng took the manual and read the words out, "This art beats people like walking, sees people like wormwood, but when the wind blows, it descends like it was shot by an arrow. A person cannot comprehend its true meaning without understanding its tactic. However, someone who cannot take instructions well will also not be able to enter the correct mood.... If the person wished to learn this martial art, it depends on the top, middle and bottom of the whole body to be in harmony, and the hands and legs to work in unison. If encountering an opponent, one's movement must be ahead to do what has to be done."
The two Zhang brothers were stumped and they asked at the same time, "What does it mean?"
Hence, Li Jinfeng deciphered the meaning of the test and shared his interpretation to them. Zhang Xiaohua's head was bent as he pondered, "These words, it seemed that squad leader He had mentioned them to me before but I can't remember them clearly."
However, how much did Zhang Xiaohua actually remembered?
Zhang Xiaohu praised, "It is really good to have this fist martial art manual, it's like having a master by your side teaching you whenever you want."
Zhang Xiaohua did not say anything, he continued to look downwards while deep in thought. He then raised his head towards Li Jinfeng and asked, "Elder brother Li, I want to learn to read, do you think you can you teach me?"
Li Jinfeng felt strange, and when he looked at the hopeful expression on Zhang Xiaohua's face, he asked, "Xiaohua, why do you suddenly want to learn to read? Oh, is it to read this manual on your own?"
Zhang Xiaohua nodded his head and said, "That's right, elder brother Li. Since you pursue literature, you may not know that finding a martial arts instructor is very difficult. Furthermore, my own aptitude towards martial arts is very poor, and my understanding towards all the martial arts I have learnt are broken, so I doubt there will be an instructor who is willing to teach me. If I want to continue pursuing martial arts, then I can only rely on myself. However, I cannot read the words on this book, and it will be bad if I trained something wrong. Hence, I wish to learn how to read from you, do you think that this is possible?"
Li Jinfeng said, "It is no problem, Xiaohua. Anyway, you will be nurturing your injuries for a long time on this bed, I gave that manual to you to relieve you of your boredom. If you can read, not only will you be more knowledgeable, you can also pass your time more meaningfully, so it is killing two birds with one stone, how can I not agree? However... ..."
Zhang Xiaohua asked anxiously, "However what, elder brother Li."
Seeing Zhang Xiaohua's anxiety, Li Jinfeng smiled and said, "There is no problem teaching you how to read, we can begin in a short while. The reason why is said however was because if we rely only on this fist martial art manual, we will be breaking down many walls on our own. Nothing can be compared to having a master teach you personally, after all, the master would have gone through the same experience you will go through when learning this fist martial art. As the saying goes, "practice makes perfect", without a teacher who had gone through the learning process, won't we be at risk of going astray?"
"Going astray? Then what can we do?" Zhang Xiaohua was at a loss.
Zhang Xiaohu who was at a side said, "It is alright, Xiaohua. You can learn how to read first, and read this whole Erlang fist manual, then compare it to your own understanding and slowly experience the differences yourself. As for heading towards doom, I will look around for a martial arts instructor or somebody for a good idea to keep you safe."
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and said, "Second brother's idea is really good. Okay, I will learn how to read now."
Zhang Xiaohua was so happy that he forgot his situation and moved his body, "Ouch" A heart-drilling pain emitted from his hand and Zhang Xiaohua involuntarily yelped out.
Zhang Xiaohu and Li Jinfeng quickly walked to the front of the bed but they did not dare to touch his injured arm, so they pressed down on Zhang Xiaohua's body and said, "Be more careful, do not move anyhow. If your fingers grow twisted, you won't be able to learn martial arts anymore."
Thus, while Zhang Xiaohua was nursing his injuries on bed, he embarked on his journey to learn to read. Li Jinfeng was a good teacher, he was also excited to take on such an old student and would visit every other day causing Zhang Xiaohu to get sick of him quickly. Of course, this was all in good nature, as the other party had kind intentions and did not ask for school fees to teach his younger brother. However, he shifted his area of training to the field where spectators would crowd around because of his unique method of training, which was ridiculous to him.
On that day, Zhang Xiaohu was feeling jittery after he finished his training in the field when someone ran over and told him that third master Qu had instructed him to go to the martial arts school division for a while. Zhang Xiaohu was initially surprised, but it soon turned into happiness as he guessed it should be the news of his acceptance to the martial arts school. Thus, he quickly thanked the person who carried the message, packed his stuff and went to the back courtyard.
Third master Qu house was at the front of the martial arts division courtyard, and it was similarly exquisite in design. At that moment, third master Qu was speaking to Yu Deyi, and he said, "Deyi-ah, how are your internal injuries?"
Yu Deyi replied, "It has more or less recovered thanks to uncle Qu's concern,."
Seeing the rosy expression on Yu Deyi, third master Qu nodded his head and said, "This path of training inner energy requires one to be patient and humble to improve slowly. Your personality has always been rash which I afraid would be an impediment to your progress. The saying goes, "Learning martial arts is being better person", if you want to improve your martial arts, you will be have to seek improvement within yourself first, or it would be easy to collect water with a rattan basket?"
Yu Deyi quickly nodded his head and said, "Thanks uncle for his pointer."
Third master Qu then continued, "Deyi-ah, you were in the wrong by challenging Zhang Xiaohu to a match, the latter is only a newly recruited delivery hand and no matter how good his martial arts or aptitude is, it would still be far from your level, so why can't you put aside the other people's glory? Even if it is fine if you wanted to humble him in case he turns proud, but must you use inner energy during the match? This is a huge mistake in exchanging pointers and is looked down upon in Jianghu, fortunately it happened within the confines of the escort station so outsides will not know of this matter. If not, your reputation would be adversely affected, you will have to be more mindful of this in the future."
Yu Deyi's face turned red and he said, "I was not intending to fight like that, I just lost myself in the match and conveniently activated the purple sand palm. You also know that I have practiced the purple sand palm for twenty years so it has been ingrained as a habit so I would use it unintentionally at times."
Third master Qu said, "Okay, this might be reasonable, but I think that this Zhang Xiaohu is also an interesting person to be able to force you to activate your purple sand palm, I wonder how far he can achieve in martial arts? Oh, what do you think of this person?"
Yu Deyi pondered for a while before saying, "From our exchange, I can tell that he indeed has some real ability since he had reached this level of understanding in the sixth fist not long after he began training in martial arts. However, without any inner energy to complement his fist martial arts, he is like a tiger without its teeth and is not threatening to me at all. If I were to judge properly, he would be as defenseless as an infant whether comparing in speed or strength once I activated my inner energy."
Third master Qu scrunched his nose and said, "He is naturally not your match, you have learnt the purple sand palm which has been passed down in your family since young, and have trained in it for decades so it would be strange instead if you were defeated by him. Fortunately that palm of yours was taken by his younger brother, he would have died if you have struck his chest and you would also be in serious trouble because of that. Even though deaths do not matter much in Jianghu, you won't be able to pass off a murder in Pingyang city under broad daylight. Even if you can get away with it, wouldn't it bring your father quite some trouble?"
Yu Deyi quickly stood up and said, "Deyi understands this, thanks uncle for your pointer."
Third master Qu stroke his beard and said, "Fortunately you managed to retract your inner energy in time before striking his younger brother, even if you had suffered internal injuries, they are not irreversible so it is a tolerable loss."
At that moment, a strange expression appeared in Yu Deyi's face, he said, "Uncle Qu, while I did pull back my inner energy, I would not have sustained such internal injuries if it was just me pulling back the inner energy alone."
"Oh?" Third master Qu also felt strange and he asked, "Was there something else that happened?"
He then slapped his head and said, "Oh right, how could I have forgotten, this younger brother of Zhang Xiaohu could already lift five hundred jin when he came over during his brother's test. When his fist impacted your body, it must have impacted your control of your meridians."
Yu Deyi had reservations in his heart and he said, "That's right, when that force collided with my palm, it frightened me almost to death. However, if it was just pure physical force, I would not have sustained such internal injuries when I retracted my inner energy back into my meridians."
Third master Qu patted his shoulders and said, "You do not have to worry about this anymore, his younger brother's hand is already crippled and he won't be able to practice martial arts anymore. He would also not be able to create waves in Jianghu just based on that abnormal physical strength, but it is still a pity. However, I have heard from the people in Huanxi mountain villa that his aptitude in martial arts is worse than ordinary people, and he could not even master a single complete fist martial art after learning from someone by the name of He Tianshu for over a month. Now that his hand is crippled and he cannot train in martial arts anymore, it may not be a bad thing for the boy, and perhaps you have done a service for him."
Yu Deyi was not fully convinced and he asked, "How can a person's aptitude be so poor? His elder brother is a genius too."
Third master Qu smiled as he said, "I have heard this from a Piaomiao sect disciple who was with them so the news should be accurate. I initially thought that he was a rare talent that could be nurtured so I was feeling quite upset, but..."
Just as he was speaking, the door was knocked and third master Qu asked, "Who is this?"
A voice replied, "I am Zhang Xiaohu, third master Qu. You have told me to come."
Upon hearing the reply, third master Qu exchanged glances with Yu Deyi and replied, "Zhang Xiaohu-ah, come in quickly."
Zhang Xiaohu then entered the room and was slightly surprised when he saw Yu Deyi, he first greeted third master Qu before greeting the latter.
Yu Deyi hurriedly returned the greeting and said, "Zhang Xiaohu, it has been quite a few days, how is you younger brother's injuries? I have been tending to my internal injuries for these past few days as well so I did not go over, I hope you are not offended."
Zhang Xiaohu quickly replied, "Not at all, my younger brother's recovery is going well. The pain he is feeling is not as bad as the first few days so I think he would recover soon, young master Yu does not have to worry. How is young master Yu's body?"
Yu Deyi smiled and said, "Thanks to your concern, I have gotten better day after day and finally could leave my room to come over here today."
Third master Qu continued, "Yes, Yu Deyi has been telling me his wrongdoing for the past while. However, Zhang Xiaohu, blades do not have eyes so I hope you can forgive him."
Zhang Xiaohu replied, "Third master Qu, young master Yu, please do not worry, my younger brother and I understand this, Zhang Xiaohua especially. He bears no ill-will at all, not to mention if he will forgive you or not."
"Hahaha" Third master Qu laughed and said, "Zhang Xiaohu, you and Yu Deyi will be the pillars of Lotus escort's future and there will be many times when both of you have to work together. Thus, I am very happy to see the both of you reconcile so quickly."
Zhang Xiaohu and Yu Deyi also laughed at their sides.
Then three men then took their seats.
Third master Qu said, "Zhang Xiaohu, the reason I asked you to come over as to let you know that I have settle the matter on Huanxi mountain villa's side, your younger brother will be able to continue working over there for as long as he likes no matter what he wants to work as, I have used my old face to get this bargain for him."
Zhang Xiaohu quickly stood up and said, "Thanks third master Qu for his help."
After Zhang Xiaohu sat back down, the other party continued, "We shall let your younger brother nurse his injuries in the escort station, and he can return after his injuries have mended. The other matter relates to you, I have already discussed this with old sixth Li. Tomorrow, you can come to the martial arts school to receive instruction, but you will still have to complete your tasks that have been allocated to you from the delivery division. You will still need to leave if your job calls for it, otherwise on normal days, you can go to the martial arts school, what do you think of this?"
Zhang Xiaohu was overjoyed and he said, "I have inconvenienced third master Qu."
Third master Qu smiled and said, "That is nothing much, I am fortunate enough to have found a martial art talent like you in the escort station, our station will have to rely on you young people in the future."
Zhang Xiaohu and Yu Deyi quickly responded, "We do not dare, it is thanks to elder's directions."
Third master Qu then said some sentences of politeness to Zhang Xiaohu before instructing him to return.
However, just as Zhang Xiaohu got up from his seat, he said to third master Qu, "Third master Qu, there is still another matter, I am not sure if I should let you know."
Third master Qu smiled and said, "It's no problem, just share it."
Zhang Xiaohu said, "My younger brother is currently bedridden so he may be bored and would like to read some fist martial arts manual, but I do not know where to get these for him. I heard that there are some manuals in the library, may I borrow some for him to read?"
Third master Qu bent his head and pondered before saying, "This is possible, if the child is so studious, we should support his interest. I shall write an instruction slip now for you to take away and you can borrow as he pleases. However, you must let him know not to spread it outside, understood?"
Zhang Xiaohu was even more ecstatic as he took the slip from third master Qu and thanked the latter sincerely before walking away in high spirits.