"What did you just say?" Surprisingly, his eyes were trained on Li Yundong instead of Su Chan, the one who actually made the mocking remark.
For the life of him, Li Yundong couldn't have seen this coming. I just want to get Taekwondo lessons. Is that so damn hard? Li Yundong thought, casting a helpless look at Su Chan. Helplessness turned into utter despair when he saw Zhao Yujian pushing through the crowd, looking like he was seconds away from committing murder.
Su Chan raised her chin in defiance, her beautiful face filled to the brim with disdain and arrogance. It was as if she thought she had just stated the most obvious and unassailable truths in the Universe just now.
The pounding in Li Yundong's head was unmistakable. He could already feel a headache coming. This girl was literally trouble on two feet! In fact, he hadn't stopped running into trouble since the day he met her!
What he didn't know, however, was that no good ever came to those who kept fox sprits in their lives. That had always been the case since antiquity.
The records in history books could attest to that fact. The greatest thing in common between Xia Jie, Shang Cun and Zhou You wasn't the fact that they were all foolish tyrants, but the fact that they all had a fox spirit beside them who was keen on bringing destruction upon their kingdoms.
Even if Li Yundong had no idea that the pretty girl beside him was, in fact, a fox spirit, he still knew enough about the history of humanity to know that trouble always followed the appearance of a woman. In fact, the prettier the woman was, the greater the trouble she'd cause. He could even state the principle in a scientific way: the trouble caused by a woman is directly proportional to her beauty.
Li Yundong sighed. "I just want to take Taekwondo lessons... Is all this really necessary?"
Zhao Yujian chuckled darkly and stopped in front of Li Yundong. "You've disrespected the art of Taekwondo," he said. "You have to apologize!"
Alas, Su Chan beat Li Yundong to a response. "Was I really wrong? If the stuff you're doing here isn't just for show, what else are they for?" Su Chan challenged. "I bet Yundong could wipe the floor with you with just one hand!"
Oh, f*ck me. Are all women born with the talent to manipulate the truth? Li Yundong thought. He had nearly jumped up to cover Su Chan's mouth just now.
In hindsight, he really should've done that.
In a fit of anger, Zhao Yujian raised his head to the ceiling and released a roar of laughter. Then, he jabbed a finger towards the sparring ring at the center of the dojo. "I'll be waiting for you right there!"
Then, Zhao Yujian stomped angrily towards where he had just pointed.
The students who were standing around the mat scurried aside, clearing a path for Zhao Yujian. There was a myriad of different expressions among the students. Some, like Zhao Yujian, were incensed. Then, there were those who actually looked happy and excited, like trouble was the only thing they lived for. Finally, there were those who looked completely calm and nonchalant. The last group was the typical be-a-fly-on-the-wall type; they didn't want to involve themselves in any way, but they still didn't want to miss the show.
Li Yundong stared at Su Chan incredulously.
Then, he released a groan of frustration. "My God, you must've truly gone bananas if you have that much faith in me."
Su Chan merely patted Li Yundong's shoulder in encouragement. "It's going to be fine," Su Chan said. "Didn't you sent that guy flying just now?"
"But that wasn't sparring!" Li Yundong groaned. "Do you know who Zhao Yujian is? He's the city's Taekwondo champion, for God's sake! And me? I never even had a single day of training! Funny how you think I can actually beat him."
Su Chan froze all of a sudden.
Hm, that's kind of true, she thought. Even if Li Yundong's body was enhanced by the Jindan, it's not like he should just stand there and absorb all the hits.
The gears in Su Chan's head turned quickly, and soon, she came up with a brilliant solution.
"I know a way you can beat him," she said. "Do this, and victory will be yours."
Piqued, Li Yundong brought his head closer to her. "What way?"
"If he punches you, strike his fist," Su Chan said. "If he kicks you, strike his leg."
Li Yundong didn't know whether to start crying or laughing at this point. What kind of stupidass advice was that? Victory was his, she said. Yeah, sure. If you count being used as a human mop to clean the dojo's floor a form of victory.
Zhao Yujian was now standing at the center of the sparring ring over five meters away. There he stood, tall and proud, with both hands tugging the ends of his black belt. "Hey! You done talking or what?" Zhao Yujian sneered. "You mark my words! I'm going to beat your ass until you submit to me and apologize to everyone here!"
Li Yundong was the type of guy who only gets along with those who conform to him. He was the stubborn type, so only the soft approach would work on him. Had Zhao Yujian decided to speak to him nicely, chances were that Li Yundong would have yielded and apologized to everyone on behalf of Su Chan. But, no, Zhao Yujian had decided to settle this with his fists. In that case, there was nothing else left to say.
You might be good, Zhao Yujian, but I assure you I'm no wimp either!
Lin Yundong would rather lose a fight than have his honor and pride tainted! If Zhao Yujian wanted a fight, then so be it!
Steeling his resolve, Li Yundong drew his brows together and walked over to his opponent in large, purposeful strides.
By the time the two fighters were facing off at the center of the ring, the other students in the dojo had already gathered around them in a circle. Like before, some of the students had chosen to sit down while others preferred to stand. Even Zhou Qin and Ding Nan, who never paid much attention to the business of other students, had stood up from where they had been sitting on the floor and were now looking towards the sparring ring with interest.
"Who do you think is going to win?" Ding Nan asked Zhou Qin.
"What do you think?" Zhou Qin asked in return.
Ding Nan thought for a moment. "Don't get me wrong. I still find Zhao Yujian pretentious, hypocritical and downright annoying. But I think he's more likely to win in this case. I mean, he's the city's Taekwondo champion after all."
Zhou Qin gave her a flat smile. "Dare to bet on that?"
Ding Nan chuckled. "What do I get if I win?"
Zhou Qin fixed her gaze on the center of the ring where the fight was about to begin. "You still want my handbag, right?" she said casually.
Ding Nan's eyes gleamed. "You mean the Louis Vuitton 2009's autumn season limited edition handbag?" Ding Nan said. "You're on! I'm picking Zhao Yujian!"
"I'll go with Li Yundong," Zhou Qin said with a tiny smile.
Ding Nan stared at Zhou Qin in utter bafflement. "What on earth made you think that Li Yundong could win?"
"Call it a gut feeling," Zhou Qin said nonchalantly.
Ding Nan laughed. "I refuse to believe that your gut is right every time."
Zhou Qin smiled and calmly turned her attention back to the sparring ring.
Meanwhile, Zhao Yujian was already performing his warm-up routine beside the sparring ring. Zhao Yujian had no intention of underestimating his opponent. Let's see what you're made of, you punk, Zhao Yujian thought as he studied his opponent carefully.
Sympathetic glances were cast upon Li Yundong. The students gathered around the ring saw how serious Zhao Yujian was about winning, and they all pitied Li Yundong.
The poor guy was about to have his ass handed to him.
Su Chan, the cruel and heartless little minx that she was, cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled: "Li Yundong! Try your best! You'll definitely win!"
Li Yundong turned around and flashed her a fake smile. Then, he turned back to face his opponent. He had to find that feeling again, that sudden surge of heat that he felt when he walloped the machine to kingdom come or when he sent Zeng Qing flying away not once but twice.
Too bad it didn't work that way; that feeling would never appear if he willed it to come. This was exactly like Duan Yu's Six Meridians Supersword in the Chinese martial arts novel series, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
Zhao Yujian didn't wait for Li Yundong to find that mysterious feeling. He stepped into the center of the ring and stared at Li Yundong icily. "Are you ready?"
Li Yundong decided to just bite the bullet. "Good to go," he said.
Zhao Yujian didn't bother with the usual etiquettes such as bowing to his opponent before a fight. He figured it was pointless, since Li Yundong had already made it clear that he didn't respect the ways of the art. Bouncing on the balls of his feet, Zhao Yujian began moving around Li Yundong as if he were dancing.
Indeed, Zhao Yujian lived up to his reputation as the city level Taekwondo champion. He was quick and agile on his feet. While he moved, his upper body kept swaying from left to right. Those were feigned attacks that he used in order to test his opponent. Below, his legs kept crossing each other forcefully like a pair of scissors. His movements were unpredictable like he was a massive foldable knife; his leg could spring out any moment in a strike.
On the sidelines, the students could barely keep up with the movements of Zhao Yujian's feet with their eyes. A few infatuated fangirls covered their mouths and screamed: "That's the butterfly step!"
Li Yundong's eyes followed Zhao Yujian's swift movements. True, Li Yundong didn't have much combat experience, but he sure as hell had enough common sense to know the most fundamental principle of hand-to-hand combat: always keep your opponent in front of you; never stand with your back to your opponent and leave your back, waist and stomach open to your opponent's attack.
For a while, the two combatants circled each other around the ring. At one point, Zhao Yujian was starting to lose his patience. He dispensed with the feigned attacks and got into a sudden X-stance (Kyocha Sogi). A split second later, his right leg raised from the floor as if it had springs attached to it.
A roundhouse kick slammed into Li Yundong's waist.
Zhao Yujian's kick was lightning fast; as he moved, the fabric of his pants created a loud, whipping sound as it whirled through the air. Li Yundong couldn't react in time. One moment he was watching Zhao Yujian circling around him, then the next, he felt a sharp pain in his waist.
The pain reminded Li Yundong of the tip that Su Chan had given him before the fight began. With a low, angry roar, Li Yundong aimed a punch at Zhao Yujian's leg.
Then again, Li Yundong was no match for Zhao Yujian's lighting speed; Zhao Yujian had retracted his leg the moment his kick had connected. Then, his other leg lifted off the ground.
Li Yundong was struck once again, this time on the other side of his waist.
After the second kick, Li Yundong subconsciously tried to use his hands to block any further kicks. He managed to block the third kick, but that was about all he could manage as Zhao Yujian's other leg came flying at him a split second after the block was made.
Zhao Yujian's legs lashed out like a pair of fast-moving whips.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Zhao Yujian was like a human cyclone, landing one kick after another on Li Yundong's waist. Those who were watching the fight couldn't help but wince every time one of those vicious kicks landed. The sounds produced by those kicks literally had their hair standing on end.
Ding Nan gave Zhou Qin a gleeful look. "Looks like I'm going to get a new handbag!"
Zhou Qin looked completely unfazed. "We’ll see."
All of a sudden, Li Yundong made a complete one-eighty, as if he was trying to run away from his opponent. Zhao Yujian sneered and ran after Li Yundong.
Zhao Yujian extended his leg until his heel was above and to the side of Li Yundong's head. Once his leg was fully extended, Zhao Yujian bent it at the knee with a hooking motion, snapping his heel downwards. It was powerful hook kick aimed straight at Li Yundong's skull.
The students watching the fight were now on their feet. If that kick landed, a concussion was probably the least of the Li Yundong worries. Was Zhao Yujian out of his mind? Li Yundong wasn't wearing a headguard! Was he trying to kill the poor guy?
It was as if Li Yundong had sensed that something was going on behind him; he turned back around and aimed a punch at Zhao Yujian's calf.
Li Yundong never did forget Su Chan's advice. If Zhao Yujian punches, hit his fist. If he kicks, hit his leg.
Anyone who said that in front of those well-versed in hand-to-hand combat would've instantly become a laughing stock. It was complete horseshit. Still, Li Yundong had run out of options.
What a pity. Li Yundong had the Jindan's power coursing through his veins, yet he had no idea how to unleash that power. In a way, Su Chan's advice was a band-aid solution; a desperate, last-ditch effort to perhaps enable him to walk away from this fight with his head still attached to his shoulders. In times of desperation, a dying patient would do anything just for a chance to get better, even if it meant seeking the help of charlatans.
Zhao Yujian grunted when Li Yundong's fist hit his calf. The hook kick missed Li Yundong's head, but Zhao Yujian improvised. He folded his leg suddenly, changing its angle, and managed to land a hit on Li Yundong's neck instead. Li Yundong stumbled onto the mat.
That move left the onlookers in awe. Seconds later, a chorus of cheers filled the dojo.
If it weren't for the Jindan's protection, Li Yundong would probably be spending the next few months in a neck brace after that kick.
If Zhao Yujian decided to end the fight there, the matter would've been resolved without any further damage. But alas, Zhao Yujian had subconsciously glanced at Zhou Qin moments after Li Yundong fell. He saw, much to his chagrin, that Zhou Qin was staring at Li Yundong instead of himself. He thought his eyes might've been playing tricks on him when he noticed the slight frown between Zhou Qin's brows.
What the heck? Zhou Qin, the ice queen, is worried about Li Yundong?
At that moment, it was like a fuse had blown inside Zhao Yujian's head, and he felt a sudden impulse to end the bastard's life with a single kick.
Zhao Yujian clenched his jaw tight, a feral glint flashing in his eyes. He charged forward and made a sudden leap into the air. Everyone watching him knew which move he was about to execute. It was the jumping, spinning, side kick aimed directly at Li Yundong's chest.
That move was considered to be the most powerful move in Taekwondo. In its execution, the practitioner would channel their bodyweight as well as the strength of their whole body into the kicking leg. That kick could generate a force equivalent to at least, what, 500 kilos?
When he was falling over after that kick to his neck, Li Yundong became fully aware of the vast gap in skill between himself and Zhao Yujian. He was actually considering giving up the fight. After all, he wasn't hurt that badly yet, so he might as well just give up before things got worse.
However, any thoughts of giving up were thrown out of the window when Li Yundong saw Zhao Yujian charging at him like a mad bull. In that moment, Li Yundong felt a tightness in his chest, as if something was rubbing and scratching against his ribcage. Then, a wave of heat surged upwards as anger erupted inside him.
Even a saint would get mad if sufficiently provoked, let alone a normal guy like Li Yundong. For the life of him, Li Yundong couldn't comprehend how Zhao Yujian could still be so merciless despite having gained such a huge upper hand over him.
That wave of heat originated from Li Yundong's lower abdomen, spreading quickly throughout his whole body like steam inside a pressure cooker. The heat gushed out from the top of Li Yundong's head. What ensued was a gravity-defying feat: strands of Li Yundong's hair were standing on end (literally) as if they were being held upright by some kind of unseen force.
In that moment, Li Yundong could see Zhao Yujian's leaping movement clearly, frame by frame, as if he were watching a movie in slow motion.
In the air, Zhao Yujian's body spun before his leg extended out in a side kick. At the right moment, Li Yundong ducked and delivered a heavy punch on the sole of Zhao Yujian's foot.
Wham! The sound of the impact was low and muffled. Zhao Yujian's body was propelled outwards about a meter away before it crashed heavily into the floor. A series of gut-wrenching screams followed suit as Zhao Yujian held on to his calf for dear life.
The students in the dojo were thrown into a state of stupor, utterly transfixed by what they had just witnessed. None of them could believe their eyes. This was beyond anything they could even imagine. How could Zhao Yujian, who had the upper hand just a few moments ago, suffer such a sudden and devastating loss?
Their awe was taken further up a notch when they cast their eyes towards Li Yundong and saw the slightly elevated state of his hair. Li Yundong's hair floated above his skull for several moments before they slowly flattened out. No, they hadn't missed the way in which Li Yundong's hair had risen and stood erect moments before Zhao Yujian's spinning side kick landed. It was a fearsome sight to behold, one that filled each of them with amazement; how could they not be amazed when what they saw bordered on supernatural?
While the crowd was still dumbstruck, Su Chan ran up to Zhao Yujian and crouched down beside him. Her nimble fingers worked quickly and pressed down on several acupoints on Zhao Yujian's calf and body; that was meant to help alleviate his pain.
Before Zhao Yujian even had time to brace himself for the excruciating pain following Su Chan's touches, it was already over; Su Chan was done. He gave Su Chan a weak smile of gratitude, but Su Chan was already on her feet and walking towards Li Yundong. Su Chan stopped before Li Yundong, shaking her head.
"No martial art in this world is invincible," she said. "Only one thing in this world is invincible."
There was a pregnant pause.