Chapter 35 Challenge!
Once the laughter subsided, everyone eventually came to the conclusion that the whole display was just a prank Feng Na had pulled on Li Yundong. Smashing a pebble on someone's chest with a giant hammer might work in a slapstick or a stand-up comedy, not in a setting where there were dozens of foreigners to be wowed. Feng Na couldn't possibly be serious about going with that idea unless her goal was to turn not just the university, but also the entire Chinese culture, into a running joke. Still, they couldn't deny that the prank was absolutely hilarious to watch. Although they didn't know the details, everyone knew that Li Yundong must've done something to piss Feng Na off. Why else would Feng Na go through such great lengths to set the whole thing up? For one, that huge hammer must have cost her an arm and a leg, not to mention being a huge pain in the ass to drag all the way to campus. Nevertheless, they were all thankful for what Li Yundong did — most of them hadn't had such a good laugh in years. Some had laughed so hard that some of their faces actually turned so purple that it seemed as though they were asphyxiating.
One of the professors rose from his seat and walked over to the stage.
"Enough, enough," he said, wiping his tears. "Just get on with your actual performance already. Quit messing around. You can't pull something like this during the day of the exchange visit, you hear me? The event is no joking matter. It concerns the university's reputation."
Feng Na grinned at the professor.
"Oh! Don't worry, sir! I was just pulling a prank on my junior over here, that's all!"
Apparently, Feng Na had some sense of moderation. Well... okay, perhaps "moderation" might be a bit stretching it.
"A prank?" Li Yundong said. "You call this a prank? This is attempted murder!"
Feng Na made a face at him. "Serves you right for getting on my bad side!"
For the love of God, why can't she just let that go already? Geez Louise!
Li Yundong sighed heavily, then clasped his hands together as though he was praying.
"O great sage! Please forgive your humble servant for being blind to your greatness before! I've learned my lesson, received the wisdom that you have imparted, and have since repented my sinful ways... Please accept my alms as a token of my repentance..."
Feng Na put her palms together in front of her chest, looking dignified and serious like some Buddhist monk.
"Amitabha..." she said with her eyes closed. "The great Buddha once said that the ocean of bitterness has no bounds. Repent, however, and the shore shall be at hand. Rejoice! Rejoice my dear almsgiver! For you have repented. You have found the shore, and all the Buddhas in the sky shall shed tears of joy!"
Feng Na opened her eyes and shared a glance with Li Yundong.
Seconds later, they both keeled over in laughter.
Li Yundong's mirth was quite a sight for sore eyes. His face lit up as he laughed, and his deep, masculine voice resounded through the hall, stirring the hearts of every female student there.
Women have an innate weakness for good-looking men with a sunny, outgoing personality, as well as a good sense of humor. The girls' reaction to Li Yundong's laughter could readily attest to that fact. Many of the women in the audience had dopey expressions or starry eyes, while others released longing sighs and so on.
Once the swooning subsided, the whispers began.
"If only I had a boyfriend who is fun and handsome like him..."
"Says the one who once declared that she'd rather die than date an otaku."
"Well... if it's a fun otaku like him, then I think I can make an exception..."
There was a snort.
"Fun? Please. You're just saying that because he's handsome, you slut!"
"What can I say? I like handsome guys. And I like guys with a good sense of humor too. And if they have both... Rawr!"
"Pooh! I suggest you wake up from your delusions, girl. Look at that hot chick beside him. You think someone like you can top that? You'd better not do anything stupid or you'll end up humiliating yourself..."
Li Yundong was, of course, unaware that he had become the subject of gossip among the ladies. He'd just recovered from his laughing spree and was now looking at Feng Na with a serious expression.
"Jokes aside," he said. "What the heck do you actually want me to do anyway? If there's nothing else, then I'm outta here!"
"Wait!" Feng Na said, grabbing Li Yundong's arm. "You can't go yet. We're still counting on you for the special performance!"
Li Yundong released a long sigh, his shoulder sagging a little. Dammit! He slapped his thigh with his palm. For a moment there, I thought I was off the hook! Ah well. Guess I can't prevent the inevitable.
He turned back around.
"Fine. What do you have in mind? Whatever it is, I'm game."
"Nothing too complicated. Breaking roof tiles, kicking boards, and all that stuff," Feng Na said, then chuckled when she saw the skeptical look on Li Yundong's face. "What, you think I was gonna ask you to break through the 18 Bronzemen's Formation or something?" (T/N: I've added the explanation for the 18 Bronzemen Formation in the novel's glossary. There are two contexts in which this term applies, the modern and historical context. Here, the modern context is used. Please refer to the glossary to gain a full understanding of the term. The link to the glossary can be found on the novel's overview/description)
Li Yundong laughed out loud. "18 bronzemen. Very funny," he said, then smirked at Feng Na. "I bet you thought about it, didn't you?"
Li Yundong looked at Feng Na curiously. "Think the people from the Shaolin temple would come if you asked?"
Feng Na arched a brow, her lips curving slightly. "Oh? So you're saying you wanna try?"
Li Yundong looked into Feng Na's eyes and gee whiz, look at that, there was an evil glint there. Yeah, he sure as hell wouldn't put it past this crazy chick to make it happen. F*ck. He wondered what would happen if he showed up on the day of the performance and was then thrown on the mercy of 18 bald men covered in bronze body paint whose sole purpose of existence was to smash wooden sticks and stab spears into his body. Could his body really survive that kind of torture?
Li Yundong shuddered at the thought.
"No. I don't want to try that. I'm still too young to die," Li Yundong said wryly.
Feng Na smiled at him sweetly, though the evil glint in her eyes was still there.
"Hmm... I don't know. You did humiliate me last time—"
"Fine! Fine! Geez!" Li Yundong said, raising his palms in a gesture of surrender. "You win, okay? I bow to your superior authority."
"You better," Feng Na said smugly.
Moments later, Cheng Cheng and several members of the Taekwondo club returned to the stage with some roof tiles.
Well, some was definitely an understatement.
More like stacks of them.
Whispers washed over the audience, and Li Yundong's Jindan-enhanced hearing allowed him to overhear a girl whispering to her friend: "These tiles are legit... Think he can do it?"
Good question, Li Yundong thought, heading over to the front edge of the stage. Heck, he'd never even thrown a punch until recently, let alone breaking roof tiles. Sure, he'd seen those Karate masters do it on TV a few times, but he'd never actually tried it himself. In hindsight, he should've tried punching concrete slabs instead of kicking the lamp the other night.
Why didn't he think of that?
At the edge of the stage, he crouched down in front of Su Chan, who was standing below the stage.
"Hey, think I can do it?" he whispered.
Su Chan waved off his concerns.
"Of course. Piece of cake!"
Li Yundong hadn't been expecting an answer. He was just asking her for the sake of... well, asking. Nevertheless, Su Chan's answer filled his heart with confidence. All of a sudden, he felt so much stronger, so much more powerful, as though he could take on the world.
Alright! I can do this! Li Yundong thought, rising to his full height.
He took a deep breath, then released it. When he did, it was as though his body had grown several inches taller. Amazing what the words of a beautiful woman can do to a man.
He angled his head slightly and glanced towards the center of the stage where the roof tiles had already been stacked up. Two thick concrete slabs were used as the stack's base support. The slabs were placed about ten inches apart so that only the two ends of the stack were resting on the slabs. He was supposed to strike down on the center of the stack and allow the pieces to fall through the gap.
Let's go. Li Yundong strode confidently towards the center of the stage, stopping in front of the tiles. Then, he began practicing his strikes in slow motion, mimicking the techniques he'd seen from the Karate masters on TV.
Meanwhile, Feng Na was watching Li Yundong anxiously. She knew that the time for jokes was over and that Li Yundong could seriously get hurt if he didn't know what he was doing. When Li Yundong was doing his seventh slow-motion punch, Feng Na couldn't take it anymore.
She walked over and said, "Hey, can you actually do it? You don't have to force yourself, you know? If you can't do it, I'll ask someone else. I just... I don't want you to get hurt."
Li Yundong turned and flashed her a grin.
"Ain't gonna be a problem! Don't worry!"
Hah, Li Yundong thought. If you saw what I did to the marble sink the other day, you'd know that a few roof tiles are nothing...
Apparently, Feng Na still wasn't reassured.
"Remember to keep your wrist straight when you strike," she said. "And don't hesitate. Strike all the way through!"
Li Yundong didn't even hear Feng Na's advice. He was already mentally prepping himself for the strike, staring intently at the tiles.
One strike, that's all, Li Yundong thought, raising his striking hand into the air. He breathed in. One. Two. Thre—
"Breaking a bunch of roof tiles? You call that a performance? That's just child's play!"
Li Yundong turned towards the source of the voice.
Zhou Yu, the douchebag who tried to pick a fight with him in front of the campus the other day, was standing below the stage, and he wasn't alone.
Beside Zhou Yu stood another man whom Li Yundong had never seen before. The man was average-sized and his attire made him look like one of those Kung Fu masters from the movies: short-sleeved Tang suit; a pair of Traditional Chinese cotton cloth shoes.
"I have a better idea!" Zhou Yu declared, staring intently at Li Yundong.
"You!" He pointed at Li Yundong. "And us!" He spread his arms out wide. "We'll have a sparring match in front of the audience during the exchange visit. How about that!"
Feng Na decided to step in right then.
"Zhou Yu! What do you think you're doing?" she growled.
Zhou Yu glanced at her briefly, then returned his gaze towards Li Yundong.
"Stay out of this, Nana," he said, waving his hand dismissively. "This doesn't concern you."
Clearly, it's me these two guys have a problem with, Li Yundong thought. Those two had been glaring at him from the start. Li Yundong lowered his hand and straightened to full height.
"What's the point of all this?" Li Yundong asked coldly.
Zhou Yu ignored the question and pointed at the young man standing beside him.
"This is Huang Yifei, a senior from my martial arts school. He's the fifth successor of the Lin-style Iron Wire Fist!"
Huang Yifei wasn't a tall guy — 170 cm give or take. He was tanned and had the typical Cantonese look. Perhaps the characteristic about Huang Yifei's appearance that stuck out the most was his arms, which were huge, thick, and so muscular that they looked as though there were a bunch of steel cords sitting under his skin. Those terrifying arms looked like they could crush bones with ease.
Huang Yifei hadn't taken his eyes off Li Yundong from the moment he saw Li Yundong. He stared at Li Yundong unblinkingly, like a predator observing its prey before it pounces.
Li Yundong felt a little creeped out by Huang Yifei's stare. The perception of threat, however, kicked his Jindan-enhanced Qi into overdrive. In an instant, Li Yundong's Qi began pumping through his meridians swiftly. It was a spontaneous and involuntary response. In fact, Li Yundong himself wasn't even aware of the subtle changes in his body.
Li Yundong knitted his brows and met Huang Yifei's gaze head-on. His eyes flashed like lightning, supercharging the air around him. If someone were to stand beside Li Yundong at that moment, they would no doubt feel the stifling heat in the air around him. It was as though the air could burst into flames at any second like during one of those Super Saiyan transformations.
Such was the power of the purest form of Yang Qi in existence!
Even Su Chan couldn't help but be awestruck by Li Yundong's transformation. Even though Li Yundong's swift progress through the early phases of Cultivation was due to dumb luck, she couldn't deny that he possessed the disposition befitting of a master Cultivator — peaceful on the outside but tough on the inside. He had a kind and warm temperament, which could be seen from his day-to-day interactions with others, but that didn't mean he was weak. Deep down, he had conviction. He would fearlessly stand up for what he believed in and would fight in the name of his pride and honor. That was precisely why he never hesitated to go up against Zeng Qing and Zhao Yujian even though he knew he could get hurt in the process. He would never cower in the presence of a powerful enemy, but would meet them head-on instead!
As an experienced Cultivator, Su Chan was aware of the benefits such traits would bring to any Cultivator who possesses them. But that wasn't all Li Yundong had! He currently possessed the purest form of Yang Qi thanks to the Renyuan Jindan! The combination of these two qualities would allow Li Yundong to achieve the same things that other Cultivators did, but with much less effort! In fact, this wouldn't be limited to just the world of Cultivation; with such qualities, Su Chan was confident that Li Yundong could thrive and excel in any field he decided to go into.
Feng Na could sense a confrontation looming on the horizon.
"Way to go, Zhou Yu," she said in a sneering tone. "You went crying to your senior after realizing that you couldn't beat Li Yundong? I never thought you'd stoop to something so cowardly."
Zhou Yu chuckled darkly. "As if I'd lose to the likes of him," he retorted.
When Zhou Yu witnessed Li Yundong single-handedly take out a group of gangsters the other day, he was too shock and terrified to fight Li Yundong. Zhou Yu was the one who had challenged Li Yundong first, yet he backed out of the challenge at the last moment out of fear. Since then, Zhou Yu hadn't been able to live with himself. His own cowardice vexed him, tormenting his mind and wounding his pride until the point where he had to do something to get it off his chest. He ended up spilling his guts to Huang Yifei.
Huang Yifei's response, however, shook Zhou Yu to the core: "You have to defeat this man, because he has ruined your state of mind. He might not have defeated you physically, but he has wounded you mentally! If you do not defeat him and overcome your fear, you'll never be able to improve and take your martial art to the next level!"
That was the moment when Zhou Yu decided that he would defeat and humiliate Li Yundong in front of everyone, and in doing so, overcome his own fear. Afterwards, he and Huang Yifei launched into a discussion of the various ways he could use to counter Li Yundong's strength advantage. Eventually, they came up with a strategy to defeat Li Yundong. All that was left after that was to issue an official challenge to Li Yundong, which was why Zhou Yu had shown up here today with his senior.
Zhou Yu pointed at Huang Yifei. "My senior is just here as a witness," he said. "I'm the one who will be fighting."
Unfortunately, the university's vice-chancellor, who had been tasked with overseeing and assessing the students' performances, wasn't a fan of the idea. He stood up from his seat and stormed towards the stage.
"Enough! What do you think you're doing! This is a university, not a dojo! Go outside if you want to fight!"
Zhou Yu turned around to face the vice-chancellor with aplomb.
"Mr. Ke, the whole point of the exchange visit is to promote the Chinese culture as well as our school culture. In that case, why only allow the Taekwondo Club to perform but not us?"
"This is absurd! Is the exchange visit a joke to you? The Taekwondo Club is an official club of the university! Are you?"
Just then, Director Qian approached the stage as well.
"Actually vice-chancellor, there is a Wushu club in our university," said Director Qian.
The vice-chancellor felt as though he'd just been slapped in the face. He turned around and glared at Director Qian.
"Is that so? How come I've never heard of it then?"
Director Qian wasn't the slightest bit intimidated by the vice-chancellor's show of authority.
"Well, it isn't official," Director Qian said with a smile. "A group of students started the club on their own. It was part of the university's registry a year ago, but then it got disbanded due to poor management."
The vice-chancellor turned back to face Zhou Yu.
"This is supposed to be a friendly exchange visit between two universities," the vice-chancellor stated firmly. "The Taekwondo Club's performance is violent enough as it is! And now you want to include an actual brawl as part of it? That is absurd! It'll send all kinds of wrong messages to the visiting students. Besides, what if there's an accident? Who's going to take the blame!"
"Mr. Ke, it is common among martial artists to get to know each other through sparring," Zhou Yu cut in. "That is what we're proposing. By sparring with each other, we get to learn more about different martial arts as well as their practitioners! Don't worry, sir. We'll treat it as a form of practice, not an actual fight to the death. So, I guarantee that there won't be any problems! If there is, I'll withdraw from the university voluntarily!"
Hurting Li Yundong wasn't Zhou Yu's intent anyway. He just wanted to prove in front of a crowd that he was better than Li Yundong. He just wanted to be acknowledged.
Director Qian, the slimeball, already had an evil scheme in mind.
"Vice-chancellor Ke," Director Qian said before the vice-chancellor could protest. "I think Zhou Yu's proposal is quite reasonable. Think about it. Including a sparring session between practitioners of two different styles of martial arts is rather spectacular, don't you think? Besides, they're all adults and well trained. Surely, they know how to pull their punches and avoid hurting each other."
"Easy for you to say," the vice-chancellor said, glaring at Director Qian. "You aren't the one who's going to take the blame if anything happens."
Director Qian smirked.
"What do you have to worry about, sir? Deputy Mayor Zhou would be there as well, and he's in charge of the city's educational policies. You don't have to shoulder any responsibility if he's there. It's just like the old saying, isn't it? If the sky collapses, those who are taller would bear its weight. Personally, I think it is unlikely that this would lead to any accidents. After all, the students know that it's all just for show. On the other hand, if the leaders are satisfied with the performance, the credit will go to you."
The vice-chancellor gave Director Qian a meaningful look as he pondered the latter's words. A moment later, he turned to Zhou Yu. "I have your word that there won't be any problems?"
The vice-chancellor's approval filled Zhou Yu with delight. When he showed up here earlier, he was prepared for two possibilities: one, his proposal was rejected, in which case he would settle for fighting with Li Yundong right then and there during the rehearsals; two, his proposal was accepted, which was the best-case scenario, since he would be able to humiliate Li Yundong in front of every student in the school!
At that moment, Zhou Yu looked like the cat that had eaten the canary.
"Yes, sir. You have my word!"
Then, Zhou Yu turned to Li Yundong and said, "I believe my junior also sees this sparring session as an opportunity to learn and grow as a martial artist. Ain't that right, Li Yundong?"
Li Yundong's eyes never left Huang Yifei when he answered.
"Hmm. I don't know. I think it's best if you let your senior spar with me since you're clearly not a match for me," Li Yundong spoke in an offhand tone. "I mean, there'll be foreign students watching us, right? The show is going to become a laughing stock if it’s over in three seconds."
Zhou Yu felt as though someone had slapped him in the face.
Feng Na burst into laughter.