The discomfort remained in his mind, as the pathetic appearance of his September Dojo lingered in his mind along with the glorious imagery of Tian Hua Dojo. He sighed, helplessly. The so-called tournament this time likely would only have the apprentices fighting instead of those masters of the dojo to prove their values. Naturally, the masters or the heads would sit back and watch, they would not put their fists and kicks into the scene. Well, that would be another gloomy news to Lan Yixing with those impotent apprentices of his. Of course he recognized their impotency and he feared it would be a mere embarrassment to have them there. "I’m turning this down." Thought so, Lan Yixing made up his mind that he must reject this offer.
"I’m very sorry," said Lan Yixing as he cupped one hand in the other, that etiquette of his from the ancient fighters was still a thing. "That I have a few personal matters to settle on that day and might not be able to attend the tournament. Brother, I am truly regretful to not be able to join the festival this time around. Please inform Mr. Hua on my behalf to express the admiration towards his determination as well as my sincerest apology."
Ye Chong was engaged in the important task of wiping the floor clean behind Lan Yixing and his companion.
The person who sent the invitation this time was known as Hua Shangmei, the third apprentice of Hua Tiankai. His feature was demure, handsomely expressive. His nature was docile as respectfully he dealt with the people. A balanced proportion of body, with flexible limbs, both could clearly tell he was a potential material for combat-training. And his fame roared throughout the Windstar in between the few dojos he attended, which was not something to be overlooked of. Lan Yixing took a look at this fine man before him and he thought of his own apprentices… It was discouraging. And when he finally got a good material whose tenacity could withstand tough training, that material turned out to be rather mediocre. Extinguished, his burning passion. So he made up his mind, he would like to decline the offer to the tournament this time.
Hua Shangmei seemed to be not expecting rejection from Lan Yixing. He might have claimed to be occupied by some personal matters, but anyone could tell the mere sense of rejection between the words, especially a talent like Hua Shangmei. Well if the matters were personal to begin with, naturally it would be better for Hua Shangmei to not further question the person.
His tone was a bit grim, "It would be such regret to not have your appearance at our tournament this time. Well, it can’t be helped, if Master Lan is preoccupied. However if there were instances where our Tianhua dojo could provide assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. We shall never reject your request!" Sincerity was filled in his expression. It was pleasing to the eyes.
Although it sounded like a work of tongue, Lan Yixing still complimented the person in his mind, he must admit that Hua Tiankai had gotten a great apprentice!
Lan Yixing walked Hua Shangmei to the gate. He seemed troubled the moment he returned. He got back to his room after giving few brief instructions on Ye Chong’s training.
Under the light, Ye Chong trained hard as sweat formed like downpour on his body. Under surveillance of Mu Shang, it would be impossible for one to have a peek on his training, which was relieving to Ye Chong as he trained harder.
It was Shang’s turn to take over the reception in his head. Fortunately, Ye Chong was the kind who would be extremely focused on his training or Shang’s motivational talk could become one of the world’s worst torments to mankind ever.
Ye Chong felt inspired ever since he did his training. Everything that had hardly made sense to him before cleared up for him out of sudden. He was naturally an expert in manipulating his muscle. However, with the better understanding towards combats he got from the training daily, his skills grew stronger! Ye Chong wielded the strength of a bull and he had mastered the technique to exert it efficiently, he himself too could not imagine how massive his strength had grown.
With the development in his strength, speed and skillfulness, he felt he had been reborn.
Regarding strength, Ye Chong held his own set of beliefs. The whole point of strength was always about timing. Applying one kind of strength at one kind of time, that was his knowledge about strength. Close-combats might be great, but it was a mere force in front of a mech, a machinery. A pilot could be regarded as mighty, yet the time he took to roll into his cabin was sufficient for a fighter to slaughter him a few times! If they were armed with weaponry like the heat ray guns, that would be even more offensive to make the pilot die a hundred times, although heat ray guns were not the ideal weapon to be armed with, considering its disadvantages like the problem carrying it and the attention it attracted before one even approached the target.
Then there was this part of fighting called "shooting", his nemesis, a headache giving aspect of training. It was not like he was unaware of the efficiency of heat ray guns among the other ranged weapons, it was just … somehow he was born defected in this. He had tried practicing, the efficiency just would not go up in the end. At least he was fast, so it would still be challenging for one to lock on him with a ray-based gun.
He had overheard the exchange between Lan Yixing and Hua Shangmei, clearly. Despite that, he did not seem to intend to grab the spotlight of the tournament. This place was merely an accommodation for him at the moment. He simply did not compute the necessity in those apparent recognition since they would bring him no good than tons of unwanted inconveniences while alarming the foes. Hiding under the skin of a lamb, becoming the lamb in spite of those fangs, that would be the efficiency in life he sought after. Surprisingly, both Mu and Shang agreed on this!
Geez, how many light years must I wait before Wang Weixing came back here? Such a hassle!
"Anything?" A middle-aged man asked in his deep voice. Only if Ye Chong was here, he would be raising his brows as recognizing this menacing man being… Instructor Hak. He still was the ultimate leader in the case of retrieving F-58. The new order he got from the authority was to capture F-58 and have him back to the Black Coves. The catch was, the target must be unharmed, not even a scratch, by hook or by crook, which was indeed puzzling to the instructor. Even if F-58 turned out to be a skeleton artisan, he did not see the need of preserving him to an extent where he must be unwounded. As far as he knew, that would further hinder the capturing process.
The improvement this time was the kindness of the authority, as they allocated the instructor additional members in his team. Well, obviously they really wanted this traitor of Black Coves to return in one piece.
"Nothing," one man in black coat replied coldly. He was the man Rui Bing encountered on the ship that day, the one with a female.
The mentioned female who fought Rui Bing before added, "We had skimmed through the residence record. There was no man called ‘Wang Xing’ discovered. We had also checked out the hologramic visual search engine and the result was negative. Windstar is a planet for tourism, traffics are heavy daily, which has brought us immense difficulties in identifying F-58."
Instructor Hak was more troubled than before. This was because it would be far-fetched for him to perform a major search all over the place since that would alert the MPA as well as the Sanctuary. And the situation would go beyond his control he feared. Nevertheless, digging out a particular man from a vast planet, that felt like finding a needle in the haystack.
The instructor could not see the progress in this search. His headache intensified!
Instructor was not the only person irritated. Rui Bing too had a headache. The apprentices of Hua Tiankai had been outrageously attentive to Rui Bing and their master seemed to be closing one eye over their misbehavior. Ugh! And Rui Bing could not get worked up, she could not toss them into fracture, since Uncle Hua was there. She treated these apprentices like flies after the flood. In the end she shut herself completely in the room as she sat quietly with hands on her lap day by day. It was relieving that those apprentices were sensible enough to not act more intrusive than they had been. They withdrew themselves and Rui Bing was more than happy to see that.
And every time in that silence she dipped herself into, she would be reminded of that man, that feeble-looking yet wielding great strength man in an unexplainable chillness… And that lick, that moment when they exchanged strange gazes. Recalling that very scene, once again her face reddened on its own. A seizing embarrassment struck upon her. Imagine any of her acquaintance seeing her expression at the moment, they would be dropping their jaws, wondering if that was the icy cold lady Rui Bing they had been dealing with.
Luckily she could still have her meals in peace. When they gathered at one table with Hua Tiankai, the apprentices would behave themselves. Like on one lunch, every boy on the table acted like a little lamb from the pen. "Oh, by the way…" Hua Shanghai remembered something to tell from the morning, as he lifted his head and looked at Hua Tiankai, "Master, I had gone to Mr. Lan Yixing’s dojo to send the invitation."
"What took you this long?" The master held his chopstick and looked displeased.
"Haha…" Hua Shangmei gave an awkward laugh, "I forgot… the September Dojo was a little inactive these few years that I could hardly remember if it was not of your kindest reminder."
"Right. Has Lan Yixing accepted it?" asked Hua Tiankai, without a sense of blaming his apprentice’s forgetfulness. He himself too had vaguely remembered the existence of September dojo, though he had heard of Lan Yixing frequently before.
"Nope," he shook his head. "He said he had some personal matters that day. I would not wish to impose on him."
"Hmph!" Deng Chong at the side forced into the conversation, "Never mind if he did not want to come! Not like he is the only dojo in the town! His dojo was almost non-existent, no point even if he was here!" Hua Tiankai had 3 apprentices, the first being Zheng Zhongxing, the calm kind; the second being Hua Shangmei, the sensible kind; the third was none other than Zheng Chong, the hot-tempered kind, although he was the greatest fighter among them all.
"September dojo?" Rui Bing in her seat joined the conversation, "Could Lan Yixing a native from the September planet?"
The beauty had spoken! She had stated her inquiry! A perfect timing to flaunt your proactiveness! Hua Shangmei snatched the red button, "As expected from my senior Bing, you are also knowledgeable! Lan Yixing was indeed from September planet!" Hua Shangmei could be young at his age but he was experienced in this that he had already performed his own research before heading to September dojo. Regrets filled mind of the other two as seeing how their mate stole the attention.
"Well…" Rui Bing did not seem impressed as she had hardly laid her eyes on Hua Shangmei, facing Hua Tiankai she spoke on, "Then he must be from the Lan family of September, Mr. Lan Yixing my senior. I had heard from my father before, the uniqueness in control of muscles among members of this family. And this very senior of mine is the expert in this."
"Oh…" Rui Bing’s statement was not within Hua Tiankai’s expectation. He hmmed. The meal ended in silence.
Hua Shangmei was summoned to his master’s room after the meal. He was in there for quite some time.
Hua Shangmei paid his second visit to September dojo. The September Lan family huh… he recalled the compliment Senior Bing made on the family. Thrilled, he would love to see the uniqueness in their skills. Well that was not his main purpose here though. There was something else in hand.
Hua Shangmei stood courteously below the platform. He did have the eagerness to test out this frail-looking Master Lan on his capabilities, but judging from Bing’s words, he should be an adept in the dark, a senior unknown to the people. Well, if that was the case, it would not be wrong to express some courtesy.
Lan Yixing was watching the message recorded by Hua Tiankai. And there Ye Chong was behind, being dead serious wiping the floor clean again.
Hua Tiankai expressed immense persistence in having Lan Yixing on the tournament this time, his hologram had addressed his formal invitation politely with all the buttering up words and admiration, which were totally incomputable to Lan Yixing.
He would like to turn this down too but… he could not, as there was one particular reason hidden in the recording he could not say no to.
Hua Tiankai stated in his message, that the tournament was not only an opportunity for exchange between apprentices of various styles, but also a competition between the masters. Of course that was not the point. The main point was there would be a huge amount of spectators that day and a majority of them were the trainees. The winners could have the chance to choose their own apprentices from the trainees! Certainly solely if consensus was made beforehand. And it was turn-by-turn basis, meaning the following winners could hit the ground picking their future apprentices only after the winner before had done it.
How could such condition not be attractive to Lan Yixing and making his heart race? Getting the right apprentice had always been the prime issue in his mind. And he could solve it once and for all if he won this tournament and picked the best ones in his eyes before the others. He would stand a better chance in obtaining actual talents to be under his supervision. There should be a few of them among spectators that many. Thinking about his problem in finding a successor, he accepted the invitation without hesitation. He was absolutely confident of his own skills.
Hua Shangmei peeked at Ye Chong on the floor. Wow, there are humans who still wipe their floors literally on the ground? That explains a lot. No wonder September dojo had been declining. The cleaners at Tianhua dojo had been long replaced by automatic cleaning machines, although Hua Shangmei was impressed to see Ye Chong being this calm and concentrated despite how trivial and annoying the job was.
Lan Yixing requested a few minutes from Hua Shangmei. He walked into the room after, leaving Hua Shangmei having his eyes focused on this floor-wiping boy, intrigued. Ye Chong, as usual did not give his attention to this visitor, he wiped on as if it would be the last thing he would do.
Few minutes lapsed and Lan Yixing left the room, he had few words with Hua Shangmei and, "Mo Fei!" he boomed.
Ye Chong flinched, wait, isn’t Mo Fei me?
He placed down the cloth and walked to Lan Yixing.
Lan Yixing passed him a piece of microchip, "Mo Fei, follow this senior to Tianhua and pass this chip to Master Hua, understand?"
Ye Chong shuddered, the worst thing he thought he could do currently was to head out, since that would put him under the risk of being exposed. But then, that was not the timing to refuse the order. He grabbed the chip unwillingly and mumbled, "Okay."
On the way to Tianhua dojo, Hua Shangmei seemed highly interested in Ye Chong somehow, as he tried setting off a conversation. Nonetheless, Mr. Monosyllabic was monosyllabic than ever. He was not in the mood for idle chatters, he was all heedful of the surrounding. If anyone would go wrong, he would go first.
Seeing how indifferent Ye Chong was reminded Hua Shangmei of his senior, his respected Bing. They were so similar!
Ye Chong had been cautious throughout the way to the dojo. Nothing alarming had happened however, as he made to Tianhua dojo safely.
Hua Shangmei led the way for him and patiently introduced every part in the dojo. They passed the training field and arrived at the accommodation.
Hua Shangmei brought Ye Chong to the room and a strong wind blew!
"Look out!" screamed Hua Shangmei.