Hu Ziyan and Fang Xiaozhong's recent days have not been good.
They were in a very different situation than Qin Wushuang. When they had left the Martial Arts Academy, they did not bring back any tales of exploits. To put it bluntly, they had only acted as props in Qin Wushuang's story.
It mattered a lot more to Hu Ziyan, since his Hu family was also part of the Humble Class like the Qin Family. As one of the two aristocratic families in Eastwood Town, the Hu family secretly desired to compete with the Qin family.
As Hu Ziyan's study buddy, Fang Xiaozhong was a distant relative to the Hu family. His family had settled in Eastwood Town. Although his family was thriving, they were only civilians without a nobility seat.
Thus, he had the lowest status in the academy and had been disdained by others. Because of this fact, it had also fostered a cowardly personality in him.
If Hu Zuyan had not looked after him, there was no way Fang Xiaozhong would have survived in the Martial Arts Academy.
Hu Ziyan's heroic passion from before had cooled down a lot after his father, the patriarch of the Hu family, had severely reprimanded him. Now that he thought about it, had he acted too impulsively?
However, at the same time, he knew that if he had stayed at the academy, his situation would have been worse.
On this day, Fang Xiaozhong snuck into Hu Ziyan's home. The two of them made faces at each other and came to a thorough understanding. They went out and rushed toward the Qin Manor.
These two already treated Qin Wushuang as the pillar of their group after the academy had expelled them.
When they reached the Qin Manor, they learned that Qin Wushuang had already left to go climb the Great Cang Mountains since the early morning.
Feeling depressed at not been able to meet him, the two were about to leave. Suddenly, Qin Xiu walked out from the manor and smiled: "Hu Ziyan, Fang Xiaozhong, why are you both leaving when you just got here?"
Both of them knew Qin Xiu, and they greeted her: "Big Sister Qin Xiu."
"Come and take a seat in the manor. Wushuang should be returning around this time." Qin Xiu smiled and welcomed them into the manor.
Before Qin Xiu, the two of them were a little reserved.
Qin Xiu did not allow any excuses and dragged them into the manor, each of her hands pulling on one of them. She ordered the servants to prepare an abundance of snacks and food.
In Eastwood Town, the Qin family had a broad foundation and was number one in the town. They had a large family property that caused even the Wealthy Class Xu family to feel envious of their wealth.
When the snacks arrived on the table, Hu Ziyan gulped. He'd had rarely seen so many luxurious food before, let alone tasted them.
Qin Xiu called out: "Go ahead and eat. Just eat as if you would at home. I still want to ask you guys some questions."
The two of them became less restrained when they saw Qin Xiu's kindness. Indifferently, Qin Xiu asked about their time in the academy.
The two of them answered while they ate. Gradually, through conversation, they had become closer to Qin Xiu and revealed their nature as young teenagers. Fang Xiaozhong especially. He knew that Big Sister Qin Xiu wanted to hear about the things Qin Wushuang had done. Glowing with delight, he happily obliged and talked non-stop.
Most notably, he talked about how brilliantly, with some embellishment, Qin Wushuang had dueled with Zhang Xian.
Qin Xiu was jubilant as she smiled and asked questions at the same time.
While the manor bustled with noise and excitement, Qin Wushuang's voice came from outside the manor: "Fang Xiaozhong, I haven't seen you for a while. But your bragging technique has improved."
Both Hu Ziyan and Fang Xiaozhong stood up when they heard Qin Wushuang's voice.
Qin Wushuang walked into the manor and smiled: "You guys must have received a lot of tongue-lashing at home, right?"
Hu Ziyan smiled timidly, and Fang Xiaozhong rubbed his hands. They were both awed by Qin Wushuang's accurate deduction.
"Ok, Wushuang is back. You three children can go play." With the three young teenagers gathered together, Qin Xiu knew that they must have a lot of things to talk about. Thus, she smiled and walked away.
"Wushuang, I heard from Big Sister Qin Xiu that each morning, you go climbing the Great Cang Mountains?" Hu Ziyan asked.
"Yes, if I don't work hard while I am still young, I will be sad and lonely in my old age. What about you two, what are your plans?" Qin Wushuang could tell that these two had yet to adjust themselves after they'd come back from the Martial Arts Academy.
"I can only practice some basic techniques at home. To us Humble Class folks, it's such a shame that we have almost no martial arts technique books." Hu Ziyan gave a long sigh.
Fang Xiaozhong blinked his eyes: "Big Brother Wushuang, you were so strong when you killed Zhang Xian. At the academy, I saw that you had a very different training method. Why not let us train with you?"
Qin Wushuang became silent and did not say a word.
With a face full of expectation, Hu Ziyan also asked: "Wushuang, how about it, will you take us with you?"
Qin Wushuang smiled: "My training methods are not suitable for you guys. If you guys want to learn, I will make a set of training methods tailored to each of you. If you can follow it, you won't get a bad mark on the martial arts exam after three years."
"Why are Wushuang's methods not suitable to us?" Fang Xiaozhong thought this was strange.
Thoughtfully, Hu Ziyan said: "Idiot, Qin Wushuang is much stronger than us. We will drag him down if we tried to follow him."
After he had investigated these two's current situation in detail, Qin Wushuang immediately drew up a set of training methods for them. He asked them to follow this plan for a year.
"Remember, the most important thing about training is perseverance. Each day, you must finish the quota designated in the instructions. If you are to slack off for a single day, then don't bother coming to me after this one year!"
Qin Wushuang was quite serious in regards to training. He would not allow an ounce of sloppiness.
The two of them left with joy after they'd received their training methods.
After three months, Hu Ziyan and Fang Xiaozhong both discovered that their strength had improved quite distinctively. There was also an apparent overall improvement in their body functions.
Despite the results, they did not dare to relax. In the next nine months, they never stopped training regardless of winter or summer.
In the beginning, Patriarch Hu resented the fact that Hu Ziyan spent time with Fang Xiaozhong each day. However, he later withdrew his opposition because he'd realized there was no impropriety in what they were doing since they were only training together.
After half a year, he sensed the apparent changes in his son. Thus, he summoned Hu Ziyan to ask him about it. Only, he was extremely surprised when he discovered their training methods.
Patriarch Hu was stunned on the spot when he heard that Qin Wushuang had designed their training regimen for them. After a long pause, he said: "This son of the Qin family is certainly something."
"Of course! Or else, how could he have he killed Zhang Xian?" Hu Ziyan muttered.
"Yes. In the future, it would not be bad for you to maintain your relationship."
When Hu Ziyan saw that his father no longer berated him, but encouraged him to hang out with Qin Wushuang. He became excited, nodded his head forcefully, and ran out.
One year; a whole year of time had passed.
The people around Hu Ziyan and Fang Xiaozhong were jubilant about their changes.
On this day, the two went to the Qin Manor to see Qin Wushuang again. Qin Wushuang did not speak much when he saw the smiles of satisfaction on the duo's faces. He smiled: "Tomorrow at 3 AM, come with me to climb the Great Cang Mountains!"
As soon as they heard Qin Wushuang was willing to train them, they cheered and quickly ran back home to prepare.
A little past 3 AM, the two of them arrived at the Qin Manor, full of energy. Qin Wushuang was already at the gate. He nodded when he saw that the duo had arrived on time: "Let's go! Remember, you guys must follow me closely. Whoever is not able to keep up will be a labeled a coward!"
In the first ten miles, all three of them felt at ease. Fang Xiaozhong and Hu Ziyan even chatted along the way.
When it was about twenty miles, they did not have much reaction. Only, they were a little breathless.
After thirty miles, Fang Xiaozhong was clearly starting to breathe more heavily. After another ten miles, even Hu Ziyan began to breathe laboriously as if chunks of iron were attached to his feet.
Qin Wushuang, however, still appeared to be unaffected as he smiled at them and did not say anything.
His smile caused Hu Ziyan and Fang Xiaozhong to swallow their complaints. They put their lives on the line and forced themselves to carefully follow Qin Wushuang without losing too much distance.
With great difficulty, Qin Wushuang finally stopped his footsteps after another twenty miles.
The duo's entire bodies were currently feeling limp and painful. It felt as if giant rocks were pressing down on their chests, and they gasped in the fresh-air nonstop, a privilege reserved only for the living. Their faces were ashen, and their limbs trembled.
"How about it, you underestimated this eighty miles of mountain road, right?" Qin Wushuang's face was red, but he was taking in deep breaths.
Qin Wushuang had tailored this route to himself. It was to run in circles along the Great Cang Mountains' road. Eventually, you would reach the peak after going spirally.
This eighty miles of mountain road would consume more than two or three times the physical strength you would use on the open ground.
Finally, Hu Ziyan, still gasping for breath, wheezed out: "The plan you gave us was to run ten laps around Eastwood Town. It was also eighty miles. Usually, when we run, we are not very tired. This mountain road is very different."
At this time, Fang Xiaozhong had also regained his senses. He exclaimed: "Fortunately, we kept up. So, we cannot be called cowards. Big Brother Wushuang, are we close to your level now?"
Qin Wushuang smiled and did not say a word.
However, Hu Ziyan seemed to have realized something. He glanced down at the footprints carefully. Why did he feel that Qin Wushuang's footprints were much deeper than theirs?
"Wushuang, why do you have such deep footprints? That's right; have you tied something to your feet!?"
Filled with curiosity, he lifted up Qin Wushuang's pant legs. Astonished, he discovered chunks of iron strips tied there.
These metal sticks were made from special iron. They were extremely thick, and tied onto each leg were three sticks.
Stunned, Hu Ziyan and Fang Xiaozhong looked at each other. Initially, they had been certain that they would be closer to Qin Wushuang's level after they had undergone a year of specialized training. Now they realized that their difference was only getting bigger.
"Starting from today, you will train on this route for one year! Ok, now I am going to teach you guys a set of offensive martial art techniques."
In his previous life, Qin Wushuang was a grandmaster of martial arts. Naturally, he knew the principle on how to teach in accordance with the student's ability.
Hu Ziyan and Fang Xiaozhong had very different personalities. One of them was fair and honest, and the other was flexible. Thus, he had to teach them different offensive techniques.
Hu Ziyan would be learning
Currently, these two's foundation was still far from training higher level techniques. Of course, Qin Wushuang would not spoil things and accelerate their process.
There were another two years until the martial arts student exam. If he could carry them, then he would carry them! After all, they came from the same town and had encountered difficulties together.
Qin Wushuang would not have let down their friendship if they could shine in the spotlight and bring honor to their ancestors during the martial arts student exam.