“Okamoto’s Fan” said: “A male coach? All you can do is turn around and bend over!”
With an awkward smile on his face, Lou Cheng continued to browse through other posts for gossips of the various martial arts legends. He followed his own post closely and replied to comments timely.
Of course, he prioritized his responses. Naturally, he tended to reply first to the members who had a good relationship with “Pig-Riding Knight”, the moderator. They formed a small fringe group including “A Plumber Eating Mushroom”, “Above the Sky”, “Unparalleled Dragon King” and “Wonton Seller”.
Due to the living conditions in Lou Cheng’s family, he had no PC before high school. Then, when he finally owned one, he had to study hard and play less. After the national exam, Lou Cheng officially embraced the online world, full of interests in forums and QQ, especially when he met someone with similar ideas.
Lou Cheng felt delighted through the discussion, but then he noticed sky was already darkening. He found “Wonton Seller” had posted a new reply: “For I am simple and young, please fool me no more. Little Tiger, you are not even an Amateur Ninth Pin, how can you dominate in martial arts clubs? Little Tiger, stick to where you are, and find yourself a promising job!”
As he smiled and replied, he heard a soft knock on the door, so he turned back. It was Cai Zongming standing by the door, looking embarrassed. “Cheng, please go and enjoy your dinner by yourself. I have to treat the people from my hometown tonight.”
Lou Cheng made a mocking gesture with his index fingers pointing down and thumbs stretched out.
Dusk was closing in. The last class would be dismissed in any minute. Now, he was more worried about the endless lines in the cafeteria. He turned off his PC, left the dorm and hastened toward the nearest cafeteria.
The dining hall was not crowded yet. Lou Cheng stepped to the counter, pointed to some dishes on the left and asked, “Rice with potatoes and beef, and lots of gravy, please.”
Since the university was subsidized, its cafeteria provided inexpensive but substantial meals. Lou Cheng could spend less than 20 Yuan on food per day. If he had ordered less meat, 10 Yuan would have been enough. Of course, with such an advantage comes another price. For one thing, the taste, quality, and quantity of meals varied every day; besides, he would never know what course would come up. Thus, the Cafeteria Food was called “the Ninth Style of Cooking in China.”
In Songcheng University, the braized potatoes and beef were cooked differently. They were soaked in delicious gravy. The potatoes were stewed so soft and tender that they nearly melted into the soup, and someone could finish a big bowl of rice served only with it. However, Lou Cheng’s favorite was still the fat beef, juicy and fresh, not quite like the tasteless lean beef.
Perfectly satisfied with his dinner, Lou Cheng decided to head back and play video games or chat with Yan Zheke on QQ. Suddenly, he recalled what “Outspoken” commented.
“I am indeed not strong, and I should work out more. I cannot make a fool out of myself in the Martial Arts Club, especially in front of Yan Zheke…” Lou Cheng mumbled to himself and decided to take a walk by the Weishui Lake. He would try jogging for one or two laps after his dinner had gone down. As the old saying goes, sharpen one’s spear just before going into battle.
Songcheng University was located downtown. As the number of students soared, a new campus was built in the suburb, and it was called the “campus with landscape garden”. Therefore, the Weishui Lake was included within the campus. It was a small lake with a vast expanse of misty, rolling waters, surrounded by green grasses and singing nightingale, just like a beautiful landscape painting.
Lou Cheng walked around the lake for half a lap, approaching the wasteland that was not yet under construction. It was dark and a cold wind was blowing. Lou Cheng noticed no one was around, except the dense woods. He trembled with fear, imagining all kinds of ghosts and monsters.
He tightened his coat, started to run back to get out of that place. Maybe there was no ghost, but a band of robbers could be waiting for him right there.
He ran for a while and started to pant. He started to feel exhausted and had no choice but to slow down to take deep breaths.
At the moment, Lou Cheng heard a sound in the lake. He looked toward the direction it came, and he saw a black carp writhing by the lake, almost 20 cm in length. Its scales were dry and had a lot of scorch marks, as if it had been burnt by fire.
The black carp skipped and hopped high, and then fell to the ground with the other side up. The scales on this side were covered with white frost, as if it had just been taken out of the freezer.
“What the…” Lou Cheng gasped in surprise. How can a carp be served half roasted and half raw, wait, I mean, half burnt and half frozen?
As he got ready to run, the black carp stopped struggling. The side of the carp split open and something inside the carp’s belly started to emerge. It looked like a shining moon hiding within the carp’s belly, cold and bright, casting light upon the surroundings and turning them into a dreamland.
Lou Cheng decided to take a better look. In the carp’s belly, there was a ball that was glistening as if it was encrusted with crystals. As Lou Cheng approached, the ball reflected the whole universe, like a spinning nebula. Every crystalline piece was a planet, encircled by light purple flames, an image of the fusion between fire and ice.
For a moment, Lou Cheng frowned, and then talked to himself, “It seems like a Jindan (the Golden Elixir) in a martial arts novel.”
The crystal nebula was still there, tempting Lou Cheng, but he thought to himself and took out the phone to try to find details about Jindan or internal alchemy on the internet.
“Never touch strange stuff!”
“Never touch unidentified objects!”
Lou Cheng was surprised by the search results. A well-known martial arts website mentioned:
“In ancient times, the martial arts world was divided. Some people intended to break the limit of life to live forever, so they hid from everyone else. They lived in seclusion, taking an alternative way of martial arts training. They called themselves immortality trainers. After one or two millennia, through their relatives and clues obtained from caves that they lived in, we found out that they had succeeded in cultivating the internal alchemy and achieved immortality. However, they failed to pass the secret method to the next generation. As for immortality, a human’s strength is limited sometimes…”
“A human’s strength is limited sometimes…” Lou Cheng muttered to himself like he was somewhat enlightened.
“Maybe the shining ball is the real “internal alchemy”, left by the last immortality trainer and mistakenly swallowed by a black carp inside a cave.
“Is this my destiny?
“Or maybe this is dangerous, and I will end up like that black carp?
“There are one or two opportunities that could really change your life path. If you miss it, you will regret for the rest of your life. Is this my opportunity? Or am I doomed?”
Lou Cheng pondered over and over. Finally, after taking a deep breath, he took off his coat and wrapped his right hand with it, and stepped forward slowly, intending to pick up the ball with the greatest care.
As the saying goes, never let go of any opportunity, but always stay cautious as if walking on thin ice! It was getting chilly in late autumn. As the night breeze blew, Lou Cheng, with his jacket off, felt an unexplainable kind of dry heat instead of a shivering cold. It was the kind of feeling one got when they were faced with a college entrance examination that was beyond their abilities.
Getting close to the glittering and translucent “Jindan”, he held his breath and bent down carefully. Taking precautions, he carefully wrapped his right hand with his jacket and carefully reached out to touch it. Upon touching it, it gave him the impression of being solid, and the chilly cold and scorching heat seen by his naked eye were merely an illusion instead of reality.
Lou Cheng pressed a little harder, and the Jindan gave in accordingly. It had looked light as a feather, as if it was nothing, but when he touched it, the feeling would be completely different.
Lou Cheng was panic-stricken at the difference. He stared at it with fixed attention and recognized that it was lying calmly in his palm wrapped with the jacket. The center started to spin, creating a swirl of ice crystals and flames, yet it showed no sign of the cruelty and horror that had previously burnt and frozen the black carp.
“It’s magic,” Lou Cheng welled up this thought in his heart and tried to search for a reason for that change. “Perhaps the cruelty and fierceness that had been in the Jindan had been dissipated and extracted by the black carp…”
With the danger gone for the moment, Lou Cheng started to think about how to handle the problem, as it was hard to confirm whether the thing before his eyes was a Jindan. Even if it was, he had no idea what effect it had. “Shall I just turn it over to the state and suffer no misfortunes, yet also reap no benefits? Or shall I conceal it, look for information, study it slowly, then use it to my advantage to change my ordinary life? It’s a big risk to conceal it like that, but it’s also a big risk to not achieve anything during your entire life.
“If I do take it with me to hide it, where should I put it? How could I keep it safe?”
With these thoughts going through his mind one after the other, Lou Cheng realized with his remaining lucidity that he should leave this place as soon as possible, no matter what his decision was, for fear that some incident or change might unexpectedly come.
Suddenly, he felt the Jindan in his palm was gently expanding and then shrinking, like a human being inhaling and exhaling. Furthermore, the frequency seemed to be constantly adjusting.
At a loss, Lou Cheng’s mind went blank and he could only sense his breath, but he noticed the expansion and shrinkage of the Jindan were resonating with his breathing, in a harmonious rhythm.
As the thought formed in his mind, he saw that the Jindan had become more illusory as it turned to a flow of light that drilled into his palm, seemingly unstoppable even with the obstruction of the thin jacket.
“How could this be real? What is going on!?” Lou Cheng was terrified by what he had just seen. His heart was stricken with fear, and his mind was filled with the pitiful sight of the black carp.
He took a few steps back, unable to think carefully, then turned around and ran toward the school hospital located further ahead on the road, at the lakeside. Of course, he didn’t stop to consider if the doctors would have the ability to treat the damage caused by the Jindan.
After running for a while, Lou Cheng slowly calmed down and realized that fear and panic made no difference to the matter, but only burned up his physical energy when the situation went out of hand.
After cooling down, he frowned after suddenly feeling that something was wrong. There was an uncomfortable feeling in his lower stomach. With each breath, a warm current welled up and rushed toward his feet and lungs, easing the aches and pains from the running. His previous panting became slow and steady. He felt he could run for another three thousand meters without a break, and there were no signs of the previous concerns about the scorching hot and chilling cold.
“This…” breathing in lightly, Lou Cheng slackened his speed, tried to calm down and looked down at his stomach.
As he bent down, he felt a buzz in his head and vaguely saw a fantastical scene: In the spot directly under his own navel, called the Dantian by those in the martial arts world, was the Jindan. Nestled there, it seemed as if it contained a boundless nebula, and it expanded and contracted with his breathing. Ice crystals and blazing flames swirled together brightly with each breath.
This vision seemingly disappeared in an instant, and Lou Cheng was left with only the sight of his own dark blue T-shirt. He lifted the bottom carefully, only to find his usual soft and full belly, as if he had just finished a big meal.
After gradually slowing down his footsteps, he finally stopped. With the rhythm of his breathing coming back to normal, the hot current in his lower stomach disappeared.
“Does the Jindan supplement my strength when I am tired?” Lou Cheng frowned and thought about the change, “This may be a blessing. It doesn’t seem like it has any ill will, but after all, human beings and black carp are not the same…”
After waiting for a while, Lou Cheng gradually relaxed and his expression went back to normal. There was no sign of the previous raging fire and viscera-freezing cold.
“Let’s try that again…” He decided and turned around to run along the previous path.
It was simply a fact that running made one tired, just like the fact that every man would eventually die. After a while, Lou Cheng started to feel exhausted, and this was the very moment the warm feeling in his lower stomach’s Dantian appeared again and created a hot current to relieve his body.
“It is cool! I can even participate in the distance race of the school if I continue practicing this way…” Lou Cheng gradually felt more joy than worry and stopped in front of the dead black carp.
After thinking for a while, he bent over to pick up the black carp, stuffed it with stones from the shore, and threw it back into the Weishui Lake.
After all of this, he turned again and walked along the lakeside path back to the boy’s dormitory.
Along the way, on the one hand, Lou Cheng was quite pleased with the fact he’d found his own genuine treasure. He hoped that he might become one of the well-regarded backbones of the martial arts club one day and gain the favor of Yan Zheke as well as the admiration of fans. On the other hand, he became worried about the risk of the Jindan and was afraid to follow the fate of the black carp and die at a young age. As a result, his steps were brisk one moment and heavy another.
“I’ll just check it out first. If there’s any problem, I’ll immediately hand it over to the state.” Standing at the door of room 302 of the dormitory, Lou Cheng took a deep breath, made up his mind, fished out the key and opened the door.
From a secluded trail at the side of Weishui Lake, a figure wearing an old T-shirt walked from afar and stopped near the place where the black carp had previously been. He looked about seventy or eighty years old, with his hair all white, yet there were very few wrinkles on his face.
“There seems to be a strange fluctuation here?” Secret Marriage: Cold CEO And Mystical Young Miss The old man looked around.
After a moment, he shook his head, and took out a silver-white flask with a practiced hand. He took a deep gulp of wine, then walked away while humming a babbling song.
Back in the dormitory, Lou Cheng was worried whether Cai Zongming had come back or not. Lou Cheng let himself into the bedroom, turned on the light, and the darkness within the room was immediately dispelled. He shut the door behind him and sat in front of the computer blankly, neither moving the mouse nor looking at the screen.
He once again wondered how to reassure himself, searching for all manner of explanations. In all his short and inexperienced life he’d never encountered something of this magnitude. He was unable to completely keep a cool head in the face of such a potential danger.
You only live once, but the world is so beautiful.
No matter how many benefits and prospects one had, it was hard to let go of the concerns deep in their mind.
Depression was overtaking him, heavy as a mountain. Lou Cheng gritted his teeth, instinctively picked up his phone, and dialed a familiar number.
“Hello, son?” A slightly husky female voice came from the other end.
“Mom, it’s me.” Hearing this familiar voice, Lou Cheng got a little choked up, and the fear inside his heart dampened.
Whenever he was having a tough time, Lou Cheng would think of his family and recall how much pain and hardships they went through.
“Son, has something bad happened? Why does your voice sound strange?” Lou Cheng’s mother asked sensitively.
Tears welled up in his eyes, but Lou Cheng forced a smile and said, “No, of course not, just a little homesick.”
“Homesick? Didn’t I ask you before if you wanted to come back before the holiday? Who said that a man has to be on their own?” Lou Cheng’s mother laughed and said in a motherly tone, “Tell me the truth, do you need any money?”
Lou Cheng’s mood sank even lower as he slowly explained. “It’s true, I miss you and Dad, and the braized pork with eggplant, the quick-fried eel and tomato and egg soup that you cooked, and I even miss the garlic that I planted on the balcony…”
If he was to die just like that black carp, how pitiful it would be.
Lou Cheng’s mother was silent for a moment. With her voice trembling slightly, she said, “So do your father and I. Bah, why do you have to be such a naughty boy and make your mother cry?”
Lou Cheng could not help but laugh, and he calmed down gradually. “Who would dare do such a thing? Oh, right! Where is Dad?”
Back during third grade, the company in which Lou Cheng’s father worked had been in trouble. Even though his father was an incredibly valuable asset to the company, he could only get a base salary. The family mainly relied on his mother selling goods on the market stall and managed to get through with blood sweat and tears. When Lou Cheng went to middle school, his father finally decided to go out and get another part-time job. Nevertheless, he could never get along with his bosses due to his pride and could never stay in a single location for a long period. As a result, he was always hopping from one job to the next. Lou Cheng’s mother supported the whole family and her hard work always left a strong impression on Lou Cheng.
The family situation did not take the turn for the better until Lou Cheng went to high school, when his father settled down and returned home to take a position as technical director in a local enterprise. However, his mother couldn’t stay idle, and wormed herself into the community to work as a temporary worker and got along with a group of older women.
“Don’t you know your dad? Hasn’t he been playing chess for an hour every day after having his meal?” Lou Cheng’s mother answered grumpily. It was clear that she cared more about the latest news of Lou Cheng. She took the opportunity to inquire about Lou Cheng’s studies and how he was living.
“Is the course schedule tight?
“Do the teachers give good lessons?
“Are the courses difficult?
“Is it easy to get along with your roommates?
“Is there anything you’re not used to?
“Is anybody bullying you?”
In the past, Lou Cheng had always been impatient about these questions and would reply frivolously. Today, however, he was in a good mood and, fondly recalling memories of his past, he calmly and thoroughly answered each and every question. Lou Cheng’s mother went on to gossip about family trifles, from Grandpa’s household to Aunt’s household, then to an unreliable relative of Lou Cheng’s father and the discord of various households in the community. Lou Cheng listened quietly with a smile on his mouth, tossing in a quick word every once in a while.
At the end of their conversation, Lou Cheng’s mother showed her generosity and decided that this month she would give him 800 more yuan, to facilitate his adaptation to college life.
“Who would have thought that calling home would have helped out so much with that extra bonus…” Lou Cheng didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The previous pressure and unease had all disappeared. “Up until now, it seems the Jindan poses no real danger. As long as I’m careful and report anything bad that comes up to the state, it should be fine…”
With joy overwhelming his worries, Lou Cheng touched his belly and couldn’t help but let his imagination run wild for a moment.
“With the Jindan, at the very least I can have at least enough strength to practice martial arts and achieve an Amateur Fifth Pin or Amateur Sixth Pin earlier, to impress Yan Zheke. Maybe I can even reach Professional Ninth Pin before graduating, and I will have more choices when it comes to getting a job.
“Okamoto’s Fan” said: “A male coach? All you can do is turn around and bend over!”