Chapter 167: Under Sniper Fire!
“My dad told me to learn martial arts with you for winter break.” Cao Jingjing swished her ponytail to the side and spoke straightforwardly.
“That’s good. Then you can stay here so you won’t need to drive over every day.”
Wang Chao had naturally agreed. Although Cao Jingjing had not taken him as her official master, the relationship between the two was special. Not only was she an old classmate, Wang Chao couldn’t refuse to give face to Cao Yi. After Wang Chao’s battle with Nguyễn Hồng Tú, Cao Yi had seemingly seen Wang Chao’s skill for himself and wished for Cao Jingjing to study in earnest under him.
“Then let me stay here too! The rooms here are big and plenty. Even if there were a few dozen people, we’d have no trouble.” Han Xiaoqing had been keenly interested in Wang Chao’s villa.
“Fine, you can choose your room later.” Wang Chao responded before turning to Huo Ling’er. “You managed to combine Karate and the stance training together to raise three answers from one question. Nicely done. When I was learning, I was not as smart as you are. You learned Kendo, correct? Why don’t you show me?”
Huo Ling’er had felt that she was quite young and so she had taken her martial arts studies rather slowly. But it was only when Wang Chao had lectured her that she felt that time was rather short. There was no time to relax and her heart had to stay determined to train day in and night out. “Yes! I’ve managed to earn myself a ranking in Kendo as well.”
Taking out the “Tortoise and Snake” sword given to her as a gift at her apprenticeship banquet, Huo Ling’er immediately unsheathed it from its scabbard. With both hands on the handle, her expression grew extremely serious and her eyes never blinked. Upon contact with the sword, her entire aura had seemingly changed to contain a barely hidden amount of killing intent and intimidation just like a seasoned soldier of the battlefield.
“Ha! Ha! Ha!” The bright sword blade reflected the outside snowy light with a flash of silver as Huo Ling’er’s body grew taut. Fiercely leaping in every way, the blade went swishing through the air as she slashed it in a single cross shape attack.
“Way of the Hero’s Cross!”
Leaving the air, her body was in constant motion through her leaps and continuous chops that could shake Mt. Tai itself. With each jump and slash, her mouth let out a single sound that resonated with the crying blade of the sword through the air in a violent advance.
After thirty two different movements, her body suddenly came to a stop. With her legs spread out in an inward stance with her sword pointed down towards the ground in a similar manner of the rōnin Samurai of Japanese culture.
“How was it?” Wang Chao turned to ask Zhang Tong.
Zhang Tong’s hand brushed away several strands of hair on her forehead. “Her aura was intimidating, but it’d only work on a regular person.”
“Eeeh? Sis Tong studied Kendo too?” Huo Ling’er had been rather disappointed, but Zhang Tong was a good friends of hers. Still, she had been curious to hear this about her.
“There is eight ways to hold a sword, the Yin hold, Yang hold, obeying hold, defying hold, inner hold, outer hold, combined hold, and pincer hold. When two hands grasp the sword, it becomes the combined hold. Japanese Kendo uses two hands, meaning it is a combined hold style with a rather simple variation. When attacking, there is plenty of open spots to attack from. When I saw you grasp the sword with both hands, you seemed as if following a certain momentum that looked strong on the outside, but was weak on the inside. In a serious swing downwards, you’d have no strength behind it, and your sword would break.”
Walking forward, Zhang Tong took the sword from Huo Ling’ers hand. Giving it a test swing, she looked at the inscriptions on the blade before gasping, “Isn’t this sword the symbol of the Wudang Nine Palace Swords? Oh, you must have fought and taken the sword away from Jiang Hai when you went to Beijing, correct?”
“You know Jiang Hai too?”
“Of course I do. We are from the same school, and my master shared the same master as Jiang Hai’s master.” Zhang Tong smiled without seeming to care for the fact that Wang Chao had taken the sword.
“If he is of the same school, then wouldn’t that make us an enemy?” Wang Chao hadn’t expected to see that Zhang Tong shared the same school as Jiang Hai.
“I’m not a person of the martial arts world.” Zhang Tong smirked, “It has nothing to do with me.”
“The path of a sword must be quick and agile. The hand that holds the sword must follow the thumb and strike the pressure points with the sword. Defend oneself against another that would use close combat and try to wrestle the sword away. When fighting another, the hand must be like a hand that holds the faucet tap. The sword dances, strikes the eyes, and dazzles the enemy. Do not use all your strength. It is only when the time is right that one strikes with ferocity.”
When Zhang Tong carried the sword, she too had seemed as if she had underwent a transformation. Becoming valiant in stature, her hand lifted the sword gracefully like a hand and its thumb and held it beneath her ribs.
Walking to the weapon’s rack, Wang Chao took out a red staff roughly the same height as he was. With the intent of sparring with Zhang Tong, he would let Huo Ling’er watch them.
“Swish! Swish! Swish!” Three slashes later, Zhang Tong had not leapt from the ground yet. She had only moved forward with her wrist doing all the work. Like a flower in its beauty, the sword had looked completely different than when Huo Ling’er used it.
Wang Chao had used the staff to smash into the sword accurately, but whenever Zhang Tong’s sword met with the staff, she would suddenly flash to the side and twist her ribs to move forward slightly. In the next moment, the sword would contract to strike at his back and force Wang Chao to strike at it with the staff again.
Suddenly turning over at the same time as she advanced, Zhang Tong’s sword flashed with light as it struck out over her back.Almost as if her body was supporting the sword, the one-handed style quickly became a two-handed style the met with the staff. But this time, there had been no sound as the staff had been sliced in two!
With the staff sliced in half, Zhang Tong advanced with the tip of her sword flying forward. Her legs strode forward rapidly and accurately poised herself to stab at Wang Chao’s throat. Tossing away the staff, Wang Chao’s hands came slapping together to press and stop the sword from stabbing into him.
Laughing gently, Zhang Tong stopped and tried to pull the sword out. But the sword remained stuck without budging. “Is this how you took the sword away from Jiang Hai?”
“How would I ever!” Wang Chao let his hands loosen. “Your strength and martial arts are still lacking in comparison, so I was able to sandwich it. But I would never let Jiang Hai even take his sword out in his match against me. If he did, then I would have ran straight then and there.”
Verily, if Zhang Tong had been slightly faster and stronger, then Wang Chao’s thumbs would have been completely cut off. If anyone else were to just slightly tilt the sword, then Wang Chao’s fingers would have been severed.
“Sis Tong, after you sliced the staff, it looked as if your body was connected to the sword.” Huo Ling’er remarked.
“This is the Chopping Sword where a move ‘Forward Overturn’ is done to explode with power. For that move, strength, kinetic vision, and balance must be carefully balanced and compress all your strength onto the sword. It has to be well-distributed, or you won’t be able to handle the blowback from the results and snap the sword. When I was learning this move, I must have broken over a hundred swords.” Zhang Tong returned the sword back to Huo Ling’er.
“That style of sword play is rather similar to the concept of Hidden Jin. Hidden Jin is amazing, but the physical consumption is large as it only comes out during the most critical of moments. If the Hidden Jin fails to land, then the consumption of energy is far too taxing. When the chopping motion of a sword fails to land, then the sword would be very easy to break. So in a match, one must use their footwork and Clear Jin to obtain victory just like how a sword would be use nimbly and stab true for victory. You must learn to comprehend Hidden Jin, but when you fight with another, you must try to avoid relying on it. Not thinking about it would be best.”
The web between the finger and thumb of Wang Chao’s hand throbbed as his hand turned into the claw of an eagle. Digging out the stone channel of the area where the mercury-filled lead balls were, parts of the materials were dug out to reveal five half-inch deep holes damp with sweat.
“Stone is an inanimate object that cannot move. A human is an animate object that can. Being able to hit stone doesn’t mean being able to hit human. Hidden Jin is tricky, and trying to use it to strike at any desired location will lead to inevitable defeat. Your strength may go up a notch after learning Hidden Jin, but you still cannot loosen your guard even if your opponent doesn’t know Hidden Jin. On the contrary, yo must be even more careful in case that you miss and became too drained and leave yourself open to an attack.”
“You’ve honed your muscles well from the stance training, so I will teach you some martial art stances. Jingjing, Xiaoqing, you can watch from the side.”
And so Wang Chao demonstrated the Chopping Jin of the tiger stance and the variation into the Eagle Claw of the eagle stance.
“The Chopping Jin is the easiest to learn to the stage where the sound follows the fist. Even a commoner would be able to have the wind be heard after an energetic chopping of the arm. After the chop, one must be prepared to grab and perform close combat. A practitioner focuses solely upon the grappling methods after collision whether it is to fight or kill. So in a government sponsored match, the close combat methods of Chin Na cannot be shown as it was deemed too deadly. But it isn’t too threatening.”
Wang Chao had Huo Ling’er extend her hand so that her hand was spread out just a little bit. At the beginning, it was soft, but then with Jin, her entire hand grew tough like the claw of a tiger.
This way, if one were to get into close combat with another, it didn’t need guesswork to find out the result.
When Han Xiaoqing and Cao Jingjing looked at their own hands in comparison, they could see the clear distinction.
An entire day later, Huo Ling’er had learned the Tiger Chop and Eagle Claw. While simple in movement, it required a chop and forward momentum before the hand turned into a claw on the way back to grab.
To do the entire process again and again was rather tedious.
After several hundred repeats, Cao Jingjing and Han Xiaoqing took a break and began to play around while Huo Ling’er continued in earnest and enthrallment. Her eyes would follow her hands each time she repeated the movement.
On the second day, Wang Chao had drawn up a plan of three meals a day with an early practice and a pre-bedtime training time. There was no compromise. Every morning before the sun was even up, they would go on a ten kilometer run.
Aside from that, Wang Chao had also went to a water jar filled with vegetable oil and soaked a cotton ball the size of his arm in it. Lighting it on fire, he had the three girls hold their hands out in the claw form so that they could feel and increase the sensitivity of their fingers and palm.
When their claw hands touched the flames, their fingers would instantly feel the sensation of being burned and their owners would retract their hands. It was this reflex that made the blood in their fingers and make them feel more sensitive. With this cycle of qi and blood, their claw forms would grow even stronger and nimble.
At four in the morning, stance training would take place for an hour. Then a jog for two hours, and then breakfast. Practice the forms, grab at the fire, and then eat lunch. Practice some more until dinner, take a jog, some more stance training, and then sleep.
This training regime had no breaks and painted Wang Chao out to be a strict military instructor instead, much to the chagrin of Cao Jingjing and Han Xiaoqing. Han Xiaoqing especially loved to sleep in, but when the second day Wang Chao came in and carried her out while she was wrapped up in her blankets, she had been so hurt and angry to the point of tears and a tantrum. But it was no use to Wang Chao. After two more days of intense training, she couldn’t handle it anymore and called for a car to take her home. But Wang Chao had somehow managed to catch up on the accelerating car and smashed open the car door to take her out.
Unsuccessfully attempting to run away for another three or four days, Han Xiaoqing finally accepted the fact that she could no longer escape Wang Chao’s demonic clutches and began to train alongside Huo Ling’er and Cao Jingjing in earnest.
Yet when Wang Chao was teaching, he had been meticulous in his observations from the side. This had made Han Xiaoqing feel that this young master that was Wang Chao to be very dedicated in his work.
For a straight month, Wang Chao managed to teach the Chopping Jin of the tiger stance and the Eagle Claw of the eagle stance in its entirety. Huo Ling’er’s ability had taken a tremendous improvement and was clearly seen when she fought against Wang Chao. Cao Jingjing had made tremendous improvements as well in due to her fundamental knowledge in Taekwondo. Han Xiaoqing had made some improvements–she would at the very least be able to fend off two or three perverts should they attack her.
Wang Chao had been especially harsh on Huo Ling’er. Every day during her forms, Wang Chao would stab at the outer layer of her skin with a sharp blade to invoke the goosebumps to appear onto her skin.
In terms of the way of the sword, Wang Chao was quite adept with it. Even if he stabbed at a balloon with one, it would not pop if he didn’t want it to. And so there was no damage done to Huo Ling’er.
And so this style of training went on for some time. Before long, Huo Ling’er’s ability to control her pores had reached a point where whenever she punched the sandbag, the pores on her fist would open slightly to release some sweat. This was the initial stage of Hidden Jin.
One morning when the fog was still thick, Wang Chao brought the three women out to take a morning walk. Huo Ling’er brought along a single longstaff and maintained an inward stance with each stab before walking forward.
This was the special training Wang Chao had ordained for her.
In the midst when the four were training, Wang Chao’s ear gave a sudden twitch as the sounds of something humming could be heard along with a glint of light from behind. It was coming from a sports car driving from behind.
This would normally be an ordinary occurrence, but Wang Chao heard this particular car, a numbing sensation could be felt in the back of his head.
“Shit! I’m being aimed at!” In that split-second, Wang Chao bent his body downwards. And in the next second, “Bang!”. In the next second, a single bullet had impacted against the ground in a flurry of sparks.
“Get down! Roll to the side of the road!”
Wang Chao’s martial arts had already reached a pinnacle of skill. Even if he was asleep, Wang Chao could snap back to awareness the very moment an enemy released his hostile intent within a certain distance.
Without even being aware of a sniper, Wang Chao had made an instant analysis and reaction to avoid the bullet before the sniper could even fire onto the back of his head.
From the eyes of the sniper, Wang Chao had acted at the same time he decided to fire. Even with the slightest of killing intent, his target had been made aware of the danger.
A veteran of the battlefield would feel his temples throb in instinct when a sniper was about to fire on them. But while they could sense it, they could not dodge it due to the lack of coordination between mind and body. But while they lacked that speed and nimbleness, Wang Chao did not.
This was a high quality level of being able to sense danger by instinct in the world of martial arts. The next step would being able to sense danger before the opponent could even make a move. Some could even detect danger whilst the plan was being made to ambush them.
Immediately after dodging the first bullet, Wang Chao felt his back go numb in realization that he was once more under aim by the sniper. Tilting to the side, another bullet missed him as expected.
At the same time, Huo Ling’er had reacted to the situation. Grabbing Cao Jingjing with one hand and Han Xiaoqing in the other, she leapt off the roads and down to the ditch on the side to use as a makeshift bunker.
The tires belonging to the black car began to screech in preparation to leave. The muzzle of the gun had retreated from the open window as well as the sniper took notice that he had failed to strike at his target.
Rolling on the ground, Wang Chao’s hand grasped onto the longstaff that Huo Ling’er had dropped nearby. With a furious stride, he began to run like a cheetah with amazing speed towards the small car.
And now it was a neck to neck race between car and man!
Giving a furious roar, Wang Chao stabbed the longstaff into the chassis of the car and pressed down on it with so much force that the longstaff became bow-shaped. Then, with an equally furious display of strength, he followed the rebounding force of the staff and brought it upwards.
Bang! Losing its balance, the black car begun to spin out of control and then with a sudden lurch–the car flipped over into the air for two revolutions. Smashing back down onto the ground, the sounds of broken glass could be heard.
What a beautiful way of using the staff to make a single car fly into the air!
A groan could be heard coming from the man inside the broken down car, and peering inside of it, Wang Chao could see that the driver was a black-skinned but thin man. Having been thrown about in the car, his head was completely bloody, and Wang Chao wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead.
But then a figure flew out from the back seat of the car and out of the window!
Like a viper, Wang Chao’s staff struck out with a stinging fury! Pa! Striking at the shoulder of the man, the staff nailed him to the ground.
The man had been well built but had a rather common face. When Wang Chao looked at him however, he couldn’t help but notice a similarity in presence between him and soldiers such as Boulder–this man had to be a man of the military.
While Wang Chao had made many enemies that would warrant assassinations sooner or later, Wang Chao did not expect an outcome like this.
Where in the world was this man from?