As the day lightened it was silent.
Most people in Lake Town were still asleep, but Chen Zong quickly opened his eyes and wiggled his body, as flexible as an earthworm. Then he slipped out of bed and landed quietly on the ground. After washing his face and putting on his clothes, he ate some pancakes and tied heavy iron pieces on his back, hands and feet. Then he softly opened the door and walked out.
Outside of the room, it was still dark and silent. He took a deep breath of fresh air and slowly exhaled it out. A cold wind swirled his chest, making him refreshed. And he ran forward after he stretched his body.
The heavy iron pieces on him weighted 15 kg. Even though Chen Zong carried them every day, he was still exhausted when he ran several hundred meters. But he gritted his teeth and kept on.
A common saying goes, “If you wish to be the best man, you should be to suffer the bitterest of the bitter.”
He ran to the lake and stopped. After a few minutes' rest, he continued to run around the lake.
The lake was 1600 meters round. It took him about ten minutes to ran around the lake with 15 kg iron pieces. After three rounds of running, Chen Zong's sweat soaked through his body, as if he had just been salvaged from the water. His skin became red and his body was feverish. His heart was beating like a drum, and his breath was as heavy as a bellows pulled in a blacksmith’s shop.
The morning sun rose, the first ray of light shone on Chen Zong's face and reflected with his sweat, diffusing glow and vibrant vitality. He took a deep breath and stepped forward of shoulder-width apart. Then he bent the leg in the front, kneeled the leg in the back to the ground, his heels lifted and his soles pressing hard against the ground. His body leaned low forward, with its center of gravity spreading over his feet and muscles tightened. His left hand forming a claw in front of his eyes, he clenched his right hand into a fist and pressed it close to his chin and kept his arms straight and firm. Just like a crouching tiger ready to attack, his face was cold and solemn, and his eyes became sharp.
His voice was as loud as a spring thunder. Suddenly, his crouched body went forward, his waist exerting force and his spine fluctuating as if he would rush away. As power surged, his right fist burst out in full force, as if the tiger had stretched out its claws.
Tiger Fist was one of the three Foundation Establishing Martial Arts of the Chen Family. It imitated the movements of the tigers. There were five movements in it. Getting to the Great Accomplishment, one could exercise up to 50% of the body. It could be used not only as a way to strengthen the body, but also as a means of attack and defense. Chen Zong had been practicing it for two and a half years, and he had basically mastered these five movements.
He executed the five movements of Tiger Fist in succession and the wind came under his fist. Chen Zong closed his fist and stood straight. Then he exhaled out a long breath.
“From the beginning of Tiger Squat to the end of Tiger Rage, the wind can be heard. But I am still in the Little Accomplishment. When can I reach the Great Accomplishment?”
Martial arts could be divided into Rudiment, Little Accomplishments, Great Accomplishments and Completion. There was a saying: It was easy to reach Great Accomplishment, but hard to Completion.
Training to reach Great Accomplishment required only time and effort. But to achieve Completion, one must understand the profoundness of martial arts and master the essence.
Tiger Fist was divided into four levels: Tiger Form, Tiger Sound, Tiger Roar, and Tiger Force, which corresponded to Rudiment, Little Accomplishment, Great Accomplishment and Completion.
Tiger Form referred to the skilled application of all five movements of Tiger Fist . It was to posture like a tiger, with mere form and weak power.
Tiger Sound was to perform the Tiger Fist consistently, producing some power and making a subtle wind tiger growls.
As for Tiger Force, Chen Zong had not yet understood what it was because no one in the whole family practiced Tiger Fist to Completion.
Chen Zong soliloquized in a low voice, “When practicing Foundation Establishing Martial Arts, ordinary people only need three months for entering Rudiment, one year for Little Accomplishment, and three years for Great Accomplishment. But I was too slow to get Little Accomplishment after two years.” His words were full of unwillingness and helplessness. “The congenital qi and blood deficiency is too detestable. I have practiced hard for two and a half years, but I just achieved the first level of Qi-Blood Realm. If I continue going on like this, how can I take part in the familial martial artist competition one month later? How can I enter the Ancestral Temple? How can I get panacea for my dad?”
Chen Zong felt extremely helpless when he thought of other juniors in the family, who all achieved at least the second or third level of Qi-Blood Realm. And even those younger than him reached the second level of Qi-blood Realm.
“If I do not have congenital qi and blood deficiency……” Chen was in a trance when he thought about these.
Back then, when he was still in his mother’s belly, a demon beast attacked his mother and wounded the fetus. When he was born, his mother suffered dystocia and sacrificed herself to keep him. But Chen still suffered from congenital deficiency of blood and qi. .
Although his deficiency in blood and qi made martial art practice more difficult, Chen Zong never grudged against anyone. However, sometimes he also felt irritable when he worked several times harder than other people but still lagged far behind.
Chen growled, “If I fail once, I’ll try it twice; if I fail twice, I’ll try it thrice…I’ll never give up. Dad said that we must exert ourselves constantly. I just lag behind others, much better than not being able to practice martial arts. I’ll succeed if I keep going.” He started practicing Tiger Squat again.
What should we do when we faced cruel destiny?
The only way was to struggle to be stronger!
Chen Zong performed the five forms coherently, Tiger Squat, Tiger Rush, TigerTurn, Tiger Leap, and Tiger Rage. Chen exerted all his strength to every move, his qi and blood getting more and more active which made him rubefaction. Sweats soaked his grey coarse clothes, leaving crisscrossing foot prints on the ground.
The sun rose, and its golden light spread all over the earth, arousing every creature.
Chen Zong had to stop after he practiced Tiger Fist three times. His arms and legs began to twitch, and his muscles ached extremely as if being torn.
Chen Zong clenched his teeth and began to practice Tiger Squat again.
“I must breeze up to be a martial artist, I must surmount Qi-Blood Realm. Only get it can I gain panacea to heal my dad and recover his Cultivation.”
The sharp pain made the veins on Chen Zong’s forehead bulge, his face twist and his body twitch, but he toughed these out by strong willpower and began Tiger Squat again. He accumulated his strength and started the Tiger Rush.
Every day, Chen Zong annealed himself, desperately exploiting his potentials.
After forth times, Chen Zong couldn’t stand it anymore. He lay on the ground twitching uncontrollably as if his body was no longer his own. After resting for a movement, he stood up with great difficulty, his stomach thundering out of extreme hunger.
On his way back home, a familiar figure came towards him. It was a man with thin face and looked old. He wore a gray coarse robe and walked with firm steps, carrying hump ropes over his shoulders and a chopper on his waist. It was his dad Chen Zhengtang.
“The porridge is ready, eat it warm.” When he saw Chen Zong, he said as usual, “Do not over exert yourself.”
“Don’t worry, I got it.” Chen smiled in sunshine, an exuberant vitality radiating from him.
Chen Zhengtang nodded and walked past him. Looking back, Chen Zong fixed his eyes on his dad’s figure until he disappeared at the corner. It was not as strong as before but still tall and straight.
Chen Family was large in Lake Town with a hundreds of population. They used a lot of daily necessities every day.
Chen Zhengtang, Chen Zong’s father, was the top martial artist in the family, but now completely lost his cultivation, becoming a normal person with lingering illness. This was because, in order to help Chen Zong better his martial art, his father looked for panaceas to replenish his deficiency in qi and blood. But unfortunately, he met a monster and was severely injured.
It stood by reason that since he had made great contribution to the family, he should be qualified to the familial support. However, he was just like his name, a decent person.
He said that he just lost cultivation, not disabled. How could he enjoy the family support?
Without cultivation, he couldn’t go into the mountains to search for herbs and hunt. So, he did what he could to earn money to support himself and his son, such as cutting trees and chopping firewood.
Chen Zhengtang taught Chen Zong with his practical actions and influenced him all the time.
Where there is life, there is struggle.
After eating meat porridge, Chen Zong washed the pot and bowl clean, then he read while resting. Martial arts could strengthen the body, providing him with power; while reading could help him accumulate knowledge, enriching his mind.
"Brother Zong...Brother Zong...What a calamity!" cried a young boy, rushing in from outside.
"What’s the matter?" Chen Zong put down his book and looked at him with a smile.
It was a good-looking young boy with dark and bright eyes, wearing a cyan coarse uniform. His name was Chen Yiming, more than a year younger than himself. Their fathers were good friends. Playing together since young, they were like true brothers though without kinship.
"Today's Energy Pills were handed out just now and your share was taken by Chen Zhigang." Chen Yiming panted, his face full of anger.
The energy pill was made of five grains essence mixed with some herbal essence, which contained powerful strength and had obvious auxiliary effect on the cultivation of martial artists from the first to third levels of Qi Blood Realm. Very valuable, as big as the Chen family's fortune, they could only give their juniors a pill every three months.
" We can talk about it later, what's wrong with your eyes?" Though surprised and indignant in heart, he pointed at the bruise on Chen Yiming’s left eye and seriously asked.
“I saw Chen Zhigang take your Energy Pill, and wanted to take it back. But Chen Zhongjie started a sneak attack at me." Chen Yiming said with indifference, "If it were not for the sneak attack, the bitch wouldn't be my opponent at all."
“Are not all energy pills delivered in the afternoon? Besides, don't we have to be there in person to get it?" Chen Zong asked in a deep voice, fury coiling in his chest, because Chen Yiming was wounded, and because his energy pill was taken away.
“It used to be so, but the manager who deliver the energy pills changed. It is Chen Zhigang's uncle. He said…said that you are a trash for lingering at the first level of Qi Blood Realm after two and a half years. And it’d be a waste to give you the pill, so he gave it to Chen Zhigang. Chen Yiming have a grudged, “Damn thing! No idea how many injustices he’s done in borrowed plumes from Chen Zhigang’s father, the first martial artist of the family.”
Hearing this, Chen Zong became angrier, but his voice was cold, "One energy pill could not make me have much progress, but without it, my progress would be even slower, which would be like destroying all my hope."
"Brother, please stay calm, and don't go after Chen Zhigang."Seeing Chenzong’s heave sharply out of rage, Chen Yiming said hurriedly, "Chen Zhigang not only reaches the peak of third level of Qi Blood Realm. I heard that his Tiger Fist also broke through the days before, reaching Great Accomplishment.”
"You can rest assured that I will not act rashly." Chen Zong took a deep breath and calmed himself down. He knew it clearly that being angry would be of no help. Ever since his dad lost his cultivation and the hope to recover, their position in the family plummeted. No one would uphold justice for him. If he went for Chen Zhigang on the spur of the moment, he would be injured, which would undoubtedly add to his father’s burden.
"I'm putting up with it now, but I'm not going to let it go." Chen Zong murmured.