Chapter 390: Do You Have Any Plans?
Ling Zhang had never thought that his uncle would suddenly ask him to do something like this, but it was a request he couldn’t reject. “All right. I’ll get down there after Jiang Yu and Yuwen Jin finish their fight, and my opponent will be…”
Ling Zhang glanced around him before he added, “Shiba will be my opponent.”
Of all the people present, Wang Dashan and the other bodyguards of his were no match for him in single combat, and if they fought him together in formation, there would be too many noises and it’d cause some inconveniences. Miao Shiba’s kung fu was the best compared with that of the others, and Ling Zhang wanted to find out how long he could last during a fight with Miao Shiba.
On hearing that Ling Zhang wanted to have a kung fu competition with him, Miao Shiba was excited. “Are you serious, Childe Ling?”
Ling Zhang gave an inclination of the head.
Miao Shiba rubbed his hands, looking thrilled.
The other spectators were also distracted by this conversation and started to anticipate the next fight.
On the drill ground, the fighting between Jiang Yu and Yuwen Jin was getting increasingly furious. Yuwen Jin was making frantic attempts to catch Jiang Yu, who, though not as nimble as he’d been in the beginning of the fight, had figured out a way to defeat Yuwen Jin…
After a Joss-stick (a unit of time used in feudal China; how long it takes for a joss stick to burn itself out), Jiang Yu brought Yuwen Jin to the ground and restrained him, winning the fight.
“You…” Yuwen Jin, pinned to the ground, was still unable to believe he had actually lost to Jiang Yu.
Panting heavily, Jiang Yu said, “You fought well.”
“The winner is Jiang Yu,” announced Ling Zhang.
Ji Feng and the others each clapped a hand to his face. It struck them that Yuwen Jin cut a rather sorry figure and they couldn’t bring themselves to look at him.
Jiang Yu rose to his feet and then held out his hand to Yuwen Jin, eyes on him.
Yuwen Jin gave a snort and pulled himself up. “I can manage it myself.”
Watching him standing up, Jiang Yu asked, “Are you keeping you word?”
“A promise is a promise,” replied Yuwen Jin. Though he was still having difficulty accepting the fact that he had actually lost to Jiang Yu, he was never a sore loser. “We’re even now.”
Jiang Yu gave a bob of the head, pivoted around and walked out of the drill ground, appearing somewhat unsteady on his feet. It was manifest that he was trying his best to stand upright, that the fight with Yuwen Jin had been quite wearing on his body.
However, his performance during the fighting had indeed made the others start to look on him in a quite different light than before. Although Ji Feng and the others still hadn’t made any overtures to him, when they looked at him, the expressions in their eyes were a lot less distant now.
Ling Zhang, seeing Jiang Yu and Yuwen Jin were both making towards him, asked, “Do you want to leave here to get some rest or do you want to stay and watch for a while?”
Just now Jiang Yu’s and Yuwen Jin’s attention had been focused on the duel, so they hadn’t heard the conversation between Ling Zhaowen and Ling Zhang.
“Is there anything else, Brother Zhang?” asked Yuwen Jin.
“I’m having a kung fu competition with Shiba,” replied Ling Zhang, shifting his gaze to Miao Shiba. “It’s our turn,” he added.
“After you, Childe Ling,” said Miao Shiba in excitement.
Seeing the perplexity on Yuwen Jin’s and Jiang Yu’s faces, Ji Feng explained to them what had just happened a moment ago.
Ling Zhang changed into an outfit suitable for fighting, standing opposite Miao Shiba.
“You may go all out, Childe Ling,” Miao Shiba said to Ling Zhang.
Miao Shiba’s kung fu was much better than Ling Zhang’s. Given his current kung fu, only by reaching the third layer would Ling Zhang really stand a chance of defeating Miao Shiba, so the purpose of this fight was mainly for Ling Zhang to spar with him.
Ling Zhang said with a nod, “Let the battle commence.”
Immediately after saying this, he seized the initiative and made his move, swooshing up to Miao Shiba and giving a karate chop in a flash.
The palm techniques Ling Zhang was using were from the Millennium Pavilion, and they were unconventional and varied. Although he was merely at the second layer of the method of cultivating internal energy and thus was unable to fulfill the highest potential of his palm techniques, his combat capabilities were at a totally different level compared with Yuwen Jin’s and Jiang Yu’s.
Soon, it was two rapid blurs of movement exchanging blows on the drill ground.
Ji Feng and the others were all struck dumb with amazement. They had seen Ling Zhang practicing kung fu before, but at that time, they had been able to distinguish Ling Zhang’s moves. Now they were having difficulty making out his movement. This was no different from a fight between two real kung fu masters.
“How did Brother Zhang come to improve his kung fu so quick?” Yuwen Jin wailed, looking at the two streaking figures exchanging blows on the drill ground, feeling bruised.
Ling Zhaowen was also deeply shocked. He had heard that Ling Zhang’s kung fu had improved dramatically after he started cultivating internal energy following a method of cultivation of the Millennium Pavilion, but he had never had an opportunity to see it with his own eyes. At this moment, actually seeing it, he couldn’t help but ask with a pole-axed face, “I–Is that really Zhang’er?”
Ling Zhaowu replied, “Yes. He’s made an improvement in his palm techniques. It seems that Yuwen Tong has given him quite some directions in private.”
At this time, Ling Xingzhong and Ji Yin also arrived, accompanied by Ji Yanlai and the two little boys, Ling Maomao and Ji Xiaocong. At the sight of Ling Zhang and Miao Shiba on the drill ground, all their eyes widened with incredulity except for Ji Yin’s and Ji Yanlai’s.
“In-law, you taught Zhang’er all this?” asked Ling Xingzhong, looking at Ji Yin.
Ji Yin’s face registered a hint of pride. “I just gave him some tips. Zhang’er mainly has his great comprehension to thank for.”
Of course, Yuwen Tong also deserved some credit for the time he’d spent on sparring with Ling Zhang in private, but Ji Yin naturally wouldn’t mention it.
Ling Xingzhong watched in shock for a while. It was after he gradually recovered himself that he said to Ji Yin, “Thank you, In-law. All my family knows nothing about kung fu, so we didn’t teach Zhang’er any previously. Fortunately he has you.”
Ji Yin smiled and started exchanging pleasantries with Ling Xingzhong, but the pride on his face was ill-concealed.
Ling Zhang’s palm strikes were quite varied, and he had received a lot of directions from Yuwen Tong who had been acting as a sparring partner that was always willing to tell him everything he needed to know, so although Ling Zhang had barely fought with any enemies, he still had some fighting experience. However, compared with Miao Shiba, he lacked an air of ferocity, which was why the former had hit his vital parts several times.
Ling Zhang was secretly counting the number of times Miao Shiba had hit his vital parts. He was also learning from his mistakes and trying to overcome the deficiencies in his defense.
Miao Shiba, who could tell what he was thinking about, was offering advice to him most of the time while fighting.
“There’s no need to hurry, Childe Ling. Currently your main shortcoming is a lack of experience. Aside from that, your internal energy needs improving. Both could be fixed if you spend enough time working on it.”
Ling Zhang nodded. Gradually, he became more collected, his moves even steadier. With his mind concentrated, he was now able to find more problems, and at the same time, he could dodge more blows from Miao Shiba that were aimed at his vital parts.
Naturally, spectators who had discerning eyes also saw it clearly.
Ji Yin was nodding repeatedly while watching. Ling Zhaowu’s eyes were gleaming with gratification. Ji Yanlai felt that Ling Zhang’s comprehension was indeed pretty good.
“Big Brother is so badass,” exclaimed Ling Maomao. He had no idea what was going on on the drill ground, and his eyes were dazzled, but he could tell that Ling Zhang was doing something badass.
Ji Xiaocong, however, had been seeing this kind of things on a frequent basis since he’d started to have memory, so he appeared just as unsurprised as his uncle did. The uncle and nephew had the same expression on their faces.
Ling Maomao looked at him and asked, “Cong, do you not think my big brother is badass?”
Ji Xiaocong looked back at him for a few moments, blinked his big eyes and then replied with a bob of his head, “I do.”
Pleased, Ling Maomao shifted his gaze to his big brother on the drill ground, staring unblinkingly. “When the fight is over, I’ll ask my big brother if he could teach me a couple of moves. I want to learn this badass kung fu as well.”
Ji Xiaocong nodded vigorously. “Um.”
Ji Yanlai glanced down at his nephew, who looked up back at him. The uncle and nephew just gazed at each other. It was a few moments before Ji Yanlai raised his head, rubbing his nephew’s little one. Ji Xiaocong quietly turned his head back and cast Ling Maomao a glance before looking in the direction of the two people fighting on the drill ground.
Ling Zhang and Miao Shiba fought for two hours before they stopped. The servants had moved some tables and chairs to the sidelines, and all spectators except Yuwen Jin and his friends had been sitting at tables, watching the fight and drinking tea.
When Ling Zhang, all sweaty, walked out of the drill ground with Miao Shiba, Ling Maomao streaked towards him like greased lightning. “Big Brother!”
Ling Zhang stopped him. “What’s the matter? Why are you running so fast?”
“You’re so badass, Big Brother. How did you learn to do that? Teach me!” said Ling Maomao excitedly.
Ling Zhang wiped the sweat from his face and, leading the boy towards his elders, replied, “Well, if you want to learn it, of course I will teach you.”
Ling Maomao would be the pillar of the Ling family. It’d do him good to learn some kung fu.
Ling Maomao was pleasantly surprised. “Really?”
“Um, but there’ll be hardships and you’ll have to tough it out. Otherwise you won’t be able to learn anything even if I teach you,” said Ling Zhang.
“I will. I can handle hardships!” Ling Maomao hastily promised.
Ling Zhang smiled, “Good. I’ll start teaching you in a few days, when I have spare time.”
“Promise?” asked Ling Maomao, raising his hand.
“Promise,” said Ling Zhang, giving the boy a high five to seal his promise.
Ling Zhang walked back to Ling Xingzhong, Ji Yin and the others. “Paternal Grandfather, Maternal Grandfather, Uncle, Clan Leader.”
“You fought well. Your palm techniques have improved somewhat, but you’re still fairly inexperienced, and there’s a lot of room for further improvement. After these things are handled, you should put more efforts into practice. Also, you should go out there to enrich your experience. Only by fighting with real enemies will you be able to make real improvement,” observed Ji Yin.
Ling Zhang said, “I will, Maternal Grandfather.”
Then Ling Zhang answered a lot of questions from Ling Xingzhong and Ling Zhaowen. It was after his elders finished asking questions that he made towards Yuwen Jin and the other peers of his.
No sooner had he walked up to them than they rapturously clustered around him. Jiang Yu paused briefly before he joined them, a gleam in his eyes as he looked at Ling Zhang, which hadn’t appeared in there before.
“You’ve been keeping it so well hidden, Brother Zhang. My kung fu bears no comparison with yours,” said Yuwen Jin.
“Well, it’s nothing. My kung fu couldn’t hold a candle to that of a real master,” said Ling Zhang.
“Still, you’re much better than us,” remarked Ji Feng.
After talking with each other for a while, Ling Zhang’s elders went back. Ling Zhang ushered his friends back to his courtyard house.
Yuwen Jin and the others had paid Ling Zhang this visit to see if there was anything they could help with, but actually Ling Zhang’s family had finished almost all the preparatory work. All that was left was to do a couple of dry runs for the wedding according to the wedding plan finalized by the Ministry of Rites. There wasn’t really anything that any of them could help with.
“The imperial examination is next year. Do you have any plans?” Ling Zhang asked them.
Yuwen Tong had declared at his enthronement ceremony that there would be an imperial examination, but what with the imperial wedding and some other affairs and the inadequate time, scheduling the imperial examination for this year was not an option, so it’d been scheduled for the next spring.
“Xie Qing, Tao Yi and I have all decided to take the exam. Yuwen Jin wants to take the Imperial Martial Arts Examination (IMAE),” said Ji Feng.
Ling Zhang inclined his head, unsurprised at their decisions. Old Master Ji was now the Left Prime Minister, and Ji Feng was the eldest lineal descendant of his, so it was a natural thing that Ji Feng would go down this path. Given Ji Feng’s academic performance, getting a pass in the examination wouldn’t be a problem for him. Xie Qing was also quite intelligent and wouldn’t have any difficulty passing the exam either. Tao Yi, who had been learning from an eminent scholar, had long since set a goal of getting into the imperial court to serve as a civil official. Yuwen Jin had always dreamed about becoming a military officer, so it was not surprising that he’d decided to take IMAE. In fact, considering his current identity, even if he didn’t take the exam, he wouldn’t have to worry about his future at all, but he was an ambitious young man and had a craving to prove himself just as most of his peers did.