Chapter 1.2 — The faint scent of disinfectant passed through her nose.
“Qi Bai Cao——!”
“She is Qi Bai Cao——!”
Early in the morning at Pure Elegance Martial Hall, all the disciples assembled in the courtyard released sharp, piercing cries of alarm, as if they had seen a horrifying ghost!
Insurmountable murderous auras instantly gathered before Bai Cao!
She retreated two steps.
Similarly, insurmountable murderous auras instantly gathered from behind Bai Cao!
She focused her attention to her left and right sides, only to discover that she was already heavily surrounded. Having just finished their warm-ups, the disciples of Pure Elegance Martial Hall glared at the intruder. That one disciple who had shouted her name was still screaming.
“Qi Bai Cao!”
“She’s really Qi Bai Cao!”
“She’s really Qi Bai Cao of Absolute Victory Martial Hall!”
“Qi Bai Cao?”
Some of the Martial Hall disciples looked at each other in confusion. They didn’t know exactly who this unexpectedly famous Qi Bai Cao was, to cause this young shidi to repeatedly scream that way. Those among the Martial Hall disciples who had heard of the name ‘Qi Bai Cao’ immediately whispered to their neighbors, explaining her deeds.
“Oh, so it’s her!”
“She’s the one who exposed Martial Hall Master Zheng’s deception. Ironically, that Martial Hall Master Zheng boasted to reporters about how strong Absolute Victory Martial Hall was and how they were confident about the Martial Halls Competition, only for his two-faced nature to be pathetically exposed…”
“I wouldn’t have thought that this little girl would be so courageous!”
“Courage? The way I see it, she is the Absolute Victory Martial Hall Master’s misfortune…”
Bai Cao suddenly lifted her head and glared at the person amidst the crowd who had spoken that phrase. He was a boy, 17 or 18 years old, with short hair and eyes that gave off the impression that he hadn’t slept enough. His eyelids drooped down, and from time to time, he would yawn.
“Wow, she seems to be glaring at Yi Feng shixiong!”
“Yi Feng shixiong, Yi Feng shixiong, quick, look! She’s glaring at you!” A disciple to the side nudged the incessantly yawning Yi Feng.
“Let her glare. She is the tired one anyway..” Once again, he released a large yawn.
“It’s already time for training, what are you guys gathering here for?!”
All the disciples of Pure Elegance Martial Hall immediately quietened at the sound of this voice and quickly ducked off the path with respect. The air was so quiet that even the rustling of tree leaves was clearly audible.
Four people walked over.
At the very front was a middle-aged man.
His hair was slightly white and his body as tall and as straight as a pine tree. His robe was snow-white, and the black belt wrapped around his waist lightly fluttered in the morning wind.
A young man and young lady followed behind the man.
The young man exuded a heroic aura, his eyebrows honest and his eyes bright.
The young lady was a delicate and graceful beauty, slender and elegant.
Bai Cao had met these three when she was at Absolute Victory Martial Hall. The middle-aged man was Pure Elegance Martial Hall’s Master, Yu Shi Song, the young man was the disciple he was most proud of, Ruo Bai, and the young woman was the master’s daughter, Chu Wei.
The people from Absolute Victory Martial Hall had always hated Pure Elegance Martial Hall the most.
Because the two Martial Halls were located on the same street, Pure Elegance Martial Hall, as it happened, had more fame, more disciples, better practice grounds, superior accommodation, and tastier food than Absolute Victory Martial Hall. Whenever Pure Elegance Martial Hall disciples passed by in front of the Absolute Victory Martial Hall’s door, they all held their heads high.
The main reason why Pure Elegance Martial Hall disciples were able to raise their heads and stick their chests out wasn’t because of the above, but due to the martial arts of Pure Elegance Martial Hall disciples being better than the Absolute Victory Martial Hall’s. Every time the two Martial Halls held spars to learn from one another, Absolute Victory disciples, without exception, were defeated in every single level. The ones who would usually defeat the largest amount of Absolute Victory Martial Hall disciples were Ruo Bai and Chu Wei.
Defeating Ruo Bai and Chu Wei was every Absolute Victory Martial Hall disciple’s dream. Bai Cao had also secretly looked forward to the day that would she have the strength and means to challenge them and win, thus leading Absolute Victory Martial Hall to glory!
She wasn’t an Absolute Victory Martial Hall disciple anymore.
Bai Cao’s eyes dimmed.
The unnoticed fourth person walking behind them was Xiao Ying. Anxiety clouded her face, as if she didn’t understand the reason a fight had nearly broke out..
“Why is she surrounded?”
Martial Hall Master Yu looked at the young girl surrounded by numerous disciples and frowned at them. The many disciples looked awkwardly at each other, before ultimately resting their gazes on Xiu Da’s body. He was the original person who had yelled out loud. With everyone’s gazes on him, Xiu Da’s face turned red as he hesitantly said, “She… She is Absolute Victory Martial Hall’s Qi Bai Cao.”
Hall Master Yu indicated that he should continue talking.
“Bai Cao is my classmate. It was me who invited her to live at my place! I just met shimu and told her that Bai Cao would live here for the time being. Shimu agreed, and even let Bai Cao treat this place as her own home!” Xiao Ying Ji hurriedly said.
“She cannot! She cannot live here!” Xiu Da shouted.
“Why can’t she?!” Xiao Ying grew angry. “Shimu has already agreed. What right do you have to say no?!”
“She is a spy sent by Absolute Victory Martial Hall! She is definitely here to secretly learn our Martial Hall’s martial arts for the Martial Halls Competition! Her living here is Absolute Victory Martial Hall’s dark scheme! She absolutely cannot be allowed to live here!”
“What nonsense are you saying! How is Bai Cao a spy!”
“She just is a spy! She must have sneakily learnt our Pure Elegance Martial Hall’s martial arts, or else how could she…” Xiu Da suddenly shut his mouth, glaring ferociously at the stupefied Bai Cao. “Heng!”
“How could she what? Say it!”
Xiao Ying rushed up, her eyes flashing with the desire to beat him up. Xiu Da moved to the side, acting as though he didn’t quite dare to fight with her. His expression, however, was filled with indignation. He was unwilling to speak clearly.
“Xiu Da, if you are accusing this girl without reason, then you should apologise to her right now,” Martial Hall Master Yu spoke sternly while frowning.
“I… I… She…” Xiu Da’s entire face flushed. Feeling wronged, he said, “… She just is a spy. She covertly learnt our Martial Hall’s martial arts. Otherwise, just by relying on the Absolute Victory Martial Hall’s three-legged cat skills, how could she have defeated me and a few other xiongdi back then…”
This girl had already defeated Xiu Da and a few other xiongdi?!
The present Pure Elegance Martial Hall disciples were all shocked. With wide eyes, they stared at the Qi expressionless Bai Cao.
At this moment, Bai Cao had already recognised Xiu Da.
One day during the previous month, after the school day had ended, she had returned to Absolute Victory Martial Hall to the scene of a few Pure Elegance Martial Hall disciples laughing loudly while standing in the practice field. A depressed little shidi sitting in a corner had told her that their shifu and shibo had gone out with Zhong He shixiong and Li Lan shijie. That was when Xiu Da, as well as other disciples of Pure Elegance Martial Hall, had come over and insisted on sparring with the Absolute Victory Martial Hall. They weren’t Xiu Da and the others’ match and having suffered defeat after defeat, they could only watch them while they arrogantly strutted around.
Xiu Da laughed arrogantly, while telling every bruised-and-swollen-faced, head-drooping, frustrated Absolute Victory Martial Hall disciple that they might as well accept him as their shifu. Perhaps their martial arts would even improve faster that way.
She had put her school bag on the ground and walked in front of Xiu Da.
She had defeated Xiu Da.
She had also defeated the Pure Elegance Martial Hall disciples that had come with Xiu Da.
With identical bruised-and-swollen faces, Xiu Da and the disciples no longer dared to shout so confidently as they ran away from Absolute Victory Martial Hall. The exhilarated Absolute Victory Martial Hall disciples were inspired by this victory, saying that it had been the first time since the beginning of the confrontations between Absolute Victory and Pure Elegance that they had such a big victory!
Since then, the younger disciples would look at her with a little hero worship mixed in their eyes of contempt.
Until she had been kicked out by Zheng shibo.
“She can defeat you?!”
“It doesn’t seem likely that you, Xiu Da, would lose by the hand of this small lady!”
“Xiu Da, aren’t you ashamed?! You actually lost to Absolute Victory Martial Hall, and not only that, to a girl?!”
Some of the disciples of Pure Elegance Martial Hall repeatedly shouted. They stared, flabbergasted, at Xiu Da’s completely red face, then at the wooden expression on Qi Bai Cao’s face. It really was too hard to believe that the 14-year-old Xiu Da had once lost to her!
Although Xiu Da’s skill was far inferior to Ruo Bai shixiong’s as well as Chu Wie shijie’s and Yi Feng shixiong’s since they were older disciples, he could be considered a well-known figure among the younger disciples. Every time they practiced, he was able to win against all his peers. He was viewed as the most outstanding younger disciple of Pure Elegance Martial Hall and had boundless prospects ahead of him.
But he had actually lost to this petite girl.
Furthermore, it was a girl!
“I… I made a mistake… I was… I was careless… actually, I can defeat her!”
With so many disciples stunned, Xiu Da was both shy and angry, hating himself for being so impatient. Since he had actually told everyone that he had lost to this girl, it was impossible to determine for how long he would be ridiculed this time.
“… She has definitely stolen our Pure Elegance Martial Hall’s martial arts and learned them. That’s why she could… could… win by a fluke! And now, she has come to pilfer our martial arts again! That definitely cannot happen! We can’t let her stay here!”
“Che! Xiu Da, don’t you think you’re a bit too tasteless?!” After Xiao Ying heard and thoroughly understood what had happened in its entirety, she disdainfully said to Xiu Da, “If you lost, then you lost, yet you falsely accused Bai Cao of secretly learning our martial arts! This is the first time she came to our Martial Hall, okay? Even if you feel that you can’t afford to lose to other people, please…”
“Originally, everyone in the world of Taekwondo was considered to be part of the same family. We would learn from each other, use one’s strengths to make up for another’s weakness and improve together. Where did this talk of learning in secret come from! ” Martial Hall Master Yu interrupted the argument between the two kids with these stern words.
Speechless, Bai Cao looked up to stare at this middle-aged man.
The crowd of disciples immediately quietened. Xiu Da unhappily closed his mouth. Only after giving Xiu Da one more glare did Xiao Ying quietly continue to listen to her shifu talk.
“Xiu Da, did you learn Taekwondo in order to use your strength to bully the weak, to show off?” Martial Hall Master Yu furrowed his brows. He fixed his gaze on Xiu Da, who had hung his head and was gradually lowering it further and further.
“You will meditate for three days. For now, you don’t need to participate in training.” Having finished speaking, Martial Hall Master Yu sighed and headed for the courtyard’s training field.
Staring at his shifu’s departing figure, Xiu Da panicked, not knowing what to do. His shifu had always treated him with loving affections, but now he actually expressed disappointment and condemnation towards him because of this girl?!
When Chu Wei walked past Bai Cao, she sized her up. Ruo Bai followed behind his shifu, acting as if he basically didn’t realize another person was here. Yi Feng had been incessantly yawning for a while, but when he neared Xiu Da, who was trying to cry but failed to shed a single tear, he stretched out his hand and patted his head.
“Are there any problems?” Xiao Ying asked Bai Cao in a low voice.
Bai Cao shook her head.
“Then that’s good. Wait for me; we can go to school together.” After saying this, she ran to catch up to her shifu and all her fellow disciples.
Bai Cao stared at the silhouettes of the group of people. Suddenly, an indescribable loneliness struck her heart. She turned her head back, coincidentally locking gazes with Xiu Da’s tearful, reddened eyes. She glanced at him, responding to his hate-filled eyes with a blank expression as she walked far away.
“Is it true?”
“Is it true?”
For the rest of the day, from going to school to leaving school and all the way to when she finished dinner and then started working on her homework, Xiao Ying continuously chased after Bai Cao and asked, without an end, this one question.
“Did you really defeat Xiu Da?”
In a tiny bedroom, she tilted her head to watch Bai Cao immerse herself in her school studies with a monstrous gaze. It was like the first day she met her.
“Mmn.” Bai Cao made a noise of agreement.
She couldn’t remember the details of what had happened with Xiu Da and the rest a month ago clearly anymore. Perhaps, Xiu Da was too arrogant and had underestimated the enemy.
“Wa, you actually defeated Xiu Da.” Xiao Ying blinked. “That brat, Xiu Da, has always thought himself to be the most powerful within the new generation of Martial Hall disciples. Since his martial arts had been personally taught to him by Ruo Bai shixiong, he would swagger around within Pure Elegance Martial Hall, except around a few shixiongs and shijies. Everyone expected that in a few years, Xiu Da might represent Pure Elegance Martial Hall as a participant in the Martial Hall Challenge Competition and be a hot shot like that disciple of Virtuous Martial Hall!”
Virtuous Martial Hall…
In the middle of writing her English essay, Bai Cao’s ballpoint pen stilled as she became slightly absent-minded.
Virtuous Martial Hall’s name really was just too resounding. They were An Yang’s best Taekwondo Martial Hall and could be considered one of the most famous Martial Halls in the country. Many champions of the National Taekwondo Competition had come from there, and they also had a high ranking in international Taekwondo competitions. Virtuous Martial Hall’s requirements for receiving disciples, however, were very strict. Every year, they only had a very small number of places to be filled with new disciples. Many of the Taekwondo enthusiasts who came to become a disciple under them could only leave with regret.
Because of this, very many small Martial Halls appeared in the Virtuous Martial Hall’s surroundings with the purpose of accepting the Taekwondo enthusiasts who were unable to enter there. Over time, there came to be two Martial Halls on each of An Yang City’s streets, and it became well-known as a city with a grove of Taekwondo Martial Halls.
The masters of Virtuous Martial Hall were very strict, always prohibiting other Martial Hall disciples from visiting and exchanging moves in spars. Only at the annual Martial Halls Challenge Competition would they fight. That was why during every competition, the Martial Halls eagerly looked forward to fully displaying their capabilities in combat and rising above all the others. Usually, if one could defeat a Virtuous Martial Hall disciple, they had a greater chance of becoming famous after the match.
Back then, Absolute Victory Martial Hall disciples would also hope to defeat one of the Virtuous Martial Hall disciples during a competition to cast away their reputation as the ‘weakest Martial Hall in An Yang’. However, according to Bai Cao’s memories, during previous Martial Halls Competitions, most of the disciples of Absolute Victory Martial Hall had been eliminated during the first round of preliminaries. They had never even gotten the chance to challenge the Virtuous Martial Hall’s disciples.
“Since you’ve defeated Xiu Da, then you should also be able to defeat me. Come, we should spar. Let me see exactly how great your martial arts are!”
“I don’t want to.”
Bai Cao didn’t raise her head as she continued to write her essay.
“Then how about when you finish your homework?” Xiao Ying said excitedly.
“Why!? What’s wrong with exchanging moves? If worst comes to worst, we just need to be a bit more careful. No injuring through kicking…”
“Xiao Ying——! Grandma called!”
Fan Shen’s shout came from the room next door. Reluctantly, Xiao Ying dawdled for a bit, before finally becoming unable to bear her mom’s shouts anymore and yelled back, “Oh! I’m coming!”
The room became quiet.
Bai Cao lightly let out a breath. She set down the pen in her hand, her mind flashing back to that scene where Pure Elegance Martial Hall disciples had been practicing their martial arts on the courtyard turf in the evening. White martial garments, roars filled with vigor, flying in circles, turning, kicking…
Don’t know when shifu will return from the countryside.
Just when can I return to Absolute Victory Martial Hall?
She bit her lips. Putting a stop to that train of thought, she lowered her head and finished writing her English essay. Following that, she reviewed the contents of the following day’s physics class.
Her physics textbook was supposed to be in the big handbag that Guang Ya had helped her take out.
She got up and went to her bed to open that bag. While she was searching through the bag, her eyes glanced upon a white envelope all of a sudden. It wasn’t hers. With skepticism, she opened the envelope——
Inside was actually a stack of money!
Every note was was worth 10 yuan. Some of them were new, while some were old. In total, they valued at more than 200 yuan!1
Bai Cao was in a daze. For a time, she didn’t know how to guess who had given her this money and envelope. Could it be… Could it be Guang Ya…
There was a knock on the door followed by a small disciple coming in and speaking to her, “Are you Qi Bai Cao? Shifu is looking for you.”
It was a pitch-black night.
Bai Cao silently followed the little disciple until they reached the empty practice courtyard. To the side, a few indistinct shadowy figures flickered by.
She stopped walking. Her eyes swept over the figures that had rapidly surrounded her as she asked, “What are you trying to do?”
“Ha! You’re asking me what I’m trying to do?!” Even in the darkness, Xiu Da’s expressions of anger and resentment were too obvious to miss. “Did you know, shifu had never admonished me before! He had always treated me very well and he spoiled me the most! But today, just because of you, I was scolded by shifu!”
“You’re the one who harmed me! You wicked scoundrel! You bearer of ill luck! You brought disaster to Absolute Victory Martial Hall and got kicked out, so you came here to harm me, is that it!? I am not that easy to bully!”
“Actually, I had forgotten who you are.” Bai Cao pursed her lips. His saying that she had brought disaster to Absolute Victory Martial Hall had stabbed her heart with sorrow, causing her to shrink back and blurt these words out unwillingly. “You’re the one yelling at me and airing out your affairs.”
In fury, Xiu Da angrily raised his hand and pointed at her, screaming, “What do you mean you had forgotten who I am?! You are looking down on me, aren’t you!?”
Bai Cao took a deep breath.
Xiao Ying had kindly sheltered her, and not only had the Martial Hall Master and Mistress not minded her eating and drinking for free, they had also treated her well. She did not want to make trouble.
“Come! I formally challenge you!”
Xiu Da glared at her with anger and placed himself directly in front of her. Lifting his head up high, he adopted an icily arrogant look and said, “Last time, I had underestimated you which caused me to lose. This time, it won’t be the same!”
Bai Cao stood in silence.
“What are you doing?! What are you trying to accomplish by standing there like a bamboo pole pestle? Have you turned deaf, I said I want to challenge you!”
“I don’t want to fight.”
“Fight? This isn’t fighting; it’s a spar!”
“If you want to spar, then wait until I get back to Absolute Victory Martial Hall. Then you can come, your strength and discipline on display, to spar with me.” She then said pointedly, “This sneaky private fight violates the spirit of practicing Taekwondo.”
“Ha! Ha!” Xiu Da angrily spat out, “When you return to Absolute Victory Martial Hall? I can tell that even Absolute Victory Martial Hall won’t take you back for the rest of your life! Does that not mean that I, for the rest of my life, will have no way of washing away this disgrace?!”
“I will return.”
“I will return!” She clenched her fists tightly.
“You won’t you won’t you won’t you won’t you won’t you won’t! Even if you kowtowed until you died in front of the Absolute Victory Martial Hall’s front door, they still won’t want you back. No one will ever want you!”
Bai Cao was so angered that her face paled. She clenched her trembling hands. Xiu Da proudly swayed in front of her, saying, “How about it, make your move, make your move!”
She gritted her teeth, restraining a chest full of rage. Turning around, she walked back wishing to never see Xiu Da’s face again.
“Qi Bai Cao——!”
A gust of sharp wind picked up behind her. Xiu Da, out-of-control and screaming with anger, had attacked. Her conditioned reflexes urged her to plant her feet, turn around, and kick. Her right leg was already rising when she recalled what shifu had taught her over and over again.
Her heart ached.
I don’t know if shifu, at the countryside, has even heard the news that I was kicked out of the Martial Hall.
Xiu Da ruthlessly kicked her head. A hong sound rang out, as if a terrifying thunderbolt had struck out in the blue sky. Her vision grew dark as her body was sent flying by the kick several meters away. She fell heavily onto the grass, her head and chest in such oppressive pain that she turned over and vomited.
On top of the ice-cold grass.
She forced out her entire strength in an attempt to get up; she didn’t want to feel the shame of falling in front of these people. However, she was in too much pain, and her mind was thrown into chaos from the agony. She vaguely heard someone’s voice.
Before she fell into a darkness even darker than before, she vaguely sensed a figure crouching before her and lifting her up in a princess carry. The faint smell of disinfectant passed through her nose. She wanted to struggle, but a burst of dizziness struck her as darkness descended.
“Xiu Da! Have you gone crazy? How could you secretly attack her?”
The Pure Elegance Martial Hall disciples who had come with Xiu Da to fight all shouted in horror. Xiu Da dazedly stared at the unconscious girl and then turned towards the person who was princess-carrying her with a vacant look. His face was as pale as paper.
I seem to have slept for a long time.
She hadn’t slept this deeply in a very long time, so deep that no matter how she struggled to wake, she would be pulled back again and again into dreamland. However, her sleep had been very restless. Furthermore, she remembered that she had to wake up early to practice. She had already learnt how to spin kick, but her kicks weren’t high enough.
Shifu had said that her strength was good, but her speed could be improved…
Struggling endlessly, she used her utmost effort to open her eyelids weighing what seemed to be 500 kilograms. She thought she could hear the cries of a rooster coming from afar. Dawn; she should get up now; she was not allowed to sleep in!
Light gradually filtered through her eyelashes.
Her head ached so much!
With a low moan, she strenuously extending a hand to her head. Another burst of pain hit her, so painful she almost threw up. Finally, she opened her eyes.
This was an unfamiliar place. She blankly stared at the ceiling. Suddenly, she sat up. This was Pure Elegance Martial Hall! She had yet to help Fan Shen prepare food, yet to wash clothes, yet to clean the mat!
Her headache was so unbearable, akin to being ripped apart, that she suddenly jumped off the bed!
The room had a scent of disinfectant about it. A youth, eighteen or nineteen years old, rose from the desk in front of the window and walked over. The morning sunshine scattered over his body, and the light reflected off his face, somewhat obscuring it. She could only hear his crystal-clear, incredibly pure voice.
This story is mainly about Bai Cao’s development, so her feelings are subplot. The disparity between this and my older novels is quite large, as this is a little too much like a romance novel. Han~~~~
I better change the genre to romance.
- Approx. 29 USD ↩