Chapter 20 Obtaining a Fine Bow Again
After having passed the Horse Stance stage ten years ago, Zhou Yong didn't advance to Martial Warrior, instead, he’d been setting his foot into the gentry social class for all these years. But among the external skills he practiced, there were methods to strengthen the body as well as methods to increase strength. Furthermore, his strength was not inferior to a Martial Warrior expert, he had great confidence in his own physical strength. The first time earlier on was only to try out Yan Liqiang’s strength. Zhou Yong himself had yet to use his full strength, he had instead been holding back by thirty percent.
During the very moment that Zhou Yong had been wondering if Yan Liqiang had exerted his full force, he realized that Yan Liqiang didn't wait for the strength on his hand to dissipate before he rapidly pulled back and switched to another technique. He brought his foot back to the front and within a split second, Yan Liqiang had already knocked into Zhou Yong with his shoulder....
To have been able to unleash and pull back that quickly, it was evident that Yan Liqiang hadn’t been using his full strength as well just now. He too, was testing out his strength, which caused Zhou Yong to be even more surprised.
As seen from the battle between Yan Liqiang and Zhou Yong, it could be said that the two had both met their match. Zhou Yong himself liked competing in skills through a game of push-wrestling ring. With all of his accumulated experience, no one within the entire Weaponsmiths Quarter was his match. However, Yan Liqiang wasn’t any weaker. Although he lacked experience when compared to Zhou Yong, he possessed a great strength akin to that of a tiger descending the mountain that was also coupled with his sharp instincts.
The two men traded blows back and forth with each other. They were both strong and quick, and while fighting within the ring made it impossible for the eyes to process every single thing. The soldiers in the surroundings cheered loudly in excitement.
Yan Liqiang wasn’t sure of how Zhou Yong was feeling at that time, but he felt great. Zhou Yong was indeed a worthy adversary. His actions and responses were ruthless and direct, efficient and unscrupulous like that of a soldier. This was different from Yan Liqiang’s previous opponents. During this match with Zhou Yong, Yan Liqiang himself had been receiving a huge harvest in terms of experience. His confidence was built up all of a sudden.
Zhou Yong wasn’t your average Joe. This man here was, in fact, a genuine squad commander among the army of the Great Han Empire; a professional amongst the country’s martial law enforcers. Although a squad commander was a basic ranking officer, it was impossible for one to be able to hold this position without a remarkable amount of bravery and strength in the military.
Within five minutes, the two of them while pushing against each other were nearing the white circle, the very border of the push-wrestling ring.
In a flash, Yan Liqiang seized this as an opportunity to use the Plucking the Stars and Gazing the Moon stance from Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist. Instantaneously, his right hand reached through and under Zhou Yong’s armpit and with just that single hand, lifted Zhou Yong up. This left Zhou Yong aghast. He was aware of Yan Liqiang’s strength. At such a moment, if both of his feet were off the ground and he lost his balance in the midst of being hoisted up by Yan Liqiang, then he was sure to lose. Being in such a vulnerable position, allowed him to be easily thrown off the ring by Yan Liqiang. In such a circumstance, without a second thought, he hooked one of his arms around Yan Liqiang’s right arm. At the same time, he twisted his body around to Yan Liqiang’s side with the intention of knocking him out of the ring.
Yan Liqiang smiled faintly. Using his body at this critical moment, he raised his right hand and with a twist of his body, managed to turn his body around under his own arm. During the brief moment of time that his right arm had been passing through Zhou Yong's waist, his right hand accidentally swept through Zhou Yong's clothes. He then proceeded to get into a defensive posture and collided against Zhou Yong’s body which rammed towards him.
Zhou Yong did that to save himself. Like a collision with a bull, it had been very powerful.
His body crashed into Yan Liqiang’s upper arm. Yan Liqiang immediately retracted his arm as his whole body retreated five to six steps. He was swiftly knocked out of the ring by Zhou Yong.
Upon seeing Zhou Yong emerge victorious from the intense competition of skills between the two, the surrounding soldiers cheered loudly. Everyone was in great delight as their applause rang out loudly. The soldiers had been defeated by Yan Liqiang in the two rounds prior, but their chief had managed to win back their pride. Every single one of them was ecstatic.
Yan Liqiang was all smiles. He cupped his hands in salute towards Zhou Yong, "Brother Zhou is terrific, and indeed skillful! I admit defeat!"
Zhou Yong, as the victor, took a deep glance at Yan Liqiang. The movements during their battle just now were too fast, the spectators might not have been able to keep up with their pace. And even if they had been able to cope with their speed, it would have been impossible for them to understand the profundity within. But, Zhou Yong understood within his heart. Judging from Yan Liqiang's standards, if Yan Liqiang's hand wasn't in a defensive position, but rather placed on his waist during the final moment, then with Yan Liqiang’s strength, he would have been easily thrown out of the ring before he could even have the chance to ram into him.
Yan Liqiang must have lost on purpose during their bout so that Zhou Yong would win. Looking at how the soldiers in the surrounding were looking at him with admiration, Zhou Yong instantly understood Yan Liqiang’s intention. Yan Liqiang had purposely allowed for him to maintain his authority and pride in front of his subordinates.
Yan Liqiang had leaped over the dragon gate like a carp and passed the Horse Stance stage at the mere age of fourteen. There was no doubt that he would be able to advance to Martial Warrior in the future. When it came to social relationships, for such a sophisticated person at such a young age and to be able to handle situations with sincerity and experience, it would be impossible for him to not achieve stellar success in the future. This youth was definitely not your average teenager.
A thought flashed through Zhou Yong’s mind. His understanding towards Yan Liqiang had increased promptly; he truly held the intention of building a friendship with him. If he didn’t make friends with such a young elite like him now, then when else would he find a better time? He wasn’t going to wait for him to succeed first then only buddy up with him.
"Hahaha! I am ashamed, I thank Master Yan for giving in…" Zhou Yong said while he cupped his hands in obeisance towards Yan Liqiang. Both of them had a tacit mutual understanding towards one another so they naturally understood each other’s exchanged words and smiles. When the surrounding soldiers heard their conversation, they only thought of it as Zhou Yong simply being humble after his victory and didn’t give further thought to it.
"Brother Zhou need not to be modest. I have just passed the Horse Stance stage and I’m lacking experience in many aspects. I still have much to learn from Brother Zhou!"
"Master Yan has passed the Horse Stance stage at the age of fourteen. With the foundation of the Horse Stance stage, I reckon that it won’t even take you two or three years to pass the next Stretching Tendon and Extending Bone stage. How can I ever compare with your future achievements?" Zhou Yong said as he walked out of the wrestling ring. He came face to face with Yan Liqiang. "I realized that Master Yan mostly used the moves from the Tiger Roaring Consecutive Fist technique in the wrestling ring. Although this fist technique is commonly seen, it appeared to be entirely different when executed by Master Yan. It should have at least reached the fourth layer. I wonder if Master Yan has invested his time practicing any other martial techniques apart from this one?"
Yan Liqiang smiled and shook his head, "I’m currently building up my foundation so the techniques that I have practiced were all of the basics. I haven’t managed to practice any other martial techniques."
"Then, I wonder if Master Yan has ever practiced archery before?" Zhou Yong continued to ask.
"No, I’ve never tried!"
He had never practiced archery before, so naturally, he didn’t own any kind of bow.
"Archery is the first of the Confucian Six Arts of a Martial Warrior. Master Yan should learn archery after having advanced to a Martial Warrior in the future…." Zhou Yong said to Yan Liqiang. He then turned his head around and barked an order to one of the soldiers who was always following him. "Shao Ling, go to my room and bring over that war bow that is always placed on the weapon rack….."
As soon as the soldier heard his order, he sped off towards a house next to the barracks.
The minute Yan Liqiang heard it, he understood what Zhou Yong was planning on doing. He hurriedly declined, " Brother Zhou, how can I accept your bow? I shouldn’t!"
A war bow was different from an ordinary bow, just like how a sports car was different from an ordinary car. An ordinary bow could be made out of bamboo by anyone at home. But a war bow was a bow that could be used on an actual battlefield, an environment where the demands for a bow’s quality and power were especially strict.
Due to the materials needed and time constraints in producing a war bow in this era, it was amongst one of the most expensive weapons. Among the weapons of the same level, the price of the war bow was more expensive than other weapons of similar quality. A slightly better war bow could easily cost more than ten taels of gold. It was not something that just anyone could afford.
The barracks was just beside them, only a few steps away from where they were standing. So, while Yan Liqiang was still rejecting the offer, that soldier had already returned with the bow in hand.
That bow was being kept in a perfectly sealed bow bag, so he could not see its features. But with Yan Liqiang’s judgment, within a single glance, he already knew that within the bow bag was no ordinary bow.
The bow bag was made out of precious rhinoceros’ leather. It was entirely green and covered with beautiful patterns, and resembled the shape of a half-crescent. The entire bow bag was very long, as it could almost reach Yan Liqiang’s chin when it stood on the ground. Putting everything else aside, just the materials and craftsmanship alone would cost a lot.
Zhou Yong opened up the bow bag and took out the bow. Upon seeing the bow, Yan Liqiang couldn't help but be shocked. "Brother Zhou, could this bow possibly be the legendary Horned Python Bow...?"
"Hahaha! So, Master Yan also has heard about the Horned Python Bow before. Not bad! This bow is indeed the Horned Python Bow..." Zhou Yong lovingly gazed at the black war bow as his hand gently caressed the sleek body. "This was obtained by one of my good brothers on a battlefield. He later gifted it to me. It requires the draw strength of at least five piculs for anyone to be able to use this bow. It is too strenuous for me to use but with Master Yan’s superhuman strength, this bow will surely fit you…"
"Brother Zhou, it’s too precious. It is truly too precious! I can’t accept this!" Yan Liqiang waved his hands frantically as he rushed to decline the offer.
Previously, Yan Liqiang had thought that Zhou Yong had planned on giving him an ordinary war bow. Who would have thought that Zhou Yong was going to give him an actual Horned Python Bow? To put it simply, this was a genuine Horned Python Bow, it was essentially the Ferrari among war bows. It was impossible to buy this Horned Python Bow, which was right in front of his eyes, for any price of less than a hundred taels of gold. Even with Zhou Yong’s status as a squad commander, this item was probably among one of his most valuable belongings and assets.
Zhou Yong frowned all of a sudden, "We are martial practitioners. We do not go back on the words we have spoken. Could it be that Master Yan won’t accept my gift because you look down on me? Do you perhaps think that I, Zhou Yong, who is only a squad commander, is unfit to befriend Master Yan?"
Zhou Yong’s words were too serious. The surrounding soldiers instantly went silent. Every single had their eyes set on Yan Liqiang.
"That’s not it, Brother Zhou. This truly is…"
"Take it!" Zhou Yong directly shoved the bow into Yan Liqiang’s arms. "If you don’t accept this bow today, don’t ever call me Brother Zhou ever again! I am too embarrassed to take back the things I have given away, so I’ll just smelt it in the furnace of the blacksmith anyways..."
Yan Liqiang knew he couldn’t reject it and took a deep breath. He suppressed his excitement and accepted the bow. He cupped his fist with his other hand and respectfully said, "Then Liqiang shall accept Brother Zhou’s gift today. If Brother Zhou thinks highly of me, then from now on please refrain from calling me Master Yan. Just Liqiang will do!"
"That’s right!" Zhou Yong laughed heartily, "Come, come! Let us try this bow out over there! Let the brothers in the barracks witness your superhuman strength!"
"Brother Zhou, I have never practiced archery before….."
"That’s alright. It is easy to learn. I’ll just explain it and you’ll be able to pick up immediately….."