Not only had Dongpo maintained their standard for braised pork shoulders since the last time I ate there – which was a long time ago – their chef had levelled up. Brother Feng really did have good taste.
Unsurprisingly, Zizi wasn’t where I left him by the time I returned. Nevertheless, I managed to find the bloodstained kid underneath a pagoda tree nearby. He couldn’t have gone far when he had three opponents, after all. You would’ve thought he was dead if it wasn’t for his chest rising and falling. I had a rough guess what transpired based on the circumstantial evidence around. I could tell which direction his opponents fled based off the footprints on the ground, and based off the disordered patterns, it was clear who was scared off.
I crouched down and eyed Zizi. “You’re actually bleeding.”
Zizi wasn’t bathing in his own blood, but his clothes were dyed in blood, and he had no less than twenty wounds on him. He had been cut by swords, slashed by broadswords, scratched by darts and stabbed with daggers, not to mention the numerous bruises. Even if you added up all the injuries that he had suffered in his thirteen years of life, they probably couldn’t match the injuries he suffered today alone. Had he lost, it probably would’ve been his last time getting hurt, too.
The calf wound indicated Zizi fought a swordsman with his legs, rushing in to take out the swordsman before they could group up. The scratch on his neck and hands were the result of dodging a dart, catching another and throwing it back all whilst fighting the broadsword wielder. When the other two teamed up, they managed to slice his shoulders, but he was able to beat them to strike their qimens, taking away their power before his head rolled. The wound on his thigh that he was still bleeding from was a consequence of swiftly dodging a sword thrust aimed at his leg tendon. In other words, he was able to remain calm enough to make rational decisions while fighting four opponents. However, he walked his back straight into a punch as a result of the evasion, which was likely the cause behind the blood around his lips. All his wounds proved that he used an injured body to win his first life-and-death fight.
I wasn’t sure if I was meant to be glad or troubled – or both. My test was designed to make him fail. The four of them weren’t advanced internal practitioners, but they were legitimate threats in the underworld. Their experience with life-and-death fights on top of that should’ve given them an unfair advantage against Zizi. I wanted him to fail so that he would quit dreaming of setting foot into the pugilistic world. After all, it wasn’t a world fit for spoiled and weak Princes. No amount of wealth and manpower could protect you forever in the pugilistic world. He was the son of an old friend and likeable, so I didn’t want him to be a flower planted in the wrong place. He was supposed to give up and obediently stick to General Manager Bai for the next twelve months, and then go home and accept his Prince title next year. I was planning to teach him an internal discipline to cultivate a healthy body, and we’d be out of each other’s paths. He’d leave me alone, and I wouldn’t have let him call me “Shifu” for nothing. That was my goal in bringing him along today, but I was also hoping for the other outcome, a path that not even I could predict. The probability was tiny; however, it had happened. He truly outdid himself.
I couldn’t help smiling to myself. I don’t know how they did it, but life would’ve been unfair if Li Clan didn’t rule.
After I finished talking to myself, Zizi immediately lifted his head. Whether or not it was because he was sensitive, he was able to instantly enter a state of focus. He truly inherited the bloodline of the man who fought alongside my grandmaster. Zizi was highly alert at first, but he switched once he realised it was me. Instead of relief, there was confusion. He surveyed the surroundings before believing I had returned.
“… Shifu!” It took Zizi a moment to spot the silk handkerchief, smell or alcohol and braised pork shoulders in soy sauce. “Shifu!”
“What?” I covered Zizi’s head with the handkerchief, then found a big rock to sit down on.
Zizi pulled off the handkerchief, threw it aside and then grimaced due to the pain.
“Don’t throw it away. I still have a use for it.”
Zizi jumped to his feet. “Wh-why?!”
The angry kid lowered his head. “Y-you left me behind alone.”
“Didn’t you tell me you could beat them?”
“I thought you would be around, but you ran away…” Zizi, feeling the pain, looked around for a spot next to me to sit, but there was no such thing, so he had to stay standing. “Besides, they were looking for you… yet you had me fight them off.”
I pointed to the ground, indicating he could sit. Once he sat down, I said, “I left, didn’t I, and pretty fast at that?”
When Zizi reacted angrily, I smiled and asked, “If they were after me, shouldn’t they have chased me when I walked off? Why do you think they stayed to fight you?”