Chapter 14 Damn, That Dude Packs a Wallop!
Li Yundong left the corridor and made his way to the second floor, ignoring the strange looks from the people he passed by. At the second floor, he was greeted by a cacophony of shouts, the ones that martial artists do whenever they were about to strike their opponent. Kiai, he believed that was the term.
Taekwondo and Karate are kind of similar in this regard: their practitioners like to intimidate their opponents during combat using their voice.
More kiais rang out.
Li Yundong followed the sound by taking a right turn, which brought them to the entrance of the dojo. He knew this because the kiais just got louder.
Entering the dojo, Li Yundong saw a banner hanging on the wall adjacent to the door. He stopped and studied the banner, which had a print of Taekwondo's signature logo: a faceless practitioner dressed in a white gi performing a high side kick. Footsteps sounded ahead, so Li Yundong turned away from the banner to the front, where he saw a reception counter. A beautiful, round-faced woman was approaching them from the counter. "Hello! Are you here to—"
The girl squeaked, then covered her mouth. "Omigod!! Are you Li Yundong?"
Li Yundong's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. "You know me?"
Miss Round Face grinned at him and said, "Are you kidding? There isn't a single person in Tiannan University who doesn't know you! You're the guy who went from being the King of Love Confessions to the King of Parkour!"
All of a sudden, the girl leaned closer to Li Yundong and nudged him with her elbow. "Hey, can I have your autograph?"
Li Yundong laughed. "An autograph? From me? Okay. This has to be some kind of prank. Are you messing with me? Are there cameras hidden somewhere?"
However, Miss Round Face was nothing if not persistent. "You know, someone captured the whole wall-climbing thing you did the other day on video and posted it on the university forum. And guess what? It's now the most-viewed thread in the entire forum! Trust me, you're going to be sooooo popular! It's gonna happen soon! I just know it! How do I know, you might ask? I know cuz' I was there that day! I saw the whole thing! You were carrying a pretty chick in your arms, then you did the whole Spiderman thing. Like, God! Do you know how badass you were? Jumping between two walls to climb up four floors?! Four! Jackie Chan's got nothing on you, pal. Nothing! I myself couldn't believe my own eyes when I saw it. Too bad I didn't manage to capture the video for myself. But I suppose I could download it from the forum..."
The girl kept on rambling.
Li Yundong's eyes twitched with each cadence of the girl's voice. F*ck my life... I made it to the top of the motherf*cking forum again? F*ck! Why don't those dipshits go f*ck themselves if they have so much free time on their hands!
For the next few minutes, Miss Round Face went from rambling about how awesome Li Yundong was to begging him for an autograph. However, after Li Yundong's nth refusal, she finally gave up and led Li Yundong and Su Chan towards the reception counter. "You're here because you want to join the Taekwondo club, right?" She pulled out a piece of paper from the brochure stand in front of the counter and handed it to Li Yundong. "Fill out this form first."
The girl froze the moment her eyes landed on Su Chan. The infatuated look in her eyes vanished in an instant and was replaced, first with shock, then with envy. Damn... I knew she was pretty when I saw her the other day... but I didn't expect her to be this beautiful up close... No wonder Li Yundong was so gung-ho about protecting her...
"Hi, pretty girl! Are you joining the club as well?" she asked Su Chan.
Su Chan glanced at Li Yundong as though she wanted him to make the decision for her.
Good call, since she didn't even know what Taekwondo was.
"Just tag along with me for now," Li Yundong said. "You can join later on if you're interested."
Li Yundong grabbed a pen from the counter and started filling up the form. Miss Round Face watched him from behind the counter until, all of a sudden, her eyes twinkled. She smiled to herself, then waited for Li Yundong to finish filling up the form. When he did, she grabbed another form from the brochure stand and said, "Please fill out another one. We keep dual copies."
Once Li Yundong completed the second form, Miss Round Face grabbed the form and then burst into giggles. "YES!!! Look! Look! Now I got your autograph!" she said, then did a quick victory dance.
Li Yundong was too stunned to even react.
"This is your first autograph, right?" she went on, then pumped her fist all of a sudden. "Hell yeah!! I'll definitely be able to make a fortune once you become popular!" Another round of giggles ensued. "Woo-hoo! I'm your first fan!"
The girl kept dancing around him, waving the second form which, indeed, contained his signature. Li Yundong shook his head and chuckled. Then, he did a Bao Quan Li and said, "Fine, you win. You're persistent, I'll give you that." (T/N: A Bao Quan Li is a common greeting used in Chinese Martial arts. It is performed by raising both hands to chest level, then placing the right fist against the left palm)
Miss Round Face stopped dancing and grinned at Li Yundong. "Yep, you bet!" she said, then paused. "So are you gonna pay the 200 yuan registration fee now? Or, do you want to go through the club's trial period?"
"What's the difference?"
"If you pay first, then you'll become our member straight away, obviously. Which means you're allowed to join all club activities. Oh, and if you perform well during those activities, the club would even recommend you to join competitions. Next, we have the trial period, which doesn't require you to pay any registration fee. But of course, it means that you're not an official club member yet. You can come to practice for one month without any charges. Oh, but you have to rent a Taekwondo uniform on your own though. After the one-month trial period, you can still leave the club if you find that you don't like it."
Li Yundong nodded and pulled out 200 yuan from his pocket. "Then I'll pay now," he said.
200 yuan was nothing to him anyway.
After the payment was settled, Miss Round Face brought Li Yundong into the dojo. Inside, they moved along the edge of the sparring mats where students were shouting and kicking at each other. Li Yundong had no idea where they were heading to until they stopped in front of a guy who was in a full Taekwondo uniform with a red belt tied around his waist. "This is our new member, Li Yundong," Miss Round Face said.
Considering his tall and muscular physique, this guy would've been one hell of a fitness model if it weren't for his face, which was riddled with pimples. Seriously, there were bumps and knobs everywhere: his forehead, his nose, his cheeks, and even the underside of his jaw. Imagine taking a piece of dough the size of the human face, then dumping it into a pan of hot oil. Deep-fried dough. That was perhaps the most concise and elegant description for pimple dude's face.
Pimple dude had noticed Li Yundong the moment he stepped into the dojo. Correction: pimple dude had noticed Su Chan the moment she stepped into the dojo. And like any other mere mortal, he didn't stand a chance against Su Chan's captivating beauty. He couldn't take his eyes off her, and all of a sudden, his entire vocabulary was reduced to "beautiful", "pretty", "yummy", names of deities, and some colorful terms involving body parts. Miss Round Face had to repeat her statement twice to finally snap him out of his lustful thoughts.
Pimple dude stepped forward and stopped right in front of Li Yundong, his tall frame towering above Li Yundong as he sized up the latter. A few seconds later, he snorted and said, "So, you're the new member?"
Li Yundong frowned at the guy's tone.
What's your f*cking problem, asshole?
He didn't like the way pimple dude was looking at him. And the guy's condescending tone made him want to rip the f*cker's throat apart.
Chill, man. Chill. Think of the bigger picture here. Learning how to fight is more important.
Li Yundong took a deep, calming breath and said, "Yeah, I am. I'll be in your care from now on, senior."
An awkward silence ensued as pimple dude looked over Li Yundong's body from head to toe.
F*ck, did I sound too much like a suck-up earlier? Li Yundong thought, cringing inwardly. Before Li Yundong could say anything else, pimple dude turned around and walked away. "Follow me, then," he said.
Li Yundong and Su Chan followed pimple dude until they reached a corner of the dojo where lots of equipment was set up, almost like a mini gym. Most of them were pieces of fitness equipment (cable machines, squat racks, leg presses, pec decks), but there were also a few strength testing machines, which were set up against the wall. Also against the wall, right beside the strength testing machines, was a water dispenser and a vending machine.
While Li Yundong was checking out the fancy equipment, pimple dude was checking out Su Chan. He kept ogling and gawking, turning away only when Su Chan gave him a huge eye roll. Suddenly, a devious glint formed in pimple dude's eyes, and he walked over to the strength tester. He then rapped the machine's surface with his knuckle and said, "Hey! New guy!" Li Yundong stopped his perusal of a barbell and looked over at him. Seeing that he had Li Yundong's attention, pimple dude kept going, "This is a strength tester. And, see this thing over here?" He pointed at some kind of pad attached to the machine. "This is to measure how hard you can punch." Pimple dude paused to let his words sink in. Li Yundong stared, waiting for him to continue. A second later, pimple dude smirked and said, "Here. Let me do a demo for you."
It just so happened that a number of female club members were having a drink near the water dispenser when pimple guy was introducing Li Yundong to the strength tester. Needless to say, they all cast contemptuous glances at pimple dude when they heard pimple dude's offer to do a "demo."
They knew very well that this "demo" was completely unnecessary. The guy just wanted to show off in front of the beautiful woman beside Li Yundong!
What pissed them off the most was the fact that some of the other guys in the dojo were also gathering around the machine, each offering to do this "demo."
This kind of childish behavior annoyed the women to no end. Admittedly, the source of their annoyance probably had less to do with the guys' immaturity, and more to do with their own wounded pride. Just moments ago, every single one of those guys had been worshipping the ground they walked on! But now, these blockheads were treating them as if they were invisible!
This was outrageous! Insufferable!
Despite their annoyance, these women didn't walk away but chose to stay and watch the "demo."
Pimple dude stretched his neck, tilting his head from side to side. Then, he rotated his wrists several times as he approached the machine. Stopping in front of the pad, he got into his stance by pushing his right leg forward and bending it slightly at the knee. He then took a deep breath and stared at the pad with the intensity of a tiger.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
Gasps and cheers filled the dojo, after which the guys launched into a discussion.
"Holy shit! Brother Zeng's punching power just increased again!"
"Hell, yeah! It was only 476 pounds last time!"
"Shit! That's like 226 kilos! Damn, if you get hit by that? It's not just gonna mess up your face, dude. It's gonna kill you!"
Pimple dude straightened up and turned around to give Li Yundong a shit-eating grin. "Hey! New guy! Your turn!" pimple dude said, stepping away from the machine. "Hit it as hard as you can. But, of course, try not to compare yourself to me. It takes years of practice to get to my level." Pimple dude smirked. "I'd consider it a pretty good score if you can reach, say... 300 pounds?"
F*cking show-off! Li Yundong thought, balling his fist. Oh, he felt like punching something alright, but it sure as hell wasn't going to be the stupid machine. How about I punch you in the face and rid you of your acne problems once and for all, asshole? Li Yundong clenched his jaw. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed that everyone was now staring at him, seeing what he'd do. Clearly, backing down wasn't an option at this point; he'd be seen as a coward if he did.
Li Yundong exhaled slowly and looked towards a bunch of guys who were standing nearby. Big mistake. The slighting looks he saw in their eyes pissed him off to no end.
Nothing could be worse than the looks he received from the girls though. Pity. The girls were all looking at him with f*cking pity.
Li Yundong would've lost it right then and there if it weren't for a light touch he felt on his forearm. Su Chan's scent assaulted his nose, and a second later, he heard an angelic voice which was a balm to his heart, calming him down instantly. "Hit it, Yundong. You'll beat him. I'm sure of it."
Warmth filled Li Yundong's heart instantly, and with warmth, came courage. At the crucial moment, Su Chan was the only one who showed him that she had faith in him. He'd be damned if he let her down.
Li Yundong mirrored pimple dude's earlier movements by stretching his neck and rolling his wrists. Then, he approached the machine and got into the same stance. I can do this, Li Yundong thought, pulling in a deep breath, then holding it in his lungs. He closed his eyes and cocked his right fist back. It's just a punch. I just have to hit it with everything I've got, that's all. Li Yundong's eyes shot open at the same time he thrust his fist forward.
At that precise moment, Li Yundong thought, no, he knew, that he was experiencing the same thing he did when he was running around doing parkour stunts the other day. There was no mistaking that sudden ball of heat which rose from his lower abdomen before spreading to all parts of his body.
The entire process took only microseconds as heat flowed from his lower abdomen to his arm, wrist, and then fist.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
Hisses and gasps filled the dojo courtesy of the guys followed by the screams of shock from the women.
"Holy sh..." a guy said, looking as though he'd just seen a ghost.
Another guy yelled, "1456 pounds?! What the f*ck! Mike Tyson only made it to 1257! How's this even possible?"
Another girl piped up, "That's impossible, right? Maybe the machine is faulty?"
The girl's statement shook pimple dude out of his stupor: "Yeah! The machine has to be faulty! Nobody can hit that hard!"
Not even Li Yundong himself could believe it. He stared at the blinking figure on the display for a while, then glanced down at his right fist. What did I do?
Needless to say, Su Chan didn't seem surprised at all. Yundong's body had been reformed by the Jindan, you ignorant fools, Su Chan thought. She knew better than anyone else what Li Yundong's body was truly capable of. Even though he was a ways away from his true potential, his strength had already surpassed human limits!
Fools, you think the Renyuan Jindan is a joke? It isn't called a Xiandan for nothing, Su Chan thought, looking so smug that it might as well have been her who made the punch just now. (T/N: Xiandan is a generic term referring to pills made by gods, goddesses, and other celestial beings)
Pimple dude narrowed his eyes and spent the next few minutes appraising Li Yundong's build. When he was done, he shook his head forcefully and turned to Miss Round Face. "Feng Na, put a note in the equipment logs. The strength tester is malfunctioning. Ask the maintenance guy to have a look at it tomorrow."
"Sure," Feng Na said in acknowledgment, though the disdain in her eyes was plain as day. She then turned to Li Yundong and spoke loudly so that everyone could hear her: "Don't worry, I've got your back! I'm your first fan, after all. There's nothing wrong with the machine, I'm sure of it!"
Li Yundong smiled at her.
Pimple dude scowled. "What did you just say, Feng Na?"
Feng Na gave pimple dude a quick sidelong glance. "So, what, the machine isn't faulty every time you set a new PR on it, but it is the moment it shows that others have broken your record?" Feng Na snorted. "Talk about double standards." Then, Feng Na smirked. "Don't you know that he's the guy who did all those parkour stunts on campus yesterday?"
"Wait a minute, he's Mr. Parkour?!" someone yelled. "B- b- but look at him! He doesn't even look like he could sprint fifty meters without throwing up!"
"I know, right! I mean, look at his face. Dude's so chubby that he even has a double chin! How can we possibly tell from the way he looks!"
"Him doing parkour? Please. How about I'm the next Donnie Yen!"
"Say, aren't you guys pathetic?" said a girl. "Just because you are a loser doesn't mean that others are too. Why don't you pick me up from the floor right now and sprint across the dojo? Let's see if you can still stand after doing that."
"Yeah, that's right. You guys are so pathetic!" another girl piped up. "Didn't your moms ever teach you guys not to judge a book by its cover?"
The debate went on and on. With each barb thrown, Li Yundong grew even more uncomfortable. He himself couldn't understand it either. For once in his life, there were actually a bunch of girls standing up for him! He should be feeling happy, but instead, all he felt at that moment was awkwardness.
All of a sudden, Li Yundong felt a strong grip on his shoulder. He turned around and saw pimple dude glaring at him. "Hit it again," pimple dude said, pointing at the machine. "They're saying that the machine isn't broken, but I'm not buying it. Hit it again!"
Pimple dude's hand dropped away from Li Yundong's shoulder.
"I'm here to learn Taekwondo, not punch some stupid machine!" Li Yundong roared, his eyes flashing like lightning.
The Renyuan Jindan had reformed not only Li Yundong's physical attributes, but also his overall comportment and bearing. In an instant, Li Yundong went from a chubby, harmless guy to a badass, don't-mess-with-me-or-I'll-mess-up-your-face guy. That transformation surprised the girls as well, whose eyes were now gleaming with admiration. Only now did they realize that this guy actually had some machismo in him. Perhaps it wasn't that surprising after all since there was a beautiful woman who was head over heels for him.
Startled by the intensity in Li Yundong's eyes, pimple dude took a step back. However, fear quickly gave way to anger as he glared daggers at Li Yundong. Pimple dude released a sharp exhalation and said, "Fine then. Let's head to the sparring mats."
I'm gonna kick your ass so hard you'll go home crying to your mama! pimple dude thought as he walked away from the machines and headed towards the center of the dojo.
Li Yundong was already entertaining thoughts about leaving the dojo. But the registration fee... Argh. F*ck this shit!" Li Yundong thought, then followed pimple dude to the center of the dojo.