1 Chapter 1 The End of the Big Gun

Translator: Larbre Studio Editor: Larbre Studio

Hebei, in a small county town that took some searching on the map.

She looked through the car window at the night market covered in dust and stains, the clamor of voices carrying far, the streets filled with the greasy scent wafting from hotpot restaurants.

The owner of the barbecue stall was shiny-faced with oil, as people wrapped tightly in their coats passed through the dense smoke.

Cramped, awkward, cold, and rough.

The woman had heard similar remarks before. But she never had much of a deep experience with them.

This was probably her last chance, she sighed, and said,

"Here we are, Mr. Bai, let's get off."

In the north at this time, the wind was strong. The woman was wrapped in a large trench coat, concealing her body's curves, followed by a man in his thirties, standing upright and erect, sporting a neat buzz cut.

One after the other, they stepped into a shabby audiovisual store.

This dismal line of business was indeed rare nowadays.

The old televisions were a bit damp, and a young Dou Wei was screaming hoarsely on the green-tinged screens.

Stacks of martial arts novels were piled everywhere, Liang Yusheng, Gu Long. There was also Ni Kuang, and in the warm-colored glass cabinet were assorted records and videos from the end of the last century, along with some pixelated, and even black-and-white, old photos. Teddy Robin, Samuel Hui, Alan Tam holding microphones gazing at each other, beside them written '84 Space Tour Concert.'

On the wall hung an old-fashioned poster, inscribed with the words "Rouge Button," and Anita Mui in the painting, dressed as a man, her neck and eyes faint like smoke.

"What can I get for you?"

The voice was clear and gentle. Not like that of a rough northern man.

Surprisingly, the owner of such an old-fashioned store was a tall and thin young man, seemingly no more than twenty-five years old. He was wearing a black T-shirt, his complexion pale.

"Excuse me, are you Mr. Li Yan?"

The woman asked with a smile.

"Ah, yes, that's me."

The woman in front of him had a high and straight nose, shallow eye sockets, and attractive features, exuding a spirited and sharp elegance. There was a tidy vigor about her entire being.

Li Yan glanced surreptitiously at the silent buzz-cut man behind the woman, and responded,

"I am a director from the Chinese Martial Arts Association, from Guangdong. My name is Lei Jing, Lei Hongsheng was my grandfather."

The woman revealed a set of white teeth,

"By seniority, I should really be calling you 'senior brother.'"

She gripped Li Yan's palm, warm and strong on contact.

Li Yan's eyes were as if covered with a thin layer of dust, only revealing a glint of light when he heard the name "Lei Hongsheng."

"Oh, please take a seat, don't mind the small space."

The woman sat down on a chair nearby with casual ease, silently sizing up Li Yan. Grandfather's old photographs with this man from earlier times were still kept at home, yet it was difficult to connect the sharp and defiant young man in the photographs with the owner of this audiovisual store.

"I often heard grandfather mention senior brother; he always reminisced that you were the most talented person he ever met."

The man turned around to fetch a flask, inquired while making tea,

"Is the old man still robust?"

The woman's gaze dropped, "He passed away earlier this year."

Li Yan's hand remained steady, not spilling a drop of water as he put down the flask, and looked deeply at the woman.

"Is there something I can help you with?"

The woman pressed her lips together, then said, "I was hoping senior brother Li would come to Guangdong and serve as an advisor for the association."

Li Yan raised an eyebrow and replied,

"You must have heard what kind of person I am, Miss Lei. Speaking honestly, in the martial arts world, the name Li Yan is quite notorious. How could you think I could be of help?"

Lei Jing was silent for a while, then smiled charmingly,

"Rather than notorious, one might say your reputation is fierce. Perhaps those people don't respect you, senior brother, but they will certainly fear you."

Li Yan couldn't help but laugh upon hearing this.

"Sounds quite reasonable. Unfortunately, you're too late."

The man picked up his cup, "Miss Lei, are you familiar with modern medicine?"

"Um, what are you implying, senior brother?"

"AML."

Lei Jing was startled for a moment, then a dark cloud swept over her heart. She ventured a guess, "Acute myeloid leukemia."

Li Yan took a sip of water, "I was diagnosed with this disease a month ago. Your family's elder is aware that I have no relatives."

He smiled, "So, I'm afraid I can't help you anymore."

The woman looked down at her nails for a while before speaking dryly, "The medical conditions in the south are much better than here, and I know some well-known doctors abroad. Leukemia is not a terminal illness, and even if you have no siblings, it's entirely possible to find a matching bone marrow donor."

The woman lifted her head, her whole demeanor became much more sharp.

"I might be putting you in a difficult position by coming here this time, but..."

Lei Jing weighed her words carefully. "The Association is my grandfather's lifelong dedication. I can't stand by and watch it become a tool for some politicians to seek power or profit."

"You're talking about seeking power..."

Li Yan suddenly interrupted the woman's words, drained his glass of hot water, and fiddled with the cup in his hand. He smiled at the woman, radiating an aura of fierce confidence.

"Why wouldn't handing over the Association to you be seeking power? Can you tell me how you're different from those politicians you detest?"

Li Yan's words were quite impolite, causing the man with the buzz cut sitting next to them to furrow his brow.

The woman's face remained calm as she elegantly explained, "The Chinese Martial Arts Association was founded by my grandfather. I've been involved with the Association's affairs since I was sixteen. No one knows it better than I do, nor loves it more."

Li Yan shook his head and put down his cup, "When I shook hands with Miss Lei just now, your hands were very soft, you haven't practiced martial arts, right?"

The woman pursed her lips.

"I've been frail since childhood and the martial arts in my family are too domineering. So I only practiced some breathing techniques to cultivate my qi."

"So that's it," Li Yan said, bowing his head and suddenly veering off-topic,

"Do you like reading wuxia novels, Miss Lei?"

Lei Jing was a bit bewildered by the question, but she tried to answer, "Jin Yong?"

"Lao She, Soul-breaking Spear."

The woman clearly did not understand what Li Yan meant, but the buzz-cut man beside her narrowed his eyes.

"In any case, I really don't have the strength to help you with your problems, thanks for your kindness. If you two would like to stay for a meal, I've cooked dumplings; if not, please feel free. Also, light some incense for Mr. Bai for me."

With the conversation reaching this point, there was clearly no need to continue.

After a long while, Lei Jing silently stood up, but she didn't leave immediately. Instead, under Li Yan's gaze, she took out a business card and placed it on the table.

She said, "So many people have told me about how domineering Li Yan is, they would never imagine you like this now."

Li Yan cocked his head, remaining silent.

"But my grandfather always admired you, always has. Do you know how he described you?"

Lei Jing looked directly at the man, mimicking her grandfather's tone.

"A martial artist should first cultivate a trace of fierceness in their heart. In my lifetime, I've met many young men, but only this scoundrel has just the right amount, exactly that trace of fierceness."

"Whether you accept my request or not, I sincerely hope that trace of fierceness in your heart hasn't dissipated."

After speaking, Lei Jing turned and left with the middle-aged man.

Li Yan sat there stunned for a while, bent down to pick up the two cups of hot water and drank them both. Then he chuckled;

"What a formidable girl."

He took a tissue to wipe his nose, not minding the patch of bright red on it, casually tossing it aside. He then sprawled out on the sofa.

"That trace of fierceness... Heh."

Li Yan covered his forehead with his right hand, recalling the old man with the bushy eyebrows who seemed vigorous in spirit. His smile carried a hint of bitterness.

"Sorry, Mr. Bai..."

"Thud"

A pair of glossy black leather shoes stepped onto the floor of his home. Li Yan recognized the owner of the shoes as the buzz-cut man who had followed Lei Jing.

"Is there anything else?"

Li Yan sat up and looked up, feeling a chill run down his spine as his chestnut-colored pupils contracted involuntarily.

The doorframe creaked under the grip of the man's pale fingers. He hunched like a beast, with the flesh on his face dangling down in bloody tatters, strings of white sinews sticking out. His face was beyond recognition.

Upon hearing Li Yan's question, the man slowly lifted his head, his bloodshot eyes bulging outwards, as ferocious as a demon.

Li Yan breathed in the cold air one gulp at a time. Accompanied by the vigorous percussion music on the television screen was the sound of his sharp, forceful curse.

"Fuck!"

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