2 Everything Is Difficult at the Start

Translator: Larbre Studio Editor: Larbre Studio

The front entrance was not that far away. Soon enough, Lou Cheng reached the gym and walked up the nine steps. His heart was pounding fast and he felt his face burning. It was hard to tell whether the panting and flush were from the long run or the upcoming accosting.

Rehearsing all the possibilities, Lou Cheng panted and clinched his hands to cheer himself up.

"What's there to fear? Man up!"

As different plots mingled in his mind for a few seconds, Lou Cheng slowed down and took frequent glances at the elegant Yan Zheke in that red and white Han costume, pretending she was just another person he was running by. Right before he brushed past her, he paused and asked in surprise, "You... Did you study in Xiushan No.1 Middle School?"

Yan Zheke stood there in amazement for a moment, as if she didn't hear him, but soon recovered and wiped the frown off. "Yeah. You are?"

Lou Cheng's heart was pounding hard but he managed to put on a smile under his heavy breath, "I was in class four. Every morning, I used to stand right next to you during the martial arts gymnastics. I mean, a few rows behind you... He-heh. Didn't know you were also here in Songcheng University."

Yan Zheke saw the light. Although she couldn't remember Lou Cheng, she lowered her guard and put on a smile along with two dimples. "I thought I was the only one from our high school here."

Keeping Cai Zongming's instruction in mind, Lou Cheng resisted the urge to scratch his head and replied humbly, "I kept it low and was thus not familiar with students from other classes."

The smiling Yan Zheke became even more attractive. Lou Cheng could hardly move his eyes away from her.

Yan Zheke kept smiling without reluctance, showing her unfeigned joy, "What's your name? Maybe I have heard about you before? Your classmate Cheng Tao and his buddies attended our class."

Her voice was soft and gentle, without any shyness, as if she was born with this tone.

"Cheng Tao? He used to borrow my homework every day. I'm Lou Cheng, a nobody. I bet you don't know me," after a good funny line, Lou Cheng yielded to his impulse and continued, "But I know you, Miss Yan Zheke, one of the most popular girls in our grade... Actually, in the entire school. A girl smart and friendly as you are expected to go to the capital or Huahai for university. Who would have guessed you were here in Songcheng."

Hearing such a direct yet natural compliment, Yan Zheke turned her head and chuckled, "Had I come here because of an unsatisfying result at the college entrance examination, you would have offended me."

"Damn it! What is wrong with me? Thankfully goodness Yan Zheke didn't fail the exam..." Lou Cheng thought to himself, quite terrified and anxious as he thought about that possibility. He had almost thrown a "beautiful" in his compliment as well, but luckily he found it too flippant for their first conversation.

"No wonder Casanova warned me not to talk too much... He knows this kind of stuff." Recalling Cai Zongming's advice, Lou Cheng hastened to add, "It would be news if a celebrity like you failed the exam. Err... The crowd is coming. I'd better get going. I shall leave you with your work."

"Got it," answered Yan Zheke.

Lou Cheng took a deep breath and tried to put up a casual tone, "What's your QQ number, by the way? A few more students from our school are also here. We can have a get-together."

He held his breath and his heart stood still. The last sentence was merely an excuse to cover up his true intention of having her QQ number!

Yan Zheke smiled and pointed at a red string around her neck without hesitation, "Can't keep my mobile in this suit. Take my QQ number and I'll add you soon. Don't forget to mention ‘Lou Cheng from class four, No. 1 Middle School.’ I don't accept requests from strangers. My QQ is XXXXXX."

"Got it," Lou Cheng was overjoyed and could barely remain calm. He repeated the number to himself and took out his mobile from the left pocket of his jeans. As soon as he logged in QQ and searched the number, a laugh broke out, "Dantai Cuihua?"

What a ridiculous name! The Yan Zheke online was the complete opposite from her real self...

Yan Zheke squinted to him a naughty smile, "Yeah, don't you find the name super approachable?" She added on after a pause, "Don't you know its provenance?"

"The one that ruined all those fancy, elegant compound surnames," Lou Cheng didn't know but it was not hard to guess.

Murong, Huangfu, Shangguan, Zhuge, Dantai… These special compound surnames with a beautiful given name would be perfect for characters in those romantic books or TV series. However, it could become hilarious given a boorish or patriotic add-on, such as Murong Jianjun, Huangfu Sufen, and Shangguan Weiguo.

Yan Zheke had joy in her eyes, "Yeah, isn't it interesting?"

"Very. Should I change my QQ name to Zhuge Ergou?" Lou Cheng enjoyed talking with Yan Zheke so much that he wished it could go on and on until a sudden cough came from behind him, as Cai Zongming approached.

Lou Cheng made great efforts to restrain himself and then he waved at Yan Zheke, "My friend is here. We have to go inside. See you."

"Bye," Yan Zheke waved back, which attracted quite some attention from others.

Lou Cheng turned around to join Cai Zongming, unable to mask his joy.

"Not bad! I thought you would stammer. You've got potential." As Cai Zongming walked through the entrance, noise and bustle reached them, to the point where he no longer needed to whisper.

The martial arts gymnasium was split into two connected sections, of which one was laid as a ring of the size of a basketball court, surrounded by stands of seats, and the other had the size of four to five basketball courts and had all kinds of sports apparatus for daily martial training. The latter was decorated as the venue for the orientation, which was busier than Lou Cheng had expected.

"Seriously," Lou Cheng laughed, "The Martial Arts Club really is a big family."

"Of course. The Martial Arts Competition is the world's most popular competition, and martial arts masters are the world's most popular stars. For sure the Martial Arts Club is the largest in every university."

Being the "best" writer is as meaningless as being the "second best" fighter¹. After decades of peace, more and more martial tournaments were taking place these days and the extreme excitement from these limit-redefining competitions could boost the audience's adrenaline level and arouse their heroism. It seemed those night prowlers were no longer an issue, and cowardice was cured for good. As this trend carried on, media and the show biz quickly caught up and official martial arts competitions came into existence.

Martial arts competitions could be simply classified into two groups: one was a derivative of the traditional conflicts among different martial factions, in which various martial sects, schools and clubs participated in a team event to fight for the honor of the greatest heir of Chinese martial arts; the other was held for individuals to compete for the championship.

The former had become a national craze known as the Professional Martial Arts Competition, which was comprised of four leagues, with the premier one containing 12 teams representing the highest martial arts level in China. For those 12 teams, the worst humiliation they could ever suffer was to rank bottom in their league, thus degrading to a lower one.

As for the latter, there were five national individual challenge tournaments, also known as Title Competitions. The champion of each of these tournaments would win the corresponding title and be acknowledged as one of the most capable martial artists in the country. For example, when someone won the championship of the Warrior Sage Event, he would hold the title Warrior Sage for the following year. So, a saying went "A title tops the Professional First Pin!"

Such tournaments could bring a pleasing commercial return for the leading forces and martial arts masters. Wealth came hand-in-hand with honor, popularity and far-reaching influence. Even universities were under the impact, bringing about the National University Martial Arts Competitions and flourishing the university martial arts clubs.

Cai Zongming straightened his back to show bearings of a hidden martial arts master and asked, "Have you got her QQ number?"

QQ number? Lou Cheng could not hide his joy, "Of course! Casanova, what should I do next?"

"What do you think? Find topics to chat with her, get closer to her, learn her hobbies and wait for an opportunity to ask her out. Finding topics shouldn't be hard, right?" Cai Zongming took a contemptuous glance at Lou Cheng and joked along. "Or give me her QQ number and I'll do it for you!"

"No way," Lou Cheng cut straight to the point, "So lucky to have advice from the experienced."

"Sure you are. I have dated lots of girls," Cai Zongming sounded very pleased with himself.

Playing on the downside all this time, Lou Cheng's mind clicked and murmured at Cai, "How old are you again?"

"Eighteen. So? Can't I have many girlfriends? I met my first love in Grade Three!" Cai Zongming didn't seem to like being doubted about his strong point.

"No. I mean... You've had so many girlfriends over the years, but none of your relationships lasted. It must be your fault…" Lou Cheng's eyes flashed all over Cai. He seemed to come to some realization.

Cai Zongming's face turned stiff as he complained, "Do you want to continue this conversation or not?"

Then he casually threw a brief explanation, "I've dated my pen friends. You know, easy come, easy go. A lack of contact for a short period was enough to kill the passion. Some of my dates transferred to another school. What could I do? And some were just not right... You know the song ‘it is easy to fall in love but hard to be together morning and night’. In short, I'm not a playboy and I've been behaving for a long time. Don't you call me a playboy or Casanova in front of my girlfriend! Actually, can't you give me a better nickname? Casanova is terrible. Stop calling me that, OK?"

"You got it, little Ming," Lou Cheng grinned.

Cai Zongming seemed to freeze and then heaved a sigh, "Casanova is fine."

"Yes, little Ming." Lou Cheng scored one and instantly cheered up.

There was always one thing to conquer another. Cai Zongming valued his current long-distance girlfriend in the same way Lou Cheng did for Yan Zheke.

Cai Zongming burst into laughter.

"Cheng, if we signed up for Crosstalk Club instead of the martial arts one, we would be famous for certain."

His voice was followed by a sudden turmoil outside the door.

"Lin Que is coming!"

"Lin Que!"

The crowd began to move toward the entrance.

Lou and Cai exchanged a glance with excitement, thrill and curiosity. They joined the mass toward the entrance.

Rumors had been spreading that a genius who had achieved the Professional Ninth Pin certificate at the age of 18 had joined the club at the entry level of professional martial arts, Lin Que had surpassed the majority of disciples of martial sects and students of martial arts schools.

A talent as him entered a university instead of any martial sect, school or club!

Among freshmen of the universities circle, Lin Que was not the only one who gained the Professional Ninth Pin. But for Song Cheng University, it was its first time to receive such a genius.

That genius was Lin Que!

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