The most frightening thing about life was to live out the entirety of it in mediocrity, all the while fooling yourself into thinking that it was the best thing you could ever hope for. No man would dare make the claim that he had never once entertained any dreams, ambitions or ideals. At some point in their lives, everyone would have dreams, just that those dreams were slowly chipped away by life and reality until, eventually, the dreams were crushed. For some, it was due to the lack of talent or ability. For others, it was due to the fact that no follow-up action had been taken to make their dreams come true. Some people daydreamed about success, but gave up entirely the moment they faced defeat.
Those who refused to fall into the trap of mediocrity and who truly desired success would never hang their heads and accept defeat. No matter how tough their lives became and regardless of the trials that life threw at them, they would still grit their teeth and keep moving forward. The more they fell, the braver they became, and the less they fear failure. They would soldier on until they finally reached their life’s goal.
Qin Sheng was exactly this kind of person. Not once had he entertained thought of becoming just an average person. How would one be able to leave a mark on the world if one did not even try to lead an interesting and eventful life? That was why he would never accept defeat, not today. The only thing that could stop him was death.
Two men stood in a straight line, one in front while the other one behind. The man standing in front had long hair which had been arranged in a bun on top of his head. This man also had a beard and a mustache. More than anything else, the man in front looked like a Taoist priest. Despite his slightly scrawny and lanky frame, he exuded a fierce, badass aura. In contrast, the man behind the priest looked just like an average Joe. Even so, Qin Sheng felt that he was far more dangerous than the priest. The second man was about the same height as Qin Sheng. Even in such cold weather, he was dressed only in a simple sweater. Through the darkness of the night, Qin Sheng could see the murderous aura filling the man’s eyes. Those eyes made Qin Sheng fear for his life.
When the two men charged towards Qin Sheng, he dared not stand there like a sitting duck. He knew he did not possess the ability to take on two men at once. Plus, Qin Sheng had yet to fully recover from the wounds that he had gotten in Southwestern Sichuan last time. So he decided to go for the Taoist priest first; by isolating his opponents, he might have a better chance of getting some breathing room.
In a blink of an eye, Qin Sheng and the Taoist priest were engaging each other in combat. The Taoist priest’s movements were as light as a swallow; the moment he got close enough to Qin Sheng, the tip of his feet touched the ground lightly, thus propelling his entire body into the air. From the air, the priest launched a kick straight at Qin Sheng’s face. Even in danger, Qin Sheng did not panic. Qin Sheng’s gut feeling told him that this Taoist priest definitely packed a wallop behind his punches and kicks. If even one of his strikes landed, it would definitely cause serious internal injury. So Qin Sheng did what he thought was the best course of action: he leaned his body to the side and dodged the kick.
Given that there was nothing for him to do except to watch the show, Uncle Zhao sauntered towards Sea-view Pavilion. He lit a cigarette and took out a flask of Hengshui liquor from inside his bag. In this kind of weather, one could only rely on liquor for warmth. Beneath the cliff lay a small and quiet town. But up here, it was nothing short of a kill-zone. What a vast contrast indeed. To Uncle Zhao, it was only a matter of time before Qin Sheng’s fate was decided.
Qin Sheng did not wait for the Taoist priest to land back on the ground; he aimed a knee strike at the Taoist priest’s back while the latter was still in the air. Qin Sheng held nothing back today. He was fully aware that the only way he could walk out alive today was if he fought with everything he had.
The Taoist priest, it seemed, possessed Godlike reflexes. He was highly agile, too. Bending at the waist, the priest leaned his torso forward and avoided the Qin Sheng’s strike. By then, Qin Sheng was already aware of another presence behind him; the second man had already approached him from behind. In the next instant, Qin Sheng felt a gush of wind as a fist came flying towards his face. Qin Sheng spun around quickly and trapped the attacker’s arm with his own two arms. The attacker then performed a drunken fist maneuver by leaning his torso forward and sinking his elbow to the ground. What Qin Sheng did not expect was that the move was not just a means to escape an armlock; it was also an attack. The attacker’s arms smashed into Qin Sheng’s chest, causing Qin Sheng to stagger back two steps. Before Qin Sheng even had time to recover from the blow, Qin Sheng was struck in the back by a flying kick. Qin Sheng staggered forward and nearly fell flat on his face.
Evidently, Qin Sheng was no match for his two opponents. Heck, his victory would still be uncertain even if he took on only one of them.
“Both of you are considered masters. Isn’t it a bit of an overkill to have both of you take on a mere henchman like me?” Qin Sheng knew he could not win this battle unless he provoked them into a one on one fight. A one on one fight was the only way he could improve his chances of winning.
As if the two men would fall for cheap tricks like that. In a calm voice, the Taoist priest said, “We’ve been paid to take your life. If we’ve offended you, then it’s nothing personal.”
“I wonder which sect you belong to, priest. I myself have a rather deep connection with the Taoists. My grandfather and Priest Ren of the Louguantai Temple are close friends. He had also made frequent visits to the Quanzhen School. He likes to have tea at the temple there. Oh, he also has some connections with Mount Longhu and Mount Wudang as well.” Qin Sheng tried to establish some sort of rapport with his opponent, even if what he had told them so far was the truth.
Qin Sheng’s words brought a slight frown to the Taoist priest’s brows. The priest seemed slightly surprised at that revelation. With a heart of stone, the priest said, “Even if you know my master, those are still two separate things. I cannot allow you to walk away alive today.”
The tall and buff man seemed rather impatient. He sneered and said, “Seriously, you talk too much.”
Without ado, the buff man led the way and charged at Qin Sheng again. The man’s fist came flying at Qin Sheng in the form of a roundhouse punch. It only took a split second for the fist to come in close proximity to Qin Sheng’s face. Qin Sheng had no way of dodging the strike. The only thing he could do was to raise his two arms to block the punch. A second later, Qin Sheng felt the terrifying force behind the punch. Both his arms were now completely numb as a result of the punch’s impact. Enraged, Qin Sheng leaped into the air and swung his elbow at the man’s head. The man did not even bother to dodge Qin Sheng’s elbow strike. Instead, he threw another heavy punch at Qin Sheng abdomen. The two men’s strikes landed at practically the same time. Even though he had just been struck hard in the head, the man did not move a single inch. Qin Sheng, on the other hand, had been propelled backward by the man’s heavy punch. Qin Sheng’s body slammed hard to the ground. There was so much pain in his abdomen that he felt as if he had just been stabbed.
The Taoist priest did not attack Qin Sheng just now; his newly acquired knowledge about Qin Sheng’s connections with the Taoists had probably made him hold back. Having noticed the priest’s behavior from nearby, Uncle Zhao felt a rise of anger. “Priest, what is the meaning of this?”
The priest glanced at Uncle Zhao and nodded at him silently. After that, he began walking towards Qin Sheng.
Qin Sheng slowly climbed back to his feet. With a hand pressed to his stomach, Qin Sheng sneered coldly and said, “Let’s continue.”
This time, it was the Taoist priest who led the charge. In two quick leaps, the priest landed in front of Qin Sheng. Qin Sheng held his ground in a half-crouch like a cheetah. Qin Sheng was bidding his time, waiting until the priest was close enough. Then, in an instant, Qin Sheng pounced. The priest reached out and seized Qin Sheng’s shoulders. Qin Sheng would definitely not allowed himself to go down without a fight. Martial arts forms and katas are d*mn*d, right now Qin Sheng could not afford to care; he aimed a knee strike straight at the priest’s groin. With his leg, the priest trapped Qin Sheng’s striking knee, holding it in place. As the scuffle went on, the two men got tangled up with each other, until Qin Sheng’s chest got hit by the priest’s chain punches. Qin Sheng felt as if all his ribs had been snapped. Stabs of sharp pain assaulted Qin Sheng’s chest as he vomited a mouthful of blood.
Finally, the priest landed another kick on Qin Sheng’s shoulder. Once again, Qin Sheng was sent flying. Moments later, Qin Sheng’s body hit the ground, but before he could recover his senses, the second man started coming at him. Qin Sheng barely had time to catch his breath before he was forced into battle again. Considering the fact that Qin Sheng had already been injured before the fight, and also the fact that he had taken several heavy hits during the fight, Qin Sheng was far from being able to keep up with his opponent; he took another two heavy blows to the face. In an instant, his face got turned into a bloody mess. By then, Qin Sheng was already struggling to remain conscious. He could not help but miss Chang Baji’s presence a little; if Chang Baji were here today, Qin Sheng might not have ended up in such a position of a disadvantage today.
Another heavy kick landed on Qin Sheng’s calf and he instantly felt the shattering of his tibia. He could no longer feel his leg at this point. Nevertheless, Qin Sheng mustered every ounce of his strength, wanting to deliver one last blow to his opponent, though his strike was no longer any threat. The man rammed his shoulder into Qin Sheng chest and once again sent Qin Sheng flying.
At this point, Qin Sheng was already beaten to a pulp and his life was hanging by a thread. Never had he been in such a devastating state before. He had really gotten his ass handed to him this time. He had never been thrown into a situation as dire and perilous as this, not even during the two years he had spent traveling. Qin Sheng did not know what to make of his recent deeds and actions. All he knew was that if he actually walked out of this alive, it would be a moment of epiphany for him, a life-changing moment. If we survived today, he would truly repent.
Uncle Zhao decided that it was time to end the fight. He put out his cigarette and walked over. He laughed and said, “Qin Sheng, do you regret it now?”
Fighting down a surge of pain, Qin Sheng coughed and said, “I regret f*ck*ng your mother.”
The smile on Uncle Zhao’s face vanished instantly. He sneered. “What a reckless fool. At first, I just wanted to punish you a little. Now, I realize that you’re not going to give up until you die.”
“Tell Yan Chaozong that Lin Su will never choose him even if I’m dead. At least this is one battle that Yan Chaozong could never beat me in. Hahaha!” Qin Sheng burst into uncontrollable laughter, though the third laughter turned into a cough of blood, the sight of which was nothing but grotesque.
Qin Sheng struggled to stand back up. He failed despite several attempts. From head to toe, his body was riddled with heavy injuries. Even his face was starting to blacken.
“Why to bother getting back up?” said the Taoist priest sympathetically.
Qin Sheng chuckled and said, “I’m going to die anyway. But I, Qin Sheng, would never just sit around and wait for death to come!”
“I salute you for being a real man,” said the other man. The other man was somewhat impressed by Qin Sheng. Hot-blooded youngsters were so hard to come by these days. In fact, Qin Sheng reminded the man of himself.
Qin Sheng finally managed to get back up. He yelled at the priest and the other man: “Come on, then!”
To many people, this night was the same as any other night. But to Qin Sheng, tonight might very well mark the end of his life.
The building on Bund 18, Shanghai was originally called Mackellar Bank. It was first built in 1923 and had served as the first headquarter of the Chartered Bank of China. Afterward, it was renovated and changed into the Chunjiang Building. In 2002, the building was re-furnished again and was renamed Bund 18. Today, Bund 18 was an artistic and cultural landmark of Shanghai.
Mr&MrsNund restaurant was hidden in a terrace of Bund 18 and was one of the leading authorities of Shanghai’s French cuisine. The interior of the restaurant was designed with a brilliant combination of crystal, glass and flashing lights, like some kind of dream world. The most startling aspect of the restaurant was actually the night view it offered. The entire Pudong region could be viewed from the terrace of Bund 18.
Today, Tan Jing had accompanied Lin Su around town for half a day. At night, Tan Jing had insisted to bring Lin Su here for dinner. They had ordered some red wine and were now enjoying a conversation over dinner. However, a few glasses of red wine later, Lin Su felt a sudden quickening of her pulse for no reason at all. There was also this stuffy feeling inside her chest, like she was suffocating. Her face started to go pale.
Having noticed Lin Su’s unusual demeanor, Tan Jing quickly asked, “Susu, what’s the matter?”
Lin Su pressed her hands to her chest and shook her head, though she could not bring herself to speak. Tan Jing stood up immediately and called a service staff to bring them a glass of hot water. Tan Jing went around behind Lin Su and started stroking her back.
Meanwhile, in Sijiu City inside the siheyuan of the Qin family, Qin Changan was reading a book while sipping tea on the second floor. He kept finding himself distracted by the twitching of his right eyelid. The twitching unnerved him, causing him to lose focus repeatedly.
Gongsun walked in slowly. “Master,” said Gongsun, “Manager Liu asked you to return his calls. He said that he had called you many times but you didn’t pick up.”
Qin Changan picked up his phone, which had been switched to silent mode. Seeing the missed calls from his old friend, Qin Changan sighed. “Hey, Gongsun,” he said, “my right eyelid keeps twitching non-stop. I wonder what kind of terrible events had happened recently to trigger it.”
“Master, I think you might have overexerted yourself lately. You haven’t been resting properly ever since your return from Korea,” Gongsun said with a smile. Indeed, too many things had happened lately.
Qin Changan waved his hand to dismiss Gongsun. “Mm. Get back to work, then. I’ll return the calls right now.”
A Volkswagen Touareg was traveling along the East Chang’an Street towards the CBD. Its driver was none other than Qin Ran, who was on the way home from doing overtime. For some unknown reasons, she thought of her little brother tonight; the image of his smile and the sound of his voice filled her mind. She had planned to do overtime until 10 pm and then go straight home after she was done. But now, she was rushing home. She had been in such a hurry that there were a few times where she had nearly rammed the front of her vehicle into the tail lights of a car traveling in front. In the end, Qin Ran had to force herself to pull over to the side of the road to calm herself. Otherwise, it was just a matter of time before she got into an accident.
Be it Lin Su, Qin Ran, or Qin Changan, not one of them had a single clue that Qin Sheng, the person whom they all loved dearly, was currently experiencing the most dangerous moment of his life. Perhaps there was a telepathic connection which tied all of them together; that might explain why they were all experiencing these abnormal behaviors.
Mount Jiuhua, Sea-view Pavilion.
Qin Sheng crashed into the floor once again. This time around, he did not think he could get back up again no matter how hard he tried. His consciousness was fading. At this point, he had pretty much accepted his fate already. He knew that he was too powerless to turn the tables. Was this really how his life was meant to end? Would he really die here today?
Qin Sheng felt a tinge of dissatisfaction right then. He was dissatisfied that he was about to go out like this. There were just too many things he had yet to do and too many favors he had yet to repay. It seemed to him that all those things were about to become nothing but his deathbed regrets after all.
“What a true man indeed,” the man whose skills were evenly matched with the Taoist priest said in a rueful tone.
The priest sighed and said, “This is truly a waste.”
Uncle Zhao was already making his way over. He knew that the end of this battle had already been decided. The only thing left to do now was to clean up the mess. Uncle Zhao watched Qin Sheng who, despite being moments away from death, was still struggling to get up. Uncle Zhao shook his head and said, “You can’t blame others for what happens to you. You brought all this upon yourself. You chose this path.”
“How should we deal with him?” the priest asked with a frown.
Uncle Zhao narrowed his eyes and said, “Kill him. And then dump the body into the deep mountains.”
The other man besides the priest gave a quiet nod. “Fine.”
Just when he and the priest were about to make the finishing blow, the man in the Jeep Wrangler, the one who had followed them all the way to Mount Jiuhua, finally arrived. The newcomer had parked his Jeep Wrangler far away in fear of being discovered. After that, he had infiltrated the area on foot. He had already taken care of the two men Uncle Zhao had stationed in the woods.
“The moon looks so beautiful tonight. It would be a waste indeed not to kill a few people,” said the newcomer casually as he slowly made his way towards Uncle Zhao and the others.
Still, there was nothing casual about the Sanleng thorns which were tightly gripped in his hand. Under the moonlight, the cold glint of the weapon could bring shivers down anyone’s spine, and it would not be because of cold…