Tang Ye was unable to identify what A-Ji tagged him on his scapula with. Nevertheless, Tang Ye felt energy sneak in, cutting off his true qi circulation. A-Ji retracted his arm casually, still smiling as always.
“Brother Yan Ling, why are you giving yourself grief? Don’t forget I taught you everything you learnt from Luo Clan. If you think you’re going to beat me with that level, you’re insulting me, don’t you think?”
“I may be the inferior fighter. Still, I can’t let you go for homicide.”
Stepping back, Tang Ye simultaneously circled his arms and ejected a droplet of blood. By the time he tore off the material by this shoulder, his injury no longer bothered him.
“Ho?” A-Ji didn’t show it, but he was surprised Tang Ye could expel his energy so soon. “You’re fighting me because I committed murder? Name one person in the pugilistic world who doesn’t stain their hands with blood. Constable, is it really so new to you?”
A-Ji’s mordacious words failed to extinguish Tang Ye’s motivation. Tang Ye, combining his knowledge of Luo Clan’s style and Yang Blood True Qi, went on the offence again, finally forcing A-Ji to move away from the heat.
In the moment, Tang Ye forgot about his initial motivation to capture A-Ji for the latter showed he was the real prodigy among the two of them. Regardless of how much people labelled him a genius, Tang Ye never considered himself to have much innate potential, believing his successes to be the fruits of toiling tirelessly. If someone else were to put in as much repetition as Tang Ye, they would likely feel offended that all of their effort is put down to one word: talent.
From Tang Ye’s perspective, A-Ji was the real definition of a prodigy because he was the only other person to give him the same vibe as when he spars with Ming Feizhen. The only real match between Tang Ye and Ming Feizhen that qualified as a fight was their first match – the time Ming Feizhen slept him with one kick. That was the first time Tang Ye felt he was witnessing talent.
Fighting to Ming Feizhen comes as natural as eating and drinking; he strikes without telegraphing in any capacity. That’s an ability that only fighting and fighting and fighting more can hone.
While Ming Feizhen floored Tang Ye without letting the latter know how he got caught, A-Ji neutralised attacks as though he could read his opponents like a book. There isn’t always a single way to counter a technique, and not all counters are equal. For instance, slipping inside can be counted as evading a jab; however, it also means running the risk of walking into the rear hand. Conversely, slipping outside the jab would empower the one slipping with a big opportunity to capitalise on because the jabber’s rear leg and rear hand can’t stop them unless they spin the opposite way.
A-Ji always selected the most pivotal counter whenever Tang Ye tried to catch him. This fact stood out to Tang Ye, especially owing to his extensive knowledge on numerous styles and the fact that he was never repeating techniques. It was the equivalent of a teacher dismantling his student’s attempts as though he knew the routine. Furthermore, A-Ji never stepped back.
By all accounts, stepping back to evade an attack is a viable means. In saying that, it’s usually a last resort as, ideally, defusing the technique without moving or circling would keep you in range to spring on the opponent right away as opposed to having to work back into your range.
Though Ming Feizhen and A-Ji both being so masterful at making techniques seem meaningless in different ways, they shared a commonality: putting it mildly, their offensive abilities were nightmares for their opponent.
When Tang Ye used Squall Palms, he missed. When A-Ji used it, to the contrary, it came out as smoothly as someone who had practiced it a thousand times – not to mention A-Ji hit harder. Extrapolating from A-Ji’s analytical skills, Luo Siming and The Four Samuume Swordsmen couldn’t have even held him off. If there was anyone in Luo Clan who would’ve stood a chance against A-Ji, there was only Luo Ming.
Where technique fails, one can only hope to compensate with superior physical attributes. It’s not an uncommon strategy to employ when one feels that they don’t have the skill to outmanoeuvre their opponent to win. Besides ramping up his speed and power, Tang Ye disseminated heat energy in hopes of hiding his movements. The caveat to Tang Ye’s strategy was that he had to keep up the pace – if not speed up – because, the moment he slowed down, A-Ji would have the opportunity to finish him. As such, prior to Tang Ye speeding up, A-Ji had plenty of chances to take Tang Ye down. With that said, A-Ji could’ve pulled Purple Forbidden Enclosure Dragon Slayer on Tang Ye if he really wanted an express route.
“You and I… resemble each other,” A-Ji commented whilst making Tang Ye resemble an amateur. “You and I share similar goals. Both of us are challenging an unknown ‘titan’ with our lives on the line, indifferent to death and the opinions of the rest of the world. The difference is that your end goal is vengeance, while mine should be called ambition.”
Tang Ye could’ve easily replaced Shen Yiren or Luo Ming with A-Ji as he brought up the topic. The difference was their tone. Luo Ming was an indiscriminate inferno. Shen Yiren was calm-flowing water, calculatedly zoning in on her target. A-Ji was pure blackness for he gave off the vibe that he had seen beyond what others had seen.
At first, Tang Ye deemed A-Ji similar to Ming Feizhen. As he spent more time with A-Ji, nonetheless, he noticed that Ming Feizhen was emotionally older than his chronological age due to the abundance of experience he had in a short window. Aside from that, however, Ming Feizhen was still a kid at heart. To the contrary, A-Ji’s darkness was more of an old man playing a young man – collected, yet deranged. Mayhap his fake laughter and blithe behaviour was his way of keeping his youth.
“Perhaps you can’t understand,” A-Ji began again, ostensibly reading Tang Ye’s mind. “It should’ve been Luo Ming who taught you, not me. I requested permission to train you. What I didn’t expect was how fun it turned out to be. No matter what I taught you, you picked it up right away and didn’t need me to say much. You’re a treasure that just needs to be polished. I probably can’t beat you if you had a few more decades to train. We’re similar, yet different. Your hatred is your impetus to grow, but your hatred never corroded your pure heart – even when I helped you. Well, it’s not bad, I guess.”
A-Ji could tell Tang Ye was done based on the latter’s facial expressions. The cold energy A-Ji sneaked into Tang Ye while they were going at it had done its job. A-Ji whisked himself out of Tang Ye’s line of sight as the latter fell and returned with Su Xiao before Tang Ye touched the ground.
“Man, if you’re both going to come visit me, why split up?”
Su Xiao was supposed to call for help if Tang Ye was in over his head. Alas, A-Ji somehow already detected Su Xiao’s presence.
Tang Ye was completely incapacitated due to A-Ji’s cold energy screwing with his heat energy. Likewise, A-Ji crippled Su Xiao’s movements with his cold qi.
Eyeing Su Xiao, A-Ji said, “You’re Su Xiao? I’ve been dying to meet you. You been growing up well, huh?” A-Ji’s eyes stopped on Su Xiao’s chest. “Except for one spot.”
Su Xiao’s roiling blood unlocked his cold shackles, allowing him to launch his foot at A-Ji. Unfortunately, A-Ji caught Su Xiao’s leg without even trying.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, your internal energy is pretty potent, eh? I’m not done speaking yet, however. How rude, lass.”
“Y-you… sicko! I’m a guy!”
“Eh?” For a brief moment, A-Ji’s smile disappeared. A moment later, he curved his lips back up and licked them. “I’m going to have to confirm that for myself.”
“Weird… They clearly should be here.”
A-Ji flinched upon hearing the voice of a fourth person he never picked up on: “Who’s there?”
“Excuse me, have any of you seen a double-edged blade with a pointy tip and dragon on it?” To ensure he was being clear, the tall and lanky man stressed, “Ah, it’s a sword with a dragon on it.”