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Severing Time Space – Stand Up, Part II

Stand Up, Part II

“Are you ready, little brother?” asked Wu Yong.

r“Yes, older brother. I am ready,” Wu Jian tried to hide his fear, but his breathing was coming out in heavy pants.

r“In that case, here I come. Prepare yourself.”

rWu Yong took two steps forward and threw a classic front kick at Wu Jian, who tightened his stomach and tried to absorb the blow on his abdomen. He grunted in pain as the kick connected and tried to move backward with the kick. He wasn’t successful. Stumbling back several steps as he was forced to expel the oxygen in his lungs, he reached up, pressed a hand to his stomach, and gasped.

r“Come on, little brother. If you can’t even take this weak kick, how are you going to get any stronger?” asked Wu Yong, chuckling.

rWu Jian gritted his teeth as tears stung his eyes. He wanted to stop. He was scared. He didn’t like to feel pain. His body was shaking just by thinking about continuing. But he recalled Wu Meiying’s words to motivate him. He could not be weak. He had to be strong, so strong that he could protect Wu Meiying from anyone who tried to steal her from him.

r“I am ready, elder brother,” Wu Jian said, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves.

rWu Yong’s smile vanished. “You’re ready for more? Well, fine. In that case, let’s see if you can handle this.”

rWu Yong threw a punch this time. It was a straight punch right to Wu Jian’s face. The way to take this punch would have been to absorb the force by moving forward and taking the blow on his forehead, but even though Wu Jian was determined to become stronger, that didn’t mean he had already gained strength or become any less cowardly.

rHe flinched away.

rThe blow struck his nose.

rWu Jian cried out as he was sent sprawling to the floor. Something wet dripped down his nose, and when he went to wipe it, he looked down and saw his hand stained crimson. The sight made his pupils dilate. His breathing became erratic.

r“Wu Yong, you are going too far!” Wu Meiying shouted suddenly.

r“What are you talking about?” asked Wu Yong. “I’m not doing anything wrong. This is all about teaching us how to take a hit. That means I have to punch him with all my strength or he’ll never learn.”

r“That may be so, but you aimed specifically for his nose, which we all know you are not allowed to hit!”

rThey might not be able to kill, but blows to the nose were extremely painful and disorienting. Wu Lan had also forbidden them from hitting each other in the face if at all possible. That said, mistakes did happen, and there was no way for anyone to tell if Wu Yong had meant to hit him there. There was no way to prove he had done it on purpose.

r“It’s not like I meant to hit him in the nose. Fists don’t have eyes, you know. All I did was throw a punch. I aimed for his chest, but then he flinched and I struck his nose instead,” defended Wu Yong. Wu Meiying scowled because she knew it was impossible to prove that he had aimed specifically for Wu Jian’s nose. Wu Yong grinned as he looked down at Wu Jian. “Sorry about that, little brother. I hope I didn’t hurt you too badly.”

rWu Jian slowly climbed to his feet and bit his lip as he kept a hand on his bleeding nose. How should he respond? In the past, he would always take his lumps and try to pretend he wasn’t bothered. He would let it happen and not retaliate because Wu Yong was two years older than him, more aggressive than him, stronger than he was, and he was afraid of the older boy. But he didn’t want to remain like this. He didn’t want to stay a weak, frightened child.

rHe needed to get stronger.

rFor Wu Meiying.

r“I’m fine,” Wu Jian said, sniffing the blood back into his nose. “L-let’s continue.”

r“Huh? You want to keep going? What about your nose?” asked Wu Yong, blinking.

r“It’s fine. Like you said, I need to toughen up, right? Let’s keep going,” Wu Jian said.

r“Fine. You wanna act tough in front of Meiying? Then let’s see how tough you really are,” Wu Yong said, eyes growing cold.

rThere was no warning this time. Wu Yong took two swift steps forward and swung his fist so quickly that Wu Jian almost missed it. He just barely managed to bring up his arms to absorb the blow, but it still broke his guard and sent him sprawling to the ground. He cried out in shock and pain. Gritting his teeth, he climbed back to his feet and got back into a basic defense stance once more.

r“Again,” he demanded.

rWith his face red, the now angry Wu Yong launched a kick with all his strength into Wu Jian’s side. Even though he tried to absorb the blow on his obliques, the attack contained the full strength of someone two years older and with several more years of training under his belt. He simply wasn’t strong enough. The kick slammed into his ribs and he cried out as the bones cracked.

r“That’s enough! This has gone too far!” Wu Lan suddenly shouted as he stepped between them.

r“Too far? I’m only doing what Wu Jian asked me to.” Wu Yong crossed his arms and scowled.

r“We both know that isn’t true at all! You used excessive force against someone who isn’t nearly as strong as you. It might be true that accidents happen, but I can tell this was no accident. You will receive punishment for this,” Wu Lan said with a glare.

rWu Meiying rushed over to Wu Jian as he lay on his side, struggling to suck in a breath that would not come. Her face was normally very white, but now it was an unhealthy pale like the blood had drained from it. She placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

r“Wu Jian… are you okay?”

rI hate this… I hate being so weak. I hate that I’m such a coward. Why can’t I be stronger? I want to get stronger. I want… to be the one who protects Mei, so why am I always the one being protected?

rWu Jian appreciated everything Wu Meiying did for him, but she also made him feel weak and pathetic. She always protected him. It was never the other way around. He wanted to be the protector, the shield that stood in front of her. He didn’t want to keep being shielded.

rI need to get stronger, braver, better… for Mei… and for myself.

r“I… I am… fine,” Wu Jian coughed up some blood that had gathered in his throat. “Mei, help me up… please.”

rWu Meiying looked like she wanted to tell him to stay down, but she must have seen the look in his eyes because she took his arm and helped him stand. He leaned onto her to keep himself up. His legs were wobbling and weak. They felt like jelly. Wu Jian bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from passing out as vertigo swept over him.

rWu Yong and Wu Lan were still arguing. It looked like Wu Yong was going to be punished.

r“How can you punish me for doing what you commanded us?! It isn’t my fault Wu Jian is so weak!”

r“You know he’s weaker than you, so you should understand that you can’t use so much force when you attack him. Do not try and weazel your way out of this. You might be the Clan Head’s son, but that doesn’t give you the right to break the rules.”

rGrunting, Wu Jian interrupted the two by saying, “Teacher, Wu Yong is right. This happened to me because I am too weak.” The two turned to him, both shocked. Wu Jian gasped and pressed a hand to his chest as he hacked up another wad of blood. It hurt. It hurt so much, but he shunted aside the pain long enough to look at the two. “However, I won’t remain weak like this forever. Wu Yong—” he pointed at the older boy “—I challenge you. Six months from now, during the annual Wu Clan Strength Test, fight me in a duel. We’ll see how weak I am then.”

rWu Yong looked stunned, but his surprise only lasted for a second before he sneered.

r“You wish to challenge me? It seems you’ve gone blind. You might have eyes, but it seems you are unable to see Mount Wutai. Fine. I’ll give you some pointers six months from now. I hope you don’t come to regret it.”

r

Chapter end

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