Chapter 7: Breakthrough

Zu An turned over, grabbed a chair, then sat down. “Let’s begin. I only have one request – don’t aim for my face. I rely on my good looks to keep myself fed.”

Chu Huanzhao ground her teeth in fury, but she didn’t want her parents or her sister to find out about any of this, so she assented. “Fine. I won’t hit your face.” With a snap of her wrist, she sent the whip howling through the air, emitting a terrifying sound as it struck him in the chest. It tore a huge gaping hole in his clothes, and blood instantly splattered everywhere.

But… Chu Huanzhao’s smile quickly began to freeze, then curdle. Contrary to her expectations, there was no howl of agony, much less tortured sniveling or tears. There was nothing at all. He simply sat there peacefully on the seat. The only difference was, he had a rather… strange… look on his face.

Just now, Zu An hadn’t felt any pain at all. Instead, he felt a sensation of extreme euphoric pleasure. Of course he had a ‘strange’ look on his face! He felt like a man lost in a desert who was suddenly given a bite out of a juicy, frozen watermelon. He felt like a scholar who had placed first in the imperial exams. He felt such rapture, he almost let out a pleased moan.

But, considering his surroundings, he used all his willpower to refrain from emitting any strange sounds. He didn’t want word to spread that he was some sort of masochist who moaned in pleasure when he was hit.

“Eeeep?!” Chu Huanzhao stared at him with wide-eyed shock. This was all completely different to what she had expected. He must be forcing himself to remain silent and putting on airs of indifference. Yeah. That’s gotta be it! Last time I hit him, he immediately started to wail. He’s probably just forcing himself to remain silent for the sake of this wager!

Chu Huanzhao clenched her teeth, then delivered another strike with her whip. She knew better than anyone else just how terrifying the Wailing Whip was. It was possible for some people with incredible willpower to endure one strike, but there was no way to endure the second one.

The second strike landed on Zu An’s chest as well. Combined with the first, the two had left an enormous bloody X across his chest. Chu Huanzhao stared at him eagerly. Let’s see if you scream this time.

Instead, Zu An’s response was… “Hmm?  Mmm…”

There was nothing he could do. He was already controlling himself to the maximum extent possible. In fact, he was actually embarrassed by how much pleasure he was currently feeling. He felt as though a brand new world had been exposed to him.

Chu Huanzhao felt as though her hairs were about to stand up on end. Everything that had happened today was completely opposite of what she had expected. She pondered for a long moment, then decided to switch her strikes to a different location. Maybe his chest is already completely numb from injuries.

She took a deep breath, then launched the third strike against his leg. Alas, once again she was disappointed. Judging from the look on Zu An’s face, her ‘opponent’ was clearly at the verge of breaking down and succumbing to the agony she had unleashed, but in the end he didn’t make a single sound.

“I… win, right?” Zu An noticed that the second formation was almost half-full by now. Seems like this little biddy really went all out in whacking me.

“This isn’t possible!” Chu Huanzhao’s eyes grew huge. She stared at the whip in her hand, beginning to question everything she knew. Maybe the whip is broken?

After pondering for a moment, she walked over to Zu An and handed the whip to him. “Hit me with it and see what happens.”

Zu An instantly grew alert. “Are you serious?”

“Stop jabbering and hit me! Just remember, don’t hit me on the face.” Chu Huanzhao jutted her head up proudly, a disbelieving look on her face. She then closed her eyes, her lashes quivering.

Zu An couldn’t help but sigh as he looked at her perfectly smooth and pale oval-shaped face. The women of the Chu clan are all weirdos, but I have to admit, they have good genes.

There was no way he was going to hit her on the face. It wasn’t because he was a feminist; rather, he was worried about what the Chu clan would do to him once they found out.

Suddenly, he began to chuckle. “I swear, all my life I’ve never heard of someone making a request like this. I promise to satisfy you.” This little wench hit me hard as hell. Time to give her a taste of her own medicine.

And so, he lashed out viciously with the whip. Alas, he underestimated how much damage his body had taken. Even though the pain was all converted, he still had no strength left. It was a miracle that he was still breathing. There was no way he could hit with any real power.

This lash could be described as soft and weak… but the strange thing was, as soon as the whip touched Chu Huanzhao, she immediately let out a miserable screech and clutched at the tiny wound in agony. “That HURTS!”

Zu An stared at her, watching as her tears came cascading down. For the first time, he rejoiced in having drawn the Ball of Delights as his prize.

“You bastard! Why’d you hit so hard?!” Chu Huanzhao clutched at her wound with one hand while furiously wiping away her tears with the other.

Zu An was speechless. “You clearly hit me way harder just now.”

“Then why didn’t you scream?” Chu Huanzhao stared at him curiously. She herself was quite aware that the amount of force he had used was far less than what she had used.

Zu An coughed lightly, then said with a calm look on his face, “A real man will never scream in pain.” Sometimes, you gotta fake it until you make it.

Chu Huanzhao blinked, then nodded in an uncertain manner. “I-it looks like I underestimated you. Fine. You win. I won’t blame you for killing Bootlicker.”

After speaking, she turned and immediately moved to depart. She wanted to hurry over to find her maidservant and apply a poultice to her wound. I hope it doesn’t leave a scar.

However, Zu An stopped her. An expectant look on his face, he said, “Don’t leave yet. Whip me a few more times.”

Chu Huanzhao: “?!?!?!”

“Ahem-hem-hem!” Zu An himself felt that his words were simply too masochistic. He hurriedly rephrased, “That’s not what I meant. I meant to say, let’s make another wager.”

He had noticed that his second formation was nearly filled up. How could he give up such a wonderful opportunity? Besides, there was a limit to how long the Ball of Delights’ effect remained active. It would be a shame to let the remaining duration go to waste.

“What’s the wager?” Chu Huanzhao replied without thinking.

Zu An said, “Same as before. If I win, you are no longer allowed to quibble about me climbing into your bed last night. If I win, um… right. I’ll… I’ll lick your shoes.”

Although he still didn’t know much about this world, he was fairly certain that for a groom to climb into his sister-in-law’s bed on his wedding night was probably an unforgivable offense. If the offended party was willing to forgive him, his life in the Chu clan would probably become better as well.

Unexpectedly, Chu Huanzhao’s face instantly turned scarlet. “Why are you so fixated on licking my shoes?! You pervert! I’m gonna go tell my sister!”

Zu An: “…..” You were the one who came up with this perverted bet in the first place!

“Fine! I accept your wager!” An excited look once more appeared on Chu Huanzhao’s face. She was just like any other gambler; she didn’t understand how or why she had just lost, and she was determined to win the next round.

“Then please whip me!” Zu An said in a heroic manner.

Three lashes ensued. A lost, bewildered look was in Chu Huanzhao’s eyes. The man was clearly collapsed on the ground and unable to stand up, but he hadn’t let out a single sound. “Doesn’t… that hurt?”

“Of course it hurts! But a real man never cries out in pain!” Zu An could tell that half of his third formation had been filled up. He was so happy he could dance, but he didn’t want to let her notice anything weird.

Chu Huanzhao fell silent. This is the most courageous man I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s clearly pathetically weak, but he has such amazing willpower! She had encountered many mighty figures who were vastly stronger than Zu An, but none of them had been able to endure so much as two strikes from her whip.

“Would you like to make a third wager?” Zu An tested.

A weird look appeared on Chu Huanzhao’s face. “Do you… have some sort of special fetish?”

“Of course not!” Zu An immediately refuted. Oh hell no. I refuse to end up saddled with that type of reputation. “I just want to make you lick my shoes.”

“Patooey! In your dreams. No deal!” Prior to all this happening, Chu Huanzhao would’ve immediately agreed, as she didn’t think the man stood a chance of winning. After having lost twice in a row though, she was feeling a bit antsy.

Zu An was also quite sure that she probably wouldn’t accept this wager, and so he changed the terms. “Then if I win, whenever we run into each other in the future, you have to respectfully address me as ‘brother-in-law’. Deal?”

Chu Huanzhao weighed the merits of this wager for a long moment. The man was her brother-in-law to begin with; even if she lost, it would be no big deal. She nodded. “Deal!”

A new round of wagers had begun! After the first whip, Zu An was no longer able to keep his body from quivering, nor was he able to prevent himself from letting out a low moan. It wasn’t a moan of pain; it was a moan of delight and satisfaction.

“I knew you were a pervert! I’m done here!” Chu Huanzhao’s face was beet-red. She stomped her feet, then picked up Bootlicker’s corpse and began to frantically flee.

“Hey, what about the two remaining hits!” Zu An called out frantically, but Chu Huanzhao disappeared into the night like a terrified little rabbit.

Jeeze. She’s no fun. Zu An grumbled to himself. Thankfully, the third formation was almost filled up by now. He struck out with a fist to test out his newfound strength. Right at this moment, a voice suddenly rang out by his side.

“You actually reached the third step of the second rank? And almost at the peak of the third step, at that!” A figure walked into the room. Naturally, this was Old Mi.

Was he hiding nearby and watching this entire time?! Zu An felt a surge of anger, but he didn’t reveal it. Instead he asked, “What do you mean, ‘third step of the second rank’?”

Old Mi explained, “Previously, I explained the nine ranks to you. At the second rank, you temper your skin. Upon reaching the second rank, there are a total of nine small steps to each rank that must be reached before you ascend to the next rank. Kid, in just two short hours you actually managed to reach the third step of the second rank! That’s odd. Ordinary people will need months or even years to draw enough ki into their bodies to reach the first rank, to say nothing of the second rank. You, a lower Ding class talent, actually managed to reach the third step of the second rank in mere hours. Although the secret manual is a marvelous thing, it shouldn’t let you rise in power that quickly.”

Zu An quickly understood. After he had absorbed the secret manual, the F2 button had carved all nine formations onto his skin. This had probably allowed him to skip the most difficult part of the process, drawing ki into the body for the first time. This had allowed him to start at the second rank, and after filling nearly three of the formations he had reached the third step of the second rank.

He began wracking his brains trying to come up with an explanation. Cowardice was the way of kings, after all! He was still very weak. If he showed himself to be ridiculously talented, others might grow jealous of him and kill him. That wouldn’t be very nice.

But right at this moment, Old Mi began to mutter to himself. “It seems the Wailing Whip truly is a formidable weapon. On top of that, you fought back the pain, causing it to fill your body to an incredible degree. Combined with the special effects of this secret manual, you saw incredible gains as a result.” For that matter, maybe I can try this in the future as well?

Upon seeing Old Mi come up with an explanation on his own, Zu An no longer saw the need to dissemble. Just as he was about to ask what powers the third step of the second rank granted him, he suddenly felt a wave of pain crash onto him. He couldn’t help but begin to howl.

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