Chapter 48: Diligent Practice
From the first day of the bet between He Yan and Wang Ba, there were also private bets in the military camp.
Some who hadn’t been present to see He Yan shoot the bow even took the time before sleeping to see what He Yan looked like. He Yan remembered the last time he had attracted so much attention was when he was praised by the court for his victory as Flying Phoenix General.
Even though the circumstances were different now, he was still famous in some way.
“Those people are too much!” Xiao Mai came back from outside, discontentedly saying, “I heard that there are so few people betting on Brother Ah He’s victory that you can count them on one hand. They are absolutely sure that Brother Ah He won’t win!”
“That’s just a normal choice for normal people,” Hong Shan said, rubbing his forehead.
Thanks to He Yan, the new recruits had been unable to do anything except diligently practice these days. With this new development, there was a lot more fun, and everywhere was filled with laughter and joy, as if they were in a bustling market in the capital city.
“My brother and I are joining in the fun too, to boost Brother Ah He’s morale a bit. We’re betting that Brother Ah He will win,” Xiao Mai looked at He Yan, trying to please him. “Brother Ah He, aren’t we loyal friends?”
Before He Yan could respond, Hong Shan asked first, “How much are you betting?”
“My brother and I each put in one piece.”
“One piece,” Hong Shan deliberately elongated his tone. “And how much did you bet on Wang Ba?”
“Ten pieces,” Xiao Mai replied without thinking. When he realized He Yan was looking at him, his face turned red, and he stuttered, “N-no, we thought we could win a few more pieces of bread, and then we’d share them. If Brother Ah He loses, he can’t be left with nothing… It’s good to fill our stomachs.” His voice grew quieter as he spoke, and in the end, he couldn’t even bring himself to talk anymore, looking pitifully at He Yan.
He Yan was quite surprised. “Where did you get ten pieces of dry bread?”
Even if they saved one piece every day, they wouldn’t have this many pieces, right?
“Got it on credit…”
To think they could even get credit for this, He Yan was quite amazed. This was turning out to be quite the serious gambling game, not just some casual fun.
She solemnly said to Xiao Mai, “Xiao Mai, you’d better cancel the bet on Wang Ba. Ten pieces of bread, do you plan to starve for ten days? Can you endure that?”
Hong Shan sighed, “Ah He, try to be reasonable. It’s not a time for stubbornness now.”
He Yan sighed, “…How do I need to explain for you to believe that I’m not being stubborn?”
No matter what, they just wouldn’t believe her. The other three practically had those words written on their faces.
He Yan could only shake her head helplessly and stand up. “I’ll go practice outside first.” She left the room.
“Ah,” Xiao Mai sighed sadly.
“Ah,” Hong Shan sighed with a hint of melancholy.
Shitou watched the two of them silently, not saying anything, but he also let out a sigh.
The room was filled with a sense of desolation.
The bet with Wang Ba was just the beginning of He Yan’s fame.
During these days, wherever you went, you could hear He Yan’s name.
“Did you hear? That new recruit under Instructor Liang, He Yan, has gone crazy!”
“I know. The one who bet against Wang Ba ten days from now, he’s already crazy, isn’t he?”
“He’s even crazier now. During the day, he doesn’t practice archery properly, he actually went to throw stone locks! He’s not even shooting arrows anymore?”
“Well, he must be genuinely crazy now.”
He Yan was currently throwing stone locks in an open space. Many people would watch her when everyone was practicing archery during the day, so she decided not to practice archery anymore. She borrowed a large stone lock from the instructor and would play with it whenever she had time.
She needed to increase her strength.
To fully unleash the power of the bow and crossbow, you needed enough strength to pull the bowstring taut. And what she lacked the most now was strength. The stone lock was the best tool to train strength. Back in the military camp, there was a strongman who used to be a street performer, specializing in using stone locks since childhood. He could make the stone lock dance all over his body, performing various tricks like catching leaves, wielding a large fan, doing somersaults, displaying acrobatics, and imitating the historical figure Guan Yu shedding his robe, and much more.
This strongman was also skilled in archery, not only with good accuracy but also able to fully draw the bowstring like no one else. He could fully harness the power of the bow and crossbow. He and He Yan used to compete in arm strength, throwing back and forth, dodging and weaving, which helped them train arm, wrist, hand, and waist strength.
Currently, there was no one to compete with her in throwing, but she only wanted to train her arm strength for now, pulling the bowstring as tight as possible.
Training with the stone lock could increase her strength much faster than pulling the bowstring. During the day, He Yan would throw stone locks, and at night, she would secretly slip into the training ground after everyone was asleep. Luckily, there were always a couple of bows left there, allowing her to practice in secret. Even more fortunately, since the last time she had seen Xiao Jue, she hadn’t encountered him again at night.
Although she wasn’t afraid of running into Xiao Jue, there was still a sense of embarrassment when he saw her practicing secretly at night. It felt as if she had returned to her youth, seeing her clumsy self working hard every night to possibly make it to “third from the last,” a time she didn’t like to look back on.
Perhaps this was the humiliation of being despised by a prodigy of heaven!
She had already overcome this humiliation, but who knew fate would have her experience it again, inadvertently making her feel this humiliation once more.
What had she done to warrant such attention from the heavens?
In her daily practice, the thing she understood the least was her group of brothers.
“Ah He,” Hong Shan hesitated, “even if you become really good at pulling the bow, if your accuracy isn’t good, you won’t be able to beat Wang Ba.”
“Yeah, I keep watching Wang Ba for you every day. He hits the bullseye every time, hardly ever missing,” Xiao Mai added.
“Wang Ba was already skilled in archery,” He Yan said, “He must be proficient in using bows and arrows to hurt people. It seems he’s even more skilled than Shitou.”
Shitou nodded, acknowledging that.
“So, Brother Ah He, why don’t you practice archery every day?” Xiao Mai was even more puzzled. “You should shoot arrows a few times and practice accuracy. What if your feathered arrow flies into the forest?”
“No need,” He Yan said.
Xiao Mai widened his eyes, looking at her. “Could it be…”
Could it be that He Yan had some secret magical technique?
He Yan laughed. She didn’t have any secret magical techniques. She was just using the time others spent sleeping to practice archery. She would shoot arrows by moonlight every day, and her pulling strength improved, showing significant results. Her accuracy in shooting arrows hadn’t declined either. It was a stroke of luck amidst unfortunate circumstances.
“I’m not very talented,” she thought for a moment, then said seriously, “But I’m very lucky. You guys need to believe that even if I don’t practice archery, as long as I can pull the bowstring and draw it taut, the arrow will fly onto the bullseye as if it had eyes of its own.”
Everyone looked at He Yan, who was smiling brightly. A thought unconsciously crossed their minds.
He Yan might have really gone crazy.