Chapter 50: A Draw
The bow and arrow were the same as ten days ago, and the archer was the same person as ten days ago, but the atmosphere was different now.
The youth put away the smile on their face, their fingers resting on the arrow, their gaze fixed straight on the center of the straw target. The clouds from earlier had dispersed, and the scorching sun shone on her face. The summer heat was unusually intense, and a droplet of sweat slowly rolled down her forehead.
The sweat bead glistened, about to roll into her eyes, causing an inexplicable tension in people’s hearts. They wanted to reach out and wipe away that droplet of sweat, yet the youth remained motionless, as if a stone, without any awareness, unaffected by the sweat. Her gaze showed no hint of wavering.
The bow was slowly drawn back, partway, halfway, until it was fully drawn. As the tension mounted in the onlookers, just as they were about to suspect that the bow might break at any moment, the youth suddenly stopped her movement, unexpectedly releasing the grip on the arrow.
The arrow streaked through the sky like a shooting star. A gust of wind was felt, and the arrow rushed fiercely towards the target. With a “snap,” the target fell down! Moreover, this time, the target was hit even further, making it impossible to clearly see the arrow on it.
Just like Wang Ba.
She, like Wang Ba, had brought down the target.
A cry of surprise escaped someone’s lips.
Eleven days ago, He Yan was here, unable to even draw the bow; ten days ago, she managed to pull the bow open, but only partially; and now, she stood here, the bow fully drawn, shooting down the target. Her strength had made remarkable progress in these ten days.
But He Yan wasn’t a prodigy, and physical strength didn’t just improve at the snap of a finger.
“Brother Ah He is amazing!” Xiao Mai exclaimed, both laughing and jumping, “Brother Ah He has won!”
“Win? What did he win?” A new recruit who had bet on Wang Ba’s victory wasn’t convinced. “He hit the target, but that doesn’t mean he hit the center of the target. If he missed the center, he still loses!”
His words reminded everyone that this wasn’t just about the skill of drawing the bow, but also about hitting the center of the target precisely. Many people, caught up in watching He Yan draw the bow, had actually overlooked whether the arrow hit the center.
“I’ll go take a look!” Someone volunteered and quickly ran towards the target.
Wang Ba’s gaze remained fixed on He Yan. The youth stood under the scorching sun, a smile filling their lips… that smile, it had been there since the first time they met. It seemed like they weren’t worried at all, always exuding this unwavering self-confidence that was somewhat repulsive.
However… Wang Ba looked at his own hands. Why were they trembling slightly?
He was an orphan, carried away by a wolf as a child. When someone saved him from the wolf’s den, he was still suckling from the mother wolf. Later, he joined a gang of bandits and had killed countless beasts with his bow and arrow over the years. He could hit the mark because he had been handling a bow since the age of seven, more than twenty years now.
This young kid, now only around fifteen or sixteen years old, even if he started shooting a bow from a young age, it has been just a dozen years. How could he compare to him? Moreover, He Yan from ten days ago didn’t seem like he was pretending when he struggled to pull the bowstring. Therefore, he couldn’t possibly be a skilled archer who had been playing with bows and crossbows since childhood.
Thinking this, Wang Ba regained his composure and calmed the slight restlessness within him. There was no doubt that He Yan couldn’t surpass him.
At this moment, the person who had gone to check the target had reached it. They first glanced down at the target, then stared at it for a while without responding. Then suddenly, they squatted down, easily lifted the target, and swiftly ran back.
The target was just made of straw, so it was light. They arrived in front of everyone, heaved the target onto the ground, and announced loudly, “Take a look for yourselves!”
Wang Ba’s heart skipped a beat.
Everyone looked at the straw target, and saw that an arrow had pierced through the center of the target, stable and true, perfectly hitting the bullseye.
Just like Wang Ba.
Sweat dripped down Wang Ba’s forehead. The amazed discussions from the surrounding crowd seemed to fade away gradually. He saw Liang Ping’s surprised gaze on He Yan, and the aristocratic young man beside Liang Ping was also beaming with joy. He Yan stood next to her friend, not showing much surprise, just smiling lightly, as if she had anticipated everything.
He Yan smiled and replied, “You let me win*.”
* said politely after winning a game
“You haven’t beaten me,” Wang Ba stared at her intensely, “We have the same result, so how can you claim victory over me? At best… at best, it’s a draw.”
Both of them had shot down the straw target, and both had hit the center of the target. It was indeed difficult to determine a winner in this case. But for Wang Ba, this outcome was expected. However, He Yan was different. Initially seeming like a waste, her current performance was catching people’s attention.
After hearing Wang Ba’s words, He Yan didn’t become frustrated. She didn’t even argue with him, but simply nodded and said, “I think the same way.”
To Wang Ba’s surprise, he actually felt relieved. Admitting a draw was fine, at least… at least he didn’t lose. The new recruits wiped the sweat from their foreheads. Who could have predicted that He Yan would hit the target in the end? If it wasn’t a draw, their bets on Wang Ba would have been in vain. A draw was good, a draw was just right. Nobody won or lost, and they could all enjoy the excitement of the event.
However, He Yan shattered everyone’s sense of relief with her next words.
She said, “But when I made that bet with you here, I was certain of my victory. Since the result is still undecided, we should continue until I win.”
“He Yan!” Wang Ba gritted his teeth. What did she mean? Did she really believe she would win? Wasn’t it just luck earlier? What was this kid trying to do?
Liang Ping was also taken aback by He Yan’s statement.
“In the field of archery, you can propose any competition, and I’ll play along until I beat you. How about that?” she asked with a smile.
“You seem to have a high opinion of yourself,” Wang Ba stared at her coldly.
“I’m not overestimating myself. I just believe in my luck,” she casually brushed away some hair from her forehead. “You see, luck favors those who are prepared.” And she was always prepared.
“This is what you said, an archery competition, any type?” Wang Ba asked slowly.
“Fine.” The scar-faced big man nodded. Suddenly, he lifted a massive crossbow from the stage, strapped it onto his back, took a couple of steps forward, and turned his back to her. “What’s the point of shooting a lifeless straw target? Enemies won’t stand still for you to shoot them on the battlefield. If you really want to shoot, then shoot at living things. Birds and beasts would be a great practice.”
They were going to use living creatures as targets.
The crowd was taken aback. Shooting living creatures was much more challenging than shooting at targets. While the legendary “hitting the mark from a hundred paces” was impressive, it couldn’t compare to the agility of living creatures.
“Ah He, don’t agree to his proposal! Don’t!” Hong Shan anxiously signaled to He Yan.
He Yan looked at Wang Ba, a hint of admiration in her eyes. She nodded, her voice resolute.