Category: The Witch Nichang (Page 1 of 8)

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 73 Through the Pass

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 73

Through the Pass

Whether it was a camel or a horse, when two people rode together, the one in the back often took the reins because there was only one pair of stirrups. That way, they could stabilize themselves and also protect the one in front. That was why whenever we saw two people riding together during our journey, it was always the one on the back who took the lead. 

Lian’er learned that on the way. Even though she didn’t have much experience, she undoubtedly understood it. 

I was still wondering why she had given in so easily last night, especially after she left that smirk remark. It turned out she was waiting for me here. 

I didn’t mind where I sat if I was dressed in my usual clothes. After all, this camel was the last in the group. There were always camels ahead of us to lead the way. We didn’t even need to hold the reins. Lian’er, with her limited experience, would still be able to sit tight. As long as she didn’t frighten the camel, there was nothing to worry about. 

It was just… Looking at the black Hu clothes I was wearing, I gave a resigned smile to the girl in front of me and said softly, trying to convince her, “Lian’er, why do you have to sit in the back? Isn’t it better to sit in front? No one will be blocking your sight, and you’ll have a better view…” But she shook her head and said, “It’s not about someone blocking my view. I don’t like that the hump is in front of me. Out of sight, out of mind. You sit in front.”

Her words sounded both genuine and spurious. She said it with such seriousness that I couldn’t argue with her. I saw that everyone around us was busy preparing, so I leaned closer to her and whispered, “But…Lian’er, look at how I’m dressed now… So many people on the street are watching. How can a man be protected by a woman? If we sit like you said, I’m sure we’ll be laughed at…”

“You’re just wearing men’s clothes, not actually a man.” She didn’t seem to care at all and said unapologetically, “Besides, so what if you’re a man? What do I care what others think? I dare them to laugh at us! Anyway, on this trip, either you sit in front or you don’t dress up as a man. Godfather worried too much. If anything happens, I’m here. You don’t have to dress up as a man to intimidate other people.” 

Sure enough, all the beating-around-the-bush was just to say that she didn’t want me to dress up as a man when she couldn’t. 

After thinking about it last night, I understood why Lian’er did that. Once I understood it, it became easy to see. She always wanted to win, liked to be ahead of me in everything. That part of her had been obvious since she was young. She even refused to call me her martial sister. Now that I was dressed in men’s clothes and she was still in women’s clothes, we were a man and a woman in people’s eyes, so it was clear who was in charge. Even though she said that she didn’t care about what people thought, and for most of the time, she really didn’t, when it came to this, I didn’t think she meant what she said. 

Her attitude was clear. It was just a matter of figuring out how to deal with it. If I were to go with what she said, I would have to convince Old Tie. Dealing with one stubborn person was hard enough, but two? It was a real pain in the neck. 

Besides, the clothes fit me well and felt familiar. Personally, I didn’t want to change out of them so soon. 

Now that I had made up my mind, the only question was how to persuade her. I leaned closer to her ear and pleaded fawningly, “Lian’er… You see, we’re about to leave, and the room is paid for. Where am I supposed to change? Let’s go first. There are a lot of people on our way out of the city. Bear with me for a bit. Once we’re in the desert, we can swap. The reason the old man asked me to wear Hu clothes is to avoid attracting too much attention. Why don’t we each take a step back? When we get to a place where no one is around, I’ll sit where you want me to sit, wear what you want me to wear. That way, it’d be easier for me. Okay?”

When dealing with her, you always had to go along with her to get things done. After hearing what I said, the girl’s face brightened up a little, showing signs of giving in, but she continued to be unforgiving with her words and asked with a side-eye, “Do you care so much about how others think?” Seeing me nod repeatedly, she said with a smile, “Alright then, just the part where there were people around. You said so. Once we get into the desert, you’ll listen to me.”

With her consent, this hiccup was resolved for the time being, and I could finally relax. We still had a long way to go before we reached an area where there was no one. At least, not today. 

By the time things were settled on our end, the guide on the other end was getting impatient. Everything that we needed was in place, and we were ready to go. The Gobi Desert was a hot and barren area. The journey through it had to be carefully planned and timed, so there was no room for delay. The old man had already mounted his camel. After rocking for a bit and getting used to the ride, he turned around and told us to hurry.

Without further stalling, I stepped into the stirrup on the side of the kneeling camel, and as soon as my other foot was in another stirrup, I turned to the girl beside me and smiled. Though reluctant, Lian’er didn’t dawdle, and with a jump, she sat firmly in front of me.

When the guide saw that everyone was seated, he ordered the camels to stand up. This was the bumpiest part. When the camels raised their front legs, those on their back would lean back with the momentum. I had experienced this before, but Lian’er hadn’t. Fortunately, I was prepared. I held her as she fell back to keep her stable, so she wouldn’t be thrown forward when the camel tipped us forward as it raised its hind legs.

After the bob was over, the camel below us finally stood up completely. We had a clear view ahead. With a shout from the front and the jingle of camel bells, the journey began. 

We first passed through a street market. The sky was brighter than when we first started out. More people had come out to go about their day. After rocking on the camelback for a while, the street started to get busy. 

I didn’t know if it was because she wasn’t used to riding slowly through the street, or because of her clumsiness at the start of the ride. She wasn’t in a great mood. Lian’er and I were sitting close together. Looking at her stiff back, I found it amusing but also was a little worried. Riding a camel was the same as riding a horse—if you didn’t relax and move with the rhythm of your mount, you would feel very uncomfortable after rocking on it for some time, and worse, you might feel sore from your lower back to your thighs, making it difficult to even walk on flat ground. The desert was different from other places. In other times, we still had carriages when we got tired of riding. Here, we could only spend the entire journey on the back of a camel. There might not even be time to rest. 

Despite knowing that, I couldn’t just say the obvious. After thinking for a moment and going over what I wanted to say, I gently placed my hand on her shoulder and pulled her back. As expected, Lian’er resisted, not only refusing to comply but also turning her head to glance at me, and asked, “What are you doing?” Her tone was slightly hostile, but I was prepared for it. I softened my voice and replied, “Lian’er, sitting like this, we’re at the same height. I can’t see what’s in front of me. Could you lower yourself a little?”

She seemed to like the way I said it, and her budding displeasure dissipated. She said, her face brightening up, “We are both already about the same height. Maybe I’m a little taller than you. We just never compare it. When we have the chance to compare, we’ll know…” As she spoke, she began to relax. I listened to her with a smile as I gently guided her to lean back until she rested comfortably against me and finally let out a secret sigh of relief.

Then we were rocking our way forward. After about ten minutes, the caravan left the crowded area, through the north gate, across the bridge, and arrived at the north bank of a muddy river. The two locals stopped the caravan and said that they needed to pray to the gods for a safe journey as they entered the Western Regions. 

When Old Tie saw that, he jumped off his camel to join in the prayers. Lian’er didn’t care. She never believed in gods and spirits. She probably felt comfortable after relaxing. She didn’t resist this kind of contact and used my body as a cushion. She just sat there and watched. Since she didn’t get up, I couldn’t get up either, so I just sat there and watched with her.

After praying, we continued on our journey. It was mostly desert along the way, with some trees, grass, and low shrubs sparsely scattered around the desert. Occasionally, we came across sand dunes. A few mud houses were scattered on either side. As the sun rose higher, the blazing sunlight was scorching hot. Lian’er seemed listless under her veil. I, on the other hand—I didn’t know whether it was because of the clothes I was wearing or the person in my arms—felt a tinge of excitement swirling within me. 

When a majestic and imposing structure appeared at the end of the barren desert under the vast blue sky, it stoked my excitement. 

“Lian’er, look, Jiayu Pass!” I couldn’t help but shake the person in my arms and point ahead, wanting her to share my excitement, but the girl just sat up slightly and looked at it for a moment before saying, “This is the first great pass that godfather talked about? Hm, it’s pretty tall, but it can’t stop me. There’s nothing special about it…” After saying that, she lost interest. 

She wasn’t interested, so I didn’t force it on her and continued looking by myself. As we drew near, the tall structure became more and more magnificent. As we got closer, there was a market. Many merchants had set up stalls here to do business with travelers passing by. It was a lively scene with all the carriages and horses passing through. 

Unfortunately, we didn’t stay for long. After showing our documents at the pass and having our luggage checked, we rode through the city gates without stopping and began our long journey. 

As I took one last look at the majestic pass that spanned across the Gobi Desert and the fire beacons that seemed to shimmer in the scorching sun, a pang of sadness washed over me, and the lines of a poem came to mind. I recited them softly, “The hundred-foot wall spans the western sky, travelers of a thousand miles halt at its majesty…” The rest of the verse seemed to escape me.

“You’re reciting poems again. It’s so annoying. Don’t disturb my rest…” When I recited a few lines of poetry, there was no applause but a protest from the girl in my arms. I smiled and put what she said behind me, not dwelling on it.

We were still in the Gobi Desert after leaving the Jiayu Pass. If we were to compare the difference between the inside and the outside of the pass, it was more expansive and desolate outside. There was hardly any elevation in the terrain, just a sea of black and brown sand, and the sky was like a huge blue dome. No matter which way we went, we seemed to always be at the center of the dome. With the camel caravan in front of us guiding us, we didn’t have to worry about the direction, not even the time. All we had to do was sway with the camel and listen to the jingling of the camel bells. 

Despite the desolate landscape, the sun was shining, and the wind was blowing. It somehow brought joy to my heart.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so relaxed. I felt an indescribable sense of happiness like a bird flying freely in the vast sky. Throughout the journey, I was full of energy and found the red willow, the camel thorn, and other desert plants in the distance special. I would either point them out to Lian’er or enjoy them myself from afar. 

Amidst the vastness of the clear sky, the boundless expanse of the desert, and the pleasant jingling of the camel bells, it felt as though time and space had ceased to exist. I could hear the soft humming of a song—a tune I had hummed myself, a melody as familiar as yesterday.

“You are humming a strange tune again…” The girl in my arms suddenly spoke, her voice casual, as if it was just a random remark. “But you seem to be quite happy. I haven’t seen you this happy for many years.”

“Oh, really?” Because her tone was so casual, I also responded with a casual answer. I didn’t give it much thought. I even looked around as I spoke. 

However, the response that followed was unexpected. “Yeah.” Lian’er’s tone remained light-hearted, as if we were chatting, “The last time I saw you this happy was when we were young. I remember it.”

As she spoke, she turned to look at me. Under the clear blue sky, her eyes were as clear and transparent as ever, imprinting themselves on my heart. 

“You haven’t been this happy since the year we celebrated Master’s birthday.”

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 72 Get Ready

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 72

Get Ready

Old Tie was a simple man who wasn’t particularly eloquent, but this time, what he said sounded like a criticism but was actually a compliment, and they were all true. Lian’er’s beauty was of the finest kind beyond gender. Her appearance bore no resemblance to her bold, decisive, and relentless personality.

Lian’er knew it herself too, so she couldn’t talk back. She was unruly by nature but not to the point of being unreasonable. She just refused to give in. She couldn’t talk back, so she stared back at the old man in defiance. 

At times like this, it was best for me to stay out of it, as nothing was going to happen anyway. I got out and stepped back quietly, leaving the two of them to continue staring at each other, and went to do my thing.

The so-called “thing” I had to do was actually the first thing Lian’er wanted to do when she returned to the inn. After all, this was the western border where sandstorms were frequent and the conditions on the road were poor. Whenever we went out these days, we always took a bath and changed first thing when we got back. Fortunately, there was no limit to water use here. The more luxurious inns even had large Western-style baths, but because of our personalities—she disliked strangers and I was too shy—neither Lian’er nor I had ever been to those.

But thanks to those bathhouses, hot water was always available. Even if you wanted to bathe in your room, it’s convenient to ask someone to prepare the bath. In no time, the air behind the screen became misty. The water didn’t need to be that hot in this dry and hot region. It just had to be warm enough to wash away the sweat.

As I sank into the warm and cozy embrace, sweat and dust washed away, my body finally began to relax. The thought that we might be on the road the next day, starting the toughest part of our journey, and that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this luxury in the desert, made me all the more reluctant to leave the bath. I didn’t want to get up, bathing in the warmth and subtle scent of plants. The water was mixed with some sort of crushed leaf that the locals used to repel mosquitoes. I didn’t know what it was. It had a faint lemony scent that was refreshing. 

Perhaps I was too happy and relaxed. I found myself humming softly as I leaned back against the tub with my eyes closed.

It was a melody from a distant memory, connecting two different worlds. 

“What are you humming? That melody is so strange. How come I’ve never heard it before?” There were things I should never have done. I had just started humming, and there came a voice from behind the screen. With the voice came a figure who casually walked in as if it was her own room.

“Lian—Lian’er!” I shouted after the initial shock. I almost put my head under the water. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to talk if I did that, so I switched from leaning against the tub to lying on my stomach, clutching to the edge of the tub and curling up, and said anxiously, “Wha…what are you doing…no, how did you get in? Did I forget to lock the door?” I made sure that I had locked it earlier.

“It’s locked. It didn’t budge when I pushed it.” The girl nodded slowly and replied, “You’re taking too long. I’d already finished washing even if I’d gone after you and brought you your clothes. I figured you weren’t done yet when I saw the door was closed, but there was no point waiting outside, was there? So I came in through the window. You locked the door but forgot about the window, dum-dum, always making me worry about you.”

“Lian’er!” There are only three rooms in this small courtyard in the west wing. We each occupied one and the other was empty. I locked the door to prevent people from entering by mistake. Who would climb in through the window? Besides, how many people in the world could get in as silently as she did? Even a cat might accidentally knock over a flower pot!

I wanted to be angry but I couldn’t; I wanted to reason with her but I couldn’t. The situation was a little awkward. I stumbled over my words until I saw she hadn’t come any closer after coming behind the screen and had stopped at the small table where I kept my clothes. Then I began to calm down and said, “Why the rush to bring me the clothes? I have clean clothes right here on the table.”

“You don’t. These are the new clothes Godfather bought. He only knew that we were staying in this courtyard but didn’t know which room each of us was in, so he got our room wrong and put them in my room.” Amidst the steam, I saw that Lian’er had a small bundle in her hand. She held it up and shook it, saying, “Oh, and before he left, he asked me to tell you to try it on. If it doesn’t fit, we can still make adjustments. Otherwise, it’ll be too late tomorrow.” With that, she swung her hand and tossed it onto the small table. 

It was strange. She was so upset about who the clothes were for earlier, but now she didn’t seem to care anymore. Of course, it wasn’t the best time to be wondering about such things. I stayed curled up in the warm water and replied with a nod, “I got it. I’ll try it on when I get out…” I was waiting for her to leave.

Little did I know that this person seemed to enjoy going against me. Not only did she refuse to leave, but she slowly came closer to me and said, “Oh, by the way, how’s that injury on your chest now? Let me have a look.” How big could the room be? In just two sentences, she was standing next to me. I didn’t even have time to say no. For a moment, I wished that I had gone under the water.

I knew very well that I was the one who was acting strangely compared to her calm composure. 

So no matter how embarrassing it was, I had to pretend to be calm. It wasn’t the first time she had checked on me since I had taken the palm strike at Yunu Peak. Although it was embarrassing, I just had to pretend that she was a nurse in front of me. Back then when I was in the hospital, hadn’t they touched everything? As a civilized person, there was nothing I couldn’t handle.

I kept comforting myself, but when the warm touch laid on my skin, I couldn’t help but flinch and look away. 

In contrast to my self-consciousness, she was thorough with her check. Lian’er did look a bit like a nurse at the moment with her hand moving around the injured area and occasionally asking how I felt. Actually, after several months of recovery, the once terrifying dark purple bruise had faded and was now long gone. As for internal injuries and whatnot, I didn’t really know much about it. I figured it was fine as long as I felt okay. After some time, I felt that it wasn’t a big deal anymore, but it wasn’t wise to question Lian’er too much, so I just let her do what she wanted. 

After checking for a while, she was finally done. She smiled in satisfaction and said, “Not bad, it’s healed nicely. I was worried that your body couldn’t take it.” After that, probably to match her tone, she looked to the water and said teasingly, “Get up quickly. How long are you going to stay in the water? Your skin has gone all pale and wrinkly…”

It was unintentional on her part, but I was the self-conscious one. It was too much for me. I felt that my body temperature was warmer than the temperature of the water. Even the best-tempered person would become embarrassed and get angry. I hurried her out, but it didn’t seem to bother her. Perhaps she felt that she had had her revenge. She looked quite pleased and walked out smiling. As she closed the door on her way out, she didn’t forget to tell me to hurry. 

When I was finally alone, I stayed in the water for a while before I began to calm down. I always reflected on myself at such times, thinking that I wasn’t calm enough and always lost my composure over some unintentional act. Even though she was someone I deeply cared about, I shouldn’t be like this, but despite reflecting on it every time, I still seemed to do it again. It was frustrating to know my flaws but not be able to change them. 

After a few moments of reflection, I couldn’t stay for too long, otherwise, some impatient person might barge in and tell me to hurry. That would only be asking for trouble. 

I quickly got out of the water, dried off, went to the table, and put on my undergarments. After tying up my hair, I opened the small bundle that Lian’er had placed on the table. Inside was a complete set of clothes. There was even a hat. It was made of leather with a fur trim. Both the style and the material were different from the robes and sashes that I was used to seeing over the years. I remembered that Old Tie said that they were Hu clothes. I hadn’t paid attention before, but now I could see that they were quite different.

Fortunately, the clothing was simple, so it was easy to put on. It was a black, tight-fitting robe with narrow sleeves and a lapel, giving a sense of familiarity like meeting an old friend in a foreign land. The hem of the robe split on both sides and was trimmed with fine black velvet that reached to the knee without feeling constricting. The black pants and leather boots were also clean and neat. Then I fastened the waistband and moved around a bit. It felt so comfortable. 

It had been many years since I had dressed so freely. Although I had grown accustomed to the clothes of this world, they were somewhat cumbersome. How could they compare to the ease of movement these clothes offered? I started jumping up and down in the room without thinking, feeling as though I had seen the me who was backpacking back then. 

Later, when I went out wearing the clothes, it made Old Tie, who was talking to Lian’er in the courtyard, laugh. He stroked his beard and repeated “Not bad, not bad” a few times before saying that it was too bad that I was too skinny and not stocky enough, and that even in the black Hu clothes, I still looked like a delicate scholar. I could hardly pass for a man, but it wasn’t too bad.

On the other hand, Lian’er, sitting under the shade of the vine trellis, just glanced over and gave a noncommittal snort before turning her head back and ignoring me. She just kept urging Old Tie to talk about the important matter after he was done laughing. 

The old man finally stopped laughing, for the journey wasn’t to be taken lightly. The three of us gathered around the stone table under the vine trellis and went over in detail the things we needed to do next. No one could say for sure what would happen too far in the future, so we had to start with the immediate. Tomorrow would be the day of departure. The old man had found two local guides who could at least get us all the way safely to Dunhuang in Shazhou. He assured us that we could find another guide when we got there, and it would be great if we came across other merchant caravans along the way. 

With age comes wisdom. Despite his crude manner, Old Tie didn’t take matters of life and death lightly. He listed out everything meticulously and even checked the backgrounds of the two local guides, just to be on the safe side. 

At this point, we juniors didn’t really have much to say in this matter, but when they talked about the equipment and supplies for the trip and mentioned he had gotten four camels including those for the guides, I saw Lian’er’s brow furrow slightly. The old man noticed it too as he followed my gaze and asked her what was wrong. Lian’er smiled and replied, “Oh, it’s nothing.”

Lian’er didn’t really like camels. She found them strange. She had shown that during our stay in Liangzhou, and I knew that very well from the last few days of exploring around with her. Even though she disliked them, she understood how important they were. So despite her dislike of camels, she didn’t say a word about it in the end.

As she passed by me on her way out after our discussion, she said to me with a smile, “Don’t be happy too soon. Let’s see how things go after this.” Although it was a light-hearted remark, it left me with an uneasy feeling. 

It wasn’t until the next day that I finally understood where this unease was coming from. 

By dawn the next day, we were all up and getting ready for the long journey. In the desert, the days were long and the nights were short, and the temperature rose rapidly. It was impossible to continue in the midday sun. We had to make the most of the mornings and evenings. The four camels were ready and waiting outside, equipped. We had agreed the day before that the two guides would each have one camel, the old man would have one, and as Lian’er and I were small, we would share one camel.

The camels were all Mongolian camels, equipped with saddles and stirrups. The saddle was soft. It was really just several layers of padding cushioning between the two humps with a thick woolen rug on top to hold it in place. The two camel stirrups, like those of a horse, hung on either side, but they were slightly shorter than those of a horse. 

The camels were tall and couldn’t be mounted without them kneeling. I was the last to leave, so when I got to the door, the guide had already made the camels kneel down, and Lian’er was standing to one side with her hands behind her back, waiting. While this was a new experience for her, and I wasn’t confident because I wasn’t so familiar with them either, one of us had to take the lead, so I quickly walked over, but just as I was about to mount, she said in a seemingly casual manner, “You sit in front, I want to sit in the back.”

At first, it didn’t sound like there was anything wrong with what she said, but when I looked at the saddle and then at the men’s clothes I was wearing, it put me in an awkward situation.

We were riding a camel, not a motorcycle…

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 71 Far Away

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 71

Far Away

Tie Feilong went out early the next morning. Living up to his name as a local and seasoned jianghu traveler, he had everything arranged in no time, and a carriage and horses were waiting outside the Tie Manor. 

When I saw the arrangement of a carriage and two horses, I understood who the carriage was for, even though both of them didn’t say anything. I found it amusing. Although I wouldn’t get angry from being underestimated, I still wanted to prove myself. I didn’t get on the carriage but asked for the old man’s horse instead. The old man was nice. It was Lian’er who tried to talk me out of it. In the end, I persuaded her by saying that it was the perfect weather to ride a horse and only then did she reluctantly nod her consent. 

We hit the road after a quick preparation. The ease and efficiency of our movement made it feel as if we were going for a leisurely ride in spring rather than going on a long journey. 

Actually, if we only considered riding experience, I might be better than Lian’er, to be honest. Of course, the combined effect of two lifetimes had to be taken into account. After all, I hadn’t stayed in the Roof of the World for nothing in my previous life. On the contrary, I had spent a long time in the depths of the mountain in this life. The opportunities to ride horses are much less. Now that I had a good horse, I would have loved to ride across the Loess Plateau with abandon, if it hadn’t been for my arm injury.

In contrast to my excitement, Lian’er wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it.

Given her personality, she would probably have preferred to travel light on foot, but not wanting to rudely refuse his kindness, she could only accept his arrangement. She felt a little uncomfortable on horseback at first, but as she got used to it and relaxed after going for a while, she rode alongside me, gazing at the scenery around. Suddenly, she pointed with her horse whip and said, “Interesting. There’s a group of Taoists, old and young, wearing white headbands there. Are they having a funeral?”

They both looked in the direction she was pointing without thinking. I didn’t say anything, but Tie Feilong, who was leaning on the carriage and driving it with his whip, strained his eyes and looked. He said, his brows furrowed, “Sharp eyes, Jadey. You even saw the white headbands. I can’t see them clearly. Anyway, those people look like they’re from Wudang. Why are they traveling in a group to the Shaanxi border? Is there something going on in Wudang? After a moment’s thought, he shook his head and said, “Forget it, these ox’s noses[1] are not friendly people. I only respect their leader, Ziyang. It’s best not to get involved with them. Let’s just focus on the road. Hah!” With a loud crack of the whip, the carriage picked up speed.

Since the old man had said so, Lian’er seemed to have no objections. She urged her horse on with the whip and followed behind the carriage. They rode off, leaving me behind. As I watched the carriage and the horse leave, I looked back at the group of Taoists on the hill. As my horse slowed down, I heard Lian’er urging me from a distance. I felt an inexplicable joy. Then I responded with a call, spurred my horse, and caught up with them. 

The sky was high, the earth was vast. Could I really go far away, away from this world?

We continued westwards, with a long journey ahead of us. The journey was rough, but thankfully, with an experienced jianghu traveler, old man Tie, it wasn’t too arduous, especially when it came to choosing the route to go. Each day, we traveled by day and rested by night, taking detours and crossing mountains and streams. When we were tired, we got into the carriage, and when we were bored, we rode on horseback. Sometimes, we traveled with qinggong for a while, and so we would travel. 

As we traveled, I gradually realized that the old man had taken the route through the Longshan Mountains to Lanzhou, the Golden City, and then to the Hexi Corridor. Although it was a detour, it was certainly the easiest route. After that, my trust in the old man had grown stronger.

Occasionally, as we passed through some towns, we would stop for a day or half a day. We rested while the old man Tie went to visit his old friends to gather information. But this person, surnamed Jin, seemed to have disappeared without a trace. Each time the old man returned empty-handed. Both the godfather and goddaughter discussed it and came to the conclusion that the person must have gone into hiding to practice his cultivation. That strengthened their resolve to go straight to his old lair. 

After several months of traveling, through the Golden City, across the Yellow River and over the mountains, we arrived in Liangzhou, Wuwei. As the vast grasslands and barren deserts opened up before us, I realized that this journey to the West was real and that there was no going back.

Contrary to my emotional rollercoaster, the other two were calm. Old Tie had traveled all over the north and south, and had even been to the west once, so he was used to it. As for Lian’er, she didn’t show much emotion. She was just a little curious about things she hadn’t seen before. She especially liked the Qilian Mountains, which stretched for miles in the distance. Although she had grown up on the top of Mount Hua and had seen many mountains before, she had never seen an alpine that snowed all year round. She was skeptical at first when she heard about it, but when the old man confirmed it, she was sure that I wasn’t kidding her. 

The journey ahead was much duller than in the Central Plains and much more difficult. Because of Lian’er’s aversion to unknown creatures, we continued to travel on horseback instead of switching to camels, but the carriage was pulled by two horses instead of one, leaving only one horse to ride. Our carriage was well-stocked with food and water, and we followed the ancient trail that had been carved out over thousands of years. The route was surrounded by desert with no end in sight, with sparse patches of green. There were checkpoints scattering along the way where we could stop and rest. Despite everything, it was a smooth ride.  

Occasionally, when the old man was in the mood during the journey, he would tell stories of the local area, of the Silk Road, of Han generals and western horsemen. Lian’er always found them interesting. I had to nod along. No matter how tempted I was to share the stories I knew, I had to hold it in and not show it off. That felt worse than the dull journey.

But even when we were careful, we still made mistakes sometimes.

Hexi was made up of four regions. After passing through Zhangye in Liangzhou and traveling along the Gobi Desert pass, we arrived at Suzhou Jiuquan City. As we entered the city, we saw that many of the walls were made of rammed earth, and the buildings around were low, with only a few tall buildings. Although it wasn’t a busy city, it was still lively and bustling. I thought we were just stopping to rest, but the old man found an inn in the town center near the drum tower and said we would stay there for a few days to prepare for the journey after the pass.

I thought it was strange at the time and asked, ‘Shouldn’t we go past Dunhuang City in Shazhou to be considered out of the pass?’ The old man burst out laughing and said that Guazhou and Shazhou had been abandoned for over a hundred years. The people there had all moved inside the pass. Jiuquan was now the first major city in the border area, and the Jiayu Pass, thirty miles away, was the first pass in the western regions, and beyond that was the desert. He was surprised that I didn’t know about it and said that I had read too much.

I couldn’t just say that I hadn’t heard of this part of the story when I visited Dunhuang back then, so I scratched my face, giggled embarrassedly, and glossed over it by letting the old man misunderstand.

So we settled down. Over the next few days, trivial tasks like gathering information, stocking up, preparing the documents, and hiring a guide were left to Old Tie. I felt a little bad, but the old man waved it off with his big hand and said, “What are you two girls worrying about? If you’re bored, go have fun. The scenery here is unique. You won’t find scenery like this in the Central Plains. You and Jadey go explore and make this trip worth your while.”

Lian’er, on the other hand, immediately accepted his suggestion and dragged me along to look around. Though there weren’t many pavilions and towers here, the Silk Road being the first major trade route where a lot of goods passed through, you could see rare items and strange-looking people—for Lian’er, of course. 

“Look, there’s someone with red hair and blue eyes in one of the merchant groups. So strange. I wonder if their meridians are the same as ours? I really want to give them a strike and see. Is their blood red too?” Words like that were the most I had heard from her lately. Fortunately, she only talked about it but didn’t take any action. Otherwise, she would be the first one to ruin the friendly relations between East and West. 

On one hand, I was worried, but on the other hand, I quite enjoyed it when she pulled me along through the crowd. To protect ourselves from the dust and sun, we dressed like the locals when we entered the Gobi Desert. At the moment, she was wearing a white shirt and a fox-fur coat, her hair tied up with a gold ring and a thin veil, adding an exotic touch to her usual attire. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. 

The only annoying thing was neither can others take their eyes off her. Even though the thin veil covered part of the girl’s face, there were still occasional awestruck glances in her direction, wishing that they could see through the veil. It was an eyesore. I thought to myself, if we didn’t both have a sword at our waists, there would probably have been trouble. 

We went out for a while today, and as expected, it was the same situation again. “Lian’er, I think we should go back?” I didn’t consider myself a petty or jealous person, but every time this happened, I really wished I could take her back to the inn and close the door. “You’ve already explored most of the places in this area over the past few days. We still have a long way to go and the desert was dangerous. It’s better for us to save our energy for what lies ahead.”

“What are you afraid of?” She didn’t care and said with a wave, “Look, these people have traveled a long way to get here. We can’t be worse than them, can we? It’s all right.”

“I just feel like this place is a bit unsafe.” In desperation, I tried to find an opening and said frankly, “You’re good-looking. Don’t you feel that people are always ogling you? It’s going to be a problem if we attract the wrong kind of attention and can’t get out of the pass.”

“Hmph, who’s afraid?” She lifted her chin and said, “Jiayu Pass? The First and Greatest Pass? It’s a dead thing. Do you think it can stop me if I want to leave?” After bragging, she looked around the crowd with a furrowed brow and grumbled, “And what you said is not entirely true. Are they only looking at me? I think half of them are looking at you, hmph.”

“Ah?” It was completely unexpected. Who would have thought she would even want to compare this? Suddenly, I was at a loss, not knowing how to react.

But fortunately, Lian’er seemed to lose interest in exploring after that and wanted to take me back to the inn after walking halfway down the street unenthusiastically. I felt bad instead seeing her lose her spirit, so I bought some fruits that weren’t common in the Central Plains at that time and thought I could cheer her up after returning to the inn. 

Who knew as we stepped into the inn’s lobby, we saw the old man sitting alone in a corner, frowning and drinking cup after cup of wine as if it were tea. When he looked up and saw us, he raised his hand and called out, “Haha, girls, just in time. Come over here. Try some of this special wine from this region. They say it’s made from grapes. This is the only one of its kind!”

“I don’t like alcohol. You can drink by yourself, Godfather. We just got back from outside, and I need to go take a bath and change.” Without trying to be polite, Lian’er replied with a smile and was about to go inside, but I stopped her gently and gave her a look. Although the old man sounded jovial, a furrowed brow usually meant nothing good. It was better to ask him what was wrong. 

As we approached the table, hands held, I saw the liquid in the cup was a translucent amber color. I smiled slightly, poured some into a cup for myself, and took a sip. I complimented, “What a fine wine.” Then I tilted my head and looked at the old man, saying with a smile, “Fine wine in a glass, luminous in the moonlight; As we yearn for more, pipas sound the battle’s march[2]. Old man, we’ve tasted the wine. When will we mount our horses and march into the great desert?”

At first, the old man was happily pouring wine, but when he heard the question, his smile froze, and he waved his arm and said, “Don’t go there. We finally made it here, but I hadn’t expected things would be this bad. It’s so frustrating!”

“What’s wrong?” Lian’er realized what was going on at that moment. She didn’t like to beat around the bush, so she went straight to the point and asked, “Speak up if there’s something. Whether it’s good or bad, three heads are better than one, in case you can’t figure it out. Look at you drinking alone, tsk tsk…” She said as she grinned and flicked the wine jug.

The old man’s eyes widened at her words. He slammed down his glass and protested, “Who told you that I drink alone because I don’t know what to do? I know what to do! It’s whether you have the guts to do it!’”

“So, tell us, what exactly happened?” These two had a tendency to get sidetracked once they started arguing. I quickly steered the conversation back on track to avoid having to take a detour to get it back on track later. 

Then we listened to the old man talk. We learned that he had taken care of everything during the two days we had been here, but he was having trouble with the most important thing – the travel route. The Turpan region in the west was our original destination, but unfortunately, the King of Turpan had become powerful and often led his army to invade other regions. Although the Silk Road wasn’t affected by it, it was often blocked due to war, and that was the situation now.

“Hami’s northern route is no longer an option. They say it could be disrupted for three to five months, and we can’t afford to wait…” The old man shook his head and continued, “Our only option is to take the Hanbei Road. It’s an old road full of dangers. I don’t mind, but you two girls are the new kids on the block. You should think it over carefully.”

In the end, the old man told us this with great solemnity. 

“What’s the big deal?” The young girl listened in silence, then smiled and replied calmly, “There aren’t many people who are stronger than us, are there? Since those who are weaker than us can get through, and people have been using them since ancient times, what’s there to be afraid of? Am I, Lian Nichang, not braver than a merchant?”

As she finished with a flourish, she tilted her head and looked at me, her lips pursed. Her meaning couldn’t have been clearer. I smiled and nodded. The old man said we were the new kids on the block, but truth be told, I wasn’t. At least, I had some idea of the dangers and difficulties we would face on the journey ahead. 

As long as Lian’er wasn’t afraid, I would never hold her back. 

“Good!” The old man exclaimed as he heard that, slamming his hand down on the table. “Since we’re all not afraid to die, it’s settled! I’ll find us a good guide and we’ll head out tomorrow!”

Having shouted that, he got up and strode out. He took two steps before he remembered something and turned back to say, “Oh, one more thing, I almost forgot. I bought a set of Hufu and put it in the room. It’s Zhu’s size. We’ll be in foreign territory once we leave the pass. It’s not safe out there, so it’s better to dress like a man. Remember to change into that.”

I froze, but then came to my senses. Just as I was about to nod, Lian’er suddenly looked indignant.

“Wait a minute, Godfather!” She took my arm and pointed, saying, “Why should she be the one in disguise? If anyone should do it, it should be me, right? Look at her, she looks like she could be blown away by the wind, and she’s weak and not as strong as me, and…” She gave me a once-over and continued indignantly, “She’s not even taller than me!”

This was the second time today that she fussed over something like this, and it made me wonder. Lian’er should be very confident in her looks, and she wouldn’t have compared herself to me. Even if she had come to have the mind to compare, this attitude…was not like her.

“Jadey, why are you making such a fuss over this little thing?” The old man saved me from the situation with one sentence. He stood there and glared at her, saying, “Zhu is a bit delicate, but at least she can pull off the disguise. Those barbarians are not used to seeing men from the Central Plains, so they might think men in Central Plains look like this. But you? Don’t make me laugh! Where in the world can you find such a beautiful man? Not even the red-bearded devils from the West will fall for it!”

[1] Ox’s nose is a nickname for Taoists. There are two common explanations as to why they’re called ox noses. One is that the Taoist’s hairdo resembles the nose of an ox. The second is that the founder of Taoism, Laozi, was said to ride an ox wherever he went. Ox was later used to refer to Laozi, so Taoists are called ox’s nose.
[2] It’s the first half of a poem written by Wang Han during the Tang dynasty. If anyone is interested in the whole poem, you can look up “Liangzhou verse by Wang Han.”

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 70 Thousands of Miles

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 70

Thousands of Miles

Humans are selfish creatures. When it comes to this, I’m no different from the woman.

The woman was aware that the sword manual was a stolen property and that it was against morality to take it, but she asked for it anyway. I, on the other hand, remembered that in the middle of the questioning. I sympathized with her, but I didn’t speak up for her. 

The reason she wanted the sword manual was to learn the martial arts so as to escape from the grasp of Tie Feilong, and the reason I didn’t speak up for her was because I wanted Tie Feilong to go all out on helping Lian’er to get back the sword manual without anyone to tie him down. In my mind—instead of saying it’s a vague memory, it’s more like a hunch—I had a hunch that it was never going to be an easy task. It might even be a perilous journey where a lot of things could happen. 

On this perilous path, Lian’er should have the full support of Tie Feilong. Just for this reason, I didn’t want to change anything recklessly, so I remained silent and stood by. I couldn’t afford to plead mercy for her.

But poor Tie Shanhu, she had to accept her fate and wander in jianghu alone.

I remembered that she, despite being harsh and childish before, was a person with a strong sense of loyalty. Her action now proved it. She stood beside me, tears streaming down her face, but she was still looking into the woods with eager eyes. When she saw the woman stumbling out of the woods, she rushed forward, her eyes red with tears. She took a few steps and stopped, fiercely wiping her tears with her sleeve before calling, “Aunt Ke, are—are you okay?”

The woman had blood on her forehead. She was staggering forward with her head down. Suddenly stopped by the girl’s call, she came to a halt and looked up in confusion. When she saw the girl, her already pale face lost even more color. Her lips quivered for a moment before she forced a sad smile and said, “Ah Hu, Aunt Ke got what she wanted, though for the wrong reasons, so being an evil person for once didn’t go in vain. Your father said I’ve ruined his name. I don’t think so. If we were to settle accounts, I owe him nothing, but you…I feel guilty about you. I’m ashamed to see you. In this vast world, you have to take care of yourself…next life…if there’s one, I’m still willing to take care of you…”

After she finished her words with sorrow and gave a bitter smile, she continued on her way, brushing past the girl without looking back. The girl just stared at her bleakly, her face devoid of emotion, even her tears had dried up. 

Although I chose to stand by and let things come to this point, I couldn’t be indifferent seeing their pain. Besides, there was nothing to worry about at this point. It was out of the thought of compensating that I waited here. How could I let them leave like this? I called when I saw that and spoke, “Wait, hold on.”

The woman flinched at my voice. Even though I was just beside the girl earlier, she seemed to only now notice me. With a pale face, she turned around and said stiffly, “You…why are you…forget it, what else do you want? Spit it out and let’s get this over with.”

I shook my head and said, “The truth has been revealed. I want nothing else. I just want to know what you want. You said the world is vast just now. Are you going to just turn around and walk away, leaving Miss Shanhu alone to wander by herself?”

“I…” The woman didn’t expect it would be about this. She was taken aback for a moment before she stammered, “No..I…I just…I no longer deserve…” Her voice trailed off as she appeared to be at a loss for words.

“Miss Shanhu?” I turned back to look at the girl. Behind her was a large grove of flowering trees, graced by speckles of flowers. Now it only made her seem frail and helpless. I couldn’t bring myself to see them face the fate of wandering alone. I set my mind and said, “Miss Shanhu, what do you think? Do you hate this person?”

Hearing my question, the woman became even more flustered, dropping her head like a kid waiting to be scolded, extremely anxious.

On the contrary, the teenage girl looked mature at the moment. She thought about it quietly for a moment and spoke composedly, “It’s a lie if I said I’m not upset. I blame Aunt Ke a little…” Seeing the woman looking aside embarrassedly, she sighed and continued, “But so what. No one forced me back then. I can’t blame anyone for being greedy and wanting to learn it. Even if I blame her, I can’t say I hate her…”

The girl walked over as she sighed. Without looking at me, she took the woman’s hand and said, “Aunt Ke, no matter what happened before, she’s right. From now on, we’re people with no home, wandering wherever we may go. The world is so huge. I’m young and inexperienced. Can you really leave me alone?”

Ever since the truth was revealed, the woman was either hysterical or sorrowful. Her face was bloodless, but not a drop of tear was shed. The moment she heard that, tears were rolling down her face. She held the girl’s hand back and said, “Good, good, as long as you don’t hate me. We’ll go together. There’s nothing to be afraid of wandering in jianghu. I’ve been running around jianghu performing since I was young. I’ve seen everything. Ah Hu, don’t be afraid.”

“Mm!” When the girl saw that the woman cried, she rubbed her eyes, smiled with tears brimming in her eyes, and said, “If Aunt Ke said so, I’m not afraid.” Taking a breath, she turned to the side, and now she was looking at me. She said, “Thank you.” Then she held the woman’s hand and left, both of them walking more firmly than before, no longer stumbling like when they came out of the woods. 

I didn’t stop them. Before they went too far away, I took a breath and shouted, “If you face any difficulties or are tired of wandering in the future, you can go to Mount Dingjun in southern Shaanxi. There’s a stronghold there, inhabited by women troops. Just say the name Jade Rakshasa, you’ll be safe there!”

Worried that it might be heard by the ones in the woods, I didn’t speak too loudly. Fortunately, the wind was blowing in the right direction. The two women walked along the dirt road. One of them waved from afar, indicating that she had heard it. Of course, it was entirely up to them whether they would go there in the future. 

After shouting that, I watched the two figures leave in silence, slowly fading into a tiny black spot and disappearing over the horizon. I could say that I had done everything that I could, but somehow my heart was filled with melancholy. Traveling with no return. The word “wandering” held a hundred feelings. Only those who had experienced it could truly know. I remembered this day, but I couldn’t see into the next day. I could only hope that everything went well for them. 

Standing on the hillside, I was deep in thought and didn’t realize how long I had been standing there. When I came around, I realized that I had wasted too much time. Even though I trusted old man Tie’s integrity and vaguely remembered that he was supposed to help Lian’er, it was hard to say that he wouldn’t lose his mind. After all, he just abandoned his daughter and wife and went through a major change in his life. Besides, Lian’er was known for speaking with no filter. What if she started arguing with him, and he ended up fighting her with his life?. 

As these thoughts crossed my mind, I felt uneasy and turned around, about to head into the woods. Two steps in, I suddenly heard…laughter coming from the woods?

Before I could be shocked, I saw two people emerge from the woods, an old man and a young girl. The old man was tall and imposing, while the young girl was elegant and graceful. Who else would they be if not Lian’er and Tie Feilong? I was worried that the two of them would start fighting if they couldn’t get along, but the reality was Lian’er was joyful with a smile on her face, even the old man, although there was still a trace of sadness in his frowned brows, no longer looked heavy. I didn’t know what Lian’er did, but she managed to brighten the old man up. Despite his lingering sorrow, he was talking like usual with her.

“Ah, there you are. What are you doing foolishly standing there all alone on the hillside?” The girl came out of the woods, and upon scanning her surroundings, she quickly spotted me and called. She strode over, grabbed my left hand, and said with a smile, “Come, quick, kneel and kowtow three times. Accept him as your godfather.”

“Godfather?” I was utterly dumbfounded. For a moment, I didn’t know what she was up to, and during that time, the old man came over with an “ay” and said, stroking his beard, “Where’s your manner, Jadey? How can you just come up like this and ask her to kneel down and accept me as her godfather?” Although his words were reproachful, his tone was calm, his expression was composed, and the way he referred to her sounded much closer. 

“You don’t understand, godfather. She and I have been together since we were young. We eat together and live together under one master. I accepted you as my godfather. There’s no reason she wouldn’t do the same.” Lian’er turned around and smiled at the old man. Then she shot a glance at me and said, “Quick, are you going to kowtow or not? If you don’t, I’ll get along with godfather and not talk to you anymore.”

These two were both quirky. I already knew that, especially the young one. I thought I was quite familiar with her personality, but it still caught me off guard when I was faced with this situation. These people were threatening to kill each other a moment ago, with quite a bit of rivalry between them, while the other just kicked his daughter and wife out and became an old single man. How did they suddenly become a joyful pair of godparent and godchild?

I was taken aback. Lian’er didn’t give me time to think. When she saw me hesitating, she puckered her face angrily and threw me a menacing look. Seeing her like this, I had no time to be shocked. I smiled and said, “Do you really want me to accept him as my godfather?” After she gave me a knowing look, I grinned and said, “Hero Tie surely is a man of honor and virtue. It’s a great honor to accept him as my godfather. I’m happy to oblige, but I have to remind you Lian’er, so you don’t blame me later for not telling you earlier, that once we both accept him as our godfather, you’ll have to call me sister.”

Her smile faded as soon as she heard that. She thought about it for a while and said, “No, no.” Then she gave me a light push, ran to the old man, and said in a pout, “Godfather, promise me that you only accept me as your goddaughter. It’s fine to have a younger sister, but I don’t want an older sister.” 

Old man Tie was amused by her antics and laughed, “Even if you don’t accept her as your sister, she is still your martial sister, isn’t? Are the things you said earlier about eating and living together under one master not true?”

“Yes, we eat and live together under one master, but she’s not my martial sister.” Lian’er pouted and said, “I have to respect seniority if we’re martial sisters. I don’t want her to be above me. Me being above her is more like it.”

This was the first time I heard her say this in all these years. Although I had expected it, I couldn’t help but shake my head and smile. There was nothing I could do about her. Old man Tie’s temperament surprisingly meshed well with Lian’er’s. After hearing what she said, he nodded in agreement, “Makes sense. The rules about seniority are too much of a hassle. It’s better if we don’t follow, it’s better if we don’t follow, haha.”

As they continued to chat, the sorrowful atmosphere dissolved until we stepped into the Tie’s Manor courtyard. The old man became sad again when he saw the surroundings. Lian’er and I noticed when we were making dinner that he was alone in the parlor, touching the table and chair armrests, looking lonely. At that moment, he was merely a gray-haired old man. It struck a string in my heart, and I understood why Lian’er did what she did. 

Sure enough, Lian’er saw that too after following my gaze. She smiled, went to him, and said, “Right, godfather, when are we going to look for the sword manual?” Old man Tie snapped out of his daze and said, “What’s the hurry? I’ll definitely get your baby back for you. You don’t believe what I said?”

“I can’t be asking you to get the sword manual back by yourself, can I?” Shaking her head, Lian’er said with a smile. The old man put on a straight face and said, “Since I’ve promised you, it’s my business. Do you think I can’t retrieve it by myself?” She didn’t take it seriously and said, “Godfather, I have faith in you, but you may feel lonely if you go alone. We can be your companions and ease your boredom. Isn’t that great?” As she spoke, it sounded like a daughter speaking to her father. I was a little surprised as I listened.

Old man Tie had a straight temper. When he heard what Lian’er said, a loving expression appeared on his face. It seemed like he really saw her as her daughter. He patted her head and said in all seriousness, “Jadey, I’m happy that you’re thinking about me, but Jin Duyi who’s stolen the sword manual has some history. Not only would it be dangerous, it’d be a long journey. I’m afraid you can’t go.” 

Lian’er wanted to say something after hearing that. I didn’t understand, so I walked up to him and chimed in, “Sir, I haven’t been in jianghu for a long time and I wasn’t in the woods just now, so I don’t understand what you mean. Hope you could enlighten me.”

“Cut the sir thing.” The old man looked at me and said, stroking his beard, “Since you’re close to Jadey, you’re half a daughter to me. It’s nice to be called sir, but it feels distant after some time. You can call me whatever you feel like. If you can’t think of anything, you can call me old man Tie.”

“…Then I’ll graciously accept it and call you old man.” I smiled and nodded. 

Later, the old man explained the situation to me. It turned out when the woman left, she had told him in detail about the three people who had stolen the sword manual. Tie Feilong knew all of them, but he wasn’t close to them. The two accomplices were some little-known people in jianghu, so there was no need to mention them. However, the gang leader was particularly tricky to deal with.

The person’s name was Jin Duyi. He had been famous for over thirty years. The martial arts he practiced, Yin Feng Du Sha Zhang (Yin Wind Venomous Gravel Palm), was extremely malicious. Not only were both his palms filled with poison, his palm strikes were also powerful, the chill from the strikes would seep into the skin like a ghost. Many years ago, he had caused trouble in the Central Plains and his behaviors were eccentric. Finally, he incited public anger in Wulin. He narrowly survived a major battle. After that, he went into hiding in the western region. Although he took in disciples here and there, he couldn’t cause much chaos in the western frontier. However, the old man didn’t expect that after many years, he would secretly return to the Central Plains again. Somehow, he got the information and went to steal the sword manual that Taoist Zhenqian was supposed to bring to Mount Heaven.

“This person is cunning and vicious. He’s strong. It’ll make him even stronger if he learns the sword techniques. I cannot allow that to happen.” Toward the end, old man Tie got serious and said, “That’s why I’ve decided to head northwest and ask around the fellow members of jianghu for any information along the way. If I can find out his whereabouts, that’d be the best. If not, I’ll continue my journey and head straight to his old lair in the northwest! Even if I can’t get him, I’ll definitely find out his whereabouts!”

“Way to go, sir!” Upon hearing this, I couldn’t help but compliment. The western regions were far away. Even in times where transportation was easily accessible, you couldn’t just go on a whim. He made it sound like a simple stroll after a meal. As someone who traveled a lot, I was genuinely impressed. 

“Of course, I always keep my word.” The old man, pleased with what he heard, seemed to have forgotten what he asked of me and stroked his short beard, closing his eyes. Then he opened his eyes and said, “That’s exactly why. I may be away for as little as a couple of months or as long as a year. It’s not okay for both of you to come with me, especially for you, Jadey,  as the head of a stronghold, you can’t leave for too long. Now that we’re about to part, I don’t have any gift to welcome you as my goddaughter. Your level of martial arts is higher than mine. I have nothing to teach you, but I’ve gained insights in internal cultivation. I’ll leave a book for you tomorrow. You can read it in your free time. You’ll benefit from it.”

His words were heartfelt. To the end, he was even willing to pass on the experience and insights he had gained from decades of practicing internal cultivation. I was delighted for Lian’er, but Lian’er didn’t seem thrilled. She didn’t show much emotion after hearing that. Instead, she lowered her head and seemed to be lost in thought. After a while, as if having made up her mind, she looked up and said, “Godfather, we’ll go with you!”

She spoke with resolution. Old man Tie was startled. Standing beside them, I frowned and said, “Lian’er, what about Mount Dingjun? We might have to leave for over a year, and you’re the head of the stronghold.”

“What’s the big deal? Mount Dingjun is different from what it used to be. It’s already on track and has formed alliances with the surrounding clans. Even if something big were to happen, we’ve got our back covered. Everything will be under control.” The young lady waved her hand, as if there was nothing to worry about, and said with a smile, “I’ll write a letter tomorrow. Godfather, you can have someone deliver it to the stronghold, and everything will be taken care of. It’ll be fine even if we’re away for a year or so!”

“Alrighty, since you’ve said so, what else can this old man say?” The old man, straightforward in nature, no longer said otherwise after hearing what Lian’er said. He guffawed and said, “In that case, let’s get some good rest tonight. We’ll set out tomorrow!”

They stayed in the Tie Manor that night. Although the old man had kicked his daughter out, his love for her remained, so he kept Tie Shanhu’s room and arranged a guest room for each of us. We went to rest and recharge for the night. 

Perhaps I went to bed too early, and there was something weighing on my mind. I lay in bed tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep. After flipping around a few times, I gave up trying and got out of bed. I draped a robe over my shoulders and strolled to the courtyard. The northwest was cool and breezy at night. In the courtyard stood a towering old tree, reaching up to the night sky. Although it was tall and mighty, it stood alone in the moonlight, with its branches swaying gently in the wind, giving off a sense of desolation.

Looking up and stroking the dry bark of the old tree, I didn’t know what I was feeling. Suddenly, a familiar voice caught my ear.

“What are you doing, not sleeping and wearing so little?” I turned around and saw the young lady emerge from the shadows of the corridor. She came to me and grabbed my left hand, but she immediately furrowed her brows and said, “It’s so cold. Your injury isn’t fully healed yet. Are you trying to make yourself sick standing in the wind like this, so you can stay in bed tomorrow and not have to go with us tomorrow?”

I had no idea where her strange logic came from. I burst out into laughter and said, “What are you thinking? I went to bed too early tonight and just can’t sleep. What about you? Why aren’t you in bed and ended up here in the courtyard?”

The young lady grunted and said, turning her head, “I was writing a letter. Writing a letter is such a hassle. Why can’t I just write like how I’d normally speak? All those flowery words hurt my brain. I got frustrated, so I came out to get some fresh air.”

“Lian’er…” Hearing her talk about writing a letter, it triggered something that was on my mind. I called her, looked at her, and asked, “Are you really going to leave everything behind and leave the Central Plains like this, traveling to the west with the old man? Won‘t you…miss the life here?’”

Yes, I didn’t have anything I care about here except the person in front of me, but she was already a member of jianghu. She had a reputation, a base, all kinds of ambitions, many people she had known, even potentially a like-minded…someone.

“Miss? Miss what?” At this moment, she looked at me with a confused face. After asking the question, as if she suddenly thought of something, she said nervously, “Who said I’m going with him? WE are going to go with him! You said before that you’ll go wherever I go. No backing out now, no matter how long the journey is!”

In the moonlight, I saw the young lady’s nervous and serious face. She was speaking so seriously, too seriously in fact. It made me laugh. I chuckled and said, “Wherever you go, I go. Even if it’s thousands of miles away and far beyond. I won’t regret it.”

I would even be more than happy to do so.

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 69.2 Chase

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 69.2


As soon as she said that, the old man Tie’s face changed. He asked in a quavering voice, “What do you mean by that?” Red-eyed, the girl looked at the woman beside her and bit her lip before saying whisperingly, “It’s…it’s Aunt Ke who got it…”

In that instant, the face of the woman beside her turned ashen, the old man’s eyes shot red, and Lian’er guffawed. After laughing, she fell silent, her face turned cold, and she said seriously, “Old man Tie, I wasn’t wrong about you, was I?”

I walked to her silently and tugged at her before she became too unforgiving. Then I went to the old man and said calmly, “Sir, let’s find out what’s going on first before you decide on anything. Maybe there’s a reason or it’s just a coincidence.”

The old man’s face was frosty. He ignored what I said, his teeth clenched tight, and continued to shout at his daughter, “Then be honest with me! Don’t try to hide anything, not even a single word!”

“Two—two months ago, when I stopped to take a break in a small shop in Jixian town on my way home, I saw a Taoist with a blackening face sitting on the ground, unable to move…” The girl was sobbing, wiping her tears with her sleeve as she spoke softly, “The shopkeeper said that he had an emergency illness and was afraid that he would die in his shop, so he wanted to get him out. I—I pitied him. Out of curiosity, I went to take a look. The Taoist was good. He knew that I knew martial arts as soon as he saw me. He said, ‘Miss, do you have a sword with you?’ Then he wanted me to tear his clothes open, gouge out the rotting flesh an inch below his shoulder blade, and take the poison needle out for him…” 

I exchanged looks with Lian’er, thinking that it was certainly Taoist Zhenqian. Lian’er said that his blood was black when he died. It turned out he was actually poisoned. 

Old man Tie pressed her, “Did that Taoist know that you’re my daughter?” The girl answered, “He didn’t know at first, but I told him later. He told me, ‘I know your father was a righteous man. Please tell him that I have a sword manual. Someone entrusted me to bring it to Huo Tiandu. Now it was stolen. If I die, please ask him to try to send this message to Mount Heaven and ask Huo Tiandu to avenge my death!”

Old man Tie’s livid face brightened slightly when he heard that. He stroke his beard and said, “That Taoist is something.” He actually cared about other people’s praise of him even if he was no longer young. He would have almost smiled if the situation hadn’t been tense. 

Unfortunately, the girl didn’t see it. She kept on, her head down, “Later, he wrote a prescription and asked me to get the medicine. I went out with the prescription. Those pharmacies didn’t have all the herbs. There’s always something missing. I went to a few pharmacies and finally managed to get all the herbs. Suddenly—suddenly, I ran into Aunt Ke who came to look for me…”

The old man let out an “um” and said, “You’d been gone for a long time, so I asked her to look for you.” The girl said, sobbing, “I told Aunt Ke about it, and we went to see the old Taoist together, but the old Taoist was gone. Instead, I saw two men were looking for the old Taoist, an old man and a young man. They seemed to know Aunt Ke and even sent their regards to you, but Aunt Ke suddenly wanted to talk outside to one of them whose surname’s Jin…”

Old man Tie let out a snort and scolded the woman, “Look at what you and the others have done!” The woman cried, “I was just trying to force him to cough up what he’s stolen.” The old man didn’t care and said, “Alright, Shan Hu, you go on!” The girl wiped her tears and looked at the woman again before saying, “We went to a secluded area. Aunt Ke asked the old man to hand over the Taoist’s sword manual. At first, the old man said he didn’t have it, but he admitted later after we forced him…”

At this point, Lian’er couldn’t help but sneer. Her cold eyes darted between the three of them. She even ignored the look I gave her asking her to stop it. It made old man Tie turn around and say lividly, “Jade Rakshasa, what are you rushing for? The sword manual will be yours if it’s yours!” He continued to ask her daughter, “Did they hand over the sword manual later?”

“They didn’t want to at first. Aunt Ke said they either hand over the sword manual, she would read it and give it back to them or she would rat them out. The old man Jin agreed. He said that he will come and take it back in two months…” The girl replied, biting her lip. 

“Why didn’t you tell me!” The old man kept on, anger filled his face, but the girl stayed silent until the person next to her cut in coldly, “It’s me who asked her not to tell you.”

The woman’s voice was level, though her face remained pale. It seemed like she had given up. She said, her face vacant, “I was curious, so I asked for the sword manual and dragged Ah Hu along to try it out at a place where there’s no one. I found out that it was an amazing manual. The sword techniques on the manual were ingenious, something great that holds deep knowledge, so I asked Shan Hu to secretly learn it with me. Ah Hu only agrees because I convinced her.”

“Then what about the death of the Taoist!” Seeing that she confessed, Lian’er pressed on. The woman looked at her and said, “Later, the Taoist asked to meet with Sir at Mount Qingfeng through other means. I felt guilty about it, so I followed along. Then the city went into mayhem. Ah Hu was screaming for help by the hill, and Sir didn’t have time to look for the Taoist. I ran into him instead.”

The old man glared at her and said, “Not only did you take the sword manual, you really killed him?” The fear the woman had earlier was gone. She said without lifting her eyes, “When I saw him in the cave, the poison in him had kicked in. He’s dying, looking like he’s in great pain. He begged me to give him a quick death. I had an ulterior motive when I did that, but it’s not a murder.“

At this point, the truth was revealed. Everything she said fit. What she said was probably true. Looking at the two cowering ladies, I pitied them. The old man looked very disappointed. Suddenly, he trembled and said, “Okay, okay, give them back their sword manual first.”

The woman said calmly, “It was stolen that night at Mount Qingfeng or rather it was returned.”

When Lian’er heard that, her face changed. She blew up and said, “How dare you deny it! Are you looking for trouble!” The woman said nothing, but the girl chimed in, crying, “It’s true! Aunt Ke told me on the way back that night that there were two middle-aged men coming out of the city. Their clothes seemed to have been burned with black ash stains all over. They met up with Jin on the hill. When they saw Aunt Ke, they demanded the sword manual. Aunt Ke was too afraid to refuse!”

Lian’er didn’t believe it. I recalled that night’s conversation on the roof next to the burning town hall with Wang Zhaoxi and Zhuo Yihang. They also mentioned two middle-aged men. Both of their stories matched. I felt it was true, so I shook my head at Lian’er and said, “I can confirm that. There were these two people that day.”

Lian’er glared at me. Old man Tie on the other side said in a loud voice, “Jade Rakshasa, I’ll take care of your sword manual. I’ll get it back for you even if it means going to the ends of the earth!” Only then did Lian’er say, “Alright then, we’ll see,” as if she still didn’t believe it. 

The old man ignored her. He reached out to stroke her daughter’s hair, as loving as treating a child. The girl met his gaze, but she flinched. She called, “Dad, what’s the matter?”

I only watched until then before I walked up to Lian’er and said beside her ear, “I’ll go out of the woods for a while.” She was focused on what was happening. When she heard that, she didn’t ask any questions. She looked back wonderingly and told me, “What for? Don’t go too far no matter what you do.” Then she turned back, but her hand was still holding on to my clothes until I answered with a chuckle, “Okay, I’ll be right by the woods.” Only then did she let loose, but then she waved her hand like shooing a bug, as if she was annoyed. 

I smiled and left quietly. I took a small turn in the woods, avoiding the three without alarming them. They probably have no time to care about what others do. I went around to the outside of the woods. Shortly after, I heard someone in the woods shouting, “Dad, dad!” and there was an old man yelling, “You were eyeing the sword manual of another school and lied to your father! From now on, you’re no longer my daughter. Go! You’re not allowed to use my name out there!”

I sighed when I heard that. It went on for a little while longer, then the girl said woefully, “Dad, take care!” After that, I heard heavy footsteps stumbling this way.

“Miss Hu, hold on.” Waiting here, I called to stop her when I saw a figure was coming out. Even though I tried to be as gentle as possible when I spoke, it still startled her. The girl’s body shivered, her face covered in tears. The glow she had when she was picking flowers earlier and her arrogance when she stepped on people’s shoulders in the city were gone. When she saw me stop in front of her, she bit her lip, holding on to the last thread of pride, and said, “You…what else do you want? Do you want to keep humiliating me?”

I shook my head and answered calmly, “Miss Shan Hu, you’ve got me wrong. You reap what you sow. We’re just a trigger. Have you seen me doing anything inappropriate or throwing insults? What I’m looking for is just an answer.”

“Reap what I sow…” She laughed bitterly. After a while, she said, “Right, now I have suffered the consequences, so please get out of my way. What are you stopping me for?”

I pointed at the woods with my left finger and said, “Miss Shan Hu, you had made a split-second mistake. You’re also a victim and got involved to the point of expulsion from the family. Do you not want to know what punishment the person, the one who got you involved, will get? What consequence she will face?”

Dazed, she looked over in the direction I was pointing, and her eyes went wide open. After a moment, she shuddered. As if woken up from a dream, she muttered, “Aunt Ke…Aunt Ke…” A look of pain streaked across her face, and she said in a panic, “Dad, dad—dad will kill her, he’ll kill her!”

“You don’t want her to die? She’s the one who got you kicked out of the family.” I tilted my head and looked at the girl’s reaction. She kept shaking her head and said, as if talking to herself, “Aunt Ke…Aunt Ke meant well. She didn’t mean to hurt me. You don’t understand. She had a hard life, hard life…” As she spoke, she seemed to have come around. She tugged at my sleeve and said, “No, dad is very mad this time. He even disowns me. He would really kill her! My words mean nothing to him anymore. You go plead for mercy, quick, you can’t let her die!”

While she was pestering me, a hysterical laugh came from the woods. A woman’s voice was shrieking, “Old man, I’ve given up this life long ago. Kill me!” Then an old, commanding man’s voice sounded, “You stole someone’s sword manual and ruined my reputation. You deserve to die! What do you have to complain about!”

The girl was pulling at my sleeve. She flinched when she heard that and quieted down, looking at the woods, her lips trembling. Then I heard the woman’s voice go on. She laughed and said, “When my father died in a foreign land, I had no money to bury him, so I was forced to sell my body. After I was married to you, a young wife to an old man, gray hair and a young face, you claimed that you wanted to honor your ex-wife, so you treated me like a concubine. You always shout. I have to put on a smile in front of you. Do you really think I like you! I’m not afraid to tell you now. The reason I secretly learn the sword techniques is so that I can escape one day! It’s good to kill me now. I don’t want to live this life anymore!”

The woman’s voice was full of pain and sorrow. Every word bled agony. Even I was dumbfounded by what I heard, not to mention the girl. As if I felt the same, my heart welled up with sorrow. I was frozen for a moment before I snapped back. Just as I was about to rush in, I heard a roar from the woods, “Go! I never want to see you again!”

When the girl heard the roar, she faltered and sighed as if a weight was lifted off her chest, but tears kept trickling down her face. I was secretly relieved. My heart was pumping, beating a little faster than usual.

With all the things happening in this world, even if you are prepared for it and know what will happen, when you’re actually facing it, looking at those tears, listening to those cries, who dare say that they are heartless, that they can steel their heart and be as indifferent as the God in heaven. 

At least, I can’t. 

At least in the face of certain people and things.

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 69.1 Chase

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 69.1


Lian’er said that we were going after them, but when we went down the hill and continued for not more than half a mile, she suddenly stopped and wanted to take me back. 

I was worried, wondering if she had come around, thought that what the other people said was right and changed her mind since I actually acted out of emotion. It was more reasonable if she did as they said, act after planning. 

With my concern, I sounded her out. What followed was the girl’s snicker. Lian’er didn’t know what I was nervous about. She smiled and said, “Why would I change my mind? I just thought that we probably wouldn’t be able to catch up to them even if we go after them now, so we might as well go back to the inn, get our stuff, and head directly to that old thief’s lair tomorrow. Look at you. Your face is pale from all the running.”

I only found out that Lian’er had heard about that person before when she explained it again on the way. Even though it hadn’t been three years since she came into jianghu, she knew about both the orthodox and outlaw heroes. The old man, Tie from Longmen, was a famous eccentric around the north-west region, falling in between good and evil. He had done both good and bad things. If anyone offended him, no good would come of it for that person. 

“I thought although he was a weird character, he’s still prideful and decent. Who knows he’s different from what I’ve heard. He actually encouraged his daughter to steal our sword manual. He even killed someone!” Toward the end, Lian’er became angry and said, “When I saw that Taoist Zhenqian’s blood was black, I thought he’d died of poisoning, but when I looked closely, his jaw bone was fractured. It’s obvious that he’s hit and crushed with a palm. His throat was destroyed with a neigong technique. It looks exactly like the old man Tie’s doing. No mistake!”

I silently listened to her all the way, thinking to myself that with Tie Feilong’s level of martial skills, it seemed unnecessary for him to use poison if he wanted to steal the sword manual. Besides, after tonight’s fight, I knew that the old man’s hard style martial skills were already at its highest level. No matter how brilliant Master’s sword manual was, he couldn’t be learning it from the beginning again, right? But what Lian’er said made sense too. I had my doubts but I put those aside first, thinking that it wasn’t too late to confront him about it when we saw him. 

Putting my thoughts aside, we went back to the inn and rested until the next morning. Lian’er woke her subordinates and told them that they didn’t have to come along and asked them to meet with the others at Wang Zhaoxi’s place. Then she packed up and checked out. She didn’t forget to bring me to the clinic and do one more round of check-up. Only when the old doctor said that my bones were healing well did she leave Yan’an Mansion pleased.

We didn’t hurry after we left Yan’an Mansion. We asked around as we traveled. A few days to the northeast, we arrived at Longmen County that the old man had mentioned. The road we took that day was flanked by rocky cliffs, and the muddy river was raging. It was perilous. Looking around, there was no one, only a few sails on the river in the distance. 

We had asked about the location in the inn earlier. After traveling for a little more and passing through a valley, a village came into view. We learned that it was Tie Family Manor after asking the old farmer at the village entrance. 

When we entered the village, Lian’er brought up the name, Tie Fenglong. Everyone in the village knew about him. They said we could find him at the courtyard house on the top of the hill. Some of them looked wary and asked us in a thick accent why we were looking for him. Lian’er was straightforward, so it was on me to gloss it over smilingly with some ambiguous answers. Villagers were simple, after all. Seeing that we were two young ladies, they didn’t ask much and let us in. 

As we went further in, the courtyard house the villagers talked about slowly came into view. A girl’s ringing laugh suddenly came from the woods beside the hill tracks. It sounded somewhat familiar. I suddenly remembered something, so I stopped. I grabbed Lian’er and made a silent gesture at her, then I bent down and went into the woods to investigate. 

Stealthily, I looked into the woods and saw two women walking in the woods, one behind another. It seemed like they were taking a walk. The older one who dressed like a young married woman was holding a scissor. Whenever she saw a nice flower on the branch, she snipped it and passed it to the young lady behind her. The young lady already had her hands full of flowers, but it seemed to her that it wasn’t enough. She still smiled every time she took the flower. 

When we saw their faces, Lian’er beside me couldn’t hold still, wanting to rush to them, but I stopped her in time. I shook my head and said softly next to her ear, “Listen to me first…” Somehow, she tensed for a second and scratched her ear awkwardly, but after that, she quieted down and stopped moving. 

As we hid in the bushes holding our breath, the two ladies in the woods were approaching this way. Their voices were becoming clearer. The young girl asked with the flowers in her hands, “Aunt Ke, we’ve been walking for a while. Do you want to rest for a while?” The young woman said with a smile, “Ah Hu, you’re getting mischievous. I’m serving your father, not having the same age as your father. It’s just a short walk. Are you going to treat me like I’m an old woman?”

She was acting bratty and capricious the last time we met, but she was well-behaved when she was with this woman. She said, “Aunt Ke, what’re you talking about? I’m worried about you. It’s only been a few days since dad took the needle out of your shoulder. Isn’t your wound still fresh?”

When the woman heard what she said, she replied, “Nah, it’s just a silver needle. How bad would it be?” But her hand subconsciously went to rub on her shoulder. The girl saw it. She said angrily, “Seriously, you were just trying to help him. He let you get hurt and let her get away with it, not to mention he didn’t even appreciate it. It’s too much. Should we make a vegetarian dinner for him?”

“Ah Hu, you’d better not bring this up in front of your father.” The woman looked flustered when she heard that. She turned around, stood still, and said to the girl with a serious expression, “It seems like the sword manual might actually belong to them. We’re in the wrong. It’s better to keep it low. We’ll be in trouble if the old man knows about it.”

“You two wretched thieves, shameless bitch!” Lian’er could no longer stay hidden when she heard them talking about the sword manual. With a shout, she sprang out of the bushes. As soon as she landed in front of them, she scolded, “It turned out you really do have our sword manual. What is your excuse now? Brace yourself!” She reached out as she said, wanting to grab them. 

Shaking my head, I got up and went out with her. I wasn’t worried. I brushed off the grass on me and watched them fight. Both of them were shocked at the turn of events. They saw Lian’er was coming at them. How could they let it happen without a fight? So they fought back immediately. One held the scissor, and the other drew out her flute. When I saw that Lian’er was going to draw her sword, afraid that it might hurt someone, I said, “Take them alive, so we can interrogate them right away. Then they can’t accuse us of bullying them for no reason.”

Lian’er rolled her eyes at me reluctantly, but she didn’t talk against me. She gave a laugh at the two and said, “Bold of you to pull this on me. Let’s see how I‘ll catch you!” With the sheath still on, she spun her sword a little with her left hand, blocking the woman out, and her right hand snapped out. In two moves, she snatched the girl’s jade flute. She flicked and prodded her with the flute, pushing her back. The girl let out a cry and fell on the ground. 

“Ah Hu!” When the woman saw the girl fall on the ground, she got worried. She strode in front of Lian’er, thrusted the scissor and slashed to the right. Before going all the way, the blade suddenly turned back. She was using the scissor like a sword, and the technique she used was a unique killing move from our sword techniques. Although she wasn’t skilled with the way she was using it, it was no doubt she had seen the sword manual before. 

Lian’er knew that too. She laughed when she saw that. With a drop of her sheath, she countered the move. Then she turned the sword and swung with the hilt, thrusted at her rib. Even though the woman had secretly learned the sword technique, she only learned it for a short time and had yet to get familiar with the move. How could she have blocked it? At that moment, the acupoints around her ribs were struck, and she flopped to the ground. 

It had only been a few moments since they started fighting, and the fight was already over. Lian’er pulled back. As she was about to bend down and grab her, a shout came from the direction of the hill. It was the old man, Tie, who heard the noise and came over. When he came close and saw what happened. He glanced at her and said in rage, “You’ve gone too far, Jade Rakshasa! You came to us, yet you ignored jianghu’s courtesy? What do they have against you that you have to do this!”

It had been a few days. It wasn’t surprising that he knew Lian’er’s nickname. If I let them continue, I feared that there would be an unnecessary fight. I was ready for it. When I saw he lifted his palm, I jumped in front of him, blocking him from Lian’er. I bowed and said, “Calm down, sir. There’s a reason for this. I can explain. Please listen to me before you do anything.”

“Hmph! Why do I have to listen to you cunning thieves?” Even though Lian’er couldn’t strike in time because she was busy grabbing the girl, she still said unrelentingly, “People from the Tie’s family just can’t keep their hands out of the till. He’s no better. Perhaps the one who killed Taoist Zhenqian is him!”

Before I could turn around, the old man Tie heard what she was implying. He glared at her and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Nonsense! What killing? You little brat, don’t you dare accuse me!” Lian’er grabbed the girl with one hand and replied, sneering, “Why are you still pretending? If you didn’t steal our sword manual, how come we came across Taoist Zhenqian’s body on the top of the hill that night? And how come your beloved family knows about our Master’s secret sword technique!”

The old man bawled when he heard that, jumped over my head, and landed in front of Lian’er, but he didn’t attack. He just shouted, “Wait! Let me ask them about it!” He helped the two up and said with a serious voice, “What’s going on here!” His voice wasn’t loud, but it was unusually stern. Both of their expressions broke. The girl looked down, looking fearful. The woman was trembling, biting down on her lip, and her eyes seemed to fill with endless fear. 

The old man Tie probably felt something wasn’t right when he saw that. His face turned livid. He snapped at the woman and asked, “Jiu Niang! Did you steal their sword manual?” The woman said, her face turning ashen, “No, no, no…” Then he turned around and asked the girl, “Shan Hu! Did you steal her sword manual?” The girl clenched her teeth and kept quiet. 

Lian’er showed disdain for the way he asked, but she said nothing, just sneering. Her sneer made the old man uncomfortable. He put on a straight face and said in a stern voice, “Jade Rakshasa, listen! I, Tie Feilong, will never cover for my own!” Then he turned around and scolded, “Shan Hu! If you’re still my daughter, speak the truth. I’ll ask you one last time. Did you steal her sword manual?”

He threatened her with their relationship. The girl’s eyes turned red with tears, and she said, sobbing, “I’ve got one sword manual, but it was never stolen.”

Slopaw’s note:
Hey all, I’ve just set up a patreon page for early chapters. Currently, there are only 3 early chapters available. I’m planning to do a regular release of 2 chapters per week if there’s enough support. Then I can dedicate more time for translating. At the moment, I can’t guarantee a regular release because I have other priorities (also why I was gone for a long time sometimes) even though I would like to translate more. There are also other interesting baihe novels that I would like translate but I don’t have enough time for them TT. Please check out my patreon if you’re interested in early chapters or my kofi page if you would just like to give me a small tip or you can just leave a comment. Any support is greatly appreciated!

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 68.2 Tumultuous Night

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 68.2

Tumultuous Night

What Lian’er just said pulled me into thought before I could lament Lian’er’s unintentional interruption.

I always had hope about Master’s death. That was why when I saw the girl do the move earlier, the thought that someone had taught that to her immediately came to my mind, and there was no one in this world who could do that other than the one we had been searching for for the past few months. This thought filled my mind. I didn’t consider any other possibilities at all. 

Now that Lian’er reminded me, I remembered that while I was recovering from my injuries in the inn after Yue Mingke’s visit, Lian’er had gone back to Yellow Dragon Cave to close off the cave entrance. She was angry when she came back and told me that Master’s parchment in the stone chamber was gone. Not only that, the sword techniques that were carved into the wall were smoothed out, leaving only a sentence carved by Yue Mingke to the effect that he had taken the parchment to his master, and the sword moves on the wall were too messy and vicious, and there was no cultivation method to go with it, so he was afraid that outsiders would learn it and go astray. That was why he erased all of it. 

Lian’er deeply regretted it at that time. She was angry for a long time and swore that she would retrieve the sword manual. I wasn’t happy that Yue Mingke had overstepped his boundary and destroyed the stone wall, but the parchment wasn’t just a sword manual. There were a few passages about her feelings written in blood that were meant for her husband. It was understandable that he took it, so I didn’t think much about it. Now that Lian’er had brought this up again, I suddenly realized that what she said could be true. 

After the initial surprise, a strange feeling welled up in me, as if it had triggered some memories in me. It was vaguely familiar…

Could it be that things were destined to happen this way? Were Lian’er and I still on the destined path? I felt a tightness in my chest at the thought of it and panicked inwardly. 

A hundred moves had passed between them while I was distracted. A man’s scream coming from behind the hill snapped me out of my distracted mind. I felt a chill for no reason. The voice sounded familiar…it sounded like Zhuo Yihang! 

I didn’t know if the scream interrupted those two in a fight. The fierce old man’s palm was about to touch her clothes and suddenly, he leaped two steps back and turned around, shouting, “Stay away!”

At the sound, I looked up and found that a beautiful woman had shown up on the rock next to the girl. I supposed the old man’s words were meant for the woman. At that moment, I was angry about myself getting distracted again by my own thoughts and was unaware of her coming. 

The old man gave a shout, turned around, and charged again. He shouted and said, “Let’s continue!” But Lian’er said, furious, “Do you think I’d be afraid? You have such great martial skills, yet your daughter is a petty thief. I won’t let you go if you don’t return the sword manual to me today!” Swoosh, she thrusted two successive attacks. The old man flew into a rage and met the attacks with his palm. Both of them went into a fight again. 

Both were relentless. On the rock, the girl was whispering to the woman who arrived later. I was too far away from them to hear what they were saying. I could only see that the two of them looked intimate. It seemed like they were close. They were leaning against each other with their hands covering their mouths when they talked. They were talking to each other, but their eyes kept turning to the fight at times. After a while, they stopped glancing at the fight but at me instead. Suddenly, the woman flicked her right hand in the air, and something was coming this way!

I had kept an eye out for them. I saw three dots of cold light emerge in the dark, striking toward me in a vertical line! The move wasn’t that subtle. It would be nothing to me on other days, but now my right hand was stiff. After barely catching the first one with my left hand and striking down the second one, it was difficult for me to respond to the third one in such a short time, so I just covered my vitals and my eyes, ready to take it. 

Then I heard Lian’er say furiously, “Shameless woman! How dare you attack behind her back!” Although she was agitated, it was impossible for her to make it over in time with the distance and the old man blocking between us. I just hoped that she didn’t get hurt because she got distracted. But suddenly, it went dark in front of me. A huge palm like a cattail leaf fan blocked in front of me, and I heard a soft “poof.” The last concealed weapon pinned into the palm!

I leaped back a couple meters before I saw it was the hand of the fierce old man. He had a few grazes on his arms and blood on his palm, but he seemed to not realize it. He looked at me with a flushed face, as if he was embarrassed. Without saying anything, he dashed up the hill and chided, pointing at the woman, “Who told you to use concealed weapons? Didn’t I ask you to stay away!” His voice resounded across the hilltop. 

The woman looked like she had been wronged and replied, “You didn’t, Sir. They bullied Ah Hu. Why do we have to be polite? I just want to catch her partner, so we can stop the fight…” The answer was carried down the hill by the wind. Lian’er was hurrying to my side to check on me. When she heard that, she flared up, leaped to her feet, and flew over like a white crane, shouting, “So you’re the crone who cast the concealed weapon!” A swing with her right hand in the air, she struck back with three silver needles!

It was out of rage that she struck back with silver needles, so her throw wasn’t that precise. It wasn’t supposed to kill, but the old man swept with his sleeve, flicking off two of the needles, and the third one stabbed into the woman’s shoulder. The pain made her eyes red, and she was crying out in pain. 

The old man seemed as if he didn’t hear it and shouted at Lian’er. “You’ve seen it just now. I have nothing to do with her casting the concealed weapon. You’re very rude. You bullied my daughter and hurt my beloved mistress. I’ll never let you get away with this! Let’s fight, just the two of us. No one is allowed to ask for help. Do you dare?”

Suddenly, Lian’er gave a peculiar smile. She didn’t press on but turned around and jumped to my side instead, saying beside my ear with a smile, “That old man intentionally missed one of my needles as a punishment. Letting his people get hurt. That’s a weird person. Hehe…” Now I knew why she was smiling. At a loss for words, I rolled my eyes at her with resignation. 

Lian’er seemed to lighten up. She didn’t get annoyed by my eye roll. Then she turned around and said to the top of the hill, “You stole our sword techniques. I’ll never let you get away with that, but we’re both exhausted today. It won’t come to anything even if we keep fighting. Where do you stay? What’s your name? If you’d be so kind as to let me know, I’ll definitely come to you!”

The old man didn’t get angry. When he heard the questions, he said after thinking about it for a while, “Well, I’ll wait for you in Tie Family Manor in Longmen for a month!” With that, he held the two next to him, one in each hand. The three of them darted down the hill and were gone in a blink of an eye. 

It felt familiar when I heard the words ‘Tie Family Manor.’ Just as I was going to ponder over it, I heard someone yelling on the top of the hill. When I listened closely, I could hear Wang Zhaoxi shouting, “Miss Lian! You’re here, Miss Lian. Quick, come and have a look!”

Lian’er didn’t have much of a response. She was just slightly startled when she heard the greetings. His shout reminded me that there was a man screaming earlier. It sounded like Zhuo’s voice. They were together before. I was probably right. My mood turned sour immediately. I forgot about what I was thinking earlier. My only thought was I didn’t want Lian’er to meet them, but I didn’t have any reason to stop her, so I could only follow her gloomily.

After turning around the corner of the hill, we came to a rocky slope. At the place where the torches were in the distance, I could see Wang Zhaoxi and Zhuo Yihang were half-crouching, cramming in a cave. Lian’er said curiously, “Hey, it’s you guys. What are you doing here?” Then they answered from afar, “Taoist Zhenqian was murdered!”

We were both shocked when we heard that. We went forward to look and saw that there was a Taoist sitting cross-legged in the cave, blood coming out from his nose, eyes, and ears, looking like he was in pain. I didn’t know this Taoist, but Lian’er should have seen him before. When she saw him, she reached out and touched him. His skin still retained its elasticity. Zhuo Yihang said sorrowfully, “Someone must have coveted the sword manual he had with him. That’s why he was killed!”

Lian’er leaped to her feet right away and asked hurriedly, “Which sword manual are you talking about!” Zhuo Yihang answered, “The one written by your master. Brother Yue Mingke had something else to do at that time, so he asked Taoist Zhenqian to give it to the old man, Tiandu. I never thought he would die here, and the sword manual is gone too!”

What he said confirmed what Lian’er had blurted out earlier. I stood outside of the cave, frozen, unable to think until a white shadow appeared in front of me. In the fire light, I saw the girl’s face was as still as the water. She said indifferently, “Let’s go!”

I knew what she was thinking, but the two men didn’t. Wang Zhaoxi said, surprised, “Miss Lian, what’re you doing?” Lian’er replied without looking back, “I know a person. His daughter was using our sword techniques! Screw the one-month promise. I’m going after them now!”

The two of them got up in surprise. Wang Zhaoxi and Zhuo Yihang exchanged a look and said pensively, “A person who dares to do that must not be an ordinary person. Killing Taoist Zhenqian makes the person a public enemy of Wulin. Miss Lian, let’s not rush. Right now, I’ve gathered heroes from all walks of path. It’s time to work together. Let’s go back to the city first. It’s not too late to take action after a thorough investigation. Besides, you must be exhausted by now from being on the run.”

The man next to him nodded in agreement as he said that. Zhuo Yihang looked at Lian’er and said sincerely, “Let’s plan. It’s best to know our enemy first. Ladies, please come with us.”

I had to admit. What they said was sensible, but I couldn’t suppress the noise in my heart. I looked at the man then at Lian’er. I couldn’t help but open my mouth and say under my breath, “We would lose them if we don’t go after them now…”

The girl who had already turned back wheeled around and took my hand. She said, “Let’s go after them!”

I held back and replied, “Okay.”

If Yue Lao and the red thread really exist, I will make it go round and round, the further away it goes the better.

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 68.1 Tumultuous Night

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 68.1

Tumultuous Night

The city was in chaos. I jumped up the roof. When I looked down from above, the street was a mess. Every house had their doors and windows shut. A flame shot up in a far corner. The black spot was heading toward the flame. It was clear to me even though I was looking at her from a distance at night.

And that was enough. Even I wouldn’t lose her, let alone Lian’er whose qinggong was excellent. 

I could stay out of it and not care about jianghu’s affairs, but not this. The masked girl’s last move was the secret sword technique Master taught to us. It was vicious and tricky to do. There was no move similar to it in jianghu. Now that it was done by a stranger, how could it not worry me?

We were sprinting, and after chasing after her for a while, we were getting closer and closer. The girl got even flustered when she saw that she couldn’t outrun us. When she got close to where the blazing flame was, she leaped off the roof, plunging straight down onto the smoke-covered street. She wanted to use the thick smoke as a cover, but her trick was played on the wrong person. When Lian’er saw that, she barked out a laugh and jumped into the smoke without hesitation. Lian’er grew up in a unique situation, which had helped her develop her hunting skills. Even the white fog in the woods in which you couldn’t see beyond three steps wouldn’t stop her from trailing and chasing her prey, let alone smoke. 

I couldn’t do that, so I didn’t go down with her. I stayed on the roof to observe. I was in no hurry, waiting for Lian’er’s cue. 

As I stopped and observed, I realized that the place that was burning was the town hall. Smoke was billowing from the big building. The fire was raging and burning brightly. There were people moving around in the thick smoke. The sound of clanking went on and on. That reminded me of the people on the street shouting about the bandit attack. It seemed like it was happening, but why, I wondered. 

As I was lost in thought, a shout came from the thick smoke. Two people sprang out of the thick smoke and jumped up. As soon as they landed on the roof, they raised their swords and looked around hastily, as if they were looking for someone.

Irritation welled in me when I saw these two people. My first thought was to stay away from them, but they saw me before I could do anything. Both of them greeted me and came to me. One of them held his sword in front of him and said, “Miss Zhu, you’re here! That means Miss Lian is around too, right? We attacked the city tonight to save Brother Zhuo. I thought we couldn’t inform you. Who knows we would run into each other here. Heaven helps us!”

Since I didn’t manage to get away, I could only meet them. The one who was talking with his fist cupped was Wang Zhaoxi, the one who delivered the horse saddle. This place was his father’s, Wang Jiayin, turf. It wasn’t a surprise to see him here, but the one next to him who cupped his fist meekly was someone I didn’t expect to see and also someone I didn’t want to see, yet it seemed like everywhere I went, I just couldn’t avoid him.

“Brother Wang, Brother Zhuo, what a coincidence.” Since it had come to this, I had to return the courtesy. I returned the salute and said, “I just happened to be here. What’s with all the fuss here?”

It turned out that in September last year, after he delivered the gift and left Mount Dingjun, Wang Zhaoxi went to the capital city to attend to some business and ran into Zhuo Yihang who was in the capital city at that time. Both of them had been through fire and water together before. Wang Zhaoxi even told him about the incident where Jade Rakshasa had wounded a Wudang disciple. After that, Zhuo Yihang went back home from Mount Hua, got framed for no reason, and was arrested and sent into the jail in Yan’an Mansion. The outlaw alliance around here came to know about it later. There was no reason for Wang Zhaoxi not to rescue him. 

My mind was a moil after listening to what they said. They had no reason to lie to me, so what they said was the truth, but I had no memory of it at all. I felt like something was pulling the strings. Otherwise, the world was so vast. We had gone our separate ways, and I thought I could at least rest easy for now. Why did we meet again around the corner at a different place, so quickly that I couldn’t avoid him even if I wanted to, as if…the red thread[1] was linking them together.

“Oh, Miss Zhu, have you seen two middle-aged men come out of the fire? They were Manchurian traitors, ordered to assassinate an officer and blame it on Zhuo’s family. They got away in the middle of the fight with us. We’re desperately looking for him now!” Wang Zhaoxi was oblivious of what was going through the head of the people around him. He only focused on asking his question after he explained. The guy next to him wasn’t as pushy, but he was also looking at me with anxious eyes, as if he was waiting for an answer. 

I had no choice but to put my irritation aside. Just as I was going to answer him, a whistle rang out in the distance. I was glad. Without caring if I was being rude, I answered curtly, “I passed by here while chasing after a girl. I didn’t see any middle-aged man. I need to talk to the girl, so I can’t stay. I’ll have to say goodbye now. We’ll talk about the rest later when we meet again!” After that, I gave a brief salute and turned to leave as fast as I could. 

I never mentioned where Lian’er was. I had decided. If the red thread really existed, I would make it go around a few more times, giving Yue Lao[2] some trouble.

The whistle pierced the air in the distance and rang out at times. I navigated myself with it. When I caught up to the sound, I was at the foot of a small hill outside the city. From afar, I could see two figures in the moonlight. One was heading up the hill while calling for her dad, the other was following closely behind the former, moving back and forth like a ghost and following the girl like her shadow. 

When I came closer, I heard Lian’er’s giggle. Like a cat playing with a mouse, she kept teasing her prey. She poked the girl’s robe on the back with the tip of her blade at times, scaring the young girl. She leaped left and right, but she just couldn’t shake her off, so she shrieked. I could hear laughter and shrieks merged into one. It sounded merry. 

When I caught up to them, stopped, and exchanged a look with Lian’er, the girl suddenly lunged forward and shouted, “Dad, save me!” A peculiar whistle came from the hillside, and a gray shadow darted down the hill like a meteor!

When Lian’er saw that, she lowered her sword and jumped two steps to the side. I was far away, so I could see the person only when he came closer. It was a tall old man with an aquiline nose and a wide mouth surrounded by stubbles. He looked formidable and fierce. As soon as he landed, he shouted, “Who’s that who dares to bully my daughter?” The girl’s face was streaked with tears, and she hid behind the old man and said pettishly, “Dad, it’s the one holding a sword! Gouge out the hag’s eyes for me!”

How could Lian’er let anyone talk about her like this? She sneered and pointed at her with her sword, about to respond. I quickly took a few steps forward and stood in front of her. Lian’er was no good in a situation that required negotiation. Otherwise, nothing good would happen. 

After stopping Lian’er, I wanted to salute the old man with a cupped fist, but unfortunately, it was difficult for me to move my right hand, so I nodded briefly as a salute and said respectfully, “Sir, please don’t get us wrong. The reason we chased after your daughter is because there are some things that we don’t understand and would like to ask her about it. We’re all women. We hold no ill intention.”

The reason I said that was to placate the situation first since the old man looked like he was no ordinary man. We have no grudge against him, so why risk ourselves? Unfortunately, Lian’er had teased her daughter before, so my words sounded less convincing. All of them didn’t seem to buy it. Lian’er glared at me and said, “You’re so easy-going. Have you forgotten that she poked your injured arm with a weapon?” The girl cried, “Dad, these two hags bullied me. One made me lose my footing and fall, the other fooled me around with a sword at my back. Dad, you must gouge out their eyes for me!”

“Brat, you have a foul mouth!” Lian’er was fed up with her after she said the word “hag” a few times. Although she still had a smile on her face, she could no longer hold back her anger. Disregarding what I wanted to do, she jumped in the air and thrusted her sword at her with a roar!

It was too late to stop her. I watched her jump over. The old man took three steps back. He turned and pushed the girl away. “Go over to the rock there. Stay out of this. I saw everything that just happened!” He said. Lian’er’s sword missed, but she followed up with more, thrusting her sword lightning fast. The old man let out a bawl and straightened his body, thrusting with his left hand, his fingers closed like a halberd, and slashing from above with his right palm like a blade. One from above, one from below, powerful and fast, striking with the force that could crush wood. With that, both of them went into a fight!

The situation I wanted to avoid happened anyhow. I couldn’t do anything about it. The old man was a master as I had suspected earlier. Every palm he sent was so powerful that it could split a mountain open. As I watched, I could see that his strikes weren’t just pure force. There was a certain softness within the force, combining both hard and soft force. His neigong is above Lian’er! The good thing was Lian’er’s sword skills and qinggong were unparalleled, so she didn’t lose her ground. The fight was fierce and menacing! 

I could read the situation, but I couldn’t intervene, not to mention that I was in no shape to step in. I watched worriedly for a while before deciding to stop watching. When I looked away from the fight, I saw the girl was hiding behind the large rock at the hillside. She was also watching the fight. Then an idea hit me. I shouted, “Hey that girl, we just wanted to ask you a question. That’s why we came after you. If you give us an answer, we’ll leave immediately. It’s not a big deal. Why make such a fuss!”

She looked over at the sound of my voice. Maybe because we were each on one side of the field, she didn’t seem afraid at all. She scoffed, “I don’t want to waste my breath on you. My dad will take both of you down in a moment, and you’ll kowtow to me for forgiveness. It’s not too late to talk then.”

“There’s no bad blood between us. Why do you have to do this?” I didn’t say that just for her, so I didn’t care about her answer. I shouted what was on my mind, “You got into a fight with my sister earlier over a trivial matter. Your moves were straightforward with your own distinct style, except for the last move before you ran away. Unlike your earlier moves, it’s vicious and crafty. It looked so much like one of our moves. The reason we came after you is because we wanted to confirm something and ask you where you have learned that move? And who’s taught you? That’s all.”

This was said to her as well as to the old man in the field. He wasn’t deaf, so he could hear it clearly. When he heard that, he stole a look at her daughter while he was fighting. He was highly skilled in martial arts, so it was a dishonor to him if his daughter secretly learned martial arts from another school, not to mention it was a taboo in jianghu. 

The girl saw her father glaring at her. She probably panicked because she shouted from behind the rock, “What move! I don’t know what you’re talking about! Don’t you dare accuse me!”

Everyone heard what she said. I didn’t know what the old man thought. Lian’er was already annoyed, and now anger was flaring up in her. Without slowing down her attacks, she said, “Why are you still talking to her! Master’s dead. You and I are the only ones who know her secret sword techniques. This brat is either colluding with Yue or simply a thief who stole the sword manual! Either way, she‘s no good!”

‘You cocky little kid. Don’t you dare humiliate my daughter! Take this!“ The old man exploded when he heard that. He roared and rose up to fight Lian’er.

[1] The red thread originates from Chinese mythology. It’s an invisible red cord that wraps around the finger of those that are destined to meet one another as each other’s “true love.”
[2] Yue Lao is a god of marriage and love in Chinese mythology.

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 67 Yan’an Mansion

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 67

Yan’an Mansion

Southern Shaanxi and Northern Shaanxi were just one word different, but between them, the hills stretched for thousands of miles. It was a long way, and the valley path was difficult to travel.

As a member of jianghu, Lian’er was bound to be busy. After about half a month of recovering at the foot of Mount Hua, someone came to her. It was the lady troops from Mount Dingjun. Almost twenty of them were here this time. It was obvious they were not here simply to send word to her. 

I only found out later that Mount Dingjun had made a covenant with Wang Zhaoxi’s father, Wang Jiayin, before sending the gift in a horse saddle. Lian’er should have gone to Northern Shaanxi to meet up with him long ago. Who knew their chief would go to Mount Hua with me and stay there for a few months. Fortunately, there was the duel with Ying Xiuyang, so she could still explain herself. Her people in the stronghold had gotten impatient now that everything was settled but Lian’er was still not back, so the chief steward, Dong Sun, came with a group of people and requested Lian’er to return to Mount Dingjun to get ready.

But Lian’er remained non-committal at first when they met. I listened to their conversations twice in the room. I knew why Lian’er was acting this way. She probably wanted to go back too. Her only concern was my injuries that had yet to heal.

If so, I could hit the road with her. Even though I didn’t want her to climb too high, I would never drag her down either. 

“Looking out the window again? It’s the same scenery all over the woods. I don’t know why you haven’t had enough of it already.” The girl bent down, lifted the curtain, and came in as I was spacing out. When she saw me leaning against the window and looking out, she grumbled casually and handed the leather water bag to me. “Drink your medicine.”

I couldn’t tell her that I was looking for familiar sights, so I just smiled and drank half of the medicine as she said. This time we traveled during the daytime and settled for the night. I thought I would be spared the suffering of drinking the medicine, but I didn’t know which lady troop’s idea it was. They actually prepared the medicine during their spare time while staying in the inn and brought it along. As a result, the bitter concoction never ran out for the whole journey.

Lian’er sat down on the seat next to me and watched me until I finished the medicine, then she nodded approvingly, tightening the lid and putting it away. She said, “Let me know if you’re not feeling well. You’re the one who will suffer if you keep it to yourself like a closed bottle. That’ll make me worried too. That won’t do.”

I couldn’t help but smile when I heard that. “The cushion of the carriage is warm. I’ve been sitting or lying down for the whole day, and we didn’t travel a lot in a day. Do you really think I’m a porcelain doll or clay doll?” I replied with a chuckle. I moved my hand to show her. Even though it still hurt, I could already move it a little. We had been traveling in a hired horse carriage for more than a month and a half from Hanzhong to Northern Shaanxi. When we stopped to rest, I often heard the lady troops who followed us expressing their amazement. They were surprised that their chief had the patience. They had never seen her like this, except when she was messing around with her opponents.

Even I didn’t seem to have the memory of her being like this, let alone them. 

“Move again. If you move your bone, you’ll have to get it repositioned again. Scared?” When Lian’er saw me move my hand, she puckered her nose and snorted, smiling mockingly. It looked like the look of me having pain during the treatment had left a strong impression on her. I smiled with resignation, trying to explain it away, “I should be glad that we’re in the wild. Where can you get a doctor around here? So it’s fine.”

“Don’t get happy just yet. Judging by the distance, we’ll be on the main road tomorrow and will probably reach Ya’an Mansion before sundown.” Lian’er said lightheartedly, “I’ve told them to look for a doctor to look at your hand first thing after entering the city. There’s no escape from that.”

“Eh?” Jokes aside, I didn’t expect she would actually say that. I couldn’t help but ask, “Aren’t you in a hurry to go to the outlaw alliance meeting. It’s been pushed off for so long because of the journey. Isn’t it a bad idea to enter the city when you’re almost at the destination? I’m fine. You can go do whatever you want.”

“I want to enter the city, what’re you going to do about it?” She gave me a sidelong glance. She had a long face but still with a faint smile. She said arrogantly, “The building won’t run away. It doesn’t matter whether I’m early or late for a few days. I’m already showing them respect by coming all the way here. Who dares to have anything to say about me?”

The chief always stood firm on her words. I didn’t know if her people who came with her had any objections, but I supposed it would do nothing even if they had. The next day before the sunset, the horse carriage traveled all the way into the bustling town. 

Since we tried not to draw too much attention, most of the lady troops didn’t enter the town but rode straight to the destination to camp down and send out the message. Only two ladies who looked rather macho changed into a man’s outfit and followed us, so they could drive the carriage and get rooms, handling tasks that required to show face. 

Without the trouble of dealing with menial tasks, Lian’er was very relaxed. After we settled down in the inn, washed up, and had a meal, she insisted on calling a doctor.

The night had fallen by that time, and all the lights were lit. Her two ladies were exhausted after traveling all the way here. Now that they could finally sleep in a warm bed, both of them went to bed after dinner when they thought there was nothing more to do. It was a little heartless to wake them up now, but I didn’t want to turn down Lian’er’s kindness. Looking at the lit streets outside the inn and the bustling nightlife, an idea hit me. I asked the innkeeper about the location of a nearby clinic, intending to visit the clinic in person to save the doctor the trouble of traveling back and forth. 

Lian’er was usually not much into noisy and bustling places, but perhaps because it was the first time she visited the place and was unfamiliar with the local culture and the big difference in the local folkways between Southern Shaanxi and Northern Shaanxi sparked her curiosity, she didn’t oppose my suggestion, took her sword, and went out with me in excitement. 

We were on the main street as soon as we came out of the inn. It was a major city in the prefecture, after all. I didn’t know if we came upon some kind of special day. The town was still buzzing with noises at night, and lights were everywhere. Street traders and officers were traversing the town. Stores and vendors flanked the streets with lanterns hanging from their stalls. Businesses were booming, and people were bustling around. 

Lian’er and I blended in and moved forward with the crowd. We were sauntering side by side, looking around as we walked. We were not in a rush to do anything. Everything was new to her, but it wasn’t all that unfamiliar to me. The world changed, but there were still things that were familiar to me on this continent. Date paste, fruit fillings, dumplings, buckwheat noodles, Wantuo, and lamb soup. When I saw something familiar, I couldn’t help but get her to stop by and try it. We were having fun and threw the thing about getting my injury checked out of the window.

“Look at that mountain. Can you see the pagoda on top?” At the moment of excitement, I pulled Lian’er over to look in the southeast direction and pointed at the small hill in the distance in the moonlight. I said with a smile, “The pagoda’s very famous. If I’m not mistaken, there should be a stone tablet and a hundred-meter-tall cliff carving. It’s impressive.”

“…you’re familiar with this place.” The young lady turned around and said, grinning, “Have you been here by yourself?” Although she was smiling, her face looked a little vague in the light.

I was slightly startled, then I was snapped out of my own world and realized that I went a little overboard just now. “…Heh, why do you ask that? I’ve seen it in a book, so I remember a thing or two about it.” I awkwardly made an excuse, trying to hide my uneasiness. 

“You really haven’t been here?” Although she was simple and straightforward, she was by no means easy to fool. She still looked unconvinced after listening to my explanation and kept on asking.

“If I must say, maybe I’ve been here once or twice in my dream,” I answered with a bitter smile. What I said was true this time. That was a dream of a backpacker. 

I didn’t know if I was lucky. Just as she was about to say something, she was interrupted by a clamor. 

“The bandits are attacking the city! The bandits are attacking the city! The city gate has been breached! They’ve made it to the town hall! Quick, everybody hide!”

I didn’t know where the shout first came from. It came rumbling over like thunder. In an instant, shouts were everywhere on the streets. The crowd fell into disarray and scattered away. It was a mess. You could hear shouting and crying everywhere!

“Bandits?” I repeated in confusion and exchanged a look with Lian’er. No matter how chaotic this period was and how rampant the bandits were, there were only a handful of bandits who dared to attack the prefecture’s major city, and it happened over here. It was hard not to think of the outlaw alliances. 

“You go and hide in the inn first. I’ll go have a look!” Lian’er obviously had thought of the same thing. She was about to go after pulling me to her and telling me that. My first reaction was to refuse, but then it occurred to me that I wasn’t as strong as usual. I was injured at the moment, and the situation over there was unclear. If I insisted on going with her, I might weigh her down, so I could only nod and say with a frown, “Okay. Please be careful!”

She smiled nonchalantly and turned away. It wasn’t a place to stay long among the tumultuous crowd, so I turned around, about to head back to the inn, but I spotted a person jumped up in the chaotic crowd at the other end of the street. The person was slender and petite, dressed in a yellow shirt and a red dress. It was clearly a woman, but she was holding a long sword, a black veil covering her nose and mouth. There was something odd about her.

Before I could look at her again, she had closed the distance in a blink of an eye. I figured she was in a hurry. She kept lifting herself as she jumped and moved across the crowd, stepping on people’s heads and shoulders. In a few jumps, she was here and shouted, “Lend me your shoulder!” Then she jumped and was going for my right shoulder. It was the injured arm. How could I lend her? But it was too late to tell her, so I could only dodge aside.

“Eh? Ah! Oy!” The woman didn’t expect she would lose her footing. She wasn’t prepared for it, so she fell and landed on her bump. She closed her eyes and frowned, yelping in pain, looking ruffled. 

I felt amused and at the same time bad for her. When I was going to help her up, she had gotten up, standing there rubbing on the part that hurt while pointing at me and said angrily, “Hey! How could you be so mean? It’s fine if you don’t let me step on you, but you had to dodge without saying anything and made me fall!”

It was a little unfair to say that. Seemingly still angry after spitting those words, she reached to her waist without preamble when I was about to speak, and with a swoosh, a white shadow came striking toward an acupoint on my right arm! My heart jolted, and I quickly titled my body. As I was dodging, I saw what she was using to strike my acupoint was a jade flute. 

“Great, so you’re a martial artist! Then I’m not bullying you. I won’t be holding back!” She realized that when she missed all three of her strikes and saw that I could dodge her attacks with ease. Then she put away her jade flute and drew her bronze sword. With a flick of her sword, she thrusted at me!

I hadn’t seen a lot of women in jianghu so far in this life, but each one I met was more unreasonable than the last one. I didn’t know how to react. Lian’er had her sword with her when we came out tonight, so I didn’t bring anything with me. The two injuries I had didn’t allow me to drag the fight. After a few dodges, I felt that I could manage it, so I wanted to go for it and grab the sword, taking away her weapon first. 

As I was getting ready to strike, a long whistle came from behind, then a voice rapped out, “Where has this brat come from? Do you have a death wish? Scram!” The sound of a blade hissing through the air came from behind me. A clink, it caught the sharp blade in front of me. Two forces clashed into each other. You could almost see sparks flying off!

“Lian’er.” I didn’t have to see who landed. I knew who it was by the voice. She landed in front of me, turned around before I could say anything and said, shooting me a glare, “How long have I been away? Why do you always attract bees and butterflies[1] when I’m not around!?” She didn’t wait for an answer after saying that and stared at the masked woman with an angry smile, then she said, “Great skills. Let’s see how long you can last!” With that, she charged at her. 

I was stunned because of the words she used. In a stupor, it occurred to me that Lian’er didn’t learn a lot of words, and her word choice wasn’t the most accurate, so it was usual that her words came out wrong sometimes. Only then was I relieved. I collected myself and turned my focus to the fight. 

Lian’er saying the woman’s martial skills were great was just to belittle her opponent. She was someone I could handle, so I could imagine she was no match for Lian’er once she got serious. 

I was in the position of an onlooker. Their swords were crossing at the moment. It had been only three moves, and the masked woman already had to give her all to thwart her moves. After taking these three moves, she probably figured out that her opponent’s sword skills were far superior than hers, so she feigned an attack and was about to run away, but the one she had messed with was someone she shouldn’t have messed with. How would Lian’er let her off? With a few attacks, she got her opponent trapped in a circle.

The masked woman was driven up the wall. She shouted, “I can’t beat you. I admit defeat. Why do you have to back me into a corner?” Lian’er responded with a sneer, “I don’t accept your defeat!” The masked woman shouted, “See my dad if you have the guts!” It elicited a long laugh from Lian’er, and she said, “I’ll see you first!” She swung her sword and thrusted at her face. A woman’s face was very important. The masked woman shrieked out of shock. The sword blade brushed past her, but it only picked away the black veil covering her face. 

The black veil fell to the ground and revealed her face. She was an average young girl. Her facial features were beautiful, but judging from her look, she was probably younger than us. I didn’t know what was on Lian’er’s mind. She said with a smile after she saw her face, “Okay, I won’t kill you. I’ll just leave a mark on you!” She pointed with her sword and went for her face. This time, it did seem like she wanted to leave a mark on her. 

The girl responded in fright before I could say anything. She flicked her bronze sword, the tip bounced up and crossed with Lian’er’s sword. Then her sword slid, clearly to the left, but halfway through, it swerved to the right, thrusting toward an acupoint on the left chest!

Lian’er and I, one within the fight and another without, were startled when we saw the move, but it wasn’t because the move was dangerous. While we were in shock, the girl leaped up to the roof and ran away. In a moment, all we could see was a black spot in the distance. 

The young lady in the battleground wasn’t in a hurry. She looked at the roof before turning back and asked with a frown, “Did you see that? That move is our sword technique, right?”

I nodded, my eyes fixing on the faint black spot in the distance. I held my breath and out came the words, “Go after her!”

[1] It’s a negative idiom which is often used to criticize people who behave in a way to attract others’ attention. 

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 66 Yin and Yang

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 66

Yin and Yang

I thought we were heading back to Yellow Dragon Cave. Who knew she would bring me straight down the mountain. If Lian’er was imitating what Master did that year, she was thorough with her imitation, even the place we were staying was the same. It was the same inn and the same quiet room around the corner. 

I only found out later that it was the usual place her people stayed every time they came to her. It was sort of a meeting point. Although the two innkeepers who were also the bellboys had quit being a bandit long ago, their outlaw sentiments still remained. Their admiration for Lian’er had grown deeper now and were closer to her than me. 

Coming back to an old place, the place was still the same place, but everything else changed. It was supposed to feel different, but my injuries had washed away any kind of nostalgia I had. The broken bone was killing me. In retrospect, the internal injury I had that year wasn’t too bad. I had had this kind of injury before, so I thought it would be like a familiar old friend. It was while I was getting treated that I realized how different it was without painkillers, especially when the old doctor was repositioning my right arm. I felt how the wolf pup had felt that year. I could only comfort myself by mocking myself that it was karma and brave through it.

Once my arm was repositioned and fixed with splints, the torment of swelling and blood stasis began. Lian’er only let the old doctor attend to my bone injury but not the injury on my chest. She insisted that common people couldn’t treat internal injuries and wanted to do it herself. I was thinking it would be quite awkward to get the injury examined considering where it was, so I was more than happy that she thought of that. Anyway, she could do anything she wanted, and I would just drink up every concoction she served me. Sometimes, I downed seven or eight bowls of it. Even the plain porridge tasted bitter after that, so I just pretended what I was having was a medicated meal.

Three days went by like this, and it was calm and peaceful, but on the fourth day, an unexpected guest came. 

“It’s been a few days. Are you feeling better?” Looking at the smiling man the bellboy brought in, Lian’er and I were startled. It didn’t bother me so much, but next to me, Lian’er’s face turned dark. She said angrily, “Yue! How did you find your way here?” She looked askance at the bellboy. The bellboy’s once smiling face turned gloomy after getting a look from her, and he said, “It’s because he could describe how you ladies look in great detail, and he sounded like he knows you, so I thought…What? Did I get it wrong?”

Looking at Lian’er getting worked up, I waved my hand with resignation and replied to the bellboy apologetically, “It’s fine. We do know each other. You can say we share similar interests. Can you please leave us alone? And close the door when you leave and don’t let anyone come close.”

The bellboy was relieved to hear that. He left with a nod. Lian’er threw me a glare but said nothing. She just put her hand behind her back and kept her eyes on the man.

But as if he didn’t notice it, Yue Mingke pulled out a stool, unperturbed, and sat down with his sword in front of him, then he said with a smile, “Miss, you’re so calm. From your look, why do I feel like you already know that I’m coming?” Then he thought of something as he said that and continued, “Right, I haven’t had the chance to ask for your name last night. I wonder…”

“Let’s get straight to the point. My name is Zhu Xian. Zhu of qingzhu (bamboo) and Xian of xianxi (slender).” I waved my hand and said, staring at him, “This name, like the name Nichang, was given to me by our master, your master’s wife.”

Maybe because of my injuries, I felt a little weary these days, so I didn’t feel like beating around the bush. When I made that clear, I received two pairs of eyes that were filled with surprise and questions in return. The surprise in both of their eyes was the same, but the question in Lian’er’s eyes was doubt, and Yue Mingke was obviously wondering how did I know about that and was so sure of it. 

Sure enough, the next thing he said after the initial surprise was, “Miss Zhu Xian, I didn’t remember showing my martial skills. May I ask how do you know who’s my master?”

“Master had a 20-year-promise with her husband. It’s going to be due this year, and there’s a young lady who made a name for herself in jianghu with her unparalleled sword skills and a mysterious background. It’s pretty obvious that Master’s husband would try to find out for himself or send his disciple to find it out when he heard about it.” I took a sip of tea and said, looking down, “As for why I’m so sure it’s because…you can take it as a dream from Master.”

This explanation was the same as no explanation, so surely, the man wasn’t happy about it. He frowned and was about to say something, but his face changed when he heard the last few words, and he said with a heavy look, “A dream…from your master? What does that mean?!”

I ignored him and turned to look at the girl next to me. Lian’er was putting on an angry front and not saying anything, but she didn’t look like she was against me carrying on, so I turned back around and resumed seriously, “I’m afraid that the 20-year-promise has to be void. Our master, your master’s wife, was…gone three years ago.”

The deceased goes. It all depends on how the other person understands it.

Obviously, this man understood it differently than I did. Yue Mingke slammed his hand on the table as he sprang to his feet when he heard that and exclaimed, “What? Who has killed her!?” The cup on the table jumped. If the pearwood table wasn’t sturdy enough, he would have broken it.

“Hmph, she went into Qi Deviation herself and passed away. It has nothing to do with anyone.” I didn’t say anything. It was Lian’er who answered him with a grunt. Even though she answered him, she still looked angry. 

Yue Mingke clenched his fists a few times. After a while, he sighed and sat down. He said as he shook his head, “Who would have thought…even for a master like her…” Then he looked up again and said, “Then where’s her body and the sword manual?” I was about to answer, but Lian’er suddenly curled the corners of her lips and scooped up her sword from the small table. She slammed her sword together with its sheath on the table. The frost on her face seemed to clear, and she said with a smile, “If you want to know about what’s next, you’d have to prove yourself first.”

The man looked at the sheath calmly, then traced his gaze along the sword and up to the young lady. He smiled and said, “What, are you doubting my identity? Does that mean you don’t believe what your martial sister said?”

For some reason, this person kept finding fault with Lian’er and provoked her with words. If I didn’t trust his integrity, I almost thought he was driving a wedge between us on purpose. I frowned and was about to speak, but Lian’er took a quick glance at me before turning back and said angrily, “I believe whatever she says! I just don’t like you. How about that? Anyway, you won’t get to know what’s next if you don’t get past me first!”

Although her words were commanding, it was also tinged with anxiousness, unlike her usual self. I guessed what she said was meant for me rather than him. Lian’er usually wouldn’t bother explaining; she wasn’t good at it either. It was rare for her to be so eager to explain. How would I not know her? At that moment, my brows smoothed out. I didn’t argue with that guy and gave her a silent smile, telling her that I understood.

Just as I thought, the anxiousness in her eyes dissipated at my response. I looked away with a proud smile on my face and waited for the answer from the other person. 

Yue Mingke probably recognized her resolve, so he didn’t say much. He just flicked his sword and said with a smile, “But I reckon you didn’t get enough rest these days, right?” Lian’er said, sneering, “I can easily fight with you for three to five days!” The guy stood up and laughed. “Alright! I wouldn’t have come to Mount Hua if I hadn’t wanted to have a taste of your martial arts! I can’t help but want to try my skills when I meet a worthy opponent. Our masters can never have a duel anymore. It’ll do too if their disciples fight it out on behalf of them!” He said.

As soon as he said that, the girl pushed open the window to the side and jumped out. The room was facing the inn’s backyard. It was a place for storing things. Almost no one would be around there during the day. I helped myself up while carefully cradling my right arm, leaned against the wall, and looked out. I saw Lian’er standing in the middle with her sword drawn and lifted to her chest. She looked over here and said, “After you!”

Yue Mingke had come to the window side by that time, but he wasn’t in a rush to jump out. Instead, he lowered his voice and said softly, “Don’t worry. Think of it as watching a game of chess.” I was startled for a moment before I realized he was talking to me. Before I could respond, he took a breath and jumped out, landing on the backyard’s ground. 

In the small open ground, the two of them were facing each other and focusing on each other. No one moved for a long time. Suddenly, Yue Mingke’s sword shivered, and he shouted, “Watch out!” Emanating a cold glow, the tip of the sword was thrusted toward the girl’s shoulder!

Lian’er extended her sword, striking slightly to the left, but it swerved midway and slashed to the right instead. At the same time, she lowered her body, defending while attacking, sending out a move as she deflected a move. Yue Mingke changed his move right away and warded off the incoming attack. Attacking and defending all happened within millimeter change of movement. They were moving as fast as lightning. The exchange of swords were smooth like the flowing water, deft and fluid. A few dozens of moves had been sent out in a second. They were going neck and neck!

I was watching upstairs, holding my arm and leaning against the window. After a while, I felt the swords were dazzling, and everything was a blur. I felt like my eyes couldn’t keep up. They both had a complex variation of sword style. I was familiar with Lian’er’s sword style, but Yue Mingke’s sword style looked familiar to me too. It was a good thing that I had read Master’s blood-written note before and knew that our sword style was derived from the same sword manual. It was just a different variation, one yin and one yang. That was why I wasn’t too surprised. I was just worried that Lian’er would get too excited, and it sparked her competitiveness. 

With that worry, I stared at the fight below, my eyes fixed on them. I saw two figures going faster and faster. The Seven Master’s formation was a child’s play compared to this. The girl’s sword moves were sharp and peculiar, light and fast. The man’s sword style was graceful and calm. The gleams of swords were crossing each other and changing. They were already three hundred moves in. Even though the fight was intense, neither was giving way.

As I was getting restless and thinking whether I should pull them apart, I suddenly heard the man shout, “Away!” The girl jumped a few feet away from the battleground. She turned around between the trees, as if wanting to fight again, but the man had sheathed his sword and shouted, “We’re at the same level. It won’t do us any good if we continue fighting. Now can you tell me where your master was buried and where the sword manual is? I’m in a hurry to get back to my master!”

Lian’er sheathed her sword and replied, “The sword manual is in the stone chamber at the further end of the cave. Just move the two stone covers. I carried out Master’s last wish and informed her death to Taoist Zhenqian at Luoyan Peak three years after her death. I was going to ask Taoist Zhenqian to inform your master. Since you’re here, you go find it yourself. As for her body, I don’t know. You ask whoever knows it!” After that, she jumped in through the window without looking back and came to the table to pour herself some tea, not looking back at the backyard at all.

Besides finding it funny, it was a relief to see her drink in a huff. I turned around and said calmly to the person outside the window, “Everything she said just now is true. Sorry that we couldn’t tell you where Master’s body is. Please tell that to your master, everything in the past died in the past. Why cling on to a dead body? Besides, she wouldn’t have wanted anyone to see her body given her prideful nature. Just keep how each other looked when they were young in memory.”

The man in the backyard pondered for a while. He seemed to agree and said, cupping his fist, “In that case, please lead the way.”  Lian’er sneered beside the table when she heard that and replied loudly, “Equal rivals can’t stay together! Or do you have the nerve to ask a wounded lady to lead the way for you?”

I looked at her again and shook my head as I smiled, then I spoke towards the backyard, “You heard that. Sorry, I can’t help you. I think Taoist Zhenqian at Luoyan Peak and Zhuo Yihang should know about it. If you haven’t parted ways with him, he should remember the way. As for us, we’ll part here. Until next time.”

After I finished, I reached over, ignoring whether he still wanted to say something, and closed both window shutters and slipped the pin in, shutting all the noises out.

The room was quiet. It had returned to its peaceful state earlier—maybe it was a little too peaceful. Lian’er didn’t care about what I did. She kept pouring herself tea at the table, as if she was very thirsty, but when I took a closer look, she was sipping the tea idly, dragging the time out. 

I chuckled with my lips pressed and strolled over step by step while holding my arm. I didn’t speak when I came behind her. When I saw that her cup was half-empty, I reached over to take the teapot, wanting to fill her cup for her, but this act seemed to alarm her. She wheeled around and looked at me with her brows frowned, then she said, “Go and lie down on the bed! Why are you standing here?” 

“I’ve been in bed for a few days. It’s good for me to get up for a bit.” I replied with a smile. Holding the teapot, I was about to fill her cup, but the next moment, my hand was empty and the teapot was in the girl’s hand. Lian’er snatched the teapot and laid it down on the table. She said angrily, “Who has asked you to do that? No matter how insensitive I’m, I know not to let a wounded person serve me!”

Her anger came all of a sudden. At first, I thought it was because of the sword fight, but on second thought, she rarely took it out on others even though she had a bad temper. Then when I thought about what she said, what she was trying to say slowly dawned on me. I couldn’t tell her that directly, so I nodded, playing along with her, and said with a smile, “Mm, I’ll go lie down. Don’t be angry.”

I turned around but didn’t manage to move. I felt something was pulling at a corner of my shirt. When I turned back again, my shirt was clutched in her hand.

Lian’er tugged at my hem. When she saw me looking at her with a confused look, she blinked uneasily and looked away to the side. She cleared her throat and said, “…I…just now…I wasn’t angry at you just now…”

I couldn’t help but titter. I knew she might get angry, so I said before she could, “I know it’s tiring to look after me for a few days straight and you just had an intense fight. You’re tired, right? Besides, there’s no hard feelings between us. Don’t worry about it.”

Lian’er had been sulky for a few days since the night I got hurt. I could tell although she pretended to be indifferent. I had an idea what the reasons were, but I couldn’t be sure. Besides, she was stubborn and prideful ever since she was little. Since she tried to hide it, it wasn’t a good idea to bring that out in the open, so I could only let her know in both a direct and an indirect way, hoping that she would listen.

“I…” But she didn’t let go after hearing what I said. Her eyes wavered, and she was pondering, looking as if she had something to say.

This was not like the Lian’er I knew. Sure enough, she hesitated for a while and got frustrated before I even said anything. Her head shot up. As if she had made up her mind, she said proudly, “If anything happens again in the future, I’ll never forget. I’ll definitely put you first. Don’t worry!”

Her eyes were sparkling when she spoke. After locking with the burning eyes for a while, I dropped my eyes, nodded, and said with a smile, “Alright, I’ll remember that.”

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