Category: The Witch Nichang (Page 1 of 10)

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 89 Go On

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 89

Go On

No matter what had happened, and how the future might be, we must go on with what we were doing. 

Lian’er stubbornly refused to agree to what I suggested. I knew there was no point in convincing her, so I put it aside for the time being, and we started on our way back before the sun rose. Thankfully, it was a smooth journey and went without a hitch. Even so, it was already dawn by the time we made it back and regrouped with the camel caravan that was waiting for us at the same place. The rising sun was unobstructed, reflecting the trepidation in their eyes.

When we took the filled water pouches and poured out the luscious water to share, the two guides dropped to their knees facing west, praying reverently while murmuring some kind of chant. They were thanking their God, but actually, they should have thanked the girl in front of them. 

God had hidden the water but not from the eyes of Rakshasa.

The water was a reassurance to the team. Holding the water pouch, Old Tie gulped down the content and let out a satisfied sigh. After a while, he furtively pulled me aside and told me that the older guide was indeed acting suspicious last night, but thankfully, he didn’t give him any chance to do anything. After that, he patted my back and complimented me that for someone who usually kept to herself, I sure had a keen eye for people. I smiled, neither agreeing or disagreeing. I didn’t want to tell him that I had never fully trusted him either. 

In times of crisis, my trust lay not in Tie Feilong himself but his pride and confidence. Now that I think of it, I’m just a coward who is always suspicious of others. 

I didn’t have to let anyone know what I was thinking. Since everyone was fine and everything turned out well, we could leave it at that. That day, the caravan took a detour and headed towards the dried-up lake. We arrived at dusk. This time, it was Lian’er and Old Tie who went down to fetch water. It took them about three to four trips to replenish the caravan’s water reserve. The empty water barrier on the camels was filled again. There was nothing more comforting than that in the desert. 

We rested by the lake that night. Lian’er and I were worn out from the previous trip, so we just crashed out. It was a silent night. However, when we left the next morning, Lian’er, seated on the camel, glanced back at the receding lake. Suddenly, she leaned close to my ear and whispered, “When we were fetching water yesterday, Old Tie was just waiting at the bottom of the hole. He didn’t enter the water cave.”

My ear felt ticklish. I had to lean back a little. I didn’t understand why she was bringing this up, so I smiled and said casually, “Yeah, the gap in the rocks was too small. Old Tie probably couldn’t squeeze through with his burly body.”

“So…” she added with a smug smile, “When we came out, I sealed the cave with rocks to make sure that even if someone goes down there in the future, they won’t see anything.”

I was confused. I asked, perplexed, “Why would you do that? What if someone’s looking for water?” But she rolled her eyes and huffed nonchalantly, not answering my question. 

At that time, I didn’t understand what she was doing, and later on, I couldn’t figure it out either. I didn’t actually try to figure it out because after that, just dealing with all the situations that happened every now and then along the way was exhausting enough. And the so-called situations were just certain… behaviors of Lian’er.

I didn’t know how that situational intimacy in the cave had affected her, but it did cause some changes in Lian’er behaviors afterward. The most noticeable one was her increasingly frequent…physical contact, even going as far as more intimate skin-to-skin contact.

I remembered she used to detest these contacts when we were young, probably feeling somewhat belittled by them. Now that she had gotten a taste of something different, she was so eager to “belittle” me. And this enthusiasm of hers was giving me a headache.

But I was somewhat relieved that although she wouldn’t agree to a certain request earlier, she wouldn’t insist on getting her way at my refusal. When I refused her attempt for the first time, I thought it would upset her, but surprisingly, it didn’t. Instead of getting upset, she tried all kinds of ways to… tease me. Although Lian’er didn’t really understand what teasing was. 

I didn’t know what she was thinking. Was she trying to divert her annoyance? Or was she just curious? Anyway, when she couldn’t get the “competition” she wanted, she started to become interested in other places. Oftentimes, as we jolted and swayed on the camel’s back, she would suddenly lean over and peck my cheek or my chin, sometimes even my nose, eye, or ear as if nothing happened.

If it was just that, it would be fine, but a lot of times, she would stick out a bit of her tongue and brush my face as she moved away, and that was something I couldn’t stand. So, from then on, every time she hugged me from behind, I had to be on my guard. It used to be a place where I could let down my guard, and now I had to constantly stay alert to not be surprised by her spontaneous actions while I wasn’t paying attention.

Sometimes, I felt like it was as if she had discovered an uncharted territory worth exploring. It didn’t matter where exactly she was exploring, what mattered was that it was fun. 

Sadly, as the subject of her exploration, I obviously lacked the effective way to deal with her antics. I was even secretly relieved that this explorer’s antics were limited to the area above my neck, and she knew to maintain some degree of decorum and only did that when we were alone. It was just that since we spent a lot of time on the top of the last camel, the time when we were alone seemed a bit too much. 

I had to admit, other than annoyance, I could sometimes taste the faint hint of sweetness and hope about this change. Lian’er didn’t mean any harm; I had no doubt about this. If the so-called “competition” was confounding, then the frequent probes and touches at least proved that she accepted, and even enjoyed this kind of intimacy. Acceptance and enjoyment, after all, offered more promise than rejection and aversion. 

I didn’t know if she had taken what I said that night to heart nor if she had thought about the answer. Lian’er had always been someone who liked to make her own decisions. She would ask if she couldn’t figure it out. Since I had given her the choice, all I had to do was wait. But who would have known while I was waiting, I would have to endure this torment. 

All I could do was gaze up at the sky in resignation. If this kept on, I wasn’t sure if her relentless curiosity would wane first, or if my depleting patience would wear thin first. Maybe the heavens had heard my wish because in two days, a solution presented itself.  Unfortunately, this solution had nothing to do with the anticipated relief. 

Heading north all the way, we finally made it through the desert, but the surroundings remained desolate, with masses of rocks and stretches of sand appearing alternatingly. Gradually, the rugged Kuruktag Mountains come into view. Over this sprawling mountain range lay ahead of us was the way out of this no man’s land, and further down the road was an easy ride leading directly to Turpan. However, in the days of traversing the mountains, my body was getting weaker and started to act up again. 

It was only after we left Dunhuang and started traversing through this harsh, arid desert that I realized that my body in this world had a tough time adapting to the weather. Other things I could handle, but the uncontrollable nosebleeds were a lot to handle. I thought it got better in Lop Nur, but now, it came back again unexpectedly. It was just a few drops at first, then it became more and more, until it reached a point where even when I pressed my hand against my nose, they would seep out between my fingers. 

I didn’t hide it from Lian’er this time. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. As this happened, her playful mood was gone, and every day, she would remind me to drink water and rest whenever she was free. Even so, my condition didn’t seem to get better. We only had so much water for each day. With the bleeding getting worse, I became weaker and weaker. 

Finally, Lian’er got worried. She badgered the guides to go without stopping. The guide, summoning his courage, tried to explain how it isn’t a good idea, but he almost got himself killed by her sword. Seeing the chaos unfold because of me, I couldn’t think of any other way but felt bad for him and tried to convince her otherwise. All I could do was hope that we would reach an inhabited area faster, where my condition could get better, just like it did in Lop Nur. 

Unfortunately, the more we tried to rush, the easier it was to get into trouble. 

Under the pressure of Lian’er and Old Tie, the two guides reluctantly braved themselves and pushed on without stopping. Traveling through the rugged mountains late at night was very dangerous because it was easier to get lost, slip, or even come across bandits. So, when the night wind carried the neighing of horses and the cries of people echoed from the distance, the guides’ faces were instantly drained of blood. 

They immediately stopped the caravan, urging us to dismount the camels, and kept motioning a silent gesture as they explained with their quivering voice that there must be a caravan being robbed ahead, and we needed to stay low tonight. It was a normal reaction because they had never gotten to know how strong the old man and the girl traveling with them were. 

Old Tie, of course, wasn’t afraid of troubles. He guffawed and exclaimed, “Haha! I’ve been bored for the past few days. It’s about time the heavens let me loosen these old bones of mine! Let’s see how strong the bandits are in the West compared to those from the Central Plains!” With a laugh, he darted towards the hillside like a soaring eagle.

But Lian’er didn’t follow after him. She glanced at me hesitantly and stayed seated. Robbing was something she did for a living, her expertise. How could I not understand her itch? So I wriggled out of her arms, smiling, nudged her, and said, “Chief Lian, Hero Lian, what are you waiting for? If you wait too long, there’s nothing left for you after Old Tie has loosened his bones.”

Indecision wasn’t Lian’er’s nature. With a little teasing, she shot me a glare, then thought for a moment, and said, “Fine, you stay put on the camel and don’t move. Drink water when you’re thirsty. I’ll be right back!” After seeing me give her a serious nod, she leaped off the camel and vanished into the night sky. 

I saw her off with a smile, then I turned to look at the guides whose face turned even paler and said affably, “Don’t worry. Even if there are thousands of soldiers on the other side, those two can still take the head of the general. They both are people who’ve made their name. The sword isn’t just for show, and of course, they won’t kill innocent people. Relax.” When I asked them to relax, I myself was relaxing. Looking at the crescent moon and listening to the clamor of cries and shouts coming from the other side, I was calm. All I had to do was wait for her return. 

But it was at that moment, I felt a slight itch on my nose and saw the crimson droplets on the back of my hand. It was already the fourth time that day. I had gotten used to it these days. Tilting my head back, I pressed one hand against the bleeding nostril, the other reaching for my water pouch at my waist. But the bleeding was heavier this time. As I tilted my head and pressed against it, the blood flowed back too quickly, and I choked on it, setting off a fit of uncontrollable coughing. As I fumbled, a sudden wave of dizziness hit me like a crashing wave against a shore. 

Shit… a flash of thought in a haze. Instinctively, I wanted to grab onto the camel saddle, but my hands couldn’t react fast enough. My body felt weightless for a moment, and then I heard the sound of my skull hitting the ground. 

That was the last sound I heard that night.

Slopaw’s note:
Hey, sorry for being away for so long. I’ve been busy with uni and work, leaving me little free time for TWN. I’ll keep translating it but the chapters will be slower. I can’t guarantee when the next chapter will be out. Thanks again to everyone who’s stuck with me and supported me on Kofi and Patreon. There are times when I feel like giving up on TWN, but whenever I see your nice comments about TWN and how much you enjoy it, it makes me wanna continue it. I still love TWN, which is why I’m still translating it whenever I have some spare time. Anyway, I just wanted to give you some updates about TWN, which I should have done earlier. Hope you have a nice day 🙂

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 88 Lips

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 88


Does she know what she’s doing right now? No, she doesn’t. 

Is this a kiss? No, it isn’t. 

It wasn’t her lips that touched my lips. The warm, soft, supple presence felt like a tongue, or maybe it was a tongue. It glided over my chapped lips again and again, her touch gentle as it moved and pressed. This was merely an act of moisturizing, out of care, unrelated to lust.

“Doesn’t hurt now, right?” she asked, her tongue still on my lips, her voice steady and her breath calm. 

So, the ruffled breath in the dark was mine, not hers. 

Enough of this intimacy that has nothing to do with intimacy. Enough of this unthinking teasing! Her hand was still caressing my back, her tongue gliding on my lips, and she was the one I loved, the one who took my heart!

I wanted to stop her, but as if something had been ignited in me, something that had been suppressed for a long time. Now it swelled fast in my heart, riding on the darkness. It swept away everything in its path, unstoppable. My spine spasmed straight, and I reached out and clasped my hand exactly on the back of her head. Irrepressibly, I pressed down, turning what seemed like a lick into an actual kiss. 

Eyes unable to see, ears unable to hear, vigilance and rationality gone, only a fire left burning in my chest, quenchable only by her. 

Thirsty, not my body, but my heart. 

Sealing lips, claiming the kiss, drawing it in, and reaching in. I tried my best to control myself. Even so, I wasn’t exactly gentle with it. How could a parched person sip and savor the water when they came across a spring? The only thing to do was to dive in and drink to their heart’s content!

A muffled grunt sounded in the dark the moment my lips clashed into her teeth, but shortly after, her breath was just as fast as mine. Perhaps this somewhat forceful advance had triggered her competitiveness, perhaps it was the sweet and salty taste of blood seeping from the cracks on my lips that had kindled her wild side. Anyway, the expected pushback or rejection didn’t happen. Instead, she came back with more force.   

Even though I knew it didn’t come from the same want as mine, I let myself indulge in it. This was a fight, a literal fight of lips and tongue. It was intense and unbridled from start to finish. The overtaking and overtaken, the domineering and domineered between lips, tongues, and teeth. My chin ached from being gripped, and the hand on the back of her head returned it by pressing down as hard as it hurt. The icy-cold water streaming down the wall trickled down my hair and my brows, but my body was still burning. I was slightly suffocated, and the world was spinning. Finally, a hard shove separated our entangled bodies, bringing everything to an abrupt halt. 

The only sound in the dark was the sound of Lian’er’s huffing, her breath heavy and ragged. I rubbed my right shoulder, which ached from the shove. Panting, I silently backed up a little on my hands and knees, putting some distance between us. Half-kneeling in the narrow space, I awaited the conversation that was bound to follow after she had caught her breath.


When her ragged breath had calmed down, she spoke with a hint of indignation in her tone. The first word she uttered left my heart hanging, but she then continued, “…why can you hold your breath longer than me?”

“…” What I heard didn’t seem to match what I was expecting. I slowly furrowed my brows, then responded with a dumbfounded face, “Huh?” 

This time, I heard her answer loud and clear. There was no mistaking it. “I was already out of breath. Why do you still look so chill? And you catch your breath faster than me. How is this possible? No way, I’m supposed to be better than you at breathing and qigong!” There was the sound of water splashing in the dark. She fumbled toward me and grabbed my hand, demanding, “I don’t believe it. Again!”

That “again” left me stunned. Suddenly, I was enveloped by a familiar presence, greeted by softness once again. 

However, this time, the fervor was gone. The unquenchable fire was smothered the moment I was pushed away. The burning desire died down. Fervor made you dauntless, but it never lasted. Rationality returned after a burst of passion, so all I could do was accept her in a baffled daze, but kept my lips pressed together. 

Naturally, she realized that, and after a few exploratory attempts, she backed up dejectedly, patted on my arm that she was holding, and grumbled, “What? Are you going to back out after getting me once? I don’t think so.”

What she said about “getting her” snapped me back to reality. Like an out-of-use machine, my brain sputtered back to life.

I let out a “ah” as if woken up from a dream, then I whipped my head to the side and feigned a few coughs, feeling the heat rising to my ears. Flustered, I covered my mouth and said, “Um—cough—Lian’er… let’s, uh, hold on a second, okay? How about we leave this pitch-black place first? We… we can talk about it once we get out of here… sounds good?”

In that moment when I was pushed away, I thought I was about to face some questioning, a trial I couldn’t avoid or lie in. Getting a verdict that would only send me plunging into the abyss. 

Who would have known that I would come through it in this strange way. 

Or perhaps, I was just clinging to life. 

Whether I had come through or clung to life, with no verdict in sight, I had to keep on struggling. The first thing was to leave this place, leave this narrow, dark cave that made people go out of their mind. This place made me experience a long-forgotten sense of being lost and out of control, and thus it was somewhat intimidating. Although there was nothing strange about this place, or everything… everything’s just… 

Fate makes its move, and everything just falls into place, pushing us forward into the unknown. 

Initially, Lian’er was unconvinced about my sloppy suggestion. She was still dwelling on losing out to me on holding her breath. It wasn’t until I used thirst and cold as a reason that she begrudgingly went with my suggestion. 

In the next few minutes, we straightened ourselves up and filled up our pouch and an empty water bag that we brought along with the flowing water from the wall. This subterranean water seeping out from the walls seemed to be the source of the small lake. The water gathered into a lake. It dried up and returned to the cave. It was unclear what had happened. Even though the water pooled around the source was shallow, it was sweet and clear. It quenched our thirst and cleaned us up, washing away the accumulated sand and dust from the past few days. We felt refreshed but also a lot colder.

Leaving the cave was a lot easier than entering the cave. Even though we were still moving in the dark, with Lian’er leading ahead, everything was fine. I didn’t even have to grope my way forward. I just had to hold her hand and follow her lead, staying low, ducking left and right, and climbing up one step at a time. 

Other than these simple exchanges, we weren’t talking. Behind the facade of focusing on walking was a constant stream of thoughts running in my mind, contemplating how to explain things once we got out of the cave. 

I had to give an explanation. If I kept putting it off, and she found out what it meant later, things weren’t going to end well given her temper. 

But how should I go about it? I couldn’t think of a good answer no matter how. 

I had wanted to get out of this deep, dark cave so badly earlier, but when I couldn’t come up with any explanation, I was hoping we were slower. Regardless of the pace, fast or slow, we eventually saw the sky again. 

Stars were scattered across the vast sky still. It had been just under two hours since Lian’er went into the cave, but it felt like a lifetime had passed.

In the cold night of dessert, my soaked body felt ice-cold as the wind picked up. It could be an exaggeration when I said I was cold in the cave, but now it couldn’t be more true. Looking at me, trembling and hugging myself, Lian’er just said one curt sentence, “No rush, let’s start a fire and dry our clothes first.” Then she drew her sword and went to chop some reeds and branches. I wanted to go with her and help but she stopped me and told me my only job was to channel my qi and warm myself up. But until the fire was built, I was in no mood to channel my qi and warm myself up whatsoever. 

Even so, the so-called “good” answer eluded me, or perhaps, there never was one to begin with. Sitting by the blazing fire, it warmed up my body, but not my restless heart. The burning branches were crackling. In the silent night, they sounded as if they were urging me. Staring at the burning branches for a while without blinking, I finally sighed in resignation, turned my head, and looked at her who stayed by my side. 

In the glow of the fire, Lian’er was looking at me. When I realized where her gaze lingered, I couldn’t help but purse my lips, smiled wryly, and said, “Still thinking about… what happened earlier?”

She nodded frankly, her eyes moving up, locking eyes with me, and then drifting down again. She didn’t even try to hide it. Her gaze felt tangible, making me feel uneasy. I reached my hand up to rub my nose and stopped halfway down to cover my mouth before clearing my throat, and continued, “Just now, in the cave… about what I did… do you find it… um… disgusting? Did it make you uncomfortable?”

Although it didn’t feel like it, I still needed to make sure. If she couldn’t accept it physically, then there was no point in discussing any further. 

“How could that be? Not at all.” Her answer was certain, so sure that it was comforting. But before I could be touched by her unwavering answer, she drew closer and pulled away the hand covering my mouth and said, “Although you’re acting a  little strange when doing that, it felt quite nice. But you can never be better than me. Let’s try it again?”

The campfire reflected in Lian’er’s eyes as she said that. The fire was flickering, and she was eager to try, almost like… a little wolf that had tasted blood. 

I wished I was wrong. Sighing to myself, I stopped her with my hand before she could come any closer. When my fingertips touched her soft and warm lips, my heart stirred.

Knowing that it wasn’t right, I quickly pulled myself together and looked into her eyes, and asked seriously, “Lian’er, do you know what that means?”

Stopped by me, she looked disappointed, leaning back a little lazily, and said casually, “What? Do you think I don’t know?”

“You… know?” The shock was profound. It almost made me jump, then on second thought, something didn’t feel right. I calmed myself and cautiously probed, “Then… what does it mean?”

“Oh, come on, you’re always like this, like you know everything, and I know nothing.” Lian’er gave me a disgruntled side-eye, then her lips suddenly curled into a smile, and she said, “Although I may not know a lot, I know that most people wouldn’t be so intimate with just anyone. If anyone else dares to touch even a finger of mine, I’d make them experience the most painful death. But you’re different. Since we’re the closest, we can do this. I just never thought to give it a try before.”

“Lian’er… ” I almost choked on my words. After thinking for a moment, I asked, “Where did you get this… idea?”

Perhaps she was happy to see my stunned face. Her smile was getting wider. She answered proudly, “When I first founded the stronghold, one of my people colluded with an outsider. When they got caught, they were doing that. Dong Sun said that was the most intimate thing in the world. You can only do that with your closest person. A person who does that to everyone has no shame. Plus she betrayed the stronghold and deserved to be killed, so I got rid of her. Well, there are things about me you don’t know, right? ”

Looking at the flickering flames, silently listening to her story, I understood her, but at the same time, I didn’t know what to say. When Lian’er noticed my silence after she finished, she nudged me and said, “What? Is she wrong?” It was then I raised my head, looked at her, conflicted, and said, “She’s right, but not entirely.”

She heard me but didn’t say anything, her eyes fixed on me, as if waiting for an explanation. I took a deep breath and said, holding nothing back, “Lian’er, there are many kinds of relationships in this world. You might not have understood when you were little, but you should know now, right? Master and disciple, parents and children, that’s family; Buddies and friends, that’s friendship. No matter how deep these relationships run, they don’t do that kind of thing. Only the third kind does.”

“The third kind?” She cocked her head, pondering for a moment before asking tentatively, “Other than family and friendship, there’s only one kind of relationship left, the relationship between a man and a woman, no?”

I no longer looked at her; I dared not look at her, so I turned my gaze to the fire and said in a low voice, “For me, other than family and friendship, there’s only one kind of relationship left, that’s love.”

“Love? You mean romantic love, right? What I’m saying and what you’re saying… ” The voice next to me was confused, “Is there a difference?”

Hearing her confusion, I pulled a weak smile, eyes still looking at the fire. The flames were dancing, bright and fluttery. They destroyed everything yet also purified everything. Staring at it, I said, “That’s something I cannot teach you. You have to find the answer to this question yourself. Until you find the answer, we cannot do that again.”

My voice was calm, but inside, I was nervous. Was this step too small or too big? No one could say for sure. I was forcibly given a shove by fate. Even if I was stumbling, I had to fumble my way forward. What lay ahead, whether it was a paradise or an abyss, wasn’t something I could decide.

In the midst of my melancholy, I heard Lian’er’s response next to my ear. Her voice was decisive, without a hint of hesitation, declaring, “No, I haven’t won yet.”

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 87 Darkness

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 87


Lian’er wouldn’t know what her prank meant to me. She wouldn’t know how mad it made me to use her own safety as a bait for the prank. 

When I heard the first sentence, for a moment, I felt a chill running through my body from head to toe, and beneath that chill, anger simmered. I didn’t want to say anything; I just wanted to get away, but as if it had all been anticipated, a pair of arms had stopped me from behind before I could move.  

Then I heard the second sentence. Strangely, most of my agitation that arose from the first sentence dissipated after hearing that. 

Perhaps it was because I understood why she did that. She just wanted to get her revenge. She had an extreme personality. She either didn’t care, or if she did, she would fuss over the smallest thing. I knew this part of her ever since she was a little kid. I knew she must have been bottling up her anger the few times I had been in danger. I just never expected it to come out like this.

I used to think she wouldn’t bother to do jokes and pranks. Before, she would only do such things to her enemies. It was like a cat toying with a mouse. Hidden behind her playful acts, there was always a deadly purpose. 

And could there be any other reason behind this prank than to express her resentment? Could her wanting me to know what it’s like to worry about her mean she cares about me as much as I care about her? Could it even be that… 

Maybe… I’m overthinking it again…

I shook my head with a wry smile. Yes, Lian’er’s idea of caring for each other referred only to each other’s safety. 

“You’re spacing out and shaking your head. What’s on your mind?” A curious voice sounded, just inches away. I was taken aback for a moment before realizing that the darkness wasn’t a problem for Lian’er. 

It was a little embarrassing to think that Lian’er had seen me panic since the beginning. 

It was just that I had been through an emotional rollercoaster earlier. This slight embarrassment was nothing compared to that. On the contrary, my once taut nerves, frayed from the constant torment, now seemed to snap or stop working. 

The darkness enveloped me. Being in it shut out my senses, and it allowed me to let loose. Now that my feelings ebbed, exhaustion washed over me. So as I relaxed and leaned into her, my mind stilled. There was only so much space, anyway. The arms behind my back didn’t seem to want to let up either. It was tiring to resist. 

Perhaps the success of her prank had put her in a great mood. Lian’er didn’t push any further. She held me like it was natural to her and even patted my back. I realized more and more that she seemed to enjoy being in control. Especially recently, she began to treat me the way I used to treat her when she was a kid. Such a realization left me at a loss as to what to do.


After a moment of silence in the dark, I couldn’t help but say, “Don’t pull pranks like that ever again. It’s scary.”

Amid the gurgling of the water, she gave a non-committal response, but then added casually, “Then you have to promise not to try to be a hero in the future. Otherwise, it’s not fair that only you can scare me and I can’t.”

“That’s not trying to be a hero. I’m older than you…”

Perhaps the darkness allows us to let loose. Even though I knew that I shouldn’t bring this up, I couldn’t help myself. It was the first time I had ever mentioned that to her.

“So what if you’re older?” As expected, she wasn’t pleased about it, her voice rising a few notches. With her voice echoing in this small space, it gave off a sense of aggression. “Age or status, it’s all irrelevant. What’s the big deal about being born a few years earlier and following Master first? Hmph, you should know that in the end, it’s who’s stronger that matters.”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I had done the wrong thing. Hearing her reaction, I kept quiet, planning to steer the conversation away once she was done ranting. It was my fault. I knew that it was foolish to challenge her directly, especially since it was something she had always been sensitive about. It would become a problem if I triggered her competitiveness. 

Her hands moved even as she spoke. Perhaps it felt good to pat my back, and now she gave me a few more pats as she talked, but this time, her hand landed on the wrong place. Although her pats were light, they made me shiver. 

I thought I had the shivering under control, but Lian’er was perceptive. She stopped talking immediately and asked suspiciously, “What’s wrong?” As she asked, I could sense her head lowering, her breath closer. 

“Nothing.” I quickly deflected. Remembering that she could see in the dark, I even kept a straight face. 

There were a few spots on my back that were throbbing with pain, the same with my hands. I figured they were from my way down here earlier, bumping and scraping against the rocks. Either way, I didn’t want Lian’er to know because no matter what her reaction would be, it wasn’t something I would like to see. What I wanted even less was for her to add another entry to my “trying to be a hero” scorecard. 

I had also reflected on whether I had been too accommodating of her, but everything had become a habit. Lian’er had always been strong headed, but back then, I just felt like I was cajoling a stubborn child. From then until now, she had grown up. I was aware of it, but at the same time I wasn’t. Perhaps that was the source of her resentment. 

When you couldn’t see anything, it was easy to zone out. So after trying to deflect her question, I could barely keep a straight face for a moment before I lost myself in thought without knowing. That was why I was so shocked when I suddenly felt something moving under my clothes!

I let out a short, startled yelp, thinking that there was something in the water. Panicked, I was about to roll over. Who knew Lian’er held me tighter, and I heard her voice right next to my ear, saying impatiently, “Don’t move. Why are you shouting? Feeling guilty?” That was when I realized that “something” was nothing but her hand. 

I suddenly realized what was happening, but my heart refused to calm down. Anyone in my place would have found it hard to stay calm. A hand slipped under my clothes from the nape of my neck, sliding brazenly on my back, moving up and down. The wet, slippery sensation was undeniable. In a way, it was worse than an unknown creature crawling under my shirt.

“Lian’er, what are you doing? It’s… ticklish. Can you stop?” I couldn’t get away, so I tried to wriggle away from her in a futile attempt to resist. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, uh, maybe I wanted to cry. 

My face must be alternating between red and ashen. I just didn’t know if she could see it. Even if she could, I didn’t think she would care. “I didn’t know that you’re ticklish.” Sure enough, Lian’er replied casually, “If there’s anything you haven’t told me, I’ll find out for myself. You can’t hide it from me. Don’t move.”

The space was too small, and there was water all around. Being in her arms, I was pinned, unable to move. Hearing what she said, I really felt like crying. Had I put myself in this situation? 

I was panicking and also embarrassed, wondering if I should tell the truth, but the hand under my clothes suddenly pressed on somewhere around my shoulder blade, sending a sharp pain through my body as I tried to get away. I wasn’t ready for this. My body went stiff, and I let out a low grunt. At that moment, I stopped moving. 

When I stopped moving, Lian’er became gentle with her touch.

The space fell silent in the dark, back to the tranquility of only the sounds of gurgling water and breathing. There was no rustling of clothes as everything was wet. Lian’er’s hand glided silently under my clothes, like a slippery and boneless fish.

“Here.” After exploring for a while, her finger touched a spot on my spine, then moved swiftly and accurately to two other spots including the one on my shoulder blade and said, “Here and here. Something’s not right with these three spots. They feel warmer than the other places. They were fine when you were changing earlier. They’re new.”

“Um…” Since I failed to evade the question earlier, I found myself at her mercy. I hadn’t expected her to find out every single injury like this, so I had to admit, “I was in a hurry when I came down and bumped into something a few times… it’s just bruises, nothing serious.”

Lian’er made a non-committal “hm” sound at that, showing no particular emotion. Her hand, the one touching my back, continued to press gently, but suddenly, she grabbed my right arm with another hand. As she lifted my arm, the sleeve slid down naturally. She took a quick look and huffed, “Just as I thought… You’re not scared, are you? Do you want to break your arm again?”

I chuckled nervously and replied under my breath, “Of course not… It’s my right arm, not the left one that was injured before, and it’s just a little scrape. Nothing serious… ” As I spoke, feeling a little guilty, I wanted to pull my arm back. But her hand tightened around my wrist, so tight that it started to hurt. 

I was startled, then I realized that, at some point, her breathing had become heavier in the dark. 

“Lian…er?” I called her tentatively. Maybe because I called her, the pressure on my wrist eased a little, though she didn’t let go.

Her other hand, however, was stroking my back, seemingly unconsciously. When it brushed over my injuries, I felt a mix of pain and itchiness. 

“Why don’t you ever get it?” I couldn’t see her face, but when Lian’er’s voice came through the dark, it carried a trace of frustration, as if something was making her anxious. “Why can’t you act within your means? You were the one who taught me that. Why can’t you take your own advice? Rushing down here so recklessly. What if something happens? What are you going to do, huh?”

Faced with this sudden outburst, I opened my mouth but eventually chose to stay silent and didn’t offer any explanations that I had ready in my mind. 

As expected, she wasn’t waiting for me to explain. Lian’er understood even without me explaining. Her outburst was probably not about this, or more precisely, not just about this.

“You’re weak.” She continued on her own. As if trying to convey her feelings, she said, “You have your strong points and many admirable qualities, but you are still weak. You shouldn’t try to be a hero. Strong is strong, weak is weak. Getting it wrong can cost you your life. You just need to protect yourself. No one wants you to go around worrying about other people.”

“Lian’er, you’re not other people… ” I couldn’t help but protest about that. 

“But I want you to be with me, not to have you constantly worrying about how to protect me!”

Her tone suddenly became stern, and after that, she sighed and continued, her tone softening, “I’m Lian Nichang. I don’t need anyone’s protection, and you’re not under my command, but I keep seeing you trying to act tough. Just this morning, who told you to chase after the water? When you fell into the quicksand, why didn’t you answer my call? And when everyone has their own water, who are you saving yours for? And you haven’t taken a sip yourself until now!”

“I’ve… had some… ” Perhaps I was desperate to change the subject, I, for some reason, started to lie, “You just didn’t see… ”

When I was feeling guilty for blurting this out, Lian’er paused for a moment and then let out a soft laugh, her voice softening, “You did?”

The change in her tone set off an alarm bell in my head. That was the prelude to her fury. Before I could backtrack, she released my wrist, and my right arm was free, but my chin was gripped, my head fixed. A finger touched my parched lips.

“It’s drier than before… ” Her breath was close, tinged with amusement as she drawled, “Are you saying you’ve had water before? Hmm?”

What’s going on with her tonight? I couldn’t help but lament to myself. Is it something off with me or with Lian’er? She had been assertive at times in the past, but I had usually found ways to get around, at least I could tone her down a little. When have I been this helpless? Could it be the tight space and the darkness?

Realizing that I couldn’t remain passive, I shook my head, but I still couldn’t break the grip on my chin. I pursed my lips, made a pained expression, and pleaded, “Lian’er, stop, you’re hurting me.”

It did indeed hurt. No matter how gentle Lian’er was with her touch, when it brushed over those small cracks on my lips, it felt extremely uncomfortable. 

“Oh… ” Lian’er replied. I wasn’t sure if she had also noticed. Although the grip on my chin hadn’t relaxed much, the pressure of her fingertip on my lips was gone. 

Successful with the first step. Before I could think of the next step to appease her. In the dark, something softer approached.

Soft, smooth, and a familiar scent enveloped me. It glided deftly over my lips, pressing gently, and my dry lips were painted with warmth and moisture.

“Doesn’t hurt now, right?” she asked as her tongue met my lips. 

My eyes widened. It was pitch black in front of me, but my mind was blank white.

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 86 In the Cave

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 86

In the Cave

Sometimes, I don’t know what I am to her and what place I have in her heart. Perhaps I am both family and a friend to her, but there’s certainly no concept of seniority and the corresponding respect that usually comes with it. Even so, I thought I’d at least be some kind of a sister to her, but I have never thought that one day she would be ruffling my hair, smiling and treating me like a child. 

So how does Lian’er see me?

Her aggravatingly amusing behavior left me bewildered once more. Normally, I would have pondered over it, but this time, I didn’t have the luxury to do so. Growing up, I had always treated Lian’er with compassion and reason. If reason was on her side, there was basically nothing I could do about her. In the end, all I could do was watch her white figure slowly descending into the uncertain depths of the cave. 

Before that, I had fashioned a torch with dried branches and reeds found on the ground, lit it up, and gave it to her. Perhaps because it was small, it wasn’t good enough for her. She rolled her eyes and said she didn’t need it. I wasn’t in the mood to get around her, so I said seriously, “It’s not for you to light your way. If the torch goes out without any wind after you enter the cave, you must turn back immediately even if there’s nectar or holy well in front of you. Bear that in mind!”

It was something I had to warn her, for her safety, but at the same time, I was worried about how to explain it to her. To my surprise, Lian’er didn’t ask more questions after that. She just looked at the torch, then at me, and said, raising an eyebrow, “Where did you learn this from?” When she saw me nod, she smiled blithely and took the torch. Without saying anything more, she bent down and went into the cave. 

She descended into the cave without making a sound. Even a stone would have made some noise rolling down. There was only a small soft glow quietly illuminating the narrow walls around. Everywhere it passed, the darkness temporarily gave way and reunited as the light faded, and eventually, cut it off from my sight. 

As the thick veil of darkness sealed off everything around, I felt a sense of being engulfed. I patted my face and told myself to stay calm, then sat down crossed-leg amidst the reeds by the cave, counting seconds and watching them tick away. Waiting infinitely was a torture. 

As I counted in my mind, my hands were idly plucking at the dried reeds. The soft snap of each reed was the only sound aside from my breath. The surrounding was quiet, not even the sound of wind could be heard, no insects chirping in the grass. Save for the twinkling stars in the night sky, everything in the world seemed to have frozen in time. 

As the time passed, I lost track of my counting. I messed it up. Is it nine hundred and sixty-five or six hundred and ninety-five? Had it been ten minutes or fifteen minutes? I was cold and thirsty. I had spare clothes in my bag in case my clothes were torn, but the fur coat that was buried in the sand was my only coat. I hadn’t felt cold before while I was moving. Now that I had stopped, the chill began to seep into my bones. 

Sitting with my arms folded, a sudden wave of panic swept over me. It was only when I was alone in this vast world that I clearly realized that I was in the heart of the boundless desert. With the horizon out of sight, only panic was left in me. 

This world to me was nothing more than a vast desert. Initially, I was looking for an oasis to take shelter in, but without knowing, I had redefined the very notion of an oasis. 

Life goes on. When I heard the sudden news of Master’s passing, I was gutted, but the feeling faded eventually. If anything happened to Lian’er, I…

I kneaded my forehead, trying to stop myself from spiraling. It was just torturing myself to think about the worst case scenario at moments like this. It was best to keep those thoughts away. Exhaling, I stood up, wanted to move around to warm up my body. I didn’t dare to stray too far, just pacing back and forth near the cave entrance, keeping a close eye on any movement inside.

I touched my water pouch a few times, but I decided not to drink from it. If we could find water, there would be no rush. If we couldn’t find water, all the more reason not to rush. 

Compared to whether we can find water, what I was looking forward to now was to see Lian’er leap out of the cave, or at least heard some noise from her. But reality seemed to go against my hope. The more anxiously I waited, the more I didn’t hear anything. When my thoughts scrambled, I stopped counting the seconds. Even so, it must have been almost twenty minutes by now. 

Unable to sit still anymore, I returned to the sandstone wall and crouched down. Taking a deep breath, I shouted into the black hole, “Lian’er—” My voice echoed down. I listened closely, but there was no response, so I tried again, “Lian’er, don’t force it. If you couldn’t find it, come back up. It’s not like this is the only way. There’s no need to risk it!”

A moment after I shouted that, I finally heard the long-awaited response, or more precisely, some noise. But that nearly scared the soul out of me because it was faint but clearly a scream! It made me jump reflexively, but then I immediately crouched down again, lying prone at the edge of the entrance, shouting what happened into the cave at the top of my lungs. I remembered the last time I heard a sound like this was on that snowy night when I first met her. She was intimidated by Master when she let out a terror-filled shriek like this!

No matter how loudly I shouted, there was no response from inside. It felt as if something was lurking in the dark, waiting for prey to come close. 

When I didn’t receive a response, I turned around, anxiously grabbing a handful of dried reeds and hastily coiling them in my hand. Before I could make anything out of it, I threw them aside. Without any preparations, I turned and threw myself into the unknown darkness. 

If there was something that even Lian’er couldn’t handle, then any preparation would be useless. I might as well get buried in the pit with her!

Stepping into the dark with this determined thought, I didn’t care to be careful, almost half-falling down the cave. This erosional passage turned out to be narrower and steeper than I thought. The slope beneath my feet was akin to a slide with a rough surface, and the ceiling was less than half a meter from my head. Occasionally, there were one or two stalactites grazing my head and bumping my arms that were over my head. 

With one hand protecting my head, I fumbled with the other hand on the wall to keep my balance. I couldn’t avoid a few scratches and bruises in the pitch-black darkness, but it was nothing serious. Although the steep and narrow passage was treacherous, it was consistent. As I descended, the slope and width of the cave remained pretty much the same. There were occasionally a few winding turns, but I managed to stumble through them. 

With my nerves on edge, my sense of time grew hazy, so when the slope leveled out and my feet landed on the flat ground, I wasn’t sure how long it had taken me to get down here, let alone how deep I had fallen into the cave. 

The tilting feeling was gone, but the cave still felt narrow. In the dark, the only sound was my own labored breathing. The narrow passage made the sound feel stifled. I knelt on the ground and took out a flame stick to get some light but realized I couldn’t light it. It was because of the high humidity in the air that it wouldn’t light. I could even faintly hear the sound of water. 

But where was the water? More importantly, where was she? 

I couldn’t see, so I had to rely on my hands. Carefully, I felt my surroundings. As I suspected, it was a very cramped place. There was barely enough room to stand. I could touch every wall around me just by moving around a little. 

Stones. The walls were nothing but damp, slippery stones, and what’s more crucial was that, apart from the narrow passage behind me that had led me down, there seemed to be no other way out. This place felt like an enclosed space. 

If it weren’t for an object I felt on the ground, I might have thought I missed some fork on my way down. What I found on the ground was a short, slim dry object. Holding it in my hand, I could feel it was short and smelled burnt when I held it up to my nose. This should be… the remains of the torch I had given to Lian’er before she entered the cave. 

She had been here, but then what? She couldn’t have vanished into thin air, could she? 

Filled with confusion, I once again explored every inch of this space, leaving no stone unturned. This time, I finally felt a small horizontal gap near the edge of the furthest wall. It felt like a crevice, long but rather narrow, barely wide enough for a thin person to squeeze through while lying down. If that person was slightly bigger, there was a risk of getting stuck. But when I cocked my head toward this crevice, I could clearly hear the gurgling sound of water coming from inside. 


Despite not knowing what was going on and with all my caution, I couldn’t help but call into the crevice, “Lian’er, are you in there? Can you hear me? Can you answer me?”

At first, there was no response, just the vibrations from my voice. Based on the resonance, it seemed like there was some space on the other side, perhaps even more spacious than where I was. After a couple more calls, I heard a brief faint sound. It was hard to discern, but it was definitely a human voice!

Who else could be here besides myself? My heart leaped with joy, and I was filled with hope. Without saying anything, I lay down and squeezed into the crevice with all my force. The crevice was as tight as I anticipated. I could feel my bones groaning with pain. I had to breathe in and out and relax my body as best as I could to squirm my way through little by little. When my hips had safely squeezed through the crevice, I flipped over and tumbled into the water. 

The water wasn’t deep, just a shallow pool. It wouldn’t go over my head even if I was lying flat on the ground. In my haste to get up, I forgot to gauge the space above me. So, I almost bumped my head on a stalactite hanging down from the ceiling before I could stand up straight.  

A soft, snorting sound came from the dark, sounding like… a laugh? 

“Lian’er?” I widened my eyes in confusion and looked in that direction, “Lian’er, is that you?”

There shouldn’t be anyone else here, and even if there were, in this pitch-black darkness, they couldn’t have seen that embarrassing scene just now, let alone laughed. 

I asked but received no answer. In the pitch-black space, there was only the sound of water and breathing. 

But it wasn’t just my breathing.

Collecting myself, I lowered my body and walked towards that direction hunching. The ceiling was getting lower. Before long, I had to crawl in the water on my knees and hands, but as I went on, the gurgling sound of water was getting louder. It was the sound of water streaming down and washing against the rock wall. It was the source of this pool of water. And also the source of the other set of breathing. 

As I slowly moved closer and reached out, I finally touched a warm presence. She was at the end of the water, half-leaning against the solid rock wall behind her. The gurgling stream flowed down next to her, like a kind of light shower. “Lian’er?” Uncertainly, I called her, but still no response, only the steady sound of her breathing. Since I couldn’t get an answer, I could only find out with my hands. 

Considering the limited height in this place, I could only crawl to her while taking care not to squash her. I reached out with caution. Her sword was sitting snugly on her right, undrawn. I flipped her wrist that was in the water. Her pulse was normal. Nothing was bent weirdly. Her waist and abdomen seemed unharmed. Even as I leaned in to sniff, apart from her familiar scent, there was no unusual smell like blood or anything of the sort. The more I examined, the greater my confusion. Carefully, I continued to feel upward, and when I cradled her face and felt around, I froze. 

I froze, not because of anything bad. The place my fingers brushed felt smooth, no signs of injury. It’s just…

It’s just… the corners of her lips. She was definitely smiling. 

A realization struck me, and I blinked, slowly letting go of her face. I frowned and said, “Lian’er, are you kidding me?” Even as I said that, I was still in disbelief. But the truth was the best answer. The person beneath me suddenly stirred. A splash, and I felt a tug on my back. 

In the dark, I couldn’t see her face, but I heard her cheerful voice, tinged with amusement saying, “What? Are you worried?” In that instant, I heaved a sigh of relief. But the moment I let out that sigh, a surge of anger rose. 

I wanted to pull away, but a pair of arms tightened on my back. There was no way I could get away. I scowled, and as I was about to speak, the amused voice continued, “Getting mad already? Hmph, now you know how it feels to worry about someone. Doesn’t feel good, huh?”

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 85 Desert Night

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 85

Desert Night

Beneath the starry sky, a chiseled sand ridge spanned into the distance, disappearing into the endless night.

Walking through the desert, you could choose not to go in a straight path, but it was crucial to stay on the sand ridge, preferably the ridge of the tallest sand dune because only by standing on the highest point could you overlook the whole terrain and find your direction. 

I shared this little tip with Lian’er before we set off, and she nodded and said, “Mm, I thought so too.”

Lian’er wasn’t someone who would go along with others for the sake of it. If she said so, she genuinely thought so. For most people, knowledge came from experience, but for her, it seemed to come from her innate intuition, perhaps she was what they called a gifted person. I was used to it, so I just smiled and didn’t say much more. 

Old Tie had wanted to come with us. His neigong was powerful. Although his qinggong wasn’t as good as Lian’er’s, it wouldn’t necessarily be worse than mine. He didn’t insist in the end, probably because before we set off, I had whispered to him, “Please keep an eye on the caravan.”

Old Tie might be willing to risk his life waiting for us, but the same couldn’t be said for those guides. Besides, Lian’er had terrified them earlier. If anything happened, who knew if they would take the camels and flee? It’s always wise to be cautious, and I had always followed this principle almost instinctively.

After that, it was a night-long journey. 

For most people, climbing up the steep crests of sand dunes over and over was an incredibly strenuous task. Fortunately, it wasn’t so much of a challenge for the two of us. The qinggong I had put in hours to practice when I was young came in handy tonight. With all my effort, I managed to keep up with her. 

Lian’er and I sped through the desert in tandem. To be safe, we maintained a distance of about ten feet between us and only came closer to talk when we stopped to determine our direction. It was easy to lose your way in the desert, so we made these stops every so often. 

Without any navigation tools, our orientation relied solely on my limited knowledge. Fortunately, my past experiences were still fresh in my mind. The desert night sky was full of stars. It wasn’t difficult to find a reliable anchor point. Combined with the information I got from the guides, it wasn’t too difficult to make sound choices. 

As for Lian’er, she couldn’t explain the reasoning behind her choices, but when we cross-checked our choices, hers often aligned closely with mine. Even when there were discrepancies sometimes, they were minuscule. 

Whenever this happened, she would insist I listen to her, and as long as there wasn’t any major problem, I would go along with her. 

But as the saying goes, “a minor detail can make a world of difference.” Despite Lian’er’s confidence, no one could be sure they were absolutely right. 

“Lian’er, could you—cough—wait a moment?”

When we reached the end of yet another sinuous blade-like sand ridge, I tilted my head and let out a cough. I stopped after giving her a heads-up. Except for the brief pauses to reorient ourselves, we had been traversing the desert for more than four hours without stopping. Now, the moon hung high in the sky, and the night was deep, so I said, “Judging by the distance we’ve covered, we should be… close to our destination, right? We can’t just keep going ahead blindly.” After saying that, I gasped out a few muffled coughs. The night was cold in the desert. Even though my body was steaming and not feeling cold thanks to running through the desert, the cold air that I breathed in made my throat scratchy. 

“Yeah, you’re right.” Compared to my breathless self, the girl a few steps ahead was in an entirely different state. After answering me, she leaped to the ridge’s highest point in a few jumps and looked around before coming back down and said, “All I see around here is sand, nothing else, but there’s a taller sand dune not far away. We can head over there to get a better look.”

I was catching my breath, so I couldn’t respond right away. I just nodded after looking in the direction she was pointing. Then I straightened up my back and when I was about to say “let’s go,” she continued, “Before that, let’s take a break. Tired.”

Tired? I lifted my head in confusion, but I saw Lian’er had already sat down and was reaching for her water pouch at her waist. How could she be tired? She didn’t seem to be out of breath. Unless…

When I realized what she was doing, I smiled knowingly, walked over, and sat down beside her. 

Tired indeed. She wasn’t referring to herself when she said that. 

I chuckled, but Lian’er paid me no mind and started gulping down her water. After a few hearty swigs, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and held out her pouch in front of me, “Drink up.” Well, that was straightforward. 

We were sitting quite close to each other, and when she held out the water to me, it nearly touched my lips. I had to lean back slightly to see her eyes over the leather pouch. Then I shook my head and grinned, “It’s okay. I still have plenty left in mine.”

To prove my point, I gave the water pouch at my waist a little shake as I said that. It made a swishing sound that indicated it was still half full. To my surprise, Lian’er arched her brows at the sound, brought the pouch even closer, and quipped, “I know you have plenty left. You haven’t taken a single sip since the black wind started. Of course, you have plenty left. Do you plan on dying of thirst together with that pouch? Drink up!”

I didn’t expect her to be so observant. For a moment, I was speechless. I was a little happy that she was caring for me, so I didn’t turn down her offer and took the water pouch, my lips quietly curling. 

The freshwater, carried around for days, had lost its sweetness, but it was the most precious thing right now. I brought the pouch to my lips and took a small sip, wetting my lips. Then I pretended to swallow a few times before moving the pouch away and gave it back to her, smiling.

I wasn’t sure if Lian’er noticed. She didn’t say anything when she took the pouch back and just glanced at me, her expression seemingly changing, but in the end, she just said, “Let’s go and keep looking.” With that, she stood up, twisted the cap tight, and hung it at her waist before striding off. 

I felt a sense of relief and quickly got to my feet, following her as we continued our journey. 

We set off again after a short break. Our destination was the “taller sand dune” that Lian’er had mentioned. It stood further north, its slope as steep as if sliced by a knife. Especially when viewed from the base, the peak seemed to reach the sky. If anyone were to hike it, they might have to spiral up the slope, otherwise, it would be almost impossible to reach. 

Even for martial arts practitioners who know qinggong, this place will separate the good ones from the bad ones. The slope was too steep. As soon as you stepped on it, the sand would either dip or slide. It was difficult to get a solid footing. I had to walk in zigzag to make my way up, but it was less of a hassle for Lian’er. I watched as she leaped effortlessly up the steepest side of the sand dune. In a few leaps, she vanished over the top of the sand dune. 

Because of that, by the time I reached the top of the sand ridge, she had already been standing there for quite some time.

Looking at the girl who stood facing in one direction from afar, my heart sank for a moment. I walked silently to her side. Following her gaze, I saw something peculiar at the bottom of the sand dune.

It looked like a sunken pit, oval in shape, medium size. In the bright moonlight, it seemed dark and lifeless. Surrounded by the sun bleached sand, it formed a stark contrast. 

There were some black shapeless objects around the edge of the pit, scattered around in the sand. They seemed to be some sort of reeds. There was even a small poplar tree among the things that lay toppled around the pit’s edge. Looking down from here, everything lying peacefully beneath the starry sky, it seemed exceptionally desolate. 

Sometimes, what you fear the most becomes a reality. After a moment, I sighed and said, “If this is the small lake that the guide mentioned, it seems like we’ve wasted our time.”

“Not quite…”

Surprisingly, she shook her head and voiced her disagreement, “I can smell water here.”

After that, Lian’er stomped her foot and launched into the air. Like a shooting star streaking across the sky, she landed by the dark pit in the blink of an eye. I naturally followed her, and going down was far easier than coming up. In just a couple of leaps, I was on the ground. 

The pit was about a person deep. The ground around it was firmer than the path we came from, not as loose, even with some small rocks mixed in. I crouched down, grabbed a handful of sand, and rubbed it in my hand. Shaking my head, I said, “It’s dry.”

“Let’s try another spot,” said Lian’er in a low voice. As we moved towards the center, there were more rocks, and the sand was getting grittier. After a while, I crouched down again, cleared away a few small rocks, and grabbed the sand beneath, rubbing it in my hand once more. This time, it felt a little different. 

“It’s a bit damp… it might be worth a try,” I turned to Lian’er and said, afraid to get my hopes up too early, then I drew the short sword at my waist. Using it as a shovel, I started digging into the ground. 

Although the ground here felt a bit firmer than the other places, it was still mostly sand. It was easy to dig, and the further I dug, the wetter the sand was, and the color of the sand began to darken.

But it seemed like that was it even when I continued to dig. 

Just when I was wondering if I hadn’t dug deep enough, Lian’er pulled me up. “Okay,” Lian’er said. “Even if we manage to dig until we get water, what good would that bit of mucky water do? It won’t even make up for all your hard work. Let’s stop.”

“What should we do then?” I asked her, my brows furrowed. Lian’er shook her head, not answering, and started to stroll around. The dried-up lake wasn’t huge. As I followed behind her, I noticed she seemed to be looking for something. 

Perhaps because I believe in her keen intuition, I had my hopes up on what she said about smelling water, which was why I started digging earlier. When she stopped me and I saw her searching around, not giving up, I was willing to go along with her even though I didn’t know what she was looking for. We had come this far anyway, what worse could happen to stay for a little longer?

After sauntering about for a while, the girl’s eyes suddenly lit up under the moonlight, then I heard, “Over there!” There was joy in her voice. She took my hand and ran toward that direction. 

Over there was a cluster of dried reeds by the lake, lying flat against the sandstone wall that stood about waist-high. They looked no different from the surrounding reeds. I was dragged along, confused. I couldn’t see anything unusual when we got close, not until Lian’er reached out and parted the reeds that I noticed in the bright moonlight, there seemed to be something darker beneath the sprawling, bleached, dried reeds. 

Lian’er reached out and plucked one of them. “It’s green. It’s alive.”

Reminded by her words, I bent down and grabbed a handful of the sand, but when I held them in my hand, there wasn’t a single hint of dampness. “Strange…” Unconvinced, I parted the dense reeds myself and touched the sandstone wall behind to find that beneath a thin layer of sand was a hard rock, but when I parted it further, I leaped to my feet and took a step back.

“What’s wrong?” Lian’er was looking elsewhere, but she immediately came to me when she saw me back up, her hand poised to draw her sword. 

“No, nothing,” I answered as I smiled and shook my head, getting a grip of myself. I patted her hand which held the sword and bent over to part the dense reeds again. I gestured for her to come and take a look, “It’s just that it startled me a little to see a hole like this so suddenly.”

It was a dark hole at the bottom of the sandstone wall, almost flush to the ground. The opening was quite small, and it was covered by layers of fallen, dried reeds, so it wasn’t visible without clearing them away. 

Lian’er didn’t want to get through the reeds, so she drew her sword and cleared the obstructing reeds with a few swipes. Then, she bent over to take a look and said flatly, “This is the right spot. It’s the dampest here. There should be water underneath. I’ll go take a look.”

Lian’er was a decisive person. After saying that, she stood up and lifted her robe, about to jump. I panicked and grabbed her hand, saying, “Hold on, you said you want to go down there?” When she nodded, I held on to her tighter, afraid to let her go. With my other hand, I groped for a rock on the ground and tossed it into the tight hole, which was just wide enough to fit a person.

As the rock dropped into the hole, I could hear the rock rolling down the hole in the dark, falling deeper and deeper, until eventually, there was no sound to be heard.

“Do you still want to go down there?” I asked with a serious face. She nodded and said as if there was nothing wrong, “I’m not a rock. I could move around. There might be water down there. It’s the water that you were trying to find, digging three feet into the ground just now. You can’t be giving up now? Hmm?”

I had to admit, Lian’er had a valid point. 

After hesitating for a bit, I clenched my teeth and said as I stood up, “Then, I’ll go. You stay up here and wait for me.”

The circumstances left me with no choice. I had to do it. I didn’t know how deep the hole was going to be, and how dangerous it could be. Instead of waiting and being tortured by my imagination, I might as well go down and check it out myself. 

As soon as I said that, Lian’er let out a chuckle. She narrowed her eyes and glanced at me. “You going down? Tell me, how is it better? Is your qinggong better than me? Or are you stronger than me? No way on earth. Besides, it must be pitch-black inside. You wouldn’t be able to see a thing, would you?”

I couldn’t say anything to that, and for the first time in my life, I found myself utterly incapable of arguing against this child. 

Right, I forgot again. She wasn’t a child anymore. 

Perhaps she reveled in rendering me speechless. Toward the end, Lian’er reached out and ruffled my hair. She smiled and said, “You be good and stay here. Just wait for me to come back.”

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 84 Standstill

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 84


When the night fell upon the desert, the sandstorm finally abated. 

The air grew still, and the moon looked cleansed, pieces of shining stones adorned around it. The sand haze was nowhere to be seen. 

It was exactly because of that the moonlight tonight was exceptionally bright, cascading from the sky, casting long shadows over us, playing out every movement of ours on the ground, which made me feel somewhat self-conscious when I was changing behind the camel. 

I was probably the only one who was bothered by it. A rustling sound came from behind me. Lian’er was also changing. Listening to her moving around unhesitatingly, I knew that she probably didn’t care about the shadows. 

She changed because she had been in the sand; I changed because… well, let’s just say all my clothes had been put to good use.

We returned to the group when the sandstorm was almost cleared. Lian’er had driven away the group that came to look for us and escorted me back alone. At that time, she was covered in sand, and I had nothing on but her robe. We were both a mess. She didn’t try to be subtle. As soon as we got back, she shooed the group of men away from the camel and pulled me behind the camel.

Although the sandstorm had died down a lot, I was worried she had gone overboard. Strangely, the others obeyed without much protest. Even the hot-tempered Old Tie didn’t say much and went along with it, smiling. He only seemed a little abashed when he glanced in my direction. 

Perhaps… he had caught a glimpse of me. With a touch of unease, I scratched my face. Though it was embarrassing, it didn’t bother me much. After all, I had my back turned to them, and he most likely just saw my back. I could think of it as having a sunbath on a beach at a seaside resort. 

I comforted myself with these thoughts as I changed, shivering and half-kneeling on the ground. Removing the sand from my body was quite a hassle. I thought I had shaken off most of it, but when the soft silk cloth touched my skin, I immediately felt a gritty sensation on my back. I had to take it off again, reaching behind to brush my back. 

Just then, I felt a warm touch on my back, and I flinched at the unexpected contact. A voice behind me said, “Don’t move.” So, I stayed still. 

It felt like a palm, soft, smooth, and dry, brushing back and forth on my back like a warm breeze, and then, it was gone. A voice said beside me, “Done.” With that word, a figure brushed past me and walked around the camel, going off without a backward glance. 

Ever since we escaped the quicksand, Lian’er had been in a foul mood. I pulled on my clothes and went after her. She didn’t go far, sitting against the other side of the resting camel, her elbow propping on the luggage next to her and her head resting on her hand, staring at the sky. There was no expression on her face, but there was a sense of… melancholy. 

“What’s wrong?” I moved closer and sat down next to her, cautiously breaking the silence. I received an ambiguous glance in response, and after throwing me that look, Lian’er pursed her lips, let out a nearly inaudible grunt, and gazed lazily back at the night sky without saying anything.

I was like talking to thin air. Forcing a smile, I looked down and scooped up a handful of sand, watching as the sand slipped through my fingers. She had truly grown up. It was becoming harder and harder to know and guess what she was thinking. Although this realization had crossed my mind before, this time, I felt it in my heart. 

If it weren’t for the inconvenient circumstances at that time, she might have actually acted on what she said. Curling up in her arms, I could feel that chilling intent flowing through her. I wasn’t sure if she would have attacked Old Tie, but those two guides would never have gotten out of it. 

Fortunately, Old Tie was quick on his feet. Sensing trouble, he pulled everyone back and walked away, and I used needing help with blocking me as an excuse to hold her back. This way, we managed to put her off. Then, Lian’er had been in a bad mood since, and I wasn’t sure what put her in that mood.

If I had to guess, the most possible reason seemed to be that they had seen my… erm… bare back when they came looking for us. Lian’er probably knew that better than me. She was facing in their direction at that time, and her eyesight was the best of us. 

But if I thought about it, it didn’t seem to make sense. Lian Nichang was no ordinary woman. Because of her unique childhood and our Master’s teachings, she had never cared about showing some skin, let alone it was another person’s. Even if she did mind, she would take her revenge. If she couldn’t do that, she wouldn’t hold a grudge for long. 

Could it be because of my reckless act of chasing after the water earlier? But that didn’t seem right either… Or maybe because I failed to retrieve the water? But that shouldn’t be something she’d sulk on… 

As I turned everything that happened in the past half-day over and over in my mind, I still couldn’t figure out what could be bothering this usually straightforward girl for so long. Could this be what they mean by “can’t see the forest for the trees?”

I sat by her side, second-guessing everything. Something just didn’t add up. In the end, I could even taste my own frustration. 

While we sat together in silence, not far off, there came the sound of commotion. There was a fire. Old Tie and the two guides had been sitting by the fire talking, probably discussing the way to deal with this turn of events, but for some reason, the discussion had grown heated, their voices getting louder, then it escalated into what sounded like an argument. 

The noise caught my attention, reminding me that I shouldn’t be only thinking about myself and should care about the situation we were in. I turned to look at Lian’er and saw that she was looking at me too. We got up almost at the same time and walked to them, one after another. 

As she approached with confidence, the two guides who were the loudest both seemed to shrink back, their voices noticeably softer. It seemed that her menacing tough talk had left a mark on them, and Lian’er shot a glare at them, apparently still holding a grudge. 

Afraid that it became too tense, I quickly stepped forward, inserting myself between them. I looked at Tie Feilong with an amiable smile and said, “Sir, what’s going on? You guys are so loud that I could hear your voices over there. Is there something you can’t agree on?”

Old Tie must have known that I was trying to defuse the situation. He grinned and promptly took over the conversation, changing the topic, and said as he stroked his beard, “Indeed, we have different opinions on the matter of water. Three brains can’t even come up with a good idea. So, as you can see, we started arguing.”

I had known that they would be worried about the water situation since it was the top priority at the moment. I didn’t join in the conversation earlier partly because of Lian’er and partly because I felt guilty. After all, I didn’t manage to retrieve the water and nearly did myself in instead. The little fresh water left in our pouches was all we had now. In the vast desert, it was an emergency. 

Naturally, the two guides were panicking about this situation. After discussing it together, they each proposed a solution. The older one suggested we doubled back to Daze Lake with the little water we had left. Doing so would undoubtedly make the three-day return journey excruciatingly difficult, having to endure the thirst, possibly even getting heatstroke, but it offered a higher chance of survival and was safer. 

The younger guide, however, had a different idea. He claimed that heading northeast for approximately a day would lead us to a small freshwater lake. The lake’s water was crisp and refreshing. With plants surrounding the lake, it was easy to spot in the vast desert, but it was slightly off the main route, so not a lot of people knew about it. If we made the detour and filled our pouches, our crisis would be averted, and also, spared ourselves the trouble of doubling back. 

“I guarantee, my friend!” The young man with facial features of a mixed-race emphasized while Old Tie was explaining, “My buddies and I dropped by there a little over a year ago. The deepest part of the lake then was over our heads. Even with the unpredictable weather in the desert, it must still be there. Why should we go through the trouble of going back again, letting all we had been through go to waste.”

When he said that, the old guide seemed furious. Exasperated, he grabbed him and started sputtering at him in the local dialect. The younger guide retorted without backing down. Even though I didn’t understand what they were saying, I knew what they were arguing about. Old Tie rubbed his hands helplessly, and eventually, shrugged with open palms, and said to me, resigned, “See, one wants to go back, the other wants to continue, and both of them make sense. I’m in a tough spot.”

Once I understood the whole situation, I began to feel conflicted as well. If we went with the old guide, we would most likely survive, but it would be extremely tough. The risks were high too, and all the effort we put in the past few days would be in vain. If we listened to the young man, venturing off the main route for a day, it would be great if we made it, but the risk of things going wrong, like not being able to find the lake or discover that the lake had dried up, was what worried me the most. 

After thinking it over, Old Tie and I fell silent, and the two guides stood their ground, the conversation coming into a standstill. Right then, a firm voice came from behind us. 

“What’s so difficult about this?”

Wheeling around in surprise, the one speaking was the girl I shielded behind me. Lian’er stepped forward with her hands behind her back. Seeing that we were all looking at her, she flashed a radiant smile as if she had forgotten her foul mood earlier and said with an arch brow, “Why are you all fussing over such a simple matter? Isn’t it just a matter of not being sure whether the lake was still there? It’s simple. If it takes a whole day to reach there on camelback, the round trip would take me about one night if I go alone at full speed. We can make the decision after I’ve checked it out. Easy peasy.”

The two guides looked bewildered at her words. They didn’t quite grasp what she meant, but Old Tie knew. His face brightened up, but after a bit of thought, frowned, and said, “No, no. Everywhere looks the same in the desert. You don’t know your way around. If you get lost, where can I find another daughter? No, no!”

“Then you don’t know me, father.” Lian’er didn’t get offended at his words but smiled and said, “I grew up on the peak of Mount Hua. Who knows how many times I’ve navigated through the dense forest. When did I ever get lost? Just think about today. Who found her faster than I did? Father, you shouldn’t underestimate me.”

The old man wasn’t giving in either. He waved his hand and said, “Hey, who would underestimate you, the Jade Rakshasa. It’s just that the forest is the forest, and the desert is the desert. They aren’t the same. So what if you found her? Can one mile and ten miles be the same?”

This time, the guides weren’t arguing, it was this father and daughter who started to argue, half-serious, half jokingly. Both refused to back down. I was used to seeing this, so I didn’t pay them much mind. While they were at it, I went to the guides and asked about the details, especially from the young man. I made a mental note of the information I got and made sure I had it all correct before returning to the bickering pair who seemed to be enjoying themselves and separated them. 

“Alright, alright, sir.” I stepped between them and said to Old Tie first, “Actually, there’s some truth to what Lian’er is saying. Instead of sitting and waiting, being indecisive, it might be better to make the most of this night and tackle the problem head-on.”

When she saw me taking her side, she suddenly perked up, as if she had forgotten what happened before. Grinning, she took my hand. Old Tie was unconvinced. He said as his eyes widened, “Zhu’er, are you seriously letting her go? You’ve always been the most protective of her, like she’s your baby. How come you’re not worried now? This is a desert. You won’t get her back if you lose her!”

Old Tie’s words, seemingly slipped out of him, made my ears warm. Thanks to the dark sky, probably no one had seen them flushed.

After getting a hold of myself and the heat had come down, I squeezed Lian’er’s hand and cleared my throat before saying seriously, “I won’t lose her. If she goes, I’ll go with her. We’ll get lost together if we are going to get lost.”

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 83 Rope

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 83


In a way, when Lian’er was angry, she never threatened people. She liked to flaunt her strength, but she didn’t bother with throwing empty threats to do that. She was serious when she said that. Behind her every word, there was her determination to follow through when the time was right. 

It was precisely because I understood her that I knew the weight of her words. 

Was it worth it?

The rush of frustration and anger that had surged within me ebbed away like a tide. Amidst the howling wind, my mind cleared. I thought perhaps it had taken me aback. I didn’t know what to say, just staring at the girl who was sneering, but I couldn’t stare for long as my eyes started to sting, and I turned away frowning, eyes closed, tears rolling down my cheeks. 

However, this seemed to have caused a little misunderstanding. 

“Hey—” After a while, when she spoke again—maybe I had imagined it—the coldness in her tone had diminished somewhat, replaced by a hint of…awkwardness. “Why, why are you crying? Like a couple of days before, you were crying alone outside. Why do you seem to have become a child again? You weren’t like this when you were younger. If you don’t like beheading, just say so. Hey!”

The tears were a reaction to having sand in my eyes, possibly mixed with some emotions too. Regardless, her words completely disrupted whatever mood I was in. I almost burst into laughter but held it back out of fear that it might infuriate her. With my eyes closed, I turned back and said, groping for her, “Lian’er, is your sleeve clean?”

“What for? In this awful weather, there’s no such thing as clean.” Her response was peevish, but her hand gripped my groping hand. 

“As long as it’s cleaner than mine,” I said with a bitter smile and my eyes closed. I raised my other hand. I didn’t need to see it to know that it was covered in sand. My entire body was probably the same. How messy. “I can’t wipe my eyes, and I can’t open them. Can you help me out?”

A snort came from next to me, sounding impatient, but right away, I felt an itchy sensation on my face. 

Lian’er was a little clumsy, probably not very used to doing this. She swabbed left and right, but her touch was gentle, especially around the eyes, so gentle that I could feel her fingertips brush against my eyelashes. 

My rational mind reminded me that we should hurry. We were in a life-or-death situation, both trapped in this voracious quicksand, surrounded by the relentless black wind. We didn’t know our next move, but we shouldn’t waste precious seconds like this. This intimacy came at the cost of our lives, and I shouldn’t indulge in it. But I simply lifted my face and let her swab at my face, not saying a word. 

Lian’er remained silent throughout, as if entirely focused on her task. After a while, her gentle touch left my face, and I heard her say nonchalantly, “All right, try to open your eyes.” 

The moment I opened my eyes, my mind snapped back to the present. No more blurriness; my vision was clear. The dire situation was right in front of me. The sandstorm was still raging. Other than the predicament I had been in, the most gut wrenching thing about this situation was the person next to me now. 

Lian’er had managed to dig me out a little, but at the cost of her sinking further into the sand. Her legs were now almost entirely in the sand. She would have sunk deeper, but I didn’t know what she had done, she stopped sinking if she didn’t move. The reason she had sunk so deep was probably to rescue me. 

“Lian’er, you…” I was both touched and curious. I didn’t know how she managed to keep herself from sinking deeper into the sand. Maybe that was the reason she wasn’t afraid? As I was about to ask, I noticed the spot at which she landed, and realization struck. I couldn’t help but facepalm and backtrack, “You, you… did you use that barrel as a foothold?”

Yes, she was standing on top of the wooden frame that held the water barrel, something that I had fought so hard to retrieve, the lifeline in the desert. Now, she was nonchalantly stepping on it, pushing it into the quicksand. 

“Mm, when I came over earlier, I saw it just lying on the surface of the sand. I thought it might keep me from sinking, so I landed on it.” She didn’t think there was anything wrong and explained matter-of-factly, “Although it didn’t work out as well as I expected, it’s better than sinking directly into the sand, right? What’s wrong?”

“No, nothing.”

Resigned, I kneaded my furrowed brow. I knew she was right. Lian’er didn’t know about the principles of buoyancy and surface tension, but what she did was undeniably clever. I couldn’t help myself feeling a little dejected. That was why after that dismissal, I spoke what was on my mind, “Actually, Lian’er… it might be more practical for you to step on me to save the water instead of the other way round.”

It meant exactly what it meant. In the grand scheme of things, it should be this way, though it was a little strange to be so cold-blooded toward myself. 

Who knew as soon as I said that, the air around us seemed to grow heavier. I could even feel a chill begin to creep in. 

I twitched and realized that my words carried the implication of being ungrateful. Feeling bad, I grasped her hand and said before this little troublemaker threw a fit, “By the way, Lian’er, time is of the essence here. You came in so readily, do you have any plan to get out?”

The change of subject was gruff, but it was the most pressing matter at hand. Even though the wind had calmed down a bit, the quicksand kept pulling us down. Even the slight movement of grabbing her hand sank me back down a little. If this continued, it was just a matter of time before it swallowed me up again. 

Perhaps she too understood the situation. Though Lian’er was displeased, she didn’t throw a fit. Instead, she pulled a grim face and kept silent while she bent down and continued to scope away the sand around me, digging me out little by little. 

Afraid that I would further irritate her, I stayed quiet at first. I just bit my lip and cooperated with her. But how could I continue to cooperate when I saw myself emerging inch by inch, knowing that it was at the cost of her sinking inch by inch? I couldn’t care less if I would anger her. I grabbed onto Lian’er to stop her and spluttered, “Talk to me, what exactly is your plan? Don’t tell me you came here just to die with me. It’s not helping at all!”

It was then she raised her head and said seriously, “I’m here to get you out.”

“So?” I asked, frowning, feeling like we weren’t getting to the point. 

Despite believing that I understood her, at this moment, I didn’t know what she was thinking. I was about to keep pushing when Lian’er managed to free herself from my loose grip, and then she drew closer, slid her hands under my arms, and wrapped around me, a smirk creeping onto her grim face. 

Then she continued, “So? I don’t care about anything else.”

We were about the same height, but with half of me buried in the sand, she seemed imposing, speaking at such a close distance. I froze for a moment before I understood what she said. My chest tightened, wondering if I might have misunderstood her. When I widened my eyes and wanted to say something, it was already too late. 

“That’s right.” Her arms tightened around me, and my vision swayed. For a moment, I thought the smile on her face was mischievous. “I’m here to get you out. As for how I’m getting out next, that’s your problem to figure out!”

Suddenly, the world spun around me. I felt that an unwavering force lifted me up and tossed me out! In that instant, I wanted to grab her and give her a piece of my mind!

But before I could grab her, my swaying vision slipped further away from her face. The sound of the wind rushed in my eyes, and as I turned around, I saw a sword standing tall in the distance. In the swirling sand, it became clearer and clearer. I was tumbling towards it. The sword served as a line with the front being quicksand and the back being solid ground. Crossing the sword meant safety. She had intended to toss me all along!

Anger surged up to my chest, but I swallowed it right away and adjusted my breathing. Lian’er had done that in one breath, but pulling me out of the sand had taken up too much of her strength, so the last throw wasn’t far enough. I started to drop before the line marked by the sword. The window of opportunity was fleeting. Despite my frustration, I couldn’t let her efforts go in vain. 

Swiftly, I twisted my body mid-air to take back control of my body. Facing downward, I stretched my body, and before I touched the ground, I sent two palm strikes onto the ground. With the weak reaction force, I propelled myself forward and slid along the surface for some distance, finally landing on the other side of the sword. 

After tumbling over the sword, I rolled a couple more times before coming to a stop. Beneath me was still sand, but it no longer felt oddly soft. 

However, I didn’t feel safe at all. I staggered to my feet, and before I stood still, I turned to look back into the distance. What I saw sent shivers down my spine. 

On the other side, her throwing me had nearly sunk half of her into the sand. I saw a white figure buried in the sand, up until her chest. It was almost a replay of what happened earlier, but with our roles reversed. 

When I was the one trapped there, I felt like I had fallen into an inescapable deathtrap, but now…

I must come up with a way!

I must!

I thought I would be racking my brain, pacing around like an ant on a hot pan, but surprisingly, I didn’t. There was hardly even any hesitation, and my body just sprang into action. 

In a situation like this, the best way to rescue someone was to use a rope. This required having a sufficiently long rope, but as I had previously concluded, going back to get one wasn’t an option, and since I wasn’t Lian’er, I couldn’t be sure that I could quickly and accurately find my way back in this storm, so that was out of the question. 

So, why don’t I make do with what was available?

I was about ten meters away from Lian’er. I started by untying the belt from my waist and drew the sword to split them in half. I then made a knot and tightened it and removed the bands from my hands and feet that were used to protect against the sand and tied them together. 

Even so, it was still far from enough. The wind was too strong. I held the tied rope with my teeth, and without hesitation, I began to remove my outer garments. The fox fur short jacket meant for warmth was now useless. I took it off and threw it to the ground. I felt immensely glad that I was wearing women’s clothes. The light satin material wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do. 

I unfurled my outer garment into the wind and swung the sword to cut it into three longest pieces possible, tying it with the rope I held with my teeth. Then I repeated it with my shirt, and within moments, I had assembled a long rope. I weighed it in my hand and looked at Lian’er. I couldn’t panic. Estimating the rope’s length and the distance to Lian’er, I didn’t seem long enough, so I decisively took off my undergarment, cut it, and knotted them together. 

The strong wind, carrying fine grains of sand, slapped on my bare back. The exposed skin felt as if being sanded down. I curled my body and did my best to ignore the fiery pain. Quickly and carefully, I double-checked each knot, ensuring they wouldn’t come loose. Then, I turned to the side of quicksand and shouted, “Lian’er! Catch it!” I swung my arm with qi and threw one end of the rope to her.

I was worried that it might not reach because of the distance, but thanks to the wind, the rope sailed through the air like a silver serpent and landed just inches away from her!

I felt a surge of relief, but my relief turned to shock as I noticed that she, for some reason, didn’t move, not even extending her hand. 

“Lian’er!” I didn’t know what was happening. I watched as the wind shifted the end of the rope. Panicking, I called out, “Lian’er, what’s wrong? Grab it! Can’t you see it?”

After my second call, she finally stirred, as though waking from a trance. When I saw her grab the rope, the weight in my chest was lifted. Worried that she might not understand the severity of the situation, I shouted once more, “Take it easy! Be careful not to break it. Let’s take it slow, okay?” Seeing her nod, I began to slowly pull back the rope. 

No matter how light Lian’er was, she was still a person, and coupled with the pulling force of the quicksand, the weight was no small load. And the drawback of using clothing as a makeshift rope was the uneven distribution of material strength. If too much force were applied too abruptly, it could snap at a weak spot. That was something I couldn’t let happen. So, I proceeded with the safest way, applying gentle, calculated force, pulling her back little by little.

I was worried that the raging sandstorm would make it difficult to explain that to her, and Lian’er’s impulsive nature might not understand my intentions. Fortunately, she remained patient and continued to cooperate with me, getting out of the voracious quicksand inch by inch. 

As this continued, the makeshift rope grew tighter, and the sound of fabric straining came into my ears, instilling nerve-wracking fear in me. 

Just at that moment, as if things couldn’t get any more chaotic, there was a faint sound in the wind. 

Lian’er was the first to hear it. I noticed she seemed to flinch and was stunned for a moment. Then, her gaze shifted into the distance behind me. It was only then that I became aware of the sound carried by the wind. It sounded like a call in the distance, gradually drawing closer, and it seemed like there might be more than one person. 

Swiftly, I came to a conclusion, it must be Old Tie and the group. 

If they had arrived earlier, it would make me jump in joy. But now… the biting cold and pain on my skin reminded me of the state I was in. I bit my lips and decided to ignore all that, focusing on the task at hand since I wouldn’t lose anything if they saw me. The other end of the rope was Lian’er’s life. Nothing else mattered. 

However, this decision couldn’t be communicated to her. I was calm, but Lian’er appeared to grow agitated. She started to pull harder, and the fabric strained and creaked in protest. I became worried. Not caring about drawing attention, I kept calling out to her to slow down, but the more I shouted, the more frantic her struggling became. 

Meanwhile, the calls from behind were drawing nearer. If it weren’t for the sandstorm concealing us, they would have likely spotted us by now. 

Finally, as the voices became clear, Lian’er couldn’t stay still any longer. With a leap, she pulled herself free from the pit, and at the same time, under the strain of her force, the rope gave way, and there was a sharp snapping sound!

My heart seemed to stop at that moment, but I saw she jumped using the last boost she could get before the rope snapped. She soared into the air like a rainbow streaking across the sky, moving with astonishing speed, and in the blink of an eye, she landed safely right before me.

It all happened so quickly that I struggled to catch up. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw her safely on the ground. Just as I was about to say something, I found myself enveloped in an embrace.

Lian’er was covered in sand, but strangely, it didn’t grate on me. Perhaps I had been exposed to the wind for so long. Her body felt unusually warm. She held me in her arms, and with her other hand, she drew the sword from the sand and shouted, her voice loud and sharp, “Stay back!”

I remembered her voice was icy and bone-chilling, instilling fear and nightmare. It made the sandstorm seem pale. 

“Who dares to come close, I’ll gouge out their eyes! Cut off their tongues! Cut their fingers! You can count on that when I, Lian Nichang, say it!”

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 82 Choice

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 82


There was…sound…

A sharp, lingering, and penetrating sound…

Is it…a hawk? The sight of a hawk soaring high in the sky. Such a desolate scene… 

I felt heavy and groggy. Amid the grogginess, my organs seemed to function just fine. I heard something, and my mind came to a conclusion without thinking, then after a while, I belatedly quashed it. 

I opened my eyes and blinked a few times. My first thought was that my line of sight was so low, as if I was lying prone on the ground. The sand lay just inches from my face, each grain clearly visible. I could even smell the scent of scorched earth coming from the sand. 

Inhaling the scent, I took a few labored breaths before slowly coming back to my senses. 

Because I hadn’t been moving, my outstretched arms had been buried in the sand. The sand had piled up to my chest and my collarbone. I wondered, unable to figure it out whether I was more like a prisoner in chains or a plant rooted in the ground? 

I was trying to distract myself with these thoughts, keeping myself from struggling which I nearly did a moment ago. 

I didn’t want to die, but if death were inevitable, I could only throw in the towel and hope to meet it with composure and dignity. Going through a struggling and ungainly death once was more than enough. 

As my thoughts wandered, that sound came again with the wind, a whistling sound that was sharp and resonant. Then it reminded me that it was my curiosity about the whistling sound that had brought me back to consciousness. 

When I listened closely after I was awake, it became clear that it wasn’t the cry of a hawk because the sound wasn’t coming from the sky but from the ground, from the other side of the desert separated by the hazy sandstorm. It was a whistle coming from a human, distant and lasting, effortlessly piercing through the raging wind—a feat no ordinary person could do. 

I remembered I had heard this whistle not long ago in the sandstorm at Bai Long Dui. At that time, it was Lian’er who had blown it to reach Old Tie. 

So now, hearing this sound again, was it trying to reach me? 

Still, I dared not make any hasty movement. I strained my eyes to look in the direction of the sound. The whistle was getting closer, and finally, when a white figure emerged from the gloomy chaos, my heartbeat, which had remained calm and steady since I got into danger, started to race. Each thud of my heart was palpable under restraint. 

She was searching for me, and this realization filled me with comfort and even joy. While I understood that Lian’er wouldn’t leave me behind, understanding was one thing, and witnessing her appear amidst the swirling sands was another. 

The turbulence was strong, and the wind was constantly shifting. I hadn’t even hoped that she could head in the same direction, yet she did. 

However, even with her exceptional tracking skills, it seemed like she had reached her limit at this point. I saw the white figure veer left and right in the midst of the sandstorm, as if lost and confused, unsure which direction to go. 

With it was the time between each whistle getting shorter, carrying a subtle sense of urgency. 

So should I respond?

The answer should have been a no-brainer, but I…hesitated at the last minute. 

Yes, without a doubt, Lian’er would see me if I responded, and that precious glimmer of hope might have a chance to shine. 

But along with that glimmer of hope came a myriad of possibilities that I absolutely didn’t wish to face, like letting Lian’er watch someone she cared about engulfed by the sand, or even worse… dragging her along with me!

Looking at the mound of sand slowly piling up to my neck, and thinking about the kid’s reckless nature, I had every reason to believe that, in this moment where there was hardly enough time to turn back and get the tools, the probabilities of those two ends coming true were far greater than the faint glimmer of hope. 

What to do? I don’t want to die, and I certainly don’t want to drag someone with me, especially that someone is the person you care about the most. 

I’m not a saint. Just when you almost give up, a spark of hope appears, and no one would give that up easily; I’m not a psycho either. Persisting when you know it will lead you to ruin, dragging the one you love most with you to their demise. 

So, what should I do? 

I wanted to answer her call; I wanted to live, but I ended up watching the white figure without a word. Sometimes, silence itself was a choice. 

When the figure headed in the wrong direction and vanished into the darkness, the temptation dissipated with it. Looking in the direction she disappeared, I smiled with relief, and then I gazed at the dimming sky, quietly awaiting the inevitable end. 

I’m sorry, Lian’er, the protagonist of your story… was never me. 

A faint vermilion hue colored the dim sky, and the wind seemed to have slowed. Sunlight filtered through the upper layer of drifting sand, casting a subdued glow, to be obstructed by the lower layer of turbulent sand, painting this chaotic expanse with an uneven, reddish-brown hue. 

It would be better for the caravan if the wind had eased up, wouldn’t it? I thought hazily for a moment as I looked at the flickering sky, my chin feeling the sand piling up. I looked away from the sky and shook my head. Before everything was over, I took one last look in the direction where Lian’er had disappeared. 

That look was meant only as a farewell.

But my heart clenched at the sight!

My view cleared a little, so I could see a few yards away. The white figure that had gone in another direction had turned back at some point, and this time, she seemed resolute in her movement, heading straight in my direction!

Was it because of the changing weather? Or had she realized something? I didn’t know, and I didn’t have the time to find out. This wasn’t what I was worried about. I was almost terrified out of my wits by her speed. Having no time to think, I wriggled and yanked off the scarf covering my face, then I gave the loudest shout I could manage, “Stop! Don’t come any closer—!”

These five words had used up all the air in my lungs, and I sank a bit further into the sand, almost getting it into my mouth, but there was no time to worry about that. I saw that she lurched as my words echoed. She seemed to have shrunk. I felt a bloodcurdling chill wash over me in the scorching sand. 

Fortunately, she only sank a little before springing back onto the ground. 

Seeing her feet landing on solid ground, my racing pulse calmed down a bit. I felt immensely relieved that I had shouted in time. I figured she only stepped on the edge of the quicksand. That was why she could get out of it so easily. Otherwise… I simply couldn’t imagine her trapped in the quicksand. 

It was more than enough for one person to be in such a predicament. 

I was several yards away from her, and we were surrounded by the swirling sand. We could hardly see each other’s faces, and we couldn’t hear each other clearly either amidst the howling wind.

The shout had been my last-ditch attempt, and the price I paid for it was the sand reaching up to my mouth. My mouth was too close to the ground, and without a face cover, every breath stirred up grains of sand. Breathing became difficult. I would be delusional to hope to say something. So, all I could do was watch her from afar, wearing a resigned smile. 

The worst-case scenario probably wasn’t going to happen, but it was still cruel. At least, the last thing she saw wouldn’t be my panicked face. 

I thought that this was the last time we were going to see each other, so every second mattered, but when I was looking at her, I felt that it was too excruciating. Perhaps I should end it quickly. 

It wasn’t hard to end it. A little bit of struggling would bury me. If that was tormenting, I still had enough strength to end myself with a palm strike. 

At this stage, there was no point dragging it out. Summoning my resolve, I was about to close my eyes when I saw that she took a step back from the edge of the quicksand and thrust her sword that had never left her side into the sand. The blade went more than half a foot into the sand, standing tall under the sky. Amid the swirling sand, it looked like a…sign. 

What was she going to do? Doubt crossed my mind, but in the next moment, I saw the white figure taking off. 

Unable to speak, unable to move, I couldn’t do anything but watch her ride the wind and dash over, coming closer and becoming clearer. Lian’er was no fool. She held nature in reverence and saw death as a natural course. It was one thing to be ignorant, but a person who knew the might of the quicksand would never have done this foolish act of sending themselves to death, or so I thought. 

But I was wrong. 

Even the last thread of wishful thought was shattered as she landed beside me, gracefully and delicately. But no matter how delicate her landing, the disturbance it caused was enough to bury me. My body was sucked into the sand in an instant. Darkness shrouded my vision, noises filled my ears, and an immense pressure pressed in from all directions. It felt like drowning but dry and warm. 

There was no fear. The only feeling I had was regret that this moment had come too late. 

My lungs held little air to begin with, and the intense pressure seemed to squeeze out the remaining air in me. Death was so close, but there was a surge of strength that forcefully dragged me out of it!

The pressure above my neck suddenly disappeared, followed by the shoulders, and the familiar sound of the desert wind whistled in my ears again. The dense and confined space was no more, and now, there was something soft and familiar by my side. 

But it wasn’t something to be rejoiced in. I went into a fit of coughing. When I could catch my breath, I fumbled for her clothes before I opened my eyes. I grabbed onto it and croaked, “Go back! It’s none of your business if I die! What are you doing here? Go back!”

I didn’t get any response. I opened my burning eyes, and in my blurred vision, I saw frost settling on her face, her expression fuming. 

When she saw my eyes open, her tightly pressed lips finally parted. She gave an icy smile first and then said, “I’ll get your body back even if you die. If I can’t get your body, I’ll chop off your head and bring it back. So tell me, why am I here?”

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 81 Sand

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 81


In the desert, water is equivalent to life, whether for animals, plants, or humans.

Although our supplies were ample and were split into two, nearly half of our supplies were depleted on the fourth day. Now, apart from the little that was in our pouch, the rest was all in the two wooden barrels secured onto the frame. That was something we absolutely couldn’t afford to lose!

In the realm of sand and dust where no light could penetrate, I fixed my gaze on a distant speck of color. I didn’t dare to blink my eyes even when they were dry, afraid that the little trace would vanish in the chaos in the blink of an eye. The wind carrying sand and rocks was wreaking havoc everywhere. The wind remained as fierce as ever. Several tens of pounds was nothing to it. I watched as the wind carried the barrel further away. I nearly lost sight of them a few times with the sand obscuring my vision, let alone chasing after it and getting a hold on it. 

After chasing after it for a while, I was getting more anxious. While I hadn’t paid much attention to where I was heading, it was clear that I was straying farther from the group. If I continued like this, I would probably lose my sense of direction even if I managed to retrieve our stuff, and once I was lost in the desert alone, not only would I put myself in danger, the group would probably not be able to wait for me. Then the pursuit would become a futile endeavor. 

I couldn’t stop; I couldn’t afford to stop. The only way left was… I steeled myself, channeled my qi, and jumped with qi, trying to lighten myself amidst the raging sandstorm and moving with the wind, hoping that I could make it quick. 

It wasn’t that I hadn’t considered doing this before, but it was too risky. It was like transforming myself into a leaf in the midst of a tempest. Besides, channeling qi required steady breathing which was almost impossible in this sandy weather. 

That was why, each time after I closed some distance, I would lose my balance and get tumbled to the ground by the wind, but there was no time to worry about that. When I fell, I would fumble to my feet and continue. I couldn’t care less about my parched throat, gritty eyes, and sand-caked clothes. The body would ignore these minor discomforts when pushed to its limit. 

After repeating this cycle for a few times, I gradually got the hang of it. The time I could hold my qi was getting longer each time. There were a few times that I almost caught up to it, and right then, the heavens seemed to have a change of heart. The brown barrel that was rolling in the sand haze came to a halt, as if it had fallen into a sand pit. 

I saw it despite my stinging eyes, and I was elated. Almost out of breath, I pushed on and dashed for the barrel. When my feet touched the ground, before standing firm, I bent down to grab it. 

When I stepped and grabbed, I came to realize that the heavens weren’t having a change of heart but pulled an even greater prank on me. 

The sand beneath my feet was loose and strangely soft, as if what I stepped on wasn’t sand but something semi-liquid. My feet sank, and the sand was up to my shins. I froze, instinctively trying to pull my leg up. As I lifted my right leg, instead of pulling it out, I found my left leg sinking even deeper, the sand now up to my knees!

There was a mild and peculiar suction gripping my legs. A thought dawned on me with a chill—quicksand!

I faintly recalled an old desert veteran mentioning this term. He said that there were swamps that could ensnare people, but no quicksand could do that. If it existed, the odds of encountering it were even lower than hitting the jackpot. Well, it was an unusual way to die. I had no regrets.

Yet here I was, undoubtedly hitting the “jackpot.” Maybe the times were different, and the odds of encountering such a phenomenon were different. Even as I felt my legs gradually being consumed by the quicksand, I had the mind to think about that. Then I concluded that: How could I possibly die without regrets?

There were too many regrets that come with a sudden death.  

I racked my brain for any knowledge that could help me get out of this situation. I vaguely remembered the survival tips about swamps and frozen lakes. Applying that knowledge, I kept still. However, I didn’t realize the danger soon enough as I landed. The force of my landing and gravity had me sinking deeper. I had been knee deep in the quicksand in an instant and missed the best window of escape. 

And the sinking continued, slowly but surely at a visible pace. I could feel my body being swallowed inch by inch. It didn’t help even if I spread my arms out to increase my surface area. Every way I could think of failed. The sinking persisted slowly but steadily, almost in a gentle and methodical manner.

Closing my eyes, strangely, I wasn’t afraid, just slightly nauseous. The huge pressure enveloping me was so strong that it felt like I was being swallowed by a python. 

There was no frantic flailing that quickened the descent. This process was excruciatingly long without any way to escape, making it even agonizing. 

When the loose sand was up to my waist, the sinking seemed to have slowly come to a halt. The pressure around me was so strong that I couldn’t feel the suction anymore. I was no longer sinking. Instead, I felt like I was trapped in a plaster made of sand, and now the plaster was solidifying, so my body was suspended, the sand constricting on me so tightly that I felt my blood struggling to flow. 

Despite the situation, one would think it offered a glimmer of hope. After all, as long as I didn’t continue sinking, I wouldn’t be buried by the sand. Unfortunately, the presence of the all-encompassing sandstorm made itself glaringly obvious at this moment. 

This scouring sandstorm hadn’t stopped even for a moment. If it had helped in leading up to this, it was now adding fuel to the fire, or more accurately, it was adding sand to an already sandy situation. 

The fierce wind swept up vast amounts of dust and sand from the ground, and my immobilized body was like a natural windbreak. The sand piled up around me like snowdrifts in no time. Every time I tried to push it away, no matter how careful I was, I would sink a little deeper, yet I had to do it. 

After repeating this for a few times, only the area above my chest wasn’t in the sand. If things continued like this, it wouldn’t be long before I was either swallowed by the quicksand or be buried by the sandstorm. It seemed like both situations led to the same end. 

Coming to terms with this, my heart remained calm, perhaps because the situation was unfolding at an extremely slow pace, so my heart didn’t sense the urgency. What concerned me the most now was the water problem. 

Looking back, it was right within arm’s reach. It hadn’t sunk because it was lighter than the human body, but it was mostly buried by the sandstorm by now. If I was going to die because of this, I didn’t want to die in vain. With that thought in mind, even though I couldn’t move much, I continued to clear the sand, exposing it from the sand. However, I hesitated, unable to decide. Should I continue to clear away the sand, making it easier for Lian’er and the others to find it later, or should I let it be buried to prevent Lian’er from accidentally falling into this deadly trap? 

Lian’er… I couldn’t let her fall into this deadly trap… But what if she couldn’t find water? What then… 

But then again, she should be able to get out of this desert, shouldn’t she? She’s different from others. She’s Lian Nichang. She’s the Jade Rakshasa. Fate might hurt her, but it would also protect her. Thinking this way, I should be grateful for the existence of fate. And if she couldn’t find me in the end, would she be sad… 

I was thinking too much, my thoughts too scattered. My head was starting to hurt, perhaps because of the sandstorm, or perhaps because of a lack of oxygen. Tiny grains of sand filled the gaps around my body with each breath, and the pressure on my chest was getting stronger. I could only breathe in small and shallow breaths, feeling like a fish pulled out of the water, struggling helplessly. 
So, is this another path that leads to the same end? My mind came to a complete stop as I thought hazily.

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 80 Wind

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 80


Smoke in the desert.

There was actually no smoke in the desert. It was the wavering heat rising from the sand under the scorching sun. The twisted light looked like ascending smoke, and at the same time, an invisible wall. 

In the Gobi desert, you could occasionally see glimpses of shrubs or rocks of peculiar shapes, but here, there was nothing but sand, sand, and an endless stretch of sand. The clear sky and the golden undulating land, radiant yet quiet, as if frozen in eternity. 

We had been traveling in this silence for three days now.

After these three days, I realized that the hardships in the Gobi Desert were almost nothing compared to what we experienced now. Around here, we didn’t even dare to get off the camel and step on the ground during the hours when the sun was at its fiercest because every grain of sand beneath our feet felt as if it had been baked over fire. We could feel it even through the thick soles of our boots. 

Water rations were the same as in the Gobi Desert. Each person carried a leather water pouch at their waist. It was enough, but still, our lips and throats always felt parched. As the weather took quite some toll on us, we became less talkative. Most of the time, only the bells of the lead camel and rear camel jingled in concert, echoing through the vast expanse of the sand ocean. 

The only interesting moment was when the mirage appeared. As if to compensate for never once showing up in the Gobi Desert, this spectacular sight had been showing up in this area over the past few days, adding a touch of color to this otherwise drab journey.

At first, seeing the mirage could uplift our spirits, but after seeing it many times, it became boring, especially for Lian’er. The thing that she disliked the most was deceit and falsehood, and this natural wonder was both. That was why when she figured it out after her initial confusion, she wasn’t fond of these desert mirages. Whenever she spotted one, she would turn to me and say, “Here comes another imposter.”

On the contrary, the guides were happy to see these. Initially, I thought it was just because they liked it, but I heard them explain later during our rest stops that the appearance of mirage meant there would be no wind. Those who were used to traveling in the desert would rather endure the scorching heat than face the sandstorm. If we could see the mirage every day, we could get through the desert, safe and sound. 

I must say that I had no idea whether what he said was true, but as words of experience that passed down through generations, there might be some truth to it. 

And soon enough, reality would prove that. 

On the fourth day, the mirage had never once appeared, but the weather remained calm, with a clear sky and no sign of wind. Traveling in the desert, the scorching heat was much like the previous days, so none of us thought much about it.

Shortly after noon, as Lian’er and I were leaning against each other on the camel’s back, wrapped in blankets and drifting off to sleep, we suddenly heard a thunderous shout. The shout came with such force that it nearly startled the camels beneath us. 

“Blackwind!” The voice shouted, “Blackwind is coming!”

We both jolted awake. Lian’er reacted faster than me. By the time I lifted the blanket and looked out, the first thing I saw was the bewildered expression with her lips pressed together. As she grew older, this expression had rarely appeared on her face these days. My eyes stayed on her a while longer before turning to look where she was looking. And over the horizon, I saw a massive black wall that reached the sky, as if an army of demons were marching. 

Of course, it was neither demons or a wall; it was a natural phenomenon, a sandstorm. The locals called it the “blackwind,” but out of habit I still called it a sandstorm. 

Whether it was called “blackwind” or “sandstorm,” it was the same wall, rolling over with visible speed. Everywhere it passed, the blue sky and yellow sand were swallowed by darkness, as if being devoured by a monster, vanishing without a trace. 

I remained calm at first because I knew that things weren’t as bad as they seemed despite the dark menace. It might not be much more dangerous than the fierce wind we encountered at the Bai Long Dui. Instead of worrying about being swept away by the strong gusts, we should worry about inhaling the sand dust. That was why my first reaction was to take another scarf, wrap it around my face, and tighten it, making sure that it covered my mouth and nose while reminding Lian’er to do the same. 

The two guides, however, were terrified. Perhaps there were too many legends and tales about this kind of sandstorm. They were shouting, “Take cover, quick, take cover!” while hastily spurring the camels towards a nearby large sand dune, seemingly wanting to use the sand dune as a natural barrier. We went behind it to shield against the brunt of the storm and give ourselves a break. 

But the sandstorm was moving faster than expected. Before we could get behind the sand dune, the wall of darkness was just a few yards away. As it approached closer, its force became even more immense, engulfing the sky in an oppressive darkness. Cries and howls came from the gusts, like the wails of ghosts and the howls of wolves. 

The guides wanted to push on, but in just an instant, the wall of wind towered over us, engulfing the entire camel caravan with the force of Mount Tai crashing down. 

In the moment when the light around was swallowed up, someone wrapped me in their arms. 

It felt completely different to be swathed within the vortex of wind. All I could hear was the piercing howl of the wind, and when I opened my eyes, they felt dry, and it was as dark as night around. I looked up at the person who was shielding me. She wasn’t looking at me but looking around with frowned brows, her eyes as sharp as knives. 

It was hard to see anything beyond a few steps, so it was impossible to move any further. After a while, the guides followed the caravan of camels and slowly groped their way towards us. They shouted, “We can’t move forward! Off the camels! Off the camels! Make walls!” Their hoarse voices swayed in the wind. 

I exchanged a glance with Lian’er. Despite not understanding what he was saying, we followed his instructions and jumped off the camel. Indeed, it felt safer to be on the ground. The camels, despite their massive size, wobbled in the strong wind, adding to our worry.

When the guide saw us get off the camels, he slogged forward to take the camels, but he stopped after a few steps and waved his hand at us, gesturing for us to stay with him. Meanwhile, another guide and Old Tie emerged from the dark, holding the leash to the rest of the camels. Then they worked together against the wind and managed to make the four camels to lie down in each direction, forming a tight square formation. We stayed in the middle of the formation, or more precisely, surrounded by it. 

When I saw what they were doing, I finally understood what they meant by making walls. I pulled Lian’er close and crouched down next to the sturdiest camel. The relentless onslaught of sand and wind died down. The others followed suit, seeking refuge behind the temporary shield formed by the towering animals, providing us with a brief respite. 

The time we waited for the danger to pass was excruciatingly long. 

With the protection provided by the camels’ sturdy bodies, the force of the sandstorm was weakened, but the reminding force was still plentiful to deal with. Fine grains of sand found their way into every crevice. Even though we were prepared for it, it became harder and harder to breathe. Assuming Lian’er felt the same way as I did, I wanted to take her into my arms and shield her. Just as I reached out my hand, the person beside me made the same move before I could, and it was me who ended up in her arms instead. 

“I’ve already told you, stop trying to be tough in front of me. Your body is clearly weaker than me,” she lowered her head and said. We were already crouching close to each other, and with her head lowered like this, her voice was right next to my ears. Even the usual assertiveness in her tone was unmistakable. 

Letting out a sigh, I didn’t try to argue. I snuggled into her arms and wrapped my arms around her lowered head, so her mouth and nose rested snugly against my nape before I whispered, “This way, we both can cover our mouth and nose.” 

Lian’er seemed to have smiled. I couldn’t see it in my position, but I could feel the warmth of her breath against my neck. 

After that, we fell silent. It wasn’t the place to talk. We just had to hide in the small space that we created for each other and breathe quietly amidst the raging storm as we waited for the extreme weather to pass. 

If we were to say what was the most intimidating part of this weather, it would be its length. A sandstorm might not be as destructive as a tornado, but it lasted longer. It could last for hours, even days, making it nearly impossible to walk. It even changed the surrounding landscape, leaving inexperienced travelers disoriented and lost. If it were to get to that point, it would be a true catastrophe. 

Fortunately, we had two experienced guides by our side, so we didn’t have to worry about getting lost. The only problem was when would this storm be over? Time flew in this dark space. The sand started to accumulate against the camels, piling higher and higher. No matter how sturdy the creatures were, they were starting to struggle under the weight. Thankfully, Old Tie was great with his palms. Every time the sand piled too tall, he went out the cover braving the wind and sent a few palms to clear away or knock down the sand piles. After a few rounds, the old man was covered in sand, looking like a dull yellowish sand-man.

I had no idea how much time had passed, but the sandstorm showed no sign of abating; it didn’t even seem to be letting up. 

It would be a lie if I said that I wasn’t worried at all, but there was nothing we could do. Humans have always been small and insignificant in the face of nature. Since we were leaving it to fate, there was no need to worry too much. Besides, the formidable Jade Rakshasa wouldn’t be buried in these yellow sands. Once I was sure of that, I felt there was nothing to worry about. I just had to stay in her arms. 

However, as if to burst my naive bubble, fate decided to play a little joke on us. 

As I lay in her arms, I started to hear something out of the ordinary. It was faint, and it came and went, but it was there.

I didn’t pay much mind to it at first since it was hardly surprising to hear some eerie sounds amidst this howling tempest, but slowly, it caught my attention. It wasn’t just because the sound kept coming, but it sounded… very close, like it was right next to my ears. 

Because of this subconscious unease, I started to look for the sound. I started off by looking around, but then my gestures became larger, and finally, it alerted Lian’er. She lifted her head off my neck and said with annoyance, “What’s wrong? Why are you moving about so much?”

I couldn’t answer, or rather, I didn’t have the time to answer because as she lifted her head, I saw the source of the faint sound over her shoulder. 

In almost the same instant, the thing that made the sound reached its limit. Amid the howling wind came an insignificant snap, then a snake-like shadow whipped upward, cut through the air, and swooped towards us!

“Watch out!” I was the one who had the clearest view. I quickly gave Lian’er a shove, but I couldn’t get a good shove because of my position. However, Lian’er was no ordinary person. Even without me pushing, she could sense the danger behind her. She got up with my push and even had the time to push me in another direction, getting me out of the danger. 

The snake-like shadow struck the ground between us, leaving behind a deep welt. When we took a closer look, it turned out that it wasn’t a whip but a rope used to secure the baggage on the wooden frame that was attached to the camel. 

Because we were in a rush earlier, no one had removed the baggage from the camel’s back. Besides, the added weight on the camels was good for withstanding the strong wind, so there was no need to remove it. 

But no one had expected that the rope used to secure them would snap, and what was worse, it was the main rope that snapped. 

While Lian’er dodged the rope, I watched the strong wind sweep away the now detached wooden frame like a toy. Without a second thought, I immediately got up and chased after it. 

Because what it carried was the most vital thing for our journey through the desert—water.

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