Category: The Witch Nichang (Page 1 of 7)

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 66 Yin and Yang

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 66

Yin and Yang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Witch Nichang- Chapter 65 Oriole

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 65

Oriole

It was actually a fortunate thing to lose consciousness because I couldn’t feel anything while floating in the abyss, which spared me from pain.

So when the pain returned, I knew I was waking up. There was an unfamiliar voice next to me becoming clearer and clearer. It was saying “miss” in a soft voice—it was a man’s voice. 

I finally opened my heavy eyelids. What came into my view was still the dark sky and Yunu Peak. I hadn’t been moved since. It might have just been a while. Nothing would change in a short time, but there was a small paper pack on the ground in front of me that came out of nowhere.

“Miss, you’ve taken a hit on your chest. It’s quite bad. If you put it off for any longer, I’m afraid it’ll become difficult to cure later. Take the pill in the pack if you trust me. It’s good for you.”

The voice stayed next to me. There was no one around me. Even though I couldn’t see anyone, I could hear the voice. It was a little hazy, making it difficult to locate its direction. I took a look at the fight over there. It was obvious that no one heard it except for me. 

I helped myself up with my left hand. Just this one simple movement had me breaking out in a cold sweat on my forehead. I took two breaths to ease my breathing. Pressing my lips together, I picked up the paper pack and opened it. There were two pills inside. They weren’t big; they were dark and dull in the moonlight, giving off a faint scent of medicinal herbs.

“…who’re you?” Holding the medicine pack, I didn’t take it right away but didn’t throw it away either. I just looked ahead and asked calmly. My voice wasn’t loud, you could even say it was soft because it hurt to speak louder.

He heard it even though I spoke in such a soft voice. I heard a chuckle, followed by an answer. “I’m nobody. A passerby who lent a helping hand.” I chuckled at his words, but I couldn’t laugh out loud, so I lifted the corners of my lips and said with a smile, “So you’re the third oriole tonight?”

“Oriole?” He asked, confused. 

“As the saying goes, the mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind[1]. There have been three orioles lurking around and watching tonight. Ying Xiuyang’s the first, I’m the second.” Since I had said this much, I didn’t have to keep beating around the bush, so I made it clear, “As for you, the third oriole should be the stranger who sneered in the woods when they got together yesterday, right? I remember your laugh.”

Actually, I didn’t remember it so clearly. I just felt like it should be the case, so I tried to trick him.

“Haha, good memory, miss. I’m impressed.” I didn’t expect that it would go so well. He was straightforward. He admitted it frankly after bursting into laughter. He didn’t even try to deny it. “If that’s the case, then Miss should know I’m not with them. I have my reason to hide here, but it’s out of my sympathy that I gave the medicine to you. Don’t worry.”

Although he claimed that and I found no fault with what he said, it obviously wasn’t enough to clear my doubts. I opened my mouth and was going to ask more questions but I was cut off by a squeal. 

The squeal came from the battleground. Although it was a man’s voice, it still made my heart skip!

I wheeled around, and in the pale moonlight, I saw a cold flash and then a person rolled out of the battleground, stumbling away while screaming. There were injuries all over his body. Four fingers had been cut off his indestructible iron palm, and it turned into a bloody hand!

He was trying to run for his life, but someone wasn’t letting him away. The girl in white leaped into the air, swinging an arch midair with her sword to ward off several weapons coming from the back, and she grabbed with her left hand like a goshawk swooping down on a rabbit and caught the belt of the man who lost his fingers. She sneered and said, “Your iron hand can’t match mine!” After that, she flung him outward and literally threw his body down the peak of Mount Hua. I could hear only a faint squeal amidst the raging wind getting further and further away until I could no longer hear it. 

Earlier when I woke up from my blackout, my attention was drawn to this mysterious man, so I didn’t pay much attention to the fight. I knew that Zhuo Yihang had switched sides, the Seven Master’s formation had been cracked, and Lian’er was no longer in danger, but I never thought things would change so quickly. Maybe the time I was out wasn’t as short as I imagined. 

Now that there was one less person, they would probably beat them like a hot knife through butter. I wasn’t worried about anything but I was afraid that Lian’er wouldn’t spare anyone when she was on a killing spree. I couldn’t talk to him anymore. I raised my voice and shouted to the other side, “The righteous ones, listen. Now you have a witness. It’s clear who’s right and who’s wrong. Why are you still holding out? Get back quickly. We hold no grudge against those who don’t know the truth. Mount Dingjun promised that we’ll be even after tonight!”

They were in the middle of a dogfight. The Taoist-looking man and another swordsman looked at each other. They got even more hesitant but were afraid to stop and they replied, “Who are you? Can you make decisions on behalf of Jade Rakshasa?”

“Her words are my words!” After getting rid of the Iron Hand, Lian’er seemed to have loosened up a bit. She was finally in the mood to speak, then she shouted, “I’m ready for the kill. Taoist Qingsong, Swordsman Songyang, you both are from an orthodox sect. If you don’t back off now, I’ll drag you to hell with me!”

Perhaps her words were what they were waiting for. As soon as she finished, the two of them had put away their weapons and leaped out of the battleground. After saying their thanks, they left in a hurry without looking back. The three remaining men knew that it was over, and their faces turned ashen. As the person responsible, the scrawny old man Ying was even more anxious. He suddenly jumped back and sent five daggers with a flick of his hand toward Lian’er at lightning speed.

The girl smiled, “What are these scraps for?” As she spinned her sword, the five daggers were broken and sent back to him. Who would have thought this seemingly attack turned out to be a cover. As soon as the daggers were released, the old man wrapped himself with his clothes and rolled down the peak of Mount Hua! Unlike being thrown off the peak, there might be a chance of survival even though it was dangerous to roll down close to the cliff wall. It was much better than staying here like a fish on a chopping board.

He fled so suddenly and without any hesitation. The two remaining men were dumbfounded for a moment before it occurred to them to follow him, but it wasn’t that easy anymore. The girl and the man split up, each chasing after one man. Lian’er was chasing after the frivolous young man. I guessed it was because she held it against him for trifling with her earlier.

That person’s martial skills weren’t the best, but his qinggong was good. Unfortunately, the one coming after him wasn’t anyone else. Before he could go far, the girl had caught up to him in a few jumps. With a wave of her hand, she planted three silver needles in his vital parts. The person screamed and staggered. Lian’er went up and thrusted her sword once more in his chest, kicking his body off the peak.

It went well on her side, but it wasn’t the case with the other side. Zhuo Yihang panicked and called, “Miss Lian, it’s more important to catch Zheng. He’s old crook Ying’s right-hand man!” But it was too late. The man they were going to catch imitated what the old man did and rolled down the hillside. Lian’er gritted her teeth and lifted her sword. She said, “Go after him!” Suddenly, there was someone answering from the hillside, “Hold your horses! I’ve caught him for you.”

The voice wasn’t loud. It sounded like having a casual conversation with someone at the hillside, but every word was clearly articulated. The two who were at the edge of the cliff were startled. I heard it from afar but wasn’t as surprised as them because I was talking to the voice a moment ago.

In the next moment, a person came as fast as a meteor and showed up at the same time as his voice. It was a young man not older than thirty with a dignified air. His facial features weren’t that striking, but they made him look radiant and gave off a sense of righteousness. He was holding a person under his arm. As soon as he landed on the peak, he let go of the person. I looked to the ground, it was Zheng who got away just now. 

This person had shown his impressive martial skills the moment he made his appearance. I saw from afar that Lian’er was wary of him. It didn’t bother him, and he looked at Lian’er and asked, “Are you Jade Rakshasa?” Then he pointed at Zhuo Yihang and said, “And who’s this?”

His attitude was casual. It suited his demeanor, but it was definitely something Lian’er wasn’t fond of, so she sneered and answered, “So what if I am?” The man beside her cupped his fist reverently and said, “I’m a pupil of Wudang’s grandmaster, Taoist Ziyang. My surname is Zhuo, first name Yihang. May I ask what’s your name and where are you from?”

That person returned the salute and said, “My name’s Yue Mingke. Let’s talk about the important matter first and talk about where we are from later. What do you want to do with this traitor?” The girl’s face turned cold and said, “Since you’re the one who caught him, you decide.” With that, she flung her sleeve and turned around, walking straight over to me with a displeased look on her face. 

I was still observing the situation. When I saw her walking over, I didn’t know what to do for a moment and forgot to put away the paper pack in my hand. Then Lian’er came in front of me and crouched down. She asked me with a worried look on his face, “How’re you doing?” Then she saw the thing in my left hand. Her brows creased right away, and she asked, “What’s this? That’s not ours.”

It wasn’t a good idea to hide it from her at this point. It wouldn’t be necessary either. I looked at my hand following her gaze and said honestly, “Something that person gave it to me. He sneaked over and gave it to me while you were still fighting just now. He said it’s good for me.” What I said made Lian’er’s face fall. She snatched the paper pack, got up, and questioned the man, “Yue, what are you up to giving my partner this kind of dubious thing!?”

The man was talking to Zhuo Yihang. He glanced over when he heard that and arched his brows with a smile and said, “It’s you who was so preoccupied with the fight and left her alone. I saw her passing out at the side and no one came to her. I was worried that her injury would get worse, so I got out of hiding and gave her the medicine. You would know if there’s anything wrong with the pill once you test it. Why are you so quick to accuse me?”

“When did I leave her alone? Don’t you spew nonsense!” Lian’er was provoked by these words and almost got angry. She was half-smiling which meant she was on the verge of blowing up. 

“I’m just being honest. When have I spewed nonsense?” The man should have seen Lian’er anger, but he wasn’t afraid. He still had his head high and replied frankly, “It’s considerate of you to draw away your opponents earlier, but later when you got help and got the upper hand, you could have beat them within a hundred moves, yet you tormented your opponents as you pleased and totally forgot about your wounded partner. I guess you only know about her passing out now that you heard it?”

“Alright!” I couldn’t stand it anymore. Ignoring the pain, I cut them off with a loud voice.

I couldn’t let him continue. This person might do it out of kindness, but his words insinuate blame to Lian’er. Listening to it made me uncomfortable. I shouted, took a breath, and said, “Young Hero Yue, thank you for your concern and your medicine, but you probably don’t know much about my Lian’er, so why judge and jump to conclusions?”

After I was done, I had no time to observe his reaction. I reached out my left hand and tugged at the sleeve of the girl next to me. Looking up at her, I said softly, “Lian’er, don’t be angry…”

My biggest concern now was that she couldn’t hold in her anger and start a fight. I had a faint memory of this name, Yue Mingke, so I knew Lian Nichang shouldn’t become his enemy, and it wasn’t good to become his enemy either. I couldn’t let her ruin her life because of me, otherwise, my existence was just a trouble.

With that thought, I was ready to persuade Lian’er until she gave in since no one knew better than me how irritable this girl was, but I didn’t expect that she would crouch down again with just a few words and a light tug. 

Lian’er’s face was a little surly, but I couldn’t see how she was feeling from her face. Only the moving of her cheeks showed that she was gritting her teeth. She opened the paper pack without a word and took out the pill. First, she took a closer look and sniffed it, even crushing up a little and putting it into her mouth, then she looked up and met my eyes. She said as she passed it to me, “I have better medicine in the stronghold. It slipped my mind to bring it this time. This will do for now, take it. Take the pain off a little.”

“Lian’er…” She didn’t blow up. I was surprised. I could tell she wasn’t happy about it, so I didn’t feel like taking the pill and said, “I should be fine. It’s just a broken hand. This medicine won’t heal my bones anyway. It doesn’t matter if I take it or not.”

Who knew I received a glare as soon as I finished. Lian’er said vexingly, “Does it look like a simple broken hand? It’s true that I don’t know much about sickness, but I know about injuries. I know better than you how bad it is. Stop fooling me!” After that, she reached over and stuffed the pill into my mouth like candy, then carefully wrapped the remaining one and put it away in her clothes. She got up and turned to shout at the other person, “Yue, I owe you a favor, and I’ll keep your words in mind. I, Lian Nichang, am someone who knows gratitude from grudges. I’ll repay you ten-fold in the future if I get the chance!”

She said she knew gratitude from grudges. I wondered if she held gratitude or grudges against him, maybe both.

I wasn’t sure if Yue Mingke got it. He made nothing of it and said with a smile, “I’ll wait for it if there’s a chance.” Then he changed the topic and said, “Jade Rakshasa, Brother Zhuo and I are thinking about interrogating this Zheng Hongtai guy to find out the details about their liaison activities with Manchuria and their accomplices. Since you’re the one who came after them, why not come and listen in?”

My mouth was all bitter with the pill in my mouth. I couldn’t help but frown. I thought Lian’er would definitely walk over to them, but who knew she lowered her head and glanced at me before looking up and grunted. She smiled coldly but didn’t move. Instead, she bent down. It caught me off guard as I was still confused. After a moment of dizziness, I realized she had picked me up in her arms. Perhaps she was simply following what Master did back then, but embarrassment kicked in after the initial shock. Just as I was about to say something, a wiggle sent a bout of pain, almost knocking me out. 

“Don’t move. It’ll hurt if you move and make it harder for me to carry you!” She didn’t know why I did that. When she saw me moving, she frowned and scolded me. The next moment, we were in the air. The wind suddenly kicked up, and my vision swayed. I heard the girl leave a word, supposedly for the two men on Yunu Peak.

“I’ve been watching the old crook Ying for a long time. If you got anything out of him tonight, I have ways to know about it. No need to waste time listening in!” Lian’er said loudly, “She’s heavily wounded. It’s more important to get her to the doctor. I’ll leave the rest to you guys!”


[1] A Chinese idiom. The figurative meaning is to pursue immediate gain while neglecting the greater danger behind. Danger being the oriole.

Slopaw’s note:
Sorry I’ve been away for a while. I’ve been busy lately. Now I’m trying to get the chapters back on track again. If you’re interested in early chapters, you can check out my Kofi page. Any support would mean a lot. („• ֊ •„)

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 64 Change

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 64

Change

This was a troubled time where life and death happened every moment. I knew that long ago. I had seen death and corpses. Even the only one person who I cared about was called The Witch by members of jianghu. She could kill as she was chatting, for which I could, for most of the time, face it with serenity and would at most stop her from going overboard sometimes.

Even so, my hands were still clean. Although I had fought with others before, I hadn’t gotten anyone’s blood on me yet, let alone taking someone’s life. 

Maybe my hands were clean but my heart wasn’t. Otherwise, why would such a cruel thought come to me out of nowhere in that second?

It was probably how the saying, evil arose in rage, felt like.

I was very calm when the evil thought arose. It seemed that it had nothing to do with feelings. I slid exactly the right amount of distance to the side to dodge the claw-hand, then came a sword attack. They were working well together, but the sword attack was intentionally made slow, so it was sluggish. I easily deflected it with a turn of my short sword and a knock to his sword. I tilted my body and brushed past him, moving to the opponent’s back and using him to block the attacks of the other person. 

When I lifted my sword and turned back, he hadn’t been able to step away, and what I saw before me was a broad back. It was so close.

If I’m going to do it, it was right in front of me!

The person in front of me was someone who would hurt Lian Nichang in the future. He was the one who would destroy Lian Nichang. If I couldn’t stop Lian’er from falling for him, all the things that would happen might be unstoppable and destined. Maybe I couldn’t do anything at all, maybe I would have to watch the bad karma unfold without realizing it, just like what happened to Master!

If so, why don’t I just get to the root cause and remove it? Nip the bud before it all starts!

Maybe I had this thought long ago, and it lurked in the dark corners of my heart for a long time and popped up at the right moment. It didn’t feel wrong at all. It was simply that the brain gave a command and the body executed it right away. Almost without thinking, I thrusted my sword; it was a series of killing moves!

He was so close. Like a meteor running after the moon, it would hit if I strike. He would die if it hit.

But in a trance, there was a voice saying, Lie.

You’re lying.

You have thousands of excuses, hundreds of disguises. Which of them is really for Lian Nichang? Not only is it not for her, but it is hurting her.

If this person dies, the only thing it resolves is your pain, but poor Lian’er’s red thread of fate would be severed. If she can’t accept you in this life, does that mean she has to end up alone, living a stagnant life without any ripples? Someone even swore before that she would give her all to protect her if she loses the bet. How come she’s become an unreasonable person in the blink of an eye and wants to flip the gambling table and void the bet?

Are you really going to get rid of the problem for your own sake without caring about everything else and end up hurting her?!

The thought changed and changed again; it all happened in a split second, but they were as loud as a thunder. My heart was racing. I felt like I had just woken up from a dream, covered in sweat, but the sword in my hand was like an arrow off the string. It was too fast. It was too late to even swerve it, let alone take it back. Seeing that the sword was about to pierce him, I could only let go of my sword at the last minute and let my weapon clang to the ground. 

Even so, there was still some remnant force in my bare hand and it landed on the man’s back, but he had a solid base. He staggered, but with a sway, he gained back his balance. 

Obviously, he didn’t expect this turn of events. After he steadied himself, he turned to look at me with surprise. I couldn’t help but turn to look at him. As our eyes met, I saw the split change in his eyes, as if he had something to say. 

Without having to think much, I understood in the next second why the change occurred.

My empty right hand stayed in the pushing motion. Before I could take back my hand, it was clamped by a huge force. It actually felt like a clamp, as if a metal vice had clamped your arm. Once it caught my hand and pulled, I was forced to stagger forward. Two steps forward, I felt another huge force slammed into my chest, at the same time, my trapped arm got turned and twisted. I felt as if I heard a kind of cracking sound.

I bit down on my lips, desperately trying to swallow the cry of pain. It wouldn’t ease my pain even if I cried out. Instead, it would distract Lian’er. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to hold it in even when I bit through my lip. The force surging to my throat was too strong. Along with my voice came a spray of crimson too.

I tasted the salty sweet tang in my mouth, but I couldn’t help wanting to laugh. How ludicrous. I brought all these on myself. Zhuo Yihang was blocking between you and this guy. If I hadn’t had that evil thought and changed my mind midway, why would I have pushed him away and sent myself unarmed in front of the master who was good with his claws and ended up in such a situation?

I was probably laughing when the iron hand clamped on my throat. Otherwise, why would this master in front of you look surprised and confused like he had seen a ghost? 

When my life was on the line, I heard a man’s voice say hesitantly, “Brother Fan, wait…” But there was something faster than his voice—it was a gust of chilly wind, carrying a menacing voice, “Iron Hand Fan Zhu! I’ll kill you!”

The otherwise familiar voice sounded foreign to me. It was brimmed with malice and frost. I saw a silver arch coming from the corner of my eye. A strong gust of wind came before the sword did. The hard style martial artist knew the gravity of the situation. He let go of his hand before he could use me as a hostage and rolled away to dodge her attack. Only after he rolled out quite some distance was he able to get out of the sphere of the sword sweep. 

The pressure on my throat was lifted, but I lost the support too. My legs felt weak, and my right arm and the area below my collarbone were hurting so bad that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I opened my mouth and gasped for air, then I immediately shut it because a person had jumped in front of me. 

I didn’t know how bad I was hurt. I didn’t want her to know either, at least not now. 

Fortunately, Lian’er had no time to check either. This sudden change of events wasn’t favorable for us, which meant it was very favorable for our opponents, especially for those who were fighting against Lian’er. It looked like all of them had different levels of injuries. Now that the table had turned, they rose up to strike back and kept coming after her. Lian’er landed and held me with one arm, helping me down. She could only do a quick scan with her eyes. She clenched her teeth and said, her eyes chilly, “Wait here!” Then she turned around and swung her sword, deflecting the incoming attacks. She was drawing them away and holding them off while chasing after one of them. 

Thanks to her, it was safe here. I couldn’t just sit around, so I did a quick check of my body. I couldn’t tell how serious the injury below my collarbone was, so I just left it aside first. Fortunately, I could see how my right arm was. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Of course, it was broken, but it didn’t break all the way. I could still move my hand when I bore the pain and tried to move it. It was probably a partial fracture. I had had this kind of bone injury once or twice when I hiked as a backpacker. I was quite familiar with it. I could take it. Unfortunately, there was nothing around that I could use for emergency treatment. I could only bear the pain and went to retrieve my sword.

After I was done, I was drenched in sweat, cold sweat trickling down my forehead. The pain was dizzying. I wished I could just pass out, but looking at the fight over there, I couldn’t let myself pass out even if I wanted to.

The pain was just physical pain. The anxiousness was the true suffering. I hated myself for being blinded and causing this situation. Now Lian’er was caught in the same predicament as before. It might even be more dangerous than before because now she couldn’t face her opponents with a cool head. She was just putting up with the others. As she moved and jumped, her sword was revolving around the bare knuckle master every time she got the chance, and every move was vicious. She looked like she would never give up until she gouged his flesh and sliced his bones.

I knew she wanted to avenge me, but now wasn’t the time to be glad. The way Lian’er was slaying them might catch them off guard and might be tricky to deal with at first, but once they got used to it, the situation might not be in her favor. Putting aside other tactics, they just had to use that person as bait and exhaust Lian’er’s energy. By that time, everything would be over.

I couldn’t help her at the moment. I figured talking to Lian’er would have little effect, and it might alert the opponents instead. Even so, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. 

In fact, this approach might be the best approach. I should have used it earlier. It was me who wanted to fight against the enemy with her that my judgment got clouded by all the distracting thoughts.

It wasn’t the time to reflect and regret. I put aside my thoughts and cleared my throat. The vibration in my chest caused another bout of pain, but I couldn’t care much about it. I held my breath and powered through it. After taking a deep breath, I focused and shouted to the other end. 

“Everyone over there, I’m not a member of jianghu, so I don’t know where all of you come from. Please forgive me if I’ve offended you.” Forcing myself to take a breath and ignoring the pain in my chest that arose from speaking, I said loudly, “My sister, the one who you call The Witch, is a little arrogant and eccentric, and maybe she’s done something that upset you, but there are different degrees of mistakes and crimes. No matter how arrogant and eccentric she was, what she is doing today is to remove a vermin for the country! Which is more severe, the feud in jianghu or the enemy of the nation? I believe anyone with a bit of integrity and conscience should know!”

Yes, when Lian’er pointed it out earlier, there were three people including Zhuo Yihang who looked surprised. I remembered that clearly. Even though I couldn’t move now, as long as I could convince them from here, even persuade them to walk away, it was way better than me jumping over to help. 

That was why when I said this, my eyes were locked at the three people. As expected, they were distracted with a few words. Although they didn’t stop their attacks, they were starting to hesitate.

I was secretly delighted. As the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot. I held on to my lapel, bearing the discomfort, then I took in a deep breath and said, “Maybe you have doubts and you don’t know who to trust, but the death of the Great Hero Luo, Luo Jinfeng is a fact. You can find it out yourself. There must be one party here who is lying now. Everyone please ask yourself, what is more unacceptable, letting off a witch by mistake or helping a traitor by mistake?”

“Watch out!” Before I could finish, a shout came, and the intense pain fogged my eyes. I couldn’t see anything that was too small or fast. I could only hear a crisp clink. Something had fallen on the ground, then a person was standing before me. It wasn’t Lian’er, but it wasn’t someone unfamiliar either. 

“Old Zheng, she’s already wounded. Sneak attacks aren’t something a man of honor would do, no?” Zhuo Yihang stood with his sword lifted, his voice low, sounding a little displeased but still rather mild. However, the one who answered him wasn’t the one who made the move but the scrawny old man who was the instigator. He shouted as he struck, “Don’t be fooled by her! She’s an accomplice of the hag. She was fighting against us just now, and now she still hasn’t given up even when she’s wounded, spreading rumors and trying to drive a wedge between us. We can’t let her live!”

“Old crook Ying! Ying Xiuyang! You’re the one who’s spreading rumors! I won’t stop until I claim your head!” It was Lian’er’s hateful shout that came from the group. She was too focused on killing them just now that she didn’t notice the sneak attack in time, so when she came around later, she got angrier. 

However, no one had expected that those words would have an unexpected effect on a person. 

I saw the man standing before me shiver and repeated the name under his breath once before he said loudly, “Ying Xiuyang? Old Ying, so your full name is Ying Xiuyang!” Even though he was loud, his tone was modest as always. The scrawny old man didn’t suspect a thing as he was occupied and answered him loudly. When he wanted to say something more, Zhuo Yihang jumped over, lifted his sword with a swoosh, and thrusted at him.

The scrawny old man was surprised. His body shrinked and yelled, “Are you crazy?” But the man’s sword swung like a wind. He shouted, “I’ll kill you first, you Manchurian traitor!”

No one here had expected that from him. What he said shocked everyone, and Lian’er followed up shrilly, “So you really are a Manchurian traitor!” Her moves became faster. The other six all reacted differently. Maybe to save their own life, they didn’t stop, but all of them were undoubtedly flustered.

The situation took on yet another drastic change. It turned into a situation where Lian’er and Zhuo Yihang worked together fighting against Ying Xiuyang and the others. I gave two muffled coughs and looked one last time at the two people who stood side by side and came together to fight against the enemy before I couldn’t take it anymore and collapsed to the ground, sinking into the endless dark.


The Witch Nichang- Chapter 63 Yunu Peak

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 63

Yunu Peak

The night was quiet in Mount Hua. Everywhere you went, there were tall hills and deep streams, wisteria covering the paths, grass as tall as your waist. Hiking up the mountain at night was way more difficult than during the day, but if you lived here for more than ten years, anyone could climb up trees, speed through the mountain, and go around it like it was flat ground. 

We weren’t going fast; it was close to the speed of a stroll. Even so, the moon was still nowhere to be seen in the sky by the time we almost reached our destination, so I dragged Lian’er to a small peak on another side. From there, we could see across the mountain to the other side, which was Yunu Peak.

There were already four people waiting at that small flat ground. The moon tonight was brighter than last night. We could even see the expressions on their faces from afar. Most of them were nervous. After a while, two more people came. This time we could clearly see it; it was Zhuo Yihang, and I supposed the person next to him was the one who headed the formation last night. 

They didn’t talk much when they gathered together. Most of the time, they were staring at the moon. After staying silent for a while, a Taoist-looking person finally spoke, “Why is there still no sign of Jade Rakshasa?” Another person said, “Jade Rakshasa is a woman of her word. I’m worried that Brother Ying can’t make it on time.” Then the leader said, “Don’t worry, Brother Ying won’t break his word!”

We could hear their conversation. Lian’er sneered softly and said, “These cowards are getting restless. You stay here, don’t move. I’ll go and meet them. Scare them a bit.” After that, she was going to head out. This time I had no reason to stop her, so I said softly, “I’ll be waiting here. Be careful. Try to talk it out before you make a move.”

Of course it would be best if I could fight with her, but Lian’er wouldn’t have let me if not absolutely necessary, not to mention it was only the six of them now. The cunning main boss hadn’t shown up yet, and I didn’t know what the one who sneered in the woods last night would do either. After going through the options and weighing the pros and cons, I thought it would be best for me to hide in the dark first.

I didn’t know if Lian’er understood what I was thinking. She gave me a confident smile before she went, and with a whistle, she had gone away with the wind, dashing across the air from one peak to Yunu peak.

She didn’t try to hide the laugh-like whistle. It was meant to alarm her opponent. In that instant, the six idle men sprang to their feet in unison and went into guard. When she landed, no one dared to come too close to her. They kept some distance between them, surrounding her in a somewhat fan shape, standing ready in a battle array.

Among all the gazing eyes, I focused on one person almost unconsciously. From afar, the young man seemed to be frozen, his face dazed as if he was dreaming. It was a normal reaction. Anyone else would have been surprised to see each other again in such circumstances. But that expression to me could be interpreted in many ways. It bugged me.

In contrast to his surprise, the girl was much more composed. With last night as a prelude, Lian’er was certainly not surprised. She just lowered her head and smiled, light glowing in her eyes. It was a look that was familiar to me, but there was a different kind of coyness to her in the moonlight. My frown deepened as I looked from afar. The six of them looked astonished, some of them frivolous. They probably hadn’t gotten a taste of her strength, so they couldn’t stop themselves from trifling with her and said, “I didn’t expect that the legendary witch was such a beauty. Jade Rakshasa, your time is up. If you just surrender, we’ll let you off. Maybe it could bring about a good match.”

The girl’s face changed at his words, then she laughed and said, “Thank you for your kindness.” Her voice was flat, as if it was nothing, but everyone who knew her would know it was a bad sign. The leader knew what was going on, so he shouted hurriedly, “Jade Rakshasa, you can’t disregard the jianghu’s rules. It’s not time yet. Not everyone is here yet. Don’t you dare make a move!”

Before he could finish, the person who trifled with her just now jumped up ten feet, as if he was eagerly dodging something. I didn’t know if he managed to dodge it, but I saw his body stopped mid-air and crashed onto the ground, unable to get up. He was screaming while holding his leg, tears streaming down his face like a fountain. That Taoist-looking guy hurried over and took off his shoes and socks. Only after the Taoist-looking guy forced out a piece of silver object from his sole and kneaded it a few times did he seem better. 

I was too far away, so I couldn’t see what Lian’er was using, but I had an idea what she used. To put it in a nice way, it was her special concealed weapon, but it was actually the most common needle you could find in the town down the mountain. It was something she thought of using for hunting on a whim when she was a kid. Because it was handy for her, she even gave it a majestic name called Nine Star Fixation Needle. When she told me about it with pride, it took me a lot of effort to hold in my laugh. I was glad she didn’t string the needles up with a thread. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to help myself. I never thought that after all these years, she had gotten better with it. It was unpredictable and precise on hitting acupoints. You could intimidate your opponent with just a flick of your fingers. 

The girl didn’t keep attacking when he was down. She just put her hands behind her back and said with a sneer, “I thought he’s a tough man who doesn’t shed tears. Who’d have known he’s such a weakling.” The one who got hit was embarrassed. He didn’t dare to speak, but the venom in his eyes was growing. Lian’er probably saw it, but she didn’t take it seriously and said anyway, “You know what? I’m here to mourn for you. I just feel bad for my new-found friend that he’s seeking his own death too today.”

I heard that crystal clear. I knew who she was talking about. My mood that had slightly brightened because of our childhood memories went dark again.The young man in the group probably knew who she was talking about. The expression on his face was conflicting, looking as if he wanted to say something while having mixed feelings. Other people were puzzled and confused about what she meant by that, but they didn’t ask and were slowly shifting instead, forming a circle, wanting to surround their opponent.

With last night’s observation in mind, Lian’er knew what they wanted to do. 

When she saw that they had formed the formation, she gave a long laugh, her gleaming sword already drawn, and she called out, “Alright, it’s midnight now. I’m not going to wait any longer!” Her body shifted slightly. Moving as fast as lightning, she thrusted her sword at the leader.

With such a sudden move, she intended to stop her opponents from forming the formation. I, too, hoped that she could break the formation before the seventh person arrived, but at the same time, I was annoyed that she didn’t listen to what I had told her earlier. She didn’t talk it out before she made a move. After all, the seventh person was the main boss. If he actually committed so many evildoings, these people who came to help might not all know the truth. At least I knew Zhuo Yihang wasn’t someone who would help the evil, even though I wanted to avoid him so badly since the main reason that the ill-fated relationship would develop was because he was too upright and rigid.

But when I saw Lian’er made a move and he was fighting against her, I had to admit that it was a little…relieving.

No matter what I thought, it was bound to be a tough fight as the formation came into action. The six men didn’t stop. They were like a revolving lantern, one of them wielding two weapons, another wielding a monk’s sword; the one who took a needle but could still move was wielding a judge’s brush, Zhuo Yihang and the other was wielding a sword, and the last one was bareknuckle. They all had different moves, complementing each other. They worked better together compared to the last time I saw them. They must have each put in the effort after they went back.

But they were not the only ones who had put in the effort. If not for last night, it would be a bit of a problem, but now the situation was different. Lian’er was in the middle of the formation. She was calm, her sword gleaming, her moves elegant. They couldn’t do anything to her no matter how well they worked together and helped each other. 

They were busy fighting over there, meanwhile, I was observing and studying them over here. As the proverb goes, onlookers see most of the game. I saw how the formation worked. Among the six opponents, everyone fought with their all, eager to get rid of her, except for one. His attacks were sandwiched between others’ attacks, seemingly without the will to kill. He didn’t wield his sword in full force, and Lian’er also avoided his vitals when she attacked him. She just brushed over him every time. I hadn’t seen her use any tricky moves on him.

This was bad, very bad. I was getting a little anxious. It was because my personal feelings were stirring uncontrollably and also because of my analysis and judgment about the battle. Lian’er could deal with the formation now without any danger, but it would be difficult for her to break the formation fast if she intended to go easy on them, and that also meant she would be held back and tired out. By the time the seventh person came in and completed the formation, it was hard to say how it would turn out.

I wanted to fly straight over to help her, but my rationality told me it wasn’t the time. I could only hang tight and kept my eyes fixed on that place. I wished I had some kind of voice transmission skill, so I could let the girl hear my thoughts.

Fortunately, Lian’er had her own judgment even though she couldn’t hear me. She must have thought of what I had thought of. The six of them were moving back and forth like a tide, and their attacks were getting more frequent. It went on like that for a few rounds. Maybe because things didn’t turn out as she expected, she was becoming impatient. Her sword style changed abruptly. Her attacks became vicious and aggressive, and she was no longer holding back!

Before I could let out a sigh of relief after seeing that, a strange whistle came from a mountain peak. A scrawny old man leaped off the rock and shouted, “Jade Rakshasa, how could you disregard the jianghu’s rules?”

When the six of them saw him arrive, the leader made a hand gesture. They retreated like an ebb and got back in position. Lian’er sheathed her sword and jumped out of the circle. She shouted, “How am I disregarding the rules? It’s you who are late.” What she said was true. The moon was already in the sky now. The old man looked up, but he laughed instead and said, “I’ve been waiting for you here long before. You couldn’t even break through my brothers’ circle. What would happen if there’s one more person?”

I had thought before that he didn’t look like someone who had just arrived. I understood it right after he said that. Probably like me, he had been watching from afar. Then he showed up at the right time when things were looking good for him. He was cunning.

The girl thought of something when she saw him. She suddenly sneered and called out, “Old crook Ying, you’ve killed Great Hero Luo, Luo Jinfeng! Do you think no one knows?! Do these few punks become your goons by choice or were they deceived by your words?”

It wasn’t too late for her to say that. As soon as she said that, I could see that at least three of them were surprised and looked at each other. When the scrawny old man saw that things were going south, he immediately chided, “Don’t listen to this bitch! She’s bullied the outlaws in the Sichuan-Shaanxi region for long enough, and she’s hurt the Songyang chief escort and Wudang disciples! She’s an enemy of Wulin. If we don’t get rid of her now, she’ll be a problem in the future!” With that, he lifted his fly-whisk, then the head of the six quickly formed the formation and surrounded the girl in the middle again. 

All seven people of the formation were here. It looked different from what I had seen just now. The scrawny old man was at the center as the support. He was wielding a fly-whisk. It could be wielded like a sword or something to strike the acupoints. It was already powerful by itself; it was brilliant now that it combined the strength of six people. Lian’er couldn’t talk anymore while dealing with her opponents. The few who got suspicious had to fight since they were already on the tiger’s back and were worried about getting killed. They fought as hard as before without holding back.

The formation patterns were unpredictable. Seven masters, each had their own martial style. Its power was not as simple as adding up. Lian’er had wasted her energy earlier. Although she managed to injure a few, their injuries weren’t severe. It didn’t weaken their strength. The situation was getting harder. It seemed to be getting more dangerous as the fight went on. 

Since the situation had come to this, I could no longer care about the mysterious person who showed up in the woods last night. I drew my sword and dashed down the mountain and into the battle. Without saying anything, I deflected the two weapons attacking from behind Lian’er and stood side by side with her.

“Who’re you?!” The scrawny old man shouted when he saw that someone came to her help. I wasn’t facing him and didn’t want to turn my head either, so I just said a word, “Backup.” The old man got irritated and shouted, “Jade Rakshasa! Didn’t you say you came alone?!”

Lian’er was unhappy when she saw me barge in, but after hearing the scrawny old man’s question, she sneered and said, “Funny. You could ask six people to help you. Why do I have to fight by myself? Two against seven. It’s still in your favor. Cut the crap!”

She didn’t stop and made a sweep, striking five people, only leaving the two behind her for me.

I knew from last night’s observation that it was a 3-3 tactic, three attacking, three defending. This move of Lian’er limited the main and most aggressive attacks and also one other support, leaving the two who were relatively less threatening. How would I not know what she was thinking? I smiled and turned to lift my sword but found that one of the two I fought against was someone I knew.

“Mi…Miss…” Zhuo Yihang was the one who hesitated the most when he was attacking earlier. Now that he saw me, his moves turned even more chaotic, his sword slow and his feet tardy, but the one next to him who was fighting bare-knuckle didn’t care much. His hand charged toward me like an eagle claw. I had no time for pleasantries, so I lifted my sword and faced his attack.

I knew the gravity of the situation the moment I fought. I wasn’t as strong as Lian’er. That was why I only fought against two, one of them didn’t even go full-out. Even so it wasn’t easy. Fortunately, we had observed the formation before, so we still had the situation under control. I only had to hold off Zhuo Yihang. He wouldn’t push on. The martial art of the bare-knuckle person was a hard style martial art. The odds would most likely not be on my side if I was grabbed, but with the advantage of a weapon and my agility, it wasn’t too difficult to keep him under control.

With me holding two people off, the formation couldn’t be as flexible, and its power was weakened. Even if I had no time to turn around, I knew how excited Lian’er was destroying them behind me.

Things were looking good. It was just a matter of time before we beat them. 

If it weren’t for that split-second thought. 

Kindness happens in a split second, so as evil. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. While I was surrounded by swords and focused on defending against them, a cruel thought hit me as I was facing someone who showed mercy.

I should get rid of my biggest worry.


The Witch Nichang- Chapter 62 Uncover

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 62

Uncover

“Brother Zhuo, we’ll fight the witch at the peak of Mount Hua tomorrow night. Let’s practice the killing formation first tonight.”

I had to admit I regretted my decision when I heard what he said. I led Lian’er myself to the one person I wanted her to avoid the most. It was an unfortunate coincidence, but it was exactly a fated coincidence like this that made me feel despondent.

But this feeling of despondency didn’t last long before it dissipated.

Since the answer was obvious if I were to choose between Lian’er’s safety and letting them meet. 

At the base of the hillside, the moonlight was faint and casted a pale white glow on the ground, reflecting the shadows of those people. I could just about make them out. It was just that the wind was erratic, sometimes to the east and sometimes to the west, interfering with the direction of voices, but even so, I could hear pieces of the conversation if I focused.

I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t listened closely to it. It wasn’t difficult to tell that the Brother Ying this group of people were talking about was the so-called old crook Ying Lian’er had mentioned, also the person she was going to fight tomorrow, so the witch they kept bringing up could, of course, not be someone else.

That said, they were planning to join forces against Lian’er. I frowned upon hearing it, I lowered my voice and asked the person next to me as I listened in, “Didn’t you challenge only one person to a duel? What’s going on now?” I heard Lian’er snort and say, “Why should I be afraid if he’s going to get help?” Then her eyes stared straight down the hillside again.

I took a glance at her. Other than disdain, I couldn’t see anything else from her face. I didn’t have time to think about it either, so I shifted my attention back to that place. 

Those people started to get down to business after exchanging a few words. One after another, they formed a circle. A person in the circle shouted, “Even though all seven of us are master martial artists, Jade Rakshasa is fast. If we don’t have this mastered, it won’t be a problem to beat her with the seven of us, but we won’t necessarily be able to kill her. So Brother Ying has come up with this formation called the Seven Masters’ Demon Slayer Formation. One person will be the commander, four will be the support, and the other two will be the spearhead and the defense. We’ll exchange our role, keeping the formation unpredictable. We’ll attack in three at a time, one group attacks and the other retreats. With this rotation and someone in the middle as support, this will surely keep our opponent’s hand full. She won’t be able to get away even if she has superhuman powers. Now that Brother Ying is not here, we don’t have a commander. Let’s practice our attack coordination first with just the six of us!”

After saying that, he began to explain the positioning of the formation. I was a little frustrated because I couldn’t hear him clearly, but fortunately, they started to train after that. Although I didn’t hear everything they said, I could see their moves in the moonlight. These six people were divided into two groups. As soon as one group attacked, the other followed up immediately. The formation was sometimes a circle and sometimes a square. They sometimes surrounded the opponent and sometimes attacked from both sides, but their steps stayed coordinated, initiating bouts of attacks like a wave. They were determined not to give their opponent any chance to catch their breath.

“What Seven Masters’ Demon Slayer Formation. How nice. It’s nothing but a tag-team attack.” Next to me, Lian’er complained in a soft voice. Even though her tone was contemptuous, her expression got serious. She was skilled in martial arts. She should have recognized the strength of that formation. It was just that she didn’t want to admit it out loud. 

“It’s a strategic tag-team.” I followed up. I knew her temper, so I didn’t say anything more, lest it affected her learning the formation. 

No matter what happened and who we bumped into tonight, it was all worth it to be able to come upon this and ensure her safety tomorrow.

After some time, the one who was leading them probably thought they had mastered the formation. He shouted, closing the formation. Everyone of them withdrew from the formation. Then that person smiled and said, “Brother Zhuo, your Wudang Serial Sword and Brother Zhao’s Songyang Wind Slasher really add to the formation. I didn’t know what to do at first when we were one man short. Fortunately, you came to help. Heaven helps us.” After that, he mentioned a few so-called wrongdoings of Jade Rakshasa, then a man replied, “Since that witch is so vicious and has crossed us Wudang before, we cannot let her off. It’s better to get rid of her.”

How could Lian’er stomach it hearing them talk about her like this? If not for me holding on to her, she would have sprung to her feet. I didn’t know why I held her off. It was just that I didn’t want her to jump out and meet those people. It was actually dumb of me. They would meet tomorrow night if not tonight, but I was thinking every bit of time mattered. Besides, she needed time to think about a counter attack after learning the formation, all the more reason to hold her off. 

But I knew Lian’er‘s temper. How could she stand people slandering her behind her back? Especially after what Zhuo Yihang said—I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it—she became even angrier. Usually, the angrier she got, the bigger her smile was when she was in front of others. She wouldn’t act like this in front of me. Now she just stopped talking and silently channeled her qi, fighting to stand up. 

When I was about to lose her, a sneer came from the woods not far away, scaring off a flock of birds. 

Everyone was startled. Lian’er and I stopped fighting and turned to the sound, astounded. The reaction of the people at the base of the hillside was even stronger. The leader shouted, and six of them rushed to where the sneer came from.

They rushed into the woods. Cold wind was blowing, and sparks were flickering. A few figures were weaving their way between the trees, causing the birds to take flight, but they couldn’t find anything. After that, they gathered again. Alarmed, they speculated, and someone said, “Could it be that Jade Rakshasa is here to mess with us?!” Another answered, “It didn’t sound like a woman’s voice.” Then another said, “Could it be a ghost? But ghosts aren’t that fast.” Someone guessed, “Could we have heard wrong?”

Finally, the leader said, boosting his courage, “Regardless of whether he is an enemy or foe, they won’t get out unharmed once they get into our formation. What are there to be afraid of?” He sounded unsure after saying that. Then he asked everyone to split up and left with Zhuo Yihang, heading towards the trail down the hill and gradually disappearing into the dark.

When I was sure that everyone was gone and the night fell silent again, we got up from behind the old tree on the cliff.

I glanced sideways at the person next to me. In the moonlight, her face looked serious, her brows slightly creased, and I knew things weren’t looking good. Even though this kid was full of pride, she could make her own judgment. The group earlier found nothing. Even I, with the high ground the cliff provided, could only see that there was a black shadow in the woods. It was as fast as a frightened swan and disappeared in a flash. The speed was not much slower than Lian’er at top speed. I was even sure that I was right when I saw the look on her face. 

It wasn’t too bad if it was just the formation, but Zhuo Yihang had to come into this. That made me worried, and now there was this person. I had no idea if they were an enemy or a foe, or it was just a coincidence. Once a simple duel had become more complicated. As I was worrying about this problem, a soft warmth wrapped around my right hand. I raised my head and saw Lian’er take my hand, looked over, and said, “What are you thinking? Think about it when we’re back. Since it has come to this, I don’t think we still have to go to Yunu Peak anymore, right?”

A moment ago, she was still thinking with her brows furrowed, but after a while, she was back to her usual proud and composed self, looking even prouder. My breath was taken away for a second. Then I thought of something. I smiled and took her hand, holding it gently. “Alright, let’s get back first,” I said. 

Right. In the eyes of the fearless Lian’er, it was just a matter of facing the problem as it came no matter how big the problem was. How many people and things are there that can make her worried and cower in this world?

Of course we no longer had to go to Yunu Peak. What we got on our way by chance was more than we had expected. When we were back to Yellow Dragon Cave, Lian’er was thinking on her own. I left her alone. I only told her to wash up and get her to bed when it was time. I was worried at first that she overthought and couldn’t sleep well, but it turned out it didn’t affect her. She fell fast asleep shortly after she lay down, looking carefree in her sleep as always. On the other hand, thoughts were racing through my head all night, and I had a few fragmented dreams. It was a restless night.

Everything went on as usual the next day. We never brought up what happened last night, except I didn’t ask Lian’er to help me on houseworks to give her more free time. Instead, she became bored and played with the pink flower I gave her yesterday. She had been playing with it for the whole day, but shortly after dinner, she came to me looking unhappy and said, “Look at the thing you gave me. Look. It’s only been one day, and it’s already shriveled.”

I had just finished with the dishes, and my hands were still wet when I saw that saggy little thing in her hand. Before she went to bed last night, she had made a point of remembering to put away the flower, and today, she had played with it carefully for a long time. I was glad to see that. Now that I heard what she said, I couldn’t help but laugh and said, “You silly, is there a flower that doesn’t wither after being taken off the tree? Even if it stays on the tree forever, there’s no flower that blooms forever in this world.”

“Anyway, the next time you give me something, remember to give me something that stays, at least not something that lasted such a short time.” She didn’t argue back. It seemed that she just came over to complain. After that, she left those words and went back inside. When I returned to the cave after drying my hands, I saw her standing at the corner where the books and papers were stored and placing the shriveled flower between the pages. 

If I saw that right, it was the old book with a blue cover which she used to store Master’s will. 

After doing that, Lian’er got up, straightened her clothes, picked up her long sword by the bedside, walked to me, and said with a smile, “I’m going out.”

Before I knew it, I turned to look outside the cave. I couldn’t actually see out from here, but I had been looking out the whole time, so I knew the time even without looking. I responded, “So early? Isn’t it at midnight? Now the day is just getting dark. Isn’t it too early?”

“Better early than late. Isn’t that what you taught me?” She nodded with seeming seriousness.

“Alright then.” I didn’t want to argue with her. I got up, took out the short sword that had been with me since young from under the pillow, and attached it to my waist. “Let’s go. I’ll go with you,” I said. 

She frowned as soon as I said that. Lian’er shook her head. “It’s me who’s going to fight. What are you going to do there? No, I don’t want you there. You wait here. I’ll be back soon after midnight.”

I fell silent for a moment, staring into her eyes. I didn’t respond and didn’t say anything either but calmly repeated something I had said before, “Never to leave you, in weal and woe…Lian’er, you agreed to it at that time.”


The Witch Nichang- Chapter 61 Scouting

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 61

Scouting

Fighting with destiny, grabbing fate by its throat, hm, it was easier said than done.

It seemed like I had failed on the first try. 

“Leave? No. What’s the hurry? We’ll talk about it after tomorrow night.” Lian’er was working on a river fish as she spoke. It was a steamed fish, tasted light and fresh, just the way she liked it. That was why she didn’t mind the trouble, which was rare. A pair of bamboo chopsticks were moving across the fish as smoothly as a sword blade. The fine bones hidden in the flesh somehow gave way obediently, piling themselves into a small snowdrift. After she boned the fish and dipped it in the broth, she gave a small portion to me and sent most of it into her mouth with satisfaction.

I spaced out a little seeing her enjoying her food, then I realized that my suggestion had been turned down.

If you aren’t sure if you can win a direct confrontation, just avoid it. If you don’t want them to develop feelings for each other, just don’t let them see each other. With this simplest tactic of retreating when the enemy attacked in mind, I suggested over dinner that we leave Yellow Dragon Cave tomorrow and return to Mount Dingjun. I thought Lian’er would gladly accept it, but who knew she would refuse. 

“Why?” Frowning, I put the last bit of vegetables into her bowl. If I didn’t do that, this little wolf wouldn’t have touched the greens at all till the end of dinner. 

“We’ve stayed here for several months now. Now that we’ve carried out Master’s will, there’s no need for us to stay here anymore. Don’t you want to go back to the stronghold?”

She reluctantly picked up the vegetable and grudgingly chewed it a few times before gulping it down, as if what she ate wasn’t vegetables but straws. Then she took a mouthful of soup, rinsing away the taste in her mouth before she answered, “Of course I want to go back. There’s a lot of stuff waiting for me there, but I’m not done here.”

“What is it?” I laid down my bowl and chopsticks, looking at her, waiting. 

Then Lian’er realized that she slipped up, but she didn’t act awkward about it. She laid down her chopsticks with equal grace and brushed her hair as she turned her eyes. “I’ve arranged a duel with someone at Yunu Peak. The time is tomorrow night, so it’s not too late to leave the day after tomorrow. Can’t be any earlier than that.”

“…Why didn’t you tell me?” I looked into her eyes, feeling somewhat exasperated.

“You didn’t ask.” She was straightforward and answered honestly, finishing off the last bite of fish in her bowl.

Alright. It was true that I never asked her about these things. There were almost no secrets between the two of us, but the stronghold wasn’t hers alone after all. I was more like a guest there, so I consciously avoided meddling in her business. I never even tried to find out what she and her people who came to report to her were talking about every time she went down the mountains. 

But…

“Lian’er, I wouldn’t ask about the things in the stronghold. It’s fine that I don’t know…” But some things had to be made clear. Otherwise, I would be the one worrying about her. 

“But if it concerns your safety, that’s a different story. You’re worried about me getting sick; I’m worried about you getting into trouble. We only have each other when Master is not around. Do you understand?”

I stood up when I said that, both hands pressed against the edge of the stone table and my eyes fixed on her, hoping that it would make her understand the severity of my words.

She looked back at me without averting her eyes, but there was no fight in her eyes. A pair of bright eyes blinked a few times, then a smile spread across her face, and she said, “I like to see you worry about me. Maybe I’m used to seeing it since I was little. I feel like there’s nothing I can’t overcome when you’re worried.”

I expelled a breath and said, “Then you’d better bring me along for everything. The more concerning the matter is, the more you shouldn’t forget that.”

I took away the dishes on the table as I said so. Having no time to wash them, I stacked them in a corner, wiped my hands, and looked at the sky outside. The moon had risen in the east, glimmering with stars spread sparsely across the sky. It was nice. Then I turned around and got my coat and flame stick, grabbed her, and said, “Let’s go.”

Lian’er had just washed her face with clean water. She was starting to settle down, feeling satisfied and content. When she saw me acting this way, she said, surprised, “For what? The duel is tomorrow night, not tonight.”

“Scouting,” I said curtly.

You can never be too careful. This applies everywhere you go. Lian’er believed that we knew all the way around Mount Hua, but she nonetheless agreed to have a look—even though in her mind, she probably saw it more as accompanying me.

I hadn’t thought about this at all. This suddenly came out of nowhere. I wasn’t ready for it. Even if I had a gut feeling that nothing could go wrong, I couldn’t help feeling uneasy. I only found out a little more about the duel after I asked her on the way. The person she was going to have a duel with was a jianghu member called Ying Xiuyang. Lian’er called him an old crook, saying that he stabbed some great hero in the back and he was wicked. It was highly likely that he was a Manchurian mole who betrayed his country, but unfortunately, she lacked evidence, so she challenged him for a duel as an excuse, so she could kill him and get rid of the problem. The duel was supposed to take place near Mount Dingjun, but we couldn’t go back because of the matter with Master, so she changed the place to Mount Hua.

Needless to say, this information was reported to her by her people from the stronghold. I didn’t doubt the legitimacy of the information, but Lian’er was simple and didn’t like to deal with the scutwork. Even though she was the chief, the real power was in someone else’s hand. She was more like the titular chief. Even if she was respected and hailed by the people and what she did and said was for the country and the people, the truth was she ran the risk of being manipulated and used.

It might be a little cold and heartless to think this way. I had no real feeling about the country and the people in this world. The country was in chaos during the late Ming dynasty, wars were everywhere, threats were coming from within and without, and then came the fall of Ming dynasty. These were just a few lines in the history books. To me, these were all bound to happen and had nothing to do with me. I had no ambition of getting involved in it since I was way past the age of being young and reckless and had once experienced death. That feeling still lingered. The wheel of history was too hefty. One slip, and I would be crushed to ashes again. 

But of course the people who lived in the present wouldn’t think so. Even the rebellious Lian’er who didn’t read much developed sympathy for the misfortunes and these strong emotions of love and hate because of what she had seen and heard and being around it after coming down the mountains. It was in no way wrong that she was willing to bear the burden of standing up for the people.

But when I thought of the conversation I had with the chief steward, Dong Sun, it still gave me a headache.

The road to love was going to be bumpy, so was the road ahead. I couldn’t make a single mistake walking on both. What I feared the most was that there was nothing I could do.

Lian’er didn’t know what I was contemplating. When she didn’t get any response from me after she told me—probably thinking that I didn’t agree with what she was doing—she got angry and stopped talking and just focused on the road. I was thinking about the things on my mind, so I only realized something was wrong after a while. I looked up and saw that she was scowling. I couldn’t help but ask, “What’s wrong? Angry again?”

“That’s my question to you. You have a serious face on.” Lian’er snorted and kept going. “Is pleading for Wudang’s disciples not enough? Do you want to plead for the old crook too? I like to fight, and you like to intercede. It’s so annoying.” 

I didn’t know how she came to that. I chuckled when I heard that and asked in return, “In Lian’er’s eyes, am I a do-gooder who goes around pleading for people?” She slowed down but still not looking back. I picked up my pace to catch up to her and grabbed her hand, stopping her.

She was cut off, anger still colored her face. She remained silent, reluctant to look me in the eyes. I sighed to myself, thinking to myself, not again. I looked around, thinking about how to cheer her up. Then I stumbled across an old tree by the cliff under the night sky, dotted with spots of pale rouge. An idea struck me. I smiled and said, “Wait here,” and headed towards it carefully. 

But the person next to me didn’t listen. Even though she didn’t want to talk, she followed behind me, keeping a three step distance. 

I knew she was a person who had a sharp tongue but a soft heart. She probably was worried about me going to the edge of the cliff alone. I wanted to grin, but I couldn’t or else I would have a hell of a time if I exposed her, so I could only smile to myself, and at the same time, a corner of my heart was melting.

But Lian’er really underestimated me. No matter how bad I was, nothing could go wrong with such a simple task. I successfully got up the tree and snapped off a pale red flower. It was an early spring apricot blossom, its petals stretched out. Though small, it was at its full bloom. Rain and dew of today were sprinkled across the pink and white, adding to its elegance and beauty.

When Lian’er saw me landed safely, she stopped and stood three steps away, her lips still pursed tight, but her expression had lightened up, anger and irritation gradually lifted and replaced by confused curiosity.

I returned a smile and went back to her side. I tapped the small pale rouge between my fingers to shake off the excess dew and fixed it onto her hair lace. 

This was the first time I did this on purpose after I had made a certain decision. I had never done it before. Even though I pretended it was nothing, my heart was drumming. After fixing it in place, I took a step back and pretended to look at it. I nodded and said with a smile, hiding my nervousness, “Not bad.”

In contrast to me who pretended to be unaffected, Lian’er was the one who was actually unaffected. She shook her head and found that it stayed fixed. Without touching that small object, she turned her gaze at me and was finally willing to speak. She asked, “What’s this for?”

“This looks good on you,” I answered frankly. 

“I know it looks good.” She was even more frank than I was, not even trying to hide her pride. “I look good even without the flower. This flower is beautiful, but it’ll wither in a few days. Can’t compare to me.” Even though she said that, she raised her hand and touched it carefully. Her touch was gentle. It seemed like she liked it a lot. 

I smiled looking at her. When she was a kid, she didn’t have any idea of what was beautiful. Now that she had grown up, went down the mountains, and got to know more people, she should have come to know that she had a gorgeous face. With her personality, she was of course very proud of it, but her pride was mostly pure. She had no idea how much impact it had on other people.

“Lian’er.” I pulled her over and let out a soft sigh. “Do you know what I don’t like the most about you going for a duel? Not because you’ll hurt people, not even because you might get hurt since you’re great at martial arts and sword. No one knows this better than me. But I don’t like how those boors look at you. I like that you’re good-looking, but I don’t like those blockheads gawking at you.”

“Oh, don’t worry. It’s not a big deal. If anyone dares to gawk at me, I’ll gouge out his eyes!” In response to my insinuating words, she replied almost without hesitation, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I smiled, disappointed. Sure enough, she didn’t understand it. Nevermind, I didn’t expect her to understand either.

As long as she was no longer angry. There was still time. One step at a time. 

As long as nothing goes wrong.

As I was thinking about that, I heard an “eh” coming from the person beside me. Before I could ask her what happened, Lian’er yanked on my sleeve and brought me down by surprise. Crouching under the tree, I tilted my head and looked at her with confusion. Then I saw her making a silent gesture and pointed at the base of the cliff. 

The cliff was not tall. It looked more like a hillside judging by its terrain. Looking down following where her finger pointed, I saw two people at the base of the hill walking towards here from afar. Suddenly, an odd whistle rang out, and the people stopped and clapped their hands. Then a few people came out from behind the unclaimed grave.

The wind was blowing in the right direction, so we could hear voices speaking, “Brother Ying can’t make it too? How could we do without him!” One of them replied, “He’s going to find the right timing and show up unexpectedly tomorrow night to scare that witch.” After that, the wind turned, and we could hear them whispering for a while but couldn’t make out what they were saying. It was only towards the end that we heard a man say with great bravado, “Brother Zhuo, we’ll fight the witch at the peak of Mount Hua tomorrow night, so we want to practice and nail that killing formation tonight.”

That “Brother Zhuo” made my heart skip. Lian’er frowned and said under her breath, looking in that direction, “Why is it him?”

I smiled wryly, unable to help myself. Does this count as a mistake?


Slopaw’s note:
Khriss, the editor of this novel, is busy lately, so this chapter is unedited. I’ll upload the edited version again after Khriss has done the editing. Please bear with me if there are any mistakes or any parts that sound awkward. I’ve also set up membership subscriptions for early chapters on Kofi. If you’re interested, you can check it out on my Kofi page. Thank you so much for everyone who has supported me and stayed with me until now. I’ll try my best to release a chapter every two to three days (the goal I’m setting for myself). Hope you like the chapter.

The Witch Nichang- Chapter 60 Gamble

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 60

Gamble

Heartache? Why would I have that.

I had long been ready for it. All these years, I had even thought about giving them my blessing.

So I shook my head and smiled in the end. Step by step, I walked up to her, who stood at the entrance, and patted her shoulder. I said teasingly, “What are you staring at? He’s gone. You won’t see him even if you keep looking.”

Then Lian’er wheeled around, surprised, and said with a hint of blame in her voice, “What nonsense are you talking about? Who wants to see him? I was just thinking about something!”

After shouting that, she turned her eyes to me. With a glance, her face darkened.

“Why are you still dressed so lightly? I’ve told you to put on more clothes. What’s going on? Didn’t you hear me?!”

She seemed to have gotten angry. She grabbed me and strode into the cave. The wrist that was being grabbed was warming up. I told her with a smile that as a lady, she had to be gentler, but I was completely ignored. I found myself being dragged to the bedside in the cave. After a whirling spin, I was pushed down onto the bed, then a thick soft blanket shrouded me. 

I warmed up right away, but it was heavy and stifling. I managed to peek half of my head out from the blanket. Smiling, I looked at the person before the bed who was so focused on wrapping me. Lian’er eventually wrapped me into a large snug spring roll before she clapped and stopped, satisfied. “Just lie down. I’m going to heat up some water,” she said and turned around but didn’t manage to leave.

Reaching one hand out from the white spring roll wrapper, I grabbed her. I felt I might look a little out of character, but I couldn’t care less. I looked at her with expectant eyes and said, smiling, “Don’t go. Stay with me for a while.”

Lian’er stared at me for a while, and at last, she crouched down and said, brows furrowed, “I think you’re burning up again. Something’s off with you. Even though it wasn’t like the last time you had a fever, something still seemed off with you. I should have asked that guy if he had any medicine on him.”

I paused, held her hand, and put it on my forehead. 

“Is it cold or warm?” I asked.

“Cold,” she answered honestly.

“It would have been warm if I had a fever, so I was just cold from staying in the wind. I wouldn’t have taken the medicine even if that guy had it. Just stay with me,” I said as I smiled.

She stood up after thinking about it and sat on the edge of the bed, staying silent for a while while swinging my hand. Then she patted the big white spring roll she made herself and said, “You still seem off. Don’t even try to hide it from me. Tell me, is it because of Master? Or that stranger?”

It was just how this kid was. She wasn’t subtle and didn’t care about social code, but in a way, she was extremely perceptive and intuitive, often hitting the nail on the head. I was wriggling upward in the heavy blanket that wrapped so tightly around me, trying to turn the half a head I peeked out into the entire head. I let out a breath and conceded, “Both. Which one do you want to know about?”

She raised her brow and said, “The thing about Master. The fact that you agree to me sending the message means that you accept that Master’s died. I know you are sad. But that aside, why are you so friendly to Zhuo Yihang? And you kept asking him about that guy named Geng. It isn’t like you.”

My heart ached at first when I heard the name Zhuo Yihang coming from her mouth, but when she finished, my heart was thumping. I looked at her and said, “You don’t like me…asking about that Geng guy?”

A look of disgust tinged with indignation sprang on her face. She glared at me and said, “Of course I don’t like it! People from Wudang always see themselves as prestigious, and most of them are arrogant, especially the one named Geng. I let it slip when you asked for mercy for him at Mount Dingjun. Why are you asking about him again? I don’t like it.”

“I just wanted to find out what’s going on with them. Have you not thought that the Geng guy and his people would go back and spin the story to instigate some of the elders to get revenge after losing out to you?” I spoke my mind, part of it and hid the rest. I knew she was headstrong, so I quickly added, “I know you’re not scared of them, but it won’t do us any good if we get into trouble yet, so they get to have their way.”

Lian’er was about to blow up, but after listening to the last part I added in time, she pondered for a while and reluctantly agreed with a nod. “Fair enough, but don’t bring up those people if it’s not necessary. I don’t like it.”

I chuckled and replied, looking at her, “How can you talk and laugh with that Zhuo guy if you don’t like me bringing up that Geng guy? They are both Wudang disciples. That’s favouritism. 

Even though I said it casually, my heart tensed. Was it wise to bring up this topic? I wasn’t sure. 

It was just, I wanted to know.

“Zhuo Yihang isn’t that annoying. He’s goofy and looks quite honest, also thoughtful and unassuming. I can talk to him.” Having no way to know what I was thinking, Lian’er just spoke her mind. A smile even tugged at her lips when she said that.

“It’s just that he’s a little cowardy and indecisive. His martial skills aren’t good either. He couldn’t even dodge it when I tried him out just now, and he blushed. He’s funny.”

She smiled as she lost herself in earlier memories. I closed my eyes and licked the wound on my lips. I opened my eyes again before long. 

“Lian’er,” I said, our hands still holding together. I was holding only one of her hands, but when I hooked her finger, she returned a “hm?”, lowered her head, and looked at me, waiting for me to speak.

Lian’er…do you like that person?

“Lian’er, I’m still feeling a little cold. What should I do?” Blinking, I looked at her innocently, watching her pretty smile melt away. 

“You’re asking me what to do?” Lian’er had forgotten what we were talking about. She flung her hand angrily and sprang to her feet. She said, scowling, “You said you’re fine when I offered to heat up some water for you, and when I asked you if you have fever, you said you don’t, and now you’re asking me what to do? How would I know? I might as well go down the mountains and abduct a doctor! Don’t wait until you become like Master!”

I knew she would be worried, but I didn’t expect it would remind her about Master. I quickly wriggled out of the blanket and held her, stopping her from leaving. 

“It’s okay. I’m fine, don’t worry,” I reassured her in a soft voice.

“Who’s worrying!” Lian’er replied stubbornly, standing still, but her back was tense.

“Okay, okay, don’t worry. There’s nothing to worry about, really.” I answered, wrapping my arms around her waist and gently pulling her back. Finally, she sat down again. Only then did I get the chance to explain, “I’m not the same as Master. How could I go into Qi Deviation with my lousy martial skills even if I want to? Why have you become someone who likes to assume the worst more than me? I just said I’m feeling cold. It’ll be much better if you go to the entrance and set up the two hide screens to block off some wind.”

“Is that it?” She stared at me questioningly, as if she didn’t quite believe me.

“That’s it.” I nodded seriously, then smiled and said, “If you’re worried, then come sleep with me for a little while. Your body is warm. I like it a lot.”

She rolled her eyes upon hearing it and snorted but didn’t disagree. She stood up and walked out, going straight to work, her mouth complaining, “It’s such a trouble to have a weak body. I don’t feel cold at all. I’ll find a way to make you be like me one day.”

I listened to her complaining with a smile. I closed my eyes as I lied down, pulling the blanket over myself again.

You’re right, Lian’er. Your martial sister is a trouble and perhaps she will cause you a lot more trouble in the future. 

Do you like him? I ended up not asking this question because I didn’t want you to even think about the answer to this question. Lian’er, I once thought of giving you my blessing, but now you have to get through me first. 

The wind gusting in suddenly dwindled and slowly, I couldn’t feel it anymore. Even though those two screens were old and worn, they were still working, properly blocking off the wind outside; if only it could also block off the world outside.

The footsteps were returning, slowly approaching here. Then a rustle came. A corner of the spring roll wrapper was lifted, and there came a warm embrace.

“I’ll give you two hours. Hurry up and get warm. We have dinner to make!” Next to my ears was a voice in a tone feigning fierceness, but as if afraid of disturbing me, her voice was lowered to a soft mumble.

I smiled. I didn’t answer her but patted her hand that was on my waist, indicating that I heard her. 

If you get through her, she will accept it and return to her place for the years to come, protecting you without crossing the line, guarding the fated love of you and your destined one. Even if that means giving her all, she will shield you from those fated suffering and hardships, leaving only the good and ease, a smooth ride and a harmonious union.

If you cannot get through her, sorry, you will have to lose your fated love and your heart to her. 

Forgive me for making the decision on your behalf and taking this gamble because the chances of winning are high. Since there is someone dumb enough to fight with destiny, why don’t you just watch. If she loses, it will just be a one-woman show. If she wins, she will just be asking you for a dance. Just grant her. She will never hurt you. 

Win or lose, she will never hurt you.


The Witch Nichang- Chapter 59 Game

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 59

Game

The moment I believed that this child was Lian Nichang, I knew there must be a Zhuo Yihang in this world. 

Although I didn’t like it, these two are names that were destined to be intertwined.

It was exactly because I didn’t like it that for the past few years since encountering Honghua Guimu, the time I spent on thinking about this name might be longer than the time I spent on thinking about Lian’er and Master. Whenever I had time, I couldn’t help but rake my brain trying to remember, even if it was just a word, a sentence, or a scene. This was unlike when I tried to recall it as a kid. At that time, it didn’t matter whether I could recall or not. Now that I was sure that some things were bound to happen, how could I sit back and wait for fate to unfold?

And now, the character that I had envisioned countless times in my mind finally showed up in front of me.

I was glad, actually. What will come will come. This plain appearance was the most acceptable kind out of the several possibilities I had concluded over the past few years with bits and pieces of my memories. What I was more glad about was that I had realized it in time.

But it had only just begun.

The young man was interrupted. He looked a little puzzled when the name that he hadn’t had a chance to say was uttered by another person, but he didn’t stay puzzled for long as I pointed out his master and where he came from. He was surprised, so he put aside his earlier puzzlement and said solemnly with cupped fists, “You’re right. I’ve indeed learned some basics from Wudang, but I wonder how Miss got to know about this?”

“It was just that I had the chance to travel with your martial brother, Geng Shaonan and the others on my way to Shaanxi for a few days. That’s why I’ve heard some details. You needn’t worry.” I answered with a smile. As if in concern, I asked, “Unfortunately, we parted ways because something came up. I wonder if you have any news about them? How’re they doing?”

That was right. It was intentional to ask these questions.

The man didn’t question it. His face brightened up when he heard that, and he said, “Ah, so you’re Brother Geng’s friend. Forgive my impudence. I’ve been busy with family matters in the capital for the past few days, so I haven’t seen my fellow martial brothers, but…” He hesitated for a second before saying, “But according to a new friend I met in the capital, Brother Geng seemed to have gotten hurt. Fortunately, it wasn’t serious. He probably went back to Mount Wudang after that. Don’t worry, Miss.”

“Oh?” Feigning surprise, I asked curiously, “He got hurt even with his excellent martial skills. I wonder who’s hurt him? What’s the plan now? Is Wudang going to stand up for him?”

When I asked that, I glanced at the girl next to me, seemingly unintentionally. Lian’er was still tugging on my sleeve but seemed to be drawn to this topic, curiosity showing on her face. Since it was her doing, she of course wasn’t curious about who had hurt him. Hearing me ask that, she looked at that person. I supposed she wanted to know how he would answer.

“I heard it’s a cunning ruthless hag!” Unsuspecting, he blurted out angrily. Then he realized it was inappropriate right after and stopped. He said, his head down, “I’m very sorry. I got angry and blundered. Don’t take offense. Actually, it’s better not to get involved if you aren’t fellow members of jianghu. The elders and the pupils from Wudang will take care of the feuds and affairs in jianghu. They’ll ask for justice sooner or later. I thank you on behalf of Brother Geng for your concern.”

He behaved with courtesy. When he spoke, he didn’t look at us directly most of the time, so he didn’t see how the face of the girl in white changed when he said “cunning hag.”

Even so, Lian’er didn’t lose her temper.

She was still holding my arm. She even slid down my arm to hold my hand behind my back. 

“Who cares about that guy? Your Wudang has a long history and produces many heroes. Just go ahead if you guys want to go after that person. That person might not be afraid of you. You can talk about it after you’ve taught them a lesson. My…my sister isn’t feeling well. Why do you have to bad-mouth other people?”

I turned around and gazed at her. For the first time, I was unable to tell the truth in her words.

Was it really because of the reason she gave? The person beside me didn’t care about me looking at her but looked at the man haughtily instead. There was displeasure in her eyes, but there was no anger. So did this girl really put up with it because she cared about her friend? Or was it simply because she didn’t want to snap at him?

“Miss, that’s not true.” The man heard the displeasure in her voice and quickly explained, “Wudang’s reputation has never come from abusing our power. As for the reason behind this matter, everyone will be the judge of it. I blundered just now. I’m just a junior. Although my teacher hasn’t given up on me, I’m slow and have no success in arts and martial arts, let alone my insignificant standing in Wudang. Naturally, what I said can’t represent Wudang. I hope that Miss won’t take it personally.”

He probably got a little suspicious because his words became particularly modest and cautious. The displeasure on Lian’er’s face was fading. She nodded and said, smiling, “Yo, you should have said so earlier. Now we’re talking.”

This conversation between them shouldn’t have happened. It was a plot of mine on a whim. I plotted against Zhuo Yihang, but didn’t I plot against her too? But so what? Even after saying those words, Lian’er still smiled at him in the end. So had I stifled her affection for him or made her impression of him stronger by doing so?

Suddenly, panic took me. Being in the game, I didn’t know what ripple I was creating, what wave I was pushing, and what fruit I was planting. 

Is everything really destined and on God’s will? Is fate so difficult to change?

“You’ve actually gotten sick.” Suddenly, I heard a voice. She turned around, her smile faded, and she said to me seriously, “Your hand is getting colder. It’s better to layer up and go to rest as soon as possible.” Before I could answer, she looked up at the man and said, “Hey, my sister is going to change. You can’t stand there. Rain in the mountains comes and goes quickly. It’s almost about to stop. I’ll walk you out to take a look.”

After that, Lian’er let go of my hand and sauntered towards the man. Before taking the second step, her body swayed, looking like she was going to fall down, but with a wave of her sleeve, she seized his wrist like lightning.

The man was shocked, and his face flushed, however, he couldn’t dodge it or break free either. In the end, the girl smiled and released her grip. 

“The ground is wet, and I slipped. Sorry about that. Please go ahead.” She said, looking frank without any sign of sorry on her face.

The man couldn’t say much about it but yes with his reddened face. After saluting to me, he went with her. 

I just stood still. The two of them walked out one after another. Standing at the entrance of Yellow Dragon Cave, Lian’er seemed to look at the sky and said something to him. The man cupped his fists and nodded. As he started walking, the girl suddenly called him. This time her voice was louder, so I could hear it. 

“Ah, by the way, don’t tell anyone that you’ve met us here!” She said. 

The young man called out, “No problem, Miss. You can rest assured. We’ve only met by chance and won’t see each other again. I won’t go around telling everyone.” Lian’er grinned and said, “Not necessarily. How do you know there won’t be a next time?” It dazed him, and he replied, “Well then. If we meet again someday, I’ll welcome you as a good friend.”

This time the girl waved at him and said, “Okay, go on!”

The rain had stopped, but the wind kept on, sending the two voices into the cave, sounding crystal-clear. I stood there looking at the entrance, frozen. Over there was a figure leaning against the wall, facing outside, looking as if she was sending off someone with a smile, motionless.

I waited for a long time, but the person still didn’t turn around–didn’t return.


The Witch Nichang- Chapter 58 Stranger

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 58

Stranger

It was supposed to be a good sleep because I had let something go, and a corner of my heart was no longer a dead end.

Lian’er was sleeping in my arms, warm and soft. It had been too long since I had the courage to touch her. It was all because I knew I still had feelings for her. I was afraid that if I let loose a little, I would go back to my former self where I couldn’t contain my feelings and couldn’t be open with her, hurting the both of us.

But after reading the letter from Master, my state of mind went through a subtle change.

Even though everything was just a guess—maybe it was just me putting two and two together and making a random guess—it seemed to lift a heavy weight off my chest at the thought that Master might know about my feelings and difficulties. Even those seemingly obscure and ambiguous words and phrases had hit home, shining a little hope in me.

Maybe it was just because I had been feeling my way forward alone in the endless dark for too long, unable to see and to speak. I was alone, holding on without knowing what to do, but suddenly, a sparkle appeared far ahead. Even if the sparkle was faint and faraway, even if it was just an illusion, it still brought warmth and strength.

Perhaps that was what Master’s letter meant to me. With the pendant and the letter, I could feel the dead corner of my heart had begun to come to life again. It was telling me that maybe beyond the simple wish of protecting Lian’er, you could do more and ask for more. You had already tried to sever your feelings for her. If you hadn’t succeeded after so many years, why not try another way?

And rationality kept flashing warnings as it did years ago, warning me that doing so was troublesome and dangerous, and there was a high chance that I would fall into damnation. Are you ready to face hell again?

The warning still worked on me, but unlike a few years ago, it could no longer gain the upper hand and direct my thoughts.

That was why I was careful to approach her, touch her, and wrap her in my arms, trying to figure out the invisible line between me and her.

If—I said if—if I decided to take a step forward, then this relationship was no longer just about me.

Lian’er, if I try to change your destiny and take your heart, will you let me? I asked silently. Of course the person sleeping next to me couldn’t answer.

But the heavens seemed to be answering me. The thunder was getting more frequent, and finally, after a loud clap, a sudden downpour ensued. 

The rain was heavy. The sound of rain pattering could be heard even in the further end of the cave. Because of the noise, the girl in my arms moved a little. She wrinkled her nose unpleasantly and rolled over, moving further into my arms, as if wanting to block out the annoying noise with my body.

Something was on my mind earlier, so I wasn’t feeling sleepy. I opened my eyes as soon as she moved towards me. When I was going to cover her ears so she could have some peace, I saw a smile tugged at her lips, and she said under her breath with her eyes still closed, “Shh, quiet. There’s a stranger coming in right now.”

It was pouring outside, the sound of rain and thunder mixed together. I couldn’t hear anything, but I didn’t at all doubt what Lian’er said. I was startled when she told me that. I was going to get up and check, but as I was getting up, she grabbed me and tugged me back to bed then she whispered in my ears, “What’s the hurry? Judging from the footsteps, this person is still an amateur in martial arts. What is there to be afraid of? Since we’re bored, let’s play with him a little and see what he does first.”

Those words were said with confidence. Knowing that she was strong and daring, there was no reason for me to stop her, but I wondered why she suddenly got this excited, which was rare.

It was only later that I realized destiny worked in mysterious ways.

The footsteps were getting closer shortly after the deliberate waiting. I could hear it now. As expected, there was only one person. It was just that it felt weird that there was a stranger coming in while I was still lying on the bed. Even though I was fully clothed, the feeling was still weird.

It seemed like Lian’er thought it was weird too. I felt she shifted in my arms and thought that she had changed her mind and didn’t want to play anymore. When I was about to heave a sigh of relief, I heard her murmur, “No, I should be the one facing outside.” After that, she rolled over and passed above me to the outer side of the bed before lying down again and closing her eyes with a smile.

I had no time to react to what she did because as soon as she was done, the footsteps had taken a turn and came to the inner cave entrance.

Lian’er was lying on her side slightly facing inward, but her head was slightly tilted outward. Her arm casually rested on me, looking like a sleeping beauty, dreaming and unguarded, but from my point of view, I knew she had her hand flexed, ready to attack. Like a tiger playing a kitten, she was going to pounce on him and spill his blood as soon as he tried something, dared to come close, or do something inappropriate.

But fortunately, the person stood at the entrance and uttered a “eh.” A moment later, the person softened his footsteps instead of coming over, he turned around and tiptoed out. He just sat down cross-legged near the cave entrance and looked at the rain outside, not daring to even turn his head around.

I happened to be facing that way. With a little prop, I could see everything that happened. I acknowledged his integrity, so I bent over and whispered in Lian’er’s ears, “See, that person doesn’t seem like a bad guy. There’s nothing to play with. Let’s get up, shall we? We can’t stay like this.”

Lian’er opened her eyes, a little disappointed. As if refusing to give in, she said softly, “Let’s wait a bit. The girls in the stronghold always say that most men in this world are no good. I don’t believe he can stay there forever.” After that, she reached out and pushed me back to bed. It looked like she wanted to keep playing.

The air was already wet and cold today. Now that it was raining, the cave got even colder. I nudged her and said, smiling, “You can stand the cold, but if I keep playing along with you, I’m afraid I’ll catch a cold later. I can’t be asking you to carry me into the mountain to gather medicinal herbs again, right?”

“I’ll do that. With your light body that weighs less than two taels, do you think I would be afraid?” Lian’er rolled her eyes at my words. After sassing me, she rolled over and wrapped me in her arms. 

“Let’s see if you’re going to complain about the cold again,” she said smugly.

I was caught off guard. I felt I was wrapped in a warmth, a body temperature that was slightly higher. Plus she started to channel her qi, and it felt even more soothing and cozier. Not only did my body not feel cold being wrapped in warmth, even my heart was warming up. I couldn’t help but crave for this closeness, so I lay back down and stopped talking.

After cuddling for a while, the sound of footsteps came from outside again just as I almost forgot about the person sitting at the entrance.

The footsteps were soft, softer than before. The person padded into the cave. This time, he didn’t stop and came straight inside. When he almost reached the bedside, Lian’er stealthily flashed me a smile, and she had channeled some qi to her hand, but then we heard a rustle. Squinting my eyes, I saw the person take off his coat and gently drape it over us and then gingerly back off.

I didn’t like to have clothes with an unfamiliar scent on me. Besides, it would be too much if we kept going on like this. I gave Lian’er a look and cleared my throat, lifting the coat and getting up. Just as I was about to speak, Lian’er rolled over and got up before me. 

“You scoundrel! How dare you take advantage of us!” She chided. 

I didn’t know if she was unhappy with the coat he put on us or if she just wanted to keep playing. I was a little surprised. On the other hand, the guy was startled. He froze and was afraid of turning around.

“Miss, no offense! I felt that it’s cold inside and I was worried that you’d be cold, so I took the liberty to put some clothes on you!” He said profusely.

It was true that this guy hadn’t done anything inappropriate, so Lian’er couldn’t really be angry. She let out a sigh and said, “Then turn around.” The man turned around at her words but kept his head down, not daring to look her in the eyes. It wasn’t a good time for me to study him, so I could only tell that he was good-looking, young and had considerable poise. It was just that I felt something stuck in my heart as I looked at him, but I couldn’t tell what had been stuck there.

As I was hesitating, Lian’er had taken the coat off the bed and handed it over. “I saw what you did just now. You’re a gentleman. I haven’t seen anyone like you yet. If it were someone else, they’d probably take advantage of us.” She had always been direct. Ignoring the young man’s blushed face, she carried on, “I was just trying to intimidate you when I told you off just now. No offense.”

From my perspective, she was surprisingly courteous when she spoke to strangers like this, but for other people, it would seem like she was random and temperamental. The young man flushed at first, but then he frowned when he heard what she said. I guessed he must have felt that way too.

Lian’er could tell, so she smiled and said, “I’ve always been like this, so most people are afraid of me. You have to get used to it.” But when she saw the guy still kept his head down without saying anything, her face dropped and anger flashed across her face. 

“What? Are you still angry at me?” She asked.

The young man had been pondering with his head down. It was only then he said in a hurry, “There’s no such thing. Why would I be angry with you…”

I was at the back, looking at them talking. The more harmonious they got, the stronger the bad feeling I had grew. I had no time to think about why. I stood up and chimed in, “Don’t mind her, young man. This is just how she is. Please don’t take it seriously. May I know how you found this place?”

“Oh, where are my manners? I came down the mountain a little too late after visiting an old friend and got caught in the rain halfway down, which was why I stumbled on this place.” When he saw that I was more well-mannered than Lian’er, he seemed relieved. He then turned around with cupped fists and explained, “I was just going to take shelter from the rain in your cave and didn’t intend to disturb your rest. Please forgive me.”

“You don’t have to be sorry. To be honest, this is not our home either.” I returned his salute and continued to lie with a straight face, “We’ve lost both of our parents and only have each other. We came to Mount Hua just to pay our respects to our parents. This place belongs to an old friend of an elder family relative. We know each other. That’s why we are staying here for the time being.”

I lied because I didn’t know where this person came from. Yellow Dragon Cave was secluded and remote. People rarely stumbled on here. Even though he sounded genuine, I remained a little wary. That was why I said that the house owner wasn’t around, setting up a situation where we knew nothing to avoid creating any more problems.

Besides, I had some odd feelings about this guy. It wasn’t dislike but certainly not fondness.

Lian’er didn’t know what I was thinking. When she heard that, she turned around and raised her eyebrows, looking confused but it wasn’t the right time to question me either. Fortunately, the man didn’t notice her expression. He apologized after that, “I see. Forgive me for being inconsiderate and stirring up your grief.”

“Not at all. It’s just a thing of the past.” I replied with a chuckle, but my mind was thinking about how to get rid of him. 

“From the look on your face, are you feeling sorry for us?” I asked.

The change of topic was actually a little abrupt. I even intentionally injected some displeasure in my words, hoping that it would unsettle him and he could take the hint and leave. However, in strange ways fortune favors the honest. I didn’t know if he picked that up, but he saluted sincerely with cupped fists and explained, “Not sorry but admirable. You two have lost the ones you depend on but still support each other through it all, even braving the hardships to come up Mount Hua to pay respects. You couldn’t have done it without great courage. I sincerely admire you two.”

I frowned when I heard that. I couldn’t continue with something mean, so I could only respond nicely. After a few moments, Lian’er was getting impatient. She laid her hand on my shoulder and said, head high, “Why are you guys talking like you’re friends now? Hey, what’s your name? I haven’t asked you yet.”

The latter part of what she said was of course directed to the stranger. The young man lifted his head at her question and as he looked at her, his face slightly blushed. He quickly cupped his fists and bowed before saying politely, “My surname is Zhuo, first name Yihang. May I know both of your sur—” But he thought better of it, thinking that it might be inappropriate and said immediately, “It’s fine if you couldn’t tell me. That’s rude of me.”

An idea struck the girl, and she said gracefully, “My surname was Lian. My parents didn’t give me a name. What name do you think would sound nice on me? Why don’t you think of one for me?”

The man was stunned at first. Then it seemed to stir up some emotions in him, and sympathy washed over his face. The sound of rain was fading, but the wind kept blasting, blowing into the cave gust after gust, flapping everyone’s clothes. Among us, only the girl in white wasn’t wearing much. Her sleeve was moving with the wind, looking remarkably flowy. His eyes fell on that. As if something dawned on him, he parted his lips and was about to speak.

“Nichang!”

In the end, the one who blurted out the name wasn’t him. 

My heart was pounding. Only after forcing the word out of my mouth did I feel my heart pounding, and as my heartbeat returned to normal, my blood started to flow again, sending the heat all over my body.

Her lie was exposed, and her fun got spoiled. The girl being called turned around, displeased. As soon as they met my eyes, her eyes that were filled with dissatisfaction turned serious.

“What’s wrong with you?” She turned around and walked towards me, her brows furrowed. Grabbing my arm, she said, “You don’t look so good. Your lips are really pale. Did you actually catch a cold?” She halted in the middle of her words. Her frown grew deeper after sniffing the air. 

“Where does the smell of blood come from?” She asked.

I lifted the corners of my lips at her. While she was watching, I extended my right hand and slowly pressed a finger to my lower lip, flipped it, and said with a smile, “Here, I wasn’t paying attention when I was talking just now, so I accidentally bit my lip.” Then I let go of my hand and patted her head. 

“My Lian…um, Nichang’s nose is sensitive, like a dog,” I said, giggling.

“What are you talking about? How old are you? How could you bite your lip when talking? And you always complain about me!” She puffed out her cheeks and dodged my hand indignantly, but then she tugged on my sleeve and said, “Are you really okay? Your body feels cold.”

I smiled as I shook my head, furtively putting my hands behind my back. Fortunately, Lian’er didn’t tug on my hand. It felt even colder there, so cold that I could feel nothing. Same went to my feet. Only the piercing chill kept surging. It felt as if my body was no longer flesh and blood but made of ice. The human body was weird. The body temperature could drop in an instant, giving people a sense of bone-chilling cold. 

If I hadn’t bitten my lip in time, I might have gone rigid there, unable to even force any words out of my mouth.

If it had come to that, I would have really regretted it and kicked myself.

But now, I had broken free of the shackles and was no longer stiff. The taste of blood and the slight pain calmed me down. I looked at the worried girl next to me before turning my eyes to the confused man and said, smiling, “Ah, so you’re Zhuo Yihang? The Wudang disciple, Zhuo Yihang? Well, I’ve heard a lot about you.”


The Witch Nichang- Chapter 57 Mind Guessing

The Witch Nichang– Chapter 57

Mind Guessing

There was one thing that had always felt strange to me: Master’s lenient attitude towards me over the past few years.  

At first, I deliberately distanced myself from Lian’er because I couldn’t keep my heart from stirring, but she mistook it as me missing my family, so she let me leave—you could even say she encouraged me to leave. After Honghua Guimu, she didn’t say much either. When I said I wanted to go back and help my father get back on his feet before coming back, she accepted it and agreed to all of it, not saying anything on this matter.

Was it strange? What was so strange about it? If I looked at them individually and thought them over, they all made sense–every single thing she did was just the way a master cared for her disciples.

That was why I had been brushing off that vague feeling of strangeness. I had always thought it was my overthinking mind acting up.

However, reading this confusing letter at this moment and somehow connecting myself with those wine wares, a thought struck me, sending a chill down my spine and stirring up a storm in me. 

The only time I had come across this wineware—the wine jar and the wine cup—was a few years ago when the three of us enjoyed dinner together with the breeze and the setting sun at the stone table outside the cave to celebrate Master’s birthday. 

Even though many years had passed, the memory of that evening was still vivid and colorful. It was a golden dusk. The wine jar was filled with fine aged wine. The wine cup was fresh out of the kiln. On the stone table were some side dishes Lian’er and I brought back from a restaurant down the mountain. Master had drunk a lot. At first, she was quaffing the wine, but in the end, she looked a little lonely. As for Lian’er, it was the first time she touched alcohol, so she had drunk herself to stupor.

I remembered that dinner ended without a word. Lian’er got drunk and passed out, Master went out for a walk to sober up, and I…

And I, unable to help myself, kissed Lian’er…

As if suddenly waking up from a dream, I looked down at the poem on the paper again. I wasn’t sure if I was imagining things. This time when I looked at the poem again, it no longer felt simple. The more I looked at it, the more I felt there was more to each line. Wasn’t the line “the young green bamboos are half sheathed, new tips are peeking out the wall” a metaphor for my feelings? And didn’t “their shadows creep across the books, casting an illusion of night, the wine bottles seem to cool as their shadows pass by” hint at where Master was at that time? Could it be that she saw what happened at that time?

When I thought about it, it wasn’t impossible. If anything, it was highly likely that she did. Although I had seen her leaving with my own eyes, there were a thousand reasons for her to turn back. Besides, Master’s qinggong was better than Lian’er. If she had slunk back into the cave at that time and…

I couldn’t help clutching my fingers tighter on the paper, and I was thrown into a brief confusion. I had always thought that only heaven and the earth knew about my feelings. But if Master already knew about it, how embarrassing would that be? On the other hand, if she knew, didn’t her support and encouragement of me leaving make sense now?

But Master being Master, would she really see her disciples as troublesome and hope for me or even encourage me to leave once and for all?

I didn’t want to believe this interpretation. If so, it was more difficult to accept than Master knowing my feelings, and it contradicted the impression I had of her all these years. I shook my head hard, shaking those slightly extreme thoughts out of my head. I paced around for a while then I stopped and calmed myself down, trying to sort out my thoughts again.

I emptied my mind and sorted through my thoughts again from the beginning. Even if I managed to explain the first two sentences following my train of thought earlier, it couldn’t explain the last two sentences, could it? Besides, if I thought about it, there was one more question. Even if Master coincidentally saw me getting carried away that evening, could she have guessed my actual feelings?

No matter how intimate, infatuated, and enchanted I was, in the end, I just kissed on Lian’er’s cheek if my memory served me right.

Just now, panic swelled up as if I had done something wrong, but now that I calmed down and thought about it, I didn’t think Master could see through my feelings with just what she saw, at least not everything.

Could it be that I worry too much? And looked at it the wrong way? But it didn’t seem like it…

If I carried the thought further, was there something out of the place other than the kiss? I remembered, at that time, my mind went blank, and I bent over to kiss Lian’er. Then when I came around, I instantly felt chagrined, at not being able to control myself and at these feelings I had, feelings that I shouldn’t be having. It awoke the irresolvable issues buried deep in my heart, so…

So I called that name, that name that had died, that name that I never wanted to hear again. I stared at the face reflected on the water and said with a sneer, “Do you want to die again?”

If Master had seen what happened before, then she wouldn’t have missed that. 

If what happened before didn’t raise her suspicion, then anyone who saw that would think it wasn’t normal.

Not to mention that I did act differently after that night. I started to become withdrawn and distance myself from Lian’er, even going as far as not wanting to look her in the eyes and spar with her.

I didn’t know whether Master had seen my feelings, but with these, I figured Master at least knew that I had an unresolved issue, something that I had never told anyone, a Gordian knot, and Lian’er undoubtedly triggered it.

So when even sparring failed, she gave me the option to leave.

Did she give me that option to protect Lian’er? Looking at the last two sentences of the poem, I doubted it. 

“If only they are left untouched, someday you will see them reach the clouds.”—The original meaning of this sentence was that as long as it wasn’t bogged down by bonds and ties, it would eventually grow to the height of clouds. 

I guessed Master wanted to tell me with this that she respected me and my thoughts and wouldn’t interfere with what I did.

Just as she gave me the choice and the reason to leave, but ultimately, it was my own choice to leave. For that reason, I was able to take a breather and sort myself out, and if I wanted to, I could come back at any time. 

This was Master’s true intention.

Now Master was no longer around. All I could do was guess. Even if it was a bit of a stretch, I wanted to believe that I got it right. The more I thought about it, the more I felt it was supposed to be like that. It was the only way to explain it. 

And as if to prove my point, after I read the letter again and again, learning every word by heart, and was about to put it back with my eyes slightly red, I found another line in small letters with the same handwriting on the back of the letter—”question, contemplate, discern, and act with integrity”. 

I didn’t need to think about the meaning of these words to understand why Master wrote it here.

Without me realizing, my hand clutched onto the pendant around my neck. This was a small habit I picked up in recent months. Lian’er didn’t put much thought into it when she gave it to me. She didn’t know what meaning I gave to this pendant. 

Since we met again, my dormant feelings that had been put aside were awakened by this little gemstone.

And now, as if by chance, a belated letter from Master touched the unresolved feelings that I had been ignoring in a very subtle yet direct way. She even told me what to do. 

 I had always thought the best way to deal with this relationship and this problem was to just ignore it, put it aside, let it sleep. I’ll let it fade, better forget it, erase it, as if it never existed. It was good for myself and Lian’er. It was enough as long as I could be with her like now, keeping her safe, and away from harm. I still thought so even to this day.

But everything Master did—giving me space, freedom and respect—was not for me to run away. Even though she might not know what her disciple’s problem was, her intention to help her grow and face her problem was clear.  

She didn’t even say whether it was right or wrong. She just wanted her to question, contemplate, discern, and act with integrity.

This was Ling Muhua. This is how Ling Muhua should be.

I looked down, feeling warm in my eyes, clutching the pendant until it became as painful as a burn. As my eyes become blurry, a laugh sounding like a cough escaped from my throat. Suddenly, I wanted to laugh. I couldn’t help but feel like laughing. Nice one, Ling Muhua, you could defend and go easy on your own disciple and let her walk away just so she could work out her problem. Why couldn’t you see it when it came to yourself? A mere paralysis and you ran off to die?

You, if I was right, you must still be alive. You had to be alive!

Instantly, I felt relieved, as if a heavy weight I had been carrying had been lifted off my heart. For the rest of the day, I quickly finished off the work at hand, cleaning up the little stone chamber nice and tidy. Why am I getting sentimental and sad here? She must still be somewhere in this world.

I spent another two hours alone like this. When it started to get dark outside and the thunder began to roar, I saw a flash of a figure at the cave entrance, and Lian’er slunk back in. When she saw me, she smiled and told me that it was done and said, “Look, it hasn’t rained yet right?” I returned a smile and said a few words to her before taking her to look at the things Master had left behind in the stone chamber. I even told her about the letter. Sure enough, Lian’er saw the wine jar and wine cup. She held them in her hand, her eyes flickering, and a look of nostalgia washed over her face. She fiddled with them for a while before putting them down. However, she didn’t understand the letter. After reading it twice, she finally pouted and said, “Master was being flowery again. She left it for you knowing that I won’t understand it.”

I let out a guffaw and put the letter away. 

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it. Master just told me to go do what I want to do,” I said. 

“Oh? What do you want to do?” She tilted her head and looked at me, asking curiously, “How come I didn’t know it after all this time?”

Meeting her eyes, I stroked her head with a smile and said, “What I want to do is to take good care of you and be by your side, may I?”

I hadn’t done this for a long time because Lian’er didn’t like me being more senior than her since she was little, and then later, we were separated for a few years, so I didn’t have the opportunity to do that again. Now that she was suddenly being touched on the head again, she froze at first. Then when she came around, she ducked it and said, “Who wants you to take care of me? It’s more like me taking care of you. Look, I told you to rest before I left, and you started cleaning up the stone chamber instead. Such a pain in the neck!”

She rambled on for a while. At first, it was just a retort off the top of her head, but she seemed to think it made a lot of sense after saying it. Then she began to hang on to it, moving me to the bed and forcing me to rest. I didn’t feel tired, instead, I felt relaxed, so I didn’t mind joking around with her. When she pushed me, I just fell back to the bed. Then a thought hit me. I tugged at her and asked softly, “Then rest with me?”

For the past few months, we had been sleeping on the same bed. I was getting used to it, not to mention Lian’er. Besides, there was nothing else to do. Thunder was roaring outside, and it seemed like it was going to rain. She glared at me and then said with a smile, “Fine, I’ll rest with you. Since I’m going out this afternoon, I could use a nap now.” With that, she got onto the far side of the bed and lay on her usual spot, ready to fall asleep.

Seeing her settle in, I turned and lay on my side. After a slight hesitation, I reached out and wrapped my arm around her waist for the first time.

This was the first time I touched her of my own accord since we slept together. She seemed to be used to it and didn’t show any discomfort or awkwardness. She just shifted slightly and got into a more comfortable position and then settled in again.

Outside, the thunder was rolling; heavy rain was approaching.

Inside, we were sound asleep.


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