The Witch Nichang- Chapter 11
Only when I saw the wolf did I understand why Lian’er became so exasperated.
That was a young pup, nestled in its mother’s chest under the shade of a tree at the moment, wailing sporadically with its hind leg crooked. It was apparently broken from the middle. I could even faintly see bits of shattered bones in its bloody wound.
Actually, the figure four deadfall trap was just a very simple mechanism. Its power could vary, and the key lay in the weight above the bait. I did not want to encounter fierce animals going all out, so I always set the rock low and heavy, hoping to avoid large animals, and at the same time, capture small prey in one strike. Who knew it would accidentally hit a wolf pup.
In fact, even if it accidentally hit the wolf pup, he should not have been hurt so badly. I figured it was the mother wolf who tried to save her child in a moment of desperation and did something blindly, causing further injury to her child, hence this present situation.
Though I thought so, I could not really explain it to her. Could I unabashedly blame it on animals?
There was already an outburst of commotion when the wolf pack saw a stranger stepping in their territory. It was Lian’er who took my hand and assumed a prevailing demeanor, continuously fending off the beasts that were coveting a chance to strike as she was leading the way and brought me to the mother and son pair.
At the moment, I was checking the pup’s injury, and she was squatting aside, calming the anxious mother wolf down. Occasionally, she would take a few glimpses at me. A look of mistrust was on her face with anger in her eyes too. But what’s more, was the eager expectation on her face.
I was accustomed to her being condescending with her cheek puffed, and now basking in her eyes full of high hopes, I felt a little uncomfortable. I cleared my throat before looking up to face her gaze: “He was indeed badly injured…” Before I finished my words, I saw her eyes dimmed down, and her nose puckered. My body stiffened; I quickly made a stop gesture: “Stop! Listen—he was indeed badly injured, but he can still be treated. Although it will take some time, and the pup may not completely heal, it should be no problem for him to jump and run in the future if everything goes well.”
I explained myself in one breath; I thought those words “may not completely heal” would definitely displease her, but who knew I would see a frank…smile.
“That’s great.” It was not for me. She looked at the wolf pup, stretched out her hand, and stroked him. Her eyes were filled with genuine happiness: “You can live now. You don’t have to die.”
I had never seen such a gentle expression on her face before. I froze for a moment, and after coming back to my mind, I vaguely felt that this sentence did not sound quite right, so I explained: “Even if it’s left untreated, this wound won’t necessarily kill him.”
“It will.” Without even raising her head, she kept on stroking the wolf pup: “If he lives like this, I’ll take his life.”
In the next hour, I found a bamboo culm of the right thickness nearby and split it in half, then carefully burnished it into splints and asked her to hold down the wolf pup. With my teeth gritted and a pull and push, I repositioned the dislocated bone back to its place. Lastly, I secured the splints and wrapped it up. The whole process was simple, but when I actually did it, I was sweating like hell. In contrast, she looked as usual; she even tapped the pup’s head twice as a punishment when he was struggling and not cooperating.
After tossing about by us, although the pup’s wound was treated properly, he became more and more feeble and huddled up to his mother, losing even the strength to whine. She stayed by their side, looking at them without blinking. I also did not want to rush her, just sitting in a nearby corner to rest.
She looked at the wolf, and I looked at her. In my brain, I always tried to connect what she said earlier with the scene before me.
All this time, I had been looking at her and observing her like this. Maybe because I had brought her back myself, and Master was not a caring person in life, so I always had a special sense of responsibility for her.
I thought I was observant enough and knew her enough. But only at that moment, I realized I did not truly know many things about the child, just as I did not know she would throw the “kill“ word at me, just as I did not think she would throw the “kill“ word at the pup. If to me, it could be explained as our relationship was not deep enough. Then, to this pup, her eyes would grow teary for him; she would be filled with hope because of him; she would give him a gentle smile. However, when she said she would take his life, she was still so calm and resolute.
Initially, I interpreted it as the wolf’s nature in nature, but now I felt that it might not be a wolf’s nature, but her true…nature.
Wolf’s nature can be removed, but true nature…
Unconsciously, I had already sunk deep in thoughts. Right at this moment, a string of shouts snapped me out of it.
“Hey, hey, you! Why are you zoning out? Come over here!” Over there, the little human was lying beside the little wolf. Her hands were still stroking him, but her eyes were staring at my direction. Anxiety was all over her face: “Come and have a look. He looks weird.”
I hurried over in a few steps and took the pup from her hands that were holding him up. His head was hanging, and his ears were slouching, looking like he was gasping for air, dying.
“What’s wrong with it? Haven’t you already treated the wound?” She clenched her little fist. Her voice carried a questioning tone, but it was devoid of mistrust she had earlier. Presumably, the treatment gave her confidence in me.
However, I was not a veterinarian, not even a doctor. I knew some virtues of medicinal herbs because I was born in a family living in the mountain. As for first-aid and wound dressing, it was because I used to be a backpacker. So, I was a little nervous too, when being asked now. I examined the injury again to make sure there was no mistake, then calmed down and thought it out. Within my knowledge, I had thought of two possibilities.
“Maybe it was just too painful,” I answered honestly. “Another worse possibility is that the wound is infected.”
I did not know if the word “infect” was within this world’s lexicon. She would not understand anyway. She was only concerned about what to do. I felt rather helpless—If it was just pain, the pup could still endure it. But if it was infection…I only knew the most common herbs for dispelling cold and clearing heat.
But being stared at by such eyes, I really did not want to disappoint her.
Or should I tell Master? She had wandered in jianghu. She should have some knowledge in treating wounds. But, it was not appropriate. Neither Lian’er or I was hurt. Even making a fresh wound now could not guarantee the result. If Master knew that we were rescuing a wild wolf, I could not imagine the consequences.
An idea flashed across my mind. I suddenly remembered something, then I pulled the person beside me and ran back the way we came. She was caught off guard by me, staggering for two steps before withdrawing her eyes from the pup.
“What’s the matter?” She asked, looking at me in confusion, but she did not turn violent and fight back.
“Do you still remember the books Master brought back the other day?” I explained to her as we ran: “The ones that we use to read and write?”
In teaching us, Master had focused all her effort on martial arts, but she also felt that her disciples could not be illiterate. So, every time she went to replenish the supplies down the hill, she would always purchase two books as teaching materials. However, books were scarce goods in a rural small town. Only one or two books could be found from time to time, and the contents were diverse; they were even in different scripts. But Master did not care much. She would buy it for us to learn in our spare time whenever she came across one. For me, it was still all right, but Lian’er had a tough time studying them, so she had always held some grudges against them.
“What?” As expected, when I suddenly mentioned those books now, she looked alert, and her pace also slowed down a lot.
I turned around and smiled at her, replying: “I remember there is a medical book among them. There should be a prescription for treating wounds.”
It was almost dusk when we returned to Yellow Dragon cave. Master did not come out from closed-door meditation today. It suited us just right. After rummaging through the boxes and chests, we actually dug out that thin medical book. Lian’er snatched it from my hand and flipped through it first, then she immediately passed the book back to me and stared at me intently.
She did not say anything. Hope was written all over her eyes.
Under that gaze, I opened the book and read a few lines carefully; I could not help but draw my brows together.
The book was indeed a medical book, but it was just a local record. What was recorded inside was all kinds of jumbled remedies. Actually, it was great because the most common category in this kind of mixed remedies would include the commonly used prescriptions for treating wounds and relieving pain, removing toxin and putrefaction. It even recorded the benefits and shapes of herbs. But unfortunately, the terms, especially the jargon, were hard to understand. The herb drawings were scratchy. To locate the herbs with these drawings was near to impossible.
For the sake of today’s plan, I could only first tough it out and make out how the herbs look like from the obscure descriptions.
I was holding the book, interpreting it word by word, trying to translate it into sentences with my poor basic knowledge. My mind was consistently jumping from Chinese medicine to western medicine, classical Chinese to vernacular Chinese. For a moment, I felt my head had been blown up to a few times bigger.
The light around me was slowly dimming down. Until I could no longer see the words in the book clearly, I put down the book and rubbed my sore eyes. I was going to light the lamp, but suddenly, I saw Lian’er was holding an oil lamp in her hands at the corridor’s end, carefully walking over.
I thought I had read too much, overstraining my eyes, so I rubbed my eyes again, but what I saw was still there.
It was really odd. In the past, when it was dark, I would light the lamp, and Master would light the lamp, but I had never seen this child lighting the lamp. First, she was a little afraid of the fire all the while. Second, her eyesight was so good that she could see in the dark and never needed the light at all.
But now, she had clearly brought a lamp over and even placed it on the table. Sensing my gaze, she curled her lips down: “You, quick, read!” Then, she just stared at the oil lamp and ignored me.
I grinned, wanted to tease her but felt that it was not the right time and also afraid that the things I had in mind would go away, so I went on grinding away as she said.
By the time I managed to put the book’s words into my own understanding and visualize this understanding into images in my brain, linking them with those plants in the mountains, it was already late at night. I lifted my head and expelled a long breath. Then I found that she was lying on the table. Her long lashes were quivering under the shadows. She had fallen asleep watching the lamp.
It suddenly occurred to me that on this day, we seemed to know each other better and get closer to each other than the past few years.
Maybe, for she and I, this was the beginning of a real relationship.