The Witch Nichang– Chapter 25
Right and wrong
By her nature, Lian’er had always been merciless and ferocious. I had always been well aware of it, although this nature of hers wasn’t so obvious over the years when it was just the three of us. Perhaps it was because her belligerence and hostility in our first year or two of living together left too deep of an impression.
So no matter how cold-blooded and ruthless she was now, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
If there were things I hadn’t expected, it was the odd smile she had before she moved and the fact that she hadn’t had enough of it and didn’t intend to let him go after dislocating his hand.
I thought, with her temper, she wouldn’t even care to look at him after subduing him in one move. However, Lian’er was more like a feline now than a little wolf, intending to torment her prey at her feet.
Frankly, I wasn’t against this thought of hers. This thug obviously had no fear. If it were any other ordinary girl who bumped into him today, God knows what would have happened. This world was always harsh on women. If a woman was to be tainted by misfortune, people would unlikely sympathize with her but discarded her like an old shoe after that.
From this point of view, I wouldn’t want to stop Lian’er, even if she were to be more ruthless. Worse comes to worst, we would just stay in the mountain for another year or so.
But now, the thug’s pig-like squeal stuck out like a sore thumb. Although the market was over and the crowd on the street had thinned out, there were still people passing by, plus those shopkeepers and vendors on the street. When the thug went on a rampage earlier, they dared not show their faces and turned a blind eye, but now when he was down on his luck, they all came poking around.
I really didn’t like the feeling of being gossiped about and judged behind my back, so I took a step forward and called out: “Lian’er, enough.”
But she didn’t move a muscle when called, still pinning the sturdy fellow to the ground with no intention of letting him go, just turning her head to look at me. Her eyes were full of hostility, seemingly with defiance, just like her being haughty to me during the time she was a little wolf.
She’s acting up again. I sighed inwardly and walked up to her. Saying nothing, I took a hawthorn off the stick in my left hand and stuffed it in her mouth first before asking her with a smile: “Is it good?”
Having something stuffed in her mouth when she wasn’t paying attention, she closed her mouth with a deadpan face, only seeing a small bulge in her cheek. Then she tongued it several times. I guessed she got a taste of it. Her expression slowly softened. She blinked and replied with a nod: “Mmm, sweet and sour, not bad.”
“That’s good. I didn’t order the right dishes, so I bought this for you to make up for it.” I took her hand as I said and brought her closer to me while smiling and continued: “How much longer do you want to stay here? We’ve got work to do. It’s enough to teach him a lesson for a man like this. How much time do you want to waste on him?”
The kid didn’t resist and let me take her and moved along with the hawthorn in her mouth. But right before she finally let go of his hand, I heard a faint snap, and then the thug’s screams went up a few notches in an instant. I glanced at the hand, which was already dislocated, and saw the thumb was grotesquely twisted, apparently broken.
I looked at Lian’er, and she also looked at me with an innocent face. I shook my head, handed her the candied hawthorns with a smile, and walked on while holding her free hand.
When we returned to the restaurant, I took the front door and asked Lian’er to get in the same way she got out. So when I settled the bill with the trembling shopkeeper, she sauntered down the stairs. After she had calmed down, she finally remembered Master’s order. This time, she put on everything she was supposed to put on. And she gave me a displeased look and handed me the bamboo hat, meaning you should put it on too.
I wouldn’t try to tease her in front of others, so I just accepted it and put it on. Then the two of us left the restaurant side by side.
This hassle took more time than expected. We should have gone straight to the ceramics shop after we got out. But as we had made too much of a fuss earlier, I had to take Lian’er on the road out of the marketplace under the eyes of the crowd until we came to a remote and deserted area, then we leaped over two houses with our qinggong and quietly returned to our original route.
Lian’er was a little puzzled by this. I explained to her that I didn’t want to cause any trouble for the old potter. If we were seen going in and out of his place, the thug might stir up trouble someday. We weren’t afraid of him, but commoners might not afford to mess with him.
Lian’er didn’t quite understand. She was a little scornful about it at first, but when she figured it out, she blurted out that she should have taken his life just now to save the trouble.
Deep down, she was the same as she was before. Human life was no different from any other life in nature. Life and death couldn’t be more common.
I nagged her for a while, but I knew there was a long way to go with her thinking.
Back in the backyard of the ceramics shop.
The cups Lian’er made earlier were small, so they were almost dry now. The old potter didn’t want to leave the trimming to us at first because this part was crucial for the success of the firing. If you accidentally trim it unevenly, it will most likely be ruined when fired. But Lian’er insisted on doing it herself, so we couldn’t help it.
Of course, I had much more confidence in her with this than I did with the throwing because this part was all about the knife and handwork.
In Lian’er hands, all blades, regardless of their type, could only bow to her and fall under her control, as if she was born to be their master.
So I wasn’t surprised when she stood there and stroked the clay as shown by the old potter, handling the knife, angling it without hesitation, and trimming the clay readily and evenly without chattering it or misplacing the knife after seeing the old potter’s demonstration just once. Instead, the old man beside me was dumbfounded and asked me if this child had really never learned this before.
I could only gloss over it smilingly. In fact, I didn’t know how to explain it other than to evade it.
Fortunately, Lian’er didn’t take too long. While I was dealing with the old potter, she had already done all the work neatly and even smoothed out the tiniest of lines with the back of the knife. The old potter took them over in admiration and looked at them for a long time before coming to himself at my inquiry and telling us that he had a batch of wares to make tomorrow and would fire them together with these three, so we could set our mind at rest and pick them up in three days.
I could see Lian’er wasn’t so sure about this answer. Firstly, the time was too tight, and secondly, she was quite happy with what she had made, so she was a little reluctant to hand them over to anyone else. But when faced with areas she didn’t understand, she wasn’t of a character to question others easily, so after stepping out of the shop and turning around for a second look, she left with me without hesitation.
It was getting late now. The red sun in the sky was setting, but there was still a long way up the mountain, so when I left the market and came to the outskirts, I should have used my martial skills to get back as soon as possible. But the kid—I didn’t know what was in her mind—reached out her hand and grabbed me, looking like she wanted to take it slow for a while.
Baffled, I could only go along with her.
I thought she was trying to do or say something, but as we were approaching the mountain and the sky darkened, the person beside me stayed the same except for exchanging an occasional word or two with me, no more.
When she was being patient for once, I lost my patience instead, and at last, I halted at the entrance of a mountain pass and asked her what was wrong.
I stood still, and so did Lian’er. After hearing me, her eyes drifted left and right while holding the freshly plucked grass in her hand. Then she rolled her eyes around and finally prodded me with the grass in her hand and asked: “Will you tell Master…about that incident…today?”
“That incident?” Dazed, then I promptly realized what was going on. I smiled and asked her instead: “Right, is Lian’er afraid that I’ll tell Master about that?”
This question probably stirred her up a little. She raised her head, and her neck tensed: “Who’s afraid? I’ll bear the consequences of my own doing. I’m not afraid!”
“Okay, okay. I know you’re not afraid.” Seeing this look of hers, the curve of my lips couldn’t help but deepen: “What if I don’t tell Master?”
When she heard that, she looked at me again, toying the grass in her hand, and said, puffing up her cheek unconsciously: “You’re not supposed…to tell.” As she said that, she suddenly regained her confidence as if she had found a reason: “That’s right. Because of you, I was so angry that I forgot to put on the hat, and I hit him to help you too. Shouldn’t you keep this from Master?”
“I should.” I nodded and said solemnly.
Perhaps because my reply came out too readily, she was staggered for a moment before she asked doubtfully: “Really?”
“Yes.” I nodded again in the affirmative, only this time I couldn’t resist a smile. I reached out my hand to pull her closer and said as I looked into those eyes: “You disobeyed Master to help me. Of course, I’ll help you hide it. In the future, if Master learns the truth when she comes down from the mountain, worse comes to worst, we’ll face the punishment together, okay?”
Looking into my eyes, Lian’er probably realized how serious I was, so a glimmer of contented joy appeared on her face, and she said complacently: “Okay.”
Then she turned around, blocking me behind her, facing the woods in the distance that seemed shadowy because of the darkening sky. She held her head high and stood tall and proud, saying: “Well then, all you sneaky bastards back there, come on out!”
Kofi’s goal reached! I’ll be posting 2 chapters on the next release. Thanks for all the support and comments!
A reader commented on the previous chapter asking if there’s a schedule for this. I’m gonna reply here, in case other readers may have the same question. The answer is no. I didn’t set a schedule for this mainly because I can’t keep up with a fixed schedule. Once I can ensure a stable release, I’ll put the schedule on the website. Thank you for bearing with the slow releases.