The Witch Nichang– Chapter 26
I think I was supposed to be irritated.
This anger came from both the astonishment at what Lian’er had just said and the changes that happened before my eyes after that.
It wasn’t until I saw the changes that I realized.
It was getting darker, and for some reason, it was getting dark fast tonight. After Lian’er shouted, “come on out,” it got silent at one point. The wind blew past, and a few fuzzy leaves fluttered in the air. That was when I knew something was wrong.
This silence lasted for a while, and Lian’er waited patiently, like an assured hunter confronting her prey, eyes fixed on one point.
Perhaps her gaze was too assertive. It wasn’t long before the bushes in that direction began to rustle unnaturally, and then, one after another, figures started to jump out of the dark woods.
The figures were tall and sturdy, having the physique of a brawny man. There were about eight or nine of them. When they were approaching this way, their steps were steady, with a posture of strength and power. Only when they got closer did I see their faces. They were dressed in coarse shirts, of stalwart build, and dark-skinned. If it weren’t for the savagery and ferocity in their eyes, they looked no more different from the average farmers down the mountain.
But now, the one thing that really distinguished them from the average farmers was the gleaming machete they were holding in their hand.
Common folks would own cleavers and hatchets, but not house tools that were used as weapons, let alone everyone was holding one in their hand.
I glanced at the person beside me, but Lian’er paid no attention to my gaze at all at this moment, just looking at the other side with great interest, her eyes showing a hint of uncontainable eagerness. These people started tailing us at some point. I didn’t notice it, but she must have noticed it for some time. Yet, she had to wait until I gave my word before telling me, so she must have had the intention to confront them.
Realizing it, I couldn’t help but sulk over it. She might not intend to be calculating, but in truth, she had tricked me. It was nothing malicious, but I minded it.
But with the current situation, even if it was a great displeasure, I could only put it aside for now.
“Fellow folks—” Clearing my throat, I took a step forward, getting from being behind Lian’er to standing side by side with her, and said, loud and clear: “I wonder what do you want, maliciously tailing my sister at this time of the day?”
Obviously, they came with ill intentions, but it was better to make what I had to say clear if I could.
Too bad. Even though I had this intention, the other party might not appreciate it. Hearing what I said, a sturdy man with a full beard spat sputum and complained to the person beside him with curses: “Look! Big brother, I told you we should’ve made our move when we saw them at the outskirts just now! God damn it! Third brother insisted on finding out their background. But after working so hard following them all the way, we still got spotted anyway.”
I slightly knitted my brows at his words, not because of the vulgarity of the words, but from his words, I recognized that they had found us and been tailing us soon after we left the market. And supposedly, we should have been on our way back with our qinggong. Then we would have lost them already.
At that time, it was Lian’er who stopped me, wanting to have a walk. Now it looked like she was doing it on purpose from the beginning.
It added fuel to the pent-up fury in me. Taking a few deep breaths, I told myself it wasn’t the time to argue over this with this girl, but some vicious thoughts still grew out of this fury, and somehow, I even started to hope that the other party would hurry up and attack so I could be done with this in no time.
However, there was one with a better brain among them, so they were much more cautious than I thought. At least, after the bearded man spat and cursed, he was stopped by one of them, who looked like the leader. After stopping him, this man cupped his fist at us from a distance and said with a loud voice: “I’m sorry. May I ask which Way do you two ladies follow?”
Before I could think about how to answer, his words entered Lian’er’s ears. Then she blinked and asked in a heartbeat: “What which way? Isn’t there only one way under our feet?”
The reason she asked that was, of course, because she didn’t actually get it. These seemingly common Jianghu terms were entirely foreign to her. But at this time and place, when she said that, it made her seem somewhat mysterious and unfathomable. The person on the other side apparently hadn’t expected that. He hesitated for a while when he heard that. Then he cupped his fist again, speaking more directly than before: “Ladies, are you fellow outlaws?”
Lian’er was smart, although she wasn’t familiar with the ways of the world. Seeing him repeat his question like this, she understood there was an undermeaning in his words, so she stopped talking and turned to me, asking with a whisper: “Hey, what’s an outlaw?”
Although I was seething inside, I couldn’t bring myself to ignore her, so I still answered her. But since I was angry, my tone was inadvertently harder than usual: “Outlaws, are actually people who do robberies. The good ones are called robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. The bad ones are called nuisances to the people. The big ones are called the tyrant of a region. The small ones are called bullying the weak and fearing the strong.”
“Oh?” Listening to what I said, Lian’er raised her brows with interest and went on: “So this group of people in front of us are outlaws? Are they the good ones or the bad ones? The big ones or the small ones?”
I dropped my gaze and said calmly: “What d’you say?”
Lian’er nodded: “They don’t look like the good ones, so they should be the latter for both.”
We were obviously not taking them seriously with the way we were talking and chiming in with each other. Naturally, this attitude would infuriate them. They rose to a clamor on the other side. The bearded man was in particular furious, spewing out curses. The one who seemed to be the leader finally couldn’t take it anymore and showed his imperious face, yelling: “Ho there! You two ladies injured my brother’s arm in the marketplace today. I haven’t gotten back at you for that, and now you’re ruffling my feathers instead! It looks like they’re nobody. Brothers, there’s nothing to fear. Finish them!” After that, they came charging over, brandishing their machete.
Looking at the group of people savagely storming at us, I snorted, thinking to myself, as I expected. Other than the dispute with the thug, I couldn’t think of a reason that would draw these guys over. And their initial pretense was just the fear of offending forces they couldn’t afford to mess with.
Unfortunately, some might have no forces behind them, but they weren’t to mess with nonetheless.
At this moment, seeing this group of people charging over, wielding their weapons, the eyes of the kid beside me had already lit up. She giggled and patted on my shoulder, saying: “I’ll do it. You just stay here. Don’t steal my fun!” Before she finished her sentence, the pressure on my shoulder was lifted, and the girl had already leaped up. Like a streak of shadow across the dark sky, she descended in the group.
While Lian’er was daring and pugnacious, I had always not bothered to meddle too much. I certainly wouldn’t want to take it from her, so I just stood by and watched with my hands behind my back. After making sure that these guys only knew some basic martial arts and were far from being a threat to Lian’er, I shouted: “Don’t take it too far and don’t take their lives. Like what you did in the daytime, one hand each is enough.”
On the other end, she was weaving in the group, fighting with gusto. When she heard me, she didn’t seem too happy about it and bawled: “You’re just being soft and like to mind my business!” But she didn’t deny what I said, except her moves became trickier, and she snatched a machete from one of them, swinging it around playfully. The wounds she dealt were shallow, but every slash was inescapable no matter how hard they tried.
I had no sympathy for those guys, but I didn’t like the sight of it either. Anyway, Lian’er had the situation in control, so I simply turned around, went further away to a tree, got it out of my sight, and waited for her to call me when done.
Only that I could still hear a barrage of screams coming into my ears.
I pretended not to hear it, looking into the distance and spacing out. I was still seething inside. It was a fight that could have been completely avoided, yet she had to get herself into trouble on purpose, even going as far as using her wits to trick me. She loved to play hero, liked to fight, and was also mercilessly vicious. It still wasn’t a problem now that she stayed in the mountain with Master and me. But if she were to step into the outside world, there was no guarantee that she wouldn’t make enemies everywhere. The human mind is complicated, and she doesn’t understand it. I hadn’t stopped teaching her about it over the years, even Master would occasionally advise her, but they were mere words, after all. Without experiencing it or seeing it, she still wouldn’t have a real concept of it.
I fear that…by the time she sees and experiences it…, it’s too late.
While I was caught up in my thoughts, an exclaim suddenly entered my ears.
“You! Get out of the way!”
That was Lian’er’s voice but sounded nothing like her either because I had never heard her voice with such panic. However, it was such a voice that woke me up. Feeling the wind behind my head, I didn’t turn my head but leaned and intuitively took a step to the side, subconsciously sending out my left palm.
The moment my hand touched it, it felt hard and cold, and then I heard a clang. A blood-stained machete was slapped aside, hitting the tree and bouncing off to the ground, reflecting off flickering lights.
If I had been half a step slower, the machete wouldn’t be on the ground but in my back instead.
Looking at the machete, then at my left hand that was stained with blood because of the slap, it was a little hard to pull myself together for a moment. While my heart was still palpitating with fear, another gust of wind came from behind, along with the sound of clothes fluttering. Having no time to think it through, I wheeled around by instinct and threw another palm.
Once the palm was thrown, I regretted it. The fluttering robe my eyes skimmed over was none other than Lian’er! The strike was a fight-or-flight response of mine, so I didn’t hold back on my strength. I wouldn’t say I had used all my power, but at least seven or eighty percent of it. Although I immediately retracted my palm when I saw who it was, how could I take it back completely in a split second? The palm wind with the residual force that had yet to retract hit solidly on her bladebone!
“Lian’er!” The shock was even greater than before. As I had blood on my hand, the strike had left a bloody handprint on her shoulder, which looked especially appalling.
But as if she was unaware of it, her body just slightly tilted when she took the blow without thinking. She still kept her speed and leaped in front of me. Once landed, she reached out her hand and wrapped it around me, turning half a round along with the momentum. After taking a scan of me, her face changed abruptly, and she asked worriedly: “How are you? Why is there blood on your hand? Are you hurt somewhere? Huh?”
Our eyes met. Looking at the genuine concern in those eyes, I knew all the anger in me had been wiped clean.
Sorry for being away for so long. My old laptop broke down about a month ago, and my laptop order got delayed as well due to the stock shortage, so I couldn’t work much on the translation in the meantime. Now I’m back with a new chapter! I’ll post the extra chapter for reaching my Kofi’s goal tomorrow.