The Witch Nichang– Chapter 30
I could make myself look as usual. Only heaven and the earth know my heart, anyway.
But if pretending nothing was wrong and getting along as usual meant that from now on, I would lose control of my words and actions from time to time, then I had no other choice.
After dusk of that day, I cleaned up the dishes without a word and then continued with what I had to do. Except that a cordon was raised inside of me, virtually marking out a self-measured safety distance and carefully sticking to it at all times, trying my best not to cross over, meanwhile, keeping an eye on Lian’er to prevent her from crossing over.
I knew this was a dick move, but I couldn’t think of any other ways. I was merely grasping at straws. In this life, all I wanted was peace, yet I couldn’t get it. Worse still, it was ruined by my own hands. How ludicrous, but I couldn’t laugh.
Even if it was poison, I had to drink it.
Lian’er didn’t sense anything about my approach at first. She is independent, doesn’t like to cling to anyone, and loves to run around all day. Every time she thought of something to do, the most she would do was ask me whether I wanted to tag along. If the answer was negative, she wouldn’t push it either. She would just go: “Oh” and continue to do her thing.
But no matter how heedless she was of trifles, slowly but surely, she would sense something was off as the days went by.
I wasn’t sure when Lian’er started to sense it, I only knew she looked strange that day when the three of us were sitting together having dinner.
Lian’er had a bad habit when she ate. Although the way she ate wasn’t exactly rude, it wasn’t controlled and civil either like a lady. She would gobble up her food every time. Sometimes, Master and I would correct her, but it rarely worked. Not to mention the guilt of avoiding her of late, all that was on my mind was to compensate her elsewhere, so I had been making her favourite dishes these days, and now she was devouring her food across the table like the wind sweeping up the clouds. After she was done, a bowl was held out in front of me.
“More rice.” It was the familiar, assertive voice.
Surprise flashed across my mind. I was used to helping Master with another serving of rice. Back when I pampered her as a child, I would love to help her with that, but she was the one who always spurned my help. She would roll her eyes at me every time, slid out of her seat with her empty bowl, and went to the stove to help herself.
And now she suddenly asked for help herself, even though I said nothing. It was hard not to be surprised.
But surprise aside, I looked down at the empty bowl, then at the clean, slender fingers around the brim of the bowl, and my eyes went all the way to her forearm, and I didn’t want to go up anymore. I murmured an “Oh,” took the bowl and left my seat, calmly went to the outer cave, opened the barrel steamer, filled up the bowl, came back, and gently put it back in front of her.
Who knew after staying silent for a while, she pushed the bowl and acted out: ”It’s too much. I can’t finish it!” I didn’t know if it was an illusion. There was a tinge of agitation in her tone and action.
By that time, I had already sat down. Not knowing what she wanted, I reached out my hand, took it over without a word, and scooped some over to my bowl, then pushed the rest back to her.
But I didn’t expect that would anger her.
“What’re you doing? I just said it’s too much. I didn’t ask you to take some over. Why do you act on your own without saying anything!” She really seemed to be getting irritated. Her voice was louder than when she usually acted out. Her tone was harsher too. I didn’t raise my head to look at her. But given her tone, I guessed her expression must have been furious.
“Lian’er…” Meanwhile, Master, who saw how things unfolded, said flatly. Her meaning was clear.
But the person beside me seemed to ignore Master’s attitude and kept on stubbornly. I was looking at the tabletop and could even feel her sharp and emotional gaze. She glared at me and snarled: “Looking down again! You always keep your head down lately! What’s wrong? Can’t you just look at me and talk!”
“Lian’er! What’s with your manner of talking to your sister!” Master’s tone suddenly hardened.
Although Lian’er was willful, she had always been respectful of Master. Her disregard earlier might just be a momentary outburst of emotion, and she couldn’t control herself. I knew Master got angry when I heard her raise her voice. Although Lian’er still looked a little indignant, she meekly hushed up, holding back her emotion, and sat down, picked up her bowl and chopsticks, starting to eat listlessly.
Looking at that pair of chopsticks sluggishly poking between those few dishes as if they were tasteless, I finally couldn’t stand it and took a quick peek. Who knew she was also staring at me, and both our eyes met. I froze and quickly averted my eyes.
I had averted my eyes but couldn’t turn away from the impression left in my head in that split second. The emotion exuding from those eyes wasn’t so much anger but aggrieved with a trace of bewilderment.
I sighed to myself, thinking she had felt something after all. She felt the existence of the line. Maybe because our relationship since young was me humoring her and taking care of her, so she didn’t quite know how to approach me and interact with me on her own. Besides, this action of pushing her away was ambiguous and vague. For Lian’er, who liked to keep things clean and simple, she was indeed lost. That was why she would find such a poor excuse to talk to me and got anxious and flipped out when she didn’t get the response she wanted.
How innocent she was to be affected by my emotion and have her mood ruined for no reason.
But what shall I do? Neither could I get closer nor stay away. It would hurt the other person when far away, hurt myself when close. It was a dilemma.
I wasn’t a selfless person with great love, after all. The reason I treated her well, accommodated her, took meticulous care of her, rarely went against her on anything was simply because I knew it wouldn’t hurt me. Even if she were a fierce little wolf, being bitten once or twice was still acceptable for me. I didn’t really care.
But now she was no longer a little wolf but a soaring fire of karma. If I get any closer, the price is to burn to ashes.
It was a price I couldn’t afford and daren’t afford. Once I touched the truly untouchable, like all ordinary people, my first reaction was to retreat and protect myself.
Such a situation had lasted for three days. Three days later, Master wanted us to spar sword-to-sword.
Master’s order came at short notice, but I wasn’t surprised. The feeling that something was wrong between Lian’er and me these days, especially the episode at the dinner table. Since she had seen them all, it was only a matter of time before she would do something about it. In a way, I even thought Master’s response came a little late, though I didn’t yet understand what the purpose of doing so was.
And Lian’er didn’t seem surprised about it either. But her nonchalance and mine were different. As Master kept strict supervision over her martial arts training, it was common for her to sword spar. Only this time, she snorted when she heard her opponent was me and passed by in front of me with her chin lifted, taking the lead to go out of the cave first.
Scratching my face with resignation, I stood up and followed her.
The large flat land not far away from the cave where I loved to lay in the sun was the usual sword training ground whose surface was made up of hard rocks. With the rain washing all year round, almost no loose soil remained on the surface, and lush vegetation couldn’t thrive, but not far from there, there were canopies of green. Thus, it was an ideal place for martial arts practice.
When I arrived, Lian’er had been waiting for me. She was holding a black bamboo commonly used for sparring, left hand forming into sword fingers, standing tall and spirited in the middle of the training ground, her robe rippling in the wind, emanating an imposing air.
I didn’t dare to keep my eyes on her for too long. My eyes quickly swept past her, and I looked at Master at the side in confusion, wanting to get a hint from her, but all I got was a black bamboo same as Lian’er’s and a word from her: “Go.”
So I was forced to walk into the field until I stopped ten feet away from her. Under her burning gaze, I braced myself, spun my sword, and got into a pose. Then I bit the bullet and raised my head. Suddenly, I understood why Master did this.
Scholars make friends through literature, martial artists connect through martial arts. The person who knows you best is always your opponent. Even if it is only sparring, standing against each other like this, waiting for an opportunity to strike, our eyes were bound to meet. It is only through guessing each other’s minds, emotions, even characters that you know what you will face next.
Master had used the simplest method—force us to communicate. I didn’t know if Lian’er understood her intention. But when I forced myself to raise my head and looked into her eyes, the aggressive yet eager eyes I saw were no lie.
That gaze was too intense. Reciting the cultivation incantations, I forced myself to focus, trying to tune myself to a state of non-self ready for combat. But in the end, I still subconsciously closed my eyes.
I couldn’t face the enemy because it was impossible to treat the person in front of me as an enemy.
That moment I closed my eyes was undoubtedly a great opening, and surely, it brought about Lian’er’s attack. At that instant, I felt the wind gusting against my face, and I ducked out of instinct and used footwork. With a few dodges, I avoided the onslaught of wind gusts just in time, and finally, only after backing up a few steps did I have the chance to look back, and I saw a purple streak pursuing me like a living thing and thrusting towards my shoulder blade.
It was too late for me to retreat or to block now. I could only grit my teeth and mustered my qi to bear this strike. The next moment, my eyes went blurry, and one side of my body got the taste of the ground.
But Lian’er’s attacks were still raining down on me. I lay on the ground, wielding the black bamboo in my hand to defend myself, trying to break out to the left while blocking her attacks on the right. I barely held on by relying on my familiarity with her moves while being held down, unable to get a break to get up. The hits were harder than I expected when they landed on me sometimes.
Lian’er was being serious. Never had she been so serious, almost no mercy.
Even so, I still didn’t really look into those serious eyes.
Facing a lopsided situation, Master didn’t call a halt. I knew she wouldn’t, and I didn’t have time to look over and ask her to call a halt. After blocking for a while, the places where I got hit were increasing, and my movements were getting slower. Several parts of my body were so painful and numb that they couldn’t summon up any strength, and my shoulder blade was burning.
Slowly, my emotion began to change.
I rarely get angry at Lian’er. Even when I did, it wouldn’t last for long, and I had never vented my anger at her. But right now, there was a fire of rage burning inside of me, slowly yet vividly.
Why? Why? I just want to stay a little further away from you. I’ll still protect you, pamper you, just from a little further away. Why do you have to force me like this?
You don’t understand at all. You don’t understand what you mean to me. I don’t want you to understand. Isn’t that better? You have your future, and I want to protect you, but that doesn’t mean I have to lose my heart to you, does it?
You’ll fall for someone, a man. You’re destined to be crazy for him. Why do I have to fall for someone like you!
My body started to turn cold little by little. It had nothing to do with physical pain. It was a chill that arose from the bottom of my heart. What was burning was obviously a fire, but it felt cold to the bone.
I stopped all my movements, no longer resisting nor paying any mind to Lian’er attacks, and just closed my eyes.
I didn’t dare to open my eyes, didn’t dare to look at her because my last thread of rationality kept me worried, worried that if I opened my eyes ever so slightly at this moment, it would reveal the hatred that filled my eyes.
I promised 2 chapters in this release last time, but I still have a little editing left to do for the next chapter, so I’ll upload it tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed this chapter!