The Witch Nichang– Chapter 34
By the time I got there, the place was already a shambles. A few young, buff fellows were lying around, unable to get up. The other villagers surrounded them in a big circle. They were constantly shouting curses, but none of them dared to come forth.
In the middle of the circle stood a man. Judging from his face, he was in his early twenties, well-dressed, decent-looking, but unfortunately, conceit and arrogance were written all over his face, ruining everything. Now he was grasping a woman and looking asquint at the people around while sneering: “It’s her blessing that I, Gongsun Lei, want to take her as my wife. It’s not like I want to take advantage of her for nothing. You bunch of ingrates. I was being merciful just now. If you dare to stop me again, don’t blame me for not showing mercy no more!”
I just got here, and when I heard what he said from a distance away, a thought fleeted through my mind, could there be something more to it? But when I saw the woman beside him looking humiliated and anxious with tears all over her face, her eyes glancing at one of the young fellows on the ground all the time and her concern for him was clear, I knew I had worried too much.
As these thoughts passed through my mind, I had made it to the edge of the crowd. Before I said anything, Wu Liu next to me couldn’t wait and shouted: “Move, move! Coming through, I’ve got Miss San’er! Coming through!”
The shout did nothing but drew all the eyes of the people around to me in a swoosh. In an instant, I felt the pressure on me, making me feel very uncomfortable, but I could only brace myself and assumed a calm composure, pushing my way through the crowd, walking step by step into the circle, and faced off with the man.
The man was confused, but when he saw how the crowd reacted, he looked me up and down and asked: “What? Are you in charge here?”
I shook my head and said: “I’m not in charge here. Only one person is.”
“Oh? Who’s it?” He asked, smiling a little disdainfully.
“It’s the person beside you,” I said as I raised my hand and pointed to the woman he was holding. When I saw him looking baffled, I added: “If you sincerely want to marry her and treat her well for the rest of your life, you should know to ask her to marry you with all sincerity. As long as the feelings are mutual, I won’t stop you, even if everyone on this earth is against it.”
When the woman heard it, she looked even more alarmed. Although she was cringing in fear and afraid to speak, she shook her hands and head at me repeatedly and struggled a few times to break free, looking frightened and eager to break away from his hold. Anyone with common sense could see how reluctant she was.
Of course, the man had seen everything. He probably felt that there was no hope of getting her to agree, so he didn’t ask but said arrogantly: “She should just get married to me if I want to marry her. She’ll have her own perks in the future. It’s not something she can understand now. Humph!”
When I heard that, I couldn’t help but shake my head to myself. If these were excuses for snatching a girl, so be it. If he really thought so, he was indeed one exceptional oddball among the dum-dums.
“If I can’t convince you, then I have no choice but to ask you to let go of her.” The immediate problem was to save the girl from the hands of this oddball. When reasoning didn’t work, the only way was to adopt a harder tone.
Who knew this dum-dum, standing there and holding the girl, suddenly grinned and broke into laughter after inspecting me. “Or what? I can let go of her. You’re good-looking too. Why don’t you take her place instead?”
When he said that, the crowd burst into an uproar. My eyes darkened. Before I could say anything, Wu Liu beside me, emboldened by my presence, immediately leaped to my defense, reviling: “Bah! A toad like you who dreams of eating swan meat. When you take a fancy to Shitou’s wife, it’s already like pairing a flower with cow dung, and now you have the balls to take a fancy to Miss San. How can you be worthy of Miss San? You son of a bitch that comes from God knows which grave! You ignorant, blind bastard who doesn’t have a father to teach you manners!”
The way mountain people cursed was vulgar enough, and now he seemed particularly worked up, probably because Wu Liu saw his brother got beaten. Words that escaped his lips were nasty. I didn’t know which sentence had touched the man’s sore spot. I saw a sudden change on the man’s face, followed by a bawl from him, “You asked for it!” and his body dilated, swooping over like an enormous bird.
I had been on my guard against his attack. Now when I saw him pouncing on us, I leaped up almost at the same time to intercept him in the air before he hit Wu Liu. In our brief crossing, we had exchanged a few moves. He was so confident that he was still carrying the woman in his arm when he swooped over, so he could only strike with one hand. The two palm strikes he took in a row aside, I had jabbed him in the Quze acupoint of that arm holding the girl with my finger, and his arm spasmed, then he let go of the girl.
I was still in the air. I didn’t dare to slow down, quickly let go of my opponent to catch the girl, turned to land on the ground, and laid the girl aside. The villagers gathered around at once when they saw it, applauding and comforting her all at once. The girl couldn’t care about anything else. After letting out a whimper, she bowed and thanked me before she pushed her way through the crowd and rushed to the young fellow to check on his injury.
She was saved, but it wasn’t over yet. That man wouldn’t be willing to let it go after taking a beating. As soon as he landed, he unsheathed his sabre with a bellow and struck again. I would have a hard time confronting him unarmed. After a few dodges, an idea came to me. I grabbed the scabbard he had thrown aside, confronting the sabre with the scabbard. I wasn’t much at a disadvantage.
After exchanging a dozen moves like this, I slowly noticed something. The man’s sabre’s skills and moves were impressive, supposedly taught by a master. Too bad I don’t live up to the expectations. My foundation is flimsy, and my movements are slow. It is more than enough to deal with most people, but I will only humiliate myself if I come across a master. I don’t claim to be a master, but because I’m used to sparring with Master and Lian’er, I can feel his movements are slow and weak when I come face to face with him now. His skills with his sabre, no matter how impressive they are, pose no threat to me.
Once I knew what to expect, I was much more confident. After a few more moves, I straightened the scabbard and met his sabre with the scabbard’s mouth pointing toward him as he thrust forward. The cold, gleaming blade slotted right into it, returning the sabre to its scabbard, fitting together perfectly.
He was stupefied as he hadn’t expected there was such a move. I took the chance to twirl and twist the scabbard, bringing the scabbard round with the blade. He couldn’t hold on to the grip and let loose, but he hadn’t given up and stepped forward, wanting to get it back. I didn’t dodge but bent three of my fingers, and with a spin, turned the sabre in my hand around and thrust its pommel at him.
Though it was just the pommel, the thrust was delivered at a blistering speed. If it landed on the right spot, it might break one of his ribs. I intended to teach him a lesson. Wielding a sabre in place of a sword, I was using the unique sword technique created by Master.
At this critical moment, I suddenly caught a faint whistle of something piercing through the air!
My heart jolted, and I had a bad feeling about it, so I quickly halted my strike and drew back to protect myself, but I was still one step slower. I felt a coldness, immediately followed by numbness on my wrist of the hand holding the sabre, and the sabre dropped on the ground with a clang. The sound of something piercing through the air was still coming one after another. I went all out weaving and exhausting all the body techniques Master taught me to be able to dodge them just in time and was sent a few steps back before I regained my balance.
It all happened in a flash. The villagers didn’t know what was going on, but I knew how ruffled I was. While I was in shock, I heard the man call in excitement: “Momma, you’re here! Just in time, these people are bullying me!”
It was strange enough for a big man to call his mother “momma.” What was even more strange was, as he called, a person popped up out of nowhere in the middle of the circle mobbed by a crowd of people.
It was a fine dame with a red flower perched on her temple and a staff in her hand.
From her appearance, she aged well and still kept her charm, her long caramel hair gleaming in the sun. If not for the wrong time and space, I would have thought it was dyed. These features looked out of place, contradicting each other, but putting them all together on her, they blended together harmoniously as if she was born this way. Now when she stood there in serenity, she looked like a spirit in its true form.
Her entrance had stirred up the crowd. The villagers had never seen anything like this. For a second, they were all talking about her, thinking she was a ghost, looking shocked and scared and peeking at my reaction. I knew she wasn’t a ghost, but I also knew she was an outstanding master and was close with this man. I’m afraid it will be tricky. I didn’t dare to do anything rash, so I simply prepared for the unexpected and began to observe her.
When the man saw the fine dame had shown up, his face lit up with glee. He ran over and said: “Momma, you came just in time. If you came a bit later, that bitch was going to…Ah!” Before he could finish, the fine dame slapped him, and a crisp sound resounded.
When I saw the slap, aside from being surprised, I felt slightly relieved.
The man was surprised by this sudden change. He drew a long face and wanted to say something, but the fine dame asked him in a ghastly tone: “Tell me, what did you promise me before you went out?” Her voice was a little sharp with a note of coldness.
“Don’t…don’t cause trouble, don’t go looking for trouble…” This man covered his face and said obsequiously. He seemed to fear the woman he called momma. Halfway through his sentence, he seemed grudging and turned around again.
“…But dad said if you don’t know the taste of women, you’re not a man. You usually forbid me to leave the house, and now I can finally come out. How am I causing trouble if I’m finding a wife for myself?” He said.
“You shut up! How dare you bring up your useless dad!” Upon hearing it, she raised her eyebrows in anger as if in extreme anger. “He does all sorts of evil. Do you want to follow him? Don’t forget! Your last name is Gongsun! Not Jin!”
He quailed at her roar, standing aside with his head drooped, looking like he was too scared to argue with her, yet his mouth mumbling: “You’re my momma, he’s my dad. Disowning either is disloyal and ungrateful…I don’t want to be that…”
He said it in an extremely soft voice. Probably no one else around here had heard it except for me, so the fine dame ignored him and just glared at him before turning around to look at me and say: “You, the girl over there, come here.”
With what happened just now, I had some idea of how she conducted herself. Now when I heard her yell, I didn’t have much hostility and defensiveness towards her. I just took a few steps forward with respect as she instructed, saluted with a cupped fist, and asked: “How can I help you?” But I saw her take out some silver bits and said to me: “I saw how this all happened. I know it’s my son’s fault. Take the money and bring the injured to the doctor, and let’s just let it go.”
With that, I saw her hand twitch, and a few silver streaks were flying through the air to me. I perked up and swept both my hands in the air, and I managed to catch them all. Then I bowed to thank her, turned around, and asked Wu Liu to hand out the money. The villagers were relieved when they saw how things had gone. The crowd gradually dispersed, some went to take care of the injured, some went to comfort the girl, and some were clamoring about getting a doctor.
I was about to leave when I saw it was over and everything had been taken care of, but I suddenly heard a voice coming from behind: “Hold on!”
I looked back and saw the red flower dame, with her dragon head staff, was staring at me like I was her prey. She sneered grimly like before: “Girl, I was watching you earlier. If I’m not mistaken, your master should be living around Mount Hua, am I right?”
All of a sudden, a chill ran up my spine.