The Witch Nichang– Chapter 39
Ever since I got a new life, the only thing I wished for in this life was peace, so for over ten years I had lived, I had been controlling my emotions—consciously and unconsciously—and I rarely let myself mess around.
It felt like a long time since I acted out of impulse. My emotions took a roller-coaster ride. Although all my emotions were released as they rose and fell, I felt as if I was hollowed out. When I fell on the ground, my body cooled down, leaving only emptiness and silence. For a moment, I felt nothing mattered anymore as I lay there. I’m a speck of dust in the universe. What joy is in life, what pain is in death?
Until she came along.
Hearing that voice and looking at that figure, the sense of reality snapped back into my body.
But I felt no relief from being saved, even the heartwarming feeling of a reunion was just momentary, and anxiety and worry took over right after that.
I didn’t have to think to know how untimely Lian’er’s appearance was at that moment. With her temper…I didn’t dare to imagine. I turned to keep an eye on the reaction of the red flower dame next to me. When I caught a faint “eh,” my nerves tightened. I leaned forward and grabbed the dragon-head staff that was against my neck, speaking under my breath, “This is between you and me. Leave others out of it!”
“Oh? Who’s she? When you talk like this, she isn’t entirely irrelevant to you, is she?” The fine dame knew how strong I was, so she wasn’t concerned even when she saw me grabbing her staff. She didn’t even change her stance and scoffed, “You have a lot of friends, huh. It’s only been one night, but you’ve been getting help everywhere.”
“This isn’t a coincidence. She’s…she’s the real master of those two wolves,” I strained to answer as I endured my qi rolling in my body. Although my body was suffering, I didn’t bump my head. I knew what I should say and what not to say.
But I was afraid someone didn’t.
After giving a brief answer to the red flower dame, I didn’t dare to dally much. I forced myself to hold half of my body up from the ground and shouted at the other side, “Lian…Miss Lian’er! I appreciate your kindness, but this person here…this person here is coming after me and Master. It has noth…nothing to do with you. I’m sorry that the wolves are hurt, but she’s too strong. You better not get invol…involved in this. The first thing is to take care of the wolves!”
This was all I could think of saying at the moment. It was meant for the red flower dame, as well as Lian’er, literally and figuratively. If I was lucky, I could keep her out of this and get the message to Master, killing two birds with one stone.
Unfortunately, man proposes, God disposes. I knew I had never been a lucky person.
Besides, Lian’er’s temper was there.
The implications in these words were clear enough. I didn’t believe she didn’t get it. But the truth was she just stood there, as if she didn’t hear it, and repeated, “I said stay away from her!”
That was when I knew we were in big trouble.
“Haha, Interesting.” It seemed to have sparked the red flower dame’s interest. She jerked her wrist, and the staff against my neck sank down a little more. Although my hand was grasping the staff, I felt my breath suddenly being choked off, uncontrollable groans escaping my throat. The red flower dame asserted, “I do what I want. Now I don’t want to stay away from her. What’re you going to do?”
As soon as she said that, I tried hard to take a breath under the weight and screamed, “Lian’er! Don’t!” But I couldn’t stop anything. She didn’t listen to me at all like the two wolves earlier. I saw the figure flicker, and there was wind storming over!
The wind swished by me, and the weight on my neck was suddenly lifted. I could hear the dame say with a little approval in her voice, “Your qinggong is good.” But her voice was already dozens of feet away.
I struggled to my feet, anxiously looking at the dark, but there was nothing I could help. I couldn’t even see clearly, let alone intervene in this fight. The heavy darkness lingered around as if it were dark fog. Coupled with the dizziness caused by my erratic qi flow, I could only see two shadows moving and crossing each other between the trees, no matter how much I focused. Sometimes it seemed unreal and sometimes real, hazy and indistinct.
My chest was burning. Even though I couldn’t see how the situation was, I knew very well that no matter how fast Lian’er martial arts had improved over the past two years, she could never compete with a person who could tie with Master. She might be able to hang on for a little while longer, but the ending was doomed. I wanted to tell her to run, but I was afraid not only that it wouldn’t work, but it would also distract her and lead to her defeat.
It was at this moment I hated myself for being so powerless. I knew what would happen, but I could only watch it happen.
After waiting helplessly and anxiously for a while, a muffled grunt came from the other side as expected, followed by the sound of branches cracking, and then a thud.
“Lian’er!” Although I was expecting it, I was still shocked. I called her name as I stumbled towards where the sound came from.
Only when I came closer did I see a person lying in the grass. She kept holding up her body, trying to get up but to no avail. When I heard heavy breathing, almost to the point of being abnormal, I got worried. I rushed over and held her in my arms from the back. Then I knelt on the grass and got her up so that she could lean properly in my arms.
A long-awaited hug, yet it was in this way. I had no time to be sentimental. Even though she was so close that I could smell her familiar scent, I still couldn’t see clearly. The person in front of me was hazed by a veil of darkness, so blurry that I couldn’t even see her expression, let alone check on her. Holding her, all I knew was the body in my arms was trembling and twitching slightly, looking very uncomfortable.
“Lian’er! What’s wrong with you, Lian’er? What’s wrong? Tell me!” Panic flared up. I knew she would lose the fight but didn’t expect her to get hurt like this. I kept calling her, and what I heard was heavier and heavier breathing, as if she couldn’t spare the time to speak at all.
“Gongsun Daniang! What’ve you done to her!” I couldn’t get an answer from her, so I could only ask the one who did it.
Before Lian’er was injured and fell, the red flower dame had already landed calmly not far away. First, she was standing aside, watching casually as if enjoying a show. When she heard me, she said with a snort, “Hmph, you ask me? I want to ask you too. You seem honest. I never expected you to be full of nonsense. You said she has nothing to do with you, but her martial arts style is clearly the same as yours!”
“She’d just been taught by Master before and learned a few moves,” I said, gritting my teeth. I knew the possibility of getting caught lying was high, but as long as there was a slight possibility, I wanted to keep her out of this.
Sure enough, it didn’t work.
“Stop making excuses! Do you really think I’m an idiot? Her martial skills are obviously better than yours. That isn’t a level you can achieve with learning a few moves. How much longer do you want to cover for her?”
“Old hag!” At this moment, the person in my arms started to flail about, ignoring her heavy breathing that sounded like bellows, and rasped, “Do it if you dare! Do it now! Or else I won’t spare you next time!”
“Shut up!” I rapped out at Lian’er before the red flower dame blew up. I knew she wouldn’t listen, so I quickly reached out my hand and covered her mouth.
Lian’er was pissed off now. She couldn’t take it when I treated her this way. As soon as my hand covered her mouth, she opened her mouth and bit down without hesitation, and coincidentally, on that finger I used to write the message earlier. I just felt a sense of pressure, immediately followed by a pang of excruciating pain. I knew the wound was open again, but I had no time to care about it. I was still clasping her mouth, afraid that she would anger that woman.
Even so, it seemed like it was too late.
When the red flower dame heard Lian’er’s bawl, she sniggered. After she was done, she said, “Haha, since you’ve said it, I feel like I should finish you off for good to save myself from future problems, right?”
As soon as she said that, I got a shiver and thought, I’m afraid this woman really wants to kill Lian’er given her peculiarity and wickedness. With our state like this, aren’t we just fishes on the chopping board? I was dismayed and said, “If you do that, I assure you, you’re never going to find out where my master is!”
“Oh?” She smiled, not affected by my intimidation. “One dead, there’s still one more, isn’t it? Or you wish to die with her?”
In the face of being pressed, I remained silent, looking as if I was hesitating, however, I was holding Lian’er and backing up little by little. I was sure the red flower dame had noticed it, but thanks to the darkness, she still had no idea what I was doing and just took it as a sign of fear.
“You’re right!” When I finally came to the target place, the edge of the cliff where I had desperately tried to push her down, I replied seriously, hands tightly guarding the person who kept trembling in my arms, “If you do anything to Lian’er, I’ll leap off the cliff with her now, and I guarantee you won’t find our bodies! By that time, no one else in this world knows where our master lives, and you can take your unresolved feelings to the grave!”
“Hmph!” As if she felt she got played, she said sinisterly, her tone turning harsher, “Alright, if you dare to do so, I’ll go back and kill everyone in that village! Down to the very last of them!”
How ironic. I was wrong about her. She was wrong about me too. It turned out none of us were kind.
Facing her threat, I smiled ruefully and said, “Haha, as you wish. I couldn’t even protect the most important person to me. I’m even about to give up my own life. Why do I even care now? Go ahead and do what you like. At the worst, I’ll wait for you in hell!”
The last sentence was like a curse before death. When I was done, I held Lian’er and kept a close eye on the shadowy figure in the dark. She was quick-tempered, so she would most likely go ballistic. I was thinking as soon as she moved, I would do what I said!
But after that, the air seemed to freeze.
The red flower dame didn’t blow up as I thought she would, and she didn’t come any closer either. After a moment of silence—I didn’t know if my response had caught her off guard or if she was playing some kind of game—she started to giggle.
“Boring, boring indeed.” When she finally spoke, she said it frigidly, as if it was really boring. “Alright, alright. It’s getting late. I’ll stop teasing you two youngsters. I’m magnanimous. I’ll compromise a little. As if anyone cares about where she lives. One of you go get your master to come here and fulfill my wish, good enough?”
Such an answer was unexpected. I suspected there was something going on. “Do you think I still believe you after all this?” I said seriously, not daring to let down my guard for a moment.
“What? You don’t have confidence in me, fine. But you don’t even have confidence in your own master? Or you think that master of yours will lose even when she comes? Instead of three people dying, it’s better just the two of you die together?”
When she mentioned that, I was a little tempted. Although I couldn’t fathom how strong this person in front of me was, I was still confident in Master’s martial skills. Even if what she said before was true, the two of them could fight for more than a hundred rounds neck and neck, that didn’t mean that Master would definitely lose to her, right?
I looked at Lian’er in my arms. Although I couldn’t see her face and injury, seeing her in such pain, I was afraid… If something happened to her, why bother alarming Master? Might as well…
Perhaps I had too much shock tonight, I didn’t know what to do. For a moment, negative emotions and thoughts flooded me and almost made me forget about the moment I was tempted.
It was then the red flower dame sneered, probably because she saw my worry, “What? Are you worried about her? Don’t worry. It looks serious, but I just messed up her qi, and now her neigong and the flow of her qi is disrupted. Of course, she has trouble breathing. It’s nothing serious. If you promise me, I can fix her right away.”
Now I could see some hope. Almost without thinking, I raised my head and said firmly, “Okay! You fix her. I’ll stay here with you, and she’ll go get Master. I’ll give you my word!”
I wasn’t sure if this person was still trustworthy or not. Maybe making promises with her was just like making a pact with the devil, but now, relieving Lian’er’s pain was the priority. I personally felt it wasn’t a loss to make that deal. I wasn’t afraid of death, what else was there to fear?
She didn’t say much. Seeing that I agreed, she sauntered over and crouched down. Pa, pa, pa, speedily, she jabbed on Lian’er body a few times. Then she stood up and said as she clapped her hands, “Done.”
I felt the person in my arms spasm a few times, and the twitching abated. After a while, she seemed to be struggling, trying to stand up. I didn’t dare to let her move by herself, so I stood up together with her, half carrying, half holding her up. When she caught her breath, she snarled, “I’m going to kill you!” She was about to lunge at her as she said that.
Fortunately, I was quick this time. I held her and burst out, “Lian’er! Lian’er! Wait a minute!” When I saw she ignored me, I was angry and worried, as if a fire was burning in me. I couldn’t help but hoot, “Lian’er! Do you wish me dead!”
With this hoot, the person beside me jolted and stopped, standing right there without a word.
I couldn’t see her face. I was afraid it would evoke an even stronger emotional backlash from her after a moment of silence, so I quickly softened up and held her hand, crooning, “If you know you can’t win and still want to fight, fine. I’ll die with you. No big deal. But if you don’t want us to die for no reason, then go see Master, tell her everything, and let her decide, okay?”
Still no response. I stood there, holding her. I couldn’t see her reaction because of the dark, and I knew the woman must be watching from the side. While I was thinking about what to do, fearing that something might happen, the person in front of me moved.
This time, Lian’er didn’t do anything reckless. She just turned around slowly and looked at me. In the dark, it was as if looking at a flower in the fog when I looked at her. I couldn’t even meet her eyes, yet I could clearly feel her blazing gaze. Suddenly, there was the sound of cloth tearing, and my hand was lifted. Something was wrapping around my index finger, bandaging the wound on it. When everything was done, she remained silent, dropped my hand, turned around, and was about to walk away.
That was when the red flower dame who had been watching at a side chimed in.
“Hold on!” She shouted and strolled over. “On second thought, I still don’t think I can trust you guys. I’m not at an advantage by doing that. What if this kid never returns, and you won’t budge, won’t I be in trouble by that time?”
“What exactly do you want?” I asked, frowning. I knew she wouldn’t let us go so easily, but I didn’t know what she was trying to pull.
Then I saw a hand reaching out from the dark, and when it reached Lian’er, it opened up. A small white pill was on top, glimmering in the dark.
“Take this,” The woman said casually as if what she asked someone to take was just candy. “This white pill won’t kill you right away, but if you don’t return in 30 minutes, you’ll die of poison. Only the antidote I have can save you. That’s enough time for you to get someone, right?”
Lian’er gave no response. She just snorted and reached out her hand, wanting to grab it.
At this moment, I should be glad that we were close to each other and even gladder that the pill was white, so I could see where it precisely was. These two points made things easy for me.
That was why I could step forward, grab the pill, and swallow it before Lian’er could.
“She just got hurt, and she has to use her qi on her way. I don’t want her to take this kind of thing. You don’t believe her, I do. If she doesn’t return in 30 minutes, I’ll give you my life.”
Neigong- The cultivated energy within a martial artist’s body. Martial artists use this energy to attain skills such as superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability and healing. Reference: Wikipedia