The Witch Nichang– Chapter 40
Waiting was a torment, especially one without certainty.
A long time like 30-minute couldn’t be measured with the seconds I was used to. At a time like this, I would miss the days when we had timekeeping devices.
The air became a little heavy after Lian’er had left. Even the two wolves had either left or lain low. Anyway, they disappeared, leaving me and the red flower dame behind in the dark and windy night. A moment ago, we were at war like fire and water, and now we suddenly fell into silence. I didn’t know how she felt, but I felt a little uncomfortable.
And now the perk of a dark night showed. I couldn’t see anything beyond three steps, anyway. It saved us the embarrassment of looking at each other.
I groped for a relatively flat rock in the grass and sat down, tugging my knees into my chest, waiting in silence for the time to pass. After waiting dully for a while, I felt my body getting more and more uncomfortable, along with fits of shivering cold. It can’t go on like this, I thought, so I wanted to get some twigs and start a fire to keep warm. But when I got up and just took a step, I heard a faint, tepid voice coming from not far to my left, “Girl…what’re you up to?”
I couldn’t see her in the dark. After hesitating for a while, I replied, “It’s late and getting cold. I’m looking for something to start a fire.”
After friction had developed between us, I had lost much of my respect for her when I spoke. I no longer addressed her as a senior. I didn’t know what she was thinking. She replied with a “hmm,” as if she didn’t care much, but then said gloomily, “I advise you to meditate and chill. If you move around like this and start a fire, it’ll stimulate your blood circulation and cause the poison to kick in before time. By that time, you’ll really die for nothing.”
What she said sounded both true and false. I couldn’t tell if it was a threat or a fact. After a moment of hesitation, I sat down again, thinking it was better to believe it was true, but I couldn’t resist the swelling emotions in me and lashed out, “If that’s the case, why did you let her take that earlier? Lian’er was going to use her qi on her way, and that would boost her blood circulation. Luckily, I‘d stopped her before that. Otherwise, if she collapses on her way, what’re you going to do?”
She didn’t answer, only her usual bizarre giggle coming from the dark, and after she finished laughing, I heard her saying, “Weird. You’ve been defending that kid the entire time. And now you’re feeling glad for her instead of worried about yourself. Who’s she to you?”
“Wha…what’s weird about it?” What she said had struck a nerve. I had nothing to hide, actually. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t feel confident enough. I answered, trying to sound nonchalant, “I’d seen her growing up, and I’m her only sister. Who should I defend otherwise? It’s something I should do.”
“Hmph, seen her growing up? You sound like an old man for your age. How weird. Tsk.” Then she continued, “From what I’ve seen, you love that kid as your sister, yet she didn’t talk to you even once the entire time. She said nothing even when you swallowed the pill for her. Obviously, she doesn’t respect you as her sister.”
I didn’t expect her to say that. I was startled, my hand unconsciously stroking the wound on my fingertip. It had been bandaged just a moment ago, as if someone else’s warmth was still there.
“She…she was just angry with me…” I murmured, trying to explain. What happened before inadvertently came up in my mind.
Just as what the red flower dame had said, Lian’er didn’t talk to me the whole time until she left, even when she saw me swallow the pill. Of course, that didn’t mean I thought taking the pill was a big deal. I didn’t even think I was taking poison the moment I swallowed it. It was curable, anyway. I had confidence in Lian’er’s qinggong, and I knew she wouldn’t leave me behind, so there was nothing to fear.
But what I did seemed to have irritated Lian’er. The reason she didn’t talk to me before might be because of her injury due to her hasty attack, but she still didn’t say a word when she was leaving, even her blazing gaze was no more.
I guess she is throwing a tantrum again since she has always been most annoyed with me making decisions for her, especially since she got hurt this time. She is definitely angry.
As I was thinking, my mind started to wander, all kinds of thought emerging in my mind. I was so immersed in my own world that I almost forgot the discomfort on my body and the situation I was in until a snort snapped me out of it.
Clearly, the snort came from the red flower dame. I heard her sneer, “No offense, girl, people’s hearts are the most unpredictable thing in the world. People like you, are bound to get hurt.”
Her tone was still ambiguous. Maybe I was wrong. I could hear a hint of concern in it. “Just like that pill. That kid might seem to be hurt, but actually, she isn’t hurt as bad as you are. The pill won’t do any harm to her. It’s you who will get hurt taking that, but you just had to be the hero. Do you think I’d do things without reason? Next time, know your place, or else, you won’t know what hit you.”
“That just means I’m being dumb. What does it have to do with people’s hearts being unpredictable?” I said, shaking my head slightly, “In the end, I didn’t do it for her. It’s for my own peace of mind that I played the hero. If she were the one who took the pill, I’d be sitting on pins and needles now. Instead of going through mental torture, I would rather it to be my body that suffers.”
“Girl, you don’t seem like a diehard. Heaven, earth, sovereign, ancestors, masters. Does she deserve you doing that?” Her voice was a little dismissive, perhaps she was also shaking her head.
“If being sisters isn’t enough, then soulmates will do, right? Don’t people die for their soulmate?” I certainly couldn’t tell her the truth, so I had to find an excuse to brush her off.
“Soulmate?” Her tone turned to one of disbelief this time. “What do you know about soulmates at your age, girl? People’s hearts are ever changing. How can you call someone a soulmate so lightly? Can you know what the other person is thinking? If you can’t, how can you say someone’s your soulmate?”
Too bad I wasn’t actually a young girl on the inside. What I said just now was just an excuse, not to mention I had no desire to go into details with anyone, but when I heard what she said, I retorted, smiling without knowing, “When Ziqi died, Boya broke his guqin. You don’t have to know everything about someone to call them a soulmate. Just like you and Master. You’ve longed for a duel with her for years. Doesn’t that mean soulmates are hard to get?”
After a moment, there was no more sound coming from the dark.
I didn’t know why the red flower dame fell silent. I didn’t dare to think I had convinced her. After thinking about it, I felt I should bring up Master to remind her of the duel to come so that she no longer cared to chatter with me. By now, she should be meditating.
I was worried about showing my emotions. I didn’t want to talk to her too much to begin with, so I was happy to go back to silence, sitting there, silently returning to my own world, thereby ignoring the pain and coldness in my body.
In the dark, time wore on. Maybe because I had sat for too long, I felt the coldness in my body grow colder, so cold that I could no longer concentrate on my thoughts. I could only curl up tighter and tighter. My body couldn’t help but shiver, even my mind was getting drowsy.
Just as I was about to fall asleep, a bawl came into my ears.
“Honghua Guimu! What’ve you done to my disciples?”
The belief and worship of five cosmological entities in Confucianism.
It’s an excerpt from a Chinese classic story, talking about a Chinese musician, Yu Boya, broke his guqin (a Chinese instrument similar to zither) and vowed never to play it again when a woodcutter, Zhong Ziqi, who he met on his tour and called him his bosom friend because he understood his music, died. It’s a story that exemplifies friendship and where the term Zhiyin (知音, meaning soulmate/bosom friend, literally “to know the tone”) came about. You can look up the story of Boya and Zhong Ziqi if you like to know the full story.
红花鬼母, Gongsun Daniang’s nickname, literally Red Flower Devil Mother.