The Witch Nichang– Chapter 62
“Brother Zhuo, we’ll fight the witch at the peak of Mount Hua tomorrow night. Let’s practice the killing formation first tonight.”
I had to admit I regretted my decision when I heard what he said. I led Lian’er myself to the one person I wanted her to avoid the most. It was an unfortunate coincidence, but it was exactly a fated coincidence like this that made me feel despondent.
But this feeling of despondency didn’t last long before it dissipated.
Since the answer was obvious if I were to choose between Lian’er’s safety and letting them meet.
At the base of the hillside, the moonlight was faint and casted a pale white glow on the ground, reflecting the shadows of those people. I could just about make them out. It was just that the wind was erratic, sometimes to the east and sometimes to the west, interfering with the direction of voices, but even so, I could hear pieces of the conversation if I focused.
I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t listened closely to it. It wasn’t difficult to tell that the Brother Ying this group of people were talking about was the so-called old crook Ying Lian’er had mentioned, also the person she was going to fight tomorrow, so the witch they kept bringing up could, of course, not be someone else.
That said, they were planning to join forces against Lian’er. I frowned upon hearing it, I lowered my voice and asked the person next to me as I listened in, “Didn’t you challenge only one person to a duel? What’s going on now?” I heard Lian’er snort and say, “Why should I be afraid if he’s going to get help?” Then her eyes stared straight down the hillside again.
I took a glance at her. Other than disdain, I couldn’t see anything else from her face. I didn’t have time to think about it either, so I shifted my attention back to that place.
Those people started to get down to business after exchanging a few words. One after another, they formed a circle. A person in the circle shouted, “Even though all seven of us are master martial artists, Jade Rakshasa is fast. If we don’t have this mastered, it won’t be a problem to beat her with the seven of us, but we won’t necessarily be able to kill her. So Brother Ying has come up with this formation called the Seven Masters’ Demon Slayer Formation. One person will be the commander, four will be the support, and the other two will be the spearhead and the defense. We’ll exchange our role, keeping the formation unpredictable. We’ll attack in three at a time, one group attacks and the other retreats. With this rotation and someone in the middle as support, this will surely keep our opponent’s hand full. She won’t be able to get away even if she has superhuman powers. Now that Brother Ying is not here, we don’t have a commander. Let’s practice our attack coordination first with just the six of us!”
After saying that, he began to explain the positioning of the formation. I was a little frustrated because I couldn’t hear him clearly, but fortunately, they started to train after that. Although I didn’t hear everything they said, I could see their moves in the moonlight. These six people were divided into two groups. As soon as one group attacked, the other followed up immediately. The formation was sometimes a circle and sometimes a square. They sometimes surrounded the opponent and sometimes attacked from both sides, but their steps stayed coordinated, initiating bouts of attacks like a wave. They were determined not to give their opponent any chance to catch their breath.
“What Seven Masters’ Demon Slayer Formation. How nice. It’s nothing but a tag-team attack.” Next to me, Lian’er complained in a soft voice. Even though her tone was contemptuous, her expression got serious. She was skilled in martial arts. She should have recognized the strength of that formation. It was just that she didn’t want to admit it out loud.
“It’s a strategic tag-team.” I followed up. I knew her temper, so I didn’t say anything more, lest it affected her learning the formation.
No matter what happened and who we bumped into tonight, it was all worth it to be able to come upon this and ensure her safety tomorrow.
After some time, the one who was leading them probably thought they had mastered the formation. He shouted, closing the formation. Everyone of them withdrew from the formation. Then that person smiled and said, “Brother Zhuo, your Wudang Serial Sword and Brother Zhao’s Songyang Wind Slasher really add to the formation. I didn’t know what to do at first when we were one man short. Fortunately, you came to help. Heaven helps us.” After that, he mentioned a few so-called wrongdoings of Jade Rakshasa, then a man replied, “Since that witch is so vicious and has crossed us Wudang before, we cannot let her off. It’s better to get rid of her.”
How could Lian’er stomach it hearing them talk about her like this? If not for me holding on to her, she would have sprung to her feet. I didn’t know why I held her off. It was just that I didn’t want her to jump out and meet those people. It was actually dumb of me. They would meet tomorrow night if not tonight, but I was thinking every bit of time mattered. Besides, she needed time to think about a counter attack after learning the formation, all the more reason to hold her off.
But I knew Lian’er‘s temper. How could she stand people slandering her behind her back? Especially after what Zhuo Yihang said—I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it—she became even angrier. Usually, the angrier she got, the bigger her smile was when she was in front of others. She wouldn’t act like this in front of me. Now she just stopped talking and silently channeled her qi, fighting to stand up.
When I was about to lose her, a sneer came from the woods not far away, scaring off a flock of birds.
Everyone was startled. Lian’er and I stopped fighting and turned to the sound, astounded. The reaction of the people at the base of the hillside was even stronger. The leader shouted, and six of them rushed to where the sneer came from.
They rushed into the woods. Cold wind was blowing, and sparks were flickering. A few figures were weaving their way between the trees, causing the birds to take flight, but they couldn’t find anything. After that, they gathered again. Alarmed, they speculated, and someone said, “Could it be that Jade Rakshasa is here to mess with us?!” Another answered, “It didn’t sound like a woman’s voice.” Then another said, “Could it be a ghost? But ghosts aren’t that fast.” Someone guessed, “Could we have heard wrong?”
Finally, the leader said, boosting his courage, “Regardless of whether he is an enemy or foe, they won’t get out unharmed once they get into our formation. What are there to be afraid of?” He sounded unsure after saying that. Then he asked everyone to split up and left with Zhuo Yihang, heading towards the trail down the hill and gradually disappearing into the dark.
When I was sure that everyone was gone and the night fell silent again, we got up from behind the old tree on the cliff.
I glanced sideways at the person next to me. In the moonlight, her face looked serious, her brows slightly creased, and I knew things weren’t looking good. Even though this kid was full of pride, she could make her own judgment. The group earlier found nothing. Even I, with the high ground the cliff provided, could only see that there was a black shadow in the woods. It was as fast as a frightened swan and disappeared in a flash. The speed was not much slower than Lian’er at top speed. I was even sure that I was right when I saw the look on her face.
It wasn’t too bad if it was just the formation, but Zhuo Yihang had to come into this. That made me worried, and now there was this person. I had no idea if they were an enemy or a foe, or it was just a coincidence. Once a simple duel had become more complicated. As I was worrying about this problem, a soft warmth wrapped around my right hand. I raised my head and saw Lian’er take my hand, looked over, and said, “What are you thinking? Think about it when we’re back. Since it has come to this, I don’t think we still have to go to Yunu Peak anymore, right?”
A moment ago, she was still thinking with her brows furrowed, but after a while, she was back to her usual proud and composed self, looking even prouder. My breath was taken away for a second. Then I thought of something. I smiled and took her hand, holding it gently. “Alright, let’s get back first,” I said.
Right. In the eyes of the fearless Lian’er, it was just a matter of facing the problem as it came no matter how big the problem was. How many people and things are there that can make her worried and cower in this world?
Of course we no longer had to go to Yunu Peak. What we got on our way by chance was more than we had expected. When we were back to Yellow Dragon Cave, Lian’er was thinking on her own. I left her alone. I only told her to wash up and get her to bed when it was time. I was worried at first that she overthought and couldn’t sleep well, but it turned out it didn’t affect her. She fell fast asleep shortly after she lay down, looking carefree in her sleep as always. On the other hand, thoughts were racing through my head all night, and I had a few fragmented dreams. It was a restless night.
Everything went on as usual the next day. We never brought up what happened last night, except I didn’t ask Lian’er to help me on houseworks to give her more free time. Instead, she became bored and played with the pink flower I gave her yesterday. She had been playing with it for the whole day, but shortly after dinner, she came to me looking unhappy and said, “Look at the thing you gave me. Look. It’s only been one day, and it’s already shriveled.”
I had just finished with the dishes, and my hands were still wet when I saw that saggy little thing in her hand. Before she went to bed last night, she had made a point of remembering to put away the flower, and today, she had played with it carefully for a long time. I was glad to see that. Now that I heard what she said, I couldn’t help but laugh and said, “You silly, is there a flower that doesn’t wither after being taken off the tree? Even if it stays on the tree forever, there’s no flower that blooms forever in this world.”
“Anyway, the next time you give me something, remember to give me something that stays, at least not something that lasted such a short time.” She didn’t argue back. It seemed that she just came over to complain. After that, she left those words and went back inside. When I returned to the cave after drying my hands, I saw her standing at the corner where the books and papers were stored and placing the shriveled flower between the pages.
If I saw that right, it was the old book with a blue cover which she used to store Master’s will.
After doing that, Lian’er got up, straightened her clothes, picked up her long sword by the bedside, walked to me, and said with a smile, “I’m going out.”
Before I knew it, I turned to look outside the cave. I couldn’t actually see out from here, but I had been looking out the whole time, so I knew the time even without looking. I responded, “So early? Isn’t it at midnight? Now the day is just getting dark. Isn’t it too early?”
“Better early than late. Isn’t that what you taught me?” She nodded with seeming seriousness.
“Alright then.” I didn’t want to argue with her. I got up, took out the short sword that had been with me since young from under the pillow, and attached it to my waist. “Let’s go. I’ll go with you,” I said.
She frowned as soon as I said that. Lian’er shook her head. “It’s me who’s going to fight. What are you going to do there? No, I don’t want you there. You wait here. I’ll be back soon after midnight.”
I fell silent for a moment, staring into her eyes. I didn’t respond and didn’t say anything either but calmly repeated something I had said before, “Never to leave you, in weal and woe…Lian’er, you agreed to it at that time.”