The Witch Nichang– Chapter 68.1
The city was in chaos. I jumped up the roof. When I looked down from above, the street was a mess. Every house had their doors and windows shut. A flame shot up in a far corner. The black spot was heading toward the flame. It was clear to me even though I was looking at her from a distance at night.
And that was enough. Even I wouldn’t lose her, let alone Lian’er whose qinggong was excellent.
I could stay out of it and not care about jianghu’s affairs, but not this. The masked girl’s last move was the secret sword technique Master taught to us. It was vicious and tricky to do. There was no move similar to it in jianghu. Now that it was done by a stranger, how could it not worry me?
We were sprinting, and after chasing after her for a while, we were getting closer and closer. The girl got even flustered when she saw that she couldn’t outrun us. When she got close to where the blazing flame was, she leaped off the roof, plunging straight down onto the smoke-covered street. She wanted to use the thick smoke as a cover, but her trick was played on the wrong person. When Lian’er saw that, she barked out a laugh and jumped into the smoke without hesitation. Lian’er grew up in a unique situation, which had helped her develop her hunting skills. Even the white fog in the woods in which you couldn’t see beyond three steps wouldn’t stop her from trailing and chasing her prey, let alone smoke.
I couldn’t do that, so I didn’t go down with her. I stayed on the roof to observe. I was in no hurry, waiting for Lian’er’s cue.
As I stopped and observed, I realized that the place that was burning was the town hall. Smoke was billowing from the big building. The fire was raging and burning brightly. There were people moving around in the thick smoke. The sound of clanking went on and on. That reminded me of the people on the street shouting about the bandit attack. It seemed like it was happening, but why, I wondered.
As I was lost in thought, a shout came from the thick smoke. Two people sprang out of the thick smoke and jumped up. As soon as they landed on the roof, they raised their swords and looked around hastily, as if they were looking for someone.
Irritation welled in me when I saw these two people. My first thought was to stay away from them, but they saw me before I could do anything. Both of them greeted me and came to me. One of them held his sword in front of him and said, “Miss Zhu, you’re here! That means Miss Lian is around too, right? We attacked the city tonight to save Brother Zhuo. I thought we couldn’t inform you. Who knows we would run into each other here. Heaven helps us!”
Since I didn’t manage to get away, I could only meet them. The one who was talking with his fist cupped was Wang Zhaoxi, the one who delivered the horse saddle. This place was his father’s, Wang Jiayin, turf. It wasn’t a surprise to see him here, but the one next to him who cupped his fist meekly was someone I didn’t expect to see and also someone I didn’t want to see, yet it seemed like everywhere I went, I just couldn’t avoid him.
“Brother Wang, Brother Zhuo, what a coincidence.” Since it had come to this, I had to return the courtesy. I returned the salute and said, “I just happened to be here. What’s with all the fuss here?”
It turned out that in September last year, after he delivered the gift and left Mount Dingjun, Wang Zhaoxi went to the capital city to attend to some business and ran into Zhuo Yihang who was in the capital city at that time. Both of them had been through fire and water together before. Wang Zhaoxi even told him about the incident where Jade Rakshasa had wounded a Wudang disciple. After that, Zhuo Yihang went back home from Mount Hua, got framed for no reason, and was arrested and sent into the jail in Yan’an Mansion. The outlaw alliance around here came to know about it later. There was no reason for Wang Zhaoxi not to rescue him.
My mind was a moil after listening to what they said. They had no reason to lie to me, so what they said was the truth, but I had no memory of it at all. I felt like something was pulling the strings. Otherwise, the world was so vast. We had gone our separate ways, and I thought I could at least rest easy for now. Why did we meet again around the corner at a different place, so quickly that I couldn’t avoid him even if I wanted to, as if…the red thread was linking them together.
“Oh, Miss Zhu, have you seen two middle-aged men come out of the fire? They were Manchurian traitors, ordered to assassinate an officer and blame it on Zhuo’s family. They got away in the middle of the fight with us. We’re desperately looking for him now!” Wang Zhaoxi was oblivious of what was going through the head of the people around him. He only focused on asking his question after he explained. The guy next to him wasn’t as pushy, but he was also looking at me with anxious eyes, as if he was waiting for an answer.
I had no choice but to put my irritation aside. Just as I was going to answer him, a whistle rang out in the distance. I was glad. Without caring if I was being rude, I answered curtly, “I passed by here while chasing after a girl. I didn’t see any middle-aged man. I need to talk to the girl, so I can’t stay. I’ll have to say goodbye now. We’ll talk about the rest later when we meet again!” After that, I gave a brief salute and turned to leave as fast as I could.
I never mentioned where Lian’er was. I had decided. If the red thread really existed, I would make it go around a few more times, giving Yue Lao some trouble.
The whistle pierced the air in the distance and rang out at times. I navigated myself with it. When I caught up to the sound, I was at the foot of a small hill outside the city. From afar, I could see two figures in the moonlight. One was heading up the hill while calling for her dad, the other was following closely behind the former, moving back and forth like a ghost and following the girl like her shadow.
When I came closer, I heard Lian’er’s giggle. Like a cat playing with a mouse, she kept teasing her prey. She poked the girl’s robe on the back with the tip of her blade at times, scaring the young girl. She leaped left and right, but she just couldn’t shake her off, so she shrieked. I could hear laughter and shrieks merged into one. It sounded merry.
When I caught up to them, stopped, and exchanged a look with Lian’er, the girl suddenly lunged forward and shouted, “Dad, save me!” A peculiar whistle came from the hillside, and a gray shadow darted down the hill like a meteor!
When Lian’er saw that, she lowered her sword and jumped two steps to the side. I was far away, so I could see the person only when he came closer. It was a tall old man with an aquiline nose and a wide mouth surrounded by stubbles. He looked formidable and fierce. As soon as he landed, he shouted, “Who’s that who dares to bully my daughter?” The girl’s face was streaked with tears, and she hid behind the old man and said pettishly, “Dad, it’s the one holding a sword! Gouge out the hag’s eyes for me!”
How could Lian’er let anyone talk about her like this? She sneered and pointed at her with her sword, about to respond. I quickly took a few steps forward and stood in front of her. Lian’er was no good in a situation that required negotiation. Otherwise, nothing good would happen.
After stopping Lian’er, I wanted to salute the old man with a cupped fist, but unfortunately, it was difficult for me to move my right hand, so I nodded briefly as a salute and said respectfully, “Sir, please don’t get us wrong. The reason we chased after your daughter is because there are some things that we don’t understand and would like to ask her about it. We’re all women. We hold no ill intention.”
The reason I said that was to placate the situation first since the old man looked like he was no ordinary man. We have no grudge against him, so why risk ourselves? Unfortunately, Lian’er had teased her daughter before, so my words sounded less convincing. All of them didn’t seem to buy it. Lian’er glared at me and said, “You’re so easy-going. Have you forgotten that she poked your injured arm with a weapon?” The girl cried, “Dad, these two hags bullied me. One made me lose my footing and fall, the other fooled me around with a sword at my back. Dad, you must gouge out their eyes for me!”
“Brat, you have a foul mouth!” Lian’er was fed up with her after she said the word “hag” a few times. Although she still had a smile on her face, she could no longer hold back her anger. Disregarding what I wanted to do, she jumped in the air and thrusted her sword at her with a roar!
It was too late to stop her. I watched her jump over. The old man took three steps back. He turned and pushed the girl away. “Go over to the rock there. Stay out of this. I saw everything that just happened!” He said. Lian’er’s sword missed, but she followed up with more, thrusting her sword lightning fast. The old man let out a bawl and straightened his body, thrusting with his left hand, his fingers closed like a halberd, and slashing from above with his right palm like a blade. One from above, one from below, powerful and fast, striking with the force that could crush wood. With that, both of them went into a fight!
The situation I wanted to avoid happened anyhow. I couldn’t do anything about it. The old man was a master as I had suspected earlier. Every palm he sent was so powerful that it could split a mountain open. As I watched, I could see that his strikes weren’t just pure force. There was a certain softness within the force, combining both hard and soft force. His neigong is above Lian’er! The good thing was Lian’er’s sword skills and qinggong were unparalleled, so she didn’t lose her ground. The fight was fierce and menacing!
I could read the situation, but I couldn’t intervene, not to mention that I was in no shape to step in. I watched worriedly for a while before deciding to stop watching. When I looked away from the fight, I saw the girl was hiding behind the large rock at the hillside. She was also watching the fight. Then an idea hit me. I shouted, “Hey that girl, we just wanted to ask you a question. That’s why we came after you. If you give us an answer, we’ll leave immediately. It’s not a big deal. Why make such a fuss!”
She looked over at the sound of my voice. Maybe because we were each on one side of the field, she didn’t seem afraid at all. She scoffed, “I don’t want to waste my breath on you. My dad will take both of you down in a moment, and you’ll kowtow to me for forgiveness. It’s not too late to talk then.”
“There’s no bad blood between us. Why do you have to do this?” I didn’t say that just for her, so I didn’t care about her answer. I shouted what was on my mind, “You got into a fight with my sister earlier over a trivial matter. Your moves were straightforward with your own distinct style, except for the last move before you ran away. Unlike your earlier moves, it’s vicious and crafty. It looked so much like one of our moves. The reason we came after you is because we wanted to confirm something and ask you where you have learned that move? And who’s taught you? That’s all.”
This was said to her as well as to the old man in the field. He wasn’t deaf, so he could hear it clearly. When he heard that, he stole a look at her daughter while he was fighting. He was highly skilled in martial arts, so it was a dishonor to him if his daughter secretly learned martial arts from another school, not to mention it was a taboo in jianghu.
The girl saw her father glaring at her. She probably panicked because she shouted from behind the rock, “What move! I don’t know what you’re talking about! Don’t you dare accuse me!”
Everyone heard what she said. I didn’t know what the old man thought. Lian’er was already annoyed, and now anger was flaring up in her. Without slowing down her attacks, she said, “Why are you still talking to her! Master’s dead. You and I are the only ones who know her secret sword techniques. This brat is either colluding with Yue or simply a thief who stole the sword manual! Either way, she‘s no good!”
‘You cocky little kid. Don’t you dare humiliate my daughter! Take this!“ The old man exploded when he heard that. He roared and rose up to fight Lian’er.
 The red thread originates from Chinese mythology. It’s an invisible red cord that wraps around the finger of those that are destined to meet one another as each other’s “true love.”
 Yue Lao is a god of marriage and love in Chinese mythology.