The Witch Nichang– Chapter 69.1
Lian’er said that we were going after them, but when we went down the hill and continued for not more than half a mile, she suddenly stopped and wanted to take me back.
I was worried, wondering if she had come around, thought that what the other people said was right and changed her mind since I actually acted out of emotion. It was more reasonable if she did as they said, act after planning.
With my concern, I sounded her out. What followed was the girl’s snicker. Lian’er didn’t know what I was nervous about. She smiled and said, “Why would I change my mind? I just thought that we probably wouldn’t be able to catch up to them even if we go after them now, so we might as well go back to the inn, get our stuff, and head directly to that old thief’s lair tomorrow. Look at you. Your face is pale from all the running.”
I only found out that Lian’er had heard about that person before when she explained it again on the way. Even though it hadn’t been three years since she came into jianghu, she knew about both the orthodox and outlaw heroes. The old man, Tie from Longmen, was a famous eccentric around the north-west region, falling in between good and evil. He had done both good and bad things. If anyone offended him, no good would come of it for that person.
“I thought although he was a weird character, he’s still prideful and decent. Who knows he’s different from what I’ve heard. He actually encouraged his daughter to steal our sword manual. He even killed someone!” Toward the end, Lian’er became angry and said, “When I saw that Taoist Zhenqian’s blood was black, I thought he’d died of poisoning, but when I looked closely, his jaw bone was fractured. It’s obvious that he’s hit and crushed with a palm. His throat was destroyed with a neigong technique. It looks exactly like the old man Tie’s doing. No mistake!”
I silently listened to her all the way, thinking to myself that with Tie Feilong’s level of martial skills, it seemed unnecessary for him to use poison if he wanted to steal the sword manual. Besides, after tonight’s fight, I knew that the old man’s hard style martial skills were already at its highest level. No matter how brilliant Master’s sword manual was, he couldn’t be learning it from the beginning again, right? But what Lian’er said made sense too. I had my doubts but I put those aside first, thinking that it wasn’t too late to confront him about it when we saw him.
Putting my thoughts aside, we went back to the inn and rested until the next morning. Lian’er woke her subordinates and told them that they didn’t have to come along and asked them to meet with the others at Wang Zhaoxi’s place. Then she packed up and checked out. She didn’t forget to bring me to the clinic and do one more round of check-up. Only when the old doctor said that my bones were healing well did she leave Yan’an Mansion pleased.
We didn’t hurry after we left Yan’an Mansion. We asked around as we traveled. A few days to the northeast, we arrived at Longmen County that the old man had mentioned. The road we took that day was flanked by rocky cliffs, and the muddy river was raging. It was perilous. Looking around, there was no one, only a few sails on the river in the distance.
We had asked about the location in the inn earlier. After traveling for a little more and passing through a valley, a village came into view. We learned that it was Tie Family Manor after asking the old farmer at the village entrance.
When we entered the village, Lian’er brought up the name, Tie Fenglong. Everyone in the village knew about him. They said we could find him at the courtyard house on the top of the hill. Some of them looked wary and asked us in a thick accent why we were looking for him. Lian’er was straightforward, so it was on me to gloss it over smilingly with some ambiguous answers. Villagers were simple, after all. Seeing that we were two young ladies, they didn’t ask much and let us in.
As we went further in, the courtyard house the villagers talked about slowly came into view. A girl’s ringing laugh suddenly came from the woods beside the hill tracks. It sounded somewhat familiar. I suddenly remembered something, so I stopped. I grabbed Lian’er and made a silent gesture at her, then I bent down and went into the woods to investigate.
Stealthily, I looked into the woods and saw two women walking in the woods, one behind another. It seemed like they were taking a walk. The older one who dressed like a young married woman was holding a scissor. Whenever she saw a nice flower on the branch, she snipped it and passed it to the young lady behind her. The young lady already had her hands full of flowers, but it seemed to her that it wasn’t enough. She still smiled every time she took the flower.
When we saw their faces, Lian’er beside me couldn’t hold still, wanting to rush to them, but I stopped her in time. I shook my head and said softly next to her ear, “Listen to me first…” Somehow, she tensed for a second and scratched her ear awkwardly, but after that, she quieted down and stopped moving.
As we hid in the bushes holding our breath, the two ladies in the woods were approaching this way. Their voices were becoming clearer. The young girl asked with the flowers in her hands, “Aunt Ke, we’ve been walking for a while. Do you want to rest for a while?” The young woman said with a smile, “Ah Hu, you’re getting mischievous. I’m serving your father, not having the same age as your father. It’s just a short walk. Are you going to treat me like I’m an old woman?”
She was acting bratty and capricious the last time we met, but she was well-behaved when she was with this woman. She said, “Aunt Ke, what’re you talking about? I’m worried about you. It’s only been a few days since dad took the needle out of your shoulder. Isn’t your wound still fresh?”
When the woman heard what she said, she replied, “Nah, it’s just a silver needle. How bad would it be?” But her hand subconsciously went to rub on her shoulder. The girl saw it. She said angrily, “Seriously, you were just trying to help him. He let you get hurt and let her get away with it, not to mention he didn’t even appreciate it. It’s too much. Should we make a vegetarian dinner for him?”
“Ah Hu, you’d better not bring this up in front of your father.” The woman looked flustered when she heard that. She turned around, stood still, and said to the girl with a serious expression, “It seems like the sword manual might actually belong to them. We’re in the wrong. It’s better to keep it low. We’ll be in trouble if the old man knows about it.”
“You two wretched thieves, shameless bitch!” Lian’er could no longer stay hidden when she heard them talking about the sword manual. With a shout, she sprang out of the bushes. As soon as she landed in front of them, she scolded, “It turned out you really do have our sword manual. What is your excuse now? Brace yourself!” She reached out as she said, wanting to grab them.
Shaking my head, I got up and went out with her. I wasn’t worried. I brushed off the grass on me and watched them fight. Both of them were shocked at the turn of events. They saw Lian’er was coming at them. How could they let it happen without a fight? So they fought back immediately. One held the scissor, and the other drew out her flute. When I saw that Lian’er was going to draw her sword, afraid that it might hurt someone, I said, “Take them alive, so we can interrogate them right away. Then they can’t accuse us of bullying them for no reason.”
Lian’er rolled her eyes at me reluctantly, but she didn’t talk against me. She gave a laugh at the two and said, “Bold of you to pull this on me. Let’s see how I‘ll catch you!” With the sheath still on, she spun her sword a little with her left hand, blocking the woman out, and her right hand snapped out. In two moves, she snatched the girl’s jade flute. She flicked and prodded her with the flute, pushing her back. The girl let out a cry and fell on the ground.
“Ah Hu!” When the woman saw the girl fall on the ground, she got worried. She strode in front of Lian’er, thrusted the scissor and slashed to the right. Before going all the way, the blade suddenly turned back. She was using the scissor like a sword, and the technique she used was a unique killing move from our sword techniques. Although she wasn’t skilled with the way she was using it, it was no doubt she had seen the sword manual before.
Lian’er knew that too. She laughed when she saw that. With a drop of her sheath, she countered the move. Then she turned the sword and swung with the hilt, thrusted at her rib. Even though the woman had secretly learned the sword technique, she only learned it for a short time and had yet to get familiar with the move. How could she have blocked it? At that moment, the acupoints around her ribs were struck, and she flopped to the ground.
It had only been a few moments since they started fighting, and the fight was already over. Lian’er pulled back. As she was about to bend down and grab her, a shout came from the direction of the hill. It was the old man, Tie, who heard the noise and came over. When he came close and saw what happened. He glanced at her and said in rage, “You’ve gone too far, Jade Rakshasa! You came to us, yet you ignored jianghu’s courtesy? What do they have against you that you have to do this!”
It had been a few days. It wasn’t surprising that he knew Lian’er’s nickname. If I let them continue, I feared that there would be an unnecessary fight. I was ready for it. When I saw he lifted his palm, I jumped in front of him, blocking him from Lian’er. I bowed and said, “Calm down, sir. There’s a reason for this. I can explain. Please listen to me before you do anything.”
“Hmph! Why do I have to listen to you cunning thieves?” Even though Lian’er couldn’t strike in time because she was busy grabbing the girl, she still said unrelentingly, “People from the Tie’s family just can’t keep their hands out of the till. He’s no better. Perhaps the one who killed Taoist Zhenqian is him!”
Before I could turn around, the old man Tie heard what she was implying. He glared at her and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Nonsense! What killing? You little brat, don’t you dare accuse me!” Lian’er grabbed the girl with one hand and replied, sneering, “Why are you still pretending? If you didn’t steal our sword manual, how come we came across Taoist Zhenqian’s body on the top of the hill that night? And how come your beloved family knows about our Master’s secret sword technique!”
The old man bawled when he heard that, jumped over my head, and landed in front of Lian’er, but he didn’t attack. He just shouted, “Wait! Let me ask them about it!” He helped the two up and said with a serious voice, “What’s going on here!” His voice wasn’t loud, but it was unusually stern. Both of their expressions broke. The girl looked down, looking fearful. The woman was trembling, biting down on her lip, and her eyes seemed to fill with endless fear.
The old man Tie probably felt something wasn’t right when he saw that. His face turned livid. He snapped at the woman and asked, “Jiu Niang! Did you steal their sword manual?” The woman said, her face turning ashen, “No, no, no…” Then he turned around and asked the girl, “Shan Hu! Did you steal her sword manual?” The girl clenched her teeth and kept quiet.
Lian’er showed disdain for the way he asked, but she said nothing, just sneering. Her sneer made the old man uncomfortable. He put on a straight face and said in a stern voice, “Jade Rakshasa, listen! I, Tie Feilong, will never cover for my own!” Then he turned around and scolded, “Shan Hu! If you’re still my daughter, speak the truth. I’ll ask you one last time. Did you steal her sword manual?”
He threatened her with their relationship. The girl’s eyes turned red with tears, and she said, sobbing, “I’ve got one sword manual, but it was never stolen.”
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