The Witch Nichang– Chapter 69.2
As soon as she said that, the old man Tie’s face changed. He asked in a quavering voice, “What do you mean by that?” Red-eyed, the girl looked at the woman beside her and bit her lip before saying whisperingly, “It’s…it’s Aunt Ke who got it…”
In that instant, the face of the woman beside her turned ashen, the old man’s eyes shot red, and Lian’er guffawed. After laughing, she fell silent, her face turned cold, and she said seriously, “Old man Tie, I wasn’t wrong about you, was I?”
I walked to her silently and tugged at her before she became too unforgiving. Then I went to the old man and said calmly, “Sir, let’s find out what’s going on first before you decide on anything. Maybe there’s a reason or it’s just a coincidence.”
The old man’s face was frosty. He ignored what I said, his teeth clenched tight, and continued to shout at his daughter, “Then be honest with me! Don’t try to hide anything, not even a single word!”
“Two—two months ago, when I stopped to take a break in a small shop in Jixian town on my way home, I saw a Taoist with a blackening face sitting on the ground, unable to move…” The girl was sobbing, wiping her tears with her sleeve as she spoke softly, “The shopkeeper said that he had an emergency illness and was afraid that he would die in his shop, so he wanted to get him out. I—I pitied him. Out of curiosity, I went to take a look. The Taoist was good. He knew that I knew martial arts as soon as he saw me. He said, ‘Miss, do you have a sword with you?’ Then he wanted me to tear his clothes open, gouge out the rotting flesh an inch below his shoulder blade, and take the poison needle out for him…”
I exchanged looks with Lian’er, thinking that it was certainly Taoist Zhenqian. Lian’er said that his blood was black when he died. It turned out he was actually poisoned.
Old man Tie pressed her, “Did that Taoist know that you’re my daughter?” The girl answered, “He didn’t know at first, but I told him later. He told me, ‘I know your father was a righteous man. Please tell him that I have a sword manual. Someone entrusted me to bring it to Huo Tiandu. Now it was stolen. If I die, please ask him to try to send this message to Mount Heaven and ask Huo Tiandu to avenge my death!”
Old man Tie’s livid face brightened slightly when he heard that. He stroke his beard and said, “That Taoist is something.” He actually cared about other people’s praise of him even if he was no longer young. He would have almost smiled if the situation hadn’t been tense.
Unfortunately, the girl didn’t see it. She kept on, her head down, “Later, he wrote a prescription and asked me to get the medicine. I went out with the prescription. Those pharmacies didn’t have all the herbs. There’s always something missing. I went to a few pharmacies and finally managed to get all the herbs. Suddenly—suddenly, I ran into Aunt Ke who came to look for me…”
The old man let out an “um” and said, “You’d been gone for a long time, so I asked her to look for you.” The girl said, sobbing, “I told Aunt Ke about it, and we went to see the old Taoist together, but the old Taoist was gone. Instead, I saw two men were looking for the old Taoist, an old man and a young man. They seemed to know Aunt Ke and even sent their regards to you, but Aunt Ke suddenly wanted to talk outside to one of them whose surname’s Jin…”
Old man Tie let out a snort and scolded the woman, “Look at what you and the others have done!” The woman cried, “I was just trying to force him to cough up what he’s stolen.” The old man didn’t care and said, “Alright, Shan Hu, you go on!” The girl wiped her tears and looked at the woman again before saying, “We went to a secluded area. Aunt Ke asked the old man to hand over the Taoist’s sword manual. At first, the old man said he didn’t have it, but he admitted later after we forced him…”
At this point, Lian’er couldn’t help but sneer. Her cold eyes darted between the three of them. She even ignored the look I gave her asking her to stop it. It made old man Tie turn around and say lividly, “Jade Rakshasa, what are you rushing for? The sword manual will be yours if it’s yours!” He continued to ask her daughter, “Did they hand over the sword manual later?”
“They didn’t want to at first. Aunt Ke said they either hand over the sword manual, she would read it and give it back to them or she would rat them out. The old man Jin agreed. He said that he will come and take it back in two months…” The girl replied, biting her lip.
“Why didn’t you tell me!” The old man kept on, anger filled his face, but the girl stayed silent until the person next to her cut in coldly, “It’s me who asked her not to tell you.”
The woman’s voice was level, though her face remained pale. It seemed like she had given up. She said, her face vacant, “I was curious, so I asked for the sword manual and dragged Ah Hu along to try it out at a place where there’s no one. I found out that it was an amazing manual. The sword techniques on the manual were ingenious, something great that holds deep knowledge, so I asked Shan Hu to secretly learn it with me. Ah Hu only agrees because I convinced her.”
“Then what about the death of the Taoist!” Seeing that she confessed, Lian’er pressed on. The woman looked at her and said, “Later, the Taoist asked to meet with Sir at Mount Qingfeng through other means. I felt guilty about it, so I followed along. Then the city went into mayhem. Ah Hu was screaming for help by the hill, and Sir didn’t have time to look for the Taoist. I ran into him instead.”
The old man glared at her and said, “Not only did you take the sword manual, you really killed him?” The fear the woman had earlier was gone. She said without lifting her eyes, “When I saw him in the cave, the poison in him had kicked in. He’s dying, looking like he’s in great pain. He begged me to give him a quick death. I had an ulterior motive when I did that, but it’s not a murder.“
At this point, the truth was revealed. Everything she said fit. What she said was probably true. Looking at the two cowering ladies, I pitied them. The old man looked very disappointed. Suddenly, he trembled and said, “Okay, okay, give them back their sword manual first.”
The woman said calmly, “It was stolen that night at Mount Qingfeng or rather it was returned.”
When Lian’er heard that, her face changed. She blew up and said, “How dare you deny it! Are you looking for trouble!” The woman said nothing, but the girl chimed in, crying, “It’s true! Aunt Ke told me on the way back that night that there were two middle-aged men coming out of the city. Their clothes seemed to have been burned with black ash stains all over. They met up with Jin on the hill. When they saw Aunt Ke, they demanded the sword manual. Aunt Ke was too afraid to refuse!”
Lian’er didn’t believe it. I recalled that night’s conversation on the roof next to the burning town hall with Wang Zhaoxi and Zhuo Yihang. They also mentioned two middle-aged men. Both of their stories matched. I felt it was true, so I shook my head at Lian’er and said, “I can confirm that. There were these two people that day.”
Lian’er glared at me. Old man Tie on the other side said in a loud voice, “Jade Rakshasa, I’ll take care of your sword manual. I’ll get it back for you even if it means going to the ends of the earth!” Only then did Lian’er say, “Alright then, we’ll see,” as if she still didn’t believe it.
The old man ignored her. He reached out to stroke her daughter’s hair, as loving as treating a child. The girl met his gaze, but she flinched. She called, “Dad, what’s the matter?”
I only watched until then before I walked up to Lian’er and said beside her ear, “I’ll go out of the woods for a while.” She was focused on what was happening. When she heard that, she didn’t ask any questions. She looked back wonderingly and told me, “What for? Don’t go too far no matter what you do.” Then she turned back, but her hand was still holding on to my clothes until I answered with a chuckle, “Okay, I’ll be right by the woods.” Only then did she let loose, but then she waved her hand like shooing a bug, as if she was annoyed.
I smiled and left quietly. I took a small turn in the woods, avoiding the three without alarming them. They probably have no time to care about what others do. I went around to the outside of the woods. Shortly after, I heard someone in the woods shouting, “Dad, dad!” and there was an old man yelling, “You were eyeing the sword manual of another school and lied to your father! From now on, you’re no longer my daughter. Go! You’re not allowed to use my name out there!”
I sighed when I heard that. It went on for a little while longer, then the girl said woefully, “Dad, take care!” After that, I heard heavy footsteps stumbling this way.
“Miss Hu, hold on.” Waiting here, I called to stop her when I saw a figure was coming out. Even though I tried to be as gentle as possible when I spoke, it still startled her. The girl’s body shivered, her face covered in tears. The glow she had when she was picking flowers earlier and her arrogance when she stepped on people’s shoulders in the city were gone. When she saw me stop in front of her, she bit her lip, holding on to the last thread of pride, and said, “You…what else do you want? Do you want to keep humiliating me?”
I shook my head and answered calmly, “Miss Shan Hu, you’ve got me wrong. You reap what you sow. We’re just a trigger. Have you seen me doing anything inappropriate or throwing insults? What I’m looking for is just an answer.”
“Reap what I sow…” She laughed bitterly. After a while, she said, “Right, now I have suffered the consequences, so please get out of my way. What are you stopping me for?”
I pointed at the woods with my left finger and said, “Miss Shan Hu, you had made a split-second mistake. You’re also a victim and got involved to the point of expulsion from the family. Do you not want to know what punishment the person, the one who got you involved, will get? What consequence she will face?”
Dazed, she looked over in the direction I was pointing, and her eyes went wide open. After a moment, she shuddered. As if woken up from a dream, she muttered, “Aunt Ke…Aunt Ke…” A look of pain streaked across her face, and she said in a panic, “Dad, dad—dad will kill her, he’ll kill her!”
“You don’t want her to die? She’s the one who got you kicked out of the family.” I tilted my head and looked at the girl’s reaction. She kept shaking her head and said, as if talking to herself, “Aunt Ke…Aunt Ke meant well. She didn’t mean to hurt me. You don’t understand. She had a hard life, hard life…” As she spoke, she seemed to have come around. She tugged at my sleeve and said, “No, dad is very mad this time. He even disowns me. He would really kill her! My words mean nothing to him anymore. You go plead for mercy, quick, you can’t let her die!”
While she was pestering me, a hysterical laugh came from the woods. A woman’s voice was shrieking, “Old man, I’ve given up this life long ago. Kill me!” Then an old, commanding man’s voice sounded, “You stole someone’s sword manual and ruined my reputation. You deserve to die! What do you have to complain about!”
The girl was pulling at my sleeve. She flinched when she heard that and quieted down, looking at the woods, her lips trembling. Then I heard the woman’s voice go on. She laughed and said, “When my father died in a foreign land, I had no money to bury him, so I was forced to sell my body. After I was married to you, a young wife to an old man, gray hair and a young face, you claimed that you wanted to honor your ex-wife, so you treated me like a concubine. You always shout. I have to put on a smile in front of you. Do you really think I like you! I’m not afraid to tell you now. The reason I secretly learn the sword techniques is so that I can escape one day! It’s good to kill me now. I don’t want to live this life anymore!”
The woman’s voice was full of pain and sorrow. Every word bled agony. Even I was dumbfounded by what I heard, not to mention the girl. As if I felt the same, my heart welled up with sorrow. I was frozen for a moment before I snapped back. Just as I was about to rush in, I heard a roar from the woods, “Go! I never want to see you again!”
When the girl heard the roar, she faltered and sighed as if a weight was lifted off her chest, but tears kept trickling down her face. I was secretly relieved. My heart was pumping, beating a little faster than usual.
With all the things happening in this world, even if you are prepared for it and know what will happen, when you’re actually facing it, looking at those tears, listening to those cries, who dare say that they are heartless, that they can steel their heart and be as indifferent as the God in heaven.
At least, I can’t.
At least in the face of certain people and things.