The Witch Nichang– Chapter 70
Thousands of Miles
Humans are selfish creatures. When it comes to this, I’m no different from the woman.
The woman was aware that the sword manual was a stolen property and that it was against morality to take it, but she asked for it anyway. I, on the other hand, remembered that in the middle of the questioning. I sympathized with her, but I didn’t speak up for her.
The reason she wanted the sword manual was to learn the martial arts so as to escape from the grasp of Tie Feilong, and the reason I didn’t speak up for her was because I wanted Tie Feilong to go all out on helping Lian’er to get back the sword manual without anyone to tie him down. In my mind—instead of saying it’s a vague memory, it’s more like a hunch—I had a hunch that it was never going to be an easy task. It might even be a perilous journey where a lot of things could happen.
On this perilous path, Lian’er should have the full support of Tie Feilong. Just for this reason, I didn’t want to change anything recklessly, so I remained silent and stood by. I couldn’t afford to plead mercy for her.
But poor Tie Shanhu, she had to accept her fate and wander in jianghu alone.
I remembered that she, despite being harsh and childish before, was a person with a strong sense of loyalty. Her action now proved it. She stood beside me, tears streaming down her face, but she was still looking into the woods with eager eyes. When she saw the woman stumbling out of the woods, she rushed forward, her eyes red with tears. She took a few steps and stopped, fiercely wiping her tears with her sleeve before calling, “Aunt Ke, are—are you okay?”
The woman had blood on her forehead. She was staggering forward with her head down. Suddenly stopped by the girl’s call, she came to a halt and looked up in confusion. When she saw the girl, her already pale face lost even more color. Her lips quivered for a moment before she forced a sad smile and said, “Ah Hu, Aunt Ke got what she wanted, though for the wrong reasons, so being an evil person for once didn’t go in vain. Your father said I’ve ruined his name. I don’t think so. If we were to settle accounts, I owe him nothing, but you…I feel guilty about you. I’m ashamed to see you. In this vast world, you have to take care of yourself…next life…if there’s one, I’m still willing to take care of you…”
After she finished her words with sorrow and gave a bitter smile, she continued on her way, brushing past the girl without looking back. The girl just stared at her bleakly, her face devoid of emotion, even her tears had dried up.
Although I chose to stand by and let things come to this point, I couldn’t be indifferent seeing their pain. Besides, there was nothing to worry about at this point. It was out of the thought of compensating that I waited here. How could I let them leave like this? I called when I saw that and spoke, “Wait, hold on.”
The woman flinched at my voice. Even though I was just beside the girl earlier, she seemed to only now notice me. With a pale face, she turned around and said stiffly, “You…why are you…forget it, what else do you want? Spit it out and let’s get this over with.”
I shook my head and said, “The truth has been revealed. I want nothing else. I just want to know what you want. You said the world is vast just now. Are you going to just turn around and walk away, leaving Miss Shanhu alone to wander by herself?”
“I…” The woman didn’t expect it would be about this. She was taken aback for a moment before she stammered, “No..I…I just…I no longer deserve…” Her voice trailed off as she appeared to be at a loss for words.
“Miss Shanhu?” I turned back to look at the girl. Behind her was a large grove of flowering trees, graced by speckles of flowers. Now it only made her seem frail and helpless. I couldn’t bring myself to see them face the fate of wandering alone. I set my mind and said, “Miss Shanhu, what do you think? Do you hate this person?”
Hearing my question, the woman became even more flustered, dropping her head like a kid waiting to be scolded, extremely anxious.
On the contrary, the teenage girl looked mature at the moment. She thought about it quietly for a moment and spoke composedly, “It’s a lie if I said I’m not upset. I blame Aunt Ke a little…” Seeing the woman looking aside embarrassedly, she sighed and continued, “But so what. No one forced me back then. I can’t blame anyone for being greedy and wanting to learn it. Even if I blame her, I can’t say I hate her…”
The girl walked over as she sighed. Without looking at me, she took the woman’s hand and said, “Aunt Ke, no matter what happened before, she’s right. From now on, we’re people with no home, wandering wherever we may go. The world is so huge. I’m young and inexperienced. Can you really leave me alone?”
Ever since the truth was revealed, the woman was either hysterical or sorrowful. Her face was bloodless, but not a drop of tear was shed. The moment she heard that, tears were rolling down her face. She held the girl’s hand back and said, “Good, good, as long as you don’t hate me. We’ll go together. There’s nothing to be afraid of wandering in jianghu. I’ve been running around jianghu performing since I was young. I’ve seen everything. Ah Hu, don’t be afraid.”
“Mm!” When the girl saw that the woman cried, she rubbed her eyes, smiled with tears brimming in her eyes, and said, “If Aunt Ke said so, I’m not afraid.” Taking a breath, she turned to the side, and now she was looking at me. She said, “Thank you.” Then she held the woman’s hand and left, both of them walking more firmly than before, no longer stumbling like when they came out of the woods.
I didn’t stop them. Before they went too far away, I took a breath and shouted, “If you face any difficulties or are tired of wandering in the future, you can go to Mount Dingjun in southern Shaanxi. There’s a stronghold there, inhabited by women troops. Just say the name Jade Rakshasa, you’ll be safe there!”
Worried that it might be heard by the ones in the woods, I didn’t speak too loudly. Fortunately, the wind was blowing in the right direction. The two women walked along the dirt road. One of them waved from afar, indicating that she had heard it. Of course, it was entirely up to them whether they would go there in the future.
After shouting that, I watched the two figures leave in silence, slowly fading into a tiny black spot and disappearing over the horizon. I could say that I had done everything that I could, but somehow my heart was filled with melancholy. Traveling with no return. The word “wandering” held a hundred feelings. Only those who had experienced it could truly know. I remembered this day, but I couldn’t see into the next day. I could only hope that everything went well for them.
Standing on the hillside, I was deep in thought and didn’t realize how long I had been standing there. When I came around, I realized that I had wasted too much time. Even though I trusted old man Tie’s integrity and vaguely remembered that he was supposed to help Lian’er, it was hard to say that he wouldn’t lose his mind. After all, he just abandoned his daughter and wife and went through a major change in his life. Besides, Lian’er was known for speaking with no filter. What if she started arguing with him, and he ended up fighting her with his life?.
As these thoughts crossed my mind, I felt uneasy and turned around, about to head into the woods. Two steps in, I suddenly heard…laughter coming from the woods?
Before I could be shocked, I saw two people emerge from the woods, an old man and a young girl. The old man was tall and imposing, while the young girl was elegant and graceful. Who else would they be if not Lian’er and Tie Feilong? I was worried that the two of them would start fighting if they couldn’t get along, but the reality was Lian’er was joyful with a smile on her face, even the old man, although there was still a trace of sadness in his frowned brows, no longer looked heavy. I didn’t know what Lian’er did, but she managed to brighten the old man up. Despite his lingering sorrow, he was talking like usual with her.
“Ah, there you are. What are you doing foolishly standing there all alone on the hillside?” The girl came out of the woods, and upon scanning her surroundings, she quickly spotted me and called. She strode over, grabbed my left hand, and said with a smile, “Come, quick, kneel and kowtow three times. Accept him as your godfather.”
“Godfather?” I was utterly dumbfounded. For a moment, I didn’t know what she was up to, and during that time, the old man came over with an “ay” and said, stroking his beard, “Where’s your manner, Jadey? How can you just come up like this and ask her to kneel down and accept me as her godfather?” Although his words were reproachful, his tone was calm, his expression was composed, and the way he referred to her sounded much closer.
“You don’t understand, godfather. She and I have been together since we were young. We eat together and live together under one master. I accepted you as my godfather. There’s no reason she wouldn’t do the same.” Lian’er turned around and smiled at the old man. Then she shot a glance at me and said, “Quick, are you going to kowtow or not? If you don’t, I’ll get along with godfather and not talk to you anymore.”
These two were both quirky. I already knew that, especially the young one. I thought I was quite familiar with her personality, but it still caught me off guard when I was faced with this situation. These people were threatening to kill each other a moment ago, with quite a bit of rivalry between them, while the other just kicked his daughter and wife out and became an old single man. How did they suddenly become a joyful pair of godparent and godchild?
I was taken aback. Lian’er didn’t give me time to think. When she saw me hesitating, she puckered her face angrily and threw me a menacing look. Seeing her like this, I had no time to be shocked. I smiled and said, “Do you really want me to accept him as my godfather?” After she gave me a knowing look, I grinned and said, “Hero Tie surely is a man of honor and virtue. It’s a great honor to accept him as my godfather. I’m happy to oblige, but I have to remind you Lian’er, so you don’t blame me later for not telling you earlier, that once we both accept him as our godfather, you’ll have to call me sister.”
Her smile faded as soon as she heard that. She thought about it for a while and said, “No, no.” Then she gave me a light push, ran to the old man, and said in a pout, “Godfather, promise me that you only accept me as your goddaughter. It’s fine to have a younger sister, but I don’t want an older sister.”
Old man Tie was amused by her antics and laughed, “Even if you don’t accept her as your sister, she is still your martial sister, isn’t? Are the things you said earlier about eating and living together under one master not true?”
“Yes, we eat and live together under one master, but she’s not my martial sister.” Lian’er pouted and said, “I have to respect seniority if we’re martial sisters. I don’t want her to be above me. Me being above her is more like it.”
This was the first time I heard her say this in all these years. Although I had expected it, I couldn’t help but shake my head and smile. There was nothing I could do about her. Old man Tie’s temperament surprisingly meshed well with Lian’er’s. After hearing what she said, he nodded in agreement, “Makes sense. The rules about seniority are too much of a hassle. It’s better if we don’t follow, it’s better if we don’t follow, haha.”
As they continued to chat, the sorrowful atmosphere dissolved until we stepped into the Tie’s Manor courtyard. The old man became sad again when he saw the surroundings. Lian’er and I noticed when we were making dinner that he was alone in the parlor, touching the table and chair armrests, looking lonely. At that moment, he was merely a gray-haired old man. It struck a string in my heart, and I understood why Lian’er did what she did.
Sure enough, Lian’er saw that too after following my gaze. She smiled, went to him, and said, “Right, godfather, when are we going to look for the sword manual?” Old man Tie snapped out of his daze and said, “What’s the hurry? I’ll definitely get your baby back for you. You don’t believe what I said?”
“I can’t be asking you to get the sword manual back by yourself, can I?” Shaking her head, Lian’er said with a smile. The old man put on a straight face and said, “Since I’ve promised you, it’s my business. Do you think I can’t retrieve it by myself?” She didn’t take it seriously and said, “Godfather, I have faith in you, but you may feel lonely if you go alone. We can be your companions and ease your boredom. Isn’t that great?” As she spoke, it sounded like a daughter speaking to her father. I was a little surprised as I listened.
Old man Tie had a straight temper. When he heard what Lian’er said, a loving expression appeared on his face. It seemed like he really saw her as her daughter. He patted her head and said in all seriousness, “Jadey, I’m happy that you’re thinking about me, but Jin Duyi who’s stolen the sword manual has some history. Not only would it be dangerous, it’d be a long journey. I’m afraid you can’t go.”
Lian’er wanted to say something after hearing that. I didn’t understand, so I walked up to him and chimed in, “Sir, I haven’t been in jianghu for a long time and I wasn’t in the woods just now, so I don’t understand what you mean. Hope you could enlighten me.”
“Cut the sir thing.” The old man looked at me and said, stroking his beard, “Since you’re close to Jadey, you’re half a daughter to me. It’s nice to be called sir, but it feels distant after some time. You can call me whatever you feel like. If you can’t think of anything, you can call me old man Tie.”
“…Then I’ll graciously accept it and call you old man.” I smiled and nodded.
Later, the old man explained the situation to me. It turned out when the woman left, she had told him in detail about the three people who had stolen the sword manual. Tie Feilong knew all of them, but he wasn’t close to them. The two accomplices were some little-known people in jianghu, so there was no need to mention them. However, the gang leader was particularly tricky to deal with.
The person’s name was Jin Duyi. He had been famous for over thirty years. The martial arts he practiced, Yin Feng Du Sha Zhang (Yin Wind Venomous Gravel Palm), was extremely malicious. Not only were both his palms filled with poison, his palm strikes were also powerful, the chill from the strikes would seep into the skin like a ghost. Many years ago, he had caused trouble in the Central Plains and his behaviors were eccentric. Finally, he incited public anger in Wulin. He narrowly survived a major battle. After that, he went into hiding in the western region. Although he took in disciples here and there, he couldn’t cause much chaos in the western frontier. However, the old man didn’t expect that after many years, he would secretly return to the Central Plains again. Somehow, he got the information and went to steal the sword manual that Taoist Zhenqian was supposed to bring to Mount Heaven.
“This person is cunning and vicious. He’s strong. It’ll make him even stronger if he learns the sword techniques. I cannot allow that to happen.” Toward the end, old man Tie got serious and said, “That’s why I’ve decided to head northwest and ask around the fellow members of jianghu for any information along the way. If I can find out his whereabouts, that’d be the best. If not, I’ll continue my journey and head straight to his old lair in the northwest! Even if I can’t get him, I’ll definitely find out his whereabouts!”
“Way to go, sir!” Upon hearing this, I couldn’t help but compliment. The western regions were far away. Even in times where transportation was easily accessible, you couldn’t just go on a whim. He made it sound like a simple stroll after a meal. As someone who traveled a lot, I was genuinely impressed.
“Of course, I always keep my word.” The old man, pleased with what he heard, seemed to have forgotten what he asked of me and stroked his short beard, closing his eyes. Then he opened his eyes and said, “That’s exactly why. I may be away for as little as a couple of months or as long as a year. It’s not okay for both of you to come with me, especially for you, Jadey, as the head of a stronghold, you can’t leave for too long. Now that we’re about to part, I don’t have any gift to welcome you as my goddaughter. Your level of martial arts is higher than mine. I have nothing to teach you, but I’ve gained insights in internal cultivation. I’ll leave a book for you tomorrow. You can read it in your free time. You’ll benefit from it.”
His words were heartfelt. To the end, he was even willing to pass on the experience and insights he had gained from decades of practicing internal cultivation. I was delighted for Lian’er, but Lian’er didn’t seem thrilled. She didn’t show much emotion after hearing that. Instead, she lowered her head and seemed to be lost in thought. After a while, as if having made up her mind, she looked up and said, “Godfather, we’ll go with you!”
She spoke with resolution. Old man Tie was startled. Standing beside them, I frowned and said, “Lian’er, what about Mount Dingjun? We might have to leave for over a year, and you’re the head of the stronghold.”
“What’s the big deal? Mount Dingjun is different from what it used to be. It’s already on track and has formed alliances with the surrounding clans. Even if something big were to happen, we’ve got our back covered. Everything will be under control.” The young lady waved her hand, as if there was nothing to worry about, and said with a smile, “I’ll write a letter tomorrow. Godfather, you can have someone deliver it to the stronghold, and everything will be taken care of. It’ll be fine even if we’re away for a year or so!”
“Alrighty, since you’ve said so, what else can this old man say?” The old man, straightforward in nature, no longer said otherwise after hearing what Lian’er said. He guffawed and said, “In that case, let’s get some good rest tonight. We’ll set out tomorrow!”
They stayed in the Tie Manor that night. Although the old man had kicked his daughter out, his love for her remained, so he kept Tie Shanhu’s room and arranged a guest room for each of us. We went to rest and recharge for the night.
Perhaps I went to bed too early, and there was something weighing on my mind. I lay in bed tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep. After flipping around a few times, I gave up trying and got out of bed. I draped a robe over my shoulders and strolled to the courtyard. The northwest was cool and breezy at night. In the courtyard stood a towering old tree, reaching up to the night sky. Although it was tall and mighty, it stood alone in the moonlight, with its branches swaying gently in the wind, giving off a sense of desolation.
Looking up and stroking the dry bark of the old tree, I didn’t know what I was feeling. Suddenly, a familiar voice caught my ear.
“What are you doing, not sleeping and wearing so little?” I turned around and saw the young lady emerge from the shadows of the corridor. She came to me and grabbed my left hand, but she immediately furrowed her brows and said, “It’s so cold. Your injury isn’t fully healed yet. Are you trying to make yourself sick standing in the wind like this, so you can stay in bed tomorrow and not have to go with us tomorrow?”
I had no idea where her strange logic came from. I burst out into laughter and said, “What are you thinking? I went to bed too early tonight and just can’t sleep. What about you? Why aren’t you in bed and ended up here in the courtyard?”
The young lady grunted and said, turning her head, “I was writing a letter. Writing a letter is such a hassle. Why can’t I just write like how I’d normally speak? All those flowery words hurt my brain. I got frustrated, so I came out to get some fresh air.”
“Lian’er…” Hearing her talk about writing a letter, it triggered something that was on my mind. I called her, looked at her, and asked, “Are you really going to leave everything behind and leave the Central Plains like this, traveling to the west with the old man? Won‘t you…miss the life here?’”
Yes, I didn’t have anything I care about here except the person in front of me, but she was already a member of jianghu. She had a reputation, a base, all kinds of ambitions, many people she had known, even potentially a like-minded…someone.
“Miss? Miss what?” At this moment, she looked at me with a confused face. After asking the question, as if she suddenly thought of something, she said nervously, “Who said I’m going with him? WE are going to go with him! You said before that you’ll go wherever I go. No backing out now, no matter how long the journey is!”
In the moonlight, I saw the young lady’s nervous and serious face. She was speaking so seriously, too seriously in fact. It made me laugh. I chuckled and said, “Wherever you go, I go. Even if it’s thousands of miles away and far beyond. I won’t regret it.”
I would even be more than happy to do so.