The Witch Nichang- Chapter 8
Master once said: “Xian’er, you’re smart, but you always like to overthink, burdened by your own thoughts. Perhaps this is a flaw of worrying too much that you were born with.”
It was more of a tease when she said that, but she hit the mark without intention.
I still had some self-consciousness. Hence, I couldn’t refute that. I could only tell myself that it was all right to overthink, but just don’t be indecisive and be absorbed in insoluble or trivial problems.
These tangled feelings came in fast, but also faded away quickly.
If there was no solution for the time being, just leave it for now.
Besides, that night, because of her supposedly waiting and response, regardless of whether it was a coincidence, I vaguely came to realize she, Lian’er, compared to the legendary lady in the well-known story, was indeed a living being with flesh and blood. A child who was abandoned by her father, raised by a female wolf, and later, happened to be brought back from the wolf’s den by me and Master and fostered to this day.
I had seen all her emotions- joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness, and seen her changes little by little. How could I doubt her existence, and in turn, question the reality of this entire world and myself simply because of a name?
Thinking about it this way, I felt relieved.
The days went on as usual, plain and simple. Everything was going like how it was supposed to be. Master saw I was gradually coming back to normal. Perhaps she thought I had finally adjusted myself, so she asked no more questions. But she seemed gratified.
However, in the days to come, I had unknowingly developed a new habit.
It didn’t matter whether I was reminded or still dwelled on the thought. Later, when I was alone in my spare time, I couldn’t help but try to think and recall—recall the story of that legendary lady, although the result of such attempts was often in vain.
I used to travel around. Every time during a long, tiring drive, I liked to read something to pass my time. I had read books of varied topics and many classic stories from the collection of Jin Yong’s wuxia novels, going with the crowd, and also many passages about Gu Long’s Sentimental Swordsman and Chu Liuxiang, the gallant bandit chief. Unfortunately, even with all these, all I could remember was just bits and pieces when I thought back now. As for the most pivotal masterpiece, I couldn’t even remember if I’d read it after thinking about it.
So, no matter how hard I tried to recall, the images that flashed through my mind the most were various scenes from different versions of the story. That said, the appearance of the lady, however, was still fresh in my mind, keeping her graceful look; except, every detail of the story had become a passing memory, putting me in an awkward situation.
Often at this moment, I couldn’t help but want to cover my face and sigh—only if God would give me one more chance.
“Hey, you! Trance out again! Made me look for you long time. Master call!”
A yell abruptly came from behind. Though the sentences were incomplete and unclear, they still sounded prideful.
Well—if God gave me another chance, I wouldn’t have been so dumb to choose this path. Thought of this, I smiled as I shook my head, got up, and brushed away the dust on my shirt. When I turned around, in front of me was a seemingly solemn little face.
Maybe this was one of the reasons I felt relieved.
For no matter how I looked at her, I could never associate this little face with the stunning, domineering, legendary lady who shared the same name as her. Okay, regarding the stunning appearance, it might be possible for her to match in the future. But for now, adorable was the only word to describe her. As for the domineering demeanor, she had possessed it since young, but unfortunately, it was used only against me.
I stepped forward, wanted to take her hand, and walk together. But, before I could reach out my hand, I received a glare from her. Then, she ran off and disappeared as soon as she turned around.
In that instant, I missed the wolf pup that hadn’t learned qinggong and still couldn’t run on two legs.
Since she started speaking, she seemed to grow up in no time. In less than a year, she could communicate fluently, and her way of thinking and expression looked more like a normal human being.
After that, Master began to teach her some basic mental cultivation methods of her martial art as a foundation. In this regard, I had to say she deserved the painstaking efforts that Master invested in her. Her good comprehension and rapid progress had put me to shame.
Before her, I had been practicing for over two years, but now it seemed like the day she would overtake me was close at hand. Occasionally, when I thought about it, I felt more or less disgruntled yet impotent.
Of course, in contrast to my mixed feelings, Master was genuinely a lot happier.
Or perhaps, she felt that she couldn’t let down such an exceptional talent. Therefore, she paid more and more attention to the set of swordsmanship that was being developed. So, aside from giving us guidance on our practices, she had returned to her previous meditation state, staying in all day long, spending even more time than before. Perhaps, she felt that Lian’er had already become a “human,” and nature would take its course for the rest. In recent days, she even entrusted the hunting to her with great assurance.
As a result, this had inadvertently formed a situation in which she was responsible for everything outside the cave, and I took care of everything inside the cave. She was delighted about it and seemed to perceive herself as the head of the household, showing me more of her proud and lofty look with her cheek puffed. I wasn’t so bothered about this; her hunting ability was indeed above me. She might be even better than Master if only considered techniques.
After dinner, Master, who seldom came out from her room, gave each of us a few words before returning to the stone chamber to meditate. I started a fire, preparing to clean up what she had brought back from the hunting in the daytime. But, when I walked towards the corner where the prey was usually stacked, I couldn’t help frowning at the sight of it.
Only a half-dead pheasant was lying lonely and pitifully at that place, where it would usually have lots of prey piling up.
It was not the first time. It had been like this for several days now.
I glanced at that bit of prey and turned back to peer at her. Expectedly, I noticed she was glancing at me at the same time from a distance. As soon as she saw me turning around, she immediately averted her eyes, trying to act as if nothing had happened.
I wanted to tell her, out of all the kids I’d seen, she was the worst at hiding her feelings.
Is there something going on? Now was the season of abundance; even if I were to go out hunting, the prey would certainly not be only this little, not to say her. Looking at her guilty expression, it was not so much a suspicion as a certainty.
So I kept an eye on her at night.
Master’s bed was in the innermost part of the stone chamber. Then there was a stone bed and a bench in the inner cave. Because the entrance of Yellow Dragon cave couldn’t be completely sealed, I would stay alert at night then, afraid that something might sneak in during the night. But ever since we had this child, I slept soundly instead as she was more sensitive to the surroundings than me.
Tonight, however, I was vigilant, so I saw her sneaking out of the cave late at night.
Why? Standing up, I was full of doubts.
With little time to hesitate, I put on my robe and boots and followed her immediately.
The night ran deep, and the fog was thick. The air in the forest was humid, and the moonlight tonight was dull. It was a completely different environment, but somehow, it reminded me of that cold night when I first met the kid.
The difference was I was trembling in fear with a touch in my hand at that time. And now I was holding my breath with empty hands.
In front of me was a distant figure, moving fast. It was not an easy task to keep up with her pace. Not only because of her heightened alertness, but also because I nearly lost track of her several times in such a short distance. I didn’t bring any weapons. Not that I’d forgotten, but I subconsciously felt that there would be no danger. She might hide some little secret, but it would not be something sinister.
Perhaps I was too confident—confident that no matter how hard it would be, I could still keep up with her.
Soon after, God punished me for my imprudence. I didn’t expect the child’s qinggong to be the one skill that had improved the most out of all her martial practices. I could still barely keep up with her speed on the field before, but those agile moves when she entered the dense woods were something I was incapable of doing now.
Finally, in between the shadow of the trees, I lost her.
A moonless and windy night.