The Witch Nichang– Chapter 27
Lian’er only believed I was fine after I wiped the blood off my hand and showed it to her.
But when it was my turn to ask her if she was okay, she always slurred it over impatiently, acting as if nothing had happened with a little…awkwardness in her movement.
Perhaps it was to hide this awkwardness, Lian’er let go of me, turned around, and went back to where she had fought. I followed behind her, and when I took a look at that place, I couldn’t help but be dumbfounded. I had just turned around for a moment, and that place was already a mess.
Although I knew from the cries and screams earlier that Lian’er didn’t go easy on them, I didn’t expect it to be so vicious. No wonder the machete before was covered with blood. She actually…
The wind brought a strong smell of blood to my nose, which made me feel a little nauseous. I closed my eyes, rubbed my brows as I covered my mouth and nose, and said in frustration: “Lian’er, aren’t you being too…harsh?”
“You’re the one who said one hand each. I haven’t even had time to finish it.” She replied apathetically, pulling me to the windward side, and went straight to those guys. While Lian’er’s attention was distracted, those who were less injured and had yet to be “finished” had fled for their lives in panic. Other than those with a broken arm who were rolling on the ground moaning, only one was still left with his limbs intact among those who were down on the ground in front of us.
“You’re good at throwing knives, eh—” Lian’er was standing in front of him. Her voice was soft, but with what happened just now, only fools couldn’t hear the anger in her voice. “But, why didn’t you come at me? Rather at the person who had nothing to do with this!”
“Fuck! You two are in it together, anyway. I hate myself for missing it!” The leader’s limbs were intact, but he had wounds everywhere. Though they were shallow, the bloody wounds made his expression particularly hideous.
“I admit defeat today, so just cut the crap and kill me if you want to. I’m not a fucking hero if I frown the slightest bit!”
After hearing him say that, followed by a snicker from Lian’er, I knew that things were going to get worse, so I ignored the smell of blood in the air, got to her in a few steps, grabbed her, who was about to make a move, and said softly: “Wait.”
Lian’er gave me a glare and barked: “Are you being soft again? He was trying to hurt you just now!”
“I’m not.” I shook my head and said: “Just have a few things to say, so let me finish it first, okay?” I tugged at her sleeve as I was saying, but she was standing still, not moving and just staring at me. It wasn’t until I gave her a pleading look that she pursed her lips and took a step back to my side with reluctance.
When the man saw me take Lian’er’s place standing in front of him, there was a subtle change in his expression. He still looked spiteful, but he was somewhat reluctant to meet my eyes and didn’t look as hideous as he was before. It seemed like the sneak attack earlier still impacted him.
Under my observation, I grew more certain of it. I looked at him and spoke coolly: “You, pride yourself as a hero?”
He snorted and turned his head to the side. I didn’t mind and kept on: “If you pride yourself as a hero. Then may I ask how do you feel about the person you call brother who bullied and tried to take advantage of a lone lady on the street today?”
He kept quiet and gritted his teeth after a while, saying: “I’d punish my brother for what he did wrong. There’s no need for you to do it for me!”
“Easy for you to say. You know how important a woman’s reputation is? If we didn’t happen to know self-defense, I’m afraid everything would have been too late, and what use would your punishment do by that time?” With that said, even I couldn’t help but sneer, and my face inadvertently showed a trace of contempt: “For heroes, chivalry and justice come first, and chivalry comes before justice. People like you who don’t care about right and wrong and only talk about brotherhood and loyalty are nothing but uncultivated bandits people spit on. Not to say that you aren’t skilled in martial arts, even if you’re at the pinnacle, you’re at best just bandits and bullies who rob and kill people and do harm to the neighborhood. You pride yourself as a hero? What a joke.”
Being rebuffed by me, the person’s expression changed a few times, a pair of fists propping up his body, scrunching the dirt ground, but he just clenched his teeth and didn’t talk back.
“Besides…” Seeing him so, I toned down my voice slightly and said: “Besides, is there really brotherhood between you and whom you call brothers? Look in front of you, when faced with strong enemies, everyone flees for their lives in the face of danger, except for those who are severely wounded and unable to get away, is there anyone willing to stay and face life and death together with you?”
As I waved my hand, he lifted his head as expected and glanced around. Looking at the few people with broken arms who were still struggling to back away bit by bit and the weapons that scattered all over the ground, he was finally disheartened. With a sigh, his head drooped, and he said dejectedly: “What’s done is done. There’s no use in talking much. If you have a heart, give me a quick one…”
“Okay, as you wish!” Lian’er was on the side. After hearing this, she replied right away, raised her palm, and was about to swing down.
I quickly held her hand and shook my head sternly at her. Then I turned back around, thought about it for a second, took out a few ingots worth of silver nuggets, squatted down, and handed them to him, saying: “This is all I have right now. Take your injured friends and go to the doctor before it’s too late.”
“…Why?” After a moment of silence, two voices asked almost simultaneously. The man’s face was full of astonishment. I couldn’t see Lian’er’s. I guess, on her face, there was anger more than anything else.
“There’s no ‘why.’ I was once given a chance to change, so I’m willing to give others a chance too.” I smiled, stood up, and walked to Lian’er, turning around to look at him one last time: “If you’re willing to change, we won’t see each other again; If you’re not, I’m afraid we won’t see each other again either. In these troubled times, being a bandit may not be much better than being a common man. You may enjoy a moment of pleasure, but the price is that you won’t get to live in peace ever again. Even after you die, your corpse will be thrown in the open, eaten by birds and animals, and die a graveless death.”
After saying that, I withdrew my gaze and nudged Lian’er with a smile, meaning, let’s go? For which Lian’er looked at me with indignation, pouting in anger. At first, she wouldn’t budge even after nudging her a few times, but suddenly, she stomped and swished further ahead on her own.
Leaving the mess behind, I quickly lightened my body with qi and went along with her.
The sound of the wind was all I heard. Lian’er was in a rage, so she was walking fast. For all the way, I could only see a light-colored shadowy figure swaying ahead. Fortunately, she hadn’t gone full speed, so I managed to keep up, but it was impossible to catch up.
I thought we would stay like this until we got back to Yellow Dragon cave, but after covering some miles and going further into the mountain, the person ahead gradually slowed down.
Delighted, I immediately took the chance and sped up. Finally, I came to her side and turned into walking side by side with her.
Although her pace had slowed down a lot, Lian’er was still unhappy and ignored me even after I talked a lot to her. Just when I was racking my brain to think about what to do, I heard a whisper suddenly coming from next to me: “Acting nice and setting a tiger free. Beware of being bitten back later.”
That was undoubtedly Lian’er’s voice, but when I looked over, she had a straight face, and her lips shut tight as if the words I just heard had nothing to do with her. This awkward look of hers was amusing, but I mustn’t laugh now, so I could only stifle it, and my lips curled slightly.
“Does it matter? Even if he tries to turn on us later, as long as Lian’er is around, what’s there for me to be afraid of, right?” That said, seeing the expression of the person beside me brighten up a lot, I couldn’t help but add: “Besides, it’s not that I haven’t been bitten before. The mark’s still there even now. It’s nothing, isn’t it?”
Beside me, her expression had just brightened up, but with my remark, it instantly changed again after she pondered dully for a while. Only this time, it was blushing more than anything else.
“That’s not the same!” A rare sight, Lian’er actually got a little sheepish. She stopped and looked at me, trying to look angry, but her face was slightly flushed: “I was small at that time and knew no martial arts, plus I saw you as an enemy…” She paused for a second and saw I was looking at her with a smile. She couldn’t carry on and yelled the last sentence as a conclusion: “In short, you’re not allowed to bring it up again.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll never bring it up again.” Bringing up this past affair was meant to liven up the atmosphere, so I just left it at that. While promising her absent-mindedly, my hand, however, was reaching to her right shoulder where the handprint was and flipped the collar, doing what I had intended to do earlier: “How’s your shoulder? Let me see.”
When I flipped it, she seemed to be frightened and hopped back a step while tugging at her collar and said with a defensive look in her eyes: “What’re you doing? I’m fine. What’re you looking at?”
If it were someone else, I might see this defensiveness as shyness, but I knew this child’s temper very well. Someone who casually sunbathed in front of me a few days ago would never react like that out of shyness. Seeing her rub her shoulder twice without realizing while we were on our way here, I knew that that hit had affected her, but if I insisted on checking it, I figured it would be difficult with Lian’er’s temper.
So, I could only resort to a devious way.
“But Lian’er, I’m afraid it’s not a good idea to go back like this, what d’you think?” Once I had made up my mind, I pointed to her clothes and said: “If you go back like this, Master will surely notice it. Then I can’t help you hide it even if I want to.”
When she was slashing people just now, she didn’t let the blood splatter onto her body out of instinct. It was indeed spotless anywhere else, but unfortunately, it was all for nothing after being hit by my blood-stained hand. The bloody red handprint on the right shoulder of the light-colored shirt was conspicuous. It was evident even in the night sky.
She probably hadn’t thought of this before. It wasn’t until she was reminded that she frowned. Perhaps because my intention to check out her shoulder was too obvious, she didn’t respond right away even though what I said was well-grounded. Instead, she pensively tilted her head. As if a thought suddenly came to her, she smiled and said: “Alright, then we’ll go clean up first before we go back.”
Right after that was said, she grabbed my hand without thinking, lightened her body with qi, and headed in the opposite direction.
My initial intention was just to find an excuse to check on her injuries while helping her with the collar. But now, things had taken an unexpected turn, and I had no choice but to follow.
Lian’er held my hand and took a few turns in a hurry on the way. The more turns she took, the denser the woods were. By the last turn, it suddenly opened up. Surrounded by lush green trees, a clear secluded pool silently appeared before my eyes.
I looked at the deep blue water and the sparkling moonlight on its surface. My breath was taken away for a moment, and when I looked at the valley behind the clear pool, there was a white line on the steep cliff, meandering down along the cliff wall, quietly flowing into the pool. You could imagine, if it was the rainy season or after a heavy rain, the white line would turn into an impressive waterfall.
Mount Hua was indeed full of winding paths leading to enchanting places. I had never been to such a place myself. While I was admiring the view, the sound of clothes rustling came from the back. I turned around subconsciously. Before I could see anything, I felt a flash before my eyes, and something was coming head-on as the sound of someone plunging into the water entered my ears.
“Lian’er?” After catching the things flying into my face and taking a look, it was nothing other than her clothes. She took them all off, and now they all ended up in my hands. Then I looked at the person in the blue water. What else was that if not a naked body?
“Lian’er!” I was embarrassed and mad, and before I could go on at her, she talked back as she swam around and said complacently: “It’s you who stained my clothes, so you should get rid of the stain for me. As for me, I’ll take this time to wash myself and get rid of the blood smell on me, in case Master notices it, perfect, isn’t it?” With that said, she giggled and no longer listened to me, just swimming further into the pool.
It was too late to lecture her. I was choked with anger and could neither let it out nor swallow it. I was holding her clothes, looking at the faint dash of white in the water. Somehow, I reached out my hand and covered my face, my mouth muttering words that even I myself didn’t understand.