Nan Chan – Chapter 24 : Death Wish

Cang Ji heard Caoyu’s cries receded into the distance. His body felt as if it had plunged into the water. The surrounding scene shattered into fragments of light. It was as if he had just woken from a dream. There was a sudden burst of coughing beside him and a heaviness in his arms. He saw Jing Lin curling up in pain.

“What’s happened?” Cang Ji scooped him up. Jing Lin was icy to the touch. 

“Just a relapse of an old ailment.” Jing Lin covered his mouth. “The hour is approaching. Dong Lin’s end is near.”

“He is bent on dying. Even if we save his life, we can’t restore his will to live.” Cang Ji pried open Jing Lin’s clenched fists. He frowned upon seeing the residual smudge of red on Jing Lin’s lips. “It’s just a walk in an illusionary scene. Why are you so weak?”

A fatigued Jing Lin said, “… This isn’t right. Even if Qian Weishi’s hatred was enough to spawn the Luocha bird, it was not enough for it to rush all the way here.” He gradually closed his eyes. After a while, he continued. “Dong Lin must have done something. I want to see him before his head rolls. “

Dong Lin sprawled over the ground and listened to the din below the platform. The sun was too glaring. His nape came into contact with the crude board.1 The executioner​ stepped on his back. Dong Lin gasped for breath. ​His forehead was soaked with sweat.

​​The ground of the market was ​filthy​ with discarded chicken​ heads​, dog blood, rotten vegetables​ and fruits covered by the snow. Now, the stench was overwhelming Dong Lin’s senses. ​It would not be long before he would be a part of them—a mess of rotten meat and a pool of dirty blood. 

“Dong​ Lin!” ​A cry rang out from among the mob of people. There was the sound of a woman’s unreasonable swearing as she pushed her way through the crowd. Standing on​ tiptoes​, Huadi saw​ Dong​ L​in’s face​ through the myriad of humans’ heads. She​ was beside herself as she​ looked at ​Dong Lin and began to shove the others with even more force. “Make way… make way! All of you, make way for me!” 

“​What are you jostling for?!” A man in the crowd pushed​ her​ back ​and rebuked her​, “I ​was wondering which woman is so shameless​ to​ squeeze in​ among​ the men! ​So it’s the whore from the alley!”

“Bah!” Huadi spat at him, pulled her clothes​ back, threw out her chest and said with her head high, “​So what if I’m a whore? ​Did a whore dirty your ​bed? ​Look at those shifty eyes of yours wandering over my body. You are ​even more ​low-down than ​a whore! Get out of the way! Otherwise, I’ll slap you until you can’t tell the directions!” 

“Hear, hear!” The man pulled Huadi’s hand towards his own face to give his cheek a gentle pat. He said with a glib tongue​. “I’ve let you slap me for free, then are you also going to let me…”​

He had yet to finish talking when he let out a wail. Huadi kicked him and slapped him right in the face with her palm. It threw the crowd into disorder. No one could hold Huadi back as she gave the man several hard slaps. She adjusted her lapels, then pointed at the crowd with the other hand on her waist.  

“Get out of ​my way! ​Look at you all getting in the action and creating a disturbance! Bah! ​All of you are in such a rush to watch the beheading. ​What’s the rush? Who ​knows whose head the blade will fall next? ​​You said I’m low down, but all of you are even more despicable than me! It pleases you to see someone in distress. You can’t wait to see everyone in this world to live just like me! Wastrel​!​ Pervert​!​ The mud on the sole of a whore is even cleaner than all of you!” 

Hua​di could ​scarcely catch her breath as she swore at them. She ​rubbed her face and wiped her tears​, then said unreservedly. “I’m not a ​whore today. I’m not here to ​be part of the spectacle.”

​She exchanged looks with Dong Lin. Dong Lin heard her say.​

“I’m here to send off my husband.” ​​​

The man ​burst out cussing, “​Do you know who that is? He’s the ​evil man who killed the Chen​s! ​Oh well, only such a savage can put up with you! ​You still dare to hit people? ​Your lover deserves to die for massacring an entire family​!”

​“The fart you know!” Huadi shrieked, “​What nonsense!”

“The ​prefectural yamen’s notice ​had it down in black and white​! ​Are you going to deny it?” ​The man incited both sides of the crowd. “How good would the woman of an evil man be​? No doubt she’s malicious too! ​For all we know, she has something to do with this case too! ​Beat her up! ​Four of the Chens are dead. Why should the murderer pay ​with only his life? ​Beat her to death! ​A life for a life!” ​

“​Beat her to death!” Some of them shouted in excitement, “​Avenge ​the Chens!”​2

​Huadi could not dodge in time and was struck by the miscellaneous items flung at her. ​​Countless faces ​flashed before her as the mob dragged ​her into the crowd and pushed her down so hard her bones hurt. ​They pulled at her hair​​. She could barely suppress her cries as she crawled towards Dong Lin even as she kicked and bit them back.

Dong Lin’s hands were bound behind his back. The executioner was afraid that he would ​escape and stepped on ​him even harder. Dong Lin ​pushed against the wood. His eyes were bloodshot.

“Stop​ it​!” Dong Lin ​roared. “Fucking stop it! ​A life for a life. ​Cast your blades at me! I’m the one who killed and dismembered them​. What does it have to do with her?!” 

​He straightened his neck and ​​gasped​ for breath​, gritting his teeth so hard they made a sound. 

“Come on. ​Come after me! Not only did I kill ​the Chens, but I also cut them opened one at a time​ and trampled over them​.” Smiling intermittently, ​he struggled against the restraints until his neck reddened. ​His insane appearance conformed to everyone’s idea of what an outlaw was like. “I killed one! ​Then another! Chen Ren’s legs were broken first. I​ was the one who​ crushed ​them. I didn’t kill him with a ​blade. I ​used a wooden staff3 to ​smash ​that beast’s face ​into a pulp​. Why ​did I dismember them​? ​​Because I ​don’t want them​ to make their way to the Underworld! What Path of the Beast​s?4 I want them to be wandering ghosts with no chance at reincarnation!”​​​

​Dong Lin burst into laughter as his tears trickled down. He said, “How refreshing. This has to be the most delightful action I’ve ever done in my life! What can you do to me? Kill me, kill me!” 

The whole audience was horrified​, even those who had been braying for justice had all been scared into silence. ​Like frightened quails, they retreated in a panic. Huadi ​stumbled to her feet and ​staggered her way to the front of the ​platform.

“​I’ve​ asked you so many times, but you never take me away.” Huadi spat and slapped Dong Lin. ​She choked on her sobs and shed silent tears as she scolded him. “​Look at what happened now?! You are going to become a real ​ghost! What ​am I to do with you gone? What about ​Nan-nan?”5

“There is a bag of gold hidden under your ​chest.” Dong Lin bit​ on​ her sleeve and finally ​lowered his head ​to ​kiss​ ​Hua​di’s palm​. He​ whispered, “I know you are ​​too much of a spendthrift to ​save money, so I hid ​it ​under ​the chest. ​Go back​ and ​take it ​to the procuress ​to redeem yourself. ​There should be some balance. Take it with you. It doesn’t matter where you go, you…” ​

​Huadi threw him a hard slap. ​

Dong Lin’s head tilted to the side, but it only made him more gentle.  ​

“I’ve let you down​.” He turned his eyes​. “I dragged it on for too long, and ​​​make you wait​ for me​ year after year. Silly woman, don’t be so harsh with your words ​when you marry someone else.” He gave a hasty smile and continued. “​Forget it. Don’t change yourself. Let ​that man ​put up with it. ​After receiving all my good fortune, he deserves to be scolded​ by you​ for the rest of ​your lives.” 

Hua​di turned Dong Lin’s head back to her and ​clung on to him ​without a care. She said bitterly, “I ​won’t be stupid this time around! You want to abandon me and leave so you can live freely with that dead ​woman of yours​? Well, I never! I insist on following you! They ​behead you here; I’ll ​bang my head and die here. I want to go with you​. I want to go with you​!” ​

“​I’m not taking anyone along.” Dong Lin turned ​and propped his forehead against Huadi’s. ​He​ let out a sudden burst of laughter. “​Nan-nan is just before me. This feels so good. I’ve searched all over Zhongdu, ​and I thought I would never meet her again in my life. ​The funny thing is, I forgot​ that I can see her when I die.”

“I forbid it!” Huadi hugged him​. “You forgot about me again​. You always forget me! You ​heartless man​. You ​want to forsake me to live happily with your family?!” 

Dong​ Lin said, “There are many men with two legs in this world. ​Each one​ of them​ is better than ​me​.”

“​That’s right, everyone is better than you.” Hua​di said, “But ​who asked me to meet you and not anyone else? ​Your creditor is your lover. You owed ​me this half of your life, anyway. Now you have repaid me, ​you’d have also freed me from my concern.”

“​That won’t do.” Dong Lin said, “​We’ll talk about it next life. You have to tide over this life. ​Meeting me has delayed you. It’ll be easier for you without me in the future. You ​should live a carefree life. Go​. ​Go home. Take​ that​ gold ​and redeem yourself. I’ll wait for you.” ​

The hour had come​. The attendant on duty from the prefectural yamen came forth to haul him up. Hua​di held ​on to ​him and refused to let go​. The attendant was put on the spot and could only get a few people to haul Huadi back. Huadi choked on her sobs ​and cursed, ​but she could not stop herself from being hoisted away. Her feet dragged on the ground ​as she moved farther and farther away from the platform.

There was a heaviness on Dong Lin’s back. He saw his name plate6 fall to the ground. Behind him, the executioner raised his ​blade and the wind swooshed as he brought it up. The burning pain on his forehead made him grind his teeth and shout out loud. ​There was a “crack” from the blade, and the head tumbled to the ground. Huadi let out a shrill scream and collapsed to the floor in a faint. 

​​The Ghost Guards​ who had been waiting for a long time on both sides shook their chains together. After securing Dong Lin’s soul, they prepared to leave.

“​This is bad.” Jing​ L​in appeared in mid-air​, whirled around​ and threw out a folding fan. “Leave his soul behind!”

​The ​wind shot forward together with the fan. The iron chains of the Ghost Guards were pressed down and held in place by Jing​ L​in from a distance​ away​. He looked up and saw Jing​ L​in’s beautiful peach blossom eyes. He had never seen them before and knew that Jing​ Lin must have ​used  ​some kind of camouflage to hide his appearance. A ​Ghost Guard sank to his feet and ​bellowed, “​Who dares to stir up trouble when the Underworld is executing its duties? ​Thieves like you must have been waiting for a long time!”

As soon as ​he said that, he saw countless ​scrapes of shadows on the ground. The​ pack of​ ​Ghost Guards shook their​ chains together and stood ready​ in formation​. ​Xiang Mo Staff hurtled towards at the heart of the town​ where ​​Zui Shan Seng stood on one foot​ with both palms together. ​With a hard push, golden light instantly filled the sky.

​​“You’ve sure kept me busy looking for you!” ​Zui Shan Seng removed his ​bamboo hat, revealing his green tangerine peel head.​7 He ​gave a cold smile. “​Let’s see where you can run to this time​.”​

​The golden light surged like a massive wave, and Jing Lin took a step back and pulled out Cang Ji with one hand. Cang Ji soared into the air and plunged into the mouth of the wave. Like kicking a ball, he kicked the golden wave back in a counter-attack.​

“It has been a while since we last met.” Cang Ji’s evil aura was imposing. “Old man, teach me a few more moves.”8

​Zui Shan Seng turned the ​raging waves into clouds ​of smoke​ and said, “​As expected, you are not an ordinary ​demon.”

“That’s natural.” ​Cang Ji ​shrugged it​ off​. “​There’s only one of me ​in heaven and earth​. I’m very precious. ​You are just in time. I’m hungry today. Why don’t you give me your remaining spiritual energy? You’ll be considered half of my shifu.”

“​A teacher for a day, a father for a lifetime.”​9 ​ Jing​ Lin whispered behind​ him​, “​Do you want to call him father? He is not as old as I am.”

“​If you want to be my father​,” ​Cang Ji ​gripped Jing ​Lin’s shoulder ​and ​leaned on ​him as he enunciated, “​You’ll need to have a certain charm. Why​? You want to try ​since he can’t make it?” ​

“​It’s my first time being a father.” Jing​ Lin said, “​Call me once. We’ll see if it​ sounds right.”

“If ​it sounds nice,“​ Cang Ji leaned over and spoke into Jing Lin’s ears. ​​“Will you ​let me eat?”

​Jing Lin’s eyes followed Cang Ji’s gaze and dropped to his own half-opened collar, where his collarbone could be vaguely seen. He raised his eyebrows and said ​in a light tone. “Brittle bones are​ easy to chew. You can try.”

​He had only just said that when the wind howled behind ​Cang Ji. ​Cang Ji smiled at Jing​ L​in and bent over abruptly. ​Xiang Mo staff swept across over him. Jing Lin raised his arm to open the fan in his grip and ​took several steps back.

“I’m frail and weak.” He raised ​his slightly exposed chin​ from under the fan. “​I’m counting on you, my good son.”

“​You have to pay me back double for taking advantage of me.” Cang​ Ji ​stopped ​Xiang Mo staff with an arm, steadied himself and lifted it.

​Zui Shan Seng felt as if golden staff in his palm was wedged in a ​massive wall​​, ​and yet Cang Ji managed to move it. ​Although he did not show it on his face, he was internally alarmed.

This ​brocade carp​ was truly remarkable. Not only did he devour his spiritual energy, he even merged it into him. In just a few ​short ​days, even ​Xiang Mo staff could not tell from his aura whether he was foe or friend!

“Hui’an!” Zui Shan Seng shouted. “What are you waiting for?! Come quick. Join forces with me to take them down!” 

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  1. Prisoners slated for execution by decapitation​ ​would be restrained by either rope or a wooden board around their neck with a wooden plaque with their name placed on their back or behind their neck to indicate that they were due for beheading at a specific time (usually high noon).
  2. They remind me of this meme lmao

  3. ​ To recap, the wooden staff here is a bolt in the shape of a horizontal bar​, or rod, that’s used to hold a door closed in ancient days. Could be long or short. Something like the above.
  4. ​畜生道​ Path of the Beasts. ​The Six Paths​ or Realms​ of Reincarnation is a cycle of death and rebirth​ in Buddhism​, where a person is reincarnated into one of the six paths or realms depending on their accumulated karma from their past life. ​They are the Paths or Realms of Hell (Underworld), Hungry Ghosts, Beasts, Asura, Humans, Heaven. Dong Lin wanted them to suffer for eternity, with no chance for redemption and reincarnation.
  5. 囡囡 Nan-nan. The words itself actually meant “little darling” or “baby” although Dong Lin apparently used it for his daughter’s name.

  6. It’s that wooden plaque behind their neck or back, as mentioned earlier. The executioner would remove it and cast it to the ground right before he does the beheading.

  7. 青皮 Qing Pi or green tangerine peel. Basically saying the top of his head looks like the picture on the right.
  8. He’s referring to martial arts strokes or moves.
  9. ​日为师终生为父; ​​he who teaches me for one day is my father for life​. Basically saying a teacher, no matter how long he teaches a person, is like a father for life. ​