SoN (3): The Witch’s Dance (5)

By the time the rice had finished cooking, Zhan Cheng wasn’t doing that much better. When Gongliang Ye came over and helped him up, Zhan Cheng realized that he was probably right: Even though the witch was quite tall, he clearly lacked physical strength. That so-called help that he was currently rendering him really didn’t amount to much. He was at most able to support him a bit while he walked over on his own.

But still, he would not be ungrateful and say anything about that. He was merely even more convinced that he should try and help him out a bit. After all, after these few hours, he clearly realized that had this gone on any longer, he would have died sooner or later with none being the wiser. He owed his life to Gongliang Ye. How could he not try to help his savior out?

Zhan Cheng still kept his thoughts to himself and just tried not to put too much of his weight on Gongliang Ye before he sat down at the table and started to eat with him.

Maybe it was because he had expended so much energy but he actually felt that the plain rice tasted especially good. He wolfed down the whole bowl in a matter of minutes and only then realized what he had done. When he raised his gaze, he met the eyes of Gongliang Ye and his ears reddened again. He wanted to say something but no words wanted to come out. In any case, that probably hadn’t been very polite.

Gongliang Ye kept quiet for a moment and then put down his own bowl, getting up and picking up Zhan Cheng’s. Without waiting for him to say anything, he refilled it and then put it down in front of him again. “You will notice in the next few days that you are still lacking a lot of the strength you are used to. You will have to slowly make up for what you lost.

“That isn’t strange in cases like yours. The longer the ghost was haunting you, the more was lost and needs to be made up for. Just make sure that you eat well and rest well if possible. After a while, things will normalize again and you won’t notice a difference from before. It will feel …” He pondered for a moment, his long fingers fiddling with the chopsticks. “As if you had been sick.

“The kind of drawn-out illness that leaves you bedridden for a bit even after the root has been dealt with and where you slowly have to nurse yourself back to full health. If you’ve ever been through something like this, you will probably recognize the similarities.

“In case you haven’t, there is one thing I should mention: It could be that after you lie down to sleep initially, you won’t wake up for a long time. Ten, twelve, maybe fourteen hours of continuous sleep wouldn’t be strange. And even after that, it could happen that you will only be awake for a few hours before you have to go back to rest. You should make sure that you eat enough in that time so prepare something in advance if possible.”

Zhan Cheng nodded and then stared at his bowl with complicated feelings. Prepare food in advance … he should have thought of these things sooner. Then he could have brought some more food instead of that small package of buns that was already eaten.

He was incredibly hungry right now but he didn’t know how much Gongliang Ye had stored. Taking a full second bowl of rice seemed a little … wrong. He glanced at the witch again and then cleared his throat. “Is it really alright to take more?”

Gongliang Ye just faintly raised his brows. “It’s already in your bowl. Do you want me to eat out of that?” He shook his head and then motioned for him to just continue. In any case, he wasn’t doing things halfheartedly. Since he had helped him this far, he would help him the rest of the way as well.

Gongliang Ye finished his own rice and then got up, putting the bowl down at the side to clean it up later, and then went to search through the shelf, trying to find a second blanket.

Usually, nobody would stay at his place so it wasn’t like he had anything ready. And considering Zhan Cheng’s current situation he also didn’t want to have him sleep without. If he really got sick, he could imagine the fallout.

After rummaging around for several minutes, the witch finally found what he had been looking for. He heaved a sigh of relief and then turned back around, finding that Zhan Cheng had finished but was looking at him like some kind of stray dog that had been kicked to the side.

Gongliang Ye raised his brows at him, not quite understanding why this man that had seemed so tough when he came here at first was suddenly like this after the ghost had been expelled. Was this also from the lack of energy? Well, it wouldn’t be too strange. That kind of thing could make even the strongest man fearful.

He thought for a moment and then threw the blanket at him. “I don’t have much so you’ll have to live with this. Just wrap yourself in that to sleep.” He didn’t explain any further and then picked up the empty bowl in front of Zhan Cheng and went to wash it together with his own.

After putting everything away, he glanced at the window again. By now, there was only a sliver of light left. He sighed, tidied up a little more, and then went to lie down in the corner.

Zhan Cheng watched him close his eyes and then there was nothing. He sat at the table, not sure what to make of this. Did Gongliang Ye really just intend to sleep like this? Actually, come to think of it, why was he lying on the ground?

He looked around and finally realized that the hut didn’t even have a bed. Well, that explained one thing. It also explained why the witch had just thrown a blanket at him and told him to wrap himself in it. There wasn’t anything else he could do, was there?

Zhan Cheng just lied down right next to the table, and then closed his eyes as well. He really didn’t have the strength to find another spot. In fact, he didn’t even have the strength to stay awake. After just a minute, he had already fallen into a deep sleep.

The next morning, Gongliang Ye got up when the sun rose outside the house and took a glance at his guest. Needless to say, Zhan Cheng wasn’t up yet. The witch sighed and then started to busy around the house, tidying up the things that he hadn’t gotten around to yesterday as well as going to pour out the water they had used for the herbal bath.

Usually, he would see this as a waste but with all the herbs that had been used and the purpose that this water had served, it would be bad luck to use it again. Thus, he had no other choice.

By midday, he returned to the hut, and wiped the sweat off his forehead, taking another look at Zhan Cheng. The human was still sleeping like a stone. He sighed and then made some food, eating by himself while he just ignored the person lying to his feet. In any case, he was unconscious and would continue to be so for a while. What was there to worry about?

When Zhan Cheng finally woke up again, it was already late in the evening.

There was a bowl of rice standing on the table that was still giving off a hint of steam but nothing could be seen of the witch. Zhan Cheng immediately sat up in a swift motion and looked around, but he was clearly alone and the small hut.

He sat there in a daze for a moment before he finally got up, and folded the blanket, putting it on the chair next to him. Then, he went to the door to look outside.

He didn’t need to go any further. Gongliang Ye was sitting on the steps of the small staircase outside, looking up into the sky. The afternoon sun was painting a faint pattern on his skin or maybe it was just illuminating what had already been there. In any case, this was once again a reminder that he wasn’t quite human.

The witch turned around when he heard the steps behind him and faintly raised his brows. “Did you eat?”

Zhan Cheng shook his head. “I woke up and you weren’t there.” He stared at the witch, his gaze brushing over that pattern on his skin. Had it already been there yesterday? He couldn’t tell.

Gongliang Ye nodded and then motioned inside. “I made you something to eat. You should better pad your stomach before you leave.”

Zhan Cheng looked up to the sky and realized that, yes, if he left now, he might make it back to the city before night fell. He didn’t move from the spot though. “I slept quite a long time.”

Gongliang Ye didn’t bother to say anything to that. In any case, he had warned him before he fell asleep. This man should’ve expected as much. And anyway, it was quite obvious, wasn’t it?

Seeing that Gongliang Ye didn’t seem to want to talk to him, Zhan Cheng turned back around and hurriedly sat down at the table, bowing his head to eat. He had probably long overstayed his welcome.

The thought made him pause and he had trouble gulping down the plain rice but after a moment, he just bowed his head further, eating the rest. After finishing up, he went back outside and crouched down next to the witch. “Thank you. I really owe you for this.”

Gongliang Ye gave him a long look. “As I said before: This is what I do. So there is no need for any payment or thanks. Just return home and try not to get yourself into the same situation again.”

Zhan Cheng nodded but didn’t quite intend to do so. Well, aside from trying to stay out of trouble. He definitely didn’t want to make the acquaintance of another ghost. He did get up though and then left with another look at Gongliang Ye.

Right now, he still wasn’t quite back to normal. He would need more rest, more food, and then, he would be able to do things again normally. At the moment, he was nothing else but a bother to the witch. Naturally, he couldn’t let that happen. He wanted to repay him, not be an additional burden to him.

As it turned out soon enough, Zhan Cheng had made the right call. Even though he felt a little better already compared to the previous evening when Gongliang Ye had just banished the ghost, he was still extremely weak. It really felt like an illness and it was hard to imagine that he was supposed to already have the worst part behind him.

After the march back to the city, where he arrived right before the gates were closed, Zhan Cheng already felt completely powerless. He had trouble putting one foot in front of the other and his body seemed to be weighed down by an invisible hand that threatened to press him flat on the ground if he stumbled even a little.

He sighed deeply and fought to keep his eyes open, afraid that he would just keel over if he did. He couldn’t let that happen though. People knew where he had been. Returning while he looked like this was bad enough but if he really lost consciousness and stayed like that for half a day, then the witch would get into trouble.

He drew some strength out of that thought and dragged himself home, grabbing a bite to eat from a vendor along the way that hadn’t yet managed to pack everything up. Back in his own home, he sat down, quietly munching on the food.

He had only gotten some leftovers so it couldn’t be called great but when he thought of Gongliang Ye who would probably be eating plain rice again for the third time today with nothing else to accompany it, he actually felt that he was still living rather well.

In any case, for him, this situation would only last until tomorrow. Then, when he woke up again, he could go out and get whatever he wanted. For Gongliang Ye, on the other hand … He didn’t even dare to think about how long it had been since he had had anything else for a meal.

He definitely had to show his appreciation for what the witch had done for him by bringing something over as soon as he was doing better. Even though Gongliang Ye had said that he didn’t need a reward, this just wasn’t right. He owed him and even if he didn’t, the witch deserved something better.

Promising this to himself, Zhan Cheng finally went to sleep. Once again, he didn’t wake up in the morning and instead slept until it was almost noon. When he stood up, he felt like a bit of strength had been returned to his body even though he still wasn’t back to normal.

He found something to eat and then rested up a bit more before he went out to stroll through the city, gathering a few provisions. He didn’t want to make things too obvious so he only bought a few different things in smaller quantities, making it seem as if he was just stocking up on things that he had run low on.

When he had gathered everything, he went back home, and then went to sleep again. Not to mention that it was late in the evening by now, he also didn’t trust himself that he would already be able to make the way over to the witch’s house.

Ah, this kind of life … it was kind of tiring even though he felt like he wasn’t doing much else besides eating and sleeping.

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