Please read chapter 1 first.
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Chapter 2: Lie
Kong Hou had once hidden away two cultivation storybooks in her room. One was about a kind swordsman who helped the poor and the weak. One day, he helped a dirty and smelly old man who was being bullied. In truth, this old person was an immortal in disguise. To reward this swordsman’s kindness, he gave the swordsman an immortal pill. After the swordsman ate the immortal pill, he immediately became an immortal and went to the heavens to be an immortal official.
The other story was even more bizarre. The protagonist was an ordinary hunter. He accidentally fell off a cliff and found a cultivation manual. He then stepped onto the path of cultivation. On this path of cultivation, the hunter experienced countless hardships. An expert took him as the last apprentice 1. In the end, he became the leader of the orthodox immortal sects, admired by countless male cultivators and beloved by countless female cultivators. But Kong Hou’s storybook did not have an ending. She wanted to know if this hunter managed to ascend and become immortal in the end.
For Kong Hou who did not have the opportunity to encounter too many folk tales, these two stories were spectacular. When young, she would occasionally fantasize on some rare night that an immortal would come from the heavens, say that she was a rare cultivation talent, and take her as an apprentice.
When she first had this fantasy, she couldn’t even recognize all the words, and she needed to guess as she read those two books. Now, she could recite these two books from start to end, but no immortal had come.
In the past, before she fell asleep at night, she would murmur, when would Grandpa Immortal come see her. Now, she was not a young child of six or seven anymore. So she learned control and would only murmur occasionally.
She continued to murmur but no immortal ever came.
Instead, the female official found her hidden stories. The teacher punished her to copy books for a month and said that, as a princess of the previous dynasty, she should not read such lowly and common books.
Teacher said that a child should not talk about gods and monsters.
But Kong Hou felt that Teacher was lying as in the years after Emperor Jinghong took the throne, he would worship the heavens each year. He also liked to use miracles to emphasize how important the heavens thought of him, and the palace attendants would frequently say that His Majesty was fated by the heavens.
Adults were always so hypocritical and duplicitous.
Kong Hou sneered at their ways. Of course, only in secret.
When the silver light above the palace grew brighter, Kong Hou looked unblinkingly at the light descending towards the court. Was this for her?
The silver light was so strong that Kong Hou’s eyes felt painful. She hurriedly rubbed her left eye but kept her right eye open. When her left eye felt better, she hurriedly opened it and then rubbed her right eye.
The immortal definitely… maybe was coming for her?
The court could not react to such a phenomenon. Emperor Jinghong stood up from his throne without any composure and looked wildly at the sky.
The emperor was a hero and pursued power and beauties. After possessing both, he started to have delusions of immortality. Emperor Jinghong was a qualified emperor. He had both the ambition and desire an emperor should possess.
The silver light gradually landed, and an old person dressed in grey robes appeared. The old person had black hair and a young appearance, and no sword or talisman. However, the ethereal aura he possessed caused the emperor and the others present to believe this was an immortal.
“Honored Immortal has made this lowly country full of light by descending here.” Emperor Jinghong walked quickly forward, but even in his joy, he stopped five paces away from the immortal. He was an extremely wary man. Even though the other was an “immortal,” this was no exception. He bowed deeply. Emperor Jinghong said, “Honored Immortal, please sit.”
The immortal raised a hand. “No need.”
Hearing the immortal’s words, everyone felt terrified. The immortal was so cold to His Majesty. Were the heavens displeased with His Majesty for stealing the throne of the previous dynasty? But the previous generations of emperors had been useless, and the people had been in a terrible situation. If they hadn’t rebelled, how could they live?
As though he guessed what those people thought, the immortal caressed his beard. “I came today to thank one person here.”
Hearing this, everyone became excited. They wanted that person to be them. Who didn’t want to have a connection to an immortal? Fortunately, they remembered their status and did not let their expressions turn too excited.
Emperor Jinghong was slightly disappointed, but at least the immortal was not discontent that he had overthrown the previous dynasty. He was reassured. Turning his head, he looked at the officials below. Official Zhang had a reputation for benevolence, Official Li frequently donated to the common people, Official Wang had received an umbrella of ten thousand people before he was transferred back to Jing. 2 He wondered who had such good fortune.
“Who does Honored Immortal want to find?” Emperor Jinghong was extremely generous. If the immortal wanted to thank one of his subjects, it was of benefit to him.
“A child.” The immortal smiled. “I owe them karma.”
The children here were only the imperial children and grandchildren. Emperor Jinghong was extremely reassured. “Which of zhen‘s 3 descendants has such fate with Honored Immortal?”
Blocked by the adults, Kong Hou went on her tiptoes. She wanted to see the immortal but was pulled back by an imperial granddaughter.
The imperial granddaughter was just eight years old and her words were straightforward and blunt. “You are a princess of the former dynasty—don’t attempt to go forward.” Her imperial grandfather was the son of the heavens. Then the person the immortal owed could only be the imperial children and grandchildren.
The palace attendant next to the imperial granddaughter saw this and pressed Kong Hou back into her seat, not letting her stand up. The previous emperor had been incompetent, and his daughter was naturally born with sin. They couldn’t let the immortal see a sinful person.
Kong Hou was not willing. “They will come for me. I sent wishes to the Immortals.”
The imperial sons and grandsons sneered in low voices, “How would the Honored Immortal come to take an evil person of the previous dynasty like you? Your Ji family couldn’t even keep the country, yet you dare to desire immortality?”
Kong Hou’s eyes widened and she said, “You…”
The palace attendant covered her mouth with a hand, and she could not make a sound. The imperial sons and grandsons laughed at her disheveled state. When the palace attendants called them to see the immortal, they adjusted their clothing and walked over politely.
Watching as they moved away, Kong Hou wanted to pull at the corner of their clothing. However, they walked quickly and disappeared into the back of the crowd. Kong Hou thought, maybe the immortal will soon take an imperial son or daughter and not know that she had made a wish.
A soft-hearted palace attendant felt pity seeing Kong Hou being pressed down by the palace attendants. She said in a small voice, “Your Highness, please do not, avoid…”
If His Majesty and the Empress learned this princess of the previous dynasty dared to go near the immortal, after the immortal left, this princess of the previous dynasty would not be able to stay alive.
Kong Hou shed tears from her round eyes. This was the first time she cried after she had been made Princess Pingning by the present emperor. She cried silently, her tears dropping down, wetting the hands of the palace attendant and flowing into the blue sleeves.
Her mother-empress had said to Kong Hou, before cutting her own throat, to live, to live with a smile.
She had listened, but today, she could not help it. Her tears did not listen to her; she couldn’t do anything, she could not get them to stop.
Gazing at the crowd blocking in front of her, Kong Hou continued to blink. She wanted her tears to listen and go back. She wanted her vision to grow clearer, yet her tears flowed down her cheeks and her vision blurred.
Suddenly, the thick wall of people seemed to receive a shock. They swayed right and left, and even opened her her field of view. Kong Hou did her best to open her eyes and looked at the blurry grey figure in front of her.
Wang Tong bent down and took Kong Hou from the palace attendant’s arms. He turned and looked at the crowd. “This girl is who I owe.”
The entire hall was stunned. The officials had never thought that the one who had fate with the immortal was the only survivor of the previous imperial family.
“Honored Immortal…” Emperor Jinghong looked at the disheveled Kong Hou. “This girl is zhen‘s foster daughter, Princess Pingning.”
Wang Tong patted the girl he held against his shoulder. He took out a cloak and put it on her body. He said to Emperor Jinghong, “This girl has karma with me.”
Emperor Jinghong said unthinkingly, “It is my daughter’s good fortunate to have karma with Honored Immortal. How about having her serve at Honored Immortal’s side and sharing Honored Immortal’s tribulations?”
Wang Tong could see that this mortal emperor did not care about this little girl, but he was a cultivator and did not desire to involve himself in this. He said coolly, “I see this girl has no parental karma with Your Majesty; taking her away is suitable.”
Emperor Jinghong felt slightly embarrassed. He was the first emperor of the dynasty—how could he have any parental karma with the bloodline of the previous dynasty? He just wanted to get some connection to the immortal. His face heated because the immortal had ruthlessly exposed this, but the reason he had managed to obtain the country was due to his shamelessness. He immediately changed his words. “Honored Immortal is correct.”
The imperial sons and grandsons who had bullied Kong Hou previously hid behind the palace attendants. They didn’t dare to have the immortal see them, nor have Kong Hou see them.
“Since this is the case, then I will leave.” After Wang Tong said this, he immediately flew away, stepping on clouds. Emperor Jinghong saw the immortal’s magic and made a full prostration without any thought. “Farewell, Honored Immortal.”
Within the immortal’s embrace, Kong Hou peeked down. At this moment, the high-ranking emperor seemed so low and humble, minuscule and not worth a mention.
“No need to look—your mortal connections are broken now. The matters of this mortal world have nothing to do with you.” Wang Tong patted the girl’s hair and caused her already loose hairbuns to completely disperse.
Kong Hou said, her face flushing, “I usually eat a lot.”
Wang Tong laughed and said, “Are you afraid I cannot afford to raise you?”
“I, I’m afraid you will get tired carrying me.”
Wang Tong looked down at the girl’s wide eyes. “How can a cultivator be so useless?”
Kong Hou peeked at this immortal and found him slightly familiar. She thought for a long time but did not remember any memories connected to this immortal. Had they met in dreams before?
Then it must be that the immortal heard her bedtime wishes.
“Honored Immortal, did you come for me because you heard my wish?”
Wang Tong looked down at the little girl’s eyes filled with anticipation and yearning.
“Ah.” Wang Tong nodded awkwardly.
This child’s eyes were so beautiful that he, an old man who had lived for many centuries, did not bear to disappoint her. Fortunately, he was not a monk, and this minor little lie was with good intentions.
Could a white lie of a cultivator count as a lie?
- The “last apprentice” or the “door closing disciple” meant that this was the last apprentice the teacher would ever take. ↩
- It was a tradition in ancient China that officials who were leaving their job would receive an umbrella with signatures from local people as a gift of gratitude for their good governance and contribution, hence the nickname “ten-thousand people umbrella”. (From https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/%E6%B8%85%E6%9C%AB%E4%B8%87%E6%B0%91%E4%BC%9E/SAH9VPljCsgr3g?hl) ↩
- 朕 Zhen is a third-person appellation used by emperors, similar to the royal “we.” ↩