Last chapter recap: They capture the murderer. Kong Hou starts asking questions.
This chapter has been brought to you by me, and Adnana.
Chapter 31: Gift
Seeing Huan Zhong seemingly unable to react, Kong Hou immediately realized: Huan Zhong was afflicted with illness, and may not have interacted much with disciples of his sect. He might not even know who she was referring to with her spare description.
“That Spirit Master Zhong Xi who has reached Mind Dividing cultivation at three hundred years old, who is able to topple mountains and overturn seas with a sword strike.” Kong Hou looked at Huan Zhong pleadingly. “Do you have any impression of him?”
“Is… is there something wrong with him?” Huan Zhong and Kong Hou sat down at a nearby table, the silent Lin Hu pouring two cups of tea for them.
“He is nine feet tall—is the door of his cave residence higher than other disciples’?” Kong Hou held her teacup, her voice curious. “I’ve never seen someone so tall, and I’m just a bit curious.”
“Nine feet tall, eyes like lightning…” Huan Zhong looked at Kong Hou, his brows furrowing slightly. He became slightly melancholy. “Who told you he looked like that?”
“Everyone says it. Supposedly, this Spirit Master Zhong Xi is so ferocious that enemies will wet themselves…” Kong Hou felt that the words were not elegant so she changed her words. “—will go weak in the knees in fright. He is the strongest cultivator in the last thousand years. Harmonious City has books specifically about Spirit Master Zhong Xi. They sell very well.”
“What else?” Huan Zhong asked.
“What else?” Kong Hou stilled. She thought back to how that book had described Spirit Master Zhong Xi. “And that he can fight one against five, and can kill above his cultivation stage; that he is very strong. Just that… his appearance is average.”
With a bam, the teacup in Lin Hu’s hand fell to the table. He picked up the teacup with a stiff expression. “Apologies, my hand slipped.”
Kong Hou lent her handkerchief to him. She turned and asked Huan Zhong, “Are you on good terms with this Spirit Master Zhong Xi?”
Huan Zhong slowly shook his head.
Kong Hou sighed in relief and felt that this conversation could continue. “Nine feet tall means he is much taller than us, and his bones will be especially thick. His eyes are as big as bells. If he can make enemies weak at the knees in fear, it means that he is not good-looking. Therefore, the experiences of Spirit Master Zhong Xi tell us one thing.”
“What?” Lin Hu who was wiping the table turned to look at her.
“The heavens are fair. He possesses talent that all cultivators admire, but the heavens will shortchange him on his appearance.” Kong Hou’s voice was full of regret. “People who are good-looking and also talented are really rare in this world.”
Huan Zhong laughed upon hearing this. “Then you are definitely the exception.”
“Huh?” Kong Hou stilled and then she smiled, “Huan Zhong, you are complimenting me for being good-looking?”
Huan Zhong nodded with a small smile. This smile was so good-looking that no matter what he said, other people would feel that he was full of sincerity.
Propping her face on her hands, Kong Hou said, “So the heavens gave me a terrible father. If Master had not brought me to the cultivation world, right now, I would have been married off in a peace treaty, or I would be praying in a monastery. Those would be the best outcomes. Maybe I wouldn’t even have had a chance to survive to adulthood.”
When Emperor Jinghong won the hearts of the people, she, a mascot of the previous dynasty, would become dispensable. Even if she died of illness, that would not attract any attention.
Huan Zhong did not see any fury and unwillingness from Kong Hou, but a kind of relief and joy.
“People have to learn to be satisfied and to treasure what they have. Letting go of what they have lost will make them much happier.” Kong Hou saw the waiter come with dishes and picked up chopsticks from the chopsticks holder. All of her mind focused on food.
Looking at her smile, Huan Zhong smiled as well.
“The rumors are false.”
“Pardon?” Kong Hou looked with puzzlement at Huan Zhong, not understanding what the words meant.
“I mean the rumors about Spirit Master Zhong Xi are false. He is not nine feet tall. His eyes…” He coughed, a fist at his lips to suppress his smile. “His eyes are not like lightning.”
“So that storybook lied to me?” Kong Hou put down her chopsticks. She bit her lip and said, “The book said it recorded the real exploits of Spirit Master Zhong Xi—where is it true?”
Huan Zhong finally could not control his laughter. “Spirit Master Zhong Xi is a man, and he has Mind Dividing cultivation—those are not wrong.”
Kong Hou: “…”
She did not feel she was comforted.
In the other inn, Chang De spent money to rent a courtyard. He and the other outer sect disciples lived on the east side, while Ling Bo and her servant girls lived on the west side. A large room in the middle of the courtyard was used for guests and for receiving friends. At this moment, everyone was in the large room. Chang De’s expression was dark and ugly. Ling Bo sat on a chair with red eyes. The outer sect disciples did not dare to breathe loudly. The atmosphere was extremely heavy.
“When we return this time, I will tell Master what you have done in these recent days,” Chang De said with a grave expression. “Think whether you acted appropriately in this matter.”
“But if I talk to them nicely, will they listen to me?” Ling Bo argued. “Should I let people say that Clear Dawn Sect is easy to bully, that we will not pursue after one of ours has been killed, and will allow the culprit to leave under our eyes?”
“There are many ways to investigate the truth; you used the most terrible one.” Chang De sighed helplessly. “You could have pressured the mayor of Mound City, and have him find the culprit as fast as possible.” The mayor of Mound City would certainly not dare to offend Clear Dawn Sect. When he performed his investigation, he would definitely do his best, and Shimei only had to watch from the side. That way, Clear Dawn Sect’s face would not be lost, and she would not have offended people
He hadn’t thought that Shimei would be so impulsive as to turn a very simple matter into this.
“The mayor of Mound City has low cultivation and no daring—what could he find?” Ling Bo looked down on the mayor of Mound City. “If I relied on him to find the culprit, I do not know how long I would have to wait.”
“Even if he is not good, Splendid Cloud Sect is behind him.” Seeing that Shimei still did not understand, Chang De could not help but suspect that this shimei‘s talents were all spent on her pentad spirit base, and none on her mind. “When you did this, we turned from the sympathetic victims into arrogant oppressors, do you understand?”
“Who cares how those small sects think of us,” Ling Bo muttered in a small voice. “Even if they are unhappy, they can only endure.”
“What if you meet someone unwilling and who also has higher cultivation than you?” Chang De asked in response. “When something happens to you, even if the sect gets revenge for you, will you come back unharmed?”
“They-they would not dare?” Ling Bo’s tone was slightly uncertain.
“Then you explain why sometimes disciples of the major sects will die when out travelling.” Chang De stood. “Tonight, reflect. Tomorrow afternoon at the banquet, stand up and apologize to everyone. Otherwise, people will say you are arrogant. The path of cultivation is long. Do you want this kind of reputation to follow you for a lifetime?”
Ling Bo did not speak, her face tense.
“You should rejoice that no one from Radiance Sect was present. Our Clear Dawn Sect is strong, but we cannot afford to offend Radiance Sect.” Thinking about those sword cultivators of Radiance Sect who rarely acted, but if they did, mountains fell and the earth cracked, Chang De couldn’t help but rub his face.
“That Kong Hou of Splendid Cloud Sect…”
“The disciples of Splendid Cloud Sect mostly have easy-going personalities. As long as you are not outrageous, they will not care.” Chang De saw Ling Bo finally react and felt better. “So I say you should rejoice you encountered a disciple of Splendid Cloud Sect today. If you had encountered a disciple of Radiance Sect, when the summit of sects occurs, Radiance Sect will mention things about the conduct and speech of sect disciples. We would have been the ones shamed then.”
Ling Bo said resentfully, “Shixiong, I know I was wrong.”
“Go to rest.” Chang De sighed. “Do not be so impulsive in the future.”
Ling Bo’s face felt hot. She felt that the outer sect disciples present were laughing at her. She hurriedly nodded and left.
On the afternoon of the next day, Huan Zhong stayed for a long time in his room and did not hear Kong Hou knocking on his door. He worried that something had happened to her during meditation and sent Lin Hu to ask. After a while, Lin Hu came back. “Master, Miss Kong Hou says she will be ready in an hour.”
Huan Zhong felt that his expression was slightly strange. “What is it?”
“Miss Kong Hou is dressing up. She says she cannot lose to Celestial Ling Bo. This concerns the honor of a woman and the sect.” Lin Hu did not understand what dressing up had to do with honor.
Huan Zhong stilled. He also did not understand.
An hour later, Kong Hou knocked on the door. Huan Zhong opened her door and found Kong Hou had put on a wide-sleeved celestial dress. She shone, and appeared much more beautiful than usual. But other than her hair and clothing, he could not tell where she was different.
“Come back.” Kong Hou waved a hand in front of his eyes. As she waved, he smelled a faint fragrance.
“Apologies.” Huan Zhong felt that it was not polite to stare at someone like this. He hurriedly moved away. “Should we leave now.?”
“Yes, I made you wait long.” Kong Hou smiled. Stars seemed to shine in her eyes.
For Huan Zhong who had no sense of female beauty, for the first time, he recognized what was beauty. He was not skilled at complimenting a woman’s appearance and had never done it before, so he could only say awkwardly, “Very beautiful.”
“Thank you.” Kong Hou’s smile became even brighter. No woman disliked people complimenting them, especially after she had worked on it for an hour. At least, she felt that she had not worked an hour for nothing.
Star Tower was the most famous restaurant in Mound City. They were famed for their high prices, good service, and how all of their food brimmed with spirit energy. Eating here was not just for eating—this represented their status or identity.
Many cultivators skimped on their clothing and food for seals, medicine, and talismans. They would not bear to spend large sums of spirit stones on a place like this. So the cultivators that Ling Bo had forcibly kept at the inn anticipated attending this banquet.
Kong Hou and Huan Zhong were slightly late. When they appeared, everyone else had basically arrived. As the sect eldest disciple of Clear Dawn Sect, Chang De stood at the door and welcomed guests. In terms of conduct, Chang De was much better than Ling Bo.
However, the genius cultivators all had strange personalities. The cultivators with high cultivation were rarely sociable. It was not strange for someone like Chang De who had good cultivation and was skilled in engaging others to be the sect eldest disciple.
Seeing Kong Hou, Huan Zhong and Lin Hu arrive, Chang De went forward warmly. “Three Path Friends, please be seated.”
“Thank you, Path Friend Chang De, for inviting us.” Kong Hou stepped into Star Tower and finally understood why this tower was called like this. Formations set up in the tower were full of spirit energy which gathered into stars under the roof. They shone like real stars.
“Please follow me.” Chang De led the three up the tower. After going upstairs, Kong Hou saw Ling Bo who was being fawned over by the cultivators. These cultivator had been full of complaints about Ling Bo yesterday, but today, they started to flatter her.
Male cultivators were always exceptionally tolerant of beautiful female cultivators. Today, Ling Bo just stood up and said a few words of apology. They all said they would stop arguing about it, and called her celestial with great enthusiasm.
Kong Hou’s arrival caused the male cultivators to become even more excited. If Kong Hou did not have Huan Zhong, who was both handsome and of unknown identity, they would have surrounded her.
When Ling Bo saw Kong Hou, her smile faded slightly. Fortunately, she had dressed specially when she came out today, otherwise, Kong Hou would have won. She had not expected the other to be so devious at such a young age, to have carefully selected even her earrings.
“Celestial Kong Hou.” Ling Bo walked forward with a smile, taking hold of Kong Hou’s hand. She said warmly, “You finally arrived. I was just worried that you were delayed by matters and could not attend.”
“With a beautiful jiejie here, how could I bear not to come?” Kong Hou smiled and exchanged a few more words with Ling Bo. She, Huan Zhong, and Lin Hu sat down at a table. She covered her mouth and said by Huan Zhong’s ear, “Lucky that I dressed up today. That Celestial Ling Bo examined me from top to bottom ten times.”
Sensing a fragrant wave of hot air on his ear, Huan Zhong felt that half of his face heated as well. He didn’t even hear what Kong Hou said.
“While my intuition tells me that this Celestial Ling Bo might not like me very much, she is a beauty, and her face will make me feel happy.” Kong Hou picked up a teacup and took a sip. Many delicious dishes were laid out on the table, but she was reserved and did not casually move her chopsticks like she did when she was alone with Huan Zhong.
“You are very good.” Huan Zhong said this with great seriousness. In his view Kong Hou was lively, innocent, and there was nothing to dislike about her.
Kong Hou smiled, pleased. “Yes, you are also very good.”
Chang De paid attention to Kong Hou and Huan Zhong as he talked with the guests. Huan Zhong’s identity was unknown. He was not one of Splendid Cloud Sect’s disciples. Was he in a relationship with Kong Hou? Kong Hou was the most talented pentad spirit base disciple of Splendid Cloud Sect. How could Splendid Cloud Sect allow her to have a romance with other men and affect her cultivation?
Just as he looked once more towards Kong Hou and Huan Zhong, Huan Zhong suddenly raised his head and met his gaze. The other looked aloof. Seeing Chang De looking at him, he did not evade, and made Chang De feel awkward. He raised a winecup and toasted Huan Zhong from afar.
But Huan Zhong only glanced at him before lowering his head, naturally not raising his own cup to return the toast.
Chang De felt extremely embarrassed. His hand tightened around his winecup as he barely maintained his composure. Then he turned and continued to talk with other people as though this incident had never occurred. However, after this matter, he stopped sneaking looks at Kong Hou for the rest of the banquet.
This meal pleased both the host and the guests. The cultivators present now praised Clear Dawn Sect, Chang De and Ling Bo.
From these people, Kong Hou understood another truth. People’s minds changed easily. In front of status and personal interest, one’s likes and dislikes could reverse just like the weather in summer. Even the cultivator who Ling Bo had hit to the ground yesterday morning was laughing with his mouth wide open after Chang De praised him and gave him a bottle of pills.
The banquet ended. Kong Hou stood and bid farewell to the disciples of Clear Dawn Sect. Walking out of Star Tower, she exhaled deeply.
“Fortunately, I did not enter an argument with Ling Bo on behalf of that injured cultivator. Otherwise, I would have acted the villain for nothing.” Kong Hou put her hands behind her back, her tone slightly aloof.
“You are not happy?” Huan Zhong saw that Kong Hou’s emotions were not high.
“Not unhappy.” Kong Hou shook her head. “I just feel that the outside world is much more complex than I imagined.”
Huan Zhong tried to comfort her. After thinking for a while, he said, “That’s all right. I will accompany you to travel more, and you will find that this is normal.”
Lin Hu looked silently at him. Master, if you do not know how to comfort someone, do not speak.
“Yes.” Kong Hou thought for a moment. “You are right; I am too inexperienced.”
Lin Hu’s expression turned stiff. He rejoiced that he did not like talking.
“There is a regional cuisine shop over there.” Kong Hou suddenly became happy again. “Huan Zhong, wait here for a moment. I’m going to buy something.”
Huan Zhong watched as Kong Hou ran to the shop. He hesitated and followed. Seeing her buy a variety of things, he asked in puzzlement, “Why are you buying these for?”
“To mail back to Master and the others.” Kong Hou took out spirit stones to hand to the shopkeeper. “I asked around before coming out. Many cities have post offices that can deliver things.”
“Miss, the post office is over on the street by the west. You have a lot of things, and you are sending them to the same place, so you will get a good price.” The shopkeeper was in a good mood at having sold so many things. He handed a token to Kong Hou. “Our shop has a good relationship with the post office. Take this token, and they will give you twenty percent off.”
“Thank you, Shopkeeper.” Kong Hou put away the token and shoved what she had bought into her storage ring. She asked Huan Zhong, “The shop merchandise is good—are you buying anything?”
Huan Zhong looked around the items on the shelves. There were no rare pills or talismans, just some local delicacies and hand-crafted articles unique to Mound City which were not as refined as the things in the sect.
“My master and shixiong will definitely worry after I leave the sect. These things are not worth much, but after they receive them, they will be very happy.” Kong Hou seemed to see her master and shixiong‘s happy appearances, and her smile grew.
“Shopkeeper, give me…” Huan Zhong pointed expressionlessly at several items on the shelves “—twenty of each.”
“All right!” The shopkeeper was extremely happy. He liked foreign cultivators that bought local products. They were brisk and they bought a lot. His shop was supported completely by these foreign cultivators.
Two days later, the sect master of Radiance Sect, the peak masters, and some disciples heard a supervisor report that a flying sword messenger from the Mound City Postage Office was asking for an audience.
They were extremely puzzled. Flying sword messenger?
Translator Ramblings: By a vote of 13 to 10, choice 1 wins. I’ll put up another chapter sometime this week.
Chang De is a good elder disciple to help Ling Bo understand her actions and the possible consequences.