Last chapter recap: Kong Hou has a dream.
This chapter has been brought to you by me, and Adnana.
Chapter 47: Mind Activation Stage
The ordeal clouds grew denser, as though they were about to become tangible and pound down from the sky. The cultivators who had only planned to watch gripped their talismans, sweat soaking their backs.
Under the ordeal clouds, Huan Zhong did not move in the courtyard. His eyes narrowed slightly, and with a wave of his right hand, he clasped his lifebond sword in his hand. The sword trembled slightly in his hand, its energies spreading as it gave off a roar like a dragon. The wind blew at his robe, the snowy-white cloth twisting and turning golden in the sunset.
Huan Zhong held up a hand and interrupted Lin Hu’s words. He said without looking, “No need to speak.”
Lin Hu pressed his lips together. “Yes.” He took out his own lifebond sword. He looked towards the ordeal clouds, his clothing flapping in the wind. At this moment, he hoped more than anything that Miss Kong Hou could safely pass the dream ordeal. He turned back and looked at the other cultivators holding their talismans. These cultivators were mostly in Base Building and Mind Activation Stage. Usually, he would think nothing of these people because they were too minuscule and ordinary.
But these ordinary cultivators were willing to stand up at this moment and expend spirit energy for someone unrelated to them. Lin Hu felt both surprised and moved.
Did cultivation really represent everything?
In the palace, the snarling emperor and the terrified officials seemed to be separated by a curtain of water. She and they seemed to be standing in two different worlds. Kong Hou extended a hand to touch the water curtain. Her hand passed through the water curtain and only touched emptiness.
There was nothing behind the water curtain—no golden palace, no emperor, no officials. She stood in the void, a grey world stretching out endlessly around her.
Thunder sounded. She raised her head and saw a bolt of lightning heading towards her like a giant dragon. The face of the giant dragon was the snarling face of her father-emperor.
She had learned not to be terrified, she had received love, and learned it. As a cultivator, one did not need just braveness—they also needed to feel love for the world. When she understood this, Kong Hou summoned her lifebond talisman Phoenix Head, and collided with the lightning.
The ordeal lightning struck down, the giant waves of air blowing hard past everyone. Huan Zhong looked at the sky and raised his sword. Base Building to Mind Activation Stage. If one passed safely, the Heavens would only send down one ordeal lightning bolt. If one had an unstable mental state, three would come down. When these three strikes came down, the majority of cultivators would not be able to withstand them. Their spirit platforms would be destroyed, or they would die. The elders of some sects would protect disciples during their ordeal. If the disciple could not hold on, the elder would take on the ensuing two strikes for the disciple. This way, even if the disciple did not successfully pass the ordeal, they could keep their spirit platform and their life.
After the first order lightning bolt came down, everyone entered a battle state. The black clouds twisted in the sky, lightning flashing as though it was gathering power for a strike. Everyone felt pity. They did not know how long the path friend who was experiencing this ordeal would need to recover afterward.
Seeing the second bolt of lightning about to come down, Huan Zhong flew onto the roof.
The wind rose, and only the last ray of light was left of the sunset.
The second bolt of lightning brewed for a long time but did not strike down. It turned into a burst of wind mixed with the virtue rain. Soon all of Yi City was shrouded by the rain.
At Nameless Medicine Hut, the tea boy looked at the rain outside. “Forebear, which cultivator successfully passed their ordeal?”
The chair swung slightly. Spirit Master Nameless opened his eyes, raised a hand, and said, “Go get basins, and get the rain.” Using this kind of water to make pills was beneficial.
The medicine servants went into the courtyard with containers to catch rainwater. Spirit Master Nameless looked at the darkening sky, snorted, and closed his eyes again.
“Forebear, the cultivators from a week ago have missed their appointment.” The tea boy sat on the stairs. “The next time they come, should I beat them out of the door with a stick?”
Spirit Master Nameless said without opening his eyes, “Even I cannot defeat those three. If you have that kind of bravery, do it.”
“So strong?” The boy laughed. “They are guests. While they are not reliable, I also will not fight at the slightest conflict. If this spreads, it will ruin Forebear’s reputation.”
Seeing Forebear ignoring him, the boy felt slightly embarrassed. He turned and ran into the yard with a large bowl to catch rainwater.
The cultivators around the inn had not expected that the cultivator in the courtyard would pass the dream ordeal. They only realized it was all over when the cold rainwater landed on their bodies. The cultivators on the trees jumped down and ran to open spaces to bathe in the rain. Some men even took off their outer robes and revealed their upper bodies.
This was rain after a dream ordeal. It had a greater amount of spirit energy than the rain after normal ordeals.
In the room where the lightning had created a big hole, a white hand stretched out from the wreckage and patted around. It only touched shattered brick and cold rain. Kong Hou was still slightly bewildered. She had been sleeping and then was struck by lightning?
She pushed away the wood pressing on her body. Kong Hou climbed out of the wreckage. Countless curious pairs of eyes stared at her, and frightened her into moving several steps back. Where did these people come from? They all came to see her get struck by lightning?
“It’s all right.” Huan Zhong put a brocade robe giving off a faint medicinal fragrance over her. Huan Zhong bent down and extended his hand to her. “You cannot stay in this room. Come with me.”
Kong Hou gave her hand to Huan Zhong and found that her hand was dirty. She had also transferred the dirt to Huan Zhong’s clean hand. She felt slightly embarrassed but Huan Zhong did not seem to notice this. He used his other hand to pull the outer robe higher on her. “Are you uncomfortable anywhere?”
Kong Hou shook her head.
“Path Friends, please return. We need to clean up this place, and will not interrupt everyone’s rest.” Lin Hu saw Kong Hou follow Master to the neighboring room without noticing the men who had taken off their clothes to stand in the rain. He bowed to everyone. “Path Friends, thank you for your concern.”
Those men who had taken off their clothing were slightly embarrassed. They had thought it was a male cultivator, not a young girl. Without needing Lin Hu to urge them, they squeezed out of the yard holding their clothing and caused a wave of laughter.
After ushering Kong Hou to the neighboring room, Huan Zhong saw that she was dripping water. Even the robe he had put on her was wet. He moved to the door. “Change first; I will come back later.”
Kong Hou looked down at herself and found her clothing was both dirty and damaged, as though she had rolled on the ground before crawling back up. She took out a mirror to check her face. Her face was covered in dust, her hair in snarls. She looked extremely disheveled.
Her hand trembled as she held the mirror. Her appearance… ruined…
Last night, after receiving the merpeople scales the sect master had mailed, she had fallen asleep. She had gone into sleep with a smile at the affection the sect had towards her, and the fact that Huan Zhong’s illness now showed hope. She had only refused her mother’s request in her dream and decided to oppose her father-emperor’s decision—why was she struck by lightning?
Was the world so strict even in dreams?
Temporarily, there was no hot water. Kong Hou only cast a cleaning spell on herself even though she always felt as though she had not been cleaned after using it. But for the sake of her appearance, she could only ignore this.
She changed into a clean dress and put Huan Zhong’s wide robe to the side. Kong Hou could almost still smell the faint medicinal fragrance on it. The rain outside had not stopped. Just by the sound of the rain, she could almost see the paths the rain fell down on and feel the spirit energy contained in the rain.
Kong Hou sat down cross-legged and found her spirit platform was much stronger. Her five-colored spirit energy twined around the spirit platform and protected it securely. At the center of the spirit platform, a five-colored ball of spirit energy seemed on the verge of manifesting.
She had reached Mind Activation Stage?
Kong Hou finally understood. No wonder her senses were much more sensitive and the rain outside contained spirit energy. A few days ago, she had completed Base Building Stage. She thought she would need two or three years in order to reach Mind Activation Stage. She had not expected to pass her ordeal without any warning in her dreams.
Opening her eyes, she thought back to what occurred before she slept. There hadn’t seemed to be anything different. At most…
She had been excited when looking at the merpeople scales. She was happy on Huan Zhong’s behalf and also for herself. The sect’s trust in her was more valuable than anything. Was it because she received great care and affection from the sect that her mental state had advanced?
A person who received love would love others.
Kong Hou uncoiled her legs and crouched. A long time later, she laughed softly. How lucky was she to have received this valuable care and love. Maybe the heavens saw her unluckiness, so she encountered Master and Splendid Cloud Sect.
“Kong Hou, are you done?” Huan Zhong’s deep voice sounded outside the door.
Huan Zhong pushed open the door and entered. He saw Kong Hou crouching on the floor and walked in front of her to bend down. “Why are you sitting on the ground?”
“Huan Zhong.” Kong Hou smiled sweetly at him. “Thank you for just now.”
If Huan Zhong had not put a robe on her, more cultivators would have seen her disheveled state. If the news spread, when other people mentioned her, they would say, “Oh, you mean that person in dirty and damaged robes was Miss Kong Hou of Splendid Cloud Sect?”
When she thought about it, she felt uncomfortable all over.
“The ground is cold, do not sit for long.” Huan Zhong saw that she did not want to move and took out two meditation mats from his storage ring. “Sit on this.”
Kong Hou took the meditation mat and pushed it under her behind. “I passed the ordeal without even realizing it.”
Huan Zhong wanted to say that the situation had been dangerous. But he did not want her, at such a young age, to be terrified of passing ordeals. That would affect her when she tried to reach Core Formation Stage next time. So he said, “Maybe you have good luck, so you unconsciously passed your ordeal.”
“That’s true. The shixiong and shijie all say I have great luck, and am a natural at cultivation.” Kong Hou listened to the rain outside. “I wonder when the rain will stop. I hope that when we go to Spirit Master Nameless to get the medicine tomorrow, the rain will have stopped.”
Huan Zhong stilled and then realized Kong Hou still thought it was the middle of the night on the same day. He glanced at the completely black sky and said, “Reinforce your mental state. I will stand guard for you. Let’s talk about the medicine tomorrow.”
“The rooms of the inn…”
“Lin Hu will take care of compensation. Sit, close your eyes and meditate, draw energy into your body.” Huan Zhong laughed. He did not know how this young girl was so energized to worry about such minor matters after finishing her ordeal.
“Oh.” Seeing Huan Zhong’s expression turn serious, Kong Hou sat cross-legged and closed her eyes.
The spirit energy in the air was dense. Kong Hou found that the meridians in her body had widened greatly. Her speed at drawing energy into her body increased. Surrounded by spirit energy, Kong Hou felt extremely comfortable. She instantly forgot everything else in the world and entered a trance.
After paying a great number of spirit stones to the owner of the inn, Lin Hu passed through the corridor and arrived outside the room. As he prepared to knock, he hesitated. His hand fell back down and he returned to his own room. He had a premonition which told him that it would be better if he went straight back to his room.
As a cultivator, he believed in mysterious premonitions.
The rain stopped halfway through the night. When Kong Hou opened her eyes again, she pushed open the window. Dew hung off the leaves of the trees. When the dawn light reflected off the dew, it scattered into dots of light.
“Huan Zhong, the sky has cleared.” Kong Hou looked back from the window. “Let’s go to the medicine hut.”
Huan Zhong opened his eyes and neatened his robes. “How about we eat breakfast first?”
“The pills are more important. It is all right for us cultivators not to eat a meal.” Kong Hou picked up her dress. “Go prepare. I will call Elder Lin.”
Seeing her hurriedly run out of the room, Huan Zhong stilled and a faint smile appeared at the corner of his lips.
“Elder Lin, have you prepared the gifts? We should go.”
“Miss Kong Hou, today is already…”
“Lin Hu.” Huan Zhong stepped over the doorsill. “Let’s go.”
Lin Hu looked at Huan Zhong, bowed and said, “Yes.” This young girl did not know that yesterday was the appointed day to get the medicine. And Master did not leave the building in order to stand guard for her, much less go to pick up medicine.
Since Master did not mention this, then he would not be a chatterbox. Chatterboxes were irritating to others.
Outside the Nameless Medicine Hut, a servant boy dressed in blue robes was sweeping the fallen leaves off the stairs. Seeing Huan Zhong and the others arrive, his expression changed and he said sternly, “Wait here. I will report to Spirit Master.”
“This child has such a big temper,” Kong Hou said quietly to Huan Zhong. “Is this a bad temper passed down?”
“He is not a child,” Huan Zhong said. “They are patients afflicted with child disease. Their voice and their height are all similar to those of children, but their longevity cannot match that of ordinary people. However, this person has cultivation; Spirit Master Nameless must have helped him avoid dying early and to step onto the path of cultivation.”
“So that is how it is.” Kong Hou suddenly realized. She had read about this kind of disease in her childhood. Supposedly, some nobility liked to rear people like this for their own enjoyment. This was better. These people were able to support themselves and also to have cultivation.
While Spirit Master Nameless had a bad temper, his heart was good.
After a while, the servant boy walked out. “Spirit Master said for you to enter.” However, he seemed extremely displeased with them.
The gatekeeper to the Prime Minister’s Mansion was akin to a fourth-grade official. Kong Hou… Kong Hou could not offend him. She put a gift box into the servant boy’s hand. “Thank you for reporting.”
“What is this?” The servant boy held the box in puzzlement.
“This is a meeting gift for Spirit Master.” Kong Hou smiled. “Please, Elder, give it to Spirit Master.”
When the servant boy heard the word “Elder,” his expression eased and he complained in a low voice, “So troublesome.” However, his hands were steady when he held the box.
After they passed through the door, a silent male servant ushered them inside. The male servant lacked an arm, but his posture while walking was extremely elegant, to the point people would not notice his missing limb.
The smell of medicine was stronger in the courtyard. When Kong Hou followed the male servant into a yard, she saw Spirit Master Nameless working with medicines on the table, so she stood silently in the corridor.
Nameless turned to glance at them. “Ah, you finally remembered my old medicine hut?”
Kong Hou looked in puzzlement at Huan Zhong. What did Spirit Master Nameless mean?
“Please, Spirit Master, forgive this one. This one was delayed by other matters.” Huan Zhong bowed towards Spirit Master Nameless.
Nameless snorted. “I think that you do not care about your cultivation before death.” His gaze landed on Kong Hou. “Yesterday, the rain came because of you. I managed to store a lot of rainwater. This time, I will not argue about this matter with you.”
He took out three bottles of medicine and threw them. Lin Hu hurriedly flew up to catch them. “Thank you, Spirit Master, for the gift of medicine.”
“Not a gift, I don’t like that.” Nameless waved his hand and said to Lin Hu, “Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not eat pills recklessly. With your cultivation, you should know that gaining a reliance on pills is not a good thing. I heard of a secret recipe from the ancient era for a situation like his which can rebuild the spirit platform, revive someone and regrow their bones. But I do not know where the medicine recipe is located.”
“Thank you, Spirit Platform, for telling us.” Lin Hu did not tell them him that they had a medicine recipe like that but the ingredients needed were hard to find.
“This junior does have a recipe like the one Spirit Master has mentioned.” Huan Zhong looked at Nameless. “If Spirit Master does not object, this junior can lend it to Spirit Master for a read.”
“Really?” Spirit Master Nameless said in disbelief. “You have the lost recipe?”
Huan Zhong took out a copy of the medicine recipe. “Spirit Master will know after reading it.”
Nameless did not reach to take the medicine recipe after his excitement passed. “Rare medicine recipes are extremely rare. If you let me see this, what do you want from me?”
“Rare medicine recipes are rare, but there are no harmful healing methods in this. What is the harm in letting Spirit Master read it?” Huan Zhong put the medicine recipe in Nameless’ hand. “Just think of it as this junior thanking Spirit Master for the medicine.”
After being with Kong Hou for a while, Huan Zhong seemed to be infected with some optimism. Even the most magical medicine recipe was a dead thing. If he let someone skilled in medicine read it, maybe more people would benefit.
Nameless glanced at him, made sure he was not lying, and then opened the recipe. He finished reading as he suppressed his excitement. Nameless sighed. “As expected of a recipe from the ancient era—most of the ingredients are extremely hard to find now. What is the use in the recipe?”
“Spirit Master is very skilled. Maybe you could find substitute ingredients after reading the recipe,” Kong Hou said, “so wouldn’t more people benefit?”
“Finding substitutes for a recipe like this is as hard as ascending. Little girl, you are innocent and think simply of everything.” Nameless put away the recipe and smiled. “But you are correct. One should at least try, no matter how difficult one’s goal. If it really succeeds, I, Nameless, will be known ten thousand years from now.”
Kong Hou thought silently, your name is Nameless. Ten thousand years from now, when a cultivator saw this name, maybe they would think that a nameless cultivator had done this.
Spirit Master Nameless had temporarily not experienced just how important a name was.
“Then this junior will wish for Spirit Master to achieve his desire.” Huan Zhong bowed again. “This junior has disturbed you greatly today. Farewell.”
“Wait a moment,” Spirit Master Nameless called. “Before I find substitute ingredients, I fear you still need the ingredients mentioned on this recipe.” He took out a blackwood box from his storage ring. “While you gave me the recipe for free, I do not like taking advantage of others, especially good-looking men like you.” He would not be able to sleep well after owing a good-looking man like this.
“There is a piece of dried Henggong Fish in there. My grandmaster’s grandmaster left it. It’s been untouched in the box all these years. Take it.”
The Henggong Fish was ugly in appearance and dried Henggong Fish was even uglier. Kong Hou took a look and closed the box. The fish of the ancient era really did not care about their appearance and grew as they wished.
Seeing them still standing there, Nameless raised an eyebrow. “What are you standing here for—waiting for me to keep you for lunch?”
“This junior bids farewell.” Kong Hou shoved the blackwood box to Huan Zhong and bowed to Spirit Master Nameless. “Please, Nameless, take care.”
“If a few less visitors like you come, I will be in good care.” Nameless waved his hand and did not speak more.
The three exchanged a look, bowed, and then left.
After Huan Zhong left, Spirit Master Nameless took out the recipe again and looked at it for a long time. He did not suspect that Huan Zhong had lied to him. While he had not deliberately investigated the identity of the three people, just by observing their speech and conduct, he could guess they were from major sects.
The disciples of major sects had honor and would not con others.
“Spirit Master.” The servant boy walked in. “The medicine furnace in Room A is about to produce pills. Will you go watch?”
“No, the others can watch the ordinary pills.” Nameless found him holding a box in his hand. “What is this?”
“A meeting gift from the three guests that just visited.” The servant boy put the gift box on to the table. “Please, Spirit Master, take a look.”
“Meeting gift?” Nameless snorted. When had he ever cared about that? Opening the gift box, he found the top layer was composed of organized rows of rare medicine materials. He picked up the top layer and found a first-class divine talisman at the bottom of the box. Even Nameless felt slightly affected seeing such a rare divine talisman.
This was truly a meeting gift filled with sincerity. Nameless closed the box. He could probably guess the background of these people.
When they came out of the medicine hut, Kong Hou was so happy she almost skipped along. “Didn’t I say that it is not difficult to gather these ingredients? Look how long it has been, and we already found two of them. We will work a bit more and maybe we will gather all of them soon.”
Huan Zhong smiled. Seeing Kong Hou go to a small stall to buy food, he stopped walking to wait for her.
There were many customers in front of the stall. The stall owner quickly noticed Kong Hou due to her appearance and gave her three big bags of dried jerky. Holding the jerky, Kong Hou squeezed out of the crowd. She gave Lin Hu and Huan Zhong each a bag. “Places with many customers should have good food.”
The jerky was very dry, and hard at first bite. However, after a few chews, the jerky was so fragrant people would desire a few more mouthfuls. Kong Hou said, “As delicious as expected.” Turning her head, she saw Huan Zhong and Lin Hu hadn’t even moved. Kong Hou finally recalled that they were not her shijie who she frequently shared food with. Guessing that they were too embarrassed to eat food on the street, Kong Hou put away her own jerky. “We will eat back in the carriage.”
Huan Zhong reached out with his long fingers and took a piece of jerky from the paper bag to put into his mouth. He smiled and said to Kong Hou, “Delicious.”
Kong Hou’s eyes curved in a smile. She gently pulled Huan Zhong’s sleeve. “Then we will savor it back in the carriage. Where is our next city?”
“The next relatively large city is Yan City where Harmonious Wind Study is located,” Huan Zhong said. “Yan City is surrounded by water and its fish are a specialty. When we get to Yan City, we can have a tasting of the local fish.”
“Good, good. The abdomen flesh of fish is the most delicious.” Kong Hou nodded. “However, I first have to send a flying message seal to the sect and tell them I have had a breakthrough.”
“I also have to message my sect,” Huan Zhong said. “Let’s first rest at the inn and leave tomorrow.” He should also tell the sect that he had given the medicine recipe to Spirit Master Nameless.
After following Kong Hou, Huan Zhong subconsciously took on some of her habits.
For example, sending messages frequently back to the sect, buying gifts for the elders and fellows of the sect. And also telling all matters, big and small, to the sect, even if he could resolve them on his own.
When Kong Hou’s flying message seal reached Splendid Cloud Sect, they were overjoyed. Four years to Base Building, two years to Mind Activation—this was a genius among geniuses, the future of Splendid Cloud Sect. Kong Hou’s fellow apprentices were especially happy. The more outstanding the disciples among their generation were, the less the pressure on them. This was a matter of great joy.
Everyone was happy and then managed to piece together two thousand spirit stones. They prepared to send this to Kong Hou when she reached the next major city.
Meanwhile, in Radiance Sect, Peak Master Song He had a worried expression. “Sect Master, could Shizhi have been possessed by someone else due to his mental state problems?”
He was not a paranoid person, but Shizhi‘s recent actions were too strange.
Translator Ramblings: Kong Hou advances, and Huan Zhong is suspected to be a pod person.
I survived an airplane ride.