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Chapter 52: Hundred Flowers Ball
“Please be seated.” Looking at Huan Zhong’s expressionless face, An He decided to give up on asking. He turned and said to the peak masters and sect masters present, “Path friends, this master is the benefactor who saved my master’s life.”
“Greetings, Path Friend.” Regardless of whether they knew the trio, the cultivators present were all polite and friendly to them. First, they had to give An He face, and second, Huan Zhong’s background was not ordinary.
Huan Zhong’s expressionless face appeared unfathomable and mysterious in their eyes. His silence, in their view, was the mannerism of an expert. In conclusion, he appeared very mysterious and a person they could not afford to offend.
An He introduced each guest seated to Huan Zhong.
“This is the manor master of Five Flavors Manor, Spirit Master Bai An.”
“You are that extremely skilled chef Spirit Master Bai An who cultivates through cooking?” When Kong Hou heard the words Five Flavors Manor, her eyes became as bright as stars. She had heard the shijie at the sect food hall say that while Five Flavor Manors was small, their cultivators were skilled chefs, especially Spirit Master Bai An. His cooking could cause cultivators to have epiphanies and their cultivation to grow, and female cultivators to become more beautiful. In the last hundred years, the sect master had attempted many times to form ties with Spirit Master Bai An. But Spirit Master Bai An did not seem to have any intentions of making ties. He scorned Splendid Cloud Sect for making food with only flavor but no soul. Sect Master left in disappointment, unable to even state his thought for Five Flavors Manor to join them.
The disciples of the sect were disappointed by this result, but inside, they all held a small hope they could still recruit Five Flavors Manor. Any disciple that went travelling would be told by the shixiong and shijie that if they encountered disciples of Five Flavors Manor being bullied by others, they should bravely help when they were able. If the disciple felt grateful, maybe they would be willing to join Splendid Cloud Sect?
“This one has long heard of Spirit Master’s great name. Seeing Spirit Master today, you are as the rumors say.” Kong Hou stood and gave the bow of a junior to Spirit Master Bai An. Many people had a stubborn impression of a chef, either plump or oily. Yet this Spirit Master Bai An was different. His body was thin. He wore light blue robes. His beard and hair were silvery white, and he gave off an ethereal air.
Facing Kong Hou’s enthusiastic attitude, Spirit Master Bai An was puzzled. The cultivators of the cultivation world mostly cultivated using forging, pill-making, beast-taming, seal-writing, energy, and weaponry. Cultivators like him who cultivated by cooking did not have high cultivation and were not of great use. Their status in the cultivation world was low. He had not encountered a junior who admired him with such sincerity for a long time, especially a likable young girl.
Had the elders of this young girl told her some nonsense rumors which she believed, so she had a great misunderstanding of him?
“Celestial exaggerates.” Spirit Master Bai An could not guess Kong Hou’s identity but was very polite to her. He saw that the young girl’s hairpins and other items were talismans or divine talismans. He did not know how many layers of seals had been added to her magic robe. This must be a disciple of status from a major sect. He was the manor master, but a small sect like Five Flavors Manor could not afford to offend a person like this.
“Spirit Master is too humble.” Because other people were present, this was not a good place to chat. Kong Hou was too embarrassed to talk longer with Spirit Master Bai An. She sat down and smiled brightly at him.
This smile was too likable. Spirit Master Bai An couldn’t help but smile back.
An He who sat at the front felt complicated. This young beauty was so enthusiastic to an old man like Bai An—why was she so cool to him? While he felt conflicted inside, he still persisted in introducing everyone else present to Huan Zhong.
These sects all had relationships with Harmonious Wind Study. Some were known sects, some were ones Kong Hou had never heard of before. However, everyone was polite, and the atmosphere did not turn awkward.
“This is an apprentice of Radiance Sect, Path Friend Xiao Dong.” Hundred Flowers Ball was a subordinate sect of Radiance Sect. When they held the Hundred Flowers Ball on its two hundred year anniversary, Radiance Sect would definitely send someone. This was also why the sect masters of so many sects were present today. Maybe Radiance Sect would select them?
Then everyone watched as this disciple of Radiance Sect who had not spoken much since his arrival stood up and walked in front of the mysterious path friend. He bowed with the bow of a junior. “Disciple Xiao Dong greets Shishu.”
Everyone stilled. No wonder this mysterious path friend had a cold expression and was stoic. So this was a sword cultivator of Radiance Sect. No wonder Path Friend Xiao Dong was so polite. From this, it could be seen the mysterious path friend had a high status in Radiance Sect.
After learning Huan Zhong’s identity, everyone thought back to their previous actions. Had they been perfect?
“Master, this is a disciple of Sword Overlooking Peak.” Lin Hu guessed that Huan Zhong did not remember the faces and names of the numerous juniors in the sect and told him using a sound art. “He is a new disciple from nearly thirty years ago, outstanding in talent, and already has Mind Activation cultivation.”
Huan Zhong raised an eyebrow. Outstanding talent?
He turned to look at Kong Hou and did not agree with Lin Hu’s words. Kong Hou was just sixteen and already had Mind Activation cultivation. How could Xiao Dong’s cultivation speed be called outstanding?
Lin Hu: “…”
Whenever this occurred, he felt that communicating with Master was difficult. A sword cultivator like him who did not know much of the world—he most likely had a great misunderstanding of talent.
Xiao Dong was slightly excited. He had only seen this shishu once before, ten years ago during his apprenticeship ceremony when he became an apprentice of Sword Overlooking Peak. He remembered because this shishu‘s appearance was so outstanding.
After that time, he never saw this shishu ever again. He heard that Shishu was the most talented cultivator in the cultivation world in the past centuries. He had a strong mind, was diligent in cultivating, and was a role model for the disciples of the sect. He had not expected to see the great old man today and at this place.
Facing Huan Zhong’s handsome face, Xiao Dong felt the words “great old man” were not suitable. But the other descriptors were so lacking. He was so excited he could not think of any other descriptors at the moment.
He, who had low cultivation, could not control his emotions well. He had a hard time disguising his excitement. But thinking of the sect’s teachings, he tried his best to stop the corners of his mouth from going up.
“Not bad.” Huan Zhong nodded and praised the junior once for Lin Hu who said he was talented. While it was just two words, the young disciple was overjoyed and didn’t know what to do with his hands and feet.
“This is the disciple of Peak master Wang Tong of Splendid Cloud Sect, Celestial Kong Hou. You can call her Shishu.” Huan Zhong motioned for the disciple to greet Kong Hou. As a junior greeting an elder, he could not slack off on etiquette.
“Junior Xiao Dong greets Kong Hou Shishu.” Xiao Dong peeked at Kong Hou. This beautiful shishu… appeared younger than him.
“No need for such courtesy.” Kong Hou reached out and placed a brocade bag in his hand. “Work on your cultivation, and do not slack off.”
“Yes, Junior will abide by Shishu‘s teachings.” Xiao Dong respectfully returned a bow, and then bowed to Huan Zhong before returning to his seat.
“So this is Transcendent Huan Zhong of Radiance Sect, and Celestial Kong Hou of Splendid Cloud Sect. Greetings.” The sect masters and peak masters present stood up and bowed again. They had heard that a disciple of Cool Breeze Sect had encountered evil cultivators and had been saved by Transcendent Huan Zhong and Splendid Cloud Sect’s Kong Hou. The deeds of the two had spread through all of the cultivation world. They could not help but praise the duo.
The manor master of Five Flavors Manor, Spirit Master Bai An, felt slightly complicated. He had not thought this young girl was a disciple of Splendid Cloud Sect. His feelings toward Splendid Cloud Sect could not be described in a word. The disciples of Splendid Cloud Sect had saved disciples of his manor several times. All of them were enthusiastic and likable people. But their sect master was slightly strange. The other always mentioned the Food Hall of Splendid Cloud Sect in front of him and then asked who in Five Flavors Manor was skilled at which foods.
He knew that major sects had hidden talents and outstanding disciples. But it was too much wanting to compete in cooking with a minor sect like them. A few years ago, when the other showed off their sect’s cooking in the name of discussing the path, he finally could not stand it and said that the food from Splendid Cloud Sect’s Food Hall did not have any soul and could not be considered the food path. After that, the sect master finally stopped.
Originally, he had worried this would cause retribution from Splendid Cloud Sect. He told his disciples to be careful of Splendid Cloud Sect. But in the next few years, Splendid Cloud Sect did not do anything. When the disciples travelling outside encountered disciples of Splendid Cloud Sect, they were not bullied, and were occasionally saved in times of danger.
It appeared that while Splendid Cloud Sect liked to show off, they were generous and did not plan on enacting revenge on small sects.
Spirit Master Bai An felt complicated, and An He was not much better. No wonder Harmonious Wind Study successfully joined Radiance Sect not long after Master was rescued. It most likely was the accomplishment of this Spirit Master Huan Zhong. The common saying was that it was cool under a big tree. After Harmonious Wind Study joined Radiance Sect, they did not have to worry constantly about the scheming of other sects. They worked to expand their tourism. Right now, in the cultivation world, who did not know of their Harmonious Wind Study?
What they and Harmonious Wind Study owed Spirit Master Huan Zhong was more than the saving of a life.
Also, this Celestial Kong Hou. When he saw her at the city gates, he only thought that this girl was young and fearless to come out and expose the evil cultivator’s plan. He had not expected her to be a disciple of a major sect and to also have an expert in her company. She was not so reckless after all.
When one was travelling, if something occurred and no cultivators were stationed at the location, if disciples from the ten sects had the ability to face their enemy, they would help. This was an unwritten rule in the mind of the ten major sects. It was due to this that the atmosphere of the cultivation world was so good.
Celestial Kong Hou was young but had such understanding. As expected of an apprentice of a major sect. But her judgement on men was slightly lacking. Where was he inferior to that old man Bai An?
“Study Master, the flower celestials are ready. Should the ball begin now?” Shidi said softly by his ear. Why was Eldest Shixiong staring at Celestial Kong Hou? Did he not see that Spirit Master Huan Zhong’s expression was growing uglier?
“Yes.” An He nodded. He raised his teacup and saluted the guests.
Shidi turned and peeked at Huan Zhong’s relaxing expression. He sighed in relief and raised a hand to indicate for the flower ball to begin.
The wind rose. Big flowers fell from the sky, and the celestials dressed in their colorful robes descended from heaven. A peony bloomed on the stage. The celestials stepped on the boards with the tips of their toes as they danced in the wind. They made people forget this was the human world and not heaven.
Beautiful, unspeakably beautiful.
Kong Hou watched without blinking. When the flower celestials left on flying flowers, she still could not recover.
“Even if one said they were really goddesses from heaven, I would believe it.” Kong Hou refocused after a long time. She turned to look at Huan Zhong. He still looked indifferent.
“Huan Zhong?” Kong Hou whispered. “You do not like this performance?”
Huan Zhong poured a cup of hot tea for Kong Hou. He shook his head. “No, I do; it is good.”
While he said positive things, his expression was very honest. Kong Hou took a sip of tea. It was not as good as the tea Huan Zhong made personally.
“The Peony Celestial is dignified and magnificent, the Peach Celestial is gorgeous, the Lotus Celestial is ethereal…” Putting down the teacup, Kong Hou lamented, “There are such beautiful women in the world.”
Huan Zhong: “…”
In his view, good-looking men and women were the same without many differences. So in this moment, he did not know how to respond to Kong Hou’s words.
The performance still continued. Kong Hou kept on chatting with Huan Zhong, but her attention was on the stage. When she saw beautiful women, she would be stunned, when she saw rare flowers, she would sigh in amazement—as though everything in her eyes was beautiful and good. Infected by her, Huan Zhong stared at a pot of dark green flowers and tried to search for its beauty. But he had no talent in this area. He had no results.
“Spirit Master Huan Zhong.” An He raised his teacup and toasted Huan Zhong from afar. “Many thanks, Spirit Master.”
“Study Master is too polite.” Huan Zhong took a sip of his tea.
Seeing him drink the tea, An He turned to Kong Hou. “Previously, I did not know that Miss was Celestial Kong Hou of Splendid Cloud Sect. If we were negligent in our hospitality in any way, Celestial, please forgive us.”
“Study Master is too polite. Your land has good people and delicious food. People will not be able to forget it.” Kong Hou returned the toast. “Thank you, Study Master, for your enthusiastic hospitality.
“It is this humble sect’s glory that Celestial could come.” An He drank his tea and thought inside, an adorable girl was much more likable.
The other cultivators saw An He begin and also started toasting with their tea. While Spirit Master Huan Zhong only touched his lips to the tea, they were still satisfied. After they returned, they could boast to other cultivators they had drunk tea with Radiance Sect and Splendid Cloud Sect’s apprentices.
No matter how excited they were inside, the cultivators present displayed great calmness. The surrounding people watching the spectacle would not restrain themselves due to their status. They did not just watch the performance on the stage, but also the important guests seated.
“That one is the manor master of Five Flavors Manor? I heard that the food he makes is extremely delicious. I thought he would have a round physique rather than look so ethereal.”
“Our Master An He is still the best-looking, his aura the most elegant.”
“Miss, are you serious?” A non-local female cultivator did not agree with the words. She pointed at Huan Zhong. “That man is clearly better-looking.”
“Nonsense, Master An He is the best-looking.”
“That white-robed master is peerlessly handsome.”
“You dare insult Master An He?” The female started to roll up her sleeves.
“Can you be reasonable—how am I insulting him?” The non-local female cultivator saw this woman wanted to fight and also rolled up her sleeves. People could not submit to others in their judgement of beauty.
“Shijie, let it go, let it go.” The shixiong and shijie who had come with her pulled her back. “This is Yan City. We will not benefit if we fight here.”
“Anyone with eyes can see that white-robed master is better-looking?!” The female cultivator’s voice turned accented in her urgency. “Do you not think something is wrong with her head?”
“Shijie, if you know something is wrong with her, why are you arguing with her?” The two shimei pulled her arms. “Just change seats. Did you forget the divination you made before leaving today? The reading said that today you should not argue with others.”
Hearing this, the female cultivator immediately gave up. She glared at the local woman and then was pulled by her shimei to change seats with a shidi.
“Hong Ling, how can you shout and argue in public over a minor matter?” The female cultivator’s shijie scolded her in a low voice. Due to the number of people here, she did not berate the other too much.
“Sorry, Ge Jin Shijie, this was my mistake.” The female cultivator, Hong Ling, lowered her head and said timidly, “I will not be so impulsive next time.”
“Good that you know your mistake.” Ge Jin Shijie nodded and whispered by her ear, “But you are right—that white-robed master is better-looking.”
“I know that Shijie‘s judgement is as good as mine.” Hong Ling immediately became happy.
“She is from Yan City; it is normal she is biased in favor of the study master.” Ge Jin raised her chin as she touched the divination bones at her waist. In the last few days, she had felt anxious but was unable to divine anything. The reading only seemed to hint that if they could encounter a benefactor, they would resolve their danger.
But where was the benefactor, if they were male or female, young or old, she could not divine it.
When the Hundred Flowers Ball ended and the visitors in the spectator area left, they were the only ones left sitting. The Harmonious Wind Study disciple who was maintaining the peace nearby looked warily at them. What were these people sitting here for?
Just as he prepared to go up and ask, a purple-clothed female disciple took out several white jade-like divination bones. The disciple from Harmonious Wind Study stopped. Cultivators had their own habits when divining and did not like to be disturbed during the process. While he did not know which sect they were from, he would not go up and disturb them.
He, who did not understand divination, watched as the purple-clothed female cultivator shook the divination bones, stopped, and then said in a serious tone, “East.”
What east, did the east have people they were looking for?
These cultivators all stood up and headed east directly without even turning their heads. The disciple from Harmonious Wind Study finally understood. So the purple-clothed female cultivator saying east meant for them to walk east.
Did diviners have to divine to walk?
He had heard of a sect with this strange habit. It seemed to be called… Auspicious Pavilion?
“Stop.” Ge Jin saw the path ahead was blocked by walls and took out the divination bones again. “North.”
“Shijie, can we really avoid our misfortune like this?” Hong Ling followed Ge Jin to the north. “How about we ask for help from Harmonious Wind Study?”
“What will be the reason for asking for help? Should we say we divined we will encounter danger in the future, so we ask experts from their honored study to send us back?” Ge Jin asked in response. “If you were Study Master An, would you believe it?”
Hong Ling shook her head.
“If we really have no other way…” Ge Jin put away the divination bones. “We will take some valuable things and visit Harmonious Wind Study, saying that we are congratulating them for successfully opening the Hundred Flowers Ball. Harmonious Wind Study will exchange courtesies and ask us to stay for a short visit. This way, we will be able to stay for a few days in Harmonious Wind Study, and have Pavilion Master ask for help from the main sect and wait for people from the main sect to send up back.”
“Wouldn’t this… be a bit embarrassing?” a shidi asked in a quiet voice.
“We are only five people. Do you feel our lives are more important, or our face?” Ge Jin searched through her storage bag and took out several boxes of medicinal ingredients. She put them into a brocade box. “Go, to Harmonious Wind Study.”
Hong Ling covered her face. Face was valuable, but a life was worth more. Anyway, there were five of them, so she was not the only one losing face.
Once the Hundred Flowers Ball ended, An He invited the guests to an evening banquet at Harmonious Wind Study. Huan Zhong originally wanted to refuse, but when he heard An He say they invited the best chefs of Yan City who were skilled at preparing fish, he looked at Kong Hou out of the corner of his eye and nodded in confirmation.
Seeing Huan Zhong accept his invitation, An He hurriedly sent people to prepare. He had disciples drive the prepared carriages over to take everyone back to Harmonious Wind Study.
When Kong Hou entered through the doors of Harmonious Wind Study, she was enchanted with the scenery inside. Every part was refined, and each step was a different scene.
Seeing Kong Hou interested in the scenery, Huan Zhong deliberately slowed his steps and accompanied her. Xiao Dong, who walked at the front, saw Shishu walk slowly and hurriedly walked back to walk behind Huan Zhong. The other cultivators who were in the mood to admire the scenery but too embarrassed to let others discover this sighed in relief inwardly and slowed their steps.
This way, it would not appear they were ignorant of the world, but everyone was walking so slowly that they could only admire the scenery.
An He, walking at the front, felt slightly puzzled. Had the fish of their Yan City lost their allure? The fish for the banquet this time came from the spirit platform ponds in the study. They all contained a great amount of spirit energy and had great benefits for Spirit Platforms when consumed. He usually did not bear to eat any. This time, because Benefactor was present, he had them catch a few.
He was in a hurry to let Benefactor see his resolve at repaying the debt. Why were these people walking so slowly?
Translator Ramblings: Poor Huang Zhong, you cannot join Kong Hou in admiring beauty.
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