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Chapter 53: The Best
Kong Hou turned and saw An He’s slightly impatient expression. She whispered to Huan Zhong, “Huan Zhong, is Study Master An hungry? He looks to be in a hurry—how about we walk faster?”
“Mind Manifestation cultivators have no need for food. Even if they do not eat for a year, they can support themselves using the spirit energy in the world. He will not feel any sense of hunger,” Huan Zhong said. “Maybe this is his natural expression; do not worry about it.” While the present cultivation world was not as chaotic as it was millennia ago, it still abided by “might is right.” It was not beneficial to one’s mental state to care too much about what others thought.
“Really?” Kong Hou did not quite believe Huan Zhong’s explanation and she walked a bit faster.
The tables used for the banquet were low tables carved with lucky clouds and flowers. Each table had two cushions placed on the side. The spirit-gathering formation above the hall was activated so people who stepped into the banquet hall would feel refreshed.
“Noble guests, please be seated.” An He called for the group to sit down. Servants in colorful robes quickly came and placed jade plates on the tables. The jade plates had jade covers which locked in the spirit energy. The female servants walked carefully with the plates, and their cautiousness caused the guests to unconsciously straighten their backs. They were curious what was inside the jade plates.
“Our humble sect is poor and does not have much to treat everyone with. This dish is the fish this humble sect salvaged from the spirit pools. Because they grow so slowly, they are bony and have little flesh. Noble guests, please do not object.” An He indicated for the servants to take off the covers.
The moment the jade cover was lifted, a refreshing wave of spirit energy slipped out. The cultivators were astounded. “This is the Auspicious Cloud Pattern Fish.” This kind of fish had the ability to reinforce energy and focus the mind. Ordinary people’s longevity would be extended, while cultivators would increase their cultivation and have a stronger spirit platform. This really was something rare.
They hadn’t expected Study Master An to be so generous as to use such valuable fish to treat their guests.
The fish in the plates were only the size of three fingers or so. However, all of it was treasure. Even the scales and bones were valuable medicine ingredients.
The jade plate held fish which had been deboned and beheaded, and also two small bowls of fish soup. If the people present did not have good composure, they most likely would have immediately drained the bowls of soup.
How many of those that were on the path of cultivation did not care about their longevity and cultivation?
“Everyone, please enjoy.” Seeing everyone’s shock and joy, An He was finally content. “Please have forgiveness for any missteps in our hospitality.”
The host had already taken out Auspicious Cloud Pattern Fish to treat them. If they still criticized the host for being inhospitable, they would be too shameless. Sipping the fish soup, the cultivators slowly absorbed the spirit energy from the fish soup into their bodies. They thought inside, Study Master An He was such a good host.
An He turned to look at Huan Zhong and Kong Hou who were seated together. Compared to the other cultivators, Spirit Master Huan Zhong reacted calmly. He used chopsticks to lightly pick up a small piece of fish flesh and tasted it. Then he used an unused pair of chopsticks to take up the fish belly and put it into Celestial Kong Hou’s bowl.
Celestial Kong Hou picked up the fish belly and ate it. The two exchanged a look. Spirit Master Huan Zhong showed a rare smile. An He took a sip of the fish soup and thought inside, were the two communicating using sound spells?
Spirit Master Huan Zhong suddenly raised his head and met An He’s gaze. That icy gaze caused him to feel cold from head to toe. He hurriedly moved away his curious gaze. An He felt even more puzzled. What was the relationship between Spirit Master Huan Zhong and Miss Kong Hou?
Throughout these years, he had never heard of any apprentice of Radiance Sect marrying a disciple of Splendid Cloud Sect. Not that their status was unequal, but in the eyes of everyone, the disciples from these two sects did not match well.
When one mentioned Radiance Sect, one would first think of people dressed in white robes, as cold as glaciers, and even colder than the sword. They had high cultivation, were diligent and lived regulated lives. When one spoke of Splendid Cloud Sect, the first everyone would think of was their lazy days, their protective attitude, and their strong unity.
Disciples that wanted to join a sect first had to pass through the Immortality Questing Path. Each sect’s Immortality Questing Path was different. Some emphasized talent, some the mind. Others even emphasized beauty, but Splendid Cloud Sect emphasized the heart.
Not their minds, but their hearts. Only disciples who were suited to Splendid Cloud Sect’s traits could pass through Splendid Cloud Sect’s Immortality Questing Path. Maybe due to this, Splendid Cloud Sect might not be the largest and strongest sect in the cultivation world, but due to their unity, no one in the cultivation world dared to underestimate them, not even Radiance Sect.
However, while Radiance Sect did not dare to underestimate the other sect, the personalities of their disciples were completely opposite. The only trait they had in common was most likely gender at certain times. These two were even of different genders. What mysterious power caused them to be so close?
An He was not the only one so shocked. Xiao Dong who sat together with Lin Hu was in a whirl inside. His shishu who was like the untouchable moon in the sky would pour tea for friends and serve friends food in private? Even scarier was that he saw Shishu smile, smile!
He turned to look at Lin Hu. Shishu usually was in Elder Lin’s company—was he the same then?
“Do not look at me,” Lin Hu said to him using a sound spell. “I am a servant who does not know anything.”
Xiao Dong: “…”
Act-actually, Elder Lin appeared not so normal either.
When the fish soup entered the stomach, it turned into spirit liquid that nurtured the spirit platform. Kong Hou drank a sip and did not bear to drink more. She turned and said to Huan Zhong, “This fish soup can nurture the spirit platform.” She pushed the bowl towards Huan Zhong. “I’ll give this bowl to you.”
Seeing the young girl push the fist-sized bowl towards him, Huan Zhong was slightly dazed.
This was the first time in his life he experienced someone discovering something good and then saving it for him. He felt slightly at a loss regarding what to do, but his heart softened.
She was still so young, just sixteen. She had not travelled through the cultivation world. She did not know how many good things there were, how many wondrous secret realms, but she left him this fish soup which she thought was good.
Huan Zhong thought back to a long long time ago, to what his mother had said to him before her death.
“Huan Zhong, do not believe those rumors outside. You are not a dullard, you are not an idiot—you just do not understand emotions. Remember this, if someone is so good to you they will try to save and give you the best things, then they really like you.”
“What is the best?” He did not understand. He looked at his mother who had a fragile complexion and was so thin she seemed a skeleton. However, he did not know what a sad expression was like.
“There are many good things in the world. Huan Zhong, you only have to understand, people who like food will give up food for you, people who love money will give up money for you, people who love beauty will give up the beauty of the world for you, people who like power will give up their ambitions for you—then those are the things most precious to them.
“Huan Zhong, my child. Mother hopes you will have many people love you, and you will learn to love others.”
Mother passed away from illness. He followed Master to Radiance Sect. Many people revered him, spoiled him, admired him, and even envied him, but there was no person such as the one Mother spoke of who would save their food for him.
He still did not learn how to love others. He fantasized how genius youths would interact with ordinary people. He even wrote down what he imagined, but no one liked the stories he wrote.
A talented author would create flowers, their stories a peek into true emotion. He, who could not learn emotions, could not write a good story.
When he learned someone liked the stories he wrote, he was happy. That day outside the bookstore in Harmonious City, after he heard the conversation between the young girl and the bookstore owner, he lied for the first time in his life.
He had not gone to the bookstore to buy books; he had wanted to see who bought the books.
So it was a young girl with a small mouth and large eyes that blinked up at him. He was reminded of the stars he saw from the palace halls in his childhood. So bright, so beautiful.
“Huan Zhong, what is it?” Kong Hou saw Huan Zhong in a daze staring at the fish soup she had pushed over. She was slightly embarrassed. “I just drank a little bit. When you drink, just don’t touch this spot.” She pointed at the place where her lips had touched the bowl. Just now, she had thought this fish soup would be beneficial to Huan Zhong, but forgot that she had taken a sip of the fish soup. It would not be good if Huan Zhong misunderstood and thought that she wanted to give her leftovers to him.
“Kong Hou.” Huan Zhong turned to look at Kong Hou, his eyes deep.
Kong Hou could not understand the complicated emotions in that pair of eyes. She did not know how to understand them. She pulled his sleeve under the table. “You do not like the fish?”
“Thank you.” Huan Zhong picked up the bowl of fish soup Kong Hou had pushed towards him and drained it.
“You are welcome.” Kong Hou shook her head and smiled.
Xiao Dong, who had been paying attention to the duo, inhaled in shock. Shishu… Shishu, how could you do this? Auspicious Cloud Pattern Fish was good, but Radiance Sect also reared a few dozen using spirit liquid. In the future, it wasn’t as though he would be unable to eat any. How could he drink the little girl’s soup?
How old was Kong Hou Shishu? Just an innocent girl of sixteen. How, how could Shishu bear to do this?
Xiao Dong’s internal beliefs wavered. He could not accept that the lofty and unsullied shishu was a thick-faced old man who conned food and drink from a young girl.
Looking at Xiao Dong’s struggle, Lin Hu shook his head. Still too young, and not steady enough. If he knew that his shishu did not just drink the young girl’s soup, he also lied to her that he knew how to roast meat, took the young girl’s Vermillion Grass, and relied on the young girl to get Henggong Fish from Spirit Master Nameless, would his mind break?
When a person who was usually very serious became shameless, it was difficult for others to discover his shamelessness.
With the Auspicious Cloud Pattern Fish, the dishes that came after it lacked some amazement for the cultivators. As they ate these dishes, their minds still thought of the beautiful taste of the Cloud Pattern Fish. They only took a few bites of the later dishes before taking them off the table.
Kong Hou was very happy during this meal. She did not just eat happily, she told Huan Zhong which parts of the fish were the most delicious depending on the way they were made. In the entire hall, they were perhaps the happiest table.
When the banquet ended, An He invited the guests to stay in the study. Most of the guests refused. An He did not try to keep them and sent them off at the doorway. When he saw Huan Zhong, Xiao Dong and the others going to leave, he was much more sincere in his offer.
“Thank you, Study Master, but we already have a residence in the city core—how can we keep disturbing you?” Lin Hu refused An He’s invitation, and followed in Huan Zhong’s footsteps.
“Farewell.” Kong Hou bowed to An He.
“This humble sect will welcome Celestial to come again.”
“Kong Hou.” Huan Zhong stopped walking and turned to look at Kong Hou who was smiling at An He. “Let’s go.”
“Coming.” Kong Hou picked up her dress and trotted her way to Huan Zhong’s side before smiling at him.
Huan Zhong returned a faint smile to her. Then he turned and expressionlessly nodded at An He before leaving in large strides with Kong Hou.
An He felt that Spirit Master Huan Zhong did not like him very much. Was this… the competitive spirit between good-looking men? When he was concerned about Benefactor’s exceptional handsomeness, Benefactor was also concerned about his?
Was it suitable to use the phrase “like repels like”?
“Study Master, disciples from Auspicious Pavilion have come to visit with gifts and congratulate us for having a successful Hundred Flowers Ball opening.”
“Auspicious Pavilion?” An He frowned slightly. Harmonious Wind Study and Auspicious Pavilion did not seem to have much of a relationship?
“Invite them in.” Regardless of what Auspicious Pavilion intended, they were guests and he would meet them in person.
Under the guidance of an apprentice of Harmonious Wind Study, Kong Hou and Huan Zhong walked out the gates of Harmonious Wind Study.
“Farewell, Transcendent, Celestial.” The disciples of Harmonious Wind Study bowed deeply to the quartet. Kong Hou was about to return the bow when she discovered four women and a man standing by the guates. The purple-clothed female cultivator at the front was stunningly beautiful.
The five also saw her. Kong Hou nodded and smiled at them.
The five bowed, and clearly put themselves at a lower status than she. Kong Hou guessed those people may have seen them sitting in the honored guest seats, so they were this polite. Kong Hou did not think more about it. She turned and said to Huan Zhong, “Huan Zhong, will we be able to get to Auspicious Pavilion in time tomorrow?”
“I have a speedy flying palace in my storage ring. We will only need six hours at most to get to Auspicious Pavilion. Right now, no other news have spread. Maybe the evil cultivators realized they have already alerted us, so they are not making any new movements.” Huan Zhong smiled. “Ever since coming to Yan City, you have been in a trance and have not toured this place. Let’s go see the flowers of Yan City this afternoon and mail some things back. We depart tomorrow—is that good?”
“This… is good.” Kong Hou nodded. She came to the famed Yan City but did not send any things back to the sect. Kong Hou felt that she had lost a great deal of money this way.
“Path Friends, please forgive this one for bothering you. Just now, this one heard this celestial say you are going to Auspicious Pavilion?” Cultivators that An He treated as honored guests would not have simple identities. It as such a coincidence that they were going to Auspicious Pavilion.
“This one did not mean to eavesdrop on the conversation, but this one is a disciple of Auspicious Pavilion and is exceptionally sensitive to those words. Please, Transcendent and Celestial, forgive me.” Ge Jin took a deep breath, gathered her courage and said, “Which sects are Transcendent and Celestial from, and why are you going to my humble sect?”
She wondered, were these people the great misfortune of the reading or the noble personages?
Huan Zhong glanced at the five. Finding that they did not show any traces of being evil cultivators, he did not say another world. Auspicious Pavilion was a subordinate sect of Splendid Cloud Sect; these people were safe.
“Greetings, Path Friends. I am a disciple of Splendid Cloud Sect, Kong Hou…”
“You are Celestial Kong Hou?!”
Translator Ramblings: We learn more about Huan Zhong and his reasons for writing.