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Chapter 54: Salted Fish
The other reacted so strongly. Kong Hou looked at the burning gaze of the purple-clothed female cultivator and the joy of the four people behind her who seemed to have found the hope of their lives. She took a step back. Huan Zhong took a step forward and put Kong Hou behind him. “What matter do you have?”
“Celestial Kong Hou, we are disciples of Auspicious Pavilion. We forgot our manners in our joy at meeting Celestial Kong Hou—please, Celestial, forgive us.” After their joy, Ge Jin realized her reaction just now had been too intense and hurriedly explained. “Because us disciples recently encountered a troublesome matter, we have nowhere to ask for help…”
“Shijie means that we are too happy to encounter Celestial.” Hong Ling ran next to Ge Jin and pulled her sleeve before bowing to Kong Hou. She said, “Greetings to Transcendent and Celestial.” Shijie was just too truthful. Even if she was happy at finding help, she should not say it directly. If Celestial Kong Hou heard this and then left, they might lose their lives.
Kong Hou looked at the red-clothed female cultivator who gave her explanation with an ingratiating smile. It was difficult to pretend she did not see their intentions. She said directly, “What trouble did you encounter?”
“No, no.” Hong Ling waved her hand and said, “We are just too happy at meeting Celestial.”
“If that is the case, then I will not worry,” Kong Hou said with a smile. “Farewell.” She pulled Huan Zhong along. “Huan Zhong, let’s go.”
Seeing Kong Hou really planning to leave, Hong Ling panicked. “Please, Celestial, forgive me. I misspoke. Actually, I do have a minor matter to trouble you with.”
“Umm… a neither big nor small matter.” Hong Ling’s voice was as weak as a mosquito’s buzz.
“Very urgent?” Kong Hou looked at the sky’s color.
“Not very urgent.” Hong Ling thought. They had not divined when the event would occur and how it would occur. It was hard for them to say if it was urgent or not.
“If it is not urgent, please come to our courtyard to rest. I will discuss with you in the evening.” Kong Hou turned and said to Huan Zhong, “Huan Zhong, let’s see them back to the courtyard first and then go shopping?”
Huan Zhong nodded.
“No need,” Lin Hu said. “Miss Kong Hou, I have matters to return to, and I can walk with them. You do not need to return too early in the evening. I hear that there will be a beautiful lantern festival in the evening. Master and Miss can see the lanterns.”
Finishing, he did not wait for Kong Hou to refuse. Lin Hu turned and said to the disciples of Auspicious Pavilion, “Path Friends, come with me.”
Ge Jin touched the divination bones in her sleeve and said to Lin Hu with a nod, “Thank you, Path Friend.” This cultivator had strong features, a wide forehead and clear eyes. She could see he was righteous. Most importantly, he had an extraordinary aura and great cultivation. Going with him would be less dangerous.
Seeing the disciples of Auspicious Pavilion heading for the courtyard with Lin Hu, Kong Hou said to Huan Zhong, “Let’s go.”
People moved around the streets, the men, women, old and young brushing past each other, ordinary people and cultivators mixed together. Many stalls sold snacks at the sides of the streets and were surrounded by customers. Smelling the oil fragrance coming from the surroundings, Kong Hou said to Huan Zhong, “Huan Zhong, what is different about the paths of sword cultivators and energy cultivators like me?”
“There multitude of paths with their specific differences. However, no path can be separated from the world.” The loud street was silent to Huan Zhong. He could only hear and see the young girl beside him. “The path is born from the heart—you just have to follow the heart. You are young, and listening to the paths of other people too much is not good for you. One’s path will not form in a day. What other people say may not be suited to you.”
Ever since entering Mind Activation Stage, Kong Hou felt a kind of understanding of the universal path. However, this feeling was so blurry she did not know if she was thinking too much, or if her mental state had changed as her cultivation increased.
What was the path of the universe?
What was important in the path of the mind?
She had joined the sect and cultivated. She possessed bravery and love, but could understanding just these things help her step onto the path to ascension?
A faint odor came into her nose. Kong Hou lost interest in discussing the path and searched around. The smell came from a shop that sold salted fish. Unlike the other stalls selling food, this salted fish store was desolate. Even the passersby would pinch their noses and quickly walk by.
Facing the disdainful expressions of the passersby, the shop owner seemed calm, and looked at people with a gaze that seemed to say, you are all ignorant mortals.
Maybe the owner’s mysterious and cool expression was too attention-catching, so that Kong Hou who had never eaten salted fish before suddenly felt curious. She said to Huan Zhong, “Huan Zhong, wait here for me. I am going to look at the salted fish shop.”
The owner had been preparing to find a book to pass the time. When he turned his head, he saw a young girl dressed finely standing before his shop with bright eyes. He put down his book and looked at the other. Was this one lost, or did she lose her money bag?
“Shop Owner, you sell just salted fish here?” Kong Hou looked at the dried fish hanging on the left wall that was larger than a person. Such a big fish—how long would a person need to eat it all?
“You want to buy?” The owner saw the young girl was dressed well and looked very clean. What was she doing in his salted fish shop instead of going to buy beautiful dresses?
“Yes.” Kong Hou nodded. “I am preparing to mail some back to friends—do you have any recommendations?”
The owner did not ask more. He took down several different fish from the rack and put them on the counter. “These fish have relatively gentle taste, suitable for non-locals like you.”
The salted fish was harder than tree bark. Kong Hou could not see any differences between the salted fish except for their size. “Then prepare one hundred for me.” If she did not buy enough, when the shijie of Food Hall made the dish, it would not be enough for everyone in the sect to eat.
One hundred? This young girl was preparing to sell them elsewhere and profit off the difference in price?
The owner took out a cloth bag. “One and a half spirit stones per fish, a one-use storage bag is fifty spirit stones; in total, two hundred spirit stones.”
“Owner, could this be lower?” Kong Hou touched her storage ring and started to count spirit stones.
“This is a small business—we do not bargain.” The owner cut her with a look. He took out a blue salted fish from the shelf. “You have bought a lot, so I can give you a sea fish. This fish is not local Yan City fish; I caught this at sea a long time ago.”
“Thank you, Shop Owner.” Kong Hou paid the spirit stones. She turned and saw Huan Zhong standing in the distance. She thought for a moment. “Give me another two hundred, packed separately.” Radiance Sect had more people, and they would need more fish.
The owner also sold another one-use storage bag to hold the two hundred salted fish. This time, without Kong Hou needing to speak up, he took down a wooden box from the shelf. He took out a piece of dried fish which was completely golden all over and the size of half a palm. “Bonus.”
For buying one hundred, he gave a big fish. For buying two hundred, he gave a small fish. This store owner did not seem to know how to calculate.
Kong Hou did not say more. Picking up the storage bags, she ran back to Huan Zhong. “Huan Zhong, let’s go mail some things.”
Looking at the storage bags in her hand, Huan Zhong wanted to speak but then agreed. When they came to the post office, he found Kong Hou only mailed one storage bag to Splendid Cloud Sect. “You are not mailing this bag?”
“I bought this bag for you.” Kong Hou handed the storage bag to the post worker. “Your sect has more people, so I bought a bit more.”
Huan Zhong: “…”
“You are welcome; it is not expensive.”
Inside the salted fish shop, the owner sat on the chair and lazily read through the storybook as though the noise outside had nothing to do with him.
“Mom, didn’t you want to buy salted fish? There is a store here…”
“Ha!” The matron interrupted her son’s words. “This owner is blackhearted. Selling a salted fish for one spirit stone. In all of Yan City, who will buy something this expensive—there is nothing wrong with people’s heads.”
“Hmph.” The owner flipped a page and rolled his eyes.
“Look at this street—which shop has no customers? Just his shop,” the matron said. “I think he will close sooner or later.”
The owner closed his book, stood, and went to the door. He said, “Old Woman, thank you for reminding me. I am closing now.” Then he closed the door in the face of the matron and her son.
The matron and her son had not expected the other to hear their quiet conversation. They felt slightly embarrassed, so they were too ashamed to any anything even though the other closed the door in their faces.
“So strange, how did he hear?” The matron was slightly angry and pulled her son to leave.
The night slowly came. The streets of Yan City were hung with beautiful lanterns. Many couples walked together, the red lanterns reflecting red light on their faces.
“Kong Hou.” Huan Zhong called Kong Hou and took out a crystal lantern from his storage ring. He pointed gently at the crystal lantern and it started to give off beautiful light.
“For you.” Huan Zhong put the handle of the lantern in Kong Hou’s hands. This young girl had to have what other people had, and have better things than them.
“So beautiful.” Touching the jade-beaded tassels hanging off the crystal lamp, Kong Hou said in joy, “What kind of lantern is this?”
“An ordinary crystal lantern.” Huan Zhong smiled. The wind blew at the hem of his robes. He was a man who appeared cold and indifferent, but he was peerlessly gentle in this moment.
The crystal lantern illuminated the path under their feet and also caught the attention of the passersby. The crystal lantern was too beautiful, the young girl holding the lantern was also beautiful, and the young master accompanying her was so handsome people thought he was a god from the heavens.
When they walked together, people found it hard to ignore their existence.
“Let me display a minor spell for you.” Having received such a beautiful lantern, Kong Hou was very happy. She moved her fingers in the air in a spell. When she opened her hand, fiery light butterflies flew out of her palm, dancing around Huan Zhong before disappearing into sparks of light.
Huan Zhong watched as the last bit of light disappeared, and heard the wind blow into his heart.
Each gust was so clear, so strong.
“Isn’t it pretty?” Seeing Huan Zhong still staring dazedly at the sky, Kong Hou waved her sleeve with a smile. Countless butterflies flew out.
The light from the butterflies shone on her face, and also lit up Huan Zhong’s eyes.
On the tower, An He stood at the tallest point as he watched the young girl holding the crystal lantern in the night, and the butterflies filling the sky. This was a very simple illusion spell. Anyone with enough cultivation could produce it.
Performing such a simple illusory spell and making butterflies for a sword cultivator of unfathomable cultivation. What was the difference between this and having a child who had just learned to walk telling an adult to see how fast they could run?
But… those butterflies were really beautiful…
In the courtyard, Ge Jin, Hong Ling and the others could not sleep. They sat by the table in the courtyard and drank tea which did not have much taste left. They were extremely anxious.
Lin Hu came with a tray to change a pot of tea for them.” Path Friends, go rest first. Tomorrow, we will accompany you to Auspicious Pavilion, and we can talk on the way.”
“Elder.” Ge Jin stood and bowed to Lin Hu, saying, “Long delays cause complications. Let’s wait for Celestial Kong Hou to return so that we can explain the matter.”
“I fear that Master and Miss Kong Hou will take a while to come back…”
“Celestial Kong Hou will return in fifteen minutes.” The shidi put away the jade turtle shell he had thrown on the table. He stood and said, “Elder, please forgive us juniors for our rudeness; we wish to go to the door to welcome Celestial Kong Hou.”
Lin Hu: “…”
“Everyone, as you please.” Lin Hu also knew some cultivators skilled in divination such as Moon Star Sect of the ten major sects. They were far above other cultivators in divination. But even Moon Star Sect would not divine this frequently and for all matters.
Diviners were not skilled at fighting but were respected by other cultivators. Not many dared to offend them. Supposedly, cultivators who divined had the ability to sense the universe, so people thought of them as the mouths and ears of the universal path.
Everyone still had to rely on the universal path to become immortal—who would cultivate against the path?
Diviners such as the disciples of Auspicious Pavilion who divined before doing anything were weirdos among diviners. Did they not fear the universal path would be bothered by them divining every single thing, and make their reading inaccurate?
Lin Hu followed the disciples of Auspicious Pavilion to the gates and saw the white-robed master and Kong Hou appear at the end of the street. Kong Hou held the divine talisman Clear Bright Lantern which could drive away fiends and subdue evil, but she was as casual as though she was holding up an ordinary lantern.
“Why are you standing at the gates?” Kong Hou looked at them and sped up her pace to come before the Auspicious Pavilion disciples.
“Celestial, we have things we want to tell Celestial.” Ge Jin bowed to Kong Hou and said, “Related to our reading.”
“Then we will discuss inside.” Kong Hou turned and said to Huan Zhong, “Huan Zhong, I will go in with them first.” She raised the lantern in her hand. “Thank you for your gift. I will take care of it.”
At the cold gates, Huan Zhong and Lin Hu stood opposite each other.
Lin Hu sighed. “Master…”
Huan Zhong stared at him with glass-like eyes. “Yes?”
What was going on with Lin Hu recently?
Translator Ramblings: An He is a very conflicted person.