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Chapter 60: Boundary
Hearing someone familiar call her, Kong Hou turned her head and saw Cheng Yi standing at the opposite side of the street. She was overjoyed. “Eldest Shixiong?!”
Cheng Yi smiled and strode through the flow of people towards Kong Hou.
“Eldest Shixiong!” Kong Hou jogged over towards Cheng Yi and then leapt towards him. “Eldest Shixiong, how come you are here?”
“Evil cultivators have been active recently. The sect is worried that our subordinate sects will encounter trouble and so sent the apprentices to the sects to stand guard.” Cheng Yi held Kong Hou and pretended to be angry. “You have gone out to travel and gain experience—how are you still so improper?”
“I am just too happy seeing Shixiong; we do not have to be courteous.” Kong Hou pulled Cheng Yi’s sleeve and swung it. “We haven’t seen each other for a long time—you didn’t miss me?”
Cheng Yi tapped Kong Hou’s forehead. “You have no conscience.” He remembered Kong Hou had entered Mind Activation Stage and reached to probe Kong Hou’s meridians. The meridians were broad and powerful. It appeared she had smoothly passed her ordeal.
Seeing Kong Hou run towards an unfamiliar man and even leap onto him, Huan Zhong looked down at his empty sleeve where Kong Hou had just been holding on. Seeing Kong Hou allow an unfamiliar man to probe her meridians while talking and smiling at him, Huan Zhong slowly lowered his face and walked towards the pair.
Seeing Master walk towards Miss Kong Hou, Lin Hu silently remained in his spot. In the past, Master would not join other people’s conversations without an invitation. Or, in other words, Master was not willing to say an extra word to other people.
“Kong Hou.” Huan Zhong stopped three paces away from Kong Hou and looked at the young woman with his black glass eyes.
Kong Hou who was reminiscing with Cheng Yi immediately turned her head and met Huan Zhong’s beautiful eyes. She smiled. “Huan Zhong, let me introduce you. This is my eldest shixiong, Cheng Yi.” For Kong Hou, Cheng Yi was both brother and father, one of her most important people.
Huan Zhong met Cheng Yi’s examining gaze and bowed, his sleeves drawing an elegant curve in the air. “Greetings, Path Friend Cheng Yi.”
“Greetings Path Friend.” Cheng Yi heard Kong Hou call this person Huan Zhong and guessed his identity. This man was good-looking. No male disciple in Splendid Cloud Sect was better looking than him. Upon first look, he felt the other was an ordinary ill but handsome young master, but when the other came close, Cheng Yi became sure this was no ordinary person.
“Huan Zhong is a disciple of Radiance Sect. I have relied greatly on his and Elder Lin’s care in my travel.” Kong Hou introduced Huan Zhong to Cheng Yi. “Huan Zhong is very strong; he knows everything.”
Hearing his little shimei, who he treated like a daughter, praise another male cultivator for being strong, Cheng Yi felt very complicated. However, when he thought of how Little Shimei was able to have a sword cultivator of Radiance Sect accompany her and take care of her, Cheng Yi felt some strange smugness amid the soreness he felt.
As expected of Kong Hou Shimei. Even when travelling outside, nothing could obstruct her.
“Thank you, Path Friend Huan Zhong, for caring for my little shimei.” Cheng Yi bowed and said, “Little *Shimei is young and ignorant; Path Friend has been burdened on this journey.”
Huan Zhong thought, if he was Kong Hou’s shixiong or master, he would be the one thanking an outsider right now, and he would be the one closer to her.
“Path Friend Cheng Yi is too polite. Kong Hou and I are friends, so we should take care of each other. It distances us when we thank each other,” Huan Zhong said. “On this journey, Kong Hou has helped me greatly. If someone has to say thanks, it should be me.”
“Both of you stop thanking each other.” Kong Hou saw Shixiong and Huan Zhong thanking each other and pulled their sleeves. “I am reassured knowing Auspicious Pavilion is fine. Five Auspicious Pavilion disciples have come with us. Shixiong, you take them back.”
“What about you?” Cheng Yi exchanged greetings with the five Auspicious Pavilion disciples. He turned and said to Kong Hou, “You have been outside for so long. Go to Auspicious Pavilion, wash and rest, and we will speak tomorrow. We have not seen each other for so long. Don’t you want to tell me what you saw and heard during your travel?”
“Will it be all right for Huan Zhong and I to intrude without any notice?” Kong Hou turned to look at Huan Zhong without immediately agreeing.
“No matter, Lin Hu and I will be at an nearby inn. If you have any matters, come to the inn to find us.” Huan Zhong took out a bag of spirit fruits from his storage ring. “These are the spirit fruits you like. Don’t forget to eat them when you arrive at Auspicious Pavilion.”
“How can I let you stay alone at the inn?” Kong Hou did not take the spirit fruits. “Do not be ridiculous.”
Lin Hu’s brows shifted. In Miss Kong Hou’s eyes, were he and Master one, or was his existence too weak to be noticed?
Cheng Yi: “…”
What was this? Why did he feel as though he was an evil parent about to separate two good playmates? The two playmates could only divide their toys out of helplessness and decide when they should meet next time?
“Spirit Master Huan Zhong saved our lives. if you are willing to come to our humble sect as a guest, it will be this sect’s honor. Please, Spirit Master, let us and the sect host you.” Ge Jin, who managed to squeeze out of the crowd, looked at the pale and handsome man. She could already image the scene of him standing alone, gazing at the moon. He and Miss Kong Hou had such a good relationship—how could she separate them?
Also, Spirit Master Huan Zhong was an apprentice of Radiance Sect. If he was willing to come to a small sect like theirs as a guest, it would give them face.
Huan Zhong looked at Kong Hou. She looked at him expectantly. Huan Zhong turned and bowed to Ge Jin. “Since this is so, I will disturb your honored sect.”
“No, no.” Ge Jin did not accept Huan Zhong’s bow and moved aside. “Spirit Master, please.”
Cheng Yi said with a small smile, “Path Friend Huan Zhong is too polite. Your honored sect and Splendid Cloud Sect have been on good terms for many years; we do not have to worry about these minor etiquettes.” Auspicious Pavilion was a subordinate sect of Splendid Cloud Sect. Major sects would usually not interact without good reason with minor sects that were subordinate to other sects. Otherwise, they would be misunderstood as trying to recruit those sects.
Supposedly, a thousand years ago, evil cultivators used this method to disrupt ties, and caused a great conflict between Clear Dawn Sect and Nine Phoenix Sect. Then the conspiracy of the evil cultivators was exposed. Nine Phoenix Sect and Clear Dawn Sect stopped fighting each other, but even now, the relationship between the two sects wasn’t close, and they did not interact frequently.
In order to avoid walking the old path of Clear Dawn Sect and Nine Phoenix Sect, the present major sects paid great attention to this problem.
Right now, among the sects ranked in the top ten, Radiance Sect had the greatest reputation, Clear Dawn Sect and Nine Phoenix Sect were evenly matched, and they cultivated both energy and the sword. Quiet Peace Temple was a Buddhist sect. When nothing major was occurring, they liked to stay on their mountain, plant vegetables and recite scriptures. The carrots in their gardens appeared much more interesting than events outside. The sects subordinate to them were all Buhddist sects. Beast King Sect, Sunset Pill Tower, Binary Sect were all old sects thousands of years old. While they had not had any outstanding disciples the last few years, their disciples were still accomplished. Of the remaining three sects, Blue Feather Sect was like Splendid Cloud Sect. They did not teach just one cultivation method and accepted all kinds of disciples. Moon Star Sect was the most skilled at divination. They had the least number of disciples and did not like showing themselves. While they were the last among the ten major sects, no sect dared to target them. Even the evil cultivators who liked to make trouble avoided this sect in unspoken agreement.
All cultivators knew that cultivators who were skilled at divination could cast curses. If one offended this type of cultivator, they would easily lose their luck. Luck was something that could not be touched or seen, but it was too important for cultivation.
The ten major sects had their own style of conduct, but in terms of protecting the cultivation world, they all spent great effort. All the major sects know that the present peace had not come easily. Therefore, they were exceptionally careful with matters that could easily cause misunderstandings.
No one wanted to be the criminal that destroyed the peace.
“Transcendent, Celestial, come with me. ” Ge Jin saw the transcendent of Splendid Cloud Sect had finished speaking with Spirit Master Huan Zhong and led the way. The people who wanted her to make a reading did not dare to come close to her after seeing Huan Zhong and Cheng Yi behind her. They turned and left.
Turning and fleeing when they saw the situation was not right was one of the Feng City citizens’ ultimate moves to save their lives.
“Your honored city’s people are so enthusiastic.” Kong Hou looked at Hong Ling and the other three people surrounded by the citizens. She could see Auspicious Pavilion had a good relationship with the local people. Otherwise, the citizens would not dare to be so intimate with them.
“Celestial, please pardon this.” Ge Jin held a variety of bags holding the fruits and vegetables the people had given her. “We entered the pavilion from a young age, and our masters frequently took us onto the streets to divine for free for the people in order to exercise our abilities. Many of the people have either watched us grow up, or we watched them grow up. Today, they could not help their enthusiasm upon seeing us return.”
For people that cultivated, when they saw newborns gradually grow up and grow old while they remained young, they could not help but feel sorrow.
Kong Hou nodded in understanding. She thought of Harmonious City. The people of Harmonious City would treat disciples of Splendid Cloud Sect the same.
Compared to Harmonious Wind Study who were very refined, the buildings of Auspicious Pavilion were much simpler, but the aura of the pavilion was similarly warm. The disciples were happy to see Ge Jin. After learning about Kong Hou and Huan Zhong’s identities, they respectfully but warmly led them to the courtyard of the pavilion master.
As an envoy of the main sect, Cheng Yi had high status in Auspicious Pavilion. Any disciple that passed him would respectfully bow to him. But Cheng Yi would seriously return the greeting to all disciples, regardless of their status. Kong Hou, who followed behind him, would return the bows with smiles. They did not slight the others because they were apprentices of the main sect.
Lin Hu, who followed behind them, saw this and felt that he seemed to understand slightly why the subordinate sects who joined Splendid Cloud Sect would never spread any negative words about the sect after joining them. Even Radiance Sect who had the most prestige would have subordinate sect disciples complain that the rules of the main sect were too strict.
Entering the main hall, Lin Hu and the others saw the pavilion master of Auspicious Pavilion.
The pavilion master was a slightly plump old person. When he smiled, he was like the friendly old man commonly seen on the streets and alleys. If not for the spirit pressure that only a Mind Manifestation forebear could have, no one would know that he was a pavilion master.
Seeing them come in, the pavilion master called for them to sit down, and had disciples come and lay out fruits and pastries. Looking at the enormous plates on the table and the overspilling foodstuffs, Kong Hou hurriedly took up the spirit fruits at the edges so they would not roll down the table. Auspicious Pavilion was too sincere in treating their guests. How would they be able to eat so many spirit fruits?
“This kind of fruit has a milky fragrance. Celestial Kong Hou, have a taste—do you like it?” The pavilion master looked at Kong Hou benevolently like a grandfather seeing his beloved granddaughter, desiring to give everything good to her.
Kong Hou was not polite. She took a bite of the spirit fruit and said to the pavilion master, “Very good. Thank you, Pavilion Master.”
“This kind of spirit fruit is a specialty produce of Feng City. Even if other places are able to grow it, the taste will not be the same.” The pavilion master explained to Kong Hou how picky the spirit fruit was about its growing conditions, and said that many places had poor counterfeit fruits with only the appearance and not the actual effects of this spirit fruit.
Seeing the pavilion master about to tell Celestial Kong Hou how to transplant the spirit fruit seedlings, Ge Jin could not sit still. She spoke up. “Pavilion Master, Celestial Kong Hou and Spirit Master Huan Zhong have protected us on our journey, and they are very tired. Let’s first arrange for them to rest.”
“Yes, Ge Jin is correct.” The pavilion master stood up. “Celestial Kong Hou, you are tired. Rest first; I will tell you in detail tomorrow.”
Ge Jin: “…”
She had not expected Master to grab a young girl to talk about how to plant trees. Was this something a young girl would be interested in? She turned to look at Kong Hou. The other did not show any impatience but nodded repeatedly. “Yes, yes.”
Ge Jin: “…”
She could not understand the young girls of nowadays.
Lingyou World held the east as the honored direction. So the courtyards that Kong Hou and Huan Zhong stayed in were neighbouring to Cheng Yi’s, and were all on the east side. Huan Zhong wanted to see Kong Hou back to her rooms like usual. When he turned his head, however, he saw Cheng Yi was already leading Kong Hou into her rooms. He paused in his steps. He looked at Kong Hou’s back and did not chase after her.
“Huan Zhong—” Kong Hou, who had stepped through the gates, looked back and met Huan Zhong’s gaze “—do not forget to eat the energy returning pill.”
“All right.” Huan Zhong’s brows relaxed, his eyes full of gentleness.
Cheng Yi’s gaze landed on Huan Zhong. Yet the sword cultivator who should have had a sensitive perception did not notice his gaze.
“Eldest Shixiong.” Kong Hou poked Cheng Yi’s arm. “Let’s go.”
“Radiance Sect has recently sent generous gifts twice to the sect, saying it is in thanks for your care of their disciple.” Cheng Yi pushed open the door and inspected the room. He spread out two layers of blankets onto the bed for Kong Hou, and then changed the incense to the mind focusing incense Kong Hou frequently used. “I observe Spirit Master Huan Zhong’s health is not good?”
“Yes.” Kong Hou did not say what was the problem with Huan Zhong’s health. She only said, “However, he did not trouble me for anything, yet I frequently received Elder Lin and his care.”
Cheng Yi sighed. “You like this Huan Zhong a lot?”
“Yes.” Kong Hou nodded. Seeing that Cheng Yi appeared slightly unhappy, she hugged Cheng Yi’s arm and shook it. “However, I still like Shixiong best. Really.”
“You don’t like Master and your second shixiong best?” Cheng Yi raised an eyebrow to look at her. Originally, he thought that Kong Hou had feelings towards Huan Zhong. Hearing her answer like this, he knew that he had thought too much. How old was Kong Hou? They had raised her to be innocent and lively—how would she understand the feelings of men and women while so young?
“They are not here, so making you happy is most important.” Kong Hou giggled and released Cheng Yi’s arm. She took out an unattractive men’s signet ring from her storage ring. “This is a talisman I forged. While it doesn’t have much use…”
“Very good-looking.” Cheng Yi put the signet ring on his thumb. “I did not imagine that you even learned forging during this period.”
“Huan Zhong taught me. In the first two days, I only managed to forge a grey metal ring using ordinary true fire. Later, Huan Zhong took out essential fire for me to practice, and I forged this signet ring. This is my first work.” Looking at the dim signet ring on Shixiong‘s long and clean finger, Kong Hou was slightly embarrassed. “It seems… a bit ugly.”
“Nonsense, how can something our Kong Hou made be ugly?” Cheng Yi smiled. “When I was first learning forging, I took three whole months to complete a half-done work. You are much better than Shixiong.”
“You are comforting me again.” Kong Hou snorted. “When I could not learn divination, you said you learned for a long time and could not master it. Laster, Ling Hui Shixiong told me you learned very well after just spending a month.”
Cheng Yi laughed. This time, he was not trying to fool Kong Hou. When he had been learning forging back in the past, he had spent several months. Cultivators like Kong Hou who were able to forge talismans after learning for a few days were very few. Fortunately, Pei Huai Shishu did not know of this. Otherwise, he would definitely want to steal Kong Hou to Midday Sun Peak.
But Kong Hou said that Spirit Master Huan Zhong had used essential fire for her to practice forging? Essential fire was rare. Many forgers, when forging ordinary talismans, did not bear to use essential fire, much less when practicing. It seems that Huan Zhong had taken very good care of Shimei during their travel.
“Rest first. I will call you up next morning to eat.” Cheng Yi put away the incense pot. “I will make what you want to eat.”
“Anything Shixiong makes is delicious.” Kong Hou still remembered, even now, when she just came to Splendid Cloud Mountain, Shixiong had been worried that she would not be accustomed to eating with the other disciples in the Food Hall. He also felt that eating fasting pills was not good, so he would personally make her meals every day on Moon Perching Peak. Shixiong only stopped when she became familiar with the shijie and shixiong of the sect. But even so, she was able to frequently eat Shixiong‘s cooking.
“Your tongue is so sweet. Fortunately, you are not a man, otherwise, many women would be fooled by you.” Cheng Yi laughed. “Rest.”
“Why don’t you worry that good men would be fooled by me?” Kong Hou yawned. “Then I am going to sleep. Call me awake tomorrow morning.”
“All right.” Cheng Yi put her to bed and tucked her blankets in. “Call me if there is anything. I am in the room next to yours.”
“Yes.” Kong Hou closed her eyes contentedly. She had overused her spirit energy and hadn’t recovered yet. She truly needed to rest.
Seeing Kong Hou fall immediately into sleep, Cheng Yi put down the silk veil. When he got to the door, he worried that evil cultivators would attack during the night. He added several layers of boundaries outside the room.
The child that he had raised, even if she was already grown, was still that little girl in his eyes. He felt he needed to arrange everything before he could feel relieved.
Deep in the night, Lin Hu stood in the courtyard and looked at the shadow by the window. He walked next to the window and said in a small voice, “Master, it is late. You should sleep.”
The door opened. Huan Zhong came out, dressed neatly. “Why have you not slept yet?”
“I saw lamps lit in your room and came out to look.” Lin Hu saw Huan Zhong gazing in the direction of the neighbouring courtyard. “Master is worried about Miss Kong Hou?”
Huan Zhong did not speak. In the last while, Kong Hou had lived in the same courtyard as him. While the two did not reside in the same room, Huan Zhong felt that his rooms were infected with some liveliness with Kong Hou residing near him.
“Cheng Yi is Miss Kong Hou’s eldest shixiong. I heard, ever since Miss Kong Hou joined Splendid Cloud Sect, this eldest shixiong treated her extremely well. When Miss Kong Hou was young, he brushed her hair, bought her clothing, and even taught her many of the cultivation spells. Miss Kong Hou would not be neglected by him,” Lin Hu said. “Do not worry and rest.”
“Lin Hu.” Huan Zhong suddenly turned to look at him. “If I took Kong Hou back to Radiance Sect and took her as my last student, would she be willing?”
Lin Hu: “…”
The wind blew at the tree branches and made a rustling noise.
“Master, putting aside whether Miss Kong Hou would agree to this—if you really did this, Radiance Sect and Splendid Cloud Sect would fight.” Lin Hu saw that Huan Zhong did not seem to be joking. “Stealing another’s apprentice cannot be forgiven.”
Huan Zhong became silent again.
“Miss Kong Hou’s personality is not suited to life in Radiance Sect.” Lin Hu observed Huan Zhong’s expression. “Every day, one has to get up and practice the sword before the sun is up; they have to put cultivation above food and everything else, they cannot easily show their emotions. Miss Kong Hou is someone that likes to have fun. If she went to Radiance Sect, would it not wrong her?”
“You are right.” Huan Zhong lowered his face. “Radiance Sect is not suited to her.”
Under the moonlight, Huan Zhong’s face seemed slightly cold. Lin Hu wanted to say a few more words, but seeing Huan Zhong’s absolutely expressionless face, he became silent.
No matter how much Master liked Miss Kong Hou, there would be a day when they separated. Cultivation had no sense of time. Sometimes, a seclusion could last decades and even a century. When the two met up again, the person would be the same, but the mental state might be completely different.
Sword cultivators were cold in heart and emotions. It wasn’t that they were born without emotions, but that their emotions changed. Ordinary people had short lives. Time and death all wore away at emotions. Mental state affected a sword cultivator greatly. If one ruined their cultivation due to outer influences, their lifetime of cultivation would be destroyed.
Many sword cultivators became increasingly cold in order to maintain their pure mental state toward the sword. They became the snow on the mountains, the deep abyss of the oceans; their emotions did not change for years. No one could say if this was correct or not.
Several thousands of years ago, sword cultivators even killed their fathers, mothers, wives, and children for cultivation. Fortunately, they did not ascend, so no more sword cultivators copied them.
Did Master know his attitude towards Miss Kong Hou surpassed how he had treated others in the past?
“Go sleep.” Huan Zhong raised a hand. “I will sit here a while longer.”
“Master.” Lin Hu halted. A moment later, he said, “Miss Kong Hou will return to Splendid Cloud Sect sooner or later.”
Huan Zhong turned to look at him, his eyes bottomless in the night. “I know.”
Lin Hu bowed towards him and then turned to enter his own room.
Huan Zhong looked into the sky. The black clouds were nearing the crescent moon in an attempt to cover its light. He waved towards the sky. The black clouds dissipated, and the moonlight illuminated all of Auspicious Pavilion. He gently jumped to stand on the wall, gazing in the direction of Kong Hou’s room.
Several boundaries had been placed outside the room, appearing to impede anyone from getting close.
In the main courtyard, the pavilion master closed his window. He sighed and shook his head, “Young people nowadays are one stranger than the next.” A sword cultivator, rather than sleeping during the night, wore white brocade robes and stood in the cold wind on the wall. What kind of hobby was this?
Just like his unaccomplished apprentices. They could not divine the heavens or the path, but they would divine what to wear and eat every day; they all had strange habits.
The next morning, Kong Hou heard knocking on the door. She thought that Eldest Shixiong was calling her to get out of bed, so she blearily opened the door. She saw Huan Zhong standing outside the door with a bowl of delicious red spirit fruits brimming with spirit energy.
“Spirit Master Huan Zhong?” Cheng Yi came into the courtyard with a tray of breakfast. He looked around Kong Hou’s door. How could Spirit Master Huan Zhong get close to Shimei‘s room?
Where were the boundaries he had laid down?
Translator Ramblings: Huan Zhong has turned into a brooding possessive protagonist.