This chapter has been brought to you by me, and Adnana.
Chapter 64: Secret Realm
Chu Ji Xuan shrank in the corner of the carriage and started to doubt his life. He was born noble, he had the love of his father-emperor, and even the court officials were exceptionally polite to him because he had a spirit base. From birth until now, his twenty-first year, he lived as though he was the center of the universe.
This was the first time he had embarrassed himself so greatly. And the person he had embarrassed himself in front of was someone he had to curry favor with. Before coming to Auspicious Pavilion, Father-Emperor mentioned to him that their branch of the family had been moved under the name of that ancestor. So Spirit Master Huan Zhong could be considered his ancestor in name—though he suspected the validity of this adoption, and this great-grandfather did not know of this matter at all.
Also, he was puzzled. The ancestral records had not even left behind the name of his great-grandfather. Had the ancestors been worried that people with bad intentions would use his great-grandfather’s name maliciously so they erased the name?
Huan Zhong did not treat Chu Ji Xuan warmly. In Kong Hou’s opinion, Huan Zhong was warmer to the disciples of Radiance Sect than to this imperial prince.
The flying carriage moved quickly. In just two hours, they left the borders of Feng City. Kong Hou lifted the curtain and looked at the horses that flew through the air. She took out two spirit fruits from her storage ring and handed them to Chu Ji Xuan. “If you go alone to Five Flavors Manor, what about Miss Ru Yi?”
“A year ago, a celestial of Water Moon Sect found Ru Yi had fate with cultivation and took her as the first student. She and I are childhood sweethearts and have almost never been separated. If I do not join a sect and cultivate, I fear Ru Yi will give up a good opportunity for me.” Chu Ji Xuan held the spirit fruit and was too embarrassed to take a bite in front of his elders. “Who does not want to live longer, and live better? But I fear that she will lose all those close to her through the years, and no one will keep her company.
“I do not bear for her to be lonely and sad, so I will cultivate with her and live longer.” Chu Ji Xuan smiled. “I do not fear Celestial will laugh at me. Before coming, I was already prepared to embarrass myself. I did not expect to have the good luck to encounter Great-Grandfather.”
While Kong Hou did not understand the love between men and women, she could see Chu Ji Xuan’s sincere love. “It is good you think like this.”
She thought that the men of the imperial family were either like her father-emperor, completely indifferent to women, or were like Emperor Jinghong with his crowds of concubines. She had not expected there were people who treated their love seriously.
Hearing Kong Hou praise him, Chu Ji Xuan smiled bashfully. “Being able to accompany one’s love is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
He did not desire longevity, but to accompany the person he loved longer.
The cry of birds sounded outside the carriage. Kong Hou lifted the curtain. The mountains were snowy white. The pear trees had bloomed.
“So beautiful.” She leaned against the window and looked dazedly at the mountain covered in pear blossoms, ignorant of the petal falling gently on her hair. Huan Zhong looked at her profile and reached out to pick up that flower petal.
A faint fragrance entered his nose. He did not know if the fragrance came from the flower or from the young girl admiring the flowers.
“Great-Grandfather.” Chu Ji Xuan saw Huan Zhong’s calm expression, gathered his courage and said, “Have you lived well these years?”
“After I left the imperial palace, nothing was bad anymore.” Huan Zhong stared at Chu Ji Xuan for a long time. “You are a descendant of Third Brother?”
Chu Ji Xuan was slightly embarrassed. The ancestral records had recorded that his ancestor was the third brother of Great-Grandfather. After Great-Grandfather left with the transcendent, his ancestor had been adopted under the name of Great-Grandfather. Then something occurred, and his ancestor became the emperor, the throne passing down until his generation.
“Great-Grandfather, I… I am your descendant.” Chu Ji Xuan had already guessed why his ancestor was adopted under the name of his great-grandfather. Facing the actual person, he lowered his head in shame.
“I left the imperial palace before I was ten—how could I have any descendants?” Huan Zhong’s indifferent eyes turned slightly. “Change it. In the future, call me Great Grand Uncle or Spirit Master.”
As expected, Great-Grandfather would not recognize their line. Chu Ji Xuan was slightly dejected, but because he had expected it, he did not lose his composure. “This junior will remember.”
“In the past, your ancestor and I did not have good relations. I broke my blood ties long ago, the past is nothing, and there is no need to mention it again.” Huan Zhong’s tone was cool. When he mentioned the Chu Family, he did not have any emotion or feeling.
“Yes…” Chu Ji Xuan knelt on the cushion and bowed to Huan Zhong.
Huan Zhong glanced at him and then closed his eyes, leaning back on the cushions silently.
The carriage became silent again. Kong Hou turned her head and found Huan Zhong lying down. She put down the curtain and took out a thin blanket from her storage ring to put over Huan Zhong. Then she closed her eyes and meditated.
Looking at the pair who had their eyes closed, Chu Ji Xuan felt slightly curious. Great-Grandfather… Great Grand Uncle, what was his relationship with Celestial Kong Hou? Why did Great Grand Uncle not let him mention “never separate in love”, yet looked at Celestial Kong Hou with such warm eyes?
From yesterday to today, he found that Great Grand Uncle looked at everyone with the same gaze, distant and cold. He was only different when he was together with Celestial Kong Hou. At that time, his gaze was filled with warmth.
The light outside the carriage sneaked into the carriage through the window curtains and landed on Kong Hou’s dress. She was so bright she seemed to be glowing.
Huan Zhong opened his eyes and grabbed the thin blanket on top of him. He stared at the young girl under the sunlight, his eyes also becoming bright.
They travelled east. Kong Hou and the others reached the small city where Five Flavors Manor was located near sunset.
Wisps of smoke rose among the woods. The two guards at the city gates wore clean but worn armor. Their eyes were bright, shining from their faces. Watching as the carriage drawn by flying horses landed, the two guards became alert.
“Greetings to Transcendent. Where has Transcendent come from?”
“From Pei City. This one has business with Five Flavors Manor’s manor master.” Lin Hu handed the life token to the guard. “Thank you.”
“Transcendent, please come in.” The two guards had never left their homes. Hearing Lin Hu say he came from a famous cultivation city, their eyes were admiring and curious but without any jealousy or anger.
After they passed through the gates, the city was quiet. It was not a disturbing silence, but a kind of serene silence that made people feel at ease, as though the years were peaceful and the business of others was unrelated to them. Based on the usual ways of conduct, they should wait until tomorrow morning before they went to visit Five Flavors Manor. However, they were in a hurry to reach Kui City, so they made their visit at sunset. They hoped that the manor master of Five Flavors Manor would forgive them for their offense on account of the valuable gifts they brought.
Led by friendly passersby, Lin Hu drove the carriage to find Five Flavors Manor. Five Flavors Manor was not the ruler of this city, so their location was not very good. If not for the words Five Flavors Manor on the sign at the gates, people would only think that this was an ordinary concentric courtyard of three layers that took up slightly more space than usual.
Kong Hou jumped off the carriage. Before she could knock on the door, she heard the sound of weapons coming from behind the gates. Her expression changed. Were villains committing evil? Thinking about how the entirety of Splendid Cloud Sect hoped that they could have Five Flavors Manor as a subordinate sect, Kong Hou ignored all else. She took the Water Frost Sword from her hair and kicked open the wooden gates.
The moment the gates opened, white powder came towards her. Kong Hou did not dare to be careless. She waved her sleeve, using spirit power to create a barrier to block these unknown powders.
“Osmanthus cakes should use honey, and then be garnished with osmanthus flowers so they will not lose the taste of the osmanthus.”
“Fart, salt is the source of all flavor. No salt, no flavor. Osmanthus cakes should be salty.”
“As a cook cultivator, you dare to curse? You are unspeakably dirty.”
“I will not just curse at you, I will hit you.”
Bone knives, cutting knives, cleavers all flew. However, no one touched the sticky rice, peanuts, honey and other items at the side, and they even avoided them carefully. As a cook cultivator, they would not easily be swayed from their own philosophy of cooking, even if they were fighting.
But no matter what philosophy they had, their respect for the ingredients was the same.
That disciple who had thrown the flour into the air was being viciously beaten into the floor by two disciples. The remaining disciples continued to argue fiercely for salty or sweet.
The air was filled with the light of the knife talismans. At first glance, one would think this was where people’s flesh was being cut off.
Kong Hou stood there dazedly. Cooking cultivators were like this in private?
“Osmanthus cakes are best with their original flavor; honey and salt should not be added,” Chu Ji Xuan said in a quiet voice. “Honey or salt will cover some of the clean fragrance the osmanthus flower has.”
Kong Hou silently turned to look at Chu Ji Xuan and then moved to the side. She pointed at the chaotic scene inside the courtyard. “Do you need to go in and discuss with them?”
“No, people are varied and have different tastes. One does not need to be too stubborn.” Looking at the variety of weapons flying through the air, Chu Ji Xuan swallowed and took three steps back. “Cooking is about being calm in mind.”
Seeing the sun about to go down and the disciples of Five Flavors Manor showing no intentions of stopping, Kong Hou could only clap and say, “Path Friends, this one is a disciple of Splendid Cloud Sect and asks for an audience with your honored manor’s master for business. Please pass this on.”
If an evil cultivator came, they did not even need to conceal themselves to kill all these people. From when she kicked open the gates until now, they only focused on fighting for salty or sweet without even noticing people had come in.
The perseverance of cook cultivators in the path of cooking was terrifying.
“What?” The disciples who were fighting heard the words “Splendid Cloud Sect” and all stopped. They took back the talismans they had thrown into the air. The shidi and shimei went to carry the food back to the kitchen and arranged for someone to notify the manor master.
“It is our honor to have Celestial visit.” The leading disciple neatened his robes, walked in front of Kong Hou and bowed to her. Inside, he felt curious. Why did the apprentice of a famed sect suddenly come to a minor sect like theirs?
“Path Friend is too polite.” Kong Hou turned and introduced Huan Zhong and Lin Hu. “They are disciples of Radiance Sect. This time, I have come without notice with a junior, and hope that your honored sect will excuse our rudeness.”
The disciples thought that something was wrong with their hearing. What was going on with these disciples of famed sects—did they make an appointment to visit Five Flavors Manor together?
“Transcendent and Celestial are too polite. Please come with me.” Just as the disciple led Kong Hou and the other three people a few steps, the disciple who had gone to pass on the message hurriedly ran back. “Transcendent, Celestial, please come. Master is waiting in the main hall.”
“Thank you.” Kong Hou said, “Please, Path Friend, lead the way.”
“Please, Transcendent, Celestial.”
After Kong Hou and the others went to the main hall, the disciples in the courtyard looked at each other in silence.
“Great, now we embarrassed ourselves in front of disciples of major sects,” a disciple muttered.
The other people turned to glare at him. He shrank back in fear.
Originally, they had been admiring Auspicious Pavilion. Back then, they seemed to be unable to last, but then they suddenly became a subordinate sect of Splendid Cloud Sect and were now flourishing in the cultivation world. A few days ago, they fantasized that a major sect would suddenly arrive and accept them as a subordinate sect. But today, they let the disciples of two major sects see them fighting behind closed doors. Now they were too embarrassed to even dream.
When Spirit Master Bai An heard his disciple say that cultivators from Splendid Cloud Sect were visiting, the first person he thought of was that young girl he encountered at the Hundred Flowers Ball of Yan City. For some reason, he had this feeling. Maybe, the other was too likeable when she smiled?
“Please come in.”
Hearing voices outside, Spirit Master Bai An sat up properly and hid the secret pickled chicken claws on the table into a drawer. He did not forget to cast a spell to dissipate the scent in the air.
Seeing the appearance of the young girl at the front, Spirit Master Bai An stood up. “Celestial Kong Hou, Spirit Master Huan Zhong.”
“We are bothering you and made trouble for you.” Kong Hou returned the greeting. After politely exchanging courtesies and presenting the gifts, she spoke of her intentions.
“Manor Master, this junior has come today with a request.”
“Celestial is joking—how can I help Celestial?” Spirit Master Bai An was not being humble. This was the truth. Five Flavors Manor did not have money, did not have talented people, did not have rare treasures. What help could they give?
“Other than Manor Master, no one else can help.” Kong Hou turned and saw Chu Ji Xuan standing behind Lin Hu.
“Come here.” Huan Zhong’s lip parted and he called Chu Ji Xuan over. “Manor Master, this is a descendant of my mortal life before cultivation. He has some cultivation spirit base. He likes cooking, and in the entire cultivation world, only your honored sect will be able to accommodate him.”
Spirit Master Bai An felt this descendant might not have Spirit Master Huan Zhong’s favor. Otherwise, his tone would not be so cool. With Spirit Master Huan Zhong’s status, which sect could he not let his descendant join—why did they find a minor sect like theirs?
“Young Master, please extend your left hand.” Spirit Master Bai An did not give an answer. After Chu Ji Xuan gave his hand, Bai An used spirit energy to explore his spirit platform and meridians. “How long have you cultivated; who is your master?”
“Fifteen years. I learned the basic energy refinement with a nomad cultivator my family hired.” Chu Ji Xuan saw this manor master called Bai An had an ethereal presence and a benevolent gaze. He felt very close to the other and answered honestly.
“You did not join a sect yet managed to reach Energy Refinement fifth level in fifteen years. Young Master, you have such good talent—why do you desire to join Five Flavors Manor?” Spirit Master Bai An took away his spirit energy and said with a sigh, “This humble sect is small. Young Master will be slighted by joining our sect.”
“Manor Master, you do not know. I may have lived in luxury from birth, but I could only study cooking in secret. I did not dare to let my family members know of my hobby,” Chu Ji Xuan said. “Manor Master, please do not disdain me for my stupidity, and accept me.” Great Grand Uncle said he did not have talent, but Manor Master said he had good talent. Who should he believe?
“Young Master is named Chu. What relationship do you have with the imperial family of Jing City?” While he had some desire to accept this student, before he knew the other’s identity, he would not agree.
“Manor Master, this junior is the third son of the present emperor.”
He was an imperial son. Then Spirit Master Huan Zhong who was his elder…
The Chu Clan of Jing, the capital, were born with dragon fortune, and innately had the fate of emperors. This kind of fate might be admired in the mortal world, but in the cultivation world filled with cultivators, the influence and status of the imperial family were not high.
While the Chu Clan of Jing all had the fates of emperors, they lacked spirit bases. They had existed for many generations, but their longevity was like ordinary people’s. None of their members had ever stepped on the path of cultivation. He had not thought the rumors so inaccurate. If the members of the Chu Family were fated not to have spirit bases, then what were the spirit bases of Spirit Master Huan Zhong and this imperial prince?
“If Young Master does not mind, you can stay in Five Flavors Manor.” Spirit Master Bai An nodded slowly. “But once you join, you have to abide by the rules.” He was not saying this just for Chu Ji Xuan, but also for Huan Zhong and Kong Hou.
“Manor Master, do not worry. He is a disciple of Five Flavors Manor; if he joins, he will follow your honored sect,” Huan Zhong said. “I have cut ties with my mortal life. Manor Master, do not worry.”
Huan Zhong almost did not straightforwardly say, he had cut ties with his mortal life, he just brought this person over and would not care about any other matters.
Spirit Master Bai An was reassured. No one wanted to get a student but still have to worry about the powerful elder behind the student. Five Flavors Manor was slightly poor, but they had their own principles.
When Chu Ji Xuan heard Huan Zhong say such things, he was slightly dejected. He peeked at Huan Zhong but Huan Zhong did not look at him. He lowered his head and listened to them speak.
After finalizing the matter of getting a new disciple, Spirit Master Bai An saw the sky had turned dark and said, “Everyone, please follow me outside to eat.”
When Kong Hou heard the word “eat,” she became filled with anticipation towards Five Flavors Manor’s food.
But just as she sat down, and before she could move her chopsticks, a disciple came to report that the sect eldest disciple of Clear Dawn Sect, Chang De, had come to visit.
“Please ask him in.” Spirit Master Bai An said apologetically to Kong Hou and Huan Zhong, “Please wait for a few moments.” He did not know what day today was that the apprentices of three major sects came to their old and poor place.
Chang De who followed behind the disciples was surprised when he saw Kong Hou and Huan Zhong. He paused and bowed slightly to them. “Path Friends, we meet again.”
“Greetings, Path Friend Chang De.” Kong Hou returned the greeting and motioned for him to be seated. “Path Friend is also passing through here?”
“A few days ago, I heard news that Kui City has a secret realm about to open in a few more days. I desire to take my shidi and shimei to see.” Chang De did not conceal the matter of the secret realm. The sect realm was wealthy in resources, but he had never entered this secret realm before. If Huan Zhong and Kong Hou became interested in the secret realm, they could look after each other.
Shidi and shimei?
Kong Hou thought of Celestial Ling Bo who needed flowers to open her way. “The other shidi and shimei have not come with you?”
“They are resting at the inn. I remembered that Five Flavors Manor was here and came to visit,” Chang De explained. “Because we depart tomorrow morning, I came to disturb at this time.”
“Transcendent is too polite. Five Flavors Manor’s gates will be open at all hours for you.” Spirit Master Bai An heard the words secret realm but did not react at all. While secret realms had many treasures, they would not be able to obtain them. Rather than hold unrealistic fantasies of exploring the secret realm, and coming back with wounds or even not at all, it was better to stay in the manor and cultivate.
“Path Friend, do you know how many days the secret realm will be open?” Kong Hou asked Chang De.
“The records about this secret realm say it will be open for forty-nine days, but after five centuries, I do not know if something has changed. To be on the safe side, I plan to stay with my shidi and shimei for thirty days before leaving.” Chang De worried that Kong Hou did not have any experience with secret realms and feared that she would accidentally trap herself inside. “While there are many worldly treasures in the secret realm, even if one stays in there for a year, they will not be able to take away everything inside. Path Friend Kong Hou, if you enter, you have to be careful.”
“Thank you for telling me; I will pay extra attention.” A month was not very long, but also not short. Kong Hou turned and said to Spirit Master Bai An, “Does Spirit Master want to send a disciple with us?”
“Our disciples have weak cultivation and will only bring you trouble.” Spirit Master Bai An could see that Kong Hou wanted to help them, but he knew their limits. If it was an ordinary trip, Bai An would ask them to take two disciples along, even if he had to beg shamelessly.
But a dangerous secret realm was different. A secret realm would have endless traps and dangers. His young disciples did not have the ability to enter it.
Kong Hou could see Spirit Master Bai An was not just being polite and did not ask again. She said to Huan Zhong using a sound spell, “Huan Zhong, how about we travel with the disciples of Clear Dawn Sect tomorrow?”
Huan Zhong looked at Chang De who had been speaking with Kong Hou from when he entered. He said back expressionlessly, “We will go alone and without them.”
Kong Hou turned to look at Huan Zhong. She wanted to know why he refused.
“I do not like the stuffy scent of flowers.”
Kong Hou: What?
“When plucked flower petals have been put for too long in baskets, they have strange smells and will attract worms.”
Kong Hou: “…”
Kong Hou thought, sound spells were really a great invention in the cultivation world. With the spell in existence, conflicts would be reduced by at least half.
If Celestial Ling Bo heard this, the wonderful food in front of her might get flung to the ground.
Translator Ramblings: Poor Huan Zhong, I wonder how many “legal” descendants he already has.