This chapter has been brought to you by me, and Adnana.
Chapter 77: Limelight
Apart from the sword cultivators, the sound cultivators were the most powerful cultivators in terms of destructive power. However, the demands on a cultivator were strenuous. While the damage caused was terrifying, the biggest problem for cultivators who did not have enough cultivation was their spirit energy would be used up rapidly. With Kong Hou’s present cultivation, she could control Phoenix Head well, but not for very long.
It could be said that sound cultivators were fragile and pitiful things in the early stages of cultivation, but after they finally reached Mind Manifestation, if they acted, they were devils that could kill masses in one blow. However, in the entire cultivation world, the number of sound cultivators was not higher than the cooking cultivators. Sound cultivation required great talent from its cultivators. It was not the cultivator choosing sound cultivation, but sound cultivation choosing it. So there were only a rare few that cultivated sound. In the last few centuries, the number of sound cultivators that reached Mind Manifestation was… zero.
Kong Hou pretended not to hear Ling Bo’s words. She looked at the succubi coming from all directions and her fingers plucked lightly on the chords.
She did not like her father-emperor being obsessed with music and letting treacherous ministers control the court. She once even felt extremely negative about music. But now she understood. Music was innocent, the instruments were innocent—her father-emperor was the only one in the wrong.
The succubi liked the negative emotions of humans the best. Terror, jealousy, hate, regret, and sorrow were their most delicious food.
The sound of music rose. This was a relatively simple song among Kong Hou’s repertoire. The tune held joy and good wishes. This was the only song that she, at six years old, learned before the Ji Dynasty was overthrown.
She had not learned this song for herself but to gain the favor of her father-emperor. But before she could perform in front of her father-emperor, Emperor Jinghong had fought his way in with his soldiers. From then on, she never played the kong hou again.
A person who did not understand joy or bringing joy to others could not play this song.
But she understood now, and had put down the past.
The simple tune spread, carrying powerful spirit energy. The succubi scattered in all directions like uncontrolled flies. But where could they hide? There was sound in the wind, sound in the woods, and sound even in the small cracks of the darkness.
Great numbers of succubi turned to black smoke and disappeared. Playing Phoenix Head, Kong Hou’s fingers did not stop on the strings and the music carried a great distance.
Ling Bo stood dazedly with her sword as she remembered many things. The beautiful dress Master had bought her when she first came to Clear Dawn Sect; how Master and the shixiong had praised her as the most talented cultivator in the cultivation world next to Spirit Master Zhong Xi when she successfully drew energy into her body; Sect Eldest Disciple who abided by the rules secretly bringing her the honey drink she liked when she had returned to the sect last time and had been punished with house arrest.
Ever since she joined Clear Dawn Sect, so many insignificant but happy events had occurred.
The song ended, and the succubi had disappeared completely. After an unknown amount of time, Ling Bo recovered. She slowly looked at Kong Hou. Kong Hou had turned her lifebond talisman back into a hairpin and pushed it once more into her hair.
“Kong Hou…” Looking at Kong Hou again, Ling Bo felt stunned. This control over a lifebond talisman did not seem like one a cultivator who had just reached Mind Activation Stage should possess. What terrifying talent was this?
Kong Hou smiled brightly at her and then said, “Celestial Ling Bo, quick, help me up.”
Ling Bo saw her pale face and guessed that she might have used up her spirit energy. She went to help. However, someone behind her was faster. A streak of white light flew across her vision. When she could see clearly, he was already helping Kong Hou up.
“Focus, calm your energies.” Huan Zhong shoved an energy condensing pill into Kong Hou’s mouth and reached out to support her waist. However, that hand was in a loose fist rather than taking the opportunity to put the entire palm on Kong Hou’s waist.
Ling Bo silently drew her hand back.
“How do you feel?” Huan Zhong channeled some spirit energy to Kong Hou’s spirit platform. Seeing her complexion recover, he slowly released her.
“Not, not bad.” Kong Hou’s eyes glittered when she looked at Huan Zhong as though she was very happy. “Just now, I felt that my consciousness seemed to be one with Phoenix Head. Phoenix Head could feel my emotions, and I knew how to play Phoenix Head for the greatest effect.”
Kong Hou touched the phoenix head hairpin in her hair. She had never liked her lifebond talisman as much as at this moment. It seemed to be a part of her body that could not be separated.
“You have reached the door to Mind Comprehension.” Huan Zhong looked at the young girl’s slightly flushed face. “You are very skilled.”
“Really?” Kong Hou’s eyes were wide, filled with joy and excitement.
Huan Zhong’s lips curved slightly. “I will not lie to you.” He took out his flying sword and jumped onto it, pulling Kong Hou along. “Rest first. Relax your mind and do not think.”
“Yes.” Kong Hou nodded. She coiled her legs on the sword and then closed her eyes to meditate.
Ling Bo pulled her shidi who had used up all his spirit energy onto her own flying talisman. She turned and asked, “Spirit Master Huan Zhong, will it be too attention-catching to fly in the secret realm?”
Huan Zhong turned to look at Lin Hu so he could explain.
“Miss Ling Bo, if the secret realm does not have any intelligence, then going on foot is the best method. But the secret realm is intelligent, therefore our movements cannot be concealed from it. If we choose to travel on foot, it will only delay time.” Lin Hu pulled the middle-aged cultivator onto his own flying talisman. He turned and asked Jin Ling, “Miss Jin Ling, do you want to get on?”
“No need, I can do it.” Jin Ling took out her own flying sword and jumped into the sky.
After seeing Celestial Ling Bo’s swordsmanship and Celestial Kong Hou’s sound attack, Jin Ling felt very guilty. As a woman, she could not have such a terrible performance. This would affect the image of women.
Silently flying in the middle, Jin Ling looked with complicated emotions at Kong Hou who was meditating on Spirit Master Huan Zhong’s sword. If she was Celestial Kong Hou, she could not completely trust a member of another sect, especially when she had such outstanding talent. If other sects wanted to destroy her, this was a good chance.
Many beautiful things would be torn apart by jealousy. Did Kong Hou not have any fear?
Jin Ling did not know if Kong Hou was afraid or not. But when they reached the path that had been blocked off by a boundary, Kong Hou had still not woken up.
No one was surprised by suddenly appearing boundaries. Surprisingly, an image suddenly appeared on the mountain cliffside next to the boundary. This image was extremely strange. A good-looking person was holding a sword, killing someone and eating their hearts, an ugly person was crying by the river, and there were two expressionless passersby.
Jin Ling felt faint and nauseous after a look. She hurriedly closed her eyes to stabilize her mind and did not dare to look again.
Ling Bo was better off than Jin Ling. She looked at the ugly woman crying with her mouth covered and frowned. Had the good-looking person eaten her relatives so she would be crying on the ground?
Was this image a warning?
“Master?” Lin Hu turned to look at Huan Zhong.
Huan Zhong pulled out a sword. A powerful sword essence flew towards the boundary. As the boundary wavered, it was cut open by the sword.
“This picture has a formation. If one looks for a long time, they will sink in and be unable to come out,” Huan Zhong said coolly. “Lowly tricks. A secret realm with such tactics is not rare.” As he spoke, he swung his sword again. The picture on the cliffside was destroyed and the woman crying by the river was turned into a pile of stone.
Jumping onto the flying sword again, Huan Zhong glanced at Kong Hou who had not been woken by the disturbance. He said coolly to the group, “Let’s go.”
A matter which could be resolved with the sword was not a matter.
The Clear Dawn Sect disciple and the middle-aged nomad cultivator gaped at this scene, unable to recover. What cultivation stage was this Spirit Master Huan Zhong at that he could split with a blow the boundary the secret realm had created?
What experience could such a powerful person gain by entering this secret realm? Did he come to see the scenery?
Behind the boundary was another world with tall mountains, bare rocks, a burning sun, and such a high temperature the skin hurt on exposure. Jin Ling hurriedly took out three umbrellas from her storage bag. She gave Ling Bo one, and when she went to give Kong Hou one, she remembered that Kong Hou was in a meditative state. So her hand, that was extended toward Kong Hou, paused awkwardly. She did not know if she should draw her hand back or shove the umbrella over.
“What is this for?” Huan Zhong took the umbrella and looked at Ling Bo who had already opened the umbrella to shade herself.
“Spirit Master, this kind of sun will easily tan people. One will have to eat many whitening pills in order to recover.” Jin Ling pointed at the burning sun above and then glanced at Kong Hou’s snowy skin. “Celestial Kong Hou’s skin is white and tender. It would be a pity if she became tanned.”
“No need.” Huan Zhong handed the umbrella back to Jin Ling.
Jin Ling took the umbrella and looked with sympathy at the unknowing Kong Hou. This was the outcome of easily trusting a man. She hoped when the other woke up and found that she was much darker, she would not become angry with Spirit Master Huan Zhong.
As she thought this, Jin Ling saw Huan Zhong take out a jade ribbed umbrella from his storage ring. She did not know what this umbrella was made of. From a distance, she could still feel threads of coolness and spirit energy.
Seeing Huan Zhong open the umbrella and cover Kong Hou’s head, Jin Ling silently flew away from Spirit Master Huan Zhong.
She was still young, her mind still impressionable—she could not endure such a thing.
The disciple of Clear Dawn Sect saw this and hurriedly stood up from the flying sword. He smiled fawningly at Ling Bo. “Shijie, I will hold the umbrella for you so you will not get tired.”
Ling Bo shoved the umbrella at him. “Hold it well.”
The disciple from Clear Dawn Sect nodded repeatedly like a little puppy. Ling Bo’s mood immediately became better. Her own shixiong and shidi were good as expected. They knew to flatter her in public and gain face for her.
A plea for help came from the ground. Celestial Ling Bo looked down. Chang De Shixiong was half buried in the mud, only his head and hand left outside attempting to grab something to slow his descent.
“Shixiong!” Ling Bo and her shidi saw this and panicked. Ling Bo leapt to fly down. Huan Zhong waved his hand, using spirit energy to sweep her back. Celestial Ling Bo fell back onto the flying sword and turned to stare angrily at Huan Zhong. “Spirit Master, what is your intention?”
“Path Friend Chang De is a very calm person. If he really was in a predicament like this, he would not just helplessly call for help.” Huan Zhong cast a spell and pointed at the space in front of Ling Bo and the disciple from Clear Dawn Sect. “Look again.”
Ling Bo looked again. That was not Shixiong, it was a skeleton trying to climb out. She felt a fine sweat. If not for Spirit Master Huan Zhong being present today, she may have already jumped down to rescue.
Huan Zhong looked expressionlessly at the skeleton. A ghoul like this who was not willing to accept death could be destroyed with a sword strike. He took out a bottle of spirit dew that Quiet Peace Temple’s abbot had given him. He let a drop fall onto the skeleton.
In a blink, the skeleton turned to dust, and the ghoul on the skeleton disappeared in a wisp of green smoke.
Kong Hou opened her eyes, and saw Huan Zhong dropping spirit dew onto the skeleton. Seeing the ghoul float away, she asked, “Huan Zhong, what are you doing?”
“Helping the spirit pass on.” Seeing Kong Hou stand up, Huan Zhong moved the position of the umbrella so the sunlight would not fall on her.
“Whoa.” Kong Hou exclaimed in shock. “You know everything.”
In truth, all Huan Zhong did was to use spirit energy to drip the spirit dew from the abbot of Quiet Peace Temple onto the skeleton. Any orthodox cultivator could do this.
Huan Zhong shook his head. “I do not know everything. This should be credited to the spirit dew. The abbot of Quiet Peace Temple gave me this, and it has dharma on it.”
“But you are also skilled.” Kong Hou said, “I hear that the abbot of Quiet Peace Temple rarely sees guests. He gave you spirit dew—this proves your excellence.”
Hearing this, Huan Zhong stilled slightly and then laughed.
Being completely trusted by someone, and being extremely powerful in their mind, was a kind of flattery people could not refuse. Huan Zhong thought, if Kong Hou wanted to see the ocean at this moment, he would definitely go take her in search of the ocean. If she wanted to touch stars, he would take her to pluck stars.
When one was trusted so sincerely by another, he would not bear to let her be disappointed in the slightest.
“Give me the umbrella, I will hold it.” Kong Hou reached out to grasp the umbrella handle. Her fingers brushed the back of Huan Zhong’s hand. Huan Zhong’s fingertips shook slightly and he rapidly released his hold. The back of his hand felt both numb and hot, the feeling stretching from his hand to his heart.
Kong Hou saw that Huan Zhong’s face was slightly red and moved closer to him. She put the umbrella over both of their heads. “Such a strong sun—why did you not cover yourself?”
Looking down at Kong Hou’s white face, Huan Zhong took a step to the side. “It’s all right.”
“Your face is red.” Kong Hou tugged on his sleeve to pull him back. “One flaw covers up a hundred beauties—be better to your face.”
If she watched helplessly as this good-looking face got sunburnt, it would be a sin.
Having recovered from her shock, Ling Bo was about to thank Huan Zhong. When she turned, she saw him and Kong Hou standing close together and she chose to remain silent. This time, regardless of what Chang De Shixiong said, she would not think the two just had a platonic friendship.
Even if beaten to death she would not believe.
After helping the ghoul pass on, they did not encounter any other strange illusions on their way. Even when they flew past the desolate mountain range, nothing else happened. So what was the purpose of the appearance of this desolate mountain range? So they would be under the sun longer?
Outside of the mountain range, another boundary appeared as expected. There was a stele beside the boundary with the words “Gate of Life and Death.”
Things which mentioned life and death were more intimidating.
The disciple from Clear Dawn Sect was preparing to speak when he saw Huan Zhong step onto the stele. The stele cracked. “Let’s go.”
Lin Hu: “…”
Why did he feel that Master was especially… flamboyant today?
What surprised him the most was that Master had cut the sky, and then the boundary. With his unstable spirit platform, he should not be feeling very well inside. But at this moment, Master looked the same as usual. Except for a few coughs, he looked much better than when he left Radiance Sect.
Had something good happened during the time he had been transported to another place?
Kong Hou thought that there would be ice and fire behind the Gate of Life and Death. But inside was blue sky and white clouds, green mountains, blue water. It was a paradise with gentle but warm sunlight and abundant spirit energy. When one stood there, they felt comfortable and would forget bad things.
“A place as beautiful as this will definitely have a problem.” Kong Hou rubbed her chin and did not dare to walk around. “It is not so easy to get us to fall for this.”
Ling Bo and the others also felt that this place was so beautiful it was weird. This caused them to think of that beautiful stream when they had just entered the secret realm. She turned to look at her shidi. “Follow me, do not run around.”
The disciple from Clear Dawn Sect nodded and gripped his sword tighter.
They walked along the small path. Other than some rare spirit grasses along the path, they did not find anything unexpected.
“Do not follow me, stay further away.”
The sound of two women arguing came from the distance. Kong Hou knew upon hearing this that the two had accumulated rancor for a long time.
“Shijie, I really have no intention of getting close to He Shixiong. Believe me.”
“Is it important for me to believe you? Go to the pond and look at your face. Even if you go near men, will they look at you again?”
The quarreling grew more intense. Two women dressed in blue robes walked out from behind the trees. The woman at the front showed anger on her beautiful face. The woman behind her had a terrified expression. She walked with her back hunched as though she was used to being subservient to others.
When she raised her head, Jin Ling couldn’t help but inhale. What kind of face was this? The left side could be considered pretty, but the right was pitted and infected with pus.
Were these two female cultivators from the nomad alliance?
She seemed to remember several people in the nomad alliance who wore blue robes. But when they entered the secret realm, her attention had all been on Kong Hou’s group so she did not remember much about the nomad cultivators.
Was this a case of two women fighting over a man?
What era was this? Everyone were cultivators; they had status and cultivation—did they lack men? If men in the cultivation world were not suitable, there was still the mortal world. Did they have to make this so vicious—how shameful was this?
The two female nomad cultivator also found them. The beautiful female nomad cultivator recognized Kong Hou and the others. She put away her weapon and bowed to them. “Greetings, Path Friends.”
“Greetings, Path Friends.” Kong Hou’s gaze moved around the pair. She pretended not to have heard their conversation. “Have you encountered danger on the way?”
The beautiful female cultivator grimaced. “I only managed to survive. I wanted to obtain some spirit grasses but they were protected by spirit beasts. I plan to go to the market instead. Spending more is better than losing my life.”
“Misses are nomad cultivators from the west?” The middle-aged nomad cultivator in Kong Hou’s group examined the two curiously. Nomad cultivators came from all over, and only gathered because of the nomad alliance elder. He was not familiar with any of them.
“Greetings, Path Friend Lu Yi.” The ugly female cultivator said in a quiet voice, “We came from the west.”
Lu Yi, the middle-aged nomad cultivator, was slightly embarrassed. The other knew his name but he did not know theirs. They were nomad cultivators, and Lu Yi wanted to travel with them. However, he had managed to survive with the help of these sect apprentices. He had no face to ask Spirit Master Huan Zhong to take along two more people, so he did not speak.
“Path Friends, please be careful. This secret realm seems to be problematic.” The uglier female cultivator warned in a quiet voice and turned, preparing to leave. Before she took a few steps, a vine suddenly shot out of the tree and pulled her into the air before throwing her down.
“Hiss.” Jin Ling took two steps back. Her bones felt sore just from looking. She did not know how that girl was.
Kong Hou took a step forward. Huan Zhong pressed down on her shoulder. “I will go.”
“Careful.” Kong Hou did not continue and nodded minutely at Huan Zhong.
Huan Zhong cut the vine with a few sword strokes. Looking at the disheveled female cultivator on the ground who was unable to stand up, he said with a cold expression, “Get up.”
Finishing, he left without waiting for the female cultivator to respond.
The female cultivator rubbed the right side of her face with a dim expression. She managed to climb up and followed silently behind Kong Hou and the others.
They passed through a sea of flowers. A clear river blocked their path. Kong Hou was preparing to take out the jade boat to cross the river when she heard a slap behind her.
She turned in shock. For some reason, the beautiful female cultivator had slapped the disfigured female cultivator on the face. Lu Yi stood awkwardly beside the two, not knowing if he should intervene.
Ling Bo looked coldly at the two and said impatiently, “If you want to fight, go to the side and fight. Do not disturb us.”
The beautiful female cultivator suddenly pulled on the clothing of the disfigured female cultivator, dragging her to the river edge. “Look at yourself. Do not pretend to be pitiful in front of men; it is disgusting.”
The disciple from Clear Dawn Sect saw this scene and felt he could not stand by. “Shijie, this is too…”
“Shut up,” Ling Bo said coldly. “Before you understand the cause of the matter, do not easily judge who is wrong or right.”
The shidi stopped speaking. He turned and looked at Celestial Kong Hou who was the kindest among them. He had not expected Celestial Kong Hou to not react seeing such a scene.
He could not understand the minds of women.
Where was the problem with these two women?
Translator Ramblings: Huan Zhong and Kong Hou are showing off … I’m getting cavities.