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Chapter 79: Sword Wound
Lin Hu’s words cut off when he saw Huan Zhong. His gaze swept up and down Huan Zhong, filled with clear disapproval. However, some words were not suitable to be said in front of Kong Hou so he suppressed the urge.
Huan Zhong took two fruits from Kong Hou’s hands that she had just plucked. “Remember to rest a while.”
Kong Hou nodded. She guessed the two had matters to talk about so she ran off to the side.
There were some buildings of various styles on the empty land nearby. These buildings were all talismans for cultivators to temporarily live in when travelling.
Kong Hou carried fruits to sit next to Ling Bo.
“These fruits are really fresh.” Ling Bo did not need Kong Hou’s invitation and reached out to take the fruits. She got a basin of water and washed them. “Full of spirit energy, sweet and crisp—I want to take them back to the sect to grow.”
“These fruits are only so delicious because they grow in a place with such dense spirit energy.” Kong Hou put all the fruits into the basin and motioned for Ling Bo to wash them all. Ling Bo pretended not to see Kong Hou’s hint and turned to look at her young shidi.
The young shidi immediately understood what Shijie meant. He rolled up his sleeves and started to wash the fruits.
It was not important who did the washing, just that someone did it. Kong Hou picked a big and red fruit to eat. “What do you plan now?”
“First meet up with my eldest shixiong.” Ling Bo recalled that Kong Hou and the others were searching for something called the Cloud Seeking Tree. “Did you find what you wanted?”
Kong Hou silently shook her head. The spirit of the secret realm had not lied to her. There may really not be a Cloud Seeking Tree in here. The Cloud Seeking Tree could not touch soil and its whereabouts were uncertain. She had been searching in the mists and even the water, but found nothing.
“Many things depend on chance. Do not be in too much of a rush.” Ling Bo was in a rare good mood to talk to a young girl. “Radiance Sect thinks of the sword as their life. To them, nothing is more important than the sword.” If this young girl really ended up with Spirit Master Huan Zhong, it would be best if they lived on Splendid Cloud Mountain. For disciples of Splendid Cloud Sect, the days of Radiance Sect were not easy to live.
Kong Hou did not know why Ling Bo suddenly mentioned how the sword cultivators of Radiance Sect were like but still nodded muddle-headed. “Oh.”
Looking at her unconcerned expression, Ling Bo frowned slightly. This was a young girl who did not know that common matters like this could turn a goddess into an old woman.
“What if you cannot find the item—you will leave the secret realm?” Ling Bo would not press her point. Although she was proud, her mind was very clear. She knew it was inappropriate to say too much on some matters.
“We will first send you to Path Friend Chang De.” Kong Hou looked into the sky. “I have not entered a secret realm before. This time, I can learn and broaden my knowledge.”
Ling Bo turned silent. Usually, when a disciple joined the sect, they would spend the first decade mostly in the sect for cultivation. Even if there were secret realms, those were not suitable for newly joined disciples to explore.
But Kong Hou’s cultivation grew too rapidly. It seemed unsuitable to use these common traditions on her.
There were many kinds of secret realms. Some would suddenly appear and be full of dangers. Some secret realms were left behind by the ancestors of sects. Those did not have great dangers, but there was a possibility of suffering hardship inside them.
There was also another kind, like the one they were in now. These secret realms would appear once in a while. All cultivators, regardless of their sect, could enter. Good and evil were hard to discern, and life and death would turn in an instant.
“Since that’s the case, then stay here a few more days. This place is full of spirit energy. If you meditate here for a day, it is worth five or six days outside—do not waste the opportunity.” Ling Bo saw Jin Ling coming out of her room and waved a hand. “Come here, eat fruit.”
Jin Ling saw Ling Bo sitting cross-legged on the cushion, her hair casually loose behind her. This did not appear like Celestial Ling Bo that she met the first time who needed people to throw flower petals ahead of her.
People were really different in private and public. She turned to look at Kong Hou. The other was not much better than Celestial Ling Bo. Fortunately, the two were all good-looking cultivators. Even if they were slovenly, they were still good-looking.
If one of the two was dressed finely, then the other would not be willing to be casual. But the two seemed to have made an agreement and suddenly became “slovenly.”
“We have been here for several days. I do not know when we will encounter Path Friend Chang De.” They had been here for two days and only seen each other and no other living beings. The remaining men had seen them at their most vicious and brutal. So they could relax their efforts at maintaining their good impressions.
“How about you make a reading?” Ling Bo raised an eyebrow at Kong Hou.
Kong Hou touched the jade turtle shell and shook her head. “No, I will wait for Huan Zhong to do so.” A few days ago, she had divined going south. While they had coincidentally saved Ling Bo’s shidi, nothing else on their travels had been smooth.
At such an important time, it was better to have a more powerful person do the reading.
Looking at the three women who were chatting together as they ate fruit, Lin Hu’s expression became exceptionally serious. “Master, how will you resolve your matter with Miss Kong Hou?”
Huan Zhong looked silently at him and waited for his next words.
“Miss Kong Hou is young. You being like this… is not appropriate.” Lin Hu still said what he thought in the end. “Do not use the trust the young girl has in you and do untimely things.”
“The untimely thing you speak of is the universal paired cultivation when Kong Hou and I are together?” Huan Zhong looked at Lin Hu with a meaningful glance. “Lin Hu, I had not thought you would think so…”
Lin Hu ignored the amusement in Huan Zhong’s words. His voice uncontrollably grew louder. “Master, your words are true?”
Universal paired cultivation was something that required karma. Cultivators who could encounter an opportunity like this were rare.
So people who possessed this kind of opportunity were undoubtedly the children of the heaven path in the eyes of other people.
This kind of cultivation method could increase cultivation speed, and spirit energy could be used to purify the meridians. In simpler words, even if Master could not find all the ingredients for his medicine, he could rely on Miss Kong Hou to stabilize his spirit platform and live a century longer.
“Master.” Lin Hu took a deep breath. “I feel you should go tell Miss Kong Hou you will be willing to serve her in any capacity.”
Huan Zhong: “…”
No one could guarantee what could happen in a century. Maybe Master could use the time to find a way to completely recover.
“I am not joking,” Lin Hu said seriously. “The heavens are benevolent and will leave a chance for all beings. Maybe Miss Kong Hou is your chance.” When he first met Kong Hou, he thought that she was a friendly and likable junior and chose to accompany her for her safety.
But Kong Hou was too likable, especially to older people. Lin Hu found it difficult to feel anything negative about her. Learning that she and Master had this kind of karma, he completely understood. On their travels, he and Master were not protecting her, but he and Master were depending on her.
“No need to be so.” Huan Zhong shook his head and said, “It is good Kong Hou and I have karma. But being good to her is not because of this opportunity.”
Lin Hu opened his mouth but Huan Zhong interrupted him.
“I will discuss this matter with Kong Hou; do not say teasing things like serving her in any capacity.” Huan Zhong turned to look at Kong Hou who had laughed out loud as she talked with Ling Bo. “My friendship with her does not need such things.”
Huan Zhong did not like to talk and rarely interrupted people when they were talking. He would only speak when he was extremely displeased. Lin Hu did not expect Master to become angry due to these few words.
When men started to become sensitive about minor matters, many matters could not be reversed. But this time, Lin Hu did not warn Huan Zhong. He was both friend and teacher to Huan Zhong, but he did not plan to take on the responsibilities of a parent.
“Huan Zhong.” After a long while, Kong Hou stood and waved in their direction. “Come and help us.”
Huan Zhong walked over without thinking. “What is it?”
“Come divine where we should go next.” Kong Hou looked with wide eyes at Huan Zhong.
Huan Zhong’s expression eased. “Did we not agree on south?”
“We are really going to keep going in the direction I divined?” Kong Hou seemed slightly unconfident.
“Your reading was very good.” Huan Zhong glanced at the young shidi of Clear Dawn Sect. “If we did not travel south, we may not have encountered other path friends and learned about the Cloud Seeking Tree.”
“Really?” Kong Hou did not quite believe it.
“I believe you.” Huan Zhong saw the sky had darkened completely. “We will stay here another night and depart tomorrow.”
No one had any objections. During their travel, they had found many spirit grasses, and it had been safe. They would have no opinions if they had to go back, much less about going south.
People who were hanger-ons had to recognize themselves. If they were hanging on and still complaining, there was something wrong with their heads.
Ling Bo looked at her hanger-on of a shidi. Following Spirit Master Huan Zhong and the others was the safest choice right now.
The sun rose again. Chang De rested against the tree trunk with his two shidi. When the first ray of sunlight appeared, he opened his eyes. Ever since they entered the secret realm, they had not had one peaceful day.
First, they had been harassed by the illusory yao. Then they were forced to live in some strange rooms. When they got up in the morning, they saw a pile of spirit stones in the corner of the rooms. If they did not take the spirit stones, they were not allowed out of the boundary.
Then they rescued a female cultivator who was being bullied by her fellow cultivator. But that disfigured female cultivator victim had actually done wrong to the other female cultivator. They had been scolded fiercely by the beautiful female cultivator. Due to their guilt, they couldn’t even argue back.
Then they were chased by the succubi who seemed to deliberately follow them, occasionally appearing so they could not rest for long.
If they were cultivators with slightly worse minds, they might have already lost their minds under the constant harassment from the succubi. But Chang De was different. He was the sect eldest disciple of Clear Dawn Sect. The shidi and shimei of the sect were not all mature and understanding. He was used to dealing with all kinds of situations.
The succubi could easily make people restless, but even the most irritating succubi could not rival those disciples in the sect with their strange personalities.
He stood up and saw that the outer robe covering one of the shidi had fallen on the mud. He bent down to pull the robe over the shidi.
The two shidi were sleeping deeply. Even when the sunlight was shining on their faces, they only turned their backs to the sun and continued sleeping.
Chang De sighed. So unguarded. If they were travelling alone, they would not be able to survive against evil cultivators. The secret realm did not have seasons. Some places had flowers blooming, some were unusually hot, and others were covered in snow.
Looking at the nearby lake, he started to worry about the other shidi and Ling Bo Shimei. Their group of five had been separated after entering the secret realm. Little Shidi had only joined the sect for a decade, and Ling Bo Shimei was a proud person. Usually, with their tolerance, it was all right, but no one in the secret realm would tolerate them.
Before even becoming a father, he was already worrying like a father. Chang De felt that the greatest cultivation in his lifetime was not the sword path, but these shidi and shimei.
A faint blood scent suddenly spread through the forest. As a sword cultivator, his senses were extremely sharp. He detected something was wrong and woke up his two shidi. “Get up—something is happening.”
“Eldest Shixiong?” The two shidi jumped off the ground with their swords and quickly approached Chang De.
“Do not panic.” Chang De turned and said to the two shidi, “The more you panic, the easier it is for mental demons to get in. You are like this in the relatively safe secret realm. If you encounter evil cultivators, what will you do?”
The twl shidi listened docilely to the lecture and did not dare to argue.
“Follow behind me, and pay attention to your backs.” Chang De worried that someone had encountered danger and decided to look around.
They came to the other side of the lake. He saw a cultivator from the nomad alliance lying in the water, the blood seeping from him and dying the surrounding water red. He had an impression of this nomad cultivator. The other had bowed slightly to him when entering the secret realm.
“Eldest Shixiong.” The two shidi wanted to go pull this person out of the water. Chang De stopped them. “Do not move.” He waved his sleeve and used spirit energy to pull the person out of the lake. Chang De’s expression turned grave. “He’s already dead.”
The expression of the two shidi also changed. Ever since entering the secret realm, they encountered many weird events but they had not worried for their lives. Now, suddenly, someone was dead. Did this mean that the secret realm was not safe?
“It is a sword wound.” Chang De looked at the injuries on the corpse. “One stab to the spirit platform, another through the heart. The injuries are small and precise. The attacker must be an expert with the sword.
This person died because of other people, and not because of the secret realm.”
“Eldest Shixiong, there are no storage rings on the corpse or any storage bags.”
Only so many people had entered the secret realm, and people knew who used the sword. This person did not have any storage items. It was not that he did not have such things, but that someone had taken them.
Killing for wealth, vicious and merciless.
With Clear Dawn Sect, Radiance Sect, Splendid Cloud Sect, and Primary Luck Sect’s status and strength, the apprentices of sects definitely would not kill people for their wealth. They did not lack spirit grasses and medicines. Even if they did, they would not use tactics like these.
If a disciple was really as terrible as this, the sect would not keep them, much less accept them as apprentices.
The sect disciples could not do such a thing. The most likely culprits were the nomad cultivators. These nomad cultivators were under the nomad alliance in name, but unless something major was happening, they would not interact much. As a result, they did not know each other well.
Just as Chang De was thinking, the elder of the nomad alliance came hurriedly with three nomad cultivators. They must have smelled blood and came over to check.
Chang De did not feel any shock at their arrival. Other than the nomad alliance elder, the other three nomad cultivators were not skilled at concealment. He detected them getting close from a long ways off.
When the four from the nomad alliance came, they saw the disciples of Clear Dawn Sect flipping through the corpse’s clothing and could not help but jump to conclusions. When they found the cultivator lying on the ground was a member of the nomad alliance and the fatal wounds were created by swords, the expressions of the four nomad cultivators became ugly.
If not out of wariness for Chang De’s status, someone would have pointed at Chang De with a sword and asked, did you kill him?
After a long silence, Chang De decided to explain. “When we came, this path friend was lying in the water.”
The nomad cultivators looked towards the water. The lake was clean and had no traces of blood.
Chang De looked as well. Seeing the clear lake, he frowned slightly. Where had the blood gone?
Chang De’s shidi saw this and he stammered, “Shixiong, just now, I used a cleaning spell on the lake out of habit.”
So… the blood was gone.
Why did you not give your brain a cleaning spell?
Chang De almost swore but he managed to endure with his years of composure. Who knew his pain at interacting with his shidi and shimei who always caused trouble for him?”
“Why would you use a cleaning spell in the lake—who are you trying to fool?” A young-looking cultivator among the four nomad cultivators said sarcastically, “Such a coincidence?”
“Protect water sources, protect the environment—what is wrong with that?” The shidi of Clear Dawn Sect seemed not to hear the underlying meaning of this nomad cultivator’s words. He took out a large white cloth from his storage ring and covered the face of the dead. “From the eyes of everyone here, you seem to misunderstand me.”
The elder of the nomad alliance investigated the corpse. He found that there were two wounds on the body, each of them fatal. He stood, hesitated for a moment, and said, “Please, Path Friend Chang De, tell me what happened.”
Chang De knew that these nomad cultivators did not believe him. However, in this situation, it was normal that they were suspicious. He was not angry due to this, and narrated the entire course of events.
“You are the one saying all this—who knows if you are lying to us?” The young nomad cultivator always felt that the sect disciples were very proud. If someone offended them, it was likely they would do some unexpected things.
This path friend who died did not have terrible shortcomings, but many small flaws. He liked to leech off others, he was talkative without thinking, and he was not good-looking.
These small flaws were dislikable but not to the point that people would kill him. But for these proud sect disciples, maybe these were unforgivable crimes.
“Path Friend, what do you mean? How about you speak plainly.” Chang De’s expression turned cold. He put his hands behind his back and looked extremely authoritative. “If we wanted to kill someone, why would we stay here and talk to you?”
His words were pressuring, but the four nomad cultivators might not be able to win against the three sword cultivators.
The nomad cultivator did not look good upon hearing the words, but seeing his fellow three nomad cultivators remain silent, he closed his mouth. If a conflict occurred and the other three did not help him, he would not even have a chance to flee.
“I can understand Path Friend’s emotions, but before the matter is clear, do not speak easily”—Chang De’s expression eased slightly—”to avoid unnecessary conflict.”
“Did Path Friend see some strange figures when you arrived?” The elder of the nomad alliance was reliable in his actions and his tone when inquiring was even more peaceful.
“No.” Chang De shook his head. He did not want to have a major conflict with the nomad alliance. He gave the bow of a junior towards the elder. “When my two shidi and I arrived, this path friend’s corpse was already in the lake.”
The nomad alliance elder glanced at Chang De. He leaned towards believing Chang De. He turned and went to comfort the other nomad cultivators to avoid the mood becoming more awkward. It would not be profitable to offend all of Clear Dawn Sect due to something without proof.
The person was dead, and the culprit was unknown. If they rashly angered Clear Dawn Sect right now, it meant burning ties with all sect disciples before leaving the secret realm. The ten sects interacted with each other. All sect disciples would speak for Clear Dawn Sect.
Some times, recognition of status was a natural standpoint. Sect disciples were closer to sect disciples. This was normal.
“Thank you, Path Friend, for telling me.” The elder prepared to put away the corpse of this nomad cultivator. “The secret realm’s paths are unknown. If Path Friend does not mind our lowly cultivation, please allow us to travel with you.”
Many times, when the conflict was brought into the open, it was easier to resolve. Choosing to travel with the Clear Dawn Sect disciples was better than fighting alone.
Before Chang De could respond, he heard voices nearby. He gripped his sword hilt. “Other people are coming here.”
The nomad cultivators looked at each other. Where?
After a while, they finally heard voices which came from above their heads.
Using flying talismans in the secret realm? The nomad cultivators had strange expressions. They wanted to be targets or did they think of the secret realm as a place where to have fun? They were too embarrassed to criticize this. What if these were people from the nomad alliance?”
“Eldest Shixiong, that seems to be Ling Bo Shimei‘s voice.” The disciple of Clear Dawn Sect looked into the sky and raised his voice. “Path Friends in the sky, this one is a disciple of Clear Dawn Sect and invites you down.”
“Clear Dawn Sect? This is one of my shixiong.” Ling Bo was overjoyed and praised Kong Hou. “You have such talent in divination. We really found them going south.”
Looking at Ling Bo’s joyful expression, Kong Hou remained silent.
When she had made that reading, she only thought about which direction was more auspicious, and not this.
Did this misunderstanding seem a bit large?
Translator Ramblings: A murder mystery!