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Chapter 81: Illusion
Dust flew and screams rose.
Looking at the two people rolling on the ground, Kong Hou silently reached out and blocked Huan Zhong with her sleeve. There was so much dust. If the gold fruits became dirty, how could they eat the fruits?
“Master.” Lin Hu jumped down and raised his chin at the two people on the ground. “Other than these two people, there is no one else nearby.”
The nomad cultivators had already recognized these two people. They were all members in name of the alliance, but they were not sword experts.
“Path Friend, these two are members of the nomad alliance, but they are not sword cultivators. How could…” The noad alliance elder said tactfully, “Maybe the culprit has already fled?”
“Maybe those two path friends are really so, but I fear these two are not members of the nomad alliance.” Lin Hu gathered spirit energy in his palm and then slapped the two people on the ground. The two rolled on the ground in pain and screamed. The people of the nomad alliance looked at the scene and took a few steps back in fear.
They quickly found the two people on the ground were changing, their bones contracting or expanding. Even their faces were changing.
“They… used transformation water?” The nomad alliance elder’s face was pale. He wanted to kill these two people.
Transformation water had an ordinary name but it was complicated to make. It required expensive materials, and if made a hundred times, it may not succeed even once. The medicine masters who could make this kind of transformation water were rare. More importantly, even if the transformation water was made successfully, if one wanted to transform into someone else without being seen through, they had to drink the heart blood of that person.
So this kind of medicine was prohibited in Lingyou World. Any kind of moral medicine master would dislike a medicine like this. The sects worked together to govern the cultivation world well. This kind of medicine was almost extinct. The younger generation of cultivators almost did not know that there was a medicine like this in the cultivation world.
But this kind of medicine appeared, and had sneaked among the orthodox cultivators, framing other orthodox cultivators for the crime of killing other cultivators. If these two people had not been discovered, how many more matters would have been created in the future?
After the disguises were torn open, the two people who cultivated unorthodox arts could not disguise their fiendish presence.
“Evil cultivators!” the young cultivator said. “These bastards again!” The evil cultivator dared to be so flamboyant under their eyes?
Seeing they were exposed, the evil cultivators begged for mercy. Who said that cultivators did not fear death? Cultivators feared death more than ordinary people. They wanted to gain more power and obtain immortality. The moment of their death, they needed to overcome more terror. So, cultivating the mind was also cultivation.
“You killed three path friends of the nomad alliance—you have the face to beg for mercy?” Kong Hou put her arm down and looked at these evil cultivators with their terrified expressions begging for mercy. She felt a wave of disgust. When these evil cultivators schemed to kill orthodox cultivators, had they never thought of the value of life?”
“In the eyes of these people, the deaths of other people have nothing to do with them if unrelated with their own self-interest. If not so, how would they become evil cultivators?” Huan Zhong worried about Kong Hou being affected mentally at seeing such a thing at such a young age and said, “These people pursue the pleasure of an instant, have harmed numerous people, and will not have good endings.”
In the ascension records of Lingyou World for the last five thousand years, no one had been an evil cultivator. This showed the heaven path did not tolerate people like this.
People with morals, even if they were hedonistic, knew what they could or could not do. People who let themselves indulge extremely would have their bodies and souls die together without any chance of another life.
“Elder, what do you think we should do with these two?” Lin Hu turned to look at the nomad alliance elder.
“Kill them for their crimes.” The nomad alliance elder had a dark expression. He wanted to kill them immediately but he still had some clarity of mind. “If you tell me what happened, I can spare your lives.”
“Thank you, Elder.” The evil cultivators were people who could give everything up for their own interests. They had no loyalty to speak of. Hearing that they could be spared, they spoke the truth of the matter.
Sage Wu Ku of the evil cultivators suddenly died. The brother of Sage Wu Ku, Sage Hei, was angered, and swore to conquer the demonic realm. He asked the Demon Sage to go to war. The Demon Sage sent them to infiltrate the nomad alliance, and use this opportunity to sow discord between the nomad alliance and the sects. After the orthodox cultivators used up each other’s forces in internal conflict, they would attack.
“It is a lie he wants revenge for his brother—he wants to make trouble for the cultivation world,” Kong Hou sneered. “You evil cultivators want to do evil things, and want to put on a disguise of virtue on top?”
The two evil cultivators did not dare to speak. They lowered their heads and tried to think of ways to survive.
“In the eyes of you evil cultivators, are orthodox cultivators like us too stupid?” Kong Hou used her sword to tap on the shoulder of one of the evil cultivators. “Is a tactic like sowing discord very effective?”
The evil cultivator furiously shook his head. Even if it was, they did not dare to say it.
After saying her piece, Kong Hou took two steps back. The sword in Lin Hu’s hand flashed and he stabbed the pair’s spirit platforms.
“You, you…” The evil cultivators stared at Lin Hu, their mouths full of blood as they died.
“This elder promised to spare you, but none of us agreed.” Lin Hu put his sword back in its sheath. These two had countless lives on their hands. If these people could live, then did the innocents they killed die for nothing?
Looking at Lin Hu’s clean and brisk swordsmanship, the nomad cultivators were slightly dazed. Just now, it seemed to be a flash of light, and the two were dead?
“Let’s go,” Lin Hu said. “Up ahead is the formation core of the secret realm.”
After the matter of the evil cultivators, the nomad cultivators were not in good spirits. The spirit grasses and herbs they harvested along the way could not comfort their minds.
Five days later, they finally reached the formation core as the formation changed. There was an enormous and grand palace at the center of the formation core. Many cultivators were sitting cross-legged outside the palace. There were sect disciples and nomad cultivators here. Seeing the group arrive, their eyes lit up.
“Came, came, they finally came.”
“You’re finally here—how come it took so long?”
Facing the enthusiastic welcome, Kong Hou took a step back and hid behind Huan Zhong. Such a good attitude definitely meant a problem.
“Elder, you finally came. The palace gates cannot be opened. A strange person came out and said that before the other people are all here, the gates will not open.” A nomad cultivator came in front of the nomad alliance elder. “We have been waiting almost ten days here. Did you get lost?”
The nomad alliance elder’s expression turned strange. “You did not encounter any incidents on the way?”
“What incidents?” The nomad cultivator was puzzled. “Don’t we start the test when we reach here?” He looked over the crowd and then clapped in vexation. “Oh no, we are missing one?”
“What, missing one?” The cultivators who had been cheering immediately lost their joy. “How come we are missing one?”
“Path Friend Wang Jia is not here,” the nomad cultivator said. “If he is missing, how can we enter?”
The nomad cultivators and the sect disciples gathered together to talk. It was not possible to distinguish which were nomad cultivators or sect disciples. Jin Ling even saw Zhou Xiao Shixiong sitting together and laughing with a nomad cultivator in the corner without any of his usual woodenness.
Just as everyone was sighing and thinking they had to wait a few more days, the gates to the palace opened. A man dressed in black and wearing a mask came out and looked out at the crowd from the stairs.
The mask he wore was strange, completely white without any patterns. It looked cold and emotionless.
“Everyone is here—you may enter.” The masked person glanced in the direction of Huan Zhong and the others before disappearing
“Isn’t there someone else still not here?”
“Did we remember incorrectly?”
“Let’s go, let’s go.”
They came in from the entrance to the secret realm and walked without any obstruction along the main path to here. So in their minds, this palace was the place to test them, and there were no other dangers.
Kong Hou felt this matter was strange. Why did the majority of cultivators not encounter anything strange, and only they had a turbulent journey?
“Let’s go.” Huan Zhong gripped Kong Hou’s hand and followed behind the crowd to enter the palace. Just as they entered the gates, Kong Hou felt a wave of strange power control her body. She unconsciously released Huan Zhong’s hand.
“Huan Zhong?” Kong Hou looked back. There was no one in the surroundings. The vast space was tiled in white jade. In front of her were three white jade bridges. Dragon energy seemed to glimmer on the bridges. The three bridges were carved with the names “Immortal Questing Bridge,” “Mind Questing Bridge,” and “Path Questing Bridge.”
Behind the white jade bridges was a vast palace. Bursts of music drifted out of the palace. This seemed like the heavenly palace that cultivators aspired to.
“Those with the path in mind will naturally become immortal. Questing oneself is better than questing the three bridges.” Kong Hou did not step onto the bridges. She took out her flying sword and flew over the moat. When flying across, she did not encounter any obstructions. When she looked back at the three bridges, there was nothing there. If a cultivator actually stepped on them, they would fall into the river.
“Cultivators without the path in their minds and who have to touch the three bridges after entering here do not qualify to enter this palace.” The mysterious person in the white mask appeared again. His figure was not tall or short, not slim or fat; his voice was ethereal and gender neutral.
Kong Hou stopped walking and turned to look at the mysterious person. “You are the spirit of the secret realm?”
“You can call me this.” The spirit of the secret realm took a step back and waved a hand for the doors of the golden palace to open. “But even if you speak to me, I will not give you any extra benefits.”
“I am not trying to get extra benefits. I am thanking you for giving me the Sword of Heaven and Earth,” Kong Hou solemnly said. “Do not worry. When I leave, I will have Huan Zhong and Eldest Shixiong Wu Chuan spread the sword art far and wide.
“Five centuries ago, I have already given out this sword manual.” The spirit wore a mask. Kong Hou could not see his expression or hear any emotion from his flat tone.
But the words astounded her. The sword manual had been given out five centuries ago, but there had not been any trace in Lingyou World. Had the person who obtained it not broadcast it, or something happened so they could not speak?
“The Sword of Heaven and Earth is extremely valuable. The person who receives this sword method will be famed in the world, and be certain to ascend. You really are not moved?” The secret realm spirit looked at this young woman, the voice filled with some puzzlement. “You do not want to become immortal?”
“Of course I do.” Kong Hou said righteously. “But I am a sound cultivator.”
The spirit of the secret realm: “…”
“Do not worry. When Huan Zhong and Wu Chuan Shixiong master the Sword of Heaven and Earth, we will make the manual into a book for the cultivators to diligently learn from.”
The spirit of the secret realm: “…”
Print and distribute such a valuable sword manual?”
“May I enter?” Kong Hou pointed at the doors as she smiled at the secret realm spirit. “Or will you first tell me if there are dangers in there?”
“You will not die.” The secret realm spirit picked her up and threw her in.
Kong Hou adjusted her position in the air, and manipulated the spirit energy around her so she did not fall sorrily. She looked up at the main hall. Other than a desk, there was nothing else.
She walked next to the desk. On top was a secret art of the mind. A yellowed piece of paper on the table said, “You may leave after copying this a hundred times.”
When she saw the words, Kong Hou thought of the deliberate bullying by the female teachers of the palace back in her childhood when they punished her with copying books.
“Absolutely inhuman.” Kong Hou sat down and pulled over a roll of paper. She focused on writing the text of “Secret Art of the Mind.”
Two hours later, Kong Hou put down the pen and tapped the desk. “I’ve finished, let me out.”
The secret realm spirit appeared and looked suspiciously at Kong Hou. “So quickly?”
“Oh…” Kong Hou handed a pile of paper to him. “I copied this using several different writing styles. What do you think?”
The secret realm spirit looked over. Other than the words “secret art of the mind,” there were no other characters. “I wanted you to copy the content of the secret art, not the name.”
“That is not possible. The art has so many characters. Even if I copy until the secret realm closes, I will not finish.” Kong Hou smiled. “Could you be less strict since we have karma?”
“If you cannot finish the test, you cannot leave here.” The secret realm spirit put the paper down and said slowly, “In the secret realm, emotions do not matter—the rules have to be followed.”
Kong Hou rolled her eyes. He said that the rules had to be followed. But when Huan Zhong’s sword strike came, the weather changed? In the present world, even the secret realm spirit knew to fear the strong and bully the weak. She had to work harder on her cultivation.
“The condition cannot be changed?”
“It can.” The secret realm spirit hesitated for a moment. “Tell me what kind of test is more effective for cultivators and I will release you.”
Kong Hou took up the secret art of the mind and slowly flipped through it. Hearing the words of the secret realm spirit, she threw the book to the table, her eyes bright. “You guarantee not to harm their lives?”
“Why would I want their lives?” The secret realm spirit was puzzled. “When Master ascended, he left behind a thread of his thoughts. He hopes that more cultivators will ascend to become immortal. There is no use in killing them; their corpses will dirty the secret realm.”
Kong Hou: “…”
This was a very selective secret realm.
“I will select among the cultivators who enter the secret realm. Not every person will receive tests,” the secret realm spirit said. “You cultivators are worse one year after the next. Five centuries ago, half of the cultivators had chances for a test. In your group, not even half.”
Kong Hou finally understood that the illusory yao, the succubi and the strange residences they had encountered before were secret minor tests of the secret realm.
“I have many ways of testing cultivators without harming them. Come here, we can talk in depth.” Kong Hou became energized and spoke of many creative and novel tactics to the secret realm spirit. In terms of tactics to torment people, these cultivators of Lingyou World were children compared to the people of the mortal realm.
Many of the methods that could not be realized in the mortal world could be perfected in Lingyou World.
“How can physical fright compare to torment of the mind and soul? Using illusory yao to mimic humans is easy to see through. It is better to have people be within the illusion. The dream in the courtyard is too simple. Any cultivator with a slightly strong mind will detect something is wrong,” Kong Hou said. “If you want people to be completely immersed in the test, you have to get them to believe that the person they are in the illusion is real. For example, like this…”
Kong Hou talked to the secret realm spirit for a long time. The secret realm spirit used a jade scroll to record all of Kong Hou’s suggestions. Then he asked, “You do not fear cultivators from five centuries in the future will curse you after learning about this?”
“Probably not. This is for their own good.” Kong Hou turned her head, her expression innocent. “Also, if you do not tell, they will not know that I gave the idea, right?”
The secret realm spirit looked at her and said after a long time, “I understand.” As a secret realm spirit without a gender, he decided to manifest as male. According to human cultivators, different genders would be attracted to each other. These women would then feel sympathy for him.
“Then you will let me go?”
“Memorize this secret art and you can leave.” The secret realm spirit shoved the secret art of the mind back into Kong Hou’s hands and disappeared in front of her.
“A secret realm left by an immortal goes back on its word. The trust between the person and the secret realm is gone,” Kong Hou muttered as she sat back and slowly started to read.
“First there was the sky and the earth, the water, and all beings, clear energy driving away the impure…”
The secret realm spirit left Kong Hou’s testing room, thought for a moment as he held the jade scroll and then walked in another direction. He would at least try and see if the suggestion was effective.
When Huan Zhong and Kong Hou left the secret realm and prepared to continue the journey, Kong Hou received a flying message seal from Splendid Cloud Sect. Splendid Cloud Sect was summoning her back to the sect, effective immediately.
“Huan Zhong, I will go and then come back. Do not forget to take me along to play in Pei City at next year’s sect conference.” Kong Hou jumped onto the flying sword and did not forget to confirm what they would do next time they met.
Looking at the smiling young girl, Huan Zhong nodded. “All right.”
But until the young girl left, he still stood in his spot motionlessly.
The second year, at the sect conference, the disciples of the sects arrived. He waited for a long time until he finally received the news that the disciples of Splendid Cloud Sect had arrived. But Kong Hou was not among them. He hurried to Splendid Cloud Sect, where he learned that she was in seclusion.
The third year, Kong Hou did not come out.
The fifth year, Kong Hou still did not come out.
The tenth year, Kong Hou finally came out of seclusion. Her cultivation had reached Core Formation Stage. He had Lin Hu send gifts. Three days later, he received Kong Hou’s returning gifts and a letter of thanks. In the letter, Kong Hou’s tone was distant and polite. Their time together had passed and would never return.
Five decades later, he heard someone say that Splendid Cloud Sect’s Celestial Kong Hou was preparing to go to the mortal realm to defeat her mental demon. When he hurried to the intersection of Lingyou World and the mortal world, he saw Kong Hou, dressed in grand attire. Kong Hou also saw him.
“Spirit Master,” she smiled at him, and respectfully bowed. Snowflakes fell on her hair.
“Have a safe journey.” Huan Zhong’s heart felt full of numbing pain. The snow fell into his heart.
Another fifty years. He was in seclusion as he tried to control his unstable spirit platform. He heard the good news that Kong Hou had reached Mind Manifestation Stage. Many people said that she was the most talented cultivator in the cultivation world at present.
He still prepared gifts for Lin Hu to send to her. Five days later, he received a return gift but no letter.
Another century passed. He still could not break through to Transcendental Stage. He received an invitation from Splendid Cloud Sect.
Splendid Cloud Sect’s Celestial Kong Hou was celebrating reaching Projection Stage. Splendid Cloud Sect was holding a ceremony for her, and he was invited.
“Will Master go?” Lin Hu asked.
Huan Zhong rubbed the patterns on the paper. His mind was full of the young girl’s movements and smile as she waved at him on the wall. Even after centuries, this memory was still as bright as if it was yesterday.
“No,” he slowly put down the invitation. Closing his eyes, he said,. “There is no need to go.”
Another century. His hair turned white. It was snowing at Radiance Sect.
A young disciple came and said that it was for a paired cultivation ceremony.
“Who is holding a paired cultivation ceremony?” He stopped walking and looked at the young disciple who had just joined the sect.
The disciples saw him and fearful expressions appeared on their faces. “Grand Shishu, it is Forebear Kong Hou of Splendid Cloud Sect.”
He looked dazedly at the disciples. “Kong Hou… she is about to pair with another person?”
The disciples did not understand why Grand Shishu was so dazed. They took a few steps back. “Grand Shishu, are you all right?”
That young girl with the bright smile who would pull secretly on his sleeve and said Huan Zhong knew everything was going to be with someone else?
He covered his throbbing chest and threw up blood.
“Grand Shishu, what is wrong with you? Go find Grand Shishu Lin.”
Yes, what was wrong with him?
Huan Zhong looked around dazedly. Kong Hou said when he was feeling ill, he could try to play cute with someone. Who could he demand attention from?
“I… I…” He opened his mouth. As he looked at the panicking young disciples in front of him, the pain in his chest grew stronger.
What is wrong with me?
“Cough, cough, cough.” Huan Zhong opened his eyes, his face pale as he threw up blood. This was a very comfortable room with a bed, table, shelves, and chair. Hanging on the wall was a painting of an immortal riding a crane. In the blank part of the painting were the words, “The universe is vast. Be happy.”
Wiping away the blood at the corner of his mouth, Huan Zhong stood and walked in front of the painting.
“The universe is vast, be happy…”
Just now, his mind had been sucked into an illusion?
This illusion was so true that even now, he was slightly dazed. He never thought that Kong Hou would pair with another person.
He wanted her to live happily, become a powerful cultivator, and then ascend. The only thing he had never thought was she would have a cultivation partner.
Turning, he walked to the door and pulled on the door. With a little bit of force, the door opened.
“Finally out!” Kong Hou charged in the room, her steps happy as though she was going with her shijie to buy celestial dresses.
Hearing the sound of a door open opposite her open, she put away her exuberant joy and looked over.
A man dressed in white robes looked towards her.
Translator Ramblings: Poor Huan Zhong …
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